Scenes around our Mexican town

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 90. Brutal sunshine

Every morning as I sip my coffee, I peruse the emails I receive from Trusted Housesitters, the website we use to find our assignments. I receive 2 emails per day with new opportunities. Today one from Tahiti caught my eye. It had only been posted 4 hours, but already had 50+ applicants. I applied anyway….who knows?

I took Frida by myself to the malecon (lakefront boardwalk) while George got ready for the day. I picked up a stick to protect Frida from any male admirerers. We did fine.

When we returned, George decided to give her a bath. She seemed to like it – probably cooled her off.

We walked downtown to do some shopping. Since we are at such a high elevation (5000+ feet), the sun beats down brutally. It was so intense while we were walking that my skin was stinging.

As we walk downtown, we see different scenes each day. This house is growing a lot of flowers on its roof.

These ladies are selling some sort of bean snack. They look like soybeans, but are bigger. Sometimes they boil them; othertimes they eat them raw.

Beautiful trees are everywhere. The jacaranda are ending their blooms, and others are starting up.

Artists do nice murals. This building is a wall of skulls….

We stopped to buy a rotisserie chicken for dinner.

Back home, we were boiling, so George made a smoothie out of the mamey fruit we had leftover from breakfast. He added fresh mango and pineapple, yogurt, and…..tequila. It turned out really well. Tasted like a pina colada.

DINNER: Rotisserie chicken. We finished it off on the grill, which gives it a nice crunch. Side was grilled asparagus.

A big food day. Vampires for Easter?

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 85

It seems like we ate all day, and absolutely nothing was Easter-like. Breakfast was an adventure into trying mamey. It is an interesting fruit found in Central and South America. It tastes strangely like cooked, pumpkin pie filling.

I had bought the mamey yesterday at our favorite fruit/veg shop. (It is the one where the young clerk chased us down when George inadvertently left his money clip full of pesos there last week). I had told him I wanted a mamey to eat today, and he carefully found one that he said would be perfectly ready today.

It was just so-so. George is going to make a smoothie with the rest of it – with pineapple, yogurt, ice, and……tequila. We’ll let you know about how it turns out.

We also bought empanadas yesterday, and they too were a surprise. The inside filling was cooked and hardened evaporated milk. The dough was sprinkled with sugar.

Then, we walked downtown to see if anything was going on for Easter. The plaza was packed with shoppers and people just strolling around. We stopped at the coffee shop to see what the gringos were up to. Then, over to a local bar for a beer and complimentary spicey peanuts.

We joined the shoppers and bought shirts. Mine is from Chiapas, and George’s is from Oaxaca.

Back home to run around the yard with Frida and for lunch, smoked turkey tacos.

After napping (George) during the hot part of the day, we took the bus about 8 miles east of here to the “zona turistica”, a section of Lake Chapala chock full of lakeside restaurants.

There are guys standing in the road, beckoning drivers to stop at their place.

We picked one randomly, ensuring it had a nice view of the lake..

The most popular drink here is called Vampiros (Vampires). As its name suggests, it is kind of like a Bloody Mary, but with added citrus.

The waiter brought tons of complimentary snacks to accompany the Vampire….chips and guacamole, ceviche, and fried, tiny fish similar to sardines. I timidly ate the fish, hoping that it did not come from the polluted lake.

Then, back to the house where Frida was eagerly waiting for her dinner.

We watched a bit of TV via the internet, then walked 2 blocks to the main street where grilled chicken stalls line both sides of the street. One of the chicken places turns in to a pizza place at about 8;00 PM. We wanted to check it out. A pizza was just coming off the grill, so we bought 2 pieces. It was topped with sliced weiners, ham, and pepperoni. The server asked me if we wanted toppings….mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard. We passed on those, but did pick up some jalapenos.

We brought the pizza back home. In the end, we were not that hungry, so just split one slice, and saved the second slice for breakfast tomorrow – our favorite breakfast is pizza with a fried egg on top.

Mexican Street Food

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 86

We took Frida for another walk to the malecon (lakeside board walk). All it takes is for George to put on his baseball cap, and she goes beserk with happiness.

After the walk, George and I walked a short block to the tortilleria for tortillas. Most people buy huge amounts. I asked if I could just get 10 (even at that we probably can’t get through them all).

They were fresh off the assembly line – you can see the man putting the fresh masa (dough) into the feeder. The tortillas were nice and caliente (quite warm).

And cheap — big stack for $.50

Then, across the street to buy an empanada. Almost every country has some version of this little pie. I asked her what kind (thinking beef or pork) and she said they are filled with milk! We will try them for breakfast tomorrow……stay tuned.

Then a walk to downtown to buy some more groceries. Somethings were closed for Semana Santa (Holy Week), but these guys were busy painting.

We are trying to strengthen our constitutions to start eating street food as it looks and smells so good. Not yet though, for these tacos..

Or for these churros…

Back home for a late lunch followed by a siesta for George and Frida….she follows him everywhere in the house.

Then, back downtown to do some more shopping.. This cowboy was coming in to town for the evening…

DINNER: Hamburgers on the grill. Side were salad and elote (Mexican corn on the cob).

Historical Good Friday

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 88

We caught the bus again to Ajijic. This time, a lady got on the bus with a bucket full of live tilapia she had just caught. Everyone is very polite, especially the children. Often, they motion for me (as an old person) to take their seat. It always catches me by surprise….do I look that old to need to sit?

The action was starting in the town square, next to the cathedral. Lots of people, mostly Mexicans, were milling around. We went into the cathedral courtyard where they were just starting the Passion Play.

It was all done by church volunteers. The play was the historical enactment of the trail and flaggelation.

People were everywhere, including kids on the cathedral wall observing…

Afterwards, we went to the plaza for a fresh smoothie and to cool off.

Since the downtown was crowded, we walked about a mile to West Ajijic to a really nice restaurant. On the way we walked by the streets where the processison with the cross was coming…

These actors really worked hard on this, down the street of Ajijic.

At the restaurant, we sat outdoors, of course, near the pool and next to the burros that roam the restaurant lawn. We shared a chimichanga. The 2 burros are named Chardonnay and Margarita. Cute!

Back home, George and Frida had a siesta. We were going to go shopping, but a lot of shops were closed.

DINNER: I made up a recipe using things on hand. It was a casserole with sauteed veg, leftover smoked turkey leg, and leftover rice. I topped it with Oaxacan cheese and panko, baking it all to meld the flavors. Quite nice – eaten, of course, on the outside patio.

BOOK: While George and Frida bond were napping each day, I read. I finished off another book today. It is a paperback we had picked up somewhere on our travels – “In Dubious Battle” by John Steinbeck. I would give it a 7 out of 10, even though I feel guilty not rating it higher. It drags a bit, but Steinbeck does an excellent job of describing the characters and atmosphere – of a story of strikers in an apple orchard in California.

Line-Dancing Quest

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: Hot- High 90. Sunny.

We caught the bus to Ajijic. Riding the bus is a real adventure. It is a great system. The bus runs frequently, and is cheap. There are a few designated official stops, but you can flag it down wherever, and ask to jump off wherever (while the bus is still rolling along). We can conveniently catch it at the end of our block. We know the fare to Ajijic, about $.60 each. Sometimes the driver gives change; sometimes not. Some people pay; others do not.

Today’s driver brought his son with him, who sat right next to him.

Later, his little daughter got on the bus and sat in his lap. He happily texted and talked on his phone the entire route, while turning up the volume of the Mexican music on the radio. Fiesta!

Ajijic is about 12 miles from our house, but the bus ride takes an hour, due to its frequent stops and the large topes (big speed-bumps) on the highway. That hour is like going from one world to another – from old Mexico to a Mexican resort catering to Gringos.

Our destination was the Lake Chapala Society, a meeting place for gringos. I did my line-dancing class.

Like restaurants and shops, the dance studio is “al fresco”.

The groundskeeper there is quite a character.

The grounds there are beautiful…

We walked about a mile through Ajijic to the Brewhouse where we had a beer and chicken wings for lunch (half-price wing day today). Walking really enables us to see things better, like this wall mural.

Then, we flagged the bus down on the highway, and came back home to Frida.

We relaxed with margaritas on the patio with chips and George’s spicy, tasty pico de gallo.

DINNER: Sea bass filets on the grill. The same medly of veg as we had last night, but tonight with Asian flavors. A nice baguette that we picked up at a French bakery in Ajijic. Gourmet!

A note about garbage….

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico
WEATHER: Sunny. High 89

We have a maid that comes four days a week starting at 8:30 AM. I always feel a bit uncomfortable when she is here. I feel like I have to have finished showering and be dressed, and feel that breakfast should have been eaten and dishes organized for her, all by the time she arrives. George says I fuss too much…

We took Frida for a nice walk around the neighborhood when the house was busy with the maid, gardener, and pool guy. I think Frida could walk all day, and still not be satisfied. When we pass houses with mean-sounding guard dogs, she really cowers, probably remembering her days as a street dog.

A note about garbage. People carefully place their garbage on the sidewalks each day for garbage pick-up. However, most people just put bags out like this….

It does’t take long for the street dogs to get in to the garbage, and then it looks like this….all over town.

And, today we discovered that it is not just the dogs…..The horses are getting into the garbage, too!

Then, someone comes along and sets the garbage on fire, leaving a bad plastic-burning smell and charred glass bottles.

So interesting……the garbage trucks are the McNeilus brand – made in the town next to us in Rochester, Minnesota!

We stopped at the new RV park not far from our house and talked with the (Californian) owner about his progress. They are doing a great job with this.

We returned Frida home to rest, and walked to the Centro to buy some fruit and vegetables. They are so fresh and cheap. Today we bought broccoli, jalapeno peppers, tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce, onions, cilantro, mushrooms, figs, and raspberries. All for probably under $2.00.

Back home, we played with Frida and soaked our feet in the swimming pool. The pool guys think they know how to fix the pool now.

DINNER: Salmon burgers. Lettuce/cilantro salad. Sauteed veg (all the above shopping items mentioned above).

Fun meeting new people

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 87

We scurried around in the morning, to catch a bus to Ajijic so I could attend another line-dancing class. After the class, we met the couple that are going to take over for us at this housesitting assignment. They are currently doing an assignment on the east side of Lake Chapala (whereas we are on the west side).

We drove with them to Viva Mexico for lunch (the restaurant we had gone to for the native dancing). First, we shared a queso fundido (a kind of cheese fondue with tortillas)

They are a delightful couple.

The restaurant is in a quaint village where they are having a lot of Easter celebrations.

They drove us back to our house, so we could orient them to the house and neighborhood.

We spent a quiet afternoon, and I finished another book. (See below)

DINNER: The homeowners had left us a casserole of meatballs and potatoes. To that, I added cauliflower, onions, and curry powder and other herbs for a nice curry dish.

BOOK: I finished up this little paperback that we had picked up at some free book exchange. “Doc” by R.E. Losee, MD is a memoir/autobiography of a physician who tells his story of being a physician in rough, rural Montana starting in 1950. He often mentions my former employer, Mayo Clinic, where he admired physicians and to where he referred some of his patients. I would give it a 8 out of 10.