Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Won’t You Be . . . My Neighbor

Won’t You Be . . . My Neighbor
            Chip away the ice, pull on a pair of shorts, tee shirt, flip flops, sun block, a hat and come with me on a mini-tour of my immediate neighborhood. I’m only a block from the beach, so you might like to go sunbathe after our walk. I thought you might enjoy a respite from Montana chill.
            A half block out my door and we are on Cameron Sabala, the main drag in the tourist sector of Mazatlan. Unlike getting a bus out of town, getting a bus in town is easy and costs pennies. There is a bus rumbling by every few moments, well marked across the windshield for destination. And if you are not sure, flag him down and ask. The drivers are all helpful and courteous and most have at least minimal English, sort of like my Spanish. Here comes the Cerritos bus. We could take it to the end of the run to the little fishing village and enjoy freshly grilled mahi mahi or red snapper, dripping sea salt water. 
            The Ocean side of Cameron Sabala is lined with resorts, hotels, and restaurants. You can access the beach through any hotel or restaurant or through one of the open lots between the buildings.  All the beaches are public beaches and cannot be blocked.
            Usually I walk down the inland side of this street. Perhaps I’m lugging a bag of laundry to the lavendaria where I drop my clothing and linen to be washed and dried and folded neatly for me to pick up the next day.  Maria slings my bag onto a large hanging scale and charges me by the kilo.  Considering the volume of laundry dropped off every day, I am amazed that Maria already knows me by name, and no doubt, by my laundry.
This long block has three or four Tiendas. The signs read “Super Market”. Translate that “convenience store”. Each six or seven meter wide space is jam-packed floor to ceiling with the usual soda, chips and beer, along with flip flops, sun screen and inflatable beach toys.  
“Sondra.” I hear my name called. Elias from across the street is waving at me. He crosses over to give me a hug and ask how I’m doing. I met Elias ten years ago and, like magnets, we meet, usually on the beach, several times every year.
I want to take you into this little mall because it is brightly painted and cheerful, neatly ordered and has a central courtyard with benches where we may sit a few minutes. You’ll want to browse through the colorful stalls, see tee shirts and traditional blouses and dresses, look at dishes and souvenirs. Then we’ll go in and I’ll introduce you to Bertha. I met her when I needed my first hair cut last fall. Her salon takes up the back area of the mall. Bertha is a single mom, has a lovely young daughter, cuts hair, beautifies nails and does massage. We have just enough languages between us to understand one another. Everybody in this neighborhood goes to Bertha.
When we leave the mall let’s go through this well-stocked frutera. I don’t need much, a couple tomatoes, a cucumber, a handful of cilantro, an avocado, some fresh strawberries, oh, smell, and these baby bananas. All this for twenty pesos, about a dollar seventy-five to us. We’ll have a salad and fresh fruit for dinner tonight with limonada from limes grown in my back patio.
I’m starting to feel hungry for lunch. We could eat at the restaurant in front but I want to introduce you to Rueben. So we’ll go around this hotel, a hangout for ex-pats and snowbirds and back down the street where I live. We’ll walk back through a residential area with beautifully painted and trimmed homes, built much like row houses, most of them sharing a common wall. Almost all the homes are fronted with elaborate wrought iron gates. The street is lined with box trees, trimmed and shaped, some to resemble exotic animals from ostrich to elephant.
It is a long block but in moments we are back to my door. Just put your souvenirs inside and we’ll walk ten more steps to the corner to Rueben’s sidewalk café for lunch.  Today’s special is carne adobado, which is pork marinated and barbequed with adobo sauce for just forty five pesos, about three dollars, fifty cents. “Buenas tardes, Rueben.”
Oh, look who’s here at the back table. I met Berta and Blanca, sisters who make and sell beaded jewelry on the beach, the first year I came to Mazatlan. I talk with them several times each year and have met their families and hugged the bambinos. “May we join you?  The special is really good.”
Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door
January 16, 2014

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