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Well, we’ve got nearly a month under our belts down here now and we’ve really started to settle in to the slow pace of life. It is such a small town in so many ways, from the dogs lazing in the middle of the dusty streets to the way restaurants and stores don’t bother with regular hours to the shocking lack of fifty story office buildings with helicopter pads. In fact, I challenge you to find a structure in La Penita tall enough to commit suicide from. 10 to 1 you just end up with a sprained ankle and your hand in dog shit.
Martha, the woman who more or less runs our building, spends about an hour every morning both sweeping and watering the rough, rocky dirt road out front. It definitely keeps the dust down, but I guess my problem with it is how bad it makes our domestic cleanliness look in comparison. If our condo in Saskatoon gets any attention outside of its semi-annual vacuuming it usually means one of two things. Either Laynni once again tipped over a bowl of popcorn while trying to reach it without moving her head from the pillow, or I returned from my latest drunken binge through a series of muddy alleys and dry grass before passing out on the floor drooling on my empty wallet.
On the subject of personal hygiene, our neighbors down here, they of the indeterminate number of children and the dogs that shall bark only at night, do about forty loads of laundry a week and then hang them out to dry half the length of the block on the barbed-wire fence in the vacant lot next to us. Makes our street look like an Old Navy concentration camp.
It only took Laynni a night or two to discover both her favourite restaurant and favourite meal. The restaurant, La Casita, is run by several friendly women, one of whom has a small boy Laynni seems to enjoy freaking out by being way too friendly and babbling at him in English baby-talk. The meal is Chuleta Ahumada, known north of the border as a Fried Pork Chop. Now I know that sounds pretty tasty in its own right, but the best part is that somehow they get it to taste like a giant slab of bacon. Bacon for supper? Try and keep her away.
Mom and dad, or Barry and Bev if you will, were actually already in Puerto Vallarta before we made it down, and came up to La Penita for a short visit just a couple days after we arrived. They took the initiative to hop on a bus (we did offer to pick them up) and by the sound of it nearly turned around and got right back on after spending some time wandering La Penita’s dusty trails in search of our new home.
But they persevered, tracked us down, and in no time at all joined us in the serious business of doing f*#$-all. We were impressed with how they packed. For three days all they brought was a small daypack – or roughly the amount Andie packs when she’s going to the other room. So we wandered around a little, showed them the sights (i.e. beaches and dogs), hit some restaurants and spent time on some of the glorious yet empty stretches of beach. Of course, hanging out on the beach only lasts so long since dad sits still about as well as a dog with itchy balls. But he seemed to find enough rocks and paths to keep him amused for a couple days before we finally took them back to the comfortable all-inclusive culture of Puerto Vallarta – where the beer is free, the food cooks itself and you don’t have to worry about ants in your butter.
Then, just a couple days later, Cam and Adrienne MacQueen, friends from Edmonton, arrived to stay for a week. The theme – spend a really, really relaxing week away from winter in Edmonton and the pressures of everyday life. In other words – their two little boys. Oh, sure, they’d deny it of course, because saying that out loud would make them bad parents, or at least a little too honest for the Parent’s Guild, but who can’t use a break every now and again? And the bright side is that in this day and age of cell phones and webcams the technologically savvy parent can save a mint on unnecessary babysitting fees. You can bet Kieran and Declan didn’t mind eating nachos for breakfast, watching Skinemax all night and cruising the playground for girls with skimpy diapers and dubious morality.
Meanwhile, we managed to keep their parents busy all week, or busy enough anyway, indulging mainly in the “Big Five”. In Africa this refers to lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalo. In Mexico it is eating, drinking, sleeping, swimming and taking home a case of The Clap and having to decide whether to blame a toilet seat or turn it around and accuse your girlfriend of passing it on to you from that guy at her work with the tight suit that always wants her to proof his memos.
We also did some boogie boarding, which Laynni and Adrienne fairly mastered one morning with particularly large waves, and they would have looked almost like experts if not for their complete inability to catch a wave without screaming hysterically as though it was audaciously tickling their private parts. Cam and I also did a bit of golfing, first playing a couple rounds at El Campo en Sueno, a tiny little par-3 course just south of La Penita, that doesn’t cost much, doesn’t require advance tee times and has an enjoyably jovial, laid-back atmosphere.
Unfortunately, the very low calibre of play and tightly intertwined layout combine to make playing without a helmet about as safe as getting on stage to slow dance at the peeler bar. Luckily for us, though, we did not suffer any head injuries, just the usual injured egos, and after a couple days warming up out there we ventured into Puerto Vallarta for a round on the Nicklaus Course at Vista Vallarta, an amazing course that’s actually hosted some tour events in the past. And despite the fact that my quintuple bogeys outnumbered my birdies 2 to 1 we were lucky enough to be joined up with an older American expat with a bad back who managed to even make us look good. Incredibly scenic, and a mesmerizingly diverse design made it well worth the pricey green fee (one round of golf cost more than a whole weekend of lasso tricks and oil wrestling with a burly vaquero in Tijuana).
Mix all that in with some drunken hijinks that ended in several unfortunate tour de force performances of Magnet and Steel by Laynni and Adrienne and you’ve got yourself a fairly memorable week, all in all.
Anyway, all good things (and A-Rod) eventually come to an end, and we were eventually left alone to recuperate – trading all that stringent relaxation for a less rigid form of doing nothing. Now we lie beside the pool because we want to, not because we have to. What a relief.
Next up: “Un visitado de mi hermana (Andie) y ella novio (Ryan)”