Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas in Arroyo Seco

We arrived in Arroyo Seco, our new home in Mexico where we're the only two gringos in el centro, just in time to celebrate a two-day fiesta for the birthday of the pueblo, followed by another Christmas fiesta, followed by a first Communion fiesta, followed by another....

The highlight last week was Santa's arrival to the village on Dec. 26. Our good friend and neighbor, Chena, dressed up and gave out a couple hundred Christmas presents to the village children (which took several of us several days to wrap). She summoned the children to the church by driving around the village honking the horn and blasting carols out of the truck speakers. As we arrived, the girls were already forming their own line, youngest and smallest in the front, oldest in the rear, boys the same. No pushing, no shoving, no whining, no crying. Wow.

Most of the presents had come by way of Sacramento, from generous donations from our friends and co-workers. A favorite present appeared to be the English children's books. Who knew? Our truck was loaded up for the drive down and fortunately we breezed through the Mexican customs checkpoint.

After Arroyo Seco, Santa took us several kilometers back into the deep, dark woods where the 'natives' have set up a camp where they work as produce pickers during the day. Chena says she goes at night because most of the children are working in the fields with their parents. She said she had taken some donated huaraches (Mexican sandals) and pants out to the workers recently. For some of them, it was their first set of trousers.

All the kids were thrilled to see Santa. Mothers pushed right up in the line as well, eager to get whatever gifts were being given.

Michael and I stood back and watched as Chena and her children and friends helped distribute the gifts and the candy.The stars were brilliant in the dark sky -- no light pollution here. It was as good a Christmas as we could wish for, as generous an event as we could imagine. And one of the reasons we've moved here.

Besides the fiestas, we're jam packing our days with trips to the surf beach (the surf is finally back up), trips on our new 4 x 4 Honda ATV (called a 'moto' down here), organizing our new home and getting ready for the next phase of construction, scheduled to begin tomorrow morning.

We've been here for a week and have had overnight guests already as we figure out how to make all of this work for everyone. Our nephew Nate and his mother Beth are in La Manzanilla for the winter. And our new good friend Laura from Calgary was here for several days, helping us all learn to speak Spanish. The village children have already fallen in love with her and we're hoping she'll return for a longer stay next time.

So it looks like everything is in place for another great winter in Mexico. Good friends, good food, good fun!

We're now back in touch with the world --- Michael got the internet hooked up with wireless internet and our vonage phone in this little village of 300 people, where only two other families appear to have internet connections.

Have a great, warm first of the year -- wherever you are -- and please let us know how you're doing. I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Mexico family holiday

We've just arrived back to a foggy, cold Sacramento morning, reminding us of why we're moving back to Mexico in just a few short weeks.

We did a quick trip down to La Manzanilla for the holidays --- Thanksgiving and my birthday --- and Dustin, Camelia, Sasha and Dylan all joined us for the festivities. The beach was relatively deserted, the water was warm, the company delightful!

My birthday gift this year was a family portrait on the beach. Sasha turned three months old while we were vacationing. It seemed mui importante to have pictures taken where we don't have to layer up in fleece.

We launched the next stage of construction of our home/compound in Arroyo Seco, meeting with our contractor Arturo multiple times as I changed my mind --- daily. But construction on the bathrooms should begin any day, the tile has been purchased for the floor of the palapa, a few miscellaneous projects to ready the property for our arrival by Christmas.

We had many lovely afternoons in Arroyo Seco with our friends Chena and Chon and family. They have thoughtfully opened a taco stand across the street from us, assuring us that we'll never have to cook again if we don't want to. We're encouraging her to sell upscale coffee too so I don't have to figure out how to brew it for all the friends and family heading our way this winter. She's game, she says.

After the kids went back to their respective homes, Michael and I stayed for another day or two to make sure that construction was on track and that two of the Four Headlamps participate in the first open mic night at Palapa Joe's. Does it mean it was a success if it no-one threw any fruits or vegetables?

A few audience members even talked to us about joining the band for some future jam sessions.

I'm excited about our move to Arroyo Seco --- working on my Spanish, helping treat some of the unhealthy dogs in the village through Cisco's Amigos, teaching some English to the village children, playing music with friends and family.

I just have to get through the next two weeks of foggy weather while we all slog through the last few weeks of the semester. Then, andale! As we used to say while cruising our boat, time to head south until the butter melts!

The video below: While we were in Arroyo Seco, Chena and Chon brought their pet coatamundi over to play. Reminds me of the pet racoons my cousin Roger would rescue and raise around Seneca Lake.