A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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We woke to the sound of the river, knowing that we had a long, peaceful day ahead of us to do whatever we wanted. Cando had enough electricity from batteries and enough clean water in the tank to be fine for at least a couple of days. We relaxed and wrote.

Xico, Veracruz, Mexico restaurant

From our back window, we looked across the river at this charming restaurant.

I strolled around with the camera. A man was cutting grass with a machete nearby, as fodder for his animals. I greeted him, and he launched into a long philosophical commentary on the world. I could only get occasional words. One I heard several times was “guerra.” War was on his mind: the U.S. had not yet declared war on Iraq, but it was soon to happen. Many Mexicans on our trip brought up the world situation, and none of them supported the U.S. position. Whatever his views, this fellow had a very cheerful demeanor.

A Mexican farmer we called the philosopher

The Philosopher

In the afternoon we set out for a walk to Xico’s famous waterfall. The sky was a little cloudy – it was nice not to have the bright sun and heat we’d had the day before. The road to the waterfall was a cobblestone lane, which looked very pretty but was a bit slow to walk on. The waterfall was said to be about three kilometers (1.8 miles) out of town, and we had gone maybe half way when it began to rain. Coming from dry Colorado, we hadn’t really thought about rain and had no rain gear with us.

Country scene in Xico, Veracruz, Mexico

The philosopher is back to work, collecting fodder for his horses, while a farmer rides into town.

The rain got harder. We stood under a banana tree, its broad leaves sheltering us well, waiting for the rain to let up before we continued. A small car stopped, and a Mexican family invited us to ride down to the waterfall with them. We happily accepted, figuring that even if we got soaked, at least we would have seen the waterfall. The family was out on a day trip from Xalapa. I tried to chat with the girl of about 4 who was sitting next to me. It puzzled her that I was an adult but couldn’t talk right, so her mother and I tried to explain that I spoke another language. I demonstrated by speaking some English, but I don’t think she had me figured out by the time we got to the falls.

The rain stopped, and we went to a plaza that had a good view of the falls. I chose to stay there and people-watch while Kelly went to some other viewpoints. It was a Sunday, and people were everywhere.

The waterfall at Xico is a tourist attraction.

The waterfall.. this picture was upside down till an alert reader emailed me!

There was a small group of Mexicans selling earrings, playing a drum, laughing, and generally reminding me of California hippies of the 1960s. I watched a barefoot fellow from that group playing for a long time with a half-grown dog.

After he stopped, I went over to speak to him. Before I said anything, he greeted me with a friendly hello and I was struck with how extraordinarily open and unguarded his eyes were. I told him that we had been traveling in Mexico for a month and this was the first time I had seen a person playing with a dog. It made me miss my dogs in Colorado.

With Mexican hippies

With the hippies, wearing the heart pendant I had just bought from them. The man on the left was the one I spoke with.

We chatted in a mixture of Spanish and English. He and his friends had just come from Chiapas, in southern Mexico, and he said something about the mushrooms there, how they can open the heart. I could sure feel it with him. It was the most powerful heart connection I had with anyone on the trip, a sense of no separation. What a delight! It was almost more like a dream than like everyday reality.

He gave me a seed called an ojo de venado, eye of deer, which is for protection. I told him that I sometimes felt overwhelmed and vulnerable during our trip and that I would treasure it. I also wanted to buy a piece of jewelry to remember them by. Kelly joined us as the fellow opened his bag and showed us a lot of things, some finished, others not. I bought a heart pendant that he said was made from an ancient coral found in the mountains.

Another guy had joined us, the one who had been selling earrings. “Are you brothers?” I asked. “Only of the heart,” one of them said.

We parted with hugs, and then Kelly and I began the long walk back up the hill to Xico. A while later, along came a pickup with a tarp over the back, driven by our hippie friends. They invited us to hop in, so I did, while Kelly joined two other guys in holding onto the back of the truck.

There were several other people in back, and I was in an awkward position. My leg muscles began screaming and I asked if I could sit on a pack behind me. A woman said, “Sure, there is nothing breakable in it,” and just as I began to settle down she said, “I think!” We laughed, and I tried not to sit too hard. The young dog had curled up under me and I enjoyed a gentle connection with her, amidst some jolly discussion of whether she had fleas.

They dropped us off in town. Kelly and I popped in to Carola’s shop, to thank her for her help the day before. She was chatting with an American woman who lived in the town, so we joined them for a pleasant hour.

Veracruz state, of which Xalapa is the capital, is known for its lush green scenery. This gets watered by an abundance of rain, and in winter there is a frequent light rain called the chipichipi. Monday was a day of steady chipichipi in Xico, and we used it to write, do email at one of the local internet cafes, and buy some groceries. The town is famous for its mole, a complex cooking sauce, and we came across a shop selling a homemade variety of flavors. We bought a little of one, and were later sorry we hadn’t stocked up, as it greatly dressed up the quick and easy cooking we were doing in Cando.

One could do a lot worse than live in Xico, Kelly and I agreed. We had been keeping an eye out for possible places that would be good for longer stays (with or without the motorhome), and this was the first town that had really spoken to us. Too bad that it wasn’t easily accessible from the U.S., but you could fly to Veracruz and take a bus to Xalapa, then a local bus to Xico. Who knows? Maybe we will go back sometime. One could indeed do worse!

[Next: we get lost again in Xalapa but eventually find the wonderful anthropology museum.]

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