“Splitting” the Screen

Amid the countless posts I am sorting in my head that are a small window of life itself, there is one amazing thing I always find at my fingertips – films.  One of the most spectacular right now is Split.  WOW.  This is eerie but a truly amazing look at Dissociative Identity Disorder  –  but the main character – James McAvoy wow.  This is the first time I have ever seen him and he is TRULY – impactful, this film sticks with you days, even weeks after.

The disturbing aspects of this film are actually matched with seriousness and humor as well, but love the idea that mental illness is depicted in a totally different light.  I have remembered when I first ran into this new shadow of how mental illness is treated with Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep, and with his visit to ASF in March, I am excited to see so many approaches and attempts to depicting definitions of situations around us – the co stars (Ana Taylor-Joy, Betty Buckley, Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula, Director M. Night Shyamalan to name JUST A FEW, are amazing and this interview helps show the relaxed and expertise they brought to this film.

Yes this is a drama, based on trauma, but there are no answers provided, but allow a lens into a complicated understanding of what many often stereotype mental illness, and marginalizing people that have issues with mental illness.  This is always worthy of conversation and this film will undoubtedly allow you for this to occur.

Bruce Willis, whoa.  His appearance, and the reference to Unbreakable – this is a CRAZY connection – as well as to Mr. Glass, and what lies in the future based on how this film ends?  You have to see it to believe it.  

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Bigger and Better…

February 10, 2017.  It has been a long time since I have written. So much to have processed in the last few days, weeks and months and now, it is ready to come out!

So I am going to implement the see- saw approach spill out where I am now, then switch to where I left off pin the next post when I returned from the last leg of my Christmas Break (yeah, it has been THAT long!)

Arriving in Houston for the IB training for Levels I and II, I was excited as I have always hovered on the edge of being involved in IB, but not quite jumping in all the way.  Much to look forward to.  I love the fact that in two hours I am at my final destination, and as I lifted off un the AM and landed in the AM (STILL!) this was a new experience daylight still and on a plane from take off to landing!  LOVED!

I like the openness of the airport, the feel of being in the states without the dramas occurring in the states, if that makes any sense.  After touching base with those missed already back home, I boarded the Super Shuttle to my Hotel, the Marriott (definitely the way to get here) – booked the return pickup too, then off we were.  

A lot of concrete overpasses and highways spelled out what I was first seeing in Houston – but I figured, there is much much more.  As we cleared towards the city line and the Minute Maid Park came into view,(that sounds so strange)- I began too see Houston sprout up in front of me.

Some slight misunderstandings straightened out at the desk, I dropped bag, ran back out after realizing how amazing these beds would feel, and jumped onto the metro train, grabbed a $1.25 card, and made my way to the Houston Zoo.  Loved HERMANN PARK, LOVED, ad the zoo?  It was one of the most relaxing, beautiful, and awesome experiences I can remember at a zoo.  Loved the cleanliness, the natural habitat and just the overall feel.  Tons of amazing photos and scenes, and overall – this was an excellent choice due to the size of the park and the variety, and care given to all the animals.

Strange thing, the Houston metro train, so so clean and new but the cards.  Seriously, you pay and there is so strict way to check if what you bought is credited – seriously – so an honor system and you could technically get a 5.00 card and never actually asked to swipe it anywhere.  Honor system totally and I was in awe.  (It’s the little things that surprise me!)

Walking to Minute Maid Park and taking in the cool memorials to baseball around the outside is quite worth the visit, even in offseason.  

But all was not over yet – add into the mix the fact that a Theatre District existed, which I wandered to and fell in love with the buildings, fell in love with the Hard Rock Cafe and of course ate there and laughed thanks to a hysterical waitress, and then coming out, I swear it was out of a scene of Hitchcock’s The Birds.  I have NEVER heard nor seen so many birds in the trees, EVER.  The sound was deafening (but cool) and every single branch, TONS of birds!     Literally, hundreds, you have to hear and see it to believe it.  Wild!

The night in Houston is AMAZING when lit up and tonight I was able to see a huge portion of it in the first night.  As I came home and collapsed into my bed, I realized how cool it is to learn a new area without having to give up your own home and love of someplace that sits even bigger in your heart.  I looked forward to what delving into IB would mean at Rice University, glimpses of what I had seen were pretty amazing.


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Christmas – Mexico – What Happens?

Often I am asked “How does Mexico celebrate Mexico?”  The same feeling exists, you see Christmas trees, lots of lights, lots of treats and much much more.  But I thought it best to give you a short index on it all too and thanks to Lidia and Peter, from Azteca Travel,  who have also done a great job of keeping everyone informed!

Overall Holiday is December 16 – January 6 2016

Flor de nochebuena: Perhaps the Mexican Christmas decoration which English-speakers are most familiar with, red poinsetta flowers adorn Mexican homes at Christmas time. There is a Mexican legend about how the flowers came to be associated with Christmas…. One Christmas eve (nochebuena) a poor girl picked a few weeds to bring to church for the baby Jesus, for she could not afford anything else. The other people in her neighborhood looked down on her, but she believed that Jesus would appreciate any gift given in love. When she arrived at church, the weeds bloomed into a wonderful bunch of red flowers with thick green leaves. Then all the people around knew that they had witnessed a true Christmas miracle.

Los Tres Reyes Magos –  (Three Kings Day) – January the 6th is a special day in Mexico. Known as ‘El Dia de Reyes’ (Three Kings Day), this holiday represents the height of the Christmas season. The date marks the culmination of the twelve days of Christmas and commemorates the three wise men who traveled from afar, bearing gifts for the infant baby Jesus. The children of Mexico in particular look forward to this holiday as traditionally, gifts are exchanged on this date, not on Christmas day.

In Mexico and many other Latin American countries, Santa Claus doesn’t hold the cachet that he does in the United States. Rather, it is the three wise men who are the bearers of gifts, who leave presents in or near the shoes of small children. The holiday is also known by the name of the Epiphany which dates back to the 4th century. A grand feast would be held on this day to honor the occasion of Jesus’ baptism and to pay homage to the three wise men.

Nacimientos – Scenes depicting the manger in Bethlehem.  These are crib scenes depicting the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, and the visits of the Shepherds and the Three Kings. Most Mexicans are Catholic and the religious aspects of Christmas are an essential part of their traditions. Few Mexican homes would be without a nacimiento at Christmas time. The baby Jesus is not added until midnight on Christmas eve and the Three Kings do not appear in the scene until January 6th,

Nochebuena – On Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) it is traditional for Mexican families to attend midnight mass before returning home to a late-night dinner. Gifts are not usually given at this time, but this is changing with increasing cultural influence from the USA. Santa has started coming to Mexico!

The Poinsetta flower comes from Mexican Christmas tradition. In Mexico it is known as the 'flor de noche buena'.
The Poinsetta flower comes from Mexican Christmas tradition. In Mexico it is known as the ‘flor de noche buena’.

Pastorelas are a traditional form of Christmas entertainment in Mexico. They began many centuries ago when Catholic priests would act out scenes from the bible to teach the local population about Christianity. Pastorela means ‘little shepherdess’ and these were traditionally Christmas plays about the story of the shepherds who came to visit the baby Jesus. The tradition has grown into more humorous stories of the eternal struggle between good and evil.

Pinatas – Pinatas in the shape of the Christmas star are a traditional Mexican decoration which also serves later as a party game. Piñata star: Piñatas are a well known Mexican custom, and at Christmas the most typical piñata in Mexico is one which represents the Christmas star. Piñatas are made of paper and filled with treats. At the parties surrounding the posadas, children will put on a blinfold and take turns to try to hit the star with a stick. When it bursts the candies shower down to the floor and are shared with everyone.Pinatas in the shape of the Christmas star are a traditional Mexican decoration which also serves later as a party game.

Ponche con piquete – At the posadas parties that lead up to Christmas Mexicans will serve a drink called ponche con piquete. It isa hot punch based on pulped seasonal fruits mixed with spices such as cinnamon, with an added shot of something alcoholic – the piquete, or sting – such as rum, brandy or tequila.

Posada – Processions which take place on each of the nine evenings leading up to Christmas Eve (Nochebuena in Spanish). From 16th-24th December the people in a Mexican neighborhood gather together and process through the streets to a particular house. The neighbors take the part of the peregrinos or pilgrims (ie the Holy Family) in a song which is chanted back and forth between them and the residents of the house who play the part of the innkeeper.

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-8-17-37-pmRosca dey Reyes Recipe here  On January 6th, the day marking the visit of the three kings to the baby Jesus, Mexicans celebrate by eating a cake known as rosca de reyes. The cake is baked in a circular shape. It contains dried fruit and spices and is delicious served with a steaming cup of Mexican chocolate.  The Rosca de Reyes has an oval shape to symbolize a crown and has a small doll inside which represents baby Jesus. The doll figure symbolizes the hiding of the infant Jesus from King Herod’s troops. Traditionally roscas are adorned with dried and candied fruits to symbolize the many jewels that a crown would have. The person who gets the slice with the doll must host a party on Día de la Candelaria in February ; the custom is that whoever finds the doll must host a party on Candlemas (February 2nd).

Three Kings Day – (Epiphany) – Epiphany, or the 12th day of Christmas, falls on January 6 and marks the official end to the festive season for many Christians. Today, (January 6, 2017) Pope Francis held the Vatican’s annual Holy Mass for the Epiphany in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The ancient Christian feast day is significant as a celebration of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist, as well as a more general celebration of his birth. The six Sundays which follow Epiphany are known as the time of manifestation.

Villancicos –The singing of carols, known as villancicos is also a common custom. There are many Christmas songs in Spanish language which are traditionally sung in Mexico. Some are religious carols such as Noche de Paz (the Spanish language version of Silent Night), others are fun songs like Feliz Navidad….

Awesome reference links for the above referenced/quoted info:







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Pittsburgh – Well?

There are so many details and emotions I felt – so yes, the emotions right now still are processing but there are a few things I have internalized.

From the moment I truly identified with Pittsburgh, being whisked away in a limousine to Mr. Art Rooney’s wifes’ funeral, seeing the Steelers in their uniforms as a sign of respect, I realized Pittsburgh was the steel, working town, that internalized itself in my bones.  The days of sitting in front of the television of my grandparents in Etna, the weekend dinners, the pictures and remnants of Friday Street School where my Mom attended school.  

My grandfather’s grit and planning as he designed the railcars of the Chessie System -Student teaching at Oliver High School at the edge of Monroeville would later lead to the later adventure of working for the Pittsburgh Pirates as an intern, the endless adventures of treks into Pittsburgh at night, experiencing the magic of a city reborn every day.  I remember leaving a Pittsburgh that was in financial dire straits, a gloom that could not be seen at the time.  I did not know I would be leaving Pittsburgh, as well as a lifetime of memories on a shelf that would not be dusted off for so many years later.  Yet, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by individuals that carried that Pittsburgh spirit with them, in countries as far as Mexico.  

Amid all of this, there were constant friends that had internalized themselves so deep that no matter where I would go, if I was lucky enough to meet those friends again, or still maintain contact with them, a constant thread of our relationships, from Edinboro University, Slippery Rock University, Butler County Community College, and a hundred other places – we were still one in so many ways.

On the plane from Dallas to Pittsburgh, right before landing, a young gentleman leaned over and asked me if I believed in God.  I used to peel back and cringe, when that question was asked and expected an uncomfortable discussion.  This time I resisted this feeling, and we talked earnestly.  He shared his beliefs, I shared mine, we exchanged ideas, and this led to each other finding out about ourselves through location, Pittsburgh, and topics of discussion I would not have predicted to be brought up, and I thought – funny.  Religion can be a start to find out about each other, not just an area to be uncomfortable for each other involved, no, it doesn’t have to be that way.  Those sentiments walked with me as I found myself experiencing the cold I had forgotten that had defined Pittsburgh for as long as I could remember.

There is is feel that Pittsburgh has, and whether it appears when you are on the South.North Side, the East/West areas, on the incline or at the point, it stays with you always thanks to the people that become part of your thread work life. When I was driving from section to section in Pittsburgh, I found I was amazed at how easily I found myself doing so, expecting to be lost more than having a sense of direction, I found that it seems I had just slipped out of the Pittsburgh scene  rather than what seemed a lifetime.  That sense of sliding right back in was only a part of what made being back in Pittsburgh so vital in recalling so much of my past and seeing how far I have come.  I say I but realize, so many people that supported me from my youngest years to currently had such a major role in that.

I want more time, now that I’ve had a taste of what being home really means – and combined with being able to feel this way and not be in Pittsburgh at all for so long, the magic of being in places that propels me so far in my past and has reminded me, thanks to my friends all along the way, that everyone has a right to feel that way wherever they are.  My goal would begin to try and make everyone around me try and feel the same way, and I learned that from Pittsburgh – my friends reminded me that without ever having to be there. 

Pittsburgh is what many hear me say, (sometimes yell) often enough, the Steelers, the Penguins, the Pirates, but what Pittsburgh really is, and always will be, is what many will not be able to hear, see but definitely feel.  I find that reassuring as I am lucky enough to have such close friends and family that keep this in my heart each day.  Pittsburgh intensifies this when I am lucky enough to be embraced from within!

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Pittsburgh – A Personal Reunion.

screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-7-53-20-pmI can’t exactly tell you the feeling I had inside as I approached Pittsburgh, after spending an overnight in Forth Worth, Dallas, and then moving onto a stay in Pittsburgh after longer than I can remember.  From the feelings of excitement of a city I grew up in and weekends with grandparents and so many relatives, to just growing up with so many individuals IN Pittsburgh – I missed so so much and was so excited to explore as much as I could.

At the same time, seeing and feeling Mexico becoming such a part of myself that I never saw it coming, and I found myself leaving behind for 2 weeks so many aspects I had fallen in love with – the mixed emotions ran high for sure.  I was overwhelmed with how many people gave me a Steeler yell or nod from Texas to Pittsburgh, it only caused my heart to beat faster in high anticipation.   It truly was a Steeler Nation.

Coming into the city, and being able to do so during daylight, I had to decompress in the airport for half an hour before actually embarking, everything was still hard to believe.  Going back and forth on social media with an amazing new adventure in life with Karla – I held so many mixed emotions in check trying to allow time to sort them all out into an explanation that I did not seem able to find.  In being able to delay no more without running the risk of frozen there all day,  I moved forward.

Rental car to the tunnels, tunnels to the North Shore, North Shore to the Jerome Bettis restaurant.  Thirty minutes remained and I made it – game time to see the Cincinnati /Steelers games.  Myself decked out – head to toe in Steeler wear, I was surrounded by an even larger party of Pittsburgh fans, and I never felt more at home – I can’t tell you enough how I ate through so many plays, and loved every single feeling and moment of it.  Five minutes before the end of the game, and I had to go in order to catch The Nutcracker performance we had booked at The Benedum, and having not seen the Raypush family in this long as well, I was excited to be lucky enough to jump into all this – the first day and I felt I was reclaiming so much of what I had missed.

The best part of realizing I was in PITTSBURGH, seeing the Nutcracker, was realizing I was taking this in with the Raypush family – and it could have been the lousiest production and still worth its weight in gold.  I loved the music and tale that spun before us, and being able to decompress later at Bob Evans on McKnight Road further helped me get back into the swing of things.  I did find the following day, my whole physical being, in a state of being dazed, be it jetlag or just a slight shock of taking it all in, this day was spent locally shopping at the Pittsburgh Mills’ shops and just laying low – realizing I badly needed this.

Touring through so many neighborhoods in Pittsburgh the third day, quite amazing.I shot like a bullet to North Shore, stocked up on Steeler supplies, haunted my old favorites at Eides  (still amazing bur much smaller than I remembered it!) – headed over to the North Side to see the neighborhoods – was able to travel downtown past the Warner Theatre, Liberty Avenue, revisit the Strip District at the docks, making it to Station Square to meet my friend Heather, who I had met in Mexico City!  LOL

The Hard Rock Cafe was amazing just because it is Hard Rock Cafe, but Station Square was resembling the old malls that had little to offer people from the outside, shops and spaces were so much more open and not filled, not resembling the club and active storefronts that could be found here over 16 years ago, and I realized, my expectations are not the expectations of that those that have lived in the Burgh all their lives. The other amazing was seeing how Pittsburgh and Mexico were connecting me.  Meeting Heather, a Pittsburgher who lives in Pittsburgh but had been with us in Mexico City so much, it is ironic as I waited for Heather in Hard Rock, how 25+ years ago I would have never been able to predict how Mexico and Pittsburgh would close the gap between us in my life.  It is pretty great!

Coming back at night was a gift in seeing Pittsburgh completely lit up, but some of the best moments still were the moments I was able to laugh, joke, and catch up with the Raypush family during this season over games such as screen-shot-2016-12-27-at-7-47-45-pmBean Boozled, which I swear I still have the taste of rotten egg in there somewhere LOL – STILL.  Thanks ADAM – I thought that was going to me more FUN that rotten (it was FUN!).

Heading out on the early morning of December 23rd to the airport to drop off the rental car – (changing the flat tire the previous night with a bad jack?  Not so cool and fun) and grabbing the Amtrak train to Philadelphia – then to Union Station in Washington D.C. – it still was surreal to me to jump back into a town that I called my own, and I still was going to take a few weeks to process it all in just being back.  However, every year I am still amazed at how comfortable it is to slide back into the friendship that the Raypush family and I had created- not knowing way back when we commuted together to Slippery Rock University, how much it would mean to me to see them when I did come back to Pittsburgh.  I meant everything and I realized, the longing of missing so much in being away from Mexico, still allowed such a needed space that I looked forward to so much in seeing Rachelle, Morgan, Mackenzie, Madison, Joe, Jeff, Amanda, and Adam.  I thought the best thing was visiting Pittsburgh, but realized all over what matters are the friends-like-family hold you in place, no matter where you are!

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Recovering Lost Opportunities

It has been said, as Thanksgiving Break ends, the rest flies in front of you, without realizing where time has gone. The Thanksgiving Break was full of surprises, places I never had been too and as a result individuals I connected with I never knew about, only dreamed about, and had the chance to connect ideas of individuals’ projects across the country together.

It is amazing to see a hostel like One Love, in Puerto Escondido, go out of their way to help me find an only heard of location and find my way to get there. The result was amazing and this opened up a whole new way of traveling to places that boggle your mind.

Add to this the fact that a one Victor Campos, taking on all new projects in Puerto Escondido, involving local materials to introduce new and efficient building methods to a local community, will help create a binding unity of residents within Puerto Escondido itself. Add to that Nina and Andrea, all ranging from all over the world, together working towards many creative goals and individuals and representing some exciting developments that could affect others around them as well. All of these elements, as well as meeting Ausgustine, the proprietor of the cabana and restaurant on the beach front, Chris the caretaker of Augustine’s and other’s residents there, allowing others to attend and visit Chacahua and be able to reference both Augustine and Chris to enjoy this hidden paradise.

That was Thanksgiving, and that was enough adventure and excitement to last a lifetime. Or so I thought. However, the largest surprise was not even in my mind, maybe on the fringes of my mind, but not realized. One who has known me, knows how I have thrown myself into all I do – 100%, be it Repentino. magazine, be it projects, be it past, current, and future library potentials, even to the coverage I look and search for in and around Mexico City for my blog. Often, individuals that have known me ask, what about a personal life? What about dating? I laughed , and have laughed, because I buried that part of my life years ago for the sake of devoting myself to those around me. Weddings, friends, events, and more all come up, often the question comes up, as well as a proposal from a friend to enter that realm, and in my head, I often recite, the following mantras – “I am too old, I am too picky, I am too busy, I am too concerned with the project path I am on”, and that is just the first five or six reasons that surface, leaving the idea of a relationship with anything, other than work, a mere thought and nothing else.   Then add to the mix a past that has had nothing short of bad experiences with anything to do with relationships, and seeing what I have been doing up to this point is actually pretty darn inviting.

Surprises abound. Often the deepest surprises come from corners you did not see even coming, surprises, you often have considered and put away from view, not to be looked at again. Several years ago, a new Pilates Spa opened up on my block in Roma Norte. I know this much about Pilates               (a blank space before this tells you what I know). As I walked by the open window of many individuals participating in what looked as a slide and glide form of exercise, my brood of dogs always in tow following – a friendly, inviting, yes even very attractive face would always wave at me, and the tradition became over the last few years (literally years) to wave back, take in the smile, and think about how nice it was to see an individual such as this particular instructor, take notice of me other than walking my dogs, but as far as I knew, it might by simply because I was walking my dogs. My work week, my work schedule moved forward, years passed.

Meeting my neighbor Nagelli and Robert as my neighbors, and as a surprise, when I had found out Robert was co owner of Museo del Juguete Anitguo in Doctores, I had learned how amazing of a museum, and as a couple, now expecting, and since dating married, I had learned so much about my neighbors I didn’t know about them in the first few years I had lived in Roma Norte. Lesson to be learned there. On this particular day, coming out of my apartment, they informed me someone had been asking about me, and that I should possibly consider finding out more about the original inquiry. I was curious in two accounts, first, who would possibly be interested in me as an individual when I am scarce as it is, and possibly, quite possibly, could it be the attractive appearance I had noticed in the Pilates Studio?

Years would pass, literally over three years and in that time, I would take more and more notice of a certain instructor at the Studio who seemed to notice me & the dogs when I would walk by. On one occasion, I was on the same corner as the “instructor that caught my eye” and we made eye contact, smiled, she asked about my dogs, and I smiled and walked, looking back to wonder, if I should offer more in conversation. Another day, she was outside the studio, I walked by, and sat down, got up, sat down, got up several times, realizing how nervous I actually was in talking to her. Time passed, and something clicked in December. Every time I walked by, I had started to question myself and think to myself and something, something itched at me – I needed/wanted to say something more than a wave.

An opportunity presented itself. Franli’s Christmas party, post Thanksgiving party, and I thought, wouldn’t it be nice to go to a Christmas party, or an event with someone? Franli’s initiative has been one of the best things to occur, showing how people coming together for the holidays is essential, important and valuable.  (Things had begun to drastically change in my thought process about how busy I had been, was and would be and the effect of me wanting to speak to (the instructor in the window of the Pilates Studio) was beginning to transform. Something struck me as unusual. All this time, I never was aware of her name. I thought that odd as we had many encounters of small glances, waving, and cordial hellos – but why not more? I wanted to know more about her and it just hit me on the weekend of the potential Christmas party, it was way overdue to find out.

Picking an evening where I was aware of the time she finished (being a stalker crossed my mind a few times) – I made out a Christmas card wishing her a Great Holiday, inviting her to a Christmas Party, and tried to figure out when I could give this to her without causing a scene among her colleagues, lol. I walked by once, twice, three times, still busy and I wondered when a good time was- or if the timing was just not right. I made it once more past, and whole everyone was still cleaning up, I found myself on the corner, with my Ipad, looking to see what incoming messages I had. During this moment, the instructor came up to me and asked me what I was focusing on so intently. She had made it easy for me, and I had a door open, thanks to her. I laughed, and we started talking lightly, and I asked if she would be interested in grabbing Hot Chocolate and Churros at img_8669EL Moro, the new Churro business that just opened on Alvaro Obregon. Yes – and we walked together there, then grabbed a package of Hot Chocolate and Churros, we made our way to the bench, and ended up talking for the next hour and a half, seeming to block out the wind, cold, and the night – we became lost in conversation. During this time, we caught up immensely, and although I STILL had no clue of her name – none whatsoever, I found myself intrigued with someone so interesting, inquisitive, and easy to be beside and have such great conversation (and yes, I was mesmerized by her eyes and intensity).

Leading up to my departure for the Christmas Holiday to Pittsburgh, then to Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., every day was filled with discovering who Karla, yes, Karla (after all this time) was, what she thought as I had walked by the studio for several YEARS, and all of a sudden, saying hi alone felt pretty full of missed opportunity. Seemingly we had known each other for years, (that is the feeling as conversation turned into other conversations) – and the departure out of Mexico City became one of dread in realizing we were just getting to find more about each other.

Neighbors began to notice and it almost seemed as if everyone wondered why this had not happened before, which caught me by much surprise. However, much of how this all began to unfold caught me by surprise as I wondered, how my philosophy for such an experience in discovering someone had not changed earlier, and realize it should have. Admitting you are wrong is not an easy thing to do, but in this case, I had missed on many, many opportunities to actually find out who Karla was, and finding out she was a diverse mix of so many interesting and unique aspects, I found myself, counting myself lucky, to have been given a second chance. Certainly several opportunities had arisen previously in any situations, yet not one of them ever “clicked” successfully. The timing, feeling, or moment just never seemed to unfold properly and such is life.

When you find someone who is full of optimism, inquisitive questions, is so open you wonder how you did not notice this before, open to all possibilities, and being energized oozes from them, again, you ask, how could I have missed this?

There is so much to tell since Thanksgiving, as the amazing experiences we’ve had in celebrating the holiday as clubs, colleagues, and friends to be told, the trips that unfolded headed to Pittsburgh that reveal a city I knew and visited over 12+ years ago – but being able to go to Franli’s Christmas party with someone I had wondered about for years, and physically being with this person – yes in person, lol, was magical. There has been something unable to be put into words when that right moment seems to click, happen, and you wonder – I should have acted before, yes, but I am glad I acted at all, look what I would have missed! The holiday is full of surprises if you simply look around and decide enough, something needs to be done for a change, and often, some of the best changes come out of that decision to move forward and do something different, and act on feelings you kept below the surface. In the 13+ years that I have really decided not to date anyone, it is funny how things can change on a dime, when the right moment seems to occur, and also how missed opportunities can provide a chance to turn it all around.   Sometimes, if you are lucky, those opportunities can be recovered with the right person. That becomes the best holiday present of all. 

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Diving Into the Deep…

Thanksgiving has always been about family to our family, celebrating it and knowing our thanks has always been built upon a dependable meal, dinner talk that always reminded me of the events, memories and the feelings that brought us all together.

I always have played my visits, expeditions, adventures safely, with a group of people I knew, or the places I did not know but never venturing further then a gut sense of safety. For the first time this trip, I had decided to go somewhere I only heard about – Chacahua, as well as staying somewhere I did know but on my own.

The results were quite unexpected but priceless.  In meeting the staff of One Love, I was able to find assistance to finding how to get to Chacahua, through several option, which in turn led me to new friends found in Randy and Chris, they led me through a location I screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-8-56-49-amnever knew existed, and to experience a beauty in nature I had seen in various spots in Mexico, but never knew existed in a place called Chacahua.  I felt more than rewarded in seeing the untouched environment I found in Chacahua – and feeling inside the appreciation of how Chris and Randy respected such experience.  Fishing, screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-8-59-07-amseeing the sun kiss the horizon in the morning, the sun kiss the horizon at night, experiencing the naturalness of a lagoon that breathed so much life, words certainly fall short and the memory is the gift that remains and is priceless.

Yet – discovering a new Puerto Escondido was a gift in itself as well.  Meeting Andrea, who had planned on traveling to South America, and then sitting down and discussing how life, the spiritual, and more are all connected on her every day walk in life.  Victor Campos who will turn the ideas of construction, art, and a sense of community on it’s head with his organizational, creative, and innovative approaches.  Nina, who, from Switzerland, did not hesitate to connect me with Victor, as well as talk freely about what the future could indeed hold – then the last evening, were we celebrated the possibilities that were before screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-8-57-04-amus, the magic of the air, the sand, the beach, Puerto Escondido – this was what going outside of your circle of comfort, meeting individuals that were unknown to you previously, and experiencing how others can be discovered and added to your own experiences – and sharing these together – Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning only adding to what the meaning of family meant. 


I only look forward to what all of these individuals together will be able to do with our ideas discovered – and out together, collectively.  The appreciation of what all of the above were able to provide, introduce, and represent is priceless in itself.  Making this experience of Chacahua with flowing beaches until the eye can see, Puerto Escondido represented in a totally different light, and individuals that will go on to make changes that together we have a vision for- Thanksgiving goes on to represent something more than we can recreate, and for that I am thankful.  Little did I know what would be in store for the Christmas holiday.

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Suddenly Sudden…

“Harry!”  I am ready to go!”  Groggily waking up and realizing the plan to stay most of the day – another day of surfing, etc but I realized Randy, who I just met, had had enough and wanted to return to the comforts of modern facilities as well, and I understood/understand that.  We were in the middle of virgin beaches, virgin communities, 100% local and the most amazing beautiful natural elements – and also the basic basic units without big stores, big name companies and resorts and sometimes it is difficult to make that transition for a period of time.  I was finding I needed more of this to dip into who I was in discovering who I was after a rocky up and down history of life events and changes, this place was the most natural thinking tank and sit back and reflect on your life, you could ever want.  

While I was not quite ready to go back, it happened that way, and being jolted out of this world so fast and heading back to Puerto Escondid0 made me look in perspective of how amazing and lucky I was that this all worked out – meeting Chris and Randy and discovering this paradise.

Upon coming back to Puerto Escondido, we ate breakfast and were able to see this huge gathering of policia discussing important matters, and protectors of this group holding the guns around their group, even though we see this alot in Mexico with the emptying of ATM’s and transits between currency exchanges in banks and you see guns being weilded for protection publicly, everyone once in a while it still seems surreal.

Randy showed me his house which was a fortress in Puerto, protected by his own surrounding area and seeing the whole of Puerto Escondido below – it was breathtaking and I was able to see what could be in each of our lives if we wanted it.  The last day in Puerto Escondido was amazing and I loved staying in One Love Hostel.

What I neglected to elaborate on was meeting Victor in Puerto, hearing about his artistic local project working with Puerto Escondido residents, and seeing how we can meet halfway on his project idea with my project ideas – also – meeting Nina again and we all went out to discover the part of Puerto I never explored – la Punta – it is amazing at night, AMAZING.  We descended on the restaurant Lychee, it was surreal.  We spent a long time there and the sand floor, the wood tables, the low lighting, the magic of Puerto, the amazing food, the amazing friends, this all was completely a send off on the last night of Puerto Escondido, and then some, it was magic.  

screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-8-26-46-amThe lighting, the warmth of the night, the feel of being in such an exotic place with new friends, it was completely magic.  For once, on this trip I delved into the unknown SO MANY TIMES, and came back to the surface, with so many new perspectives from so many  newly met people.  I will credit those experiences in the next blog post recapping this whole Thanksgiving Break experience narrowed down to people, but, being screen-shot-2016-12-19-at-8-27-26-amable to combine Chacahua and Puerto Escondido in the same day was pretty amazing, even if I was returning to the last evening at Puerto for the Thanksgiving Break.

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Chacahua and Thanksgiving Paradise Revisited…

Day 2 of Chacahua over Thanksgiving Break –

img_96094:45 (AM) happens for me at home frequently, and I bury that alarm when it comes to vacation.Sometimes. But fishing, not so much.  Yet, Thanksgiving morning, believe it or not, an exception. And not for Black Friday pre sales believe it or not.

We were up, we had fishing reels, we had gas, we had the boat. Onto the water for fishing, and fished we were going. I always truly dreamed of getting up that early to be on the water, and yet, never happeneimg_9630d. Until Thanksgiving 2016, and overall, yes worth it. As the sun rose and we captured it,
the water from dawn to midday was amazing. With a small catch of img_96822 small fish and not a lot of bites, but a sighting of dolphins, the scenery of the Lagoon all around us, and the feel of the img_9647water – the smell of the ocean, and the warmth of the sun on our backs – this was a great start to a new Thanksgiving experience, one not to forget.img_9711

After trolling through the Lagoon and returning around 11:00 AM, it was close to siesta. We found our hammocks, our designated beach spots, and it was truly Siesta time. The lazy feeling of the sun, the tide, the sand – it’s all you need for a perfect day.   It’s funny, one of the first times since I can remember with truly no connection to internet, to countless emails working on projects, to organizing this organizing that, produced amazing results. Two novels down, taking in our surroundings with amazing photography, taking in new friendships and appreciating gifts that can’t be physically counted brings the actual day of Thanksgiving closer to the reality it was meant to be, and this is outside of the United States. I kept having to pinch myself to realize I was in Mexican waters – as similar aspects at times reminded me of being on the beach along the eastern coast of Delaware – and yet each time I caught the occasional Spanish melody on the air- I realized how southern Mexico I was and how much has occurred in the last five years to draw me in, and I have only seen half of what Mexico has to offer in that time.

img_9765-1Nearing the times where I thought much of the football games, that were on at the time, (somewhere far way it seemed!) and img_9752watching Chris catch a couple waves on the lagoon, we decided it was time for dinner. Thank again to the expertise of Chris and Randy, a fire pit grill was started, rice was initiated, and a full plate steak with rice was ready, we (Chris, Randy, proprietor of the beach cabanas, Antoine) and we sat down and devoured one of the most nontraditional, yet refreshing beach meals to be marked on a Thanksgiving. The combination of the meal, the opportunity to relax, as well as the fellowship of celebrating a day that takes so many things into account – and presents them in such a paradise, how could you possibly top that?

Plans were made to find the supreme surfing spots tomorrow down the coast and end a Friday the way it should be, celebrating the moments that made this week a complete success.

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“You can TRY to put them into words, but the experience is forever.”

Jumping into the unknown to a place called Chacahua -(picking up from this post – https://harrybrake.com/2016/11/25/9800/)

Getting directions that seemed a BIT elusive, written on a receipt, receipt.JPGbut possible.  So far so good. One Love – Banorte – 35 pesos, close. Waiting at Banorte – something didn’t seem right, so I inquired at a transit station to other locations, “Esquina, directo, azul .” Yes, I saw the blue bus sign I waited, the next three buses, not what I was looking for. And wasn’t it a van I was looking for? I was restless, I bought a 25 peso torta at the local pasterleria and noticed just 2 stores down from Banorte, another van transit. I asked a attendant from yet another transit the location of the vans to Zappolito, and yes, he pointed to the van station across the street. Got it. Exactly 45 pesos. So Banorte yes, but BESIDE Banorte, a white van station, that is your ticket to Zappolito, on the way to Chacahua.

On our way with 9 other people in the van, roughly 40 minutes later as I saw the ocean race to my left through the window, we stopped at a town called Rio Grande, truly familiar to the Old West towns, narrow main street, lined with stores, with one small exception. Half cutaway Volkswagens that were scooters, similar to the type you would see in India – they filled the streets everywhere, this Rio Grande’s taxi, and they were everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE. We stopped, the lady beside me returned from the store we were resting at, with a small cardboard Whiska’s box, but inside you could hear the chirping of the chicks she just purchased. My mind only wanted to think of positive reasons she was buying those chicks, and I just decided they would have the freedom to run around her yard, however, my gut told me something different.

The next stop was an empty, side of the road station for crossing to the next leg of the trip. I crossed the highway, and found out for 60 pesos I could go right to the mouth for a collectivo that would take me to the mainland. So I was beginning to deviate from my planned cost to reach Chacahua, but y gut told me yes, this is the way to discovery! I jumped in the single taxi, and on our way the drive told me how everything was pulled back in time at Chacahua, time had literally stopped he told me. You will love it. My anticipation grew. He told me about the desire for the boat people (as Javier had called them when we called two weeks ago) that ferry you across the water to partake in that tour, and yes, I knew in the back of my mind they would direct me to the cabanas they wanted me to stay at. This worried me as I purposely was taking a set amount of pesos to avoid having the whole lot “disappear” and to impose ny self made budget of a vacation under 4000.00 pesos for the week. However, I knew what would be would be.

Into the empty lot.JPGWe arrived at the very empty mouth of the collectivo lot, , three 

At the collectivo dock.JPGsimple motorboats, a store that consisted of open fencing and tin on one side, palm fronds on the top, and two very relaxed locals on hammocks. What was not so traditional was who I would come to know as Chris.JPGChris, an Australian local who had his stack of supplies read at the edge of the store, heading to the mainland. His thick accent cut in asking, “Where you from? Where ya headed?” (EXACTLY OUT OF CROCODILE DUNDEE ACCENT – NO JOKE!) – Perhaps the nicest guy I EVER met, that I never met, out of nowhere.


His discovery of me heading to Chacahua, and his heading to the mainland and offering me a ride to go with him, his friend, and supplies, was a no brainer. It just felt right, I said yes immediately, and he told me it will be a 30-40 minute wait as they fixed the boat. I told him obviously I was not in a hurry obviously, and just waited in silence with the locals that spoke great levels of their native Spanish while I again listened is as much as I could.

Another taxi pulled up, a group of people exited with suitcases, and the two relaxed locals immediately came to life grabbed their belongings and got them on the boat as part of the collective to head to the mainland. They motioned for me to come as part of the collectivo but I was grateful for my gut, I wanted to stick with Chris who made me his offer, and luckily, he was there at the store gathering items when the “boat people” wanted me to come to him. I told Chris I would wait for him – and while this seemed to not settle well with these two pilots of the collective, my mind had been settled long before with the deal to go with Chris based on where they would direct me to stay and the price they would charge me, I screamed Gringo and having a set amount of funds only, I was guarding it closely to last until I returned to Puerto, so I COULD return to Puerto, with no expectations of an ATM to where I was headed. Chris was looking out for me in letting me choose his offer.

The boat was fixed! I helped Chris load up supplies he was bringing back to his beach, packages of bread, cases of milk, jugs of water, suitcases, his arrival from Australia back to his home here at Chacahua. I found his friend Randy also coming with us, his two Schanuzers, and some excitement as we boarded. We were in, but Rikki and Lucy were not, and they found a chicken. More than finding, they wanted the smallish chicken. They began chasing the chicken and one of them, not sure if it was Rikki or Lucy, bit into the chicken as Chris and Randy tried to stop them from proceeding further, I sensed instant knowing how my hounds would react.   Yet somehow, they were able to stop them with just a mouthful of feathers obtained an safely on the boat without a second chance to make good on the first attempt.

The ride, AMAZING (see below the link).  VERY similar to the trips we had taken on 9th grade, new student retreats in places I would never find on my own. We began formalities of finding out Randy owned a hotel at Puerto, Chris and him had been friends and they were making plans to purchase a sailboat and sail across the Atlantic, the details were just exhilarating to see these two so settled in a place so separated from everyone in Chacahua, yet settled in Puerto where they had met. As we cleared the amazing views of the lagoon with Augustine at the motor, who I would discover owned where I would be deciding to stay, we entered the mangroves. If I thought the crossing was brilliant, I had seen nothing yet. NOTHING.

The boat dove into the mangroves, and cranes were everywhere. Low lying mangroves and paths that seemed like a maze greeted us as we weaved through mangroves that separated the lagoon from….what ? I did not know. After about 10 minutes, and passing 100 pesos to Chris for gas, (I believe I would have been charged a lot more for the crossing and no tour of the layout as I was seeing before me) – we exited the mangroves and Voila!   An open channel and a wide range of cabanas and a smallish line of food stands, empty now, and a town greeted us! This was TRULY out of a movie, only this was real life, this was AMAZING. I realized I did not have to get out of the boat at this point to realize what an amazing experience I had stumbled on. Literally. We passed a gentleman that waved stiffly and the boat turned around – we were picking up Augustine’s father.

We stopped on the shore of this narrow channel, for the pick up and weaved our way through a neighboring channel, where we came past another individual in a hammock. Augustine was waving to him, asking if he would meet us on the next shore and drive us with the supplies to Chris’s house. He began to get out of the hammock, as we made our way down the shore.

Exactly as planned, we landed, got out and there was maybe one of the most rusted out Toyota-like pickups I ever saw in my LIFE. Yet, we loaded the bushels of oranges, groceries, everything, including four people and two schnauzer’s, and we were off. Past a sandy road that had individuals coming out of their homes to see what and who was coming down the road, this was amazing, this was a step in the past and rewinding the clock – definite – just as I had been nestled in the woods of the National Allegheny Forest in Genessee pay and no one would have been able to find me, I had swapped a forest for a beach that existed in no one’s mind at all. We came to the beach, our driver switched to four wheel drive, and onto the beach we went and all I can say is breath taking. The pictures do not do this justice AT ALL – AT ALL – and yet we passed cabana after cabana, after cabana. We arrived at one stand out cabana literally 40 feet from the ocean, unloaded and my mind began to catch up with what was happening.

Okay, I met a local from Australia, local here now for the past four years, by chance also his friend who owns a hotel in Puerto, who happened to be at the mouth of the collectivo at the SAME time as me, and this all worked out. I could not figure out HOW, but 30 minutes later, when we are introduced to the cabanas we would be staying in, for 200 pesos, and the hammocks, the restaurant that was open to our every need at a moments notice, the four of us at a table served up a concoction of OJ and who knows what – and saluding each other, I realized how insane, how crazy how Repentino. this had become, and yet it had become something I NEVER NEVER would have dreamed of happening. I did not know Chachua before this, and now, seeing the fisherman in their boats in the ocean before me, the mountains rising up and a body of endless water in front of me that stretched as far as the eye could see, seeing NO ONE, NO ONE in sight at all except four kings on a beach – I knew this would be a Thanksgiving I would never ever forget in all my memory.

burger night 1.JPGAs dusk began, Chris disappeared into the kitchen of the restaurant,

and 30 minute slater produced one of the largest burgers I had ever seen in my life, layered with onion, cheese, bacon, mayo ketchup – there are no words. So here I am, in a cabana layered with palm fronds,

my own shower, the beach licking and whispering to my ears, a FAN and electric no less on a most deserted beach that is untouched by modernity, owned by Augustine, watched over by Chris for months at a time, welcomed in by Randy, Chris’ friend who never had met me ever, and realizing that there is NO REASON AT ALL these three individuals should have offered me anything at all. Yet, they did- they offered me more than I should have been offered and gave me paradise. When I say paradise I literally mean a paradise I would, should, and could have only thought would be in a magazine or a book as a continuation of the end of the movie Shawshank Redemption.

IMG_9617.JPGYet here I am and as the sun is rising above the coast of this untouched, unknown, unheard of by many beach, I am in wonder at how the meaning of Thanksgiving has become truly a mesh of hundreds of amazing people who have just been there, in a moment’s surprised notice, and turned everything into one HUGE surprise. Colleagues, students, friends, unknown before friends that have become family, and family, and 100 more reason to be thankful for things I can not expect. This is only day 1 at Chacahua. 5:30 AM fishing is on the ticket and we are headed out to fill the boat – until then – know Thanksgiving is also full of surprises, sand, cabanas, beaches, and paradise. Thank you everyone for again, helping me be the adventurous, cautious, risk taking, optimistic person I am becoming every day.

Day 2 of the experience in this amazing AMAZING lagoon, untouched?  I am steel trying to put it all together but coming soon!  🙂 

If anything I have learned, HOPE IS a good thing, and going into the unknown, it is a bit scary, BUT, the benefits that result?  You can TRY to put them into words, but the experience is forever.




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