Friday, January 29, 2016

The art of communication and miscommunication

“Please put the toilet paper on the waste basquet.” 

A sign posted inside the public washrooms at one of our favourite island restaurants always makes me giggle when I read it.  Just one small word, on instead of in, and the whole purpose of the sign is destroyed, in a humorous way. 

Seasoned travelers automatically get what the sign is trying to communicate; put your used toilet paper in the waste basket.  There is no sewer system in many parts of the island, or in many other parts of Mexico, only holding tanks.  Business owners ask their customers to place all used paper products inside the waste paper cans reducing the number of times the tank must be pumped out, and hopefully reducing the number of times the system overflows onto the street.  It’s not our favourite thing about living in Mexico, it is what it is.

Another confusing sign can be seen at the crumbling edge of the Punta Sur cliffs.  It severely admonishes: “Do Not Close to the Cliff!”  Sure, I won’t close to the cliff, if I only knew what that meant.  It does sound kind of scary though.  Maybe the sign painter meant - don’t walk close to the cliff?  Don’t run close to the cliff?  Or maybe, don’t stand at the unprotected edge of the cliff as people have been known to fall off trying for that perfect tourist-selfie.  

Other signs on the island deliberately use humor to get the point across.  “Live Nudes!  We don’t have any, but we do have frozen drinks.”  

Bet that sign makes a lot of guys do a neck-twisting double-take as they putter along Rueda Medina in their rented golf carts.  

Or the sign that used to be across from the passenger ferry terminal where thousands of Cancun day-trippers arrived hourly; “Husband day care, while you shop.”  I’m sure more than one shopping-bored husband pointed to the sign, and said, “See honey, they will take care of me while you look for souvenirs.”  Then gleefully handing over a fistful of cash waved goodbye, “Have a nice time, dear.  I’ll be right here.”

M. Watt photo
But the signs we enjoy the most as the hand-painted, kid-produced signs reminding everyone to protect and care for local critters.  There are signs about iguanas printed in rudimentary English: “Take care me, make part of your world.  Signs about the crocodiles living in the marsh near Hacienda Mundaca.  And hand painted signs about the annual migration of the protected blue crab, posted at both Sac Bajo and Punta Sur, reminding drivers to slow down and let the critters cross the road.  

Watch out for migrating blue and red crabs
The large blue and the smaller red crabs like to make the trek, from land to ocean and back again, during moonlit summer nights. Unfortunately not all of the crustaceans survive this summertime ritual.  Some get squished, providing tasty morning snacks for squabbling birds or cannibalistic crabs.  In case you missed the words “protected blue crabs” and are considering a tasty feast – think again.  And besides, after watching the crabs feast on iguana poop, er, no thanks, I’ll pass.

Signs – the art of communication and miscommunication.  It is one of the challenges of translating from your own language to another language.  Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.  

I have on occasion, okay many times, written or said something in my rudimentary Spanish that means something other than what I intended to say.  Like the time I posted in a blog that I was feeling very hot, as in temperature, but the Goggle translation said I was hot, as in sexy.  Thankfully our friend Vivian emailed the correct words, and I fixed the blog post. We had a good giggle over that little error.

That’s what is so great about living in a small community on a tropical island, friends laugh with you.  

It is all a part of communication – mistakes and all.

Hasta Luego
Lawrie & Lynda

Pretty clear message - D Adler photo

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Friday, January 22, 2016

A slice of island life

It’s an oddity.  A large protrusion of compressed sand and coral pieces jutting out into the ocean.  It was nick-named Ship Rock by family members who moved to the neighbourhood a few years before we did.  

Located just a little south of our casa the bow of the rock ship points north east towards Cuba, resembling a small cruise ship waiting to depart on an adventure.

When the island of Isla Mujeres was created by the forces of nature, this piece of land was part of the island, but over the ten or so thousands of years it has become semi-detached floating free in a turquoise sea.  

Ship Rock has become a focal point in the neighbourhood, a place to fish, or swim.  A place to plink stones into the water, while staring in contemplation at the ocean.  It’s peaceful.  And it’s hectic.

On hot summer weekends the rock is festooned with kids who, under their parents’ loose supervision, enjoy a refreshing dip in the ocean.  We relax on our second floor ocean-side deck, listening to the shrieks of laughter, and the excited barking of pets – free from leashes and happily terrorizing other dogs. 

Around October, a run of thin, silver, very bony and tasty fish swim past.  The many avid fans of the Lady Fish cast hopefully with rod and reel or hand-lines, hauling in dozens of fish.  

Even the family pets get in on the act, hauling the fish to shore as they are hooked on the line.  Dinner!

Other times the rock is inhabited with a gang of noisy pelicans.  They are also fishing for dinner; scattered in the waves, perched on the edge of the outcropping, feasting on a run of sardines passing through.  

Then with their bellies stuffed with fish the birds rest and contemplate life, wings tucked in while they snooze for an hour or two.

During the windy winter months a few intrepid tourists and locals try out body-surfing at Ship Rock.  

The waves curl and crash, tossing young bodies into the air, or stuffing them under the water.  

It looks like fun, although the water is not very deep where the waves break, and the coral rocks make a tough landing. 

The comings and goings at Ship Rock provide us with a bit of amusement, a source of entertainment on lazy afternoons, or a focal point for a winter sunrise photo.  

Just another small, but interesting slice of island life.

Hasta Luego
Lawrie & Lynda

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Living on the beach not for the faint of heart

Sparky - checking out the weather situation
Yesterday history was made.  An out-of-season hurricane, Alex, was named as the first storm in the 2016 hurricane season, which incidentally doesn’t officially start until June 1st.  


Who needs it?  Or wants it? 

The good news is Alex is a long way out in the Atlantic, more of a problem to the American Eastern Seaboard than it is to our tropical paradise. 

Sparky & Perla getting loves from Lawrie - M.Watt photo
The possibility of lots of precipitation in the form of snow and high winds is a big concern for anyone living on the eastern side of the USA and Canada. Living on a tropical island in Mexico, on the other hand, we have our own challenges.

There is the ever-present sand sifting across the floors, sticking in hair, collecting in clothes and beds.  The two dogs, one cat, Lawrie and I have sixteen paws or feet between us.  We track sand into the house, car and even the golf cart.  The space under our computer desk is always gritty with sand, left behind by Sparky who likes to nap at our feet while we write.

Big scary iguana .... snacking on cat food
Critters like scary iguanas and hermit crabs surround us as soon as we appear on the beach; mooching for food.  

Okay maybe we are to blame for that as we like to feed the critters.  

Then there are the beach dogs and feral cats who move in at any opportunity.  Yeah, they like food too, but want love and attention more.  

The more serious stuff is the salty ocean spray, called salitre in Mexico.  It sneaks in to everything; oozing into computers ports, appliance wiring, light fixtures, door and window lock mechanisms, and the sliding wheels on patio door. 

That damn sand is everywhere!
Eventually the salt spray causes the demise of anything electronic.  It coats stationary objects including, much to our surprise, our inside Christmas tree.  

When we took the tree down this year the branches, lights and decorations were wet with salt and condensed humidity.  

Everything had to be washed and dried before storing for the next Christmas season. 

Lawrie - suffers from Beach-Inertia Syndrome

However one of the biggest challenges with living on the edge of the warm, salty sea, is Beach-Inertia Syndrome, the desire to never live in cold climates again.  In the advanced stages of this condition you lose the desire go back north to visit family and friends.  It’s just so much work to find real clothes and real shoes, besides the shoes just won’t fit after wearing sandals for months. 

And the final challenge of living in paradise, the ever-present salitre will taint your wine unless you drink it quickly.  Okay, maybe it won’t happen that fast, but it might!  So, you see just packing up and moving to a tropical island should be thought out carefully, without alcohol involved, or you might find yourself a victim of the dreaded Beach-Inertia Syndrome. (BIS)

A tourist - thinking happy sunny thoughts!
As for Alex, that grumpy weather system that is threatening the Atlantic Coast of America and Canada – maybe we can all think happy sunny thoughts, as our new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau likes to do, and make the hurricane go away.

Hasta Luego
Lawrie & Lynda

The beautiful illustration below is by Diego Medina, from our children's book written in both English and Spanish: 

The Adventures of Thomas the Cat / Las Aventuras de Thomas el Gato   
$15.00 USD or $250.00 MX pesos

Beach-Inertia Syndrome, on Isla Mujeres Mx

Friday, January 8, 2016

Ruben, the man with a huge heart

Mickey, Ruben, Minnie - R.&L Grierson photos
He’s not a big man, but he has a huge heart. 

After recently surviving a life-changing event Ruben, the proprietor of Ruben’s Restaurante on Isla Mujeres, has a new goal in life.  

His mission is to give back to the community, and to make little kids shriek with laughter. 

Linda & Richard Grierson - T Vermu photo

For the last few months Ruben has been working to organize a Night of the Kings party on January 6th for island children.  It’s a very important event for Catholics in Mexico, celebrating when the three wise men purportedly arrived in Bethlehem with gifts for baby Jesus. 

In the ensuing weeks a steady stream of ex-pats and locals arrived at the restaurant, gifts in hand, adding to the towering stack of toys.  

Very quickly the brightly coloured stack of dolls, stuffed animals, board games, soccer balls, books and action figures spilled over onto the floor and had to be tucked away in a storage area to make way for yet more gifts.  Eventually there were over 700 presents donated to the festivities.

Some of the helpers - T Vermu photo
And then there was food; complimentary lunches for everyone who attended the fiesta, put together by many helping hands that included Ruben’s staff and more local ex-pats.  Enthusiastic volunteers controlled the traffic, kept the lines of excited youngsters moving along towards Santa, and photographed the crazy fun.  So many helpers!  Wow!

Ruben's staff - R&L Grierson photo
On the day of the fiesta, Mickey (Lawrie) and Minnie (me) arrived via decorated golf cart with our minders, Linda and Richard Grierson.  The noise was deafening.  There were kids everywhere, covering both sidewalks and spilling across the blocked off portion of Guerrero Avenue where the restaurant is located.  Many couldn’t decide what to do first; get their gift from Santa, or have their photograph taken with Mickey and Minnie.  Many small hands grabbed at our legs, or clutched our hands while having their photo taken. 

He's a bit afraid of the huge mice!
We get a lot of pleasure out of these events, the only downside is our limited vision through the eye-holes means we can’t really see the kids, just feel them as they excitedly launch themselves at us.  It’s pretty darn funny at times.  I often wonder what would happen if I tripped in my foam, over-sized, high-heel-shaped Minnie shoes.  Would I disappear in a four-foot-deep pile of small wriggling bodies?

John Pasnau and young friend - Grierson photo
On the other hand Santa (John Pasnau) patiently sat in the tropical sun wearing his very hot vintage Santa suit.  He smiled and chatted with each child as they arrived in front of him.  John is the quintessential Santa Claus, customized for the tropics with flip-flops on his feet instead of black boots.  At the party the little girls were lined up on his right side, and the boys to his left.  That way his helpers could pick gifts that were hopefully appropriate for the child.  We only managed to stay at the party for forty-five minutes before our stiflingly hot costumes forced us to leave.  We are in absolute awe of Santa – he was there when we arrived, and still there when we departed.  Such perseverance, such stamina!  Great job Santa!

Mickey and Minnie, with our minder Linda G.
Through it all I caught glimpses of Ruben looking stressed but happy at what he had created.  

He was everywhere; checking on the supply of gifts, having his photo taken with the children, ensuring everyone received a present and a complimentary lunch.

Well done Ruben, the man with the huge heart.

Happy New Year / Próspero Año Nuevo
Lawrie & Lynda

Lots of kids and lots of noise - R Grierson photo

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Friday, January 1, 2016

It’s a brand new year!

Happy New Year - 2016

Well, it’s a brand new year for us to enjoy, or mess up, or make a dozen-soon-to-be-forgotten resolutions such as lose weight, get more exercise and eat healthier. 

We make the same resolutions year after year, so for 2016 we have only one resolution: no more stupid resolutions!

Life this past year has been busy, not just for us but for the whole island.  There were a number of large municipal projects that were finally completed: the fire hall, a bigger hospital, and the Casa de Cultura.  

New fire hall near the police station
These new facilities are a great addition to everyday life on the island.

Across the street from our house the seldom-used college basketball court was covered with a metal dome, and seating added for spectators.  

The improved facility gets lots of use by local teams, school drama presentations.  

Photo from FaceBook Folk Dancers' Congress  
Recently under the dome, an outdoor catering area was created to feed the two hundred or so folk dancers who were performing on the island in the last week of December.  

It was a very well-mannered group comprised of dance troupes from various parts of Mexico.  

They lined up quietly at seven in the morning for breakfast, then again for lunch plus practiced a few dance routines in the late afternoon.   We hardly knew they were there, except for the enticing aromas wafting across the street exciting our taste buds. 

Playa Norte
On a grander scale, tourism is up, way up, with an estimated two million visitors coming to enjoy the island amenities and our annual festivals: Island Time Music and Fishing Festival, the summer Whale Shark Festival, and the Caribbean Culture Festival.  Two of the most popular beaches on the island, Playa Norte, and Playa Centro have been designated as world-class Blue Flag beaches.  Those beaches must be maintained to a higher standard of cleanliness, with toilets available, and garbage and animal poop cleaned up on a daily basis.  Music, food, entertainment combined with sun, sand and surf!  It doesn’t get much better than that.

Separate from the “created” celebrations the Mexican culture has several annual events that are always interesting, such as Carnaval in February or March, Santa Semana – Holy Week (Easter) in March or April depending on the Catholic Church calendar, The Flowery Cross celebration in May, Independence Day in mid-September, Day of the Dead celebrations late October and into early November, and Revolution Day parade in mid-November. 

Kindergarten parade - Independence Day 

By that time we are at the end of the year and the calendar has rolled around into Christmas celebrations, with parades, parties and processions.  

(See our December 25th blog.)

So, we are off to a great start with the New Year.  Happy, healthy, enjoying life, and resolution free for 2016! 

Happy New Year / Próspero Año Nuevo

Lawrie & Lynda, 

Thomas the Cat, Sparky & Perla

Happy New Year from all of us! 

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