maricarmen

Summertime in Yucatan

The weather has been hot and humid, so I try to avoid going too far away from my comfortably cool house and pool during the day time.

But there are exceptions. On Saturday mornings, Jorge and I like going to the Slow Food market to pick up fresh greens, delicious bread and other goodies. The market is held on a side street – just off the corner of Avenida Colón and Avenida Reforma – you’ll see a sign on that corner to show you exactly where you need to go. The hours are 9:00 ‘til noon.

Another favorite spot is the Bistro Cutural, a wonderfully tasty maricarmen 3French eatery on the corner of Calles 66 and 43. Among their traditional offerings are coq monsieur at breakfast time and rich French onion soup for lunch. Try this place, I know you’ll love it.

If there hasn’t been a huge rain storm in the afternoon, we enjoy a walk around our García Ginerés neighborhood. We often pass by the Parque de las Americas, on the corner of Avenida Colón and Calle 20.There are always vendors with young families crowded ‘round – eating chilly ice-cream, fruity raspados or savory marquesitas – fun people watching!

maricarmen 2Saturday evening  at Amaros

On Friday or Saturday night, Jorge and I quite often end up in downtown Merida for a drink and a light meal at Amaros. If you haven’t been this delightful outdoor spot, do give it a try – I am sure you’ll be glad you did.

And if you are at the beach, how about going to Quinta Progreso to hear Maricarmen Pérez tonight? Beach breeze, frozen margaritas – a soft strumming guitar, and a sultry voice – sure makes for a lovely night.

The recent sorrow our family has experienced has made me see – more clearly than ever – that life is to be enjoyed. And I also feel that – whenever we can – we should support the local business and artists in the Yucatecan communities we call home.

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Lupita

Since 2010, “Writing From Merida” has been a wonderful way for me to share my life, with friends and family who live all over the world. Some days blogging is therapeutic – a way to get things off my chest – and this is definitely one of those days.

Five weeks ago, my sister-in-law, Lupita, was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach and pancreas – Stage 4 cancer – very aggressive cancer.

And on Tuesday night, she died.

It was so fast – too fast to understand. Her husband, children, brother and sisters – all her extended family, colleagues and friends – are in shock.

Lupita’s children, Raul and Bertha, were her treasures, and she doted on her husband, Raul. She adored my kids too. She helped me sew their Halloween and Carnaval costumes. If I was ever sick, she looked after them, and she cooked their favorite Yucatecan foods.

Although Lupita loved family life, she was not a stay-at-home mom. To tell the truth – she was Wonder Woman. She worked full time at the Seguro Social, and was always the first to offer help to any one who needed a hand.

And she fought for those she loved. Her husband once got cheated by an acquaintance – and a few months afterwards – she saw the guy downtown. She demanded that he return the money he’d swindled. “I spent it,” he sneered. She shrieked for the police, and he high-tailed-it down the street. The cops were too slow, so she took off after the SOB and actually leaped through the air and pinned him to the ground. I should mention that she was wearing high-heels AND was 7 months pregnant when she did this – literally – she was a “pursuer” of justice.

Oh goodness – she was determined. Married at 19, she did not have the opportunity to follow a path that included a degree – but when her children went on to University – she got her high school diploma, and then studied for her Bachelor in Tourism. During the 6 years she worked towards her goal, she kept her full time job and also looked after the needs of her family. She always handed in her assignments on time – she inspired her classmates – and her professors.

Lupita taught me so much about living in Yucatan – like how to trapiar (mop the floor with a long-handled squeegee and a rag) She tactfully reminded me about special family events that were coming up, and saved me much embarrassment over the years.

Wednesday, at the funeral home, more than 200 people came to tearfully bid her goodbye. Bouquets of roses, lilies and gladioli perched on every edge, ledge and other flat surface. The casket was open, and although I felt nervous to do so, I wanted one last glimpse of my great friend. She had on the cream-colored dress that she bought for Christmas last year, and her makeup was applied just as she liked it.

Now the big question is: How will I, or anyone else who knew and loved Lupita, learn to live without her.

bookshelf

Vive la France or no…

Last month, in Holland, I saw a wonderful sight.

BOOK STORES – many of them. The windows featured attractive, tasteful displays and their doors stood wide open. I saw all kinds of titles, in a score of languages. The covers of the books themselves ran the gamut from somber to edgy. Walking inside, I was greeted by helpful, multilingual staff that showed me where to find what I was looking for.

The shops were crowded with people – all engrossed in the process of purchasing a good read.

I saw posted notices for book clubs that were open to new members, and writers’ groups offering the same inclusiveness. One of the book stores had an “authors’ resource center,” with a smiling technician waiting beside a USB port. “Just plug your memory stick in there,” he said, “and your electronic file will be transformed into an actual bound book in just a few minutes.” WOW.

In another shop, there was a lively discussion going on – again in several languages – about a new French law that aims to stop low e-book pricing. Apparently, in France, on-line book sellers will no longer be able to offer e-books for less money than the hard copy edition. The consensus seemed to be that the same guidelines will soon be adopted throughout the European Union.

The book store owner was excited. “Because of e-books, it is hard to keep my place running,” she said, “this will help a lot! But, I wonder if the general public will embrace this idea quite so warmly?”

I own a Kindle and I live in Mérida, Yucatán, México – a place where not all titles are available – so I am grateful for instant electronic delivery. My budget-conscious side appreciates getting reading material for a fraction of the regular price. My environmentally-conscious side appreciates the saving of trees and energy that e-publishing has brought about.

As a writer, I initially thought that having my books “out there” and available for the whole world to buy would be a plus. However it isn’t quite that simple. I have less “real” marketing and promotional venues for my books and because e-publishing is accessible to everyone, my books are in direct competition with millions of others that are also “out there.”

And I lament the decline in hard copy book production and the fact that 1,000s of book stores have closed. “Real” books and book stores promote culture.

Although e-books are more practical, I prefer physical books. I like creative full-color covers and the formatting of a well-designed book enhances my enjoyment. I like being able to flip back and forth through the pages, and feeling the weight of a book in my hands is eminently more satisfying than my flimsy-feeling Kindle reader.

I once read a post by a blogger who wrote about how he wanted to get rid of his shelf of “old fashioned objects” AKA “real books.” I for one hope the day never comes when everyone feels this way.

To me, books are treasures; The French say they are, objets d’art. Bless them.

I have to agree with the French, both hard copy books and electronic versions should be sold for the same price. It will even the playing field, keep book stores open and promote culture.

This reminds me of Monet

Jetlag

My eyes popped open this morning at 3:00 am, and although my body still feels dog-tired, my brain thinks I should rouse myself and get on with the day. The seven hour time difference between Mexico and Holland has yet to sync itself – so I guess this will be another day of jetlag.

I traveled on a CCC (a cheap, cramped charter) flight from Cancun to Amsterdam return, and I am sorry to say that my days of sitting for 11 ½ hours, with my knees bumping up against the seat in front of me have gone the same way as tenting holidays – I am too long-in-the-tooth for either. And if I felt sore at the end of the ordeal, the 6 foot 3 Dutch guy sitting beside me was in agony by the time we finally creaked our way out of the plane.

But no matter! Memories of my three weeks in Holland are still swirling around in my mind – making me smile and feel extremely grateful – for the opportunities this the trip brought to me.

My final week was as full of serendipitous surprises as the first two.

On a final day in Amsterdam, I took my friend Hanneke to see the house where my grandfather was born. The family moved away in about 1925, and on past visits to the city, I’ve seen the building closed up, with a “For Sale” sign tacked to the wall. But this time, the doors at Herengracht 280 stood wide open, and builders were running in and out. I introduced myself and learned the house has been sold to an investor who is renovating the space to lease as offices. Nonetheless, the new owners want to conserve as many of the original appointments as possible.

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We also spent an afternoon in Naarden, a town that dates back to medieval times. It was a walled city with dunes – built in a star-shape – to fortify the town. Moats encircled the place to further protect it from attack.

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And now, it will be back to the computer for me. This fall, I hope to finish writing my book about Aunt Gisele, with publication slated for the first half of 2015… Stay tuned!

 

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Two weeks down (sniff-sniff) And one more to come (yeah!)

Today is the longest day of the year here in Holland and at a latitude of 52 degrees north, it is light out until 11:00 pm… and  the sun shines again at 5:00 am.

This morning I awoke before everyone else in the house. Mr. Sun had just risen and the sky was streaked with Delft blue and lavender. We had rain in the night, and so the air felt clear and fresh. No way could I stay in bed!

I’ve had meetings and interviews every day this past week, but there has still been time for lots of socializing and sightseeing. I’m going to fall back on the “a picture paints a thousand words” adage, and let my photographs continue with more highlights from Holland.

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Writing and Intercultural Living…

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