Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A brief return

I guess I took a break from lugging my laptop to the hotel. There seems to be a lot of confusion over the delivery of the modem for my internet. It is shipped from La Paz and then "someone" has to get it to you. There's no office here so no one from whom to get a straight answer, or rather an understandable English one. I've enlisted the help of every Spanish speaking person I've befriended here to track it down.

Today I am actually back in the states in my home, but only for a brief time to take care of some business. I decided to bring Allison back with me. The past few days she was wearing thin. We are planning to bring reinforcements back down: a television, a dvd player, more books, games, Mac computer, telescope, other goodies. The plan is to ship our car to Los Angeles stocked with items we need, meet Robert there, then drive down the Baja together.

The wind was bearing down on Loreto the last few days we were there. It picks up the dust and dirties everything, a sure disappointment to the visitors there for the weather. It probably helped us mentally to leave. On the plane we ogled the Baja coastline for awhile before settling into our separate books. I was very surprised when Allison pulled out one that I had bought for her not because she'd like it necessarily, but because I thought at 3rd grade reading level it would be a challenge. To my amazement she sat quietly reading it for nearly an hour. I kept waiting for her to ask for help, then I grew suspicious and watched her. Her little fingers were tracing under every line. She was reading this difficult book. That was like a little present to me since I've done so little to school her. In the past few days I was feeling a bit sorry for her. We drag her around like a little adult expecting adult behaviour. This whole adventure is geared for us. She tags along cheerfully and sits at table after table listening politely to adult conversation. She's had no cartoons, no trips to the playground, no friends, not even her puppy. We've dragged our kid to Mexico for half year. What are we doing? In this weak moment I promised her a trip to Toys-R-Us on our return. Robert had already one-upped me with a promise of Disneyland in December.

Our plane stopped in Los Angeles for a short layover before heading back to the midwest. After numerous security checks we were deposited to the corridor with the shops and eateries. We both saw McDonalds right away. I plunked down $14 dollars for a Happy Meal with a chocolate milk and a Cobb Salad and watched Allison put on a show of delight and gratitude. Several minutes passed before she even remembered and asked for the happy meal toy. If we could just maintain that essence of gratitude, but I know it will pass by tomorrow when we are back in the thick of America and she's drinking her chocolate milk to morning cartoons.

We landed after midnight. We found my SUV in the parking lot and it started up obediently. The recently repaved highway home looked like black velvet and we rode along smoothly at 70mph--every mile a mile further from Mexico and soon the sensation of riding in the Scout along the dusty, gritty road from Nopolo to Loreto would fade away, maybe too, by tomorrow. As we turned off the exit to our neighborhood there was our suburban-scale grocery market. I felt compelled to stop for I knew I'd regret waking up without milk or bread or butter or orange juice. Half-and-half for coffee would be a treat too.

Unconsciously, I parked where I always do near the shopping cart return. Allison and I bundled up to brave the 30 degree night. We walked towards the oversized double doors, my eyes squinting in the bright light. I could see through the windows the first row of merchandise was freshly stocked with the holidays in mind: baking goods like flour, pie shells, canned pie fillings, chocolate chips. I took a deep breath as the doors electronically parted. I had to decide on the exhale how I felt. Would I breath in at the bounty or sigh in the face of the excess. Welcome home.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Cruising Loreto on a Friday night

I have to admit there are times we are a little bored. Especially in the evening when it's too early to go to sleep, but nothing much to occupy our time. Last night Robert suggested we go to town and look for a toaster. WooHoo! On the way in we noticed stadium lights on at the high school. Let's go watch a soccer game. We paid our 20 pesos and parked near the field alongside other cars. In this way the scene was very familiar to us having spent half our lives at our sons' sporting events. But as I looked around I noticed a lack of young ladies, a given at boy's sports events. Also some of the players sported full mustaches. I commented on this to Robert who replied that Mexicans mature faster. However on closer look we realized this was an adult soccer league and that took some of the fun out of it.

We headed to downtown where we found a cappucino shop which logo suspiciously mimicked Starbucks. The coffee wasn't half-bad. We took our treats and began strolling the main avenue. It was Friday night and like any small town in America, the young people were out. Most of the stores were open and looked so different lit up. On the town plaza we saw a sign posted by the Optimists Club advertising a pancake breakfast with Santa Claus. We said we'd go but when morning came we changed our minds. Who knows how tasty Mexican flapjacks could be and I was sure I'd have to explain to Allison why Santa has a big black mustache.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

brown sugar... how come you're laced with worms?

It is Thanksgiving Day. This is the first I can remember being away from home. Of course, they don't celebrate here, but we did find a flyer in our gate inviting us to a Thanksgiving feast at the Camino Real hotel. I suppose they have a lot of American guests. This is the second notice I've found delivered to our house. The other was the electric bill( not even in an envelope) folded and tucked between the grates of our iron gate to the courtyard. I wonder if there is even mail service here, people just hand-deliver.

My internet installation was supposed to happen today but this is no-show Mexico. So I continue to wear the wheels off my pull-along laptop case with my daily trips to the hotel. I could drive, but then I'd miss the sights and smells. I keep eyeing the droppings left by Victor the Vacquero's horse and thinking I should be gathering them. I could prepare nice soil for a rose garden. I think too about our kitchen waste--could I compost? I need to ask around because it could be a bad idea for numerous reasons I'm unaware. Ants? Bees? Night creatures? Our biggest pest so far are teeny-tiny ants. Our neighbor advises we put out trays of sugar water outside the house. The idea is to lure them away from our interiors to the trays where they drown in a sweet bath.

Larry, Curly, and Darryl have returned to their guardians for good. Our kind neighbor explained that his wife already misses the dogs, but I suspect he is being polite since he realized we don't really want three lazy mutts who keep tearing through the fence. They are unaccustomed to detainment so it is useless to try.

Since San Andreas fixed my oven last night I thought I'd try it out today by baking cookies with Allison. Robert and I went to town for supplies leaving her with Zoila, our maid. I needed baking powder, chocolate chips, and brown sugar. I found what I translated to read: "dust of flour" and guessed it was the baking powder. There were no chocolate chips to be found so I bought Hershey's bars. No brown sugar, but something similar shaped into cones and blocks. I chose a block that happened to be wrapped in cellophane.

So Allison and I set to making our cookies. I asked Robert to break the block of sugar and when he did worms began emerging. This made me seriously doubt whether I can survive here. I took a deep breath and threw out the rancid block of sugar and bravely continued on.
The cookies were not even close to what we make back home; I think the flour is different here. Zoila thought they were good. I think she is empathetic to our culinary shortcomings. She offered to make us fish soup when she comes next. Fine with me. Now I have a cook too!

Allison has been such a trooper. She rarely complains even though she is being deprived of her usual comforts. At her age she just enjoys being with us. We look at everything as an adventure and re-live and laugh it over nightly. As far a school goes, we aren't having any. If she gets no proper learning this winter that's okay. I think she is learning far more interesting things. We may enroll her in the school here after the first of the year, but that is mainly for the opportunity to learn Spanish.

Tonight we go to our Thanksgiving feast with the other stray Americans. Even if it's turkey on a tortilla I promise to feel thankful.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Larry, Curly, and Darryl

We needed to prepare for our new dogs. Robert set to work repairing a gap in the fence. He gathered up ocotillo sticks and began fastening them to the empty spot across the gate. He had to scour for scraps of wire or twine to tie them with. In our short time here we have become alert to the need to conserve everything. Even common materials can be hard to come by. We reconsider throwing anything of potential value away: plastic wrap, cardboard, glass jars, a rubber band. Yesterday I was walking and saw a rusty nail and nearly picked it up.

With the fence now mended we headed down the boulevard to Ed's for the dogs. We did not see seventeen dogs, but there was quite a few for the picking if we'd wanted small mutts, something like Dachshunds mixed with Chihuahuas. There was a litter of black Labrador-mix puppies, but we were wanting something more imposing. We followed Ed next door to see some larger strays his neighbors' were caring for: Curly, Larry and Darryl--Darryl because they'd tried calling him Moe, but he thought they were saying "No." Larry, well she's a female. We really just wanted Darryl for he is large and black with Rottweiler markings, but we went home with three dogs because they would not be separated, hardship had bonded them together.

We thought we'd sleep better knowing we had canine protection. The following morning we discovered the trio had escaped through the gate. They'd pushed the ocotillo aside and brushed right through. Just as well, I really did not want three Mexican tail-waggers. Today, we'd go look for a German Shepard. As I was toting the bucket of dog food back to our neighbor he was coming up the street, dogs in tow. I related that we should not have taken their dogs, he and his wife were too generous, the dogs were obviously bonded to them and let's not cause them any more stress. But he was determined that we should have them and offered numerous suggestions on how we would coax these animals into accepting their new home. So we have three goofy dogs. Hopefully, they will give the appearance of protection.

Robert went to work re-repairing the gate, looking for something better with which to bind the sticks. He discovered plastic twist-ties in the garage and they did the trick well, though the sight jars me--plastic against the organic and traditional Mexican materials. I am discovering this is the new Mexico--traditional craftsmanship being polluted with the introduction of modern material. Admittedly, plastic is a pretty handy material. The owner of our beautiful adobe house has a new American brother-in-law, an enterpriser building vinyl-sided houses on the beach in north Loreto. I find it a sad assault on the environment, but who can stop people from wanting modern even if it means sacrificing beauty and tradition?

I think the inconveniences here demand improvisation which is very rewarding to one's spirit. I see it already in Robert when he emerges from a task smiling with satisfaction. When he helped the Mexican motorists on the road to San Javier he wasn't the least bit annoyed. He was enjoying the challenge. When we went to the local "hardware" store to find an extention cord and were informed that they'd have to construct one with various parts Robert was amused. Of course, we are in that relaxed frame of mind having deserted our work at home in the states. But relaxed seems to be the norm here.

You have to stand in admiration for the ingenuity of the people living in this impoverished environment even if the results can be far from aesthetically pleasing. Making the most of what you have. It's good for you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

my own personal 911

Our uneventful day was capped by an interesting evening. We'd settled in for the night when we heard a vehicle racing the dirt streets around our house. There are only two houses on our street, the rest of the area to the beach is remote. There are many streets, all curbed and side-walked and dotted with elegant street lights, but there are few structures. The houses, the development, planned by the Mexican arm of tourism, (Fonatur) never materialized. The area has weathered and decayed.

The racing and skidding continued on for several minutes and a couple of times the car, a van, stopped in front of our house. This alarmed Robert who told me to call the police. He was worried we were about to get robbed. I was at a loss for a number to call. I picked up the phone book which serves the whole peninsula. There is no 911. Finally, I phoned Walter, the Loreto Bay client service rep who then phoned Santos, the Loreto Bay head of security. By then Robert was ordering us to clear out. We would take our car to the hotel where he felt safe.

We pulled into the hotel and right out again thinking we'd find the police and talk to them. We found them in their late model white Ford truck near our house. They told us in Spanish, me trying hard to decipher, that the motorists were drunk on Tequila and they would be taken care of, nothing to worry. I asked to speak to Santos thinking he would know English. They pointed to a man on horseback surrounded by five dogs. "Santos," I cried. But he could not understand me for his name was Victor. They were pointing to Santos' office behind the cowboy. In the middle of all this I was thinking how odd the mix of the modern and the old in Mexico. No 911, but officers with cell phones and new vehicles; a crusty old watchman, a vacquero, on horseback illuminated from behind by French-influenced streetlamps on a boulevard build by a Mexican government for a development boom that never boomed. Benito, the officer in charge smiled brightly and reassured us that the area is safe and they would take good care of us. He held up three fingers and counted off the names of the officers looking over us: Benito, Pancho, Francesco. He wrote his mobile phone number down on a torn piece of paper and handed it to me. I now hold the key to quick access for help. We went home feeling a little ridiculous, but still jumpy.

In the middle of the night I heard a loud thump that startled me out of bed. I shook Robert. I tiptoed toward the kitchen. Nothing. I decided it must have been the washing machine finishing its cycle. I turned to go back to bed where Robert was sound asleep. Tonight we are going to Ed and Darlene's house to take home one or two of their seventeen dogs. I figure I might need the back-up.

Monday, November 21, 2005

stirring up trouble

I couldn't stand it any longer: I had to see what was under all those bees. Each day the hive takes on a new shape which makes me question if it is really a hive or just thousands of bees one atop the other. It's the latter, I'll save you the suspense. I took the longest implement from the garage I could find, a duster. I figured that gave me about 8 feet to work with. I gave the bees a good poke and to my surprise half of them fell to the ground in a clump. Of course what followed was bee panic. They swarmed like crazy t0 reform their prior arrangement. What they are really doing under that tree I do not understand. I have some research to do.

Last night I saw a desert fox. It was between two buildings at the hotel which dead-end into a giant glass partition. I was on the other side of the glass when we spied each other. He, or she, was gray and quite long and lean with markings around the eyes that reminded me of a raccoon. It's tale was long and bushy.

The other evening we saw two night owls with white faces fighting over a kill. We saw one again the following night in the same location off the main boulevard. This time we stopped the car as close as possible to the owl which was perched on a road sign. We all looked at each other for a few moments until finally the bird had enough of us and flew away.

We have wasted the day around the pool and beach today. If you can call it wasting. Robert is thoroughly enjoying this break from work. He is not easily bored. I, however, have already offered my services to the Loreto Bay Company half-jokingly, "Is there anything at all I can help with?" Nellie found me later and told me she'd spoken to their main contractor and that I should go speak to him this week. If Robert and I had wagered on this he would have won--I didn't last one week before stirring up something.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

What lies beneath

Every day a new discovery. Yesterday, in our orchard, I saw what I thought was a giant pine cone, but it turned out to be a big hive swarming with bees. I rushed to the house to get my camera and rouse everyone else to come look. I fearlessly began snapping photos from probably too close a distance, but luckily the bees weren't threatened. In my excitement I briefly considered knocking them off to see what lay beneath. I'm sure my unconscious mind assessed the probable outcome and stopped me. I did notice that when the breeze lifts the hive sways a bit which surprised me and made me more curious, but I may have to be satisfied with not knowing what the hive looks like without the bees.

Saturday is market day in Loreto. Our new friend, Ron, told us that everyone visits the market which is held under tents off the highway. We hurried down this morning expecting a similar, but smaller version of our farmer's market back home. We were very disappointed to discover this market was pathetically small and dirty. What meat was available was set out with no refrigeration and flies were abundant. The fruit was not appealing either, and the other goods for sale were items of clothing you'd find at a flea market. My heart sunk at the realization that we will never find decent food.

Our maid brought her little daughter over this afternoon to meet Allison. I tried very hard to make them comfortable and entertain the girl. After attempts at conversation we brought out what amusements we had which are little: Allison's Leap Pad thankfully had a page devoted to Spanish terms. When the girls tired of that we pulled out the coloring books. Robert returned and warmed up another stew he made. We sat down to the table with our new guests and proceeded to eat the stew which Robert had made with potatoes, green beans and pork. I thought it was very good and praised, "bueno, bueno," assured we had pleased our guests, but the little girl did not like it at all. Robert made it up to her on the way home with a stop for helado (ice cream) always a hit with kids the world over.

It surprised me how much stress occurs in the process of attempting to communicate to others of a different language. I have been aware of feeling drained after a day of living in the Mexican culture. In trying to communicate you are exposing your ineffectiveness and depending on the good will of your listener to assist you. You are asking that person to join you in a difficult exercise, agreeing to trust each other to overlook the deficiency. Interestingly, what results is a bonding experience with that person. I can't help but feel grateful and endeared to those kind people who give the effort. I'm thinking a lot more about the experiences of all foreigners everywhere, now that I am one.

Friday, November 18, 2005

God bless Duncan Hines

We decided to take the day easy--no road trips. We spent the day on the beach in front of the Camino. While Robert and Allison played in the water I wandered to the tide pools. Nothing much to see there but some tiny black snails. More interesting are the pelicans that dive-bomb for fish. They are short on grace, but seem to get good results.

Food continues to be a problem. I am craving pasta and french bread and Lamar's donuts. Robert did make a great pot of beans with pork, but Allison and I can't take another tortilla for awhile. We want something we recognize. On our shopping day Allison had tossed a box of chocolate cake mix into to cart. Tonight that sounded pretty good. However, we could not figure how to light our gas oven. Finally, Robert consulted the faded manual and discovered someones handwriting and an arrow pointing to a diagram: "This part is missing." So we added the oven to our list of domestic deprivations.

But I wouldn't be stopped. I had an idea to bake the cake on the stove. My reasoning for possibility based on memories of my southern grandmother making pineapple upside-down cake in her black cast-iron skillet. So I oiled up the skillet, poured in the batter and gave it a try. Robert assisted with the idea to stack two other burner grates atop the first to distance the flame. And guess what? Perfect chocolate cake! Allison squealed with delight and we dug in praising Duncan Hines and cheering for America where people know what tastes good.

Finally I should note that Allison lost her first tooth yesterday. When she awoke she found the tooth fairy left 50 pesos under her pillow. I murmured later to the tooth fairy, "when I was a kid it was a quarter."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Do you know the way to San Javier?

I woke up early (it's hard not to here) and took my morning coffee outside to browse around the orchard. It's mostly orange trees and some mangoes and something that looks like laurel surrounded by blooming bougainvillea. I'm thinking I'd like to start a kitchen herb garden. Something simple in pots like parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme (seriously.) Oh, and basil.
I was daydreaming about this when I stumbled on something that looked like a chicken-wire pillow. Obviously, a trap of some kind because it had a tunneled entry. Everything here is hand-crafted so what looked like a goofy contraption was really a little work of art. The wire was carefully shaped and fastened together by weaving string along its perimeter. I called Robert out to look at it and neither of us were sure of its purpose.

Our plan today was to drive to see the mission of San Javier. It is supposedly very beautiful and, of course, historic since it was constructed in 1699 under the guidance of the Jesuits. We set out with the cameras, a couple of bananas and a large bottled water. We had no idea what lay ahead! 36 kilometers sounded like no great distance, but the road was an unpaved rocky trail more suited for burros than automobiles and it became apparent this was no cake walk. The road winds up through the Sierra la Gigantas which are so laden with gravel you wonder how they stay upright. The desert is so unfriendly and barren in areas you have to question the sanity of persons choosing to homestead here. But amazingly, further up, tropical vegetation appears. Giant palms grow in little areas like ravines where there is water. The areas are very small but still classify as oasis(es).

We guess that the mission must be in an oasis ahead. Soon we would be there. It must be on that mountain over there. Okay, maybe not this mountain but the next. Okay it's the next mountain. After travelling for close to two hours in this suspense I became impatient. Depending on open windows for cooling resulted in the inside of the Scout being thoroughly powdered with dust. Our water was now lukewarm, the bananas long gone and my hair tangled and gritty. Finally, I began complaining: "Jeeze, Why would anybody want to build anything out this far and this difficult to get to? Who were these crazy Jesuits? This is an godawful long way to come for Mass, who'd bother? Look at that drop, how many people have lost their lives just to go to church? Wait what did that sign say, did we pass the place already? With this much effort it better be a Mount Rushmore or Manchu Pichu or something as big-deal."

After a long run across a plateau we began to climb again into another mountain range. Soon we were inside of a the bowl of the range, and signs of an oasis appeared ahead. The palms were more plentiful and suddenly there was a definite water source--an emerald-colored stream, then a dam, then a masonry entrance, and finally, the stone Mission with the mountain at its back. Evidence of the old colonial world: organization. Rock walls enclosing orchards, design details in the stonework, a cobblestone avenue that ended in what architects call a "terminated vista," an impressive way to situate an important building--the San Javier Mission. We all cheered up instantly.

The way back went faster as Robert, now familiar with the road picked up some speed. Not for long--we were stopped by stray burros loitering in the road. Not much farther down we encountered Mexicans with car trouble. We were able to ascertain that the tow truck pulling the broken van had a dead battery. Jumper cables? You'd think they'd be standard on a tow truck, but no. So Robert proceeded to unhook our battery to place in the tow truck to get it started. Meanwhile, a couple other trucks pulled up behind. After a few moments a Mexican exited the first truck wielding a two foot long machete. I stood in silent suspense while he walked toward the scene. I was rapidly accessing what use a machete would have in this situation that I hadn't considered. Moments earlier it was a simple pair of pliers we were after. Suddenly he began whacking at what I think was a mesquite tree alongside our vehicles. Of course! He was clearing a way for his truck to pass. This is the wild west.

Eventually we made it home to warm showers and clean clothes. Our only remaining dilemma was what to make for dinner. This is becoming a problem. We can no longer rely on a refrigerator full of deli cuts and cheese, pickles and other quick snacks. Tomorrow we plan to put on a pot of stew and I'll make cornbread. No back-road adventures either.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Bats, clothespins, and the 150 mile grocery trip

We found a house to lease. It is a large adobe owned by the former director of Fonatur in Loreto. It is beautiful though neglected as its owner now lives in La Paz and rents it out. It is probably over 5000 square feet and totally hand-crafted. The floors are stone with wood inlay and there are many painted frescoes throughout. Upstairs is a library where I intend to claim as my personal space. The family is a patron of the arts so there is a lot of framed artwork and also some relics from the original mission to give it that sacred feeling. I fell in love with it right away, naturally. It makes me think of the book, "Under the Tuscan Sun," where the author chucks her life in America to renovate a faded villa in Tuscany. My little villa has an orchard and a swimming pool. Na na na na na.

The past week has been about settling into our house. We don't have a television but I did schedule for internet connection. It could be a week before that happens. There's not a clock nor a radio in the house either. I like that. Like I said, the house is somewhat neglected so amidst the luxury is a downright lack of conveniences: The dryer does not work so I hang clothes on a line automatically gripping clothespins between my lips in the way of millions of women before me, except that I wear sunglasses. The dishwasher also does not work. I tried the first night and it ran continuously for hours. For a few days we had no hot water until Don Alfredo came to repair the heater so I warmed water on the gas stove for the dishes, which by the way are patterned with Christmas trees. There is a set of china in a hutch but I wouldn't dare use it.

Our first visitor was a bat that entered an open door the first night before we knew better; a "murcielago," I learned later. I was calling it a "raton que volar" to our maid, Zoila, who looked perplexed until my attempts with hand motions and expressions of horror clued her in.

Our first trip to the local grocery market was a little adventure. It is so lacking that we began asking other Americans where they shop and discovered many make a trek to a bigger town to the "Super Ley" only this town is a 150 mile round-trip over the mountains! We loaded a large cooler and headed out yesterday in our borrowed pea-green International Scout which has no a/c or radio. It started making funny noises halfway there so we had to keep it under 50 mph. Absolutely no one spoke English at the grocery market so we were quite at a loss to understand if we were purchasing pureed tomatoes or tomato soup. It's a toss-up if we got home with anything I can cook. I recognized my stress level rising along with a new fear that we may starve if left to our own devices. One the way back we joked that this was the farthest we had ever gone to shop for food in our entire lives!!! It was such an adventure in culture shock. Oh, and did I mention the absurdity of discovering a circus there? On the highway out of town we spied what looked like an elephant. We stopped to see not only the elephant but a camel, a monkey, a lion in a portable cage all restrained by ropes around their legs. The elephant was so despondent he was rocking back and forth in the heat and dirt. It was outrageously cruel to me. We left and drove in silence for awhile until our concern about the animals was replaced by other distractions like the wreckage of a truck spilled over an embankment. The glass spread out over the rocks and reflected so much glare it looked like a pool of water. The road over the mountain is slightly treacherous as demonstrated by the numerous roadside shrines made to accident victims. Unlike at home where people sometimes construct little crosses and leave plastic flowers at the site, the Mexicans build tiny houses about the size of tiny doghouse. I saw one that had a red tile roof and looked like a model of a real house with an attached garage.

But tonight we are beachside basking in the light of a full moon and we say to each other, "It doesn't get any better than this!" A change from the normal is what we wanted and it is certainly what we will get.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Something new and different

Surprise. We are in Mexico and planning to live here for several months. We are building a vacation home and even though it's months from completion we are here anyway. Robert's heart attack prompted the get-away. He has decided to take a long sabbatical from work. So we are here looking for a house to rent.

So far we are enjoying every minute. We're on the Sea of Cortez in basically a small fishing village. It is very primitive in many respects. Currently we are in a hotel which has the modern conveniences (internet connection!)

Allison is charmed by the novelty of the spanish language and seems very willing to learn. Already she is saying "buenos noches" and "gracias" every chance she gets. She swam in the pool with a Mexican girl who knew no english. They seemed to enjoy each other.

We purchased a laptop computer right before we left so we'd have a method to communicate with friends and family. But it's also become Allison's toy. She reminds us of her oldest brother watching her immersed in a game working to reach the next level. I tried to hold her back but there's no stopping them once they discover the fun in computer gaming. I did bring along some learning dvd's which she also uses. When we get settled we'd like to find someone to help care for her and teach her spanish. Or we may enroll her in the local private school. We'll see. Right now we're off to sleep--with the patio door open to the ocean.