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

I am shocked

democracy

It has been a full day since the US election and (hopefully I’m wrong but…) I feel sure American historians will look back on November 8, 2016 with shame and regret.

When Donald Trump announced his intention to run for the presidency, I felt shocked. A less fit candidate I could not imagine. I never believed he would be elected. I did not want to believe that could happen.

However, now it is a fact — Donald Trump will be the next “leader of the free world.”

Trump’s victory speech began with a salute to Hillary Clinton, who he said “fought hard”. I believe Mexicans need to emulate her and look for ways to avoid being dragged deeper into the economic, political and social abyss.

There are those who say Trump will not actually carry out his threats. Maybe he won’t, but one gruesome fact remains, US voters elected him despite his anti-Mexico, anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-establishment, anti-human rights platform.  So what can we hope for?

On the American home front, Trump will no doubt repeal many of the hard-won human rights. One wonders who he will appoint to the Supreme Court. What will happen to Obama Care? What about protection under the law for LGBTIQ individuals and their families? I tremble at the thought of him holding the nuclear codes.

Trump has threatened to rip up the free trade agreement with Mexico. Even though the migrant workers have already paid deductions, he says he will further tax the money they send home to their families. He boasts that he will build a wall on the southern U.S. border to keep out those trying to cross over to fill vacant jobs. On top of this insult, he says he will force Mexico to pay for the 3,201 kilometers (1,989 miles) of construction.

The Mexican peso free fell after the announcement that Trump had triumphed. Fortunately the currency has stabilized a little but it is obvious that our precarious position will be further rocked over the next four years.

My screaming, crying and gnashing of teeth won’t help, but neither can I keep completely silent. I implore Mexico’s “fearless leaders” to step up to the plate with strategies that will keep us from getting completely squashed.

Ten Things I Know Because I Am a Mom

And I learned most of them from my own mother.

  1. Moms have a reason for everything they do. It may not be the soundest reason, sometimes we don’t have time to think things right through. But we do the best we can at the time.
  2. We are not all-seeing, all-knowing or always right, but we sure try to be.
  3. My mom had eight children and she could not meet all of our wants 100% of the time. We learned to wait our turn.
  4. My dad had a hand in a lot of the decisions my mother made. They were a team, and she was not the team leader. Mom had to go against her own grain sometimes.
  5. I know my mother gave up a lot of her goals and personal aspirations so that she could be there for us.
  6. Mom said that raising children often seemed like the hardest job in the world. I looked at her aghast when she added that she was happiest when she had young sons and daughters to look after fulltime.
  7. Later I understood why Mom said that. When your children are young they get underfoot. When they grow up they no longer do that, but watching their adult struggles is hard.
  8. I thought my mom was quiet and shy, but I now know she had to be so she could listen.
  9. I never considered my mother to be a great cook, until I realized that cooking for a family of ten (each of us had at least one item we refused to eat) would have diminished even Julia Child’s culinary ability. Now I feel my mom did a fine job.
  10. I am a mother of adult children, and I have learned how short-sighted it is to make decisions based only on what we can see. Mothers have their secrets and they know their children’s secrets… I so wish I could still share one or two with Mom.

The Long and Winding Road

I tried… I really did…

But during the IWC fundraising tour of the gulf coast and central valley of Mexico – from January 31st through February 11th – so much happened that I had to let the blog slip. Keeping up with 45 people, and savoring the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and the warmth of the journey took up all but my shut-eye time.

When I last posted, our group had just left Puebla. I remember that even by that point, most of us had lost track of what day it was and how many days we’d been away. But the scarcity of clean clothes and the glut of bulging shopping bags offered definite clues!

Ten demitasse added to my set of Talavera
Ten demitasse added to my set of Talavera

I think everyone on the tour found it virtually impossible to resist the lure of Puebla’s blue and white pottery. As well, some of the ladies wore silky new scarves and silver jewelry. We all would have enjoyed more days in the city of angels, but the time had come to check out of our hotel and move on.

A short way into last Saturday’s  journey, Mexico’s two iconic peaks –  Popecatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl – appeared on the horizon. This picture I snapped with my cell phone does not do them justice, but one of our group members has promised to send me a couple of shots he took with his high resolution camera. When he does so, I’ll post them.

A poor but suthentic shot
A poor but suthentic shot

The spectacular vistas were peppered by groups of pilgrims – walking or riding bikes – from their towns and villages to the Basilica of Guadalupe, located in Mexico City. Some say their show of religious fervor is misplaced, but I felt moved by the sight of the multigenerational groups, slowly but steadfastly making their way to Mexico City.  We would later meet up with one of them – but that’s a story for another day.

The country’s capital is the third largest metropolitan area in the world. For as long as I can remember, it has been called the Federal District of Mexico – México DF – but for some reason this has changed. The official name is now, Ciudad de México.

The traffic through its 16 boroughs and 300+ neighborhoods – cars, motorcycles and trucks darting EVERYWHERE – terrified us at first, but Gustavo, our excellent driver, slid our big bus in and out of the lanes as though he was behind the wheel of a VW bug.

 

La Casa Azul
La Casa Azul

In record time we arrived at the cobalt-colored house in a charming part of the city –  Coyoacán. About 200 people were waiting in line, but the “seniors first” policy made me realize that being “old” is not always a sorry situation.

La Casa Azul, an eclectic-electric building, once belonged to the world famous Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. Born in 1907, she lived and painted there for most of her life. Just before her death in 1954, she is said to have mused: It would be a divine blessing to die in the house where I was born.

Frida contemplating Frida
Frida contemplating Frida

Frida got her wish and her former residence was converted into a museum shortly afterwards. We admired the artwork on display, as well as many of the painter’s personal possessions, her elaborate clothing, and period jewelry. We also saw the folk and pre-Hispanic art that once belonged to Frida and her husband, the acclaimed muralist, Diego Rivera.

My Casa de Frida earrings
My Casa de Frida earrings

I have a small collection of pearl earrings from museum stores around the world. All of them are replicas of those worn in famous paintings. At La Casa Azul’s gift shop, I acquired a new pair. I have not yet researched which of Frida’s paintings feature them, but maybe one of Writing From Merida’s readers will tell me?

From La Casa Azul, we drove through the cobblestone streets of San Angel to a two-story building located just off Plaza San Jacinto.  We ate a delicious lunch – I had chiles en nogada – and then browsed through stalls brimming with an array of high quality handicrafts from across Mexico.  And yes, a number of shopping bags felt even heavier after San Angel. Tired but happy, we checked into our lodging for the next three nights:

Hotel Metropol

Calle Luis Moya #39, Col. Cuauhtémoc-Centro

Ciudad de México, CP 06050

Reservations:  Tel: 01-800-022-3099

–or –

Home

Street art in Mexico City
Street art in Mexico City

Once the initial glitch with the room allotment got straightened out, many in our group said this hotel was their overall favorite on tour. Centrally located, well-appointed and recently remodeled, they also appreciated the tasty buffet breakfast and professionalism of the entire staff.

Many of the most-visited attractions in Mexico City are concentrated in the historic center. The area roughly correlates with the ancient XIV century Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, founded at Lake Texcoco in the XIV Century. A network of canals circumnavigated the city, but with the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores in 1519, most of the Aztec structures and canals were destroyed and replaced with colonial-style roads and buildings.

After breakfast on Sunday morning, we set out for Chapultepec Park to visit the Museum of Anthropology. The museum contains the world’s largest collection of archaeological and anthropological artifacts dating from Mexico’s pre-Hispanic civilizations to the Spanish colonial period.

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The pre-Columbian sculptures, statues, codices and other objects are complimented by the modern architecture, designed by Pedro Ramirez Vazquez. Characterized by an “umbrella roof”, it is supported by a single column that represents the mythological Ceiba tree. It is carved with eagles and jaguars — important symbols to almost all indigenous groups.

Each of the salons displays artifacts from a particular geographic region or culture. The cultures include: Teotihuacan, Toltec, Aztec, Mixtec, Zapotec, Olmec, and Maya.

Having covered the museum exhibits as thoroughly as our time allowed, we drove to Xochimilco – the floating gardens of Mexico City.

With help from the sturdy oarsmen we clambered aboard two trajineras – flat bottomed boats adorned with flowers – and drifted through the canal gardens for the next two hours. This area was once the breadbasket of Tenochtitlan. All manner of vegetables and fruits were grown here – in  chinampas – artificial islands made with dried reeds.  On board the boats, we enjoyed a lunch of tacos and tequila. Mariachis paddling by tied up to our trajineras and serenaded us with favorite tunes, as well as some songs that were new to many members of the group. I assure you a great time was had by all.

Before getting “back on the bus, Gus”, we watched a performance by the Papantla flyers. Most of us had seen them a few days earlier when we visited the festival in Veracruz – nonetheless we were thrilled anew to see their daring rope-drop dance from a high pole.

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Sunday evening we walked three l-o-n-g  blocks to Bellas Artes – the Palace of Fine Arts. This magnificent theater was one of the final monuments commissioned by Porfirio Diaz – Mexico’s last pre-revolutionary presisdent. It hosts exhibitions and theatrical performances and is the main venue of the Amalia Hernandez Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. The Palace also promotes visual arts, dance, music, architecture and literature. There are two museums housed within the building, and on the interior walls, there are epic murals by some of Mexico’s greatest artists, including Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Rufino Tamayo. On the ground floor there is a restaurant and bookstore.

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One of the highlights is the glass curtain in the main theater. Designed by Mexican artist, Dr. Atl (a.k.a Gerardo Murillo) and built by Tiffany of New York – this curtain is made of folding stained-glass panels that represent the landscape of the Valley of Mexico with its two great volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Iztacchihuatl. Alas, my second portrayal of these magnificent mountains is not much better than the one I took on the road from Puebla.

The Tiffany glass curtain
The Tiffany glass curtain

Everyone agreed that the dancers and costumes stood out from all the other folkloric ballets in the country. The show is splendid in every way, and no one visiting the city should miss it.

As we exited the performance, a striking woman caught our attention. Although she was “of a certain age”, she looked spectacular wearing one of the lovliest huipiles I have ever seen.  Exquisitely embroidered from top-to-bottom and back-to-front, the dress was accessorized by equally amazing jewelry. I could not help but compliment her, and to my delight, she struck up a conversation with me.

And that is where I will leave the story for today. As soon as I am able to, I will continue my Tale of Many Many Cities – and reveal the identity of the distinguished lady I met – yet another of the magical experiences I’ve had during my forty years living in Mexico.

Jorge and Joanna at La Casa Azul
Jorge and Joanna at La Casa Azul

 

A R-e-a-l-l-y Different Kind of Christmas

Since leaving Merida on December 22nd, our group has been overcome by every possible emotion.

I have not had any time to write… let alone in a way that could possibly comvey the depth of this experience.

There no pictures of Marie because she was behind the camera and also Jorge and Jorge and I seemed out of range. But I’ll post more later

Meanwhile, I hope these few snaps will give you an idea…

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“Writing from Chiapas”… from Roberto, Tonia, Janelle, Marie, Jorge and me…  with love.