Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fuzzy Pictures

Or...Why I need to clean my own house.

On Thursday I received an email from guests who wanted to check in the next day - yesterday. Usually I hire someone to come in and do a full cleaning before guests arrive. I do the day-to-day cleaning but when I was working it was too much to do it all.

I have taken the time to show the cleaning lady how to set up the guest room, and asked her to make sure she also checked the screens and wiped down all the surfaces in the kitchenette. After she was done I'd go behind her and finish the setup - little details she missed or didn't get quite right. I felt like the proverbial mother-in-law performing the white glove test. Yes, I'm particular.

My cleaning lady has learned that just doing floors and bathrooms is not going to cut it, but unless I specifically ask her to do something else in the rest of the house (i.e., clean under the counters), that's all she does. She doesn't see the dust on the tops of the fan control boxes. She doesn't see the fingerprints on the lightswitch panels. She didn't notice the dust on the stair railings. She is short - she sees floors and she certainly does a great job in that department.

When I do my day-to-day cleaning I sometimes come across something that I can't believe my cleaning lady never noticed. And I clean it myself.

Now of course, I'm not working, and since this was short notice, I decided to do the cleaning and setup. Armed with my bucket of Fabuloso and a rag, I started wiping down the surfaces. Everything was going along normally until I decided to wipe down the picture frames over the bed.

The pictures came in a set I bought at Costco in Canada and hauled down here - only to discover they had the same set at the Costco in Cancun (and we bought the second set for Capi's Apartment). The pictures have been on the wall almost a year.

So I stood on the bed and wiped down the frames. I noticed the white mats had some spots - spots I'd thought were on the glass but now I could see they are actually on the frame. Tiny insects?

I got closer to the picture to get a good look. No, it wasn't tiny insects, it was tiny specks of mold. And then I saw a large spot of white fuzz, growing like jellyfish tentacles over the front of the picture.

The other pictures have similar issues, although the last one actually has green fuzz. I wonder how long those pictures have looked like that? Unless one gets up close and personal, the fuzz isn't noticeable. If I hadn't done my own cleaning, I probably would not have known about the mold until the pictures were too far gone.

We had a hurricane blow by a couple of weeks ago. After Hurricane Wilma in 2005, the new metal fixtures in the bathrooms were pitted - all the extra humidity and salt that permeated the room. Perhaps the humidity from Hurricane IDA caused this latest problem with the fuzz?

I debated about opening the frames and trying to clean the pictures, but decided I might make a mess of it and then the room would be bare. These guests are only here for a couple of days, so once they leave I'll see what I can do about my fuzzy pictures. I am hoping they can be restored, as they are pretty and perfect for the room.

Home maintenance here is a lot more intense than it was in Canada. There is always something needing a good cleaning, or a good sweeping, or a good painting. And now I guess I need to figure out how to have framed photos here without them growing into fuzzy living works of art. One has to be resourceful in order to live here - add de-fuzzing pictures as another required skill.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Mexicano vs Mexicano

Miguel has a friend-foe relationship with his master bricklayer. Jorge was in the military service with Miguel and they have known each other for most of their adult lives. Jorge's wife is the sister of Miguel's cousin's wife, so that makes him 'family'. Miguel and Jorge are friends, and at times have been drinking buddies (too many times, might I add).

Jorge was the one who was there when Miguel was blown down the staircase after touching 16,000 plus volts of electricity. Jorge was the one to slap Miguel on the face to get him breathing again. Miguel may owe his life to Jorge.

One thing I've noticed among men in general, but especially amongst Mexican men, is how they can have an all-out disagreement or confrontation but then remain friends. They seem quite able to separate work issues from personal issues.

Jorge has done a ton of concrete work here at my house, starting about 6 years ago. Miguel has always overseen the work; until the last couple of years the projects were rather small as we had other bricklayers doing the major projects here (Jorge was busy with other work).

A couple of years ago Jorge did a big project here - he built the overhang on the second-level terrace. Other than a design 'feature' I'd rather was a little different (but I wasn't here to provide input at the time), it turned out very well. Miguel praised Jorge for his artistic work.

Last year we had to put a railing on the staircase. Originally I wanted wood, but the guy who came gave us a ridiculously low quote, and of course, never showed up. So Miguel turned to Jorge, and the railing is a one-of-a-kind work of art - constructed out of wood and concrete. It wasn't quite what I had in mind but I can be flexible - it has grown on me. One thing for sure, it will never break.

Jorge was great until he got to the end of the project, and then he lost interest or got busy with a new project (Capi's Apartment) and Miguel had to harass him to come back and finish the small details. Miguel vowed he was done with Jorge.

Miguel had another bricklayer do the foundation of Capi's Apartment, but he got mad when the master bricklayer left the site and left his 'helper' to do some of the detailed work that he wasn't very good at, resulting in crooked doorways and walls. So Luis got fired and Jorge got hired to finish the work and install all the ceramic tiles at Capi's. About that time Miguel had his accident, so Jorge was left to finish on his own time - and he did take his time until Miguel (finally released from hospital) got mad and told him to get it done.

Various small projects over at Casa Miguel were given to Jorge. But then one of the projects got stalled when Jorge got busy with another project and Miguel never knew when he was coming. And when he did come, if he left for any reason (food, supplies), it was questionable if he would come back that day. Miguel had to be at the site the entire time to keep Jorge under control.

It got so bad that Miguel got tired of waiting for Jorge and hired some other bricklayers. He was done with Jorge and his shenanigans. Since the work was 'rustic', not 'fino', it worked out.

Then it was time to build the Luna Studio, on the third-floor above Capi's Apartment. Miguel continued with the same workers as they were less expensive than Jorge and he was satisfied with their work.

By now times were really tough on the island and Jorge was looking for work. He stopped by and saw other people working at Miguel's and was not pleased. Why didn't Miguel want to give him the work, he wanted to know?

Eventually the guys doing the work didn't bother to show up and Jorge got his opening. He has built the rest of the studio, poured the roof, and put the fine layer of concrete on the walls. He has worked hard, sometimes wanting to work on Sundays (despite Miguel asking him not to) in order to keep things moving (and cash flowing into his pocket). Miguel has been pleased with how well Jorge has worked.

Now we are at the stage of installing the tiles - the final push where each day is critical to finishing on time. And Jorge went MIA for Monday and Tuesday. Miguel entered his 'foe' phase again with Jorge. "If he doesn't want the work there are lots of others who do. It won't be the same quality as Jorge, but it will be good enough."

So yesterday morning Miguel toured around and found Jorge at the site where he was planning to install a base for an electric meter. And he let him have it. "What's the matter? Do I pay you with rocks or with money? I have reservations pending", and a few other choice phrases.

He said that he didn't even finish all he was saying when Jorge said "I'm going, I'm going", and hopped on his moped and Zoom! off he went over to Casa Miguel. Miguel was chuckling as he told me the story - Miguel's stories always make me laugh because he adds sound effects and lots of animation.

Yesterday Miguel came home for dinner and reported that Jorge was working very 'strong'. The bathroom tiling finally got finished and grouted, and now Jorge is scratching his head (Miguel's words) figuring out how he is going to put the kitchen tiles together. I know it will look great when he's done, Jorge's work is very good.

So Miguel will be tied up 'baby-sitting' and making sure Jorge doesn't 'escape' and all will be done in good time. And Jorge and Miguel can once again be friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

On the Corner

This morning we discussed that we would eat Mexican-style eggs (huevos a la Mexicana). As usual, Miguel went to the market to pick up what we would need for today. On the list was tortillas.

He arrived back home with two bags loaded with fruit. But no tortillas.

That's ok - I said I would just walk down to the corner of our street and wave down a passing beep-beep bicycle vendor with a cooler of hot tortillas.

I got to the corner and listened. Silence. No beep-beep. Darn - I would have to stand and wait.

While lingering on the corner, our neighborhood beat patrol cop (also a local business owner), arrived for work on his moped. He parked on the corner opposite from where I was standing, and after the "Buenos Dias" greeting, I told him that I was there waiting for tortillas.

The cop told me that he would be bringing our furniture order over tomorrow, they were just applying the varnish today. "Ok, muy bien, gracias", I said.

There still wasn't a beep-beep sound anywhere, so I decided to walk up to my neighbor's house and feed her cats. It was a little earlier than usual, but with other things on our agenda today, it would be good to get that out of the way.

As I walked towards their block, the stray white cat that mooches food from me had jumped through the gate and was heading north. As I continued walking towards the house, a block away from the cat, he suddenly turned around and looked at me. All the cats seem to know my footsteps, they are at the gate before I get there because they've heard me coming. And this white cat knew it was me too.

Ah ha! I could hear him thinking. Here's breafast! He turned right around and walked towards the gate. Although I cannot touch this cat, he is responding to me by meowing to let me know he is hungry - something he did not do the last time I took care of the cats in the spring. He is not a pretty cat at all - part Himalayan and part Siamese, with a wicked overbite. He is not nearly as scrawny as he was a few months ago when I thought he was starving. He has learned where to stake his claim when I put down the piles of food, so he's well-fed now.

The orange cat with the crooked head (some sort of muscle disorder), is always there to greet me. He is the resident cat and almost never leaves the property. Unlike the grey cat, who seems to live at my neighbor's house but can often be seen outside the property. This morning the grey cat was not around - I think it was because it was earlier than usual and he was caught off-guard.

With the cats fed I headed back to my corner. Still no sound of beep-beep tortillas. The cop was getting ready to start his rounds, and as he headed up the road, he told me that if he came across the tortilla guy he would tell him I was there waiting.

The cop got as far as a block away when we both heard the beep-beep. He called back to me just as I called to him - "tortillas. I saw him tell the guy that I was waiting, and so arrived a nice hot package of tortillas, placed into my hands.

I walked back home and arrived to the smell of sauteed onions and garlic - the start of the huevos a la Mexicana. Mmmmm...breakfast was good today!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Art of Cat Catching

I am trying to catch two cats at the moment.

The first is a kitten down the road that has been crying for a couple of days. Miguel told me about it on Sunday and tried to catch it, but it ran off into the bushes. Last night I heard it crying so went out and tried to locate it. It seemed to be in the long grass across the street from my neighbor.

I filled a tin with some dry cat food and walked over to the area where I thought the kitten was hiding. As I gently called to it, it cried, but then the dogs at the workshop came around and the kitten stopped crying. I wanted to just toss the food into the grass and hope it would find it, but I knew the dogs would just eat it. So I left.

Later I was walking down the road to the store and heard the kitten again - crying in the bushes across the road from the workshop. I stopped to try to coax it out and it kept answering me back, but it was dark and I couldn't see anything.

The young guy that lives at the workshop (and loves animals) came over and put down a handful of dog food. He said he'd caught the kitten earlier but he couldn't hold onto it. I told him if he catches it again to come to our house - we have a cage and will take it to the vet. "Defino?", he asked. Yes, Delfino - he will take care of the kitten (because I am NOT adopting another kitten, right?!).

I went back to the house and got the tin of cat food and went back to try to get the kitten to come out. Two other guys that hang out at the shop came over, and the one with shoes told the one without shoes to get in there and get the kitten (they could see it in the dark - I couldn't). The guy with the barefeet went as far as he could but he was stepping on rocks and finally told the other guy, with the shoes, to get the cat. The guy took one leap into the grassy area and the kitten took off (according to them, because I never did see the kitten).

So I threw the cat food in the general direction and hoped the kitten would come back and find it. I went to the store, but on the way back I heard a scuffle in the plants where I'd thrown the food, so I think the kitten was there and finally eating. I didn't hear any more crying last evening, we'll see what today brings.

The other cat I'm trying to catch is a neighbor's cat. They are away until January and I have been feeding her two cats, along with two other strays that show up whenever they aren't there. On Sunday I noticed that the grey cat looked like he wanted to eat but then he just laid down. Something about the way he held his mouth made me think he either had a sore throat or something caught in there. He had been in another fight as he had a sore on the side of his neck. I decided to see how he looked on Monday.

Yesterday morning I went over and the grey cat still didn't eat the dry food I put down. Hmmm...I decided to call Delfino to take a look. The only problem was that although I could handle the cat, I couldn't get it into the opening of the cage I took over. It's a big cat and a small cage, and an unwilling participant.

While I waited for Delfino I decided to see if the cat could eat some canned food, so I went home and got a can and took it over. Yup, the cat gobbled down the food, it was terribly hungry. However, as it ate it occasionally stopped with a jerk and pawed at its throat/mouth area. I was sure it had something caught in there.

Of course the other cats hanging around wanted some of the canned food too, so I gave them a taste. I made a mess of the tiles around the yard with dumping food everywhere, as none of the cats are friends so they all have their own eating spaces.

I decided that maybe I could confine the cat if I took the top off the cage, put the cat inside, and then quickly placed the lid over it. I succeeded in doing that much, but as I tried to get the lid lined up so I could latch it, the cat started pushing and prying and sticking its paws through all the gaps. I fought with it for a few minutes but then it broke loose and the battle was lost. And now I'd lost the confidence of the cat.

I sat on the golf cart to wait for Delfino. The cat smelled the can of food and came over and tried to get at the food. I decided to use the food as a lure to keep the cat from jumping out through the fence. As the cat was eating from the can on the floor of the golf cart, Delfino showed up. And of course the cat took off, into the garden. But as he sat there Delfino saw him make the motion at his throat, so immediately agreed that something was caught.

But - to examine the cat, it needed anesthesia, and it couldn't have anesthesia with a full stomach. Delfino went back to the clinic to get a couple of traps - one for one of the other three cats that we were sure would go in to get the food, and one for the grey cat (we hoped).

By now the grey cat had caught on that something was up, and just as the trap was placed, he jumped through the gate and out into the street. One of the other strays went with him, sensing the bad vibes. I tried to be casual and just walk up to the grey cat to catch it, but it knew what I had in mind and stayed just out of reach. It went under Delfino's van, and he cleverly started the engine to get the cat out. As the cat walked up the other side of the walk, I walked along on the road. The cat increased its pace, and so did I. Then I ran to block it from the front, but just as I did that, a loud backfire scared all of us and the grey cat jumped up on a high wall and over to some apartments. Delfino and I threw up our hands at the unlucky timing of that backfire. There was nothing more we could do at the moment.

So I was left to sit on the golf cart and hope the cat would come back. I sat there almost an hour. The only cat that went near the trap was the other tame cat, but I was finally able to distract him to come and sit with me on the cart. One of the other strays came back but showed no interest in the trap - he went to sleep on a small table on the patio. If we catch him he is going to be neutered - I don't know if he has an owner or not, but I've been feeding him so I'm going to take matters into my own hands and take care of his reproductive capabilities if we catch him.

I eventually gave up waiting for the grey cat to come back and went home. I checked the traps all afternoon - very diligently as one of our own cats died in one of those traps (he went in while the trap was in full sun and died of heatstroke - a trauma that will haunt me forever). The two traps were in full shade with a nice breeze, but I am still nervous about trapping cats.

By 4 pm there was no sign of the grey cat and no sign of any cat having any interest in going near the traps. So I took out the food and closed up the traps for the day. In an hour or so I'll go back over and see if the grey cat is back. I am hoping it gets better all by itself, as I really have better things to do than walk around my neighborhood trying to catch cats that don't want to be caught.

**Update: the grey cat seems fine today! Eating dry food. I took over a can of tuna so after I knew he was eating dry, I opened the tuna and the three cats there at the time were in heaven. I walked home with the open can and Smokey was at the front door waiting for me. Luna, who'd been sound asleep on the couch woke up quickly, and Minina and Maya were standing at the back door waiting for me. I guess the smell of tuna really carries. So everyone had a feast, and I'm done trying to catch cats (unless the kitten reappears). On to other projects...

This woman, Josefina is an absolute saint and a miracle-worker for cats here on the island. In fact, there are quite a few people here who dedicate time and money to care for the cats and dogs here. One day I will write a blog to honor the island heroes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

What have they been up to lately? - part 1, Maya

Time to check in with the residents here at Casa Susana - the furry ones (excluding Miguel)...

Today will be Maya's turn.

The 'cooler' weather has turned Maya back into a couch potato rather than a floor potato. Maya has lots of thick fur, so I think the very hot summer months took their toll on her - all she wanted to do inside the house was lie on the floor where she could catch a floor breeze.

What is a floor breeze? It's the gust of wind that comes under the doors because the doors don't quite fit properly and there is no weather-stripping. In the winter months when we have stronger winds, the floor breeze actually rises and becomes a room breeze.

During the summer months, Maya's favorite place to lay was on the floor at Miguel's feet, where Loco also likes to lay. It is about 6 feet from the front door, and in the direct line of the floor breeze.

Now that it's cooler Maya is reclaiming the little red fleece blanket in the corner of the sectional couch. She has to share that space with Miguel's feet, and occasionally she grabs hold of his feet and gives them a little chomp.

Maya likes to sleep on her back, with her paws folded over her chest. She is an alert cat, so any noise causes her to lift her head and look around. The rest of her body is still reclined, she looks quite comical (sorry, no photo - the camera isn't here, but one day I will get a picture of this pose). Sometimes she'll sit up on her hind legs, like a prairie dog, with her front paws hanging at her sides, and her head turning this way and that in order to see what is going on. There must be some meerkat genes in her DNA makeup.

Maya is much bigger and heavier than any of the other cats, which automatically gives her power in the pecking order. Maya likes to play with Smokey, they chase each other around and play hide-and-seek. Sometimes Maya plays too rough and grabs Smokey by the scruff of her neck, causing Smokey to cry and roll around to get away.

Maya occasionally tries to play with Minina and Luna. Minina is scared of Maya because Maya usually attacks her and hurts her, so Minina is inclined to cry with the slightest touch and run off. Luna just plain doesn't like any other cats, but occasionally she will show a bit of inclination to play, although it doesn't last long.

Maya reminds me of a dominatrix, as she expects to be greeted by the other cats when she enters the room. She will approach either Minina or Smokey and stand there while they lick her head, or sniff her body. Once they have bowed to her power, she walks away. Although I can't understand cat behavior like a cat would, if I put a human interpretation on it, she was showing the other girls in the clan who is boss, and they in turn, showed submission to the supreme queen. So although Maya is the second youngest, she is the alpha cat if we don't include Luna.

With the return of the cooler weather Maya has also reverted to her baby behavior of kneading the pillow behind me as she buries her head into the crook of my arm. It has to be my right arm, apparently my left arm doesn't smell the same. When Maya was a baby it was easy to cradle her as she snuggled, but now she is the size of a turkey and is a heavyweight on my stomach - I lay her beside me when she wants to do her kneading thing.

Maya has some strange sleeping preferences. She loves to sleep on the small bar at the top of the second-level stairs, hanging her head over the edge to see what is going on below. Sometimes she sleeps in the bathroom sink, or the sink out on the back terrace. She loves to play with toes when we're in the tub - she has no fear of water and likes to go toe-fishing.

Maya, despite her size, has a sweet little voice. It's deceiving, she sounds innnocent, yet she can be mean towards the other cats when she wants to be.

I think Smokey has been good for Maya, because now that she has someone to play with, she has lost some weight and seems more active. Maya also plays with Loco - Maya is really the only cat that Loco will allow to snuggle with him. When we are eating breakfast, Loco will be under our stools, and Maya will be right there beside him. Both of them cuddle on the floor, and at the moment Loco is on the bench looking out the front window, and Maya has gone over to lie with him. Loco showed extreme interest in Maya from the day we found her across the road, and she has been his special cat ever since.

Maya doesn't strike me as one of the brighter cats, in fact sometimes when she's lying out on the back terrace and all the others have scooted in, she just sits and looks at me as if to say "is there something I need to know about?". But she has learned a bad trick from watching Luna, so she's not that dumb. Luna picks at the screen window in the kitchen when she wants in, and now Maya is doing the same. Maya used to jump and hang off the back screen door, but Miguel fixed that by putting a piece of screen sheet metal behind the actual screen, so there is nothing to hold onto. So now she resorts to the kitchen screen.

Maya was slow to learn about catching bugs and lizards, but now she's the one who gets them first. She's fast, and once she has something in her mouth, nothing you do will get it out. Since I can't bear to see anything suffer, I have to leave the scene of the crime and let nature take its course.

A few months ago Maya developed a passion for tomatoes, and would take them every chance she got. We got smart and put them in the microwave, and after several months I thought Maya had forgotten about tomatoes. But the other day I went to the store and bought two tomatoes. I placed them near the sink, ready to be washed, and went into the living room for something. I was gone about 2 minutes, but when I got back, there was one of my tomatoes lying half-eaten on the floor. Maya has a nose for tomatoes, obviously - she was on it in a flash. I'm not sure Maya would rather have a tomato over canned cat food, but I bet the tomato is a close second.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Oh No! Feet!!

Yesterday I asked Miguel to pick up a chicken at the market. A whole chicken already cut in pieces so I could make pollo adobo a la Sue.

After preparing the adobo marinade, I dumped the bag of chicken pieces into the sink. There, right on top, was a chicken foot.

When I first started buying chicken at the market, it was hard standing there looking at all those dead birds with their blank eyes staring into nowhere. Somehow that makes them a little too vulnerable, and I feel bad for perpetuating the exploitation of the chicken because I am buying it in order to eat it.

I wish I could be vegetarian. Miguel suffers the same pangs of regret, so I wouldn't be surprised if one day we just bite the bullet and stop eating animals. If we gradually reduce our consumption, then hopefully we'll get there.

In the meantime, when I buy the chicken, I always tell the butcher I don't want the head or the feet. Sometimes I forget because as I'm standing there waiting for him to cut up the chicken, I get distracted by little scuffles between dogs, or other people milling around. I'll turn back just in time to see the butcher clipping the toenails, with which I'll say "No pies, por favor" (pie means foot - pronounced "pee-eh"). The butcher tosses the feet into a container on the floor, or into the mouth of a waiting stray dog (which is why they scuffle, sometimes).

So I purchase headless and footless chickens, and I thought Miguel knew that. But yesterday the foot was there right on top. Gross - I don't even want to touch it, it feels weird. So I used a piece of the plastic bag to lift the foot over to the other side of the sink.

Then I went fishing amongst the chicken pieces for the other foot, and as I was doing that, I was saying out loud, "Please don't let there be a head in here". The feet are bad enough, but the head? Unnerving...

I found the other foot, and laid them both in the other side of the sink while I skinned and washed the other chicken pieces. The good pieces will be used to make pollo adobo, the other pieces will be used to make soup.

The ironic thing is...chicken soup here is often made using the feet of the chicken. I know that, and I try not to think about it, because I love the chicken soup here, especially the soup that Miguel's daughter makes, or the soup from La Familia Tomasa.

Miguel came home just as I was cleaning up. I asked him if he wanted to take the feet to his daughter so she could make soup. He just laughed and said to leave them here. Apparently it is offensive to offer someone the feet of the chicken without offering them the good parts too. It is like giving someone your leftovers instead of the nice meal you originally prepared; it is perceived as discrimination. How would I know that?

So I put the feet on a plate and walked across the street and threw them far into the bushes. Hopefully the stray animal that comes across them will think they've come upon a feast. And hopefully my footless soup will be tasty anyway.

And I never did find the head. Miguel did good.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

I must say this...

Having to reformat and reinstall programs no less than 3 times in the last 2 weeks has turned me into a lean user. With this last install I'm not bothering with anything other than the basics until I find out if it is stable or not.

Have I mentioned how fed up I am with computer problems? I have wasted more time in the last three weeks, it's a good thing I don't have a job to worry about. I finally withdrew from my online courses because I have not been able to spend the time doing the research or the assignments, and to try to cram it all in during these last two weeks would maybe get me the 'pass' but I would not feel like I learned anything, and that is the point of the courses, afterall. I am doing this for my own personal growth, so have abandoned the classes and will pick them up next year when things are settled (hopefully that WILL happen!).

This is my last shot at trying to use this laptop though, if this one corrupts the drive then I'm done - I'll ship the machine out for repair (assuming Dell will agree it is a hardware issue) and that will be that.

However, there is an 'up' side. I've learned some new things about restoring backup data. And I've been playing with IE 8 and Google Chrome and have discovered some nice features that provide eye candy (i.e., themes for my email).

I had been mapping both gmail accounts to Outlook so I could just have one program open and see all my email. But I got tired of deleting multiple instances of the same email, or marking it as 'read'. And I really got tired trying to reinstall the setup with each new install on my laptop.

I am surprised at how little I like Outlook other than for its calendar feature. I could not find an easy way to add an email user to my contact list. And I could not find a way to force email to look to my contact list to generate a new message. I poked around with settings and options but couldn't find anything that seemed like it would work. Something seems disconnected there, maybe it was me.

I did like that I could create multiple calendars and use different colors - easy to see the vacancies for the rental properties at a glance. But that alone will not make me go back to Outlook. So for now, adios!

And so I discovered Google Chrome, and found out that I can have one gmail account open there and a different one in IE. So I can easily see my emails at the same time anyway. And gmail is really easy to manage, and I like that it keeps the conversations together so I'm not wading through lists of emails looking for something I sent to someone.

I played with the Google calendar yesterday, and found out that I can put some code into an html page and provide calendar access to a potential guest so they can see open time. Most guests know when they're coming so I just tell them if we can accommodate or not, but a few guests have not booked flights, they are waiting to find accommodations first. It's nice that I will be able to give them the link to the calendar and they can see for themselves when we would be able to host them at the apartments.

Speaking of reservations, they have been coming in fast and furious. I think Isla Mujeres is in for a good tourist season if our reservations and requests are any indication. That gives me hope, because the US economy is still not looking good from my point of view and I think there is more bad news to come. It's scary, but if the island can attract tourists who can afford a vacation, then there is hope for the locals here who have been living day-to-day. I'm really not sure how some of them have been managing but Mexicans are incredibly resourceful and resilient, they're hanging on somehow. Let's hope 2010 brings relief to Mexico, and the world.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Noisy days

Our colonia is usually pretty quiet, but over the last few days it has been unusually noisy. The family that lives next door is very quiet - we rarely hear anything coming from their direction. But several times now the woman, a quiet-spoken teacher, has been out in front and talking at the top of her lungs to another neighbor. One morning it was at 6:30 am. We were up (we are usually up around 6), sitting on the couch enjoying our morning coffee when she let loose. We just looked at each other because it was such a surprise to hear her speak so loudly.

Our neighbor has one daughter - a sweet polite girl. Next to them live some cousins - a more rambunctious couple of kids. When they first started playing together we rarely heard the girl next door - playing loudly wasn't her style. But now, all the kids are into their game, and they shout and just talk loud, as if everyone around them is deaf. Thankfully they are usually in school, but after school, if the weather is nice, they play. Often their games involve a ball, which invariably finds its way into our front garden. Usually when one or both of us is enjoying an after-dinner siesta. They stand outside the front gate and bellow my name, over and over. Hard to ignore them (although sometimes I do if I'm really into my siesta). Once I got a charge out of hearing them finally give up - "No esta" (she's not there). Oh yes I was...but I just wasn't going to answer the door!

Last evening the guys working at the shop on the other side of the kids' house decided to kick a soccer ball around. They placed rocks in the road as their goal posts, and had a roaring match of soccer going - right in front of our house, where the street lamp gives them light, and the road is flat.

As young men can be inclined to do, they shouted rude comments to each other - comments even I understood and did not appreciate, especially knowing young children live right here. I couldn't wait for Miguel to come home and park the golf cart right in the middle of their playing field. I reported the horking and rude language, noting that I was glad to see them playing and having fun rather than doing something bad, but didn't really like the disgusting part. Nothing we could do of course - they are good guys, just immature and needing to show each other up. They stopped their game shortly after Miguel got home, so that was that.

Someone nearby has been setting off the odd firework. Just enough to unnerve Loco. The other night he was just finishing his meal out on the front terrace when one went off. Loco stuck his paw on the front screen door and pulled it open - something he usually can't do unless he's desperate.

Yesterday afternoon I was upstairs when I heard a firework go off. Loco had been on the front terrace but soon he slunk upstairs and crawled under the bed where nothing can get him. And yup, he opened the front screen door again.

This morning Loco decided to take off, and even though Miguel whistled for him, he didn't come back. So Miguel took off down towards the lagoon looking for him. He'd heard some dogs making a fuss and figured Loco was part of the action. He finally found Loco and all he had to do was raise his arm as if to swat him and Loco shrieked like a girl and took off at full speed back home.

I was in the kitchen when Loco came tearing through and went straight up the stairs, saliva hanging from his mouth. Under the bed, safe from the wrath of Miguel. And yes, he opened the screen door again to let himself in. Amazing what a little fear can do to enable one to accomplish something. You'd think we normally beat the dog or something judging from Loco's fear of us.

So the neighborhood is a little flaky lately - not sure why, maybe the passing hurricane IDA dropped some weird spell over the island. Personally, I look forward to getting back to normal (whatever that is).

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Yes! We have a Visa!!

Last week I spent two days putting the final paperwork together for Miguel's visa. I say 'final' because we've been gathering paperwork since late August. And somehow we (you know who I really mean, right?) lost everything I'd printed and had to start over. Let's just say my mood during those two days was a little 'touchy'.

The final push wasn't easy. Miguel has 8 brothers and sisters and they wanted to know their names and birthdates, where they live, and what they do for a living. He was able to call his sister and get the birthdates of his parents and two siblings - the rest we had to leave blank. That, along with some other paperwork requirements that he wasn't able to provide as requested (most Mexicans wouldn't be able to either), led us to believe the visa would not be approved...despite the fact that Miguel has been to Canada 3 times already (and always came back to Isla).

We did have proof from the police that he was a fine upstanding citizen. Well, that may be exaggerating, we had a letter stating that he is not in trouble with the law. And I wrote a letter explaining why we wanted to go to Canada, and talked about the other trips Miguel has made, as well as our trip to Norway (to prove that we had a relationship prior to the visa requirement).

All in all, we put together the best possible package we could and were resigned to accept whatever decision was made.

The processing time is stated as an average of 10 business days. They received the package last Thursday. I tracked the return number this week, and yesterday it showed up - the package was on its way back to us already.

Hmmm...that seemed too fast. Must mean it was incomplete, or I screwed up the certified check from the Mexican bank (they state they will return everything unprocessed if the check is incorrect), or he was simply denied.

Last night the tracking number showed that the package was in Cancun waiting for pickup. we went early this morning. DHL was our first stop.

We couldn't wait to tear open the envelope once we were in the cab. Right on top, open on the visa page, was Miguel's passport.

Hurray! We are going to Canada! And Bennie and Stefan will be babysitting! Win-win all round!

P.S. To the Canadian government...
I still don't think imposing a visa on Mexicans was a smart thing to do, and neither do other Canadians in power, apparently. According to the Mexican news, there was a lively debate in parliament the other day, and the Canadians themselves called it a stupid policy. As Miguel kindly stated - Mexico would never say that to Canada (but we sure can think it).

And to whomever processed Miguel's visa, I want to thank you. Thank you for understanding why the paperwork was completed as it was, and why some of the things requested were very difficult to provide as requested. Mostly, thank you for believing what I wrote, explaining the situation when applications and forms could not. I told the truth, and I am thankful that you believed me and didn't try to pull a power trip as many in your position might. You are obviously a person who can see beyond the paperwork, and maybe you understand something about the lives of the average Mexican. You have made us happy today. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cancun Sunday

On Sunday we went to Cancun and enjoyed a nice day at the movies and shopping for apartment supplies for the new studio apartment. The Chedraui at Plaza Las Americas has the best selection of 'stuff' compared to Walmart, Sorianna, and other Chedraui stores.

The theater was very modern. I had reserved our tickets online and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to pick them up and pay - I expected some sort of paper deal, they love filling out forms here - by hand. But everything was done by computer and in just a couple of minutes we had our tickets and were off to the next stage of movie-going...the snacks.

We bought our popcorn and drinks, and went inside to get good seats. Not that we needed to worry - there might have been 5 others in there when we arrived, and by the time the show started, maybe 20.

Seated right behind us was a family with two very small children. The show, "This is It", is not a show for kids, but there they were, running around and laughing and talking and just being kids. I was thinking we'd have to move but once the show started, either they fell asleep or they were just well-behaved. Miguel and I disrupted the show more than anyone, as the coke we drank went right to our bladders, and we had to get up in the middle of the show and take care of that issue.

The seats in the theatre were so comfortable - they actually reclined and both of us dozed off a bit while we waited for the show to start. Sure beats the position we have to adopt to doze off on the ferry - sitting upright with our heads bobbing forward.

After the show we got a bite to eat at Mama Roma's. I filled up on bread dipped in garlic oil, bruschetta bread, and soup. Miguel ordered fish with mashed potatoes. Then we headed over to Chedraui to see what they had to offer. Along with some other stuff, I found a chair for my desk that will hopefully mean no more sore, twisted back and neck muscles from sitting sideways on the couch.

We were first in the local's line at the Ultramar ferry. Suddenly a small man appeared directly behind us - he had shoved his way through the people congregated behind us and was standing pretty close to us. He was only wearing jeans and a muscle shirt - no shoes.

I wasn't paying much attention but I heard Miguel say to him "Chiapas", and then the guy responded something, and it seemed like Miguel was telling him it wasn't correct to cut the line like that. The guy seemingly paid no attention but when I turned around a couple of minutes later, the guy was gone.

Several minutes later, after the ferry had just finished unloading, the guy came from the other side of the dock and went under the ropes and walked right up the ramp and onto the ferry. Miguel and I just looked at each other and chuckled - the "Chiapas" guy was determined to be first to board.

However, just as we handed in our tickets and were ready to board, the "Chiapas" guy was escorted back off the boat by a couple of guys working there. The guy was trying to brush them off, but they weren't letting him go. It was now clear he was drunk. He was begging them to let him go on the ferry, but they just kept telling him that he was not going.

We figured out that the guy had hoped to slip past the ticket-taker when we handed in our tickets. He was small enough that he might have succeeded but for some reason he changed his tactics and decided to try to slip on unnoticed before anyone else boarded. This was his downfall. He had probably drunk all his ticket money and had no way to get back to the island.

So we took off with the image of the drunk in the hands of the Ultramar crew, wondering how it would all end for him. And I wonder how often the crew of the ferry are expected to act as bouncers for undesirable passengers. Probably more than we realize.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Why I'm glad I'm not bald

I have a big lump on the back of my head. It's my fridge's fault. I was stooping down to get some fruit out of the bottom drawer, and when I stood up, I whacked the back of my head on the corner of the freezer handle. Wow - that hurt. I actually cried!

And I wanted to beat the fridge. It has whacked me before, and I'm tired of it.

The golf cart hits me now and then too, especially if I go to step into it off a curb. Whack, right in the front of my head, where my bangs sprout from. Sometimes I see stars.

And that's not all, the golf cart is so rude it attacks our guests too. Several have felt the pain as they tried to raise themselves up onto the back seat. We always warn them (well, sometimes we warn them AFTER they've been whacked).

I used to have a cupboard in my laundry room, right over my washing machine. I hit my head so often on the corner of that cupboard that I had Miguel install a thick strip of weather stripping all around the edge. At least when I got hit after that, there was plenty of padding and it didn't draw blood.

I think I'm lucky to have a full head of hair. The hair serves as a cushion when I get hit. With all the blows I've taken to the head, imagine how my scalp would look if I were bald?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Sale of the Century

A couple of days ago the kids next door were playing 'house' with the concrete blocks stacked along the side of their wall. One of the things they were doing was planting seeds in pots, and when Miguel came home, he saw what they were doing and took them some of his own seeds. He explained how to soak them, plant them, and then water them. He described the type of flower they would get if they took good care of the plants.

Later that afternoon the youngest girl, about 6, ran over as we were going out to clarify how much water she should use to soak the seeds. I think they are taking it seriously - I have spotted the pots along the railing of the balcony, where they will get a nice dose of sun every day.

The next day I was out walking the dog when the smallest child called to me - something about 'melate'. The only 'melate' I know about is the national lottery, the one I really would like Miguel to win.

She called to her 10-year-old cousin, our next-door neighbor. The cousin, a very polite young girl, came over holding a handful of different lottery papers (the ones you use to submit your numbers to the machine). She asked me if I wanted to buy one but before I could even answer, she said her friend had told her to sell them and then she said, timidly, 'but maybe it's not true'.

I told her that it really wasn't true, she couldn't sell those tickets to make money. She would have to submit the numbers and pay for the ticket, so there would be nothing in it for her. She looked a little sheepish so I didn't tell her that children probably cannot play the lottery anyway.

I told the girls that Miguel buys those tickets twice a week and he could explain to them how it all worked, if they wanted to know. He is now their buddy so they will probably ask him about it (if they remember).

A little later I was cooking our dinner when I decided to run to the store down the street to pick up some fresh rolls. I turned the burner down to low and headed out.

The youngest child ran up to me and jabbered something very excitedly in Spanish - she spoke so fast I didn't catch what she was saying. But then I saw that she, her brother, and their cousin (both 10 years old) had set up a small table on the terrace next door and it was loaded with some of their toys.

Stuffed animals, some kind of keyboard toy, and in the middle, some blank lottery papers to fill in your numbers. The same papers they'd asked me about.

The boy was sitting behind the table. They asked me if I wanted to buy something, and I told them that I had to run to the store because I was cooking, but would check it out a little later.

When I got to the corner I was amused to see a sign posted on the wall of the corner house, notifying the neighborhood that there was a sale of toys and games going on, with an arrow pointing in the direction of the sale.

I bought my rolls and headed back home. When I got to the table, it had been cleared off. The salesman was still sitting there, and I asked him if they had already sold all their stuff. I couldn't imagine how they could have sold out in just 5 minutes, but nothing was there. The sale of the century? (at least on our street?).

They just smiled and explained that the sale was over. I suspect their parents got wind of their scheme when they were explaining it to me, and while I was at the store they were told to shut it down.

They didn't seem bothered by it though. They informed me that now they were going to put on an hour of theater. Since they weren't inviting me to buy a ticket to their show, I went in and we ate our meal. Afterwards I tried to nap on the bed, but the kids were in full throttle with their show, and it was noisy.

From what I could gather, the 10-year-old girl was the queen and her 10-year-old cousin was her slave. She barked out orders to him and he mostly obeyed, although she had to get tough with him now and then. I'm not sure what role the 6-year-old was playing because from what I could tell, she mostly supported the queen, shouting out encouragement now and then, and just running around.

So I'm really not sure what they've really been up to the last couple of days but maybe they are trying to raise some money. Maybe I was overhearing dress-rehearsal and I will still get hit on to buy tickets to the real show. Or maybe once the seeds sprout, they'll try to sell me some plants. I have a feeling these children have a plan.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Who's cold around here?

The temperatures are much cooler than they were two weeks ago. Finally a relief from the oppressive heat we endured for quite a few months.

In fact, once the sun goes down I feel chilly. When we go out on the golf cart for a little drive, I put on my jacket and take along a small blanket to throw over my bare legs. Miguel? He goes out in his t-shirt, and claims he doesn't feel the cold.

However, everything gets reversed when we go to bed. I like to sleep with the breeze coming in through the doors and windows, and depending on the temperatures, I also like to use the ceiling fan (on low speed). Miguel likes everything closed up, he gets cold during the night.

So our bed looks like this:

My half is me, lying on top of the sheets, with little or no clothing.
Miguel's half is him, wearing a t-shirt, sleeping shorts, and wrapped in a fleece blanket.

When I was in Canada last week I bought a couple of nice soft fleece robes at Costco. Pierre Cardin, a very pretty blue color. Bought for our B&B guests to enjoy; I packed one on this trip and will bring the other one on my next trip.

I didn't even show the robe to Miguel. The robe was at the bottom of a pile of my own clothing that I'd unpacked, laying on the chair up in the bedroom.

Last night was quite chilly so the doors were closed, and the fan was off. With just one window open, there was no breeze but at least the room didn't feel stuffy.

I read in bed while Miguel took his bath. When he came out of the bathroom, he was wrapped in the new robe and a huge grin. Somehow he'd spotted that robe under the pile of clothes, and decided it was for him. I casually mentioned that the robe was for guests, but he had no intention of giving it up, so I let him keep it. I'll pick up another one when I'm there in a few weeks (or maybe they'll have them at Costco here in Cancun).

He slept in the robe all night.

What I want to know is this: he can't find his keys, or his glasses, or his tools, yet he can find something that he wasn't even supposed to know we had. How did he do that?

Friday, November 13, 2009


The downside of living in a humid climate, especially after a lot of rain, is dealing with the smell of humid stuff. Stuff that got wet and stayed wet for too long.

The morning after I got back I was sweeping in the hall. I detected a stinky smell right around the dresser. I kneeled down to check it out, thinking maybe the cats had pushed a dead gecko under there or something. I couldn't decide where the smell was coming from, so I kept on sweeping. Once in a while I'd drift through the hallway to take a whiff, but it seemed clear. Hmmm...

Wednesday I went to Cancun. As Miguel was driving me into town on the golf cart, he blew through a huge puddle and I got sprayed from head to toe. The water was not sewer water, but I think it had a funky smell. My feet stayed damp, and by the time I was nearly done running my errands with Luis, our taxi driver, I realized that my feet were smelling. I covered them up with my tote bag while in the cab, hoping Luis would not notice. When I got home I forgot about my feet, but that night I had a bath and gave them a good scrub.

I should have scrubbed my crocs as well, as they were the real problem - more than my feet. So after my morning bath yesterday I tossed the crocs out onto the back terrace along with my other smelly crocs and dug up a new pair of sandals. For good measure I sprinkled my feet with baby powder.

Yesterday morning I was sweeping again and this time the smell was around the bedroom door. There was nothing there. Finally I sniffed the broom. Phew! It smelled like stinky feet. I bet when the drain backed up when the winds pushed the water backwards, that the broom was sitting in that water in the laundry room. Later Miguel confirmed it - yes, my precious broom, the one I hide from the cleaning lady, had been violated. I placed the broom by the back door, intending to give it a good wash later in the day.

I decided to take a rest in the hammock. Miguel had moved the hammocks inside during all the rain last week, but they were damp and he just left them in a ball on the table. I had put them out to dry and thought no more of it. Until I got into the hammock. Then I was overpowered by the smell of stinky feet. HOW could my feet still smell? They were clean, and they were baby-powder fresh!

The smell was the hammock. How could Miguel have laid in there reading his paper? I think my nose is more sensitive, I couldn't take it. So I took the hammock and dunked it in soapy water in the tub, and then hung it back up to dry, hoping the fresh air and clean water had taken care of the odor.

Later I was in the kitchen making stew. There was a rotten smell near the sink. I thought it must be food caught in the trap so dumped bleach down the drain. As I peeled potatoes I continued to smell the odor, and finally tracked it down to a rotting pepper sitting in the colander. I moved the pepper to our recycling plate, intending to take out all the scraps after I'd finished the potatoes.

This morning as I swept in the kitchen I smelled it again. "I really must put some acid down that drain", I thought. But the smell seemed to be under the counter, not in the sink. So I sniffed away but could not locate the exact area of the smell. Finally I realized it was the chili pepper that was still sitting on the plate, buried in potato peelings that I'd forgotten to take out the night before. Out went the plate, and whew - that one is finally resolved.

While I was out dumping the scraps, I checked the hammock. Still stinky. So now it is soaking in a tub full of soap and Flash - the cinnamon smelling red stuff. Later I will take it upstairs and put it in the sun to dry. If that doesn't fix the hammock, nothing will.

So I'm off to wash my shoes and the broom. And then our house should be back to smelling nice and fresh. I hope!

This is It!

I was in Canada last Saturday. My daughter wasn't working that day, and for once I was not rushed to accomplish a ton of things, including shopping, to prepare for my return to Mexico. This 'not working' thing is just great - it didn't take long to lose the sense of pressure to do too many things in too short a time.

Honestly, I think there is a lot to be said for one parent staying home to take care of the home front. We are all pulled in so many directions all the time, no wonder we snap and have relationship issues. We don't have time or energy for relationships! (maybe I should just speak for myself...).

My life has become a mass of chaos and disorganization and clutter (probably redundant words here, but you get the drift). Too much travel, too many homes, too little free time, and even less energy, have led to this current state of affairs. Anything that I had to deal with outside of the day-to-day pressures became a big stressor (i.e., preparing the paperwork for Miguel's visa). It was hard to sit down and focus on just one task. Multi-tasking became the normal way of life, and although I'm very good at it, it created stress I didn't really need.

So - for now I am loving the more relaxed day-to-day living, and having the time to wade through the chaos. I had my list of priorities, and since I've been back I've taken care of my FM3 renewal and Miguel's visa application. In the case of the visa, it's now out of our hands - if he gets denied, we'll just drop it. The requirements are unrealistic for a lot of Mexicans, so Miguel could not provide everything that was asked for. I doubt that anyone growing up in Canada (unless they are 75 or older), would understand how different life is here in Mexico for the majority of the population so I'm not sure the people doing the review and approval would understand that what they are reviewing is as complete as it can ever be. It's obvious by the list of paperwork requested that the Canadian government doesn't have a clue.

Anyway, back to last Saturday. For once I had time to enjoy some time with my daughter. "This is It" was playing at the local theater. Jen, who has danced all her life, is very familiar with Michael Jackson's music and has performed some of his numbers on stage, including the original choreography of "Thriller" (one of my favorite performances done by her studio).

So we went and watched the film (movie isn't the right word, it was not that). It was a matinee and the theater was almost empty - we had perfect center seats without anyone's big puffy head of hair blocking part of the screen.

We both thoroughly enjoyed the film. I don't know what the reviews are saying, but from my point of view, I think they did a great job portraying Michael's creativity, his passion, his talent, and his energy. The news media has always shown Miguel as a fragile, feminine oddball (at least in later years), so I was pleasantly surprised to see Michael up there dancing and singing just like he did in the early years. Perhaps he was in pain, I don't know, it didn't show. I chose to forget all the hype about his personal life and just enjoy the masterpiece of what Michael's concert would have been. It would have been fabulous!

For those who don't know, the film is not a movie, nor is it a documentary. It is a compilation of film taken during rehearsal for the concert. It shows the staging, the choreography, and the supporting performers (dancers, singers, musicians). You feel like you are watching the concert but have the benefit of seeing how it all was put together, and you get to see a lot of Michael's contributions to the final product. His was the final word, and everyone working with him gave him what he asked of them. There was a definite sense of love and respect for Michael - he really seemed to have a team that understood and appreciated his art. I got the sense that nobody worked harder than Michael Jackson - he performed, but he also directed and created.

I found out that "This is It" is playing at a local theater here in Cancun. I went online and was able to reserve tickets for a show - didn't have to pay, just reserved with an email address. Miguel loves Michael's music and I can't wait for him to see the movie. I think it is a loving tribute to a brilliant man, and will hopefully help people remember Michael as the musical talent he was. For me, Michael Jackson was 'IT', nobody else comes close to putting it all together as he did. It's ironic that because of his death more people will see his 'concert' than would have otherwise. So for those of you who love Michael Jackson's music and his dance moves - go and watch the film. You won't regret it.

P.S. I just found this review and feel it most closely describes my impressions as well. Here for your reference: Review of "This is It".

Thursday, November 12, 2009

They've got your number

There is a popular lottery here called TRIS. It is one of the many national lotteries one can play here. Some here have played and hit big - they are now rich!

Miguel normally plays 3 and 4 number sequences. Like most people here, he has his set of numbers that he plays; most people we know who play also play the same numbers. And because they've all been playing the same numbers for a long time, they remember each others' numbers.

It's common to get into a taxi with Miguel and quickly the conversation turns to how they are doing with TRIS. Did you play? When did your numbers hit? How long since you last won? etc, etc. There is always a bit of fudging on how much and when, because the last thing anyone wants is to give the impression they actually have some cash - they don't want 'friends' coming out of the woodwork asking for a 'donation' (that will never be repaid). So a big hit is kept quiet until time passes and the money is long gone.

Our taxi driver in Cancun, Luis, plays 4 pesos on just one or two numbers. Miguel knows Luis' numbers, and when he opens the paper and sees the results, he'll comment that Luis won the TRIS. When Luis took me to the airport last week I asked if he had played his numbers the day that they hit, and no - he had not. So he missed out on whatever the payout would have been on 3 numbers played with 4 pesos (probably about $100). He wasn't happy.

On Tuesday Luis drove me around Cancun to run some errands, and he told me that on Sunday he'd been mandated to pay his taxi papers. But with very few customers and other financial obligations (he has a daughter who requires expensive medication and other treatments for a blood disorder), he didn't have the money. He prayed, and on Monday, he hit the TRIS. Since he only plays 4 pesos, it wasn't much, but it was enough to pay for his taxi papers and keep his taxi on the road for a little while longer. He was so happy (and relieved).

Miguel is a dedicated player, he rarely misses going to play his numbers. The only thing that ever stops him is his 'escapee' - his fiesta days where he chooses to drink with his buddies and misses the TRIS. I keep waiting for him to miss a big one because he chose a fiesta instead, but Miguel carries an angel on his shoulder and he always gets away with it.

Over the last month Miguel has had an extraordinary stroke of luck with the TRIS - he has hit 6 or 7 times, and that money was most welcome as it went right into the construction of the Luna Studio he's building over Capi's Apartment. As an example, on a 10 peso ticket on a 4-number sequence, the payout is 50000 pesos (just under $5000).

It is very hard to hit 4 numbers. It's also hard to hit 3 numbers. But Miguel has hit both. When we go to eat at La Bruja, the owner (Roberto), always talks "TRIS" with Miguel. La Bruja has not hit TRIS in 2 years - the last one allowed him to put in a new floor and pay for a party for his daughter's 15th birthday party (quincinera).

Over the last month La Bruja has had to listen to Miguel's tales of success, and with each time he has hit, La Bruja's face has become increasingly frustrated that he has not been able to win. The guys pull out their tickets (yes, they save them for a few days as a reference), and go over the numbers and discuss when was the last time that one hit, or that one. "Chinga", more than two years! It's due!

When we went last week he greeted Miguel with "don't tell me, you hit again?" - I think he meant it as a joke, never thinking that yes, actually Miguel HAD hit again. The look on his face was priceless - disbelieving in the good luck of his customer. And frustration that it wasn't his turn. He walked away dejected, shaking his head.

On Monday we went there to eat, and La Bruja was almost in tears as he showed Miguel the results of the TRIS from the night before. His number, that he'd been waiting to hit for 2 years, finally hit. But...he'd been so busy working that he hadn't had time to go and buy his ticket. He lost 10,000 pesos (close to $1000). He was so sad, and we were sad for him - the one night he didn't go, he missed out. Who knows how long he'll have to wait again for that number? (because the guys never change their numbers - even if they have just hit, they keep playing them). There is a lot of superstition about changing your numbers.

We went there to eat again yesterday, and we hadn't even parked when La Bruja, who'd been sitting on a chair inside the restaurant, popped up out of his chair and stood in the doorway with his hands on his hips. He pointed accusingly at Miguel and said "You won again!!".

I thought he was just asking, but no, he was telling Miguel that his numbers had hit (like I said, they all know what they each play, so they know when one of them has won). Thus ensued long discussion where Miguel said that he had not won, those numbers posted were a mistake. La Bruja insisted it was not a mistake, and was so convincing that Miguel began to believe that his numbers had hit on Monday afternoon and for some reason, he didn't know. He kept telling La Bruja that he checks his numbers on the internet, on the tv, and in the papers, and at the lottery booth, and that his number had not hit. But there was doubt (and hope).

So we came home and Miguel went through all his tickets, and last night checked them out at the lottery booth. No, he had not won again, La Bruja had been looking at old results and that was his winning number from the week before. We were disappointed, but it's hard to be really disappointed, because the odds have been heavily in Miguel's favor, he has had more than his share of good luck and our friends, who desperately need the money too, have not had the same luck.

And me - I've won once in 4 years. $250. Winning TRIS isn't my thing, I guess. As Miguel says, he has luck with numbers, and I am lucky in other ways.

Times here are tough. Tougher than most tourists would know. Many people here are just waiting for their numbers to hit, to give them a bit of relief. It's the luck of the draw, but I hope someone somewhere causes the numbers to hit for those who need it most. It's the best hope for many.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Getting back to normal

I wasn't even gone a week, but when I opened the front door, three of the four cats ran off. Scared of me. I'm not sure if Luna started it - she had been sleeping on the chair by the front door and when I opened it and came in carrying a large duffel bag, she bolted out of the chair, and that spooked the other cats.

Only Maya would come near me, and she was giving me a good sniff to make sure it was really me.

Smokey and Minina would not let me near them, they ran off whenever I called them and tried to pet them. Luna came back and wanted outside. It took about 15 minutes before Smokey and Minina would tentatively let me close, and that was only because I started opening the suitcase and they always think there's a present in there for them (there often is, but they don't need another toy right now, presents).

Cats love open suitcases. I took my time unpacking with all four cats inspecting everything inside. Finally the big suitcase was empty and lying open on the floor, and Luna decided that would be a good place for a nap. As Luna circled the outside of the suitcase, Smokey pounced on the open lid, and Luna shot straight up in the air and took off, with Smokey in distant pursuit.

A few minutes later Luna returned and got inside the suitcase, but Smokey thought that was the perfect setup to ambush Luna - the side of the suitcase was just high enough to hide most of Smokey (except for her ears) as she crouched on the other side. Luna kept peering over the edge and growling and once she took a swipe at Smokey, who was too fast and shot backwards, evading a sharp claw.

Then Luna started scratching in the corner of the suitcase, which tempted Smokey to the point of return. She dove at the outside corner and Luna jumped back, but then she played it cool and settled in for a nap. So Smokey got bored and left.

Enter Maya, perched on the edge of the open lid, watching Luna stretch out and get ready for a good sleep. Finally she made her move, but she scared herself when she landed on the lid and she quickly jumped away and then left Luna in peace.

After the suitcases were dealt with, it was time to tackle the floors. Humid, sticky dust and dirt doesn't sweep up well, so I also had to wash the floors. I decided to do a load of laundry too, but it took until about 2 pm before I decided I could hang it out. Wrong decision, we had several small spurts of rain throughout the evening and the clothes are still out there. Oh well...lots of rinses, they'll dry eventually.

We have guests coming later today so the cleaning lady is coming to do a deep cleaning. Miguel has to get the pool and upper terraces cleaned and set up, and he claims he is going to trim the plants as well.

Me, I'm heading back to Cancun to submit paperwork for my FM3 renewal, and hopefully also submit the mountain of paperwork required to apply for Miguel's Canadian visa. The process of putting together all the required pieces has been very long and painful - I just can't imagine that most Mexicans would bother. And that doesn't include the costs - DHL courier posting, there and back, as well as fees for the visa and photocopies and official papers. Nobody will give you a copy of anything here, you have to do it yourself, and you can't even do it at their office - you have to find a copy place. It's truly a hassle. If I hadn't already bought the ticket for Miguel, we wouldn't bother either, but I bought the ticket before the visa requirement was imposed on Mexicans, and all the anger I threw at it didn't change the minds of the Canadian government. I thought with all the tax money I give them that I might have some sort of pull? (ha Ha HA).

On another note, our Canadian guests from Ontario/Quebec arrived yesterday afternoon and what a pleasant surprise - they both speak wonderful Spanish! We all walked up to La Bruja for a nice meal and chatted and learned more about each other. As Miguel says - "mujeres muy sympaticas" (very nice ladies).

Anyway, off to start my day. It's good to be back and get the normal routine underway. All is well...

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I made it to Cancun

Incredibly, US Airways flew me from Buffalo to Cancun today, despite me informing them that they were going directly into a cat 2 hurricane zone. That was news to everyone but they really didn't care. If I changed my ticket I would have to pay $150 as it would be a voluntary change, they didn't have any alerts going. I was sure the person who checks the weather and calls off the flights was just not working Saturday or Sunday, or at least was allowed to sleep in. Sadly, despite my efforts, USAir wasn't about to let me step in and call the shots. So I flew.

I flew first-class all the way (I will miss those complimentary upgrades now that I won't be flying the required amount of miles every year). I had a very goat-cheesy-tasting quiche for lunch, something I normally wouldn't ever order but that was what they served me, so of course I ate it.

I was on the left side of the plane so was able to look south as we flew across the Gulf of Mexico. Normally we fly right along the north coast of Cuba, but I have no idea if we did that or not, as all I could see from about the time we left Florida was a heavy cloud cover. A couple of times I thought I spotted the hurricane out there in the distance, but it was probably my imagination.

Cancun was surprisingly calm. It was obvious it had rained but that was all that I noticed. I took the bus to the station and then a cab to the ferry, only to discover that it was not running until probably tomorrow (hopefully tomorrow). We are still on red alert here as they want to be sure the storm doesn't circle back and get us. I am hearing frequent sirens from the fire station down the road - don't know if that is normal or not, or what it's about.

I'm at a hotel across from the bus station. I had a chili relleno for lunch/dinner, and now am in my room with the wireless internet. I will watch La Academia later this evening if I can keep awake that long. That is the only show I watch, it's our Sunday night tradition. Miguel will be there on the couch on Isla watching as well, and probably drifting off to sleep as he usually does.

So all is well, thank goodness. Our guests who did have their flight canceled today (yes, the Canadian airlines canceled flights) say they are scheduled to fly in tomorrow. I hope they have an uneventful trip and can finally get a start to their vacation. I was supposed to come to Cancun tomorrow to run some errands and meet my lawyer - I really want to go to the island in the morning and then turn around and come back here? I sort of need to, but it's just not appealing. I guess we'll see what tomorrow brings.

Thanks to all for your comments of support, much appreciated!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

No matter how hard I try...

I am staring at the three storm sites, flipping back and forth trying to find the latest information about IDA. Memories of how quickly Wilma intensified are not buried that deeply, and I am frustrated. I keep expecting to flip to a screen and find the storm no longer on track to hit us. Not that I wish it on anyone else, but geez - I'm not there to help prepare.

I think it's hard for anyone who has never done hurricane preparations to realize just how much work it is to prepare. It's not just boarding up, which in itself is a huge chore. It's bringing in planters and patio furniture, tracking a mess all through the house with water and dirt. It's making sure there is water stored, and food supplies for humans and pets. It's moving anything that can be damaged by water up off the floors. It's trying to keep the outdoor pets close to home so they will be inside during the brunt of the storm. I remember the night before Wilma hit; Loco, who was free to roam in those days, took off down the road and was gone until 1 am. I was frantic until he came back, and he got the leash treatment for the next few hours until we were confined to the indoors.

Miguel has two properties to deal with. He's just one person, anyone who might help him will be busy with their own preparations. I wish I could be there to do the 'bringing' in part, and the food part. Miguel is philosophical - it doesn't matter what gets damaged, it's life that is important. Of course he's right, but I like to think we can protect it all.

But I'm not there to help. I'm supposed to land in Cancun tomorrow at 12:45. I'm betting the flight will be canceled. So here I sit, worried and hoping, knowing there is a hurricane on its way and hoping it will not be a strong one. No matter how hard I try to wish it away, or how many times I change weather stations, that storm is still pointing in our direction. Nuts!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

That was the easy part

I am sitting in my living room in Canada, surrounded by a mountain of cd's, power cables, hard drives, and books.

As you may recall, I've been babying my laptop for the last month - trying to keep it running until I was finished working for my client. I succeeded in doing that much, going back to an old drive when the new one bombed out.

Before heading to Canada I did a full backup of the drive I'd been using. I have backups on two different external drives, from various points in time. I really thought I had it covered.

When I got here Tuesday night I showed Miko, my son-in-law, the drive that had bombed out along with my slave cables that I'd not succeeded in getting to work (the cables would power up the drive but my laptop(s) would not recognize that there was anything on the other end of the USB cable). Of course he plugged it all together just as I had, and as soon as he stuck the USB end into his computer, it recognized the drive and starting loading. Sigh...I can't tell you how many times I'd done just that, with more than one laptop...and got no results. I know Miko doesn't believe me, but I swear it's the truth - there just isn't any other way to hook all those cables together.

The only thing we did differently was I was very careful as I handled the drive, barely touching it and trying to make sure I did not zap it with any static or bump it on anything. Miko, in searching for a power outlet, dragged the entire mess across the floor, static mat and carpet to boot, and the thing thrashed around like a fish at the end of a hook. And started up just like it was supposed to. From now on I'm going to abuse my drives, maybe that's what they want!

In the morning I booted up my laptop with the drive that had been working in Mexico, only to be greeted with the miserable "Unmountable boot volume". I am sick of that error! I tried to reboot several times, thinking maybe the laptop would change its mind and be nice. No luck.

So I took the drive Miko dragged across the floor, stuck it in my laptop, and gave it severe punishment. FORMAT C:! (and don't ask me again, YES, I'M SURE!!).

After the third format attempt, I successfully got Windows installed and then started the tedious process of reinstalling most of the normal programs I own on cd. So that took me all of yesterday.

This morning I attempted to copy files from the backup drives from the "My Documents" folder. Guess what? Access denied. I could access any other folder on those drives except the one I REALLY NEEDED. Miko blamed me - "I don't know what you do with computers to have all these problems". Well, guess what - neither do I.

Anyway, before giving up I decided to do an internet search on the error, and lo and behold, in 2005 someone had asked the same type of question on a tech forum and some guys who really knew what they were talking about responded. So thanks to Mike and Ross I was able to change the security settings on that folder and get to my files.

So I'm back in business, that apparently was the easy part. I still have a bunch of other programs to be loaded - programs I'd purchased via download, where the 25-character license key isn't there on a sticker right in front of me. I have to do some digging through emails to find the licenses. I will leave that for when I'm back in Mexico, I have other pressing business to attend to here.

Somehow I broke a molar. I don't know when, or how - probably from clenched teeth. Tomorrow I will make a visit to my dentist to see what he has to say. I love this dentist - he is all about ensuring his patients do not suffer pain. He actually did some work on Miguel's teeth a couple of years ago, and Miguel was very impressed with the professionalism and service. I have not been to see him in a couple of years, but he kindly agreed to fit me into a booked schedule tomorrow morning. I suspect I know what is needed, and it isn't cheap, but I will wait for his opinion.

I am taking a web design program online. For the first week there was tons of reading and three assignments. The toughest assignment was to put together a composite of what I am planning to do as my project for the class. I have never done a composite, I don't really know what that is, and I can't draw. So I used three different programs to put together something that I thought was suitable and submitted it. Then I saw what others submitted and knew I was way off. teacher's feedback: "I don't usually accept labs without a solid attempt at a composite, but I've never had someone turn in such a detailed and well-thought out plan accompanied by images and ideas. So what you have done certainly works for me!"

Whew! So I don't have to rework Week 1, and I can now focus on Week 2, which is due Sunday, no ifs, ands, or buts. If only I can keep the laptop from interfering with my plans, I might stand a chance. Off to do my homework...

Monday, November 2, 2009

According to Sue's personal dictionary

I am a-responsible. Without responsibility. At least as far as work outside the home goes. It feels great.

I am not irresponsible. To me that is someone that should be responsible but is not.

I am not unresponsible, which is not really a word, but if it was in my dictionary, I would define it as a person incapable of taking on responsibility.

When I am working, I am capable of taking on responsibility, and I am responsible. So the fact that I am on my first day of not working outside the home, I'm going to declare that I am a-responsible. Without responsibility.

Were finances different, this would definitely be the beginning of a life of a-responsibility. But the financial situation is not so great, so I am heading towards semi-responsibility. At least, that's all I hope it becomes.

How can I be retired if people keep asking me to be responsible again?

I remember a conversation in 1996, with a favorite co-worker (that would be you, Randy). We were working in downtown Chicago, not in the best part of town. We were surrounded by homeless and crazy people, and we decided that we were going to be the same when we got to be that age. It seemed so carefree.

Would that make it "irresponsible", "unresponsible", or "a-responsible"? I don't know, and since Randy has gone on to something very respectable, I think he might have changed his mind about living out of a shopping basket and prowling the shores of Lake Michigan searching dumpsters for discarded donuts and other scraps. Although some of those people seemed happy with their situation, I'm not sure how many consciously decided to live like that, probably very few. I'm sure the vast majority would choose a different life if they thought they had a choice.

I bet with the current economic situation that there are more people like that now than there was back in 1996. I personally know someone, a professional making a great income, who became unemployed and worked through all his resources and ended up living in a parking garage. Hard to imagine, but that was his reality.

So although I'd like to remain a-responsibile, I know it's not realistic. But while I have it, I'm going to enjoy it.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Loco's Hamburger Adventure - as told by Loco

There I was, lying on the back seat of the golf cart, enjoying the smell of the hamburgers that my family was going to devour when we got home. I'd just finished licking my yucky parts - all of them. My nose was wet and slimy, and I really needed a bath.

Out of nowhere came two other golf carts - one parked right behind us and the other parked across the road. The people who got off the cart were drunk, and some were still carrying their bottles of beer. The driver was carrying a big bottle of water, but I think that might have been a decoy, because he walked a little funny.

One of the guys on the back of the cart spotted me and staggered over. He put out his hand, palm down, so I could check him out, and once he realized I was friendly, he patted me on the head. Then he leaned in and gave me a big wet kiss on the end of my nose. He told my mom that he had just lost his dog a couple of weeks ago and was feeling sad. Then he walked over to join the rest of his group in front of the hamburg stand.

My dad Miguel was sitting over there but when he saw all the people, he got up and offered them chairs. He quickly realized that they were drunk, but he engaged them in conversation and asked where they were from.

The driver from the other cart across the street came past me, and he reached out to pet me on the way by. Then the first guy came back and got up on the back of the cart to sit with me. He sort of sat on my tail and usually I would cry when that happens because my mom gives me sympathy, but I just let this guy sit on my tail and snuggle in with me.

He was stroking me and talking to my mom and telling her that he'd had to put his dog to sleep a couple of weeks ago, and it was so hard. While he was talking, a drunk woman from the group came over and started touching me too. Wow, I was getting lots of attention.

After 10 minutes or so our hamburgers were ready and we had to leave. The man leaned over and gave me another big wet kiss on my nose. Then the lady leaned in and asked me for a kiss, and so I reached up and licked all over her face, including her mouth since she didn't seem to mind. Then I reached back and chewed my tail. The lady laughed and said how funny it was that I had just given her a sloppy kiss and then I was chewing my tail. If she only knew what else I'd been chewing and licking before I gave her those kisses.

The woman was dressed in a low-cut halter dress, and I wanted to let her know how much I apprecated the view when she leaned over me. So I lifted my back leg to show her my stuff. She commented on my 'lipstick', and my mom was embarrassed and pushed my leg back down. But my dad was proud (he'd had a couple of beers earlier in the day so was a little less reserved) and asked me to show it again. So I kept lifting my leg and my mom kept pushing it back down. Everyone laughed and we said goodbye and drove home.

I hope they don't get sick today from all my kisses. I know people always blame the food when they come down with tourista, but they don't tell you how many dog's noses they kissed when they were out and about. It's NOT always the FOOD!!