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Christmas in Vallarta – Toys for Vendors’ children

Every year at Christmas for the last 10 years and more, the folks we know who sit in the Blue Chairs on Los Muertos Beach organize a gift giveaway for the children of the beach vendors. It’s a great experience and this year was no different. In fact maybe it was better, because in the past we have sometimes seen tourists bring their children for a free gift, but this year the line was made up entirely of children and their beach vending parents

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We have heard from the people who know that the line ups have been starting at 5 am. I have no proof of that since I didn’t arrive at the beach until 8:30 am. Notice that even at that hour the sun has not yet reached the beach. That explains the hoodies and the warm clothes.

The palapas are hung with the toys – stuffed animals, dolls, trucks, cars, two skateboards even, and soccer balls – futbols in Spanish. Here’s a look at the palapas with their toys.

The plush animals go first. They are very popular with the parents of the smaller children. I saw two women go by with the smallest babies and the biggest plush bears! No photo though, sorry.

Nancy is one of the main organizers of the event and has been part of the gift giving since its inception. And Cheryl from Toronto is known for bringing gifts down for friends as well as doing their shopping for them. Here they are before the gates were opened. Cheryl is on the left.

The line is quiet – people visit with their neighbours while they wait. There’s no pushing, shoving, crying, impatience. Everyone is expectant and excited, but calm. Here is the family that was first in line. (I wonder when they arrived.)

 

Some of the folk who are involved, like Nancy and Cheryl, are oft time returnees to the event. Ken and Terry here are from Calgary and introduced us to the Blue Chairs years ago and have been coming back year after year. Joan is another long term Blue Chairs elf helping with the organization.

The  children wait so quietly, but you can see they are hoping they get the present they have their eye on.

Here’s Todd, one of Santa’s elves, who help the children choose, and, once they’ve selected, snip the string holding the toy and hand it over. I wish I’d gotten a picture of what happened after Todd passed this little girl her present. She turned around and gave him a wonderful hug – spontaneous and delightful. Todd was verklemft.

In the next photo is a little boy holding one of the remote controlled cars we bought to add to the bounty under the palapas. We found them at one of the shops in the local market and the staff were extra diligent. They opened every box, took out both car and remote, put in batteries and checked that the wheels went around, the lights came on and the wheels went left and right. We bought batteries for the vehicles as well and Geordie taped them together in a set of five and put them in the boxes. No child should have to go buy his own batteries!

The gift giving went incredibly well. At the end of the event, no child was left out and there were no gifts left. Two young girls arrived after things had wrapped up, and we were in a panic until we found two Barbie dolls under one of the palapas hanging on very short strings which had gone unnoticed. Karma!

On the way home I saw this family walking home too and asked them to pose with their loot. What a great feeling to know that we have  brought a little happiness into the lives of these children whose parents ply the beaches day after day selling their sarongs, jewellery, shrimp on a stick, blankets and every thing else.

A lovely end to a lovely morning.

Merry Christmas everyone.

 

 

SETAC – or singing dancing dragging

Last night we went to The Palm nightclub to see and hear the benefit show put on to support SETAC, the gay, lesbian, bi and trans support group in Puerto Vallarta. It was a great evening with lots of talent on display.

Our host for the evening was Randall Powell, whose day (night) job is as a performer doing a piano lounge show at The Palm on Sunday nights and hosting the other shows run at the Palm other nights of the week. Randall is a big boy and lets people know it.

Randall had help from Mrs. Claus too.

Randall enjoys costume changes too.

The first guest was Miss Beverley Fairfax – a rather buxom woman. She was wearing a glittery dress that Geordie thought would serve us well as a Christmas table cloth. Beverley sang live giving us a romantic version of Merry Christmas Darling.

After Miss Beverley we were treated to a wonderful lip-syncing performance by Dixie Leonard. She did an incredible job on “And I Tell You I Am Not Going” from the movie/musical Dreamgirls. She was also the most elegant lady of the evening.

Dixie was followed by Joanna, another performer who does her own singing. Most of the songs are parodies of familiar songs probably written by Joanna. One example is her version of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” with the words, “Crazy, I’m crazy for being so…crazy!” It was all downhill from there. But she was lots of fun and did both women and men’s voices. Here she is as Patsy and then Elvis (in the same dress however).

Joanna was followed by Miss Tammy Whynotte (although she certainly had the same stature and eye-shadow as Miss Dixie Leonard).  Hmmm! Geordie and I were impressed that she was so good at lip-sync. We even debated whether she was lip-syncing or live, but thought it had to be the first because it was hard to imagine her having that incredible range – and yodelling too!

After Tammy we were treated to the powerful voice of Kim Kuzma. Unlike some of those other girls, Kim is a real woman although she did tell a story about being in the ladies washroom where she met a woman who obviously thought that Kim was in the wrong bathroom. Kim is from Vancouver but lives in Palm Springs when she’s not touring or working the clubs in Puerto Vallarta and other communities around Banderas Bay.

Kim Kuzma 2

In the photo above Kim is in the audience reclining on one of the men in the audience.

Finally, during the show the host encouraged people to help fill a jug with money for SETAC. There was also a 50/50 draw which brought in 3100 pesos and one lucky guy won half of it. However, in a generous show of spirit the man who won donated all the money back to the centre. Classy! I didn’t get his picture, but here’s Randall getting ready to draw the winning ticket.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good life.

The Festival of Our Lady of Guadalupe

From December 1 to December 12, Mexico celebrates one of the most important figures of the Church calendar with the Festival of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The story begins in 1531 when a simple shepherd, Juan Diego, recently converted to Catholicism, had a vision of the Virgin Mary who told him that she wanted a church built on the hillside. When  Juan reported this to the bishop he demanded further proof, so Juan went back to the hillside where the Virgin appeared to him again, and this time she told him to pick some roses blooming on the hillside. Of course roses were out of season at that time. Juan gathered them in his cloak and brought them to the bishop, but when he opened the cloak to reveal the roses which tumbled out, an image of the Virgin had been miraculously imprinted on the cloak. This cloak still remains today in the huge church which now crowns the hillside, the culmination of the many churches which have been constructed there.

You can read more detail of this at this website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_of_Guadalupe

The point of this story of course is to introduce you to the Festival as it is celebrated here in Puerto Vallarta. The main church here is La Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe or The Church of our Lady of Guadalupe. For 12 nights, beginning on December 1, processions make their way to the church to honour the Virgin and to receive the blessings of the priest and the Virgin herself.

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Yeah I know. The church is not leaning like the tower at Pisa, as it seems to here.

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Here is one of the trucks that are usually part of the procession.  A young girl dressed as the Virgin is carried on the truck to the church where she dismounts and leads the faithful into the church for the blessing. The faithful themselves are from the various parishes around the city and surrounding country side as well as the staff of many of the businesses of PV who walk in the procession to honour their virgin.

The processions continue every night for the entire 12 days. In the processions there are often mariachi bands, marketing bands, Aztec dancers and just ordinary folk carrying their candles.

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These dresses are called Mariposas (butterflies) and the women dance in them with their charros (Cowboys).

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The swirl of colour is entrancing.

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This banner is being carried by staff of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. It reads “Little Mother, we sit at your feet with humility thanking you for all your blessings” in my rather rough translation.Image

Mariachi bands in their finery. Mariachi is actually a form of music which began in Western Mexico, including Jalisco, the state where Puerto Vallarta lies.

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Many of the floats carry not only the Virgin, but also a young boy (or even an older man) who sits at the feet of the Virgin. He represents Juan Diego; usually he is dressed in rough, although beautifully clean, homespun cotton clothing. Sometimes you will see little boys on the street dressed as Juan, sporting a little black moustache.

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A rather young marching band. I didn’t hear them play so cannot comment on their skills.

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I don’t know who these young people represent, but some of the young women are certainly well dressed for the occasion.

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Aztecs dance in brightly coloured costumes with extravagant headdresses.

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Patriotism is proudly on display too, as this Mexican flag attests.

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One of the many traditions of the processions is to deliver food, flowers, pictures of the Virgin and other things to be blessed at the church.

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Another long standing tradition of the Festival is the food for purchase. Here our friend Ken is negotiating for three pieces of flan for himself, Terry and Don. I had to help with translation On the table you can see cheesecake with strawberries (fresh), flan and the double layered chocolate cake topped with flan – all quite delicious. There are stalls on all the side streets near the church selling these desserts, but also tamales, tortas (sandwiches), atole (a sweet corn drink), chopped hot dogs with chips and much much more.

And I confess, this is what we did one of the evenings we went to see the processions, a long standing tradition in the Catholic Church from my experience. However this particular game did not benefit the parish of Guadalupe at all.

We’ve made it to Bingo at No Borders four times and have come home with four prizes! Not a bad haul. The other guys at this table are denizens of Frida Bar – the guy opposite me with the red T-shirt is Luis, one of the owners of Frida.

On December 11 we went down to the street in the afternoon to find it full of local people parading to the church in their white finery. They stood 10 across and moved slowly and patiently along the street until they could reach the church itself where they entered to receive their blessings. Unfortunately we did not have a camera that afternoon, so we cannot show you the extent of the crowd. But they were quiet, peaceable and patient as they stood for minutes at a time, and inched slowly forward in the mid day heat to have their opportunity to honour their Virgin.

I am always amazed at how many participate in this yearly tradition in Puerto Vallarta. It is certainly a testament to their faith.

A morning in the life…

Geordie and I have a few routines down. We enjoy walking to the malecon, going out with the boys in the late afternoon for a cold beer after a hot day, sitting around and reading or knitting (that’s me), maybe a beach visit in the afternoon, or a cup of coffee at my new favourite coffee shop. (That’s Cafesto, where Page in the Sun used to be, if you are PV experienced – but now it’s air-conditioned!)

But in the mornings, we often go out for exercise – early, and then stop by the nearby market to have breakfast, and buy our meat, vegetables and other staples for the day. Here is a photo essay for you that gives you some flavour of a typical morning. (The pictures were taken over two mornings, but that’s because Geordie’s camera battery died early on the first day.)

Off to the laundry

My shoes are Vibram Five Fingers. People laugh at them, because they have toe spaces for all my toes. But they are as close to walking barefoot as one can get which is much better for the feet than our over padded shoes.

Weighing the laundry

We take our laundry here on Wednesdays when it’s two pesos cheaper per kilo than on other days of the week. It is weighed, then we get a receipt. It costs about $5.00 for our load. We go back about four hours later and get our freshly washed, dried and impeccably folded laundry wrapped in a plastic bag. I have never seen such well folded fitted sheets. It’s almost a shame to shake them out and put them on the bed.

At the market

The juice lady

See the wonderful smile. This woman is surrounded by oranges and spends her day making juice for happy customers.

Inside the vegetable market

A vista along the road

Walking on the cobbled street

More cobbles

The sidewalk narrows - a hanging bridge behind

The river at a tranquil moment

The Colonia (barrio) Benito Jaurez

A friendly reminder

This sign reads: It is strictly forbidden to bring your dogs to make their necessaries at the river or on the sidewalk.

A local restaurant (notice the name - Loncheria Lolita)

Geordie enjoying a sit down on the bench. I think he might be smiling at a puppy.

Another road side restaurant

Local bus drivers need to catch up on the gossip. They stopped here to have a little chat.

The bean man delivers

A heavy load of beans

The salad maker and the cactus peeler

Vegetarians hurry past the next two pictures.

The meat man delivers to the butcher shop

The butcher's place

I’m following an exercise routine to keep me fit. I’d like to drop a pound or 50 and so far this year I have gone down 17. I am following a Primal diet (eating lots of protein, vegetables and fruit, and no grains, starches or sugars) and I feel great. If you are interested in seeing some of the stuff I’m learning go to Mark’s Daily Apple. (You can click the link.)

Assisted pull-ups (I do 3 sets of 12 to 20) The starting position

The upper position

Beginning my squat session

Lower squat - I do 3 sets of 50!

Taking the position

3 sets of 20 pushups

The river

Why did the rooster cross the road?

Global Gas

The gas truck drives around the neighbourhood playing an irritating sound, then announcing “Global Gas” (Imagine gas pronounces gauze) The sound is the starting bugle for a horse race. And it plays endlessly. I wonder what the rate of insanity is for the truck drivers of Global Gas.n

I just noticed the sign for the Tortilleria in the background. These shops use machines to make the tortillas and the clatter of the machinery as it pumps out the tortillas and bakes them on an assembly line is one of the typical sounds of the colonias of Mexico.

Homes on the hillside

Crossing the swing bridge

Crossing the swing bridge

Rio Cuale

The bridge might need a little repair

Man crossing bridge with ladder

Along the river

Enjoying the walk

A view to the river

Rustic fencing

Another view of the path

Enjoying the morning sun

Another spot to enjoy the view

An apartment building in the Colonia

In the Colonia

More of the neighbourhood

Zumba dancers getting their workout

These women are here every morning by 8:30 shaking their buns off.

Where Douglas and Edward stay

This is a view from the river of the place where our friends Douglas and Edward rent every year. The palapa roof covers the pool table and the library which Edward manages – a step down from his work as a librarian at the University of Toronto perhaps.

Our favourite Fonda at the market

The cook making our breakfast

The menu

The food is quite affordable. Our huevos are 40 pesos, about 3 dollars. We have seen people eating fried fish and tripe for breakfast. The tortilla maker seems to spend her whole day making tortillas, molding the dough, pressing it, putting it on the grill, turning it with her fingers (they must be made of iron, those fingers) and putting them in baskets for the table. People in Mexico need their tortillas fresh and hot. I don’t eat them myself, but Geordie does. Here is the process in action.

Placing the masa dough

Getting the dough centred.

Pressing the dough. Look at her arm.

The tortilla ready to cook

Tortillas on the grill

Tortillas in the basket

Red salsa, red tablecloth

Green salsa, strawberry table cloth

Fish for breakfast? Looks tasty.

Fresh orange juice preparation

Ready to enjoy the repast

Huevos a la Mexicana with the trimmings

Jorge, the butcher, tenderizing our New York steaks

Note the slab of beef from which our steaks were cut.

Here's where we buy our eggs, honey and lard

Our vegetable market

Glorious melons, pineapples, peppers and bananas

Watermelons, carrots and more

Geordie selecting the perfect pepper - notice his container

Purifying the produce at home with Microdyn (the little bottle on the counter)

If you’ve made it this far you’ve seen only about two hours of our morning. It took me two days to get the photos into the blog. There must be an easier way! I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour. We’ll have to consider “An afternoon” and “An evening” in the life for you later.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wine tasting

No pictures tonight, you’ll have to make do with me painting pictures with words.

Tonight we went to a wine tasting at Cork and Barrel – a wine store in Los Mercados, an upscale place with the wine store, a deli, an organic vegetable store and a bakery among other things. The owner of the shop is very knowledgable and gave us lots of information bout the wines we were enjoying.

We had two Chardonnay’s, quite different from one another, a rose, a pinot noir, a beaujolais nouveau and finally a blend of about seven different wines, grown and bottle in Mexico.

With each wine we had a little taste of something – a little too small to make a meal. included were a goat cheese, pecan and cranberry salad in a lettuce leaf, grilled pineapple with basil coulis, strawberries with whipped gorgonzola and lavender honey, turkey breast with cranberry chutney, smoked duck breast with jamaica reduction, and a chocolate decadence with raspberry coulis.

And you thought Mexico was unsophisticated!

Our table mate was a man from Montreal who has just retired and is spending a month here learning Spanish. He took my email because he was interested in doing a house swap – he likes Vancouver and would like to spend some time there. His place in Montreal is in The Plateau which sounds like a great place to be if we wanted to spend some time in Montreal – and really, who wouldn’t?

It wasn’t enough food though – the portions were tiny! So after we finished we walked along Olas Altas, one of the busy restaurant streets, and had a hot dog each at D’Mike’s hotdog cart. We’ve been eating there for years. Geordie says his first hot dog cost 5 pesos – they are now 17. But D’Mike himself says he started selling hot dogs at 40 centavos – that’s 40/100 of a peso – pretty damn cheap.

Now we are back at our apartment enjoying the whirl of the fans above us and relaxing before heading to bed.

Good night all.

More interior views – with new ART.

Guest room with new ARTBedroom with ART moved from dining room.

Flowers from the Saturday market – borrowed vase

Dining room with new ART

Bathroom with toilet lid downCovered patio with laundry - gas tank stored here too.

Bedroom with ART moved from dining room

Covered patio with laundry - gas tank stored here too.

Casa Blanca Interiors.

Ok, all you folk who want to see the inside of our place… I took the pictures before I posted the first entry, but thought it would be a good idea to let things trickle out to you. You are all in such a hurry, lol.

So here we are:

The living room - notice we have ART!

The dining room and the kitchen. Notice more ART on the side wall and the kitchen wall.

The hall to the bedroom - more ART! We are so sophisticated.

Our bedroom - king sized bed - lumpy pillows - no art.

Every home needs a bathroom

And a guest bedroom. That picture is a little high.

And pets. Can you find all three?

The light one is Guero – quiet, but a nervous wreck. The hidden one is La Vaca – see the next picture. She’s preggers. And the black one is Cachi; he’s hyper. and can’t let the pregnant one alone – he spends his time mounting her. Poor La Vaca.

La Vaca - the cow- a guernsey I think.

La Vaca visits our door often, but when she gets in she makes a beeline for the garbage. Bad dog! And she acts very submissive. Our landlady has informed us that she expects help feeding the puppies when they arrive. I think she doesn’t expect LaVaca to know what to do.

And there you have our lovely apartment. We like it. We have neighbours too. I’ll introduce them and our landlady and her husband later.

I do hope you enjoyed the tour.

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