Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Getting Back To Normal

Well, after dealing with the medical problems of the past month or so, and realizing that it was potentially more serious than I had originally thought, and with Pixie home to keep her eye on my every move, I am finally feeling as though thing as starting to get back to normal.  I still have a few symptoms with balance and fatigue, but these are nowhere near what they were before.  I go back to the doctor on Monday and will probably schedule another brain scan then to see if they can figure out what was going on and to find out when I can DRIVE again!  In the meantime, I have a wonderful, attentive nurse who cooks wonderful meals.  Of course I miss cooking, shopping, doing laundry, etc., but this is only temporary.  As you can see from the photo above, I am still here and healthy, just walking temporarily with the assistance of a cane.  

The neighborhood where we live is called Riberas del Pilar.  It is between Ajijic and Chapala, and is what I would call a developing neighborhood.  There are many houses here, but also many vacant lots.  Slowly, these lots are being sold and homes are being built.  There is one of these lots right up the street from our house, so I thought it would be interesting to photograph the house in various stages.  The basic structure is there now, so I can show these photos.  But I have to tell you, the Mexicans absolutely adore having their pictures taken.  They love to show off for the camera.  You can see in one they are holding heavy rocks over their heads to show how strong they are.  When I walk Maggie, the always ask if I am going to take another photo. The first photo shows the "jefe" or the boss.  He wanted his picture taken separately.   You can see the progress of the building, totally by hand, which went up to this stage in a ccouple of weeks:  


You can see from these photos that the method of house construction is to dig down about five or six feet to build a stone foundation, then build the walls with brick.  Once the walls are in place, the brick is covered in cement and painted to form an adobe-looking house.  Virtually all the houses here are built this way.  Sometimes contractors try to skimp on the foundation which can lead to major cracks when the house settles.  A friend of ours actually had to move out of her new house when 3-4 inch cracks appeared all through her walls, and she is in the process of trying to sue the contractor to get her money back.  The deep foundations are important to protect against earthquakes.  We purposely bought a house that had been lived in awhile so we could see if there were any problems with the house settling.  I will post more photos of this house as it nears completion.  I'm sure the construction gang won't object!  

The weather is warming up now as we approach the hottest part of the year in April and May before the rainy season begins in June.  We normally take walks down by the lake at a local park, shown in the photos below.  Snowy egrets, like the first photo on the left, are present all year round at Lake Chapala.  They are fairly tame since they are used to people walking in the park, so we can see them up close.  The photo to its right is a portion of the part that we walk in.  As you can see, it's very peaceful and beautiful right next to the lake.  There are always lots of fishermen fishing in the lake, as you can see in the example below.  Interestingly, they always fish with nets.  We see lots of murals and paintings illustrating this practice, so I assume that net fishing has always been the method of chice here.  At least they use outboard motors now.  In the last photo you can the the pelicans, who are only here for the winter months, hoping to get fish scraps from the fisherman. 

As the winter months come to an end, so does the semi-dormant period for plants. During December through mid February, plants tend to become somewhat dormant with fewer blossoms, needing less water, and generally not growing much. I was glad to see this period end, as we welcomed a couple types of Amarillus, generally more blossoms on all plants, and faster growth. Coming from Maine, this really doesn't look too dormant, but it is as close as we get to dormant here.  So I am including photos of our newly discovered Amarillus and newly blossomed Copa del Oro which we are using to create shade on our terrace.  One of the few things I have been still doing is watering the garden, and I enjoy the flowers so much.  I hope you enjoy these images!  

Here is a poem I recently wrote about the joys of watering my garden:

The Watering

Standing amid the green

With my red rubber hose

I use my thumb

To fan the water

To soothe the arid soil

And return my restlessness

To this routine

Of water and earth.


And as I feel the comfort

Of warm sun on my neck

And moisture leaking

Into my shoes,

I watch the soil darken

And I imagine

The connection underground

As the wetness tickles the roots

And we all drink in

The fragrance of wet loam.


For a moment,

I am this garden.


And now everything

Which has existed

And lived and died

Has emerged at this place

And at this time

To bring me into this

Circle of mud and fragrance,

Into this timeless instant

When my life has emerged

In the water, in the soil,

In the fertile orgasm

Which spawns green and blossom

So perfectly.  And I

Understand, at last

That my perfection stands among

A perfection

I will never understand.


Yet, In this now,

I absorb it all

Through my face

And through my shoes. 

Finally, I thought you might enjoy reading some recent remarks by Janet Nepolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security on the alarming US news media reports about Mexico becoming a failed state, which seems to be a preposterous assertion:  

March 19, 2009 5:12 PM

Napolitano: Mexico Not A Narco-State "At This Point"

Posted by Bob Orr 

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says Mexico is “not at this point” in danger of becoming a failed narco-state. But she says the ongoing drug cartel related violence is a threat to both Mexico and the United States. 

Napolitano will be traveling to 
Mexico City April 1-3 to meet with her security counterparts and attend a conference on arms trafficking. Attorney General Eric Holder will also be there. 

Napolitano says the Obama administration is very focused on 
Mexico and is in the process of increasing security efforts along the border. Additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Patrol officers are being deployed, and the administration is still working on a broader plan to deal with potential “spillover violence,” though details are not yet available. 

Most of the violence involves “cartel on cartel” fighting. So far, Napolitano says, 
U.S. officials do not see any evidence that cartels are targeting law enforcement or border officials on this side of the border. There has been an increase in the number of kidnappings in the Southwest U.S., but Napolitano says they largely seem to involve drug gangs targeting other drug gangs. 

U.S. officials are bolstering efforts to choke off the flow of weapons heading to Mexico. Various sensors, scales, and license plate readers are being used to identify suspicious vehicles, with some success. For example, 997 firearms were confiscated in one week this month.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

My Illness

About two weeks ago, I had just returned from my weekly trek to the market and was having some lunch and enjoying some down time before I wnt to teach my English class at 3:30.  Pixie was back in Muncie, Indiana, tending her sick mother, and everything seemed normal here. I suddenly developed an rather painful headache and corresponding vertigo when I tried to move much or even look around.  I ended up cancelling my class and relaxing for the next day and a half, hoping to nip this problem in the bid.  

Since I had been talking to Pixie every day, I told her about the symptoms on Thursday morning.  She was understandably concerned and wanted me to visit our doctor, Dr. Leon, that day.  I wanted to see if it would resolve itself overnight, so I agred to go the next morning.   By Friday, it was no better, so I went to visit the doctor.  After examining me, he concluded I had some type of infection, either viral or bacterial, which was manifesting itself in this way.  He gave me some medicine, and asked me to call him in the morning.   The next morning showed little if any improvement,  I was barely functioning.  Simply getting up to cook a meak or answer the door was a major trial.  I mostly lay on the sofa and tried to eat enough and drink enough fluids to stay hydrated and fortified, whichwas difficult because I had no appetite and could keep little down.  He asked that I call again later on Saturday to report my progress: none.  He then suggested I come into the Ajijic Clininc, a small hospital in town, to get some IV nutrition.  

When I got to the hospital ( my neighbor drove me; I was too dizzy to drive) he hooked me up to the IV.  I thought I'd be there for a few hours, so I brought no toiletries, eyeglasses, etc.  Turns out he kep me for two days, till Monday.  Thank God my friend Trudy was kind enough to bring me some lip glass and toohbrush and paste.  It was very tedious, but by  Monday I was beginning to feel better with the medicines and extra fluids. 

Once I got home, I want back to my old medicines, but my progress was very slow, and I still had most of the symptoms.  My friend, Fred's family was visiting.  His son is a physician and dropped by at Fred's request to check me out.  He was of the immediate opinion that I needed a brain scan to find out why I still had a bone-crushing headache.  He got together with my other friends to call Pixie and let her know how worried they were about me too.  They finally hijacked me and took me to another doctor, who ordered a brain scan right away.   Well, three brain scans later, they determined that I had hemorrhaging in my brain, NOT caused by a tumor or aneurism but probably by a bump on the head. (I did remember an egg on the head abour two weeks before these symptoms started).  

The symptoms I was having were most likely caused by  brain swelling as a result of the brain bleed.  I am being treated for the swelling by steroids, dieuretics, rest, and pain meds.  Hopefully, in another week, the swelling symptoms will be gone.  I will need to take anti-convulsive meds (Dytlanin) for about six months, because as the blood is reabsorbed into the brin, it can leave scarring and cause convulsions, so I can't drive for about a month.  Pixie arrived home Sunday and has been taking excellent care of me and feeding me, since I've lost 12 pounds through all this.  

SO... I am on the mend, and glad to be reunited with Pixie.  This experience is humbling for several reasons.  First, I did think, when they read the first scan, that I was looking at a brain tumor!  UGH.  Second, I don't remember hitting my head, but it must have been very hard.   Surely, we cannot take our fragile lives for granted.  

Thanks for all your emails.  I  have been inundated, and I hope this will answer more of your questions.  I have so many who love and care for me.