An Upside-Down World

Living in Mexico is certainly different than volunteering for one week per year. There are many things you start to notice when you have that much more time. One of these things is the wildlife, often getting up-close and personal.

Among the creatures one can get to know are the creatures of the night and those that do not walk upright, or keep their heads up. Upside-down can have two meanings – either head down, as in bats, or belly-up and back down, as in lizards or ants who can defy gravity by walking along the ceiling or under surfaces such as stairs.

My little bat has been an off-and-on visitor with inconsistent hours. Sometimes, I know that it has been here by the seeds and chewed-up leaves or fruit I find on the stairs in the morning. Sometimes I see it, but often it doesn’t appear until late into the night, and by that I mean around midnight or 1am. It’s almost 5am right now and I see it up there for the first time tonight. .

I do wonder, though, about its physiology and body mechanics. It hangs head-down, so its circulatory system must be quite different from creatures which live with their heads upright. I also wonder about how their feet keep a tight grip on whatever they’re hanging onto while they sleep. Our hands and feet relax, which would be fatal to them. Oh, well, more to research some day when I’m not busy and remember it.

Since being back in the Hacienda residence, I have heard a sound that is hard to describe – almost like clicking, but not exactly. I didn’t recognize the sound, and couldn’t find any creature that could be making that sound. When someone was with me and it occurred again, I was told that it was a lizard, and that lizard eats insects and scorpions. Well, anything that eats scorpions is fine with me and can stay as long as it likes.

I finally saw it the other day and managed to take two photographs before it scurried away into a space between the beam and the ceiling. It was a gecko, exceptionally fast, and earlier this year I also saw an iguana that lives in an outdoor wall space at a couple’s house near here. I saw it on the roof, and before I could get a photo, it has disappeared between the walls.  They certainly must have very flexible bodies with feet made especially for gripping/clinging.

The very large butterflies that seem attracted to our common space here also took up residence on the ceiling for a while, but with the recent rains, it seems they have found another space to stay. For  while, one of them was up in the ceiling, near where the bat usually hangs, so I do not know if that kept the bat away or not, but at least it was in the hallway, on the ceiling near the chandelier.

Many times, dragonflies, butterflies and assorted other flying creatures get into the common space and try their best to fly through the skylight. The windows of the skylight are fixed within their frames, unable to be opened. These poor flying creatures don’t seem to understand that if they cannot fly through it after multiple attempts they need to find another way to get back outside.

At this point, I will open the balcony doors and the stairway door, making sure to keep MY bedroom door closed. They also don’t seem to realize that it would be easy to just fly down to the ground floor as there is a railing directly below the skylight and a large opening where you can look down directly to the open-air common space and kitchen.

Many mornings, I have found dead butterflies and dragonflies, among other flying creatures, who apparently have either starved to death, dehydrated to death or just died of exhaustion while unsuccessfully trying to escape.

More lucky are the ants, which seem to have no problem navigating this world no matter what position their body is in. More fascinating than that is how they work together as a team, or as an army, for a common purpose. They truly seem to be the garbage collectors/cleanup crew of nature. I have watched as they gather around and under dead dragonflies, etc., lift it up and carry it away including over and under the lip of the stairs – never breaking their stride, never missing a beat, walking upside-down, all the while carrying their load. I should also mention that these ants are extremely tiny and the carcass that they carry might be compared to a human carrying a body the size of a room or larger.

There are so many varied forms of life here, if only you take the time to look instead of walking past. The world is so much more than the larger creatures that we see, and if you spend some time observing, whether that involves bending down or looking up, or even getting close to a flower, it can be a wonder to behold the variety of life in this world. It makes you realize that children have it right when they get down into the dirt and are fascinated by what they see, and have a million observations and questions. We should be encouraging that and not trying to extinguish their natural curiosity. They will be the naturalists, scientists, biologists, doctors, etc. of the future!

Well, enough preaching for today – Enjoy the photographs, and have a nice day!



Just Volcanos

Today, I’m going to be a bit lazy and will just be posting pictures and videos of our famous Volcan de Fuego – our volcano of fire, and the Nevado, the nearby, inactive volcano of snow. While the inactive volcano is actually higher than its active cousin, from our viewpoint here in Cofradía, it appears smaller.

Besides deciding to be lazy, I also played around with various settings on my new camera, so this is also a chance to show off all the neat pictures I have taken on various days and various times of day.

During the one week per year that I was here in 2012, 2013 and 2014, I didn’t see much activity at all, only an occasional wisp of smoke coming from the caldera. The summit of the active volcano could be seen as a straight, horizontal line. You can notice this in the following video from You Tube, and you can see the dormant volcano to the left:

There were several eruptions during the 2015 year, with a massive one in the summer that blew out the side of the crater, so you will see in my pictures a V-shape at the crater. I was told that here in Cofradía that ash was coming down for about a week after the explosion, and that things were manageable here and not as bad as conditions in villages and towns nearer to the volcano, but luckily, there was no loss of life.

So – without further ado, here are my pictures, and I hope you enjoy the view…..


¡Independence Day!

¡Hola! A short time ago, I explained what Independence Day is not and it is NOT Cinco de Mayo. We just had Independence Day, starting the night of September 15th and running through the day of September 16th. So first a little history:

On the night of September 15th, the Grito de Dolores (cry of Dolores, a small town in Mexico) is said by the president and leaders in all the towns and villages of Mexico. That “cry” was issued originally in 1810 by Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, and it was a call to begin a rebellion against the Spanish to gain independence. His army was a populist army, composed of the indigenous and mestizo people.

The rebellion was supposed to have started in December. Conspirators had been having meetings, and one of these people was Josefa Ortiz de Dominguez. Josefa had been born to Spanish parents, but sympathized with the plight of those who were considered of lower caste, that is anyone who had not been born in Spain or did not have pure Spanish blood. Her group of conspirators was betrayed, and she was warned by her husband (who had been ordered to find and arrest the conspirators). He locked her in her room, but she notified one of her colleagues by stomping on the floor and told him of the impending arrests and he warned the others.  It was because of this betrayal that the revolution could not wait until December, and so it began with the cry for freedom on September 15, 1810.

There were many heroes of the revolution, and unfortunately Father Hidalgo would not live to see the independence of Mexico. He was caught and executed in January 1811, but others such as Morelos, Guerrero and Matamoros took his place to continue the rebellion. It was said that after the rebellion started, Father Hidalgo regretted the amount of bloodshed that resulted.

In 1821 a constitutional monarchy was formed per the Treaty of Córdoba and 18 months later the insurgents Antonio López de Santa Anna and Guadalupe Victoria ousted the emperor and established the first Mexican republic, twelve years after the Grito de Dolores.

You can read more about the history here:

It is an interesting read, and I highly recommend it.

Because it is still the rainy season, and it has been raining almost every night, I was concerned that the Independence Day fiesta would not take place. I heard that happened last year, but this year Mother Nature took pity on us and it did not rain until partway into the final event on the 16th. That event consisted of men standing on each others’ shoulders attempting to climb a greased bamboo pole which was as high as a telephone pole. That is a daunting enough task in dry weather and near impossible in the rain; some of the men were taking off their shirts trying to wipe off enough of the grease to get a good grip. At the top of the pole were bags of prizes, and with the rain coming down I left and went home, so I do not know if they stopped the event or if anyone actually succeeded.

The event right before this was something that I believe is also done in the United States – people chasing and trying to catch a greased live pig. Personally I am disturbed by this, and so I couldn’t watch it as the poor pig seemed terrified. I also felt the same way about a bull fight, and so would not attend the one in Villa de Alvarez when I went there several months ago. To me it is just torturing the bull – sticking pointed spears in it until it finally dies. I much prefer our event at Cofradía’s Plaza del Toros, which is more of a rodeo.

Anyway, the main celebration was on the 15th – and I was awakened at 6 o’clock in the morning by fireworks. Either someone was practicing setting them off, or they just couldn’t wait to start celebrating.

Around 8pm, there was a stage set up in the jardín and mariachis were performing. I thought I had seen Doña Meche’s husband Lorenzo dressed in a mariachi outfit, but figured it must be someone who looked like him. However – during one of their sets, Lorenzo took the stage and sang several songs and there was singing and dancing.

I’m not sure exactly what time it happened, but during the evening, the Grita was delivered, children in gray and white outfits marched in with the flag, the national anthem was sung and the names of the heroes of the war of independence were read out.  And, of course, there was a grand fireworks display.

Actually, there were two fireworks displays. One is the one that everybody in the U.S. is familiar with – you shoot or lob fireworks up to the sky, and then there is a loud noise and bursts of color. The other one was the toro – an effigy of a bull with a frame on which are attached fireworks. The fireworks are lit and a man runs around the jardín carrying the bull while sparks fly everywhere. I honestly don’t know if part of the job description is having burns on your hands, arms and head, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

Apparently, at 6am the next morning, there were fireworks again. However, between getting to sleep late, having had cinnamon and Rompope to drink, and it having been a chilly night so I had closed the windows in my room, I didn’t hear a thing…

Around 8:30am there was a parade down the street, around the jardín and through a few more streets before they came to a stop. The reina, or queen, was sitting on the hood of one of the cars as it went through the streets, and even though it was going slowly, I’m not sure how secure she felt sitting there, and having to wave and smile.  Actually, there were 4 queens total for this 2-day celebration. Three young women who were crowned from different festivals throughout the year, and an older woman who might have been a former queen or something like a Queen Mother – I’m not sure, but I was told that she is one of the dignataries’ mother.

Of course, there were more speeches, lots of food and drink and games for the kids, including sack races, eating contests and one contest with rings suspended from ribbons and boys rode their bicycles past them, trying to impale one of the rings with a stick. In the beginning, there was only one bicycle, so the boys took turns, and eventually someone found a second bicycle, thereby cutting the total time of the contest in half.

So all in all it was an eventful day and a half, and now I will post some pictures and a video. I apologize ahead of time for the quality, and you can surely find much better pictures from a Google search. I should have played around with my new camera more before the events, but what’s done is done and in the future the photo portion of my photo-journal should be improving bit by bit.

So – take care, all, until next time!




California Dreamin’

It’s been 5 days since I have returned to Cofradía de Suchitlán, so I am way overdue to write about my time at my cousin’s in Sacramento, California, where I visited from September 1 – 5th.

She had predicted temperatures around 100 degrees, but they were only in the 80’s and 90’s.  Since it was the start of a long Labor Day weekend, we didn’t want to go too far and get stuck in traffic, so we stayed local, plus spent a day in San Francisco.

I went there never having spent any time in California except to catch a connecting flight, so the only thing I found on my internet search was the Crocker Museum of art. We did spend several hours there, which was very nice, but I was also anxious to do other things – and it certainly helps when the person you’re with lives there.

One day was spent exploring old Sacramento – the riverfront, the old (or restored) buildings, the old railroad trains and riverboats – it was a nice experience.  Some of the smells reminded me of childhood visits to the boatyard where my grandfather kept his houseboat – the smell of hot tar, the hot, dry sandy soil and the dry, unpainted wooden boards that would inflict splinters into your skin if you weren’t careful.

All this came back to me as we walked through the old town that had the appearance of the old “Gold Rush” era – wooden sidewalks, wooden buildings, including a reconstruction of the original Wells Fargo office.  There were also some men in uniform with their horses and tents with a sign that said “2nd California Cavalry, Company F, Living-History on Horseback!1861-1866” Apparently there was also an event called Gold Rush Days which was going to be held for the Labor Day weekend.  However, we DID spend the day exploring and I felt we had seen enough and didn’t need to spend every day at the Gold Rush Days.

We also spent a day in San Francisco. Our first stop was the Japanese Tea Gardens. Got there about 10 minutes before they opened, and I was glad I had brought my windbreaker. It was chilly and my hands were freezing – or maybe my blood has thinned out from living in Mexico…  Comedians make fun of people who live in the state of Florida and bundle up and complain of the cold when the temperature is in the 60’s, and now I fear I have become one of them!!!!!

At any rate, the garden was gorgeous and very tranquil, and I took tons of pictures. Some of them reminded me of paintings, especially lily pads in the water.  I remember when I was still in nursing school in Brooklyn, my dream was that after I graduated in 1970, I would learn Japanese and then go to Japan, exploring on my own the parts where people did not speak English –  but then I went down a different path.

We stopped for hot cups of tea beside one of the ponds and then also visited the gift shop. So many lovely tea sets and sake sets – perhaps I will have some Japanese dishware when I move into my house. Very strange, when I lived in New York, I had a new set of dishes with Mexican-style patterns. Now that I am actually living in Mexico, those Japanese dishes and teapots are calling my name…

After the Japanese Tea Garden, we crossed the street to visit the botanic gardens.  Awesome plants, trees, lawns, fountains over so many acres. In the succulent section were maroon plants that resembled flowers made from wood that I had seen for sale in shops in the past.

My favorite area was a pathway that had descriptions of plant life from prehistoric times, with living plants that were examples of what would have been growing on the earth at that time.

We drove past the beach, hoping to be able to stop there. Perhaps it was because it was a weekend, or that it was Labor Day weekend, but everyone else seemed to have had the same idea. Every parking lot was full, and cars were parked bumper-to-bumper at the curbs. There was not a spot to be had, so we drove past it several times as I observed the Pacific Ocean from the car window.

We did find parking near Fisherman’s Wharf, however, and walked around, observing Alcatraz from a distance and the Golden Gate Bridge half-covered in fog in the distance.  It was initially wall-to-wall people and between that and the parking it felt as if I was back in New York City.

Meanwhile, on Monday morning we returned to John C. Fremont Park in Sacramento, where the “Chalk It Up” festival had been taking place for 3 days. There was music and food vendors and people creating works of art with chalk on the sidewalks surrounding the park.  There was everything from portraits of Frida Kahlo to cartoon characters and many other types of drawings in between.  Some people would draw freehand and some made grids on the cement and then drew from a smaller picture they brought with them.  A good time was had by all, and it was a very enjoyable experience.

And I have so many photographs, probably too many to include on this post, so I will try to narrow it down to a nice and manageable selection. In any case, it is getting late, so I need to finish up. We had a tremendous thunderstorm here tonight, lasting several hours, with the internet being very spotty the entire time, so I have been writing this as a Word document, which I will copy and paste onto my WordPress site.  Then I will add my photos, and thereafter say Good Night to You All…..


¡¡¡Back in Mexico!!!

I promise I will write a post about my time in California, but next week is Mexican Independence Day, starting the night of September 15th, so I will write a short post about returning to Cofradía, then tackle Sacramento and San Francisco before the holiday begins.

On September 5th, I boarded an AeroMexico flight from Sacramento Airport at 11:15pm and arrived in Guadalajara at 5:15am on the 6th. One bus ride and two taxi rides later, I was back in Cofradía de Suchitlan before 10am.

It was nice to be back, and there were things I had forgotten while I was gone that jumped back into my consciousness – the roosters crowing and the local bus blowing its horn before arriving at each bus stop, to let the potential passengers know that it was approaching. However the chicken who was sleeping on top of her babies in the street in front of my house was gone. The chicks must have grown quite a bit in the two months that I was away and they have probably all moved to a spot that was safer and more spacious for all concerned.

Everything was fresh, green and beautiful; previously dry stream beds now have flowing water, and at least one of my bat friends is back. Tons of butterflies are visiting our blooming hibiscus flowers, and it is not quite the end of the rainy season, as evidenced by a tremendous thunderstorm yesterday – but fortunately for me, I was taking care of business in Colima, where it only started to rain around7:30pm. When I got back here around 8pm, there was no electricity anywhere in the village, but it returned in a half hour. Come to find out, they had been without electricity for 4 hours, and had monstrous thunderstorms, also for many hours.

Our volcano of fire continues to be active, with two streams of lava flowing down its sides two days ago. I am including a photo of that, but since it was daylight, it just appears as two white lines on the sides.

Went back to Colima this afternoon to conclude some banking business, and had lunch at Starbuck’s. It would appear that either some of our odd behavior is rubbing off on the people of Mexico, or else companies which have stores in other countries are bringing their marketing to those countries. It isn’t even the first day of Autumn, and Starbuck’s is pushing pumpkin spice!!! I also saw a box labeled “pan de muerte” and bought it, expecting to see bread shaped like a skull, but it was only a soft square bread with two strips of chocolate bread crossing each other across the top of the it. Think I’ll save it for Sunday breakfast to have with my coffee. Yummmmm!

Also during my travels today, I noted more Mexican flags flying than usual. In front of the Soriana shopping center, someone had set up a display with flags, dresses, dolls and necklaces like you see for 4th of July, but red, white and green, instead of red, white and blue. Finally, I remembered Independence Day – beginning the night of the 15th.

Most people in the United States think that May 5th (Cinco de Mayo) is Mexican Independence Day, but it isn’t. Cinco de Mayo is the day the greatly outnumbered Mexicans won a battle against Napoleon’s troops.

On my walk this morning, I mentioned to my neighbor how everyone in the U.S. thinks it is Independence Day, but that it is only celebrated in Puebla, where the battle took place, and she gave me a bit more information, from the view of the Mexican people, and this is what she told me:

Mexico is and was a Catholic country, but Benito Juarez – the hero of this battle – created a separation of church and state. The pope was not happy about this, and created pressure to deter the entire population of Mexico from celebrating, and so it has been localized to Puebla.

I am sure that different people see the events differently, so all my dear readers, you can research and decide for yourselves which stories are most accurate, and I will merely report what I hear and state my sources.

So for now I will say “good night” and update my California adventures over the weekend…..  ¡Hasta luego!