Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Day at Todos Santos

Chris at the 300 year old church at Todos Santos

For months now, we've been hearing glowing reviews of the 
beach town Todos Santos,  on the western coast of southern Baja.
People say it's an artsy, sophisticated beach town.

Todos Santos is about halfway between Cabo and 
La Paz via highway on the Pacific coast

Our friend Bill once again offered us use of his black Mercedes convertible 
for the day, so off to Todos Santos we went!

It's about an hours drive through stark but beautiful Baja 
desert to the beach town of Todos Santos

Nature called about halfway through our journey, so Chris pulled over and I tiptoed out into the desert and picked a nice spot in the shade of a big tumbleweed to take care of business. 

Crouched down with my undies around my ankles, I saw this on the ground inches away:

A rattler had very recently shed his skin!

Yikes. Cool but kinda scary, considering my vulnerable state of affairs at that exact moment. I frantically looked around for the rattler, newly freed of his encumbrance, but fortunately he had already slithered away. 

More than a year in Baja and we still haven't had a (live) rattler sighting yet. 

We hopped back in the car for the second half of the drive through isolated, 
desolate desert. Suddenly, after miles and miles of nothing but cacti 
and sagebrush, we found ourselves here: 

This is the giant desert oasis where the Indians, and later the Spanish settlers, 
chose to build their little town of Todos Santos. Here in Baja, it's all about the water, baby!

A Todos Santos courtyard

Inside the church at Todos Santos there's a very Catholic Jesus pointing
 to his barbed wire-ensconced exposed heart.
It's a graphic, but poignant and powerful image. I confess, though, 
that these days I can't help but think of Robert Downey Jr's Ironman character 
when I see this style of Jesus statue.

An online artist evokes Jesus imagery in his portrayal
 of Robert Downey Jr. as Ironman

Hey, don't blame me for making that connection. It's my husband's fault -- 
he makes me watch the original Ironman
 movie about once a year. OK, I'll admit it -- I really don't mind. It's the 
greatest superhero movie ever, IMHO.

I guess you could take the leap and say that Jesus and Tony Stark's character may 
have a trait or two in common, like sacrificing personal comfort for the 
  common good of mankind. Anyway, no doubt this Catholic image of Jesus 
with the exposed heart probably influenced the creative juices of Stan Lee when 
he penned the first Ironman comic strip. 

Also inside the church is the Virgin Mary (on the right, missing her right hand) 
and, on the left, Little Bo Peep? Not sure what she has to do with anything...
Nonetheless, I'm always moved by the simple statues and artwork inside these
     Mexican Catholic churches. Their decoration is clearly a labor of love,
 usually by the Mexican women of the village.

After visiting the church, it was lunchtime.

More Catholic-inspired artwork greeted us at the little local taco stand where we ate lunch. 
This Baja-style version of The Last Supper was painted directly onto the wall of the eatery.
 Catholic culture is such a giant part of daily
life here in Mexico. I'm kinda gonna miss it when we're back in the states.

After lunch, Chris enjoys a freshly prepared ice cream, made daily here 
in Mexico with fresh fruit and real cream.

We explored Todos Santos on foot. It's a neat, clean little Colonial town 
with many art galleries and nice restaurants. 

Two minor complaints, though:

Todos Santos complaint #1: GRINGOS.

Gringos with fanny packs covered every inch of pretty Todos Santos.

I know, I know. I'm a gringo. We're gringos! That's the irony -- get it? Yes, it's 
             ridiculous, and all fingers point back to me, the tall blonde gringo taking 
pictures all over town (hey, at least I'm not wearing a fanny pack!).

It just bugs me seeing gringos taking over the most beautiful real estate in Mexico. 
Somehow, it just doesn't seem right. Anyway, I'll just go ahead and 
let that contradiction lie there... :-) 

Todos Santos complaint #2: Where's the beach?

We were led to believe that this is a beach town -- a surf town -- but Todos Santos is a good couple of miles off the coast and away from the beach. Clearly the original village was built at the site of the inland oasis for the water supply. After exploring the town, we followed the bumpy dirt road that led a couple of miles down to the beach.

At the shore was a tiny fishing camp and estuary

We parked the car, took off our shoes and explored on foot

We climbed the tall dunes which we hoped might finally lead to the beach

And finally, there it was -- our first sighting of the open Pacific Ocean in more than a year:

The beautiful Todos Santos beach, almost completely devoid of real estate

 No surfers. No homes. OK, OK, the beach wasn't completely empty.
Our only company was this tightly packed flock of 
seagulls sunning themselves on the shore.

Me, all alone on the beach at Todos Santos

And once again, Mexico surprised us. Todos Santos was not what we expected. That's the 
beauty of this country -- every day, another beautiful surprise.

We're back at anchor in La Paz. Enjoying our final weeks here in Baja 
before we slowly start bashing up the coast back to SoCal...

Hasta pronto! 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

What's my role in the new Trump world?

                  The blue and red bubbles that currently encompass the United States of America

   Chris and I have recently lost contact with a very old, very dear friend of ours up in the states (I'll call him "Will"). Always a prompt responder to e-mails and messages, his sudden non-response in recent weeks has caused us concern. Is he injured, or in the hospital? Swamped at work? Or maybe he's angry with us -- disenchanted somehow, over something we said? I thought our friendship was rock-solid...but in the end, who knows?

  Every American woke up on November 9 feeling a little like Dorothy, who's humble Kansas home suddenly dropped into someplace called The Land of Oz. Creeping tentatively out into the new landscape, Dorothy didn't know where she was, how she got there, or what to expect. Would this new life in this new place be a dream come true, or a disaster beyond comprehension?

 This is where we are right now.  Noone has ever been here before.

 Nobody knows what the future holds. Nobody. 

 Unless you live completely inside one of the two bubbles (red and blue) encompassing our country, suddenly relationships which we've always taken for granted feel shaky and more than little tenuous.

 I don't know about you, but I feel dizzy, weak, and a little bit nauseated. And it'll take more than a Dramamine to make me feel better.

 Because I don't just feel seasick. I feel lost without a map.

 This morning I listened to an NPR podcast called "The Hidden Brain." The subject was an anthropologist from Berkeley who spent five years living amongst people who were, politically and culturally, the absolute opposite of her Whole Foods/academia/Audi-driving neighbors:

  Trump voters in Louisiana.

 As anyone who bravely and willfully goes outside of their bubble of origin discovers, things out there are never what they seem.

 First, she explained that more and more, it's clear that we humans vote mostly with our "lizard brain" -- that slimy, insecure, resentful creature that lives deep in our gut and, for the most part, rules our behavior and decision making without our conscious knowledge or consent.

 Now, picture the typical Trump voter. He's standing in a long line, waiting patiently with everybody else, hoping to arrive at that place we call "The American dream." He works hard and plays by the rules, yet he feels that the line is not really moving forward.

 Eventually he perceives that some are cutting in front of him in the line. African-Americans and women snatch well-paying jobs from his outreached hands -- jobs that the Trump voter has worked all his life for, that he planned to pass onto his son.

 Then, Barack Obama comes along and appears to encourage these line-cutters, helping them forward  while leaving the Trump voter feeling increasingly disrespected and left behind. Was all of his rule following and hard work in vain?

 Resentmen and despair builds. Is this fair? Is this just?

 And then there's the question of why so many women voted for Donald Trump. After all, most of these white, female Trump voters in Louisiana not only work hard at home raising their families, but have full times jobs as well. You would think their "lizard brains" would vote for a candidate who would give women fair wages, healthcare, and the options to plan their own families.

 It became clear that for the most part, these women voted for Trump to support the men in their lives who felt so frustrated, disrespected and angry about the line-cutting. The women voted for Trump in solidarity with their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons (Ya gotta love us women -- you know men would never do the same for us if the roles were reversed).

 Of course, rule-following, hard-working African-Americans have the same feelings of disrespect and despair when they are repeatedly pulled over by police while their white neighbors are waved past and encouraged forward in that same line weaving towards the elusive "American dream."

  I had an epiphany: Was Will a closet Trump supporter? Since many of us suddenly feel that the gloves are off, the gauntlet is thrown and the lines are drawn, has he  suddenly decided he can no longer be our friend? Does he hate us? Or is he afraid we will hate HIM for supporting the President?

 Ugh. How did we get here. And how do we move forward?

 It's helpful to remember that no matter who is in charge, the Powers that Be will always scapegoat us people in line, encouraging us to blame the other guys in line (the gays, the women, the evangelicals, the blacks, the Muslims, etc.) for the fact that the line is moving so slowly.

 The Powers that Be are not Republican or Democrat. They are beyond that. They are the multinational corporations and billionaires that increasingly own and run everything, and are working very hard to gain the power to make all of the decisions for those of us bickering in line.

 They know that We the People far outnumber them, and that if We, The People ever stopped fighting and blaming each other and turned together as one, pointed up to to them and finally, truly held them accountable, then they would be defeated and stripped of power.

 Remembering who the real enemy is helps defuse frustrations I have with people who carry different points of view than I do -- OK, I'll say it -- with Trump voters.

 I truly believe they, like all of us, are increasingly being handed a bill of goods. It's all a contradictory mess -- intentionally so. We're all confused, angry and blaming each other, and finding no choice but to let that "lizard brain" make our decisions -- at least we know he's got our back.

 It stops now with me.

 My hope for us as Americans is that we never forget the humanity in our fellow travelers who may have different beliefs than our own. Even though every fiber of your being may scream that they are the enemy -- they are not.

This cleaving to our mutual humanity is, in the end, our only hope. I won't simply throw out old friends just because they're in the other bubble.

So, what to make of my friend Will? Who knows? It's possible he's ending our friendship over Trump. He might be afraid of us. Or he could be dead by the side of the road somewhere.

The path will become clear.

 And no matter what fresh hell may happen in our country and our world, I can't forget that America is my home, and as Dorothy said: "There's no place like it."

In fact, I think I know what my role in the new Trump world is: It's to be brave.

I vow to try -- no, I WILL -- be brave.

 Won't you be brave with me?

                            "A South politician preaches to the poor white man
                               “You got more than the blacks, don’t complain.
            You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain.
                                               And the Negro’s name
                                                  Is used it is plain
                                             For the politician’s gain
                                                As he rises to fame
                                         And the poor white remains
                                          On the caboose of the train
                                           But it ain’t him to blame
                                      He’s only a pawn in their game."

                                                                              -- Bob Dylan 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

La Paz, Mexico: New photo round-up

Light-hearted painting on the La Paz malecon.
Only 1481km to Tijuana! Yay! (NOT -- we're planning our bash back up the 
coast in a few short weeks.)

Chris and I have been here in the La Paz anchorage for several weeks now. 

Our view of La Paz from the cockpit of Espiritu

Remember, anchoring here in La Paz is free of charge, so we're savoring our last 
chance to do the "economy cruising" thing and just live simply on the hook
 before heading back to work in SoCal.

We know the city pretty well by now. We have our little routines, like the #8 bus -- OUR bus 
-- which takes us to the places we like to visit in our little section of town.

This is the front section above the driver on our #8 bus.  City buses in Latin America are frequently hand-me-down school buses from the states. Notice the orange sign above, which states the Oregon Department of Education rules (in English, natch) for students riding the bus. (I always find it amusing that they don't bother removing the decals -- they just put 'em into service with whatever English language directions are on there). More distinctive in this photo, though, is the Jesus with the impossibly blue eyes. This -- unless things have really changed rapidly in the Oregon Public School 
System --  was presumably added after the bus arrived in Mexico. 

After so many spectacular Mexican sunsets, it gets harder to describe 
them adequately, as this New Yorker cartoon illustrates:

Cartoon courtesy of The New Yorker

But, I'll try anyway...

A resplendent striped Mexico sunset dazzles above the La Paz anchorage

Since we'll be bashing back up the 800 miles of Baja coast to SoCal in the early spring, we 
decided to stay in La Paz through the winter, fix our ailing watermaker and generally 
prepare Espiritu for the journey ahead of her.

We may be technically in the tropics, but cold winter storms 
like this one do blow down from the north

Captain Chris cleans the brightwork while a storm blows through

He sews, too! What a guy!

There's tons of other activities to keep us busy while we're here in La Paz:


There's a weekly music jam here at Marina La Paz. I like this photo because I'm playing 
an F# minor, which makes me look like I play better than I do. (ha!) But Chris rocks!

We got a happy surprise when these fiddlin' kids showed up during one session! There's a third little sibling who also plays a really cute teeny-tiny fiddle. They're from Alameda, California, and their parents are home schooling them for a year in Mexico, immersing them in Spanish, music and culture in general. Considering they already speak perfect Chinese and English, they were pretty darn impressive. Kids like this give me hope for the future. :-) 

Scott plays a mean home-made stand-up bass, consisting of a broomstick,
 a yellow clothesline, a big magenta suitcase, and...

...say hello to his little friend...


There's free line dancing classes twice a week here at Marina La Paz.
  It's a no-brainer -- joyful, goofy fun and great exercise. 

Elizabeth of s/v Vivacia "...likes to rock it like
 a boogie-woogie choo-choo train..."

In the meeting room at Marina La Paz where we do the line dancing, there's one -- 

only one --

ship model up on the shelf:

You guessed it: The Titanic. 
(A cautionary tale for us cruisers, perhaps?)

There's an 80-something American expat named Jean who line dances twice a week, rain or shine. She reminds me of my mom that way -- she stay positive, blows off the BS and just keeps on movin.'

Me and Jean, my stand-in Mom here in La Paz

Before Christmas, I hugged Jean goodbye as she was flying to the states for the holidays.

ME: So, where are you from?

JEAN: New Jersey.

ME: Really? Chris and I have been rewatching The Sopranos. It's alot of fun. Do you like that show?

JEAN: Oh, I love it! It's my favorite!

ME: Really? Wow. So, are you Italian?

JEAN: (after a pause, she leaned forward with great intention and 
exclaimed with a proud smile:)

 100 percent!

ME: (laughing) Wow, really? Well, I guess I'll have to stay on your good side, huh?



There was a cruiser's beach party at the nearby La Costa waterfront restaurant.

Lovely La Costa 

The day was filled with competitions in bocci ball, darts, dominoes, and Baja Rummy.

Chris and I made it to the second round in Bocci Ball

Chris did much better on his own in the darts competition

You know, hanging with these retirees during our cruising adventure feels kinda like a dress rehearsal for ACTUAL retirement, which, if we're lucky, will come in about 10-20 years or so...unless they  take away Social Security and Medicare as some predict, in which case we may NEVER retire...so I  guess we should just enjoy this practice retirement now, while we've got it, right?


I was so privileged to spot this rare blue jellyfish in very shallow water

This night heron (almost a foot tall) patrols the dinghy dock for fish almost every day.
I love the two white feathers that cascade elegantly from the back of his head.

This photo of a school of fish swimming looks more like a painting, 
but I promise you it's real (I took it near the anchorage).

Sargeant Majors swim under Marina Palmyra

We spent a morning hiking the Magote, the long sandy 
spit that encircles the La Paz anchorage

Chris enjoying his solitude along the Magote beach

A lifeless sailboat hull, remnant of Hurricane Odile in 2014, still rests in the Magote 
like a tombstone. 3 sailors died in this anchorage during that storm, refusing to 
leave their floating homes and paying the ultimate price.

Palms and palapa on the Magote


An advantage to staying in one place for awhile is having the opportunity 
to get involved and do some volunteering.

Mama Bonita is locally world famous for her generosity here in La Paz.  She's opened up her home to  both orphans and older homeless locals, who pitch in with cooking and generally running the place. 

Kids at Mama Bonita's are tempted by the cotton candy, which would be sold 
by Mama Bonita later that afternoon at a street faire. 

Peppers dry in the sun on the roof of Mama Bonita's orphanage -- another little
 business she cultivates to generate income to care for the children

My friend Bill introduced me to another local program called "Kids Up," which 
provides Equine Therapy for severely handicapped local children. 

Hector, a local boy with Down's Syndrome, builds up the 
courage to feed a carrot to the patiently waiting horse

Those that are able actually ride the horses, and those that can't simply enjoy the 
experience of being around them, touching them, petting them. 

These teachers are so amazing with their severely handicapped students.
It makes me sad how little they are paid here in Mexico for such hard work --
but they are angels, and it's a labor of love for them. 

Meet Carlos. Severely autistic and unable to speak, he alternated between 
hugging me warmly, punching me violently on the arm, then humbly 
lowering his head and blowing me a gentle kiss in apology, and coming back
 for more hugs. Very poignant. 

Never thought I'd be hanging out with hay bales in Baja!

Very, very sweet

When it was time to go, the kids and their teachers climbed into the bus, we brought 
the horses up to the windows to say goodbye. Very sweet. :-) 

So, that's about it for now. 

There's a saying:

"Being connected with people means being current with them."

So, now I'm current.

What's up with YOU?

-- lizthatgirl@gmail.com --