The Border “Wall,” Pelicans, Realities and more

 

If you’re living almost anywhere on the planet, you’ve likely heard about Trump’s border wall.  I hope there are still some places that have escaped news of this grand and glorious project.  My hope is slim, but since I live so near the border now, I snapped a couple of pix recently to give you a firsthand look at how it is at the Tijuana/San Ysidro crossing.

This crossing, by the way, is said to be the busiest in the world.  When you have to wait anywhere from one to three hours just to get to the U.S. side, you’ll believe that claim.

With all the news out of the White House about upgrading the “wall” and making it more “aesthetically attractive,” you can imagine from this photo what that might mean.  This was taken where you leave Mexico and roll onto U.S. territory.

Those slightly tipsy lightweight poles are intended to hold up the loosely placed rolls of razor wire.  Good job!  As we were waiting and looking at the wire and the cars and the line, Michael noticed something in the razor wire and started laughing.

Perhaps Trump’s new deal with Mexico will include a demand that itinerant clothes hangers be removed from U.S. razor wire.  Or else.  With him, anything’s possible.

I looked out early this morning to see a long and steady line of pelicans over the water.  I grabbed the binoculars for a close-up and started counting.  Several had already gone by, but I counted 68 birds, pairs and a few singles headed north.

Pelicans are amazing creatures, and we see them all the time in smaller flights.  We watch, too, for the splash when one dives for dinner.  And once in a while, one of them shows up on our beach where it sits quietly for hours before taking off again.  My guess is that it’s nursing a headache from one of those spectacular head-first dives.  Pelicans don’t drink margaritas, do they?

 

Summer is just around the corner on the calendar, but nasturtiums bloom almost any time of the year in Rosarito.  These are part of the landscaping of our favorite place, El Nido, and grow in beautiful profusion tucked in with the old wooden half-barrels and other antiques the owner has gathered.  We artists sometimes struggle to get our colors right, but Nature never misses.

Down here we walk.  A lot.  Oh, sure, we have the cars and drive to farther destinations like the new Calimax supermarket out on the libre carreterra, but our go-to transportation is our pies (not the edible kind) which are enclosed in our zapatos.  And there are zapatos everywhere – in regular shoe shops and in all the small local markets. Every shape and color.

And speaking of color, the street murals make the walks a pleasure.  This hummingbird – about 8′ x 6′ graces one of the buildings just off our main drag, Benito Juarez.  That little “non-hummingbird”  at the bottom left is an electrical box.  Everything’s fair game for the muralists, and bright paint can cover a lot of construction problems.

Sadly, there are other problems that need more than a coat of paint.  As I write each time about our pleasures here, I’ve been leaving out the realities and it’s time to remedy that.  The color brochures for the beach communities of Mexico like this one show one side of things and if you’re an occasional tourist, that may be all you’ll see.

You may not see the abandoned buildings, the humble “make do” shacks in neighborhoods “behind the scenes” with electrical wires strung catch as catch can, roofs that needed repairs long before now,  half-finished construction and so much more.

The Mexican minimum wage went up in January, and for most workers is now a little over $5 a day.  You read that right.  $5 a day.  Think about that next time you buy anything Hecho in Mexico.  Or grown and picked in Mexico.

While the lower prices here are a bargain for the ex-pats who take full advantage of them, many locals barely earn enough to keep things going.  They have nothing extra for home repairs or the amenities that come easily for the ex-pats.  Many ex-pats volunteer with nonprofits here to help provide, particularly where children are concerned.

Despite the low incomes, here’s what you don’t see – at least in Rosarito.  Homeless people begging, sometimes aggressively as they do in so many cities.  You see even the least of the people here working at one thing or another, sometimes for pennies.  People with little means don’t beg – they sell you things, small things to be sure, in exchange for a few pesos.  And these people include the elderly, the lame, the challenged in so many other ways.  And they smile.

Living in a different country is a reality check.

After a conversation recently with an American man who has made a life in Mexico for the past 30 years or so, he sent me a “dialogue” between a Mexican and a gringo who is mouthing all the Fox news kind of information about Mexico.  The Mexican takes time to inform the gringo about the history of Mexico, the art, the athletes, the inventors and scientists, the gourmet food and more, much more than news about drugs and crime which are the subject of nearly all the stories Americans and others in the world hear daily.

The Mexican closes the conversation with these words:

“Please realize that Mexico is a lot more than what the less worldly people and fear-mongering media know or choose to propagate.

“There are over 100 million good honest Mexicans and their families who love their country, climate and culture, who even without knowing you will open the door to our homes and that if you care to visit, you will love to get to know.” 

The wonderful Mexican friends we’re making are living proof of what he says.  He ends this with these ironic words, especially to someone like me who once lived in Manhattan:  “Sort of like New York maybe?”

In closing, we’ve all heard the old saw about red skies and fisherman – red sky in the morning, red sky at night, etc.  But the other evening I saw this lovely scene develop at twilight and wondered if there was a poem for a pink sky.  Sky turning pink, more time to think.  Or  Pink sky at seven, looks just like heaven.  Okay, I’ll stop now and let you come up with something better.

Michael and I are learning more and more about our new country even as we miss friends and family in the old.

Life and the world are big, so wherever you go, whatever you do, viajar bien, nuestros amigos!

Michael and Molly

 

 

 

 

Christmas Old and New, Los Perros, Beauty and Blessings – Not Bad for Our First Month Here

It’s Christmas week, that time between Christmas and New Year’s when I so often have “called” the end of the year.  This year, however, there’s plenty to do down here – exploring, finding the stores we need and the restaurants we want, learning that a Google map does not necessarily reflect any current landscape and also learning that whatever current maps we find are mostly those that feature drinks, food, or spring break hot spots (which include both of the above).

Living down here, I’m reminded of an old bit of wisdom from my consulting days – The Three Laws of Information:

The information you have is not what you want.
The information want is not what you need.
The information you need is not available.
and for me
If the information you need is available, it will be only in Spanish.

But one activity we never tire of is watching  –  watching the ocean, watching the people and horses and occasional camels on the beach, watching the sunsets and moon rises and constellations that we missed while living in the city, and – in Mexico – watching los perros, the dogs.

I read about the dogs before coming down and have not been disappointed.  They run in little packs, little dogs mostly in those little packs.  I always think of “The Lady and the Tramp” and can imagine their conversations and songs as they wander the streets happy to see other and gentle on the mind.  They’re well-behaved when waiting outside any restaurant (because down here they do wait outside), they occasionally tag along on a walk, and bigger guard dogs bark without cease although some of them are not as bright as others.

We passed a place yesterday with two large snarling black dogs right out of a horror movie behind the fence.  When we came out of the shop, an open air fruiteria, they were quiet and the biggest dog was apparently on siesta break. He didn’t notice us at all until Michael called out, “Hey, we’re over here,” whereupon Rommel or Raoul or whatever his name was lunged into ferocious action.   Even the dogs have a kind of easy come, easy go attitude, which is refreshing after the hurly burly of the city.

Speaking of watching, in the last week we’ve seen a wide range of weather including beautiful sunsets and the stunning full moon.  These were both taken from our balcony.

We’ve also seen a variety of ocean-going critters including, in addition to our beloved pelicans in bigger and bigger flights, dolphins and a quartet of orcas playing just off-shore.  The gray whales will soon be headed north after calving time in San Ignacio Lagoon.

Our Christmas was great, our first one together and we got sentimental enough to find a tree and decorate it and wrap the packages complete with ribbons and bows.  We tried watching “White Christmas,” an old family tradition for me, and it was fine except that I realized with Michael’s hilarious narration that it was even hokier than I remembered.  Sometimes a person just has to move on!  I did fast forward to watch the old soldiers follow Dean Jagger, the “old man” with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye leading the song.  Of course, I shed my usual tears and Michael understood.

We’re almost at the end of 2018 and ready to head into 2019 not quite fully-fledged in Mexico but more fledged every day.  Mexico turns out to be something like Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery on the old Prairie Home Companion.  If Ralph didn’t have what you wanted, you probably didn’t need it.  Back to the Three Laws of Information.

Things don’t work the same way (ask me about having the power shut off in the middle of a shower because the bill – somebody else’s – had not been paid).  “Familiar” food does not taste the same but there are really good other things to eat.  Sizes are different – I now wear a size 26 shoe.  But as more than one advisor counseled, “If you want life exactly like you live it in the States, stay home.”

We didn’t want to stay home and we are falling more in love with Mexico all the time.  At the moment, Michael is building my art table with things from Home Depot – our Mexican Home Depot.  We want to be where we are.

We hope your holidays have been great and that 2019 will surprise you in the best possible ways.  If you’re not in the mood to make resolutions for the new year (and who is in today’s craziness?) there’s one take-away from “White Christmas” that’s not hokey at all…Irving Berlin was right on the money:

“If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep,
and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”  We’re counting ours.

And you’ll more than likely dream sweet dreams without care, or at least dreams in another language with a lot of friendly smiles.

Until next year, hasta la vista, amigos and amigas!