On the third day of Ric’s visit, we got started a bit late because we had gotten home from Sher’s kinda late and stayed up way later talking and [me] drinking. But we still managed to make it over to Gloria’s again for breakfast.
You find a good thing, you stick with it!
When we left Gloria’s, I decided it was time to give Ric some idea of how large Lake Chapala actually is. He had commented that it seemed large, but he literally did not know the half of it, and that was what I wanted to show him.
Lots of people think that Chapala is located about midway on the north side of the lake, but they are just wrong. In fact, it’s the little pueblo of Mezcala that is closer to being located halfway around the north side of Lake Chapala, so that’s where we headed.
Mezcala is located about 15 miles east of Chapala. One of the things I most enjoy about the drive to Mezcala is how different the topography is from the areas around Jocotepec, Ajijic, and Chapala. While those towns slope down to the lake from the wooded hills behind them, the nearer you get to Mezcala, the more like Northern California it looks to me.
The hills above the highway are still wooded, but there are also rather barren rocky areas and steep drop offs to the lake. And Lake Chapala is substantially wider here. There are also viewpoints that give you some real feel for how long Lake Chapala actually is. Looking east or west from these vantage points, you can no longer see either end of the lake.
Ric and I meandered down into the town itself and stopped at one of the many abarrotes [mom and pop grocery stores] to purchase a couple of soft drinks, grab a couple of chairs sitting out front, and sit and watch life in Mezcala unfold in front of us. Having sold us our drinks, the “clerks” in the abarotte [probably 8 and 10 years old] hit the street in front of us to play a little soccer, and a young girl stopped by to ask if we wished to buy any nopal.
Nopal is despined prickly pear cactus and Mexican cooks use it primarily salads or grilled on a comal and added to meat and vegetables to make a great taco filling. Here is my friend Leslie’s take on it: http://www.lacocinadeleslie.com/2011/08/nopales-con-queso.html
Nopal is such a big part of the Mexican diet and heritage, that it’s actually depicted on the flag. See what the eagle is poised upon?
Personally, I don’t eat too much nopal, but I do take nopal tablets every day since it helps my digestion. And sometimes that’s important around here! But Ric and I passed on the nopales that day.
That little girl was the extent of our being “hounded” by street vendors, even though we were the object of many covert looks with our pale skin and my long blond hair. Around the gringo enclaves of Lake Chapala [Ajijic, Riberas, San Antonio, Chapala, and even Jocotepec], we didn’t rate a second glance. But just these few miles outside of those areas, and the glances were a bit circumspect.
Ric and I made it back to Joco mid-afternoon, just in time to welcome my friends Kathi and Warner over for supper and a rousing game of Trivial Pursuit, as well as in time for Ric to meet my friend, Antonio, when he came over to check the pool and water the plants as necessary.
Once again, Ric’s fluent Spanish proved to be a delight to my local friends. Not only did Ric and Antonio hit it off because of their mutual profession as builders, they both seemed to delight in one another’s company.
Antonio has been having a hard time getting work lately because of the downturn in the number of local men going north to find work and send home money, as well as the need to downplay economic wealth as evidenced by home improvements. A couple of months ago, we had a spate of kidnappings in Joco and many, many extortion calls. Both have made the locals wary of having work done.
I had asked Ric to talk to Antonio about his lack of work and come up with suggestions as to how to improve Antonio’s business. After speaking relatively briefly with one another, Antonio and Ric set up a time to get together on the next day, Thursday, to discuss it. Within 20 minutes, Ric had been able to get Antonio to do something that I have not really been able to do in more than two years…..open up and be himself.
I’d like to put that all down to Ric and Antonio being in the same profession, but that wasn’t all of it. A big part of it was being able to speak the same language with the same ease. And if that’s not an inducement to learning more Spanish, I don’t know what is!
Here’s kinda what my Spanish is like. Thanks to Kathi for sending me the original link. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cKGyOE_jOI&feature=related