Thursday, April 30, 2009

Slacking off?

I swear I have a bunch of great blogs brewing in my mind. I even have most of one in draft form from last week. But finding the time to put it all together is proving a challenge as I'm still catching up with online courses. Along with kitty demands, work, houseguests (a pleasure, but still takes some of my time), and the daily routine, I just am not finding the energy at the end of the day to be creative.

I realized that my daily routine is something I should write about, so that's one blog coming up. I still have to finish writing about our trip to Norway, and now I have some great photos from Miguel's trip to Oaxaca and I'm trying to get him to tell the story to go with the pictures. And of course there are always animal stories, every day something happens here. You know the reality tv show Jon and Kate plus 8? Well, I feel like Sue and Miguel plus seven and counting - we have SEVEN warm fuzzy bodies all vying for some attention to their little peculiar needs, and a few warm fuzzy bodies out there on their own vying for attention to the fact that they're hungry. Then there are the non-fuzzy things vying for attention - like plants and dust-bunnies. Wait - maybe the dust-bunnies ARE fuzzy afterall? I chase them every day, but the next day there they are again; I think they multiply in the cracks of the grout on the tile floors.

Anyway, since I'm not writing today or probably even tomorrow, I am going to go and reply to all the nice comments you people have written. I do appreciate your comments, so thanks for being there.

So off I go, to the comments pages. Adios!

Sunday, April 26, 2009


It's been a busy week, but I wanted to take a few minutes to introduce the back terrace kittens. Yes, there's a story here, and I hope to write it in the next day or so. In the meantime, meet:

Kitty 1

Kitty 2

Smokey has been suggested as the name for the grey kitten, and Socks for the black kitten. Delfino and Miguel claim both kittens are girls, but I and another lady think they are both boys. So...the names are up in the air until we know the sex. If anyone has a name for either, please let me know.

Til later...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oh we go again...

Miguel is away, so I'm doing all his chores as well as my own, along with my job and my schoolwork and trying to reorganize the upstairs storage area. The last thing I needed was to find a stray kitten in need of food and TLC.

Saturday morning I was on my way up to the top level when I thought I heard a cat crying nearby. All my cats were inside, so I thought maybe a cat was trapped inside the neighbor's yard, but I couldn't see anything. Sometimes the birds sound like a cat, so I figured that's what I'd heard and thought no more about it.

Saturday evening, at dusk, I took the dogs out and as we walked to the corner I heard the crying again. Just as I decided it was really a bird, Loco headed for a rock on the top of a hill right at the corner. He poked his head into the rock and then yelped. That's when I saw it - a little grey head poking out of the rock.

I put the dogs back inside the yard, got the cat carrier and a can of cat food, and headed back to the rock. The little grey kitten was hissing at me. I sat on the rock and it came out a little, but any movement on my part sent the kitten back under the rock. I threw a little food its way but it either didn't see it or was too scared to think about food.

I got off the rock and down to the kitten's level, and gently called it. It came out towards me but any time I reached out it hissed and backed off. I decided it might be a wild kitten and knew I'd need a towel to catch it.

Back to the house to find a towel, and then back to the rock where the kitten was still crying. Crouched down again at kitten level, softly calling...and the kitten came far enough out that I could get behind it and block its retreat under the rock. Reaching out with the towel I caught the kitten and although it wasn't happy, it didn't try to scratch or bite me. I placed it in the cage and carried it home.

I placed a small dish of food in the cage but it didn't seem to know what to do with it, so I added a little water and it 'drank' the food. It kept crying but I put a rug over the cage and put the cage inside the shed and closed the door. It was dark now and I hoped the kitten would sleep and be more settled by morning.

Yesterday morning I discovered a hungry, friendly kitten. Still scared but throughout the day it realized I was its friend and today it thinks I'm its mommy. Someone dumped this kitten, how else would it be there at the main road on the top of a small hill, under a rock all day? There are no homes there, there are no other cats there. It is too small to have walked there. It was dumped. Makes me sick.

The kitten is eating well, and I've blocked under the patio door so it has free reign of the back terrace. Since the kitten has fleas and probably worms, I have banned Minina and Maya from the back terrace. Loco is dying to go out and check on his baby kitty, but he plays rough and the kitten doesn't need Loco right now.

I tried to find Delfino at the clinic yesterday morning because I knew it would just get harder for me to give the kitten away. This morning the kitten is pressing up against my feet, trying to snuggle. I've cuddled it as much as I can, and given it some body rubs which it seems to like - maybe reminds it of its mother and when she used to clean it. I can tell this will be a wonderful cat, it has a sweet nature.

I did not get done what I planned to get done yesterday. Kittens need attention, especially lonely ones crying for their mother.

We don't need another cat, we don't want another cat. When we find a litter of kittens it's easy to just hand them over to Delfino. But finding just one, and not being able to give it away right away just means getting attached. I need to get to Delfino fast, but if he doesn't tell me he has a good (and I mean REALLY good) home for it, it may turn into a back terrace cat.

I deliberately have not taken a picture because that makes it even harder to let it go. I will let you all know the outcome, I'm off to see about getting this kitten taken care of. Oh, I didn't mention - it's grey with white paws and a really cute face.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Trip to Norway - part 3

I woke up as we started our descent into Mexico City. DF (Distrito Federal), the capital of Mexico, is the second largest city in the world by population (18 million), after Tokyo (28 million).

I've been flying to Nevada for more than 10 years, and have seen the Las Vegas valley develop from desert to residential subdivisions that creep up the sides of the valley. But that doesn't compare to the view from the air of Mexico City and area. I couldn't get over how closely packed the houses were, and how little green space there was in between, if any. There are lots and lots of people, and they are living in tight quarters...about 8400 people per sq km, 27th in the world in terms of population density.

All I've ever heard from the locals here on Isla is that Mexico City is very dangerous and they will mug you for your shoes. "Don't go", they advise. Miguel lived in Mexico City during his days in the Mexican military, and he tells the story of his own brush with a mugging. Seems he was walking down the street and a bandido came up to him and demanded his money. Miguel didn't react, so the bandido asked him what was the matter with him, he was being mugged, didn't he realize it? Miguel just shrugged his shoulders and told the bandido that he didn't have any money, that he was a bandido too, just like him. (not true, but quick thinking). The bandido went on his way, looking for his next victim.

Anyway...I'm sure that, like any big city, there are places you shouldn't go, but otherwise, DF is a city rich in history and architecture, and safe if you stick to the tourist areas. One of my friends spent a summer there a few years ago and just loved exploring the city. One day I will go and see Mexico City from the ground.

Once we landed I was amazed at the size of the airport. The gate we parked at was in the new terminal, and it was lovely, although huge. Our connecting flight was in the old terminal, and although I wanted to stay and eat in the new terminal, I also wanted to get to the KLM counter where we could possibly upgrade our economy seats to seats with a little more legroom. I knew every minute would count in getting the better seats, and so we made our way to the old terminal, via the train.

Inside the old terminal was mass noise and confusion. We had to ask several times where the KLM counter was, and we ended up in the wrong spot more than once before we finally figured it out. The lineup was long, and it was barely moving. I figured we'd be there for most of the time we had in between flights, but an agent came along and when I told her that we didn't need boarding passes, we just wanted to see about upgrading, she moved us to the business class line, which was empty. I approached the agent who didn't even bother to look at me, and when I told him what I wanted, he arrogantly said that there was nothing available. He wasn't sorry, he didn't care, and he just wanted me to go away. Which I did.

Resigned to cramped seats, we entered security. I went through first. Miguel forgot to take off his cap and didn't quite understand when they told him to take it off and put it on the belt. I tried to explain to him but the security agent told me to move along, and for that he was frisked and they checked our backpacks and asked how much money we had. Finally we collected our stuff and made our way to a bench to reorganize our stuff.

I needed a bathroom but the only one in the area was closed, so we made our way to the gate. Across from the gate was a small lunch counter with a very limited menu, but we ordered sandwiches and I went off in search of a bathroom.

I can see why they needed the new terminal, because this old terminal just didn't have what it needed in order to service the travelling public. There was a line-up for the bathroom, there were only three stalls, and one stall had a broken door that wouldn't stay closed and nobody wanted to use it. Since I have lots of experience with lousy public bathroom doors and little modesty, I went in and put my hand on the door to hold it shut while getting ready to use the facilities. A lady in the line graciously came over and held the door shut for me, and after that it became the thing to do - each person in line held the door shut for the person inside.

Back at the diner, we ate our sandwiches and watched the proceedings at our gate as it was close to boarding time. A small line-up was starting to form, so I decided to go over and check to see if there was anything we needed to do prior to boarding. I was surprised to find out that the gate was no longer our gate. I ran back to tell Miguel that we needed to find out where our new gate was, and luckily there was an information booth right there and they were able to tell us where to go.

The new gate was a long way from the old one, and I can't remember how many moving walkways we used in order to get to our destination. By the time we arrived they were boarding, and of course Miguel had to use the bathroom (right at the gate). While I waited for Miguel, I asked the boarding agent about meals and what currency would be needed, but she smiled and told me that meals were free. Cool!

Finally we boarded. We were in the center bank of 4 seats, with Miguel on the aisle. We put our coats and one carry-on up above, and our other bags under the seats, leaving little room for our feet. We settled in and then Miguel asked why we had been so calmly eating our sandwiches when we almost missed our flight. I'm not sure he still understands about the gate-switch deal. Some things just take too much energy to explain. I saved my energy on this one.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Each of our pets has at least one quirky behavior. Loco with his passion for riding on his golf cart. Minina with her escape routines.

Now we've discovered yet another weird behavior. One of our cats apparently loves vine-ripened tomatoes.

Miguel has been growing tomatoes out in the small patch in front of the house. Finally three tomatoes were ripe enough and we picked them. I put them in the vegetable container in the kitchen, anticipating the delicious salad we would have the next day.

Later that evening Miguel called me into the kitchen. On the floor was one of our tomatoes, half-eaten.

Which cat did it? We couldn't decide. Luna, who knows how to survive in the jungle and probably had to eat fruit from the plants there? Or Minina, who loves mango? Or Maya?

We called the cats into the kitchen to see if they might give us a clue.

Maya sniffed at the tomato and then walked away. Luna wouldn't even come into the kitchen. Minina strolled right by the tomato without even a second glance.

We decided it was Minina, since she did not seem surprised that the tomato was there on the floor and she didn't even bother to check it out. We figured she knew it was there because that's where she ate it. Since she likes mango, maybe she decided to try tomatoes. But why now? We always have tomatoes in the kitchen, and nobody has shown the least interest until now.

The bandido picked the ripest and tastiest tomato. We hid the other two tomatoes in case they suddenly generated interest as well.

Later that evening Maya was racing around the house and driving everyone crazy with her hyperactive playfulness. Maybe it was her that ate the tomato afterall and something in it triggered a burst of energy?

I thought we'd never know the answer, but yesterday I left a large beefsteak tomato on the counter. It came from a package I bought in Cancun, and I didn't really like the texture and wasn't sure what I was going to do with it. One of the cats made the decision for me.

Miguel called me into the kitchen. We tiptoed in and there on the floor was Maya with that large tomato. Chomping away at it and licking the juices from the inside and not paying the least attention to us.

She tried to pick it up but it was far too big and heavy for her to move it much. After taking pictures, we tossed both Maya and the tomato out on the back terrace, where Maya continued her assault. In the end, she ate almost half of the tomato. And never got sick.

I wonder what is in the tomato that makes it appealing? And why now and not before? The only common element between the two tomatoes was the green stem; the tomatoes we usually buy do not have a stem.

I once had a cat who ate tomatoes, but she outgrew it when she reached adulthood. Perhaps Maya is just experimenting? (she's still only 6 months old).

Whatever...The case of the tomato bandido is now solved.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Trip to Norway - part 2

I had never flown a domestic flight in Mexico until we flew from Cancun to Mexico City. I'm so used to people not speaking English here that I was a little surprised at how much English I heard on the flight - from the pilot to the flight attendants to some of the passengers.

The flight attendants brought around some lime peanuts, and although I wasn't hungry, I ate them (force of habit just to get rid of them). By the time the drink cart came within sight, I was really thirsty, and as I listened to everyone placing their orders, I got a craving for apple juice. Yup, I was going to order apple juice.

The flight attendant who would be serving our row was rushing, pouring drinks and handing them out faster than I've ever seen before. She never spilled a drop; she was all business. The three people in our row were all sitting up waiting for her to reach us. She served the three people on the other side of our row, and then announced "listo" (done) and pushed the cart along. The three of us in our row exchanged shocked glances. Did she forget us? I thought she would come back to us, but she just kept pouring those drinks for everyone else and never even looked back in our direction. The guy on the end of our row kept looking hopefully at her back, and I was trying to catch the eye of either of the attendants. But they were just chatting with each other and flinging drinks, and didn't pay us the least attention. Miguel just sat staring forward - his culture is not to make a scene for anything. So it was going to be up to me or the guy on the end to make a scene, and the guy on the end just kept looking back but didn't do anything to help the situation.

So I rang the call button. Nobody paid any attention except the people in the row behind us - now they were interested to see what we were going to do about not being served. My thirst was even greater, I could almost taste that apple juice.

So I rang the call button again. Still nobody paid any attention, and now all the rows around us, realizing what was going on, sort of snickered in sympathy.

The two women manning the drink cart were now at the end of the plane, and still not paying the least attention to a passenger calling for help. A third attendant was standing behind them, facing us, and I tried, without luck, to catch her eye.

So I rang the call button for a third time, and almost climbed the back of the seat as I twisted around and waved my hands to try to get some attention. Finally the third woman looked at me and nodded, and when the other two, with their cart, got to the galley, the woman came down to see what we needed.

She quickly sized up the situation and asked what we'd like to drink. For some reason I cannot explain, I asked for orange juice instead of apple juice. "Naranja" instead of "Manzana". I did not realize what I'd said until she came back and handed me the jugo naranja. Rats! I really wanted apple juice, which is what Miguel ordered and which is what he got. Orange juice, unless it is fresh-squeezed, gives me heartburn.

But at least I had something to drink. Maybe. Because as I took the plastic cup of juice from the woman, the cup split and the juice poured out the side of the cup. Right over Miguel's lap. I quickly stuck my finger in the hole and showed the woman what had happened, expecting her to give me another cup. She handed us some napkins, and left. So I drank to the level of the split as quickly as I could, tipping the cup away from the hole. Then I downed the rest and decided to just go to sleep.

But no. Now I was going to get service. The attendant came back with another full glass of orange juice to make up for the juice I'd lost in Miguel's lap. I didn't want it, but I drank it anyway. To heck with heartburn.

Then I went to sleep.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Trip to Norway - part 1

Why did we pick Norway for our trip? Well, my father and step-mother have lived there for the last 15 years or so, since my father's retirement. Usually they fly to Canada to visit the family, but for health reasons they were unable to fly last year and this year is still up in the air. So, I decided we needed to visit them there.

The last time I was in Norway was 1967, the year after my father took on a project and we moved to Lillesand. We lived there for almost a year and half, during which time we were enrolled in school and became fluent in Norwegian. I have fond memories of that time of my childhood. I was 11 years old, living in a cool house at the top of the mountains, overlooking the fjords and sea. We lived in Lillesand, a small town in the south of Norway with a population of about 1000 people. We had lots of snow in winter, and rode sparks (sleds) to school. We ice-skated and skied cross-country in winter and went to a swimming hole and out in our fishing boat in summer.

I wanted to put a link to my dad - what he did for a living and why it took us from our little town of Niagara Falls all the way across the globe to the tiny village of Lillesand. I googled my dad and all I came up with was 'Associate Pastor'. Nope, not him. Then I googled the name of my dad's company and all I came up with was a link to a 'motorcycle gang'. Also not him. So I'll just have to tell my story without the links.

I booked our flights based on 1) connections outside US, 2) cost, and 3) flight times. We would fly economy class from Cancun to Amsterdam to Trondheim - a 24 hr trip with a 6 hr layover in Amsterdam on the way over.

We packed warm clothing, a few snacks, books, and gifts. We carried our winter coats. Luis, our Cancun taxi driver, picked us up at the ferry and took us to the airport. We made arrangements for him to be at the airport to pick us up the day of our return. We checked in and then went to Immigration - me to get my FM3 stamped and Miguel to get his Mexican document stamped (not sure why, but Mexicans leaving the country fill out a form that is turned in when they return). We got through security and sat and waited to board the first leg of our flight - Cancun to Mexico City on AeroMexico.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Trip to Norway - prelude

One of the first considerations for us in planning the trip to Norway was: Who will take care of the animals and the plants while we're away?

Loco is easy, he can go to stay with Miguel's daughter - she likes to have him, and he likes to go because he gets fed lots of ham and other goodies he doesn't get at home.

Negra is pretty easy too - someone just needs to feed her twice a day and let her out morning, afternoon, and night, and she's set.

Although the cats can be left with dried food and water, there are other things that require attention.

Luna is an outdoor/indoor cat, and although house-broken, she refuses to use the litter box, so she needs to be let in and out a couple of times a day. We prefer to have her in at night because other stray cats come around and it upsets her and sometimes there's a fight. We do not want Luna to turn into a fighter, and she really prefers peace. So we bring her in.

Minina and Maya both use the tiny litter box we have inside if they have to, but we prefer to have them use the larger one outside. Both cats spend a lot of time on the back terrace, where they can't get into too much trouble. There is a chance a stray cat will come along the top of the terrace wall and be aggressive, so I do not leave the cats out there for long periods of time if we are not home. And they come in at night.

We also feed several stray cats. Wild cats that live in the plants but come around for food and water. We feed them across the street so they are not encroaching on Luna's territory, although they do encroach anyway to steal Negra's food and to sleep in the burrow they've created along the garden wall. But we feed them across the street.

We could have someone come to water all the plants, but it has to be someone we feel comfortable giving the house key to, as upper terrace access is only through the house.

All in all, it's just easier to have someone stay at the house. So the email went out to friends and family, people who have stayed here before, who know and love the animals, and who can deal with the flaky details of the house and routines of the pets.

This time around, the call was answered by Charlotte and Jim. Charlotte, a friend since the year 2000, has stayed here a few times since I first bought the house 7 years ago. Charlotte even stayed here alone before there were other inhabitants on the block, long before I had the nerve to do so. But for this trip she would have Jim with her, and it would be his first exposure to life in the colonias.

Before we left, we walked Charlotte and Jim through the house and pointed out some of the things they'd need to be aware of...

- The switch to the water pump, and the handles to switch the water from tank water to street water, and how to switch the pump based on which water supply was being used.

- The switches to the hot water tank and the air conditioners.

- The switches to outdoor lighting.

- Doors to keep closed to control cat access.

- The personal routine of each of the cats, and Negra.

- The watering schedule of the plants.

- Emergency phone numbers.

- What was in the fridge/pantry.

- How to turn on the jacuzzi, and how to change the water in the pool should it need it.

- Where to find extra bedding, towels, bathroom supplies, etc.

- How to use the washing machine and ensure the drain doesn't overflow.

What I neglected to show them was: how to operate the gas stove, and how to start the golf cart. Of course, starting the golf cart is never a sure thing anyway, it's more a game of chance. Our house-sitters didn't have any luck starting the cart, and Limey decided to get a flat tire anyway.

The morning we left on our trip we all shared a good breakfast of leftovers from the fridge: chilaquilles, sausage, bacon, potatoes. Miguel took Loco off to his daughter's, we said goodbye to the rest of the pets, and off we went down the road to catch a cab to the ferry. I suspect that Charlotte and Jim breathed a sigh of relief that we were finally gone and they could start enjoying their vacation.

Thank you, Charlotte and Jim, for enabling us to take this trip and for taking such great care of everything near and dear to us at the house - the animals and the plants. We are so grateful!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Nose Hair...Nature's Filter

Nose hair, nasal hair, nostril hair. We all have it. We all need it. Here's why...

The winds here on Isla continue to blow. From the north, from the south, from the east, and occasionally from the west. The screens catch a lot of the fluff and dust.

Cleaning the screens is a task that should be done weekly. Miguel's method is with a broom dipped in soapy water, and then rinsed with a hose. This is difficult considering that all the windows have wrought iron grills in front of the screen. It's also messy, as wet shoes track dirt back into the house.

My method is to brush the debris from the screen with a long-haired brush. My hands just fit in the spaces between the grills, and I use a sweeping motion to loosen the dirt. The dust, hair, and other material forms a cloud as it leaves the screen. I try not to inhale but it's impossible not to get some dust up my nose.

Here's where the nose hair comes in. The tiny hairs trap the dust and bacteria and keep me healthy. But according to a doctor in California, most people don't have enough nose hair. To address the problem, the doctor has invented artificial nose hair.

Personally, I think I'll just stay with what I was born with and take my chances.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Watch out for flying fruit!

Last evening we went into town, something we almost never do unless we are accompanying family or friends.

But 'Oaxaca' is here for a visit. A cultural event on tour, visiting us here on Isla Mujeres. I could not find any recent information on the internet, but here is something from 2008.

Oaxaca is Miguel's homeland...where he was born and where he says he plans to die (hmmm...does that mean we'll be moving someday?).

Miguel comes from the mountains of Monte Alban. Miguel is proud of his heritage and his culture, and anyone coming from Oaxaca is his paisano (countryman). Luis, our Cancun taxi driver, hails from Oaxaca, and they talk paisano-talk all the time - either that or they are talking about their pets (they both have big hearts for animals).

Anyway...back at the zocalo on Isla Mujeres, we strolled amongst the vendor stalls. Miguel chatted paisano-talk with his country men and women. I detected pride, and yearning. Even though Miguel has been part of Isla Mujeres for more than 30 years, Oaxaca tugs at him.

I was hungry, and the fried cheese quesadilla looked yummy. So I ordered one. They topped it with mole and grated cheese and hot sauce. Yup...Yummy! Washed down with a glass of delicious pina colada from another stall, and I was full.

They were making even bigger empanadas stuffed with cheese, and Miguel insisted I try it. So I did, and it was good too. But I was too full, and we brought most of it home. Miguel finished it off this morning at breakfast.

We also bought some coffee, some linens (made from cotton), and some grasshoppers. The latter was not for me, sorry, I don't eat bugs on purpose. But Miguel does, he loved them, and there is now a bag in the fridge.

After the visit to the stalls, we headed over to the stage, where a couple dressed in traditional garb were dancing. Various dances, most with stories, and some with a take on the Mexican sense of humor. The woman played the part of a bull, and pushed her partner all over the stage with head-butts to his body. A couple of times the man fell back onto the large sign; it wavered but stood tall. He recovered his balance and was assaulted again. It was cute.

There was a female singer, and she sang some great songs, and at one point she danced with a man from the crowd. I tell you - his feet could move! He danced with one hand behind his back and the other waving a hanky at the woman. Great fun to watch.

One of the last dances was called "Tira la Fruta" (throw the fruit). The couple came out on stage with the man carrying a basket of fruit. As they danced, they got to a chorus and the man pulled out a handful of fruit and started throwing one piece at a time to the crowd. Gently at first, but then he tried to get to the people at the back, and the fruit was whipping by. The woman wanted to throw some fruit too, but it was bad timing because she pulled out a handful just as the man decided to start throwing fruit to the other side of the crowd. And her technique was different - she threw handfuls at time; between them there were probably 5 or 6 oranges, apples, and bananas zinging by at any one time.

Some people were grabbing at the fruit. Some people were ducking. Some people were grabbing as they ducked. Everyone was laughing. One piece smacked me in the leg, but it rolled away before I could get it.

A man near us ate his apple, and then he ate another one. And then a banana, and he had an orange in his lap. I never saw him reach for a single thing; I must have been too busy ducking.

Friday, April 3, 2009

We're Back

Got back late Tuesday night from our trip to Trondheim, Norway. We connected through Mexico City and Amsterdam.

We were gone 8 days - 3 being travel days due to time changes and distance. We probably could have shaved several hours off our travel time but it would have meant connecting through the US, and unfortunately, for a Mexican citizen to simply connect through a US airport to an international destination, they need a visa granting permission. The visa is obtained in Merida - a 4+ hour trip, involving hotels and prepaid application costs and no guarantee of approval. There is a possibility of having to make more than one visit, and you should not buy your ticket until you get the visa. Too much hassle, in my opinion, so we took the easy way and stayed out of the US. I have to say it was a refreshing travel experience, and over the next few days, once I've caught up with stuff on the homefront, I'll be posting random bits about our trip.

Needless to say, I learned a few things I never really understood before, including what a real 'red light district' is (for some reason I just thought it was a saying, not really realizing it exists, red light bulb and all!).

So stay tuned for tales of windmills, tiny houses, snow, and airplane adventures.