A softer and more gentle time?

When Jorge and I were younger, we packed a lot into every day. During the first years of our college’s operation, we did everything that needed doing. We balanced the books, paid the bills and did our level best to keep the Dept. of Education satisfied with us. We taught several classes each, organized activities for our students, attended educational fairs and recruited in the high schools. We managed the correspondence and if the janitor didn’t show up, we cleaned the floors and bathrooms. We also raised our two children during those years and kept up with friends and family. We rarely had a spare moment.

Jorge, Carlos, Maggie and Joanna at the TTT Graduation in 1995
Jorge, Carlos, Maggie and Joanna at the TTT Graduation in 1995

That lifestyle became a habit – one we had some difficulty breaking. For quite a while, when we didn’t have to do anything, we felt useless, and we’d find something to do.

We are still advisors at TTT, but we don’t go in every day. Our renewed effort to win the Battle of the Bulge has us making time again for regular exercise – I am back walking at the Stadium with my friend Kathy and Jorge enjoys swimming. We both read a lot, I paint a bit and we have discovered Netflix! We go to the market together and we love spending time with Andres, Maggie’s corgi. Soon our son Carlos and his family will be living in Merida and we look so forward to being doting abuelitos.

The other day I told Jorge it seems like we have we have gone full circle – this winter, we’ll be leading a bus full of people on a 12 day trip from Merida to San Miguel de Allende. This is what we did when we were first married!

The transition from a fulltime, fully-engaged work schedule to a softer, more gentle life of leisure has not exactly been smooth. We each had different ideas about what these “golden years” should involve and sometimes we have driven each other crazy.

Jorge and Joanna at the beach 2015
Jorge and Joanna at the beach 2015

It has been a process, but little by little, we are getting the hang of this retirement thing.


Who lives here?

Mexico has problems, no doubt about it. Many citizens endure great hardship.  But there are millions of people in other regions of the world who would be grateful to live in the most humble home here. In the Middle East, the living conditions and lack of opportunities are deplorable.  There are refugee camps where four generations of families have been born. How sad it must be to have no “home” –  no place where you belong.  Resentment builds. I would no doubt feel the same way if my children had absolutely no hope for a dignified life.

Throughout the world, there are more than 50,000,000 people who have been forced to flee their homes . Every year their desperation grows deeper. The scope of the problem leaves us wondering what we, personally – and our countries collectively – can possibly do?

I read a news story today about a group of people in Mexico who is making it possible for 30 young Syrians to complete their university studies.   Go to this link to read more:


It will take you to the website of Proyecto Habesha, the organization coordinating the fund raising that will make it possible for the students to come here:


The first student, Essan Hassan has arrived in Mexico City. “I want to return with enough experience so I can help rebuild Syria,” he says. There are schools willing to take the Syrian students on scholarship, but $11,000 USD per year / per student must be raised for their travel to Mexico, living expenses and medical insurance.

 Mexico has a proud history of accepting refugees. After the Spanish Civil War ended in 1939, President Lázaro Cárdenas made it possible for 25,000 – many of them orphans – to come and make new homes in Mexico. The link below is to the personal story of one such family.


It is idealistic to think that permanent homes can be found for 50,000,000 people. It is unrealistic to believe that all the stories of resettled families will end happily.

It was a fortunate accident of birth that we were born to families that provided us with a chance – maybe our success is largely thanks to our own hard work – but here we are.

And there they are.



Brujitas and the Workshop for English Writers in Yucatan

Last week’s writers’ workshop included an  excursion to Uxmal,

When I planned this event, I felt sure that we would have relatively cool temperatures – usually this is the case in November.

But Holy Toledo – was I ever mistaken!

Last Sunday at Uxmal felt like mid-August. So hot and humid! Nonetheless, we soldiered on,and everyone enjoyed Jorge Rosado’s presentation that  focused on the Maya scribes.  By 1 pm, all of us had reached our limit. We needed water, shade and a place to sit down.

In the nearby town of Santa Elena, we found all that, plus a delicious meal at The Pickled Onion .  Our energy restored, we gathered in the  garden to hear Dr. Claire Joysmith read a selection of poetry. She then led us through a writing exercise designed to awaken the five senses. Inspired by our surroundings and her words, many of us took a stab at poetry.

Over the next three days (in air-conditioned comfort at TTT) our facilitator, Dr. Michael K. Schuessler, shared his writing experience. He showed us how thorough research provides us with the details that give authenticity and historical perspective to our work. He also explained that experimenting with different genres can enhance our principal projects.

So in the days that followed, several of us worked further on the poems we’d begun in Uxmal. The inspiration for mine is obvious – can you tell what else I am writing about?



Humidity, incapacitating as a migraine,

and heat, uncontrolable as fever,

cannot be ignored.

The grackles’ cawing quiets.

No brooding is heard in the dovecote.

Lightning flashes along the horizon.

The scent of wet soil washes by.

  Thunder rumbles like hunger.

The barometer bottoms out.

Pregnant raindrops splat on the patio,

and a summer storm is birthed.


Like a horizontal battering ram,

it hammers our vertical world.

And when the fury calms

–in this sultry land that lies–

not so far from the equator

the drenched fields look as placid as lakes.


Cinnamon-scented winds blow.

Crimson, carmine and burgundy streak the sky,

 bidding farewell to the day.

A lavender, primrose and mauve haze

welcomes the moon.

Exhausted , we rest

–neither watching, nor waiting, nor expecting  –

anything more.


But on such nights,

 crocus-like flowers called brujitas,

bud between blades of spindly grass.

They look so out-of-place

amid the caos caused the day before.

Looking at them, I wonder –

Should I pick a bouquet of Nature’s peace offering?

Maybe bring the magic blooms inside my house?

Or leave the little witches to wilt in the sun?


The Yucatan Writers’ Workshop 2015

Our inaugural writers’ journey is underway…

The First Annual Yucatan Writers’ Workshop has begun, and so far everyone is enjoying the combination of exploration, in situ writing and networking.

We’ve been to see flamingos in Celestun… Izamal, one of Mexico’s pueblos magicos… and the magestic Maya city of Uxmal.

Today, we’ll start a three day workshop with Dr. Michael K. Schuessler at the TTT campus. We all look forward to learning, exchanging ideas and sharing our writing.

Dr. Michael K, Schuessler and Peregrina
Dr. Michael K, Schuessler and Peregrina

Tonight, Monday November 9th,at 7 pm in the TTT auditorium (Calle 57 No. 492 Entre 6 y 58, Centro) Dr. Schuessler will give his keynote address:

Mexico’s Peregrina: Alma Reed

All are welcome to join us for this fascinating talk.

Now, … enjoy the slideshow!

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Life is never what we expect it to be

There are periods when we just sail along – happy as you please.

And we have spells when we feel stressed-out and anxious – every day presents a new hurdle.

And then there are the really dark times.


My friend Theresa battled cancer for the better part of two years. Duke, her husband, supported her and helped her deal with all the stages of the disease. He nursed her through her treatments. This couple rode so many emotional roller-coasters – and spent practically all their life savings on medical treatment – but she made it!

In September, Duke fell ill. He has a respiratory infection so serious that he has needed intensive care therapy for more than a month.

Mexico has issues, but it also has many excellent social programs and truly dedicated health professionals. El Seguro Popular – one of the national health care plans –has paid for the hospitalization and doctor fees. But the medication and other treatment expenses are not part of the coverage.

Theresa and Duke’s friends, family – and some good-hearted strangers too – have stepped up to help. Here in Merida and north of the border, they have reached deep into their pockets, and have donated whatever they’ve been able to afford.  A friend who works in the country’s health care system has helped them through the paperwork and protocol.

Theresa herself has stayed by Duke’s bedside 24-7, except for brief periods when friends have taken up the vigil so she could go to the bank, run other errands or take a shower. She talks to her husband, massages his arms and legs, sponges him off.  She sleeps curled-up in a chair or stretched-out on her yoga mat. Miraculously, through all this, she has stayed positive, calm and loving with Duke.

“Why don’t you take a day off?” we have all asked. “Staying here is all I can do for him right now,” she steadfastly replies. “I would have gone mad by now,” I told her one day. “No you wouldn’t, you’d do what you have to do,” she says with a smile. I hug her.

Against all odds, Duke is slowly improving. He is terribly weak. He can’t sit up, speak or move on his own yet. And Theresa is scheduled for reconstructive surgery. It is highly unlikely that Duke will be greatly improved before her date, November 9th. For ongoing medical reasons, she must have this procedure. As well, she spent months on a waiting list, and if she doesn’t have the operation the day she’s been given, it could be many months before she gets another chance. If she ever does.

When I wrote “Magic Made in Mexico”, I didn’t explain where to find broccoli, Bisquick or bagels in Merida. My book addresses the confusing cultural customs that stymie newcomers. I also stressed how important it is for us to have a network of friends:

“Many foreign residents live in México year-round, and an even greater number spend a good portion of the winter in México… not everyone you come in contact with will be helpful; neither will you warm up to everyone. But little by little, you’ll make acquaintances and build your personal circle of good friends. You will probably be surprised by the variety of people you meet, from every walk of life. I always say that living in Mérida has afforded me an opportunity to get to know people I never would have met if I’d stayed in Canada… If you haven’t done so already, go out and meet some new friends and build your network. This will help you to sort your way through the pitfalls all neophytes face and with them, you can enjoy all that this wonderful place has to offer.”

Over the past few years, there have been big changes in Mexico – and much has happened in our community since I wrote those words. But they are still valid. We NEED to have friends here. During the month that Duke has been hospitalized, I have been reminded of this. Theresa has been a good friend to all, and her kindness has come back to her. Seeing how people have responded to her need has stirred up something in my heart. I have remembered that it is easier to be “happy” when we are being of service – when we know we are acting in a worthwhile way and making life better for others.

“It is an ill wind that brings no good” – Theresa and Duke’s ill wind  – their trouble – has given us all the opportunity to be better people.

I want everyone to know that feeling loved and supported has made all the difference to Theresa. I hope we will continue to make our best efforts for our friends. They are not out of the woods quite yet.

Writing and Intercultural Living…


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