Monday, August 31, 2009

You guys are the BEST!!! August 2009

Since posting the report on La Casa de la Sagrada Familia, so many generous people have written with suggestions of ways they would like to help, donations they are collecting for La Casa, and commitments to projects they are interested in doing for the sisters and patients.

Here are a few:

Harry: Automatic blood pressure cuff for Sister Angélica donated and delivered

Jonnie and Kathi: Went to a garage sale and bought up all the clothes for women and delivered them

Marci: Chicken project

Christine: Publishing a book about the patients

Sandy: Coming down from the US with Costco bottles of medications

Sheila: Diapers, toilet paper, and other things on the list from Costco

Barb: Help with paperwork and other secretarial duties as needed

Sparks: Help with weed whacking the property and other gardening work

ACA: Just committed to fruit trees, herbs, and other plants and to placing La Casa on their "Turkey Project" roster where needy families get a pair of turkeys, the care and feeding is paid for by a sponsor, and the Casa can sell the offspring. Thank you, Wendee and Marie.

Jim: And last, but oh so not least, has sent me the site of a foundation that provides grants for needy Catholic nun projects. He has worked with this foundation in the past and was able to procure a grant for a project in Guadalajara. He has generously offered to help me with the paperwork. Thank you, Jim.

You guys really are the best!

Anyone else interested in helping the sisters and the patients, drop me a note at or just go on over and bring your donations to them.

¡Gracias a todos!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

La Casa de la Sagrada Familia August 2009

If you live around Lake Chapala somewhere, you've probably driven by this building on the south shore over the past year and wondered what it was. Being the stalwart reporter that I am, Kathi and I stopped by one day to get the scoop.

La Casa de la Sagrada Familia
Rancho el Salitre
Carretera Mazamitla - 7 km from Jocotepec
Phone: 34 81 06 92 71

La Casa is the only facility in our area that fulfills a distinct need in the community, it is strictly for men and women who are unable to care for themselves and have no income, assets, or family to take care of them - as is normally done in the Mexican culture. All of their current patients are in their 80s and 90s. The lone male is a spry 94.

Three of the prettiest gals at the Casa.


The van you saw in the foreground was donated by a bishop. The land and building are also donations. Their water source is a donation from the ranch across the highway.
All of the patients come from hardship circumstances. All of them.

They currently have requests for more patients than they can feed. I believe they said they had 46 beds, but they are limited in the number of patients they can take in due to the expenses for the care and feeding of the patients. As of yesterday, they had 7 patients.

La Casa is located just east of San Pedro Testistan and is right next door (to the west) to the orphanage Villa Infantil. La Casa is about a year old and is staffed and operated by three Franciscan nuns: Madre Rosa Campos, Hermana Angélica Verduzco Verduzco, and Hermana Soila Orosco. Each one delightful and charming and full of personality, compassion, and patience.

Hermana Angélica is also a nurse and will be reasigned soon to work in the hospital in Guadalajara and replaced by another nun. "A younger nun", Angélica said with a grin.

Last evening there was a planting party. Folks from Joco brought fruit and flower trees and other garden plants for La Casa. The nuns were thrilled.

Madre Rosa Campos

La Casa is a beautiful building, well planned, safe for the patients, easy accessibility for wheelchairs, IMMACULATELY CLEAN, sparsely furnished and decorated, but very bright and cheery.

Here's the tour:

This is the patients kitchen and dining room. There is no fridge yet so the nuns create meals in the kitchen of their quarters and serve them here in the patient's dining room.

Women's Dorm
Each room has 4 beds.

Men's Dorm
Also 4 beds to room.

Multiple CLEAN AND SAFE bathrooms situated conveniently along the corridors.

The lavanderia.

The nun's quarters are built in a square with their kitchen dining room in one corner and their rooms around the pleasant little garden.

Situated off of the main living room and next to the patient's
kitchen and dining room is an intimate little chapel.

We had a great time talking to the Madre and letting her show us around. I feel they are worthy of my time and energy and am committed to see what I can do to help them.

Besides, I like old people and the sisters are just really fun!

Care to help me? Email me at:

The planting party.

L to R: Hermana Soila, Sharon Oden, and Madre Rosa

L to R: Rob Oden and Martin the Casa's handyman, gardener,
and watchman.

L to R: Martin and Hermana Anjélica.

While the building and land has been a gift, the taxes, upkeep, gas for the car, CFE, and propane are not. Those expenses must be met on a regular basis, as well as everyday patient expenses.

The following is their (somewhat in order)

Wish List:

Toilet Paper
Clorox, any brand of cloro will do
Diapers - Adult - size Med
Etc, etc, etc, you know what they need.

Of course they need food, eggs, meats, and fruits and vegetables.
The sisters shop for food on Fridays at the Jocotepec Mercado.
If you see them shopping, buy them a bag of produce or slip them a few pesos.
You will be helping more than you know.

Medicine Wish List:

10 cm elastic bandages
Cotton Balls
5cc injection syringes
Doloneurobion Forte
And anything else you think they could use.

You are invited to stop by to see the nuns, the patients, and their facility any time you would like!
All you have to do is pull up to the gate and honk, it is always locked for security, but someone will come right out and open the gates and welcome you. You might not want to go empty handed.
The nuns appreciate even the smallest donations and are very clever at stretching a peso.

If you would like to donate money, you can go to and send
your donation to my account:
and I will bring it to them.
Credit cards accepted.

If you would like more information, or have something you want me to
deliver for you, email me at the same email address:

Thanks for caring.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Malecón and Another Thing That Makes Me Go Hmmmm. . . August 2009

Seems there is simply no end to the articles

that beg to be written
under this heading!

The Jocotepec Malecón is a wonderful work-in-progress, both by Mother Nature and by the Presidente of Jocotepec. Guess who wins.

Last summer it rained so much and the lake rose so high that the malecón and
finger piers were under water. Much of it crumbled and disintegrated. I saw guys kayaking
between the submerged picnic tables in the adjoining park. Some trees and plants were lost,
but they are in the process of being replanted now.

Some of the things I've seen at the Malecón are: Los Volodores (The Flying Indians), mariachis, horse races, pelicanos by the hundreds, novios y novias, dancing horses, picnickers, kids swimming in the lake, fish and water snakes, soccer matches, Charro, Banda music, agriculture expos, several generations of families enjoying themselves and their own company and fishermen netting little Charrales hoping to get enough to sell. Our malecón is well used and beloved by the people of Joco.

It's our little treasure.

We even have a Party Boat!

And dinner cruises out into the lake and down to San Juan Cosala,
complete with Alejandro
on piano.

And a free outdoor gym!

And the best 'Lost In Translation' sign in ALL of


Click on the sign for easier reading.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Jocotepec Progress August 2009


How do you define it?

Is it this?

How about this?

Maybe this?

Or this?

What about this?


This is how I define it. . .

New restaurant out by the crucero.

Wood fired pizza and Mediterranean food!

Everything in life is a trade-off.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Happy Motoring! August 2009

Photo: Gigi Taylor
Drive carefully, the paramedics aren't dying to meet you -
and they don't want you dying to meet them!


I’ve been driving around this country, off and on, for over 35 years and I’ve finally managed to make some sense out of the way it works.

There’s the legal way.

There’s the common sense way.

Then there’s the way it is way.

Here are some points to ponder:

  • Absolutely anything can and will happen. Expect anything and everything.
  • If there’s any doubt, the big guy gets the right of way, like Coca Cola trucks, buses, and big rigs. Also those menacing looking giant Mexican trucks that have lots of chrome, mudflaps with those perky little silver women cutouts on them, doll's heads for gear shift knobs, and the appearance of not having had any brakes since 1972.
  • Do what the guy with the gun says – to a point, that is. It’s defining that point that's hard and can get edgy. Especially when being hustled for mordida. See farther down.
  • Many 2 lane highways will spontaneously turn into 4 lane or even 6 - as needed. Live with itl
  • Buy good, reputable Mexican auto insurance that comes with an adjuster and an attorney who will respond to the scene of the accident if you should have one. Make copies of all your documents: car insurance, drivers license, ownership papers, title, etc. The transitos cannot take your license or impound your car unless you are involved in a drunk driving charge or a wreck with a fatality and it’s your fault.
  • If you are involved in a serious accident, sometimes both parties go to jail until all the paperwork and insurance is sorted out. That’s why you need proof of insurance and a company that sends an attorney to you. Unless you leave the scene of the accident which is certainly not unheard of here.
  • DON'T PAY MORDIDA. Ask for the ticket. No matter how much dancing around the cop is doing. Say “Dame el folio, por favor.” (Dah may el fó li o). It is against the law to pay a bribe (tell the cop that), the tickets are very cheap, there is no DMV type computer system to track you down, and if you pay the ticket in 5 days you get 50% off. Paying the ticket is usually waaaay cheaper than emptying your wallet out to the thug. Not only that, if it didn't pay off so well, they wouldn't do it.
  • When a driver signals a left turn, either with his arm or with his blinker, that means it's safe for you to pass him. OR, it means he's turning left. You choose.
  • When approaching a narrow bridge at night, whoever flashes the high beams first gets the right of way. Mostly.
  • Better yet, never drive at night.
  • If you are being pulled over at night, don’t stop until you are in a well-lit and/or a public place. There have been incidents where bad guys use flashing lights to pull people over and then rob them. Don’t stop unless you are safe or absolutely sure they are the cops.
  • Keep your vehicle in good running condition, but if it should break down, chances are there will be a group of very nice Mexican men that will come to help you get going again, and will not take one centavo for it, and will enjoy every minute of helping you.
  • Traffic signs - like STOP, or NO PASSING - are merely suggestions.
  • The Mexican Department of Tourism has utility trucks that drive the highways of Mexico with amazingly talented guys that can administer first aid and get cars rolling again with just about nothing. They patrol the main highways and they’re affectionately known as Los Angeles Verdes (The Green Angeles) because they drive green trucks and everybody loves them. Well, they used to drive green trucks, now they are white with green. Their services are free of charge but if you ask them what you owe them they will say “Whatever you like.” Tip the guys, you may need them again!
  • Repeating: Tip the guys, you may need them again!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Came Upon A Child Of God. . . August 16, 2009

. . .He was walking along the road.
And I asked him, where are you going
And this he told me.
Said I'm going down to Yasgur's farm
I'm going to join in a rock 'n roll band.
I'm going to camp out on the land,
I'm going to try an get my soul free.

Wikipedia on Woodstock

Ritchie Havens on the anniversary of Woodstock

Forty years ago today, I put on my purple suede, (made-by-me) fringed vest and matching purple suede miniskirt - as I recall, this ensemble contained a lot of paisley as well - and took off for what would become a weekend of mud, music, and fun.

We drove from Stamford, New York, where we had been running a hotel in the Catskills called The Scotch Mist Inn. We were stopped by troopers several times along the way who tried their best to talk us out of going. They said: no food!, no water!, no toilets!, don't go!, yada yada yada, we said: got tickets!!! They shrugged and said ok. Heh, good thing we didn't discourage easily.

When we finally got to Bethel, we left the car somewhere and walked for miles, a hippy pilgrimage, until we arrived at the gate - or what was left of it anyway. It was hot, blazing sun and high humidity, it hadn't started raining yet. The gate and entire cyclone fence on either side of it was a shambles. People were pouring over it like wildebeests on migration, in both directions, until it finally flattened out and you didn't have to scramble up it anymore to get in. Nobody was there to take our tickets, no surprise.

This whole scene was being guarded by a NY State Trooper with a "What, me worry?" grin on his face and a daisy sticking out of the barrel of his shotgun. It was a good omen.

We followed our ears past the Hog Farm food booths, the rows and rows of porta-potties, and the tie-dye craft booths until we saw the crowd. It was Mecca. it was breathtaking. Words can't describe the feelings one experiences being among a half a million people all under the age of 30, dirty, stoned, and LOOSE. We walked to the front of the crowd and sat down and stayed there for the rest of the weekend.
If you see the movie, that was me in the front. Look for muddy purple suede.

The stage was high and we had to look straight up to watch the rockers. The speakers were on waaay high scaffolding towers, back behind us in the audience, that swayed in the wind, back and forth, once the storm started and the wind and rain began. The announcers kept saying "stay away from the towers" or "get away from the towers" but people were climbing them to get a better view and the towers were in the middle of this humongous throng of people. There would be no getting away from the towers, especially if they fell.

Wavy Gravy - Chief of the Please Force - was the MC and the first person we saw as we settled in. I had seen him several times in the past; Love-Ins, Be-ins, I went to all of them. Wavy woke everyone up in the morning with this announcement:
"Good morning, what we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000!"

Now, Wavy Gravy owns and operates a kids camp in Mendocino County called
Camp Winnarainbow . He is a remarkable person, and maybe my most favorite person on earth. Look for the documentary of his life, debuting this weekend, called Saint Misbehavin'. Wavy achieved high immortality when Ben and Jerry named an ice cream flavor after him, and Paul Krasner said Wavy Gravy is the illegitimate son of Harpo Marx and Mother Theresa. Here is a great article about Wavy from the Maui News written by Jon Woodhouse. He also founded SEVA and is still on the board.

Soon the rain started. Everything turned to mud. We huddled under scraps of plastic and newspapers; thinking the performers would be electrocuted any minute, no place to pee, long lines for the rows and rows of porta pottys, and the Hog Farm, who had been providing food and security soon ran out of both. I remember the menu was some sort of brown vegie stew. Local Bethel women made and brought truckloads of sandwiches. I got tuna on balloon bread and was happy to have it.

The music line up was impressive - but hard to hear and the wind and rain prevailed. Joe Cocker looked like he had some kind of neurological issue, I remember being kind of creeped out. Most of the naked folks were down by the creek, I didn't see too many of them in the audience. Everyone was busy being groovy.

People just poured and poured in. Sitting in the front, we would stand up periodically and look back at the amount of people there and it would blow your mind. It was like one giant picnic. Everyone was cool. Later, they said there were amazingly no reports of fights or crime. Well, except for the giant cloud of cannabis smoke hovering over northwestern New York.

Wonder if it would be like that now, I think not. Drugs in those days were, pot and LSD, drugs today are crack, meth, and coke too and do not lean toward peacefulness and law abiding tranquility.
Helicopters thwop-thwopped overhead the whole time, bringing in rockers, bands and equipment and taking out ODs and other mishaps. I only knew of one death, the poor guy in the sleeping bag. We heard about the births, twins I think. I've always wondered what they named those kids. . .

Often people came on with reports and updates, one time they said we were "officially a city" and that was because we had had a birth and a death. I guess that's the criteria. They kept us informed with many announcements. We had the feeling we were an isolated city unto ourselves. They showed us the front page of the NY Times with the picture of all of us and we cheered. . .we were an easy crowd.
We were dependent on them for news from the outside world.

From time to time Wavy or someone would come on stage with scraps of paper in their hands and start reading: "Kilo, Sunshine and Trippy will meet you at the gate at 9." Or "Sammy, we are leaving, if you want a ride be at the Hog Farm booth before 6." And "Don't take the purple acid!"

I remember when Max Yasgur came on stage and went on and on about what good kids we were, no problems, no fights, happy and peaceful (yeah and stoned out of our minds!) he kept saying "You kids are great, and you've proved to the world that you can be peaceful!" He made a little chunk of money, and his land got TRASHED!!!!!!!!!! We liked him, we cheered and cheered him.

When it was over, the exodus back to the vehicles began. Of course, we had paid absolutely no attention as to where we had abandoned my friend's car. Finally we figured it out, nine miles later, after walking all that way in the wrong direction!!! A little slow on the uptake, we were.

We got a ride the 9 miles back to the festival site, I sat in the window sill of a car with about 25 people in it, there was barely room for my legs inside. Endless lines of cars on every two-lane country road in upstate NY, bumper to bumper, all going 2 mph. People were walking alongside, sitting in the windows and on hoods and bumpers, piles of people riding on roofs. We were
a colorful and hairy crowd.

The car was still there, and the long journey back to Stamford began, rich with memories, exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time, and soaked to the bone. Other than that, I don't remember a single minute of that ride. They say if you remember Woodstock you weren't really there. I remember one thing. . . it was the experience of a lifetime!

This is my REAL ticket for the Woodstock Festival, still intact and not-yet-framed after all these years.

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong.
And everywhere there was song and celebration.
And I dreamed I saw the bombers
Riding shotgun in the sky.
And they were turning into butterflies
Above our nation.
We are stardust
Billion year old carbon
We are golden
Caught in the devils bargain.
And we've got to get ourselves
Back to the garden.
- Joni Mitchell

Friday, August 14, 2009

Things that make you go hmmmmm. . . August 2009

What's this?

Found in the village of San Pedro Tesistan on the south shore of Lake Chapala.

Leave your answers under the comments below.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mi Jardín August 2009

You asked for it!

Recently, a few folks have expressed interest in gardening here at Lake Chapala and asked for a run down on my garden. Since we have a mild year-round climate, good water, and rich dark soil that was once lake bottom, this place is heaven for gardeners and most flowers bloom year-round. I bet you could drop a clothespin and get a clothespin tree.

My garden is smallish but very compact and offers a wide variety of fruits and flowers that keep me and Juan, my gardener, very busy.

Here are a few pictures and notes. . .




And Daisies




And Jasmine



White Ginger

And Apples


Double Hibiscus

And. . .

guavas, limes, herbs, red orange and yellow roses, orange, white, and yellow hibiscus, pink plumeria, angel's trumpet, Mexican primrose, impatiens, geraniums, bird of paradise, Mexican poker flowers, zinnias, palms, vines, night blooming cereus, oleander, poinsettias, waterfalls of red pink and white bougainvillea, elephant ears, ferns, lilies, creeping Charlie, burro's tail, trumpet vine-purple and yellow, double pikake, wandering Jew, Mexican yellow lemons,
purple lantana, and other assorted stuff.

BUT, my most favorite little treasure of all. . .

. . .the baby Hawaiian Papaya


This post is dedicated to a very dear family friend who lives in Hawaii and wanted to see my garden.. She emails me often and I treasure our email chats. She recently celebrated her 100th Birthday! Yes, she did! She is so special.