Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Few Things I've Learned in Zihua. This Time

Mangos are sort of kidney shaped, and hang from the tree's branches. You know they're ripe when they turn from green to a rich, golden yellow. Papayas are usually bigger, are shaped more like bombs and hang around the trunk of the tree, just under the branches. You can tell they're ripe when they give when squeezed.

Diarrhea may be the result not of eating tainted food, but of too much sun and too little water. In addition to rehydrating, restoring one's electrolytes can help turn things around rather quickly.

Yellowtail jacks (jureles) and most other saltwater fish like lures that are reeled very fast—faster than you might think a fish could swim.

Geckos (called cuijas here in Guerrero) chirp like so many chatty birds. On our villa's rich golden walls they turn a thin translucent yellow, which accentuates their big, jet-black eyes.

The half-inch-long red ants sharing our villa are immune to the kind of ant poison we use in Minnesota.

The limon is kind of a miracle fruit. It's acidic juice can "cook" fish and other seafood (as in ceviche) and is also known as a decent disinfectant. The oil of limon rind makes a delightful, readily available (around here anyway) cologne.

It's fairly common some days in early spring to hear this area's usual whisper of surf turn thunderous.

Helado (ice cream) made from vegetable oil isn't half bad. Of the four brands carried in the big supermarket here, three subtlety disclose their non-dairy status; the fourth is about as dairy as it gets: Haagen Dazs.

The shockingly-loud, hollow, throaty, rasping sound often heard in the woods around here is the call of the West Mexican chachalaca, a common hen- to turkey-sized wild game bird.

The water in Mexico is not deadly poison as I'd once thought. Everyone washes their dishes in tap water and lets them air dry. Apparently any bacteria cannot survive long once dry.

In some parts of Mexico, if you have enough money, or if you know and/or bribe the right people, you can grab just about any parcel of land you want, even if it already belongs to someone else.

There's a very good reason why people here take siesta between about two and five PM – no one wants to be going anywhere outside under this brutal midday sun.

At the movie theater here, the snack counter serves Ramen Cup-o-Noodles, made to order—as is the popcorn—in the microwave.

My gift to mixology, a cross between the margarita and the paloma (tequila with grapefruit soda) is quite good: one part each tequila and Jose Cuervo tequila mix; two parts grapefruit soda; squeeze of limon juice. I call it the margaloma.

Sally can make one of those trough-shaped, red clay roof tiles by hand—I saw it with my own eyes.

The mouse droppings we've been finding on the counter top in our kitchen stove nook are really those of a bat (sometimes two) who roost there every night after we turn out the lights. (Guess that's one reason we have no bugs.)

Bats' sonar isn't as foolproof as I'd thought. Night before last several flew through our bedroom as we were going to bed and one grazed Sally's arm.

Semana Santa (Holy Week) is nuts around here. Sounds like just about every available housing unit in town will be taken in the happy rush of everyone in west-central Mexico to the Pacific coast to celebrate spring and, I suppose, the waning of Lent.

Just because you're standing in a nicely-paved street in a high-rent neighborhood doesn't mean you can take even one step while looking up at a spectacular bird flying overhead. If you do, as I nearly did, you'd fall into a yawning three-foot by four-foot, four-foot-deep manhole rimmed with jagged teeth of concrete where it had overflowed its forms.

It's true what I've heard and read: No matter what your expectations, no matter how well you've prepared, no matter how insistent you might be, a project in Mexico will not go your way.

The heat and intensity of the sun begins to coax one into a daily schedule like that of most people in hot climates: light breakfast, main meal at 2 or 3; siesta until 4 or 5; light dinner at 8 or 9.

Except for the ubiquitous ones covered with advertising, there are few white exterior walls. First of all, Mexicans love color. Secondly, the sun's glare off of a white wall is just too blinding.

Traveling in Mexico costs less when you speak Spanish.

The sobering checkpoint manned by automatic-weapon-toting soldiers between here and the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo airport is there to make sure neither the cab drivers nor their passengers are being hijacked.

The trunks of coconut palms are used extensively for lumber here. (We'd always imagined the wood not being very strong.)

Before coconuts are ripe, the milk is light and less cloudy—in fact, it's called coconut water. And the meat, soft and sort of mushy, can be eaten with a spoon.

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