The Enchanted Lagoon and Last Sticky Bun

Yal Ku Lagoon Sculpture Garden

My last day I visited the Turtle Bay Bakery for my final, buttery, crispy sticky bun — for which the bakery is renowned — and good coffee. Also to ask owners Bart and Jennifer about the best way to get to the airport.

I’d also planned to visit Yal Ku lagoon, about a 40-minute walk from Akumal or a 15-minute bike ride, and asked Dario for some time off from bay patrol and to borrow a bike.

As I peddled carefully along the half-paved road, pockmarked with bone-breaking potholes I feasted my eyes for the last time on brilliant red hibiscus and other orange and yellow blossoms along the way. I inhaled the warm, soft, moist air, knowing that soon I’d be breathing the cold, dry Colorado air.

Yal Ku Lagoon

Arriving at the lagoon — free for eco-volunteers, but $9 for others — I entered an intriguing maze of tropically landscaped garden paths with stunning sculptures perfectly placed under palms, in little leafy nooks, or at the end of stone pathways. There were even sculptures out on little islands in the lagoon. I was so captivated I almost forgot about the lagoon.

It was an overcast day, threatening rain. I planned to just take a look at the lagoon, but threw in my bathing suit and snorkel in case I decided to swim. I finally extricated myself from the sculpture garden and headed to the lagoon. It was even better than I could have imagined — absolute paradise — and there was no question that I was going in.

The lagoon was clear, calm, sheltered water with no worries about sharks or ocean currents. A subterranean  river empties into it causing an inversion with the mix of salt and fresh water. Platter-sized silver and black striped angel fish, parrot fish and some kind of gorgeous celestial blue fish schooled and sheltered beneath islets and submerged rocks. Other snorkelers floated dreamily past, mesmerized by the beauty and stillness. This was the most magical and wonderful thing I’d experienced on my entire trip. I wanted a house on this lagoon!

Yal Ku was a special gift. I’d had an unpleasant time the night before. After an interminable wait for one of the Eco center administrators who had a car, we made an abortive journey to Tulum to a new restaurant that had invited all of us for a free meal. When we arrived it turned out that the invitation was for another night. Things like this were always happening — misinformation. I hadn’t brought much money and we ended up going to a restaurant. In this mostly Mexican group I felt really out of it as the other volunteers and staff who had been together for months/years joked and teased each other in Spanish beyond my comprehension. Also most of them were in their early 20s — a whole other world from mine. As they drank beer after beer becoming more and more jovial my feeling of boredom, frustration and outsiderness increased exponentially. Finally, they left around 11, only to decide to go to a disco next. Normally, I would have been up for this, but I had decended into a funk. I took a collectivo back to Akumal and went to bed, only to be awakened by mosquito attack around 2 a.m., causing me to dig out my already-packed mosquito net and reinstall it. I couldn’t wait to go home to Boulder.

But this day was the complete opposite — complete joy and harmony — causing me to realize all that I would miss when I left. The old Yin Yang again, which was constantly happening during my month’s stay at the Eco center.

The day continued to get even better with my last kayak out on Akumal Bay and seeing the giant parrot fish again. Then that night one of the American guides from the Akumal dive shop had an elegant beach-side wedding with all sorts of colorful characters, including — finally! — some single women and other people my age. There was ceviche, filet mignon, shrimp, toffee cheese cake and five different types of tequila — creme (sweet), tamarind, coffee, cinnamon, and a killer habenaro. Along with the great food, drink and company was dancing to oldies, salsa and reggae music. A fabulous evening and another much-appreciated gift after a mostly difficult month. I’d been living like a college kid for the last month and finally I was back in my own world. What a relief!

Although this whole Eco-volunteer thing had been a somewhat taxing and disappointing experience, I realize that it accomplished what I’d wanted — a change of scene, an adventure, a challenge, a way to help protect the environment, an opportunity to meet new people and experience a different perspective on life and the world, and an escape from the onset of winter in a beautiful, warm place by the sea. I also learned about the 20-something culture and now know who Modest Yahoo is, what an “Emo” is, as well as what riding “bitch” in a car means.

I’m back in Boulder now, and would you believe my contact lens is STILL in Mexico City. I’m raising hell with UPS and will have another installation in the never-ending saga of the lost lens. I keep thinking of my contact lens being like Tom Hanks, the UPS guy marooned on the island in the movie, “Castaway.”

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Wind, Waves and Pina Coladas

Ananda celebrating the windy day and no beach patrol

A lovely office

It’s too windy to work today. Yay! Especially since Dario has doubled all of our hours. Ananda and I hate working in the palapa. It involves going up to everyone coming to the beach with fins and snorkel and telling them the snorkeling rules — don’t do this, don’t do that. We’ve taken the approach of saying, “Hi, are you familiar with the area?” Then telling them where the turtles are, then telling them don’t do this, don’t do that. Mainly don’t touch the turtles or follow them. Stay 7-8 feet away from them. Don’t touch or walk on the coral, or the sandy bottom near the coral, because tiny corals are growing there. Swim horizontally, and avoid shallow areas. Don’t let your fins kick up the sand on the bottom because it destroys the tiny coral polyps and other marine life. There are a lot more don’ts, but that’s usually the limit of what we tell people. You couldn’t ask for a nicer office, but even paradise can become boring and stressful.

Sizable waves are breaking on our normally placid bay. The wind is blowing all the chairs over and blasting the sand. The red flag is up. No one is snorkeling, and no boats can take people out. People arrive at the beach, take a look and leave. So Ananda and I played hooky and rode bicycles to La Lunita on breezy Half-Moon Bay — the next bay north of Akumal Bay — for an elegant lunch. We had pina coladas, mimosas, chicken enchiladas mole — delectable! — and fruit crepes. Great way to spend a windy day.

Pina Coladas and Mimosas at La Lunita

What I will miss here is the community, even though, ironically, I’ve often felt lonely. But I like being part of CEA ( the eco center), having the common goal of protecting the beautiful marine environment here, having a communal kitchen and office where you always see someone, can have a chat or exchange pleasantries. I will miss the palm trees, greenness and beautiful flowers. I’m not looking forward to the brown, gray, white (snow) and cold back in Colorado. But I WON’T miss the plentiful, voracious mosquitoes and the hot, sticky humidity. I won’t miss treating the tap water like a toxic substance.

The final big hassle — getting the airport — is approaching.

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Xcacel and a Tranquil Cenote

I decided I wanted to see some of the other sights of the area. Bart at the bakery told me about a beautiful beach nearby called Xcacel. (pronounced Ish-ca-cell). It’s a private government-run turtle preserve and cenote (a sinkhole or surface connection to a subterranean river — see http://www.cancunsouth.com/act_cenotes.html). So I asked Dario, my bay patrol boss, if I could take a day off. I haven’t had one since I started, other than the day I had to go to the bank in Playa for the contact lens fiasco.

So I packed up my fins, snorkel and other supplies (peanut butter and jelly sandwich) for a day’s outing and bought a couple beers to take along. I caught the collectivo out on the highway and told the driver Xcacel. Naturally, he missed it and drove past about a mile or so that I had to walk back in the blazing sun along the highway. I must learn to speak up faster to avoid doing this.

Anyhow, I finally got there, hot and tired, but the surf was lovely. Nice, big, but not scary waves, clear turquoise water and a huge, deserted beach. A gang of French people was there, which was good because I didn’t want to go in the water all alone, since  it was a place I didn’t know.

I played in the waves and even did a little body surfing. It was wonderful and refreshing. Then enjoyed a Sol cerveza con limon and sal (lemon and salt) — excellent. The cenote is about 300 meters down the beach and back in the mangroves via  a nice sandy trail that turns into slippery mud, rocks and roots and several inches of water — tricky footing. But the cenote was well worth it. It’s a lovely little fresh-water pond surrounded by trees and filled with tiny fish. I slipped into the cool, clear water and snorkeled around eye to eye with little half-inch guppies.

Cenote at Xcacel

Hundreds of little fish in the cenote

I felt like a fish in my own aquarium. So quiet, green and peaceful. No one else was there and I glided in a little green water world with no worries or cares. Only the sound of bird songs and the soft rippling of the water. At first I thought there were bits of aluminum foil on the bottom of the cenote,  but then realized the little glints of silver were the tiny fish turning and flashing in the sunlight.

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Pizza, Chocotuna and Giant Parrot Fish

Yum!

Great pizza at Mario’s in Akumal Pueblo. You can’t miss the big Pizza sign on the main street in Akumal Pueblo. This is the town where the Mexican people live after all the Americans and Spanish bought up all the beautiful beach property and forced the locals to leave their little beachfront casitas and move across the highway. Kind of a drag, to say the least.

Mario’s opened about five months ago in June-July 2009, according to Mario’s son, who speaks good English. The pizza slices are individually made — not part of a bigger pizza — little pizza triangles served blazing hot for 25 pesos (about $2), including two toppings. They are delicious! Since it’s also a bakery they excel in making pizza crust. There’s also a selection of baked goods including baguettes, croissants and traditional Mexican pastries.

Sitting outside at this little table I observed life in Akumal Pueblo.

Mario's Pizza and Panaderia in Akumal Pueblo. Muy sabroso!

Dr. Liz, a pretty young Mexican doctor runs the pharmacia next door. Kids play in the street, Gringos drive up for the doctor and the grocery store down the street, locals cruise the main drag in cars, teenage novios walk arm in arm. Along with a slice of pizza you get a little slice of life in this Mexican village.

This sure beats what one of my former roommates, Rally, has for dinner. Rally doesn’t like to cook, so his protein fix is — sit down for this one — tuna fish and chocolate milk in a blender. He says first you taste the tuna and then there’s a chocolate aftertaste. “It’s much better with two containers of chocolate milk than just one.” Imagine that.

I saw the most amazing parrot fish today. While snorkeling on turtle patrol I saw one about a foot or so long with the most gorgeous colors — every color of the rainbow. I told Abraham about it and he told me about the giant parrot fish out beyond the green buoy. The green buoy is the entrance to Akumal Bay for the boats and the sort of boundary where the bay ends and the reef opens into the sea. He said the giant parrot fish hangs out there just around the time the sun goes down.

I was fascinated. I figured I’d be cold since the sun was going down, so I put some potatoes on the stove in the communal kitchen, grabbed a towel and headed for the beach.

I took the Vigilante (Patrol) kayak out, tied it up around the green buoy and set out with some trepidation, since I’ve heard that the sharks come in at night, the sun was going down and there was no one else out there. But I figured if I spotted Jaws I wouldn’t be too far from the kayak to swim back and paddle to shore.

As the sun sets, the translucent turquoise water turns a more ominous dark green, so with some guarded fear, I slipped off the side of the orange kayak into the unknown. Once in the water with my mask and snorkel I could still see the familiar fish, sand and coral and felt more at ease. As I kicked farther from the kayak I saw some huge coral formations and schools of beautiful blue and yellow striped fish and thought, “If I were a giant parrot fish this is where I’d hang out.” Shortly after this thought some large, dark shadows appeared in the water. I wondered if they were the big permits — a type of fish that Dario had talked about. Suddenly I saw a giant parrot fish — maybe two or more feet long. It was a spectacular blazing orange and blue, different form the younger rainbow-colored one I saw earlier that day and hefty like a sideways turtle — almost scary except that they were so beautiful. Then there was another . . . and another — in all six or seven of these magnificent piceans, swimming in a splendiferous school like an otherworldly vision or dream. Happily, I swam back to my kayak as the sun set, magical mission accomplished.

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A Feliz Cumpleano

My birthday dinner -- David cutting the seafood lasagna, Aida (on left, Dario's sister), Abraham and Dario

My birthday margarita

(Left to right) David, preparing to cut the lasagna, Linda & Dario, Abraham, who donated a whole bottle of tequila

David, Dario & Linda and Abraham, who donated a whole bottle of tequila

The gang threw me a great birthday party last night. David made a tasty seafood lasagna with a creamy tomato sauce. Dario and Linda made a vegetable casserole with squash tomatoes, garlic and onions. Ananda made a great salad — my first in a month! Someone went to La Cueva and bought a pitcher of margaritas. The IPOD was hooked to a speaker and we had great music — Reggae, Mexican, Modis Yahoo and more. We danced and drank margaritas, wine, rum, Johnnie Walker and Coke.

David sucking up spilled margaritas. They were expensive!

I stuck to the margaritas and was moderate. Del Mar, the security guard joined us along with somebody’s friends who showed up. It was great fun — much more fun than my boring Thanksgiving with the burnt-out gringos. I was almost three times older than anyone there. Linda made my day by speculating that I was 37 — she’s only 23.

We ate outside by candlelight and it was a lovely, breezy night, fairly bugfree.

My little birthday cake, which they wouldn't let me share

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Colapso Mental?

Hopefully this is the final chapter in the contact lens fiasco. I got an e-mail from Mexico UPS on Thanksgiving afternoon saying I had to pay $475 pesos (about $40) to have my lens sent back to the U.S. from Mexico City, but that price was only good that day and the next day.

There were no instructions for who or how to pay. After another e-mail to them I learned that I had to go to a bank in Playa del Carmen and pay there into the UPS account. So I took the collectivo — about a 30-plus minute ride and walked to the bank. I didn’t have enough pesos, so took a $50 Traveler’s Check and two credit cards. I was hoping to pay with the credit card, because then when I get home I can stop payment on it since I never got my lens from UPS in Mexico and spent $100 sending it round trip.

The bank would only take pesos. Furthermore they wouldn’t cash my Travelers Check because I had signed them S. Reed Glenn and my passport is signed Susan Reed Glenn. This, of course was after a 20-minute wait at the bank, then another 15 minutes trying to understand their explanation of the problem in Spanish, and finally going to the manager. So I went to the ATM. It would not take either my Visa or American Express Card.

So sitting in the bank, I squeezed in the “usan” on my Traveler’s Check between the S. and the Reed and headed for another bank at the complete other end of the gigantic shopping mall. I found a money changing booth halfway and spent another half hour there with the young woman on the phone, probably asking her supervisor if she should accept the squeezed-in first name, and then spent another 10 minutes photocopying my passport and writing down everything on it on the back of my check. Back in Akumal at the travel center there I had absolutely no problem cashing my Traveler’s Checks.

They make you feel like a criminal. It’s almost like the Mexicans have concocted a way to get back at Americans for all their transgressions.

Cannons used to shoot Americans who alter their Traveler's Checks

Then I went back to the original bank and paid the ransom for my contact lens to UPS.

I then went back to Akumal and e-mailed the Mexico UPS lady telling her I paid the ransom. Of course it wasn’t enough for her to check online, she needed a copy of the receipt, so I had to find a copier and a fax machine. It was now nearing 5:00 p.m. on Friday and I was worried that everyone would leave work, and the ransom price would increase and I’d have to go through this all over again tomorrow. The eco center has a copier and fax, but no one was in the office except this young woman who knew nothing, including if they even had a fax machine or copier. She didn’t even know how to turn on the lights by the copier that I found. I figured out how to make a copy, but the fax machine was beyond me. I read all the instructions in Spanish, followed the directions and it didn’t work. So I went looking for someone with a fax machine or who could operate on in Spanish. I went to the maintenance person, the bakery (which was closed), the art gallery and even asked the turtle volunteer. Finally I found Dario, my bright and multilingual beach boss, who came and tried to get the fax machine to work — to no avail. Sweat was dripping from my head. Alma, the office person finally returned (from lunch — they eat around 4 p.m. here) and showed us another fax machine that worked. She sent the thing in a matter of seconds.

Then, of course I had to e-mail Mexico UPS to tell them I sent the fax and did they get it? They got it and Elizabeth of Mexico UPS thanked me for sending it. I thanked her and said to have a nice weekend, hoping she’d actually send my well-traveled contact lens home. We shall see.

Today is my birthday. I took a nice walk on the beach, went to the loncheria for breakfast and had chilaquiles (my favorite dish),

Chilaquiles, beans, rice and fresh-squeezed orange juice

then went to the bakery, where Bart, the owner treated me to a latte and sticky bun — the best! He told me the story of the earless, toothless cat, who he personally saved and named “Pet Cemetery.” He’s a one-man humane society and personally funds multiannual vet clinics to neuter and spay the stray animals

Bartley Smith, Turtle Bay Bakery & Cafe owner and one-man humane society

and send Rocio, the sainted woman who feeds Pet Cemetery and the other kitties, to schools to educate the kids. The stray animals in Akumal have a good life, thanks to Bartley, his wife, Jennifer and Rocio, co-owner of the Hide-A-Way dress shop.

"Pet Cemetery," the earless, toothless, fungus-clawed kitty

Bart says when he found him, Pet Cemetery looked a hundred times worse than he does now — which is really hard to imagine. He was cured with tuna fish and love. Now Rocio administers fungicide to his claws and has managed to catch the fungus herself.

Beach vine

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Turkeys in the Bay and Cafe

Wow, there were 130 snorkelers today in the bay, a new record. Dario, Martin and I were feverishly swimming and paddling around telling people the rules and separating giant groups of snorkelers that overwhelm the marine life and grazing turtles. It was actually fun. I got to yell in Spanish, “Hey guides, please separate the groups!” and in English, “Hey! Don’t stand on the coral.”  It was kind of a free for all. Some clueless Americans were standing on the coral. Clueless, or, more likely, scofflaw guides had too many people — they’re only supposed to have 8 snorkelers per guide. One had 15! Nonetheless, I had a nice time snorkeling and paddling around and saw lots of turtles and a pretty lavender ray.

I’m getting ready for the big feast at Turtle Bay Cafe. I will douse myself with bug spray and put on my tropical finery. What to wear?

Thanksgiving at Turtle Bay Cafe

Very weird Thanksgiving. Instead of a group of locals, our table was a group of Americans who had come to celebrate a friend’s wedding anniversary. I sat across from a couple from Wisconsin who have a place here and come twice a year. The husband was a very nice, slightly punchy jovial guy, but the wife was constantly nagging and criticizing him. I think she was also on the verge of dementia since she kept repeating herself and saying nonsensical things. Not the kind of locals I wanted to meet.

The local table of nonlocals

The group had been together for almost a week and seemed very de-energized — perhaps sick of each other? — most were leaving today or tomorrow for home. They were all very nice and friendly, and I was kind of the oddity, being a single, older volunteer and a journalist. I feel like I’m the only older single in Akumal — other than Alan, who seems a bit of a misanthrope.

I feel suspended between two worlds here — the young CEA volunteers beginning their exciting adult lives and careers and the boring  American tourist families. Some of the resident American shop owners and retirees seem interesting, but into their own thing — whatever that is — and appear busy, preoccupied and somewhat closed off.

I’m looking forward to returning to my own world in Boulder, where I feel at home, in my element and happily surrounded by friends and like-minded people. Somehow coming here to shake up my life, have an adventure, volunteer for the environment, escape from the onset of winter and meet interesting people, has not exactly panned out as expected — although it certainly did shake up my life. I didn’t expect to be bored, lonely and disgusted. I’ve been disgusted, mainly by the American tourists, who seem bland, stereotypical, beer-swilling, football-obsessed, loud-mouthed and clueless. Contrasted with them are the Canadians, who are polite, alert, environmentally aware and curious about the world and other cultures; the Brits with their wry, dry humor; and the young folks like Martin, the Belgian volunteer and Epy from Finland, who are very bright, educated, articulate and engaged in reality.

I’ve been reading Isable Allende’s latest memoir, “The Sum of Our Days.” She talked about her inspirational well running dry after the death of her daughter Paula. Later, she decided to travel to India to help reawaken her dormant muse and refill her well of creativity. I realized that although it’s been difficult here, more than fun, it has sort of refilled my inspirational well. Maybe it’s difficulty that’s more inspiring than just wonderful, lovely experiences.

Tomorrow is my birthday. David says they’re making lasagna for me. I’m thankful that I’ve made it this far in life and appreciate the wisdom gained by many experiences. I’m thankful for my health, my friends and family, my Boulder Sangha — and my cats, of course. Viva la Vida!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Losing Contact

Boarded up and sandbagged. That's the mail situation here in Mexico

Ten days ago my doctor sent my contact lens to me via UPS. Today I received an e-mail from UPS Mexico saying they were charging me $57 pesos a day until I picked up my contact lens, but didn’t say where it was or how to get it. The message was in Spanish, of course, which I couldn’t understand and had someone here read and translate it. Great! I only spent $55 to have it sent here UPS. Forget UPS, it doesn’t work in Mexico. In fact forget sending anything here — especially of any kind of medical nature. Martin, one of the other volunteers, had his parents in Belgium send him medications through DHL. Same thing. It doesn’t work.

Apparently there are some Mexican forms that need to be filled out from the minister of health in some other city. You have to go in person and get the forms. In my case it’s in Playa del Carmen, only about 25 miles away. But the problem is that after you fill them out it takes three weeks for anything to happen. By that time I”ll be back home. Martin ended up trying to have his medications sent back to Belgium, and I will TRY to have my contact lens sent back to the U.S.

Meanwhile my contact lens is sitting somewhere in Mexico City,

A candle-light vigil is being held in Mexico City for my impounded contact lens.

a mere thousand or so miles from here. It never even made it to Quintana Roo, the state I’m in — other than the state of total disgust and frustration at the whole thing.

Now it will cost me 50-some more dollars to have it SENT BACK — IF I’M LUCKY — never having

A special watermelon tombstone has been carved to commemorate my disappeared contact lens.

received it. I’ve already paid my doctor $175.00 plus $55 shipping — worst case scenario is that this being Mexico I may never even get the lens. If I’m lucky it’s just $100-plus just so my contact lens could take a round-trip to Mexico. A little vacation for my new contact lens before breaking it in.

I can’t just go out and easily get another one here. It’s a bifocal lens that I’ve had six-plus years. I can’t wear the disposable dailies because I have astigmatism, plus need the bifocals. If I tried to get lenses here I’d have to go to a doctor, have an examination, get a new prescription, get new lenses, etc. etc. sure to cost a lot.

Had I known all the hassle and expense this would be I would never have tried to have another lens sent to me and would have just stuck it out wearing the one lens in the wrong eye.

And as a final word of wisdom, no matter how tough things get never drink three margaritas in Mexico if you’re wearing contact lenses. Maybe I’ll go back to that dorm room where I lost it and sweep it one more time. I just took my migraine medication and I think I’ll soon go have a margarita.

Scanning darkened skies and sea waiting for a UPS delivery

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Tormented Turkeys, Tropical Troubles and The End of the World

There's already several inches of rain in only a few minutes.

Wow! There’s a major tropical downpour today. Maybe I’ll have the day off. Glad I’m no longer in the probably leaky palapa-roofed dorm. Good thing I didn’t go diving with Dario and David today. I would have gotten all wet (hah, hah.) I finally got to reuse the rain poncho they gave us at the five-star resort restaurant to go from the restaurant out to our van. That was on my press trip back in Cancun during Hurricane Ida — exciting times — before I arrived at the eco center. Now the rain is coming in waves of downpours — almost as good as the hurricane.

I got soaked running 20 feet UNDER the walkway to my room.

I went to see 2012 the night before last night. It was a major undertaking getting to the movie. First, I missed two different collectivos by seconds and had to wait another 20 minutes for a packed one. I got the last seat in the very back, middle, wedged in next to a very fat guy, so I couldn’t see out very much. They got stuck in terrible traffic into Playa and it took forever. Since I didn’t know where to get off I went into downtown Playa del Carmen only to discover that the movie was about two miles back in the direction I came from. I could have gotten off right across the street from it, had I known, and felt like I walked halfway back to Akumal — along a dark and scary highway with speeding traffic and sometimes no sidewalk. I followed a nice kid for a while, who made me feel less exposed. By the time I found the theater I was soaked with sweat and missed the first 15 minutes of the movie. I didn’t care. I was ready to watch ANY movie. I bought a big, ice-filled Coke and settled in to the seat in the air-conditioned theater. The shopping center Centro Maya Plaza is gigantic, sparkling new and as nice as any U.S. shopping center, complete with two McDonald’s and other American chains.

Well, it was worth the effort. I loved the movie. Best special effects I’ve ever seen. I liked it so much I want to see it again, both because I liked it, plus I missed the beginning. My son says my questionable taste is probably because the movie was in Spanish. Actually, it was in English with Spanish subtitles, which were challenging to translate for the non-English parts like where the Tibetan Buddist rimpoche is telling his student about the end of the world.

Well, I dampened my Thanksgiving spirit by reading about so-called cage-free turkeys. It turns out they live in as despicable conditions as caged turkeys. I suggest you read this AFTER Thanksgiving so you don’t ruin your enthusiasm about a turkey dinner like I did (http://www.care2.com/causes/animal-welfare/blog/the-truth-regarding-free-range-turkeys/).

Tourists swilling beer at Lol ha Resort on Akumal Bay

Then after the depressing news about turkeys I had a long, discouraging talk with David, the volunteer coordinator, who’s faced with all kinds of difficulties, including lack of funds, lack of local cooperation, poor education in the schools, rich locals who refuse to follow the rules, dive conessions’ distrust of the organization because not enough has changed, lack of volunteers, lack of decent accommodations because of lack of volunteers, and a whole panoply of woes. It seems like an overwhelming challenge to keep things going here, protect the environment and make some changes.

Loncheria Akumalita, outdoor cafe, great food, ambiance and prices

But on a brighter note I found some excellent chilaquiles, one of my favorite Mexican dishes at Akumalita Loncheria, although my stomach has been feeling icky ever since I ate them.

First door on the left is my room. Balam, the cat, is waiting down the walk -- small black dot.

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Meeting the Shop Owners — Social Life Goes Yin Yang

Phoebe, the Hideaway Dress Shop owner from Vail, enjoys the morning paper and coffee at Turtle Bay Cafe & Bakery.

Phoebe from Vail owns the Hideaway dress shop, home of the parrot-feather earrings and other goodies.

Hideaway Dress Shop

Bartley and Jennifer Smith own the Turtle Bay Cafe & Bakery, home of the dangerous key lime pie. The Smiths are from Kentucky by way of Seattle, but have lived here ten years.

They are big animal lovers and feed the dogs and cats. They have some acreage north of here and have a kind of animal refuge and clinic where local vets come and spay/neuter and treat the strays. They’ve got about 13 cats now. They have Daisy and Lily, the dogs from the pound who hang out at the bakery.

Roseo, the co-owner of the dress shop is the cat lady. She feeds all the local kitties, of which there are many, including a tribe of black cats. the kitties line up in the morning to be fed and even get friendly enough to pat.

The tribe of black kitties

Sign at dress shop. Roseo, the co-owner feeds all the stray cats and cares for the earless, toothless one.

Daisy the dog imprinted her paws on my clean, white T-shirt this a.m. I’m still trying to find someone to go to the movie with. Phoebe knows two people from Boulder here — Barbara and somebody else. Barbara is a psychologist.

They're not joking. They have two kittens I dare not see.

I am so thrilled. There’s a big, gourmet Thanksgiving Dinner at Turtle Bay Cafe. I’ve signed up. It’s traditional Thanksgiving with all the extras, including champagne. Jennifer, the owner, is putting me at the table with the locals. I also discovered they make great sticky buns at the bakery. My favorite thing! I just had one, warm form the oven.

The bakery has a cute sign (see photo below), but they mean business! They’re always interested in getting the stray animals adopted. It’s wonderful that there are so many animal lovers here.

It poured rain last night and today it’s cloudy and muggy as a hot sponge outside. Ugh. Thank goodness the office is air conditioned, and also my wonderful room. My skin has gotten really nice and smooth from all the salt water. My feet are sanded off, too.

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