Monday, November 28, 2016

Treasure Isla - action adventure novel, set on Isla Mujeres now available on Amazon

Get your copy today!
$2.99 USD on Amazon Books

A Caribbean adventure set on the magical island of Isla Mujeres, located off the eastern coast of Mexico. Two twenty-something women find themselves in possession of a seemingly authentic treasure map, which leads them on a chaotic search for buried treasure while navigating the dangers of too much booze, disreputable men and a killer. Plus there is a dog, a funny little rescue-mutt. 

Come and join the hunt for pirate gold!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Sometimes a last minute invite can be a fun one!

Late this Wednesday afternoon, Lawrie just happened to check his emails and discovered a message from Marla Bainbridge Martinez asking if we would consider helping out as bartenders at a fundraiser starting at four in the afternoon.

I heaved an unhappy sigh, and stared longingly at my just-poured glass of Malbec wine. Our afternoon plans had included reading a book on the ocean-side patio, with a glass of wine in hand. But it was a fundraiser put on by a group of island friends and business people in support of a badly injured islander. Julio Zapata had recently been in a horrific moto (motorcycle) accident in the nearby City of Mérida. Julio has two young children and a third on the way. He is facing large medical bills for multiple surgical operations.

We couldn’t say no. It’s what people in small communities do – help out. Lawrie and I scrambled to get to the fundraiser for the four o’clock start time, knowing full well that as eager-beaver expats we would be among the first to arrive.

Navy truck in front, providing an armed escort for the ice?

Driving to the venue at the Casa de la Culture via Guerreo Avenue, we trailed behind a golf cart, loaded with bags of ice. Apparently ice for a party is a valuable commodity on Isla Mujeres. Driving ahead of the golf cart was an armed escort in the form of a truck load of Navy marines – presumably protecting against the threat of ice-bandits.

Lawrie and Fernanda all set to sell beer and drinks

At the ocean-side esplanade for the Casa de la Culture busy hands were in the process of setting up the venue. Lights and sound systems installed. Band instruments un-packed. Beer organized in the cooler and covered with the precious ice. Bid pages were arranged for silent auction items donated by several island businesses. And then our favourite beer dispensers arrived: Isla Brewing.

La Banda Sin Nombre

Okay, we’re good to go! Now let’s hear some tunes from La Banda Sin Nombre, the Band with No Name!

The crowd was small but very generous in their donations. Thanks to everyone for helping out. Here’s a copy of Marla’s list of contributors: hopefully no one has been left out.

Javi's Cantina Restaurant Tapas Bar, Bobo's Grill & Bar, Isla Mujeres Bar Card, El Arrecife, Parque de los Sueños, Restaurant Asia Caribe, CARM Tours & Transfers, The Joint Reggae Bar & Grill, El Patio house of music, Gigi Kraycar, Nirit Ben David, Olivia Tastes from the Mediterranean, Catrina Restaurant, BE Wings Restaurant, Nisa Disco, and Michael (no last name given).
Aida signing up for an auction item

La Banda Sin Nombre, and Deejay Dani for the tunes. Cheryl Gabel and Kevin Gabel for running the auction. Isla Brewing Company - Cerveza Isla for showing up last minute. Emilio Fernando Sosa Delgado and Martin Burgos for setting up. Jason Williams and Fernanda.

Some of the silent auction winners include: Phil the new owner of the Bahai Tortuga Restaurant, Mark and Monica Macpherson, Sandra Murray, Tomas Christianson, Terri Huff, Dede Clark, Aida and Patricio Yam.

Phil, Barbara Beck, Chris Shannon, Jimmy Picuri

Between the beer sales, the silent auction items, and an earlier Go Fund Me campaign the group efforts have brought in about $41,000 pesos of the $70,000 pesos needed to pay for the operations. It’s a great start! Donations are still gratefully accepted. Contact Marla at Javi’s Cantina for details.

The weather was perfect, the music enjoyable, and the crowd was happy.

Thank you everyone for your generosity.


Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie

Organizing the silent auction items

Friday, November 18, 2016

Funny things that are so very ‘Isla’

Living in a foreign country can be downright comical at times, and doubly so when living on a small island off the eastern coast of Mexico.

Three-sided glass-topped security wall
At the southern end of Isla Mujeres, there is security wall with shards of broken glass cemented into the upper edge. The wall protects an almost empty piece of land containing a replica of a Mayan ruin and a collection of derelict boats. Recently a squatter decided to set up housekeeping inside the windowless concrete shack. The property owner, rightly so, had the person evicted and the street-side entrance bricked over. Then shards of glass were added to the top of the wall as a further deterrent to trespassers.  Because of the sharp embedded bits the iguanas lost a handy spot for sunbathing, and the birds had to find other places to rest, but other than that not much has changed. Strangely the wall only provides security to three sides of the property.  
The Tower - at the refuse transfer station
Another source of amusement is located inside the municipal refuse transfer station, also near the southern end of the island. A large concrete structure was built in the early spring of 2013 under the direction of then Presidente Hugo Sanchez. The three stories high edifice is imposing. 

Original sign that showed a remodel of the area

It towers over the empty building located directly behind it. We’ve never figured out the purpose of the fortification, but it now has a veritable garden of plants sprouting on several levels.

Hacienda Mundaca - new, unused entrance
Then on the western side of the island is the beautiful new entrance to the federally controlled Hacienda Mundaca, the historic home of the island’s most well-known pirate Captain Fermin Mundaca. From the fall of 2014 to the spring of 2015 construction crews slashed a path in the jungle and erected a tall concrete block wall to surround the estate. 
Stone-faced sign for new entrance
Their final job was to create the stunningly beautiful new entrance with two soaring hacienda-style gates, a decorative iron fence and a stage for community performances. Well-signed and ready to go, the new entrance still remains closed and idle, a repository for wind-blown litter.

Part of the sewer line project 
And another head-shaking bit of island trivia. In 2014 the municipality contracted to have Rueda Medina re-paved on the western side of the airport from about the naval base to the Coca Cola plant. Several business owners in the area petitioned the city to work in conjunction with the water/waste corporation, Aguakan, to install sewer lines before paving the road. Good idea. Very forward thinking of the business folks who struggled in the busy tourist winter season with almost daily pump-outs of their waste-water holding tanks. The companies anted-up the fees to Aguakan for the new sewer lines and the project got underway. The road was dug up, lines installed, detours around the work changing daily. It was a huge project that lasted for months creating a financial hardship for a number of the companies located along that piece of road. However, the consensus was in the end it would be well worth it. Except, the sewer lines have never been connected. The school, homes and businesses must still have their holding tanks pumped out on a regular basis.

Rueda Medina the 2010-2011 project
But the biggest ‘oops’ that provides hours of entertaining speculation is the construction project that began in the fall of 2010 and continued for at least eighteen months, if not longer. The multi-level proposal aimed to beautify Rueda Medina, the main entrance to the island with an eye towards impressing the arriving visitors. To that end, underground wiring was planned for all of the homes and businesses along Rueda Medina from the corner by the Aluxes Hotel to the car ferry terminal. The existing rough pavement was to be replaced with attractive stamped concrete. And to prevent unnecessary flooding during rainstorms large drains would be installed at regular intervals along the street. Well, the contractors did lay the pretty new stamped concrete surface for the road.  

Mexico has been our beautiful and charming home country for the last nine years.  Sometimes it can be very entertaining living here, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Hasta Luego

Lynda & Lawrie


Friday, November 11, 2016

Javi’s Cantina ‘Where Flavor Meets Harmony’

Music, good food and cold drinks!  What a great way to spend a Wednesday evening in paradise.  Marla Bainbridge Martinez and Javier Martinez recently held their grand opening event for Javi’s Cantina & Tapas Bar located in centro on Juarez near Abasolo Avenue. 

Cool new sign

Their eatery actually commenced operation in July of this year, but they wanted to ensure they had everything organized and ticking along perfectly before the grand opening.  The several times we have eaten at Javi’s, we have had a beautifully presented and tasty meal.  Practice does make perfect.

Lawrie's favourite - Sliders
The grand opening started off with a blessing from the priest, and continued into the evening with fun, laughter and music.  Until the flashy new sign was installed the cantina was a bit difficult to find.  In case you are still having challenges, it is almost directly across the street from Jeri Roozeboom Mattox and Steve Mattox’s rental property La Vida Dulce, and the Farmacia y Consultorio Similares otherwise known as Doctor Simi.

Spilling out onto the street - Grand Opening
Javi’s Cantina is an intimate and thankfully air-conditioned space, usually holding about thirty patrons, but for this evening they had permission to block off the street and spill out onto the cobblestone roadway.  It’s an island custom for important events, especially funerals when the large extended families can’t all fit inside the diminutive houses.  Javi’s family has been on the island for generations which probably helped in obtaining a street closure permit.  We are glad he did, the large turnout created a festive atmosphere with an entertaining mix of old friends, and new acquaintances all laughing and enjoying the warm tropical night.  And yes, our shivering northern friends, it was a warm tropical night in the middle of November.
Marla singing with the band
The street tables were available for patrons who wanted to drink adult beverages and enjoy the music of La Banda Sin Nombre, the Band with No Name.  The inside tables were reservations-only for folks who wanted to scarf down some great chow like Sliders, or Kabobs, or the Catch of the Day with their drinks.
Some of the menu choices
Most evenings at Javi’s Cantina there are musicians playing great tunes in Spanish and English. Tuesday night’s Hammock for 2 with Marla and Javi singing their favourite songs. Wednesday night Jorge Santoyo. Thursday night Willy Chacon.  Other nights might feature Javi and his dad Toso, or any combination of friends and fellow musicians. 
Grand opening

For the Grand Opening we had made plans to enjoy the festivities with two island friends, and then discovered two more amigos were going to be seated next to us, so we pushed the tables together and became one big happy group. 

It’s times like this that we really appreciate island life, small communities, and upbeat positive chums.

Best wishes for a successful adventure Marla and Javi.


Lynda & Lawrie

Friday, November 4, 2016

Animas Festival - the Parade of Silence

Ghostly brides. Half-faced children. Phantom cowboys.  Gentlemen apparitions in formal wear.  

Ladies in flower bedecked headdresses and jeweled Catrina makeup – all gathered in centro for a relatively new event on Isla Mujeres, the Parade of Silence paying tribute to the souls of the departed.

Ru Perez Director Casa de la Cultura, on right
Organized by the Casa de la Cultura, and the Jean Piaget private school the procession was scheduled to start at six in the evening at the old cemetery located at the north end of Hidalgo Avenue, culminating at the Casa de la Cultura on Guerro Avenue.  

Six o’clock Mexican time: más o menos.  In this case the event was surprisingly not too far off schedule, starting at six-thirty.  

A group from our neighbourhood agreed we would meet downtown, watch the parade, and then go out for a light dinner.  It should be easy for seven people to meet up on a five mile long island…wouldn’t you think?  

However by the time I had snapped nearly a hundred photographs and the procession had passed us by, we realized that four of our friends had still not arrived.  We did see several other well-known locals who were enjoying the spectacle, relaxing street-side in the various bars and restaurants that line Hidalgo Avenue.

Lawrie and his sister Linda Grierson decided that they would head to The Reef, where the group had planned to pop in for a drink with our favourite island bar-tender, Freddy Medina.  In the meantime I scouted around Hidalgo Avenue for the others. 
It turns out they waited twenty minutes for a taxi, not wanting to risk the new Breathalyzer sobriety roadblocks that were initiated a week ago.  

For those of you unfamiliar with life in Mexico, drunk driving has been tolerated until very recently.  Open liquor in vehicles, on golf carts, or even motos – no problem.  

A few times we have witnessed moto-scooter drivers so bombed that when required to stop for traffic or pedestrian crosswalks, they forget to put their feet on the ground.  The result is a comical slow-motion toppling of driver and motorcycle into a heap on the hard pavement, in one case conveniently beside a police officer.  The Breathalyzer sobriety checks are a step in the right direction, however, according to the island coconut-telegraph the testers are re-using the same plastic ‘straw’ for every person.  It’s a very unsanitary practice to say the least.  Hopefully this is just a rumour.

Ashley Blogin
But I digress, Julie, Rob, Brent and Dé were about to start hoofing it into centro when an available taxi finally arrived.  Having rounded up the strays, we trailed after the procession, heading in the direction of the Municipal Square and The Reef Bar at the south end of Hidalgo Avenue.  

The colourful, but quiet group slowly wound its way between the tables and chairs pushed out into the street by restaurant managers trying to maximize every possible square inch of serving space. 
Hidalgo Avenue has a fun, chaotic atmosphere with cramped spaces, colourful tables and chairs, wait-staff hawking menu choices, and the delicious smells wafting from open-air kitchens.

The Parade of Silence continued a few more blocks, culminating at the Casa de la Cultura.  We turned a sharp left and up the stairs into The Reef for an adult beverage.  We finished up our fun evening with a yummy dinner at Javi’s Cantina on Juarez Avenue.  The beautiful live, background music was provided by Jorge and Martine.
Jorge with Javi on drums
We are already anticipating procession of the souls next year.  Sometimes life in paradise is just so darn difficult.


Lynda & Lawrie

Julie and Linda G. with their new friend