Archive | August, 2014

It’s All About Communication and Therein Lies The Problem

31 Aug

I have always thought I was a good communicator, which of course is the problem. Anytime we’re good at something, it makes it harder to learn.

I have made presentations and conducted training in a room filled with hundreds of people, once with standing room only. My expertise was men and family planning, the needs of young fathers, and the role of routine HIV testing in a reproductive health setting. Maybe if I had a PowerPoint presentation I could communicate better, LOL.

Sunrise near our property.

Sunrise near our property.

The trouble is, I don’t usually know there’s a problem until it hits me upside the head. Have you ever had a conversation with someone, a co-worker, spouse or one of your kids and felt like you were each speaking a different language? It’s like that here, because we ARE! Even someone who has a reasonable command of English, doesn’t really. It’s the same with my Spanish. It’s about so much more than words.

We’re trying to build a house. We are unfamiliar with the procedures in Mexico. As foreigners, the bank holds title to our property, even though it’s paid for. We must give the bank power of attorney to sign all kinds of documents to get permission to build. It’s the way things are done. This week I felt like I was living in that old Abbott and Costello routine, “Who’s On First”. It helps to have a sense of humor, but frustrating when the house we thought we’d be living in by now, hasn’t started construction. Not by a long shot.

While I realize this sounds like complaining and breaking the “no complaining in paradise” rule, I hope it isn’t. I love where I live. The process may be moving along at a snail’s pace but it’s moving. This week I sat on our soon to be neighbor’s patio and looked at where our house will stand. I looked at the lake and listened to the birds and could visualize living right here. I could FEEL it.

The view from our dock.

The view from our dock.

Folks ask often how the house is coming along and I have avoided discussing it. The answer is slowly, very slowly, often due to a failure to communicate.

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No Regrets – A Year Later

24 Aug

This week marks one year since we backed out of our driveway in Austin, Texas for a new life in southern Mexico. We pulled a cargo trailer loaded with all our worldly possessions. There were two kayaks, two bicycles, a rug, couch and lots of tools and yarn that we couldn’t live without, or knew we couldn’t replace.

Off we go!

Off we go!

We had gathered information, visited Bacalar, retired from our jobs, burned our bridges, and took a flying leap. For you who have been following us from the beginning, you know that we were so excited. We were off on Lisa and Alex’s big adventure.

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Looking back over the last year, I would say unequivocally that I wouldn’t change a thing. We have had so much fun. For you who are considering your own adventure of any sort, I have a thought.

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Has it been perfect? Not by a long shot. Have we had doubts, fears and disappointments? You betcha. Have we made mistakes? Tons of them.

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A friend who I hadn’t seen in awhile and who knows me well commented on how peaceful and calm I have become. It’s true. We have a word here – tranquilo. (tran key low). It’s the only way to live.

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It’s Kind Of Like Camping Only Better – My Dad Would Have Been So Proud

17 Aug

Five children, a dog, occasionally my grandmother and a cousin or two joined our childhood camping vacations. It was partly economical but also for the love of being outdoors. My father grew up as a Boy Scout and loved all things merit badge. I learned to build and cook on a campfire, make a sling for a broken arm and identify constellations.  His rule was to leave the campsite cleaner than you found it. My father’s admonitions live in my heart to this day.

Being my father’s daughter has served me well for living in Bacalar in the southern Yucatan. It’s a lot like camping, only better. The windows to our home are persianas which do not seal out the world.

Our alarm clock.

Our alarm clock.

We hear birds squawking, dogs barking, the roosters greeting the sunrise and an occasional goat braying. It’s not all at the same time, usually.

We choose not to use air conditioning even in the heat and humidity of the summer. We cope as do most people here by keeping activity to a minimum during the heat of the day, jumping in the lake in the afternoon and if necessary, taking a shower before bed. The night seems to cool down just enough and we are up with the sunrise.

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 With the windows always open, you can feel the shift in the wind which indicates a possible shower rolling in.

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 My dad would have loved Bacalar. This past week was twenty-eight years since his death. I still see his gait in my son, and his stewardship of the earth in myself and my children. I hope my children and grandchildren will someday share stories of their crazy grandmothers who lived in the jungle in Mexico with their windows open.

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The Benefits of Struggling to Learn Spanish

10 Aug

The New York Times recently posted an op-ed called The Benefits of Failing at French. I can relate.

In 1973, with the already aging brain (linguistically speaking) of twenty-one, I began the lifelong journey of learning a second language. I came to Mexico in the fulfillment of a childhood dream to experience my junior year abroad. I lived with a Mexican family who spoke no English. I had classes four hours a day, four days a week and drank mucho cerveza to loosen the tongue. Over the long weekends and breaks, I traveled as much as possible and fell in love with a culture and people that were difficult to explain when I returned to New Jersey.

Sunset in Cozumel.

Sunset in Cozumel.

In the more than forty years that have passed, I have both clung to and completely forgotten my desire to return to Mexico. As I began entertaining thoughts of retirement, memories of living here ignited fireworks and the rest is, shall we say, her-story.

Crossing the border almost a year ago woke the Spanish synapses that were more than a bit rusty. Those old feelings of my brain aching and not being able to remember words in either language came roaring back. I am happy to report that my Spanish has greatly improved in a year. I have resisted studying and have chosen to learn by practicing. I have conversations in Spanish as often as I can and find that my brain hurts less these days. Yesterday I even had a conversation on the phone, which I usually avoid, as there is no opportunity to read lips. I must admit that when friends comment on my improvement, I want to preen my feathers and crow.

Hotel La Semilla in Playa del Carmen from our recent visit.

Hotel La Semilla in Playa del Carmen from our recent visit.

Lisa had no ability to speak Spanish, other than the curse words picked up on a job site, when we arrived last September. Her first vocabulary words were highway signs on the drive down. Her learning approach has been different from mine. She uses a popular set of educational CDs and a workbook that I bought her. She now converses with locals and orders easily in a restaurant. The reason for her skill is that she doesn’t give up and she isn’t afraid to make mistakes. Our friend’s parents call her the parrot because she uses her thirty or so words, hugs them and leaves. They see her progress and love her effort. More than one of us has something to crow about.

Sunrise this week on Laguna Bacalar.

Sunrise this week on Laguna Bacalar.

So I recommend that you read the New York Times article and don’t miss the comments. Our brains need the challenge. Our changing world needs us to understand one another. What better way than to learn another’s language. And I’ve heard that the third language even gets easier, no matter what age you are.

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Home Sweet Home Bacalar MX

3 Aug

No matter how many wonderful things we see while traveling, expansive vistas, crystal blue ocean, comfy hotel rooms, or ancient pyramids, it’s always good to be home again. I love walking cobblestone paths, peering in quaint tiendas, hanging out with family and friends, but nothing beats coming back to center, being in a familiar environment, clean laundry and eating my own cooking.

Vacations are both restful and exhausting. For Lisa and me, we trade one paradise for another. So why do I feel tired? Note to self, I don’t seem to do well with living out of a suitcase. I prefer a home base.

One of our recent vacation stops was the island of Cozumel. We rented a scooter to zip around and stopped at the Mayan pyramids of San Gervasio.

A covering to protect an ancient temple.

A covering to protect an ancient temple.

Description in three languages.

Description in three languages.

Our tour guide.

Our tour guide.

An archway built without mortar.

An archway built without mortar.

Lisa the explorer.

Lisa the explorer.

Orchids growing in the parking lot where we parked the scooter.

Orchids growing in the parking lot where we parked the scooter.

San Gervasio is a temple to the Goddess of love and fertility, Ixchel. Women traveled here to ask for relationships and babies. While visiting we said prayers for our daughter who is having her own fertility challenges. Just to be sure, we stopped at the little Catholic church in town to cover our bases.

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