The Wide Open Skies

As the crow flies…

The grand majority of our family has travelled by train, car and aeroplane – to Foam Lake, Saskachewan – for the wedding of Mitchell, our youngest brother’s eldest son. We have filled up all the rooms at the local motel and still more of our group are in their RVs and tents at the campsite across the road.

The bride is Kelsey, whose family live in this prairie town. And a charming place it is. Getting here from Kamloops took all day, but what a glorious trip – especially the 250 km drive from the Saskatoon airport to Foam Lake – I now know the meaning of WIDE-OPEN SKIES!

The following slide show does not live up to the images and impressions in my mind, but you’ll get an idea of the space of this place.  Tomorrow, after the wedding, I’ll hopefully be in shape to tell you more about this marvellous gathering.

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Fifi Press?

 

Thank you to all who commented on the blog post I wrote yesterday. I can see that most readers are in synch with the opinion I have about “the bully”. I hope today’s post will garner as much favour, but I won’t be surprised if it does not.

Last July, voters expressed their discontent with the past six federal administrations by electing Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the presidency with an overwhelming majority. Yes, yes, yes… AMLO did promise the moon before he fully figured out a way to deliver it. And this is coming back to haunt him, because there are provocateurs urging Mexicans to expect magic, on demand.

But let’s put things into perspective.  When I stack AMLO’s leadership up against any of the presidents of the past 30+ years, he comes up smelling like a rose – a bit wilted and missing a few petals – but a rose nonetheless. The six of them also promised the moon – along with the sun and the stars – they did not mention however, that we’d have to pay through the teeth for the lion’s share, they’d keep for themselves.

Almost every day we learn new details of the corruption that has crippled Mexico. Pemex and the power company are two of the worst.  No one seems upset when their directors are raked over the coals. However, shutting down public assistance programs seems cold-hearted. Post-doc scholarships and stipends, for example, have been all but axed. However, the programs are riddled with favouritism and abusive practices. I have experienced this.

Those who did not vote for AMLO were mostly from the privileged sector, and many of them reaped millions of pesos by serving each “overlord” in their turn.

Mexico is extremely polarized on every issue there is. It is impossible to please everyone. But the perpetually loudest gripers are the former mainstream press. There are not enough negative epitaphs to adequately express their loathing for AMLO. He cut off the flow of cash (lots of it) that came their way from the nation’s powerbrokers, especially politicians, who needed to win over public opinion. AMLO lost patience one day and called them the “Fifi Press”. He does not call all reporters by this pejorative, but I agree with him; many of them are “fifi”; they squawk like broken records and write the same old thing. Day in and day out.

Many in this culture place great importance on lineage and looks. López Obrador does not fit their aesthetic and his political agenda is not in keeping with their life style.  In a way, I can’t blame them for being upset at losing what they had; but why don’t they just GO (gracefully or stumbling, I don’t care how) and enjoy the “fruits of their labour”. I know they’d miss the prestige of being players – but hey – sometimes you’re “in” and sometimes you’re “out”.

At a time when we as a nation must work together, these decapitated talking heads are unrelenting in their constant attacks against the president.  With the very real menace that the bully presents, we must learn to get along; if we don’t pull together, we’ll all go down. Fifi press too. Think about it.

God help us all, Ma’am!

It is said that: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. But I think this pearl of wisdom should be amended to: Life is what happens when OTHERS are busy making THEIR plans.

Back in 2000, the new-agers predicted a future of peace and prosperity, but for the most part, the third millennium AD has been a time of ever-escalating conflict and strife.  During the last two decades, literal and metaphorical hurricane-strength winds have blown through our world. Life has not exactly gone according to plan. Not for us. Not for most people we know. And certainly not for our poor planet.

We live in a time of constant anxiety. Over the past while, in a vain attempt to keep my thoughts and words from joining the collective cry of pain, I have not written much or even blogged regularly, . But lately I’ve been thinking that taking the path of least resistance has morphed into cowardly inaction.

I am NOT confrontational. I want everyone to get along. But with a bully on the playground, there comes a point when individuals must jump into the fray.

The bully has declared June 10th, as the day a 5% tariff will be levied on all goods imported into the USA from Mexico; the tax will “gradually increase” until the flow of undocumented immigrants across the border ceases. The economic blackmail is scheduled to be in place “until such time as illegal migration coming through Mexico stops.” Good luck with that – as long as there is need – desperate people will do whatever it takes. The only way to halt illegal migration is to help the countries where the migrants live, and ensure that the resources reach them, not the bank accounts of their corrupt leadership.

And Mexico is not the only target the bully aims at when he doesn’t get his way. 25 percent tariffs on steel and 10 percent on aluminum were imposed against Canada, but then removed when the Canadians retaliated with their own measures. Now, the Chinese power brokers have been warned that 25% is what they’ll be charged on their incoming goods. They have sent a diplomatically-worded message that implies: “If this happens don’t say we didn’t warn you…” No doubt other countries are preparing communiqués for the day when it is decided that they too are behaving counterproductively to the uber-plan.

Rufus Yerxa, the president of the National Foreign Trade Council, which represents the nation’s largest exporters, called the move “a colossal blunder.” But while the bully has made cracking down on illegal immigration a priority, his announcement on Thursday could derail another of his chief goals: Revising the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico.

The blunt-force threat that the bully is wielding against a neighbour and an ally as critical to the American economy as Mexico, will backfire when businesses and consumers start to feel the costs of the bully’s latest move.

The NY Times says about the bully:  “the frustration over the rising number of illegal border crossings has steadily risen since January, when Democrats refused to grant him billions of dollars to build his long-promised wall along the southwestern border. Since then, he has consistently framed immigration as a national security crisis and tried different tactics to punish the countries he blames for the flow of migrants… He has moved to cut off all foreign aid to countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, and threatened to completely seal off the border with Mexico, a move that numerous officials told him would violate American law and international treaties…

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico does not want a fight. There is no justification for doing this, he added, and reiterated the need for dialogue. But our Mexican president warned that the bully should not mistake the paused and prudent response as fearful.

I publically support Mexico, the Mexican president and those who endeavour to stop the bully through policy-making and politics.

And I am saddened when I hear and read the opinions of people who agree with the bully’s mad methods. They claim that their “blood, sweat and tears” made the USA a great country. But really it was past generations who forged the American dream, and most of those forefathers were immigrants back in the day when no passport or visa was needed to move to “the land of the free”.  Some people in the USA think they have the right to scream, “America First!” But definitely it is time to wake up from “the dream”. Have they forgotten the four essential human freedoms: freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear? Or do they feel these are meant only for citizens of the USA? Sorry, but I do not believe freedom can be exclusive, and still be called by the same name.

The last freedom is the kicker. FEAR is what we all suffer from. Stating my beliefs will not change anyone’s deluded mindset even one iota. I doubt the hard-liners will reflect for even a second on what I have written because I do not support the agenda of the bully. My words are “fake news”, and I am a “flaming liberal”. Mea culpa.

God help us, ma’am! Do you see what we saw? We saw that we’d been given a law to live by, a moral law, they called it, which punished those who observed it – for observing it. The more you tried to live up to it, the more you suffered; the more you cheated it, the bigger reward you got. Your honesty was like a tool left at the mercy of the next man’s dishonesty. The honest ones paid, the dishonest collected. The honest lost, the dishonest won. How long could men stay good under this sort of a law of goodness?  

This quote is from the writings of Ayn Rand – novelist and philosopher (1905 – 1982) 

Yes indeed Ayn, God help us all, Ma’am!

A change is as good as a rest

Allison Lake, B.C.: This morning at 4:20 am

Waking up this morning, it took a few seconds for me to remember that I’m at my sister and brother-in-law’s home…  It was too early to be awake, but nonetheless, my mind began its usual morning meander down Memory Lane. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep. So, I eased myself out of bed and crept into the living room.

And here I sit, wrapped up in a warm crocheted blanket, with my laptop humming… waiting for me to write. It is 4 am… not an uncommon hour for giving up my eternal quest for eight hours of uninterrupted slumber. In fact, it has been at least 15 years since I had the pleasure of even one truly great night’s sleep. I’ve tried everything…  a hot bath, warm milk, rigorous exercise, relaxing yoga, a roll-in-the-hay, hypnosis, biofeedback, meditation, sleepy-time tea, and big-pharma’ remedies too.  But to no avail. My brain does not ever seem to turn off; it is determined to rouse my sleep-deprived body as early as possible. For my inner child… every morning is exciting and she wonders what the day holds in store…  she can’t be bothered with sleep.

However, all this said… if I must be awake… what a place to be so. The sofa beside the floor-to-ceiling window pane is plush and comfy, and the view of the lake is beyond beautiful. Dawn is not far off and mist shrouds the high hills soaring straight out of the water. I can hear loons calling, fish jumping, and soft snoring behind the closed bedroom doors. This room smells of lilac and last night’s pita bread.

Jorge and I have been in British Columbia for just five days. The apartment in Kamloops is all set up, provisions are in the larder, and we are visiting the lake for the weekend…

Most of the people who come here are residents of the Princeton – Kamloops vicinity. Like my brother-in-law’s family, many have owned their homes here for decades. They were built as simple summer cabins, but some have now morphed into summer palaces. Barb and Craig’s panabode (I wonder how many readers know this housing description?) is not big enough to be called palatial, but the renovations are on-going and elegant.  Two new bathrooms, fitted by a master builder-artist, are the latest additions.

Life is so good… if I could just get a bit more shut-eye every night… it might be called… perfect.

Today I will show Jorge the trail that encircles the lake. I doubt we’ll walk the whole circumference, but he is determined to make his time in BC, one of rejuvenation. The cooler climate and long days make this a doable goal. I doubt I’ll turn into an eight-hours-a-night sleeper, but I expect to slim down over the coming weeks. Ah yes… a change is as good as a rest.

OXXO to the rescue!

I have lived in Merida for a long time, but yesterday, I got lost.

I know the way from my daughter’s home in Las Americas, to mine in García Ginerés. But in the dark, when the city neglects to turn on the roadside lights, EVERYTHING looks different, doesn’t it? I tried not to panic when I spotted a sign indicating that I was headed for the dreaded Periferico. It furthermore stated, that once I got on that “devil’s highway”, I would be Campeche bound.

Yikes! My aversion to the Periferico , Merida’s ring road, is absolute.  I will drive 20 kilometres out of my way to avoid it. Why? Because the drivers terrify me…  My idea of a safe journey does not include bumper-hugging SUVs, thundering tandem semi trucks, buses spewing smoke, and of course, the furious motorcycles… all driven at break-neck speed and passing with no precaution.

What to do? What to do? In the nick of time, I spotted my salvation  … OXXO to the rescue!

An easy-to-enter parking slot beckoned me, and I zipped in between the blue painted lines. Yes, yes… it was a handicapped spot, but in my situation, I felt I qualified for temporary status. I figured I would go inside, buy a bottle of water and call my son, which I did.

He asked where I was and of course I could not be specific. “I think I am on my way to Campeche,” I told him.

“Send me your location, Mom.” My cell phone abilities are limited, and I tried, but a message popped-up and informed me, my data was all used up. I could not share my location with Carlos.  “Look for a kind-hearted person with a phone, and ask them to share with me,” Carlos suggested.

I waited my turn, and told the cashier about my problem. “You no longer have a problem,” said smiling Maria Guadalupe (the cashier who totally lives up to the reputation of her namesake) She got a hold of Carlos, who explained to me where I was… Turns out I was on the correct road, but as I already said, everything looks different in the pitch dark.

I am a fan of OXXO, and last night I discovered that an abundance of emergency food supplies are not the chain’s greatest attribute. That honour should go to the cashiers.  Of course “Number 1” in my books right now is Maria Guadalupe but the crew who work at the OXXO near my house are also incredibly helpful.

They never accept tips, no matter how hard I insist, so writing this letter is all I can do for them. I will translate my words into Spanish and send them to the OXXO executive offices.  I hope the head honchos realise that no advertising or marketing strategies can match the goodwill generated by their hard-working staff.

I sincerely hope these employees will be appropriately compensated.

Small kindnesses add up

In the streets of San Cristobal de las Casas

When the MEL Women’s Tour to Chiapas arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas, the ladies dragged into the lobby of the Hotel Monctezuma looking pretty wiped after their long day on the bus. But within an hour, they had gathered again, eager for Sergio to walk them to the nearby Main Plaza. Their eyes danced around and they laughed like school girls – they’d heard a lot about the city – and couldn’t wait to discover it.

When they returned, most had found a restaurant they enjoyed, and the next day, they LOVED shopping in the huge artisan market. However, observing the indigenous women selling their crafts until late at night distressed the group, and obviously, everyone felt their children should be home in bed, not roaming the streets in the hopes of earning a few pesos. “In Chiapas, need seems more acute than in Yucatan,” one of the group members said.

Poverty is defined by many criteria. But to me, it means having no choices. Somehow people make it from day to day, but they do not have a say about what they will eat, and their living conditions are always precarious. Many children do not attend school. No matter what their age, the poor have to accept whatever is imposed upon them. They are vulnerable to the whims of self-serving politicians, big business encroachment into rural areas, their own cultural biases, religious taboos and family interference and pressure. 75 – 80% of Mexico’s population endures poverty to some degree. And sadly, it seems doubtful that the numbers will be different in the next generation.

Such a pleasure to meet Claudia Castro, the Director of “La Casa de las Flores”

But in San Cristobal, as in every city in Mexico, there are angels who refuse to accept these grim statistics. Our group visited “La Casa de las Flores”, a drop-in centre for street children. We saw first-hand, that love and learning CAN overcome the odds stacked against the kids. What a wonderful morning we spent playing, reading, singing and folding origami cranes with the 7 – 8 year olds. Before leaving, we served cake to them and to the delightful, dedicated volunteers. Our donations of toys, school supplies, clothing, and other items were most welcome – but tomorrow – will more needed supplies come through the door?

Ana Darson reading to the children

Read more about the “Casa de las Flores” on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lacasadelasfloreschiapas/

One of our group members asked the Centre’s director: Is the best tact to support the children by buying their products, and also offering help those who fall through the cracks, as they do in every culture? What other responses would be helpful?

Claudia Castro, the dynamic founder and present director of “La Casa de las Flores” told us that yes, it was important to buy from the children. “Otherwise, they don’t eat,” she added sadly.

Boxes of donations from the MEL tour participants

It seems clear that the country‘s political and social agencies can squash or stimulate the quality of life Chiapas, and the state needs economic growth that will benefit the majority, not only the wealthy. Private individuals like us can’t possibly help everyone that crosses our path, but by financially supporting initiatives like the “La Casa de las Flores”, we can be sure our donations will reach the people who need them.

1,000 Cranes

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is a tried and true maxim, and my mother-in-law was the first to show me the importance of living by this “golden rule”. At first I felt terribly self-conscious. I felt embarrassed – and yes – I felt guilty. “Share what you have,” Doña Bertha would urge me, and she helped me get over my discomfort. Slowly I became more open to approaching people who look like they need help.

The big market used to be the best place to buy groceries of all kinds. I would go there with her, and I saw that she always carried a couple of sandwiches and a bottle of some kind of drink in her big purse. Like it was nothing out-of-the-ordinary, she’d give the food to someone who looked hungry. I used to worry she might offend the person, but I never saw anyone turn her down. When I started to do likewise, no one ever refused my offerings either. And over time, I learned there are many ways we can all help out.

I learned that I can help, by asking for help for myself. For example, I sometimes hire a young kid to help me with some “tech’ task” like updating the contacts list on my phone. The lady who works with me in our home has a daughter who comes once in a while and helps me clean and organize the closets and shelves. She actually enjoys doing this and in addition to some cash, she likes to take home what I can no longer use. I often ask a neighbour to help me in the kitchen when I have a party. It is a win-win deal, I am happy to have the help, and those I ask for it, appreciate earning some extra cash.

Tip the parking “dale-dale” man, and the ones who bag your groceries. These people receive no salary. Most look at least as old as me, and I give them a minimum of 10 pesos.  While dining at outdoor cafes, Jorge often buys a rose or I buy a fan from a vendor. From time to time, Jorge agrees to get his shoes shined, and he says, , if a musician asks to play us a song.

There are times when someone wants to sell us something, we don’t want at all (like cigars) Nonetheless, we don’t just brush them off. We say no as pleasantly as possible,  look them in the eyes and smile before we turn away.

Showing respect makes a big difference.  You may not think that the 10, 15, or 20 pesos you give, or spend on a “service”, means much. You may not believe that a smile helps, but I assure you, it does.

Our world is not a fair place. Our efforts seem like “a drop in the bucket”. But even a little help can take the edge off someone’s immediate worries. A reprieve from present anxiety is not a long-term solution, but as my mother-in-law used to say, “Small kindnesses add up.”

Our Parched Peninsula

Slow going on narrow roads

There is just no way around it. Anyone traveling to Chiapas from Merida must first get off our parched peninsula. The fat thumb of heat-stroked land jutting into Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea is large… approximately 182,000 sq. kilometres or 70,000 square miles. And it is diverse… tropical lowland jungle, arid scrub, saltwater coastline and wetlands. The members of MEL’s Women’s Tour to Chiapas took 10 hours (with several stops along the way) to drive the 560 kilometres from Merida to Villahermosa.

We were ecstatic to reach the Hotel Viva, a comfortable and welcoming property on the outskirts of Villahermosa. We had planned to have “Happy Hour” in Marion & Lori’s room (a glass or two of wine and some snacks) and we also wanted to sort the donations for the Children’s Day Center in San Cristobal de las Casas.

But when we saw the rooms and remembered how many suitcases of clothes, school supplies, toys, balls, and so forth that we had wedged into the luggage compartment, we realized we were just too much for that room! With more confidence than I felt, I announced:

“Sergio will find us a place where we can get together.”

In all the years we’ve worked together, Sergio Solis has never let me down. And this was no exception. He found us a covered outdoor patio with tables and chairs, and lots of space to sort our donations and get them into boxes and extra suitcases. Marion Bale and Lori Simek got busy laying out the “buffet” they brought from Merida. Lots of comments on the delicious food and not-bad-for-the-price wine. With so many pitching-in, everything was soon packed away.

 

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I told Lori and Marion that their tireless efforts to organize this community service component of the tour had paid off in spades. They made special colour-coded luggage tags, compiled the spread sheet of names and necessary info. Lori came up with the initial concept of incorporating origami cranes and bought the book that explained the intricate paper folding… en español. Another book she bought told the story of “Sadako and the 1,000 Paper Cranes.”  I knew the children would be thrilled.

The three of us watched the bellboys ferry half the 14 bundles of donations to my room, and the other half into Edith’s, and I asked my exhausted helpers if they felt happy. “Definitely,” said Marion in her New Zealand accent, “But I wish the ladies had not found Lori’s personal bottle of Bubbly. I could use it about now” “An innocent mistake,” quipped Lori, “And I’m so tired, it would have been wasted on me.” Big yawns all ‘round, and we toddled off to bed.

The majority of the group slept well, and after a hearty breakfast that included the hotel’s famous fried plantains, we filed back on the bus… eager for the day’s adventure… driving through the Sierra Madre Mountains.

 

Mexico is MORE…

Last week I escorted the Merida English Library’s fund-raising tour to Chiapas. The trip was open to women only, and 37 of them signed on. I have been repeatedly asked: Why just women?

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First day in San Cristobal

Well to start with… women and men have different interests and this is very evident on a trip to a place like Chiapas. Women enjoy shopping for hours in the handcraft markets and they welcome opportunities for cultural exchanges with the local population. They will hunker down on long travel days and face other challenges to reach areas where they can have such experiences. Men… not so much.

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Enjoying a cool drink in Zinacantan

On our tour, there was ample opportunity to see the way people live in Chiapas. Ours was not a luxury excursion, and at times, comfort levels did not match what most group members are used to. In addition to long hours on the bus, some of the women were hit with “Montezuma’s Revenge”, and others were not altogether thrilled with their hotel rooms. Nonetheless, most of the time, everyone kept their sense of humour and their perspective. I agree with a comment made by Linda Lindholm, a well-experienced traveler:

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Our street in San Cristobal

I feel blessed and grateful. In San Cristobal, I saw such need all around me; it certainly did not seem worth fussing about the hotel’s hard pillows and worn towels.

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Dancers at San Juan Chamula’s Sunday Carnaval

In Chiapas, the hillsides are peppered with hamlets, and by agro-moguls’ coffee, cocoa and cattle ranches. Men hold almost 100% of the leadership positions in the majority of the tiny towns, but the heaviest loads are carried by the women. Assisted by their daughters, they maintain the home, tend to kitchen gardens, do laundry, cook and care for the babies. They spend most of their spare time creating whimsical textiles, and selling them in artisan markets. We saw the children from well-to-do families escorted to and from their private schools… meanwhile the young sons and daughters of the poor traversed the downtown area selling clay figurines and woven bracelets to the tourists.

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Preparing tortillas

The enforcement of child labour laws is all but non-existent in Chiapas, and we asked ourselves if buying trinkets from these children was the right thing to do. If everyone boycotted purchasing from the children… would they be released from their hard work?  Linda Shearer, a woman on the tour felt torn over this issue. We visited a street children’s shelter, and afterwards she wrote:

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Our donations for “La Casa de las Flores”

Are we helping or hurting when we buy from the children who try to sell us things on the street?” That was my question to Claudia Castro, the director of “Casa de las Flores”, a safe place for the child vendors who are everywhere in San Cristobal, Chiapas. Claudia paused before answering my question. “We are helping when we buy from them, because if we don’t, they don’t eat.”

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The mobile we made for the children

A sobering response, but nonetheless, for most of the group members, the morning we spent at “Casa de las Flores” was a highlight. The participants donated toys, blankets, clothes, school supplies and personal hygiene products. We also collected money to buy a projector that Claudia needs for the presentations she makes. As a happy reminder of our visit, group member Margie Alexy designed a mobile that we all helped to make out of ribbon and origami cranes. Ana Darson read a captivating story about cranes to the 12 children who were present at the home that morning, and Joan Ileson led the children in some origami crane making of their own.  Linda Shearer had more insights about our morning:

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Our guide Sergio eplaining a point

It was acknowledged that alcohol, spousal abuse and what our culture would consider a denial of the rights of children is prevalent in San Cristobal. Most of the seven and eight year-olds who we met at the centre were born at home and do not have birth certificates. Legally they do not exist. Without a birth certificate they are not eligible for education, health care or other programs provided by the government. One of the volunteers was in the kitchen preparing a meal for the children. “Generally,” he said, “the indigenous sellers in the market, mostly women and the children, eat only one meal a day and it lacks fresh vegetables or significant protein.” The center tries to make up for this with meat and vegetables from its gardens located right on the property. Since children may be working twelve hours a day, they also offer a few beds and some large pillows where the children can rest or sleep. I ponder, “Is the best tact to support the culture by buying their products while also offering help to those who fall through the cracks? What other responses would be helpful?

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Marion Bale and Lori Simek, my wonderful helpers

Tourism in Mexico offers many destinations where the 5-star hotels, restaurants, galleries, shops and other attractions rival those found in other top-selling resorts around the world. But this country has something that many others do not..

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Embroidered table runners in Zinacantan

Despite the push for modernization, and regardless of social, political, economic and crime-related challenges, somehow the essence of the rural, indigenous culture thrives in Mexico. And I believe this is what sets the country apart. The people in the communities are proud of their heritage and they do not allow their customs or their languages to fade away. They prepare the laborious feast-day foods; they make intricate costumes for their dances and religious rites. Their traditions stretch back centuries and I pray they will be revered forever.

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Laura Herrera and me at Agua Azul

Don’t for a minute think that I dislike all-inclusive resorts, with their plentiful food & beverages and well trained staff… But Mexico is even MORE…

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Our group at the Cañon del Sumidero, Chiapas

In this week’s posts I will highlight some of what our group saw and experienced in Chiapas, and hopefully my descriptions will encourage you to travel the country and see for yourselves the richness of the culture, the beauty of the tropical forests, secluded beaches, waterfalls and of course, the archaeological sites.

 

More to come…

Why do I travel?

A painting by my Grandfather

I was just a little girl when I found out that my grandfather had been an explorer. In the early XX Century, he traveled to remote lands – Antarctica, Borneo, North Africa, South America – his sojourns were epic. He trekked thousands of kilometres, and he painted all the wonders he saw.

I asked him about the penguins in one of his canvases, and he told me that I could go see them when I got older. My eyes went wide when I heard that, and the travel bug found a permanent home in my heart.

A stay-at-home friend recently asked me WHY I love traveling so much. I had to think for a minute. I couldn’t help her understand if I was unable to articulate WHY..  So while I pack my suitcase for tomorrow’s early morning departure to Chiapas, I’ll move over to my computer whenever I think of a way to explain. At the end of the afternoon, my packing should be done and my writing should be ready to post. Here goes!

I enjoy challenges: Travel tests me. It pushes me to accept even when I want to see change.

Agua Azul

Learning is another reason why I love to travel.  I like to experience unfamiliar foods, fiestas, markets, scenery, and – and – and. I like going home with new skills and knowledge.

Developing a wider world view: Meeting people from other places reaffirms to me that my world view isn’t the same as everyone else’s.

Expanding my perspective: When travel opens up my mind, I remember that there’s more than one way to live. I have my way and others have theirs; respect for one another is what’s important.

Getting in touch with myself: Being away from home gives me the time and space I need to let my mind wander and to reconsider the perspective I have developed.

Appreciating my life: When I’m caught up in my daily routine, it’s easy to lose sight of all I have. Travel opens my eyes to what I love about home.

Travel for me often includes a visit with family or friends. My relationships keep my feet on the ground. I need to see my favourite people, hug them and spend time with them.

Having an Adventure: Seeing new sights is exciting, and this is another obvious reason why I like travel so much. A trip is the perfect time to do something different and exciting, especially something you can’t do at home.

Escaping:  I like to go to places that have a temperate climate. I have lots of sun and heat at home, although I must say a long weekend at a beach resort is something I enjoy. But, I find my true escape in museums and when I am looking at architecture.

I also believe that travel has the power to heal. Spending time in a different place works wonders. I always return home more at peace with myself and better able to cope with my next situation.

Celebrating: The best way to celebrate a happy event is to take a trip. A special occasion is made even more special by celebrating away from the hectic pace of life at home. It’s also a good way to gather family and friends from distant corners to mark milestone events.

Well, I am finished this post but my bag is not yet ready. PACKING is one part of travel I am not too enamoured of. But I had better get cracking or I will regret it. I wonder how the ladies who are joining me on the trip are doing?

 

(Special P.S. for F.C.) See you at 7:00 tomorrow morning. Chiapas, here we come!)

Our Day at Xochimilco

Tenochtitlan is the name the Aztecs gave to their capital city when it was founded on June 20, 1325. Located on an island, in what was then, Lake Texcoco, in the Valley of Mexico, they built long causeways to connect the island to the mainland.

Bridges crossing the canals were high enough to let large canoes pass, yet they could be pulled away if invaders threatened the city. Levees kept fresh spring water separate from brackish lake waters. And to provide land for agriculture, chinampas  were constructed. Chinampas are sometimes called “floating islands” because this is how they appear, but in reality they are adhered to the canal bottom.

The last remnant of this vast water system is located on the shore of Lake Xochimilco, the southern arm of Lake Texcoco. The name Xochimilco is a combination of the Nahuatl words xochitl and milli and means “where the flowers grow.” Although some flowers, fruit and vegetables are still produced, the area is mostly used for recreation. At the docks, hundreds of trajineras – brightly-painted, shallow-bottomed boats – are available for slow cruising through the canals.

 All sorts of festivities are held aboard the trajinerasbaptisms, XV Años, birthday parties, bachelorettes and graduations and of course tourists think that spending an afternoon at Xochimilco is one of the MOST FUN things to do in Mexico City.

Our group of 14 fell squarely into this category. During our two hours on the water, we stuffed ourselves with tacos, nopales, guacamole and cheese. And we drank – much beer and tequila – but we had such a great time! I will let the photos tell the rest of the story.