Sunday, August 31, 2008

Good authentic Mexican eats

On Saturday, friends Ron and Debi invited me to join them for lunch at their friend's house. Their friend Miguel and his wife Gaby operate a take out restaurant out of their home, but only on Saturdays. But since Ron and Debi were friends of Miguel's, instead of take out, we were invited to have our lunch in their home. You have a choice amoung 5 items to eat: Pozole ($20), tacos (6 for $30), tostadas ($20), enchiladas ($5) and sopes(6 for $30) (Prices are listed in Mexican pesos). For those Cdn and US readers, just divide by 10 to get the rough USD$ equivalent. For example, the massive bowl of pozole costs approx $2USD.

I opted for a bowl of Pozole and a small serving of enchiladas. For those of you who do not know, Pozole is a type of traditional Mexican stew or soup that varies by region and family in Mexico. It is a soup made with meat and hominy, along with some herbs and some vegetables. In my experience, you typically find it prepared with some sort of pork meat, although I have heard of pozole served with other meats. As far as what kind of pork meat, you can get many different types depending upon the region or the family that is preparing it. Typically, it is prepared with tripe and pigs feet but others use pork shoulder and/or other cuts. In this case, from what I could understand, this pozole was made with pigs feet and I thought I saw some tripe also. Since I have never tried tripe before, I was not certain and could not remember the spanish word to clarify. The other main ingredient besides pork is hominy. Hominy is dried white or yellow corn kernels from which the hull and germ have been removed. It basically looked like massive corn kernels. So, enough of the educational stuff, was it good you ask? It was absolutely delicious! I had never had tripe or pigs feet before, so I was a little nervous, but wow, the flavour was unbelievable. Debi liked it so much she had a second helping. For my next dish, I opted for a small plate of 3 enchiladas which were seriously the best ones I have ever had. They were prepared with ground beef and a homemade mole sauce that was to die for! So, my two courses of food cost 35 pesos in total (I had 3 mini enchiladas and the pozole) which is roughly equivalent to $3.50 USD.

While we were enjoying our meal, many local people from the neighborhood were coming by with large tupperware containers or pots to purchase her famous pozole or tacos, etc. Gaby and her mother did all the cooking and you could tell from the steady stream of customers at her door that people from far and wide enjoyed their food very much.

For those of you here in Manzanillo, keep in mind that she is only open for business on Saturdays from 10-6 (mas o menos). And it is take out only. You can bring your own container or she has some styrofoam ones there if you do not bring your own. Here is the address if you are interested in checking it out:

Gaby and Miguel

Avenida de los gonsos
Barrio 5, #66

Here are some photos of the house and family.

This is Gaby and Miguel's house

This is a photo of Gaby and Miguel, their two children, a nephew and Gaby's mother

Debi, Miguel and Ron

What a wonderful afternoon and meal. Gaby and Miguel's hospitality was incredible and the food was delicious. And the price, well, I came out of their stuffed for less than $4USD. It does not get much better than that!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Yoga class and a sense of well-being

I am so glad that I went to yoga the other night. I felt like a different person after that class and am still feeling the benefits. The majority of this class we worked with partners in many compromising positions (that had a few of the men giggling). It was a fantastic workout and my muscles are still sore a few days later. I kept apologizing to my partner as I was sweating profusely and many of the postures we had to be in very close proximity to one another or practically on top of each other. The young Mexican woman who was my partner was very gracious and kept telling me not to worry, it was not a problem, but I was mortified as I had never sweat so much in my life! Even though it was 7pm at night, the weather was still very hot (around 28 degrees Celsius) with no breeze whatsoever and extremely high humidity. Even a few of the locals were sweating in this class although many never even broke a sweat as they are acclimatized to the weather. It was one of the best workouts I have had in a long long time and there was a great meditation circle at the end. That night, I had the best sleep I have had since I arrived in Mexico. I love this class and cannot wait for the next one. The centre where I take my yoga is called "Centro de Desarrollo Holistico - Luz de Crystal". They also have many other educational classes covering a wide array of topics, including nutrition, holistic medicine, energy healing, etc. They also have massage therapy, reiki, and many other alternative therapies. The energy in the centre is amazing and I always feel so much better after I leave. They also have sweat lodges which I would like to try sometime.

Friday night, Debbie, Ron and their two dogs along with my dogs, went down near the port for a walk as the sun was starting to set. I had never been down to this beach before. It was very relaxing and the dogs had a great time. Jackson was chasing the crabs along the rocks and Jade followed him everywhere as though she was his shadow.

Here is a photo of Ron and Debbie and their two dogs Mandy and Chance. Mandy is the cocker and came from Canada. She is the princess of the pack. Chance is the black lab mix that they rescued off the streets. The poor thing had a broken leg when Debbie came upon her one day. After a surgery to fix her leg among some other vaccinations and medicines, Chance is now doing wonderfully and loves her new home.

Chance - isn't he handsome? You would never have known this was once a starving street dog with a broken leg!

Here is Miss Jade who is standing still for once! Typically she does not stop moving or chasing the other dogs. The vet estimates she is approximately one year old. She has more energy than one can imagine!

Here is Debbie playing fetch with Jackson. The sunset was pretty spectacular that night.

Thanks to Debbie and Ron for a great evening!

And here is a photo of Jade taking Jackson for a walk. Who do you think is the alpha in this pack?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Learning to Fly

An excerpt from the great Tom Petty song:

"Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I started out for God knows where
But I guess I'll know when I get there

Im learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

Im learning to fly but I aint got wings
Comin down is the hardest thing
Im learning to fly around the clouds
But what goes up must come down

Im learning to fly"

A few people have asked me why I have not posted in the last few days. I have just been feeling low....both physically and emotionally, and did not feel as though I had anything good to say. I had some friends over for dinner last night which definitely lifted my spirits. As most of you know, one of my passions is cooking and it makes me happy and is a great stress reliever. I made some homemade salsa and guacamole for nibblies and then a shrimp and dorado risotto for the main course. It was a great evening with good friends. Although my small apartment is not really set up for entertaining, we all squeezed on my balcony and ate by candlelight. It was cozy but seemed to work out alright.

I am heading to yoga tonight so that should help me feel more balanced. Also, I have my second visitor coming on Sunday for one week! I am starting to get excited - three more sleeps!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Posdata Cafe

One of my posts from last week talked about this amazing cafe that my new friends introduced me to. When I mentioned the name of the cafe along with the two owners, I had mispelled them both. With my sincere apologies, the correct name of the place is the Posdata Cafe. At this cafe, you can find fabulous food, blended drinks (frappe's are my favorite) and the best service I have ever had. I have become addicted to their Torta Especial. Here are photos of the two owners , Pilar and Denny. They will never forget your name and always greet you with a smile and hug. A big shout out to these two women - we love your cafe and your wonderful hospitality. Thanks for all that you do!

Apparently, their smoothies are another "must have" along with their crepes. These are next on my list to try. Here is a photo of my friends Teresa, Steve, Ron and Debi who were enoying their famous Torta's, smoothies and frappe's.

Yesterday, friends MJ and Stan invited me to join them to go to the soccer game in town. They are big soccer fans, especially Stan, and he explained to me that this was 3rd Division soccer in the professional league. Even though the local team got slaughtered, I enjoyed my first Manzanillo soccer game, AND learned many new Spanish words (although I think most of them were swear words!). Also, it was a very inexpensive outing - cost of admission $2.00 (20 pesos) and the tacos ($0.70 each)and beer ($1.50 each) were delicious! Here are some photos from the game.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weekend fun

Friday night, I hooked up with some new friends and we went to a great local pub on the beach - Bora's. I have been going there for years and my brother discovered it on one of our many vacations down here. It is a simple little pub that has great live music on the weekends. And the best part is, it is a short walk from my house.

So, we walked down to Bora's and Jade, the street dog that has recently adopted me, stuck right by my side and walked there with us. When we arrived at the bar, she followed me in there as she was not about to leave my side. One of the bouncers came over and asked if that was my dog as she was not allowed in the bar and would have to wait outside. Jade waited outside for a while and we could hear her crying over the loud music. Eventually, she gave up waiting and went back to my house where I found her waiting for me on the porch when I got home.

Bora's was a packed house and there was a popular band there called the Brian James Band. They were absolutely fantastic and played a little bit of everything in both English and Spanish. Every song had the entire bar singing along. It was a fun night - here are some photos.

Saturday night, I went to Steve and Teresa's housewarming party. They are some new friends here from BC that moved here to Mexico earlier this year. Thanks for a great party, awesome food and wonderful hospitality. Remember, you told me I could post these photos! Here are the fab hosts - how many blue drinks does it take to make one's toungue turn this color?????

There were also some friends that played some songs for us - it was a father/son team. And the little boy that contributed to the music is my Spanish teacher's son. Isn't he adorable? He fell in love with Jade and followed her everywhere. He even retrieved one of her toys out of the pool.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Laying low

I have not been feeling great the last few days so I have spent most of that time in bed. I started feeling better this afternoon so decided to head out to the market and pick up my laundry and get some fresh air. I took Jackson along for the walk, and the new street dog that has been living on my porch came along also. I have been feeding her and giving her medicine for her many problems. She is doing so much better... have managed to get rid of all her ticks and her eye infection is getting much better. We will see the vet next week and I will have him check her out completely. Even though she is quite big, she is definitely a pup....she loves to play and chews on everything. I have also named her....she is now Jade.

On our way back from the market, we got caught in a wicked rain storm. We found some cover and I thought I would wait it out. We waited quite some time before I finally called my neighbor and she kindly drove down and picked us up.

After the storm was over, I needed to get out for some more exercise. I took both dogs and headed out for a long walk. Here are some photos. We walked along the main street on the one way, and walked the beach on our way back. The beach was pretty much deserted other than the usual surfers and fishermen.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

One day at a time

Many of you have been asking how I am doing and coping especially after everything that has happened since I arrived in Mexico. Here is an excerpt from an e-mail I sent to my aunt and this pretty much sums it up.

At the end of the day, I am happy that I am here as it has always been a dream of mine. I have had some rough times but that all related to a man that I thought I knew and not the country that I know and love. So, as a result, I will not let that taint my view of this amazing country and it's beautiful people. Like any other country in the world, there are "bad eggs", and so I have seen it for what it is and will not let that change my goals or plans. Of course, it seems that much harder and is certainly overwhelming, but I have been fortunate enough to meet some amazing new people who are helping to make this transition so much better. Also, I have some local friends here that would do anything for me........and i mean ANYTHING. They would put me up in their one bedroom house (that already has two people living there!). And so, here I each moment and trying to be "present" for every minute of it. I have met some beautiful people along the way already.....and for that, I am grateful. So that is what I am trying to focus on... not the bad stuff, but the fact that if it were not for the "bad stuff", I would never have met these beautiful people! Pretty incredible, if you think about it. Don't get me wrong....I have had some terrible and very difficult days and moments, but in those times, I think about mom, and the very strong woman and role model she was and feel a sense of strength that is indescribable.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Starting to settle in

With the help of my new neighbors, I have started to settle in to life here in Manzanillo. Last night, one of my friends and I went to check out a yoga class. It was a "Hatha" yoga class and included primarily local women, one boy, a few men and Debbie and I. Oh, and there were a few dogs that supervised. We did the yoga class under the palapa outside in the open air. It was 7pm at night so it had cooled off somewhat. Given our limited Spanish, we certainly learned many new words last night. The class had some similar poses from the Hatha Yoga I used to practice back in Canada but many of them were new to me. We decided to give it a try for a month and see how it goes. It is 3 classes per week and costs $25.00 Cdn equivalent per month.

Today, I sat in on a Spanish class with a few of my friends at the local Posada Cafe. This is an amazing new cafe fairly close to our neighborhood where the two women owners (Pillar and Danny) serve up some fabulous food, nice cool drinks and the best service I have ever experienced. You only have to meet these young ladies once and they will never forget your name and will always greet you with a friendly smile and hugs. Their torta especial is absolutely amazing (basically a grilled bun-wich with chicken, cheese, tomatoes, jalapenos, herbs, lettuce, etc on a fabulous bun). Their frappe's are pretty fab too (kind of alike a frappuccino). And the bonus is the cheap prices!

After class, Debbie and I did some shopping and then took our dogs to the beach for a run. We also took along a new street dog that had somewhat adopted Debbie. The dog must have heard that she is a huge dog lover and has the biggest heart in the world (and feeds every dog in need - bless her heart). We think this little cutie is still a pup....she is very rambunctious. Well, after our beach play, the dog has taken up residence outside my apartment. So I fed her some supper, and she is now fast asleep on the mat outside the door to my apartment. Oh looks like I have been adopted by a street dog! I know what you are saying - I am the biggest softie.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Vets, puppies and iguanas

Today, we had our first appointment with a local veteranarian who was recommended to me from my neighbors. I asked him where his office was located and he told me not to worry, he will come to the house! How cool is that! He came over to the house this morning and went over all of Jackson's vaccinations and general prevention information. He offered to come back later today with some heartworm medication. And, if you can believe it, the vet consultation was no charge. He would not accept any money.

Here is a photo of Jackson chilling on the balcony before the vet came.

Then I went down with my neighbor to feed a pregnant street dog a few blocks away and we discovered she had 10 puppies! They will try and and give as many pups as they can away to loving homes but apparently many will not find homes and will die(like her last litter). I have fallen in love with a few of them and we will try and circulate their photos around town to try and find homes for them. Once they are old enough, I will likely end up with one of the cuties. Here are some photos of mom and pups.

My other neighbor had rescued a street dog last week and it had pups also. Several of the pups died but 4 survived and 3 need homes. Here is a photo of mom and pups. I also have a photo of a funky looking iguana that was bugging the one street dog.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

My first visitor!

I finally have my wireless connection hooked up!!!!!!! You do not know how happy this makes me. It was only one week of "manana's" (every day they would tell me the wireless connection would happen tomorrow). It will be so nice to finally be able to sit on my deck and check my e-mail on a daily basis and be able to update my blog.

Well, this last week, I have been busy settling in to my new place, meeting my neighbors and the best part of it all - I had my first visitor!!!!!!! My dear friend Alex came to visit me in between business trips to the US. It was so nice to have my good friend here - words cannot express how grateful I am.

We had a great time together and it was so good to laugh again. His first night here , I took him to a local Mexican cantina where you only purchase your drinks (the food and entertainment is free). They bring out plates of various yummy Mexican food until you can no longer eat another bite. I thought this was a great way for Alex to get a taste of Manzanillo - he was able to try a huge variety of the local cuisine while listening to a traditional Mexican band. The food was amazing....they serve small plates of food (similar to tapas in Spain) and he got to try 8-10 different traditional dishes.

Part way through the evening, they were looking for "volunteers" to come up on stage and participate in an interactive show. This basically entailed countless tequila shots, dancing on chairs in front of hundreds of people and being spun around on one of the staff's shoulders until you could not take it anymore. When this began, Alex took one look at me and said "don't you dare". Of course, I replied that I would never do something like that! On my way to the bathroom, one staff member stopped me and told me they needed just one more volunteer. I was trying to be helpful and wanted to please the young earnest Mexican man, so I pointed to my dear friend and said that he would be happy to volunteer. Here are some photos of the events that transpired (with permission from Alex). Alex, do you forgive me yet?

Over the course of the last few days, my friend Alex has made it his mission in life to tell every single person we encounter that it was my birthday on Saturday. We received a few invitations to attend a few different parties that night. First we went out for a nice dinner. Of course, Alex was in payback mode and on a trip to the bathroom (yeah right), he apparently informed the staff at the restaurant that it was my birthday. After we had finished our meal, all of a sudden, there was this very loud obnoxious music playing. I shared a confused look with the lady at the table next to us and said to Alex, what on earth is that? Before I knew it, the entire staff were singing happy birthday to me (en espanol) and placed a ridiclous hat on my head for me to wear the duration of the very very loud song. Here is a photo (with ridiculous hat and yummy Tiramisu dessert included).

Afterwards, we went to a local cafe/pub to meet up with my new ex-pat friends/neighbors. After visiting for a while with everyone, the lady that owns the place (Pilar) made a big announcement that it was my birthday and brought out a cake with candles and everyone sang happy birthday. They had customized the cake to say happy birthday in spanish along with farewell to two other friends that were leaving Manzanillo. After the singing ended, and trying to blow out the trick candles, they informed me that it was Mexican tradition to take a bite out of the cake without using my hands. Of course, when I went to take the bite, someone pushed my head into the cake. Here is a photo of the cake before my face was implanted in it!

There are no words to describe how fortunate I feel to have met these incredible new friends. I now feel as though living on my own here is not nearly as overwhelming. A big thanks to those of you who organized this event!!!

Photos of the sunset during birthday dinner.

A big thanks to Alex for coming down here for a gave me much needed strength and helped me feel more settled in my new home. Thank you, thank you, thank you for coming!!!!!!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Making new friends

I still do not have wireless hooked up at the new house but I am hoping by next week, I can update on a more regular basis. So please be patient with me.......I will stay more in touch and connected with all of you then.

A big thanks to everyone for the phone calls, texts, e-mails. I am so amazed by the support out there and feel so lucky for having the most amazing friends in the world!

I have managed to meet many of my neighbors on my street and the next one over. So far, everyone has been very friendly and very welcoming. Last night, one of my neighbors invited me, Jackson and my friend that is visiting to come over for drinks and a swim in the pool. They are actually from Canada about an hour away from where I lived! What a small world. We had a great time and Jackson played with their two dogs and had his first pool experience which he loved!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Difficult times

This past week has been very difficult and I aoplogize to those of you whom I have been tardy in responding to messages. When you find out what has been happening, it will all make sense. To make a long story short, I have left Arturo and moved into a new place on my own, all in the last few days. I will not get into the gory details here but will tell you that everything was not as it seemed with him. Several major issues arose regarding honesty, respect and communication. And the person that greeted me here was completely different than the one I knew and loved. I am in complete shock and my heart is broken.........since I have arrived, it has been one revelation after another and has been incredibly difficult and heartbreaking.

Fortunately, my dear friend, who refers to herself as my "mexican mother", has been amazing throughout all of this and has let me cry on her shoulder, provide much needed advice and has helped me find a new place to live. She and her husband helped me move into a new place a few days ago. It is a fully furnished one bedroom apartment with a pullout couch in a wonderful neighborhood. It has an amazing view and I managed to get a great price on the rent. Here are a few photos....

I just want to thank those of you who have provided emotional support the last few days over the phone.......I know those phone bills are going to be pricey. I could not have made it through this last week without you. I am so very grateful for your friendship.

A few of you have asked me what I will do now. As many of you know, I came here to Mexico for many reasons. Obviously, one of the main reasons was Arturo. In addition, it has always been a dream of mine to become fluent in the language and live down here. In the past 10 years of vacationing in Manzanillo, I have told people on several different occasions that it feels like home here. Having moved countless times throught my childhood, I have never said that about any place. Clearly, the easy thing for me to do would be to go back to Canada and trust me, I have thought about this many times. But I cannot forget the other reasons I came down here....and the other personal goals I want to achieve - balance, peace and harmony. And so, I have decided that I will stay in Mexico. Obviously, it scares the hell out of me to do it alone. I am trying to find the strength but it is really hard right now. Thankfully, I have a good support network here of local friends that have been wonderfully supportive.

I am also so incredibly grateful and relieved as one of my dear friends is coming here to visit this week.....this was a wonderful surprise and has kept me going.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

So many questions....

Many of you have been asking me questions about many things here in Manzanillo, so I will try to answer them all here. Note: these are prices here in Santiago village. From what I understand, the prices may be different in other neighborhoods.

Prices (in Canadian equivalent $):

Case of Sol or Corona beer (20 bottles) - $12.00
Pedicure- $10.00
Manicure (using acrylics) - $10.00
Unfurnished very basic Mexican style house (2-3 bedrooms) - $150.00 - $250.00 per month. Note: this does not include appliances
Fresh fish - Dorado or Mahi Mahi to feed 4 people - $5.00. Note that this is the most expensive fish here right now. Red Snapper or other fish are cheaper
Internet cafe - $2.00 per hour
Average desktop computer - $1,000.00 Electronics are very expensive here compared to Canada

Most of my shopping I do in the local mercado (market). Here you can find very fresh produce, fresh fish, beef and pork butchers for incredibly cheap prices. I basically go down to the Santiago market each day and purchase what i need. For other items like milk or speciality items, I go to the supermarket (Soriana or Commercial). There is also a super centre Wal-Mart here that was recently opened in the past year.

A few of you have also been asking about the weather. I have the current Manzanillo weather here on my blog (on the left hand side) so you can see what the temperature is. The important thing to note about the weather is the "Real Feel"...what the temperature feels like with the humidity. Bottom line is that it is freakin hot!!!!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Thanks to everyone for their support!

My brother wrote me a farewell letter that really touched my heart and made the floodgates open. I feel so incredibly blessed to have his support. I have told a few of you about the letter and with his permission, I have posted a portion of it here:

"I think your move south is something that many ppl talk about throughout their lifetime without ever achieving it. You have already done well for yourself and a new path will present a new challenge, one I'm certain you are up for. Mexico is a dear place to all of us and we owe that to Mom for introducing it without prejudice which has allowed us to see it for what it truly is. Luckily, we have been fortunate to establish dear relationships throughout our travels which gladly will be a source of comfort to you while you're down there. Remember, however, that I am an internet click away or even a phone call as well. I will from the time you leave, be living vicariously through your adventures with the hope of one day doing the same thing. Life is truly short as we all know too well and thus, I am proud and glad that you are able to see past the cliche and turn the concept around into an actionable adventure; one that will be a source of inspiration not only to your closest friends but to your immediate family as well. Too often, we superimpose society's practical axis onto our own life forgetting along the way what it means to live and be happy. I am confident and jealous that you have seen passed that and will now focus on achieving self fulfillment and happiness.

Reading your blog the other day reminded me of the day I moved out of my house and the memories that I cherished while there. These are emotional moments indeed, however, your desired end state will bring with it new memories to add to an already extensive collection. From the time you leave, there won't be a day that passes without me wondering how your 'new' life is progressing. I want you to know that I love you lots and will be thinking about all the good times we have had together, not just in Calgary, but throughout Canada, the US (Oakland and Vegas) and of course our crazy adventures in Spain. Luckily, there will be more to add which means more laughs.

Have a safe trip down there and know that I am going to miss you".

Thanks for the support my dear brother and thanks to everyone else who have supported me and this move. At times, I have and continue to feel incredibly overwhelmed. However, knowing that I have the support of my friends and family makes this transition so much easier.

I am feeling very nostalgic today and missing all of you. I am sending my love and hugs and kisses!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Settling in and making friends

Well, we have started to settle in step by step. It is a little overwhelming.........I just sold most of my things in Canada and packed up all my belongings and now am starting to furnish a house all over again. Here is a photo of the house. We are slowly buying the things we need each day. I suggested to Arturo that we make a list and try to cross off a few things each day. He thought that was pretty funny. Our goal today is to buy a bed and try to get our phone and internet hooked up. I don´t think I can continue sleeping on the small individual mattress on the floor much longer!

Last night, we were sitting outside having a beer. The neighbor´s little girls were very curious about Jackson and wanted to come over. Apparently, beagles are very rare here. They kept asking if he would bite them. I assured them that it was fine to come say hello. Four young girls came over and presented themselves from youngest to oldest all in a straight line. They were so adorable! They introduced themselves....the oldest was 8 years old. I brought out the ball for them to play with Jackson and they did this for the next hour. They had a blast and Jackson was in heaven. They were amazed at his fetching abilities. The one girl said that her dog was not as good as Jackson. When I asked her why, she said that her dog was a mixed breed and therefore could not do things like fetch. We explained that her dog could easily do that, she just had to teach him, mixed breed or not. The oldest girl then looked at me strangely and asked in Spanish, "why are you drinking a beer?" I then responded that it was because I like beer very much and wanted a cold drink. I was a little confused and asked Arturo why she would ask me that. He explained that Mexican woman here rarely drink alcohol, especially beer. I am still laughing about that today! So much for blending in!!!!!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Relaxing and playing in the ocean

Here are some photos from our last few days at the beach. The ocean is like bath water - it is so warm. When I have been to Manzanillo in the past, it was in the winter months and the ocean was quite cold.