28 May 2016

Alive Again in Pátzcuaro (With Photos)

Ah, historic Pátzcuaro! Promoted by the tourism secretariat as a Pueblo Mágico, it is a magical place, with a long history going back to the early 1300s, when the local indigenous people, the purépechas, founded it a couple hundred years before the Spaniards arrived in 1522.

While Jamie has known Pátzcuaro since 1969, the two of us first came here together in the spring of 1993. We had been traveling together as friends on a Big Mexican Adventure in an old Volkswagen van when we first came here. On that first visit, we met some people with whom we have remained good friends throughout the years; and despite Jamie announcing to me, one afternoon on an exploratory drive around the lake, that he was “done with women!” (at the tender age of forty-six), something about this place caused us to begin falling in love…

21 May 2016

A Way-Too-Short Visit to Bogotá, Colombia (With Photos)

During the wee hours of 21 April, 2016, Jamie and I flew LAN from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Bogotá, Colombia, with a short stopover in Lima, Peru, arriving to a lovely day in the Colombian capital, all snuggled up against a line of intensely green mountains to the east, around noon.  Following a minor adventure in which we ended up way out in the parking lot with all our baggage falling off the cart after Jamie’s doubts about going farther and farther away from the taxi lineup won the day and we told the guy pushing our cart that we were going back, our taxi ride across town gave us an impression of a surprisingly clean large city with many green spaces – parks, paths, and bike lanes teaming people out enjoying them.

When we arrived at our little apart-hotel, the Viaggio Virrey, I was exhausted, having been up since 6:00 the previous day frenziedly cleaning, tying up loose ends, and then executing the first stage of our migration back to the Northern Hemisphere with just a few little naps on the plane rides across the South American continent. But we had an hour until check-in, and we had eaten nothing but ham and cheese sandwiches ever since the bus terminal in La Paloma, so we decided to get a bite to eat and see if we could find a grocery store. Happily, there was a big, fancy, upscale store close by, and it had a cafeteria-style restaurant upstairs called La Terraza. Well, La Terraza was very busy, and in our discombobulated state of being, we were trying to figure out how the system worked when the woman we were asking suggested we try a plate of rice mixed with multiple types of meat, beans, veggies, and corn that also came with an arepa and a piece of pork skin… I think – comida colombiana. Melting into putty in her hands, we let her serve us each way too much of the rice plate filled with unknown meats, then Jamie needed help finding the right Colombian bills to pay at the register (the exchange was around 2,900 Colombian pesos per US dollar). The place was really noisy (we got up and moved after identifying the nearby soda refrigerator as the source of one of the loud noises), the meat and beans were way overcooked and dried out, and we were too tired to mess around with trying to figure out what it was about the little cornmeal cakes and the pork skins that had the woman so enthused, so we just shoveled down what we could and then headed downstairs to check out the grocery store. And, oh man, what a store! We would be back later to peruse the aisles and bask in the glory of having so many choices available, from the beer selection to the wall of coffee to the array of herbs and spices from around the world to the wonderful variety of beautiful produce.

15 May 2016

Reflections Upon Leaving Uruguay

After several days of heavy rains, we were fortunate enough to have a sunny day on 20 April when we cleaned ourselves out the doors of our little house in el campo outside of La Paloma, Rocha, Uruguay, settled up with everyone we had sold or traded all our stuff to, said goodbye to our friends, and took a taxi to the terminal to ride the bus to the airport and leave in the early hours of 21 April, exactly seven years and a day after we left the United States for South America.

I had been content to live the simple life in Uruguay, making do with what we had. I loved the sound of the chattering parrots in the trees all around us and of the waves of the Atlantic Ocean hitting the shore in the distance. But it was hard for Jamie there, as we were a couple of kilometers away from the center of town, while the nearest beach was probably more than half a kilometer, and with the pain in his feet and legs he has been suffering, he was pretty much limited to the block of Barrio Parque that consisted of our house at one corner and the little neighborhood store at the other, with a trip to town requiring taxi rides there and back. We had been going out to eat in town about once a week, to break up the monotony of my cooking (Was it just me, or had the quality of the produce available around town been growing continually more shitty as time went by?); but even that was getting old because, other than the fancy, expensive Bahia, the obvious choice for special occasions, the few restaurants that stayed open throughout the year all served the same uninspired menu.

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