Saturday, June 6, 2009

And now, the end is near....

They say all good things must end!

And so it is with my “winter” here in Loreto. We arrived Oct. 20th last year and, but for a Christmas trip and a short Mother's Day visit this spring, it will be exactly 7 months by the time I am back to my “summer home” in Calgary the week after next. As you may have read several weeks ago, in my wife and partner Cathy's guest blog “Loving and Leaving Loreto”, she has already headed north, and now it's our turn, Jazmine (the Baja cat) and I will be leaving here next weekend and driving back to Calgary to reunite our little family.

I admit that I am feeling a bit intimidated by the preparations that are required to close up our Mexican casa for the summer and to pack up all the things that have to go back to Canada with us to complete this move across the continent, which will total about 4,000 km door to door. Since this will be my sixth round trip Calgary/Loreto (we first drove down here in June of 2004) I am getting familiar with the road and feel confident about the journey, however, this will be the first time I have done the whole trip solo – not counting the harmonic contributions that I can expect from Jazmine the cat. I must say, that she has acquired some admirable travelling skills from the previous 3 one way drives she has endured. Although I think that when she adjusts to her reasonably calm travelling mode, by the second day of the trip, it will be more because she is resigned to the fact that resistance is futile, than any real love for the open road. Based on our past experience, the journey will take about 4 ½ driving days to complete, but this time I am making a rest stop at a friend's place in Orange County, just south of LA, after day two. I'll stay there for one day, partly to give Jaz a break from the car “jail”, before we push on through the mid-west, arriving back in Calgary three days later.

I confess that I expect that the trip from here north to the border will be the most challenging part, for all the obvious reasons; narrow roads, uncertain conditions, language and, perhaps surprisingly, boredom. While there are some spectacular scenic areas (Bahia Conception, Cuestra de Infierno (the Hill from Hell), Catavina, etc.) there are hundreds of kilometers of pretty much NOTHING! While a lot of the scenery we pass through is striking and unusual, to begin with, after hours of “more of the same” the impact is lessened and eventually boredom sets in. Fortunately, I will be travelling with a satellite radio with over 100 channels of entertainment so I will keep myself occupied with that – and, of course, there will be periodic rants from Jazmine, when she wakes up and emerges from her vehicular bedroom (travel carrier) and stretches her legs in the nicely cushioned “patio area” that will be set aside for her. In fact, she will probably have more than ten times the space (proportionally) that I will have in the car once it is fully loaded.

After what I expect to be a successful and (hopefully) uneventful trip north to Tecate (yes, the home of my favorite beer) where I will exit Mexico, I will then proceed to my friend's place south of LA in Orange County for the rest stop. Then we will head northeast through Nevada to Las Vegas on the I-15 before clipping the corner of Arizona and the working our way north through Utah, Idaho and Montana before we finally reach the Canadian border three days later. After the challenges of travelling in Mexico, the Interstate system of America will be a welcome relief, 3 ½ days of cruise control on minimum 4 lane divided highways with wide shoulders and regular rest stops, familiar fast food brands and comfortable Motels with no surprises.

What I will be leaving here, is a very much quieter place than it has been most of the winter. Most of the “snowbirds” flew the coop up to two months ago, co-incidental with Tax season, and the normal flow of short term residents and visitors has been much reduced due to the trifecta of the northern economy, and the general media hysteria about Mexican drug wars and swine flu. While there have been no cases of swine flu in Baja Sur and we are well off the beaten track as far as the illegal drug trade is concerned, these two situations have drawn unfavourable publicity to all of Mexico, and we here in Loreto have felt the consequences of the reduced number of visitors caused by the media fear mongering.

I will also be leaving a much warmer place. In the past few weeks temperatures here have increased from the low to mid 80's by 10 degrees or so into the 90's which is compounded by rising humidity. Cathy and I have been here in June twice before, and while this weather so far this month isn't radically different, I believe that this year it is warmer earlier than on our previous stays. On past visits we were only getting these kind of temperatures towards the end of June, but this year the warm, muggy weather started a month earlier than our past experience.

I don't really mind living in this sort of heat, as long as I remember to adapt to it sensibly. Although I wear a hat year round, wearing it now it is all about protection and not fashion. It also comes naturally to seek out any shade, when available. I don't think there are any popular old songs here in Mexico proclaiming the virtues of the “sunny side of the street”! I have noticed how the workers here will gravitate to any shade when they are on a break or eating lunch and I find myself looking for the “shady” way of doing things whenever possible (in the solar sense of the word!).

Another thing is water. Now, perhaps this is more of a confession than I should make, but for many years my favorite beverage, here or in Canada, is beer! However, in the past month or so I have significantly increased my consumption of ice-water, and I am pleasantly surprised by just how satisfying a good chilled glass of water can be in this sort of heat, it really does a body good!

Fortunately my hair is now long enough so that I can pony tail it, which is the way I am wearing it more and more often during the heat of the day – and needless to say, shorts are the only possible garments for me now, day and night! This is probably evidence of my genetic disposition towards the “thick blood” of my native land because we “gringos” are the only ones who seem to regularly wear them – Mexican men are all still wearing jeans and long sleeved shirts, inspite of the heat.

Another consequence of the heat is laundry. I am now changing clothes several times a day and often have a second shower during the day to “rinse off”. This reminds me of one of one of my first visits here in June. I had set myself the task of hanging several small “estrella” (star) lamps under the overhang surrounding our interior courtyard. The work was far from strenuous, drilling a few holes in the cement ceiling and running the wiring up to the fixtures, all in the shade of the overhanging roof. However, moving at the slow pace necessary in the 90 degree weather, it took most of the morning and part of the afternoon to complete. By the end of that day I had taken five showers, (which still stands as my personal best). I am embarassed to admit, as a sidebar to this story, that on the very day I was hanging my lights (and taking 5 showers) there was a crew of Mexican workmen digging the foundations for a neighbouring house, with pick and shovel, in full sun, and they didn't appear to be breaking a sweat! I guess you have to be born here.

But I don't want you to get the wrong opinion – I don't really mind the heat, so far. However, I don't know that I would enjoy what will be coming in the summer months, when days like this would probably be considered a relief from what will be even higher temperatures and greater humidity. In a funny way, peoples reactions to the temperature extremes are very similar, north and south. Growing up in western Canada, the not uncommon winter experience of walking to school in minus 30 degree weather was worn as a badge of honour, particularly in long hindsight - “When I was a boy . . . ! In a similar way here, the few hardy ex-pat souls who stay here year round positively brag about their ability to thrive in the dog days of a Baja summer – the real hard core ones shun air conditioning as being unessary at this time of year, saving it for when it gets really hot! I, on the other hand, have to admit that in the past week or so I have started using the A/C for a few hours most afternoons, and to cool the bedroom for half an hour or so before lights out. But it is amazing what you can get used to, like when I set the A/C temperature to +25 degrees (over 75 F) the room quickly feels quite cool and comfortable, but I know that in Calgary this summer, that will be the high on an typical day and it will feel quite hot. What is even more surprising is when I go out from the cooled room into the night air and then return a few minutes later, that 25 degrees feels positively chilly!

Aside from the weather, I realize that it is time for me to go because my reactions to the experiences that I get from living here have shifted in the past few weeks from being a glass that is half full, to one that is half empty. I use that comparison thoughtfully, because it means that the experiences here haven't changed, but my reactions to those experiences have. Perhaps my current frame of mind could be described as “beached”, as opposed to “bushed” which is commonly applied to people who have been living out in the woods too long. Perhaps after 7 months here, my appreciation for this place, and the lifestyle that comes with, has become jaded. Perhaps I need a fix of the “first world”, and enjoy the perks and pleasures that are available in urban North America. Perhaps the draw of family and friends, of familiar places and things, of being fluent in the local language, of feeling confident in the understanding of “how things work”, perhaps all of these things, and more, are drawing me north again.

But as I leave here I know it is only a temporary absence. I know that when I'm back in Calgary and the summer starts to turn to Fall and I am becoming frustrated with traffic jams and constant crowds, as I begin to question the type “A” concerns that drive so much of day to day life in that world – then my thoughts will shift again, back to my home and simple life here in Loreto and I will be drawn back, looking for the relief and sanctuary that I find here. Truely, this is the definition of the best of both worlds, loving where you're leaving, as much as you love where you are going to – and that too, is part of Living Loreto!

P.S. Because next week I will be getting organized for the trip, and then travelling the following week, I will not be posting a blog here again until the last weekend in June when I plan to post a travelogue about my drive home. Then I will be on “hiatus” from the blogosphere for the summer.

So, to be sure you don't miss my next posting, and also to insure that you will automatically be notified when I return to Loreto in the Fall and start writing again, I have added a subscription option to the blog. Go back up to the start of this article and just to the right of the title you will see the heading “Subscribe to” and under that a tab marked “Posts”. Click on the word “Posts” and a list of several “brands” of subscription tools will drop down, pick any one, they all do the same thing, and follow the simple instructions and you will then be subscribed to Living Loreto and notified automatically of any future posts. (Ain't technology great!)

In closing, I would like to thank you all for your continued interest and support. When I started this blog last November I had no idea that it would attract over 13,000 hits in seven months! I truly appreciate all of my loyal readers, and, while sometimes I feel the presure to “Publish or Perish”, writing these posts every week has been a wonderful learning and self discovery process for me, and one that I look forward to continuing when I return to Loreto. So I really hope you will subscribe and come back again to Living Loreto!