Friday, March 31, 2017

A little more Cozumel for you

First of all, let me share a video taken by my daughter.  As I've told you in other entries, Rachel and Kevin sat in the bed of the pickup because it seemed easier for Kevin, with his compromised knees, to get in and out of the bed of the truck rather than into the cab and then get seated.  I think perhaps their view, while riding, was better than mine, but when the temperature was in the mid- to upper-eighties, they might have gotten pretty warm with no shade.  There was no complaining from them about their situation, ever, although they did choose more comfortable things to sit on after the first day.  

I wish you could see Cozumel traffic at its busiest, because it's scary!  Nobody obeys any laws, people pull right out in front of you, Brooke pulled right out in front of them... if you want to get anywhere, the only other choice is to sit all day and wait, because these people don't know the meaning of "yield".  At one point Brooke realized she needed to turn around and did a u-turn.  In the middle of the u-turn, a cop she hadn't noticed behind her before she turned honked at her.  She gave him a wave and kept on going, and that was the end of that.  When in Rome...

However, this was taken at a relatively peaceful time and place.

Back when we were planning our visit, Rachel asked me if I would be interested in snorkeling.  I don't swim AT ALL, but Rachel described the process and said she intended to try it, explaining that we wouldn't be in terribly deep water.   "Well, maybe..." I told her.

But when we got there and I saw all those waves coming in, I knew it wasn't for me.  At least, not that day.  Rachel tried it, though.  I should mention that the day she tried it was also the day that made her five years cancer free.  It was also a day we had started by watching the sun come up over the ocean.

getting ready

 There they go, carrying their duck feet.  

 As I understand it, you need to wait and put on your duck feet (fins) after you're in the water.

 There were lots of people heading into the water with instructors who were showing them the ropes.

 Here they are coming back from the adventure.  Rachel said she saw some nifty fish down there, but Brooke, who scuba dives regularly, said it was a terrible day for seeing the really pretty fish.   

I doubt they were in the water more than thirty minutes, but Rachel had a special way to celebrate her five-years-free day and make it memorable.  I loved watching.

I want to do an entry about Brooke's dogs, but every single picture I have of any of her dogs is blurry.  Brooke, if you see this, see if you can get a decent, clear picture of any or all of them plus a brief story of each.  And of course, their names, since I never recall names of any living creatures that don't belong to me... and sometimes not even then.  Of course I remember my dog, Hoshie (I'm sure that's misspelled.  I don't know Japanese.)

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Shopping for food in Mexico

This is sort of a hodge-podge of pictures.  I've taken too long to do these entries, and I'm rather removed from the whole exciting Mexico trip by now.  Between babysitting weekdays and lousy CenturyLink Internet service that slows picture-loading to a standstill, I've put things off so long, the experience isn't fresh and new.  However, there will be one more Mexico entry after this one.

Call me crazy, but I got a big kick out of watching Brooke buy groceries.  It was another favorite activity of mine while we were there.  Forgive me for always showing her backside... she has a very lovely face, I just wasn't concentrating on her when I took the pictures or I might have asked her to turn around and smile, at least.  

I don't recall ever tasting mangoes before this vacation, but we had plenty of them during our visit.  They were delicious, and available everywhere.  You can buy eggs one or two at a time in the roadside stalls, if you don't want to purchase a whole dozen.
It's fun to see something so familiar; only the language on the box is different.

This store was very much like those I'm used to at home, but there are many brands and various items you won't find in Mexico.  Brooke doesn't think the potatoes raised there are as good as the ones you get here, but the fried potatoes she fixed for us tasted great to me.

I followed Brooke into several of these roadside enterprises.

Those pineapples looked good, but fresh pineapple makes my mouth hurt.

Pineapples contain an plant protease enzyme called bromelain. Because it readily breaks down protein, bromelain is frequently used as a natural meat tenderizer. In addition, bromelain may also induce a prickly sensation in the mouth when consumed.

Among other things, Brooke bought some pork rinds to crumble over the the contents of our tortillas.  Surprisingly good.

I think this is where Brooke bought a variety of bottled, fresh-made juices, combinations of various fruits and vegetable juices I'd never heard of.

Just one of several meals we ate out

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The most memorable sunrise of my life

This entry consists of pictures taken on the two mornings when we watched the sun come up on Cozumel.  Brooke took us to some sort of park where we were the only ones there: it was perfect.  There was an open-air bar, closed of course, but with lots of chairs for us to sit in and ponder.  Brooke said there's no electricity there, so they use a generator at the bar for their electrical needs.  

I have seen many lovely sunrises in my life, but there was something about it being "just us" together, dwarfed by the vastness of the ocean, that was truly unforgettable.  

My daughter, Rachel, was celebrating five years cancer free.

There was a swing, one that I could actually use without pain!  These days when everything has to be so safe, swing seats are usually a piece of rubber or plastic, so if the seat hits somebody in the head it won't hurt them.  Maybe those work for children, or anyone with a smaller rear end than mine, but my butt needs a solid board to sit on when I swing; this one had it!  What a wonderful feeling of freedom, swinging at the ocean's edge.  Words don't describe it.  

This was my special "alone time" section of the beach.  The first morning there, I sat on one of those rocks, sang a couple verses of "How Great Thou Art", and thought big, deep thoughts.  When I joined the others, Rachel asked, "Were you meditating?"  "Nope," I said.  "I would have had to close my eyes, and I didn't want to do that."

Can you see me?

When I looked at my footprints in the sand, then saw the waves roll in and wipe them out, I realized that's how life is.  You're here and then you're gone... without a trace.  Rachel found that concept depressing, but it's what she gets for letting a senior citizen tag along on her vacation; we tend to have those solemn, end-of-life thoughts.

For the rest of my life, this is the portion of our visit I will treasure most when I remember Cozumel.  The truly defining moments for me.  I'm so grateful to these three people for making it happen.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Scenes from Cozumel

After the backpack was found, our visit to Cozumel took a turn for the better.  I'm just going to ramble through some unsorted items in this entry.
This is the ferry that took us to Cozumel on the evening of our first day.

I went on this trip fully expecting to be without Internet, but because Rachel and Kevin have unlimited service with T-Mobile, I was able to use their phones as a "hot spot", and got fairly good service most of the time.  Also, there's a little open-air restaurant/bar on the beach not far from Brooke.  She's friends with the proprietors, and we went there in the evenings to watch the sun set.  They had excellent wi-fi, so we took advantage of that at times during our stay.
taken at the end of our first full day on Cozumel

I realize people who live near a large body of water probably aren't impressed by the sound of waves at sunset, but it's a rare event for some of us land-lubbers, so we all took videos.

I'm not doing a day-by-day story of our stay in Mexico, just putting together random happy times.  Pueblo Del Maiz was a real hit with all of us.  Brooke hadn't even seen it before, since she doesn't spend money on touristy things.  We were in a group by ourselves for the tour, learning how Mayans lived; so with no huge crowd waiting in line, our 45-minute tour stretched to at least an hour-and-a-half.  You can find an article about the place HERE, or read the reviews on Tripadvisor.  Any of our group would recommend it.
Our guide through Pueblo Del Maiz
  Brooke, me, Kevin, and Rachel with one of our guides

We made chocolate, ate honey made by tiny bees with no sting, and other interesting stuff.  Brooke and Rachel made tortillas.

Of course we ate.  And ate.  And ate.  

And I took pictures of things like a Mexican 7-11...

and strange little vehicles.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The day we landed in Mexico

First, brothers and sisters, I want to share a passage with you from the Message version of the Bible.

Luke 15:8-10The Message (MSG)

The Story of the Lost Coin

8-10 “Or imagine a woman who has ten coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and scour the house, looking in every nook and cranny until she finds it? And when she finds it you can be sure she’ll call her friends and neighbors: ‘Celebrate with me! I found my lost coin!’ Count on it—that’s the kind of party God’s angels throw every time one lost soul turns to God.”
After our plane landed we made it through customs just fine, and soon found Brooke waiting for us outside.  We said our hellos and she proceeded to lead us to the bus that would take us from Cancun to the ferry, which would then take us to Cozumel.  All the way toward the bus stop, taxi drivers pleaded for our business, and one of them got Brooke's attention.  She talked to him awhile (although she says she can't speak the language) and told us he had a better offer.  So we got in the van-taxi with our luggage and away we went.  When we got within walking distance of the ferry, the driver pulled up and we climbed out.  I was being very careful to get all my stuff, since Cliff was certain I'd lose something.  He had, in fact, instructed Kevin to look after me.  Kevin and I were in the back seat.  He got out on the passenger side and stood waiting for me to slide over and get out.  I picked up my purse and carry-on bag, laid my suitcase in the seat, and glanced down to see if I was forgetting anything.  Nope, the only thing I noticed was Kevin's backpack on the floor against the door at my left.  Keep that little detail in mind.    

We had more luggage than you would think, because Rachel and Kevin took a bed with them.  It was a fold-up bed with an air mattress; the whole works went into a bag and weighed fifty pounds, so it counted as checked baggage.  Kevin has bad knees and a not-so-great shoulder, and wouldn't have had much fun getting up and down off the floor to sleep on an air mattress.  So here we have three people toting five checked bags, two backpacks, and my carry-on bag, not to mention my purse.  We were two or three blocks away from the van we rode in on when Kevin stopped in his tracks and said, "Rachel... do you have my backpack?"  

She didn't, and they started scrambling to look for it.  That's when I remembered it had been on the floor at my feet, and began kicking myself for being so self-centered as to not hand it to Kevin before I got out.  Brooke and Kevin turned back, hurrying in hopes the taxi would still be there.  Rachel and I waited with the pile of luggage.  It wasn't long before they came back, looking very gloomy.  The taxi was gone.  Now what happened beyond this point, I'm not sure of.  Brooke pointed to a nice little park, sort of like a town square, and suggested Rachel and I wait there.  She was going to get a ride back to the airport and see if she find our cab driver.  I don't even recall if Kevin went with her.  For a long time it was just Rachel and me sitting there, then later Kevin joined us.  Rachel asked him exactly what was in the backpack, and it was pretty much everything you have to have:  prescription meds, passport, and some extra money.  And this was Mexico.  Everybody's heard the stories, right?

We did have something to distract us, although we were too concerned to enjoy it much.
These guys marched around the pole while one of them played a flute.  Then they climbed to the top of the pole.  Brooke shared a link in a comment below.  It tells a little about these guys:  Click HERE.

And then they went round and round.
The first three times we watched this, it was interesting.  Every time one of them passed the hat at the end, one of us tried to toss in some change.  After two or three hours, though, we lost interest in the whole proceeding and went back to our grieving process.  

While going through my pictures after I got home, I saw I had unwittingly captured a portrait of two people who were about as low as anyone can get.

At some point Kevin joined Brooke again, the taxi-driver drove up with a huge smile on his face, Kevin had his backpack, and nothing was missing.  Kevin gave the driver a generous tip, and our vacation was saved from ruin.  The lost was found, and I, for one, felt like partying like those angels do over a lost soul.  

By the time we got on the ferry it was dark and we were hungry, but happy.  What a way to start a vacation!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Brooke, my friend in Mexico

Before I do other blog entries about our brief trip to Cozumel, I feel it's necessary to introduce you to the lady who gave us free room and board at her home.

I've always referred to Brooke as "my daughter's friend" or "my daughter's best friend".  Rachel and Brooke say they are one another's "person".  If you've ever watched Grey's Anatomy, you know that means far more than friend.  To me, it means two people connected at the heart.  It's one of those connections you rarely run into, and I am happy my daughter found such a friend.  I'm not sure I have what it takes to be such a friend to anybody, honestly.    
My daughter (on the left) and Brooke, taken a couple of years ago
Now that I've spent quality time with her, I refer to her as "my friend Brooke" when I talk about her, because we spent lots of time chatting in the cab of the pickup while my daughter and son-in-law were riding in the back, and I got to know her better.  We had met previously, but we became better acquainted during the recent visit to Mexico.
This is how my daughter and her husband rode around the Island.  I sat in front with Brooke.
Brooke lived in Japan for ten years and learned the language.  She's lived in other interesting places around the world, having been in our Armed Forces.  I have wanted her to do a guest entry in my blog for a long time, to share the story about how she ended up in Mexico, but I'll give it to you in a nutshell:  She thought she might be dying, and decided to live out the rest of her life in her favorite location in the world:  Cozumel.

Brooke had been there many times before.  She loves scuba diving, which I think is one thing that drew her to the island.  Anyway, she made up her mind she was going to go to Cozumel come hell or high water.  She worked three jobs in Texas, living frugally and putting back all the money she possibly could, finally heading to this Shangri-La in her pickup with what belongings she could stow with her two dogs (one pregnant) accompanying her.  I've heard parts of the saga of her trip south through Mexico, but I won't attempt to tell them.  Let's just say you won't hear about many women driving alone through Mexico.

Brooke said she's been called a hippy, and I believe that describes her well.  Free spirit is another term that works.    

Since she moved to Cozumel, she has learned some ways to naturally treat her symptoms and is so much better that she's now planning to apply for a work visa.  She figured when she moved south that she would be able to stay two years, but with a job, she'd be able to look farther down the road.  She shares some of the magical, living potions she makes, as well as her sour-dough bread, with friends.
Some of Brooke's magical, living, breathing potions.  It's a good thing she has a spare refrigerator.
She lives frugally, without television, hot water, or Internet.  Her home is very basic.  She sleeps in a hammock and has folding lawn chairs for herself and her guests to sit on; if you stay with her for 24 hours, she'll have you trained to turn off lights when you're done with them.  In the year she's been in Cozumel, she has learned to speak Spanish, although she isn't satisfied with her level of fluency.  From what I've seen, she carries on a conversation with the natives quite well, only occasionally struggling to think of the right word or phrase.  ("I can't speak Spanish," she protested upon reading this... whatever.)  One of my favorite things about our visit was watching her shop for food.  I shadowed her through every tiny shop and grocery store she entered.  She introduced me to mangos, and once she found out all three of her visitors loved that fruit, she kept a fresh supply daily, cutting them into bite-sized pieces for us and even sending some in baggies for us to eat as we waited in the airport at Cancun.

There is a sheep farm on one side of her home.  For a couple of hours in the evening when it's close to their suppertime, you hear constant bleating.  Everyone around the neighborhood has "yard chickens", mostly skinny, long-legged game hens.  Any time after 3 AM in the morning you'll hear roosters crowing all around.
the sheep farm
I thought I had a picture of the house of ill repute around a nearby corner, but can't locate it just now.  

Brooke never locks her door when she leaves, or when she turns in for the night.  She figures her dogs will keep predators away.  When she parks in town, she leaves the doors unlocked and the key in the ignition.  

That's a brief description of my friend, Brooke.  I felt I needed to introduce you to her before I began sharing my experiences in Cozumel, because without her, the trip to Mexico wouldn't have happened.  

Sunday, March 05, 2017

It's almost time!

I'm packed and ready to go to Cozumel.  I slept well last night, so I guess I'm past the worrying phase.  I won't be on the Internet much once I get to Mexico, although I might pop in and say hello to my Facebook friends once or twice using my daughter's phone as a hot spot.  The whole purpose of a vacation is to get away from the usual routine, so it's good for me to be "unconnected" awhile.  I hope I have plenty of stories for a blog entry or two when I get home.  I'll try to take notes.  

Sometimes I think my morning meditation sessions are nothing more than a time-waster (except for how peaceful I feel afterward).  Other times I realize I've learned a lot, the main thing being not to expect things to be a certain way, but to be surprised by whatever happens and accept each moment as it comes.  This second is all we have, and that's how I intend to approach the visit to Cozumel.  I forget this more often than I remember it, but sometimes, magic happens.  I'll give you an example with this story I related on Facebook:

Picture this scenario: Cora's parents were here tending to horses and working with a punctured trailer tire, so Cora came to our house to visit. She and Cliff played with her new, tiny legos awhile, then we decided to have a marching band outside, as we sometimes do. Cora distributed instruments. She gave Cliff the drum, I got maracas, and she played the harmonica. I fastened the Amazon Tap to the hammer-loop of Cliff's overalls, turned up the volume, and told it to playJohn Phillip Sousa songs. Cora led us around to the back yard, so when her parents came to the front door to get her, nobody answered the door. Then we marched around toward the front yard where Cora stopped long enough to find a tambourine to hand to her dad. What could he do but start marching with us! Her mom was laughing and taking a video, but she was soon elected to play the frog, and away we went.

If you should come to visit us and see a child and two old folks marching around the yard to the tunes of John Phillip Sousa, be forewarned that you WILL be added to the band.

If the phrase "play the frog" confused you, here's a picture of the wooden frog.  You pulled the stick out of its mouth and rub it on the frog's bumpy spine and it sounds vaguely like a frog croaking.

I believe I was the one who impulsively suggested we "march".  There was no agenda when I mentioned it, it just happened moment by moment.  It was nice outside and we have marched outside before on unseasonably warm days.  Cora grabbed the box of instruments and carried them all out the door, and then magic took place.  I call it magic because when I looked at the faces, we adults were smiling like crazy; only Cora was dead serious as she led her band of misfits.  I suppose you could call it a zen moment.  

What if, when I don't get coffee immediately upon waking, like I'm accustomed to, I look outside myself and notice the world around me?  What am I missing when I worry about what I'm going to do next and whether it will turn out as expected?  Plenty, I'm sure.  This is where we can take a lesson from small children, who are never concerned with who is president or when they're going to die or if they'll have Alzheimer's or if somebody might think they're weird.  Kids let themselves be surprised by each new moment.

Now, I'm going to make sure my daughter reads this so she can remind me if I get "out of the moment" on this vacation.


Friday, March 03, 2017

Worry wart

I'm alive and well, but not especially thrilled right now.  I went to my Mac Mini computer this morning for the first time in a couple of days and it wouldn't let me log into my account.  The first thing I did was check to see if my caps lock was on, because usually that's the problem when the computer refuses my password.  But no.  So I chose the "switch accounts" option and tried to log Cliff in.  Nothing doing.  I googled the problem, which apparently isn't so uncommon with the Mac, but I didn't understand any of the solutions given.  All of the instructions were way over my head.  

These days I use the iPad most of the time, only going to the computer to pay bills or do blog entries.  So much for whatever I was going to write about in my blog, because now I'm too frustrated to recall what my subject was going to be.  I'm doing this entry with my user account on Cliff's laptop, which has a missing screw and is going to fall apart if I don't take care of that situation at some point.  I've often wondered if my husband had a screw loose; after all, he married me!  

We went to my cousin's graveside service Sunday.  He passed away the evening of the same day I first wrote the double blog entry about him.  It was a nice service, and it was good to see Gerald's children and grandchildren.  

My parents always swore that funerals come in threes.  At my age, I can see why that would be true.  We're dying like flies! 

I sleep fairly well these days, usually getting six to seven hours of shut-eye each night.  I always wake up at least three times nightly, but I generally go back to sleep with no problem.  This week, though, I've been waking up at 2 AM and lying awake until I finally decide to get up.  I blame my lack of sleep on my upcoming vacation.  

For instance, here's what I overthought about this morning:  I take my coffee seriously, and our hostess doesn't drink coffee.  I have a travel coffee grinder and a coffee press, and seldom use either.  But they don't take up a lot of room, so I packed them for my trip, along with a baggie of coffee beans.  Then I thought to myself, "I could probably buy coffee beans in Mexico.  Isn't that where Juan Valdez is from?"  But wait, I like creamer in my coffee; so I filled a container with Coffeemate and packed that too.  At 2 this morning it occurred to me that I will be carrying a "powdered substance" in my baggage.  Does coffee creamer look like cocaine?  Is it possible it will be seized as a possible drug?  Do they even sell Coffeemate in Cozumel?  Because I wouldn't mind buying it.   But there are no graham crackers there... I know this because Brooke told my daughter to bring graham crackers with us so we can have S'mores on the beach.  So maybe there's no coffee creamer either.  

After I was done worrying about that, I started thinking about my passport.  One of the papers that came with it suggested I sign it immediately, but I see no place for a signature.  Am I supposed to just autograph it anywhere?  

And then for awhile I pondered those little poisonous creatures on the beach that bite people; what about them?  Will they be a problem?

You can see how ridiculous this is.  Now, one would think that I could just meditate my way out of this cycle of worrying, right?  I meditate every morning and feel much better for it, so much so that I make it a priority.  So why not meditate my way out of this worrying in the middle of the night?  For some reason I just can't get into meditation while lying in bed; I've tried.  Maybe if I'd just get up, go to my usual meditation chair, and let go of my concerns; but then I'd be wide awake when I was done, and I really, really want to sleep.  

Tonight I'll have something else to worry about when I wake up:  I'm locked out of my computer!

 Yesterday I sent my daughter a rambling message like this:  "how much cash should I take along... can I use a credit card down there... I'll pay the airport parking... never mind, I called the credit card company... does Brooke have Internet... oh yeah I remember we talked about that..."

Yeah.  And that's only half of my one-sided conversation to myself that my daughter had to attempt to decipher.  

So wish me luck, as well as my daughter and her husband.  I hope I remember to take a sleep aid of some sort tonight.