Sunday, January 24, 2016

life in rural Mexico (part 1)

So what does the day to day life look like when you live in rural Mexico . . . here's a window into our world . . . here are the sights and reality beyond the map.

That circle at "We Are Here" on the map above, let's zoom that in a little bit . . . here's a view from the neighboring hill (picture below). Down below is our village, a quiet fishing village and Mexican tourist destination. The local population is around 350. During the busiest times of the year (Christmas & the week around Easter) this location can swell into the thousands, with tourists and locals alike. Many coming from larger inland cities (i.e.: Tepic and Guadalajara). The local economy balances between the fishermen and their catch of the day and tourism, including boat tours, hotels and restaurants.

view of our village

main street in town, lined with restaurants & several hotels

the fisherman's boats & pelicans taking a siesta before the evening catch

local hotel down the street from us

There are two seasons here . . . rainy season and dry season. There is a unique situation here during dry season (December-April) of which many snowbirds settle in. Some stay for a week, while others stay for a few months. Mostly coming from the northern US and Canada and mostly retired, this population adds another colorful layer to the happenings of the village.

Here in town, there are 3 small markets for buying "groceries" (mostly bread, milk, eggs, rice, beans, limited veggies, chips, soda, beer, and canned items). Each market is a brick building measuring about 15 ft by 40 ft or smaller. You can buy fresh tortillas at the TortillerĂ­a. You can also find fresh coconuts and fruit smoothies at a local store. But if you are patient and wait for the right jingle being broadcast from a vehicle or exclamation from a person, you also have delivery service. Something very common in Mexico, big or small town, are the services that pass by on the street. One jingle is the propane gas supplier, another the purified water supplier, and others could be sweet breads, vegetables, mattresses, tamales, furniture, cleaning supplies, fresh squeezed juice, or homemade cheese.

one of the small markets

Other services, such as garbage, mail, and the internet are much more unreliable. Sometimes garbage collection comes with an actual garbage truck (with compressor) other times it's a few guys with a truck and a large bed with sides and everything is thrown in until it's full. There are times they come a few times a week and other times where we have waited a few weeks. One thing we have learned is that when you hear the cowbell (their method of notifying you of their arrival) we need to get their attention at the bottom of our street or else they will simply drive by.

Mail service is available, however it comes to town about every 8 days and is delivered to a liquor store on the edge of town, which is not open very often or at least when you think of dropping by. You can pay a small fee for a post office box at the post office, which is in the next town, and they will call you when something is delivered. Mail sent between Mexico and the U.S. can take from 3-7 weeks and may not ever make it. So not the most reliable. In fact, we had something shipped from Mexico City to us last week via a shipping company and we got a call in the middle of the day from a guy standing in the plaza of Compostela (40 min away) asking us to meet him there to pick up the item. That was as far as they were going to go. Thankfully, we directed them to a friend's house and were able to get it on our next trip through Compostela.

Amazingly, internet service has improved drastically from when we arrived almost 3 years ago. Then it worked about 50% of the time, now it works about 95% of the time, except during the rainy season. The biggest challenges being the effects of humidity and salt air on wires and equipment and the base level of services and equipment offered from the telephone company. Being that we have two teenagers relying on the internet for their schooling, we are so very thankful to have an in-house I.T. expert, namely Chuck. Without his expertise, we would be in a world of hurt. His time spent keeping us humming along could almost be a part-time job.

our I.T. department

The next town closest to us is about 8 miles inland. It is about a 15 minute drive, depending if you get stuck behind a tractor, a herd of cows, etc. This is also where the closest traffic signal is. Here there are a few more options for finding groceries and services. One of the markets here makes biweekly trips to the big city, 1.5 hours away, so if there is something you can't find you can ask them to get it for you. The economy here is mostly agriculture with poultry and beef processing plants in town and many farms in the surrounding area. This is where Alistair goes to school, and also where one of our leaders lives.

nearest traffic light on the main highway as you enter the next town

the market mentioned above, pictured here on the right with the green awnings

The next biggest town is about 30 minutes south. Here there is a mix of tourism and local industry. There is a weekly outdoor market here that offers local produce, art & crafts, jewelry, and much local color. There is a German deli and a Japanese restaurant here. You never know what you might find around the next corner. This is also where we go to church.

Mision Cristiana ~ where we go to church

Then there is the BIG city . . . Puerto Vallarta. This is a 1.5-2 hour drive south. The main highway is a two lane road, so depending which slow pineapple truck or 3 trailer tanker truck you get behind it might take a bit longer. Here you can find the familiar American retailers (i.e.: Costco, Walmart, Home Depot), large fancy resorts, the airport, cruise ships, small universities, shops, restaurants, and around 210,000 locals.

Life here in our village is so full of contrasts. You have a home where there is no running water next to a three story luxury home. You have the local farmer traveling between his fields on his horse, while being passed on the road by a swift and enormous tour bus. The roads full of potholes and speed bumps and rocks and dirt along with the trash burning on the side of the road, while taking in the incredible view of the vast ocean.

local home just down the street from us

just across the street from the above house

Despite the contrasts, everyone hums along with a great zeal for life and all that it brings. You find an emphasis placed more on the internal rather than the external. The heart of survival is really . . . the heart. Loving each other not for what we show on the outside but rather for what is on the inside.

to be continued . . .

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