Monday, December 10, 2007

Down and out in Yelapa, Mexico: Survivor Puerto Vallarta, Episode 4

Right now I'm spending the week in a quiet fishing village called Yelapa, studying Spanish and trying to sleep. I'm also having trouble deciding whether to drag the freaking rooster that is crowing outside my window at 3 am off to St. Helena or Elba -- because he obviously thinks that he's Napoleon or someone. To hell with the freaking rooster. He's about to meet his Waterloo.

I first went to Yelapa in 1974. No roads, no electricity aand only accessible by one hour in a motorboat or 30 miles by mule-back. "When you get to Yelapa, you will be amazed at the changes," everyone told me. So I was expecting to see high-rise condos on the beach and a Yelapa Hilton in the village. Nope. It's just the same old quiet sleepy inspirational magical Mexican beach town. Maybe there are a few more horses and extra tourists and new electrical lines -- but you still gotta cart the town's supplies all in by motorboat and that limits expansion a lot.

I was here 33 years ago. Basically nothing has changed. They still have the pie ladies. The palapa restaurants selling lobster in drawn margarine sauce are still on the beach. And they still have the darn roosters.

And I am still broke!

"Now that you got electricity, do you gots any ATMs?" I asked my friend Patty, who still looks the same after 33 years. I recognized her from 50 feet away. She didn't, however, recognize me. I've really changed. Let's not go into that -- that I'm older? Who ever says to someone, "Oh, you look so much...older?"

"No ATMs. Sorry." So I got enough money left for one slice of pie a day, room and board at Casa de Irma and the boat ride back on Friday. Let's see. Maybe I could sell stuff on the beach? Maybe tell stories about Iraq?

"What's Iraq like? How's the war REALLY going?"

"It's actually not really a war. It's more like a barroom brawl -- where everyone's got broken bottle glass to fight with and everyone's got a chair to hit everyone else over the head with. And anyone that doesn't want to fight just stays out of the barroom."

"Sounds like the gold rush of 1849," said my friend Sarah. Yeah. The Barbary Coast. Only it's oil instead of gold that they're brawling over. And the townspeople outside of the bar are more interested in sewers and schools and safety and just wish that the brawlers and claim-jumpers would just go away.

"But what WILL make the brawlers go away?" Good question. Perhaps the US military might do it -- they could if they just got rid of those idiots in the White House who stand in their way because Bush, Cheney and the rest of the neo-cons have NO idea how to bring about peace and don't even want to. Perhaps Iraq's professors, imams and sheiks might bring about peace? Perhaps if all the governments of the Middle East worked together? And Europe and Russia and China all joined them in support of establishing the Rule of Law?

Whether you call it war or call it barroom brawling or call it whatever, there's simply no room for violence in the world of the future. There simply is not.

Then my Spanish teacher ( introduced me to Alejandro, a Huichol Indian from up in the mountains. He was selling a handmade "tigre" for $100. Good grief! I want that jaguar! It was all intricately covered with hand-made beading and was about eight inches long -- not including the tail. A true combination of pure vision (peyote?) and art. Maybe I could trade something for it? But what? I got nothing that would possibly compare.

"This art is priceless," I told Alejandro, "but knowing how to create it is even more valuable. I hope that this tradition is being preserved. Government grants, perhaps?"

"Not to worry," said my Spanish teacher who was also translating my conversation with Alejandro -- my lessons haven't quite kicked in yet. She helps the Huichol sell their art. "Alejandro's whole village is totally committed to preserving the culture. You should go there. It's amazing. Every home is a center for the creation and preservation of Huichol traditions. It's inspiring."

Then I went back to the beach and chit-chatted with an economist from California while eating coconut pie from the pie lady. I at the pie. He drank margaritas. As you can tell from reading my stuff, I am always worried about money. So I asked the economist, "What can I do to protect myself and my family from the Great Depression of 2008?" For instance, I just read somewhere that the cost of homes is about to deflate by as much as 50%.

"Buy gold," the economist replied. Sorry, no good. Gots any less expensive ideas? I could learn how to make and sell pie....

You gotta love Yelapa -- from economists to Huichols, this place is paradise. Except of course for the freaking rooster.... "And whatever happens on the mainland -- depression, inflation, war, Rudy Giuliani, whatever -- it isn't going to change anything in Yelapa. This place is timeless." Yeah. And if worse comes to worse, they can always fall back on eating that freaking rooster....

If I stayed here another three weeks, even I might start to relax! And today I began my Spanish lessons. Can you imagine me actually getting the grammar right? Hey, if there's one thing that taking Setswana lessons in South Africa taught me, it is that even I can learn a new language. The secret? Make some flashcards, walk a lot and go over the flashcards as you walk. "Sentle." Good. I have the memory of a cockroach but even I started learning languages. "Ke a leboga. Muchas gracias. And thank you very much."

'''But why would you WANT to learn a new language, Jane?" Because it exercises my brain. It's the equivalent of doing 100 mental push-ups a day. One's brain develops a six-pack! One's brain actually gets pumped.

PS: Someone just told me that the reason Napoleon lost the battle of Waterloo was because his hemorrhoids hurt too much for him to sit on a horse. He shoulda used my secret cure for hemorrhoids. But there's a reason it's so secret. It's sort of yucky and embarrassing. Shh. Don't tell no one. You just put pressure on your paraneium when you poop and it equalizes the pressure on your bottom caused by your [BM]. And then voila! (that's French). Your hemorrhoids go away. I learned that one when I was pregnant. Not that Napoleon was pregnant or anything. He just couldn't sit down.