Jacqueline Nunez operates the Evolet Laundry in Todos Santos. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
I never thought I would be that person. You know, the kind who pays someone to wash, dry and fold their laundry. Oh, my, what a luxury.
Doing laundry has never bothered me; that is assuming the machines were at my house. Going to a laundromat, well, that was a nuisance and an education in human behavior that I don’t care to repeat.
In Todos Santos I opted not to do my laundry at my friends’ house. This was because the day I was planning to do a load we didn’t get any water. Yes, that’s a thing in Baja. Water isn’t even delivered to the tinacos every day in every part of town; it was weekly in the last place I stayed. Miss a week and it’s noticeable.
I didn’t do laundry at home that day. I took it to the lavenderia, which was walking distance away. I never thought about doing my own laundry again—at least while I was in Todos Santos. This was too sweet—and cheap—of a deal.
The wash and fold facility has been in the Las Tunas area of Todos Santos for seven years. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
The 7-year-old Evolet Laundry is owned and operated by a local family; the same ones who own the neighboring Cleo’s restaurant. In fact, it’s Cleo and Martine’s daughter, Jacqueline, who is working at the laundromat most days; along with her friend Alisa. (Evolet is Jacqueline’s daughter’s name.)
When Cleo started the business in the kitchen at the restaurant there were two washing machines and one dryer. Today it’s not unusual for the eight washing machines and seven driers to all be going at the same time. It can be that busy. The lights are often off and the two ceiling fans whirling to keep it cool inside.
The laundromat can have water issues just like residents. Maybe that’s why sometimes it took more than a day for my clothes to be ready.
Jacqueline, who runs the business in the Los Tunas area of Todos Santos, said, “There are always problems” with water. Having tinacos out back full of water helps when the flow is interrupted.
How much water is used in a week or month she doesn’t know. She said the wastewater goes into a septic system that later has to be pumped.
Being away from the center of town it makes sense that about 95 percent of customers are gringos.
Bags of clothes line the two walls that are most prominent from the front door. This is the clean laundry. It’s either put in the container the person arrived with or into a white garbage bag.
The price for the service depends on the number of machines it takes. The least I paid was 70 pesos or about $3.45.
Containers full of clean laundry are ready to be picked up. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Everything came back clean, folded and nicely put back into the bag I had delivered it in. It took only a couple trips before they knew my name. When I walked up they knew me without me needing to say who I was, no matter the mask I was wearing.
It’s possible to ask (if you speak Spanish) for items to be line dried, washed by hand, ironed, mended, separated a certain way, or for all shirts or the like to be laundered together.
Jacqueline said it’s easy for her to know whose laundry is whose. Masking tape with the client’s name is put on the washer and dryer, then the bag. She was hesitant to reveal any funny stories, but did say some customers’ intimate objects sometimes end up in the laundry bag by mistake.
One client was sure the bag he was given was not his. The laundromat had unzipped the outer cover of the bedding, and returned it in pieces, so to speak. The customer was still adamant. At the old location, a couple doors down, there were cameras just for this reason. Jacqueline was able to track the transaction on her phone, which she shared with the guy. He was embarrassed to realize he didn’t even know his own laundry.
AJ takes over the driver’s seat on the drive north through Baja. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Two engines in four months. Three if you count the original one.
The latest one came with a guarantee. Not sure what good that is going to do me 1,500 miles from the mechanic, but it was reassuring as I was driving north from Baja to Tahoe. I’m sure I’ve invested more in this 2002 Jeep Wrangler than it is worth. But then again, can you put a price tag on being able to get home safely with your dog and belongings?
I had to let my anger with the Mulege mechanicgo. He got me from his town to Todos Santos with the engine he put in. I was able to drive to the Los Cabos airport a couple times and then around town for a couple months before being grounded. I think he did the best he could.
Luckily, I could walk most places I wanted to go in Todos Santos. My bike took me farther.
Victor at MultiServicios Las Brisas explains how the Mulege engine cannot be fixed. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Salvador, the Mulege dude, had told me to get an oil sensor when I could, but said I didn’t need to be in a rush. Just ignore the sensor light, he added. Because I was tired of car issues I waited to deal with the sensor.
Finally, I took it in. The guys at MultiServicios Las Brisas in Todos Santos said the sensor wasn’t the problem. A compression check proved the oil pressure was not holding, which meant oil was not getting where it needed to. If I kept driving, the engine could seize and I would need another one. I really didn’t want to go through that again.
Unfortunately, we don’t always get what we want. After the Todos Santos mechanics pulled the engine they determined it could not be fixed.
I could see metal shavings in the oil. The oil was dirty. The oil pump was dangling as though it had never been attached properly. That was one of the new parts in the Mulege repair job. None of this was good.
I was going to get another rebuilt engine or not have a vehicle. Order it, I said.
I don’t know anything about the Mulege motor other than it was not with me long.
I know the current one came from Tijuana or Mexicali. Victor, who owns the Baja Sur shop, said he deals with brothers in northern Baja. He didn’t say which one sent the engine south. This was actually the second engine the brothers sent. The first was the wrong one. This delayed my departure by another week.
Exasperation filled my voice and facial expressions even with a mask on. The owner of the shop said not to worry, I would only be paying for one engine. It never crossed my mind this mistake would be my financial responsibility.
I chose to believe the wrong engine was delivered and that he had ordered the correct one.
The Jeep gets worked on in Todos Santos. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
I don’t know much about this engine except it’s a 2004 either from a Jeep Cherokee or Grand Cherokee. I don’t know the mileage, any tests it’s gone through, or what may have been rebuilt. It likely came from a vehicle involved in an accident.
The day I found out the Jeep was ready I couldn’t actually take her home. The vehicle behind it had too many parts out for it to be able to be moved. This was so Mexico. Another deep breath and back I went on foot to where I was staying.
The next day I arrived to pay for the Jeep and my credit card was declined. Crap. I didn’t have the $1,438.48 on me in pesos or dollars. The debit card worked. Phew. My credit card company was “protecting” me is what I later found out.
A tennis friend’s husband is a retired mechanic. He took a look at the engine and listened to her purr. He made sure the oil was clean. A drive to Cabo San Lucas to see friends on the day before I headed back to the States proved uneventful. I wanted that little bit of mileage behind me before I made the four-day trek north.
I had a little hiccup when just outside of Lone Pine the check engine light came on. I wanted to ignore it, but thought better because I was headed toward icky weather and needed to cross mountain passes. She asked me what year it was. I didn’t know if the correct answer was 2002 or 2004. The mechanic in Bishop said it was no big deal and back on the road I went.
Getting the Jeep fixed was an emotional roller coaster. The added stress was that I needed to be back in California this week to sign some important papers in person.
The Jeep, well, she still going. Who knows how many miles and what adventures I’ll have with this engine. The first one got me nearly 200,000 of fun, the second one less than 1,000 miles.
The year-old pandemic is fraying the nerves of so many people. Children, though, are experiencing stress at an alarmingly high rate. They often don’t have the coping skills, and may not know how to effectively express what they are feeling, let alone understand the why behind the emotions.
The nonprofit Padrino Children’s Foundation based in Todos Santos now has two full time psychologists to help this vulnerable population; whereas a year ago only one was on staff.
“One of the first things we predicted is that we would see a rise in mental health,” Alejandra Peña Salguero, lead physician and medical director for the nonprofit, said. This is because those cases were increasing pre-COVID-19. “We increased the psychology team early in the pandemic. We are booked and there is a wait list.”
A triage system was developed to reduce the wait time. Urgent cases receive immediate attention. This could be someone who is suicidal or at risk of violence in the home or needs medical attention. That child will be seen that same week.
Peña said before the virus took hold medical needs were the primary focus. Now mental health tops the list. COVID caused isolation, particularly in teenagers, is causing depression and behavioral issues.
For the Padrino psychologists, Israel Navarro Maldonado and Jessica Avila Franco, their job is to meet with the child to assess what is going on and then address their individual needs. When the pandemic first hit services moved online. That was difficult with so many clients not having access to the internet. Then sessions were by telephone. The office was rejiggered and in the summer patients returned to in person appointments.
Domestic violence, Peña said, is the No. 1 problem and often the root of children’s problems.
“The kid is just the symptom. The reason is often what is going on at home,” Peña said. “Many parents split up during the pandemic, many lost relatives.” The instability and ongoing economic slump contribute to the family’s chaos.
For the child, it can start with misbehavior like not following orders, not listening, throwing tantrums. It’s beyond normal kid stuff and can escalate into aggression against a relative.
“Parents think we are going to treat the child and really it is the whole family we need to work with,” Peña said. “If the family is not willing to work, we have to try to help the child one way or another.”
Peña is particularly concerned with the children not going to school where they would interact with others on a daily basis. In Mexico school is taught via television as opposed to the internet because most households have a TV. Schools, in the past, were the primary place where social, mental and other issues were first detected. Parents might not know there is a problem until it’s a crisis.
This is a worldwide problem. School has gone remotely in many countries, isolation has become the norm, and socialization is missing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, from mid-March to October 2020, emergency rooms in the States reported a 31 percent increase in mental health issues for ages 12-17, while ages 5-11 with mental health troubles in the ER were up 24 percent compared to the prior year.
Peña wonders what will happen to the neurological health of kids after a year or more of isolation. Already fewer are getting childhood vaccinations, she said.
“For the public there is not a lot we can do. But we can lead by example by being kind to each other. There is lot of tension everywhere. A lot of people want to place blame. We need to be kind and tolerant to each other,” Peña said. While mental health can be a taboo subject in many cultures, it is even more so in Mexico. That is why Peña recommends when gringos hear their Mexican workers or someone in town talking about struggles, especially with their children, to let them know about the Padrino Foundation.
The dirt circle is where the stupa will be erected. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Seventeen crates containing specially carved granite are scattered about. Hay bales face a makeshift stage of sorts. Prayer flags flutter in the gentle breeze. Plants fill a circle of dirt that is outlined with gravel. Farms surround the larger area.
Welcome to the future home of the Enlightenment Stupa in Pescadero.
While the land has been blessed and the structure is ready to be erected, the stupa will not come into being until the lama is able to travel from Nepal to perform the ceremony.
This is what the stupa in Pescadero will look like when assembled. (Image: Rebecca Silva)
“A stupa brings stability, harmony and peace and all the positive traits of energy to the place it is built, to the community,” explained Loton Tashi. Tashi, as a monk and lama, is the director of the stupa compound in Pescadero. He is originally from Tibet, has taken a sabbatical in Bhutan, and been affiliated with dharma centers in Guadalajara and Mexico City for eight years prior to coming to Baja Sur. He has been involved with the local project since 2013; becoming director in December.
By definition a stupa is, “Burial mounds containing relics of the historical Buddha across the Indian subcontinent. Many were later developed into shrines or temple compounds.”
Stupas exist throughout the world, with several hundred erected in the United States and closer to 20 in Mexico, according to Tashi.
Tashi is the spiritual leader at the Pescadero stupa. While the dharma talks had to recently be suspended (again) because of the coronavirus, they will resume when appropriate.
“This place will become the center of learning, contemplation and meditation,” Tashi said. “This will be not just for Buddhists. It is not sectarian. It is for the whole region, for the world; it is for all.”
In November 2019, the ground where the stupa will be built is blessed. (Image: Bill Levine)
The original idea came from Rebecca Silva, who has donated the half hectare of land that is on the same street as Hierbabuena restaurant and Rancho Pescadero. In 1976 she was in Hawaii cooking for the 16th Karmapa, who Silva describes as a “walking Buddha.” “At one point he told me I would be building a stupa there in Baja,” Silva said. The Pescadero stupa is dedicated to him.
When the now 71-year-old Silva was 15 her mystic grandmother told her the tip of Baja would become a very spiritual place. That premonition is coming true.
“This particular stupa will be very rare because it was carved from granite in Portugal. It weighs 44 tons,” Silva said. The goal was to make it out of something that for hundreds of years will withstand hurricanes and salty/humid conditions.
It cost $56,000 to create, with shipping through the Panama Canal to Ensenada costing $10,000, and it taking another $10,000 to truck it from Ensenada to Pescadero. The money has come from donations. The spiritual teachings are that one person cannot pay for the stupa, but that is must be a community endeavor. A donor lent money to the stupa to get things to where they are today, with fundraisers helping to pay back that individual.
The stupa will be 7 meters high (nearly 30 feet), with a square base of about 5 meters (17 feet). It will be round as it goes up from the ground.
Loton Tashi is the spiritual leader at the Pescadero stupa. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Tashi describes the assembly as similar to putting Legos together. Each piece, though, has special meaning. The process will not be rushed, with every phase being blessed by the lama who will come from Nepal when the pandemic allows. Each layer will be filled with various items that represent things from the local area as well as historical pieces.
“Our teachers in Nepal and Bhutan will fill it up with relics,” Tashi said. “There are hundreds of thousands of enlightenment rules.”
Beyond the actual stupa, the goal is turn this land into a spiritual and retreat center where classes will regularly be taught, and people could stay overnight in future cabins. It will be a destination of sorts for those on a spiritual journey and those who might want to begin one. Meditation walkways and paths will be created.
“This is going to outlive all of us. This is going to be going on for centuries,” Silva said of the stupa.
Until your hostess or concierge in Mexico says it’s OK to flush the toilet paper, assume the garbage can is the place to put soiled toilet paper.
This can take some getting used to for people who for their whole lives have not given any thought to what goes down the toilet. It’s a big deal when there is no municipal sewer system or the septic system isn’t equipped to handle the paper.
In most cases it’s best not to flush toilet paper in Mexico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Many public and private establishments have signs on the wall in Spanish and sometimes in English saying to use the garbage can. Even if there is no sign, that doesn’t mean you should flush everything. What’s in the garbage can will give you the answer to the flush or not flush paper question. Not all places have a can with a lid. While this may seem unsanitary to add your paper to the pile, the only other possibility is to drip dry—assuming that is an option.
Several large hotels have systems on site that can handle the paper. But don’t assume this is true everywhere. Better to not flush than to have it back up because it won’t just be paper that covers the bathroom floor.
Sometimes it’s the materials used when building the plumbing system that causes problems. The pipe between the toilet and street drain or septic system may not be wide enough to handle the paper. Sometimes the water pressure is not enough to force everything through the pipes.
Many buildings in Mexico are old—lots older than what one finds even on the East Coast of the United States. Not all have been retrofitted to be on the city sewer system, and even if they have been, there could still be infrastructure issues.
Septic systems are often small in Mexico, but they can be retrofitted. If it is large enough and paper has been kept out, it probably won’t ever need to be pumped out. Micro-organisms decompose the solid waste that settles to the bottom of septic systems, so it’s not like it’s sitting there forever piling up.
Another reason so many private septic systems don’t get full is that builders have directed only black water to go into the vault. Grey water, what comes out of sinks (other than one with a disposal), showers, and bath tubs often go onto the property to water plants. This means there is a whole lot less water going into the septic tank compared to a lot of residential properties in the U.S.
Medicinal marijuana became legal in Mexico in mid-January, and recreational use may not be far behind.
The Senate in November 2020 passed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana. It still needs approval by the Chamber of Deputies. That branch of the federal government has until the end of April to make a decision.
The Mexico Supreme Court in 2018 determined that banning the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use was unconstitutional. The court has given lawmakers extensions to devise regulations to legalize the drug.
If Mexico does legalize recreational marijuana, it would be the largest country to do so. Canada and Uruguay are the countries where it is legal today. Marijuana legalization is being watched worldwide. As of late last year the United Nations’ Commission on Narcotic Drugs no longer classifies medical marijuana as a dangerous narcotic, a label that had been associated with this form of cannabis for more nearly six decades.
Mexico is considering allowing anyone who is at least 18 to grow 20 registered plants, with a yield not exceeding 480 grams a year, which is a little more than 1 pound. Personal possession would be cut off at 28 grams, or about 1 ounce.
It remains to be seen how legalization will affect the drug cartels. However, those organizations have beefed up their illicit trade with fentanyl and crystal meth because of marijuana legalization in several U.S. states.
While a decision about recreation marijuana is eminent, officials have said it’s unlikely the new rules would take effect in 2021.
Sidewalk configurations in parts of Baja Sur can be confusing. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Walking in Baja can be dangerous. It has nothing to do with the people, but instead everything to do with the infrastructure.
Sidewalks, while they exist, are not built to a uniform scale. It’s a good idea to look down. Sometimes, though, it’s wise to look up because a power pole could be in the middle of the concrete.
It is common for poles to be in a sidewalk. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Sidewalks in Mexico don’t have to conform to any particular standard. Uniformity does not exist because it is usually up to the contractor on the project to build what he wants. This is the opposite of the United States where the Federal Highway Administration regulates sidewalk construction. Some rules in the U.S. include, “(A)dequate width of travel lanes, a buffer from the travel lane, curbing, minimum width, gentle cross-slope [2 percent or less], a buffer to private properties, adequate sight distances around corners and at driveways, shy distances to walls and other structures, a clear path of travel free of street furniture, continuity, a well-maintained condition, ramps at corners, and flat areas across driveways.”
Stairs may suddenly appear on a sidewalk. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
Mexico could take a lesson from its northern neighbor. It’s so bad in some places in Baja Sur that walking in the street seems like a safer alternative. Though, based on statistics, Mexico streets are also not welcoming to walkers.
“Roughly 40 people die in traffic each day in Mexico, due to speeding cars, drunk driving, and a lack of traffic law enforcement. Its streets are the seventh deadliest in the world, according to the World Health Organization,” Bloomberg CityLabs reported in 2019.
Danger can presents itself on sidewalks in Baja, like this abrupt drop off. (Image: Kathryn Reed)
With taxpayer dollars being limited, it’s understandable ripping up current sidewalks and replacing them with better ones is not going to happen. Still, it would behoove the Mexican powers that be to put standards in place for new construction or when repairs are being made to roads or the actual sidewalks.
It would be near impossible to use crutches, a walker or wheelchair in parts of Baja because the sidewalks are that difficult to navigate. For the able bodied, they are not something to run on. It might just end with a foot or more drop or be jarring because of the steep dips at the various ingress/egress points.
On a positive note, when in a town these sidewalks make one slow down while walking and take in all the surroundings, so that’s not a bad thing.
Dillon Porter, right, plays Almustafa, while Mehry Eslaminia is Almitra in Teatro Pescadero’s first production. (Image: Provided)
When Broadway went dark, the lights came on at Teatro Pescadero.
Dillon Porter calls it “theater in the intimate, but at a safe distance.”
When he left New York City in March it had nothing to do with escaping. It was a planned trip to Baja California Sur to spend time with his parents and celebrate his birthday. Now he has no date to return to the United States.
The 37-year-old is the director and builder of Teatro Pescadero. The first production—Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet”—opened in early November and will go into at least the first part of January. He and Mehry Eslaminia are the two actors. As the music director, she created original songs for the production.
“We wanted to add music. She has an incredible voice, and she is a much better guitar player than myself,” Porter said. “I think music is very close to poetry, which lends itself to dance. I like to bring some pedestrian movement into every show I make.”
They met on his last night in New York, stayed in touch, and then decided to collaborate on this project. It’s quite a change for Eslaminia as well. Rehearsals had just started for “1776”—what was to be her Broadway debut.
Porter is used to directing large productions with more than 20 people, multiple costume changes, and an audience of more than 1,000 people. Those days are gone for everyone. Though they will return, for now he is content to bring people live performances on a smaller scale.
“When careers get put on hold it’s a large opportunity for the world to slow down and figure out what is important,” Porter said.
Dillon Porter built the theater from material on the land near Pescadero. (Image: Provided)
He writes, sings, acts, directs, is a filmmaker, a teacher, and an art lover. “If I am going to spend time memorizing all these words, they better be worth it,” he said, adding that the words he recites must have meaning to him.
While New York is his permanent address, Baja is in his blood. He went to kindergarten in San Jose del Cabo, and has spent at least three weeks a year in Baja every year. His parents, who hail from Oregon, have had property in the Pescadero-San Pedrito area for years. Last year they divvied up part of the property to their two children. It is on this land that Porter has created the theater.
He built the dome out of palo de arco. Bitter melon has been woven into the wood to make it look a bit like a bird’s nest. The theater in 24 feet in diameter and about 460 square feet, so it easily accommodates social distancing with an audience of six to 10. In “normal” times it could fit 30 people. For this performance, it’s possible multiple groups will be in the theater; all spaced apart from the other groups. This is with everyone’s consent.
Porter is in rehearsals with friends on a musical centered on Bob Dylan. It will be staged outdoors, with people sitting on hay bales. Eight years ago he did a performance about Walt Whitman in the nearby mountains that people have asked him to resurrect.
With the proceeds from this first show he hopes to build more domes on the property of different sizes to allow for others to be able express their artistic selves. Porter envisions (post-COVID) partnering with a university to host a festival of some sort. He’s a huge fan of Burning Man, the annual creative-artistic-cultural gathering in the Nevada desert. He wants it to feel like that without the electronic music; to have a focus on permaculture, zero waste, where writing workshops, poetry slams, and art installations take place, along with other creative forces coming together.