Go Chasing Waterfalls

South of Tapalpa is the largest waterfall in the state of Jalisco, the Salto del Nogal.  We drove 40 minutes on mediocre roads before reaching the remote parking area.  A cattle rancher with three cows and a horse appeared out of nowhere, told us it was an hour hike to the falls, and disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared.  We had imagined a calm, meandering hike through some woods to reach the waterfall and we were very wrong.  Instead it was a somewhat intense hike down a steep, rocky path into a canyon where it was hot and shade was little.  We considered turning back multiple times but our stubbornness prevailed and we’re glad it did.  The end result was AWESOME.  It will be one of my top three memories of our time in Mexico.

The waterfall is 345 feet high and unfortunately was way more impressive in person than the pictures portray.  We’ll be excited to visit again next time we’re in Mexico.  Making it even better was that we had the whole place to ourselves and it was pristine.  We relaxed, iola took the most scenic potty break she’s ever had, and I took a dip in the cold water as a refresher before starting the climb back out of the canyon.  We left after about an hour in order to get back to Carl the car in plenty of time before sunset.  We did, albeit soaked in sweat from the hike.

wp-1461108153264.jpg

wp-1461108529843.jpg

wp-1461108477573.jpg

wp-1461425559712.jpg

wp-1461108655883.jpg

-Ryan

Go Fly a Kite

As we’ve written many times before, Mexico is fun because of the diverse landscapes, culture, and history that are available within just a few hours of driving.  The magic town of Tapalpa hadn’t been checked off our list yet, so we decided to make the two hour trip from Guadalajara to see it.  Carl the car hadn’t moved in over six weeks, since before Frida was born, so it gave us a chance to stretch his legs a bit before leaving on our long trip back to the US.  Likewise for Frida, it gave us a chance to see how she’d do in her car seat.

Tapalpa is a quaint little town full of charm (I think “quaint” and “charm” are my go-to words for all small Mexican mountain towns…sorry, can’t help it.)  You can rent nature cabins in the hills surrounding the town, but we went with our usual hotel room in town so we could walk around.  Our hotel room once again didn’t disappoint.  It was very nice with lots of natural wood beams, french doors leading out to a balcony, a wood-burning fireplace with wood & matches provided (imagine that in the US!), and an amazing breakfast that came included in the price.

The town plaza features two different churches built in the 1500’s.  Surrounding the plaza are shops, hotels, & second story restaurants with outdoor balcony seating overlooking the main square.

Just outside of town is a place called Las Piedrotas.  They’re huge boulders that look out of place in the middle of the surrounding pastures.  We relaxed in the shade of one of the gigantic rocks and attempted to fly our new kite.  We had a rough start, forgetting the string for the kite at home in Guadalajara.  The hotel owner saved the day and gave us a spool of nylon string she had leftover from a curtain project she did 20 years ago.  After that brief hiccup, we’re proud to say we redeemed ourselves from the last time we tried to fly a kite.  While searching our site to link to the last time we flew a kite, I realized there was yet another time two years ago when we tried flying a kite in St. Paul and failed.  3rd time is a charm I guess.

wp-1460901660647.jpg

wp-1460901479081.jpg

wp-1460901509284.jpg

wp-1460901642134.jpg

wp-1460901755817.jpg

wp-1460901551485.jpg

wp-1461007447269.jpg

wp-1461008154190.jpg

wp-1461008273946.jpg

wp-1461007527805.jpg

wp-1461007943052.jpg

wp-1461007873749.jpg

wp-1461007795939.gif

wp-1461007713643.jpg

wp-1461007920260.jpg

-Ryan

Fight Freely

Carrie was adamant that no Mexico experience would be complete without a trip to see Lucha Libre, the WWE-style fake wrestling known for its masked fighters.  I was hesitant, as I often am with Carrie’s ideas, but agreed to go along for “family night” last Sunday.  The chocolate donuts made it all worth it…and the ice cream…and the beer…and the popcorn.  That’s right, all those items are delivered by vendors to your seat in a baseball stadium-esque fashion.  We also had the option of getting fresh fruit cups, soft drinks, micheladas, what we think were onions or pickled pork skin (?), and more.  The best part: two big chocolate donuts, strawberry ice cream, a bag of popcorn, and two Coronas added up to a grand total of 111 Pesos, about $6.  These items were crucial to getting iola to hang in there for two hours as well, minus the beer.

The next best thing after the food vendors were the middle-aged men in the audience by themselves who clearly took this stuff seriously: standing up to scream, making gestures at the referee, and the fact they were 60 years old and there by themselves.  Every match included the good guys and the bad guys.  The crowd cheered the good guys and taunted the bad guys (yelling things I shouldn’t translate to English, but mostly involving the fighter’s mom.)

As fake as the fighting was, we were impressed with the agility of these guys.  There was no blood, but there were cool flips, jumps, & stunts throughout the night.  If they didn’t really know what they were doing and have things coordinated, someone was going to get hurt.  iola even got into it and was clapping for the fighters.  Frida (somehow) slept through almost the whole thing.

I left with a whole different opinion of Lucha Libre.  We decided we’ll for sure go back next time we’re in Mexico.  iola also went home with a mask that might be her cutest wardrobe accessory to date.

wp-1460848549459.jpg

Here’s a famous fighter “El Gallo” (The Rooster) in action, along with his small person sidekick.

wp-1460846665554.jpg

Here’s the donut man:

wp-1460846686613.jpg

wp-1460846553010.jpg

wp-1460846191818.jpg

wp-1460846613524.jpg

wp-1460846093852.jpg

Here’s sleepy Frida:

-Ryan

 

Bring the Kids

This won’t come as any surprise for most of you: the Mexican culture as a whole loves children.  This has been obvious during our experience here for lots of reasons, more than I can name or even recall.  A few recent experiences made us think we should write a blog post about it.  Neither story I’m about to tell is groundbreaking whatsoever, but they illustrate the Mexican love for children.

During Carrie’s closing of the bones experience there were three midwives: Maria, Francesca, and visiting midwife Miriam, who was not at the birth but has attended a few of the postpartum visits.  Each time she has brought along her own baby, beautiful little Iyari (pictured further below).  In the background of the many videos I took during the closing of the bones you can hear Iyari chattering or requesting her mama.  Everyone is different, but we suspect in the US this wouldn’t usually happen, that the person getting the massage would expect complete silence and might be put off by having a child in attendance.  We, on the other hand, love it.  There’s a level of inclusiveness and concern for children that we haven’t seen before in other countries.  Sure, if you schedule a massage not associated with birth or pregnancy, it might be kind of weird for the masseuse’s child to be there.  But if the whole thing you’re working on has to do with children, why not include children?

Next example: Restaurants.  Years ago, before we had kids, we went out to eat with our friends Steve, Jillana, and their infant son Logan at a Mexican restaurant in the US.  During our meal the waiter picked up Logan and walked around with him, even taking him to the kitchen, while we enjoyed our dinner.  This gave us Americans a good laugh, of course not being used to this sort of thing.  As I’m writing this post I’m sitting in a hotel in Tapalpa (more on that in a future post.)  This morning at the hotel’s (amazing) breakfast the waitress asked to pick up Frida and walked around with her for awhile, showing her to all the kitchen staff while we ate.  Last week Carrie read a New York Times article about Guadalajara (good read) and wanted to walk by a restaurant the article mentioned that has animal bones for its decor.  It’s a high-end, classy sort of place. A security/greeter guy was outside and I started talking to him.  He quickly welcomed us to enter.  We politely declined, casually stating we’d go sometime without the kids.  He immediately reassured us that kids are more than welcome and many families eat there all the time.  This is a broad stroke of the culture brush, but my gut told me that a similarly exclusive restaurant in the US would not be excited at all about having kids in the establishment.  We’ve been to many restaurants in Mexico when toddler meltdowns have happened (I won’t name any names, but we only have one toddler.)  No one really blinks an eye.  It’s a great feeling.

Here’s lovely little Iyari at Carrie’s closing of the bones

wp-1460575963425.jpg

-Ryan

 

Close the Bones

It’s been amazing to me how quickly we’ve settled into Mexico.  When I think back just five months, shortly after arriving to Mexico, there were so many things that were glaringly obvious differences from the US; the way people drive, the food, prices for all sorts of things, the physical currency itself, Mexican Spanish (many different words versus castellano from Spain), etc.  Now, most things in Mexico just seem normal to us, in a good way.

We got a very happy reminder last week that we are still in a different country and there are still plenty of fun, unique experiences to enjoy.  The midwives came over to perform a “closing of the bones” on Carrie.  It’s a practice done in traditional midwifery as a way to give thanks to the woman’s body for all that it’s done before, during, and after pregnancy, and to help it heal and return to its original state.

Carrie first got a head-to-toe massage.  Next was the “closing.”  This is done with a rebozo, a long traditional scarf used for carrying babies (or other things.)  It was wrapped and pulled tightly around Carrie’s body while she was laying down, one rebozo-width at a time, starting from the head, moving down to the feet, then back up to her head.  The midwives told her things to think about as they did it, a sort of meditation.  On the way down to her feet there were thoughts of thanks for her body for all it’s done.  On the way back toward her head the thoughts were about returning the body to its pre-pregnancy state to be ready to do it again if she wishes (that one made Carrie laugh!)  Finally, she got a warm bath with a homemade mix of herbs prepared by the midwives.

It was a very unique & warm experience.  The midwives have been so sweet, kind, and generous to all of us.  Gracias, Maria, Francesca, Miriam, & Lupita!

wp-1460573075058.jpg

wp-1460573035603.jpg

wp-1460573658671.jpg

wp-1460573304379.jpg

-Ryan

 

 

Stroll on Sunday

Guadalajara keeps growing on us.  We discovered a long stretch of a main thoroughfare, Avenida Juarez, that is closed to motorized traffic for six hours every Sunday.  The main closed portion going east & west is about 24km, plus all the arterial routes.  Surrounding suburbs also have their own routes.  It’s very well organized, including crossing guards at every intersection where cars pass.  At random points along the route there are gigantic chess, checkers, & dominoes games, basketball & volleyball courts, kids events, and so on.  Every Sunday thousands and thousands of bikers, tricyclers, walkers, runners, skateboarders, roller-bladers, hover-boarders, wheelchairers, & dogs have free reign of the road, at least for six hours.  It’s so peaceful; it makes me want to live in a car-free city.  I’m going to miss this event when we leave.

GDL Sunday Bike Map

wp-1459259729757.jpg

wp-1459259694485.jpg

wp-1459260426524.jpg

wp-1459259881345.jpg

wp-1459260004417.jpg

The crossing guards pull out a yellow band to stop bikes when crossing cars have a green light, as seen to the left in front of the oncoming bikers.

wp-1459260095039.jpg

wp-1459260275882.jpg

wp-1459259840575.jpg

wp-1459260304582.jpg

wp-1459260380521.jpg

Crossing guard with Mexican patriot.

wp-1459260529140.jpg

wp-1459260169594.jpg

-Ryan

Potty Train a Newborn

Fair warning in advance…normally I ramble for awhile but then I at least show a bunch of pictures at the end.  This post has all the rambling part but not much of the picture part.  Instead, this is more of a “hey, did you know…?” sort of post.  If I lose you after this paragraph, the brief takeaway is that children, even newborn babies, can learn to not use a diaper at an insanely young age!  Tell your friends with kids and they’ll save lots of money, keep lots of diapers out of landfills, and enjoy life more while changing many fewer crappy diapers.  Yay!

Carrie is never short on ideas.  She loves researching all sorts of outside-the-box concepts, especially when it comes to parenting.  For example, before we had kids we assumed home births were something weirdo hippies did.  After getting pregnant with iola & not enjoying our first experiences with hospital care for Carrie’s check-ups, Carrie started researching all sorts of different options for birthing.  And because she did, we started replacing all the assumptions we had about weirdo hippie home births with actual facts about them and discovered it was for us.  Our home birth experiences have been wonderful.  OK, so some people call us hippies, but at least we’re not weirdos(?)

Among the many other things Carrie has researched on parenting, one of the cooler and more practical ones is discovering that kids can be potty trained much earlier than most people in our society do it.  Carrie started potty training iola when she was about eight months old.  I myself was incredibly skeptical.  But, sure as actual shit, iola was consistently using a potty by the time she was 16 months old and we went through almost no diapers at all at that point (we used mostly cloth diapers, but who likes washing poopy diapers?)  Before she turned two we had stopped putting diapers on her altogether.  She was so small when she started wearing undies that we couldn’t find ones small enough in stores.  Carrie then discovered tinyundies.com.

For those of you that followed our trip down to Mexico you got to see no shortage of roadside potty break pictures.  Dumping a potty is infinitely more fun than changing a volcano brownie cake diaper.  Also more fun than potty training a three year old is potty training a one year old.  At two to three years old they become stubborn as all hell, yet for some reason that’s when our culture has decided to teach kids something very different than what they’ve been used to.  Do it before the answer to everything is “no”, and you’ll be glad you did!  iola gets excited to go to the bathroom.  First of all she learned at a very young age, so it’s just normal for her.  We also make it fun by reading books to her.  We quite literally have to force her off the potty at times, or she’ll finally concede after her legs fall asleep.

Carrie now started potty training Frida at two weeks of age.  Is that crazy and pointless?  I don’t know for sure, we’ve never done it before.  But resources (see below) would suggest it does indeed work, and our experience with iola would suggest the same.  It also is intuitive and already noticeable with Frida that even brand new human beings don’t enjoy being wet or laying in feces.  Have you ever had a baby pee or poop the minute you take his diaper off?  Well, there you go.  Take the hint.

Resources:

The term used for potty training an infant is “Elimination Communication.”  I would have chosen a different term, but hey, I didn’t come up with it.  Here’s more info.

A good book Carrie read about it is The Diaper Free Baby

Also, in fairness, resources for elimination communication say that it’s not potty training, rather a natural way to have infants relieve themselves other than in a diaper, thus never having to do “potty training.”  I think it’s a matter of semantics.  Call it training, call it hey why don’t you take a dump in something other than your diaper, call it whatever.  The point is by doing it you will end up with a very young child that doesn’t require diapers and you can save yourself the headache of trying to potty train a stubborn toddler.

If you’ve hung in this long, nice job!!  You fully deserve these pictures of Mexican roadside potty breaks and another cool sidewalk & house.

wp-1457987338914.jpgwp-1457987328678.jpg

This is my favorite sidewalk I’ve seen so far.

wp-1458346958704.jpg

The Rolling Stones were blaring out of this joint, so I’d say it’s legit.wp-1458347274497.jpg

-Ryan

Look Down

In my last post I wrote about the wide variety of colorful houses on display in Mexico.  The sidewalks in front of the houses are no less interesting.  After walking for just five minutes you will easily pass dozens of different sidewalk pavements.  Some slick tiles, some porous tiles, some stones, some painted concrete, some boring concrete, some really old sidewalks that make using a stroller very difficult, some brand-new shiny ones that are slippery, and on and on.  While I don’t know the official legal stance on sidewalks here, I can say for sure in most cities it appears each homeowner has complete control over what they want their sidewalk to be.

Here are some cell phone snapshots I’ve taken on our walks.  Something cool I discovered while writing this post:  go clear to the bottom of the page first and then scroll up.  It’ll be like you’re taking a walk in Mexico.  Or if you like walking backwards just scroll down like normal.  Either way, if you’re like us you’ll see beauty in not having mile after mile of the same old thing.

wp-1457986256849.jpgwp-1458052885632.jpgwp-1457977962029.jpgwp-1457965898303.jpgwp-1458052914859.jpgwp-1457965898479.jpgwp-1458138491898.jpgwp-1458138865671.jpgwp-1457965897382.jpgwp-1458052857838.jpgwp-1457965896548.jpgwp-1457965896254.jpgwp-1457965894324.jpgwp-1457986189962.jpgwp-1457986256879.jpgwp-1457986397178.jpgwp-1457986434523.jpgwp-1457986256850.jpg

I missed this house before my last post, so here’s a bonus house.

wp-1458138505926.jpg

-Ryan

Run Errands; See Colors

Since Frida was born I’ve been out running errands almost every day in order to gather all the documents & copies we needed to submit our application for Frida’s Consular Report of Birth Abroad and her US Passport (for which I took passport pictures of her.)  Our plan is to leave Guadalajara on April 19, but we can’t cross back into the US without documentation for Frida.  Officially speaking, at the moment she’s Mexican but not American.  The process to become American includes not only the paperwork but also an interview at the US Consulate and then a wait for the passport to be processed and mailed from the US, all of which take some time to complete.  Sadly, black market baby sales are a thing in our world.  So while at first I thought parts of the process were a bit strange, I now understand and appreciate that the consulate verifies everything they do.  I’m willing to do some extra steps if it means babies aren’t illegally adopted by Americans in Mexico (who are these people doing this?!!!)

Anyway, Mexico is a fun place to run errands.  There’s always something interesting to look at, and I especially love looking at the houses.  Homeowners use their houses as a form of expression versus trying to blend in with everyone else, especially in the older neighborhoods.  No two houses are the same and often feature vibrant colors.  It’s about the polar opposite of the US, where most houses are painted neutral earth tones.  (See my side story at the bottom of this post about lack of appreciation for color in the US.)

Also of note, I’m into the tiny house movement in the US, a push for smaller homes that can even be around 100 square feet.  Here people would probably laugh at that being called a “movement.”  Small homes here are very common and have been forever I think.  That’s not to say there aren’t suburbs here; there are.  And they can be equally as boring as in the US.  But I hope Mexico can at least hang onto its spirit for being unique and not start thinking everyone needs to fit into a housing mold.

As one more comment before I finally show you the fun part (pictures), the variety of houses is awesome for iola to practice her colors.  As we stroll along she announces the colors of the houses as we pass.  So cute.

wp-1457981924922.jpgwp-1457981921094.jpgwp-1458053026735.jpgwp-1457981921088.jpgwp-1457981923298.jpgwp-1457981921100.jpgwp-1457981925128.jpgwp-1457981925885.jpgwp-1457982328338.jpgwp-1457982328353.jpgwp-1457981923444.jpgwp-1457981921084.jpgwp-1457965894322.jpgwp-1457965894331.jpg

Side story:

As we were expanding our real estate business in Minnesota, Carrie was, for a time, in charge of painting the houses we bought.  Mostly it was interior painting with boring beige & white colors.  One house needed sprucing up on the outside and we gave her free reign to be creative, and “creative” is one fantastic adjective for Carrie.  She went with a vibrant blue color, very similar to the blues you see in the pictures above.  That’s not exactly common for a WWII era stucco home in Minnesota, but it wasn’t hideous in our opinion and was tastefully executed.  A few people stopped their cars to say how much they liked the color.  Most of those who stopped were Mexicans!  The next door neighbor thought the color was less than fantastic, however, and felt free to let us know about it.  She even tried getting the city involved to try to make us change it (the city ignored her demands.)  Within a few months that neighbor put her house on the market and sold it!  It could have been a coincidence, we don’t know for sure, but I see it as not at all unlikely she moved because of the vibrant blue house next door.  I guess she preferred the faded, chipping tan paint of the house while it was a foreclosure.

-Ryan

 

Take Passport Pictures

When iola was about six months old we had her passport picture taken.  I held her, but with a white sheet between us.  Her picture turned out to be pretty adorable, tongue and all:

wp-1457964827474.jpg

Taking a passport picture of a one-week-old, however, was a different beast!  Getting a shot of Frida that meets the requirements for passports wasn’t easy.  I took just shy of 100 pictures in order to get one that worked.  But then of course Carrie found out after-the-fact that for infants it’s not required for their eyes to be open.  I was going for the more stringent “eyes open, both ears showing, chin showing, mouth shut” requirements for adult passport pictures.  Turns out I could have been less picky, but it was fun anyway and we got cute Frida head-shots as a result.

Here are just a few of the many, many outtakes spanning over two days:

wp-1457964470245.jpg

And after all those pictures, here’s the chosen one for the passport:

wp-1457964601328.jpg

-Ryan