Quarantine Penpals

7 Mar
Sunday Sunrise

I had a pen pal in fifth grade. I wish I could say that we still write to each other. I would have a story worthy of the evening news. Truth be told, I don’t remember much of our penship, not even where she lived or how long we corresponded.

Letter to my father.

When attending college in Mexico in the seventies, I wrote a letter to my father. I found it among his things when he died. A keepsake for sure. He had written a letter to me that I responded to. I wish I still had it.

Do we even know how to write?

For awhile I lived in Okinawa, Japan. It was the eighties, before smart phones, computers and instant communication. I hand wrote letters on blue, tri-fold airmail paper. They took awhile to arrive stateside but the fifteen hour time difference made phone calls challenging.

In the time of Covid I have nurtured a few pen pal relationships. One is with a guy I met on our cruise to the Panama Canal a year ago. He and his wife hung out with us on board and we knew they would be good travel companions. Dan likes to write. He sends missives that are entertaining and detailed. He is a good storyteller and together we exchange our lives in lockdown.

Panama City

Someday they will come to Mexico. Perhaps when we are all vaccinated. When Covid cases are manageable and when we can hug each other and go out. Won’t that be grand?

DOS TORTAS

Like Broccoli Only White

28 Feb

This week was my birthday. We went out to dinner Friday night to one of the new little restaurants popping up in Bacalar. Per a recommendation by our local residential list serve, we heard they had vegan options and good prices,. We dandied up a bit and headed the three miles into town.

A Xolo is a hairless Mexican dog which dates back to the Aztecs.

I am a person who would almost always choose to eat at home, but Lisa needed a break, and Alice insisted on paying, so off we went.

Happy birthday to me.

When I asked the waiter, in Spanish, what was in the vegan tacos, he replied, “cauliflower, it’s like broccoli only white “. I thought I would fall off my chair laughing. He clearly doesn’t have a lot of experience with vegetables! The tacos were delicious with their hecho a mano, handmade blue corn tortillas. I would definitely go back. The music wasn’t too loud. The food was tasty and I’m still laughing.

DOS TORTAS

It’s Not About the Words

23 Feb

I’ve always been a word person. In seventh grade Mr. Oldfield taught us to diagram sentences…verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, gerunds. The more complicated the sentence, the more I liked it.

When registering for high school classes, the counselor signed me up for a semester of Latin. I had no idea why. I was so lost in that class. I passed the course by copying test answers from the girl next to me. It took me a long time to understand that taking Latin was one of the best things I ever did and that I actually learned a lot. Not only is Latin the basis for English but made learning Spanish that much easier. I don’t think schools offer Latin anymore.

Even though I loved words, I never understood how to write a term paper. Classes at the University of Texas had a strong writing component. The teaching assistant would return my scribbling with suggestions for improvement marked in red. I made corrections and returned the paper as many times as it took to have an acceptably finished product. I was learning.

Graduate school and a job as a grant writer further developed my abilities. The final outcome was a love of writing. I do my best to hone my craft and produce a blog that tells a story. I am a work in progress.

So that’s the written word. What about spoken? My poor wife frequently looks at me in confusion. She is more of a statistical, black and white thinker. All my finely crafted communications leave her befuddled and give her a headache. It’s a wonder we’ve made it twenty-five years.

Last night I had a dream. An ethereal woman appeared to me and stated clearly, “it’s not about the words, it’s about the feelings.” The message shone through. People don’t feel loved, understood, and accepted by my well diagrammed sentences. I use words to protect myself and distance myself from people. They also make me feel smart. I guess it’s time for less thinking and more heart, a skill I’m willing to develop.

DOS TORTAS

A Very Different Sort Of Weekend

21 Feb

Last week, I was hugging the toilet and not after a night of debauchery in Cancun. Truthfully I’ve never been a debauchery kind of gal, but back in my youthful days, when guys in Mexico would keep the drinks coming, I learned about alcohol the hard way.

Celebrating my 21 birthday in Mexico. Heading out for a night on the town with my best girl.

Now, after living a sedate retired life in Mexico for seven years, I’ve never been this sick. And I’m still not sure what caused the intestinal upset, fever, etc. A course of antibiotics seems to be doing the trick and upping our hygienic game is in the cards. We buy all our produce in a small town mercado. It was probably only a matter of time, although outbreaks of things I can’t pronounce occur in the US food chain all the time.

A lovely small town market in Bacalar.

Wednesday I left for the much postponed trip to the US Consulate in Playa del Carmen, to renew my expired passport. The bus ride was quiet and socially distant. The required masks contributed to the tranquility and I curled up and slept most of the four hour trip.

First trip out in a pandemic.

The little boutique hotel that I had booked turned out to be a real gem. The room was $45US and included a full-on off the menu breakfast. My stomach was finally starting to accept food and I enjoyed it immensely.

House of the Flowers
Seafood soup for dinner. Very typical Mexican food.

Playa was hopping and the little I got to see hobbling around on my still painful ankle was mostly mask-less. Turning my paperwork in at the consulate was the easiest and least painful part of the trip. I’m now sitting in the bus station waiting for the return trip to Bacalar. If I had postponed yet again, I probably would have been able to enjoy myself more. And against the voices in my head, the consulate wouldn’t have cared a bit. Oh well, live and learn.

DOS TORTAS

Happy VD 2021

14 Feb

No blog today folks. I am very….very…very…sick.

Keep the faith.

A Smile And A Shrug

7 Feb

Last summer, to occupy the time of quarantine, I mailed art-cards to friends and family. I painted post card sized pictures and mailed them in Bacalar. It’s a fun way to connect and let my grandchildren and others know that I’m thinking about them.

Nights in the 50s have been a delight.

This past week I began to hear from card receivers, my brother, niece, a cousin. Frankly I had mailed the cards and forgotten about them.

I knew that mail from Mexico took its own sweet time, but eight months!

Every few weeks, I routinely stop by our tiny post office and check our mailbox #16. This week, I casually mentioned to the post master, who is quite familiar with my mailing habits, that the cards I mailed in May had just arrived in the US. He gave me a Mona Lisa smile and shrugged. I laughed and went on my way. The trouble is, you can’t have it both ways. That shrug can be both maddening and charming, depending on the job you need to complete, or the deadline you must make.

This week I registered myself and my mother-in-law for a Covid vaccine. The over 60 crowd is up right after medical first responders. Hopefully the appointments will arrive sooner than my postcards. Fingers crossed.

DOS TORTAS

Garlic Soup (Sopa de Ajo)

31 Jan

Making garlic soup is about as close to comfort food as it gets for me. I have always used it for medicinal purposes as well as a very yummy meal. Just add crusty bread and you have heaven.

Oaxacan sculptor Josefina Aguilera.

I love soup’s versatility and lack of fussiness. There really isn’t a recipe. Sometimes it’s an “empty out the refrigerator” soup before going Sunday shopping. Of course that means you have to have a supply of vegetables needing to be eaten. Carrots are a staple.

Crimini mushrooms in Bacalar, a rare find.

For medicinal purposes, I use an entire bulb of garlic. Anywhere between a clove and a fist-full will work. The soup can be made on the stove, in a slow cooker or, my favorite, the Instant pot. However you choose, the intense aroma will fill your house and possibly the entire neighborhood.

I tend toward Italian herbs, but follow your preference.

The soup base can be made from liquid from having steamed vegetables, canned tomatoes, a purchased vegetable cube, or meat if you prefer. Chicken soup is a time honored cure for what ails you. I prefer a vegetable soup.

I love white beans.

If you don’t mind the heat, add an inch of pealed chopped ginger and/or a piece of fresh pepper. I leave the pepper whole so it can be scooped out and not surprise anyone with a mouthful of fire. Living in Mexico, the shop owners laugh when we buy one Serrano pepper. Compared to the locals, we are wusses when it comes to our heat tolerance.

I don’t guarantee that garlic soup can cure Covid, but it sure couldn’t hurt. There has been quite a bit of research to prove its benefit in fighting colds, lowering blood pressure, improving high cholesterol and a myriad of other health challenges. Have fun and do report back your experience.

DOS TORTAS

Art by me. A Mexican cocina.

Imagine All The People Living Life in Peace

17 Jan

The year nineteen-seventy (1970) began a shiny new decade. It was the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius, which was also the theme for my high school prom and the year I graduated. We would have had our fiftieth reunion this past year if not for Covid.

Year book graduation picture 1970
The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius
My mother bought the gloves. I never wore them again.

The Vietnam War was in full swing. Nightly news was full of student sit-ins, protest marches, women’s liberation, Stonewall (1969) and Kent State (1970). As a budding adult, I never participated in anything that turned violent.

March on Washington 1967

The large march I did attend in New York City (1971) involved chanting anti-war slogans and passing around a bottle of Snaups. I felt very grown up. Richard Nixon was president.

Anthem for a troubled time. John Lennon 1971

I know that not all protests at that time were peaceful and I’m sure some folks wanted to overthrow the government. For the most part it was the PEACE movement, identified by rainbow colors, long hair, pot smoking and lots of sex.

Our senior class trip to Washington DC. North Hunterdon Regional High School Class of 1970

These and many more are the memories that have been swirling around my head as I have been glued to the evening news, appalled at the images of armed rioters storming the halls of our nation’s capitol. If I avert my eyes, it feels like they’ll get away with it, which I know is not true. My first step in extricating myself from the drama is to quit talking about it. I will pass on all the salacious details of arrests that only raise my blood pressure. It’s time to join John Lennon and “Imagine” living life in peace. If only the crazies would stay home!

DOS TORTAS

https://youtu.be/L6svOHFSAH8

The Best Laid Plans

10 Jan

On Monday of this week, the cast came off my broken leg (Taking Staying Home To A Whole New Level). I had been counting the days, hours, minutes… I had it in my head that I would be able to start walking and getting my life back. How silly am I?

My passport (Living On Borrowed Time) had expired in mid-December and I admit to some anxiety about being without a valid passport while living in Mexico, in the time of Covid. My renewal appointment for April was canceled outright due to the shut down. Finally in December I got a date that I had to postpone after breaking my left fibula. It was only a small break, nothing dramatic. So why was I still in pain four weeks later and wanting to rip the cast off with my teeth!

I rescheduled with the US Consulate for January seventh. I would travel by bus to Playa del Carmen, a couple of hours away. I would spend the night and give myself plenty of time to take a taxi and be at the appointment by noon. Sounds like a plan, right? Crutches be damned.

Sometimes my life feels totally upside down.

Only I didn’t count on the level of discomfort I’d still be in when the cast came off. I must have sprained my ankle pretty badly on top of the fracture. It’s still swollen and bruised. No weight bearing for two more weeks. That didn’t keep me from plowing ahead with my plans. Hotel reserved, check. Bus ticket purchased, check.

https://youtu.be/BEyjS69ZEIQ Hotel Maria Bonita

On Wednesday morning my beloved spouse sat me down and informed me in her most loving, sincere tone, that I was out of my mind. I wanted to object, be right, and revolt, but that small voice that I so wanted to ignore, knew she was right.

How many times has this happened?

We’ve arrived at this place in our relationship after twenty-six years where we trust each other. She’s got my back. I also know that my stupid decisions aren’t without consequences to her. I know I’m selfish, but I try not to be insane. So the best laid plans were cancelled, again. The consulate will reschedule and I’ll have more time to heal. The blog I had hoped to write for today was postponed as well. Oh well, it’s not like any of us are going anywhere any time soon.

DOS TORTAS

This Time Last Year

3 Jan

The world was a very different place ringing in the New Year 2020. Lisa and I were on the trip of a lifetime, celebrating our 25th Anniversary and Lisa’s recovery from two surgeries (cervical and heart) in 2019.

Ringing in 2020, we were onboard the cruise ship Azamara fulfilling a lifelong dream of traveling through the Panama Canal. Little did we know until much later how we dodged the Covid bullet that stranded many people cruising all around the world. Luckily we disembarked January 5, just in time.

Should old acquaintance…🍾🎤🎼🎺
Conga line extraordinaire.

New Year’s Eve was spent positioned off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was the most amazing blowout celebration we’ve ever been part of, fireworks and dancing, and the last time we dressed up for ANYTHING.

2020 was an opportunity to stay home, reconnect and remember what is important. We worked at not complaining and finding joy in the small things. There will always be ups and downs. Certainly a worldwide pandemic was not on anyone’s playlist. I appreciate seeing the optimism for 2021. Myself, I will continue to keep my expectations low. I’m not sure we’ll be cruising any time soon, or ever again, and that’s just fine.

DOS TORTAS

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