Saturday, July 22, 2017

Iguana on a stick, and Disney experiences.

 It keeps storming in the evenings, and this fills up the river. This drives leaves and cloudy water into the cove. I wanted to go snorkeling again, but knew our regular place would be yucky. The kids and I tried walking along the side of the bay to the Iguana point. Jeff calls it Iguana on a stick which sounds like a horrible type of kebab to me. We found a place to climb down the rocks here after one false start (I tried to go out in one place, but we had to go through a cloud of seaweed and Kai FREAKED and wouldn't go). I climbed down into the water, then climbed back out to prove to Kai that we could do it. This spot! It was like climbing down into a saltwater aquarium! So many kinds of fish in really clear water. Every once in a while, cold water came in from the open sea, and you could see wavy lines in the water with the temperature change. It reminds me of antique glass windows. I remembered to bring a little bit of bread and cheese, and we got a lot of takers between the two kinds of treats. The rainbowy wrasses were almost eating out of our hands. Ari was really mad that we didn't go into town instead, (but the museum was closed and we are going today) so she refused to get in. It is best to just let it go sometimes with Ari,but I was glad Kai had a great snorkeling experience. He has still been a bit skittish.
 I tried to bribe the kids to go to our little local store by themselves for their little movie night treat, trying to help them have an independent adventure, but Ari refused. I'm afraid she feels pushed around or something. Sometimes moms can be that way. :)  Anyway Kai went alone (and I watched him most of the way because I am more nervous than I let on haha). He was fine.
I have been craving a Disneyland experience, something where everything is beautiful and perfect. Do you know what I mean? No dumpsters on the way to the beach, no stray dogs I have to worry about.  I got it last night. Jeff took me to Le Kliff. They advertise as one of the most beautiful restaurants in the world, and I can believe it. Happily, they aren't too expensive either.

 We ate in a big open air palapa that was well over two stories tall, on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We sat down and the waiter brought us damp chilled hand towels --welcome with the heat we suffered walking in. As we ate we could watch hawks and frigate birds fly by below eye level, and cruising so seemingly slow, we could take in every detail of their wings and feathers. Sailboats floated by, and local fishermen threw out their nets called chinchorros (our waiter told us), leaving them with buoys attached to wait until morning.
 This was the view from our table. Hence the deserved most beautiful category in my opinion.
 Our food was lovely too! The waiter recommended the snapper and we both chose it. I got the one above --pistachio crusted with asparagus and a mango sauce.
Jeff got the teriyaki, with celery leaves and fennel fronds. It was an almost perfect experience. I like to have those once in a while!

Friday, July 21, 2017

A hike, a snorkel, and a movie

 I saw some pretty things on my hike yesterday. These huge palms are one of them. I don't know if you can see these leaves very well, but they have to be 15 feet tall.
 Another tree was blanketing the trail with these tiny purple flowers.
 My favorite are the plumeria trees, and their perfect Hawaiian blooms.
 Jeff and I went snorkeling at his lunch time, and we took the car up a little ways and went in near Los Arcos. It was cool with some neat fish, and I found these perfect sea urchin shells, but it was kind of surgy and I got a little seasick by the time we had to get out to get Jeff back to work.
 We watched a movie together last night, and before we noticed, there was a cloud of little moths flying in and out of our balcony doors, open to the breeze. I don't know where they came from, perhaps they were driven in by the big rain storm in the late afternoon.
But by bedtime it was clear and lovely. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Manos de Amor Orphanage.

 How cool is my husband? After I messed up the bus trip out to the orphanage the other day, he took the day off work yesterday to drive us out there. So cool. 

It took us a while, but not half as long as we spent on the bus the other day! 
We walked up to the front of the two story white building, to a big metal gate. A dog walked up with us, and when the kids let us in, the dog darted in too. Nobody seemed to care.
We walked through the gate into a breezy partially shaded courtyard, and met some of the kids in a little family room off to the side where they were watching TV. We all trooped out the back door into a little play yard where we played ball and pushed them on the swings for a while until it got too hot even for the kids. It was cooler in the indoor courtyard for some reason. We played freeze tag for a while which was hilarious although I kept getting frozen. 

 This is the director seated on the couch with the little girl. This little girl kept to herself most of the time -- I mean she was kind of hiding from us --so we gave her some space. Many of these kids have been taken out of abusive homes, or homes where addiction has been a problem. I don't know what she has been through. But almost everyone seemed pretty happy overall. It was fun playing with them. 
 This is one girl I worry about. She is 13, and I just want to protect her by placing a big bubble around her. She looks older than her age. I just worry like the freak mom that I am. 
 We spent a big part of the time playing twister. I couldn't play because I wore a skirt, but they let me call out the colors. By the way mano (hand) is feminine and pie (foot) is masculine, so you need to change the "left" and "right" to reflect the masculinity or femininity. So you say "mano izquierdA" but you say " pie izquierdO" It was good practice for me! Italian and Portuguese have a lot of similar words with Spanish, but they sometimes change the gender of words between languages and I get confused. 
 This is right before they fell over. haha
 Little Kai was so worried that he wouldn't be able to do anything because he doesn't speak Spanish, and it actually was a little hard for him. Ari is so used to jumping into social situations where people don't understand her that she was fine. In fact they had a little deaf boy there, so everyone was interested in her and her devices. She did great. But Kai kind of held back, and I feel bad now I didn't facilitate things for him better. 
We had two twister mats, a small one for two people, and the regular big one. 
 This little guy was my favorite. He was the one who let us in in the beginning, and was the one who kept descongelando me (unfreezing me) in freezetag. 
 We did some puzzles together
This is the little deaf guy. I hope they are able to get some aids for this kid. He doesn't even sign. I am really worried about him too! He has an appointment with a specialist next month to test his hearing to see what remains. I don't know. Things are hard down here so they don't know where money for aids would come from. The thing with aiding a kid this old is that they usually rebel against it. It takes dedication and perseverance to keep those aids on, and I can't see that happening even if they can afford to get them for him. I asked about sign language, and the woman who is there every day living there --like the house mother --said he wasn't interested in learning the signs. I told her of course! Most boys aren't really interested in learning stuff at that age --totally normal. But he is missing those crucial language acquisition years! Agonizing for me. I don't blame the lady, she doesn't know any better, and I wasn't about to launch into a lecture or anything. Sigh. 
Back to the playing :) We had a lot of puzzlers!

 Then they finally put us to work. I helped the little boys, then the little girls shine their shoes. We cleaned off regular ceiling fans, then spent what seemed like forever taking apart this fan to clean it (notice the grime on the floor?) and putting it back together. The nice thing is these little boys LOVED taking things apart. We had their full attention. 
 We were able to donate and bring some school things for the kids, but the best was just spending time with them. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Nice day off.

I have been hiking up that trail to El Eden every day except Sundays, and usually take the kids with me. I made it up to the top the other day when the kids did lap swimming exercise the other day. I told Ari yesterday if she made it up to the top I would get her a treat. She made it! Not one lick of complaining either. This is going to be so cool to zipline through one of these days!

 We spent the rest of the day lazing around by the pool. We took a quick trip down to the beach, but the storm the night before had swelled the river running into the cove, and made the water all cloudy. So, pool day. I finished my book.

Poor Jeff was on a conference call when this sunset came through. It was actually much prettier in real life. I could not get the camera to record those colors! More pink, more purple, brighter --is there a metaphor there? Probably. :)

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"A three hour tour"

We had a hard day yesterday, but it ended with THIS! So everything turned out ok.
Yesterday was our day to volunteer at the Manos De Amor Orphanage. There are two in Puerto Vallarta, but this was the one that responded to my inquiries, so is the one I planned on. We realized Saturday though, when we planned to drive by just to see where it was, that it was located in the far north part of the city called Bucerias. It was 50 minutes driving from downtown Puerto. This did not bode well for me and the kids, as I knew we would have to take buses to get there since Jeff would be working, and we only had one driver on our rental car. The company didn't want to add me over the phone, and were charging quite a bit extra to put me on the policy. I researched bus routes as well as I could on google, then used google earth to see where to walk when the last bus got us the closest. 
 As far as I could see, we needed to take three different buses, and then walk a kilometer or so at the end. I thought we could make it in a little over 2 hours. However that isn't what happened. 

Our first bus started out just fine. We talked to the man sitting next to me, and played with the baby held by the couple in front of us. There was a man in the back playing his ukulele and singing, and he actually had a great voice. It was still coolish, and a breeze blew into the open bus windows.  
We rode that bus to the end of its line, and got off and walked a couple of blocks to get the next bus which we caught without a hitch. 

 But this bus is where I messed up. We came up to the side of the store where I knew we should be dropped off, as it was the main interchange for all the buses going to the outlying areas. however, the bus didn't stop. I honestly thought it would turn around and come back to the other side of the store. Or I thought maybe I was mistaken, and they were going to another store named the same thing. The bus kept driving and driving into more and more rural areas. We passed lots of little houses with people living their lives more or less in peace, and that is where I got the little epiphany I told you about yesterday. But I was also getting a little panicked. 
 I was sure that any minute now the bus would make a turn and bring us back into the town and paved roads, and the highway. But then it stopped. End of the line. In the middle of nowhere --and I mean nowhere! I asked the bus driver if we could get another bus to Bucerias somewhere nearby, and he was surprised to see we were still on the bus. He told us that we would have to take another bus going back the exact same route we had just come by and get our stop on the way back. It was almost near the beginning of the ride there. So I broke the news to the kids, and we climbed down onto the muddy dirt road and back up onto another bus heading back. 
 Well we got to see lots of country! I told the kids that when we got down near the store that I would get them some lunch, and promised them air conditioning in whichever place we ate. Those buses had filled up with people standing in the aisle, and the breeze was non-existent. It was hot. We got back just fine, and had a nice little lunch in air conditioning. At that point it was far past not only the time when we were supposed to be at the orphanage, but past the time when we were supposed to leave. Kai asked if we could just get a bus home. I told him "it is two buses to get back, but hey! two buses are a bargain after the three it took us to get to where we are!" He and Ari giggled a little bit which was nice to see. 
 We made it back, after an almost scare where I didn't remember which stop to get off in the middle. The bus driver shooed us off in the right place luckily. Kindness of strangers! 
We got home and I felt like an utter failure. This was the one thing I wanted to do to help down here and I blew it. Jeff felt bad for me, and I think that is why he suggested that tonight should be our night to try out Tony's hideaway. This is a restaurant literally across the street from us, and all day my phone says "at Tony's? leave a google review".

This is the menu at Tony's. They bring out this platter, and you pick what you want them to cook for you. The kids had never had lobster, and this was going to be a little cheaper than anywhere else, so we let them pick that. Jeff and I don't care for lobster (although I love crab!) so we just got the shrimp, which were huge. 

 I got the combo plate with garlic, coconut, and bacon wrapped. I couldn't finish it. These shrimpy guys are huge. 
 Kai really worked hard on his lobster, but preferred the shrimp too. Same with Ari. We will try the orphanage again on Wednesday when Jeff is taking the day off and can drive us. I don't think I can talk the kids onto the buses again for a little while!

Monday, July 17, 2017

We went to church --and the human connection.

We got to church yesterday. It was hard waking up while it was still dark outside. I can't get used to the late sunrises here. We must have been up a little late the night before too --I had a few times during church where I got drowsy. Oh well, Elder Uchdorf says church sleep is the healthiest sleep right? And I didn't actually sleep --just...rested my eyes a few times. 
 Coming down the stairs to leave for church, we found a little friend who must have jumped through the gate.
 Church was nice, we had some good talks, and the Sunday school lesson was good too. 
 Last week I met this young mother that seemed really sharp. Really cool. Like if she lived in my neighborhood, she and I would be great friends. She taught the Relief Society lesson (women's meeting lesson) and I learned a lot. It was neat to see her again yesterday. It was neat to see a lot of the people, and start to suss out personalities. My historically anti-social husband really has started to come out of his shell the last couple of years, and I noticed a lot of that yesterday. He is usually the last one talking to people wherever we go down here. 
 We had kind of a hard day today with a lot of time to think --I will write more about it tomorrow. I started to wonder why I keep getting down, and what I can do about it. I know it is connected to seeing the poverty around me and I wondered if the solution is to just isolate yourself from that sort of thing when you travel --pick a nice sanitized resort, or only do humanitarian type travel --which with my history of poor planning hasn't been working out for us. Then as I looked through windows into peoples' lives I remembered something. 
 I remembered just hanging out with people on my mission. We would go into a member's home that was nothing more than a cinder block shell with a sink and toilet plumbed into corners, and a naked bulb hanging from the ceiling. But, I remember really connecting with these people. I remember Monica Chopitea inviting us into her home for breakfast every morning, and exercising with us, and her fiery temper that secretly made me like her more. I remember another young wife, and how she and her new husband seemed so in love, and how she made me want that for myself. I remember laughing with people, and crying with people and none of those things having much to do with what the people had or what I had, or how pretty everything was around us. The people made their happiness, and they made mine too. 
I think I need to get more out of my shell like Jeff, and try to build some relationships. In this sense, church is a gift. Here are a group of people that are already open to connecting with us. That are primed to love us a little. I already feel like I have one potential friend. 

I don't know how brave I am going to be, but here's hoping for at least one experience, that true connection with some of the people here. 

I set this trip up as more of a life experience, not a fun all the time excursion. We are cooking in our home most of the time, Jeff is working, we are trying to have an experience LIVING here with some fun stuff thrown in. But I have been feeling conflicted, and wondered if it was because I was actually a coward that belonged in a walled off resort --that I couldn't handle the reality of what this place is really like.  I think I found the missing piece. It is connecting to other lives here that I am missing. 
Not that only cowards go to resorts!! I am saying that part of me wanted to run away to one like a coward. Also, we are not ascetics -- I picked this area for the snorkeling, and we hope to do some really great excursions. I just wanted to the longer time here to be an experience of a culture, of living in another country. This country isn't perfect, and it is easy to get hung up on the flaws without some good personal experiences happening along with your material experiences. Anyway, that memory of the mission gave me some ideas to try.