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Lace Curtain Liza

Diary of Adventures

Puerta Vallarta, Mexico City and US Air

18 November 2010

We just returned from Puerta Vallarta and Mexico City. First we flew to Puerta Vallarta. We stayed in a condominium called Ocho Cascades, which translates into “Eight Waterfalls”. The design of this building was interesting because it clung to the side of the mountain with each unit being one floor. Each floor had its own little swimming pool which overflowed and spilled down to the pool below. It was all open air, just three walls, the fourth being open to enjoy the breezes and amazing views and sunsets. We had two bedrooms and a kitchen with seating area. There were no elevators, so that meant we had a few stairs to climb, and might I add it was straight up.

Our friends, Jane and Rich, arrived the second day and we vacationed for the rest of the week with them. We also were able to see Traudl and Danny, who happened to be in Puerta Vallarta at the same time, although at a different resort.

All was well as we went to see “Rhythms of the Night’, which involved a short cruise to a far away beach and then dinner before the show in the woods by the beach. The evening was impressively orchestrated. The dancers were professional and the costumes reflected their Aztec roots. As the theater was intimate, you sometimes were in the middle of the action.

However, the little boat taking us there was over the top with the entertainment loudly insisting that you “have a good time”.

Another side trip went to San Sebastian. The ride took about an hour and a half over some bumpy country roads on a bus with a suspension system that felt like a school bus. The little town seemed untouched, a wonderful example of colonial Mexican, but these days the residents used cars instead of horses. We stopped at a coffee plantation, which was interesting because it had been in business for at least two generations, one hundred years. Now it is the only one remaining in that area because the peasants could not live on the wages they paid to pick coffee beans all day, which amounted to about 100 pesos or ten dollars a day. Many of the residents packed up and moved to America.

One of the most interesting places we visited in San Sebastian was this little museum operated by a family. It was full of family mementos, but the story had us chuckling. Back in the late 1800s three families came from Spain and operated the local silver mine. As they were determined to keep the wealth in the family, or at least with the Spanish aristocracy who had moved to San Sebastian, they were forced to inter-marry. So the woman was showing us family photos. She would point to someone’s face and tell us “she is my aunt, my mother-in-law and my cousin”.

Fortunately it did not appear that insanity drifted down the family tree from so much inter-marrying. The Mexican government nationalized the silver mines in the early 20th century and the families lost all of their wealth. Then the silver veins in the mines went dry and unemployment forced many of their citizens to flee north to the United State to survive. The good news is a mining company from Canada has bought the rights to mine and is poised to put everyone back to work again. The number of kids in their elementary school has increased from 28 to 79 in the past two years. People are moving back to be with their families.

After we returned from San Sebastian we decided to have dinner at a new Peruvian restaurant. When we were seated a waiter came over to talk to us. The sight of him gave us plenty of reason to pause. He appeared to be a child born with the afflictions associated with thalidomide. His hands never quite formed, they looked more like the photos you see of a fetus who has just developed buds for fingers, their growth thereafter arrested. His face was not shaped like a normal person, his features were over pronounced in their development. You could tell his feet were probably also different because his shoes did not fit correctly.

When I first took sight of this man, I knew I would be challenged to accept his looks, which were no fault of his own. It was hard to look at those oddly formed fingers and their fingernails. What really repulsed me was the long hair growing out of his upper fingers.

“Use discipline. Find some compassion.” I reminded myself . “Don’t hurt his feelings.” I suspected he had endured many strange reactions all of his life. I found myself growing with empathy every time he came to our table. It must be hard for this man to hold a job in the service industry with everything that went wrong when he was born.

When he spoke he was just like any other man in the world. His voice was right, his thoughts were funny. He was a regular kind of guy in every other respect.

Still I could tell that the other waiters were not so pleased to be working side by side with this man, their eyes seemed to slide away after looking at him. It’s a tough call for a new restaurant to brave social prejudice like this and hire someone who might make some people go away, but who would have a hard time getting work in most any other setting. Hats off to the owner.

Meanwhile, next door was an Italian restaurant and this place was packed. I wondered……….

We shopped around Puerta Vallarta and bought several pieces of clothing from one particular shop. We asked the shopkeeper if she would hold our bags for a couple of hours so we wouldn’t have to carry them around. I sent David to retrieve our bags while I stayed with Jane in a shop. The other shop owner claimed to David that I had not paid for one of the shirts and produced every receipt except that one as proof. As I had the receipts in my handbag, David didn’t know and just told her to keep that last shirt. I was disappointed to hear of her shenanigan later in the day. She got away with that trick.

On the last night of our visit to Puerta Vallarta, I loaned Richard some cash so he could tip the taxi driver and get his car out of the rented space in Phoenix and whatever other costs he needed. Then David and I went to bed, waiting for our alarm to sound at four in the morning.

It wasn’t until we got to Mexico City when I wanted to tip a street performer that I realized all of the money from my purse had been removed, all except for one dollar. Apparently someone had come into our room in the night and gotten into my purse. There were about seventy one dollar bills I was keeping so I could buy little things and tip street performers. Now all I had was one dollar bill.

I gave it to a performing violinist in Mexico City, but felt very badly about the loss.

This was especially tough to take after we had more than generously tipped the maid on the last day. I suspect it was either her or the man who worked at that hotel who waited until we were asleep to come and take my money. And to think someone we didn’t know came into our bedroom makes me horribly ill at ease. It wasn’t as though we could exactly keep strangers out with the way the unit was laid out.

I’ll never ever return.

Mexico City was a blast. They were celebrating the Revolution of 1810, two hundred years of history. On the Zoccolo was staged the most amazing production with hundreds of dancers, lights, costumes, special effects, lighting, music, a wonderful light show upon the surrounding buildings, fireworks….it was unbelievable. This put that lovely program we went to in Puerta Vallarta, “Rhythms in the Night” into the minor production file as this one had 200 times more to it….and it was FREE!!! The first night we watched it on the Zoccalo, the next night on the balcony of a building on the square. We had dinner at this restaurant and then watched it again from above. It was absolutely the greatest show on earth!!!

We also went to the canals of the flowers and took a ride on a boat around the swamps. This included another historical theatrical production for us to see, but it paled compared to the one on the Zoccalo as it wasn’t done nearly as well. It was my first time to pole around a swamp, besides Venice, and has always been curiously something I wanted to do. Ah, but it was a bit scary as the boat keeper washed down the floor of his flat bottomed boat with water from the swamp and then used the same cloth to wipe down the table going down the middle. I was mortified!!!!! Little boats came up to ours with snacks to buy….tacos, beverages, tamales, etc. But at this point I had lost my appetite!!!

All of the museums in Mexico City were loaded with amazing exhibits of the Mexican folk arts to help celebrate the anniversary of the Revolution of 1810. I came home with some very special things. One of which was this bold emerald green scarf. I wore it on the airplane coming home to help stay warm, but then got too hot and took it off. When our US Air flight arrived in Seattle it had fallen below the seat and I forgot to look for it. I was so relieved to find that someone had turned it in when I returned to Sea-Tac airport yesterday looking for it at lost and found on US Air!!! Oh that would have burned to lose a $40 scarf I only wore once!!!! I was so glad to get it back!!!!

Another great find was a beautiful beaded purse, completely constructed with tiny glass beads. It was covered with pansies and is absolutely the prettiest purse I have ever owned. AND when we went shopping we came upon an antique jewelry store where I bought myself this incredible Indian bracelet which cost me $50…which no doubt would sell for about $300 down in Phoenix!!!!

Our flight from Mexico City to Phoenix was startling, it became apparent there was a Nazi in the cockpit as the flight attendants were instructed to tell everyone that no one could form a queue in the aisle at the bathroom in the rear of the plane. This was the only one available as First Class was off limits to anyone who needed to use the bathroom. We were told to turn around and look at the lights and if they were green we could go to the bathroom, that is if we saw it first, I suppose.

The man across from me was blind and had a white cane. He needed to use the bathroom so his companion, a woman, went back with him to help him find his way. Immediately the attendant got on the public address system and lectured the entire flight that there was not to be anyone standing in a queue outside the bathrooms. Was he supposed to cram her into the head with him?

Then when they served beverages, your choice was water or coffee, and by the way, de-caffeinated coffee was not an option and neither was tea.

I do think flying is approaching a terrible low point in civility. I caution anyone to take a flight with US Air, but if you must, then buyer beware. It was a very unfriendly environment.

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