November 2010, Mexico
morning awakes with red skies. At 6.50 AM we arrived at the US
immigration office at Sonoyta (Az). Outside custom officers
wear woolen hats and gloves, it is just one degree above freezing. We
decide to be honest to the custom officer. "We are tourists from the
Netherlands and we go to Mexico. Should we do something? ". The officer
looks at our passports. "When did you entered the United States?".
"And how long will you stay in Mexico?".
"In April we will come back to the USA." "And you are with the waiver
ESTA program? (That's the name of the 90 days visa).
"Well that seems no problem to me, but I'll will check with my colleague
here. A little later he returned with the message:
“You are good to go”.
Less than five minutes later we're back outside. PJ remains suspicious,
but I think we can stay for four months in Mexico!
|The Mexican side is not to so smoothly.
The first thing you need to do in Mexico is getting a visa. Our
travel companions Lesley and Terry went first. The officer takes
its sweet time filling in their forms and gets confused when
Lesley is an American citizen and her husband Canadian. After
twenty minutes it is our turn. The officer puts one of our
passports through the scanner and looks at his screen. And keeps
"Problemas?" I ask.
The man is studying again the front of our passports again which
says rise up "European Union Kingdom of the Netherlands" (in
"Holanda", I help him.
He scrolls through his screen
and shakes his head. "No Holanda."
"Países Bajos" PJ tries.
The man looks it up mumbles all the countries starting with a P.
"Netherlands? ", I say hesitantly now and browse through my passport. On
the first page there is in about 21 languages, the word Netherlands.
try again, "Reino de los Países Bajos", but the man keeps shaking
no. And this goes on for twenty (!) minutes.
"Uno momento" says the man and leaves the office. Moments later
he returns with a young girl wrapped in a fluffy white ski jacket with
fur collar. She takes off her gloves and takes place behind the
computer. "Países Bajos" she says surprised, pointing to the
computer. The officer smiles sheepishly and takes the form and pushes it
under my nose. "You fill it in."
Yeah, great, thanks a lot! I have to fill in a Spanish-language form. I
do it as best as I can. Only two hours later I realize that we do
not have an entrance stamp our passports! How can we proof in the USA
that we have been in Mexico?
First Mexican trailer park
(San Carlos) Third
Mexican trailer park (Mazatlan)
Mexican drive-through store
After four days driving we arrived in La Penita
and a warm welcome (especially for Bob) awaits us. His friends
have barricaded their site with a wall of palm leaves, signs and pictures
of Mexican bandits with machine guns! Hilarious!
The next day Bob has his revenge. He dresses in
camouflage, war stripes on his face and build a wall at the office and
waits for the Mexican staff who helped with the wall. Again we have an
exuberant beginning of our time in La Penita.
December 2010, Mexico
We have our campsite all set up nicely and PJ has built a "kitchen", complete
with bowl with drain! from Bob and Char we got a comfy chair and a canapé that
we put above the kitchen. We hang our hammocks and bird feeders. We take the
camper from the pick up. We have a ocean view and lots of pink and purple
bougainvillea around us.
The wildlife around us is colorful
(birds, iguanas and butterflies), dangerous (crocodiles), cute
(squirrels), scary (spiders and bats) and just disgusting (cockroaches).
I am sitting on my knees at the shore
of a lagoon near the trailer park making pictures of a huge crocodile.
From the road he is hard to see, because the swamp is overgrown by
branches. A guy from the trailer park walks by along the road.
"wow, he is big", I can hear him exclaiming. Strange, because you can
hardly see him from the road.
"And these colors, unbelievable!" and I can see he points his camera at
"Colors?", I am thinking and do not get it. Later I see that I have just
missed a huge brown spider with yellow dots hanging in its web.
We party a lot with our Canadian
friends, try out Mexican restaurants, but we are also sportive every
day. We give each other weird presents and have a lot of fun.
December 2010, The Netherlands
On December 17th we get the sad news that the partner of PJ's dad has
passed away. We exchange the tropical Mexico for a snowy Holland.
On the plane from Detroit to Puerto Vallarta, we are
with only 27 travel companions, so we had lots of space. In Detroit, we were
told that only passengers with Amsterdam as their final destination are allowed
on the plane! We were lucky because 90% of passengers had to stay behind!
Without delays we arrived to a snowy landscape and stumble at the airport
on the stranded passengers and see corridors filled with abandoned suitcases.
What a weird experience when we hear
knocking on our door and PJ finds a white goose on our doorstep!
On December 30th we flew back to
December 2010, Mexico
31 December 2010
We are just in time for
the New Years
party at the trailer park. I am having a bad cold and also Char has one,
but that did not stop us from partying. La Penita trailer park has
filled up with Mexicans while we were gone and they are showing us how
flexible their hips are
how easy they move on the Mexican rhythms.
January 2011, Mexico
Peter and Monique, our long time friends from Holland came to visit
us for two weeks starting January 7th. It was their 25th anniversary, so
the theme is 'Honeymoon' and we had decorated their tent with white
tulle ribbons, angels and signs that were showing them the way to their
Our Canadian friends were warm hearted to them and Peter & Monique
experienced it as a warm bath.
Their 25th anniversary was celebrated
with bridal cake, champagne mixed with orange juice, a pick-nick on a
romantic beach and dinner with a view off the bay of Guayabitos.
Chills were running over our skins
when a boa constrictor was found in a tree above somebody's trailer!
Skillfully he was removed by a brave camper and returned to the jungle
next to the trailer park.
Not even four days later another boa
was hanging in the same tree!!! This one was thicker and longer. The
snake was caught by one of the boys working in the park and after been
measured (6feet) returned to the jungle.
|One-and-a-half week later, in
the same tree(!) there is another boa. Because this snake is way
smaller, he can stay in the tree. Will it get any crazier?
Peter en Monique's vacation is full
of eating, drinking, dancing, shopping and sun tanning.
Highlight of their vacation was a
whale watching boat tour with guide Enrique, who picked us up from the
beach at the trailer park. In the beginning the tour was not so
successful; we did see the hump back whales, but they were far out and
as soon as we got closer they dived under. Enrique rode to one of the
whales and turned the engine off and we just waited if the whale would
surfaced again. To our big surprise the whale started singing, right
underneigh our boat! This lasted twenty minutes and the sound was
someting in between a crying baby, air leaving a balloon and trumpeting
of an elephant. Amazing! What an experience. When he finally came out of
the water it
was only 3 yards from the boat.
Peter reeled in a fish and we saw a
leatherback turtle and Enrique was heading back to the beach. But then he
saw a mother whale with young and he followed the couple up close. Now
the whale tour was also photography wise a success.
|After two wonderful weeks we
said our goodbyes to Peter and Monique and immediately we received
an email from other Dutch friends who would like to come to
visit us in February with their two young kids. As soon as they
booked their flight tickets we started with the
preparations of their visit.
Cancer de Mama Clinica (Breast Cancer Clinic)
In 1996 Jackie Jackson from BC Canada started a breast prostheses
project for Mexican women who cannot afford a breast prosthetic after a
mastectomy operation. Dealing with cancer of any
type is a horrible ordeal. Being a poor woman complicates the physical
aspects due to lack of available options or assistance. Add the cultural
taboos to the situation and most breast cancer survivors withdraw from
social activities for fear of standing out due to the loss of hair and a
For many women in Mexico, just surviving the breast removal surgery is
not enough, there is still a huge uphill battle for regaining
self-esteem and feeling like a woman again.
Jackie’s Cancer the Mama
project was adopted by
the La Penita RV Park residents in 2008.
The clinic provides more than free prosthetics and a hot meal -
it welcomes clients with instant fellowship, understanding, and
a chance to feel feminine again - all wrapped in smiles and hugs
from the many volunteers.
asked to make pictures of this three days event. Weeks ago the
preparations for the clinic have started: the donated bra’s and
prosthetics has to be sorted. The clubhouse where normally the residents
play carts and ping-pong, is
transformed into a
clinic with eight private cubicles that are pleasantly decorated to ease
the women's anxiety and to help the Mexican women feel respected,
comfortable, and safe. With some 130 volunteers (also Mexican) and the
help of the local stores the clinic cannot fail.
normally ping-pong is played in the clubhouse
\ \ \ \ piles and piles of bras
\ \ \ \ \
\pink fitting room
\ \\ \ \ donated
The Mexican ladies are arriving at the nearby Pemex gas station
because the buses are too large to travel right to the clinic
door, so park volunteers ferry the women from the gas station to
the trailer park. I take a ride with one of the male volunteers.
There are so many women waiting that I feel obliged to wait for
the next van or the next. I did not want to take somebody’s
The ladies are registered by Mexican girls and ask them for example when
they had their surgery, if they have been here before and if they need a
wig. Most of the women have risen at 4a6m and of course there is
breakfast and coffee for them. This food is prepared by many volunteers
who are working behind the scenes. The waiting starts and the ladies are
entertained with bingo.
The first 15 ladies are called and are walked to the club house
and seated. One by one is called inside.
I follow one of the ladies into the clubhouse and wait in a
corner until she is fitted her prosthetic and bra.
Last year Karen Stranaghan published the following story about the
Cancer de Mama clinic. Although I have not met these women,
the feeling she describes is the same and I have decided to publish
her story and frame it with my pictures.
Beautiful boobs! by Karen Stranaghan
They arrived in the hours before daylight; bundled, breasts
concealed, heads bowed and hearts heavy. Mexican women, all with
breast cancer, and all with the hope that there might be a breast
prosthetic for them.
For the previous year, women in Canada and the US have been quietly
raising funds, gathering used prosthetics, prosthetic bras and
regular bras that other volunteers will transform into prosthetic
bras. Scores of other women have been knitting tit bits, cotton
filled breast prosthetics complete with nipple, by the hundreds.
All of these efforts have poured into the La Penita RV Park, in
"titbits" sorted on size
For the next three days, 325 women from as far away as
Guadalajara, Tepic, and Puerto Vallarta will come here to be
Unfortunately, In Mexico, it is not uncommon for breast cancer survivors
to be made to feel dirty; the men in their lives shun them, their
families shun them and sometimes even their whole village shuns them.
Times are changing, but still two women in the same village suffering
from the same cancer might not even know that the other exists. There
is no support group, there in no Cancer Society, and in many cases,
there is no information and precious few resources to deal with the
physical and emotional damage of breast cancer.
But these women have hope, and as the days progress, the rewards of our
efforts shine through. As each woman is fitted with her prosthetic bra
and tit bit, she emerges from the filling room, coat over her arm, like
a butterfly from a cocoon. Her hands fly to her face as she views
herself in the mirror. A wide grin splits her face as she realizes how
beautiful she still is, then the tears overflow. Others shake their
booty and dance through the room, out the door and into the waiting arms
of loved ones. The air is filled with “Gracias, gracias”. There are
hugs, more tears and lots of clapping and cheering from the volunteers.
“Bonita Chi Chi’s” we call out; “beautiful boobs,” as indeed they are!
"God bless you,
you are the working ants from God!"\ \ \ \ \
\A wig and some make-up make such a difference!
There is also much heartache, and none of us remains
The most fragile women, those still undergoing chemo, are assisted by
helping hands on either side. Their transformation begins quickly as
they are first fitted with a wig or hat so that they can enter the
fitting rooms feeling less naked.
A volunteer moves through the crowd with a baby that can
surely be only a few weeks old; held so that the mother can be given her
chance in the fitting room. We wonder aloud how much time the baby and
mother will have to share.
“Interpreter needed” a voice calls out and another volunteer rushes to
help with what we know must be more than just a prosthetic fitting.
A young woman has arrived fresh from her surgery, drain tubes still in,
with a body too sore to even wear a bra, but she doesn’t want to miss
this once yearly chance for a prosthetic. She will leave with
everything she needs to weather the next weeks of discomfort, as well as
her new bra and her new breast tucked into her bag.
As a fitter struggles to get just the perfect fit with the prosthetic
breast, the young Mexican woman reassures her with gestures and broken
English. “Do not worry, it is perfect. The other breast will be taken
in April.” More tears flow.
“May I have some pretty bras”, the volunteer fitter asks me as she
fights back tears. “She is only 15.”
I dig through dozens of bras, determined to find the most feminine ones
I can. “Thank you” the fitter whispers as she takes them away. I
notice that she has regained her composure and is once again ready to
brighten the small cubicle she works in.
But it does not end here; the women are given a prosthetic bra,
a breast prosthetic, a titbit and two regular bras. These
two need to be altered to hold the prosthetic. Teams of
seamstress are ready to sew the pockets into the bras.
||Everything is registered in the computer.
In the meantime the Mexican women have to wait again and are served
a warm lunch. The ‘choppers’ are cutting in three days 25 kilos
of potatoes, 25 kilos of carrot, 25 kilos of onions. And then
the fruit: 25 kilos of oranges, 3 cases of pineapple, 3 cases of
papaya. 36 chickens, 10 kilo of rice, 25 kilo sugar and more
than 500 tortillas are being eaten. From 6 kilo grounded coffee
beans coffee is percolated and 20 kilo of cookies are baked.
Just to name some numbers.
the bras are altered, the woman can go to the free clothes stall, where
they can pick three items..
This is the end of a long day and with a big smile and a bag full of
‘goodies’ they can go home. Their future is still unsure for these
women, but the clinic helped to bring them dignity and hope for
tomorrows to come.
Not only the
Mexican ladies are fulfilled, we are too!
14 February Pig Roast
After the emotional clinic it is time for some fun and the yearly Pig
Roast theme is Mardi Gras. PJ and I are asked to make pictures of the
guests and PJ made a back ground cover in the sixties style. A lot of La
Penita residents have done much effort to find a mask and costumes. We
are eating roasted pig and dance of the live music of the Perez Brothers
17 February 2011
Then it is time for more Dutch friends. Peter and Monique’s enthusiasm
made them book a flight ticket to Puerto Vallarta. With their two young
children it will be tenting again, but we have found them a luxury site
across from us. Our neighbors have just left yesterday and the site is
tiled and has an outdoor kitchen!
We dress up the site, put up a large tent, blow up their beds and our
friends can just move in.
The weather in La Penita is not always clear and sunny. Sometimes the
day starts with a thick fog, and the sun has to work to clear it away.
We plan a whale watching tour on Monday, but when we wake up a cold wind
is blowing and the waves are high. We postpone the tour till Wednesday,
but in the afternoon it clears up and we can still sunbathe on the beach. That
is typical Mexico.
“It’s time for something different”, I thought and have my
natural dark blond hair dyed dark brown!
We have planned our whale watching tour for today. From our campsite we
sometimes see the whales spouting and even jump, but that is mostly on
Our tour guide is Enrique and we launch from Guayabitos into our La
Penita bay. Only ten minutes later we see two adult humpback whales and
one young. We follow them up close. When they have moved to deeper
waters they start to jump! Wow, fantastic!
4th we bring our friends back to the airport and only two days later we
are ready for our return trip north. We are traveling in the same
company as we did in November and the first day we drive 6 hours to
Mazatlan. We are right in the middle of Carnaval and the fleet ends
right before the entrance of our trailer park! The fleet starts the
parade in the old town of Mazatlan and follows the boulevard to the
Golden Zone, where we are staying. It takes a long time to get here and
we are hanging around on the boulevard. The Antaras Nightclub has
its speakers outside and we are enjoying the good music. A six year old
boy plays the ‘air guitar’. He rocks!
Finally at 8.45pm (instead of 6pm) the parade passes us. It was
worth the waiting. Pretty Mexican girls in tight embroidered
dresses are swinging and waving, lights are flickering and one
float is even bigger than the other.
parade is over, but the partying continued for a long time while we
are already in bed. The next morning we read on the website
Violence continues unabated in the port city of Mazatlan in spite of
the presence of hundreds of military, federal and state police
reinforcements guarding the Carnaval festivities. Tuesday morning 6
people attending a private concert in the Antares nightclub were
shot and killed by unknown gunmen during an attack that occurred at
approximately 5:45am as a crowd was emptying into the parking lot.
The Antares nightclub is located on the Avenida Del Mar seaside
At least 20 more partygoers were wounded by gunfire, many reportedly
in serious condition in local hospitals.
Now this drug war is suddenly getting close!
We move to a trailer park at the north and quiet part of town. We
really like Mar-a-Villas trailer park with lots of bamboo around the
sites and a pristine beach. The ‘chicken bus’ to the Golden Zone
stops at the entrance and brings us for 80 dollar cent to the
restaurants. This way we can dine out one in a while. We stay on
this trailer park five more days.
||In an easy pace we travel
five hours north to Los Mochis. The temperature has risen
to 90F, it has not been this hot all winter!
The next day is another lazy one, over the toll roads to San
Carlos, where we arrive at 2pm. Quick some laundry in he
washing machine, the humidly is finally so low that the laundry
dries quick on the line.
|We rise early on the last
travel day in Mexico, at 5.45am we are on the road north. At
around 8 we enter the big city Hermosillo and PJ wants to
to take diesel. He sees a gas station at the other side of the
road and throws his steering wheel to the left, realizes that an
U-turn is not allowed and goes quickly back to the right. Okay,
not a pretty move. Next thing we see is a cop ordering us to
stop. The police officer copies PJ's steering move and says that
it is a problem. He also points at the odometer and says that we
were driving 60 km in a 40km zone. I don't now that PJ was
indeed 'speeding' and start to blow off steam. PJ normally
drives at a very slow pace, so the officer can't blame him for
speeding. The police did not ask for PJ's drivers license, so we
know that it is a scam. The officer walks back to his car a
couple of times, it is all very unclear. PJ thinks he is getting
away with a warning and starts driving. Oh, no that was not the
officers plan and he bangs on the camper. He now grabs his
ticket book. Now I am really getting pissed and start shouting
that this is a "pequeño
problema”, and he should not hassle
tourists like that. ("little problem", because I am still
thinking he is going to fine us for a steering mistake and not
for speeding). The officer backs away surprised and start asking
PJ for dollars. PJ gives him a 20 dollar bill.
“Una mas” (another one). PJ gives him a dirty look and gives him
another 20 dollar bill.
We hate it that we are giving in to the corrupted system with
this, but in only 5 minutes we are on our way again and our
friends did not had to wait for us very long.
||Without an more problems we
arrive at the USA border at Lukeville and are getting a 3
months tourist visa without any hassle. We are checked for
fruit, veggies and meat and are allowed to keep our bison meat,
pork(!) sausages and tomatoes.
trailerpark in Why,
Arizona...I am missing the jungle already!