Livin' la Vida Loca
Trip Start Jan 11, 2006
6Trip End Jun 21, 2006
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When I last left you I made two promises, one to find out why we had our first 3-day weekend, and one to have photos ready to go in the next entry
Sleeping under the stars that night was incredible, as was waking up to the Mexican sun and a large bull grunting around across the river. Our goal for the day was to make it to Aconchi, a village slightly to the north with hot springs and not much else. We met some intern doctors from Hermosillo just outside of Moctezuma, who agreed to take us to the road fork for Aconchi. We had an enjoyable time talking to them and listening to music while cruising on the mountain roads, and before we knew it we'd passed right by the road to Aconchi and were closer to Hermosillo than the fork, so we cut our trip short and headed back to home base with them
Sometime in the middle of February we finally met up with Dr. Baillod, a wastewater professor from Michigan Tech who is also spending the semester down here. Ideally, the program we're involved in here involves work in water resources beyond what we get in school, and we made tentative plans with Dr. Baillod before we left Houghton to help him in his studies of the Hermosillo water situation. By this time, we had settled in nicely to the somewhat relaxed schedule of school and we're looking forward to having actual work to occupy our time. Our work thus far has involved reading and translating technical presentations on the water situation here in Hermosillo, both to clarify what Dr. Baillod doesn't understand and also to develop some background information on the problem. Even though our reservoir is dry and we're in the midst of a drought here, 100% of the tap water in Hermosillo is considered potable by Mexican regulations. The real problem is with wastewater treatment, where only around 11% is physically treated and the rest goes...well, that's the question. It's illegal here to irrigate with water that's not treated, but in reality it happens and people just look the other way. Currently the city is decided which long-term plan to accept to remedy this problem, and Dr. Baillod may be able to assist them somewhat in this respect. There has been talk of setting up a small test treatment plant for us to learn on and for Baillod to teach a class, but as of this date it's all been talk.
Along with our water work, about a month ago our surveying professor invited us along to help him with a survey job in the city of Obregón, about 300km south of Hermosillo. We spent the whole day in a field working with industry standard surveying equipment alongside our Mexican counterparts, measuring a parcel of land given to the University, and afterwards ate some delicious tacos de carne asada (sort of like finely cut steak, with avocado, salsa, and lime, they're extremely tasty)
We've also made our way down to the cities of Guaymas and San Carlos, both located about 90km to our South on the Sea of Cortez. Guaymas is a quaint town comprised mostly of a giant harbor; fishing is huge there. San Carlos is the neighbor town and is one long stretch of beach, a fancy dancy marina, and many hotels and dive shops. San Carlos is also known as Gringolandia to the Mexicans here, and we certainly saw more gringos than Mexicans there. Our roommate Miguel lives in Guaymas, so we met up with him one weekend after passing some time on the beach watching kids dig for clams. He took us to a quinceañera of a friend's sister, a giant birthday party for a girl when she turns 15. It was more like a wedding reception than a birthday party, and of course had lots of dancing, lots of cowboy hats, and lots of boots. The music was slightly defeaning, but overall an interesting experience.
Just south of Guaymas, I ate what was possibly the most pure form of seafood I will ever eat
Just about a week ago Hermosillo saw for the first time Dave Dambrun, as my dad proved that it's pretty darn hard for me to run away from him! Only kidding, of course. He flew in on Thursday and we enjoyed the sights and sounds of Hermosillo until Saturday morning, when we took a bus to San Carlos (Gringolandia). I was walking my dad's butt of in Hermosillo, so he was looking forward to some relaxing on the beach and some soothing ocean swimming. We were doing just that, swimming in the ocean, when all of a sudden he let out a curse and said he'd been bit by something. We came to shore and discovered he must have stumbled upon a stingray and was made the victim of its defense. It was not a wide cut, but pretty deep and consistently bleeding, located on the heel of his foot. So much for feet getting a little R & R
This past weekend was our first and only 4-day, thanks to the Mexican equivalent of labor day. Saturday our Spanish class took a trip to Isla Tiburón (Shark Island), Mexico's largest island located a bit to the north of Kino. The island has a bigger bark than bite, as we were informed there aren't actually any sharks around now. It was named after smaller sharks that were seen on the seaside of the island, opposite the side facing land, not after man-eating Great Whites. The island is a Natural Reserve of the Seri Indians (or Kunkaak in their native tongue) and is completely free of infrastructure besides one hut. Explicit permission from the Kunkaak is required to visit the island, but luckily our Spanish professor had the ace up her sleeve and was able to not only get us permission, but charter an old wooden motor boat as well. There were about 20 of us, speaking somewhere around 8 different languages, and I realized how weird it feels to have a conversation with someone in Spanish when Spanish isn't native to either of you, and neither person speaks the same language by birth
Once on the island, 4 of us Americans split off to do some hiking down what appeared to be a river of sorts. It started wide and sandy, with small patches of water and mangroves on either side. Gradually, the patches of water became pools of water, the mangroves closed in, and finally it was pure water and walls of mangroves about 2 meters apart. It continued this way for a while, with water varying from knee deep to chest deep, and felt like walking down a dark hallway. There were crabs running around our feet, chomping at our toes looking for some meat. We also found some crazy sea slug creatures about the size of a giant taco, which felt pretty odd to step on. We reached a point where we couldn't go further, and realized the tide was coming in (and fast). Our walk back out was against the current of the tide, with the water noticeably higher...especially for me because I was the shortest one. We emerged successfully, and after passing a little more time on the island, took the boat back. It was just a short 4-5 hour visit, but definitely wet my appetite to see more, possibly on kayak some day. Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera on our mangrove hike, or it would've been one unhappy digital camera, but I do have a few pictures of the island.
The rest of our 4-day was spent mostly with friends we've made from Fatima Church, very near to our house. We hung out, I finally learned how to dance for real to the music here, we ate tacos, watched movies, and visited La Pintada, a mountain valley with ancient cave paintings. A very enjoyable weekend even if our grand travel plans didn't exactly pan out
I think we've passed or are quickly approaching the half way point of our time down here. Two more weeks and Katie flies in for Semana Santa (Holy Week), then another month of school followed by a month of traveling in the south, then back to St. Johns for the summer. I'll try and keep the updates coming, but it's pretty fun for me to do a bigger update like this with more to say.
Take care, enjoy the pictures, and always wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.