Can You “Plan” Adventure? But Of Course

15 Jan img_3627

We have been in our little house along the coast of beautiful Laguna Bacalar in the tropics of Southern Mexico for a little more than a year. The walls have been settling around us. Our gardens are bursting with color from a long rainy season. Life is good.

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Waking every morning to an amazing sunrise.

We left our life in Austin, Texas and made this extraordinary move in 2013 with certain pre-conceived ideas that were completely subconscious. Traveling and living in a foreign country is a great way to hold up a mirror to one’s assumptions. Here are some things that surprised us about our new life.

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Orchid like flowers blooming in the jungle. 

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A stone cross found in Valladolid, Yucatán. 

It’s not as easy to take off for the weekend and travel as we had imagined.

This may be a no-brainer for you but dogs are a lot of work. When we adopted Luna, our first dog ever, she was a throw away street puppy. We didn’t really think through all the ways she would impact our lives. Everyone told us, you HAVE to have a dog. Of course we adore her, but like every other relationship, there are inconveniences.

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A sad little puppy who needed a home.

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Lisa and Luna enjoying tour of the lake.

Leaving our house unattended for more than a day or two is not a good idea. There is crime of opportunity, much like in the US or anywhere else in the world. An empty house is a big opportunity. Since we have chosen not to live with bars on the windows, having a house sitter is the way to go. Finding the right someone takes time. Travel is less spontaneous than we had hoped. Another inconvenience.

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The front of the house.

We have also turned into the proverbial home bodies. The view from the porch is to die for. We can swim and kayak in our back “yard”. The food (my cooking) is the best and our bed is supremely comfy.

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So the “Adventures” of Dos Tortas has been looking more like the laid-back, staid life of Dos Tortas. We are not complaining.

As of today, I am happy to report there are adventures in the planning. Can you “plan” adventures? Stay tuned. We’ll try to step it up a bit.

DOS TORTAS

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My Fixation On Guadalupe

8 Jan img_5538

Apparently I have at least one image of The Virgin of Guadalupe in every room in the house. I did not do it intentionally. As a matter of fact, I did not even realize how much she graced our home until our recent guest pointed it out. How on earth did that happen?!

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A gift from my sister-in-law, at home in the living room in her own niche.

A bit of herstory, I was raised Catholic and about age 16 turned my back on it all and refused to even go to church. My mother was crushed.

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An original  watercolor by my friend Cat hangs in my studio.

For most of the years that followed, I refused to think much about religion. In the 80’s I developed an interest in women’s spirituality. Books such as The Mists of Avalon, The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, The Spiral Dance, charged women with seeking the holy feminine. Goddesses from around the globe, Brigid (Celtic), Artemis (Greek), Diana (Roman), Kali (Hindu) and many more replaced the dominant concept of God the Father. I loved the idea of God the Mother and irreverent as I am, resonated supremely with Guadalupe and her vulvar shape.

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Stock photo.

Slowly and over time, my life filled with Guadalupes.

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Pantry wall hanging by Alison Schockner, San Antonio fiber artist and dear friend.

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Every house needs at least one refrigerator magnet.

 

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Bathroom window.

One of the my most cherished spaces is the groto that greets visitors at the top of our stairs. It was built by our contractor David Gowen-Smith. My mother gave me the statue.

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If you think that I have become a bit over the top loca, you could be right. Before you decide, watch the Netflix documentary “Marias-Faith In Womanhood”. It is difficult to describe the connection I have with Guadalupe, but I am clearly not alone.

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This large wooden relief from Yucatán has a prominent place on our patio.

As I seek more spirituality in my life, consciously or unconsciously, Guadalupe plays an important role, front and center. My mother would be so pleased.

DOS TORTAS

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Feliz Año Nuevo Torta Style

1 Jan img_5458

We weren’t big celebrators of Christmas and New Year’s before we immigrated to Mexico. Holiday gatherings had included fewer gifts, less decorations and more food, friends, and family. In fact, Mexico was a needed escape from thle frenzy, traffic and non-stop Christmas music. Can I get an amen?!

We spent today, New Year’s Day with friends on a great boat ride. We had so much fun that we didn’t take many pictures. Muchas gracias to our amiga Harper for sharing hers.

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Friends Barbara and Jean who wanted a boat ride.

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Lisa wishing everyone a Happy New Year.

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Luna gets in on the fun.

Wishing you all peace in 2017 from our house to yours. Remember to have fun and learn stuff. DOS TORTAS

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Encounter Of The Amazing Kind

25 Dec img_5427

When moving to Bacalar, Mexico in 2013, our heads were filled with pyramids, mercados, artesanías, cenotes (crystalline natural wells) and colonial churches. We forgot that sometimes the best part of travel is the people you meet along the way.

Last week during our birthday getaway to the small Costa Maya town of Puerto Morelos (Mexican Expat Life) we were reminded of that other, wonderful aspect of living in Mexico.

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As we enjoyed our rooftop birthday meal before heading out to a special treat, Cirque du Soleil, we were lovingly attended to by the manager of the restaurant La Sirena. As Lisa and I finished dinner and were hurrying to catch our taxi, we made the most amazing discovery.

Last year Lisa had a visit from her long lost friend, Michelle. Off they went to Valladolid to celebrate Michelle’s birthday and experience a taste of Mexico. Along the way, they met a bedraggled traveler who volunteered to carry their luggage from the bus to the hotel. A lovely lunch followed, their treat, as this young man had clearly not had a square meal in awhile.

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Ian, from Ireland, with his lovely brogue had asked at the time how he could repay their kindness. Lisa told him to pay it forward. There is always someone who needs help now and then.

Imagine our delight in meeting up again with Ian in Puerto Morelos. Catching up the next day, we discovered “the rest of the story”. He had met the girl of his dreams, married and now has a six-month old daughter, who’s pictures he lovingly shared. He was as thrilled to connect again with Lisa, as she was with him. Isn’t life a hoot? Happy holidays to all from…

DOS TORTAS

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Mexican Expat Life

18 Dec img_5403

Sometimes adventure is not WHAT you visit, pyramids, churches, mercados, etc. but WHO you meet along the way. Join the TORTAS as we venture out from our home in Bacalar along the Costa Maya to explore parts unknown (at least to us).

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To celebrate a Torta birthday this week, we visited the pueblo of Puerto Morelos nestled between Cancun and Playa del Carmen. Little did we know that this cozy fishing village is an exploding tourist town and expatriate destination.

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Guatemalan boys walking the beach looking for tourist pesos.

Something lacking in the far reaches of southern Mexico that we call home, is an English language bookstore. What a surprise to find Alma Libre Bookstore. 

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Rob and Joanne Birce

Not only are Rob and Joanne long time residents of this sleepy little town, Rob went to school with our friend and fellow Bacalar resident, Mitch! We were immediately family and Joanne told us all the best places to eat in Puerto Morelos.

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Visit their website for all things Puerto Morelos.

At Joanne’s recommendation we dined at La Sirena and met the owner Anthony Chalas from my home state of New Jersey. Greek food in Mexico, yum!

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Great artwork for a photo op.

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Caribbean sea turtle mural.

On our two day tour of Puerto Morelos, we got to visit the local mercado and meet Ann Trépanier, French Canadian and artist extraordinaire.

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Making art from recycled plastic. My kinda gal!

Ann makes “fabric” from heating together layered plastic bags. She is passionate about the environment and the changes she sees in her precious little town due to unregulated tourism.

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I wish I’d bought all her bags. Contact her at welovepuertomorelos@yahoo.com

There was one more astonishing encounter with a restaurant manager, but that is a story for another day. Travel in Mexico is full of opportunities. Do venture out of the all-inclusive hotel compounds. Not only will you meet lovely Mexican people and fellow fearless travelers but expats from around the world who live, love and fight to protect Mexico’s resources. Do tell them “hello” from

DOS TORTAS

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Researching Your Escape To Mexico

11 Dec img_5255

There are many online resources available for folks considering the move to Mexico. One of the best is Mexperience. Their blog, newsletter and ebooks provide a broad source of information when exploring a budget, housing and immigration requirements. 

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Sunrise from our porch on Laguna Bacalar in southern Mexico.

Finding Your Place in Mexico

by Matthew Harrup Pathway
It requires a good deal of courage to emigrate and start a new life in a foreign country, and moving to Mexico is no exception.

The things you need to live well, to live comfortably, and to live simply are here. They probably aren’t in the shapes and forms that you are used to seeing; and how they manifest themselves might be different and, at first, alien to what you are accustomed. This journey of discovery is one that you’ll have to undertake consciously if you are going to transform your life situation and create a distinct lifestyle for yourself in Mexico.

Full adoption of any foreign country requires compromise, acceptance, and understanding. Moving to Mexico will oblige you to change habits, surrender whims, accept life for what it is—not what you wish it or demand it to be. In return, Mexico could gift new dimensions to your life, for example, by encouraging you to see beyond your current horizon, and connecting you to friends of the kind you never thought possible.

You will witness the kindnesses and wickedness of human nature as Mexico’s well-documented contrasts present themselves regularly. It will frustrate you, it will annoy you; sometimes Mexico will tease you and play with you for no apparent reason. Mexico can also fill you with an energy and joy that will remain in you always. It’s this impulsive tapestry that creates the almost mystical allure which has brought foreigners to live here, and live out their lives here, for better and for worse, for centuries. And when—perhaps more accurately, if—you can find peace with all that Mexico is and all that Mexico is not, you will begin to find your place in these lands. If you don’t (or discover that you can’t) adapt and tread that testing path to adoption, Mexico will surely break your endeavors, and send you back whence you came.

You might choose a big city, or a colonial town, or perhaps you’ll find a small place to live beside the ocean. You might even take to establishing your own eco home in Mexico. The diversity here offers ample choices in respect of physical locations.

Whichever you choose, your true place, when you find it in Mexico, will be founded in the spaces which you will come to adore but which you cannot easily define, and in the feelings you hold about Mexico which are not easily articulated.

It has been said that Mexico deposits a certain dust on visitors’ shoes that will cause them to return: for good, or never again. The allegory fits well with the contrasts, but it would be foolhardy to encapsulate that thing—that indefinable attendance which attracts and repels so many to these complex and absorbing lands—in such black-and-white terms.

For those who choose to return to Mexico and make a home—and for those who came and have not left—it matters not how many other foreigners are living here. To adopt Mexico, you’ll need to turn up with an open mind, with courage and with tenacity, and be prepared to craft your own story here, on Mexico’s terms.

If what you’ve seen about Mexico on your TV screen scares and keeps you away, your perceptions have been hijacked before you allowed yourself an opportunity to better understand these lands, and see what others here see: a country in transition, a country which is, by and large, less violent than those places where stones are so readily thrown from glass houses.

Finding your place in Mexico necessarily requires due course. There are no shortcuts, no tricks or cheats to download, no App to give you instant answers. It doesn’t matter how rich or how poor you may be. And you can never understand how irrelevant all those things, and more besides, are to become in your life as Mexico simultaneously encourages and obliges you to find your peace amid its many facets.

If you come to truly know Mexico, as its closest friends who are foreign-born to its lands do, it will most likely be through a baptism of fire that will test your character, your mettle and your heart; through a journey of preparation and discovery that brings you to being in Mexico and the knowing within that here is where your life belongs.

DOS TORTAS

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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 as seen from Laguna Bacalar

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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