April 30, 2009

An update of swine flu - and closing of restaurants

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - We had just returned to La Manzanilla Wednesday (after dropping off amigos Sanders and Pat Lamont at the Manzanillo airport) and were heading for Palapa Joe's where I was ready to slosh down a Cuba Libre (or two) and have dinner. Then we ran head-on into the Mexican bureauacracy.

Thanks to an edict from the governor of the state of Jalisco earlier that day, Willy's doors were firmly locked and will stay so into next week - or maybe longer as Willy had planned to close down the first couple of weeks in May anyway.

The governor wasn't picking on Palapa Joe's - though it feels like it if you wanted to eat there. He shut down most of the public gatherings in the entire (and huge) state of Jalisco, neglecting of course, to shut down things like a long-planned fiesta in La Manzanilla to celebrate the end of recently public construction.

But I digress.

Up and down the main street, all restaurants were closed and we learned from amiga Kate Fisher that the only food we could buy, outside of tiendas, was para llevar (to go).

A plastic cup with a Cuba Libre would not be the same, even if Willy had opted for selling takeout. Very few places have so far.

The H1N1 flu, the flu-formerly-known-as-swine flu, is getting personal.

Red Cross lady two
With the head of the Red Cross

We had an inkling of something going on in Melaque and then Barra as we walked the streets Wednesday. Many restaurants were shut down and we didn't know why. And we couldn't find one at which to eat. Very abnormal.

Then at the airport, the first person we talked with was Bonnie Sumlin of the Red Cross, who was soliciting donations from people heading back to the states and Canada. She opined that we should all wear masks - especially on airplanes - but that authorities believe the flu will burn itself out as the weather gets warmer.

I don't know much about the science behind that thinking, but I like it. It has a nice ring to it.

Most of the airport staff was wearing masks and after we crossed the Cihuatlan River, health workers (masked, of course) were handing out flu literature at the ag inspection station. I have trouble enough understanding Spanish, but when someone is speaking to me through a tightly tied face mask. Well, I know she told me to wash my hands a lot, but the other parts went by like the lectures of my algebra teachers in high school.

Rusty and Cisco
Rusty and Cisco head out on the highway

Back at Arroyo Seco, we arrived home just in time to see the police post signs up about the new restrictions on public gatherings. Of course, the notice posted on the wall of Luis & Nena's store drew the largest crowd I've seen here outside of a quinceanera here last year.

Earlier in the day, we stopped by our amiga Rocio's veterinarian office in La Manzanilla and ran into Rusty and Cisco - the famous Cisco for whom the Cisco's Amigos organization was named years ago.

Rusty had brought Cisco to see Rocio for some kind of problem with his foot. Cisco's foot... not Rusty's foot. Of course, we didn't ask Rusty about his foot. But Rocio is very talented and probably could help Rusty's with any ailments anyway.

April 25, 2009

Surfers enjoy the huge waves, but with skimboards

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - On our way to Tenacatita, for a lunch with the Lamonts, we came upon a group of surfers who had gotten out their skimboards to tackle the huge surf that was pounding the shore near a house called, appropriately, Shangri-La.

They were having a wild time in water that would crush a person on a regular surfboard.

We left early because with the high tides and huge waves, we were a little afraid that the ocean might have breached the two rivers, which have been silted-in (or, technically, sanded-in) for months. If they were, it would have been a quick trip back to the Pink Flamingo for the Toyota Tundra.

The rivers were silted in and passable, but we got to Tenacatita covered with salt spray.

Skimboarders head out

We had our usual great lunch at the Fiesta Mexicana restaurant, which was relatively empty, while others were jammed with diners. Capt. Lamont and I surmised that one reason is the the tour buses - and there were about 15 of them - brought their passengers to particular restaurants.

And Fiesta Mexicana is not one of them.

The waves in the protected bay were excellent for boogie-boarding. I have the sunburn to prove that I stayed out too long and enjoyed the big rollers too much.

But afterwards we took a hike to the end of the beach to the area known as the Aquarium, a reef and inlet that is known for having great marine life. I left my fins and mask in car after being told by several people that the water would be murky because of the swell.

I should have carried them. The water looked great.

Admiral checks out the Tenacatita tide pools
Admiral checks out the tide pools at the west end of the beach

Pat and Sanders on the rocks
Sanders and Pat on the rocks

Earlier Saturday, the Admiral spent an hour tapping out a blog about her adventures as the 'dog lady,' of Arroyo Seco. Because we zoom about on the quad several times a day with food to feed various ill dogs around the village, every dog in the rancho perks up when they hear the sound of our Honda.

  • The Dog Lady of Arroyo Seco

  • But, que lastima, we had to replace our internet connection/wireless modem earlier this week when the old one simply crapped out. (Crapped out: That's a technical term, which covers a lot of territory and the only description I have for what occurred.)

    When I installed the new modem from Tel-Mex, my computer - and our two ITouch units - worked great. They might be processing data even faster, in fact.

    But the Admiral's computer won't hook up to the wireless system. Instead, she has to use a cable and hook directly to the modem. And, unfortunately, that modem is out in the Communications Tent.

    I may be moving that whole enterprise to a new location pretty soon.

    Admiral in communications tent
    Admiral works on her blog in the Communications Tent

    The 'dog lady' will get a different kind of workout tomorrow - outside the tent - when our amiga and veterinarian Rocio is scheduled to perform surgery right here in our palapa at noon. Rocio had wanted us to bring Leona in the car to Manzanillo (about two hours away), but I begged her to come to the Pink Flamingo instead.

    I am sure the Admiral will be right in the mix of things during the surgery.

    My job tomorrow will likely be to hold Leona down on the surgery table while we wait for the anesthetic takes hold.

    And Leona does not have much of a sense of humor when someone tries to restrain her.

    April 24, 2009

    A little kayaking, a little boogie boarding, a lot of dogs

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The day began with a great breakfast at Cafe Risa in La Manzanilla, where the food is always a treat, though the experience is not quite the same since owner Tia Richardson left with her daughter Macy to go back to the states.

    And by 2 p.m., I already had gone kayaking with Capt. Sanders Lamont, right in front of his rented casa, then grabbed a boogie board and took a dozen runs in the big surf. Tomorrow we will check out the beach at Tenacatita, where - if the huge ocean swells are still from the south - should be great for boarding.

    Sanders wrote about his kayaking adventure on his blog. You should take a look.

  • Sanders Lamont: Adventures of an aging gringo

  • When the Admiral and I returned to the Pink Flamingo however , we were off right away on the quad to give injections of medicine to two dogs: Capitan, the pooch with the skin problems who Sylvia has been nursing for nearly two weeks, and Leona, a somewhat feisty 60-pound female who will have an operation this Sunday morning - in our palapa - performed by our amiga veterinarian Rocio.

    With neighbor Chon's help, we were able to get the shot of medicine into Leona, though I doubt she will ever come near me again after I had to hold her down tight so she didn't move. Capitan was mellow, of course, and didn't even whimper when Chon gave him his dose.

    Capitan has improved soooo dramatically, that he is behaving like a normal pooch now, running up to the quad when we arrive with the food bowls.

    El Capitan chows down
    El Capitan chows down after his shot

    Arroyo Seco sunset
    Playa Chica, Arroyo Seco

    After giving the shots, I convinced the Admiral we should go down to the beach and check out the sunset and the surf conditions before going in search of tacos in the village. (It didn't take much convincing.) We were rewarded with a fabulous sunset and great pounding surf, still coming from the south.

    We also had our latest foster dog, Samba, run all the way from town, right behind the quad driven by Sylvia. Samba has started showing up every morning outside the gate, and as I write this, is camped out by the door of the Grey Goose II, waiting to see what our next adventure will be. Hmm... she might also be waiting to see if I eat all the pizza on my plate.

    The video below shows Samba enjoying the beach, the same beach she went to every day this winter with her amigo Julien, who went back to France about a month ago.

    Big surf at Playa Grande
    Surf's up!

    April 23, 2009

    Checking out that crashing sound - the waves on the beach

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I were in the middle of our morning routines today, when the sound of the crashing surf - nearly a mile away - shook us out of routine reverie and we walked down to see what all the, well, crashing, was about.

    With Samba in tow (the dog who is taken care of by our surfer-dude amigo Julien part of the winter), we marched down, noting that we could see the spray from the waves a good half-mile off.

    We were rewarded with a beach covered with water, a combination of a high tide and 10-15 foot waves smashing the sand.

    Big waves
    Big waves keep on coming

    The sound was pretty incredible and there wasn't a lot of space to walk without getting our shoes wet. Yes, we were on a beach. Yes, you should expect to get your feet wet. But, no. I wear hiking boots on such day hikes and don't care for getting them soaking and squeaking for the mile-walk back to the Pink Flamingo.

    Sanders and Pat Lamont have left us for the bright lights of La Manzanilla where they are staying at the beautiful seaside casa owned by Kate Fisher. After a week of the down-home, country life of Arroyo Seco, I think they are probably ready for some night life beyond the four of us sitting around the bar at the Flamingo, drinking Spanish wine and playing some music.

    Of course, we are plotting a couple of forays into La Manzanilla while they are there this week: lunch at Palapa Joes, dinner at Figaro's, breakfast at Cafe Risa. And maybe even dragging the sailing dinghy over to the Tenacatita Bay beach for a trial run with the sail rig.

    The dinghy - named the Captain's Gig - passed the float test in the laguna a few days ago and is ready for sea trials since repairs were done in Sacramento by Sabbatical's Chief Engineer Scott Noble. Captain's Gig has sailed in San Francisco Bay, around San Diego, in the Sea of Cortez and all along the Mexican coast from Mazatlan to Zihuatenejo.

    A sailing day does mean taking time off from watering the grass here in Arroyo Seco and tending to our many plants (not to mention the various dogs under the Admiral's care).

    "Your orders, Captain?"

    Get ready to make sail!

    Green grass of Arroyo Seco
    The green, green grass of Arroyo Seco

    April 21, 2009

    Getting the Pink Flamingo ready for the storms of summer

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - In the U.S., it is in the fall when most people start buttoning up everything in anticipation of winter storms - rain, wind and maybe snow, depending on your latitude.

    But here in subtropical Mexico, we button up, tie down and lash in the spring, in anticipation of summer storms which can bring torrential rains and winds. Even the tail end of tropical storms and hurricanes have been known to cause trouble.

    The winds of the last few weeks pointed out the weak spots in our defenses, most of which we knew about.

    But the valves on the water tanks - plastic, PVC things - proved susceptible to the movement of the connecting pipes, springing a leak one day.

    Luckily, have owned many boats, dealing with leaks and errant water is one of the few areas of expertise I have. (Please don't ask me to work on regular home plumbing however... or paint anything.)

    This morning my plumber (notice the my plumber, it's because I am keeping his family well fed with our projects) swapped out the valves for the water tanks amid much spraying. But now I have solid copper pipes and valves in place of the plastic.

    Chena and Chon - who will watch the house while we are gone this summer - will rest easier and not have to listen for a 1,000 gallon mini-Niagara Fall.

    Water tank after
    Water tank with new copper valve and air vent

    Ready, set, WATER

    April 20, 2009

    A boating trip in La Laguna - birds, fish, but no crocodiles

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Since arriving in December, I have wanted to check out the vast lagoon that borders the El Tecuan Hotel property, as well as the connecting rivers and channels that go all the way from here to La Veina and eventually the sailboat anchorage in Tenacatita Bay.

    But today neighbor Chon convinced me to break out our two kayaks and rowboat for an expedition to the lagoon, a lagoon full of fish, with tons of birds, and as I can attest, some water snakes.

    The locals say there are some crocodiles in the water, but not to worry, the biggest ones are much closer to Tenacatita Bay.

    That was reassuring as I paddled in a kayak three inches off the surface of the water.

    La laguna near Arroyo Seco

    The Google Earth satellite shot above does not do justice to this body of water. The island in the middle is quite large, but didn't seem to have any easily accessible spots for me to climb out of my kayak to explore.

    Capt. Sanders Lamont, Chon, and his son Danni were members of the expedition, in the rowboat and our second kayak. We checked out much of the shoreline but had to battle some very strong winds to get back to where we had parked the truck.

    (NOTE TO EXPEDITION LEADERS: Don't go too far downwind in a kayak.)

    On my next foray, I will grab the kayak that is dry inside so I can carry my cameras. Today I could barely keep the splashing water out of my open beer can.

    Chon and the barbecue
    Linda Mandala, the Admiral and Chon with the 'new' barbecue

    Before we headed out on the lagoon expedition, neighbors Chena and Chon cooked us a fabulous meal of fresh fish - on a grill Chon made out of some extra bricks I had on the property. The fish was part of a mini-cooking seminar Chena has been putting on for Pat Lamont and Admiral Fox. Yesterday, the lesson was on making enchiladas - from scratch.

    I believe I was still a little stuffed from yesterday's lesson when we started gulping down fish hot off the grill today.

    Fish on the grill
    In 15 minutes - comida

    Most mornings start with chores like watering, laundry and sweeping the ever-dusty palapa. But two days ago we came out to a very pleasant surprise - our very-sick dog (Capitan) had walked from his house on the hill down to the Pink Flamingo, wandering in through our open gates.

    He was hungry - a good sign. But he also seemed genuinely happy to see us, not just the food.

    His progress has been remarkable and those of us who though he was a lost cause are having to eat our words.

    At least in-between bites of enchilada and fresh fish.

    Capitan comes a callin'

    April 18, 2009

    Music, fog, and unusual visitors all arrive in Arroyo Seco

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - When Sanders and Pat Lamont arrived a few days ago, one of our biggest concerns was that the heat might be a shock to their Northern California constitutions. Their life in Camp Connell since November has been largely in cold, often snowy conditions with skiing as a major form of exercise. Evenings have often been spent huddled around their woodstove keeping warm.

    We didn't really need to worry. Since they arrived, we have had nights down below 60 degrees and came within an inch of lighting a campfire last night.

    A campfire, no kidding.

    And then this morning, in the hours preceding our second animal clinic in a week with Rocio (the vet from La Manzanilla), the hills were shrouded with fog and everything was soaked with dew.

    Fog invades Arroyo Seco
    Fog over Arroyo Seco hills

    The clinic was a success again, with Rocio treating four dogs, including the rapidly improving Capitan. Several young neighbor girls, including Brianda from across the street, came to observe Rocio at work. And Brianda jumped in to help with the last dog, handing Rocio the various instruments, hypodermics, and medicines as needed. The girls also went along when Rocio hopped on the quad to make two house calls away from the Pink Flamingo.

    They seemed a little in awe of this professional woman who has her own successful medical practice in La Manzanilla (and Arroyo Seco, obviously). She received a gift of two baby ducks from Brianda as she left.

    Anna with a rabbit
    Anna holds a neighbor's rabbit at one vet stop

    A puppy's first time on real grass

    The Lamont's - as the Admiral and I had hoped - helped spark us to play some music, an activity we never seem to have time for after days of projects. After realizing that all three restaurants in Arroyo Seco were closed last night, we opted for reheated leftovers and getting out the musical instruments.

    Sanders and the Admiral played a half-dozen instrumental tunes while Pat and I - and neighbor Juliett - provided enthusiastic drumming, and the occasional dance step.

    Perhaps tonight I might drag out my ukulele and see if the group can stand a reprise of The Letter by The Boxtops and maybe even a chorus or two of Rodney Carrington's Dancing With A Man. That's a tough song to translate, but perhaps best left untranslated, now that I think about it.

    Juliette and Pat handle the percussion
    Juliette and Pat handle percussion duties

    Ironically, perhaps, we have barely made it to the beach, other than a quick foray two days ago to Tenacatita for lunch and to check out the new electrical connection at our Tenacatita beach lot. With the cooler weather, it hasn't seemed quite right to break out the boogie boards and snorkel gear, though both are standing at ready. I'm also not sure how warm the ocean water is at this moment.

    But Sanders and Pat have been getting some serious quad time in, zooming around the village and last night to Playa Chica to check out the sunset. The sunset was shrouded in marine-layer clouds, though even at that, the colors were dramatic.

    The moto heads for the beach
    Heading for the beach to see the sunset

    Sanders, Pat and the Admiral on the quad

    But of all the adventures and strange sights of the past few days, this morning's visitors to the village were a first in a winter and spring of firsts.

    The front gate was wide open - an invititation for villagers to come in and bring their various animals for our vet friend Rocio to examine and treat. And while there wasn't exactly a steady stream of people, quite a few folks did stick their heads in, in some cases just to check out the place and get a quick look at the now very-green grass in the center of the property.

    But one group late in the morning looked a little odd - dressed waaaaay too well for people interested in getting dragging in their pooch for a vaccination or a flea treatment. The men were dressed in pressed white shirts. The women wore longish skirts. And they were all carrying a lot of pamphlets in their hands.

    No way...

    Yes way...

    They were part of a truckload of about 15 Jehovah's Witnesses who had descended on the village making the rounds to give out The Watchtower.

    Larry, an amigo from La Manzanilla who had accompanied Rocio to Arroyo Seco (and who is a big booster of Cisco Amigo's) quickly told the Witnesses that the clinic was very busy at that moment and we really did not have time to placticar (to chat...).

    And that, in fact, was quite true.

    Jehovah's Witnesses canvass Arroyo Seco
    Witnesses canvass Arroyo Seco

    April 16, 2009

    Coconuts fly, trailer awning rips in the high winds

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The winds have finally slowed down (at least this morning) leaving some damage around the Pink Flamingo.

    The awning on the original Grey Goose Express let go in the high winds, though later inspection showed the awning was due for replacement anyway. More of a concern are the trees full of coconuts, perching precariously over our solar water heater. It's high on this week's agenda to get someone to scale the tree and get those aerial bombs down before they crack a water heater tube - or go through our roof.

    In the meantime, Admiral Fox has been being a veterinarian to a neighbor's dog with serious anemia, skin disease, parasites and malnutrition.

    The dog, named Capitan (Is there some irony here?) is improving dramatically with just four days of anti-biotics and good chow. The Admiral has been cooking chicken and rice to serve El Capitan and his buddy dog named Paloma. Paloma is blind, but can smell the food quite well and jumps all over both the Admiral and I when we arrived with comida.

    The Admiral doses El Capitan with his drugs and food three times each day. Yesterday we gave him a bath, which the Admiral will likely describe in some detail in her blog later.

    Capitan on ground eating
    El Capitan - too weak to stand to eat at first

    Our amigos Sanders and Pat Lamont arrived from the cold mountains of Northern California late Wednesday, meaning that a musical reunion of The Four Headlamps is in the wings for the two weeks while they are here. Last night - after a quick stop in La Manzanilla at Palapa Joe's to hydrate - we all attended a birthday party of neighbor Danni who turned 17. His family and most of his uncles, aunts and cousins came for a fiesta of tostadas and pozole. As part of his own birthday party, Danni put on a little keyboard concert and then had his birthday cake - complete with the cake-in-the-face-smash, perpetrated by his uncle Carlos.

    We were asked to have The Four Headlamps do a number or two, but we begged off, hoping to get in a little practice before we attempt to make music in public.

    Danni smiles with cakes
    Danni with his two cakes

    April 11, 2009

    Taking a quad tour of Arroyo Seco beaches at Semana Santa

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The wind has been piping up to 30+ knots during the afternoons for the past few days, so the Admiral and I - and our neighbor Brianda - headed out Friday early on the quad to reconnoiter the beaches to see how many vacacionistas have invaded our normally traquil beaches.

    Not too many, it seems, though earlier today a huge blue tour bus headed to the beach, loaded with tourists. It's the first tour bus I have ever seen come through town. Judging from the way people in the village came out of their houses to gawk at the bus, they haven't ever seen anyone brave enough to come down these roads with a rig that big before either.

    Playa Grande, Arroyo Seco, April 2009
    Playa Grande on Good Friday

    Playa Grande and Playa Chica were both quiet, partly I suppose because of the winds that tore the awning down off the original Grey Goose II trailer today. And it might also be because the beaches are both on open ocean, which Friday was pumping huge waves onto the sand and very few people were willing to risk the undertow to go swimming. There were some pretty sizable encampments along Playa Grande, tucked back in out of the wind. Today even more carloads of people with camping gear were headed out for a few days of fun in the sun.

    While Easter is tomorrow, vacations for many people continue right through next week.

    And, of course, with the vacacionistas has come an influx of quads and motorcycles - bad news for people who don't like hotrodding kids, good news for the tiendas in town who are selling a lot of gasoline.

    Follow that quad
    Follow that quad

    Camping on the beach
    Camping at the end of the beach

    Makeshift volleyball nets were all over the beaches and every 200 yards or so there was a furious game of futbol (soccer) going on with the ball usually ending up kicked out into the raging surf. It's amazing how far even a 7-year-old can boot a soccer ball.

    But in addition to the volleyball and futbol, we saw one group of fellows who used their ingenuity - and quad - to come up with a sport that looked like a lot of fun. We will be adding it to our arsenal of looney things to do on the beach.

    April 10, 2009

    Good Friday means lots of different things in the village

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Good Friday dawned beautiful and cold (63 degrees!) here today, with the village already buzzing at first light. For those of you thinking of sending me a sweater, thanks, but a half-hour past sunrise, it was a balmy 75 degrees (and rising).

    It was to be a day of families, fun, religion, and for the tiendas - a lot of business.

    Next door, at the tienda owned by Javier, cases of beer were being chilled at 8 a.m. in anticipation of the vacacionistas who have been coming in in packed cars and trucks for several days now. He also has loaded up his shelves with other beach-dweller needs - potato chips, cookies and, of course, watermelons.

    Other tiendas have signs out selling gasoline and the sidewalks (such as they are) are covered with other beach-related stuff: flip-flops, boogie boards, soccer balls, umbrellas and chairs.

    It's a bonanza for local merchants, it seems.

    Vacacionistas visit town
    Vacacionistas heading into town

    But even as the vacacionistas were loading beer, a re-enactment of Christ's journey towards his death was played out with village children playing the various parts. Those parts included a number of boys acting as Roman soldiers, with cracking whips. Some of the boys appeared to be getting into the whipping thing a little forcefully. I hope the whips are retired when the pageant is over.

    The Admiral and I have been told that instead of an Easter mass, the padre will come by Saturday for an Easter service. He might be in too big a demand this weekend and needs to say mass elsewhere Sunday morning.

    Dressing for the pageant
    Getting dressed for the re-enactment

    Christ takes the cross II
    Christ takes the cross

    Here's a short video of one part of the morning's re-enactment:

    April 9, 2009

    Sparks fly as doors are installed on showers and banos

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The long-awaited metal door frames - which replace the shower curtains that were temporarily in place for two months on our two showers and bathrooms - arrived last night, just ahead of the Holy Days that are shutting down all work in the village and all around Mexico.

    The exception to that shut down is the work we seem to continue to keep doing here at the Pink Flamingo. Maybe we can take Good Friday off and go to the beach with the rest of this nation.

    The metal door frames are going to be covered in the center this year with a simple cloth material, once I get the right size screws for the door frames (Arrrgghhhhh). There are rumors that next year there will be more sophisticated filling, such as bamboo or woven materials. We'll see how the cloth fairs over the summer.

    I'm just happy to have a door that shuts instead of a curtain that would blow up and wrap around me when I took a shower. And forget calm moments contemplating the universe while perched on the toilet.

    door frame in
    Metal frame with wood installed

    We made one tiny tactical error today as we installed some temporary frame coverings (the old shower curtains). We locked the doors from the inside and once the shower curtain material was safely installed, well, someone had to crawl underneath the doors to unlock them.


    Michael crawling
    Michael crawling into the bano

    The highlight of the night before though, was watching the welder hook up his machine to our electrical box. He took the cover off and simply popped two wires across our 220-volt line, something he apparently does everywhere without serious incident.

    At least he didn't report any serious incidents to me.

    Our electrical service survived the experience, and so did the welder.

    April 8, 2009

    RV on the highway caught 'in the act' on camera

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - As the owner of two trailers, and who has towed both from California to this pueblo 1,000 miles south of the border, I have a great deal of sympathy for the travails of being an RV owner in Mexico.

    Facilities are scarce, at best.

    Still what this RV owner did - shown in the short clip below - is pretty inexcusable.

    You can register your opinion on what should happen next - to him or her - in poll to the left.

    Three days of painting and Voila! - a colorful bodega and banos

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The speed with which the weeks are flying by - before the Admiral and I fly back to New York - is astounding. But so is the speed with which projects are being completed.

    The Great Sod-On Project was done in four days. And thanks to the hard work of our amigo Francisco and his nephew Danni, the bodega, banos and showers are all a lovely yellowish-gold color - in just three days.

    Danni and Francisco
    The proud painters

    Finishing touches
    Putting on the finishing touches

    Painting new concrete requires application of a sealer, then some primer and finally the paint itself. To be sure that the yellowish-gold buildings remain, well, yellowish-gold, the Admiral insisted on a second coat, which went on very fast. By 7 p.m. Tuesday, the job was done, within the three-day time frame Francisco insisted it could be finished.

    We had our doubts about that, but hoped for a miracle.

    The other miracle - besides the speed - is that this is Easter Week, generally a vacation time for families. We were very lucky to get our amigos to do the work... As they left last night, they were laying plans for the balance of Holy Week - and it did not include any more painting projects for anyone.

    The morning sprinkler and sacate
    Soaking the grass before the sun gets high in the sky

    The photo above shows the bodega, sans pintura, and also the sprinkler hard at work, soaking the new sod. Before I turn on the sprinkler, I go around soaking the sod by hand to make sure all the edges are wet. The evenings have been cool - below 70 degrees even! - and so the morning dew helps with getting some moisture down.

    Will the sod take root and become a great place to place bocce? It should, and probably today neighbor Chon will come over with another trailer of 2000 liters of water to give it a good dousing.

    And as I was out working this morning, watering by hand, I started dreaming of an automatic sprinkler system - the next project after Easter I suppose, along with several loads of gravel for the driveways and walkways.

    Wanna iguana?
    A neighbor surveys the painting project

    April 5, 2009

    Palm Sunday in Arroyo Seco - complete with Apostles

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - The daylight savings time changeover last night completely farbled up our sense of what time it was this morning and so we almost missed the entire Palm Sunday procession.

    It was kind of hard to miss, once we were awake and standing out front of the Pink Flamingo.

    The son of our neighbors rode by on a donkey, dressed as Jesus, followed by 12 village boys dressed in full apostle garb. Behind them most of the village paraded, holding palm fronds on their way to the Catholic Church, next to the jardin.

    Walking to the church
    The procession down Avenida Benito Juarez

    At the church, the singing continued and the priest blessed everyone as they entered, giving them a slight sprinkle of holy water.

    Yes, the Admiral and I got wet, too, before we squeezed into the back of the church for a very nice - and amazingly short - Mass.

    Palm Sunday begins a week of vacation for most of Mexico and that same most of Mexico heads to the beach for vacation. In La Manzanilla last year, thousands of people swarmed into town, camping on the beaches and overwhelming the services of the small village. Our neighbors tell us we won't see that kind of action here in Arroyo Seco, but the beaches might have more people than normal.

    Considering that normal is a half dozen people - on a busy day - I think we can handle it.

    A boy, his grandfather, a donkey and an Admiral
    The Admiral chats with a neighbor, his grandson and his transportation

    After church, neighbor Chon and his son Danni (who had been dressed as Jesus only a few minutes before) arrived with a water truck to soak our new sod. At the same time, another neighbor wandered in through the open gate to check things out, showing off his grandson and his new ride.

    I suggested we get a donkey or two to add to our stable of transportation options, but the Admiral vetoed the idea, as being, well, asinine.

    Instead, we will take the quad out to the beach as soon as this is posted to check out the crowds. Quicker and far less systemic byproduct to clean up, I suppose.

    April 4, 2009

    The Great Sod-On Project in Arroyo Seco is complete

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - It was a loooong four days, but that was all The Great Sod-On Project took from start to finish. That included going to buy the bricks and concrete, digging for the retaining areas, bringing in topsoil and Friday, picking up three big truckloads of sod and, finally getting it down on the ground.

    Oh, and watering. Lots of watering.

    And that was all accomplished with three or four guys working, depending on what others things were going on in the village.

    Finished product - sod on!
    The finished product

    The transformation from dustbowl to green was so dramatic, people in the village stopped by the gate and peered in to ooooh and aaaah. The children are dying to come in and run around on the grass ... Maybe later, right now the priority is water, water, water while the sod puts down some roots.

    We have the only grass area in the village. Our amigos Jim & Vicki (who live out on the beach) have some sod in place, too. In fact, it was their sod that gave us the idea to cover up the ground with grass. But we had about a square meter left over which we gave to neighbor Chon - who supervised the entire project. With Chon's talents with plants and all things flora, I suspect he will have a lush lawn at his house in no time.

    Prepared for the sod
    Preparing for the sod

    Loading the sod to deliver
    Loading up the sod

    The piece de resistance was when Chon's son Danni arrived with a trailer loaded with water tanks. In a few minutes, the entire 2500 liters was splashed on, giving the sod a good start.

    April 2, 2009

    It's the absolute sodding truth - we are about to have grass

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - For the past three days, the Pink Flamingo property has been a swirl of dust and dirt as we prepare to put down the sod - the end result of what we have labeled the Great Sod-On Project.

    Two dump trucks full of soil arrived last night and by mid-afternoon today, the two soon-to-be-sod areas were transformed into beautiful spots, ready the green grass of home. Or at least the green grass of Melaque, Mexico, where they grow the stuff.

    The project was started just two days ago, with some quick sketching on the ground of where we wanted the sod to go and a lot of discussion with our neighbor Chon. Then Chon's workers arrived with shovels and rakes and other implements of destruction.

    Tomorrow afternoon the actual sod will arrive and be put in place. At least that's what the sod dealer says.

    Juliett on the top of the topsoil
    Juliett on top of the topsoil

    Building a curve of bricks
    Rounding the curve

    But while life has been ruled by sod and soil for a few days, we did have visitors one afternoon - Greg and Joni from El Tuito. They were in the area, picking up some plants at our local vivero and came by the take a tour of Arroyo Seco.

    We did the beaches and town tour (with all four of us on the Honda quad) then had lunch in the palapa while the workers were on break - and while the dust was a little less. Greg brought along his collection of movies for us to borrow. Out of the many films he gave us, for some reason we opted last night to watch about 45 minutes of the classic Gone With The Wind.

    I am not kidding. Who would make that up?

    Now that I think about it, perhaps it was because April 1 is the anniversary of the day when the Admiral and I first met - 20 years ago.

    Gone With The Wind
    Rhett and Scarlett

    Greg also brought a new cable so Admiral Fox can easily connect her computer to her Earthquake speakers out in the palapa when she practices here violin, or just wants to have some music.

    Joni, and our 7-year-old neighbor, Juliett gave the speakers a trial run. The speakers seemed to have passed the dance test for sure.