Continuing Travels

We left Puerto Vallarta and headed toward Guadalajara and Mexico City. I didn't have a camera, but I still have snapshot memories - an old lady whose hair hung down to the ground, guards with machine guns outside a bank, Carmen's beautiful face as we sat in the park. Bug and I were able to stay in an orphanage in Guadalajara thanks to our contacts in Guaymas. The nuns fed us rice and fresh whole milk. We tried not to take advantage of their generosity, and tried to pay them some money. Bittersweet memories. Adorable kids without families.

There's a large lake south of the city, Lake Chapala. We found ourselves in the tiny town of Chapala. Walking down the sidewalk, we'd pass homes with front doors open and makeshift restaurants in front rooms. We stopped in one for lunch. The special was chicken mole (pronounced molay). A woman, probably the cook, served us. I had no idea what mole sauce was, and whenever I ordered before I'd ask for no "picante" or no "chile". I couldn't take even moderately spicy food. One bite of the chicken and my mouth was burning. Good manners kept me from spitting it out. Especially since our cook hovered over us. My Spanish wasn't good enough to explain. Oh well.

We found a cheap room and dropped our packs, and went out to explore. We noticed the theater was playing a double feature "Julius Caesar" and "Hero Comes Home". A good way to pass an evening. The sign said start time was 7 pm. We showed up a little before that, and no one was around. Finally about 7:15 or so someone came to the ticket window. We went inside, sat down by ourselves. Maybe 15 minutes later, someone came walking down the aisle with a coffee can splashing some liquid on the concrete aisle. After he passed, we smelled the Pine-sol. It was near 8 o'clock when the theater began to fill up. We had heard about "la hora Latina" and lax timekeeping, now we knew exactly what that meant. Schedules have a different meaning in a sleepy Mexican pueblo. 

When "Julius Caesar" began, we were a bit confused. The reels had been mixed up! The next movie was some lame "Vietnam vet returns home" fiasco starring Peter Fonda, if I remember right. I think we went to the movies often because most were American and had English speakers. It was tough trying to interpret everything we heard all day long. What was even harder for me was that Bug refused to learn Spanish, and I was expected to do the speaking. I was interested in language, and wanted to learn. I just got tired, as every day was like a long Spanish class. I understood his reluctance. I pushed him once to order his own orange juice. The word for orange is "naranja" with the "j" almost a cough sound. Tough word. He must have asked the vendor half a dozen times with no success. I finally ordered for him. And secured my job as translator.

So it was back to our room after the movie. Since I knew the word for cheap and used it often, we got the room for something like 60 cents. The roof and ceiling were thatched. No electricity, just a candle. As we tried to sleep we heard some scurrying. Shining a flashlight above the wall in open space below the thatch we saw rats running back and forth. A little too late to do much but close our eyes and sleep. You get what you pay for, huh?

We left Chapala and headed to Mexico City with a destination a little south of there. Cuernavaca had an American University. A friend from high school was a student there, and we hoped to visit her and rest up. When we finally arrived, tired and dusty, we found the school was closed for Christmas vacation. That helped us make our decision to head toward our beloved home country.

Good Ole US of A

With great relief we made our way back to Tucson. I had a goofball idea to sell my truck, and hitchhike to Mardi Gras. Bug showed better sense and caught a bus back to Eugene. I put a for sale sign in the truck and parked near the University. I'm not sure how it was, but a professor and his wife invited me to park in their yard. A real hippy couple. I got another harebrained plan. I decided to go on a fast until the truck sold. I thought fasting meant no food at all, just water. Some poorly thought out cosmic plan. I went on a water diet that lasted a few days. I think hunger got the better of me, so it was back to food and a more down-to-earth sales plan. 

About that time I moved on from my campsite in the professor's yard. I was a practicing Catholic at that time, and had parked the truck in a church parking lot while we were in Mexico. When I went back and talked to the priest about my plans, he told me about a family that might put me up for a few days. It was a single mother and about five daughters. Why they let me stay there I'll never know. I was there for just a few days (maybe less) when I got an offer on my truck. Some guy from Texas with a clever ploy. He offered $450, a bit less than I was asking. He gave me his phone number and said he was going back to Texas in a couple days. Call if I wanted to sell. I knew there was no negotiating after I made the call. He got the truck. I was way too anxious to move on.

That night I put my small tent out in the back yard of the family's home and crawled into my sleeping bag. A little practice for all the camping I figured to do on my way to New Orleans. It was pretty cool that January night, but I felt almost hot, and I remember throwing most of the sleeping bag off. In the morning I didn't feel well. WARNING: Gross description in this next sentence. I knew something was really wrong when I looked in the toilet after peeing and it was the color of Coca Cola! END OF WARNING-----One of the girls looked at my face and said "You're eyes are yellow. You have hepatitis" Sure enough, hours away from hitting the road, I was hit with a serious disease. I thought at that time that hepatitis was a junkie's disease. Of course, now I know Hepatitis A can come from eating contaminated food. I still suspect a tamale I bought from a street vendor in Guaymas. Who knows?  Hindsight tells me my three-day fast didn't help. My funds from selling my truck paid for shots for my host family and a plane ticket to Portland. My first Latin American trip ends...not with a bang, but with a whimper.


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