Life is what Happens when You’re Busy Making Plans…

I didn’t break any bones, so it could have been much worse…. While walking this morning, I was very careful, using a branch from a tree as a walking stick, and taking it slowly and carefully as I was descending one of the paths. Unfortunately, my foot slid on some gravel, I lost my balance, and down I went. Being a nurse, after quickly recovering from the shock and the pain I felt, I did a quick self-assessment:

No broken skin on my foot, only on my right arm. I could bend my foot and my knee. No swelling, bruising or loss of function. OK – so it must just be that I was banged up a little, but nothing serious, and so I reassured my walking companions and myself.

We were about a half hour from home, so I was able to make it back alright, walking slowly and carefully. Once I got back, I took some Motrin, elevated my foot and applied a cold compress. Cleaned up my arm with some salt water, Bacitracin spray and applied band-aids. Over the next few hours, the pain continued to get worse and I was unable to bear weight on that foot, and figuring that it is now Friday, and I don’t know the accessibility of doctors here, I decided that it was time to pay a visit to the doctor.

Stephanie said her husband Steve could drive me to the doctor, but Jenna’s daughter was not feeling well, so she drove both me and her daughter to the doctor. Dr. Cony (Maria Concepcion Fonseca Gonzalez, one of our Project Amigo graduates) decided that there was no break, but there was damage to a muscle and tendon, and so I now have a half-cast for the next two weeks and tomorrow I will receive my crutches.  Meanwhile, I will be taking a medication called Retoflam F  (Meloxicam/metocarbamol, or Mobic/Robaxin, if you prefer) twice a day for 3 days.

Well, I guess I won’t be watching the Charro-taurina Queen be crowned at the jardín tonight and neither will I be dancing. Perhaps if someone is already going to the bull-ring, they will be able to give me a ride on Saturday or Sunday and if not, then there is always next year. It’s just too far to walk on crutches.

Meanwhile, next weekend is the gastronomic fair in Comala. Hopefully by then I will be an expert on using crutches and can either take the bus or catch a ride to that event. I always try to find a new food, spice or recipe book for my son Michael, as cooking is one of his passions.

Hopefully, someone I know may be at this weekend’s events and be able to tell me how it was and share some pictures, in which case I will share it with all of you, my dear readers. Otherwise – another time. So everyone, have yourselves a good weekend, and ¡hasta luego! (until next time.)

PS – At least I can unwrap it and shower. With a bit of a language barrier, even with the Spanish/English medical dictionary that I brought along, I thought at first that it would be a full cast, in which case – How was I to showe?. I started thinking of a bucket and a scoop for the water, having to soap up, then pour the water over the soapy skin to wash it away as I’ve had to do in Cameroon, but THANK YOU, Dra. Cony for making it a half-cast for support and to limit movement.

PPS – If you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section. And, again, have a wonderful weekend !!!!!

Random Thoughts and Flights of Ideas

Friday, May 13, 2016

Well, this post is probably going to go in several directions, starting with my activities and observations, and we’ll just see where this goes. First of all,  I am beginning a healthier lifestyle by finding a companion to hike with every morning. Lourdes lives 2 houses from Magda, and now every morning at 8am I go to her house and we walk.  We took a path beyond the bull ring and came upon a sweat lodge, or Temazcal. It looks as if it is made of cement with carvings on it, and it is dome-shaped. I’ve heard about them, but never been to one. They operate on the weekends, and since I am going on an all-day trip with the staff tomorrow,  visiting this place will have to wait for another weekend.

At 1:50 am this morning, I was awakened by thunder, lightning and a pretty severe rainstorm. I wasn’t sure, for a few minutes, what I was hearing. My first thought was that, while during the day I had thought a few times that I had heard thunder in the distance, then decided that I must have been hearing things and dismissed it, it had turned out that my impression was correct. My next thought was – should I get up and close the windows. I decided against it because the eaves were protecting the room from becoming inundated with water, so I went back to sleep.

When I woke up, the rain  had stopped hours ago, and the air was nice and cool, but not so cool that I needed more than a tee shirt, so off we went for our walk. After walking through the woods for 90 minutes, I returned to the Hacienda at 9:30am. Vero asked me if I had had trouble breathing the ash, and I didn’t know what she was talking about. Apparently, while we were walking in the woods, protected by the trees, the volcano had sent a plume of ash 1000 meters into the air and now there was a fine layer of gray grit on the cars, ground and plants within our courtyard.

So – it looks like the rainy season has started, and will possibly continue until September. For my little bat friends, I have read somewhere that they give birth to their babies after the rainy season has ended, and so I hope to see little bat babies come September or October.

I also learned a new word this morning, or rather, a new phrase. Tomorrow morning, we are leaving at 7am “en punto,” EXACTLY at 7am. I was told this was “el tiempo gringa” and I asked why “gringa.” and was told that only gringos show up at the time they are told. Everyone else shows up at least 30 minutes later than the appointed time. This is Mexican Time. When I was in Cameroon, I had heard about an “African week” which could be any number of days, not just 7 and could even be 8 days, and I am sure that everyone has heard of “Island Time.”

May 26, 2016

It’s cool early in the mornings and at night, but still very hot during the day. The skylight on the second floor, where my room is, makes it even hotter, so it is more comfortable to go downstairs during the day in the common area. Last night I turned on the fan and adjusted it to keep it from rotating, preferring to have it just blow the air onto me and not sweep the room.

Lourdes and I start our walks at 8am while it is overcast but cool. There was only two days of rain a while back, so maybe the rainy season has not started after all. One of our routes goes past a sugar cane field. When the cane is high, it is like looking at a painting when I look at the fields of golden and pale green stalks. However, recently as we approached, all I saw was a large field of black stubble on the ground.

When the cane is ready for cutting, the fields are set on fire. The fire apparently burns off most of what is not needed, and once the fire is out, the cañeros come and cut the cane, which is why these men are most times covered in soot.  In the migrant camps, such as Quesería, the cañeros work 9 hours per day, 6 days per week cutting cane in the hot sun, and often sleep in the fields to protect what they have cut.

They are paid by the weight of the cane, but only after it has dried out, so that they are actually paid less for the dried cane, which is lighter than when it is first cut. The migrants who are brought here also start out in debt, since they are charged by the seat for the bus that brings them here and also often need to leave some family members behind if they cannot afford seats for everyone. Their lives remind me of the Tennessee Ernie Ford song “16 tons,” and I am glad that Project Amigo offers the children a way out of this life through education, otherwise these children would have nothing more to look forward to except a life of hard labor with little to show for it, living basically hand to mouth.

Well, these fields just outside of Cofradía had been burned and cut and nothing was left but charred stubble. It seemed like only a few days later (though it was longer, I’m sure) that I was now seeing fresh cane starting to come up out of the soil. Lourdes told me that the cane stalks aren’t killed, but can grow from the small stump that is left after cutting.  So now there is a field of row upon row of new cane.

I have also been seeing a large number of cane trucks going up and down the highway, and also a very large number of trucks driving through the narrow village streets in order to enter the highway.

But – the trucks will now have to maneuver their way around all the trucks and equipment parked around the jardín for our latest festival – the Fiestas Charro-taurinas, the cowboys and bull-riders. The event will take place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with the coronation of the queen of the Fiestas Charro Taurinas tomorrow night, and many events and bands. I guess I will finally get to see the rodeo at the bull ring, the Plaza de Toros.  I am very happy that this is not a bullfight where they will torture and kill the bull as they did when I went to the Petatera in Villa de Alvarez (I refused to enter the plaza once I knew what they were actually going to do there).

So you can look forward to reading all about our latest fiesta  and viewing many pictures and possibly a video or two in a few days. And on that note, I will say Buenas Noches, and sleep well…



Mother’s Day – May 10, 2016 in Cofradía de Suchitlán, México

When I woke up on Tuesday morning, the whole Hacienda was quiet. No one in sight, and I knew it was Tuesday, so SOMEONE should have been around. When Vero arrived, she informed me that the women were all off from work today since it is Mother’s Day here. Vero herself was not off, because she is not a mother. All the men showed up a little while later, at their usual time.

I was informed that I was invited to lunch at Doña Meche’s house, and at 6pm there would be festivities in the jardín to celebrate all the mothers. I wanted to bring her flowers for Mother’s Day, and since Tuesday is tianguis day (the farmer’s market) I figured I could buy flowers there, but no such luck. They told me that perhaps at 3pm there would be flowers for sale, but lunch was at 2pm, so what was I to do?

When I returned to the office, Vero and Jorge told me that Juanis sells flowers out of her home, so after much back-and-forth, I finally understood the directions to her house and went there to buy flowers. I settled on a bouquet of mums and daisies, figuring her husband should be the one to buy her roses. I also saw beautiful blue roses, and so bought one for myself, at which point Juanis’ husband also gave me one as a Mother’s Day gift!  And, as it turned out, I had a blue blouse that perfectly matched the roses, so I put it on, and had a picture taken when I got back to the Hacienda.

Lunch at Doña Meche’s was delicious, and I got to meet many members of her family. Her husband also had a band come and play for us! After about 2 hours, I went back to my room at the Hacienda and took a nap, and so was refreshed for the night-time festivities.

At the jardín, there were scores of chairs set up, with a big open space to be used as a stage. There was a table set up for the women who would be honored – the oldest mother in the village, the woman with the most children, etc. These women were mentioned at the beginning of the ceremony and each given a bouquet. The mayor made a speech, and then the entertainment began – singers, dancers, and of course a band.

There is a saying that “It takes a village to raise a child,” but here in Cofradía, the whole village comes together for much more, such as quinceañeras, Easter celebrations, graduations, and now Mother’s Day. Such wonderful people, and now I am so happy to be a part of their community!


Conclusion of the First International Volcano Festival

This past Sunday, May 8th, was the final day of the Volcano Festival. Unfortunately, I did not attend because of a day-long migraine headache. However, on Saturday I attended the full day and only left around 10:30 pm, before the DJ came on at 11 pm.

The first activity of the day was a motorcycle stunt show in the Zentralia mall parking lot, which entailed taking two buses, the first one leaving Cofradía at 7am. I was so tired that I fell asleep on the bus, and when I woke up, recognized that the stores we were passing were past my stop. So I got off at the next stop, crossed the street, went back to the proper stop, and then caught the bus to Zentralia.

The show was supposed to start at 9am, but the guys setting it up told me it would start at 9:30, so I went inside and had some breakfast, going back to the parking lot just before 9:30am. They were still setting up, and almost no spectators were there, so I figured they must be running on Mexican time, and sat down and waited. The show finally started around 10:30am.

There was one motorcycle stunt driver practicing his jumps,and directing how far apart the ramps should be. At one point, there were several motorcycles and a 4-wheel vehicle placed between the ramps, and next thing I knew, they went over to a bunch of kids and brought them over to sit on the motorcycles, after which the stunt driver rode up the ramp, over their heads, and back down on the second ramp! – something I cannot imagine them allowing back home. Finally he drove his motorcycle up the ramp and through a hoop of fire.

After the show was over, I took a taxi to the center of Colima, where the festival was taking place later that day. The first acts did not start until around 5:30pm, with one musical group following another. I also took a walk down several streets, as the entire venue of the festival is several blocks long.

On one of the blocked-off streets they had elevated boards set up in the middle of the street. Here were performances from local dancing schools, and I was very impressed with one little girl. She and her partner had just finished one dance, and the crowd was shouting for them to do another dance. Her eyes got big, and she was shaking her head, obviously nervous and not wanting to dance again. However, I guess her instructor insisted, the music started playing, and she suddenly had a big smile on her face and they danced again for the crowd. The smile never left her face, and she was as professional as any adult I had ever seen. I am including a full video of that second dance.

In the evening was a performance by the Ballet Folklorico of Colombia, an amazing performance that started with dancing and costumes from the pre-Columbian era and progressing through the centuries. I did not have a front-row seat for this, and so had to take a picture from one of the giant screens they had around the jardín.

After the performance, I headed to my friends’ house in Colima. It was a long day, and rather than going all the way back to Cofradía, they had offered to let me stay there in their house. That was very nice and greatly appreciated, but I had not counted on the heat. The climate of Colima is MUCH hotter than Cofradía, and even with two fans blowing on me, it was incredibly hot, making me realize that buying a house in Cofradía, rather than Colima, had been the right thing to do.  And so, with the migraine, I stayed inside for most of the day and then took a taxi back to Cofradía. And while I missed the final day, I still had three full days at the Festival, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

So, please enjoy the photographs and videos. ¡Hasta luego!


Chicken Pot Pie Soup

One of the advantages of WordPress is that it lets me know what posts are most popular, and it seems that anything to do with food is at the top of the list. So, today’s post will be about the soup in the title, recipe courtesy of my friend Gail Dejmal.

I recently caught a ride with my friends Richard and Magda, and we went to the Zentralia mall in Colima, where they have the major stores Sears and Liverpool. I took advantage of the fact that I would be bringing my purchases back by car instead of two buses and bought myself a combination pressure-cooker, crock pot, deep fat fryer, plus a 4 other settings all rolled into one large electric cooking pot.

I had asked for recipes for which I did not have to use an oven, and Gail obliged me with two recipes via messaging, so I set about looking for ingredients. One ingredient, of course, is chicken. There are several places where I can get fresh chicken, and this time I went to a woman who lives across the street from the jardín. From her, I got a frozen, whole, cut-up chicken for 100 pesos (the exchange rate varies from day-to-day and sometimes even hour-to-hour. It can be anywhere from 12 pesos per USD to 20  pesos to USD).

Anyway, it was almost literally a whole chicken – feet included. I recall my father saying that when he was growing up the women of the neighborhood would make chicken-foot soup. I asked some friends here about that, and they said that mothers here also make chicken-foot soup for their children, so I decided to include the feet in my soup.

I also recall when my son and I were in Cameroon and had dinner at my friend Victor’s house. We had cooked chicken, and my son ended up with the chicken head on his plate. I looked through the chicken body parts, but did not see a head, and the only guts were the liver and heart.

I had looked throughout all the small tiendas in the village, and had not seen any celery, nor any chayote, but every Tuesday they have a market in the jardín, called tianguis, so I had hope that I could find all the ingredients without having to take an hour bus ride into Villa de Alvarez to shop at Soriana.  Sure enough, they had celery and chayote there, as well as carrots, onions, potatoes and garlic.  For some of the other ingredients, I settled for the canned variety, but that was OK.

First, how can I describe chayote? It is a vegetable that comes in several forms, and can be cut up and eaten raw in salads or cooked. Different people have described the flavor differently, but for me it tastes like a very mild broccoli, and I prefer to eat it cooked. The type I prefer to use is a light green color, and it is somewhat shaped like a pear. It also can be small and light tan, with soft bristles on the skin. Another type I found in Soriana’s one day was large, darker in color, with spines over the whole thing as sharp as cactus needles. Seriously, I tried to pick it up, but could barely touch it, as the spines hurt my hand. The people who stock the produce must need to wear heavy gloves or use some kind of tongs to pick it up, and I don’t know how the shoppers put it in their baskets, either, but one day I will have to try it, just for the experience of having done it. Anyway, chayote was not in the recipe, but I like it, so I added one.

As an aside, they also eat cactus here, called cactus or nopales. It tastes good but you need to get past one aspect of it – it is slimy and exudes what can only be described as mucus. It can also be eaten raw in salads or cooked. Cooking gives it a more palatable texture, and as for raw, one of my friends gave it the very appropriate name of “snot salad.” (I apologize if I am offending anyone, but I just HAD to include that tidbit. After 45 years, you just can’t take the nurse humor out of me…)

In any case, back to the chicken soup. For the corn, I decided to use canned kernels. I got a Spanish lesson in the process of buying it – corn is maíz, corn flour is maseca, but when buying the corn kernels, you ask for elotes.

Another aside here, with your permission. Slight differences in pronunciation will get you  different products. I went shopping for dried beans one day – in Spanish class beans can be frijoles or habichuelas. Here in Mexico, they only use the word frijoles. If you ask for frijol, you get the dried beans. Frijoles will get you the prepared beans, so unless you are friends with the person selling you the food, and they have an idea that what you are asking for is not what you really want, you need to be really careful about your pronunciation.

So, back again to the soup – I chopped up some of the ingredients, such as the onions and garlic, and fried them in a frying pan on the stove. Since ovens aren’t really used much here, and the recipe called for diced, cooked chicken, I decided the raw chicken could just cook in my slow-cooker and I could shred it afterwards. So after frying what I needed to fry, all the ingredients went into the pot to cook, chicken feet included.

When it was done cooking, the chicken was so tender it just fell off the bone, and as for the chicken feet, some of the skin was off that, too, but they still were unmistakably feet, so I scraped off what I could and plopped them into the garbage.

Even my Mexican friends like the soup, and as far as I know, didn’t add any Valentina sauce to it or sneak in any hot peppers.

So there you have it – one more article for all the foodies out there. I hope you enjoy this post and occasionally would like some feedback as to what you think about my articles, did you learn anything new, suggestions to improve or questions about life in Mexico.

¡¡¡Adiós y buen provecha!!!









May Day (Labor Day) and the Volcano Fest

So – this past Sunday was May 1st, May Day. It is equivalent to our labor day, celebrating the workers, and celebrated on May 1st throughout the world, except in the United States, where it is celebrated in September.

My friend Magda is part of the faculty in the nursing program at the University of Colima, so I accompanied her to Colima City to watch the parade. There must have been thousands of people there, people as far as the eye could see, and each union represented by a different color shirt. For the faculty from the medical field at the U. of Colima, it was a sea of pink shirts and tan caps, along with banners stating “Vamos unidos en la lucha contra cáncer” (We are united in the fight against cancer) along with a pink ribbon. I met a lot of wonderful people there – faculty and paramedics. Two of the faculty decided they wanted to learn English, so we will be arranging time to get together and I will help them with English and they will help me with my Spanish.

There was also a very long procession of caballeros, men on horses, as well as at least two young boys on burros.

The parade marched throughout Colima and finally came to a big hall where lunch was served, a band played music, and the governor appeared and gave a speech.

In the evening, there were 4 of us who attended a performance of Xochicuicatl Cuecuechtli Opera in Náhuatl – a contemporary opera exclusively in Náhuatl language and with autochtonous Mexican instruments based on a poem of the same name written in the 16th century. You can Google it and read a translation of the poem. On the wall above the actors and musicians was a translation in Spanish. It was beautiful, moving and unique, but definitely not something for young children to see. I believe the idea was sex as a metaphor for life…..

After the opera, we had a light dinner at an Italian restaurant, on a balcony overlooking the jardín (the town square). Two of our friends decided to call it a night at that point, but I am glad Magda and I decided to stay, as there was a performance by Zaikocirco, a musical group in fantastical costumes, as well as people in costume dancing on stilts. I was absolutely amazed and how they maintained their balance, whether walking or dancing. their heads must have been about 15 feet in the air.

Magda and I were fortunate that a woman in the front row invited us to sit with her, as she had two empty seats beside her. It was dark, and they moved so fast that it was difficult to take good still pictures, but fortunately, I now know how to take video, post it on You Tube and then post it here…

So it was a very full day, and my feet hurt when I got back home, but it was well worth it.  Yesterday I went to see the “Exposición fotográfica ‘Arte y Fuego'” – the photographic exposition “Art and Fire” which is photographs of our famous volcano.   Absolutely amazing photographs taken by people who obviously were at the right place and right time with their cameras.

Last year, I believe around June, the volcano had an active explosion which actually blew out one side of the caldera, and you can now see a v-shape at the crater where it blew out. There are pictures of the explosion, pictures of lightning striking within the gray ash-cloud, photos of the bright red lava at nighttime, time-lapse pictures of the volcano at night, with the motion of the stars forming bright circles in the night sky.

Tomorrow night will be the mariachi band Mariachi Nuevo Tecalitlán. Saturday morning will be the Colima Biker Exhibición Stunt, which will be exactly as it sounds. Ordinarily, it would not be something that I would want to take a 7am bus to get to, but my son Michael Green did once own a motorcycle and is still very much interested in these things, so I will be there for him, taking still and videos. Saturday night will be a performance by the Ballet Folklórico de Antioquia, Colombia.

The festival ends on Sunday with a youth band, dancing and mariachi, and in the evening a battle of the bands (Guerra de Bandas Colimenses) followed by a performance by the singer Natalia Lafourcade.

All in all, a very full week with lots of activities and entertainment. Hope you all enjoy the photos and videos. ¡¡Saludos!!