Wednesday, February 18, 1998
SAN JOSE DEL CABO, MEXICO -- Let us browse the bi-weekly, free Gringo Gazette — "The English Language Newspaper For Southern Baja."
Hoping to add a little insight as to how "gringo" became a subset of "American," I reprint almost in its entirely, the Statement—From The Publisher by Carrie Duncan on page two. Note: Ms. Duncan and her husband, Dick, seem to be in Central America. This Statement is part of a "continuing saga."
"Antigua [Guatemala] was the original capital of the country about a zillion years ago, and so all the buildings are about a zillion years old. Old and crumbly. Dick and I had to work hard at completing the 3 ½ month drive through Central America to Costa Rica without ever touring any real ruins. Unless you count the time Dick slowed down and I rolled down the window to crane my neck at some real famous ruins in Honduras. Couldn’t see much from the car. We’re not into ruins.
"Antigua is a little town with a ton of language schools. I’d say that’s all they do there, their only industry being Spanish instruction to Gringos and holding their crumbly buildings together. The United States State Department sends a lot of their people there. Lots of trench coats, spy stuff, I think.
"The big thing I learned about choosing a language school is to not buy into their sales pitch concerning immersion. Immersion means the teacher doesn’t speak English to the students, and the entire ordeal is carried out in gibberish. I mean Spanish. We learned that this is just a cover up for the fact that the schools can’t find teachers who can speak English. Believe me, it takes a whole lot more time and effort to learn Spanish when you can’t even ask a question because you can’t speak the language yet. And how can the teacher explain the finer points of grammar when they can’t speak English to you? If you could understand their explanation in Spanish, you wouldn’t be in the class trying to learn Spanish in the first place. When the teacher can’t speak the student’s language, it is an exhausting day of charades and gesturing. Think of any subject you have ever studied where you can’t ask a simple question. This is not a good learning environment.
"The second great myth of Spanish instruction is what a wonderful time you’ll have staying in an authentic Latin home. First, these people are paid a pittance for your stay, while the school that arranged the accommodations takes most of the money. In Guatemala, the families were lucky to see $1 of the $15 that the American paid for their stay.
"Second, just how much cultural exchange is going to go on when you can’t speak the language? These folks are the poorest of the poor, and can barely speak Spanish, and you surly don’t want to learn to speak it like them. It would be like a European staying in a home in America’s Appalachia, and thinking they’re associating with real Americana.
"Third, just how welcome do you think you are in these people’s home? You are there because they are desperate for your money, not because they want their privacy invaded by a new group of strangers every week. We met quite a few people who were staying in these local homes, and most of them switched homes several times. Many of them never were really comfortable.
"I would hesitate to pay in advance for Spanish lessons, as I want to interview the teacher and take an hour’s instruction before committing my money, and more important, my effort. It is discouraging and frustrating to try to learn from an inept teacher, as a good teacher can make the time wiz by, and assist the student toward real progress.
"O my goodness, I seem to have used up all my room on this page without ever talking about how hard I actually worked at learning Spanish and how fluent I am now.
Front page story about whales. Some of the scientific information contained:
-Whales swim 6000 miles in two distinct waves. The first group is the pregnant females, swimming "like hell" 20 hours a day, averaging 100 miles/day, taking seven months.
-Several weeks later the men "hit the rail" traveling with the six to eight year old single lady whales and "they date and mate all along the way. You can just bet these whales don’t swim 20 hours a day."
-They spend about three months in lagoons and shallows. "In February the newly knocked up lady whales, along with the young whales of both sexes, and the adult men whales hit the trail for Alaska. The moms and toddlers head home a few months later."
-There are 12,000 gray whales in existence and they have the longest migration of any mammal on earth.
There is an article on a new TaeKwonDo school in Cabo San Lucas. In it they give a little history of the martial art:
"Five thousand years ago, Korean monks were getting grief from bad guys who plundered their monastery, taking their food, and belongings, sometimes just for the hell of it. The bad people also sometimes killed the monks when they resisted. Living in the mountains, the monks were woodcutters, and fishermen. It was prohibited by their religion to use any weapon, even for hunting food, so only using their hands and feet and body, they became very nimble at hunting and fishing.
"They started a new technique against the bad people. After that, they began to use the concentration learned, to control their mind and body to handle their enemies."
There is an article about the new Margaritaville restaurant opening in Cabo San Lucas. It seems to have been written by the owner himself, Jimmy Buffet.
"My Maiden Voyage—Newby at sea" is a little essay written on the nuances of sailing. The author begins her treatise: "There’s something idyllic about the sea. The salt breezes in your hair, your clothes, the stinging sensation in you eyes. Like a mountaineer, you wake with the sun, sleep with the moon and smell like a…fresh caught trout." She goes on to bemoan seasickness, cabin fever, narrow beds, the head ("an ambiguous word obviously chosen by a man"), sailor banter, beer offered from coolers full of live minnows by a guy named Burt, "…or some other Midwestern-type name, who eyes your bottle of suntan lotion with suggestive lust.", sailor’s hats, and wraps it up with a lengthy description of a scene from "What About Bob" where "the ever manic" Bill Murray is tied to a mast.
There is a story about a local strip club transformed to a bar/restaurant/night club in amazingly only 43 days. (Personally, I find this extremely newsworthy.)
There is an in-depth story on Cabo’s sewage system. "It stinks."
At the bottom of the page is an eighth-page ad for a guy offering rides on his Harley. It features a color photo of a smug-looking, long-haired blonde man standing in front of his motorcycle; two midriff-bared, cut-off jeans-clad females posing at his side. "He’s Baaaaack! And running Harley Davidson rides. Bucky Baker, former honcho of the girly bar, 20/Twenty, before it was a girly bar.
"As you can see, any guy can get a girl if he has a Harley Davidson."
On the next page is a half-page color ad for 20/Twenty (described now not as a girly bar but as a World CLASS CABARET) complete with a photo of, no doubt, one of the cabaret girls.
The same author of the Maiden Voyage story and the sewage system article has another piece under the heading of "Financial News," which includes the preface: "Boring, but I get a nickel a word and the rent’s due." Hey! that’s a financial issue.
There is a listing of Los Cabos’ golf clubs’ winter rates.
Rates run $132-$181.50/18 holes.
And to wrap it up a few classified ads:
-House for rent in San Jose, 3br, 2 bath, $650/mo
-Female-owned Yamaha XT225, $2800 (we find out in another ad for the same motorcycle her name is Shani, and she is the pool-side masseuse at the Casa del Mar)
-Ocean-view, second-floor condo, $120,000
-Homes for sale in a Cabo San Lucas development, $695,000-$995,000
-Offer by a responsible single woman to house-sit for Feb/Mar
-"Subscriptions to the Gringo Gazette available, see page 15, or 15, maybe 17, sometimes 9"
note: At the bottom of the masthead is this announcement: "If you want to send us aricles (sic), OK, but we may or may not send it back, Send us stamps, and your odds go up. This paper is actually copy righted, which cost us a bundle to accomplish, and we’re pretty sick of seeing parts of it reproduced other places, so don’t do it."
Front page--a picture of a whale and some seagulls. "Sea gulls can get pretty cocky, sometimes even stealing food right out of a whale’s mouth, but they don’t always win at that game. Six birds were found in the stomach of a dead whale recently washed up on the beach."
Headline: The Whales Are Here!
The Whales Are Here!
Last night I spent with some humans, but not with Peter. I was ready to go out but I stayed there. All night. They always give me lots of food. Weird food. Usually, they just let me back out again, but not last night. The cats live there. When the cats realized I was not leaving they started to growl. Big deal. Cat growls. A couple growls of my own shut ‘em up. Imagine…stupid cats.
All night the leaves made noise and the trees moved around. Didn’t like it at all. Not one bit. Slept in the darkest, safest corner in the room. Stupid cats slept in front of some heat thing.
In the morning, there Peter was. Just like always. I don’t know why I didn’t sleep in my room. Oh, well. Everything is back to normal.
Went out in the boat again. So cool. I love the way the boat moves. It is so relaxing. I just sit and look out. See what’s out there. It’s not like the car. I sit down. Even lay down. Sometimes there’s action and I get all excited. Sometimes we go fast and I can’t help myself… I just gotta let loose some loud barks. I love to hang out there. Bark at the birds. At the water. At the air. Let everyone know, here we come! Look out! We’re coming!
It’s been a great bunch of days.
The water has been splendid for diving. In fact, in four years I have never seen the water better. Normal conditions prevailing, the ocean is calm for four or five days until swells come in from the Pacific, turning my little coral-laden dive spot into a treacherous meat-shredder. After the swells subside in two or three days, the water then takes a couple more days to clear and the cycle begins again. This year, there have been no swells. I could dive every day, if I so desire.
The other day I was out for over two and a half-hours. I exited only because I was too tired to go underwater anymore. Diving four or five days in a row did me in. It was time to take a break. So the next day I went for a four-hour bike ride into the mountains.
My normal bike ride is through town, popping out onto a dirt road that heads into the mountains. The road is in decent shape, with just enough ruts and gouges to keep a biker from daydreaming. An hour up, fifteen minutes down. Every day, I go a little farther. Yesterday I was prepared to go to the first crest and return—two and a half hours. En route, I decided I would stash the bike at the top and hike to the summit of the small mountain. It was an honorable itinerary, but hardly a wise one.
The road was predictable, the final mile being the most demanding as it crosses a quick series of deep arroyos, always climbing higher on the other side. I have always wanted to climb the small mountain at the crest, but have repeatedly postponed the event, waiting for someone to hike it with. That other person never seemed to materialize. So I decided to get on with it.
During the first half of the hike I was guided by a meager cow or goat trail that went in and out of existence. It had me crouching much of the time, ducking under thorny canopies. As my elevation increased the trail became less and less of a trail until I was climbing on mostly granite outcroppings. The wind from the Pacific became evident. After 45 minutes I was sitting on a rough piece of granite with a 270-degree view of the area. From this outcrop the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean were simultaneously visible—a rare situation from such an easily accessible vantage. The "peak" lay another 20 minutes along the mountain’s ridge. For ten minutes I soaked up the vista and ate my remaining gorp mixture.
As I headed back down I quickly lost my trail. For a half-hour I bushwhacked my way through the thorniest piece of real estate imaginable. How many plants in the Baja sport thorns of some sort? To my best recollection, they all offer thorns. I was dressed to ride a bike, not battle cactus. I was wearing shorts and a sleeveless basketball T-shirt that left vulnerable my legs, arms, hands, and shoulders. Blood flowed from everywhere. I soon was able to, at a glance, identify the worst offenders and plan my route around them. Never the less, it was a brutal descent. I vowed never to hike again without the dog, whose nose is absolutely errorless in retracing an exact route taken. Eventually I reached the arroyo at the bottom and followed it to the road and back to my bike.
The trip back to town was a rush, as always. Going as fast as I felt safe, I rocketed down. Zipping between the ruts, positioning myself for turns a couple turns ahead. The air flowing past cooled my itching lashings. A half-hour later had me back at the hotel.
My return was greeted by a most momentous of occasions—the filling of the hotel’s swimming pool. The pool is ten years old and has never contained water.
Water was spewing forth from a fire hose connected to a water truck parked on the road in back of the hotel. The pool eventually drained three water booties.
The hotel guests were cheering and taking pictures. The owners looked on, proud as new parents. I shared briefly the regalia, returning to my room for a much-anticipated, old-fashioned, long, hot shower.