Home soon

Travelling is great, but I always miss being home, and the closer the time to return home, the more I look forward to seeing family and friends, enjoying the comforts of home, getting back into some kind of routine, gardening, sailing, going for a favourite bike ride, starting new projects, working on some self-improvement items (such as down-sizing, home improvements, reading, exercising, studying, or whatever).

Today, I made a list, but it has been brewing for the last couple of weeks, especially because I have been rather bored here, resting, in order to get rid of the flu which turned into bronchitis, so I can enjoy these last days of sun, ocean, and heat.

After leaving Guatemala, via Belize, I spent one day exploring Tulum (a small but beautiful Mayan ruins site by the ocean) and sitting under a palapa on the beach. Unfortunately, I remembered to use sunscreen everywhere but my face! Forgot to bring my hat too!

A coati and me at the Tulum ruins

Here in Cozumel for the last five days, waiting and hoping that my lungs clear up enough to go diving. Fortunately, I am staying in a lovely big Airbnb apartment not far from a bright, modern hospital where I have been going twice a day for nebulisation treatments. The grocery store is not far, and there is a great little place to eat fresh hot tacos al pastor right around the corner, so all my basic needs are covered.

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Catching the setting sun.

I also got a Mexican sim card for my phone, so I have unlimited calls anywhere in Mexico, USA, and Canada. These calls are refreshing after a steady diet of facebook and TV. A CBC app on my ipad is also a boon, and it makes appreciate, as I listen to the weather reports, the warmth (actually, I should say heat) of Mexico.

Hasta pronto,

Val

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The Ruins of Copán (Honduras)

The ruins of Copán (Honduras)

It takes about seven hours to drive from Antigua to Copán in Honduras. Most of the road is a narrow highway with a passing lane in some areas, but it would have been useful the whole way as the road winds it way East-Northeast of Guatemala City in mountainous terrain. The ride is not for the faint of heart.

At this time of year, the dry season, which they call summer here, (Winter is during the rainy season from May to October.) the trees are mostly bare except in low lying areas.

We left at 4 am, and I sat in front with the driver of the van. The sunrise was spectacular; there were often clouds below us over the valleys.

Copán is a small, border town which is frequented for its beautiful Mayan ruins which are considered to be the oldest. Copán lasted through the reign of sixteen kings. It is also considered to be the most beautiful of all the ruins found in Mayan territory which includes the south of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and parts of El Salvador.

After checking in at a nice little hotel, I was picked up by the guide who took me by tuktuk to the ruins. We spent the afternoon walking around the many courtyards, and pyramids, and the ball court. The guide was knowledgeable as he had worked his whole life at the ruins, first with archeologists digging and tunneling their way into the past and then re-constructing much of it as the stalae, the pyramids, the carvings and most of the artifacts were either overgrown with trees, or broken and strewn about by the forces of nature and man.

The other nice aspect of the Copán ruins is the setting. It is like a park and in places like the jungle. The whole site is well looked after. Many Scarlet Macaw which have been bred in order to save them from extinction now live in freedom. They do not wander too far as feeding stations and nests are provided for them. There are also other forms of wildlife. I happened to see a snake and a pair of Central American Agouti which are large rodents. They are related to the guinea pig and are quiet and quite shy.

At the hotel, I asked the young woman at the desk how late a woman alone can walk on the streets of the town. She answered that any woman can walk on any street as late as she pleases. This was a surprise to me as I had heard that Honduras is a lawless place… but not in Copán, apparently.

At any rate, I went to bed soon after dinner since I was up since 3 am.

The next morning, I walked back to the ruins, about one kilometre, to visit the museum. It houses most of the original statues and carvings to protect them from the sun and rain. On the actual site, they have installed reproductions. The beauty and complexity of the works are mind-boggling.

Before leaving Guatemala, I hope to visit Tikal the biggest of all the Mayan ruins. It is said that if Tikal could be compared to New York, Copán would be Paris.

Lovely Cozumel

Lovely Cozumel

Cozumel is a great island just off the Mayan Coast. It is especially noted for its wonderful diving. The town is small and safe, and the hotels are out of town which is just fine with me.

The reefs and beaches are on the on the east side facing the mainland and the west side has lovely deserted beaches because one cannot swim in the rough waters. When there is a north wind, it is rough everywhere.

To pass the time during my recovery from blocked middle ears, I rented a car and drove around the island spending a time sunning on the beach, and eating great ceviche in a restaurant perched on the highest point of the island while I studied for my exam on Enriched Air Diving.

Here are some pictures.dsc04391dsc04406dsc04410dsc04434

Small towns and beaches

 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016
Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

In an interesting change of roles, I have been the guest of Frida, a young woman who was my guest many years ago when she was only ten. Frida came to Canada to practise her English: she went to summer camp with my daughter, she caught poison ivy, she travelled out west by car with us; she marvelled at the “snow” when we crossed the glaciers between Jasper and Banff.

This past weekend, it was I who rode in the back of the van to Manzanillo. Frida and her husband, Ricardo, stopped in Comala on the way to have breakfast. We found a charming place on a side street, overlooking a lush ravine, which served some delicious Mexican breakfast dishes: chilaquiles, sopes, frijoles, fresh juices, and café, of course.

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On the beach in Manzanillo and in Malaque, we snacked on fresh pineapple, jícama, cucumber, and shrimp all laced with chile and lemon. We drank green coconut water and beer in the shade of big parasols and cooled off in the beautiful waters of the Pacific.

On the way back to Guadalajara, we stopped in Sayula, a pretty town which specializes in making knives, cajeta (dulce de leche), sweet pastries and empanadas, and birria. It is also the birthplace of the author and photographer, Juan Rulfo (1917-1986).

 

Ismael Vargas, artist from Guadalajara (1947)

Enjoyed an exhibit of works by Ismael Vargas at the art gallery of the University of Guadalajara. Here are some of my pics. The one above is a photo taken for the University of Guadalajara by Israel Rivera for the opening of this show, “Redimiendo el vacio”.

Revisiting Guadalajara

The corn gods
The corn gods
The Cathedral in Zapopan
The Cathedral in Zapopan

Usually when we visit, we see various family and friends of Eduardo’s. And each time it is a pleasure. I feel welcome, even when I am here alone.

This time, I came here specifically to have some dental work done. The dentist came recommended by a friend’s son who is also a doctor, a plastic surgeon at that! The dentist is his cousin’s boyfriend. That is the way to do it in Mexico. The dentist is giving me wonderful care, probably the best I have ever had. He even text messaged me to see how I was doing after a rather complicated extraction.

Last night I had pozole with our cousin’s family. Then they sang Las Mañanitas to me before serving the delicious Tres Leches birthday cake. It was the first time anyone had sung this beautiful Mexican birthday song for me. Plus it was my fourth birthday celebration this year!

A side square in Zapopan
A side square in Zapopan

Today, I bit the bullet and decided to visit a new part of the greater metropolitan area. So, via light-rail/metro and bus I went north to visit the art gallery in Zapopan. This part of the city feels like a small town. There is a traditional central square, and a market a block off the main street.

It felt miles away from the bustle of Guadalajara. The sun was shining brightly which is a relief after almost a week of cool rainy weather. The cathedral had a scattering of people praying, one woman working her way forward on her knees. No tourists in sight, except me of course, but everyone is friendly and helpful giving me directions to the gallery, the food at the food stands, and then to the market to get some fresh vegies for supper.

The gallery MAZ had four different rooms each with modern art exhibits. The first one left me rather baffled. Entitled La Gravedad de los Asuntos (The Gravity of Things punning on the word gravity.) There were poems and drawing on relativity and other scientific theories; I felt more than a bit lost. Fortunately, there was a fun video: Mexican artists and astronauts at a Russian research station had fun with the Russians breaking a piñata in a zero gravity chamber.

The astronauts trying to break the piñata.
The astronauts trying to break the piñata.

They also showed a full-length video entitled Bienvenidos a Nueva America, 2014. An incredible story of some landless people who are trying to resettle around an old open-pit mine in the desert of Peru. I can’t find more background information on this act of defiance. If anyone knows, please let me know.

Enough! I am going to make supper for my dear friends who are hosting me.

P.S. I just learned how to do hyper-links. I hope you enjoy following up on some of them.