Living and learning in Mexico

We have now lived in Mexico for 2 years!  We are learning Spanish and so much about Mexican culture. This little bit of knowledge and language skill gives us confidence to now travel inside Mexico. 

Open your eyes and see what you can with them before they close forever.

Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

This recent trip to Mexico City from our home in San Miguel de Allende starts at the bus station in SMA. The bus system in Mexico is top notch. Premiere buses are luxury buses with Wifi and TVs at your seat. The reclining seats are comfortable with lots of leg room. The buses travel fast and safely over the Mexican highways. A rash of car jackings have plagued our beautiful area around San Miguel de Allende. Seventy (70) over the past three months. Banditos somehow get cars pulled over and at gunpoint get you out of the car, leave you beside the road without shoes and take the car and everything inside. Everything! Passports, laptops, wallets, suitcases and jewelry. While this has not happened to us we are aware and take all the precaution we can to avoid this nightmare. Yes, gun barrels to the forehead is frightening. The best advice: Don’t resist! These buses move fast and strong and feels like the best way to travel on the highway. 

Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world with over 25 million people and the crime rate here is one third less than Washington DC. You arrive to chaos and energy and a lot of pollution this time of year because of inversion. Cold air up high trapping hot air below. A lot of hot air from a lot of carbon powered gas cars. 

Ángel de la Independencia

We like the neighborhood of Polanco. The streets are clean and parks are woven between busy streets and sidewalk cafes reminding us of Paris. The people are dressed sharp and greet you with a smile when you greet them with the traditional Mexican courtesy of buenos dais, buenos tardes, and buenos noches. These are important to know and understand. The culture here is strong and knowing just a little will get you through a lot of bad Spanish. 

We walk, talk and shop through the streets of Polanco, thinking in Spanish. What a feeling to cross over to this point. Our Spanish skills are by no means perfect but we are doing it and it is amazing. Our efforts have paid off and the smiles from the Mexican people warm our hearts. We are comfortable here!! We stop for a glass of wine and a beautiful frijoles soup at Dante and just around the corner is Cerveceria Polanquito. Beautiful food and people! There are many world class restaurants here in the city. James Beard award winners with months or more long waits for a reservation. We enjoy finding smaller places with fun bars and bumping music. We love to sit at the bar and find a way to eat plant based. “No comemos carne.” We laugh and speak Spanish with the bartenders while they practice English with us. So much fun!  

Cerveceria Polanquito

Remember, comida is the big meal of the day here and it starts at 2 or 3pm! Yes, 2 or 3pm and restaurants are packed with business people making deals. Saluts abound and wine glasses ching ching! The ”’Three Martini Lunch’ is alive and well here in Mexico City. Every company in the world wants to be part of Mexico and especially Mexico City. Here are just some of the brands with a footprint in Mexico City: The NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, Starbucks, Steelcase, Knoll, AT&T, HSBC Bank, yes Huawei (don’t plug in!), Toyota , GM, BMW, even Gino’s East Pizza from Chicago! 

On Sunday one of the biggest streets in Mexico City, Reforma, is blocked off to allow bikes to travel miles without traffic. It is a Sunday tradition as people on bikes travel freely from neighborhood to neighborhood.

We enjoyed our visit to the Anthropology museum but only had time to spend a few hours. You could spend three days!

Museo Nacional de Anthropologia

We will return to beautiful Mexico City and find more favorite places to explore, eat and drink!

Muchos Abrazos Mexico City!

A return to Journalism-A Story of Survival.

The phone rings. The shoot is on!  The call is from my good friend and journalist John Larson.  We are about to take off to shoot a story on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.  John is in San Diego and we live in Mexico.  We can meet him on the Baja.  I haven’t shot a story in 23 years.  My last story was with John and it was the Clinton inauguration day storm in Seattle.  The gear is different, the editing is different and the world is different.  

Before I left Seattle I invested in equipment that I could use to gather broadcast quality video.  My Canon 70D is an amazing camera.  I do question my skills or lack of skills.  John and Caroline both encourage me to go for it!  I’ve been practicing knowing this could happen but can I hold up my end? 

The story is incredible if nothing else we go for the experience, learn from the experience.  Grab life, tell a story!

We fly to Tijuana and rent a car to drive the 4+ hour drive across the Baja.  John enters Mexico through Mexicali for his 4+ hour drive south to San Filipe.  John is in his brand new Chevy Bolt, an electric car with 250 miles of range.  His trip is 243 miles one way so he will have to depend on newly installed charging stations in Mexico to ensure arrival and return.  Stressful but the chargers work and it is reported to John that he is the first user of these chargers in Mexico.

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Continue reading “A return to Journalism-A Story of Survival.”

Mighty is the earth, mighty are her people!

 

Mighty is a word prompt from Ben Huberman of the Daily Post. https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/27030/posts/1600207536

We are in a time right now where the Earth feels mad.  Two massive earthquakes, in Central Mexico, in as many weeks.  Many people dead, missing and without homes. 

San Miguel de Allende
Weekend Celebration of Independence Day

Hurricane after hurricane pounds the Atlantic destroying Puerto Rico and Dominica, making the powerful hurricanes Harvey in Houston and Irma in Florida feel like a distant memories.  As Florida and Houston recover other communities suffer. 

Mighty are the forces of nature that remind us we are small.  Is the earth mad?  Is global warming making things worse?  The ocean waters are warmer than normal making the hurricanes mighty. 

Mighty is the Orca Whale in the Miami Seaquarium.  Lolita/Toki has been in captivity in a small tank for 47 years.  Yes, 47 years!  She was captured in a brutal human act of domination in the waters of Puget Sound in Washington State on August 8th 1970.  She has survived Irma the storm, the winds and the tidal surge.  Her tank is a mess with intake valves polluted  by a massive sewage spill. caused by the storm.  It is time to send her home.  There is a plan.  A good plan.  Here is a link to the plan.  Please learn the plan and make up your own mind if she belongs in her home waters or in a shallow bathtub like tank in Miami.  #FreeLolita #Blackfish

http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/The-Plan-to-Retire-Lolita-371083321.html

Earthquakes likely have nothing to do with global warming.  Likely?? 

Mighty are the people of Mexico who are surviving 8.2 and 7.1 earthquakes within two weeks of each other. Both Mexican quakes occurred on the Cocos tectonic plate.  Five states and thousands of people are devastated by the latest earthquake which happened on September 19th, thirty-two years to the day from the massive earthquake that killed thousands in 1985.  32 years to the day?  The earth is mad and we must listen to her voice.

As we watch the news in Spanish here from San Miguel de Allende we are un touched physically by the devastation.  We see the mighty people of Mexico by the thousands pitch in to help the over worked rescue workers.  Thousands of people, in Mexico City, line up to help clear the rubble of collapsed buildings with hope of finding someone alive.  The line of volunteers work to clear ruble, gently bucket by bucket.  Rescue workers raise their fists as a sign to the crowd for Silencio! Silence so they may hear the cries of trapped men, women and children under the weight of totally collapsed buildings including schools filled with children and teachers.  The crowd goes silent. Thousands of people go quite as hope of someone alive grows.  Next, cheering as they do find someone alive and pictures captured by a brave photographer show a small child crying being pulled from between broken concrete slabs.  We are un touched physically but we are touched emotionally as the people of Mexico suffer. Families here in Mexico and the United States will be touched by these earthquakes.

Mighty are the people of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Houston, Florida and more.  Mighty are the people.  Mighty is our earth.  Please mighty people guard our mighty earth like your lives depend on this duty. 

Thank you for the prompt Ben!  https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/27030/posts/1600207536

San Miguel de Allende—The Sun, The Moon, and Love:

The opening sentences of Juan Rulfo’s Perdro Paramo.

‘I came to Comala because I had been told by my father, a man named Pedro Paramo, lived there.  It was my mother who told me. And I had promised her that after she died I would go to see him.  I squeezed her hands as a sign I would do it.  She was near death, and I would have promised her anything.’

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Pedro Paramo by: Juan Rulfo

We were given this book to read to help understand the culture of Mexico.  Caroline and I devoured the book; it scared us and helped us to understand the culture of Mexico.  Carmen, our friend here, gave us a copy in english to read and also blessed us with it for our own collection.  It is a prize and if you find it you must grab hold as it is 139 pages of emotion, surrealism and frightening Mexican culture. 

We live most of the year in San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico.  The beauty here is hard to describe but easy to see and even easier to feel in your heart and soul.  The town is said to be built on giant beds of crystals.  The way the Churches line up with the sun and moon is not an accident. The sun sets right down the middle of Calle Umarán as color and light simply beam as the bells of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel ring through the city with the throaty melody of a baritone singer.

Calle Umarán and the Paroquia
Sun setting perfectly in line….

Cañada de la Virgen is an Otomi archaeological site that has been recently excavated.  (Started in 1995) The site was ruled by the Moon, the Sun, and Venus, as demonstrated by archaeoastronomical studies conducted by the National Institute of Anthropology and History. Its main features are: Ceremonial Avenue, House of the Wind, House of the Longest Night- scientists believe has some relationship with the Otomi’s belief in the duality of the heavens and earth (Sun and Moon, Man and Woman), and House of the Thirteen Heavens.

 

 

Our fantastic guide Albert Coffee tells us that archeologists believe it took 500 years to find the location and another 500 years to build the pyramid.  Perfectly designed archways and man made mirror pools line up exactly on the first day of Spring with the sun and in October the moon sets directly in line with the doors of the Pyramid.  Off in the distance is San Miguel de Allende and the beautiful Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel that also lines up with the Pyramid.  When Spain conquered Mexico, Coffee tells us, they attempted to crush the Mayan culture.  Part of Spain’s strategy was to build their own buildings, and Catholic Churches right over the top of of the Otomi, Mayan and Aztec Indian sites which were brilliantly positioned and built to respect and honor the earth.  Building over the top of these sites to crush a culture only protect and honor it even to this day. 

Albert Coffee
Archeologist Albert Coffee

My own history in Mexico touched down here in 1978 while in college I studied Spanish in nearby Morelia.  The moon and stars lined up that year as I learned that one of my best friends that I had not seen in over two years had lived in San Miguel de Allende.  Pre cell phones and email.  Only hard mail letters, phone calls from parents and friends led me to San Miguel with zero communication with Tia. 

I took a bus alone from Morelia to San Miguel de Allende in search of a friend and love.  I walked to the Jardin that night and asked an American student if she happened to know a young woman named Tia.  She said, ‘yes and I think she is right over there in that bar playing congas in a band’.  Excited, I walked in to the bar and found my way near the front of the stage and stared quietly at Tia as she grooved on the congas.  It took Tia 15 minutes, as I thought what am I doing here?, to notice and recognize me and her rush off the stage and in to my arms was one for the movies and especially my memory.  Thank you Tia for showing me San Miguel and teaching me the importance of travel and learning. 

Here we are now in San Miguel studying at the same school Tia studied 40 years earlier.  Seriously?  How could it be so long?  We walk the same streets of the Jardin that I walked when I was 19 years old, when my thoughts were, like many of my friends today, ‘how far away is the beach or where is the beach?’  The beach is far and Mexico is so much more than beaches.  

Calle Umaron and the Paroquia
Sun setting perfectly in line….

We do have a few adventurous friends that have visited us here.  John and Miriam Larson.  Laurie Flynn, Laura and Lorna Shirley and Andrea Jewett.  Make the trek friends!

 

When you do come to San Miguel you will meet people.  People like Gabby.  Today we took a vegan cooking class with Gaby Green.  We chopped, cooked, laughed, shared stories and listened to each other and learned from each other.  We learned to cook traditional Mexican food which Gaby taught us from Mayan history is vegan.  We cooked Chiles en Nogada, Cebiche de Verduras, Green Mole, and Nopales Jengibre-soya.  All 100% vegan and delicious. 

In the Kitchen with Gaby Green

We sat to enjoy this beautiful meal with Gaby and our friends from the States Laura and Lorna Shirley they are here visiting us, getting away from the stress of the US, learning and laughing as a mother daughter duo.  Mom and daughter cherish the gift.  Moms and daughters cherish the gifts.  A cooking class, a horseback ride, a shared glass of wine and a kiss on the head goodnight.  Cherish the gift of shared experiences.

 

 

Gaby is brilliant.  A film study, an artist, a chef, she speaks German, Spanish, English and is working on French.  Gaby’s heritage is Mayan, Jewish, Russian, and Austrian.  She told us people often ask her if she wants to live in the US. Her answer:  ‘I’m Mexican and Jewish, I have tattoos and a girlfriend.  In the US I would be considered derelict; here in Mexico I can be me!’  It feels, to me, that in the US we used to think this way.  No?

These are a few sentences from Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a famous writer from Colombia in the forward to Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Paramo: 

‘I felt like I had many novels in me, but I couldn’t conceive of the convincing and poetic way of writing them.  That is where I was when Alvaro Mutis climbed with great strides the seven storeys up to my apartment with a bundle of books, extracted form this mountain the smallest and shortest, and said as he laughed himself to death: 

-Read this shit and learn!

The book was Pedro Paramo.’

We are learning, learning so much about language, culture, people, and ourselves.  Thank you Carmen, and thank you Gaby for your guidance and friendship.  Thank you Caroline for your love.

“Living” in Colombia—Weed, wine and women!

“All journeys begin at home.  That moment when you pull the front door closed behind you is one to relish…like the “glug” sound when you first pour from a bottle of wine.”

I read this line this morning as I was getting ready to write.  It’ s from International Living and Eoin Bassett.  Thank you Eoin it’s perfect to get me rolling. 

When we started our journey in January our goal and dream was to live in three or four places each year.  Traveling is one thing but having the ability to LIVE somewhere foreign is why we are out here. 

Photo Aug 05, 11 58 59 AM (1)

Traveling is so much fun but you always go “home” in a few weeks.  Back to work, back to the comfort zone.  This blog is titled “Our hearts” our idea is to document our travels and truly sink in somewhere and feel like we are home wherever we are in the world. 

The past six weeks we have lived in Medellin, Colombia.  We went to school to continue our study of Spanish.  Going to school five days a week, four hours a day is a routine, a structure of sorts almost like a job.  It gave us a chance to learn not only the language but the culture as well. 

We shop and cook our vegan meals and explore the wines of neighboring Argentina and Chile.  Eating vegan in Colombia is a challenge because the culture is set up around carne, pollo and camerones.  Part of the culture shock for us is; here to eat meat is a sign of wealth and success.  When we say “sin carne” they look at us like we are crazy.

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Here is a description of Colombia from a website called InSight Crime.  InSight Crime is a foundation dedicated to the study of the principal threat to national and citizen security in the Americas: organized crime.  You can follow them on Twitter as well.  @inSightCrime

“Colombia has been in a civil war for  over half a century and the rise and fall of drug trafficking empires, Colombia has made huge strides in improving its security situation in recent years. However, it remains beset by guerrilla rebels and criminal networks, and the Colombian underworld is a potent mix of ideological organizations and their remnants and organized crime where the boundaries between war and crime are fluid. These armed groups and criminal networks are involved in an extensive range of activities including drug production and trafficking, arms trafficking, money laundering, extortion and illegal mining.”  

http://www.insightcrime.org/colombia-organized-crime-news

One of our friends told us that as she grew up everyday was marked with tragedy as a family member, friend or neighbor was killed by gangs either by gunshot or bomb.  Even now she said as celebrations of holidays are marked with fireworks people still cringe, duck and wonder when the fireworks could actually be a car bomb exploding someones life because of a line crossed. 

The bottom line is Medellin and Colombia are still dangerous.  Pablado, where we lived, is relatively safe but outside this little bubble you can find yourself in harms way. Somehow though it does all work for the Colombians who live and work here.  The gangs, cartels and drug lords work together to create a sense of normal in a city that is still recovering from anything but normal. 

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If you travel to Medellin you will find beautiful people inside and out.  This modern and thriving city is full of young people going to work, dressed to the nines in high rise buildings with women wearing high heeled shoes attached to legs and bodies that will make your head spin.  Caroline turns to me with her big beautiful eyes and says…”Where does that booty even come from?” 

You could wake up, look out and think you are in Seattle, Vancouver or Denver.  Just  like these fine cities you will have the pleasure to smell the distinct smell of Colombian Marijuana.  No, we didn’t taste it but the smell is distinct bringing back memories of another day.   

Photo Jun 22, 3 16 16 PM
Medellin, Colombia

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Guatape and “The Rock”

La Piedra Del Penol, Spanish for “The Rock of Guatape”!  The rock shoots 2,135 meters or just over 7,000 feet, straight out of the earth.  The elevation here is 2,000 feet higher than Medellin.IMG_2355

The drive from Medellin is over an hour out of the valley and over the mountains through beautiful countryside dripping with green.  The fincas, or small farms, dot the landscape of rich Colombian soil that grows fruit, vegetables and flowers all year long in this land of “eternal spring”.

In the distance you begin to notice the rock, a mountain jetting from the earth that our guides tell us is four times as larger under the surface.  It is quite beautiful.

Our plan, like many, is to climb the rock’s 659 steps to the top.  The man made steps are stitched into a crevice of the rock and go straight to the top.  The hike is a switch back of cement stairs that climb to the top of the rock. The altitude and steepness of the climb get the heart pumping and the head light.  The view is spectacular with waters in the distance as far as the eyes can see.

We were driven and guided by Juan Camilo and Esteban of All Access Colombia.  They are great guys that will take good care of you from start to finish.  Juan Camilo speaks perfect english and Spanish and when we told him…”Somos estudiantes de Espanol qui en Medellin y en Mexico.  Necesitamos practicar por favor.”  The Spanish flew inside the car as they explained Colombian culture and  told us stories of friends and co workers.  It was fantastic and as we listened we understood.  We are getting this Spanish language.  We are hearing the words and understanding.  I know we will speak well soon!  I know because now when I can’t sleep instead of counting sheep I’m conjugating verbs and thinking in Spanish. 

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Medellin-Steps-The Metro and the Pick Pocket

In Medellin we walk!  No cars, no taxi just walk and the metro to get us in and out of our longer walks.  We set our step goal at 12,000 steps per day which is about 5 miles.  What a great work out at any altitude.  Especially this one.  Medellin sits at 1,495 meters which is just under 5,000 feet.  We just stride on by the honking, noise of the motorcycles, trucks and taxis.  Oh, and by the way. Do NOT expect them to stop for you while crossing in a crosswalk.  Caroline jokes that she hears them step on the gas as we cross the streets.

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Medellin!

We arrived to live in Medellin in mid July for 5 weeks.  Our first seven months in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico were fantastic but we set out on this journey to live in three or four places a year.  We are living here in Medellin and learning here.  We meet people, talk to people and learn the culture as best we can.  The city is clean and fresh especially after a hard rain.  We are feeling at home and relaxed. 

Photo Jun 22, 3 16 16 PM
Medellin, Colombia

We are in school in Medellin at Total Spanish and we are learning new verbs and phrases different from Mexican Spanish.  Both work together well and we continue to learn.   Our teachers are kind and patient.

The barrios are incredible! Including Comuna 13 which was once considered the most dangerous neighborhood in Latin America.  We learned that Hip Hop Art continues to be credited with bringing the barrio back from the brink of crime and drugs.  We met the artists and saw the amazing spray paint art that changed a neighborhood. 

July is when the Fieria de las Flores takes place.  A festival of flowers that fills Medellin with flowers, people of course, music and food.  The Orchid competition and display at the botanical gardens is world class. 

Parque Arvie is an ecological and archeological park in Medellin that sits high above the valley.  Recently a gondola  like tram was built to bring people in to the city from the hillsides and to deliver people to the beautiful park above the city.  Check out the video of our trip down.  Just like a ski lift at your favorite ski hill.  Mine is Snowbird!

Photo Aug 13, 12 04 43 PM

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