What’s on your mind Joanna?

I wish facebook would come up with a new prompt for members who are on the verge of posting.  Maybe something like this:

Joanna (or whatever your name is) have you thought carefully about what you are going to write here?

You don’t need to share anyone’s opinion but what you offer for the entire planet to read should be carefully thought out. You don’t need to try and win a popularity contest, but you should try not to be rude. Don’t you think?

However, as it stands now, “What’s on your mind?” is what we all get. Truly FB doesn’t care what’s on our minds. They want our first sentences to contain some key words the gobots can identify. Then they can file our choices into one of their categories, enter everything, and then move on to the next “post-er”, or should I say, “post-ee”?

With varying daily success, I attempt to keep positive and optimistic. But as a business owner in Mexico I know that getting our population vaccinated is the first step on the road to economic recovery.  Vaccination is a Herculean task, but it is more and more urgent every day.

The recovery of our economy is dependent on so many variables and our entire society is going to need more creativity, more flexibility, more determination and more patience than ever before. I am bracing myself because even though this has been a year like no other, politics and jockeying for the most advantageous position has not stopped. As a nation we have not understood the need for cohesiveness.

Tell me, what would have happened during WWII if some of the people decided, “Oh my rights are being trampled. I want my lights to be left on during a blackout, because then I won’t trip or stumble around when I am looking for something. And hey! That shrieking is not a Messerschmitt overheard. All that is fake news.”

That is a bit exaggerated, but let’s look at just three examples concurrent with our 2021 reality:

Mask wearing: Really, what’s the big deal? The masks are somewhat hot and uncomfortable but not that bad. However, many people act as though their basic civil rights have been violated. “This should be MY choice,” they scream.

Social distancing: There’s a bit more acceptance of this but only because it is not too difficult to do. Nonetheless, I was snaking through the COSTCO lineup one day and the security guards were only allowing the card carriers to go inside. Absolutely no companions. As well, not one more person was allowed inside the hallowed halls of consumerism unless someone came out. Again, “MY rights are being denied,” was a common lament.

The Vaccine: It is amazing to me how many people now pretend to be as informed as virologists, epidemiologists, sociologists and psychologists. They have an opinion on every scientific and social nuance associated with “accepting a foreign substance into MY body.”  Yet many of these same people drink alcohol, use “recreational” drugs and smoke. The real scientists say our planet needs to achieve “herd immunity” but again, “Why should I believe this,” the anti-vaxers ask.

Politics is running rampant. Whatever happened to “working together for the “greater good”? The PRI and PAN followers hate AMLO and MORENA. But did they do do such a great job during their most recent 4 decades in power? According to OSCD international development reports, Mexican citizens’ quality of life went from bad to worse:

Mexico ranks above average in civic engagement, but below average in the dimensions of jobs and earnings, subjective well-being, health status, environmental quality, housing, income and wealth, social connections, work-life balance, personal security, and education and skills.

In other words, lots of complaining and gnashing of teeth, but no consensus that will help to usher in needed changes.

One more point: in Merida, we have been spared much of the organised crime activity that is so destructive and dangerous in other places in Mexico. But without the cooperation of the three levels of government AND the public, I fear we are poised for much worse scenarios.

So, what’s to be done? Starting today how can we all help rather than hinder a turn for the better?

I believe that it is imperative to stop our constant complaining and find some group, a family, or a person in need. We can help and we should. How much you can help and how you can best do so, is between you and your higher self.

But I can emphatically promise you (yes promise you…) that if you become a quiet part of the solution, rather than a loud vocal objector, you will be happier and healthier…  

And so will Mexico.

Bonus: Read more about the vaccines at Yucatan Magazine: https://yucatanmagazine.com/coronavirus-vaccine-to-be-available-in-merida-starting-easter-weekend/?fbclid=IwAR1g0441fGP1GxSDWykCm1o5JReEj4pGdGHITFYyhl6WLyXvzuNIPCIwuuQ

March 8, 2021: International Women’s Day

Strength in Chiapas – photo by Carlos Rosado

I am up early this morning, wondering what will transpire on this day.

A call has been issued by most governments of the world urging “restraint”. Plainly said:

  • Now ladies, let’s be reasonable.
  • Please refrain from defacing public buildings and toppling monuments to macho accomplishments.
  • Dealing with millions of angry women marching in the streets is disturbing, especially on a Monday.
  • Remember COVID is still raging, life is already difficult enough.
  • Let’s try to keep it low-key, eh?

We are urged to:

  • Reflect on progress made.
  • Call for change.
  • Celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women, who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.

While I agree this is desirable, let’s look at what the “gold standard of human rights” has to say on the topic.

  • According to the most recent studies by the “United Nations”, no country in the world has achieved gender equality
  • The organization has named 2030 as the (magical) year when this is projected to occur.

International Women’s Day (IWD) is the one day (out of 365) when all of us are officially “asked” to recognise women’s accomplishments, “identify” where progress of gender equality is lacking, and to “promote” women’s rights.

Really?

Golly-gee, Guys – profound thinking – but there are two facts that cannot be denied:

  • Playing nice and asking first is NOT getting women any further ahead.
  • If the shoe was on the other foot, International Men’s Day would be a blood bath.

I am not advocating mayhem. I do not think violence is the right recourse. But I am a woman of privilege. I am white-skinned, blonde and blue-eyed. I am educated. I am affluent. I married “a good man” and I have not ever experienced anything “really bad”. I have been spared much of “all that”. Not a high percentage of Earth’s female population can claim this.

But my blue eyes see the world around me. Too many of the women are at the mercy of their male family members. A male hierarchy dictates what they wear, what they say, whether or not they go to school. They are told who they will marry and how many children they will have. Their work is undervalued. Their wealth is not their own. The same men even tell women what God they must worship and obey. If they rebel, the repercussions are major. Physical, emotional and sexual violence cower most. And this does not only happen in “sh _ _ h _ l _ countries”. It happens to a greater or lesser extent everywhere, in every country of the world.

So Guys, if there is madness in “your” streets today, don’t ask WHY women do such things. And if there is none, be grateful you dodged the bullet.

Either way, perhaps it is time to ask what you ARE doing that improves the lives of women. And, what COULD you be doing differently?

Writing: on-again, off-again

In the Netherlands with my great friend, Hanneke Siewe-Corbet… final research for my family memoir, GISELE

In August 2008, there I sat with my pile of empty book boxes. The previous year had been a time of such creativity and growth. TOMANDO AGUA DEL POZO was successful, and I got it into my head that I should try fiction.

Fortune provided me with an opportunity to attend a creative writing workshop in San Miguel Allende and I looked forward to a new chapter opening up in my budding career as a writer.

Ha! I’d have been better to spend my time embroidering a banner that read: “Beware of Getting Ahead of Thine-self” The 2 week course was an exercise in humility. I realized that yes, I had the ability to tell my own story, and I could think up new plots because I have imagination.  But I lacked the techniques, pacing, and structure to narrate anything more complex.

I didn’t dwell on my negative feelings of inadequacy though, I began the process of learning how to do all of the above. I must add that this process NEVER ends. It doesn’t matter how many times I re-write, it is AWAYS possible to write it better. But at some point, a writer has to leave well enough alone and let the words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters go to print as they are.

A met generous writers from the San Miguel Literary Sala who have never stopped cheering me onward and upward. I attended the San Miguel Writers’ Conference on several occasions and I took more courses there. 

In the fall of 2009, I recounted my experiences in San Miguel to my friend and fellow writer, Rainie Baillie, and we decided to form a writers’ group closer to home. Many of Merida’s aspiring authors joined us, as did visititors who spent winters in Yucatan. The Merida Writers’ Group (MWG) started that fall and happily it is still going strong. I am no longer a fully active member, but my support and gratitude to MWG should never be questioned.

My first novel, THE WOMAN WHO WANTED THE MOON spans 20+ years (1968 – 1990) of contemporary Mexican history. The protagonists are talented but their interactions are peppered with betrayal and self-interest, as well as other excesses that constantly threaten their relationships. These in turn mirror the devastating socio-political and economic realities of the same time period in the country. It took 7 years to finish the book, in part because I completed another project before publishing this one.

MAGIC MADE IN MEXICO is the most successful book I ‘ve written. The theme is cultural adaptation to a new country, the same as my first, but written to reflect the focus of the publisher that bought the rights from me. I liked most of the changes I was asked to make and the resulting book was widely read by international residents all over Mexico. Because it was published by a national house, it received more distribution. One of my greatest “author thrills” happened when I visited the gift shop of The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, and saw copies of Magic Made in Mexico on the shelves.

Magic Made in Mexico for purchase at Mexico City’s Museum of Anthropology

My fourth book is my favorite. It is a family memoir called CIRCLES that recounts the relationship between my Canadian father and his Dutch first cousin. Because of the 40 year difference in age, I call her Aunt Gisele. During WWII she hid many Jewish friends in her tiny apartment on the Herengracht, one of Amsterdam’s principal canals. She risked her life every day to keep everyone safe and fed as best she could. My dad, John was a private in one of the Canadian divisions that fought to liberate the Netherlands. He had his cousin’s address, so when he got a day’s leave, he called on her. What he found horrified him, and she says if not for the food and other provisions he quickly acquired for them, they would have starved to death. After May 1945, he was deployed to the displaced persons camps in Belgium. The two cousins never saw each other again. However, they corresponded regularly. When Dad died in 1982, my sister and I carried on the letter writing.

For nearly six decades after the end of WWII, Gisele led a colourful life as an artist and international spokesperson. She was officially decorated by the Dutch, German and Israeli governments. I did not meet her until I was 50 and she was 90. But fortunately during the final part of her life, I visited with her many times. Despite all the difficulties Gisele experienced, she remained curious and joyful until her death at 100 years.

So, between 2007 and 2015, I published four books. Blogging, short stories and travel pieces have figured most prominently since then. I do have another novel in the works but not quite the same impetus to finish it because the onslaught of social media has radically altered the reading habits of most people. In fact, many formerly avid readers seem satisfied with the ever-changing, continuous feed of short enticing material available on a whole gamut of internet platforms.

So what does the future hold for writers? Let’s explore that in my next post.