Thursday, January 10, 2008

How we got here

Guess I took my own words TOO seriously. Haven't done much in the last 10 days. The Big Thing was moving from Mayor Dave's RV to Miss J's Casa on the northeast end of town.

One of my objectives after leaving my former life in Tokyo was to get to know my "home" better. An entire planet and I knew so little about so much of it! As I lay in bed this morning, listening to the birds, the roosters, the dogs...the trucks with their jingles about propane gas, water and melons, and, earlier, the military drill music wafting in from the camp outside of town, I realized that today, this little Mexican village is now as much my home as the ranch, the condo in LA, Tokyo or Hawaii.

It's the big difference between traveling as tourists and traveling as nomads. Tourists "visit." Nomads "live." I wanted to make more of this planet my "home" and I guess I am succeeding, albeit slowly.

Big Dog and I found this village during the fall of 2004, after a long, hard summer of renovating (nearly completely on our own) the 120-year-old Victorian he owns in Northern California. We flew into Puerto Vallarta, rented a car and just drove south on Mex 200, not really knowing where we were going. Just kept driving til the sun began to set and then we found what looked like a motel or hotel on the side of the road and pulled in for the night.

(I lost too much data when my laptop got stolen in Costa Rica, but I DO have backups for some of my pre-May 2005 writing, and the excerpt below are notes from when we first arrived on that trip.)

Land in PV, it's after 5pm. Immigration is super easy. Customs is...funny. You get your bags, then go to a customs official who is standing at something resembling a traffic light. He or she will make you push the button, which is exactly like the pedestrian crossing button, and either the red or the green light will flash. If you get green, you go through. if you get red, they search everything. Or so BT told me. but i like that it's so random and i think it's a uniquely mexican solution to uniquely mexican problems (which, i imagine might range from incompetance to corruption, but how pragmatic and sensible a solution! It's fair to all. And ensures that with the law of probability, the "bad guys" will eventually get caught if they come often enough.)

(Having just arrived in Mexico, I hadn't shed the North American stereotype of the country being crime and corruption ridden. Today, we know how much a product of American media THAT is! There is way more crime in the US!)

Futz around changing money (11.43 pesos to the dollar), then getting rental car. It's a funky manual shift car and it feels like it could break down any moment. Rattle our way out of the airport, towards PV. there are no street signs i can see and traffic is somewhat of a mess. i miss our turn that would have taken us right onto Highway 200 and we go into PV a bit. it's a post-apocalyptic Honolulu of sorts. No, more than Hawaii, it's actually more like the Philippines, but the people are bigger. The town, too, is like a bigger, gaudier, more colorful Ermita.

(Later on, I would find out how there are many similarities between Mexico and the Philippines, but that they are all superficial. Today, I don't think the Mexicans are at all like the Filipinos.)

We turn around, get on the right highway and barrel out of PV. Lots of "villas" on the way. some perched up high on a cliff, others hug the beach. Mucho new construction going on. New or old, the buildings all look kinda funky.

The scenery is gorgeous. Turquoise and sapphire, gemstone blue waters, long shorelines, rocky islands jutting out. And on the left side, the inland side, green, green, green of every tone and shade.

After Mismaloya (Night of the Iguana fame) and Boca de Tomatlan, the road curves inland. Now, we have green, green, green on both sides of the road. Orange flowers that look like small cosmos but are as prolific as the poppies of California during the spring, are everywhere. So are cow crossings. They tell you with a yellow sign that has a shadow of a hoof-less bull. it's a bit disconcerting.

We drive for almost an hour and when we get to a town called El Tuito. It was getting close to sunset, so it was time to head in for the night. We u-turn back to a hotel we had spotted and though at 300P/night was a bit pricey but there's nothing else on the horizon so we pull in. It surrounds a lush garden with a pool in the middle and has a nice feel to it tho the room is very small and we only have one tiny bed.

Walk across the street for dinner. It's a sort of bus stop and there are big buses coming and going. Little grocery shops with dark interiors stocking nearly everything from food to detergent line the road and taco vendors in front of them. A tamale cart goes by but we turn down the tamales, thinking we will find a restaurant in town. What were we thinking, turning down the tamales! because there IS no restaurant in town. Get some beers from a grocery store, drink on the street, then cruise the taco stands, finally going into a taqueria that tells us that they only have a limited menu -- tacos carne asada. That's it. But that's okay, it's what we want. They are simple tacos, small as my palm, barely seasoned. Little bits of bean, chopped onion and queso top each taco. A grilled chili on the side keeps it company. The chilis have been roasting in front of the shop so they are flavorful like you wouldn't believe...and surprisingly hot! The plates are lined in plastic wrap. i guess so they don't have to wash the plates, but I worry about all that plastic wrap ending up somewhere... i guess better than plastic or paper plates, tho.

I have 4 tiny tacos. Big Dog wolfs down 8. Then we go to a taco stand and have 2 more! Then back to the grocery store for ice cream bars. they must be locally made ones. Each ice cream bar is wrapped in a tiny wax paper bag, with an open end (stick end.) they are covered in chocolate and real coconut shavings and incredibly good! and cheap!

Back in the room, Denzel Washington is speaking eloquent Spanish on TV. It's the movie Hurricane, very well dubbed into Spanish.


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