But these guys have already been!

Off the beaten trail tourism

Jorge, Sergio and Joanna
Jorge, Sergio and Joanna

The International Women’s Club of Merida is sponsoring a fund raising tour to the lesser known archaeological sites in southern Campeche and Quintana Roo. Everyone enjoyed last year’s excursion to Chiapas, and this 5 night, 6 day trip is sure to be just as interesting and fun. Sergio Solis will be the guide – and Jorge and I will be going along to help out where we can.

The proceeds will help support the IWC’s community service projects, in particular the scholarship fund. This initiative makes it possible for young Yucatecan women, with limited financial means, to pursue their university studies.

If you live in Merida, this is a great way to meet new friends and to see part of the cultural heritage that is so much a part of south-eastern Mexico. For travelers who want to experience “off the beaten trail” tourism – this is just what you are looking for!

Map of the Yucatan peninsula
Map of the Yucatan peninsula

The IWC Amazing Archaeological Adventure

6 days, 5 nights

Tuesday February 24 – Sunday March 1, 2015

 The tour price includes:

            Five nights accommodation

            Bilingual guide service

            Transportation by motor coach

            Breakfast each morning

            Entrance tickets to all specified attractions

            Donation to IWC Charity Committee


 Day One: Tuesday February 24th


At 8:30 am, we will travel via motor coach, from Merida to the archaeological site, Edzna

After sightseeing, we will continue on to Campeche, and spend the night at the Hotel Baluartes, located right on the boardwalk.

After we are settled, we’ll take a walking tour through the Centro; the rest of evening will be yours to spend as you please.

 Day Two: Wednesday February 25th


Today we will have breakfast at 8:00 and leave the hotel at 9:00 am. 

Part of the time we’ll be driving along the coast as we head south to X’pujil En route, we will visit three lesser known sites: Balamku, Becan and Chicana

We will arrive at our hotel, the Ecovillage Chicana, early afternoon, where we’ll stay for the next 2 nights.

The evening will be yours to spend as you please.

 Day Three: Thursday February 26th

We will see lots of exotic birds
We will see lots of exotic birds

Today we will leave the hotel at 7:30 am, for Calakmul.  The full day trip will take us deep into the Campeche jungle

When we return to the hotel, you will be free to do as you please for the rest of the afternoon and evening.    

 Day Four: Friday February 27th


Today we will leave at 9:00 am, and drive to Kohunlich. We will visit the site and then continue on to Bacalar

We’ll check into the Laguna Bacalar Hotel for 2 nights

The evening will be yours to rest, read, shop or explore on your own…

 Day Five: Saturday February 28th


Today we will tour the lagoon by boat, and the rest of the day and evening will be yours to go into town, relax by the pool, swim… whatever


Day Six: Sunday March 1st


We will depart Bacalar this morning at 8:30 am and drive to Coba

We will visit the site and then drive back to Merida



 Double Occupancy: 8,000 pesos per person

Single Room: 10,500 pesos

Rooms with 3 beds are unavailable at the hotels we will be using on this trip. If you want a triple rate, this is possible, on request, but there will only be 2 beds in the room

The tour needs a minimum of 25 participants, so sign up today!

For further information, please contact me at;




The IWC is 30 years young!

Thirty years ago, in October 1984, the International Women’s Club of Merida (IWC) got off to a rousing start. There were 22 women present in the annex of the American Consulate, on the corner of Avenida Colón & Paseo de Montejo. And there were 22 different ideas about the direction the new group should take.

I am sure that over the course of these past three decades, every idea those women had – has been realized – and so have at least 100 more.

I would venture to say that many initiatives in our international community have an IWC member (or former member) at the helm. Many of those women “got their feet wet” through the IWC. They networked within the group, and then struck out on their own. Success stories indeed.

Some of those associations and businesses are tremendously important resources in Yucatan. An IWC woman started the Merida English Library, and another is the State delegate for the Red Cross. Another got the Slow Food market up and going. Others have established art galleries, literary reviews, restaurants, schools, B & Bs, shops, animal advocacy agencies, and children’s after school programs. The women help at the Salvation Army shelter, elder homes, and with young women’s scholarship programs. The club raised the funds to build a kitchen and laundry facility at the Cancer hospital,  and have been involved in many other worthy causes that I can’t even remember right now.

However, the IWC isn’t all about community work – we have a lot of fun too. We dance together at Carnaval, we travel, we hear interesting speakers and attend musical nights. We also cook together and learn new skills.

The club has gone through many highs and lows, but one thing remains constant – the women are there for one another. When a member is ill, or has tragedy in her life, others step up to help.

Of course, there are always differences of opinion and personality clashes – but that seems to be inevitable when you fill a room with dynamic females.

Thursday morning, about 40 club members met at the Hyatt Hotel for a delicious celebratory breakfast – and on Saturday October 25th – the monthly meeting will be held at TTT: Calle 57 No. 492 Enter 56 & 58, Centro.

We’ll get started at 9:30 am, and all English-speaking women are welcome. I am often asked “how much English” is necessary to be a member of the IWC. And I always give the same answer – “The ability to smile in the language is enough.”

Joanna and Lisa
Joanna and Lisa

When our current president, Lisa Johansson de Ballote, spoke to the press this morning, she said, “I am so proud to be a long-time member of the International Women’s Club.”

And I have to say – “So am I Lisa – so am I.”

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W, X. Y, Z… is for…

Today is the last day of our holiday. I have these 4 letters left… and sorry, but this is the best I can do.

october blog

W is for Winery Tour… we didn’t actually get to do this because of a sudden rain shower, but next time!

october blog 2

X marks the White Spot, a Vancouver restaurant chain that Gourmet Magazine says serve the best burgers in the world (I totally agree)


Y is for Yellow Chrysanthemums in a blue and white vase…

october blog 3Z is for Zoo (what else?) Time ran out before we could go see the polar bears… I am not much of a fan of zoos, but I know the Vancouver one is better than most.

Jorge and I have enjoyed ourselves so much over the past five weeks. Our hosts went out of their way to see that our every whim was met. Thank you to all… we loved every minute!

Vancouver, seen from Spanish Banks

V… is for Vancouver

Of course it is!

Vancouver is the largest city in British Columbia, and it is located on the mainland of the province. Outside the country, confusion often arises, because just a short ferry ride away, is another place with the same name – Vancouver Island. The province’s capital city, Victoria, is found at the southern tip of Vancouver Island. (And for today’s purposes, we won’t make further mention a 3rd Vancouver, a small city located in Washington State)

map of bc

The greater Vancouver area has a population of about 2 ½ million. And 52% of the residents have a first language other than English. It is the most densely populated Canadian municipality. On the North American continent, only New York, San Francisco and Mexico City have higher concentrations of people per square kilometer.

The original settlement, named Gastown, was established in 1867. It was renamed “Vancouver” and incorporated as a city in 1886. By 1887, the transcontinental railway had extended to the city to take advantage of the large natural seaport, which soon became a vital link in the trade route between the Orient, Eastern Canada, and London. Today Vancouver is the busiest and largest port in Canada, and the most diversified in North America.

Forestry is British Columbia’s largest industry, and Vancouver’s reputation as an urban center surrounded by nature, has made Tourism the second most important activity in the province.

I grew up in North Vancouver, back in the day when it was not a world-class city. It amazes me to see the changes and growth. Of course, small businesses like the corner grocery store and bakery are gone, and the neighborhood farm was sold long ago so that condominiums could be built.

Yet, some familiar landmarks from my childhood are still in place. The church and school I attended look much the same, and the home where I grew up has not been torn down to make room for a bigger, newer house. Some of the trees I used to climb are still firmly rooted where they’ve always been.

In the mornings, if I look towards the mountains, I am able to sense what the weather will be like that day, and when I breathe, I smell cedar – in this city, it permeates everything. The taste of Vancouver’s water is the best. I can’t understand why people drink the bottled kind now.

I am reminded of a novel by Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again. It was published posthumously in 1940, and tells the story of a fledgling author who writes a book that makes frequent references to where he lived as a child. The residents of the place are unhappy with, what they perceive to be, a distorted depiction of their home.

Over the past month, I too have written about the place I come from, and I wonder if I have a distorted view of Vancouver? I’ve also asked myself if I could “come home.”

After much thought, I have concluded that I am home, whether I am here, or in Merida. To me, “home” is more a feeling than a place.

I guess I should say that I feel “at home” in Vancouver and Merida because there are people I love, and I have a history, in both places. When I am in one, naturally, I miss the other. That’s human nature, I guess.

And I am cool with that.


U… is for Under the Weather

I have a cold. A typical Canadian autumn cold that has me feeling like I should be in bed, under a soft quilt, watching reruns on TV. And of course, I want to eat soda crackers spread with peanut butter and drink apple juice – just as I did when I was a kid.

My brother-in-law, who is a pharmacist, has brought me 3 foul tasting syrups and they are so effective that I am getting better in record time. Good thing – I sure wouldn’t like to fly with my sore throat, stuffed-up head and barking cough.

This time next week, Jorge and I will be home, and sleeping in our own beds. However, before getting on the plane, we still have a few things we want to do.

More to come!

Writing and Intercultural Living…


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