Sunday, January 31, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

Another hospital

Nosebleeds in Holland and Greece, tremors in Ireland, gout in Turkey. Medical adventures while travelling have given us dramatic opportunities to visit emergency facilities in these countries. Now we have added Mexico to the list with John's badly swollen and painful hand. After spending a sleepless night, unable to ease the pain in his right hand and wrist, we visited a small hospital in Puerto Vallarta. The Doctor suspected that John had an allergic reaction to an insect bite. He prescribed antihistamines and anti-inflammatory drugs for one week. Five pharmacies later, we were only able to find drugs in 30 pill quantities for his weekly supply of one a day. He claims that they make him dizzier than ever!!
By dinnertime last night, the pain and swelling had started to subside

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The gigantic hot tub

The pool heater had been operating overnight. By yesterday morning the pool was a soupy 96 degrees! During the day we ran a hose into the pool, hoping to cool the temperature with water from the cistern. To our great frustration, every time Tonio went by, he would turn off the tap! The temperature was slowly edging toward 100 degrees. We melted into the water!

When Nestor arrived, he explained that someone had stolen the wiring to the pump that brings water up from the lower cistern to the house cistern. Apparently copper is a precious commodity here too, and subject to theft. As a result, Tonio was trying to limit the amount of water that the pump had to handle while he was working on repairs to the electrical line.

Later, Nestor gave us a tour of the newly "remodelated" facilities under the pool. The messy tangle of connections was gone. Pipes and panels and motors were all neatly attached . The pool heater, however, was still not functioning automatically. It had to be adjusted manually. The supplier was refusing to send a new unit until we had returned this one! A group decision was made to leave just the pilot light on, no more heat was required for the pool.

Last night, after dinner, we all lazed in this giant hot tub. Doug's 90 year old mother was coaxed into the pool with the help of a noodle. We floated around, giggling and happy, singing to the moon. At 10:30pm it was still 96 degrees!

When I checked at 8:00am this morning, the temperature was down to a more comfortable
90 degrees.

Jean Evelyn's way!

We all have our own unique way of sunbathing. I had never seen this way before!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A glimpse

Moved by moody memories
White washed with light
Seen through a sliver of sea
Carried in by the breeze.

I catch a glimpse of you
A glimmer from beyond
And taste your salty kiss
The wet droop of moustache.

Blowfish thoughts!

Oh shit! Mum's really going to be mad! I just wanted to take a peek at the world. Never should have followed that school of green fish. She warned me - "never get caught up with a gang! They're only trouble, and, in the end, they'll leave you to fend for yourself!" She was right! Here I am, upside down, staring up at a strange woman with a clicking black box. Can't she see that I need help?

I did what Mum taught me to do. When I felt myself being lifted out of the water, I made myself as big and spikey as I could to scare away all the bad creatures...but...I can't hold my breath forever! Oh-oh! There goes the air. Now I'm just a deflated, flat little fish wishing that I'd listened to my mother. Whoa!! What's happening? I'm flying over the water! SPLASH! GULP! Wow, wait'll I tell Mum about my adventure!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Faces of the Market

The day before

Before our hosts returned to Vancouver on January 6th, they left several requests with Nestor, the Property Manager.They join us again in PV tomorrow and there is a mad scramble to ensure that everything is in place.

The most important request was for the installation of a pool heater. That might seem like a strange addition to a PV pool, but, there are days when the pool temperature drops below comfort level. So, the heater installation guy in the red pickup truck came to work on this project 4 or 5 times before being satisfied that it was working. That was before the heater blew up last weekend!

Since then, the supplier has visited twice to examine the damage and finally decided that he would replace one part, not the whole unit!! Then, Nestor decided to move everything...heater, pump, filter. As a result, the laugh-in door was very busy with strange men coming and going all day yesterday. At 7pm last night the sun had set and the project was not complete.

On a bright note, Noe, the new computer geek managed to get the computer up and running after a four week delay! So the second request has been satisfied. I discovered that my Spanish is quite proficient when discussing computer language. I had no problem translating AUTOCAD and OFFICE. Noe sat at the desk, sipping tea and gazing at the computer screen for 5 hours before declaring the job done!

The third request involved filling and hauling about 50-50lb sacks of soil up three sets of stairs to fill a garden area outside the new bathroom. Don Beto, at the age of 60, managed to outdo Ulysses, his young helper. Now Jesus has the challenge of finishing the inside wall of the planted area with stone and mortar before tomorrow!

Saturday is usually a half day for workers but it looks like we will have at least seven men rotating through the laugh-in door all day long. Tonio is pretending to be in charge, running back and forth between the upstairs garden and the pool maintenance areas. His last challenge will be to clean the pool and make it crystal clear! Will everything be ready?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Three times each week Pacheta appears at the door with a broom, mops and a bucket, her smile reflecting glints of gold. Her uniform is a navy skirt with a white, collared shirt. The initials of the cleaning company are monogrammed over her breast. Brightly coloured earrings decorate her ears.

She starts with the lower pool level, swabbing the decks and sweeping the floors. A cloth flies through the air, dispersing dust in every direction. Everything is moved, leaving proof that she has been there. A pounding sound echoes through the house. What is she doing??

From the lower level, she moves to the top bedroom level. Once again the floors are swabbed and particles of dust are scattered. Toilets and sinks and showers are cleaned and polished before we hear more pounding?

Finally, on the kitchen level, scatter rugs are gathered up, more swabbing of floors, wiping of counters and flicking of the dusting cloth. This time we are sitting on the main level terrace, ready to solve the pounding mystery. I watch as Pacheta lifts two cushions and beats them together, raising even more dust! So, this is the pounding sound! It is very reassuring to know that three times each week our cushions are given a thorough pounding!

Pacheta is the patient recipient of my broken Spanish. We laugh together and try to share family histories. I learned today that she is 51 years old , that she has five children and is also an abuela (grandmother) of nine.

I had difficulty explaining that John A-P was esposo number 2 and that this John is esposo number 3. "Son tus hermanos?" she asked. "No, they are not my brothers!"

Sometimes the sharing of family histories is too difficult. I still don't know which member of her family had a hernia and Pacheta was still confused about my relationship to John & Doug. Before she left, I thanked her for pounding the pillows, we hugged and she gave me another gold toothed smile.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blessing of the Animals

An article in the local Vallarta Tribune caught my eye. The third annual "Blessing of the Animals" was scheduled for yesterday. I decided to hike over and view the event. Sponsored by the SPCA-PV, it took place in the lovely chapel of Hacienda San Angel, above and behind the Cathedral.

When I arrived, the pews were full of people with pets on their laps and at their feet. More pet owners clustered around the perimeter of the chapel. It was a noisy affair with canines barking out warnings and greetings. Some appeared to be old friends, wagging tails and sniffing secrets. Fortunately they were all on leashes. There was no sign of any cats or other household pets like goldfish or snakes. Maybe they were concealed inside jackets!

A group of small dogs had been sent along with maids from the Hacienda and a small pug was sitting in a baby stroller. When I tried to photograph the pug, I was informed that he didn't like paparazzi!! McGinnis, a service dog was closely attached to his visually impaired companion. Another large dog with unkempt hair joined the gathering. He was a labradoodle who had the misfortune of not inheriting kinky poodle hair. and his owner acknowledged that he was having a bad hair day!

This special service took place on the feast day of San Antonio. He was a hermit saint who died in the deserts of Egypt during the fourth century AD. It is believed that his only companions during lonely days of fasting and prayer were the animals. The service was read in Spanish and English before Father Juan Francisco Gradilla Gutierrez wandered through the gathering, sprinkling holy water on all the pets. Ooops!...He passed by the folks with the pug! In near panic, the woman clutched the little creature to her bosom and ran up the aisle to Father Gutierrez. He smiled and sprinkled water on both of them.

Just then, a single minded little dog broke away from his owner on the street outside and ran into the chapel with his leash dragging behind. A blessing was sprinkled on him, he sniffed the air, looked around and ran back outside..

Following the service, the congregation was invited across the street to Hacienda San Angel for snacks. Pets were welcome. That was my first sighting of several cats that had been at the chapel, carefully protected from the hazards of canines. Donations to the SPCA were gratefully received.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Out of a deep sleep, I heard John's muffled voice. Removing one earplug, I heard him say something about Chuck & Ted, keys & water. What keys? Who are Chuck & Ted? Oh! The neighbours! Keys?...why? Obviously something was seriously wrong...but what?

Our neighbours were returning home around midnight and noticed water running down the wall and across the road from under our pool. Climbing up to the pool level, they discovered that the water in the pool was quickly dropping. I rushed downstairs to look for a key to the gate so that Chuck & Ted could climb under the pool and turn off whatever required turning off.
Unfortunately, there was no key! The only answer was to call Nestor and get him out of bed.

Earlier that evening, around 5pm, Nestor had appeared to announce that the gas(propane) would be turned off for about 15 minutes. In my experience a Mexican 15 minutes is the equivalent of a Canadian 2 hours. Apparently a worker was finally installing the pool heater. Sure enough, two hours later, Nestor cheerfully informed us that the pool heater was installed, the gas was reconnected and I could put dinner in the oven!

While we waited for Nestor to arrive after midnight, I remembered the black smoke and burning rubber that I had smelled around 9:30pm. Was it possible that the new pool heater had suffered a malfunction, overheated, blown a seal?

Chuck & Ted joined Nestor under the pool for an investigation. They managed to halt the flow of water and reported that the heater was definitely burnt and partially melted. How fortunate that they arrived home when they did. Otherwise the pool would have emptied onto the roadway by morning and caused expensive damage to the pump system. Whew! At 1:30am, I replaced my earplugs and tried to get back to sleep.

Friday, January 15, 2010

What a way to start the day! A twister in the distance gathering speed and water, intensifying and moving closer. I was ready to board up the windows and doors, prodding John out of bed to help. He sat on the edge of the bed, gazing at the sight, not the slightest bit perturbed! "Hurry" I yelled. "We have to get downstairs and close everything up!" By the time he finished his ablutions in the bathroom, the damned thing had disappeared! You can guess what would happen later with all that water gathered up into storm clouds!

It was our day for a major grocery shopping expedition so we taxied over to Lay's and filled the grocery cart with tons of essentials. Out at the taxi stand, I suffered a memory lapse and confidently loaded the groceries into the trunk of a taxi. It wasn't until we were in motion that I remembered "Never put bags of groceries in the trunk of a taxi". In order to stop in front of Quinta las Pinas, the taxi has to go up a steep hill, turn around and drive back down. Diet 7-up, marmalade and canned tuna ended up almost under the back seat!!! Don't look at the driver to help! He simply handed me the key to the trunk and picked his nose while I climbed in and attempted to reach the "roll-aways". Meanwhile John was braced on the cobblestones, balanced on his walking poles while gripping the back of my shorts as I disappeared, sliding forward on the trunk mat. Fortunately Pacheta came to our rescue, gathering up bags and shooting daggers at the nose-picking driver. Next time I'll put the bags in the back seat beside me!

We arrived home just before the heavy clouds decided to empty. Could it be that jealous folks in Vancouver sent this rain our way?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

They appear and disappear through the "laugh-in" door at the end of the pool. I finally travelled through this door, to the other side, and discovered a refuge. The space beyond sits below our neighbour's infinity pool, a space that will become two bedrooms one day. I wonder who would want to sleep beneath a million litres of water? It would require a ridiculous leap of faith! Meanwhile, one of Nestor's brothers has created a workshop there. Apparently he refinishes furniture and doors. Several times each day, he appears through the door with a request for ice water from our refrigerator. It is, after all, hot work to sand and remake these things.

An old beach lounge chair has been hauled up 101 stairs for comfortable afternoon naps. It sits in the dust amidst his tools, equipment, lacquers and paints. An extension cord is connected to a single light bulb. Sometimes, later at night, we see the light shining and hear the sound of gentle sanding.

Another brother also uses the "underpool" space, coming and going through the door from 8am to 6pm. He seems to be a general handyman. Despite many attempted "fixings", we have never seen him effectively fix anything. He does clean the pool and smile a lot! He also asks permission to fill his cup with ice water and heat his lunch in our microwave oven.

There were more of them last year, nameless men who built walls, laid floors, tiled bathrooms and installed plumbing. They would all gather under the pool to share lunch and stories. Now there are just the two brothers.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Don't be fooled

A metal sculpture stands guard at the pool edge
The priestly headdress lends power and grace
His riveted gown drips blue and red blood
Inviting birds to perch and cats to rub.

Don't be fooled!

He is unable to save drowning souls
Looking away in stormy weather
Two faced in times of need
Rusted and hollow at his very core.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I couldn't resist taking a photo of last night's sunset reflected in our neighbour's infinity pool. What an amazing sight!

This morning I headed out early to capture bus stop photos for the next series of paintings. Hobbling down the aged cobbled road, I was surprised to see a torch bearer running toward me! Had the Olympic flame lost its way between Saskatchewan and Alberta? A cavalcade of pickup trucks followed behind with uniformed youngsters cheering the runner. Maybe they were celebrating the potential influx of tourists from Vancouver next month?! I later discovered, from Don Beto, that they were taking turns running from a church in PV to Guadalajara. When I asked why (por que), he looked at me with a frown, rubbed his forehead, and decided that I wouldn't understand the explanation. He said simply porque(because)!

Huge waves crashed into shore last night and wiped out a lot of the beachside cafes. A few shops were flooded and many locals were attempting to sweep out the sand and water this morning. This is the second time since our arrival that they have experienced such high waters.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Finished my first painting yesterday and started the second one today. Managed to find the Art Supply store a short distance from the Cathedral. Practiced Spanish with the taxi driver and with Pachita. They seemed to understand me and I could decipher their responses. KISS is the answer!
Schools of fish leaping into the air this morning, much to the delight of several fishboats.

A red pickup was parked at the house when we returned. Apparently they are installing a pool heater under the pool. The water temperature should be around 85 degrees tomorrow, much more pleasant than it has been. John will be able to exercise comfortably with his noodle!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday mornings are my favourite time of the week. Sitting with coffee and toast, I am grateful for the opportunity to sit on this terrace, under blue skies. It is the one day of the week that Don Beto will not arrive to drown the plants, Pachita will not be pounding the pillows and Tonio will not be lurking behind a bush. Construction and destruction come to a halt on Sundays so the sounds of hammering, tinking, scraping, crashing are silent today. A pelican floats by with its wings tucked up onto its back. Two small fishboats set out slowly to find the day's catch.

My New Year's resolution was to speak Spanish every day with Pachita(our maid) and Don Beto(the gardener). Every night I planned to prepare a sentence for the next day. With great enthusiasm, I greeted Pachita with my first prepared sentence. She looked at me, slightly puzzled, and answered with a question! Of course, I had no idea what she was asking!! Undaunted, I have persisted. The problem is that their speed of speech far exceeds my ability to comprehend! I still have 72 days to become fluent!
Sound is constant here. Moments of silence are rare. The hammers of construction and destruction compete with crashing waves and unserviced vehicles. During the lunchtime lull, there is still the dripping fountain, bubbling pool water and steady thrum of rubber on the roadway. Late afternoon brings the loudspeaker announcements from a small caique that trolls the shoreline, seducing tourists with promises of free drinks at a local bar. In the evening, music floats up from a succession of party boats that sail past with cargos of loaded party-goers. On Sunday nights we hear singing performances and loud cheers from Blue Chairs "Dirty Bitches" Drag Show. Fireworks explode nightly in the darkened sky before I push earplugs into my grateful ears, closing out the yowling gatos(cats) and barking perro(dog) marauders.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Last night we joined Nestor's family to celebrate Epiphany. This special bread/cake contained several small plastic "Baby Jesus". Each adult cut a piece, hoping not to get one of these little characters. If they found one in their piece, they had to contribute money toward another special party on February 2nd!! Nestor's mother found one!! After this bread/cake was shared between the adults, another one was brought out for the children.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Boeuf Bourginon

After watching "Julie & Julia" we decided to try our hand at making her Boeuf Bourguignon in the Puerto Vallarta kitchen. My "ex" chose to be the meat browner and left the veggie portion to me. He was confused by the term "lardons" and wondered if there was a spelling error. After much discussion, we decided that bacon strips would suffice. To our alarm, the small gas oven refused to go below 490 degrees. We also discovered that Julia's idea of a "casserole" must be different to our version as she uses it in the oven and on the stovetop!! A wooden spoon propped the oven door open an inch and dropped the temperature to around the required 325 degrees. Three hours later, six of us sat down to a delicious bourguignon dinner. Despite ongoing kitchen conflicts, the cooks were still smiling and congratulated each other with glasses of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo!!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Feliz Ano Nuevo

The streets are strung with overhead banners and pinatas.

Fireworks burst overhead and dancers fill the streets.

Bellies full, we watch from our balcony.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunset after a rainy day.