January 30, 2010

Open arms

A week ago, a couple delightful guests were leaving Zina's Guest House. They are working on Isla Mujeres with Cristina Salas, Dr. Salas's wife, in HIV and pregnancy prevention instruction with Isla Mujeres' youth.
Anna Douglas, left, the director of PEACE-Isla Mujeres, had placed Kody and Lena here guest house for a week out of their two month mission on Isla Mujeres.
Next to Anna is Dr. Carlos Cabrera, the director of Abrazos Abiertos, Open Arms, from HIV Yucatan, Kody Dobeck and Lena Noecker, teaching interns and me, at a reception Jan. 22 at Casa Sirena.
The misson: "An educational program designed to reduce the spread of HIV infection and teenage pregnancy in Isla Mujeres by utilizing a peer on peer education program (TEAM Isla), where local youth will have an opportunity to gather together to learn facts about HIV prevention, pregnancy prevention and other sexual health topics in a safe, honest and caring environment. Under the supervision of PEACE Isla Mujeres, two experienced Instructors/Interns from Brazos Abiert (see http://www.hivyucatan.org/en/)will lead the youth groups."
Lena and Kody stayed up late with their lesson plans and left the apartment in the mornings armed with carrots and condoms, heading for the secondary school.
Their youthful looks are on their side in gaining the confidence of Isla Mujeres youth, vulnerable to teen age pregrancy and HIV because of ignorance and custom. Thanks for your work Abrazos Abiertos! And PEACE!

January 29, 2010

A day in the sun

Today is my day in the sun, even if it's party cloudy! Sergio's weekly maintenance of the roof top patio of Zina's Guest House has paid off!
The plants are lush. In the northwest corner, he's added a little shade roof with curtains. For night time, there is a cloth shaded lamp. The picture below at dawn gives y0u an idea.
So after putting on a pot of salmon chowder, I am up and out of here. Up to the roof top!

January 28, 2010

Acting out

Boca has taken my illness out on her "Brother." They had a nice relationship in which she would depants him and chew his tail. Now this.
She has not been able to get much attention from me in my misery. So, like any kid in the same boat, she acted out. Now there is no brother.
I am still not with it. In cleaning the table top today, I discovered I had not taken the third dose of the original Z Pack. So, I'll take it tomorrow.
I have been moving slowly today. I made a quick meatloaf. It tastes good and will store well. Later today, I will start a Crock Pot yogurt. I have decided to add an envelope of Knox gelatin to the warm milk as I mix in yogurt to get it started. That should resolve the separation of milkd solids and water.
I'm going to need that yogurt after all this misdosing and prolonged dosing with antibiotics. And Boca, she's done acting out now that I am up and coughing.
Carmen told me to make a tea strongly reinforced with crushed garlic, cinnamon and honey and lime. Seems very expectorant. That cough so disturbs Boca!

January 25, 2010

Sorry, I have been sick

I have been the sickest in recent, ok not so recent even, memory. A deep chest cold that has kidnapped me for a week.
A Z-Pack put me on the road to recovery, but I am not there yet.
I have pictures, I have stories. I have no inclination to fiddle with either. Sorry. I hope to be back in the saddle by Wednesday. And yet, today, I have friends coming for lunch, a birthday dinner tonight and LoLo's Woman's Club tomorrow. There's just no time to blog if I were so inclined and had enough patience to fiddle with pictures. Hope you understand.

January 20, 2010

Smart shoppers: Economic impact

The new SuperXpress opened in La Gloria today, possibly changing forever the way islanders do business. It is from the same corporation that has operated the supermarket in Centro for a decade. But it means that people can save the 20 peso round trip by cab to get their groceries.
There are a lot of other options in the neighborhood that will have to rise to the occasion to stay in business. The little tiendas which people are accustomed to going to when they need an egg or a CocaCola. The veggie ladies on the corners, the green grocer in his shop and the stalls in the market. The fruit truck that drives by.
After shopping at opening this morning, spending 35 pesos for a kilo of chicken thighs, romaine lettuce, a cucumber, 8 limes and a diet Squirt, I bet they will.
Folks were like me, shopping the advertised baratisimo specials. The will shop for the loss leaders. They will go to the Mercado in Canotal for the variety the Maya growers bring.
The little tiendas will stay open, selling things from Sam's and Costco. Who will suffer? The cabbies who'll lose the fares to Centro and back. The tourist will pay higher fares to keep their families fed. That's how I see it.

January 19, 2010

Down in the dumps

My rose colored glasses were throbbing red yesterday as I developed a flu-ish chest cold and reconciled life here.
It has been a difficult year with no end in sight. It took a sharp turn for the worse in December. Government subsidies to the gasoline industry had been cut, so moving produce is more expensive than ever before. Most of those products are also more expensive because of a 70 year drought.
Government support of the government-owned electric company has been cut, so power is more expensive than ever before. I stared at a bill yesterday that said 24 pesos a kWh and could not tell whether a 1500 peso "transfer of power" charge was part of it.
We have a "progressive' system in which you are charge in usage levels. Both properties hit level 3.
We are coping with a rise in natural gas prices. The supplier no longer plays a happy tune off the trucks as they roll into neighborhoods. I have three tanks, two of them full. And I will manage. But people without refrigerators use gas to recook their meals several times a day. Factories that produce canned goods have also raised their prices as a result.
Gasoline has gone up a big chunk of change per litre as well. The ferry prices are so high many locals have had to give up better paying jobs on the mainland because they couldn't break even.
As a result of this, the market basket has gone up 20-45 percent in the last month. That's the measure of the cost of 45 essential items ranging from milk and oil to flour and corn meal. The price of tortillas alone rose 33 percent last month.
I am grumpy over all this. I am was even more grumpy when I got an email from 8 women who wanted to stay to two weeks and asked if I could discount further when one of them stays on.
Now, the apartments were never meant to house 4 adult women for two weeks at $300 and change a week. Two adults and two children willing to make adjustments works. Not four sets of towels, four showers a day multiplied...lights and hair dryers running, not thinking.
The tax we pay on rental income, before we pay income tax, has gone up from 12 percent to 16 percent. That is before all taxpayers, Mexicans and foreigners, pay a general income tax.
I am sorry for being so blunt. But several property owners and I have been whispering over the last month or so about how difficult it is and how selfish the prospective vacationers are being, making deposits, canceling and demanding their money back, for example. I won't carp about this, but I do want people to know that we have a serious gap in paradise here.
I hope it feels a bit better after my fever drops. But it won't change the reality.

January 15, 2010

Just a skinned knee, now leave me alone!

Boca's encounter with a moped two days ago is but a memory and a scab. Elbow, knee, whatever you call them on dogs, was skinned.
She got an anti inflammatory and an antibiotic from Delfino, who came back 48 hours later and said she licked it well and needed no further treatment; no other injuries were found.
Now, we have issues. She has no street experience. Has never pooped or peed in a street. She is learning to open and close the back door so the doggie diapers can move to over a drain hole in the patio. But she needs some respect for the street. Can't really get that as a passenger in a golf cart. Sooooo....leash training? Obviously good. Street dogs might bother us. She is defenselss. Mom can beat them away, but vehicles?
The sound of cars and trucks scare her. That might be enough, but motos? What to do? We'll wait for Franny to get here and go to the beach house and think it over as she meets some beach dogs.
She got a tick repellan shot from Delfino yesterday, so now she is ready for those out of the way beaches!
Boca good doggy. Boca not street smart at all.

January 13, 2010

Speak English to Me!

Gladys, Kate and I talked about this man as the sun set. We all know him as El Centro. I knew his name once. Actually, he lives in La Gloria, but he goes to El Centro looking for food, or a cheap bottle of Mayacol, a rot gut rum that sells in 10 peso bottles looking like medicine.
He is diabetic and walks with canes. After I checked out of the Ixchel Penthouse, I went to the Navy commissary for apartment supplies, then stopped at the Municipal Mercado for some greens.
El Centro was eating salvaged Roscoe from Three Kings Day, just the day before.
He shared a piece with me and with the pigeons. How are you? Me I am fine. Good morning. I watch your things.
And he does watch my things often when I am in town. I give him 10 pesos. He pronounced the mission complete. Nobody took your stuff.
It is a nice day. Me? I feel good. Want more Roscoe?
No, I'm afraid I'll get the infant. Ah, there is no infant.
That is why they give me the Roscoe.
This is an example of a man many consider a derelict bettering himself. He always gets a lesson out of conversations. He wants to learn English. He knows his future is communicating in English to people with golf carts who might want their stuff watched.
Kids with bright futures deserve the chance to learn English well and with dignity, so they don't have to beg and may enter true careers that will require multilingualism. Please see Maggie at the English school for the lottery on Penthouse 709.
Donna and Mark Caffo have been so generous offering a stay in their unit. Chances are sold in $10US tickets, that get you two chances. Drawing is scheduled for April or earlier if she sells out.

January 12, 2010

Skyline chill

During most of the 90s, I lived on the 17th floor of an 18 story apartment building on Lake Erie. I always liked hanging out on my balcony, tending to my tomato plants, feeding the red finches, hanging over the rail and looking down.
The towny side of the Penthouse level at Ixchel Condos gives a peak into Isla Mujeres' old cemetery, now being augmented by one on the road to Punta Sur.
But the old cemetery is quite and interesting sight from above. The stories buried within!
To the east, a corner of the Convention Center, the Secretreto shoreline, the municipal market...the rest of town. And the rest of town is what benefits from La Gloria English School. I love it's work. I love Mark and Donna's concept of donating a three night stay for a raffle to benefit the Scholarship Program. So I went out and bought 5 tickets ffrom Maggie Washa for a chance to stay another time.
Will I get luck again? Or, will you be blessed. Buying tickets is the only way to tell. And the real winners? The kids!
End of minivacation trip report. Almost. El Centro, learning English on his own, tomorrow.

A specacular sunset

I overslept sunrise on Thursday, so I ordered breakfast from ComoNo room service. "A Perfect breakfast" at around 100 pesos yielded a fruit plate to save for the sunset party, and an extra side of sweet chili sauce made ham and cheese croissant yummy, yummy!
I lazed around the condo; Mary Ann came around noon and gave me a massage. I took a nap on the sofa as I watched the blue sky.
As afternoon evolved, I ordered wings and shrimp in the yummy sweet chili sauce for my sunset guest. Kate and Gladys brought wine and there was dark chocolate.
The sunset was fabulous. Does it get any better than this? Well, maybe if it were a tad warmer!

But all in all, a perfect day. Next, the downtown view from Suite 709

January 11, 2010

So, I left a kitchen behind...

And it was a sweet little kitchenette at Ixchel Condos, but I had to make time to get to the dentist and have a drink with Jen and uncle Dale at Miguel's. I didn't even have a chance to rest on the sofa!

Off to LoLoLorena's. She was making appetizers when I got there. Boca's friend from her outing to Miguel's was there, a lady name Terry. It was a lobster feast at LoLo's, but I never took a photo of the crustacean.
Coming up, the view from the condo!

January 10, 2010

It all started with the dog: My 48 hour vacation

Last Tuesday, before the start of my minication, Jennifer and her uncle Dale came over. This was before my cell phone purchase and pedicure.
Boca immidiately fell in love with this man, who sports a facial her much like hers. Then I bought a cell phone that is way smarter that me. It has an MP3 player, a camera, a video camera and software to computer edit.
At Ixchell Condos, I downloaded the software my second night. The first night, I went to dinner a LoLoLorena's after seeing the denist and having a mojito with Jennifer and Dale.
Then it was dinner at LoLos. LoLo was making appetizers when I got there.
To be continued...

January 7, 2010

Pictures to follow: How I spent a 48 hour vacation

Since we are in the midst of a freight train of cold fronts, it was obvious Tuesday morning that it wasn't going to be a beachy vacation in the NW corner penthouse of Hotel Ixchel, or Ixchel Condominiums as they were first known.
Jenn and her uncle Dale came over in the morning to meet Boca. Dale played with her a lot and she thought she was in heaven! I went across the street to the cell phone store and registered my old cell phone and then bought a new one. It's been four years and the keyboard was starting to be unresponsive. And it never had a download photo capability. For about 1504 pesos, I got another Samsung that uses the same old number with the registry. Yes, the old cell was never registered! Now, they must be using a CURP, a Mexican social security type number Mexicans and foreign taxpayers get. No more untraceable cell phones in the war on drugs, so they say.
Since I registered a couple renters purchases in my name, I decided to make the splurge! The new phone is also an MP3 player that came with photo editing and music ripping software, so I put that all in the suitcase. I took the disc to load the software and register with Samsung.
I then got busy packing up Boca, who was going to work with a dog she first met at
Alison's on a play date three weeks ago and is having some difficulty to adjust to her new life. My dog, the social worker!
I took my Skype phone too, even though I knew I probably could only use it in the lobby. Downside of a penthouse is it's out of range of the wi fi network in the cement jungle!
Not a downside at all! I was forced to rest! Too cold for the pool or the jacuzzi! But, being an optomist, I took my bathing suit. And a copy of Gimme Rewrite, Sweetheart! That's John Tidyman's book about the glory days of newspapering in Cleveland and my contributions to to book appear three times. So, I decided to think of it a Wednesday book signing party! Yes, I invited six people for sunset wine and snacks. The book was a prop and Kate from Las Palmas Hotel brought her brothers, one of whom, Barry, is a writer and now wants to write a short story modeled after a character I met while working rewrite at The Plain Dealer. The late Ed Kissell, E.J., was a legendary police reporter who could not write. But I'm getting off the path here.
So I checked into this gorgeous suite and went directly to the dentist! He said he will go to Cancun Saturday for bone powder since I have healed so nicely but need a little build up of the dip from the two missing teeth...the implant and the molar next to it.
Then I met up with Jenn and Dale again at Miguel's before heading to to LoLoLorena's for dinner. Lobster, split and grilled with directions to take it apart going by joint. I sat with Chris and his wife Chris and talked with their friend Joshua from Cleveland, and his wife, a Hiram College professor.
I tore apart that half lobster! Went back to the condo and fooled around a bit before getting into the bed! A very comfortable bed with a nice TV facing me. That's a loafer's luxury! A cold north wind was blowing and between the sheets and blanket and bedspread, I was OK, until my feet hit the floor in the morning! Then I did what anyone from Cleveland knows do do when there is no heat: Boil water. Actually, if there were a regular oven, I would have turned it on!
Then I took a hot shower while I waited for room service from ComoNo restaurant. It was great! I saved the fruit plate for the book signing!
I had also packed a German champagne and a bottle of Merlot, so I looked over the menu and decided we would have wings and shrimp, both in sweet chili sauce, when my guests arrived.
But first, a massage! And yes, of course, a nap!
A couple people I invited couldn't come; Kate brought a couple of her relatives and guests. She and Gladys also brought bottles of red wine and there was dark chocolate. So we had quite the viewing of a wonderful sunset. But all that cold wind wore me out, but I wanted to play with the cell phone soft ware. They I got to a point where I needed internet to register with Samsung, so I went on to delete a lot of files and defragged! Then I went to be around 9pm!
This morning, I got up, washed some sunset dishes and packed my few things, took a shower and checked out. I went to the Navy commissary for paper towels, toilet paper and dog food, and picked up Boca at her job site and then went on to visit Alison. More puppies are waiting for homes and they are just too cute!
Alison had real doggie training pads for me. They are laced with something that makes them want to go right then and there. And Boca has almost mastered the opening and closing of the door leading to two in-floor drains in the patio. Yep, that's the next step in her education!
After that, she'll be folding and putting her diapers in the trash herself!
Tomorrow, pictures from the minication!

January 4, 2010

We were Pirates, arrh!

Scott's cousin Laura, me, Cabo Pete and sweetie Kathy, before we set out on the private pirate cruise aboard La Pinta at 4pm Saturday. It was a great time for the 20-something guests, but I think the best time of all was had by Scott and Kathy!

I'm only reporting what we saw!
The end.