Friday, December 24, 2004


I think we have found how we will spend our retired years when we are beyond travel. We can sit in the home with our blankets wrapped around our knees and hold the cards, waiting breathlessly until we can call BINGO!

We have been out to Gay Bingo three times now and we are winners. Our first night was at Los Amigos, a bar for the less rowdy, but still fun-loving people. Every one has a bingo card and a drink, and the numbers get called fast and furious, although as the evening progresses, the slurred calling gets more obvious.

On that glorious first night, there were eight of us at the table and everyone but Nigel won a prize. Oh, how low I felt, the only one with no chance to call that magic word. Geordie won three times, three!, while I sat there more and more morose, thinking I should be crying into my beer, but having too much fun with the jokes, the repartee and the suspense. Geordie actually won four times, but didn't notice he'd won one of them until too late. You must call bingo on the last number called, and he didn't so he had to forfeit that prize.

So now we have dined at Los Amigos on one coupon and not dined at La Cantina on the other because we missed the deadline for the prize, since the restaurant wasn't serving the Taco bar the night we went to spend the prize. Oh well, no matter, the restaurant hasn't had good reviews with our friends anyway. And his third prize was 50 pesos for getting the full card. He didn't win the big prize because he didn't get the card full in the requisite number required.

Our second night was at The Blue Chairs Sunset Bar which was hosted by Ida Slapter, a lovely tall drag queen from some small town in Texas. She had a number of great anti-Bush jokes to share, and lots of tongue in cheek humor for the crowd.

No, Nigel didn't win there either, but of course Geordie did. Only once but then he did win six prizes at once, and some of them were very good - including a meal at one of the better mexican restaurants in PV. We have also used two of the prizes to buy new shirts for the Christmas and New Year's events from Liquid Men at a discount price.

Our third event was back at Los Amigos and finally Nigel got the chance to shout Bingo! with lusty voice - or maybe that was the happy hour beer talking. The prize was two free drinks at some bar, but really it was the chance to call Bingo that was most important. And yes, Geordie won again. We have to go back next week to see if we can get him to win the grand prize which is 1000 pesos and a night at a beach resort down the coast.

Now it's time for me to head to the beach again. I need to relax before our big dinner tonight at BocaBento. We will be dressed to the nines of course thanks to gay Bingo, and the meal sounds very impressive. Hope the restaurant can cope with 30 of us at once.

Cheers all, and Bingo!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Paso Ancho Adventures

We arrived at the airport in PV after a long trip from Vancouver. The flight from Seattle was an hour late leaving, but through the magic of tail winds we arrived only a half hour late. Although for us it was an unusual event, we were looking forward to being picked up by Jose Luis for our foray into the hinterland of Paso Ancho, our first port of call on our three month odyssey in Mexico this winter.

Of course like all good plans, this one did not work to perfection. We waited hopefully for an hour and a half for some tall goodlooking man to arrive with a sign reading "Nigel and Geordie" in big block caps, but to no avail. We finally decided that we would risk it and took a taxi hoping to find the place using Geordie's memory of the picture from the internet.

The trip did not start auspiciously since our taxi driver was new to Vallarta and had never heard of Paso Ancho, but after some complex descriptions offered by the other taxi men, he set off. Geordie had a good idea of the route we needed too, so he was confident we would find the place. We did make it to Paso Ancho, but when we asked people in the area, they did not know the street name, Calle Cenzontle. One guy suggested it was up the nice steep cobbled street so we headed up only to be faced with a backhoe digging up the cross street cobbles, and although the workers were encouraging the driver to cross, he couldn't see the road because of the steep hill.

I got out to help direct the car, but also asked the backhoe operator if he knew our street and he just pointed to his ripped up cobblestones and said this was it! Well, that decided that. We got our bags out and left the taxi driver to back down the hill, and set off to walk west along the Calle and at the next cross street (Calle Faisan) found our apartment. Easy as pie. We also found someone to let us in who had a key, who also explained that Jose Luis had been called to a business meeting which explained his absence.

No matter, we settled in, unpacked a few things and waited around - it being 5:30 by then. Jose finally arrived, very apologetic, gave us a welcoming present of a bottle of Mexican white wine and paid us our taxi fare. Then he continued his apologies by inviting us to join him on his next tour to San Sebastan, a village way up in the hills, where Geordie has long wanted to go. Of course we accepted. Jose works for Vallarta Adventures which does lots of tours, and also operates a Canopy tour where one gets to swing through the trees like Tarzan. Geordie was thankful that that was not our recompense as he would have had to refuse. A flight to the 400 year old village of San Sebastian was much more to his liking.

I'll leave that tour to another entry. In any case we were happy to be in Paso Ancho and after checking our surroundings - roosters, chickens, donkeys, goats and sundry insects, we headed off to town via the rattletrap bus to have dinner in the more citified surroundings of Puerto Vallarta.

The bus trip to town takes about 20 minutes over cobbled roads which explains the rattletrap buses. They seem to have no suspension, and on one of our trips, the driver who was chatting with a friend, didn't notice one of the topes (rumble strips), went over it at speed, bouncing us all off the seats twice, throwing me against the seat ahead and giving my back a wrenching it certainly did not need. I've been hurting ever since. I bought some muscle relaxant drugs yesterday, finally, but I'm still waiting for them to kick in.

We have spent several days on the beach now, with friends from Palm Desert, Vancouver and sundry other places. The crowds are now arriving en masse. Today we expect several folk to descend upon the beach in the afternoon, Tom Bell arrived last night with friends from Vancouver in tow and the beach will be packed by Monday. We're moving into town that day, to stay at the Hotel Eloisa for six nights, before finally moving into our PV apartment.

Stay tuned for info about San Sebastian. It deserves it's own entry.

Hasta luego,
Nigel and Geordie

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Folding in Santiago de Compostela

Teresa, Covadango, Nigel and Esther Posted by Hello

This is part of the folding group I met with at the ice cream cafe in Santiago de Compostela. Teresa is the person who arranged my package of folding paper to take home. She met us at 7:30 am at a cafe on her way to work with the package of paper from her sister's paper store.
She and Covadango were both at the conference in Seville. Teresa taught me a great new rose, and persisted until I had it down pat. Esther is the woman who spearheaded the registration for the Santiago de Compostela Origami convention in 2003 which I was scheduled to attend. She very kindly saved a copy of the Convention Book for me with a huge collection of folding diagrams as well as giving both Geordie and I t-shirts from the Convention. When she's not folding she teaches karate. Teresa teaches math. All I know about Codavango is that she is a great folder and has a huge number of diagrams in her head. She taught me a great shirt with tie (including the knot) from a square of paper.

I am of course the lone male in the group. I am certainly as fanatic about origami as those surrounding me, and learned a great deal from all of them. What a great connection Origami makes around the world. When I get to India next year, there's a group in Mumbai, and on the way over I will make a stop in Singapore to visit the great folding group there.

The scallop shell, symbol of pilgrims

The scallop shell, symbol of pilgrims Posted by Hello

This scallop shell is displayed in a lucite case in the Museo de Peregrinaciones in Santiago de Compostelas. It is an original shell found during excavation of the cathedral and is from the 14th century or thereabouts. It would have been carried by a pilgrim of the period as he or she made their way to Santiago.

The scallop shell is a symbol of St. James (Santiago in Spanish) whose bones are presumed to be stored in a special chapel under the main altar of the Cathedral. Today many pilgrims wear the shell as they make their own pilgrimages. It is a direct link to the deep mythology of this sacred pilgrimage.

Merry Christmas to all - 2004


This morning the sun is shining and the snow that capped the mountains last night is brilliant. What an amazing place we live in! For the last several days we’ve been under rain clouds and I was thinking that it was definitely time to head south. At least today we can enjoy some sun as we visit Holli, Rod and Devan for a Christmas dessert and present exchange.

Most of you already know that our trip to India, which we’d been planning for months, was cancelled because I managed to hurt my back a month before our departure date, and just the weekend before we were to leave I was still in lots of pain. Slowly but surely it’s getting better. Is it the acupuncture? Is it time? Am I getting more mature than I think I am?

In any case, we leave for Mexico in five days to spend a month and a half in Puerto Vallarta and a month and a half wandering – maybe a Spanish Language School in Oaxaca, with visits to outlying villages. Or maybe we’ll just drift down the coast, looking for more beaches to laze around on. There will definitely be a stop at Zipolite Beach for enough time that I can get my overall tan well-done. Geordie will no doubt spend the time reading, reading, reading. The worst thing for him is that he won’t be able to plan any trips except in his head, because we won’t have the travel books. There’s always the internet though, so he can scoot off to one of those cheap places and immerse himself in the web.

As we did last year, we are now looking forward to our PV Christmas with the great friends we have made there over the years. There will be lots of people arriving on the beach after we arrive on Dec. 10, and we will be awaiting them. This year we are prepared for the Christmas Beach party for the beach vendors children with some delightful small stuffed animals that we found at a children’s shop nearby (remember, everything we need for daily living is within two blocks of our apartment). The owner of the shop gave us a great deal on the toys, and threw in seven more for free, so we owe her a good picture from the beach, of kids enjoying their new toys, when we get back.

After our Mexico sojourn last winter we were only home for 40 days when we were off again to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. I began my visit by heading to San Lucar la Mayor where I attended the annual Convencion de Papiroflexia sponsored by the Sevillan chapter of the Associacion Espanol de Papiroflexia. For all you non-Spanish speakers, that’s the Spanish Association of Paperfolding, better known here as Origami. I met some great people, folded almost non-stop for three days, taught an elephant to a group as well as teaching several other folds on the fly – over breakfast, coffee, lunch, coffee, dinner, and late night. These folks are fanatics.

After the convencion we headed to Pamplona and began our walking and my adventure with blisters. At last count I had managed to accumulate 30 “ampollas” on my feet, toes, heels, and on top of other blisters. However, the walk was spectacular, the weather gorgeous, the landscape incredible, the architecture inspiring, the art fantastic, and the people wonderful. We enjoyed meeting and chatting with people from all over the world – Brazil, Columbia, France, Germany, England, Holland, Denmark, and of course Spaniards galore. Everyone was great, the hostelries comfortable and the food and wine too generous for this body. How does one gain weight walking 600 kilometres? Geordie is already planning our next Camino, which is a 1000 km, from Seville to Santiago de Compostela.

On our arrival in Santiago we also spent time with another group of folders, some of whom I had already met in San Lucar at the Convencion. Along with Esther, who was my contact when I was planning to attend the 2003 Convencion, we sat in an ice cream restaurant and folded again for several hours. I told you these people were fanatics. I also got to buy some really nice paper to bring home with me thanks to Teresa, one of the folders who met me at a café the morning we were leaving to deliver the goods from her sister’s paper store, before she went off to work.

We also spent time in Portugal, much of it on the coast, although we had to head inland to get back to Spain and Madrid, to do our last minute shopping before flying home.

After our return from Spain we took another 40 days rest, (very biblical this) and relaxed in Vancouver. We had visits from friends James and Angel (LA and Mexico) who were here during the Pride Week festivities. We enjoyed the parade together and they enjoyed the night life while we locals stayed home. Our friend Midge arrived from Calgary right after, and we had another great visit with her.

Then we were off to Newfoundland for three weeks to see my mother, visit with other family, pick blueberries, visit friends in St. John’s and then spend several days in PEI with our wonderful friend Suzy, who had packed up to move from the Big Apple to the Little Sandbar to complete her EMT training. We expect to hear that she’s begun medical school next, or that she’s moved to Paris to take up with a playboy. Either is likely, although I think she has more sense than to hang out with the playboy set.

My mother is doing remarkably well. My brother Eric calls her his miracle mom because she has survived so many congestive heart failures. She’s always in good spirits though, unless she has slipped down in her bed and needs to be pulled up from being “down in a hole”. The rest of the family is doing well too. While visiting with my brother and sister in Buchans and while visiting my sister in Shearstown, we had to head off to check out the video lottery terminals. I actually left Newfoundland with more gambling money than when I started, a first for me. I don’t expect to make it a habit though.

After we returned from Newfoundland we had a visit from my brother Jim who had flown out from St. John’s the last night we were there. It was his first time in our apartment and it’s been a long time since he’s been this far west, but he’s coming back next fall for my niece’s wedding in September 2005 in Kamloops. He’ll be here longer then too, so we can show him a little more of our Vancouver.

As usual we have our travel year somewhat planned out. The winter in Mexico will be great, I do need the sun and there’s not as much of that here during December, January and February. Next winter we are going to make that trip to India and Sri Lanka. Geordie also wants to do the Camino again, go to Thailand again, with a trip to Cambodia this time, so he will be doing lots of thinking/planning over the time we are in Vancouver. We have promised ourselves to stay in Vancouver from March to November this year, with a side trip or two to Vancouver Island or Alberta, and if need be another short trip to Newfoundland, but really we want to stay home and enjoy our great city.

I’ve planned to do the Vancouver Marathon this coming May, race-walking it with Marlene, a friend from Calgary. I entered two race walks this fall. The first was a 10 km and I finished first and got a great pair of walking shoes as my prize, The second was only 4 km, but I won that one too, wearing my new shoes, and got a huge gym bag for my efforts, as well as winning a draw prize and getting a free hat from Celebrities Night Club here in Vancouver. I’ve never been to the club but I wear the hat proudly. In any case, my winter exercise plans will have to include lots of race-walking training. No chance of a prize in the Marathon though, because walkers are not a separate entry, and are probably barely tolerated anyway. They do make us start the race a half hour early too. However it will also be a great opportunity to visit with Marlene and her husband Stirling.

We look forward to seeing friends soon, and in the New Year. There are people we miss dearly. We expect to see some of them while we are home this spring, summer and fall.

Have a wonderful Christmas everyone. Hope you find all the presents your little heart desires under your tree.

Peace on Earth,

Nigel and Geordie

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Reflections on a journey to heaven.

Hola nos amigos y amigas,

This has been a journey - a journey of yellow arrows and scallop
shells, a journey of high lonely sierras and wide empty mesetas,
of blisters and beauty, of backpacks and people on the route, of
wildflowers and roses, cows and sheep, chirping birds and croaking
frogs. We have walked the road for 28 days and covered 600 kilometers,
and now we feel we will miss the daily walk with beauty and solitude.

Last evening we went to Mass and saw the great incense burner swing
overhead. Today we went to the church, walked through La Puerta
del Perdon (open only in Jubilee years and providing us with an
extra measure of protection when we reach purgatory) and followed
the tradition of the pilgrims down the centuries.

We put our hands into the open mouth of the creatures at the base
of a marble pillar, our hands on the imprint of fingers in the same
column which are the mark of millions of fingers, bumped our heads
against Maestro Mateo, the wise builder of the Cathedral, and hugged
the image of the saint above the main altar with it´s cape of gold,
silver and jewels. In the crypt below we viewed the silver casket
holding the bones of Saint James (Santiago), and watched as two
devout Catholics recieved communion at the chapel of the casket.

There are so many memories of the camino which we will keep with
us forever. Perhaps the most special is the memory of people. So
many people along the way, people who live along the Camino, and
see pilgrims every day, welcomed us and greeted us with a serious
Buen Viaje, or even better, Buen Camino. A little old lady in the
last week stood at the end of the lane calling to pilgrims and offering
them little sweet wild strawberries. A seven year old boy on his
way to school at 8:00 am called us a Buen Camino as he went alone.
And those whom we called friends as we went, from all over the world,
Denmark, Germany, Mexico, Uraguay, Australia, Holland, Canada. These
are the people we walked with, the walking wounded and those like
Geordie, injury free, but all excited to be on the Pilgrim Trail.
We remember how hard it was to get started again after a stop on
the Camino de Cafe, with feet which again had to get used to the
feel of rocks, concrete, pavement or dirt tracks.

And we know the Pilgrims keep the farmacias in business along the
route. How much tape, how many blister packs do the sell, and how
much pain reliever? I used 15 meters of tape, ten packs of gauze
bandages, five in a pack, which I cut into fours with my trusty
scissors and a container of vaseline to relieve my blisters as I
wrapped them. And a quarter liter of Betadine to keep my blisters from being infected.

Santiago comes as a shock - a big city with traffic, people everywhere
and no greetings of Buen Camino anymore. We had a chance to see
some of our friends from the road, but we feel we have lost a large
group who have all headed off on their own personal camino now.

Today we went shopping at designer shops, Spanish designers like
Adolfo Domingo, Zara, Pull and Bear - Espana a la moda. Geordie
has new socks, we both have new shirts and we have tired legs from
shopping - a rather different pilgrimage.

We are heading to a beach soon. We plan to leave tomorrow, Thursday,
for Pontevedra and from there to the beach areas along the west
coast. We will soak our poor tired feet in the cool salt water of
the Atlantic Ocean and think of those of you across the water. At
mass last night both Geordie and I made our prayers for our families,
our friends, the pilgrims on the trail and the people who helped
us along the way, not forgetting the nurse who bandaged my feet
and the woman who blessed me as I limped out of the treatment room.

We thank all of you for your concerns, your love and your thoughts
as we walked on. You have been with us in thought and mind, and
we feel we have been with you. Gracias to all of you.

Yesterday we got our Compostela - the certificate which names us
as honest pilgrims on a journey of discovery. Since it was in Latin we will sign off that way.


Nigellum and Georgium