When an event starts off with a cruise in a flotilla of colourful boats bedecked with flowers and ribbons, you know you are in for an adventure. Wow! And what an experience it was.
Our new part-time neighbours on the island are a young couple from England, Carly Lancaster and Simon Davison. They kindly included a number of their island neighbours in the celebration of their wedding on April 14th, the night of the full moon, and of the lunar eclipse.
Gathering at the renamed Avalon Reef/Mia Reef Hotel at the north end of the island, eighty of the bride and groom's family members and close friends from England, Ireland, Scotland, and the Netherlands joined the dozen or so locals. Teetering along the wobbly fun-house style dock at the hotel, we made our way to the flotilla of decorated boats. Simon wryly commented. "In England this dock would have been condemned." I couldn't help but laugh. "It's a perfectly good dock - sort of." I said as the dock lurched sideways for several breath-stopping inches.
Clambering into the eight multi-hued boats we cruised past the choppy water near north beach into the calmer area of Makax Lagoon and south to the Zama's Beach Club dock. Some of the guests experienced the warm Caribbean water first-hand as the odd wave splashed over the low-riding sides. Other than a few nervous giggles, everyone seemed to be enjoying the experience.
Arriving at the dock we walked through a flower archway to the main entrance of Zama's where the staff offered us yummy cool drinks and an invitation to pick a seat for the wedding ceremony. The Zama's Beach Club staff had done an amazing job. The facility was decorated in whimsical hearts, candles, gauze-draped walkways, flowers, flowers and more flowers.
It was enough to make even the crabbiest of curmudgeons feel romantic.
Every guest was supplied with a bright pink umbrella to shelter from the hot afternoon sun, and a two-foot long compressed air wedding Popper designed to shoot pieces of bio-degradable paper into the sky at the culmination of the ceremony. The Poppers are the modern version of tossing confetti or rice. Magical.
Carly looked like a fairytale princess as she made her way down the rose-petal strewn aisle on the arm of her very proud and emotional papa. We were treated to a lovely, short ceremony involving the pouring of two types of sand into one vase to signify their union, the release of a live butterfly to invoke a Mayan blessing, and the traditional exchanging of marriage vows with a personal twist at the end.
Then the swirl of Scottish bagpipes could be heard as a fellow Canadian strode down the aisle playing Amazing Grace, on an instrument that only a person of Scottish heritage can truly love. Foreign to most people the sound of the bagpipes always thrills us, sending chills up our spines, and tingling the hair on our arms. Simon is a Scot! He gets it.
The piper escorted the couple, followed by wedding guests, into the cocktail reception on the upper level at the beach club. Here we were served beverages, tasty tidbits of food, and serenaded by a full mariachi band paying homage to the country where Simon and Carly have built a new home. Whew! At this point anyone would have thought that it had been a very lovely event, and would have not been surprised if that was the end of the celebrations.
But wait! There's more!
Next the mariachi group led everyone to the beach for group photographs and to enjoy the Caribbean sunset. Then we were asked to congregate in the dining area, paying particular attention to find our assigned seating.
Each place was set with three wine glasses, three forks, two knives, a pink rose, a heart-shaped name tag, a small box of candy, and a menu with two main course choices; Buttered Sirloin, or Tic in Xic Mexican style Grouper. The centre piece was a three-foot tall crystal vase with an enormous cascade of flowers spilling overhead, but not obstructing the view of our fellow table mates. While we waited for our main course to arrive a magician visited each table engaging the guests in various tricks.
When dinner was finished, the bride and groom asked their guests to join them on the beach for a demonstration of fire-dancing. It was a spectacular show that ended with the two halves of a heart blazing together in unison. We could feel the heat from where we were standing. I can't imagine how hot it was for the performers twirling, juggling, and dancing with burning batons.
And there was still more!
Back inside the dining area the eight-piece band began their evening performance with an eclectic mix of modern, oldies, and Latin music.
Simon and Carly had their traditional first dance as a married couple, followed by family members and finally asking everyone to join in the fun. Between the great music, and the ever-attentive waiters topping up beverages the dance floor was quickly packed with celebrants.
Mingling in with guests were performers on stilts, a spinning cage for disco dancers, and a werewolf holding a large picture frame encouraging zany photos. Dancers were given balloons, glow-in-the-dark glasses, carnival masks, and other party favours to increase their enjoyment.
Later in the evening, closer to midnight, I watched in amusement as five sturdy men struggled to carry in the wedding cake.
It was huge! A few minutes later a beautiful slice of cake was set in front of me; four layers starting as red on the bottom layer, and ending with light pink on the top layer. An amazing amount of detail went into creating this extravaganza.
About midnight we decided to head home. As we were leaving we discovered the dessert bar; covered in cookies, and slices, and brownies, and other good treats. Darn! I was too tired and too full at that point.
I asked other friends if they stayed until the end. No, they didn't, but the party carried on until 3:30 in the morning. Carly and Simon have stamina.
The wedding day for Carly and Simon was a magical fairytale event, a nice mix of Mexican traditions and British customs. It was a feast for our eyes, our ears, and our taste buds. We enjoyed every minute. We are so happy that these generous folks have moved into our neighbourhood and included us in their special day.
Lynda & Lawrie
Friday, April 18, 2014
Friday, April 11, 2014
|On a corner near Salinas Grande|
She and her teenage son have a colourful jumble of boxes and sacks set out on the curb; juicy oranges and ripe yellow mangoes, prickly fresh pineapples and large heads of green cabbage. It's a kaleidoscope of hues and shapes.
|At a speed-bump on road to Chetumal|
|Across from tortilla bakery (Photo J. Ghog)|
|Near kindergarten on our street|
|Doña Florentina (Tony Garcia photo)|
Doña Florentina sells more than just produce. A few years ago Betsy Snider and Captain Tony Garcia purchased a few live laying hens from her. During the long arduous trip from the farm near Valladolid to Isla Mujeres the hens were stuffed into an old net bag that had previously been used for shipping oranges. When the hens were released at their new home they happily settled in to lay delicious eggs, while keeping snakes, scorpions and assorted bugs under control. "I loved those birds," said Betsy. Organic farming at its best; invented before marketing companies decided that organic farming was sexy and marketable.
|Doña Florentina on Matamores & Juarez|
In all of these produce stands there are no best before dates, no multi-national corporation "Chiquita Banana" or "Dole" stickers on the goods. You won't find blueberries, or cherries, or apples. The produce is regionally grown, and sold when ripe.
Pick it up, smell it. Savour the freshness. And don't forget to eat your vegetables!
Lynda & Lawrie
|Lawrie with two dollar pineapple|
If anyone has photos of Doña Florentina sitting on her corner in centro, Betsy Snider is planning to create a photo memento book for her. Betsy is on FaceBook and would love to receive a copy of your photos. Or you can send them to me and I will forward to Betsy.
Friday, April 4, 2014
|Don't forget to send a copy to my mom!|
Early this Sunday morning we heard the distinctive sounds of running feet, light and rhythmic sounds made by well-conditioned athletes. I rested my camera on the railing of our upper deck, pointing the lens into the crowd on the street below.
It took only a few seconds before the runners noticed me and waved, shouting greetings. "Don't forget to send a copy to my mom!" hollered runner #0131. "Sure! Who's your mom?" I quipped back, grinning.
His hand-cart is a converted wheel barrow, filled with what looks like small red or green tomatoes.
People walking past, or on motos stopped to buy whatever it was that he was selling.
Later in the day I saw him set up at the speed-bump by the entrance to the Chedraui grocery store. That's a pretty clever place to be as everyone must slow down to navigate the big tope, and drivers frequently stop to buy whatever is being sold that day.
|2012 juice vendor pedaling home.|
|2009 crew repainting the wall. (R.Bietting photo)|
|Recent work party to refurbish the basketball court|
|Installing the backboards.|
The next best thing to being captivated by the various activities is accomplishing a task because we happened to look out at the street.
Just a few minutes ago, Lawrie called to me: "Did you want to ask Pepe a question? He's outside right now." Correctly known as Jose Alfonso Martinez Angeles, he is the owner of Alucripepe Aluminios y Cristales.
Pepe and his crew do a great job on replacing or repairing windows, screens and doors. We need a patio door replaced, as well as a new screen for another door. Pepe had stopped his truck in the street to buy a flavoured-slushy drink (he calls it a chipi chipi) from a passing vendor. "Pepe, wait a minute please." I shouted in Spanglish as I ran down our spiral staircase and across the street. Five minutes later he was inside our house measuring for the two small jobs we needed done. Perfect! Finding him on our street saved me the time and effort of driving to his place of business.
|Replacing the patio glass|
At times it can be noisy living on a busy street, but the enjoyment and convenience make up for it.
We have more time to sit with our feet on the deck railing, sipping morning coffees or an evening glass of wine.
Lynda & Lawrie
Friday, March 28, 2014
|Asst. Doug Regn, Dr. Lynn Beckmann, and woozy Lynda|
It all started with me taking our new adoptee, Sparky, to the free spay and neuter clinic a couple of weeks ago. At one point in our lives both Lawrie and I were ambulance EMT's so I was interested in the procedure and decided to watch while Sparky was neutered.
As it turned out he needed more than just a simple neutering as one of his testicles was still inside, and to save future complications it needed to be removed with a more intricate procedure. I volunteered to hold a light to give Dr. Lynn Beckmann a better view of his insides. I discovered I didn't have the fortitude to watch while my little buddy's intestines were probed and prodded, and then stitched up. I had to take several small "sit down or fall down" breaks. Dr. Beckmann was quite concerned that at any minute I was going to be her next patient.
|Sparky - not feeling very well|
|Sparky - swimming too soon after his operation|
|Chica - not doing very well|
|Dr. Antonio Salas making a house call|
He's feeling miserable, and former ambulance EMT's make terribly impatient patients! The good thing is Dr. Salas makes house calls, and he stopped by to fix Lawrie up.
Finally, Tommy, my fifteen-year-old cat decided that since everyone else is getting extra attention he should express his displeasure for being ignored. He vomited his breakfast - all over my toes.
When will all this drama end? And you all thought that we were having a nice two week rest from writing this blog, when in reality it has been a living hell.
|The Adventures of Thomas the Cat - bilingual|
Looking forward to a new and better week. We want our calm, pleasant paradise back!
Lynda & Lawrie
Friday, March 14, 2014
I searched my brain for creative ideas for this week's blog - but all that came out was a sizzle and a pop ..... and then a slow fizzle. Nothing!
It's time to take a short sabbatical to re-charge the brain cells.
We'll be back on Friday March 28th.
Lynda & Lawrie
Friday, March 7, 2014
Every year it's the same. Every year it's different. Carnaval; it's a chaos of colourful costumes, confusion, and crazy-loud music. Thumpa! Thumpa! Thumpa! For the five days leading up to the forty days of Lent, the island reverberates with fun.
The schedule of events normally begins with the Coronation Dance on the Friday night. It includes the crowning of kings and queens from various age segments, and finally the crowning of the official carnival king and queen. In previous years there have been two parades on consecutive days both starting at three in the afternoon, give or take an hour or two. For the Programa 2011 the parades were on Saturday and Sunday as they were in most other years. However, this year 2014, the two parades were moved to Sunday and Monday.
Assuming the parade, as usual, would be late starting we arrived downtown at four in the afternoon on Sunday. I was told by one of the carnival dancers that the parade was over, finished, done. It had apparently started on time. "Really?" we shrugged, "oh well, let's go meet up with our friends at Jax Bar & Grill."
Just as the waiter placed our cold beverages in front of us, the official Carnaval king and queen and their dance troupe came by! Obviously the parade wasn't over. It was just starting. Recklessly scrambling down the asymmetrical stairs at the restaurant, I inserted myself into the crowds, hoping for a few good photographs.
For the next hour several groups danced past, flashing feathers and flounces, gyrating north along Medina Avenue from the naval base towards the Auxles Hotel. Again, another change. Normally the groups congregate at the north end and head south towards the naval base.
Perhaps the Carnaval organizers wanted to shake things up a bit just to see if anyone would notice.
Slipping in and out of the crowd as I snapped photos I recognized a number of the participants. One very hard working woman, possibly the owner of a local dance studio, annually leads her large troupe of dancers ranging in age from five to adults. She cajoles, encourages, and entreats the dancers to stay in line, keep moving, stay focused, and most importantly - smile. I am in awe of her patience and talent.
The costumes for this group were outstanding as always; confections of fur, feathers, pink and blue gauzy fabrics, sequins and face paint. Her theme this year was jungle cats, big cats, cute and snarly cats.
Standing on the street and looking back up to the upper deck at Jax Bar & Grill, I noticed one of the patrons tossing multiple strings of Mardi Gras-type beads to the groups below.
A look of delight brightened the face of the Carnaval queen as she caught one of the flying strands, happily displaying her colourful trophy to the group.
The man tossing the beads lives part-time on Isla Mujeres, but his primarily residence is in New Orleans. He wanted to inject a bit of Mardi Gras fun into the event, promising to bring more sparkling beads for next year's parade.
|Look what I caught!|
They have had a very strenuous schedule in the months leading up to carnival with dance practice most nights of the week, and then four days of dancing in parades, on street corners and at the official events.
One troupe of dancers did a special appearance at Richard and Linda Grierson's Casa Luna Turquesa.
After a few technical difficulties (someone had misplaced the USB that held their dance music) their enthusiastic presentation got underway.
|In front of Casa Luna Turquesa on Aeropuerto Rd.|
After a refreshing cold drink or two they proceeded on to the next location, Brook Prinsen and Paul Ricker's house, Cas-a-Beer, for more dancing. These extras dances are how the participants earn money to pay for their elaborate costumes. The hat, or bucket, or box is passed around through the crowd. Dig deep folks, and help them out! Carnaval just wouldn't be carnaval without the various dance troupes.
|I am not having fun.|
I realized his cat costume and annoyed expression perfectly matched my fifteen-year-old cat's expression when he is annoyed. When the youngster is older he might find the whole parade-thing amusing, but on that day he was not pleased.
|Tommy - looks like the young lad in the cat costume|
It's the same, and it's different. Similar events, different dates. Similar groups, different costumes, and possibly different parade dates, times and routes!
We can't wait.
Lynda & Lawrie
|Lawrie dancin' with the ladies at Casa Luna|
Friday, February 28, 2014
|Andy St. Pierre arriving at hospital with equipment|
Last year an elderly visitor needed a wheelchair. It quickly became obvious to the family members how difficult it was to find the equipment on Isla Mujeres. Through Dra. Tere Gómez at the Secretaría de Salud de Quintana Roo, the hospital near the original Super-X-Press store, they were able to find a wheelchair to use for the interim.
|Gary, Bonnie, MaryBeth, Denis and Andy|
|Checking the doctors "wish list" with Jorge Avila|
As we waited for everyone to cram into the room, long-time resident Jorge Avila discussed the doctors "wish list" with Gary Van Lankvelt, Denis St. Pierre, and Andy St. Pierre.
The list of urgently needed items totaled $15,000 pesos or around $1200.00 US.
The "wish list" includes a fetal Doppler monitor, a handheld ECG/EKG cardiac monitor, cardiology stethoscope, an otoscope and ophthalmoscope kit, and oximeters.
|Dr. David Valenzo Loaeza thanking the group|
|Seniors and Friends, with Doctora Tere Gomez|
On the second floor, accessible by elevator, escalator, or stairs are beds for twenty-five patients, and an isolation ward for critical cases - about three times the capacity of the current hospital.
The new facility is in need of more equipment, and more staff. At the present time there are only three doctors available to cover the shifts 24-hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days a year. It's an impossible situation.
|View from the roof of the new hospital|
As one of the members said, "The Seniors and Friends of Isla Mujeres are looking at this as just the beginning of a longer term project. We are planning to continue to raise funds and further develop a close working relationship with the local hospital and medical community, as well as the community in general."
Check out their FaceBook page: give them a big [LIKE]. Get involved with your community.
At some point in our lives we all probably will require medical assistance in one form or another. It would be great if the assistance was readily available on the island.
It's a win-win for everyone.
Lynda & Lawrie