Friday, November 27, 2015

You are not in Kansas anymore

Night of the Kings Isla Mujeres M Watt photo
The great thing about being an ex-pat, living in another country, is the adventure.  
Different food, different language, and different customs – and it sure the hell isn’t exactly like “home.”  But that’s what makes the experience so enjoyable.
We grimace when we hear ex-pats criticize their new country, and I don’t just mean folks that have recently moved here to Isla, I mean any ex-pat in any country.  Unless you hold a valid passport for your new country you are not a citizen, you are a guest: plain and simple.  You are allowed to be in that country at the pleasure of the government.  Enjoy the experience for what it is!

Here’s some of the fun differences you will find in Mexico:
Did you know that gift giving at Christmas is not a widespread tradition in Mexico?

Lawrie with Jordan Kowalchuk, 2000 in Canada
The traditional day for gift giving is January 6th the Night of the Kings, when the three wise men purportedly arrived in Bethlehem with gifts for the baby Jesus.  
Gift giving at Christmas only gained in popularity with the advent of television marketing and the influx of American and Canadian visitors.  Beleaguered parents must now purchase gifts for both Christmas and the Night of the Kings.  It’s a financial challenge for the parents, but a great score for the kids!

Did you know that the Cinco de Mayo celebrations are generally ignored in Mexico?

The Cinco de Mayo, 5th of May, has been celebrated in California since 1863 when Mexican miners, who were working in northern California, learned that 4000 Mexican troops had defeated 8000 invading French troops at Puebla Mexico.  The French had conquered the important port of Veracruz in 1861 on the east coast and had then moved overland to invade Mexico City.  They were finally stopped and defeated by the Mexican troops at Puebla.  
At the time the Battle of Puebla took place in 1863 the United States was occupied with their Civil War.  France has hoped to establish a presence in Mexico so that they could support the Confederate Army in their battle with the U.S. Union forces.  The Mexican, working in California, were so overjoyed at the news of their country’s successful defeat of the French forces, they fired off rifle shots and sang patriotic songs.  By the 1930’s, in the United States, Cinco de Mayo was seen as a celebration of the Mexican culture.  The holiday didn’t come into US national prominence until the 1980’s when beer company marketers, primarily Corona, capitalized on the celebration and it grew in popularity in areas like Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and San Jose.

Did you know that Halloween and The Day of the Dead are not the same?
Lynda & Lawrie
Halloween is believed to have originated in Ireland as a pagan celebration in appreciation of the afterlife, of survival, of continuing to be alive while others have died.  It is the day when the door to the afterlife is open.  Halloween has since evolved into a festival of funny costumes, parties, and trick-or-treating.
The Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos, originated in Mexico around 3500 years ago.  It is a celebration in remembrance of friends and family who have passed on.  Celebrated over three days it is an important family event.  October 31st the angelitos, spirits of dead children, are invited back to visit their families.  November 1st is for the adult spirits, and November 2nd is All Souls Day when families visit the cemeteries to decorate the graves of their relatives.  
Trick-or-treating is not part of the Day of the Dead celebrations.  But kids are always happy to embrace a new idea, especially one that includes candy.
Flowers for Day of the Dead
Did you know that Mexico is part of North America? 
It’s strange how most ex-pats or tourists think just of Canada and the USA when referring to North America.  Mexico is part of North America.  Central America starts at the southern border of Mexico and includes Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.   And South America, well it is that really, really big continent south of Central America.  
The oldest permanent European settlements in North America are thought to be Mexico City settled by Spanish in the 1520’s, Port Royal in Nova Scotia Canada settled by French in 1605, and Jamestown Virginia USA settled by English in 1607.  That makes Mexican traditions about a hundred years older than Canadian or American traditions. 

Cooking with Abuelita Angelita, FaceBook photo
So now you know a bit more about Mexico, and hopefully our internet research is reasonably correct.  
Celebrate the differences and embrace your new adventure whole-heartedly.  Learn a bit about local customs, try different foods, attempt to learn the language even if you stumble and make a mess of the words.  

Try these fun adventures:
Spanish + English classes and Boot Camps in Isla Mujeres, taught by Christy Dix
Or learn Mexican cooking with Christy’s mother-in-law, Abuelita Angelita.   Both ladies can be found on Facebook.
Spanish Boot Camp with Christy Dix - FB photo
Live, laugh and enjoy!  Life is too damn short to be grumpy about little annoyances!

Hasta Luego
Lynda & Lawrie

Friday, November 20, 2015

What do Nashville entertainers and migrating sailfish have in common?

The 7th annual Island Time Music and Fishing Fest.  This fun event features world-class catch and release sail fishing and top notch entertainment from Nashville Tennessee.  It all happens here in paradise.
Almost seven years ago, the Island Time Fishing Tournament and Country Music Concert, held its first event featuring an intimate evening with Nashville artist Phil Vassar who happens to have a personal connection with Isla Mujeres.  He was joined by entertainers and songwriters Tim Nichols, Tim Johnson, James Dean Hicks, Jon Stone and Nick Norman.  Recently renamed the Island Time Music and Fishing Fest, it has now burgeoned into a large music festival, with the added attraction of great fishing. 

Margarita Madness at the Soggy Peso 
In past years we have enjoyed the tequila-fueled entertainment of Jon Stone, Nick Norman and Lewis Brice during the wild Margarita Madness at the Soggy Peso Bar & Grill. This outrageously fun event has been relocated to a larger venue featuring six artists including the original three very popular guys.  Jax Bar & Grill was the original host restaurant for a number of years offering intimate concerts with the performers, and auctions of crazy items such as Reba McIntyre’s teeny-tiny autographed jeans. 
The bigger festival has necessitated a move to larger venues and also a change in ticket prices.  Because this is a charity event with the proceeds earmarked to help the local school for developmentally challenged children, the organizers are trying to keep the costs to a bare minimum.  The Little Yellow School House on Isla Mujeres began with one room, six students and a really big dream. The school now has six classrooms, full-time teachers and over 50 students, with fifteen more on a waiting list.

For the Music Fest the list of entertainers includes Kellie Pickler, Jerrod Niemann, Blackjack Billy, Love & Theft, Kyle Jacobs, American Young, Nick Norman, Natalie Stovall, Lewis Brice, Joal Rush, Hailey Steele, Rob Hatch, and islander Ryan Rickman.   Although the artists are generously donating their time, the non-profit society is responsible for covering expenses for travel, accommodation and meals.  Venue tickets per person for the 2016 events range from $199 for All Access Except the Opening Show to $249 for All Access Including the Opening Show at Casa Fenix.  (Food and beverages not included.)
Here’s the link for tickets:!events/c8k2
If you want to have a great time listening to current country hits, up close and personal with some of Nashville’s best talent – head to Isla. 

Sunrise - day one, boat captains getting ready to head out
Or maybe you actually want to go fishing; getting up before the crack of dawn to head out on the bumpy ocean and put squiggly wet things on sharp hooks to catch really big and hard fighting fish.  (You can probably guess, I won’t be doing that!)  In between the entertainment and the many cold beers, tournament competitors usually find time to go fishin’.  Trophies and bragging rights are awarded to the boats, anglers, and junior anglers with the most releases.
Whatever your choice, it's a fun way to enjoy a week in paradise and to give something back to the community.  
We’ll be waiting for you!


Lynda & Lawrie

John & Betty Raimondo - a big thank you!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Lies the cat told me

Waiting to get on the big boat

“Whew, what is that smell?” my human said, as she waved her hand in front of her face, and rapidly lowering the car window.  She turned to look accusingly at me. “Sparky, was that you?”

I confess.  It was me.  I accidentally let out a little gas.  We are going someplace called Cancun.   It’s my first time leaving Isla Mujeres, and Thomas (he’s my much older feline roommate) said that when dogs go to Cancun, they don’t come back – ever!  That’s why I’m so scared, and why I farted.  Thomas knows a lot more about traveling than I do.  He has lived in two countries, and he has been on airplanes several times, so I believe him. 

That big red and white thing is the boat 
My two humans – I call one Driver, and the other one Servant – and I are waiting at the car ferry terminal on Isla for a big boat to take us to Cancun.  I have seen this boat leaving and arriving many times when we are out and about on the island, but I have never been on it.  Big Adventure Day for me!

Eventually the boat arrives, and all the trucks and cars are jammed on board.  There are so many vehicles we can’t open the doors on the car, and I can’t explore the boat.  What seems like a really long time, only forty-five minutes in human time, we arrived in Punta Sam and drive towards Cancun. 

I'm a bit scared - and have a nervous tummy

My goodness, I have never seen so many cars, trucks, motorcycles, people, cats and dogs in one place.  Big buses whiz past, really close to our little Mini Cooper car.  Vehicles change lanes, buzzing in and around each other.  A few horns honk.   The noise and smells are overwhelming for my sensitive ears and nose.  I started trembling, but Servant turned around and gave me a reassuring pat.  “It’s okay, Sparky, nothing to be afraid of,” she said. 

A few minutes later, we stopped on Kabah Avenue in front of a building that said Centro de Especialidades Veterinarias.  

Oh, oh.  That can’t be good.  Thomas also warned me about going to the veterinary, or as he calls them, Cat-Doctors.  He said they do terrible things to animals.  I wish Thomas hadn’t told me all these bad stories.  I accidentally farted again as we went into the building. 

This big cat lives at the Cat- Doctors' place
Inside there was a huge fluffy cat that looked a bit like Thomas.  He didn’t seem to be worried that he lived in the Cat-Doctors’ building.  Still, I was well behaved just in case.  The two Cat-Doctors took weird see-through photos of my back, legs, and pelvis because when I am tired I run on three legs.  I was hit by a car a few years ago, before I adopted Driver and Servant, and my back right leg doesn’t work as well as the other ones.  The Cat-Doctors agreed that my joints looked okay, but my muscles on the right side needed strengthening – they prescribed less running and more swimming.  Swimming is okay, but I love to run!  I’m not sure I agree with their treatment.  We’ll see.

Christmas flowers at Home Depot store
Fortunately for me the Cat-Doctors let me leave without doing nasty things to me.  So far all the bad stories Thomas told me about Cancun have been big fat fibs.  I think he was trying to scare me.  Our next stop was at Home Depot where Servant and I waited outside in the shade and Driver went inside to buy a few things for our house on Isla Mujeres.  Servant was amused to see Poinsettia flowers and Canadian fir trees being delivered in early November to a store in Mexico.   Something about it was ‘way too early, or something like that.  Personally I don’t think it is ever too early to have a tree.  Every house should have a Christmas tree, all year around, for the dog to pee on.

Hardly any room left for me in the back seat

After Home Depot, we drove to an even bigger store, Costco, where Driver and I waited in the shade while Servant did the shopping.  I guess I’m not allowed inside the stores, so one person stays with me while the other one does the chores.  I’m okay with that.  I get lots of attention.

One last stop at Mega, next door to Costco, to stock up on Thomas’s favourite cat food flavours.  By now the trunk is full and more packages are stacked up around me in the back seat.  We have the top down on the car because I look so very cool, hip, with it, in a convertible.  I really like Driver’s choice of cars.

This is living - riding in a convertible
Finally we are headed back to Punta Sam, my ears are flying in the cooling breeze and I am looking forward to getting home.  

But, not yet.  We have to wait until the boat arrives for the three o’clock sailing.  I stretched out in the shade, keeping a sharp eye out for the gang of dogs that live at the ferry terminal. 

When the boat arrived and unloaded a man drove his big truck - the one my humans call the poo-sucker – on board and he emptied the holding tanks.  Then, at last thirty minutes late, we are allowed to board the boat.   We still can’t get out of the car, but I’m too tired to care anymore.  I collapsed on the back seat in amongst the parcels and tried to snooze while we headed back to Isla Mujeres.

Waiting at Punta Sam for the ferry boat

Arriving safe and sound back home the first thing I did was to tell Thomas he was wrong about dogs never coming back if they go to Cancun.  

He just flicked his bushy tail at me and smirked.  “Got ya!”  

Sometimes living with a know-it-all cat can be so frustrating. 

Anyway, it was a big adventure for me! 

Cheers from paradise,

Sparky  aka The Sparkinator!

The boat docking at Punta Sam

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Remember when?

Having fun at Marina Paraiso 

No, I don’t mean the sandy streets or the quaint little stores scattered around centro on Isla Mujeres, I am talking about your memories of being a child, growing up in Canada or perhaps the United States.

You played all weekend with your friends - cowboys and Indians (yes, it was okay to say Indians then), scrub baseball, street soccer - and all you had to do was to come home when your dad whistled, or the street lights came on.

Softball on the beach - team sharing mitts (in the air)
You struggled home, dirty, tired, scraped, bruised and completely laughed-out.  As you got older you ventured further afield, on your bicycle exploring nearby neighbourhoods or in our case the next town.  No helicopter-parenting here.  You just knew you had to be home for dinner or you were in big trouble.  That was what it was like for me and my siblings when we were kids – a few years back – okay, many many years ago.

So, where am I going with this?  Here on Isla Mujeres, it is like stepping back in time.  Kids are allowed to be kids.  No safety helmets or tracking devices, no daily schedule of planned activities, just day to day adventures.

Fooling around by their families' boats
We were in the local grocery store the other day when two young sisters, about six and four, came in holding hands.  They were on an errand for their mom.  The girls made their purchase and headed home, about a block away from the store.  

We remember doing errands like that for our moms.  How very simple.  

But, back in the USA or Canada the parents can be sentenced or fined under the Child Abandonment statutes for letting their little kids walk to the store alone. 

Some of our favourite local kids fishing - a few years ago
We think the island teenagers grow up to be more self-sufficient and responsible being allowed more freedom to make their own decisions.  We get to see a lot of them as we live near the high school.  Yes, they all have their status-symbol smart phones but they still flirt, and giggle (the boys) and shriek (the girls).  They talk, joke, and interact with each other much more than their northern counter-parts.   The Mexican culture seems to encourage this type of communication and we think it’s great.  At their homes the local kids are like any other kid, perhaps a little more respectful of their parents, but if Grandma tells you to do something you had better do it.  It’s the norm for grandparents to live with the family and help out with child-rearing.

Dancing to her own beat.
My grandparents lived with us when we were kids.  It was frustrating at times, but now that I look back and remember what they taught us about manners, family history and good judgement – it was worth the frustration.

So, if you miss the good old days of being a kid without worries, come to paradise, on Isla Mujeres.  

No matter what your age, you can still be a kid here.

Cheers from paradise!
Lawrie & Lynda

Pretending to drive - M. Watt photo

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