A Trip to the U.S. and Reflections on Mexico

This past weekend I flew up to North Carolina for the wedding of one of my best friends. It was wonderful to see him and his bride and meet the families and catch up with old mutual friends.

What caught my eye that I just had to include here was a picture of the cake:

Hopefully you got a good chuckle from that. I sure did!

And that’s not what this post is about. But it’s our blog and we can do what we want, so there you have an odd start.

Having lived in Mexico now for well over a year, it’s become home. The scenes here in Chapala become commonplace. We love them. We enjoy them every day and we love noticing the small changes. But we no longer relate life here immediately to what was done or how it was done when we lived in the States.

So taking a trip to the U.S. brings back some of those differences. So, this week’s blog is about the differences. Not in any particular order. None more important than another. Just what we noticed.

Sparkling water: I LUV sparkling water (agua mineral here). Every restaurant serves it; every mini-mart sells it: it’s all over the place). Not so in the U.S. It’s a specialty item. Even Walmart only offers a small selection of sparkling water. I missed it.

Gas: Mexico is a fairly major producer of crude oil. Yet, the price of gas here is quite high relative to the price in the U.S. We’re paying about $4 a gallon here in Mexico. Current price in North Carolina seemed to be about $2.60 a gallon.

Car washes: Here in Mexico you see very few of the standard car washes that you see in the States. The drive-through(s) at gas stations, the standalones where you can have your car washed or you can easily wash your own. To be sure, there a few here in Mexico, but very few. What we have here are lots of eager men and women who literally work the streets in the commercial zones who will wash a car while you shop. And they will do a very nice job!

Mexican restaurants: Of course, this is a little disingenuous. Every restaurant here in Mexico is “Mexican.” What we refer to here are the vast majority of restaurants that service Mexican food. We eat out a lot here. It’s really inexpensive (if you want it to be). And usually very good.

The basic food is quite a bit like what’s served in Mexican restaurants in the U.S. (although usually much more fresh). Now every time we had gone to a Mexican restaurant in the U.S. the first thing on the table was a basket of chips and a bowl or two of salsa.

I think in the more than a year of eating out in Mexico we’ve only been served chips and salsa once. Often you can order them off the menu, yet usually with guacamole.

Last but not least, while we’re talking about restaurants I was reminded on this trip about the ubiquity of two restaurant chains that dominate the South: Cracker Barrel and the Waffle House. Gotta say, I do miss them. Here in Mexico, we haven’t found any chains that ring our bell like those. Still, we get to try lots of new places that we probably would never try otherwise.

So there you have it! Viva la difference!


A Guad Good Friday

Easter Week is a big deal in Mexico. Really big. For some, a national week off. And Good Friday and Easter Sunday are quite significant.

We had read about an artisan festival happening all week in the heart of Centro Historico in Guadalajara and we made plans to go up on Good Friday.

Guadalajara is a big city, the second largest in Mexico, with a population over 10,000,000. Like any big city, it can be challenging to navigate at times, confusing, and, well, different. With lots and lots of traffic.

However, driving in from Chapala, the roads were unusually light. Some cars, a few trucks, but nowhere near what we typically find making the trip into Guad. And this sparseness persisted all the way into the city.

Likewise, the city was somewhat deserted. Few shops were open; few restaurants. The usual hustle and bustle was simply absent.

We had no problem finding parking and enjoyed a pleasant walk down into the heart of Centro Historico.

As we approached, we did start to see more and more people gathered. And arriving down at Liberation Square, lots of folks had turned out for the beautiful day and for the art festival.

The festival was in two large tents and was absolutely swarming with people.

There were rows and rows of all types of artisan work, such as clothing, leather goods, beadwork, carvings, paintings, and all kinds of artisan foods: candies, beverages, mixers, coffee, and, thank goodness, salsa!!!

After a leisurely walk around the entirety of the festival, we made our way back toward the car and came across the lovely little public square. Little squares pop up all over Mexican cities.

A beautiful day and a happy day!

And a bonus: I remember trying to find shoe laces back in the U.S. and how hard it seemed to be to find any. Well, if you’re coming to Mexico, you can find stalls with lots and lots of shoe laces.

In Mexico, you never quite know what you’ll find.



Easter is Coming to Chapala

Chapala is busy prepping for the Easter season.

Starting this weekend, and for the next week, the holiday season is here in Mexico. And Chapala has spent the past week getting ready.

Sections of the malecon have been spruced up.

Rides are moving onto the malecon and being set up and ready for Easter week. Can you guess what ride this will be?

Yes indeed, a ferris wheel.

As we mentioned last week, the skate park was painted over in sparkling white and almost immediately a local artist popped up to add some color.

It’s the dry season here now. The water level in the lake is diminishing and while nature is taking its course, the malecon itself is being repaired.

The “big” news, however, is a change up with what we’ve called Cirque de Chapala.

There’s been a tall pole near the lake off the malecon where indigenous people perform a ritual called la danza de los voladores. Five men dressed in native clothing climb the pole. One sits on top, singing and drumming, while four fasten a rope line to an ankle and then all four push off and spin around and around the pole, lowering themselves to the ground.

Here’s a video of the ritual.

There are troupes like this all across Mexico. We saw one on our visit to Tequila last year.

This week while taking my daily walk on the malecon, I heard the roar of a chainsaw and found that the pole was being cut! Of course, a truck and crane were holding the pole firmly. Eventually, the pole severed. I wasn’t sure what was happening. Was one of the icons of the malecon coming to an end?

Fortunately no. For close to the old pole, a cement footing with a metal hold was awaiting the erection of a new metal pole.

To me, it looks quite a bit taller than the wooden pole. But, I don’t know.

What do you think?





It’s the Small Stuff in Chapala

As I sat down to write this post, a weekly event for me (usually), I sighed, not sure what to say this week.

It’s been a typical week here. Nothing earth-shattering. No big changes. Nothing really different.

But that’s ignoring the small stuff.

The small stuff is part of the true beauty of Chapala. What I mean are the little changes that can so easily slip by unnoticed.

Here’s one of them.

For those of you of a certain age, you may remember the days when there were “rides” outside grocery stores and the few big box stores in the 50s and 60s.

Over time, they disappeared. Big loss? No. Not really.

Just time marching on.

And now we come to Chapala.

There are many more dotted around el centro. How wonderful. And seeing local children enjoy them. Mostly I remember begging my mother for the nickel or dime required for a ride back when I was just a wee thing. I didn’t get it often. That was frivolous. But every once in a while, I did get that ride. And I get to see these throwbacks every time I walk downtown.

The malecon is under repair. The benches are being repaired, slates replaced, and being repainted. Fishermen maintain their boats. The skate park was recently repainted in bright white and this morning I saw that a local artist has used that canvas for his own contribution.

We’re deep in Spring here. The weather is getting increasingly warm during the day, up into the low 80s. Very enjoyable.

Yes, it’s small. Yet, it’s wonderful.