Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Water Lines, A Disaster Area, and Cultural Differences

Back in October we got some exciting news about Banámichi's water situation. New water lines were to be put in to alleviate the lack of pressure and frequent outages.When the water problems were at their worst, the explanation that filtered down from the city government was that the whole distribution system was antiquated and not up to the current level of usage. The government was silent about overuse by ranchers, farmers, the mine and 24/7 watering habits of the townspeople.

Smashed Street
We all thought that perhaps our pueblo would actually enter the modern age! Then the heavy equipment moved in. First came a sort of slicer that was used to make cuts in the pavement where the trenches for the new system would be dug. More ominous was a concrete smasher with a large metal poker that repeatedly hammered into the pavement between the trench lines. It looked and sounded like a weapon of mass destruction. Our peaceful little town filled with noise and dust as it progressed around town fulfilling it's purpose in life.

The guys in our tiny expatriate community became critical--after all, that is the way of the American intellectual. "I criticize, therefore I am." They said that the RIGHT way to do this would have been to plow up perhaps one block at a time, get the pipe in quickly and close up the holes before going on to the next section so the hassle to the population would be minimized. But here, noooo. It soon became evident that the crew intended to dig up the entire town and only then begin to lay the pipe.

Trench and Pile Outside Our House
Soon there were 3-4 foot deep trenches and huge piles of dirt on all the avenidas (avenues) and calles (streets) of the city. It became impossible to move around town with a vehicle. People parked whichever way they could, adding to the congestion. There was dirt piled haphazardly in front of doorways, driveways and access points. Elderly people with canes were seen climbing the dirt hills to enter their homes. Our friend Tracy had to be lifted in her wheelchair across a mound of rubble to get in. People had to shovel their own paths to their front doors.

What Front Door?

Worst of all, the work moved at a glacial pace. There were maybe 10 guys working, scattered here and there throughout the town. We saw one poor guy all on his own, sweating profusely as he filled in a trench that ran the entire length of town by hand on Calle Obregon. Every now and then the mechanical poker was seen digging up yet more small streets and alleys.

The work started in October, and when we arrived in November, it seemed that not much progress had been made. We stayed a couple of weeks during which minimal progress occurred, although the workers did sort of clear the parade route for the Día de Revolución on November 17th. 

Our Perky Blue Water Line
One half inch blue plastic tubes pointed skyward in front of each house. Each was carefully tied off at the top with baling wire. Trenches ran crosswise from the main line to each house. In frustration, our neighbor Chuchico and another man filled in some of the trenches themselves, piling large rocks and concrete rubble on top of the thin plastic line. Was the line squashed or even broken? Who cared? There was access to the houses! In some places, people had driven over the blue line in an attempt to park their cars, shearing it off completely.

When we arrived in December, we were again greeted by mountains of dirt and rock piled across from our house and blocking the nearby intersection of  Obregon and Galo Trevino. The blue plastic lines still stand proudly at attention. No one seems to know how they will be connected to the house lines. For ours, someone will have to cut through 4 feet of elevated concrete sidewalk and a couple of feet of faux brick walkway. At Dan and Tracy's house next door, the blue pipe was lined up with the sewer instead of the water line, and someone will have to cut through a wheelchair ramp to attach it. Who will that someone be? There has been speculation that each property owner will be responsible for the connection themselves. No one knows how or when we will be connected to the new system. When they turn on the new system will the pressure blow the baling wire off the house pipes, leading to geysers all over town? Quién sabe (who knows?)

Our American friends have repeatedly complained to the Mayor. That's what we would do in the US. The Mayor has maintained that the construction is the project of the State of Sonora. It is not a city project and so he has refused to get involved.  His term expires next summer. Complaints go nowhere.

This is where the story takes a turn toward the collision between inconvenience and cultural and social norms. In the US, complaints are taken seriously. More often than not, complaints are acted upon and make a difference. When they are not, lawsuits quickly ensue! But complaints do not seem to be part of the Mexican approach to problems. That seems to run more toward solving the problem for yourself - like Chuchico did! If you don't like the trench, just fill 'er in! Confrontation and loss of politeness are not part of the society here.

It is astounding to me that the locals do not rise up in protest. Generally they just shake their heads, perhaps grumble a bit about how ugly and inconvenient the torn up streets are, and then go their way, The most they might do is individually shovel a path or fill in a trench to make their immediate lives easier. They would rather lift baby strollers across the trenches than to complain to someone who could do something. There seems to be no understanding of the possibilities of collective action.

We also noticed this when the mine first came to town. Some of the Americans here at the time tried to hold protest meetings to discuss the evils the mine might inflict on Banamichi and the Rio Sonora Valley. The locals did not participate. Grassroots action is not their way.

While the Occupy Wall Street Movement has been happening in New York and other cities in the Western world, it is almost inconceivable here. Yet there is great economic disparity - Mexico is the home to Carlos Slim, the richest person in the world, yet we know someone who ekes out a living for her family by baking pastries and selling them door to door.  She is not alone in her poverty. Just drive around Hermosillo and note the disparity in housing. Even here in Banamichi there is a  home that looks like a beachfront mansion, and a whole lot of one room basic cement block houses on the "wrong" side of the main street. There is ample reason for the Occupy Movement to take hold here, but that has not happened. It just does not seem to be part of the Mexican collective consciousness to protest in that way.

Back at the construction site, access to our friends Tom and Lynn's hotel was already closed  off on two streets. When the poker arrived and began chopping up the pavement on the third and last possible access street, Tom's frustration reached a limit.  Guests were arriving in a few days and not only could they not park anywhere near the hotel, they would have to climb the dirt heaps with their luggage. The situation was in fact truly outrageous. In the US, the contractors would long since have been sued.

Tom demanded to see "el jefe" (the boss) for the job. Neighbors gaped slack jawed at the unaccustomed confrontation. No one knew what to do. Someone called the police.Vicky (our friend and the city accountant) was called to interpret and intervene. Finally, Tom was promised that the streets would be open by Thursday, in time for his guests to arrive and park. Tom got what he needed - the street was indeed (sort of) open by Thursday. Breaching the norm  worked, if only for the people on Tom's block!

If a Mexican had behaved like Tom, he would be laughed at (behind his back because Mexicans are always polite), and perhaps little by little lose his social standing  if this behavior continued. People who disobey group norms always pay a  price. They make the group uncomfortable, and it seems to be part of human nature to push away of the source of discomfort rather than to analyze and change the norm. I can just imagine the locals gossiping about Tom's success.They probably attribute the outcome to his being an American.

What is the right way and the wrong way to approach something like this? I don't think there is a universal answer. Culture is a set of social behaviors that is deeply imbedded and mostly unconscious. Observable behavior is only the tip of the "cultural iceberg*." Cultural attitudes are an undeniable and inescapable part of each person's identity. They are not easily changed. The Mexican passiveness in the face of all this disruption is hard for me as an American to understand. But then that is precisely why I enjoying living here - to experience the differences and thereby become more conscious of my own cultural conditioning. Every interaction becomes a challenge to see simple everyday things with new eyes. Every interaction is an opportunity to examine my assumptions about life and human nature. Every day brings new awareness and understanding. Viva la differencia!

* Do check out this link! There is a great diagram that shows very clearly what I am saying.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Hyenas Ate My Soap

Spotted Hyena - no it's not a cute puppy dog!
Hyenas in Mexico?? Noooo I don't think so..... We were in a tent camp in the Serengeti a few weeks ago. When we arrived, there was a bucket of water and several of those small boxed hotel soaps on a table outside the tent. The next morning, the boxes were on the ground, but the soap was gone. The same was true for our travel companions and their soap. At breakfast we all talked about what had happened to the soap. A few nights later the mystery was solved... someone was awake and saw a hyena nab the soap and eat it! Weird!

Grazing Cape Buffalo

A few nights later I woke from a sound sleep to hear loud chomping right next to my head. I sat up and peeked out the window of the tent. EEEEK! There was a huge cape buffalo eating grass right out from under the tent just under my bed. These are seriously dangerous animals built like a tank with the brain power of an ant. What to do? I went back to sleep.

Animal adventures aside, what impressed me the most about Africa were the people. I went there expecting to feel a sense of separation from the people...that the lifestyles and concerns would be so different from my own that any real connection would be a challenge. I was immediately surprised by the warmth, kindness and generosity that surrounded me. True, the simplicity of lifestyle and poverty were striking, but the connection was warm and immediate.

Maasai women welcome us
In Tanzania we visited a village of the Maasai tribe. The men welcomed us in their traditional colorful dress with sparkles in their eyes and a warm handshake. Then the women appeared from between two mud huts. They came in a line, with their flat beaded collars bouncing up and down as they chanted. One of them took my hand, smiled at me with her eyes and pulled me into the chanting and dancing circle. Soon we were all laughing and moving and conversing with smiles and gestures.

In the Maasai tribe the women do all the work while the men take care of the cattle and lounge about. So I was invited to climb a ladder to the roof of one of the huts to help distribute new thatch over the top in anticipation of the rainy season. Afterwards, as I stepped down onto the ground from the ladder, the woman standing closest to me blew me a kiss. I blew it right back at her and felt a deep connection with this woman who was so outwardly totally different from me, but who shared a feeling of love and connection..

Me and Betty
In Rwanda we visited a womens' basket making cooperative. Once again, I was grabbed be the hand and led to a space on a straw mat next to a diminutive but very pretty and ebullient young woman. Her name was Betty...actually it was something unpronounceably African, but Betty was her English name. She cuddled right up to me and started showing me the technique of coiling and stitching a basket. Then she handed it to me and it was my turn. I clumsily and self consciously tried to do what she had shown me. Meanwhile, she literally wrapped herself around me getting as close as possible and protecting me from sticking myself with the sharp needle. There it was again. Her eyes smiled and held me and soon I was also pressing against her as we viewed the progress on the basket as if with one heart and one set of eyes.

Then the sky opened and it began to pour. We all hurried into the basket shop - the only available shelter. I found one of her baskets and bought it. She shouted and jumped up and down with joy. As we were leaving, she brought out a small basket she had made which she gave me as a gift. Such a touching gesture from someone who has so little to someone who has so much! I accepted the offering with gratitude.

So what does all of this have to do with Banámichi? Nothing and everything. Banámcihi is a world away from East Africa and yet the heart of the people is just the same. I love that about Banámichi...the warmth, generosity and genuine kindness of the people. Once again, they have so little, but give so much of themselves. The relationships with them have touched me deeply and warm my heart.

Beautiful Claudia
Yesterday I heard that Victor, the plant vendor was in town with his truckload of garden goodies. I hurried down to where he was and there I also found Roger and Claudia, and Tichi. I always feel such happiness when I see these people I know in Banamichi...somehow they always elicit that same joy of connection that I felt in Africa.

I can think of so many other people who I am delighted to know here. There are Ramon and Reyna...our construction guy and his wife. Such dear, good people! Then there are Beto and Vicky and their children...Ana Victoria and Betito.  There is a purity of intent about all of them...they offered friendship and assistance when we were new in town and knew no one. They are warm, kind, and generous with their time and their hearts.
Ramon, Reyna, Vicky and Beto
 And there are Raphael and Theresita....they vacillate between seeming American and seeming Mexican. They have that edge of that caution that you find in Norteamericanos, but ultimately they have the hearts of Mexicans. They graciously welcome newcomers into their homes, cook fabulous meals for them and invite them to their "country house" in the even smaller village of Jojobal. They offer gifts of plants from their garden and comfortable, easy friendship.

I am also thinking of Loyda, of the beautiful smile and generosity of spirit. A social worker by profession, she currently works at the school and is bothered by matters of ethics. She served a short stint as chief of police in Banamichi, during which time she excelled at settling disputes between neighbors and families.

More recently there is Iris the teacher who loves kids and loves to hold little Betito. There is Isabel the doctor intern, who looks too young to be a doctor, and who speaks Spanish so fast that I can't possibly follow her words. There are Rene the intelligent and Jesus Romo who is a US lawyer as well as a Banamichi mover and shaker.

And there are so many more that I have not gotten to know very well. There was the sweet man selling cajeta hearts on Valentines Day at the immigration post 21 kilometers south of Nogales. He had been deported from the US as an illegal, and was struggling to make a living for his family in his own country. There are the toll collectors on highway 15 heading south into Sonora, who always say "Qué les Vayan bien."..."may you travel well." This sentiment is uttered to every passing car...wishing each group and safe and happy trip. I always get the feeling it is more than just empty words.

There is little Gladys next door - 11 years old now - who when she was younger would rush out to help us carry stuff in from our truck every time we arrived. There is her mom, also Gladys, who presented us with home made tortillas and tacos over the garden fence. Even Chuchico next door on the other side, who seemed cool to us at first has come around and now is gracious and friendly.

And last but not least by any means are our US expat community in Banámichi...Tom and Lynn, Dan and Tracy, Darrin and Cheri. All of them have opened their hearts and lives to us.

A Big Thank You!!
As Thanksgiving approaches, I am so grateful for all the beautiful people with whom I share my life... those in Africa, those in Mexico, and those in the US as well.  I feel so fortunate to have had so many great connections with people all over the world. This is what it means to me to be blessed. A heartfelt thank you  to everyone for enriching my life in so many ways!

Sometimes I think that in all of our affluence in the United States we have forgotten what really matters. Many of us have become so concerned with money and material possessions that we forget to simply open our hearts to one another. This seems especially true in this time of economic downturn and election hoo-hah! In the end, when we are on our deathbeds, what will matter? The "stuff" we have acquired, the opinions we have held, or the kindness and love we have shared with our fellow human beings, even if they are different from ourselves?

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hard Work

Juan Miguel working on the new walk
Ramoncito pouring cement
Recently we needed to add a concrete walkway to our backyard, so our partner Tracy  could navigate the yard in her wheelchair.  As always when we need heavy physical work done in Banámichi, we turn to Ramón Lopez and his crew who have served us so well in the past. This time, the crew consisted of Ramón's brother Juan Miguel, another tall, thin nameless relative of Ramón's, and Ramón's 11 year old son. Work stays in the family here!

At first I thought that Ramóncito (little Ramón...names stay in the family here too!) was here to watch. But no... he actually contributed significantly to the work. He shoveled and mixed cement and helped to pour it. I was totally impressed. He seemed so grown up. Can you imagine any 11 year old that you know cheerfully and willingly helping to do such hard physical labor in the August heat and humidity of the Sonoran desert? I never heard him complain. In fact, he seemed quite happy to be helping. He smiled, he laughed with the men, and he did his share of the work while seemingly striving to be as much like the two men as he could. There were no signs of any child slavery going on.

In the US, Ramóncito's participation in the project might be labeled child abuse. After all, we avoid buying Asian rugs and Nike shoes that have been worked on by little fingers. Children are a nuisance in the work place, or in danger of being injured. The boy's presence on the job forced me to think through my deeply ingrained attitudes about children and work. How did I feel about him being here in my yard, in our employ? Many of the concepts I held came from my own childhood. (This is one of the things I love about living in assumptions are constantly challenged, and I am forced to expand my understanding.)

Our family spread: success in the new world
My father was a wholesale florist, growing carnations and chrysanthemums  on a farm on Long Island for the New York City market.  My parents were first generation immigrants, dedicated to making a success of it in the new world to which they had come. They carried the work attitudes and values of Northern Europe, and of a much earlier time in our history. Everyone in the family was expected to contribute, me included. True, they paid me, if you consider 10 cents an hour payment. Even given the economy of the 1940's and 50's, I knew I was being used.

My mother pretending to enjoy dis-budding
There was a great deal of work to be done...some of it outrageously heavy and some of it simply very tedious.When I was about Ramóncito's age, alone I moved slowly down the aisles of carnations in the greenhouses meticulously picking extra buds off the carnation plants so there would be only one perfect bloom on a single long stalk. In those days there was no MP-3 player, not even a lousy transistor radio to distract me from the misery. Sighing frequently to suppress the screams of boredom I felt rising in my chest, I dreamed with resentment about everything else I would rather be doing. I  mentally calculated how long I would have to do  this odious, never ending job in order to earn even a dollar. And then once I had that elusive dollar, the money was not really mine. I was expected to save every red cent I earned and use it all to buy birthday and Christmas presents for the parents who were forcing me to work. UNFAIR,  UNFAIR!   There was no joy, no praise, no one to tell me I did a good job. I was scolded if I made mistakes, and called lazy and worthless if I was too slow, or dared to complain. This was child slavery and torture to boot.

Once when I was a couple of years older, my father filled a wheelbarrow full of spent carnation plants. Actually, he went beyond filling it - it was loaded so high I could hardly see over the top.The he told me to wheel it down the long narrow path to the compost heap. Never one to disobey, I strained to lift the wheelbarrow. It was heavy and impossibly unwieldy.  I struggled to push the thing for a few feet before it listed to one side, twisted out of my grip, and dumped off the path. Hot tears streaked dirt down my cheeks. My father standing there laughing at my discomfort was the last straw. I scooped up heavy, wilted carnation plants and furiously flung  them back into  manageable piles in the barrow and wheeled them back to the compost heap. I  hated my father and everything about physical work. I swore to avoid it forever more.

Although the decision itself was soon forgotten, it soon generalized to hating any physical activity. I became skilled at avoiding gym classes, and  became a teenaged couch potato with my nose constantly buried in books.  I learned to love school. If I was asked to do something, I now had important homework. This was the one excuse that was somewhat acceptable.

My dislike of physical work followed me well into my 40's. About that time I discovered what I knew to be my spiritual path (Siddha Yoga), and so one summer I found myself  spending a few weeks at  Shree Muktananda Ashram in South Fallsburg, New York. The norm in this place was to do work one was assigned as service, without complaint cheerfully and enthusiastically, and without attachment to the results. Oooookaaaay......

One long summer evening I was in the garden of the ashram with a large group of other students from all over the world. We were laying sod. We were all covered in mud and my discomfort and resistance to this kind of work was nearly overpowering. As usual, I thought of excuses to run away and escape the work. Then, the group began to sing an (east) Indian chant. Soon the chant became so bouncy and compelling that I quit muttering and joined in. I was in a long line of people passing heavy rolls of sod from one to the other until the rolls finally reached  the people actually putting them into place. Soon I was filled with joy and happiness, and the work actually became pleasurable. As each roll heavily fell into my outstretched arms, I felt love. As I rolled it out of may arms and into the arms of the next person, I felt love. The rolls began to feel lighter! At this moment our Guru (meditation teacher) walked out into the field to be with us.Soon the field rippled with laughter and light-heartedness. The whole experience of physical work was transformed for me, and I actually began to enjoy it.

More and more since this time I have willingly taken on a variety of large, heavy physical projects - renovating gardens, hanging gutters, and in Banámich, digging and planting a garden, building the mud oven, and so on. Now, I find the work deeply satisfying. When it is done, I can look at it and see what has been accomplished. I find it connects me to my  physical being. I become fully grounded in my body. I feel the pull of gravity, the temperature of the sun and the air, I smell the earth and the air, and feel the pleasant tug at my muscles. I become more solid, part of the wholeness of the earth -  and thereby more at home in the universe.  It fills a need in me for the practical, the tangible, for what is solid in life. In some way I can't explain, this connects me to my to my very soul.

Through physical work, I have discovered that contentment is not a result of  idleness and detachment, but rather of deep engagement with whatever is needed in the moment. I love just plunging into a project and forgetting everything else in order to flow with the work. I am soothed, comforted, nurtured and fortified by the work .

So back to Ramóncito and the cement mixer. I have concluded that if children are forced to do constant labor against their will and without respite or support that it is abusive. It is one thing to be part of a family and contribute to the effort to sustain it in an age-appropriate way, and it is something else entirely to be effectively  held a prisoner to economic necessity or parental will. And so I still would not buy rugs made by children or knowingly participate in commerce that is built on involuntary child labor.

However given the supportive environment in which he was working, think about the life lessons that Ramóncito was learning that hot August day. In addition to learning a skill, he was learning about the satisfactions of hard physical work and the unique happiness of a job well done. He was being initiated into Banámichi manhood in a positive way. He was learning to have a strong work ethic from his dad and the rest of the crew. He was learning self confidence, self-respect, and the value of money. Perhaps he was even learning about the value of getting an education -  I know Ramón aspires to that for his children.

The boy did not suffer. He was happy and proud to be treated as an adult. Work as a positive experience! What a novel concept.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Water Musings

Bufo toad on top of mud oven
I pulled back the blue tarp covering my adobe oven and there it was....something looking back at me...big yellow eyes with horizontal black slits. Eeek! A Bufo toad! A fine big fellow abut 5 inches across. In May! These guys are creatures of the monsoon in July and August. They usually come out and spawn in summer puddles, their progeny swimming in the mud and eventually hiding in it until the next year. What was it doing here now? How did it get to a surface 5 feet in the air? I looked into its eyes and saw its dim amphibian consciousness looking back. I felt a creepy sensation on the back of my neck and went to get the camera. Shortly thereafter it left of its own accord.

The thing is, these toads seek moisture.   It must have sensed the damp mud and sawdust insulation I had slapped on the oven the day before, and was cooling its belly right on top of it. It's still a mystery how it got up that high, but the instinct to seek moisture must have been very strong indeed to draw it there.

108 F in the shade!!
Moisture of any kind is hard to come by in Banámichi just now. The hills are brown and parched, and yesterday the temperature hit 108 F in the back porch shade. The relative humidity hovers between 5% and 30% and it hasn't rained since January. The land  is brown and totally dry just outside of town. Wildfires are an ongoing  threat. Ranchers are busy trucking bales of hay and tanks of water to their cattle. Some can no longer afford to do this and are selling their cattle off in the US. El Día de San Juan (St. John's Day), the traditional start of the monsoon, has come and gone with not a cloud in the sky and the only forecast for rain out in the future.The women here gather to say rosaries to San Juan and pray for rain.

Someone* here told me that  Arizpe, the next town upstream from us has run out of potable water. Every time our water goes off here, I wonder if we have reached that point. One of the things that appealed to me initially about Banámichi was the clean, clear, drinkable water that came from the taps. Within a short 2-3 years this has changed. The town's infrastructure is aging. There are two pumps, but one is broken, and some say* there is no money in the city budget to fix it. Whenever there is a problem, the water is simply turned off, sometimes all day. The first warning will be that I start to wash the dishes or take a shower and turn on the tap and an odd gurgling sound emerges but no water.  I have learned to keep a large pot of water available in the kitchen at all times.

We North Americans are spoiled! In the States, clean water flows continuously and  we assume it will always be there if we just open the tap. We may be urged not to put so much water on our yards, but there is always enough for a shower later on. Here in Banámichi, even though it is personally inconvenient, at least we are frequently confronted with the greater truth that is facing all of us.Water is becoming scarce.

Tinaco on house across the street
It is quite normal in  Mexico for the water to go off periodically. Most houses in Mexico have a tinaco - a big plastic water tank on the roof for times like this. We are finally getting around to to installing a tinaco for our little is currently sitting on our back porch awaiting installation, however our water pressure is insufficient to raise the water to the roof to fill it once it is up there. Dan, our neighbor, wrestles with  choosing the right pump to get it filled and then how to put the water where it is needed in our 2 houses.

Speaking of pressures, there are quite a few on the Banámichi city water supply. The farmers and ranchers upstream from us freely use the water for crops and cattle. We have the new gold and silver mine that uses quite a lot. Because the pressure is low and the water is often off entirely, many people leave their hoses running 24/7 to save trees and rose bushes. There is little awareness of conservation and preservation of the environment here in the hinterlands. And it is said* that a rancher south of town uses more than his share of water with impunity; Mexican law states that cities cannot turn off water to any person. Instead they turn it off to everyone equally.

Meanwhile, we all have water meters for our houses, but they are disregarded. Apparently in Huepac, the town south of us down the river, city officials tried to implement the use of water meters to charge for water actually used, but the populace rebelled and refused to pay their water bills at all. In truth, the cost was more than many could afford. Banámichi put in the meters, but based on Huepac's experience, still charges everyone the same 55 pesos (about US $5) per month that they have charged for a very long time. The woman in the city hall who collects the water fees says that 20% of our citizens simply don't pay their water bill at all. It is a challenging political, social, economic and educational problem.

Water is a huge problem in the US Southwest as well as in  Mexico. In Arizona. we have been under drought conditions since the late 1990's, and this is the worst drought in Mexico since the 1950's. If we continue at this rate, (a friend says) that this part of the world will become uninhabitable within the next 10 years. Imagine the human upheaval that will cause! Historically (based on tree ring studies), there was a very long drought in this part of the world in the 1100's, and it has been suggested this destabilized and ended the Toltec Civilization. Later droughts may have also contributed to the end of the Mayan and Anasazi civilizations.  Consider what happened 1930-1940 in the American  dust bowl when hundreds of thousands of our own citizens were forced to leave their homes and move elsewhere. Severe drought does happen periodically around the world. It is not so far-fetched to think that such terrible conditions could happen here in our lifetimes.

Regarding social upheaval, one of the most memorable and compelling stories I have ever read is a novel called Mara and Dann by Doris Lessing. Mara and Dann are brother and sister and they live in a scarcely recognizable world where it is unbearably hot and dry in the south, with danger constantly lurking about. I especially recall the descriptions of clothes that never need to be washed, and terrible thirst and the tiny amount of water they are allocated each day. The vision Lessing paints of that hell has stayed with me for many years. I have long feared that this is not just fantasy, but a prophetic work.

What is the solution? Is there even one? Ultimately I think that the problem is too big and too complex for us human beings to solve. Global warming is in fact global, and involves so many cultural and nation-based political issues around the world that I am not sure we as a species are smart enough or cooperative enough to implement something on such a grand scale in time to prevent disaster. The problem seems like a huge tangled ball of yarn with bits sticking out everywhere and no clear place to start pulling. Where do we begin if a significant number of people in our own country with relatively good education don't even think that global climate change is real? Even by themselves, they have the money and power to pull down out noblest efforts to conserve. When beliefs and habits are so firmly held, they defy the ability of logic and reasoning to change them. And that is just one factor...there are so many more.

I think I am not being unduly negative or pessimistic, just taking a realistic look at the big picture. I do think we are in the hands of  natural forces on this one... and those of a higher power. Regardless of what we may think, we humans do not always control our destinies. Consider the people in northern Japan when the earthquake and tsunami struck. How about the folks in Joplin, Missouri, or in those living in the path of the Arizona wildfires? What could they control? Some could not even save their own lives. Like it or not, sometimes history intrudes in our lives in a way that nothing is ever the same again. This is exactly what happened to  people in other times and civilizations in the face of drought.

But does that absolve us from making the effort for the good of all? I don't think so. Rather it actually brings into clear focus the individual responsibility for action on a personal scale. It is probably the only hope we have. Having given this much thought, I now feel gratitude whenever I turn on the tap and water comes out. I look at water with new eyes. I know I will be more conscious of how much water I use and for what purposes. Is this partial load of laundry really necessary? Will I luxuriate in the shower for an extra minute? Will I let the water run while I brush my teeth?  Will I fix the leak in the drip irrigation system today or tomorrow? What else can I do?

I would love to hear from you, my friends, what you think about this topic. Feel free to leave a comment here, or send me an e-mail.

* I have used the phrasing "someone said", or "some say" because Banámichi has a very active rumor mill. Sometimes the things that people hear and repeat are simply untrue. In the absence of information, people come up with interesting explanations for events. As Ricardo, the owner of the local hardware store, said last night,  "Pueblo pequeño, infierno grande." (Small town, big hell.) And I was sitting there when he said it....

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Mud Oven

Easter Sunday 2011: I am not religious - at least not in the Christian sense - so as the church bells were ringing and the faithful were heading to Nuestra Señora de Loreto Catholic Church, I was dressed in my work clothes and gathering up gloves, hat, buckets and shovels and rounding Dan up to help. Since the Easter Bunny (an American concept) was not about to pay me or anyone else a visit here in Banámichi, I had no qualms about heading out to dig adobe.

The adobe came from collapsing walls and buildings on our friend Tom's property. It's sort of like "ashes to ashes, dust to dust" except here it is "adobe to adobe." It turns out that the crumbling stuff is an ideal mix of clay and sand to re-hydrate, turn back into mud, and use to build an adobe oven.

Preparing the oven site - Fall 2010
As I mentioned before, since 1971 I have wanted to build a back yard bread oven. I have waited patiently, every now and then looking longingly at the yellowing article that I clipped from Sunset Magazine back then. Somehow the timing and the Tucson location was never right. After all those years, it was now on my bucket list, and when Tom and Lynn stole my thunder and finished theirs, it was now or never. The yard in Banámichi was the perfect place. And...I can't wait around for these things anymore. I'm getting too old.

Bread baking in a Moroccan nomad oven
Why an adobe oven? It evokes a simpler time and a do-it-yourself pioneer mentality. I have always loved camping for its simplicity, and when we recently were in Morocco, I was quite taken with the lifestyle and earth ovens of the nomads we visited. I could easily see myself living like that! I love baking crunchy, crusty aromatic homemade bread. I suppose it suits my earth-mother self image, and to me, it's part of the good life.

Also, since I was a child, I have been attracted to off the grid independence. I used to fantasize about living far from civilization and needing no one. Yeah - I know - after years of therapy I can analyze the heck out of that, but in the end, there you  have it...the idea still holds an attraction even now. I figured I'd better build that oven while I have the energy and cleanse that desire from my karma! Besides, a challenge is always good for the soul.

So off we went to Tom's vacant lot. Dan is still nursing a broken clavicle from the accident and was grumbling all the way. But I have to give him credit - he did it. Together we shoveled up and screened 10 buckets of dirt from amidst the rocks, squashed beer cans,cement chunks and broken tree trunks. Even at 10 AM the sun was high and the air was hot. Sweat poured from every inch of me, but it felt so good to see those buckets fill with fine adobe dust. It took less than an hour.

Oven base built by Ramón and Fito
The oven process started when I asked Ramón and crew to build a river rock and concrete base for the oven at Christmas time. I figured that carrying big rocks and learning how to work with cement was beyond me - it would be enough to just do the oven and accept help with the foundation. After all, I have learned something over the years!

In the process of designing the oven, I happened upon a wonderful book: Build Your Own Earth Oven by Kiko Denzer and Hanna Field. This book became my adobe bible and as I have followed its directions the process has turned into an ongoing adventure.

Step one was to insulate the floor. According to the book, we needed sawdust. Dan and I went down the road to Aconchi to the carpenter's shop and asked for some. The workmen pointed us to a waist high pile of the stuff, but stared at us with disbelief when I tried to explain to them what it was for. we shoveled it into buckets and headed out before anyone could change their mind about giving it to us.

The next step was to find a whole bunch of old beer bottles to lay on their sides to cover the bottom. The bottles hold air and provide additional insulation for the base. That brought about  a trip to the Banámichi dump where we scrounged among the smoldering fires and piles of branches, broken piñatas, household trash and shocking amounts of non-bio-degradable plastics.  I finally found enough beer bottles, and returned home with the funky smell of burning garbage in my nostrils and on my clothes.

It is an  interesting cultural experience to compare the Banámichi dump with the one in Tucson. Americans throw out amazing amounts of eminently useable items. Whenever I go to the Tucson dump, I see things I want to bring home and use, but that is not allowed. Once I saw a man hurling perfect 6 foot long pine boards on the heap. Here in Mexico, when something goes to the dump, it is well and truly used up - clothing that has become rags, furniture broken beyond recognition, shattered toys. In Mexico, even old glass jars and bottles are re-used for honey and salsa.

Base with bottles imbedded in adobe-sawdust mix
Doing the floor insulation was moderately easy - laying the bottles on their sides and stuffing the spaces between them with wet adobe mixed with sawdust. Next came the fire brick floor and door arch. We had the firebricks in the car when we had the accident and they got all smashed. Lucky one of those babies didn't whack either of us in the head when we rolled. I had to buy them a second time.

The fire brick floor went down easily enough, but the arch was a struggle. Cutting the tough firebricks on the tile saw was a bit of a challenge. The saw jammed and then threw one of the bricks clear across the patio.  I'm glad I was not in the way of that brick. The darned things have been trying to kill me! But they were finally tamed when my first-ever arch brick stood by itself!

Newspaper covered sand form. Check out the cool arch!
The wet mud that creates the oven has to be formed over something that holds a void in the middle. That something was 8 buckets of damp sand. Dan and I went down to the wash of the Rio Sonora and dug it up from there. It was a clear hot day and billows of dust flew out with each shovelful. I didn't know that the wash is where farmers and ranchers leave their dead animals - mules, horses, cows. The stink was horrible.

Finishing the thermal mud layer
Working with the mud was very satisfying. It was fun
to grab a loose handful of wet mud and pat and prod it into place so it became part of the whole. The beautiful dome gradually emerged. After the mud was in place for awhile, the water in it began to evaporate, and the texture was cool and sensual. It was good to feel the earth on my hands, the mud squishing between my fingers.The day was hot and sunny, and I would have loved to immerse myself in the stuff.

It seems somehow significant that I did most of the mud work on my 68th birthday and that I did most of it by myself. I am pleased with the result and it feels like there has been a completion in my soul. Whatever need that was driving me has been fulfilled...but I  am still excited about baking bread and pizza!

Also, I am tired. My body aches, and the muscles are screaming "Enough Already!" I have come to the realization that I don't have many more of these big do-it-yourself projects left in me, and that is OK now.

To be continued....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Who has Rogelio's Ham?

A week ago, on March 21st, we headed south to Mexico. I was looking forward to adding the next stage to my adobe oven, and possibly painting an opossum on our storage shed wall. Among our various food items for the next two weeks was a beautiful spiral cut, hickory smoked 10 pound ham that was to be a gift for Rogelio who had grafted a variety of citrus species onto one the trees in our back yard in Banámichi.

We tootled down I-19 towards Nogales at 75mph. It was a cloudy day with high winds. Dan commented on how he had to work to keep the truck on the road with the crosswind. Still, he took his hands off the wheel at one point, rummaging in his backpack for something. This is something that makes me crazy, so I told him he was scaring me to death. As usual, he shrugged. My words rolled off him like water from a duck's back. Now there was tension in the car and I felt ill at ease.

We passed Chavez Siding Road  and the northbound US Border Patrol checkpoint. As much to break the mood as anything, I asked Dan if he wanted a piece of gum. "Sure," he said, and as I dumped it out of the container he momentarily took one hand off the steering wheel to take it.

Suddenly we were riding with the left tires on the pavement and the right ones on the sloping grass shoulder. With an expletive, Dan turned the wheel so we would go back on the road. The car lurched up the slope, crossed the two freeway lanes and rose up into the air on the left tires. Oddly, I recall this clearly from a position behind the truck. The truck came back down and for an instant it seemed we had recovered. Then we started to roll over into the median. I was slung from side to side in my seat belt as we turned over...side, roof, up, side roof up. I was in witness-consciousness...during all of this I had retreated into a part of myself that was uninvolved in what was happening - just observing it.

Finally we came to rest with my side of the car on the ground. I took quick stock of my body and noticed that everything worked. I thought, "Rats! Now we're not gonna be able to go to Mexico." I said to Dan, "I'm fine. How are you?" Dan didn't respond. I looked up and saw him hanging from his seat belt, unconscious. I  struggled to release my seat belt, and then reached upward and turned off the ignition. I wasn't sure Dan could breathe in the position he was in, so I stood up, wedged my shoulder under him to take some of his weight and sprang his seat belt too. He slumped to my side of the car and regained consciousness.

A group of Mexican men ran up to us and asked us how we were. I was aware that they were speaking Spanish and so responded in Spanish. Some of them may have been illegals. One of them started to kick in the windshield to get us out. Another was urging  "Cuidado! La Senora!" (Careful of the woman!) I backed away from the windshield as much as I could. I turned to Dan and noticed that he was bleeding just a bit from a bump on his head, and that he was covered with yogurt from the up-ended cooler that had been in the back seat. He said "Tell them they don't have to do that!" I ignored him as he had ignored me earlier, and in a moment was invited out by the Mexican man at the window. I kept saying "No tengo zapatos!" ( I have no shoes.) because my sandals had slipped off and I wasn't excited about stepping into a bunch of broken glass. He reached in, took my hand and gentled me out and told me to sit down on the ground.

As they helped Dan out of the truck, I looked around and saw all of the stuff that had been in the truck all over the median. Papers were flying away in the wind. Suitcases had been flung far from the truck. Broken eggs dripped from the door, and yogurt was everywhere. It was what is called a "yard sale" in skiing.

Dripping yogurt, Dan sat next to me and asked, "What happened? Why are we here?" About this time the paramedics and a police officer ran up to us and chased off the Mexican guys. I felt bad for them - they had helped us and now were being asked to leave. One by one they shook my hand, touched my back and wished us luck as I told each one "Muchas gracias!" I was deeply touched by the kindness they had extended to a couple of strangers.

The next few hours were a blur. We were each strapped to boards and taken in our own ambulance to the trauma center at University Medical Center in back in Tucson. After a few tests and some observation, it was clear that apart from some bruises and scrapes I was pretty much OK, so they sent me home. Dan had a broken clavicle, a nasty bump on the head, and various scrapes. He was released about an hour after I was. He still has no memory of what happened.

As soon as we had more or less recovered from the shock, we started to worry about all our stuff that we had last seen strewn all over the median in the gusty winds. Dan called friends John and Harriet who offered to take us to the wrecking yard in Tubac the next day to see what we could retrieve. What a shock to see our poor vehicle again! All the tires were flat -- one wheel had been entirely ripped off the vehicle and was in a nearby flatbed truck. All the windows were broken, the truck was dented and mangled and there was no piece of the camper shell more than about 3'x3' left.
Our poor truckling....


The wheel was ripped right off.

In the back of the flatbed was the stuff the towing company had managed to pick up. To add insult to injury, the bags of organic fertilizer that I was taking for my veggie garden had broken, and much of what was left was sitting in the foul smelling brown stuff along with twisted cans of soda, public library CD's and shards of camper shell. Notably unaccounted for was the ham,  a frozen roasting chicken and much of the food that we had had with us.

We still don't really know what caused the accident. It all happened so fast. It could be that a gust of wind caught us and pushed us off the road. It could be that a tire blew and pulled us off to one side. We will probably never know for sure. A few things that are certain, though...the momentum of a pickup truck at 75 mph is impressive. We are enormously lucky to still be on this planet. And...listen carefully...: SEAT BELTS SAVE LIVES!!! Please, dear ones, WEAR THEM!!

I was still obsessing about the ham. Where was it? On the way back to Tucson with John and Harriet, we slowed down on I-19 where the accident happened and looked into the median. The ham had been wrapped in gold and red foil, and would have been obvious if it had still been there. It was gone with the wind. Gone gone. The mysterious fish came and the ham mysteriously went.

I was finally able to let go thinking about it by imagining that the Mexicans got it. More power to them if they got that ham. I like to fantasize about them sitting in a cement block house somewhere in Sonora and enjoying it with their families. "Buen provecho" brothers! Enjoy your meal.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The mystery of the left fish

One morning last week I stumbled sleepily into the kitchen and began the process of nuking a cup of chai. Dan was already up and pottering around. He said "Did you leave a bag of fish out to thaw last night?"

"Huh?" I grunted. I thought I was still dreaming.

"When I was ready to go to bed last night, there was this big plastic bag of tilapia here on the counter." he said with a question mark in his voice."I didn't remember you saying anything about it, so I put it in the refrigerator."

  Now I was awake. "What fish? We didn't have any tilapia or any other fish in the freezer or anywhere else."

 "Well, it's in the fridge. Take a look at it." he said, annoyed that I didn't believe him.

I open the fridge and found a large white shopping bag. "Ooof!" I grunted as I pulled it out. "It's heavy." It must have weighed 4-5 pounds. It was filled with individually packaged white fish fillets, still mostly frozen.

I was incredulous. "Where the heck did this come from? Maybe it is Dan and Tracy's (our neighbors) or maybe Lynn left it here before she went over to Tracy's for dinner last night."

Suddenly it dawned on me that the stuff was defrosting, and I popped it into the freezer while I struggled with the mystery. Later that morning I asked Dan and Tracy if it was theirs. They said no, their tilapia was in their own freezer. I called Lynn. She said it wasn't hers, that she had never even come in our house that night. She had gone directly to Tracy's house for dinner.

We stopped by to see Darrin and Cherie, the new owners of the Hotel Posada del Rio Sonora, bu they also disavowed any knowledge of the mystery fish. What made this even harder to understand was that the Mexicans we know would not come into another person's house uninvited. They are very polite that way, and to them a home is sort of a sanctuary where for the most part, only family are invited in. No one we know would have entered our house without our permission when we weren't there.

Besides we couldn't imagine who among the Mexicans we know would have the money to casually give away 5 pounds of fish. Nothing about it made sense. They would need it for their own families. I asked Beto and Vicky about it and they seemed as mystified as we were.

Our speculations became wilder and wilder. There is something about an unknown that demands a solution. We couldn't let it rest until we came up with an answer. "Maybe someone was passing by with a bag of fish and came in to rob us and then accidentally left it there." I proposed. Lynn asked "Is anything missing?"  I had to admit that everything was in its place, and that this was an unlikely scenario anyway.

Besides I was pretty sure I had locked the front door. A big wind had come up earlier, and the front door blew open with a loud crash. I hauled myself up from where I sat contentedly knitting and closed and locked the door.

"Maybe someone is trying to poison us." Dan proposed.  I had to cop to also thinking of that one. (How cynical and paranoid we both are!...A product of living in the USA too long?) We joked about giving a piece of the fish to the neighbor's dog before we ate any of it ourselves, but neither of us took the poison idea all that seriously.

Finally we had to admit that we just didn't know, and maybe we never would. Somehow that is innately unsatisfying. The world seems dangerously out of balance when a thing like that hangs out there without an answer. Nevertheless, there you have it. We have no idea where the fish came from.

Admitting that we didn't know where it came from opened the door to eating the stuff. I proposed a fish fry. I carefully defrosted some of the fish. I gently dipped it in flour, then in beaten egg, and finally I lovingly dipped into seasoned bread crumbs. I sauteed it in a shallow pan in some good oil. Served up with a big salad and some of Lynn's home grown squash, it made a dandy feast. It was delectable, and everyone loved it, but the consensus was that it was sea bass, not tilapia. Nevertheless, there was so much of it that there is still more in the freezer.
Me and the fish

The question doesn't weigh so heavily now. Instead, there is gratitude for whoever left us with this generous gift. To quote Douglas Adams (Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy), "So long, and thanks for all the fish!"

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Big Chill

Last year was a warm winter in Banámichi. Some of the nights were chilly, but it never froze. The plants in my garden grew all winter and looked beautiful. A couple of bitter days in January 2011 changed all of that.

Now, all the lovely subtropical plants along the south wall are brown and look dead. Even the huge Sapote tree in the yard is covered with crispy leaves. Chuchico's even more enormous tree in his yard (the one that drops stuff on my veggie patch) is covered with crispy leaves. My carefully nurtured little mango, avocado and papaya trees all look finished. It's all very sad and forlorn. It is hard not to be angry at mother nature for ruining my garden.

Trumpet plant before the freeze
Trumpet plant after the freeze

It took two very cold days and a couple of nights at about 18 degrees Farenheit to accomplish this. The repercussions will probably last for several years. Our friend Tom talked to some of the "ancianos" in the town - the  folks over 80. Each one of them said that this kind of cold has never happened before now in their lifetime.

I remind myself that I am not alone in having my garden ruined. Others are also heartbroken at what has happened to their plants. Many people rely on the avocado, mango and citrus trees in their yards for food. All that is gone. Those fruits will have to come from elsewhere this year at a much greater price. Many people here live on the edge, and this will just add to the effects of the world economic downturn and the almost complete lack of tourism due to the self-serving US media reports of violence in Mexico. Money for high priced produce is scarce.
 dead mango tree
dead papaya tree

I personally was caught in a record setting snowstorm in Minneapolis, and later again sat on a runway for several hours at JFK in New York while our plane was de-iced, and now here is all this cold. What is happening? How could we have such a dreadful winter in a supposed time of global warming? Good question, I thought and did some research.

Apparently, the first thing to understand is that weather is not the same as climate. No heat wave or cold spell by itself is indicative of whether or not our climate is changing. But climate change does cause instabilities in weather patterns such as heat waves- like last summer, and severe cold and snow - like this winter.

The slowly rising temperature of the planet results in warmer water in the tropical Pacific (el niño), which affects  weather patterns all over, particularly in the mid Atlantic states. This also can mess up the jet stream and force cold air down from Northern Canada. Voila...a cold snowy winter in a time of global warming.

Back in northern Sonora, all the agave plants have frozen. This means that for several years there will be no bacanora, the regional type of tequila that many locals make.The mescaleros who cut the agave will be out of work. Those who make the bacanora and sell it will have less income, and the impoverished will now need to buy tequila instead of drinking their own home brew. The vegetable farmers were frozen out all the way down to the state of Sinaloa. One little weather system and so much economic impact!

But how can we be sure this cold is really caused by greenhouse gas emissions and not just some other more normal fluctuation? A recent article in the online New York Times cites a study in which computer programs simulated the climate and then analyzed whether recent severe weather could be explained by normal variations in climate. It was found that it could not, and that severe weather as we have experienced this winter could only be explained by taking into account greenhouse gases created by human activity.

It's interesting what froze and what did not. The lemon and Mexican lime trees look bad, and the fruit has turned brown and rotten. Meanwhile, the oranges and grapefruit are just fine. All the herbs except the basil are good, and the lettuce is ready to be picked. The coleus jungle is gone. I think about the lovely red chiltepins and their plants out in the riparian areas where we picked them. Are they still alive?

frozen Mexican Lime tree

It's hard to contemplate that climate change is partially my fault. I drive cars that rely on fossil fuels. I buy foods that have to be transported great distances, using even more fossil fuels. I travel in planes. I like my heating and air conditioning as much as the next person. My habits contribute to climate change, and therefore indirectly contribute to the wild weather fluctuations that cause so much suffering. What can I change about my life to lessen this impact? Should I not drive or not travel? Should I purchase carbon offsets? Should I eat only local foods in season? Should I suffer the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer?

So far I am embarrassed to say I have not been willing to do these things. Making the effort seems like such a drop in the bucket and to make these sacrifices would significantly reduce my quality of life. Not enough other people are making these sacrifices for us all to make a worthwhile shift in the greenhouse gas picture.What I have been willing to do is to consolidate trips so as not to waste gas, fly infrequently, use energy saving light bulbs, and to turn down the heat and AC. I am not sure these help any more in the long run than taking more extreme actions, but at least they soothe my guilt.

Still, when I realize the impact of the cold, the guilt nags at me and makes me wonder if I could do more. I think we need a change in collective consciousness so that enough people take these actions that we create a 100th monkey effect. How do we create that change? Many people do not even believe that climate change is real. I despair for the future of this planet.

Meanwhile, all the experts say to leave the plants alone for another month so it becomes more obvious what will come back. It is hard to restrain my pruning shears. I want to get rid of the brown crispy stuff and forget what happened. I want my garden to return to the way it was before. But that's the thing about change -- things may not ever go back to the way they were before. And that is painful whether it happens in the plant world or the human world.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

An Ex-Pat New Year's

For many Years Dan and I sought out quietude on New Year's Eve - we even went camping in the desert and saw in the New Year around a campfire, often with good friends. Apparently we have changed. Now New Year's Eve is all about a good party in Banámichi!

The purveyors of the best party in town are Tom and Lynn Matthews of Hotel Los Arcos de Sonora. Tom is a fabulous cook and takes this holiday as an opportunity to showcase his talents. For 24 hours ahead he cooks up a storm, including his famous New York rich that one slice could sink a battleship.

So this year the party started with a formal dinner of turkey, and two hams with sides provided by various friends. We gathered to feast early in the evening, as various friends both gringo and Mexican came and went.I love the way Tom and Lynn just simply include whoever is present - hotel guests, townspeople, friends of friends. By the end of the evening everyone has become a friend. The guest list also included the town's very handsome young doctor. Many of us women decided that we were developing ailments that would need immediate medical attention.

That's Claudia in the red eating cheesecake!
The night was chilly (but it was NOT Minneapolis!) and there were two fires going, so we were able to gather around them and stay warm.And speaking of warm, I love the traditional Mexican greeting...a warm embrace followed by a kiss on the cheek. I don't know about you, but I love hugs, and this was a hug-fest. The best!

After we all stuffed ourselves on the main courses, out came the cheesecake. Lynn and I teased with Claudia, who is slim and gorgeous like an Aztec goddess, that the cake will make her "nalgas" (butt) grow. She giggles at the slightly naughty reference, and Lynn tells her that it is totally worth it for this cake! Afterwards, the group dissolves into many conversations, some in Spanish and some in English and some half way in between, as we wait for the hours to tick away to 2011.

Bug Man Dan - a local "bad boy"
Whenever boredom threatens, our local overgrown bad boys go out in the street and toss a few firecrackers.
Tom launching a rocket
The personnel include Tom and Dan, cheered on by Raphael and this year, Minister Seth from Bisbee. A number of us decide that we might be willing to consider church if preachers were as fun as he is! We joke that the cops are coming - last year they did, but now we speculate that they are used to our antics.

Fireworks are legal here, and somehow the tradition started of someone going down to the town of Ures and getting a bunch before New Year's Eve. The stash includes the little red ones with dangerously short fuses that make a huge noise. Of course the boys got into taping them together to see how big a bang they could get. Who doesn't like a good explosion? Only minor injuries resulted.Tom now has a spot that he will no longer have to shave.

Bottle rocket
Then there were the bottle rockets that streaked into the air trailing fire.  A flag-pole holder made a perfect launcher for them. Lastly there were the actual big rockets which blasted into the night sky and exploded into a a cluster of multicolor sparkles. Of course the "boys" had to try out various taped configurations - firecrackers atop rockets, and multiples of each. The implied danger kept us all running into the street to see who was in danger of losing which fingers in between running into the courtyard to warm ourselves by the fire.

Where did you say that fuse was?

Times Square on TV
Midnight Stragglers
I went into the house and sat down in the warmth for a few minutes and fell asleep.So much for partying hardy! I am becoming old, dagnabbit! I woke up shortly before midnight and went back outside to find the last stragglers of the party watching the ball descending in Times Square on Dan's computer. How is it that New York has become the world's standard for bringing in the New Year? Why not a bottle rocket and great hugs and kisses in Banámichi?

Seriously, though, a couple of my blogging friends  (A Camp Host Housewife's Meanderings , and An Alaskan in Yucatan) have done great pieces on the New Year and the passing of time. Even though I am philosophical by nature, I won't go there this year. At this point in my life, I love good friends, shared good times and the simple contentment of spending time in this lovely little pueblo with a great community of loving people. I hope to do more of the same in the coming year, and I wish all of you good friends, good times and contentment as well. Happeeeee New Year!