La Manzanilla Continued…

We have been super busy. I don’t even know where to begin. Something I wasn’t expecting was meeting so many people. Meeting so many welcoming and generous people has made this journey so much more than learning a second language. Each week we are introduced to several new people, some of which have turned into great relationships. One couple gave us some laundry detergent to try out to see if my hives were caused by an allergic reaction to the laundry detergent. Another couple let us stay in their condo on the beach for several nights to see if my hives cleared up. Unfortunately neither helped, but my point is that these people barely knew us and they went out of their way to help us out. One lady took us to lunch to show her appreciation for Will’s shuttle services down the hill to the town. I think it is just the way of life down here. Everyone is much more friendly here. Everyone speaks to one another as they are passing by. Simply greeting one another on the street is a great esteem builder. It is evident that the people here value relationships and friendships over everything else. Priorities are definitely different in La Manzanilla. The aim is to lend a helping hand rather than working to get ahead or be better than your neighbor.

In addition to meeting great people we have been busy having fun too. One of our friends, Rhett, came to visit for his spring break. The week was a good mix of activities and relaxation. We spent several days just hanging out on the beach and playing ‘Farkle'(a dice game) with friends. One day Rhett and Will kayaked over to another beach to snorkel. The windy weather and rough water made this adventure a little more work and less delightful than they had hoped for, but they did return with some awesome shells.

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Rhett was also lucky enough to see a few baby turtles making their way to the water during an early morning walk on the beach.

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I finally made time to ease back into painting. I bartered with a local artist to give me an oil painting lesson in exchange for a haircut. I think we were both extremely happy with the trade off. Speaking of haircuts, I have continued to build my clientele by giving poolside cuts, as well as cuts overlooking the beautiful bay.

On to our favorite activity…eating amazing food. Unfortunately we forgot to take pictures but we have eaten some amazing dishes. We make a weekly appearance at our favorite restaurant ‘Cafe de Flores’ for their weekly special on Thursday evenings. We have dined on ahi style yellow fin tuna, beef wellington, prime rib, filet mignon, and the best coconut pie I have ever put in my mouth.

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I have continued to try new dishes, but I took it a little too far one day. Will went on and on about how divine the raw oysters were that he had gotten on the beach, so I decided if I was ever going to try one that these were the ones to try. I built up enough courage to try one so Will prepared it for me and I threw it back just as a vendor walked up trying to sell us something. Awesome timing! I couldn’t even look up at him because I was concentrating so hard to swallow the oyster without vomiting all over his feet. I felt so rude because I basically shooed him off while I was gaging. Thankfully I successfully got it down, but I will not be trying any more raw oysters any time soon. I don’t remember the flavor, but the texture was slimy and squishy. No gracias!

Taking Rhett to the airport was a little sad for us, because it reminded us that we will be leaving soon, too. With only two weeks left, our time here is coming to an end. We are going to continue to take spanish classes, but I think our free time will be a little different. Semana Santa (Easter Holiday) begins this weekend which means the sleepy fishing village of La Manzanilla will be transformed into a completely different place for two weeks with crowded streets and beaches, carnival rides, and loud music. It will definitely be a different experience!

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Second week in paradise

Week 2 in La Manzanilla

Much of the same has been on the agenda this past week. Our Spanish class got off to a slower start with two substitute teachers. Originally we thought it would be a good idea to switch teachers so that we could hear different people speaking the language as well as have a chance to learn from different teaching methods. However, when you already have the best teacher, it is hard to switch. Isa is such a natural teacher. She is very patient with us and knows our strengths and weaknesses. Having had two other teachers since we have been here, we have now decided that we learn the most and connect better with Isa.

In addition to studying, we attended a benefit for a local burn victim, dropped in for a book signing, enjoyed open-mic night at “Palapa Joe’s”, and spent some time on the beach. Taking a few short walks on the beach has rewarded us with quite a collection of sea glass. Will even spotted a red piece!

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We spent Friday afternoon lounging around with a couple of new friends, taking in a few rays, and snacking on guacamole and oysters. According to Will, the oysters were the best he has ever eaten!

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To compliment our time on the beach we were able to work in a little exercise on Sunday when we walked from one end of the beach to the other, totaling about six miles. Along the way, we, unfortunately, came across several dead fish on the beach, including a large eel. We definitely got a good nights rest after being drained of all our energy that day.

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This week has had its mysteries too. I have been breaking out in hives that come for a few hours and then disappear. My first thought was that we had bed bugs. We ruled that one out when Will never broke out. I haven’t really eaten or used anything that I usually don’t have at home. I have never been allergic to any detergents either. Convincing myself that I wasn’t having an allergic reaction, we began coming up with other possibilities. Maybe it was the drops we use to treat the water Surely not! My next conclusion evolved after a miserable night of hives paired with cold/flu symptoms including a deep cough that was keeping us both awake. I think Will was ready to take me to the hospital when I woke up with the rash covering my face and swollen lips. I wasn’t convinced that a doctor would be able to do anything. More than likely I wouldn’t even have any symptoms by the time we reached a doctor. I did a little research since I couldn’t sleep and came to the conclusion that I might have contracted mono from one of our friends before we left home. But that didn’t really make sense either. Apparently, I have had an allergic reaction to something. The question is “What?”. Who knows if we will ever know. There are just too many variables to figure it out, but I do know that there are three foods I am not willing to give up until my throat starts swelling so much that I can’t breath….avocados, tomatoes, and coconut. What is life on the beach without those foods!

Despite the hives, Will and I have continued enjoying this majestical dream we are living.

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Adventures in La Manzanilla

Our adventure began as soon as we stepped foot on Mexican soil! We were warmly greeted by Will’s grandmother, Clare, also known as Clarita to most of her friends south of the border, and her sweet spirited little dog, Preciosa at the airport.

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We went straight to a restaurant on the beach in a little town on the way home for a leisurely lunch. Small waves crashed against the shore as small fishing boats slowly made their way around the bay. We were serenaded with Spanish songs while we waited for our food and took in the scenes of life of a beachside Mexican village. We enjoyed extremely fresh shrimp ceviche, guacamole, salsa, tacos, and huachinango veracruzano (red snapper Veracruz style).

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With our tummies full, we continued our journey to Gran’s house through the twisty, bumpy roads. Upon our arrival we were greeted by the view that we remembered so well from our two previous visits. Gran’s house sits about halfway up the mountain that overlooks the village and bay. The sunsets are spectacular as the sun disappears into the Pacific and even for thirty minutes later, as the afterglow sets the sky on fire!

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We began our Spanish classes the morning after our arrival. We met Julie, the school’s director, and Isa, our spanish instructor at La Catalina Natural Language School. I was a little skeptical about how much we were actually going to learn in just a few short weeks, but the first day proved to be a huge success giving me a much brighter outlook. We discovered that Will and I are both on the same level, beginners, but we each have our own strengths that complement each other. With class each morning from nine to noon, we are left with the afternoons to enjoy the traditions and simplicity of Mexican culture, as well as hang out with the many gringos that migrate to the village for the winter.

Besides eating amazing food, drinking tropical cocktails, and studying spanish everyday, Gran has made sure we have had plenty of extracurricular activities to fill our free time. We have been busy playing rummy cube on the beach, attending art openings, hosting dinner parties, watching the local regatta, shopping at the friday market, watching whales and dolphins playing in the bay, and attending “night under the stars,” which was a fundraising event to support La Catalina Natural Language School. We couldn’t have been immersed in more culture than what was present at “night under the stars.” We enjoyed a plate of local cuisine which included tamales, refried beans, mexican rice, chicken, guacamole, and jicama or pineapple juice to drink. The entertainment included flamenco dancers from Blu Bay Resort, local children playing musical instruments, local teenagers participating in interpretive dance, as well as a silent auction.

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We are continually doing something. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to fit everything into our schedule, but we will try!

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Shopping and Sightseeing

Day 71 – Tuesday, January 3, 2012

We made our way into the center of London for the last day of our trip. First, we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral since they were closed for a protest the last time we were in London. After exiting the underground we saw a lot of tents still set up outside the church for the protest. We were happy to find that they were open as we hurriedly rounded the building to the front in the wind and rain. We walked around downstairs before climbing the stairs to the Whispering Gallery of the dome. The construction of the dome is made so that you can hear someone whisper from the opposite side of the dome. Everything looked small as we looked down on the people below. It seemed a lot higher looking down than it did when we were standing on the ground looking up. The exterior Stone Gallery and Golden Gallery were closed because of really strong wind in the area.

After getting some lunch we made our way to Harrods, the largest department store in the UK. Everything about the store was upscale from the plush carpet and chandeliers to the market and freshly prepared food. The size of the store was a little overwhelming. We made our way through a few of the departments before taking a break at the ice cream parlor for a little pick me up. We looked around a little more before deciding to make our way back to the hotel to pack up.

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Upon arriving at the train station we found that the high wind had blown some trees onto the tracks, resulting in train delays and fewer operational routes. There were masses of people trying to get on trains. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long to catch a train to Croydon.

Ryan Air Experience

Day 70 – Monday, January 2, 2012

We got up just in time to head to the airport in Frankfurt. We flew with Ryan Air which is a small airline that does not give out seat assignments. It is just first come, first serve, but we were on top of our game and got front row seats. Our flight was about an hour and fifteen minutes but since we gained an hour in the sky it was like we only lost fifteen minutes of our day. However, the transport from the airport to our hotel on the opposite side of London took quiet a while. We finally checked into the Holiday Inn Express in Croydon around 5:30.

New Years Day

Day 69 – Sunday, January 1, 2012 New Years Day

On New Years Day we continued Caitlin and Aaron’s tradition of eating Chinese food after a night out on the town followed by an afternoon of R and R. Finally we got a chance to do what we have missed most about being away from home. We lounged on the sofas and watched episode after episode of “American Horror Story”. It might not sound like it but it was a great day!