Friday, December 2, 2016

Sparky, the almost famous divo of Isla Mujeres!


It’s finally happened. I’m famous, or infamous, or something similar. Being a dog I’m not all that familiar with the fine points of this language.

Just this week my action adventure novel – Treasure Isla - was published on Amazon e-books. Yep. That’s right – my novel. There are other characters in the book such as the two women who are hunting for buried pirate treasure, dodging disreputable men, and a killer. There are good guys and there are bad guys in the book, but in my opinion I am the main star.

Why can't I sit on the table? I'm famous you know!

My name is Sparky, or as I am known to my close friends – The Sparkinator! I am a pure-bred Mexican low-rider; a handsome combination of Jack Russel Terrier, a bit of Spaniel, and a touch of Dalmatian. I live on Isla Mujeres in a comfortable house right on the beach and I have two well-trained employees who cater to my every need.

The first employee is Servant. She is the ghost writer for my novel. Servant also serves my meals, cooks my special requests, and takes me out for walks or golf cart rides to whatever location on the island that I wish to explore. She also likes to teach me new things. Just this morning while she was making me a very special meal of chicken bits and other stuff, the container slipped out of her hands and the hot ingredients splashed across the kitchen floor and onto the cupboards. She said some new words that I hadn't heard before. I need someone to translate for me.


Servant also frequently refers to me as a ‘divo’ which I think translates to special, or very special. For some reason she shakes her head and rolls her eyes when she calls me a ‘divo.’  I shake my head when I get ear lice, so perhaps she has ear lice.

Pet buffet

My other employee is Driver. He gives me lots of pats and enjoys my company on any one of our sofas, or beside him in the bed. He also acts as my alternate chauffeur when Servant isn’t available. Until recently Driver drove me around the island or in the city of Cancun in my dark blue, Mini-Cooper S convertible. Then one day Driver sold my hot little car. He said I wasn’t using it enough to justify having both a car and a golf cart. We still have the carito de golf for my daily excursions, but since he didn’t have my permission to sell my sports-car I am considering docking his pay for the next several months. It is so difficult to get good help these days.

Sold the Mini-Cooper S
My novel is only available on e-books, so I won’t be able to paw-print a copy for my many fans. When my second novel is published in 2017, I am going to renegotiate my contracts with Servant and Driver. They just aren’t treating me with the respect that I deserve.

Hasta Luego


The Sparkinator    

(Lynda & Lawrie)



Monday, November 28, 2016

Treasure Isla - action adventure novel, set on Isla Mujeres now available on Amazon

Get your copy today!
$2.99 USD on Amazon Books




A Caribbean adventure set on the magical island of Isla Mujeres, located off the eastern coast of Mexico. Two twenty-something women find themselves in possession of a seemingly authentic treasure map, which leads them on a chaotic search for buried treasure while navigating the dangers of too much booze, disreputable men and a killer. Plus there is a dog, a funny little rescue-mutt. 

Come and join the hunt for pirate gold!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sometimes a last minute invite can be a fun one!

Late this Wednesday afternoon, Lawrie just happened to check his emails and discovered a message from Marla Bainbridge Martinez asking if we would consider helping out as bartenders at a fundraiser starting at four in the afternoon.

I heaved an unhappy sigh, and stared longingly at my just-poured glass of Malbec wine. Our afternoon plans had included reading a book on the ocean-side patio, with a glass of wine in hand. But it was a fundraiser put on by a group of island friends and business people in support of a badly injured islander. Julio Zapata had recently been in a horrific moto (motorcycle) accident in the nearby City of Mérida. Julio has two young children and a third on the way. He is facing large medical bills for multiple surgical operations.


We couldn’t say no. It’s what people in small communities do – help out. Lawrie and I scrambled to get to the fundraiser for the four o’clock start time, knowing full well that as eager-beaver expats we would be among the first to arrive.


Navy truck in front, providing an armed escort for the ice?


Driving to the venue at the Casa de la Culture via Guerreo Avenue, we trailed behind a golf cart, loaded with bags of ice. Apparently ice for a party is a valuable commodity on Isla Mujeres. Driving ahead of the golf cart was an armed escort in the form of a truck load of Navy marines – presumably protecting against the threat of ice-bandits.

Lawrie and Fernanda all set to sell beer and drinks

At the ocean-side esplanade for the Casa de la Culture busy hands were in the process of setting up the venue. Lights and sound systems installed. Band instruments un-packed. Beer organized in the cooler and covered with the precious ice. Bid pages were arranged for silent auction items donated by several island businesses. And then our favourite beer dispensers arrived: Isla Brewing.

La Banda Sin Nombre

Okay, we’re good to go! Now let’s hear some tunes from La Banda Sin Nombre, the Band with No Name!

The crowd was small but very generous in their donations. Thanks to everyone for helping out. Here’s a copy of Marla’s list of contributors: hopefully no one has been left out.

Javi's Cantina Restaurant Tapas Bar, Bobo's Grill & Bar, Isla Mujeres Bar Card, El Arrecife, Parque de los Sueños, Restaurant Asia Caribe, CARM Tours & Transfers, The Joint Reggae Bar & Grill, El Patio house of music, Gigi Kraycar, Nirit Ben David, Olivia Tastes from the Mediterranean, Catrina Restaurant, BE Wings Restaurant, Nisa Disco, and Michael (no last name given).
Aida signing up for an auction item

La Banda Sin Nombre, and Deejay Dani for the tunes. Cheryl Gabel and Kevin Gabel for running the auction. Isla Brewing Company - Cerveza Isla for showing up last minute. Emilio Fernando Sosa Delgado and Martin Burgos for setting up. Jason Williams and Fernanda.

Some of the silent auction winners include: Phil the new owner of the Bahai Tortuga Restaurant, Mark and Monica Macpherson, Sandra Murray, Tomas Christianson, Terri Huff, Dede Clark, Aida and Patricio Yam.

Phil, Barbara Beck, Chris Shannon, Jimmy Picuri

Between the beer sales, the silent auction items, and an earlier Go Fund Me campaign the group efforts have brought in about $41,000 pesos of the $70,000 pesos needed to pay for the operations. It’s a great start! Donations are still gratefully accepted. Contact Marla at Javi’s Cantina for details.

The weather was perfect, the music enjoyable, and the crowd was happy.

Thank you everyone for your generosity.

 

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

Organizing the silent auction items



Friday, November 18, 2016

Funny things that are so very ‘Isla’



Living in a foreign country can be downright comical at times, and doubly so when living on a small island off the eastern coast of Mexico.

Three-sided glass-topped security wall
At the southern end of Isla Mujeres, there is security wall with shards of broken glass cemented into the upper edge. The wall protects an almost empty piece of land containing a replica of a Mayan ruin and a collection of derelict boats. Recently a squatter decided to set up housekeeping inside the windowless concrete shack. The property owner, rightly so, had the person evicted and the street-side entrance bricked over. Then shards of glass were added to the top of the wall as a further deterrent to trespassers.  Because of the sharp embedded bits the iguanas lost a handy spot for sunbathing, and the birds had to find other places to rest, but other than that not much has changed. Strangely the wall only provides security to three sides of the property.  
The Tower - at the refuse transfer station
Another source of amusement is located inside the municipal refuse transfer station, also near the southern end of the island. A large concrete structure was built in the early spring of 2013 under the direction of then Presidente Hugo Sanchez. The three stories high edifice is imposing. 

Original sign that showed a remodel of the area

It towers over the empty building located directly behind it. We’ve never figured out the purpose of the fortification, but it now has a veritable garden of plants sprouting on several levels.


Hacienda Mundaca - new, unused entrance
Then on the western side of the island is the beautiful new entrance to the federally controlled Hacienda Mundaca, the historic home of the island’s most well-known pirate Captain Fermin Mundaca. From the fall of 2014 to the spring of 2015 construction crews slashed a path in the jungle and erected a tall concrete block wall to surround the estate. 
Stone-faced sign for new entrance
Their final job was to create the stunningly beautiful new entrance with two soaring hacienda-style gates, a decorative iron fence and a stage for community performances. Well-signed and ready to go, the new entrance still remains closed and idle, a repository for wind-blown litter.

Part of the sewer line project 
And another head-shaking bit of island trivia. In 2014 the municipality contracted to have Rueda Medina re-paved on the western side of the airport from about the naval base to the Coca Cola plant. Several business owners in the area petitioned the city to work in conjunction with the water/waste corporation, Aguakan, to install sewer lines before paving the road. Good idea. Very forward thinking of the business folks who struggled in the busy tourist winter season with almost daily pump-outs of their waste-water holding tanks. The companies anted-up the fees to Aguakan for the new sewer lines and the project got underway. The road was dug up, lines installed, detours around the work changing daily. It was a huge project that lasted for months creating a financial hardship for a number of the companies located along that piece of road. However, the consensus was in the end it would be well worth it. Except, the sewer lines have never been connected. The school, homes and businesses must still have their holding tanks pumped out on a regular basis.

Rueda Medina the 2010-2011 project
But the biggest ‘oops’ that provides hours of entertaining speculation is the construction project that began in the fall of 2010 and continued for at least eighteen months, if not longer. The multi-level proposal aimed to beautify Rueda Medina, the main entrance to the island with an eye towards impressing the arriving visitors. To that end, underground wiring was planned for all of the homes and businesses along Rueda Medina from the corner by the Aluxes Hotel to the car ferry terminal. The existing rough pavement was to be replaced with attractive stamped concrete. And to prevent unnecessary flooding during rainstorms large drains would be installed at regular intervals along the street. Well, the contractors did lay the pretty new stamped concrete surface for the road.  

Mexico has been our beautiful and charming home country for the last nine years.  Sometimes it can be very entertaining living here, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie


Paradise




Friday, November 11, 2016

Javi’s Cantina ‘Where Flavor Meets Harmony’

Music, good food and cold drinks!  What a great way to spend a Wednesday evening in paradise.  Marla Bainbridge Martinez and Javier Martinez recently held their grand opening event for Javi’s Cantina & Tapas Bar located in centro on Juarez near Abasolo Avenue. 

Cool new sign

Their eatery actually commenced operation in July of this year, but they wanted to ensure they had everything organized and ticking along perfectly before the grand opening.  The several times we have eaten at Javi’s, we have had a beautifully presented and tasty meal.  Practice does make perfect.


Lawrie's favourite - Sliders
The grand opening started off with a blessing from the priest, and continued into the evening with fun, laughter and music.  Until the flashy new sign was installed the cantina was a bit difficult to find.  In case you are still having challenges, it is almost directly across the street from Jeri Roozeboom Mattox and Steve Mattox’s rental property La Vida Dulce, and the Farmacia y Consultorio Similares otherwise known as Doctor Simi.

Spilling out onto the street - Grand Opening
Javi’s Cantina is an intimate and thankfully air-conditioned space, usually holding about thirty patrons, but for this evening they had permission to block off the street and spill out onto the cobblestone roadway.  It’s an island custom for important events, especially funerals when the large extended families can’t all fit inside the diminutive houses.  Javi’s family has been on the island for generations which probably helped in obtaining a street closure permit.  We are glad he did, the large turnout created a festive atmosphere with an entertaining mix of old friends, and new acquaintances all laughing and enjoying the warm tropical night.  And yes, our shivering northern friends, it was a warm tropical night in the middle of November.
Marla singing with the band
The street tables were available for patrons who wanted to drink adult beverages and enjoy the music of La Banda Sin Nombre, the Band with No Name.  The inside tables were reservations-only for folks who wanted to scarf down some great chow like Sliders, or Kabobs, or the Catch of the Day with their drinks.
Some of the menu choices
Most evenings at Javi’s Cantina there are musicians playing great tunes in Spanish and English. Tuesday night’s Hammock for 2 with Marla and Javi singing their favourite songs. Wednesday night Jorge Santoyo. Thursday night Willy Chacon.  Other nights might feature Javi and his dad Toso, or any combination of friends and fellow musicians. 
Grand opening

For the Grand Opening we had made plans to enjoy the festivities with two island friends, and then discovered two more amigos were going to be seated next to us, so we pushed the tables together and became one big happy group. 

It’s times like this that we really appreciate island life, small communities, and upbeat positive chums.

Best wishes for a successful adventure Marla and Javi.

Cheers

Lynda & Lawrie




Friday, November 4, 2016

Animas Festival - the Parade of Silence

Ghostly brides. Half-faced children. Phantom cowboys.  Gentlemen apparitions in formal wear.  

Ladies in flower bedecked headdresses and jeweled Catrina makeup – all gathered in centro for a relatively new event on Isla Mujeres, the Parade of Silence paying tribute to the souls of the departed.


Ru Perez Director Casa de la Cultura, on right
Organized by the Casa de la Cultura, and the Jean Piaget private school the procession was scheduled to start at six in the evening at the old cemetery located at the north end of Hidalgo Avenue, culminating at the Casa de la Cultura on Guerro Avenue.  

Six o’clock Mexican time: más o menos.  In this case the event was surprisingly not too far off schedule, starting at six-thirty.  


A group from our neighbourhood agreed we would meet downtown, watch the parade, and then go out for a light dinner.  It should be easy for seven people to meet up on a five mile long island…wouldn’t you think?  

However by the time I had snapped nearly a hundred photographs and the procession had passed us by, we realized that four of our friends had still not arrived.  We did see several other well-known locals who were enjoying the spectacle, relaxing street-side in the various bars and restaurants that line Hidalgo Avenue.

Lawrie and his sister Linda Grierson decided that they would head to The Reef, where the group had planned to pop in for a drink with our favourite island bar-tender, Freddy Medina.  In the meantime I scouted around Hidalgo Avenue for the others. 
It turns out they waited twenty minutes for a taxi, not wanting to risk the new Breathalyzer sobriety roadblocks that were initiated a week ago.  



For those of you unfamiliar with life in Mexico, drunk driving has been tolerated until very recently.  Open liquor in vehicles, on golf carts, or even motos – no problem.  

A few times we have witnessed moto-scooter drivers so bombed that when required to stop for traffic or pedestrian crosswalks, they forget to put their feet on the ground.  The result is a comical slow-motion toppling of driver and motorcycle into a heap on the hard pavement, in one case conveniently beside a police officer.  The Breathalyzer sobriety checks are a step in the right direction, however, according to the island coconut-telegraph the testers are re-using the same plastic ‘straw’ for every person.  It’s a very unsanitary practice to say the least.  Hopefully this is just a rumour.

Ashley Blogin
But I digress, Julie, Rob, Brent and Dé were about to start hoofing it into centro when an available taxi finally arrived.  Having rounded up the strays, we trailed after the procession, heading in the direction of the Municipal Square and The Reef Bar at the south end of Hidalgo Avenue.  

The colourful, but quiet group slowly wound its way between the tables and chairs pushed out into the street by restaurant managers trying to maximize every possible square inch of serving space. 
Hidalgo Avenue has a fun, chaotic atmosphere with cramped spaces, colourful tables and chairs, wait-staff hawking menu choices, and the delicious smells wafting from open-air kitchens.

The Parade of Silence continued a few more blocks, culminating at the Casa de la Cultura.  We turned a sharp left and up the stairs into The Reef for an adult beverage.  We finished up our fun evening with a yummy dinner at Javi’s Cantina on Juarez Avenue.  The beautiful live, background music was provided by Jorge and Martine.
  
Jorge with Javi on drums
We are already anticipating procession of the souls next year.  Sometimes life in paradise is just so darn difficult.

Cheers

Lynda & Lawrie












Julie and Linda G. with their new friend

Friday, October 28, 2016

Dia de Muertos

Day of the Dead parade in Spectre 2015 

It’s a case of life imitating art. 

The most recent James Bond film, Spectre, released in November 2015 has an explosive beginning in Mexico City.  The famous British spy chases a bad guy through the historic downtown district while thousands enjoy a Day of the Dead parade. 

It was a fake parade, created just for the movie.

"Now,” according to the Minister of Tourism, “we’ve had to invent the Day of the Dead carnival because, after the James Bond movie, tourists will be looking for the carnival and they're not going to find it,” Enrique de la Madrid Cordero said when speaking to a convention of travel agents.

San Miguel de Allende - 2008, L Lock photo
In Mexico, November 1st honors children and infants "Día de los Inocentes”, and adults are honored on November 2nd as "Día de los Muertos".  The Day of the Dead (People) celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to the Olmec, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mexican or Aztec, Maya, P'urhépecha, and Totonac.  
Rituals celebrating the deaths of ancestors have been observed by these people for as long as 2500–3000 years.  In the pre-Hispanic-era, it was common to keep skulls as trophies and display them during the rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.  The Dia de los Muertos celebrations include building private altars honoring the deceased, using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts.  Some families leave a pillow and blanket outside the family home to provide a resting place for their loved ones.  In many places people have picnics at the gravesite of their family members.
Beauty-School altar Yucatan Living
Many tourists seeking a Day of the Dead experience head for rural indigenous communities in states such as Michoacán where cemeteries overflow with flowers, candles, color, and emotion.  
In Morelia, the capital of Michoacán state, it is evolving into a huge tourist attraction.  Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro better known as San Juan Nuevo, located 15 minutes from the city Uruapan features lighting of candles, release of balloons and floating candles, Passage of the Souls walk, a costume contest, music and art.  Closer to home, in Mérida the Passage of the Souls walk has grown to over fifty thousand participants. 
Here on Isla the municipality has created several new events to attract tourists to the Día de los Muertos.
Getty Images - Yucatan Expat
October 29th will feature Flamenco Dancers at the Casa de la Cultura esplanda, that’s the area behind the building facing the ocean. 

October 30th is the Magical Night of the Souls in the main square by City Hall, with troupes of folkloric dancers.

On November 2nd The Parade of Silence, for the passage of the souls begins at the old cemetery at the north end of Hidalgo Avenue at six in the evening.  The route will take the participants down Hidalgo to Lopez Mateos and then culminate at the Casa de la Cultura.

But, please remember folks, it’s not Halloween.  It is a very intimate and personal way of conquering death, by bringing back dead loved ones for a visit with the family. 

November 2nd Festival de las Animas 

Join in the celebrations, but please be respectful of the customs. 

Cheers from paradise

Lynda & Lawrie



Friday, October 21, 2016

Expats in the electronic age

Sunrise a few days ago
One of the greatest things that the tech-age has brought for expats is everyday tasks that used to be a challenge are much simpler to complete.

Affordable and quite reliable telephone service is available over the internet.  With a service such as MagicJack a low annual rate of less than fifty dollars gives service to and from Canada and the USA without long distance charges.  Expats can easily keep in touch with family and friends using an assigned telephone number from their home community.

Hidalgo Avenue in Centro - before the restaurants open up 
Banking of course is easier via the internet with debit cards and credit cards.  However, the island’s ATMs are currently experiencing a problem again with cards being cloned.  It’s a world-wide problem, apparently originating in Venezuela.  We’re fortunate in that we have a local bank account where we keep a small amount of cash, and can pop into the branch for more pesos as we need them.  Our RBC account in Canada allows us to transfer over the internet directly from one bank to the other.  It takes about five days but works great.

Fun colour combination
Shopping on-line is available in most countries but here it’s a big advantage, bringing a wider choice of items directly to our little island in paradise.  Amazon, EBay, Walmart, Costco, and big local chains such as Liverpool offer delivery to the island.

E-books have really made our lives easier.  In our previous travels to foreign countries we typically had one suitcase with nothing but English language novels to occupy rainy days, or cool evenings.  With our electronic readers we can be anywhere in any country, and as long as there is an internet connection, we can purchase a new book. Best invention ever, for travelers.

Door-to-door furniture salesman
Passports, will soon be renewal on-line for Canadians.  For us that would be a big bonus.  No more trekking into the Consulate Office in the hotel zone of Cancun to submit our applications. 

And in case you are wondering why the photographs, which we normally choose to illustrate the article, have this time around absolutely nothing to do with the article …… a picture of a debit card?  An ATM? An internet phone?  A bit boring to say the least.  

Great mural - there are no design committee rules here


So, instead we’re posting a sampling of recent random photos of life on Isla.  

Enjoy!


Hasta Luego  
Lynda and Lawrie 


For the iguanas - should be Lazy Lizard Lounge!
This guy likes our loungers - the sign above is for him!