Saturday, July 31, 2010

Feel the vibrations of purity

There is an ancient ritual called Temazcal. It predates the Spanish here in Mexico. Today we took place in this ritual. We went to a place called Temazcalli, here in Puerto Escondido. Before the Temazcal, we each had a one hour massage. The massage was very relaxing as we listened to mystical music. Like everything else here, the rooms were of the open air type. Afterwards, the three of us met with the man who was to perform the ritual. We stripped down to almost nothing. I wore a wrap that is the type you can tie various ways around swim suits, etc. Tina wore the same Angela wore a different type of wrap. Each of us stood before the man and he shook smoking leaves all around us. We then got down on all fours and crawled into a stone and brick dome. We sat against the wall of this small dome as a nother man shoveled hot rocks into a pit in the center. Once their was a sufficient amount of rocks, our guide put resin from a special tree onto the rocks. A scented smoke began to rise in the room. Eventually he began pouring small bowls of water onto the rocks and the steam rose and filled the room. There was a small hole at the top of the Tezcal and a small door we had crawled into but both of these were now covered. The water contained various herbs and combined with the resin from the tree it smelled like a purifying steam. Our guide lead us by telling us about the origin of the ceremony and also used guided imagery... encouraging us to envision the molecules of water vibrating as we breathed them in. He spoke about how before there was much oxygen in the earth there was this type of energizing air to breathe and that the cells in our bodies remember this and welcome it back as healing. He lead us in specific breathing, thinking, listening and feeling. At one point we were brought a special herbed tea, which tasted slightly citrusy, and we drank it, being told to pay attention to how it felt in our nose, lips, tongue, throat, belly, as we drank it. We then were each asked how to tell how we were feeling or what we were thinking. More rocks, resin and herbed water were added and we did some more guided visualization. Meanwhile our bodies poured sweat, we did some chanting to honor the stones, the herbs, each other, etc. This whole experienced lasted about an hour and left us all feeling enlightened, exhausted, rejuvenated, thoughtful, happy and joined to the earth. We want to build one of these domes in our own yard now. It was a wonderful way to end our trip to Mexico. tomorrow we get on a plane and head back home. My wish is that I will be able to retain all the wisdom and feelings of peace and joy that I gained here when I return to my normal life.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Soaking in the culture

Some favorite things I've experienced here:

1. My favorite beach is Carazalillo. It is in a small, beautiful cove and has a few small outdoor restaurants with beach chairs and umbrellas. It is not as populated as some other areas, but for a good reason. Beach goers must descent 170 steps to get to the beach and the stairs are steep and winding. The ascent is obviously the killer. The water, however is beautiful turqoise, the food and drinks are cheap, the people are friendly. It's worth the climb every time!

2. Drinks by the beach. Here if you want to sit in a nice beach chair with or without an umbrella just plop yourself down. You can order a bottled water, pop, cerveza, margarita and then you are welcome to that chair all day if you want. No one hurries over to ask you to get up and move on. I have loved relaxing on a chair, watching the ocean, coversing with Angela, tina or other travelers or locals.

3. Watching the families. The families here seem very close and loving. I see mothers and father's alike caring for children. They seem very patient with crying toddlers and rambunctious youngsters. They laugh and smile and hug and kiss a lot. We see several generations out together enjoying the beach or at a restaurant. The children here are clearly adored.

4. The general polite and friendly nature. When you get on a Collectivo, the truck with the benches where everyone piles in for a ride, people are always willing to make room for one more. The men always give up their seats for women and children. They help each other ... strangers, foreigners, young, old, everyone who needs help receives it from the locals. I see venders chase people down to give them their change if the shopper has wandered off without it. Children have raced after me with packages I have set down. It just makes me feel good about humans in general.

5. the naked babies. That's probably not a politically correct thing to like but there it is. I love seeing the little naked babies running around the beach or in their own yards. Little tan bottoms and blindingly white bottoms run in innocent freedom to play comfortably in the warm weather. It always makes me smile.

No, Gracias

As with anywhere you travel, there have been some things I have not enjoyed on this trip. It seems the most repeated phrase here, for me, has be "No, Gracias." Men, women and children earn their living by selling things. They approach you in the streets, on the beaches, in every restaurant. Many of the things they sell are useful or beautiful and I have bought plenty to bring home to show off to everyone. most of the time when we are approached, however, I am not interested. A simple "no, gracias" with a smile usually gets me a smile in return and the vender moves on. Occasionally, though, a more persistent sales person approaches. I have learned some answers to get them to move on such as "No boat ride. Me enferma" (this said holding my stomach and miming puking over the rail of a boat. Or when the offer is "Hamacas, senorita? I can honestly say, "No mas! yo tengo tres hammacas, gracias." On a few occasions, however, you just can't shake them off. Poor tina was followed down a beach for a half mile with some guy begging to take her on a lagoon tour. She finally tried to tell him that her friend Javier had already taken her to the lagoon. What she actually said, in her imperfect spanish was "No! My friend Javier touches me in the lagoon!" the man looked confused but did wander off at that point. A couple days ago we were lunching at Danny's Terrace, yet another beach side restaurant. A little girl selling braclets and necklaces approached us and insisted on putting some on us no matter how much we protested. Our friendly, smiling "no gracias" wasn't workiing. I looked at her finally and said in my teacher's voice. "No. No Gracias. Go!" I picked up her basket from out table and tried to hand it to her but she just kept mumbling her list of things that we could buy and looking sad. She wouldn't let me move the basket off the table! Now we were feeling pretty silly on this day. We had just come back from that nauseating dive trip and were giddy with relief to be back on dry land. Finally. I looked at the girl (who spoke no english) and said "No! Now take your sad eyes somewhere else." Tina and Angela were shocked but still burst out laughing. After the girl left I discovered they had misunderstood me to say "Take your sad ASS somewhere else!" We all found this hysterical in a non politically correct kind of way. That has become our tagline around here. We use it on stray dogs and on each other... and find it hysterical everytime. It's especially fitting when one of us is complaining about another bout of diahrea.... "take your sad ass somewhere else!" ahhhh. laughter is the best medicine indeed.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

We'll leave the light on for you....

Tonight Angela and I set out on another lagoon tour. We, along with Brian from the language school, loaded up in his truck and headed west. This trip was to be different from anything we have ever done before. We were out to see phosphorescent plankton. When Brian pulled into the Best Western we joked that he was going to throw some glow sticks into the pool for us to look at. However, we walked right past the pool and down to the lagoon. It was around 8:30 and getting dark. Angela and I shared a two person Kayak and Brian got in one to of his own. The water near the shore was pretty gross and smelled of dead fish.... actually there were lots of dead fish floating near the shore. As we paddled out, though, the smell and the water cleared. The night got darker and the stars came out as we paddled along in this lagoon. We could hear night birds and occasionally small fish would jump into the boat with us. Angela and I struggled a little with overcompensating in the sit on top kayaks but eventually managed to find a good rhythym. I asked Brian if we could just sit and listen and look for a minute so we were sitting quietly in the boats when Brian said, "Oh look, the plankton is coming out." I didn't see much at first. I thought were would see something faintly glowing on the bottom of the lagoon so I was squinting and peering down into the water. Then I started to realize what I was seeing. The plankton are ALL IN THE WATER and as they are moved around they glow. When Brian drug his paddle through the water it left a glowing streak. We all put on our snorkels and masks and climbed out of the boats and into the water. It was amazing. When you put your face down into the water and brought your hands up to your face, you could see glowing hands ... like they were covered in pixie dust. When you splashed water on the surface it would fall back as glowing droplets. As i watched angela swim her arms and legs appeared to glow when she moved them through the black water. It was like I imagine a crazy drug trip would be like... it seemed so completely unreal. Eventually we climbed back in our boats and headed back to the Best Western beach. We paddled and paddled and paddled... at first laughing and still in awe of the glowing water. After a while, however, we were growing tired and couldn't see Brian ahead of us. The stars were shining brightly overhead but the moon was behind a cloud so it was really dark. He came back for us but said that he couldn't tell where the beach was. He didn't know if we had passed it or if it was still up ahead. We saw very few lights on shore anywhere so we kept on paddling... and paddling and paddling. My arms were burning by now. I joked that we may have to spend the night in the lagoon. We could see a road not far away but we were all barefoot and didn't really want to hike through the forest to the road. We traveled back and forth looking for that damn beach for maybe an hour. Finally we found a beach. Not teh right beach but a beach none the less. It looked to be someone's house. We pulled up and Brian walked up to see what he could figure out. I think he knocked and woke them up because soon here came a dad, mom and son. They said we were only a little ways past where we should be but we weren't sure we could find it (actualy we were sure we couldn't find it at this point!). The man very kindly loaded up the kayaks on his truck. Angela and I squeezed into the front with him and Brian rode in back with the kayaks to keep them from falling off. He drove us the short distance back to the Best Western. Angela went down to the beach to get our shoes and said it was "lit up like a damn christmas tree." We think that we just needed to travel closer to the bank and we couldn't have missed it. Oh well! Another fabulous adventure. Seeing that glowing water is something I will never forget. It was worth being lost and having sore arms. Receiving help from a stranger in the middle of the night felt really great as well. Brian, Angela and I laughed all the way back to Casamar.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Diving In

Tuesday we were scheduled to go diving. We arrived at the Puerto Dive Center at 9:00 and, along with several people from Holland and Germany, were suited up with the appropriate gear. Angela and I brought our own snorkeling gear... mask, snorkle and fins. I was glad of this because there seemed to be some trouble finding the right sizes and such for all the others. I was a little leery that my wet suit had several holes in it. I wasn't worried about that actual holes in the wet suit but that it might indicate that things could be wrong with the other equipment... you know, those things important for breathing and other life enchancing functions.... that I couldn't see. It's like when we look at houses to buy back at home... if you see peeling wall paper and crumbling stairs you know you can fix those but what is behind the walls that you CAN'T see? The skies were turning ominously more grey and I was nervous. We boarded the boat.... 5 divers, a handful of snorkelers, a few passengers, two or three dive masters, a cooler with drinks and snacks, and off we went. The seas were really rough. It didn't take long before we were anchored near some rocky cliffs. We were told that the visibility was low due to the turbulent waters, previously rainy weather and dark skies. I announced that Angela and I were only recently certified and that it was our first dive after our open water certification in the Arkansas lake. Two of the other divers, from Holland, were delighted with this and promised to help take good care of us. Both were diving instructors in Holland. The Mexican dive masters also assured us that he would be watching us closely. As we sat anchored, however, the seas grew more and more rough.
The skies got darker. I, as well as most of the others, were very nauseous. I needed off the boat. I was not only feeling nauseous but also a vague sense of panic was creeping in. Nausea does that to me sometimes. So we each took our turn sitting on the edge of the boat and tumbling backwards into the dark sea. Once I was in the water I began to feel somewhat better. Angela and I grouped up with one of the dive masters and began our descent. Unfortunately, we did not descent far. You see, when you dive you need to be weighted down. I knew from before we got on the boat that I didn't have enough weight. The more fat you have the more buoyant you are. In the fresh water lake it took 19 pounds to sufficiently sink me and the salt water should have required more. They only gave me 12 pounds. I had tried to tell them it wouldn't be enough but the slender young man argued that they would take more out on the boat just in case. I looked up, after I had sunk down about 6 or 8 feet and saw (barely because the visibility was so poor) that Angela was having even more problems that I was descending. I went back up and swam over to the boat. By now the waves were rougher and I managed to get a large mouthful of salt water. Another woman, an experiened diver, had already come back to the boat and said that she wasn't going to dive today. She said that she couldn't even see the man she was supposed to be following, much less any fish and that she didn't feel comfortable in that situation. I, by then, had decided pretty much the same thing. You dive to see what's under the water and you couldn't see a damn thing. The dive masters tried to convince us to try anyway but I knew that I would need more weight, which would be put on me one at a time while I was in the tossing waves. I was done. I removed my equipment one and clamoured back onto the boat. By then all the girls who had planned to snorkel or just relax in the sun were looking a little green. Some were leaning over the edge holding their mouths. After about ten minutes, the Holland diver men came up and said they couldn't see a damn thing either. We were relieved as the boat turned to head for home. Everyone did their own thing to ease the sea sickness.... some sipped cokes from the cooler, Angela kept her head down on the rail and her eyes closed, I stood in the middle of the boat and held onto the roof using my legs like shock absorbers. Soon we saw 3 or 4 dolphins jumping ahead of us. I was told that I could climb onto the front of the boat to watch if I was careful. I eagerly climbed onto the front and held onto the railing. The boat moved quickly and the wet air was refreshing. The pineapple nutrigrain bar I was holding became drnched with salt water. When we arrived back to land we jumped off the boat with our gear on our back and waded ashore. I was relieved to not feel queasy anymore. Unfortunately, we were still charged the full 1,250 pesos for our trip. The Hollanders (Hollandites?) refused to pay and when we left they were still arguing with Sofia, the manager. They said that in all other places in the world they have dove this type of dive would only have cost the amount to refill the tanks. I did't bother to argue, although I did agree. I was just glad to be back on land. I went to have some nice beach girls braid my hair then had lunch with my Amigas.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Post debutante lesbian

So Friday I thought,for sure, that Montezuma's revenge had finally caught up with me. I woke up with vomiting and diahrea and felt awful most of the day. Then i found out that Andy, our hotel manager, had the same thing the day after I did. Now poor Angela is stick in bed with it. I think it is a virus. Fortunately it seems to be short lived. Yesterday I was week and tired feeling but not too sickly to lie on the beach! I tried a little snorkeling but got motion sick after only a short time so I just swam a little then rested and read my book.

This morning Tina and I went to breakfast at a local bed and breakfast. We took a Taxi to Tabachin del Puerto because we saw an ad in a local paper and it looked promised local as well as international foods, including fried English breakfast. The cab turned down a narrow street and then into an even smaller alley. I thought he for sure had misunderstood where we were wanting to go, but no. I soon saw a sign for Tabachin Inn and Breakfast Restaurant. We walked up to the iron outer gate where an older white man with a grey beard held back his overly friendly dog and invited us in. He gestured that we should sit with the other diners ( as with most bed and breakfasts). Paul, the owner, is from the United States. He looked a little like a skinny Santa Claus. Tina accidentally said "yes ma'am" to him rather than "yes sir" and he quipped that he is often mistaken for woman especially if he wears a hat "I look like a post debutante lesbian or an bishop from an old church, which is pretty much the same thing." We all laughed and settled in for breakfast. Tina and I ordered our breakfast and decided to share them since we both wanted hot cakes AND eggs with bacon. Of course it all comes with black beans here. The orange juice and coffee came from Paul's own farms and were wonderful. The orange juice was the best i've ever had. At one point, when I mentioned that we were from Oklahoma the Australian lady mentioned that she loved the musical Oklahoma. Soon we were all singing, in various accents about the wind sweeping down the plain. I told her that I always wish life was a musical and that we could just sing and dance all the time. From then on we periodically broke out into song about breakfast, arguments, the ocean, etc. We laughed a lot. We have done a lot of laughing in general here in Mexico.
When I mentioned that I wanted to visit Germany some day, Sibyllo gave me her email address so that I might contact her when I do visit. Everyone we have met has been so friendly here. I loved it when one customer walked in to the bed and breakfast this morning and said "Paul, am I too late for breakfast?" He answered, "My dear, it is never too late for breakfast when you are at home." This feeling of welcome has followed us throughout our travels here.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

That's what it's all about!

Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 4:00 - 6:00 we are tutoring in a small center here. We have been asked to help teach the students English and have been doing so, in part with songs. Last week we taught them "head and shoulders," which we sang and did movements to. We then drew the parts of the body we had referred to in the song and labeled them. Yesterday we reviewed that song and then taught them the Hokey Pokey. I've never had so much fun doing the Hokey Pokey! After pen and paper time, the lady who runs the school asked the kids if they wanted to sing one more time and one boy, Gerardo, shouted out "Hucky Pucky!!!!" We all laughed and gathered to sing and dance the song. They were learning, having fun... we were also learning and having fun. That IS what it's all about!

Last night we went to a great restaurant called Le Jardin. The food ( as with every I've been here, really) was so fresh but also unique and full of flavor. We split a 4 seasons pizza, 4 cheese macaroni and some shrimp ravioli. The waiter, Miguel, was young, short statured and spoke some English. After we had finished eating he came up and told us that he had a problem. In his broken English, he told us of an American girl he had met. She is tall and pretty he said. She had too much to drink and got lost. She stopped him and asked him for help. She was vomiting and feeling awful. Miguel took her to his house, where he and his Mama took care of her and eventually reunited her with her friends. His problem? He wanted us to tell him how to approach this girl about dating. I guess we looked like we would be experts on this subject LOL. He said he is the kind of girl he could have for a wife. We all laughed a lot and the other waiters jokingly gave him a hard time when they heard what he was asking us about. We told him to just be her friend for now and show her around Puerto Escondido. Taker her to hear music, buy her a flower, etc. He was unsure how to tell if she liked him " like that." We gave as much as advice as we could and wished him luck. At one point I asked him if she was "caliente." This bent him over laughing as, phrasing it as I did I had asked him if she was horny. Oh well. We left the restaurant laughing and shouting adios to our new friend. We all felt good. That's what it's all about.

This moring we ate breakfast at a beach restaurant as we watched part of the Quick Silver surfing competition. The best surfers in the world, are apparently here for this competition. Knowing nothing about the surfing community and culture, we asked some questions of thos around us. Andy, teh manager where we are staying, is also a surfer and explained some of the judging and rules. The judges sit in a high stand with dividers between them so that they can't see how the other one is scoring. The competition is set in 20 - 30 minute heats. The surfers swim out (which looked exhausting and took forever in the monstrous waves) and try to time a perfect ride. They are scored mostly on how far and long they ride. You can recognize the surfers pretty easily, most of them have longer hair and many of them have lightened the tips of their hair, though some, I'm sure, have lightened naturally from the sun. They cheer each other on and speak in terms I don't always understand. A couple times a board broke under the intense waves and small boys vie for the broken pieces. They can keep them or sell them, but they seemed to be very prized possessions. The announcer would let everyone know who was wearing what color and which color had caught a wave and then what their score was afterward. People from all over seem to come together into this common culture of sun and surf. They watch, cheer, eat, laugh and gasp at the huge crashing waves. We join in for all of these because.... that's what it's all about.