Saturday, November 28, 2009

From Redding CA to Stone Island MX


As I am writing this I can hear the distant sound of a ship coming in, the sound is faint as it is almost drowned out by the sounds of the Island roosters. It’s 4:59 am and I am sipping coffee and waiting for the Island to wake up. It was a long journey.

We left Redding CA at 6 am on Tuesday, (It was time to leave I was starting to talk funny) the van was loaded as high as we could without losing visibility and staying within the manufacturers suggested weight limit, that also included 2 Yorkies and one recued Island beach dog. The drive through central valley California was incredible. It’s known as the “bread basket” of America and I can see why. Acres and acres of fruit orchards like orange, lemon and apple rolling along the highway. You see commercial crops like lettuce, beets, corn and rice. Rice surprised me; I had not expected to see rice. Working in these fields (from what I could see) were Mexicans, whether they were national Mexicans or immigrated I am not sure. The housing as also very interesting, not a lot of upscale housing, mostly old old homes and old run down mobile homes, homes that would have long ago been condemned where I am from. Sometimes in the middle of a tumble weed field you would see a little trailer that looked like it had just not been able to go any further and they had just set up camp and years later are still there. This of course is possible because of weather, no worries of freezing.

(*P3097)We spend the night in Palm Desert which is just outside of Palm Springs, as I got out of the van I could feel the air had gotten warm and the breeze felt soft and cool but not cold (hard to explain) Palm Desert, like it’s name is lined with Palm trees everywhere, had a very Mexican feel to it.

(*3106)We hit road the next day at about 6 am again. As we crossed the border into Arizona the terrain did gradually change a little, now not as lush and green in place. I was still surprised at how green in was, I had expected complete desolate desert. It seems if you add water almost anything grows. Still saw a lot of orchards, and commercial crops like lettuce, garlic, beans, and rice, and more and more cactus. Saw some cattle ranchers (not many) and some nopales fields. Occasionally on one side of the highway dry dry desert looking fields with dried up tumble weeds and sand dunes and on the other side of the road a green green crop of corn or an orange orchard (being irrigated of course) quite the contrast. Occasionally miles and mile of greenery and then s of dry tumble weeds and sand dunes. It switched back and forth like this until we hid the Mexican border. Another interesting thing was the (*3107) huge RV parks packed full of “snow birds” Canadians and Americans escaping the winters up north, never before have I seen such huge RV parks and trailer parks built just for winter homes. As we got closer to Yuma you would see some upscale neighbourhoods now, built for the “snow birds” and a lot of real estate signs as long the way. I picked up a free real estate booklet at a gas station just out of curiosity, a lot of homes are bank repos and comparing to the cost of housing at home were very cheap, looks like the banks are desperate to unload them. We had planned on stopping in Yuma for the night but we made such good time we carried on to Tucson.

We hit the road at 5 am so that we could be the first in line at the Mexican border at 6 am. I needed to get my tourist permit and there can at times be a 5 hour line up, we wanted to avoid that if at all possible. Although Kathy has crossed this border many times with her van loaded to the top and has never had any problems we weren’t sure what to expect this year. In July of this year the Mexican government replaced all their border security guards with newly trained people, some 700 people were let go and replaced. Turns out they were just as lazy as the last guys, we got a red light and had to pull over to what was supposed to be an inspection but as soon as the guy stuck his head in the window, Katie (big beach dog that had been abused by Mexicans and now doesn’t like Mexicans) popped up and started growling deep in her throat, the guard decided he didn’t want to open the door. He asked what we were carrying and Kathy replied (in Spanish) “women things”. She had purposely packed her under wear on top hoping that when the macho guards saw them they would not want to go through them. He looked at all the boxes and the dogs and just told us to go through knowing it would be a lot of work to search us. As we drove away laughing at the “women things” and promising to buy Katie a steak as soon as we got home I must say I was a little disappointed at how easy it still is to bring illegal things across the border, not that we had anything illegal but we sure could have had. I was asked for my passport when I bought my tourist visa but Kathy was never asked for hers or for her FM3 and we were not asked for our vehicle permit which had taken us 4 hours to obtain days ago in Sacramento and she was not asked for her health certificates for her dogs. Still a very sloppy border control if you ask me.

(*3160)As soon as we crossed the border I could tell we were in Mexico, there was no doubt. I felt at home right away. Even the smell in the air changes right away. They must have had late rains because things were very green and lush for as far as you could see. There seemed to be a lot more of commercial crops than I remembered from my drive through here a few years ago by bus. There were and miles of tomato and corn fields and a lot of crops that I couldn’t recognize from the road. The uncultivated areas were also full of green vegetation like papaya and mango trees, and Morning Glory vines covering everything in a tangles jungle like cover...high and low. Judging by the amount of crops and massive greenhouse all through the state of Sonora and Sinaloa (more so in Sinaloa) it looks like the agriculture sector is in good shape (but what do I know). We spent our last night in Navajo (5 hours (*3121) from Mazatlan) we did not want to be at the Stone Island docks in the dark, we had a whole van of stuff that needed to be loaded onto a boat to take us to the Island and Kathy knows from past experience that it can be a bit chaotic and we would need some Mexican muscle to unload and they don’t have as many guys at the docks at night than during the day. Plus we didn’t want to travel the road from Culiacan to Mazatlan in the dark either as this is drug cartel territory. We arrived in Navajo early at about 3 pm and stayed at the most beautiful place I have ever seen. It was an old Mexican Hacienda type hotel. I felt like I was in a movie. The grounds were green and immaculately trimmed and groomed, (*3129) lined in hedges and Bugumbelia and ivies trailing and covering on walls and ledges. The room had a stone floor and a massive concrete fireplace, old heavy wooden doors, long wooden shutters, a high domed brick ceiling and hand made tiles in the bathroom, crisp white wind dried towels and I believe scented toilet paper, even the pretty soap was whiter than white ...I wanted to stay forever. As I was walking around the grounds taking pictures I apologised to Kathy for giggling like a 12 year old (*3126) school girl in my excitement. This place was stunning. I was glad we got in early as it gave me some time to enjoy this place; I sat in the court yard under a lantern light and read my book (I was reading Tolstoy but I felt like I should be reading Hemmingway) and enjoying the warm soft breeze before I went to bed. One could have enjoyed an evening swim in the outdoor pool but I was content to (*3122) just sit and read and breathe. As I slipped into bed I was in awe of the whiter than white sheets....I love white sheets, and these made me feel like some Spanish Queen (not that the Spanish ever had queens) as I drifted off to sleep. I woke up to the distant sound of roosters. It felt like a true (*3147)homecoming. In the morning I watched as some cows wandered onto the grounds, their visit was short as the grounds keeper who looked more like a cowboy that a gardener in his western shirt and cowboy hat noticed them at once and proceeded to shoo them off. You will not find this true old style Mexican luxury accommodation and hospitality in any tourist zone, certainly not with the cows and the cowboy.

(*3170) The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful, just sat back and enjoyed the scenery. The closer we got to Mazatlan the more excited I got, I read every km sign with excitement as if announcing to the world...

“Mazatlan 280 km!....Mazatlan 180 km!, Mazatlan 65 km!”...ect. Then at last the Welcome to Mazatlan sign, it seemed it was put there just for me. We took a wrong turn and ended up taking the “scenic route” to the docks which was fine by me, I had my head out the window taking in all the smells, mostly sniffing out taco stands (Kathy refused to stop at taco stands. ) Once we got to the docks we took the dogs over first and got them settled in Kathy’s house, then we headed back and supervised the unloading and loading of all the contents of the van. It really wasn’t as chaotic as I had anticipated. We did have a good laugh at watching one of the guys come up the hill (Kathy lives on top of a hill) with 2 boxes on his shoulders and a box in each hand, out of one box, dragging on the ground were Kathy’s bras....for everyone to see. Once everything had been accounted for we headed to the Super and bought fixings for ham and scrambled eggs for supper, the taco stands close by were not open because there was a big party taking place (yes...they threw a party for us) it was a Quinceanos, which is a young girl’s 15th birthday party, it is a grand party that is almost equivalent to a wedding. The key things at this party are the gown, the cake and the flowers, the family will spend as much as they have. We were eating our supper just as the grand march started with a live orchestra band (not talking just a few guitars here) the birthday girl and escort leading the parade down Main Street to the plaza; we had a great view from Kathy’s balcony and enjoyed the music until 1 am. This was the first time I had ever seen a party here on the Island last after 10 pm, and that includes New Years Eve parties for the last 2 years.

The First Day Back

I couldn’t wait to get out of bed and drink coffee and creama (picked some up last night). It was good to find out that the roosters are still healthy and well. I waited for my Antonio, my tamale guys, not too sure when he comes by Kathy’s house. Turned out I missed him somehow, so I went walking to see if I could find him. Not far up the street I met my meat guy, but he is no longer the meat guy, he’s now a mechanic. He told me to let him know if I ever needed a mechanic....for what? Resole my shoes I ask. I told him I was looking for a place to rent, he would get right on that, had a few ideas. I walk a bit further and meet his aunt, we chat, she asks where I am living, told her I am looking for a place, she says follow me, she shows me a cute little house, but there is no bathroom, that’s a problem for me (maybe) I’ll find out how much it costs to build a bathroom. On my way back I chat with my mechanic guy again, he figures a bathroom would cost $200.00 and take a week to build, I ponder about this, but he has found me another house on the beach that already has a bathroom, it might possibly be available, he’ll check and find out. I keep walking and run into another friend, she also has a house that might be available, and she’ll let me know. After breakfast I flag down my fruit and vegetable guys, he asks where I live, I tell him I now have 3 choices, he also knows of a house that might be available, he’ll let me know. I load up on fruit and went to buy some yogurt and hurried home to have a fruit shake. was soooooo good! Then it’s lunch time, (I love how it is always time to eat here) I head over to my favourite taco stand and run into my fruit guy there again(his favourite taco stand too) he tells me the house is available but the rent is a little over my budget. On my way back I stop to see my mechanic, on mechanic business actually, Kathy’s quad has been parked for a few months and now won’t start, could he look at it? Of course, right away. He tells me the little house on the beach is empty but very dirty, hurricane Rick came through here a few weeks ago and beat the place up pretty good. The house it’s self is fine because it’s made of brick but the palapas had all been torn down and it’s a mess. He told me to go have a look to make sure I still wanted it. I meandered on over there and while business is going on as usual along the beach you could still see some of the hurricane damage. My little house was fine but quite a mess surrounding it, a lot of fallen trees, the palapa roofs had all collapsed and there were palm branches everywhere and garbage laying around that had been blown in from who knows where. I’m thinking a couple of big bon fires and it could all be cleaned up, plant a few new plants and good as new. Yes I do still want it. An hour later I am informed that the whole Cardenas family will chip in and help with the clean up, I’m thinking this will be fun, I hope it’s fun for them too. As I was taking my regular 4:00 walk on the beach I suddenly realized it was Saturday, which means tomorrow is Sunday, I get to go to church, I’m excited and remember that my clothes are still vacuum packed...yikes, I need to borrow and iron somewhere. I find out Kathy has one, although I’m sure if I go for one more walk I could find one.

Supper was supposed to be a papa loca but they were down to just 1 when we got there, I let Kathy have it because she had never had one (I know.....who’s never had a papa loca?!) I had 2 vampiros and a Toni-Col , both soooooo good. We were both stuffed ourselves for a total of $ is good.

Sunday, November 22

Got up bright and early and headed to the mainland for church, I take a boat across and then walk down town (15 min brisk walk) then I catch a bus that takes me to the Golden Zone (the tourist end of town). I get there in time to stop at Panamas and pick up a pastry for breakfast, lots of North Americans are disappointed by the pastries here because they look so good and have such a huge variety but they are just not as sweet as they look and so I, not having a sweet tooth, can eat pastries here too. I don’t like sticky gooey sugary cinnamon buns, but I like buns and I like cinnamon and that is how they make them goo. It was great to finally get to church and see all my snowbird and local friends, always good to find out how everyone spent the winter. I have some amazing and interesting friends here. As I listened to Pastor Dave (a fellow Canadian) give his thanksgiving message I did just become overpowered by thankfulness for having this amazing opportunity to be here and for the amazing people that surrounded me at that moment. I vowed to remember to thank God more often (how often have I vowed this?) for everything and everybody. The first song that the worship team led us in was “God is good” very fitting for me at that moment. After the English service was over I stayed and did the greeting thing all over again with my Spanish local friends, it is so much fun to surprise people. Only people knew approximately when I would be arriving so everyone was so surprised to see me. It is so much fun to tap someone on the shoulder that hasn’t seen you in 10 months and didn’t know you were coming and see their reaction. I think when I come home I’m not going to tell anyone when I’m coming.....I’ll just show up. While the English service put me in a thankful spirit the Spanish service put me in a worship spirit, which it usually does. The Spanish have a way of worshipping so freely and sincerely, just incredibly joyful that you just can’t help but get caught up in it. I have never yet looked at the clock during Spanish worship and wondered “are we done soon?”...never, and yes, I have done that during English worship, at home and here.....haven’t you? Am I the only one? It’s an area that I have to work on, I am aware of that (I have a few of these areas....could use a whole separate blog space for that). After the Spanish church I was so busy talking to everyone and catching up on everything that I missed my ride into Villa Union where I usually attend a late afternoon Spanish service. I was pretty sure that I had exceeded my socializing quota and decided not to take a bus out there and just go for lunch with a dear dear friend. I introduced her to one of my favourite restaurants from my days of staying at the Hotel Lerma, downtown. It’s a little place called “El Mamuca” they have the best empanadas there. I had the marlin and my friend had the shrimp, both were great, as usual. She filled me in on what’s been happening on Stone Island, it always amazes me at how dark this place is but yet I feel so at home here, makes me wonder sometimes if there is something wrong with me. It worries me, why do I fit in so nicely in a place where there is so much darkness? When I speak of darkness I am talking about, witchcraft, demons, physical abuse, sexual abuse, incest, disease, the occult is very alive here, pornographic exploitations, mental diseases and mental abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse , theft, kidnappings, people disappearing and of course corruption. This is my beloved Island. All hope is not lost though, because God is also alive here and he is at work and He has changed some people’s lives here and He is not done yet. I believe He has given me a certain peace that lives through this ciaos and everyone on this Island needs to know that they can have that peace as well. I feel that this is the message for these people and me. I need to learn that I can take this peace home with me (another one of my areas that need work). It was 4:15 pm when I got back to the Island and so I rushed off for my daily sunset walk and to go look at my little house again. I have a few reasons why I walk the beach at 4 pm, the sunsets at 4:30 ish now and when it sets over the ocean it can be so beautiful, if it’s a colourful sunset it was just light up the ocean with the reflections in the water. Today wasn’t overly colourful, just a normal sunset. Also at 4 pm all the tourists that came over by guided tours from the Golden Zone get hauled out, literally hauled out, they are loaded up in a trailer that is pulled by a tractor and taken to the docks. There is a separate dock for the tourists that closes at 5 (I think) most tourists don’t know that there is another docks that is open all night on the other side (I just let that secret out..Didn’t I?) And so the tourists are usually out of here by 4 and all the restaurants along the beach close right after they leave.....leaving the beach all for me and a few locals. By 5:30 ish when I am walking home everyone is just home from work and hanging out it their front yards unwinding before they have’s a lazy time of day, people sit on rocking chairs on their porches or laying in hammocks. There is something so real and honest about seeing a hardworking fisherman stretched out in his hammock at the end of the day; you just know he deserves to be there. It’s peaceful. It’s my favourite time of day here....or was my favourite time here first thing in morning....hummmm. I have to study this more, I can’t decide. I have a few months to conduct this study.

I have also stumbled across a need that I believe I can fill. I have a friend here on the Island that has a severe case of MS (a long story with an amazing testimony) right after she was diagnosed her body became crippled very fast, she now cannot walk, her hands are crippled, her arms don’t move at all, she cannot comb her hair, wipe her nose or turn the pages of her Bible. She loves to read the Bible and has a friend that comes over a few times a week and just sits there and holds her Bible and turns the pages for her. Her friend is going away in December for 2 months. Isn’t the timing perfect? Here am I...nothing to do. I will be happy to that for her, and anything else that she may need. I am also hoping to borrow a cat from her son, he likes cats and always has nice clean cats (most cats here are stinky, dirty and full of worms) but he takes care of his cats. I want a cat for my new house in case of rats...yes there are rats here. Friends of mine who live in the Golden Zone (fancy smancy livin there) were telling me just today how they had a rat in their house last night. (it was quite a funny story though) Me needs a cat.

1 comment:

Teresa said...

Wow, thanks for all that! Sounds like quite a journey! I laughed a few times! :)

I think you are at home at Stone Island, despite the "darkness," because you see the beauty there. (You have a talent for seeing beauty everywhere.) I think other people might see it as a bad place that has potential, but you see it as the beautiful, peaceful place it is.

People who "see the potential" in things/places often do so in a derogatory way, thinking themselves better than those around them, but you see yourself as the same, and as an "Islander," and that could be part of it too!

Yes, I have looked at a clock during church, too -- you aren't the only one!

Keep up the blogging... We appreciate it! :)