We arrived at the ranch on a Monday. By Tuesday, I already need something to do. The stack of books and writing materials I brought are not enough.
I decide to wash laundry by hand. Our trip only started on Friday and I’m not a light packer so this hand-washing exercise was purely for its entertainment value, mind you. Yes, that’s how slow things were. See, it became like a little game. Hang clothes on the line. Rush to remove them when the light rain starts. Replace them on the line when the brief rain ends. Repeat.
We then decide to take a walk to the chapel. This was the chapel as I’d photographed it five years ago.
This is the chapel today. It's been painted and given a new brick wall. Simplicity scarred. No one consulted me. People are free to make decisions on their own. I often wish they weren’t.
That evening, Jorge’s daughter, Aleli, celebrates her 8th birthday with cake.
Wednesday – El Noche de la Rana
I awake to the sounds of birds calling to the heavens.
Again, the day is long and unbroken. My words are useless here. I wish I had ice.
We watch Jorge make the coronas de palmas (crowns made from palms.) Later these crowns will decorate the chapel.
It is humid.
That night, my mom escorts a number of bugs out of our room. I am too citified to do well with 6-legged creatures. Then, as I opened the door to our room, a frog leaps in, between my feet and is quickly well into the room. I’m startled. At first I think it must be a lizard, it moved so quickly. Then, I see the rascal hiding against my suitcase. It’s not the biggest frog that I’ve seen here but it’s bigger than any frog U.S. I’ve seen. As it has only 4 legs and not 6, I pick it up and take it out, placing it on a large rock in a flowerbed across the way. My mother states that she is proud of me. Parental approval, at last.
The number of bugs here is tough to deal with. Everywhere you go there's a bug, or many, in the room. They're either crawling on the walls or flying around the lightbulbs. It's worst in the bathroom. You don't want to be constantly on guard in the bathroom.
The upside to all this is that we also see a lot of butterflies, in all sizes and colors. Why I can't have butterflies where I live is a great cruelty. But maybe they know better. That must be it.
Thursday – Our Trip to the Forest
My oldest cousin, Hector, drives us to the Bosque de Encinos, a forest of oak trees. My uncle, my mother’s brother, is with us as well. They talk politics and debate the legitimacy of the Mexican voting system. I walk. I touch the inside of a desiccated cactus blossom. I get a tiny little cactus spine in my pinky finger. Stupid me.
We drink cold Cokes from tiny cans. I walk again. I practice a newly learned Tai Chi move, Hands Moving Though Clouds. They keep talking. It is ungodly hot. I want to leave already. They keep talking.
That night, we try to sleep in our hot room. There is a pounding outside, well into the night. The men are working on something.
Friday – The Tenting
We awake on Friday morning to see that the big tent is already up.
They must have accomplished this during the night. That was the source of the pounding noise.
That night there is to be a calenda, a procession starting at the chapel that would proceed to various sites where dancing would take place. They love to dance here.
“What time will it start?” I ask. 10:00, I’m told. Seriously?
No, not seriously. We are to go with my cousin Patricia and her daughter in their car. At 10, Patricia announces she is going home first to take a bath. My mom is getting anxious, thinking by the time we get there, we’ll have missed it all.
Patricia knows better. We don’t leave until 11. When we get there, nothing has started. They’re all still at the church. Speeches are being given. That’s what we missed, speeches. In Spanish.
If you’ve been reading my blog posts for long, you know I’m the biggest night owl ever, but eleven? Eleven pm! For a public event! Ay, caramba!
By the time we arrive at the first dancing station it’s exactly 11:50.
Saturday, the wee hours – Terror on the Church Steps
It must be around 1 am when we finally arrive back at the church. I slither through the crowd to be close to the front of the church where the band is assembled and it seems there might be something to shoot video of. There I see them. I see the crowns made of straw. They have places to hold firecrackers. Why I don’t have pictures of these things I’ll never know. But once the dancers placed the crowns on their heads, the crowd fled down the steps and away from the church. My mother had the good sense to stay far back to begin with. I’m like a crazy, panicked gringa, running away, holding the video camera up and pointed towards the action as I run.
Yes, people have placed hats made of straw and firecrackers on their heads and they are gathering in a circle to dance; all this while surrounded by a crowd on onlookers. Oh, those crazy Mexicans and their nonchalance about eye injuries or burns! Or lawsuits. This is what happens in a non-litigious society.
The firecracker dance was followed by three guys standing on the rooftop and tossing gifts to the crowd. They were things like Frisbees and plastic bowls. The first time I attended a Mexican calenda, in the ‘80s, the rooftop tossed prizes included Corelle. I kid you not. They threw plates of Corelle down to the excited crowd. My sister and I were terrified of either being hit by Corelle or being burned by the guy who wore spinning bull horns made from firecrackers. Surprising that there aren’t more injuries here. Or maybe I’m just a big baby del norte.
Next – the trip to the cave.