Mamut!

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The archeological museum in Mazatlan (located on Sixto Osuno, across from the Art Museum) has a very large visitor on display until August 25. I encourage all of you to take some time to go check out: Mamut: The Prehistoric Giant.

What is Mamut? Mamut is mammoth in English. So, yes, there is a huge frigging mammoth skeleton sitting inside our little, often unnoticed and sorely under-appreciated, museum. This particular mammoth is on loan from Mexico City. If any science nerds are wondering, it is a Columbian mammoth. It was brought here in crates from Mexico City and took a team of five archeologists 12 complete days to reassemble. It is a sight to behold.

The museum is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., seven days a week. The cost is only 45 pesitos and you get to see much more than a mammoth. The museum is chock full of pieces of history from Sinaloa and beyond with many placards in English if your sciencey Spanish is a little rusty. Pro Tip: get in free any day with your INAPAM card, and Permanent Residents get in free on Sundays. Gilbran, Director of INAH for Sinaloa, is generally there and speaks great English.

As recently as 10,000-15,000 years ago, mammoths roamed Sinaloa and other parts of Mexico. If you think banda is loud, can you imagine the sound and feeling of a pack of fifty 4-ton beasts coming towards you? This mammoth was not discovered locally, but rather in Ecatepec in 1995. The bones displayed are 80% original to this animal with missing parts replaced with bones from other mammoths or modeled. This is the reason one leg appears shorter than the others, as it was missing and another mammoth had to supply the replacement.

Cause of death is not known, but it’s pretty certain that some of our early ancestors ate well off the missing leg—whether hunted or scavenged. This mammoth died early at around age 25. Mammoths are known to have lived easily to be 80 years old. I could bore you with facts and figures, but suffice it to say, it’s big, it was heavy, and it’s here. Go check it out!

Oh, and here are some pictures (thanks Dianne):

Just click any photo to see it larger.

 

Book Review: Why We Left

616zADxrq6LBook Review: Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, Collected essays of 27 women happily living in Mexico
© 2019 by Janet Blaser
Available on Kindle and in paperback
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The 27 women contributing to this volume clearly communicate the numerous and varied reasons they left the USA, as the title suggests, focusing primarily on how they made the transition and have forged new lives in a culture and language so very different from their own. I eagerly looked forward to relishing the reading of this book, but it is even richer than I imagined. It contains loads of tips on relocating to Mexico, the advantages and challenges these women encounter in this new land, and what these immigrants have learned by living in their adopted homes.

The volume is comprised of unique and interesting voices whose stories are completely different from one another and yet, on a profound level, very much the same. Amazing to me is that despite huge differences in histories, circumstances and reasons for leaving, every one of the contributors is happy she made the move and feels more connected to herself than ever before.

So, why did these US American women leave? Quite a few were sick of consumerism gone wild, the over-consumption and waste. Some of them were bored or frustrated. Several were tired of the never-ending, senseless murders at concerts, in schools and movie theaters. You’ll read about economic refugees who can’t afford to continue living in the USA, as well as women who are well off yet choose to escape their seemingly perfect lives. Some of the authors were weary of the rat race; that they didn’t have time for family and friends; that they’d come home from vacation to an overflowing, stress-filled in-box. A few fled financial ruin, divorce, or the death of loved ones. A couple moved after serious illness “woke them up” to the fact that life is short and they should live their dreams while they still can. Some mention escaping the rhetoric of intolerance and hatred.

The stories you read in these pages are real and revelatory, not promotional. You learn of a friend who dies in a hospital in Mexico who shouldn’t have, and another who gets state-of-the-art, personalized care for pennies to the dollar. Both are the “real” Mexico, the land of paradox, home of the world’s most comfortable hammocks and most uncomfortable chairs, the land where people greet crisis with both stoicism and joy. The reader will get terrific advice on how to choose where to live, how to prepare for the move, what to pack and what to leave behind, which is the best and most affordable health insurance, where to bank most easily and save fees, how to get the best health care, raising children and dating in Mexico. You’ll learn that wherever you go, there you are; moving abroad will exacerbate—not solve—relationship troubles, family problems or self-esteem issues.

The women who have written these pages are single, widowed, divorced, raising children and taking care of elderly parents. They live in every region of Mexico, with varied income levels, in big cities, small towns and even completely off the grid. Some of them made the decision to move strategically, with careful, step-by-step planning; others fell in love with Mexico and spontaneously made the decision to move. They make ends meet by telecommuting, starting businesses, working a job, housesitting or collecting a pension or social security. Many came to Mexico the first time on holiday, on a cruise or sabbatical. We learn about women who rent their homes, buy them or live in homes on wheels.

Common themes include how emotional and time-consuming it can be to cull through a lifetime accumulation of “stuff” to make the move—that we identify with our belongings more than we realize, and that the reality of US American life necessitates a lot of shredding. Many of these women speak about how their friends and family think they are crazy for moving to Mexico, and refuse to visit them—out of fear, primarily. Most every American woman in this volume speaks to the challenge of learning a new culture and a new language, as well as the fact that living in a foreign language and culture keeps one’s brain agile and active.

A couple of the authors experienced natural disasters while living in Mexico, and advise of the challenging lack of official government response or help. They caution those who would move here that the country is noisy: parties, laughter, music and fireworks, at all hours of the day and night. The daily bureaucracy can be oppressive; paying bills, banking, it can take weeks to accomplish basic things. There is a huge dichotomy between rich and poor in Mexico, they counsel, and huge differences in male-female dynamics. Some of the women warn about scorpions, mosquitos, street dogs, spiders and iguanas, about the difficulty of leaving family behind. Quite a few of these women, despite the challenges, have become integral members of and even leaders in their communities; all of them speak to deep connections and relationships.

They tell us that Mexico has taught them to smile more, to relax more easily, to be more patient. They say they are thinner and healthier here, eating whole foods rather than processed, and walking more, swimming, hiking, biking and golfing. Many of them take painting or writing classes and volunteer in their new hometowns. They write of a broad variety of friends, local and international, from a variety of backgrounds, who are passionate about life. They tell the reader of the resilience one gains by living abroad, the sense of wonder one feels, that they learn something new every day. These women report learning not to make assumptions, to go with the flow. They report that they’ve become more empathetic, accepting and less judgmental— they experience a freedom in Mexico that they do not in the USA. They admire the culture, history and art in their new home, but most of all Mexico’s hardworking, creative people. They have learned to be more humble, less materialistic, to slow down and not feel so entitled. Many of them report that they now experience culture shock when they go north, back “home.”

The women authors of this book appreciate the proximity of their new homes to their birthplaces in the USA: easier to see children and grandchildren, to care for aging parents, to meet dear lifelong friends. They are grateful for the affordability of their new home, be it the price of housing, food, travel or healthcare. Despite mass media reports to the contrary, the women in this volume report feeling safer living in Mexico than they did in the USA. They find Mexican people generally gentle, kind, happy, helpful and honest. They take pride in raising multilingual, multicultural kids here and to having opportunities they would never have at home. They cite the environmental beauty of Mexico, and, of course, the fact that the winters are far less cold. Many of the women write about the value of their friendships in Mexico and treasure the fact that family and community connection are still huge priorities in life. Several women mention they love all the outdoor living and the deep roots and tradition.

If you are thinking about moving overseas—to Mexico or anywhere else on the planet—this book can be an immense help, whatever your gender. It is living proof that risk has its rewards. If you’ve already made the move, it’ll provide good context for the journey you’ve made, and aid in making sense of your own experience. It’s not a volume to read all in one sitting, but, rather, to sit with when you have time to enjoy and reflect on what you are reading.

Life Cycles and the Wizard of Oz

DSC_3234©Life is all about cycles: birth and death; first day of school and graduation; entering a new career and retiring. An entry entitled “You’re Not in Kansas Anymore” was our first article on VidaMaz.com—on June 14, 2008. That reference to “The Wizard of Oz” meant we were leaving our home in Kansas for Mazatlán, heading out to begin life in a new land full of Technicolor dreams. The photo on that first post showed my husband, Greg, and our son, Danny, posing with cutouts of the stars of the movie based on Frank Baum’s novel.

During the eleven years that we have lived here full time, I have had the joy of double-dipping Mother’s Days. Mexicans celebrate the holiday on May 10th, and US Americans celebrate it on the second Sunday of the month. Greg asked me what I wanted for Mother’s Day, and I asked to go to the Mazatlán Municipal Center of the Arts’ children’s production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

DSC_3411©Directed by Maestro Giovanny Armenta, the 50 performers today at noon in the Angela Peralta included members of both the Children’s Theater Workshop and the Children’s Chorus.

We watched as Dorothy—Dorita, was swept up in an unexpected journey with her dog, Toto, which brought her three dear new friends: el Espantapájaros (Scarecrow), el Hombre Hojalata (Tin Man), and, finally, el León Cobarde (Cowardly Lion). Together, just as our family did, the group follows the Yellow Brick Road to the land Oz, in hopes that the wizard will grant them their wishes. In the process, Dorothy learns to value family and home, and everyone learns to trust themselves.

The simple performance was an utter delight. The children’s chorus has a few standouts—I just know that hefty boy in blue is the next banda star, following in Chuy Lizárraga’s footsteps, and the little girl in pink with the incredible facial expressions most definitely knows how to command an audience. Runaway stars of the show, however, were the incredible Wicked Witch of the West, whose evil laugh was absolutely sinister; and Toto, played with joy and gusto by a young child who looked to be no more than three or four. Toto cuddled with Dorothy, wagged his tail, jumped on his hind legs, smelled the Cowardly Lion’s feet, cowered from the evil witch, unveiled the hidden man pretending to be the wizard, and even lifted his leg at one point during the show. Both performers were unbelievably charming, and the cast as a whole was very solid. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Today’s performance made a perfect Mother’s Day, bringing our move full circle. What cycles has our family, like Dorothy and her friends, passed through? What transitions have we made? We have become blessed with many new friends to add to the beloved family and friends we had before our move. We’ve transitioned from being confused, worried and frustrated to by and large understanding our new language and culture, though of course we continue learning every day. Rather than seeking advice several times a day we are now frequently asked to give it. We have transitioned to being empty nesters who look forward to segueing from working full time to retired at some point in the not-too-distant future. We’ve definitely had our share of metaphorical tornadoes, wicked witches and flying monkeys—we came here to experience life as a minority, and we’ve learned to watch what we ask for! Thankfully, we have all grown, changed and love it here in “Oz,” and living here has in many ways brought us closer to family and friends in our birth home, too.

Under the Big Top

I do love a good circus. And I especially love the aerialists: trapeze, tight rope, spinners, acrobats. Click on any image to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

Circo Atayde Hermanos is here in Mazatlán for a couple of weeks. Their performance schedule is below. A girlfriend and I went recently and enjoyed it very much—we paid 200 pesos for very good seats. It’s a simple, classic circus, with clowns, jugglers, balancing acts, a guy who’s shot out of a cannon, motorcyclists riding inside a globe, and my beloved aerialists. The show is animal-free, as animals have been outlawed in circuses in Mexico since 2014.

What I really loved about this is that those kids selling popcorn, candy apples and toys are the performers themselves! So engage them in conversation and learn a bit about what they love about their lives and their job. Itzel, the girl with the loop on her head, told me she loves the traveling. She’s been all over Mexico and the US, and has hopes to get to Europe. She told me quite a few performers get trips to Europe for special performances. She studies with a teacher that the circus provides for the kids in the troupe.

Circo Atayde Hermanos is 130 years old this year. I have been told that it was actually founded in Mazatlán back in 1888, after the two Atayde brothers, who hailed from Zacatecas, fell in love with two sisters from El Rosario, and that Francisco Madera delivered his campaign speech under their tent here.

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Photo from the Atayde HMOs Facebook event page

The internet tells me (third-hand, as their own site doesn’t have a history) that the circus was founded in Zacatecas. Desiring to figure out the real story and get some behind-the-scenes photos and interviews, I arranged an appointment with them. Their local promotions director, however, is quite a piece of work and that interview very distastefully never happened. In its absence, enjoy the pics I did get!

 

A Challenging Race is Coming to Mazatlán

Something Different for the Running Community

Extreme price and info

[UPDATED WITH IMPORTANT DATE CHANGE] As most of you know, I like to run – a lot. I enter most carreras here in Mazatlán with a personal limit of half-marathon (21 km or 13.1 miles). Most of the races close the Avenida Del Mar for a brief period and runners run on the pavement instead of the malecón, where most train. But, it’s still the same view, it’s still relatively flat and many consider it to be unchallenging. With a few minor exceptions, to join a race with hills and trails, you must leave the area of the malecón and often drive or bus a great distance. Next month, however, brings a unique opportunity starting right along the malecón.

If you’re still reading, I will assume you are interested in participating in something different – something beyond flat. A respected runner in Mazatlán, Prof. Sergio Javier Leyva Santos, has put together XtreMazatlán, to be held on Sunday, November 18th (Please ignore the dates on the graphics). This 12 km (about 7 ½ mile) run will have runners going over two hills (Ice Box Hill and Lookout Hill) as well as up and down the Faro. Some will find this too difficult to imagine, and for that there are options to sign up as a pair or as a relay team of five people. He has assembled many great sponsors including dportenis, Powerade, La Mazatleca restaurant, TVP, Eléctrica Valdéz and Turbulence Training. I was fortunate to attend the press conference last week and can tell you that enthusiasm for this race was over the top! Many of us run the Faro on a regular basis and have longed for a race that would include it. Our wishes have been answered. Oh, and the city has agreed to close the Faro to all other traffic during the race.

Extreme group foto

The race begins at the new Sister City Park where Zaragoza hits Paseo Clausen. From there, it is right down to business with a run up Ice Box Hill, down the stairs into Olas Altas, up Lookout Hill, down Paseo del Centenario, and up to the lighthouse. If you sign up as a running pair, you will end your half here and your partner will take over. Once down the lighthouse, it’s up the 175 stairs to the Restaurant La Marea (formerly El Mirador), around and up the backside of Lookout Hill, up Bateria and then back down to Olas Altas, up the stairs to Ice Box Hill and around and down to return to Sister City Park. There will be five water stations, most of which runners will pass twice. The relay points for the teams of five are shown on the map below.

Extreme 12k map

There will also be a 5K (3.1 miles) for runners, walkers and families in the general area of the park and Zaragoza. The 12 km begins at 6:30 am, the 5 km at 7:00 and kids’ runs beginning at 9:00. You can sign up at dportenis locations in the Gran Plaza, Plaza Sendero and in El Centro on Azueta. Cost is 300 pesos per person for the 12 km and 100 pesos for the 5 km. The first 100 people to sign up for the 12 km will receive a dry-fit shirt and a commemorative medal. The first 200 people to sign up for the 5 km will receive a commemorative medal.

Extreme 5k map only

The running community in Mazatlan is very welcoming, supportive and inclusive. Don’t be shy about signing up, and feel free to ask me if you have any questions. In the meantime, click any picture below to click through a slideshow and see all the pertinent details:

While I’m at it, there are a few other upcoming races you may want to know about:

Sunday October 21: Trail run in Cosalá. Choice of 10 km, 15 km or 30 km. Very challenging. Incredible views and lots of hills. This will require a hotel stay the night before. Be prepared to get wet, perhaps very wet, on the longer distances depending on creek levels. The photo below has all the details.

Cosala Trail Run

The same day as the Cosalá trail run there is a Píntate 5K sponsored by MazAtún. If you are not familiar with a píntate, as you walk or run, you will have exuberant youth throwing non-toxic, somewhat clothing friendly, colored powder on you. If you choose to pass through it, there is usually a spray station which will mist you up to enable the colors to stick better. Lots of fun. Price is 150 pesos, no time given, but it will be in the morning. With the malecón construction, I’m not sure of the route.

The most well-known annual event is the Gran Maratón Pacífico, this year celebrating 20 years of bigger and better races. The event is Saturday and Sunday, December 1&2. Saturday features a 5km and a 10km with Sunday featuring a half and a full marathon. Saturday night, traditionally, is the Festival of Lights with fireworks around the bay. Last year, this was postponed due to road and malecon construction. If you don’t participate by running, spend some time cheering on the runners and admiring their dedication. The Kenyans come to town along with a host of International and National runners so the competition is truly world-class.

maraton logo

 

A general tip if you are looking to find competitive running in Mazatlan is to look on Facebook (including joining the group: Mazatlan Running Group), listen to local radio and check the newspaper periodically.

I’ve started training for the hills? How about you?