Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Workforce

Man using a ladder like pogo sticks
I really truly enjoy watching the work-force in different countries. Mexico is exceptionally interesting because they work under any conditions except 100 degrees at noon, then they wait.

You don’t have an orange cone to warn people about the gaping man-hole cover over the sewer water? No problem… just break off a huge mango tree branch and set it next to the hazardous opening. All the cars go around the branch. When they finished working they just threw the branch in the nearby field.

The last hotel we stayed at, La Barca, was under construction during our stay. These guys worked from dawn to dusk 7 days/week. There scaffolding was made of random boards and they frequently just leaned out the fourth floor opening and painted or welded while gripping an interior bar with the other hand. This guy was smart enough to own a construction harness, but didn’t seem to quite have the concept of hooking it up to the structure!

The first signs of a new construction project here is a pile of rocks on the sidewalk in front of the intended project. What a mess.

The taxi business here is amazing. At first I shunned the idea of taking an expensive taxi to a beach fifteen minutes walking distance away. At the same time I noticed the taxis were super busy… all the time. We never had a taxi driver ask us if we wanted a ride. They aren’t desperate. Okay, so what gives? The fact is that the taxis here are so cheap, it’s crazy not to take one. We took a taxi from La Punta (the other end of town) at night. The driver kept picking passengers up and dropping them off. We had six passengers at one point! Everybody just accepts it as normal especially at night. They consider it a favor that the driver is willing to pick them up, like a co-op taxi.
Let’s go to the beach now. That’s where you really see the hustle.

At other beaches the hustle has been the obnoxious kind. Not so here, they take no for an answer with no attitude. Everyone works here, from child to ancient. Every single day on Playa Manzanillo I see this old man slowly cruise by with his wheelbarrow with a big tub of coconut ice cream and cones. Another very old and tiny lady comes by with wooden beer mugs and spoons.

Over on Playa Carrizalillo they have the surf instructors with white sunscreen pasted on their faces like some sort of ancient war-paint. These guys love to surf, but they also love to get high. I have been sitting 3 feet away from them as they smoked pot and I can barely smell it because of the updraft of wind on the beach. It doesn’t seem to keep them from teaching people to surf, though they do get a little crazy when bored. The other day they entertained themselves by running towards the ocean and trying to do a complete no-hands forward flip on the sand. This went on for a good 30 minutes. I thought for sure one of them would break his neck.

They have the boys between 5 and 10 years old standing on rocks in the surf fishing. They use a hand-size square board with fishing line wound around it. Some of the older kids and teens swim out to the bay with fish spears.

The boating business is huge on Playa Mazanillo… little boats. I haven’t seen one single boat bigger than 25-30 feet long. The boat has one outboard motor. There are three main functions; fishing, sightseeing, and dragging an enormous banana shaped floatie with 10 people on it. As the business slows down towards the end of the day is when it really gets entertaining! You see, there are no docks here, so they must get the boats as far up on the sand as is possible. Here’s the scenario… the boat comes in for a warning to the five-hundred people playing in the water. 
Being Mexicans and with considerably higher self preservation skills than your average American, they part the water. The land crew lays water weenies on the sand to guide the boat in and warn the pedestrians. The boat goes back out into the bay a good distance to get a running start. Everyone keeps playing but stays out of the way as the boat comes flying across the water, as fast as possible, and lifts its motor at the last second. 
It goes about 40 feet up the beach and the people in the water go back to where they were. This happens for hours every single day! For the video check out my Instagram under H. Schussman.

They have one henna tattoo artist. He’s absolutely everywhere. His name is Franko and he’s from Honduras. If you get the chance, I recommend getting a tattoo from him, just to hear his life-story. He also does an outstanding job. I got this tattoo of a turtle because I thought it was pretty… good enough reason for me. It initiated multiple discussions everywhere I went. It turns out that the turtle, with the hibiscus flower drawn onto its shell, is the surfer symbol. The legend goes that when a Hawaiian surfer dies surfing, he/she is re-incarnated into a turtle with the Hawaiian hibiscus flower on its shell. So if you ever see a turtle with this flower pattern say Aloha!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Made Me Smile

Gotta love those California cowboys!
I’ll break up the next couple of blogs into categories of Made Me Smile, We’re Not In The USA!, How People Work Here, Survival Of The Fittest, and Yucky Bad Stuff

Made Me Smile;

I’ll start with what I’m doing right now… writing from my latest office. The top of this hotel has an enormous palapa built over the roof. The view from here is stunning, plus it always has a fresh breeze. My office is in a little nook at the edge of this terrace. The cleaning lady says she’s going to make a sign for my table that says, “La Oficina de Heidi.”

Our Spanish teacher has become our friend. Javi (have-ee) is absolutely adorable with a cheeky grin and a sassy sense of humor. She loves Pepe (Joe), but she doesn’t let him get away with senseless chatter :) In the past he’s been able to say whatever came to his mind and get away with because he’s so cute. Not with Javi. 

She invited us to her new home three days after she’d moved in. She purchased it for the purpose of renting out the top floor to Airbnb customers as a full Bed-and-Breakfast. Her mother and sister from Chile are here helping her get settled in. It was a beautiful catered dinner party with about fifteen of us there. It is located two blocks from La Punta, the best surfing spot. I’m sure she will be very successful. They loved the bottle of California wine I brought from Sobon Vineyard. After much deliberation we all decided on Palmas' B&B... Laid Back Luxury by Javi.

Javi has a membership at a beach club called Villasol. She can go there with as many people as she wants to invite. We went for class one day and fell in love with it. The next time she left us there to enjoy it for the rest of the day. It’s on Bacocho Beach. They have a large pool with a lot of comfortable loungers, unlike the beach’s chairs made of wood. I ordered a hamburger, and rolled my eyes in ecstasy as I ate it… grilled to perfection, smothered in blue-cheese… I’m drooling again. But I guess the thing that makes me smile is the irony of travel. I can’t wait to explore new places and relish every moment, even the bad times, as part of the grand experience. However I feel an enveloping sense of American comfort when I visit immaculate luxurious places like Villasol. I think everyone who travels away from their home country feels this way when they step into a place familiar to home, even if they choose to live elsewhere.

Our neighborhood, La Rinconada, is mostly pedestrian. Rush hour is if there are three cars or motorcycles in sight on the main road. I wanted to take a picture of more than one car on the main road for this blog, but I gave up. I can see more runners than cars. One lady runs every single day. Javi pointed her out to us and said they call her the “Forrest Gump of Puerto Escondido.”

We miss the last hotel for the comradery. La Barca is the main hotel for the Oasis Surf and Language School, so it’s always full of students from everywhere. We loved our room, but since we only took two weeks of classes we moved to this hotel (Quinta Carrizalillo). This place has an air-conditioner :) Every Thursday night they have a surf coaching class over at La Barca with snacks and last week it even included an arm-wrestling competition! It started with the champ of the group. He proceeded to throw-down the strongest kid with no apparent effort, and then he left the table for the amateurs. Everyone took turns, even the girls, until Joe decided to do it. The first guy comically pushed everyone out of the way to be the one to wrestle Joe. It was a fair struggle for at least 60 seconds, until he put Joe down. Then they switched arms and it took longer for the young guy to win. The next day he asked Joe if he was sore. The kid was clearly disappointed when Joe said, “Nope.”

The birds here are numerous and noisy. AND they start their singing early. The first time I heard them I thought Who’s the jerk whistling at six in the morning, right outside my window? I finally figured it out. It’s a black bird (looks like a crow) that has a human-like whistle. Everywhere you go is the chatter and song of thousands of birds. They also have a huge population of dogs here. Apparently the owner of the local supermarket adopts every dog. The dog at La Barca (I already posted a photo of him) is named Treno (Thunder). His bark reminds me of the 101 Dalmations movie. He isn’t the friendliest dog. He puts up with all of the guests, but not with joy. A couple of weeks ago, when we were coming home, he was outside in the street. He barked so loud and wagged his tail so hard when he saw us, I thought he was going to fall over. If I could put words in his mouth he was saying, “Oh my gosh, I’m so glad you’re here! I got locked out of the house somehow!” After that he was our best buddy. He especially liked the forehead massage I’d give him.

I can’t leave out the turtles. They have a turtle release program here on Bacocho Beach. It’s free to observe and 50 pesos to release your own little baby turtle. Joe coughed up the pesos for me. They gave a mini lecture and then we lined up to get our baby turtle. We all walk over to a roped off area to simultaneously release our babies. I named mine Isabelle in the hopes that it would be inspired to run fast and have cross-country endurance like my friend, Isabelle. I said, “Your name is Isabelle.” She looked directly at me. We bonded… I think :) 
Anyway she was fast but not good with directions. She kept going sideways towards me. Finally she looked straight at me for a moment, then walked into the surf. The last I saw of her was her little flipper waving goodbye. Pretty cool.

I love watching the little tiny kids learn the skills for surfing. They look so small on the boards, even the little boards. Most of the time the parents just let them go out in the water and figure it out by themselves. These kids are the beach people, not the country people. Those parents load up their kids with water wings and a life vest and then they hold onto them with an iron fist.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Surf and Turf

I’m here to say that not all pizza is created the same! La Mediterraneo makes extremely good pizza. The other pizza place actually made us a pizza with hot-dogs and deli ham on it. Seriously? Oddly enough the hot-dog-pizza place is always packed. On Halloween it was packed with goblins and scary brides.

I’ve mentioned it before, I’m sure, but Puerto Escondido is a surfing town. Surfing is the pulse of this community. The cafes are open early and packed with people getting coffee and pastries. If the surf is good then the town is empty. The night-life in this part of town is non-existent. Everyone eats super late because it’s too hot to eat earlier, but then it’s off to bed. They have a party scene over in Zicatela for the foreigners, which is where the best waves are. It only cost 35 pesos for a taxi. Heads up, that’s not a swimming beach. The northern beaches are for swimmers because they’re in bays.

We are going to language school at a language/surf combo called Oasis. We are learning the Spanish language, but there is definitely a surfing language. 

They talk a lot about the Mexi Pipe Warrior (the ultimate surfer, or Roger the owner of Oasis), the olas (waves), the kook (doesn’t know the surf rules), the snake (wave thief), and wave hog (tries to take every wave without waiting in the line-up). Joe starts surf school Monday :)

We walked all the way to the locals market. What a crazy scene! I couldn’t buy anything… I was too overwhelmed. Buckets or birdlegs, crickets, tongue, and things I’ve never seen before. Joe bought some peanuts. The noise alone was enough to make me run out with my tail between my legs. I guess I prefer the beach, where you can watch the fisherman prepare the fish right there and then they cook it for you. I haven’t been able to convince myself to try the octopus yet. Ironically the locals cringe in disgust when you mention eating turtles, like they are some sort of household pet, but see nothing amiss with chowing on some poor octopus!

There’s a park near our home. It’s almost entirely cement, which is a treat in the jungle. At dusk it’s pretty crowded. Right now it has a carnival being set up to celebrate the day of the dead. We were cutting across this park the other day, and I was once again thrilled with the way Mexicans do family. Maybe they can’t afford video games, or don’t have good enough reception for TV in their houses, or maybe the house is just too blazing hot, but in the evening they are outside… together. As we entered the park (I wish I’d taken photos for you) a group of about ten teens were practicing a traditional folk dance. The girls had their big-long skirts on, the boys were in surfer shorts. The center had three families, including mom, playing soccer amongst themselves. One group even had a whistle. We kept moving. On the far end was a group of five young men taking turns break-dancing! We stood there and watched for about twenty minutes. Really, they were very good. One guy could even spin on his head! And then we rounded the corner and found a random shrine,

We made it to Zicatela for Joe’s (known here as Pepe) birthday. We wondered around for half the day until we were bored and came back to our part of town. The Rinconada just feels better to us. That side of town seems more touristy. The beach is absolutely enormous! The huge waves break right on the sand, so it’s super dangerous with a strong undertow. The surfing is done at the southern end of the beach at an area called La Punta. We took a taxi straight back to Puerto Angelito to avoid the hike :)

While sitting on the beach we noticed a boat loaded with passengers drifting towards the rocks. The captain kept starting the out-board motor and going forward about twenty feet, only to have the engine die again. Back they would drift. The attention on the beach grew. Locals began to walk towards that end of the beach. Twenty feet forward, twenty-five feet back. Tension mounted as we were sure we would be witnessing a boat wreck against the sharp rocks. The passengers huddled together with their life-jackets clutched close. It is a strange thing to watch a tragedy about to happen, and be helpless to intervene. Finally the captain got the motor running and off they went on their tour of the cliffs nearby. I would’ve jumped ship and swam ashore!

I’m a little surprised by how many international restaurants they have here. Italians are the leading group of immigrants here, followed by the Spaniards. An excellent little restaurant near us is called Relish. The owners are from a small city near Venice. They are so nice and the food is yummy… except they have a habit of turning a sandwich into crunchy bruschetta on both sides. Too crunchy. I just eat the inside, which is very good.

The ultimate dining experience is at the cliff-side restaurant, Espadin. The view is incomparable and the food is delicious. We splurged and ordered separate plates. I got the Mole Negro (chicken with the famous mole sauce), and Joe got a hamburger (it’s hard to say why he does this-but that’s Joe). He had 2 Bohemias (delicious dark beer), and I had an Argentinean Malbec… all for under 30 bucks. If you’re here, you must try this restaurant. If nothing else, you can enjoy a cocktail and watch the sunset.