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.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Every little thing is gonna be alright....

This morning we awoke at 6:30 am and, to our delight and amazement it was NOT raining. We had arranged for a lagoon tour with a young man named Javier. At a little before 7, Javier arrived and we loaded into his old VW bug. It is green, a little rusty and has some trouble starting. Javier speaks pretty good English because he spent 3 years in Nashville, working and learning the language. All we know about this tour is that we will go on a boat and have a lunch. The cost is 400 pesos or about 40 American dollars. We drive for about 30 minutes and Javier tells us stories of working in the United States and how no one in mexico wants to pay him more just because he can speak English. He turns on a CD and the familiar lyrics ..."don't worry about a thing, every little thing is gonna be alright..." stream out at us. As we swerve around potholes, honk at friends of Javier and pass teh lush green vegetation we all sing along to the music. We stop for ice at a place that does not appear to be a store. javier explains that where we are going, Puerto Puelo does not have electricity and his Mama, who is cooking our lunch sometimes has fish adn needs ice. We eventually arrive at a place where the boat is begin a 10 minut hike down to the lagoon. Our hike is somewhat muddy because of the rains we've had on the previous days but the sky is blue and butterlies of various colors flit around us. When we reach the boat a driver, who does not speak English, is working on his boat, that appears in a little disrepair. He soon gets teh motor going and we all pile in. As we motor along at a slow speed we see SO many kinds of birds. Blue heron, white heron, a bird that is apparently called something like a dark snake bird that swims under water and occcasionally sticks its head out, spoon bills, coramant, pelicans of many colors and sizes and much= otres. Javier shares his passion and love for the lagoon and the driver slows for us to look at various plants adn animals of interest. Occaionally the driver says something in Spanish that Javier translates to us, giving more detail of certain areas. Both men are delighted to share their knowledge, culture and beloved land. We entually see the ocean just as the boat turns to enter a river. The water color changes some as we navigate past sandbars and vegetation. Soon we pull over and Javier helps us to disembark. We have no idea why we are getting out of the boat but we step into mud and climb up a small embankment. What awaits us is Puerto Suelo. It is a very small village where Javier, and 14 others live. The houses are huts made of bamboo with palm leaf roofs. The ground is sand, the ocean roars nearby and a woman in a dress and apron greets us, welcoming us to Puerto Suelo. She introduces herself, in Spanish, as Juania. She is Javier's mother and she is cooking us lunch. His father reclines in a hammock nearby. His dog, Palbo, greets us as well. We settle our things nearby and walk towards the ocean. It roars loud and is muy bonito. Javier brings us coconuts with the tops cut off and we sip coconut milk from straws. I feel so much awe at this place. I also feel humbled and honored to be invited to share in this bit of paradise. While our lunch is cooking I stroll the beach, Angela naps in a hammock and Tina works on homework for her Spanish class. This village has only fifteen people, including a few children. It is quiet and peaceful. There is no electricity and the water is pumped up from the river and filtered into a storage tank. I feel as if I have stepped back in time. Soon, lunch is served. We eat on pretty plates with forks but Javier says he will eat with his family because he likes to eat with his hands. We try to convince him that we can eat with our hands too but he just laughs and goes off. I feel a little sad that I am an outsider but the lunch is amazing! We have fish, cooked over the fire, frijoles, a salad of cactus, onion and red peppers, quesadillas and salsa. It is one of the best meals I have ever had and it was produced in a small hut, over a fire by a woman who beams with pride as we compliment her on the way out. Today I learned something. Mexicans do not take pride in the things they own such as their cars or boats. They take pride in what is important... family, home, treating people well. Our trip back is shorter than on the way in because the driver hurries to get us back to our Spanish class on time. The breeze blows our hair, the sun is on our face and we are mostly silent and content. I tell Javier that this is the best day I have had in Mexico so far and he seems humbled and grateful. I am also humble and grateful.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This car's not legal

We signed up for an orientation tour through our school. Brian, who owns adn runs the school here during the summer and teaches ski school in colorado in the winter, was our host. Brian picked us up at Casamar in his vehicle. His car is a Chevy Suburban that is many years old. All the windows are at least cracked, some doors do not open, some windows do not open and some windows do not close. We were accompanied by Danny, a young man from Las Angeles who is here to study Spanish and surfing. We weren't sure what the orientation tour would include but we more than got our money's worth. Brian drove us all over Puerto Escondido, pointing out local hangouts, tourist spots and other points of interest. He took us to each of the beaches, where we got out and strolled casually around (no one seems to hurry in mexico, everything is done casually). He showed us beaches for surfing, family swimming, snorkeling, etc. He also drove us to the Adonquin which is an awesome place for shopping, eating, buying local crafts, bars, etc. It is an older tourist area and you see more local artists there. This is opposed to the Zicatella area which is a spot where you see mostly younger people and tourists from all over the world, mostly surfers or surfing fans. Brian told us all about the mercado, where we could buy goods, produce, live chickens, etc. The locals come here and set up booths, flea market style, to sell their wares. Brian hesitated to take us down there.... not because it is unsafe but because his car is not legal and many Policia are in that area. Apparently, until recently, cars in Mexico didn't need to be licensed but that has changed. Brian woudl have to drive his car to Texas, where it was from (he bought it from some Italian guy here in Mexico) and get some paperwork done. I asked if we were all going to end up in Mexican jail and Brian said, "No, but they would take teh car and we would have to walk." Finally, the temptation to show us the market overcame his fear of losing his car and we drove down to that area. We did a quick visit and will return later to shop and soak up more of the culture. Brian stopped any place we wanted to see adn we all strolled around... Angela waited for ten minutes while fresh coffee was ground for her, Danny bought a fan for his room, Tina and I bought sugar. It was an awesome orientation tour and I would suggest it to anyone who visits Puerto Escondido!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

mucho trabajo

Today was another awesome day in Puerto Escondido. In addition to our regular Spanish class and some shopping, we had a cooking class out our lanugage school. The class was taught by a woman named Mari. She spoke no English and I, of course, speak little to no Spanish. We chose to learn to make tamales and taquitos. We arrived for our lesson at 5:00 and didn't get done until a little after 8:00. There was SO much work involved! I have a new respect for all of the work that goes into cooking these dishes. I learned many new things. My most important lessons of the, however, did not involve measuring or cooking times and methods. For most of the time I felt very inept, ignorant and a little frustrated. When I didn't understand something, Mari would repeat herself over and over, as if that would help. This sweet, patient woman was doign what we as teachers do to our students sometimes. I wanted so much to please her and to coomprehend what she wanted me to do! Yet i wasn't always able to figure it out. When I asked the school owner for help he laughed and said, IMMERSION! That's how you learn. Throughout our time there, we laughed and joked a lot and managed to make a delicious meal. The 'kitchen" was in a hut with older, minimal appliances. It was raining and very humid while we were there. There was no air conditioning so we had the windows and the door open. We could see the cliffs and ocean and greenery as we laughed and sweated and cooked. It was truly an amazing experiences that I'm not sure I want to do again. Ha ha!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunday we woke up and ate breakfast bars from home. We then headed for the beach. The stretch of beach nearest to us is awesome for surfing but not so safe for swimming. We laid out our towels and I took out my kindle to try to finish off Under the Dome, by Steven King. After reading for a bit I walked down to the water. I turned around quickly when i heard angela squeal. I large, unexpected wave had washed up onto our spot.... our towels, backpacks, everything was drenched. Fortunately I had purchased a water proof cover for my kindle and it was safe and dry. My camera was in the bottom of The World's Greatest Backpack so it wasn't harmed either. ( for those of you who haven't met this backpack, i purchased it before our trip to Australia and it is now a close member of our family). Everything else was covered in water and sand. Because the surf at Playa Zicatella is so intense, much sand mixes in with the waves that break on the shore. 30 hours later my only beach towel is still damp and somewhat sandy. Our apartment offers laundry service, but I have seen Elario, the gardener washing clothes in an outdoor sink by hand. I don't mind washing MY OWN clothes in this manner, in order to experience teh culture more fully, but I can't imagine giving the gardener my panties and asking him to get scrubbing ! Maybe they actually take the guest clothes to a laundromat? I will keep you all updated on that situation. After we cleaned up from the beach we took a Collectivo into town. This was a cool experience. A truck with a blue canvas covering over the back pulls over when you wave him down. You either tell him where you want to go or you can just push a button when you see your stop. It's like a bus but you are just riding in the back of some guys truck. Awesome! We took the Collectivo to the Super Che, where we bought groceries. We also had lunch in this area. The people in the restaurant didn't speak English. I think I ordered some kind of chicken but it looked like hammered out chicken fried steak. Either way it was very good. The people we meet don't tend to speak much English but they are very patient and friendly with us as we try to communicate with them. Last night we cooked dinner in the apartment and played skipbo on the patio. Several small lizards scurried around our walls while we were playing.
This morning, Angela and I participated in a yoga class here at the Casamar. The classes are free to guests. Our yoga instructor, Pilar, was sweet and knowledgeable. The class was 90 minutes long and it was wonderful to do yoga under the palapas with a view of the ocean. There were 3 men and one other woman who joined us. After yoga we hiked down the beach (about 50 minutes)to our first language class. I wore shorts and a bikini top for the walk then pulled a dress over those for the classes. Angela and I were put in a beginner class with two other students: Ben from new Zealand and Peter from Baltimore. Our teacher, Irene', was very nice and the class was relaxed and fun. It was an outdoor class, under a Palapas, with a nice breeze and view of the ocean. After class, we walked down to the beach where we ate our picnic lunch and strolled along the waters edge. We are now back at Casamar. We have an orientation tour, arranged through our language school in 45 minutes. I am pleasantly tired as i sit and listen to the regularly scheduled afternoon thunderstorm.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

potatoes floating down the street

So we have arrived, safe and sound, in Puerto Escondido Mexico. We awoke this morning, in Oklahoma, at 4:45, threw on some clothes, straightened our bedroom adn were in the driveway waiting for our ride at 5;15. Everything went smoothly on our flights, until it was time to fill out the customs form. The flight attendant only had the forms (where we had to declare what we were bringing into the country) in Spanish. It was quite humorous as we we tried to guess what was being asked of us when we filled out the paperwork. Arriving in Mexico City, it was a little difficult finding our way to the appropriate gate to catch our next flight to Puerto Escondido. Not speaking or reading the language definitely put us outside our comfort zones, which is one of the goals of this entire trip. We finally asked enough questions and arrived in a "holding area" where we purchased lunch and waited for our gate to be announced. Money is our biggest challenge. Understanding if we are being ripped off is another challenge. When we did arrive in Puerto Escondido and had to go through customs, the lady next to us in line told us that we should be careful because the customs man would try to rip us off and make us pay money to get into the country. Ahead of us were a large group of surfers ( Puerto Escondido is famous for its surfing) and they were held up forever, arguing with the gentleman in charge. I did see two of them give him money adn I never did figure out why. When it was our turn we were each asked to push a button. If a red light came up , you had to have your luggage searched. if a green light came up you were free to proceed. i was teh only one, between, me , Tina and Angela who didn't have to get searched! As I waited for them out front, ( a very small airport) a taxi driver asked if I needed a ride. I informed him that "mi amigas" were still inside. When they came out (without having to pay any extra money) we all went with the cab driver. This situation pushed my comfort level as well. First of all, I haven't taken many taxis in my life, second of all, Tina flat out told the man he was charging us way too much. I had no clue and gladly handed over the 200 pesos for all three of us to be carted the 20 kilometers to Casamar. Upon arrival, we met Andy, our English host. He is bearded and young and, along with his wife Olivia, runs the Casamar. The gardener was waiting for us and insisited that he coudl get all of our bags. We were ushered into a lush oasis of a court yard and then into teh little office to meet Andy. he came out and said "you must be Denise, Tina and Angela!" Our names were written on a chalkboard, next to our arrival dates. This made me smile and feel welcome right away. Puerto Escondido, as with much of Mexico, seems rather poor. Casamar is a simple, hostel like oasis in teh middle of this rather rundown city. Andy showed us to our apartment - which has a couple of bedrooms, a kitchen and a little sitting area. There is a nice pool and several outdoor areas and we can see teh ocean from our private patio. After a little exloring of our temporary home, we set out to find dinner. We walked down a street - that seemed for of an alley really - passing people's homes and "restaurants" that were really outdoor seating areas of on the beach, with a small hut for cooking the food. We passed beautiful brown children playing in their underwear, horses, chickens, friendly residents, dilapidated buildings and many stray dogs. In the distance, the thunder was getting louder and the clouds were getting darker. At some point, a young boy asked us ( according to Tina) if we were looking for a place to eat dinner. We followed him onto a beach area and took a seat. We ordered our dinner and some drinks ( I broke teh cardinal rule and had a margarita on the ROCKS). Our view was of the ocean, surfers, etc. The waves got bigger as the storm hit. Our food arrived, one of us getting dinner at a time, and it started to sprinkle. We were under a thatch roof adn at first we couldn't feel much rain. Before long, however, the rain was really coming down and the thunder was crashing. We laughed and pulled out our umbrellas. Soon, here came our waiter with a large beach umbrella. He proceeded to hold it over us as we ate! I assured him we could hold it ourselves. LOL The rain just added to our adventure as we finished eating and decided to walk "home" along the beach. Angela and I held umbrellas ( mostly because I had my camera in my purse) and weren't sure if it was worth being struck by lightening. As we hiked along in the raging storm, we laughed and had an awesome time. Before long we had to cross a "river." Andy had explained that they had had some heavy rains and the river had 'broken through." It roared right across the beach to the ocean. It was a red clay color. Not sure what else to do, we trudged right through it! It was kinda swift but we managed ok. Finally, we found a flooded street and hiked up it as a river of water rushed down it toward the ocean. As we hiked along, we noticed some debris floating in the "river." I eventually identified teh debris as potatoes. I'm not sure why potatoes were floating down the street, but there they were. I found this hilariously entertaining. We eventually spotted Casamar and started to head towards our oasis. On the way, we noticed a sign for Corona. We found a little man who looked to be in an abandoned building, and bought some beer from him. We then came home, drank beer, swam in our pool and relaxed. i think it will be a very interesting trip!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Counting down....

We leave Saturday morning for Mexico! I am excited and nervous. I am nervous to be in a strange place where I don't speak the language. I am excited to see and do new things. The place we are staying has filtered water so my plan is to just drink a big glass as soon as I get there and see what happens! Wish me luck. Instead of volunteering at the orphanage (where we would be doing labor, not spending time with the children) we have volunteered to have tutoring students read to us. We bought 45 books to take with us. They are in Spanish but some of them have the English translation as well. We figure this will be good for our Spanish and good for the kids who are reading to us as well. We arrive in Mexico Saturday night and our first Spanish class is Monday. So we have Sunday to orient ourself and check out the town. We are supposed to have internet access so I plan to update this blog daily. It feels a little strange planning to be gone for 3 weeks without seeing my grandson and other family members but I am mostly very excited. Check in often, I will want to see your comments to make me feel less homesick!