Category Archives: Mexico

Lessons From Oscar

Sagrasso seaweed in Cancun

During our time in Merida, Mexico I had a fascinating conversation with a Uber driver named Oscar who is a marine biologist. He drives Uber to help balance the family budget. I asked Oscar what kind of projects he was working on as a marine biologist and he told me about the huge infestation of sargassum grasses along the ocean fronts in Mexico. Large mats of the smelly free-floating brown seaweeds are clogging the beaches.

A line of Sargassum out at sea

The seaweed gets its name from the Sargasso Sea an area of the Atlantic where the seaweed in Mexico was first thought to originate although scientists now trace it to a large bloom off  the coast of Brazil. 

“Sea turtles are drowning because they can’t get to the surface as they make their way through the seaweed mass to come to shore and lay their eggs,” Oscar told me. Sargassum can also harm corals, seagrass and sponges. As the seaweed decays, it reduces oxygen levels for a time. Dolphins and other sea mammals have been trapped in this oxygen-deprived water.  

I asked Oscar what is causing this unusual phenomena and he said scientist have several theories. Nutrients and chemicals dumped into the ocean by farmers, urban developers, industrialists and forestry projects is one possible cause. Another is climate change and the increase in water temperatures. Apparently the two things sargassum needs to thrive are warm water temperatures and an increase in nutrient levels in the water.

Sargassum up close

The sargassum grass is almost impossible to remove effectively and is directly impacting the Mexican economy because it causes tourists to stay away from beaches and resorts and makes things difficult for locals who fish for their income.  Oscar says some resorts are erecting concrete barriers in the ocean to prevent the sargassum from washing in but this can have harmful repercussions for all kinds of sea life. 

When I talked with Oscar I was in the midst of completing a writing assignment for a week of spiritual meditations about the environment. Our conversation reinforced for me the importance of thinking and writing about creation care.

Other posts………

Lessons from Grey Mountain

Flutterby- Staying at an Eco-Hostel in Costa Rica

Sharing a Car

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Filed under Mexico, Nature

Twelve Things To Do In Merida Mexico- Well Maybe Fifteen

Last Sunday, was our last day in Merida, Mexico.  My husband Dave said I should figure out if there was anything we should still do in the Yucatan capital city before our departure. Dave and our friend Rudy planned to golf eighteen holes as they did virtually every day of our holiday but there would be time for another activity as well.  I found a list of the best fifteen things to do in Merida and…………… we had done them all except three.  

We hadn’t rented a bike to cycle down the main avenue of Paseo de Montejo on a Sunday morning when it is closed to all other traffic.  It was already Sunday afternoon so we’d missed that opportunity. We hadn’t taken salsa dancing lessons. The salsa dance studios I looked at were all closed on the weekends.

In a mule drawn carriage on our hacienda tour

We hadn’t been on a horse drawn carriage ride in Merida but since we had already been on a mule drawn carriage ride we didn’t really need to do the horse-drawn carriage thing.   However we had participated in all of the other 12 BEST things to do in Merida. I thought that was pretty great.  We had……………..

tour group merida12) Taken a free walking tour of the city

mayan-museum11) Visited the Mayan World Museum

10) Shopped at a local market

9) Tasted the speciality drinks of the Yucatan

 8) Gone  to a performance at the Teatro Jose Peon Contreras

7) Experienced Mayan basketball at a Pok ta Pok Game

6)Walked down the Paseo de Montejo and visited the Monumento al la Patria

5) Gone to a local art gallery

4) Discovered local Yucatan cuisine  

3) Spent time in a plaza and sat in one of Merida’s famous you and me chairs

2) Visited one of the municipal buildings that are open to the public

 1) Gone on a day trip

Even though we hadn’t done all fifteen things on the list I could easily think of three others to round our best experiences up to fifteen.

Swimming in a cenote

Having a reunion with a former student of ours

Taking a bus tour of the city

I told Dave he could just relax after his golf game.  I thought we’d pretty much done all the best things Merida had to offer. 

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Keeping Score For Sue

Dave and Rudy on the La Ceiba Golf Course’s ninth hole

During our time in Merida, Mexico we were staying only a five-minute walk away from a golf course.  Dave and our friend Rudy bought monthly memberships at the course and they golfed almost every day.

Dave and me on the eighth hole of the La Ceiba Golf Course

I like to golf too but nine holes a couple of times a week was plenty for me. If Rudy’s wife Sue who died in December of 2017 had been with us, as she was in the past on many golfing holidays, I know I would have golfed more. It was fun to golf with Sue who took her game seriously but enjoyed visiting with me as we made our way down the fairways. We laughed together and had a good time. Golfing without her just wasn’t the same.  On one of our last visits together I told Sue that one of many things I would really miss about her was golfing together.  She said she would miss that too.

Sue and me in our new golf hats ready to hit the links at the Mountain Brook course in Gold Canyon Arizona

Then Sue, who was never shy about offering her advice, told me she really felt if I kept score in my games I’d get better.  I usually don’t keep score on the course, but rather just appreciate the good shots I have and enjoy the scenery and social aspect of the game.  However I told Sue that I promised to keep score during my golf games in the future just because she had asked me to.  Last winter we went on a holiday in Portugal with Rudy but I couldn’t golf because I had just been in a cast for a broken wrist and had strict orders not to golf from my doctor.

On the first hole at the La Ceiba course

However I did go golfing about ten times this winter in Merida and after each hole I told Rudy my score and he wrote it down. Each time I did that, I thought of Sue, and wished she were out on the golf course with us. 

Other posts……..


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Merida Moments

On the La Ceiba Golf Course with Dave

I blogged all during our two months in Merida Mexico.  But there were a few photos I wanted to include about good times we had that just didn’t fit into my blog posts.  So here they are!

Dave negotiating prices for a massage in Progreso

Having massages in Progreso

Waiting for a local cultural event to start with my sister and brother-in-law

Enjoying a giant mango margarita in a new hat I’d just bought

My sister surprised by the sparkler on her birthday cake

Shop owner trying to sell Dave a new shirt

Dave negotiating with a shop owner over the price of a new shirt

Dinner at Merida’s famous Chaya Maya restaurant with my sister, her husband and our friend Rudy

We visited this unique monument in the Merida city centre

Dave refused to take a photo of me unless I stuck my fingers in the mouth of the jaguar on the monument

Dave and me in front of one of the many beautiful blooming bougainvillea trees on the golf course. Our home in the La Ceiba golf community was on Bougainvillea Street.

Other posts……..

Silent Prey

To Market

Cenote Swim

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Merida By Design

I have started doing design blog posts after our trips looking at artistic things that catch my eye.  Here are some design photos from our two months in Merida Mexico.

Ecological Cooking Pot or Olla Ecologica by Alfonso Castillo Orta at the Merida Folk Museum

Home on the streets of Merida

Tree root pattern in a Merida Park

Salad at the Bella Roma Restaurant

Jaar by Frida Feliz- Soho Art Gallery – Merida

Kids Making a Lego mural in a Merida mall

Matador’s costume – Bull Fight Stadium Merida

Dave walking through the courtyard outside the Merida Art Gallery surrounded by beautiful work on transparent glass

Merida city sign with our friend Rudy. Notice we are each standing in front of the first letter of our name. 

Pillows in a house on a House and Garden tour in Merida

Door at the Merida University

Mask for sale at a shop in Progresso

Rooster Chicken or Gallo Gallina by Virginia Ayla -Merida Art Gallery

Floor tiles in the Merida Folk Art Museum

Conversation by J. M. Casanova- Merida Art Gallery

Flowers in the Merida Market

The century old house my sister and her husband rented in Merida

Other posts………

Lisbon By Design

Such Beauty Beneath Your Feet

Look At Those Beautiful Floors


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A Chocolate Evening With Beatriz

Getting to know Beatriz the mainstay of a family business called Fela Chocolate was the highlight for me of a chocolate workshop we participated in one of our last days in Merida, Mexico. Beatriz is a highschool teacher, mother of three, grandmother of two and she runs chocolate making workshops for tourists. The business was the brainchild of her son who studies business and economics at a university in Idaho. Her son’s fiancée, Lisbeth, who is an elementary school teacher, helps her future mother-in-law by welcoming guests to the Fela Chocolate establishment, a business that has only been in operation for about six months. Lisbeth showed us pictures of Beatriz’s mother and grandmother. It was Beatriz’s grandmother Fela on the left in the photo who taught Beatriz how to make chocolate and the business is named in Grandmother Fela’s honor. Neither Lisbeth or Beatriz spoke much English but Elias arrived soon after we did and told us he was an engineering student at a Merida university and would be providing the English translation for our tour.

Dave and Rudy listening to Beatriz

You could tell Beatrice was an experienced teacher because she led an excellent, interesting and informative workshop complete with numerous relevant visuals, the opportunity to ask lots of questions, plenty of hands on involvement and a collection of interesting artifacts for us to explore. Here she is explaining that the cacao fruit grows on the trunks of trees not their branches. The colourful  fruit which is actually quite tasty is harvested for its seeds which are used to make chocolate.As Beatriz taught us about the cacao seeds we each had some spread out in front of us and were encouraged to experience them with our five senses. Beatriz gets her cacao seeds or beans from the Mexican state of Tabasco. Cacao is grown in the Yucatan but on farms owned by European business people. They ship the beans home to their own countries to make chocolate and don’t sell their cocao in Mexico. Beatriz talked to us about how important chocolate had been to the ancient Mayan inhabitants of the Yucatan. They made a drink from the cacao beans that they believed had many health benefits.  Beatriz told us the first step in the chocolate making process was roasting the beans.

Beatriz shows us the flat stone and other artifacts Mayan women would have used to prepare beans for chocolate.

Mayan women would have roasted the beans on a flat stone with a fire built underneath it.

Our friend Rudy stirs the roasting beans as another workshop participant Chris who hailed from Ohio looks on.  

We roasted our beans however in a small pan on a hot plate. Beatriz had us keep sniffing the air as the beans roasted. The smell of the roasting chocolate changes three times and when Beatriz gets the tell tale whiff of the third aroma she knows the beans are ready. Now it was time to husk the beans and remove the outer skin. This wasn’t as easy as it looked.  Beatriz asked us to save the husks because she uses them to make a delicious tea. She provided a sample for us to try.There are numerous ways to make the chocolate beans into a paste.  Our friend Rudy demonstrates how Mayan women would have done it long ago using a stone called a matate. Berniz also gave us each a mortor and pestle to use as an alternate method of crushing the cocao beans into a paste. She provided cinnamon, sugar, sea salt, pepper, almonds, peanuts, and chilis as things to add to our chocolate. Eventually Beatriz brought out an electric blender which made quick work of creating a paste out of all of our chocolate beans.

Now it was our turn to work the paste with our hands, adding sugar to taste. Beatriz told Dave not to worry about the chocolate on his hands. Chocolate is actually great for the skin and there are places in Merida that will give you a chocolate massage.Next we used moulds to make three or four little rounds of chocolate to take home. While we worked Beatriz served us hot chocolate and chocolate pastries. Later I bought a few chocolate samples made by Beatriz from the attractive display in the shop entrance.  I have friends and two daughters-in-law who love chocolate and I wanted to get some of Beatriz’s products for them. Since the official workshop was over Beatriz and I had time to chat through the interpreter about our teaching, our grandchildren, our children and some of our interests.  It was lovely to get to know this enthusiastic, warm woman who has all kinds of irons in the fire to try and make life better for her family. We parted with hugs. 

The workshop was great and I loved learning more about chocolate but the best thing about it was getting to know a grandmother in another country, who isn’t so very different than I am, and realizing how easy it can be to establish connections and cross-cultural understandings when we share our life experiences.  

Other posts………..

Giving Something Up For Lent


Cooking Up a Storm in the Yucatan


Filed under Food, Mexico

The Life of Pi Argument

Dave outside a zoo in Portugal

My husband Dave likes to visit zoos when we travel.  It is not my favorite thing to do.  I feel so sorry for the animals especially in some zoos where the poor creatures seem to be trapped in such miserable living conditions.  So every time he wants to visit a zoo and I protest Dave cites the Life of Pi argument.  

In the very popular Yann Martel novel  the main character Pi delivers a reasoned argument about why we shouldn’t criticize zoos.

Camel Merida Zoo- photo by Rudy Nikkel

Pi says many people think zoos are cruel places run by wicked people who throw animals into tiny jails.  The trapped animals have their free spirits broken. 

Monkey Merida Zoo- photo by Rudy Nikkel

Pi says animals aren’t free in the wild either. They live in a dangerous environment with a deadly animal hierarchy and are in constant fear that they won’t find enough to eat.  They must constantly defend their territory.

Hippo Merida Zoo- photo by Rudy Nikkel

Pi says wild animals are very territorial and their enclosure at the zoo is just another kind of territory where they are safe and have easy access to food and water. 

Jaguar Merida Zoo- Photo by Rudy Nikkel

Pi claims zoos are no better or worse for animals than the conditions they experience in the wild. In fact he says animals probably prefer zoos because there aren’t so many bugs and enemies and there is lots of food. 

Zebra Merida Zoo- photo by Rudy Nikkel

I had to listen to Dave make this argument again when we visited the zoo in Merida Mexico on a brutally hot day where the close quarters of the animals and the almost overwhelming smell did little to convince me that Dave or Pi was right. Dave on the other hand spent a happy hour checking out all the wild life. 

I have yet to come up with a good enough counter argument to prevent further trips to zoos on holidays.  Do any of my readers have one? 

Thanks to my friend Rudy Nikkel for the photos of the animals in the Merida Zoo.

Other posts………….

Animal Wisdom

Can This Necklace Save the Elephants

Swimming With the Manatees





Filed under Mexico, Nature

Dave Driedger Nature Photographer in Mexico

dave with cameraA few years ago Dave, who isn’t always very enthusiastic about taking photos suddenly took an interest in using my old Canon to capture nature shots.  He’s taken some lovely pictures and so on our vacations now I do a post with his photos.  Here is the Mexico 2019 version. iguana yucatan

red bird merida

lily pad mexico

turtle le ceiba

bright yellow bird mexico

berries mexico

iguana head

blue birdmerida

ceiba tree mexico


a black bird in merida

bougenvalias mexico

flamingo mexico


kiskadee yucatan

Other posts………

Dave Driedger Nature Photographer in Costa Rica

Dave Driedger Butterfly Photographer


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Mayan Horoscopes And More

We visited Merida’s architecturally stunning Gran Museo del Mundo Maya on the weekend. The two photos below might best explain the different ways Dave and I reacted to the experience.  

Two exhibits in the museum that did catch Dave’s attention and interest were……This artifact which was used for a kind of ancient Mayan basketball game called Pok Ta Pok which we had seen played near the Grand Plaza in Merida and………

Dave’s birthdate in Mayan hieroglyphics

 an interactive technology display that explained the Mayan calendar showing your birthdate in the Mayan hieroglyphic form of writing according to their solar calendar called the Haab which recorded cycles of 365 days.

Dave’s Mayan horoscope

The same display also provided your horoscope according to the sacred Tzolkin calendar which had a cycle of 260 days and was used for fortune-telling. As you can see in Dave’s horoscope above his direction is the east which might make sense since he was born in the eastern part of Canada.  I might question his housekeeping skills.  His sports ability shows he is good with his hands as his horoscope states. And although Dave might argue he has a feminine side the word ‘feminine’ isn’t the first I’d use to describe him.  He was a teacher so that prediction is right on and he does love to sing and play the harmonica so the musician part fits too. He definitely is an extremely social person!! The horoscope got that right!

Here is my birthdate in Mayan hieroglyphics according to the Haab calendar- it is similar to Dave’s except for the bottom two symbols

And here is my horoscope.  Things it got right I think are that I collect thoughts and ideas, I don’t like conflict and I do like art especially the art of writing.  I’d like to think I am youthful and passionate and wise but I am DEFINITELY not a gardener or a merchant.  I hate having to sell things and I have never enjoyed gardening as my mother could attest to by the amount of grumbling I did when I had to weed carrots or pick raspberries. 

My favorite thing about the museum were these beautiful drawings by artist Alfredo Zalce which depict the rhythm of daily life in a Maya community

Cutting henequen by Alfredo Zalce

In the Hammock by Alfredo Zalce

Fishing at Celestun by Alfredo Zalce

In the Garden by Alfredo Zalce

Weaving a Sombrero by Alfredo Zalce

Preparing Corn by Alfredo Zalce

Mothers in the Park by Francisco Zuniga – 1986

and this painting which shows Merida’s famous you and me chairs. 

Other posts……….

A Very Quiet Museum

Musical Instrument Museum

A Kitchy Museum

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Tipping the Bagger- Seniors Who Work For Free

Dave and I are buying groceries in Merida. The people in blue shirts at the end of each checkout aisle are all senior citizens

Don’t forget to tip the bagger!  In Mexico, you need to make sure you have spare change in your pocket at the grocery store checkout to tip the person who puts your groceries in the bag.  The baggers are senior citizens in bright blue shirts who rely on your tips to balance their budgets. One day while I was waiting for Dave and our friend Rudy to pay for our groceries one of the men who was taking a break from bagging started a conversation with me.  He spoke pretty good English and explained that he was a retired pilot who had worked for a time in California.  The reason he was bagging groceries was because in Mexico there is no universal pension for seniors and only about twenty per cent of older folks have some kind of employment pension. Even those pensions are small- on average $5 a day which is the minimum wage in Mexico.   To supplement their income seniors work in grocery stores bagging groceries.  They don’t get paid and work only for tips. Later I did some research and found out there are thousands of Mexican seniors who don’t want to rely too heavily on their children for support and are looking for things to do in their retirement. They take grocery store bagging jobs to stay active and supplement the family income.

There is some controversy about the program because the grocery stores are really taking advantage of free labour. The seniors receive no pay or benefits.  These volunteer bagging positions used to be filled by teenagers from poor families but several grocery store chains say they prefer the seniors because they are more committed, punctual, and friendly than younger baggers.  Hiring seniors also means less turnover.

My husband and I, like many retired folks in Canada, have part-time jobs too.  But we get paid fairly for the work we do.  Mexican seniors stand on their feet for five-hour shifts and rely on tips from customers for payment.  I try to tip them generously.

Other posts……….

A Fine Balance

They Inspire Me

Visiting Aunt Vi

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