Thursday, September 22, 2016

Traveling in place

Since going off the road just about a year ago, life has been pretty different. I sold my truck and trailer because the truck payment was a lot of money, and what's the use of a trailer without a truck to pull it with? I, however, admit to a continuing case of wanderlust. After replacing the truck with a cute little Ford Focus, though...

....which will not tow a thing, any domestic traveling we do is going to be via the motel route. Having once had a paid-for trailer, the thought of the cost of staying in motels and eating out is daunting, but putting it in perspective by thinking how much the trailer and truck cost, not to mention diesel fuel at 11 miles to the gallon, maybe not so bad after all. Even so, last Sunday, to dampen the wanderlust a bit, we took the opportunity to do some world traveling via a synchronized swimming show put on by the Aquabelles of Green Valley Recreation (GVR). 

GVR is an organization that has several centers around Green Valley with pools, tennis and pickle ball courts, and fitness facilities, plus silversmithing, woodworking, ceramics, and clay studios, an art league, and clubs like mad including computers, photography, quilting, different states of members' origins, cards - actually, just name it and it's bound to exist. Membership attaches to a property's deed, which means if your home's prior owner joined GVR, you have no choice when you buy the place; you have to join too. My house was already in GVR which was ok because I wanted use of the facilities, but it's not cheap. It's about $2300 to join and annual dues are $450. However, I use the well-equipped fitness center almost daily and I couldn't join a commercial place for anywhere near my annual fee. Plus the art league with studio space and many free workshops... but I digress.

The Aquabelles are one of the clubs here and they put on an annual show that's open to the community; this year's was the 51st. The members pay for their own equipment, props, and decorations for the show but pass the hat for a local charity. This year any donations they receive are going to DaZee's, a local shelter for victims of domestic abuse and sex trafficking. I had heard of DaZee's but did not know it was a fund-raising forum for a shelter. This is only one of many organizations that raises funds for local charities in Green Valley. 

I  was not in Green Valley last year at this time, so this is the first time HH and I, and our friend Kathy down the street, went to a performance. We had a blast. The theme of this year's show was Around the World in Eighty Minutes, so here's where my virtual traveling comes in.

This is the pool we look out on when we're in the fitness center, and was the venue for the three shows put on this weekend, with the Santa Rita mountains in the distance.

I admire these women no end. They're a lesson in enjoying life to the fullest; just get out there and have fun. This is their opening dance for the New York stop on their tour. The woman on the right? I want the muscles on her back.

Here they are in the pool at the beginning of their act,

and some waving-leg work. The emcee for the show mentioned the synchronized swimming performances at the recent Olympics, and added, "That's not us." But I couldn't do what these women do and thought they were wonderful.

Next up was a stop in England, with a performance by the AquaBeaus. They were a riot. Look at the last guy in line. How could you not laugh along out of sheer delight?

I think they maybe rehearsed for about 15 minutes but were obviously having fun.

Here they're performing their version of whatever the movement is called where each swimmer dives off to alternate sides. They just kind of fell over.

Next up was a trip to the Caribbean.

This might be the opening to the Italy segment.

This one is definitely Istanbul.

Here are their jangly ankle bracelets peeking above the water.

Zandra Pardi is a native of Mexico who now lives north of the border. She teaches Spanish classes via GVR and dances at functions like this one. HH and I first saw her at a Green Valley Concert Band's performance last spring.

I wrote to Zandra a few weeks ago about private Spanish lessons and from what I could decipher from her reply in Spanish, it sounded like she was too busy to take on anything else. After the show ended, though, I introduced myself to her and said I was the one who had asked about lessons, en espa├▒ol. She actually understood what I said and didn't laugh - bless her heart - and said she thought she'd have time on Fridays. I'm so excited and hope to start with her next month.

This is the last performance of the day and I lost track of what city it represented. There were other places they traveled, too, but I don't have photos of those.

The ensemble, in their wet and drying finery. We've already earmarked even better seats for next year's show.

Thought of the day:

When was the last time you did something for the first time?
– John C. Maxwell

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Many years ago, about 30, I was visiting family in Detroit, and one night we went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Xochimilco. I remember it being on Jefferson at the foot of the Belle Isle bridge but a search for it just now says it's in Mexican Town, a few miles to the northwest (I think). That's what memory will do for you: not much. Anyway, I had no idea what the restaurant's name meant at the time and for years afterward, but last year I learned it's the name of a borough of Mexico City known for its canals and artificial islands. I read about it in a guide book and decided we had to go there when we traveled to Mexico City last December.

HH and I hired a taxi to take us all around the city. There's public transportation but we're lazy travelers and the taxi was so convenient. The driver was bilingual and helped me with Spanish quite a bit. He needed very little help with English; mostly it was help with pronunciation. He was quite fluent. One day we had him take us to the canals of Xochimilco for a gondola (trajinera) ride. It was a beautiful, sun-shiny day and the crowds were out, so there were lines to board one of them. This doesn't look like many people, but there were queues like them in several places.

The canal was full of occupied trajineras, so it looked like it would be a long wait.

Luckily our driver knew a way to cut the line and got us on a boat of our own.

This has to be a hard way to make a living. There are no motors, just long poles used to move the boats along.

Many people come with their families and spend the entire day on a trajinera, bringing their own food and drinks. We may have been the only gringos out there that day, but that was also true for just about everywhere we went. Museums, cultural sites, restaurants, markets, churches - Mexico City and the surrounding areas are a magnet for Mexican tourists. They love their country. On the other hand, America, and other countries for all I know, have done a great job of instilling fear about the dangers of traveling in Mexico, but I believe I have a better chance of getting shot in south Tucson than anywhere I've been in Mexico.

Passengers can buy from vendors on chalupas, a kind of canoe, who get around the same way, using poles. Food, drinks, and souvenirs are all for sale.

Some people bring their own music in the form of boom boxes, but you can also hire mariachis, who travel around the canals, offering their services. Just flag them down and their trajinera will pull alongside for a serenade.

Here are two trajineras, nose to nose, sharing a mariachi band. It looks like the woman at the far right is protecting her hearing - they're loud!

There's a place there called Isla de las Munecas - The Island of the Dolls. Legend has it a girl drowned under mysterious circumstances and the dolls are possessed by her spirit. I've seen some creepy photos of dolls on the island, particularly in shots taken at night, but all I saw were some raggedy-looking toys hanging from trees and bushes.

I imagine that at night things look different indeed. It's possible to get off the boat and explore but, no. I could live without that experience.

As crowded as the canals were, there were still times when we found ourselves nearly alone. It was easy to imagine an earlier time, before it got so commercial, when the boats were used to transport produce from the gardens on the islands to markets in the city, when in early morning all was quiet except for the sounds of water lapping the shore and sides of the boats...

...and then, BOOM, there we were back in the fray, cheek and jowl with the rest of the folks looking for entertainment. It was OK, it was good. It was Mexico and this is what we came for - the sights, the music, the people - the experience of daily life in this marvelous city.


Thought of the day:

The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life. - William Morris