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The deli ladies at Mega

A deli lady at Mega lures me over to sample her spicy chorizo sausages. Photo by David Lansing.

They could be confused for nurses or dental assistants, these ladies all in white with their little caps and surgical masks, but they are the deli ladies at Mega, the supermercado in Bucerias. It’s the best part of the store for me. They stand around, five or six deep, in the octagonal deli bullpen, pitching their wares to anyone who gets within hearing distance.

“Mr. Handsome,” they call out to me when I am still 20 feet away. “Come by and taste a little of my ham.” They are like hookers hanging out of the windows of a brothel, doing all they can to make a sale. They temp you with samples: a thin slice of jamon, a square piece of queso blanco, an olive or two or perhaps a pickle. Sometimes they go too far. They grill up spicy chorizo sausages and dare you to pass by the delicious aroma without sampling. And if you sample, you will buy. Just like I did.

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9:13pm election night in Bucerias

There I was, sitting in my little house in Bucerias, watching the U.S. elections live on a satellite signal that comes from Canada. How very international. And when NBC interrupted one of their talking heads to declare, at exactly 9:13pm Bucerias time, that Obama had won reelection, I just had to grab my iPad and take a photo of the screen. A minute later, fireworks exploded over the Bay of Banderas. Do I think the fireworks were related to Barack’s win? I do not. They were probably to celebrate a wedding or a convention of medical device salesmen in Puerto Vallarta, but I don’t care. It felt celebratory.

I know some of my readers are in mourning today. I’m sorry. I know how you feel. When Bush won a second term in ’04 I seriously considered moving to Canada. I hope those of you who supported Romney won’t be as dramatic or as rash. I hope, instead, you’ll do what Americans used to do after an election: Support your country and your president. The worst thing you could do–for yourself, for your party, for your country–is to just go all medieval on the country and decide you’re going to be against anything Obama is for, no matter what it is. That doesn’t help. And eventually what will happen is what happened in California; the voters will get tired of the roadblocks and elect a super-majority that just ignores the minority party. I don’t want that to happen. I want both parties to sit down and talk and compromise and work things about. But that can only happen if you agree to disagree and look for middle-ground. Let’s move foreward–not backwards.

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Getting my beans back

My bag of pinto beans, patiently waiting for me to come back and retrieve them. Photo by David Lansing.

A few days ago I went to the local supermercado in Bucerias, Mega, to stock up on necessities. First stop was the produce department where I got limes for my margaritas, oranges for my juice in the morning, tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro for fresh pico de gallo, avocados for guacamole, and, of course, a bag of pinto beans. Then I went off and got everything else I needed from flank steak for arrachera to pan de muerto for my dessert.

I get up to the check-out counter and start grabbing stuff out of my basket: grapefruits, tangerines, zukes, poblano peppers. Wait…I didn’t pick out any grapefruit. Or tangerines. Or zukes or poblanos or any of the other fruit and veggies in the basket. Where’s my pineapple? Where’s my cantaloupe? Where the hell are my limes?

Obviously, while running around the produce department, I’d grabbed the wrong shopping cart. Or someone grabbed mine. In any case, Nothing I’d selected–from avocados to beans–is in my cart. “Lo siento,” I sheepishly tell the checker as I hand over the big bag of grapefruit, telling her I don’t want it. Same for everything else. Very embarrassing.

So this morning I go back to Mega. And as I wander around the produce department, I notice that on top of the mound of limes is a plastic bag holding just about the exact number of limes I’d bagged up a few days ago. Same with the tomatoes. And oranges. And there atop the tub of pinto beans is the plastic bag of beans I’d secured days ago. Like an abandoned dog, just waiting for me to come back and claim it.

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Eating the goat in Sayulita

Oyster vendor in Sayulita

Me with Jesus on a Sunday afternoon in Sayulita. Jesus blessed me with his raw oysters. Photo by David Lansing.

Here’s my philosophy on travel: Wherever you are, you have to eat the goat. That means that if you are traveling on a train in India and your seatmate offers you fried grasshoppers from a plastic bag, you eat the grasshoppers. I’ve had raw wallaby in Tasmania, illegally made home-brewed beer in Nigeria, and brain tacos in Mexico. The one thing I’ve resisted down here are the raw oysters. For one thing, I can see the guy diving for oysters in the Bay of Banderas not a hundred yards from where I know a sewer line empties into the ocean. For another, they take the oysters, dump them on a wooden table set up in the road, and sell them (sans ice) all day long in 90 degree weather.

Yesterday I spent the day on the beach in Sayulita, about 15 minutes north of where I live in Bucerias. Sunday is family day and there were throngs of large, happy families playing in the surf, drinking tins of Tecate, and ordering piles of raw oysters from a well-dressed man in a straw cowboy hat who was running back and forth between where all the pangas are pulled up on the beach and the beach-goers spread out on their chairs in front of Don Pedro’s.

Not far from me was a red-headed woman from Vancouver whose boyfriend ran one of the “rent-a-surfboard” stands on the beach. We started chatting and when next the oyster man passed by I made some stupid remark about how I’d eat raw dog meat before I’d eat one of those oysters. “Oh, they’re delicious,” she protested. “You should try one.”

Deciding to call her bluff, I told her I’d order a dozen if she’d eat half of them. She countered: She would eat four, I would eat four, and the other four would go to her surfing boyfriend who was sitting in the shade of Don Pedro’s renting surfboards to little kids. I told her she had a deal. So the next time Jesus came by–that was the oyster man’s name, Jesus–the next time Jesus came by, I’d buy a dozen oysters. Which I did.

“Tell me truthfully, Jesus, are these good oysters?”

“Of course,” said Jesus. “The best.”

Why would Jesus lie?

Jesus offered us his plastic bottle of salsa picante and I squeezed a few drops on each oyster, squeezed a little lime over them, and then sucked one down the hatch. It was warm–but delicious.

I have to admit that when I went to bed last night, I wondered if I’d be getting up in the middle of the night screaming the name of Jesus in vain. But so far, so good. And now I can say I truly ate the goat in Sayulita.

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Sugar skulls in Bucerias. Photo by David Lansing.

As I wrote yesterday, the only way legally to keep an American car in Mexico longer than 6 months is to get an fm3 card which makes you sort of an honorary Mexican. But it’s no easy process. First you have to find the Immigration office, which, in my case, took about 3 hours on Wednesday, which just happened to be Halloween. So I finally find the office, sign in, and take a number. An hour or so later, I reach the front of the line. Numerous forms need to be filled in. They want to know what religion I am, what race, what schools I’ve gone to, what my degree was in, and what I do for a living. They also want to know how tall I am (in centimeters), how I would describe my body type (this is very confusing), and what sort of distinguishing marks I have on my body (no gun wounds but a few surgical scars).

Sign this form…and this one…and this one…and this one. Stamp, stamp, stamp. Now take these forms and go find a bank and pay 1,451 pesos to the bank (about $110), get two copies of a form saying you DID pay the 1,451 pesos, then take that form to a copy shop and get two copies of that form, and then go back to the Immigration office and wait in line again. All of which I did. Mr. Immigration Man goes through all my forms, which at this point are about an inch thick, and says everything seems to be in order. Come back in two weeks to pick up my fm3.

But the problem is, I’m not going to be here in two weeks. When I tell this to Mr. Immigration Man, he sighs, audibly, and says, What day do you leave? I tell him. He looks on a calendar. This is on a Saturday, he says. Yes, I know. Then come back to the office on Friday–very early–with your airline ticket and we will see what we can do. No promises. Then he smiles at me and says, “Happy Halloween. Next!”

And so it goes.

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