March 30, 2010

OMG Lupita what did you just eat??

Lupita has entered the stage of lets-eat-everything-and-run-away-from-people-when-they-try-to-take-it-from-you. Everything is wonderful: cat shit, other people's used Cheetos lying on the ground from days hence, little poisonous berries that grow on bushes, wilted flowers, small chips of lead paint, well, you get the idea. Esperando thinks she has learned this from her association with Sweet Pickle, but I tell you all dogs learn this from their owners who want to take evil things away from them. 

This morning after I took my shower I noticed Lupita rooting around the bathroom floor looking like a little piglet (the curly tail doesn't help) in her quest for something to eat. Then I realized she was eating something. I thought maybe it was a small piece of caulking but it was very round. It looked like a little round white piece of paper, the kind a hole punch makes but smaller. I leaned over and saw the remains of half a pillow. ‘Oh my God!’ I thought,‘what has she eaten?’ I snatched the remaining half up. It could only have come from Esperando’s bathroom drawer, and must have fallen when he was taking his pills this morning before he took Sweet Pickle off for a walk. Was it medicine for blood pressure or cholesterol or something else, and what kind of harm would it do to a little 5-pound dog’s body and soul? I frantically pawed through his pill bottles until I found the matching culprit to be low dosage aspirin.

Hmm, I remembered my vet telling me some time ago that I could give Sweet Pickle aspirin for his arthritis, but only Ascriptin. And he weighs 60 pounds to Lupita's 5. I couldn’t remember what he said about why regular aspirin was bad for dogs. I thought about everything I knew about poison control—I was supposed to overdose her with water to flush out her system. It seemed so drastic and unpleasant for both of us until I knew if her eating this pill would kill her. On the other hand, she was a tiny little thing and how long would it take for the whole thing to dissolve and be ingested? So instead I gave her a really big portion of a favorite food hoping that a very full tummy would diminish some of these issues. Then I ran to the computer to look up ‘Chihuahua eating aspirin’. Yet one more time: how did we ever survive without the internet? Just about then Esperando returned from his walk.

He: “What are you doing?”

Me: “Looking to see if Lupita is going to die from the pill of yours she found on the floor and ate.”

He: “Oh, I looked everywhere for it and couldn’t find it. Where was it?”

Me: “I don’t know but she found it and was eating it.”

He: “When I couldn’t find it I finally decided it had fallen down the sink.”

Connecting to Yahoo seemed painfully slow, twice the screen froze up and I had to reboot. Finally I connected. There were several entries about giving a hurt Chihuahua puppy half of a low dosage aspirin tablet—exactly what Lupita had just eaten. Just be sure to give it to the puppy on a full stomach it said, so she won’t ulcerate her stomach. Unwittingly I had done just the right thing. It was a very scary moment with a very happy outcome.While all this was going on Lupita disappeared into our closet. Esperando got out of the shower, squeaky clean, and went into the closet to get dressed. He was leaving on a flight to Mexico City in an hour.

He, screaming: “On NOOOO! Arrrggggghh!”

Me, thinking he’s forgotten something important he needed to do before he leaving town: “What?”

He: “I just stepped in dog poop”.

Me: “Oh dear, I’m so sorry.”

This has happened before because our little darling is not properly housebroken yet. I've never seen a dog be so nonchalant about toilet matters. I haven't had the pleasure yet, but I am beginning to think Esperando needs to be looking down more when he's walking around in our house and not so caught up in the clouds with work issues. There's a message here somewhere. Who can say if just this one time she wasn’t getting even for a subconscious threat against her life had she had consumed a different sort of pill? I don’t really believe that, but it did have a sort of ring of justice to it; a little aromatic reminder of a small dog to wear on your person while you are on the road, just so you can remember your fabulous home life and your precious little beastie.

March 29, 2010

San Borjita Cave Paintings

Baja is home to more than 300 hundred known sites of ancient cave paintings that are the oldest on the American continent. The paintings at San Borjita have been carbon dated to 7,500 years. This Great Mural Rock Art consists of prehistoric paintings of humans and animals, often larger than life-size, on the walls and ceilings of natural rock shelters in the mountains of northern Baja California Sur and southern Baja California. San Borjita is part of this group included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. We are lucky to be living in this area so close to so many sites, even though they are often remote and difficult to access. Many of them take several days of traveling by mule. An excellent book has been published on the subject by Harry W. Crosby, The Cave Paintings of Baja California.

Yesterday we drove to San Borjita—a nearby site of pinturas rupestres or cave paintings. We have driven past the turnoff sign on the highway countless times, wondering what we would find at San Borjita. The government requires that anyone wishing to see these caves hire a guide. So at 7 am we were waiting by the highway at Palo Verde to meet up with our guide Salvador Castro Drew of Mulege. He had told Esperando that the whole trip and back would take 7 hours. Once he arrived we started on a marathon drive across a bumpy rocky back road—the kind that should take several pounds off but never does. Although the site was only 21 miles from the highway, the road was so horrid that it took 1 ½ hours to get there. In places we drove across wide arroyos of compacted scattered stone that chattered as the truck bounced along. Prior to Hurricane Jimena these arroyos had been studded with forests of Palo Verde and Palo Blanco trees. Now they were scoured rivers of rocks washed devoid of any vegetation. You could see the remains of broken and uprooted trees that had washed down the arroyo to stack up like trash against the canyon walls and the few stronger trees that had remained standing.

We passed several ranchitos of ranchers eking out a living from their cattle and goats. Finally we arrived at the ranchito whose owner had the property on which the cave was situated. After collecting a key from him, our guide told us that this rancher had come there many years ago from Sinaloa. This rancher was a tiny blonde man of some forgotten gringo descent for he was Spanish speaking and not a recent immigrant. He was quite wrinkled and had lost all of his teeth. His grandchildren hung around listening to him discuss the road to the archeological site with our guide. Surprisingly there was a granddaughter, a blond little girl of about 8; and a grandson, a handsome green-eyed young man of 13 years, both with very gringo features and paler skin. It would have been interesting to know their long history. I wished I had thought to bring a bag of candy along for the children, but I didn’t know there would be any children way out here in the middle of nowhere.

Now we had to go to sign the government registry book that was kept at another rancho. So on we bumped on another 15 minutes. We came to a beautiful but empty rancho that the government had constructed, complete with a cute little restaurant and baños (yay!), but the whole place was deserted except for blooming fruit trees and cooing doves. It was so lovely and peaceful we both just wanted to sit and stay forever. Esperando signed our names in the book and we got back in the car and to drive another 15 minutes back to the cave site.

Next we spent about 30 minutes hiking up to the side of a canyon, initially criss-crossing a lovely little stream decorated with tiny little frogs, skimmer spiders and cow pies, then finally climbing over scree and boulders to get up to where the cave was. I was sure I was going to break my ankle, or worse my neck.

Finally around a bend we approached a deep cave. It had a low ceiling but was quite spacious and there was enough daylight to penetrate to the back of it. There on the ceiling of the entire cave were figures of men in red or black or less frequently white, many superimposed on one another, juxtaposed at various angles. Some of the figures were divided lengthwise with one side black and the other side red. There were a few paintings of animals, but mostly they were of men, many of them pierced by arrows. Once sensed the drama of warfare in these paintings. Were the figures of the people they fought against and killed; or were they members of their own group that had been attacked? Who did they fight in this empty land and how did they live?

They would have had to erect scaffolding here to paint on the ceiling, it was too high to be reached by hand from the ground. The camera captures the pictures better than our eyes can because of the glare coming from outside. Even though the images were well protected from the elements in this deep cave, they had eroded substantially. No one seems to know who these ancient people were or what the meaning of the paintings is really about. It is just one of the many hidden and intriguing mysteries of ancient Mexico.

Cave Guide for Mulege area (includes San Borjita and La Trinidad)
Salvador Castro Drew, based in Mulege, speaks English
215 161 4985

March 28, 2010

Domestic Affairs

While I was surfing the web last month, I chanced upon Alison Day’s website and got a free online tarot card reading. I also marked a little X in the box asking if I wanted to have a tarot card, with its symbolism explained, e-mailed to me each month. Last time the card arrived one week ago it was The Tower card.

After the Death card and the Devil, The Tower is likely to be the card that causes most fear and consternation to the receiver. The Tower represents sudden and sometimes shocking changes in events and can often represent problems or delays relating to your home. At the time I didn’t think much about it, I just hoped nothing awful would happen.

Then just a few days later Esperando and I were having a discussion about how much traveling he has been doing, and how I don’t like being down here alone quite so much. After some intense discussion and pondering, we decided to temporarily abandon our little casita in Santa Rosalia to relocate to Northern California for several months. We've only been living in Casa Abeja since January, poor little house to be abandoned so abruptly! But he will be where he needs to work, and traveling will be easier in and out of the Bay Area than the 2 ½ hour drive to Loreto for a flight that is only available on Tuesday, Thursday,  Friday and Sunday. I won’t have to be alone so much of the time. It is an abrupt change to our home life, just like the card said. In my wildest dreams I never would have imagined such an outcome.

Lupita will go with us and become one of those spoiled Chihuahuas like Beverly Hills Chihuahua. The down side is our other children (pets) will have to stay here and be minded by the muchachas. Thank God for the muchachas; they love my pets like they were their own. I know that they are well cared for when I leave, even the feral kitties that live outside get proper attention.

On another domestic note we gave the big dog a bath today. It took about 45 minutes. First I called him, he knew what was up and ran away from me. I had to chase him all over the yard. I finally caught him and led him back to where the hose was. Since the city water only runs 2 hours a day on no particular schedule, it can’t be counted on. So we connected the hose to the hot water heater. We gave him a good soaping—he actually likes the bathing part. Then, on the advice of his Denver groomer, we bought a big air blower to dry him. This is how you get the loose and matted fur off; I never could have imagined it, but it works like a charm. The only problem is that Sweet Pickle hates the blower so we have to muzzle him or he will bite us. It was all going on like a charm and he was being very cooperative—then the next thing I knew he was attacking me. I really appreciated that muzzle, and the fact that I had Esperando there helping me. After the bath I was as exhausted as the dog. That was yesterday; today he is dry and shedding like hair was going out of style. Everything is covered with dog hair, the floor, our furniture, our clothes, even our food!!! Gross.

March 24, 2010

Hungry for Something New

Missing my china and my own cooking!!

Yesterday my collective food consciousness hit the wall. All I could come up with for dinner was tuna melts using a loaf of Orowheat bread I found down here a month ago and froze. I am so bored and tired of all the recipes we cook at the guesthouse—and I have no one but myself to blame since I am the one who finds the recipes and prints up the menu every week. It is very demanding to teach these women new recipes, what they remember to do one time is never the same the next time and over time my recipes change completely from the one I gave them to something else. For instance, last time they made the lasagna instead of cooking the cottage cheese in it (which they forgot), they put a dollop on top of it when they served it! It was wierd. It is exhausting to watch your great recipes erode over time and saps me of much desire to keep on coming up with new stuff.

Beef Brochettes used to be good but then the meat started getting tougher and tougher. Finally it was inedible it was so tough, so we stopped making them altogether.

Although I print a monthly menu it needs constant tweeking as the number of guests can change at the drop of a hat from 1 to 10 depending on whether we have just one guest or a full house and extra guests to feed. Some of the dishes we make, like the lasagna, require a larger number of guests. And some of the dishes such as shrimp brochette, are a lot of hand work and better served to fewer guests. Once I had them make beef brochettes for eight and the next day the cook came to me and told me that it took too long to cook them for that large a group. It was then that I realized that I would have to come up with some easier meals for larger groups of people. When we have no guests but Esperando and me, then our goal is always to lose weight and so the menu focus changes to less fattening food.

Our meals always start with a soup, a very Mexican tradition. I now have a collection of the best soup recipes in the world I do believe, and I never tire of the soup. Often the soup represents the only form of vegetable matter that the meal will comprise as we have so few choices in the fresh vegetable department: broccoli, sometimes chard, squash, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce, onions, chiles and beets. I get really hungry for great lettuce and mushrooms, and especially a good selection of fresh greens like spinach and mustard. Our main course is generally fish, chicken or shrimp, now and then pork or beef. We get horrible tough cuts of meat here so I stick with ground beef or machaca (dried beef). The only form of fish they don’t overcook is a la plancha, and our chicken options aren’t so good either—I wish I had some really great chicken casserole recipes (remember no mushrooms)! If you know of any please send them to me.

I guess the problem with all these foods is that girls tend to fry them and not bake them. They cook everything ahead and then keep it hot; after all this time it no longer works for me. It all begins to taste the same. I wish we had great Italian or French food, or fresh Maine lobster, but we don't.  But I don’t know why I worry about eating since I’m supposed to be losing weight!!

March 19, 2010

Cat Baiting

Back in the days of the Christians and the Romans, we know that the Romans liked their bread and circuses, liked hand-to-hand combat with gladiators, liked to watch people being torn to pieces by wild animals, liked to watch animals tearing one another apart and expected that kind of entertainment. Although Italy might have been the center of the Roman Empire, nonetheless the Spanish are descendents of these self-same Romans (hence the term ‘romance language’ when referring to Spanish, French and Italian languages). As representatives of that same Roman tradition, today here in Santa Rosalia we have still have cockfighting and dog fighting (and bull fighting elsewhere in Mexico). Moving right along to Casa Abeja with the advent of Lupita’s arrival, our house has sadly become a center for blood, well, fur sports, namely—cat baiting.

Any cat is good bait, but especially Winnie who is more active and more tolerant. We can boldly lick a cat on the face in the morning to show our Good Will and turn around and chase and bite the same cat boldly on the tail or other parts a mere 10 minutes later. When we really get into proper form, the mouth is full of cat fur, sufficient enough to look like a beard. The puppy knows that this is not acceptable, she has been told ‘no’, which generally lasts about 3 minutes until the puppy brain forgets, as it also forgets what housetraining is all about most of the time.

During the baiting the puppy approaches the cat, grappling it with the paws, trying to knock it on its side. Although the cat is twice as large, it is taken aback, falls over on its side from the onslaught and starts kicking the puppy with its hind legs. The puppy backs off and the cat bats it around with its front paws. The puppy then turns its rump to the cat, protecting its eyes from claws and making a strange puffing sounds. When we hear this puffing sound from another room we race in saying 'no, no, bad dog'. The cat takes off running at the interruption, the puppy gives chase.

The cat runs and jumps on the bed and watches the puppy leaping about making puffing noises, probably not unlike the sound a killer whale emits when hunting. The puppy can now jump up on the couch by herself, but still not the bed. At some point the cat races out of the bedroom, the puppy in full pursuit. The cat jumps up on the cat perch to get away. As the cat leaps it generally loses a chunk of fur that is left behind in the puppy’s mouth.

Sometimes the cat encourages this chasing. Bad cat. Can't help cats that encourage this kind of errant behavior.

March 16, 2010

San José de Magdalena

What strength possessed the Spanish people to struggle through the steep arroyos and climb the craggy mountains and to find the hidden valleys with water so they could stay to make a life here in Baja centuries ago? Some of their descendents stayed on, even though water was more plentiful in other places, such as California proper. They make a living from their cattle and goats, becoming experts at curing and tooling leather, and making cheese. The live in isolated communities and plant their crops in the arroyos. When the hurricanes come and the arroyos flood, they are wiped out, but still they stay on eking out a living from this harsh and unforgiving land. Initially it was the missionaries that found the places here with water and tried to establish communities with the Cochimi and Guaycura Indians in this part of Baja. None of the indigenous people ultimately survived the arrival of the Spanish, succumbing to disease over time. Later even Anglo settlers came to Baja, settling in this area just after the U.S. Civil War.

According to Wikipedia: "the Visita de San José de Magdalena was founded in 1774 by the Dominican missionary Joaquín Valero to serve Cochimí Indians associated with the Misión Santa Rosalía de Mulegé. Building a visita, or subordinate mission station was initially proposed by the Franciscan missionary Francisco Palóu prior to the Dominicans' assumption of responsibility for the Baja California missions. The visita was terminated when the mission at Mulegé was closed in 1828. Ruined walls of stone and adobe brick survive at the site. (This is excerpted from the book Las Misiones Antiguas: The Spanish Missions of Baja California, 1683–1855 by Edward W. Vernon 2002, Viejo Press, Santa Barbara, California)."

Esperando and I knew nothing of this last weekend when we took the bumpy narrow dirt road 15 kilometers west of Highway 1 to follow the sign pointing to San Jose de Magdelena. We were just curious to see what was there since we drive by the sign on the highway often and now were looking for an afternoon’s diversion. Though a mere 11 miles from the highway, the drive to this little community took about an hour as the road was so rough. After 45 minutes of bumping along the first sight to greet us were little green pockets of water, winding down a deep wide arroyo, and strung together like pearl beads. The water nourished small well tended fields of green surrounded by rugged barren hills of naught but cactus. The first indication of a town is the cemetery, a little village of tombs and mausoleums in various bright colors, some new, some old with the ornamental iron crosses of a century ago. The dead have a sweet little city densely packed up against each another. It has a convivial feel to it, and one senses community and not desolation in the cemetery.
San Jose de Magdelena is known for growing garlic and selling the braided strands locally, so that is supposed to be what you come up here to see and to buy. We found an old almost toothless man (Esperando tells me he has read that these people are addicted to piloncillo-an unrefined brown sugar produced in hard cones of various sizes; they suck on them and over time rot out their teeth)  engaged in the so Mexican past-time of mixing up a batch of concrete. Since we have moved down here, I have come to realize the Mexicans and concrete go together like soap and water. Everywhere they always are building and improving on their structures. He seemed to be the only person in town. Everyone else must have been taking a siesta.

We inquired about the garlic, but it was still too early to buy any. He wasn’t sure when it would be available, but his neighbor across the way sells it when it is. He told us the road to the coast from here was impassable. We didn’t go any further down the road to see the old mission which apparently is quite ruined. On our drive back through town we passed a sweet little shrine to the Virgen de Guadalupe set by a spring. As we got back even with the cemetery, a man was in the field saddling his mule. (Mules are preferred to horses here; they are tougher and more sure-footed). The mule was saddled with a particular kind of saddle that the ranchers make here which has the chaps built into it so that you are not destroyed by riding in the thick cactus. He wanted to know if we wanted a photo, and then put his little dog up on the mule’s back and smiled at us. He, too, had a lot of missing teeth--too much piloncillo!

March 12, 2010

The Sunday Drive

Several Sundays ago Esperando and I took a drive down to Buenaventura Beach to dine at Mark Burbey’s fine establishment. We took our dogs along with us for the ride. We had a great time soaking in the sun and enjoying view of the Sea of Cortez while we waited for our order of cheeseburgers to cook. Mark makes some killer cheeseburgers, especially in this part of the world. Lupita and Dash enjoyed pal-ing around with his dogs, and Lupita even found a potential husband—a willing Chihuahua gentleman who seemed quite smitten with her. Unfortunately we do not plan for her to have any puppies. It seems Chihuahuas can actually require a Caeserean section as their birth canals are so tiny—and the veterinary care here cannot support that kind of effort.

Several other gringo couples were hanging out at Mark’s as well. It was from them we learned of the art exhibit taking place at Playa Santispac at Ana’s Restaurante on the beach. So, on our way back to Santa Rosalia we stopped off at Santispac to see what was happening at Ana’s which flaunted a full parking lot. The restaurant was wall-to-wall paintings and people. We chanced upon a booth representing the P.A.W. Veterinary Clinic currently scheduled for construction in Mulege. The clinic is planned to open in December 2010 and will be staffed part-time by three gringo veterinarians with a focus on spay/neuter services several days a week to manage the local animal population. It seems that although Lorraine Sellers, that kindly soul, could not return to run her clinic in Mulege (having been wiped out yet a third year by hurricanes, this time Jimena), she left behind the seeds of change for other Mulege expats to keep an animal clinic running there.

I talked to Debra Valov who will be the Office Manager at the new clinic, once it is up and running. A group of about 20 ongoing volunteers are in the process of raising money to finalize construction and build out this new facility which will be just off the highway near the Pemex station on the south side of town. They are currently seeking donations of money and goods. I decided to sign up to volunteer at the clinic a couple of days a week which is in need of bodies to help with every aspect from front desk work to prepping animals for surgery or tending to them afterwards. This is Baja—you never know from one minute to the next what will happen on a Sunday drive.

To donate to P.A.W. Veterinary Clinic:
Debra Valov, Office Manager
615 153 0587 (Mulege)
510 658 4656 (USA) (donations are accepted via Paypal)

Mark Burbey
Restaurant/Bar Playa Buenaventura
Call using a U.S. phone: 1-760-666-2648
Call using a Mexican phone: 01-615-161-1077

March 10, 2010

Dog Friendly Lodging in Southern Baja

It has been quite a challenge taking our dogs with us on vacation in Baja if we want to stay at a nicer hotel. We are pretty knowledgeable about where to stay going north from here, but going south has not been something we have done much with our dogs. Looking up dog friendly lodging can be difficult even in the U.S. if you are staying in a small town; in Baja there is much less choice and not all places seem to get listed.

Here in Santa Rosalia the Hotel Frances and Hotel Las Casitas will let you have your dogs in the room. Hotel Frances is an 1886 2-story wooden building, an elegant historic relic from the days when the French were mining here. The lobby and dining room are filled with antique furniture and they serve a wonderful breakfast, but not any other meals. Las Casitas, perched at the cliff’s edge doesn’t have meals, but they make up for that with an incredible view and nice modern rooms. Advancing south to Mulege we always treasure going to Ray’s Place to dine and spending the night in one of his two rustic but quaint cabaña’s (if they aren’t full already). It is sublimely quiet there at night and all the stars in the heavens are available for viewing. If we only have Lupita the Chihuahua, we are ok to stay at La Serenidad if Ray’s is full. La Serenidad is a popular fly-in spot for pilots (with attached airstrip); and they are notorious for a pig roast on Saturday nights. Some rooms come with a fire place (it can drop down to 45F on winter nights here). On sunny days the swimming pool is a welcome relief.

This weekend we are planning to drive to Loreto for a little R&R. We are going to stay at the Inn at Loreto Bay which is both a lovely place and dog friendly besides. It will be our first stay there since the resort shut down and re-opened last year now under the auspices of the Mexican government’s tourism arm. It seems that their dog friendly policy is still in place. We can sit on the beach under a palapa with an umbrella drink and our dogs in tow, soaking up the rays. Doesn’t get much better than that!

We are also looking at dates in May and June to go to Cabo Pulmo and Todos Santos. We are just taking Little Tickle, it is a long drive for the big dog Sweet Pickle and his hips are becoming an issue getting in and out of the truck as well as his acceptance at most hotels because of his size.

I only found one hotel listed in Todos Santos on an internet dog friendly site that said would take pets; but when I went to the website the hotel said that they did not take pets—go figure! So I started shopping around to various nicer sounding hotels and B&B’s on, emailing places to see if they would take dogs until I found Casablanca B&B that said they liked dogs and could accommodate the three of us. Club El Moro in La Paz also permits dogs on the premises. They have decent rooms and a beautiful swimming pool with bar nearby. Ah the effort us dog lovers go to bring along our furry friends!

Santa Rosalia

Hotel Frances
Telephone: 011-52-115-2-20-52

Hotel Las Casitas
Telephone: 011 52 615 152-3023


Ray’s Place
Telephone: 011-52-615-161-4316

La Serenidad (small dogs only)
Telephone: 011-52-615-153-0530, or 011-52-615-153-0540


Inn at Loreto Bay

Telephone: 011 (613) 13-30010

La Paz
Club El Moro Hotel Suites
Telephone: 1 866 375-2840; in Mexico 011-612-122-4084

Todos Santos


March 5, 2010

Wherein Winnie gets Found by Lost Friends

Frida watching Winnie search for visitors. 'Don't you love me anymore?' she wonders.

Sour Pickle has been screaming his lungs out for the last four days, “MRAO, Mrao, MRAO, MraO, MRAO, Mrao-OOWW,” in a very loud strident wail that means ‘I-am-bored; this-place-is-too-small; I-miss-my-old-house; where-are-my-friends?’

I have been trying to move the feral cats over here to eat and have been slowly moving their feeding place closer and closer to Casa Abeja so that now they are only separated by a block wall. Yesterday while Winnie was screaming around, Carmen heard his wails from outside and discovered him sitting at the back door of the house—with only a screen door separating them. Immediately his wailing moderated. He was overjoyed to see her and they spoke in soft endearing murmurs. The conversation went something like this:

Carmen: “Hey handsom, where you ben? You nefer in the weendow at the White House anymore.”

Winnie: “Yas, terribly so. We moved up here last week. Originally, I liked it rather because it was new and different, but now it seems a trifle small and I am sooo bored. Almost no one gives me the proper adulation. It’s only Mother and Father here. Father’s at work most of the time and Mother’s too busy playing boring computer games and making curtains. Where have you been? ”

Carmen: “I weent to London to see the Queen! Ha, ha, not rally. Well, no one tol me you hat moved. I ‘spose now that you’re leeving in an antique house you’ll be putting on airs seence I only leeve under a trailer with mi mama.”

Winnie: “Tut, tut. Don’t you know I have such strong feelings for you? You have the most beautiful eyes. No really. Have you seen our new dog, the small one? She chases me all over the house. When I get really bored I go and bait her, then beat her up. It’s rather entertaining. We race around the house together.”

Carmen: “Yes I deed see her out in ze backyard once early in the morning. I wasn’ sure but what she was a raton, she ez so leetle. I hid in ze bushes and watch her, she was right uner my nose and deedn’t even know I was zere.”

Carmen and Mrs. Moustache inspect the block fence going up between us and the abandoned house next door.
Winnie: “Are you liking it since Mother threw you outside?”

Carmen: “Et’s ze high life! I get fed twice a day. I can go wherever I wan to when I wan. And I gets to catch and eat birds and mice as well. They have these great round tubes they put up for ze little birds and it makes it rally easy to catch them. Rally I wouldn’t trade for where you are for the worl. Latly my skin itches alot though. ”

Winnie: “Ah--you've caught a hopping case of the fleas, poor gel! Ha, ha. I do rather wish I could go outside, but Mother doesn’t want me to get in fights —or to get run over, she probably wouldn't approve of fleas. She says the vet here is wretched.”

Carmen: “Well, you rally stuck then. I get mi mama to come up later for a veesit.”

By that afternoon Mrs. Moustache and Carmen were sunning in our backyard on the bricks for the construction of a new fence. Last night they were there too. Pretty soon I will be able to feed them over here. That clever Winnie—he really knows how to sweet talk the 'gels'.

Mrs. Moustache peering out at me from a ditch

March 2, 2010

La Duena de la Casa Learns More Spanish

Today I went to Marla’s, the fabric/craft/hobby store in Santa Rosalia. It is small, but surprisingly well stocked and would be our version of New York Fabrics. This is where I buy Styrofoam balls to make into ornaments covered with shells, seeds and beans. My friend Don Diego’s mother taught me how to make these last year and she told me to go there for my supplies. For such a small town, I never would have suspected that Santa Rosalia could have such a fine store.

Today my mission was to buy curtain fabric for our bedroom as I have been busily making curtains for our little house. I ordered some lace fabric on the internet which we brought back with us from the States, but I wanted heavier fabric for one of our windows that has a motion detector light outside it. Periodically during the night the light goes on and lights up our room, waking us. I hoped to minimize its offensive glare by hanging a denser curtain.

So my plan was to buy the fabric, more Styrofoam balls, and straight pins. I meant to look up the word for pins before I left the house, but I forgot. Esperando came by to pick me up at noon. The stores are all open then, but the streets are really crowded and parking is the pits by then. He needed some chicken wire from the hardware store. He had already tried several other hardware stores with no luck and one of them recommended that he go to this one. So he would drop me off at Marla’s and drive around the block until I was done, then we would change drivers while he went for chicken wire and I drove around the block.

We got to Marla’s and I went in to survey what my fabric choices would be. I had really never checked out their fabrics before other than to realize that they had lots. I found colorful knits and lots of satins, some printed cottons, some upholstery fabric, colorful plastic tablecloths by the yard--and chose a mod pink floral pattern that wasn't really me because it was the only one that had colors that would go with our hot pink bedspread. While the girl was cutting my 6 meters of yardage I said in Spanish to the owner, a man whom I will call Mr. Marla, and the other girl at the counter, “I need an item but I don’t know its name in Spanish.” Then I thought, aha, maybe they know this word in English—so I said, “Straight pins!” I got the deer-in-the-headlights look.

So I tried again in Spanish, “this item is like a nail but skinnier and you use it to fasten two pieces of cloth together, but you don’t sew with it,” (thinking of a needle which I couldn’t remember the name for that either.) When I spoke to him, I confused the word for nail (clavo) with the word for hook (gancho). What I really said is ‘this item is like a hook but skinnier.’ Mr. Marla gave me a puzzled look. “No, we don’t have anything like that,” he said. Then I said, “Oh yes, you do, it’s not really a hook and it is really common. I just know you have it here.” I cast my gaze all around the wall, covered with various merchandise and swept my glance over the counter, missing the one critical spot.

I should mention here that neither of the girls even remotely wanted to participate in this guessing game, it was only Mr. Marla that would play, and not with much amusement. Finally a lightbulb went on for him and Mr. Marla said, “Ah, do you want peens?” “Oh yes, yes,” I said, “that is exactly it!!” I was very excited and then I saw under my very nose as he reached into the glass counter, heaps of safety pins. If I had only seen those first he wouldn’t have had to spend the last ten minutes trying to read my mind. I could have said, just like this but not bent. Fortunately I was the only customer in the store. “Alfiler,” said Mr. Marla, sniffing slightly like a disapproving professor. “Here we call those, alfiler, with the head on them like this they are alfiler de cabeza and a safety pin is alfiler de seguridad.” Ah, I said, “Alfiler. Muchas gracias.” My bill came to
US$40, the fabric was at least 54" wide, plus the pins, an embroidery hoop and the Styrofoam balls--the fabric cost less than $6/meter, a real bargain!

I got back to the car and by then Esperando had found a place to park. We traded drivers and I told him about my transaction. When we got close to the hardware store, he walked a block over and by the time I got around the block (I had to drive seven blocks further before I could turn back as there are so many one way streets here) he was coming out of the store with chicken wire in hand. I am sort of embarrassed to go back to Mr. Marlas—no doubt he’ll remember that crazy gringa if I ever get up my courage to darken their doorway again.

March 1, 2010

Dust in the Wind

Let’s talk dirt. Here in Santa Rosalia we have lots of it. Water is scarce and so therefore are lawns, instead we have: sand, dirt, rocks, cactuses and trees that people have planted. When the wind blows, as it as for the last 6 days, so does the dust (but not the cactuses). It is like having a sandstorm everyday. The sea becomes covered with whitecaps, but that doesn’t diminish the dust blowing around town any.
You see in the photo our fine house is surrounded by dirt as are all the other homes in Santa Rosalia.

This dust comes in the house under the windows and the doors and settles on everything. It gathers in pools on the floor at both sides of the door where the edges are. It tracks across the floor leaving dusty footprints. (We have learned to take our shoes off when we come inside the house). It coats the outside of the house and the windows, impregnates window sills, puddles on the porch and stains the white cotton hammock hanging on the porch a soft gray. If it were snow, we would say, ‘oh how pretty.’ But, no one ever says that about dust.

It means that every day I have to vacuum, some times twice a day, not to mention dusting all the furniture. One of the biggggg mistakes I made was buying a glass top coffee table. Every day when the sun moves across the room to where the table stands a visible layer of dust becomes evident, more so than on the wooden furniture. So everyday it has to be dusted. I now appreciate even more my Mother’s story about how my grandmother, who moved to the arid desert of New Mexico in 1907 from the damp and wooded vales of Washington State, bemoaned the dust that filled her house when the wind blew. In wet places where grass grows the wind doesn’t carry the dust around like this. Is this what we mean by the sins of the fathers (or in this case the grandmother) are visited on the children? Do we subconsciously choose to repeat the toil of the lives that have come before us in some mysterious way?