Friday, November 28, 2008

La Manzanilla

Overall, my homestay experience has been amazing and has been a huge part of my learning experience. The family I am staying with are wonderful and try to encourage me every day and help me with my speaking. In addition, the mother Rosaura, is an incredible cook and I have been eating new and interesting things every day. Breakfast is served around 10am and the biggest meal of the day is lunch around 2:30 - 3:00pm. A lighter dinner is served around 9pm. One of the more adventurous things I have tried was menudo soup for breakfast. This is soup with tripe and some vegetables. For those of you unfamiliar with tripe, this is made from the stomach of a cow. The soup and tripe was very flavourful but the texture of the tripe might give some people some issues! We eat alot of fresh fish on a daily basis also including red snapper, mahi mahi, etc which I love. Some of my favorite dishes are her chicken enchiladas and her shrimp al diablo (devil). Her pozole is really amazing also.

The children are really adorable and I learn so much from them everyday. They absolutely love my dogs and asked if the dogs could stay with them last weekend when I went back to Manzanillo for the weekend. Last night, they asked if Jackson could sleep with them in their bed. He is not going to want to leave here - he is spoiled rotten!

Here are the three of them - Hugo Junior (14) holding Natalia (3) and Ketzali (9). Natalia and Ketzali had just returned from birthday party with face-painting.

Ketzali and her friend Alexis doing crafts

The house seems to be dog central and all the neighbors dogs seem to congregate here on a daily basis. Rosaura is very generous by nature and cannot help but feed them too!

Chato - the neighbor's boxer and his puppy Rocky

Oh, and here is my roommate. I have learned to accept him, albeit begrudgingly.

The critters here are very large! I feel as though I am back in Australia! Hugo Senior and one of the neighbors were clearing out a lot the other day and came across two huge rattlesnakes. They ended up killing them with their machete and brought back the skins for us to see. I kind of lost my appetite for dinner that night!

I like to walk on the beach in the morning with the dogs before I start my daily homework. The beach here is beautiful and a great walking and swimming beach. This is a very dog friendly town and I often see several dogs on my daily walks on the beach.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cisco's Amigos - Spay/Neuter Clinic in Melaque

Yesterday, I took the bus early in the morning to a nearby town called Melaque to help out Cisco's Amigos with their free spay and neuter clinic. This is a local not-for-profit charity organized by La Manzanilla ex-pat, Julie Wagner-Shuetz and has a similar mission to PATA, the organization I volunteer for in Manzanillo. They promote sterilization and offer free spay/neuter clinics for stray animals and animals of low income families to lessen the over population problem and reduce the number of stray animals on the streets. They had three veteranarians come from Mexico City that volunteered their time for this wonderful cause. The rest of the tasks like sterilization of instruments, post-op recovery, cleaning kennels, getting supplies, feeding volunteers, housing the vets, etc were all performed by the amazing group of local volunteers.

I was immediately put to work in the post-operation recovery area where the animals are laid out on mats and covered in warm towels because their body temperature fluctuates as they come out of anethesia. We would watch over them and turn them every 5 minutes or so. In addition, we would make sure they were still breathing, clean their ears, remove ticks, give vaccinations and de-wormers, etc. Once they started moving and coming out of the anethesia, we would move them to a kennel. On average, the three vets were doing 30-42 animals per day! Yesterday morning, it was mostly cats and we could barely keep up with the high number coming out of surgery.

The post-operation area and the small room where all three vets performed the surgeries (through the small window). You can see the 12 or so animals post-surgery recuperating under the warm towels on the mats.

The post-op area and crew

One of the dogs pre-surgery!

One of the volunteers in charge of cleaning surgical instruments

Some small kittens that just came out of surgery. They were so tiny (less than a kilo), I kept checking to make sure they were still breathing.

Overall, it was definitely an inspirational and rewarding experience. I am sure the vets back home would be amazed at what could be accomplished in a matter of a few days and in a bare-bones surgical environment like the one we had to work with. By the time I had to catch the bus to go back to La Manzanilla for my Spanish class at 4pm, I was emotionally and physically exhausted. It was a very rewarding experience and I am glad that I was able to help out. I met the other amazing volunteers - a collection of foreigners and locals that clearly love animals. I was also had the opportunity to practice my Spanish with some of the local volunteers. Both PATA and Cisco's Amigos will be doing another large clinic each in late March - PATA in Manzanillo and Cisco's here in the Melaque area. I will definitely be helping out with the next clinic. If anyone is interested in helping out with the next clinic in Manzanillo, send me a note. We need all kinds of volunteers, we also need kennels to use on the days of the clinic, we need drivers, etc.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dog Jog and general update

Sorry I have not been more diligent on my blogging this past week. The Spanish immersion program is wonderful but alot of work and it was very overwhelming the first week so I was studying and practicing my Spanish most of my free time.

On the weekend, I went back to Manzanillo for the dog jog in support of PATA. The 5km race started at 8am so we all met bright and early Sunday morning at 7:30am to register and hand in the money we had raised.


There ended up being approximately 50+ participants and the total raised was $20,000 pesos (approx $1,830 Cdn dollars)! In addition to us foreigners/ex-pats, there was significant partication from the local community. Overall, the event was a success and the weather was wonderful. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was not too hot since we started so early. For those of you who pledged me on the walk, the total amount I raised was almost $4,700 pesos and I won a prize for the top fundraiser of the event! So a BIG thank you to everyone who supported me - your generosity is greatly appreciated.

The walk/run began at 8am and we did a 5km loop around the Santiago Peninsula. Some people ran with their dogs, whereas others walked the loop.

A photo of one of the views from the 5km loop.

There were prizes for fastest human and fastest canine. Here is a photo of the first place canine - one of the only other beagles in town - Bogart.

Shelley and her dog Aisha - full-time residents here orginally from Calgary. Her and her entire family (including husband Lance and son Dylan) ran the entire race.

Our fearless PATA leader and organizer extraordinaire Renee (in the middle)

Full-time residents Stan and MJ (orignally from the US) who are big PATA supporters/volunteers

The dogs and I

The rest of the weekend was good - I caught up with my friends and went out dancing one night and hung out at the beach with everyone on Sunday. It was great to see everyone. The dogs and I managed to get a ride this morning to La Manzanilla from some workers from Boca de Iguanas (hotel/resort owned by friends Renee and Rob).

Here is a photo of the Bramblia's house where I am staying in La Manzanilla.

Family dog Gina

Here is daughter Natalia (age 3) along with the family dog Gina

More photos to come of the rest of the family!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Spanish Immersion program in La Manzanilla

On Monday, I started a new Spanish immersion course in La Manzanilla, a small fishing village one hour north of Manzanillo. It is a very intensive program where I take Spanish classes for 3 hours per day 5 days a week. In addition, I do a homestay with a Mexican family that do not speak any English. I will take this program for the next month to try and improve my Spanish.

I arrived in La Manzanilla Monday morning with the two dogs in tow. The director of the school met me once I arrived and brought me to meet my family and get me set up, show me around town, etc. The family I am staying with are a young family (early 30’s) with 3 children and a Chihuahua. The children are very sweet and the middle child Ketzali (age 9), has taken a keen interest in teaching me various nouns and phrases when I am not in class. The family is wonderful and has accepted me and the dogs with open arms. Today, I had classes for 6 hours instead of the usual 3, so the father Hugo took my dogs to the soccer field to play fetch with them. I have my own room (Ketzali has generously given up her room and is sleeping in her brother Hugo’s room) . Part of my homestay is to have meals with the family and we all sit down together where I have ample opportunty to practice my Spanish. All of the family members are very encouraging and are helping me gain much needed confidence in my speaking abilities, comprehension and pronunciation.

My first day in La Manzanilla was challenging and a little overwhelming at times, but I have learned so much in a short time. One of my two Mexican teachers, named Miguel,is a wonderful teacher. Tomorrow, I will meet the other teacher Valentin. They paired me up with one other woman from the US who is close to the same level as me, so there are only two of us in the class. The class instruction is entirely in Spanish where we listen to the teacher (and each other) and work on comprehension, talk and work on our pronunciation, listen to Spanish songs and translate, watch Spanish movies and work on more comprehension, etc. In addition, we have homework each day, where we must keep a daily journal entirely in Spanish. The following day, we read our journal entry aloud in class. I very much like the intensity of the program and the full immersion will certainly help move my Spanish to the next level.

La Manzanilla is a quaint little Mexican town with a population of approximately 1,500 people . In the tourist season, they also get about 300 foreigners who come to live for the winter. Clearly, they have already started to arrive, as I have noticed many Canadian and American license plates on my walk to school this afternoon.

The beach here is beautiful and I plan on bringing the dogs there each morning for a long walk before I start the day and begin my studying and homework. My Mexican family has warned me to stay away from the lagoon as there is a large crocodile sanctuary where apparently the crocodiles favorite food is dogs!

The dogs have settled in nicely and have made many new friends. In addition to the Chihuahua Gina, there are several other dogs that hang out in the house I am staying. Chato, a very large boxer, pretty much lives here along with one of his puppies named Rocky. The house has a large yard that is not fenced but when I arrived, I let the dogs off the leash to explore and meet the other dogs and I have not put them back on a leash except when I leave the house to take them for a walk. They absolutely love the freedom of a yard and have made many new friends.

There are several places here that have a wireless connection so I will be able to keep up on my blogging and checking e-mails. I will also post some pictures of the family and town very soon. Well, I must get back to my journal en espanol!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Halloween in Mexico!

This post is a little belated as I was waiting for all the pictures from my friend Kris and have been busy with my friend from Canada who just left to go home.

We had a girls day/night (sleepover) at my friend Renee's house in the last week of October and decided that we were all going to dress up and go out for Halloween. I was absolutely thrilled as I love dress up and have thrown a few fundraisers back in Canada that were costume parties. A friend of ours was having a costume party and then we planned on going to our friend's bar Sunset Lounge afterwards.

So, the brainstorming began over sushi, yoga and drinks.....

Friends Chelsea, Rosy, Renee and Kris

Jade, Jackson and Nick watching us brainstorm from the balcony

Chelsea and Kris doing some yoga moves and getting inspired

The views from Renee's balcony

We only had a week to buy materials, make costumes, and get organized for the party on October 31. There were 6 of my girlfriends that decided to dress up with the same theme. One of my friends suggested being fairies but all different kinds with our own unique flair. The brainstorming continued into the next morning at brunch and after alot of caffeine, Chelsea started sketching and came up with the vision! I would be Winter Fairy, Chelsea would be Garden Fairy, Kris would be 80's Fairy and Renee would be Fertility Fairy.

After brunch and caffeine, we went off to the fabric store to purchase the materials and accessories for our costumes. Since I am hopeless at sewing and these sort of domestic duties, I paid Kris's housekeeper to sew my skirt. She did a fabulous job and I am so glad I was able to outsource this part of the costume!

Halloween finally arrived and four our of the 6 fairies gathered at Kris' house to do our makeup and final touches on our costumes.

Chelsea doing Kris' makeup

Renee aka Fertility Fairy

The four fairies ready to go! Fertility Fairy, Garden Fairy, Winter Fairy and 80's Fairy!

Off we went to the costume party and met up with our other fairies

All of the guests from the costume party went to Sunset Lounge to continue to the wee hours of the morning.

There were alot of fabulous costumes - loved this one! Nacho Libre!

It was a fantastic time - we all had a blast. It took weeks before I got all the glitter and pixie dust off!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wendy is here!

I have another visitor here who arrived on Saturday! Wendy and her son Logan are here along with her son's friend Nick. I have been busy showing them all the sights and taking lots of pictures and have a few blogs in the works which I will finish as soon as I have some time. Will keep you posted!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

2nd Annual Dog Jog - I need your help!

I will be participating in the 2nd Annual Dog Jog here in Manzanillo on November 23. This is a 5km run-walk on the Santiago Pensinsula to raise money for PATA Manzanillo's free spay/neuter programs. PATA Manzanillo is an amazing non-profit, all volunteer group dedicated to the welfare of all dogs and cats in Manzanillo. Their goal is to end needless suffering, promote sterilization to lessen the over population problem and reduce the number of stray animals on the streets, and help animals to find and stay in suitable and loving homes. To date, in the 3 years since inception, they have spayed/neutered over 900 stray animals here in Manzanillo! If you do the math and think about how many puppies or kittens each animal would have had, this has helped save literally thousands of animals lives. They estimate that there are over 16,000 homeless dogs and cats fighting for survival on the streets of Manzanillo.

So, I need your help. I am looking for people to pledge me for this 5km walk. I am trying to raise as much money as I can for this wonderful organization. For those of you here in Manzanillo, just let me know if you would like to donate and I can arrange to come by and pick it up. For those of you out of town, you can still pledge me on-line using your visa or bank account! Just click here, scroll to the bottom and you can donate on-line via pay-pal through PATA's website. This is a fully secure way to make a donation. If you do not already have a pay-pal account, it just takes a few minutes to sign up. If you do donate on-line, can you leave a comment here on my blog to let me know so I can track how much I raise? Thanks in advance for your support!

Clearly, this organization has made a huge difference in the few years since inception and has significantly reduced the number of stray dogs and cats here. I am very happy to be a volunteer for this amazing charity. Every day, I see stray dogs and cats on the my daily walks and it would break your heart to see the state they are in.