Sunday, September 27, 2009

Puebla, Puebla

We have been in Puebla, Puebla for 2 days. It is a city of detailed, old buildings. Our hotel is right in the down town, and every street we have been on is absolutely beautiful. Some are tiled, which I haven't seen much, some are dark brick, and some are painted in bright colors. They all have lots of detail and special touches. The Zocalo, or downtown plaza, is lined with small restaurants with patios. There is a huge church, built in 1575, on one side of the Zocalo. It is the most beautiful church I have ever seen, both inside and out. This is an amazing city, where we could easily spend much more time. It is the cleanest place in Mexico we have seen, everything is old and grand, and the people are extra friendly.

While at the Zocalo yesterday, we felt a few little raindrops, and suddenly the few hundred people there started sprinting through the downtown. It looked like an emergency, with everyone running in all directions. They knew what they were doing, though, because about 10 seconds later it started to pour intensely. Everyone was huddled under the restaurant patios, and it was packed. We worked our way through the crowd and drank hot chocolate until the rain calmed down, but we were soaked and cold.

We haven't done much in Puebla, because Jose and I have both gotten colds. We take a few walks a day, but we never get very far. Luckily, our hotel is downtown, so we do not have to walk far to see important parts of the city. We are thinking of spending some more time here on our way back from the Yucatan, but we will have to see. We don't have all that much time before Jose's next appointment!


Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bus Trip

We started a bus trip yesterday that we expect to take about 2 weeks. It will take us from La Manzanilla to the Yucatan Peninsula, so we will go from coast to coast.

We left La Manzanilla at 3:30 pm yesterday, and arrived in Puebla at 9:30 am. The bus from Barra de Navidad, a town near La Manzanilla, to Mexico City took 12 hours. I don´t think I can handle more than that, so we will stop every 12 hours at least on our way to the Yucatan.

We are currently in Puebla, Puebla. In a few days we will go to Oaxaca for a few nights, and then on to the Yucatan. We are going to visit many ruins in the Yucatan, Quintana Roo, and Campeche.

On the way back, we are going to stay with our friend´s mother in Mexico City, and she is going to take us to the museums and gardens.

We will return to La Manzanilla two weeks before we leave to Ciudad Juarez for Jose´s next appointment. By then, the weather will be nicer and more people will have arrived.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco

We are leaving Puerto Vallarta today to go back to La Manzanilla for Paul’s last night. We really like Puerto Vallarta, and want to spend more time here. It reminds me of a Mexican San Francisco. Of course, that means there are many differences between Puerto Vallarta and San Francisco, but for some reason, I think of San Francisco quite often.

Last night was Paul’s 21st birthday. Turns out we were staying in the Zona Romantica, also known as the gay zone, and ended up in gay bars. One was completely empty, and the second had five men in their 60’s. It wasn’t exactly a bumping scene for Paul’s birthday, but I enjoyed the second bar. The moment I walked in, the bartender looked me up and down and said “Do you have I.D.?” His tone of voice made it clear he did not expect I would. Jose and I ended up talking to him about our marriage for a long time, and he admitted he thought I was 15.

We then found a club with some young people in it. We first went in only to get dinner. It was Ladies Night, and the workers would not accept that I didn’t want to drink. Finally I ordered a margarita with ‘a little, little bit of alcohol.” I only got through about an eighth of it, but the servers stopped bothering me as soon as I had the “Free Bar” bracelet and a drink in front of me. We danced to American music, which I know is to be expected, but it was still disappointing. We had fun at the club, but went back home at about 12 am.

Last night was Paul’s first time being able to legally drink in the U.S., my first time ever being able to legally drink, and my first time in a bar or club. I liked the dancing, but the bar/alcohol part I would rather skip.

It has been so nice to be in Puerta Vallarta with Paul. We have done lots of walking, and found some really nice shops and vendors. Puerto Vallarta has turned out to be so much more than I expected. I feel more comfortable here than I have in almost all the other places we have been. It really is a beautiful and comfortable city.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Paul's Here!

Paul is here visiting us for 4 days. He flew into the Manzanillo airport, and we took a taxi to La Manzanilla. He liked the area, but did not enjoy the heat and humidity.

Luckily, Jose and I booked a hotel room on the beach in Puerto Vallarta for 2 nights. We stayed in La Manzanilla for one night, then took the 5 hour bus ride to Puerto Vallarta. The hotel room is nice, but most importantly for Jose and Paul, it is air conditioned. We have a nice balcony that overlooks the pool and the ocean, where I have been spending some nice reading time.

I love Puerto Vallarta. There is so much to do, the weather is good, and the area is pretty. Of course, this is not during tourist season, so no one is here. I doubt that I would like it very much when it is crowded, but now it means it is more comfortable and cheap.

Today is Paul’s 21st birthday, so we are going to go out and find some celebratory things to do.


Comala, Colima

We went to Comala, a small town 15 minutes from Colima, for two days. It is beautiful, quiet, and cool. We think this is our favorite place in Mexico so far. We met friendly people, stayed in a nice place, and had good food.

Jose was most excited about Comala’s food. He had read online that Botaneros, which are like restaurants, serve appetizers when you order a drink. I was skeptical, but the first day in Comala, we went to one, and our table miraculously filled with appetizers just a minute after we ordered drinks. There were ceviche, flautas, tostadas, and fried tacos. The flautas were our favorite. They had a delicious green sauce and Mexican crema on top. The second time we went back, we ordered three additional plates of the flautas and thought we were paying for them, but when we got our bill we were only charged for Jose’s margarita (he finally ordered an alcoholic beverage) and my agua fresca. We got four plates of flautas, ceviche, tacos, tostadas, and two drinks for under 8 USD. I don’t know how they can afford to give away so much food, but they are famous for it. Jose felt like he was stealing, so he left 50% tips every time.

We stayed in a bed and breakfast, which was a first for us. Since it still isn’t tourist season, there was only one other couple for one night. Our room was a studio apartment in a building separate from the house. It was a very nice room, but we were a little uncomfortable with the breakfast part. The other couple did not eat breakfast, so both days we ate alone. The couple who owns the bed and breakfast serve breakfast in their own dining room, and it was awkward to have them serve us in what was obviously their personal space. The food they served was good, though. There was fresh squeezed orange juice each day, and one day they served us thin tostadas with mashed avacado, grated parmesan cheese, tomato, and oregano. It was also only 50 dollars a night for the studio and breakfast.

There was a fight in the plaza one evening. A woman started punching a mother, while her two young daughters stood their screaming. Someone broke it up, the woman who started it got back in her car and drove away, and the mother was left bleeding in front of her kids. It was really scary to see, but we feel a little safer now, because the federal police arrived just a minute after the fight. They were kind to the children, took care of the mother, and then drove them to the hospital. I like knowing that if we were to have a problem, we would have that kind of service available.

We didn’t have a chance to see the volcanoes, or the nearby town with a wooden mask maker. We liked the town so much, though, and spent so little time there, we are pretty sure we are going to go back.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Leaving Colima

Tonight is our last night in the city of Colima. We have had a very relaxed stay and it has been exactly what we needed.

Yesterday, the 15th of September at 11 pm, Mexico celebrated their independence from Spain. Today the 16th is the actual day of Independence but we found out that president Porfidio Diaz changed the day to the 15th in order to celebrate both Mexico's independence and his birthday. There were celebrations going on in the downtown area but they all started around 10, an hour before the President presents the celebratory "Grito de independencia," or independence yell. Basically everyone yells as loud as they can and says "viva Mexico." We didn't go downtown at that hour, it was a little late for little Emma and I was way too comfortable in the hotel room. I did get to see some of the fireworks from outside of the hotel. Plus, it is mostly a drinking, partying sort of event, which is not our scene. It was nice to be here for Independence Day, and see the excitment.

Tomorrow we will be leaving Colima for Comala, a small town 15 minutes north of Colima. This town is know for its beauty and history. Its surrounded by two volcanoes and a few lakes. There are many artisan studios and strong native roots, along with Spanish influence. There is a 19th century church that we are very excited to see. There are also museums dedicated to Alberto Isaac, Alejandro Rangel Hidalgo, and a cultural center.

We will be staying in a beautiful bed in breakfast in downtown Comala for two nights. We are, ok me more than Emma, very excited about all the appetizers the town is known for giving while having any type of local drink or plate in any downtown restaurant...can't wait.


Monday, September 14, 2009


Photos of Ciudad Juarez and La Manzanilla are posted on Jose's Facebook.

We are working on putting more up, and trying to find somewhere else to post them.


In Colima, Colima

Update (12/30/11): Home for six months, which feels like six weeks in Mexico. Time flies when we're having fun. Rereading this post now, we need to add....

We had had a precariously balanced sense of comfort at Lucio's house in Tecoman, but when his daughter showed up unexpectedly with her husband and baby and one eyed, drug dealing mother and acted like we were intruders, we were ready to flee. Jose told his uncle we were going to visit Colima for a week with vague promises to return (which didn't happen.) The Colima hotel was low quality and miles from downtown. The bed was hard and the room was freezing, because Jose set the thermostat to 50 degrees after living in humid heat for weeks before. I was miserable in Colima. No matter how much I slept, I couldn't get rested. All the food was terrible. I felt sad, mad, lonely, and desperate; one night I cried so intensely that Jose heard the cleaning staff asking if they should see if I was ok. That was embarassing enough that I wanted to leave the room even less, and we so we went to stay in Comala, a small town outside of Colima, soon after. Colima was definitely one of the lowest points of our two months of travel.


We are having a great time in Colima, but so far it has involved very little of the city. We are thrilled to have air conditioning and the luxury of a hotel. It is almost like we are somewhere in the United States. We have not felt this kind of comfort since we left the US, so we have been taking full advantage.

The weather here is so much better. It was warm today, but it was not humid, which makes all the difference. We have taken our first hot showers in Mexico. When I got out of my first shower here, I thought we had amazing soap, because I was so soft, but then I remembered that that's how skin is supposed to be. I was just so used to being sticky from the humidity, I'd forgotten how great clean skin feels.

Jose keeps our room freezing cold. I have needed to use an extra blanket at night, but being cool puts him in a great mood, so I don't mind. There is cable TV in the room, and sports have been taking much of Jose's time. He has been switching between football, tennis, and golf. I swear there is more NFL football in Mexico than in the United States, and Jose has watched every game. I even woke up to an NFL rerun this morning of the game he had watched the night before. Plus, the U.S. Open was on. I did get pretty into that.

We have been eating better since we got here. We ate at the hotel restaurant the first night, and I had some delicious shrimp. For our other meals, we have been eating at restaurants within a block or two of the hotel. Last night, we had flan for dessert, our first in Mexico. Besides lunch this afternoon, we have not eaten at any taquerias. It has been very nice to have a break from tacos, and to eat at places that are a little more quiet and relaxing.

We ventured out this afternoon towards downtown, but then we ate too much at lunch and I had to come home for a nap. The streets were nice and pretty. We are excited about making it all the way downtown tomorrow. It is supposed to have a good center. We found a bus stop less than a block from our hotel that goes straight downtown, which greatly improves the chances of me making it down there!

Tomorrow, on the 15th of September, most of the Independence Day celebrations happen. In the last week or so many cars have donned flags, and there are stands selling flags all over the place. Jose is really excited about seeing the celebrations. Hopefully we will see some interesting things.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Colima, Colima

Jose and I are leaving tomorrow to Colima, Colima. It is a city of 600,000 inhabitants. Its beautiful, colonial, safe, with cooler weather. We will take the bus from Tecoman to Colima tomorrow, which takes about an hour. We will be there from Saturday to Thursday. We will be staying in a inexpensive hotel that Jose found.

We will be there for Mexican Independence Day. Jose is excited about being in a city for that, and apparently in the Colima downtown they have a big celebration.

On Thursday, we will come back to Tecoman until Saturday. On Saturday, Paul is arriving in Manzanillo. We will take the bus from Tecoman to Manzanillo, meet Paul, and head back up to La Manzanilla.

Experiencing Tecoman

We have been walking around in the colony where Joses uncle lives. A colony is like a little town, or maybe a neighborhood, outside of the downtown of the city. The streets are dirt, or loosely lined with large stones. The streets with stones are very hard to walk down. Most people have small houses, but some families have large tents that are covered with little additions made out of wood scraps. There are taco stands, taquerias, and shops everywhere. Joses great uncle, Lucio, has one of the nicest houses we have seen. His house is shaped like an L, and the inside of the L is a nice courtyard in the back. The ground is all covered in brick and very clean, there is a big tree in the middle, and it is closed off from the neighbors by a tall brick fence. Lucio has a hamock tied to the tree that he spends most of his time in. There is also a bed outside under an eave that he naps on during the day, which I think is a wonderful idea. I hope to have my own outside daybed someday.

Yesterday we went downtown on the bus, and were not very impressed. It was busy and crowded. It was our first time walking around in a city in Mexico, and we were annoyed that pedestrians have no rights. There are no crosswalks. Pedestrians cross wherever they get the chance. There were so many cars that we had to wait awhile before we could cross, and then if a car came while we were crossing, they felt no need to slow down, because we were in their way. It was a stressful experience.

The downtown did not offer much. There are mostly shops, and we do not want to shop, so there was not anything for us to do. We stopped at a grocery store on the way home, and spent forever, but finally found enough food for a few gluten free meals. Last night, we cooked refried beans, Mexican rice, enchiladas, and arroz con leche (rice pudding). It was our first complete, home-cooked mean in Mexico. It was so nice to finally have a dinner that was not almost pure meat. Everywhere we have gone in Mexico, taquerias and food stands only offer tacos with two choices of meat, and sometimes quesadillas. Even Jose has gotten sick of meat tacos. I have gotten good at not thinking about the meat, and being able to eat it like a meat eater. I do not plan on continuing to eat it when we get back to the United States. I think I have already eaten enough meat for the rest of my life. It was so nice to spend a few hours in a kitchen, though. We want to do more cooking, but we have not been able to find the ingredients for many gluten free meals.

There is a family next door to us with 6 children. They make donuts and sell them. Jose told Alejandra Yolanda, the 1st grader, that he wanted to buy some, and later that night we heard "pst, pst" in the dark, and looked up to see Alejandra Yolanda on the fence with a bag of donuts. The young kids have blonde hair. They look like beach bums with tan skin and blonde hair. Alejandra Yolanda loves to talk about school. We hear her over the fence telling her mother all the things the teacher taught her that day. All of the kids have fallen in love with Jose. When we left this morning to use the internet, one of the boys said to Jose, "Youre not leaving yet, are you?" He broke into a huge smile when Jose said no. There are many little boys on the street who have all decided that Jose is very cool, and they spend most of their time sitting in front of Lucios fence.

We have to admit it: we are ready to go home. Mexico is just not for us.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Early Ciudad Juarez Drama

We wanted to wait until we were out of Ciudad Juarez to talk about this.

Our second day in Ciudad Juarez, two cartel men were murdered across the street from the house we stayed in. It was during the afternoon, and a man in a car drove by and fired about 6 shots at a car parked on the street. Two men were in the car, and one was killed instantly. The other man started to get out of the car, but the shooter returned and fired another 6 shots at him. The woman we were staying with, Olivia, went outside after the first shots, and saw the second man killed. The shooter just walked back to his car and drove away normally. He was never in any hurry, because he knew that he would not be caught. Olivia called the police, and 15 minutes later armed police officers flooded the street and closed off the block.

Jose was at the consulate picking up his medical exam results. I was upstairs on the computer when the shots were fired. I was not sure if they were gunshots, but they sounded how I imagined a gunshot would sound. I sat for a few minutes, scared to go downstairs. When I did go downstairs, Olivia and Eva were sitting on the couches with their babies. We sat and waited, scared, for about an hour, before Jose, Ruben, Osiel, and his daughter Maria Fernanda returned. I was so shocked, and worried about Jose being out. I wanted him to get home, but I also did not want him being outside, not knowing what usually happens after a murder.

Jose saw the bodies on the street when they came back. Blood was covering the street, but the rest of the time we were there, it was never cleaned up. That night, the murders were on the news. They showed both the bodies, in the car and on the street. It had been easier for me to deal with, because I did not have any image to put with what I had heard. Once I saw the scene on the TV, it was much harder because I knew what happened while I heard the shots. I could not believe that I had been so close to something so awful.

In the middle of that night, more gun shots were fired. No one was hurt, and we were told it was the cartel men warning the neighborhood not to talk to the police. No one did.

We did not hear any more gunshots or violence the rest of the time we were in Ciudad Juarez. Olivia and Ruben were constantly worried about us. There had never been any violence in their neighborhood, and they felt bad that it happened when we were visiting. They offered to take us to a hotel, but we decided that we would rather be with a family in a good neighborhood, according to Juarez standards, that knows the city. Everything was fine after that, and we are still so glad that we were able to stay with them. We do feel like we experienced the "real Ciudad Juarez."



We departed from La Manzanilla at 10:30 am on Tuesday, September 8th for Tecoman, which is in the small state of Colima. We took a bus from La Manzanilla to Barra de Navidad, where we caught another bus to Manzanillo. From Manzanillo it took us about an hour on another bus to Tecoman. My mothers uncle, Lucio, met us at the bus terminal in Tecoman. He took us to a little area where people serve hot food-- it was nice to have more than two options of places to eat. We both had a plate of rice and beans with two quesadillas and they were amazing! The cheese in La Manzanilla was disgusting, so we had not eaten any cheese since we came to Mexico. That was very hard on Emma, who loves all cheese, and me, who loves quesadillas. After lunch we caught a taxi to the little colony where his house is located in the outskirts of the city.

My great uncle, Lucio, is very well educated and knows so much more than I expected for a man who only finished the fourth grade. We have spent hours and hours talking about politics, economics, and even a little socialism. Turns out he was part of a socialist group about 18 years ago. He quit after he realized it was too risky, dangerous, and difficult to make a difference. He also said they were liars. He has traveled to Switzerland, Purtugal, Spain, and many states in Mexico.

He lives by himself in a three bedroom house. We are staying in one of the rooms. He has two daughters that live in Switzerland. One of the daughters is married to a Swiss man who speaks German. She is the eldest and can speak Spanish, English, and German. Her husband speaks really good Spanish. My great uncles younger daughter is currently married to Swiss man who also speaks German. She was married to a Portugese man for a few years before her current husband. The younger daughter is visiting with her husband and daughter, and will be arriving Saturday or Sunday this week.

In Tecoman, including my great uncle Lucio, I have four great uncles and aunts from my mothers side. I also have a great uncle from my fathers side who lives just outside of the city. We are going to visit all of them. It will be really nice meeting family that I have never met before. It will also be nice because I will be able to get a sence of what type of man my grandfather was.


Monday, September 7, 2009

La Manzanilla

We have almost been in La Manzanilla, Jalisco for a week now. It is hot and humid, as we were expecting. The ocean is beautiful and warm. The town is quiet and peaceful, but with little to do.

The tourists and part-time residents do not arrive until mid-October, so the town has not started up for them yet. Many of the stores and restauants have reduced hours if they are not completely closed. We have not found very much to do, and the ladies at the beauty salon who Jose befriended (I´m still not exactly sure what happened there) say that there is not much to do in this town. We do not go out much during the day because of the weather. When we do, we walk into town and do a few errands, and then go home a recuperate for the rest of the day.

Dave Hope´s house is very nice. It is out of town a little bit, so it is quiet, but it is not fun walking to in the dark. It is up a steep dirt road surrounded by plants. There is thick grass growing in the middle of the road, which hides many of the bugs, snakes, and other scary creatures that scare me while I walk past. I must admit, it is a tough and often annoying walk when I am tired at night and sticky from the humidity. The house is four stories, three are separate units, and the fourth is a palapa. I do not go up there, because the stairs are steep and curvy without railing. Jose has, though, and said it was nice. We are staying in the second story, which has a beautiful view of the town and green hills. Two of the walls are open without windows to keep the house cooler. It does help, but the bugs are pretty bad. We have seen many new kinds of life: tarantulas, gecos, flat spiders, huge colorful beetles, bright butterflys, green iguanas, and red wasps that swell your throat when they bite you. The gecos are my favorite, and we have a tiny one that has been in our room everynight. The neighbors have two goats that visit us. They charge up the steep rock wall in front of the house and stumble around 15 feet off the ground. The first time they did it I couldn´t help but freak out a little bit, thinking I was about the witness goat suicide.

The ocean is amazing, but only at night. We went swimming during the day yesterday, for the first time, and it will be the last during this weather. It was great while we were in the water, but when we got out we felt sick from being so hot and sticky. That was one of the times I was annoyed with the road up to the house. Cold showers and cold drinking water fixed us. We are just sticking to night swims. I really can´t complain, because watching sunsets while in warm ocean water is pretty great. It is nice to be able to just walk right into the water and feel comfortable, and stay that way for a few hours without getting cold.

We are looking into visiting some of Jose´s family in Tecoman, Colima. It is about 2 hours from here. There is not as humid, and has 160,000 inhabitants, so we think we may be able to do a little more. Having nothing to do is letting our minds think too much, which we can´t let happen right now. Two months in Mexico is daunting. We are going to do some traveling to keep our minds off all our current uncertainties.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Second Appointment

Today we found out that my second appointment will be on Wedensday October 28 at 9 am in Ciudad Juarez. At this appointment, I will turn in my waiver along with my forgiveness and hardship packet. I have to pay 545 US dollars in order to have the packet processed. Once the officials make a decision, I will go to a local DHL office and pick up a packet that will either have a Visa or not. The packet will be ready about a week after my appointment, so it looks like, if I am given a visa, we will be able to go home in the first week of November. Let´s hope!

Since our appoitment is a lot later than we expected, we will be doing a lot of traveling. We are excited to get to see some real Mexican parts of Mexico. We have plans to visit Mexico City, Guadalajara, Colima, Tecoman, Oaxaca, and maybe the Yucatan Peninsula. We have to do some more research, but we now have 8 weeks to fill. If anyone has suggestions about other places to see, we´d love to hear them!