PV a day at the Zoo, Dr., Driving.......
01 November 2010 | Puerto Vallarta
It is 11:30 Sunday night, November 28, 2010. I am very sad. I have just started my night watch, out at sea, as we head south to an anchorage called Tenacatita. Our very good friends, Tammy, Patrick and their nine year old son Jack Finnerty, see sailingsantosha.blog, just pulled in on their beautiful catamaran to buddy boat with us for the next two years. That is a great thing, don’t get me wrong, but we have been in Puerto Vallarta for six months and cannot believe how fast the time has gone by. It has been very painful to say goodbye to the friends we have made. It is not very often that you can say you are a better person having met someone, (Brenda, John, Luce), but we can honestly say that of several friends we have made over the last six months. So, it makes me sad to leave such beautiful people.
We were so blessed to have found a church home right in Paradise Village where we have been staying. The foundation of this church is to end poverty at the Puerto Vallarta dump transfer station through temporary support of the people and education. Being able to volunteer there twice weekly was the highlight of our stay. The resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me, but to be a part of it, to see it live is a whole new experience. I’ll admit I was initially squeamish. The heat and the smell and the mud in this small Colonia of Majesterio this past summer was sometimes overwhelming…for me. You see I’m somewhat of a wimp, (bet y’all are surprised!) but when I hear stories of how it was there, even just a year ago I tell myself…”Buck up!”. You see, it is no longer a dump, it is a transfer station. Trucks come and drop off the trash, that is then gone through by hand, and anything of recyclable value is pulled out. This is how many of the families up there survive. There is no longer anyone living in the dump. There are no longer any children working in the dump. Families at the Dump does many, many things, but seeing that 250 children are in school is truly what will changes lives. Education breaks the cycle of poverty.
It has been great for Ben to have surfing lessons, electric guitar lessons, and Muay Thai lessons for the last six months. Thank you, thank you Adrian and Louis. For not only teaching Ben, but for being his friend as well during a very lonely time for him. Until Jack arrived, we still had not hooked up with any cruising families. Ben still is insanely passionate about fishing, and caught his first Mahi Mahi in September on a fishing charter with our good friend Sandy!
We were so grateful to have had our mom’s visit, and many friends! Thank you to Melissa, Gerry, Jenna, and Garrett (who stopped in for the day on a Carnival cruise ship), Krysten and Rene, Donna and Sandy, and Cathie and Gene. To share such wonderful experiences with you, catch up, laugh and reminisce about old times made us feel very privileged to have your company.
Fostering a kitten and a dog provided us with some much needed four legged love this summer. We were so fortunate to be able to place each into loving homes. The kitten was just a matter of being too young to survive on its own, plus it was really cute! The dog…well, we see many dogs running around in Mexico, cat’s not so much. This one dog in particular was the worst thing I had ever seen in my life. And I saw him on several occasions over a six week period but could never get close enough. He was literally starving to death. Then one day we were driving by a street vendor roasting chickens and lo and behold, there he was, lying in front on the road. “Stop the car!” I yelled. We immediately bought him a chicken, which he literally about took our hands off eating, and after I asked in my (still) Tarzan and Jane Spanish with the chicken lady that the dog didn’t have an owner, we scooped him up and placed him in the car. Larry angrily said, “We’re not taking him on the boat!” About two blocks later and much convincing by Ben and myself he emphatically said, “Well, we’re calling him Lucky!” The new owners have since renamed our Lucky to Kruiser. Get it? Cruiser with a “K” for the Lisa Kay! We had quite a time with our Lucky. Severe diarrhea, vomiting, hospitalization, IV fluids, multiple dewormings, all sorts of medications and special foods, but he survived and is thriving! Come to find out, the veterinarian didn’t think he was going to make it. We all got “lucky” on this one!
Back to my night watch. It is very cool, being the only one awake, responsible for my family as they sleep while the Lisa Kay is underway. The night sky is gorgeous, with trillions of stars. It is not uncommon to see shooting stars, or dolphins racing up to your boat looking like torpedoes coming at you in the phosphorescence! (Phosphorescense is the dinoflagellates, or something like that, in the water that glow when it is disturbed.) So, that means any wake, wave, or fish darting around, lights up! I wish everyone could experience this just once in their lifetime.
So, go we must. Ready to meet new amazing people doing amazing things in faraway lands.
And now, for some humor!
A Day at the Doctor’s
First you will notice there are no pictures in this section. Our time in Puerto Vallarta has been a whirl wind thus far. Meeting new people, exploring new places, trying to learn a new language, learning how to drive a car “like a Mexican” (their words, not mine), getting into a routine of activities for the three of us, and more medical appointments? Yes folks, doctor’s visits! As my sister said, “You guys are always going to the doctor!” And it does seem that way, with the multiple appointments it took before our final departure for things like; Yellow Fever and Hepatitis B vaccinations, meeting with the travel nurse to get our typhoid vaccinations, malaria and assorted other medications for travel, eye exams, six month dental checks (throw in three root canals on the same tooth for Larry, and the tooth still hurts!), the last orthodontic visits for Ben etc., etc…but, now it’s time for us to start all of our semi-annual/annual check upee sort of things. You know, those sort of “checking under the hood” sort of things that we all SHOULD be doing but aren’t always real good at keeping up on? So, I thought I would put some of these experiences in writing, just to share some of my observations, going through this in a foreign country. I can’t really say yet, whether the medical care here is better than the states or worse, but I definitely can say that it is very different. I can’t even say if it is expensive, or inexpensive, because we never saw a bill from our medical provider in the states so we never knew how much a procedure cost. (But, we all certainly know how much we pay each month for medical insurance, don’t we?!) Here, we pay for everything at the time of service in pesos, sometimes paper, sometimes plastic. I don’t think that would always be possible in the states due to the exorbitant prices. So, let me back up here because you’re probably like, “Why is she going on and on about this?” Well folks, today I had the really cool experience of being in the room with Larry for his colonoscopy. Now, some of you are probably on the floor gagging right about now, some of you are probably thinking “Wow, what a gal!”, and some are probably laughing hysterically. After watching Katie Couric’s colonoscopy on TV I kind of felt like this was déjà vu, in a weird sort of way. We got lost this morning (no street signs) trying to find the medical center where this procedure would take place, which was stressful of course. So, we’re calling them hoping to be able to speak with someone there who speaks English and can possibly help guide us in the right direction. As we get closer, and we are told that we are to look for a green building, Larry starts pointing and saying, “if that’s the green building, I’m not doing it”…and then pointing to another green building, “If that’s the building I’m not doing it .” You see, as in any big city I’m sure, there are all kinds of buildings, nice ones and not so nice ones, all kind of intermingled together. We finally find it and make a quick determination that it is definitely worth it to take a look inside, after all Larry has been through heck with the “clean out” for this procedure and the thought of going through that again in the near future is worse than the thought of the actual test itself! We actually had to check in to a hotel room for the night because we would have exploded our holding tank if we didn’t. You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you all of this, but this is our world now and frankly sometimes it is funny! So, sitting in the waiting room, I make the observation of how casual all of the employees are dressed. I seriously doubt it was “wear jeans and platform sandals with opened toed shoes to work Thursday”. Hmmm…but then I notice how nice some of the men are dressed, casual but nice. Ahhh, those must be the doctors. The other observation I make is how the men greet the female workers with a kiss! Could you imagine that in the workplace in America? Heaven forbid! I have to say, I found it endearing. They all seemed happy. They all seemed like they liked each other. Like they were a team, a unit. Next thing I know, shortly after Larry has been called in for his “procedure” and I am sneaking out the door, I hear my name. (For crying out loud, can’t I just go get a Starbucks?) “Si?”, says I. It’s the doctor and he would like to know if I would like to be in the room for the test because so many times the patient wakes up afterwards and doesn’t believe that anything was ever done, therefore I can be Larry’s
witness. (My mind was screaming, “Oh that’s okay, we’ll believe that you actually did the test, really!), but my mouth said, “Cool.”. And, that is how I ended up in a tiny room, with three other people, totally in the way, but was made to feel so comfortable. I learned more about colons than I would ever really care to know, but it was a good experience. $400.00 later, we walked away with a DVD and a biopsy of Larry’s special event which yep, you guessed it, we’ll take to another doctor’s appointment tomorrow. And, so the story goes…welcome to paradise. A Day At The Zoo There have been many times during our travels in Mexico that we have made the comment, “Only in Mexico!”. A day at the Puerto Vallarta zoo was definitely one of them. It felt like such a festive day for us because we got to celebrate this adventure with our new “boat people” friends, Nicole and Tom, in honor of their daughter, Mackenzie’s, fifth birthday. Her brother Max, was also with us.
The zoo is about a 30 minute drive south of PV, near Mismaloya which is an incredibly beautiful, jungly area. For the first few hours I think we were the only ones in the zoo. We immediately knew it was going to be an unusual experience when at the front gate we all purchased a bag of goodies for the animals ranging from breadsticks, carrots, dried corn, grains etc…hmmm…but what do we feed to what? Oh, there’s writing on the bag that we can somewhat decipher. I think the first animals we came across were monkeys. You know the cute kind that stole Ben Stiller’s keys in “Night at the Museum”? Only these were mommies with their babies attached and we could stand right by them and they would gently reach out and take their piece of bread. We fed flamingos corn right out of our hands, bread crumbs to ostrichs off the tops of our heads (well, okay, I was the only one that did that!), and lo and behold we come around a corner and a giraffe is craning his long neck over his little two foot tall rock wall that is keeping him in, looking to see if we’re coming. Yes, I fed the giraffe a carrot stick from my mouth. Did you know they have a really long, black, slimy tongue? I do now! Around the next corner, the young employees in bare feet and blue jeans rolled up, were giving a baby tiger a bath. Right in the middle of the path through the zoo! This is done every day, apparently, to the baby tigers and lions. Then they are bottle fed and for a nominal fee you can go in their pen and hold them. See what I mean? Only in Mexico. Ben was given the instructions, “If he bites, don’t pull your arm away because he will rip your skin.” And that is exactly what happened, but Ben didn’t pull away and he took the few little puncture marks very well!
The kid’s had a wonderful time. I was enlightened. I am not a zoo person. I don’t believe our children need to see animals in cages in order to grow up with a mind of conservation and compassion. However, I found this zoo refreshing. It was far from perfect, don’t get me wrong. But, the animals seemed happy. The caregivers seemed to genuinely care. We knew it would be a once in a lifetime experience…and so it was.
A Day Driving in Mexico
For the past five months, we have been blessed with a renting a Jeep Cherokee. $750 a month but worth every penny. We found it on “Craigslist” (yes they’re in Mexico too). Cheaper than rental agencies but still hard on the budget. The car has given us the freedom to volunteer up at Families at the Dump, making the bi-weekly donation run where Sam’s Club and Walmart are kind enough to donate their damaged/opened goods, as well as really explore Puerto Vallarta, so as to not be stuck in the “paradise bubble”, as we like to call it. HOWEVER, driving in Mexico is a whole new experience. So, I thought I would share a little!
Here goes: First thing you have to learn, is that left turns or u-turns are made from the right lanes. Yes, you have to plan way ahead, so that you can pull over onto the frontage road to your right, in order to get into the left lane there, to make your left turn from the right of the main road! It is a little intimidating crossing four to six lanes to turn, especially when the green arrow on the light isn’t really visible or is not working at all, but when people start honking, it generally means it is your turn to go!
NEVER stop at a stop sign. You WILL get hit! The stop signs are merely a suggestion, to be aware that there is merging traffic.
DON’T get excited if there is a cop car coming near you or behind you with their red lights on. They drive around with them on all of the time. Only pull over if they turn on their siren on.
Speaking of which, we have been pulled over several times. Sometimes, because we deserved it, sometimes not. Whoever thinks there aren’t any rules in Mexico is wrong! However, the police can say whatever they want, and you really have to be strong and stand up to them, in a subtle sort of way, because we definitely don’t want to end up in a Mexican prison!
So, the first thing that they do is make the driver get out of the car, therefore removing them from any passengers over hearing their conversation. Next, they ask to see your driver’s license, car registration etc…also asking where you are staying. “You’re on a boat eh? Hmmm…” I’m sure they see many $$$ signs, and in true Mexican fashion they offer to “take care” of the ticket for you for a mere 2000 pesos. That’s about $160.
See the deal is, that you can promptly take them up on their generous offer to “take care” of the ticket for you and pay them the 2000 pesos, or they write you a ticket, keep your driver’s license. If you take the ticket you can go the next day to wherever the government building is (good luck finding it) and pay your ticket (usually around 100 pesos!) and then get your driver’s license back.
Then you say, “Well however will I drive the car without a license?”. And they say, “Well you can’t. You must leave the car here.” (We have since learned that this is not true, your ticket is confirmation that you have (had) a driver’s license, therefore you can continue driving.) So, what we have learned is to eagerly ask for the ticket, no…demand a ticket! Oh and, “Could we please get your name and badge
number?” They are appalled at this of course. “No, please, write me the ticket.” So far they have just gotten angry, told us to forget it and huffed away!
I’m sure this will bite us in the butt one day, but we would still rather do the right thing and pay the right way rather than pay a bribe. Nothing makes Larry more furious. After a thirty year career in the fire service, serving the public, where trust is everything, being held up (they just don’t point the gun at you) by a police officer, just about gives him a heart attack. It is our understanding that the officers’ salary is a mere $20.00 a day, therefore in a sick sort of way, you can’t blame them for wanting to supplement their salary.
Beware of herding cattle, or as we like to call it, “the running of the bulls”. There have been several instances where we have been driving along and suddenly come across a herd of cattle on the road with cowboys and doggies and everything. It is slightly intimidating, weaving your car between them!
Number one rule here…the bus ALWAYS wins. Let’s back up here by saying that buses are a major form of transportation here, as many people cannot afford to have their own car. Therefore there are a lot of buses, and they have to keep a schedule. Another words, they mean business on the road! Some buses have spikes on their wheels! Some have this sort of “Mad Max of Thunder Dome” type bumpers on the front, which is very frightening as they are barreling down on you. Needless to say, this gets back to my first sentence, the rule of tonnage…the bus always wins!
Cobblestone roads are quaint, charming, cute to look at…for about five minutes. And then when you start to feel the fillings in your teeth loosen, and you can’t hear any conversation in the car from the rumbling as you roll over the street, you quickly get over the quaint, charming, cute thing.
Things to keep in your car: An umbrella for the torrential rains, or skin melting sun, your own personal supply of toilet paper (because not all restrooms have it), water, and at least 2 days of medications (sometimes you just never know if you’re going to get to your destination or back to the boat!
DO get used to speed bumps (“Topes”), or as our friend Rick calls them, “uncomfortables”. Heavy rope, dirt mounds, metal balls, some are marked, some are not, some are in the sun, some are in the shade (you totally don’t see them), and… well at night…just forget it….because streetlights are virtually non-existent. Mexico is in love with speed bumps. They are everywhere! There are capable of removing the undercarriage of your car.
There are lot’s of random one way streets, and you can’t just tell by which way the cars are parked. I generally figure out I’m going the wrong way when cars start honking at me and people are pointing the other way. (Oops, sorry Christian!)
Use turn signals cautiously. If you do happen to put your turn signal on, it can mean to the driver behind you (which could be, and have been a “Mad Max” bus) that it is safe for them to pass you on that side. Therefore left hand turns can sometimes be tricky, and exciting.
It is not uncommon to see a family of four on a small motor scooter, a horse loaded in the back of a small pickup truck, or 6-10 people riding in the back of a pick-up (even in the rain). Beware of the rainy season. We have driven on more roads that turned into rivers. Sometimes Larry gets out of the car to walk the road first just to see if we can make it!
Well, there you have it. We survived and maintained quite a sense of humor. We thoroughly enjoyed driving everywhere!