December 31, 2012

For some strange reason, it is pouring rain tonight in normally bright, sunny Ajijic. It has been dark and cloudy the last couple of days, just enough to wring all the warmth out of the air, and now Arnold and I, Reina the dog and the cuatro gatos are hunkered down in our house in warm clothes, wrapped in sweaters and rebozos, to try to get warm.  The kitties are all too cold to fight, each one has found a nice toasty place, one on my stereo receiver, one on the TV satellite box, two others tightly curled up on sofas. The good news about not having a heating system in your house  = no heating bills. The bad news = when it does get cold out there you freeze, especially after the sun goes down. We do have a gas fireplace with cement logs in the living room, and in desperation we’ve been turning it on the past couple of nights. It does help, but it isn’t in a room we really frequent, and I wonder how quickly we are going to have to call Javier, our liquid propane guy, to come and fill the tank again. Hopefully not tomorrow, as it’s New Year’s Day and nearly everything will be closed up tight.

Less and less frequently do they shoot off pistols in the air for New Year’s – it used to be a bit dangerous to be out late at night on December 31. But it is still enough of a concern so that I’m just as glad we are staying in. Before we moved into our house, while we were still living in Santa Fe but had actually completed the purchase, our gardener reported a huge, growing puddle of mysterious origin in the garden. For the life of him he couldn’t figure out where the standing water was coming from, so, fearing some long term damage to the house’s foundation, we told him he’d better dig up the whole water line to see what was going on. Turned out some undoubtedly inebriated loco had fired a pistol into the air over our wall on New Year’s Eve and it landed buried several inches in our lawn, severing the water line. Puzzle solved.  We may be living in a fantasy world, but it does seem to us that at least in our very Mexican neighborhood, those shenanigans have diminished somewhat in recent years. Or they know the house is occupied now so they very kindly shoot somewhere else.

We won’t even be able to hunker down in bed and watch the midnight ball drop in Nueva York on TV because of course, our TV is out because of the rain. But – we can be reassured that things haven’t gotten totally waterlogged –  we can still hear a few rockets and firecrackers going off here and there, rain or no rain. We’ve been invited to a little party tomorrow, so that should be nice; then we will stop off and see my mother and tell her “Happy New Year”, which won’t be so nice, but it is obligatory and with any luck she will be at least a little bit awake and will recognize us.

Having survived the surgery about as well as anyone could, I am full of gratitude that things went so well and exactly as planned and predicted; but still, it’s unnerving that I seem to have lost a couple of months out of my life to medical tests, x-rays, CT scans, trips to Guadalajara for medical appointments and much worry – whoosh, gone, just like that. And now, suddenly, it’s practically 2013.  So I’ve been a bit unsettled and over the weekend, my first couple of days of being truly pain-free and with a bit more energy, I did the only thing I could figure out to do, to re-establish some relationship with quotidian life – went into girlie mode and fiercely emptied out and rearranged all my clothes closets.  Gave some things away, took some things to the resale store. Most Mexican houses don’t have great closet space (that’s what those wonderful painted armoires are for!) and ours is better than most, but I still complain constantly that pants are here, shirts are crammed in another closet a room away, coats and sweaters somewhere else and I have to traipse all over the house to find things.

I keep arranging and rearranging, trying to find a system that will work for me to have access to my wardrobe  (This time I’m trying a “color wheel” system for organizing clothing that I read about online….hey, it’s worth a shot!) Arnold says “it’s just stuff, get rid of it all” – but at this chilly moment I am very happy indeed that I have not given my winter clothes away. In fact, contrary to what a lot of people do when they move here from Michigan or Canada (and jettison everything but their Teva sandals and their Bermuda shorts), I kept enough of a variety of winter clothes left over from my old Santa Fe days – where I gather it is snowing tonight – so that the fortunate fashionista even has a choice of which warm sweater to wear. And, of course, the sun will be out again in a day or so. Naturally, keeping all this winter stuff has only made my closets more tightly packed, but what’s a girl to do?

No one is talking about it much, but it feels to me like much of Mexico is really ready to bid a not-so-fond farewell to 2012, with the horrific bloodshed and violence brought  on by Calderón’s six-year war against the cartels. Our newly installed movie-star president, Peña Nieto, is promising everyone here the moon; and we all know how far he’s gonna get with all that fol-de-rol given Mexico’s intractable disregard for the rule of law and pervasive corruption inbred from the days of Spanish rule. Still, from what I can tell, perhaps things will feel a little calmer, but one will never know whether the perceived tranquility is just an illusion with the same unthinkable things going on but with less publicity – or whether the new regimes, both local and national, really will be able to get things settled down a bit. One can only hope.

In any event, if tonight was to have been an evening of wild parties to ring out the old and ring in the new, whether with pistol shots into the air or not, it probably ain’t gonna happen in our little town, or at least not to any great degree.  One thing is for sure, the people around here are very spoiled by their normally superb weather and a cold, driving rain, expected to go on for awhile, will undoubtedly keep many people in their houses and off the slippery cobblestone streets. Probably, actually, not such a bad idea.

So, having said all that, feliz año nuevo everyone, stay safe.

Easter According to Arnold

While I was hearkening back to my ancient Valley Girl roots in L.A. with my sister, I left Arnold home to fend for himself over the Passover/Easter holiday. (At our family seder, where half the marriages are mixed, it was referred to as “Eastover” which I thought was pretty cool! Seder one night, Easter Egg Hunt the same weekend. Kiddies get the chocolate Afikoman AND chocolate Easter eggs. Excellent.)

In any event, one of the big deals in our little village is the annual Ajijic “Via Crucis” passion play, which re-enacts the crucifixion and the events leading up to it, in a three-day festival which brings tourists from all over Mexico and even beyond. The oudoor venues for the various scenes are in town, in front of the church, up on the hills overlooking the village where Christ gets crucified, on the main plaza, with hundreds of people standing around (there are plastic chairs set up for the “ancianos”) watching the proceedings. I’ll report on the Ajijic passion play perhaps next year, but the salient point to note here is that Rosa’s smaller village down the road, San Antonio, has its own passion play, not to be outdone by neighboring Ajijic. When her family learned that I was going to be out of town for Easter weekend, they insisted absolutely that Arnold come and check it out. So, here, not terribly abridged, is Arnold’s e-mail to me describing the day’s events:   (Just couldn’t resist posting this!)


Sequence of events:

Rosa calls at 7:45 p.m., Danny (her son-in-law) will come and get me at 8:30.

He and Rosa show up at 8:45.

The Señor does not ride in Danny’s truck (though I was fully prepared to hop right in), so Danny will drive us to San Antonio in the Audi. Okay, but he wants to put his truck in the courtyard, but then the battery dies, so the truck stays outside the front gates in the street.

We drive to San Antonio, where Rosa insists that because of my bum knee, that I be driven straight to the entrance to the escuela (the primary school) where the play is to be held on its little stage. And this is where Danny will pick me up when the drama concludes, as well.

Their version of the Passion Play was really much more honest, if that is the right word, maybe authentic would be better, than Ajijic’s, despite its much smaller scale. Everybody had body mikes, the costumes were incredible, and the lighting and scenery changes heartfelt and colorful.

BUT, all of it was accompanied by a L I V E orchestra, that went way beyond “E” for effort. They were in tune, in time, and it was full strings, brass, and drums, all with a conductor who kept things going. Even a boy soprano. When the nuns mopped up Jesus’ blood after the Roman Centurions did their thing, the kid was given fifty (count ’em 50) lashes, for real. The other centurions kicked him from one side of the stage to the other, and, oh, yes, don’t forget the crown of thorns–all with living catsup wounds. YUCK!

Sofia’s dance was a howl – teenage girls doing “danza Arabe” – to be the temptresses in Herod’s court – and the kids really got into it. Sofia’s choosing “Arab Dance” as her “arts elective” at school really paid off, since she got to wear a slithery costume complete with glittery bra — as did they all.

After the show: Danny brings the Audi around to pick me up, and America and Nicol appear from nowhere in their party dresses and jump into the car and off we go back to our house. As always, they love any excuse to be driven in our car.

When we got back both the girls started to play with Reina while Danny pulled out every extension cord we own to hook them all up to the outlet in the carport and charge up his battery out in the street, a la Mexicana. Once the truck was running again, off they went. As Danny left I was with Nicol, and Danny told me in Spanglish that Nicol loves the antique laptop computer we had handed down to them, and is learning how to operate it and do fun things with it, and THANK YOU!

Exhausting but fun and interesting.

BUT,  just when I thought the day was over, what do I see but (the kitty) Missoni menacing a not large, but not small either, half-moribund scorpion in the middle of the kitchen floor. I start yelling at Missoni, Rosie and Reina get very interested in what is going on, so now I’m yelling at them all. Dispatched the scorpion and so now they are all mad at me!

With all of these goings-on, maybe I should start a blog—–no, NO, NO, never.




If you watch the video, part of the fun is that everyone in this village play is a “local” volunteer – your painter, your maid, your gardener, the guy from the dry cleaner’s, your kid, your cousin, or your plumber. Everyone gets into the act, if not on stage then sewing costumes, doing makeup, sound, music, whatever. In the dancers in Herod’s court, the tall one in blue is Sofia! Herod is entertaining his friends with food and drink and the hotsy-totsy dancers, and you can hear him say “salud!” as he offers them wine. Arnold took this video on his phone – just to give an idea of what it was like – the elementary school stage in beautiful downtown San Antonio Tlayacapan….