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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.