Friends come in all sizes

Mis Amigas en La Pueblita

Here are a few of the Amigas I got to know at El Rancho La Mesa.  We ran into each other while walking home from our respective escuelas and eventually the girls overcame their fears of the Poodles and started hopping the fence to visit.  The the picture below was taken after I’d showed them a video of one of Nickel’s daughters,  Ally,

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CLICK TO SEE VIDEO

practicing agility (competitive obstacle course racing).  The girls were so excited about trying to train the dogs that we set up an “agility ring” made up of chairs, tables and boxes so they could run the dogs around, over and onto the ‘obstacles.’  We ended the day with the young ladies teaching the Poodles how to come, sit and down in Spanish… and they learned a few training words in English themselves.  It was a lot of fun for everyone.

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Marta and Sara were the two girls who visited me the most.  They would come into the camper and we’d talk until their mom called them home.  They were very patient with me and Sara was particularly great at figuring out new ways to say the same things so I might understand.  Sara was going on 12 and very curious about the world.  It was a struggle at times to make conversation simply because my usual questions for a girl her age, about ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ or ‘what’s your favorite movie/character/book,’ weren’t conceptual parts of their lives.  We talked about school and dogs and family but mostly they asked questions about me and the girls.  Sara and her sister came from a very poor neighborhood (hence their need to jump the fence to enter the RV campground) but their hearts were rich.  I gave Sara a plastic apricot poodle head magnet from my wall and the next day she showed up with a gift of her own.  It was incredibly touching.

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Sara’s gift to me

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PS….. More to come about that little white dog you see in the picture above……

Day 206-211 Getting to know you

My Neighborhood

La Pueblita

March 6-11

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Although the campground, El Rancho La Mesa, is further from El Centro (the center of Patzcuaro) than my last ‘home,’ I enjoyed my walk into town more.  I had the choice of either taking a Combi (minibus) or walking and I frequently choose the later.  The route wound it’s way through the vecindario called La Pueblita and it took a good 30 minutes to complete.  Over the course of a month this leisurely walk gave me the opportunity to become familiar with a few of my neighbors. I always enjoyed the enthusiastic ‘buenos dias’ or ‘buenas tardes’ exchange with the adults and had the added treat of talking with the school kids as they walked with me up the long steep cobblestone street.


There is great pride taken in improving and maintaining this neighborhood.

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The streets are clean and decorated with pots of flowers but with small herds of cattle, wood-laden ponies and donkeys and well fed dogs it’s advisable to watch your step.

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El Mercado

Back in the ‘States’ I hated going to the grocery store and frequently let my refrigerator go bare just to avoid the chore of shopping.
marcado One of my joys here in Patzcuaro is the daily visit to the Mercado.  Much of this joy comes from all the social exchanges, buying the freshest of produce and knowing that I’m supporting the local growers who offer small amounts of home grown fruits, herbs and vegetables or fresh lake caught fish.

It’s also a treat to see the early morning bustle or feel the buzz of enthusiasm when a new crop comes in.  One day there might be bushels of corn heaped onto the ground and the next day an explosion of color from potted geraniums.

The Mercado is located in the center of Patzcuaro and the main source of fruits and vegetables but other foods come from specialty shops or street carts found in the outlying neighborhoods. Each food type has its own vendor and eventually you figure out whose prices are the best, who carries the freshest produce and more importantly who carries the most flavorful Chorizo.  I’ve become addicted to Chorizo and it might be an exaggeration to claim that I’ve tasted every Carnicero’s product in Patzcuaro, but I’ve tried a lot.  Everyone has their own recipe and my favorite comes from the Carnicero next to the Basilica.  It’s sweet and hot with just enough fat to get your mouth-watering.

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The Carnicero in La Pueblita. Not the best Choriso but the best signage.

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Abarrotes are basically your everyday corner store. Good for a quick walk down the block if you’ve run out of beer.


 My favorite Legume

the faba

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 I knew that beans were one of the staples of Mexico but I had no idea how many types exist.  Unlike many of my friends, beans have never been a favorite food of mine (except green beans which don’t really count).  Well,  I’m happy to report that I’ve changed my ways and I now enjoy incorporating these tasty tidbits into daily cuisine.

My favorites are fresh from their pods.

Day 187- 192 Patzcauro…. Wendy Wahman…. this one’s for you

PATZCUARO

Feb 10- 15 

Patzcuaro

 

The State of Michoacán
Click the map for information about this state

No.  The butterflies didn’t kidnap me.  I’ve been hunkered down in a large town named Patzcauro.

Feb 10- Feb 18

The plan was that Blake and I part ways after the butterfly preserve.  Blake had plans to drive back to Teacapan (and eventually back to Alberta, Canada) by way of a town named Patzcuaro while I was supposed to drive up and around Mexico City and south to Oaxaca.  Plans be damed…..something was telling me that it wasn’t time and since I’ve learned to forgo logic and listen to my irrational inner voice, I decided to retrace my tracks and return Eastward.

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First camp in Patzcuaro

Our first camping spot was a quite oasis just on the out skirts of town and a perfect distance for taking a bus or a long walk to the Central Plaza. The RV spot was a grassy spot behind the owners home and over looking his son’s property. officeI was lucky enough to park with a view of what was going on next door. What was happening? adobe4The making of adobe bricks. We arrived during a short spell of rain so I wasn’t privy to the process until a few days later when I saw them working the horse to mix the clay with pine needles and forming the bricks.

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Horse is used to mix the mud and pine needles. The man in white is giving the needles loft before adding to the mix.

 

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Muddy legs after a long day of work

 

Patzcuaro has maintained it’s colonial feel (and look) due to the use of adobe walls and tile roofs. There is wood involved too, for the doorways, doors, structure and beams of the buildings but this is becoming difficult with the diminishing local forests. Some infrastructure is now made with cement and overlaid by adobe to keep up the historical architectural feel of the town.

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Combi: Cheap local transport. Very few people drive in this town. People from the out lying neighborhoods rely on the frequent and efficient vehicles for everything from getting to the open air market in town to transporting children to schools. 

Despite the very reasonable price for staying at the camp site (10 dollars a day) and internet access, I decided to move after a few days. My ‘neighbors,’ a couple from Oregon were decidedly anxious about having dogs around. I thought that I’d done a decent job at keeping the Perras from wandering off my “property” and I’d only let them run on the far hill but, unfortunately, I was confronted by the husband who told me to,”Get your god-damn dogs on leashes.” Ironically this was just after his wife told me that my dogs were the most well behaved she’d ever seen. Since I’m not one for confrontation and I’m certainly not in Mexico to fight with Americans about my dogs I start a search for a new residence.

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Patzcuaro is the original capital of Michoacán but after the Spanish invaded Mexico the capital was moved to Merida.  Today Patzcuaro remains the center of trade for the many pueblos around Lake Patzcuaro.

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Click here to learn more about this lake

I knew that I would be staying at least another 2 weeks for Spanish classes so I looked into the possibilities of renting a house in town. Despite the efforts of both my Spanish instructor and myself after three days of hunting I couldn’t find a place that could accommodate both the dogs and my monstrous home. Actually, the size of the camper was more of a problem than the dogs. I finally accepted the fact that I’d have to pay twice the rent (a whole 20.00 per day) and move to a spot further outside of town called El Rancho La Mesa. I wasn’t thrilled with the move and when I was greeted by a convoy of ten Leviathans-of-the-RV-World I was a little depressed and frustrated. Gone was my peace and quiet and easy access to my class. I was now 500 feet higher and 2 miles away from the main plaza . Poor pitiful me.

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I mean really! Who’s going to complain about a view like this? Read more about this interesting island…. accessible from Patzcuaro for a $2.00 boat ride.

I do try to look for solutions if I find myself mulling in self-pity so I decided it was time to buy a bike and make my commute a little easier.   The gods must have been pleased with my decision and the more adult like behavior because the next day the caravan left and I was left alone on a breath-taking plateau above the city and with an entire ranch for the Perras to explore.

So we settled in for the next week….. 2 weeks…. 3 weeks…..

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Aluminum frame with life time guarantee equipped with all Shimano parts and 24 gears…. price tag? 6300.00 pesos (or $432.00 us) It’s a beaut
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The bell on this bike requires special attention………

I don’t know why I brought this bell with me…. except that I had a feeling that I’d want a bike at some point.  This magical bell was bought in China by my mother 35 years ago.  She gave it to me for christmas almost that many years ago and its had it’s home on all my bikes.  I’ve owned three bikes in my life.  My first white 10 speed that I gave to my brother Kelly when I moved to college.  The second bike was one that my other brother, Robin, hand build for me after my first visit to Washington state.  It was that trip the changed my destiny and I think it was the gift of that bike that sealed my determination to move to Washington state….  A move that subsequently afforded me with many twists and turns and ups and downs and ultimately finds me here in Patzcuaro.

Day 163 Leaving Baja

An Unexpected Journey

Jan 17

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The next day, Sunday, I drove back to the ferry dock and found the mystery second ferry company which was located at the back of the terminal surrounded by dozens of semi trucks. The woman spoke very fast Spanish with a very strong accent and I had a hard time understanding her and she didn’t speak any English. I was able to get across that I wanted a ticket for Sunday to Topolobamba. She said the same thing the last ticket agent did about weighing in before buying my ticket and pointed me toward the scales.scale I took care of that, went back to the ticket counter and bought my ticket. She told me the times I had to report for lining up, when they load and when they sail. I was still confused… some how things weren’t adding up so wrote it down to show her. I said, “Ok, the ferry leaves at 11pm Sunday so I have to be in line at 9pm. She said, “Yes.”  Me, “So I have to be back here tomorrow at 6pm.”  She looked surprised, “No, you can’t leave now you have to stay, you leave tonight.” Oh dear. I’d bought a ticket for that night not the following week and I couldn’t leave the compound. It was only 10am.  She said, “no problem,” and pointed to the large building and explained that I could buy food and use the bathroom.

At first we felt like we were in prison

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But the poodles and I made ourselves at home. There was space enough to put the slider out a little and we hung out for the day. I was extremely grateful that I had packed everything up and paid the campground before leaving. I had to just chalk this up to, “ it was meant to be” and “maybe understanding a little more Spanish will get me a log farther.”  Sometimes we’re not in control of our own agendas.

The day passed slowly and trucks loaded and left.  I was certain that my load time was at 6pm but I wasn’t sure how I’d know where to go… would I get in the wrong line and get on the wrong ferry? I had to keep worry out of my mind and repeated my mantra of “ what’s the worst thing that can happen? Start to load on the wrong boat? They’ll stop you. Miss your sailing? You buy another ticket. So we sat until dark. The only other non-semi in the lot was a small tour bus that parked next to me. I went over to him and asked him if he was going to Topolobambo and he said yes. Excellent! I had someone to follow.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA So at 6:15 when his lights went on and he started to move I was right behind him. It seemed that we parked in a very random spot next to the mouth of the ferry. He kept his lights and engine running, I turned mine off and waited. Trucks came and went some pulling past me and dropping off their containers others turning around and re-parking next to or behind me. It was a dark chaotic blur of lights, diesel fumes and black rushing shadows. Finally about 8pm the bus in front of me pulled forward and onto the ferry. I pulled ahead into his spot and waited. Small Truck cabs ( i call them worker cabs) were rushing back and forth linking up to the containers and loading them onto the ferry. The freight was then followed by its accompanying semi cab. Someone came to my window and asked me to move aside, he needed to get his truck past me (expressed mostly by hand gesticulations but also in spanish) He had to shout over the cacophony of engines and I used that as an excuse for his to repeat things.  I maneuvered the camper up and around the cab beside me. The man in another cab motioned with his hands to help guide me. The worker cabs were busy rushing back and forth and semis were zipping around me…. Lights blinding. The man came back and motioned for me to go back to my original spot.  I remembered how to ask, “Isn’t it better to say here?” and just as he said no, one of the worker cabs started moving directly at me headlights on high beam and blinding. I was sitting in front of the container he wanted to move. I was trying desperately to move forward enough move in reverse but the worker cab meant business, they had a schedule to keep, and he was inches away  from the front of the truck as I made the final turn out of the way. The truck driver who’d been helping me yelled out, “Buena Mujer!!” What a woman! help

It was finally our time to get packed in. The attendant had me entered the ferry front-first, unlike all the trucks who backed in, and then mounted a lift that took us to the second level of the ferry.

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Directing me onto the ferry

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Truck ahead moving onto the lift that will take us to the second level

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The Hydraulics of the Lift. Click here to see what it was like. NOTE HOW CALM TINTIN IS… what a girl!

We were finally directed into our spot, chained down and I took a long deep breath. We were done and I took a sleeping pill ready to let the rocking of the ship put me to sleep. . It was 10pm before the ferry left dock but I was already drifting away. The poodles and I had had a long day and we will have a long day of driving tomorrow.

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Foxy tucked in tight for the night (taken the next morning)

 

Day 156 Que Es Esto #4

¿Que Es Esto?

Jan 10

I found this creature ‘crawling’ under a rock in a tide pool. I remembered it’s name from childhood, but I was completely wrong in my memory about ‘who they were.’ Do you know?

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The one I found was about an inch and a half long and moved along at a rapid pace…. Here, I’ll show you click here:

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This garment has the same name…. hint hint

 

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Any ideas? How about if I tell you that they’re not related to trilobites (which is what I thought).

¿Que Es Esto?….. find out…..

Day 154 Stalking the Wild Cat’s Claw

Wild Edibles[odDec 8

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Click on this picture to read more about this very interesting plant.

On the beach near our campspot I ran into a strange vine. I first noticed the pods because one grabbed me around the ankle. It was a very imprssive beast with some very sharp claws.

Had I known at the time I could eat both the seeds and ochre like pod I would have been able to cook them up with the trigger fish. I thought it looked pretty tasty but I’m not one to eat unidentified vegetation without someone else try it first.  At the time I was more interested in collecting the odd pod heads for my sister. She has her own eccentricities and while I eat the plants I find along side the sidewalk she makes them into sculpture.

Apparently the seeds that spring out of the pod (above) are nutty and sweet and the fruit (below) can be steamed or fried like orca.  This plant has a long and valued history with the native people who used the fruit and seeds for food and the fibers of the plant for weaving.

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I’ve been interested in what you can eat off the ground since I was a toddler when the ‘5 second rule’ became established protocol. That behavior was supported when as a pre-teen when I discovered the recipes from Euell Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus  

I admit it. I’ve always been a geek.

In highschool I made acorn muffins, cattail stew (the plant not the animial) and yellow birch tea and as an adult I’ve finally graduated from stalking organisms from the plant to the animal kingdom.  Today I caught and ate my first fish. Ok, so I didn’t actually catch it, Nickel did… and well ok she didn’t actually catch it. Basically I haven’t graduated from  scavenging to the hunting yet.


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There was a storm out in the Gulf last night and the high tide came in fast and furious. The next day when the poodles and I hit the beach for our morning constitutional, we found quite a number of marine animals washed up on shore. You’ll be happy to know it wasn’t the pacific grebe or gull that we collected for supper but a freshly beached fish. I guess we’ve come up in the world! There were a number of species to choose from, there were several porcupine fish, a cornonet fish and a trigger fish. The triggerfish was still alive so I threw it back into the water. Sadly despite it’s weak attempts to swim away, the tide kept bringing it back in. One final time and Nickel decided that throwing away good food was just not acceptable and went in to retrieve it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I realize the poor thing was doomed and I decided that I might as well see whether all those filleted triggerfish I’d found on the beach in Loreto would lived up to their apparent reputation so I bagged it. I hate totell you, but it wasn’t quite dead and I didn’t’ know what to do about it. I decided the most merciful thing was to kill it outright so I hit it in the head with a rock.

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Fine Scale Triggerfish, Balistes polylepis

Of course I didn’t have internet access to guide me along in this new culinary endeavor, but having seen enough  triggerfish on the beaches in Loreto, I at least knew they were edible and had an idea about where to begin. filleted

dinnerI’ve never fillet a fish before but I’ve watched enough So-You-Want-To-Humiliate-Yourself-Trying -o-Cook Reality TV shows that I felt confident in giving it a try. Now that I’ve watched this YouTube clip, I realize where I first went wrong and I shouldn’t have removed the skin before cutting the meat off the bones, but at least I had the basic area of the fish properly dissected out. diner4I didn’t actually end up with two fillets, more like trigger tartar, but I did ended up with enough fish for dinner although most of the prime meat went into the boiling pot for the poodles. I’m always satisfied when everything can be used so I boiled the entire fish for the dogs . dinner2I suppose I felt a strangesense of responsibility in making sure this fish’s death was meaningful and worthwhile.


 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt least that’s what TinTin was telling me.

…………………………………………………………Tomorrow we go snorkeling