cancun04

A is for Adventure, ADO and airport…

Jorge and I are off on a new adventure. Somehow we managed to tie up all our pending business, get packed, and make it to the ADO (Autobuses del Oriente) bus terminal on time.

Comfy ADO interior
Comfy ADO interior

Our drive to Cancun was oh so comfortable. It used to be that buses in Mexico were an experience that not everyone could appreciate. I can remember riding on rickety contraptions, crowded with kids, chickens and net bags filled with produce… the buses stopped at every village and the trips seemed to take forever… But no more! On the non-stop service to Cancun, the seats recline way back, and earphones deliver the video sound track, so you do not have to listen to it, if you would rather sleep. Pretty nice…

Upon arrival in Cancun, we checked into the Plaza Caribe, acrosscancun02 the street from the bus terminal. The hotel is not fancy, but it is economical, the rooms are clean, the AC works well, the shower has lots of hot water, and the location can’t be beat!

Lunch at the Sanborns on Avenida Tulum did not go quite so well. The wait staff tried their best, but the food tasted like soggy cardboard. I will spare you the details… suffice to say, we will not be going back there any time soon!

I do not like dwelling on the negative, but really… all of downtown Cancun is depressing and dreary. It used to be a fun, happening kind of place, but now, half the shops and restaurants are closed, and those still in business seem to be barely hanging in there. The sidewalks are cracked and the planters are filled with dusty dry dirt, rather than the palms and tropical lush flowers, one would expect.

We did come across a big park, and a fair had been set up… I assume to celebrate Fiestas Patrias… That area teamed with families and young kids… nice to see.

The main downtown streets are currently being repaved but obviously, the main focus of the city administration is to keep up the hotel zone. And the local population is discouraged from going to the beaches there…

It has not been much more than 40 years since Cancun was founded. Hopefully the powers that be will realize that the sustainability of the destination depends on a happy, thriving local population, as well as full occupancy at the hotels in la zona hotelera.

In a few hours, a short walk back across the street will have us standing in front of the airport transfer bus. We are on our way to Canada to see family and friends, and I can hardly wait to hold my new little grand niece in my arms.

Aurumn is usually a beautiful season in British Columbia… crisp air and the maples turning yellow, orange and gold… We’ll be staying at an apartment, right on the beach in West Vancouver for the first while, and then will travel by ferry to the Gulf Islands. Our last week will be spent at a lake in the interior of the province, for Thanksgiving with my sister and her family.

I want to blog most days, while on this trip… and plan on using the alphabet format for my posts… I don’t quite know what I’ll dream up when I get to X, but I am confident that something will present itself.

So… A is for Adventure, the ADO and Airports. We are flying on Westjet for the first time. Many friends have said the service is great, so I guess we shall soon see for ourselves…

Come back again soon, and have a look at: B is for …

The toucanette was a bighit!

THE IWC AMAZING ARCHAEOLOGICAL ADVENTURE

Last March, Jorge and I organized a fund raising trip to Chiapas. Everyone on the tour had an incredible time and we raised a tidy sum to benefit the International Women’s Club Scholarship Fund.

In fact we had such a positive experience that we’re ready to do it again! We won’t be traveling to Chiapas this time, but rather we’ll set out for southern Campeche and Quintana Roo. We are calling the tour:

THE IWC AMAZING ARCHAEOLOGICAL ADVENTURE

6 days, 5 nights

Tuesday February 24 until Saturday March 1, 2015

The tour is open to the community at large,and places are reserved on a first come, first served basis. At this time, you can get your names on the participants’ list but we will not be taking any deposits until October 25th at the 30th anniversary meeting of the IWC, to be held on that day at TTT.

For more information, send an email to me at:                              writingfrommerida@gmail.com

Most of the photos of the tour highlights were taken by my son, Carlos. Click on any one of them to  enlarge…

 

moth-to-a-flame

Like a moth to the flame

Have you ever watched a moth near a flame? Of course you have – the silly thing can’t stay away – and sooner or later he flies too close and gets burned.

I am like that a lot of the time. Curiosity, stubbornness, a need to win, or some other pointless motive gets the better of me, and I forge ahead to where I know I shouldn’t. Then to make matters worse, I don’t give up.

Take today for example, I wanted to buy emergency medical travel insurance online. I am not “good” at Internet transacting, and this makes me feel like I have to prove to myself that – YES, I can do this!

I found the site I wanted, and managed to get my info entered into the little word fields. Remember, I have a l-o-n-g name, and not all sites are familiar with the way we write our street addresses in Mexico. OK!

I answered all the questions about age, pre-existing medical conditions, the policy type etc. GREAT, Coming along nicely!

I clicked on the red “BUY INSURANCE ON LINE” button and the screen went blank for a second, then took me back again to the homepage – the blank homepage.

A help line window opens, and a nice man named Nick, asks if he can help me.

I should have just re-booted but Nick typed away encouragingly and I filled out the form again, pushed the red button and WHAM! Back to square one – again!

Now re-booting should have been really, really, really obviously the best choice, but Nick seems to be the same kind of person as me – “Why isn’t this working?,” he types.

“¿Quien sabe?” I reply.

“Pardon me?” types Nick.

Anyway, we try one more time, with the same results. Nick’s supervisor comes into the chat, and finally, the three of us are forced to admit defeat.

I will try again tomorrow.

(  The beautiful photo of the moth near the flame is from: http://etherealwellness.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/moth-to-a-flame.jpg  )

MONJAS 06

English Language Mass in Merida

The cosmopolitan composition of Merida is fairly new. When I arrived in 1976, only a scattering of people from other Mexican states lived here – and to meet someone from another country was a rare occurrence. There were no large grocery stores, no malls, just a handful of international restaurants, and little entertainment. Meridanos seldom traveled – even a trip to Mexico City or Miami was a big deal. In many ways, it was like living in a time warp.

Archway cut through one of the colonial church's huge buttresses
Archway cut through one of the colonial church’s huge buttresses

In those days, almost everyone went to Mass on Sundays, and was it ever hot and steamy inside the churches! Jorge and I went, somewhat irregularly, to the Jesuit church on Calle 60, where the sound system was so full of static that even native Spanish speakers couldn’t make out much of what the priest said.

The main altar at Monjas
The main altar at Monjas

Now, many churches are air-conditioned, comfortable and state-of-the-art speakers have been installed. But if understanding the sermon in Spanish is more of an issue than actually hearing the words, Merida residents can attend Mass in English – every Sunday at 9:30 am – at the Monjas Church, located on the corner of Calle 63 and 64, in El Centro.

Padre José celebrating the Eucharist
Padre José celebrating the Eucharist

Padre José Arruda is the priest who celebrates the Mass. He grew up in the Azores Islands of Portugal, and at 13, he went with his family to live in Canada. He later studied Theology and Psychology in Montreal, New York and Rome. After his ordination, he served for many years in Montreal parishes. He worked extensively with immigrant communities and with hospice groups. One winter, he visited Merida on a holiday, and like many of us, he felt “at home” here. So, when the opportunity to take an extended Sabbatical came up, he did not hesitate to move to Merida.

A short time after his arrival, the archbishop invited Padre José to become the assistant pastor at Monjas. He accepted the position, and he hopes to build a vibrant international spiritual community there.

During the colonial period, the Monjas church, was integrated into one of the largest convents in Latin America. It was considered to be a sanctuary, and this designation continues to the present day. A liberal and humanistic environment, and the fostering of love and acceptance is what I am feeling at Monjas.

All full time residents and visitors – of all creeds – are welcome at Monjas for the Eucharist celebration, every Sunday at 9:30 am.

Parishioners say goodbye
Parishioners say goodbye

Afterwards, refreshments are served in the church courtyard, which gives people a chance to get to know one another. Maybe I’ll see you there?

trique 02

The Balloons of Oaxaca by Barry Head

I’ve heard several international residents comment on how difficult it is to find books, set in Mexico, that are suitable for young readers. Many would like to read to their grandchildren about their  adopted home, but the Merida bookstores don’t carry more than a few coloring books with Maya designs.

I am not aware of any juvenile books about Merida, but when I last traveled to Oaxaca, I found a beautifully illustrated little gem called The Balloons of Oaxaca.

triki 03

The author is Barry Head, a writer and painter from New York, who spends much of the year in the south of Mexico.

His story is about Utuyu, a Trique child from the la mixteca baja, in the southwestern part of Oaxaca. According to federal statistics, the Trique people number only about 23,000. The elevation of the Trique region varies between 1,500 – 3,000 meters;  in the afternoons and evenings, the towns are shrouded in low-lying clouds. La Mixteca Baja is the poorest area of Oaxaca, and many Trique men travel to the city of Oaxaca, Mexico City or the USA looking for work. Trique women are known for their colorful woven huipiles (tunics) and morrales (shoulderbags)

Utuyu knows nothing about his family, and when he is just six years of age, Utu, the woman who raised him, sends him off to the city of Oaxaca to find his own way in the world. She is sorry to force him to leave, but she has many children of her own, and cannot continue to feed him anymore.

He travels with her older children. But when he is separated from them, he finds himself all alone, hungry and homeless, nearly run over by the traffic, not knowing how money works or where to get any. He does not speak the language of the people around him. Utuyu has to learn fast!

If the preceding sounds like a tale, too dark for young children – bear with me – Utuyu discovers a singular talent that helps him to cope with the overwhelming odds he faces.

trique child 01

The orphan boy’s determination, courage and resourcefulness are an inspiration to young readers because the fears he faces are the same ones all children have.

The Balloons of Oaxaca is a quick, compelling read for adults too. It is a good choice for newcomers to Mexico, who are struggling to understand the complex social issues of the country.

The book is available from Amazon:

 

Writing and Intercultural Living…

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