Friday, November 17, 2017

Business is Just an Excuse

Writing a blog after leaving your location is just not the same. But, here goes - 

Paying the fideicomiso is way too modern and easy these days. It took a short walk down Calle 62, a quick stop into a location close to us, and it was done. We miss the ringing the doorbell at the back door, gaining entrance up the back stairs, a wait in a cluttered office filled with paper, and a struggle through Spanish, and keeping our fingers crossed we aren't met with a puzzled look. No more getting the piece of paper that has to be taken downstairs to a teller window, followed by more Spanish, and an exchange of pesos, and ending with a piece of paper and a muchas gracias. Now it's to handing over pesos and a muchas gracias. 

But, it does allow for more time hanging out on the mirador...where, by the way, we saw probably two dozen parrots of all sizes fly over one afternoon. We shopped, in fact we shopped so much, upon our final departure we had to bring home another piece of luggage filled with a gorgeous hand-loomed bedspread and two colorful hamacas. This is something we have wanted to buy for quite some time but never wanted to lug around. This trip was the one to bite the bullet and buy and lug. 
Harbor and Isla putting the hamacas to use back at Ranchito LaErmita

We sunned on the beach in Progreso where we never saw our favorite vendors. We don't know so we are only hoping it's because it's the slow season and they just weren't out and about. We cooked chicken, carrots and rice, we had cocktails on the mirador, and we made our exit from the casa on a much happier note this time. Back to Playa del Carmen on the "fast/directo bus" of only 4 hours duration. We arrived after dark and made our way the 7 or 8 blocks to our new, little hotel find and stayed for a couple of relaxing days and nights. We watched the Astros win the World Series here, lounged on the beach, and ate awesome Peruvian food at El Oasis. Then, we made the trip over to Isla Mujeres for a final 5 night stay up above the street in our rather large and comfortable room with a great lookout balcony. We ate, we drank, we sunned, we golf carted around the island and then did it all the next day and the next.
We put that extra suitcase to good use - Terry ended up with an awesome pair of handmade leather tie shoes in addition to the two hamacas and a bedspread I have been wanting for years. Terry surprised me when he went into buying mode and bought me a necklace with a compass pendant. I say surprised me because I spotted it two steps into the jewelry store but if it wasn't for his great negotiating skills I never would have ended up with it. The sales guy put it around my neck and I laughed and told him my husband would never go for the price. He might as well take it off. He had been beckoning us in his shop each day we passed by. Terry had gone back to the room to get more pesos out of the safe. The price on the tag was $17,800 pesos. Terry got the price  down to $200 pesos. Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want. I don't think I would have even gone into the jewelry shop nor do I think Terry would have bought the necklace except for those crazy drinks at the Soggy Peso. The extra pesos were for cigars while watching the sunset, not jewelry. 
One of our Isla Mujeres sunsets...each one is magical

Life is good and thank goodness we have "business" to use as an excuse. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

Hanal Pixán...Dia de los Muertos...a Dad and a Mom

Celebrations marking Dia de los Muertos started with 57,000 people walking from the cemetery through our little neighborhood of LaErmita and ending up in the park of San Juan just a few blocks up the street from us through the arches. The Paseo de las Animas was on Friday, Oct. 27th about the time we were watching the Houston Astros win while sitting in a sports bar in Playa del Carmen. The parade was the first of several celebrations of death. There was a day to honor lost children. Next day, it was for adults followed by a day known as "All Soul's Day" on Nov. 2nd. There were altars filled with food and flowers, there were parades, and there were church services in the jardine. We saw school children carrying baskets of fruit and other goodies along with material to construct altars at school and feed the souls of the dead. Here in Mérida, they refer to it as Hanal  Pixán. If you don't speak Mayan, that translates to "meal for the souls". Here in the Yucatan, it's all about combining the Mayan traditions with the Catholic beliefs.

As for us, we wanted to come down here for Dia de los Muertos and for our own closure concerning the dead. We have accomplished getting closure. It all started back in the summer when I had hurriedly left out of Mérida on a Sunday during our last visit. Mom had been taken to the hospital where she had a second surgery due to her CHF. I almost didn't make it through the airport when I was called back to Customs due to a glitch and my own forgetfulness about exiting and re-entering the country when we went to Belize. I ended up giving them all the pesos and all the dollars I had to get to board the plane. I was crying when I rushed to board the plane, but the flight attendants gave me hugs and assured me all would be ok. I think I knew at that moment it wasn't. Upon arrival at IAH, I drove to the hospital in Temple that Sunday afternoon and spent the night in the room with Mom. On the following Monday in early afternoon, I received a call from Terry. His mom had called him to tell him his dad had died. That meant he was going through the emotions of losing his dad while alone and responsible for securing the house, paying bills and doing all the last-minute things we generally do before heading out. He spent that last night in Mérida alone before boarding a last-minute booked flight on United direct to IAH. He doesn't remember a lot of those last hours in Mérida. I drove to Kim's from Temple on Monday evening and Tuesday morning we were waiting at IAH for Terry. One parent was in the hospital while making funeral arrangements for another. We ended up saying good-bye this past summer to two parents - Terry's dad and my mom. Coming back to Mérida on this trip was for two reasons - to pay the fideicomiso at the bank and to give us some closure - to do some grieving and make sure we really did turn off the lights and lock the doors. It turned out we had a celebration of two lives lost because that's what you do during Dia de los Muertos. Being in Mexico helped us see death as a new beginning for those that pass on and it helped replace our feelings of grief and loss with joy as we realize our parents have gone on to a better place. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Being Patient in Mexico

We were scheduled to fly south today (Monday), but changed it when all the stars lined up on Friday. Kim and the kiddos took us to the airport and we gave the kiddos air kisses as they were both fast asleep when she dropped us off. 
Our flight was almost uneventful. It was only eventful because we ordered drinks on the plane and didn't get charged for them. Thank you once again to Southwest for being the most awesome airlines in the universe! 
We ended up in Playa for the night. We just weren't up to boarding the bus for Merida when the sun was still shining and it was nice and warm. We found a great place to spend the night just a few steps from Quinta Avenida. We were right in the middle of the action, but it was very quiet once we closed the door to our second story hacienda-type room. We didn't have any hot water but who cared. Especially when guests got a 50% discount off the price of breakfast. 
Friday night we found a nice sports bar and got to watch the astros win. Then we had a late dinner at the Oasis. It is our go to place in Playa. They specialize in Pervuvian food and Terry had shrimp. I had fish something or other and I still don't know what was on it, but it was heavenly. 
Would you believe it if I said we got up Saturday morning and walked around a bit, but never went one block over to the beach? I can't believe we went through playa and never went to the beach, but we will go back for that. No worries! 
We couldn't make the 10:30 bus but we were there in plenty of time for the 11:30. It was quite full and Terry and I had to book aisle seats across from each other. We settled in for the 5 hour trip to Merida which meant it wasn't the short, directo route but went through Tulum and also stopped in Valladolid. Between Tulum and the cut-off to Coba, we heard a loud pop and the bus driver pulled over and walked around the bus. When he hopped back in the driver's seat he turned on the flashers and drove a little slower to the cut-off...about 5 miles away. We stopped there and were told we had a flat tire and were waiting for somebody to fix it. Sit back and relax! Now the bus was nice and appeared to be very wasn't because we were on a chicken bus. Thirty minutes turned into an hour which turned into two hours. But, you just have to be patient. There is no alternative and there is nothing you can do about it. The mostly Mexicans on the bus were all very patient and were quite content to continue watching movie after movie. The young guy next to me received several phone calls from his chica waiting for him in Merida. He was going home to Merida, but that's about all I know about his story. Several of the guys on the bus got off and helped the tire changing guy and the bus driver. The bus driver had taken off his starched white shirt and red tie and got down. But he wasn't going to get down and get dirty. My first American reaction is to get impatient, but I have learned from the Mexicans - their way of dealing with things is so much better for the blood pressure and heart rate. 
We eventually made it to Valladolid and on to Merida. It was over two hours later than what was scheduled but who is counting? Of course when we got here, Mari had turned on the refrigerator and stocked it with cold beer. We were mirador bound and life was good once again! 
This was breakfast yesterday morning in Santa Ana Park...salbutes and a tamal w/ pumpkin sauce...washed down with a little jugo de chaya

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Vaya con Dios, Mom

Mom and I on the beach in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, MX 2014
This blog is about Mexico so I'll explain up front how I can write about my mom when she never visited us in Merida. First of all, it's my blog and I can blog about whatever I want to blog about, right? And right now I want to write about my mom. These are my thoughts and my thoughts alone so others may or may not agree with me. Secondly, on a more serious note, my mom had surgery in January to repair an aortic aneurysm. The surgery kicked her butt but through a stay in skilled nursing, more hospital time, and more skilled nursing time she managed to go back to her independent living apartment in Carriage Inn, Bryan, TX and live some more. Read on, the connection will come through clearly. 

On Monday, June 19th she and her lady friends from Carriage Inn took the chauffeur driven limo to a Mexican food restaurant (see, Mexican food, get it?) where they spent the entire day laughing, eating AND drinking margaritas. Now I won't get into whether drinking the margaritas was a good thing for my mom to do or not. She was 86 years old and if she wanted to drink margaritas I personally think it was an excellent idea. I can't think of a better thing to be doing when later on it unveils as being the last hoo-rah. The next day while I'm sitting in a second class bus station in Tizimin, Yucatan with Terry and four of our dear friends, visitors and fellow adventurous warriors, I get a text from Joanne, my sister, saying Mama was being life-flighted to Temple, TX due to her heart. I can assure you she wasn't near as excited about the helicopter ride as she was about the chauffer driven limo. She withstood a second surgery, and fought for another six weeks before saying her final good-bye. 

I flew home the following Sunday to visit Mama, and the very next day Terry received a call that his dad had died. So, he came home the next day which was a Tuesday. Our lives have changed forever since then.

So today is Thursday, August 10th and I am thinking about how I could never stand up at a funeral and do a eulogy. I would be bawling like a baby. But, I can write. So here's some things about my mama that may surprise some of you but it's what I have to say and I'm the one at this time with full editorial licensure. I'm writing this prior to leaving to go to Anderson, TX to attend her funeral.

For some strange reason, I'm proud of her for having those margaritas at that last pachanga to celebrate one of her friend's 90th-something birthday. I mean, what exactly do you expect at a birthday party of mature women? Cake and ice cream? Shish!

She had five kids with daughter-in-laws and son-in laws. In her obituary it says she has 16 grandkids and 29 great-grandkids and 6 great-great grandkids. We know the number is right for the grandkids, but we never could get a good count on the great-grandkids so we should have added mas or menos in the obituary but I know the cost goes up for each line in the obituary so we had to be careful with extra words. Whatever the number, she and my dad left quite a legacy behind. And it's a pretty successful brood at that. If you define fertile as being successful, then one could say very, very successful. She loved family and she was a sweet, kind person. But, she did know how to play family members at times. She had a hard time expressing direct unhappiness with any of us. Her way of doing it was to say something about one of us to the other in hopes we could share the unhappiness and she would kinda be off the hook. Think about it, it always gave her an out. We were all on to it though, and my standard response was , "Mom, if you have a beef about so and so, you need to let them know. Don't tell me as I can't do anything about it."

Another Mexico connection - several years back when Mazatlán was just becoming a place for tourists to go to, ie, still inexpensive to go there, Mama, Joanne and I took a "girl's trip" to Mazatlán. Mom would always say when she was around the two of us she was glad she didn't have a sister because there seemed to be "competition" between us. In Mazatlán my sister and I (with the help of the matriarch Mama) managed to attract every Mexican man's attention. Seriously, it was a pretty heady experience and we were younger and pretty cute at the time. Mix in a little alcohol and you know what you get. Well, one night we ended up putting Mom in bed after a long night of dining, drinking and dancing and we hooked up with a couple of nice-looking Mexican men and went drinking and dancing. Note to the younger set - I do not recommend doing this, but it was damn fun. I mean, husbands were home minding the kids and we were galavanting in Mazatlán with some pretty nice-looking Mexican dudes. They could very well have been members of the Mexican drug cartel but on that night we didn't care. We ended up dancing at a pretty swank, exclusive place. I've seriously read where there have been some bad happenings at that place. Mom was very aware and pretty upset that we had left her behind, but secretly I can say you can only party with your mom for so long. She was still our mom. But, my sister never kept anything from my mom. She always told her too much in my opinion, but that's just my opinion. Mom knows all the details about that night and she won't be telling a soul on this earth now. Very recently, Joanne was talking to my sister-in-law and mentioned something about how Mom was the only person that always thought she was perfect. And my mom did think she was perfect. Honestly, when it came to my mom, my sister was, in fact,  perfect in how she treated her. But, my sister was quickly reminded that my mom didn't think she was perfect after all because, not to forget, Mom was in Mazatlán with the two 'seestas'. So after all these years, me (the younger sister) finally finds out my mom didn't think my sister was perfect after all! 

She was a member of the Catholic Church in Anderson, TX where she will be buried. But, after moving to the Carriage Inn from the ranch, she reluctantly changed churches and attended the Catholic Church in Bryan. She never really felt like it was "her church", but one thing she did enjoy was getting to be chauffeured in the limo. She wasn't used to that growing up or being married to my dad, that's for sure. So it was cool that she was feeling special and pampered at Carriage Inn. She told me about one trip to church and when church was out, she was walking outside next to a lady when the lady spotted the waiting limo and driver and made some comment about wondering who in the parish was getting picked up in a limo. My mom looked and saw it was her ride and turned to the lady and said, "Oh, that would be me!" When my mom was telling me about it, she told me she felt like a "rich bitch" as she stepped outside and got helped into the back of that fancy limo. 

While in the hospital, a couple of funny things come to mind. One was that it drove my mom crazy when all of her offspring texted. I guess she thought we were talking about her behind her back, and for the last six weeks of her life we were. We shared when she ate, what she ate, how much she ate, how long it took to go through her, her blood pressure readings, whether she felt nauseous, whether she was able to do her daily physical therapy or not, whether or not she was breathing with oxygen, and the list goes on. She was vain and wore these little tiny hearing aids. I wish I had the money she spent on the ones she misplaced or couldn't wear because they didn't fit in her ears correctly, etc. She had a constant problem with them but one thing was damn sure, you couldn't see them and it didn't appear she had to have hearing aids. But, she had a tendency to not wear them and they did very little good when she didn't have them in. Unless you were texting. They could be sitting on her bedside table and she could still hear you texting. Of course she didn't have them in her ears at the end stage of her life. Shortly after I showed up, I was texting out my report to the family members about what she was or wasn't doing and I didn't have my phone on silent. While sitting about 4-5 feet away from her I was texting away when she asked me what that noise was. Ummm, I had been caught in the act. I acted stupid just like I did when I was about 12, and asked her what kind of noise did she hear. And she said it was a click, click click like a little animal. I just slid my hand to the little button and turned off the sound completely. But, I guess mothers really do have a sixth sense. I'm quite sure she knew what I was doing even thought at that point she was no longer opening her eyes. 

Also, during that same visit she made a reference to the book "Fifty Shades of Gray". The nurse was in taking her vitals and casually asked my mom if she had read the book. Unlike most 86 year olds I know, she answered with a sense of pride and giddiness that she had read every word of it. The nurse raised her eyebrows and looked at me as if she wanted me to confirm that she had read it because she didn't believe it. Yep, she read it. But, in fact, she was an avid reader her whole life and read many novels. Some with a lot more substance than the content of that book. For years now, I have talked about my dream of writing a novel. Not just any novel, but a steamy book with lots of inner conflict amongst the characters. The story line has stuck with me for many years. Many of my friends know about this. I always laugh and ask myself why I don't write it. Well, truthfully it's my own fears keeping me from writing it. I could never use the excuse that I can't dare write "that kind of book" while my mom is alive. Shoot, she would have helped me write it!

I only know of one secret ever my mom told me that I don't think she ever told my sister or my brothers. At least, she told it to me about 3-4 years ago and said she had never told anybody. I won't tell you what it is, and she might have told each of us with the same message about nobody else in the family knowing. But, I will never tell. I'll just go on thinking my mom and I did say things to each other that were just between the two of us. And, in case you didn't know, I am actually very good at keeping secrets even though you may be reading this blog and doubting it.

This blog doesn't even touch the surface of my mom. She was much more complex and multi-dimensional. She was a much deeper person than this, but at this very moment this is what I/me/only I am thinking in regards to my mom. 

It's almost time for me to go get dressed and we will head to her funeral. Us kids picked out an intricately carved wooden casket for her because she loved any type of wooden box. I don't know that she really had "this kind of wooden box" in mind all those years of expressing her love for wooden boxes, but somehow it seems fitting to send her off in a beautifully carved wooden casket. And, it isn't a plain pine box I assure you. She'll be nicely dressed with her jewelry on. Even to the very end, she kept her vanity. I think it had something to do with her being ready to die. She kept saying she wanted her health to return to the level it was before she had her last surgery. I think when she realized it wasn't going to happen, and at best, she could hope for being in assisted living or a nursing home rather than independent living, and having to have a wheelchair she decided it was time to go. That wasn't really her idea of living.

The other thing the casket is that it has a little tray for the family members to put treasures in there for her. Kate, my daughter, said she wishes she had a piece of "shocking fruit" from the Schwan truck she could put in there. That's Kate's story and I would have to let her tell it. As for me, I'm putting in a peso so she can have one last margarita. From this day on, any time I drink a margarita I will think of you, Mama. You had your last pachanga and each of us will remember you in a different way, and have a different set of fond memories. But I already know, I'll remember the fun times.

Vaya con Dios, Mom

Just a note: Right after we took this picture my mom went and sat down on the beach where she proceeded to buy a handful of jewelry from a vendor. So she could put it on. We were at Kim's wedding venue and stayed for a week. She didn't go to the wedding because in her words she didn't feel up to it. But she came to life a few days later. I think I'm finally over that one!
All through the travels she let her sweet Mexican friend push her in a wheelchair and she got VIP treatment because of this. We arrived back in the states at the airport and we all got whisked through security ahead of everybody else that was just as tired, but because she was in the wheelchair. A minute later, she then jumped out of that wheelchair and did a little happy dance movement as she walked out to get in the waiting car. Did I tell you there were times she really knew how to frustrate me and embarrass me? 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Tizimín, Yucatan Cowboy Meets Victoria, Texas Cowboy

Our week of company has come and gone and I will just say for now it was awesome. In retrospect, the week has become even more special to Terry and me as we have experienced the death of Terry's dad and the hospitalization of my mom. Having time with special friends is precious. I will post a chronological list of events with photos at a later date but there is a snapshot in my mind that I keep going over and over in my mind and that's what I'm writing about today. It was inconsequential in many respects but says so much when it comes to people and places. It epitomizes why we love our friends and why we love to travel. Here's the story -

Seis Slugs in Rio Lagartos
We all visited Rio Lagartos and actually ended up staying there for two nights. Last Friday morning (was it really only 4 days ago?) we got up and meandered to the bus station, passing the tortilleria where James bought a big stack of fresh tortillas for the bus trip. David ended up buying a mango at a fruit stand for the trip back to Merida. When we got to the bus station, it was closed. But, we knew the bus would come around about 9am. Having a few extra minutes, we headed towards the malecon and all sat down with our backpacks in tow to wait the 10 minutes or so to go back to the bus station.
James, Terry, Cindi, David, Me and Robin at the malecon prior to boarding the bus...and up walks Charli...
That's when "Charli" showed up. She spotted David's TAMU cap and knew we were from "home". She just didn't know how close to her home we were. It seems she was a Texas girl that had married and moved to Ct. to live out a life and have a career. Four years ago she and her husband threw in the proverbial towels and moved to Rio Lagartos where they had the distinction of being the only full-time Gringos. When she found out most of the gang were from Victoria, TX she mentioned we may know her relatives the Leitas. Anybody that has spent any time in Victoria knows the Leitas. Right, my friends from Victoria? Names were thrown around and some of her cousins were friends and acquaintances of the gang. It is a small world indeed. Any Gringo that can live in Rio Lagartos full-time for four years is a friend of mine. So, here's to you Charli. My new friend I will probably never see again that has made a life she loves in Rio Lagartos!

We headed to the bus just in  time to board it and just pay the bus driver directly. By the time we got to the main road back to Tizimín the bus was almost full. All the visitors' guides skip right over Tizimín and describe it as not having much for tourists to see or do...nothing more than a place to transfer to another bus and move on. I beg to differ with the guides. Tizimín is smack dab in the middle of cowboy ranching country. The terrain is rocky and the cattle are mostly rangy Brahmas. Kinda' like Charli, any cowboy that has what it takes to ranch this country is a friend of mine. Cowboys wear Wrangler's (btw, they are manufactured right here in the Yucatan these days!), western shirts with fancy yokes and snaps, western boots, and cowboy hats. Tizimín, to me, is like finding a little piece of Texas. When we were on our way to Rio Lagartos, I had struck up a conversation with a young, attractive  Mexican woman in the bus station. I commented on the pretty color of her lipstick. When her husband joined her, he was just as handsome as she was attractive. He was a Tizimín cowboy. By the time they left for their bus to Merida, we were comfortable enough to embrace each other followed by a "Vaya bien". I like that and I like cowboys.

Headed into Tizimín, we picked up a cowboy alongside the road. His profile struck me in a way that I was compelled to snap his picture. Not the end of the story.
Tizimin cowboy boarding the bus

James, one of the Seis Slugs , traveled with his handsome Resistol western hat on his head the entire trip. There was the Texas cowboy and the Tizimín cowboy on this bus, baby. We arrived in Tizimín and had time to go grab a bite to eat. Having no idea where we were going, we struck out to be stopped by a city policeman asking if he could help us. When Terry explained we were looking for a place to grab a comida, he lead us a couple blocks to the Mercado. We walked by the spices in bulk, shoe booths, flower stalls, slabs of beef and pork hanging by hooks and begging to be bought, chickens and turkeys still alive, vegetable stands, and Mexican embroidered shirts directly into the middle of the bustling market where there were tables in the lined with food stands all around the edge. We headed in several different directions to get tortas and queso empanadas. While sitting there looking around, up walks the cowboy from the bus. I have to admit I was scouting the whole market scene out by this time, and am re-telling second-hand from Terry. He became the interpreter in this exchange between two cowboys. The Tizimín cowboy said in English "Me like your hat. How much?" James, thinking he meant how much he paid for it told him how much he paid for it, but not saying dollars. It seems the Tizimín cowboy was asking how much James would take to part with the hat. He was pretty excited to think he could get the nice cowboy hat from the Texan at such a low price. This was a misinterpretation of pesos and USD. He thought James was giving him the price in pesos. James thought he was just wanting to know how much he had paid for his hat. Terry intervened to let James know he needed to tell him the hat wasn't for sale. It seems the Tizimín cowboy was looking for a nice western hat for his brother. The exchange ended on a positive note with laughs and hand-shaking. It was all very respectful and he told us we were welcome in Tizimín any time. Cowboys are pretty much the same whether from Tizimín or Texas! There was a table of four elderly gentlemen sitting at the table next to us. I saw them watching us and could tell they were curious about us. I had mentioned to David that disregarding the color of their skin, these four gentlemen sitting enjoying each other's company was a scene that could be observed anywhere. I couldn't stand it and I went over to the table and explained where we were from, where we were going, and that we like Tizimín. One of them proudly pointed up to his cap which had "King Ranch" embroidered across it. Yep, he was quite familiar with cowboys in Texas, South Texas and Corpus Christi. It was cool stuff. James ended up buying a nice leather belt from one of the vendors that us girls visited. When we pointed James out to him, he strolled over to James anxious to show him his leather western belts and anxious to make a sell. It paid off for him and James walked away with an awesome belt. One of the four gentlemen whispered to me and asked how much James had paid for the belt. When I told him, he approved. James, the cowboy, had made a fair deal. Again, mutual respect and admiration.
James making the deal on his leather belt

Leaving, we said Hasta Luego to several of the distinguished gentlemen that surrounded us here in cattle country. And just prior to leaving, who should walk in? Ramon, our boat captain from the day before boat outing we took in Rio Lagartos. Again, there were hugs and air kisses exchanged with Ramon. 
Pic of Terry and Capitan Ramon from the day before boat ride

We were starting to look like celebrities. But, unlike celebrities we walked back to the bus station and boarded a not-so-shiny Noreste bus bound for Merida - the cowboy and the other five Texans.   

More out-of-order antics to follow on our week of the Seis Slugs!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Adventures in Shopping

I'm not a drapery person at all. I don't like dark rooms. But I do prefer night time sleeping in a room where I don't feel like somebody is shining a flashlight in my eyes so that's what lead to our shopping adventure. We decided to put up a black out drape in the spare bedroom. You know, we are having guests and we want them to get a good night's sleep. Lights from the jardine across the street shine in the room at night.

Just like always, I knew Chapur had a location downtown. Could we walk directly to it? Of course not, but we could hope to get close enough to be able to spot it. We've walked by it numerous times. It's in the walking gauntlet. We found it without too much extra walking and had to go to the top floor for home goods. And I spotted drapes over in the corner. The cool thing about shopping here is that there are plenty of people to help you. And they genuinely try to help you. Whereas it seems like in the US, customer service is going away but here it seems to be plentiful. I really like personal service. We looked and found what we wanted. The perfect size and all. It was a pair that measured 80 inches (not centimeters) across. So the salesperson takes the item you want to buy and walks over to a desk, writes up a ticket and then takes you and the merchandise to another desk where the cashier rings up the purchase, you pay, then you get to actually take possession of the merchandise. Just the way it goes.

We needed a curtain rod now, but Chapur doesn't sell those. The sales lady told us to go to the esquina and we would find Parisina. They would have them. We had shopped and bought from Chapur, but neither of us had ever gone to Parisina. It is mostly a fabric store, but we found curtain rods up on the second floor. We found what we needed and took the rod downstairs to a cashier. But as soon as we got in line, it was taken away from us by an authoritative looking gentleman and he took the rod over to a girl where she scanned it, printed out a piece of paper and handed it all back to the guy. We're following everybody around like two puppies. He takes the rod and the paper to another desk and hands the paper to the girl and places the rod to the side. She uses the paper to ring up the sale, we pay her and she turns around and gives the receipt to the authoritative looking guy. He takes the receipt and walks over to the rod and looks at the stuff piled around it like he doesn't have a clue which item we are trying to purchase. I knew what was going through Terry's mind and vice versa. It is rather humorous but we know there is an end in sight. Be patient. Eventually, we are handed the rather long rod and are free to walk out the door with it. You would have thought Terry was carrying a loaded gun as we walked through town. Every person we met on the street would stop and look at him. We aren't sure if they were just curious or just genuinely concerned about what the heck that long thing was.

We got home and opened the package. Remember me saying the pair of drapes measured 80" across. They didn't. They measured 37" each. Made in China! They looked like crap. Just to move ahead here, I ended up going back yesterday and getting another pair. Of course they are the same with the exception of being a different color. But, they blend and will have to do. They do serve their purpose.

To end our day of shopping, we walked to Chedraui and bought groceries and a new microwave to replace the one the ants got in and destroyed the electronic stuff. Terry tried to work on it but it was beyond repair. Since we bought a microwave I got to ride home in a bici-taxi with the groceries and microwave while Terry walked home. I felt so special being  transported - living in high cotton!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Just One More Night

Can't upload pictures so will try and get them in here later...ugh! I can't even upload to Google's because I am trying to do this blog from free parquet internet services and it limits your ability to upload. Oh hell/oh well!

Still in Hopkins, Stann Creek District, Belize
We rented a golf cart one day for a couple of hours, and after walking the beach north and walking the beach south, we could now scope out going these directions from the road. You may think that two hours in a golf cart isn't near enough but Hopkins isn't a very big place. Plus, we got off of the beaten path while south and it seemed that there was water in this $10/gallon gas. (that is what Belizeans pay for a gallon of gas; we didn't have to pay for gas at all) So when we came sputtering into Coconut Row they told us to grab another golf cart and go for another couple of hours. We did! As we drove through town several of the shop owners came out and wanted us to stop and buy. Our answer: We promise. We will be back. By the end of the day we had stopped and bought from all those we promised we would. Nothing big but embroidered potholders, conch shell soap dish and spoons, a napkin holder made of cane, carved slate wall hangings, and the infamous Belikin magnet! Our last stop was at the coconut sellers stand where the two dudes used their machete to open the coconut with a big douse of rum poured in.

It was time to make a decision. Do we make plans to check out tomorrow or do we stay another night? We decided quickly to stay another night. The tradition of staying another night started way back when the kids were little. When on vacation, kids never want to leave. So when they started saying they wanted to stay another night, Terry secretly would go to reservations and request another night. The kids would be delighted when he told them we didn't have to go home yet. We still do this today.

Bocawina Park
So for our extra day we got up and had breakfast at Tina's. Terry ordered the Belizean special - he thinks it was the first time he had fish for breakfast except for maybe grabbing a cold piece of leftover fish from the frig. His breakfast was kind of a creole sauce prepared fish, black beans and fry jacks.  I had an omelet. We were getting a ride to Bocawina Park today to do some hiking in the rainforest and check out the waterfalls. Bocawina is less than an hour from Hopkins. I guess our Americanism kicked in when we got to Bocawina. We thought we would be required to have a guide, be in a group, and have a lesson in rainforest safety. There was none of that. We paid our $5 entry fee and they told us to turn left and stay on the trails. You didn't have to tell us to stay on the trail as it would take a complete idiot to try and walk through the thick foliage where who knows what all may live. This was real. We never heard or saw another soul as we climbed up, up and up until we came to the first set of falls. It was about an hour and a half climb. We hung around and took pictures then started to ascend further up. It didn't take us long to realize we didn't want to go another 2 1/2 hours up to the second set of falls. I know...we should have...but...we headed on downward. On our descent we did run into a group that was heading up to rappel down. They also have the longest zipline in Belize here. I would have ziplined but Terry wasn't up for it, and it wasn't worth it for me to go alone. So we went down to the base and grabbed a beer and a rum punch instead! There is a primitive but beautiful resort made up of individual palapas and a restaurant - The Wild Fig. We sat outside where they had a misting system to keep us cool. Met another couple and talked with them. They had found the Bocawina Resort through Groupon.

When we got back to Hopkins, we went to Tina's again for a late lunch. I wanted to eat Garifuna food and she was serving darasa. It is made by grinding up green plantains, mixing with other ingredients then steaming it. Many of the Garifuna dishes are made with this mixture and served as mashed potatoes, dumplings, or as mine was...creole whole fish with the darasa underneath it and oozing out the sides. It was good, rich and very filling. Terry had conch sautéed and served in a creole sauce with rice and a huge helping of coleslaw. Both were excellent. We spent the afternoon vegging on the beach.

Travel Day
We got up and packed and walked the 3-4 blocks to catch the 7am bus out of Hopkins. On travel day we never eat breakfast, live off of fried plantains, and limit our water intake. We were traveling from Hopkins all the way into Belize City on the chicken bus and there are no bathrooms. In Dangriga, we had a 10 minute wait for the next bus to Belize City. I asked the bus driver if I had time to go to the bathroom and he said 'yes', but there was a long line and I gave up as I feared I would get left. You just have to learn to hold it! We took Ritchie's Bus Service from Dangriga to Belize City and after two years we once again got to see and marvel at the Hummingbird Highway. We arrived in Belize City about 10:45...still not sure if we were going to go to San Pedro for the day and night and catch the water taxi back to Mexico, or how in the heck we were going to get north. I looked up and saw an ADO bus pull in. We found the ADO ticket area and found out the bus was going to Cancun via Bacalar, Tulum and Playa del Carmen. We booked to get off at Tulum, just knowing we could get back to Merida from Tulum. When you ride the ADO bus from Merida to Belize City you book and pay for your entire trip. But, when you leave from Belize City you pay for the portion of the trip to get you across the border and then you pay the Mexican ADO ticketing office for the remainder of your ticket. Interesting! Leaving Belize and entering Mexico takes two bus to leave and one to enter. Every trip we have taken across the border we end up paying a different amount. It is as if they never know exactly what to charge you when. This time, we didn't get charged the normal entry fee and we aren't sure why. Last trip we had to pay it.
Our first stop was in Bacalar which is only about an hour north of the border. It was about 4:30pm. This is where we would pay for the remainder of our trip. When we talked to the ADO ticketer we realized we could go directly to Merida from Bacalar. The next bus, which originates in Chetumal, would arrive at 5:45. We talked to the bus driver to explain our change in plans so he could keep his records straight. He completely understood why we were making the change so after a little discussion with the bus driver and the ADO ticketer we were set to go from Bacalar to Merida. We watched it rain as we waited for our bus, and ate fried plantain chips. We could have eaten, but the last thing we ever want to do is risk eating something and then get sick on the bus. A girl did exactly that on the way to Merida. We arrived in Merida a little before 11pm. Upon arrival at the house, we admired the newly-installed balaustradas and the tile that had been laid by Beto. We were happy to be back! We celebrated the long but safe journey and the work Beto had done with a rum drink then headed to the clouds.