Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Holiday Dreams

Sunset Christmas Day
Well, the holidays will all soon be past us and I hope yours have been  wonderful. This holiday season we have seen many heart breaking tragedies and my goes out to the victims. My hope is for a Peace filled 2013. Here in Baja we have had some pleasant holiday celebrations with neighbors and new friends and simple home decorations and traditional yummy meals and gifts opened. Christmas day we enjoyed a American Classic meal at a local hotel restaurant with our thanksgiving dinner group. It was fun to watch the surf and share the holiday’s cheer.  I’ve posted lots of photos on Facebook …I’ve been enjoying hearing from all of you as well.

What I want to share with you is what I am doing tomorrow. I am driving to Pasadena to work on the City of South Pasadena Rose Parade float. One of only a hand full of floats still all build by volunteers. In the old days the floats all pretty much had volunteers decorating them. Now days there are big companies who build the floats and use special teams of volunteers. The thing is this has been a life time dream to work on a Rose Parade float.  I remember every year from very early childhood the family tradition of watching the Rose Parade on TV. It was a really big deal to my mom and I remember some years of not wanting to get up at the early hour and her waking up the household anyway, then being very glad that I was up watching it on TV. Growing up in Northern California I never actually went to the Rose Parade until I was an adult and we made a holiday trip to South Calif. I was thrilled and then when I lived in South Calif. I went to the viewing of the floats after the parade. That is very cool thing to do, they are parked and you together in a lot and you get to walk all around them and take photos and really admire the artistry involved in their creation.  Anyway, that was really great too and only re-enforced my desire to work on a float. Well life has a way of pushing some dreams to the background and then last year at an event in Atlanta I meet a man who was dying of cancer and we got talking and he said that one of his dreams had been to work on a rose parade float. I said mine, too. He said now I know I will never get to do it. That day I went home and thanks to the internet researched about volunteering to work on floats. I keep hold of the info, wondering how I could just hop out to the west coast for a few days. So, I kind of put it aside but now at least I did feel like my dream was possible. I had the info on how I could make it happen.

Then we decided to come here for the winter and I thought wow, I’m not that far from Pasadena about 150 miles. So, put in my application online and prepare for our travels. I was on the road in a motel when I got a reply from the volunteer coordinator. She wanted to know what dates I wanted to work! In the middle of Texas in Oct. it was hard to think about when I wanted to travel to Pasadena. So, I thought about it while driving down the boring highway in Texas for the next couple of days and then I replied. I really wanted to be there in the end when the float needs all the flowers to be put on at once in the last few of days.  So, emailed my reply and I got a spot to work on the South Pasadena float. After getting here and learning that the border crossing is not such a simple thing I have had to make additional plans so I can be fresh and enjoy my time as a volunteer float decorator. So, I am traveling a day ahead and staying in a nearby hotel. When I was young my ambition was to be involved on the whole process of the float building which takes months and one of the reasons I never thought I really could do it. Sometime we just need to alter our dream a little to fit it to our reality and at this stage in my life I think the time I will spend as a float decorator will be just perfect.  I hope I can take some photos, not sure if it is allowed. In any case if you are a rose parade fan like me enjoy watching the parade and when you see the South Pasadena City float know I had just a tiny little something to do with it this year….my dream came true and so can yours. Wishing you all a very happy new year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Holidays

Yesterday we had our first rain, part of the time it was a heavy down pour, but never any thunder and lightning like we are use to having in the south nor was it a really serve storm like we have in the south. The plants are happy for the water and the dirt roads we drive on are now a bit muddy, but quite drivable.  This morning I woke to a rainbow over the Pacific which was really awesome, we have had mostly sunshine today with every now and then a little shower that passes through. Life feels so simple here somehow, with pleasant activities to fill my time. We had our finally art class for 2012, the next couple of weeks the children will be out of school and have their time filled with other activities. We made Christmas cards which they enjoyed and even made some in English adding my name to them, I was very touched. It was one of these really delightful sunny mornings so we had the group outside on the patio/play area at the two picnic tables. We had the younger kids. One week we go in the morning and spend time with the young ones and the next week we go in the afternoon for the older kids. 

Around here children go to school only half a day, the older ones in the mornings and the younger ones in the afternoons. It is done that way so the older children can go to work in family businesses. When they are 16 they are finished with school. Then they go to work full time or maybe if they are very, very lucky they go to college. This is a little farm village and at 16 you go to work or become a soldier, maybe  get married and have children. Our after school art program is at a local orphanage/group home and at 16 the children must leave.  Right now the oldest child is 13 with the youngest around 5. There 25 children, most of them have been removed from their homes by the government. The government gives the orphanage one bag of beans a month for support of the child. That is it! Lucky for the children US churches and local churches help support most of these orphanages. The one we go to is supported by a Mormon church in Utah with people coming to do service projects there regularly. There is another larger orphanage in La Mision run by the Catholic Church. Then I know that a local non-denominational church that has been created by expats helps a Tijuana orphanage. What you come to realize that it may be very imperfect our US social welfare system, but at least we do have one! The children we spend time with are the lucky ones; they have been rescued at least for now and with luck will grow into happy productive adults. There are the other ones that fall between the cracks…the ones in the streets bagging or sells at the border breathing car fumes as they walk between the waiting cars with their wares or the girls who become prostitutes, for prostitution is legal here.

I have no thoughts or solutions for solving the social ills of Mexico, but I do understand more and more why people are willing to take such big risks to cross the border in search of a better life.  For me, I count my blessings this season, and know that I am part of the privileged of this world. My holiday wish is for all of us to take a moment to give thanks and to donate to our favorite charity our time and our money to help make the world a little bit better. Together we can all help to make a better world. Wishing You and Yours a Very Happy Holiday Season!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

This Week....

We continue to have our adventures here in Baja. We started off the week with another trip to Tecate. This trip was to get our tourist visas at the Immigration Office. A new president has come into office near in Mexico and Immigration paperwork has all been changed in the last month, cause much confusion for tourists and expats as to where to get needed papers. So, anyway, we had to go to the border to get our visa. Everyone was telling us we would have to cross the border and come back in…knowing the fun of the border crossing I thought there must be a better way that the Mexican immigration office workers don’t cross the border just to get to their office everyday as we set out to explore the situation. Now Tijuana is totally crazy with one way streets and traffic but Tecate which is a little longer of a drive is a small border town. So, Monday off we went to Tecate with a small map in hand showing the location of the immigration office by the border crossing. It was easy to locate the street, but found no parking on the narrow street. Plus we were not sure if it was the immigration office buildings for there were no signs. After driving around a bit we parked a few blocks away and walked to the side of the building we thought must be it and asked a guard. Once in the office that was pointed out to us, we found ourselves in a very small office with a small desk and a uniformed man watching a Mexican soap opera on a little tv on his desk.  He looked up without a greeting and Alma explained in Spanish what we wanted. He ask her questions and we had to give him our passports. He then tucked a numbered slip of paper into each and told her we had to go to the teller and pay. This was outside the building and around to a cage with a small window. I would not have thought it was the teller. We paid our $25.00 fee and headed back into the immigration office. The good news in all this was no lines, we were the only customers at the time.  The man took the passports with fee receipts and handed us a form to fill out. I found this form kind of odd in that it wanted to know only our name, birth date, address of current hotel and how we came into Mexico, boat, plane or land. You would think they would like to know where you are from and your permanent address.  We got our passport visa page stamped with a very loud bang and then ask about handicap parking and accessibility to bring my dad into the office. He asked how old he was and then said he didn’t need a card, at his age he was no threat! 

Finished with business we drove back to the town square and found a nice outside cafĂ© table to enjoy lunch and watch the local activities. The sun was pleasant, the pigeons friendly,  and our young face pierced waitress spoke perfect English. She looked like a teen but informed us years ago when she was a child she lived in the States. We were the only customers and enjoyed good service and yummy food in a relaxing atmosphere. This was the same little town that I first drove into Mexico coming from Arizona. It now seems so different from my first impression of it when I felt overwhelmed by crazy driving and stop signs and all the color. It now feels so much more relaxed to me than the other local towns we shop in, both Ensenada and Rosarito have far more traffic, road construction and crazy drivers.  I have grown use to the stop signs on every corner of a main street. You just know to stop even if you don’t see a sign and the street is rarely marked to stop, it just the custom to stop.  

Other news we had a nice brunch celebration at Bajamar with twenty other women. We are making many new friends, which is really wonderful. I enjoyed teaching at the children's center, they made a colorful holiday banner and learned how to use pastels. We had a Santa come by the house on horse back and wish us Feliz Navidad. Of course we had a few good sunsets and almost daily beach walks, a couple of days were a bit cold and fog filled. The big news flash of the week is thanks to satellite and some friends we now have TV…after a few months without it, we felt like giddy little kids when the installer turned on our flat screen and shown us how to work the remote…we have Los Angeles stations, which does seem incongruous to watch the LA morning  traffic report while checking the waves on our peaceful little Baja beach! Let’s hear it for the wonders of technology.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Exploring, Shopping and Art

Greetings from La Mision. Well, I’ve been busy exploring Baja and haven’t found time to write about all that I have been seeing and doing.  Not sure were to begin, the Thanksgiving weekend was filled first with a Traditional American Thanksgiving meal shared with new friends at Bajamar, then a trip to Ensenada and then a very interesting drive through the wine country of Baja, which is in the Guadalupe Valley and on to Tecate with a walk around town square for a look at the local artisans wares. There was also, a group artist show in a lovely home here in La Mision. During the week it was a trip to San Diego for some shopping and a little American food. I won’t bore you with another border crossing tale of how they just closed the booths and left three lanes of cars to try and cross into the remaining 2 open lanes causing a 3 hour delay in getting across the border. It does seem these days that the US is most unwelcoming county. The good news is I am starting to learn my way around San Diego…it is a beautiful place though it is a very busy city. We really notice the contrast between our little peaceful ocean side community and the hyper energy of San Diego. But the shopping is great, so many choices for everything! 

This weekend we met more wonderful artisans and went to a few more galleries in Ensenada, did a little shopping. I bought a fine glass figure Catrina  that I had been wishing for….part of the Day of the Dead tradition. She is a skeleton all done up with a fancy dress and hat from a by gone era and most colorful. Diego Rivera popularized her in his mural of Mexico and she has become a very iconic image ever since. Catrina has to do with even all the riches will not  keep you from dying someday….take each day as it comes and many other similar sentiments are expressed in this image, as well as the idea of being very vane and dressed to the nines. 

We went to La Bufadora to see the waves. We have been having really super high tides this past week. They have washed all the way up on our beach past the palapas, ( the beach tables with the palm umbrellas). It has been awesome to watch from our house, not as much fun to try and walk on the beach which I did with Patch, then decided to wait until the low tide which also, has been super low. La Bufadora is a place where the cliff side has created a blow hole and the water shoots up like a natural geyser nearly 100 feet in the air. The crowd was small when we got there bright and early Sunday morning at high tide. I enjoyed trying to get the perfect photo…got a couple pretty good ones. After watching for awhile and enjoying the beautiful visas of the coast line we picked one of the restaurants to have brunch in which also, had a wonderful view of the cliffs and blue ocean.  It is a joy to have such mild temps and lots of sunshine…a great place to winter if you enjoy a little fog and sea breezes with high temps in the 70s. Dad is ready for the topical weather of Florida, but for me this is just a perfect winter. I’m still really enjoying volunteering weekly after school art program at the children’s center. The children have been creating some really fun art. We are hoping to have a show soon. There is so much more around here to explore and new art projects to start. Adios mi amigos.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

OMG…..Another Border Crossing

Okay, I have another story on my latest border crossing “mis” adventure.  Well, it was time to make the monthly pet food run and food shop for the Thanksgiving dinner party and as luck would have it my new friend was already planning to spend the weekend in San Diego, so invited me to come along. Now we had just one little problem. She has a Senti Pass, which allows her to go in a special lane and make the border crossing in minutes instead of hours. This pass is issued by the Homeland Security and is good only for the person and their vehicle, every person in the vehicle must have their own Senti. So, what people do is get close the crossing and then drop anyone who doesn’t have the pass off to walk across the border. Now that sounds like a simple plan, doesn’t it? I’ve read about it online and it is a standard thing to do. So, we have a plan and off we go.  It is a beautiful sunshine afternoon and a joy to be able to watch the scenery along the coastal route to the border. Within the hour we are in Tijuana. Here is where the craziness begins. First it with cars, buses and trucks cutting you off and people playing dodge the vehicle as the run across the lanes of traffic. Finally, we get up to the Senti on ramp and it is closed. The police wave us away. We need to go to the other location which has us driving in more congestion,  now the sun has started to set. Our plan was to be well across the border before dark and now it looks like we won’t even get to the border until dark.  At long last, we are nearing the place to let me off and it  has become dark. There is a long line of people standing in this little mall area.  I decided I won’t take my purse leaving it in the car. I said, I’ll take my cell phone and ID’s. Stuff the passport and a $20. bill with my drivers license in my front jeans pocket, just as it is time to jump out of the car. She stops and I jump out. I start looking for the end of the line, I walked about a block, it is dark, I am feeling very alone and unsure of the situation. I think I will call her, then I realize I don’t have my cell phone. I turn and go back, but I don’t see her car at all, she has already gone across the border. I am alone!

I turn and start walking back to find the end of the line, it wraps down around the corner, no end in sight. Now I have different men approaching me saying “bus $5.00”. I just shake my head no. I don’t know what they are offering me.  I continue walking a long side the line it has been a few blocks and still I have not found the end of the line. At this point another man asks someone walking near me also, looking for the end of the line “bus $5.00”. I think maybe this is a good idea. I walk back to where my friend dropped me off and the first man again says “bus $5.00”. I get the twenty out of my pocket and offer it to him. He has a roll of US dollars that he can almost not get his hand around, he peels off a 5 and a 10 and hand them to me. He then motions me toward the curb, as well as the other three unsmiling skinny disheveled Mexican men, who are standing nearby. These guys look like the type I really won’t normally come in contact with…I start wonder what kind of bus have I just paid for…am I getting on a bus that is smuggling people across or what….many silly and nervous thoughts like this run through my head. Now the guy has us out in traffic walking in the same lane as the moving cars. We stop to wait for the bus I guess. Then a policeman comes along and speaks Spanish to the guy and he motions us to start walking. We walk tight against this temporary wooden wall , where a curb should be as the cars move past us. Then there is an opening past the wooden wall and he has us stop and wait. My imagination is at this point is totally running away with me, part of me is in fear and part of me thinks that is silly and everything is okay. 

Soon a white unmarked commercial van pulls up. The guy opens the side door and motions us to climb on in….a wave of English rushes out to greet my ears as I start to climb up into the van, can’t really see that much in the dark, but the voices are chatting to each other in a friendly way…..whew this is all going to be okay! So, the van already is totally full with a dozen people, but I mange to almost fit in a middle seat next to three other women.  The women in the seat assured me that they take this “bus” all the time. They park on the other side and walk over to shop or go to the dentist. There are very cheap and good dentists in Tijuana.
So, after riding along for a few blocks the van stops the driver gets out and opens the side doors, but he doesn’t want us to get out, it just that we are now in a bus line and have to wait. He is just giving us some air in the overcrowded vehicle.  So, we all continue to chat. Next thing we know the van starts moving and the one door is swinging around wildly almost hitting a parked car. The women in the seat in front of me and I grab it as it swings back toward the van. We are holding on to it while the bus is now driving on toward the border. Then it pulls into a bus parking lane. The driver gets out and comes back to the open door and counts how many people are in the bus. At this point I think great it is only going to be a few minutes and I will be walking into the border crossing inspection station. Wrong, we continue to wait. Finally a Homeland security guard comes around and directs us to the open side door of the building, where another armed guard is holding the door open. So we enter the inspection area just as they are taking a man away in hand cuffs’ from the next line. It is an unnerving sight. We stand and wait. The line doesn’t move. There is no one in the booth at the front of this line. We wait about a half hour and finally the line moves and it is my turn. I am greeted by the agent , passport checked and then I am on my way out the door. I get out the door and realize I have never seen this area before. It is a plaza with the San Diego trolley, fast food restaurants all around glowing neon signs in the dark. I blink and wonder what to do just then my friend is a few yards in front of me waving and calling me with her cell phone to her ear. I have never been so happy and relieved to see someone. She said she had been trying to call me, she had not realized that the phone was ringing in my purse that she now had over her shoulder.  “OMG” is all I can say about this border crossing. Anyway, off we went for our evening Art Gallery Open and other San Diego adventures.