What have I learned in a year away from home? Here are the top ten things:
Long-term readers will recall my medical event almost a year ago in Spain. Three posts addressed the event, here, here, and here. Medical insurance was mentioned, but a financial resolution was not. I paid twenty thousand dollars to a Spanish hospital; was I ever reimbursed? The answer was not to be found in this blog until now.
There are all sorts of houses in Puerto Vallarta, from dirt-poor shacks to glamorous, sprawling sea-view mansions. We are all curious about how people live, especially the wealthy. What would life be like with a lot of rooms and a big staff and a perfect kitchen?
The Angel of Independence — Mexico City’s iconic centennial monument — was just four blocks down the street from our hotel. I was astonished to find that the twenty-three stairs surrounding the base were added long after the statue was built. It seemed that El Ángel had actually risen from the earth some fifteen feet since she was built. She hasn’t. Mexico City has sunk around her.
Never mind. Let’s just say I’m always looking for new ways.
What joy, then, when I found a milagro charm shaped like an arm at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City. These little tin charms, shaped like legs or babies or hearts, are used to send prayers upwards in search of cures. (Frida Kahlo made a whole necklace of leg milagros.) I gave a little donation for my little arm and stuck it on a prayer board with a safety pin. Then I sent a general prayer Upwards.
You gotta love these people: no one really knows where they came from, no one really knows what happened to them (even though they built what was the largest city in the Americas at the time), their primary deity was a woman, and they built the coolest pyramids around.
“I was born a bitch,” Frida Kahlo used to say. The folk/surrealist artist has long been revered in Mexico for her art, her brash behavior, her dismal life story, and her legion of lovers. We visited the Casa Azul, where she was born in 1907 and used as home base, in the old and beautiful neighborhood of Coyoacan, now a part of Mexico City.
That was Vicky, our tour guide. To be fair, I’m as much a lover of chouquettes and panettones as the next guy, but we had committed five of our precious remaining expat days, and paid big money for airline tickets, hotels, and the tour itself — and now Vicky is dragging us to a bakery. This was Mexico City, the largest metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere! What happened to Aztek ruins, Mesoamerican pyramids, Diego Rivera murals?
Julia is small, maybe five feet, and a spry seventy-something — the perfect candidate for a Charlie Chaplin costume. The day she penguin-walked into our living room the applause was loud enough for the neighbors to hear. Continue reading
Marcia and I were happy to get seats in the front row for the outdoor show. Friends forever, we were catching up during her first trip to Puerto Vallarta, when suddenly she let out a shriek of sheer horror. Inches away from her knee was an iguana, its ruffled scaly crown waggling, its long rubbery tail slashing about. And it was big. As big as a man.