Tag Archives: Travel

Stand up to the Bully named FEAR

The economy here on Jaltemba Bay, the body of water on which sits our adopted home in Guayabitos, has received a one-two punch this year. I hope it’s not down for the count.

First of all, Mexico received more rain last summer than they have EVER received in a summer before. It was record-breaking. Most news stories have focused on the States of Oaxaca, Tabasco and Veracruz. The devastation is heart-wrenching, if one has not become inured to images of soggy humanity across the hemispheres, east and west.

But there was lots of rain here on the central Pacific Coast north of Puerto Vallarta. In fact the northbound two-lane span of the bridge which takes us from here on Jaltemba Bay to there on bigger Banderas Bay washed away completely. Here we are, not quite cut off from the airport, Sam’s Club and COSTCO (I speak with tongue in cheek), but having to expand our timelines to accommodate time spent confined to one lane each direction.

No lives here were lost on a par with Oaxaca or Veracruz, gracias a Dios, as our neighbors remind us.  But being able to make a living has definitely taken a nosedive. Here in the State of Nayarit, for a period of about seven weeks this past summer we received between six and eight inches practically every night. Where does most of that water go? Away! And it carries a lot of infrastructure and landscape with it. “Worse than Kenna,” my friend Chelo intones, nodding her head sadly, referring to the 2002 hurricane from which the local market town of La Penita has never fully recovered. It was only this past winter that further progress was made in clearing the waterfront wreckage from that storm.  Kenna came and went, as giant whirlwinds are wont to do. The rain this past summer was relentless, a slow pummeling of a people and economy that were already on the ropes, weakened by bad press revolving around narcotraficante wars and swine flu.

The bruises from this recent pounding are evident. The main roads into both San Pancho and Sayulita, beach towns to the south of us, are still closed. Access to those towns is by pedestrian footbridge in one case and in the other by a circuitous route that bumps and grinds its way through back streets full of potholes. Gas trucks with fresh water and butane have difficulty supplying their customers. This is not great for tourism.

There’s more. The famous surfing beach at Sayulita that attracts winter crowds of experts as well as wannabes is now a sand bar way off shore.  The stretch of sand in front of Don Pedro’s Restaurant where rows of cobalt blue cabanas and beach chairs used to stand sentry over the surfers are gone. Water laps at the wall right below your “beach side” table.  And the pavement on Highway 200, the artery that connects these beach towns like pendants and beads on a necklace – it can be as unpredictable as that necklace you buy on the beach.  Don’t put a lot of stress on it, or it will break and scatter the pieces it’s supposed to hold together.

Number two punch, actually two short jabs right to the gut, were travel advisories issued by both the Canadian and U. S. governments. There’s nothing like putting an official stamp of approval on a rampant case of heebie-jeebies. Every time there is a shooting in Juarez or Tijuana, ten people or more cancel a trailer park reservation in Guayabitos, La Peñita, or Lo de Marcos, all of them over a thousand miles to the south. Yes there is violence along the border, but it is a rare case indeed when touring motorists are involved. On our two trips crossing the border this summer, we had no problems. We hear the same from the friends who have started trickling back into town. Their stories match ours: The Federales were present at many checkpoints, and all were solicitous that Americans and Canadians feel safe and secure in their travels. In our own case, the immigration official at the Columbia crossing west of Laredo was particularly cordial when he stamped our documents. The cleaning lady had had to go wake him up, as we were the first foreign visitors to come through in several hours. He was overjoyed to see us! And for those who are especially cautious, the Green Angels have offered free escort service to anyone who wants it.

So this is directed to those who love this area, who think of it as a second home. Are you a fair-weather friend? Your second home neighbors miss you! Get into the ring and lend a hand. Mexico wants you here. Mexico needs you here. Yes, flights into Vallarta are full of one week vacationers, but snowbirds from the frozen north — snowbirds who spend months here, not days — are the bread and butter of this coast. These are the people who provide fuel for the local economy, a hitherto growing economy fostering a burgeoning middle class, an economy that provided a buffer and defense against those narcotraficante recruitment posters that ask, “Tired of eating beans and rice? Join us!”

Come on! Do your part. Let’s stand up to the bully named FEAR. If you’re going to throw in the towel, do it on the beach!

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Mexico Road Trips is a site that offers traffic and safety reports. Check them out. They are frank, up front and reliable. Dot and Bill Bell have put more miles on their car traveling Mexico’s highways than anyone else I know – 10,000 miles alone this summer, crossing the border many times.

Is Mexico being bullied?

Business as usual here, watching Stateside evening local news: If it bleeds it leads. Rarely has a night gone by during the last two and half months that I’ve been north of the border in Texas, California and Washington state, that I haven’t seen some story of a drive-by shooting, a carjacking or another example of road rage that ended in violent confrontation. The reporting and the rhetoric are paced like gunfights — talk shows even have names like “Crossfire” and “Hard Ball” — and while the commentators may not be engaged in actual physical violence, I for one have the urge to hurl something at the television screen. And if Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity and Whoever weren’t dark and scary enough, there are the trailers for movies that are running or coming. What happened to sweet sunshiney escapism? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to get in our new Great Depression? These films feed depression!

This edgy, confrontational, smack ’em down and keep ’em down attitude is getting on my nerves. I yearn for a public atmosphere of reverence for family, friendship and cooperation, a public sense of safety and serenity, and of quiet satisfaction with simple pleasures.  I MISS MEXICO!! Yeah, I said it. Mexico has all those things, no matter what the U.S. media says to the contrary.

Is the country of my birth becoming a bully? I recently read a post, called Memoirs of a Bullied Kid. The author is generous to his former tormentors, pointing out that in calling him names, shoving him around and making his life miserable, that they, the tormentors themselves, were being impelled by their own insecurities and problematic home lives. The U.S. has been doing a bang up media bullying job on Mexico for the last several years. They have painted their neighbor to the south as a “failed state,” or “riddled with violence.” They have warned off tourists with images of headless bodies and swine flu, and have scapegoated brown-skinned people on both sides of the border.  The longer the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have continued unresolved, the deeper in doo doo the American economy has sunk, the more, ahem, mud-slinging has taken place. Here are some further links that back up what I’m saying here:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2010/08/mexico

http://www.mexicopremiere.com/?p=4166

http://www.mexicoboutiquehotels.com/wordpress/2010/10/travel-warning-for-the-united-states/

So I’ll take a clue from Single Dad Laughing who encourages us to reach out with compassion to both the bullied and the bully. Come on, Country of my birth that I love. You are capable of so much more than the way you’ve been acting!  Have you forgotten your greatness, your goodness, and the power that comes of bringing out the greatness in others? Get with your Inner Guadalupe, stop the cursing, and let the blessing begin!

Needed for traveling and shopping: Virgin Qualities

I usually start off my talks asking how many virgins there are in the room. It’s an attention getter. But it also lets me get right to the point about what the word “virgin” really means. The original definition had nothing to do with a physiological state. A virgin was one who was undefined by any human relationship. She was literally one-in-herself. She was whole, complete, intact, un-captured, self-governed. Because she was the “author” of her own experience, she had authority. That’s why virgins were often charged with the responsibility of keeping watch.

The world could use a few more virgins in this sense, right? But far from any cosmic application, I’ve been clinging to, affirming and claiming for my own those virgin qualities this past week. My exit from Guayabitos on this current book tour was precipitous. Heavy rains had blocked the highway which connects us with Puerto Vallarta, an hour and a half away in the best of conditions. By Tuesday morning, making my Thursday flight was looking pretty iffy. I also had my immigration document to collect before I could exit the country. Just after noon on Tuesday, I heard my husband say into the telephone, “One o’clock? I’ll have her there.” He’d found a way to get me out — the last seat on a panga — that’s an open fishing boat with an outboard motor.

At 1:10 I was running down the beach, into the water, following two guys who had my duffle bags full of books on their back. The thirteen other people in the boat obligingly leaned toward me, dipping the edge of the boat down where I could turn around, hoist my fanny onto the side, and fall over backward and into the boat. “Watch my laptop,” I blurted out.

So this time in Dallas has been one of discovering what I brought, what I left behind, and examining what I need in order to spend much more time in the States than what I’d planned. What was going to be a week long trip has stretched to six weeks. My mental litany has been, “I am complete, whole, intact. I include everything I need. I am un-captured by the vicissitudes of weather, Homeland Security, or commercial airline policy. I have authority. I am NOT a victim.” (Do you know American Airlines wanted $640 to change the date of return on a simple round trip ticket PVR to DFW? Do you know you can’t change the point of departure from one country to another on ANY airline ticket issued in the U.S.? Do you know it’s STILL raining back home in Mexico?)

My issues are being resolved one by one. My VISA card is a little limp (buymybooks, buymybooks), but I get to spend an overnight tryst with Larry in Puerto Vallarta this coming Monday, and I’ve met some of the most wonderful angels who have helped and guarded me on my way. I’ve also grown into a greater appreciation of the daily practical application of what one woman dubbed “re-virgination.” Reclaiming virginity. Day by day by day.