Tag Archives: southern yucatan

Don’t Battle The Ants

4 Sep

If you have never read 100 Years of Solitude (Cien Años de Soledad) by Colombian Nobel Prize winning author Gabriel García Márquez (1967), you have missed a magical story that takes place in the remote village of Macondo, in the jungle of the Columbian rainforest. It is one of the best books ever written. Seriously.

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I first read 100 Years of Solitude as an international student in Mexico in the seventies. It had just been translated into English. It is a tale of seven generations of the Buendía family who among other things, have the habit of naming their children variations of the same names. It’s enough to make your head spin trying to keep track of the various players.

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Hibiscus also known here as tulipani.

Eventually I gave up trying to follow who’s who and found that it made little difference. I would never give away the ending other than to say it involves ants.

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The video would not upload.

In the jungle a battle with the ants is a battle you will loose. There’s more of them than us and they never quit. No matter how clean your house, they will scurry across the kitchen counter looking for a nibble or a bug to carry off.

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Volunteer papaya tree growing out of the compost pile.

This week I was sitting on the couch and twice found an ant on my leg. I looked up to see a highway of ants coming from under the dog crate. What the…!!

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Bird of paradise blooming this morning.

They show up quickly having decided that something I thought was mine is really theirs. It’s a wonder they haven’t made off with the dog! Time to get out the trusty vacuum cleaner. The best I can hope for is to discourage them. So far, it’s not working.

DOS TORTAS

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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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Preparing For Our First Hurricane

7 Aug

As The Tortas approach three years of retirement on Laguna Bacalar in Southern Mexico, our first hurricane was predicted to arrive Wednesday evening with up to 75 mph winds and twelve inches of rain. We live about thirty miles as the crow flies from the Caribbean, separated by water and mangroves and not much else. As with all hurricanes, much depends on their direction and intensity. We watched the sky and prepared for the worst.

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A Beautiful Day For A Hurricane

We hired workers to help us prepare. They cut dead branches, put away outdoor plants and furniture, tied up the kayaks and set sand bags in place. Our concern was for water barreling down the hill toward the house, if we got the foot of rain that was predicted.

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Machetes Were Flying Trimming Trees

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Plants Off The Roof and Kayaks Secure

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Reinforcing the Dock

As predicted the rain started late Wednesday afternoon. And then it stopped. We waited. Everything we could do was done, so it was time for the TORTAS first ever hurricane party!

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Dinner, Dominos and Drinks with Neighbors

During the night Earl turned south and took the brunt of its damage to Belize. Lisa slept through the wind which was hardly more than any tropical storm that blows through Bacalar. We had several heavy showers over the next few days, and that was all. Almost disappointing.

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The Islands Of Belize Were Not So Lucky

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Thursday morning with intense skies and waves.

While we are grateful for the lack of damage we received, we are much more aware of the amount of work it takes to be prepared. In the future, a generator, hurricane shutters and improved drainage could cut the time in half. Lesson learned.

DOS TORTAS

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A Day In The Life

24 Jul

Living on Laguna Bacalar, three kilometers (2 miles) from the pueblo of Bacalar makes for a vida muy tranquilo

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We didn’t know about the magnificent sunrises when we moved here.

Up with the sun about six thirty. Lisa starts the day making coffee while Luna and I walk down to the dock to photograph the sunrise. It’s been our ritual since she was a puppy. She waits at the back door impatiently every morning.

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We watch the fish, listen to the birds and watch the day come alive.

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Our rickety dock.

Meditation and exercise play a daily part of the routine. On this day it was an exercise video with Alice, Lisa’s mother. Luna likes to join in.

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On alternative days we’re off to the gym. This week we had a visit with blog follower Heather and son Jonathan. What a treat when people travel to Bacalar after reading the blog.

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A trip to the pirate fort and picture in front of the mural is a must when visiting Bacalar.

We visited shops featuring local art and sampled snow cones shaved from a block of ice right before our eyes. We had our choice of homemade tropical fruit toppings, pineapple, lime, tamarind, nance and more.

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Light and refreshing, not like the syrupy sweet snow cones we’re used to.

What day would be complete without a parade!

I’m not sure what the parade was for, but we never need a special reason to celebrate life in Bacalar. DOS TORTAS

Be sure to follow us on Pinterest and Instagram at dos_tortas.

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Swan Lake – Lago de Los Cisnes

19 Jun

A ballet in Chetumal? It was a student production with 40 peso tickets ($2.50). I had extremely low expectations. If you have read previous blogs, you know that even though it is the state capital, Chetumal is not exactly the cultural center of Mexico. But we take what we can get from our sister city to the south and off we went our little group of four gringos.

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The theater itself was a nondescript building. We took public transportation which was a good decision. There was only street parking available.

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Constitution Theater

As with all ballets, the audience was peppered with little girls dressed in their Sunday best.

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The doors opened and everyone filed in and got settled. Out came the cell phones. I think some people actually recorded the entire production.

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The theater attendees were not well versed in ballet etiquette, which is understandable given the dearth of opportunity in Chetumal. Our little band of gringos led the applause at every opportunity.

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Selfies with honorary Torta and neighbor Teresa.

I wish that I had read the synopsis prior to attending. The program was in Spanish of course. With the low lighting and these old eyes, there was no figuring it out. I simply enjoyed the set, costumes, recorded music and performance.

 

The surprise was that it was wonderful! I was in awe of the young dancers and the professional lead (I am making assumptions here). They got a standing ovation from our little band and none other was more deserved. We chattered all the way home in our taxi how amazing the performance was. The best $2.40 I ever spent! DOS TORTAS

 

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Mother-in-Law Adventure

29 May

I’ve been wanting to take my MIL to Mahahual since she arrived to live with us in December. It’s an hour and half drive to the Caribbean coast, around the top of Laguna Bacalar, here in the southern-most part of Mexico.

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From Bacalar we traveled around the Laguna to the yellow square that is Mahahual.

A friend gifted us a night in a hotel which was the perfect opportunity to pack an overnight bag and catch a one pm. shuttle from Bacalar.

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Porto Coral on the beach.

Mahahual used to be a sleepy little village. The addition of a huge pier to accommodate cruise ships changed everything.

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We cruised the malecon, pedestrian walkway, lined with restaurants, vendors and shops. Alice, who lives to shop was in heaven.

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A creative way to display glass hearts for sale.

We found Restaurante Las Chiquitas on Trip Advisor and had a lovely dinner.

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And then there was breakfast on the beach the following morning.

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The town is pretty deserted when the cruise ships are not in port.

It was just the right amount of time for people-watching, swimming, eating and shopping. A perfect bonding trip for Alice and me. Catching the combi (shuttle) was easy. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day we find a note on Alice’s door that says “gone to Mahahual, back whenever”. DOS TORTAS

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Kayak Marathon

15 May

There are two annual sporting events in our little town of Bacalar Mexico. One is kayak and the other a swim “marathon”.  

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That’s me on the left and my doubles partner Teresa on the right.

My neighbor Teresa and I practiced and completed the 5K (3.2 mile) kayak event in a lovely double borrowed from the event organizer.

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Wish it were mine!

The day was overcast and very windy. The best part of participating was finishing.

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Finish in 45 minutes.

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Turn around.

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Coconuts for rehydration. Machete provided.

The lesson learned from this experience is that I will never complete the 30K distance. Some goals are just out of reach. We did however have a great time training. Having fun can be its own reward. The best one actually. DOS TORTAS

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Papa Francisco’s Visit To Mexico

21 Feb

This week, I was able to watch Mexican TV while visiting a friend and avoiding the fumes of sealing our concrete floors. Most channels were devoted to coverage of the Pope’s visit to Mexico. I was raised Catholic and have mixed feelings about The Church, but this day I was in awe of this Pope and his message. 

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The crowds gathered in Chiapas.

The mass celebrated in the mountainous region of Chiapas was devoted to the indígenas of Mexico. Most people don’t know that there are a million people in the state of Chiapas alone who’s first language is not Spanish. They are the poorest and the proudest. They came in droves and dressed in their best. As the cameras scanned the crowd, it was fun to see simple people recognize themselves on the huge TV screens set up for optimal viewing.

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Forgive my photos of a TV.

Parts of the celebration were in Tzotzil and Tzelta. A line of men and women in native garb took turns addressing the Pope. I was hoping for someone to go off script, but it didn’t happen.

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The women’s voices were given equal time.

The Pope asked for forgiveness for the decimation of native populations by the Church, government and European invaders.

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The Pope’s message spoken to common people.

While many attacked the Pope’s message as nothing but empty words, I was most impressed by his asking for help with climate change. People who live simple lives, close to the land have a lot to teach the rest of us. If we will only listen.

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It’s been a week of laying low and continued rest. The Pope’s message gave me hope, which is in short supply these days while observing the US political shenanigans. Maybe Hilary and Bernie could run together. Now wouldn’t that be an interesting possibility. Please post comments below. DOS TORTAS

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Eating Organic in Mexico – An Adventure of a Different Kind

22 Feb

The Tortas are on vacation. Please enjoy a previous post.

A large part of moving to Mexico for me was driven by the memory of roaming local mercados brimming with fresh fruits and vegetables. In 1975, as a college student in Mexico, I gorged on whatever was in season, especially relishing avocados and tropical fruits not found in my native New Jersey.

As with everything inthe world, times have changed, and in 2014, asking a merchant in the Bacalar market where their produce is from often results in a blank stare. For this reason, I have thought often of the organic farmer’s market left behind in Austin, Texas. I willingly paid higher prices, which included the privilege of meeting the farmers who grew and brought their culinary wonders to my neighborhood.

On Saturday, the Tortas were excited to take a road-trip to a local organic farm that we’d heard about. After driving 40 km or about 25 miles, we came to what’s otherwise known as Kilometro Cinco (five).

An easy-to-miss wooden roadside stand fronts an amazing farm owned and operated by a husband-wife team. All work is done manually. There is no roto tiller pulled behind a tractor. The rich earth in this soil poor area is the result of twenty years of composted chicken manure. It is obvious that these folks work hard, love what they do and have a green thumb that I can only dream of. We followed them to their fields and were in awe of the crops that were harvested before our eyes. It doesn’t get any fresher than this. There was eggplant, cabbage, kohlrabi, two kinds of espinaca (spinach), red and green lettuce, arugula, chard, bok choy, basil, Serrano peppers, dandelions and probably more that I’m forgetting. It was a Spanish lesson as well. I will have green smoothies for days. Kilometro Cinco is a treasure and well worth the trip. Our huge basket of veggies, farm eggs and oranges cost about $10US. I’m in heaven and no longer dreaming of farmer’s markets.

Rows of lettuce and peppers.

Rows of lettuce and peppers.

Growing in the jungle.

Growing in the jungle.

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Harvesting as we go.

Harvesting as we go.

Though For The Day

Though For The Day

A Literary Suggestion for the Mexico Bound

11 Jan

Bacalareños had a quiet Saturday night. The long holiday vacation is over with adults back to work and the children in school. The cool weather and rain had the perros curled up and quiet until the rooster alarm clock went off this morning. We cherish these mornings.

Rainy Sunday morning.

Rainy Sunday morning.

I’ve been hearing from readers about adventurous plans to travel or retire to Mexico. I thought you might enjoy a reading suggestion to pass the time until your trip.

On my night table is The Lacuna by Barbara Kinsolver.

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The main character tells of life growing up with his Mexican mother and his relationship with Frieda Kalo and Diego Rivera.

Artists of Mexico.

Artists of Mexico.

As a young adult he returns to seek out his US father and ends up living in Asheville, NC. of all places. My brother lives in Asheville and I’ve visited many times, however familiarity with the city is not a requirement to enjoy the book.

I found The Lacuna slow to engage but persisted after I saw it included among the coffee table collection at La Casa de los Venados in Valladolid. If the owners of this amazing art collection thought enough to place it front and center in a room where there are no accidents, I decided to give it a second go.

All things Mexico.

All things Mexico.

The largest private collection of Mexican folk art.

The largest private collection of Mexican folk art in the world.

Our reclusive protagonist develops into a writer of Mexican ancient history and weaver of stories that capture the hearts of post WW I, communist fearing Americans. I cannot tell you the ending, as I am within pages of finishing myself. It feels much like the story of Dos Tortas, off to a slow start, but now within days of receiving our permission to build our retirement home. How perfect a life reflection. DOS TORTAS
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