Magi Azul - Caribe Beach House

Enjoy my family's adventure living on a Caribbean island as they build a boutique vacation beach house. Get a peek at island living and join me in some mischievous musings!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Isla's Market Milestone

Isla has it's first mega store and all over the island you see Chedraui signs with arrows pointing the way to it's newest attraction. For all you gringos I am not talking about an amusement park or other tourist attraction. I am talking about Chedraui - Mexico's equivalent to Super Walmart (I actually think it is nicer.) As I pulled up to this mammoth in my sputtering golf cart the traffic behind me was growing impatient as  I struggled unsuccessfully to get a good shot of the store and drive at the same time.

Chedauri marks a milestone for Isla in several ways.  It is our first mega store, our first stop light, our first parking garage and our first escalator. My family and  I rode up the escaltor with the fascination of an aborigine seeing fire for the first time. We were like the Beverly hillbillies in New York City  as we excitedly ooohhhed and aaahhhed at the myriad of choices we now had.  The bakery was was like Candyland for my 11 year old. The wine section alone was bigger than most tiendas on the island.  The main exclamation of joy from most islanders was "Now I don't have to go to Cancun!" And though I do happily join that chorus, part of me is sighing a song of lament.

Will the little corner stores and the mercado be able to survive now that Chedraui is here. Though finding everything I want in one place is very convenient, it is not the same in the produce section. As I squeezed all the unripened mameys there was no Jelmy to help me pick a good one.  The light orange tomatoes paled in comparison to Louisa's bright red ones. And there was no Raphael to cut the papayas in half.  As I picked a few pieces of fruit out, my 11 year old chirped in, "Mom, I thought you said you were going to keep buying your produce at the mercado!" My little crusader for justice is right. And so today I am making 2 stops instead of one. I am off to the mercado for the freshest and ripest fruit on the island and the sweetest people selling them too. What I can't find there will be found at Chedraui. I do not want the arrival of this new giant to mark the end of our little markets that have served us for generations. Let me hear an amen if you agree.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Poco a Poco

As is my morning ritual,  I am making out my to-do-list for the day and transferring yesterday's undone endeavors to the fresh page of my organizer.  What is dismaying is the fact that all week I seem to be transferring the same list from one day to the next with very little progress in diminishing  it's length. "Exercise" being the most dubious  repeat offender of my transferred tasks. I attribute this sad state of affairs to the fact that I live on an island in Mexico where everything is "muy tranquilo."  I am not really complaining as much as taking observational note of my rather American mind-set of productivity. I am learning that the quality of my day is not determined by how many checks I have on my list, but by how many golden moons I have savored over the waves that roll upon my beach each night.  Or perhaps it is gauged by how many games of  "Leach" I play in the pool with my 11 year-old.
Nevertheless, I am trying to reconcile my guilt for my lack of checks with the fact that things just take longer to accomplish here.  At this time there is no such thing as one stop shopping on the island.  That is changing with the arrival of Cheddraui in Dec. which I have very mixed feelings about. We will talk about that next week. Now I go to Jelmi for most of my fruits, veggies, and fresh eggs.  Whatever she doesn't have Raphael, Louisa, or Sophia have.  I get fresh orange juice from Mercedes, tortillas from the tortillaria, grilled chicken from the corner chicken stand, and my cheese and yogurt from Express.  I am learning to do things little by little and savoring the journey as I go. I just tell myself that list will still be there tomorrow.  I will get it done poca a poca.

Gracias Sergio!

 I am rejoicing that today my computer has risen from the dead thanks to Sergio. After a month of exile from my own computer, I am back!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Less is More

           Right now I'm having anticipatory flash backs of standing at the counter of La Gloria Tortilleria, listening to the hum of the conveyor belts carrying golden disks of corn into the waiting warm ovens. The smiling senora behind the counter (whose name is unfortunately not flashing back) gives me a smile along with a stack of steaming tortillas.  She quickly wraps them in brown paper and takes my 10 pesos in her plastic-gloved hand.  I wrap my new treasure in my tortilla towel and stop to get my roasted chicken from Fannie right next door.
           She takes a hot chicken covered is achiote seasoning and cuts it into pieces with her scissors.  I always marvel how her little hands have the strength to cut through those chickens and their bones like she's cutting construction paper.  After exchanging happy "Como estas?" Fannie  also bags rice, beans, slaw and some hot sauce with my charcoal roasted chicken. She knows I prefer an extra bag of rice instead of the spaghetti they usually put in the bag and makes the substitution without me having to ask.  That is what I call service!  All I need next is an avocado from the little Mayan lady who sets up her card table of assorted produce  under a tree and a tarp on the other side of the road.  Now this is one stop shopping Mexico style.

           I can hardly wait 10 more days till I return to shopping in  Mexico. It has it's pros and cons.   But right now all I can seem to think about are the charms of buying venduras (vegetables) from Jelmy, who always makes sure I pick good pieces  and tucks a gift of some kind of fruit in my bag. Or Raphael, a couple stalls away, who always has the best selection of produce in the mercado.  Oh and how could I forget the fresh squeezed orange juice from Martivino. Grocery shopping in Mexico is an emotional experience of  textures, tastes, smells and smiles. It somehow makes pushing a cart at Super Walmart seem so hollow and mundane. Sometimes less is truly more.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Isla Mujeres - Here I come!

I am pulling out my suit cases for Mexico!!! My exile is in Missouri is coming to a close and I am gearing up emotionally for island life again. I can hardly wait. My enthusiasm is only dampened over concerns for my mother-in-law who is in fragile health. I'm hoping she'll get strong enough to come visit us. I am trying to convince her to join us on our precarious adventure. My husband thinks it would be too hard for her, but I hope when I am 78 I am doing such exploits! We will arrive on the island prior to high season and hustle to get everything perfect for the onslaught of guests. As usual I am stuffing suitcases with fresh linens, blow dryers, ipod dock alarm clocks, as well as, a few decorative pieces. There is no traveling light in this household.
I am looking forward to baking fresh bread for our guests and my cream cheese and coconut cinnamon rolls. In fact, my mouth is salivating in anticpation of a REAL mango. Somehow they never taste as good here in the States. And I can hardly wait to stride out into the ocean with my fins and snorkel gear in hand. My neighbors are the giant sting ray that is always lounging around my beach, or the cluster of parrot fish that live in caves near by. I can't wait to come a callin!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Marooned in Missouri

In case you are wondering why I have not had many posts lately. I am marooned on the mainland of Springfield, Missouri and have been here for 5 longggg months. Somebody rescue me please! My inspiration meter has been on zero, and I know it sounds ridiculous, but I need to go back to Mexico and get away from this heat! Today I heard somewhere it was 110 degrees here. Walking across the Sam's parking lot was like walking across a bed of hot coals. On the other hand, my homepage said it was 89 in Cancun, but felt like 83. Now that really makes me sick - homesick that is! My only consolation is that we will soon be returning.

I am ready for ceviche, guacamole and tacos arrechera! I am ready to grab my fins and snorkel out into the blue Caribbean in my own backyard. I am ready for moonlight swims in the pool gazing up at the stars floating like a thousand diamonds above me. I am ready to greet mi hermanos with a besos (kiss) and a big "Dios te bendigo (God bless you.)" I even look forward to cranking up my old golf cart that is sometimes a pain to get going. My exile will soon be over, and I will return to island living. I can hardly wait!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Turtle Time!

photo by Michele Westmorland/Corbis
It 's turtle time on Isla Mujeres! These are some of my favorite months here. The winter winds and waves have long since died down, and the ocean becomes a placid turquoise paradise for snorkelers and underwater adventurers like myself.  The waters are often what the locals call a bonanza.  A bonanza is one of those days when the water is so clear and the surface so smooth that you drop whatever you're doing, grab your snorkel gear and explore!  July and August are also the height of the turtle nesting season. Turtles are more concentrated closer to shore as they nightly scour the sandy beaches in search of choice nesting ground. There are 6 species of turtles on the island, but the Loggerhead and Green turtle are the most common. 
       I have wonderful memories of midnight turtle watches with all of my children.  We still sit on the log behind our house, with our mug of coffee or hot chocolate and scan the moonlit surf for the familiar glowing eyeballs or the silhouette of a humped shell emerging from the water like a stealth submarine. In hushed whispers our excitement mounts as we spot a mother coming to shore to lay her clutch of a hundred or so eggs.  The next several hours are spent watching her dig holes here and there looking for just the right spot to hide her buried treasure.

        In years past these nests were often robbed of their eggs by island natives who considered the turtle eggs a delicacy.  Now thanks to the preservation efforts of the Isla Mujeres Turtle Sanctuary or the Tortugranja, many of these eggs survive to become hatchlings.  During this time of year almost all the sandy beaches are patrolled nightly by workers and volunteers of the sanctuary.  They guard the female turtles from undue harassment from over zealous observers and ask that no flashes by used with cameras to disturb the nesting mothers.  Once the turtles have made their grand deposit into their sandy beds, they return to the ocean  until next year's nesting season.  At which time they will return to the same beach to lay their young again.  Once the eggs are laid the turtle people, as I call them, collect the eggs and transport them to the sanctuary where they are incubated for 60 days, hatched and later released.  And oh what an occasion the turtle releases are!


      They are a favorite of the island children of all ages.  The turtle people bring huge vats of baby hatchlings and pass them out to the crowds of  children and adults who stand with tiny buckets waiting to be filled with these adorable creatures.  Then after much ooohhing and ahhhing the children gently place the baby turtles on the sand so they can scurry to the surf to begin their odyssey. The turtle people manage the crowd and chase off any four legged or winged prey that would try to make an afternoon snack out of the baby turtles. The Turtle sanctuary is located on the south part of the island called Sac Bajo. They are supported by the Mexican government and private funds.  For a small fee (30 pesos) you can see hatchlings at various stages of growth and maybe even participate in a release. 

Now is the perfect time to come to the island to see this wonder of nature. You'll find me with my coffee mug sitting on my log gazing out at that moonlit Caribbean.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Day Dreaming

I am back in the twilight zone of the U.S.A. biding my time until I can return to Mexico. I pass the time preparing for a garage sale (ugh, yuck, gag.)  We were watching American Pickers today, and I thought I should give them a call  to come to our house.  After buying artifacts from around the world for our store for  years, I must confess my house looks like a hoarder house - a luxury hoarder mind you. Sometimes I  imagine the liberation of selling it all and escaping to the island with my flip flops and Indian jewlery (a girl's got to have her accessories.)  Anyway I am sorting through my luxurious junk and all the non-essentials of life like 40 pairs of shoes and a closet jammed with clothes that I've had so long they are vintage.  I am thinking of my life on the island and all it's earthy, sweaty simplicity.  I miss buying my roasted chickens from Fannie, or trying to get to the marina to buy fish right off the boat.  I miss buying tortillas at La Gloria and chaya from Helmy.  I miss giving Armin jamaica (a hibiscus drink)  that he is too polite to say  is too strong.  I miss unexpected knocks on the door because no one uses a phone on the island.  I miss waving at people whom I've never met in my life.  (We're friendly.)  I miss the bright sunshine, the wind blowing off the ocean and the pelicans diving for their meals. I miss floating on my back looking at a starry moonlit sky. I miss, I miss, I miss - I guess I need to change my focus and look for the wonders around me now instead of day dreaming of life in Mexico. I remember getting in trouble in grade school for day dreaming and I don't really like biding my time either.  After all the fireflies are beginning to glow in the backyard, my daughter is bouncing around the living room chattering about Disneyland and the air smells of roses and honeysuckles.  Life has it's pleasures where ever I am.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Gilded Journey

"Cast off your moorings from the land of fear and doubt, leave the prisons of despair and melancholy and set sail on a gilded journey..."


During my morning reading I was captivated by the above quote.   I was particularly enamored by the phrase "gilded journey."  You could do a whole discussion group on it's interpretation. The only problem is that after I centered a whole blog post around this lovely phrase, I realized I had misread the original quote.  It should have said, "Cast off your moorings from the land of fear and doubt, leave the prison of despair and melancholy and set sail on a guided journey where the stars are in their appointed places and the voyage is beautiful and safe."  (Letters of the Scattered Brotherhood.)  Well I love the corrected quote, but I still prefer the "gilded journey."   And I ceratinly prefer uncharted territory over guided and safe.  All expats have that bit of adventurer in them. My mother-in-law says that my husband and I are the most adventuresome people she knows and I take that as the highest compliment although I am not sure she meant it quite that way.  I think there was a little bit of a mother's "what about retirement" worry in her voice. Anyway let's get back to the gilded journey.    My literary dyslexia illustrates a life lesson I am continually learning - that even our mistakes can be beautiful mishaps solely due to our interpretation of the situation.   I remember years ago singing robustly in the shower what I thought were the beautiful lyrics to a popular song.  They were beautiful lyrics, but they were also incorrect. (I am famous in my household for this.)  Well it appears I have done it again!  Nevertheless, I will sing with gusto my own song with words of my own making for the sun is rising upon a new horizon this morning, and truly - life is a gilded journey!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mexico Withdrawals

Today I was sitting in our church in the U.S. with it's  large sanctuary and comfortable padded pews while the full worship team and band played skillfully. I kept waiting for anyone in the congregation to embrace me and whisper in my ear  "Dios te bendiga." But it never happened.  In fact in Mexico they don't just embrace - they kiss you.   During meet and greet time during the service today, people would say things to me in English and my mind was responding with, "Igualmente." which is Spanish for "Same to you."  I smiled and nodded a little dizzy with culture confusion. I embraced a member of the church like I was accustomed to doing in Mexico, and I could tell he was a little stunned I didn't shake his hand. As I sat surrounded by several hundred church members in a gorgeous sanctuary enjoying the state of the art sound system and latest video announcements, I found myself longing for my little cramped Mexican church with it's white plastic chairs,and old Christmas decorations on the walls.  I imagined Cruz singing loud and off key with all the passion and enthusiasm she could muster as she literally jumped for joy leading worship with CD tracks because our tiny church in Mexico has no instruments.  But what we lack in expertise we more than make up for with fervor.  I smiled remembering how everyone in our church in Mexico clapped, but rarely on beat or in unison. All the little kids would pound their tambourines during the fast songs, but as soon as worship started little Floracita would gather up the tambourines from which half the rattles were missing. I miss the broad smiles and trying to understand all that was being said.  I  miss the long tear filled prayers and even longer sermons that I struggled to stay awake through.  I miss eating tacos after church with Mariana and Armin, our pastor.  I miss all the earthy richness and warmth of my little Mexican church family. Despite all the things we don't have in Mexico, what we do have is so full, so alive and so authentic. Hasta luego Iglesia  de Senor.  Mi corazon esta con tu.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ride Like the Wind!

Today I was sitting in my writing perch watching a little boat bouncing on the waves of the ocean. Now I have never really particularly wanted a launcha (a Mexican word for small fishing boat,) but when I was a young girl I always wanted a horse.  I spent my summers in an ancient willow tree reading every horse book that existed. Well at that  moment from my window that small boat bouncing across the horizon became a stallion galloping across a vast blue field.  Suddenly the lowly launcha had a whole new appeal to me -- (never mind that I get sea sick.)  I could escape into the wild blue Caribe, battle with giant sea monsters, and explore the edge of the universe!  I could ride like the wind out to the vast ocean of solitude.  However something tells me that you are probably supposed to have a "fishing buddy" for safety reasons which would totally ruin my grand illusions.  I can just picture someone yapping away and desecrating my blessed silence.  I remember my Dad telling us kids that we had to be quiet if we wanted to see any animals in the woods.  I can't remember how he worded it, but he conveyed to me that nature was like God's church and deserving of awe and reverence.  And so the ocean has become one of my meeting places with God.  There is a scripture that says, "Thy way is in the sea and Thy footsteps are not know."  So in a way I guess that little launcha symbolizes my avenue of escape into the deep.  I am already contemplating what color I will paint it and what I shall name her.  There is a sign in one of the little Mexican restaurants I eat at that say's "Respecto la silencio por favor."  Which is kind of hilarious since there is always a television blaring out cheesy soaps in Spanish. Nevertheless maybe I can make such a sign for my vessel!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mercado Magic

There are things I have a fond appreciation for and one of those cosas or things is outdoor markets. Perhaps my infatuation with markets comes from having lived most of my life without them. Walmart's grocery section definitely lacks the romance of an earthy foreign market. Whatever country we visit I always want to go to the mercado. The market here on the island is no exception.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Stormy Weather

Outside my window the sea is churning and the waves are white with foam. We are having a tropical storm and Stan says it will be here 2 days. I am up in my little perch listening to the wind howl, and sipping hot coffee with books piled all around me. This is paradise indeed! It's the island's version of being snowed in.
Last night I taught my first Bible study with an interpreter. When I was first asked to speak I thought it was for a women's Bible study, but it ended up being a meeting for the whole church. I was encouraged as I sought the Lord for the service, and I pray the precious congregation was too. My interpreter, Jose, was good and asked if he could keep my notes when I was through. My Pastor asked me to preach 2 Sundays from now; and I am excited as I seek the Lord for what he would have me to share. I hope to challenge the people with His Word, knowing I too will be challenged for I am always preaching to myself first. God's Word is a refining fire, and how I love it's heat.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Contemplative Bliss

Our first guest has come and gone and I am catching a glimpse of the peaceful rhythm of life after building. This morning I took a tray of coffee up to my writing loft and luxuriated in the sound of the surf rolling onto the beach and the steady breeze from my ceiling fan. The only short fall is my computer signal will not reach the loft, so tomorrow we will have to buy a range extender in Cancun. But this little space is hands down my favorite spot in the house. It is my upper room, my private retreat and my pinnacle for contemplation. I have a mahogany colored desk and chair, a Chinese armoire full of books, and a daybed piled with Indian pillows. These are back-dropped by 3 Moorish arched windows that overlook the sea. It doesn't get better than this.