Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Putting it to rest

Now that we are settled back home I will not be posting for awhile. I can't see why anyone would be too interested in our day-to-day activities now that we are not Airstreaming nor hanging our in Loreto. As far as living in Baja California, we are not planning any more long stays. Allison is enrolled in school here in our home town. It's time to settle down a bit after four years "on the road."

We are planning another foray on the road next summer. We would like to take our Airstream on an eastern route, maybe through the Appalachian mountains and up the eastern coast into Canada. I'll want to journal our travels so I expect I'll start blogging again. But till, then I'm going underground. I'm happy to be home among old friends and my grown sons.

Friday, July 31, 2009

In praise of Durango

My new favorite town in America: Durango, Colorado. Cool, green, clean, scenic. The town has just the right amount of western flavor and modern athleticism, my favorite combo. The Animas River runs through town attracting rafters and kayakers. And, of course, there is the famous Durango & Silverton steam train which brings thousands of visitors to the area each summer.

There is a wonderful walking path alongside the Animas dotted with public parks and art. The day was beautiful. People were out on bikes and the river full of people floating in inner tubes. We strolled unknowingly upon a music festival at the Rotary Park where Allie climbed an aspen tree for a better view of the gazebo where players performed Peter and the Wolf. We asked an older couple, long-time residents, for a recommendation on where to go for lunch. Rather than explain, they insisted we hop in their car (an old Cadillac) to be dropped off door-side to Guido's, a cute Italian eatery on Main Street.

All day long Allison and I were singing the praises of Durango and wishing aloud that we could live there. And it did seem like the sirens of Durango were conspiring to lure us to stay. We joked and made references to the Chevy Chase movie, "Funny Farm," where he pays the townspeople to behave as quaint and charming as possible to lure a buyer for his house. It seemed that everyone in Durango was friendly, polite, and attractive.
We did, of course, ride the Silverton train. We opted for the bus ride up and the train ride back. The ride is long, but not dull if you like scenery. We were constantly on the look-out for wildlife and other interesting sights. Besides the gorgeous views of rushing waters and rustic train trestles and enormous drop-offs we saw a bear, deer, prairie dogs standing at attention, and the wildest of wildlife, the young folks floating the river who greeted the passing train by pulling down their swim trunks and mooning us.

Our stay in Durango was short. We next headed toward Silverthorne, Colorado where we spent the past week enjoying more wonderful weather and pine-infused atmosphere. And today I write from the worn sofa of my "permanent" home. Naturally, it's late and everyone's asleep (I'm the night-owl.) The Airstream is parked in the driveway until we get it unloaded. It stands as a beacon to the neighborhood that the wanderers are home at last. At least I think they see it that way. Could be, they're wondering how long that thing will sit in the drive.

I'll probably stop writing as I take time to readjust to home and fall back into the comfortable rhythms of normal life. So, until later, goodnight America.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Getting up to Speed

Back to Airstreaming again. We left Loreto and flew to San Diego where we picked up our Airstream trailer and visited friends and family. We visited my mother in Arizona, showed Allie the Grand Canyon and Four Corners, and now we are set up in Durango, Colorado where we'll ride the train to Silverton and back just for fun before continuing on towards home.

Finally we are in temperatures below 100F. Our last stop was in Cameron, AZ near the Canyon where the wind blows like a furnace and we run the A/C runs continuously or risk roasting in our tin can. Once we passed through Cortez, Colorado and entered into the San Juan mountain range the world turned green again. Pines and ponderosa, creeks and rivers replaced the stony plains of Navajo country, beautiful in it's own way, but untouchable. The occasional monument of weathered stone was awe-inspiring looking like sculpture or an emergent ancient skyscraper. Traveling on Highway 160 we just skimmed the edge of the valley. I know we missed a lot by scooting past, but we were weary of our days of heat and driving. We did make an obligatory stop at the site of the Four Corners and took the obligatory photo on the cement slab marking the four states' touching border: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado.

Of course, the Grand Canyon was incredulous if not predictable as Robert and I have seen it several times. We again, took photos at the exact spot behind the Tovar Hotel that we took on our honeymoon, and at later dates with our sons. But this time our souvenir purchase wasn't an Indian craft or tee-shirt, but a book titled, "Death in the Grand Canyon," a compilation of tales of stupidity really; as in people falling off ledges while showing off or taking photos. I read the best parts out loud from Cameron to Kayenta until I finally tired of the grim subject.

The past two weeks have been a blur of geography, climate, and activities. Many mornings I awoke in confusion as to where I was. Usually, the shock of re-entering American culture after many months in Mexico is something I get to ruminate over, but this rapid sprint leaves no time to process anything. I'm functioning from memory: Grocery carts, drive-throughs, stop-lights, mall traffic, American currency, GPS programming, wi-fi hotspots, Starbucks blends, paper or plastic?, I'm regaining my fluency. But like riding a bike, it all comes back to you.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The rewards

Seven months in Loreto Bay, now it's time to go home. This marks our fourth winter living in our little casa. We've built another life here full of friends and adventures; it feels more like home all the time. I think this was our most enjoyable visit ever. Our sons spent Christmas with us, Beau bringing his fiance, Karly along. Our younger son came here for his summer internship at Dolphin Dive. He was great fun to have around. I hope it's a summer he'll cherish even if it meant he had no friends to hang with and he had to live with his parents.

We hiked, biked, kayaked, fished, played tennis, golf, went boating. We saw every type of marine life in the Sea of Cortez including an orca whale and her calf. On our last outing we encountered a pod of pilot whales that took a curiousity to us. A few of them came within feet of the boat to catch a closer look at us. We were celebrating Independence Day with the Brown family. The whales were our fireworks; we oohed and aahed at the thrill of these magnificent creatures breaking the water's surface. We've had lots of experiences like that.

If you just stay in one place long enough interesting things happen, maybe not every day, but often enough. I remember one day when a hummingbird landed on my finger. He was either too trusting or too young to understand what he'd done. That one thing made my day. Those occurrences are reward for the patience of living through the boring days, the days there's nothing much to do. There are no movie theaters, book stores, shopping malls. We create most activities ourselves like having friends to dinner and cards or tennis. At least Robert created a job for himself by teaching English to the kids at the Internado. (My job was our co-op homeschool.)

Now we head home and pick up again on our other life. I'm ready. I'm ready for the over-stimulation and assault of abundance. I'm ready for some "noise." But, more than that I'm ready for some good American eats. I'll let an In-n-Out cheeseburger make my day. See, I've learned to appreciate the little things.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Coronado Island drama

We've made two excursions taking friends to Coronado Island in the last week. The ocean is a perfect temperature for wading and snorkeling. There are no stinky dead squid yet washed up on the Coronado shores. However, the bees are a nuisance. Maybe a picnic on the beach is not a good idea--the minute you pop open a soda you have company and more company. Soon we were abandoning our picnic spot and moving further into the shoreline. Our little maltese, Chloe, was confused and annoyed by them. The children resorted to burying her in the sand to hide her. We had fun with that until people starting getting stung.

Robert was stung on the tip of his tongue as he took a swig from a thermos. By then, everyone was eager to depart, but bees were swarming the boat preventing us from boarding. The children were now half-panicked and near tears. I waded out from the shore with them to try to escape the bees while Robert and the other adults fired up the boat and sped off shore to blow them off. We waited like stranded refugees, me clutching Chloe and comforting Allie who now took on the fear that we might be abandoned to our fate with the bees. Robert returned for us like a rescuer, "get on, quick" and we clamored onboard to safety. I was last to get on--I had one hand occupied in grip of our dog, the other attempting a crawl stroke reminiscent of my high school summer as a lifeguard. Am doing this right? It really wasn't at all as traumatic as that, it wasn't a killer bee scenario, but it was a little fun to play up the drama.

Oh, and surprisingly, Robert's tongue did not swell up like we expected. I imagined we might need medical care, but he seemed unfazed. My hero.

Poster Boy for the dream

We're spending more time in and on the water as the temperatures climb. One by one our friends and neighbors are leaving for the States. That and the upheaval with the "suspension" of TSD Loreto Bay Partners is making a ghost town of our neighborhood. The suspense in "suspension" is something we're learning to live with. We have no more insight than the next person to what direction the development will take. We are fortunate to have a completed home. Living here as much as we do we have a more relaxed perspective. We have time to cultivate and enjoy "the dream" that everyone bought into even if it has been greatly altered. In the meantime we enjoy what we can.

We've hosted two parties this month for our neighbors. We are fortunate to have a world-class chef in the neighborhood, Rodrigo Tapia, who runs the La Mision Restaurant. The wonderful food he and his wife, Blanca, prepared elevated everyone's mood. They prepared dorado that Robert caught and lobster we bought from a local fisherman into dishes fit for a formal occasion. Some friends are employees of Loreto Bay, now having to look for new work. Some friends are nervous homeowners with uncompleted houses. Coming together socially seemed like an act of reassurance. For those of us who remain, we're in it together. For those who have to move on, we enjoyed our acquaintance and wish them well.

Now, we are too are finally winding down our time here. Another two or three weeks and we will head home until next winter. It's not even the increasingly hot weather that compels me to go, but the departure of friends. For what is a place without friends?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Scorpion Bay for Beginners

Before being so rudely interrupted by reality, we were enjoying a nice excursion to the Pacific side. We followed the Browns to San Juanico for an attempt at surfing the waves at Scorpion Bay. Our son Ryan tenaciously, over two days, worked at getting vertical on the surf board. Robert gave it a shot too. Being Midwest-born and bred he'd never even touched a surfboard. And what a sight to see our old Tahoe, the one that's taken us to the ends of the continent on family vacations and Ryan's baseball tournaments, toting surfboards on its roof.

We loved the open-air cantina at the campgrounds. I imagine a lot of fun times are had there. Scorpion Bay is noted for being a premier surfing spot. The beach is shallow and long; the waves are consistent and mild and lengthy. Surfers can catch waves that last forever. There's unrestricted freedom. You can bring your vehicle right on the beach; your dog too. The surf culture looks pretty cool, but I think Robert and I missed that wave. Maybe Ryan has a shot at it. I didn't try, but then I didn't have the equipment or body gear. My mission, as always, is to videotape and photograph everyone else's fun. I put together a video of Ryan. It's mostly wipe-outs, but I think it demonstrates that kid's tenacity and good humor.

We rented a very nice little house and the Browns rented a casita across from the beach. We spent our evenings together playing board games and watching Ryan act silly with the kids. Other than playing on the beach there is nothing else to see or visit. Riding waves is the only reason for visiting. It's all about the surfing. San Juanico is teeny-tiny and ugly. There is a small fishing industry there so part of the beach is occupied with pangas and an overabundance of sea birds which pollute the beach with their droppings. We ate at the only taco stand open to find the same woman cooking at the cantina the next day. Great tacos, by the way. When we crested the big hill northbound on Highway One where Loreto Bay comes into view, we all exclaimed how much more beautiful is "this side." And when we unlocked our front door, threw down our baggage, and entered our casa, we all exclaimed, "We're home. I love our house." I realized instantly how this casa has become a real home to us.

The trip was a lot of fun and we may venture over there again for another try. But for non-surfers, you cannot beat the Sea of Cortez. There is such abundant marine life and points of interest, and the Sierra de Las Gigantas makes for a dramatic backdrop. Loreto Bay is beautiful as far as the Baja goes. I'm ready to get snorkeling.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Two steps forward, one step back....

Days ago we were haggling with Bob Toubman, our condominium administrator about our renegade attempt to install a front step. After three years of a promised step we decided to make it happen ourselves. However, we willfully neglected to apply to the design committee, instead designing the step on the fly. We had seized the opportunity and by-God we were going to get our step. Of course, we were ordered to cease, prompting me to begin the plea process, only to be given permission anyway just days later. Too easy, I mused.

Had I known what was brewing I could have seen how insignificant our issue was.

We were away over the weekend when the news of the ultimate demise of the Loreto Bay Company was announced. We all saw it coming, but the sudden announcement caught everyone by surprise, even the employees. There is just no more money coming, no funds to continue operations. The hope that a buyer for the project would step up seems to have de-materialized and we are left with only guesses to what the future holds for us.

Employees tell me that they were notified Saturday of their termination. I believe, including the construction crews, there are over 700 workers. Everyone is now left to scramble for new employment. A walk through the Inn affirmed the reality of the news: Every chair, table, lounger, umbrella, towel, desk, potted plant, vanished. The swimming pools are slowly draining. Chalk marks in the sand are drawn for the fencing that will encompass the ghost hotel. The kayaks will be removed probably tomorrow. The golf course is now closed and no further maintenance will be provided for the tennis center. It's pool will be drained also. Furniture and fixtures from all the offices will be removed this week.

I'm told that, through the HOA and property management funds, services to Founders Neighborhood will still function. Security, trash removal, pest control, and landscaping will continue. However, the existing management company must be desolved and reconstructed under another authority, namely homeowners. I can see where we will have to become more involved in our destiny. Right now, it is so early that no one knows exactly what will be necessary. I believe many still hold out hope that the project will be bought soon. Well, it's now or never.

There is also a feeling among some homeowners and employees that this termination of operations had to happen for real change to take place. The idea being we need to shake off the old system and begin anew. We do not feel any sense of dread. The future could mean that we homeowners will take more control over the direction of the project. It will contract into something quite different than the original developers envisioned. Smaller, tighter, more realistic; maybe similar to a country club or a gated community. We'll have to scale back to a position we can sustain as a neighborhood, not a commercial center or resort. God knows, we all wished for the dream of a blend of commercial with residential, but it's not going to happen, not for a long time.

Of course we need to see the unfortunate homeowners in Agua Viva get their homes finished. That's a enormous problem for which I don't have an answer. I'm not the only one. We all feel concern and empathy for them. We need to pave the Paseo, complete the exterior landscaping, and address our parking issues. The hotel is of least concern now, likewise, the desired beach club, but the golf course we must save. There is a strong possibility it will no longer be maintained. The word is that is will be managed until the end of the month. (The sprinklers were running tonight.) It requires tens of thousands of dollars every month to maintain the course. Could it go back to Fonatur? No one can predict. I'm already envisioning us homeowners having to provide that money through dues and memberships. As far as the tennis center, forget it, not enough interest to save it. The few of us who play weekly will have to find some way to sweep the courts and replace nets, etc. It will continue to look like the relic its always been.

I may be getting ahead of myself which is what one does when faced with the unknown. It's easy to say what we need, but how is another story. Right now we wait for more news and say goodbye to many familiar faces.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Stuck in time

Allison's music school had a recital this past Friday evening. It was her first ever. She played the piano (electric keyboard actually) and she did very well, we thought. Her friend, Chandler, also played piano. No stage fright among those two. (Click here to see the edited video)

The event was held at the museum courtyard at the Mission, a charming place for a gathering, especially at sunset. I would keep glancing up at the mission bell tower admiring the centuries-old rock work along with the clock that's perpetually stuck at 8:05. What would those Jesuits think to see us here today? Could they have imagined the plastic chairs and electric pianos, the cameras and cell phones? The juxtaposition of the old with the modern is something that continually fascinates me. The more we move into the future the odder and more precious man-made objects become. Especially when you consider the labor required to create them. And that is indeed what makes objects of the past so emotionally weighted. You think about the creators along with the creation. You cannot separate the two. Nobody will look at a plastic chair with the same emotion, ever

In a flash of inspiration I suggested to Allison and her girlfriends, Grace, and Chandler that when they all turn fifteen we should throw a triple Quinceanera party for them in the same spot. Where else (as teenagers) will they get the opportunity to wear a princessy evening gown? Recently we attended a Quinceanera, which is the American version of a coming-out party, or debutante debut. It too, was held at the Mission. It's certainly not all about the dresses and the party; I was very impressed with the entire ritual of introducing a young girl to the community, especially the part where she sits before the priest for a long personal lecture about her responsibilities, her duties, her attitudes, her future. Wow. There's no ambiguity in that production. A girl would come away with a very definite idea of what is expected of her, and more so, what her value is to the world. I felt it was an honor to be invited to witness the process.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

May is the best month

May has been the best month ever. Not only great for getting outside in the water, but just full of all kinds of memorable times.

Ryan and I took kayaks out around Point Nopolo in into the estuary yesterday. He brought his dog, Banks, who is still a puppy, along. Banks had never been in the ocean and now he was perched on the front end of a kayak overwhelmed with the sights and sounds. It was fun to watch his reactions. There was a huge colony of brown pelicans along the rock that would reluctantly take flight when we got too close. It's almost frightening when they pass overhead in large numbers--they make such a racket. Then there was all the sea life below. The sea was so calm and clear; we could see numerous starfish and anemones and every type of fish. I could barely contain my delight. Poor Banks, he didn't know what to think. He would repeatedly jump off the kayak and soon realize he had nowhere to go. Ryan would have to pull him back on the kayak. The dog certainly wore himself out.

Robert is wearing himself out as well. With Ryan here he's more active. This morning, at daybreak, I heard them making commotion in the kitchen as they prepared to go fishing. It's 2:00pm and they're not back yet. I am faithfully waiting for the "catch," because we are long overdue for a fish feast. If it's not fishing, then they are at the pool swimming, or throwing tennis balls great distances for the dog to fetch, or doing handi-work around the house like erecting a make-shift fence for Banks.

Robert has also started volunteering at the Internado in Loreto. Internado is the Spanish word for boarding school. It serves the many children who live on ranches in rural Baja (ha, an oxymoron for sure) where there are no schools. Although he knows no Spanish he is invaluable as a fun guy who will play games and entertain these wonderful kids. Whatever he does with them they are just happy for the fun and distraction. His involvement makes me curious to join, but this is his own pursuit, I don't want to hone in on him. Besides I have enough with our own "kids," the ones we are homeschooling. I had them making sugar cube Mayan pyramids this week. The project turned out to be more enjoyable than I imagined.

Puppy in the rain spout

Yes, that's a dog in the rain spout. Every night when we pass this house we hear the puppy bark, but it wasn't until recently that Robert discovered he was actually in the rain spout.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Finding a dead whale

Robert found a decomposing whale carcass earlier this week. He was fishing along the coastline just south of Loreto Bay. Our friend, Bruce, says that it's fortunate to find something like this so close to home (not fortunate for the whale, which is probably a fin whale, but exciting for the curious.) I think most dead whales sink to to ocean floor and decompose and get eaten. Dead whales don't often strand onshore. I have no idea how this whale ended up on the shore.

Robert took his fish fillet knife and sawed off a piece of the vertebrae for a souvenir of sorts. He estimates the single vertebrae weighs about 5o pounds, but Bruce says in a year, as the oil leeches out, it will reduce in weight to about 5 pounds. Other people have been carving at it the carcass as well. No telling how much longer it will be there.

A few days later Robert took Allison and some of the neighbor kids out for a look. They were impressed, but apparently the carcass was "stinky." Even at that degree of decomposition the whale emits a terrible odor.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nice work if you can get it

Our younger son, Ryan, has arrived to begin an unpaid summer internship with Dolphin Dive. He'll spend 12 weeks assisting in the shop, learning how the business is run; a pretty cherry summer job, we think. The only downside for him is that he'll be away from his friends. I'm thrilled to have him in our lives like old times. This closeness may never happen again. He'll finish school and move on never to live with mom and dad again--at least that's the plan.

He seems excited to be here. This is, after all, a virtual playground. For an active person there is much to do. He and Robert have already taken the boat out fishing. Soon he will be taking clients out on scuba adventures. I predict it will be the best summer of his life. Enjoy it now, we say, there's plenty of hard work ahead.

Our home school is going well. Things are falling into place. The kids meet at our dining table every morning with Natalia. M-W-F the kids go to Lynda's for lunch and language arts. T-TR they stay with me for lunch and a history lesson. This week we'll study the Mayans, next, the Aztecs. When we finish they ride their bikes to the pool and I usually won't see Allison again till dinner-time. She's at that happy age I remember so well. Afternoons spent on bicycles and at friends' houses, exploring the world outside and coming home famished and exhausted.

Being in the minority, these kids receive a lot of good attention from the adults that live and work here. I absolutely love that. What a gift, I think, to see them interact in the world of adults. Here, people have the time and interest to speak to them, to share things with them. Allison is growing so comfortable with conversing with adults. She even has favorites that she stops to visit. People inquire about her, include her. It sounds corny but, this is a village helping raise my daughter. Lucky, lucky, lucky. Whatever might be lacking, there is that unique element that this life here offers. Okay, I do admit I have one concern: that she will think adults have all the free time in the world to play, including her parents. In a worrisome moment I said to Robert, "Are we setting an unreal expectation for her? " Unlike our sons she won't remember us working. She may grow up thinking that a lot of people don't have to work and she'll be lazy. He answers by reassuring me that with me for a mother she doesn't stand a chance of being lazy. (He thinks I am too project-oriented.)

Anyhoo, I do enjoy life at the moment far removed from the toils of the past. I keep it real by reminding myself that life can change on a dime. These are just good old days in the making.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Getting the education you want

Sunday we took a late afternoon ride in the boat. There is just no way a photo (one that I take) can capture the beauty of Loreto Bay at sunset. Robert and I try to walk every evening at sunset along the golf course, just like at home, but here the scenery is much better. There's a hole that is perched in a hillside with picture perfect views to the ocean on one side; the mountains on the other. We always stop there for a moment to take it all in. Robert stands on the bluff surveying the ocean: I sit on the turf mesmerized by the variations of shadow and light the setting sun throws on the mountains. Again, another example of how differently two people look at the world. Once I sputtered, "Stop looking at that ocean and look at this!"

It's really perfect here now; the days are warm and getting warmer. Many folks are readying to leave for the summer. We too, want to get out before it gets too hot, but then if you do, you miss a lot of what the Sea of Cortez has to offer. The sea gets warmer and more inviting. Snorkeling and scuba diving become enticing again. All attention goes to the water for relief and recreation.

We decided after the long spring break followed by two more weeks off for fear of swine flu (there was none), to home-school Allison. The Ford family has joined us in creating our own "school" with Natalia acting as schoolmistress. For three hours she teaches math and Spanish (totally in Spanish) then Lynda and I follow with other subjects. I've donned myself head of the history department. My lessons will follow the early history of Mexico, or Mesoamerica, starting with a fascinating ancient civilization, the Olmecs, a culture that carved those colossal stone heads, and ending with the Spanish conquest. I am currently obsessed with researching material to offer the kids, a challenging task as there are no Borders Books and swanky libraries here in Loreto. We manage to get by with a lot of help from internet downloads and Youtube videos. Natalia is going to La Paz this weekend: maybe she'll have luck finding some appropriate reading material.

Again, my hope is to eventually start a school in Loreto Bay, or at least create a space for a learning center. We could pool our resources, adding materials as we go until we have our own "library" and workshop. Until then, we are doing fine with what we have. In many ways it is the ideal situation: we create the education we want.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Back to Loreto

We had three wonderful weeks in San Diego. We flew back to Loreto, put Allison back in school only to see it let out for two weeks more due to the Swine Flu scare. However, there is no swine flu anywhere in these parts. I think the whole affair is overblown and will fade away like the West Nile Flu and other "potential pandemics." Meanwhile the Mexico economy suffers and good people are without work.

I'm so happy to be back in Loreto Bay where the pace is slow. I love San Diego. We could live there. It's biggest drawback to me is the humanity. There, if you have an idea to do something, you can count on waiting behind twenty other people having the same idea at the same time. Here I'm accustomed to having full run of the show. No lines, no real traffic. BUT, no amenities. It is quite the trade-off. However, I do like the privilege of living in both worlds.

Rather than Allison miss any more school we're having Natalia over every day for "homeschool." The Ford children are joining us too. We are working out the details for forming our own school here in Loreto Bay. It is something I have been working towards since day one. Now that Allison's Spanish is improved I think the time is right to move back to a more progressive curriculum. The beauty of it all is that we have Natalia, who only speaks Spanish. She will teach them for three hours in the a.m. totally in Spanish and then we parents will take over for the afternoon with our own specialities.

I am singularly focused on this project at the moment. I am no teacher, but I know where to find resources. I believe we will create a wonderful environment for these kids and that this will be the seed for other families with school-age children. I am very excited about this. We have a lot of planning ahead. More on that later.

Months ago we talked with the kids about building a fort. They must have gotten tired of the talk and built the thing themselves--or rather assembled it. The last few days they have disappeared around the corner from the Fords' house to a spot beside a home under construction. There they gathered scraps and fashioned a little deck/clubhouse. Form this photo it may look like nothing, but we thought it was pretty cute.

Other news: The Puerto Escondido Yacht Club held its annual Loreto Fest this weekend. Allie and I took a look (Robert is still home in the States.) I thought they put out a lot of effort to make it as entertaining as possible. If nothing else, they had the most beautiful setting as a back-drop. Our dear friend, and neighbor, Cathy, gave a nice vocal performance. Most people there were the crusty sailor types. Arr arr arrgh, a sailor's life for me. I wish I could, but I just can't see myself living on a boat. Now an Airstream trailer--that's different!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Birch Aquarium

You find fish on a smaller scale at the Birch Aquarium. We've been to plenty of aquariums throughout the U.S. and the Birch was memorable for sure. We enjoyed meandering through the Hall of Fishes, an exhibit of Pacific marine life from over 60 habitats. We enjoyed the tanks with the Baja California fish, like Dorado and Yellowtail, most of which we recognized from our scuba dives and from the catches Robert brings home.

The coral exhibits are especially interesting when you think that something that looks so plant like--leafy and flowering--is actually an animal. A trip to an aquarium reminds you how life here is unbelievably genius.

My mother and her dear friend, Gary, joined us in San Diego for a few days of sight-seeing. Here's a photo of my mother, Allie and me outside the aquarium.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sea World

We visited Sea World where Robert caught this shot of Allie and I "kissing" the Orca as it swam past us in the tank.

I tried to get the same shot of him doing the same, but could never get the timing right.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Allison leaps of a cliff

We spent the first few days in San Diego getting our Airstream set up and then driving around the area sight-seeing. Robert happened across this site on a bluff where hang gliders were launching out over the Pacific. It was cold that day and we'd driven all over the county so Allison and I weren't too keen to sit outdoors. However, we indulged Robert's curiosity. Admittedly, it was an amazing sight to see this people being lifted by the wind to such great heights.

We had found the Torrey Pines Gliderport on a day that happened to be the best of the year so far for gliding conditions; it must have put all the pilots in a great mood. One approached Allison and began chatting with her. "Are you twelve?," he asked. "Nine, then? Okay good enough to go for a ride." Turns out he was the owner of the facility and he asked her to go up with him. To my amazement she said yes. It all happened so fast. I was signing waivers and she was getting prepped and before I knew it she was in the air. Up until the moment she lifted, I expected her to bail out in fear. And when she finally touched down I looked her face over for tears, but she was all smiles and ready to go at it again. Thank you to Robin Marien, whose confident insistence that Allie was in safe hands led Robert and I to give up our daughter to her greatest adventure ever. On top of that he gave it to her for free.

To view a video of her launch go here:

Friday, April 17, 2009

Escape to San Diego

Now my excuse is that I don't have my camera USB cable to download photos to my Mac. I'm slow to write because we are often without Internet connection. Presently, we are north of San Diego, mostly in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. Allison has two weeks off from school so we decided to follow the Brown family up the Baja to San Diego, a road trip that was uneventfully safe. They left last week, but we're here for awhile longer visiting friends and family, shopping, sight-seeing, eating. Eating. I've sampled it all to my heart's content: In-n-Out burgers, corn dogs, VG's donuts, Red Mango frozen yogurt, pasta, pizza, cotton candy, anything that can not be found in Loreto-by-the-Sea, Baja California Sur.

Yessiree. And that is just the eats. We've towed Allison through Sea World, the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, hiking and para-gliding in Torrey Pines, (yes, she para-glided) nearly every museum in Balboa Park, two movies of her choice, and several trips to the shopping mall for all those "necessities" we've been without. At some point we will be fat as ticks and need to return to our aesthetic life in Loreto to deflate. We've spent way too much dinero; it is easy to do in the States. My first trip to the grocery store left me aghast at the price of a loaf of bread, the "good" bread--over $4.00 a loaf. I bought five assorted pastry items at a bakery in Coronado that set me back 14 bucks. And that was after $7.50 a single scoop ice cream cone earlier in the stroll.

We pulled Airstream Abby out of storage. (We'd left her in Phoenix, but our friend borrowed her and stored her nearby.) We've stayed at San Elijo State Park when a site was available and at Campland when San Elijo was full, which is nearly always. Campland in Mission Bay is the Wally World of campsites, a full service operation which adds to comfort, but the atmosphere is amusement park-like. One week was enough. Since we can't get continuous time at San Elijo we'll now be roughing it at a RV park next to the Del Mar racetrack--meaning there is no Internet, cable, or showers.

The San Elijo campground is in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, a little hamlet called along the ocean north of Del Mar with iconic eateries and cute hang-outs. We had breakfast one morning at Pipes, the favorite of surfer dudes. I love to haunt the Seaside Market, a super-cute grocery with eye-popping produce. The campground is booked solid through October. Easy to understand why--a prime location oceanside. It's also surfer central. There is even a surf school on site. At the crossroads of Highway 101 and Chesterfield Drive sits a bronze sculpture of a surfer. He's supposed to represent the heart of Cardiff surf culture, but he's been met with a lot of playful ribbing by residents who've nicknamed him "The Kook," and dress him regularly in goofy attire.

We've been hanging with our good friend, David, who lives in Cardiff, and my cousin who is in Carlsbad. She had us all over for Easter Sunday, Italian-style. She's a W.A.S.P like me, but married an Italian, learned to cook mouth-watering lasagna and command, "Manga!" My mother drove up from Mesa, AZ with a good friend for several days. The days and their events have become blurred--we've packed in so much. I intend to pack in a lot more in the week left to us.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Families tied

I've been lazy about posting, it's true, but my excuse is: we are having too much fun. Our friends and fellow home owners, the Allens,' were in town for a week. They merged with us and the Browns' for one fun-filled, kid-centered day after another: boating, swimming, tennis, hikes, mule-rides, sleep-overs. We traveled as a pack from one activity to another becoming a moving mass of big and little bodies, requiring tables in restaurants to be pushed together, and complex permutations over how 12 people can fit into 2 cars so that 3 certain girls can always sit together and the only two boys are never separated.

Our mule ride near San Javier was especially fun. Actually, the kids rode the mules while we parents trailed behind on foot. It was just less than an hour ride up a gravel trail to a watering hole, no challenge at all. The most interesting aspect of the event, to me, was the little ranch where the ride originated. A open-air shack with an outhouse that requires each user to fill a bucket from the well to dump in the toilet so it could flush. Does that disqualify it from being an outhouse, I wonder? After all, it did have a ceramic toilet.

I guess you could say the owners lived very primitively and self sufficiently. They had a vegetable garden. The goats were all milk goats. The pigs were being fattened. A table in the "house" was strewn with leather and shoe cobbling tools. A windmill served two purposes, one being the landmark to find this remote homestead on the road to San Javier. Of course the car ride itself is half the adventure. Having done it twice I am less easy to scare. The rocky cliff drop-offs on the narrow mountain passes aren't as daunting the second or third time around. However the wreathed memorial spot where the Professor and his lady went sailing off Thelma-and-Louise style to their deaths still elicits a shudder.

There was a flurry of construction in the beginning stretch of the road to San Javier. The state of Baja California Sur intends to pave the entire 32-kilometer road to the Mission. We had to maneuver around the heavy machinery and workers and over some chunky rocks. We even picked up a hitch-hiker. Or rather, Doug Brown did. The man was obviously a worker hoping to catch a ride up a to a waiting crew. Doug hollered for him to go around back. We all waited, uneasy, as we expected him to open the hatch and hop in the car. Instead he stepped onto the bumper and braced himself against the roof rack. Off we went. A mile later he hopped off to join his waiting buddies under a tree.

I'd say the mule adventure was a success meaning no one was injured or bitten by a rattlesnake. A dip in the shallow pool at the end of the ride was another highlight followed by a stop at Del Barrachos for hamburgers and milkshakes and re-entry to the present times.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Outside the lines

I know other homeowners are concerned with the big issue of the future of Loreto Bay as well as the upcoming condo regime meetings, but me, I'm living in my little world, happy in my belief that every little thing's gonna be alright.

I'm one of the homeowners on the ground working on community building, a concept I understood the original Loreto Bay founders wanted to promote. Having lived in the suburbs all my life I was intrigued by the idea of living in a village where neighbors were encouraged to interact. Loreto Bay appealed to me on that level. Here, there are no garages to pull into undetected. I like seeing familiar faces daily and sharing the experience of navigating life in a foreign country together. As the years pass we are establishing a history together and becoming dear friends. That might not be the goal of many who bought here, but for some of us I'm sure it's an desired outcome of village life.

There is a core group that spends a good portion of each year here. We are one of them. Since we have a young child I find myself compelled make our environment as enriching as possible to her. I'm always looking for ways to bring kids together and ensure that their time here is as rich as possible (plus, it gives me something to do.) On Fridays I hold our house open to kids who want to do arts and crafts. So far the number is small; there are not that many children in Loreto Bay. Their recent project I hung on a clothesline outside my house thinking that other residents might enjoy their work, might enjoy anything different and unusual on their strolls through the neighborhood. Today I was asked (politely) to take it down due to condo regime rules. God forbid I dirty up the pristine atmosphere of the stuccoed environment. However, I think my point was made that real people are living here and we're bound to spill outside the lines.

It's time for a community center, a common place for neighbors to gather. I'm hoping somehow I can wrangle a space from whoever-the-powers-that-be are for this purpose. I envision having a commercial space along the Paseo reserved for homeowners for hanging out. It could have a lending library, card tables, games, television, worktables, a bulletin board. It could host workshops, Spanish lessons, etc. Nothing so fancy, just a hang-out. I know this is nowhere near the top of priorities for Loreto Bay and even for homeowners who are still struggling to get their homes built, but it seems worthwhile to me and I hope we can get it started.

Monday, March 02, 2009


I'm always after Robert to help me with some project around the house. I like to be a busy-body at home always adding improvements and personal touches. He knows to be ready with the drill. My Christmas present was a chandelier he re-fashioned with star-shaped lanterns for over the patio table. He worked a whole weekend stringing and wiring and balancing the thing. He even gave it a toggle on/off switch. My hero.

R0bert is a closet handy-man who requires just a little shove now and then. So, of course, I feel it necessary to draw out his talents by supplying him with projects. I regret that we don't own more square footage around our little chica for me to design and expand. As it is, I have to work within the confines of this postage stamp-sized abode. Ahh, but there is the outside. My creativity is already spilling outside. I'm eyeing the common spaces around us calculating how I could plant some herbs and flowers or maybe mosaic a cement bench or arrange more potted plants on the sidewalk. On Fridays I have been holding an art/crafts session for the neighborhood kids, the village kids, I think I'll start calling them, up on the patio. My plan is to start displaying their artwork outside for the neighborhood to see. I started to pester Robert about my designs for a display board. It ended in us stopping to see Jeff at West Coast Millworks to build me something.

In a week's time I should have an 8x4 plywood and corkboard panel to mount on a wall outside somewhere. Jeff says I can come to the shop to stain or paint the framing however I wish. I'm thrilled to have a project, Robert is thrilled not to have to build it. The kids will be proud to show off their artwork and I think the residents will be happy to see something creative going on. Everybody wins.

There was just one little more thing: I want either a dutch door or some kind of gate to keep Chloe from wondering outside, yet keep our home open to the outside. Robert tagged along looking for something we could fashion into a gate. Actually, he hoped to find a ready-made baby gate; I hoped he'd build me something less plastic-y. I was talking fencing wire and framing and lumber and hammered iron hardware. I even got him to come along to the Sunday flea market (an event I would never even consider stepping foot in back home but here in Loreto it is a highlight of the week for many shopping-starved souls who hope for the near impossible--a perfect strawberry, an unbruised apple, a pair of unused shoes.) We poked around for the baby gate and, while we were at it, an unusual sized battery for a remote control but finding neither.

We ended up buying a worn filet knife for the equivalent of a buck-fifty, a fabulous find for Robert who needed one for fishing. His mood was considerably perked by the act of procuring a bargain and thus in his mind we were finished and it was time for us to go. I persevered a bit more to gather up some vegetables--a decent head of lettuce, garlic, onions, some shelled peas. I always pass on the raw meat. I don't know, something about raw meat on display in the open, sans refrigeration and protective covering, repels me.

As for the doggie gate: This is my solution and it's cheap. The water jug barrier. No installation required.

Pool progress

This is a photo of the community pool recently filled with water. It should be officially opened in two weeks. Rumor is that the community pool in our cluster is next to be built, but when, I don't know. We are in the neighborhood where the spa was originally planned to be located.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The best schools

This is the inside of Allison's fourth grade classroom. The desks are probably circa-1960, all 33 of them. Heck, maybe one of them could be mine that somehow found it's way down here via divine flea market destiny. The kids are pretty packed in there, but somehow they manage. God bless their patient maestra.

Alllison is actually doing pretty well. Her Spanish is improving so she feels more confident. Her grades are good. She came home with an A in math this week, and it was the hard stuff--triple digit multiplication and fractions. She has plenty of friends, and a boy with a crush on her. Lunch continues to be a problem. There is no cafeteria, no hot lunches, no milk cart. I am burdened with the daily task of preparing something nutritious and interesting. I hate that.

The curriculum can't compare to what we'd get back home, but we're not there for that. For all that is lacking in resources and amenities there is so much on the side of good will. The children are so sweet and accepting, respectful and helpful. The don't have attitudes. I feel good about her being there.

Before we returned here I visited and pre-enrolled her in a private school in Kansas City where her cousins attend. The school has a Harry Potter aura to me as far as it's campus setting. It was founded at the turn of the 20th century and has the look of an ivy-league school that exudes prestige and good taste. I think I just like it for the architecture. My thinking was that we'd put her there this fall, you know, finally be serious parents and get her in a serious school. Yet, when I think about really settling down to it, I hesitate. As wonderful an education it will offer, there is much to be said about the one she's getting here at Colegio Calafia. Even with it's third world disadvantages, it is something uniquely special.

I hope she looks back on these days with fondness and gratitude. If nothing else, she will return to American schools with an appreciation, I hope, for all the abundance and high standards that money can buy. But then, even the poorest of U.S. schools has soap and paper towels in the bathrooms. Heck, any school in the U.S. will seem rich to her after this.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Little colt lost

Allowing livestock to roam freely is regular practice here. So it is no surprise when something becomes road kill. It is just so sad to see this sweet colt go down.

We were growing accustomed to his presence as he followed his mother grazing alongside the highway. We'd usually only see them early in the morning on our way to take Allison to school. We looked forward to spotting him. Today when I saw him lying alongside the road I hoped that maybe he was just sleeping, but on the way back I checked him, actually touched him. His flesh was still soft so the accident must have happened early this morning. What else I could do I did not know. I'm sure the owner will discover him soon enough. So sad.

It made me recall a story I read about this horse that lived on the Silverado Trail near Calistoga, California. Everyone was familiar with this old horse. He became a living landmark to the people who drove past him every day on their way to work or school year after year. When he died the whole community mourned; they laid wreaths and notes along the barbed wire fence where he lived. The people felt they had lost something communally important, a shared treasure.

I thought a lot about this story at the time. I'd driven along the Silverado Trail so I knew how pastoral and beautiful it was. I could imagine what a lovely sight this horse in this setting was to the commuters passing by. But more than a pretty sight, he was surely a reassuring one. And more than that, a representative of a simplier, slower way of life in the past. I understood completely why he was beloved.

Our little colt didn't hang around long enough to become an icon. Still, the feeling of loss is similar to that of the people in my story.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Boating Fun

We took the Allen family boating today. We made a stop at Puerto Escondido for gasoline and then over to Danzante Island for some beach time.

Our favorite little Allen guy, Clayton, found these crab legs.

Bruce, from Dolphin Dive was there instructing a couple in diving. He found some gigantic clams.

Robert was gracefully busy finding something that needed fixing on his boat.