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still walking, walking, walking....

Saturday, July 28, 2012
I've been getting up early and trying to walk every day before it gets hot, hot, hottest... and doing the miles. But it is so stinking hot so early, there's no way to beat the heat. Even on the days I have to work and know I will be on my weary footses for hours, I still get up and put in a couple of miles in the neighborhood.

Got up and did the two mile loop this morning, and cooled off before having to go to work for 1/2 day. It's been interesting wearing a mile-counter. I had been guesstimating most of the distance, judging by how long I am out, usually plodding along for an hour.

I have started my mile counter when I go to work.  I am not at all surprised to see that I can walk two, or even three, if I am there long enough, when I am on the clock. My tired footses are all the proof I need, so I knew I was walking half way to the moon, even if it was all inside Publix.

On days when I get waylaid and do not get out on the street before mid-morning, I have been several times to walk the loop in the mall. I would rather be out-of-doors than inside, but go when it's too hot to be pounding the sidewalk mid-day. Discovered that the long, circuitous route I take doing all the ins-and-outs in air-conditioned comfort through the big department stores is more than a mile, so doing it twice is just over 2 1/2 miles. But don't even think about doing it on the weekend. What a mob!

I went to the library to re-stock my talking books and have a fresh supply to listen to when I get up and get going, with CD player in hand. Walking, walking ,walking walkingwalking.....

A+

That's my blood type. I went to give a pint on Friday.  Just happened to be up on the Veteran's Parkway side of town. And since it was such an off-hand, spontaneous kind of thing, I was surprised that they actually were willing to take it. I had been by the Collection site a week ago, and did all the usual preparation for donating a pint well in advance: taking multi-vitamins, plus extra iron supplements. It's usually so far down on the chart for their minimum number on hemoglobin when they take a drop and test, it's not worth a trip to the north side of town unless I have been doubling up on extra iron or eating Wendy-burgers. I haven't been to Wendy's in weeks, and had only the usual multivitamins, so didn't really expect the staff at the ARC would find me a suitable prospect for draining.

When I went last week, I was blatantly truthful. Voluntarily confessing the immunizations I finished in early June. I had called the donor site specifically to ask how long I should wait before my next attempt: thirty days after the last injection. And told the staffer, when she was checking all my vitals, about being S.O.T.B. for a week - but don't think that really had any effect on my being rejected. (Or maybe it did, as I don't think she told me what my unacceptable number was when she tested for hemoglobin). There was no 'truth-telling' yesterday. I just went in and let them poke my finger to test for iron levels and surprisingly, was well over the minimum.

I get pretty annoyed when they get so picky about counting corpuscles, when they are all the time advertising about how desperate they are for donors, and forever calling me to ask if I have any extra I could contribute to their worthy-ness. I try to go every time it is 'time', which is about every two months. So think their score keepers cannot count very well, for them to be calling me asking for a pint when they would not accept it if I was to take it to them. I can sympathize with being mathematically impaired, but they have people who are paid to count, and keep up with stuff, so think they should be better at it than disabled Me.

If you get on their 'preferred donor' list and sign up to be a VIP, promise to donate five times a year, they will send you a hideous T-shirt as a Thank You gift. Which I took to Mexico and donated to the needier to wear and advertise that they are do-gooders for the American Red Cross.

I think there is a lot of iron to be found in chocolate. I need to build my blood supply back up right away....

early morning weirdness...

Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Woke up this morning about 5:00 a.m.... which, sad to say, is not all that unusual. Generally I wake up about 5:30, if I don't accidently eat chocolate before I go to bed at 10:30 or 11:00 and find myself wide awake again by 1 or 2. Where upon I start wracking my brain to figure out what I did to cause me to be so wide awake I think I will never get my eyes to stay shut again, and then remember how much I enjoyed gobbling down all that forbidden fruit.

So being awake at five oc'clock is not really all that unusual: except for the fact that it was pitch-black dark. It is never, never that dark at my house: the neighbor to the south has had flood lights on since she moved into her house about seven years ago. They shine directly into our bedroom windows. When no one was actually living in the neighboring house, while it was languishing on the real estate market empty for months and months, I went over there a couple of times with my ladder and unscrewed the bulbs. But the owner either screwed them back in or replaced them and finally sold the property to a woman who lives alone. Obviously somewhat uneasy about her aloneness, as she never turns off those twin flood lights mounted to all four corners of her roof. We have just learned to leave the blinds closed on that end of the house, and got accustomed to light leaking in around the edges, so we never sleep in complete darkness.

But this  morning it was Dark.  There is usually some ambient light coming from the street light up on a pole in front of our house - but even that was out. I could not turn over and look at the digital clock: it wasn't on. I had to pull the covers over my head to see the luminous dial on my watch to know what the time was.
It's a mystery to me...

Paul reported he took a shower with his flashlight propped up on the bathroom counter, pointed at the ceiling, and was concerned about how hard it would be to get out of the carport, when he would have to open the door with muscle-power, instead of pressing the button and expecting Georgia Power to do the work.

And reported that everything was back in working order by the time he came out of the bathroom, so worries were unfounded.

So.... if you ever run out of things to be thankful for: there's always public utilities. And the financial resources to pay your power bill, so you don't have to wake up in the middle of the night when it is as dark as the inside of an cave, and wonder if you remembered to write the check. Just another on the long, ongoing list of Blessings we are rarely consciously aware of. Can you even begin to imagine what it would be like in this miserable heat without air-con. and ceiling fans?

walking and walking and walking, etc...

Sunday, July 22, 2012
So we went to Wallyworld and purchased this semi-cheap-o ped-o-mom-meter, which I have been faithfully wearing: except for the time (in the first 24 hours) when I put it in the washer, and dropped it on the bathroom floor. Not exactuly off to what I would call an illustrious start. But it seems to be keeping up with what I've been doing in spite of being dropped on it's wee little head more than once.

The washer incident happened on the evening I went to walk, waiting till late in the day with the hope it would be somewhat cooler. And it was: due to a roaring thunderstorm that blew in, lighting flashing, clouds banging together and producing a torrent of rain... and me getting completely soaked. I could not have been wetter if I had jumped in the pond completely clothed. I was a little concerned about my phone in my pocket, and never thought to worry about the step-counter. When I got home, as soon as I stepped inside the back door, I stripped down and put my clothes in the washer to spin, to get dry enough to put in the laundry basket... and thought about the wet ped-o-mom-meter when I heard something hard as I was taking the still damp clothes out of the washer. whoops....

I'm sure you remember the old joke about the man who had a time piece that was not be working well, and took it to be repaired. The repairman, (who was hopefully not a professional watchmaker) opened the back of the time piece and a little dead bug fell out. Whereupon he said: 'I know what's wrong with this thing, the engineer died!'

Those little inexpensive step-counters can't be that complicated, so I am thinking I should just pry off the back of the several I have that don't work and see if I need to resusitate the engineer. There can't be much technology squeezed inside that small plastic case, and might even be a little family of bugs in there, industriously counting,  keeping score off steps taken, miles walked and calories burned. From inside this little gadget, with a plastic case about the size of  a silver dollar, there comes a sound each time I take a step, sort of like a couple of dried peas in a jar. A little rattling sound, like there is a tiny fulcrum with a bead or wee ball-bearing that rolls to-and-fro, with each step, keeping up with distance traveled.

But it sounds faintly like what you might hear if you were out walking in the woods and stepped over a fallen tree without looking where your foot would land. So all the time I am walking, I am thinking I am being tailed by a toothy rattle snake. Which is why I had to go to the library and get a talking book to put in my CD player and read while I walk, with plugs in my ears to keep other sounds at bay.

nothing related to SOTB, walking trivia instead

Saturday, July 21, 2012
I have been pondering the purchase of a ped-o-mom-eter to measure walking. I have had several cheap ones, that of course/curses don't last long - they were cheap, right? But do not want to spend a lot of money to invest in one that is not cheap-0, since I seem to have such poor luck with them. This may qualify as the ultimate catch-22?

But I have been so diligently putting in the miles, I decided there should be some gratification, (other than eating like a horse) perhaps in the form of being able to say "I walked _ _ miles today"? I went to Wallyworld and did not buy the cheapest one on the pegboard, as I thought that one would probably be worthless, even though I know from history how liable I am to drop it on it's head on a hard surface. Bought the next-to-cheapest one instead, and with tech-support to program it, put it on to try to keep track of miles. I have a friend who reports Dr. Oz says we need to aim for 10,000 steps a day - which means less than zero to me, the hopelessly math impaired (I don't have nearly enough fingers and toes to keep up with numbers that big!) This little thing I wear on my waist band counts calories burned, steps, as well as miles. The # for cal. burned is pretty depressing....

Since yesterday was the first day I put it on and wore it all day: it was my All Time Best!!! And will probably be my best ever for all eternity. I won't shame you by telling how many m.p.g. I got, but I was really hoofing it: to the point that I think I rubbed a blister on one of my fav-o-rite toes. I've been walking the same route on my street, in my neighborhood for so long, I already had a pretty good idea of distance, and have gotten up some speed. I used to walk about three miles, and now, if I am feeling peppy, can get closer to four.
R U Impressed?

I found some folks who would walk with me early in the mornings while I was out of town last week, but it was just too much effort (especially too much to ask of people who were getting up early just to go walking with me, who has been diligently practicing for weeks) to go again in the afternoon. I kinda felt like I was lagging, loosing ground, but timing was such that there was no easy way to do it later in the day. I've been going in the a.m., and again in the p.m. this week at home, and doing really well. The only problem with walking for miles on a daily basis:  I am sure when I stop, I will likely not stop eating like I was still walking miles every day.

I hope all this means that when I go on the hike across the mountains, I will not be the last one in line, which would mean that the bears will  not be getting me for a snack.

south of the border, part duos + cinco (7)

Friday, July 20, 2012
It was an interesting experience. I met some really sweet people. Who obviously were amazingly blessed by the families of that little church in Playa. It was so gratifying to watch how the members of the group I was traveling with interacted with the Latinos.

I made a list of some of the things it occured to me that I should be consciously thankful for. Most are daily conveniences we take for granted, never giving thought to what a major luxury these items are for most of the other people on the planet.

Right up there at the top is potable water. You turn on the tap to wash your hands, get a drink, brush your teeth, add water to meal preparation, wash dishes after you eat. They can't drink the liquid that comes from their faucets, if they are fortunate enough to have running water in their homes. Trucks with big tanks on the back come through the neighborhoods selling potable water, that is pumped into storage tanks on the tops of most homes, to be accessed through gravity feed into their homes for drinking and cooking. When you see people trying to be careful with food preparation, but having to wash the bowl, knife, cutting board from water that comes out of a garden hose, it is a scary proposition to think: I'm going to be eating what they are serving.

In addition to the tank trucks that cruise the neighborhood offering to sell safe drinking water, there are also trucks that roam the streets with loud speakers on top announcing the arrival of tanks of propane gas. If your propane tank runs out and you are in the middle of cooking your recently-neck-wrung chicken, then what do you do? Throw it out? Terribly wasteful in a subsistence society. Serve it half-done??? Runny chicken, anyone? Ick. I think they do a lot of their cooking outdoors - think of how hot it would be if you were cooking on a gas grill inside your house (and you have ceiling fans and a thermostat you can adjust!). So add the complicating facts of insects, falling leaves, dusty streets, kids running around everywhere.

If they don't live in those planned communities with each family alloted the square footage of the average carport, they are living in walled compounds. Do you feel safe in your house? No burgular bars here. No ten foot high concrete block walls, topped with concertina wire or broken glass to deter intruders. Just hoping to remember to flip the locks on all the exterior doors every night, most of which have glass panes.

Lots more, but just an over all feeling of thankfulness for the USA, Constitution, and public safety, and military that keeps me safe

south of the border, part (6), as I have used all my spanish numbers

At some point the following afternoon, our calm, patient, resourceful spiritual advisor made the blessed discovery that my MIA suitcase magically appeared in the back of one of the vans. Halleluiah! If you  want to see the face of a Happy Camper, you need to see the photos of me when I was told what was lost had been found. I am pretty sure I did the 'happy dance' right there in the dusty Mexican streets, with Hispanic on-lookers backing away... and likely thinking: 'those crazy gringos!'

You do realize that the mysteriously missing/reappearing suitcase was claimed at the carousel, and languishing in the van all this time: it didn't belong to 'anyone' in particular.Therefore: Everyone assumed it was just sort of 'generic' and another of the bags that had been packed full of give-aways (which I am still thankful they did not actually give away) that the Ocala congregation had collected to donate to the members of the Playa congregation.

So all is joy. Do you want to know what happened? Me too.

It seems that my plain little black canvas roller-bag was passed along to a couple who only had one piece of luggage between them. My anonymous piece got 'checked' with the other baggage to go on as cargo, when I had intended it would be my 'carry-on' after I checked in the huge, weighty bag full of 100+ used T-shirts. I was the last person in the check-in line in Tampa, and gave not a thought to what had happened to my own personal stuff. Stupidly, completely oblivious to the possibility that I would get to Mexico with nothing but a beach towel to wear all week. And no toothbrush.

I do not yet fully comprehend how I could be so careless as to let the bag get away from me with not the first sign of a luggage tag for identification. I did at some point console myself with the thought that the TSA guys, if they did not deliver it to the bomb squad for detonation, would find Rx bottles with my name on them. And in the unlikely event they would want to make an effort to track down the owner of the prescriptions, would find me in Mexico, wearing my beach towel. And needless to say: there are now numerous tags on that same suitcase that would help it find it's way back home.

When I got my toothbrush, clean underwear and stash of chocolate back, it became a much better experience than I would have (not) had otherwise...


south of the border, part cinco (5)

Church was interesting. Not at all what I am accustomed to- but joy-filled, nonetheless.

The little congregation was outnumbered by the Americano visitors: there were two from a church in Ohio, two more from a church in Indiana, plus the ten of us from Ocala. I don't think there were a dozen Latinos, including children who perpetually wandered in and out. The 'church' was a shed. Apparently last year when the Ocala contingent visited, they had yet to pour a concrete slab for a floor. So not having a dirt floor was a major improvement. The roofing material looked similar to corrugated barn roofing, but was made of some black material, maybe fiberglass, but more likely some form of layered tar-paper. They had some sheets of plywood propped, semi-secured around the sides to act as walls, though the only extended to about chest height. There was a raised area where the minister would stand of concrete across the front of the church,  probably about 9 inches higher than the smooth concrete area (where there were three handmade wooden pews and a number of folding chairs). The minister had a hand-made podium/speakers stand (from the trunk of a tree, carefully sanded and varnished after the bark was removed) for the Bible and notes.

And they had two ceiling fans affixed to the rafters which former attendees said was a true blessing. The supports and uprights for the roof were all logs, with bark peeled off, and smaller trees/saplings used to hold the roofing in place. So, saving on expenses of building supplies by scavenging in the undergrowth, and using slices of discarded garden hose to help cushion/secure the nails when they attached the roofing to the network of crosspieces/trees they found for supporting the pieces of corrugated material that keep off rain and sun.

The service started, after youngsters handed out printed Order of Service with both morning and evening schedules listed, with singing from hymnals (naturally printed in Spanish.) I found words I could mentally translate in the bulletin and hymns when I would sound them out phonetically, and was surprised to discover so many words I could understand. After twenty-five years of being a Presbyterian, the Order/sequence was mostly easy to follow... especially with words that were readily recognizable like 'offertory', that though spelled a bit differently were apparent with some thought and mumbling under my breath.

Even though I understood practically nothing of what was said, the lyrics to the songs, or message from Pastor Juan, I had no problem with an awareness of standing in the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Sweet.

After the service, we milled around in the dust of the church yard and introduced ourselves to people who had names we could not pronounce or remember. And divided up to get on the two vans that had brought us from the hotel, along with several of the church members to drive out into neighborhoods and distribute flyers, invite kids to attend VBS in the evenings during the week.

Planned neighborhoods were another eye-opening experience. We drove a couple of miles away from the area where the church lot is located, into a large district that I later found out was designed and built with government funds. The houses all shared a wall with another home, similar to the way we build apartments and housing projects, and built in rows around a U-shaped street, with rows on the inner and outer sides of the U. Each house was probably less in size, square footage than the average two car garage. All the houses I saw had bars on the windows and doors. All had a small front yard, and a space behind the structure that was shared with the house behind it. Most houses had clotheslines strung up criss-crossing the front grassy area, where there was a paved sidewalk leading up to the front door, that was usually standing open, hoping for a stray breeze, as well as paved strips for a car to be parked on, which were rare.

It became apparent the church member who was with our small group of gringos was noticing children's toys in front of the houses, or small articles of clothing hung out to dry that would identify families with potential VBS attendees. We must have given out 75 to 100 flyers in that neighborhood on a blistering hot afternoon. I had been told in years past there had been over 100 attending as numbers swelled during the week, including parents and babies, so they were hoping for a good response to the invitations.

Went back to re-assemble at the church, and then go on vans to air-conditioned paradise of hotel. Where we find the housekeepers always turn the ceiling fans and AC off when they come in to clean rooms. But clean they did. Everything was pretty much spotless when we would unlock the door to fall in every afternoon, flopping on the bed with the fan turned up the speed of possible vertical takeoff. Housekeeping left a little envelope on the night stand every day, and we were informed that the 'expected' tip for their services was two dollars per day. And since the US dollar had more value than pesos, they would naturally prefer to see George Washington's tight-lipped face when they check the envelope.

I have no idea what we ate for lunch. But we had to go back again for the evening service, that was just as muggy hot as the morning. Me still wearing borrowed clothes, but at least I took off the shorts I had been wearing for two days, that I had on under the loaned (but pocket-less) black skirt, since I thought I needed to keep my valuables on my person at all times. So mentally I was cooler with one less piece of clothing, where that aligns with reality or not.

south of the border, part quatros (4)

So we gave up, went out to get on the van with what the Delta people would let us have, anxious and sad over what apparently never got onto the flight and wondering how long it would take a security guy to pick it up, send it back through an x-ray machine and root around in my clean underwear. Completely annoyed at myself when I realized that there was nothing on the handle, outside that anyone could use to connect the bag to the rightful owner. Already thinking, trying to remember the name of that town in northeast Alabama where I have read that all unclaimed luggage eventually lands to be auctioned off. And irritated to have a swim suit I searched for and found that I really liked - thinking about some strange person in Alabama enjoying it tubing down a muddy river holding onto the cooler with the iced beer.

Extremely irritated at myself when I realized  I could only identify the bag by telling whoever was holding it hostage that it had a pair of green-striped flip-flops in there (I'd had to buy when I found myself flip-flop-less in Biloxi) Not very much info. to give some great big burly TSA guy, who would be looking through my personal possessions. Everyone going to Mexico would have shorts, t-shirts, swimsuit, the usual vacation accoutrements for life in the steamy tropics.

So while our main source of support in the States pestered the Delta people in Tampa, and I fretted over my missing clothing, my delightful, charming roommate got busy offering me necessary articles. She had a black skirt (we were instructed to be prepared to wear below-knee skirts or dresses to church) and personal items. I knew I could buy toothbrush/paste, but profoundly frustrated to have to shop for necessities that I already owned, just could not find. And I didn't want to spend my travel funds on those necessities... but not at all prepared to go without the most basic of personal furnishings and be 'airish' all week.

Our calm, patient sponsor/leader/religious resource assured me we could go to a nearby department store and get whatever was needed - and I am sure he was completely right - it's just that I didn' t want to invest in replacements. But went anyway, and bought a couple of things. Amazed to discover that one can buy most any sort of pharmaceutical on the street corner. Not literally, but there are 'pharamacias' often on three corners out of four at any given intersection. The problem being I was not sure about how to translate the dosage to metrics (me, being the hopelessly arithmetically inept). So I bought something that I was extremely dubious about, along with an over the counter item that seemed pretty safe. But I was so leery about the OTC meds, that require an Rx in the US, I could not make myself actually ingest it, for fear it was massively wrong doseage, being either 'way to much, or not nearly enough and just overly anxious about taking it.

We muddled on. Got food on Saturday night, and I went to bed wearing my clothes.

Got up Sunday morning - and I guess I never brushed me teeth. Ick. Put on the borrowed skirt and stuff I had tossed and turned in all night, and went off to Hispanic church.

south of the border, part tres (3)

So we got to the airport in Cancun and de-planed. Following a long line of fellow passengers down a hot, humid, muggy hallway to who-knows-where. Down the escalator, into a big room with the long serpentine conveyor that eventually began disgorging luggage from our flight. Fellow travelers began to pick their belongings off the carousel, and wander off in the direction of the arrow that pointed to ground transportation. My group was plucking their bags off the carousel, I was watching for the two huge pieces I had checked that were full of supplies and T-shirts to be donated to the congregation in Playa. I dragged them off, and started looking for my little innocuous, plain, black canvas personal bag. Huh? Where is it? Donde? What? 'My bag's not here!' Impossible to locate in the plethora of plain black canvas zippered bags, so I assumed someone else had picked it up off the conveyor belt. We checked claim numbers against all our varied pieces, and they all came out even... What? Where is my toothbrush, clean underwear, shorts with a dozen pockets? Necessary Prescriptions? Socks? Snacks? Chocolate!!!!

I learned A LOT about traveling through this experience. Mostly what to NOT do.

Mistake number uno: There was absolutely nothing on the outside of my handy, convenient, little wheeled suitcase that had any connection whatsoever with Me. So I know now to put lots of identifying marks, duct tape in loud colors, baggage tags with name and contact info., ribbons, yarn pom-poms on luggage before it rolls out the door of the house.

South of the Border, part duos (2)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012
So we met at the church in Ocala on Saturday morning, and loaded ourselves and suitcases up on the little bus to go to the airport in Tampa. I had been reminding folks that I would like donations of used, but clean/wearable T-shirts to take along and leave in Mexico. Due to the generosity of several people I rolled and packed over 100 shirts into a large canvas zippered bag: so many I could not actually pick the bag up by myself to put in the back of my car for the drive to FL.

I had a backpack full of reading material, a small case on wheels and the huge canvas bag bulging with T-shirts. We unloaded in great haste and confusion at the doors to the terminal, I went to get a cart because I knew I would not be dragging the heavy canvas bag up to the counter. Someone else put another big wheeled suitcase on the cart that was also full of give-away items for the congregation and community: lots of interesting useful things like combs, reading/magnification eye-glasses, pony-tail holders, many pairs of flip-flops, along with at least another 100 or more shirts to be donated. I was trying to manage the big cart, so laden with large baggage I could barely see to drive, wearing my backpack, and trying to pull along the wheeled case full of  a weeks' worth of shorts and shirts for hot-muggy-Mexico wear.A fellow traveler, one of the group from Ocala, offered to roll my personal suitcase in the terminal for me. So he took it off my hands, as I blundered my way through the foot traffic, following along, with the stacked up baggage on the cart.

I was the last of the ten to check in, with my two huge bags trundling up on the cart, and happy to be relieved of the obligation. Always a bit paranoid when the taped message about 'don't walk off and leave your bag or accept mystery parcels from strangers' plays over and over in the terminal. But we got every checked, and tagged and ticketed and made our way through Security. In plenty of time to eat some of that pre-fab, over-priced, airport concession food. It was so memorable, I cannot even begin to recall what I had.

In addition to the backpack - my only carry-on - I had a wooden walking stick. I had great plans for finding someone in our group who would be willing to get up and walk several miles with me each morning, as I continue to 'practice' for my hike through the NC hills in August.  Not knowing where that walking might occur, and always a little leery of walking about in strange places, I felt that a stick might be handy. As in: the best offense is a good defense.  Dogs do roam the streets, but the defense was not needed. That stick turned out to be a major nusiance, as I am not much accustomed to remembering to keep up with an extra appendage, and was constantly returning someplace to rescue it, off the bus, in the terminal, off the van, whatever... it's a wonder it made it back to the USA.

So we land in Cancun and all troop through the hot steamy terminal to the baggage claim area and I can't find my suitcase. All the huge bags full of the 'supplies' we had accumulated to donate to the church arrived, but my little black wheeled suitcase was nowhere to be found. I assumed they had checked the suitcase that was meant to be my carry-on, but it somehow never appeared on the carousel when we were picking our items off as they rotated past the group.

The mystery thickened, when we compared claim numbers, and did not have an extra number for the missing case. I readily admit to saying several bad words, repeatedly. But the people who: were not worried, were not missing clothing, were not wondering where their toothbrushes and clean underwear might be located, were completely unconcerned about their socks, confident they had all their toiletries, certain they would not be frantically trying to replace missing prescription drugs (let that be a lesson for you!) tried to console me with the fact that we could 'go shopping' for whatever I needed. Not something you want to hear when you have carefully planned, thought, arranged, chosen, purchased, packed for a week in a foreign country.. counting out pairs of socks and clean unmentionables to come out perfectly even for the length of the stay.

Plus a huge part of the actual 'go shopping' involves trying to understand a monetary system that would likely baffle even people who can multiply and divide, so you can imagine what it did to my little math-impaired brain. You can get 13 pesos for a dollar, or something like that. The exchange rate benefits the gringo with the Washingtons and Jeffersons and Hamiltons... until you get ready to change it back into American currency before you leave. I was personally so confused by the time I left, I just emptied my pockets and left all the odd pesos for the housekeeper in the motel.

South of the Border (not the one on NC/SC state line)

It's a long story, but I need to get started before it gets 'lost in the sands of time'.

I was in Mexico all last week, as things evolved, mostly just along for the ride.

I drove down to Ocala on Friday the 6th, spent the night with friends and got up Sat. to go with a group of nine on the church van to Tampa, then on to Cancun. If we had really been going to Cancun, The Resort, it would have been a totally different experience, and I have actually 'been there, done that' (and if someone is interested in footing the bill, I could easily enjoy going back again.) The flight was less than two hours, but due to traveling west, in another time zone, so appetites and sleeping habits were confused for several days - taking just long enough to acclimate before we were headed back to the US as scrambled brains/confusion began to level off.

We had reservations for a week in a little local hotel that apparently caters to an international clientel l - many of the books on a bookshelf, available for loan, were printed in German. The group I was traveling with had several members who had been on this venture previously, but most were as uncertain about expectations and as lost in a foreign environment as I was. Looking back, I am pretty sure one of the best things of my experience was the remarkable luck that occurred when rooming assignments were made. I am thankful for the person who I ended up 'bunking' with. Even though the accommodations were clean, tidy, pretty much to US standards (though you have to diligently remember to not rinse your toothbrush under the running water of the tap in the bathroom), it would not have been nearly as pleasant if I had not had the good fortune to be in the same room as my new BFF: Fran.

Even so, I got off to a really bad start when we arrived in Cancun, went through the airport to retrieve our luggage and I could not locate my bag.... more later....