Monthly Archives: November 2016

Ajijic, Mexico–Feeling Lucky

Since I have moved to Ajijic, Tuesday has become my new favorite day of the week.  The reason is simple and it may be silly, but the truth of the matter lies in one word.  Bingo.  My name is Amanda and I will freely admit that I am an addict.  Not only am I addicted to the game of bingo, but I have found to my delight, that I am surprisingly lucky with dauber in hand.

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Ready to “rumble.”

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The “X Files.”

So here’s how it works.  Every Tuesday I slip on comfortable flip flops and walk the mile into town.  It is a pleasant walk along the malecon of Lake Chapala and I usually take the opportunity to call my mom or my sister and chat with them along the way.  The event is held at Maria Isabella’s, which in my personal opinion makes the best naranjada in town.  This is like an orange version of a sweet lemonade and translates on local menus to “orangeade.”  It is fantastic.

The malecon in Ajijic

The malecon in Ajijic

The scene of the crime

The scene of the crime

My friend Bill in the background

My friend Bill in the background

Once I get to the restaurant, I hand Mike $200 pesos.  This is about $10 USD at the current exchange rate.  In return he gives me and an entire afternoon’s worth of fun!  This includes a colorful bingo packet of eight games with three squares per game, a Loteria card (which is the Spanish version of bingo), and a magical purple dauber.

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Where the magic happens

Other bingo enthusiasts

Other bingo enthusiasts

Note: For an additional $100 pesos ($5 USD) I can double my chances of being a big winner by receiving a second complete bingo package for half price (hell yeah!).

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Now that’s what I’m talking about!

Me gusta la Loteria!

Me gusta la Loteria!

In order to decide whether or not I would like to spend the second $100 big ones, I usually browse the prize table.  Gambling is highly regulated in Mexico and thus the winners of each round of bingo get to select a prize from the table, instead of receiving cash.  For me, there is no comparison.  I would take a prize any day.

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You want it, they got it!

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Me and my friend Tina with our loot

Wayne and Richard have done an incredible job rounding up an assortment of prizes every week since the event began back in March.  All the proceeds go to students of the “Have Hammers…Will Travel” program which teaches young people from the ages of 8-14 some important skills and provides great opportunities for their futures.  http://www.mexconnect.com/articles/3696-hammering-out-a-future-for-young-people-in-chapala-mexico

Wayne, Mike, and Rich

Wayne, Mike, and Rick

Thank you Richard, for all that you do!

Thank you Richard, for all that you do!

Prizes often include crafts built by the students of “Have Hammers…Will Travel” and often painted by Richard’s wife Cindy.  These are things like book ends, shelves, chihuahuas, etc.  I’ve accumulated quite the collection in the past several months, including Poco Loco, my chihuahua.

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My personal prize table. Yay for me!!!

Check out this group of winners! (Sue, Debra, and me!)

Check out this group of winners! (Sue, Debra, and me!)

A variety of pictures and paintings can be found on most days.  My favorite prize of all time is a watercolor of a street in Ajijic that I frequent on my way to the Lake Chapala Society (LCS) for game day on Mondays.  The steeple of the new Catholic church can be seen in the background of the painting.  It was painted by a local favorite named Efren Gonzalez.  This picture is currently hanging in my hallway and every time I walk past it, I feel like a real winner!  (I’m not joking.)

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The cream of the crop

I was also fortunate enough to win two large silkscreen pictures that go very nicely in my kitchen, as well as an artwork of the “Loteria” card to always remind me of how much I’ve enjoyed this past year.  The card in the artwork even displays a couple of my favorite items.  These include “el boracho” (the drunkard) and “la corona” (the crown).  Of all the efforts I’ve made to improve my Spanish in the last two years, playing the Loteria on Tuesdays has been the biggest help by far.

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Do you think these will fit in my suitcase?

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The day I won this, they called half the items in the picture during la “Loteria.” It was a very lucky day!

You might think that I’ve well finished going on about the bingo prizes by now, but think again.  My last big haul earned me tickets to the next upcoming event at the American Legion.  Thanks to this lucky round, I won tickets for Ryan and I to celebrate our Thanksgiving dinner there.  We enjoyed two kinds of potatoes (sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes), light and dark meat, green beans, stuffing, and cranberry something, which was good.  Not to mention pumpkin pie!  This was the first thanksgiving that I could include “bingo” in the long list of things I had to be thankful for.

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What an awesome bingo prize!

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So very thankful!

Once again back to the prizes, although I’m almost finished.  There are often books and jewelry as well, in addition to coupons to use at the second-hand store “Todo Bueno” or Maria Isabella’s.  I’ve won several “date nights” this way and I think Ryan was fairly proud of me.  I also won a gift certificate to a local boutique where I picked up this fantastic hat!

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Such a versatile little thing

You can leave your hat on!

You can leave your hat on!

Did I mention that the grand prize each week for the blackout is a trip to the beach town of La Manzanilla?  One lucky person wins this trip every couple of months.  My good friend Tina even won it earlier this year.  So yes, the prizes are fantastic.  Not only that, but playing bingo is just a lot of fun.

Ladies and Gentleman, the fabulous Tina!

Ladies and Gentleman, the fabulous Tina!

George is another big winner. Last week, he won 3 times!!!

George is another big winner. Last week, he won 3 times!!!

Each week I find my seat and arrange my cards in anticipation.  The wait staff at Maria Isabella’s is wonderful and they have taken to bringing me my naranjada as soon as they see me.  I order the Nachos Ajijic sin cebolla (without onions) in order to keep up my energy, or so I tell Ryan when I bring him my receipt afterwards.

He's the best!

The best waiter ever!

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Spinach, improved 🙂

Rick is the manager of Maria Isabella’s.  He takes his seat in the front of the restaurant and in his Mexican accent he says into the microphone, “Are you ready to rumble?”  People laugh and hoot and then Rick spins the balls…”And the first number is sweet sixteen,” he says.  That’s the moment I know for sure that it’s going to be a good day.  And it usually is.

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“There’s a plane, boss.”

Me and Sandy from Texas

Me and Sandy from Texas

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Mexico–The Second Wave

I hate good-byes.  They are the worst.  That being said, it is so much easier to say good-bye when a “Hello!” follows almost immediately after.  The day Ryan dropped his parents off at the airport, our second wave of company arrived.  He picked up his aunts and we began a whole new round of fun!

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Laurel (Lolly) and JoAmy

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Laurel (Lolly) and JoAmy are wonderfully inquisitive people and they are up for anything!  We began our adventures in Jocotepec.  This city of around 38,000 occupants is only a half-hour drive from Ajijic on the western shore of Lake Chapala.  After a very filling lunch, we enjoyed a leisurely stroll down the malecon where we observed the local wildlife and soaked up some sun.

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I had unfortunately caught a cold in all of the excitement of our first wave of company.  Therefore, on the second day of their visit, Ryan took his aunts into Guadalajara while I stayed home to recover.  In addition to Centro Historico, including the large market, they ate some authentic tacos filled with all types of meats.  To my surprise, pork stomach (buche) seemed to be a hit.

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Luckily for me, Lolly had brought some magical oregano oil and “breathe.”  These essential oils were amazing!  One drop of oregano oil at the back of my throat twice a day, coupled with the refreshing “breathe,” and I was all but cured.  It was the shortest cold I’ve ever had!

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Now that I was seemingly fully recovered, we piled back into the car.  Our next adventure took us to Teuchitlan to see the circular pyramids of Los Guachimontones.  On the way we stopped at a cemetery that was still colorfully decorated for the Day of the Dead.  We even investigated some stacks of corn hulls.  Labor is so cheap in the area that all of the planting and harvesting is done by hand.

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The day was surprisingly overcast when we arrived at Los Guachimontones.  This is a prehispanic archaeological site (possibly Aztec) that can be found just outside the town of Teuchitlan.  The circular stepped pyramids are located at the centers of what would have been building complexes also arranged in a unique circular fashion.  A ceremonial pole would have been placed at the top of the pyramids and was used to honor the wind God Ehecatl.

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As luck would have it (whether good or bad), timing placed Laurel and JoAmy in Ajijic during USA election time.  Pinatas of Trump and Hillary could be purchased by the side of the road and signs reading “Our American friends, please support Mexico and vote for Hillary” were displayed on the sides of buildings.  When the big night arrived, they attended a Democrats Abroad Election Party and came home with some entertaining stories.

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After the election, we took it easy for a day or two.  This gave Aunt JoAmy the opportunity to get in some bird watching.  Because Lake Chapala is the largest body of fresh water in Mexico, the surrounding areas are teeming with aquatic bird life.  She even found a humming bird’s nest in our back year and every day, she or Laurel would go out and check on how things were progressing.

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I believe this is a black-crowned night heron

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Parrots!

Parrots!

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Great egret

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Humming bird sitting on nest

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Towards the end of their visit, we also took Laurel and JoAmy to Mazamitla.  This pretty little village town has a population of about 11,600 people.  It is located up in the mountains and is known as Mexico’s Switzerland.  In my opinion, this was one of the more scenic drives we’ve taken while in Jalicso and I enjoyed exploring this charmingly beautiful town with Ryan and his aunts.  It was a wonderful ending to a wonderful visit.  Thank you Laurel and JoAmy for coming to see us.  What a treat!

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Mexico–The First Wave

Ryan and I were recently lucky enough to have two waves of back to back company.  The first wave brought his parents from Wyoming.  This was the second time Matt and Sheree have visited us this year!  They came just in time for the Day of the Dead festivities.  We had them for a week and enjoyed every minute of it.

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Our adventures began in Guadalajara.  After taking in some of Centro Historico, we took Matt and Sheree to try traditional tortas ahogadas (drowned sandwiches).  These sandwiches originated in Guadalajara and are now popular all over the state of Jalisco, and throughout other parts of Mexico as well.  Though they are messy (at least for me), they are very tasty.

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On our way home, we stopped in Tlaquepaque and found that it was the place to be!  There were many altars and Catrina’s on display.  We walked the main drag taking everything in, and then I got thirsty!  Luckily, there were a lot of places to stop.  Sheree and I went into a restaurant and had a mother-daughter date.  She’s the best mother-in-law ever!

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When the official Day of the Dead arrived on November 2nd, we took Matt and Sheree to the cemetery in Ajijic to look at the decorated grave sites.  They were beautiful–so vibrant and full of color.  It was a very busy place and despite the fact that we were celebrating the dead, we found the cemetery to be teaming with life.  We had initially intended to join a tour but we ended up wandering around on our own.  There was plenty to see and we took our time.

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Though the festivities had officially come to an end (or at least as much as they do in Mexico), our adventures were not yet over.  On their final day with us, we all ventured to the town of Tequila.  This World Heritage Site is the birthplace of “tequila.”  Tequila is made from the blue agave plant which is native to this area.  Once here we toured the Jose Cuervo Tequila Factory.  While the tour was very informative, Ryan was definitely the most impressed with the tequila tasting at the end.  I’m not much of a tequila girl, but I gave it my best effort, and so did Matt and Sheree.

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Thank you Matt and Sheree for yet another great visit!  You’re the best!!!  We love you and we are so lucky to have you in our lives.

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