Friday, July 22, 2016

Fantastic images for a fantastic setting

Danae Brissonnet, artist on scaffolding far left
Fanciful creatures from the ocean swarm a human figure holding a conch shell to an ear; listening to what the ocean says.  

Canadian artist, Danae Brissonnet’s very colourful mural adorns one of the new white walls of the expanded Aguakan waste water treatment plant on the eastern side of Isla Mujeres. 

Day one - Danae Brissonnet 

When I first stopped to chat I mistook her slight accent for Spanish and proceeded to torture her with my very limited Spanglish.  

Eventually we both realized that we had English in common, and communicating became a whole lot simpler.  

Danae Brissonnet - egg carton palette 
For a painters’ palette holding multiple dabs of vibrant colours Danae had creatively re-cycled a cardboard egg carton, designed to hold thirty chicken eggs.  Enamoured by the simplicity, she is hoping to find more discarded egg cartons.

A few feet away fellow artist, Hilda Palafax from Mexico City created a woman who languidly swims in the ocean with a huge critter – a Whale Shark.  Painting in the early morning light, and again late in the afternoon when the heat of the day had abated somewhat, Hilda (Poni) crafted an image that is both humorous and beautiful.  An illustrator and graphic designer by trade, Hilda is close to becoming a full-time artist.  It is her true passion. 
Hilda Palafax - painting woman and Whale Shark

Another truly fanciful mural has been painted on northern side of the municipal waste transfer facility.  The creatures are fun and colourful, and brighten up an otherwise dreary space.  

The close proximity of the three murals will attract a lot of attention from the thousands of Cancun daytrippers who buzz around the island via an assortment of golf carts. With the turquoise water and a long white beach directly behind the artists, the soft breezes and gentle waves have to be an inspiration.  An assortment of long-sleeved shirts, comical hats, and scarves protect skin unaccustomed to the blistering sun. 

Hilda Palafax, Poni - almost finished her mural
There are four visiting artists taking part in the Pangeaseed Sea Walls project happening this month on Isla Mujeres.  Unfortunately we never did connect with the other two artists - Tysa and Senkoe who painted the mural on the waste transfer building, and the new mural on the tourist information building.  Some of you may remember the fourteen spectacular murals from the original Pangeaseed project in 2014.  

Many are still intact, adorning numerous buildings in centro: the Mercado, several hotels, a kindergarten and our favourite mural, the huge one decorating the Palacio Municipal (City Hall).  The mural on the tourist information centre on Medina suffered sun damage and is being repainted this week with a different collage of ocean-themed images.

Tysa - mural at the municipal waste transfer facility
The original plan included decorating the bland exterior of the Casa de Cultura in centro, but when Danae Brissonnet examined the wall, she realized the surface was much too rough for her painting.  Too bad for the Casa de Cultura, but very fortunate for the Aguakan facility. 

How did this all come about?  Well, as we understand it, Pangeaseed is the parent organization promoting the idea in various locations around the world.  The local feet-on-the-street coordinators, such as Carolina Marin, are associated with an organization called Visual Junkies.  These are the folks who organize local sponsors, which walls can be painted, and accommodations. 

Caroline Marin, Visual Junkies and artist Hilda Palafax

Islander Eric Shott, of El Milagaro Marina and his very talented staff assisted in 2014 with accommodations for the artists, assembling scaffolding and carting heavy items with their marina company truck.  And again in 2016 Eric provided accommodations for the artists.

Rooster’s Café and the sister restaurant of Bertha’s has helped out with breakfasts, delicious coffee, and a wind up evening meal.  The municipality of Isla Mujeres arranged the walls to be painted, and meals at Pelayos Restaurante on Medina Rueda.  Made in nearby Merida, Maya Solar supplied bio degradable sunscreen and insect repellent suitable for use when the group members ventured out to swim with the Whale Sharks and rays.  OSEL paints have supplied materials for the artists.  
Danae Brissonnet - the hat just made me laugh!

These are just a few of the sponsors that we heard about, if there are more we would be happy to include them in this article.  The joys of electronic publications!

Whether you are on Isla Mujeres right now, or are coming soon for your annual vacation, a tour of the island in search of the multiple murals – new and old, is well worth the time.

Hasta Pronto!
Lynda & Lawrie

Also see our other article about the 2014 project:

Friday, July 15, 2016

Because everyone knows me ….

Welcome to paradise!

So many of the island business folks that we deal with on a regular basis don’t have signs for their establishments, and when we ask why not, the answer is usually something like, “Because everyone knows me,” followed by a shoulder shrug.  Well that works, at least for locals – but what about the newcomers?

Here are a few of our favourite businesses that we have found over the years – without the aid of signage.

Francisco Avalos -  replacing leather in our Mini Cooper
The first guy we found was Francisco Avalos of Tapiceria Caribe Tropic according to the business card that he gave us in 2007, but if you go looking for his sign: nada!  Nothing.  

Francisco does upholstery of every kind imaginable.  New cushions for sofas, new tops for boats, seats and tops for golf carts, totally new brightly coloured canvas for the big tour boats like Dancer and new leather upholstery for our Mini Cooper seats.  

Sofa and throw cushions - Francisco Avalos
When asked nicely Francisco will even do girlie stuff like create tailored decorator cushions, although he prefers larger jobs.  Francisco is located on Avenida Martinez Ross, south of Dental Splash, just before Delfino’s Veterinary Clinic on the same side of the road.   His building is orange, as are some of his vintage dune buggies, and his favourite pair of shorts.  We think he likes the colour.  Francisco opens after ten-thirty in the morning and works late into the cooler part of the evening.  

Santiago Aguilar's appliance repairs - or get your teeth fixed!
Then of course because we live in a hot, humid and salty climate we occasionally require the use of a mini-split air conditioner to help us sleep.  Santiago Aguilar Junior and Santiago Aguilar Senior, became our next BFF.  (Best Friends Forever).  Air conditioners have the nasty habit of expiring on the hottest night of the year, so having a reliable repair person on your phone contact list is extremely important.  It’s right up there with a sufficient stock of wine to last the week.  

The Santiagos Sr. and Jr., will also repair washers, dryers, and other assorted appliances.  Santiago’s place is also unmarked and located further south on Avenida Martinez Ross.  Recently two dentists have rented the back portion of the property and their business is well signed: Dra Martha Navarro, and Dra M.T.Gomez.  If you can find that sign you have located Santiago’s.  But they are most likely out on a call.  Here is Santiago Senior’s cell number:  998-895-3028.  We usually text in Goggle Spanglish as our verbal Spanish is still a bit awkward.  Okay, really awkward.

Canela greeting Lawrie at Orlando's Golf Cart Repairs
Also on the same street, on the same side is Orlando who does golf cart repairs for us.  

Again, no sign.  He is just a few doors north of Santiago’s property.  Currently the white-painted metal gate is about the only indication of where he is located, oh, and the collection of golf carts in his driveway or on the street.  

Canela (Cinnamon) the big watch dog will loudly announce your arrival, but once the gates are open she is very friendly.  998-259-8612 is Orlando’s cell number, and he is fluent in English.

Pepe - Aluminum, windows and glass
A little further on the same street, on the same side – do you see a pattern emerging here? – is our favourite window and glass guy, Pepe, otherwise known as Jose Alfonso Martinez Angeles.  He is the owner of Alucripepe Aluminios y Cristales.  

Both he and his son Pepe Jr., are delightful to deal with.  Pleasant, fast working, and fluent in English which makes explaining intricate details a lot easier. 

Pepe's guys delivering our refrigerator 2015
They also operate a sideline of picking up heavy items in Cancun and transporting them to Isla, or moving furniture, or removing old appliances.  

You can find them across the street from the elementary school past Isla Brewing, and Comex the paint store. Pepe Sr.’s cell number is 998-143-8825

And then there are the metal fabricators who are located on a corner lot nearer to the Super X-Press in the La Gloria neighbourhood.  These folks can create or fix pretty much anything metal.  Be darned if we can remember their names.  And we don’t have their cell number either.  Usually we just drive over with the piece or part that needs to be repaired or replaced and the next day drive back to pick it up. 

Metal fabricators in La Gloria colonia 
Apparently the no-sign thing does work for business owners, however new islanders will have to do a bit of detective work to find the right person to solve a particular problem. 

Ask any islander, and we will probably all have different answers for the people we prefer. 

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

Friday, July 8, 2016

Our two island paradises

Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Remember that really bad pickup line from the 1980’s?  “So, what’s your sign?” 
We are both Pisces, and that makes us just a little bit different.  

By different we mean, we love water and have to live within sight of it, hence our love affair with islands. 

Bowen Island, Canada

Our first stab at island life was Bowen Island, just off the coast of British Columbia Canada, near Vancouver.  It was a small mountainous paradise, about nineteen square miles in total land mass.  Back in the mid-1970’s when we moved to Bowen Island the population was only around twelve hundred people.  The mixed-grade school was so small it was in danger of being closed.  A student had to be invented to meet the minimum requirement of six students.

Car & Passenger ferry for Bowen Island 
Close to the ferry dock was a very small shopping area, with a couple of places to eat and the Snug Cove General Store operated by parents, John & Evy Lock.  It featured a butcher shop, fresh produce, cleaning supplies, dry goods, canned goods, and huge assortment of penny candy for the kids to ponder over.  

The store was taken over by other family members who eventually moved the business into a larger space, and away from the congested ferry dock.  Snug Cove General Store is still operating at the second location, but under different owners.

Harvesting cocos from Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

Fast forward a couple of decades.  As we neared retirement age, we once again thought of living on an island – only this time we wanted to be warm.  Our choice was Isla Mujeres, just off the coast near Cancun, yeah - I know, the Las Vegas of the Beach.  Now, don’t get me wrong Cancun is a wonderful vacation spot. Founded by the Mexican government in the 1970’s on vacant stretch of white sand this is where all-inclusive resorts became popular.  A great experience for families, at a fixed cost. 

Playa Centro, Isla Mujeres
On Isla Mujeres, life is simpler here.  Yes, we have our share of tourists, with Cancun being only eighteen minutes away by passenger ferry.  

That’s a good thing; tourism allows the residents a way to earn a living and still have the qualities of life and community that makes island living so special.  

Cancun provides the benefit of a nearby international airport servicing the world, familiar stores such as Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, and Sam’s Club - making living in paradise easy, a no brainer.

Yummy mangoes for sale just two blocks from our casa
And yes, in the beginning we used the benefits of Cancun regularly, but as Isla Mujeres grows our trips to ‘the big city’ are less often.  

We have become a part of the community, frequenting local stores where the owners now greet us by name, and usually have exactly what we want. 

Should you move to a small island?  Maybe.  It helps if you are a Pisces, and are patient, but slightly impractical.  Life on an island isn’t always about tight time-frames and schedules.  Sometimes it is a lazy afternoon hiding out from the hot sun and thinking about what you should be accomplishing – mañana.

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

Previous life: we were both Bowen Island volunteer Firefighters.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Clothes for the nation

Three Amigos - fishing tournament shirts
Mexico is kinda unique in North America.  

Unlike its northern neighbours, who seem to love t-shirts emblazoned with sports team logos or various rock stars – Mexico relies heavily on political events to clothe the nation.  

Political rally for the Governor and Presidente (Mayor)

A favourite giveaway during election time is a t-shirt with the name and slogan of a political candidate featured prominently, perhaps accompanied by a photograph.  Even though we are residents, not citizens, and therefore cannot vote in the elections we have on numerous occasions been offered a t-shirt from a political party, but we can’t wear them.   As non-citizens we are not allowed to be involved in anything political. 

Crew & participants Fishing Tournament
Another source of free t-shirts for locals are their employers.  

Many of the tour boats or fishing charter boats outfit their crews in white, long-sleeved t-shirts emblazoned with the name of the boat.  It’s a great way to keep the crew looking professional, and to advertise the boat to tourists.  

The long-sleeved style is the preferred shirt when working out on the sun-reflecting water.  They are a hotter to wear, but do a better job preventing sunburn. We know from the half dozen or so times we have gone fishing with friends.   We usually returned in late afternoon hot and sweaty, and relatively burn free.

Local friends winners in Ladies Tournament 2015
A free t-shirt also comes with every entry fee for the numerous annual fishing tournaments.  

There are the standard white fishing shirts for the regular tournament and the prettier pale pink shirts for the ladies only annual tournament that took place this last weekend.  

A boat load of our friends participated in the ladies’ tournament last year and judging by the photographs it looked like they had a heck of a fun time.  Of course with fishing, there is always copious quantities of cold cerveza, bringing smiles to all of the participants.

Crews and particpants - long sleeved shirts
With the political giveaways, the locals are pretty savvy.  It’s a fairly common strategy to profess support for a number of different candidates until the t-shirts have been handed out.  We were out walking the other day, and spotted a clothes line with a number of t-shirts drying in the sun.  Wow!  We could go back at least nine years of political candidates, from all parties.  And best of all they are free.

Lots of different political candidates represented here.
We have amassed our own personal collection of free t-shirts gifted by business friends who wanted to spread the word about their company: restaurants, bars and brewery.  

Hey great!  Free clothes.  Thanks.

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

Friday, June 24, 2016

A once in a life time happening – er, depending on your age

Monday June 20th Summer Solstice & Full Moon
The Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, and a full moon, both happened on Monday June 20th.  It’s a once in a life-time event, depending on your age and the time zone that you live in.  

The last time this event occurred was in 1948.  Lawrie was six and I wasn’t even a gleam in my father’s eye, so we decided we should commemorate the night in style. 


No, we didn’t dance naked around a bonfire while howling at the moon, but we did cook a yummy steak dinner and open a special bottle of Argentinian Malbec.  Three weeks of a boring low-carb, alcohol-free diet were tossed out with the wine cork.  Heck, this might be the last summer solstice, full moon in our lifetime.  Let’s go crazy! 

Mid-afternoon on Rueda Medina
Even Mother Nature was in a celebratory mood.  After five days of grey and damp weather we had sun, glorious sun enticing flocks of day-trippers from the hotel zone in Cancun to the island.  

It seemed that every one of the thousand-plus rental golf carts were out on the roads, overloaded with tourists.  (There is one perplexing trait in a high percentage of visitors; they feel compelled to holler and yell when touring in a golf cart.  Why is that?)  

Street Vendors out in full force
Rental bicycles, and motor-scooters jammed the roadway, filling spaces between the golf carts.   Boats coming into the harbour were at their maximum capacity for passengers.  Amazing considering just a few years ago the island was deserted from the end of spring break until students were released for summer vacations.  Local hotels have been reporting record-breaking occupancy rates for the entire year.  There doesn’t seem to be a slow season on Isla Mujeres anymore.

Hundreds and hundreds of golf carts
A quick drive around the island Monday afternoon confirmed that the popular beaches were packed with sun-worshipers in an assortment of sizes and ages.  

Everyone appeared to be enjoying the warm water and brilliant sunshine.  Restaurant waiters hustled to and fro with drinks and food. They don’t seem to have a problem keeping their weight at a manageable level; back and forth trudging through the hot sand hundreds of times a day.  It’s a great workout.
Summer Solstice on Rueda Medina 2011
We spent the evening watching the sunset from our street side deck, then slipped over to the ocean side upper deck to enjoy the moon rise.  

Last Monday’s balmy weather, another glass of fabulous red wine, and great company was a perfect way to celebrate this rare evening.   And, yes, we are back to our boring low-carb, alcohol-free diet – for at least another month.

The next summer solstice full moon is predicted for 2062.  Lawrie will be 120 years old.  He says he’ll be there celebrating!  Me, at 111 years old?  I’ll probably still be battling fat cells.

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Our favourite oceanside deck - full moon rising

Friday, June 17, 2016

Paradise from another perspective – Wow, just wow!

Amazing starfish shape!
Did you know that the five, red pathways at Punta Sur Isla Mujeres are actually in the shape of a starfish? 

We didn’t.  

It’s a bit like discovering the three thousand year-old chalk image in the hills of England is really an ancient 360-foot long rendition of a white horse.  

Okay, maybe it’s not that notable, but for us the starfish was very cool to see.  

Caution - the four carbon-fiber blades are powerful
Expat David Daniel captured the image with his newest boy-toy: a DJI Phantom 3 UAV.  Also known by the misnomer of drone, the UAV Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAS Unmanned Aircraft System comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

Highly conscious of the potential danger of the remote-controlled UAV, 
David pointed out the four whirling carbon-fiber blades as they spun up, lifting the vehicle aloft.  

David: It's easy to fly this UAV

Then with a noise akin to a hive of active bees the aircraft sailed away, hovering off the southern point of Isla Mujeres as it broadcast streaming video to David’s I-Pad.  

Woohoo!  What beautiful images.  

Wow!  Isla Mujeres from Punta Sur
For both David and Diane Daniel traditional photography is an outlet for their creativity, and operating the UAV gives David yet another instrument for crafting beautiful images.

At Punta Sur, a family of curious Argentinian tourists quickly gathered around David as he manoeuvred the UAV for better images.  

Apparently interested curiosity is a familiar reaction, typically with the technology savvy under-thirty crowd, and especially Europeans. 

Images difficult to see in bright sunlight
When operating the remote controlled device he and Diane are mindful to not intrude on anyone privacy.  They don’t buzz low over crowds, or deliberately focus on individuals.  

David said even with the new advanced cameras measuring distance from space is difficult.  A few times they used the UAV to try to locate a pod of dolphins that cavort along the eastern side of the island, only to discover that pinpointing a fast moving six-foot creature is nearly impossible.  On the other hand, flying around a stationary object is a breeze. 

Diane Daniel, keeping our very hot dog Sparky company
UAV’s are primarily fun toys used for taking great videos or stills from a vantage point normally unavailable to photographers.  They also have useful commercial applications; for instance when two Canadian friends recently decided to sell their home and the real estate company immediately scheduled an aerial photo session with a UAV.  

It’s the new standard for real estate listings.  David says he operates his UAV just for the enjoyment. 

My photo of David's DJI Phantom 3 UAV 

Currently the UAV’s owned by individuals now vastly outnumber military drones, with estimates of over a million sold by 2015.  The popularity has created a few hazards, necessitating new laws to govern their use.  Whether you refer to them as drones, UAV’s or a UAS they are banned within five miles of airports worldwide, and prisons in a number of countries.  The newer models are equipped with updated software that has no fly zones, or hot spots, prohibiting the vehicle from lifting off.  Older version still exist prompting many countries to erect signage at airports forbidding the use of this type of equipment. 

The drone's photo of me taking its photo
It turns out our home is within that five mile radius of our local almost-abandoned, and seldom-used airport. So no high-flying photographs of our casa.  It’s probably a good thing, I think our ‘dainties’ were still hanging on the laundry line.

If you would like to see more great photographs and videos visit David and Diane’s New Nomad’s Facebook page.  Here’s the link.
Their photography will wow you!

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Come to papa!  David Daniel and his new toy.