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 vase…

october blog 3Z is for Zoo (what else?) Time ran out before we could go see the polar bears… same applies as for the winery tour, maybe next trip!

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 of you… 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!


R is for Really… S is for Special…. T is for Thanksgiving

My sister and her husband are renovating an old cabin, located on the shore of a pristine lake in British Columbia’s Similkameen Valley. And this past weekend, 20 of our family members – aged 10 months on up – gathered there to celebrate a Really Special Thanksgiving.

Jorge and I traveled for hours by car and ferry, but all weariness disappeared as soon as the front door opened. Barb hugged me tightly, and over her shoulder, I saw the twinkling fairy lights she’d strung along the bare roof rafters and the fall flowers, candles, pine cones and colored leaves decorating the tabletops. Two crackling fires burned in the hearths, and I could hear favorite tunes from our youth playing on the iPod dock.

It had been 25 years since so many of us were last together for this special Canadian feast – could the next three days be anything but magical?

Jorge and I threw our suitcases onto the ever-growing pile of sleeping bags, air mattresses, foamies, quilts and pillows, and we added our feast contribution to the baskets, bushels and bags of veggies, fruits and nuts, that lay beside the pumpkin and apple pies, 2 turkeys ready for smoking, and many bottles of spirited beverage.

Five out of eight siblings, husbands, wives, young adult children, two grand babies, and even a Pug puppy, were all primed for songs and dancing, tall tales, sweet stories and reminiscence. At the cabin there was no cell phone signal or internet connection – and only one bathroom!

We all pitched in to cook our Thanksgiving favorites. And if I do say so, the meal we made in Barb’s rustic kitchen tasted as though it had come from a five star restaurant – we all ate so much that afterwards we felt like Jabba the Hut and his entourage.

Afterwards, a few hearty souls went into the sauna, and then took a dip in the glacier-fed lake. But not Jorge and I – we stayed by the fire where it was warm and cozy.

The next morning’s walk around the perimeter of the lake motivated us to explore further, and so we drove to the nearby cemetery where our dad is buried.

Imagine, I am the age now that Dad was when he passed away – ‘Awfully young to leave this world – I thought.

“Let’s go back to the cabin and drink a toast to Mom and Dad,” I suggested. And that is exactly what we did. We laughed at the funny memories and a tear or two snaked down my cheeks as I listened to the sad ones.

My brothers and sisters’ lives are so different to mine. Each of us has talents and strengths, as well as shortcomings. But the love we grew up with, in our home on North Vancouver’s West 28th Street, has grown stronger with the years.

Mom and Dad must have been pleased at how we celebrated Thanksgiving 2014.

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Writing and Intercultural Living…


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