The last several days have been so full and tiring that I haven't made time to write. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday of last week fairly quietly in Bucerias. One interesting thing that happened was that we were standing by the highway one day, waiting for the light to turn, when a police jeep backed up right by us. I was a little alarmed to see the driver was wearing a ski mask. My first thought was that he was a criminal and that we were right next to some bad action! The next thing we knew a red pickup raced by, and then the police jeep followed him, another police car pulled out after him, and we heard what we thought were gunshots. Sirens filled the air as they raced down the highway, and they must have called every other car in the area, because we heard sirens for the next half hour! We never found out what happened, but I did learn that it's not uncommon for the police here to wear ski masks. Maybe they watch too many American TV shows?
On Thursday morning Erik took the bus into Puerto Vallarta to pick up a rental van for our trip to Ajijic. These things always seem to take a lot longer than they should, and it was around 11:30 before we got on the road. We planned to drive south along the coast to Manzanillo, then inland to Colima, where we would spend the night. We'd been told that Colima was a four hour drive, so we figured we could still be there by mid-afternoon, in time to explore the city a little. After about three hours we stopped in a small town to have our picnic lunch of chile rellenos, tortillas, and beans that we'd purchased the previous evening in Bucerias. We found the town square, where there was a little playground and the kids were able to run off a bit of energy. We sat and ate under the shade of a tree and watched two huge bees buzzing above us. (They were around an inch and a half long, and we learned later that they are called solitary bees.)
We continued to head south, then at Manzanillo we turned east. We must have passed by millions of coconut trees, many of them shading banana trees. There were also many, many groves of mango trees. Fruit stands by the side of the road offered all sorts of fresh tropical fruits for sale, whole or cut up in plastic cups. Piles and piles of fresh coconuts were just ready to be opened and enjoyed, only a couple pesos each. We drove past one spot on the highway where there were several fruit stands on each side of the road and noticed huge jacas, or jackfruit, hanging there for sale. I had fresh jackfruit in Thailand ten years ago and have never tasted anything like it. I couldn't pass up the chance to try it again, so Erik pulled over and I went and bought two cups of jackfruit, as well as a cup of the tiny coconuts that were husked and ready to pop in the mouth.
|Fruit stand by the highway. The big fruits hanging up are jaca, or jackfruit.|
The hours stretched on, four, five, six, seven hours, and finally we approached Colima at dusk. We could just make out the outline of Volcan de Fuego looming above the city. The volcano is Mexico's most active, and it's common to see smoke and fire at the top. We headed to the city center and found a hotel where we could stay the night. By this time it was close to 8 in the evening, bed time (for the kids) on the best of days, and we were all quite tired out. We had, however, made contact with a Russian family living in Colima, and tentatively made plans to meet them for dinner when we arrived. She had already prepared a meal for us, and so we could hardly say we were too tired to come! He drove over to our hotel and led us back to their home, where we enjoyed their warm hospitality and a lovingly prepared meal. Their small home was full of books, in Spanish, English, and Russian. He also had a fine collection of butterflies, moths, and insects that he’s found and preserved. I’m glad that I didn’t have to see some of those alive, but it was neat to see them in acrylic! The kids had fun with their children, in spite of the language barrier. (They only speak Spanish and Russian.) It was midnight before we were all settled back into our hotel room. In spite of the late night, we were blessed by our evening with this dear family.
We wanted to explore Colima a little before heading out the next day, so after a picnic breakfast in the hotel's courtyard, we spent some time walking around the city. It had a nice feel, people going about their business, not touristy at all. We found a playground in one of the plazas and the kids enjoyed playing for a while. From there we walked around, enjoying the gardens, inhaling the scent of the jasmine hedges, admiring a tree heavily laden with green mangoes, and relishing some fresh squeezed orange juice. We drove a little ways to the Museum of Popular Arts and were pleasantly surprised at how many interesting things there were to see there. Huge puppets, small string puppets, clothing, toys, textiles, pottery, miniatures, masks, and much more kept us all intrigued. Even the kids enjoyed it, which of course made it a nice experience for everyone! There were a number of things that reminded me of the stuff we used to see in Mexico when I was a kid.
|One of the beautiful plazas in Colima.|
We got some chicharrones to munch on, then sat and ate tacos in a small restaurant across from the museum. From there we navigated our way out of Colima and onto the toll highway toward Guadalajara. We drove up, past the volcano, which was covered in clouds as we approached. We were thankful that God answered our prayers and the clouds rolled away, revealing the steep peak of the mountain. There was no smoke or fire to be seen, but I was glad we at least got to see the top! The road climbed higher and crossed many bridges over deep canyons and gorges. We finally came out into what seemed a high flat valley where there was a lot of agriculture, including sugar cane fields. After some time the cultivated land gave way to ranches with cattle, and at last the landscape just seemed desolate for miles.
About 15 miles before Guadalajara we turned off the highway and headed east, toward Lake Chapala, the largest natural lake in Mexico. We drove through a few small towns and then past fields of huge greenhouses full of raspberries and strawberries. (Arriving soon at a supermarket near you!) The days' drive was only about three hours, and we reached the lakeside town of Ajijic by about 5:30 on Friday. Our first stop was the lodging of our soon to be friends, Anastasia and Alexsi. We had communicated via email and had very much been looking forward to meeting face to face. They welcomed us with cookies and ice cream and it felt very natural to continue our relationship with this dear couple in person. Alexsi hopped in the van with us and led us to the hotel where we'd made our reservation for the next three nights. After getting settled we ate a nice dinner at "Quekas de Abuela". (Quekas is another word for quesadillas, and abuela is granddfather.) The restaurant is run by a sweet older couple from Mexico City and we all enjoyed our dinner. I had a "queka" with "flor de calabaza" or squash blossoms, inside!
On Saturday morning Alexsi and Anastasia arrived at our place around 8;30 and we all piled into the van and headed for Guadalajara. Our first stop was the airport, where we were to meet Bishop Alejo who was flying in from Mexico City. Well, one thing you learn quickly in Mexico is to flow with things, and this was one of those situations that required a lot of flowing! He was to have been at a certain terminal at a certain time, but he wasn't, so there were a lot of phone calls, wonderings, and driving around in circles before we all met up and were on our way again. From there we followed another vehicle to where we were going to have church. It was very special to get to celebrate the liturgy here in Mexico; one nice thing about the liturgy is that even though we couldn't understand the language we knew what was going on and could take part in it. Raphael was very tired and I spent a good part of it out with him, but that is worship too! Afterward we enjoyed visiting with people and being able to talk a little with Bishop Alejo, a very gracious and joyful man.
|Our family with Bishop Alejo in Guadalajara.|
The return trip from Guadalajara to Ajijic seemed to take a long time. We missed a turn and it took quite a while to get back to where we needed to be. Guadalara is one big crazy city! I was squished in the back of the van with Peregrine, Poppy, and Raphael, so it wasn't the most comfortable drive, but... we just had to flow with it! As must as I would have liked some rest when we got back to Ajijic, we didn't think that would be fair to our kids who had been in the van and church all day, so we walked the few blocks down to the lake. There is a nice malecon, or seawall walkway, along the lakeshore, and we found a nice playground. Erik and I were able to talk for a few minutes while the kids played.
A little later we drove over to Alexsi and Anastasia's, then all went out for dinner together. They treated us to a nice meal, and then we spent a little time at their place before heading back to our hotel. After getting the kids settled down, Erik and I took turns going out for a little walk in the plaza, which is directly across from where we were staying. It was really nice to get out for a few minutes after such busy and long days. The plaza was full of Mexican families and couples, walking, eating, playing, talking. The air was cool and refreshing, and it was just what was needed after the fullness of the day.