Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Bombs Bursting in Air

Cohetes are constantly being set off during the village's celebration of it's patron saint, San Andrés.  They begin as early as 5 AM and numerous bombs are shot into the sky in quick succession.  At 12 noon, the church bells and the rockets can be deafening if you find yourself in any canyons formed by the buildings around you.

These rockets are of simple construction.  A rocket engine like those used in model rocketry is tied to a thin wooden dowel and topped with a wad of paper containing gun powder.  And, as with rocketry, a fuse trails out of the bottom of the rocket engine.  When lit, stick and all shoot off into the sky and explode.

I was told that these "fireworks" are tightly controlled, yet somehow a gringo friend was able to gift me 5 of those noisy babies from his stash.  I had been slightly fearful of setting them off, but the election of Senator Barack Obama as the next President of the United States had me sending 3 of them into the night sky.  My last two are being saved for New Year's Eve.

Nearly every night of the 10 day festival sees a traditional "ground" display of fireworks based on a two story high wooden contraption called a castillo (literal translation -- castle).  By the time the castillo is fully constructed it is covered with giant wheels and other moving parts with hundreds of individual firecrackers, bottle rockets, sparklers, and flares.  Additionally, standard fireworks are set off on two or three special nights.  Presently the town square is ringed with beer and liquor tents, food stands, and even a couple kiddy carnival rides.  Here a gordito is a rather large glass of cerveza or a very sweet bread, not some faux Mexican dish served by Taco Hell.  Ajijic knows how to party.

This morning, as on other mornings this past week, we awoke to the sound of the cohetes and the sweet sounds of a band in a pilgrim's procession going down our street and ending at the main church.

The celebrations continue.

Mental Health Break

Breaking News

The Onion: Bush Pardons Scooter Libby In Giant Turkey Suit

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We Have a WalMart

Today is market day in Ajijic. A half mile stretch of road on the eastern border of our little town serves as the location for numerous booths selling clothing, spices, nuts, candies, music CD's, computer software, fresh vegetables and fruit, meat and seafood, small electronic gadgets, cosmetics, ART, and other stuff. Local and regional artisans have all the obligatory Mayan masks, paintings, pottery, and tourist kitsch. Several small eateries are also set-up there selling pizza, tacos, and other delicious food.

Our friends at Anita's Animals have a used book and clothing booth whose proceeds are used for the care and feeding of the shelter's cats and dogs. Of course, that's our favorite booth to visit. Victoria Guadalupe, Evita, Isabela, Eenie Meenie, Moinie, Mo, Abby, and Ziva found there way to our house (just a block away) from the cages of puppies and kittens that Anita brings to the tiangius each Wednesday for adoption. We've brought home more kittens than used books or clothing.

I'm told that our market day experience is quite small compared to the tiangius in Guadalajara and the one held in a town across the lake. Someday, I may visit them. Right now, I am content with "small town" life.

The opening of a new WalMart* last week will probable not have any effect upon the sale of items at the tiangius. Our local supermarkets and bakeries, though, now have stiff competition for the hearts, minds, and stomachs of the local Mexican population, American expats, Europeans, and Canadians. We will probably continue buying all of our fresh chicken and carne molida (ground beef) from El Torito's, a supermarket that is on the next block (with Salvadore's, the Cinemas Del Lago, Christina's Pharmacy, Ajijic's Boston Deli, and several small shops). And, if and when we really have any extra pesos we will probably walk the mile or so to shop for household goods and other staples. (Yes, we have a great bus system and there is always a cheap cab ride.)

Yes, we have all the "comforts of home". Before moving to Mexico, we both visited Ajijic and were convinced that we would find few barriers to our pursuit of happiness in this corner of North America. Living in an area with "the best climate in North America", good and inexpensive food, Canadian satellite TV with the Detroit and Seattle local and networks' signal feeds, high-speed Internet, reliable telephone and electric, and more -- is just plain fantastic. Did I mention the people?

Have we yet to regret our move to Mexico? No, nada, ninguna duda --- Never.

Learning Something New: Typing in Spanish

It really is a wonder that with minimal research on the Internet we can find almost anything that we might believe we need. Yesterday, I finally searched for a way to type/print the “extra” symbols and letters that we use in writing Spanish words correctly. My frustration with having an English language alphanumeric keyboard is over. Now, instead of being content with the writing of the word corazon without its proper accent mark, I may use a chart found through to type/print corazón. ¿Kewl, eh?

¿Why did it take me so long to figure this all out?

To produce the desired character(s) hold down your Alt key while entering the numeric sequence. The character will appear after the Alt key is released.

UPPER case lower case
Character ALT sequence Character ALT sequence
Á 0193 á 0225
É 0201 é 0233
Í 0205 í 0237
Ñ 0209 ñ 0241
Ó 0211 ó 0243
Ú 0218 ú 0250
Ü 0220 ü 0252
¡ 0161 ¡ 0161
¿ 0191 ¿ 0191

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Corazón de Pollo

Learning something new every day is an activity that is good for the health of your brain.  Even silly things like puzzles can keep a brain active.  So, Old Folks, keep doing those Sudoko Challenges.  And, maybe while you are at it, learn a foreign language.

I'm not particularly concerned about losing my mind.  There is no history of Alsheimer's Disease in my family.  Unfortunately, there hasn't been much of a "history" of old timers' aliments.  Very few, if any, Harris grandparents, aunts, or uncles lived beyond the age of 65.  The medical history of any of the men on the Fuhrwerk side of the family is practically non-existent.  I do know that Diabetes Type II is rampant among my Harris cousins.  And, of course, my mother, her parents, and at least three of Mom's siblings have fought cancer.  My oldest brother lost his fight with cancer far too early in his life.  Chances are, then, I will not have to worry about losing any of my mental faculties.  I do want to stay alert and mitigate any brain drain by exercising my brain.

Moving to Mexico was a brain healthy thing to do.  I'm learning.  I'm exploring.  I'm keeping my mind active.  You can (or cannot?) imagine the amount of stimuli that is here in this place.  This small town boy is occasionally overwhelmed.  Those are the times, it seems, that my faith is strengthened.  Living on a side of a mountain, next to Mexico's largest freshwater lake, in the arid mountains of central Mexico, with a rainy season and a dry season, with tropical flowers and fruits growing right in my backyard, is the experience of a lifetime.

And, I want that lifetime to be long and comfortable.

I learned a new Spanish expression today.  As I visited with Doctor Polo, he described himself as having the corazón de pollo --- the heart of a chicken.  In English -- American slang -- I know that I'm not a chicken shit.  I give my chicken feed to the beggars outside the supermarket.  My chicken legs are more noticeable now that I've lost 40 pounds (a bit less than 3 stone or about 18 kilos).  And, I don't play chicken with anybody or anything.  My wobbly eyes (a British reference to nystagmus) cause me to have an occasional problem with judging distance and speed, so I will not be racing to cross any tracks to beat a train.

I do have the heart of a chicken.  I'm proud of that fact, if indeed that's allowed.  It is who I am and how I always want to be.  Women love it about me.  Some men haven't a clue that it is a very positive thing.  I was a better teacher because of it.

You know what?  I'm gonna be a turkey and not give you the translation.

Exercise your brain.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I just read another hilarious blog entry by MarmiteToasty.  She had a remarkable journey to a physical therapy session at the hospital.  Oh, Shit!  Yeah.  I enjoy reading her blog because of her dry and sarcastic humor.  She makes me smile.

I sure can use more smiles these days.  I'm trudging along.  Phreaking mood swings.  I understand my recent obsession with Age of Empires.  It is replacing something else I was doing and it will be replaced with something else soon enough.  That's how it goes.

I understand real clearly why I always seemed to thrive when I was forced (layoffs) or chose to change grade level assignments and/or schools.  If the change coincided with one of my bipolar swings, then I was lucky.  Imagine all my hypomanic energies being directed at becoming a better teacher.  The creativity always seemed to flow.  That's when I had fun.

Oh.  Before I forget to throw out a counter-story to the "Whoo Flung Poo" story -- the crap they make from yeast, Marmite, is really vile.  It is an acquired taste for those of us growing up just far enough from our British and Canadian roots.  Thank goodness of flavors that the folks didn't bring that treasured treat to our childhood tables.  They can have it.  And who is responsible for that Nutella crap?

Anyway, the poo story reminded me of a time in my senior year of university.  Graceland is located in the middle of a corn field in south western Iowa.  Was it heaven?  No, just Iowa. ---  One day a buddy drove me to the bank downtown.  We parked in front, completed our business and when we went to leave there was a cattle truck double-parked beside the car.  As I started to get in the passenger side Chris yelled, "That cow peed on my car!"

Oh, Lord, he carried on for the next hour or so.  It was funny.  Only in rural Iowa.

Maybe, tomorrow or Monday will be the day that I re-start my walking routine.  I was doing so well...... And, I'll be damned if I let all that body weight back on!  Pictures soon.

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Monday, November 17, 2008


Ziva and Abby are sleeping on my lap as I write.  Do they love me?  Chances are they are here for the body heat.  We have had a few cool days and nights.  All of our gatos (cats) have been in bed with us.  It is certainly fun trying to get out of bed in the middle of the night without sending a cat or two flying off the bed.  Thank goodness for our California King.

The November 4 election and the American (and now world) economic crisis has sent me right off my routine.  I haven't done any of my "power" walking for at least three weeks.  Pathetic.  I can't concentrate on TV.  All I want to do is play my old old old game -- Age of Empires.  I can be absorbed in that game for hours.  Unfortunately, afterwards, my neck and back ache for hours.

My mind has been in overdrive and at times outright stalled.  A half dozen essay ideas have come and gone.  Stuck, again.  My bipolar world can suck.  I'm living with it.

Email -- I'm still receiving racist crap from some folks and it isn't appreciated.  President-Elect Obama hasn't even been sworn into office and the idiots are full-steam-ahead on slamming his presidency and him personally.  I'm hardly reading any of the mass mailings that are sent out.  Why get upset about someone else's ignorance and cynicism?

The rainy season in the mountains of central Mexico is past.  The mountains are becoming more brown every day.  Its "growing season".  We will wait for nearly 6 months for cloud cover and rain.

We really do have the best weather in North America.  Many of the Canadian "snow birds" haven't returned.  Many Americans from the U.S. haven't made it back as well.  My advice:  Sell it all and move to Mexico.....

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

9 Lives

Did I mention that we have adopted two more kittens? Oh, Lord! We've become a couple of old poofs.


Sunday, November 2, 2008