Sunday, May 17, 2009

Loving and Leaving Loreto

Before you jump to any conclusions from this title, I'm not leaving Loreto, yet. But someone who is very important to my life here (and everywhere else!) is leaving - my wife and partner Cathy. So as a special treat for all of you, here are her parting thoughts about the winter we have just shared together here in Loreto, and her expectations as she returns to our other home, back in Calgary. I trust you will enjoy her perspectives as much as I will miss her being here!

After enjoying (and editing) Drew’s blog entries so far this year, I thought I would take the time to reflect on my own experiences over the past winter, as I start the process of “decamping” to fly back to Calgary. I am always of two minds and two hearts about leaving. I truly love the experience of living here – the sunny days and cool nights, the mountains, the sea, the town of Loreto, the Loreto Bay village itself, and especially the friends I have made down here. My other mind is firmly affixed on Calgary and the activities and friends there..

Many things have gelled and solidified for me here this season: I have increased my proficiency in the languages of both Spanish and bridge, though I can claim fluency in neither. My vocabulary in both has expanded, and now when I ask a question (or make a bid), I frequently can extract a glimmer of meaning in the answer, whereas before, most any response would have evoked my “doe in the headlights” blank stare. That’s not to say there aren’t still adventures to be had in miscommunication – I’ve had some doozies. Like last Hallowe’en when the one and only group came to our door and sang their Spanish “Hallowe’en Apples” song. There were three kids, probably aged 3, 6 and 9, accompanied by their mother, and dressed in identical, but proportional, skeleton costumes. In my attempt to communicate, I acted fearful and wanted to tell them that their scary costumes made me afraid. But I said “tengo mierdo” instead of “tengo miedo”. The addition of that tiny little innocent “r” changed the meaning from “I have fear” to “I have shit”. The mother looked at me askance and hurried the children away.

Last month, I was communicating with one of the gardening crew about the fact that the automatic irrigation wasn’t working in the side garden. I told him that a part was on order and he should water the garden by hand and after explaining myself as best I could, I asked if he understood me. He hesitated, looked a bit puzzled, and slowly nodded his head and said “si…”. I took it as the Mexican way of agreeing with whatever you say and wanting you to be happy with the conversation and I sort of jokingly nudged his arm. We both went about our business, but a few minutes later, I realized I had said “me recuerdas?” instead of “me entiendes?” so I had asked if he remembered me rather than if he understood me. I went back to find him to explain my error, but I’m sure I just made it worse. I think I am now known amongst his friends as the cougar gringa who goes around with the pickup line “do you remember me?” while kittenishly poking men’s arms.

Then there are the pronunciation pitfalls. The Spanish words: harina, orina and arena all sound very much alike to these untrained ears, but there’s a big perceived difference between wheat, urine and sand. So when they ask my tortilla preference in a restaurant, I usually opt for corn (mais) to avoid mistakenly asking for urine or sand tortillas. But if you think Spanish is laden with danger, try explaining the pronunciation difference in English between wind (moving air) and wind (your watch) or minute (1/60th of an hour) and minute (tiny) while totally avoiding the topic of why the following words do not rhyme: tough, plough, slough, though, cough. I spent some time before Christmas volunteering at the local “university” helping students with their English. We were usually given an English newspaper article which they would read, and we would help with comprehension and pronunciation. After one such article, we were also given a practise sheet of the variations in the pronunciation of “ed”, the past tense of most English verbs. Try explaining why the “ed” is sometimes a “t” (walked), sometimes a “d” (plowed) and sometimes pronounced as it’s own syllable (waited). A lot of apologizing goes on when teaching English.

Also solidifying for me this winter in Loreto was my golf game. I am hovering around a mulliganized score of just under 50 for a 9 hole round, if you don’t count the water balls (and I don’t) and if you’re generous with the “gimmes” (which Drew is). (and why isn’t that word pronounced to rhyme with “limes”? Let’s not go there anymore). It has been such a treat to have reasonable green fees coupled with stunning vistas and to really get to know a course. They have even been keeping our clubs at the clubhouse and load them up for us when they see us coming. Wow – we’ve really ARRIVED! The opportunity to practise weekly instead of hanging up the clubs in October and dusting them off in May has worked wonders on my game, and has even somewhat repaired Drew’s right leaning tendencies – he loses far fewer balls in the right side water hazards than before, but don’t tell him I said that. This Saturday was my last chance to play the full 18 holes, although an electric cart is de rigeur in this heat. Then it’s back to the crowded fairways and long waits at the Calgary courses, and having no fixed golf home. I’ll have to remember to repair my Calgary divots, because here, the divots explode and disperse, to be filled with sand, should your cart be so equipped. In Calgary, one must chase after the errant toupee and try to reattach it to the earth’s scalp. I’ll miss the goat hazards and the road runners (beep beep), but not the cow patties, although all are far less prevalent now that the course has been completely redone and the fences fortified.

I am returning to Calgary for a number of reasons. Firstly, my singing group, the Alto Egos ( has two gigs the following weekend and I so miss singing and being with my Calgary friends. One gig is at the retirement residence where Drew’s uncle Hap lives, performing for their Thursday afternoon “pub” entertainment. We’ll be singing our oldies, although our oldies only go back as far as the 50’s and may be the sort of rock ‘n roll that they were warning their then teenaged offspring against. I’m sure they’ve softened their stance since, and would no longer regard “Wake up Little Susie” as lascivious, devil music. We’ll have to gird our loins somewhat for this gig, because although we know the residents will enjoy the performance, they don’t have a lot of excess energy to show it with. We’re going to be on such a high anyway, not having sung together in over 5 months. I’ll keep away from the residents myself, for although I am confident I won’t have contacted swine flu, I wouldn’t want to inadvertently be the cause of illness should I transport something nasty from Mexico. Truth be known, there are more cases of H1N1 in Calgary than in the Baja, so I’m more at risk returning to Calgary than staying in Loreto. The gig is 4 days after I leave Loreto, so any symptoms should have manifested by then.

Another reason for leaving Loreto is the summer heat. The abrupt change at the beginning of May from perfect days in the high 20’s Celsius, (or 80-90 Fahrenheit) to highs in the upper 30’s (near 100 F) have left me melting in a puddle like the wicked witch of the west. This Canadian girl’s blood is a bit too thick for this heat and I know that if this is the frying pan, the coke oven is yet to come. My sun worshipping husband (have you seen his tan?) will tough it out until at least the middle of June when decreased real estate traffic and increased heat will drive him north with the cat. I have often said that winter in Loreto is like summer in Calgary, but without the hail. It seems that at least once during the 10 day extravaganza of the Calgary Stampede, the skies open up and God pummels us with peas or golf balls or (God please forbid) baseballs in retribution for our stampeding excesses. It is also often said that if you don’t like the weather in Calgary, wait a half hour. Calgary’s weather is far more changeable than the consistently sunny cloudless days we usually experience here in Loreto. I love them both, and by spending winters in Loreto and summers in Calgary, I get the best of both. I avoid the stinging cold of a Calgary winter where your main aim is to go from your heated home to your heated garage and drive in your heated car to your heated office. I also avoid the punishing heat of a Loreto summer where you go from your air conditioned home to your air conditioned… get the picture; although with the high electricity rates here in Loreto, AC is far less prevalent than in Canada or the States.

The third reason I’m returning to Calgary now is to get a job. Economic times being what they are (dontcha hate that phrase?) cash flow is a rare commodity in many households, and ours is no exception. Like many retirees, we are wondering if we pulled the financial plug a little too soon, believing naively that the good times were here to stay. I hung up my geophysicist’s slide rule 3½ years ago, and I’m not sure that sudoku and cryptic crosswords have kept my brain honed to the finely tuned instrument it once was (I wish!). I have a prearranged interview with a service company in Calgary, for even if I do get my brain around working with seismic data, I’m not sure I would want to jump into making million dollar decisions about where to plunk down an oil or gas well. In truth, seismic interpretation is more of an art than a science, and my intuition and experience would likely carry me through that exercise better than my recollection of the theory of double integrals and deconvolution will get me through data preparation. Time will tell and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with my colleagues and facing the challenge of full time work again. What a rush!

Quite a transition! Going from a winter of mostly relaxation to a summer of work. However, I trust that I’ll find many of the same things in Calgary that sustained me in Loreto: friends, mountains (with perhaps a bit more white dander on them), sun (albeit somewhat weaker), bridge (anyone?) and golf. How blessed I am to have so many good friends and wonderful places to call home and I look forward to each in it’s own time. To end with Drew’s signature phrase, leaving for one’s other home is, for us, another aspect of Living Loreto. Hasta luego!