Monday, March 19, 2007

Dispatch 23 Ducky the Van and Dentists

March 1- 15

The cruising life is full of chance meetings and coincidences. For example, one night at dinner in San Carlos, we realized Richard and our dinner companion sailed together with a mutual friend in Mexico 22 years ago. As we pulled into Santiago Bay near the large port city of Manzanillo, thanks to e-mail contact, we knew our friends Stan and MJ who had bought Ducky the van were recently settled into a small house on the hill. They are former sailboat cruisers now land-cruising in Ducky. So, we rounded the corner into beautiful Santiago Bay and hailed them on the radio, “Solmate, Solmate, this is Qayaq.” Also as former boaters, they know how to get at the heart of their fellow boaters, so, when they answered, they offered to pick us up (in Ducky!), take us to provision, do laundry, have lunch, whatever. Ohmygod, heaven sent offers to be sure.

We took them up only on the lunch and an afternoon hang-out/catch-up, cool off with a beer, session which we did. It was great to see them. We found out that our van has carried them mostly trouble-free through an additional 6000 miles. I can’t help personifying something like old vehicles with personalities like Ducky. It struck me that we had saved Ducky, who had been put out to pasture and was pushing up the weeds in someone’s back yard, and gave it new life. Now it is happily retired in Mexico, traveling to interesting places and transporting all kinds of fascinating characters in their adventures. What a save!

We enjoyed Santiago and Manzanillo. Santiago Bay is lovely and the water is nice for swimming. Mostly we hung out with friends, which is always great. We also took a bus into the city of Manzanillo (30 min. bus ride for 6 peso (60 cents)) and walked around exploring. It’s a port city with much the same container traffic as Seattle so it seemed familiar. At the main square they have a humongous statue of a sailfish that is very striking! We had lunch in town at one of the markets, did a little shopping on the way back out to the beach and enjoyed the stay.

Next stop on our itinerary was Zihuatanejo, a 2 day/2 night journey in our boat. We had brief good sailing followed by a lot of motoring and arrived in the morning as planned. There, cruiser friends from Seattle got us oriented as they had been there 6 or 7 weeks and had eaten their way from one end of town to the other. They showed us all the important spots, had gotten us a walking map and a program for Guitar fest which was to start a couple days after our arrival—how lucky is that? Zihuatanejo is a lovely spot, a destination tourist resort that retains a Mexican flavor. The harbor is pretty to look at, but, as with many city harbors in Mexico, sewage is dumped untreated directly into the bay making it less of an appealing swim spot. The harbor is large so the hundred or so boats who attend the Zihua festival in February fit without problems, and, by the time we arrived, the boat population was down to about 40, well dispersed.

We probably would have enjoyed Zihua more, except sudden health issues reared their ugly heads. As we headed out for 2 days to get here, Richard caught his toe on a line on the deck of our boat and ripped off his big toenail. He did well with that, but it meant that he couldn’t immerse his foot in the sewage riddled water. So I dropped him off at the public dock then landed on the beach with help from Nathaniel, the self-appointed dinghy guardian. Well, I told Nathaniel about my husband’s foot infection (couldn’t really figure out how to say he ripped off the nail so used a word I knew) and he was sympathetic. Then Richard confessed to a 2 day toothache he had been having which was getting worse. It started at the same time as his severe sore throat, but continued after the minor cold symptoms abated. Shoot, this really was going to need to be addressed. The next day I told Nathaniel about the tooth—he made a motion like someone having their tooth pulled. By then, I think Nathaniel had his own image of my basketcase of a husband.

So we polled our experienced friends and learned about a dentist they trusted as compared to the one who had done a hack job on them the year before and we walked in on a Saturday to see if she could see Richard. She works with dentists from the U.S. who come down to help her take care of “the poor” and her English was OK. She schedules appointments but also took walk-ins and we shared the waiting room with 2 families with kids and others arrived while we waited. By the way, it is usual for doctors to work on Saturdays here in Mexico and not unheard of for dentists to do so as well. She agreed to work Richard in and did an x-ray and decided to try conservative therapy first, and, if that failed, a root canal might be necessary. Guess who was motivated to do better with conservative therapy?

Well, as always, the decision to pursue medical or dental care in a foreign country where one does not speak the language is fairly traumatizing. While medical care is something I can judge, I’m equal to anyone else in my ignorance for the most part of dental issues (other than my own personal experience of course). Compound that by the fact that both of us are dentist phobic (raise your hand if you’re NOT dentist phobic) and, well, it’s been a tense couple of days. The jury is still out on Richard’s tooth, but, as I write this, we are waiting for our follow-up appointment and, so far, he is improved with conservative therapy (can you say “placebo effect”?)

So, while this drama was unfolding, we had planned a rendezvous here in Zihua with one of my college roommates, a friend for over 30 years who has lived outside of Mexico City for the past 16 years. She and her husband flew to Zihua to meet us. They stayed in a friend’s luxury condo and we hung out with them for 2 and a half days and had a lovely time catching up. Truthfully, we hung out in the pool or shower a lot. The timing of this rendezvous was no accident—we HAD to make it happen because my friend just got a job in Ghana, Africa! So we talked about Mexico, international affairs, their 3 sons and their college experiences, our various middle age observations and everything we could think of to store up for another several years of not seeing each other. We took them out for a delightful afternoon sail where the wind cooperated and blew 10-15 while we sailed out of the harbor and back for a couple hours.

The second night they were in town we went to the opening of Guitar Fest, a week long festival with over 20 guitar musicians playing at various venues. The opening night featured all of the artists with 15 minute teasers of their music so that we could decide who to pursue in the following nights. It was a blast with a combination of excellent and interesting music, and some not so much to our taste, all being played at a restaurant on the beach with a backdrop of a gorgeous sunset with crashing surf. I’m telling you, it doesn’t get a lot better than this. Meanwhile, one of the musician’s girlfriends was at our table on and off and, as we chatted during the evening, it turned out she had previously lived in Accra, Ghana, Africa, exactly where my friend Anne is moving for her job. I guess we will stop being amazed by these coincidences one day, but they still seem so cosmic when they happen. I don’t think I could have told you where Ghana is prior to my friend getting a job there and suddenly 2 people at the same table, perfect strangers, shared experiences in Ghana.

Our next port of call is Acapulco and we’ve researched possible dentists just in case. Southern Mexico is getting hot and humid as spring advances. We try not to be bothered by the weather as we don’t expect improvement in the hot/humid department until we get to Ecuador and who knows when that will be? As we deal with our various thankfully minor health issues, we wish all of you good health and a pleasant spring.