Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mexican Road Trip

Tomorrow morning Ibis and I are leaving on a road trip to Ciudad Juarez. Remember that immigration interview we've been waiting for and figured would be sometime next summer or early fall? It's next week! We received an email from our lawyer while my parents were in town telling us that the interview is scheduled for March 5th.

We've been busy the past two weeks getting things in order with our lawyer and getting ourselves mentally prepared. At first we thought we'd find out whether or not Ibis will be granted his visa while we're there, but he'll have to go back in mid-April for a second appointment. Then we will know. I was really disappointed when I found out we couldn't do it all at once but this is still much sooner than we ever expected.

We figure it'll take about three days to get to Juarez but are allowing for car troubles by leaving on Thursday. We do have to make a detour in Lazaro Cardenes to update our license plates. Figures they're expiring while we'll be driving all over the country. We'll be in Juarez Sunday night through Thursday morning then plan to take a longer time driving home. Since arriving last year we've wanted to explore the country but haven't found the time. If we're allowed to return to the States this might be the only chance we'll have for many years, so we're taking the long way back.

The three main places we'd like to visit are Mazatlan, Guadalajara and Manzanillo. There are other smaller towns along the way that we plan to check out as well (Duragno and Colima stand out). We'll probably stay one night in Chihuahua and Aguascalientes, two cities whose names have always cracked me up. I'm looking forward to adding those to my list of places I've been.

I'd love to do some kind of tracker thing to let you know where we are, a la Santa Claus, but I'm not that high-tech. We'll have an internet connection in Juarez but the other times will be hit or miss. I don't plan to update here until Monday.

Here's a map showing our approximate route. The yellow is on our way there and the green is our scenic route home.

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Take It Back!

I really need to stop complaining when nothing blog-worthy happens.

Today started like a normal day: I drove Ibis to work then ran a few errands before a doctor's appointment. She's normally an hour late but today it was even longer before she arrived, so I was there almost two hours. They give very individualized attention here so at least you get your money's worth.

I ran into a friend afterwards then when I got back to my car, realized my front license plate was gone. We're in the middle of trying to renew our plates in another state and this is the last thing we need right now. I raced home to call Ibis, who promptly told me to go to the police station to report the theft. As we were talking I started wondering if the missing plate had anything to do with the parking ticket I received yesterday so he asked his boss and sure enough, they take your plate to ensure you pay the fine.

We're going on a week-long road trip starting Thursday (I'll tell you all about it tomorrow) so we really need that plate back today. There wasn't an amount on the ticket so Ibis told me to take 500 pesos along and hope for the best. Before leaving I called an American friend who's been here for years to get her take on things. She told me to ask for the director and explain what happened and they should reduce the fine. Seems simple enough, right?

Just one tiny detail. Like most people I've grown up with a fear of the Mexican police. As a tourist I knew they treat even petty crimes more seriously than back in the US and I've gone through my adult life doing my best to avoid such places. There's a large police presence here in Zihua so I knew right where to go, but that didn't make my nerves any calmer. Oh yeah, and I was supposed to sweet-talk the director de transito in Spanish. Ha.

Just as I was getting ready to leave, the house started shaking. At first I thought it was my imagination but the pots banging in the kitchen told me otherwise: EARTHQUAKE! It only lasted about five seconds and I didn't hear any reactions from the neighbors so I'm assuming it was very small. I most likely only felt it because we're on the fourth floor. I stood in a doorway long enough to determine that nothing else was happening (because I'm a seismologist now) then left to pay off la policia.

I did just what my neighbor told me: I asked for the Departamento de Transito, then asked for the director. Once in his office I explained that I park in that spot all the time and never saw a No Parking sign or received a ticket so the sign must be new. I assured him I wouldn't park there again (at least I think that's what I said) then I waited for him to speak.

He told me the fine was normally 150 pesos but he'd reduce it to 100 pesos for me. Gracias! I had to go through two more people to pay and then get my plate, then I was on my way.

The police station was nicer than I expected, although I was in the transit department. It was air conditioned, there were benches and lots of officers sitting around. Overall, not a bad experience but I'll be happy if I never have to return.

Monday, February 25, 2008

One of Those Days

I have nothing to write about. My apologies. I've spent all day online yet can't think of anything worthwhile to share. I'm hoping to get a little writing in before I head out in a couple hours - I've frozen up in fear of writing crap but we all know that's crazy because it doesn't matter. I just need to write!

Perhaps I should re-read some of my old posts, eh?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

I *heart* the Internet

I've said this before and I'm sure I'll say it again: I love the internet. There's a section in my book where I talk about having outbursts where I declare my love for the magic in the cables. I joked that I have hundreds of reasons why I love it, and today I have one more.

Reason #754 Why I Love the Internet:

I filed my taxes. :D Not only did I file them, I was able to read instructions with nothing more than a click of a window, find bank information (unfortunately money's going both ways this year) and call my mom in the middle of all that to get some input.

AND, my refund will be directly deposited within 7-10 business days. I realize this is not breaking news. I've been filing online for years and I used the phone option before that. But with all the turmoil the past year I was more than a little concerned that my taxes might be more difficult than previous years.

We've got a lot to do in the upcoming week (more about that later) so it's nice to have this checked off the list.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Taxi Driver

I've added a new title to my ever-expanding resume: airport shuttle. One of the guests at Ibis' hotel has a friend arriving today and my services were offered for this afternoon. I didn't have much else planned besides attempting to file my taxes, so it'll be break up my day nicely. Assuming the plane is on time.

I'm to pick her up in twenty minutes then we'll head out of town to the airport. It's only ten minutes from downtown Zihua and there's rarely much traffic. Ibis needs the car for later today so after I drop them off I'll get a little exercise walking home. Can't beat sunny and 80 degrees on a Saturday afternoon. I'm bringing a book in case I decide to hang out downtown near the water or have a piña colada.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Cooking in a Foreign Country

I think by now I've established that I'm not the world's greatest cook. I can prepare a meal that's both nourishing and delicious, at least to my non-Mexican taste buds, and I've become more comfortable improvising recipes over the past year. This is especially important when following an American cookbook.

I registered for several cookbooks when we were married and among my favorites is Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats. She takes a recipe then changes up main ingredients so you learn to mix and match things on your own. This is very helpful for those of us who spent more time in restaurants and the frozen food aisle than the kitchen.

I've had to take that knowledge and step it up a notch since moving to Mexico. While the basics are more or less the same, there's always one thing that I just cannot find at the market. We've made alioli sauce with lime instead of lemon (tastes the same) and our experiment with Thai food resulted in a pink curry that thankfully still tasted all right.

The recipe I've chosen for today is Pork Chops in a Sweet Chili and Onion Sauce with Garlic Mashed Potatoes. Right there I've already made a change. Ms. Ray calls for Creamy Cilantro Potato Salad but I'd much rather have mashed. I'm keeping the cilantro so there's some green on the plate. I'm skipping the ingredients I don't like or didn't feel like buying for this one dish (celery and black pepper) and regular Idaho potatoes will stand in for russet.

The ingredient that's stirring the pot? Dark brown sugar.

This is essential. You can't have sweet chili and onion sauce without the sugar! The only form I found in the store is Splenda Brown Sugar. My husband won't touch regular Splenda so I doubt he'd appreciate me cooking with it. Plus it was expensive. We searched the market this morning but no one sells it loose; you have to buy a gigantic bag. As this is the first time I've needed brown sugar in almost a year it would end up shoved in the back of the cupboard and serve as additional bait for the ants.

Finally Ibis told me what to use. "That." he said, pointing at a solid cone that looked vaguely like chocolate, but more of a caramel color. It's four inches tall and the base is an inch in diameter. Reminds me of a giant pencil tip.

"Isn't that chocolate?" I asked.

He confirmed with the cashier and reassured me that it's the closest thing to brown sugar they have. It cost all of 3 pesos (that's about a third of a cent) so I tossed it in the bag with the rest of our groceries.

Now, do you see the problem? Have you guessed what I'll be doing after I finish this post? Yes, I'll be grinding, grating and chopping the solid hunk of sugar so it acts like it's supposed to when I throw it in the sauce. I suppose this makes me a better person or something like that, but I sometimes can't believe I've become a woman who spends over an hour preparing a meal.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Can we discuss elbows for a moment? I understand their importance. Without them we'd have three-foot long, unbending appendages sticking our from our shoulders. Eating (among other things) would be much more difficult. Typing would require binoculars because we'd have to sit much further away from the monitor. Standard font sizes would have to be bigger. The mouse might be finger operated.

I could do this all day.

My complaint with my elbows is lately they seem obsessed with rushing up and greeting every pointy, sharp or really hard surface that I encounter. I've hit my funny bone at least three times in the past week. This morning I cracked one elbow on the corner of the medicine cabinet mirror, then an hour later drilled the other into the edge of the washing machine.

This wouldn't be such a big deal if I didn't already have two chipped elbows. Not like chipped-beef, that's just gross. Mine still look whole but each has a small bit of bone where it shouldn't be. The first incident occurred during my first game of roller hockey. I hadn't figured out how to stop without that annoying pencil eraser brake on the back and slammed into a man much larger than me. My torso remained where it was but my legs shot out from under me and I landed on my hip, knee and elbow. I was wearing knee pads and my hips have natural padding, but my elbow didn't fare very well. (I fell down a flight of hard-wood stairs a couple days later, fortunately my elbow wasn't hurt worse.)

The second happened couple years later in the shower. Nothing exciting; I brought my arm down on the windowsill and it's never been the same since. And before you ask, I know. Why was there a window in the shower? I think it was the developers' way of increasing natural lighting. Whatever.

The only time the chipped elbows bother me is when I try to lean on anything. Countertops, bars, tables... that sort of thing. And when I run into pointy, sharp and really hard objects.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Creatures in the Attic

No, we don't have an attic but I thought that'd get your attention. The workmen are on the roof and they're FINALLY finishing it! We've lived here since the beginning of June and watched as they slowly finished the two buildings and the parking lot. They look to be almost done, yet the roof of our building looks the same as it did the day we arrived.

There's a railing on two sides but nothing but open air on the larger stretches. The staircase is especially treacherous: when you're on the roof and head towards the stairs you face two openings. One has stairs beneath it and the other has the bottom of the staircase. We've pushed loose tiles and boards in front of the non-stairs but they only serve as a visual warning; they'd do nothing to prevent a fall.

Around Christmas there was news that an American tourist plunged to his death while touring a condo/time-share development. He and his wife were with an agent touring the building and he fell off the roof. The un-railinged roof. (I know that's not a word but you know what I mean). Our developers hosted a holiday party within a couple days of the accident and we jumped on the opportunity to pressure them to finish our building, pointing out how bad it'd be for business if someone died on his property.

Our biggest complaint was the workers spent more time on the unoccupied building than the one that is full. Sure, there isn't much to do on the roof but you can see the ocean from there and we sometimes go up to watch the stars. One night we even watched a meteor shower and that was especially scary groping our way down in the dark. The developers promised they'd finish the roof as soon as they had more money. That's pretty typical of Mexican construction projects so while we were frustrated, we weren't surprised.

Well, last week, through a series of events, we paid off what we owed on our condo and yesterday they went to work on the roof! I haven't been up there but from my doorway I can see they've already put a wall around the staircase. They've been banging and making all sorts of noise so I expect it'll be completed very soon. Hooray!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Dog Fights: Mexican Style

I just got back from the beach where I had to stop myself from saying something I never thought would pass my lips: Does this dog have an owner or can I kick her in the belly?

Let's backtrack.

My girlfriend and I planned an afternoon at Playa La Ropa with a few other friends, and she brought her Chihuahua, Coco. She's typical of her breed: curious about everything that's going on but very skittish if you pay her too much attention.

We were settling into our chaise lounges when I noticed a larger dog sleeping nearby. It didn't seem too interested in us so my friend poured water in a dish (well, a clean ashtray she brought along) for her pup. Just as I sat down the other dog stood up and walked directly to the water. I thought she was thirsty and would stop there but she stepped over the dish, her gaze intent on one thing: Coco.

We both leapt at the dog as Coco scurried around the chairs. The dog wasn't huge but she had at least forty pounds on the quivering Chihuahua. And we didn't seem to faze her. I managed to pin her against an occupied chaise as she darted after Coco, but I was afraid to struggle with her in case she turned on me.

She broke free and circled the chairs again, hunting for her prey. As I searched for Coco beneath the chairs my friend caught the other dog. I ran to Coco, now standing farther away from us, and called to her. She remained frozen in place.

"Will she even let me pick her up?" I asked. She'll let me pet her if I've been sitting still for awhile but I doubted she'd trust me right then. She might even try to bite me.

I caught my friend's eye and we realized we were backwards: I needed to be holding the stray so she could rescue her dog. I backed off Coco and inched towards the larger dog. That's when the earlier comment flashed through my mind. Another friend had told me a story of a pit bull attacking her dog while they were out for a walk. She was forced to kick it in the head, numerous times, to make it stop, all while holding her terrified, 40-pound dog. No one had come forward to claim ownership so I assumed we were on our own. I'd really rather not have to kick a dog but if it means saving another from possibly being killed, I'll do what I have to do.

In the end I yelled "Sacase" which is close to what they yell at strays to go away here. The dog strolled away as if nothing had happened and found a shady spot further down the beach. Coco was saved and spent the rest of the afternoon curled up in a chair.

Monday, February 18, 2008

100th Post

I had good intentions yesterday when I promised something good for today. Great intentions. Problem is I haven't been able to think of anything 100th post worthy. Typically my ideas come from something that's happened during the day or something just pops into my head.

I'm still very excited about the car and even drove it for the first time today, but that's not very exciting to you anymore. My migraine is gone but they usually do go away, so nothing to write home about, lol.

While catching up on my mending I tried to find a correlation between the steady, forward motion of the thread and life in general. How we may stray off course now and then but in the grand scheme of things we'll still end up where we're destined to be. You patch up the hole and keep weaving.

That didn't really jump out at me either, so I've decided to take this moment to look back at where I am with my writing.

I finished my first draft, conclusion and everything, and sent it out to a couple friends. Last I checked they're at about the same point so I'm trying to contain myself until they get further. Their thoughts mean a lot to me and I can't wait to incorporate their suggestions. When I sent it out I told myself I wouldn't touch it until it's returned to me. It's been tough, and some better ideas have floated around, but I'm finally reaching that point where I feel detached from my work. This is important if I ever want to look at it with my own critical eye.

I started my next project the week before my parents arrived but haven't gone back to it yet. I'm getting hung up on technicalities and it's starting to piss me off. I have a new journal I'd decided to use for this project but when the ideas first came I wrote them in my everyday journal. My plan is to copy those couple pages into the new book and really get started.

Sounds fun, right? That's why I haven't done it yet. I've caught up with some other mundane things around the house so I'm almost out of excuses. Plus, by rewriting what I already have it should spark some more ideas. It's a different format for me so this is all new territory.

Here's to hoping the next 100 posts will find me with that MS out with friends.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Migraine Day

It seems like just yesterday that I had a migraine. Well, it was yesterday but the full effects didn't hit till later in the day. Then I woke up every hour overnight, yay.

Once again I've got a drill bit stuck inside my right ear. The neighbors are keeping up their end of the deal by blasting music and operating heavy machinery. I've managed to get a few things done around the house but sitting at the computer for any length of time just isn't going to happen.

This is post #99 so I'll try to think of something good for tomorrow. Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Car AND Karaoke

Yesterday a friend came over and when we were getting ready to walk downtown, Ibis said something magical.

"Do you want a ride?"

The car works! The AC is still all wonky but sitting on cushy leather beats walking through dusty streets any day of the week.

We spent the evening with separate friends but met up in time for him to drive us all back to my friend's beautiful home in the hills. We only planned to stay a few minutes - long enough for Ibis to get a tour - but then someone said my other magical word: Karaoke.

An hour later I was belting out a deeply profound song that really moved the crowd (Avril Lavinge's Girlfriend) when I was told the karaoke was getting old and it was time to put on some real music. Emphasis not mine.

"Just one more!" I exclaimed. They have several karaoke cds and I was overwhelmed with the selection. My last brush with onscreen lyrics was in Spanish, and the time before that I was under pressure in Rock Star. Last night everyone was sitting on the patio just beyond my field of vision, so I could pretend I was in my recording studio without an audience.

I found a song I like and called Ibis in for our last duet. Justin Timberlake's What Goes Around. Poor Britney. Anyway, we did our thing and finally put our hosts out of their misery. Hopefully they'll invite us back before next year, although I'm sure the karaoke machine will be mysteriously broken when we return.

Friday, February 15, 2008

We Almost Have Wheels

Last week we had a new alternator put in our car. We charged the battery and let it run for close to half an hour. Then we let it sit there. After my parents left Ibis went to start her up and she was dead again.

Today the mechanic came back out and promises it's good again, but we'll see. I've gotten so used to walking everywhere the idea of actually driving seems a little foreign. Ironic since everything here is foreign.

Anyway, tonight I'm going out for the first time without my husband! I know I shouldn't sound so excited but it's been almost a year. He might meet up with us later but either way I'm happy to have something resembling a social life.

Have a great day!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Se Habla Español

I've mentioned before that my Spanish is slowly improving. Strange that the more you go out and interact with people, the more you speak the language. Since I first arrived almost a year ago I've understood more than I speak. Entiendo mas que hablo, as I seem to say on almost a daily basis.

Several times in the past couple weeks locals have stopped me, surprised by how well I speak. Just yesterday the guy behind the counter where I bought bread and yogurt said he thought I was just another guera, but that I speak very well. I answered that I'm from Chicago but live here with my husband. Soy de Chicago pero vivo aqui con mi esposo.

Now, I say that particular phrase A LOT so it rolls off my tongue rather quickly, further impressing whomever it is I'm speaking with. I have several "canned" phrases that I use quite frequently and I'm sure that helps add to the effect. That's fine with me, I enjoy being treated like a local.

That being said, every now and then I encounter someone that I just cannot understand. Through no fault of their own; they speak very clearly and I hear the words they're saying, but I can't get the meaning. The day my mother lost her wallet there was a man hellbent on getting me to understand something and all I could think was, "Why does he keep talking about the highway? Her wallet's not on the highway."

My problem?

carretera = highway
cartera = wallet

Because I can rattle off a few words I fell into the trap common with people trying to speak a second language: I was too convincing.

I smiled and said , implying I understood, then ran off to tell Ibis about the crazy man telling me to look for the wallet on the highway.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Page 123

Janna has tagged me again. I still have another tag floating around in my comments from last week but I'm not sure if I'll make it there.

This meme instructs me to do the following:

1) Pick up the book nearest you
2) Open to page 123
3) Find the 5th sentence
4) Post the following 3 sentences
5) Tag five others

My bookshelf is on the wall four inches above my computer (I think you can see it in the iMac post) so I have plenty to choose from. Because I think this meme is fun, I'm going to do the first book that caught my eye AND the book I'm reading (but is in the other room).

The first book I saw (because it's hot pink):
Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats; A Year of Deliciously Different Dinners

Page 123 (from the recipe for Steaks with Two Tapenades, Arugula Salad, and Crusty Bread):

"Drizzle the steaks with EVOO and season with salt and pepper on both sides. When the skillet is screaming hot, cook the steaks for 2 minutes on each side for rare, 3 on each side for medium rare, 4 minutes on each side for medium to medium well. Let the meat stand for 5 to 10 minutes for the juices to redistribute in the meat."

Now for the book I'm reading, The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards.

Page 123:

Ahh! Page 123 is blank! I kid you not, it's the start of a new section. I'll use page 125 instead.

"Don't worry," Miss Throckmorton replied. "We'll take good care of him."

Miss Throckmorton was young, just out of school, dark-haired and wiry and enthusiastic.

I must comment about those three sentences. Miss Throckmorton is not mentioned again in the book and I paused at her name when I first read it. I wondered about the author and how she came up with that name. My thought is she must know someone with a similar name or have some interesting way in which she came up with it, because it's just so odd. I puzzled over it for a few minutes, never imagining I'd end up typing it three times*.

I also noticed the structure of the third sentence. I'm not a fan of multiple "ands' within a sentence, I'd much rather use commas. That's just me and my style, but that also gave me pause. How strange that those three sentences were the ones randomly chosen by an online meme.


That's all for now. How many of you are planning on steak for dinner?

*now four times because I just had to add it in my tags.

Oh, and EVOO is extra-virgin olive oil.

Ack! I forgot to tag people. Let's see... I'm just going to tag Jenna because she's reading Stephen King's On Writing and I know she wants to post more. :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Two Second Post

I'm heading out the door to hang out with a friend at her pool (I have a friend!) and wasn't going to post till tonight, but then it occurred to me someone might think I was in that earthquake.

Nope. All is well here. Still sunny and beautiful. :)

Hasta mañana.

Monday, February 11, 2008

How to Dismantle an iMac

Look, look, look! I cracked open my computer all by myself! The link I posted yesterday was dead on and it only took me five minutes to open it up, switch out the ram, and put her back together. I'm not sure if it's just my imagination, but my computer seems to be racing me. I swear the words are coming out faster than I'm typing, or I could just be excited.

Dismantled Mac

After upgrading the ram I installed Adobe's Creative Suite. I feel like I just went on a huge shopping spree with all these new toys! Too bad none of the goodies include writing software. I'll have to stick to my old techniques for the time being.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

This Day is a Bust

After the busy week with my parents I planned to get a few things done on my computer, do a little (well, a lot of) laundry, and not leave the house. First I discovered that Ibis' toolbag is at the hotel so I couldn't install the new ram in my computer. Then, ten minutes after Ibis left for work he called because he left the office key in his pants pocket. The pants he wore yesterday and had left on a chair in our bedroom.

I walked the mile-plus trek to his hotel and hung out a little before heading home, screwdrivers in hand. If I've ever been self-conscious about the locals staring at me as I walk down the street, holding a couple screwdrivers only increased their curiosity tremendously. At least I didn't look like a tourist. I hadn't had breakfast or lunch yet so I picked up a roasted chicken and tortillas.

After eating and switching the laundry I flipped over my computer, ready to release my inner techie and upgrade my computer. One problem: the panel won't come off. The directions I printed from Apple's website are very easy to follow but my model appears to be older than the one in the picture. There must be some secret trick because these screws turn a few times one direction, then a few times the other, without ever loosening from the panel. I've never seen anything like it. AND, it doesn't look like the panel will come off even if I manage to remove the screws. Hopefully Apple has a solution for this.

I need to catch up with my emails and do some work on a freelance project and THEN I can get back to my relaxing afternoon, just in time for bed.

UPDATE: I found a site with very good instructions! Yay!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Thai Take-Out Would Be Lovely

My parents are packing up their bags and getting ready to head home where it's currently hovering around 10 degrees and snowy. Poor things. We've had quite a week and all of us are exhausted, but they've loved the warm weather.

Last night we went on a sunset cruise aboard a catamaran then had a late dinner in town. We've eaten out for most of our meals and I'm getting a little tired of Mexican food. Yes, I realize I'm in Mexico and that's the most common food available, but we don't eat out much and tend to cook our own meals.

There is a variety of restaurants in the area but only a few are worth the money. We've yet to venture into the local Chinese place, although I've heard decent things about the one sushi joint. In Chicago we ate Thai at least once a week and peanut sauce lovers with a side of curry sounds wonderful right about now.

We still have one meal left before they head to the airport so maybe I'll ask them to whip up an extra-large order of pad thai. Wish me luck with that. ;)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Butterflies, the Sierra Madres and a Running Man

Phew! Sorry for the delay but I was worn out from our two-day trip to Morelia. We left early Tuesday morning and stopped in a few small towns on the way to the city. Morelia is the capital of Michoacan and roughly four hours from Zihua. We stayed in a hotel right on the historic plaza and spent the afternoon touring the city. We had dinner with Ibis' aunt then watched the results from Super Duper Tuesday before bed.

There have been several times in my life when I've stumbled upon new technology in an unexpected place. The first time I saw a self check-out line at the grocery store in Lexington, Kentucky, and now I've seen some high-tech crosswalk signs in Mexico. Chicago has lights that count down how many seconds you have left to hustle across the street before you get mowed down by oncoming traffic, but Morelia goes one step further. Their signs have the typical white walking man but he's animated and he runs faster and faster as the time gets closer to zero. By the time you get to zero you better be sprinting.

Wednesday morning we left early for the three-hour drive to El Rosario, one of four national butterfly sanctuaries. Butterflies, you say? Yeah, so did I but my mom really wanted to see them (something about a book called 1001 Things to Do Before You Die - this is one of them) and Ibis had always wanted to go, too. I was more excited for the hike. My dad opted out due to conflictions with the elevation and his lungs, so he waited in one of the restaurants down below. Morelia is roughly 6000 feet above sea level and the highest point of the hike was close to 10,000 feet above sea level. The hike itself took over an hour and my heart was racing from the elevation - fortunately they sell bamboo walking sticks so I didn't topple over. I've gotten used to small children selling things everywhere you turn but they had a new gimmick high in the mountains - they sing! Three children no older than five years old ran alongside us for several hundred feet, singing in hopes of a tip.

The butterflies themselves were much more impressive than I expected. Millions cover the trees and fill the air. You had to watch your step because they were everywhere - we were on their turf, after all - and several flew right into my head. I've heard people have been so moved by the experience that they weep; we didn't cry but it was worth the trip. We weeped a little when my mom lost her wallet, but that's another story.

By 3pm we were ready to head home with only the Sierra Madres standing between us and Zihua. One thing you may not know about me is I tend to get carsick, so mountain driving while riding in the backseat is not my idea of a good time. My beloved husband claims he gets sicker than me so he bumped my mother to the back with me. We stopped every couple hours to eat and gas up; Mexico only has one gas company, Pemex, and their bathrooms are usually very clean, so at least that part of the trip wasn't too bad.

We had dinner in Huetamo, the city where Ibis was born, then settled in for the last four hours of the drive. The two-lane road twists through the Sierra Madres, each turn offering a new surprise. We saw dogs, cats, rabbits, skunks, two bobcats (one alive, one dead), horses, cows and many burros, all startled by the bright lights when we burst around a bend. There are no street lights and the road has no shoulders, so the ride was anything but smooth. I was nauseous for most of the ride and spent a good 45 minutes hoping for a driveway or something where we could pull over. Finally, a small town with a bus stop and the entire car piled out to watch me throw up. Gotta love a supportive family.

We made it home at close to 3am, nearly 1000 kilometers under our belt. Yesterday was very quiet and today we're going to the beach for the afternoon. We have a sunset cruise tonight, then they leave tomorrow.

Oh! And we've settled on a Christmas present: they're buying us a front door with bars so I can keep the door open and still be safe. That might be my sweetest present yet.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Quick Update

My parents arrived safe and sound and we just returned from our second day at the beach. Tomorrow we head to Morelia for a couple days so I won't be posting again till Thursday at the earliest.

Have a great mid-week!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

I Don't Mean to Whine...

But it's really hard to clean your house from top to bottom in preparation for your parents' arrival when there's no water. I've been doing little things all week - organizing and hiding our junk - and figured I'd do all the hard core cleaning today. That way everything would still be sparkling for them.

Well, it's almost 2pm and I'm still in the same clothes I wore on my 7:30am run. I've done everything but mop and clean the kitchen and bathroom so basically I'm covered in two inches of dirt that's slowly hardening into my pores. I know mud packs are supposed to be very cleansing but I don't think the bits of cement and dead bugs are doing much for my complexion.

I'm sure my parents will overlook a sinkfull of dirty dishes and a less than clean floor but I dread welcoming them in after their flight and offering a bucket bath. I've learned to adapt but I don't want to inflict that upon them, at least not on their first night. Lucky for me they're somewhere over Oklahoma at the moment and have no idea the surprise in store for them this evening.

For reasons that I still don't understand there's water in the other building of our development. A long hose stretches from the roof so the workers can use water throughout the day. When our water vanishes we fill buckets from that hose, then haul them up four flights of stairs. I've gone through two so far - one that Ibis brought up before he left for work and one that I got myself. I'm not as adept as he is (it's kind of complicated) and sprayed water all over myself in the process. Instead of cooling me off, the water mixed with the dirt all over my legs and feet and made a mudpack.

That mud is now all over my floor. *sigh*

So anyway, that's how my day's gone so far. I'm hearing a trickle from the kitchen which proves a theory I've pondered since I've had this blog. Seems that every time I write about not having water it returns as soon as I'm about to hit "Publish Post". My parents aren't due for another five hours - just enough time to scrub the grime off me and the floor.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Back on Track

My funk has finally lifted and I'm feeling much better. I'm sure it has a lot to do with my parents' arrival tomorrow, but I've also taken a big step with my book. Big step for me, anyways. I've been stuck on what to do with a couple chapters because everyone says you shouldn't have too much backstory, but how do you determine what's essential and what's not when you're writing about yourself? To me it ALL seems like backstory.

As I've debated this over the past couple weeks I've also been freaking out because a newer friend has offered to critique my book. I don't know him well but from what I've heard he does a wonderful - and fair - job so I was very excited that he agreed to help. Oh yeah, and he's a HE. Eek! I know I need to get over any insecurities I have about what I've written, but it's different when it's a novel. This is ME! And now he's really going to get to know me.

My plan was to send him my manuscript when my parents arrived so I wouldn't be tempted to work on it while he has it. Another reader still has it, too, and I don't want to make a lot of changes while they're helping me. So, now that I've sent it off I feel an incredible amount of relief. I can stop editing and move on to the next thing.

I mentioned several weeks ago that I came up with an idea for my next book and while it's been bouncing around in my head I've struggled to actually get anything down on paper. I wrote an opening scene when the idea first came to me but beyond that I've been stuck. Well wouldn't you know it but the minute I clicked send and wiped the sweat from my back, the ideas started flowing. I wrote nearly 1000 words within minutes of sending the email.

I've marveled at other writers who say the story just streams out of them, that it writes itself and they are merely the mechanism bringing it to life. I felt a little of that while writing my memoir but since I was writing about things that have happened to me it didn't really seem very mysterious that the ideas came from me. Right? Well last night I got it. Characters plucked themselves out of thin air, dialogue formed before I realized it and I even managed to describe the setting. Hmm.

At the moment I've only written by hand and I think I might stick with that for now. My keyboard is losing its fight with the humidity and I spend as much time backspacing as I do typing, plus my friend gave me an awesome journal for Christmas that's just begging to be filled with a new story.