The Kayaker Or The Photographer

4 Dec img_5269

I knew a professional photographer who wanted to take his own fiftieth birthday portrait. He set the scene with a throne, crown and regal cape to mark his auspicious anniversary. Setting up to take the shot with his foot, he expressed frustration. When taking the picture, he became the photographer and was no longer the king. He had to get someone else to capture his royal essence.

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This morning I set off early to enjoy the sunrise from one of my favorite places, my little blue kayak floating peacefully in the middle of Laguna Bacalar. The morning was cool. We had rain overnight and the sun was beginning to show on the horizon.

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Love the clouds ☁️

I pushed off as quietly as possible. Sound carries and everyone was still asleep.

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Our house a small seen from the Laguna.

As much as I wanted to capture the beauty that I was experiencing and share it with you, I had to put the camera down and simply be. We are so used to seeing the world through a lens and “sharing” it through any number of social media sites that it’s easy to miss the experience entirely.

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I hope you enjoy the pictures I did take, but the seabirds soaring overhead, the changing colors and the breeze will be stored forever in my memory. Make your own memories today.

DOS TORTAS

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Go Directly To Jail – Do Not Pass Go – Do Not Collect $200

27 Nov img_5208

This week The Tortas traveled from Mexico to Florida to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday with  family. Passing through US customs should be a snap right? It can be, unless you forget to eat the apple.

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“Where’s the woman with the apple?”

The sign at the Miami airport said to be sure to declare any food in our bags. They made it sound so friendly that we told the agent, rather than act surprised if our wayward apple got discovered during inspection. We were surprised alright, just not in the way we expected.

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Stock photo but it looks just like this.

What followed taught us a huge lesson. NEVER leave food in your bag while crossing into the US from anywhere. Stay calm, do not get angry or indignant. Insert “yes sir or yes ma’m” into the conversation at every opportunity. Oh, and stay calm.

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The issue was resolved thanks to the “Washington” agricultural sticker on the apple and a bit of groveling on Lisa’s part. There were many people who weren’t so lucky.

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The TORTAS hanging out with our son.

The rest of our vacation has gone without incident. Key Largo looks a lot like Bacalar. The weather was perfect. It’s always a joy to visit with family. We’ll be home tomorrow. Gratitude, blessings and happy holidays to all.

DOS TORTAS 

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A Chance Encounter

20 Nov img_5100

In the months before our 2013 retirement to Mexico, I met a man who got on my commuter bus in Austin, Texas. He was over six feet tall, African American with striking white hair. Ben greeted the bus driver by name and many of the passengers. My job had just changed locations and this was a new route for me. Little did I know what an interesting fellow he was with escape plans similar to our own. A lovely friendship ensued.

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Stock photo from the Cap Metro website.

I looked forward to our daily chats on the ride home from our respective government jobs. He was a number cruncher for the State Insurance Commission and I worked for the Department of State Health Services.

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The roof going on our house.

Ben retired a few months before I did and set off for Peru. He had done his homework and found a furnished room that would serve as home-base for his many travels. Lisa and I got busy with our own adventures and communication all but ceased.

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One of the many pictures we received from Ben.

Last year I received news and photos from his epic around-the-world-trip. May to October 2015. Lima, Peru to Miami, New York, Helsinki, St.Petersberg, Moscow, Japan, Beijing, Houston, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, New York, Miami and back to Lima. Whew! We were up to our eyeballs building our dream home, and a bit jealous of his freedom.

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My friend Ben with a native fisherman on a Japanese island.

This week I was very pleased to receive an email from Ben asking how we were and how life was treating us. What a pleasant surprise! After a year in Peru, he is leaving soon for East Africa and a forty-county tour that, as he put it, “may take the rest of my life to complete”.

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What an amazing man. I am so grateful for our chance meeting three years ago. Hopefully his world travels will bring him to Mexico. Wouldn’t you love to be a fly on the wall for that visit?!

DOS TORTAS

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The Taco Truck In The Room

13 Nov img_4987

Watergate, the scandal that brought down the 37th US president, Richard M. Nixon was at its peak during my junior year abroad in Mexico. All the news I received was filtered through an expatriate viewpoint. I saw almost no US television.

I arrived in Mexico City in September 1973 with the plan to return home by Christmas. You know what they say about the best laid plans.

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Teotihuacan near Mexico City 1973

I fell head over heals living with a Mexican family, traveling by bus and train to pyramids, markets and museums. I decided to stay, study intensive Spanish and continue my travels. I was in heaven.

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Making tamales for my 22nd birthday with my Mexican family and housemate Brian.

It must have been difficult for my parents to understand my youthful enthusiasm. One day I was relating a phone conversation I’d had with my father to one of my teachers. Dad had asked me why I was hiding out in Mexico. My teacher’s response was, “tell him it’s one of the better places to hide out.”

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My parents Bernice and Ken Hoeft. My mother starved herself to fit into this dress.

I cannot blog this week without addressing the taco truck in the room, the US presidential election.The outcome has resulted in a difficult week with many people looking for a place to hide out. I wish I had something pithy or inspirational to say. I believe that difficult times can result in immense personal growth. One way that I contribute to this mess is to refuse to listen to people with different views from my own. I am dismissive and tend to gravitate to like minded souls. It’s time to stand in the flames and really listen to each other. There’s a lot of pain in our country and we will not learn to love each other and heal if we avert our eyes.

DOS TORTAS

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A Blast From the Past

6 Nov img_4911

Inspiration for a weekly blog can show up in the most unexpected places. Yesterday I found a 2014 Facebook message from a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in fifty-five years. What followed surprised even me!

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Carolyn and I were best friends, attached at the hip so to speak. We had sleepovers and ate at each other’s houses. Her family gave me perspective on life. They were different from us, more relaxed. We were a large Catholic family with lots of rules, restrictions and guilt. They were not.

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The day I received Holy Communion.

I remember Carolyn’s family had an in-ground swimming pool. There was a sign that said, Don’t Pee in the Pool. I felt very uncomfortable looking at that sign. We did not say the word pee in our house.

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Two of my siblings and myself in front of our childhood home.

Just this past week I had told a story that included a memory of Carolyn’s home. When the original version of King Kong (Fay Wray 1933) came on television, my father decreed it too scary and not for young children, at least not his children.

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Anything forbidden is all the more desirable. I remember surreptitiously watching King Kong in Carolyn’s living room, sure that I would go to hell and willing to take the risk.

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I had to do some digging to find these old photos. None of Carolyn.

Last night, we messaged each other, back and forth, fingers flying, updates on our lives, pictures of the grandchildren, and forgotten memories. It truly was a blast from the past.

I love how life can surprise. It makes us get out of bed in anticipation of what is in store today. A lovely way to live. DOS TORTAS

“Life has had its share of ups and downs, some BIG, some small, but I can say I have never even been happier than I am now.” Carolyn

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A Friday Night In Smalltown Mexico

30 Oct img_4866

What is there to do for a retired expat on Friday night in a sleepy little Mexican town, far from the nightlife of Cancun and Playa del Carmen? While my wife was enjoying an evening of gringo poker, I thought I’d take myself out for dinner and a walk around the park to see what’s shaking in Bacalar.

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The gazebo in the heart of downtown Bacalar.

It was early by Mexican standards. Families would be out as soon as the sun went down and the evening cooled. Vendors were setting up shop, probably looking forward to the Day of the Dead activities next week. Memorial alters will be on display around the park featuring candy skulls, family photos and lots of marigolds. It is an annual competition and a huge draw that brings people into town to participate or view. There were few tourists about this evening and sales were slim pickings.

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The first vegan restaurant in Bacalar.

I ambled over to El Mango y Chile. I very much want to support local entrepreneurs who try new things that bring flavor to Bacalar. Dani and Jesús, the owners, are go-getters and the food is yummy. They also have a food blog mangoychile.com with lots of healthy Mexican dishes.

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A lovely patio overlooking the Laguna.

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Someone out on a sunset sail.

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A street dog with sweet eyes and a thumpy tail was under a table. I want to take them all home.

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The classic “burger” that come with the best fries in Bacalar.

My dinner was yummy. The location is perfect and I hope the restaurant thrives. No walk about is complete without a stop at one of several new heladerías that have popped up around the square.

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A must stop for any and all visitors. The owner is Mr. Personality and fun to talk to in English or Spanish.

Cappuccino ice cream was the choice this evening before I caught a taxi home. There is probably more action in some of the bars if one is looking for it. I do wish that there were live music and a dance venue, but that would require us to stay up past 9:00. I would consider it, believe me, except in Bacalar, nothing starts until 9:00. Ah, for a night of youthful energy once a week. I don’t think it’s asking too much, do you?

DOS TORTAS visit us on Instagram at dos_tortas

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Home Sweet Bacalar

23 Oct img_4812

Returning to Bacalar, the Laguna of Seven Colors, along the Costa Maya of southern Mexico after two and a half weeks in Northern California has been bittersweet. I loved seeing our grandson daily. His eyes lighting up when he saw me was wonderful beyond words. We read books, went for walks and ate Nana-made concoctions for lunch. It is a grandparents’ lament whether you live in the States, Mexico or anywhere the young ones are not.

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Blueberry smoothie for breakfast, yum. Even this picky eater couldn’t resist. Score one for Nana.

Returning to Bacalar has been noticeably quieter than a home with an eleven month old. Residents have a reprieve before high season brings tourists and snow birds. There is less income for locals, restaurants and hotels, but more peace.

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Favorite restaurant El Manatí got a facelift while I was gone.

Weather is divine, upper 60’s (20C) at night and 80’s (31C) during the day with an afternoon shower to keep the garden green with splashes of color.

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Blooms start out white and actually turn pink! Amazing.

Cutting from a cactus that will get very tall.

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Bird of paradise in bloom.

September completed our first year living in our lovely home. We are enjoying the tranquility and continue to marvel at the life we have created. What is in our crystal ball? A family reunion in November and trip to Texas in the spring. For now we are loving everyday from striking sunrise to breathtaking sunset.

DOS TORTAS

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The Joy of Spanglish

16 Oct Featured Image -- 5418

While I journey back to Bacalar on this lovely Sunday, please enjoy this creative blog on the joys of living in Mexico.

Mexico Retold

I love speaking Spanglish. Actually, I am not sure if that is true because most of the time I don’t even realise that I am speaking Spanglish, so can I  really say that I love it? I find it very helpful to be able to speak Spanglish with friends because some words are simply better for explaining things than others and I want to use those. If these words happen to be in Spanish when I am speaking English then I want to use them, and vice versa. The problem comes when I am around people who are not bilingual. I find myself starting to struggle, I have to think more, I pause more as I speak, mainly because I am searching through my brain for words and phrases that I have stopped using. They are resting far at the back of my brain, taking a siesta if you will.

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I…

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Last Day In California

16 Oct img_4775

Enjoy photos from the art crawl I attended with my kids and grandson on my last day in California. It was a rainy day so we didn’t get to many studios in Sebastopol. Time to get home to Bacalar. The blog will be back to normal, whatever that is, next week. 

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A neighborhood of yard art. The mermaid’s tail is made of can lids.

Patrick Amiot artist

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I want the taco truck!

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Surf’s up.

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Ready for the Day of the Dead.

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Love this one.

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This acrylic artist sure captures dogs.

Mylette Welch artist.

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So sweet.

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The dog on the bottom left reminds me of Luna.

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Baby Max.

DOS TORTAS

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Nana’s Visit To California

9 Oct img_4698

Visiting friends, children and grandchildren in the States is a bittersweet part of retirement life in Mexico. Please enjoy a few pictures while I head out this morning to car shop with my daughter and her husband during my vacation to Northern California.

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Taking selfies with dear friends.

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Riding in the back seat with Maxwell.

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A fun time taking pictures at the pumpkin patch.

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The children’s museum.

Max is a great one handed walker who took seven steps to Grandma Lisa on Skype last night. Lisa is holding down the fort in Bacalar. We have a new fence going up while I’m gone.

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A grainy photo of the new privacy fence between us and the neighbors.

In an effort to settle the ongoing conflict with our neighbors, we have put up a fence to keep Luna in and curious eyes out. We now have a small stretch of privacy fence that will have a planter with lovely vines along it. (See Standoff With The Neighbors-How It’s Done In Mexico)

DOS TORTAS

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