The Paradise Blues
26 January 2016
There are numerous sayings about those who can and cannot sing the blues. For example, "You can't sing the blues if you have all your teeth." Or, "...you were once blind but now can see." Or, "...you have a retirement plan or trust fund." So, it is probably safe to say that as a white chick who lives on her boat in the Mexican Riviera in a place called Paradise, I can't sing the blues either. Nevertheless...
January 4, 2016
"We're still cruising. We're just not moving." Jay said the other day. It struck me funny and I couldn't help but laugh despite the fact that the little girl inside me wanted to stomp her feet and yell, "But I want to go cruising! I want to sail to Barra de Navidad right now!"
It's true. Jay is right. There is more to cruising than the journey itself. It is about the destination and exploring new places. It is about education and being prepared. It is about "fixing things in exotic places." And, it is about patience.
To that end, the boat is finally almost ready. It seems the last thing is the dinghy. The propeller is fixed but there are several leaks. We are working on finding them and patching them, hoping to get another year out of her. We were ready to set sail around the middle of January just after our friend, Gail, departs back to the states. But then I heard about Luna Rumba's CD Release Party at Los Arroyos Verdes in Bucerias on the 15th. Luna Rumba is very popular down here and we love their music. (Check out their website, www.lunarumba.com) So... "We have to stay for that, Jay!" He agreed.
The next plan was to leave around the third week of January when I inquired if April of Wavehouse had any good tours coming up during the week of Gail's visit. "No." She said. "But, I am planning on doing a tour up to the Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary the second week of February."
"OMG! Jay, we have to do that! This is the perfect opportunity to see the butterflies. April is a wonderful tour guide and she only travels with small groups. Besides, I think Kathy and Jim will want to go too. Come on! It will be fun! And this year is expected to be especially abundant with the butterflies as it is an el Nino year." He agreed.
Staying put now until the third week of February, we decided to get involved with a few more things. We offered to be the committee boat for The Vallarta Cup held by The Vallarta Yacht Club. This goes over four Saturdays, starting January 9th.
Then there is the Puddle Jump series; seminars held by Dick Markie and the VYC two to three times per week over the next two months. We have no plans to do the Puddle Jump but thought we would take advantage of some of those classes.
Still, I was antsy.
Sensitive to my discontent, Jay woke me up yesterday morning. I didn't know it at the time, but he had a day full of surprises for me. "Would you like to take a walk on the beach?" I jumped out of bed, pulled on some shorts and a tee-shirt and off we went.
It was just after dawn. The heat had been abating since Christmas and the air was cool and soft. As we walked along the shore, the waves crossed our path from time to time. The water was warm. Jay and I had just finished reading Stephen King's "Revival" so our discussion was filled with questions regarding faith, death, the afterlife - whatever that may or may not be - and how we see God fitting into that equation. I must admit. It wasn't just because of the book. The older I get, the more I find myself pondering these topics.
On our way back, Jay offered up another idea. "Why don't we go back to the boat, get your shoes, and go out for breakfast." I smiled. "Okay."
Just as we were finishing a delicious meal at a restaurant called Moon Star Cafe, Jay came up with yet another surprise. "I tell you what. Why don't we skip chores today (Really? I thought to myself. No chores? Not a one?) and take the bus to Bucerias." My face lit up again. This sounded like a great idea to me. Paradise Village is lovely, but it is a bit of a "tourist bubble" as our friend likes to call it.
Paradise Village is a small community in Neuvo Vallarta, just north of Puerto Vallarta. It is a resort and spa that has both a hotel and time-share units. There is our marina, a yacht club, three pools and a beautiful stretch of beach. Behind the bus stop sits a mall with art galleries, tourist shops, a supermarket and several American fast food chains like Subway, McDonalds, Dominos, and Starbucks. It is basically a self-contained neighborhood as it also has a laundromat, two beauty salons, two banks, two churches, a hospital and even a casino, not to mention several restaurants. While Mexican tourists frequent the resort, it is inundated with Canadians and Americans. English is spoken as often as Spanish. Jay often jokes, "We can almost see Mexico from here."
Bucerias, on the other hand (while it too is a place where many Canadians and Americans take residence) feels like the real thing; an authentic Mexican town. It lies on Banderas Bay approximately halfway between Nuevo Vallarta and La Cruz. It takes two buses and about an hour to get there.
As we waited at the bus stop, I couldn't help but notice the beauty all around us. The streets of Paradise Village are clean and the landscape manicured. Both tall and short palm trees line the center walkway/bike path that separates the roads flowing north and south. Bright purple Bougainvillea, mixed with pink Hibiscus flowers rise up to the sun in a cloudless sky. Tightly trimmed bushes with what looks like Blue Star Jasmine decorate the sidewalks.
"Directo! Walmart! Puerto Vallarta!" The woman yelled out. She was short and round and carried a cork board and pen. Evidently, it is her job to sit at the bus stop all day, documenting the timing of the buses and announcing their arrival. Sometimes she sells sandwiches or ice cream to supplement her income. We stepped up onto the bus, handed the bus driver thirty pesos and sat down for the first leg of our journey.
I watched the terrain change from an orchestrated horizon to the wild. Pieces of trash now blew across the grass and caught up in fences, leaving traces of a careless humanity. The buildings were no longer brand new and cleanly painted. These buildings showed signs of aging with cracked facades. Yet in the distance, and all around us, we were surrounded with fields of lush green foliage and radiant flowers, and mountains filled with jungles that dropped dramatically alongside white coastlines and sparkling blue water. The contrast between new and old, groomed and not was striking. Of course we enjoy the pristine and luxury of Paradise Village but we crossed cultures to be exposed to how others live, not how we take up residence in their society.
The bus reached highway 200 where it turned south to head to Puerto Vallarta. We wanted to go north so exited at the Notoria Publica and walked along a stone pathway overgrown with weeds. More trash speckled the ground. We now had one of two choices. We could run across the six-lane highway, dodging cars and trucks traveling at 80 km or, we could climb the stairway and cross over on the footbridge. We chose the footbridge. (Standing under the overpass, waiting for the ATM bus that would take us to Bucerias, I couldn't help but remember my teenage years when I hitchhiked across country with a knapsack, a guitar, and a few dollars to my name. I remember thinking I finally understood the meaning of Janice Joplin's song lyrics, "...freedom means nothing left to lose." But then that's a whole other story.) Not five minutes later, the bus arrived. We paid our 14 pesos and we were on our way again.
Our final stop let us off in a river bed which held, to our surprise, the local Sunday market. I am sure in the rainy season, this river runs full and fast, but today it is packed with dry dirt in the heat of the sun and filled with street vendors, where you can find almost anything you could want for a good price; a cross between a flea market, farmers' market and a blocks-long garage sale.
"Should we check it out?" Jay asked me. "Why not?" I said as we wandered through a maze of activity.
There was something for everyone. Some people were selling used clothing. Others new skin products. There were plenty of toy options for the children. Used tools were laid out on a blanket on the ground and old women sold their handmade crafts. There was lots of food too. We passed a couple of fresh vegetable stands, as well as fresh fruit carts where they made frozen drinks per request. Chicken and beef were sizzling over an open fire and the smoke wafted through the air, enticing our taste buds. Too bad we were full from breakfast.
Having seen enough, we turned around and followed the river bed toward the sea. Chickens ran in front and behind us, squawking. Not doubt protesting their friends back there on the fire. We found a path that led to a walking bridge over the river. This led us into another maze of street vendors. Only these shops are set out for the tourists and sell the usual stuff; anywhere from cheap trinkets, to hats and tee-shirts to beautiful handmade pottery painted in bright colors. The Mexicans love their color and I find it makes me happy.
They use color liberally. Even some of their buildings are painted with oranges, reds, and lime green. Many have murals covering their exterior walls. Some buildings are in fine repair. Others are unfinished with steel pipes sticking out of their roofs. Laundry hangs from lines tied to these pipes. Like many towns in Mexico, the streets in Bucerias are cobblestone and, I am told, laid down by hand. The uneven rocks make for awkward walking, so we search for sidewalks when possible. Most sidewalks are narrow causing us to travel in single file.
We navigated the streets until we found the center square. Bucerias is known for its many good restaurants and we found one in a bright orange building that sat on the beach. By this time it was lunch so we plopped down under a palapa for drinks and a bite to eat. It was a hot, clear day and our view was of the entire Banderas Bay with its majestic mountains off in the distance.
My tummy full again, I took off my beach wrap and ran into the ocean for a swim. The temperature was perfect and the waves were fun. Jay sat under the shade and watched the children as they played on the beach. This is where the local Mexicans come to swim and it was Sunday, the day they spend with their families.
I left the water with a huge grin on my face and sat down next to Jay, looking out over the horizon. He ordered us a drink and took my hand. I realized how lucky I was to have that moment, all these moments, and to share it with the man I love.
So no... this white chick who lives on a boat in the Mexican Riviera in a place called Paradise has no right to sing the blues.