Friday, September 26, 2014

Small acts of kindness

Feeling a bit hungry he walked across the road looking for a better place to eat. A loud noise, a blur of red, and then indescribable pain!  He lay flat on the roadway, unable to move, barely conscious – when he felt himself being lifted up and placed into a large container.

Jacana - slowly recovering
This was not how the young Jacana bird, Jorge, had planned to start his day; first a collision with a taxi, and then a human taking him prisoner. 

His mother had warned him about the dangers of living near humans, but sometimes you just had to take the risk to find food. Collapsing in pain inside the bucket, Jorge wondered what his fate might be.

He heard a man and a woman discussing him, saying he probably wouldn't live more than a few minutes due to his head injury. “No! I will survive.” Jorge decided. Waiting, waiting: as the hours passed Jorge slowly regained a bit of strength. The woman checked frequently to see if he was still alive. Eventually he was able to lift his head off the bottom of the bucket, and then finding a hidden reserve of energy he tucked his long-toed feet under his body and sat upright. Oh, but the pain in his head. It was fierce!

The human popped her head into the room again, pulling back the edge of the towel covering the top of the bucket, talking to him as if he understood her words. “Well, I posted on FaceBook asking if anyone knows how to help you. My friend Dan Kane offered to contact, Delfino Guevera, a local veterinarian. So we'll see what Delfino says.” she said, gently replacing the towel, leaving him alone in the dark, fretting over what would happen next.

Clinica Veterinaria de Isla Mujeres - Delfino's new clinic
A short time later the Jacana could hear another human voice, asking was he still alive? “Yes, he's here.” the woman said, “I have a bird in a bucket in my bathroom.” Jorge didn't understand why that was funny but both the woman and the man she called Delfino chuckled.  Next the veterinarian deftly moved him from the bucket into a cage that smelled alarmingly like cats! “Oh no! Was he going to be fed to cats? What a horrible end to a really bad day that would be.”

Delfino told the woman that he would take the bird, the juvenile Jacana, to his clinic.  If he survived Delfino said he would probably take him into the bird sanctuary in Cancun the following day. The trip to the clinic on a motorcycle was short and scary. Once inside the bright new building Jorge was thoroughly examined by the veterinarian and placed back in the cage. As he huddled in fear the smell of cats, and dogs, and strange chemicals swirled around him. He was accustomed to the smell of the ocean, the marshes, other birds, and nearby humans. He was not accustomed to having so many predators, his enemies, in the same area. It was terrifying!

Rosa & Codie
Very soon another male voice could be heard. “Is this the poor guy that had a run-in with the taxi?” the man asked. 

Instead of taking the bird on another stressful trip to the sanctuary in Cancun, Delfino had called an island friend who had a lot of experience helping wild birds recuperate. “I'll take him home.” Gunther Hepner said, gently picking up the bird. "We'll get him fixed up.”

Another fast ride on a motorcycle, then they entered yet another building and Jorge could smell birds – other birds! “This is Codie and Rosa.” Gunther said as he introduced his pets to Jorge, “Kids, say hello to your new roommate.”

Jorge the Jacana back in the wild
Well, this is encouraging,” Jorge thought. He was beginning to feel better already. “If this human has pet birds, then he probably won't feed me to a cat!” Jorge was put in a dark, quiet place for the night, and given water to drink. 

The next morning the man gave him a tasty breakfast of fresh flies. By now Jorge was able to stand on Gunther's hand, balancing precariously for a few minutes.   You'll be fine,” he said, “I'm going to put you back into a marshy area where you can find food and water, and similar friends. But, first, we need to have a chat about your bad behaviour. You must stay away from roads. Next time you may not be so lucky!”

Jorge agreed wholeheartedly. He was very lucky indeed to have so many humans helping him get better. And he was very lucky he could still enjoy life in paradise.

So the next time you see a beautifully coloured Jacana bird, it just might be Jorge. Please say hello from us.  Tell him Dan Kane, Delfino Guevera, Gunther Hepner plus Lawrie and I are very happy he survived his nearly-fatal encounter with a taxi.

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Find us on the web at: 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dia De La Independencia De Mexico

¡Viva México! ¡Viva México! ¡Viva México!  Long live Mexico!

Grito of Delores!    
At eleven at night, on September 15th Presidente Agapito Magaña Sanchez tugged on a thick ribbon-bedecked rope, ringing a large brass bell and shouting the traditional cry of independence. The huge crowd shouted back: ¡Viva! ¡Viva! ¡Viva! The energy in the air send frissons of excitement through our blood, tingling our nerve endings: Wow!

Overhead fireworks in centro
And then the fireworks started – blasting from two different directions above the crowd gathered in the city square. Whistling shrieks, then a series of booms, followed by a slight pause and the atmosphere exploded into constellations of red, green, blue, and yellow, the billowing phosphorescent smoke slowly dissipating over the city.

We, along with family members Richard and Linda Grierson, had been enjoying a late night dinner just up the street from centro at Pita Amore Restaurante, before heading to the celebrations. We fully expected everything to be running behind schedule, as is the norm, but discovered that was not the case. The event was clicking along, right on schedule.

When we arrived in centro a number of dancers were on stage. The women were dressed in huipils – the beautiful lacy tunics created from fine white cloth, colourful ribbons, and intricate embroidery. 

They had fanciful flower headdresses woven into their beautiful dark hair, topped by traditional white straw hats. Their escorts were attired entirely in white as a counterpoint to their colourful female partners.

The men in another dance troupe wore a stylized cowboy outfit while the ladies were decked out in red and blue multi-layered fiesta dresses that could be swirled high in the air when dancing. 

The music, the smiles, and the colour – an amazing sight.

We missed the very beginning of program but were able to enjoy the dancers for an hour before the cry of independence: the Grito de Delores. The original Cry of Delores was shouted in the early morning hours of September 16th 1810 by a Roman Catholic priest, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, in the small town of Delores near Guanajuato. His proclamation marked the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence, demanding independence from the Spanish colonial government.

And no, Cinco de Mayo is not Independence Day in Mexico. 
That date commemorates a battle between the Mexican army and the French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th 1862. The Cinco de Mayo is more popular in the USA – especially since the advent of beer commercials promoting the celebration!

As the fireworks ended the ten-person band began to play fun traditional music signaling the start of the all-night festivities. The four of us looked at each other and laughed: yep, it was past our bedtime. We aren't conditioned for the all-night parties. 

Walking back to our vehicle, Lawrie picked up a couple of large pieces of tough black plastic – smoking hot pieces of plastic that had fallen out of the sky during the fireworks display. 

The shower of hot debris had sent a number of people scurrying for shelter. It's normal. Fireworks displays are always an adventure in Mexico.

Love this country!   

Feliz Dia De La Independencia!

¡Viva México! ¡Viva Isla Mujeres!

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Find us on the web at:

Friday, September 12, 2014

Blue Flag Beach – Going for a Touch Down!

North Beach - Playa Norte
Armed with rakes, shovels and large black plastic garbage bags a dozen or so hardworking ladies gather every morning on the public beaches of Isla Mujeres. It's their job to keep the sand clean. They chat, and rake, and pick up trash while bopping along to music played via their cell phones, IPODS or MP3 players. Their job is a never-ending task.

Beach cleaning crew
The current municipal administration of Isla Mujeres is working toward a Blue Flag designation for North Beach – Playa Norte. The list of requirements to obtain the coveted blue flag is extensive, and the list is reviewed every year before the status is renewed. For example a Blue Flag beach must provide full-time life guards, clean public washrooms, garbage containers, strict control of domestic animals using the beaches, clean drinking water, wheelchair accessibility, and frequent water quality sampling – to name just a few of the conditions.

New life guard tower - not staffed yet
If you have been down to North Beach recently you probably have noticed the addition of three life-guard towers and a big blue tractor-type beach-cleaning machine. The tractor operator sweeps past, combing up debris and leveling the sand very early in the morning before the concession operators set out their loungers and umbrellas for the day.

I often wonder when watching the process if the machine gathers up the lost necklaces, chains and other items that the metal-detector-wielding beachcombers usually search for. I wouldn't mind a turn at driving the tractor. Big machines fascinate me, just ask Lawrie who in the past has rented fun machines like a 32-foot-high-scissor-lift, or a Bob-Cat loader, or a Bush Hog Rotary Cutter, so I could do stuff around our property in Canada.

I want a turn driving this tractor!
However, back on Isla when our low-to-the-ground dog, Sparky, and I are ambling the shoreline giving him an opportunity to swim in the calmer water of Playa Norte I enjoy watching the preparations for obtaining a Blue Flag designation. The addition of clean, public washrooms would be a wonderful thing. It's a bit tricky right now for the crowds of folks who use the beaches. Many of the nearby restaurants are frustrated by the situation and have posted signage: restrooms are for the use of paying customers only. So what do the beach-users do when nature calls? I really don't want to know.

Busy beach!

And yes, I do carry my handy-dandy supply of puppy-poop bags to clean up the beach after Sparky, has done his business. However I am pretty sure that under the Blue Flag designation we will have to find him another location for swimming.

But seriously, North Beach is a beautiful area, enjoyed by thousands every month, and a little extra cleanup is a good thing. It a great place to hang out for the day, people-watching in the shade of a big old palm tree. A cold beverage or two helps the day along as well. Blue Flag or not, it's a beautiful location.

Pier near the Islander Beach Club location

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

PS: when Sparky and I were doing his morning swim/walk we noticed this.  It is a boat which arrived at North Beach sometime just before dawn - filled with Cuban refugees looking for a better life.  

Cuban refugee boat arrived on North Beach early Sept 12th

Friday, September 5, 2014

Shocking Statistics

Fishing economy changing to tourism
Sometimes in the course of looking for ideas to write about for our weekly blog we come across information that is surprising, or even quite shocking. Part-time resident Karen Rosenberg, LISW, recently emailed me the stats on diabetes in Mexico – and they are awful!

According to Mexico’s Department of Social Health, it is believed that 20% of all Mexican women and more than 25% of men are at risk of developing the disease. It’s the nation’s #1 killer, resulting in about 70,000 deaths a year. Diabetes has also become the main cause of limb loss and blindness in Mexico.

Tourists enjoying North Beach on a sunny Sunday afternoon
The economy of Isla Mujeres is gradually shifting from a fishing community to a tourism-based community. 

In the busy season from December to May workers can conceivably earn more money in the form of tips from restaurant or bar patrons, but on average most islanders earn around $9.00 USD per day. That does not leave enough money to eat in a healthy manner. Inexpensive processed food and high-sugar beverages are commonplace. 

Affordable - Coke Cola for baby
We shudder every time we see the young construction workers pedal past on their bicycles clutching their lunch break supplies in one hand. Most days their lunch consists of a two-litre bottle of Coke Cola and a fifty-cent stack of tortillas.

A few years ago the Medical Director of the Salud Publica (health clinic on Isla Mujeres) stated that the clinic does not have glucose monitoring devices or meters available. He estimated that up to 80% of the islanders live with undiagnosed diabetes until it is a life threatening condition. 

Diabetes Clinic 
Karen Rosenberg has been coming to Isla for the past eighteen years, and hosting the Portals to the Self: Isla Mujeres Women's Retreat at the Na Balam Hotel for the past fifteen years. 
Karen said she started the clinics after a friend who worked at the hotel died from complications of undiagnosed diabetes and another friend at the Women’s Beading Coop went into a diabetic coma.
The first two free clinics were held at the Women's Beading Cooperative, but they soon outgrew the limited space and moved the next year to the English School premises. The following year the clinic was so well attended they relocated again, this time to the even larger space at the Red Cross location in La Gloria.
Diabetes Clinic workers
Another community-minded full-time resident, Kathy Ennis RN, pitched in to help with the clinics. 

Then Geovanny Avalos from the Cruz Roja Isla Mujeres, added his invaluable assistance, helping the health professionals with testing and diabetes education. 

Registration of the walk-ins is handled by members of the Women's Beading Cooperative so this effort is a collaboration of ex-pats and local Islenos.
Members of Women's Beading Cooperative at art fair
So, what can you do to help? The organizers are in desperate need of donations of test strips and meters, preferably Contour and Contour Next brands. The Fifth Annual Diabetes Clinic will be held on Thursday October 23rd, starting at 9:00 a.m., at the Red Cross. The clinic will continue during the day until the supplies run out. They will perform testing of blood sugar levels, teach the recipients how to use the meters to monitor their blood glucose, counsel them in diabetes education and give replacement supplies when needed.

Karen writes: “If you have any connection with pharmaceutical companies or reps, doctor’s offices or hospitals that can donate these supplies, (short dated or even recently expired) please contact me via private message on FaceBook”

Money donations may be made through PayPal via Supplies will then be purchased in your name and used for the clinic attendees.” If you would like additional information please contact Karen or Kathy via the email addresses listed below.

Hopefully these shocking numbers will motivate others to help out with the battle against diabetes on our favourite little island in paradise.

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie             Karen Rosenberg   Kathy Ennis