Friday, October 21, 2011

Mason's Day in the Campo

Mason's school, Los Charcos, is holistic and spiritual and natural (and if you're a vegan, you'll be in good company).  So when the class takes a field trip to a parent's country land you know it will be wholesome and beautiful.  The day was stunning--one of those 9/11 blue skies that anyone who was in New York recalls from that morning.  For the first time in two and a half years we actually saw leaves, and heard the crunch of them underfoot.  The kids went crazy, jumping into what they called "the swimming pool of leaves."  They built a three-story home for a dying beetle with a jacuzzi, dining room, and an umbrella to shade him from the sun.  They climbed all along the horizontal branches of deciduous trees and found a tiny green frog in the pond where Jenny's dogs, Indie and Luna, were romping.  They rolled stones down cliffs and broke out into spontaneous song while sitting in a circle having their lunch.  And father David played his flute.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A Night Underground in The Thermal Baths

It's a little blurry but notice the carved statue of Saint Michael in the grotto on the right.

We'd been hearing rumors for a while of some super padre spot out in the countryside where parties raged underground in this subterranean hot spring.  So, naturally, we had to check it out.  While we didn't actually rage like the hipsters who do frequent the Archangel Baths, we did have an amazing evening with a number of other couples.   The place is all Ali Baba-ish, lit by hundreds of votives and lanterns, with a series of stone passageways you walk through to arrive at the pools.  There's a bartender in one cave, serving up tequilas, vodka tonics, beer, whatever you like, and a buffet in another tunnel with antipastos, breads, sauteed mushrooms, cheeses, desserts, and little roast beef sandwiches.   Everyone's in a bathing suit and a spa robe, either hanging out in these stone dens, or slipping into the naturally heated waters.  The tunnels are laid out like a big cross, with one end taking you into a yurt where the hottest water is blasted out of pipe in the stone ceiling.  Another branch leads to a private massage room (even Sam got one), and a third long tunnel leads to an outdoor infinity pool. Here there is nothing but black sky and stars over your head.  Incredibly magical and beautiful.

The hottest grotto.
The outdoor pool with the moon on the horizon.

Is that Scott Guerkink lurking at the end of the tunnel?

Sam in the grotto bar, hanging out in his robe.

The massage room, accessed only by water.

Opposite the massage room, the common area with oriental rugs, couches and the dinner spread.

Why We Love the State Fair

The boy in the plastic bubble (inflated by a leaf blower, sealed with duct tape, and set out to sea in a kiddie pool).
In the pop-the-balloon-with-a-dart game you can win a painted clay statue of the Virgin of Guadelupe, or a bottle of tequila.  Toss a ring over a cell phone and it's yours.  There's a ride called the SchlitenFahrt (certainly some German castoff), and if you get to the park early, as we always do (we're still Americans) you'll see the handyman walking around all the juegos mechanicos tuning them up with a wrench.  Be careful of the electric wires that run to the generators.  They're easy to trip over.  If there's no one in line the carnies will let the kids stay airborne on the trampoline harness or play in the moon bounce until someone else comes along  The snack stand vends pork rinds with chile, beer-flavored Halls cough drops--and toilet paper and laundry soap.  Beer costs the same as the super market, about a dollar a bottle, and the henna tattoos well last over a week.  The local niños wear tiny cowboy hats and 5-inch long boots and pour rivers of Valentina chile sauce on their popcorn.  And best of all, after the operator inflates a 6-foot plastic bubble with a leaf blower while your child is inside, hands over his ears, he seals the entry zipper with waterproof duct tape before pushing the ball out to the center of an inflatable pool.  Everybody's safe.

It's a microcosm of the Mexico we adore: the surreal juxtaposed with the everyday, the absolute lack of responsibility and rules, and the weirdness that defines so many of our activities.

Family tattoos.

The snack stand--also vending Chlorox, laundry soap, toilet paper and other sundries.

Everyone's a winner.  Get yourself a cell phone if you can only ring one with a plastic loop.


The Pichacho Mountains in the background.
Even Sam's scared by the fair michelada (beer with lime, chile, salt, Worcestershire sauce and other spices).

Yes, it's really called the SchlitenFahrt.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dog Day Afternoon

Mayú, six months pregnant, in a random tableau with VW
One random Sunday in September the dog lovers among our friends (I do not include myself in this group, though I like their owners very much) decided to gather at the Presa, just south of town, for a romp with their pets.  Because no one here has any relatives, or generally any obligations whatsoever (no sports teams, no work events, no family dinners) we're all pretty much game to get together at a moment's notice.  And that's when things turn out so well.

Mi guapo esposo, Sam
Jenny Hensley, Jamie Guerkink

We spent the day at the water's edge, with the mesquite trees behind us, the huizaches all around, and the local shepherds tending their flocks on the edges of our make-shift Capture-the-Flag field.  Kids versus parents, and the parents didn't give an inch.

Marky & Will Hensley, Matthew & Russell Matchett and Bo
Jenny leading Bo to jail

None of the kids fought, the tequila never gave out, and the strange campesino in a shirt that was bloodier and more stained each time he arrived looking for beer, snapped his leather belt at the dogs but never connected.
Ok, so we enabled him a little with two cold Tecates.  But we drew the line when he came back for thirds.

The free-range cattle add a little spice to the game.
Jenny, taking two for the team
The castle that everyone loves to speculate about

The shepherd boys with their flock

Free Range at Playa Troncones

Cookie Dutch, Redding, and Mason, flying down the beach

Still reeling from the vertigo brought on my still-unexplained crash to the sidewalk in late July, our family headed to the closest beach to San Miguel, Troncones, with the Dutch family caravaning behind us.  We rented two houses in a beach front hacienda called Casa de la Sirena, each with a pool and only about 10 yards from the ocean.  Lots of folks from San Miguel go to Troncones but we had never been.  What a fantastic spot.  Only one red-dirt road that runs parallel to the sea and a jungle of moutainous, completely undeveloped terrain behind you.

The view from our balcony at Casa de la Sirena
The kids ran completely free range and untethered for a week: riding horseback on the beach, playing escondidas until the sun went down, body surfing their way around the rather rock-strewn coastline, drinking chocolate milkshakes at a beach hut, finding turtle eggs, and eating for the first time shark ceviche made by Boobie from fish taken straight out of the sea.

Breakfast at Present Moment Resort, next door to our house