Friday, November 25, 2011

How to Spend Holidays in a Foreign Country

First: - Thanksgiving:

Order, and do not bake, because your oven kicked with a gas leak about two years ago, pies from La Buena Vida bakery.  Pick them up from the window from the gal in the white baker's hat.  Jockey to pay with the lady receiving two dozen dinner rolls into her over-the-river-and-through-the-woods basket.

Step out of the way of the city employee on Hernandez Macias shouting up to the guy in the cherry picker to adjust the giant tinsel mistletoe he is hanging over the street to the left.

Elbow a Philadelphia buddy and remind him of standing in the cold at the Thanksgiving parade in the shadow of Billy Penn. Grumble at your kids, who are on Facebook, that they should be watching a parade.

Every once in awhile, throw your hands up and yell, Touchdown!

Tell yourself you won't have seconds, and then ignore yourself.

Giggle when all the kids (yours are teenagers now, and too sophisticated for such nonsense, you see) squirt whipped cream moustaches on each other.

Love that after dinner, your kids, along with new and old friends, go outside to watch the stars from the lienzo charro - the rodeo ring on the property.  

Thank you Karla and Kayla Lorch, fantastic mother/daughter cook and hostess team!
Look for South of the Border Holidays, Part II.  Coming soon...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Reasons to Feel Optimistic

Was visited yesterday by two friends who live in a town near Monterrey.  Juan is researching why Mexican teens don't continue their schooling for his PhD.  During their travels this past August, they returned to their hometown the day a fire was started in a Monterrey casino that killed 53 people.  The fire was atrributed to clashing cartel members.  In communication in the days following, my friends were frightened, laying low, hearing of people disappearing and worse.  How are things now, I asked them yesterday.

I ask because fortunately, in San Miguel, we have not experienced drug violence.

Both friends brightened at the question.  Things are better, they said. Those responsible for the casino fire have been arrested, they reported.  Lots of the cartel commanders have been jailed too. What's left are ragtag street criminals without organization.  The military is keeping up a presence, and establishing little posts in neighborhoods to keep the streets safe.  Visitors are returning to tourist sites in the area.  Residents are returning to towns that had been evacuated when cartel members threatened to move in.  Order and peace are returning.

I've been praying for some Mexican healing, and my heart sings to hear it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Unexpected Turnaround

Yesterday, Mexican news reports said that tourism was up around 2% in 2011.  That's good news, and surprisingly, it just might be true.  Last month, for the first time in three years, the numbers in our business, Jasmine Spa, went up.  That is, after a steady three-year slide in earnings, October 2011 was better than October 2010. 
Why?  I have absolutely no idea.  There were times during the past three years when Carlos and I considered closing Jasmine Spa.  There was the swine flu, blamed on Mexico even though I personally knew of NOBODY in the state of Guanajuato who had the illness. Then, on top of the bugs: drugs.  Escalating power fights between the cartels on the coasts and on the border, but NOT here in our town, and relentless media coverage of it, had some people believing Mexico was a war zone.  The sluggish economic recovery in the United States didn´t help. The landlord would come around and we'd have nothing to offer but empty pockets.

But we kept on.  A base of local clients kept us paying the phone and light bills.  We struck deals with our kids' schools.  We stayed home, or went to the presa (lake) and watched the water and the sun.  I worked on my writing, not memoir this time but a Young Adult novel.  And now, a good month.  Rental people say THanksgiving weekend will bring tourists as well. 

All I can say is Viva Mexico.

Hey, a really cool site called spanglishbaby reviewed my travel/romance memoir, Flirting in Spanish.  Check it out!