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.

Lunch with the Ladies

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: High 83. Sunny

Busy day. Lilia the maid came, and we conferred a lot about packing up. Then, I caught the bus to go to line-dancing in Ajijic. The buses here are easy, frequent, and cheap. I was proud to do it by myself (no biggie, though). George stayed home, and walked up to the Jocotepec Plaza for coffee with the gringos.

Today we had our class in the home of one of the dancers. The house used to belong to the Canadian ambassador, and is now a spiritual retreat. It is absolutely lovely. When you open the front door, you immediately see this courtyard

Rooms, mostly all open, flank the center. I heard the lady say that they bought the house fully furnished with some beautiful hand-made pieces like these chairs.

This is one of the table-tops..

After our class, we went to a French bistro (of all things) which was actually lovely. A great thing about the climate here is that almost everything is outdoors. We sat in the restaurant’s courtyard and had things like omelettes, crepes, quiche and baguette sandwiches. You woud not know you were in Mexico!

We walked on the Ajijic malecon (lakeside boardwalk) where several Mexican tourists were strolling. Suddenly, a group of Indian men started playing indigenous music. They danced a while, then climbed this pole, as high as a telephone pole

After five of them climbed up, they did a dance on top, then started swinging around. Quite a show!

Back home, we relaxed and played with Frida in the backyard. George had computer problems, so figured out the solution via a Skype call with one of our daughters.

DINNER: A pasta dish kindly left by the homeowner. I doctored it up with some grilled vegetables.

Very Pleasant Palm Sunday

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: High 84. Sunny

Before it got too hot, we took Frida down to the Malecon. As soon as we start gathering her leash, she goes ballastic with happiness.

The Malecon (lake boardwalk) was pretty calm since it was early, but they were preparing for a busy Palm Sunday.

We walked on a pier to look at the beautiful birds

This guy was kayaking, using a broken board as an oar.

And this guy was drying tortillas in the sun to use as bait (as tilapia are vegetarians).

On our way home, we passed a dirt lot with a horse and a newborn pony.

We did a little packing up for the homeowners and happily found some paperwork that we had been searching for.

Then, in the late PM, we walked up to the main plaza. Little Indian ladies were weaving ornaments out of palm tree branches for Palm Sunday.

The church on the main square is beautiful, surrounded by trees and bushes.

We decided to people-watch, so sat at an outdoor bar on the plaza. It is very un-touristy. We struck up a conversation with the waiter. Fun!

DINNER: Sauteed shrimp and onions in a garlic, wine sauce – over pasta. Cauliflower with manchego cheese on the side. Quite gourmet!

Viva Mexico!

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 82

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with a lot of fresh fruit – papaya and fresh pineapple – and scrambled eggs with nopales.

We spent a few hours packing up for the homeowners, and chilling with Frida. She and George watched more of the Masters’ Golf Tournament. The highlight of the day was a Skype call with one of our daughters.

In the late afternoon, we caught the bus to a small town about 5 miles from us. There, there is a very nice Mexican restaurant called Viva Mexico that puts on native dance shows on Saturdays.

We met up with a couple that are friends with our homeowners; he is American and she is Cuban. Very nice folks. They got us a table right next to where the dancers perform. Each Saturday the dancers perform a dance from a different state throughout Mexico. Their outfits vary from week to week, based on the state they are showcasing. Tonight was Sinaloa.

It was a very nice show, and we shared a platter called Viva Mexico – flank steak, guacamole, shrimp, salad, beans, and rice. I hope we can go back again.

BOOK: I finished “In the Woods” by Tana French. I would rate it 8 out of 10. At 600 pages, parts dragged a bit, although the finish was great. Taking place in Ireland, it is about detectives trying to solve a crime ….with a twist.

Packing up!

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: High 86. Sunny

The other day, the gardeners cut down a dead palm tree. They evened off the stump, and today brought over a flowerpot with orchids for decoration. How nice!

Our homeowners have decided to stay in the USA, due to health issues. This is an unusual twist to our housesitting assignments. Normally, we tidy up when we are finished with an assignment, then welcome home the homeowners. This time, we are going to help with the houseshold packing up, and deal with Frida, our dog. She will either be transported to the USA with their houseshold goods, or move back to where she used to live.

So, we spent most of the day corresponding with the homeowners asking which items stay and which need to be packed up. At the end of the day, we accomplished this…

George and Frida continued listening to the Masters’ Golf Tournament on the internet. George is particularly interested in this one, as we lived in Augusta, Georgia many years ago.

With Frida by his side….

Frida was so absorbed in the golf that she did not come down for her dinner. Golf superceded food — quite unusual!

DINNER: Sea bass filets on the grill, wrapped in aluminum foil with onions and soy sauce. Asian stir-fried veg on the side. Healthy and lo-cal!

Expats galore!

LOCATION: House-sitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER:. Sunny. High 87

We had an early start to the day, catching the bus to meet some ex-pats that were taking us to the gringo town of Ajijic. They took us to the Lake Chapala Society where I did line-dancing and George hung out in their Cafe.

Afterwards, we accompanied the couple to the dentist. She had an appointment, and George wanted to see if they could squeeze him in for a cleaning. They did. He was happy with the dentist, and with the price……$9!!!!

Then the couple took us to a new brewpub. The beer was good, and the brewery looked the same as ones in every other country.

Eating in the restaurant was strange…..There was not a single Mexican customer. Everything was in English, and their menu was very American. We shared a large order of chicken wings for $2.50.

Frida was ecstatic to welcome us home. She and George bonded all PM watching the Masters Golf Tournament on his computer.

DINNER: George grilled a HUGE smoked turkey leg. It is so big that we think it might have been an ostrich leg!

Side was stir-fried veg, including nopales (cactus strips).

Busy Wednesday – even in “slow” Mexico

LOCATION: Housesitting in Jocotepec, Mexico

WEATHER: Sunny. High 85

We tried jackfruit for breakfast.

We have a jackfruit tree in our backyard. The fruit grows directly from the trunk of the tree – looks like it has been super-glued on it or something.

This is what it looks like inside….

It tastes and smells like a combination of peach, pineapple, and banana. It is supposed to be a “super” food. The consistency was a bit strange. After we did our tasting, we gave the rest to the gardener and pool guy who were here again to continue work on the swimming pool.

It was Grand Central Station ….some people came to look at some internet/TV equipment. The maid was busy cleaning, and the guys outside were working hard on the lawn and pool.

We took Frida our dog for a long walk. She gets so excited. The smells and people make her really happy, but she does not like loud noises (of which there are plenty on the streets).

On our walk, we passed this beautiful bush

George lost his phone yesterday, but someone contacted us today, when they found it. Hooray!

DINNER: Leftover eggplant parmesan with a toasted hard roll. Salad on the side with some really tasty cilantro salad dressing I found in the market.