Archive for April, 2010

Doctors and Police

Posted on April 30, 2010 by 6 Comments

We made it to the shores of Lake Cuitzeo, the country’s second biggest lake. It wasn’t ideal, but it was getting late so we convinced the workers of a shoreline restaurant to let us camp there. They had a playground and a trampoline, so Bode and Luca played until late in the evening. Unfortunately, they started a game of tugging on each other in the back of Emma (Luca’s bus). Bode complained of his arm hurting, but then started laughing and playing again.

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When he came back to our bus, his arm was dangling listlessly and he was in serious pain. Two years ago he had a similar injury. Back then, the clinic called it “Nursemaid’s elbow” and after a couple of tries the doctor popped the elbow right back into place.  So once again, there he is with an arm that he can’t move and if he does move it, it hurts.

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We knew we had to find a doctor, but we were literally locked into the restaurant’s parking lot and didn’t know where we would go anyway. After a long night, we headed to a clinic that was in Morelia, just 20 miles away. We tried to explain to the doctors what we thought it was, but without a translation or a real medical term for ‘Nursemaid’s Elbow’ it was a bit futile. We were just hoping it was as common here as in the US. Apparently, it’s not.

First, X-rays. Not fun for a kid whose arm hurts when you move it. By the way – no lead jacket or anything, he just sat on Jason’s lap. $200 pesos.

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Then, a doctor looked at the x-rays, saw there was no broken bone and told us it wasn’t broken. Si, si – we know! We pointed to the big gap between one of the bones in his lower arm and the joint and tried to explain our theory. He wasn’t buying it. He looked at Bode’s arm and left the room.

It was quite stressful because we didn’t really know what was going on. Then, another doctor would come in and do the same thing. After 4 doctors did this, we were finally told that a specialist was coming in 20 minutes. He came and performed the same x-ray review, then grabbed Bode’s arm and twisted it painfully as if he were pulling the leg of a Thanksgiving turkey. Bode screamed and cried as it was clearly painful. The specialist then announced, ‘Esta bien…no problema.

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We thought they said they needed to put a sling on it but came out with the plaster and gauze for a cast. Two nurses started to get busy prepping the plaster. We insisted ‘No quiero!‘ We knew it wasn’t necessary since we’ve dealt with this before. After a bit of discussion, they agreed. They told us if he could keep his arm rested for 2 weeks, it would be okay without a cast. Getting Bode to rest is tough enough, but we can’t imagine what it would be like with a cast (at the beach, no less.)

We paid our doctor bill ($500 pesos,) so the grand total including the X-rays was only about $55 USD. It took a bit longer to diagnose and treat than we would have liked, but it could have been worse. We made him a sling and struggled to get him to wear it. After a few hours it was still tender, but by the end of the day he was completely fine.

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We met up with our friends in downtown Morelia and toured the city. It’s a nice clean colonial city with aqueducts and VW bus taxis everywhere. It’s another university town without many tourists. One of our guidebooks referred to Morelia as the “coolest town you’ve never heard of.” It wasn’t apparent, but it had been a long day and we were way too exhausted to find out .
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We headed back to the vans and we reached Emma first. All the doors were unlocked. Despite having some anti-theft measures that prevented the crooks from opening the front doors, they did manage to get in through the sliding door. Someone had broken in and stolen their laptop. Luckily, that was it. Unfortunately, the laptop had all their photos of Mexico (3 months,) Ane’s book she’s writing on stone carving, and lot’s of other info (their external hard drive was stolen too.) The crooks didn’t take any cash or any other valuables.

Of course, we ran off to go check our bus. Fortunately for us, Red Beard was fine. In the end, the police told them there was no way they were going to find the crook or the laptop (the same thing we were told by Alameda police after getting burglarized at home.)

The day was a disaster, starting with a hospital visit and ending with a police report. We still haven’t heard whether Jason has an amoeba, but he’s starting to feel better. We were all ready to get somewhere and call it a night. On to Lake Patzacuaro.


Filed Under: Guanajuato, Michoacan

San Miguel

Posted on April 29, 2010 by 4 Comments

Thank goodness we have a camping guide because otherwise we would never have found the camp site in San Miguel. It was right in the middle of town, but there were no signs and a big solid fence around it. We rang the doorbell on the outside fence and 5 minutes later someone came out and opened the gate to let us in. It also happened to be a tennis club, but again I’m not sure how anyone would find it. Starting very early in the morning, the gringos show up and play tennis on the 3 clay courts. I guess you don’t need signs after all.

The only other campers there were German, in a huge tank-like vehicle. The could have driven through the Sahara desert in it, but they had been parked in San Miguel for a year. Interestingly, they only had a small mat and 2 camp chairs outside their truck. It made the entire outdoor living room/kitchens of the folks that come down for the winter seem even more ridiculous.

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Jason’s stomach issues from last week seemed to be coming and going. He’d never fully recovered. Bode and I left him behind and set out to meet up with our friends Ane, Andres and Luca. We returned with them late that afternoon and suggested he go to the doctor. He finally did and was told it was either an infection or an amoeba. He’s got meds for the infection, but had to go to the lab in the morning to test for the amoeba. He was given a cup and told to poop in it (at least he thinks that’s what they said – the people at the lab may be very surprised when they open it.) We’re all kind of hoping he has an amoeba. It’s cured with 1 pill, but I told him it will make better fodder for the blog if he has a little friend living inside him. I’ve named it Al, and ask him about it every day. We’re still waiting on the results.

We all stayed at the campsite a day longer than we had originally planned to let him recover a bit. It was a also a good opportunity to finally get rid of that pinata we’d been holding on to since Bode’s birthday. Not sure what the couple in the tank thought of us.

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San Miguel looks a lot like Guanajuato, but bigger and with more gringos… lots of foreigners live here. There are tons of art galleries and boutique hotels. It’s easy visit and live here because everyone speaks English. But, the streets are not bustling with locals going about their business like other Mexican towns. There are only a few people on the street selling fruits, vegetables, plasticware, bread and donuts (yeah, I don’t get that one either, but Gto was full of donut salesmen walking the town). Otherwise, the streets are pretty empty and lacking the vibrancy of Guanajuato.

Finally, we headed out of town with the Bulli’s on the way to the coast. Our first stop was at the hot springs just outside of San Miguel. It was a little more built up than we expected, but very cool. Bode had a great time in the 3 pools. One pool had a 30 meter tunnel that lead into a grotto, lit only by a few holes in the roof. This relaxing afternoon was a great way to wrap up our time in San Miguel.

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Filed Under: Guanajuato

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Posted on April 26, 2010 by 6 Comments

We left our apartment in Guanajuato and headed out to stock up on supplies. It’s been a while since we had been camping and we needed the basics. We always seem to be buying a huge amount of liquids and only a little bit of food.

Then, we looked at each other and said “Now where?”

We had plans to meet up with Ane, Andres and Luca the next day, but we had a good 24 hours to make the hour-and-half drive. So, we took the long way to go get some ice cream.

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Aside from the historical stuff, Delores Hidalgo is also famous for odd flavors of ice cream. We were pretty excited to taste things like avocado and “creamed whiskey” ice cream. We had grand visions of getting a double-cone of cerveza and pork skin.

There were ice cream vendors all around the square and it was hot. We started with our favorites. Bode settled for his standard lime, Jason got his standard cappuccino and I got Tequila.  We all agreed that tequila was the best. It tasted more like a margarita, like lime with sugar.

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Some vendors were particularly eager to give you a taste. So, like good tourists we bellied up for a taste of molé chiccarrone (pork skin with molé…ew), elote (very good, taste’s like cream corn), and pine nut with lard (at least that’s what our phrasebook told us.) I opted for a scoop of the untried cerveza this time, going for a theme – it was horrible. I tried to pawn it off on Bode or Jason but it ended up in the trash. Bode went for fresca.

We tried just about everything – some of which we still aren’t really sure what it was.

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Nice town.

Filed Under: Guanajuato

Random Thoughts

Posted on April 23, 2010 by 6 Comments

It’s official – we’ve moved back into the bus and are on our way again. Here are a few random thoughts until we figure out where we’re going:

Our Spanish teacher told us about her husband’s love of cockfighting. He raises his own cocks and everything. It’s illegal, but apparently not uncommon.

The family atmosphere is something we really love about Mexico. The babies don’t cry, the bigger kids take care of the littler kids, and the teenagers walk arm in arm with their grandparents down the street in the evenings. It’s supposed to be this way.

When we’ve been to the local park, a group of kids of all ages welcomes Bode and starts playing with him regardless of the language barrier. It’s not something unique to this town, but a general attitude of inclusion among the kids in Mexico.  At the end of an hour playing with this particular group, they had given Bode a plastic helicopter toy and a ball. He was thrilled.

Countless restaurants have turned on cartoons or put in movies for Bode when we arrive (during sushi he saw the first half of Avatar…they even changed the settings from Spanish to English for him). Everyone is open-hearted to the kids. It’s supposed to be this way.

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On weekends (and all through Semanto Santa) mimes and clowns performed for tips to a huge crowd that sat outside in the heat on the steps of the historic Teatro Juarez. Bode was delighted with these performances, as were hundreds of Mexicans.

I think of all the times we brushed pass the ‘silver guy’ or Bush Man in San Francisco scoffing at the handful of tourists watching the shtick. But here, it’s so different. Pure joy. And it isn’t just those in the crowd. If the mime tries to make fun of someone passing by, he gets into the act. I’ve seen bald men chase him in jest for a hair joke, ice cream vendors toot the horns on their carts just as the mime bends over, and women pretend to be in love with him. It’s just amazing–daily life- it’s theater–and all part of the show.

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The apartment worked out to about 15$ USD per day. Camping on the hillside was $12.

Our apartment was a steal – but we found out why. We had to deal with the occasional poo smell wafting through. After much discussion, some finger-pointing and further investigation we figured out that the shower drain was probably installed with no trap – connected directly to the sewer. We made a make-shift drain plug and kept the door closed and that seemed to take care of it.

The next order of business was the poop paper basket. If you’re flushing your paper, you’re just not in Mexico. This hasn’t been (too much) of an issue so far, but now we had our own apartment and were in charge of emptying out the trash ourselves. You have to really love somebody…

Our tiny studio apartment was right above the street vendors – we literally had to push our way out the door between ladies cutting up cactus, bakers selling bread on boxes, the plastic-ware lady, the veggie guys, etc. If we were ever hungry or needed anything, it was just right outside our door.

We ate from just about every cart, but settled in with one of the gordita ladies as our favorite. We could barely walk by one lady cooking up cabeza in a huge pan. She was fortunately positioned towards the end of the block and could be avoided. Our friend Ane is pregnant and we had a quick discussion about how her sense of smell is heightened… Mexico could be a tough place to be pregnant if only for that reason.

There is a complete absence of cooking utensils at all the food carts. Doesn’t seem to matter. Need to flip the tortillas, carne, or whatever? Just grab it and flip it. Go ahead and touch the scalding cooktop – doesn’t hurt a bit. Need to move those coals around underneath?  Just reach in and poke them around with your hand.

Giant fried pork skins. Gotta love ‘em.

On the way up to our door we would walk right by the open window of our neighbors kitchen, where we could look right down into her pots to see what was she was cooking for dinner. It’s an intimate town.

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On our last night in town, we went for a walk to the big Jardin and had dinner and soaked it all in. There were dueling mariachis every few steps and lively activity everywhere. The edificios and gardens are even more beautiful at night. This is just a great place. We usually tire of places quickly, but even after 3 weeks we don’t feel like we’re finished with Guanajuato. We’ll be back some day.

And, no, we’re not interested in selling the bus.


Filed Under: Guanajuato

Bode’s Perspective

Posted on April 22, 2010 by 3 Comments

We’re packing up and getting ready to move back into the bus today. We really love this town and we know we’ll be back some day. But, for now, we’ve pretty much decided to get out of the cities and head back to the beaches and keep moving south. Well, maybe just a few more colonial towns. As always, we’re open to suggestions.

We finished our 2 weeks of language classes here with mixed reviews. We learned some things, but really aren’t significantly more proficient at speaking the language than when we arrived. Practice, practice, practice I suppose.

Bode’s has been trying to learn Spanish too – enough to ask the waiter “¿Tienne azucar, por favor?” last night at dinner when his limondada wasn’t sweet enough. He’s learned the important stuff.

He was pretty much running the show in the classroom, so we’re happy they were able to teach him anything at all. One day he took the camera to class and took some photos while we conjugated irregular verbs in past tense.

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Filed Under: Guanajuato

Just Another Day

Posted on April 21, 2010 by 2 Comments

Today I was out on the street with my head under the deck lid. This is actually great place to meet people. Aside from the kids that wanted to chat, the first guy that came along wanted to tell me about his bus. He’s actually got two of them (of course,) but is trying to make one complete camper.

He knew about the blue VW bus up on the hill where we had been camping. Apparently he’s even tried to buy it with no luck. It’s a chocolato… or illegally imported/hot… so the owner is wringing his hands trying to figure out what to do with it. Ocatavio said this is very common – workers that cross the border into the US, buy a car, and then drive home without bothering with any paper work. The result is a car nobody can do anything with.. and when they do sell, they go for cheap.

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Next, was a guy who told me about the local béisbol game. After I finished digging for vacuum leaks, I went back to the apartment and grabbed Bode. He said he didn’t really want to watch baseball,  but would go for the snacks.

We paid 10 pesos total (0.80$ USD) and took our place among the smattering of fans on the cement bleachers. I rooted for the Cardinales (local team) while Bode took the visitors. Some were wearing mis-matched jerseys, so it clearly didn’t really matter.

It was an unintentionally impressive stadium – a mostly dirt lot with the rock base of the mountains serving as the jagged outfield wall. A wooden scoreboard 20 meters up the rocks above center field contained someone barely visible who was keeping track of the action. An occasional foul ball would clang on the tin roof and Bode quickly realized that there was someone up there running around collecting them and immediately dropping them back into play.

We didn’t have to watch for long to understand why we only paid 10 pesos for our boletos. I was reminded of the first baseball team I ever played on when I was a kid. The guy in right field for the Cardinales was an obvious sorry target for the opposing team and they took full advantage. The visitors also realized that aggressive base-running will beat sloppy fielding on any day. I was hoping the Cardinales would make some similar coaching decisions, but they didn’t.

There was some solid baseball too. We saw a few snappy double plays and some defeated base-stealing. A few collisions at home plate livened things up and reminded us how badly each team wanted to win despite the low stakes. A stray pitch bouncing off someone’s noggin’ got our attention too. It doesn’t matter what league it is – it hurts.

The whole thing made me wonder what it must have been like in the US back at the turn of the (last) century when barnstorming baseball teams of dubious talent played on sandlots across the country for almost nothing. You have to love the game.

Oh, and the baseball game snacks? Gigantic fried pork skins – chicharones. Eat them whole or break them up and put them between bread with some lime and chili powder.

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Later we took and evening stroll through town. The shoe-shine guys all over town are another anomaly in Mexico that hearkens back to an earlier era. There’s an endless supply of customers, too.

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To cap the evening off was a grand wedding at the bug church in the middle of Centro. There are an endless supply of these too, with brides and guests lining up for their slot at the big chapel on a Saturday night.

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Filed Under: Guanajuato

Neighborhood Battalions

Posted on April 20, 2010 by 2 Comments

We were sitting in the apartment thinking about the things we want to do before wrapping up our time in Guanajuato when a parade literally marched down the street. We looked over our terrace and didn’t see much, but there was no mistaking the sounds of drums and trumpets getting closer and closer. We put on our zapatos and ran downstairs to the park just outside.

When we got down to the street, we saw several folks hopping off a bus with more trumpets and drums (either late-comers or cheaters) and running down to the other end of the park. We followed and found groups of costumed participants playing or waiting their turn to make some noise. There really didn’t seem to be much organization. Multiple bands would be playing as loud as possible immediately adjacent to each other, apparently trying to drown each other out.

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After looking a little closer we noticed that each group had some sort of “Battalion” banner with a possible indication of neighborhood affiliation on it. Some were dressed casually with only matching shirts and some were festooned in feathers and full warrior regalia, swinging machetes wildly.

Being in a band only seemed to require desire (or possibly obligation) and the ability to play loudly. Actual musical ability seemed to be less important.  The bands consisted of all ages too – no one was too small to clang cymbals together and march down the street.

We’re still not really sure what the occasion was, but there were some sort of pall-bearers carrying statues of Mary and Jesus. Even the kids had smaller versions to drag down the street.

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Less than twenty minutes later, everyone had played and danced and already began marching back down the street. Our neighborhood had been entertained and they were off to spread more merriment as quickly as they arrived.

Also, we just started an experiment with a Bodeswell Facebook page. If you’re a Facebooker, go ahead and “Like” us or “Friend” us and let’s see what happens… on Facebook

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Filed Under: Guanajuato

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