Cozumel: a guide and a goodbye………

DSCF6306Well,  this is my 112th blog about what it’s like to live on the island of Cozumel.  I’ve covered everything from charities to beach clubs, ruins to coffee houses, safety tips, illnesses, and holiday events. Sandwiched in between those you’ll also find a few posts that are simply about life as an expat.  Some of those moments are humorous, some, well, not so much.  So, at this point it seems  to be a good time for this expat to move on to other writings for a while.  But, for reference purposes, I thought I’d list a few of the various activities I’ve had the privilege to participate in over the past two years, as well as include a few of my favorite pics.   If you want to know more about a specific location, or topic, on that list (and would like to see the related photos), simply type the name in the search bar on the top of this page and you will be taken to that blog.  Simple, yes?  And, finally,  before I go I want to take this time to thank all of you for your support.  Your often enthusiastic responses have been greatly appreciated and you’ve made my “job” fun.   So, with that said,  here’s to the very special island of Cozumel, Salud!

 

Historical and Environmentalflower1

  • Chankanaab
  • San Gervasio
  • Punta Sur
  • El Cedral

Beach Clubs/Hotels

  • Buccanos
  • Barracuda
  • Blue Angel
  • Hotel B
  • Paradise Beach Club
  • The Money Bar
  • Sunset Bar and Grill
  • The Caribbean Sunset

Nightlife/Barsbench

  • Wet Wendy’s
  • Woody’s Bar and Grill
  • El Volado
  • The Thirsty Cougar
  • Zocalas
  • Kelly’s Pub

Holidays/Festivities

  • Christmas in the Park
  • Fourth of July
  • Carnaval17
  • El Cedral
  • Day of the Dead
  • Thanksgiving
  • Good Friday/Passion Play

Charities

  • The Chrysalis Group
  • It’s All About the Kids
  • La Esperanza
  • The Horse Sanctuary

Coffee Houses/Restaurants

  • El Cafe
  • Starbucks
  • Bisbees
  • Rock n Java
  • Cha Cha’s Kitchen
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Neighborhood Lodgings

  • The Coral Reef Inn
  • Villa Zaztun
  • Alicia’s Bed and Breakfast

Local Artists and Openings

  • Mariano Petit de Murat
  • Sarah Williams Pritchett

Local Craftsmen/Home Improvement/Computer Repair

  • Carpenter Chris
  • Cozumel Home Improvement
  • Edgar Ch L (computers)

Exercise

  • Tammy Cervantes’ Yogayoga 1
  • Ego

Shopping

  • Mercado
  • Malecon

Illnesses and Doctor’s Care/Costs

  • Dengue
  • Parasites
  • Shingles

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doggies doing time
dscf6976.jpgegret going to work

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beach entrance
chey
going home
water colors
ladies under wraps
horse and truck

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An eastside perspective

beach entranceThere is so much beauty on the island of Cozumel that words often aren’t enough.  Thankfully, I take a lot of photos.  We’ve had some lovely weather this past week and I’ve had the opportunity to go to the eastside, twice.  That’s where the beaches stretch for miles, the waves crash to shore, and there are enough little beach clubs that assure you won’t go hungry, but spaced far enough apart you can just enjoy the sound of the surf if you choose.  With that said, I’ve decided to make this piece a photo blog. I’ve included some pics of the scenery, the folks, the activities and, hopefully, captured some of the ambiance found on the “other side” of Cozumel.  Like I said, words often aren’t enough, but maybe these pics can help.  I hope you enjoy, Salud!ocean and rockscrazyguyswithsailswoodbeach sleepercoupletourist traplyndalynda on beach by woodmoped girlbetterflowerwater through woodguitar manbeach tent

What’s it like to live down here?

mw 2Just a few days ago I was lingering on the dock of the Blue Angel resort here on the island of Cozumel.  I swim with a group of women in the mornings (the mermaids) and I like to stay behind a bit longer just to enjoy the ocean before going back to my little apartment with its rather limited view of a busy street and the side of a really big church.   While sitting there watching the waves lap the dock a couple, who happened to be 1505518_403753766436891_1416634126_nsitting in lounge chairs close by, asked me if I lived here.  I smiled and said, “yes.”  Then they asked me the question I hear the most, “what’s it like to live down here?”  Now, depending upon my mood, recent events, and my life, at that moment, I have several ways of answering.  When things are a touch iffy for me I just smile and say, “it’s wonderful.”   After all, they aren’t really asking about my life, so I spare them the details.  But, when everything is going well, and it sunset furyseems as if the one doing the asking really wants to know some details, I sit down and give them a bit more.   But, and here’s the point I want to start with, the one asking the question is in that tourist tainted “pink cloud,” whereas I live here permanently and that lovely little “pink cloud” has been behind me for a while now.   This is my home, and, just like everyone else, when one is at home life can get very real. Let me explain.

Cozumel is wondrous.  It’s hard to remain in a bad mood when you have IMG_3499 (2)endless options of strolling on lovely beaches, swimming in clear waters, or dancing at one of our many local, and free to attend, events.  I mean, come on, how bad can it be to not appreciate the many little things that the island has to offer?  But, I still have to pay bills, clean my house, get the groceries, go to the doctor, run errands, and pick up the poo left behind by each of my nity and pasita 3four dogs.  And, this is where I’m going to mention that I often wonder if I’m feeding my pack  just a bit too much. Sometimes it boggles the mind just how 003many (recycled) bags I use.  I digress.  Yes, even while living on Cozumel I worry about finances, wait for the water guy, and listen for the gas man.  No-one is folding my towels in the shape of swans, there’s no chocolate on my pillows, unless it’s left over from the Milky Way bar I ate the night before, and, no, not everyone speaks English.  Not by a long shot.

Now, I’m certainly not complaining.  With the winter weather I see happening p5in my former location in the U. S. A., I wouldn’t dare.  No longer do I have to drive on icy roads, pour salt on my walkway, or bundle up in four layers just to survive.   I cannot express my gratitude enough for the ability to swim in the ocean in January.  But, while applying for my permanent residency card I had, on a few occasions, questioned my sanity.  I’m living in a foreign country on a limited budget, with less ability to communicate than I’d like.   It can get hot as hell, and the pelican staremosquitoes are mutated versions who will lick off repellent just for an appetizer.  Compromise becomes the word of the day while shopping for groceries, and patience becomes the need of the moment while trying to pelican in flightask for a simple item’s location.  Patience on both parts, mine and the store employee who’s merely trying to help.  Oh, and about the location of items, if you want root beer, look in the liquor aisle.  After all, there is the word “beer.”  Sometimes merely thinking “outside the box” doesn’t work down here.  Sometime you need to throw the box out altogether.

Bottom line?  I’m not in Kansas anymore, nor am I in Ohio, California, New in the trashYork, or Florida, all states I’ve lived in.  Friends need to mule down Miracle Whip and Butterfingers, I don’t get mail, can’t drink the tap water,  and toilet paper goes in the trash can (I live in an older house with the older plumbing).  Not to mention I’ve been searching for a reuben sandwich and german chocolate cake for two years now. Oh, and, yes, we do have crime.  We are 90,000 strong at this point, with hundreds of thousands of tourists added to the mix annually, so, a poor man's facesome crime is to be expected.  Especially with the contrasts of the very rich vs. the extremely poor.   And then there’s the folks who handle my small account in the U.S. who can’t seem to wire monies correctly, which causes me to have no funds, nada, for days, if not weeks, at a time.  Clothes made for Mexicans do not fit me, at 5’3″ and 130 lbs., I’m considered an extra large.  That fact I learned after trying bathing suits on for over an hour in Chedruai.  Electronics are expensive,  taxes went up, and having parasites was my latest disease.  Nope, it’s certainly not Kansas.

mw 4So, in answer to the question “what’s it like to live down here?”   It’s wondrous, frustrating, delightful, vexing,pasita5 incredible, disappointing, invigorating, disheartening, humorous, maddening, and the list could go on and on.  But, would I recommend it?  Absolutely!   To quote a fellow expat (thanks, Zazzu), “life is great and everything is possible.”  And I couldn’t agree more!  Just remove the rose colored glasses before you get here.  The water looks better without them anyway.  Salud!

p.s.  I feel the need to explain that my pug was not my pug when she was dressed in the pink faux leather tutu.  She still belonged to my landlord’s daughter and I was asked to photograph her in this outfit for her birthday present.  But, it is “national dress up your dog” day, so I figured, why not?

Punta Sur (and a perfect day)

011There is so much to do here on the island of Cozumel that it is sometimes difficult to choose an activity.  So, when someone else extends an invitation I am quite content for several reasons.  First of all, I’m happy I don’t have to make a decision and, secondly, I get to spend time with friends.  Yesterday I was invited to join a group of women to go to Punta Sur, which is an eco park on the south tip of the island.  Imagine lush jungles, crystal waters, soft breezes, and lots of laughter.   In fact, it was an absolutely perfect day!  And, since that’s not something I would say easily I’d better get started with the proof.

But, just before I take you to our version of paradise, let me tell you a perk we get when we live here.  As a local, we can apply for a “plan locale” card, which enables us to go to various sites on the island for free, and, yes, you read that right.  Since the powers that be assume we will give much back through our time living here (think food, housing, entertainment etc.) they let us apply for this card.  But, getting that card can be just a bit of a hassle, at least it was for this expat.  So, for those of you who might want to apply, let me make it easier for you.  The office is a large building on calle 30 and is almost next to the Pemex gas station on Benito Juarez.  Assume that, because I didn’t tell you the name of it, I’m not a journalist, but you can ask around.  Once there you will need copies of your Ultra Mar card, your residency card, a utility bill, and your passport.  It took me three trips.  But, I’m not complaining since yesterday was the first time I’d ever used it and the day more than made up for it.

015We rode in two vehicles that we filled with our snorkel gear, towels, a cooler for water, and us.  It’s a long ride to the other end of the island and, seemingly, longer over the bumpy, dusty road that leads back into the park, but the view is spectacular.  The road winds between the water and the foliage where you can see a lot of the local wildlife.  After about twenty minutes, or so, we were stopped at the gated entrance by the security guys who were both bilingual and quite friendly.  The cost for non-residents was 156 pesos, which is about 14 bucks usd and (it’s worth mentioning again) for us locals it was free, but they050 do check our cards carefully.   Once checked in you can head to the beach where Victor and Manuel will grab some hammocks for you so that you can laze under a protective screen while gazing at the waters.  I made a pest of myself with Victor since I wanted to learn how to tie hammocks to just ropes (no hooks here folks) and he laughingly, and patiently, worked with me.  I did, however, have to sit in the hammock I did all by myself, but, thankfully, I had a good teacher.

There are choices for food, drinks, and activities.  They have an “all you can eat” buffet that’s quite reasonable, or you can just grab snacks and drinks at the 107beach bar, which is what I did.  The whole day cost me less than 60 pesos (mostly because Tina wouldn’t let me contribute to gas, but I do want to say thanks again for the lift).   On the beach there is also a nice group of women who set up a canopy and cots for those who want to get a massage with the jungle behind them and the ocean in front.  Or, for those who are a bit more adventurous, there are kayaks available, a lagoon boat ride to see the crocodiles, nature paths that go through the jungle, a very long beach to walk on (in almost total isolation), and, of course, the ocean.  Our group opted for food, drinks, hammocks, walks, and snorkeling.

079The other ladies headed over to the buffet while I grabbed my camera to take some shots.  Off and on, it was a bit of a 039cloudy day, but that made it even better since there wasn’t always the hot sun to worry about.  I strolled along the beach for half an hour and, other than the wildlife, did not hear a single human sound.  I can’t explain how eerie that can be, at first, when realizing that there was no sound of traffic, no dogs barking, no people talking.  In other words, there was no “white noise,” only the sounds of the waves gently slapping the beach and the birds singing their songs in the jungle.  It was quite tranquil.

098Once I was completely serene,  I headed back to the hammocks, which remained my central point all day, to wait for the others.  I wanted to get a group shot while on the beach before we got into the water.  I was able to get that shot, took pics of others, and even got into one of the shots myself (ironically, I’m quite camera shy).  Once we were finished with the cameras we got out our snorkeling gear and headed down to the water.

Now, the picture on the left shows where we first swam to before leisurely floating down along the reef.  In the shot I was trying to capture a flag that was the marker.  086However, there was a bit of wave action and the flag kept going over.  So, to get an idea, if you look for the brightest shade just before getting to the darkest blue on the top of the pic, you’ll see where we went.  But, since I don’t have an underwater camera, these next shots were taken by a new friend, Robin.  She showed me a great little camera that she picked up in the states for about 50-60 bucks.  I’ll be getting one soon, you can believe that, but, in the meanwhile, thanks for these shots, Robin.

As you can see, this group of ladies are quite the enthusiastic bunch.  Whether posing for underwater shots, or maria underwaterjust plain hanging upside down to see something closer, we all made the most of our fish and fanstime.  And, here is where words might fail me.  It was simply beautiful.  Colorful fish, huge lobsters, flowing coral and swaying fans.  There was one scene that just took my breath away when I first saw it.  As luck would have it, the sun peeked back out for a moment and just off in the distance I saw dozens of sea fans gently swaying in the current with the sun highlighting their lacy patterns.  After my frantic call out to Robin to come over with her camera I just stayed in one place taking it all in.  I’ve honestly never seen anything quite that perfect before.

A little while later another friend showed me how to hang upside down so as to look into a small cavern to see a “big crab.”  It took me a couple of tries, but then I saw it.  “Big crab?”   That thing was huge!!  It was about five fishfeet away from me, tucked back into a corner, but when it reached its giant claw out a bit, I let out a scream, realized I was still hanging upside down and sprinted to the surface.  It was a little while before I did it again and, contrary to my friends’ urging, I don’t think I’m diver material, I’m such a woos.  But, of course I did, and the next time was when we got to see a group of very large lobsters.  Most of them were hiding behind one who looked big enough to feed an entire family.  But, I have to admit, I hope no-one ever catches him, he’s been around for a long while and it would be a shame for him to end up on a plate.  Yea, I’m getting soft in my old age.

girl underwater I’m not really sure how long we floated along.  Seemed like quite a while, but then it was time to head back into the beach.  We’d come quite a distance so there was going to be a walk back, but no-one was complaining.  But, I  suddenly turned into a little kid that didn’t want to leave yet.  Thankfully, Joey agreed to hang back with me a while and I took some more of it in.  Then, a bit later,  she spotted a stingray.  It was quite large and so elegant as it glided through the water.  All grace ended, however,  when it went to the bottom and dug for something to eat, the sand exploded around its focal point.  But, then it just hovered on the bottom while the wings rippled with the current so we lingered.  We also saw some rather large conch shells and were happy to note that they were alive and well, and not just discarded shells.  We just drifted along spotting this and that, but, as all things do, it had to come to an end and we headed to the beach.

After that we all walked back to our hammocks and just chatted.  Not everyone knew each other well and it was 109a great way to become friends.  Stories were told and laughter ensued.   For a while it felt like I was back in college and I relished every moment.  Then I wrapped myself up in my hammock and just listened, napped a few moments here and there, and got ready for the day to end.  But, there was one more thing to do.  Maria came over and asked if 115I wanted to get some shots of the Cozumel (pygmy) raccoons that were hanging around the backside of the buffet area.  So, off we went and I was able to grab some quick shots of the little guys.  Now, they weren’t quite in their natural habitat, but the jungle was merely a few feet away.  However, they seemed to prefer the underside of the building for their home.  It does provide shade, safety, and they can get food readily.  But, how I feel about that is a topic for another time. One cute guy came out and “hid” behind some gardening tools.  I think he really believed he was able to just peek an eye while staying hidden.  No matter, it made for a great shot.

Then it really was time to leave.  We packed everything up, loaded it all into the vehicles and took off for one last stop, the lighthouse.  A few of the gals still had enough energy to traipse the steps and get to the top, but most of us just sat, or walked around the area.  I really wanted a photo of the gals up top as they waved until I realized that I left my camera in a car that was locked, and it’s owner was one of those peeking down from the  top, oh well.  Once they were back down, however,  it was time for that one last shot.  This time, however, we handed a camera to someone else so we could all be in it.  And, yes, that includes me, I’m the one on the far right with the silly smile.  group with me smiling

So, yes, it really was quite the perfect day, and one I hope to repeat, at some point, down the road.  But, for now, I’m content to just get in my bed, turn on some music, and reminisce about flowing coral and waving fans.  It’s a good life!  So, with that said, here’s to Cozumel and good friends, may the two always go together.  Salud!

Here’s to Maria, Joey, Bonita, Brenda, Gail, Robin, and Tina for being such a great group to hang with!!

Gettin’ Cozy in Cozumel: Alicia’s Bed & Breakfast

DSCF6422So, you want to visit Cozumel, but you don’t think you can afford the lodgings?  Well, I’m here to prove that theory wrong.  I’ve been lucky enough to not only meet some great people while writing this “Gettin’ Cozy….” series, but have also had the opportunity to see some wonderful places we have tucked in our neighborhoods that are quaint, colorful, unique, and very affordable.  Today I’m going to take you inside a B&B that combines the exotic touches one expects in the Caribbean with the homey feel that we all long for when on the road.  Let’s go take a peek.

Alicia’s Bed & Breakfast is located smack dab in the middle of one of the more established neighborhoods on the island on 65 b & 19.   Alicia, the owner, wasn’t originally expecting to start a business, she’d just thought she’d retire to the island and enjoy the good life.  But, back in 1994, she soon realized that she had found a place that was worth sharing and she’s had loyal patrons ever since.

DSCF6458When first pulling up to the B&B, one would have no idea what to expect, the facade is rather subdued and unassuming.  But, once on the other side of the entry, you are immediately welcomed by a large home surrounded by gardens, pathways, and sunny areas that circle around to the back where, as I discovered later, there is another, smaller building with an outdoor kitchen and several more guest rooms.  When first walking in the front door you’ll see a large, nicely shaded sitting room with large windows just filled with colorful mobiles and wind chimes.  This is where guests can come to get away from the heat and enjoy the quiet of the day.

DSCF6440The stairs lead up to a large guest area, in the main house, that can be made into it’s own DSCF6421suite for a family, or a small group.  Now, here’s where I’ll say that the rooms could be described as basic, but sparkling clean, each with air conditioning, its own full bathroom, and all have big windows that allow the guests to look out over the garden area.  They are cleaned daily and all linens are provided, of course.  All you have to do is sit back, relax, and, if you’re not heading out for activities, pick a book from Alicia’s large selection.

DSCF6433Once I took a peek at the guest room in the main house I started to wander on the paths along the garden around to the back.  There are five rooms altogether and the DSCF6434selections are diverse.  Whether you’d like to be garden level with a mini-kitchen outside, or upstairs with a large deck, or off to the side with a patio and an umbrella table, that’s okay, you have choices.  And all are priced per room and, when I tell you that price you may not believe me.  But, I’ll get to that in a bit.

While walking around, Alicia joined me and started to tell me about some of the healing DSCF6426plants she has on the property.  Oh, and that’s her on your left showing me the fruit of one tree that many claim will help you sleep better, feel better, and might even help folks with serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.  Once a skeptic myself, I have to admit that I, too, am feeling pretty perky these days after diving into some of the lesser known fruits available here on the island, many of which grow, like this one, in folk’s backyards.  I no longer turn my nose up at some of these types of claims.  I’m thinking that the old ways might just start coming back around, but, I digress……..let’s get back to the B&B.

DSCF6446Alicia and I went upstairs and I took a few pics of the little house she has in the back. DSCF6436 All the while we kept talking about so many different things that I realized this is a woman who just likes people, and life.  Soft spoken, but so friendly, she was a joy to spend time with.  I became glad that a friend of ours, Valli, had recommended that I meet with her in the first place and, possibly, feature her B&B in my series.  I’m glad I listened and I feel like I made a friend.  Still, I was also there with a mission.  So, while wandering about and chatting I started to focus on a few of the seating areas, and I turned my camera towards the little water feature she has on the side, and then theDSCF6423 little touches in the room such as the many nightstands filled with books.  There was a lot to see and all the while I was enjoying just how quiet it was there.  I live on a busy street so this was pleasant.

DSCF6452Once we got back downstairs and walked around to the front house I was able to meet one of Alicia’s dogs (she has two very friendly pooches).  Then, as we headed towards the dining room, I was invited to stay for a breakfast that had already been cooked by Chuco, her helpmate.  Now, this is when it gets a bit sticky for me since I don’t accept compensation of any kind.  But, as it turned out, Chuco was cooking for folks anyway and I was simply welcomed to partake.  Since I’d already taken my notes, taken my pictures, and knew what I was going to write, I agreed.  Besides, when you see what the guests at the B&B get to eat in the mornings, really, can you blame me?DSCF6453

So, that’s the breakfast I’m raving about on your right and it was what they were serving everyone.  Every morning guests can choose between an omelette, which I can now personally recommend, eggs, cereals, or waffles for the kids.  All come with fruit, juice, coffee, and home-made guacamole served with home-made chips.  Let me tell you, Chuco is an amazing cook!  I finished the omelette, had some fruit, a glass of juice, and a handful of chips with the guacamole, but Chuco still wondered if I liked what he’d cooked.  All I could do was smile.

DSCF6461Now, before I get to the prices, let me show you a pic of both Alicia and Chuco standing in the B&B kitchen.  Nice folks, yes?  And you’re going to think they are even nicer in a second.  The prices at Alicia’s B&B are $35 usd a night in the slow season (April to mid-December) and $45 usd a night during the high season.  That’s the price per room, not per person,  and includes all the ambiance, some friendly folks, and the breakfast I just described.  Not bad, not bad at all.  Make sure you take a peek at their website for more information……..http://aliciasbedandbreakfast.com/

Well, so far, I’ve shown you the Coral Reef Inn, Villa Zaztun, and Alicia’s Bed & Breakfast.  All lovely, all neighborly, and all very affordable.  In another week, or so, I will finish this series by taking you inside some villas located just a few blocks away.  I’ve admired them from the outside on many an occasion and I’m excited to have the chance to take a closer look.  I hope you can come along.   And, hopefully, all these choices  might just help you realize that Cozumel doesn’t have to be just a dream, but an affordable reality.  Salud!

p.s. I don’t receive compensation and don’t intend to promote, I just like to share good experiences!

on a side note, I’m going to post a pic of Chuco’s grandson……….if you see him, please just let Chuco know that all is okay……….a family matter only and I have no further details, merely providing a service, thank you

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It’s the little things…………

DSCF6306It’s summer here on the island of Cozumel and that means that this expat chooses her activities more carefully.   Frankly,  the heat can be brutal and, to my mind,  not much seems worth the effort unless it involves full submersion in the ocean.  But, in spite of my inertia, that hasn’t stopped me from getting into some humorous situations due to my Murphy’s Law kind of life, or my complete lack of street smarts, I’m never quite sure which to blame.  Still, I thought I’d take a moment and share a few with you.  Will I look foolish?  Probably.   But these little tales also show a wonderful side of the locals who’ve been both witnesses and rescuers during my special moments and that makes the telling worth the risk.   I think I’ll merely share three events here, I mean,  how silly do I want to look in a single day?  But, hang in there, we’ve got some great folks here on the island that make it all worthwhile.   Oh, and I’ve included a couple of completely unrelated pics just as a reminder of why it’s all worthwhile.  Hope you enjoy!DSCF6352

No Reflection

It was a Saturday in July and I woke up with a taste for some fresh fruit to go with my coffee.  I looked in the blue bowl I keep on top of my frig, but there was just one banana left and it hadn’t made it through the night’s heat.  In fact, the blackened skin split and a little fruit squished out when I, ever so gently, merely attempted to just pick it up. But, that’s okay, here on Cozumel we have a market that has all kinds of fruits and vegetables, and hammocks, and hula hoops.   Pretty much anything one could want for a simple life can be found in El Mercado so I got ready to do some shopping.

The first thing I needed to do was dress for the weather.  Please keep in mind it was not just July,  it was July on a tropical island in Mexico.  This was the fact that caused me to search my closet for the right combination of material (not too heavy, can breathe, and won’t make me look like a wet t-shirt contestant once I started to sweat) and pattern (dark solids aren’t  a good idea in this heat, but, then neither are certain designs unless you are a fan of surrealism, sweat does interesting things).   A pastel sundress with a skirt that I know will wrap around my legs while I’m on my bike wins, as it usually does.  I got dressed, put down some water for my dogs,  grabbed some paper towels for the expected sweat, and applied layers of chapstick.  All set, I put everything in the basket mounted to the front of my bike and headed north on 25.

It was so very hot outside, but I sipped some bottled water and dabbed at the many drops that started to accumulate.  Fortunately, traffic was light and I was at the market in less than ten minutes; one of the great things about living on this island, nothing is too far away.  I parked and locked my bike, grabbed my purse and headed inside.

Within moments I was at my favorite stand that’s just outside the main section.  I grabbed a kiwi, a couple of bananas, and an orange.  The guy who waited on me was quite nice, but he seemed to be looking at me rather intently.  I chalked it up to the time of day, said my thanks and moved on.  The next place I stopped was at one of the butcher counters to get some scraps for my dogs.  Again the guy who was waiting on me was nice, but, again, he also seemed to be looking at me quite closely.   I chalked that up to my own lack of enough coffee. I grabbed the plastic bag filled with beef bits, thanked him, and kept going.

I must have wandered through El Mercado for about an hour, or so.  It was getting very busy, and warmer, by the second.  It’s an open air market and, although they have fans set up just about everywhere one looks, the more people that get there, the hotter it is.   I kept sipping my water, dabbing my face, and nibbling on the orange that wasn’t going to make it home.  People were now everywhere, many that looked at me with such big smiles that I just had to smile back, it was contagious.  But, soon it was time to head home.

I packed my stuff back up and started south, again on 25.  I unlocked the gate and pulled my bike inside.  There I saw my landlord’s granddaughter who’s all of five and, suddenly, quite the giggler.  I don’t know enough Spanish, yet, to ask her why, but by then, I must admit, I was just plain curious and not just a little paranoid.  So I headed upstairs, patted my pooches on the head and went straight into the bathroom to take a peek in the mirror.  And there it was, the face that had caused all the looks, the smiles, and the giggles.  There had to be at least a dozen little bits of white paper stuck everywhere.   I looked like my Dad from back in the day when he’d cut himself shaving.  And the fact that my face is dark tan, but the paper was bright white didn’t help.  With language that would have made a sailor blush, I washed my face and vowed to never use paper again.DSCF6280

Rodeo in the Rain

A couple of weeks ago I was house sitting for friends who’d needed to go back to the states for a visit.  It was an easy gig.   I knew them well and had been to their house on many occasions.  So it was merely a need to be responsible, make sure folks saw someone around the property, turn lights on, turn lights off, air out the house, and water the plants.   Simple.

But, the very day they left it began to rain.   Now, this is the end of the rainy season so a little rain is not noteworthy.  Especially the gentle shower that started it all.  Since I knew they had a few windows open I was aware that I would need to trek over if it got any worse, but it passed within minutes and the sun came back out.  I went back to what I was doing.

That lasted about five minutes and then the rain started again.  But, this time there was nothing gentle about it.  Within seconds, or so it seemed, it was no longer vertical, it was coming down sideways.  That was when I knew I had to go over and shut their windows, or stuff would get destroyed.  So, out came the bike and off I went with my head down and peddling fast.    Thankfully, they only live a couple of blocks from me, and, due to the intensity, there was no traffic to speak of since folks here know what they are doing, with the possible exception of me, that is.

Having passed the church on 20, I was just taking starting to take a left onto calle 17 in the so-called Corpus Christi neighborhood when I heard it.  Someone let out a cowboy “yeehaw” from somewhere behind me.  I didn’t even have the  time to give much thought to just how unusual that particular outburst was when a guy on a moped pulled up right alongside me.  He was about 25 and  wearing nothing more than a pair of shorts and a smile, but he didn’t stop there.  He held his hand up with the palm facing me and I just had to do as he asked.  There I was, in the absolute pouring rain, giving a stranger on a moped a “high five.”  Once that task was completed he sped off.  I just grinned and kept pedaling.DSCF6313

Balcony Blues

Well, today is Tuesday and that means that I do a bit of cleaning at a place over on the corner of 5 and 10.    It’s where we have our A.A. meetings in English and it was my turn to help keep the room clean.   It’s the least I can do for a program that has saved my life.  But, I digress.  There I was finishing up with the room and I stepped out onto the tiny back balcony with the mop and a couple of rags.  I had a cup of coffee with me and had every intention of just sipping it while waiting for the floor inside to dry.  Putting the mug down I leaned over the sink with the mop to rinse it out, but then the handle smacked into something behind me.  It was the door.  The door that was now closed and locked.  The door that doesn’t have a handle on the outside.  My keys were, of course, on the inside, and so was my phone.

I sat down with the coffee and thought about it for a minute.  There would be a meeting at 6:00 so it wasn’t as if I was stuck there forever.  Then I looked at my watch, it was 10:45.  Nope, I was not about to be zen about the possibility of being on a balcony in the sun, without food, or a bathroom for over six hours.   I started to look at my options.

This might be the time to mention that I’m now aware that I will not be pursuing a life of crime.  I could not break back into the room no matter how much I jiggled, wiggled, or kicked that damn door.  I found old shelfing nails under the sink, but they weren’t long enough to do whatever it was that I thought shelfing nails could do.  The windows were of the slatted variety, so that wasn’t an option either.  I then began to watch the neighbor’s yard for activity.

About a half an hour later a woman came outside with clothes over her arm.  I began to yell “hello,” well, “hola,” and she turned and looked up at me.  In my best Spanglish I explained my situation.  That I was cleaning the room, had locked myself out onto the balcony, and my keys and phone were inside.  She smiled, turned, and calmly walked away.

About ten minutes later, however,  she came back and she had friends.  Now I’m explaining, in my best Spanglish, the whole situation all over again to two women and three men who all patiently craned their necks to look straight up at me.  A conversation ensued and then, after much laughter (and some furtive glances headed in my direction), one of them walked around the back of the house while the rest just smiled up at me.  He came back around with a ladder that had definitely seen better days, and those were probably in the sixties.

He leaned it against the wall and, of course, it didn’t quite reach.  Then he, and everyone else, began to talk at once and gesture rather emphatically towards the ladder.  Apparently I was being asked to climb over the wrought iron fence on the side of the balcony, which seemed impossible due to the length of my legs, and then hang on the fence while I leaned forward and lowered a leg down the wall until it came to the top of the ladder.   Let’s just say, I hesitated.

But, about a minute later, I realized that there just didn’t seem to be any other ideas other than to wait it out for the day.  And, since the coffee I’d sipped, and the coffee I’d had earlier, were starting to make themselves known I realized I didn’t have that long;  waiting 5 1/2 more hours was no longer an option. So, I pulled the plastic chair we keep out on that balcony alongside the railing.  I stood on the chair, lowered my right leg over and became glad for my years of yoga exercises.   The kind folks below were now giving me some great vocal support and huge smiles of encouragement.  I was just happy I’d worn shorts.   I got my toe on the tiny bit of space that was on the other side of the railing and then pulled my other leg over.  And, there I stood, 20 plus feet in the air, standing on about two inches of cement, holding onto a railing that I could only hope was firmly attached to the walls.  My saviors were all still smiling, murmuring,  and nodding so I carefully tip toed the few more inches I needed to align myself directly above the ladder.  I lowered my hands on the railing rungs, started to reach one leg down and then I just happened to notice, out of the corner of my eye, something amazing.  Almost as one they each made the sign of the cross complete with the symbolic kiss on the thumb.  Then, when the first woman looked back up, our eyes met and she  gave me a wink.  Down the ladder I went.

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Well, I hope you enjoyed my special moments from the last few weeks.  I’ll be heading over to a great little B&B tomorrow for some pics and info to include in my series “Gettin’ Cozy in Cozumel.”  In the meanwhile,  here’s to all the folks who make our life on the island something to write about…………….Salud!DSCF6346

Gettin’ Cozy in Cozumel: Villa Zaztun

2About a month ago, this expat had wondered what there would be to focus on for my blog while living on the island of Cozumel during the hottest months.  Having lived in various parts of Mexico for the last five years, I just knew that I wouldn’t be pursuing any activities that required much effort so had looked around for other writing topics.  That was when it occurred to me that, in between my other, more sedentary pursuits,  I could take a peek at a few of the colorful,  quaint, and affordable alternatives to the huge resorts.  I’ll go inside these  little gems that are tucked in around my neighborhood, get some history, snap some pics and then share the results.  It was a way to move slowly, get to know some folks, and, so far, it’s been a lot of fun (we have some great people here).  In this installment I’m going to take you inside Villa Zaztun, which houses some very pretty apartments that can be rented on a weekly basis.  For those of you who would prefer to have that “home away from home” feeling while visiting Mexico, then these are for you.

I’m going to start by introducing the owners, Sarah and Tommie Pritchett.  As we1 walked around Villa Zaztun today I was told that they’d decided, almost on a whim, to open a business here on the island back in 2002.  But, they’d made sure to mention, there’s no regrets and they’ve never looked back.   In addition to being hosts, Sarah is also a talented artist working, primarily, with water colors and Tommie stays busy working with Cozumel’s rendition of “Amazing Race.”  And, since they live on the premises, they are not only knowledgeable about the island, but available to answer just about any question that might arise.  Now, if that sounds like an eclectic mix, well, you’d be right, but the end result is worth it when you see how welcome they make you feel, and what they’ve done with the place.

4When you first come inside the front gate you’ll immediately appreciate the large, well-tended, tropical garden.  Then, as you go inside and start up the stairs, artistic touches can be seen everywhere from the stained glass window overhead to the metal 3creatures you see on the walls.  The Villa Zaztun has three stories in all with the  apartments located on the second floor and a large deck to be enjoyed by the vacationers on the third, which overlooks the so-called Corpus Christi neighborhood.  Located on XelHa, they are just a couple of blocks from the ocean, close to several large stores, and are only about a ten minute walk from the center of town.  Now, the fact that they are also just about a block from where I live might make me seem biased, but I picked out my own apartment based on its location, so, well, there you go.  Let’s just say, I highly recommend the area.

6The apartments are good-sized, air-conditioned, and can comfortably accommodate  four (maybe more) people 6bper unit, which is another way to save money since the prices are per apartment, not per person.  Each has a living room/dining room combination that is well furnished with everything one needs to feel at home that also includes a television with cable and internet access provided.  They also have fully stocked kitchens with all the appliances one could ask for whether on vacation, or not.  Since, as I’d mentioned,  there is a major store just up the street, folks can easily find anything they need while enjoying the island.

5 The bedrooms are roomy with double beds, couches, and curtained balcony areas.  Oh, and let me remind you that I’m not a professional photographer, nor did I primp. In other words,  what you see is exactly what you get with no tricks.  You’ll notice that the walls are covered in art, the side tables have creative lamps, the beds 8have colorful throws, the couches are covered in pillows, but, somehow it all works together to make you feel appreciated.  In fact, I think one of the things that makes this idea so appealing to me is that these rooms are truly unique and don’t have that cookie cutter approach to a vacation where every room looks exactly like the next.  In a place like the Villa Zaztun, you just know that the owners put in some time and thought and those little touches show.  Let me mention that the bathrooms are quite nice as well.  They are kept immaculate and are tiled with touches of blue glass, have large showers, and, of course,  all the linens are provided.9

11And, finally, there’s the third floor deck!  This is where folks go to really feel like they are living on the island.  With a view of the neighborhood, and a great place to see the sunset, it’s12 the place that seems to be the most popular with all their guests.  Naturally, Sarah and Tommie have added their extra little touches up there as well.  Of course there are hammocks available, can’t visit Mexico without those, but there are also couches, tables, chairs, and lots of tropical potted plants to keep on with that homey feeling.  I know I’ve walked past, looked up, and seen folks having a great time on more than one occasion.  I’m just glad I finally got to check it out for myself.  Oh, and the flip-flops mosaic you see just below is yet another example of those extra touches that makes the ambiance so much fun.10

Not a bad way to spend a vacation, yes?  And, when I tell you the prices, you may not believe me.  Remember when I said that prices are per apartment and not per person?  Well, you can rent an apartment for $450 usd a week during the slow season and for $612 (tax included) a week during the high time here on the island.  Now you understand why I wish I’d known about these places back when I was a tourist.  I’d spend that much for just three days at a resort, and I certainly didn’t stay at the 5 star locations.  Guess that’s why I want to share this info with folks now in the hopes they can see that a trip to Cozumel can be in just about anyone’s budget.

Well, I want to thank Sarah and Tommie for being such gracious hosts and letting me ramble around their place today taking photos and asking questions.   And, I want to mention that this series has been a great way to get to know my neighbors and give back a little to an island I’ve grown to love.  I guess I just want everyone to check out Cozumel, it just might be your idea of paradise too.  Salud!

13p.s.  I’ve been getting some great feedback on my “Gettin’ Cozy in Cozumel” series so far, thanks88 for the comments. As a reminder, if you go back you will see a piece on The Coral Reef Inn, and, over the next month, or so,  I will also be looking at a B&B as well as some neighborhood villas just to round out the options.  I do like to emphasize that I do not receive compensation of any kind, nor do I try to specifically promote.  I just like to pass along information.    Finally, if you see     time on Cozumel in your future check out their website at http://www.cozumelvillazaztun  (you might need to cut and paste, worth it to see the stuff with the professional pics).  Also, to see some really cool water-color artwork by a very talented lady check out her new website as well at:   http://www.cozumelwatercolors.com

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