Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year/Feliz Año 2009

I remember my first New Year's Eve here. A party in the zocolo, with dancing and friends. An early morning trek out to Punta Sur on New Year's Day to greet the rising sun along with a couple hundred locals. A stroll down Av. Hidalgo greeting locals I knew with "Feliz Ano Nuevo".

Oops! Feliz Ano Nuevo is NOT AT ALL THE SAME as Feliz Año Nuevo. The little squiggly above the 'n' makes all the difference - both in pronunciation and meaning.

I was quickly and gently corrected by a local after having said the wrong greeting all evening. They know we mean well, but...look it up here and save yourself and the locals some embarrassment.

So I'm wishing you all a very Happy and Safe New Year. And no matter who or what you snuggle with tonight, don't forget the Ñ (eñe)!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Santa's Visit to Casa Susana

On Sunday morning we were just popping the last pieces of fruit into our mouths when we heard a commotion in front of the house. A booming voice - Ho Ho HO. Santa Whozat was paying us a visit.

I don't have a picture of the man himself (who does?), but his sack was loaded with goodies for Miguel and I...



I'm not sure how many reindeer were needed to help Santa haul that load - it was one HEAVY load of wonderful books full of colorful pictures, recipes, and crafts.

We offered Santa a serving of Miguel's original chilaquiles, complete with queso Oaxaca brought to us from a small town near Monte Alban (Miguel's homeland). A glass of orange juice and Santa's belly was full, especially since it was his second breakfast of the day. But that is what Santa is supposed to do - sample everything left out for him as he makes his rounds, and this Santa held up the tradition.

And then...

"laying his finger aside of his nose,"
"And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose" (well, not really - we don't have a chimney);
"He sprang to his sleigh" (aka golf cart)

and was off to the beach! (I know it doesn't rhyme, but that's what happened)

Thank you so much, Santa!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry Christmas to Me!

Zina and Scott just came by with a belated Christmas present for ME! They did a blitz shopping trip to Cancun today, including Costco. I did not know it but Costco has something there that I covet - a wonderful broom!

Some of you might remember my blog about brooms. How a good broom is hard to find (and keep!).

This new broom has the softest bristles, and even though I had already swept and washed the floors today, I could not resist pulling it across the floor. The broom slid like silk, and the bristles made just a whisper. The broom even has an extra head, so I can use one for certain things and the other for other things.

I love my new broom, and need to find a good hiding place for it so nobody else uses it and it stays in good shape. Maybe my bedroom closet, nobody ever looks in there (thank goodness!).

Thank you Zina!

A Peaceful Morning

At this moment we are having the kind of morning I cherish. So quiet we can hear the various birds chirping and singing to each other. The front garden is freshly watered and the sunlight is filtering through and reflecting off the drops of water on the leaves. The small lizards are playing in the plants. A gentle breeze is stirring the leaves, and the earthy smell of moist soil and plants fills the air.

This is the best time to lay in the hammock and just enjoy the morning. A cup of sweet, hot coffee cradled in my hands. A dog or two sprawled under the hammock. Luna sitting beside me hoping for a stroke or two, or a chance to jump up into my lap.

But...it's also time to work. So here I am, sitting on the sofa inside, looking out the door and window, admiring the garden and wishing I was out there instead of in here. One day maybe, my life will not be centered around a computer.

But for now...Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it's off to work I go. Have a good day!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas: The Differences part 2

The Noise and "Business as Usual"

Christmas Eve in Canada for me was like the calm before the storm. With all the shopping done, it was time to turn on the Christmas tunes, light the fire, and break the bread for dressing. The evening would be spent wrapping gifts and preparing for the big family party on Boxing Day (the day after Christmas). The streets were basically deserted since just about everything had shut down by 6 pm at the latest.

Here, nothing seemed all that different. We were even able to buy lottery tickets on both Christmas Eve night and Christmas Day. We went out with Loco dressed in his Santa hat and neck decoration to distribute gifts we had for some of our local families. We had a big bag of little extras and gave those to kids we encountered here and there.

One of the most noticeable differences for me was the amount of noise out there. Nothing peaceful and calm about Christmas Eve. The town had a parade of Santa floats going up and down the island, calling to all the children to come and get their gifts. My neighbors had a party and cranked up the music. Most of the neighborhood seemed to have firecrackers, and all the popping drove Loco under the bed. The music and fireworks continued until at least 5 am.

Christmas morning we were up at our usual time - 6 am or so. NOBODY else in the colonia was up until much later, they were tired from their all-night party. We went to the mercado and hardly anyone was stirring there either. But later in the day we drove around and found all businesses open and people going about their daily routines like it was just another day.

I cooked our turkey dinner and we just enjoyed the food and the music. We took a couple of short drives while the turkey was roasting and visited with a few locals. We called our families in Oaxaca and Canada.

I missed my family and our yearly party and I think they missed me a bit, but my sister took over the hosting and my daughter baked the pies. I did not miss all the materialism and commercialism of Christmas and although I hope Miguel and I can be in Canada next year, I know he will be shocked by the excesses he'll witness there. It feels good to be down-sizing on Christmas, and it felt really good not to have to bundle up and face the cold and snow.

Now we prepare for New Year's here!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas: The Differences part 1

This was my first Christmas away from my family in Canada. My first Christmas in Mexico. There are some stark contrasts, and then some subtle ones.

#1 difference has to be...NO SNOW!!

Also...

Decorations

We put up lights and Miguel has fiddled with them a couple of times but still doesn't have them strung the way he wants. Maybe next year. But I like how the garden looks at night with lighting, and may have to keep a couple of the white lights around all year.

We have a fake tree - my first fake tree EVER. It's in the living room, and all it has on it is two strings of blinking mini lights, and topped with a broken string of white grape clusters (only 4 of the 10 clusters work, so I grouped them together and put them on the top instead of a star). With a kitten in the house I figure we're lucky to have anything on that tree. Maya keeps mauling the lower branches and has pulled the string of lights and messed up the sequence a couple of times. She seems bored with it now, but cats are funny - you can never assume they are bored with something and let your guard down. The minute you start to trust a cat, they go back to doing what you didn't want them to do - I think they plan it that way just to keep you on your toes.

We have another small fake tree just outside the front door. While I was in Canada I went to my favorite store - Canadian Tire (no, it's not just tires!) - and they had a sale on Christmas trees. A 2' tree, already strung with lights, for $15. So I bought it and brought it in a large bag all the way to Mexico, and was pleasantly surprised when I opened the box and found TWO trees in there. So one went to Capi's Apartment and the other decorates the front terrace.

In Canada I just had a small ceramic Christmas tree, and I did not have any cats to mess up decorations. I have a lot of decorations there, including a large collection of white bears. My daughter used a few of my decorations but most just stayed in the box; I will have to give some away and bring my favorites to Mexico.

On Christmas Eve after work, I wrapped the gifts for my neighbor's three children and took them over. I was touched to receive an adorable lamb candle in return. So cute I cannot light it; it is under the fake tree with three religious-looking statues. The story on the statues is that Miguel spotted them dumped at the side of the road a few months ago and there was nothing wrong with them other than the baby was broken. So he rescued the set, fixed the baby, and gave half of the statues to his daughter, including the baby. I think the statues make up part of a nativity scene but not being religious or Catholic, I'm really not sure. It looks like one is Mary and the others are a couple of the Kings, but if that's the case, why would Miguel have split up Mary, Joseph and the baby? I'm not sure asking the question will get me an answer I understand (Miguel's logic versus mine), so I'll probably just let it go and let him have his statues the way he wants them (he put them under the tree). But I remember my child's picture bible, and there were always animals in the pictures, so the lamb fits into the semi-nativity scene quite nicely, I think.

(to be continued - It's Noisy!!)...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Trying to do the right thing

"They" say things happen in 3's. I don't really buy that, but having heard it all my life, it sort of sticks in the back of my mind.

On Sunday we woke up to a mess of garbage in the street. Probably dogs down the road that tipped over my neighbor's garbage can and tore open the bags looking for food. It was a revolting mess, and my neighbors were not here to clean it up. So I got a garbage bag, protected my hand, and picked it all up. Bleh!

Miguel was pulling the dead Moonflower plants out of the front hedge. The vines had done their job, blessing us with tons of fragrant blooms for a couple of months (sometimes 50 flowers a night). The vines were now full of seed, so I sat on the golf cart and collected the seeds, placing them neatly on the back seat of the golf cart. For some reason Miguel decided I should move the cart to the other side of the road, so I gathered my seeds and used the bottom of my t-shirt to make a small pocket to hold the seeds.

I sat on the other side of the road and finished my coffee, enjoying the beautiful day and watching Miguel trim the hedge. When I got up, I forgot about the seeds I was cradling, and they all dumped on the road - about 75 seeds. I was not about to leave them there, so I proceeded to gather them all up again, and in the back of my mind was the thought - what else am I going to be picking up from the road to make the third event?

Well, sadly, this morning I got my third event. Remember my post about the small gray kittens that had been using our garden for shelter and food? Yesterday Miguel said that he thought one was dead, but didn't say why...just he thought one had died because he hadn't seen both kittens in a few days, just one. I had noticed an odd odor on Sunday when I picked up the garbage, and wondered at the time if that meant a dead animal. I guess it did, because this morning, right in the middle of the road was the carcass of one of the gray kittens. It had been dead a few days as there was nothing left but fur and bone. I don't know where the body had been or how it suddenly showed up in the middle of the road this morning, because I walk that road every day and it was not there before.

I could not leave it there - I do not understand people who stand nearby when a dead animal is right under their nose. It feels disrespectful, but it happened on Sunday - a dead kitten right on the main road near the cementary. Blood and everything, and two healthy men standing right there and doing nothing. Normally Miguel would have moved the body into some plants, but I think he wasn't sure if the kitten belonged to the men so he just gently moved it to the curb and they just watched. They didn't care.

Neither do our neighbors - they even have kids but nobody moved the dead kitten here on our road. So I found a small piece of paper and brought it home to put in the tall plants across the street. I am so sorry for the little guy; even though it wasn't a pet, it was a life that we had been helping along, and I only hope it was a quick death. Sometimes living here just breaks your heart.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Time to make lists

I am a list-maker. I carry around little pieces of paper with lists of things, and I don't throw them away until I've either completed the list or I consolidate to another list. I probably have about 6 lists tucked somewhere around here at the moment, some were started months ago. I make lists for shopping, lists to organize chores, lists to organize thoughts, lists for work projects, lists for Christmas gifts. My lists are sometimes lists within lists - higher level topics leading to details. Lists help me break down a problem or a task into smaller pieces. I am always thinking of many things at the same time, and lists help me remember, and prioritize.

Miguel is a list-maker too, but he's not as consistent as I am. He makes his lists in books, so he has a little book, a bigger book, a reservation book, and a sketch book. Even though Miguel might have a few things on his list, he normally will only work on one thing at a time. When that one thing is done, he crosses it off and moves onto something else on the list.

I used to be one of those who crossed things off lists too. What a sense of accomplishment, to see a list with most things completed. The things that are last to get crossed off lists are usually things that are hard to find, hard to do, optional, or no longer needed. One list I have going for Cancun shopping still has the hold-out of a flashlight. You'd think I would have come across a flashlight in all the trips I've made to Cancun lately. But there it is...that one thing nagging at me on a list that I need to throw away. Time to consolidate the flashlight with another list.

I will be making a new list tonight - a list of ingredients I need to buy for our turkey dinner on Wednesday. Butter, lard, eggs, bread, onion, etc. I need to check my herbs and spices and make sure I have that covered before I get up to my elbows in pastry dough and find out I'm missing a critical ingredient. Like the pumpkin? Nah, I'm pretty sure I saw a can of that in the pantry, but sometimes I get confused on which pantry I saw it in - the one here or the one in Canada. Keeping two kitchens running is a challenge, I'm glad my daughter is now in charge of the one in Canada. But she's got my best pastry-making stuff - the large metal bowl, the marble rolling pin, the rolling board, and the good flour.

I've got a rolling pin that doesn't roll around its handles, I just have to push it back and forth across the dough. But I've made a few pies here, so as long as I find the lard I'm sure the pie will be delicious. Can't say I have the same confidence with the turkey - my experience with turkey here is that they are tough, chewy old things. The turkey I bought the other day is about 15 pounds, so maybe it will turn out better than the other ones I've made here. If nothing else, the stuffing and everything else should be good, as long as I remember to buy everything I need.

Time to go make my list!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Vacation is over

Darn! I could use another week off, or even two. Part of my week off was spent flying to Canada and then back to Cancun again. I had ambitious plans in both locations, too ambitious, apparently, because I didn't do too much of what I intended to do. Instead I...

In Canada (3 days):

  • cooked a turkey dinner

  • taught my daughter how to make pastry and cherry pie

  • renewed driver's and car licenses

  • drove to Toronto and back to visit family (just before the snow fell)

  • shopped and packed, shopped and packed


In Mexico (4 days):

  • made two more trips to Cancun since getting back on Wednesday; once to pick up my FM3 (and shop) and once to visit the doctor (and shop)

  • took a 2 hr nap

  • worked up a sweat trying to get the small lights on the fake tree - they kept slipping off and the tree fell over

  • ate too much at breakfast and got a stomach ache

  • took a 3 hr nap

  • snuggled with cats

  • laid in the hammock



So the dining room table is still piled with stuff that needs to be sorted and filed and stored. Bills, statements, and receipts still need to be entered into my accounting program to balance the books since the last entry (August). My winter coat is still piled on the stool waiting to be carried up to the linen closet. The mending and ironing is still waiting to be mended and ironed.

But the laundry is done and smells great from hanging on the line. The floors are clean, the living room is tidy, the Christmas gifts are laid out waiting for distribution, the dog has been clipped, and the kitchen is clean. We've bought the last basics for Capi's Apartments (guests start coming in a week), and the place is looking so cute. We have all the Christmas lights up here at the house, and Maya has not yet chewed through the light bulbs and the tree only fell over once since it was decorated, and that was my fault when I was trying to plug in the lights. I have not cooked a thing other than boiling chicken wings for Maya.

Tonight the lights are low, all three cats are on the couch with us (a first), Miguel is getting ready to take his pre-going-to-bed siesta, and I am messing around on the computer.

Yup, I could get used to this. But for now I'd settle for just two more weeks. I'm tired!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

My eyes, My eyes!!

I live in a red-light district. There is sex going on around us all the time, some of it in broad daylight.

The other day I was walking down my road and a female dog, not from this area, was sort of prowling around. I figured she was looking for food, but later, when we were coming back from breakfast out, we came across the female snuggled up with the big brown dog (we call him Cafe) that lives on the corner of my street. Miguel commented that 'Cafe' had found himself a novia (girlfriend).

The dogs stayed together most of the day, but one time Miguel was outside and came in laughing because some other male dogs had figured out there was a female around, and they were challenging Cafe for his girlfriend. As he defended his bride against another big dog, a small male took the opportunity to grab the novia and have some fun. Yup, group sex just two doors down the road. In public and in plain view of children.

I wonder how the parents explain it to their kids? I remember how my mother didn't explain it to me at a zoo in Denmark. There was a pen of donkeys, and I commented that one donkey had 5 legs and was trying to get on top of another donkey. My mother muttered some comment to me about how odd it was to have 5 legs, and we quickly moved along to another display. I was 11 at the time. Clueless.

Miguel tells me he overheard how one mother explained it to her child who had just witnessed a male mounted on top of a female. She explained that the one dog had broken his feet so the other dog was helping him walk. The child bought it.

My daughter was raised on nature shows, so she was exposed to animal behavior all her life. One time I took her to the Toronto Zoo, and the monkeys are always a lot of fun to watch. As I stood there with my young daughter, a male monkey on the glass ledge right under our nose approached a female and did all the things they show you on those tv programs (and more!). The people around us discretely took their leave; we stayed and watched, curious to see what we'd seen on tv in 'real life'.

I know one thing - if I'd tried to tell my daughter the monkey had 5 legs, she'd have given me the scoop, straight up. The next generation knows so much more about certain things than I ever did. But I'm learning, thanks to the loose behavior of the dogs here on Isla. Nobody seems to think anything about it, it's part of life here.

I never saw canine sex until I lived here. My first exposure was with two little dogs that used to live on the roof behind my house (now just the female lives there). I looked out my back window one day and saw the two dogs stuck together, each facing the other way. I didn't really know what I was seeing at the time, and I was fretting about the poor dog that seemed to be the one that was 'stuck'. As the one dog moved around the roof, the poor stuck dog sort of had to hop and be tugged along backwards.

I explained what I'd seen to a family member, and that's when I got educated. Wow - I had no idea the poor dogs went through that, I sort of figured the term "doggy-style" in human sex described how it happened with dogs too. Can you imagine if humans ended up the same way, with the man being dragged around backwards, by his most-treasured 'possession', at the whim of the female? Might put an end to doggy-style...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You can't decorate EVERYTHING

I got back to the island yesterday afternoon after a quick trip to Canada, where it's looking very festive for the holiday.

I finally remembered to take my camera when we went out last evening. I didn't have a tripod so these pictures are a little shaky, but still pretty, and are only a sample of the decorations here.

People are really getting into the decorating more each year, including the 'lawn' decorations (blow-up Santa with all the things that go with Santa). Christmas trees are a big hit here now too, I hope to go out again and get more pictures of all the nice displays around the island.

Here are some displays in the local colonias around our home:











The Dollar Store near my house in Canada had Christmas adornments for people (mostly hats). They also had them for dogs, and of course I had to buy a set for Loco.

Loco was not impressed, and was scared to move in his getup. The cats were all over him checking him out, it was hard to get a picture without a tail in the way.



Somehow I don't think Loco will be spreading much Christmas cheer if we make him wear his costume when we distribute small toys in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Hmmm...this doesn't act like a sour orange

On a trip to Cancun last week we scouted out some beef at Sam's Club. I am not a great lover of beef, especially in Mexico, but Miguel really likes it so I buy it when I can; otherwise he threatens to start clucking because of all the chicken I've been feeding him.

Sam's doesn't have any of the cuts I like to cook, and I didn't feel like buying two huge hunks of meat (club-sized packaging). So I bought a package of thinly sliced beef, like skinny steaks. (I'm sure there's a name but I can't think of it at the moment, per my earlier post about memory issues).

I often make chicken adobo at home. I tried to add a link here so you could see what I'm talking about, but none of the links use the same ingredients I use, so either my recipe is one I made up, or I didn't google long enough.

Anyway, one of the basic ingredients is the adobo paste that I buy at the mercado. When asked how much I want, I cup my hand and tell them 'enough for one chicken'. That gets me a blob about the size that fits into a closed fist, plopped into a plastic bag. Along with the adobo I buy an onion, and two sour oranges (the juice is used to mix with the other marinade ingredients). Add cumin, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper, and that is Sue's adobo recipe.

I was thinking that the beef I'd bought in Cancun would taste good if I used the same adobo marinade and we cooked it on the BBQ. So I bought the ingredients for the adobo at the local mercado. I prepared the meat and started to put together the marinade, but then I encountered a problem.

When I cut into the oranges, they were the color of sweet oranges, not sour. I went ahead and squeezed them by hand with my little plastic squeezer. A lot of pulp came out, and that does not happen with sour oranges. I tasted - yup, I'd bought sweet oranges. Darn! The mercado was closed by now so I decided to go ahead and make the adobo marinade with the sweet orange juice. Maybe it would taste oriental? Like sweet and sour orange beef?

The beef marinated overnight, and the next day it was a nice red color. Miguel started up the BBQ and we cooked some potatoes and peppers, and some sausages, and then put on the beef. Miguel has a tendency to turn beef into shoe leather, but this day he was on, and the beef was cooked perfectly.

It wasn't until we sat down to eat that I confessed to Miguel about using the wrong type of oranges. But we dug in, and it tasted ok. Miguel really liked it - maybe he was just really hungry?

The next day I slivered the beef and sauteed it along with multiple colors of peppers, an onion, some hot chili, and at the end I threw in a bunch of manchego cheese and made a gooey mess. We had barras (buns) so fresh from the store down the road that they were still warm, and I cut them open and slapped the goop inside.

You know what? Those were about the best sandwiches we've ever tasted!

(Mexico Cooks! - if you're reading this, please don't cringe). :-)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Followup on a concrete project - the sink

It was three months ago that I wrote about the concrete projects we had going on. After a month or so of bad weather (rain, cold, wind), I finally got the camera out and took pictures of the finished work. Here is the second level pool terrace - the new sink that was built (it's that blue thing in the corner):



This sink almost got installed backwards. The drainage holes usually go at the front, so despite the fact that the painted picture inside the sink is of a man sitting under a cactus (sorry, I should have shot that a little closer), when I went up to check on the work, I was shocked to see the man hanging upside down and the cactus plants growing from the sky.

It took some talking to get the master albanil and Miguel to agree to turn the sink around. But really - how could I wash my hands and enjoy looking at an upside-down picture? They didn't care about the picture, they cared about the holes. I cared about the picture. I got my way and they fixed it.



I used to have a bamboo torch in the garden. Miguel cut the torch and used the bamboo pieces to hide the metal tap and make it look more 'rustic'.



Just some pretty Bougainvilla...

Saturday, December 13, 2008

I just came to tell you I'm not coming

We have an on and off again relationship with a carpenter here. He does nice work when he does it. He starts out great - promising something by a certain date, and when he's 'on', he usually hits within a week or so.

So after he completes the first project, we give him something else to do. And then the problems start. He takes the deposit for material, gives us a date when he'll be back to install...and doesn't show up. This starts a daily cycle for Miguel...drive by his house, and if he's home, ask him when he's coming.

"Tomorrow - 10 am". Miguel looks him in the eye and says "Sure?". The carpenter looks him back in the eye and swears he will be there. Miguel continues to look him in the eye. "Que mes?" (which month?). The carpenter sheepishly grins but swears he will be there. "Faulta nada" (nothing will keep him away).

This went on a couple of years ago for WEEKS. Finally a threat to go to the police to get back the deposit resulted in a shoddy installation and a broken relationship with a good customer. We moved on to another carpenter - a retired man who is only here now and then. When we passed the other carpenter in the street it was all I could do to wave at him, with gritted teeth.

I figured that carpenter was history, but when the retired carpenter let us down a bit, I was surprised to hear that Miguel had retained the other carpenter again. That is one thing about men and/or Mexicans - they get mad, have it out, but they move past it and are able to continue working with each other. I've seen this over and over, and I don't think women work the same way. Once we have a conflict with someone, that sort of seals the fate of the relationship. At least, that's what I've observed in my working world.

Anyway, so we are back working with this carpenter again, and he told Miguel he saw the error of his ways. He lost a lot of good customers from his unreliable behavior, and those days are over. He will deliver what he promises. And he did, for the first project. And even the second, although he still has a tiny piece to complete. Now we're at the third project and seeing a repeat performance from two years ago.

He says he will be here. He isn't. Miguel drives by his house, looks him in the eye...you know the drill.

The other day, after not showing up for more than a week, as promised, he stopped by in the afternoon just to tell us he wasn't coming. I was right there when he promised he would be here tomorrow, it's a free day for him, no other clients needing his attention. 10 am sharp, he will be here.

By three o-clock the next day, having forgotten all about the carpenter until then, we realize he has not shown up. I guess we sort of expect him not to show up, and so he is just meeting our expectations.

So we went to Cancun, and if the carpenter came by just to tell us he wasn't coming, we weren't home to hear it. Take that, you carpenter, you!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Three years later

When you see something every day you hardly notice all the small changes that make a drastic difference. Here are some pictures from 2005 and how things look now...

Front of house 2005



2008



Street heading east 2005



2008



Front garden 2005 (after Wilma)



2008



It's fun to look back and see all the changes, most of them for the better. I still wish I just had a dirt road full of rocks - we had very little traffic then and nobody dared drive fast. I guess the house was dustier then though, because all those clouds of sand made their way through the windows and doors. With the paving of the road we also got sewers, and finally we connected up to them earlier this year.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What was it I was saying/thinking/going to do?

I've noticed that there's something going around, and it seems to be targeting the older crowd (over 45), as far as I can tell. It's this...

I will hear noise from somewhere in the house, and call out "What are you doing?". And then I tune out. So a few minutes later when I still hear noise, I call out again, "What are you doing?". Miguel responds "You JUST asked me that". Oh, did I? I guess I didn't wait to hear the answer, or I forgot what he said, or I forgot that I asked. Or maybe he didn't answer. Or any or all of those. Don't really know.

The other day we were on our way out when I decided to grab the camera. I had the camera in my hand when I remembered something I needed in the house, so I unlocked the front door, grabbed whatever it was that I needed, locked the door, and looked around for the camera. Where had I put it? Not on the terrace. So I opened the door again, and went all through the downstairs looking for the camera. No luck. Relocked the door and looked around again. Nothing. "Miguel, have you seen the camera?". "Oh my gosh Sue", he said, "it's right on your shoulder!". And so it was...hanging from my shoulder all along.

Miguel will often be in the middle of telling me a story and forget what he was going to say. And he is always misplacing things, because he does not have a good system where he puts things back where they should be so he will be able to find them again.

On Sunday I reorganized the laundry room, including the shelves of tools. I wrote down what was in there, because I know the next time we go to look for something we won't know which place we've put it in. A list should help us, until someone forgets to put back what they took and the list is now invalid. I'm not really sure though where I put the list...

This morning we bumped into a friend, and as we were chatting, he asked about a mutual friend. He called her by the wrong name and then "what was her name again?". How could he forget? He asks about her all the time. With the right name.

So there's something going on around here that is taking little pieces of our minds, bit by bit. Anyone else notice this?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Pesky little sister

Maya is not afraid of any of the other animals in this house. They are all bigger and stronger than she is, but she holds the trump card because she is inexperienced and naive, and therefore will do anything without understanding the possible consequences.

Stalking Minina is her favorite way to pass the time. She trails along behind and jumps at Minina's hindquarters until finally Minina gets mad and swings around and swats her.

Minina trying to put Maya in her place - "Quit bugging me!"



Maya trying to interfere with Minina's feeding time:



"I'll hide behind this bowl"



"I'm gonna get your tail"



"See, I made you move"



Yesterday we went to Cancun, and in the rush to leave the house, I forgot to put Maya in her room. We have never left Maya and Loco alone in the house before, and when we got home I realized what I'd done, and was scared I'd find Maya hurt (or worse, by accident).

But Maya was sitting on top of the coffee table, a place she'd never been able to jump to before. So we figure while we were gone Maya was practicing her jumping. Or she was forced to learn to jump in order to get away from Loco. We'll never know, but I think Maya the pest is just getting started with her antics. Watch out Loco, Minina, and Luna! There's a new kid in town!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What would you like for breakfast?

Each morning Miguel asks me the same question - "Que quieres comer por desayuno?" (what would you like for breakfast?).

We used to eat some form of eggs almost every day. I'm not even an egg lover, but the way Miguel prepares them, I enjoy them.

A la Mexicana - scrambled with slivered onions and peppers, with some special combination of chilis to give it extra zip.

Huevos en Salsa Roja - scrambled and smothered in Miguel's homemade red sauce. When he makes the red sauce he makes a mess, but it's worth it. Yum!

To accompany the eggs, we buy a stack of hot tortillas from the mercado. The tortillas we don't eat turn into fried tortillas. Salted, like chips but with a taste of corn, almost like popcorn. Delicious!

Chilaquiles - made with his homemade red sauce and usually with a fried egg on top, per his Oaxaca tradition.

After Miguel's accident, Miguel's cholesterol was high. We had to stop eating so many eggs; one egg twice a week was our goal. We don't quite make it, when Miguel prepares eggs he uses 3, and we probably eat eggs 3 times a week.

To get away from so many eggs, we also eat:

Refried black beans - lately he's been doing some magic with a can of beans, and we've been including beans with both meals (we only eat twice a day).

Sopes/Huaraches - the first layer is the beans, above. Then the homemade red sauce, and then the onion and cheese to top it off. He has been making the masa a little thinner and smaller, so I can eat two if I'm hungry.

If we have leftover chicken and Miguel's homemade green tomato sauce, I will make chicken enchiladas (similar to the old El Pueblito). I never thought I would eat chicken for breakfast, but we do, and we love the enchiladas.

If we have masa and chicken, I might also make empanadas.

Some days we buy salbutes from the mercado - they are a bit greasy, but that gives them more flavor. I love the mercado salbutes.

There is a lady who walks around with a pot of something every morning except Sundays. If we find her, we may buy volancos, negritas, empanadas - all masa-based meals with some sort of sauce.

There is another lady who comes through our neighborhood in the evenings with tamales. She makes the best tamales, and she knows we don't like the steamed ones, just the baked ones - so she only comes here when she has the baked tamales, and we always buy several for breakfast the next day.

Along with all the yummy things we prepare or buy, our breakfasts at home are always finished off with a plate of fresh fruit and a glass of fresh orange juice.



So, what am I having for breakfast today? Well, there is a blender of Miguel's homemade red sauce in the fridge, so I'm guessing it will be eggs smothered in that delicious sauce, a stack of hot torillas, along with juice and fruit. We also have a sausage in the fridge from our BBQ on Sunday, so Miguel will probably eat that (I don't eat sausages).

Better get going, our breakfast routine is about to begin!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Our Sunday 'Tradition'

Lately we've been taking Sunday as our day to have breakfast at Loncheria Alexia and Giovanni. Yesterday we were there, and I happened to have my camera with me and took these shots:

Loco waiting patiently for us to eat



They've done some nice renovations to the hotel across the street



No, that's not a person off in the distance, just a t-shirt



Near the end of our meal, a furniture truck pulled up and backed up where those t-shirts were hanging. They started unloading the truck. Then I noticed a large swam of insects in the center of the parking lot. Miguel confirmed that it was a swarm of bees. Loco didn't move, and the people walking through the parking lot stayed calm and the bees did not attack anyone.

The guys unloading the truck suddenly noticed the swarm and stopped what they were doing and walked over and sat on the edge of one of the planters. The swarm gradually moved closer to the truck and that's when we figured out that the truck had disturbed a hive.

Once the swarm calmed down, Miguel went over and carefully took a picture of the hive.



I'm not sure what they'll do about the hive, Miguel seemed to think they'd need to spray. A little scary, but glad it turned out ok.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Photos

We went for a drive today. I haven't been to the beach areas in a long time - maybe a year or more? I don't know if these pictures show the beach area in better shape than before, but it looks to me like the sand is coming back.

Cove across from Avalon





Avalon's Beach



Na Balam's Beach





Buho's Beach







Looking south down Playa Norte from Buho's

They grow up so fast!

Today I noticed that Maya's ears have grown again, so she needs to grow into them. She's getting bigger every day, and full of mischief. Drives Loco and Minina crazy with her attacks.

Pictures of Maya just a few days apart.







You've heard the saying...'when iguanas can fly'? Well, Ok, I made it up, but this iguana flew from the second floor terrace and landed upside down on this banana leaf. We think Luna was up there and it jumped for its life.



I just like this picture of Loco:

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Admin Day in Cancun - Part 2

Where were we? In Luis' cab, right? "Bancomer, por favor". Luis wanted to know if it mattered which one. Well, I don't know how many branches there are in Cancun, but I wanted to go to the one I always go to. I figured it was best to stick with the place I've been dealing with for a few years. Except I didn't really know where it was, just that it was on a busy road. So I guessed. "Tulum?".

We had to turn around, and before we got to the bank I spotted our drugstore - Ahorro. So Luis parked there while we got what we needed, and then Miguel and I walked the short distance to the bank.

Nobody in line! Wow - what good luck! I went right up to the teller, gave her my receipt from last year, and told her I wanted to pay my trust. She nodded, so I made out the check, and put the account number in the memo field. Then she announced that my account was cancelled; she didn't know why. I needed my contract number. I happened to have my property documents with me (in the cab), so Miguel went to get them. That wasn't what she wanted apparently. I also had a paper with my original account number on it - maybe that would help. I asked Miguel to go and get my bag out of the cab. He came back with everything, after picking up all the contents off the street that dumped out when he pulled the open bag off the back seat. She still couldn't help us. "Go see the man over there".

So we went to see the man 'over there'. The same man I saw last year who authorized my check. He verified that my account was cancelled, and said that we would have to call/fax something to someone to get it sorted out. How can they just cancel an active account? He wasn't really explaining it in a way that made sense to me (my fault for ever thinking it should make sense). He shrugged his shoulders and we thought he told us to go back to the teller. So we did, and she still didn't know what to do. The man came over with a piece of paper with some numbers on it, and we gave it to the girl, and she had no idea why, and neither did we. Finally we somehow understood that the numbers were phone numbers, and we could not do anything here, we would have to call a place in the hotel zone and sort out the account, and then we could pay the account.

Frustrated and angry, we left the bank. We gave Luis the story about having to call somewhere in the hotel zone (the bank branch, we assumed), and told him to take us to Costco. A couple minutes later I changed my mind and just told him to take us to the hotel zone. I had all the paperwork with me, it seemed it would just be easier to do whatever I had to do in person.

So Luis took us to the hotel zone, and as we walked around the circular plaza, Miguel called the number on the piece of paper then handed me the phone. He said the recorded voice was in English and he didn't understand. I called the number again and tried to understand, but even though it was English, it was spoken with a strong Spanish accent, and I couldn't understand either. Rather ironic, and glad I'd decided to come in person - if I'd tried to wade through that recorded menu from home I'd have gone nuts and probably would not have done whatever it was I was supposed to do when I called.

And so we found the bank. No line! The teller was friendly but told us the same thing - the account was closed. "Go see the man over there".

Well, this 'man over there' was much more helpful than the man at the other branch. He said the phone numbers we'd been given were for the office that handles the trusts, not the bank itself, but that he would help us. And he did. He called the office, explained the situation, and told us to use the same account number I'd used until they changed the account number two years ago. The same number I had on my original paperwork. He wrote everything on the back of the check. I crossed out the old account number on the check (memo field), initialed it, put in the new account number, initialed it, and took it back to the teller to pay my trust.

The teller started to process the payment but then said that the check was not valid because I had crossed out something. Not in any mood to argue, and knowing I'd lose anyway, I said I would just pay in cash. I tore up the check and handed her the cash, and in a couple of minutes we had a receipt. Yes! We reached the door and they called us back. The teller had credited my account with pesos, not US dollars, and she had to undo it and redo it. Ten minutes later and we made it out the door, with a correct receipt, and talking about how THIS was customer service. The other bank could just as easily have made that phone call for us; they chose not to. So I informed Miguel and Luis that we would be making a yearly trip to this branch of the bank to pay my trust from now on. My business will go where they appreciate their customers.

My personality is not really suited to dealing with stuff like this. It is illogical, wastes my time, stresses me, and just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I have learned that I just have to bite my tongue and accept it. I'm not the only one - I was reading from my list of blogs today and see that Theresa in Merida just went through a similar ordeal. Maybe it's a sort of initiation, those who endure and come back for more next year are the survivors? Not like we have a choice anyway.

We completed our day by going to Costco and enjoying pizza and chicken bake sandwiches. We invited Luis to join us and we just sat and chatted, and then we shopped a bit, and then Luis took us back to the ferry. We'd been gone 6.5 hrs, but had accomplished quite a bit in that time. A good day when it came down to it.

Admin Day in Cancun - Part 1

Thursday I had an appointment at 12:15 with Immigration. We also were to meet our insurance agent, and go to the bank to pay my yearly property trust (Fideicomiso).

We had told Luis we would be coming to Cancun but didn't know exactly what time. We tried calling him from the island while waiting for the ferry. We tried calling him from the ferry. We tried calling him as we approached Puerto Juarez. Three strikes and out - no answer.

We had about 30 minutes before we needed to be at Immigration, so we called our insurance agent and told him where we were, where we were going, and should we come to his office? No, he would meet us at Immigration. Ok - so we hailed a cab from the street and went to Immigration.

The Immigration office was packed, as usual, and there was no sign of my lawyer, so we sat outside on a wall and waited. Miguel called Luis again, and this time he answered and we told him we would be calling him when we were done at Immigration. And then Rufino showed up with the house insurance policy, and we exchanged vital information for payment, shook hands, and off he went.

So in four months we have successfully completed insurance transactions for: health, life, and home. Much easier than just about any other paper-based transaction I've ever tried to complete here, and just one problem - Miguel's birthdate was wrong on the health insurance policy. So we gave Rufino a copy of Miguel's credentials, and he will get that fixed.

As we were finishing up with Rufino, along came Zina and her cab driver, Carlos. You can read Zina's story as to why she was there. And about then Mauricio, my lawyer, showed up too. Busy place!

We went inside and Mauricio told me that the computer system had crashed that morning and so they were running late with appointments - I would be about an hour later than my 12:15 appointment. The heavy feeling in my chest started then...I'd believe it when I saw it. But at 1 pm my name was called, and I went into the little room with the Immigration agent (all by myself!). I laid my little envelope with the worst possible pictures of me on the table. He asked my height, my eye color, do I have a tattoo or scar, and what are the full names of my parents? He then printed up a form and I dipped both thumbs into the ink pad and thumb-stamped the papers and the future FM3 booklet. He then told me to put one thumb on my forehead and one on my nose. I do not usually rebel against authority but I looked at his serious face and decided he was pulling my leg. We both laughed and he told me to pick up my stuff and my FM3 would be ready in 10 days.

As relieved as I was to be through this part, I have a short trip to Canada planned before the 10 days will be up. So I need Mauricio to prepare a letter to be granted special permission to leave prior to getting my FM3. A little extra cash to get that done, but good to know you can do it if you need to. Ok, Mauricio, I will see you again on Tuesday to sign the papers for the request to travel, and then I guess I will see you again on Friday to pick up the papers. Two more trips to Cancun in my near future. Oh well...I will shop for something else while I'm there. I don't mind going to Cancun any more - I know where to go to get what I want (usually).

We called Luis and he told us he'd be there to pick us up in 5 minutes. It was a little longer than that, but not much, and we hopped into his cab and headed to the bank to pay my trust. Or should I say...try to pay my trust.

This is getting long and I have to hang out laundry, so will publish this and come back later for Part 2 - The Cancun Frustration!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I didn't mean to lie

Yesterday morning I had an inquiry about the rental properties. One of the questions was "Could you please tell me if the place is quiet so that I can get work done?". I had just sent a reassuring reply about the quietness of both places, when an iguana either jumped or fell off the back wall here at the house and ended up on the back terrace.

Loco happened to be out back with Miguel, and Loco loves nothing more than chasing and catching iguanas. He hasn't had one in a while (the last two escaped after swinging around in his mouth and biting him on the nose). So Loco was especially eager not to let this iguana get away.

We had blocked the small gap under the door to the side passageway with bricks and a piece of wood so Maya could go out on the terrace and not escape. The iguana found a small space to squeeze through and off he ran down the passageway into a plastic drainage tube in the front garden. Loco dug at the door and moved all the bricks in order to try to get at the iguana. Miguel put Loco in the house to stop him from tearing down the door and Loco quickly ran through the house and burst through the front screen door and pounced into the front garden.

Miguel took his newspaper and laid in the hammock while Loco cried and carried on trying to get the iguana to come out. Finally I got fed up and pulled Loco out of the garden and dragged him out to the back terrace so the iguana could be left in peace.

By now Luna had caught on that there was an iguana trapped in the garden, and she loves iguanas as much as Loco, so she stood guard over the pipe. I grabbed her and put her in the house too, but she was not a bit happy and whined and growled and paced. She picked at the screen in the front window, so I shut it before she tore it to shreds.

Out back Loco was pounding his feet on the back door wanting me to let him back in. Three times I went back there and yelled at him, and swatted his butt and told him to stop it. It was like swatting a kid with diapers - Loco has thick fur and it did nothing except offend his pride (but only for a few seconds).

No sooner did I get settled back at my computer and Loco hit the door again. By now Miguel was getting ready to go to the apartment, and so as he went out back to get his tools, he let Loco in, and as he went out the front door, Loco and Luna went out with him. Straight into the garden. Loud rustling of plants and whining.

By now I had lost my patience with all of them. I picked up Luna and put her back in the house. I dragged Loco out of the garden and back into the house. And I shut and locked the front door so they couldn't stand there and whine and try to get out. Miguel left, and I was left with an angry dog and cat, who sat and glared at me.

Luna decided to pay me back by throwing up right beside me. Loco pulled the burrs out of his fur and spit them on the floor. Lovely.

Miguel came back for something and this time took Loco with him. When they both came back a few hours later, I learned that Loco had gone to the roof of Miguel's apartment and tore down the pile of concrete blocks up there trying to find the iguana that makes those blocks his home. Incorrigible dog!

And so, yesterday was not the peaceful home I claimed it to be. Sorry about that, it's not always like this. Thank goodness!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Front Hedge


A few years ago we planted some small salvia hedglings. I'm not sure if 'hedglings' is even a word however I did a search and someone else wrote a blog about their hedglings, so I'm going with it - it means small hedge plants, in my mind. I think the Mexicans have a great idea - they add 'ito' or 'ita' on the end of words to indicate a little version of what they're talking about - be it person (Miguelito), place (casita), or thing (gatita).

Anyway, the idea of the hedge was to create a living wall - a barrier from the street, offering privacy, security, and shade. A wall that would let in the breezes, and would not generate more heat like a concrete wall would do. A wall of beauty and life, where small lizards could eat and play.

In the center of the row of hedge is a wooden gate - the normal port of entry into the property. With the gate locked, the theory was that no person or animal could come in, or get out. Ha!

When Loco first arrived on the scene as a stray (after Hurricane Emily), we tried to encourage him to go find his home. For a week as we came or went we quickly closed the gate to keep him out. Loco quickly learned that he could squeeze under the gate, and happily claimed the front terrace as his home. Defeated, we adopted Loco.

Next was the brown dog down the road. That dog made holes in the hedge so he could come in and eat Loco's food, and drink his water. Then Jimmy (the abandoned dog from down the road), joined in, and he not only ate and drank, he dug up the garden. We put chicken wire in the hedge to shut out the dogs - they just chewed on it until they made another hole.

After we 'adopted' Jimmy, we tried to keep him IN instead of letting him roam the streets. Jimmy did not like to be confined in any way - if he wanted to sleep in the street, that's what he wanted to do. And if he wanted to sleep on the terrace, that's what he wanted to do, and good luck stopping him from being wherever he wanted to be. Jimmy also chased cars, mopeds, and golf carts, and we did not want him doing that. So Miguel put in reinforced metal and wood to block all Jimmy's escape routes. Jimmy tore down everything and made his path out.

One night Miguel stayed out late. I locked the gate, as was our custom, and went to bed. In the morning I found Miguel in the hammock on the front terrace. He didn't have his keys and climbed through one of Jimmy's holes in the hedge. So much for thinking we were keeping out humans. Obviously, the hedge was meant to discourage, not prevent.

Jimmy died this spring - not sure what caused his death, but we think he ate something bad out there in the streets. Without Jimmy's constant attempts at breaking out, our hedge is now solid and keeping out the other dogs. We do get stray cats come to visit - they seem to come in under the gate. And Loco still goes under the gate when he wants to escape. He has to wiggle and maneuver because he's bigger and chunkier now, but he can still get out if he's determined enough.

And Miguel? All I can say is...if he forgets his keys, he's out of luck - I don't think he'll fit under the gate.

Monday, December 1, 2008

What's wrong with this picture?

Miguel just arrived back home after running a few errands - hardware store, paid the phone bill, and some other small tasks. He took Loco with him. Take a look at this picture and tell me if anyone running into Miguel this morning would also think he was 'loco'. (P.S. He had no idea he did this until he got home):