Tuesday, November 3, 2015

La Dia de Muertos (The Day of the Dead)

         Once again, knowing not what we were getting ourselves into we stumbled upon a most extraordinary experience. 

We took the bus to the historic district of Mazatlan on Friday morning and stood in line for free tickets to a Saturday night Day of the Dead celebration in the lovely Angela Peralta theatre.  This year’s theme was inspired by the underworld of Aztec mythology: a person who died went to Mictlan, a journey consisting of nine distinct levels. 
                Organizers created nine backstage events representing the nine levels and challenges of the Mictlan journey.  Ticketholders were ushered into the building in groups of 35 and lead by costumed escorts from one level to another.  Our first stop was an ancient Aztec ceremonial dance.

         From there, we traveled through dark tunnels illuminated by black lights and fluorescent tape down to the dungeon and up to the balconies.  Along the way we stopped for modern dance and classical ballet performances, each attesting to the different challenges that met the dead.
 At one level, we stood in rows not knowing which direction to face when suddenly a heavy black curtain rose and we found ourselves on the auditorium stage as modern dancers swayed in the seats, reaching, kicking their way up from the underworld delinaeated by an enormous white fabric tarp through which each body was trying to escape. Up and down their arms, legs, torsos and heads writhed and swayed to the orchestra until all was quiet and they reluctantly returned to their fate.
Further along, we entered an asylum where the dead dressed in white tunics were scratching and pounding the walls in their tormented pain, as interpreted by modern dance. 

 We were escorted down a very dark corridor where souls screamed and lunged at us while on our way to a small stage where we witnessed the wedding of a corpse couple, portrayed by contemporary dance. 

 In small side rooms of the mezzanine the dead paced slowly, gazes fixed with dark, longing, melancholy eyes.

Our journey ended in the foyer, at an enormous alter dedicated to the deceased and guarded by a contemporary Catrina.  On it was placed the requisite elements; marigolds, candles, favorite food and beverages, a basket of sweet rolls, photos, and shoes lined up on the floor at the base.  The space echoed with a tenor's eerie solo, a soprano’s haunting aria, and a chamber orchestra's powerful requiem while a silks dancer dangled silently from the tall ceiling, expertly, slowly winding in and out of the silks. 
We took more than an hour to journey through the underworld. We were captivated by the production, costumes, choreography, creativity, and the cultural significance of the performances.  And to think that it was free, a gift to the public for the enjoyment of so many was an amazingly generous gesture. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

A Day Off

With Gitane in the boatyard for new bottom paint, we gave ourselves a day off.  After working in the heat and humidity of Mazatlan for ten days, we decided that we wanted to be entertained and cool so we opted for a matinee movie. 

The RV park that we will call home for another week is near an air-conditioned swanky mall with a couple of theaters.  We chose the super luxe theater to watch Bridge of Spies in English.  The tickets are half price on Wednesdays so we forked out US$2.75 each.  I can’t tell you how much better it is to watch a really good movie while wallowing comfortably in the spaciousness of a leather recliner. These recliners bear no resemblance whatsoever to what the airlines call reclining seats.  Neither could they ever be considered to be in the same genre as seats typically found in US theaters.  These are jumbo size La-z Boys that every physique can snuggle into and be happy.  Push a button and the foot rest pops up and the aisles are so wide that they remain unimpeded.  No one has to climb over you to get past.   
The recliners are in sets of two with four sets to a row.  Each set is separated from the neighbors by a console on which stands a thin lamp whose soft beam is controlled by a different button.  Each seat has a small swivel table attached to the armrest. Push yet another button and your server arrives toting an iPad for ordering food and beverage. Not the usual movie food that the next day you know you’ll regret having eaten, but lasagna, pizza and salads are on this menu which is more extensive than some restaurants.  One entire page is devoted to well drinks and cocktails.  Beer gets a half page while the other half is filled with the many flavors of popcorn that are available.  The wine selection needs a whole page.  We ordered a medium box of popcorn and a beer that set us back US $6.00.

With only 50 seats in the theater we felt that we were in a wealthy friend’s large living room, watching a good movie on a great big screen. 
It was dark when the movie ended so we stopped for dinner at the air-conditioned swanky mall’s food court. The Chinese vendor had a 2-for-1 promotion.  They piled our plates high and gave us each ½ liter of iced tea for a whopping US$ 6.00.
Promotions abound this time of year.  Even the boatyard came up with a deal. 

It was a good day off. 

Saturday, February 7, 2015

SailFest 2015

A lively group of ten donors sailed with us this afternoon on Gitane in the SailFest 2015 Boat Parade.  This year, 25 boats participated by taking out over 200 guest donors.  Our guests were vacationing from Michigan, Washington and California and four of them were repeat guests who had joined us on Gitane in the 2014 parade.  We enjoyed catching up with them and were delighted to welcome them back for another five-hour sail around Bahia Zihuatanejo, then over to Ixtapa, and returning to Zihua around 3:00 p.m.  It was a full day of sun, light wind and delightful conversation.
Over the week-long festival, donors contributed more than $90,000 US to the disadvantaged kids of Zihua through the “Por Los Ninos” program.  The money will be used to build classrooms, kitchens and bathrooms as well as contribute to the school lunch program.  (www.porlosninos.com)

We extend a heartfelt thank you to our guests.  We hope to see you next year! 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Our Precious Cheng

When Cheng came to live with us in 2003, I told him that his name meant ‘Most Precious Kitty’ in Mandarin. He adjusted quickly to his new home and living up to his name, he graced us with his calm demeanor and became our precious friend.  

This afternoon, the Sirens of the Sea welcomed the body of our sweet Cheng into the warm, clear water five miles west of Zihuatanejo, Mexico.  They will forever protect him on his journey.  We sent him off with bouquets of chamomile flowers and a sprinkling of catnip.  A large group of dolphins circled our boat as they also welcomed him to their beautiful, watery world. 
Cheng’s 20 years were filled with adventure afoot and afloat, from Florida to San Diego to Anacortes to Mexico. He was a wonderful traveling companion.  We’re grateful that he spent his last 12 years with us, infusing our lives with his gentle personality and the contented gaze of his big blue eyes. This morning, I promised Cheng that he would be romping in plush fields of green grass and eating catnip to his heart’s content in kitty heaven. 


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Christmas Pageant, Barra de Navidad

The town square is alive, packed with families and vendors selling street food.  A Christmas tree of tall poles and lighted spheres stands in the corner of the stage illuminating the space. The celebration begins with Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters on the stage dancing and singing Christmas songs with the kids brave enough to play with the giant creatures until the characters are ready to collapse in the hot costumes and they take a break.  

Chairs are set up within feet of the five-foot tall stage. Moms, dads, grandparents and kids sit silently, listening intently to the characters in the pageant.  All of the traditional ones are on stage, angels with halos glowing, shepherds, wisemen, Mary and Joseph, and of course, baby Jesus in the manger.

We’re pretty sure that we know this story so our attention strays to mostly people watching on this balmy 75-degree night when suddenly this rendition takes a turn and grabs our attention.  The shepherds form two lines on either side of the chief angel.  It becomes evident that the good shepherds stand on his right and the bad shepherds are to his left as each side take turns explaining what Christmas is all about.  The chief angel is mediating their disagreement with a lot of “no no” or “si si” when suddenly firecrackers are thrown on to the stage.  Amongst the smoke and explosions the devil appears with a small, Peter Pan-like assistant devil so cute he almost steals the show. The big devil begins talking about presents and the bad shepherds pull out bottles of Tequila and start gulping.  The message was as clear as the empty bottles. Both sides argue over the meaning of Christmas while the adorable Peter Pan devil hops, jumps, skips and darts about the stage so light on his feet that you just know he’s going to fly away any minute. He had the time of his life. 

The evening ends with the good shepherds chasing away the devil and his accomplice as familiar Christmas melodies sung in Spanish blast from a gigantic speaker next to the stage.  It was a Christmas pageant like none other.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Another cruising season begins!

     We found Gitane just as we left her.  She was a peaceful, welcome sight for road-weary eyes. Her sun awning and dehumidifier kept her dry and cool during the summer hurricane season.  She calmly awaited the truckload of new parts and supplies that we carried with us over the 3,230 miles that we drove from the Pacific Northwest to her dock in Puerto Vallarta. 
     We went to work the very next day.  Cruising for two seasons along the Mexican coast had taken its toll resulting in a long worklist:  replace two bad injectors in the engine; replace the Racor filter system and engine fuel filter and bleed the system; replace a broken zipper on the dodger and reinforce the original stitching as well as the stitching on the bimini; install a new BBQ; re-attach the wind generator; repair the windless; install new running rigging; install a newly designed exterior reefing system for the main sail and attach the sail; retrieve a repaired genoa from the sailmaker with whom we left it in the spring and attach it; stow a new Honda generator and a new Central Pneumatic compressor and hooka system; install a newly galvanized CQR anchor; climb the mast to check the lights and install a new Windex; retrieve the electronics from the safety of the oven and install them; and last but not least, replace the shower bar and nozzle in the forward head and repair the faucets.  Our workday started in the cool morning air and ended in the heat of early afternoon when we rewarded ourselves with a swim in the pool. 

     Our workday routine lasted for 12 days when at last we motored through the channel to the open water of Banderas Bay.  We were thrilled when all systems worked as they should!  We raised our sails, turned off the engine and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon cruise in 85 degree sunshine and 15-knot winds to La Cruz anchorage. 

     We decided to sail differently this year while I get used to my new hip and do my darndest to prevent dislocating it: we’re staying local, spending windy days sailing this gorgeous 20-mile-wide bay and retreating to the anchorage with the setting sun.  The sailing in this bay is the best along this coast so we’re taking advantage of it.  We spend calm days cleaning, provisioning, taking Cheng to the vet for his weekly vitamin infusion and basically enjoying the amenities of this small town including free weekly movies at the marina and a fabulous Sunday crafts market. 

     Ken is happy as a clam at high tide using the new hooka to scrub off the accumulation of critters and grass that like to attach to the hull in this warm water.  His cleaning sessions also charge the batteries so we get a twofer for his efforts. 

Life is good on the hook. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

The times they are a changin'

It’s autumn.  The fog hangs low in the morning, slowly dissipating with the warmth of the subdued afternoon sun.  Festive red, yellow and orange colors are eye candy as we walk the trails, drive the country roads, and rummage in the garden.  The fallen leaves that crunched under the weight of my bike now crunch under my crutches.  Pumpkin fields dot the landscape. How can I choose just one to carve?  Huge crates overflow with an abundance of colorful gourds enticing one to touch.  How many can I bake?  It’s a time to snuggle in, to stay inside where it’s warm and cozy with the spiced scent of pumpkin cookies permeating the space.  It’s a time to turn inward after our active summer, a time to let my new hip replacement heal, a time to catch up on good books, a time to plan our trip south.  I love this season.