Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Fernando's Birthday

Fernando’s Birthday party was this past week. Everyone gathered early, and the Coronas and tequila were flowing all day. A bunch of the family was there, although not everyone, four generations in all.

Pork carnitas, fresh fish and carne asada were all delicious. Fernando lead everyone through a few songs, telling myself and Victor to “follow him”, despite his blatant disregard for rhythm and key. Who can blame the man? It was his birthday.

Futb├│l Americano

Liz & Angeles

Riley & Victor

La Familia

Riley & Fernando

Monday, August 24, 2009

So High, So Low

Now, more than a week into our life in rural Mexico, we're experiencing revitalizing highs and demoralizing lows. Luckily, most of the lows are rooted in the fact that we're having some difficulty with our electrical systems-- a temporary problem.

A combination of cloudy days and some strange glitches have lead to a less than perfectly funcitoning solar system. We had to empty out our fridge (luckily our friends Fernando and Maricela down at the Rinconcito cleared out some space in theirs so our food didn't spoil) and we're using candlelight in the evenings until the batteries get a good charge from a nice sunny day. We actually think it's better (always the optimists) that we've had a rough start, so that once the rainy season is over, and we have plenty of juice it should be that much more luxurious to have enough power to listen to music, and run the blender, etc. (Liz just commented on the hilarious dichotomy of me writing this blog post by candlelight..)

On Friday, I was out on the property, clearing some massive overgrowth with the machete, trying to get to a would-be 2nd house on the property (a project abandoned by the previous owner) that is down by the arroyo. Chopping through thick plants, sweat pouring down my body I suddenly heard a buzz that sounded more or less like a lawnmower above my head and a massive flying beetle-like creature landed on my sunglasses and stung me just above my left eye. I retreated to the house, put some ice on it and decided it was time for a swim. About that time the monitor that tells us how our solar panels are doing started beeping and dropped to the lowest level (not good). We headed down to the Rinconcito and Fernando offered his phone so we could give Dan a call, and figure out what to do about the declining power at the house.

Liz talked to Dan, and armed with a plan of action we headed back up to the house, honking at the cows and horses that mingled in our driveway so we could empty out the fridge, and put a few essentials (yogurt, water and beer) in a cooler to keep close at hand. Fernando said that we should come back in a few hours for some dinner, seeing as our kitchen was now empty.
The day before, we'd shared a lunch of freshly caught fish ceviche on the beach with Efren and his family, and there we were sitting down to an amazing meal of carne asada with Fernando's family-- you're Mexican friends will always make sure that you're well fed. Whenever we get down or frustrated the amazing people of Mayto have been there to lift us back up and make us feel great again.

We sat around for a while after dinner with Fernando and Patricia (an American, who now owns an art gallery in Puerto Vallarta) talking and sharing a few cervezas. Fernando loves to tell stories and had us all engrossed in his stories of his family discovering Mayto-- quite literally clearing the land with machetes; crossing the border three times (illegally the first two); working his way up to GM at an Ace Hardware in San Jose; and finally returning to Mexico to open the Rinconcito which is, quite simply, the heart of Mayto. He has possibly the greatest laugh of anyone I've ever met (high-pitched and enthusiastic) and you could see the genuine emotion when he talked about his stressful life in the states and his decision to move his family back to this tiny Mexican village where he'd began.

Around 12:30, we thought the evening was winding down, when Patricia mentioned that she was heading down to the beach to look for sea turtles. There are basically three things on the beach in Mayto: the Hotel Mayto, the Rinconcito, and the Turtle Camp. The turtle camp gets volunteers (primarily Mexican college students) to camp out during the peak season, waking up at 11:00pm, 1:00am, 3:00am, and 5:00am to go out and track down the female turtles who crawl out of the sea, dig a hole with their flippers, lay their eggs, bury them and return to the sea. Once the volunteers find a turtle, or see tracks from one they've missed, they dig up the eggs and protect them back at their camp until the eggs hatch and then release the baby turtles the following morning. Reason being, for as long as people have lived in Mayto, they've also dug up these eggs to make tasty omeletes.

Patricia told us that August is prime season to see the turtles and intrigued, we decided to join her. Fernando said that it was possible we'd have to walk 5 or 6, even 7 kilometers each way before we saw one, so he offered to drive us on his ATV. So we piled on, and drove off down the pitch black, uninhabited beach at 1:00am. Fernando driving, Liz and Patricia on the back and me sitting on the front, dangling my legs to either side of the headlights, so we could spot turtle tracks. Cuervo, Fernando's German Sheppard ran along the side of us the entire way.

We crossed a number of tracks (like a boogie board dragged through the sand, but with flipper imprints on the side) but each time we found both tracks heading out of the water, and tracks heading back in. We had just missed them. Eventually we reached the end of the beach, where a river hits the ocean before the town of Aguilles Serdan, and we stopped for Cuervo to drink some water and get a break before heading back.

On the way back we spotted fresh tracks, but had again just missed one. Feeling defeated, with only about 3 kilometers until we were back at the Rinconcito, Fernando rambling, "tortugas, tortugas, donde estan?" we crossed over another track, we turned around on the ATV, and the headlights illuminated a massive shell, slowly digging down into the sand. Her flippers moved slowly, and deliberately, flinging sand back a good five feet, as she burrowed deep into the sand. We hoped off the ATV, and turned off the lights, lying in the sand next to her as she searched for a safe spot to leave her eggs. Twenty minutes passed, thirty, forty, finally we heard slow grunting and deep, strained breaths coming from underneath the huge, stoic shell.
Suddenly, she popped up out of her shell, and rapidly burried the eggs, and was on her way back to the ocean. It was really something special to sit in so closely on a phenomena of nature that so few get to witness. We marked the nest with a stick in the sand so the Encampmento de Tortugas volunteers would find it in the morning, and we headed back down the beach, Cuervo trotting next to us at 2:30 in the morning.

All week we've gone up and down.

Getting stung in the face----> LOSS.
Freshly caught ceviche on the beach----> WIN.
Losing power at the house----> NOT SO GOOD.
Boogie boarding on great waves----> I'LL TAKE IT.
Waking up to ants having invaded our kitchen----> DAMN.
Nine delicious tacos for less than $5----> EPIC WIN.

All in all, we know that our frustrations are temporary and the happiness and joy we feel will only grow exponentially. I've already worked my way through two books I've been meaning to read for years, and Liz has devoured five. We're working hard on our Spanish, having a great time conversing with new people who expose us to new perspectives and opinions. We're becoming much more self-sufficient and we've already developed a much greater appreciation for all the little things that make life great.

Life is pretty great in Mayto, we desperately miss all of our amazing friends and family, but we know that this experience will be a great turning point in our lives and will allow us to take the next step with greater confidence and certainty.. wherever that may be.

P.S. Turtle pics on the way!

P.P.S: TONY PACE! Thanks for the great email, will be in touch when I have a moment! Thinking about you my friend! Much love.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


La Playa

Lizzie doing some reading, and taking in the view.

Hay mas tiempo que vida...


Monday, August 17, 2009


Riley’s machete skills are improving exponentially. Liz has a date to learn how to make tortillas from scratch with our neighbor Estrella.

Mayto is unbelievably beautiful. We were rather overwhelmed at first, moving into our new house up on a hill in the jungle-- about a mile from the beach, but we’re settling in nicely. It’s a crazy change from life as we’ve known it for the last 23 years, but we think this new lifestyle is going to suit us rather nicely. It feels like your own private paradise, about 45 minutes down a rugged dirt road through the mountains, you’re rewarded with an incredible beach and quite simply, the most friendly people you’d ever want to meet. It’s obvious that it’s only a matter of time before the miles of untouched beach are lined with hotels and/or houses and we feel very lucky experience Mayto as it is now.

Our house is very modest, but we already love it as if it were our own. We start each morning by sweeping the floor and wiping down the dust that falls from the ceiling and we make breakfast and do some work around the house. There are so many geckos on our walls that they ought to be paying rent, but we don’t mind, as they feed on scorpions, cockroaches and they’re also pretty cute. When we feel overwhelmed or just plain HOT we walk down to what is probably the most beautiful beach we’ve ever seen and float on our backs for a while. So far, the 4 solar panels are holding up really well, providing enough energy for light, a ceiling fan, and some music (even though yesterday was rather cloudy). We’re learning to conserve, doing things like using dish water to water plants, taking short showers, etc. Our water comes from a cistern, to which we’ll pump more water to when it’s empty. Plenty of time for reading in the hammock and playing mando on the porch.

The property is MASSIVE and we still have a lot of exploring to do. Today, Efren stopped by to borrow a ladder and showed us where we’ll be clearing space for a low-impact campground (probably one of our first projects) and Riley already has ideas for how to spruce up the entrance to the property a bit.

So far we’ve gotten more and more comfortable each night and each morning. There is an amazing peace and tranquility that permeates the entire town really, but especially our little abode.

We stopped down at El Rinconcito (the little corner) yesterday, which is one of the two hotels down the street from us, and Fernando immediately insisted that we return in an hour or so for dinner.

“Oh, you made it!” he exclaimed, having obviously heard of our difficult trip down.

We sat around for a while, talking with some of the younger people of Mayto (Joel, Victor, Veronica, Janae, Angeles, and Brenda) and Riley played a game of pool with Victor before sitting down for a great dinner of salad, tortillas, rice and chicken. We watched the sunset from the beach, and returned for another hour of conversation before bed. Our Spanish is better than we realized, and improving with each day. We talked about music (they love Reggae and tried to talk Riley out of cutting his hair), school, and life in general. Everyone was incredibly nice and welcoming and told us we were now “part of the family”-- like Dan, Holly, and anyone else who comes to Mayto with good intentions.

We feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have connected with Dan y Holly and to have this opportunity. We know we will not emerge from this experience the same people as when we entered, and that’s exactly what we wanted.

We can’t wait to have some visitors stop by, so check out flights into Puerto Vallarta ya’ll! El Rinconcito and Hotel Mayto are great, cheap places to stay just a stones’ throw away.. but we’re warning you-- you may never leave. Love to you all.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Puerto Vallarta

It's almost funny at this point; almost.

Leaving Mazatlan this morning, we noticed yet another warning light on in that wretched, money pit of a car. The "malfunction indicator light" popped on to let us know that there is some sort of general problem with the engine.. just vague enough to have us worried for the 6hr. drive to Puerto Vallarta.

We made it, evidently if it were something super urgent the light would be blinking. So once again we'll head into the VW dealership tomorrow morning to hopefully have a quick fix done and stop at Costco to stock up on some food before making the 2 hr. drive down to Mayto.

Somewhere near Mazatlan we crossed the Tropic of Cancer, and the change was rather abrupt. Up until that point, the landscape had been cacti and desert, much like what we saw in Arizona. But today we were driving through thick green jungle, very tropical. Neat rows of mango trees flanked the highway for as far as you could see in the valleys and the mountains were lush and dense.

Peeling off of the toll road in Tepic, we hoped on costal highway 200, and headed down through familiar territory: San Francisco, Sayulita, Punta Mita, etc. We stopped in San Francisco and had a late lunch on the beach at a restaraunt that Riley had visited late last year with Katie and Chad. Lizzie got her fix of shrimp ceviche and we dipped our feet in the Pacific Ocean before pressing onward to Puerto Vallarta. It's nice to be in a somewhat familiar area (Riley's dad has a place in Punta de Mita we have visited before) and we're super excited to get to Mayto!

Lizzie made some small talk with the bell boy at our hotel and discovered that he had actually been to Mayto. He described it as "very isolated" and "very beautiful". He suggested that we may find Tehuamixtle (a small fishing village near Mayto) to be a bit more developed, good for when we get lonesome.

We're extremely excited to get down to Mayto tomorrow, we'll try to upload some pictures and keep you all posted.

P.S. Katie, your smoky quartz helped keep the vibes up today when we were getting worried about the car! Love you!

Thursday, August 13, 2009



So far anyway... it was a long drive through Southern Sonora, and into Sinaloa today. But once we saw the Pacific Ocean, everything felt much, much better. Got a nice dose of Mexican radio today-- we were both thinking about how the Mariachi style (read: tuba bass lines) will affect our musical styles/tastes.

And our new favorite Mexican song: Dime Si Te Vas Con El

Good stuff, I don't care where you're from...

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Yesterday, we got up early to cross the border, confident and excited that the car was finally in good shape and we were on our way.

We made it about 30 yards across the border into Nogales, the streets full of people and traffic, when Riley's car puttered to a slow stop in the middle of the street. People were yelling at us, and others were trying to sell us gum or wash our windows as we pushed the car off the busy street and tried to figure out what to do.

First, we tried to jump the car, and when the battery only made a horrible crackling noise, we managed to get a cab to take us to a mechanic, where we explained the kind of battery we needed in terrible, broken spanish. We rushed back in the taxi, (the mechanic rode with us), hoping not to find that the car had been towed, as it wasn’t in any sort of a legal place to stop. The nice mechanic installed the battery, with the help of the taxi driver. We both commented on the fact that in the States, you would NEVER see a cab driver help a mechanic install a battery...

After that ordeal, the car started and we were thrilled to get back on the road after only a 90 min. delay. We felt as though we had handled everything that could possibly happen to us.... I mean, what could be worse than your car dying just barely on the other side of the border?

20 miles later, we reached the end of the “hassle free auto zone”, the point at which you have to get a car permit to bring your car further into Mexico. We waited in line and filled out the paperwork, and hit the road again, destined for Mayto!

5 minutes later we heard the ding of emergency lights coming on, and turned around to head North towards the border AGAIN in anticipation of the car dying. Sure enough, after a $1,000 service at the VW dealership the day before, and a new battery just hours earlier, the car died again. This time on the side of the freeway in the middle of nowhere, northern Sonora, Mexico. We struggled through a phone discussion with our Mexican insurance company and waited 2 hours by the car for our tow truck to arrive. The driver took us to a rather seedy looking junk yard/auto shop in Nogales, Mexico.

The owner of the shop told us that they couldn’t fix the alternator, and he’d never even seen a Passat W8 in Mexico. We realized our only choice was to somehow get the car back to the states and up to the VW dealership all the way in Tucson. Keeping with the theme of the day, only one of the guys who worked at the shop had a passport, and he was on lunch. He would be the only one that could drive us across the border, where an American tow service would have to pick us up and take us the rest of the way to Tucson.

As we waited for the guy to return from lunch, we joked around with the rest of the tow crew, Riley played some Mandolin, and the mechanics shared their dinner of carne asada, guacamole and warm corn tortillas with us. More accurately, they INSISTED that we eat. They cracked jokes at one another and we learned that nearly every one of them had spent time in a US or Mexican prison. One guy had us laughing hysterically when he told us how the US gov’t offers $25 to any prisoner who passes a GED test in any language. He had racked up $125 by passing the test in English, Spanish, Portugese, German and French. They also kept track of their prison numbers, which they all recited before they ate.

When our buddy with the Passport finally showed up, we headed off towards the border (only about 2 blocks, though it took us an hour and a half) and on the way he provided further entertainment with stories of the drug wars. More specifically, he pulled out his iphone and showed us pictures of bullet-ridden cars that he had towed to the Sheriff’s office, with the (sometimes decapitated) bodies still inside. Apparently, the drug violence has gotten so out of hand in Nogales that it has provided this towing company with a large portion of their towing business. Our driver was obviously tickled by Liz’s horrified reactions, claiming that the violence was so common he wasn't even bothered by seeing it anymore. He also told dirty jokes.

Crossing the border, we switched out for the American tow company, who took us to his shop in Nogales, where his EXTREMELY religious Aunt and Uncle took us the rest of the way to Tucson. They dropped us at the dealership, where we pushed our car to the after-hours drop off zone, and hitched a ride with a salesman who was just finishing a deal at 9:00 pm to our hotel...

All day we were both beaten down by our horrible luck, and revived by the kindness of complete strangers.

So here we are, still in Tucson; the dealership is closed on Sundays. We’re both sick at how much money we’ve had to spend in these first few days... and we aren’t even across the border :( .

But que sera, sera. (What will be, will be)

Love you all!

Friday, August 7, 2009


After a relatively uneventful two days, we left Tucson at 7:30 this morning to head for the border. A few minutes in to the drive on I-19, the car's front right tire blew out and we had to pull over to the side of the highway. After a few choice profanities, we gave our best shot at changing the tire. Liz managed to get the car up on the jack, but at that point we discovered our car kit was missing some key pieces. At that point, we started to realize that we might be in for more than we bargained for. We were just lucky that the tire blew out on this side of the border instead of in Mexico! A nice Tucson policeman, Sgt. Velasquez, helped us get the spare on, and we started towards the next exit to turn around and head back to Tucson.

Pulling off on the exit to turn around we heard a familiar sound, and stopped under the free
way to discover our spare tire completely shredded. Rescued again by a very nice guy from Tucson Towing, we rode back into Tucson and over to the VW dealership. Several hours and a thousand dollars later, we checked into a Holiday Inn for yet another night in Tucson, and now we're fully prepared to head down to Mexico in the morning! (Or so we hope...)

Sitting in a little Asian restaurant called Chopstix about an hour ago, we talked about the reality of this move, and how exciting and scary it is that we have nobody to bail us out this time. We talked about life, happiness and other serious matters. We were pondering true happiness. Are we crazy to leave our safe, comfortable, predictable lives in Boulder? Are we kidding ourselves about how adventurous we really are? I asked Liz if she thought maybe we were truly happy coming home from retail jobs, watching TV, and settling in for a beer and a cozy night's sleep in our "Boulder Bubble" as we so often refer to it....

Then the check came, and Liz pulled out her fortune cookie and cracked it open. "HA!!!" She exclaimed as only Lizzie can, and passed me the fortune:

"Adventure can be real happiness."