Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Frida Kahlo in Izamal

Izamal the Yellow City

Working Hard




Red Hat


Mother and Daughter



In Love

Father and Son

Dressed for Church

Pretty in Black and White

At Work

Blog 2 Merida

January 26, 2016
Blog 2
Merida, Mexico

Hola Todos!  Hello All!

Lots of things happening, so let us tell you some things. 

Since we arrived on January 3rd, the $US has gone up, or the peso has gone down, so the exchange rate is better for us.  Consequently, our rent in pesos is the same, but less in $’s.  Now we are only paying $294 for our 2-bedroom apartment with swimming pool.

We found a US NGO that provides vitamins and de-worming pills to children and lactating mothers.  We sent in the application yesterday and hoping for the best.  If funded, they will provide these pills for 3 years.

One of the things we were asked to work on was to help market the eco-tourism project here.  Good news:  Moon Travel books has agreed to include it in their next Yucatan Edition.  Thanks to our friend Joshua Berman who is also a writer for Moon who helped us connect with them.

We believe in teaching skills rather than doing for, and I, (Peter) am spending a lot of time mentoring Susana, young, bright women here in the office who is doing a lot of grant writing and other fundraising activities, something I know lots about.  She is a fast learner, and so as she learns new skills she will put them to use here, and in her future endeavors.

Merida just celebrated its 474th Anniversary, and for most of the month of January there have been musical performances, dancing, lots of arts and crafts for sale, etc. We saw two good concerts and dancing.  Colorful, free, and fun!

The weather has been nice.  We sleep ok with just a fan, no need for air conditioning.  Only a little rain, and mostly sunny and warm/hot days, and nights cooling off nicely.  Every room in our house has a fan, including the bathroom, and there is even one outside near the pool.

Our office is in the house of the Director of the organization:  elhombresobrelatierra.org, and each morning we have coffee here.  The founder, Sigismundo is an excellent cook, and he is always making things to eat, so we end up having two breakfasts and two lunches nearly every day.  He only cooks organic vegetables and fruits, and even makes his own bread.

Here in the Yucatan, many people sleep in hammocks, and thus all bedrooms in houses and all hotel room have hooks to hang the hammocks.  So far, we are sleeping in our bed.

My (Peter) Spanish is improving each day.  In the movies, the movies are in English with Spanish subtitles, so I found it is yet another way to improve my Spanish.  One of the local taquerias where we eat lunch from time to time teaches me a new word each time we go and we teach him one new English word also.  The food in the small street restaurants is cheap and good and sometimes we have to point at what someone else is eating to show what we want to eat. Hinda understands a lot but speaking is difficult.

There are a lot of short people here and so we have been asking why.  Apparently before the Spanish came, people were bigger and stronger.  As the diet has changed – become poorer, especially in the last 100 years, it has had a very negative effect on the stature of people – like more obesity in the US because of sugary drinks, white bread, etc.  And also there is a lot of diabetes here as well, and even worse, it is difficult to treat, especially in the Mayan villages where health care is poor at best.  In fact, in all of the villages that this NGO works in, there is not even one Mayan speaking doctor.

In all of the neighborhoods here, there are bicycle peddlers on 3 wheel bicycles selling fruits, ice cream, vegetables, cakes, etc., so the food comes to you, and you don’t always have to go to the store for everything.

Hinda is working with the staff here in the office trying to do some basic organization, but it is slow going because there has not been a history of that here.  But as this organization grows, it may have to do more of this.

We went away this past weekend to a nice town – Izamal – about 1.5 hours away by bus.  The highlight of Izamal is a very large church, former convent painted in yellow, and in fact the entire town is painted in yellow as well.  There are a lot of horse carts to take people (tourists) around.  Ours was pulled by a horse named Poncho, who stopped at every stop sign on his own, (we think).  Pretty cool.  In Izamal there is one of the largest Mayan temple ruins in the Yucatan.

We needed to have our propane tank for our house refilled.  Here’s what happened:
·         The gas truck came at night
·         The gas tank is on the roof of our 2 story house
·         The ladder wouldn’t reach
·         The man climbed went to the second floor and climbed onto the window grating
·         Then climbed from the neighbors window to the roof
·         How to get the gas hose onto the roof?
·         Throw a rope up to the man now on the roof
·         Hook the hose from the truck to the rope
·         Pull the hose up
·         Fill the tank
·         Reverse all the way down
·         Now we have gas!!!

Talk to you all soon.  Love from Peter and Hinda

Monday, January 11, 2016

Our Pool!!

Nuestras Mexicana Bomba

Waiting For The Rest Of The Audience At Merida Fest

Pretty Nun

Old Man Merida Fest

Old Church Door Entro Merida

Our Living Room

Internet in the Park

Girls Dancing at Merida Fest

Blog 1 Merida

January 10, 2016

Blog 1

Merida, Yucutan, Mexico


Hola Amigos y Amigas!!


Well, here we are in Merida, Mexico, in the Yucutan to volunteer once again.  This time, we will be working with HST (El Hombre Sobre la Tierra), who have for the past 20 years or so have been working with the Maya to help them develop and maintain a better quality life, especially regarding the sustainment of natural resources as well as teaching them other things to work at so they do not have to depend solely on the land.  Here is their web site:  www.elhombresobrelatierra.org


We’ll tell you more in a bit, and of course in later blogs.  Some of you may remember that we were here in 2007 with a group of people from AJWS and Temple Beth Am in Seattle to help build (physically) an eco-tourism project.  We will work on that again while here, but not with our brawn but rather with our brains.  Yes, our brains are still good.


We are living in a very nice 2-bedroom house in Merida completely furnished and with a nice swimming pool, and with the 90 plus degree heat we have been having, it is nice.  Each room has a ceiling fan, including the bathroom and the seating area outside by the pool, and the bedrooms are air conditioned but we haven’t needed it yet.  The area of town in which we live is named Brisas and it is about a 10 minute drive to the office and a 20 minute drive to the city center.


The upstairs of the house is another apartment in which a nice young woman, Duli lives.  Even though the two apartments have separate entrances, we can go to her apartment, and she to ours via a circular stairway between us which has no locked doors!  So far so good.


HST ‘s office is in the house where the Director and the founder live, and we work with them, and with two other women.  In addition, there are about 30 or so more people in the field who work in the various Maya villages served by HST.  We haven’t been to Muchucuxa yet this time, but will be going sometime later this month.  One of the projects we are starting to get involved with is the marketing of the eco-tourism program there.  We will also be helping to develop a student housing center here in Merida for Maya college and university students.


When we were here in 2007 we became friendly with a nice man named Primitivo, and lo and behold, his son Wilen is working for HST now.  Very nice young guy who just became a father.


So far we have been greeted with hugs and kisses.  In fact, everyone is greeted with a hug and kiss.  Very nice indeed!  Not only are people very warm and friendly but they try to feed us all the time. Food is great and we are certainly enjoying it. People are friendly and helpful everywhere.  We feel comfortable and safe.  It seems that not many people speak English, including the police who have stopped me (Peter) twice.  Once because I was holding a cell phone ( and did not have my seat belt on) to use the GPS and once because they saw me come out of a tavern (thought it was a restaurant) and asked if I had been drinking beer.  Me?  Drink beer?  Hahaha!


There are a lot of very fancy malls here, just like home with Costcos, Walmarts, etc., and we have found a nice couple of supermarkets in them, but we are also trying to buy fruits and vegetables from local markets, including street vendors who come around the streets selling cakes and ice cream.


Merida is celebrating its 474th birthday this month with a month long “Merida Fest”- went to a piano concert there today given by the bosses son. He plays very well and will be going to London in the fall to complete his masters.


We are driving around in our “Mexicana Bomba”, a beaten up VW, but it works – sort of, and beggars can’t be choosers.  It was lent to us by the people at HST and they were very nice to do it.  Now all we have to do it keep the policia from stopping us too many more times.  We heard that the Mexican jails aren’t too nice!! Peter does the driving and I (Hinda) am the navigator, thank goodness for the Google Maps GPS.


So that’s it for now.


Hasta luego,


Peter and Hinda