Friday, September 29, 2017

If you are thinking of retiring to Mexico …

Don’t!  Unless you love adventure, living fearlessly, and enjoy diversity.

When we decided to retire to this little island in the Caribbean we’d already had some experience with Mexico. 

I started holidaying in mid-1960s on the western side of the country, Lynda a bit later. (Damn, we should have learned more Spanish than baños and cerveza!)

Love that turquoise-coloured water

We chose Isla Mujeres for a number of reasons. The first hook was the amazing turquoise water, ten years later we are both still mesmerized by the ocean. Another reason was the kind and friendly people. They are an intriguing mix of Mayan, Spanish and several other cultures.

Lynda and I had previously lived on a small island off the coast of British Columbia Canada, and we knew it takes certain mentality to flourish in a remote community. 

Colour and fun during Carnaval 
You have to be handy and inventive as you can’t always call for help any time that you need it. Isla has lots of handymen, who are usually busy doing jobs for other folks and they will get around to you sooner or later, but not always immediately. It isn’t laziness, it is because they are just too busy but it is not polite in this culture to say ‘no’ to anyone. So they agree to help out, mañana. But as the song says: “Mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow, it just means not today.”
Cowboys waiting for another parade to start

We started with a new-build so everything worked for a while, then the salt and humidity started to create problems. 

Stupid little things started to go wrong and I once again became Joe Handyman. Light fixtures rusted. Light sockets corroded. Door locks seized. Door hinges stiffened. Taps seized up with mineral deposits. It’s a never-ending job.

Dia de Independencia

And some other challenges with living in a foreign country:
The first question our American friends ask is, “What do you do for Medical?” We’re Canadian and we had universal health care back in Canada that we took for granted. But after six months of being outside the country we are no longer eligible for coverage. We thought about health insurance but decided against it. Nobody gets out of life alive. Just think of your grandparents, they didn’t have insurance or health plans.

Revolution Day parade 

About a month after moving one of us developed a high fever and bronchitis. We called the local doctor who immediately came to our house, administered a shot, wrote out a prescription for antibiotics and advised bed-rest for a few days. The bill was five hundred pesos, that’s not a lot of money for fast and caring service. We haven’t met any zillionaire doctors in Mexico.

The one thing we didn’t realize, until we left our country, was the officials and politicians would lose interest in helping us solve problems. 
Worker making a Flowery Cross for top of casa 

Yes, we get our pensions direct deposited to our Canadian banks, but it is an ongoing war with the bureaucrats. First it was a withholding tax on my pensions, even though we declare any and all income on our Canadian tax returns. Then it was an eighteen-month wait for Lynda’s pensions to be processed because she had to prove exactly what day we left Canada in 2008. We drove 8500 kilometers from BC to Isla Mujeres, and neither the American nor the Mexican border guards are required to stamp our passports. We had to get personal friends (not family!) and past employers to verify the date that we left the country. We finally got that resolved, and now, we are fighting over the withholding tax on Lynda’s pensions.
Flowery Cross Day May 3rd

Over the years we have discovered that a lot of ex-pats don’t tell their respective governments that they are living outside the country. They keep a mailing address in their original country and it simplifies everything. I guess I’m stupid. I have this honestly streak and went by the book. It has cost us dearly in time, money, and frustration.

Another beautiful sunset

Once Canadians leave the country for more than five years, we lose our right to vote in any elections, so now the politicians don’t care at all about our challenges. 

But, we still have the privilege of paying our Canadian income tax every year. 

According to our American friends, they can still vote but the ex-pats votes are only counted in certain circumstances. Either way it is a bit odd.

Would we make the same decision and retire to Mexico? 
Hell yes! It is an amazing country and culture.  Just remember that you need that sense of adventure.

Your family will always be family, and although you won’t be right next door they will still love you, and trust me – they will visit you.


(Lynda’s busy writing Tormenta Isla Book #3 of the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series)

There's Trouble on Isla, Big Trouble!

Book #2 in the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
Available on Amazon e-books $2.99 USD

 Treasure Isla 
Book #1 Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
            $2.99 USD on most e-book distribution systems.

Here are the links:

Friday, September 22, 2017

Mexico – the people come together to overcome recent disasters

We normally write happy stories for this blog, preferring to talk about the good side of living in Mexico. However, with second massive earthquake devastating several cities it didn’t seem appropriate to post a cheerful article about sun, sand and cerveza.

The epicenter of the first earthquake was in the Gulf of Tehuanatepec on the western side of Mexico. It began close to midnight on Thursday September 7th. Registering at 8.1 on the Richter scale it is thought to be the strongest el temblor in the last hundred years and the second strongest quake in Mexico’s history.

It triggered a tsunami, and caused widespread damage in the coastal states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. 

Mango Cafe Help Center - Trish Gump photo
Originally from Oaxaca the owners of the popular Mango Café on Isla Mujeres, Polo Avila and his wife Vicky Alonso Raymundo, set off last Friday with a truck load of blankets and medical supplies for family and friends.

Another islander, Dr. Xhanet Mora was on her way to provide medical assistance for the victims when a second one struck. 

We haven’t heard, but are hoping she has arrived safely.

Yazmin Aguirre and Sean Petty were visiting her family in Mexico City on September 7th and felt the effects.

They were still in Mexico City when the September 19th quake centred one hundred and twenty kilometers away collapsed dozens of buildings and destroyed the municipal infrastructure. Yazmin and Sean have contacted family and friends via social media to say they were safe.

Fifteen people died when the nearby Popocatépetl volcano erupted following the earthquake. Government officials have said at least twenty-one children and several adults were buried at an elementary school in the city, after it partially collapsed. Five hundred soldiers and Navy marines are among those searching for children and employees still missing.

Ruben Chavez Martinez, the owner of Ruben’s Restaurante here on Isla Mujeres, flew home with suitcases loaded with medical supplies. 

Ruben has always had a generous heart, donating food to the orphanage and raising money for Isla’s disadvantaged children.

TV Isla Mujeres - Civil Protection volunteers 
And a recent post from my neighbour Ronda Winn Roberts on Facebook: “A BIG thanks to Irma, Roselin, Monica, Ofelia, Josue, and Armin!! They left yesterday to spend a week helping the Mexico City earthquake victims.

They're trained personnel from our Civil Protection department who are joining in the work of rescuing victims who may be trapped in the rubble. Putting their lives on the line for their fellow countrymen: Armín Ariel Tuz Dzul, Josué Amílcar Ravell Barrera, Ofelia Ayala Figueroa, Mónica Florentina Zúñiga Velázquez, Roselín López Velázquez and Irma Graciela Criollo Pérez. Come home safe & thank you!!”

Novedades de Quintana Roo Cancun rescue dogs and handlers 
There a hundreds of personal stories that over time will come to light. Stories of heroic bravery, strength, sharing, and perseverance. 

The police, army, navy, civil defense, medical professionals, and every able-bodied person are working to find survivors. 

Our thoughts are with these folks, and we wish them well.

CNN photo of September 7th quake
If you can in any small way help out, through islanders like Polo, Ruben, Dr. Mora, or through a charity that you personally trust even small donations are greatly appreciated. 

There are collection locations set up at the Ultramar passenger ferries, at the Chedraui grocery store, and at Ixchel Tat Oos in Centro. 

CRIM Centro de Rehabilitación Integral Municipal on Isla Mujeres is collecting medical and hygiene products, clean clothes, towels, sheets, and blankets.

This is a beautiful country filled with kind, caring people who are doing whatever they can to help out.

Lynda & Lawrie

Friday, September 15, 2017

Isla Mujeres truly is a global village

This last week as three hurricanes and one earthquake were causing havoc in our part of the world we realized that this little island really is an international village. 

We had inquiries from friends in Canada, USA, Scotland, Ireland, France, Norway, Sweden, Australia, and Mexico asking if we were okay.

Big waves from Hurricane Irma in Florida
“Yes,” we replied, “we’ll be fine. The hurricanes were a hundred or more miles east of us, and the earthquake was on the other side of Mexico.”

As fortunate as we were, it was devastating for the folks who were directly in the path of nature’s fury.

We, in turn, contacted our various friends who live in Texas, Florida, and the western side of Mexico, checking to see if everything was okay with them. With the exception of Graeme in Texas, who has been a friend of the Lock family since the 1960’s, they are all people we have met since we moved to Isla Mujeres in 2008. They are an eclectic mix of full-time residents, part-time residents, frequent visitors, or first-time vacationers.

Pierogi in his storm poncho
We smiled to hear that Charles and Mary Simpson were visiting mutual acquaintances in Oregon. They had recently moved to the Tampa Florida area to be closer to the family but were well away from the hurricane when it landed. 

We giggled at the photos Alexis and Darren posted on Facebook of Pierogi in his storm poncho. Pierogi is a lovable island rescue-mutt that relocated to Florida about a year ago with his new family. An accident amputated one foot when Pierogi was a baby, but he can still run like the wind on the remaining stump and his three good feet. Sparky still misses his tall, playful friend.

We also contacted one of our favourite authors A.E. (Allie) Howe and Melanie Howe in Tallahassee Florida. 

He writes the Larry Macklin Mystery Series and his wife, Melanie, does the editing. 

Between them, they produce humorous, fast-paced mysteries that we devour within hours of purchasing. 

There are eight books in the series, and four more planned, with a new one June’s Trouble scheduled to be released soon. 

I can hardly wait!
Moored boat sunk by higher than normal tides
I mentioned in my email to Allie and Melanie that I was currently working on Book #3 of my Isla Mujeres Mystery Series. It takes place in September and it includes a hurricane. 

They thought that was pretty funny because according to Howe the last book in his series is called September’s Fury, and it includes a hurricane. Perhaps between the two of us writing about monster storms we tempted the Caribe god of evil, Hurican, just a little too much.

Beach closed due to large waves the day before
On the island, the most surprising thing about Hurricane Irma was the amount of water that was pushed our way, past the outer islands, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba to create huge waves that battered the eastern shoreline and flooded the bays. We didn’t get the wind, just big breakers that were high enough for several surfing enthusiasts to enjoy. The waves have eroded the friable sand and coral cliffs in some areas and littered the beaches with debris and seaweed, but overall they were dramatically beautiful, not deadly.

15-foot tall monster waiting for the perfect wave

We have one personal bit of good news / bad news resulting from the storm. The huge, derelict navigational buoy that has been laying on the beach in front of our house since October 7th, 2014, broke loose and floated free. It rolled and crashed back and forth in the surf for two days, causing a fair bit of worry about where it land. Inside our casa? Or in our neighbours’ casa?

The good news is; we don’t have to stare at its rusting carcass. The bad news is; it is directly in front of our neighbours Bruce and Ronda’s house and more of a hazard now that it doesn’t have a rocky outcropping to prevent it from rolling up the beach. Before the storm, our Ronda was attempting to obtain permission to have it cut up and dismantled. Her Spanish is a hundred times better than mine so she’s talking to the authorities. The buoy is federal property, and it’s a very complicated situation.
Playa Centro - high water tide line and junk

Other than that, everything is back to normal on the island. Bright sunny skies, hot humid days, and a light breeze.

It’s a perfect day to enjoy a cold beverage and toast our friends scattered around the world. Thank you for checking on us. And in turn, we are happy those who were involved in the recent ordeals are safe.

Cheers from paradise,

Lynda & Lawrie
And the rest of the zoo; Sparky, Max, and E.B. the Cat.


There's Trouble on Isla, Big Trouble!

Book #2 in the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
Available on Amazon e-books $2.99 USD

 Treasure Isla 
Book #1 Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
            $2.99 USD on most e-book distribution systems.

Here are the links:

Friday, September 8, 2017

What did I give up to live in Paradise?

Lawrie and Sparky, watching a Seahawks game.  
Well, certainly not NFL football! 

We were pleasantly surprised after moving to Isla to discover a large number of NFL supporters and some very avid supporters at that. 

On the island, there are several personal golf carts decorated with team colours, decals and flags. Many ex-pats proudly wear their team shirts and hang banners from their homes.

By far the largest number of fans support the Green Bay Packers. Being surrounded by a hundred or so Packers’ addicts can be a bit overwhelming for the half-dozen or so Seahawks fans, especially if our team is ahead in the scoring. 

Green Bay fans
Probably the most ardent fans are the folks whose brown and white house is named Casa Bahia Verde after their favourites the Green Bay Packers. Their golf cart is also upholstered in the green and yellow team colours. Go Packers!

The second biggest fan base seems to be for the Steelers. There are at least three golf carts on the island sporting Steelers’ logos. They are a very vocal and fun group in the sports bars.

And speaking of sports bars, Isla has three popular spots that you can count on to have their many televisions tuned to the NFL games.  

Gathering at a private bar Steelers fans - Carlos's FB page
Barlito’s @ Marina Paraiso has a cool palapa bar on the waterfront with lots of televisions to watch your favourite team. 

If you aren’t familiar with their location they are south on Medina Rueda, before the cement plant, and before the school. It’s a great spot hang out and cheer on your team.

Jax Bar & Grill at Super Bowl time - J Walker photo
Jax Bar & Grill, the big bar on the corner of Rueda Medina across from the Privileges Aluxes has most football and baseball games available to patrons. 

Frequently the downstairs televisions will be tuned to one game, and the upstairs to another. Depending on the preferences of the crowd.  

Sign from Nash's Sports Bar - FB page
And last but not least Nash’s Sports Bar on Hidalgo Avenue is a fun place to watch the games and drink really cold beer. It’s a smaller venue, located on busy Hidalgo Avenue with lots of interaction between the street and the bar.

We are Seahawks fans, but we don’t own a television, so we have to go out to the bar to enjoy the games. Oh, darn. That means we will probably have to partake of a drink or two, and if the Hawks win a taxi will be needed to take us home.

By us, I mean Sparky and me, although he is a non-drinker he can’t drive the golf cart because his paws won’t reach the gas pedal. Lynda and our new pooch, Max, are not football fans. They like to stay home and enjoy a quiet evening.

Dave just might be a Steelers' fan

There are probably other locations where the NFL games are available, but sometimes the programming is at the whim of the staff. You might find boxing or soccer (known as football in most other countries of the world) instead of NFL games. Just ask, if the bar has the channel they might be able to switch to your game.

So, don’t worry about giving up football when you come to Isla. 

Find your favourite spot, kick back, and enjoy the game while relaxing in paradise.

Lawrie and Sparky

(It’s the guys turn to write!)

Trouble Isla
did you get into Trouble yet?

$2.99 USD on Kindle e-books

Amazon Review for Trouble Isla
5.0 out of 5 stars!
Engaging Page Turner!
By Isla Breeze on August 29, 2017
Kindle Edition / Verified Purchase
TROUBLE ISLA picks up at a fast pace with mystery, romance, adventure and excitement which are all brought together in a continuation of TREASURE ISLA.
Taking place on the small island off the coast of Cancun, called Isla Mujeres, those who visit and live there feel as though they are part of the story, knowing the many places and events depicted.
Even if you are not familiar with the island, it is a fun and captivating book. A must read!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Dentaris, Cancun: The Rock-Star Treatment

A long, black limousine arrives at the passenger ferry terminal and slides to a silent stop beside me. 

The uniformed driver exits the vehicle and sweeps open the rear door, indicating that I should enter the cool interior of the car. 

As I settle myself, his gloved hand passes me a tall glass of cold champagne. Ah, the life of a celebrity!

Lynda & Marcos - more fun than a limo.
Okay, I admit it. It’s a fantasy. But if I squint one eye at the gray mini-van stopped ten feet away and the smiling man beckoning me to hop into the front seat, it could almost qualify as a limousine ride. 

The temperature inside the vehicle is cooler than the stifling heat outside, but alas there is no offer of a frosty glass of bubbly.

My driver, Marcos, works for Dentaris in Cancun. It’s a company that specializes in dental vacations. You can get your dental work done, in between tanning and quaffing margaritas. 

Marcos shuttles patients from their hotels, the airport, or at any of the passenger ferry docks to their clinic on Bonampak Avenue in Cancun.
Antony de Sousa & Alejandra Moreno 
My journey to Dentaris started a few days back with a raging pain in my jaw that spiked through one eye and into my brain, making coherent thought impossible. I posted on the Isla Mujeres Residents Facebook page asking for recommendations for a dentist and received at least ten replies, the majority listing Dentaris as the best. After a few back and forth emails and I was able to get an appointment for the following afternoon.

When Marcos and I arrived at the address on Bonampak he escorted me to the second floor via the elevator. We entered the clean, modern reception area where I was greeted in English by the Office Manager Alejandra Moreno and Antony de Sousa. I didn’t have to stumble through my limited amount of Spanglish to communicate my problem.
Rubi and Dr. Joaquin Berron at Dentaris

Ten minutes later I met Doctor Joaquin Berron who started this Cancun dental practice in 1992. He is a former professor at the Louisiana State University and the Coordinator of the Implant and Prosthetic Fellowship. Dr. Berron commuted regularly between the two cities for many years to attend to his patients before deciding to concentrate his time in Cancun.

Without getting too icky-graphic about things, Dr. Berron discovered that I have an excessive amount of what I call that-hard-bony-stuff, Torus mandibularis, inside my mouth. It makes inserting the materials for standard x-rays difficult, boarding on painfully impossible. He recommended a CT scan of my lower jaw.

“Okay,” I tentatively agreed. I had never heard of CT scans for dental work. “But, how long will I have to wait for that?” I was worried about waiting additional hours, or perhaps days to get an appointment.

“Marcos will drive you over to the clinic right now, and he will wait while they do the procedure. He will then drive you back here. So, maybe thirty minutes in total.”
CT Scans for dental work
And off we go, with me still hinting for a glass of champagne. Just to ease my pain, of course. Marcos just grins at me.

True to Doctor Berron’s description, the entire procedure was just slightly over thirty minutes. I was impressed by the speed and efficiency of the clinic. The fun part was looking at my jaw in 3-D on the technician’s computer. I’m easily entertained by swirling colourful images and new technology.

Back at Dentaris the doctor did the necessary procedure on my problem tooth. He gave me a prescription for antibiotics and asked me to return in five days. Marcos was occupied with other clients, so Alejandra was my designated driver. She offered to stop at a nearby low-cost pharmacy where I could fill the prescription. Within ten minutes we were on our way to the Ultramar terminal. From my front door and back again including the two procedures, CT scan, and root canal, it took me a total of four hours and I am by now relatively pain-free.

3-D image of lower jaw
Five days later I had a second appointment to put a temporary filling into the tooth. Same deal only this time Lawrie came with me. Marcos met us at the Ultramar terminal and drove us to the clinic. A brief visit with Doctor Berron and his assistant Rubi while they completed the procedure and I’m done until the final appointment a week later.

When we told Marcos we weren’t going straight back to the passenger terminal because we wanted to go to Costco he offered to drop us off there instead. Perfect! We waved goodbye to Marcos and headed into the cool depths of the mega-store to stock up on a few of our little treats that we can’t get at our island grocery store.

So far my appointments with Dentaris have been the best ever dental experience. Free pickup and return. Friendly professional staff: Alejandra, Antony, Marcos, Rubi, Cori, Dr. Joaquin Berro, Dr. Hilda Navarro, Dr. Mario Bertran, Dr. Eduardo Salcido, and Don Luis who is now retiredA clean, well-equipped clinic, and affordable prices. And both times I have run into island friends. It’s like old-home-week. 

Here’s is their contact information: Phone number: 998 887 2579

Alejandra says, “We love to take care of our patients like our own family.”  

Give them a try. They are good!

Lynda & Lawrie

There's Trouble on Isla, Big Trouble!

Book #2 in the Isla Mujeres Mystery Series
Available on Amazon e-books $2.99 USD

New Year’s Eve is a magical time on Isla Mujeres, especially this year after the stormy events of the past few months. After their chaotic hunt for the pirate treasure, and a close encounter with a serial killer Kirk Patterson, Yasmin and Jessica deserve a lady’s night out.
Hung over from a night on the town, it is late in the afternoon before Yasmin starts to worry that her boyfriend Carlos hasn’t been seen all day. And then the texts start coming:
“Give me what I want!”

Buy your copy here!  Trouble Isla on Amazon

       Book #1 Treasure Isla 
            $2.99 USD on most e-book distribution systems.

Here are the links:

Treasure Isla on Amazon

Treasure Isla on Smashwords

Treasure Isla on Kobo Books

Treasure Isla on iTunes

Treasure Isla on Barnes & Noble Nook