La Vida Es Un Carnaval

We returned home from a trip south just in time to enjoy Carnaval 2018!  We avoided the weekend crowds by busying ourselves with after vacation chores like unpacking, laundry, and grocery shopping.  This worked out well for Steve- -as it meant Carnaval shenanigans would happen during the week, when he would be working.  So truthfully, I returned home in time for Carnaval!

Guaymas’ Carnaval celebration is one of the oldest in Mexico, dating back to 1888.  As athumbnail-4 port city, Guaymas was home to many immigrants and visitors from Europe.  A Carnaval, similar to those held in Europe, was their idea.  Participation was for the most part limited to the upper classes.  After the Mexican Revolution, Guaymas embraced Carnaval as its own, and participation opened up to include everyone.  The event always begins on the Thursday before Ash Wednesday and runs until midnight the following Tuesday, or the start of Lent.

A parade is held each afternoon/evening.  (Based on my Guaymas parade experience, it is definitely an evening event.  But it is best to get there in the afternoon just in case it starts at the scheduled afternoon time.)  There are rides on the malecón, concerts, poetry readings, plays, games, lots of good food, and souvenirs to buy.

During the day one celebration a Reina del Carnaval and Rey Feo are crowned.  There is also the “Quema de Mal Humor” (Burning of the Bad Humor).  This year’s honor went to PASA, the city garbage collection agency.  PASA was on strike during the month of December, leaving trash to pile up in the city and its surrounding areas.  In spite of the inconvenience (and smell and eyesore) this caused, many were hoping that Enrique Peña Nieto, Guaymas mayor, Lorenzo DeCima, or Donald Trump had been selected instead.

Photo credit Sharon Mooney

Some friends and I decided that Carnaval would be the perfect time to try public transportation for the first time.  We knew the main avenue into el Centro would be closed off to traffic for the parade, and parking would be a challenge.  We had been a bit intimidated by the bus previously, certain we would make mistakes or get lost.  We found fellow passengers and the bus drivers to be incredibly helpful.  We were dropped two blocks from where we planned on watching the parade and discovered a new bakery/café on our walk!  And given that I am writing this now, the trip home was equally as successful!


The parade was a little delayed, but we filled our time shopping for masks and peoplethumbnail-1
watching.  Several women made cascarones and sold them in packages of five for five pesos.  Children loved breaking them over the heads of their parents.  Actually, they enjoyed breaking them over the heads of anyone nearby!  We were confetti bombed multiple times by the small children (and abuelitas) sitting near us.  We had stocked up ourselves, so we made sure to return the favor.  Nothing brings strangers closer together quite like confetti!

The parade was a marvel of sights and sounds.  Marching and mariachi bands entertained the onlookers.  Loud music blasted from speakers, providing the rhythms for the colorfully costumed dancers.  And the crowd.  The abuelitas loved to dance with the handsome, young parade participants!  The floats were big and bold, a true testament to the time and energy it took to prepare for this event.  Candy, stuffed animals, and confetti were launched from the floats into the crowd.  The crowd gave it right back spraying Silly String and throwing cascarones!  One brave youngster even sprayed a police officer with Silly String as he helped clear the parade route before the show began!


After the parade, we walked along the malecón.  Crowds stood in line for roller coasters, spidery spinners, and inflatables.  Children enjoyed crafts and magicians.  The smells of delicious food hung in the air:  pancakes con Nutella o fresas, churros, Cheetos con chamoy, elote, tacos, and hotdogs.  As we sat down to rest a moment on the seawall, one of our group discovered an unopened, ice cold cerveza, seemingly left there just for her.  (This, of course, necessitated a stop in the five peso port a potty before the bus ride home.)


It is experiences like this one that make up my very favorite Mexico memories.  (Yes, that even includes paying to use the bathroom and waiting an hour and a half for a parade to start.)  Living here has taught me so much about finding joy in the moment and letting myself be amazed by the little things.  The little things are the big things.  Go ahead!  Break a cascarón over a friend’s head.  You will know exactly what I mean.

When You Really Want A Dog, But You Get a Purse Instead

My Fashion Show experience ended two days after the actual event.  Late Thursday afternoon, I received an e-mail stating that my mom’s purse had been found in the parking lot.  Yay!  After a couple exchanges, the woman who found it called, and we made plans for a pick up.  This was not as simple as it sounded.  The conversation lasted 40 minutes.

We talked a bit about the Fashion Show itself, and of course, the sweet puppies came up.  I shamelessly threw my husband under the bus.  He was the sole reason I did not bring my little guy home.  The woman must not have heard that part because the next thing I knew, she was telling me all about a puppy she was fostering- -a puppy who needed a home.  Since her street numbers were exactly the same as the street numbers on my mom’s once missing driver’s license and since I had exactly the same name as her daughter, it was my true destiny to bring this puppy home.

In fact, she began planning an overnight for the pup, so the two of us could have a sleepover, a trial run, if you will.  Any number of things began running through my mind.  1) I did not want this puppy.  I wanted the little black one.  2) My husband was not in agreement with taking on the responsibility of a pet at this time.  3) Maybe I would absolutely love this puppy, and Steve would have a change of heart.  4) But the little black puppy had absolutely no one; he needed me more.  5) This was not the kind of woman a person says no to. 6) Holy crap!  I was in a real pickle here.  7) Did my mom really need her purse back?!

I tried again and again to explain that Steve wanted to wait for a bit before having another.  It had not yet been a year since we lost Drake, our 14 year old Australian Shepherd mix.  Steve was not ready.  As disappointed as I was with how he felt about this, I did understand.  Unfortunately, the woman on the phone did not.  Finally, she decided that she would send me a bunch of cute dog pictures and that I would talk to my husband again.  We would see each other the next day when I stopped to pick up the purse, and I could take the puppy then.

I hung up wondering what in the heck just happened!  I swore I said “no, I can’t right now” at least 10 times.  Needless to say, Steve was not at all swayed by this predicament.  Yes, the puppy was very sweet.  No, he had not changed his mind.  I had anxiety induced dreams that night- -something about losing my group on the way to a Harry Potter movie, finding a ride with someone I did not know, and then crashing her car into a curb trying to make a tight turn.  I simply hate disappointing people (and dogs).

Yes, I was incredibly nervous on the drive over to pick up the purse.  I imagined a suitcase, packed and ready to go, sitting on the counter, right next to the purse.  I had not yet worked out a story to explain the presence of a dog in our home.  And while I knew it was wrong, I imagined myself carrying the dog around in a cute tote bag as I ran my errands in town.

I immediately liked the woman who met me at the gate, which made it so much harder

Dulce, another “sweet” San Carlos dog, in need of a loving home.

to say no again in person.  It was obvious that she was kind, compassionate, and truly cared for the animals of San Carlos.  She introduced me to her pack and provided plenty of one on one time for me with Dulce, a beautiful golden girl.  Dulce sat on my lap, rested her chin on my shoulder, and let me tickle her belly.  And while Dulce’s foster was sad I could not take Dulce, she seemed to finally understand that a home with two people who were fully ready to embrace the commitment was best for the dog.

Then she shared that her house was for sale and gave me a tour.  Maybe I would want to buy it.  (At this point I may have uttered a few curses under my breath, directed toward my mother for losing her purse in the first place.)  “Great news, Steve!  I said “no” to the dog and bought a house instead!”

Finally, I got the purse and left.  Sad once again to be leaving a dog behind.

Later that same evening, I learned that the litter of puppies from the Fashion Show had been abandoned, left in the convention center by the people who brought them.  An emergency foster home was found for all.  The foster mom planned on keeping them until they were strong and healthy.  I made contact with a volunteer who knew where they were.  Steve and I are helping out by supplying puppy food and warm blankets.  I have not given up hope that I will be able to bring one home.

Fortunately for the dogs and cats of San Carlos, this is the passion people involved with the SBPA feel for their mission.  They advocate tirelessly for the homeless pet population in our area.  I cannot fault them for their repeated attempts to convince folks to take a dog home.  I may have had a nightmare brought on by some of the pressure and my own guilt.  But at least I had that nightmare in a warm bed, in a safe place, after a nourishing meal, next to someone who loves me.

(Part 3/3)

New York, London, Paris… San Carlos?!

The SBPA Fashion Show is one of the most popular events of the season in San Carlos.  Its cutting edge fashions are not the main reason, of course.  It is much more a party celebrating friendships, as tables are filled with long time acquaintances from pickleball and golf outings, gym classes, and other non-profit groups like Castaway Kids, Rotary, and Club Deportivo.

The doors opened at 11:00, and if you did not lose your purse prior to the start of the show or spend all your money on raffle tickets, there was an open bar ready to serve.  Woman mingled while looking over the items donated to the raffle:  massage and beauty packages, pet care baskets, nature prints, restaurant gift certificates, and jewelry.  In case the drinks at the bar did not give it away, the raffle items did.  This was a ladies’ day.

Well, ladies and puppies.  The fashion show always features a litter of puppies who are desperately in need of a home.  They are placed strategically near the entrance to the banquet hall.  I had a hard time moving past them to get to my seat.  Which was exactly the point, I am sure.  This year’s group came from a small, fishing village to the west of San Carlos.  They were shorthaired, skinny mutts.  I found my soulmate within seconds and began text bombing my husband immediately.

The show had a western theme, and we were entertained by Country Western dance numbers from a very talented group of ladies.  The wine was beginning to do its magic, and the SBPA Board President had a difficult time competing as she outlined the success of the non-profit over the course of the last year.  Since its inception, SBPA San Carlos has performed nearly 30,000 sterilization surgeries at its permanent and mobile clinic locations.  The group also provides wellness checks and vaccines.  In addition, many of its dedicated members foster cats and dogs in emergency situations and help place them in loving homes.

Rescued dogs were the first to strut their stuff on the runway.  This has always been one of my favorite parts of the show for the simple fact that the dogs prance around the stage to the song “Who Let the Dogs Out”.  Even without wine, I pumped my fist high in the air and “barked” the refrain “Who, who, who who?”.  My own mother pretended not to know me.

Local stores provided the fashions for the human models.  Fashion is kind of an understatement.  San Carlos is a beach town after all.  Models mostly wore swimsuit coverups or souvenir t-shirts.  We do have a couple of thrift stores that generate funds for local charity groups that participate each year.   I am convinced they hold their best stuff back for the fashion show.  Not that I would necessarily wear what was being modeled (I am a pretty much “rotate the same five outfits” kind of gal), but I had to admit some of it looked pretty good!  And I did look through the racks at Rescate just a little closer when I stopped by on Saturday.

By this time, the crowd was in a frenzy!  Women were up and out of their chairs dancing and singing. Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” was playing on repeat.  All I could hear was “Hell yeah” coming at me from every side of the room.  I had exhausted myself during the dog song, so I just watched with my mouth hanging open, filled with some kind of emotion.  (I laughed and cried- -but in a good way- – while listening to the song again this afternoon.)

thumbnail-5Everyone finally calmed down enough for the raffle drawing.  I did not win.  At least I do not think I did.  It was still pretty loud.  I was also unable to convince my husband that we needed an adorable puppy at this time.  I made sure to get lots of puppy snuggles and leave my e-mail address just in case.  It was a little difficult to smile on my way out.  Not because I did not win a raffle prize.  Because I really wanted that sweet puppy.

Maybe next year I will model a new fashion…  “Someone who loves me went to the SBPA Fashion Show, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt”.

(Part 2/3)

This Ain’t Your Grandma’s Bingo!

This past weekend the San Carlos Rotary held their annual Cow Plop Bingo event to raisethumbnail-3 money for facility and equipment needs at the primary and secondary Ranchitos schools in San Carlos.  True, I am a midwest girl, and Indiana does have a lot of farms.  But the state rates in the top five nationally for production of corn and soybeans.  And animals raised include swine, poultry, and, recently, fish.  So, Bingo with cows was not something I had experienced before.  While the name is somewhat self explanatory, I was very eager to see how exactly this would work.

thumbnail-2The very first thing I observed when we arrived was the Bingo board.  It was painted on a large, open tract of land in the desert.  There were so many squares!  I thought I had purchased plenty of tickets, but after seeing the board, I knew this was going to be a crapshoot.  (Pardon my pun.) The board was marked off with yellow police tape.   Hmmm.  I hoped the cows understood what the tape meant.  Just in case they did not, there were vaqueros mounted on horseback; their lassos at the ready.

About every hour or so, a cow was led onto the playing field to wander around.  He was thumbnail-1surrounded by cowboys, who apparently knew the police tape was just for show.  The idea was that the cow would poo, and the person whose ticket matched the square the poo landed in would win part of the day’s jackpot.  Well, going to the bathroom in front of a large crowd, whether you are a human or a cow, can be a tad intimidating.  So, sometimes it took a while.

While the crowd waited for the action, they danced and sang to the festive music blasting from speakers.  Horses even got into the celebration, showing off their fancy footwork.  There were ribs, hot dogs, and elote, slathered with mayonnaise, parmesan cheese, and tajín to snack on.  Beer, water, and soft drinks were sold.  Pickup trucks were parked along the sides of the Bingo board.  Families sat in the beds enjoying the picnics they had packed and thumbnailsharing coolers of Tecate.

One women became so impatient with the cow, she charged up on stage, grabbed the mike from the emcee, and began demanding that the cow “go”.  The crowd joined in, chanting with her.   Other observers waved their arms over their heads to get the cow’s attention and then pointed at their squares.  Yes, watching Cow Plop Bingo was a bit like watching golf.  After about forty-five minutes, we had a winner!  Well, several winners.  Nervous cows do not plop, they spray!

Needless to say, I did not win one of the three jackpots.  I will  bring my Troll dolls next time or find a lucky cowboy hat!  It was a wonderful day of community and strong show of support for our youngest members.  And truly, that is the best prize.