Sunday, July 12, 2009

trimming the navidad tree

I was half way through slathering lime-accented mayonnaise on my ham sandwich around noon on Saturday when I looked out the kitchen door to see --

In Salem, I doubt I have ever seen a machete-wielding man climbing a coconut tree. Because we have a certain dearth of coconut trees there.

Here, the coconut trimmer is a common sight. His role is two-fold: to trim excess palm fronds and to harvest coconuts before they become head-bashing missiles. I have had several close calls with flying coconuts during my prior visits to Mexico.

But this is the first time I had a loge seat for the performance.

He climbs the tree using only his hands and feet. And then wields his machete with deadly precision. And, remember: I took the photograph from the second story. It is a healthy (or unhealthy, if unplanned) drop to the ground.

I wanted to take some more photographs. But he knew I was watching, and, once again, I felt awkward about taking photographs of people working. It still feels like an intrusion to me.

But I thought those of you up north may be interested in one of the daily sights that makes the tropics interesting.

When I started posting from Mexico in mid-April, one of our blogger colleagues requested that I not waste time by posting information that old hands in Mexico already know.

I have repeatedly violated that advice (this post being a prime example) -- for at least two reasons.

The first is obvious. I am going to have a tendency to write about things that interest me. And, if it is new to me, I will probably share it.

The second follows from the first. Even though I thoroughly enjoy reading the blogs of expatriate pioneers who have hewn an electronic trail through the wilderness, most of the people who read this blog will never have the joy of living in Mexico. And, I suspect, moments like this are every bit as interesting to them as an editorial on Mexican political parties. (A topic I still need to tackle.)

The coconut trimmer was a quick moment in my Mexican adventure. During the coming week, I want to share a few more of those moments and some thoughts about living in Mexico.


Mic said...

Not something we're likely to see up here in Alaska either....good show!! :-)

Jonna said...

I love lime on almost everything, I hate it in mayonnaise! That used to be one of my 'please bring me' items from visiting friends. Best Foods, no lime, mayonnaise. Now, I buy the giant economy size at CostCo. Mexico improved a notch when that became possible. I'm just another shallow expatriate - if I was an immigrant I would buck up and use the Miracle Whip taste alikes that are more popular here.

Good coconut men are good to find and have around. More people die from falling coconuts than - insert some horrid disease here. Google it though, it is a big killer. Plus, if you like your car, never park under a coconut.

Calypso said...

There are many aspects of living in Mexico that are worth repeating - many times ;-)

Anonymous said...

hi steve,

glad to hear you did not follow that other blogger's advice. first, you do need to write about what interests you and second, i love reading about the things that you encounter on a daily basis.

arrived safely friday afternoon. love our new house. we hope to close on tuesday and move in on wednesday.

have another great day in paradise.

tu amiga,


oh, i love the way you're embracing spanish. keep it up.

Rosas Clan in Tulum said...

don't you just love the lime infused mayo. (and the peanuts) There is no escaping lime and chili here in Mexico.

I have often seen the cococunt trimmers around here as well and it is just crazy what they do. They get up so fast, swing a huge machete aroud and then flop down. I think it is really cool too.

Anonymous said...

Please keep the observations of daily life coming. Dodging falling coconuts (which is too often fatal) is a unique "survival skill" most people would'nt think about.

Anonymous said...

I found the picture and information concerning the coconut tree trimmer very interesting. Keep up the good work.

Constantino said...

It's your damn blog, you can write about anything you damn well please of....right?
Except anything you don't want!

Steve Cotton said...

Mic -- For you, it would be a bear up a spruce.

Jonna -- I love lime in everything -- including my sandwich spread. It took a bit to get used to it in mayonnise, but I am fine with it now. But, I have noticed that there appears to be a high sugar content in it. You are probably correct: Miracle Whip is not on the shelves down here because it is sold as mayonnaise.

Calypso -- I will. I will. I will.

Teresa -- Your comments always buck me up for the day.

Rosas Clan -- When I first visited Mexico, I loved the idea of chili-lime. It was new. It was exciting. That bothered me on the move down because I was attempting to lose weight and keep it off. Even so, I continued buying some snacks -- trying different flavors. But every flavor advertised on the package tasted like lime-chili. I am simply bored with it now. And that is good -- because I no longer buy snack chips. Great aversion therapy.

Francisco -- We have huge coconut plantations here. I often see cattle grazing uder the trees. Maybe that is where beef in restaurants come from -- coconut-beaned beef.

Anonuymous -- Thanks, Mom.

Steve Cotton said...

Constantino -- Ah, you speak to my libertarian spirit, sir.

Islagringo said...

One of the most irritating things I find about blogging is people's notion that they are the directors. I am arrogant enough that I ignore (mostly) when readers tell me not to talk about this subject, don't post pictures of this, etc. If they don't want to read it, they can go away.

Even if I had no readers, I would continue to post because I enjoy doing it. I'm all about me right now.

The exception to the above statement is that I do not talk about subjects that the local police and cartels have told me to leave alone. We must always keep in the back of our mind that we are guests here and they we ARE being monitored.

(wow. appears you pushed one of my buttons today!)

Susan said...

Each October when we return to Guayabitos, getting the cocos trimmed is number one on our list! This past October, Victor the most popular trimmer was not available for 3 weeks. YIKES!! We couldn't find anyone else at the time. We were dodging falling cocos everyday. Infact, two landed on our plastic table and broke it! Thank goodness it wasn't our heads.

Christine said...

Also, it's a marvelous photograph!

Jackie said...

Keep these kinds of post coiming on a regular basis so those of us NOB and not retired have something to look forward to.

Julian in SC said...

Neat Shot.

On a trip to Lamanai in Belize I watched an old fellow husking coconuts by ramming them down on a sharp ended post about waist high. He would hold the nut in both hands and ram down on the point, causing the husk to split as he would twist and drive the point in further. Didn't take him long and there was the hidden nut in its dark brown shell. In Belize I found that people would cook rice using the coconut milk and created some wonderful tasting dishes....

Anonymous said...

For Felipe
Listen to Constantino

Theresa said...

Interesting, I have never seen a coconut palm being climbed or coconuts being harvested. If you had followed that egocentric's advice, I probably never would have and I have lived here almost 5 years! Not too many coconut palms in the middle of the city.
I think we all go through similar things and see similar sights (coco trimmers aside) but what is interesting is how we react to them. I am sure that my point of view on many things will differ significantly from yours, Calypso's or Felipe's and conincide on many others, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't blog about them. All our Mexican experiences are filtered by us and reported by us in differing fashions. How often do eyewitness's reports actually match?
My motto is, it's my blog and I'll write what I want to, when you have your blog you can write about what interests you.

glorv1 said...

That was a great shot and he's got the best scenery. By the way, did you get any of those coconuts? Have a great week and oh yes, good thing the coconuts are coming down now instead of falling on jiggs head when he is outside. Hugs to Jiggs.

Pete said...

I love the photo Steve. I read a lot of blogs every day and always enjoy what people find interesting and what they enjoy writing about. So far, we have never had a request to not post a subject. I am with you - a blog is a personal view and I will always post what I find interesting. Keep it up for all of us!

1st Mate said...

Steve - Great shot, better than the one I got from the ground in Barra when I saw the coconut man. I'd have loved to see him actually climbing the tree, still can't figure out how they do that. Their feet must be as thick as tire rubber!

Even those of us in Mexico are not all old hands. I enjoy reading about your impressions, even if they're thing I've seen too.

zannie said...

As someone who aspires to live in Mexico at some point, I am certainly glad you "waste time" talking about the things "everybody knows." I don't, and it's nice to get a sense of what I'm in for if and when I get there.

Steve Cotton said... and I are having our moments in this blogging relationship. I have posted responses to comments over the past few days, and several are missing. I will do my best to reconstruct.

Islandgringo. Thank you for your "subtle" exposition of what I should do. (chuckle)

Susan -- I was surprised at the velocity those things attain. I have had two close shaves now with flying coconuts (sounds like the name of a circus act). Yes. Yes. I know Galileo and all that. But I would rather be hit by a feather than a coconut.

Christine -- Thank you very much. It was one of those shots of opportunity.

Jackie -- You can count on it. I feel like a scout for the coming pioneers.

Julian -- I do not like coconut products, but the process of harvesting is fascinating. I should go out to one of the local plantations to get some shots.

Felipe the Anonymous -- His (and your) advice are part of this blog's mission.

Theresa -- Great advice. I started writing this blog for friends and relatives (and Andee). It is now closer to a personal journal of my journey in retirement.

Gloria -- As always, thanks. No coconuts. Can't stand the stuff -- milk or meat.

Pete -- Thanks a lot. Will do.

1st Mate -- I enjoy reading about other blogger's Mexico experiences. Even if I have had the same experience, I usually learn something new from the writer.

Zannie -- I am glad you are enjoying seeing Mexico through my eyes. I intend to keep on posting -- even with that distorted view.

Anonymous said...


Get in touch with your inner paparazzi. Snap the locals. Just don't chase princesses into tunnels on a motorcycle, ok?

Your view on the quotidian life in Mexico is interesting to those of us NOB, even those who have plenty of Mexican experiences.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where someday, we'll write a blog too. Meanwhile we remain a mere commenter.

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- I realize all of this activity is happening in the open, but I almost feel as if I am smuggling a camera into a locker room. There is just something about photographing people. Who knows. At a visceral level, I may believe that cameras do trap souls. But I do look forward to the day you start producing a blog. My comments await.