Good Friday on Cozumel

DSCF3108Since retiring to Cozumel I find myself unable to just sleep in.  In fact, I’m often up at the crack of dawn with my dogs in the park, although that’s, mostly, because they insist.    Then I ride a bike around the island focusing on the ocean and the sunrise.  And, after that,  it’s time to head home for some coffee.  While the pot’s percolating I feed the dogs inside and the birds out on my deck who are all waiting on the various wires surrounding my apartment.  Once all is said and done I just head back to bed to do some leisurely work on my laptop, or check out the various social networks to see what’s up.  Not a bad start to any day, yes?  However, since it’s Good Friday in this very Catholic country, my time for quiet came quickly to an end.  Let me explain.

1I’ve learned that when I hear a loudspeaker in the park close to my house that it’s probably a good idea to grab my camera and head on 2over.  Today was no exception to that rule.  By peeking over the wall of my deck I was able to see that they were putting on their version of the Passion Play in the Corpus Christi park and the processional was already starting.  I threw on some clothes and grabbed my camera.  Thankfully, I was able to get there in time to grab a shot of the altar boys dressed in gleaming white carrying the various symbolic tools of their faith, and mine.  Soon after them came the Christ figure dressed in white.  He had  “blood” painted on him and was surrounded by Cozumel’s version of Roman Soldiers.  Behind him were the other two men who represented those who’d been crucified with Christ on that fateful day.  And, following them were women who represented the Mother Mary, and the other women who’d been witnesses on that day, and all were dressed in the clothing of centuries past.  Finally,  all of those folks were surrounded by well over a hundred of the faithful who would walk with “Christ” to show their love and support.

3They passed the Corpus Christi church and began to head south on Ave. 20, which is usually quite the busy street here in Cozumel.  However, the police had blocked it with their vehicles for the processional.  At one point I decided to try and run ahead to snap some shots, but there were a lot of folks.  Gratefully, they were nice enough to try and make room for me.  I noticed that many were holding onto a rope that protected the main area, while others pushed the elderly in wheelchairs, or the very young in strollers.  Voices were raised in song while they continued on their journey.

They came to a stop after about a block for another part of the play.  Christ was then “crowned,”  “whipped,” and given a cross to carry.  The 4gentleman who was playing the part of Christ kept his head down and remained humble throughout.  The Roman guards were also playing their parts well.  In fact, the main soldier was quite tall, very serious, and looked as if he was really putting himself into the lashing.  No-one sang during this part and many of the altar boys would just look at the ground.  It was almost as if they didn’t want to watch even the symbolic re-telling of his journey.  It was quite touching, actually, to see such strong faith in some so young.

9Finally, Christ was dressed in a white robe and forced to continue walking with the cross he’d been given at this point.  Those walking along began to sing again and the6 procession continued.  Trailing behind was a red pickup truck with loudspeakers that would, occasionally, play music separately.  And, as the procession continued, more and more people joined in.   It was becoming quite the spectacle.   I also want to mention that my hat is off to those who were involved since the sun had come back out and it was getting quite warm.  But, for me?  I’d decided it was time for me to head home where I could put these events in writing and see if I got any shots that would help illustrate the lengths these folks go to celebrate their beliefs.  But, before I now finish those thoughts let me mention that this was quite a special way to bring in the busiest weekend of the year.  And I’m glad you came along.  Happy Easter everyone!  Salud!10

It’s all about the kids…………

4Well, it’s officially been a year since I moved to the island of Cozumel.  I’ve gotten comfortable in my surroundings, my apartment is almost finished, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great folks.  So, who knew I could still be so surprised, and delighted, by what takes place here?  But, I just came back from such a special event that I still can’t stop smiling.  And, when something is that good, I just have to share the experience.

16This event was called “Kites for Kids” and it was held in the Cozumel neighborhood of Ranchitos.  Now, let me explain that Ranchitos is a bit removed from the38 main town in both distance and opportunities.  In fact, some of the homes looked as if they lacked many of the modern conveniences that most of us take for granted.  Their convenience store had a tin roof and sheet rock for walls, which might help to illustrate what I’m saying. But, differences aside, the point of the party was to bring some joy to the kids and, let me tell you, it was quite the success.

But first, if you could bear with me, I’d like to  talk about how this all came to take place.  19  There is a group of  folks who recently started an organization called “It’s All About the Kids,”  and the origin is, to me,  such a great example of island living, simple and direct.  From what I could gather, a few of them were working together on a haunted47 house for the kids during the “Day of the Dead” festivities last fall.  It seems that one made the casual remark that “it would be so nice if we could do something for the kids all  year round, and not just on holidays.”   And, someone else said, “yes it would.”   And that, apparently,  is all it took for the group to get started.  They now have a FB page called “It’s All About the Kids Cozumel” (anyone can check it out), well over a hundred members, and local businesses are getting involved.  And, all this has made it possible for them to hold events that can help make children happy.  It absolutely doesn’t get any better than that!

Well, that now brings me to the party today.  I was given a ride by neighbors who are also involved with the group.   They were nice enough to take me out with them since it is a bit13 too far for this expat to ride her bicycle.  We had a nice chat while we headed out of town, but once we pulled onto the “tomato man road, ” don’t ask,  it became clear that the folks that lived there might have some tough days.  We were the first to pull in, but that didn’t 1last long at all.  Within twenty minutes there were cars everywhere, folks getting out and greeting each other, and the day’s supplies were being hauled out of vehicles by a lot of happy volunteers.    I quickly asked if they could gather together for a pic before even more mayhem began and the ones who’d arrived early were happy to oblige.  That’s them on your left.  Many more came later, but I never did get another opportunity to take a group shot.  There was, however, a lot of other photographic opportunities around since the kids also began to arrive in numbers.

41Tables were quickly set up to accommodate the different activities.  One table was to be for the kites that had been35 donated for the cause.  Once they were unpacked and ready to go the kids gathered around that table and I don’t think their numbers ever died out the two hours I was there.  When they were given their kites there were volunteers who helped them to get started and they would head towards the basketball court and the small field beyond.  And, eventually, a semi-emergency repair area was also set up for those kites that had been handled by the, shall we say,  inexperienced.  That soon became quite a popular place to be as well, but it was all in good fun and there were smiles all around.

21Another table was set up for face painting.  Since the theme was40 “kites for kids,” the volunteers started out by painting only decorative examples of  kites on faces, arms, and hands.  But, the face painting became so popular that soon all kinds of creative designs began to emerge.  There were at least four, maybe more, volunteers who worked tirelessly on the boys, 60girls, and even toddlers in the arms of their mothers.  I have to admit, I stuck close to that table since it was just so much fun to watch their faces light up when they took a peek in the mirror.  Some would come up by themselves while others would arrive with a whole group of supporters.  But, once they were done it never failed that they would see themselves and smile.  It took me almost an hour to tear myself away, but I wanted to check out the other activities.

There was also a table for coloring that was just as popular as the face painting group.   In fact, all I could see was  crayons, coloring books, and the18 backs of a lot of kids’ heads.  I walked over and tried to take a pic, but they  were all focusing so intently on their work that it took a while for someone to take a breather and make some room.  I finally grabbed a shot and moved on to let them get back to their pictures.

26Next I went over to the “fishing for prizes” area.  What a great concept.  It seems that one of the guys in the group had noticed, on a prior trip, that there is a  rather high cement wall just standing by itself by the front of the park.   Somehow, that gave him an idea for a  “fishing pond.”    So, a colorful sign was made to help with the concept,  as well as “fishing poles” with strings and little hooks.  Here’s how it worked.  The kids would stand on one side of the structure and then toss their line over the wall27 where unseen volunteers would wait.   In the meantime,  another person, 31whoever happened to be there at the time, as it turned out, informed the volunteers behind the wall whether  the pole belonged to a girl or boy, and then the appropriate prize would be put on the hook.   How great is that?  Everyone was having so much fun.  In fact, one of the hidden volunteers was, in good humor, griping about how he needed a hard hat to protect him from all the hooks.  But,  just as he finished saying that I saw yet another hit him right on top of his head.  That was when I started giggling,  but who wouldn’t?  Then I grabbed a shot of a girl who’d just gotten her “fish.”  She was very cute, and very excited.

It was getting time for me to leave so I wanted to make sure I had enough pics of the kids.  But, it was an easy task, there were a lot of kids everywhere I looked.    While doing 14this I figured I’d also try to get a bit more info for this blog.  So, I asked a volunteer who it was that might be considered the founder of the group and I was told that there wasn’t really any one person.  I took a few more pictures and then I asked someone else.  6I found it interesting that I was told the same thing, yet again.  So, not to be dissuaded that easily, I asked yet another person in between shots.  When, once again, I was told that it really was  just a group effort for the sake of the kids I realized these folks were sincere.  It really was all about the kids.  I have to admit, with all that is going on in the world today, it was quite touching to see folks who truly had no interest other than to make a child smile.  And that, folks, is the reason I can’t stop smiling either.  I want to send out a huge “thank you” to all the 50members of “It’s All About the Kids  Cozumel”  for their efforts.  You are quite the inspiration!   Salud!1136

p.s. I don’t intend to promote, and I’m never compensated, but I do enjoy sharing good experiences

 

A book signing event………..

author 1Living on the island of Cozumel has continued to provide unique experiences for this retired American expat.  Seldom a day goes by that is exactly like the last, and today was certainly no different.  I’d been invited to a book signing event to be held at La Cocay, a  restaurant just north of el centro.  The event was to feature not only an author who has spent quite a bit of time on the island, that’s him on the left, restaurant 1but the local personalities he’s included in his latest storyline as well.  Sounded like a lot of fun to me and I was quite happy to be a participant in the festivities.  So, the bag was packed, the dogs were fed, and off I went to my first book signing party on the island.

I had the opportunity to meet with the writer, Paul J. Mila, for a little while before the event began.  I learned that this was the fourth in an adventure book 2series, the other three can be seen on your right, and that he is also the photographer of the scenes used on all of the covers.  I discovered that paul and lauraPaul has not only frequented Cozumel, but he’s also traveled extensively elsewhere to follow his passion for the ocean.  Among many other things, he is an avid diver, writes a monthly newsletter, and is an experienced underwater photographer.    Since it was still a bit early, I had the pleasure to listen as he told a few tales of his up close and personal encounters with whales and other deep-sea creatures.  It was easy to see his love for all things aquatic as he spoke and I could have listened longer.  But, soon the others began to arrive and I knew he would be needed elsewhere.  So I hurried up and grabbed a shot of both Paul and the event organizer, Laura, along with his latest book, Near Miss, while I still had the chance.

author 2As mentioned, there are folks from the island included in the plotcharacters 1 and Laura was nice enough to point them out to me as they came by.  And, naturally, I had to try to get their photos.  Here are a just a few of the people who can be found in the book.  On your left is a pic of Kelly and her rescued pooch who, from what I’ve been told, are both featured prominently.  Next I focused on Alison, a local dive shop owner, who is also an important character in the novel. That’s her on your right.   I have to admit, it will make the reading even more enjoyable now that I have the actual faces to put to the names.  I’ve read a lot of books, but have never met any of the characters before, so this is a first.  How fun!

restaurant 2In between shots of the folks as they arrived I walked around to take pics of the restaurant as well.  Since I’ve spent most of my time, and money,  just settling in, I’ve started a ” budget list” of places to go once I’mrestaurant 3 established.  La Cocay, located on calle 8 between 10 and 15,  is quite a charming place with both an inside area and an outdoor garden setting that is kept pleasantly lit with candles and garland lights.  With a nicely decorated bar, wooden tables, and those little touches that seem so important here on the island, it has now been added to my list.  But, soon it became a bit too crowded to take shots of just the ambiance.  So, once again I turned back to those who’d come to show their support.

attendees 2As is always the case, no-one minded when I asked to take their photograph.  Some would hold up the author’s book, others would happily agree and then simply return to what they wereattendees 1 doing.  Either way works well for me and I, once again, got to meet some very nice people including one woman who has been here since the sixties.  I can only imagine the changes she has seen.  And, I have to say,  these events always help to validate my reasons for moving here.   It’s quite nice to see such a supportive community in action.

group 2Soon the place was beginning to fill, however,  and the brief opportunity to get the individual shots, and stories, ended.  That was the time to just walk around and chat a bit, or point myattendees 3 camera towards one group after another.  Paul was busily signing away and, I’d notice, after they’d had their books autographed, people would just linger and chat.  This was not the revolving door type of affair I’d assumed it would be, nor was it anything like those I’d attended before back in the states.  I should have known.  It seems to be part of the island way to be relaxed and interactive.

laura and husbandBut, it was getting to be time for me to call it a night.  I asked Laura for a quick shot of her and her husband.  Of course they said, “yes,” and after that was when I packed my bag and headed out.  It was a refreshingly cool evening and, although I’d planned on taking a cab, I ended up walking home via the main drag, Melgar.  That was when I noticed that there was a  cruise ship still dockedDSCF3391 covered in lights.  I grabbed my camera out for yet another shot and then tucked it away for good. I secured my bag, remembered to put the straps across my body, and, from that point on, it only took about another ten minutes and I was home.  It was time to sit down and write this little piece and then get some sleep.  But, before I go and get that sleep,  I’d like to say that it was yet another great night on Cozumel, and I’m glad you came along.   Salud!

p.s.  I don’t intend to promote, and I’m never compensated, but I do like to share  pleasant experiences………..