Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Isla's Got Talent!!

Isla's Got Talent!
Ornela age 4 1/2 singing and dancing
Saturday November 26th we saw an amazing variety of people come out to the first annual "Isla's Got Talent" showcase to strut their stuff on stage at the La Luna Night Club.  The event was a fundraiser for the middle school breakfast program on Isla.  It was the brain child of Kay Cole, and her enthusiastic group of helpers, Sue Lo, Bev Willard, and Lupita Meillon.





Chris Cooper juggling


Chris Cooper, the manager of La Luna generously donated the use of the premises for the event.  Chris was also one of the featured acts with this cocktail juggling and flaming drinks.  It was most impressive that he could juggle, then set a stack of beverage-filled glasses on fire, and not burn down the overhead palapa! 

Auctioneer Lawrie Lock, Princess Mindy Poot

Lawrie Lock, my better half, was the Master of Ceremonies introducing the various acts, and then switching into auctioneer mode at the end of the program to auction off a couple of items donated by the Naval Officers' Wives Association. Middle School Princess, Mindy Poot, helped out as well. 








Bev Willard, Sue Lo, Lawrie Lock auction off bottle of rum



Then Bev Willard, and Sue Lo did a great job of getting $500.00 pesos from the crowd for the bottle of rum donated by La Luna. 











The audience had a great time cheering for the brave participants.  Mary sang Sweet Surrender.  Zoe sang Beautiful.  And 4-1/2 year old Orlena sang The Climb and danced.   
Zoe singing Beautiful

Ernesto sang two beautiful songs in Spanish, Jose demonstrated Tae Kwon Do, Gaby recited a story-poem in Spanish, and we were treated to a fun demonstration of dancing the salsa that inspired the audience to dance along to the music.
Mary singing Sweet Surrender












 Islander, Jeff Current was a huge success as a first time comedian.  His jokes and comments about life on Isla were hilarious, but the funniest part was when a dog (Max) wandered on stage to help out with the jokes.  Locally, Jeff is known as The Dog Lady's Husband. 



Jeff Currant and Max - "You might be an Isleano if"

Allison Sawyer Current is famous in her own right as an author of several books, TV interviews, pottery, and non-stop fundraising and caring for hundreds of abandoned dogs, but this was Jeff's night to be the star.  His take on Jeff Foxworthy's "you might be a redneck if" ... transformed into "you might be an Isleano if" ... had everyone howling with laughter.


A nice bit of cash was raised during the event to provide breakfast for hungry kids at the middle school. 
Great job everyone! 

Gaby reciting a story-poem

Ernesto singing

Jose - strutting his stuff!

Kay Cole - the organizer

Friday, November 25, 2011

Día de la Revolución November 20th

Rat-a-tat-tat, blam, blam, bang, tootle-toot, and bang again! 
High School Band in Día de la Revolución parade
A dozen or so high school students have been practicing with drums and bugles, every day in the basketball court across the street from our house, practicing for the Día de la Revolución parade last Sunday.  This group is much improved over last year's group but, oh my, listening to the discordant clatter and crash for two hours every day increased our need for aspirin, or Tylenol, or whiskey, or anything to obliterate the headache.  They're a good bunch of kids, just lacking musical skills at the moment.  (But, who am I to complain?  I have been tossed out of community choirs and school bands several times for having absolutely no ear for music.)
Apparently this is a very serious event for these ladies!
The Day of the Revolution (Día de la Revolución) is celebrated annually in Mexico on November 20th.  It is the anniversary of the 1910 start of the popular movement leading to the overthrow of dictator José de la Cruz Porfirio Díaz Mori after 34 years of military rule.  The revolution ushered in a decade of civil war which ultimately led to the creation of the Mexico’s constitution in 1917. 
To be honest, we still get the Independence Day September 16th 1810, and Day of the Revolution November 20th 1910 confused.  They are both very important holidays in Mexico - we just have trouble keeping them straight.
Take my picture, take my picture!!!!

On Sunday the parade was scheduled to start at eight in the morning instead of the usual nine o'clock, due to the large number of groups that expressed interest in participating.  The Parade Marshall was expecting several of the dance troupes from the 6th Annual Caribbean Festival to join the parade.  In true island-style, I meandered over to the designated reviewing stand around eight twenty in the morning, thinking I had at least an hour or more to wait until the parade appeared.  Much to my surprise the first groups were just arriving at the reviewing stand!  The parade had apparently started on time.  Amazing! 
While I was in the process of shooting a bazillion photos of the various marching contingents with my new camera, I bumped into Janet Davison.  (Both Dave Davison, and Lawrie were at home, preferring to indulge in another cup of coffee, rather than watching the parade.)  Janet and I walked up and down the route clicking lots of photos, but never did see any of the dance troupes - so I assume that they cancelled at the last minute. 

Another part of the high school group

I did however see lots of island friends, and their various off-spring.  I tried to take photos of any of the kids that I recognized.  Some of the kids were camera-shy, other hammed it up as soon as they saw me pointing a camera at them. 
And the high school band who were driving us nuts all week with their practice sessions, well they looked and sounded pretty darn good. 





Random thoughts:
·         Caribe on Canvas:
Thursday night Brad and Tiffany of Barlito's on Hidalgo Avenue hosted a showcase for "Caribe on Canvas."  The art work is created by Mark C., from his photos which he tweaks with a computer to resemble paintings, and then prints on canvas.  The effect is very attractive. 
Caribe on Canvas, the creator Mark C.






Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ahoy! Dead ahead be pirates!

The story of Isla's most famous islander - pirate Mundaca - could have been taken straight from a bodice-ripper romance novel, complete with the love triangle between a sixteen-year-old beauty, her childhood sweetheart, and a fifty-three year old pirate who yearned to make the young woman his wife.

Garden area of Hacienda Mundaca
The small fishing village on Isla Mujeres in the late 1800's must have been one of the most romantic settings imaginable for the melodrama of these ill-fated lovers.  Imagine: torch-lit nights, hammocks hanging in palapa-roofed houses, and whimsical paths winding between coconut palms to the gentle bay were the fishing canoes were pulled up on the sand-swept beaches.

The pirate Fermín Antonio Mundaca de Marecheaga was born October 11th,1825 in the village Bermeo of Santa Maria, Spain.  When he finished his education he shipped out to sea and eventually became a famous and wealthy slave trader in the Caribbean, selling Mayan slaves to Cuban plantation owners.  In 1860 when the British campaigned against slavery, Mundaca rented out his ships to the Yucatan Government which continued to capture rebel Mayans and sell them to Cuba, nearly decimating the population of the Yucatan Peninsula.
 
Pirate Mundaca's home on Isla Mujeres
Mundaca then set about building a large hacienda on Isla Mujeres that he named "Vista Alegre" (Happy View).  It eventually covered over 40% of the island.  There were areas for livestock, birds, vegetables gardens, fruit orchards and exotic plants that were brought from all over the world.  Fermin Mundaca is said to have built the Vista Alegre using stone taken from the abandoned Mayan structures on Isla Mujeres.
While building his hacienda and expanding his giant estate, he fell in love with a young local girl, 37 years his junior, named Priscilla (some sources say Martiniana) Gomez Pantoja.  Born in 1862 on Isla Mujeres, Priscilla's is described as a slender sensual woman with long wavy hair, deep green eyes and light skin tanned bronze by the Caribbean sun.
 

Isla statue honoring La Trigueña

He built her a beautiful garden with great stone arches where he carved her nick-name, La Trigueña, above the apex.  But the dark-haired beauty married her childhood sweetheart and Mundaca became isolated, lonely, slowly going insane - reportedly due to syphilis.  Even though he was still wealthy he abandoned his estate allowing it to fall into disrepair preferring instead to live in various other locations on the island. 

Vegetables and fruits ripened and rotted, cattle wandered everywhere, destroying other people's gardens.  The locals feared Mundaca. 


Garden area of hacienda Mundaca
 When he passed along the beach at sunset, the friendly chatter would suddenly die, as someone muttered in a frightened whisper.

"There goes Mundaca!"

He died at age 55 in Merida still in love with La Trigueña.  Before he moved to Merida he built a tomb to be closer to his lost love which remains empty and can be found the colourful, crowded downtown cemetery.  Etched on his headstone are the symbols of the pirate - skull and crossbones with the words he carved as his epitaph,   "As you are, I was. As I am, you will be."


Empty grave of Pirate Mundaca
 I wonder if there are any remaining descendants of La Trigueña on the island – cousins, or great-great-grand kids? 

A visit to the remains of the Hacienda Mundaca in the centre of the island costs about $2.00 dollars per person.   It is well worth the time to see some of the amazing structures in the abandoned garden.  Wear lots of bug repellent!

His empty tomb is in the original cemetary at the north end of the island.


Source of details: Alice D. Le Plongeon book written in 1880's
                       

 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Live Chickens, Auto Parts, and Sexy Lingerie

Last Sunday, following somewhat vague directions from two gringo friends, we caught the early car ferry and headed off to Cancun to explore the Sunday market.  Holy cow, it's huge.  The market takes place only on Sundays, starting early in the morning, and ending around two in the afternoon.  It is located at the western end of Lopez Portillo Avenue in Cancun near one of the many Chedraui Grocery Stores, and across the street from the bright orange building of a company called Arcelor Mittal.  Lawrie and I, plus Richard and Linda wandered up and down a mere handful of the dozens of streets encompassing the marketplace. 
Peeling oranges
We were quickly engulfed in dense crowds of shoppers shuffling past countless tiny impromptu stores, with merchants shouting out inducements to buy their wares.  It reminded me of market day in a French village!
We meandered past stalls displaying eggs in flats of 30, piled on a table, unrefrigerated as is the custom here in Mexico, Europe, and South American countries.  The reasoning is that the people typically operate on a fundamental just-in-time principal for food purchases and eggs are better at room temperature for baking and cooking.  You can purchase one/two/three eggs and since home refrigerators are so small, or nonexistent most people do not buy more eggs than what they need for the next meal.  In some stores, you can buy eggs that were laid that day.

Dog kibble and eggs for sale
The eggs occasionally come decorated with little feathers and aromatic chicken poop.  Eggs apparently last longer if you don't wash them until just before you use them.  I was told that it was because there is a light film on the outside of the egg that helps keep bacteria out. 

These eggs are not date stamped with a "Fresh Before" date that we see in our manufacturing plant-style eggs that roll off the assembly lines and are trucked to the major North American cities for distribution. The difference in taste between a just-laid egg, and a long-distance-market-egg is amazing, with bright yellow, firm yolks that hold their shape in the frying pan.  Maybe marketplaces like this are the origin of "Buy Fresh Eat Fresh" slogan that marketing gurus like to take credit for inventing.
One of many stalls selling fresh fish

Other market stalls offered a variety of fresh fish, likely caught the previous night by the large boats that we see in the evenings, fishing just east of our island.  A number of stalls sold small plastic sacks of dry dog food, scooped from the fifty-pound bags, enough to feed the family dog for a day or two.  Keeping open pet food around longer than that is like putting out the welcome mat for cockroaches and their extended families to set up housekeeping.

In between the numerous stalls are tiny restaurants of three or four tables, cooking wonderfully aromatic meals.  The big challenge is there are no public washrooms anywhere in this vast area of private homes and impromptu stores - but for about 30 cents, a number of the home owners will let you use their bathrooms.  Just keep an eye out for the signage.

Everything imaginable is available for purchase from new and used auto parts, hand-made furniture, fresh flowers, fresh produce, very provocative lingerie in a variety of colours and sizes, shampoo, toys and live chickens. (Er, no thanks! I like fresh, but not that fresh.  I'm the person who can't look lobsters in the eye when I see them contained in restaurant display tanks, awaiting their fate.)
Flowers and furniture!
Unfortunately our Sunday market excursion was cut short by rain, so we headed off to the dry interiors of commercial grocery stores for our purchases of packaged-in-plastic dead chickens. 
We'll return on another Sunday. 
There is lots more to see.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Valladolid - The Colourful "Sultaness of the East"

It is always great fun to see our world though the eyes of our friends.  Last spring we took a road trip to another of our favourite colonial cities - Valladolid, located on the eastern side of the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico.


Cathedral in Centro Valladolid under-going restoration

We left Isla Mujeres on the 9:30 a.m. car ferry, as we couldn’t see the point of dragging everyone out of bed at 5:00 a.m. to catch the earlier boat.  I was up early anyway in excited anticipation of a road-trip; a Christmas-morning-can’t-wait-to-rip-open-the-packages feeling.  The drive to Valladolid is always a long boring trip on an almost dead straight road though a dense jungle of trees just tall enough to block your view.

The road has one well-marked but very gentle s-curve, and one tollbooth stop. Other than that, if we had had an autopilot system we all could have tucked pillows behind our heads and snoozed for a couple of hours.


Valladolid Centro Public Park
 By North American standards Valladolid is a very old, and beautiful colonial city.  The city was originally established on a lagoon a few miles away but the early Spanish settlers complained about the mosquitoes and petitioned to have the city moved further inland in the mid 1500’s.   I can sympathize with them.  I hate mosquitoes!  The City of Valladolid has undergone a major facelift in the last year or two, with a repaint of all of the city square businesses and homes in shades of pale pink, soft green, sherbet orange, glowing amber and glistening white.  The cathedral and city square park are also being refurbished.  It’s a visual feast for the eyes.  

Our favourite restaurante in Valladolid

We arrived in Valladolid shortly after 12:30 p.m., and drove in a meandering route through the city trying to remember the way on their narrow one-way-only-streets to the Taberna de los Frailes (The Friar’s Tavern).  About the time our friends became convinced that we didn’t have a clue as to where we were going, and they were surely going to starve to death, or die of dehydration locked inside the car – we found it!   Well darn.  The restaurant was closed.  I glanced at my wrist watch and realized it was only 12:45 and the lunch hour had not yet started.  I popped around the corner to the outside patio where a waiter was setting up for the day and asked him in my really bad Spanglish what time they were due to open.  Twenty minutes –perfect. 

Convent of San Bernardino de Siena (monastery)

Across the street from the Taberna de los Frailes is a large structure that had been the Convent of San Bernardino de Siena.  We decided to walk around it and take a few photos while we waited for the restaurant to open.  Much to our delight we discovered it was open, and available for self-guided tours for a small entry fee of 30.00 pesos (about $3.00 CDN). 
Built during1552 to 1560 by the Franciscan monks, the Convento (actually a monastery) of San Bernardino de Siena was in use until 1755 when it was abandoned.  At some point in time an effort was made to restore the building as much as possible and to use it as a church, meeting hall, and community gathering place.  The soft peach-pink tones of the ancient sand stone exterior have been accentuated by the lovely pink colour on the interior plaster. 
One of my favourite photos - inside monastery

To the locals this imposing cathedral is called “Sisal” the ancient name for their small town.  Part of the building was erected over the vault of a very large cenote, an underground water-filled cavern that was created millions of years ago in the soft sandstone by rainwater.  The monastery was created to be self sustaining with huge orchards, vegetable gardens and fresh water from the cenote.  (No mention was made whether or not the monks operated a distillery on the property – strictly for medicinal purposes of course.  Maybe Tequila? Or a Tequila-brandy?)
After wandering through the monastery we enjoyed a wonderfully tasty lunch and a glass of wine at the Taberna de los Frailes.  I then dragged my friends into my favourite store in the centre of Valladolid.  It's a wonderful store - called Yalat - with hand-made linens from various areas in Mexico.  Expensive!  But fabulous. 

Surinder, Lawrie and Jenda - we're waiting for car ferry

Happy, tired out, and ready to head home we retraced our route - catching the last car ferry from Punta Sam to Isla Mujeres.




Friday, November 11, 2011

When you were 13 - could you dance like this?



Mindy and her dance troupe

What I remember of the school dances when we were 13, 14 or even as old as 15 the girls stood giggling on one side of the gym, and the boys stood on the other side of the gym pretending to be bored. 
So, when we were invited to the "Senorita Secundaria" (Miss Secondary School) competition finale on Sunday we had limited expectations.  Wow were we wrong! 
The seven candidates were between 13 and 15 years old and for the talent portion of the competition they put together dance routines that were amazing.  One of the contestants - our favourite Mindy Poot, the 13-year-old daughter of Fredy and Ana Poot - did two different dance routines, complete with costume changes.   Our cheering section of ex-pat friends along with all of Mindy's family and school friends did our best to create a lot of enthusiastic noise.

A small part of the cheering section for Mindy
The "Senorita Secundaria" was a very ambitious event that started a few weeks ago with the first talent portion.  That night Mindy and her group of ten dancers performed a Lady Gaga routine.  (If you are on FaceBook, Fredy Poot posted a few photos of that event.) 
As for this Sunday night the first activity was a runway walk with all of the young women dressed in simple, and attractive outfits created by Gladys Galdámez, a local seamstress and clothing designer.  Then they switched into originally designed dresses that were created from recyclable or recycled items.  The outfits were very impressive. 

Mindy's dress made from re-cyclable items

The third part of the evening the musical performance with very complex dance routines that would have left me tripping over my feet.  Finally the young women had to answer a spontaneous question chosen randomly from the judges, finishing up with a short speech from each of the candidates. 
The speaking part brought back gut-wrenching memories of high school when at age seventeen I was asked to compete in a speaking contest in front of six hundred students.  Sadly, I missed that event, as I was mysteriously ill with a very rare and debilitating disease that left me unable to speak.  However, I miraculously recovered in time for school the next day.

Mindy in ball gown


During the evening the candidates for "Senorita Secundaria" were judged in five categories; the runway walk was worth 5%, the dresses created from recycled materials 10%, the musical performances 10%, the question and answer period 10%, the final speech 15%, and the final 50% of the mark was based on how much money each candidate raised towards the building of a new classroom at the school.  The amount of money collected made a big difference!  Our favourite, Mindy Poot, came in third.  Drat!  

Mindy, on far right.  Her supporters go wild waiting for results

However her big brother Tony Poot says she's okay with that, as she knows she performed well and did her best.  Again, such confidence and poise.  Most 13-year-old girls would have been a weeping mess of tears to lose after such a stellar effort. 
Mindy currently wants to be a television or radio personality when she is finished her schooling - and we think she'd be perfect.

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The We Move Forward 2012 Team is kicking off an exciting and fun promotional contest called Wave to Win!  The contest offers contestants several ways to enter to win a We Move Forward 2012 prize package, which includes (among other things) a free ticket to the event - valued at $645.   The contest entry methods range from the simple -  registering for the new We Move Forward 2012 Blog - to the more complex, such as submitting a video about why you want to attend this amazing 3-day International Women's Day event on The Island of Women.  Check out the We Move Forward 2012 website today and learn more about how you can Wave to Win!



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Would you like a little salt with that?

The perfect day on a perfect island
And you thought I was referring to a tequila shooter, with lime and salt, but no, I am referring to living on the windward side of an island in the Caribbean.
We live on Isla Mujeres a small island just off the coast of Mexico near Cancun.  It is paradise with its sunny warm weather, gentle breezes, turquoise waters, friendly people and cheap, cold beer.  However we have discovered there is a price to pay for living in such a beautiful location.  It’s called salt! 
The beautiful spume rising off the surf coats everything with a salty residue.  Our ocean front windows are currently caked with a week’s worth of salt – it makes the ocean look a bit fuzzy when viewed through the grime.  Every bit of metal corrodes, yes, eventually even stainless steel.  You should check out our cutlery drawer –rusted corkscrews, knives, and utensils.  Plastic is my new favourite!

My personal handyman fixing icemaker
 Electronics are the most sensitive to corrosion, rust, high humidity, and salt.  The various microwave ovens have burned-up in eight to ten months.  We have had three - progressively cheaper - coffee makers in three years.  The satellite stereo system lasted about a year, while the refrigerator icemaker and the dishwasher motherboards died exactly a week outside of the warranty period.  We replaced our deck furniture with a concrete and cushion sofa after two years, as the steel frame on the original set was quietly dripping rust onto the patio tiles.  The four ceiling fans get repainted every six months with white marine enamel to slow down the rust.



Francisco and Juan with cushions for new concrete sofa

The light bulbs seize in their sockets with rust or corrosion, and changing them involves a pair of needle-nosed pliers and lots of cursing. 

We did bring down special electrical grease from Canada to prevent that little problem, however my personal handyman decided replacing the entire socket with the light bulbs corroded inside, was more time and energy efficient.  (His time and his energy!  The replacement sockets can be purchased by the dozen at Home Depot for a $1.50 each.) 

Three repairs later, and we bought a new dishwasher

We recently had all of our expensive chrome-plated bronze Helvex bathroom fittings – towel bars, shower heads, sink taps replaced under warranty due to corrosion.  They were less than two years old.  We had great service from the Helvex head office in Mexico City.  We sent them a couple of items for their warranty department to inspect, then next thing we know we have a very large, and very heavy box delivered by courier replacing every single item in the three bathrooms.  Fabulous service.


Repairing a friend's gate - hinges corroded
 On our monthly list of chores, we spend a day lubricating every door lock, hinge, plus window and sliding door security locks with WD40.  Then we polish twenty stainless steel kitchen cabinet drawer pulls with Bar Keepers Friend and treat with a light coating of WD40.  Next chore is to polish the rust off of the stainless steel cook top, and wipe down the stainless steel front on both the dishwasher and the refrigerator with WD40. (WD-40 stands for "Water Displacement 40th Attempt". The inventor Norm Larsen was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion in nuclear missiles. He claims he arrived at a successful formula on his 40th attempt.)  For more interesting uses of WD40 check their website:  http://www.wd40.com/uses-tips/

If you think we are grumbling about the cost of replacing items damaged by the salt, we're not.  The way we look at is very simple.  In Canada our annual property taxes on a lakefront lot with a 2000 square foot house cost $8000.00.  Here on Isla an oceanfront lot with a similarly sized house the annual property taxes are less than $100.00.   It’s a small price to pay for living in paradise. 
After completing all of these repairs my personal handyman - Lawrie - needs a cold beer, or two.  Jeez, the bottle opener needs some WD40 too!


Friday, November 4, 2011

What the heck is that?


2005 the first Hermit Crab that we had ever seen
 One beautiful star-lit evening we were enjoying a glass of wine on the beach with family members. I heard a strangled yelp from my spouse.  Something large and round - about the size of my fist - was cruising along the sand.  When exposed with the camera flash it turned out to be a large hermit crab, out looking for a tasty late night dinner.   Pretty cool creature. And so began my fascination with hermit crabs.

It's a fascination that has become an obsession, an obsession sparked by a casual comment of a vacationing guest at Villa Mar Caribe.  Apparently once the miniscule hermit crab babies leave the ocean to live on land they are constantly on the lookout for new shells.  They are unable grow their own shells, and must find progressively larger shells that have been discarded or washed up on the beach.  

Water, some cat food as a treat - and they will come!

She suggested that I leave a variety of shells in one location for the crabs to chose from, and they might switch for something bigger or better.  We did that and very shortly discovered that the word was out in the hermit crab world, finding a dozen or so crabs checking out the shells on a nightly basis.  From then on every shelling foray onto the beach was based on finding only perfect shells for hermit crabs, adding them to the Crab-i-tat.  (Yes, embarrassingly enough I have named the location where I stockpile shells, drinking water and occasionally food for the hermit crabs.)
The best shells - this batch marked with pale pink nail polish
The best shells for crab houses are the ones that hermit crabs will have a hard time resisting.  The 'crème de la crème' of hermit crab shells have a smooth mother-of-pearl interior, nice heft, perfect coil to the right (who knew a hermit crab could tell left from right?)  The mother-of-pearl is easy on the soft abdominal skin, while the thickness of the shell insulates the crab from predators and temperature extremes.  It is important that the shells are intact, no holes, as the crab needs to carry water inside the shell to maintain its health.

Worn out, broken, holed, plastic bottle caps - trade-ins.

The worst shells are ones that a crab will cast off, in a heartbeat. These shells are uncomfortable because they are thin-walled and do not offer much protection from the elements, or perhaps the coil of the shell is awkward for the crab to maneuver, or has a rough interior, or there are holes in the shell. I have had a variety of weird things left behind as a hermit crab castoff - the funniest being a broken bottle neck with a metal screw-on cap still attached. In the crab's world it's a bit like trading in a rusty broken-down camper-van for the new top of the line bus-style RV.
Went walk-about from our house to our friends, 10 lots north
After a few months of supplying crab houses, I started marking the shells that I supplied with red, purple, blue or orange nail polish so that I could keep track of "my" hermit crabs.  We have had various neighbours, including friends who live 10 lots north of our house, tell us that they saw one of the marked large hermit crabs on their property.  Ten lots may not sound like much, but when you are the size of an orange - crawling that distance with your house on your back is a pretty big adventure.
Two hermit crabs stealing a quick snack from our cats' kibble
Fortunately the cats don't bother the hermit crabs because they are no fun to harass - merely snapping back into their shells with a loud clack when poked by a furry paw. My crazy little Mexican cat, Chica, delights in slapping the crabs (like mini hockey pucks) along the patio in the evenings. Occasionally a crab or two will wander into our house looking for cat food or a refreshing bath in the cats' water dish.  This activity does not sit well with our two spoiled felines.
The embarrassing part of this whole fascination is that I can no longer keep up with shells from beach combing.  We have in excess of 300 crabs visiting the Crab-a-tat on a regular basis.  I now have a local shell supplier who makes house calls once a month to restock my supplies, and various friends have dropped off donations of shells that they have found!
It's a little out of hand, but what the heck it's a harmless obsession.