Friday, March 30, 2007

The "Coog"

Saddened by the fact that I had to leave my cat behind as Randy and I departed, I am so happy about a little black and white cat with a pink nose that has adopted us. She is friendly and smart. Rand named her "Couger" because she meows so loudly that she sounds like a mountain lion.
It is nice to be able to get my kitty cat "fix" with the Coog, she'll never be my Kitten, but she will definitely do while we're here in San Pedro....she's like a little consolation prize and I'm very thankful for her.

The little differences

If you've seen Pulp Fiction, you'll recall the conversation between Vincent Vega and Samuel L. Jackson's character where they discuss "the little differences" one finds between things in the USA and things in other countries. How true that is.

If you are ever feeling un-cool, stop using COLGATE and start using this....

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Crocodile Lure

Randy had his first chance to fish recently. He woke up early and was rewarded with his first ever SNOOK, a 26 incher. Snook share the lagoon side of the island with huge crocodiles and each night, local kids put on a little show for croc curious tourists. It's a simple and effective technique that they've come up with.
All that is necessary is:
1. A rope
2. A frozen chicken
3. A brave lad who isn't afraid to lose a leg
First, tie rope securely around chicken.

Second, chunk chicken into lagoon.

Croc comes after chicken, brave lad pulls chicken with rope so it bobs just ahead of croc's jaws. Curious tourists are happy and snap pictures of unsatiated croc.

If all goes according to plan, brave lad's leg remains intact and tourists leave with excellent pics to show the folks back home.

Our Shelter and Wheels

Rand and I found a cute house to rent for our time in Belize. The top floor of this spacious, colorful abode will be our home away from home. We are actually staying out on Ambergris Caye, an island off the East coast of Belize in the town of San Pedro. They call it La Isla Bonita - Madonna sang a song about it years ago that started out "Last night I dreamt of San Pedro...." We think she wrote that little ditty before the hoards of tourists came though. That aside, we are glad to be in our house with a kitchen, washer/dryer, cable TV and the all important FREE WIRELESS INTERNET!

The island is small enough to ride a bike and get where ever you might need to go....good exercise and transportation all in one! Here we are with our new cruisers and Joe, a local bike rental shop owner who worked out a nice deal on two new bikes.

Apparently, bikes here get stolen all the time, even if you leave them unlocked for a second. We've even heard that at night, people will come by and cut your bike chain and steal them. Hopefully, we can make it through without a bike theft.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Rooster gets it REALLY WRONG

Randy (raised on a farm) and I were under the common misconception that roosters sound their loud and proud "cock-a-doodle-doodle-dooo" at dawn. When the rooster right outside our window crowded for the first time, I thought it was happening at the time one would expect it to happen.....sunrise. I even said to Randy, "that's cool" when we first heard the cock's cry feeling like we were getting an authentic, properly timed wake up call. Soon we'd be seeing the morning sun.

Some time passed and the rooster kept right on with his boisterous crowing, but the morning light did not come. We set an alarm for 5am the night before as we had an early morning ferry to catch to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye but the alarm had not gone off. When we checked to make sure that we hadn't set the alarm for 5PM by accident we were dismayed to see that the time was really only 1AM. Ironically, though his timing was way off in terms of the correct hour in which to begin, this rooster was dead accurate with his frequency. Every 10 seconds, he would make his announcement again, continuing ever so faithfully until the sun really did rise several hours later. About that time, other roosters who clearly had their internal clocks set properly echoed his cries.

We decided that this rooster must have been brand new to the brood; otherwise, his owner certainly would not have tolerated this LOUD fowl with his terribly premature calls in the wee hours of each morning. So much for a solid night's sleep.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Farewell, San Miguel - Belize Beckons

San Miguel is a LONG way away from Belize, no matter how you slice it. Randy is still not well and the thought of many more days on the road on the bus is quite a formidable, looming "cosa" (thing). We thought about taking the 4 hour ride to Mexico City and then the next day just sucking it up and taking the 13 1/2 hour bus ride to Palenque just so we would be close-ish to Belize. Then I decided to check and see if there was any way we could fly to Belize instead. EUREKA! I booked a flight to Chetumal, which is right on the Belize border for only $215 for both of us. SO WORTH IT! It's cheaper to fly than it would have been to take all of those buses, plus the hotels we'd have to stay in, plus the food. And, the flight is only 2 hours. No brainer! We leave tomorrow. My toes are ready for the sand and I know Rand is aching for some pescando (fishing)! It's time for an Exodus as Bob Marley said...movement of jah people...oh yeah!

Too high in San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende was a beautiful, colorful and charming city. Unfortunately, Randy and I both suffered very badly from altitude sickness. I was the first to get the high fever and total body ache and Rand followed. Fortunately, neither of us were throwing up from the sickness, but we agreed that we hadn't felt worse in a LONG time.

Illness aside, the Casa de Huespedes where we stayed was run by the sweetest lady named Saletta who always had a smile for us and all of her guests. She truly was an angel and helped Randy and me with so much, including of course, our Spanish. The roof top terrace provided a place to get a bit of sun plus an amazing 360 view of the city. We met a wonderful chap named Karl, a fellow gringo originally from Chicago who rented the upstairs apartment from Saleta. Karl, like us, has a serious case of wanderlust. He has lived in San Miguel for almost a year and was able to give us insightful information on everything from the best places to eat to some San Miguel slang. On top of it all, Karl was also a refreshingly unique artist and not only were we both quite impressed with his work but also with his company and personality. We'll meet again, I'm sure.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Lessons and Smiles

Our ride to San Luis Potosi was a rough one. After we bought our tickets on the Oriente line, Rand remembered reading NOT to take Oriente. We found out why soon enough. Although we bought "primo" tickets (the best) the bus was old and had seen a lot of wear and tear. We thought, as long as we get to our destination, it's all good. Well, we got about 45 minutes towards S. L. Potosi when the bus stopped, did a U-turn on a busy, blind curve and started going back towards the bus station. We were confused and a tad frustrated knowing that this would make for a longer journey. It all made sense when we pulled back into the station and over to the gas pump. Um, yeah, probably would have been best to check the gas gauge BEFORE heading off on a 5 1/2 hour drive, but we all make mistakes and we could tell that the drive felt bad about making this one. Four plus hours into the drive, we stopped at a gas station, but not for gas this time. We got a bathroom break and procured some snacks. An older driver climbed out of the internal trap door below and our driver climbed inside. The older drive took the helm. He drove so, SO slowly you would have thought it was his first time on the road....ever. We laughed and named him "Mexi-Pappy".

We stayed at the Principal Hotel run by a charming bloke named "Carlito" who took a shine to me calling me "Juanita" explaining it was pretty close to what Jamie would be in Spanish. He was great, but the room had no fan (note to self Jamie, always check for a fan) and was right off the main stairway. It was stuffy, noisy for most of the night and because of its proximity to the stairs, not very private. People literally could see straight into the room when going up or down.

We looked forward to our trip to San Miguel having checked out the best looking bus lines and times for the next day's departures. We anticipated a plush bus, like the ones we'd picked out the day before, but instead an old clunker pulled up. Turns out there wasn't a "primo" bus to San Miguel that day. DANG! We sure attracted a lot of attention seemingly being the only gringos in this large city and our bus was full of rough looking guys who obviously found our "What, no primo bus??" plight quite funny. We got onboard, all eyes on us - us returning their looks with huge smiles which I think are difficult not to reciprocate - and claimed the back of the bus for ourselves. A smile means the same thing in almost every culture and has, and I think will continue to be a powerful secret weapon in our arsenal as we feel our way through unfamiliarity.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Breathing fumes

Randy and I are charmed by Mexico. Every day we see and learn so many new things. I tell you what though, OSHA would have a field day here. Rules are.....there are no rules, at least not nearly as stringent as they are in the U.S. Case in point, while awaiting our bus that would take us to our second night's stop of San Luis Potosi, we saw a bus unload its passengers and a tiny door under the bus opened. A guy emerged from the bowels of the bus, stretched and started putting on his socks, shoes and clean shirt.

Apparently, he drivers switch off shifts, one pilots the bus and the other sleeps beneath. WOW- I guess that's one way to get the job done. Carbon monoxide poisoning anyone?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

And they're OFF!

After much time, preparation and anticipation, the trip through Mexico and Central America begins. Randy and I were accompanied to the Texas border by our friends Kevin and Devin. They saw us off at the McAllen bus station and with a backpack each, Randy and I boarded the "Transpais" (cross country) autobus to Reynosa where we changed buses and caught our main bus to our first night's destination, Cuidad de Victoria. Our bus driver waved to every single truck and bus that passed during our 5 1/2 hour trip and when it was a fellow Transpais bus, he gave a HUGE wave. Que bueno!
It was a long ride but there was a lot to see an we learned a few new Spanish words during the journey including "cansada/o" meaning tired or weary...and at the end of the bus ride that is indeed how we felt.

Our hotel was clean with a high powered ceiling fan or "abanico de techo" and hot water - YES! Our hotel owner recommended Jalisco's for dinner, just a couple of blocks away. After an excellente authentic Mexican dinner, we took a stroll in the plaza and a "payasito" (little clown) was there entertaining some local children. He waved us over and made me a balloon heart. Randy later dogged the payasito's balloon efforts saying that it was a weak looking heart and that he could have made a better one. For those of you who don't know, Randy was practically raised by carneys at fairs for a few years of his life. His Dad owned a gourmet cheese shop and he and Randy would work the fairs together back in the day. I'm surprised he didn't get the small hands and cabbage smell often attributed to carneys.