Friday, February 28, 2014

Helping the Helpers

Andy St. Pierre arriving at hospital with equipment
"It's a simple story," said one of the founding members of the Seniors and Friends of Isla Mujeres, "it's a story about friends helping friends.  We love the island and we have a warm spot in our hearts for the people who make us feel so welcome here." 

Last year an elderly visitor needed a wheelchair.  It quickly became obvious to the family members how difficult it was to find the equipment on Isla Mujeres. Through Dra. Tere Gómez at the Secretaría de Salud de Quintana Roo, the hospital near the original Super-X-Press store, they were able to find a wheelchair to use for the interim. 

Gary, Bonnie, MaryBeth, Denis and Andy
Several of the original members of the Seniors and Friends of Isla Mujeres are foreigners, winter residents, staying at the Maria Leticia Apartments located on Juarez Avenue, however, recently many other residents and tourists have joined the fundraising efforts.  Once the group of friends started talking about the problem several people willingly donated money to purchase equipment. Then the group made arrangements to give the articles to the staff at the hospital and the Club de Gente Grande (Seniors' Centre).  They invited me along for the presentation.  I arrived at the downtown clinic just as they were unloading a golf cart, stacked with four wheel chairs, two sets of crutches and two walkers. Impressive!

Checking the doctors "wish list" with Jorge Avila
Inside the hospital we were directed into a small meeting room at the back, where the medical personnel were assembling.  

As we waited for everyone to cram into the room, long-time resident Jorge Avila discussed the doctors "wish list" with Gary Van Lankvelt, Denis St. Pierre, and Andy St. Pierre.  
The list of urgently needed items totaled $15,000 pesos or around $1200.00 US.  

The "wish list" includes a fetal Doppler monitor, a handheld ECG/EKG cardiac monitor, cardiology stethoscope, an otoscope and ophthalmoscope kit, and oximeters.

Dr. David Valenzo Loaeza thanking the group 
Dr. David Valenzo Loaeza, Director, and Dra.Tere Gómez, Vice-Director of the Hospital were very pleased to be the recipients of this generous donation. The speeches were in Spanish, but Jorge Avila was able translate their appreciation to those of us who are still Spanish-challenged.  At the end of the presentation Dr. Valenzo asked if we would like a tour of the almost-completed new hospital, situated near the Hacienda Mundaca park. Sure!  We headed off to the facility, in a mini-cavalcade of vehicles.  Once inside the hospital we were asked not to take photographs, not until the official opening day sometime later this year.  

Seniors and Friends, with Doctora Tere Gomez
Located on the main floor is a large emergency ward, comfortable waiting area, several surgery suites, and laboratories.  

On the second floor, accessible by elevator, escalator, or stairs are beds for twenty-five patients, and an isolation ward for critical cases - about three times the capacity of the current hospital.  

The new facility is in need of more equipment, and more staff.  At the present time there are only three doctors available to cover the shifts 24-hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year.  It's an impossible situation.

View from the roof of the new hospital
Dr. Valenzo also recited a few interesting statistics.  Five years ago the hospital doctors wrote about 2000 prescriptions per year.  Now with the increase in full-time residents, part-time residents and tourists the doctors are writing around 40,000 prescriptions per year; 9000 of those prescriptions are for visiting foreigners.  That statistic alone is reason enough for foreign residents and visitors to become involved with helping equip the hospitals.

As one of the members said, "The Seniors and Friends of Isla Mujeres are looking at this as just the beginning of a longer term project.  We are planning to continue to raise funds and further develop a close working relationship with the local hospital and medical community, as well as the community in general."  

Check out their FaceBook page: give them a big [LIKE].  Get involved with your community.  

At some point in our lives we all probably will require medical assistance in one form or another.  It would be great if the assistance was readily available on the island.  

It's a win-win for everyone.

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Friday, February 21, 2014

The other side of paradise ....

The three crazy friends on their new yacht!
Salty turquoise water sprays over the side of the boat, soaking my hair and shirt, coating my skin with fine grains of sea salt.  

It feels great.  We (well, let me amend that) Lawrie is now a proud boat owner in partnership with Richard Grierson and Chuck Watt.  

It's a twenty-six foot panga, a local style of fishing boat.  Currently named El Quinto Sol (the fifth sun, not son) it will eventually be renamed to something more suitable for the guys.  All week they have been bantering around names for the vessel but personally I am leaning towards Los Tres Amigos Locos.   The Three Crazy Friends! 
Two car ferries, and the Thor Heyerdahl school-ship

I must admit, the panga is a great way to see the island from a different perspective, up close and personal from the water.  On Sunday the six of us took it out for its first shakedown cruise.  After a few minor tweaks and fiddles with the fuel lines we backed out of the mooring slip and into Maxak Lagoon.  Then pointing the bow north we slipped along the western side of the island, past several marinas with a variety of boats: yachts, work boats, runabouts, and half-sunken wrecks.  

Interesting use for a ladder.
Powering along parallel to the shoreline we slid past the Thor Heyerdahl a topsail schooner that is used as a live-aboard training ship for young adults and teenagers from Europe.  

Then we passed the two car ferries docked near the naval base, and a large sailboat registered in Panama that had a quirky arrangement utilizing a regular ladder to access their dingy and the swim grid.  

North-western side of Isla 
The western side of the island is more familiar to us as we usually see it from the car ferries, and the Ultramar passenger boats.  

The beaches in front of the Posada del Mar and IxChel were both busy with the Sunday crowd of day-trippers, baking on the beach in a variety of colourful bathing suits.  

We anchored in the shallow waters of North Beach for a short time while Chuck took a dip in the ocean, primarily to see why one of the motors kicks up when put in reverse. Apparently there is a small piece - a metal pin - that is missing. It's an easy fix now that they have identified the problem.

Anchored beside the big guys at North Beach
Pulling up the anchor we motored around the northern point of Isla, into bigger waves, bouncing us around too much for me to focus the camera, and wouldn't you know it - we spotted a pod of dolphins cavorting in the waves, hunting for their lunch.  I couldn't dig the camera out of my waterproof bag fast enough.  They whizzed past and disappeared into the surf.  I missed completely missed that photo opportunity.

Got a bit wet when we were on the east side of Isla
However, it was still very interesting to see familiar sights from a different angle.  Houses and buildings that we walk or drive past on a regular basis look completely different from the water side.  

At the southern end of the island the waves were a coming at us from two directions as we cut through the swift current that runs along the island, past Cozumel.  And then we were around the southern tip, and into calmer waters.

Calmer after we rounded Punta Sur back to the west side
Brilliant sunshine, light winds, sea salt on our skin; it was a glorious afternoon.  As we headed back to our marina berth, we decided we should dock at our favourite island beach bar, the Soggy Peso, and pop in for an icy cold drink.  Sunday afternoon in high season!  What were we thinking?

There was not a seat, a stool, or a place to perch anywhere inside the bar or on the lawn, so we took our cool beverages down to their private beach and sat on the loungers.  

Beach bums at the Soggy Peso Bar & Grill
Huh!  Different perspective again - sand between our toes, palm trees rustling in the breeze, the beautiful blue water to look at, and a soft lounger to sit on. Not bad.  I could do this again.

When we returned home I downloaded the photographs and discovered that a number of them had a hazy spot or two.  Dried sea salt obscured the lens in a few spots.  Next time I will take my waterproof camera, and cleaner for the lens!

I can't wait to see what name the guys decide on for the boat.

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

The new yacht! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

A playdate for adults!

A few months ago a good friend quipped that after reading our weekly blogs for the past four years, she had come to the conclusion that living on Isla was a never ending playdate for adults.  

That's a pretty accurate assessment of the situation, especially in the winter months when our northern friends return to share our pretty little sandbox. 

This past week was definitely a continuous playdate!  The 5th Annual Island Time Fishing Tournament began on Monday February 3rd.  It's a week-long festival featuring legendary fishing, talented musicians, and tantalizing food. 

The funds raised at various events during the week are donated to the Little Yellow School House;"to assist children who have physical, emotional, and learning disabilities." It's a win-win situation for everyone. 

The participants have fun and the school receives a large chunk of money to help with yearly operating expenses. 

Soggy Peso Bar & Grill - Brenda Nash Lamonica photo
We joined in the fun for three of the events:

Wednesday was the 4th annual Margarita Madness at the Soggy Peso Bar & Grill - starring three great guys who like to sing, play music, party, and sing some more. Once again Mal and Sally Richards, and their hardworking staff ensured that everyone had a great time. Only a few people unintentionally fell in the swimming pool this year!

Island Time Fiesta at Marina Paraiso

On Friday night a new event, the Island Time Fiesta, encompassed the large waterfront location of Marina Paraiso & Iguanas Restaurant.  

Organized by Tiffany and Brad Wareing, plus Carlos Espindola and Tani Cornell, it was a very successful and entertaining evening.  

Shortly before sundown, as we strolled along palm covered wooden walkways, we were greeted by the blood-pounding sounds of flamenco guitar music, and the rhythmic tapping of feet on a wooden stage. 


Female impersonator

As darkness fell, the second act, a troupe of female impersonators from Cancun, took the stage.  They performed complicated dance routines, that included energetic moves, while lip-syncing to popular songs.  

Their lead performer had a quick sense of humour, and even though the words were in Spanish we understood the intent.  

Our own, soon to be famous, Jeff Current

To wrap up the night, talented islander Jeff Current played guitar and sang fun tunes about sun, sand, and island life, interspersed with his good humoured jokes about islanders: "You might be an Isleño if ....."   

Well-known for his quick sense of humour, his secret has been exposed. He can sing, and sing well!  Plus he plays a mean guitar. 

Dispersed throughout crowd were food stations supplying a variety of yummy Mexican delicacies including tacos and a savoury paella created by the Marina Paraiso staff.

Logan Day showing off the yummy paella
Another food station provided custom-made marquesitas, those hot and crispy dessert crepes that can be slathered with chocolate, or Nutella, or bananas. Yum! 

The participating sport fishermen donated a heap of just-caught fish, wahoo, grouper, mahi mahi, that were turned into exquisite fish and chips.
The very happy crowd of over 600 attendees settled around the stage, or comfortably relaxed at tables scattered around the waterfront property.  With music, and food, and soft ambient lighting it was a perfect venue to relax and enjoy the tropical evening.

Disco Dance at Brisas Restaurante on the beach

On Sunday, the final Island Time Fishing Tournament event was the annual Disco Dance with Isla's renowned DJ, Rosa Sirenas playing tunes and keeping everyone dancing.  

We had a lot of fun trying out various dance routines, faintly remembered from years past, and entertaining the startled passersby when they glanced into the interior of Brisas Restaurante. 

Having fun at Brisas Restaurante
"What the heck are they doing?"  Seemed to be the common question both in English and Spanish.  "Having fun, just having fun." 

In all cases the proprietors of the venues: Soggy Peso Bar & Grill, Marina Paraiso & Iguanas Restaurant, plus Brisas Restaurante donated the use of their facilities, plus a huge chunk of the bar and food revenue to the sponsoring charity.  They are over-the-top good citizens.  Thank you everyone for a fun week, and for your support of a worthy cause.   

We need a rest!  No more playdates for this week: please!

Curtis Blogin, Bob Frye, and Lawrie at Brisas Restaurante

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Friday, February 7, 2014

It's a big one, a really big one!

Betsy Snider

There is lively music, and yummy food, and colourful things to buy; it's the monthly Artist Fair in the Square showcasing food and any number of beautifully made items. 

Islanders Tiffany Yenawine Wareing and Bard Wareing have consistently promoted local and visiting artists, organizing a monthly fair to showcase handmade wares.  

Kitty Goldberg

Originally situated outside their Bakery and Cafe on Hidalgo Avenue the idea quickly outgrew its street corner location. Tonight there were seventy-four vendors scheduled to be in the public square. That's huge!  

Slowly working our way through the crowd we managed to chat with a few of the artists, purchasing beautiful note cards from photographer Kitty Goldberg, more doggie treats from Bessie Hamaker, and a yummy Moon Pie treat from Rossmery Avila.  Besides being a convenient place to find unique items the fair is a handy location to chat and socialize with friends.

Red Cross crew, and new doctor

We even had our blood pressure checked by the Red Cross ambulance crew, and met the new doctor who will be working at the Red Cross office.

Other artists that I had not seen before included Timothy Fisher from Cornwall Vermont who brought his whimsical acrylic and fabric paintings.  Photographer Susan Pacek had her recently published book of photographs that I have seen for sale in a few locations on the island.  

Penny D. Burnham - author
Dhante Loyola, a local artist and instructor, displayed several of his colourful painting.  Jan Gerken, a graphic designer, was showcasing an eyecatching collection of note cards and beautiful scarves.  

New author Penny D. Burnham had several copies of her novel Jaded Diamond.  The book is of special interest to islanders as it is set on Isla Mujeres.
While we were admiring Betsy Snider's colourful candle holders and jewelry, I asked if Tony was around.  She smiled, and pointed to the top of the church.

Capt Tony - perched on church roof
"Up there!"  

Camera in hand Tony Garcia, affectionately known as Captain Tony, was precariously perched on the roof.  By the time I have this article written, he will have any number of photos already posted to his FaceBook page.  Betsy and Tony are getting married next weekend.  Sneaking another peak at her soon-to-be groom, I think she was wondering if he was going to be all in one piece for the wedding.  

In the busy whirl of overseeing the fair, I eventually caught up with Tiffany for a quick chat. I asked her what her biggest challenge was with creating the Isla Mujeres Artist Fair.  

She said it is getting the local population to trust her, and believe in the event.  It's a slow process, but it's working.   

Seventy-four vendors!  Yep, I'd agree that whatever you are doing, Tiffany, is working.   Congratulations to you and your hard working helpers.

Dhante Loyola

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie