Merida 2019

A winter in Mérida, the cultural capital of the Mexican state of Yucatán, with the Driedgers.

A rough start…

Another trip, and so another online journal about it!

After a miserable weekend at home, suffering a brand new cold (probably not helped by all the snow-shovelling I did), I was a bit concerned about how I would handle the 4-and-a-half hour flight to Cancun on New Year’s Day. I was packed and ready to go by 6:30am. Speaking of packed and ready to go, I had packed everything I would need into my golf bag and a small backpack. On Monday afternoon Robert D stops by with a luggage scale — and lo and behold, that big heavy golf bag weighed just over 20kg. The Transat Air website spelled out that ONLY golf equipment would be allowed in this oversized bag — and gave specific limits for clubs, balls, and shoes. I was counting on that NOT being an issue.

So I left Steinbach early Tuesday morning. The temperature was minus 30. I couldn’t breathe through my nose and I had a headache. I drove to my sister Irmy’s house and picked her up. She would take the van back to her house and then go back to the airport next Sunday to pick up the kids when they return from their two-week vacation. They would drop her off and then take the van back home to Steinbach.

Check-in went way better than I’d expected. No problem with the bag being just a bit OVER the limit, and no problem with all the extra clothes and shoes I had packed in there. I got a window seat next to a young couple and tried my best not to cough or sneeze in their general direction. I think I snoozed a bit on the flight.

When we got to Cancun I disembarked and more-or-less walked straight to and through customs. As I entered the baggage hall a woman was just unloading my clubs from the oversize chute. I walked out into the warmth of the Yucatan. I passed a very long line-up waiting to buy bus tickets from the ADO bus ticket counter. I had read that I was better off buying tickets out where the busses are — and getting on the next available bus instead of waiting for the one I bought the ticket for. But when I got to the ADO bus parking lot I was told they had no tickets for sale there and that I would have to go into the terminal to buy my ticket. I whined a bit, and asked them to please not make me drag my (very heavy) golf bag all the way back into the terminal and stand in that long line. And one of the bus drivers had pity on me and said hop on. His bus was actually heading to Merida (where I will be going this coming Sunday) but he explained that he would be making a stop at Terminal 2 (we were at Terminal 4) and there I could buy a ticket (122 pesos, or about $8.50) right at the curb and hop on the next bus going south to Puerto Morelos. And it was so. In fact, while I waited the 6 minutes for my bus to show up I chatted with another tourist who had been given quite the run-around and now finally bought a ticket to Puerto Morelos as well, but his departure time was 45 minutes LATER than mine! Poor guy.

My bus dropped me off at the bus stop in Puerto Morelos. Taxis were waiting to take us to our various hotels. I hopped into the first taxi and for 35 pesos ($2.50 Canadian) I was delivered to my little Airbnb apartment near the beach. Easy trip here and quite a bit cheaper than the $80 shuttle service lots of tourists take from the airport.

My apartment was just like the website said it would be. Small, but clean and in a decent location. I on the other hand was feeling miserable. I opened up my big golf bag and found a pair of shorts. I may not put my long pants back on again until the day I fly back home.

I sent a text to the kids, telling them I’d arrived and gave them the address. Less than half an hour later I spotted them walking up the street. Their taxi had dropped them off at the corner. It was great to see them, and especially Max (who is the happiest and most joyous person in the universe and who’s love for me is matched only by mine for him). He is having a GREAT holiday, loving Mexico, hanging out with mom and dad every day all day! We scouted out my place — big backyard with a hammock and swings and chairs under the shade of a thatched roof. And then we took a walk around the neighbourhood. It’s half a block to the big central square. An OXO grocery store is just at the corner. We went around to the next block and got a table right on the street at a large and very busy pizza joint. We had to wait quite a while for our two large pizzas, so we had lots of time to catch up and hear about all the adventures the kids have had in the last week and a half. Turns out that one pizza would have been sufficient. I took a box of leftovers home.

I was feeling terrible — I couldn’t breathe through my nose and the flight had really buggered up my ears which were still feeling plugged. So the kids wished me a good night and caught a taxi back to their hotel. I fell into bed — it was before nine o’clock. I woke up occasionally (mostly to blow my nose!) but didn’t get out of bed until noon the next day.

Down for the count

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…

I got a text from Alex at around 9am. They were having breakfast. What about me? I was still in bed. And I planned to stay there for a while. I didn’t get out of bed until noon. By then it was pretty clear that the kids should stay at their hotel and do their own thing — and I would spend the day resting and trying to get better. And that’s what happened.

I showered and went across the street to the fruit and juice shop and bought a litre of grapefruit juice. I washed down a piece of leftover pizza with that. Then back to bed for the afternoon. I got up again a little after 7. I talked to Alex about plans for tomorrow. Then I took a walk outside — I went down my street and out around the main square. Still lots of action out there. That pizza restaurant had a long line of waiting customers. Busy, busy. I stopped in at my corner grocery store and bought a couple of cokes and a couple of bottles of water. And a yogurt. And a phone card. So now I have a Mexican phone number. And a bunch of data. All set! Under $20.

Back at the house I had some of that yogurt and another piece of pizza and a coke. I was feeling a bit better, but still had a headache. I sat in the living room for a while, but the light was poor and I was trying to read the Spanish on the phone company’s website to figure out exactly how much data I had just bought! Oh well. I turned out all the lights and headed back to my bed. But instead of going to sleep I took out my laptop and wrote my journal for the past two days. It was almost midnight by the time I was done. I was feeling a LOT better than I had for most of the day. I sure hope this thing is behind me now.

Back among the living

…for a living dog is better than a dead lion. Ecclesiastes 9:4

I’ve been sicker than a dog, and I ain’t lion. But when I woke up this morning I could sense that I was heading in the right direction. MUCH better than the last couple of days.

I made myself a cup of coffee and ate a bit of my yogurt. Then I packed a small bag (my trunks, my sudoku puzzle book, and an extra shirt) and trekked out towards the resort where the kids are waiting for me. Three kilometres south of my place. But the morning temperature was ideal, the sun not yet high enough in the sky to get at me over the tops of the jungle that lined both sides of the narrow road. When I got to the resort gates the gateman nodded at me and said Hola. I just walked right in. Alex and Max and Tim were waiting for me. We headed into the breakfast room and sat down at a table. Max was happy to show me the buffet and all the individual stations where one could order ‘custom’ options. A crepe filled with nutella for him, one filled with peanut butter and banana for me. A few maraschino cherries to make it look nice. A pound of bacon on the side for each of us. Now THAT’S how you start your day here in Mexico.

After breakfast we headed up to the room to change into our swimsuits. Then down to the pool where Alex and Max had reserved 4 loungers earlier (much earlier) this morning. And then off to the pool. Nothing better than for Max to be ‘thrown’ around in the pool — and he always comes up with a big smile on his face, ready for another throw. When the aerobics instructor woman started up her disco music and led the aerobics ladies (that’s what they were, all ladies) in various aerobics/dance moves, Max was in there like a dirty shirt. Not just dancing, but singing along enthusiastically with Pharrell Williams’s song “Happy”.

Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

By the time the sun had worked its way through the #50 sunscreen I’d slathered on my nose it was time for lunch. Lots of choices. Max’s favourite was the bacon-wrapped hotdogs. My favourite, too.

After lunch Max and I headed up to the room. Max showed me all the things Santa brought to Mexico for him. One gift was a ‘Scavenger Hunt’ card game. I think we played that for at least an hour — not according to any ‘Scavenger Hunt’ rules, but rather by some new rules that Max had made up.

Alex came to get us when it was time for an afternoon ice cream and espresso coffee. Lovely. And then off to the beach, where not only had Max collected quite an assortment of seashells, but now he invented a game which made use of all the seaweed that the waves had brought in to shore. The guy has creativity to match his energy. And he’s ALWAYS got a big smile on his face. By now my horrible cold was but a distant memory. It was no match for all the fun I was having.

At around 5:00 it was time for me to take the walk back to my apartment. We arranged that the kids would come to my place tomorrow and spend the day at MY part of town. The road back home was a bit busier with traffic than had been in the morning. But in about 30 minutes I was back at my apartment.

I wandered around town for a while. I ‘found’ the big new grocery store that my Airbnb host had mentioned in her email. Pretty nice. It has a little deli and a sushi bar and a ceviche bar and a crepe bar — and some Czech beers and Mendoza malbecs. I could manage living here for a couple of months.

Later in the evening I ventured out again, this time down the OTHER direction. I ended up eating some delicious pork tacos at a small restaurant down the street from my place.

Back in my room, I wasted some time scanning the ‘internet TV’ options on the television. Mostly Fox News and YouTube. Eventually those 90-second clips in between spinning ‘busy’ cursors got a bit tiresome and I showered and sat down and wrote my journal for today. And now I’m caught up.

A day in Puerto Morelos

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlick: Numbers 11:5

By the time I got out of bed this morning the street outside my apartment was already fully alive. Street sweepers, delivery vans, families and dogs heading for the beach, the construction guys doing a reno next door, the juice man across the street already a quarter of the way through his mountain of fresh oranges. Because of my cold, which was getting better every day, I still didn’t have much of an appetite. I ate my yogurt and drank some of my grapefruit juice and called that breakfast.

I lazed around the house for most of the morning. I called my mother who was a bit distressed about why her credit card wasn’t working. Then I got into a Low German email exchange with my brother. I tried to sit in the ‘palapa’ in the back yard but the cloudless sky made today feel quite a bit hotter than it has been here so far.

The kids were coming at around 1 o’clock. The plan was that they would spend the day here in Puerto Morelos with me. I tried to buy some more beer at the corner grocery before they arrived, but the Mexican version of the brinks truck was there filling up the ATM machine. That meant that 3 guys with their automatic rifles were blocking the whole back third of the store, including the beer coolers, while they were busy with the machine. I tried to get one of them to hand over a six-pack, but he wasn’t in the mood to serve customers.

When the kids arrived we all went out to the hammock and garden chairs in the palapa. Alex was hot and uncomfortable — bothered by the heat rash she gets from too much sun. It turned out that the fan parked at the back of our hut didn’t work, so we went back inside. My little air conditioner, which I hadn’t used until now, soon got the place quite comfortable. Tim and I went to get some chips and beer and I got a couple of tacos from a little food shop on the street. Max was tired — they had had their usual active morning at the pool — so he watched a bit of TV and pretended to have a nap.

At around 5 the heat of the day was behind us and we went out for a walk. We headed to the beach. Boats were coming in, some fishing, some snorkelling. The two long docks had fishing poles sticking out on either side. Families were still sitting under umbrellas in the sand or playing in the water.

We wandered around, looking at restaurants and checking out the little tourist shops in the town centre. Max found a shark-tooth necklace. Tim and Alex did not find dishes that would quite go with the rest of their home decor. I had fun watching Max try to build a seaweed wall that would hold back the waves as they came into shore.

Eventually we found the recommended seafood restaurant. We got a table and a friendly waiter helped us decide on what to order. Max’s shrimp cocktail was okay, my fried fish was good, the big plate of ceviche we all shared was very good. Some of us had an ice cream cone on the way home.

After the kids had taken the taxi back to their resort, I sat in my apartment and enjoyed the cool(er) breeze that was blowing through my screen doors. I watched a bit of news on TV. Caught up on the latest emails. And because I was so tired from doing nothing all day, I went to bed.

One last swim at the Now Jade

And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim… Isaiah 25:11

Saturday. I slept in again — only woke up at 9 o’clock. I putzkied around until 10:30. Then I went outside and started walking to the kids’ resort hotel. It’s a 3km walk from my place. It wasn’t as hot today as it was yesterday — quite pleasant for the walk.

When I got to the hotel I changed into swimming trunks and joined Tim and Max at the pool. Max has ‘inherited’ a big pink donut-with-sprinkles floatation ‘tube’. We played in the pool for quite a while, and even tried playing in the waves at the beach for a while.

Soon it was lunchtime — a delicious cheeseburger for me, bacon-wrapped hotdogs for the others. After lunch we were chased into the room by a terrific downpour that lasted about 10 minutes. But only 10 minutes. And then the disco thumping boom-boxes started up again and the pool party continued.

Max and I went for a small ice cream cone and I had another double espresso at the little cafe near the pool. Then back to more swimming. Max has really developed as a swimmer these past couple of weeks — much more confident and stronger.

I said goodbye to the kids. It’s been so great to spend time with them for the last few days. They had a great time here — but they are ready to go home tomorrow and get back into the routine of work and school and their life at home. I will miss them very much. But I too am looking forward to tomorrow; I will say goodbye to Puerto Morelos and get my first look at my place in Merida where I will spend the next couple of months.

I walked back to my apartment. I wasn’t at all hungry after my big lunch and decided to skip supper. I opened a cold beer and turned on the TV. I watched a couple of Netflix shows tonight. Then I found the NFL playoff game on a streaming site on my laptop and watched the last half of the Seattle-Dallas game. I’ll miss tomorrow’s games because I’ll be on the bus all afternoon.

So that’s the end of the first chapter of this “holiday”. A bit of a shaky start, but things improved mightily from there. The kids will have one last morning to enjoy the pool and the buffet breakfast at the Now Jade resort. I hope their trip home goes “swimmingly”.

“Welcome” to Merida

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed… Romans 8:18

Sunday today. Last day in Puerto Morelos. I got up and slowly started packing. I had thought I might even by a cheap bag so that I wouldn’t have to cram everything back into my golf bag for the bus ride to Merida, but in the end I just jammed it all back into that golf bag — it weighs a ton, but they don’t worry about ‘overweight’ on the bus.

Then I went out for a morning stroll. I wanted to have a nice cup of coffee and maybe a bit of breakfast. Again it was a beautiful day. Other than that one downpour at the hotel yesterday, there has been no rain and the temperature now is perfect. The forecast for Merida is sunny and 26 for the foreseeable future.

I had a nutella crepe and a double espresso at a cafe. I still wasn’t very hungry so I didn’t even finish the crepe.

Back at the house I wrote in the guest book and tidied up a bit — tried to put everything back where it was when I arrived. I texted with the kids — they were waiting for their shuttle bus to take them back to the airport. We’d be leaving at about the same time — they for home, me for further adventures in Mexico.

I dragged my bag out to the side of the street and locked the house up as per instructions. I waved down a taxi and got a ride to the bus stop on the side of the highway. The taxi driver was very excited that I was a golfer and that I was going to a golf resort for the next couple of months — and had to show me lots of photos on his camera of himself on a golf course with his golfing brothers. Ah, I guess we golfers are a fraternity of sorts.

The bus that took me back to the airport came soon, and the ride to the airport was about 25 minutes. I already had a ticket from terminal 2 to Merida so I ‘parked’ my big golf bag next to a garbage can and stood and waited for about half an hour. Just before it was time to embark I decided that I’d better buy something to eat — it was supposed to be a 4+ hour trip and although I wasn’t hungry, I had eaten so little for breakfast. So I had a not-very-good airport hotdog and grabbed a bag of nacho chips and a coke for the road.

For all the “seat selection” options online when I had booked my ticket, in reality that meant nothing. I ended up next to a young man who didn’t look like he really wanted to talk. But as we rode along I struck up a conversation and we ended up talking the whole way to Merida — making the time pass quite quickly. The guy was from Russia, had moved to the U.S. when he was 20, was a medical health researcher at Rochester University, and was going to Merida for a scientific conference where one of his students was presenting a poster. By the end of the trip we were friends.

I got to the Altabrisa bus station and looked around for a taxi. Not many. Other passengers (not all were getting off at this stop) were meeting friends or relatives with cars. Some were on the phone calling taxis. I wondered what to do. But then a taxi pulled up and I loaded up my stuff and explained where I wanted to go. Twenty kilometres at 10 pesos per, he said. In the end his phone GPS led him too far, to the wrong entrance to the country club, and necessitated a very long detour to get back to where I really wanted to go. We arrived at the front gate and after some minutes of checking to see who I was and where I belonged, they let us through. It was a bit of a long winding complicated drive to find the house, but eventually we did. And as I got out of the taxi I recognized the guy standing next to his car in front of the house as ‘Mario’, the owner of the house. So he was here to meet me! Great!

I paid the cab and we went inside. Dusk was upon us. Mario welcomed me in and began showing me around. Hmmm… Okay… The photos had presented a very clean modern-looking apartment. In actuality the place looked rather tired. Lights were dim and many burned out. The kitchen didn’t look like I would like to cook in there. But the bedrooms upstairs looked okay — big “newish” beds.

After a quick tour I wondered where I met get some supper. Oh, oh. Another problem. Nothing around here is open. And there’s really nothing in the house either. But how about you order a pizza? How about YOU order one for me? Mario phoned about 5 options and ended up with nothing — either they were closed or they didn’t deliver this far. Maybe we will need a car for our stay here?

Then Mario tried to show me how to watch the NFL game on TV. But after a couple of minutes of pretty great action that too ended — the ‘pirated streaming’ site he’d found was not reliable. Ah, but you can watch Netflix. And why don’t you download the Roku app so you can use the bedroom TV. And is it okay if some workers come here tomorrow to repair the broken railing around the balcony? And here’s my WhatsApp number if you need to contact me. And then he was gone. And I sat there. It was 6pm and I was alone with zero options ahead. Well, I had that little bag of chips from the bus station.

Meanwhile I had confirmation that the kids had landed in Winnipeg. It was starting to snow pretty hard, but they made it home safe and sound. That was good. And then while I was trying to figure out what Netflix show I might spend the evening with, Dave D FaceTimes. So I spent an hour giving him a virtual tour and communicating my disappointment.

Finally, in the end, I decided that it might be best to go to sleep on it. Maybe my attitude needed an adjustment. Maybe tomorrow, in the light of day, I would see the place in a different light. Maybe the golf course would be so glorious as to balance off the disappointment of the apartment. So I finished my little snack of chips and went to bed.

Taking stock

I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.[YIKES! Really?] Daniel 10:3

The alarm rang at 7:30. I was half sort of expecting workers to show up on my balcony early this morning. I should have remembered: I am in Mexico. But now I was up. I got dressed and went downstairs. Breakfast? Nothing to see here. I repaired one of the blinds which was rolled up backwards so that when I left for my morning walk I could do so with a clean conscience.

I walked a few houses down the street and got to a gravel track that cut between two holes on the golf course. At the other end of the track was the clubhouse. I went to check it out.

The name of this country club and golf course is La Ceiba. I stopped in at the restaurant and got a coffee to go. Then I went to the pro shop to ask about golfing rates and stuff like that. The people in the clubhouse more-or-less answered my questions but it didn’t really make sense to me. One game was supposed to cost me 2000 Mexican pesos. But for 9000 pesos I could have as much golf as I wanted, including golf cart, for a month. So as long as I golfed more than 4.5 games per month I was ahead buying the monthly pass.

The golf pro sent me to see the woman in the main office. So I did. Of course she could not speak or understand English, but a lovely young girl who was ‘visiting’ with the woman spoke perfect English and acted as the translator. As I said, really no new information here — she just confirmed what the pro shop had told me.

I went into the restaurant where Omar, the very friendly waiter who had given me my coffee earlier, took my breakfast order. I hadn’t eaten since that bag of chips yesterday early evening, and not much for a few days already. I was hungry. The big plate of scrambled eggs and ham with toast and jam satisfied that. Alex, the young translator, came and sat down at my table and told me all about the golf club and how nice the people are here and I should really take up golfing here.

When I got back to the house those balcony repair guys were just getting started. I watched for a while as they jimmied their arc welder by connecting the bare power wires directly to the line on a hydro pole right next to the house. Free 220 volts I guess. But they unhooked it mighty quickly when the welder started smoking like crazy!

I could see that was going to be an all-day task. After sitting at my computer and catching up with the news I went for another walk around lunch time. This time I headed in the other direction, back to the entry gates. Just outside the gates is a little mini-market. I browsed around in there for quite a while — trying to take stock of what they had and what they didn’t have. No beer or wine, for example. Not a lot of meat either. But some fresh bread, butter, yogurt (turned out not-so-fresh), chips and cokes. I bought some of each and threw in a homemade paper-wrapped ‘tostada’ and went back home.

I was on the computer again for a while. At around 5 o’clock the welders on the balcony were done. They cleaned up their ladders and equipment. A freshly-painted thick black iron railing now protects the gringos who rent this place from falling off the second-floor balcony.

The workers sat down on the floor of the car port and waited for Mario, the owner of the apartment, to come and inspect the job and pay the guys. I was ready for Mario. I had prepared a long list of things that the apartment needed and things that needed fixing or replacing. So when he was through with the workers, I had it out with him. He could see I wasn’t very happy and he promised that he would do his best to make things right. He took out his phone and took a photo of my lists and then went through the items and made a big checkmark next to most of them.

I told Mario how frustrated I had been without a vehicle and without food yesterday. He said he was driving into town and if I wanted I could catch a ride in with him. I did that.

I spent nearly 90 minutes at the big Chedraui grocery store in town. Toilet paper, soaps, detergents, sponges, paper towel. And fresh fruit and yogurt and cheese and beer and wine. I stopped at the ATM before going through the checkout and took out a small loan to pay for the cartful. Then I pulled out my phone and got an Uber car to take me and my groceries back to my house.

I rearranged all the various hot sauce condiments down into the bottom shelf of the refrigerator so I would have room for all my new stuff. Then I ate that little ‘tostada’ that I’d bought earlier for my supper. It was okay, and easily enough to satisfy my hunger.

I sat on the couch and watched the NBC Nightly News and then the CBC National on my appleTV. I Facetimed with Alex and then later, with Dave and MaryLou. And I was tired. And I had a headache and my nose need regular blowing — maybe that cold is still in there somewhere.

I went upstairs and got ready for bed. I wrote my journal. Somehow things got a bit better today. I’m still not thrilled with the place, but I think we can probably make it work.

Dry bones at the country club

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22

I woke up with a splitting headache. A sinus headache. It didn’t matter how often or how hard I blew my nose, each time the relief faded within minutes. I always tell people who are interested in travelling that it is NO fun to be sick at home, and it is quite a bit LESS fun to be sick in a foreign place. Luckily I haven’t experienced a lot of illness on the road — more often I have a “merry heart”. But on this particular trip I have had my share of drying bones. I thought I might have beat it back in Cancun, but since Sunday I’ve felt crappy.

I had eaten my portion of yogurt and had one of my doughnuts for breakfast. I couldn’t make myself a coffee because I had no mugs to drink it out of! So I was sitting on the couch, holding my aching head and feeling might sorry for myself when I heard someone’s keys in the door lock. And in walks a young Mexican girl. Permisso? We looked at each other in surprise for a minute. She was carrying a bag with cleaning supplies, so right away that endeared her to me. I welcomed her in. Regina, or as they say here ‘Rrrah-HEE-na’, got right to work. She marched upstairs and ripped the bedsheets of the beds and threw them in the laundry. The big heavy drapes in my room got tied into a big knot so the sun could shine in. She found a big yellow bottle of cleaning solution in the bin in the bathroom and proceeded to scrub the toilet. (The toilet hadn’t been used — it doesn’t flush so I’m not that interested in using it until that little detail is resolved!)

Okay! Mario (the owner) is getting right down to work. I had warned him that when my friends from home show up here on Sunday they are going to turn right around and go somewhere else if a lot of things don’t improve at this place. I guess he had taken that to heart.

Around 1 o’clock Regina is done with the upstairs. (I really don’t know what she all did up there, but I could hear a lot of busy-ness up there and it sure smelled like cleaner in the house. When she came down to do the kitchen and the car port I took my lunch (bread with ham and cheese that I had bought at the corner superette) and sat outside on our new (and now clean) balcony to eat it. Not that I can taste anything — I can hardly talk and breathe at the same time, never mind TASTE food.

I’m not sure what exactly I should be expecting from this cleaning — there’s only so-and-so much that ‘cleaning’ can do. The seriously corroded sinks and taps and drains and anything else made of ‘metal’ are going to look like crap no matter how much ajax you wipe over them.

Shortly after lunch Regina announced that she was finito. Completo. She phoned Mario to report. Minutes later he comes roaring up in his shiny new black jeep. He jumps out of the car and announces “It’s Christmas!”. Apparently he comes bearing gifts. And sure enough, that long list of things to fix or replace or provide that I gave him yesterday will not be a bit shorter. A chair for my bedroom, light bulbs to replace SOME of the missing or burned out ones, a new plastic dish rack, and wash cloths, and coffee mugs, and a new toaster oven, and even a brand new hair blower. So now Mario and Regina are busy unpacking and ‘installing’ the new stuff. And I’m sitting there, all schnuffed up, feeling miserable, and trying hard to demonstrate a “merry heart”.

When the two of them are done they leave, but not before Mario informs me that an electrician is on the way. He arrives shortly after Mario leaves and installs a dimmer switch on the fan in one bedroom and a remote control variable speed thingy for the fan in ‘my’ bathroom. This is so they don’t have to be either off or going full blast and sounding like a helicopter taking off. He also changes some of the bulbs. And then I point out that my toilet doesn’t flush and that the sink in the kitchen doesn’t drain very fast. He says he will fix that, too. But after at least 45 minutes with a propane torch and a couple of big pails and pipe wrenches, he announces that he cannot fix that toilet. Mario later informs me that the toilet will likely need to be replaced. Oh good! That way I won’t have to walk through the Driedgers’ bedroom to use their ensuite in the middle of the night!

Mario returns a few more times before the afternoon is over. He is determined to provide us with watchable TVs. Okay, I brought my AppleTV from home and have it connected to the big nice TV in the living room. But both bedroom TVs are just hanging on the wall — without anything to watch on them. So Mario now finagles with several ‘Roku’ kits, trying to get them to make the bedroom TVs into ‘smart’ TVs. In the end, after a couple of trips back and forth, he gets the one in the Driedgers bedroom working. Of course ALL the TVs will have some pirated Netflix account, and most of the shows will have Spanish titles so we’ll need to guess what we want to watch before finding out what we’ve selected.

Then Mario does something really special for me on the downstairs TV. He has brought his ‘Rocket’ connector and account for us to use. The AppleTV gets disconnected and now we need to wait until the internet signal is strong enough (it ‘fades’ regularly) and if one is patient and doesn’t hit too many buttons in rapid succession, ALL the major sports (Deportes, in Spanish) events in the world can be watched on that big TV! Nevermind peliculas (movies) and HBO, etc.

When Mario leaves it is getting dark outside. I’m exhausted. Not from working hard but from holding my head up and trying to breathe. I lie down on the couch and play with those new channels. I keep losing signal and having to start all over again — what’s my code? — and then when I get back ‘on’ I have to navigate through a thousand channels. I could get pretty much EVERY NHL game that was being played tonight except the only one I cared to watch. So I started up some old Reese Witherspoon movie and promptly fell asleep on the couch. When I awoke I opened my laptop and went back to my good old reliable streaming site and watched the Jets beat the Avalanche in the third period. I think somewhere in there I had another doughnut. But not a lot of appetite, and not a lot of enthusiasm in general. I turned off the various light switches, some of which actually work the lights, and headed upstairs. I could now take out my contact lenses without worrying about the helicopter in the bathroom blowing them where I would never find them again. I made sure to spit the toothpaste into the one spot in the sink where that dribbling tap might actually wash it down the drain. I ‘borrowed’ the Driedgers’ bathroom one more time today. And then I went straight to sleep, holding onto my throbbing head and wondering how I was going to survive this night. What would I do if it really became unmanageable? No one to call. Don’t know the emergency phone number. Don’t know where the nearest doctor or hospital is. Maybe I’d just step out on my balcony (with its nice new shiny black heavy-duty railing) and yell “Ayuda mi!”.

Well, I didn’t have to do any of that. Sleep managed to keep the pain at bay for most of the night. But there was no denying it — my bones were getting SERIOUSLY dry.

The English Patient

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope. Romans 5:3,4

So this morning I awoke and NOTHING had changed from last night. My head still hurt like crazy, I was hacking like an old smoker from Woodridge, and I couldn’t breathe through my nose. And my bones were BRITTLE dry. Nothing was looking like a “Hallelujah, schöner Morgen” to me!

I put my contacts in and went downstairs. What was I gonna do? This could NOT go on like this. I looked into the fridge but saw nothing that appealed to me in there. My goodness, what did I buy all those beers for anyway? Haven’t had one since Saturday night! A bit of yogurt and a quarter of a banana and that was breakfast. No enthusiasm to make my first cup of coffee here.

I stepped outside. I was determined to do something about it now. Across the street the neighbour was polishing his car like he does every morning. I walked across to say hello. He looked at me all friendly, but couldn’t understand a word I said. I tried a bit of Spanish. Doktor? (see how I spelled that?) Hos-pee-TAL? Mi infirme. Mi cabeza no gusto. Ayuda mi? He motions for me to wait, says he will get Anglais person.

A moment later out comes the younger man who lives here. I explain the problem without my special Spanish accent. He is kind and understanding. Do you have allergies? My wife gets sinus headaches from allergies. No, I’m quite sure this is from the cold I picked up a week-and-a-half ago. He suggests that I not go to the hospital. He explains that many Farmacias here have a doctor in them that can prescribe medicine. Wait a moment, I will be right back. He goes back into the house.

I waited many moments. Maybe he’d forgotten about me? I could hardly stand to stand out here so long, but the temperature was just right, with a very light breeze. Finally the man DOES return. He’s apologizes, says he’s made a lot of phone calls, and gives me a piece of paper with the ‘nombre’ and ‘addresse’ of the Farmacia YZA. He assures me that this one has a doctor there.

I Uber a ride. Not a long wait — about 7 minutes and the car is at the front gates to the country club. But of course those super high-security guards won’t let him in. He phones me. Spanish, spanish, spanish, spanish. Mi no comprende. Solo Anglais. PLEASE wait for me there — don’t leave. I start running the 800 metres to the front gate. I’ve made it so much progress today already, I don’t want to lose this guy. And I’m lucky. When I get to the gates I hand my phone over to one of the guards in the ‘out’ booth and ask her to please tell the caller that I am ‘aqui’ (here)! She doesn’t understand what I’m telling her, but takes the phone and then I see that she is talking to the guy in the car across the road at the ‘in’ booth. Whew! I hop in the car and give the guy my little paper from the neighbour. He nods, and we’re off.

But he doesn’t follow the address that I’d punched in as the Uber destination. No, he knows of a Farmacia that is much closer. Oh, oh. When we pull into the parking lot (“See! Farmacia YZA!” he says, proudly), I ask ‘Doktor aqui?’ Hmmmm… Don’t think so. We both go inside to ask. No, no, no. After the pharmacist gives Mr Uber a long schtreepful we get back into the car and go back to the main road. Eventually we find the correct place. Mr Uber doesn’t offer to wait for me — he’s already frittered away too much time for this fare.

I go in. Two very Spanish ladies don’t have a clue what I’m asking about. They say ‘Momento, por favor’ and a minute later in walks a lovely young woman. She announces that she is the doctor. Oh boy! I sure hope my Spanish will be enough to ‘esplain’ what is wrong with me. I pay the ladies at the counter 45 pesos for the referral and then Ms Doktor and I go next door to her office. She is very friendly and she speaks very good English. The visit is surprisingly professional and thorough. The English patient is weighed, measured, probed, and swabbed, and I get my arm all pumped up to make sure whatever is in there isn’t causing my headache. She looks at the back of my throat and says something about mucous. Okay, we’re on the right track. She puts pressure on my forehead and sinus areas. Yep. You’ve got an infection. You will need antibiotics. I will prescribe. A lot of writing and then she goes over it with me. Not just antibiotics, but THIS for your mucous and THIS for headaches and THIS for pain and THIS to dry out your sinuses. See? I really was quite sick! But now I am SET!

She comes back into the Farmacia with me and helps select all the right boxes of pills. She writes instructions on each box: this every 12 horas, this 1 x dias, etc. I’m impressed. And I can’t wait to get going with the medicine! I quickly added a new toothbrush and toothpaste to the bag of drugs, paid about $35 CAD for the works, and walked out. Already I was feeling quite a bit better. At least now I had a plan. And I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to keel over and die here just yet.

I walked back along the main road for a block or two. There were some huge fancy buildings across the street. A casino, a Costco, a big new fancy modern shopping centre. I walked across the road and into the mall and sat down in a little coffee shop. I ordered a cafe americano and a bottle of agua. Then I opened up some of my packages and took the first steps to my recovery. Ahhh!

I confirmed another Uber to take me back home. This time the driver spoke English, and I got some valuable info from him as we drove back. He dropped me off at the front gate and I walked back to my house. The neighbour was nowhere in sight. I went into my place and had the rest of my pill breakfast. And a chocolate doughnut (that’s the last of those!).

I sat down on the couch. “Nuscht met en teks!” Take it easy. Rest. Why not write the journal entry for yesterday now that you can bear to sit up for a while. I was on the phone, FaceTiming with Dave when I saw my neighbour slowly walking by the apartment. I hung up and rushed outside to thank him. I invited him in and gave him a full report. He was very pleased that he had been able to help, and he offered that ANYTIME I had a question or problem I should give him a call. We exchanged phone numbers. ‘Pepe’, as he introduced himself to me, had been a pilot for over 40 years, spoke good English, and knew lots of Canadians who came to live here in this country club every winter. He actually tried to make a call to his friend Jack from Edmonton, in order to introduce me to him. Jack must have been out on the golf course. Still, it was encouraging for me to hear that there were other Canadians in the area — and that Dave and I would probably meet some of them when we go golfing here next week. I thanked Pepe again for being a friend to me in my hour of need.

So my head still wasn’t feeling that great, but my disposition was 100% improved. A little less ‘tribulation’ and a whole lot more ‘hope’!

Later in the afternoon Pepe came around again — this time with his buddy Jack. So we chatted a while and that felt good. I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more of both guys in the days and weeks to come.

Just before 4:00 I made myself a ham and cheese sandwich. That’s more like it. Already the pills were having an effect. But I decided not to go out (to the clubhouse) for supper. I did a bit of work on my computer and made myself a bit of supper while watching the Nashville @ Chicago hockey game on that fancy new TV thingy Mario installed yesterday. When the game ended (in overtime) it was quarter to ten — time to take my next dose of pills. I could feel that the first dose had warn off. I wrote my blog and then shut things down downstairs and headed up to bed. I’ll try to watch the CBC National on my bedroom TV before calling it a night.

Here’s hoping that the tribulations are over. See ya tomorrow.

The Road to Recovery

Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth; for I will give it to you. Genesis 13:17

I woke up with a SPLITTING headache. I didn’t even feel like getting out of bed. So much for those pills the doctor prescribed being an ‘instant’ cure. Even though I woke up at around 6:00am I didn’t drag myself out of bed until after 9.

I showered and went downstairs to gobble up another dose of the pills I got yesterday. Then I went back upstairs and gathered up my laundry and put it in the washer in the bathroom.

I decided that I would get myself off the couch and go to the little ‘superette’ at the front gate before lunch. I picked up some more pineapple juice and a few other things. I noticed that there are two woman in the small room behind the store who are COOKING stuff. And there were people sitting at little tables on one side of the store — like there was a little ‘café’ there. So I picked up a hamburger and took that back to my house as well. Not bad. The walk and eating something substantial actually made me feel better!

Jack from Edmonton stopped by in his golf cart and introduced me to his wife Gerry. They are snowbirds who’ve been coming down here for about 10 years. The first year they were here they rented the house that I’m in. Then they built their own place. Jack and Gerry golf every morning. Jack offered to help out in any way he could — if I needed a ride to Costco to go shopping, or if I was interested in renting a car for a lot less than the big rental companies charged — well, Jack had connections.

After lunch I went for another long walk — this time around the front nine holes of the golf course. That also made me feel better. The course is quite a bit better than what I had imagined and there are many very lovely homes in the development here.

I think the physical exercise actually helped to improve my sinuses and for sure the walk improved my attitude.

I went back to the superette to buy some bread but they were sold out. No problem. I’ll come back later. And at around 5pm I did. And then they HAD freshly-baked bread. The bread is great, and it costs 4 pesos! 27 cents. I went back to the house but decided that I now felt good enough to go back to the clubhouse at the golf course and have supper there.

I wasn’t very hungry, and told the waiter to bring me something ‘small’. I got an order of fries and chicken fingers to go with my Modelo Especial. Great! Couldn’t finish it, but I gave it a go!

Back at the house I tuned in the Jets game on TV and worked on a web project while I watched the game. Both didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. But the Jets have another game tomorrow, and I’ll have another try at coding in the morning.

So it’s not quick, but it IS working.