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It’s All About Relationships

11 Jun

Making the decision to move to Mexico required many considerations. One of them was Lisa’s mom, Alice. Lisa left her California home at nineteen and only returned for the occasional family visit. Alice made a few forays to Texas but their relationship was not close. What to do?

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Lisa and Alice. They’re relationship has blossomed.

Alice was feeling increasingly isolated and her capacity for self care seemed to be diminishing. We felt like she would have a more vibrant and varied life with us and decided to invite her to live in Bacalar. After a rocky adjustment, life has settled into a new normal. I decided to ask her a few questions about her decision to move with us. It was a fun chance to connect and get to know her a little better.

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Alice’s 300 sq foot house on our property.

What made you decide to move to Mexico? – First and foremost to be near my daughter. I never really liked Bakersfield and I was ready for a change. My siblings all have their families and I was ready to do something different.

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A secure front door, media room and tiny kitchen.

How has Mexico surprised you? – I had visions of donkeys and huts. People are poor but they work hard. I am always amazed how kind they are. I like that people are not stressed. It’s such a peaceful environment.

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A porch makes the house feel spacious and comfortable.

What do you like here? – I love my house. I also get to see things I’ve never seen before like pyramids, villages, churches and markets. I would like to do more traveling.

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One of the few tubs in Bacalar, a colorful bathroom and cozy bedroom. A design all her own.

What do you miss? – I really miss driving. (we both laughed, as her driving was a problem in CA) I miss going out at night. Sometimes Bacalar is a little too sleepy for me. Truthfully I don’t miss much. I’m really happy here.

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Saving a visitor stuck in the fence and corralled by the dogs.

We talked awhile and agreed that it’s hard to connect with other foreigners here. People live their busy lives in Mexico much like the US. The responsibility is ours to reach out. It’s not easy but very worth it.

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The Gods Were With Us

26 Jun

Watching a wall of rain barrel across Laguna Bacalar is a breathtaking experience. There’s barely time to batten down the hatches before the tormenta strikes. During the rainy season we close up the house before any outing, no matter how clear the sky or the weather predictions. You just never know.

Last weekend was the maraton or swim across as we fondly call it, across Laguna Bacalar. It’s a three quarter mile swim with hundreds of flailing bodies. I saw three boats almost run into each other trying to get to a swimmer requesting help. People were panicking in water that wasn’t even over their head.

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Over a thousand registrants.

The weather was perfect and the Laguna calm. The sun even peaked out as the race was beginning. After days of torrential downpours, the gods were with us.

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Checking out our medals.

Swimmers come from all over Mexico, Central America and the US to participate in this open water, fresh water event. There were many young people who left me far behind, some old people too. My official time was 37m 33sec. Not bad for not having trained. I was experiencing residual pain from the kayak marathon.

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Team Bacalar – Shawn, Alex, Jim, Polly and myself

I know so many people that say that they hate to exercise. I don’t go to the gym because I love going to the gym. I go because I can sleep better, walk further and lift more without hurting myself. I go because it helps me live in my body in a way that nothing else does. DO TORTAS

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Blog follower Emily came from San Miguel to swim!

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It’s Noisy In The Jungle

17 Apr

Living forty feet from beautiful Laguna Bacalar, thirty minutes from the southern-most border of Mexico and Belize has its disadvantages, not many, but one in particular. It’s noisy, with screechy birds, and the neighbors.

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Neighbors To The South

Sound travels without buffer over the water. We can hear the conversation on a boat out on the lake from quite a far distance. Strange voices make the dogs go ballistic, barking and being the guard dogs that they think they are. The music from the neighbors can also seem like it’s in our bedroom. Thank God for earplugs.

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Princesa Luna, Intrepid Guard Dog with a Big Voice

It doesn’t help that we live in a concrete bunker and sound bounces and echoes throughout the house. It’s beautiful but a bunker. Rugs help, but not much.

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The Hammock – My Favorite Spot

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Large Windows and Doors for Air-Circulation (no air conditioning)

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The View From the Laguna

For three days this week we’ve been listening to the roar of chainsaws. They seemed close, but it’s hard to approximate with just sound. Yesterday we were in a near panic. Who is tearing up the jungle to pave paradise and put up a parking lot?

I finally walked to the end of our dock with my binoculars. To my surprise and relief there were guys making repairs to the dock that belongs to our neighbor two lots south of us. Such relief.

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Checking Out the New Dock With Neighbor and Fellow Kayaker Teresa

The inconvenience of birds, a party to which we were not invited, barking dogs and the rare sound of chainsaws is not unique to living in Mexico. We bump into each other as humans in so many ways. For the most part, I’m just fine with it. Thank God for earplugs. DOS TORTAS

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Mass Shootings or Farmer’s Markets

6 Dec

Bloggers living in Mexico notice with increased interest when scarey stuff happens in the USA. By comparison, Mexico is looking good. 

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Myself, I try to avoid the news. It’s hard to do I admit. Whether online or on TV there’s such a pull to understand the non-understandable. I refuse to be afraid.

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So instead, I will present another aspect of California that hasn’t made the news lately. The Tortas visited two really nice farmer’s markets on our recent trip to California. I always head to the ethnic food vendors. Mediterranean was especially good at both Windsor and Bakersfield markets.

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Olives, dates, tabouli, hummus and pitta bread are all impossible to find in our little corner of Mexico.

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Of course, every Mexican village has the most wonderful mercado. They are filled with hundreds of items you don’t get in the US, fresh coconut water, tree ripened bananas, and plants and pottery that are really, really cheap.

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US-style farmer’s markets are catching on in Mexico where there are large foreign populations. I attended one in Merida and they were selling bread! Mmmmmm. Fortunately or unfortunately one will never appear in Bacalar. We live in a part of Mexico with a very small foreign community. Which is just the way we planned it.

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Green juice vendor in Bacalar.

So if you’re looking to move to Mexico, don’t come because you’re afraid of the US. You’ll bring your fear with you and be equally unhappy here. Just my opinion.

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Flamingos Flamingos Flamingos

17 May

Our guide book is either really outdated (2010) or Celestún has seriously gone downhill. I believe it’s the latter. The “quaint” little hotels described were even below our standards which are pretty basic. However we did find what we came for – flamingos!

An evening walk on the beach to find the palapa, a palm frond covered hut where tours are scheduled, found a family from Mexico City negotiating for a morning boat ride. The captain told us their’s was a private tour when I inquired as to the possibility of joining them. One thing Mexico teaches is patience. After a bit of friendly conversation and some whispering between them, we were invited to join their group. Who can resist the Torta charm?!

Visiting Celestun from Mexico City.

Visiting Celestun from Mexico City.

Off we went the following morning to the Reserva de la Biosfera Ría Celestún.

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Seeing these majestic birds is truly breathtaking. The majority were pale pink indicating young birds. Celestun and Rio Lagartos are breeding and nesting grounds and one of the few places flamingos can be seen in the wild.

Next we were off to the mangroves.

A ride through the mangrove tunnel.

A ride through the mangrove tunnel.

We stopped to visit a fresh water spring.

Clear reflection.

Clear reflection.

You can see the water bubbling up in the middle of the photo.

Natural fresh water spring.

Natural fresh water spring.

For those of you who know the avid swimmer I am, it didn’t take long to climb into the pool.

One way of swimming my way around the world.

One way of swimming my way around the world.

The family from Mexico City, who didn’t appear to be the adventurous type, stood by in amazement as this gray-haired grandma reveled and played in the stunning water. They inquired politely about the presence of cocodrilos, crocodiles, and after some not too gentle intimidation from me, all got in the water. I’m quite certain if we hadn’t been there, they’d have returned home with a far less interesting story to tell. Haha.

Of course you can't pass up the lovely sunset photo.

Of course you can’t pass up the lovely sunset photo.

After an evening walk collecting shells, we packed our bags for an early retreat. It was sad in a way to find this dingy little town surrounded by so much natural beauty. Such is the enigma of Mexico. We were certainly glad to have stopped and if the opportunity arises to return, we will be better prepared and more wary of the expectations created by guide books.
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Sometimes the Hardest Things Are the Most Wonderful

8 Feb

Who knew a week of watercolor painting could be so exhausting? Was it fun? Hell yes! Did I learn a lot? Most definitely.

16th Annual Watercolor Workshop.

16th Annual Watercolor Workshop.

But probably the biggest gift was a chance to immerse myself in a group of women artists for a week. They were my cheerleaders when I felt discouraged. Every evening we gathered with our day’s work for critique. We were vulnerable, sharing our process and self-doubt. How often does that happen? Their suggestions for added color here and more definition there, made my paintings pop and kept me grounded.

Caroline, Kim, Teresa

Caroline, Jo, Teresa

The work we produced was epic. It was painting-on-demand with no chance to walk away for a few days and let things percolate. We were on the clock with a showing on Saturday. As much as I hate it, magic happens under pressure.

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The community celebration on Saturday was a multi-cultural event with great music, delicious food, new and old friends and a chance to sell our work. The owner of Aluxes, the hotel where we painted on Wednesday bought almost all the fabulous paintings made of his hotel.

Aluxes Hotel and restaurant, Bacalar

Hotel Aluxes, Bacalar

No one broke even as we turned around and bought each others’ paintings. I may not have a house yet, but when I do, it will be full of memories and Rendezvous beauty.

There was a bidding war for this painting. I loved doing it.

There was a bidding war for this painting. I loved doing it.

Rendezvous entertainment.

Entertainment by Escenario Libre

Finding the words to wrap up the week’s workshop fails me. Painting was the medium for the connection, which if you think about it, is the truth about life in general. It’s always about loving each other first, is it not? From that base life can be really lived. What a fabulous lesson brought home by this wonderful experience and these lovely women.

Thank you all for leaping with me.

Thank you all for leaping with me.

The Artist Next Door

1 Feb

“Art has so many sides, so many possibilities.” These wise words posted by one of our blog followers inspired me to continue sharing the artistry that is Bacalar. Christmas Eve we met our neighbors Abraham and Isabel. Abraham is a stone and wood sculptor with his work currently on display at a local resort. We spent a fun day recently oooing and ahhhing and generally being inspired by Abraham’s work.

Abraham Illescas

Abraham Illescas

The pieces are viewed best by walking round to experience all sides. Clearly this is not the perfect venue. The stone makes you want to caress the coolness, smooth and rough. Abraham “finds” stones, or maybe they find him and works to release the beauty within.
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Abraham is working on an installation for the Modern Art Museum in Mexico City in a few months. At the same time, all pieces are for sale, a common struggle of all full-time artists.

Wouldn't this piece look wonderful in your garden?

Wouldn’t this beauty look wonderful in your garden?

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This is my favorite piece, carved from a stone found holding open a door in a small Yucatan hotel. Maybe its forever home is my yet-to-be built house, displayed with the perfect lighting in my living room .
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Abraham and Isabel sat with us at dinner last weekend. They wave when they see me out on my bike. It has been really fun getting to know them and continuing to open my eyes to the artistry in Bacalar.

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The Artistry of Bacalar

25 Jan

San Miguel de Allende in northern Mexico is an artists’ haven. We stopped last year on our drive back to Bacalar from visiting family in Texas. There are artisan markets, galleries, beautifully landscaped architecture and well, sigh…I returned to our little town of Bacalar feeling depressed and longing for a more stimulating creative environment.

The street in San Miguel.

The street in San Miguel.

In the year since, I have discovered the amazing arts community that is Bacalar. It began when I opened my eyes.

Colibri

Colibri

This beautiful hummingbird and the blue deer that follows grace the wall of a house that is under construction. The colors are vibrant and my bicycle excursion up a new street uncovered them, much to my delight.

Venado Azul

Venado Azul

Down the street from our house, the newly named Frida Kahlo school for differently-abled children received a new mural outside its gate over the recent holiday vacation.

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My favorite mural is on a main street leading off the town square.

The sky begins on Laguna Bacalar.

The sky begins on Laguna Bacalar.

Even a little house that looks like it’s about to fall down provides the canvas for an artist’s expression.

The work covers part of the front door in its beautiful expression.

The work covers part of the front door in its beautiful display.

There are amateur murals, perhaps from a community project of years ago.

Note the crocodile in the foreground.

Note the crocodile in the foreground.

A recent state-wide celebration included the commission of this mural on the wall of the Bacalar Tourist Center.

Flying fish than can be seen when I'm out in my kayak.

Flying fish that can be seen while kayaking on the laguna.

Next week starts the annual Art Rendezvous at Casita Carolina. Local and visiting artists gather for five days and capture the sights – mercado, pyramids, palm trees and colorful residents. On Saturday next there is a community party and art sale. Everyone is invited to participate. I’ve decided to paint even though I haven’t picked up a brush since high school.

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With exceedingly low expectations of my artistic abilities I will join in and chronicle the fun. Clearly our community is far more artistic and creative than I previously saw. With such a beautiful environment, how could it not be.

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Follow up to last week’s blog  Los Perros of Bacalar –

I did not expect that blog followers would be willing to open their hearts and resources to the dogs and cats of Bacalar, silly me. This weekend there was a sterilization clinic with additional pictures on the Dos Tortas Facebook page. It is a public page that you can access without a FB account. If you wish to contribute please contact me for further information. A large bag of dog food costs $25US and the average cost to sterilize an animal is about $20. We have the offer of a permanent location and would like to have monthly clinics. There are start up equipment costs, but money goes far in Mexico.

Our visiting veterinarian and expat nurse extraordinaire Patty.

Our visiting veterinarian and expat nurse extraordinaire Patty.

DOS TORTAS

En Bacalar It’s El Parque (The Park)

28 Dec

In the colonial cities throughout much of Mexico, the town square is called the zócalo. The zócalo is located in the old center of the city and is a multi-purpose destination. On one side is usually the cathedral. Government buildings such as the governor’s palace or a museum flank another quadrant. Many are resplendent with portales, arched walkways with outdoor cafes to nosh and people watch. They are the place to see and be seen. I remember sitting on the zocalo in Oaxaca watching the teens circle, boys in one direction, girls in the other. The aunties on benches served as chaperones. Lord are those days gone forever! Welcome to our humble park.

The gazebo houses dance classes, tai chi, health fairs and games of tag.

The wonderful gazebo, in the center of the park houses dance classes, tai chi, health fairs and games of tag .

Bacalar’s town square is called el parque. On Friday night it is hopping. Families come to let the kids play, buy a treat and mingle with the tourists.
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A walk around the outside of the park starts on the north where several small restaurants attract mostly tourists with regional cuisine and hamburgers.

Notice the bilingual sign.

Notice the bilingual sign. Bicycles provide transportation.

In the northeast corner is an office building devoted to tourism. It is newly painted with colorful murals.

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To the east is the pirate fort overlooking the Laguna. Young Guatemalan girls sell their wares in its shadow. These two wanted “three dollars” to take their picture. With lots of giggling, they got five pesos each.

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View from the fort and museum 

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On the southwest corner, local artists sell wonderful jewelry and wind chimes made from shells found in the laguna. I love to visit to see their latest creations. Shop here to take home that special keepsake.
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Continuing around the park you pass the ATMs and on to the municiple offices. It’s time to pay 2015 property taxes. If paid by the end of December there’s a 25% discount!
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I hope you enjoyed our little walk in the park. It’s our favorite place to hang out. Did I mention it has wifi? Love our little town.
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