Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kittens Grow, Eat, Play and Sleep

Growing up fast! 6 wks
Moka is tired.
Mokito tired from hard play.
Sak Box pooped out in favorite basket.
Lorenza y Mokito concentrating.
Busmo y Sak Box spaced out.
The first six weeks with kittens have been truly amazing. We thought they were cute when they were born. (See blog around June 9) Watching the growth can be truly mind boggling. I admit I spoil all my cats. I love them. Moka and her offspring began their journey in a large carton box. After a week or two, Moka made it clear she wanted the kitten area expanded. I cut off the top of the big box, attached a smaller box to the open end of the original box, and put in lots more padding. They were able to get their land legs. If the bedding was unsatisfactory to Moka, she would drag the kittens out one by one and drop them at my feet. Once I changed the blankets and lava lavas (pareus), she put them back in and was happy again.
On their one month birthday she brought them out to eat and play. We moved them into the tv room, opened up a side door on their carton shack, and put out another piece of fabric. We brought in the cat perch that Pablo made for them, as well as a pile of other toys. A cat litter box was added. They picked up on toileting very quickly. They romped and played and wrestled.
This week the cat box has been moved outside the main house into the bodega and they are dealing with that successfully, living openly in the house. They are also eating with the big cats in the general cat feeding frenzy area. Today they were all found in a pile sleeping in the dust pan. I heard they were up all night playing. No wonder they are sleeping most of the day.
It is hot here in Mérida now. Afternoons are perfect for any project you can do in the hammock surrounded by fans and enjoying what breeze flows through the house. I study, read or write in the tv room in mine where kittyland is. I find that I read or write one paragraph and without realizing it my eyes wander over to the kitties playing and I get lost watching them. If they get much cuter I will never be able to give a single one away, nor will I be able to get anything done. And that is my latest excuse......

Sunday, July 13, 2008

La Lengua Maaya and Puppets

The puppet show...
Some of the characters.
The kids who stole our song.
The presentation.
Certificate of Completion Presentation

The five month semester of Mayan Language class at the pre-school level has been successfully completed. I now know enough Mayan to greet a person at any time of day, but there is no simple “¡Hola!” It reminds me of Bali where every other hour the greeting changes….Good new day, good morning, good late morning, good early afternoon, etc, you get the idea. In Mayan the greetings all involve the sun. To be specific, Máalob K’iin is Good Day. Máalob chokob k’iin is Good ‘n’ hot flippin’ day, eh? Chumuk k’iin is midday. Máalob ok naj k’iin is good day later in the afternoon, and so on.

I understand only the most simple questions, such as “What are you doing?” (local favorite, everyone always needs to know what you are doing) and “Where are you from?” or “Where do you live?” Even the dreaded “Where are you going?”(If they don’t know what you are doing, they surely must know where you are going!) I am able to answer those if only with one word responses. I guess it is a start. We did not learn to conjugate verbs until nearly the end of the program, and that is my favorite. Conjugation provides my base in language learning. Once I get verbs planted in my brain I can surround them with nouns and adjectives to expand the potential usage of all the new information. My only disappointment in this class was the helter skelter teaching method our Maestra utilized. I find it easier to learn a language, which I consider to be very structured, in a detailed and organized manner. But maybe that is just me.

I can remember how to say “I sell one dead deer” (Kin konik junp’eel keej) and “I am selling thirteen live deer” (Táan in konik oxlajuntúul keej), but herein lies my biggest problem. When will I be selling deer? On the other hand, after the puppet show we performed, if I WERE a deer I could tell you I saw the little lost girl wandering in the woods. (Min yan ti’ le k’aaxo’ chen sa’ati.) What I have not embraced is the complicated vocabulary. If I could remember some of the verbs and nouns I could actually say what I really am doing or tell where I am going (or trying to go!).

I think this is interesting: check out the variations of this word. If mispronounced its significance changes drastically.
Chak Red
Chaak Cook in water/parboil
Chaak’ To wink
Cha’ak A plant with edible root
Ch’aak To cut (e.g., a tree down)
Cháak The Mayan rain god
Cháak Rain

It is a giant undertaking, trying to learn Mayan while still learning to properly maneuver Spanish. I plan to continue to the next level of class which begins in September. By then I hope to have had the time to review and hopefully organize my notes. Our current weekend trips to the pueblos and ruins should prove helpful. I always take the Mayan dictionary along. We try to speak to people in Mayan but do not get much past how sunny and hot it is in To’, the Mayan name for Mérida.

I could go on about the intricacies and bizarrizmos of the Mayan Language, but I should get back to the matter at hand: finishing pre-school. We took a final written exam a couple of weeks ago. Mine came back with a “Muy Bien” on it. Everyone else’s tests had numerical grades. I did not quite understand. The second part of the final was to participate in a puppet show with all the Mayan language students in the Olimpo Theater in the center of Mérida. The production was held yesterday, July 12, 2008. Our class had to change the song we were scheduled to sing because the little children’s class beat us to it! We changed characters around a few times because people stopped attending class and we did not know if they would appear at show time. It was the first time I have been involved in the production of something like a puppet show. A prior blog tells of the creation of Pablo’s and my puppets, JConcho yéetel le keejo´. Almost all the women wore huipiles to the production; I think I had better consider investing in one pretty soon. We have to perform as part of the Mayan learning process. Earlier this semester we performed a song in a Mayan pueblito and the women DID put me in a huipil.

They awarded our certificates of completion at the ceremony. They personally called me on stage to give me mine along with the top students of the other classes. I don’t know if I scored the highest on the exam or if I am just the novelty being a foreigner learning the Mayan language. Early on in the class I was interviewed by the local TV station and asked why I was interested in learning Mayan. The interview included me singing the pre-school song Jach Túun Máalob K’iin to all of Mexico at 6am on a national program. The class and all communication is in Mayan or Spanish, and many concepts escape me. I grasp quite a bit but there is a lot to learn before I am willing to say I speak Mayan. And so continues this learning process we call life.

We perform in a Mayan village

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kittens Celebrate Birthday

The birthday feast, one month old June 9th.
Mokito walking up the plank at playtime.
Sak Boox checking out the hueco.
Mokito explains the scratch post to Lorenza.
Busmo gets his bearings with his big feet.
This is the kittens' birthday pictorial. The fun has only just begun!

Livin' The Dream

Buster relaxes in the hammock for the first time!

What is the dream? Obviously everyone has a unique dream life, so I can only address this issue from my point of view. Jim and I lived the dream. We spent twenty years in Hawaii. Most people dream of a week there. For the first ten years in Kona we were happy at our jobs, which were also a dream. Diving and driving boats, watching whales and sailing around the islands sounds very romantic, and it is! We worked hard and played hard. Then we decided we were supposed to grow up and get real jobs. Our jobs were real, so I don’t know what confused us so much. I guess it was turning forty. We felt we had not met the anticipated family requirements of adulthood and responsibility. So we took indoor jobs. So much for living the dream in Hawaii. We stopped driving around the island after our numerous visitors’ tours. We stopped going to the beach and we burned out on boat jobs. Eventually we found it difficult to make it out to a friend’s house for dinner, we became such home bodies. We were no longer the professional partiers we were so proud to have been.

Once Jim became ill, Hawaii became our nightmare and not our dream. We had our circle of family and friends and overwhelming support from all of them, but the lack of medical care and the ever increasing cost of living there made it all a giant stressor. And the air. The air was my worst nightmare. I felt better living in Mexico City where the toxic air is infamous, than I did in Kona where the government insists there are no negative effects from breathing heavy metals and sulfur dioxide fumes.

After Jim passed away, I could no longer face my job. Frankly I could not even face the supermarket, because Jim had so much trouble eating his last year. I also felt like the leftover half of “Jim and Lin” and it left me empty inside. So I created a new dream. It took a while, but I am persistent and I am a survivor.

Now I am living in Mérida in the Yucatán Peninsula of México. I have always loved México, especially this area. I know it is a big dirty city of a million people. But it is the cleanest city in México! And it is relatively safe. These people have their own form of aloha spirit, which I feel is more alive and evident than what I felt when I was falling from grace in Hawaii.

I own my house. For the first time in my life I am neither paying rent nor a mortgage. This is a freedom I never expected to realize. My utilities and other monthly costs are a slight fraction of my former life in Hawaii. Today I feel I am not only living the dream, but living a life of luxury. I looked up luxury in the dictionary. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, luxury is “Something that is not essential but is conducive to pleasure and comfort.”

To give you an idea of what luxury is to me, let me describe a typical day in our lives. Last night I was sound asleep in the hammock,and when I woke up Buster was proudly sitting on my lap. This was his first attempt at hammock relaxation. He seemed so proud of himself for getting up there and surprising me. I look like I am half asleep in the photo, but Buster looks so content. This made me happy. This morning our momma kitty, Moka, woke me up at 5am to get my attention. She then brought little Busmo out for his first meal of Whiskas morsels. I brought the other kitties. Today is their one month birthday. First solid food and first time out of the box to romp and play. Wow! How fun it is to watch them grow. When their little bodies twitch in their sleep, are they growing?

After the morning feeding and playtime, the folks arrived for aquatic exercises. Before I lived here I was unable to force myself to get any exercise. Now I have a swimming pool. It is not the largest or most impressive swimming pool around (it is the ONLY one!), but it is a huge luxury that I have always had a desire to have. I felt if I had a pool I would use it. Minimally I exercise five days a week at 8am for an hour. At this time of year it is extremely hot and humid in Mérida. After I work up a sweat during the day, say walking to the corner store, for example, I jump into the pool and cool down, usually swimming or jumping around for a while. With the swim school in operation, several people enjoy the swimming pool every day. Pablo and I have also been known to put on some Chico Che music and dance in the pool at midnight. The pool has already provided plenty of joy for us, our friends and students. There is no better way to cool off or lower the body temperature than hanging out in the shady area of the piscina for a while. Ok, so the toddlers pee in the pool and we have to clean it once or twice a week….totally emptying and refilling it. Luckily the water comes from a well on the property, so the utility bills do not rise and fall according to urine levels.

Some kinds of work are very rewarding. Teaching a skill to a person is one of them. Teaching scuba diving has been my favorite employment during my adult life to date. I am getting emotional sitting here trying to figure out how to describe the gratification an instructor can feel upon completion of swim/dive lessons and open water experiences with students. Seeing someone overcome a fear or become comfortable in a whole new environment is the reward in itself. I was elated to see Pablo so thrilled after scuba diving for the first time in April, and I see him jubilant when his students learn to swim and have fun in the process. The joy is apparent on his smiling face, and on the faces of the kids, their families, and watching this daily makes me happy.

We have a housekeeper. Her name is Pilar. She showed up at the door almost a year ago looking for work. I was under construction and not ready. This year, with all the traffic involved with operating a school six days a week, and me trying desperately to write and having trouble sitting down long enough to concentrate, Pilar is a godsend. She makes us fresh fruit juice in the morning and cooks up a nice lunch, with fresh salsa and tortillas. She cleans the house, does laundry, irons, you name it. She is great. I hope we can continue to earn enough to afford this particular luxury, as it is new adventure for both of us. We are actually eating correctly, and I am sitting down to work on a regular basis.

Pablo. He is a miracle, a dream, AND a luxury. We did not intend to get involved like we have; it just happened and now it has grown. He has lots of talent and good energy. We work, we play, we laugh, we dance; we really have a lot of fun together. He happens to be young and gorgeous, and he treats me like a princess. He makes me happy. Very happy! He helps me maintain my youthful outlook on life! Not everyone approves of us, but we are the ones who have to live with ourselves, and we love being together. I have found a soul mate. Finding one true partner in life is a miracle, I don’t know if there is a word for how lucky I am to have found a second one.

We do not live extravagantly here on 75th street. We entertain ourselves mostly at home when we are not both working. We enjoy playing Risk and other table games. We do not always turn on the TV and usually we watch the Addams Family, Latin American Idol or American Football. We go out to our favorite club where Pablo plays his tambor. It is an odd little place, but drinks are cheap and there is usually good live music. We are trying to make it to a baseball game, the ice rink, the movies, etc, but usually end up at Casa de Todos. On our day off we visit ruins and cenotes, or head to the beach for some fresher air and the sea breeze. And of course to eat fresh conch ceviche and whole fried fish! This is livin’ the dream for me. It may not last forever, but what does? Should we not allow ourselves some time in this short life to live our dreams?

Monday, July 7, 2008

Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor is a fun website. I like to play the geography game they offer. I submitted a photo from our trip to Palenque and it was featured, that pleased me too. I think they have the site set up so that you can put lots of travel photos in there, and I might just do that. That is why I am setting this link up, or trying to anyhow. This is an experiment.

Great Review in Mérida Insider

Hey, check this out! The pool exercisers Theresa and Mike, featured above with Maestro Pablo, wrote a nice review on the Merida Insider website. I thought I would share it with you along with a photo of Mikey and Theresa working out. We really do have fun! We all look forward to class every day. People are seeing results: muscle tone, more strength and energy, and in some cases even weight loss. What Pablo and I have noticed is that everyone seems a little cheerier. We like that.

The swim students are also improving vastly and soon we will be handing out certificates of completion to our first graduates. Then we are heading off on a little vacation. When we get back, we have to get serious about the solar power and paint the swimming pool for the fall classes. We have really been enjoying all the pool activity going on here at Ko'ox Báab. Gracias a todos!

Aquatic Exercise and Swimming
Ko’ox Ba’ab - Let’s Go Swimming!! If you have ever wanted to participate in aquatic exercises, or just have an occasional hour of free time in a nice pool, this is the place you need to be! Linda Dorton, a certified scuba instructor, and Pablo, a physical education instructor, offer a variety of programs to suit every budget and every individual need! If you are looking for a low impact exercise program you should check this out! It is slow paced, fun, designed to your individual needs, swimmers and non-swimmers, those who are afraid of the water and those that wish they were a fish, and is definitely affordable. There is a definitive bottom line here: if you do not want to have fun, go join a gym! We have been known to dance the “hokey-pokey” in the pool, play volley ball, catch, swim, float, and sometimes laugh so hard you have to literally catch your breath! It is fun, easy, healthy, affordable, relaxing, and just plain old good for you! I highly recommend you give Linda a call at 928-7549, cell 999-172-3330 or 999-201-7477, and check out the variety of programs she has to offer. This is probably one of the greatest things to come along in a long, long, time!
Added: June 29th 2008Reviewer: meridamikeyScore: Related Link: http:meridainsider.comHits: 64Language:

Aquatic Exercise and SwimmingPosted by Theresa on 2008-06-30 19:41:41My Score:
I have to agree with MeridaMikey, this is the first time that I have enjoyed exercising. I know some people who are taking swimming lessons and they are very happy with the instruction. Theresa

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Puppets Everywhere

I have lived a puppetless life. Some kids make puppets out of white socks, and other kids make dresses for their Barbie dolls. My Barbies had some great ribbed neck sock dresses. I noticed how popular puppets were in Bali, and had I known how popular they are in México I would have brought some interesting ones from the other side of the world.
We already took a final written exam in Mayan language class, but to complete the program we have to participate in a puppet show. Pablo is a little Mayan boy named Concho and I am a deer. When advised two days ago that we have to make our own puppets for the show which will take place for a group of children on July 12th by today, July 2nd, I turned to my neighbor Theresa for help.

If you have not opened Theresa's blog page, listed below, and have an interest in detailed excellent puppets or dolls, check out WHAT DO I DO ALL DAY. Her work is beautiful! Theresa was kind enough to help me with the puppet project. She brought out a cardboard design and I traced it onto pieces of foamy felt stuff that I found. She dug up a couple of photos and basically drew the outlines of both JConcho and Le Keejo'. On her advice I had purchased the foam, googly eyes and pipe cleaners. These puppets will be used once, so I did not hand sew or get too carried away. They are held together with glue from a hot glue gun. I played with Theresa's designs and you can see the results. I gave little Concho a mustache because Pablo has one. I forgot that JConcho is a little boy! We each have one liners, so other than tolerating the numerous rehearsals in class, we have almost completed preschool in Mayan language after five months. We now know just enough Mayan to bring out a smile from the Yucatecans we deal with on a daily basis or get into trouble if they respond to our "Jach túun máalob k'íin ti tech!" (Buenos días!)

Enter Zorro

The alarm rang. It was 2am. I got up to flip the switch to stop filling the swimming pool. The only available time to empty and fill the pool is at night after classes are finished. Pablo emptied and cleaned the pool earlier, and all I had to do was turn off the pump when it was full. After only a two hour sleep I was groggy. I stumbled from the bedroom into the dining room and slipped on an enormous pool of water. Oh no! Did the nozzle on the five gallon water jug get stuck open again? Upon closer inspection, I noticed the water jug was fine, but the cat dishes were licked clean and their water dish overturned. What the..?

There are a lot of cats who sneak in at night for some kibble. But they are just that: sneaky! They leave a few crumbs and a million ants behind. Ok, and an occasional odor in parts of the house, but in general, they don’t piss where they eat! (I put this into different words a few blogs ago with regard to my office positioning.) Anyhow, I was half asleep so I made a mental note to clean up the mess on my way back from my primary task. I went out through the open iron gate to the patio and turned off the pool pump. When I returned I shut the gate. I entered the bathroom located off the dining room and was sitting on the toilet when what appeared to be the biggest, most deliberate and bold rat I have ever seen just sauntered from inside the shower stall, slowly walked past me, and out the door like he lived in there. What the…?

That woke me up! I reacted and the monster scurried toward the iron gate which I had just shut. The creature was trapped. He tried to run up the stairs but I turned on lights and it scared him into trying to escape through the ironwork. He got stuck. That is when I realized what it was, a “zorro” or coatimundi.

This is the little creep stuck in the grate. In the photo it looks rather cute, but walking past your feet while in a compromised position…a rat of a different color. I thought these guys were a kind of possum, but after the research I did today it seems they are in the raccoon family. To add to the confusion, my research frustrated me. I wanted to know if the word is “coatamundi” or “coatimundi” and was able to get that straightened out, but when I looked up “zorro” all the sites were showing me foxes. Perhaps it is a “yucatequismo” (colloquialism) and there are no foxes. The bottom line is I had to get it out of the house. I started throwing things toward it to scare it down the grate on the outside. If it was stuck or scared stiff, I am not sure. Pablo heard shit flying and he came running, luckily not slipping in the giant pool of spilled water. This won’t sound too nice but he grabbed a mop and another long handled object and whacked it off the iron. It scurried off away from the house, up the tree into the animal haven of abandonment next door.

I went to check on the kittens. The water and food dishes that I had placed next to the cardboard cat shack for Moka were all askew, water all over the floor. On further investigation I see that raccoons like to wet their food in water, but with those giant snouts they must need a larger receptacle. Besides the cleanup, that is all there is to this story. After two decades of living in the tropics, this is my first run in with this animal. And hopefully the last one INSIDE the house! We have babies to protect!