Writer’s anxiety

Yellow shrimp plant

Yellow shrimp plant

My current life and the geopolitical world have left me lost for words. I have been feeling anxious about everything, which is part of my diagnosis, and nightmares have exhausted me. There is a short break before I start the Super Bowl work then I will stop feeling anxious because of focus and tiredness. Sometimes writing lifts me up or helps ease anxiety but despite taking more medication, I am like a cat on a hot tin roof, yawning with insomnia.

red-spike

I have peppered this short post with some final photos from Puerto Vallarta – just to take the edge of my writing. I work alongside people who have immigrated from Iran and Iraq and wonder if their American dream feels as ephemeral as mine. Even at the shops, people are talking in hushed tones about executive orders and I don’t know if they feel happy or afraid. When we went to Puerto Vallarta, we were seriously considering a retirement home somewhere in Mexico but now I doubt that they would want us. Do you think I have enough Mexican ancestors to request entry? Should I print out my Ancestry family tree?

umbrellas

Almost every week I soothe people whose relatives have been detained at immigration. It is usually something relatively minor such as an incorrect visa or a similar name. We were stuck in Egypt until the very last minute, whilst my husband’s employer desperately tried to get a work visa for him to go to the USA. I remember being at the airport in Cairo, wondering if they were going to accept our cats’ paperwork or my husband’s. I have an American passport, so I could go anytime. Nonetheless, it was terrifying, especially since it was during Gulf War II.

yellow-blossom

I can support passengers and myself by being as helpful as always. A smile can work wonders, for the recipient and the person feeling depressed.

Here be dragons…

Green Iguana

Isn’t he handsome – a perfect choice for Khaleesi! He was a few feet long and gorging on the Tamarind fruits that you can see next to him (and falling out of his mouth). If we turned up the hill leaving Hacienda Escondida, we headed towards a more local area with the river dissecting the two areas. It was a haven for wildlife – and they were all new to us!!!

Rivera del Rio

Rivera del Rio

There is a bathing area and we saw local children having fun swimming in the river. The bridge across was the major route from the hillside down to the south side of the Old Town of Puerto Vallarta. If you stay at a resort, you will miss all of this, including a wonderful fresh market. I was told that despite the cobbled streets, the water from the taps was safe to drink. I drank it and it tasted good.

black-birdI think this is just a plain old Grackle, above, but I love his silhouette against the trees and hills.  I don’t know the name of this little yellow bird, also enjoying tamarind fruit, but he was as little as the iguana was big.

Tiny little yellow bird

Tiny little yellow bird

Simple Mural at Rivera del Rio

Simple Mural at Rivera del Rio

Iglesia de la Santa Cruz, PV

iglesia-de-la-santa-cruz

It wouldn’t be a travel blog from Kerry without a church – ‘Nana, I hope you are proud of me!’ The church was celebrating mass when we took this shot but were able to go into the side chapel at anytime to pray. One of the local street vendors showed us where to go. I said my usual prayers but there were no candles to light. My favorite part of this shot was the parking stances with the crosses on them. Who would DARE park there?? I can see the lightning bolt now…

skewers

The church was not far from the beach and I loved this shot of the vendors on the beach. Those skewers looked really tasty.

dune-buggies

This was a typical view of the streets of Zona Romantica – wealthy tourists in a real town. You could see that local people really benefited from the tourist money and many traveled down in local buses from the hills to come to work.

Autoshop and Taco Stand

Autoshop and Taco Stand

I love everything about this shot, close to the river. There is your local family car autoshop and next door a taco stand that has rainbow flags to indicate it is gay friendly. What a fantastic place!

Hacienda flowers and butterflies

black-beauty2

Black Beauty

Her real name is Polydamus Swallowtail – not a variety we see in Texas. We were intrigued that most of the flowers and bushes were the same as we have in the sub-tropics but much more lush. I buy my plants from a nursery and the owners come from Guadalajara and for some reason, they never die. It helps that they are actually grown just a few miles from my home.

striped-butterfly

Band celled sister

Isn’t this one a beauty. We get a similar zebra stripe in Texas but it is so exciting to see new varieties.

poinsettias

Poinsettia

red-blossom

Gladioli

I had to put in a shot of a Ponsettia – it was Mexico and Feliz Navidad! The chili peppers below were just so tempting…

Chili Peppers

Chili Peppers

yellow-butterfly

Julia Heliconian

One final shot of Miss Julia Heliconian, wearing a beautiful yellow outfit. I have that little coral bush in my garden but it very rarely flowers.

Hacienda Escondida, Puerta Vallerta

Horse Sculpture

Horse Sculpture

After Thanksgiving we went on a short trip to Puerto Vallarta in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. We have been scouting out possible retirement locations. I wanted to stay in the old town and we chose a very well recommended bed and breakfast situated in an original Hacienda. Oscar picked us up at the airport and whisked us back to the Hacienda. Escondida means hidden and it really is. It is on a cobbled street that leads from the beach up to the mountains and there is just a beautiful arched door leading into this wonderful oasis. I loved the horse sculpture that was above the small swimming pool, right outside our patio doors.

pool

Our suite was beautifully appointed with local ceramic tiles in the bathroom, a small kitchen and seating area, right by the pool. The property has a huge Banyan tree and there is a fun tree-house with seating, a TV and bar.

tree-house

The gardens in the Hacienda were amazing, full of delicately tended flowers and bushes. These attracted quite a variety of butterflies. More lovely photographs to come.  Click on the red link for the Hacienda Escondida website.

bird-of-paradise

El Segundo Barrio, El Paso

Sombreros!

Sombreros!

I was so excited after I saw my room, that I immediately changed into one of my shorts outfits. I think they are glamorous and chic; perhaps a little young… Anyway, I particularly wanted to visit the area close to the border with Mexican shops. At one time you would just have crossed the border. An attractive young lady was leaving the hotel at the same time and I asked her if she could tell me how to get there. Not only did she take me there by foot but gave me her telephone number in case I wanted to cross the border with her. Then she emailed me during my visit. This was typical of the friendliness of the residents and she represented both El Paso and her ancestors who were Syrian. A Syrian community had settled there many generations ago. I just have to make a small point – American Arabs have been here for hundreds of years.

Fancy dress shop for weddings and events.

Fancy dress shop for weddings and events.

Mexico or Texas?

Mexico or Texas?

We said goodbye and as you can see from the header photograph, I quickly felt I was in Mexico even though it was Texas. When the violence and cartels came to Cuidad Juarez, many of the residents sought refuge in El Paso and set up similar shops. I had arrived after a cold snap and most people were wearing trousers or leggings. Not only did I stand out with bright blonde hair but I was wearing less than everyone else. Then I noticed a Hispanic Ranchero walking alongside me, crossing at each traffic light. He was about my age, well dressed with white hair and a Stetson. When we stopped at the lights he would very deliberately look me up and down as though I were a prime heifer (at my age, I would made into cat food).

I was getting anxious about whether I was dressed appropriately when he finally went ahead of me but just waited… As I passed him, he whispered something to me in Spanish. It was too low for me to make out with my bad Spanish but I suspect it was –

• An invitation to join him somewhere for love, sweet love
• An inquiry as to how much I charged for the hour
• Or a simple compliment

I dashed off in horror (that my Nana was right about Women who wear outfits so skimpy you ‘can see their breakfast’) and immediately shopped for an appropriate outfit to buy. There was a real mix of Hoochie Mama style and basic stuff. Eventually I choose a long tunic and some leggings and was brave enough to ask the shopkeeper, a lady with ample assets on show, if I was dressed appropriately. She poo-pooed my concerns and said that it was just the cold weather front. Perhaps she wasn’t the right person to ask? Eventually I got the balance right, modest for church and barrio; cougar style at the hotel.

There are murals all over downtown El Segundo Barrio. This is Pancho Villa.

There are murals all over downtown El Segundo Barrio. This is Pancho Villa.

This a link to the history of El Segundo Barrio (The Second Ward)

Despite my encounter, I felt no fear in the shops or the area which was, in parts, a little down at heel. Downtown is so small that you quickly go from Wells Fargo headquarters (hiss, boo), fancy hotels and restaurants to the Barrio. I eventually bought a $3 fedora because the sun was hot on my head. The first shopkeeper went to great lengths to send me to another shop because he didn’t have what I wanted. When I arrived at said shop, I noticed that not everything was new (to me). I am not really very fussy but I would like my hat to be brand new – fortunately, they were. Some of the other shops also had a mix of new and secondhand clothes. Wonderfully fascinating unless you have airs and graces like my Teddy who turned his nose up at the thrift shop shirt I got him (dry-cleaned and in perfect condition). He will wear it (by royal thrift decree)!!

anson-ii-flowers
This an example of a fancy new restaurant with a beautiful flower display, just 2 minutes from the Mexican shops. Below is the sidewalk clock.
sidewalk-clocksidewalk-sign

More adventures to come…

El Paso, Texas

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

After being so sick this year, I was desperate to take a little late summer trip to a quiet town. Houston and surrounds has been blisteringly hot this year, so I wanted to go somewhere cooler but not cold. I swear I have lizard DNA; bask in the heat, hibernate into a death like state in the cold. There were still enough United Airlines points to go somewhere domestically so I decided to head to El Paso.

Y’alls know how big Texas is but El Paso is so far away from Houston (675 miles) that it is in another time zone. As I approached the city, I looked out in fascination at the mountains and river valley wondering whether I was looking at Mexico, New Mexico or El Paso, Texas. It was so beautiful – bright sunshine, arid landscape and mountains. My fellow passenger and I were astonished at how quiet the roads were, even in the middle of the city. Bliss…

My friend Lisa lives in El Paso. This is her blog title with a red link ‘Life of an El Paso Woman’ . I can’t remember when we connected but she kindly asked me if I would participate in her Saturday interview after my book, ‘Letters from Cairo’ was published on Kindle. It is so strange how connected we can become with fellow bloggers, invested not just in their opinions but the lives that they choose to share with us. I am happy to share far too much and then am embarrassed when a local friend reads my personal thoughts – go figure!

I got an UBER at the airport and lickety-split, I was at my new hotel. The Hotel Indigo is in a refurbished building – link to the El Paso Times article on the hotel.  It was built in 1963 and refurbished at various times. Teddy has Intercontinental points so I was given a top floor room on the 12th floor (squeaking in delight). I was awestruck as I gazed out the floor to ceiling windows with a view of Texas and Mexico. It was a hip and groovy room; the architects did a great job. All the little touches added up to a fantastic whole.

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Curiously, on my first evening, I ate at the funky 5th floor roof-top bar where I met two architects. (I know that doesn’t make sense – the building was angled and some of the rooms had a view of the 5th floor bar). It was alongside the cute little pool which was lit up in different colors as darkness fell. The bar was underneath a roof but open on two sides, letting a cool north Texas breeze in. Temperatures were comfortable for me – a dry 95 degrees by midday.

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

The wonderful Electricity sign glowed with an array of colors at night, as did the pool.  Every little detail was perfect from the pink chairs, to the copper wall detail with wood and glass.

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Back to the architects; they had the privilege to be working on one of the many older buildings that are being refurbished. Downtown seemed to be reviving but you could see that El Paso was once a very rich city. It is directly across the Rio Grande River from Cuidad Juarez in Mexico. This was once an open, busy crossing until the cartels made Juarez one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico. There is a highly guarded fence between countries with a very high presence of border control. El Paso is home to the biggest military base in Texas, Fort Bliss, so there are many reasons to keep El Paso as safe as possible. For many years it was the safest city of its size and, in general, our Texan border towns are safer – see this article in the Texas Tribune

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

One look at El Paso and I was ready to move there. More posts to follow.