Overexposed

 

The gang's all here.
The gang’s all here.

When there’s blood in the first ten minutes you know you’re on an adventure. Vince is a kid that is kind and solitary. He’s got a ton of energy and he’s curious. He can also be a handful. Like many young boys and most men he doesn’t listen well and he takes action without thought of the consequences. Yesterday he joined our cast of thousands for a trip to the beach. In teh first 4 minutes he was causing a minor disruption. We were still withing sight of his house so I could say, “Vince, decide now if you want to go home or stay with us.” That settled him down nicely. No fear. Just a decision and it was his decision. He knew what I needed. In a car with 7 kids and no seatbelts there is no room for distraction.

Burt had decided it was time for a beach trip because it was Christmas break and we had an extra car. Also, the water is over heated and the weather is stunning. No joke on the water. Locals are starting to worry. The water is almost 10 degrees warmer than usual for this time of year. Hurricanes love warm water.

When we arrived at the beach I announced two rules. No littering and no going in the water until the adults arrived. We all walked together at a stately pace.  Last year only a few of the kids could swim. This year they all claimed to have the ability. I thought to myself, “This won’t be so bad. Twelve kids and four adults. We can manage.” Mayhem was on that sweet thoughts heels. Within seconds of entering the tepid water with inconsequential waves there was blood. Blood, when it’s gushing down a young person’s face is quite a visceral shock. I feared an accidental elbow to the nose or a tooth for the tooth fairy but it was just a routine bloody nose. I hadn’t thought about bloody noses since I was a kid. They seemed like a regular occurrence on the playground. I never had one. It kind of looked fun. I think I wanted to have one and enjoy the attention.

Vince the Bloody, was an expert. He held his head back and we walked back to my towel. He asked for a tissues to clean his face. He calmly cleaned up and then just lay there quietly. He told me it was a fairly common experience for him and I need not worry. I sat there for a moment and he sent me off to supervise the 11 swimmers. The epitome of manly maturity.

Meanwhile the kids were like atoms in Brownian motion. They expanded to fill the space. The just kept buzzing and bouncing further and further apart. The huge beach was flat and nearly empty and the waves were so small there was no fear effect to contain them. Usually they are afraid of the water and they cling to us.  Yesterday they were swimming and diving and running around liek teh proverbial maniacs. I must have counted to 12 six-hundred times. Every time I counted twelve kids I started over and counted again. Even Burt yelled at me once to try and get them closer together. Tom and Vikki were also standing guard and I could see Vikki counting, too. It’s hard to relax and count kids.

Vince was quickly back in action. Sand activities got some of the mob out of the water. My  still impressive cartwheel skills were in high demand. Soon we were doing yoga and back bends. These kids have zero cartwheeling experience. There is no grass here. None of them have lawns. I tried to explain the mechanics. I nearly became a bloody mess myself as feet flew towards my face. After six or so personal demonstrations I told them I had to stop. I am getting smarter. I’m only a little sore today.

Trips to the beach require snacks. We grouped up and sat in the sand eating tamales, fruit, and chips. The kids surprised me when they almost universally judged the tamales to be too spicy. For a group that takes chili on their watermelon they were kind of wimpy about some peppers in there pork.  As they say, more tamales for me.

Our journaling prompt for today was to draw a picture of ourselves when we felt invisible as a child. I did that but it’s not very inspiring. I felt invisible much of the time. Yesterday I was so visible and in such high demand that I teased the kids I was going to change my name so they couldn’t yell it.

Blood
Blood
Catching a wave Paola style.
Catching a wave Paola style.
7 year old man.
7 year old man.
Daniela and doll drawing
Daniela and doll drawing
Beto wows them all.
Beto wows them all.
Sand works
Sand works
La Yerasca
La Yerasca
Daniela y Vikki
Daniela y Vikki
Anahomi
Anahomi
My car. Okay, dad's car with my group.
My car. Okay, dad’s car with my group.
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New Year Happens Soon

Todos Santos 5k winners. Every one.
Todos Santos 5k winners. Every one. Daniela (next to Burt) was our very first student in Pescadero. She showed up to music class all by herself.

I’m always thinking like my Girl Scout leader Marilyn Nardoza. What can I do to show these kids a little bit more of the world? Mrs. Nardoza (she’s alive and well and following along on Facebook) took us camping, put on plays, crafted us from here to Mars and back, lead cake baking contests, drug us to area historical sights. She always had a team of mothers to help. My mom was one. You’ve already previously heard previously how I won the cake contest one year after my mom baked my cake when I screwed up the first one. I wonder if mom ever confessed.

One year we did some enormous walk-a-thon thing. The Battle of Monmouth was the theme. My memories are fuzzy but I’m sure we raised money for every mile we walked. I think Mrs. Nardoza added a kind of scavenger hunt activity challenge to keep it interesting. The scouts had to find certain things by following clues.  We were obsessed with colonial America. That ‘we’ means society at large to a 12 year old. School, scouts, news media, even our home were all colonial style. It was the age of the bicentennial and it seemed as though everything that didn’t happen in Boston happened in New Jersey.  So we walked some lengthy distance collecting leaves and measuring flagpoles in a clump of pre-adolescence wearing our sashes and passing by battlefields and Washington-slept-here homes. My most distinct memory is measuring the flagpole. Someone had provided the basic math and we needed a 5′ volunteer to stand at the base and the rest of the group would back off and see how many time the 5′ kid ‘fit’ in the length of the flagpole. I was exactly 5′ at the time. I felt very special in my starring role as human yard stick.

Yesterday we took on our kids to a 5K race through a neighboring town. This idea to take the kids to run a 5k must have been rooted in the deep sub-conscious of girl scout walk-a-thons. Or maybe it was the former ultra-marathoner in me. As soon as I hatched the plan I started to doubt myself. This kids loose in town scenario is way scarier than kids loose at the beach. Also, I wondered could the kids even cover a 5k? Would they want to? I presented the idea and it was met with frowns and silence. Seeing them like that made me think it was going to be a bust but I said, think about it. A few days went by. I asked, “Who wants to go run the race?” All hands went up. Apparently upon thinking about it they realized it was a ride to the big town and maybe food would be involved.

At 7:15 AM yesterday we picked up 10 kids (9 girls and the stoic Guillermo) and one mother, Vikki. Vikki is always ready to go. She is our guardian angel. So 13 of us piled into two cars and we motored over to Todos Santos in the cloudy dawn light. We had a 3 1/3 kids to adult ratio working to our advantage. We parked a block away from the race start. Remembering my Girl Scout bag of organizational skills I gathered everyone around and gave them a rule and a quiz: No throwing trash. Where is the car? What is my name? What color is my shirt?

Our kids are litterbugs. That 70s era anti-littering campaign that I grew up under is only just now reaching our community. We are constantly reinforcing the No Tire Basura rule. Change of habit happens slowly. Reassured that they knew where the car was and who they were traveling with we headed into the Todos Santos plaza to register for the race. Burt negotiated a group discount of about 30%. This race was a fund raiser for the local organization the Palapa Society. We were happy to contribute nearly $100. Next ensued some brief mayhem as I filled out entry forms with names and ages. The kids dictated and I wrote. A few of the oldest did it themselves. I did Burt’s. Then we pinned race numbers onto everyone’s front. The race number has a metallic bar code that tracks everyone over the course and records their finishing time. This is serious business.

For the next hour we took photos and warmed-up.  After we had already done an excellent warm-up some random dude, Orlando, gave us an impromptu warm up of his own. My stranger danger alarms went off like crazy so I just watched. I am a natural paranoiac. Finally it was time to line up. The kids all got into the scrum of it with Vikki and Burt. I knew I was going to walk and also was carrying a bag of hold my-sweater, my-water, my-camera, my-hat, my-phone for the kids I took a spot in the back. And we were off.

It felt a little sad and lonely in the back by myself. After all the business of hatching the plan and getting everybody to town I was suddenly on the dusty streets of Todos Santos walking in silence.  But it was also nice knowing they were all up ahead. Somewhere. So I walked in peace. Then an ambulance flew past and I was no longer calm. I was what you might call freaked out. Of course my mind went to all the worst places. It was an ugly time. I started telling myself this: Everything is fine. Everything is fine. Everything is fine. I chatted with some other walkers. I walked as fast as I could. About halfway into it all and a half hour after the start I spotted Burt with three stragglers. I told myself, “Ok, three are alive.” I caught up to them and Burt told me he had seen all of our group intact and moving since the ambulance had passed. For the next half hour we cajoled and sang our three kids towards town. As we passed a water station the staff encouraged us to just throw our cups in the dirt when we finished drinking. We were walking through a mat of discarded cups. Despite this, my three girls all ran over to a garbage can and threw their cups away. Hope rises.

Our group of stragglers was really only one slacker and two groupies. The younger kids had fallen into the abyss of the older kid. They were whining but walking so we just kept moving. The eldest told me it was her first and last race. I told her to never say never (nunca digas nunca). My smartaleck use of Spanish drew a smile. As town drew near we all dug deep and got to the finish line in style. The slacker ran in. I did a cartwheel as my waiting team cheered. Burt crossed hand in hand with the only child to truly be struggling. She was beaming. Burt was ecstatic. It was his first road race, too.

Everybody finished healthy and happy enough. We watched the award ceremony. There were some very fast runners.  Afterwards we took everyone out to fish tacos. Burt and I collapsed for an hour and then headed out to play Bridge.

Team you can do it
Team you can do it
Mayan calendar art in town.
Mayan calendar art in town.
Burt and Paola
Burt and Paola

 

 

 

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Tengo un Desfriado

No surprise these kids carry colds.
No surprise these kids carry colds.

Today is Christmas Day. Merry Christmas to you all. Burt and I did the two party thing last night despite me having the itchy throat start of a cold. Today it’s official. I am sick. I wonder how many people I infected? There were 40 or more at the first gig and another 20 at the second. We flung our saliva around by kissing and singing. I feel a little guilty but there were expectations upon us to play music and show our faces. I assuaged my guilt by telling myself this is the cold all these people had when we arrived and I am just catching up.

Before I succumbed we were keeping up with most of our social demands. I taught two English classes. We played tennis, bridge, and music. We birded a new spot and got two new lifers, a western snipe and a sora. Pretty cool birds. My cousin Kelly came by to visit with her husband Felipe and their son Tommy. Tommy has Angelman’s syndrome. Angelman’s is a genetic disease. Tommy is non-verbal and has intellectual disabilities. He’s also an energetic, curious kid with a lot of love in his heart. We had a great visit. He loved my hair. Kelly’s parents own a time-share home in Cabo so we may be seeing them again.

Today Burt and I planned to stay low key and recover from the last week’s crush of humanity. This hostile viral takeover of my corpus is sending the message loud and clear. I think we’ll drive over to that lovely bird spot and I’ll set up a chair and watch. Just last night a neighbor invited us to join her family for a mid-day meal but I think I’ll cancel. I’m done spreading germs. It’s sad too. Invitations into Mexican homes are a sign of great respect and on a holiday like this it’s a shame to miss out. Priscila wanted to sing for her mother. I don’t want to give her 90ish year old mother my cold. Ugh.

You all stay healthy.

Our angel Tommy.
Our angel Tommy.
Vikki y yo
Vikki y yo celebrating Christmas Eve.
Yeraska
Yeraska living large.
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Exhaustion Week

 

Tilt
Tilt

The first week in Mexico is a tug of war between getting settled and reestablishing social connections. Our yard was weeded by our neighbors Vikki and German before our arrival. Having that chore done in anticipation of landing is a tremendous improvement over past years of wallowing around in thigh high stickers and thorns. But once we get here there’s a lot more to do. The water system and electricity need to be reconnected. Our hot water heater is a glassed in box with a few score feet of black tubing. That system needs to be rebuilt and the pump reinstalled. Our water tank must be refilled. The electricity comes from our solar panels on the trailer. Thant gets reconnected. Then there’s some bugs. Usually our bathroom and rumpus room have some insect squatters. This year there were some termites in the bed frame. Add rebuilding the bed to the list of chores. The usual roaches and spiders and six months of dust were cleared out with a broom. The trailer itself also requires a seasonal purge after the summer of constant motion and the 1,000 mile drive down the dusty peninsula. The rugs, bedding, and towels from trailer and bodega all go to the laundry. Then the furniture needs to be moved out of storage and into the yard. It’s kind of an ordeal but not to terrible an ordeal.

Meanwhile it’s Christmas week. People from all our social circles want to see us and I’m just not a party girl. Despite appearances Burt is not much of a party guy either. Many years we arrive in Baja after Christmas and are able to avoid the manic crush of seasonal events.  This year we’ve landed at Christmas and our week of adapting is overlaid with a flood of invitations for holiday parties and the return of routine activities like Bridge, tennis, Spanish class, yoga, and the kid’s group. Add in the Audubon Christmas bird count, too.  Oh, and my mom’s brother and his family are in town. Seven rarely seen family members are in Cabo for nearly a week. They are penciled in for lunch tomorrow. Phew. I just want to sit down and have a cup of tea and read a book. Instead I’m pondering how to construct sentences in the subjunctive (past, present, and future) and thinking up a lesson plan for the kids and wondering what to bring to that pot luck. I can hardly find time to walk and practice the fiddle.

Today is the morning of day 6 since our arrival. The home front was officially under control yesterday afternoon. The rumpus room was restored to order just as the kids arrived. One kid, La Frixia, arrived 2 hours early but that’s another story. I set Frixia to coloring in the Jaguar reserve coloring book while I packaged up 12 sets of Christmas presents. Class was a smoothly chaotic session of the words of questions, Christmas vocabulary, and notes to Santa. We only had seven students. The tweeners didn’t show up. Not a surprise. They are always welcome but every year as soon as they hit 12 or 13 the kids start doing other things. And it’s Christmas vacation. Santa was asked for a doll, games, clothes, a trip to Sinaloa, and a trip to Europe. Vikki, the mom, wants Europe. I wish I could take her.

Things will settle down soon.

Surreal landscape is real.
Surreal landscape is real.
Christmas Bird Count
Christmas Bird Count
English Class
English Class
Christmas Goodies
Christmas Goodies. I had to sort and package.
Troop of girls
Troop of girls
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In Mexico

Burt and I and the mascotas arrived at our place in Mexico a couple of nights ago. Hurricane Irma left the place the greenest we’ve seen it. There was no noticeable damage to our property. A friend’s place rolled away in a flooded arroyo. A massive personal disaster. That got me thinking of how the end of the world as we know it is always thought of as a cataclysm happening to all of us at once. Reality is someone, somewhere is experiencing the end of the world as they know it every day. It’s happening all the time. Many of my older friends are struggling with health problems. Every season we return to find someone, or more likely, several someone elses have died since we were last here. Living our life this way, between worlds, is kind of like a strobe effect. What time normally buffers into a gradual accretion of events like sedimentation behind a dam turns into a cataclysmic tsunami of news. Restaurants closed, beaches built upon, friends gone forever.

Despite the seasonal inventory of who’s here, who might return, and who’ll never return we’re happy to be home. The gang of girls is scheduled for their first class on Tuesday. They are shining stars in our wandering lifestyle. Back to work and play. Our English teacher is no longer available so I am going to plow on ahead. Lesson plans anyone?

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To our Mexican home tomorrow.

Mariposa
Mariposa

As I sit here at the El Centro Walmart parking lot as I have for the last three years I am filled with gratitude and relief to find us ready to cross into Mexico for another winter. The year has been hectic and the last week was filled with non-stop activity. A flat tire, broken furnace, Mimi transfer, and pre-Mexico provisioning has consumed our minds and bodies. Burt and I exited the Northern Jaguar Project reserve to find it 26F in Portal. That means it’s time to head south without delay.

All the details of crossing are the same every year but the means of accomplishing our tasks vary. Vehicle insurance – check, health insurance – check (Thanks, Obama), clothes for Vikki – check, visas – check, special foods (chocolate, parmesan cheese)- check. This year we purchased our insurance and visas early due to the NJP reserve excursion. We’ve also learned to do this without joining the Baja traveler’s group that demands a pretty surcharge for the supposed convenience of them getting us our visa. We do self-service at the border. Saves us a trip to San Diego or chasing mail. It’s very easy. If you’re thinking of coming down by car let me know and I’ll tell you how to do it.

I have a nice pile of clothes from my neighbors that were donated by a variety of friends. Thanks, Pat, Jack, Jack’s wife, Eskild, Susan, and Peg. Today I supplemented these hand-me-downs with a spree at the dollar store and Target. Last spring we had a benefit concert and the proceeds of that go to my girls. With the money I bought hair ties, nail polish, socks, tees, tights, markers, and note pads for 14. The Target cashier got a little misty when she heard why I was buying such a volume of children’s clothes in a wide variety of sizes. I am so grateful to my dad and our fans for generously helping us make these gifts.

After all our preparatory work was done we found ourselves with time to spare in a not so attractive town. We did a short bird walk in a city park. The new eBird phone app uses GPS to map and time each bird sighting. I wanted to play with it before we got to Mexico. That worked so add another check to the list of to-dos. On the technology front I also managed to add WhatsApp? to my iPhone. This is a texting app favored by all our Latin American friends from Mexico to Ecuador. I finally got on board and started texting our buddies in their preferred manner. Another check on the to-do list.

The bird walk was quick so then we headed over to the bowling alley. Normally when were siting about in a towny area we’d go to the movies but nothing showing appealed to us and the bowling alley was shiny and new. Burt and I last bowled in Helena, Montana in 2007 when my parents came to visit. It was a cool and rainy day. Bowling seemed like a good idea. It was fun for a few minutes but mom couldn’t really remember how to hold the ball. She was in the midst of her Alzheimer’s. Mom was still active but the activity had to be something she was hardwired for. Bowling wasn’t high on the list of her hobbies. Golfing was okay. So we bailed after one set of ten frames.

Today Burt and I showed signs of untapped bowling talent. Our first ten frames were a disaster. The score was 90 to 38. The next set saw such dramatic improvements you’d think we had been trying to lure in some marks the first round. That was 238 to 141. We quit mid-way through the third round because my wrist was too tired. I started dropping the ball instead of rolling it. Burt thought we could go pro by next week if we applied ourselves. I figure I’d have a psychological breakdown and should get out now.

Now we are snuggled in the gNash and ready to drive. Mimi is already back into her old routines of begging food and walking on me all night long.

Hasta pronto!

Special request delivery for Abril. I'm sharing my bed with this.
Special request delivery for Abril. I’m sharing my bed with this.
Check out that form.
Check out that form.
Happy she's home.
Happy she’s home.
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To the Mountains

Ramona explains how she makes the pottery.
Ramona explains how she makes the pottery. She uses a small stone to make a smooth finish.

Yesterday was warm and sunny and the whole fam-dam-ily took a road trip up to the remote ranchos in the mountains to look for pottery. Dad and friend in one car and Burt, Jen, and Robin in another. I bounced back and forth. I’m not sure dad enjoyed himself. He seemed a little subdued. It might have been an upset stomach or just the really rough roads through very remote desert.

Our first stop was to see Ramona. At 70 Ramona doesn’t produce much these days but her pieces are more whimsical than other local artists. There are pigs, cows, turtles, chickens and other local species transformed into jars and bowls and serving vessels. She explained to us that she was hoping for a new oven because her current one was too big for her to fill these days. She wanted to be able to fire smaller loads. Ramona uses pitaya cactus wood as her main fuel. It doesn’t take much time to form a simple cup but the finishing takes a lot of rubbing with a smooth stone over many days. She does a little bit every day until the piece is smooth and dried just right for firing. If she does too much work one day the piece will dry too quickly and crack. Ramona learned how to do this from her great-grandmother.

Next we went to the locally famous guy’s house but he wasn’t home. Marcos makes bigger and more finely crafted casseroles and bowls. You can drop a substantial amount of pesos at his house. I figured it was our lucky day to not be tempted. Our last visit was to our friends at the end of the road. We don’t even know their names but they call us friend and we’ve been many times. The main man in the photo below has never smiled for us. Until now. The ladies were all unpacking a bunch of cups and bowls for us to look over and I wondered why the man of the house wasn’t showing us his wares. This guy embodies strong, silent type. I knew he wove lariats and riatas and horse accoutrements.  Last year I bought a key chain from him. The hand of the car I call it. So this year I gathered my gumption and asked him, “And where is your work?” I got a flicker of a smile for remembering. He quickly tried to conceal it and he headed off to get his stuff for me. This year I bought a bull’s head made of pig teeth. He makes this stuff to sell down in Cabo San Lucas.

The women asked how our walk (recall the death march to Titi Mountain?) went earlier in the spring. I told them how far we made it and that we were looking for birds. I always say we are scientists studying birds because it’s easier to understand. This brought a piece or unsolicited news. The older woman and the youngest kids had seen a new bird in the area. A blue bird with a crest. I showed a picture of the very common California Scrub Jay and they said, “Noooo, not that one. That one doesn’t have a crest.” I searched for jays on my phone app and found a mainland bird, the Stellar’s Jay, dark blue with a prominent crest.  I showed them this picture and they said, “Yes, that one has been here for a couple of years. It’s new here.” Hmmmmm. We could be real scientists after all on the brink of a new discovery.  I have no doubt they know what they see. These people are living straight off the land. They pay attention. Burt and I hope to head back up in a few weeks and see for ourselves.

This is a tied piece of work made to look like a bull's head. The 'horns' are teeth from a hog. I don't remember his name. He never smiles. Except once.
This is a tied piece of work made to look like a bull’s head. The ‘horns’ are teeth from a hog. I don’t remember his name. He never smiles but he let me take this photo.
Gallinas.
Gallinas.
We found a rosy boa on the road.
We found a rosy boa on the road.
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Putting on the Bunny

Easter crowd
Easter crowd. Jesus is behind the sheet but pretend we don’t know.

With a little trepidation and much curiosity Burt and I joined Bridge friends to attend the Todos Santos Catholic Easter Service. Our buddies told us it was a very moving community event full of dancing, singing, and fireworks so we decided to give it a go. I’d heard of sunrise services but here we have sunset. Jesus is resurrected early in Mexico. All the better for the fireworks. It’s been a very long time since I attended Easter mass. I remember it all very solemn and sad. Jesus died…he suffered…Mary wept…Cut to Mexico.

The community gathered in the plaza outside the church. The church is too small for everyone and, well, you know, fireworks.  We waited under the palm trees as the sun sank into the Pacific and the sky darkened. First up was the mini-bon fire right behind our seats. A large candle was lit and the folks nearest to the candle lit their individual candles and shared the flame person to person through the crowd of over 1000 people. I teared up. Nothing beats good ritual. Next a group of young people were confirmed into their faith right next to us. The padre was a man I met in yoga. The yoga friendly priest was in charge of the whole event. He made the sign of the cross on the teenager’s foreheads. Then their parents and god parents traced over the cross with their own fingers. I don’t remember this from when I was confirmed. My confirmation name was Vanessa. The flame was carried to the front of the plaza. The procession followed. I recalled my star turn as an altar girl when I took a wrong turn carrying the crucifix and headed down a side aisle on Easter Sunday. Embarrassing. Our kid last night got it right. That wrong turn might have signaled my destiny as one who could not do what is expected.

The service proceeded in Spanish. The first reading was Genesis. Here again I was surprised. Is this faulty memory? I always remembered it as the last supper, Judas, Mary Magdalene. Heavy stuff. The origin story in Spanish was a delight to hear. God liked what he saw and he rested…From there on the readings were all about the natural world and how it sustains us. This was some seriously subversive stuff compared to my memory. The resurrection as metaphor for humanity and our survival on this planet. This yoga doing priest had my attention. For a little while. The I started burning myself with dripping wax. Right when I despaired for my clothes and skin the priest told us we could snuff our candles. There were so many readings. I grew alarmed. When was the homily, when was the communion? Oremos (let us pray) indicated it was time to stand. We sat and stood, sat and stood. This I remembered. After about seven different reading with songs and prayers interspersed the action picked up. Attendants started handing out balloons from large garbage bags and the crowd grew restive. Some people had noodles and others globos. We twittered and waved. The father admonished us to settle down. Hold your balloons still, it’s not time to party. Yet. Another song. We hummed along. The group playing music reminded me of my mother’s stint in a 7 guitar Jesus band in the seventies. Aleluya! That’s how you spell it in Spanish. Another reading. Balloons held quietly.

I have to confess (it’s that time) I missed the big reveal. I was looking at my balloon when the crowd cheered. I looked up and the sheet shrouded Jesus was in full view and lit up and the sign next to him burned bright with a fiery Aleluya! Wave your balloons and sing, sing, sing. Fireworks blasted. People cheered. We danced in our spots. This went on for fifteen minutes. The mass was not over but remembering the early exit from childhood Burt and I headed home.

What a fiesta.

The flame
The flame
The flame was passed candle to candle.
The flame was passed candle to candle.
Fireworks
Fireworks
More balloons. Now we see the balloon inspiration for that Gypsy Carpernter event a couple weeks ago.
More balloons. Now we see the balloon inspiration for that Gypsy Carpenter event a couple weeks ago. The brightly lit thing that resembles a flame in the center of this photo is the Jesus statue.
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Whirlwind Tour

Tennis Tournament
Tennis Tournament

Dad leaves tomorrow. I think if he stayed any longer Burt and I would die of exhaustion. It has been a non-stop trip full of sports, food, beach, music, and ROMANCE. Burt and I feel like we have been chaperoning a middle schooler on dates. Next time Til visits he needs his own car and a Mexican telephone. I can’t keep up with him. All his resistance about visiting Mexico is gone. The trip has exceeded his wildest expectations.

Where to begin? Til came in Tuesday night with an open mind and a degree of flexibility I have never seen. Kudos to him. We took him to music class that afternoon and he fell in love with all our smiling and energetic pupils. The kids stared at him like the Jolly Green Giant had come to life. After class we dined at one of our favorite restaurants. Next day was pickleball and an evening tennis tournament mixer. A little pinochle to pass the time during the day. Thursday  things started accelerating. More kids, more tennis, more food. A friend joined us for dinner at our favorite restaurant and the sparks were flying. Dad was smoooooooth. Who was this guy? Burt and I did our best to stay out of the way and keep the good times rolling. It’s a delicate balance. I’m not comfortable saying more beyond this: I am glad everyone is having a good time.

Friday the tennis tourney started. More food, more beach, more kids. Saturday was this epic amalgamation of over doing it: Tennis (all over the area), provide music for a party, eat too much, nap, kid’s performance at the Festival del Chile y la Fresa, dinner.  We got up early and drove all over. Played tennis, sang songs, rested and then starting at 5:30 shepherded 13 kids on an evening long odyssey to their first musical performance. Kids, teachers, fans waited 2 hours on a chilly night to be the closing act in an overly long show of local talent. Our kids were stoic. Not a single complaint was heard from the little ones. The adults were cold and hangry but the kids showed us how to be patient. They politely watched all the other acts (folk dancing) and mustered their enthusiasm when our time to shine finally arrived.  Dad and his date smilingly kept us company and provided warm clothes and drinks. At 8:00 we trotted on to the stage in our matching, misspelled t-shirts and gave the huge crowd a show. Break a Leg does not have an equivalent saying in Spanish but we did indeed break our collective legs. The Wheels on the Bus, Five Little Monkeys, Cancion Mixteca, and Love Potion Number 9 were delivered with energy and dynamic balloon accents. The balloons were a last minute addition. Burt and I were puzzled by the props but we figured all ideas were welcome.   Video footage on Facebook confirms that it was a brilliant idea. Seven and a half minutes later it was all done. The kids were each handed twenty pesos by my dad as they exited the stage. Dad wanted to bribe them in advance to sing well and I said it needed to be a post-gig surprise. It worked out well but a few kids were mystified by the money. They ran off to spend it on the rides and junk food before we could take it back. Team Mittelstadt/Zazzali grabbed a late dinner and retired at 10:00.

That night we lost an hour to daylight savings time and had 8:00 AM matches too. Ugh. I did not play well. It was a disaster. Too much driving, too much tennis, too little rest, too many people, too many days in a row. We took dad to the last tennis party and left him with his new friend. Burt and I collapsed in the trailer. That was two days ago. Yesterday was Bridge and more double dating. Right now I am finally alone with Burt. We played pickleball this AM and a round of pinochle after lunch. I might have lost all my tennis matches but I am undefeated in pinochle. Dad’s with his friend. Burt and I have the kids at 4:00. Then it’s one last evening for the new couple and at 4:00 AM we take dad to the airport.

I am so pleased my dad has had an enjoyable trip. Like I told him and his friend: Just have fun. You, too, dear readers.

Art Class arrivals
Art Class arrivals
Drawing pushes the brain
Drawing pushes the brain
Non-dominant hand exercise. Hurts the head.
Non-dominant hand exercise. Hurts the head.
Elvis at the beach
Elvis at the beach. He misses more than he catches now.
Dad, Burt, and Elvis.
Dad, Burt, and Elvis.
Teachers and fans
Teachers and fans

IMG_6716

Elvis and frisbee
Elvis and frisbee
Wheels on the bus plus balloons
Wheels on the bus plus balloons
Burt in the tennis tournament.
Burt in the tennis tournament.
Cabalgata or horse parade.
Cabalgata or horse parade.
Show time
Show time
You've heard of Brangalina? Meet Sarillo.
You’ve heard of Brangalina? Meet Sarillo.
Singing class
Singing class practicing for the show
Beach with the dogs
Beach with the dogs
La Paloma's ice cream
La Paloma’s ice cream
Day 1 Pickle Ball
Day 1 Pickle Ball
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Took a kid outside

Evely took a bunch of pictures of me.
Evely took a bunch of pictures of me.
Evely says the water is cold
Evely says the water is cold

I did something I’ve never done before. I took a kid in the woods. A real kid. By myself. Sure I’ve been in the woods with bunches of children and their parents. I’ve skied and boated and hiked with kids but there was always a real caretaker nearby. Then there’s the twenty-somethings. I’ve been out with a few of them.

Evely is one of our regular students in the art and music and English classes. She has always been kind and polite. She helps the younger kids. She never acts bored or too cool to participate. In last year’s class we had another girl her age and she was disruptive because she thought she was too old for the activities. Evely understands the younger girls follow her lead and she is all in and eager to learn. Watching 13 year old Evely show up and work hard, always with a smile on her face, gave me the idea that maybe she was ready for a side trip all her own. I decided to invite her birding with Burt and me. I told her we’d look at nature and look for birds. She said she’d like to go. I told her to get permission from her parents. It was all arranged.

Today was the day. Burt woke up sick. Enter massive anxiety for me. I have to take a child on a trip by myself? What if she gets hurt or hates it or can’t carry the stuff? Who was going to take care of us? Who would drive? Burt wouldn’t listen. He insisted I was ready. Ack ack ack. So I went alone. Me and my anxiety.

I’ll admit there wasn’t much small talk. Evely is a quiet girl and me, well, you know, I don’t have much to say most days. The car ride was very quiet. Evely texted. I fretted. Maybe she just wanted to get away from her parents and play with her phone? Once we arrived at Las Palmas I realized I had picked the right kid. I showed her how to use the binoculars. We found some lesser goldfinches and practiced looking for them as they flitted in and out of a bush. Evely described the birds to me. We found a lizard. We focised on things near and far. The phone was gone and the binos were glued to her eyes. It was time to explore.

Right away we spotted a sweet Verdin. These yellow faced birds are the definition of darling. With binos to eyes Evely exclaimed, “Que hermoso pajaro!” I asked if she wanted to take a picture and gave her complete control of my telephoto equipped real life camera. And that was the end of my worrying about entertaining my companion. The next two hours she took photos while we found birds and horses and a dead raccoon. The dead raccoon sealed the deal. Without saying a word she started photographing while I put its head back together. As is typical, the lower jam was found apart from the head. She was not disgusted one bit as I ripped away the tattered mass of fur. My kinda girl!

After it was all over I thanked her for her fine companionship and told her we’d head out again soon. I believe, almost as much as I believe anything, that if people don’t appreciate the natural world our planet is doomed. I have hope.

Me by Evly Cota
Me by Evly Cota
Calavera Mapache by Evely Cota
Calavera Mapache by Evely Cota
Horses by Evely Cota
Horses by Evely Cota
Verdin by Evely Cota
Verdin by Evely Cota
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