Along the Natchez Trace

Monday, January 30, 2017

Mostly Birds...

One thing that has "inspired" me to post more often is that I have a new camera.  Back in early December my Leica camera broke.  Actually, what broke was the sliding off/on button.  I don't know how many thousands of photos I've taken since I purchased this camera several years ago, but I do know that I've turned it off and on hundreds... probably thousands... of times.  I plan to have it fixed when we get back to the States, but know that will take time.  When our daughter wrote that she and her husband were coming for a visit in early January, I started looking for a new camera... ordered a Nikon from Amazon, had it sent to Donna and she and Glenn brought it with them a couple of weeks ago.  I'm just learning how to use it...  it does produce really good photos...  the biggest problem I'm having is that it doesn't seem to have much of a stabilizer, and since I don't use a tripod, I need all the control I can get.  My little Canon Powershot is a good camera and takes good photos, but it doesn't have a viewfinder (just that screen-like thing that is hard to use outdoors), so it is really "hit or miss" taking pictures.
I think most... or maybe even all...  of today's photos are with the new Nikon....

This male Painted Bunting was checking out our fountain.  There were 2 or 3 here, but none stayed very long.

We haven't seen nearly as many herons along the river as we did last year.  This little Green Heron is watching the shallow water for something good.

This Laughing Falcon was perched in a dead tree way across the river.  It never did turn around so I could get a good shot of the front.  And...  we didn't hear it laugh either...  which is kind of an eerie call.

This year we've been seeing American Wigeons on the river.
At first we were thinking they were Gadwalls...  but are slightly smaller and have the green stripe on their head.  But they all hang out together so you have to look closely.

The ocean has had really high waves the past few days.  It's fun to watch the pelicans dive down and hit the water.  But I enjoy seeing them just floating out on the water just as much.

We have both Cormorants and Anhingas here...
Often you'll see just the head and a few inches of neck above the water...  the body completely submerged.  They look like a snake swimming along in the water.

Okay...  not a bird picture...  
How many people can ride in a vehicle?
I'm sure the cab of the truck is packed like sardines!
Not just pick-up trucks are like this...  it's nothing to see a whole family riding on a motorcycle...  Dad, Mom, 2 or 3 kids tucked between and around them.

Also...  not a bird photo...  but so funny...
There is nothing happier than a dog rolling in a nice, squishy pile of something gross...
the smellier the better.  I had plenty of opportunity to get several shots here as this guy spent several minutes in pure joy!  I'm just glad he isn't mine!

I was asked why the internet service is so bad here.  Well, when we arrived early in October it was pretty fast.  Very few "winter folks" had come back yet and the only users were the locals.  Around Christmas the RV parks and rentals really started filling up.  The town population swells from around 1,000 to over 3,000 people.  Most winter folks here are retired and have a lot of time on their hands.  Kids get out of school early in the day.  By noon there are probably a lot of users...  or those of us who are attempting to use...  and by evening everyone and his brother must be trying to get on Facebook or whatever program of choice.  One of our friends uses VPN Express and seems to have better luck...  but the phone system that the internet ties into is the same, so I don't know.
Anyway...  our answer is to do anything important early in the morning and avoid the frustrations of afternoon and evening. 

The End....

That's All For Today!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

We've Been Busy...

Aside from spending my time as a Happy Woman, Bill & I seem to always be doing something.  Our Spanish classes are twice a week, and we both spend quite a bit of time studying at home, but that isn't our whole life.  Before inundating y'all with a bunch of photos, I must add that the internet here is the pits.  We're early rising folks... good thing, because by 8:00 AM, we're lucky to be able to maintain a connection or have a strong enough connection to get our e-mail the rest of the day.  Reading Facebook posts is pretty much impossible.  I know this has dampened my spirit for the blogging world...  not only do I seldom post these days, if I am able to read my friends posts I almost never am able to comment.  That said, I'll attempt to show some of the things that have been happening...

This is Pirate...  the photo below shows more clearly how he got his name.
Anyway, some of my friends here think I don't like dogs...  not so...  it's usually the owner's fault if the dog creates problems... like barking or biting.  Pirate has been my special doggy friend for over a year now.  He has an owner and a home, but he lives right across from the Plaza and often hangs out with folks at the the bus stop across the street.  He used to go on walks with the Monday Morning Walkers.  But sometime around Thanksgiving, Pirate got hit by a car... got rolled under and was in pretty bad shape for quite a while.  I took this photo December 11...  it really doesn't show how thin and bone-y he'd gotten.  I tried to get him some "vet" help, but with my limited Spanish and reluctance to offend the owners, time moved on.  So every day I started taking him cooked chicken meat along with the fat and broth....
I don't think you can see how much his body has filled out, but it has... and see how much more alert he is.  But...  he's not been neutered so he keeps getting into fights.  This past week I saw that his ear was about the size of a bowling pin (really, it was huge).  I did manage to arrange for a vet to see him...  he did, and now Pirate has staples in his ear... antibiotics every day and seems to be on the mend....  again.

I would never admit this to anyone, but that big chicken is going into a pot and be divided into about 5 days worth of good, fat (no bones) chicken stuff for Pirate.  His owners feed him and care about him, but ole "bleeding heart" me wanted to build him up more.
There are a couple (that I know of... maybe more) places around us that sell chickens "entero" (entire).  I went there to buy one the other day and the lady said she'd have one in about a half hour.  I joked with Bill that she'd probably go into the chicken house and select one.  But that's exactly what happened.  I got back when she was still plucking the darned thing.  No problem...  I've killed and dressed more chickens than I could ever count so I'm very familiar with all that.  
That chicken went from cackling around with the other hens to my stew pot in just a few hours...  talk about fresh!

Lo de Marcos Amigos sponsors a sterilization clinic 3 times during the winter months.  It's a free service (donations are appreciated) and the hope is that the locals will have their pets spayed or neutered.  Bill & I work at the clinic...  last Sunday 28 dogs and cats were spayed or neutered.
  For the February clinic, 21 critters are already scheduled.  Unfortunately, Pirate is not among these.  Sometimes it's difficult to get people to understand how much better off their pets would be.  I don't know how many more fights Pirate can survive.

This is our friend Christian.  He spends his days on his surfboard or fishing.  He brought us this Toro...  a big ocean dwelling fish....  filleted it and now we have at least 4 meals in the freezer.  It's a dark meat kind of fish ...  doesn't taste a lot like fresh tuna, but is similar.  
I don't have a scales, but there is a lot of meat on these guys!

Our friend Citlali stopped by this week to visit and brought her daughter, Ruvi to see us.  Ruvi is just 13 months old and starting to walk really well.  In fact, she has a "boo-boo" on her face from falling when she was running.  Ruvi was afraid of my camera...  but usually she waves to us and even blows us kisses.  Citlali moved to a nearby town recently so we don't see her as often now.

This is St Mark's...  the church I go to.
A couple of weeks ago, a Mariachi band played at the 7:00 am Mass.  For me it was totally unexpected and I enjoyed it immensely.  Much more lively than the Latin masses I attended as a kid!  You can see most of the Mariachi members at the upper right of the photo.

And...  speaking of music...
Bill and I are now going to the Monday evening Salsa Dance classes!
Wow!  What rhythm!  Wish I had even a teensy bit of the rhythm and "moves" our instructor has!
Bill and I are like 2 marionettes... jerking around like we're on a string...
Oh well...  we have fun and the music is great!

We still go on long walks....  just not every day.
We were walking down this road the other day and got behind these brothers.
The little guy was supposed to hold his big brother's hand...  and I watched as the big brother gave him a finger to hold on to.  
But here you see a lot of young kids watching over their little sibs...
we see little girls, not older than 5 or 6, carrying around their younger sibling, and there doesn't appear to be any prejudice about boys being the caregivers.  

We saw this iguana hanging out high in this tree the other day....  look...  his tail is as long as his body!

I want one of these trees in our yard!
It's an African Tulip...  not native to Mexico, but because the flowers form a cup that holds water it attracts hummingbirds and others.  Aren't the flowers gorgeous!!

Another of our walks we saw this Purple Gallinule
It's the first one we've seen here so we watched it for quite a while.  We've spotted a few other "new" birds this year as well, and while the birding hasn't been as prolific as last year, we are seeing some new species.

Melany and Angelina...  two more frequent visitors to our house.
Melany is 7 and her cousin (primo) Angelina is 9.  They live down the street but come to our house to play.  Not having had kids around for years I had to stock up on crayons, coloring books, sidewalk chalk and the like.  Here we're playing "lotterio"...  kind of like bingo.  Right now Bill & I are trying to learn enough Spanish to talk with them, but maybe soon we can interest them in learning the English words as well.  I just know our great-granddaughter, Evie, would love to be here playing with these little girls.

Our fountain burbles and bubbles every day.  I had hopes that the running water would attract some birds...

And...  I have not been disappointed!
I really don't know what species this little guy is, but he/she really enjoyed taking a bath yesterday.  I know it looks like a drowned rat here, but it was great just watching it!

Another new bird for us...   A MacGillivray's Warbler
While it didn't bathe in the fountain, I think it was the water that attracted it.  It didn't stay around long enough for me to take many photos, so I felt lucky to get a fairly clear shot of it.

As you can see, we seem to always be busy.  Busy, but in a very good way.  We're more "social" than we've ever been (when you live on a farm way off the road, folks don't walk down the road and just stop by)....  This may be a small town but there is a lot to see and a lot to do.  It's easy to get more involved with the people (and even the dogs) around you... 

Not a new bird at all, but one we see in many states throughout the USA...
So if I can put my frustrations with the internet aside, I hope to post a little more often in the couple of months we have left here this winter.
But for now... it's "The End"

That's All for Today!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Happy Woman...

One of the things Bill & I wanted to pursue while here in Mexico this winter was to (for me) learn to speak Spanish, and for Bill to improve his rusty skills.  
This was one of our first lessons...  taken back on November 2, 2016.
There were 8 of us in that class......

 with Molly, our teacher, sitting on the floor with her dry-erase board beginning our instructions.

Learning a new language doesn't come easy to me...  I've made attempts to learn Spanish in the past.  A few years ago Bill & I enrolled in an Enforex school in Seville, Spain, attending class 5 hours a day, 5 days a week for 2 months.  I didn't get very far in class, but sure had a great time in Seville.

While the going for me is still very slow, this time is different.  There are plenty of English speaking folks here, but most of the shop keepers speak limited English and we have lots of opportunities to talk with local people who speak no English at all.  The incentive to learn just to be able to communicate is really strong.

We started lessons back in November with classes held once a week.  Molly also taught an English class to folks who spoke only Spanish.  She invited our class to sit in on those classes, and we not only benefited from the language lessons but established some new friendships.

Most of those students were artisans who work the tianguis (street markets) during the winter months, and after a few weeks, fewer and fewer attended class as they were busy selling their jewelry and other artwork at nearby towns.

Molly rearranged the "classroom"...  hanging the chalk board on the wall where she was able to better direct her attention to all of us.

Molly's lessons aren't just learning to conjugate verbs...  yeah, we're learning when (and how) to use "soy" and "estoy", but often we'll spend half the lesson time talking about local expressions, about words we've heard or the such.

Molly decided to discontinue the English lessons for the time being...  and we asked if she'd consider teaching the Spanish class twice a week.  So now lessons are on Wednesdays and Fridays...  they're supposed to be an hour or 1.5 hours, but often run into 2 hour classes.

This is the official song for Nayarit (the state where we live).  
We have fun trying to sing it when we start each class.

We usually have homework, and often it's to do three things...
1)  Listen for certain words or phrases when out and about (like... Que te vaya bien, which is an expression meaning "Have a good day").
2)  Write out 5 sentences using the verb we're learning.
3)  Have a Mexican friend check your sentences for accuracy.  (this encourages us to get out and meet the locals).

I guess I didn't have my sentences checked the other day...  
We were learning the difference between "I am - (permanent)"  and "I am (temporary)", and I used the sentence "I am a happy woman".  Well, whatever I wrote, the interpretation was...  I was saying I'm a slut.  The whole class just cracked up laughing (with me laughing the hardest!).... 
It's so easy to mispronounce or just plain use the wrong word, and, boy! can it backfire on you!

I look forward to each class...  I may be a slow learner, but I'm sure having fun along the way!

That's All For Today!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Great Family Time...

Bill and I have 4 kids...  biologically speaking, 2 daughters are Bill's and I have a son and a daughter.  But they are all "our" kids and have been for... oh my gosh...  I just looked at the date and today is our 35th anniversary.  Our kids live in New York, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas...  our grandkids live in Michigan, California, New York and Texas...  and there are great-grandkids as well.  Our "extended" family are all over the USA.

Last week, when our daughter and son-in-law who live in New York came here to Mexico for a short visit we were thrilled.

They were supposed to have a direct flight from NY, but as it happened, the Puerta Vallarta airport closed for several hours and their flight was diverted to Houston to wait for the fuel spill here to be cleaned up.  So despite the 3 hour delay, they did arrive safely and we happily began our visit.

Glenn and Donna 
We wanted them to see our new home, but we also wanted them to see the things that we like here so much.  Walking to the beach in the sun and wading in the Pacific Ocean is part of what we like so much.

Here's Bill, taking a photo...  

My Leica camera broke a month or so ago.  I ordered a new Nikon on Amazon, had it sent to Donna, and she brought it along with her this trip.  Donna took this picture of a whale, rising out of the water way off in the distance.  We stood on the beach and watched the whales coming out of the water and of them blowing water way high in the air.  

We went to the Tianguis (street market) both in the nearby town of Sayulita and in our own town of Lo de Marcos.  Donna bought several gifts at the market to take back with her.

The town just comes alive at dark...  at the plaza these folks were selling Churros (think of a long, skinny funnel cake).  There was a long line waiting for them to be made, but it was worth the wait.

This is the beach at Sayulita, which is much more popular than Lo de Marcos...  the surfing is better and it's more suited for folks who want to be around the tourist attractions.  While Bill and I seldom visit this beach, it's a "must see at least once" and of course we took the kids there.

January 6 is the "Three Kings" Day...  the day the 3 kings finally got to Jerusalem.  It's a religious holiday here in Mexico, celebrated by a Rosca de Reyes cake, which has a small plastic "baby Jesus" embedded in it.  Our King's Cake had THREE little baby Jesus's.  Tradition has it that whoever finds the infant has to buy the tamales on February 2nd.  (Dia de la Candeleria).  Donna told us that Evie, our great-granddaughter loves these kind of things, so not only did she take the 3 little figures home to Evie, she also bought her a miniature cake so Evie can find her own.

Of course we ate out a lot...  traditional Mexican foods, but also...
A great meal at an Italian restaurant just outside of town.
The guys that have the restaurant are only here during the winter months... during the summer they go back to Italy for their business there.  The food was excellent!

Here's Glenn with my favorite dog.  Pirate lives up near the plaza and frequently hangs out with us at the bus stop or goes on our Monday walks.  Around Thanksgiving he was hit by a car...  lost a lot of weight and looked like he was a death's door.  His owners feed and take care of him, but I thought he needed something extra so often give him chicken and rice.  Of course he made right up with the kids...  he's everyone's friend. 

Here's my kid!
Isn't it great to see that your kids can enjoy life!
(and, yes, she's a Grandmother... but a kid at heart!)

Too soon it was time for them to go back to New York...
We had 3 full days together, and we really made the most of it.
Spent most of the time in our own little town and still didn't see and do all the things we wanted to.  One thing...  Bill & I are taking Spanish lessons, and the kids went with us to class on Friday.  Truth is, Glenn conversed in Spanish better than us!  His high school Spanish came right back.

We did have a wonderful time...  it just passed all too quickly.
They are back in NY now...  maybe the other kids and their families will be next!

That's All For Today!