Saturday, February 25, 2006

Feb. 25 Zihuatanejo

We are planning to set sail for Ecuador tomorrow. All systems are go including the four hour and three taxi ride paperwork chacha to get the boat and the crew cleared out of Mexico. We will land in Ecuador in a month, maybe sooner, with a stop planned about halfway at the Cocos Islands. We anticipate light winds and marginally unfavorable current, that seems to be just the way it is , slow going. If you need to get in touch here is the email on the boat : , or get a hold of Eve or my mother. Best to all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

February 22, Zihuatanejo

We arrived back in comfortable and calm Z-town on Saturday. Kurt and Abby did a wonderful job of boat sitting, and we enjoyed spending their last day or so in Mexico together.
Our last days in real Mexico (that is, away from the coast) were very interesting. We successfully left Amy at the Mexico City airport and the city and drove north. Our sinuses started clearing immediately and we enjoyed an afternoon at the grand pyramids of Teotihuacan. We kept going north into Hidalgo state where we made a pilgrimage to Grutas Tolantango, a canyon at the bottom of a 3000 foot range where a river springs out of limestone caves at about 100 degrees, in full technicolor turquoise. Tom had visited 10 years ago with his sister, before electricity and somewhat more paved road, and the addition of about 40 hotel rooms. We also drank pulque (maguey cactus magic beer) from a roadside farm. Pretty amazing. We tried to do back roads back to the coast but between lack of signage and maps, exhaustion, and massive industry and traffic, we gave up and took the toll superhighway.
Back in Zihuatanejo, we are preparing to start our sea voyage to Ecuador on 2-25, working through numerous contingencies and boat issues and crew issues, it´is relatively hard work (what a thing) , not much lollygagging, especially for Tom. There is not much I do with respect to engines or electricity or diving other than hand over the tools upon request. With luck I get them right. And then sometimes I dont.
There are about 35 cruising boats in the harbor now. Most are from the Northwest , Seattle, Gig Harbor, Port Orchard, Anacortes, with a few Californians and Canadians sprinkled in. On the street here Tom met someone who turned out to be the hairdresser of someone I know in Seattle (but we couldnt figure out whose) and the boat next to us belongs a man whose father was a bridge building competitor of our company´s in the 60s and 70s. Small world.
This community keeps forming and reforming as boats arrive and leave. Every morning at 0830 everyone gets on their radio (ham-type) and participates in ¨the net¨ which is run by a moderator with an agenda including self introductions, weather, and upcoming local happenings, along with fielding questions and answers such as ¨where can I buy Delo oil", ¨can anyone cat sit for me while I go to the States for 10 days¨, etc. There is an entire section called ¨Treasures of the Bilge¨where you can trade stuff you dont need (dinghy wheels, air conditioners, pots and pans) for ¨coconuts¨ (no money exchange allowed by Mexico. There is also ¨Mail Call¨where you can send packages to the states via someone who is flying there that day. (Mex. mail service isnt very good still). The community here is also anchored by Rick´s Bar, where they serve outstanding margaritas and food and have a variety of other services including showers, laundry, book excahnge, lecture and meeting hall, propane tank filling, and answering every kind of question a boat owner could have about where to find what service locally. It is definitely like the bar in Cheers. Everybody knows your boat name.

Monday, February 13, 2006

February 13, Mexico City

Mexico City is as huge and intimidating as one would imagine of a city of 18 million, or 20 million, or 23 million, people, dont have any idea which is the most accurate count. Coming into the city in a car was quite an ordeal, fortunately Tom did a great job and would have done even better had he completely ignored my suggestions from reading the map. Probably the most dramatic thing was our arrival. descending from the very high hills from the west looking down into this scifi animated cartoon of a suburban city - this just a distant suburb with 20 story buildings - that tried to be up above the smog. No way. This place is really polluted, you can feel it in your eyes and nose and throat all the time and every auto has a day of the week where it is not allowed to drive (depending on the last numeral of the license plate). It is surprisingly cool, and last night it rained so we woke up to blue skies and white clouds, since turned to yellow gray.
There have been some moments of fun and charm and certainly leading edge design in this big city and we are fortunately in a hotel in a quiet neighborhood. Looking forward to getting away, though.

February 9, La Piedad

La Ciudad is the city where Amy spent the summer supervising projects and volunteers for Amigos de las Americas. In a place I would venture to say is the size of Wenatchee, Washington, where there are no gringos except for two or three who teach at the university, she brought us to the deluxe Holiday Inn with swimming pool and wireless Internet on the outskirts of town where it is a regional conference center. The economy here is agricultural, both subsistence and agribusiness - corn, livestock, tomatoes, flowers, etc. The land looks like fertile lakebed surrounded by , at this time of year, dry hills. There were John Deere dealerships and dozens of small lubricant stores where Tom searched in vain for Delo brand for the boat engine (hard to find in Mexico.)
When asked where you come from here (as opposed to tourist centers) you say Washington because almost everyone has either spent time in our state or has a friend or relative there , Wenatchee, Sunnyside, etc. Great conversation material. All this in Spanish, of course, in which Amy is the star, Tom and I get along. In this town I saw license plates from 17 US states, MN, ILL, GA, AL, being some of them, as well as WA,OR, CA. These were not tourist plates, but rather on big fancy rigs that folks who work in the US bring back for their visits home. Amy had many stories about how people go back and forth, legally and illegally. It is really a fascinating thing, what we dont see or choose to see that is going on every day at home.
The highlight of our stay here was visits to six families in three different villages that Amy worked with over the summer. Most of them had housed volunteers, others supported their projects. There were a couple of men and boys who were around, but most were in the US or in school or at work or playing outside. The women and little kids though were full of hugs and smiles and handshakes and loved having their photos taken and meeting los papas de Amy.
The homes and communities we visited were incredibly varied, ranging from a home that was little more than a hovel (with a TV) stacked with corn harvested from the family field filled with loving grandmas and kids that filed in from all over the village while we ate homemade tortillas from the stockpile to a beautiful air conditioned new house with elegant furniture and professional photos on the walls (but no TV and only one child) We met Amparo, the village activist who took the volunteers under her wings and has made their work blossom since they left, telling us of the multivillage litter pickup campaign that has grown since this summer. We saw the landscaping the volunteers had planted by a village church and the benches installed by the soccer field. We just loved Mama Ofelia, Amys special friend, who lived in the house she born in, remembered growing up on one tortilla a day, and was celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary this year.
Seeing Amy in these relationships in the quiet campo and chattering in Spanish all day long was an amazing opportunity, filling Tom and me with great pride for our daughter and the Amigos program. A major highlight.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

February 7, Uruapan, Michoacan, Mexico

We are now up in the mountains of Michoacan State in the small city of Uruapan which is known for good coffee (no, no Starbucks in sight), avocados, and its national park full of springs, waterfalls and manmade water features on a hillside just above town. This morning we had the delightful good luck to be here on market day. Half a mile of stalls fulls of clothes, household goods, CDs, fruit, fish (trout), marimba players, spices, good luck charms, hardware, you name it. The indigenous women wear traditional dress, straight out of National Geographic. Colorful pleated skirts on top of embroidered skirts, woven black rebozos to carry their children or their purchases or their sales, or in one case that we dont understand, a doll, braided hair amplified with yarn braids. Both Tom and Amy, with much recent Mexico time under their belts, were shocked to see traditional dress, for the most part women wear the latest global urban styles. The men wear Western gear in this part of the country - cowboy hats, Western boots, bola ties, and they tend to drive big trucks. Very agricultural.
It is very interesting to be here with Amy who knows a great deal about this state and whose Spanish is really good. She will ask anybody a question and get an answer that I can sort of piece together, very sort of. She and Tom and are totally into street food and I am following their lead til I get sick. My lunch was grazing from street vendors. Young coconut with salt and chile, a tamale, and a churro. Also a bite of the local gazpachos which is fruit salad.
It is pleasure to be in cool spring weather away from the hot beach where on a boat without air conditioning the only relief is predawn or after dark and even then it is hot and humid. We got in a couple of day sails which provided relief. Will enjoy this while we can.

Friday, February 03, 2006

February 3, Zihuatenejo

Sailfest is on, the harbor is full of beautiful boats and yachties wearing the official yellow ¨Regatta en Paraiso¨t-shirt. There are parties and races and fundraisers and community service events. Yesterday our friend Kurt from Seattle arrived by plane and joined us in a sailboat race along with a bunch of other people. No medals but a good time on a beautiful day with some actual wind. Sounds like the Superbowl will be a big event here but nothing like what I imagine is going on at home.