Weed Invades Chapala!!!

No, not the wacky weed or Reefer Madness.

But it is an invasion!

Yes, it’s summer here and the weeds are blooming.

This has been an ongoing problem on Lake Chapala for quite a few years. Apparently at the end of the 19th century, this non-native water hyacinth was introduced to the lake as decoration.

Alas, residents around the lake have been battling them ever since.

It’s a summer phenomenon, part of the rainy season. The dams along the rivers that feed the lake are often opened to prevent flooding and this onslaught, along with the warm weather, the hyacinths (and several accompanying weeds) flourish.

Towns around the lake have tried raking the weeds out as they blow in to the lakeshore in a seemingly Sisyphean  effort to rid the lake of them.

This time of year, I never quite know what to expect on my daily walk on the malecon.

The lakeshore might be clear, with large “islands” of weed visible far out on the lake.

Or, it might seem like the lake disappeared overnight, replaced by a blanket of green.

Or, some days, there might be bright patches of green floating just off the lakeshore.

Ya just never know!

Something to look forward to.

Last, here’s a video of the boat operators who work despite the weed invasion. Enjoy.

Geezers Learning Spanish

One of the reasons I hear to move to the Chapala/lakeside area of Mexico is that you don’t have to learn the language to get by here.

This is true. You don’t have to.

However, doing so limits you to mainly interaction with other gringos and constantly feeling like a stranger in a strange land (how about that for a book title???).

Spanish really is not all that hard to learn. It’s quite rule-based and there are not all that many exceptions to the rules. And, I’ve found as I’ve studied more and more, that many English words were derived from Spanish, so there’s really lots of crossover. And yes, I do know that Spanish evolved out of Latin. Somehow, though, it seems a lot easier to learn than Latin and sounds a lot more pleasant, at least to these ears.

Before making the move to Mexico, I started trying to learn Spanish. There were and are lots of choices out there and I started with a classic: Pimsleur.

Pimsleur’s been around for a long time. You can subscribe to their service for about $15 US a month. You get 20 minute lessons, a nice length. And, they’re focused on practical learning. Mostly, however, for tourists. Which is not a bad thing. It’s always good to know how to say, where’s the bathroom? (donde esta el bano?).

However, when I got to Mexico I discovered that the natives here don’t follow the scripts. And even though I’d learned some phrases (a good thing!) and a number of Spanish words, I needed more.

Enter Duolingo. Duo’s an app for both iPhone and Android. It’s free. There’s a paid version which strips out the ads and fluff. I love it. The lessons are short, between 5 and 10 minutes each. And you can repeat them as often as you like. They’re subject focused. And they’re designed to teach Spanish as used in Latin America.

Somehow too I got introduced to Babbel, another phone app. I tried it for free and then ended up buying a subscription (there is no free version). Frankly, Babbel is disappointing. You’ll be learning Iberian Spanish, which is similar to, but different from Latin American Spanish in both conjugations and in pronunciation and in word usage.

There’s no rhyme or reason to the length of the lessons in Babbel. When the app speaks Spanish to you, it’s done at the same high speed you encounter on the street (a good thing?) but there’s no way to slow it down to really hear what’s being said. Duo has both street speed and a gringo speed.

I will not be renewing my subscription when it expires.

Some expats here have taken the Warren Hardy lessons that are promoted by International Living magazine. I don’t get a warm and fuzzy from their reactions.¬† It seems to work well for some; not for others.

So I’ve been bouncing along with Duo, making progress yet very slowly and hesitantly.

Then I found Manu.

Manu offered his services teaching Spanish on the Facebook group for expats here. Now I’d considered taking private lessons before but had not found the motivation to get off my butt and find a teacher. For some reason, I wrote him, he responded, and we ended up as teacher and student.

And I am so glad I did. There’s nothing like one-on-one learning. I can dig deep with questions. I learn nuances. I am learning Spanish as it’s spoken here in Mexico.

So, our experience is: study on your own AND find a local teacher. I think you’ll be quite pleased. And if you want to contact Manu, you can reach him at manudiza at gmail.com. Tell him Roberto sent you!

Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer in Chapala

As if there was ever any doubt, summer is here in Chapala.

The first giveaway is that the weeds are back populating the lake. They come and go from the shoreline along the malecon, so on any given day when I walk there, I may see blue water or a sea of green. Don’t like the weeds? Well, they’ll be gone when the wind shifts.

Too, in the summer, the lake can give us all kinds of looks. Partly, of course, because it’s the rainy season as well and “weather” forms around the lake. Yet, can be breathtaking.

And I’ve noticed too an abundance of horses. Now, to be sure, this is not just a summer occurrence. Horses are here all year round. Still, it seems that there are just more of them in the summer.

As usual, there’s Wilbur (Palomino) and Carole (the Chestnut Mare). I call’em Wilbur and Carole in homage to the two humans we were closed to Mr. Ed on my favorite 60s Sunday night television.

Too, you’ll see horses and riders plodding up and down the cobblestone streets here at almost any time of day. Where they come from I’ve not yet been able to discern. I haven’t seen a stable or a riding business, so I assume for the present that their owners/caregivers are simply taking them out for a ride.

You’ll see horses too on the lakeshore. Check out this young man riding with an infant. Hey, where’s the safety seat for the young’un? And the helmet? Oops, of yeah, this is Mexico, where personal responsibility is still adhered to and the nanny state hasn’t taken over everything.

Note too the couple in the background, making out on the beach. This is very common. Lots of couples hang out on the malecon, watching the submarine races.

Out in front of city hall, a different set of horses recently appeared. They seem to come out in the morning and by evening are gone. Then, boom, they pop up again on a random day in the future. Walking in el centro one Monday evening, there they were.

Finally, sometimes, you’ll just see horses wandering around town, as if they’re looking for a hotel or something. More likely scrounging some chow.

Late in the Spring, the skateboard park by the malecon was given a fresh paint of white paint. Local artists often take this as a fresh canvas and overnight up pops some fresh street art.

Over near fisherman’s pier, the old wood pole that was used by the flying natives (see this link for an explanation) and has subsequently been replaced by a metal pole, is now a direction pointer.

As always, the malecon is jammed on a Sunday. Everyone seems to be out enjoying the vibes. Come join us!