Saturday, December 9, 2017

Making Friends and Fitting In

This week I have been a little at odds with what to write and could not come up with anything exciting, until Herman said that I should write about what it is like to try to fit in, and it suddenly came to me.

I have often referred to our experience here as flopping around on dry land like a fish out of water. You know nothing, can understand very little and have constant conflicting thoughts about where you find yourself. Fitting in is a daunting experience that only hits you after the first few months of excitement. You start going about your daily routines and come down to earth and realize that you have to pay the bills and pull the weeds and do the laundry and it's back to living. That's when you start to feel the need for connections, people to visit on a weeknight or invite over for a drink. You start to feel extremely lonely. When you meet someone you like, it dwindles into insignificance, because of the language barrier. But you try to talk and start getting better and start understanding more, but it is work. When you are done, you are literally exhausted with the effort of translation in your brain. I actually switched to German while speaking to someone the other day, even though I haven't spoken German since I left University. Your brain just bounces around trying to find the right phrase to use and I guess mine short-circuited.

So when you find someone that you can talk to in English, it is such a relief that you can relax, that you just talk and talk. But you don't always end up being friends, it is a very nice feeling. Then when you meet someone and you really connect, it is the best feeling you can possible have in a new country.

So, when Herman read a message on Facebook about a man who was born in South Africa and just arrived in Mérida from Canada, he felt compelled to connect. One thing led to another and suddenly we were going to a brunch at Jackie's house for a super awesome brunch with three other couples who have at least one South African-born spouse. Weird how we came all the way to Mexico to find so many other South Africans. When you come from Africa, there is a bond that no one else gets. You have similar tastes in food, music and a very bendy sense of humour. Not something you can explain or teach, but definitely there.

In the mish-mash of Canadian/South African/American cultures, despite our differences in age, we found common ground and just had a wonderful time. We could talk about what we missed about our past homes, what brought us to Mexico, what it's like to start over in a new country, and why we were drawn to travel and new adventures. We talked about our new adopted home that we are starting to love, each in our own way and on our own time. We swapped recipes and some lessons-learned in surviving immigration, and where to find our favourite spices. We also decided that our next get together will be a proper "bring-en-braai". (Directly translated this is a "bring and barbecue", which in Canadian would be something like: bbq potluck & byob.)

What we all wholeheartedly agree on, is that the reason we all fell in love with the Yucatán and Mexico, were the people. The hospitality, kindness and generosity of the people, grabbed us and kept on pulling us back here. It is also clear that the Mexican middle class is moving up and Mérida is a prime example of development and economic growth that attracts so many young professionals and their families to this area. This makes items that some of us have come to expect to be easily accessible in the stores, which just adds to the overall sense of finding a place where one can fit in.

I have my own thoughts about advancement and whether it is really good for the local culture, but it is undisputed that the influx of money does help the local economy and in turn, hopefully benefits the local communities as well. One of the most successful programs for local communities is the Yucatan Giving Outreach charitable organization that compels the expat community to help various local well deserved initiatives, including the youth orchestra that I wrote about a few blogs ago.

So it seems like we are finding our groove so to speak, not entirely as a result of making friends, but definitely boosted by it.

On the lighter side, I included a non-related video: Xena is getting very comfortable in hammocks. Herman and I still do some target shooting on warm afternoons - those poor beer cans! And Herman is becoming a swimsuit model and his six-pack is not too shabby, but it's his love of hats that make the man and I think I captured our lifestyle perfectly in the photo shoot at the pool...


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fall

Now that Herman and I both work online we value the flexibility that we have to still fit in some fun activities. Like an old friend, we look forward to weekends again. It took both of us a bit of time to settle into the routine of working for a living...

Fall means that even though some of the trees are losing their leaves, they do not really change colour before they fall off. The nights are downright cold, so much so that I have to sleep with winter PJs and sleep under a sheet to make sure I don't wake up shivering. The windows are closed and the fans are off. The days are still hot and go up to 31 degrees Celsius, so it is still amazing weather. More to my liking than the summer for sure! We can swim around midday but the afternoons are getting a little too chilly for my now-acclimatised sensibilities.

We decided to make a rocket stove experiment, before we actually built one. So Herman used his tetras skills using discarded blocks and then we gathered wood and started the fire. We managed to cook some hard boiled eggs on our invention. Definitely a success and we are ready for the actual project.

We decided to get some toys for the pool and a few plastic cups so that we can veg in the water after a hard day's work in the "office". After a couple of drinks, balancing was a little more fun than without.

On Saturday of the Mexican Revolution Day long weekend, the Mérida Youth Orchestra had a community concert to celebrate their 2nd anniversary. Herman and I attended this event and thoroughly enjoyed it. The parents, students and teachers worked together to set up the event. They invite their local community and try to raise some much needed funding to continue the program. We were once again blown away by the hospitality when the parents treated us to a free dinner to say thanks for the violin. I also got to meet Mayrin, the 1st violinist for the orchestra, who was given the violin. The youngest member is only 6 years old and the oldest is 17. These children have so much talent! One of the teachers, Winnie, explained that they not only teach them music, but they also teach them theory and music history. Their repertoire covers classical, traditional Mexican and popular music. All in all a well rounded program. Unfortunately our recording equipment and the acoustics of the venue did not really lend itself to a good recording, but I think you will enjoy the video nonetheless.

I also planted my first bougainvillea and and a few seeds for flowers. Once again our Moringa tree was stripped of all the new leaves it grew since the last time, but it seems to always come back. I am enjoying the gardening, even though the weeding is a serious drag. I hope to visit a local nursery in the next week or so to add a couple more flowers to the front yard. Our gardener cleaned the weeds along the outside of the property wall, and in Mayan tradition, once the grasses were dry, they were set on fire and after about 5 minutes, there was only ash left.



Sunday, November 5, 2017

Feliz Cumpleaños Herman!

Herman and I are settling into life in Seyé and it is starting to feel like our town. We still walk to town to buy from the market, pay our CFE bill or our internet. We still struggle with our broken Spanish, but it all feels like it's our life now. We have regulars who supply services and goods and we recognize people and say hello. It is what makes a place feel like your home.

We had a meeting with our lawyer, the agent and the owner of the house and after a lengthy explanation of the issues that are delaying the closing of the house, we estimated that the property will finally be ours by February 2018. Both the neighbouring property owners have to agree to some site changes, and even though they have been difficult to locate by the state`s office of property assessment, there seems to be a sudden increase in activity on both sites with some vegetation clearing.

Herman asked for a few quotes for some of the renovations we are hoping to make to the property. At this stage it is to give us some guidelines for our financial  planning. I am working online now, which will help towards some of the expenses and Herman is in the process of learning new software to do some architectural work online as well. Things are falling into place for us from the work front and with our sustainable lifestyle, we should be able to make it.

When you are without family in a new place (which Herman and I have lots of experience with) celebrations like Christmas, Easter, New Year and birthdays become a little bit of a challenge. You don`t want to sit around moping about being alone, especially since you did this out of your own free will. Herman and I decided that it would be a good day to visit a cenote. We live in an area of the Yucatan where there are hundreds of cenotes around us. A cenote is an underground cave formed by underground rivers. The Mexicans have started to realize the attraction of these magnificent natural wonders and have built restaurants, trails and stairs into the holes and added lights. For a fee you can usually stop in most of the towns to visit one of these caves and go for a swim. The towns benefit from the extra income and tourists get exposed to a great experience. Herman  did some research and picked the Santa Barbara Cenote in the town of Homún.

We were treated to a wonderful day visiting three cenotes and ending with a lovely meal in the restaurant on site. When you arrive at the main building, which boasts a bar, restaurant and a small gift shop (featuring local artisan weave work and Yucatecan embroidered clothes) you can select from several packages: Package one is renting a bicycle to travel to the caves, Two includes being pulled on a carriage on a track by a horse to the caves, and Three also includes a meal at the end. We splurged and bought the complete package for $440 Pesos for two.

Riding the horse-drawn railway carriage was fun and the trail was pretty fast with the horse often galloping to stay ahead of us. The first cenote was the smallest one, named cascabel. One of the guides explained that it means rattle snake. Apparently the construction workers found a rattle snake while they were working on the stairs and named it rattlesnake, but the snake was never seen again... Needless to say, that didn`t stop anyone from going in and taking a swim! We brought our dive masks so we had a really good view of the bottom and even saw a few small black fish. The first cenote had some lights shining into the water without which you would not be able to see anything.

We walked from there to the second cave, not a long way away. This one was light inside with natural sunshine but there were still some lights. It was much larger than the first one. Quite a high staircase to enter and exit this one. This one was spectacular with the tree roots coming through the ceiling as a thin strand and then where it touches the bottom of the cenote, it forms a large root base.

The trails are immaculately manicured white stone trails framed by larger white stones from the area, and are very easy to follow and navigate, The cenote also employs many staff with walkie talkies to guide you along the way in case you don`t know where to go next. Everyone is helpful and some even speak English. We followed the trail to the third cenote, which featured a very impressive set of concrete stairs into an archway that was built with stone and concrete. This cenote also featured a large palapa for those who didn`t want to venture down the stairs and wanted to site and enjoy a bit of a rest. The last one is definitely spectacular as being the deepest of the three, and you cannot see the bottom. It is also pitch black with out the sunshine from above breaking the water with beads of light that was amazing to see underwater. Unfortunately we did not have a GoPro, so we didn`t take any pictures or video under water. One of the most impressive pictures at this one is of the tree`s roots reaching all the way down into the water.

Nature is stunning and impressive and I love spending time exploring the wonderful cenotes. According to the Planetary Science Institute geological evidence lead scientists to believe that an asteroid roughly 10 km (6 miles) across hit the Yucatan about 65 million years ago. This impact made a huge explosion and a crater about 180 km across. By all accounts this was the explosion that altered the atmosphere to such an extent that it wiped out 3/4 of the species including the dinosaurs.Of course this attracts many tourists to this area and also many cave divers come to explore the cenotes of the Yucatan.

We had an amazingly tasty dinner of Yucatecan food. I had pechuga empinazada, which is like a chicken schnitzel and Herman had a traditional poc chuc, which is slices of pork tenderloin. We were joined by two lovely people from the North of Mexico, who worked in the US and spoke English. Had a lovely time, and never got their names.

We went home for a nice nap after which we went to Seyé for dinner and tried out Willy`s pizza. It was really good! This place was hopping with customers coming to pick up pizza. OK so we had pineapple on our pizza, but it was freakin`awesome! `Willy`is again super attentive and the garlic bread was `to die for`. We ventured onto the Tilt-A-Whirl and this ride just goes on and on and one, and though it was super fun, my neck hurt from all the twirling our silver shell did. We also realized that it was the Halloween dance party and watched the young people start arriving in their best dance garb to dance the night away. And I really mean dance the night away, because when I was up at 3pm, the dance was just ending and I could hear the DJ all the way to my house in colonia San Antonio!

Yes, the big day came and it went. Herman's 54th Birthday. Old Man? No Way! He is in better shape than ever, despite surviving a cardiac event, and now anticipating the next 20+ years of his life.

Today is Sunday November 5th, the birds are singing, the sun is shining and we had a swim. It is an amazing life to live and I am happy to spend it with my best friend.

Happy Birthday Herman! Wish you all the best again, because I hang out with you all the time.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Izamal

One of my favourite cities in the Yucatan is Izamal. We visited Izamal when we were on vacation in the Yucatan 6 years ago, but yesterday we decided to head out that way again, since it is about 35km from our home town. It was really nice to reflect on how much has happened since our first visit and how different it is to walk around now that we understand some Spanish and don't feel so foreign anymore.

One thing that is very distinctive in Izamal is that all the buildings in the centre part of town are painted a distinctive yellow, or as I am sure to be corrected, ochre. It is beautiful and one of the cleanest cities around. The streets are original stone and is just a lovely place to visit.


Horse drawn carriages for tours of the city.

A street view behind the cathedral.

Back wall of the church.


We bought Herman a nice new hat and a bracelet to start off his birthday celebrations and I bought my first pair of high heels in Mexico. I am happy to know that I wear a size 5 here (same as in SA). We had breakfast at the same restaurant we visited when we were here last "El Toro". Definitely a great restaurant experience. While we were there one of the patrons ordered guacamole and the waitress walked to the market to purchase a fresh avocado.
Herman's new hat.

In El Toro, ordering breakfast.

El Toro is one of the small buildings behind the church.


The city is rich with history and used to lots of tourists which is evident in the many English descriptions on menus to accommodate them. It was also visited by Pope John Paul II in 1993 and is a destination for many Catholics on pilgrimage. The city also provides tourist "police" who you can approach for directions and who are fluent in English. There was a market in the square and it was refreshing that the prices were not as high as they tend to be in Mérida.

Izamal's market is very good and we will be back for sure! With the current celebrations there was a midway in town and the cathedral was as impressive as ever.
The flag in the centre of the town square.
The church was built on top of the original Mayan temple, which was the order of the day during the Spaniard's invasion of Mexico.

The church built on the Mayan ruins is the main attraction of the town.

The church is wheelchair accessible.

On the one side where the market is, are all the taxis to other parts in the Yucatan.

The grounds of the church can accommodate large crowds.

The square in front of the church.

A statue of Pope John Paul II commemorating his visit of 1993.

The inside of the church.

The statue of the Virgin Mary was donated by the Pope and has a silver crown.

The festivities will start after 6pm and will become a bustling hive activities.


Front entrance to the church's square.

A group of school kids were visiting the church.

Herman took this picture from the top of the church grounds of the ruins in the distance. The ruins are a big part of the city's attractions. There are many ruins like this one in the small towns in the Yucatan that can be seen from the road and can be visited for free. Even a site like Chichen Itza is only partially excavated and tourists only see some of what have been excavated. The government just cannot afford the archaeological digs required to uncover every Mayan historical site.





It was a change from the village life in Seyé, but I still prefer the simplicity of my small town after witnessing both good and bad changes brought by tourism.

Right now the people in our area are celebrating Hanal Pixan, which is the Mayan celebration of the dead. Families build altars in honour of the deceased where they place the favourite food, drink and other items to remember them and celebrate their lives. Traditional food that is part of the celebration are pan de los muertos (bread of the dead) a really yummy sweet bread, and pib, which is a very labour intensive chicken pie.
Pan de los muertos.

Pib (pie on the left)

Monday, October 23, 2017

Music: The Universal Language

Yucatan Giving Outreach is a local charitable organization that coordinates initiatives that improves the lives of communities in need in the Yucatan. They touch many lives and were instrumental in getting relief to the communities in the earthquake affected region. They are involved in community gardens, soup kitchens, free ESL classes in Mérida and sometimes promote other non-profit and charitable organizations' events. It was on such a post that I found the one about a local group who are asking for donations of musical instruments for a youth orchestra.

As some of you may know, I took violin lessons years ago, and have been teaching myself some tunes since then. (Mostly when Herman and the kids were away from home, because my skill level is pretty much "excruciating".) BUT I LIKED IT.

So after reading the post it took me a couple of weeks of thinking it over (and considering that after all the years I still struggle with the vibrato on the violin), I decided to donate the violin and the sheet music. I had to find the website again and then had to contact the one English speaking person to set up a meeting. Within a matter of minutes of sending my message, I had a delivery time set up for Friday morning.

When Winnie arrived, Herman and I thought we'd hand over the violin and books and be done with it, but Winnie wanted to take pictures and invited us to see the room where the kids practiced and gave us an overview of their situation. We were happy to oblige.

The Orquesta Sinfonica Infantil y Juvenil is a local group that caters to disenfranchised children in a marginalized community in the south of Mérida. From all accounts, the social impact of this organization is big and the students and their parents are invested in the positive impact it has on their young lives. The children in the orchestra are all ages and skill levels. They are disciplined and motivated to participate and have to sign contracts to borrow instruments when they need to practice at home.

Winnie introduced us to Alexis, who is the conductor of the group and they showed us the room that is on loan to them at the youth centre. The medium sized room houses 100 students every weekday from 4 - 7 pm for practice. All the instruments, chairs, music stands and the room are on loan for one year; courtesy of a government initiative. This term is coming to an end soon. My violin and another broken instrument are the only two items they have received so far.  Winnie was excited to share that they are fortunate to have a wonderful American volunteer (Julei) who is helping them with their business plan and grant applications. Winnie's enthusiasm was contagious, but it was clear that they would need a lot of help if they wanted to "stay in business".

This type of social initiative promotes pride in the culture (they perform wearing their traditional dress) and it exposes these children to opportunities that will hopefully enable them to look up and see the potential out there rather then just the day to day struggle of their environment. It also typically provides something to keep idle minds busy, which as a parent of teens not so long ago, I know is really important.

Mérida is one of the fastest growing cities in Mexico, with migrants arriving daily from Central and South American countries, and also from other states in Mexico. This is happening because the Yucatán is the fastest growing economy in Mexico. However poverty is still a reality for many in this lovely state. Social challenges include unemployment and living wages, but even running water in houses are not a given. Research has proven that youth programs benefit communities through cohesiveness and the study of arts stimulates cognitive function and development.

Winnie and I.
Herman holding the books - this is the picture that Winnie wanted for their fb page.

The youth centre in the southern colonia of  San Jose Tecoh Sur in Mérida.

The grounds at the youth centre.

The statue of the founder of the centre.

In this city of contrasts we visited a mall on Saturday, looking for a sleeper couch for our house. In the northern part of Mérida, the more affluent are the focal point and we witnessed the other side of the coin. The Galeria, as it is known, featuring the Liverpool Department store and other high end stores with brands like Rolex, Stradivarius, Sketchers and now also the popular H&M, was as busy as any Canadian Mall on a Saturday with parking at a premium.

I know it is a cliché; poverty sitting side by side with opulence, and Mexico is not unique in this. In Canada, giving and caring are second nature and everyone does something whether it is donations of time or money or skills. In Mexico I have been astounded by the spirit of giving by people who hardly have anything themselves and I am richer for having experienced it. Getting involved in a project that helps youth is one of the reasons why I wanted more free time and makes moving here meaningful.
Seriously large Mexican flag at the Galeria.

Galeria food court.

Ice rink and entrance to Liverpool Department Store.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Evolución Animal

When we first arrived in Mérida, I started following Evolución Animal on fb. They are a local no-kill animal shelter. Because of this they often have too many animals to care for and need as much support as they can get. Right now they have more than 200 dogs in their care. Their website is very informative and a few of their dogs are adopted every year to people in Canada and the US. I participated in their online auction earlier this year and purchased a lovely painting in support of this cause.

Painting of local artist Edith Eloisa


They are quite a distance from where we stay, but on Sunday I finally managed to get out there and help. It was their wash-a-dog day and it was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed.

It is the first time that I have gone to an event on my own and had to follow directions from Google Maps on my phone because the Ford GPS maps for Mexico are not up to scratch. So I was driving "blind" with just voice commands. It was not bad and since Sunday mornings are quiet on the roads, I missed only one turn. I ended up where I needed to in the end.

Evolución is located in the town of Uman just outside Mérida. I was the only English speaking person there, but everyone was friendly. I had brought rubber gloves, but felt too stupid to wear them when everyone else just wash the dogs with their bare hands. The things we get used to in Canada, eh.

There were three staff members who coordinated the event and they had their hands full but they were amazing! Right at the start there were a lot of volunteers from the local community and we all got a short lesson on what to do with the dogs. It was simple: ask for a dog to wash (you cannot just grab any dog), tie the leash to the fence so that the dog cannot move away, use the buckets with scrunchies to wash the dogs, rinse, pour the anti-tick and flea dip over the dog (not the face), then take the dog to clip their nails, then have their ears cleaned. I got most of this but had to ask about the dip, because I wasn't sure if that had to get rinsed off.

Most of these dogs have been treated badly, so some of them hid under tables and counters and sometimes catching one for a wash was a task. However, once caught they really didn't move. In most cases once you had the leash on, they would refuse to move and we all ended up carrying a lot of wet dogs to each station. That's why you wear old clothes!

Only one of the dogs I handled was a bit of a biter and his mouth was tied shut with an old shoelace until I was done. We didn't cut his nails though, because it upset him too much. There was this one beautiful dog who jumped up against me every time I walked past her...yeah, never mind, I didn't bring one home.

I cannot remember all the dogs' names, and I cannot remember how many dogs I washed, but I learned that cutting their nails is uñas cortades and asking for another dog is busco otro perro.

I was amazed at how many teens were there helping out. Some of them had T-shirts that indicated they were regular volunteers. It made me feel great to be part of this positive activity. We had some laughs when one of the young guys next to me thought he was washing a girl, only to find out it was a boy. His friends ribbed him over that for a bit.

Xena was not happy with my "other dog smells" when I got home, but soon her buddy from across the street arrived for a little playtime and she forgot all about my unfaithful ways. It was a good day for me and I felt like I am slowly starting to realize that this is my home now.

My next to-do is to find a human cause that I can get involved in closer to home.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Home Alone

For the first time I had to stay at the house alone. It was a little daunting at first, but once I drove home after taking Herman to the bus stop in Mérida and successfully avoiding a collision, I was good to go. Of course I have to start my new job as a virtual assistant in the same week as when I have to take care of the garbage, cleaning the pool, making door snakes, wall decorations and paying several bills (in person). These may sound mundane, and in Canada it would have been, but here each of these is a special event that takes meticulous planning to get the timing just right. For instance when you burn your garbage, you have to make sure that the wind is not crazy or you might set fire to everyone's properties around you, cleaning the pool too early may be a bit chilly (now that it is Autumn) and who likes being cold? Making decorations for the concrete wall that surrounds the property and feeding humming birds are essentials in trying to stay centred (with this vocab I can move to California). And then there are paying the bills...

Paying the electrical bill can only take place on Fridays after 3pm in person at the local internet café. Did I mention that you can only pay it in a period of 10 days. So that is: Only Friday’s after 3pm between the 1st and the 10th of the month. If you miss the deadline, getting your power turned back on takes several trips to the head office in Mérida. We have a new meter, which works in a card system. You have a credit card type of card that is placed on top of the meter. It "gets" your reading, turns off the power and then after you paid, you return to the meter and place the card on top of it to record the payment and reactivate your system. So while you are away paying the electricity is off. No WiFi, no fridge. In case you don't know, it’s really hot in Mexico, especially at 3 in the afternoon. Of course I can pay it at night, duh. And of course there is online payment options, but that doesn't work with the card system, or so I read. Anyway, until the house is in our name, the electricity is not, and when the house is in our name it takes about 2 months to switch the electrical to our name and has to be done by the agent. Or that's what I have been informed. This may of course all change by the time we actually do own the house...

Yes, I am still happy here and not bitter and not upset. Because being here beats going to an office any day of the week! And I have all day, well I used to have all day.

Also the internet bill has to be paid in person at the same cyber café, but not on the same day. And they open anytime between 9 and 10 in the morning, but they are open until 11pm and every day, so not too bad. Just make sure you have cash. No debit and no credit, but sometimes a personal cheque is ok...but those cost money every time you write one and who has personal cheques anymore. Guess: Us.

Door snakes...if you don’t know what it is, it is a long cylinder usually made from fabric stuffed with sand or rice. You place it at the bottom of an outside door to prevent a draft, or in this case, to prevent large hunter spiders from running into your living room at night and charging you as if you are their next lekker jerky. It works! Oh yes, no jerky here, and definitely no biltong. Herman will have to start getting creative this winter.

Door snake
Of course when I moved to Mexico one of my main goals was to make stuff, to re-use and to be creative. All those things you think you would do when you're at work and dreaming of being at home...So I made curtains for the bedroom. Then used the batik art Dominique brought from South Africa to make a no-sew curtain for the kitchen. I made a hummingbird feeder from an old Sprite bottle and a soap container I no longer need. I coloured a few rocks for my kitchen windowsill. And made the first of many future wall decorations for our huge concrete property enclosure; instead of the tin man I made a tin chica, jewellery and all.

No-sew kitchen curtain
Tin Chica

Hummingbird feeder
Bedroom curtains
Last night I took a taxi downtown to meet up with Vianney and Santiago. They had invited me to join them for ice cream. I had a nunce ice cream which is made from a local fruit. It was delicious. I also had a taste of a sugared tamarindo, another fruit that is found locally. Apparently these fruits are naturally very sour, but to me it tasted like a sugared dried apricot. Vianney's sister Andrea arrived shortly thereafter. She was teaching me slang for things in the Yucatan. Unfortunately my brain does not recall much this morning.

They also introduced me to a local photography student, whose  name now escapes me. He had two gold front teeth and when I told him that's a grill, they all laughed because I knew 50cent lyrics. The cyber café guy Jesus (pronounced Heysoos), his girlfriend Ilze and their friend Gormando (??) also joined our group. I was lucky to meet so many nice young adults. They talked about the social struggles of young Mexicans who still get married at 15 and have babies as young as 14 and learning English in their schools. Mostly it was a lot of laughing at how I pronounce words and Vianney and Santiago spent a lot of time translating. At 11:30 they helped me find one of the three wheel taxis to take me home. The driver was super chatty until he realized I was not getting much of what he was saying.

3-wheel taxi
When I arrived at home, Xena went ballistic and I had to hold her to calm her down. I think she must have thought that she had been abandoned. I was a little too wired from my excursion to sleep, so I read until I felt sleepy. Luckily the tropical depression Nate, did not swing this far inland, and the night went by without any incidents.