Archive | May, 2013

Living Fearlessly

26 May

If you want to be an honorary Torta, I suggest looking at your response to fear. Miedo is a funny thing. Our parents used it to control us when we were pequeños. It kept us from crossing a busy street or talking to a stranger when we were six years old. But for many people, long after our parents’ voices are gone, fear rules our lives. When I tell people that we are moving to Mexico, the inevitable first pregunta es, “aren’t you afraid?”. I find it difficult not to say something snarky about the fear of movie theaters in Colorado or shopping malls in Arizona.

Am I ever afraid? Of course, but it’s what I strive to DO in the face of uncertainty that allows me to move forward. First, I’ve made a choice NOT to be afraid, about anything. On Friday I rode my scooter to work not realizing we were supposed to get a storm that dumped two inches of rain on Austin streets. When I checked radar saying that it wasn’t a brief shower, I got off work early to beat the Friday afternoon, holiday traffic. I took my time riding home in a monsoon-like downpour. Las calles were flooding and I felt myself getting tense. But when I became aware of my body’s response, I took some breaths, relaxed my shoulders and said, “no fear, you’ll be fine”. Surprisingly I let go and enjoyed la lluvia bonita while choosing less traveled streets and arriving home safely.

Not being afraid is about confronting the lies I tell myself in my head. “You’re going to die.” Is it true? Yes, but not today if I can help it. I make different choices, take calculated risks, relax, have fun, and learn lessons.

When exploring moving to Mexico, I researched the risk of violence and found that Mexico is actually a very safe country. While the drug violence makes the news, it exists primarily in the border area and rarely involves gringos. Mexico is a large country, three times the size of Texas. It has a very diverse environment, big cities, mountains, high desert, and tropical jungles. There is a rich history of ancient civilizations and invasions from Spain, France, and the US. Today it has a public transportation infrastructure that allows easy access to all corners and travelers from Canada, Europe, Russia etc. flock to the beaches, pyramids, museums, mercados and night life.

My grip on Austin is lessening, yet I haven’t quite grabbed on to Mexico. I am somewhere in that middle place of uncertainty, not here and not yet there.

Sometimes taking flight takes letting go.
Letting go takes faith.
Faith takes letting go.
It all requires wings.
And so it goes. Patti Digh “Life Is A Verb”

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao-tsu

Laguna Bacalar

Enjoying a perfect day on Lake Bacalar.

Sun Setting


Starry Starry Nights

19 May

As a child, I spent many evenings gazing skyward, with my father pointing out constellations…the Big Dipper, Orion, Cassiopeia. I never could see Draco the dragon and finally said, “yes Daddy” to stop the pointing and the neck strain. In Mexico I visited the Mayan pyramids of Palenque, home to the ancient astronomers and was awed by the night sky. Moving to Austin to attend the University of Texas, I needed a science elective and choose Astronomy. I stood on the roof of the math-science building for my final exam in 1975…Taurus, Pleiades, Andromeda, you could see stars then. I’ve always loved the dark. I walk in my neighborhood before dawn and wish the neighbors would turn off their porch lights and the city, the street lights. I just want to see the night sky. The stars of Big Bend National Park had me laying out and feeling insignificant and pondering the universe. I managed to travel home from Big Bend by way of the McDonald Observatory, high in the Davis mountains. It was beautiful even though the sky wasn’t that clear and prompted our usual conversation, “Could we live here?”.

The sky that affected me the most was in Thailand. Lisa and I had taken a three-day trek into Northern Thailand at the foot of the Himalayas. We hiked into villages where people spoke indigenous languages. The second night we stayed in a hut perched on the side of a mountain. I got up for my usually visit to the bathroom and stepped onto a balcony under the stars like I had never seen before. I immediately woke Lisa and dragged her out to gaze skyward and point. She is a good sport and stood with me as I missed my dad and wished he could have seen a display of stars he didn’t know existed.

As I ticked off my list of requirements for where we were to retire, I needed the dark, a place to see stars. I was initially disappointed staying in Bacalar, where the sky wasn’t very clear and I could see light pollution coming across the lake from Chetumal. So much seemed perfect and I was afraid that I was going to have to choose between a beautiful lake or a starry starry night. A visit to Teresa, our soon-to-be neighbor changed all that. We sat on her porch making small talk, imagining our own porch on the adjacent property overlooking the lake. Saying our good-byes at the front door, I looked up and saw a sky that rivaled Thailand. That’s when I knew this was where I wanted to live the rest of my life, in the dark and under the stars.

Light Pollution

Light Pollution

Dia de las Madres

12 May

I do not remember celebrating Mother’s Day while living in Mexico in 1974, but I do remember how children were treated. At 21 years old, my focus was not on children, but the difference between what I observed in my US life and my Mexican life was unmistakable. First, there were no crying babies. NONE! Babies were breastfed and mom was always close by. Children and babies were everywhere and were content. I’d never seen a baby at it’s mother’s breast in New Jersey. In Mexico it was the norm, but it was more than a way to feed a baby.

Second, babies were transported on the body in a rebozo, a shawl wrapped over one shoulder and under the opposite arm used to sometimes carry chickens or cabbages, but most often a baby. Little feet would be sticking out while suspended hammock-like from the front or back of the mother’s body. If older, curious eyes observed the world perched from mom’s hip. There were no bottles or pacifiers or strollers. Attachment parenting was the norm. Dads were also very involved with their children. It was not uncommon to see a man playing with his children on the bus or at the park. Children were visible. There were no baby sitters, with the exception of an older sibling. Children were an everyday part of life. A toddler running down the aisle in church was not met with rolling eyes or clucking tongues.

Recently I was introduced, from two sources to a blog Revolution from Home, written by Beth Berry, a mom raising four daughters and living in Tulum, Mexico. Her observation of the treatment of children and the importance of family tells a better story than I, and supports one more reason for our move to Mexico.

Wearing the Baby - Our Granddaughter Sophia

Wearing the Baby – Our Granddaughter Sophia

Feliz Cinco Ya’ll

5 May

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Austin by waving green, white and red Mexican flags. So much so that I once heard someone point to a Mexican flag and refer to it as a “Cinco de Mayo” flag. It’s a day for family, friends, eating tacos, listening to conjunto and drinking cerveza. Few know what the holiday is really about. When living in Mexico, I visited the Fort de Puebla where a fight for independence took place in 1864. The French, with their highly trained forces thought they had a cake walk in taking over Mexico. A rag-tag militia of about 500 strategically placed Mexican soldiers proved them wrong. Mexico’s independence took years of battles with French, Spanish, US, and British troops. It’s no wonder everyone celebrates a win by the underdogs.

But Cinco is a celebration of much more than the Battle of Puebla. It’s the celebration of a strong, proud, independent people who love to celebrate just about anything. As a youngster from New Jersey, I was wary of a picnic in a cemetery for Day of the Dead. It was a delightful day that allowed me to experience another culture in a very personal way. There are birthdays, saint days, quinceñeras, religious holidays, Sunday picnics, and many more events that I hope to learn about and participate in.

We continue to pack containers, take books to Half Price, have dinner with friends and plan our escape. There are no “final” goodbyes. Just about everyone is invited to visit. So if you think that southern Yucatan may be a vacation destination in your future, get your passport, practice your Spanish and bring a “celebration state-of-mind”, and remember your hammock.

Alex Enjoying a Sunny Lake Bacalar Day Alex enjoying a sunny Lake Bacalar day
Sunset on the Bay of Chetumal Sunset on the Bay of Chetumal

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