Friday, September 28, 2012

Mexican Rodeo

Silver spurs for sale.
Sign advertising the
National Championship Rodeo


While visiting my three Mexican friends in Puerto Vallarta, I was informed that we would be going to a Charreada and I would see Charros, escaramuza, paso de la muerte, and jineteo.  It sounded like a rodeo to me. The day was hot and I was surprised to see the handsome Mexican men in tight charro pants, fancy shirts, short jacket, scarf, boots and a large sombrero. We arrived at the Lienzo Charro which is a white brick wall sporting advertisements. We purchased tickets and entered what looked to me like a Mercado with saddles, spurs, hats, and food for sale. People were already filling up the cement seats with children dressed like cowboys, men in boots, jeans, cowboy hats,  tooled leather belts with their name carved in the back and the women in pants or dresses. Loud static, scratchy, and peppy Mariachi music blared from the speakers making me want to dance!

I watch the charros!

There is a certain order on how the competitions proceed.  Usually money is not won by the charros but they may win a trophy.  I noticed that many of the charros were dressed alike which I found out comprised a team.  Each team comes from a ranch and they compete against other ranches. Charros are judged by finesse and grace, speed and how well the horse is trained.

Wikipedia's information is that the Charreada is a tradition from 16th century Spain where there would be competition between haciendas. When tradition began to fade, the Federacion Mexicana de Charreria was formed to keep the tradition alive.  Usually, the competitors are upper middle class because their hats can cost between $200 to $2,500.
A fancy sombrero.
The first event is the Cola de Caballo (Reining) where a horse is taken through cantering, galloping, slide stop, backing up, and spinning on a back leg.  A few of the horses seemed to have a screw for a leg and they bore it into the ground!  Second event was the Piales en el Lienzo (heeling). Charro throws a lariat and as horse runs through the loop its hind legs are caught.

I did not like the third event called Colas en el Lienzo (steer tailing) where the charro grabs the bulls tail, wraps it around his leg and rides past the bull to knock it down. Fourth was the Jineteo de Toro (bull riding) and I noticed the bull was smaller than the ones we use in the United States. The charro must not fall off and when he dismounts he needs to land standing up. Fifth was Terna en el Ruedo (team roping) where three charros try to rope a bull by the neck and hind legs while the third charro ties the bull's feet together. Three against one did not seem fair to me!

Sixth event is called Jineteo de Yegua (bareback on wild mare) and this resembles our bareback riding of a bucking horse. Seventh was the Manganas a Pie (forefooting) where the charro is on foot, ropes horse's front legs as the mare is chased by three mounted charros.  Eighth was the Manganas a Caballo (forefooting on horseback) as a charro tries roping horse's front legs and causes it to fall.  I felt sorry for the poor horse that actually got roped.  Many did not and I sighed with relief to see the horse run off!

Manganas a Caballo
Ninth is the El Paso de la Muerte that takes four charros and five horses.  The charro rides bareback on his own horse, three other charros are chasing or bunched up near the bareback rider, the charro jumps from his running horse and somehow manages to get on the wild horse.  The wild horse begins bucking and the charro has to ride the horse until it stops bucking.

I thought the rodeo was over until my friends said, "Now comes the Escaramuza (skirmish)!" I waited and saw many young, beautiful girls come into the arena.  They were dressed in colorful crinolines as they rode side saddle.  I was told they are sometimes called Adelitas (woman of the revolution). The women maneuver their horses in many formations which reminded me of our Westernairs.


A young rider

Even though watching the Charreada was interesting, some parts of it, I would place in the same location I keep bull fighting, circuses and rodeos.  I feel sad for the animals because I know they have got to feel pain!
With hind legs tied, this horse will fall
and I hope it does not get hurt!
"If a man aspires toward a righteous life,
his first act of abstinence is from injury
to animals."  Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Frustrating Ring

Years ago I commented on a ring a man was wearing and he explained to me it was a Turkish Wedding Ring.  This was the story he told me: When a knight went off to war he placed a ring on his wife's finger to ensure that she would remain faithful.  If she planned to be unfaithful, no man would have an affair with her if she was wearing a wedding ring, so she would take her ring off.  The ring would fall apart and she would not be able to put the ring back together again. The knight would then return and know she had been unfaithful.

Turkish Wedding Ring Apart
I loved the ring and the story and when I was given a puzzle ring, I wore it for years. Every time someone commented on my ring I would tell them the story, pull the ring off, show how it fell apart, and then quickly put it back together again.  Sometimes, I would let others try to put the ring together and was pleased when they could not do it!

For years I wore the silver ring until one of the bands thinned and broke.  About a year ago, I saw the ring in a catalog and purchased it.  Even though the ring came with instructions, I was not sure I could put it back together if it ever came apart. After having my ring for about two years, the instructions were lost but since I did not intend to take the ring off, I did not worry. One day, as I washed dishes in sudsy water I went to dry my hands on a towel and the ring slid off.  There I was, staring at four separate bands.

For two hours I attempted to put the ring back together.  I no longer had the instructions and my memory would not help me.  I remembered the first two steps but the last steps were completely gone from my brain. Getting on the Internet, I located the ring and instructions with a video on how to put the ring back together.  Still couldn't do it. I worked on it for another hour with no success.

It just so happened I was going on a trip from Denver to Boston, so I worked on getting the ring together. As we neared Boston, the bands slipped into place and my ring was whole again!  It had taken a total of six hours of fooling with the bands until they formed a ring. From now on I am making sure the ring stays on my finger!
Puzzle of my Turkish Wedding Ring Solved

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Spectacular View

I boarded a bus in Charlton, Massachusetts for a Niagara Falls tour.  When I got on the bus I could see it was a very international crowd.  There were dark Indians, blondes with accents (Sweden or Norway?), Australians, Chinese, Japanese, two Anglos, and myself. Almost everyone had a different accent. By the end of the tour we had meshed into friends and if we could not speak to each other we did a lot of smiling! Our tour guide was Chinese with a very thick accent that made it difficult to understand what he was saying and I imagine we lost quite a bit of what he was telling us.  His personality made up for our lack of understanding because he won us over with his sense of humor and his attempts for us to have a great tour.

George, Our
Chinese Guide
My  Friends from Perth, Australia

I noticed the rest stops in Massachusetts and New York are large, clean, and well kept up with plenty of them along the highway. Toll booths are also common!  I found the prices at some of the stops to be extremely high like paying $2.03 for a pack of gum that usually costs me 89 cents!

Arriving at Niagara, we were hustled to a boat named the Maiden of the Mist, given blue raincoats and taken for a ride along the bottom of Niagara Falls.  The thunderous noise as the falls hit the bottom is deafening.  Rainbows can be seen on and around the falls. I was on the United States side while Canada is on the other side.  Canadians issue yellow raincoats and Americans receive blue raincoats. Depending on where you stand on the boat, getting one's legs and feet soaked is not unusual.
Niagara Falls
The falls in the above photo are the American Falls and the smaller fall to the right is named Bridal Veil Falls.  On the Canadian side is Horseshoe Falls.  Niagara Falls is the 2nd largest in the world after Victoria Falls in Southern Africa.  During the winter small pieces of ice will be seen floating down the river and over the falls though the falls themselves do not freeze over completely. The park is large and as I walked along the walkway on top,  I could see the swirling and pounding river before it went over the falls. We attended an IMAX movie about how the falls were discovered. The interesting movie told about the daredevils who go over the falls and how some have lived while others perished. An observation deck 279' high takes visitors on a speedy elevator to the viewing area  .  On the top, I could see the falls and the 400 acre park.
Prospect Point
Observation Deck
On top of Observation Deck
Abhinav Bansal, my seat
mate from India
Our tour took us to Goat Hill to see the Canadian Horseshoe Falls which we were told are 170 feet tall. At night the falls are illuminated with colored lights giving the falls an entirely different and beautiful look.

Barbara and Maurice (Mo)
from Massachusetts
kept an eye out for me.
 If 12,000,000 tourists visit Niagara Fall from around the world each year, now it is 12,000,000 plus me visiting this spectacular area!

"Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue,
and the dreams that you dare to dream
really do come true."
Harold Arlen with "Yip" Harburg

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Nuns Called My Son Marcelino

If both parents have to work, what happens to their children? Wanting what was best for my son, I enrolled him in a Catholic pre-school run by nuns.

Queen of Heaven Orphanage
Around 1966 it became a pre-school run by
Mother Cabrini nuns.
The large stone building had at one time been an orphanage on Federal Blvd. Now that it was a pre-school, I placed my son in the care of the nuns. The day began with holy mass and I felt confident he would be well taken care of, learn about his religion, and make new friends.

The first day when I dropped him off he was the first student to arrive.  He sat on a round metal merry go round and never moved.  I watched from the second floor as he sadly stared at the ground.   My heart ached for my baby.  The nun seeing my anguished face said, "He will be all right.  Once other children arrive he will begin to play."  My inclination was to go down and grab my child and run out the door with him.  I did not want him to suffer and he did not look happy.  The nun continued reassuring me and she convinced me he would be all right.  I cried all the way to work.

At 5:15 p.m., I picked him up and found him to be barefooted. "Oh, your son ran into the area where we are blacktopping and we had to chase him all over the tar.  His socks are black and even though we tried washing them, we could not remove all the sticky black mess."  The nun explained this to me as she handed me his shoes and stiff dirty socks.

When I asked him why he had taken off his shoes and run in the tar, he laughed and said something about how the nuns were chasing him.  It was a funny mental picture to see a little boy being chased by nuns, with veils flying and rosaries clicking, as they tried to catch him!

The following day, was difficult to leave him as I hugged and kissed him goodbye. "I'll be back before you know it, " I told him.

After work when I went to pick him up, a nun met me at the door. "Your son disappeared today and we could not find him."  My question was, "What do you mean disappeared....was there no one watching him?"  She said, "All of a sudden, he was no where to be found."  A sick feeling crawled into my stomach and before I could say anything the nun continued, "Don't worry, he is fine. We found him in the nun's dorms.  Somehow, he got on the elevator and ended up where the nuns sleep.  We found him fast asleep on one of the beds." At this point I wondered about what kind of supervision the children had, yet I did not say anything.  I was just happy my baby was okay.

When I asked my son about how he got to the dorms, he said, "I got on an elevator and pushed some buttons.  When the doors opened I saw the beds so I laid down and fell asleep."

The third day, when I took my son back to pre-school, I felt uncomfortable leaving him but I had to go to work and had no choice.  I reasoned that nothing more could happen.  The nun informed me they were now calling my son Marcelino for a character in a movie named Marcelino, Pan y Vino. The story is about a mischievous boy who lives in a monastery and Marcelino plays all sorts of tricks on the monks.

After work, once again I was confronted by a nun. "Your son somehow got out of the building and was found trying to cross Federal Blvd.  Luckily, someone saw him before he got out into the busy street."  "How could he get out of the building, wasn't anyone watching him?" The nun went into a long explanation about how they had just opened the pre-school and everyone was learning their roles.  I explained to my son about the dangers of leaving the building and asked him why he had gone outside. His large brown eyes looked at me as he said, "I was going to Grandma's house."

I entered the Principal's office and told her that I would no longer be bringing my son to pre-school at their facility.  I think the nun was as glad as my son at hearing the news. We teased my son that he was a pre-school drop out!*

Years later, my son told me he hated "that place." When I see the size of the building, the many rooms and long dark corridors, I can understand how a little boy might be frightened.

My Mother took over watching my son while I went to work and everyone lived happily ever after!
(Well maybe not happily ever after, but it sure makes for a good ending!)

*I had read that children who attended pre-school did better in school later on, so a few days a week I enrolled him at Wooden Shoe Pre-School. He graduated in class of 1969!
Mr. Joe congratulates
 my five year old son as he
 graduates from
Wooden Shoe.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Guatemala Memories

Just heard on the news that a volcano was erupting in Guatemala.  In 1988 I sat in a local restaurant called Dona Louisa in Antigua, Guatemala and saw one of the volcanoes letting off white wisps of smoke. It made me wonder if the volcano spewing smoke and ash on my television screen was the same one my daughter had hiked when she was in the Peace Corps.

A sleeping volcano in Guatemala
Two of the active volcanoes in the area are the Volcan del Fuego and Volcan de Agua.  It seems that it is the Volcan del Fuego spewing ash, has lava coming down its side and over 10,000 persons were evacuated.

Guatemala City
Playing cards in colorful dress.
Memories of my stay in Guatemala began to form, one memory stacked on top of another. A small box carrying eyes to be transplanted placed in the plane seat across from me, casual Aveteca  attendants discussing personal lives instead of taking care of the passengers, spotting a beautiful sparkling lake surrounded by what looked like a lush jungle, seeing indigenous people at the airport in their colorful clothing, and my luggage being lost for two days! I recalled staying at Suizo Chalet  (a primitive hostel), a green, red and yellow parrot tied to a string, electricity going off for an hour, a contradiction of cultures with modern glass structures competing with older, decorative buildings.  At the bus stop there were people waiting and some would have looked right in place in any city in the United States while others were in native dress carrying a bucket or basket on their head. I learned that the native dress and colors depends on the area where the indigenous live.

Common sight in Guatemala

The highlight of the trip was spending time with my daughter and observing first hand what her life in Guatemala was like. I learned to be "culturally sensitive," by not pulling out my camera every time I saw something of interest. She lived in the mountains in Huehuetenango and I met her Peace Corps friends as well as her new Guatemalan friends.

My daughter and I tour parts of Guatemala
Met my future son-in-law
My daughter in her class room.
Our hangout became Pizza Hogarena where we enjoyed good food, mostly pizza, and the company of the friendly and fun waiters!  I had an egg filled with confetti broken on my head (some tradition celebrating a feast day), rode on dilapidated buses that seemed as if they were held together with wire, visited ruins, met a man who literally lived in a hole in the wall, saw a beautiful lake, quaint towns, picked lemons from a tree in the back yard, visited out door markets, and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with my daughter.

 I visited the school where my daughter taught, watched a few volley ball games, attended a play and practiced my Spanish!  Even with warnings about not being rude and taking photographs, I was able to get a few shots to remind me of the wonderful time I spent in Guatemala.  The volcano eruption brought a lot of memories to me and I hope everyone in its path is safe and able to return to a normal routine soon.

To take this photo I had
to get my daughter to stand as
if I was going to take her
picture but then I focused on
this young girl.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

This Memorial Caught My Eye

Whenever I drive up Wadsworth, as I pass 80th, I see a sign post with flowers.  Not too long ago, a white bicycle had been added to the memorial.  I thought the bike gave it a special touch and wondered what had happened to deserve the memorial.
Memorial on Wadsworth Blvd.
I did some research and found out that a bicyclist had been struck by a Ford Explorer in Arvada around 11 p.m. on August 21, 2012.  Today, I stopped to look at the memorial and written on the white bike was: Joe Montano, 1964 - 2012,  RIP. 

Our lives are so fragile and we never know when our time will come.  I remember my Mother telling me to always have clean underwear and to make sure it was not torn because "you never know when an accident can happen."

Something I did not know is that a shocking number of cyclists have been killed in the United States.  For the month of September through August I counted a list, compiled by the League of American Bicyclists, of over 100 deaths ranging from ages 8 to 88 in the United States. The League was founded in 1880 to promote and protect the rights of cyclists. They mention that over 700 cyclists are killed in traffic accidents every year. I had no idea that such a group existed and found out that they try to keep cyclists informed on how to stay safe, proper gear, and locations that are dangerous to riders.

Motor vehicles and bicycles follow the same rules of the road by staying on the right side of the road and obeying all traffic signs. Bicycle rider never ride against traffic. They should use hand turning signals. (Once, when my turn signal in my car was not working, I stuck out my arm straight out to signal I was turning left, my grandchildren asked me what I was doing!) They had never heard of hand signals since all they know is turn signals on a car!)  Always wear a helmet. It seems (reported by the League) that Colorado is ranked the 4th most friendly state in the United States for bicycle users.

It doesn't matter how old I get, there is always something new to learn!  I am glad I stopped to see the memorial and will probably be more aware of bicyclists from now on!

Be safe, all you bicyclists out there!

Not a Colorado sign.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2001

As usual, I awoke early and turned on the news. Nothing exciting happening so around 6:45 a.m. I turned off the television and began my morning ritual....shower, breakfast, getting ready for work and left the house.  At 8 a.m. I arrived at work. Soon, a fellow worker entered and in a shaky voice said, "Did you see the news?"

"Yes, but nothing of interest." I answered. I realize now that if I had kept my t.v. on for ten more minutes that morning, I would have seen the newscast of the World Trade Center being hit! She shouted, "We have been attacked.  A plane crashed into the Twin Towers in New York."  "What?" I asked.  She responded with, "Turn on the's all over the news."

I could not believe the images I was seeing.  A burning building with a gaping hole in its side. Smoke and flames pouring out of the top floors of the sky scraper. An excited voice letting us know that a second plane had hit the second tower.  Lots of smoke.  People running.  Firefighters responding. Lots of white dust swirling.  I began to feel ill. My mind could not grasp what I was seeing or understand what was happening.  It seemed as if I was watching a movie!

That morning, no one else showed up for work.  I got a call and was told to lock up and go home.  The office would not open.  The United States had been attacked. I drove home and began watching the horrendous reports.  The plane hitting the building was shown over and over again. Seeing the other tower come crashing down and hearing the announcer report about how people were trapped seemed so unreal. People were jumping from the tall building.  Reports of many deaths, survivors covered in dust, people running, billows of puffy smoke, firefighters and police searching for bodies or trying to help those that had managed to get out of the buildings, sirens blaring, and loved ones listening to phone calls and hearing husbands, wives, relatives, friends or parents saying goodbye. The lump in my throat seemed to get larger.

Another report about a plane hitting the Pentagon.  And then another flight crashing in a field after brave passengers attacked the terrorists.   "Let's roll," was a phrase related to those who fought the terrorists on that plane! No one survived the plane crashes.

I remembered that a few years before, my brother and I had gone to see the World Trade Center but we could not go in due to some repairs being made.  I had looked up at the two tall buildings and felt like a tiny ant. Who would have known that in a few, short years, they would be gone.

The eleventh anniversary of that frightful day is today.  The buildings being hit by airplanes are images that will last a life time.  Sadness fills me as I look at videos of the horror of that day. I did not know any of the people involved, yet feel as if I knew them all.  I will say a prayer that all who died may rest in peace, those that survived may also have peace in their lives, and peace to all the first responders!
The World Trade Center before 9-11.


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Arvada Harvest Festival Parade

Iwo Jima
When my children were little, we always attended the Arvada Harvest Festival Parade the second weekend of September. Then, when they were older, they would go with their friends and on the same weekend as the parade, I took bus loads of travelers to San Luis, Taos, Santa Fe and Chimayo, New Mexico.  This year I decided to join many other persons on 58th (Ralston) to watch the many groups marching, candy being tossed, dancers, music, soldiers, marching bands, (Ralston Valley, Arvada, Arvada West, Thornton, Pueblo, Charter Schools, etc.) clowns, horses, dogs, tractors, antique cars, gymnasts, martial art groups, mascots, motorcycles, teachers, schools, and some politicians.

Later Model of a Model T
Kelsey Campbell
wrestled in the Olympics
Doggie carries his own water!
It was a long parade, beginning at nine in the morning and lasting until almost noon. Since pictures are worth more than words, I thought I would show you what I saw on the perfect fall day in Arvada!

Band members keep up with their shadows!    
Bolivian Man

Nuggets Mascot
Clowns begin their careers
at a young age!
Once clowns get old they get to ride!
Mexican Dancers followed
by a Mariachi band!

Mexican Cowboys on beautiful
white horses!
Clever name for corn maze and
paint ball fun!

Tiger waves at crowd!
Different colored eyes!
Yellow flags swirling around!
My favorite float....
Hercules in different poses!


Monday, September 3, 2012

Eight Eyes

Every night, before I turn out my lights, I look at four pictures hanging on my bedroom wall.  It appears as if all eyes are on me. I say good-night to them every night and offer a prayer that they be kept safe from harm.

My special card made by Nico

Beginning on the right, I see Nicolette, with her long bangs and hugging a teddy bear. Her love for bears will be manifested in her large collection of "Build a Bears," each bear in its own outfit! She looks at me with large eyes. She enjoys reading the Wimpy Kid books and when I would pick her up from school on Friday she liked to stop at a Dairy Queen for a Blizzard. She loves making cards for those she loves.

Zach, my first grandchild!
Next, is Zachary, staring at the camera with grey eyes and an expression of "wait to see what I am going to do! His hand is near his face and those fingers will grasp drum sticks as he bangs out rhythms on the drums or grabs his skateboard/snowboard. If he could spend the rest of his life on the slopes zooming down large mountains on his snowboard he would be a happy kid!

Ariana's art work hangs
on my wall!
The next photo is my granddaughter Ariana with a mischievous look on her face. It looks as if she just did something or is about to do something she is not supposed to be doing! She has the same grayish color of eyes as Zach and when little she was attentive to detail by studying designs on the t-shirts we were wearing. She learned to play the piano and liked to work on art projects. She became interested in cooking and is now attending culinary classes.

Smiling Brenna
Brenna's picture is so like her, full of happiness and life!   She has chocolate brown eyes and very seldom do I see her when she is not smiling. She has enjoyed sports, plays the piano and is now learning guitar and voice.
She loves to read and has suggested books for me to read which I have enjoyed. She is the electronic expert and I call her when I need help setting up a program, like setting up Skype so we could talk and see each other.

Only a grandmother knows the love for her grandchildren, a special love that only she can share.
It seems that overnight, the little children are young adults but I have my pictures on the wall to remind me of my little ones. So, every night, eight eyes stare back at me as I drift off to dream, possibly to dream of them!