Tuesday, March 30

Mayto, finally

Acknowledging the good that is already in your life is the foundation for all abundance. "A New Earth," by Eckart TolleI woke up to a sunny clear day. I found my way back to the guesthouse, and was greeted by a jolly Mexican man with a pony-tail named Fernando. Dan had kindly worked it out so that I could stay in his camper really close to the beach on Fernando and Maricella's land, the owners of Riconcito Guesthouse which offers really nice rooms at incredible prices, as well as beach camping:At Riconcito, Maricella made home-made Mexican breakfast and dinner each day (complete with a daily salsa) and if you wanted to eat, it was your choice. I couldn't tell you how many times we grilled steaks and fresh fish filettes on the huge outdoor grill they built while I was there...
...or had chicken enchiladas, mole that had been simmering all day, chiles verdes, tomales, chiles rellenos, grilled lamb... All accompanied by blackened, corn tortillas and chile de arbol salsa... Mmmmm. If you didn't want to eat, that's cool – for me it would mean 2nds, 3rds.......

Fernando, Maricella and their granddaughter, Delisia.This is Rambo-Fernando at one of our many fish grill-outs.
They keep a on-going tab in a scratchy old steno-pad, and at the end of your visit you tally-up and pay in a lump sum. Remember the honor system? They have a little garage complete with a refrigerator full of beer, and when you want a cold one you just mark it on your tab. All the prices were beyond reasonable, making it economically practical for me to eat and drink everything they had to offer. The only problem was trying to fit into my clothes after three weeks of doing this. Luckily I brought one stretchy dress.

Day one I introduced myself to the current guests, and immediately met a hilarious Englishman named Dick, then a Canadian couple, Rhonda and Les, from Hay River in the Northwest Territories.

What's in Hay River? I asked.

, Rhonda told me. They were only living there because her boyfriend, Les works for DNR. She rolled her eyes and said, He's a fish cop.Dick and Lis were one of my favorite couples and we spent nearly 2 weeks hanging out as they were camped out on the beach. I guess there are worse places we could be, aren't there? He would say with a British accent. Dick is a jolly, sarcastic Englishman, and Lis an incredibly-sweet but quick-witted Englishwoman. Together they have traveled the world and like a walking British sketch comedy.We would make bonfires at night in front of their camper, lean all the way back in their fancy-pants recliner chairs while drinking rum and coke, blasting Pink Floyd, and gazing at the amazing view of the stars and the milky way. I really missed their energy when they left, but I know we'll meet again.Here's the view from the guesthouse tables: After meeting and greeting with the current guests for a while, I decided to head to the beach. My jaw hit the sand. Complete Desolation.As I was standing there gaping, Dan walked up. He said, I wasn't kidding about this place, huh? Dan and Holly's ranch is very short walking distance away, and he said to come by anytime. The hospitality of some is really inspiring.

Basically, I lived between two beaches: the main beach, and Lover's Beach:Now, if I would have known I'd been living on Lover's Beach alone for three weeks, being the only single as couples from all over the world rolled in and out, I would have at least looked into anti-depressants before leaving, or doubled up on caramel suckers... But no, it was a total surprise to me. Luckily I had brought a great self-help book, Eckart Tolle's, "A New Earth." This book was a lifesaver and I dove into it with tenacity – and to avoid jumping off of la terraza of Riconcito.

Speaking of the terraza, I would go up in the mornings and do yoga... Here's a view of my camper and Lover's Beach from up top. (Check out the solar panel.)"A New Earth" is all about ego, and basically puts into action a lot of things I've been reading since my arrival in Mexico, a lot of eastern ideas intermingled with science and daily practices to work on. It sounds cheesy and cliche, I really don't care, it made a few things clear to me that I didn't realize: Like that if you are somewhere, let's say for example a hypothetical beach, and you at times feel, let's say, sad because you're there alone, or guilty because you're still not quite sure how you managed to score this... It's all thanks to the ego. Here's something I copied down in my journal that not only jarred my attention, but sort of set the tone for the way I spent my trip:"Who you think you are is also intimately connected with how you see yourself treated by others. Many people complain that others don't treat them well enough. 'Nobody loves me,' 'I am a needy little me whose needs are not being met.' This basic mis-perception of who they are creates dysfunction in all of their relationships. They believe they have nothing to give and that the world or other people are withholding from them and what they need. Their entire reality is based on an illusory sense of who they are. It sabotages situations, mars all relationships. If the thought of lack – whether it be money, recognition or love – has become a part of who you think you are, you will always experience lack. Rather than acknowledging the good that is already in your life, all you see is lack."

Being in a pop-up camper on a beach alone in Mayto is about as good as life gets, so why feel any different? I decided on the first day to set an intention for the trip, to realize each day that I was so ridiculously fortunate, to keep in mind I have close friends who are struggling, and to soak in every minute of the experience as a single, happy gringa... Even if sometimes I felt alone, or questioned my worthiness.

After all, Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.
What came of this recognition was an amazing and abundant three weeks. Being 45 minutes from good internet connection and phone service, I spent a lot of time interacting and making friends with travelers that would come and go. I was reading a ton. I started helping Fernando and Maricella serve the other guests and clean up afterward... I became very close with Fernando and Maricella's daughter... In the end, they all seemed like family. I hung out with the goats on Dan and Holly's ranch. By letting down all the walls, life poured in.

Six new baby goats were born on Dan and Holly's ranch while I was there.

This is Chewbacca, the billy goat. He's trying to get in the gate to eat the entire garden.From Dan and Holly's property:
Delisia, who I may or may not have kidnapped.
A sunrise through my camper window:
Cuervo and Coco racing down the main beach.

Monday, March 29


Pretty sure I would recommend you try chewing off your own arm before visiting Puerto Vallarta. It would probably be more pleasant, and would take less time to heal from the wounds that are a product of it.

In fact, if you were thinking of visiting Vallarta, you might as well save your money and go to Panama City or Destin, Florida. Here you will find things to be exactly the same: Mediocre beach, trinkets made in China that will end up in a landfill, Cosco and lots of white people. More specifically, what Mexicans call, White Hairs.After arriving in Vallarta on the overnight bus, I realized I had somehow lost my favorite sleeping bag as well as my nalgene, was cramping like hell and had to take a bumpy public bus to the downtown centro, where I would need to spend the day waiting on Dan and Holly. I kept pinching myself on the bus, head tilted curiously, browsing all the white people walking on the sidewalks. Did I actually get slipped something and end up in Virgina Beach? We passed Walmart and Sams. Gulp. We passed about 8 McDonalds. Sigh. We passed Bed Bath and Beyond and Office Depot. Ugggh.

(I am recently fascinated with the interior of public buses in Mexico, maybe because I spend so much time in them. Doesn't HOTEL compliment Jesus nicely?)Jalisco, Mexico is the Tequila state. If it looks like tequila, and tastes like tequila, but is made outside of this state, you can't call it tequila. So it is also one of the wealthiest states.

Lucky for me, there is a tequila shop on nearly every corner giving out free shots. I couldn't think of anything better to do, and proceeded to get plowed before lunch. I started walking around, taking photos. I was hungry but wanted to find a local street vendor rather than one of the ghastly, tourist restaurants... So I walked further and further from downtown. I ran into a little vendor selling shrimp and fish seviche and my faith was restored in humanity. (For a moment.) I paid like $1.50, noting that you couldn't buy one avocado for that in the states.I wasn't upset at all, so I ate a popsicle after that, then more tequila shots, then I decided I should park it for a bit, and ordered even more food and a margarita and a couple mojitos at this bar/restaurant on the beach.I was so shocked to see a Mexican, that I had to take a photo. ;)
As the afternoon sulked by, it struck me suddenly that I hadn't seen Dan in a couple months, and it would be the first time I had met his wife, and what sort of impression was I going to make being plastered before 5 pm?! I went to our meeting place and starting drinking water.

They showed up right on time. His wife Holly was a beautiful, upbeat powerhouse. They two of them are into so many things – have multiple properties and projects. We all sat down with the architect that had a stack blueprints for the solar-powered campground they are constructing near their ranch in Mayto. After I got over feeling like a complete slacker (and started sobering up) it was fun to help translate with the Mexican architect.

After going over plans we headed out, stopping at a grocery store. Dan advised that I needed to stock up, because there wasn't much to choose from in Mayto. I didn't really know what to expect, so I bought a few staples like red wine, coffee and caramel suckers.

We headed south. The first hour was a super-windy but paved road. With what felt like a gallon of tequila in my belly I asked Dan if the whole trip would be of this condition.

He replied, Oh no, this is the good part.

The paved, windy road turned into a twisting, choppy "road/path/trail" that might be ideal for four-wheeling or jeeps. He explained that it was actually much better than before, and I nodded, clutching my door-handle and staring out into the night.

We arrived very late, around midnight. I could barely see anything and Dan introduced me to the two enormous dogs that walked up, Cuervo and Lulu, promising they would watch over me. The stars were brilliant, and I could hear waves booming, although I couldn't see them. He showed me into the pop-up camper which would be my new home. He also showed me where the bathrooms were located at the nearby guesthouse, Riconcito. Inside, I dropped my bags and laid down in the cozy camper, thankful for the soft bed and blankets, and dozed off wondering what to the next day would bring.

M-A-Y-T-O Let's–Go! (But first...)

My friend Dan Guir and I met in Spanish class at Escuela Mexicana. We hit it off immediately talking of travel and outdoor sports, a passion for 'green themes,' and enjoyed chatting about new music and art. He is a super amazing person, one of the gems that I have met while being here in Guanajuato. Dan was a photographer for almost as many years as I've been alive, he's traveled the world and has a portfolio that made me wimper like a street dog. If it wasn't for his awesome-ness, I would probably have to hate him given the circumstances, the fact that he found a way to be a world-travelling-photographer and ahem, made money doing it.

He's one of those people that just smiles, and with that sends off their positive energy into the universe. He's done well for himself, recently selling his photography business, and he shares the wealth. He had a small gathering of friends at this home in GTO a few months ago, and when I could only manage to scrape my jaw off the floor long enough to compliment his beautiful home, he would say things like, "Isn't this ridiculous? I'm still not sure how all of this happened," and would express concern for the small, shackled homes below. He refuses to accept burned cd's, and I think my face might have resembled a bright red helium balloon after I offered him music and he replied, "No, I can't take music from you, feel free to recommend some names, but if I don't support artists in their endeavors, how do I expect people to pay for my art?" I wanted to float away. He also smuggled nearly 15 thousand dollars worth of solar panels to make his ranch in Mayto off the grid, saying it was his version of "environmental activism."

Anyways, when a man with this sort of travel and experience under his belt (or say, the Dalai Lama) tells you that his property in Mayto is one of the most beautiful places in the world... You have to wonder: 1.) Is he completely delusional, or 2.) If this place is half of what he says, wouldn't it be worth it?

We started making plans for my visit. I would take an overnight bus to Vallarta and he and his wife Holly would meet up with me while visiting their architect. (As in, the architect designing their off-grid, solar-powered campground. You can hate them too, I won't judge.)

At about 9 pm on the 28th of February, I'm writing some last minute emails before heading to the bus station for my overnight trip to Vallarta, which was leaving at 10 pm. Plugging in a light in the kitchen and – Pop! the electricity goes out. Now normally, this would have been no big deal. I would have just looked at Katie and said, "Welp, looks like this is your problem!" but unfortunately my roomie wasn't home, she would be coming in late that night from a week visit in her hometown St. Lou-ay, a week of visiting her family because her uncle passed away, and not only would she be arriving late, but she would have to get up early and go to her first job, later to her second.

Guilt set in and I ran and grabbed the across-the-street-neighbor-lady, and told her what was up. She and I walked to the back to the dark house and she opened up one of the electrical boxes that looked more to me like the flux capacitor circa 1800. Because there is a language barrier, I must have asked her three times, "Are you saying push it up?! Segura? SeGURA?!" I could imagine Tim's disappointed face (he's an electrician) when they found my mangled body, "I told her to lift one foot when re-starting breakers!"

Anyways, no luck with neighbor numero uno, and I started to sweat. So I did what I really dreaded doing, I knocked on the door of my next-door neighbor. Katie and I live in a frustrated state with our next door neighbor because a.) he's a prick and b.) a neat-freak prick at that and c.) he wrote an "anonymous" letter from "vecinos molestados" (annoyed neighbors) saying that our house was basically and eye-sore to the neighborhood, mentioning that we don't trim our trees or gasp, clean up the leaves in our 10 sq. foot yard. I knocked anyways.

He came over and brought his wife with him too. (?) We both had flash lights and he wanted to see where I had been trying to plug something in when the lights died. I led him to the kitchen, and amidst about a months worth of beer bottles and cardboard that I collect because I can't bear to throw it away (Guanajuato doesn't recycle) we found the outlet. I thought about explaining that we weren't alcoholics, and that although GTO doesn't recycle I still pretend like they do, and then later Katie will, like a good roommate, throw it in the garbage for me when I'm not looking... But no, I just sat there with a bright red face as his flashlight illuminated the dusty bottles.

So he and his wife, who sort of studies me like I have horns, joined me in the back yard and I wanted to hi-five the dogs as they chewed on his leg while trying to figure out the problem.

No luck. We hung around, I checked my watched every 3 seconds as they moved some cables around and tried explaining to me in very fast Spanish, descriptions and terms that I wouldn't get in english... But I was only half-way listening because after some time went by I realized... Where are the pinche dogs?

Sure enough, my vecina had left the front and back door open, letting all four dogs out into the dark night. I went into the night determined like a Mexican version of the Midnight Ride, except for instead of a lantern I wore a head lamp and had tortillas in my hand. Screaming for the dogs, I decided when I found them we'd be having puppy tacos for dinner.

Lucy was the first sucker, I got her in quickly, the neighbors still roaming around the house looking for an additional breaker. I kept yelling for the other dogs. Nearly in tears, I got a hold of three out of four little jerks, and then in my mind I started drafting a note to Katie that went something like this:

Hey Katie,
Hope you had a great time at your uncles funeral. Um, just in case you are bored when you get home, one of the dogs is missing and if you feel like it, you should try and find her. Oh yeah, and you might notice there is no power. Good luck with that as well. Have fun at your job(s) tomorrow while I head to the beach. I hope everything works out.
Love, Natalie

Finally, by god's sweet grace, we found a second breaker, which was right where you would think it to be – hidden behind a huge piece of furniture. He flipped the switch and the lights came on. I squealed, gave him a hug and his wife glared at me like I had grabbed his ass. As I was writing a note to Katie (same note, just crossing out the line about the power) Fanny, the last asshole dog, arrived at the door. I drug her outside, said good riddance, grabbed all my bags and got a cab to the bus station. Luckily I had bourbon with me...