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|But What Do You Do All Day? 2|
...we pulled over and stopped - stopped in the most literal sense. Husband could no longer change gears at all. We were completely broken down![go to part 1...]
A young grease stained muchacho came out. He searched for our problem, seeming to know what he was doing. Gracias a Dios, we were getting fairly proficient in Spanish and could understand his diagnosis. The clutch was shot! In a VW van, replacing a clutch requires pulling the motor, not a big deal in a VW agency in the States, but in a shop with no lift or hoist, it is indeed a big deal. Still, if we could find a clutch in Manzanillo, he thought he could fix the van by noon the next day.
So Mecanico and Husband hailed a local taxi to take them to Manzanillo while I waited in the van with our belongings - clothing, diving equipment, cameras, and everything one needs for a trip of this length. Being avid readers, our traveling bags held plenty of books, so I just curled up with my current selection. As I read and waited, the hours began to crawl. I confess to a few stereotypic thoughts; thoughts of Husband robbed, Husband beaten, Husband kidnapped or worse yet, Husband killed.
Later I learned they had reached Manzanillo during siesta time. This is the time when most stores close for two hours so their employees can join their families for lunch (and perhaps take a short nap). ¡No problema! The cantinas and restaurants don't close. They hoisted a few and the three guys, mecanico, taxi driver and Husband became friends - a perfect example of male bonding.
When they finally arrived back, I was more than happy to see them and the new clutch. It was now well into the afternoon and taxi driver suggested taking us to a hotel and returning for us in the morning.
I asked mecanico if the van and our gear inside would be safe. His look suggested what he thought of my question. He told me he lived upstairs and his amigo lived with his wife and family behind the shop, and even though the van was parked right on the side of the road, no one would bother it.
Husband nodded, and without another question, I pulled out what we needed for the night. Taxi driver took us to a lovely hotel on the Bay of Santiago where, typically, they welcomed us like family. Husband invited the young driver, now his friend, to join us for breakfast the next morning.
After a warm shower and a cool cocktail, I looked at Husband and said, "What have we done? Can't you just hear our friends asking, "You mean you left your van and your belongings with someone you didn't even know on the side of the road in a strange town, and really expected it to be there when you went back?" With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I suggested we call a taxi and, at least, retrieve our valuables from the van.
Wonderful Husband answered, "If we felt it was safe when we left it there, it is still safe! Have another cocktail and enjoy the sunset." He is a faster learner than I. After a restful night (well, with maybe a twinge or two) and a delicious breakfast with our young driver who showed up right at the appointed hour, we drove to the shop. The van was there, our belongings were where we left them, and mecanico was installing the new clutch.
The señora who lived behind the shop came out to invite me to her casa for coffee and to meet her family. Her home consisted of one spotlessly clean room for sleeping, cooking, dining and entertaining. The much scrubbed dining table had benches on either side and two kitchen chairs. Three precious children clung to Mamá's skirts until they became accustomed to their visitor. An elaborately framed wedding photograph of Mamá and Papá, elegantly dressed, served as the sole wall adornment.
Mamá accorded me honored guest status. After coffee and chatting, I went out front to watch the progress with the van. My hostess carried the two chairs she owned outside for Husband and me to use while waiting. What hospitality and generosity of spirit! Her casa was indeed my casa!
We watched mecanico installing the new clutch with the motor, held up by a block and tackle, dangling above him. We held collective breaths when he and his helper slowly eased the motor down into place. We admired his skill, innovation, and diligence; he was a true craftsman. After a trial run proved the job was indeed done, we paid the ridiculously low bill and drove off leaving mecanico beaming from our praise. Get it? New friends and new experiences all because our car broke down!
You know we live in a condominium where all cleaning and maintenance is done by the expert staff; you know our boat is maintained by a captain; you know we have no yard to mow, leaves to rake, or snow to shovel. So, you ask again, "What do you do all day?"
Puerto Vallarta, a premier tourist destination, attracts tourists year round. Living right on popular Los Muertos Beach, we are lucky enough to meet people from all over the world. The magic of the tropics fosters instant friendships. When we moved here we did not know a single soul. Now we can't begin to count the number of folks we call friends.
Consequently, we entertain a lot - sometimes on our fishing boat, sometimes in our home, and sometimes in one of the many local restaurants. At times we party on the beach at a palapa-covered restaurant where we dine on the fish we bring in fresh from the sea. Now and then we party at an out-of-way family restaurant, well off the tourist trail. Once in a while, joined by friends, we camp on one of the uninhabited Marieta Islands.
Of course, in return, our friends entertain us, elegantly or simply, but always with that Vallarta feeling and flair. You mark your calendar ahead for traditional parties. Other parties just happen. Most parties, at least the ones we like the best, include all ages, sexes and nationalities.
On fiesta days (and there are lots of them) we all go to el centro, sit on a curb, and view traditional Vallartense parades. Flags, children, colorful costumes, horses, music, and dancing fill the cobblestone streets. The clip-clop of horseshoes, applause, and shouts of bravo mix with the already music filled air.
We take in the many art openings and the monthly cultural events at the elegant Hotel Camino Real. Sometimes we see first run movies, in English with Spanish subtitles, at local theaters. On a slow night we watch everything from "The Nanny" to "Letterman" and "Nightline" on our satellite fed TV.
Most late afternoons (after the requisite siesta) we sit on our balcony overlooking the beach, We sip a cool one, and watch the pelicans swooping and diving for their supper. We observe the colorful vendors wandering among the locals and the tourists, selling their wares or just getting acquainted with the beach newcomers. As the kids kick the soccer ball, slam the volley ball, and ride the waves, the plaintive trumpet notes of "Little Boy Lost" or the Latin beat of "La Bamba," performed by the mariachis on the sand below, drift up to us - and provide an ideal background for our sipping.
We work with the AMF and the IFC. I write; Husband builds beautiful pottery fountains. We exercise our bodies with a daily walk; we exercise our minds with the Spanish lessons we take and the English classes we give. We feed our inner beings with awe and inspiration from our ventures onto the sea.
Relieved of all of the chores everyone hates, unsaddled by time, and unruffled by mishaps, we do exciting and worthwhile things we never thought possible. We have learned the value of the siesta and the sense of sometimes waiting until mañana. What do we do all day? Anything we want to do!
Polly G. Vicars' book "Tales of Retirement in Paradise" is available throughout the area. Proceeds of her book sales benefits the America-Mexico Foundation Scholarship Program. Visit them online at www.puerto-vallarta.com/amf/