November 28, 2009

Hidden treasure

Well, Esperando is smitten—with the game of geocaching. It’s his latest craze and he goes and searches out hidden objects with his GPS. His morning walks as we travel from place to place include stopping to find a new geocache on the trail wherever he may be. So he has found geocaches in Denver, Northern California and Mexico just for starters. It all started a couple of months ago in Santa Rosalia when the Wyoming Miner introduced him to the subject, then we had to drive around and find all the geocaches which that individual had placed around our town. Then Esperando had to go plant a few of his own there.

For those not familiar with the subject of geocaching the official website states: “Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers (usually something small, waterproof and easily hidden such as a pill vial or tin) outdoors . . . and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment.” When you go to the website, you can easily find where buried “treasure” has been hidden by some adventuresome individual in your neighborhood or elsewhere across the world and get the coordinates so you can track it down with your GPS. According to Wikipedia, “Geocaching is most often described as a "game of high-tech hide and seek", sharing many aspects with orienteering, way marking and treasure-hunting.”

Finding unique and quaint places to hide your container can be as challenging as looking for the geocaches someone else has hidden. The container holds a small log sheet to sign in (you bring your own pen) and may also contain some little toys or tokens. If you take a treasure, you are asked to leave a new one. Your geocache must not be located nearer than 1/10 of a mile from the next nearest one. One of the rules of the game is to not be found out searching a site and opening up the container in front of ‘muggles’; anyone who has read Harry Potter stories will get the drift—you don’t want to be observed by those who are not into geocaching and would simply be curious to see what you are doing and possibly disrupt the location of the treasure. The geocache location itself has been logged onto the official website by the person who hid it, with the latitude and longitude as well as a clue defining it somewhat, for instance some clues have been: ‘a log’, ‘under a log’, and ‘well guarded’ (for one attached to a guard rail).

Imagine you are out on a trail in the country, you step off the trail and find a fallen log. See the small bottle with the straw. We hid the geocache there in the hollow of the log.

Then we put the top of log back in place, so the geocache is hidden. Unless you have a GPS and a clue what you are looking it is likely you would never know a geocache was there.

Geocaches are currently placed in over 100 countries around the world and on all seven continents, including Antarctica. As of November 22, 2009, there are over 945,023 active geocaches over the world. What are you waiting for, other than the cost of the GPS its free!

If you are lucky when you are out walking around hiding geocaches, you might even get to see some cloud parentheses in the sky.

November 17, 2009

Zoom, zoom, zoom

I feel like a migrating hummingbird, just a little bit of nectar here and there. First we went to the mining convention in Veracruz via the ultra modern Mexico City airport, then drove from Veracruz through the scenic farmland of Mexico to Puebla for a brief visit, on to Cuernavaca just overnight but with enough to time enjoy our host’s beautiful very private home and garden replete with swimming pool, six German Shepherd dogs and two quarter horses, the whole set behind a high walled stone fence.

Two days back in Santa Rosalia then on to Northern California to catch our first glimpse of early fall; cool sunny days and crisp nights. We managed to miss the brief overnight rain in San Francisco when we spent Friday night there at the Omni Hotel having gotten an excellent rate of $160 on the internet (which when we checked out had been further reduced to $100, eeeGad! This is the 3rd most highly rated of all hotels in San Francisco on We met up with Youngest Daughter after work at the Bob's Bar in the Omni, a small very noisy and crowded affair, obviously hot-hot-hot—then across the street to the Carnelian Room for surprisingly inexpensive drinks in a room with a view. Dinner reservations were all but impossible at the places we wanted to try: Foreign Cinema, Burma Superstar and Zuni Café so we ended up at Saha Restaurant, Zagat’s mostly highly-rated middle eastern restaurant (a really excellent pick for us mixed group of carnivores and vegetarians) located in the Tenderloin district, and finally ended the evening with Irish coffee at that old icon, the Buenavista Café in North Beach.

When Saturday rolled around we had the chance to enjoy our grand- children and explore Petaluma, spending the night in a very quiet room at the Sheraton nestled around the Petaluma River. Onward the next morning for a drive into Healdsburg, with a scenic detour through Sonoma. Everywhere the grape vines of some of the most prestigious wineries in the world had turned gold or red, creating lovely views. We ate lunch in Benicia before arriving at my brother Juan-in-a- Million’s home in Moraga for the rest of our stay. Northern California is such a beautiful place; it breaks my heart not to live here anymore.

Thursday we will be winging our way to Denver, then driving on to Carlsbad, New Mexico, for my oldest brother’s memorial service. It will be good to see all my family, including the newest addition of just several weeks, the first child of my nephew, a daughter, Paloma. This is so rich an experience it should easily compensate for our solitary Thanksgiving when we return to Santa Rosalia in about a week.

November 14, 2009


Puebla is a very interesting colonial city with the backdrop of a volcano known locally as Don Gullo. Esperando and I felt we were in Spain or Europe. Hernan Cortez founded Puebla in 1519. The old part where we stayed has been well maintained with paint and tiles. It is notably a city of about 390 Catholic churches, there is practically a church on every corner, some elaborate, some plain, even one with the mummified remains of a potential saint set in a glass case below the altar.

Puebla is a noted artisan center for talavera tiles, most of the old buildings have tiles set into the front of them. Several factories, the most famous Uriarte, have been making talavera pottery there since the 18th century in the form of sinks, plates, cooking utensils, flower pots, you name it.

The first night we were there was November 1, All Saints Day, last day of Dia de los Muertos and the zocalo was mobbed with celebrants including Aztec dancers, men selling balloons, displays of all kinds of larger than life-size puppet skeletons and sculptures, families with kids, everybody was partying big time.

We stayed at La Sacristia de las Jesuitas, which sounds like it ought to be a former monastery, but never was. Instead it was someone’s home until the turn of the century when it was converted into an ‘apartment’ building in which families lived 5 to a room in rooms that were sized about 10’ x 10’. The family lived, ate and slept in that space. The current owners converted it into an antique gallery/hotel of 6 enchanting upstairs rooms and a good restaurant in a covered courtyard below. It is quite colorful and all the furniture and art pieces are for sale.

We were told before we went that Puebla was would be good for a day of exploration; we spent 3 days and felt we had barely seen a lot of it. Are we just getting old and slowing down, or is there more there than meets the eye.

November 12, 2009

Not getting well too fast

My surgerized shoulder is still giving me grief six months after the surgery. I had hoped by now it would be in much better shape. Maybe I have been overdoing the exercises they gave me or maybe something is wrong with my shoulder—I have an appointment to see the doctor when I get back to Denver in a week.

DIF provides care for the full spectrum of Mexican society

In the meantime I have been trying to fit in therapy sessions at DIF (Desarollo Integral de la Familia), a major Mexican agency for social assistance that is part of their socialized medical care system. This brand new facility was built just across the street from us about a year ago and seems to encompass physical therapy, rehabilitation, prenatal counseling, child care and mental health services for the family. My maids’ brother Alfonso works over there as a therapist. When I was complaining about my shoulder she told me to go see him. So I can walk across the street from the guesthouse where he applies electrical stimulation and heat compresses to my shoulder, then treats it with ultrasound, followed by repetitive arm lifting exercises where he manipulates my arm. The first time I went I signed my name on a sign-in sheet, but not knowing if I had any kind of Mexican insurance it is being administered for free—that’s pretty astounding to me. That’s the only piece of paper I ever signed, didn’t even have to show anyone any form of identification.

As many as eight of us defective people can be treated at one time in a 300 sq ft room sitting on chairs and massage tables our limbs swaddled in dark turquoise green terry towels and heating pads that are re-used on each patient. Alfonso is quite happy with the recent donation by an American Christian group of a 90” x 90” massage table on metal legs that that can be raised or lowered electrically. He can treat more people now at the same time. It is in far better shape than the other tables in the room made of wood and Nagahyde (or its relative).

We are all on friendly terms, my fellow halt-and-lame companions. Although I have never seen the same sufferers in the room each time I have gone, we all greet each other like long lost friends, carry on conversations about their lives (only half of which I generally can understand given that we are talking in Spanish, and they have such twangy accents that I can only make out part of their words.) Last time I meet an older couple in their late 70s that came over from Michoacan 30 years ago and run the local old folks’ home. Each of them was being treated for bad knees. They had gotten hitched at the age of 17, had been married for 57 years and had nine children, most of whom have moved away to other parts of Mexico or the U.S.

In the DIF I am just another injured person and we meet on the same plane. They are all friendly and treat me like I am just another Mexican. They are all surprised when they find out that I live across the street and that my husband is working for the mine. I can’t tell you how kind they are, such gentle people that like to talk. And if I go and no one talks to each other, we all still say hello and good bye to be polite even if those are the only words spoken.

November 8, 2009

What a way to go

Luscious pool at the Holiday Inn Boca del Rio

We had a nice party in Veracruz attending the mining convention. Since I had seen most of the sights last time, it was a chance to relax by the pool and do a little shopping in the nearby mall with a friend.

Several of the attendees and/or their spouses were stalled out in the Denver airport due to an unseasonably strong snowstorm. In fact one of our employees, the Wyoming Miner, who was supposed to present a paper at the convention never made it to Veracruz after his flight was delayed for a day in Denver; and then delayed a second time in Houston by a tornado. Meanwhile in Veracruz we had a 5.4 Richter scale earthquake followed two days later by what they call a Northeaster’ (very strong winds and rain). Esperando was sure that if the Wyoming Miner had, in fact, made it to Veracruz we would have had yet a plethora of natural disasters.

The final night of the convention the big dinner was served at 10 pm. After that we were treated to Ninel Conde, a Mexican singer and performer. In that the music was really loud and we were seated in a corner where we could only watch her on the projector screen and see wafts of smoke rising from her staging we decided to exit, stage left when she started her performance at midnight. Those that stayed reported that she lost significant amounts of clothing as the evening progressed.

The convention fell on the first days of Dias de los Muertos (the Days of the Dead). Esperando and I watched some simple altars being constructed for the celebration in Veracruz but it was a rather tame affair, nothing like we would later encounter in Huaquechula near Puebla. In that small village it is traditional for people to construct an altar in their homes, which they do just that one time if someone in their family died during the year. The general public is invited and it has become a tourist event, mostly attended by Mexican families. One walks around the village with a guide who knows where the homes are located. The altars are designed to look like a frothy confection of satin, sort of a non-moving float, with several different levels representing earth and heaven and in between. The altars are decorated with personal items and food for the deceased, as well as a pitcher of water as the soul will have a long walk ahead. There are usually a couple of ceramic figures in the shape of crying children known as “lloroncitos”. These represent the people on earth who’ll cry for them. The second level represents heaven with angels who will guide the deceased’s way, or the figure of The Virgin Mary. The third level represents divinity and normally has the figure of Jesus on the Cross or Baby Jesus in the case of the altars made for children.

Altar for the deceased. These altars can cost as much as $3,000--quite a costly undertaking for a poor family.