Baja Stories - Writers Corner Contributions from Our Forum Members

Old 05-10-09, 06:15 PM   #1
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Default My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

How to Explain a Love Affair

The question is one I have answered countless times over the years since making the decision to set anchor here on the Baja California peninsula. I am sure that many like me who have made the move down here are often asked as well by friends and family north of the border. Some think I am crazy (and they are probably right) but they still keep asking me the question.

What made me move to Mexico?

Living in Mexico is not for everyone but if I were to put a profile together of those who have made their life down here and still believe it was a good decision, it would look something like this:

Baby Boomers
Risk Takers
Easy Going

I seem to find some mixture of those qualities in most of the ex-pats who are generally happy with their lives down here. Living for years along the California coastline had molded a large part of who I had become and the lifestyle I had worked so hard to enjoy. Unfortunately, it was a lifestyle that was becoming more expensive than my cash flow could afford.

Growing up in Southern California, I had made frequent vacation trips down to the Baja peninsula but living here would be a different experience, and each step a story. House hunting in Rosarito Beach for a place big enough to accommodate all of my furniture and room for Dakota, my big yellow Labrador. Moving all my stuff down and actually getting it across the border was a story in itself.

I'll save that one for another day...

Figuring out how to get water from my "pila" and engineering a solution to a refrigerator that was too big for the space between my cabinets in the kitchen. I can never forget meeting my neighbors, the local Señoras of the neighborhood for the first time. They walked in unannounced through the open garage door bringing with them a welcome gift of a large tray of pan dulce.

They found me under the kitchen sink, cursing while attempting to hook up the ice maker, wearing only boxer shorts and a red face.

I remember how proud of myself I was when I had managed to score the best gardener deal ever, only to discover a month later that the gardener had not quoted me a rate in pesos. Life was a daily adventure it seems in those early months as I slowly learned to acclimate to the local culture and lifestyle. It wasn't always easy, straight forward or even made sense at times. Somehow I did get through it all, helped by so many people who expected nothing more in return than just a thank you and a smile.

Mexico is what it is and I learned that it was best to leave my American expectations and preconceived notions at the border. Driving down here you may find that the road is not always straight and there may even be a pothole or two along the way. This is not the USA. This is not endless subdivisions of identical tract houses with strip malls at every stoplight designed by planning engineers who seem to have all graduated from the same school of architectural design. This is Mexico and with all its troubles and faults, it remains a proud and independent country with a myriad of colors, flavors, designs, tastes, culture, opportunities and adventures. In all of my years here I don't recall two days ever being the same. When I am away for more than a couple of days I inevitably begin to long to come back home. Life anywhere else just seems plain and bland in comparison.

Life stories are written with memories ranging from the best to the very worst. Loss is a price we sometimes pay for risking to love and I remember an early morning phone call in April 2004.

Olivia, my youngest daughter had been found unconscious and was en route to the emergency room. I remember countless friends and neighbors from Rosarito Beach, Tijuana and Ensenada calling me every day as I stood vigil over my daughter, praying for a miracle. They were watching over my home, feeding and walking Dakota, watering the plants and even paid my electric bill when it arrived. They had all come to know Olivia on her frequent trips down to spend time with me and they shared how everyone was praying for her. They reminded me not to worry about anything back home as all would be taken care of.

Ten days later, on a very early spring morning I was a helpless bystander in that hospital room in intensive care. Watching as the breathing of my precious baby girl grew labored, I felt as though my own life slipped away with her as I held Olivia tightly in my arms. She took one last breath and everything in my mind and my life just seemed to go dark at that moment. I honestly don't remember much about the days that followed or how I even survived. One thing that I do remember and will always stand out occurred days after the funeral, when I returned home to Mexico. The entire neighborhood came out to receive me as I got out of the taxicab. Right there in the middle of the street, in front of my home we hugged, cried and grieved together. I don't even remember paying the driver his fare.

I'm now sure that a neighbor must have taken care of that.

During the weeks that followed they cared for me as if I were a close family member, bringing meals, walking Dakota, spending time with me if only to listen and hold me up as I grieved. The strong sense of family here in Mexico is such an intricate element that makes up the very character of its culture and society. I never really experienced anything like that before in all my years but it felt as soothing as tired muscles slipping into a warm bath at days end. Without even a word being spoken on the matter I was unconditionally incorporated into membership into each one of their families - to some as a brother and into others as a son.

The months passed and I learned to deal with the pain by immersing myself into my work more and more. I suppose that we all deal with loss in different ways and I just did what seemed to come naturally to me. It was probably just self-preservation. My routine developed into what those close to me called "workaholic avoidance".

At least that was the diagnosis of the Señoras of the neighborhood.

As stereotypical Latino culture dictates and in true democratic fashion a vote was taken. It was unanimous. This long single Gringo was going to get a wife. He may not know it but he needed a wife, whether he liked it or not. The Señoras would see to that and a parade of dinner invitations soon followed. Surprisingly there would always be a single female friend who they just "happened" to invite over. I always tried to act surprised. Not that I wasn't open to the idea, mind you. It was just that I had only chuckled at such scenarios in movies and sitcoms and never actually imagined myself playing the role of the "eligible bachelor".

What the Señoras didn't know was that their husbands sabotaged their plans each time with a preemptive strike, providing me with detailed reconnaissance of what awaited me that night in the dinner date rotation. I would get the complete profile including her education, prior relationships, number of kids if any, her family, her job and income potential, medical history, natural hair color, what kind of car she drove, how much weight she had lost, status of her biological clock and a few other details that I'm probably not allowed to print here in keeping with forum rules and good manners.

Oh, and they would always divulge her "REAL" age - they were quite sure that I would never get an accurate count from the candidate or our matchmaker / dinner host that night.

The following morning the Señora would always find an excuse to stop by, bringing fresh cut flowers or homemade tortillas. What she really wanted was to get the complete report. Did I think she was nice? Did I think she was pretty? Did I ask her for her number? Did she give me her number?

When am I going to call her???

It almost became a competition between the Señoras of the neighborhood as to who was going to be the winning matchmaker. I also think that some of the husbands were secretly running a pool on how long before the Gringo was finally going down.

I started keeping my blinds closed and looked out the peephole before answering the front door. Life as a single Gringo was becoming a bit dangerous.

As typically happens in life, love is a very difficult commodity to manipulate or manufacture and in spite of the best efforts of those well meaning Señoras of the neighborhood, cupid was not to find his mark with this Gringo at an arranged family dinner date. To their disappointment and my great surprise it would happen when least expected...

in a cooking class in Tijuana.

A good friend told me about a class given by a well known gourmet chef on Saturday mornings and I thought it would be fun to try something new. On that very first day of class I was trying to duplicate the flair with which Master Chef Noe Cortez worked his knife on the vegetables laid out in front of us. Selecting an onion as a worthy opponent, I effortlessly diced it up in record time. I looked at my work with great pride but before I could impress the rest of the class with my conquest I heard a sniffle come from across the counter top where I worked. All of my slicing and dicing had brought tears to a lovely young woman who had been overcome by the volatile sulfur released by the mutilated onion. Offering her my handkerchief, I knew little at the time that my life was to change forever that day. In the months that followed Cristina would become my constant companion and my wife.

Four years later, our family has grown to include two neurotic Siamese cats and together we have moved into a larger home closer to the beach. Walking together on the sandy beach below, hand in hand with Cristina I watch Dakota play in the surf. I am reminded what a rich, emotional and colorful experience my life on the Baja California peninsula has been.

Cristina loves to remind me that I made her cry the first time we met.

Today we are beginning a new chapter as we build a place of our own that we are creating down on a quiet beach outside San Quintin. As I look back on all my years here in Baja I realize how many memories I have collected along the way. Somehow and without warning I found myself blending into the fabric of the society, culture and lifestyle that this wonderful slice of Mexico has offered me.

I spent the majority of my life as a professional nomad of sorts, traveling and working abroad in many countries on different continents. Each destination had its own unique qualities and attraction but I always felt like an outsider in one way or another. I probably came to Mexico with the same attitude but my life and experiences here on the peninsula changed my course forever as I woke up to one day to discover that this stretch of peninsula had adopted this well traveled Gringo.

Here in Baja I have found love. I am learning to cope with the pain of loss. Cristina is now my life and Olivia will forever be in my heart. This is my home and where I hope to spend the rest of my days, God willing.

Open your heart and see if she doesn't invite you too...

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Old 05-11-09, 12:58 AM   #2
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

BG - so sorry about your daughter but really happy you found Cristina. Olivia is watching over your shoulder. Very well written story.
Old 05-11-09, 06:38 AM   #3
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

I was hoping you would post your story. It left me speechless the first time I read it and it was no different this time. I wish you all the best with your new home.
Old 05-12-09, 01:32 AM   #4
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

Thanks guys - I still can't believe five years have already passed since she left. I think about how she would have been turning 20 next month yet in my heart she is still 14...

She was such a free spirit - I don't think Saint Peter had any idea what he was in for when she got there...

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Old 02-04-10, 05:03 PM   #5
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

Ron, I just found this story. God, you made this old Marine cry when I read about the loss of your daughter Olivia. Olivia is definitely with our heavenly father, of that I am positive. She was a beautiful little girl! I am so happy you found Cristina. You guys sure look happy together when I met you. Our time together at Mama’s birthday in October 2009 was way too brief and for that I am sorry. I would have loved to have talked your ears off. Ron just based on the brief encounter I had with you and Cristina I will count you guys as my friends if that’s ok. Take care my friend and I want to see you in May 2010 when I go visit with Mama! I really would like you and Cristina to sign the portion of the book you guys wrote!

Your Friend,

David Elinvestig8r M.
I David Elinvestig8r M. do hereby exercise my rights under the First Amendment to freely express myself here on TalkBaja in as much as I am allowed to do so by BajaGringo! Well...
Old 02-04-10, 05:56 PM   #6
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

Our door is always open to you my brother. We look forward to seeing you in May...
Old 02-04-10, 07:47 PM   #7
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

What a beautiful story, Ron! Love the photos of glad Baja has rewarded you so richly!
Old 02-04-10, 11:12 PM   #8
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

While I read your story Ron I couldn't help but imagine my beautiful daughter in the same situation and how I would handle it. I'm still at a loss...

So glad you found your Christina and you're creating the ultimate beach pad in San Quintin. Love and hard work is good for the sole!

My favorite beer is Bohemia but if you're reaching for the top shelf it's a Cadillac Margarita! I look forward to sharing one with you some day.
Old 02-05-10, 12:35 AM   #9
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

Wow. It's like Russian roulette. Beautiful and frightening and painful beyond description. My heart breaks reading your story and at the same time feels relief at your good fortune on the other end of the spectrum.
Old 02-05-10, 05:59 AM   #10
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

Can't say too much.. you stopped me in my tracks with your loss.. I have only lost one person that I can say I truly loved, my Dad... the event scarred me.. I don't think I'm still over his passing.. and it's been 40 years..

It makes me happy, that you were lucky enough find such a wonderful person who allows you to have some degree of piece and happiness, it a hard thing to find..

I find your experience in life, very interesting, and your ability to "take it" as it comes at you with a easy going sprit very helpful to me.. daily

You're a nice man, and your thoughts on many issues are, well refreshing.. one does not run into many folks like you.. and if your wife liked you then she must be just SUPER too

I like your take on life, and your courage to continue on.. and not sweat the small sh*t.. it will all work out.. I try to keep that kind of frame of mind.. but, for me it's very hard.. if not impossible..

Thanks I needed that.... well, thanks again

Now, get those neighborhood kids trained up.. so you can go out and wet a line today and that would be a story

A great life you got going on, thanks again for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us...


and I hope this is not off topic.. as I'm just terrible at following orders and policy.. it's been a curse, but has saved my life a couple of times by going a "different" way

Oh, you got me looking down your way yesterday with Google Earth.. when we used to go down there.. I think there were only a few structure.. no gas.. San Vicente was the closest place to get gas, if I remember right.. can't believe how much Ag they have going on,.. where did the water come from .. they must have wells? I don't remember water, we used to bring our own in the old "glass" 5 gallon sparkletts bottles..

There, I knew I would get off topic one way or the other, not trying to do anything but talk about you and where you and your wife live, as I used to go down there many, many years ago with my Dad.. it brings back good memories to think and talk about SQ
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Old 02-05-10, 10:36 PM   #11
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

I also read 'Gringo's story a while ago. And as it's active now, I'll also say thanks for sharing.

I think of 'Nuts0.5.......... always saying prayers....
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Old 02-07-10, 07:49 PM   #12
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

I musta been too busy posting & re-posting pics to have seen this when you originally posted it BG....thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life!! Good thing I have a box of Kleenex close, for both the sad & happy parts!
Old 06-14-11, 09:22 PM   #13
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Default Re: My Baja Story - How to Explain a Love Affair

I read your story BG and can't imagine what it must feel to loose a daughter or son. Happy that you found a loving woman to spend the rest of your life with.

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