Tag Archives: Yucatan

Playa del Carmen

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Aaaaah, Playa!! Was there ever such a beautiful place? The year before I retired, Marv and I spent a week at an all-inclusive resort just north of the city of Playa del Carmen called, the Ocean Maya Royale. As usual, we went during the “low” (“off” to gringos) season in order to get a bargain. And, what a bargain we got!

Playa is a fishing village that is now the heart of myriad ocean resorts. The trip to Cancun takes you through less and less natural landscape each year as the development spreads along the coast. With Cancun to the north 40 Km (25 miles) and Tulum to the south about the same, Playa is ensconced along the Riviera Maya along with its suburbs Puerto Moreles, Puerto Aventuras and Akumal. The whole coastline offers the most beautiful white sand beaches and best snorkeling and diving in the western hemisphere.

That stretch of coastline is also home to several of the amazing Mexican ecological parks, including Xcaret, Xel-ha and Xplor. Every park is unique and worth a day or two spent in them. You can swim, float or paddle your way through an underground river, fly over the jungle on zip lines, snorkel, skin dive, jump from a cliff into a lagoon, walk the trepachanga, swim with dolphins and much more.

Our package was “all inclusive” and the resort sported five (now four – the Italian one burned down and wasn’t replaced) restaurants inside its walls. We were there five nights and ate at a different restaurant every night. Our last night we ate at the Yookoso, a Japanese restaurant that makes wonderful sushi!! Every morning, we ate at La Hacienda’s breakfast bar, which served every kind of food – breakfast and otherwise. At one kiosk, you could get an omelet made to your specifications, but they had meat dishes, pasta, vegetables, salads, fruits, cereal, and desserts, too. You could eat dinner for breakfast, if that’s what you wanted.

As I mentioned, Playa has become very “developed” over the past 15 years, so if you’re looking for something slightly more native, head down the highway to Akumal, or better yet, Tulum. Tulum has not been as developed most likely because it’s an hour and a half drive from the Cancun airport. But, therein lies its charm. It still has a mercado, or central market, where you can buy food fresh from the garden, ocean or barnyard, along with any kind of merchandise you could want. A mercado is kind of like a modern department store spread out over several square blocks that sells fresh food and handmade clothing, instead of the processed kind. It is my favorite thing about Mexico. Playa’s mercado is long gone, replaced by Sears and Walmart stores.

Playa is, in essence, a beautiful, commercialized stretch of beach on the Riviera Maya – like Cancun, a wonderful place to visit. But, if you want to live in the area, I suggest you head a little further south – the beaches are still pristine and development hasn’t made it so far down the coast yet.

The Amazing Free Animal Clinics of Mexico!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In December 2011, when we moved to Uaymitun, we inherited two beach dogs – a starving, pregnant gal and one of her grown male pups who didn’t have enough sense to “leave home.”  Naturally, we named her, “Mamacita,” and we called him, “Brucie.” The caretaker for our house didn’t speak English, but like many poor Mexicans, he was completely “up” on American culture. He thought we were calling the dog “Bruce Lee,” so Bruce Lee he became.

Mamacita Before!!

Mamacita Before!!

The four of us, the Hillbilly, Mamacita, Bruce Lee and I lived together, rather contentedly at the beach for about a month. Then, Mamacita did what pregnant females everywhere do – she gave birth – to eight puppies!! Holy Cow!! The most I had ever had was twins, so I was awe struck!! But, by the end of the first two weeks, four of them hadn’t made it, so we were down to only four puppies when they started getting social. Mamacita was so thin from providing for the pups and not getting much for herself anyway (beach dogs are scavengers), that we had started feeding her shortly after we arrived. Bruce Lee somehow felt entitled to join her for meals. We had also picked up a cat when we lived in Chicxulub, and as is our habit, we took her to a vet to have things “fixed.” When we picked her up the next day, we told the vet about the plethora of beach dogs we had acquired and the vet told us about a free neutering clinic in Progreso (about 18 klicks down the highway from us) that was being held in February. I decided then and there, that the sex life of “our” dogs was going to change. We called our friend, Edwin, in Chicxulub and told him to have his dog ready to go on February 14th at 8:00 am.  In the end, we had three adult beach dogs and four puppies neutered at the clinic!!

When Valentine’s Day rolled around, the Hillbilly and I loaded up Mamacita and Bruce Lee. I had bought them collars and leashes so I would have some control over them when we got to the clinic. The two dogs and I were dropped at the entrance, and we got in line to be registered. The Hillbilly went back to Chicxulub to get Edwin’s dog, and when he returned, we found out that since the pups were more than four weeks old, they could be neutered, too. So, off he went on one more trip to Uaymitun to get the four puppies.

Bootsie - 8 weeks old.

Bootsie – 8 weeks old.

What an amazing process they have created – the place was full of people, dogs and cats! It looked like pandemonium, but was actually highly organized from start to finish. The clinic lasted two days, Friday and Saturday. They had successfully sterilized 306 animals on Friday, a record, and they were easily headed for another record on Saturday.

These clinics are primarily paid for through sponsorships, and corporate and civic donations. My vet sponsored 20 spots, and also stayed on to help people like me whose Spanish is “limitado.” The staff is strictly volunteer, up to and including the doctors. In the “recovery” area, the majority of the volunteers were gringos. There were gringos manning the refreshment stand, and several gringo-guys had brought in a couple of barbeques and were cooking for the staff and volunteers. All volunteers are organized as “teams.” A crew from “Lesley’s Team” went out and picked up “street” dogs, and brought them in to be sterilized, given their shots and adopted. The street dogs are walked through the neutering/vaccination process by a member of her team. Then they go into the “adoption” area. In addition to gathering the street dogs, Lesley’s Team ran the “adoption” area, and on the previous day, had adopted out 30 pets (neutered, with all their shots and given away at no cost to the adopter). We brought home one of Mamacita’s puppies, and left the other three at the clinic hopefully to be adopted. But, I told Lesley, we will come back to get “our” pups, if they hadn’t found homes by the end of the day. The Hillbilly made the trip back at 4:30 pm, and all the puppies had been adopted. Whoot, whoot!!

Many of the “tech” volunteers (doing the pre-surgical checks, the follow-ups, administering shots, etc.) were interns from the University in Merida, or from local area vets’ offices. The veternarians were volunteers who came from all over North America, including Mexico, Canada and the United States. The non-professional volunteers are trained in how to handle the animals at all points along the process.

Here is the process by which they register, pre-surgery check, operate on, post-surgery check and give shots to over 300 animals in a single day:

First step, register your dog and get assigned a “number.” The dogs are weighed, respiration, blood pressure and teeth checked, etc. At this point the dog is issued a “tag” that stays on its collar until they leave. The “tag” is a strip of masking tape with the dog’s name, weight, gender (in symbol form) and the all-important “number.” Paperwork involves three differentdocuments, each bearing the “number.”

Ready to be revived. Notice her paperwork stuck inside her collar.

Ready to be revived. Notice her paperwork stuck inside her collar.

Next, comes the waiting. When your “series” of numbers (in lots of 10) is called, you move from the “general” waiting area to the surgery waiting area. Then when your specific number is called, you walk the dog into “anesthesia” where they are given two prep shots. At that point, a volunteer takes the leash and leads them back into the surgery unit. About 40-45 minutes later, a “carrier” brings them out of surgery to the recovery area. One of the interns jumps in, pulls out the breathing tube, notes respiration and blood pressure, and gives them a “wake-up” shot. The carrier then gently lays them on the recovery area floor (which is covered in newspapers).At that point, a recovery volunteer jumps in with a towel to begin the rubbing/massaging process that gently brings them awake. The animals cannot leave recovery until they are able to walk on their own. Once that happens, they go through “check-out” where the paperwork is turned in, they receive their antibiotics and get a rabies shot. It was inspiring to see so many people, of different nationalities, working together in this efficient process that had been developed over the previous three years. Ten veterinarians worked from 8:30 AM until 5:00 PM each day. Each vet did more than 30 operations per day.

At the end of the day, along with more than 300 other animals, Mamacita, Bruce Lee, Edwin’s Chona, and Mamacita’s four puppies were all neutered and given their shots. And best of all, the pups had all found homes with people who wanted them.

All-in-all, an incredible way to spend a day!  And, these wonderful people do this all over Mexico.

Mamacita After!  (With her last puppy, Bootsie, who came to live with us)

Mamacita After! (With her last puppy, Bootsie, who stayed to live with us!)

My Mexican Bone Density Test!

Beach houses in Mexico are constructed of concrete and tile.  Even, the ceilings are concrete.  This means they are very sturdy and very, very hard.  If you want to test how resilient something is, you can throw it against any part of a beach house and have your answer immediately.

The other night, I took my two glass snack bowls downstairs to the kitchen, but did not turn on the stairwell light because I have been up and down these stairs so many times, I could do it in my sleep. My bowls and I made it to the bottom and ended up in a decidedly abnormal configuration on the floor (me), and scattered from the front door to the terrazzo doors (the bowls). This impromptu action generated a very loud noise (from the bowls hitting the floor – from me, there was more of the pathetic, guttural sound of someone trying to breathe again).

Continue reading