Sunday, November 29, 2009

on life and love

Since I've last updated, many things (of course) have happened. The best of which was our wedding on September 19. Most of our close friends and family where able to come out to Tucson to celebrate with us. We rented and amazing hacienda in the desert, and enjoyed being near our loved ones for 5 days. It was beautiful and perfect in every way.

In early October, Gavin turned 2. I had been working on a scrapbook for him for the past 6 months, of 2009. I finally got to give it to him, and his face lit up. He reads it every day. I can't believe he's already 2, and that I've been lucky enough to watch him and help him grow up. He is a beautiful person.

In mid October, we went back to Chesterton to visit Charles' family. I got to meet everyone who couldn't make it to the wedding. I gained 15 amazing nieces and nephews. :) And even more extended family. It was really nice to see where he grew up and meet all the people who made him who he is today.

In late October, we took part in Tucson's All Soul's Procession like we did last year. It was equally beautiful, and a much needed time of reflection on mortality, love, family, and those who have passed. If you're curious about what it actually is, check out www.allsoulsprocession.org.

We also spent a day at the farm, picking pumpkins from the patch, and eyeing the animals. I've made pumpkin pies, pumpkin breads, pumpkin seeds, and we carved jack o lanterns. I love pumpkin. And autumn.

In mid- November, we took a much needed road trip to San Diego. We always love that place. This time we met Xta and her man in the mountains about 40 miles east of SD for a freezing cold camping adventure. We were joined by their awesome dog Rusty, who is part border collie, so I love being near him because I feel like Streak is with me. Camping was beautiful and freezing cold. We had awesome chili for dinner, and a warm fire. The next morning we went on a breathtakingly gorgeous hike. We were out for most of the day. Before leaving the next day, we made it to the beach, and I got to say hi to the ocean. I do love her so. Hopefully next time we go to SD, we can spend more than 3 days there.

This past week, Thanksgiving, was nice. Although I wish I could have gone home (crazy expensive tickets), it was nice to be here with Charles. We cooked so much food and absolutely enjoyed preparing it together. I even made my first ever apple pie- from scratch! It was perfect and so delicious. We invited our Japanese friends over for the meal, and they'd never had many of the dishes we made, so they were thrilled. They brought some Japanese fare as well, which was the perfect touch. My favorite was the apple jell-o type dish... only no gelatin was used. It's made from powdered seaweed and apple juice. So yummy.


Otherwise, I've been super crafty lately with any spare time I can find, so I'm going to start a new blog for all the things I make. You'll be able to find it by going to my profile, and clicking the link.

Much love from the vast expanse of world I inhabit.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

on performing in Pittsburgh

This past weekend was the event I had been dedicating all of my time, energy, and money to preparing for during the past several months. Christa and I (Saguaro Belly Co) were invited to perform at Electrobelly (an electronic dance show) in Pittsburgh, and we decided to go for it. Even though we live 6 hours apart, we love dancing with each other so much (we are dance soul mates) that we couldn't resist. So after hours and hours of driving to see each other, thousands of miles on our cars, tons of gas and hotel money, and even more time than we actually had taken up with sewing, planning, dancing, and more dancing, we finally were able to make it worth our while. (A not so on the side MAJOR thanks to our wicked awesome understanding boyfriends.)

We both departed from our respective cities on Friday pre-noon. We arrived in Houston within an hour of one another--- and in the same hour as the weather turned sour. Our flight was supposed to depart at 6 something, but all flights in the area were grounded until further notice. They kept pushing our flight back by 15 or 30 minute increments. But at least we were together because I swear that was the most fun I've ever had in an airport. We attempted a little airport barhopping, but after one $12 glass of wine, we settled in our corner, listened to some tunes, did our nails, did some discreet practicing, etc. The flight finally left after 9.

Needless to say, we arrived in Pittsburgh around 1:30 a.m. Saturday (the day of our show). Wonderful Amythest and her beau met us at the airport and drove us back to her place. We stayed up several more hours talking and eating the most delicious vegan pizza I've ever had.

After sleeping about 5 hours, we were up and rehearsing. Nailing out some kinks, stretching, getting our costumes ready, etc. We were at teh venue by 3. Unfortunately the venu failed to provide certain things (such as a big enough dressing room- or even a light in the room). But we managed to improvise. After breaking for a while for a walk along the strip, where there was a sort of street market going on, some chai, and some fresh air, we returned to begin the long process of getting ready.

I have to say that I've never met so many genuine people at a dance performance ever. Usually the dance scene is full of people with attitude problems, narcissism, and a general distaste for being nice, friendly, helpful, or supportive. That's why I don't much care to get involved with lots of dance troupes and/or teachers. I dance for my love of dance, and to SHARE that with others. Most of the dancers I meet dance to prove that they are BETTER dancers than everyone else who dances. This is why I love dancing with Christa so much. We dance for the same reasons, we LOVE it. And we want everyone to love it. And we want everyone to dance. So when I say that the dancers I met in Pittsburgh were unbelievable, I really mean it. Every single one of them was SO nice, so beautiful, so supportive, so positive, and such a good and unique dancer. I could clearly see that they shared my love of dance, and my desire to share and learn from other people on some fundamental level. There were no attitudes and no negativity. I wasn't nervous at all because there were so many positive vibes cradling every one the second they hit the stage. Wow. I really loved that.

So, the dance aspect of the show went really well. We had a blast, rocked out, made friends, and the crowd seemed to love it as well. There were some other technical issues of the show, such as the venue issues, and compensation issues that didn't work out how I'd hoped, but over all it was worth it. Caution Crew- a breathtaking breakdance troupe performed in the final act. It was pretty kickass. Overall there were about 16 bellydancers as well. We got so many complements on our performance and on our costumes. It was amazing.

Hopefully I'll get copies of some photos soon so I can post them. As far as the video, I'm not allowed to post it, so if you want to see it, you'll just have to come visit me!!!!!!

After the show, we went straight to the afterparty, from which I had to leave straight for the airport to catch my 6 a.m. flight home. Needless to say I was beyond tired. Actually, I've yet to catch up. I made it home fine, and slept a lot of Sunday afternoon. Anyway, I'm glad that's over. There are a thousand other things demanding my attention now.

My job just moved way way way far away, which is hard to adjust to. Also, we've been getting a little more serious about the wedding planning. Just ordered some Bambu plates. They're awesome- google them.

That's all for now, though.

Mad love.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

on 7 months of catching up (continued)

.....


June: camping, wedding invitations, bridal shower, anniversary, meeting Charles' mom

During the first part of June, we got in our last camping trip before the oh-so-much-too-hot summer. We met some friends up on Mt. Lemmon, and had an AMAZING and relaxing weekend of birdwatching, hiking, roasting marshmallows, and eating corn on the cob and baked potatoes. I could live like that. The best part, though, was how Charles chopped our firewood. We hadn't brought an axe or a machete, so he picked up a tree and beat it against a rock over and over until we had a bundle of perfect firewood. Talk about a woodsman. haha.



Em also threw me my first bridal shower, consisting of her wonderful neighbor ladies. They were all full of advice and life experience, and I really enjoyed hearing what they had to say- and the stories that had to tell cannot be repeated on here. It was so funny.

Charles and I also realized that we'd been together for a whole year. We're not so big on dates and celebrations, but it's pretty cool that one year had passed and we were still as happy and amazed by each other as ever. Also, it felt like much longer than that.

I finally got to meet Sharon, Charles' mom. She came out to visit us in Tucson for 4 or 5 days. I had no idea what to expect because everyone tells me horror stories about mothers-in-law. Turns out she is super amazing, and we had a great time. She is one hell of a lady. I couldn't ask for a better mother-in-law. She told me the story of her life, stories about Charles and his siblings, and it was so interesting seeing how he and his mom are alike in mannerisms, expressions, and even thoughts sometimes. We took her down to Tubac, this cool artsy town, and also to Tumacacori, which are the ruins of a Spanish mission, and also a museum explaining the entire history of the native tribes and the conquerers. It was so informative, and sad. Later we went to play bingo with her (her favorite pastime). I'd never played bingo other than in school, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Turns out, it's really fun and addicting. Anyway, I'm so glad I got to meet and spend time with Sharon. It was wonderful. She also sent me a cookbook, that I'm now obsessed with. I've already made so many things from it!


Finally by the end of June, Charles and I managed to make all of our wedding invites. We did it all ourselves- bought cardstock and envelopes in bulk at Michael's, velum paper from Office Depot, printed photographs at costco, bought brads, and assembled them all one weekend. He worked just as hard as I did making them, and they turned out perfectly. Whew. If only people had RSVP'd with such dedication....

July: monsoons, dance, costuming, tea ceremony, meeting Charles' brother and sister-in-law, and Minnesota

Monsoon season hasn't been quite as wet or intense this year as it was last year. At least, though, there've been a couple really good downpours/thunderstorms/ lightning shows. Oh, and a TON of rainbows. The sky is always changing this time of year, and every sunset is breathtaking.

I had to weeks of unpaid :( vacation from work because they were out of town. I put the time to good use however, dancing, sewing, scrapbooking, cooking, and I even got to take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Satomi's friend Yuki came to visit from Japan, and she studies the tea ceremony (as well as calligraphy). She invited me to take part, and it was so beautiful. I love the Japanese lifestyle, and feel so fortunate to be able to learn so much about it first hand. They also fed me some amazing food. Then, Yuki showed me how to prepare the tea, and let me serve her. She even had me try on her kimono. I loved it. I can't wait to visit Japan.


Come July, Christa and I decided to accept the invitation to dance in a huge bellydance show in Pittsburgh happening August 22. Since she lives in SD, and I'm 6 hours away, this decision meant a lot of hard work. We are both incredibly excited, though. We've dubbed ourselves Saguaro Belly Co, and we've been working hard on choreographing and costuming. We met half way between us one weekend and spent 2 days dancing in a hotel room, moving the bed up against the wall to make more room. We even did a performance in San Diego on her birthday weekend as sort of a test run for our dances. The videos are all on youtube under Saguaro Belly Co. It's been so much fun and so much work, and now the show is next weekend. I'm ready.

When we were in San Diego that weekend, I had one of the more traumatic events of my life (no, not ripping my toe nail off my big toe during the performance). We were on this party boat-- it just goes back and forth between bays all night, there's a bar, a dance floor, and a deck on top... people can get on or off anytime. We were on there for Xta's birthday, and Charles and I were on the top deck- when we heard some commotion. A group of friends was waving to two guys swimming in the bay- guys who had just jumped from the third story of the boat. We walked over to where they were, watching the guys swim to shore. Then a third guy got up on the rail right in front of us--- literally we were 2 feet behind him--- intending to jump in and swim after his friends. His girlfriend was there and all his friends where cheering him on. He took of his shirt, emptied his pockets, and in he went, to the cheers of his friends--- he did a sort of flip into the water... and we were all looking over the edge to see him swim away. Only-- we never saw him surface. Everyone just stared, expecting him to come up any minute, and then his girlfriend ran down to tell the captain- or whoever was on the boat. The boat was still moving, and figures could be seen swimming in the distance. No alarms were sounded; I saw no life preservers being thrown out, no sign of an emergency.... We got off the boat at the next stop, and the boat people told everyone that all 3 jumpers had made it to shore and been arrested immediately. So, I thought no more of it. About 30 minutes later, though, we were walking down the street and a car pulled up-- I recognized the girl in the passenger seat as the girlfriend- the driver was asking if we'd seen anyone come out of the ocean.. (wtf?!?!?!?). I walked over and asked if he was talking about the guy who jumped. Yes, he said. I informed him that they'd been arrested. No, he said, I was one of the guys who jumped first, and our buddy never came to shore. We don't know where he is. At this point, these people are drunk, and driving around, instead of calling for help or something. So I told them to go back to the boat and call the coast guard or the police. They didn't even know how to get back, so I pointed them. It was so freaky. The next day we saw copters all over the bay, and later on the news learned that they had recovered the guy's body 20 yards from shore in 15 feet of water. We think that's the exact spot where he jumped. This is SOOOOO sad because the guy was drunk- as were his friends- and they thought it'd be fun. Who knew. And I literally watched him take his last breath. I can't believe he actually died, may his soul rest in peace. He was only 28. I feel for his friends and especially his girlfriend. I could think of nothing else for a week after this happened- I was so traumatized. I know everyone dies, but to be that close is crazy. I've accepted it now, and I just hope his friends and family can find the support they need to cope with this.

On a lighter note...

During the 2nd week of my time off, Greg and Marleny (Charles' brother and sister-in-law) visited Tucson. I'm so glad I got to meet more of his family. We were so busy that week I can't even remember what we did: Tombstone, Titan Missile Museum, Pima Air and Space Museum, Sonoran Desert Museum, Sabino Canyon, lots of eating, and not much sleeping. It was a really fun week.

The next week I left for Minnesota for work. It was very cold. I mean way too cold for July. Pretty. But cold. Did I mention that it was cold? I think I'm spoiled. Anyway, the highlights involved talking to an amazing energy healer, seeing her in action on Em's preggo sister, and eating some delicious dinners. G was a champ on the plane ride home, no crying at all, and he was on my lap the whole time!! He's really growing up.

August: dancing, sewing, cooking, and dabbling in essential oils

So I've finally come to the present. Last weekend Xta came to Tucson (since we had been there the previous weekend). We danced and ate and swam and sewed.
And every spare moment of mine has been dedicated to finishing and practicing dances, finishing costuming, and cooking from my adored recipe book whenever I have enough time. Today I made the most amazing pumpkin bars, which I will post on my other blog later.
Also, I began experimenting with making my own skincare treatments using essential oils. I'd really like to use homemade things for my body, as I'm getting farther and farther away from chemicals and whatnot in everyday use. I've found tons of recipes for things like face wash, lotions, toners, etc. Also, essential oils can be used as pain relievers, energy boosters, and all sorts of other remedies.
Also, I'm trying to go more and more green. I already use cloth shopping bags, but I was getting so irritated by those plastic produce bags that are even at the farmers' markets. I found these organic cotton reusable ones on www.reusablebags.com. I'm also planning on purchasing the reusable towels to get away from paper towels. Anyway, I won't be too preachy, but every little bit helps.

Okay, so that's all for now, folks. I'll try to be more current with this. For all of you who are far away, I miss you. Enjoy your week!

on 7 months of catching up

Hello wonderful readers. I have to begin by apologizing for failing to post anything for 7 months. Life has been busy and beautiful and stressful (though I'm trying to eradicate all signs of this feeling). I'm not even sure where to begin.

February: Charles' birthday, Isabella was born, Arizona Renaissance Festival

Baby Isabella was born February 18, and the 15 month old G did not really know how to take it. Those first few months were INSANE as he dealt with jealousy and regression, and 3 adults could barely handle the colicky newborn.

At least I was able to have my weekends. :) We went to the Ren Fest up in Mesa which was incredibly fun. We brought some of our Japanese friends who had never heard of such a thing. We even lent them costumes. I, of course, sewed my own costume, and was very pleased. While there, we were able to see some great dancers, shows, and sword swallowers, and eat some delicious food. I really love Renaissance Festivals. I hope to get a gig dancing next year.


March: beginning to officially plan our wedding, hiking, still learning how to take care of a newborn and a toddler, trying on wedding dresses, etc.

March brought some decisions about our wedding. We finally decided what kind of ceremony we wanted, when we wanted it, how big we wanted it, and what kind of venue we wanted. It took a lot of consideration, but we finally decided on a smallish ceremony outdoors here in the beautiful desert September 19. We even managed to make our own really awesome Save the Dates. We used a photo I had taken of some cardinals in a mesquite tree. We got them printed at CVS, where the woman in the photo lab gave us a super awesome deal (and helped a lot too). Props to her, wherever she may be.

We also managed to save some time for hiking in Ventana Canyon which is just another of the beautiful areas in which to explore the Sonoran. We were able to identify tons of plants and flowers in our field guide.

When I started thinking about wedding dresses, I never imagined a traditional dress for myself. However, Em and Satomi insisted that I try some on, and I wanted to get ideas anyway, so they took me to David's Bridal. I tried on 5 or 6 dresses, my favorite of which had a $12,000 tag. Haha. It was a total Cinderella gown, and I wouldn't have worn it anyway. BUT, the experience was pretty funny, and I got some good ideas of what NOT to wear. (I ended up making my own dress, of course, and it is much more me than any store bought dress could ever be.)

April: tons and tons of hiking, a visit home to TN, more wedding planning, and more taking care of the kids, and a visit from the lovely Xta

One of my favorite hiking experiences happened one weekend in April. We wanted to explore Saguaro Park East because we were looking at renting a house right near there for the wedding (which we did and will be perfect). The Rincon Mountains are so different from the Catalinas or the Tucsons, and the feeling eminating from that place is very special. We had hiked a short way up the Douglas Springs trail, but we decided to go even farther. We heard of a backcountry campground a ways in, and wanted to check it out. We thought it was 3ish miles up the trail, so we set out around 7 in the morning planning on a 6 mile trip. We also knew there was supposed to be water at the top, so planned on refilling our camelbacks once there. Well, the hike was amazing, and as you topped the ridges, and went into the mountains, the landscape became more savannah, with rolling fields of tall grasses, amazing flowers, more trees, and still more breathtaking views. We were passing all the right mile markers, but when we made it 4 miles in, we saw the post informing us that the campground was still 2 miles away. No problem, we thought. Well, it wasn't an easy 2 miles, and by this point it is already noon, and we have been using water as if we could refill by now. We kept going and every one we passed would tell us it was just around the bend. Haha. When we finally got there, an hour or two later, there was no water at all. And now we had 6 miles to hike back to the trail head. Needless to say by the end of that hike all I could think about was water. I didn't even notice my surroundings for that last mile, I was just dreaming about water and ice and more water. It's amazing what the body will do when it has no water. We were zombies. So, that experience taught us some valuable lessons: we now tote more water than we think we need and never rely on filling up on the trail. Also, we bought trail maps for every area in Tucson in order to verify destinations before we begin. In spite of any mishaps, I loved that trip, and I felt great the next day.

We did a couple more hikes that month. We even got to hike around Radnor Lake when we went back to Nashville for a weekend. That was amazing- how green and lush and wet everything seemed compared to life here in the desert. I think I saw almost everyone I know in Nashville during that weekend. Charles did too. Since he lived in Tennessee for 8 years, he has just as many friends as I do there (even though I grew up there). It worked out great because he got to visit with his friends while I visited with mine. Tons of friends and lots of family stopped by my mom's house to say hi and share good food and drink, and it was a general good time all around. I really love the Tennessee landscape- it seems I took it for granted when I actually lived there. Now, having experienced so many varied climates and lands, I can appreciate them all with more understanding.

Later on in April, Xta and J came out from San Diego, which is always a riot. We went out dancing one night- a total trip. The next night, we camped in Catalina State Park, and even did a beautiful sunset hike- where I took the photo that later wound up as our wedding invitation.


May: Mt. Lemmon, Chicago, Atlanta, wedding dress, apartment hunting

The month of May means it's getting hotter and hotter in Tucson, so a weekend escape to Summerhaven- at the top of Mt. Lemmon is just what the doctor orders. We took our friends for a cookout at about 20 degrees cooler than Tucson (but only half an hour away). It was lovely. The views are incredible as well.

We also began apartment hunting because my lease was up where I was living. We looked at what seemed like every apartment complex in Tucson, and just a couple weeks before having to move found the perfect place. It's in the Catalina Foothills, has a huge balcony with a mountain view, vaulted ceilings, free electricity, and is wicked cheap!!! We are very happy here.

I traveled to Chicago for four days with work, and realize that kids in a big city is really really really difficult. G spent most of the time covering his ears because it was so loud, and they both woke up at every siren. Also, we spent lots of time carrying the stroller up and down stairs because it's not a very stroller friendly city. I think Chicago is cool, and I've been there before, but I'm just really not a city girl. I get sort of claustrophobic. Anyway, the trip had it's fun moments, and Em's family is super super super amazing, so I'm always glad to get to spend time with them. Needless to say, I was exhausted and actually got sick for a week after returning. Oh yeah, and this was right when the swine flu craze was all over the press, so we were freaks about the Lysol on the airplane.

I also finished sewing my wedding dress. It's more like a sundress, actually, and I'm very happy with it. I will not post pics until after September 19 ;)

Finally, my dearest friend Ashley flew me out to Atlanta for Memorial Day weekend. I got to see my lovely Xandra, and introduce these two dear ladies to one another. We went dancing, out for Indian food, got pedicures, went to the natural history museum, went to a puppet show, a puppet museum, made puppets, made food, and had a general amazing time.

I will continue June- the present in my next entry......

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

on more of the southwest

This weekend, Charles and I took a much needed road trip with barely a plan. I had read about White Sands National Monument in the field guide my brother gave me for my birthday, and the pictures I'd googled were breathtaking. So, our only goal for the weekend was to see it for ourselves. We ended up seeing a lot more.

We set out Friday night after work, and drove through an amazing double rainbow (I've seen more rainbows in the year I've been in Tucson than in the rest of my entire life). It was rather unusual, actually, the rain storm that had persisted for 2 or 3 days- a droning drizzle, in fact. But these vibrant, full arc, rainbows were so magical... and so unable to be captured on camera. Anyway, we drove east through the rain and saw some of the lovely landscape before sunset. Right around Deming, NM, we decided to stop. We were just over an hour from White Sands. We found a wicked cheap hotel, and watched TV for the first time since... wow I have no idea.

The sun was out the next morning, though it was a little chilly. Driving through Las Cruces and into White Sands the fog was curling around the mountains, and hovering above the towns. It reminded me of the T.S. Eliot line from 'Prufrock,' when he describes the fog as curling once about the house and falling asleep. Like a cat.

The landscape throughout the Southwest U.S. is ALL like that- some beautiful line from a poem. It is so vast and visible. You can see where the mountains begin to rise from the flats. You can see their every wrinkle and ripple and shadow. I don't think I could live anywhere else without feeling claustrophobic.

So we got to White Sands and it was better than all those pictures. We drove through, hiked a bit, and played on the dunes. There were lots of people sledding down, but it didn't look fast enough to be fun. I made a sand angel, though. The sand there is so white because it is made of gypsum unlike most other sand. It is actually the world's largest area of gypsum dunes, taking up 275 square miles! This area is adjacent to the White Sands missile range which is used for testing. There are actually several ranges in the vicinity because it's so large and flat, with a good climate, and far enough from civilization.

In addition to missile testing, New Mexico has a rich history in space. After leaving the dunes, we headed up to the New Mexico Museum of History: a low budget but definitely interesting place with a killer view. From 50 miles away, you can see a white layer on the horizon, that in sunlight resembles a fog layer, but is actually White Sands. It's unlike anything I've ever seen.

After the museum we took a scenic detour into Texas, along Hwy 54. These little highways that cut through the middle of nowhere are my absolute favorite! We skirted through just north of El Paso into the Franklin Mountains, along this gorgeous mountain pass. We then took more little highways back to New Mexico, and began the return westward.

Saturday night we spent in Lordsburg, which is home of this neat little ghost town called Shakespeare that we toured on a previous trip.

Sunday we headed back into Arizona and down to Katchner Caverns, near Benson. This took us through the San Pedro River Valley, where we decided we want to move. It is far from populated, and if you wonder where the phrase, "purple mountains majesty" came from, this is the answer.

The caverns are very new as far as caves are concerned as they were just discovered in 1974. They are very wet as well. No photography was allowed on our hour and a half tour, but it was certainly beautiful (how many times can I say beautiful in one blog?). Picknicking in the sunny scape of the state park surrounding the caves, we got ready to head back to Tucson and daily life.

These little trips are what keeps me sane. The vast expanses of the desert are sweetness to my soul.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

on the border

Buenos dias mis amigos!! I know it's been a minute since my last entry, but things have been wicked busy, and then my computer was defeated by the Greeks (a trojan horse virus). I have stories to tell and pictures to post, though!

The end of December (my birthday and Jesus') found me in margarita-ville... err, I mean Puerto Peñasco. Though the two are similar.

Puerto Peñasco is also known as Rocky Point (by English speakers), a mistranslation of course. It's a fishing town in Sonora, Mexico, located on the Sea of Cortés. It is about 2 hours from the Arizona/ Mexico border (Lukeville/ Sonoyta). Though the town is (obviously) full of marine life, the state itself is named after the same desert in which Tucson lies: the Sonoran. I recently realized that the word "sonora" means "resounding" (duh! just like the english word sonorous). But isn't that the most beautiful concept ever?? I live in the resounding desert! And that it is, folks. That it is.

But, back to the ocean. My mom flew into Tucson so that we (she, I, and Charles) could head down into Mexico for the festivities. We actually took a shuttle so that I wouldn't have to drive (plus I didn't really care to deal with getting Mexican car insurance or deciding whether or not to believe all the rumors about border violence). Mom was super excited about crossing the border, and even got her new passport stamped (though it wasn't neccessary). The landscape was pretty much exactly what I expected. Not dissimilar, naturally, from what I see everyday, though organ pipe cacti start to show up in abundance that far south. The border city did seem as shady as its reputation, but not so for the towns past the border.

We arrived at our hotel around 5 or 6 p.m., and were greeted by the most incredible scarlet and gold sunset ever, right off our balcony. Oh, the ocean! After taking pictures and soaking it in for a while, we went in search of our first authentic Mexican meal. Well, the food was authentic but the restaurant looked like the Mexican version of Cracker Barrel. Maybe decorated as such to make us tourists feel at home. Anyway, the chiles rellenos and the Mexican shrimp cocktail (very different from the American one) and the free birthday drink (yay me!) were the highlights of that dinner. We even made friends with Luis, our server, who gave us some good tips.

The next day we set out to explore the Malecon, which is in the center of town, where all the trashy tourist souvenirs and the delicious seafood are sold. Also, it's full of many delicious restaurants. I'm not going to give you a day to day or minute by minute account, but there are certainly some highlights.

For starters, the food. Bueno!! Me gusto!!! I thought it would be tricky for 3 vegetarians to eat like royalty in Mexico (home of the taco and the burrito- burro meaning donkey, yes), but it was easy. Enchiladas, chiles rellenos, quesidillas, chips and salsa, arroz y frijoles, huevos y frijoles, etc. And most of the restaurants had these AMAZING views of the ocean, one was actually on stilts OVER the ocean, and another atop a hill overlooking the entire town. Not to mention how reasonably priced everything was. At one restaurant, a mariachi band offered to play as we watched the sunset. Of course I accepted. I ADORE mariachi bands. I want one to play at my wedding. I was accustomed to the mariachi bands in Tucson, where you just tip them a couple bucks for a song. So the band plays, and silly me, I ask for another- Uno mas? Romantica?!? So they play again, and it's beautiful. I give them the tip. THey count the money and then inform me that it is five dollars per song. WHAT! FIVE DOLLARS? I am shocked and outraged and feel incredibly taken advantage of. It wasn't THAT GOOD. But, alas, I pay up, and feel that the evening is ruined. Never again will I let a mariachi band in a tourist town serenade me at sunset.

Also, walking was very doable, as everything was relatively close. We were the only tourists walking, it seemed, but cabs were cheap when we needed them. Actually, we were the only tourists in the whole town for the first three or four days. It was deserted (Christmas is not busy season down there).

My favorite place was the 'Mud Mall' or 'Shacks Fifth Avenue.' Okay, so we should have taken a cab here, and the walk there was not my favorite. Imagine a little town in Mexico where tourism is the major industry besides shrimp. So of course there is 'tourist area' where everyone works and naive Americans pay 38 dollars for everything because it's such a 'special price' for them. Well so of course then there's a 'non-tourist' area where everyone lives and shops and doesn't have to speak English. Okay so we walk ten miles through this part of town. Obviously we are American. But I try to be discreet. Mind my business. I try not to be annoying or loud or draw too much attention to us. This is how I am through the whole trip- I just want to try my best to respect culture- language- etc. However, I ended up pissed off, and later in stitches many times when my wonderful mom would decide to wear hot pink velour jump suits, wear her hair in high ponytails, do lunges in the streets, point, make a huge scene when she stepped in dog poop, refused to speak Spanish, etc, etc. While it was happening, we would be getting dirty looks, and I would be raving- why couldn't she just act like a normal person? Then later I would find myself in hysterics thinking about it. Oh my mom is SUCH a character!! She doesn't care what other people think about her!!! If she wants to prance into a spanish speaking farmacia in bright white sneakers, and some crazy outfit, and refuse to say 'gracias' instead of 'thank you,' then by golly she will. And I love her for it. It was hilarious walking ten miles through town to the mud mall with all eyes on us. I might as well give up trying to blend in. Of course I don't want to get knifed either, but helas. So anyway, the mud mall is this dirt street lined with shops. The goods are way more interesting than what's being sold in the Malecon. They are unique, hand-crafted, and the people are more likely to let you haggle a GREAT price. Of course I bought jewelry. Mom and I got good at negotiating. We used these well learned skills to haggle later on at teh Malecon.

At one point I had one man laughing so hard at me because he didn't expect a little white girl to be such a stickler. He wanted 48 dollars for a blanket. I said 20. He said, '(Gasp) Mi Amiga, noooooo.' How could I insult his goods so? 40, he says. 20, I say. 40, he says. I start to walk away. 35, amiga!! 20, head over the shoulders. 30, he retorts!! No, gracias, says me. He grabs my arm, laughs aloud, amiga, amiga, ok!!! 20!! He pats my arm and wishes me Feliz Navidad and Bueno Ano Nuevo about five million times and he can't stop patting my arm... "amiga, amiga... hahaha." He didn't expect it, but it was awesome. That blanket went to my brother. :D

Anywho, being tourists in this town means you get harrassed a lot. Every person you pass has something to sell you. And if you don't want that, well they've got something else. Jewelry? Necklace? Bracelet? No gracias. Sunglasses? Blanket? Pottery? No gracias. Turtle? No gracias. Rent a horse? No gracias. Marijauna, cocaine? No gracias. Mexican massage? No gracias. I'll keep you warm. I'll be your honey? (this offered to mi madre) No, gracias!!!! So you get used to saying no.

We made friends with a couple people, one seller from Baja California- Rosalillita, helped me with my Spanish while asking me the English word for this or that. It was pretty awesome. Another time I had a full out conversation with one of our cab drivers, and it was exciting that he could actually understand my limited language skills.

Everynight, the sunset was breathtaking. We took many walks on the beach, many lounging afternoons, many treks into town, and even more delicious meals.

On the 2nd day there, my camera broke. We have no idea how. But mom had her camera, so all was well. I'd love to post pictures, but the files are too large to load here, so either I'll have to resize them all, or post separately. This will come later.

In the meantime, we're planning a trip to New Mexico, and also to the Arizona Renaissance Faire. I'll try to keep this updated. Thanks for reading, and hasta luego!