Spanish Study and Guided Travel in Mexico

spanish teacher in Yelapa and Sayulita, Mexico observes the culture

A Potpourri Christmas to Easter – March 2008

on March 25, 2008

A Teacher’s Blog – Yelapa English Spanish Institute http://www.talkadventures.com

A Runner’s Inspiration

Kipp studied with YESI in November. She was inspiring since she’d get up at 6:30 or so, in the dark, and run upriver and back before breakfast and an early class. On these journeys she saw a fledgling group of Mexican women running. While Kipp was very seasoned in running and dressed for it, the women had excess cargo and wore flip flop sandals. ¡Imaginate! Imagine! When Kipp knew she would be back for a 2 day visit with husband, Phil, she asked if the women might want some lightly-used but in good condition, running shoes. I asked the doctor, Princesa, and a couple of runners what they thought. They were very happy and excited. Most mothers in Mexico don’t typically have the luxury of spending money on themselves that could be better spent on the family. They suggested maybe 15 pairs of shoes would be needed. I thought this a high number, since I hadn’t seen that many runners out a couple months ago. Also I didn’t think Kipp would be able to carry so many, in addition to regular luggage. Kipp put the word out to the community in Albuquerque. The response was immediate and generous. In early March, Kipp and Phil transported 24 pairs of track shoes in very good condition – many of them top of the line Nike, Brooks, various classy cross-trainers. They were also freshly washed and looking brand new! And some men’s pairs were thrown in for good measure.  Now thoughts are going into what commitment the women need to make to running to be rewarded a pair. Kipp’s already working on the Albuquerque sister donors hosting a run in their city – at 5,280 feet. I’ve put out to Cruz, the one Mexican male runner here, and the jogger’s fitness coach, Princesa, the idea of sponsoring a Yelapa run on Marine Day, June 1st.  Runners, keep in touch on this one!

Garbage Collection – Gringo Style

Well, less than 50% of the local townsfolk are estimated to recycle and send out their garbage on the weekly garbage boat. There’s a lot of traffic through Yelapa and most of it collects in some nook or cranny. Bob McCormick decided to do something about it. He’s made his contribution to the various charities, recycling groups, hospital projects, etc. Now was time to take action. He ordered a few dozen  T-shirts, Luchadores Contra Basura de Yelapa, Fighters Against the Garbage of Yelapa, bought a number of handy garbage retrievers so there’s little bending over required and inspired a dozen or so high school students. Of course, they were motivated by a barbecue, turkey sausage dogs on the barbie, afterwards. The students were not expecting to have to work hard, but they did. In the end there were 70 big black garbage bags sitting on the dock which were carried out by boat (private booking with a truck arranged at the other end) the same day. And that only cleaned the downtown core, which is very small. I could see a few hours weekly as a school project for all classes would be what it would take to clean the river valley along the trails.

A month passed and the town needed another facelift for Easter. Bob again organized a clean up – 8 gringos signed up, 3 actually came. Ani, Bob’s wife, said this time they weren’t scouring the earth picking up every cigarette butt, but just the obvious most annoying and most disgusting people waste. Sixty bags again were filled with garbage. The bottom-line is: garbage is endless, take yours with you or Re-use and Recycle as much as possible. Fill that water bottle again, and again!

Making Soap

In January when I visited Chacala with Sergio and his wife, Chena, Hortensia’s youngest daughter from Yelapa, we stopped to see some of the plants growing in gardens in family homes. We collected seeds, plant cuttings and roots. At his aunt’s house there was a big aluminum tub full of bubbling ashy yellow thick liquid. Under it was a small wood fire. Beside this was a pail full of ashes, with a well of water in its centre. Below this was a pail to collect the drippings. When asked what was in progress, they explained the pork fat was boiling, the ashes with water produced lye, which when added to the fat, and boiled non-stop for three months produced soap. This in the stores here in Yelapa is sold as laundry soap for eight pesos. It was nice to see a sustainable practice in operation. It was also easy to see how we’d deviated to the easy option of store bought items.

Mariposas Monarcas

As a child in Canada I knew that the Monarch butterflies migrated south in the winter. To where it was a mystery, but I recall that these were special butterflies. I did somehow know that they ate milkweed plant leaves and somehow became poisonous to predators. Amazingly, other butterflies will mimic their colours and predators which have learned that orange and black will make them sick if not dead, will also leave them alone. I also worked in Morelia, Michoacan near where the monarchs migrated to back in 1985 without ever going to see them on their winter grounds.

Now was the time in my life to see this compatriots. After all, we Canadians weren’t really “snowbirds”, as the Ann Murray song goes, we’re really “monarcas”, since we hibernate 5 or 6 months here and then go back home miraculously changed, with new life and in a new skin.

The Monarch butterfly (mariposa) has 4 life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. The length of each stage varies with the climate.  Eggs (huevocillos) are laid on the back of milkweed (Asclepias) and hatch in 3 to 5 days. The larva (oruga) is brilliant black yellow and white rings in contrast to other larvae which blend in to the environment. Since there are poisons in the milkweed, these are present in the larvae. Predators eat this and are warned to find something else to eat. After 14 days, and five changes of skin, a conical green sack envelopes the pupae stage (capullo). This becomes transparent later. After eight to thirteen days the orange and black adult emerges feet first, extends itself, dries and hardens. The orange and black patterns differs between male and female of the adult; the female has wider black veins.  They mate in the air, lay eggs and die. Such is life for a butterfly.

Usually adults live four to five weeks. For the monarch once the fall arrives, a migratory generation is born (la generación matusalén) that last seven or eight months. These adults have lower quantities of sexual hormones and their sexual organs do not develop initially. This doesn’t happen until the weather warms up at their hibernation grounds in Mexico, a little before their northern migration. The adults mate in the air, the male clutching the female with its back feet while flying. Even how they mate in Mexico differs than how they mate in their northern region, being more forceful in the tropics! This pairing (apareamiento) can last from a few minutes to 16 hours, while the male transfers both the sperm and nutrients to produce the eggs. These fly back and once they reach the United States, the voyage is continued in a relay race of consecutive generations born each four or five weeks, until they return to Canada.

Studies of their migration only began in 1937 by a Canadian pair of biologists, Dr. Frederick Urquhart and his wife, Norah Patterson. They tagged monarchs and had thousands of volunteers join in tracing their route.  In 1973, after 35 yeas of study, they finally advertised in a Mexico City newspaper asking for help finding the hibernation area. An American businessman responded and rode around Mexico on his motorcycle until in January of 1975 he found the first known sites in the state of Mexico, near Michoacán. Dr. Urquhart published his findings in National Geographic in 1975. That recent date explains why I didn’t know about this amazing migration as a child, nor even as a student biologist in the early 1970s.

Las Monarcas in Mexico – While in Canada and the U.S. the monarchs live in rural agricultural areas where the Asclepias or milkweed grows, usually open fields with a great influence of winds and often drastic temperature and humidity changes. On their hibernating grounds, in contrast, they live in closed forests protected from winds, and changes in humidity and temperature, at more than 3,000 meters altitude. They specifically target temperate forests of oyamel, a type of eucalyptus introduced from Australia. They appear to be headed to the dense forest cover offered by this specific species.

Fall migration begins in September and beginning of October. They use the sun and tiny bits of magnetite in the thorax to use the magnetic fields to guide their path. One biologist, Dr. Orley Chip Taylor has mapped the routes use on his web page www.monarchwatch.org . By the end of October, the monarchs are on the hibernation grounds in the east of Michoacán and western border of the state of Mexico. There are some migratory routes and monarchs that live west of the Rocky Mountains that hibernate on the coast and center of southern California. Some also go via Florida and via the Yucatan into Central America.

In Mexico, from mid-November to mid-February the monarchs remain relatively stable. They populate the southwest slopes of the oyamel forests (a type of eucalyptus) from 2800 m and higher. In the second half of February, with warming temperatures and lower humidity, they move down in altitude along the drainages, searching more humidity. At the end of Feb and during March they initiate their pairing and then begin the migration north.

The population of monarchs has changed over the years. They estimate this by photo images of the surface area they cover in the months when they are most stable. Coverage has changed from 2 hectares to 20 hectares. These estimates show an almost 77% drop in populations in 10 years.  Threats occur in Canada and the United States to their breeding grounds due to urbanization, use of pesticides, especially Roundup, toxic to their host plant, milkweed. Other threats occur on their hibernation grounds. Monarchs have a hemolymph or “blood” that can withstand low temperatures to -14 degrees Celsius without freezing their wings, if there is not excessive humidity on their bodies. If winter rains wet their bodies and temperatures drop, a large part of the population can freeze. This happened in 2001-2002 and in 2003-2004. Scientists feel this is increasingly occurring due to the reduction in size of the forests which makes it hard to maintain an adequate micro-climate to protect the butterflies.

I drove a long way to see these monarchs, and hoped I wasn’t being propelled by advertising hype nor would face a disaster on the hibernation grounds. The countryside of eastern Michoacan was hills and forests only on the mountains, farmlands, river, lakes, and some ecotourism resorts. Of the two butterfly sanctuaries open to the public, Chincua and El Rosario. I chose the latter since it was closer, it had abundant butterflies and I liked the name of the town, Angangueo (an-gan-gay-oh). It was a mining town recently closed, with a prosperous funky feel to it; some nice hotels and restaurants but still not “touristy”.

I arrived in the early evening. Most tourists stay closer to the town centre, but I chose the simple Hotel Mary, that had seen grander days. I tend to like local colour. Across the street was a Don Juan type who had a thing about Marilyn Monroe and posted numerous posters. Two doors down there was a whole band of five musicians rehearsing. The room was not much wider than their loudspeaker. They blared out great salsa hits and I salsa-ed up the street to see the sights.

Next morning I asked opinions of whether a regular rental car could do the journey up to the sanctuary. “Sure. No problem. Go slow. Follow the signs”. About 2 km up there were two men keeping each other company, collecting 35 pesos to direct you to the right. A simple sign would do, but this was a form of full employment! Another kilometer further in another little pueblito (little village) four young boys besieged my car wanting to guide me. “Only one,” I said. I instructed the chosen boy to hop into the passenger seat. His name was Adrian, eight years old and the oldest of five children. “Why aren’t you in school?” I asked, realizing it was Wednesday. Mi maestro es un huevón. “My teacher is a big testicle”, he replied. Porque es un huevon? Why, I asked. Porque no quiere enseñar clases siempre. He doesn’t want to teach classes always. He was either pretty astute or listened carefully to his parents!

We rode to the entrance of the park. I left my car and him waiting to return with me, although I warned him it would be much, much later. I was not here for a quick peek. The climb was probably difficult for most, but not for one who lives in the hills of Yelapa where walking is a way of life. The dust on the trail and the constant sweepers keeping the dust in the air is a problem. Bring a simple face mask, if you come.

At the top of the stairs, in open meadows with large blossoming shrubs, there were foot paths, some going in various directions.  And there were butterflies; a moderate number, flitting between flowers. It wasn’t the spectacle I was expecting. The path led on to where a small crowd gathered, eyes upward. Here was a miracle. Countless thousands of butterflies stuck to the trunks, covering every branch. It was difficult to discern any one butterfly. They sat thousands-thick, side by each, on top of whatever foothold, with their wings folded up as they matched the brown tree trunks or covered the branches. I cry when overwhelmed by miracles. Naturally, I cried.  Then sat and watched for hours.

As the sun warmed the butterflies, they opened their wings to dry them and they recharged. As slight breezes wafted through the trees, those able would fly, others drifted on the wind. The skies were orange and moving. Some would land on the ground, many doomed to be stepped on, some already exhausted and damaged by the winter’s harshness. Others would light on a bush, or on a head or arm. Imagine four busloads of children shrieking and trying to catch or be the host body for a pet monarca.

I returned from my visit in awe. I prayed the young Mexican students could influence their governments and the local townsfolk to stop the destruction of the forests. I prayed also to stop the destruction of their northern food sources; a message we Canadians and Americans need to take home.

Mexican Music Night in Yelapa

Neti and her mother Henny, and her niece, Esme, came for a week to study. Henny was of Dutch descent but raised in Indonesia, interned by the Japanese as a teenager in the World War. Her story is an inspiration. Neti is a professional musician from New Orleans, also a survivor of catastrophe. She practiced while here, and one night promised to play for Irma and Angel, their hosts. We were joined by Irma’s sister, Abelia and her husband, Lucio, and the postmaster, Margarito,  and wife. With other YESI students, Anne and Marie and sons, we had dinner on the rooftop terrace. Then out came the violin and guitar. Soon Irma was singing along to La Cancion Mixteca – Mixtec Song, one of my favorite “blues” ballads from Mexico.

O, tierra del sol Oh land of the sun

Suspiro por verte I sigh to see you

Ahora que lejos Now so far

Yo vivo sin luz y sin amor I live without light and without love

Y al verme tan solo y triste cual hoja al viento On seeing myself so alone and sad like a leaf in the wind

Quisiera llorar, quisiera morir I want to cry, I want to die of nostalgia.

de sentimiento

Neti and Esme sang other numbers, mostly in Spanish, some originals, often joined by one or both of the sisters. Soon we heard other music and song wafting upward from the house below. It was nephew Eric and friend Rangel, on bandoneón and guitar. Angel quickly called them up to join our voices and it became a great party; the sort of spontaneous celebration that happens often in Mexico. From higher up the hill came the sounds of saxophone, more violin, and guitar and voice, mostly in English, from another get together. I secretly longed to ask them down too, but reneged on the thought. Too often Mexicans will sit back and let us take over. The mix was just right at the moment.  Everyone left contento – happy; Esme and Rangel made dates to study songs together. Two happy moms, students Ana and Maria wore broad smiles, and woke up their sleeping sons to reluctantly tread home. I am still trying to figure out how to transfer these songs to my computer for you to listen to!

Guadalupe en Tuito

For many years I’ve wanted to get to the Virgin of Guadalupe celebrations in Tuito, the municipal centre of the 13 villages that makes up this municipality of indigenous reserves. This year I took Joy and her four year old daughter, Anne Marie, now repeat visitors for three years from Calgary; and Dalia, a second year returning student and adventurer who also accompanied us into the mountains in December. Tuito is small despite the 13,000 residents. We checked into the one hotel, a testimony to the few tourists that ever come this way. We went to the church, la iglesia, where all the pilgrims (peregrinos) from each village had ended their pilgrimage (la peregrinaje) (some actually walking the whole or most of the way).  Everyone from Yelapa seemed to be there this year. Irma and Ana Rosa dressed in unbleached manta, raw cotton, with pink pareos (sarongs), led the procession. Everyone had somewhere to stay in Tuito as they were all one family.

The town was filled with vendors of a variety of trinkets, dinnerware, hardware items, jewelry, hair fashion accessories. One vendor demonstrated, using a wig, the 40 different ways that a woman could use a plastic-coated pliable wire to wrap her hair. He showed smooth-talking salesmanship that I didn’t think existed outside of TV commercials. Another enthralled a crowd of 30 or more people with his version of the ideal natural diet for Mexicans – making light of the pure carbohydrates and meat diet most had grown up and plump on. They were entertained. He convinced them that his recipe book and diet solution of reverting to the old traditional meals grown from the garden would make them svelte. They bought all his copies. I was drawn to the collection of beautiful machetes and knives (navajas). I found one from Sayula, in an engraved leather scabbard that I had planned to pick up if ever I got to that distant mountain town, not on the way to anywhere. Dalia bought a machete (a long broad blade and handle usually under two feet in length, common in every household in Mexico) which had etched figures of a hunting scene on the blade, for her son. We obviously are women to be treated with respect, if not caution!

Of course, there was food. The hit late that cold evening was the hot chocolate with a local orange liqueur. And for the children there was cotton candy at the mid-way with carousels, bumper cars, trampolines, and other rides that looked like they’d been used non-stop since the 1950s. The surprise to us northerners is that Mexican children don’t go to sleep early, almost ever, and never seem to be cranky. None of the mothers I know even dare to try it! I swear Mexican genes allow for late-night partying.

The highlight everyone gathered for was the castillo. A fireworks, unparalleled in the north, and becoming rare in Mexico. The last time I experienced one was twenty two years ago. A castillo is a bamboo and wood structure, possibly 30 feet or more, of various wheels holding pyrotechnics. As each fuse is lit, one wheel, or usually all matched pairs of wheels, sometimes on all four sides, is set to blast and move in circular brilliance. When one set completes, the next is lit. These continue in patterns, increasingly remarkable for the noise, shooting rockets, and colours. The final sets of blazing wheels at the top actually dropped horizontally from their vertical position to reveal a religious image of the Virgin. Miracles never cease in Mexico! It was followed with a finale of ground launched fire rockets. A friend had complained years ago of the dangers of the fireworks rocketing into the crowd. But from my vantage behind a stone statue of the Virgin I was happy to report there were no accidents.

Then a man who looked as amiable as Yogi Bear arrived playing the tuba, leading his band, gesturing directions with his eyes and his eyebrows, all happy face and nods. All of the wide-awake procession followed in a trance into the church. After a chorus of hallelujahs and continued music, the band played in reverse, or at least walked backwards with the same up-tempo um-pah-pah on the way out.

Easter in Huichol Country

Travel day began with ominous storm clouds, high winds, and even a drop of rain or two. It was Tuesday, time to make a trip to San Andrés de Cohamiate, the Huichol high country and canyon lands they call their ancestral home in the Sierra Madre Mountains northeast of Tepic. I went last year and with patient guides, began to understand their culture through the experience, but wanted to learn more.  I was willing to fly for an hour in a small plane over canyon lands and wilderness to get the message. But the Gods were not so willing.

The storm passed, but left strong winds and white caps that by mid-morning stopped most boats and water taxis from going out again. In the ten years I’ve lived here, that’s not happened before. So fierce were the waves, that one of the larger tourist boats, the Santa Maria, was beached in Quimixto and flooded to the second deck

Since the Huichol government does not allow visitors into San Andrés after noon on Wednesday, it was going to be nearly impossible to get there. Rather than abort my experience with the Huichol natives, I headed to Tepíc, where there was a community of Huichol, including my friend, Alejandro Severiano Carillo, a frequent visitor who sells his native art in Yelapa.

The ex-governor of Nayarit donated to the Huichol natives a small hill over-looking the city only a short city bus-ride from downtown, now called Zitacua. I had a dual purpose in entering the village. I wanted to know how their citified life differed here and what their Semana Santa (Holy Week) celebrations were like, in contrast to the mostly pagan rituals at San Andrés. I also wanted to study the yarn art for a friend for his gallery near Toronto. I briefly sketched the events at San Andres in my blog of  June, 2007: drinking fermented corn tejuino all-night, returning from a pilgrimage to wirakuti where the peyote grows, taking peyote to commune with the gods, all-night singing and dancing processions in and around the village, and on the very last night they dancing and praying around the cattle which were sacrificed in place of deer.

We arrived at the vendors’ stands at the entrance to Zitacua. There was a twenty foot image of a traditionally dressed Huichol with shaman’s hat. Under its shadow were about twenty young boys and teenagers, blackened from head to toe, wearing black, some in wigs, with bags, amulets, some in drag, many with dolls, teddies, bejewelled, some with clubs.

Then I remembered the Huichol version of the police over-seeing the procession that was the equivalent of the Stations of the Cross that I witnessed in San Andrés. These were the judios. The Jews. They enforced the laws. Their version of the enforcers at Christ’s crucifixion was unique in that they were part jester, or clown, and part crowd control. Could it be they were making fun of the dominant culture by dressing so ridiculously? They ran around the village, At one point they had some of their own tied to a stake in the center as punishment. I recalled a few friends spent a few hours in the jail in San Andres, for violating some rules. Well, we befriended these overseers, who unlike the normal military in any country, allowed photos!

Through the village gate we came upon an art store and a small plaza with a thatched roof ceremonial house (a caguli). In front of the store, a band played several Huichol tunes on bass, violin and guitar.  Here a few men wore their traditional embroidered two piece tunic and pants, and a few women wore the long, voluminous gathered skirts that billowed out from usually comfortably round mid-riffs. In contrast, in San Andrés last year, few were not in customary dress.

I entered the store to view some of the art. There are many exceptional artists who make their craft and sell them at various tourist locations along the coast and in the cities. I was pleased to see the variety of yarn art, as well as an abundance of beaded pictures and jewelry.

For those unfamiliar with yarn art, or arte de estambre, the medium used to paint the board is coloured yarn, a moderately thin thread, thicker than embroidery thread usually. The board used is typically a fairly dense plywood made of a hardwood called coabilla. Occasionally a type of cedar (cedro) is used. More recently they’ve begun using a pine  (pino) plywood, which is much lighter to transport and for their foreign markets, much cheaper to ship. The board is covered with  beeswax, treated to make it pliable but not fluid. A pointed instrument, traditionally a porcupine quill, is used to push the yarn into the desired designs.

The designs usually depict some scene in the spiritual life of the Huichol, often as seen under the influence of their peyote God. Each image is symbolic of some act of healing by the gods, communication with their gods, cleansing of illnesses or negative energy. Their gods include peyote, corn, eagle, deer, serpents, and the sun among other deities. Shamans preside over most depicted ceremonies using their healing wand, the muwieris, of a couple of feathers tied to a stick. The art looks like you had to be on pretty good hallucinogens!

In Zitacua the Huichol had fasted for 23 hours and by Thursday noon offered us a communal lunch in the caguli, the thatched adobe ceremonial center. The ladies warmed up food and served it quickly and efficiently to the hungry masses. Dana and I had eaten a huge breakfast with meat and eggs and endless tortillas. The ladies brought out every form of carbohydrate in their culture – spaghetti, tortillas, beans, rice milk, atole (corn meal drink). It was rude to say “no”; one could only say “gracias”. We ate to bursting, and planned to smuggle food out to any waiting dogs.

We met an Irish woman who introduced herself as Marianne. The locals called her “madre” (mother). She was a Catholic nun. She claimed that all the people in Zitacua were Catholic. This occurred in only 16 years since they emigrated from the highlands.  Another surprise to me was a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses soliciting house to house on their way through the town. In the caguli, they buried their statue of Jesus under palm leaves. He was to be resurrected on Sunday. I didn’t stay to see which of the major religions won, or how much of their ancestral religion remained. Whatever was certain to be less dramatic than the sacrifice of animals!

I was impressed last year in San Andres by their innocence, caring for each other, friendliness and openness. It was like stumbling into a Garden of Eden. Zitacua’s community was still very welcoming and sharing and caring. However, they were old hands at dealing to a non-native market and were more distant from visitors.

Zitacua is a social experiment that still stands the test of time to see if the benefits outweigh the costs. We’ve seen integration before and to my mind, what is lost is incomparable in value.

In my quest for authentic Huichol art, I didn’t see a great difference in the beauty of their art, but some newer renditions of older themes. The young artists with their renewed interest in old traditions expressed their excitement clearly in their work.

Gender

Spanish nouns have gender – masculine or feminine. My thanks go to Marie, who has studied over the past with me before, for forwarding this story. Is it sexist?  Masculine or feminine?

A SPANISH Teacher was explaining to her class that, in Spanish, unlike English, nouns are designated as either masculine or feminine.

”House” for instance, is feminine: “la casa.”    “Pencil,” however, is masculine: “el lapiz.”

So, a student asked, “What gender is “computer”?

Instead of giving the answer, the teacher split the class into two groups, male and female, and asked them to decide for themselves whether “computer” should be a masculine or a feminine noun. Each group was asked to give four reasons for its recommendation.

The men’s group decided that “computer” should definitely be of the feminine gender (“la computadora”), because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic.
2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else.
3. Even the smallest mistakes are stored in long term memory for possible later retrieval.
4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories for it.

The women’s group, however, concluded that computers should be masculine (“el computador”), because:

1. In order to do anything with them, you have to turn them on.
2. They have a lot of data but still can’t think for themselves.
3. They are supposed to help you solve problems, but half the time they ARE the problem.

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that if you had waiteda little longer, you could have gotten a better model.

Peace in the World – Jane Stillwater  http://www.jpstillwater.blogspot.com

A woman named Jane Stillwater arrived in December, and my returning student Jim told me about this very cool, very verbal great lady he hoped he could study with, even though she wasn’t quite at his level of Spanish proficiency. Of course they studied together. She needed to borrow some internet time after classes, and I was surprised that it took hours for her correspondence. Soon she informed me she had a blog and had no problem  raging against the government and its malfeasance. She started her one-woman protest in 2000 with the inauguration of President Bush, and the concomitant war. Since then she’s visited Iraq, Israel and Palestine, Afghanistan and had a first hand view of what the wars were all about. Her blog has been a big hit. She then wrote a book, which she claims just fell from her onto the page. “Anyone can write a book. Just write a page a day, and in one year you have a book!” It’s called, “Bring Your Own Flak Jacket – Helpful Tips for Touring America´s Middle East”. This can be bought online through Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

She put me on her mailing list for her blog, and I’ve been reading it whenever I can fit it in. What she’s done is remarkable. She’s articulate, concise, charmingly opinionated and very informed. She attended various Democratic nomination campaigns as CNN correspondent.  Amazing how she has made such a difference just by putting herself out there. I met people on the boat into Yelapa who worked on Democratic campaigns in Texas and informed me Jane Stillwater was highly ranked on the internet, and had read her “Survivor Puerto Vallarta” series while she was here in Yelapa. Others emailed me about classes, and asked if Jane Stillwater, who wrote great pieces for the online OpEdNews, was still here.

When in a fix, as she can often be (eg. stranded at the Baghdad airport at Starbucks since U.S. Military bureaucracy rescinded authorization for her stay and protection at their visitors barracks), she somehow uses that frail granny frame of hers and her cutting sharp mind and wit to advantage and sees friends where others would see foes, and news where others would only see a dead-end situation.  She’s entertaining, personal and astute in her writings and there isn’t a day that she doesn’t have something to tell us, that cuts through the media boggle. I invite you to check her out: www.jpstillwater.blogspot.com.  Her objective is peace in the world, and the strengthening of America. I only hope there are more raging grannies who can do as much to spread the word of peace in this world.

Please view the Photo Gallery here:

A Potpourri Christmas to Easter

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