May 25, 2009

Memorial Day - Pool updated!

The shade cloth roof above the pool cried out for more greenery. Carmen procured the heat resistant wind tolerant palms, about seven more, that have been potted and placed near the pool, to provide afternoon shade. What water is cool cool cool, keeping closer to overnight lows than daytime highs. It's a good thing. Thanks guys!
What's Memorial Day without a pool update? A real holiday to honor US Veterans! Mio is walking with American Legion Post 350 Auxiliary this morning back home in Malvern!

May 21, 2009

Dodging ghosts in Cancun

On the way to the airport with Johanna, Carlos dropped me off at the Walmart Superama. I was not impressed, even though it had a nice selection of imported foods. It was shorter on salad fixin's than the one in downtown Cancun and was just a food store, so more shopping would be reguired.
By the looks of Walmart, it is business as usual. But the hotel zone is nearly abandoned
We went to the downtown Walmart for Bendettos' personal pan pizzas. Very yummy with sesame seeds on the edge of the crust. 30 pesos. Then to Europa, quick, and Costco for bulk cheese and a big pack of tuna for less than 10 pesos a can.
On our way back, I wanted to see the racoon/mongoose hide out in Puerto Juarez. These critters were imported when Cancun was being built to beat back the snakes
So the next trip to Cancun, Carlos is going to bring the tortillas which he says they just love! And I'll have a full report of the critters that rid the den of snakes (Can Cun in Maya) of its snakes.

May 19, 2009

In the midst of a waning pandemic

I was born in 1954, more than a decade before a cure for tuberculosis would be found. But its spread was already on the decline in the robust post-War economy that provided better nutrition and housing for most.
My father was a tuberculosis specialist since World War II, when he treated the displaced persons who found themselves in the British zone of Germany. He was a British Red Cross doctor.
After being chief resident at Seaview Hospital in Staten Island, NY, he came to Ohio to be a doctor at Molly Stark hospital and tuberculosis controller for Stark County. He skin tested at schools for TB exposure and we sat by the radio to see if levies to support the hospital would pass.
My playmates were children recovering from TB and no longer communicable. Usually, they were black and poor. I grew up without prejudice as dad took me to Mexican migrant worker camps, also looking for TB.
Molly Stark mirrored the tuberculosis sanatoriums built by the WPA in the depression. Now, Molly Stark is about to become a park in the great Canton OH Stark County Parks system.
The hospital was bordered by a small forest that produced three or four varieties of edible mushrooms and on its edge was a small cemetery whose grave stones were turning to sqand back then, nearly 50 years ago. The campus had a steam boiler that heated all the structures, and ran the steam pipes to them in tunnels, tunnels that I could bicycle on rainy days.
What once was the children hospital, and later residences for a couple doctors, was eventually turned over to Civil Defense. The Nurses Home, where I practiced my piano lessons, became home to the Stark County Board of Education, whose offices I visited coming to and from the piano. Any wonder why I was good at being an edudation reporter later in life?
So here is a link to the wreckage of my past. I hope you find it interesting.

May 18, 2009

My childhood tree

When I was little, this sycamore tree was my tree house! Now that a park is being built on the grounds of the old Molly Stark Tuberculosis Hospital, east of Canton, OH, they want to tear it down!
I suppose because small kids can still reach the bottom branches, there is a perceived danger in this tree, which could hold a six year old girl out of her Mom's sight line, while she ate a pint of chocolate ice cream the hospital dietician would scoop into a Chinese-style carry out box and not tell Mom.
My brother went to the dedication and ground breaking of this park and there is a link to the property on a newspaper site I will post tomorrow.
A visit to Molly Stark Hospital in ruins is fascinating. A reminder that in the past, a pandemic had to be contained in hospitals that were virtual prisons.

May 15, 2009

Help Mexico

Right now, a good stiff dose of tourism would help! Restaurant freezers being full, the fishermen's cooperatives are not going out, saving gasoline. Vegetable stands are getting bare because there is no one with money to buy stuff once it is transported.
The son-in-law of the feet above was forced to lay off workers at his two restaurants this week. Garrafon laid off 70, Dolphin Discovery 50. The lists go on.
The feet above belong to the head of housekeeping, whose husband is a fisherman. Her son-in-law and daughter have some food staples in the restaurants.
But...when will she be able to buy a nice pair of leather sanals again? Not soon!
When Johanna came a week ago, a week late, she was carrying these shoes for Carmen, that I had bought on eBay as a Mother's Day gift. She was near tears!
I also had bought 1 10 pack of romaine lettuce at Costco for 30 pesos. I gave her 2 for the grandchildren. Little things in addition to pay.
If you think H1N1 is the killer flu, think again. It is the tour agencies and airlines that made the decision, misreading WHO and CDC warnings, and cancelled flights and tours to the region. If people don't start coming back, real, intractable suffering will deepen. And it is not the fault of a virus. It is the fault of ignorance!
My Facebook friends and I are involved in a campaing to Help Mexico. You do not need to send aid. You need to come if you can and tell your friends that no, the resort towns never had a case of swine flu and Mexico is beautiful!

May 14, 2009

Rishi's Spiral life

Even a 20 years, twice a year, visitor to Isla Mujeres like Johanna finds new things to explore! So we headed out to Rishi Sowa's Sprial Island the night before last for quick tour and a few songs, dedicated to us, made up from one work we picked.
But first, we had to wait for him to come home. Across the street from a hostel were the bags of plasctic bottles intended to keep the island floated and spiraling as the mangrove roots planted clean the water. We rode over on the ferry behind Johanna's right shoulder.

Sowa as a glass and mirrors oven he bakes a cookie/cake in and offered us a beverage made with orange juice and fermented sugar cane juice. He took us all around the island and Johanna climbed to the top, via an sand and stone stair case.
After the full tour, an explanation of the septic and solar systems, we sat inside, where Rishi sang and told us more stories about this island, in it's third reconstruction, which will soon be licensed as a barge, making it legal to park virtually anyway. But the protected waters of Lagua Makaax are perfect! Who'd want to leave Isla Mujeres even if you had your own island!

May 12, 2009

REALLY slow!

I stayed home and cooked with my buddy and continued to fix lamps while Johanna went to town. She was shocked. Eight people at the beach, three of then in the water, two at Jax and 5 shopping in Centro. Hola, there is no H1N1 here!
We assured ourselves that night would be better and decided to go to Miquel's. Being sort of a sports bar, he had hockey on and the crowd inside kept growing and the rest of us sat outside. About 25 in all.
He was busier than Rolandi's, probably partly because his street isn't torn up, and than any of the other places we saw.
Ran into a couple of the May crowd, who had checked into Maria Letiticia, did a week at the Avalon, and are going back to Maria Leticia today.
Johanna is going to invite them to join us on our visit to Spiral Island for sunset. Ritchie Sowa's island of plastic botttles has been adding more, collected off the streets by my buddy, who's been putting them in saddle bags. Now, there is a sound fish het with closed tubs floating it while the saddle bags get pulled right it in.
It will be an interesting side trip for Johanna, who met with the bead ladies yesterday afternoon before heading into town. Meet again with them Thursday to produce the beads they asked her to buy.
The kids are being screened as they return to school. 10 were sent home yesterday for either having a cold or running a fever. Attendance is up this morning, too.
But unless people start coming back to the island, there will be no buyers of their necklaces!

May 11, 2009

Return to normal....for residents of Isla Mujeres

Kafri is a high school girl who lives on my side street. This morning, 5 minutes before the 7am start of school, she was the last kid to catch a cab to school! But she made it.
Teachers had put in extra time sanitizing their buildings over the weekend, just to make sure any germs were gone. Not that anyone has come down the the H1N1 virus on Isla Mujeres.
However, if reservations to not resume, I do fear for the health of Islenos. Already fruit purchases are down. Instead of building up the immune system, cheap food is being eaten and it is less nutritious.
The pulled pork vendors were a long way from sell out at 9am yesterday. Johanna and I had our breakfast tacos around the corner at Elena's, after running Lora with the golf cart.
We had lunch ad Soggy Pesos and there were even less people than last week. Johanna then went to Centro looking for the May crowd, only to find apartments and small hotels with no guests at all.
It's just not right! There are more cases of the H1N1 flu in the US than in Mexico and there are none for hundreds of miles from here! The old flu shots did build immunity for it and a hotelier faulted the media for not saying so. But I learned it from on line newspapers!

May 9, 2009

Maya Calendar Girls Serial Novel

Golf cart flu now blue

Last Sunday, at the height of panico-demico, I took a ride toward town, thinking brunch. At the high speed bump new the ball fields, my windshield dropped and the aluminum frame cracked. Actually broke at the base at two points.
The roof was also dependant on what broke, but I just grabbed the windshield I had driven over when it fell, I opted for Soggy Peso baby back ribs and chicken, a smaller plate than the two slab standard! I plenty of leftovers for dogging trick training! Lora sits real pretty now, with both front paws in the air.
There were about 30 people when I was there, a far cry away from the couple hundred or so that Mal, Sal, Fredy and Yeyo serve on a typical Sunday. Swine flu panic at that point had killed no one in Quintana Roo but tourism.
Properly fed, and a bit socialized, I came home holding onto one side of the cart to keep the roof up.
My buddy came by and we came up with a plan: get new frame parts from a golf cart cemetery.
When he left, I thought, OMG, it's something he has not done before.
I picked up the phone and called Wilberth, my golf cart mechanic. He raced right over.
Said galvanized steel, primed and spray painted black would be the way to go at a cost of 400 pesos, about $30US, to the little old man who still fabricates out of his home.
While he was dismantling the roof support, he said the top should be painted now, now that the cart is 10 years old! With an oil based paint in spray gun, fffft, y ya! Done. Were it to continue unpainted, sun and salt "chemo" would cause it to break eventually!
The whole process took several days and several people who wanted to visit didn't because they didn't see the golf cart. It was in the carport, but without a roof, you really could see it unless you went right up to the house.
My buddy took care of it when it came home, ArmorAll-ing the seats and seams, floor, body. superwashing the windshield, treating the tires with ArmorAll too!
So, it's all better now. Some day. Wilberth will pick it up to paint the remaining aluminum black, for show. To make it look like a post millennium model!

May 8, 2009

Throwing cement

My neighbor across the street, Federico was bored during the Swine Flu outbreak way north of here. So, he decided to rearrange his windows. On the left side of the screen, you see a house and stores that need repainted. I was a day late taking the picture, since a big hole had already been knocked out of the wall.
Now your see the progress and where he was heading: Puma Palace! Federico is a big Puma team fan in Mexican football. The colors are gold and blue.

When my brother was here, he exclaimed at one point: "There's a lot of money here!" Why? Because of all the cement. Well, for us, changing a wall is like hanging new curtains. Not all that expensive if you have the right masons!
So during the H1N1 scare, I had an old Mexican acquaintance do some work for me too. He painted around the new meter tower and around the pool, where the carpenter built a shade cloth roof and wall. He drained the apartments' water storage tinaco and bleach-washed inside, and refiled twice to drain the crud. He also cleared my pickle and zucchini plants and sowed seeds for chard and cantelope.
Coming soon: an update on my golf cart!

May 7, 2009

Category 5 doldrums

Mexicans are free to go back to work and non essential government jobs, since the H1N1 flu virus appears to have been slowed through social isolation. That, for the past 10 days or so, was the unwritten rule!
But now, we are free to sit in a crowded restaurant, if only we could find one!
I went to Centro this morning to pay the water bill and enjoy some of Lenora's chilaquiles at Alexia and Geovanny's. I took the long way in, past the church and hospital, past Manana and Ciro's. When I took my table, I looked around the loncherias and among the few customers there were five non-Mexicans and then Donna Jane came in. With me about 8 now!
Afteward, I went to pay the water bill. I saw two people at Jax as I drove by. That was it for my gringo head count.
All in all, Isla Mujeres feels like it did after the three-day hit of Category 5 hurricane Wilma! It is dead.
I cooked in the last two days, saving money to pay the guy who washed out the apartments' water tank, dug up failed zuccini, washed the deck, painted over stains.
At breakfast, I shared a table with Luis, the bartender at Sergio's. He pointed to a newspaper, Sunday's, that showed empty beaches. They are going to be that way again today.
I guess every Mexican dark cloud has a silver lining. The government is giving property owners tax abatements in the form of credit on last years monthly declarations as reconciled on annual returns filed. Also, a 25 percent discount on health insurance paid by employers. All in all, the average small business stands to gain 2500 pesos. Aren't you all glad I pay an accountant to file all the declarations and pursue the rebate?
That is the kind of government action that helped islenos build second stories after Wilma. Now there are also low interest loans available for that sort of thing.
Meanwhile, at the ferry dock, everyone is having their temperature taken with infrared thermometers, coming and going. Despite advise to eat more greens and vegetables, there were few takers when the fruit truck came by yesterday, and almost no veggie ladies on the corners this morning. So I am picking the India spinach and being creative, using it in omlets, salads and soups.
I kind of like the island without a lot of tourist and the favors we are doing for each other. Reminds me of post Wilma days.
My headline of a post earlier "Under the inluenza" is catching on here. Baja la inluecia translates to under the influence, a commonly used phrase in Mexico. Baja la influneza will be our state for a while.

May 2, 2009

Our little tempest

There is enough information out there about the distribution of H1N1/A, aka swine flu, that fueling panic by one's ill informed concerns serves no purpose.
There is a very competent doctor, Dr. Antonio Coronado, a man of conscience, in charge of investigating and reporting findings for our region of the state of Quintana Roo. Two corrupt administrations ago, he was believed to have been the victor in the municipal election that set into motion the various questionably attained developments on the island. Largely because of his honesty and human compassion, he overwhelmingly carried the neighborhoods in the popular vote for presidente, or mayor.
Now, as a health official for a government of his party, eventually victorious, he is in charge of investigating and reporting the potential emergence of the H1N1/A virus.
On a popular message board, a woman has said she has no faith in the reporting of health statistics, expressing her belief that they are tied to the tourism bureau. That is certainly her opinion, but just that.
Dr. Coronado, an ob-gyn, delivered many of the children on the island, His interest is not in tourism, but in protecting those children, not only from the influenza, but from the panic of their mothers.
It is easy to bash the medical delivery system in Mexico. Supplies are often hard to come by and expensive. But the government has a history of rallying in crisis.
After Hurricane Wilma, we were all given the opportunity for tetanus shots, flu shots, updates of hepatitis inoculation. Lack of money from the patients was no barrier. I expect no less than the same should there be an outbreak of swine flu here.
No good is served by expressing unfounded fears in public forums, or seeing plots where none exist. It is another good day in paradise.

May 1, 2009

Under the Influenza

The Skippers' Reception at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club's El Sol Del Sol Regatta yesterday was under the influence of influenza. It was Day of the Child in Mexico, the day Regatta participants have come to enjoy giving presents to children. Today, the boaters were to have taken the island's children aboard their boats for a race to Cancun and back.
The alternate plan is to race six boats in the name of each of the public schools and give the shool directors the gifts for the children. As the nation enters the first day of a total shutdown - no non essential government offices are to be opened, restaurants are being limited in seating, we are to practice social isolation - it's hard not to feel victimized. We are also taking an financial hit!
There have been no case of H1N1 influenza in Quintana Roo or Yucatan, two states with vibrant economies heavily dependent on tourism and culture. But we will stay home. Annual tax returns, always hand delivered, will go underlivered today, although my accountant is coming by at 11am for signatures. Tagging the golf cart will wait, too.
The kids, already off school til the 6th, will stay in the neigbhorhoods. A friend I met after the Regatta reception yesterday said it was curious that kids haven't been going to the beach. No, they are under the influenza. In a country where old wives tales abound, there are no cold beverages being enjoyed in my immediate vicinity. Cold beverages are believed to cause so throats.
No, were are under the influenza, to immerge in 5 days. And hopefully then there will be some answers about how we can to be on the verge of a pandemic.