Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Just in Time

I've often felt that I got here just in time. Just in time to soak in the true Mexican culture. The times are changing, fast. I blame the internet and possibly myself.

November 7th was Day of the Ijido here, the 80th anniversary of when the Ijido was formed, when the Mexican government gave this land to the original ijidotarians. There are 80 original ijidotarians living on this Island. Some of them lead the parade on the 7th.
It was a beautiful parade, bigger than I had thought it would be. Every class in the kindergarten, elementary school and secondary student participated. There was a grand queen, a child queen, and an elder queen, queens from the past were present. Every sports team was present. Families had individual floats.

As the parade went by there was a mix of music,  some played through Iphones, Ipads and laptops, some even in English,  it made me sad.

Most of the costumes and dance  had so much American influence in it. I couldn't help but wonder what this parade looked like 10 or 20 years ago (they do this every year).

Later in the day I was chatting with my neighbour (who is Ijido) I asked if he had taken a break from building his house to watch the parade. He had, and without me prompting he commented on how the young people are forgetting their own culture and traditions, he commented on the American style dresses of the queens and the American music. They hadn't even played the Island anthem or the Ijido anthem (I didn't know they existed) He also blamed the internet. The American culture is at their fingertips.

As we were talking Dona Cholita walked over,  she is around 90 years old, an original Ijidotarian as well. She joined in the conversation and agreed, the children are forgetting who they are. She started reminiscing about the "good old days". Here is a lady that has stories to tell and is willing to tell them, they should be written down I say, My neighbour says "start writing". I want too I say, but my Spanish is not quite there yet, when you are writing history you have to get it right. He encourages me, there are many elders that would love to sit with you and tell their stories, I want that more than anything. I want to sit on a door stoop in a rocking chair and listen to a group of elders tell me stories, I want that so bad. As we talk I think of my Tia's mother, also in her late 90's and at this moment not doing too well, her stories are going to die with her soon. I should get over there and at least get a picture of her.

The majority of the elders in this village are illiterate, not even capable of writing down their stories and their children aren't interested, they are busy "progressing" into the American way. All over the world the American way is assumed to be progress.

"I blame the internet and partly myself". I was referring to me as a North American, more and more of us come here for many reasons, to enjoy the culture, vacation, or to winter here because it's cheap. It's impossible to do this without bring some "Americaness" with us, not necessarily in things but even just our demeanor and attitude.  
If you go back to the very beginning of this blog you will notice a different writing from me,  I was very involved in charity work here, charities that North Americans have started, all very good things if you want to "make a difference" during your stay here. It was through these organization that I met a lot of expats here and was introduced to many locals living on the outskirts of the city, here on the Island and in surrounding towns and villages,  many of these people are still my friends but I have stopped trying to "make a difference" the American way, with an American model. I have stopped trying to change how they do things here,  instead I try to come alongside someone that needs help and watch how they do it and join in. Forget about making a difference and just watch listen and then help. Don't help until you've watched and listened awhile.

I laugh when I think of my first Spanish lesson one my land ladies sons taught me when I first got here. I was lamenting about  my Spanish, saying how I was at the point where I could ask almost any questions but it was when I was asked a question that I would get into trouble because I couldn't understand the question asked. He said "oh then you just say yo no se nada". which means "I don't know anything". The less you know around here the better he says. He still laughs when he asks me something  and I respond with "yo no se nada".  He says  "at least I taught you something".

A little disclaimer here;

All the American started charities here  are a great way to come here and "help",  they are a great way to get introduced to this city and surrounding areas, a great way to see how the people live and what the needs are here. If you are here for a short time and don't have Spanish I would encourage you to hook up with them. You will make some great friends and get your hands dirty and hopefully during that process you will fall in love with the Mexican people. Maybe like me, you will outgrow these organization and find your place in amongst the Mexican people like I have. Either way, you will meet some amazing loving and giving people, North Americans and Mexicans. Just remember to ask yourself  "am I helping or am I trying to change things?"

As I am writing this my housemate is playing English music, a mixture of Bob Marley, Whitney Houston, Madonna and the Police.

By the way,want to really see what Mexico was like a long time ago. Watch the movie Frida, if you are not familiar with Frida already watch the special features first, it will help to understand the movie. This is one of my favorite movies. I Love Frida and all she stood for. Not a movie for little kids.

Monday, November 30, 2015

About my work

Some of you have asked about my work. I have never wanted this space to be about work, so much of my life is work, I am my work, it is not just a job or a profession it is a way of life and so to find a space in my life where it doesn't seep into is rare. I would like to keep it out of here, I have debated about starting another blog for work but I barely seem to be able to keep this one up to date and I fear the work one would take over. I do follow a lot of golf course blogs just to stay in the loop of what's new in that field.

So, one post just to clarify what  I do, it does after all allow me to be here in Mexico so it does sort of factor into my life here as well. More so this year....

I worked at the High Level golf and country club (Fox Haven golf & Country club) for 9 years, the last 6 were as their superintendent.

Golf course superintendents don't choose this profession because of money, fame, glory or prestige. There is not a lot of money, you don't get credited for much, you get blamed for everything and most golfers see the super as the guy that is the cause of their bad golf game, he\she is liked about as much as a used car salesman. CNN money mag wrote an article listing a golf super as one of the most stressful jobs with low pay. As a super you are expected to deliver more than you have money for, depending on the size of the course you may have up to 300 club members, they all feel they own part of the course, they all have different ideas as to what the super should do with "their money". 

Any way.........stressful job. After 6 years I felt it was time to move on, I needed less stress, a lot less. However, I can never see me doing anything else, it's who  I am now. Being that there is only one course in High Level I knew it would mean a move. The question was, how do I keep my feet in the turf industry and get a position with less stress? This required a lot of prayer and meditation. (won't go into this)

I spent my time here last winter searching  the different golf super associations web sites and making new connections in the golf industry and consulting with some of my mentors and connections that  I had made over the years. The golf course industry is a very tight and open (if that makes sense) industry, we share a lot of information, there are experts in all the different fields within the turf side like your different equipment reps, your parts rep, your seed and fert rep, your soil test rep, your irrigation rep, your  reel sharpening rep, your safety rep,  and on and on. finding a golf course that is looking for employees is the easy part but to make  sure I wasn't jumping from the pot to the kettle I had to check them out and see what others in the industry had to say about them. Anyway.......i bounced around a few months and then it came to me. I will cut the story short here.  

Through phone interviews and emailing back and forth I was hired as a horticulturist at the Innisfail Golf & Country club. They are a big enough course to have a hort side as well as turf. (27 holes) I choose them because they are an Audubon certified course, that was the selling point. Not location, I had not wanted to be south of Edmonton, but this course just kept woeing me. The Audubon side of things would ensure that I would not be at a standstill, I could keep growing and learning, the hort side of things was new ground for me. Yet.....would never be as stressful as being the superintendent, and yet allow me to step over to the turf side once in awhile when needed....and trust me there is always a need for an extra hand there. I didn't have to give it up cold turkey. At the end of the season I was given the position of head horticulturist, I am now part of the management team, we are a team of 7.
Now, traditionally the horticulturist has always used her winters to plan and organize for the next season and I was not willing  to give up my winters here so a compromise was reached. I would do my planning and organizing from here, via the internet. We are set up  so I can even join in on staff meetings.

Audubon projects that I am working on are building habitats for Bat and butterflies.The course had already focused on birds in years past so my man focus this next season will be bats, butterflies and bees. Due to all the crop spraying in the south it is rare to see a butterfly and of course bees are in trouble everywhere. I am hoping  that the time will come when The Innisfail golf course will be known for its butterflies and bees. The biggest part of this is educating the people, the golfers, management, schools, the community leaders and of the course the media.

Another project of my mine, one that I am the most passionate about is ........you guessed it. TREE PLANTING! I am hoping to create an awareness about the lack of trees and then get people fired up about changing that. This will be difficult to do, in the south, trees are not considered a commodity as they are in the north. In the north many people make their living in the logging industry so taking care of our forests is a high priority, not so in the south. I have my work cut out for me.

I do have some work to do, and I Iike it. It is interfering a wee bit with my beach time here but that is part of my compromise. I spend my  mornings designing and writing newsletters, planning garden and flower beds, rearranging them to invite bees and butterflies. Researching bats and designing displays and pamphlets.....and so on. 

That being said, less stress is good, however there is an offset. The job of a horticulturist is tough on the body it requires a lot of bending, kneeling, pushing pulling and bending, so much bending, so much that that is usually the cause of a short career. Luckily I am used to labor coming from the turf side of things so my body wasn't shocked, I do have to take better care of myself if I want this to last. I have been working on correcting an over extended rib (a rib flare) and an anterior pelvic tilt for some years now, but I haven't been very diligent about it but I need to take it seriously now. I have been working with a chiropractor  and a massage therapist and of course been doing my "homework" more diligently.

Oh ...... and I am supposed to use this winter to straighten out my golf swing.  Sigh.

By the way, if your dream is to winter in a warm place like this, a job at a golf course is the perfect fit, if it's a course that is not open in the winters. Remember golf courses have many departments, turf, hort, mechanics, food and beverage, admin, pro shop sales, receptionists, cleaning staff, there could be a job for you. Last season we had ages 16-78 seated at our lunch table daily, there really is a job for every age. The catch.....you have to jump out of bed at 4 am, and you have to love it or you won't last the summer.

Every butterfly we see is a small victory

Ever single hole (all 27 of them) has flowers surrounding the signs, some holes have 2 flower beds, some have 3, but they all have at least 1. That's a lot of flowers

Bees are welcome too

Bees love cosmos and zinnias 

Bees are out friends

We have about 75 bird houses on the course all were occupied last season. We were at a NO VACANCY. Which means......we need more 

Our first bat house was hung last fall, waiting for winter residents.

Some golf humor

My all time favorite

Friday, November 27, 2015

Random thoughts

-Art, its everywhere, it's on the fishing boats, it's in the streets, on the buildings,  people are wearing it, making it, selling it sometimes without even knowing it.If you have even an iota of art in you it will appear. 

-Fishing is an art, it is humbling and therapeutic, almost spiritual. I believe watching the fisherman is just as therapeutic.

-Paddling in the ocean  on a calm morning on a paddle board is surreal

-Paddling at sunset with high surf, will roll you to the bottom of ocean and then spit you out before you even know what happened. Seems I need a lesson in wave watching.

-Yoga underneath the clicking palms and whispering banana leaves, I Pinch myself.

-Shrimp/ribs/fish platter on the beach with friends is the new normal.

-James 5:13, is anyone sick, pray, is anyone cheerful, sing! And we did, we raised the roof of that little church with joyful song. Good to be home, where we can sing and dance uninhibited...even in church.

-True story, man and son get off the ferry boat in front of me, boy stumbles and drops a 2$ plastic pistol in the water, father leans in but it floats away, he kicks off his flip flops and jumps in, rescues pistol. This is how you become your son's hero, not by buying expensive things, or by saying "we'll buy you another one tomorrow".  

-Patience, it should come with your tourist visa card that you fill out on the plane, you need it here, everything takes longer here. Whether you are here for the winter or for a 2 week vacation, relax and just let things happen....oh and  a little bit of shut up and listen goes a long way too.

-There are some that would argue  that Alberta grade A beef is the best in the world, I would challenge that with some carne asada grilled on the street here.

-A food journal, why didn't I buy one years ago?

-I feel a desperate need to paint my toe nails as soon as I get here.

-Life revolves around the moon here, the tides, the fish,  the weather, the bugs....yup even the bugs.  We talk about the moon all the time and we always know where it is......do you know where the moon is today?

-I will be getting motorbike lessons from my housemate this year, yes he is still here and I adore him and his pretty girlfriend. He's back from sea and is on his Christmas break until the new year now, all tuna boats coming in now are staying in until after the new year.

- to bring a whole cake across town and across the water requires a skill I do not have yet, there was an incident in a store (yup, didn't even make it out of the store) and another incident where a cake ended up in the garbage. I must keep practicing.....poor cakes.

-there was a duck chase on my street, my tio and I chasing a wild duck. I don't know why, he wanted a duck and I wanted to help. We were both underneath a truck, had it cornered, brother happens to come along at this time. "why is my sister and my papa lying in street?" there was much laughing....Oh, just help us already. Duck got caught, my tio had a new pet, until someone left the gate open one day. Never a dull moment.

-Did I mention it's hot, it's hot.

-Do you know you can buy little wee 12gr balls of yarn here, this may change my life. No need to buy a massive big ball when you have a small craft project......do I have a craft project...of course.

-I always thought it would be cool if I could find some kind of work that could be done via the internet so I could make money while traveling. Not cool at all. I did bring about 80 hrs worth of work with me this year to be done via the internet and computer. It is not fun to be in doors when Mexico is outside.....not fun at all and hard to concentrate. Very hard. Your head is just not there.

-I spied on my neighbour one morning, cutting cocos, with his son helping (standing by anyway) I listened to them quietly chatting all morning, like 2 people that were genuinely interested in each other. He wasn't teaching him anything or expecting him to help, he was just chatting with him, 4 hours the kid stood on the truck, listening, talking, giggling and sometimes even helping. I love watching him with his kids. I'm posting this because I know if I asked him if I could he would say yes, I just didn't want to interrupt them. We are good neighbors.

-As I write we are anticipating hurricane Sandy, I have my emergency kit  ready, toilet paper, yogurt and fruit.....there was supposed to be a cake but.....not, and I've since eaten my yogurt. We are not too worried. It's been on the news for a week now, they change prediction every 1/2 day or so, you get tired of hearing about it and soon become desensitized and stop listening. This how small villages are wiped out and you watch the news and wonder "why weren't they ready?".  This is why. By the time the hurricane got there they've eaten their emergency kit.

-Sorry I've been so slow in updating this space but there is that work thing looming over my head, i finally have a good excuse. 

found this coconut blossom in the street already flat, perfect for hanging.

Restaurant journal, should have had this years ago, this is what my child will inherit when I die, details about the best places to eat. 

Watching this man repair his nets is a wonderful thing

When you have banana trees there is some work involved in keeping them. You have to trim the old leaves off

12 grs each, I am learning how to crochet granny squares (no pun here) I know most people do that when they are 12 but I didn't, I was busy running around in the bush making teepees.....which is a good skill to have too. 

Thanks to my house mate's girlfriends we are ready for Christmas
My friend's new apartment. he says "come on up". I say "no, you come down" he says "you afraid of heights" I say "no my friend it is not the height I am afraid off"

Me trying to take a selfie with my tio and me and his new duck, duck not cooperating. 

My neighbor and his son.....4 hours they spend on this truck. Look how he is sitting on his cutting board to anchor it. Smart he does this on his truck so that when he is done he can just drive to the dump and  drop off the debri. Not his first day cutting cocos.

when life is messy

When I arrived  the road behind my house was barely passable due to a big mud hole, the whole road was full of water, they did have a rain just before I got here. 2 weeks passed and it didn't dry up, clearly a different problem. I keep thinking "why doesn't someone fix this". 

"why doesn't someone fix this?".

One day I am doing laundry and the water starts coming out of the drain, not how a drain is supposed to work from my experience. I explain to my housemate about my little problem, he nods his head with a sad smile and points to the muddy street. "we have a little problem there" he says. "we?" I ask. "yes, we" he smiles." Turns out that's our  laundry and dish water out there in the street. How embarrassing, thinking of all the times I've thought "someone should fix that".

"ok, what do we do, let's fix it". "We are waiting for my brother come to come home, this is his problem too, and he will know what to do" he says. His brother lives next door and we share this drainage pipe. His tuna boat hasn't come in yet.

The day after the poor man comes home he is told of "our" problem, no rest for him, shovels and picks and hoses are gathered. He's been at sea for 3 months, I'm sure he has other things he would rather be doing.

House mate says "all is good, brother will do the hard work, I will buy the new pipe", it's a good deal for us he says. I agree and want to share in the cost.

The street is closed off today and brother is up to his knees in muck digging and chipping away, little brother is standing by and running around the village on his motorbike gathering whatever needs gathering....another hose to siphon water, a bigger hose to siphon water, a bigger shovel, a sharper machete (nothing gets done here without a machete), cold drinks and then for a while he just stands by in his clean shorts and chats with brother, but he is a good brother and soon picks up a spade and helps. Around 1 pm he asks me "what time do you want to go to bed tonight?".  They are anticipating working until late. "don't worry about me, it looks like I am getting the best deal of all".  "Why don't we just make a swimming pool ?" I ask.

Blocking the road off makes everyone curious, soon there are a few spectators and a few experts I imagine. I have faith the brothers know what they are doing.

Seeing 2 brothers working side by side makes me smile, seeing them working side by side and chatting  all the while makes me smile even more.

Soon I smell cooking, of course......the mother showed up, there will be food soon. Life is good, even when it's messy. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

And so starts life on the Island

Let me set the scene:

It's Friday, The Restaurant Cardon on the beach has a tour of tourists in, I am there to see a friend that works there just to let him know that I am back. He spots me right away and comes running over, hugs me and in his English with his heavy Mexican accent and loud squawky voice he hollers "wow you so wiiiiide, you so wiiiide". I smack him with my flip flop that I was carrying. He hollers louder "hey, don't spank me in public" ..... and all the people stare. I notice luckily that most of the tourist are Mexican so I say in English "shut up, you are never going to find a wife if you call a women wide", and I smack him with my flip flop again. He laughs and laughs and says "I said you are so whiiiiiite".  That was the entertainment at the Cardon today. ...... waiter getting beaten up by a whiiiiite women with a flip flop. 

I found some art

I did mention it was hot, super hot, much hotter than last year, do I say that every year? I hope not. With the heat comes mosquitoes and tiny little no seeoms, and me not wanting to get dengue fever again (EVER) needed to pop my screen back in. 

Somehow, not sure how, when I wanted to hang my hammock last year this made sense to me then. We needed an anchor but the screen was in the way so we made 2 holes in the screen. I remember doing this and it made totally sense back then.....now not so much. 

Love the clicking sound at night of the geckos
 Re,ember last year a chunk of my ceiling feel down in my bathroom. I hired someone to fix the ceiling in the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. From my understanding the process for this is basically just  throw concrete up there, enough of it so that it sticks. I was told to pack up my whole house in plastic bags, which I did. Believe it or not I had forgotten that I had done that, and was shocked at my mess in my house when  I got back until of course I saw the new white ceiling. They must have nearly destroyed the house because they repainted all the walls as well (except the living room) and must have damaged my cupboards because they got painted too. remember the time I spent making them look old and worn by dry painting 3 different colors on them ....... well, they look like this now.

I don't like it, it may grow on me

Love  the nice white ceiling though. You may find it interesting that they didn't even think to consult me about the wall color, this makes sense to me because they would not have cared about the color themselves. They decided to deal with the task at hand and deal with any issues later should I not have like the color......that's the Mexican way.  The butter yellow is perfect for me. I love it. 
Love love how when you buys eggs here they are dirty, right from the nest, and you don't have to keep them in the fridge because they are fresh. A egg that has not been washed and has not ever been in the fridge does not have to be kept in the fridge......for weeks,seriously. 

My  garden.....did well

Hanging the hammock slowed down the "unpack the house process a bit". 
Did I mention it's hot, so hot. I put a 50 peso note in my bra (that's where money goes) when  I went to pay in the store for my jug of orange juice I went to discreetly whip it out, only it didn't "whip out" it was stuck, not your normal it's hot and I am sweaty stuck but like it had become my skin stuck. When I peeled it off it hurt (like my boots hurt when I peeled then off) and I now had to try to dry it on my skirt. Sorry guys, just trying to explain how hot it is......not complaining, just reporting......now back to sports. There is a rodeo happening ..... i may or may not go. 

Hello Mexico!

and then.....bamm,  I'm in Mexico, I know I am jumping ahead here, I have a summer summary post for you  but I am so excited to be here I felt I needed to share  the excitement.

I probably had the most surreal trip from the airport to the Island ever.

My Mexican brother picked me up at the airport, he was late, I didn't care, the airport smelled like Mexico and it was humid and hot. I was over dressed.
 He tied my carry on to the box of his truck with a string and made room for me on the seat, I commented that he needed an assistant to organize his life, he figured he could keep 2 assistants busy.

As we weaved in and out of traffic he filled me in on the family drama, so much drama. He loves being the first to fill me in, so i can hear his side of the story first. (he of course is always the innocent bystander in everything). The Mexico 15 through the city is under construction but unlike at home they don't detour the traffic they let you find your own way around, it was a mess, he never stopped talking, he didn't make a detour plan at all, we just weaved in and out of parking lots, across sidewalks, through back alleys, over driveways, cut across gas station lots and all the time he is talking and talking. We stop at the Marine school to pick up some important papers, as he walks away from his truck it starts to roll forward, I try to put it in neutral but can't reach the clutch, I try to crawl over to the driver side but he makes it back in time to rescue me a mili-second before we slam into the back of another car. By now I am sweating, my black leather boots are stuck to my legs, sweat is running down my back and into my pants. It's hot.

We stop at an Oxxo to transfer some money, I watch as he greets the dirty homeless guy sitting by the door as he walks in, I sit in the truck and notice how every single Mexican man greets him verbally or with a slight nod of the head. It is not in their nature to not acknowledge a person even a begger on the street. 3 out of the 5 men that walked into that store gave him some change as they came out.

I am in dire need of tacos, we choose a street taco stand on the busy Mexican 15, the owner proudly bring us a small sample of his carne asada while we wait for our order, the flavor explodes in my mouth, how can it be so good? "why do you North Americans always cut your steaks so thick?" brother asks, we 've had this conversation before, "I don't know why", ( I really don't)  I can't figure it out either, just because we don't know better I guess. This guy had the best carne asada ( or maybe it was just that I was so carne starved) his salsa and quac was the best, he had roasted onions and peppers, as the traffic roared by and the dust floated in the air, horns honked, and the music played I felt my body sink into contentment and once again I knew I was in love....with my Mexico. Everyone has a different experience in Mexico, this may  not be your Mexico, but this is mine.

 We take many detours and short cuts I get lost as I listen to the rest of the family drama stories, a lot has happened while I was gone, seriously a lot. I look around and think how beautiful my Mexico is and feel  so grateful to be here,  I wonder if my skin will rip off when I peel my boots off, I think it will.

He drops me off at the dock, he has more errands to do, he says he will stop by later tonight to see if I need anything, he won't come. I am welcomed home by the ticket taker guy, the parking lot attendant and my boats captain. I see the Norwegian Jewel in port,  I remember it's Wednesday, Wednesday used to be the day for 3 ships in port, now we are lucky to get one.  The vegetable guy  hollers "welcome home" as my taxi drives by on the other side. My house looks beautiful, there is a new gate in the front, my laundry station has some new posts, my garden looks great, my bricks are moldy, my screens all fell out, some plants died but have been replaced with some new ones. Before I do anything I need to get these boots off....fast. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Go West

I've been missing trees, big tall straight majestic poplars, tall fat covering and towering spruce trees....like we have up north, been pining (haha) away for some trees. I should have known, it was so simple I didn't think of it. Go West. Just point your car west. 10 minutes west of my glamper I found trees, lots of trees, beautiful trees, too many to count, you could even get lost in them (if you wanted to). I couldn't believe I was so close. I should have known, the good ol' West. So, the next time you are sad and lonely go West, not sure how far you will have to go, I got lucky in 10 minutes. Also found a lovely lake to paddle in about 20 minutes from my glamper. Live is good....and about to get better, strawberry season is here. 

Pointed west

Love this road going West

My beach

Heading out to paddle in some choppy waters on a windy morning......still fun

I should have a bumper sticker that says "I brake for strawberries"......because I do. 

a 20 minute stop and ...... a pail of strawberries in the passenger seat

patio garden

more garden

a big basket of peonies petals .... fresh poporri