Tuesday, Dec 1:
Speeding through the grocery store! We did a quick trip into Playa del Carmen today and then raced back thinking that the girls from the biblioteca would show up to sing. We were here at 1:00 and by 1:30 Robert was ready to go to the beach, but no girls. Then just as we were starting to think about going anyways, four of them arrived: Attiri, Carolina, Cindy and Angeles. They did indeed sing and then we gave a small donation to their donation can, plus a cookie for each of them. Robert and Hannah went off for lunch with Ryan and Darren, some people we’ve met here in the condo and I stayed home for a bit of peace and quiet. While I was sitting outside the next group of girls showed up. Just three this time: Laisha, Magda and Eliana. I was thrilled that I’d understood enough to know that they were coming by. Later yet another group came by. Luckily we still had a few cookies left but we’ve decided to keep the donations small as unfortunately they go to the church rather than the biblioteca. Besides we have no idea how many more groups will come by.
Wednesday, Dec 2:
I’m back into pushing my spanish after watching Robert and Hannah both just dive in at the biblioteca. I’m feeling frustrated and left behind but I suspect that’s pretty natural in learning a language. Two steps forward and one step back, always. Today I tried to play a card game with two little guys and I couldn’t even remember how to say “it’s your turn.” But now I’ve come home and looked it up and so I’m ready for tomorrow. This was after sitting in on two math lessons. I understood the teacher but when I tried to help the children, even after she’d given me much of the language, I reverted back to grunts mixed with lots of sign language and random gestures. That all worked with the little folks, but I was pretty helpless with the older ones. Luckily the power was cutting in and out and so the teacher decided to take them outside to skip and practice their times tables. It is an amazing feeling to be so helpless because of language.
Thursday, Dec 3:
Hurray, just one week until Adam joins us! We are all excited to see him. Today we volunteered again at the library after driving into Tulum to find a store where we could find small bouncing balls so that Robert could teach the children how to play “hit the penny.” After listening to a few children read and then sitting in on a lesson for the younger children who are preparing to sing a Mayan Christmas carol at the Christmas celebration later this month, I played hopscotch with two little guys. Then Robert started up a game of “hit the penny” with one of the moms and the two little boys I was playing with couldn’t wait to finish our game so that they could try playing with Robert. When the bigger children finished their Mayan lesson, “hit the penny” took off. Hannah’s “memorable moment” from volunteering was being able to make use of the library’s french/spanish dictionary to aid in her language difficulties. She has such an advantage over Robert and I in this language learning game. Back at our casa, we had a lovely evening with Ryan, Melissa and their son Darren. They are staying here in the condos and are also from Canada, Whitehorse, Yukon to be more precise. Melissa is originally from Alberta. Their baby Spencer is one of the more mellow and contented babies I’ve met.
Friday, Dec 4: We’ve had fun with more kids dropping by today but we’ve decided not to donate more money and we’re out of cookies.
Saturday, Dec 5: Volunteering three days a week is making us appreciate our “days off.” Today we went into Playa del Carmen to stock up on cookies and popsicles for our young visitors. Robert also managed to find a guitar to purchase, while Hannah and I went bathing suit shopping, all the essentials.
Sunday, Dec 6: Our internet was down all day and so I felt a little disconnected from the world, though Hannah thinks that is a sad comment on my life. I guess being so far from home makes the connection that much more important to me. It was nice in the evening to finally have it back on so that we could chat first with Adam and then with Sarah.
We had a very relaxing day, just walking, stretching (yes, I’m trying to start up some sort of regular commiment to yoga), swimming, reading, studying spanish and of course, eating.
Monday, Dec 7: Day 2 of yoga, more spanish, back to the biblioteca… so it looks like we’re getting a bit of a routine here.
Tuesday, Dec 8: We went looking for the beach at Tullum today. It is really a shame that it is almost all privatized. In the end we bought drinks at a resort where we could use the beach chairs and play in the surf. Hannah loved the waves.
Wednesday, Dec 9: Just little folks at the biblioteca today which was actually really fun. It is so easy to get them laughing. Iliana helped me with the words to Rodolfo un reino. I helped another little girl with letter sounds in the alphabet. It was one of my more productive days in terms of volunteering.
Thursday, Dec 10: Adam arrived!
Friday, Dec 11: We spent the day swimming and relaxing, letting Adam get into the slow swing of life here. I had one of my better snorkeling day, swimming back to the main beach from in front of the Akumal Beach resort on my on and tagging along with a snorkeling group. I saw two huge fish and perhaps a couple of octopi. I also found a whole new area of coral reef for further exploring.
Saturday, Dec 12: A wonderful swim in the Yal Ku Lagoon. It is simply gorgeous.
Sunday, Dec 13: Spent most of the day exploring Playa del Carmen. Even after 3 or 4 previous trips there is so much we haven’t seen. We walked along a good part of 5th Avenue and then had lunch on the beach. Made it back to Akumal in time for a swim at the beach as the sun was going down.
Monday, Dec 14: More people are arriving here daily. It is nice to have the extra “life” around the place but at the same time we miss the peace and quiet of our own “private front yard”. Today I did my yoga in the shade in front of the mirror image of our condo. I asked first and they said fine but even so it felt a little awkward. I really needed the shade so I persisted.
Tuesday, Dec 15: Roger, one of the caretakers here left suddenly today. He has a new job elsewhere. We’ll miss him. He was great for our spanish as he persisted in talking to us slowly enough that we should understand and didn’t mind whether we did or not. He was always happy to repeat and or correct our spanish. He was great with Hannah. I can’t believe we don’t have any pictures of him. I spent the morning doing some work and not much of anything outside.
Wednesday, Dec 16: I’ve been writing some reference letters over the last two days and also trying to catch up on the PAGE BC website that I try to keep up, so that has consumed much of my time although I’ve actually enjoyed just being mostly around the “compound” as we like to call it. Epy took Hannah and Adam to a little lagoon right behind the house. There are supposed to be at least three crocodiles living there but they didn’t see them. While they were gone, Robert and I had yet another great swim on the beach. Then this afternoon Robert went for another practice with the little folks at the library. They’re sounding better and better each day.
Thursday, Dec 17:
Today we helped out at the library to make a piñata. It was quite the undertaking with probably 25 children and about 8 adults. The end result was quite spectacular. The whole event was so all consuming that we hardly noticed the storm rolling in so that as we were pasting the last tassles on, the lights flickered several times and then as we said “adios” we ran out the door into a complete downpour which wasn’t the nice warm rain we’ve felt here a few times before. We all arrived home completely soaked, but tired and pleased with the progress we’re making with getting to know the children at the library. Hannah’s spanish, in particular, is improving by leaps and bounds. Mine less so but still improving and Robert’s marginally more so than mine. Adam is keen to improve his and probably will be pretty fluent too within the month.
You can read more about the libary on their blog at http://hekabbe.blogspot.com
Friday, Dec 18:
The main event of the day was a trip to the ruins at Tulum. We managed to get there super early on Ryan and Melissa’s advice and so had a great chance to walk around with almost no one else in sight. It was really beautiful and amazing. Anyone following this blog will have heard me go on and on previously about being in places where you can “feel” the history. This is definitely another such place but in a magical setting. The “village” overlooks the ocean, with a beautiful beach below the cliffs, a small tortuga beach and fabulous vistas. It is well worth seeing. When we came home the water out front was still so calm that we had to try a snorkel dip from right out front. It was the first day that it has been calm like that and so we really had fun swimming around looking for shells, fish and octopi. Later in the day Robert and I had a second swim from the beach but this time all the way out to the most amazing reef. I couldn’t believe we’d been missing it on all of our other swims. We didn’t end up doing any distance, as we had planned, and instead just puttered about being amazed while Adam ran on the beach and Hannah eventually wandered down. She wasn’t swimming or running as she’d had a nasty fall on the beach and cut her hand up quite badly. Most of the evening she spent her time trying to convince us to look closely at the blood vessel that was hanging out of the gap in her hand. We eventually convinced her to just cover it up with a bandage and go to sleep.
Saturday, Dec 19:
Hannah, Adam and I spent a bit of time at the library this morning to check out the children’s English class. I enjoyed being on slightly more even footing with the little folks as they struggled to match the names of colors to things that represented each color. All three of us were working hard to learn more names and Balen, one of the staff there, helped us out by writing a bunch out for us while the children were lined up to sing their English christmas song. We’d already made plans to come back home to meet up with Robert for a trip into Playa del Carmen for groceries before Sarah and James arrive tomorrow so we didn’t stay this week for the adult’s english class which follows the children’s class. Next time we’ll try and help out with both. It was fun being there though. On our way into Playa we stopped back in at the resort. Hannah was thrilled that when she took Adam down to show him around Nelson recognized her from across the pool and over the microphone in the middle of the morning pool exercises. She had fun getting a chance to chat with him and Valerie. We’ll have to start working on our plans to return there in the new year. After our shopping trip we drove into Akumal to buy a chicken for dinner. Akumal is bigger than we had thought. Each time we go in we find more stores and more restaurants. Who even knew there were other streets running parallel to the main street? Next time we’re going to explore on foot though as we didn’t like driving in. We ended up with two delicious chickens, one of which didn’t last til dinner time.
Sunday, Dec 20: Sarah and James arrived today. It is so great to have them here too. We’re a little squished in our two bedroom condo but everyone seems happy to make due.
Monday, Dec 21:
We wanted to show James and Sarah around today, just a chance to see the beach and swim a little. Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been cooperating all that well. We swam anyways but the water felt a bit cool compared to how its been and so we didn’t last in the water very long. We did manage to find them a couple of turtles and a manta ray. They were suitably impressed but we do need some sunshine. In the morning we dragged Sarah and James along to the bibioteca to help wrap presents for the party tomorrow. Later in the day they came back for our regular volunteer time but there weren’t many children there. The plan turned out to be just a bit of a practice run for the performances at the fiesta tomorrow. We were happy to fill in as the trial audience. I also managed conversations with a couple of the moms that I see at the biblioteca regularly. So the fact that I managed some good spanish conversations with finally feeling some success at remembering a number of the children’s names makes me feel better about how things are going with our volunteer work here.
Tuesday, Dec 22: I started the day by making potato latkas in honour of Hannakah that we mostly missed. Then I raced off to help set up at the biblioteca. Really, the day all centered around the Fiesta de Navidad at the biblioteca.When I came back to the condo for lunch we decided to try swimming off of our rocky beach but it was a bit rough so I had only just gotten in when Sarah, Adam and Robert all decided to get out. There was no way I was staying out in the waves on my own and so I came in too. By then it was really time to get dressed and head off to the fiesta which was a huge success. It was really a treat and an honor to be included and be allowed to celebrate with the people that we are getting to know. It was fun to see the children so thrilled by their gifts, the wonderful performances, the parents all so happy to be there, the staff mingling, a few other Americans and/or Canadians there enjoying the festivities too and the fun of the piñata at the end. You can read more about it on the Hekab Be Biblioteca blog. Robert and his guitar made it on to the blog too. He did a great job of accompanying the little folks with their Mayan Christmas carol.
Wednesday, Dec 23: Today we went into Playa del Carmen to walk down 5th Avenue with Sarah and James, do a final bit of grocery shopping before Christmas and have lunch on the beach. We ended up spending the whole day and really didn’t even get home in time to swim, as we had planned. At home Sarah, Hannah and I went for a power walk just to stretch our legs before I headed off with Robert to the gallery square in Akumal where he was once again accompanying the biblioteca group as the children sang their Mayan christmas carol for the “gringo” Christmas service.
Thursday, Dec 24:
We’ve had a great, lazy beach day…. some fun snorkeling although the water was a tad murky and pretty choppy. We managed to get our yoga in and Robert and I spent a bit of time in Puerto Aventura sorting out our car rental for the next month. In the evening we had a nice Christmas eve chicken dinner with Hannah’s jello fruit salad, all followed by our Christmas chocolate noodle cookies that Sarah and Hannah made. Not quite the Christmas eve dinner we’re used to but great company. Hannah thought that there might be some singing and life on the streets in the pueblo so between appetizers and dinner we walked over across the highway. There was indeed a bit of life but we felt out of place and didn’t want to be just gawking tourists so in the end we headed back home. It would be nice to not be in this in-between world. I’ve got lots brewing in terms of material for writing with respect to all that.
Friday, Dec 25:
Merry Christmas everyone! Please do have a look at my blog entry on the home page of the blog for ideas on how to help work towards a more peaceful world.
Saturday, Dec 26:
We’ve taken over a second condo now because Ana arrives tomorrow and so we’ll need more space. Sarah and James took the car early in the day to visit Tulum but the rest of the had a low key day just staying close to home. Robert and I spent the night last night in a hotel down the road. Sarah and James had stayed there on Christmas eve but found it noisy and uncomfortable. We had it booked for one more night so when Robert and I went to cancel, they offered to upgrade us to a lovely spacious suite on the top floor. We decided to take it as we’d probably not get much money back in the end anyways.
Sunday, Dec 27: Today we took Sarah and James to the Lagoon. Later in the day Adam, Robert and I drove to Cancun to pick Ana up at the airport.
Monday, Dec 28:
Robert lost a crown on his tooth on Saturday and so he and I ventured into Tulum in the morning to find a dentist. When we got back to “the compound” everyone was up, breakfasted and ready to take Ana to see the turtles. We had a fun time at the beach and made it back in time for Hannah, Robert and I to make it to the library for our volunteer time. It was fun to be back although there aren’t many children there this week. It was great to talk a little more with Leo. We feel as though we are getting to know the staff and the children all a little better. Robert was pleased that Jackie, a lovely little three year old even felt comfortable enough with him to let him comfort her when she fell and hurt herself. True to form he had her laughing within a minute or two. Back home we put on mosquito proof clothes (and spray) and headed off for our first (and probably only) happy hour at the little beach restaurant that we walk past regularly. Hannah has been wanting to give it a try as they have two tree houses with buckets that the waiters send the drinks up in. Problem is that the maximum number that each seat is 5 so Robert and I decided to have our own quiet table while the “kids” had their drinks in the tree house. Within minutes they were all back at our table because the treehouse was better as an idea than a reality. Apparently it didn’t feel too secure and the bugs were a bit much. On the way to the restaurant we saw a whole family group of coatis again, this time with a bunch of babies. Hannah had her camera so I shall see if it one of them makes the picture of the day.
Tuesday, Dec 29: A true tourist day… we splurged and bought day passes for the Akumal beach resort and so have spent the day lounging on the beach even though it was a tad windy and not the absolute best beach day. The food was good, though not excellent, but everyone felt that it was a good day and well worth the money. Hannah got a little hit of “all inclusive land” again. Of course within the first hour the staff knew her name. She played a good game of beach volleyball while Sarah and Ana ventured into the ocean for aqua-exercises. Then all of us except Robert joined the dance class. The instructor loved picking on Adam but he took it all well.
The highlight of my day, despite all the food and the activities was definitely spotting a small turtle swimming leisurely through the coral. James caught a few seconds of it on video, which if we can figure out how to download from their camera, we’ll post a bit of. It was truly beautiful.
Wednesday, Dec 30:
Robert and I had a very relaxing and quiet day while the “kids” went off to Chichén Itzá for the day. They loved the ruins, especially the first part which they toured before the site was crowded, but overall felt it was too long of a drive for one day.
Thursday, Dec 31: Today we sent Sarah and James off in a taxi to the airport on their way home. I was sad to see them go, especially knowing that we probably won’t see them again until June. That seems like such a long time from now. I’ve realized too that we never did get a picture of the whole group of seven of us which would have been a significant picture of the day I think – the whole family together at the end of 2009, the end of the decade.
We packed a lot into the time before they left, with a lovely last snorkel. Sarah and James both saw a barracuda. Together Robert, James, Sarah and I saw another little turtle swim through the coral. It was magical.
After the swim, we had a lovely breakfast together before they left and we planned to head off to the library only to discover that it was closed. We came back home and had a nice evening with just nachos and guacamole for dinner in front of the TV while we watched Shrek II. At around 11:30 we went for a beautiful walk on Akumal beach under the full moon. It was amazing. Ana, Adam and Hannah stayed behind to dance in the New Year at the local beach restaurant while Robert and I sauntered home.