CHANGES

Joanna and Jorge 1976

The only constant is change. Over the years, I’ve quoted this apparent oxymoron over and over again. In fact, the first paragraph of Magic Made in Mexico – my book for international residents in Mexico – emphasizes this very point:

I’ve often wondered what would happen if we could recognize pivotal times in our personal journeys – the forks in the road that present themselves – do we see them coming? Does a vague premonition warn us that certain decisions are destined to truly change our path? If we could anticipate those critical junctions, would we have the nerve to follow through?

I certainly did “follow through” – but for the past several years, I have sensed more than a “vague premonition” – I’ve known that changes are not far off. In fact, the Universe has been banging me over the head with a cast iron frying pan. Yet, I have resisted. I’ve tried to divert my thoughts and actions.

Part of me doesn’t want to make any changes. For a whole gamut of reasons, I want to continue ambling along just as I’ve done up until now. And yet, another part of me feels like a diver poised with her toes curled around the no-slip tip of the highest platform – waiting for the whistle to shrill – the signal that it’s her turn to leap.

Forty-one years ago I moved to Merida. I was young – incredibly young. I did not comprehend how radically different my new world would be, but at twenty-three, I thrived on adventure. I craved it like chocolate. Now, I am almost triple that age. The life I charged into has been amazing, enriching,   challenging, and wonderful – mostly because Lady Luck introduced me to Jorge – the man who has shared the roller coaster ride. Now retired, I guess we should be settling into our dotage, resting on our laurels – taking it easy.

But gale force winds are blowing again – I feel the need to regroup, refocus and repurpose my life.

For a mishmash of practical, sensible, prudent reasons, and for some emotional, familial, climate-related, and age-induced ones – I’ve decided to move back to Canada for the “warmer” half of each year.  I will continue to live in Merida for the “cooler” half.

Those readers who know me will immediately wonder – what does “the man who has shared the roller coaster ride” have to say about all this? To be honest, Jorge is less than thrilled. This is my doing, but he is willing to give it a go. After all, if we don’t adjust, we can always change our minds and pick up where we left off. Potential for un-change is also limitless, isn’t it?

Jorge and I will probably not be able to leave Merida until June, which means we’ll be away until December.  We plan to settle in Kamloops, a city of approximately 90,000 people in the interior of British Columbia. The place has much to offer– lots of sunshine, a small university, cultural venues, and a good library located two blocks from our 2 bedroom apartment. There are paths along the river for pleasant walks, and lakes for swimming – cold swimming. The shopping is plentiful – in both farmers’ markets and malls. Local wineries and pick-your-own-veggie fields will make for some vastly-different-from-Yucatan day trips. But the best feature in Kamloops is the close proximity to my sister, Barb, and other family and friends.

And to mark this milestone, what does an earnest blogger do? Why, she starts a new blog – what else? After nearly a decade, it feels bitter-sweet to be leaving Writing From Merida. But it’s all about change, right?

After today, I do not plan on writing any new posts for Writing from Merida. From now on, you will find all my new content and some of the posts from my former blog at:

 Changes in our Lives
https://changesinourlives.wordpress.com/

If you wish to follow the new blog, you need to re-subscribe – scroll to the very bottom and click on the button provided.

Changes in our Lives is still a work in progress. Be patient – it will continue to evolve – as will Jorge and I.

Joanna and Jorge 2017

FILEY 2017 – the biggest literary event of the year

This coming week, if you wander into the Siglo XXI Convention Center from the parking lot, you’ll see the length of the corridor is decorated in a bright red and yellow motif, with traditional Chinese paper lanterns hanging overhead.

If you come through the side access, you’ll feel as though you’ve wandered into a Campeche landscape; reminiscent of colonial times.

The changes in décor are part of the attractions of FILEY – the International Readers Festival of Yucatan, to be held at the convention center from Saturday March 11th until Saturday March 18th. Each year, a state in Mexico and an international country are the honored guests at FILEY – for 2017, the featured state is Campeche and the country is the People’s Republic of China.

FILEY is sponsored by the University of Yucatan (UADY) and the organizational committee has spent more than a year planning the event. This week, the convention center looked like a beehive or ant hill with so many people working  ‘round the clock, to set up the Chinese and Campeche pavilions, the mega book fair, and an art garden. This year the FILEY is offering more than 1,200 activities, and many will be held in the convention center’s salons and cinema.

130 book publishers, sellers and other culture-focused business have stands at the book fair, located in the Salon Chichen Itza. Most of the titles are in Spanish, but even if you cannot read the language, you will thoroughly enjoy the people watching and the energy of this once-a-year extravaganza.

A bilingual presentation, “Intercultural Writers in Yucatan – Escritoras Interculturales en Yucatán” is slated for Thursday March 16th at 8 pm. The invited writers are Marianne Kehoe, Linda Lindhlom and me!  I won’t give away the surprise by giving you the details of our presentation. But we hope you’ll come out and support us.

To read more about the FILEY, click on this link to the Yucatan Expat Life website: http://yucatanexpatlife.com/book-fair-returns-with-english-language-authors/

The full FILEY program can be downloaded from the Diario de Yucatan site: http://filey.org.mx/docs/Programa%20FILEY%202017.pdf

A Tale of Two Bloggers

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One of the things I like best about blogging is meeting other bloggers. It is amazing how well you can get to know a person by reading his or her posts. Each of us has a unique take on life.

One of such people is Steve Cotton. He is from Oregon, and now lives on Mexico’s west coast in Barra de Navidad, a small fishing village that’s popular with snowbirds in the wintertime. I imagine the place is a bit like Chelem, a town on Yucatan’s Gulf of Mexico.

Steve entertains me almost daily with stories about his present home and about his former one. He writes about his shopping expeditions to bigger cities, the restaurants he stumbles upon, and the people he meets from all walks of life. I feel like I know his family who visit him frequently. He is a serious Spanish language student, and a man who has taken up walking for health, with a vengeance. He wrote about Mr. Jiggs, his golden lab, and after the faithful dog’s demise, another golden lab came into his life. That pup kept Steve hopping from one doggie-created disaster to another.  When the seemingly unstoppable Barco died, way before his time, I cried.

Yes, I love dogs – and I share another of Mr. Cotton’s passions – travel. When I learned he’d be taking a cruise in Australia, I resumed a search I’d let slide for way too long.

My grandfather, Joseph van Waterschoot van der Gracht was a geologist and marine artist on the Mawson expedition that sailed from Tazmania to Antarctica. (Granddad was actually on the second sailing of the SS Aurora in 1912). While in Antarctica, he painted and photographed scenes of camp life, the fauna of Antarctica, seascapes and landscapes.

I knew about a collection of his Antarctica paintings.  I knew it was in Australia, and thanks to Steve, I decided to renew the hunt. My internet sleuthing put me in touch with Mark Pharoah, Manager of the Mawson Centre at the South Australian Museum in Adelaide. When Steve posted his cruise itinerary – and I saw that Adelaide would be one of the ports of call – I had to write and tell him my family story.

For me, time in a foreign city is enhanced if I have even a tenuous connection to the place. I figured Steve would feel likewise. I never imagined that during his six hours in Adelaide, a city of more than a million, he would make it a point to visit my grandfather’s legacy.  And yesterday in Australia (today for us on the other side of the dateline) Steve Cotton wrote about the experience. You can read his account at this link:

http://steveinmexico.blogspot.mx/

From Steve’s description, the viewing was not at all what he expected.

In the post, you’ll read that he photographed the paintings but did not receive permission to reproduce them for his blog followers. I do however own a painting that I’ve placed at the top of this post. It depicts a stormy sea off Cape Horn early in the 20th century. Granddad was shipwrecked there, and in about 1930, he painted the oil from memory.

Thank you Steve for what you did. I know my grandfather would feel honored to know you went to such lengths to track down his paintings. He would call you – a member of an inquisitive band of intrepid likeminded men and women – an explorer.

 

Mole Poblano

Jorge and I made Mole Poblano this week. Our guests all enjoyed the dish and asked me to blog the recipe. So here you have our version of this classic entree from the central Mexican state of Puebla…

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MOLE POBLANO

(for 8 persons)

Place the following ingredients in a large pot and completely cover with water (about 3 quarts). Put on the lid and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and stew everything for 1/2 hour.

  • 2 chickens, cut into quarters, skin removed
  • ½ med. white onion, chopped coarsely
  • 4 whole cloves of garlic, skinned
  • 1 T. salt
  • 10 whole black pepper corns
  • 2 tsp. dried oregano

While the chicken is stewing, cook and char on a stove top griddle:

  • 1 lg. white onion
  • 1 lg. red pepper
  • 2 lg. Roma tomatoes

Cut the vegetables (charred skins and all) into large chunks and put them in the blender. Add:

  • 2 oz. of dark chocolate (La Abuelita)
  • 1/2  tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 T. chicken consommé powder (Maggi)
  • the contents of 2 jars (235g. each) of (DoñaMaria) mole paste.

When the chicken is cooked, remove the pieces and set them on a platter to cool for ½ hour – then remove the meat from the bones in as large pieces as possible. Set the chicken pieces to one side. Discard the bones.

Strain the broth, discard the onion and other bits, and then take out enough broth to cover the ingredients in the blender. Process until smooth. If your blender’s glass is not a large one, do one half of the ingredients at a time.  Transfer the mixture to a clay cooking pot or other large pot.

Reserve 4 cups of the broth so you can use it when making the rice, and add all the rest to the blended mixture in the cooking pot. Stir well and put the pot on medium heat. The mixture will be “soupy”, so you need to let it reduce by about a third, or until it has the texture of a creamy sauce.

Add the chicken pieces to the mole sauce and simmer for 20 minutes.

Measure out:

  • 2 cups of rice

And prepare it as you please, but instead of using water, use the:

  • 4 cups of reserved chicken broth

To the steaming rice, add:

  • 2 envelopes of condimento español

(this is basically turmeric and is available at you corner store or in the market)

Optional ingredients::

  • ¼ cup of toasted sesame seeds
  • light cream
  • red onion
  • cilantro leaves

To plate:

Mold ½ cup of rice on one side of the plate. Spoon the Mole beside it. To garnish the mole, I sometimes run a line of cream over the top and sprinkle it with the toasted sesame seeds. Sometimes I place thinly sliced red onion on top or I use cilantro leaves.

I serve guacamole, fried plantains and hot corn tortillas with this meal. I pair it with a robust red wine.

A surprise awaits…

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Every morning, opening up gmail is a surprise. I get frequent updates from family and friends all over the world. Over the course of a week, I learn about births, deaths, marriages, parties and the dates that my dear ones will be arriving for a visit. Gmail serves up photos, recipes, jokes, book and movie recommendations, reminders of promises made and debts unpaid.

As well, I receive a huge amount of bulk mail. This is sometimes useful and sometimes useless. I get entertaining and happy news, and I get stuff I don’t even want to think about. But either way, it’s all food for thought.

Yucatan Expat Life keeps me abreast of Merida’s international community news:

http://yucatanexpatlife.com/womens-march-allies-join-forces-merida/

For what I don’t even want to think about – Mexfiles’ predictions and points to ponder keep my consciousness on alert:

The Obama Administration record in Mexico

Here’s a video that’s too-funny-for-words – courtesy of my friend Lou who sends this clip from the Dutch equivalent of the John Stewart show:

But of course, not everyone has a Dutch sense of humour. The next message is an example of the point-of-view that has landed our world in its current state – I give you The Unseen Moon – no further comment

https://unseenmoon.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/adios-barry/

Steve Cotton, a blogger who lives way over on the other side of Mexico posts nearly every day. His writing is always thoughtful and sensitive.

http://steveinmexico.blogspot.mx/

Another of my favourite blogs comes just once a week. It is a “journal” and today it contained some wonderful quotations:

http://sylviasaltwater.com/of-all-the-things-ive-lost-i-miss-my-mind-the-most/

And finally, a warm-the-heart photo attachment from my friend Cliff Hinderman at the Grassroots Oaxaca Street Children’s holiday party. He tells me that many of the children’s gifts were donated by the participants on last year’s International Women’s Club fundraising tour:

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