Friday, February 26, 2010

The Wall

Every day it grows, slowly creeping up the hillside. All of the supplies are delivered to the roadway below. Two young men carry large rocks and buckets of cement up to the scaffolding that holds the master builder as he creates this massive wall. Their muscles bulge and their shirts are stained with sweat as they struggle up and down all day. Several times each day they watch as he hangs a plumb line over the side to ensure that the wall remains straight.

The work continues from 8am-6pm with a short break for lunch. Every day we give them a container of ice to cool their lunchtime drinks as they rest in the shade.

Traffic passes on the highway below, oblivious to the manual labour above. The wall will eventually reach the height of the adjacent rockworks. It will support a driveway to the lower level of Quinta las Pinas.

Before the wall can be completed, a large rubber tree will be removed from alongside the narrow cobbled road that leads to the house. The tree, after a long life, has been topped and is waiting for a crane to yank its roots from the soil. At that point, all work will stop and everyone's attention will be diverted to the drama of nature versus machine. Will the roots refuse to give up their hold? Will the crane be up to the challenge? There is only one guarantee. Everyone in the immediate area will provide a very attentive and animated audience.

I hope that we're still here to participate.

Monday, February 22, 2010


These sisters share memories in the sun, day after day. One born in 1919, the other in 1922.

They rode to school on horseback, milked cows, gathered eggs, read by oil lamp.

They are mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and great-great grandmothers.

Today they were remembering poems from childhood. This is one of them.

I once had a sweet little doll, dears,

The prettiest doll in the world;

Her cheeks were so red and white, dears,

And her hair was so charmingly curled.

But I lost my poor little doll, dears,

As I played in the heath one day;

And I cried for her more than a week, dears,

But I never could find where she lay.

I found my poor little doll, dears,

As I played in the heath one day;

Folks say she is terribly changed, dears,

For her paint is all washed away,

And her arms trodden off by the cows, dears,

And her hair not the least bit curled;

Yet for old sakes’ sake, she is still, dears,

The prettiest doll in the world.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


I taught them how to noodle

how to float and drift along

one would soon be ninety-one

her sister eighty-seven

we synchronized and chatted

a giggling gaggle of girls.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Road trip

The rain followed us as we passed fields of sugar cane and blue leafed agave used in the distillation of mexcal for tequila. Our two days in Tlaquepaque were filled with visits to all of the galleries and shops. We squeezed through crowds of people during a short tour of the Tonala market on Sunday after checking into our Tlaquepaque hotel. The next day we enjoyed a delicious lunch at El Patio with mariachi music performed by a rousing female band. The lead singer's face ressembled many of the wooden carved angels that we have seen in shops...cherubic with a touch of the devil!

On to Morelia and the Doctor's visit to our hotel room. After two injections John was able to move around a little better. The rain was persistent so we didn't wander too far. Fortunately the beds were covered with eiderdowns because the temperature dipped to about 5 degrees in our unheated, stone built room. The next day we set off to find rain gear and celebrated with our gold lame jackets from Woolworth's. They weren't exactly waterproof but they helped. Morelia is a

UNESCO world heritage site with interesting

architecture. Needless to say, we would have enjoyed our surroundings more on dry days.

During our wanders we discovered streets lined with shops selling gorgeous gowns of all colours and materials. It was a mystery to us! Where would women wear these creations?

Finally, we were back to Guadalajara for a brief overnight stay. This is a beautiful city with a gorgeous cathedral and lots of massive murals by Jose Clemente Orozco. I visited the Government Palace to view his mural of Father Miguel Hidalgo brandishing a flaming torch above the central staircase. It was so overwhelming that I had to rest against the wall to look up at the massive figure! Groups of young schoolchildren were seated in the visitors area of the Hall of Congress, gazing up at another powerful mural painted by this one handed artist.

The rain finally stopped as we headed out of Guadalajara for the return trip to Puerto Vallarta. It was 28 degrees and sunny when we arrived back at Quinta las Pinas.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When we arrived in Morelia, at the hotel, John could barely walk. He had done something to his back the day before and was in excruciating pain. We asked the hotel to call for a Chiropractor but a Doctor arrived and administered two injections

By this morning he was able to walk to breakfast and to Woolworth's with us. In this photo he is waiting for the beds to be made in our room so that he can lay down again. The hotel courtyard is the best feature of the Hotel Soledad in central Morelia.

Triplettes de Morelia

Thank God for Woolworth's on a rainy day in Morelia! We managed to find gold, waterproof (sort of), hooded jackets on sale for $10 each. John had his jacket along but the none of us were prepared for a rainy road trip.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Colours of Telaquepaque

Tonala market

On Sunday we drove beyond Guadalajara to Tlaquepaque. After checking into our unique little hotel, we drove to the Tonala Sunday market. Hundreds of colourful stalls and thousands of people crowded through narrow passageways.

Ukrainian dinner

On Friday night we hosted a dinner for 20 people. I suggested that we have a Ukrainian meal with cabbage rolls, perogies, and sausage. The cabbage rolls posed no problem as cabbage, ground meat and rice were easy to find. The only sausage that we could find in most supermarkets was a hundred different versions! A couple of Italian sausages were discovered at a MEGA store and we hoped that our guests wouldn't know the difference. The perogies were going to be a time consuming challenge. At the last minute, in the freezer section at Costco, we found three bags of cheese ravioli and decided that when boiled and fried with onion & bacon, they would be perfect.

Doug was my sous-chef with the cabbage rolls; John A-P boiled and fried the "perogies"; John M sliced and diced(removing part of a thumb in the process). When everything was ready, we smiled at each other and lay in the sun for a pleasant afternoon break.

John A-P left at 6pm to pick up flowers. I lifted the salad out of the refrigerator. It slid out of my hands and crashed to the floor, smashing the glass bowl and spreading jicama, peppers, glass and spinach everywhere. A panic call took place to John A-P's cell phone to pick up replacement ingredients!

The bartender arrived at 6:30pm, the first guests at 6:45pm and the replacement salad stuff at 7:00pm. That was when John lost part of his thumb, helping me to prep the salad!

Everyone raved about the food, especially the perogies!! No one discovered extra protein in the salad!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A special visitor

We had a special visitor today. He hustled around the pool and made a slow ascent up the stairs behind me, flicking his tongue out to taste the air. It felt as though he had a message for me, like his cousin, the tortoise, on Amorgos. The workers decided that I needed to be rescued so he was encouraged to leave before delivering the message. Maybe he'll be back!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Dude has feet

The lifeguard, since his rescue from the pool, has sprouted feet that anchor him to the pavers surrounding the pool. Even if he wanted to, he couldn't rescue a drowning swimmer. As a result, he has been renamed "The Dude". It is a humiliating demotion for him and he has refused to be reheaded!

I attended the second writing class yesterday. No more! For the entire two hours, I wished that I was sitting with my writing group back home. Where were Marg, Maggie, Lois, Joyce, Tracey, Jean and Catherine??? Imagine what we would have accomplished in that two hour period! I really miss Octava!

The pool saga continues. A connection to the pump cracked on Sunday and water was leaking out again. Apparently the solar heating was repaired (again) but there is no warm water coming from above. The pool heater has been repaired and is enroute back to PV from Guadalajara to be reinstalled by Friday. Meanwhile, this feels like a repeat of last year. With a daily temperature of 76 degrees, the pool sits empty.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Salmon Armenians

A group of Salmon Armenians, who prefer to remain anonymous, gathered at The Cheeky Monkey today to test the margaritas, beers and banana floats. We shared stories, toasted the sun and avoided any discussion about the poor folks back home. It didn't seem fair to talk about boots and coats, central heating and muddy roads, grey days and cold nights.

Friday, February 5, 2010


We were kidnapped yesterday and taken on a road trip to Bucerias. When we got into the car, we asked to be dropped off downtown for a walk on the Malecon but our hosts asked if we would like to go along with them to order a kitchen cabinet first. Eight hours later we arrived home after visiting galleries and market stalls in Bucerias, a furniture manufacturing shop, a framing store(to frame two new purchases from Bucerias), Walmart(for frozen peas), Costco(for chicken and cake)and Rizo's(for rosemary)! The only thing that we didn't return with was the kitchen cabinet!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Stormy weather

What a storm! Solid rain all day, no breaks, filling the pool, washing the terraces, cooling the air. The city kept disappearing and peeking out from inside a blanket of white mist. Cars tried to drive up our road, sliding and skidding on slick cobblestones, spinning tires, burning rubber.

In the evening, during a lull in the weather, we were enjoying an outdoor dinner at the neighbour's.
It started to pour again and blow into the terrace sideways. A table of five, under partial cover, was starting to get wet. Doug got up from the table and moved under cover just seconds before a huge pot containing a six foot palm tree fell from above and shattered in the spot where he had been sitting. Two minutes later another hundred pound pot was blown from the balcony above us. We huddled inside, closing windows and doors, grateful that no one was hurt. Winds raged, clouds opened and the power went out. Our neighbours scrambled for candles. The flashlight batteries were dead. We sat and waited until the lights flickered on again.

John ran back to the Quinta and discovered massive flooding. My paintings had been blown to the floor, cameras were wet. We had not closed any doors so the rain had blown in on all three levels. We had been optimistic when we left for dinner that the storm had passed. He mopped up and moved soggy cushions and wet chairs inside.

Later, we discovered that the sculpture standing guard at the pool, was laying decapitated at the bottom of the pool. With an ongoing display of lightning overhead, we decided that it would be wise to postpone the rescue of his metal body until the morning.

The PV news reported winds of up to 90km per hour during the storm. Locals have never seen weather like this at this time of year before!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yesterday I decided to drop in on a writing course that was being offered in Puerto Vallarta. Dana Zeller-Alexis, a New York based actress, would lead the series of six classes. It sounded interesting.

Arriving early, I claimed a white plastic chair at the table. There were seats for ten participants around the table and a guarantee, when I registered, that the class would not exceed twelve people. In true Mexican style, they kept straggling in. By the time the class began, tables and chairs had been added to accommodate eighteen of us. One woman refused to move from her original seat, which was now in the centre of the grouping, until the instructor pleaded with her. Frowning, with arms folded across her chest, she finally relented. "It is the Mexican way to choose the right seat for yourself!" she stated with an American twang and a toss of her bleached hair.

We started in the usual way with introductions all around. I am never sure what this accomplishes because it is impossible to remember eighteen names. Then we did the circuit again, stating whether we were beginners or experienced writers, in the middle of drafts or published. Once again, I am never sure which category to place myself or why it would matter! The most interesting response came from one of the late arrivals who declared "I've tried everything else, so I thought that I would try writing."

There were four men in the group. One of them sat to my left and became my writing partner when the exercises began. It was simple. Write a sentence and pass the paper to your partner to write the next sentence, back and forth for three minutes. In my Salmon Arm writing group we have a gigglefest version of this exercise at the end of our meetings. Unfortunately, my partner did not see the humor in the exercise or in my first sentence "Myrtle ran from the raging bull." As a matter of fact, he seemed incapable of forming a second sentence. At the 2 1/2 minute mark, when the rest of the group had composed novels, he managed to write "She fell and broke her leg". Time was up!

Dana read several pages from a novel and a short story by Pablo Neruda to illustrate different styles of writing and forms of conflict. Our homework assignment is to create a scene with two characters in conflict, the antagonist and the protagonist, based on a personal experience from this week. As there is never conflict in my life, I am at a loss for words!

Rainy days

After looking at the weather forecast this morning, we decided to change our plans. The night time low in Guadalajara and Morelia was predicted to be around four degrees celsius! Salmon Arm is warmer than that. The next couple of days promise rain and more rain. Heavy rain in Puerto Vallarta but the temperatures remain warm. This is El Nino in Mexico!!