Portraits, and needles, and random thoughts

DSCF6306It’s October 28, 2013.  While sitting here looking out at the rain we’re having here on the island of Cozumel, I realize that I haven’t written anything in a while.  And, that realization explains a lot.  No wonder I have all these random thoughts flying around inside my head.  I’m a writer, I need to put them down somewhere.  So, with that in mind, I think I’ll share a few events from the past couple of weeks.  However, before I get started, let me bring to your attention the fact that my blogs are, typically, rather organized, comparatively speaking.  In the past I’ve focused on my personal experiences at restaurants, beach clubs, and coffee houses.  I’ve written a short series of blogs about neighborhood places to stay for those adventurous travelers who’d rather avoid the busy beach resorts.  I’ve also addressed safety issues, art gallery openings, home improvements, relocation, immigration, and volunteer activities.  So, if this is your first time, and you’d rather read about something specific, you are welcome to search through the archives.  If you have a particular location, or activity, in mind, you can just type the name in the search bar.  If I’ve been there, and had a good experience, I’ve written about it. But, if you’d like to know how life is as an expat on Cozumel, well, this piece might help illustrate that very concept.

best nity and pasitaFirst, let me mention one of the main reasons I haven’t written.  I’ve been busy because my family has expanded. 3 Through a series of events I now live in a rather cozy, second floor apartment with four dogs.   One of my pups is a rescue from the Humane Society, one was once, sad to say, a puppy mill dog here on the island, and two used to belong to my landlord, but now live full-time with me.  They aren’t matching, or stylish in any way, and I look both ridiculous and crazed when I walk them in the park.  Picture a woman approaching sixty sweating from the effort of holding back the two who haven’t been  trained yet, while reassuring the ones who have been.   And, between you and me,  I never knew pugs could be considered sled dogs until recently, they’re strong little suckers.   I digress.  We’re walking, they’re barking,   I’ll have leashes wrapping around my ankles while picking up poop that may, or may not, belong to my pack and all the while I’m stomping my feet at the 005strays that attempt to follow.   Let’s just say, I provide entertainment for the locals.   Yes, it’s a bit more than I ever expected to take on, but worth every moment, especially when I am brought to life early in the morning by very happy critters who are just plain excited that it’s a new day.   And, like a proud new mother, I’ve noticed that I keep my camera close. These guys prove to be a lot of entertainment and, I’m happy to say, are quite photogenic.

1aOh, and speaking of photogenic, there’s another reason I haven’t been writing.  I’veDSCF6205 taken on a personal project.  I swim with a group of gals who like to start their days in the ocean.  We call ourselves “The Mermaids” and, at least three to four days a week, we meet at the Blue Angel at 7:30, put on our snorkel masks, or goggles, and hit the water.  Not a bad way to start any day and it’s been a lot of fun getting to know them and quite the physical challenge too.  But, then, after taking some pics of our first anniversary, I decided that I wanted to photograph these gals individually.   This is a group of a dozen, or so,  smart, capable, strong women in the prime of their lives and I thought it would be nice7 to capture some of these moments.  So, about two weeks ago,  I asked one of the ladies, Citlali, if she’d be my 1first volunteer and she graciously said, “yes.”  It went well and she then volunteered (thanks, Citlali) to do the makeup for the other gals before each of their photo shoots.  So, after her, I went on to get some pics of Myrna next.  Oh, and you can see Citlali on the left, and Myrna on the right.  I have about ten more to go, but, meanwhile, you can see more of them in the two group shots above.    Weather permitting, I hope to have some individual pics of everyone by the end of the year.   It’s been a great experience and I’ll be sure to post when I’m finished.  Most of these women are expats, like myself, and these pics should help to illustrate how well life on the island is going.  So, hope you’ll take a peek when I’m done.

Now, let me talk about yesterday.  But, like most of my posts do,  it will need a back story.  My landlord’s daughter, Lesli, was in a moped accident about two months ago.  While she and her mom were riding to the store another driver, who’d parked,  decided to open his door without looking and, as a result, the moped went down.   Lesli broke her knee and was covered in road rash.  Her mom didn’t break anything, thankfully, but, with all the cuts and bruises she’d suffered,  I’m thinking she won’t be riding a moped again any time soon. Back to yesterday.  It was one of those days where Lesli was in a lot of pain and she hollered up to my place and asked me if I knew the name of a chiropractor on the island.  I didn’t, but I have met three different massage therapists and an acupuncturist since moving here.   I asked if any of them would be an option and she decided to try acupuncture.  So, I got in touch with Jen Pobiak, who came highly recommended and has years of experience, (she can be found on Facebook under Blue Dahlia Wellness) and Jen said she’d be happy to come to the house and work with Lesli.  It became quite an experience for all concerned.

006First there was the time spent being on the lookout for Jen.  She’d never been to the house so it 007was thought to be a good idea for me to keep an eye out. So, there I stood, out on the street corner, getting smiles and greetings from folks as they went by.  But, soon Jen arrived without any problems, grabbed her stuff, got hugs and kisses all around from me, and then Lesli,  and then her sister, brother-in-law,  dad, and son.  This is a family that is close and they tend to gather together in times of need. While  Jen was getting to know everyone a bit, and yes, it was hectic, she discovered that Don Pedro Mari, Lesli’s dad, was a famous singer here on the island a while back. Excited to meet a potential new fan, Don Pedro put on a CD for Jen to hear and then proceeded to sing along. As it turned out, Jen is a singer as well.  So there we all were listening to two people who’d just met singing a duet.  How fun!

But, then Jen got down to business.  She specializes in Chinese medicine and talks quite a bit with new 009clients/patients about their histories.  She spent time asking lots of questions, then checked out the injury, and all while explaining that what she will do will be just part of the healing process for Lesli.  She addressed lifestyle, health history and nutrition along with what Lesli could expect from the acupuncture process itself.  Then it was time for the actual needles.  Lesli got comfortable on the couch, Don Pedro set up a stool for Jen, and then she proceeded to work the needles into Lesli’s skin016 while coaxing Lesli to help her through her breathing.  I actually lost count of the amount of needles used, but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 28-30 once she was finished.  Meanwhile, Lesli, who’s actually quite afraid of needles, remained comfortable while Jen continued to adjust and all while explaining what she was doing in a soothing voice.  Lesli remained calm, Jen was quite the professional, and the family got excited about how well it was all going.  Altogether, between greetings, singing, talking, and adjusting, Jen was in their home for about two hours.  But, from what I heard this morning, it was worth it.  Lesli woke up with no pain for the first time in months.  Jen will be doing a follow-up visit either today, or tomorrow, and Don Pedro told me that his daughter is actually looking forward to it.  It’s good to know we have an acupuncturist that does house calls.  Who knew?

So, there you have it, a few weeks in the life of this expat while living on the island of Cozumel,  Mexico.  No two days are ever quite the same, and, as a result,  I’m never bored.  Truth be told, I find myself amused way more often than any other emotion I can think of, and that’s just how I like it.  Now, I’m going to stop writing this so that I can get my camera back out.  I hear my dogs playing tug of war and that’s always good for a pic.  Salud!14

Expat requirements: patience, flexibility, and a sense of humor!

DSCF4843When I first moved to Mexico back in 2008 I didn’t have much practical information.  My language skills were non-existent, my cultural knowledge was even worse.  It wasn’t that I hadn’t been here before, but staying in resorts, or boutique hotels, does not prepare one for the experience.  When asked about it now I use this analogy: one person might dine at a 5 star restaurant, another might do the dishes.  It’s the same 5 star restaurant, but the perspective is vastly different.   That applies to visiting vs. living in this beautiful country.  It’s still Mexico, but wow, what a difference.

Let me start with my latest adventure, if I could call it that.  I live simply and on a somewhat limited budget.  I’ve 4been in the same small apartment in the so-called Corpus Christi neighborhood, on the island of Cozumel,  for over a year and a half now.  The location is great and the rent is cheap.  But that old saying “you get what you pay for” certainly applies.  Still, it was good for a while to get set up.  After all, I arrived on the island with two carry-on bags and I needed some things, to put it mildly.  Everything from dishes to towels to clothes to appliances.  Well, you get the picture.  But, I paid my dues, lived frugally, got the stuff I needed and then set out to look for a home that was a “step up” so to speak.  And, I found just the place.  Two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a skylight, wondrous floors, a huge back garden area complete with pathways and fountains.  It was a dream come true.

design by natureHowever, my dreams tend to quickly turn into nightmares, if I let them.  I’d hired the movers, had my deposit in hand, had taken down plants, pictures, gotten boxes from Chedruai two at a time, and told all my friends.  Let’s just say, I was ready to go.  However, something that tends to happen in life, generally speaking, and in Mexico, frequently speaking, occurred.  It all fell through at the last minute.  I won’t go into particulars, let’s just say things didn’t go as I’d hoped.  It all worked out for the others involved, but, as it turned out, I wasn’t going anywhere.  So, I thought about it all for a day, or two.  This was, after all, the second time I’d tried to move and things had fallen through.  Naturally I could continue to look for another place, but we’re heading into the high season and prices are going up.  Not to mention it was all a bit emotionally draining so I had to make a choice.  Stay and be unhappy, or do something different.  That’s when it hit me.  I could simply do something about the things that had been bothering me at the original place.  After all, I had the deposit money and the extra pesos I’d saved for the higher rent,  yes?

063So, I called Cozumel Home Care (they’re on FB), a business that had been recommended by a friend, and talked with064 the owner, John Pera.  I asked him if he could help me to get my place a bit more to my liking.  Next day he stopped over and we walked around my apartment.  It didn’t take long.  But, it was decided, after talking work and prices,  that the whole deck would be freed from the mold that had grown due to weeks of rain (it looked like a horror movie) and then painted.  I would also have my bedroom and living room painted as well.  They would then clean out my air conditioner, replace my kitchen faucet, and repair the holes in my cement flooring on the deck.  In other words, they would fix all the stuff that had been bugging me.  Oh, and the pics here are of the guys as they’re doing the work!  Nice guys!

Next I headed over to see Carpenter Chris (on calle 10) who had already made me several pieces of furniture.  I wanted something that would work as a bit of a room divider.  Many places here have living room/dining room combos and I thought it would be nice if he built me a long shelf with a high end that I could use to help separate the areas. I’d never been fond of the look of the room and it seemed that this would be an alternative.  We talked about materials, sizes, and the price.  We came to an agreement and Chris set a date for delivery.  So far so good.

That’s when I went back home, kicked my feet up, and got on my computer.  I was itching to get back to a favorite game, Candy Crush Saga, which, to be frank, should come with a warning.  It’s highly addictive.  But, my computer crashed, again.  It had been doing that a lot lately.  Has to do with electronics in the tropics.  They don’t mix.  So I called another person who’d been recommended to me, Edgar (Edgar Ch L on FB).  We talked a bit, and then I managed to keep my computer on long enough for him to work on it remotely, which was also long enough for him to  realize that he needed to be “hands on.”  He agreed to come over that evening.  It was time to just pick up a book and enjoy the deck.

Around 8:00 that evening, Edgar came over and had my computer up and running within an hour (you can see him DSCF4183working on it on the right).  I’d been itching to play my game, so that was a good thing.    Kudos to him!  A few days later, Carpenter Chris brought over my shelf and it was wonderful.  Then John picked me up to go to the Comex store and get my paint. The next day Pancho and Mauricio, two of Cozumel Home Care’s employees (the ones in the pics above) came over to start the work.  It was all just flowing together.  I took my dogs for a walk and daydreamed about how pretty my little apartment would be.  But, there was still one more change to go.

doggies doing timeOne of the things that is often different, culturally speaking, is how pets are viewed.  Some Mexicans, not all, but some tend to view them more as work animals and not companions.  Let me give you an example.  My landlord is a good man, but he had two dogs that were, primarily, alarm systems.  Were they fed and given water?  Of course022, but spending time with them wasn’t necessarily a priority, plus, they aren’t retired and don’t have the time that I do.  Unfortunately, due to their dogs being outside constantly, the pups started to have some health problems.  And, although I’d always brought them upstairs for socialization, it wasn’t enough.  So, since I was moving to a much larger place, I thought,  I’d offered to take them to a vet, pay the bills, and then take them with me.  They agreed since the vet bills were quite high.  But, now I’m not moving, and now I’m still in a rather small apartment, but with four dogs.  Thankfully, due to the location, I’m quite close to a park.  And, I also have a very large deck with lots of shade, so it’s doable.   I still had some monies left so they got beds, toys, meds and treats etc., and I’ve learned to be grateful that three of them are quite small.

002So, this retired expat now lives in quite a cute little place that’s been cleaned, painted, and renewed.  I’m still paying ridiculously low rent and have a happy landlord, and why not?  He’s no dummy.  His place is being fixed up and he still has an alarm system.  My computer works like new, my living room looks great, and my family has grown.  If you’d asked me about my plans a few months back, this isn’t what you’d have heard.  But, a little flexibility, some patience, and a finely developed sense of humor got me through it all relatively unscathed.  Thanks to all who helped me to have a home!  That’s all I really wanted anyway!  Salud!

p.s. I never receive compensation and I don’t mean to promote.  I just like sharing good experiences!


Magical Watercolor Visions: a gallery event

100Living on the island of Cozumel has encouraged this expat to get involved in many local activities and tonight was certainly no exception.  I was invited to a local artist’s first exhibit and was able to view some wondrous watercolor art as well as see just how supportive islanders can be of one of their own.  It was a grand party and, before I close my eyes for the night, I thought I’d share some of the highlights.  And, let me assure you, there were many.  There’s one thing Cozumel knows how to do and that’s throw an event.

But, before I get to the exhibit I’d like to take a moment and introduce the artist herself.  Sarah 076Pritchett, that’s her on the right, is originally from Oregon, but she and her husband, Tommie, now call Cozumel home.  They run a great little place called Villa Zaztun, which are rental apartments located on Xel Ha just a few doors down from me.  However, in between playing hostess to their guests, Sarah, a woman who likes to stay busy, decided to take up painting.  As she explained to me, it was almost by 066accident.  Apparently there was a woman by the name of Linda Lord who visited the island several times a year and, while on the island, offered watercolor classes.  Since Sarah was always interested in crafts, and had developed an urge to paint a palm tree on the side of their business, she finally decided to join a few of her friends and take some of those classes.  Now, and this part is important, this all happened just four years ago in 2009.  She had never painted before that time!  And, when you see her work, you’ll know that this is one person who was truly born to work in this medium.  After she took some classes, and continued to turn to Linda as a mentor,  she then borrowed a DVD set from a friend that offered further information and instructions and she followed them carefully.  She went on to paint cats to learn how to layer the colors.  Next she focused on dogs with their whiskers and then local wildlife such as turtles and birds.  Finally she began to create works that featured colorful individuals and this is where it all began to come together.  Just wait until you see her art.

104So, with that said, let’s get back to the exhibit.  It was held at the  Museo de la Isla de Cozumel, a grand and beautiful building (a former luxury hotel)  located on Melgar, which is the main street that runs along the ocean front.  The exhibit opened at 8:00 and had all the114 pomp and circumstance that one comes to expect here on the island.  Sarah was put front and center at the base of large stone steps (with grand ornate railings) along with museum dignitaries where she was formally introduced and then presented with a plaque to commemorate the event.  At that time she was asked to speak a few words to the many attendees and, once she was finished, there were smiles all around and we all headed upstairs to the exhibit itself.

094Her paintings were placed all around the main gallery and dozens of people stepped up to162 view and appreciate.  As is often the case, the camaraderie of the many folks who came out to support her was apparent.  Folks greeted each other, hugged Sarah and her husband, perused the paintings, signed the guest book, and sampled the hors d’oeuvres.  It felt like one of those affairs that is attended by anybody who is somebody and, for a few minutes, I could almost believe I was back in NYC.  Folks were dressed well and smiled often.   When it became a bit warm inside we could meander out to the outside balcony and take in the ocean breeze and look out at the well lit “Pirate Ship” that cruises along the shore after sunset.   What can I say, the ambiance was perfect.086

083Now, here is where I would like to mention that all the artwork is matted and framed, but I took 097photos of just the paintings.  That has to do with the fact that I’m a bit short and when I try to include everything the art gets a bit tilted, so I stick with a close up of only the work itself.  Also, due to the gallery lighting and the glass over the artwork, there might be an occasional bright dot of reflection from the glass.  Please keep that in mind when viewing the few pieces that I selected to go with this blog.  Finally,  if you see something you find particularly interesting, or just want to see some more great work, I’ll include her website address at the bottom of the piece.  071

070Well, after about an hour of taking some photos, talking with this person, or that one, it191 was time for me to start thinking about heading home.  A couple of friends of mine were getting ready to leave as well and, in true island fashion, offered me a ride.  So, to  round out the evening, I asked Sarah to stand with her husband, Tommie, for a last shot.  The easy smiles on their faces told me that they were quite content with how it all turned out.  And that’s as it should be.  A talented artist, a crowd of supporters, and all on a lovely night on the island of Cozumel.  It really just doesn’t get better than that.   Salud!

p.s. If you are on the island,  the exhibit runs through November 10, 2013.  The museum serves a lovely breakfast and you can then check out some great art before going on with your day.  Also, here is the link to a website where you can view even more of Sarah’s work………… http://www.cozumelwatercolors.com136