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.

What's good

The neighborhood was a little busier than usual this weekend as it was Homeowners Weekend. I hope too many of them aren't disappointed with the progress. As we await news on who has bought our development we watch as some projects proceed and others are at a standstill. The sidewalks along the west side of the Paseo are almost completed, but work on the road itself has ceased.
There is a crew working diligently on the community pool (I hear it is just weeks away from completion.) There are some crews that continue the work on the rock walls of the estuaries and some building in Agua Viva. Work on the Pasadas is non-existent.

Of course, we hope this all changes as a new owner comes on board. Nobody seems to know anything much. We just keep asking each other the same questions. However, we ourselves, aren't worried. Robert and I know things will sort themselves out eventually. Momentum is slow now, but it still feels to me that things are moving forward. We have faith.

I like to joke that we are happy in our own little world, living in our little chica. We ride our bikes avoiding the potholes and pitfalls like we own the place. We say to each other that these might be the good old days--when everything was fresh and uncertain and we dug right in. Still, we do like to dream. Wouldn't it be nice to have a convenience market in Nopolo? When will the tennis center be manned again and the bathrooms unlocked? Will we ever get a beach club? Meanwhile we accentuate the positive.

We have found one wonderful, marvelous bright spot in dining: La Mision on the Malecon. We've eaten there four times now, each time a perfect experience. I never rave about restaurant; I am not a foodie, but when we eat at La Mision we end up talking about it all the next day. Last night we went with the Browns to celebrate Valentines Day. The chef, Rodrigo, had a special menu for the evening. When everyone in the restaurant was seated with their champagne he came to the floor and explained the courses and his decisions behind his selections. Then he returned to the kitchen where he proceeded to prepare course after course of delicious and interesting food all presented beautifully. For a couple of hours we were completely transported to another reality of white tablecloths and rolls with herbed butter and lamb chops in cherry reduction sauce with crispy fried yam chips: the spell broken only when we stepped outside the door to the noisy Malecon and the Saturday cruisers and the wafting scent of the stinky pelican-infested marina.

Keeping it in beautiful Loreto.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Driving to Loreto this morning I saw a flock of turkey vultures pecking on what looked like a dead dog. Actually, it was a colony, not flock (I looked it up.) When I pulled over some of the birds flew off, but these undaunted big boys stayed firm on their perches.

I imagine the spreading of the wings is supposed to signify "back-off, intruder." I think they were more afraid I'd take their lunch. Yuck.

I've written about these guys before--in our early days in Loreto Bay. And they still creep me out.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Our own Mayberry

We are humming right along. There is a nice, if simple, rhythm to our lives here in Loreto. I get up early to get Allison off to school, then Robert and I either work-out at the hotel gym or play tennis. We try to get out on our boat at least once a week. We take a long walk every other afternoon before sunset. Sometimes we follow the golf course to the tennis center, sometimes we walk closer to the ocean.

We visit with friends, work on little projects around the house. I read, surf the web, take naps on the terrace, think about what to make for dinner. Twice a week I take Spanish lessons in town. There is no stress whatsoever in our lives and we are grateful. I watch the news from the U.S. and it seems our country is falling apart. It makes me anxious and angry. I feel helpless to fix it. The problems are so big. The one thing I can do is create a sweet life here. Here, in Loreto Bay, everything is on a small scale and fresh. From here, we feel removed and protected. Are we escapists, I wonder? Should I feel bad about feeling so relaxed? Naaaaahhh.

All this will come to an end eventually. Eventually, I'll want Allison to go to school in the States, to get a better education than she could get here. And I want her to grow up feeling like an American. I love America for better or worse. But for the time being, this is a wonderful way to live. It's small town living with an exotic twist. Every day presents something for me to marvel over, do a double-take over, or just shake my head in astonished amusement. I do worry though, that my sense of wonderment will give way to complacency. How surprised can one be at the sight of cows and horses and burros on the highway every morning?

Allison's Spanish is improving. We and another family hired a local teacher, Natalia, to work with our children every day after school. She comes to our houses and helps with homework. Today they gathered around our table on the terrace--not a bad setting for school.

We parents work together to enrich the children's education by holding after-school classes. Doug Brown teaches world history or geography; I'm doing arts/crafts. All of us pitch in one way or another. And of course, the outdoor environment holds endless possibilities for exploration and adventure. The kids get to fish, go clamming, build sandcastles, ride their bikes all through the neighborhood. And they do something else, which rarely, if ever, happens at home in the suburbs: They stop and visit with adults. Most homeowners are here for leisure, so they have the time and the inclination to chat with our kids. It is not uncommon for Allison to drop in to say hello to Sherry and Tom. She'll visit with their dog, Chewy, and the parrots. Earlier, when Dee's dog had puppies, Allison and other children in the neighborhood regularly stopped in to cuddle them and chat with Dee. Ariel has invited children to her house to paint with watercolors.

There are just as many working adults, too. Allison is familiar with a great deal of the Loreto Bay staff and the other independent professionals by name. Daily, she gets little glimpses into the world of landscapers, maintenance men, architects, hotel staff. She gets to see Peter draw design plans in his office adjacent to our house. She watches workers laying pavers or setting water lines. She watches people at work every day all around her. So when I fret about the quality of her education I remember that I need to factor these elements in. Whatever is lacking in formal learning, is certainly balanced by the bounty of offerings right outside our door.