May 27, 2010

Brooms and Mops

Irish saying: A new broom sweeps clean, but the old broom knows the corners.

This year we spent nearly our entire six month Mexico trip in the highland interior, including the fine old cities of Queretaro, Mexico City ,Puebla and Oaxaca. We visited Cholula, Cuernavaca, Patzcuaro, and many smaller towns. Everywhere we watched people busily sweeping sidewalks, businesses and public buildings. Frankly, 20 years ago, many Mexican towns were not so tidy as they are today. Now it seems that the central areas of every town, modest or large, is proudly shipshape. It’s no wonder, people of all ages are sweeping and mopping constantly! 

Morning is the usual time for the first good sweep. In Jocotepec, whenever we had our 20-liter water jug filled at La Purisima in the morning, we’d be sure to see a woman sweeping the sidewalk fronting the home across the street.  If a home has a dirt yard in front, it will be raked or swept, too. Offices and public buildings may sweep a little later, but it’s routine to start the day with a broom. This is commonly followed by a soapy mopping. In a cooperative craft store in Oaxaca, we found all the artisans together sweeping up, and mop water flowing out the front door.                                                       

No matter how daunting, everything must be swept. At the Xochicalco ruins, south of Cuernavaca, I had to call out to compliment this guy - the pyramids were spotless!

Sweepers have to choose the proper location to store the broom or mop in case it’s needed it in a hurry. There’s not much sense in placing the broom where it would involve having to walk very far to get it.







Paracho shop -- Mexico City performer – Pueblo’s Cultural Center Poblano.

Oaxaca’s Santo Domingo Plaza – and closeup of broom made from traditional materials that blends well in this setting.






A public storage location can demonstrate diligence. Or maybe, old buildings just don’t have broom closets! Below, Oaxaca Santo Domingo Ex-Convent Museum –- Teotitlan Church made with stones from ancient ruins -– Patzcuaro Once Patios courtyard.

br Patz Once Pations Mop sm







Below, hoping they put the brooms away before the Tzintzuntzan Easter pageant began –- These folks in Jocotepec may simply be proud of their tools –- Who would put a mop in a dark, musty closet, when they dry best in the sun? Oaxaca Casa de la Cultura.

Traveling vendors bring brooms. During Easter in Patzcuaro, sweet tamale makers camp out in makeshift tents in Plaza San Francisco, where they steam the corn husk-wrapped treats over wood fires day and night. There they are in rows on the yellow tablecloth! -- A pottery display in Jocotepec.Patz Easter SF Tamales Tent Broom 







Brooms and mops wear out. Fortunately, they’re sold everywhere in stylish bright colors, perfect for any location.







At the tienda near the toys –- 0n the street next to the avocados -– At the stationery/crafts store,next to their own handy green broom –- In kid sizes at the plaza – At the hardware store with the biggest selection –- And, handmade brooms on the street in Ajijic.








And, to make the picture complete:

                                                             Our own handy broom.

 “Let everyone sweep in front of his own door, and the whole world will be clean.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German Playwright, Poet, Novelist and Dramatist, 1749-1832)

May 13, 2010

Drivin’ Into Brownsville, USA

Tuesday we crossed the Rio Grande into a parallel but different world, Brownsville, Texas. We’re back, three days short of our six-month maximum allowed Mexico visit.

The trip was easy, a familiar route mainly on country roads. Chuck had the big chore, driving the often bumpy, patched road. Worst was the unfinished new highway from Lagos de Moreno to the lovely new road circling dramatic mountains and meeting Hwy 57 east of San Luis Potosi. It looks just as it did last year…smooth concrete parallel to the old road, but empty, blocked off with dirt, no workers! The old road continues to deteriorate. Rough roads just shake up the trailer! I played the IPod,took pictures, annoyed the cat, read Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, an amazing memoir.

Rumors abound about the possibility of thieves near the border targeting tourists, so we did what we could to be prepared, mainly by carrying computer backups on small drives, telephone with emergency numbers, contact lists, extra cash and credit cards in hidden pockets. We traveled with rig unwashed, so we wouldn’t look too grand! All unnecessary, but it got us organized and made us feel we’d done what we could. Though the road was lightly traveled at times, here were so many military caravans and checkpoints that it’s hard to imagine how anything could happen! No close-ups of these masked, flak-jacketed guys with big weapons!

We spent two nights in large all-night Pemex gas stations with big truck lots. The first, La Estación, north of San Luis Potosi, has a restricted access lot with sign-in security! Quiet. Lovely. The next, at the Reynosa/Matamoros 97/101 split, has a hotel and shops. But: noisy trucks came and went all night, parking just a couple of feet from us! Earplugs. Pillow over head. Never park in the middle. Pemex attendants are extremely amiable. Though it’s not necessary, we always ask if we can stay. A smile, friendly word and a funny remark about the road makes us all feel good!

At one point where the road made a sandy jog, we decided that we must be near the beach, there’d been seagulls last night! Then a very friendly guy pulled his dusty old grey car alongside to assure us we could keep going, there was a good place to stop for the night ahead. Until he showed up with encouragement and directions, we’d no clue we’d slipped off the main route!

The third morning’s jaunt through rolling green hills with old stucco cottages and fields of corn brought us to the Matamoros Port of Entry. This sign points the way to the International Bridge ahead … and…huh?


Border officials at both Matamoros and Brownsville had some new, fancy procedures. When the Mexico Customs guy came to get our truck permit, he also photographed the truck ID number on the door post, scanned the ID sticker number before removing it from the window, and printed a receipt for us with the same classy new compact device.

  The long vehicle line moved slowly across the Rio Grande. When we met the US Customs inspector, he shuttled us to the side for inspection. As unusual, we ignored the questions about liquor and plants to chat about food…our beef, pork, eggs and fruit. To no avail, they had their own priorities. Sad to say, Kathi, they took the Christmas cactus you gave us – the one that survived several chow-downs by the cat, and finally had a really good bloom fling this December. We also lost our painstakingly acquired air plant collection that just last week Chuck installed in a newly made  hanging display! All were no doubt immediately incinerated. I stepped aside for the BIG dog inspection, he was a strong silent type. 

After the inspection, it was on to a big X-ray machine! While we waited outside with cat, a tall metal column moved slowly past the rig. Nothing was revealed; we were free to go. Through all this, no one’s ever picked up the bunk to look under it. Maybe that’s where the plants should have been.

All we’ve see in Brownsville are MILES of slick, new shopping centers, strip malls and big box stores! Natural peanut butter!! And Chuck got a new laptop that dwarfs mine, darnit!

Here at Winter Haven 55+ Campground, a 25-40 knot wind has swept the park site for two days. There’s nary a soul around, I think they all went back up north. The ferocious wind’s been hard on small birds. This poor squirt, blown from the nest, looked for his folks for two days, doomed to fall from his perch and be pecked by grackles. Nature is tough, but birds generally build a new nest and start over when a brood has been lost. A mocking bird with two long grass stalks streaming from its bill struggled through a weaving lift-off. And nothing stops the doves from courting!

May 6, 2010

Hasta la Vista, Mexico! We Must Depart.

We came back to Roca Azul almost a month ago, as a last stop before leaving Mexico. Our Roca Azul campsite has been muy tranquillo! Well, except for three simultaneous town celebrations last weekend: the Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (Cinco De Mayo to you-all up north!), the Señor del Jocotepec Huaje church festival, and a three-day Latin America motorcycle builder’s blowout at the malecon/lakeside park! I guess it’s our send-off of sorts.
The afternoon procession was som1 May Parade Spectatorsber, but many spectators were dressed for the parties to follow!

There’s a soft, cool breeze tonight. We’re the last of the seasonal campers here. The migrating winter birds have vanished. Local egrets and coots stalk the shallows. DSC05393 Roca Lake no Birds


The sweet, doomed sheep that dined on weeds outside the Roca gate have met their fate. It’s just us, the songbirds’ morning cacophony, and the cows. They are happy cows, migrating daily between their feeding/milking pen and the lakeshore grass. This morning 18 big ladies had a fling, galumphing toward 1 Roca 18 Cows greener fields beyond Roca, cowboys on foot at their heels.

On Sunday we start our own migration north through Brownsville. Our six-month Mexico tourist card expires May 15. Again, it’s time to say Adios amigos! to Mexico and to our resident pals, who are all hoping the summer rains might, for once, be early. We end our fourth six-month trip to this fascinating country with the usual mix of regret and anticipation.
Since November, we’ve spent time in San Carlos, Mazatlan, Jocotepec, Queretaro, San Juan Teotihuacan, Mexico City, Cholula/Puebla, Oaxaca, Cuernavaca and Patzcuaro. Whew!
Blog Angels C&G2 smStay tuned, we’ve still got stories to tell about Mexico, and tales about our stateside travels. WE HAVE PLANS … still developing. We’ll also recall our sailing years and spin those yarns for you, pulling them from our nautical journals for the first time.

Anonymous: Well, how did you start to RV Mexico?

We first came RV’ing to Mexico after we were flushed out of the New Orleans area by hurricane Katrina. In years past, we’d racked up over three years sailing the Mexico coast aboard La Mouette. In 2005, we’d been working in NOLA for seven years. Between May and Katrina’s onslaught in August, we sold our sailboat home and moved into the small trailer at left with plans to take a trip – then lost our jobs to high water before we could quit! We were suddenly on the road … and we liked it! After the first year we bought our Laredo 27, with comforts to exceed, in some ways, those of the boat - still our yardstick to measure many things!
Curious about the history of the Battle of Puebla and of Cinco de Mayo? Check out Mexico Bob's post!