Friday, November 28, 2008

The Big Birthday Bash

Pixie turned 60 on November 10, and our friend Susan Barr turned 65 on November 19, so Steve Barr and I combined forces and put on a big birthday bash at our house on November 20.  Our house is very well set up for a large party, with a big common space inside, and a big yard off the terrace.  We rented some tables and chairs, hired a popular caterer who very reasonably provides a Mexican buffet with handmade tortillas and a large variety of Mexican dishes to fill them, hired our friend Billy to serve margaritas, beer and soda, and a Mexican guitar trio to serenade the group.  We had about 15 of our Mexican friends as well as many of our friends, most from our fellowship.  We had a Winnie the Pooh pinata for the kids which was, of course, a highlight for them.  Pixie and Susan were feted with toasts, gifts, and two traditional Mexican tres leches (three milks) birthday cakes.  There's really not much to say about it, so I just included these photos.  Thanks to our friends Kathy and Kelley who contributed some of these photos.  

We gathered with many of our friends from the fellowship, as usual, at Lew and Trudy Crippen's house in Ajijic to celebrate Thanksgiving.  It was a pot luck affair, and Pixie brought traditional homamade cranberry sauce to add to the wide variety of  dishes, not exactly a New England thanksgiving, but full of friendship and gratitude for our health, family, friendship, and prosperity. 

We have made a BIG decision and decided to return north for July and August next summer.  We will be, of course, stopping at Muncie to visit Isabelle, Eric and Crystal, but most of the time we will be staying at Curt and Judy Webber's house in Auburn.  This will give us a good chance for good visits with friends and family, and will still allow us to get our visas renewed in June and our Mexican health insurance renewed in September.  I will also be able to continue teaching English here, because the program does not continue during the summer. 

We will be going to Muncie for Christmas this year, from December 19-29, so I will be able to post new photos of Isabelle when we return.  Not much else to write about now.  The weather which has been quite cool (down to the high 40's), has turned milder.  We are both well and grateful that our children are all doing well.  We look forward to seeing them all in Muncie.  Here's a photo of us getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving yesterday.  Notice Pixie's wild colors! 

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rincon De Guayabitos

We returned from our first trip to the Pacific coast since our arrival in Mexico.  Pictured above is the beach town of Rincon de Guayabitos (corner of the small guavas) located about 40 miles north of Puerto Vallarta.  I had never been to a tropical beach before.  We were used to Maine beaches and the ankle-numbing water temperatures.  November seems to be a popular time for people here to make the five plus hour drive to the coast because the climate has cooled from the summer heat and humidity and the high season has not yet begun.  We went with our friends Steve and Sue and Jeanne and Paul.  Here we pose on the terrace restaurant of our hotel.  
The drive down was fairly easy; a high speed "cuota," or toll road, took us most of the way from Guadalajara.  I knew we were getting near the coast when I could see banana and coconut groves, and tall palms everywhere.  We had arranged to stay at a largely Mexican resort, in fact we were, for most of the stay, the only gringos there.  The hotel is very reasonable, about $350 USD for four days with all meals and drinks included.  It was about half full of middle class Mexican families on vacation.  It was quiet at night, and the food was very Mexican and very good.
The beach  experience was somewhat different.  first of all, the water was about 80 degrees, very different from our "normal" ocean experience.  The waves are gentle at this beach and the water shallow.  We could sit under the shade of the palapas, shown in this photo.  We did lots of reading and relaxing.  We walked up to the fancy end of the beach and saw where most of the gringos stayed, in a fancy resort of the west end of the beach, not our style.  
We took a drive to some other beach towns north of Puerto Vallarta, and I could see that the close one gets to PV, the more fancy and expensive everything is.  

We also saw some wildlife on beach.  There were many exotic birds.  I really found the graceful frigates beautiful,  but my favorite were the pelicans:

On our last afternoon, Steve arranged a boat ride to the big island off the shore.  I chose to stay back, not wanting to risk my chronic problem with sea sickness.  But the rest of the gang went and, unexpectedly, had a chance to view a couple of whales.  Pixie photographed the one below:

Pixie is a BIG FAN of the beach.  In Maine she would endure the cold, wind and horseflies to "enjoy" a day in the sun.  Here she discovered how wonderful a tropical beach can be.  We will be making this a regular destination, I can see.  

Since returning, Steve and I are busy making preparations for the big birthday bash for Pixie and Susan Barr.  Pixie turned 60 on November 10, and Susan turns 65 on the 19th.  We are hosting a party at our house for 50-60 friends, with a Mexican buffet and a guitar trio.  I'll be sure to include photos in the next entry.  

I'll end this entry with a new poem I wrote after attending the Day of the Dead festivities in Chapala, about looking at the photo on one of the altars.  

Your Sepia Face

 Your sepia face stares soberly at me

From another day, distant from this evening,

Adorned with marigold blossoms

And relics of your time among us,

Which proves to me that you were here

And lived to taste the sour fruits of life

And cried sweet tears for love of those

Who remain, remembering your presence here.


And as I gaze at your framed, faded image

On your vibrant altar, fragrant with breath,

I imagine my family, now long gone

Who live largely forgotten, no color enveloping

Their likenesses with warm, living flowers,

Photographs which remain, unexamined, vaguely recalled,

In a dark box waiting for those who knew them

To pass into the obscurity of memory themselves,

Rendering them forever unremembered.


You are lucky to remain among the breathing

A bit longer, perhaps to remind us all

To look into your sepia face

Reflecting our humble fate.  

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Curt and Judy Webber Return to Mexico for Dia de Los Muertos!

Curt and Judy Webber, from Auburn, Maine, were our first visitors when we moved to Mexico in 2007. They enjoyed everything about Mexico and decided to return here this year for the Day of the Dead celebration. Last year, Pixie had a broken foot and could not get around very well. Well, this year we discovered another element of the celebration. I knew that the people decorated the graves and gathered there to eat, drink, and celebrate through the night. What I didn't know about was the tradition of creating public altars to honor their dead as well. One street in Chapala is set aside each year for these public altars. The altar usually has a photo of the dead relative, along with marigolds, which is supposed to make the passage easier for the dead person to revisit the living. The altar often has things the person enjoyed in life, like tequila, beer, special foods, or items which represent the activities of the dead, like guitars, saddles, or needlework. Some altars also feature a wash basin and mirror, so the dead person can "freshen up" when he or she returns for a visit. They are very creative; some are quite elaborate. Here are some examples:

Many young people here are not as into the sacred tradition of Day of the Dead as their elders are. My students told me they think it is a little over the top. But that does not prevent them from using the occasion to dress up, as Americans do on Halloween, and I saw lots of them celebrating with costumes and music within the altars:

On the right is Maria Elena, our maid, posing with a young reveler. Maria Elena built an elaborate altar with yellow crosses, pictured below. When we stopped by she showed us all the details and gave us fresh pineapple tamales to take with us.

We celebrated the Day of the Dead at our UU fellowship, where we remembered our relatives who had died. Pictured below are Curt and Judy at the service and the altar we used:
A few other bits: Pixie and I returned to Guadalajara Thursday to have our drivers licenses upgraded to four-year licenses, hassle-free with Fernando again. Tonight we are headed into the Degollado Theatre in Guadalajara to see the ballet. This theatre is a beautiful neo-classical building modeled after the La Scala opera theatre in Milan. This will be the first show we've seen there, and it is Pixie's birthday gift. I'm not so reluctant to drive into Guad. these days, as long as I know where we're going. Since the theatre is in the old historic district, I do know how to get there.

And finally....of course...the

Big News we are all celebrating this week: