Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sharon and Allen Visit

Sharon and Allen arrived for a six day visit on May 12th. They chose to rent one of the casitas on the ranch rather than stay in our spare bedroom. We took them to Guadalajara for a day in steaming heat but we managed to see all of the sites and ate in a wonderful restaurant called the Adobe which is at the back of an amazing shop. The service and the food were excellent.

We walked for miles around this town as well. Greg and Allen ran or climbed the mountain every morning while Sharon and I ate muffins at the Lake Chapala Society. We played cards and dominoes in the evening. One evening we invited our "new" friends Donna and Douglas over for drinks and munchies and then we went to our favourite pizza place called La Toscana. We ate dinner out almost every night and had a wonderful time one evening at the Chili Bang Bar.

On Sunday we walked the Malacone (boardwalk) in Chapala and ate lunch in an authentic Mexican restaurant along the water.

Greg and Allen took Lucky yesterday to have Dr. Memo remove her stitches from her spaying. She is leaping and running and has become a regular ranch dog and we have no fear now of her getting pregnant by Samson who is her father. Dogs don`t seem to care much about incest.

Sharon came to the orphanage with me yesterday and one of the kids Filiberto really took a shine to her. Sharon is a social worker and I`m sure the whole experience was an interesting one from her professional perspective. While we were at the orphanage, Allen went to the local barber shop for a 4 dollar hair cut and attended Spanish class with Greg.

We laughed and gossiped and generally had a lovely time with S. and A. They left this morning to go to West Palm Beach for their son`s graduation from University. My cousin Shelly arrives tomorrow and we plan to have a ``spa`` type time together with pedicures, manicures and massages planned. Everything is so reasonable here. A manicure and pedicure is 150 pesos about 12 dollars.

Sharon wrote a much too complimentary blog of her own about their visit, but it`s too embarassing to share it all. I have extrapolated some of what she said below:

``How does one describe the magical Garden of Eden........We wake up greeted by the cheery musical orchestra of birds of every colour. The sun is warm and soothing and our eyes do not know where to look first. There is the natural vegetation - mother nature`s gifts - of bushes, trees and flowers. The fragrant smells of these flowers is dizzying. The visual expanse of the mountains, the lake and the charming casitas and the tidy store fronts in town and the proud-standing church in the town square were all delightful to see.

Thanks to Lynne and Greg for this amazing experience and for showing us this beautiful and luscious part of the world.``

I think Sharon and Allen enjoyed their stay. They were a pleasure to host......very generous and appreciative of our efforts.

Did I mention....it`s stinkin hot here!

Monday, May 3, 2010

May 3 Update

I'm trying to work out some sort of training schedule for myself for the marathon(s) this fall. I've been getting my butt out of the door over the last few days anyway. Friday I ran for 40 minutes and then did a combination of running and walking up the mountain. I ran up to the Shrine, then walked to the Cornfield and then the Saddle. Between the run and the climb, I was out for 2 1/2 hours and I thought, as the pain in my legs seemed to be saying, that I should take it easy on Saturday.
Saturday morning my legs were killing me, but I knew if I went our for a walk they'd feel OK. I decided I needed a project so, I walked and photographed the Shrine walk, from our Casita.

I took the GPS along too so I could get some data on the walk. It turns out that the door to door distance is 5k with an altitude gain of a little over 650 feet. 3k of the 5 is from the house to the trail head. The climb is 1k with about a 300 foot climb.

I tried to take each image from where the last image left off. the first few are from the house. I love the picture of Pedro. Pedro is the father of 4 of the folks who work here on the grounds. That is one of his standard stances!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

San Antonio Trip

On Thursday April 22nd, Greg, Lina and I head out at 6:00 in the morning to begin our 17 hour driving trip to San Antonio Texas. Lina is our Spanish teacher and she was going to visit her kids. Greg and I needed to leave Mexico to renew our six month visitor's permit and our car permit.
We passed through several Mexican states of which I can only remember some. We live in Jalisco, next came Aguas Calientes and then San Luis Potosi and Nueva Leone. That's enough geography. The Sierra Madre mountain range was stark and beautiful. We watched the vegetation change and Lina taught and reviewed our Spanish which was an added bonus.....free lessons. We only got stopped by one policia....a state cop in the state of Nueva Leone. He took Greg's licence and said we'd have to back track to the town which was two hours back towards home and go to court the next day to pay the ticket. I felt sick. Lina turned on her charm and of course the fact that she speaks fluent Spanish helped too. The outcome was a good one. He let us go. By the way, we offered to bribe him, but he said he was a new breed of police and that they were working hard to change the image and he didn't take bribes....refreshing.

We got to the border at Nueva Laredo in daylight which was an important goal. Border towns are notoriously dangerous, especially at night. There have been many Narco-trafficking incidents in Nueva Laredo. They made us take off our car sticker and we crossed into the United States without incident. Life changed immediately on the other side. Two totally different worlds with just an imaginary line separating them. Actually they are separated by a river called the Rio Grande on the Texan side and the Rio Bravo on the Mexican side. I have to admit my heart did a little flip at the sight of "more" familiar signs displayed on fast food restaurants and everything written in English!
After the border we still had a three hour drive north to get to San Antonio. We arrived at our Comfort Inn at around 10 p.m. We were sweaty and exhausted. Lina's friend picked her up at the hotel and Greg and I headed to bed.

We couldn't wait to get to the MALL the next morning.....The Gap, Old Navy, Macy's and T.J. Max. We both bought some new shmatas to wear in the heat of Ajijic and sated our need for some good old home style retail therapy. We spent the next couple of days on the famous San Antonio River Walk, truly candy for the eye with beautiful hotels, shops and restaurants all along the banks of the San Antonio River. We took an informative boat tour, we ate, we ogled, we walked and we were delighted by this incredibly beautiful part of the city. Everyone who has never been needs to put it on their "Bucket List."
We also visited the Alamo, had a very lovely reunion with Greg's old working buddy Cindy Leeming who now lives in Florida but happened to see my facebook blurb about going to San Antonio and was going to be there with her beau Ed Womble. Two lovely people. We brunched together and had drinks on the River Walk. Lina took us for a lovely dinner at her daughter's restaurant.

We left the grand town of San Antonio late Sunday morning. We arrived at the border and renewed everything without too much hassle....so great to have a fluent Spanish speaker in tow. We drove until just before nightfall and stopped in Saltillo (they mine salt there) Mexico for the night. We stayed near the square at an old Colonial Hotel.....very different from the Comfort Inn. We got up at 6 a.m and headed out arriving in Ajijic at around 2 in the afternoon. Mission accomplished.

I went for a walk one Sunday morning and just took pictures around town and of the Spring flowers. I've broken them into two albums.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April 4 Update

I've got to admit, I was a bit worried about having two kids here with us for 10 days. I'm not that good with kids (big surprise right!). What a great surprise for us. Nadia's kids Nicholas and Jacob were a blast to have around. They never did any of that sucky whiny stuff that makes me crazy. Nadia and the kids left a couple of days ago and both Lynne and mentioned at dinner that we missed them all.
Nadia and I did some good training together. Ron and Bev and coming next weekend for a few days. I should get some good runs in with Bev too.
So, I've taken a bunch of pictures lately. I spent the afternoon sorting out 1200 pictures, tossing out about 1000 of them and breaking the rest into albums. I'll post a few now and more later in the week.

There was a very cool reenactment of the whole Easter story here in town. On Palm Sunday, the main street past the town square and into the church was covered in palms and grass and stuff for Jesus to ride the donkey into town.
This Friday, Good Friday was the reenactment of the Crusifixation.

On a much lighter and fun note though are all the pictures we have from Nadia and the boys visit.
The Boys - 

I've got some great pictures from the dinner we had here with all the gang who left to go back home after spending the winter here.
It's spring here too and the flowers are absolutely amazing. I've still got to sort through those pictures as well as some picture of a new born colt. I'll try to get them done shortly.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nadia 2nd Update - March 31

It's Wednesday afternoon and the boys and I need to pack for our 10am flight tomorrow morning for Toronto. As I sit here trying to decide what to write about I can barely think over the noise.  Birds, hundreds of birds chirping, dogs barking, the wind blowing lemon and lime trees gently and the occasionally lemon dropping to the ground.

What I want all of you to know is that the Mexican people are as warm and welcoming as the beautiful climate. Smiles and twinkling eyes greet you almost everywhere.

We visited an artisan community (Tonala) and bought some lovely pewter, glass at the glass blowing factory, trinkets and mementos at various town markets, walked the boardwalk in Chapala, went horseback riding along the lake, had dinner under a rubber tree (no relation to Trojan, a real rubber tree), watched Jesus ride a donkey over a palm leaf covered road to the community square and Basilica, spent a day at the Mineral Spa and spent 2 ½ hours moving from one mineral tub to another including a mud bath.  God bless the 90 year old gentleman who decided he needed to help me rub mud on my back and butt!

Had a lovely going away dinner party for the departing ranch residents and managed to get drunk on 2 Corona (b.t.w, Corona on sale at the local Wal-Mart, 24 Corona for $16Cdn...no, I don’t have any room left in my suitcase).  The boys 9, & 12 had a couple of massages each! I think I'm in trouble because they are already asking when they can have one at home....
I need to pack and really don’t want to.  Nicholas, Jacob and I truly had the best time.  We managed in our short time ( okay not so short if you ask Greg : ) )to develop a routine... fresh mango’s for breakfast, walks to the mountain, laying by the pool, drinks on the patio with friends at happy hour.   There is no question as to why Lynne and Greg decided to end their search here in Ajijic, its a beautiful magical place that has everything you could ask for, everything except all of you.

A huge thank you to Lynne and Greg for the best 10 days, laughter, friendship, and hospitality. A teary good bye to my great friends and their beautiful new home.

Thank you.

p.s  To those of you with children, I think Greg is turning a new leaf and wants to spend quality time with your kids.  Consider Mexico as a summer camp for your kids!!! Trust me, Greg will love it.  : )          xoxoxooxox
(Greg Note: - Obviously, Nadia spent a bit too loing at the happy hour bar and has me confused with some other kid lover!)

Monday, March 29, 2010

March 29 - Nadia Update 1

Okay, I complain regularly to Greg that he and Lynne had become very lax about updating the blog, after all what did they do all day anyway???
Well, I can tell you first hand that doing ‘nothing’ is very time consuming!!!
The boys and I arrived Monday March 22nd in the afternoon.  Greg picked us up and we drove the 30 min from the airport in Guadalajara to where Greg and Lynne live in a paradise community called Ajijic.

When I envision paradise, this place, the ranch is what I pictured.  The flora, greens, pink, yellow; lemon, lime and pomegranate trees, vibrant colour everywhere you look.  The back drop, the mountains on one side the lake to the other. Breathtaking.

After settling in on Monday and making sure Greg could be left alone with the kids without fear that he would not tie, or duct tape them to one on the nearby trees we began exploring.

Tuesday Greg, the boys and I climbed up the mountain to the shrine. Elevation? From the ‘casita’ to the base of the mountain we had already climbed 200 feet.  We climbed up the mountain to the shrine, aprox., 5700 feet above sea level.  I was breathing hard, and trying to get a deep breath was almost impossible. We spent the rest of the day by the pool and enjoying the day. 

Greg & I ran the hardest 5k (30:30) I have ever run.  5k over uneven cobble stone, uphill and with what felt like no oxygen in 26C heat.
Thursday we went back up the hill.  Greg and I made it up to the corn field, another 20 minutes higher than the shrine.  View, awesome! And cross training takes on a whole new meaning after walking in altitude for 2 hours.
Saturday we ran 14.5 km.  It took 3km just for my panting to subside.  It’s impossible to get a deep long breath. You find yourself panting and breathing hard at the least bit of exertion.  We found a comfortable pace and ran for 1:34

This morning we thought it would be fun to race up the mountain to the shrine. Greg kicked my ass and got there 30sec before me.  I was bent over and breathing hard when I finally got to the top (no comments you perverts).  There was a kid sitting on top of the shrine enjoying a joint eyeballing Greg and I for the nut cases we were.  The kid had ridden his bike up the mountain Some sections of the climb are so steep, I guess you gotta be stoned to ride back down.  Anyway, why not race down the mountain???? I redeemed myself though and made it down in 6min 30 secs!  (Greg behind me : )   )

We checked the Around the Bay results when we got back, we were thinking of you guys all morning.  Congratulations!!! Kind of bitter sweet thinking back to last year when we were both there running the mountain.
If any of you are wondering, the kids are still in good health, and Greg has yet to make good on his treats to duct tape them to a tree, or sell them into slavery to the locals.

We are having the best time.  The weather spectacular, almost 30C everyday.  I honestly can’t thank Greg and Lynne enough for taking us around to the sights and for their incredible hospitality.  This week has flown past, and honestly doing nothing is very time consuming....................!

Friday, March 26, 2010

March 26 Update

Nadia and the boys are here this week and we're having a blast. Her boys are great . . . well . . . . as great as kids can be anyway!!

Truthfully, they are so well behaved it's unbelievable! They are a pleasure to have around. We've done the Wednesday market and the Tonala visit. We watched glass bowls being blown yesterday and picked up tons of Pewter stuff while we were there. The boys are having a great time in the pool.

It's springtime here as it is back in the 'old country'. I think we talked about the purple Jacaranda trees the other day. I took some pictures (for a change) of them and the strangest looking pink feather like flowers I've ever seen. I haven't found out what they're called yet.

I weighed Lucky today. She's up to 28.5 pounds already. I don't know if that's a lot for a 4 month old German Sheppard or not. We're just all happy as hell she's doing so well.

Most of the other folks who spend the winter on the ranch are leaving next week. It'll be a mixed blessing being here alone. It should be interesting.

Nadia is doing the next update.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

There hasn't been a lot going on here since we got back from our Puerto Vallarta trip. The first week back was a sad week as puppy number 6 and number 7 died from Distemper. We'd pretty much adopted the puppies after they were born so, it was heartbreaking to see them die like that.
It seems that the Mexican culture is such that they think of dogs and cats about the way we think of squirrels and raccoons. They are animals but, it doesn't matter if they live or die and they certainly aren't going to spend hard earned cash on getting them shots or anything.
I've decided that if they dog has pups again, I'll take them myself to the vet for their shots.
The following week was great. no more sadness of dying puppies but, time to start teaching the last remaining puppy some tricks. I had named the pups a long time ago. The last one's name had been Bandit, but the folks renamed her Lucky when we were away. We decided to keep that name seeing as she'd won the Ajijic Survivor Series!
So far we've taught her to sit and to come when she's called. She HATES the collar and leash. She just shrinks into the ground when I put the collar on her. I guess I should leave it on her but, i feel bad looking at her scratch at it. I put it on for short periods of time and extend the time each time.
I decided for sure that I'm going to Lake Placid this summer to watch Ironman. Michelle, Gavin, Kathryn and Derek and a bunch of my mates from back home are racing. I emailed the "Swim" captain and got my old 'peeler' job back. Now all I have to do is find a place to stay when I get there. I expect I'll be able to pick up a last minute cancellation. I wonder if the hotels have waiting lists? Maybe I should email a bunch of them.
We've got LOTS of company coming over the next few weeks. Kevin and Jennifer arrive this Friday for a week. Nadia and her kids arrive the day after K & J leave. They'll be here for about 11 days. We have a week to ourselves after that and then Ron and Bev come for a week.
e're both really looking forward to seeing everyone. We've been looking at each other since . . . . . August. Gee, no wonder we're starting to get on each others nerves a bit!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Puerto Vallarta Trip

You can't imagine our shock to wake up Monday morning one half hour later than planned. It was 6:15, which was the time we had planned to leave the ranch to walk to the corner where we were supposed to meet the bus. The alarm clock was definitely calling out to us but we slept right through the buzzing. We didn't get much sleep due to a pesky buzzing mosquito in our bedroom which we couldn't manage to find. So, no showers, no coffee, definitely no breakfast. Thank God we had packed the night before. We were out the door by 6:30 (which was the time we were supposed to be at the bus) and ran to the bus where everyone was waiting for us. We were justly rewarded for being the last to arrive by getting the two back seats.
I slept for a while then woke up to most of the folks opening bag lunches that they had sensibly packed for themselves. I always make a travel lunch but for some reason didn't this time. Now I felt even more miserable......no coffee, no breakfast and now no lunch.

We arrived in Puerto Vallarta at around 1 oclock. It took a while to get 30 couples checked in and wouldn't you just know it....our room was the last to be ready. Fortunately though, lunch was still being served and we were able to eat something, at last. We went for a walk and returned to a "bonus" room, one with an ocean view. That was to thank us for our patience. Room with a view and a lovely little terrace to sit and watch the rolling waves.

Greg & Lynne - Puerto Vallarta

Our hotel, The Buenaventura, was on the main road running through downtown P.V. The front doors were on the equivalent of Yonge Street the backyard was on the ocean front. We loved it. Two large HEATED pools, and a short walk to sea and surf. I'm so happy that our hotel was in the heart of town and not in Nueva Vallarta where most of the big all inclusive hotels are located.

Greg Collett Puerto Vallarta

Although it rained for a day and a half of our 4 day stay we managed to enjoy ourselves very much. P.V. has a heartbeat. The Malecon (boardwalk) is wonderful. The time share guys are a hoot once you learn how to manage them. We walked or ran on the malecon every morning, rain or shine. We shopped, drank and ate to our hearts delight. We chatted with new people , we drank margueritas and daquiris. I had a bath which was a real treat as our casita in Ajijic boasts a shower only bathroom.
Greg Collett puerto Vallarta

We ate dinner in two of the specialty restaurants. One an Argentinian "meat house." There were about 10 courses, each a different kind of barbequed meat brought to the table stacked on a huge skewer. I don't eat meat but managed to enjoy the shrimp and salmon courses very much. Greg was in heaven.

The last night we ate at the Sunset restaurant and watched the sun do exactly that. Our table was right beside the waves, the food was wonderful and the service impeccable.

We didn't leave on Friday until noon so Greg and I did our usual walk along the malecon, photographing all the sculptures, including the amazing sand sculptures that artists had built on the beach. We crossed the river and walked right up into the old town. Very European. Lovely little hotels, restaurants and shops. The last morning was sunny and hot. We did one last beach walk and then got showered and ready to board the bus. We were certainly mindful of being on time.

Unfortunately, the lady behind us had had three margueritas before boarding the bus and snored for 6 hours of arduous, twisting, mountain road driving. We both wanted to slap her but managed to restrain ourselves.

We arrived back at the Rancho on time for Happy Hour. Everyone stood and gave us a warm welcome. Greg whistled for his pups who came running to him. The two sick ones had survived our absence under the fine care of Ray and Marlene. They did seem to be worse though now then before we left. A vet had been called but did not show up. Lucia and Concho came to get them the next morning and took them to the vet in Riberas. He gave them shots, special food and medicine for the next four days. If they are not better in the four days they will have to be put down. The one pup who is showing no signs at all of the distemper which is what all the others have had, is healthy, strong and lively. She has been renamed "Lucky."

Lynne and I went to 'Carnival" in Chappla the day before we left for Puerto Vallarta. Here are the pics from there.

This week is going down as the crappiest week that I've had since we arrived here 3 short months ago.

I eat something on Saturday night that didn't agree me. I'd figured it was time to get brave and eat some actual authentic Mexican food. That turned out to be a VERY BAD decision. I don't have a strong stomach at the best of times.

I don't want to get too descriptive here so, let's just say, I stayed very very close to the bathroom all Saturday night. We were going out on Sunday with friends to the zoo in Guadalajara. Lynne wrote all about that in the last update. She gave me a couple of Immodium pills and did they ever dry me up. I could almost not even talk my mouth was so dry, but it did the trick. We had a safe day, but the effect of those pills had worn off by bedtime Sunday night.
I spent Sunday night in the bathroom and Lynne suggested that I just stay in bed all day Monday. Monday night was about the same. Tuesday wasn't much different except I got a fever at night. At this point I started thinking about the flue - swine flue and how we'd not had shots for it. A friend from home told us her experience and how it was worse than the chimo she'd gone though.

Wednesday morning the fever was gone. I laughed when I looked in the washroom waste basket and saw that it was completely full of empty toilet paper rolls! Thanks God I bought the more expensive but, 'oh so soft' good stuff!

Thursday morning we decided that enough was enough and we should head over to the local hospital. Thought of home and never ending waits in the waiting room came to mind. I expect that the fact that we don't speak the language yet would add more time and aggravation to the situation.

So, here's the hospital story.

9:00 - Arrive at hospital and go to reception. (Well, Lynne went to reception, I had to find another bathroom.)
9:02 - Doctor comes out to get us.
9:10 - exam done, prescription written
9:12 - pay the bill. $12.00 Cdn
9:15 - back in the car

That's what I call "Health Care Reform"!

So, some crappy (hummm, maybe a poor choice of word there) medicine to drink for a few days, Some pills for a week and . . . . I went to the bathroom and peed this afternoon, and nothing else. What a nice treat that was for a change.

It's raining here tonight (Thursday) but the weather is supposed to clear up and it looks like it's supposed to be a nice sunny week in Puerto Vallarta next week.

We're both leaving our computers here at the house while we're away. We're looking forward to a totally offline week.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Weekly Update Feb 1 -7, by Lynne

Three days of rain proved a bit challenging especially with almost non existent internet access and poor t.v. reception. We didn't even make it to the tienges (outdoor market) this past week because the thought of doing our shopping in a downpour just wasn't very appealing. We did attend all of our Spanish Lessons and various other groups. It was the perfect time to Skype and email people back home and get caught up on all of our correspondence, banking, Greg's web work etc., but without the internet that proved impossible. Grrrrr! Mucho frustration. Gonzalo, the Remax rental manager brought us (and some of the others on the ranch) individual modems but alas everyone else's kicked in through the phone company in 24 hours except ours. (When Bad Things Happen to Good People.) Ours is finally up and running today. Yippee!

This was not the only bad news. On the second day of rain, Little Wolfie, one of the pups who had seemed quite sick for several days, lay on our door step in a wet mass, barely breathing. Greg brought her in and towelled her dry and held her and we tried to give her warm milk but when she seemed completely non responsive we went to get Lucia who promised to take her to the Vet. Today when Lucia came by with a new piece of furniture for our casita, we asked after the pup and found out "es muerto." Greg especially, is very saddened to lose another of the original 8. And then there were 3. They lie on their mat in our house throughout the day and we feed them but feel we have to put them out at night because they haven't been cared for very well and are probably flea infested and we can't give them the run of the place while we sleep. A new critter has joined us. Roxy, (Greg Note: real name Satan!) the tea cup chihuaha who belongs to one of our Canadian neighbours, was purchased a couple of weeks ago at the tienges. She's a wild little thing, but adorable and she climbs on top of the Shepards and tries hard to be one of the girls. The funniest thing though is to see Smokey curled up in the little chihuaha's bed. She barely fits but doesn't seem to mind her head and rear end hanging over the edge.
One of these things don't belong with the others.
Can you spot it? :-)
On Saturday I had invited three of the women from my Miracles group over for wine and snacks after the class. Dorothy, is turning 80 this month and has taken quite a shine to Greg. She flirted with him outrageously and he is a big flirt too but doesn't quite know how to respond to this chick who is old enough to be his mother. After they left, we were heading out to the movies to see "What About the Morgans?" I think that's what it's called, and the Mexican's up at the top our property were having a Baptismal party and it was Anna's (the girl who cleans our house once a week) baby who had been baptized so they insisted we come and "gusto" with them.....that means eat and party. We sat around a bit like bumps on a log because our Spanish is not good enough yet to really communicate. Then Gonzalo our Mexican property manager from Remax arrived with his wife and daughter. He speaks English. We loved their company. He's so adorable and his wife Maria Elena is lovely and speaks a fair bit of English, as does Helena, the 7 year old daughter.

They invited us to join their family the next day to go to Guadalajara to the zoo. We said sure and met them in Jocotopec (a town about 30 minutes down the road) at 8 in the morning. The family included the wife's sister and brother in law who is a gynecologist and their two children and the Abuela and Abuelo (grandparents)......we arrived in Guad in two cars at about 10 and quickly headed to the big Cathedral there for mass. It was interesting. We participated as best we could except for taking holy communion, although Greg was starving and really wanted one of those wafers.

After mass we had breakfast at an outdoor restaurant in the square .....and then off to the zoo....and quite an impressive one I might add. Greg and I, though, were quite exhausted after about 2 hours but we spent about 5 hours at the zoo. We saw every animal in the place and fed carrots to the giraffes who were head to head with us, leaning into our Safari truck to get the little morsels.
The zoo is definitely world class. Lovely grounds and well thought out environments for the different species. However, we were more impressed with the human family interaction. Three kids under the age of 7 and not a single whine, tantrum or complaint all day long. Now I know everyone in Canada is getting ready for family day on Feb. 15. The Mexican's would laugh at that notion. Every Sunday is family day here. And that doesn't mean just your immediate family. It includes the grandparents and the sisters and sometimes the brothers and their children. I say sometimes the brothers because it is customary here for the men to go with the wives to their families. You have to feel sorry then for clans without daughters. Church together is always the opening activity. Greg and I were honoured to be "part of the family" even if only for the day. They told us we are welcome to join them any Sunday we feel inspired to do so.
Our Family in Guadalajaro
The activities ended with dinner at Kentucky Fried Chicken and the ride back to Lakeside in the dark. Greg and I fell into bed. He hasn't been feeling great since eating Mexican specialty beef at the baptismal party on Saturday night.

Nadia and the boys have confirmed their flights and will be arriving on March 22nd. My BFF for 52 years, Susie Neudoerffer celebrated her 60th on Feb. 2nd and my cousin Brian Gold celebrated his 65th yesterday. Michelle and Gavin got a new dog, a sister for Sneakers called Shasta. Jordan needs money, but that's not really news.

And so a new week begins.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Weekly Update Feb 2, 2010

I had a pretty event full week this week.
I went out one day this week and climbed back up to the shrine, then carried on to the cornfield and then hit new territory finding new trails to descend back to town from.
Cornfield Ajijic
I pushed a bit heading up to the shrine and made in 11 minutes. I rested a bit there and saw a women come down from higher up the mountain. She was dressed totally in white coveralls including white hat and scarf. Only her face showed and she carried a few plastic one gallon water jogs. She asked how far I was going. I told her I was heading up to the cornfield, but I didn’t know where I was heading from there. She asked if I’d help her group out. I’d seen small trees that were planted along the trails on previous hikes. I had no idea where they were from. I’d joked with Lynne once that they were part of the Mexican reforestation project. It ends up that was about right. She and her group were planning all along the trails. There was a fence that I had to cut through to get up to the cornfield. She asked if I’d help out by taking one of the jugs and filling it from a large container that was next to the fence and then carry it up to the cornfield. I guess she had carried the half dozen or so jugs she had up to that fence. I said sure. Why not, it was all I could do to get up to that cornfield the first time I’d done it. I might as well try it with a big jog of water in one hand at the same time. In the end, it wasn’t has hard as I thought it would be.
Greg Collett - Ajijic
I hung out at the cornfield which is about 1300’ above the town, which is about 5200’ above sea level. I took some bars and a few water bottles with E-Load. I felt good. I took a bunch of pictures looking up the mountain and down to the town. The mountain continues up another 2000 feet or so. There are a couple of climbing groups around, but I’m going to continue exploring on my own. I’ll go a bit further and fine new trails each time until i get really familiar with these hills over the next month or two before going back to running.
On the weekend I headed out by car to the town or Morelia. Morelia is about 500k east of here, about half way towards Mexico City. Morelia is the town that the Monarch butterflies migrate to each year. Now, I must admit, I really couldn’t care less about butterflies, but I figured that, seeing as I’m this close and it is pretty amazing that these bugs fly from Canada to here each year, it was something worth going to see. Something I found interesting is that the butterflies fly down from Canada to the same mountain in Mexico each year. They get here; they breed, and then die. The butterflies that are born here fly back to Canada in the spring and breed, and die there. The butterflies make the several thousand kilometre trip by instinct, arriving at the same area year after year, generation after generation.
LAnd Before Man
Lynne wanted some time alone. We’re together pretty much 24 hours a day. Some time alone would be good for both of us. I drove out on Friday morning. Within a hundred kilometres the landscape changed from the mountain ranges that we live in to old volcanoes jutting out of the otherwise flat green land. The skies were overcast. The overall appearance reminded me of pictures of "the land before man". I’m told there are some live volcanoes in the area. I’m going to research them and visit one soon.
The GPS put me on the toll roads pretty quickly. I turn off after a few hours and headed south towards the town of Patzucuaro. John and Joan told us it’s a beautiful town and that I should check it out on this trip. It was getting late in the afternoon. It was going to take me another hour to get to Morelia from there so, I just drove through and looked around from the car. The town did look inviting. There were tons of wood working shops, wood carving actually. Almost every corner was another shop. I don’t know why i didn’t get any picture. I’m sorry now that I didn’t, but I’m sure Lynne and I will head out there for a weekend soon to spend some time exploring the town.
I notice the first strip joint I’ve seen anywhere in Mexico too. The building was huge and the music was really loud. I could hear it from the car from the middle of the road. I looked at the place, thought about all the stories I’ve heard of gringos getting killed in joints like those and, kept on driving!
Lina, our Spanish teacher kindly forwarded a newspaper article that spoke to the 2600 people who were killed in the first 6 months of last year due to drug wars in the area. I think that prompted me to stay in the car too! I didn’t see any traces of drugs, drug lords or drug wars while I was away. Lina did email me when I got home to tell me that 8 people were found beheaded in that state over the weekend. I’m glad she waited until I was back home to tell me!
The drive from Patzucuaro to Morelia did take about an hour. The roads twisted and turned everywhere. It was a fun drive. It was interesting that, as many woodworking shops I’d seen in Patzucuaro, there were as many, if not more, stone carving shops on the roads to Morelia. There were stone carvings of everything from small animals and birdbaths to huge pillars that would sit in front of massive cathedrals. I’d love to go back again another day and explore some of the shops in both towns.
Morelia was an amazingly busy town traffic wise. It took an hour to get the 3.5k to the hotels when I got to town. The GPS showed me that there were a number of hotels all in the same area. What it didn’t tell me was that they were all the high-end hotels at the centre of town. I was too tired to head our again when I realized what I was in for, so I took the $120. Room and spent the night there at the edge of the incredibly beautiful town square. $120.00 isn’t a lot for a hotel at home but, it’s a fortune for Mexico.
I tool lots of pictures of the hotel and the room, but headed out early in the morning for ‘Butterflyville! It ended up that I was still a couple of hours drive from the sanctuary.
Greg Collett Morelia
The place was high in the mountains. The temperature was only about 8 or 9 degrees. The skies were overcast again. I found the place, parked the car and walked through the woods for about 30 minutes. Up and then down the mountain to the end of the path. I was a bit pissed at first when there were no butterflies in the air. All the stories I read about the place talked about the millions of butterflies. What I didn’t know at the time was that, when the weather is cold, they group together high in the trees in hugs clumps, huddled together to keep each other warm. Eventually I notice hundreds of dead butterflies on the ground. I did see one butterfly in the air. I laughed when I realized it had died and was only falling to the ground! I headed back when it started to rain.
Oh well, I’ve seen it!
I headed back home, but stayed on the main highways all the way. Again I loved looking at the landscape that kept reminding me of those "Land before Man" scenes.
Kids In Truck at 140 kph
Traffic laws here aren’t what they are at home. The speed limit is posted at 110, but most people drive at around 130 - 145 kph. I followed a pickup truck for a bit. Mom and Dad were in the front. 4 kids were playing in the open cab in the back. At one point I clocked us moving at 160 kph. The kids played in that open cab as if they were sitting in a playground. I kept waiting to see one of them or their toys go flying out onto the road!
I got a couple of good shots of the red sunset sky on the way back. I was home by about 8:30pm. It was a fun trip. The butterflies sucked, but the adventure of exploring the land was great. I think next weekend I’ll stick closer to town and head back up into the mountains or over and explore the town of Chapala.
Our neighbours John and Joan left for California on Monday morning. Like us, they sold there house and are traveling around deciding where to settle down. We’re going to miss them. They were the first friends that Lynne and I made since we left Aurora in July. Hopefully we’ll keep in touch by email.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Jan 24 Weekly Update

Well the weather warmed up this week and we have not had the space heater on for a couple of days. I even opened the bedroom window last night. The puppies haven't been seen in a few days now and we haven't asked anyone but we have a feeling that they are gone.

We met up with our new Gringo friends Donna and Douglas on Wednesday evening. We had a couple of drinks at La Tasca and asked all the requisite questions. I think we all hit it off because Douglas suggested we go for dinner. We went to Reubens, a newly opened restaurant in town. The food was delicious and the owner regaled us with great stories about his life. Born in Jocotopec (just down the road). He lived in L.A. for several years. Consequently his English is great. He is also a singer and he serenaded us with a few of his favourite songs. He gave us some good information about his home town. It's the raspberry growing capital of the world. I've been eating raspberries every morning for breakfast and they are plump and juicy. Anyhow, those Briscoes raspberries we eat at home in Canada in the plastic boxes are grown just ten minutes down the road from us. Now we know what's growing under all those plastic sheets on the acres of land just down the road on the Lake side.
Greg has decided to give up running for a while because his knees and his back have been aching lately. It must be the bumpy roads. As I mentioned in the last blog, we climbed the mountain to the chapel. Greg has been out the door early and up the mountain about 3 times this week. On Friday he climbed to a cornfield about an hour past the chapel. I went with him again this morning but didn't make it much past the chapel. Greg is in much stronger shape than I am. I will go with him again and try to add some distance from today's destination. Our walk today was just over 5K. (all uphill.) I used the broom handle as a walking stick. Some Mexican man was coming down the slope with a rake as we were going up. He had raked all the gravel off the trail which made the walk a lot easier. How nice was that!
Lynne Green
On Thursday we went with our neighbours John and Joan to Tango a wonderful restaurant here in town. It's an Argentinean steak house. I ate vegetarian Lasagna. Greg gobbled up his steak with glee. I brought home half of my meal and ate it the next day for lunch. Joan and John had their birthdays on Tuesday and Greg had his on Saturday, hence the celebratory dinner out.

We saw Avatar twice this week. Once in town here where it was shown in English but not in 3D. Today we drove into Guadalajara and went to an Imax theatre and watched it in 3D. We are now done giving James Cameron our money.

We've booked a trip to Puerto Vallarta in mid February. It's a bus trip that leaves from town and takes us to a beautiful all inclusive hotel on the beach. Everyone raves about P.V. and some of the surrounding villages. Lots to see. It will be lovely to walk on the beach and swim in the sea and to have someone else do the meal preparation.

We have some company coming to visit. Kevin and Jennifer have booked tickets for mid-March. Ron and Bev are coming in April. We are waiting to see if Nadia has booked anything later in March. She hopes to come with her boys. I can't wait to watch the kid's reactions to some of the wacky sites in this town. Sharon and Allen are talking about coming as well. It will be exciting to see people from home and be able to show them the town and the surrounding area. There's so much to experience. It will be fun to share it all with some of our B.F.F.'s

On a final note. Jordan turned 20 on January 23rd and today is Christine's (Greg's younger daughter) birthday. She turned 33. We're all getting older.
Lynne got a GREAT haircut this week. I guess she didn't want to talk about it though!
Lynne Green Haircut

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Jan 17 - Update

No big adventures this week, just life on the ranch. We both continue our Spanish Lessons with Lina. She has found a way to address Greg's learning style which is much more kinaesthetically. They are now making puzzles to put together and using flash cards which seems to be better for him. I met a guy named Douglas who takes the lesson after mine and often gets there early, hence our meeting. I was immediately attracted to him because he was "young" which around this town means somewhere around 60 and not the more mature 70 and 80 years olds that we tend to be meeting. I guess people are working longer and don't have the funds to retire in their 50's or early 60's. We're lucky. Anyhow, Douglas and I joked about our "relative youthfulness" and he gave me his phone number and said we should call him and his wife Donna and get together. I can't believe how difficult that call was to make. I felt like I was calling for a blind date. I procrastinated all week but finally did phone and Greg and I will meet Douglas and Donna for drinks this coming Wednesday night.
Greg Coillett - Lynne Green
Greg has taken to bringing the puppies into our casita. He gave them a little mat to lie down on and I think they like it here better than in their cage behind the Mexican motel as we've come to call it. Last night we had all four in here but only two spent the night. Those same two are back tonight.....asleep in the spooning position on their little mat in our living room.

We went to the local cinema to see House 39 which we thought was a story about a social worker. We didn't realize it was a horror flick and we are not fans of that genre. I spent most of the movie with my eyes squeezed shut and my hands over my ears. I DO NOT recommend this flick. Avitar has arrived this weekend in English finally, but alas not in 3-D. We'll probably see it anyhow. At 2 bucks a person it's hard to resist seeing everything that comes to town.

I experimented with some recipes this week that my sister-in-law sent me and made a wonderful tex-mex salad which I ate solo. Greg is not a big salad eater. He cooked himself shrimp. Oh, how we'd love to pay someone to take off the shells and remove the veins. It's a very tedious job and somewhat gross as well. Greg buys a beautiful floral bouquet every week at the Tienges. He just gives the vendor 8 bucks and asks him to make something up for him. Each week we have a gorgeous and different arrangement on the side board in our dining room. We save our small change during the week to take to the market and give to the people who are there begging. It's the same people every week and I guess it's just their job.
Greg Collett / Lynne Green
My article came out today in the Chapala review. It was quite thrilling to see the magazine at our local grocery store and flip through it until I found my piece. I like seeing my name in print. I've got another assignment and a deadline of February 14th. It would be great if I could start it and not be sweating on the 13th but I know myself and I am a procrastinator.

We got Greg's mom to sign up for facebook this week and that's been fun, watching her connect with the grandchildren. At 85, I think joining Facebook is a wonderful venture.

Greg's 60th birthday was today. I can't believe I married someone so much older than myself! He ran to Chapala and back and when he returned announced that he was giving up running for now. That really scares me but because there will be something else for sure and I brace myself as I await his next hobby. I bought him a dangling earring which he had mentioned wanting and some of his favourite food treats. I also bought a cake and two bottles of Champagne to take to Happy Hour with all of our other ranch Gringos. We sang Happy Birthday and took pictures and enjoyed the company. Greg really wanted a big flat screen t.v. but I'm the frugal one in this relationship. He calls it cheap but he's not one for being politically correct.
Greg Collett / Lynne Green
Tomorrow we are getting up early, at least by 8:30 and climbing the mountain to the Chapel. We will pray for all of you while we are there. After the mountain, we will drive to Guadalajara to the Galleria Mall.....yup you heard correctly, and Greg wants to buy himself a new pair of jeans as his old ones have got a hole in the tush.

It was warmer today and the winds died down. We've had a very cool and miserable week, weather-wise, but the forecast for the coming week looks promising.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jan 10 update - South Lake Trip

We've been having some cool weather here. We had to buy a space heater to keep warm in the evenings in our little casita. I think the cool weather has turned us into "home bodies" and since Jordan and Sara left we've haven't been doing much more than eating and watching very bad t.v. We only have 4 English speaking stations....and re-runs of Miami CSI are starting to become boring. Greg can't stand Horatio at the best of times. Greg has been doing some web work and I have taken up knitting again and have been doing some writing. We've both started Spanish Lessons with Lina, an American gal, about our age, who was raised here in Ajijic by parents who moved here in the early 60's. All that being said, we haven't done much adventuring lately.
Yesterday, the sun poked out again in the morning and Greg was inspired to drive around the lake. We set out at around 10 p.m. When we got to the cut off on the highway for Mazitmitla we decided to check it out. Our rental agent, Gonzalo had told us it was a really interesting and very different little town. The road took us up a mountain and I mean ear-popping up and up. Once again, the change in vegetation was very interesting. The higher we went the more pine woods appeared. We drove past Mazatmitla to the little town of San Jose de Gracia. It was quaint and of course had a big chuch and a lovely square with the pervasive shops surrounding the square. These were a bit more high end stalls than those we have become accustomed to in our area. We also notice more indigenous people and the town seemed cleaner and there were less stray dogs roaming around. I had packed a little lunch for us and we sat on little benches in the square facing the church and watched as proud parents exited the church with their newly Christened babies, dressed in miniature bride gowns. Children flocked around the entrance of the church and called out for candy to get thrown which happened over and over again. Greg asked permission to photograph one of the more elaborately dressed babies and we chatted with the proud Papa who is Mexican but lives and works in Missouri so spoke perfect English. We used the banos publicos in the Town hall. The mayor's office seemed modest at most.

Greg bought his third Mexican hat in a store on the square. I think he finally got the one he likes.....and says he know looks like a happy Mexican instead of a mean cowboy.
We left San Jose de Gracia and headed back down the road to Mazitmitla. We chuckled to find a combination Gravenhurst, Lake Placid, Swiss Alpine town here in the interior of Mexico. Because they have pine woods, they use the lumber to trim and decorate their white adobe houses giving them a very Swiss Chalet kind of look. The high fences and gates of Ajijic and Chapala were not as prevalent. A beautiful church and square and the requisite shops were the scene of much activity, laughter, and general life with a buzz. We talked about how different life is here compared to at home where everyone has their own electronic device to plug into and interactivity seems to occur only as a planned event. That's part of what we love about living here. There is exuberant, racous life on the street and especially in the town squares and around the churches.

I bought some fresh ground coffee to bring back home and a pair of dangling earrings that I've been wanting to buy since arriving in Mexico.

We drove down the mountain and stopped in one last village before heading back home. San Pedro was a dusty little place with a vacant square, no vendors and an empty church yard. We aren't sure if it was the time of day....maybe everyone was having their siesta, or a small population that contributed to this phenomenon. We photographed the interior of the church and the list of donations made by townspeople to the church. This was all written by hand on paper ripped from a notebook and displayed for everyone to see in a glass case set into the wall of the church. Interesting.

I didn't feel like cooking last night so Greg bought himself 3 pieces of chicken and a big tub of cole slaw for 35 pesos.....about 3 dollars. I did however notice him spending an unprecedented amount of time in the washroom last night.

And so, dear friends and followers, that is the latest chapter of La Vida en el ranchero.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Puppies and Christmas Pictures

I finally got around to posting some pictures. The first group here are the pictures from Jordan and Sara's visit. I HAD to start them off with the picture of the fellow we found asleep in the middle of the town square at noon on Christmas day.
Christmas in Mexico
Too much Christmas cheer?

The second group are of the puppies. There are two German Sheppard's here on the ranch. Samson and Delilah. Delilah had pups a couple of weeks after we got here. One of our neighbors complained about the noise, so the puppies were moved up behind 'The Motel' as we call the building that the local resident groundskeepers live in.

We don't see the puppies much unless we walk up there. They are kept in the backyard of the building there. We don't like to intrude. The other night, the puppies got out.

All night long we heard the whining as they chased Delilah around wanting to get fed. I went out for a run in the morning. When I got back, two of the pups were playing by or front door. I grabbed them and brought them in. I was waiting for Lynne to yell at me to get them out but, she fell instantly in love with them too. We played with them for a while. I fed them a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Lynne, being a bit more thoughtful, warmed up some milk and broke us some bread in a dish and fed them that.
They hung in here for about and hour and a half. They'd play, then snuggle in my arms and fall asleep. Delilah came around looking for them eventually and they tore off after her again.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sun Jan 3 - Two Week Catch Up

Wow - I can't believe that it's been so long since we've updated the site here. More so - I can't believe I haven't re-designed it and cleared out a lot of the old stuff yet!

I've done a TON of studying on different technology from what I've been using for years. I'm looking forward to introducing it all on the new site.

So - what's been happening since we updated last?

1. I climbed the mountain.
2. Jordan and Sara visited for 8 days.
3. We installed Windows 7 and have both computers running again!
4. Christmas came and went.
5. So did New Years.
6. More people moved into the ranch here.
7. We signed up for Spanish lessons

1. The Mountain.
So, there is a Shrine part way up one of the mountains from here. I was talking to a guy who hikes around in the mountains and he invites me out to go with hi. I'm told it's about 20 minute up and 20 minutes down. A great introduction to climbing in the mountains I think.

Well, I've got a lot of catching up to do here so, to make a long story short . . 6 hours later we return from the top of the 8,000' mountain. (We're at 5,000' here) Cuts bruises scraps and legs muscle aches from muscles that I didn't know existed. Holy crap - what an adventure.

The really fun part was when we lost the trail cut through the bush, got all tangled up in vines and then slipped on the loose gravel and slid on my back until I could catch a branch to hold me until Doug came back and tossed me a line.

Yup - mountain climbing - something new to add to the list of somewhat insane things to fill in time doing!

2. Jordan and Sara Visit
We picked up the kids from Guadalajara on the 22nd. It was late in the day so there wasn't much for them to see while we drove the 30 minutes back from the airport.

It was really fun having them here. Sara hadn't traveled at all prior to this so everything was a new adventure for her.

We took them out to all the local, 'way cool' restaurants We did the Wednesday 'Tiengas' local market. The next day we headed off to the Hot springs and the Spa. The hot springs are only about 10k from here. The springs themselves were a bit of a disappointment because the springs now feed manmade pools and hot tubs, but it was great to be able to swim in huge warm pools!

The Spa was a riot. They offer two packages. A 1.5 hour or a 2.5 hour package. It cost 40 or 60 pesos for the packages. 60 pesos is $4.80 Canadian so we figured, 'Go big or go home' and spent the $20.00 for the bunch of us.

Now - I'm not a Spa guy. I'm really not sure about all this laying in hot tubs of with all sorts of minerals, or flowers or teas leaves or whatever sort of plant they can think of. There were signs beside each of the first 6 hot tubs explaining what was in them and what they were good for. All I know is that and hour and a half later, I smelt something like tea and flowers, was wrinkled like crazy, and pretty damn relaxed!

Then we headed over to the other side where we covered ourselves in mud, ad I mean covered. Hair to toes - crazy! Just these little white eyes blinking through all this crap! Then sat in the sun while it caked dry. More hot tubs to wash it off, steam rooms, inhalers and saunas. All in all, quite the adventure. We all fell asleep totally relaxed pretty early that night!

We did the Tonala and Tlaquepaque tour with them. We went to the movies, we spent some time just hanging out, we did Christmas dinner at the local hotel restaurant.

The last day here the kids opted for going back to the hot springs over going and touring the town of Tequila. I guess Lynne and I will go there ourselves again one day and do the tour.

We took them back to the airport on the 30th. They had wanted to be home for New Years. We were both pretty sad and lonely for a couple of days after they left. They're god kids and they were a blast to have around!

3. Windows 7
Yup - It works. It seems pretty stable. It's always such a pain in the butt to reinstall all that software, but it seems like it was worth in. Now if we could only get a solid reliable internet connection, computer life would be perfect!

4. & 5. Christmas and New Years
Christmas pretty much didn't come to Ajijic. I've always wanted to live somewhere that there wasn't all the snow, the cold, the hustle and bustle of running to the mall, shopping for all kinds of stuff and running around like a crazy person. Now I had the experience, I missed all of that frenzy. We both missed all of the people, our friends.

Christmas here is very subdued. Santa doesn't exist in Mexico. Almost every house has a 'Creche', a nativity scene all done up with lights. The one here at the ranch was huge. Not the size of the people and animals, but the ground that it tool over and the number of people and scenes within them. All of these had the flashing colored tiny lights, but you houses aren't lit up like at home.

New Years was quiet for us. We usually don't do much. I did my 5k Resolution run in the morning of the 31st. I thought about that unbelievable cold windy Running Room rn we'd done with a few friends the year before. I missed 'the gang' again then. Oh well, there is a cost of living here with all it has to offer!

6. The invasion of the Other People
The ranch here has 6, one floor buildings. There are a total of 10 rental units within these buildings. Several of the units are duplexes. Ours is a single unit. I think we have the best one on the ranch actually. It's not big, but we face east. We get the morning sun in the front and the afternoon sun in the side. Our front room runs the length of the building and is made totally of patio windows.

We were the 2nd couple to move in. It seems the place is pretty much empty during the summer months.The couple that were here when we came, John and Joan, were quiet but friendly. They seemed a tiny bit stand offish, keeping to themselves, but nice folks. The more we get to know them the more we're enjoying them.

A coupe of weeks ago, Paul sand Kay from Nova Scotia moved in. They have been combing here for years. They have a ton of friends here and seem to be out almost every night. Great folks! Fun. Stereo typical 'down east' folk. We're liking them allot.

The day before yesterday another couple arrived from Toronto. We were eager to meet some folks form 'home'. We don't know them well yet, but, it was a bit disappointing that they seem to be complaining and demanding. Nothing is good. There's problems with everything. they are making lists to 'get things straightened out'.

It's very interesting to see how, slowly our little ranch is acquiring every bit of all of the entities that make up the world.

There's another couple arriving today. The locals at the ranch here have been working furiously at getting their place ready for them. They are moving into the building directly across from us. Paul and Kay know them and say they are nice. I understand he's a photographer. I'm looking forward to learning some stuff from him.

7. Spanish Lessons
It's always bothered me at home when I met people who moved to Canada years ago, but they had no idea of the English language. I felt they were rude in not at least attempting to learn. Well, time to put up or shut up I guess!

Lynne has been doing great with her Spanish. I on the other hand . . . . not so much.

We found a teacher who does 'one-on-one' classes. She's taught people for years and says that "everyone can learn, but we all learn differently". I hope she's right. I feel like such a dummy. I start tomorrow (Monday) going 3 times a week for an hour each time.

Ok - that's it. All caught up. Happy New Year to everyone from Lynne and I. Here's hoping that we all have a great 2010. "Thanks" to everyone who has been keeping in touch. We love hearing about what everyone is doing back home too.

Wednesday Dec 17 - Tonila and Tlaquepaque

by Lynne

Today was a wonderful day. We woke to the sound of the alarm at 6:30 a.m. - first alarm clock awakening since arriving here 5 weeks ago. We walked up to the Carretera to the corner where the Lloyd's bank is to meet our van for our day's outing. We were early, so we went across the road to Donas Donuts where I bought myself a coffee. We chatted with another fellow who appeared to be waiting as well and sure enough he was booked on the trip. His name was Marten, born in Mexico in Jocotopec, a couple of towns down on the Carretera and now living in L.A. where he teaches kindergarten. He's home visiting his father's family. He spoke fluent Spanish and English. Then Vivienne arrived. She is a tourist from Boston and today was her last day after being here for two weeks. She has the Lake Chapala fever and is already scheming to get back here as fast as she can. Our driver Hernandez, was a lovely man and he spoke English fairly well.
We drove to Tonala where we were in huge traffic jams. The Tienges (open air market) takes up several streets there and seems to go on for miles. The item that was available there that we don't see at our own market was birds in cages and on sticks and in wooden cages on men's backs. Fascinating.

We stopped first at a Potter's studio. His name is Salvadore Vazquez and he works in a dark, cold dingy space producing beautiful work. He learned his art from his mother and his grandmother and the work he produces has been shown in galleries in Sante Fe, Albuquerque, and San Diego. Everything is hand painted, the colours are burnished and gorgeous. He has a metal tool used to polish the completed pottery to give it a glazed look, that was handed down to him from his grandmother. The home gallery where his work was displayed wasn't a very lovely space either. The ceiling was leaking and the paint was peeling and there was dog poo on the mirador......such a disappointing and very humble space for a renowned artist. We ended up buying a gorgeous plate, 22 inches in diameter - lunes et sol....moon and sun. We will hang it in our rental for now, but if we ever own a home again, I will be proud to own it. Greg took a picture of me and the artist holding our purchase. It cost 800 pesos, about 65 dollars.
No wonder his space was so humble.

Next stop, the paper mache factory. Not the kind of paper mache we all did in grade 3 although much of the process is the same. The layers and different glues produce a finished product that looks like ceramic.....all also hand painted and glazed. There were 7 foot giraffes and a lion lying on it's back so that it's feet produced a base for a piece of glass and voila, a coffee table. We didn't love this stuff and didn't buy a thing.

On to the glass blowing factory where about 20 young guys were working in scorching heat. No work place safety here. Everyone was running around with metal rods with burning globes of glass on the end but somehow they seem mindful of each other and as Greg said, they don't need government mandates, they just use common sense. It was fun to see the shapes being formed by blowing down the metal rods and rolling the blobs on metal slabs and voila all that gorgeous Mexican glass that I've always loved. In the shop here, I could have easily bought 12 drinking glasses priced at about 1.50 each and in great colours, but with no home of our own it seemed pointless. Greg bought one glass for him and one for me although we do have a set in our casita, these are our own. The "stuff" thing is a challenge. When we had roots and owned a home we were always buying more stuff. Now we don't have a home and all of our "stuff" is in storage and yet we still seem to want more lovely things when we see them. Consumerism is a hard habit to break.

We left Tonala, again through snarled traffic. We were starving at this point. Hernandez dropped us off at the Tlaquepaque and we went to a traditional Mexican restaurant called El Patio. We ate delcious lunches. I had sole diablo but told the waiter to go easy on the diablo. Greg, the carnivore, ate steak and sausage in a sauce. There was a cactus plant on his plate. We've seen them for sale at the market and haven't tried them up til today. It was interesting....a bit bitter. The setting of the restaurant was gorgeous with a fountain in the center and the lush gardens that you see everywhere here and start to take for granted. There was live music.

We walked around Tlaquepaque looking in wonderful galleries at lovely pieces made by very creative people. Greg brought his G.P.S. to enter the way points so we can now get to these places on our own without any difficulty. The square in the Tlaquepaque is delightful and the feel of the whole area is very European. We could have been in Italy.

We were like worn out kids after a day at the playground on the ride back to Ajijic, all of us quiet and tired after a day that nourished our senses.
When we got back home we joined the neighbours with a glass of wine to watch the sunset over the lake at the back of the ranchero.