Making oars today.
If this is your first time reading this blog, bear in mind that there are several earlier postings. I would prefer that these postings appeared in chronological order, but I can’t find the trick to make that happen… my earliest posts are therefore at the bottom, or in the sidebar, under ”November”.
The weather cheered up just when I was about to ask for my money back from God. Enthused, I went for a run down the beach but something snapped in my calf and it took me a long time to hobble home. This running barefoot on the sand has been quite a trial, it seems to require Achilles tendons to be stretched longer than shod feet have ever needed, thus they hurt abominably and I had to quit running. After five months of resting them, limping severely upon rising in the morning, they were no better, so I decided to run again in the hope that they would be stimulated into healing…and it worked; after a couple more months I was almost free of pain. The calf thing is a new one though.
Banditos! I arrived home to find the door kicked in, my wallet emptied of about 400 dollars. I had become slack about security after ten months here without trouble. I leapt upon the motorcycle and charged off down the road behind the place (There is a dirt road out the front, and another, poorer one behind which I call the ”dirtier road”). I hope to catch the guy back there but all I got for my trouble was stuck in deep mud. I returned bespattered to the house and was relieved to discover my passport and bank cards were still there. Later, after questoning the neighbors, I drove to Anton Lizardo and returned with a truckload of policemen; not that I expected much from them, but if nobody even tries then these thieves will always have a free hand. The cops were nice enough but despite my protests they walked all over the only evidence – footprints around the door – thus destroying any chance of justice.
More annoying than the loss of the money and the work I have to do to fix the door is the loss of peace of mind; I can’t leave the place alone now. Tonight as I write my power tools are hidden outside in the bushes, the sewing machine is in the chicken coop, and my passport lives in a jam jar under a foot of sand, but I can’t clear everything out and even the loss of a rasp would be most inconvenient.
Rasp thieves, the scourge of Mexico.
The police here are not much help. They made no attempt to gain information from the neighbors. It is like that here, lawlessness and disorder is the norm and whilst I am all for freedom, this country is way out of control. Theft, corruption, drug wars, kidnapping… three months ago a local child was abducted from a primary school and found later in the countryside; all his organs including his eyes had been surgically removed [Er… later I discovered that this was just a rumor, a kind of urban legend that travels many countries.] There are no consequences to antisocial behavior, so whilst the dangerous driving and the horribly disturbing and intrusive thumping and pounding of the subwoofers of the numerous ”bassholes” may be technically illegal, there is nobody to stop it and all must live without tranquility, without hope of even an hour of peace a day. It’s not ”their culture”. The only thing about it that ¡s cultural is that the vast majority of law-abiding, peaceful, considerate Mexicans do not and will not stand up for themselves until pushed to the very brink of death.
I have, here, developed a deep appreciation for the relative social order which largely prevails in the States and Europe.
We have learned the identity of the thieves, three youths on a motorcycle, well known for coming out to Mata and Zapote to steal what they can. These swine are the terror of the neighborhood, people cannot leave their homes unattended, cannot even go to church together as a family. The only hope of dealing with them is to catch them in the act, in which case it is generally considered acceptable to give them a beating they’ll never forget. My immediate neighbors and I have come up with a plan, that should they be seen approaching, friends in Mata will call the neighbors and they will call across the fields to me; I shall throw on my shorts and sprint to the beach, where I shall take pains to be seen going for a run. We hope that they will be tempted into robbing me again, in which case heaven help them, for I shall have turned around and followed them back to my house.
This will probably not happen of course. And today I learned that thanks to a call to the Commandante from a friend the Director General of Tourism and Culture, the police are after the youths and they have gone on the run. Well, they can afford to with my cash can’t they? They’ll be back though.
There is so much to write. You’d think, well, he’s kind of on holiday so he’s got all the time in the world to write whatever he wants, but it just isn’t so. It’s about ten days since I have been able to make the time to come to the internet cafe. This whole ”it’ll be ready when it’s ready” idea doesn’t work for me at all. I’ve been here for ten months, and I have a beloved visitor arriving in two weeks, and I want this boat DONE!. I guess instead of working all hours I could just sit on my hands and wish, a la that paragon of intellectual midgetry The Secret.
People want to see the boat. Ok then, here’s a close-up.
She’s a beauty, eh?
At some point I have to make a disclaimer of sorts. I’m building this boat with the idea of sailing it southwards right? But I have always known that this plan is foolhardy at best, completely stupid at worst. The longer I stay here the more I become aware of how contrary the sea is, how lethal. It may be that this boat just doesn’t go well enough to be viable. It may be too painful, even for me. It may be that after the first hard blow I go screaming for my Mama (hello Mum). So my disclaimer is this: I am not promising anything; there may well be no great adventure and you will have wasted your time ploughing through all these words of mine.
Another disclaimer: none of what I say about Mexico should be taken as gospel. It is a vast, enormously complex, amazing and marvellous place and my knowledge of it is but a flea on an elephant.
In my earliest posts I started to relate the story of my arrival in Veracruz. I left myself wandering about in search of food. I’d flown from the Dominican Republic to Panama to Mexico City to Veracruz without sleep or, as is so often the case for the travelling vegan, food. My eyes were like dried peas. I could have eaten a soya horse. I weaved through the throng and the chaos of the market looking for some kind of cheap restaurant/cafe, of which there are plenty, but not all of them looked right. I’d finally choose one, generally an open-fronted affair maybe with awnings against the sun, plastic tables and chairs, a menu scrawled on a board. I’d enter. There’d be a moment of horror and panic on the face of the woman emerging from the kitchen, changing to hope as she’d have the idea that maybe I’d just made a navigational error and would move on. None of this was out of meaness, the thing is that I was almost certainly the first foreigner that had ever entered, and the first one that she had ever had to talk to, and she did not know how to handle it. Also, Mexican women can be extremely shy, less so in the cities but even there one might try to ask a woman for directions and find that she just breezes on by as if you didn’t exist…I thought that this was extremely rude at first when I didn’t understand the reason, and deeply perplexing because Mexicans are not rude, far from it, they have beautiful manners that would put most of the rest of us to shame.
My Spanish was incoherent but did in fact include a number of words related to the procurement of nosh; this is normal in the travelling vegan, in any strange country he is at first like a newborn baby that can do nothing at all except suck a nipple. So I’d smile my way up there, the woman looking about her at all possible avenues of escape, and say ”Good morning. Do you have anything for vegetarians”.
I was aghast to discover that the brand of Spanish spoken here is nothing like anything I’d heard elsewhere; I could understand almost nothing of what was said to me in reply. Even where the Spanish was more ”normal” I’d be doing well to get one word in fifteen. You know the way policemen and astronauts can listen to a garbled and unintelligble transmission and understand every word? I’ve always marvelled at that. The harder I try to catch the meaning, the more slips by. Here, we were mutually incomprehensible. But you have to get back on the horse, and by keeping things simple a kind of communication would be established.
” I don’t eat meat. Do you have any rice, beans, plantains, guacamole, salsa…?”
”Yes, we have chicken, beefsteak…”
”No, I don’t eat meat. Only vegetables.”
”We have chicken”
”I only eat vegatbles. Do you have beans, rice?”
”Chicken tortas, ham soup…”
”No, those are meat. I don’t eat meat. Just some beans and rice would be good”.
”We don’t have any.”
Conversations like this, and there were many, left me deeply sympathetic to the women who looked so nervous on my approach.
Despite the negative outcome of the conversations I noticed a most peculiar thing. Almost my every interaction with a Mexican left me glowing with pleasure. They were just so damned nice. There’s no routine ”Have a nice day” spoken without conviction, as in the States. Almost always a genuine, warm smile, from the eyes as much as the mouth, every facet of the person’s vocal and body language would tell you that they really did want you to have a nice day, that they enjoyed speaking with you, that they hope you will stop by again. They are mostly a sweet, easily lovable people with enormously valuable things to teach the rest of the world. But what they have cannot be taught I fear, and if it could be, it’s too late. I think that they are having trouble hanging on to it themselves.
Finally I found a tiny place worked by two girls. Beans, rice, tortillas, fried plantains, sliced avocados, a spicy green liquid salsa. It was delicious. Two dollars and eighty cents. Oh man, I thought, I’ve landed.
It is time for a photo.
This nest, made by that iconic Mexican avian the lesser-spotted wibbly-wobbly bird, has been hanging from the cables directly over the middle of the sand-blown road between Veracruz and Anton Lizardo for seven months! The nortes that blow so regularly here almost tear the hair off your head and move dunes of sand across the road which have to be trucked away, so this nest’s survival is astonishing to me.
It is late and this internet cafe is closing, so you will sadly be spared my intended treatise on oar-making, a fascinating subject replete with meaning and substance. Well, it’s your loss.
I must wend my way home along the dark roads and the mile of beach, through the gate and across the field, weaving between the cows, then through the other gate and round the back and into my grotto, and there I shall go to bed. I rather dread it. There will be bugs.