Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend in Colima.

This weekend we decided to take our first multi-day trip to Colima City. Colima City is in the State of Colima, kind of like New York, New York. It is about a 3 1/2 hour drive from here. We left on Friday morning about 10:30am. To get there we traveled on toll roads which were well worth the 200 pesos we spent. On the way back we went on the free road half the time and it was much longer and windier, though I admit prettier. After looking for someplace to eat for about and hour (I have no idea why it took so long, but it did), we finally gave up and ate some fried chicken at the Sorriana (sort of like Walmart). Then we looked for a hotel. In doing research for the trip, I found a list of about 10 hotels in Colima, but none with online reservations, so I figured with our lack of Spanish skills we would probably be better off finding one once we got there. Just out of town we found a place labeled "Motel" called Quinta del Fuego. The prices were 300 pesos for a single, 400 for a single with jacuzzi and 700 for a double. They showed us to their biggest room which was like a suite with 2 seperate bedrooms and a huge jacuzzi in the living room for 700 pesos. It also had a private garage for the car. There was no key to the room or garage, it was all opened by remote control or a button. Dave's theory is that it was so cheap because it is a druglord's private home, but he lets out rooms for tax purposes. Tonight at home, the kids unanimously voted the hotel as the best part of the trip.

After settling in we went downtown to have a look around and visit the tourist office. I knew about a few things in the area to visit, but hadn't settled on an agenda. The kids didn't last long, but we walked around the city's three plazas and bought a new English/Spanish Dictionary, as we had forgotten ours at home.

After consulting brochures, we decided to visit some ruins, a small town nearby called Comala, and some stalagmite caves on Saturday.

The ruins were more impressive than I had heard. I know that they are nothing like some of the huge pyramids in Eastern Mexico, but they were still pretty cool.

Next off to Comala. Supposedly, you could see the 2 volcanoes that are nearby from this small town. It was too cloudy to see them, but we drove along a road that had a part called "La Zona Magica". On this part of the road, you could put your car in neutral, and your car would roll up the hill. An optical illusion, but Dave told the kids that the road was haunted and that ghosts were pushing us up the hill. Milli did not want us to roll down the windows. After doing this a few times, we decided we were hungry. We stopped at a large restaurant on the side of the road called a botana. We didn't know what this was but soon found out. We first ordered waters for everyone and the waiter brought those with some tostadas with ceviche and guacamole. They were very good and we figured this was like the chips and salsa at other restaurants. Then he brought out 2 different kinds of tacos. We wondered what was going on and asked for menus. The menu listed 5 different courses served with your drinks. Supposedly, in a botana, you order drinks and with each drink you were brought some predetermined courses. We were just on the appetizers course (with our 20 peso waters) and had 3 more appetizers to go. Dave tried to explain to the waiter that we didn't understand this when we came in and could we just have the appetizers course and then stop. After some time he understood and we finished and left, paying 100 pesos ($10) for our lunch for 6. Not a bad idea. And cheap for us Mormons.

After lunch, we started the 45 minute drive to the caves on the other side of Colima. It started to smell like rain as we got off the main highway, was sprinkling when we left the paved roads and started to really rain as we wound our way through the jungle up a steep, mountain dirt road. Probably about 5km from the caves, we decided that this was getting too dangerous and turned around and went back to our hotel. Needless to say we were disappointed and I started to have flashbacks of our Mazamitla trip.

The jacuzzi in the room cheered up the kids and a book cheered up me.

Sunday, we spent at leisurely morning in the room, drove closer to the volcanos that were still covered by clouds and drove home early to get a good nights rest before school on Monday.

We asked the kids what we should do better next time we plan a trip and Milli said "Let me do whatever I want. "
Jane said "Pick a restaurant where you can actually order."
Riley said "Check the weather before we go." Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Some days I forget I'm in Mexico...

Wednesday was not one of those days. A lot of days, it's easy to stay in our little compound of a house, take care of kids, clean, do homework and read. Almost everything is in English, except maybe homework, and it's very comfortable. Wednesday, I started out the day with a 3rd grade class parent's meeting. There is a chosen leader, vocales, that is our representative with the PTA. She held the meeting at her house. Luckily, she lived in California for a few years and speaks pretty good English, so she translated a little for me and the other mother that doesn't speak Spanish. She is very nice and even offered to help Jane and Riley with homework and sent me these pictures from Jane's class. Even so, I missed most of what was said and feel very uncomfortable trying to communicate with the mothers that don't speak any English.

Later, we took some banana bread over to some of the nieghbors here that we hadn't met yet. One was Mexican and I butchered my introduction in Spanish. I had practiced it and everything, but my tongue gets tied. It almost gives me a headache. Again luckily the father speaks English pretty well. I feel so bad to be relieved when the Mexicans here speak English, which is a surprising amount. I should be learning thiers.

Lastly, I was a driver for our congregation's temple trip in the evening. Dave stayed home with the kids so I could go, since he's been once already. Driving in Guadalajara is scary. Not so much during the day, but on the way home, it was dark and rainy. When you need to change lanes you just have to go for it, because noone lets you in, no matter how well you signal. The temple service was in Spanish, obviously, but they have translater headphones. I listened to most of the service in Spanish. It was peaceful inside, so my nerves were calmed before the ride home. I wanted to make more conversation with the other women that drove in my car, but of the 4, only one spoke English, so we were limited to short questions and responses. Come esta? Donde vive? Izquierda o derecha? Hopefully soon I will learn more how to phrase full sentences. My vocabulary grows every day, but not my grammer.

Me at the Guadalajara Temple.

If any of my Spanish speaking friends have any tricks they learned to help them with grammer, I would appreciate a comment or two.
And pray for me.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mexican Independence Day

This weekend was exciting. The 16th of September is Mexican Independence Day and the kids got Monday and Tuesday off of school.
On Saturday we went to a Regatta de Globos, which is when people make these tissue paper balloons that are inflated with hot air and let go into the sky. We had seen one of these balloons before, so we were very excited to see more. The hot air comes from some kind of fuel burning at the bottom of the balloon. Sometimes, in the case of smaller ones, it is toilet paper dipped in paraffin, but for larger ones it is cloth or something else soaked in gas mixed with oil. Being tissue paper, of course they are very flammable and often times burn up a few dozen meters above the ground and the fuel rockets flaming to the earth. This event would never happen in the US. Here are some of our favorite balloons. You can tell that some take hours and maybe days to assemble.

Dave calls this one "The Mexican Space Program"

On Monday, we attended a part of the celebration called El Grito. We went to the plaza in Ajijic at about 10pm, ate some tacos, bought some funny glasses and headgear and waited for the main ceremony to begin. It had been raining all day, so we found a good spot under the gazebo to watch. I didn't understand almost any of it, but at one point we started to chant "Viva" after which the announcer would follow with "Mexico". I was glad in the end that we went to see it even though it was raining and we had 4 grumpy, tired kids with us.

On Tuesday, we woke the kids up early to participate in a parade in Chapala that featured all the schools in the area. I didn't really understand the purpose, but then again, what is the purpose of any parade? Jane and Riley both got put in the front row so I was able to get these good pictures, one of the benefits of being short. Others that participated in the parade: military, police dogs, school bands, and children and old people in traditional costume.

I also took pictures of some of the more impressive school uniforms. My favorite is the one with high heels that (I think) for a secretarial training school.

After the parade, since it was a holiday for the kids, but not for Dave, Laura and I took the kids to a museum type place in Guadalajara. It was a lot like the children's museum at the Gateway in Salt Lake, or one that we went to in New Orleans a few years ago. Although much cheaper. Adults were 40 pesos and kids, 25 (about $4 and $2.50). I wish Disney would open a park here. It would be a steal.

The highlights:
Legos and plastic food

giant pin toy


and everyone's favorite, bungie bounce.

Overall, a fun weekend. Viva Mexico.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rewind to Riley's Birthday

I would feel terrible if I didn't blog about Riley's birthday. The poor guy had to tolerate a move the day before, and very hectic house on his special day, but he took it with unusual enthusiasm. He commented any number of times about how awesome the day was. I had been so worried that he'd be disappointed about not getting very many presents, being so far away from friends and family, the fact that I didn't make a cake (bought one), and being a Sunday (always hard on kids).
I have to admit, we did have a cool pinata. A women in Ajijic made it special for us for 65 pesos ($6.50!). It's Crash Bandicoot, by the way.

And Riley got his favorite dinner; shrimp.

The tres leche cake I bought.

And some of his presents. He was especially excited about his new basketball, Pokemon cards, and "The Mysterious Benedict Society" which he has already finished reading and highly recommends.
Thanks to all those that sent presents, cards and emails. I know it made his day even more "awesome".
New home!

This past week has been really crazy with the move. Dave was out of town the whole week before the move and then it took us til yesterday to get internet again. So I'll try not to take too long getting caught up.

Here are some pics of the new house. Aren't we lucky. I love it.

Things I love about the new house:
  • pool (though scared to death whenever Charlie goes near it)
  • swingset
  • basketball court
  • gazebo for eating outside
  • 2 beds for the girls
  • office for Dave
  • our own gardner/poolman
  • lime, avocado, and orange trees
  • walking distance to church

Things I'll miss about the old house:
  • the great neighbors
  • pool a little farther away
  • bigger refrigerator (though not very big)
  • laundry room in the house
  • fans all over
  • playroom for toys
  • walking distance to Ajijic and tianguis
  • closer to the kids school
The house is in a town called Riberas de Pilar. Only about 5 miles from Ajijic. Supposedly it's not the most desirable area to buy a house, but I don't know why yet except that the water system is old and has sand and dirt in it. We're in the process of convincing the owner of the house to buy a filter to get out the grime before it gets to the house. It stops up the showerheads, the dishwasher and the washing machine. Every few weeks you have to clean out the pipes and heads. Can't be good for appliances.

Anyway, fill you in on other house trivia later.