Friday, May 25, 2012

Hacienda Las Trancas

Now, as I think of the word escape, it is synonymous with silence: a pleasure we have not experienced in more than four years.  Silence.  What does it sound like?  Will we ever hear it again?

And I'm the one who gets away from it all every day at the office.

Three children born to us since April 2008.  Each day is filled with joyous activities, repeated continuously in no particular order until the last squirms and twists of rebellion against sleep have been put down: asking, bleeding, bouncing, cooing, crying, falling, fighting, giggling, grabbing, jumping, laughing, peeing, playing, poohing, running, scraping, screaming, smiling, sniffling, throwing, vomiting, whining, and yelling.  Despite what you may think, that list does not describe my behavior throughout each grueling day.

My use of these gerunds represents nothing new in the endless story of human parenting.  I present them here more as a marker of my development as a father.  To remind myself, perhaps years into the future, that these things occurred, we survived, and maybe I should feel a degree of shame for having given them such prominence in these early drawings of my children's lives.  If there exists a fatherhood ranking I might fall toward the lower end.  As an older daddy I surprise myself with shamefully depleted reserves of patience.

There is something uniquely maddening in the perfect storm of three young children, babies two of them, desperately needing your services at precisely the same moment.  A stubbed toe, a pacifier out of reach, and the failure to read "Goodnight Moon" just one more time, converge to ignite a conflagration of wailing desperation.  One imagines Swiss watchmakers slapping each other on the back, somewhere out there in the genetic ether where conception occurs.  "Good show, old boy!  Not a second too late!"

You will notice that I left one word off my list: griping.  That is reserved for me.  I do it and I do it well.  And now that I've had my blessed moment of whinging, I'll continue with more pleasant musings.  And, I'll say that moments such as these to follow make every excruciatingly wearisome second more than worth it.  And then some.

We took a trip.  We packed our children and our suitcases onto a bus with a tour group, and we left the city.   Hacienda Las Trancas rests in the State of Guanajuato approximately 350km northwest of the Mexican capital.

The unobtrusive entrance to this resort belies an austere, dusty, uneventful interior one would feel compelled to ignore entirely if another destination lay just beyond.  The rectangular, two-story adobe building blends seamlessly with the surrounding hardpack and cobble stoned drive.  Across a fence lies a soccer pitch devoid of grass, but well-trampled through constant use by local adolescents.  A few trees sway gently in the breeze, their leaves brushing tenderly against the nearly 500-year old structure.  The top branches of a majestic Indian Laurel peer out from above the walls, providing a glimpse of the lushness hidden within.  Enter the door, pass into the central courtyard and you are transported instantly to the artistic maturity, luxury, and wealth of Spanish Mexico.

Attention to detail within our quarters left us speechless, wandering about bumping into relics of the colonial period seemingly still warm from the touch of long-dead colonels, pastors, and silver miners.

As I staggered through history, unsure of where to rest our bags, a few of our traveling companions announced the arrival of refreshments.  Hacienda staff had prepared pitchers of margaritas and a platter of fresh guacamole with home-baked tortilla chips.  The journey from Mexico City had taken nearly 6 hours on an old, smelly bus.  Yet the simplest of gestures from our hosts, a cold drink and a bite to eat, erased our fatigue immediately.


Construction on what at the time was to be a fort, or presidio, to guard and house the silver caravans moving through Mexico to Veracruz, began in 1567 with a commission of land and troops from King Philip II to Diego Martin.  It became a hacienda officially in 1709 and was a part of Father Miguel Hidalgo's parish at the turn of the 19th Century.  At the height of its wealth it encompassed more than one million acres.

We were unable to explore all that acreage, but we did our level best to seek beauty, excitement, and relaxation in the various nooks and crannies within the compound.  The resort provides three meals a day and the dining room is straight out of "Viva Zapata!"  Pancho Villa ate here during the war of Dolores Hidalgo.  He spared the hacienda from destruction after it opened its doors to him and his men and that's a very good thing because the home cooked meals of local fare were top notch.

All good things must pass.  Our time at Las Trancas ended far too quickly.  But, yet again we had discovered something new to us in Mexico.  And with it came a little escape from the stresses and fatigue of city life.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Birth and rebirth

Our third child, Connor, was born on February 9th.  We still cannot entirely fathom the enormity of raising three, but our joy grows and, despite near hallucinogenic fatigue, we would not change a thing.
Nearly one year has passed since I posted my last entry to this blog.  Much has changed in our lives.  We moved to a larger residence a few weeks before Connor arrived and now wonder how we coped with less space.  Crying, laughter, and the constant, high-pitched chatter of young ones fills every corner of this house.  The Embassy, and in particular the General Services Office (GSO) staff, were instrumental in making our landing a soft one and ensuring that our new abode was ready for us.  We are one American family out of hundreds here in Mexico City.  How GSO handles the load is beyond my ability to comprehend.

The blog.  What can I say?  I posted in sadness last May after Sharon and the (only two!) children departed for a summer on Taiwan.  I returned to this page periodically hoping to capture some sort of magic, a small window into the myriad experiences of life.  Each time I failed, departing even more cynical.  Why am I writing this?  Why does anyone write a blog?  Why do we have this need to air the banal intricacies of our existence for all to see?  It all seemed so contrived and utterly self-aggrandizing.

I grew up in the 1970s, a long time before the blogosphere took shape.  Personal diaries and handwritten (ok, typewritten) letters remained the primary means of documenting ones life and sharing it with others.  Most people would not have dreamed of opening up their diaries for public scrutiny.  They were meant to be private, often kept in leather-bound books, with locked front flaps, hidden in the sock drawer, or behind miscellanea on the top shelf of a seldom-explored closet.  Secret explorations of emotions not wholly understood.  An airing of grievances and heartbreak too painful to share with classmates, friends, or even closest relatives.

Beyond that, why should I care if you farted in bed the other morning?  Who really wants to know that you passed a quirky restaurant on the side of Route 29 just south of Charlottesville, Virginia?  The hamburger joint with a skunk in its road sign.  Is it necessary to tell the world you went bungee jumping in Thailand when it was 90° at 8am?  Should I like that or re-tweet it?

It dawned on me I had become a crotchety old man, likely someone with whom few would want to associate.  Charlie?  Oh, he's that angry fellow who shakes his fist at the sky and listens to The Smiths.  Nevermind him.  He's probably got gas.

Older?   Yes, and worse for the wear with balding tires on three corners.  But, why is this causing me to cast such a disparaging eye on modern expression and youthful innovation?  How can that be?  Didn't I, in college, experiment with colloquialisms, altered voice, meter and rhythm, among other things?  The Red Hot Chili Peppers played in front of our dormitory window sophomore year, virtually unheard of and terribly under-appreciated.  But I loved them for their quirky mixture of funk and punk, and laughed derisively at the old guard's displeasure over their strategically placed tube socks.  What would that Charlie have said to this bitter, resentful man raging against the digital machine?  I suspect he would smirk a bit and send a cheeky friend request.

So, let's get back to blogging and sharing.  A much better course than that set by morose self-pity.

It feels as though a generation has passed since my last post here.  Our daughter, Reya, began walking last fall.

We took an all too short holiday in Playa Del Carmen, the Mayan Riviera.  It was there I reaffirmed my love of the mojito.

We discovered Metepec, Toluca, just over the mountains, and its splendid arts & crafts.  We like this place so much we've returned four or five times with different friends and relatives.

And we continued to explore more of this vibrant city.

Somehow I let eleven months slip by without showing proper respect to the good fortune with which my family and I are blessed.  It became all about me and how coolly unresponsive I could be to the beauty which surrounds us even amidst the grime of urban sprawl.   Or maybe it really was just gas.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gareth's Art class


Saturday, July 30, 2011

2011 Taiwan

今年生了老二,一個人搭飛機帶兩個小孩回台灣探望家人,雖然待了兩個月,但是總覺得還有好多朋友沒見到,因為下次見面應該是兩年後了! 回台灣除了大吃特吃,家人也很開心看到麥小妹,總覺得這回哥哥有點被冷落了,但是最大收穫是哥哥中文變好了,每天吵著要騎摩托車去買豆漿,逛夜市,不過開心就好,回墨西哥可沒有這麼好命! 這回也難得全家大小一同出遊,到走馬瀨待了兩天一夜,大人小孩都開心,除了蚊子很多,太陽很大天氣又悶之外,其實很好玩. 要回墨西哥在機場也是很多人來送行,那些表弟表妹們大部分是湊熱鬧純粹想到高雄機場看看,不過還是感受到他們心意...







Friday, July 8, 2011

Parque Nacional - Desierto de los Leones