It’s Time to Travel said my Heart… Definitely, said my Soul

The countdown has begun… Are you ready?

We’ll be boarding the bus in exactly four months’ time…


Southern Campeche & Quintana Roo Adventure

Thursday February 20th – Tuesday February 25th, 2020

We took this trip a few years ago. The thrill of seeing these Maya sites deep in the forest, without all the tourist trappings, and swimming in gorgeous blue Lake Bacalar are among our best travel memories.– Edith Wilson, Washington, DC

“A visit to Calakmul and Kohunlich was on the top of my bucket list for years; I went there two years ago, and I know I have to go again!” – Suzanne Lewis, Mexico City, CDMX

The roadless travelled in Edzna

DAY ONE, Thursday February 20: 7:30 am

This morning, we’ll board our chartered bus and drive from Merida to EDZNA, Campeche’s great city of the Itzaes. At this site there are more than twenty monumental buildings and an ingenious canal system that allowed for extensive farming. Many different birds can be seen, especially hawks. After our visit we’ll continue on to the city of CAMPECHE, the capital of the state, and check into the Hotel Baluartes for one night. The hotel is close to the colonial city center and the seaside boardwalk; where you’ll find many restaurants, pubs, shops.

A “Monster-of-the-Earth” facade at Chicanna

DAY TWO, Friday February 21: 9:00 am

Today our bus we’ll travel deeper into the Campeche countryside. Our destination is the Chicanna Eco-lodge, where we’ll stay for two nights. Along the way, we’ll visit four archaeological sites: BALAMKU, famous for its spectacular high relief stucco works; majestic BECAN, known for its fortified city walls, a moat and stunning stuccoes; XPUJIL, great for seeing birds; and finally, CHICANNA, with its Rio Bec style “monster of the earth” facades. At the end of the day, we’ll settle into our comfortable cabañas, perhaps have a drink before dinner, and then call it a night; we need to be up early the next day.


Spider monkey at Calakmul

DAY THREE, Saturday February 22: Before sunrise

Yes, we’ll be on the road before sunrise and will travel directly to CALAKMUL. This site is one of the largest and most impressive archaeological sites in the Maya world, and the early start will maximize our chances of spotting interesting birds such as toucans, toucanettes and wild turkeys; as well as mammals like tapirs, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, ocelots. If we are VERY LUCKY, maybe even a jaguar. In Calakmul, 6,750 ancient structures have been identified; the largest of which is the Great Pyramid. Called, Structure 2, it is more than 45 metres (148 ft) high, making it one of the tallest of the Maya pyramids. If you miss climbing pyramids in Yucatan, you’ll be happy to know you can do so in Calakmul.

Stucco masks at Kohunlich

DAY FOUR, Sunday February 23: 9:00 am

We’ll leave the eco-village after breakfast, and on the way to Bacalar, we will visit KOHUNLICH, a beautiful Maya city set amongst exotic palms. Larger-than-lifesize stucco masks adorning the balustrades are indeed impressive. Following our time in Kohunlich, we’ll see DZIBANCHE and KINICHNA. It is likely that we’ll encounter some interesting birds and animals as these two archaeological sites receive few visitors. Arriving in BACALAR, we’ll check into our accommodation and have the rest of the afternoon and evening to rest and explore the town. There are good restaurants in town and along the shore of the lagoon.


DAY FIVE, Monday February 24: Sleep in…

You can sleep in this morning because we’ll be spending the entire day in Bacalar, relaxing and enjoying the location. We’ll take a boat ride on the lagoon and those who want to could have lunch and a swim at the CENOTE AZUL, a very large surface cenote. The rest of the afternoon will be leisure time to enjoy the area at your own pace.

DAY SIX: Tuesday February 25: 11 am, bags ready to load

We’ll check out of our hotel at approximately noon, giving us time to have a morning swim and full breakfast before we travel to Merida, arriving back at Mejorada Plaza about 6:00pm. 

The tour includes: 

  • 5 nights of accommodation at tourism class hotels

  • 5 full hotel breakfasts

  • Transportation by private coach with a professional driver

  • 2 bilingual tour escorts, 1 bilingual guide

  • Entrance fees at all sites included in the itinerary

Not included:

  • No meals except breakfast are included. As well, it should be mentioned that many of the locations we’ll visit are remote, and our choices will be limited to simple regional fare. However, in Campeche and Bacalar we’ll find some interesting restaurants. At the pre-departure get-together in January, we’ll advise group participants what they should bring in terms of food and drink.

  • Personal services such as laundry, hotel phone calls, room service, and tips are not included.


The service providers carry standard accident insurance, but it is the responsibility of tour participants to have their own policy for emergency hospital-medical coverage that is valid in Mexico.


Single Room: 16,500 pesos (including tax)

Sharing Double P/Person: 12,500 pesos (including tax)


50% at time of booking

Balance by December 15, 2019


If cancellation is made before December 15, 2019, a full refund less 1,000 pesos (p/pers) will be made. December 15, 2019 – January 31, 2020 a 50% refund will be given. After February 1, 2020, it will not be possible to refund any payments.

For more information:

Please phone or whatsapp Carlos Rosado at:

52 999 457-7713

Or send an email:


1,2,3… 4,129… 4,130…


It happens far too frequently; I wake up, my eyes snap open, and I immediately know three things to be true:

  1. It is not yesterday, and today has barely begun.
  2. I’ve not had nearly enough sleep.
  3. And I’m certain I will not get even 5 more minutes of it… until God knows when.

I have been a “poor sleeper” for about 15 years. I have tried every remedy known to man, woman, conventional doctor, and quack too. Nothing helps. I don’t bother trying anymore. Not much I can do; it is just “one of the things” I don’t seem to have a handle on.

I have learned how to find my glasses and my phone, make tea, and navigate my way to the guestroom; all in pitch-black darkness. I make no noise as I settle down under the covers of the guest room’s comfy queen-size. After few sips of the hot herbal brew, I open up Facebook. This is when I learn about all kinds of nonsense, and also read some interesting stories.

Tonight was not an exception; did you ever hear how Sir Alexander Fleming’s farmer-father saved the life of then-still-a-boy, Winston Churchill? In gratitude, Winston’s wealthy father paid for young Alex’s education, right through Med School at Oxford. Later, the penicillin he discovered again saved now-adult-Winston from pneumonia. Alas, charming as the story is, it belongs in the nonsense file because it never happened.

I waded through my feed of same-old, same-old U.S. political B.S. I sometimes wonder why we who live in Mexico are so consumed by what the Bully does. There’s an easy answer to that; we are terrified of what he’ll “do” next. Meanwhile the Democrats continue their infighting and dithering-about. Of course the longer they delay choosing a candidate, and thrusting him or her into the fray, the more chance he-who-cannot-be-named has to increase his “base”.  What is happening with Mexico’s politics is out-of-the-box, but as I say, I wish the international community had more interest in this. I know people fear getting “involved” in local politics because it is not allowed, but it is still important to “know” what’s going on in the country where we live.

Next I read about what matters to me: my friends. A local baker who visits the prison to motivate inmates…  Antonio, you are such a surprising man. You find ways to make the world better, one baguette at a time. I learned that a friend I haven’t seen for some time has taken up pottery and she published photos of her new pieces. Debi, the creativity oozes out of you and into that clay. I also found out that a long-ago friend who has moved back to Merida is almost finished her house reno’. Betsy, I can’t wait to see you and your home. People are traveling; Kevin, your insights are so cool. Others, like me, have company staying for a while. Emma and I had a little soiree yesterday; not earth-shattering news to anyone but us. But I’ll post a picture anyways.

When I was younger and would wake up, I used to read. But my older eyes quickly get sore unless it is daytime. So, for times like this, I am glad to have Facebook. Sweet dreams to all.


Illuminating… think about it

A lovely little bird sent this to me…

(The following post is not my writing. The author is unknown , but the piece was sent to me by Jeannie H., my long-time friend and colleague. I could not have expressed the sentiment better. I posted it on facebook but not everyone I know is a member…  so for you too, here it is)

Think about this and if you agree…  pass it on…


Gringo (a): – Hi, where are you from?

Mexican: – Hi, I’m from Mexico

Gringo (a): – Ah! The land of Chapo Guzmán, narcos, marihuana, crime and extortion.

Mexican -I’m sorry, are you a drug addict or a TV junkie?

Gringo (a) – No!!! Why?

Mexican -Because if you were an athlete or sports fan, you would have identified Mexico with Ana Guevara, Hugo Sanchez, Julio Cesar Chavez, Finito, Chicharito Hernandez, Canelo Alvarez, Rafael Marquez, etc.

If you were an educated person, you would have asked about the Aztec empire, the Mayan culture, the Olmecs or any other of the great mesoamerican cultures.

If you were a well traveled person you would have talked about our majestic archaeological sites, our tourist-friendly colonial cities, our megalopolis or our exotic beaches… the astonishing biodiversity of our rainforests, mountain ranges, deserts, conifer forests…

You could have identified Mexico with our great painters, Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Frida Khalo, José Clemente Orozco; our composers: Agustín Lara, Consuelo Velázquez, Armando Manzanero, Juan Gabriel Jose Alfredo Jimenez, our writers and poets: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Juan Rulfo, Octavio Paz, Juan José Arreola, Elena Poniatowska, Amado Nervo, Jaime Sabines;

our inventors or scientists: Manuel Mondragón, Guillermo González Camarera, Luis Ernesto Miramontes; our cinematographers: Ismael Rodríguez, Emilio Fernández, Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Emmanuel Lubezki, and even Luis Buñuel, who, being originally from Spain, chose to adopt the Mexican nationality…

If you were a gourmand, you would have asked about Tamales, Cochinita Pibil, Mole, Adobo, Chilaquiles, Chiles en nogada, Guacamole, Pan de Muerto, etc. Or our traditional beverages: Tequila, Mezcal, wines and beers.

However, I can see, the only thing you can relate to Mexico is the provider to American drug addicts…

I just want you to realize that México is a lot more than what ignorant people and fear-mongering media knows or chooses to propagate.

There are millions of honest Mexicans, who even without knowing you, will open the door to our homes, and that if you care to visit, you will love to get to know us and to visit us. Mexico is even more than I can possibly tell you!


Author unknown

PS: I have also posted a slide show that depicts the real face of Mexico. The photographer is well known to me… he is my son, Carlos. Life has gotten so busy for him, and he has not taken many photos lately…. But I hope he gets back to it because he is excellent. BTW, he not only photographs people… Have a look at his work:

The U.S.A. just ain’t what she used to be…

Point Roberts, Washington

I grew up on the Canadian – American border, and our family spent some summers at Point Roberts and South Beach, in Washington State . I remember tidal pools and sand bars teeming with crawly creatures we would catch, and then release when the tide rose..

Although these two communities are located on a tiny peninsula below the 49th parallel, the only way to reach them by land is to drive through British Columbia. We liked playing with the American kids we met there, even if they did spin tall tales about the fish they caught.

One Fourth of July, an American girl invited me to her family’s celebration. I remember her adorable baby brother dressed in red, white and blue rompers.  We paraded around the yard with toy drums and whistles until an over-excited  beagle jumped into the wading pool and shook his wet fur all over us and the picnic table groaning with fried chicken, potato salad and corn-on-the-cob.

The vibe of this year´s Fourth is a far cry from that memory. Scrolling through facebook, I saw that few people had posted happy greetings I know the Consulate threw a big party, but not one of my many American friends told me they had a celebration planned.

Nowadays, almost everything we read about the U.S.A. focuses on President Trump. Every day he seems to say or do something unanticipated. I often check out a website called “What Trump Did Today”   I can’t describe how disappointed I felt when I saw he’d replaced the traditional “down-home” remembrance of liberty with a show of military might.

Fintan O’Toole, a journalist with The Irish Times warns such actions are evidence that Trump and his supporters are building a fascist state. You can read the full article at this link:

Here are a few points, culled from the full article:

  1. Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy… convincing people takes time.
  2. Getting them to accept behaviours they used to recoil from requires several different approaches.
  3. One of the basic tools of fascism is the rigging of elections
  4. Fascism does not need a majority; it typically begins to consolidate power with about 40% support and then uses control and intimidation to bring others into the fold.
  5. Fascism undermines moral boundaries by making light of cruelty
  6. Fascism builds up the sense of threat from a despised out-group which allows the members of that group to be dehumanised…

And once that happens, what comes next?

Trump’s “base” is organised and ready to rumble. I pray that the Democratic party will  not spend too long choosing their candidate … someone energetic and principaled … someone who won’t back down when bullied.

Most of the world is alarmed, and yet, we can do nothing about it. The American Democratic party and the nation’s voters are the only ones who can reverse the ever-escalating trend that the current administration has put in motion.

PLEASE get moving … there is not a moment to lose.


The Barrage


Since writing, Magic Made in Mexico, my story is literally an open book… but I’ve not done anything illegal, or so-terribly embarrassing that I need to hide from “enquiring minds”. Really, it doesn’t bother me that people know quite a bit about my life.

Nonetheless I feel uneasy with how much information my service providers and social media sites have collected.


For example… Monday, I was traveling back to Merida and after sketching a bit and listening to some great Canada Day entertainment, by the Siobhan Walsh Group (who are all much better-looking than the cartoon I drew) I searched for a comfy corner where I could relax. I found one in an unlikely place… close by the Canada Line’s airport stop.

With many hours ahead of me, I settled into the chair, and connected to Spotify. I clicked on “playlist”, closed my eyes, and the first song to reach my ears was “Homeward Bound”. I like Simon and Garfunkle, but I know I’ve never listed the duo as “favourites”. And furthermore, how does Spotify know that: “I’m sittin’ in a railway station with a ticket to my destination… mm-mm…”

Unnerved, I scrolled through the APPS roster on my phone and found several I did not recognise. How did they get there? Later I found an email promoting “classic tunes”; the message urged me to buy… guess who… Simon and Garfunkle, of course.

Time drifted by, and 24 hours after leaving my sister’s home at Allison Lake BC, I arrived in Merida, Yucatan. I felt too exhausted go online at all, but today, when I did so, I had an email from Apple urging me to purchase a Spotify upgrade that would give me access to ALL my favourite tunes. Just for curiosity’s sake, I opened the link, and what was playing in the background?

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound…

Natch´… I took a couple of siestas. And perhaps because of those two extra sleeps, and the l-o-n-g travel day, I could not drift off to Dreamland. So, I turned on Netflix. No list appeared, but a promo did:

  • Watch on your TV, computer, iPad, iPhone or console
  • No hassles, no commitments

No hassles, no commitments… My Foot!

I clicked, and the next message to appear was a “request” to answer a survey about the type of programming I want. Netflix promised they would not share my information with any other platform.

Right… how could I imagine they would do such a thing?

Does anyone know of a way to stop the constant barrage of pop-ups, pleas for more information, unending upgrading and downloading of new apps?


Desert Hills Ranch in Ashcroft, BC

David and me, atop one of the sprawling mesas at Desert Hills Ranch

A bit of back story about today’s post:  Two years ago, my sister proposed a day trip to Desert Hills, a ranch in Ashcroft, a small town, located an hour and a half from Kamloops. Driving such a distance, just to buy veggies and fruit, is so like Barb. Her never-ending quest for the freshest, healthiest ingredients knows no bounds, and I agreed to go whenever she wanted.

Jim and Marianne at the Desert Hills store

Then, the next day, while walking down one of Kamloops’ main streets, I saw a crowd of men, standing outside the “Services Canada” building. From the sound of their somewhat nervous laughter I knew they were Latinos, and as I got closer, I knew for sure they were from Mexico. My brain switched over to Spanish – ¡Hola! ¿Que hacen por aquí? – Hello! What are you doing here?, I asked. They were as surprised to hear me speaking their language, as I was to see them in this British Columbia small city. Up until then, in Kamloops, I had not met anyone from Mexico.

A view of the hills

I soon learned there were actually 150 of them; all recently-arrived participants in Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers’ Program (SAWP). The Mexican workers have temporary residency visas, issued by the Canadian government that allow them to work legally during the planting, growing and harvest seasons. They receive return transportation by air, housing, medical coverage a legal per hour wage.

Fields at desert Hills Ranch

Actually, there were 150 men, and all would be working at the Desert Hills Ranch. They didn’t quite believe me when I told them I had plans to go there soon. In fact, I wrote a post about my chance meeting with 150 men; here’s the link if you want to read it:

Grapes growing…

Barb and I went to Desert Hills soon afterwards, and we had a wonderful day; she bought enough produce to feed a vegan village, and I felt heartened to see that Canada has programs that help ease the devastating unemployment in Mexico. At the same time, SAWP helps Canadian farmers hire the help they need to make their business grow. It is a win-win situation.


Now, fast-forward two years, to yesterday. Jim and Marianne, great friends from Merida are visiting me in Kamloops, and to tell the truth, the weather has been less than welcoming. When I suggested we visit Desert Hills, I added, “There will be lots of places where we can keep ourselves out of the rain.” That settled our plans, and off we drove. Actually, as soon as we got underway, the weather improved. The scenery through the suede-textured hills is dramatic, and I love the way light plays on them. The Thompson River runs alongside the highway, as does the railway, and we counted hundreds of cars, pulled by as many as four engines. From the moment our journey began, my friends could not stop smiling, and as soon as they stepped out of the car, they were greeted in Spanish. They responded with – ¡Hola! – then asked me, “Why am I hearing mariachi music at a Canadian ranch?”


Summer flowers bloomed and beautiful produce overflowed from the bins. The farm’s store shelves were stocked with many food items we regularly see in Merida. And as luck would have it, one of the owners, David Porter, was on hand. “I have wanted to meet you,” I told him as I took his hand, “What an amazing place this is! I am so happy to see all these people from Mexico!”

The Ranch is huge...

David told us that his parents bought the ranch about 20 years ago. They built it into a solid business, and now, he and his brother Chris run the operation. He said his family believes that good business practices, fair conditions for their employees, and lots of creativity make up the three-part formula of their success.


The Porter brothers are incredibly innovative. Since British Columbia has a short growing season, they start some of their produce, such as sweet red and white onions, in Arizona. When the weather is warm enough in Ashcroft, they pull up the growing bulbs, ship them back home, and hand-plant each one in the fertile beds that have been prepared for their arrival. On the ranch, each of the plants is drip-fed to save water. In the hot houses I saw long lines of Habanero chillies and other unusual crops. In fact, last year I bought Poblano chillies at Desert Hills, and made Chiles en Nogada for my Kamloops friends.

Harvesting cherries…

Another ingenious innovation at Desert Hills keeps the birds away from devouring the ripening cherries. In the orchard, they set up a recorder that plays the sound of dying birds; their piercing cries scare real birds away. “It is a little unnerving,” said one of the men harvesting the sweet cherries, “but it sure keeps the birds from the fruit.”

This keeps the birds away from the fruit

Bees are an integral part of the farm; there seem to be hundreds of hives spread over the 1,300 acres. Other livestock, including cattle, goats and horses are seen in the fields.

David took Marianne, Jim and I on a full tour of the ranch. I would like to thank him for his generous hospitality and for such an interesting day of learning. But more importantly, I want to express my gratitude to him and the rest of the Porter family for restoring a bit of my faith in the future. The news we hear and read these days is frightening. Our “leaders” seem hell-bent on political and monetary gains – they don’t seem to take the “Good Rule” into consideration – not even a little bit.

Victoria, the store manager and me

The Porters show us that it is possible to make money, but not at the expense of the workers. The store at the ranch is managed by Victoria, a lively, lovely woman from the Philippines. A trip to see her family each year is part of her benefit package; and in fact all the employees receive “home leave” as needed. Desert Hills is an example to follow.

Chile Habanero

And I must not forget to mention the dinner recommendation David gave us. Sam’s Diner, in downtown Ashcroft. For $10.95 CAD, we ate the most delicious meal of sweet&sour chicken with chow mien. Again, not what we expected to find, but all the more delicious because of the surprise. Dessert anyone? We’d parked our car right outside the Ashcroft Bakery and Coffee Shop, and we couldn’t resist buying a dozen home-made cookies. We didn’t have time to tour the town’s stained glass murals, but I will be back to see them another day.

If you are ever in BC, and are looking for an inspiring excursion, visit Desert Hills, or follow them on facebook:

An Utterly Canadian Experience (with a taste of Guatemala)

Donna and me ready to enter the Maya world in BC

During the past couple of months, Jorge and I have traveled about 4,000 kilometres visiting friends and family – all the way from coastal British Columbia to the heartland of the Prairies – and back again.

We attended my nephew Mitchel’s wedding to beautiful Kelsey; and afterwards, knocked back slammer-shots (YIKES!) with our young nieces and nephews at the vdG cabin on Wakaw Lake. The next day, we followed the fool-hardy escapade with my brother, John’s personalized tour of Saskatchewan’s farms and smoke-houses.

We spent the lion’s share of our time in BC at the “Kamloops apartment with the Amsterdam staircase”. We ran errands, gardened, took lots of walks along the Thompson River and enjoyed ourselves at Allison Lake, wining and dining with my sister, Barb and husband, Craig. We iced our holiday cake with two days in Vancouver, staying with friends, Ramona and Tom. They took us to Lynn Canyon Park so we could swing on the Suspension Bridge; to Cyprus Bowl for a spectacular view of Howe Sound; to Horseshoe Bay where we feasted on fish & chips; and to breathe the invigorating salty air of Stanley Park and Ambleside Beach.

With sadness, but also with gratitude, we attended the funeral of Rick Jones, the brother of my long-time friend, Marilou. Since meeting Marilou in Grade One, she and her family have been a huge part of my life; I feel bereft knowing that I will never see Rick again. And I am not alone; he will be missed by all who knew him.

Jorge returned to Merida 10 days ago, but I have stayed on for a bit longer. I wish I could see everyone I love on during this time, but I am overly-blessed with more friendships than days I have for visiting. However, while in Vancouver, I did get to stay with my friend Mary, and as always, we logged hours of walking, talking and of course, we went shopping. Mary and I met in Peru, just shy of 50 years ago. But that’s a story for another day.

From Mary’s house, I rode the ferry to Nanaimo and then drove the scenic highway to Duncan, where my mother is from. This small city is located in the Cowichan Valley, about 65 kilometres from the southern tip of Vancouver Island.

Being in Duncan always brings back so many funny and poignant memories from my childhood. I would have liked to stay longer, but my cousin Donna and I wanted to see the new exhibit at the Royal BC Museum, in Victoria, which is the capital city of British Columbia. Many tourists get confused because the name of the island and the province’s biggest city are identical.

So, to clear up any lingering doubts – Victoria, the capital city of BC, is situated on Vancouver Island, which lies slightly less than 100 kilometres, across the Strait of Georgia, from the mainland – where the city of Vancouver is located.

Now to tell you about the exhibit Donna and I wanted to see at the Royal BC Museum.

My friend Lori joined us on our outing to the exhibition of impressive Maya objects from Guatemala – more than 300 precious jade, ceramic, gold, stone and textile artefacts – reflecting classic and contemporary Maya culture.

The exhibition is called, “MAYA – The Great Jaguar Rises”. It coincides with UNESCO’s Year of Indigenous Languages and highlights the thirty Maya languages that are still spoken today, by roughly half the population of Guatemala.

It is the largest Guatemalan exhibit ever shown in Canada, and one of the aims is to demonstrate the continuity of Maya culture from its beginnings in the second and first millennium, before Christ, until the present day. It focuses on the relevance of the Indigenous languages of Guatemala, and the resilience of these languages, a topic which of course resonates in Canada.

The majority of the exhibit focuses on Maya culture between the second and ninth centuries AD. Well preserved, innovative art, jewellery and architecture are featured, and all but a few pieces are original. A portion of the exhibit also shows the culture of contemporary Maya people.

Over the years, I have seen many displays pre-Columbian cultures, especially the Maya. The exquisite design, the excellent condition of each piece and the curator’s tasteful approach to the display of such a large exhibit impressed me. If you travel to Victoria this summer, I highly recommend you go to see “MAYA – The Great Jaguar Rises”. Opened on Friday May 17th, it will run until December 31st , 2019.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

National Indigenous Peoples’ Day

A detail of the new totem dedicated yesterday at Edmonds Community School

In Canada, June 21st is not only the first day of summer; it is National Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Formerly called National Aboriginal Day, it celebrates the unique heritage, diverse cultures, and outstanding achievements of the First Nations.

Indigenous peoples in Canada have traditionally inhabited six cultural areas. One of these – the Northwest Coast – is home to several distinct nations.

The earliest settlement of the Northwest Coast probably was established following the last ice age, around 14,000 years ago, Societies centered around hunting and gathering, with the most valuable resources being salmon for food, and cedar for construction and artwork.

First contact with non-Indigenous peoples on the Northwest Coast likely occurred as early as the 16th century. However, recorded interaction between First Nations people and European explorers / traders began in earnest in the late 18th century. Unfortunately, the Europeans brought smallpox that killed large numbers of the land’s original population. In fact, from the 1770s through the 1860s, epidemics took the lives of thousands. The most devastating outbreak occurred in 1862 at indigenous camps around Victoria. Authorities forced those infected to move back to their home communities; the illness spread, and eventually killed approximately 20,000 people. As well, other diseases dramatically reduced the population throughout the 19th century and early 20th century.

Of all the cultural areas in Canada, the Northwest Coast peoples had the most diversity in language. These include Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and Salish languages. Enforced assimilation — the policy of missionaries and government administrators until the late 20th century – outlawed many Indigenous Peoples’ traditional practices. Compulsory education in centrally-located residential schools forbid the speaking of traditional languages, which had devastating effects on the students as well as on community structure and socialization. From 1885 to 1951, the “Indian Act” also banned cultural practices; and as a result of the policies forced on the Indigenous culture, most First Nations peoples in the Northwest Coast area now speak English as a primary language. The ancestral languages and their dialects are critically endangered.

Northwest Coast Indigenous people associated music and decorative arts with both sacred and secular activities. Songs, sometime accompanied by dance were associated with every activity. As well as the pivotal role the songs played in ceremonies, they transmitted family and society traditions – soothing infants, playing games, expressing love and sorrow. Whistles, drums and horns sometimes accompanied the voice.

Sculptural and decorative artwork was also part of daily life. Artists embellished tools, houses, baskets, clothing and items made to represent the supernatural. Wood sculpture and painting are probably the most distinctive Northwest Coast art form; totem poles are the largest examples.

Hewn from millennia-old logs, totem poles are sacred. The carvings often symbolize and commemorate ancestors; they recount cultural beliefs and familiar legends, clan lineages, and / or notable events. The poles may also serve as functional architectural features and welcoming signs for village visitors. They may embody a historical narrative of significance to the people carving and raising the pole. Given the complexity and symbolic meanings of totem pole carvings, their placement requires careful thought.

Yesterday I was invited to pole dedication at Edmonds Community School in South Burnaby, which borders Vancouver. This area is home to residents from 48 countries, and is recognised as Canada’s most diverse nighbourhood. Led by the school’s community coordinator, John Nanson, it is proof that multiculturalism DOES work and that it is a positive and enriching way of life.

Supported by the federal Member of Parliment, Peter Julian, funds were procured for the commission of a totem to commemorate the values of the community.

Jackie ­­­­Timothy is the carver who was selected to create the masterwork. He told the crowd that at 4 ½ years of age, he was forced to attend a residential school, where he remained for seven years. He was not allowed to regularly visit his family or speak the language he had learned in his home. He was not even called by his name; he was known as “Number 51”. Corporal punishment was the norm for even minor infractions. Unfortunately, Jackie’s treatment was not unusual; and after years of such abuse, it is understandable that the children who attended these schools had great difficulties re-adjusting to life back home. In an emotional voice, Jackie spoke of this experience. “When we were allowed to return home, we were rejected,” Jackie continued, “Many people said we had renounced our heritage, but we were just children. We did the best we could to survive.” Over the years, Jackie learned carving from his elders and with the support of his wife Kim, he has done much to reclaim the heritage that had been taken from him and his peers.

The couple’s three adult children all have University educations, and the grandchildren are their greatest joy.  Jackie Timothy’s totem depicts his personal, as well as his peoples’ journey through life. It vividly portrays the goodness and abundance found in this part of the world. But it also testifies to the pain inflicted on some who live here. Ultimately the totem pole depicts the artist’s hopes for reconciliation, forgiveness, and a rebirth of harmony in our shared community.

The totem resonates like a chant – like an eloquent prayer for peace – may it come in our time.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


The Wide Open Skies

As the crow flies…

The grand majority of our family has travelled by train, car and aeroplane – to Foam Lake, Saskachewan – for the wedding of Mitchell, our youngest brother’s eldest son. We have filled up all the rooms at the local motel and still more of our group are in their RVs and tents at the campsite across the road.

The bride is Kelsey, whose family live in this prairie town. And a charming place it is. Getting here from Kamloops took all day, but what a glorious trip – especially the 250 km drive from the Saskatoon airport to Foam Lake – I now know the meaning of WIDE-OPEN SKIES!

The following slide show does not live up to the images and impressions in my mind, but you’ll get an idea of the space of this place.  Tomorrow, after the wedding, I’ll hopefully be in shape to tell you more about this marvellous gathering.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fifi Press?


Thank you to all who commented on the blog post I wrote yesterday. I can see that most readers are in synch with the opinion I have about “the bully”. I hope today’s post will garner as much favour, but I won’t be surprised if it does not.

Last July, voters expressed their discontent with the past six federal administrations by electing Andrés Manuel López Obrador to the presidency with an overwhelming majority. Yes, yes, yes… AMLO did promise the moon before he fully figured out a way to deliver it. And this is coming back to haunt him, because there are provocateurs urging Mexicans to expect magic, on demand.

But let’s put things into perspective.  When I stack AMLO’s leadership up against any of the presidents of the past 30+ years, he comes up smelling like a rose – a bit wilted and missing a few petals – but a rose nonetheless. The six of them also promised the moon – along with the sun and the stars – they did not mention however, that we’d have to pay through the teeth for the lion’s share, they’d keep for themselves.

Almost every day we learn new details of the corruption that has crippled Mexico. Pemex and the power company are two of the worst.  No one seems upset when their directors are raked over the coals. However, shutting down public assistance programs seems cold-hearted. Post-doc scholarships and stipends, for example, have been all but axed. However, the programs are riddled with favouritism and abusive practices. I have experienced this.

Those who did not vote for AMLO were mostly from the privileged sector, and many of them reaped millions of pesos by serving each “overlord” in their turn.

Mexico is extremely polarized on every issue there is. It is impossible to please everyone. But the perpetually loudest gripers are the former mainstream press. There are not enough negative epitaphs to adequately express their loathing for AMLO. He cut off the flow of cash (lots of it) that came their way from the nation’s powerbrokers, especially politicians, who needed to win over public opinion. AMLO lost patience one day and called them the “Fifi Press”. He does not call all reporters by this pejorative, but I agree with him; many of them are “fifi”; they squawk like broken records and write the same old thing. Day in and day out.

Many in this culture place great importance on lineage and looks. López Obrador does not fit their aesthetic and his political agenda is not in keeping with their life style.  In a way, I can’t blame them for being upset at losing what they had; but why don’t they just GO (gracefully or stumbling, I don’t care how) and enjoy the “fruits of their labour”. I know they’d miss the prestige of being players – but hey – sometimes you’re “in” and sometimes you’re “out”.

At a time when we as a nation must work together, these decapitated talking heads are unrelenting in their constant attacks against the president.  With the very real menace that the bully presents, we must learn to get along; if we don’t pull together, we’ll all go down. Fifi press too. Think about it.

Lee Steele

Actually, you might want to go to

Author and illustrator Alex Wallner

Yucatan Today

Acompañamos al Viajero

Thepickledonionyucatan's Blog

an insight of how life is in the country side of the Yucatan

Life after Mérida, Debi in Richmond

Bits n Pieces of my life as an Extranjera in The USofA after spending 10 years living in Mexico.

The Mex Files

¡COMO MEXICO NO HAY DOS! The "Real Mexico" from transvestite wrestlers to machete-wielding naked farmers. History, culture, politics, economics, news and the general weirdness that usually floats down from the north.

Letters from Merida

Living in the Yucatan