Friday, April 25, 2008

A hard day for kitty Cleo

Most of you following our travels for the past eight years know that we tend to adopt (and spoil) all the neighborhood animals, foster friend's dogs and cats –– whatever we can do to pretend we have pets without the responsibility. When we finally settle down (when we grow up?), we'll probably end up with an extensive menagerie.

So Michael has been feeding our neighborhood cats in La Manzanilla the occasional canned kitty food, the smoked sliced turkey from Costco, the leftover chicken casadilla from a favorite beach restaurant.

And not just the old stuff.

Needless to say, his gato groupies have been increasing mui rapido. It's not uncommon to open the door first thing in the morning and have five feral cats out on the front stoop, waiting for breakfast.

We've had a favorite from the beginning, a loyal friend who has gotten so civilized that she's decided that coming in the house would be the start of a great friendship. One time she slipped in and we found her comfortably settling into life on the bed. But Cleo and her fleas got bounced out
the door (with treats to make amends).

Cleo's been looking a little punk lately –– what we thought was a little skin problem from fleas has been spreading all over her hindquarters. So we finally borrowed the hav-a-hart trap from the local community activist who started Cisco's Amigo's, a twice-a-year neutering clinic that clips and snips about 140 dogs and cats in a factory line of volunteers.

We put the stinky kitty food in the trap, she climbed right in, the door slammed and she was in the new local vet's office in minutes.

Well, Cleo's back with a new name --- Clete. Turns out she's a he. Or was a he. Oops. The skin rash has been treated, he's been dewormed and deflea-ed. And neutered. He's still quite the drugged-out cat --- falling down like a drunk all over the house while we wait for the anesthesia to wear off.

His fellow kitty compatriots are outside wondering what it takes to get invited in the house. If Cleo could talk, I'm sure he'd be urging them to find other accommodations for the duration. They're next.

By the way, the veterinary charge was about $14 U.S.

While Clete was safely tucked in the house recuperating, Michael and I checked out the sunset before dinner where we ran into Molly, the great fire-dancing hula hoopster, where I got a quick lesson on the beach.

This is one sport I never could get the hang of as a kid but she swears I'll be 'hooping' within a day. So a trip to the ferreteria tomorrow for the makings for a hula hoop.

Stay tuned!

My first hoop lesson on the La Manzanilla beach

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The tradition of 'Sundays at Sea'

La Manzanilla, Jalisco, Mexico

I sailed around the world in 1970 and 1971 aboard the SS Ryndam as part of a university program called World Campus Afloat. Thirty-six countries in less than a year –– it was a mind-opening experience for any 18-year-old –– as we circumnavigated the globe as a first experience out of the United States.

I made good friends aboard the ship who challenged my comfort zone –– camping out in Stonehenge in England in case we could figure out the secret of the stones, hiking in the Japanese Alps in the middle of winter, exploring the Seychelle Islands off East Africa long before they built a jetport. And an incredible week in Tanzania as we rented cars and traveled inland for our own version of a photo safari (the rental agent's only advice? Don't get out and push the car in the bush because of the lions!).

It was a fabulous but exhausting year and certainly the foundation for the life Michael and I have chosen, in a small fishing/agricultural/surf village on the west coast of Mexico where we now live.

Today I was reminded of one of our ship's tradition on board the SS Ryndam from more than 30 years ago.

We were required to take university classes on board the ship every day at sea as we traveled to the next port, the next country. So we pushed hard every day at sea, then pushed 24/7 when we were unleashed in the next country, the next continent.

The only respite was a 'Sunday at Sea'.

It was the only day we were allowed to sleep in, hang by the pool, read a book or stare into the sea while we sat on foredeck. One day of rest, down time, then BAM! –– another Monday of classes or travel.

Today Michael and I had what might be our first 'Sunday at Sea' in Mexico.

Our good friends and great vacation buddies Jennifer and Scott Noble left yesterday after a fun-filled and exhausting week careening up to Arroyo Seco to fish, build, direct, or off to La Huerta to pay the taxes and look for huaraches, or to Melaque to the bank and lunch. Or....


But today Michael and I leisurely rolled out of bed, stuffed the fishing pole and a beach chair in the car and headed to our lot in Tenacatita.


Hunger drove us back to La Manzanilla for brunch with friends on the beach. And because I took a minute to get to the beach, I stumbled across the most fantastic musicians from Guadalajara jamming at one of the beach restaurants. I just stopped, sat and listened.

I definitely need to do that more often.

It was followed by a great siesta, then another walk on the beach where we ran into a few more friendly hellos. Now we're fixing dinner at home (great tamales from the great tamale party in Arroyo Seco --- see Michael's blog for that), some fiddle playing and maybe even a movie.

Even as I write this, I consider that perhaps this doesn't sound as relaxing to you as it does to me. But for someone who probably needs to slow down but has a low tolerance for it, I'm thinking I did pretty dang good.

We're going to continue to jam pack every minute of the remaining five weeks here before we careen off to Seneca Lake, where we will start a new chore list, party list, boating list.

Hopefully, we'll take the 'Sundays at Sea' tradition with us.

Beach fishing in the Pacific Ocean at Tenacatita

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Roosters, wild turkeys & cats

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico
It has been unseasonably cold this year in Tenacatita Bay --- cold enough that I've been wearing a fleece jacket in the mornings and evenings and wouldn't even consider swimming in the bay. The locals agree --- brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr --- the coldest any of them could ever remember but they warned us not to complain since they said we would all be whining soon enough about the heat.

How true. The heat has arrived.

I could feel it Friday morning as we organized a field trip for our La Manz friends to see what we're planning to build/create in Arroyo Seco, a tiny agricultural village located by a pretty good surf beach. By mid-morning we were standing on our empty lot in 'downtown' Arroyo Seco (for context, our friend Tia said she'd like the town more if it had two streets) in what felt like some pretty blistering heat. Once the breeze kicked in, we were fine.

For the record, we've gone from a low of 64 to 68 in the mornings to a low of 76 the past two mornings. We're now in the high 80s during the day.

I've just finished my stint at the real estate office and I'm starting my life as a 'jubilado' -- a retiree. Mornings have changed dramatically from just a week ago. Instead of the early scramble for a quick breakfast and our 40 minute walk over some pretty steep hills (and great views!) to race into the office, we're easing our way into mornings at the Mexican beach village of La Manzanilla.

We find ourselves waking up to a medley of domestic and wild bird sounds, mixed with the honk of the tortilla delivery truck and a motorcycle quad either delivering or picking up the rented washing machine across the street. It all happens by 7 a.m. or so. I've discovered I have to deliberately listen for the waves breaking on the beach --- I've filtered them into background noise and forget to listen.

One of our four adopted (feral) kitties waits on the front step for desayuna (breakfast) while the others hide in the bushes and up in the trees for her highness, aptly named Cleopatra, to have first bites. Yesterday morning was particularly loud --- four wild turkeys or wild chickens took up residence in some of our trees while they begin to reclaim a nest in the abandoned lot next door.

And, of course, the neighborhood roosters and the rest of the clan were over picking out breakfast bugs out of the pile of leaves in the yard.

Then the day flies. Last week we were on the road to either Tenacatita or Arroyo Seco every day trying to get things squared away on the lots, plus I read a couple of books (before and after siestas) and I'm back playing my fiddle.

Michael and I are getting through our checklist of getting fences up, walls constructed, wells dug, septic in on the various lots. Next winter we hope to spend time enjoying Arroyo Seco and Tenacatita, rather than just working there.

By early June we'll be heading to Seneca Lake (right after celebrating Dustin's birthday!) and get the Spirit of Louise, our pontoon boat, out of storage and back on the lake tours, get the jacuzzi fired up, re-immerse ourselves in the ease of shopping in box grocery stores within driving distance. The most fun, of course, is a summer on the lake with family and old friends and playing music with all my new fiddlin' friends.

So that's life for now --- a lot of changes down here for us but it's all still working. We have friends from Sacramento coming next week to help remind us why we live here --- we'll roll out the best of vacation activities (snorkling at Tenacatita, beach fishing in Arroyo Seco, shopping for jewelry, shoes, hammocks, exploring new restaurants). I hope to have a full report soon ....

Saturday morning: