Friday, July 26, 2013

Beach porn

Ah ha, you couldn’t resist that title, could you?

White sands of North Beach
This week’s blog is not about rude photos of nude people.  It’s about the pretty beaches on Isla Mujeres, and the things you can do on a beach – legally!

Lawrie, my idea-man, tweaked the slang expression food porn referring to the photos that travelers post to internet sites such as Trip Advisor extolling the virtues of a particular meal, at a particular restaurant.  Food porn – beach porn it is all about photos and memorable moments.

Crystal clear waters

The sugar white beaches of Isla Mujeres lend themselves beautifully to sun-tanning, and lounging, and daydreaming for the laid-back personalities; the people who can stare at a grain of sand for hours perfectly content to let the hours slide by as they bake first one side of the body, and then rotate to bake the other side.  Bake, grease, flip, and bake.  A bit like a BBQ rotisserie.

Build a sand pyramid
And for the slightly more active beach-dweller, there is snorkeling, shell hunting, and swimming in the luminously clear water.  

The sweeping sandy beaches are primarily located on the northern and western sides of the island.  This is where sand sculpture contests, organized or random, take place; people expressing their creativity while working on a tan.  

Dolphin Discovery 
These beaches are also where the majority of the restaurants and bars are located, serving refreshments and meals to the thirsty and the hungry.  The Sac Bajo area on the western side also has Dolphin Discovery where visitors can play, swim, and interact with dolphins, or rays, or manatees.  Either the northern end, or the western side are fabulous for personal sunset celebrations; a glass of wine, a few good friends – life is good.

Wild and rocky Punta Sur
For the more adventurous the beaches at the south end of the island are less inhabited, and more difficult to access.  Most of the area requires a hike down dangerous and friable cliffs to the pounding aquamarine surf.  The turtles, and the rays, love the south end for mating during the summer months.  It’s a great area for photographs; lots of sea life, and wave action.  Sea glass collectors also haunt this area, searching for the perfect specimen for their collections.  On the south-western side of the island is Garrafon Natural Reef Park, with zip-lines, and great snorkelling.

Sunrises and moonrises on the eastside
On the sunrise side of the island, where we have a house, the surf changes dramatically from season to season; calm and easy-going in the summer, wild and pounding in the winter.  There is a thriving coral reef that is a favourite with the day-trippers.  The dive boats drop snorkelers and divers into the surf to explore the long reef that runs the length of the island and continues further south to Belize.  It is ranked as the second longest reef in the world. However, swimming on the eastern side is a bit trickier, not because the coral is skin-tearing-sharp but it is lumpy underfoot, making the walk out to swimming-depth challenging.  But in exchange for the bother of coral underfoot, we get turtles, lots of turtles laying their eggs in my neighbours’ yard, or on the beach in front of our houses.  We think it’s a good trade-off.  

Beach treasures
The one beach-oriented activity that surpasses all others is weddings.  

There have been a hundreds of weddings celebrated in various beach locations around the island.  Good friends Bob and Leanne Frye, and Chris and Marianne Shannon chose beaches on opposite sides of the island.  This year I witnessed the communal Valentine’s Day weddings at Punta Sur.

Going for a walk with his best friend - Dad!

Friday evening we will be at Playa Mirada for a wedding, and Saturday our neighbours are hosting a traditional Mayan celebration on their beach.  Tropical beaches and weddings: perfect.

Ah, it is another sunny day, with a light breeze, and a few fluffy clouds.  It must be time to snap a few more beach-porn photographs. 

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, July 19, 2013

Helping Man’s Best Friend

An un-glamorous pose indeed!

“There is no dignity here!”  She said with a wry laugh, a knowing smile crinkling the corners of her eyes.  “Once you are on the operating table you lose all pretenses at modesty.” 

A truly un-glamorous sight indeed! Legs splayed, private parts exposed for the world to see, a large dog lay unconscious on an operating table.  

I had unwittingly walked into the middle of a one-day free spay and neuter clinic organized by the non-profit organization, Isla Animals.

A week ago, Odd-the-Dog, our one blue-eyed, one brown-eyed beach dog that deigns to visit our house, twice daily for a meal and a few pats, was in serious distress.  He staggered into the kitchen and flopped down, wheezing and panting, his over-heated body infested with a myriad of tiny little ticks.

I quickly sent a phone text to Doctor Delfino Guevera, a local veterinary, hoping to get help for the pooch.  I waited.  No answer.  Then I hurried two blocks down the street to his surgery, hoping to find him there.   

Bonnie Hamilton & Eileen Regn
Much to my surprise the front door was locked, but I could hear voices inside.  I poked my head around the side of the building looking for the back entrance.  

The interior courtyard was abuzz with volunteers attending unconscious animals, stacked cages of waiting animals, and recovering animals. 

Realizing that Delfino would be literally up to his elbows in his work, I turned to leave when Eileen Regn stopped me, asking if I had an emergency.  

A few minutes discussing symptoms with Eileen and veterinary assistant Katie, a decision was made that Delfino would come to our house as soon as he closed up his current operation. 

Spaying a female dog
Delfino arrived ten minutes after I returned home, medical kit in hand, and did a preliminary analysis of the problem.  Odd likely had Ehrlichia, a nasty bacterial disease transmitted by ticks; this despite my routine applications of either Revolution, or Frontline, or Frontline Plus medications.  Odd-the-Dog was given a shot for his fever, another shot to help clear his lungs, and a third shot for pain.  He didn’t even flinch.  Within hours his condition had improved dramatically and I was able to return to the surgery, camera in hand, to see what was happening.

Barlow and his patient
In the courtyard, our eight-year-old friend, Barlow Wareing was quietly sitting with an unconscious female dog.  She was recovering from the effects of anesthetic.  This pooch also had a terrible case of Ehrlichia, and even though she was there to be spayed, the team was unable to operate.  As soon as a slight cut was made on her skin she started to bleed profusely.  The operation was halted, and Barlow was assigned as her guardian until she was fully awake.   

Besides Barlow volunteering, his community-minded parents, Brad and Tiffany Wareing owners of Barlito’s Café on Hidalgo, supplied a much appreciated assortment of complimentary mid-day meals and cold beverages for the group of helpers.

Getting the next patient ready
Inside, the tiny over-heated surgery was packed with talented folks; prepping the animals, operating, or shifting them into the recovery area.  Arturo Di, a dedicated veterinary from Cancun was back, along with veterinarians-in-training Katie and Rosalee.  Roberto, Amy Wilson, Cindy Phillips, Cheryl Murray-Solorz, Tiffany Sutherland, Bonnie Hamilton, Eileen Regn and a group of other enthusiastic helpers did everything imaginable to clean, comfort, and heal the animals.  

Some of the hard working volunteers

On Monday, a blood test confirmed the original diagnosis, Odd has Ehrlichia, and Missy the older beach dog, has different type of infection.   They are both on a series of antibiotics, vitamins, and have had a super-duper-tick-killing shot to combat the horrific infestation of ticks.  It’s a particularly bad year for ticks, fleas, a nasty skin-fungal problem, and ringworm.  The ringworm has unfortunately spread to a number of young island children.  Long-term islander, Bonnie Hamilton, said she has never seen an infestation this bad.   I was truly impressed by the dedication of the volunteers working to help the island dogs and cats. 

Arturo and Delfino 

I will forever carry that image in my mind of the splay-legged dog, long pink tongue dangling over his teeth, unconscious and unwitting.  

It conjures up images of the time that I was in a similar situation; on an operating table, at the mercy of the mischievous medical staff.   

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, July 12, 2013

On Mexican time

What time will you be here?  It is an innocent question.  The answer controls the rhythm of our days.  

Internet disconnected on Friday July 5th
The answers always sound sincere:  twenty minutes, or give me five minutes and I’ll be there.  Or mañana, I will be there early tomorrow morning.  We wait for friends to arrive.  We wait for electricians, and repairmen.  We are naively convinced that the person will arrive at the time he or she said.  

Eventually we realized that the word mañana doesn’t always mean tomorrow.  It can mean, soon, or later, or tomorrow depending on the situation and the person.  On the other hand mañana, mañana, loosely translates to tomorrow in the morning, can be a polite way of saying – it’s not going to happen, ever!

This week we have been without internet for a few days, just our house and our neighbours’ house. The electrical utility company CFE changed out a power pole last week.  On Friday the internet provider, Cablemas, instructed the workers to move the internet lines over to the new pole.  The cable was disconnected and dropped on the ground.  Around lunch-time on Friday the CFE bucket truck and linesmen left.  The electricity was functioning, but not the internet.

One of our many long periods of waiting for a parade
Our neighbours depend on the internet for their on-line work; we use it for telephone, emails, news, and amusement.  They have phoned Cablemas every day asking: when will the repairs happen?  Lawrie and I visited the Cablemas office a few times, asking: when?  

The polite smiling answer varied: Sunday morning, later on Monday, or Tuesday afternoon, or Wednesday morning.  This is day six!  And still no sign of the repair crew.  Maybe we should pay our Cablemas bill on Mexican time – mañana, mañana.

Family and friends waiting on a parade
Another frequent question is: What time does it start?  Now there’s a loaded question.  As well-trained polite Canadians we arrive at the scheduled start time.  If an invitation says it starts at seven in the evening, we are there at seven in the evening.  If the parade is scheduled to start at three-thirty in the afternoon, we are there with expectant smiles on our faces, cameras ready and waiting.  Waiting, waiting, waiting.  We have lingered on a sidewalk, or relaxed in our air conditioned car for up to three hours before the anticipated parade finally gets underway.  Fortunately a supply of cold beer is always at hand to pass the time more pleasantly. 

Eight months - and finally a renewal for immigrant visa
But our most frustrating example of Mexican-time happened with the annual renewal of my FM3 visa, allowing me to remain in Mexico year-around.  The renewal date was October 31st 2012.  

Our lawyer friend, Tony Poot, handles the renewal for us every year.  It’s just easier that way; except this time.  Mexico City made a mistake on the FM3, registering me as a working resident.  

To rectify the mistake took an excruciating eight months, with our lawyer visiting the Cancun Immigration office every two weeks, hearing the same excuses.  Come back next week.  Come back next Monday.  Next Friday.  We are too busy.  We have a lot of applications to process.  And on and on.  Finally on June 26th the visa was processed with a renewal date of - you guessed it, October 31st 2013.   The immigration laws have recently changed and the next visa is a Permanent Resident’s card good for up to ten years.    Sign me up!

Wednesday July 10th - internet!

As a follow up to our internet problem, we once again stopped by the Cablemas office at mid-day on Wednesday.  Lawrie popped in to chat to Delores, who handles payments, repairs, and complaints.  When will the internet be fixed?  He asked.   She was embarrassed.  She didn’t know it still hadn’t been repaired.  Ten minutes.  She promised.  And it was! 

Living on Mexican time, is frustrating, and it is fun.  Frustrating when we need service but the person or the company is on Mexican time.  Fun when we don’t really care because we are retired, and living in paradise. 

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie

Friday, July 5, 2013

Piñatas – upping the fun factor at a fiesta

Barlow the Birthday Boy takes a turn
“Batter up!”  Oh wait; wrong culture. 

Taking a careful and considered aim with brightly decorated stick, the birthday-boy swung hard at the piñata.  Thud!  It sailed into the air, dented, but intact.  A family friend manipulated a rope and pulley system tethering the piñata.  His experienced hands jiggled it, pulling it higher, dropping it back down, taunting, teasing. 

Come on!  Hit it.  Hit it. The crowd clapping and singing: Dale! Dale! Dale! 

Paul teasing the older kids with the height
With giggles, and shrieks of laughter a couple of dozen, small but very enthusiastic, hitters took turns bashing at not just one, but two, birthday piñatas.  Bashing until the candy showered onto the ground, then diving into the pile to scoop up a share of the booty.  It was a hilarious sight. 

Most of the parents of the various youngsters were also at the birthday party.  When I was of birthday party age, I don’t remember my parents attending any festivities involving shrieking, over-sugared children.  They wisely were at work, or busy with chores, or doing something really important.  Any excuse would do.  Here it’s a festive family affair.

Oscar - putting up the second piñata

Colourful piñatas in fanciful shapes are the centrepieces of birthdays and celebrations in Mexico, and most of Latin America.  The idea is thought to have originated in China, but many countries such as India, the Philippines, Japan, and even Denmark have similar customs.  In the thirteenth century the famous explorer-traveler Marco Polo recorded the Chinese customs of covering pottery figures of cows or buffaloes with pretty papers and decorations.  During the New Year’s festivities the figures were struck with sticks, and good luck seeds spilled on the ground.  Over the centuries the shapes of the containers and the rules for hitting the piñata have changed dramatically.

Woo-hoo - good hit!
Europeans eventually linked the piñata with Lenten celebrations. The first Sunday of Lent became Piñata Sunday, derived from the Italian word pignatta, meaning fragile pot.  Traditional piñatas were originally made from a clay pot called la olla and stuffed with treats, or fruits.  The Lenten celebration slowly transformed into a fiesta, the Dance of the Piñata.

At the beginning of the 16th century the Spanish missionaries brought their piñata traditions with them to the new world.  However the Aztec priests already had a similar custom to honor the god of war, Huitzilopochtli.  They placed a clay pot adorned with colorful feathers and filled with tiny treasures on a pole in the temple.  When broken with a stick or club, the treasures fell to the feet of the god's image as an offering.  Much later, the playful Mayans changed the piñata ceremony to a game where blindfolded players hit a clay pot suspended by string.

A lady-like hitting style!
At the birthday party we attended, no one was blindfolded, and the piñata was manipulated with a rope and pulley making it more difficult for the older children, and easier for the really little ones.  As each person took a turn, the party guests sang a short song.  When the song was finished so was the hitter’s turn until everyone had a chance to bash the piñata.  The turns were repeated until someone broke open the cavity containing the treats, spilling them on the ground. 

The laughter and giggles of the players made the day.  Piñatas are a great way to up the fun factor at a birthday party. 

The big pay off!  Candy!

Lawrie and his Spiderman cookie!

Hasta Luego          
Lynda and Lawrie

Here’s one version of the piñata song:
Dale, dale, dale,
no pierdas el tino;
Porque si lo pierdes
pierdes el camino. 
Ya le diste una,
ya le diste dos;
Ya le diste tres,
y tu tiempo se acabó

Hit it, hit it, hit it (or "go, go, go")
don’t lose your aim
because if you lose it (your aim)
you will lose the path. 
You've already hit it once
you’ve already hit it twice
you’ve already hit it three times
and your time is over

Strategy session