What's in her name?

What's in her name (Salish Aire)?

from her new home the Salish Sea

Aire as in a melody of song.

Salish + Aire = The melody of the Salish Sea.

Salish Sea:
In the late 1700's Captain George Vancouver wandered around the waters of what are now known as British Columbia, Canada and Washington State, USA. He did the usual 1700's explorer thing and put names he chose on everything he saw. The names stuck and are recognized and used to this day.

New lines were added to Captain Vancouver's charts in 1872 (after a near war with Great Britain over a pig) which made waters on one side of the line Canadian and those on the other side of the line American.

It wasn't until 1988 (officiated in 2009) that someone finally realized that fish and various critters, (to say nothing of the water itself) were never involved in the boundary treaties and really ignored them completely. (This is best illustrated by the problems that Homeland Security has with Canadian Canada Geese and American Canadian Geese - it seems they refuse to carry passports and have been known to poop on the head of any border patrol person who tries to challenge their right to cross the border when and where they choose!) In reality the waters from Olympia to the well up the East side of Vancouver Island are pretty much one ecosystem.

The Coast Salish are the indigenous peoples who live in southwest British Columbia and northwest Washington state along the Salish Sea and share a common linguistic and cultural origin. The Salish Sea is named in honor of the earliest recorded peoples who plied her waters and learned to live in harmony with her.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta

December  6, 2019

Norman here.  Usually I am the primary author of our blogs but I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately (I think a bit of culture shock plus the heat is only beginning to let up and this will be our second year in the tropics for Christmas – not even a sliver of a chance of snow here).  Thankfully Clarice took up the electronic pen and wrote this month’s narrative and we should still be in internet range long enough to get it posted.  I will say that the past couple of days have helped me get back to feeling better as 1) we started gathering photos we might use for our talk at the Seattle Boat Show on January 24th which forced me to go back and review all of the wonderful places and experiences we have had in the past year in Mexico; 2) Feeling a bit more of the spirit of the season with attending Sunday Mass at the cathedral (which was overflowing for the first day of Advent AND the first day of the celebration of the Virgin of Guadelupe and this is her designated “official” cathedral) where I was finally able to follow enough Spanish in a printed missal to follow the service; 3) enjoying the beauty of the hike Clarice describes below; 3) enjoying a true fiesta atmosphere as we watched the procession of the Virgin on day 4 of 12 celebrations; 4) and finally finding a way to carry out a personal Christmas tradition of mine when I realized that the local Woolworths (yes it even smells like the Woolworths of our youth) does a major layaway business for Christmas – I used the opportunity to play “Christmas Angel” after much explaining to the manager.

We left La Paz after Dia Las Muertos. 

A young girl dressed as a Catrina

Catrinas take the role very seriously, one must never smile and must walk as if in a fog

Numbers are for the contest that all of the Catrinas are part of

 Jarvis got into the act by dressing up as Dante from the movie Coco for the celebration.

Jarvis' friends Autumn and Michelle help him with his makup

A doggy version of a Catrina 

Jarvis poses next to a traditional Dia Las Muertos altar

A woman and her dog in dressed up together

So with that, I will gleefully let Clarice carry on with our story:

Before leaving La Paz, Norman had met a Finnish woman who was biking on Baja. (This is the time of year when the Cruceros Cruisers Club has bikers requesting rides over to the mainland from boaters. We have been reluctant to take on strangers as even 46 ft can be too cozy if the people are not a great fit).Norman asked the woman if she was looking for a ride to Mazatlan and she said she was not, but a Dutch cyclist was hoping to catch a ride across the sea. We contacted Rinskje and said we were leaving La Paz in the next couple of days and heard she may need a ride. Norman asked her to come to the boat so we could meet each other and see if this might work for both of us. Long story short, Rinskje was a great fit. She has been cycling for the past few years ( Asia, Europe, etc) and her current trek has brought her from Anchorage Alaska. She was a joy to spend 36 hours with. She was very independent, so pitched right in to help with daily chores…she did a night watch with me. We all had the opportunity to learn about each other and their cultures.

Rinskje joins the crew for the crossing from La Paz to Mazatlan

We left La Paz on 11/03/2019 with the ultimate goal of crossing to Mazatlan. We decided since we need to not reach California prior to January 1, 2020 and the weather is starting to moderate we may as well go see some of the mainland while we are in Mexico. We had a fairly smooth 36 +/- hour run to get to Mazatlan. We decided to stop at the first marina, El Cid. It’s a resort complex north of town and close to the entry channel to the Mazatlan Marina district. Two rivers empty out of this channel and there’s quite a current, so moderate amount of surge at tide changes. Part way through our stay, the sailboat next to us discovered they were resting on the bottom at low tide and we then realized what the “Thumps” we’d heard were… we were hitting bottom at low tide. After doing some reconnoitering with the portable depth gauge, both boats moved to the next docks further inland to give some breathing room under the keels. We were in the lap of luxury with a pool at our disposal, so totally enjoyed it.

We did a bike tour of Mazatlan the day after we arrived…or tried to.  The drivers weren’t too good about giving bicyclists room in the lanes..it was very crowded. We ended up going over a grated road without success. Norman shredded an inner tube; I managed to fly over the handlebars. Thank goodness no bodily harm, but we ended up taking a taxi truck back to the boat. Next we opted to hike to the top of Lighthouse hill ( El Faro in Spanish). Grabbed an open air taxi to the bottom of the hill and slowly worked our way up to the top. We definitely live at sea level, but the workout was worth it. Great views of Mazatlan and the surrounding area. 
El Faro lighthouse at the entrance to Mazatlan Harbor

Mazatlan from the top of El Faro hill 
El Faro is the world's highest lighthouse based on a hill

One day I decided to try and find the quilt shop that I had found on line. I was so excited to find true quilting quality fabrics. Great shop run by an expat. It’s a training venue for local women to learn how to become business women. She gets 10-20 women together for a period of time. They get sewing machines, learn to sew and quilt and take classes in business management. They also make items to sell in the shop. As I checked out, I asked the cashier what I should see since I was downtown. She mentioned the Cathedral and then said there was a new little shop of weavings from Oaxaca. I was the Cathedral and then came across the weaving shop. Luis, the shop owner, proudly showed me the small wooden loom his grandmother had given to him to use in the shop. He showed me a weaving he was working on and what it represented. He has larger looms at his home that the family all use to produce beautifully woven goods. I ended up purchasing a bedspread that I will convert to a Duvet cover once we get back to colder climates. Later we purchased a hand woven wool rug to go at the foot of the bed. The story of the weaver of the rug and his extended family are told here: Wool weavers of Oaxaca part I ... Wool weavers of Oaxaca part II  .
Hand woven bedspread by Luis

Hand woven rug by Evencio Vicente

Norman jumping in for a moment: Clarice forgot to mention our amazing overnight trip to the town of Durango high in the mountains east of Mazatlan.  We were asking some other long-term resident cruisers over breakfast about renting a car and driving to Durango and one couple suggested we borrow their Chevy Suburban for the trip but pointed out that we should plan to stay the night in Durango and suggested a pet friendly hotel.  Durango is a lovely old Mexican town with narrow cobblestone streets and the requisite amazing cathedral but the real eye candy for this trip was the drive to and from the mountaintop.  The original road was a winding two lane mountain road requiring a 6 – 8 hour drive.  That road is lovely in its own right and due to a serendipitous missed turnoff we drove on it for about 3 hours. The road surface was well maintained but like many mountain roads it followed every crook and curve of the hills as it wove its way up and down through valleys and over ridges while passing slowly through very small villages along the way.  We eventually got back onto the main toll road which required some phenomenal engineering and construction (all proudly Mexican) to create continuous grades that go on for miles rather than following the natural terrain up and down and up and up and down again.  To achieve that goal required 88 tunnels (several over a kilometer long) and 115 bridges including two cable bridges one of which is the tallest in the world. As a side note we are often asked about travelling through Mexico with the “Cartels everywhere” – this route definitely took us through historically active drug production areas but as tourists the only thing that might have been related was that our large vehicle (which could have carried a lot of contraband) was stopped by the State Police.  The two officers checked my driver’s license and were completely polite and professional.  After practicing their bit of English vs our poor Spanish they sent us on our way with a “buenas dias”.

New road to Durango (from old road) 1 of 88 tunnels and 115 bridges

Old road to Durango
The mountains that need to be crossed and climbed to get to Durango

A corn field clings to a hillside along the old road while a horse munches below

On the old road looking at the new road where it crosses over a village

Scenery along the way reminded of the Black Hills of SD

Hay being stored in shucks

The Chevy Suburban stopped for a photo op on the way back down the mountain

Mountain Scenery

Tallest cable stayed bridge in the world

View crossing the tallest cable stayed bridge in the world

Smaller of the two cable stayed bridges followed by another tunnel
Inside the Durango cathedral

Durango cathedral from the village square

We left Mazatlan on 11/13/19 with the plan to spend the afternoon anchored at Isla Venado, just outside the Old Port of Mazatlan, until about 4 pm. This would allow us an overnight passage to Isla Isabela with an arrival at daybreak (We prefer to not enter new places in the dark the first time, especially with the charts being inaccurate at times for Mexican waters). We arrived at Isla Isabela as the sun broke over the horizon. We opted to anchor at the south bay due to the direction of the winds. Its not a very protected bay and the underwater area is filled with boulders ( some are huge). Jarvis was not allowed on the island, much to his dismay, as it’s a sanctuary for frigates and boobies. Norman and I went ashore and watched the frigates doing their mating rituals. Quite elaborate with the males inflating a bright red pouch on the front of their neck and of course making some noise along with this demonstration of virility. We then walked to an area where boobies were nesting on the ground. We saw eggs under the adults, newly hatched chicks and goofy looking teenagers. However, none of these were the elusive blue footed boobies that we were supposed to be able to see. We looked with the binoculars on the cliffs surrounding the anchorage and managed to locate the blue footed birds. The island is also home to LOTS of Iguanas. The number of birds was pretty amazing.
The next item of business was a good cleaning of the hull, including the keel cooler, props, etc. We both were down 1-2 hours and got the job done. We also had some air left in our tanks so decided to check the anchor since the guide book states and anchor trip line was recommended to hopefully prevent getting stuck in the boulders. Since we knew we were leaving at oh dark thirty the next morning, we wanted to avoid a night dive if possible to unstick a stuck anchor. The anchor was situated in such a way that we weren’t going anywhere and we now knew the angles to try if we got stuck. Unfortunately we were too tired to grab another tank and do a pleasure dive. Lots of beautiful fish were around us and it would have been fun to explore the rocks.

Moonlit crossing to Isla Isabele
Boobies are not at all shy about checking out the boat
Thousands of frigate birds inhabit Isla Isabele

Iguanas by the hundreds live on the island as well

A lady frigate can't get any rest from suitors even while she is on the nest

A brown footed booby shows off her egg

A teenage booby taking a stroll

Salish Aire at anchor on Isla Isabele

On 11/14 at 330 am we pulled anchor without a hitch and headed towards La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. It is called this due to a living cross on the hill carved from the Huanacaxtle tree, but most people just refer to the village as La Cruz. The Huanacaxtle tree is a huge tree that would be fantastic for tree houses.

As we made our way to La Cruz, we discovered the fishing lines we’d been warned about as we approached La Cruz. These are yellow polypropylene lines that are very very long. It appears they are long line fishing. They are inconspicuously marked with 250 ml ( 1 pint approximately) clear soda pop bottles – yep not really easy to see until you are on top of them. Most of the time there’s a panga at one end of the line and in the dark they even sometimes have a light on the panga. We slow down, maybe honk if the panga fishermen are asleep, and wait until they show us where the end of the line is to allow safe passage without damaging their fishing set up. We got a little cocky and thought we were through the gauntlet at one point when to our dismay a line was right under out bow. We discovered if we went over them at a right angle, they just rolled under our full keel without any problem. FINALLY, as we saw La Cruz come into view we were out of the gauntlet of fishermen.
We are now on the jungle looking side of Mexico after spending the past year in the desert side.  La Cruz is a small village with cobblestone streets for the most part. NOT conducive to bike riding in the least. We attended the market that is held on Sundays the day after we arrived. It is huge…not really a farmers market as there is little in the way of produce. However, lots of food ( Indian, Mexican, bread, jams, paella, sausages, meat pies, etc.) and you can literally eat your way through the market. There are lots of arts and crafts booths as well. This is all along the malecon on the side opposite  of where we are moored. And then there is more in the town square. Pretty amazing.

The La Cruz fishing pangas bring in their catch (including tuna 4 feet long!)

We also had some boat projects – these never end, you just go down the list from high to low priority. There is a fairly large “high end” chandlery in Puerto Vallarta, so we took the bus or taxis in a couple of times. Of course “high end” means something different here than in the states, but all in all it was pretty fun to see some quality products and a fair assortment of items. After a week in La Cruz, we were ready to move on to Puerto Vallarta, which we did on 11/29/19.

It’s only a few hour cruise ( the Gilligan’s Island theme is playing in the background) to Puerto Vallarta. There’s no real anchorage here, so we are in a marina. This would be an awesome Hurricane hole. It is in a little keyhole and everyone in this marina, pangas included understand the concept of hull speed. We don’t rock and roll at all. It’s an experience that we’ve not had for a long, long time.
Puerto Vallarta is big, but not as noisy as Mazatlan. Cruise ships ( humongous ones) come in regularly and lots of tourists abound. Lots of busses and Uber to get around with, as well as taxi’s. We spend the first few days meeting up with friends, checking out the marina district and relaxing. Again, we had access to a pool. This is such luxury!!! We explored Sam’s club and Walmart and a few other close by places. Ate some great food.

December 1-12th Puerto Vallarta commemorates Las Senora de Guadelupe. There is a cathedral by this name in downtown. Each of the twelve days there is a procession from 5 pm to midnight of the religious faithful that participate in that leads to the cathedral. We decided to go watch one evening for a few hours. True to manana time, the procession started very slowly with 2 groups passing us in an hour…then it started picking up. The procession is a mix of Catholicism and native cultures. Young girls were given the honor to portray the Senora on floats ( thankfully they were tied to the trailers as the floats were quite wiggly), Women in white culturally appropriate clothing walked while carrying candles and flowers, groups of children processed while singing , there was a band and a group of dancers that appeared to be Aztec ( or native group) in nature. LOTS of street food that was great tasting. We proceeded to the cathedral and it was overflowing with flowers.

A stand in for the Virgin de Guadelupe (tied to the float for safety but she still looked pretty nervous)
All of the floats and groups have a sponsor and come with gifts - this group was sponsored by Oxxo (think Mexican 7-11)

An indigenous dance troupe
Enjoying the plentiful street food

Inside of the cathedral of the Virgin of Guadelupe

The cathedral of the Virgin of Guadelupe has a very unique stone carved crown

Fiesta street scene

There is an every Thursday night market at the marina that included dancing by these VERY talented young folk

One day we opted to try a hike we had read about. We took and Uber about 1 to 1.5 hours to Boca de Tomatlan. Once there, you find the bridge across the river and proceed to follow a trail around the ocean edge towards Las Animas. We were drenched in sweat within a half hour, but the hike was beautiful through the jungle, past secluded beaches with  beautiful views of Banderas Bay. Lots of stone steps as we climbed up into the jungle and clambered    over areas that are in need of some maintenance. Just before Las Animas was a jungle resort where we stopped and had a fruit plate and some Limonada. We placed our order and the waiter asks if we need ice for Norman’s head. We both couldn’t figure out what he was referring to and said no. I then looked at Normans head to discover that the tree he had whacked his head on near the beginning of the hike had left quite a sore spot. He had blood running down the side of his face, but we hadn’t noticed. The nice young man brought some first aid supplies for me to clean up the wound and then we rested as we ate and drank  our order.

A pocket beach and stream along the trail offered a nice rest stop

Clarice trying to control the sweat from the rain forest humidity while hiking

Amazing beach near the end of the trail
We were told we were only 10 minutes from Las Animas at this point so we headed onward. Las Animas was a beautiful little indent in the shoreline. We headed to the pier to wait for a panga to give us a ride back to Boca. The first person said 250 pesos so we declined. A boy in a panga came up and we asked his fee : 50 pesos each . SOLD.. we  boarded and headed back to the beginning of the days adventure. We arrived back at the boat very tired, a little sore and very happy we had spent our day doing this.

We are getting ready to leave P.V. tomorrow, December 7th. Norman checked engine room fluids yesterday. We topped off water, secured the topsides (tender, bikes), rigged paravanes for easy deployment and went on a provisioning trip. Probably the last provisions until Ensenada or San Diego ( since we cannot take fresh stuff back into the states, we’ll need to use it all up before San Diego). I have learned however that to not waste food ()when we are approaching another country, I boil eggs up, make all the vegetables into a salad, or stew/soup and clean and process all remaining fruit.

I think we are both getting dock fever and ready to get moving again. I prefer anchoring and will enjoy being away from the hub bub that towns bring. I long for the peace and tranquility of remote bays so am excited to be out of here, even though it’s been a fun week.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Norman flies off for a month in Belize

A reminder that we love comments about our blog but not advertisers

October 23, 2019

Looking back to the end of the previous entry we had just arrived back to La Paz and were getting settled in. We had chosen La Paz for several reasons including that it had marinas with “good power” so we could use our air conditioners (A/C) and made life a bit more bearable, it is an interesting place and supplies are relatively easy to obtain, we are familiar with the lay of the land, AND the cruisers’ community is pretty close knit since I was scheduled to fly off for a month to the Caribbean while Clarice and Jarvis watched the boat (in the middle of hurricane season) we wanted her (well at least I wanted her) to have folks she could call on if she had problems.  

Mexican Independence Day just before I left La Paz

If you look way down to the bottom of the left hand column of this blog you will find links titled “Belize Mission Memory Book” and Belize Mission Memory Book Photos that takes you back to our musings from when we were medical missionaries in Southern (read “very, very rural”) Belize for the year of 2004.  I returned in 2009 for a week just to see what had and hadn’t changed and then we both returned in 2014 to go to the college graduation of our Goddaughter from nursing school.  The goals of this month long visit were to allow me to get some patient care time on my resume and allow me to give back something of value (my skills) to a population I was familiar with.  I had contacted the clinic where we had previously volunteered and offered that since I was familiar with the clinic, the area it served, and have a lifetime Belizean RN license I could come for a month and should be able to quickly be an asset to the clinic.  The Clinic replied that their homecare RN would be out for maternity leave the end of September and they would appreciate my help.   We agreed that I would arrive mid-September and leave mid-October.

Getting to Belize from Baja Mexico proved to be a bit of a challenge.  I could go via Mexico (with an overnight in Mexico City) or via Dallas and Miami (with an overnight in Dallas) which proved to be the less expensive option. 

During my stop over in Dallas my very long time friend from
Tacoma made sure I experienced Texas hospitality by touring
half of Texas in 3 hours and eating far to much BBQ 

On my arrival in Punta Gorda Town I was taken to Cuxlin Ha where I would stay during my visit.  Cuxlin Ha is two miles down the same dirt road beyond the clinic.  We had become familiar with the owners back in 2004 and were VERY surprised to learn that they were from the same town as us in Washington.  Gayle (man) is quite an artist with concrete and tile (I knew his work as he had made the fountain at the Western Washington Fair where I was to go if I got separated from my parents back in my childhood).  He and Dona had a dream of building a timeshare resort AND a living Mayan village together. They then went on to lease two "sand bars" on the Belizian barrier reef and turn them into islands with trees they planted and houses they built. (There latest dream is to build a "Mayan temple tourist attraction in a local village" even though they are both in their 80's!)  The resort never took hold ( even though the main building is well built) but the Mayan village continues to thrive so for all practical purposes I stayed the month in a Mayan village.

Looking back from Cuxlin Ha on the road to the village

The main resort building

My room

I was quickly reminded to check the floor and shoes while living in a jungle
My veranda and the bicycle I used for primary transportation

Main Cuxlin Ha Village road

Looking out from the upper floor of the resort building

This pool is quite lovely but only had rainwater in it while I was there
Waiting at the river to head out to the houses on the reef 2 hours away

Our chariot has arrived but needs 4 hours worth of fuel before we can head out

Approaching the 2 islands

Is that a giant beehive????

It's a concrete house covered with conch shells

Another example of Gayle's concrete art

We got back just in time for sunset

I have often wondered what it would be like staying in a Mayan village for an extended time. Frankly Cuxlin Ha hardly counts as the residents are used to folks staying at the lodge from when it was more of a going concern and most of them have jobs in town and the kids commute to school on a school bus.  On the other hand it was interesting to observe the pace of the village.  The women walked to the corn mill in the end house when they needed corn masa for tortillas (they tell me that with refrigeration available they can keep it for a couple of days, in the outer villages 3 meals a day require 3 trips to the mill).  Chickens, turkeys, ducks and dogs seem to run wild but obviously know where they need to go to be safe from wildlife at night.  The older boys have a soccer game almost every evening with only half of them playing with shoes on the rock strewn field.  Every morning I awoke to the smell of wood smoke that had settle in as the night cooled since Mayans are sure that tortillas and beans only taste right if they are cooked over a wood hearth. Next to the building I was in was a community owned store where I could buy basic supplies and food and a cold soda.  The woman who often ran the store got to know me and agreed to make flour tortillas when I ordered them and one of her children would arrive before I left at 7 in the morning with them to start my day.  The RN who I was covering for and her family also lived in the village and provided a resource when I needed something like a wrench for my bicycle.   In other words the village folk quickly got used to me being around and were pleasant and interactive when I talked to them (doing things like helping to unload a trailer load of cement blocks and cement also helped me ingratiate myself).    On the other hand I talked a lot with Kristine RN who had initially come to Belize as a Mennonite missionary before she had her RN and lived in a Mayan Village for several years and even learned to speak some Ketchi.  She talked about it being a society where you take off one layer of onion at a time and in the Mayan world those layers are very thin and lots of them.  She indicated that even as long as she was involved in the village she still had only scratched the surface of the cultural milieu.

Every village is built next to a river

The village corn mill

Turning corn cooked in lime (calcium carbonate) water into masa

The daily after school football (soccer) match

The clinic has grown tremendously since Clarice and I were there in 2004.  Only two of the current employees were there when we were.  The good news is that one of the goals of the clinic was to eventually have local healthcare providers as medical staff.  Currently one RN is Maya, the PTA (Physical Therapy Aide) is Maya as is the pharmacist the public health director is also a local man who previously worked with the Ministry of Health.  I was a bit caught off guard as when I was there before I worked incredibly hard (as did Clarice) trying to fill several roles at once whereas when I arrived this time I wasn’t sure I was really needed and initially was a bit chagrined that I had taken a month away from my wife and home when I perceived they could have gotten along without me.  The work that I did do was to visit the home patients who would normally be seen by the RN on maternity leave.  Often the visits included a group of Physician Assistant, MD, and pharmacy students and since I love to teach I enjoyed working with them.  I was also able to see that many of the projects we had organized that were just “getting by” on our arrival in 2004 have now been built on and are functioning well (e.g. Clarice took the pharmacy from a pile of boxes being attacked by termites to an organized place with a regular inventory / ordering system, I took the medical record system from having family charts to individual charts and then to an electronic tracking system.) I’m afraid that I may have left a bit of a bad impression with the staff when I let it be known that I didn’t feel they were making good use of my time but felt it important to say something so that we could (and did) make changes. [Today I received an email from Nurse Kristine thanking me again for my work and noting that she had found her workload to be very heavy after I left since she is now also covering home visits. Her note is very appreciated.]

Town square for Belize's 38th birthday 
Punta Gorda market

BBQ and "Stew" chicken are Belizian staples

Independence Day parade bringing focus to Mayan heritage

There are at least 3 places turning local cacao into chocolate
(when we were there in 2004 the cacao was all shipped to England)

The house we stayed in in 2004

Barranco Garifuna Village where I used to visit every 6 weeks - this time I made home visits there

I expected this house to have blown down by now (it is barely standing)
The man next to it was a child in the house.

Mental Health Day.  The kids got out of school to display their posters and we had a health table

The group of students at the clinic who had arrived the last week I was there

It was very rewarding to see the changes in the Mayan levels of education.  When I was in the villages in 2004 I made sure to ask every young child, and especially the young girls, where they were going to go to high school.  My purpose was to put the idea in their minds that they had alternatives other than having children while they were 13 – 15 years old.  When we worked with Margery, our Goddaughter, the idea was to let Mayan girls see one of their own succeed in college.  Another factor was we were not allowed to discuss birth control even with a woman experiencing her 15th pregnancy.  Now the clinic provides birth control education and options (and Kristine tells me that she is observing the younger women choosing to only have 2-4 children)!  There are now 2 high schools with over 1000 students each in the Mayan village areas.  In 2004 we only knew of one Mayan RN (a man) now I know of at least 2 in Punta Gorda alone and I was followed by a young Mayan woman who wants to be an MD on some of my visits. For Independence Day (Belize turned 38 this year) the theme was celebration of the Mayan heritage.  In general the Mayans are proving that they can be upwardly mobile from their traditional place at the bottom of the social ladder. Since much of my work in 2004 was in the outer Mayan villages I am very interested in them as a people.

Our Goddaughter, Margery, and her new baby (her clothing indicates she is Mennonite)

Margery and Elmer are both Mayan, both have been to college, both are Mennonite, BUT
they can't speak to each other except in English.  He speaks Ketchi Mayan and she speaks Mopan Mayan.
Margery and her husband Elmer's inside kitchen. (Hammocks are everywhere
in Belizian homes, they are tied up during the day.)

Margery and Elmer's outdoor traditional kitchen

Margery pointed out that this is a "modern" hearth because it is made of
blocks and concrete rather than rocks and soil.
Elmer's wood-shop - he seems to be a very successful businessman! 

Margery and her extended family preparing tortillas for a family BBQ

I arrived back in La Paz on October 13th and was greeted by heavy rain showers (the plane was waved off from landing twice before settling down).  Estimates were that the day I arrived saw 3 inches in 24 hours. In any case I was very happy to be home again.

Leaving the rain forest behind as I begin the long journey back to La Paz Mexico

On a final note I had been planning for some time to attend a Spanish for Medical Professionals class being offered here in La Paz.  The class took 4 days but took in the topics normally covered in 3 semesters of Spanish.  The good news is I had opted to get the textbook about 2 months ago and had gone through it from cover to cover several times so I wasn’t left in the dust in the class sessions.  In any case for the first time I feel like I at least understand how the language is structured and am no longer just memorizing phrases.  After class on the last day the instructor suggested folks head out to Balandra Bay as a group and I added that we could take them for a cruise on the way.  We had a great time with enough pot-luck food for an army, perfect swimming water, and we timed the return trip perfectly for a spectacular sunset.  An interesting cultural note was when the instructor’s mother (her parents live in La Paz) mentioned to Clarice that she liked this American custom of everyone bringing something so the hostess could enjoy the party as well rather than the Mexican custom where the hostess is responsible for feeding and caring for everyone.
My Spanish class, our instructor and her mother

Our Spanish Class potluck.  (To the right is the instructor's father)

While Norman was in Belize, I (Clarice) enjoyed some uninterrupted time sewing and boat cleaning. One of the weeks Norman was gone a friend came down  to visit. We hadn’t seen each other for a few years, but it’s the kind of friendship that you just start up where you left off. We talked, walked, biked…enjoyed the beaches and relaxed. It was still pretty hot while she was here so we took our mid day rests as per requirement in Mexico. Ate lots of great food, discovered a fantastic bakery and visited the local pottery shop. Oh my, it’s a good thing we live on a boat as the pottery is beautiful and the temptation to buy lots is so great. I limited myself to a couple of small items, but want to take Norman there and may have to get a few other treasures. By the fourth week, I was ready to have my partner back. People sometimes get this concerned look when they hear we live on a boat and ask “how is it to be so close together all the time?”. While it is nice to be apart for short stints and do our own thing, we luckily have the type of relationship that has thrived on our togetherness…. If we are apart we think of what the other one would enjoy about what we are doing. We enjoy doing so many of the same things, including working on the boat, that we are very symbiotic and our chores go much faster with the two of us working together ( either to help or commiserate as needed).  And of course Jarvis was missing Norman tremendously. He got some doses of petting and his walks with just me, but I obviously don’t hold a candle to the level of devotion Norman bestows upon him. He literally was jumping for joy to see Norman. I, for one, am ready to get back to cruising and enjoying the water. I get pretty tired of being at a marina. I love being anchored out, enjoying all that nature has to offer without all the stuff associated with being tied to civilization.

A new plaza was dedicated shortly after I returned and this was the music they offered:

Our outing this morning to discover more of the area around La Paz