Tag Archives: Adventure in Mexico

Bark Sniff Poo Repeat

28 Aug

The exercise, entertainment and care of Princesa Luna requires daily forays into the mosquitoey jungle. We clothe our bodies head to foot and douse in repellant, especially at dawn and dusk. I don’t think she appreciates us.

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The lane in front of our property.

This week I brought my camera along. Taking a picture with a dog dragging me along does not lend itself to the best shots.

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There are always flowers blooming. Watch the sharp points on the leaves. Ouch.

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Luna knows the way.

The path is surprisingly refreshing as the hot sun does not penetrate the jungle canopy.

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Why did the tarantula cross the road?

Luna is so curious about everything. This tarantula would not hang around to play.

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Lovely green wall.

There is an open property up the way where Luna and I run and play. I lust after cuttings of this cactus. I must return with my machete, gloves and NO dog.

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The jungle is also home to these amazing blue butterflies. They are the size of your palm and impossible to photograph.

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She doesn’t look one bit guilty. Maybe a little.

If it weren’t for Luna insisting that we go for a walk, several times a day, we would miss so many amazing things. We have seen fox, coatis, parrots and more. I guess life  in the jungle is a dog’s paradise. Ours’ too. DOS TORTAS

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Everyday Courage

15 Nov

At seventy-two, leaving your home of fifty years to move to Mexico. Making the decision to grab the brass ring and being terrified. “What if….”

Courage, that’s my mother-in-law. Meet Alice, the newest Torta.

Exploring the pyramids of Palenque, January 2014.

Exploring the pyramids of Palenque, January 2014.

Alice visited Bacalar almost two years ago for a month and made the decision that yes, she would move to live with us in Mexico. None of us expected a two year wait for the green light.

Putting a life in storage.

Putting a life in storage.

We are here to pack her things, and hold her hand through a scary, emotional process.

A house full of

A house full of “collections”.

Alice is downsizing considerably. The rule is, if it fits in the truck you can take it. She has ten plastic bins. When they’re full, we’re done.
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Could YOU do it? I’m not sure I could. She can always move back of course. This next year will be a trial period for all of us. An exciting year for sure.

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Rainy Day Sunday on Laguna Bacalar

18 Oct

It seems Mother Nature decided to make up for this year’s lack of a rainy season on Laguna Bacalar, all in one week.The birds love it and lord knows we need the rain. The sky is grumbling and showing no signs of letting up. Gotta love it.

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Our ramp turned water slide.

It’s been a good opportunity to see how all the landscaping in our new house manages runoff. But mostly it’s been a forced stay-at-home opportunity to relax. We’ll have to do some tweaking on the landscaping, but all in all, it looks pretty good. The big challenges living here are wind and rain. It comes with the territory in this most southern part of North America.

The carpintero came yesterday to install an interior door. His progress is slow since most of his work is done outside. The door is stunning, so we don’t mind waiting. This week we will have kitchen shelves installed. ¡Gracias a dios!

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Jose Lewis master carpenter.

We also managed to get some artwork on the walls. Lisa and I bought a lovely wooden wall sculpture in Valladolid on our Tour de Yucatan this past June (2015). The colors match perfectly don’t you think?

Our Lady of Guadalupe, sacred Catholic icon.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, sacred Catholic icon.

I was raised Catholic and The Virgin of Guadalupe has always been the female expression of God to me. It actually seems like our house was built just for her.

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View including the porch.

Another piece that we bought on the Yucatan trip was a mother and child mestiza woman. She sits in our little rainy-day bamboo garden.

The bamboo explodes with growth in the rain.

The bamboo explodes with growth in the rain.

While we are enjoying the cool weather and adjusting to life in the jungle, we continue to heal, Lisa from back surgery and me from chikengunya (see We Plan God Laughs) All is well, just very wet.
DOS TORTAS

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Life Is Hard – It’s Harder If You’re Stupid

23 Aug

August 2013 we left Austin, Texas for retirement in Mexico. After more than a year of research and planning, visiting and asking questions, we thought we knew something of what we were getting into. Jajaja – that’s laughing in Spanish.

Two years later we are still not living in our own home. Dismantling our expectations has been a daily practice. We are however within spitting distance of completing construction, but my patience is wearing thin. Lisa on the other hand is calm, cool and collected. A real role reversal for us! She is keeping me sane, saner? sanish? Here is a house progress report.

The palm frond overhangs protect from sun and rain. They will be completed is week.

The palm frond overhangs protect from sun and rain. They will be completed this week.

Creating the mold for a poured concrete bathroom sink.

Creating a rebar mold for a poured concrete bathroom sink.

A lip creates an area for potted plants to create a

A lip creates an area for potted plants to create a “jungle” in our shower. Note the light from skylights.

Yesterday we sat in the corner of our porch enjoying the breeze. We've come so far.

Yesterday we sat in the corner of our porch enjoying the breeze. We’ve come so far.

Tile on the roof adds another layer of insulation.

Tile on the roof adds another layer of insulation from the heat.

The appliances have been purchased. The windows will be installed this week. As rooms are finished we can begin to move items from our present location. We are so close. My present anxiety is clearly stupid. There is no hurry. I am believing the lie that my happiness is dependent on where I live. I could be happy if only…. It’s a good thing I have Lisa who chooses to be happy no matter what. We make a good team.

DOS TORTAS

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The One Quality Most Needed to Live in Mexico

16 Aug

When life is so much about being safe, how do I process someone taking a risk, sticking their neck out and saving my bacon?

When we left for the good life in Mexico, everything went…paperless…bill paying, most communications, and all banking. We dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s. We even closed on the sale of our house in Austin from Mexico. It’s easy to feel confident and capable, even a little smug about our ability to live electronically in two worlds, that is until something goes wrong.

Pulling out of our drive in Austin two years ago with everything we own.

Pulling out of our drive in Austin two years ago with everything we own.

Last week I called the investment company where I have been squirreling away money for years. We had been planning to draw funds from the account for the final leg of our house construction. Apparently I had not set up banking information with them as to where to transfer money when I needed a withdrawl. Darn.

Sometimes it's like this, an angel riding shotgun with death in the backseat.

Sometimes it’s like this, an angel riding shotgun with disaster in the backseat.

I discovered that setting up the transfer would take much paperwork, a bank guarantee and a thirty day waiting period. But, but, I live in Mexico!! I’m building a house, I need the money NOW! On top of it all, the conversations were being conducted via Skype which dropped calls repeatedly requiring much redialing.

My dear wife and fellow Torta. What a ride it's been. (The god of corn with cacao pods.)

My dear wife and fellow Torta. What a ride it’s been. (The god of corn with cacao pods.)

I began with the person who answered the phone. After explaining what I wanted, was transferred to their boss, and eventually to THE boss, working my way up the chain of command trying not to sound victimy and whiney. (Not too good with that.) Each step I attempted to convince the person that apologies for putting me on hold were unnecessary. Explaining the rules were mostly unnecessary. I was looking for a loophole.

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I understand that the procedures are in place to protect ME from a slick impersonator wiping out our savings. Requiring a bank guarantee of signature is actual insurance stating that I am me and my signature is mine. To transfer money without that written guarantee meant someone sticking their neck out and probably getting fired if I were a really really good scam artist. And that someone was head boss Maurice. In my book, the man is an angel. He gave me a list of all the documents he would need to make the transfer and provide the loophole. He made no guarantees. I even threw in a few receipts he didn’t ask for just in case. I wish I could have included a dozen roses.

Orchids blooming near an ancient pyramid.

Orchids blooming near an ancient pyramid.

I travelled this week to the U.S. Consulate in Cancun to get a copy of my passport notarized and sent an envelope of documents off via Fedex. Fingers crossed and gods invoked.

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Yesterday the package arrived in New York. I won’t know for a few days if Maurice is convinced and the money is transferred. Our only option at this point is to stay calm and keep building. The one quality most needed to retire in Mexico?….fearlessness. And optimism doesn’t hurt. DOS TORTAS

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A Not So Fun Ending To A Fun Vacation.

9 Aug

“Hiking?!! Why would you do that?!” was my friend Bella’s response to my swollen purple knee. Ha, she doesn’t know me very well. But that was Tuesday, so let me back up….

My last Sunday in San Miguel de Allende presented a cool clear morning and I was eager to soak it up before returning to the humidity that is Bacalar. Retired expats plan lots of activities in San Miguel and my host Nancy invited me to join in the Sunday morning hiking group. I, unlike Bella am always up for a hike, so off we went.

Serious hikers.

Serious hikers gathered at the gas station.

I guessed from the hiking boots and walking sticks that the group meant business. Never one to backdown, I didn’t ask questions as to the level of difficulty, type of trail etc. I also didn’t take into consideration the amount of rain we’d been having or my inadequate footwear. Little did I know the price I would pay.

Heading west.

Heading west.

Everyone spread out as the leaders kept a brisk pace.

Gentle incline.

Gentle incline.

While this wasn’t a technical hike, San Miguel sits over 6,000 feet. Being a sea-level dweller, I found myself expending some effort to keep up.

Mountain mist and muddy terrain.

Mountain mist and muddy terrain.

Picking and choosing my steps through the runoff, I actually stepped out of my shoe at one point as the mud grabbed hold and refused to let me go. And then finally…the top and a lovely view of San Miguel and the scrubby terrain.
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Lunch break.

Lunch break.

The return trip was much quicker (downhill usually is). I listened in on the conversations. Some folks were full-timers and others like many retirees who love to travel, merely call San Miguel home-base. The main grumble was the traffic and parking. As attachment to individual transportation shows no sign of letting up, I am not surprised. However to their credit, the group encourages car-pooling and pays drivers for rides and gas.

And down we went.

And down we went.

A winding muddy trail.

A winding muddy trail.

We were ten minutes from the cars and I was ready to be done, perhaps too ready. The final obstacle was a swollen creek. All it took was one wobbly rock and down I went. I hit my knee hard, but saved the iPad, which of course is the most important thing!
imageBy Monday I was in considerable pain, bruised and swollen and wondering how I would travel back to Mexico City and catch the flight home to Bacalar. More information was needed so off we went to the emergency room. Less than an hour and a hundred dollars later I was X-rayed and learned that nothing was broken, thank God. For my ride to the airport on Wednesday, I took a shuttle from door to gate which was a big help. Two weeks later I am still healing and doing the dance, so to speak, between rest, pain meds, and walking. The house completion is moving at lightning speed. Let the packing begin! DOS TORTAS
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Off The Beaten Path – Ticul

24 May

While waiting for the construction of our house to begin, the Tortas took off on a Yucatan road trip from our home in Bacalar Mexico, across the top of the state of Yucatan, taking in two cities, an amazing pyramid, two coastal towns and an island. With no real plans other than looking for local art and repurposed items for our house, we chose approximately a three week timeframe and hit the road. After leaving Celestún, into our second week, we drifted southwest toward the ancient site of Uxmal and decided to make Ticul our base camp.

Posada El Jardin

Posada El Jardin

Instead of relying on our guide book, we did a bit of Trip Advisor searching and found a wonderful little place, Posada El Jardin. I was especially attracted to the review that said that the hotel’s owner was willing to act as a tour guide. That’s how we met Roman.

Off on a bicycle tour of Ticul.

Off on a bicycle tour of Ticul.

Ticul is known for pottery made from local red clay. Need we say more? There is both original and excellent replicas of ancient Mayan gods and goddesses. Roman, a Ticul native also made sure we got good prices. He was a treasure.

Andres, shop owner extraordinaire.

Andres, shop owner extraordinaire.

There are times when speaking Spanish comes in very handy. We visited with Andres, a former school teacher and now shop owner, for the better part of an hour, discussing Ticul, its history, politics and problems. I learned that 911 had a huge impact on this little town. As security heightened worldwide, people were less able to bring home items purchased on their vacations. A city that used to see dozens of tour buses daily, rarely sees any today.

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I wanted them all!

I want them all!

A huge kiln used to fire the pots.

A huge kiln used to fire the pots.

Next stop was the home of Roger Juarez, nationally recognized potter and Ticul native. I would love to return and learn to throw pots with Roger.

A nationally recognized artist in the 1990's.

A recognized artist in the 1990’s.

Roger is a national treasure. I wished that I had asked him if this piece was for sale.

To keep water cool.

To keep water cool.

Touring Roger’s property that had been in the family for generations was a treat in and of itself.

Roger's backyard kiln.

Roger’s backyard kiln.

Ancient trees in the yard. Amazing.

Ancient trees in the yard. Amazing.

The deepest well I've ever seen.

The deepest well I’ve ever seen.

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Next week we will continue our visit to the Cenotes of Ticul. Just when you think it can’t get much better, it does! DOS TORTAS

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The Yucatan Meander Continues

26 Apr

While meandering may mean – to wander aimlessly taking a roundabout course, our Torta vacation wasn’t entirely aimless. We left the coastal town of Rio Lagartos and passed one of many old monasteries sprinkled throughout the Yucatan. This one had a small museum inside and a gatekeeper. I think it was more of an opportunity to ask for donations.

Give Lisa an old building to explore and she's in heaven.

Give Lisa an old building to explore and she’s in heaven.

Colonial ruins may not be as old as ancient pyramids but they’re pretty cool.

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The bell still is used to call locals to mass.

The old bell is still used to call the faithful  to mass.

Next stop, to explore a taller or workshop we came to along the highway and talk to the women who make and sell hammocks for a government cooperative. This is when speaking Spanish really comes in handy. The materials are sent from Merida. The women do the work and make almost nothing for their many hours sitting at a loom (by U.S. standards). There are no minimum wage laws in Mexico. We bought some baskets that will be featured in the Show and Tell blog at the end of the trip.

I would have loved spending the day learning the process.

I would have loved spending the day learning the process.

We arrived in Valladolid and immediately headed out on bicycles to visit a cenote (natural sink hole) that’s situated in the center of town. We were hungry and had been told that the restaurant nearby was a good choice.

There are different kind of cenotes, pronounced sen O tay. Some are above ground, like Cenote Azul in Bacalar. Others have the roof partially caved in and some are completely underground. While in Valladolid, we saw them all, one more breathtaking than the next.

Air conditioned on a hot day.

Air conditioned on a hot day.

Roots from the trees above reaching for the water.

Roots from the trees above reaching for the water.

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We love Valladolid and spent four days visiting the mercado, artisan museum, and cenotes.

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Paper mâché.

Paper mâché.

This painting of a church in Izama, the yellow city put it on our must see list.

This painting of a church in IzamaL, the yellow city, put it on our must see list.

The thing that has surprised the most about adventure is having our minds stretched as to what is beautiful, amazing and possible. Around every corner our eyes grow big and we are in awe. The fun had just begun.
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The Amazing Meander

19 Apr

Years ago Lisa and I applied to the Amazing Race. After all, we love to travel AND we are very entertaining, at least to us! As our Yucatan adventure continues we can’t help but see ourselves on another kind of Amazing Race. We call it the Amazing Meander. We left Holbox, Yucatan heading south. Feeling a bit peckish we turned left at a sign for a cafe. We were curious at what could be down a little road off a little road. We found Vera’s Cafe.

A world traveler living in a tiny village, Vera made us a delicious lunch.

A world traveler living in a tiny village, Vera made us a delicious lunch. Mexico never ceases to amaze.

Nearby were ancient Mayan trees and an orchid preserve.

These trees were enormous.

These trees were enormous.

The Mayans believe that these trees are holy and are compensated by the government to protect them.

The Mayans believe that certain trees are holy and are compensated by the government to protect them.

Many types of orchids grow on our property in Bacalar.

Many types of orchids grow on our property in Bacalar. These and many others were for sale.

We headed toward Rio Lagartos, a sleepy little fishing village home to flamingos and hundreds of species of birds. We got quite lost along the way, but that’s part of the adventure. At least that’s what we tell ourselves. image We scheduled a six a.m. birding boat tour.

A green heron. Santiago had great eyes and slowed to make sur we didn't miss anything.

A green heron. Our guide  had great eyes and slowed to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

I tried to photograph the flamingos but an iPad just doesn’t work for some things. Besides I was too overcome with emotion to focus very well. Another bucket list must see.

We witnessed a parade of flamingos walking on spindly legs across the mud flats.

We witnessed a parade of flamingos walking on spindly legs across the mud flats. Just awesome.

Of course no visit to Rio Lagartos is complete without a Mayan spa treatment. After soaking in a sulphur warm spring, we covered ourselves in clay. The boat ride to the next stop allowed the clay to dry.

Our skin was baby soft.

Our skin was baby soft afterward . lol

A working lighthouse adds to the charm.

A working lighthouse adds to the village charm.

Another night in Rio Lagartos then off toward Valladolid. image My challenge to you this week is to go on your own meander. Even if it’s on your lunch hour. Take a different path, open your eyes, report back, preferably with pictures DOS TORTAS image

A Car Chase in Bacalar Taxista #29

15 Mar

Taxis are an essential to life in Bacalar and Mexico in general. You can travel from one end of Bacalar to the other for about two dollars. When considering the cost of insurance, gas and maintenance on a car, you can’t beat it. That is why, when our friends from Austin, Roberta and her sister Mary where visiting a few weeks ago, we thought nothing of hailing a cab to head to breakfast and the best view in town, Hotel Laguna Bacalar.

The food is good and the view is no extra charge.

The food is good and the view is no extra charge.

Looking south toward Chetumal.

Looking south toward Chetumal.

Upon our return to town and exiting the taxi, I knew within minutes that my cell phone was missing. I returned immediately to the taxi stand and told my woe to the taxistas. Note to self and all of you – always note the number of the taxi you ride in.

Roberta and Mary visit Bacalar.

Roberta and Mary visit Bacalar.

The remainder of the day was spent backtracking, getting the phone turned off and trying not to spoil our guests’ final day in Bacalar. We made no further progress on finding the phone and left two days later ourselves, for our trip to Austin.

Teaching Grandma Lisa how it's done (target shooting)

Teaching Grandma Lisa how it’s done (target shooting)

Halfway through our vacation, we got a message from our good friend and neighbor that his velador Carlos (property manager) knew who had our phone! Carlos used to drive a taxi. And as stories go in a small town, his wife’s cousin saw a taxista with a phone that wasn’t his. Given an opportunity, the cousin looked in the phone and saw Carlos’s phone number and that of our friend.

Now before you get all hopeful, as we did, this story doesn’t have a happy ending. Upon our return, we went to the central office to report taxista #29. The manager said that he would look into it. The fun started when two days later, we spied #29 and Lisa decided to give chase . Now you cannot really have much of a car chase in Bacalar and when the taxi pulled over, we blocked his exit and got out of the truck. He had stopped for the manager who was also looking for him. And then another supervisor showed up. There were neighbors standing in their doorways craning their necks to see what was going on with the crazy gringas. I wish I had thought to take pictures.

A car chase in Bacalar would require avoiding hitting the goats.

A car chase in Bacalar would require avoiding hitting the goats.

It came down to “he said – she said” and #29 vehemently denied everything. Without someone willing to testify, we had no proof. Upon further conversation with Carlos, we decided to drop the issue. #29 is a known bully and he knew who had accused him. We were not concerned for ourselves, but the young cousin who would be asked to testify. Our only hope is that the management knows and #29 will be more careful in the future.

This morning's sunrise.

This morning’s sunrise.

So we’re off this week to buy another phone. As many great stories as we’ve heard about people going out of their way to return lost items, I suppose there will always be a #29 who will show up, an unfortunate fact of life anywhere.
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