Apr 22, 2012

Juanacatlán – How Life Once Is - Day 5

Just let awareness have its way with you completely.
Scott Morrison 

What Chayo calls Mike and Marie - Since I like to read to Mike

Peanut Butter is Too Greasy

We have eggs for breakfast and I know there are only 4 since I helped pick them the previous day.  Mike and I are offered all four and the rest of the family goes without.  They are so giving and generous but it’s a little hard to digest (pun intended). 

Comparing different types of foods: Mexican vs. Canadian or US and we come upon the subject of peanut butter and are surprised to hear that although they love eating peanuts, they don’t like peanut butter because it is too greasy.  We gasp; this coming from folks who fry everything in lard, but what the heck!
Today is killing-a-chicken-to-serve-the-guest-day…   Yesterday Chayo pointed out the one that had to go.  They don’t keep any of the males past 6 months old so since this one was coming close, it was his turn.  In the morning Ramón sharpened the knife and boiled some water, Chayo killed the chicken, they both feathered it and she cleaned and cut it up.  We learned that meat (as in RED meat) is only served on Sunday, a special day, in this household.  They are a little more liberal with chicken. 
Between breakfast and lunch, we go visit Lago Resort and Spa nearby.  What a world apart it is from Juanacatlán.  Sierra Lago is a resort for the very fortunate.  At $400/night it is very pricy and something I don’t believe the folks in town can fully understand.  Remote and calm, the place is beautifully kept.  Visiting there brings up a long talk about the difference of cost of living between the US and Mexico, materialism in general, and life’s values.  Both Ramón and Chayo have tried working in the US (Oakland and Los Angeles), work shift employment in Guadalajara and came back home where they prefer the low-key lifestyle.  At least they can compare to other ways.
Around here, most people travel in the back of pick-up trucks.  It is not comfortable especially when the truck you are in doesn’t have shock absorbers left.  Most folks will offer rides to whoever is walking their way.  On the way to Sierra Lago we see a man carrying a bucket collecting Nopales (edible cactus) with tongs so he doesn’t get pricked with the many needles.  We see men on horseback, the stirrups of the saddles made of old tires cut in strips.  The houses dotting the village are all on the steep hillsides, smartly leaving the flat lands for food production and livestock.   
While approaching the end of our walk around the lake of Sierra Lago (Lago meaning lake), Mike and I see approximately 40 large fish in the lake (between 18" and 24” each).  We point these out to our hosts who do not see them.  We are both puzzled by this until I came upon the idea that it was perhaps the type of sunglasses that we were wearing that allowed us the opportunity to see them.  We lend them our polarized sunglasses and to their utmost amazement they could now see the same fish.  That too made for a very good story around the whole village.  Little things can be so amusing. 
Chayo picks a few green apples from the many fruit trees on the resort.  She will make what she calls‘marmalade’ to add to the center of delicious shortbread cookies she’ll be making later on that week.
As it turns out Ramón helped build the resort the first four year of its existence so he knows the place inside and out.  Jose Luis (son) and Anna Rosa (daughter) both work here.  The locals think it’s a good idea the kids learn work ethics away from the ranch/farm to see just how good they have it.  Many work from 8am to 11pm for only about $80/week – long hours at low pay. 
On one side of the lake are all the casitas where the guests stay, on the other is what they call malpais (bad country) where supposedly there are vipers and rattle snakes and many cacti (the part we prefer and feel at home in). 
Upon our return home we are offered once again to watch TV but turn it down.  We don’t normally watch it at home so are not inclined to do so here either.  I get the slight impression they wished we’d say yes so either they could watch it too or would not feel they would need to entertain us for a while.  It’s all in good jest.  When we have some ‘free’ time, I read to Mike from a book of desert stories we brought along.  We notice there are NO books other than school books in the household.  This is something foreign to them. 
For some reason we start joking about the best way to a good marriage:  Just say "Si Señora" to anything she says and everyone will be happy.  Of course we know it’s a tease but somehow it hits all of our funny bones.  The theme comes back many more times during the week we are here.
Stalls with very beautiful horses
Antique wagon with wooden wheels
Modern sculpture
Sculpture of boy fishing overlooking lake
Cactus bloom from malpais area
Small outdoors chapel across lake
Chayo and I in the chapel
Chapel with 8 chimneys for warmth - Overlooking lake
They don’t seem to see races, colors, or earning power.  Although they joke about it; calling you a gringo one minute, offering you a drink the next and asking you about your life.  Some of them take time to explain where they think the term ‘gringo’ comes from: During the war, the US soldiers wore green and the Mexicans would say Green Go (as in Go-Away) and that term Green Go eventually turned into gringo.  Whether it is true or not, they believe it and that’s what counts.  There seems to be no ill-will at all behind using the term for any of the folks we talked to up there.  The dominant view among etymologists however is that gringo is most likely a variant of griego 'Greek' speech, a term used for people who could not easily speak Castilian Spanish.  Also, like the English, who say "It's all Chinese to me" when they don't understand something, Spaniards say 'That is Greek', aka gringo...

In the afternoon we went to Chayo’s other sister Pancha to watch her make panela, a type of cheese, as well as fresh cheese.  While there, the President of Mascota and his wife and son came by to purchase some.  They claimed Pancha’s cheese was the best and wanted to say so in person.  Having made goat milk cheese many times before, I quickly recognized the process.  What made it different here however was just how many people visited while Pancha was making these cheeses.  I am more used to a very quiet and low-key process.
Panela cheese in baskets
Pressing whey out for fresh cheese
Adding salt, final stage of fresh cheese making

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