Cousin Amy is coming to visit for a few days and I’m not happy about it. Before you call the Family Counseling Services on me, the reason I’m not happy is because we’re not going to be here for most of her visit. We’re heading to Oaxaca to meet our children for Christmas which means Amy is going to be exploring our neighborhood on her own. While her children are away with their Dad, she’s looking forward to some “Amy time”. She’s a musician and I’m hoping she finds inspiration here. And peace. I hope she finds Christmas peace.
So I’ve been thinking about what Amy needs to know on her first visit to our town. She’s going to be house sitting and puppy sitting and both of those things have secrets.
I thought maybe you’d want to read the list too – it will give you insight into our crazy life here.
The first – and maybe most important – thing you need to know is DON’T TALK TO THE TIMESHARE SALESMEN AT THE AIRPORT. Oh that sounds easy enough, but they’re tricky. They act helpful. They say they will find you a ride to wherever you’re going. But if you ignore this first rule, you will find yourself vacationing in this area for the next 20 years. Which is not a bad thing…. But I doubt if it’s what you want so just keep walking until you are outside. Then you can get a taxi – the guys outside with the taxi signs are legit and they will get you to our house quickly and safely.
Our house is not grand but it’s comfortable. You can pick whichever guest room you want – you can either have a garden view or a closet. Not both. Of course, the closet won’t have much room for your stuff – sometimes we have foster children from the local children’s shelter staying with us, so the closet is full of little shoes and backpacks and cute dresses. Which reminds me – if you walk around your room barefoot there is a very good chance you will be experience the pain of stepping on a Barbie shoe. It’s like the Lego thing but it hurts more because those Barbies only wear stilettos. Sorry. Also, those little hair elastics are everywhere. If you glance under the bed (please don’t) you will find enough hair elastics (called ligas here) to hook a rug big enough for Buckingham Palace.
Be careful with the doors and locks and keys. If you close the door to the garden while in it, you’ll be stuck out there until you are rescued. (See my Story Outsmarted by a Cucaracha). The front door and the garage door automatically lock – keep your keys with you always!
I will be leaving the windows open to keep the house from getting stuffy, but that means there will be dust from the dirt roads. So. Much. Dust. Just blow it off – you don’t have asthma right? It is getting cooler at night so having the window open keeps the house cool. It also will keep you awake as you listen to every chicken and dog congregate at around midnight for their all-nighters. Which brings me to the neighborhood.
It’s Christmas season, so you will hear extremely loud banda music, karaoke, DJs, laughter. It’s a fun time – just go with it. And the cannons. Don’t panic when you hear what sounds like loud gunshots. It’s probably not. It’s probably the cannons that are kind of related to religious celebrations and kind of related to bratty kids in the neighborhood. You will jump out of your skin every time, especially the ones at 5:30 am, but El Chapo is not outside. You are safe.
Our neighborhood has everything you need for a few days. Next door is the little tienda where you can buy all of the staples – bread, milk, coke and chips. And tortillas. Around the corner to the left is the fruit and veggie store, the fish store (with delicious ceviche to go), the taco shop (open in the evening – get 2 tacos de pollo, take one of the tortillas off the bottom so you now have 3 tacos, cover it all with veggies and beans and sauces from the topping bar – boom, 26 pesos, about $1.50), and the other taco shop (open at noon for fish and shrimp tacos and at night for tacos pastor, the meat on the spinning thingy – also less than $5). There’s the chicken lady selling whole flattened grilled chickens, the Taco de Cabeza stand that sells tacos made of all things ‘head’, the guy with the rolling cart of delicious drinks made of pineapple and lemon and ginger and chia. If you need a pinata or a giant bag of candy, there’s a shop for that. Nails, hair, clothing, pirated DVDs – new or used – it’s all there.
If you walk another block and dare to cross the crazy highway (if it doesn’t work out, there’s a brand-new hospital right there on the corner) there’s another whole world of restaurants and galleries and shops more geared to the gringo tourists and year-round residents. You can walk for days looking at cool buildings and amazing flowers and stop to sample every kind of food – there’s Italian, and Sushi, and Thai and Vegan and the best hamburgers I’ve ever tasted and lots of Mexican. After all that, if you’re still hungry before nodding off at night, just listen for the blaring song driving by around 10:30 – that’s the donut lady with a van full of every kind of donut, muffin, croissant and sweet bread you might need. Who can’t love a place that does donut drive-bys every night!
(Don’t worry, I’ll leave a detailed map to share our favorite restaurants and other must-sees.)
The good news is we haven’t seen a cucaracha (cockroach) in a long time and I’m pretty sure the mouse is dead. We do have a small bright green lizard that lives in the garage, but he doesn’t show himself very often and as far as I know he’s never come in the house. From time to time large lizards sun themselves on our neighbor’s roof in the backyard but they’re shy and run when I open the door. There is one pretty cool spider in the palm tree – his web is such a work of art I hate to disturb him. And some small wasps are busy at work creating a home amongst the leaves of that same palm, but they are not like Canadian wasps – they aren’t interested in your Coke and BBQ and keep to themselves. You will hear chirps in the house at night – those are the many tiny geckos that share our home – they are cute with giant toes that run up and down our walls with lightning speed. If you eat your breakfast in our garden, you’ll be joined by some tiny colibris (hummingbirds). Really the only critter you have to worry about is Nacho the puppy. He will keep you company, love you to death, and drive you crazy. DO NOT leave any shoe at his height – or really any item that you value in any way. Paper, pens, clothing, pencils, jewelry – he’ll take and destroy it all. If you find yourself missing underwear, check behind the palm tree in the garden.
Whatever you do while you’re here, enjoy the people you will pass on the streets and meet along your way. The Mexican people seem shy at first, but they are watching for a smile, for you to say “Hola, Buenos dias” and then they light up. Everyone is friendly, but they usually wait for you to say hi first (except for those blasted Time Share guys). The children, so very many children, all eager for some love, some attention from the gringos. Your red hair will make you the most popular tourist on the block. My neighbors are poor, but they are kind. Even while having so little, they will have family over for fiestas during Christmas week. They may set up tables in the street, chickens wandering through, fireworks exploding. It will be fun.
And that Christmas peace I am praying for you? Walk the beach until you find it. For these few days, the beach can be your safe place – a soft sandy path alongside powerful ocean waves, hugged by the blue layers of surrounding mountain peaks. Maybe you’ll see a dolphin or a whale or a tiny hatchling turtle racing for his escape in the water. A star fish resting. Keep walking. Find a new song. Rejoice in your healing. Embrace Amy. And have a blessed Christmas in our paradise!