Tag Archives: Life in the Yucatan

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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A Tootle To Merida

3 Apr

Living in the U.S. gives one a certain perspective on automotive travel. It probably has as much to do with traffic, ability to find parking and one’s genetic makeup of hating or liking to drive.

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One of the Pitfalls of Driving in Any Country

While living in Mexico is not so different, it really is. For one thing, bus travel is far more convenient, comfortable and cost effective. Five hours on a bus allows you to catch up on your reading and possibly make a new friend. We took a tootle this week and visited Merida, a four hour drive by auto, just down the street and an ungodly distance by my old life perspective.

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Sunrise Outside Our Room in Merida

We stayed in our favorite Airbnb, visited Lisa’s surgeon and SHOPPED. I can go to the dark side when visiting a big city like Merida. Shopping is very limited where we live in Bacalar, Mexico’s southern frontier. Although, when Home Depot opened in Chetumal, thirty minutes away, the old timers pointed out how easy we had it building our house now, as opposed to “way back when”.

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Finally Found the Illusive Costco!

We got quite lost driving in Merida and spent way too much time in traffic. Remember, when asking directions in Mexico, make sure the person you ask knows how to drive. The little man in the taco stand can not likely give directions, unless he pulls out his iPhone and Google maps.

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We Didn’t Overdose Too Badly

After Costco we drove to Progresso, on the Gulf, just for the heck of it. Lunch on the beach proved entertaining; watching people and seagulls.

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Lisa Checks Out the Seafood Menu

For the week after Easter, things were pretty quiet in this little beach town.

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A Favorite Way To Beat the Heat in Merida

We were both glad to get home. There was a lovely birthday party next door on Friday evening for our neighbor Teresa. Happy seventieth Darling. A relaxing end to a very busy week. DOS TORTAS

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So When Will The House Be Done Already?

28 Jun

The Tortas are in Tulum visiting our Austin friends Karen and Skip. We are on a hunt for items for our house, tile and light fixtures mostly. Options have increased over the last few years in our outpost of Mexican living. We now have a Home Depot in Chetumal which is thirty-minutes away, woohoo. The style of our house is rustica or pueblo. There are rounded corners, thatched overhangs, concrete floors, stuccoed walls and niches. Mass-produced furniture, lighting and all things made in China are not what we’re looking for. The hope is that Tulum and Playa del Carmen will offer more options.

Ok, so there are some exceptions.

Ok, so there are some exceptions. About $135

We stopped by the property for a progress update on our way out of town. There were a dozen workers trying to beat the rain clouds hovering overhead. Progress over the last six weeks has been amazing.

Front entrance.

Front entrance.

The molds have been made and the concrete will be poured for the arches above the door and windows. Construction out of concrete is a whole new world for us.

Rounding corners with concrete blocks.

Rounding corners using concrete blocks. Amazing!

The workshop aka Lisa’s she-cave is waiting on a part to install the garage door. A carport will be added to provide an indoor/outdoor work space.
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The arches have been poured over the doors and windows in this section. To the right is the entrance to the main bedroom and bath. The interior window will allow an open view into the bedroom and close for privacy when desired.

All rooms open onto the porch with views of the Laguna.

All rooms open onto the porch with views of the Laguna.

The stairs leading down to the Laguna from the porch will also provide security allowing the house to remain open to the night breezes.
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The trip to Tulum and Playa del Carmen afforded the purchase of decorative tiles for a yet-to-be determined location. It also gave us ideas, like these clay sconces for the porch.

Which do you like best?

Which do you like best?

I liked these. They can also be painted.

I liked these. They can also be painted.

The roof will go on in the next week or so. After that begins the interior detail work of building counters, installing sinks, adding lighting and pouring floors. There will be many trips to Chetumal. And the projected completion date is…the end of August, four months as predicted. Forgive us David if we didn’t really believe you. House construction is the very definition of delays and unforeseen problems. Add Mexico to the mix and many projects languish. To say we are excited is an understatement. Lots of work left to do, but definitely light at the end of this two-year tunnel.

DOS TORTAS
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Show And Tell – Art Purchases

14 Jun

Life rarely turns out the way we plan. Sometimes it is way cooler. Our three-week road trip to explore the Yucatan was originally conceived to search for repurposed doors, windows, and hardware for the home we are building along the Laguna of Seven Colors in Bacalar, Mexico. The design for the house is Pueblo or village style. It has stucco walls with arched wooden doors and lots of rounded corners. There are palapa overhangs for shade and a large screened porch. We like the look of concrete floors and persianas, (louvered windows) and open indoor/outdoor living. It is small compared to the mansions being built along the laguna, less than a thousand square feet. Perfect for Dos Tortas.

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We managed to find old wood doors, but unfortunately they were made of soft wood and not the hard woods needed for building in the jungle. The purchases we did make were local art for decorating our home. So much fun!

In Valladolid we found a “bazaar” which means – used items. We spotted this wooden panel deep in the back of a room. She spoke to us and was the most significant purchase we made. I have a collection of Guadalupe’s. She will get her own wall in our home.

This piece is made of wood by a local artist.

The panel is made of wood by an artist from Tizimin.

A mestizo mother and baby will be a garden piece, when we have gardens someday LOL.

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An iron sun will be incorporated into a roof railing to welcome the daily sunrise.

Here comes the sun.

Here comes the sun.

Next were hemp baskets. Before synthetics, hemp was a major industry in the Yucatan. I bought a colorful tortilla basket in the convent store in the magical city of Izamal. Perfect for keeping the tortillas warm on the kitchen table.

Basket of many colors.

Basket of many colors.

I broke my own rule and purchased this basket in a tourist shop. The price was right and I hadn’t seen another like it.

I paid less than $20 for this 9" tall basket.

I paid less than $20 for this 9″ tall basket.

No one traveling to the Yucatan can resist the beautiful pottery. I know we will return to Ticul after the house is complete. At the moment, we have nowhere to store the really big pots that I adore.

Mayan Goddess

Mayan Goddess

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I was told that this small replication was a bruja or witch. Usually women who were known as witches were midwives or healers. Needless to say, she had to come home with us.

Bruja.

Bruja.

The last small pot was made by ceramics artist Roger Juarez. Visiting his Mayan studio was a highlight of the trip. By this time the truck was quite full. Only promises to return kept me from blowing the budget.

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We were happy to get home to Bacalar. House construction is now in full swing. It is hard to be patient at this point, but knowing I have such lovely pieces to decorate the house…will be worth the wait. DOS TORTAS

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The Great Yucatan Meander – Final Leg

7 Jun

Traversing the Yucatan in a big-ass truck is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Once our house construction is complete we will be purchasing a more  economical, easier to park vehicle. But for now, it’s perfect! So we set off for three weeks to meander, shop, swim and explore our way around the Yucatan.

Fun with pyramids.

Fun with pyramids.

No tour de Yucatan would be complete without visiting the pyramids of Uxmal (oosh-mahl).

Impressive city.

Impressive city.

Uxmal is a large fascinating site and one of the most visited in Mexico. Record heat insured there were no crowds to contend with. Even arriving early did not keep us from mucho gratitude for our air conditioned ride.

The attention to detail is staggering.

The attention to detail is staggering.

Walking through the city, we were transported through time. It’s hard to imagine what life was like. People spent so much effort simply surviving in this dry climate. Catching and storing water was paramount. And yet decorating their temples seemed equally important for survival. Chac the rain god was everywhere.

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Here is evidence of the thatched-roof Mayan homes still seen everywhere in the Yucatan. Their thick walls do an excellent job of insulating. Hang a hammock and you’re all set.

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Like cenotes, you would think after awhile, ancient sites would get boring. Not for Dos Tortas.

imageWe were wishing to make off with some of the stonework simply laying around. Ha!
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There was so much to see and do. Three weeks flew by.

imageWe’d like to incorporate some of these images into our house design. Construction is finally underway. For house pictures visit our Facebook page. Next week we’ll have show-and-tell for the purchases made during the Meander. See you then and as always your comments are appreciated. 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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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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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 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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Healing a Not Broken Leg – Isn’t Life Amazing?

25 May

Memorial Day weekend 2013, our daughter was getting married. Life was busy with selling our home, getting rid of most of our possessions and winding down our jobs. We went from crazy busy to retirement life in the jungle of southern Yucatan.

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Life here is not for everyone. We did not want a large English speaking community with all the amenities of the US. Our nearest city and the capital of the state of Quintana Roo (Row) is about a 40 minute drive. Chetumal (pop 260,000) sits on the boarder with Belize and the Bay of Chetumal. It is not a tourist destination in spite of efforts to make it so.

Museum of Mayan Culture

Museum of Mayan Culture

Chetumal is where we go for medical care. Friday was three weeks since my fateful bike accident and time to return to the traumatologist. Don’t let appearances fool. While the buildings look right out of the 1950’s, the care is top notch.

Clinica Independencia

Clinica Independencia

My experience thus far with medical care has been that it’s low tech but very hands on. Doctors take time. It’s not that high tech isn’t available, MRIs, etc are reserved for more serious situations. Dr Diez-Torres removed my cast, gently manipulated my knee, assessing pain and range of motion. He explained using a model what was going on. Our conversation was in both English and Spanish. We looked at the X-rays again and agreed that my leg probably wasn’t broken. He told me to return to normal activity as I was able and use light weights to do leg extensions to build muscle strength. I felt like I was talking to an equal.

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My knee continues to heal. I look forward to swimming and no pain. While life in this corner of the globe is not for everyone, the lack of stress and beauty that abounds makes it perfect for us.

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