My Sister’s Closet

The “snowbirds” are in Yucatan right now, and the year-round international residents find themselves with much more company than during late spring through early fall. Right now there are a lot of dinners and cocktail parties, special events.

And in order to have the support of winter friends, many service groups based in Merida and along the beach, hold their fund raisers during this period. Among such groups is “El Programa de Apoyo Escolar de Chuburna Puerto A.C.” (The Port of Chuburna School-Aid Project) They have a facebook page: Apoyo Escolar Chuburna Puerto. They also have a website: www.apoyochuburna.com Take a look at both, and see all the great resources this group of dynamic women provides for their community’s local children. I read all the info pages and I learned…

Chuburná Puerto is a town of approximately 2,500 people, most of whom are under 18 years of age. Elementary school is “free” in México, however, the children require uniforms, shoes, books, school supplies, and there are costs that the parents must meet – so actually – it is not affordable for many of the town’s poorest families. Studnts who want to attend high school must cover  registration and exam fees,  books, supplies and transportation.

Believing that education is imperative for a better future, Canadian Beverly Melchior, along with Americans Marta de Quesada and Nancy Draper,  FOUNDED El Programa de Apoyo Escolar de Chuburná Puerto.  

Since the idea took hold in these women’s minds, it has grown from a concept to a reality. In May 2009, the women began the program by matching sponsors with 39 local students; they became a registered Mexican Charity on August 14, 2014, and now have well over 100 students enrolled in the program. Their Mission is to foster the education and well-being of school aged children (4th grade through high school) in Chuburná Puerto, Yucatán, México-

This non-profit charity is overseen by a volunteer board of directors &  supported by members of the International Community.

Yesterday, January 23rd, “Apoyo” held it’s number #1 fun & fund raiser of the year – now in its 10th year –“My Sister’s Closet” – a fashion show / boutique / Silent Auction / Raffle. I am often out-of-town  on the date of the extravaganza, so this was my first time to attend, and I must say I was blown away by the energy and creativity of this group. I also felt humbled by their generosity.

To keep costs down, the organizers of “My Sister’s Closet” did not choose a high-end venue for their fiesta. “Sala de Fiestas Emily’s” is a big “warehouse-looking” building – in a unusual location – right across from the graveyard. The volunteers made spectacular festive decorations, modeled the clothing with elán, and collected the gorgeous boutique and raffle items. The Apoyo members’ husbands, boyfriends, brothers and uncles all gave of their time and did a bang-up job as waiters and hosts.

 

Our delicious lunch… also prepared by volunters

The tasty sandwiches, spinach salad and pudding dessert wiere prepared by yet another hard-working group of volunteers. All the happy attendees received pretty fans and a serving of botana. Delicious!

Last but not least, the Silent Auction also caught the interest of everyone attending the event; the organizing committee want to acknowledge the 85 + generous donors, and the volunteers who managed the Silent Auction… they made this portion of the “My Sister’s Closet” most successful to date.

There is so much more I could say about this fundraiser… BUT a picture is worth a 1,000 words, and here you have a slideshow with a few of my cell phone snaps…

 

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Great job Ladies! I am already looking forward to next year.

 

Yaya

In downtown Merida, there is a small shop, una refresqueria, that sells soft drinks, water, salty  chips, and assorted cookies wrapped in bright shiny paper. For those who are on foot, and feeling the effects of the merciless sun, the unpretentious pit-stop has the allure of an oasis. ¡Agua por favor!

The proprietor or his wife always urge their weary customers to sit down on one of the chairs lined up along the back wall. Many gratefully accept the small kindness, and once they start feeling the welcome effect of the restorative liquid, they notice their surroundings. Hanging above the counter is a striking photograph of a withered old crone, and underneath the portrait, hangs a hand-written sign:

You haven’t truly experienced El Centro until you’ve been hit across the back of your head  by Yaya.

Yaya? What kind of name is that? And why would this person be whacking others across the head?” they ask.

No one knows where Yaya comes from. I would guess she’s probably in her mid 60s, but I can’t confirm that with her because she’s profoundly deaf and cannot speak. I often notice how she winces as her bowed legs propel her through downtown’s congested streets. Yaya has an aversion to bathing, and as well, she is obviously schizophrenic.

Nonetheless Yaya has found ways to cope for what she lacks in conventional communication skills.  She caws like a crow and her arms flail in the air when she wants something. Her eyes keenly observe everything that comes into her line of vision. By our criteria of ownership, Yaya does not have anything of value. But from her point of view, that is just not true. She collects discarded cardboard boxes, fills them with scraps of this & that, and wherever she goes, she pushes them along in front of herself. Sometimes she amasses many, and obviously, keeping them all together is a struggle. But don’t ever make the mistake of trying to help her; she’s independent and suspicious of anyone getting too close to her belongings.

Yaya has a job she takes seriously. Every morning she goes to the back door of a furniture and appliance store and receives a handful of flyers that she passes out on the street. And that’s where the whack on the back of your head can occur; she doesn’t take kindly to a refusal to accept her paper advertisements. When she has distributed the daily quota, I’ve been told that she uses the employee restroom and the manager gives her ten pesos. The merchants in her radius, including the couple from the small shop, give her food and drink. Periodically a trio of ladies from the Catholic Action League convince her to let them help her have a bath, and then they give her a set of clean clothes. When she is sick, the local pharmacy gives her a remedy for what ails her.

At night, Yaya corrals her boxes and sleeps on the sidewalk well out of the wind. She has a big blanket, a Christmas gift from someone, to cover herself.  She steadfastly refuses the social workers’ attempts to place her in a facility where she would be safer and healthier . Why? I imagine she knows she won’t be happier.

This description of Yaya is written in present tense, but in fact, Yaya is no longer to be seen limping through Merida’s Centro. Nor are her buddies, a collection of other street people. Just before our city inaugurated the latest entertainment venue, El  Palacio de la Musica, the “kings and queens of the road” disappeared. Their song was not wanted anywhere near the spiffy new palace.

And I think that’s sad. As most people know, for many years, the peninsula of Yucatan was separated from the rest of the country by extensive swamp lands. Before the highway to Mexico City was completed in the 1960’s, the journey inland was difficult, long and expensive, so residents did not often leave. This nurtured a strong regional identity; Yucatecans were happy with their tropical, slower-paced lifestyle. They enjoyed a way of life that was all their own, and as long as they were not dangerous, the locals had no animosity towards the eccentric street people like Yaya.

Now many people from other parts of the country have moved to Merida, and from other countries too.   They have brought their customs, foods, businesses, music and attitudes with them. The explosive growth of the peninsula’s  tourism industry has also greatly affected the tranquility of the Yucatecan lifestyle. The local population likes some of these changes, but do not appreciate the erosion of their established way of life. Today, after approximately 35 years of steady migration, Merida is a cosmopolitan city that is home to many. Yucatecans are pragmatic and have found a way to deal with this.

But that is not to say they like being put in this position. Improvements to the infrastructure, and to the appearance of some of the city’s traditional neighbourhoods, was badly needed, but is gentrification of everything desirable? I think people like Yaya and businesses like the soda shop make our city more humane and authentic.

Maybe all of us should be a bit more judicious before we accept the building of more malls, hotels and re-dos of every house on the block.  And we would also do well to remember the more gentile manners of decades past in Yucatan.  Fast-passed, and cutting-edge makes for more stress; never missing  siesta would be healthier than getting the shopping “done” during the heat of the day.

If we work too hard at getting our adopted home too convenient, we’ll be living in the place we left.

This will be a special Christmas…

With friends at TTT’s annual Christmas party

Just one more sleep and Emma will be here! It has been 3 years since I spent the Christmas Holidays with my granddaughter, and I am absolutely over-the-moon with joy.

For the past month, I’ve been cooking everything I know she likes to eat. I have wrapped her presents with shiny paper and puffy bows… Her unicorn and flamingo floaties are inflated and ready for her because even though the water seems cold to us, she’ll want to jump into the pool as soon as she gets here.

And as I wait for the moment she arrives at my door, I am remembering past Christmases when I felt this same excitement… As a little girl, for several Sundays leading up to Christmas, my parents would pack us kids into the car, and off we’d drive to see the extended family who did not live in Vancouver like we did. I had two favourite girl cousins, born within 6 months of me and we loved one another like sisters. My teen years centered around parties with friends; and once I was living independently, I would travel through the worst winter weather so that I could spend my three-day Christmas break with the rest of my big family.

When I met Jorge and moved to Mexico, missing my family at Christmas was always “an issue”. It may be silly, but the desire to be with my long-distance loved ones at Christmastime is intrinsic to who I am. This is not to say I don’t also revel in the company of my family and friends who live here. Actually, they are the reason I can’t leave Merida at this time of year. And I suspect I am not alone with my foible.

But those who know me will agree that I am every bit as practical, as I am sentimental. Through the years, I have developed strategies to chase my melancholy away, and I’ve been lucky to have help with this. Jorge is as into the “spirit of Christmas” as I am… In fact our family’s celebrations and traditions have grown into nostalgic memories for the two of us, our children, our Yucatecan family and our many friends.

All year long, Jorge and I like to entertain. But during the Holidays, this bumps up several notches. We host dinners and parties… and we visit people. We like to play carols and I don’t care if I go overboard… I decorate! It does take effort and it is not uncommon for me to whine that I’m tired. But for as long as we are able to, Jorge and I will continue making a Merry Christmas.

I hope that everyone reading this post will have special moments over this year’s Holiday Season… Maybe you’ll plan an adventure that turns out differently to what you figured it would be… but somehow… it will seem better than expected?

And if you are missing the holidays of the past, create a new one for yourself this year. After all, every day of our lives is all about change.