About a month aDSCF0600go I went to the Health Centre complaining that I couldn’t sleep.

The nice young doctor on duty spoke good English and wrote me a prescription. I congratulated myself on (a) sidestepping the more expensive private clinic and (b) completing yet another Mexican transaction with relative luck and ease.

On the way home from the clinic, I took the prescription to the nearest pharmacy and presented it to the person at the counter. The grimace, then the slow, sad shaking of the head told me they could not fill it. No matter, thought, I, there are plenty of other pharmacies in town.

I visited them all on the way home, with more or less the same result. The most hopeful response came from the generic pharmacy, whose cashier told me her husband had a pharmacy in the next town, and he could fill it for me. I called the number she had given me but it didn’t work. I asked around over the next week and someone told me they knew the place and it had closed. Or moved. In any case it wasn’t there any more. I returned to the generic pharmacy a few times to clarify with the wife but never managed to find her there.

Never mind, I’d just have it filled in Cabo San Lucas. Everyone knew that Costco or Walmart would fill such prescriptions, so imagine my surprise when the Costco pharmacist gave me the same grimace and head shake I’d had in Todos Santos. I tried a few more pharmacies in Cabo, then gave up.

Recently someone mentioned there was a new, smart, young doc in town, so I sat down in her comfy office and explained my dilemma. She looked at the prescription and told me that there were two problems. First, the clinic doc was an intern so couldn’t write prescriptions. Second, narcotics are tightly controlled in Mexico and must be written on a special prescription pad, which this was not.

As I marveled silently that none of the 10 or more pharmacies I’d visited had mentioned the problem, she said she would be getting a special pad the following week and I should call her on Tuesday. Which I did, but her phone didn’t work, so I stopped in later that afternoon.

Whence she told me she had ordered the special prescription pad but it takes 5 days to arrive, so I should check back the following Tuesday.

Welcome (again) to Mexico…

house, sans horse

House, pre-horse

It’s a truism that living in a foreign country is a challenge.

One thinks of the difficulty of daily transactions in an unfamiliar language, adjusting to the food and water, and figuring out how to behave in the culture.

Those things can all be interesting, but they’re nothing compared with discovering a dead horse a block from your house.

That’s right, a whole horse, dead. I found it last night when one of the dogs walked toward what appeared to be a large pile of garbage. Someone had placed some dry palm leaves over the pile. I noticed a slight smell, walked closer and saw what appeared to be fur. Then a head and a lot of flies. I quickly changed direction and walked away.

I awoke this morning to a strong smell coming in the bedroom windows as it is tonight as I write. I’m burning incense in the bedroom and inhaling from a bottle of lavender oil by my computer. I’ve noticed when you touch the oil to the tip of your nose it stays there and you can’t smell dead horse. I’m looking forward to the wind changing tomorrow as it does every afternoon.

A neighbor told me today that none of the authorities will help with a dead horse. I’m thinking of little else these days, of how few vultures are nearby and how long something that size will take to decompose.

Tomorrow I will try to find a neighbor man to collaborate on a horse cremation. I’m looking for someone with a jerry can of gasoline and a reasonable command of English.



new couch

Reclining comfortably at the Segunda

In La Paz, about an hour north of Todos Santos (two hours north of Cabo San Lucas), there are a lot of Segundas, or second-hand stores.

These places apparently scour estate sales in Southern California and ship deals south of the border.

I had heard that they were worth checking out, but never expected the bounty I found this week. I could easily furnish a house with what I found, and nicely.

The place I’m staying now has no soft furnishings (save the bed) and my posh Western arse pines for them. The couch I found was exactly my style, clean and new-ish and only slightly Baja-dusty.

So it’s highly possible that next week might find me back at the Segunda, bargaining for a price better than the $185 they quoted. Really. For that couch!

I’m traveling very light these days so the prospect of buying furniture makes me slightly queasy. What I’ll do with it when this house-sit is finished remains to be seen…



Moody Baja Sunset

At a party last weekend I was the only non Spanish speaker sat round the only table of guests to have stayed late-ish.

I am pleased to report that I was more or less able to follow the conversation, with the help of a few voluntary translators who chimed in now and then.

One word that kept popping up was listo (Leesto) (clever), but never, alas, with reference to me.

Bobo, aka Sweat Bee

September is Bobo month in Baja California Sur. August and September, and October, probably.

I’ve been on a mission lately to find the identity of these awful tiny flies, without success.

“Bobo” yielded nothing on the net, nor did black fly or no-see-um. But a few days ago a biologist pal told me they are actually bees. Tiny bees that swarm your head and limbs and land but don’t sting or bite.

What do they want? I asked.

We’re like flowers to them, she said. They drink sugar from our sweat and facial mucus. Ugh.

According to Mr. Google, they do sting but rarely. They nest in dirt or wood, and pollinate plants as well as driving people crazy in the heat of summer.

So now you know.



Walking companions from next door

This morning I smoked my last cigarette.

I had stopped buying Mexican smokes a week ago, and cut down from about 20 Mexi a day to 6 of my favourite clove beauties. I knew the cloves wouldn’t last nearly long enough, besides being expensive and hard to get.

And I haven’t really enjoyed smoking regular cigarettes since I lost my mind two years ago and picked them back up after being clean since 1994. So I planned to stop when the good stuff ran out.

Today was fine, though I felt slightly antsy and definitely tired but unable to snooze. According to an online source, these are the most usual effects of quitting, in addition to cravings and irritability. The benefits of quitting, however, begin immediately and compound daily, viz:

After 20 minutes

Pulse rate returns to normal.

After 8 hours

Nicotine and carbon monoxide levels in blood reduce by more than half and oxygen levels return to normal.

After 48 hours

Carbon monoxide will be eliminated from the body. Lungs start to clear out mucus and other smoking debris.

After 48 hours

There is no nicotine in the body. Ability to taste and smell is improved.

After 72 hours

Breathing becomes easier. Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase.

After 2-12 weeks

Your circulation improves.

After 3-9 months

Coughs, wheezing and breathing problems improve as lung function increases by up to 10%.

After 1 year

Risk of heart disease is about half compared with a person who is still smoking.

After 10 years

Risk of lung cancer falls to half that of a smoker.

After 15 years

Risk of heart attack falls to the same as someone who has never smoked.


I’m looking forward to waking up without the taste of tobacco, and to having more energy, whiter teeth and one less reason to feel like a social outcast.

I noticed today I felt less like a cranky baby while walking the dog, so I’ll be walking farther and more often. Luckily there is never a shortage of walkable dogs around here.

pool and playa

La piscina a la playa

The only thing better than a day at la playa is a day at la piscina (pool)a la playa.

buen provecho

Buen Provecho!

During my search for free online Spanish courses, I encountered a Youtube vid by an American in San Miguel who was there to advise us uncouth Gringos how to behave in polite Mexican society.

One suggestion that made sense to me for some reason was that when passing a table of diners in a restaurant it is polite to say Buen Provecho to the strangers there.

I haven’t done it yet but now that I’ve remembered the phrase I’ll be sure to give it a try.


Sunset at Cerritos

A few weeks ago I bought a boogie board.

It’s a Costco special, lime green and black, like just about every other one on the beach. This will be important later.

The minute I tried the sport I was hooked. It’s kind of surfing for dummies, and it looks lame but looks can be deceiving. You jump onto a wave, and ride on your belly. When it works it’s like being fired out of a cannon.

One has to try to steer to avoid knocking down wave hoppers near the shore. One is not always successful in this but thankfully wave hoppers usually laugh when they’re knocked over.

Swimming beaches are in short supply here on the west coast of Mexico, where the surf is rough and noisy. A mile from the ocean I can hear the surf pounding at night. It’s powerful water. People who want to swim go to one of two small beaches near here or drive to La Paz, about an hour away, where there is postcard-gorgeous, warm, calm, azure water in the Sea of Cortez, aka the Gulf of California.

Last Sunday I took the board to Cerritos beach. It’s known for safe swimming and novice surfers. The beach was crowded and the waves were breaking close to shore.

The first few waves gave me a pounding. I had an involuntary sinus irrigation with the first, and the second whipped my legs up, hurting my back a little. Subsequent waves bruised my legs, twisted my ankle, knocked me off the board and threw me into the sand, scraping some skin off my arm.

I decided to go farther out, where the surfers were, to avoid the traffic on shore and try to catch a longer ride. I was floating happily along on my board when I heard “Ayudar”, or ‘Help!’ in Spanish. To my right was a group of 3 people who were out of their depth and moving toward the rocks. I swam over and gave them my board. I tried towing them but it was no good. I swam away, thinking I would bring help from shore.

In the next minute or so I realized I was much farther out than I realized. The waves were huge and I couldn’t touch bottom and a strong current was pulling my farther from shore. How did this happen so fast? Like a sun-bleached angel, Carlos the surfer showed up then and asked if I needed help. “Maybe” I said. “But those people over there really need help.”

Carlos shrugged and told me to grab his ankles. I lost my grip fairly quickly, so he helped me onto the board and swam me in, before going back for the group.

Back on shore my focus shifted to my board, which was nowhere in evidence. My beach buddy spotted one like mine bobbing in the surf. We walked toward it, but it was quite far out and I was in no mood for a repeat performance. Another surfer was bringing it in, and I grabbed it when it got close enough and thanked the surfer.

It was not my board, but it was close enough, and it is mine now. I hope whoever lost it found their way back to shore.



The fall caida

La caida

When I was at the beach, the bad dog knocked me off my perch and I had una caída (ki-ee-da) (a fall).

I was not amused.

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