Adventures in Guanajuato


Currently the Inn Keeper in Guanajuato, Mexico. Go to to see the wonderful lifestyle I enjoy.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween is Coming

My son told me that the natives of Guanajuato (GTO) are sensitive to cold weather. And he, as usual, was right. The temperatures have dropped to the mid fifties at night, with a recent low down in the upper forties. When I leave to walk Millie, the sun is out and the temperature is rising, but the people in the street are wearing jackets, coats, parkas, scarves around their necks, and the occasional scarf around the mouth and nose, just as in Canada when the temperature was 20 degrees! The babies are wrapped totally in blankets (I presume those are babies even though there is not even an eye to be seen).This is a product of acclimatization. The first day I spent in Canada (1950) the headline in the paper was “Heat Wave Continues” and it was 85 degrees! It is all about that to which one is accustomed.

Halloween (hallowed evening) approaches. The stores and vendor’s booths are full of skulls, skeletons, ghosts, and special breads prepared for the Day of the Dead. Tee shirts are seen with the general theme. This is not a prankish celebration, but one in which the families go to the gravesite and have a feast on the location, giving the spirit of the departed a chance to commune with the living on this once-a-year event. The Day of the Dead is akin to our All Saint’s Day, and is celebrated on November 1st.

The University of GTO symphony orchestra was in concert Friday evening. Featured was an ex-Cuban pianist ((Leonel Morales) who did a magnificent execution of Liszt’s First and Second Piano Concerti, one before intermission, and one immediately following, under the direction of a visiting Checkoslovakian (sp?) conductor For $10 a seat it was a bargain. They perform again next Friday with a trumpet soloist in the first half, and a piano soloist playing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto in C Major. I’m looking forward to another enjoyable evening.

Saturday was a recital by students of an internationally known mime and dance instructor who specializes in “body language theater”. They presented a program about an hour long on the floor of an old artificial water reservoir (basically a flat relatively shallow swimming pool) in the back yard of the instructor, with seating on rock ledges on the hillside. The last act was a fire dance by one of the students swinging flaming kerosene pots to very lively music. It was very well done. The variety of cultural events for this city of 75,000 is quite amazing.

I’ll attempt to include a picture of a street scene to show a common morning activity. Then back to my Spanish homework….. A friendly storekeeper - Millie smells food

Monday, October 23, 2006

Back to Normal

Adventures in Guanajuato

The Festival ended last night. Lots of fireworks! The current guests (from Australia) joined me on the roof and were entertained by a bombastic display from two sides of town, with the hills echoing and reinforcing the effect. Very nice!

It has been a thrilling week here at GTO. The International Cervantino Festival is nearing its end (which will be about midnight tonight). With this, there has been an acceleration of street performances, and more formal theater performances. A string quartet from Russia was very well received. The street scenes have run the gamut from acts on stilts, mechanical men (and women), jazz combos, sword fights, indian dances full costume, mimes, clowns, a very mature guitar and singing ensemble just down the block, and other spectacles with crowds such that I could never get close enough to see. And that is the score for today! Tomorrow should revert to a normal day, but several times I have had to carry Millie on her 'walks' to get her through the mobs of people.

Weather has been rainy, but it mostly rains at night, so it is not a bother.

This innkeeper is learning. I now know to inventory each suite before renting them for t.p., soap, light bulbs, sheets, plugs for the sink, water, and coffee. Have an Australian couple here now for two more nights. They have daughters 9 and 11 who are about the sweetest little girls I have ever met (excluding grandchildren, of course). They are a delightful family. This gives me courage.

Went to the expatriot Sunday brunch this morning for the first time, with about a dozen there. The total group is about 60 strong, but attendance varies from about 10 to 30, with different combinations and permutations each Sunday. They pick a different restaurant every Sunday, and today it was one about 15 miles out of town, which is enough to boost the altitude from 6,600 feet to over 9,000 feet. It was on a very rough country side road which I would never have taken on my own, through a few dwellings which were almost primitive looking and to the restaurant which was anything but inviting in appearance. And the food was very good, the service excellent, and the site well-known to the old-timers. It continues to be fun, my spanish is improving, my legs are ever better, and today, when I tried to cinch up my trousers (elastic waist) by putting my umbrella inside the waist band, in about two steps the umbrella came out my trouser leg. I now have to find a tailor or seamstress.

And now I make my first attempt to insert a picture into the blog. I have spoken about the dust caused by the renovation inside the house. Here (hopefully!) is the pictorial proof. It can only get better! Hold your breath

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Deluge

Now Steven said that the average rainfall in GTO is about 3.5 inches a year. He didn't tell me it was concentrated in about two days. I have spoken already to the small winding steep lanes which wind around and about between the houses. These are all made of rock or stone or occasionally brick. There are no yards, no grass. Guess what? When it rains the water falls off the roofs into the narrow lanes, and one has a torrent of water rushing down to the lower elevations. It is the adventure of going uphill on slippery rock against perhaps 3 or 4 inches of water forming waterfalls at every step, especially when carrying a dog under the raincoat. Millie would not have been able to walk against the current. This rain did serve to clean the walks, so it isn't all bad. I'm draining as I type.

The circus that constitutes the Festival International Cervantino continues as best it can in spite of the weather. While walking Millie we encounter the human robots, people (men and women) painted 100% in aluminum metallic paint, acting robotically. Generally well done. At the Plaza Fernando was troup of females on very high stilts, dancing to latin music, including some rotations, and this for about a half hour. They were tall enough that their feet were above the crowd so that they could be easily seen from quite a distance, with skirts that almost touched the ground. Musical ensembles of all kinds, including one of about 10 musicians at the gazebo in the center of the Jardin Union, playing pretty good dance music, which encouraged several couples to take advantage of the moment.

I may have officially become part of the expatriot group Wednesday when I joined "Charlie's Gang" for lunch at the "Taco Cabana" somewhere away from the center of the city. Nice guys, only guys, all past their prime, but pleasant talk. Tomorrow I'll join the big group, women included, for the 2:00 pm Sunday gathering, and meet my counterparts in GTO.

Was invited out for dinner Friday night, close to the statue of Pipila (revolutionary war hero) which is placed on a hill overlooking the city. We had a very lovely view of the city from the location of the host's house designed to take advantage of that view. We were just finishing the hors d'ouvres when a storm came over the hills and dumped a lot of water on the city (3.5 " a year, Steven?). We left the porch and took refuge at the table. The six of us in total had been all over the world, with conversation which touched on all sorts of politics, culture, cuisine, challenges of international travel and living. A nice evening.

In the meantime I got a taste of InnKeeping. My one guest is a rather remarkable lady from Argentina now in the New York theatrical scene, in GTO to review some of the presentations for possible booking in NYC. Without going into detail, the phone didn't work in her suite, the wireless connection for the computer didn't function, so for her business she used my phone and computer. She took it rather well. She is fixed up now with her own phone and the computer network is functionning, but with the renovations continuing these things sometimes get disturbed (like phone lines). It will only get better for our customers, and it is very nice now.

Next time, I'll try to insert some pictures. A lot faster than 10,000 words!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Sunday afternoon

Sunday mornings are generally quiet in GTO. Except for the church bells, of course. Went for the morning Millie walk, not many people, had my cup of coffee, and returned to the house to study espagnole.

But, this afternoon went out, again with dog about 4:00 , and fell upon a parade of several more than 12, and only a few less than 24 drum and bugle corps. Each group had their uniform replete with lanyards, arm bands, lacings, berets, etc. etc. Even the drums were decorated. The participants varied from perhaps 5 years old to 50. The drum cadences were not too bad and continuous, but the bugling was close to awful! At the end of each group were people with glass cases full of religious icons marching along behind their group. They formed a parade which lasted quite some time, and the streets were blocked to let them pass, which accumulated traffic I'm guessing right through the tunnel system. Millie was scared out of her wits with all the noise!

What I enjoyed the most was seeing a motor bike from Dominos Pizza, with a sign on the bike reading: If over 30 minutes, it's free! And there he was held in place for at least that long.

From there to a plaza where a troup was doing acrobatic stunts on two long sashes of cloth suspended from a frame perhaps 20 feet high. They would climb up the sashes, then wrap the cloth around their bodies or arms or legs such that they were suspended first this way, then that, upside down, laterally, etc. The crowd applauded enthusiastically.

Past a troup of Indians (?) with beautiful peacock(?) feather headdresses getting ready to perform. Just a few feet further was the last moment of a funeral, with the street blocked by people all dressed in black. The body had just been put into the hearse, and as the hearse drove away there was a round of applause from the participants, much the same as for the other shows. Life is but a stage....

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Festival

Things are heating up in GTO. The Festival International Cervantino is now officially underway. As Millie and I walked the streets today, we passed (and paused) at several sidewalk events. There was a troup of clowns entertaining near the central market, complete with a VW covered, totally covered (except for the windows), in patterned ceramic tile. Near the house there was a troup of puppeteers complete with the little stage to hide the performers. Nearby was an acting troup doing, as near as I could tell, a comic version of Little Red Riding Hood, complete with wolf costume and all. On Plaza Ferdinando there was a song group blazing away. Big people, little people in all sorts of costumes are on the streets. It is now almost 10:00 pm, and there are singing groups walking the streets which I can hear as I type.

Added to all this were the street vendors taking advantage of the enlarged population. Balloons, souvenirs, food, paintings, you name it. It was like a spontaneous county fair. Police are out in great numbers to be sure the traffic does not lock up, as there is limited space for cars, and one can easily visualize a catastrophic traffic jam which would require cementing over the whole line of cars and starting anew.

Millie thinks it is wonderful. She has joined forces with the street cleaners attempting to keep the sidewalks and streets free of pieces of dropped food. She enjoys doing her bit. At least until this afternoon. One of these little droppings had attracted the attention of a honey bee. Millie stepped directly on it, and the bee responded by stinging a pad on her paw. It hurt her quite a bit, she shook it and licked it and favored it for a couple of hours, but all is better now. Tomorrow she is to get shampooed and groomed. I am anxious to see how she comes out.

The house has an exposed patio with no roof which fronts the living room, dining room, my room and some of the hallway. Yesterday was spent smashing the old facing off the walls with hammers and chisels. Debris was raining down all day. Plastic sheets cover my patio window and door, but even then when I stepped out the accumulated dust and broken cement showered down on me. Today they put cement on the surfaces, so when I went out today I was showered with wet cement. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

The tutor came for the first time today. He is not a gaggle of giggles, but being serious about the task is not too bad. The vocabulary is increasing, but the structure of the language in terms of verb tenses and word sequences is still a long way away.

Some sweet thing gave me a book of 6000 spanish words, which included a CD to assist the learning. One theme is to use (electronic) flash cards, which are shown in random order once one has reviewed the vocabulary list. If one gets a card wrong, it is shuffled into the mix more often until one gets it right a few times in a row. I think I am making some progress, but when I smilingly offered a "poco a poco" at the tienda after receiving a correction, they responded "poco a pocito", or "little by very little". That's a clue. Back to the books.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Adventures in Guanajuato

La Perra (the dog, feminine)

Walking with Millie is a real experience. If she were literate she could now fill an encyclopedia with a catalogue of smells, odors, tastes, shoe styles, and animals. She walks near the buildings, and avoids being trampled a thousand times a walk by mere millimeters. The average demeanor of the passersby is a look of "what are you doing with a dog on this street", but the bambinos will smile, and beg to pet her.

The problem, as far as Millie is concerned, is the lack of grass. She has trouble reconciling her needs with a concrete wall with people passing by, or even just a stone street with no one around but me. However, nature is taking its course. She thinks she can always use what will be the dining room, as it is a demolition scene right now. I hope she will recognize the impropriety of this when the building is finished.

Went to the big market this morning. Walked all around the main floor and encircling balcony. All sorts of food, clothing, little boutique restaurants, CDs, etc. The market covers about two square American blocks (maybe more), and must house perhaps 200 or more vendors. Outside are impromptu stalls with another 100 or so vendors. It takes a while to take it all in.

The town is getting ready for the Festival International Cervantino. The merchants are stocking provisions to the ceiling in preparation for the influx of touristas. This promises to be a big affair. Stadium seating is being erected on several plazas, and the projector is being installed to show free movies with the steps of the university the seating, and the wall across the street the screen. It should be a real blast.

Sent an email to my would-be tutor, but have yet to get a reply. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be into the lessons full stream. Am gradually recalling some of the TJC lessons, but am ashamed as to how much, and how easily, I have forgotten the vocabulary.

Now off to try to read some Spanish novel (Jules Verne: De la Tierra a la Luna).

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The Arrival

To all:

Yes, I made it to Guanajuato (GTO)! Unfortunately my new laptop did not contain any email addresses, so the delay is the time it takes to type in the address list which I had copied from the old computer. And I am enclosing this in a blog page GTOhouse for those who want to read a diary of the adventure.

Left Tyler Wednesday morning after testing the friendship of John and Lynn. Who else would take in a homeless person with the possibility of lice, a dog with fleas and a bladder infection (which undoes some of the house training), feed them breakfast, offer to do the laundry, entertain on my behalf, and express sadness at our leaving after several days of our homesteading on their premises? Only John and Lynn!

Stopped in Palestine to visit brother Paul and wife Virginia, then to Austin for a birthday dinner for son Steven. Then on Thursday, we drove to Georgetown, fired up his Cessna, and with a neighbor Loren left for GTO. The plane was packed with a suitcase for Steven, a suitcase for Loren, two suitcases, three hanging bags, a portable file cabinet, a laptop computer, a suitcase for Millie, my briefcase, a cloth briefcase with books, dog bowls, dog food, and some other miscellaneous stuff such as 35mm slides to be digitized, the slide scanner, etc. etc. (Remember, I'm moving there!). The plane was full.

Millie did the trip as if a veteran. Slept on the stack of suitcases in the fourth passenger seat whenever we were in the air. Cleared customs in Monterrey, and arrived in Leon about dark. Hauled all the baggage about 100 yards to where we could get a taxi for GTO, which took several trips for each of us. We piled into the taxi with the larger suitcases strapped on top (as the car was otherwise full, including some stuff in the back seat with Loren and me) and off we went to GTO.

As I have told most of you, GTO is a medieval city, not constructed for automobile traffic. Nevertheless, there are some passages which are just wide enough to allow cars if one is careful, or if one has a compact car. One of these passages, attained by a circuitous route, ends very near the door of the house, and because of the amount of luggage we chose this route. Steven knows the town, which is built on rather steep hills (mountains?). He had walked the route to be taken some time previously, which required climbing around the city to a point just above his house, then descending perhaps 3/4 of a mile down about a 30 degree slope (OK, maybe only 20, but perceivably steep) full of sharp bends which had to be negotiated very carefully if one wished to retain the side-view mirrors and fenders, and not kill the frequent pedestrians. He directed the driver as to the route, but before starting the descent warned the driver to enquire about the condition of the passage. Either he did not understand, or just ignored the advice.

So we start down this little passage, slowly, slowly making the turns, creeping ever closer to the house for perhaps ten minutes, and about 2/3 of the way found the passage blocked by construction! Now to back up the passage! The tires slipped on the rock surface! The coordination of clutch and accelerator was not great. The car did not move. So the three of us got out of the car, and with the help of a passerby assisted the driver by pushing on the hood to get some traction, and reduce the load. Dangerous, because the car would tend to go forward when he took off the brake and before he hit the accelerator. But little by little we made some progress. Finally found a large piece of concrete which we would place under a front tire to stop the forward motion at each stop. And we had frequent stops because the car was constantly threatening to scrape on one side or the other.

This lasted for perhaps 45 minutes as we crept noisely and very very slowly back up the hill. This all came to a stop when the car would no longer make any progress because the clutch finally burned out, and the car was stationary! Millie and I took the key to the house (the activity did not help this little sciatic nerve problem of mine) and walked the remaining way down hill until we got to the house, went inside, and sat for a while in the very large hallway with nothing to do but wait. Started looking around, found the key to my room, went inside, and I lay down with Millie, which was a little moist as she had been thirsty, and jumped into the fountain by the front door to sate her thirst, meanwhile splashing around in about two inches of water.

Around midnight, I was just alert enough to hear the buzzer for the back door. Went down the stairs (16) and there were Steven and Loren with a mountain of stuff. They had obtained another taxi, which they backed down the little passage, transferred everything, and left the original taxi trapped in a little street with an inoperative vehicle. It may still be there today!

We found the keys to the apartment downstairs, distributed the stuff, and all went to bed.