Return to Mulegé

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It is very rare in our travels that we pass through the same town twice. So, it was with great excitement that we passed back through Mulegé, Mexico as we headed to our newest rental house. We all have very fond memories of the three weeks that we spent in Mulegé this past November, and we were all anxious to visit old friends and visit familiar places.

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As we only had one night in town we chose to stay at the beautiful Hotel Hacienda situated right next to the town’s main square. The hotel has a lovely courtyard with gorgeous flowering trees and a very refreshing swimming pool. After cooling off in the pool we were all ready to take the familiar walk along the river and visit with some of our favorite Mulegé canines.

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After reminiscing along the river bank we stopped off at the square to enjoy the festivities set up for the first night of Carnival. We were all a little sad to miss the big Carnival celebration in La Paz, but Mulegé helped ease the pain. The kids enjoyed spinning rides and trampolines while we all enjoyed the lively music. While our return to Mulegé was short lived it reminded us how truly special this town is!

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Grateful to be Giving Back

As a family we feel so grateful that we can experience a life of living, loving, and learning on the fly. To “pay it forward” we try to volunteer or give back to the world whenever we can. While living in La Paz, Mexico we found that there was no shortage of charitable organizations that we could volunteer our time to. Below we have listed three of the organizations that we were fortunate enough to volunteer with during the past three months.

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Care For Kids La Paz provides school scholarships and a breakfast program for children living in the impoverished neighborhood of Vista Hermosa on the outskirts of La Paz. We spent several Saturdays shopping for and delivering the groceries that would be used to feed school children breakfast three times a week. Without this program many of these children would start off their day at school without a nutritious breakfast. As a family we loved that this volunteer opportunity allowed us to practice our Spanish while grocery shopping, meet and speak with local residents, and visit a part of La Paz that few tourists ever make it back to.

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Rancho el Camino offers programs for local children and teens in need, from street children to at risk youth. They provide camps throughout the year and offer programs at their ranch which center around caring for and riding horses. We volunteered our time with some of the staff of Rancho el Camino to clean up a playground in one of the neighborhoods where they work with children and families in need. When we arrived the park was in need of a major clean-up, but with many hands the job was quickly finished leaving the kids extra time to play on the now super clean playground.

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Pack For A Purpose is an organization that Five String discovered before we left the United States for the Baja Peninsula. This organization operates around the world asking vacationers or travelers to pack a few donatable supplies that can be dropped off to charities or non-profit organizations in the area where they are visiting. Five String went to the Pack for a Purpose web page and entered our destination as La Paz, Mexico. He was then directed to Tailhunter International, a restaurant in La Paz, that collects donated goods from tourists and supplies them to local La Paz groups and charities. The Tailhunter International site listed the supplies needed by Fundacion Ayuda Ninos La Paz A.C., an organization providing the basic support of food and education for children and adolescents from impoverished areas of La Paz. We picked these items up when we were still in Montana and tucked them under a seat in the Mazda5 to drop off at Tailhunter when we arrived in La Paz. This was such a great find on Five String’s part because through Pack for a Purpose we can easily find out what donations are needed by charitable organizations in each new area that we travel to.

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Behind the Scenes at the Orchestra

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Things are starting to get busy for us as we enter our final week here in La Paz, Mexico. Even though we have quite the to-do list before our departure, we still are making time for some final excursions into town. We read about the open rehearsals of the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Escuela de Música del Estado (the Symphony Orchestra of the State Music School), which are held every Tuesday at 6:00 pm and Friday at 5:00 pm. Since the notice clearly stated children are welcome (and we double checked to make sure we had the translation correct), we decided to go for a listen.

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The rehearsals are held in the Sala de Conciertos (Concert Hall) located at the corner of Morelos and Marcelo Rubio, two blocks northeast of the Arturo C. Nahl Estadio de Beisbol. We arrived with a half hour to spare and found a large, shaded courtyard surrounded by classrooms of vocalists singing, pianos playing, and horns blowing. After burning up some energy (and adding our footsteps and laughs to the chorus of the courtyard), we took our seats in the concert hall itself.

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DSC02713-picsayAs we were the only non-musicians in the audience, we had our choice of seats. We all found it fascinating to hear and focus on the individual instruments and families (strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion) as they worked through their parts of the Russian Dance from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. It was even more thrilling to hear all the instruments come together and form a complete whole. Since the performance was a practice and people were coming and going the entire time, we didn’t feel pressured to stay until the very end and were able to leave when we felt ready.

Our trip to the orchestra has inspired us to learn more about the orchestra, and we found these videos below to be perfect for younger and older learners alike. 

Vegan in La Paz

Traveling as vegans always requires a leap of faith. As much as we try to research each destination to find out if tofu and soy milk will be available, we can never be sure until we arrive and start grocery shopping. Since La Paz is a city of around 215,000 people and home to several different grocery store chains we weren’t too worried about finding vegan friendly foods, and luckily for the most part we were right.

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However, our time in La Paz did teach us the very important lesson in stocking up. We found that many products aren’t available or in stock on a regular basis (particularly true for specialty products). So, if you find a product that you depend on make sure that you stock up the first time you see it in the store, because there is a very good chance that you won’t find it in stock again for a very long time. For us this was particularly true with coconut oil and soy milk.  We adopted the motto: When in doubt, clean them out! 

Below we have listed the stores and markets here in La Paz where we found a dependable supply of vegan food products.

Chedraui – A large grocery store chain with 3 locations in La Paz. This was our go-to supermarket where we found the best prices on fruits, vegetables, crackers, cereals, canned goods, and grains. More importantly Chedraui had the most consistent supply of soy milk (aseptic packs only). In particular they carry Silk brand, which is one of the few Non-GMO brands that we have found here in Baja. Chedraui also carries a consistent supply of agave syrup, alternative grains like amaranth, and ground flax seed. They are also the only store where we found vegetable bouillon cubes. In our experience the store on Mariano Abasolo offers the best chance of finding these specialty food items.

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Mega – Another large supermarket. This store also located on Mariano Abasolo has a large aisle of specialty products. This is where we found jars of coconut oil, large canisters of almonds, rice noodles, and the best price for peanut butter. Towards the end of our time in La Paz we also found some blocks of refrigerated tofu near the frozen foods and dairy cases containing blocks of cheese. While they do carry almond milk we did not find Mega to be a reliable source of soy milk.

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Almacen La Victoria – This small market is located on Ignacio Ramirez between cross streets General Manuel Marquez de Leon and Manuel Pineda. It was our go-to store for blocks of aseptic tofu. While you can sometimes find tofu in other stores this market always had a consistent stock at the lowest price.

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Organic Market – On Saturday morning you can find a small market of vendors set up on Calle Francisco Madero between Calle 5 de Mayo and Constitucion. Most vendors sell organic produce as well as honey, baked goods, and other specialty items.

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In summary we were able to find pretty much everything that we needed to cook and eat as vegans while in La Paz. Fruits and vegetables are plentiful as is wheat flour, rice, beans, and coconut milk. You will also be able to find non-dairy milk and tofu in some form. Oils are expensive here and if you are particular to a certain brand of oil (due to allergies) you might want to bring a bottle with you. We were able to find coconut oil but it sells out fast, so definitely stock up when you see it in the store.

There were just a few items that we were hard pressed to find in La Paz. In our three months here we have never came across nutritional yeast flakes or alternative nut butters. Chedraui and Mega sell bulk nuts so we were able to make our own almond butter but we were out luck with the nutritional yeast. So, if you have room to stash a few vegan products in your suit case definitely considering bringing along a supply of nutritional yeast and your favorite nut butter.

A Spirited Valentine’s Day

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Five String and Five Spice are romantics at heart, and for Valentine’s Day we wanted to do something special. Although the thought of a candlelight dinner with the kids asleep in the other room was quite tempting, we decided to take a more, shall we say, adventurous approach to celebrate Cupid’s arrow. What could be more romantic than riding an hour and a half out to an uninhabited island with 3 kids on a 12-person boat ? 

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Love is in the air (and the sea).

For our trip out to the UNESCO-protected Isla Espíritu Santo, we decided to use Marlin Adventures. They offered a full day tour of the island, including snorkeling at the sea lion colony and relaxing on the beach, and we found their price to be one of the best in La Paz. Having spent a day out on the water with them, we could not have been more impressed. The ride itself gave us a chance to get a different view of La Paz than we ever could have gotten from land, and it certainly didn’t hurt for the kids to have a little down time before and after such an exciting day.

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Our two crew members really went above and beyond to meet both our needs and that of the surrounding wildlife. Our guide Arturo was very knowledgeable and passionate about the island’s wildlife and history, and he pointed out many interesting features in both English and Spanish. In addition, our captain maintained a great balance between being respectful of nature and getting us close enough to feel like we were a part of things. On our way back to La Paz a plastic bag flew out of the boat, and our guide and captain circled the water for 5 minutes, scanning for the litter, until they finally found it and brought it back aboard. This commitment to protecting the natural beauty of Isla Espíritu Santo really speaks volumes about the great service that Marlin Adventures provides.

Exploring the Sea of Cortez by boat has definitely been one of the highlights of our time in La Paz. It is fitting that here in Mexico, Valentine’s Day is known as  El Día del Amor y la Amistad (Day of Love and Friendship). We could think of no better way to celebrate our bond with one another and with the larger planet than by dwelling in the stunning natural beauty of Isla Espíritu Santo.