Wednesday, December 31, 2014

IV. Lo Que Pienso a las Tres de la Mañana

“It’s colder than a penguin’s penis” out there by the beach at the edge of the waves coming down from Admiralty Inlet and across a frigid Puget Sound. Or at least that’s the way my lingually adventurous spouse would put it. 

I saw a gull picking at some detritus on the shore, and when I approached discovered it was a good-sized fish, an orange roughy I believe it’s called. That’s a fun name. Evocative. You might imagine a renegade artist or member of a Scottish biker gang.

There was a rosy sunset view, this evening, over Mount Baker’s broad and snowy-white southern flank.  

I’ve grown so accustomed to this place, up here in the corner of the country, just below Canada--lived around here for over forty years. This move we’re planning to Mexico will be the longest time I’ve ever spent—during all that period—away from the tall, dripping green firs and ferns, rocky coastline, and mountains. 

Center right: the pier at Playa de los Muertos. That's where we'll load onto
a water taxi--tomorrow-- for a 45 minute ride from Puerto Vallarta to the
little fishing village, Yelapa, where we'll relax for a month. 

Tomorrow at this time, that beach I’ll be walking on will be called a playa. We’ll be in a little village in Mexico, and, instead of shivering, our skin will be opening to weather that will be un poco calor, pero muy amable.

Such a sea change, in such a short time.

It’s been six months since we last came home from Mexico back to the Pacific Northwest. My first impression upon return was how sedate life here seemed, how far apart everything was—houses, buildings, cars, people. How few people were about, and the ones that were, seemed to be either in cars or scurrying down an incredibly wide and almost empty sidewalk. 

And that was in the summer. On a freezing day like today everyone holds their coats around them like armor against the cold. Once you come home, after you turn up the heat, all you want to do is stay home. 

Some time in the next week or two, if recent history is a guide, I will be out with Ronco in his little fiberglass outboard, hugging the palm-covered shoreline, bobbing in the Pacific swells as we troll for bonitas. 

And, in exactly a month, we’ll still be in that pueblo, but on the eve of departing for the lakeside village in the Central Highlands where we plan to move. We’ll spend a week there, talking to rental agents, and viewing some casas, searching for ones we fancy. 

Wouldn’t you know it though? I’ve begun feeling nostalgic, already, for this place I've called home for so many years. 

What’s familiar can sure get comfortable. And we have good neighbors here—The Young Man, Joyce, and The Little Family plus one. Full-tilt Joe, even Casanova. Gym Bob, friends from work. Not to mention the sweet daughters. Or water you can drink from the tap; toilets down which you can flush the paper…Maybe sedate and complacent don’t necessarily have to go together…

Anyway, that’s the flavor of the thoughts I’ve been having lately when I awaken at three in the morning and contemplate this extended vacation, let alone our year-long (at the least) move.

Monday, December 1, 2014

III. Ubicación, Ubicación, Ubicación!

Location, location, location! That's what's been driving our search for a place to live in Ajijic. But other than that familiar mantra, house hunting there is not the same.

A shady street scene in Ajijic with its narrow sidewalks,
streets, and attached walls and casas.
The dwellings in Mexican villages we’re familiar with are vastly different from those that are most common stateside. House fronts, or walls, are connected more or less continuously—a solid stucco/brick facade that runs along and right next to a narrow sidewalk, and almost equally narrow cobblestone street. Ownership is often only differentiated by the color and pattern of paint on the wall. 

Contrast this to our little town of Edmonds, Washington, with its individual houses set back from the street, separated by a lawn, and often a shrubbery border, from neighbors.

Entrance to Casa de Masks
Although much closer together, Mexican homes have more visual privacy—only a small curtained and barred window looks directly into a room from the sidewalk, or wrought iron gate gives view to a walled courtyard. Household security is much more obvious in Mexico than the US—bars or grillwork on windows or in front of doors, and often there is embedded broken glass, or even concertina razor wire on the top of walls. 

Generally speaking, in our experience: rather than lawn there are tiles; rather than flower beds, there are pots; rather than a yard surrounding the house, there might be a small high-walled courtyard just in front. A sense of the outdoors is also gained through interior courtyards, atriums or rooftop patios called miradors.

Yellow Casa de Arbol, opposite tree,
with its covered mirador on top
The casa we’re checking out in a couple of months is called Casa de Arbol. Arbol means “tree”, and there’s an old landmark tree growing right across the narrow street. The house is also narrow, and attached to its neighbors, like row houses in some large US cities.

There is a stairway winding up to the covered rooftop mirador from just outside the sitting area at the back of the second story bedroom. I’m thinking that in addition to the views of the lake, cathedral and mountains, this would be a great place for morning exercises, perhaps followed by a short stroll to the lake and run along the malecón

Bird of Paradise, on location at LCS
Directly across the street from Casa de Arbol is the outdoor cafe, gardens, and library of the Lake Chapala Society. That’s where my studious wife plans to continue her Spanish lessons. This will also be a good place to become familiar with the local ex-pat group and its resources, as well as a connection to community volunteer work. 

Restaurants, cafes and bars abound, all around, and Casa de Arbol is almost equidistant between the weekly tianguis, or street market, near the school, and the tiendas and many Saturday vendors all around the main plaza.

Ubicación, ubicación, ubicación!