A Travellerspoint blog

Whalebones and Ancient Ruins

sunny 33 °C

The daily activities here on Punta Pajaros are completely dictated by the weather. After a couple of rainy days Kerri and I were getting bored with the same four walls of our room and decided to brave the elements. Wearing all of our clothes to protect ourselves from the mosquitos, we ventured to the ruins, located between our house and the swamp at the back of the island. It’s a pretty small site compared to what we have seen before, with just two structures and some old wall foundations, apparently where their houses were built. Although small, the site was quite atmospheric in the rain, surrounded by tropical jungle without a car park or tacky souvenir sellers. It seems an unlikely spot for a population centre; in a canoe it must have been a good day’s paddle to the mainland. I also don’t understand how they coped with the insects; I guess the ancients must have been more in tune with nature than we are.

Mystical Land

Mystical Land

After that the weather turned beautiful again and the sea was back to its usual see-through aquamarine colour. We decided to mix up our standard daily routine and hike 1 hour along the beach to a rocky point called “Sacrificio”, Sacrifice. The origin of this name seems unclear- the workers don’t know if it was a reference to the Maya or all the fish that get caught here. As we walked along the shore in the hot sun we came across an old stone wall, hidden by the breaking waves, probably dating back to the Mayas.

Sacrificio

Sacrificio

While we were making our way along the shore Kerri spotted a 2 foot ray bobbing in the waves. I took a great picture! Not long after I also spotted 2 barracudas stalking the shore line. They look pretty unfriendly. We arrived at the point, a rocky headland between two bays and spent some time jumping across rock pools and looking at the baby angel fish and poking at the crabs.

The Ray

The Ray

Along with these discoveries we also saw a huge amount of rubbish, washed ashore here by converging currents. There were all kinds of plastic items from all over the world and in amongst the plastic crates, sandals, children’s toys and bottles we spotted a three foot whale bone- probably one of its ribs. I’m not much of an eco-warrior but it seems like it would be a good idea to use less non-recyclable items to protect places like this. Kerri and I are picking up a big sack of plastic a day (pursued by nasty wasps/horseflies) from the beach – so far we have cleaned maybe 100 metres.

What a load of rubbish!

What a load of rubbish!

Today it was sunny again and as we were heading out to clean the beach we came across jaguar footprints in the sand heading into the bush. There were vultures circling overhead so it must have made a kill and dragged the corpse into the jungle the night before. This is about 100 metres from our house. It’s amazing to live so close to these animals – although it’s unlikely we will ever see one as they hide in the shadows.

These are Kerri's footprints, not the jaguar's

These are Kerri's footprints, not the jaguar's

Posted by lewyandkerri 19:24 Archived in Mexico Tagged beach travel mexico sun Comments (0)

Living the TEFL Dream

storm 26 °C

Well Lewy and I are definitely living the dream right now! We live on a small private Caribbean island, inhabited by only 30 people and wake up every morning to the sound of the lazy waves lapping up on the sandy shore and the birds singing persistent songs at the crack of dawn. This is a recent change from the street dogs, cockerels and goats in Carrillo Puerto and a drastic fantastic change from the icy alarm clock that used to wake us up back in Reading.

Where we first arrived

Where we first arrived

When offered the opportunity to live here, in Punta Pajaros, for six weeks I was ecstatic. I jumped around the room uncontrollably for at least an hour bemusing my Mexican coworker who had no idea where this place was. Perhaps you have not noticed but Lewy and I are somewhat ‘beach fans’ and have spent the last 2 years following the curves of the Caribbean and Pacific Coasts through nine countries. So the chance to have our own private beach as far as the eye can see was just mind blowing.

Punta Estrella

Punta Estrella

As time crept closer, I began to doubt this excellent opportunity. Local friends warned me of rumors of drug trafficking, working with drunken fishermen, there being no women on the island and of the heat and infinite mosquitoes- with whom I don’t have the most loving relationship. These are not the normal worries of someone starting a new job but I say nerves are healthy. Following our initial positive gut feeling, Lewy and I have been here for 15 days. There is not a drop of alcohol on the island, no sign of drug trafficking, one other chick and well waking up in paradise is worth dealing with the infinite bloody mosquitoes.

Pelicans are great!

Pelicans are great!

The last 2 weeks have been extremely self-indulging, lazy and a time for us to turn our brains off. For the first time in 2 years we have a full length mirror- I can’t tell you how many times we both look in it each day! We are doing an hours exercise every morning at 7.30am and so without any alcohol or snacks around we are enjoying watching ourselves get browner and slimmer.

We live amongst 13 of the staff, a chef, a maid and 11 gardeners (all in my class). They are treating us like visitors, yet we have been trying to show them we want to live by the same standards as them. They are not allowed to use the washing machines for example yet we are- but Lewy and I are washing everything by hand. The island manager bought us lobster yesterday for the young chef to cook and it was quite awkward eating our 5 star meals while the others ate their rice, pork and beans.

Delicious fresh lobster

Delicious fresh lobster

Quite honesty I have never felt so relaxed in my life, we shall see if that turns into boredom over the next four weeks- especially for Lewy! How could he get bored trying to listen to me remember the guitar chords to Bob Marley hehe. All our love xxx

Posted by lewyandkerri 18:44 Archived in Mexico Tagged beach mexico the english trash teaching yucatan tefl collecting Comments (0)

The adventure continues - working in Punta Pajaros

sunny 30 °C

We haven’t done a blog for a while, and a lot has happened since the last time we wrote. We have finished our year teaching English in Carrillo and made some life-long friends and memories.

Now the adventure has continued….

For six weeks we are working on a beautiful private island in the Caribbean, a place we discovered by chance last year. I definitely believe you make your own opportunities, but on this one we really had some luck. The island is owned by a billionaire Mexican banker and functions as a retreat for powerful guests and a very exclusive sport fishing resort. It is around 25km long, with gorgeous sandy beaches the entirety of one side, and mosquito ridden lagoons and swamps the other. As part of the Sian Kian biosphere it boasts incredible wildlife; we have seen deer, foxes, pelicans, sharks, barracuda, huge iguanas, and jaguar paw prints a few metres from our house. The island is pristine; the only exception being the rubbish washed up by the currents from all over the world on the beach. We collect a big bag every day to be recycled and so far we have found motorbike helmets and an iron, amongst the thousands of soft drink bottles and disposable cutlery.

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We are teaching English to the workers of the island. Kerri teaches a group of 10 gardeners, who are from small villages in the Yucatan, the idea being that one day they will be promoted within the organisation to waiters or guides. I have a similar sized group of mechanics, waiters, reception staff and guides, all looking to improve their English. We have the freedom of teaching without textbooks; a challenge when we are delivering essentially a 120 hour course, but it’s one we are enjoying and so are the students.

Every day we wake up to the birds early and go for a run along the beach before it gets too hot. Then we go for breakfast. Then we clean the beach and relax in the palapa before lunch. After lunch we plan and then deliver class in the late afternoon after the guys have finished work. I have to drive the length of the island on a quad bike to get to my class, as the island has two micro resorts, each with its own area and staff. Kerri teaches the staff that work where we live. It’s a pretty fun commute, but on the way back there are lot of bugs and I have taken a bat to the face several times. Also I’m constantly expecting to take the bend and then see a jaguar in the road. After class we have dinner and enjoy the couple of hours of electricity we have every day. Normally I’m asleep in the hammock by 10. Our food is all cooked for us by Manuel the chef. He cooks for all the workers and we eat well. Pork and beans, ground beef, chicken and potatoes, mole all standard Mexican casera – home- cooking. Living a fisherman’s paradise we also get a lot of fresh fish cooked every way you can imagine. We eating meat or fish twice a day, which after our more or less vegetarian diet has taken some adjusting to, but then asking for food without meat would probably confuse the chef.

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Life is simple here; we come to use the internet once a week and have limited electricity. Our workload is comparatively small and we have every morning free. We live in a Caribbean paradise. Hopefully we will be able to adjust back to reality afterwards.

We hope to update you again soon,

Lewy and Kerri x

Posted by lewyandkerri 11:42 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

Todavia, vivimos en Mexico!

sunny 29 °C

Apologies for the amount of time it has taken us to write another blog- we have been slacking to say the least! All is well here and you will be happy to know we are working ‘fairly’ hard (against Western standards) but not too hard that we feel we aren't still living the dream!

We love the town we currently call home, for all its quirks- we now understand how it works and why it is how it is. The history here is enough to blow your mind, even if you're not a history geek. Last weekend Molly, Lewy and I set off to a Maya pueblito (small village) 30 minutes down the jungle road called ‘Cub Chen’ to visit the Laguna Azul (“Blue Lagoon”). True to its name the water was as blue as the Caribbean, yet surrounded by mangrove swamp and dense jungle. We hiked for two sweaty hours in vain- searching for an ancient cenote. For those of you who have not had the pleasure of swimming in a cenote- it's a fresh water cave/ pool- fed by underground fresh water streams- the water is absolutely crystal.

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The story goes that the Spanish invaded the Maya in a nearby city, Chetumal. After bloody battles in the jungle a small group of remaining Mayas threw all their treasure into the cenote before eventually making it to our town Chan Santa Cruz, now known as Felipe Carrillo Puerto (Carrillo). Our proud little town is the only place in Mexico where the Mayas then over-threw the Spanish invaders taking them as slaves.

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On the journey to the pueblito everyone around us spoke in Maya, which almost sounds slightly Chinese- absolutely fascinating that in a Spanish speaking country we are surrounded by tiny enclaves of people still holding their native tongue. Even children shouting out to us, as we passed by on a little Indian-style ‘tuc-tuc’ hollered in Maya!

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At a first glance our town seems a mish-mash of houses; some painted, some cemented, some wooden shacks and some, ruins before they were ever finished. And everyone who can- has opened a Sol Convenience Store, a taco-stand outside the front of the house, hung up a rail to sell second hand clothes or picked up every plastic bottle in town to recycle them in the garden. Now looking again with an informed eye I can see that every family has their own little pocket of land- to which they have the freedom to do what they like. Each family builds a few extra blocks onto their house on payday, those who can, will paint the front in bright colours “why paint the back if no one else can see it?” Each family has its own entrepreneurial idea that will ensure kids go to school with books and crayons. And over the years this has made-up an amazingly colourful and dynamic patchwork town, and this I love.

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Yesterday I was about to cycle to work, and outside our new house a man was walking roughly 15 tiny piglets tied on strings trying to sell them from door to door. Surrounding him was several, if not more, street dogs growling and dribbling at the thought of a piglet lunch. I cycled on by thinking to myself “is it bad that this seems so normal to me?” Tom Wigzil very kindly spent 10 days with us in January- and it was amazing for us to see a friend from home (we miss you all a shit-tonne)! He said to us “what you’re doing is awesome but not sure it's ever something I could or would want to do”.

Thinking about it Molly, Lewy and myself now live with a completely distorted view on things. For example, there won't be a week or two without us not having ANY water in the house- this means filling a bucket with water from the garden tap and tipping it down the toilet to flush it, using it to shower and wash up with. The electricity often goes off so we don't bother buying meat- it will only fry in the fridge (hence we have all been eating a grand amount of meat out!). We have lived without television, a mirror, washing machine, internet, hot water, drinking water from the tap and being able to flush our paper down the loo. We slept in a hammock under a palm roof where the occasional cockroach fell on us in the night (our new apartment has no cockroaches though!) We cycle past street dogs that chase us in the dark and abandoned puppies that look at us with sad eyes. We cycle to work and random strangers will shout out any English phrase they can. And all this seems absolutely normal. Have we gone mad…?

…for all this we have gained the most amazing things. This morning, I looked out my window to see a yellow humming bird drinking from a flower. We can now speak rather splendidly in Spanish and even a few phrases in Maya. Lewy and I now pay the same amount for our rent as we used to pay for our weekly shop at Tesco’s (we do like a bit of horse!). For all those street dogs it does make us chuckle how they take themselves out for a morning stroll with their friends. And we often moan about the thought of a little hard work to get those necessities in life, but it has made us pretty adaptable and less lazy (Lewy haha!). I’m not saying everyone should do it- I’m just saying we are doing it. And you guys are welcome to come and visit us to enjoy all the good bits and leave the slightly rough around the edges part for us to enjoy!

Right now we have the lovely Veronica and Len over to stay with us (Lewy’s parents). They are making the most of Carrillo, talking to the locals, buying fresh juice in the park and haggling in the market for fresh fruit and veg from the Maya ladies. They are shouting down ‘Pan’ from the apartment when the boy cycles by on his tricycle, squeezing his horn to advertise his fresh bread. They are smiling at those who can’t help but stare and thoroughly enjoying the sheer friendliness of people here, who always say hello, passing by and catching a glance.

PB140025

PB140025

Something I have figured out from this long voyage (one of many things!) In the UK we all work SOOO hard, hats off to us. We strive to be on time for everything, to pay the bills before they are due, to look smart for work, keep up with the fashions and appearances la la la the list goes on. By the time we’re due a break from work we’re searching for the light at the end of the tunnel and that light is a sandy beach, a hotel catering for all our needs so we don’t need to leave the dreamy bubble and downright peace and quiet! Afterwards you can say ‘I went to Mexico last year it was beautiful’. But did we really?

If you fancy a different kind of holiday I’ve figured out it’s better to go against your instincts - forget that package holiday. Lower your budget, get ready to drift into the local culture and RELAX! No-one knows how to ‘chill out’ more than the Latin Americans. It’s hot, so you’ll be there when you’ll be there. Fill your boots with delicious local food and give your money to the people that need it- that weird thing you ate last night paid for a kid’s pencil-case for school! Why stare at one beach for 10 days when you can jump on a bus and visit 4 different ones and find that on the last- you are swimming with turtles (who take life just as slowly as the Locals!)

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I didn’t know this option existed before and for all those who have come to see us in the last year you have seen all of this first hand. I hope more people will join us in leaving our straight western ways at home (just for now), put on your sun glasses and enjoy what will be the best holiday of your life…. x

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P2190124.jpgNew Apartment

New Apartment

Posted by lewyandkerri 12:18 Archived in Mexico Tagged travel mexico maya yucatan Comments (4)

Life....

Still here!

It's been a while since we last wrote a blog. Although its true life may not be quite as interesting to read about any more I still think enough has happened in the last couple of months (!) since the last entry to warrant another.
Kerri and I are both well and enjoying life here in Felipe Carrillo Puerto. Work is still great, but we now have been working for four months without a holiday (which feels like a very long time to us) so we are looking forward to a break for Christmas. Classes are all going well, our students that started with us in August have all learnt some English, so I suppose we must be doing an ok job. I am finally starting to not completely hate teaching kinder, mainly because the kids do actually do and say the funniest things; Bryan (aged 5): “It's my birthday today.” Me: “How old are you?” Bryan: “21.”
I don't know, I guess you had to be there. Plans are in motion to increase numbers at the school for January, including our grand inauguration on Saturday-ribbon cutting, cake, the works. After that we have the all-singing, all-dancing, 'graduation' ceremony/Christmas party. Should be fun if all goes to plan, if not it has potential to be a complete nightmare so we'll let you know.
We have managed to escape the rat-race of small town Mexican life a few times too. We took a trip to Punta Allen for a few days recently, and that was pretty awesome. It's a small fishing village you can only access by a 3 hour drive down a dirt track through the jungle, interspersed with stunning Caribbean views. We are lucky enough to have friends who own a fishing lodge on the beach so we got an excellent deal for a far nicer room than we are used to. There's not a great deal to do in town except eat fish and tacos. While we were eating fish and tacos we met an engineer who was going out to a millionaire's private island the next day to fix some plastic recycling machine so naturally Kerri chatted him up and got us a free ride in the morning. It was a really nice boat ride out through the mangroves and across the flattest Caribbean sea I have seen. The island was pretty special with miles and miles of untouched beach and crystal waters. We took a stroll and thought about how it must be nice to be rich. We saw huge iguanas and just before we left sharks were swimming off the jetty. The next day we hitched a ride back to civilization with some nice French people.
Back in town life continues. November 22th was our first American thanksgiving. Pretty much its the same as Christmas day without the presents. We ate a lot of food and sat around saying how full we were while continuously eating more and drinking wine. It's a great tradition thanks to all for inviting Brits to your celebration. Kerri also went to see the celebration of the Mexican revolution, kinder kids from all the local schools were dressed up as police men, army guys, peasants, cowboys and cheerleaders- we'll upload a few photos. We've made some good friends in town, and no weekend goes by without an invitation to sit up watching the stars with a few beers. On Friday cycling home from a friends we witnessed our first shoot out. The banditos we told you about previously apparently often scuffle with the local police. They are basically a gang full of unruly teenagers, their children and parents who have lost all power to the gang. It was pretty crazy, in broad day light police officers with riot gear were fighting off rocks being thrown and then a gun went off next to us as 3 police cars rolled in so we cycled off pretty sharpish. Its a lost cause. Poor kids growing up around those idiots.
In a week we're off to Earthlodge, Gautemala, for Christmas so that should be fun. Then in February, my parents are coming. Unfortunately our landlord has given us notice so we have to move on the 1st of Feb. We are currently looking for a place, but it's going to be tough to replace this house as we have grown to love it.

Merry Christmas to all, feliz navidad!!

Posted by lewyandkerri 10:41 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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