Casa de los Artistas - Crossing The River

continued from previous post . . .


I freshened up a bit to go over to the Casa de los Artistas for the meet and greet.  I was so worried about getting to my casita that I never stopped to notice my surroundings. It wasn't until I opened the front door to leave that I looked out of the casita to an incredible view that stopped me in my tracks.  Across the dusty road I traveled to get to my new home was a lovely beach, outdoor restaurant/bar, and the mouth of the river where it meets the Ocean!  I was so self-absorbed when I came in that I never noticed my casita was ocean front.  


Since it was nearly sunset, I decided it would be quicker to "cross the river" than walk back through town and cross the river further up and make my way down the other side through the jungle.  Plus I will admit, I was a chicken to walk through the jungle by myself.

I crossed the narrow stretch of beach to the shallow river and slipped off my sandals and rolled up my pants legs.  I could see the Casa de los Artistas on the other side and this was literally a 5 minute trek.  I gingerly stepped into the water that was ICE COLD and picked my way across the rocky bottom.  The current was STRONG and in the center the water got deep!  My pants got wet, and I made a mental note to cross a little further away from the mouth next time.  It must have been a hilarious site to the other artists already gathered on the balcony above.

I entered the Casa and made my way upstairs to meet my "tribe" for the coming week.


I always dread those first awkward moments when you enter a room and don't know anyone but since we were all in that same position, small talk was a little easier.  After a few cocktails, conversation relaxed and we began to get to know each other.  We made our way back onto the beach for a simple, yet delicious meal of fresh red snapper.


Getting to know my fellow artists, I quickly discovered I was with a diverse group of artists - they were all very cool and interesting to learn about.  Halfway through the meal, a local guy came up to me at the table and offered me a big fat JOINT.  I nearly died as I fumbled over my words, "I, uh, I, um, don't really do that."  "Oh, senorita," he cooed, "come on, it's a gift for you!" I immediately imagined DEA agents bursting in on the scene as I quickly contemplated my decision NOT to take the weed.  Another woman in my group said, "well if she doesn't want it, I'll take it!"  


I soon found out that most of the group were from places where pot was legalized and they gave me an quick lesson about everything from medicinal marijuana to cannabis oil to pot gummies. I kept thinking to myself that I had stepped back into the 70's as I looked around the eclectic group discussing their various "dealers" and blends that they partake in.  I felt like the uptight soccer mom from Suburbia.  Is this real life?

After the meal and entertaining conversation, I made my way back to the Casita.  All was very quiet in the little village and I bolted myself in and settled in bed.  Thankfully the windows had heavy bars because it was a warm night and I had to open them up to get some cool air.

About the time I started to close my eyes, I heard a car pull up with the radio blasting.  More and more cars arrived and I peaked out the window to see a large group gathering on the road and the beach in front of the casita.  It was nearly midnight and a band was setting up.  I could smell food cooking and hear the laughter and sounds of a party just kicking off.

Exhausted and emotional, the tears rolled down my face as I contemplated my life and felt I was living some altered reality.  And as despair was setting in, I began to quiet myself and pray.  Between my low sobs, I heard the sounds of a mariachi band. The Cumbia music drifted through my open window and it occured to me that this was beautiful.  The sounds of the horns and guitars strumming mixed with strong, harmonized voices.  This was Mexico.  This was what I had come for.  To immerse myself in another culture and run as far away from my normal, boring, sad life as I could.

As the waves and music blended together, moonlight splashed across my bed and I drifted off into a deep and peaceful sleep . . .

to be continued.




Third World

Continued . . .

Upon arriving in Boca de Tomatlan, our vans pulled up to a folding table on a dusty, dirty road at the bottom of a hill.  There stood a woman with a safari-type hat, water shoes and a clipboard.  It was such a random and almost comical sight as young boys appeared seemingly out of nowhere and began unloading suitcases.  There was chaos and instructions being called out in broken spanish/english as the woman was trying hard to look at labels on bags and assign spaces. - I was trying to wrap my head around the whole scene.  She was clearly going to organize us but the pieces weren't fitting together in my mind.  Why weren't we pulling up to the Casa de los Artistas and could these young boys be our bellmen?

Some bags were being loaded into a fishing boat and some were being lugged by boys in all directions.  It was LOCO!  I tried so hard to keep my eye on my own suitcase but lost track of it quickly.  When the dust finally settled,  I was the lone person standing awaiting my room assignment.

It was at this point, I discovered that the woman was an "intern" and it was only her second week.  I signed up for the retreat a little late to get a room at the Casa, so I was supposed to be in a  "sister" house.  I really didn't know what to expect or how far away I would be from the group.  She explained that my apartment was on the "other side of the river" from The Casa and she gave me a map and directions to where I was staying and gestured me on my way.  "Meet us at the Casa at 6pm for cocktails," she called after me.  "You can either cross the river to get there, or walk the long way through the jungle - just follow the map!"


So off I went down the calle (road) in the direction she pointed, and urgently called my daughter..

"What have I done?" I cried to my daughter on the crackling phone connection as I stood alone on a dusty road in a tiny, remote fishing village in Mexico. Protectively clutching my purse and trying to roll my carry-on suitcase over the ruts and cobblestones with my cell phone wedged between my ear and shoulder, she said, "Mom, what did you expect? You're in a third-world country!" Click. The phone went dead and I looked around as I silently FREAKED out.

With my previously cute but now sweat-soaked sundress and little wedged sandals that were caked in dirt and completely inappropriate for the environment, I realized I didn't BLEND. My look screamed "Tourista!" I imagined the locals were looking at me, laughing and calling me Gringa under their breath. {This couldn't be further from the truth, but at this point, hysteria was about to set in.}

I made it down the road and after a few minutes, I found my casita which happened to be right next to the Tortilla Factory.  I shoved open the heavy iron gate out front and found my door, just as the intern described.

A charming elderly gentleman appeared - his name was Jose and he proudly announced that he was the landlord.  After unlocking numerous locks on the barred doors,  Jose took me into the casita and showed me around.  Much to my relief and surprise, it was sparse but very clean.  It was actually pretty adorable.  A tiny front room with a mini kitchen led into a bedroom and private bath.  All the basics and no frills, but that was all I needed.


Once Jose left me, I took a breathe as reality set in and I collapsed on the sofa and sobbed.  Thoughts flooded my mind like how quickly could I make my way out to the main road and catch a cab to the airport and get the hell out of there and go home.  I was a bundle of nerves and the hardships of the past year just came crashing down.  The flood gates opened and there was no stopping the tears.  When and how did I become this scaredy-cat who just wanted to hide?  That was never me in my past life, yet here I was having my own private


After 5 minutes of feeling very sorry for myself, I got up and went to wash my face.  And that's when I saw it . . . on the little fridge in the kitchen was a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I was overwhelmed with strength and peace - sort of a "snap out of it" moment - and I knew I was going to push through and stay the week.  I surrendered . . . knowing Our Lady would help me through!


Hola Amiga, Quieres Cerveza?

Okay, so where was I with the story? Geez, I can't believe it has been several months and I left everybody hanging!  It's like binge-watching your favorite Netflix series and then having to wait FOR.EVER for the next season to come out!  I can't believe I am actually comparing my meager blog to Netflix, but you know what I mean.

So my story picks up with me sitting at my gate at the airport.  It's not like I haven't traveled alone before, but this time it was different.  I made a few little sketches as I waited to board.  Dear Mexico, please forgive me for the massacre I made out of your lovely flag and my attempt at an eagle.  My intentions were good.


I was giddy and a little apprehensive as the plane lifted off . . . 

4 hours later

The barrage of sights and sounds as I entered the baggage claim in Puerto Vallarta were slightly intimidating and a little exciting.  I had my first "what the hell was I thinking" moment, which quickly passed as I made my way to the airport bar - our designated meeting spot.

Now what?

A moment later, a friendly bartender said, "Hola Amiga, Quieres Cerveza?"  A smile crept up on my face as my high school Spanish came flooding back.  "Why yes, I said, "Por Favor!"

Two hours to wait for my group and nothing to do but drink ice cold Modelo and begin sketching. After two beers, I was calling my daughter telling her how AWESOME Mexico was.  (You can tell I'm a lightweight at this point). I tried to pick out the other "artistas" in the bar, but everyone looked like a tourist to me.  There were a handful of really "cool" artsy looking bohemian types and I was certain they must be one of "us." Surely the girl with the fabulous head wrap (which I would later learn was called a Dhuku), amazing red lipstick, and funky linen diaper pants was an artist!  She was rocking the look and for a moment I regretted my choice of Lilly Pullitzer sundress and basic Jack Rogers sandals - but only for a moment. Remember what Teddy Roosevelt once said, "Comparison is the thief of joy."  Nothin gonna take my joy today!

After a few hours, Bob Masla came into the airport, and sure enough, as we gathered together, the "cool boho" people were with our group!  Brief introductions, tagging of luggage, lots of very fast spanish and shoving into a few taxi vans and we were on our way to Casa de los Artistas!

I'll try hard to not leave you dangling too long - just to whet your appetite, here is a brief shot where we stopped for a break on our hour-long scenic drive.  I couldn't wait to get there!

To be continued . . .

* For this trip, my sketches were done on  Saunders Hot Press Rough 140 lb watercolor paper. I have a sweet little Schmincke watercolor travel set and I use a Pitt Pen (size .05) for sketching and writing.  For applying paint, I switch between a Sakura Koi Waterbrush and a Loew Cornell Ultra Round #8