Wednesday, April 29, 2009

It just been a matter of days since swin flu registered on my radar...

...and already the effects are taking a serious toll on Cozumel. The Cruise Ships upon which many rely for income have imposed a 2 week ban on stops in Mexico.

Yesterday I went to Playa Del Carmen to pick up some stuff and say goodbye to my friend Hans. I'd decided to do some beading on the ferry which soon made me very sea sick. In a rush to get onto dry land I left my nice pink butterfly beach bag on the ferry. All that was in there was a bottle of water but I was sad to loose the bag. Hans made the comment that it was a timely reminder of the impermanence of everything. I agreed tha it was indeed.

It was a growing dissatisfaction with the materialism of New York that was the major motivator for my move to Mexico. I wanted to be free of the insane drive to acquire more money, power and possessions.

When I arrived here life became simple. I've had a very peaceful seven months. I've been blessed with Selene, a wonderful teacher of kundalini yoga who has taught me much in terms of yogic theory and meditation practice and I have had more time to devote to reading -much related to spirituality. I've made good friends and met a wonderful man who is wise, kind and content.
Recently, however, I have begun to develop a bit of a preoccupation with the future: looking for land to build a house on, decking out my apartment in nice furniture, angsting about whether or not children are in my future. They are all forms of the grasping for possessions that I was trying to move away from.

Right now is a low few weeks work wise in any event. Its difficult to say how this swine flu outbreak will affect Cozumel at this stage but I think it is safe to assume that the effects will be serious. With North America and Europe advising travelers to avoid Mexico, the tourism, upon which Cozumel relies, is likely to dry up to next to nothing for a spell.

So far in life I have been very lucky with work, in that since the age of 17 I have always had a secure well paid job. Not so now. We have clients to take us through this week but then the likelihood of earning nothing at all for the near future.

I have savings in my bank account which puts me in a better position than others. The distress I felt yesterday related to the fact that I will probably have to start living off my savings for some time, rather than immediate pressure of no money to live on, like some of my friends.

I remember, as a little girl, I would embark on ambitious building projects. I'd have visions of grand, billowing tents and set to work on creating my visions with only a cloths horse and some sheets and blankets (perhaps a few card board boxes). My mother told me that she would dread these creative urges of mine as invariably I was not able to conjor my visions and ended up in bitter and inconsolable disappointment.

I believe that I've continued with this pattern through out most of my life. Following unattainable pipe dreams and encountering disappointment after disappointment. Now though I fell my perception is changing. I am truly beginning to realize that attainment of external, material goals rarely makes for happiness. The Buddhists believe that such grasping is at the route of all human suffering and I think that I have moved beyond just understanding this to making it a reality in my life. So I am viewing the forthcoming time as a reminder to live in the now.

My boyfriend, of course, takes this all peacefully in his stride. He's seen a few hurricanes in his time and has gone through this all before. I once asked him if he'd ever wanted to be rich and he just laughed a 'don't be absurd' laugh and said no.

To my parents and more conventional friends - don't worry I am not planning a life of poverty. If things get too bad here, we'll come up with a game plan.

For now though I'm seeing this as an opportunity for growth. Rather than building castles in the sky I'm going to enjoy all of the free time I'm likely to have. Exploring in our kayak, studying Spanish learning more about my boyfriend and friends. I've just started designing my own jewelery and plan to enjoy rekindling the artist in me.

I am sad that I'm unlikely to be able to see my parents in two weeks but thankful that they are healthy and that I am able to talk to them often on the telephone.

I'm avoiding 'what ifs' and thinking too far in advance.

As to the swine flu its self I am overwhelmed with the amount of media coverage, and information which is flying around on the internet. Right now I feel pretty safe personally. I'm pretty healthy and on the grand scheme of things think that the odds of getting sick or dying are slim. Honestly there is so much speculation out there that its tough for me to form a view on any of it.

So I will keep you all posted on how thing progress both in my life and in Cozumel (probably more now than before as I'm likely to find myself with much more free time on my hands!!)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu

Swine flu went from something I had heard a whisper of last week to something pretty serious withing the space of a week. I've read a lot about this flu on the internet. Around 100 people have died in Mexico City, and now there have been cases in the US, Spain, Scotland and perhaps Manchester. Obviously I am very saddened by deaths of people in Mexico City, but having lived through the mad cow era in the UK and anthrax scares following September 11, I tend to take a pretty philosophical about these things. If its not something you have control over then don't worry about it. I'm afraid I've developed a bit of a tendency to hide my head in the sand during world crises.

Two things that have personally impacted me on this occasion:

Two of my very dear friends who lived in Playa Del Carmen have decided to move up their leaving date. They are expecting a baby and for unrelated reasons had made the decision to return to the US. I just got a phone call 10 mins ago telling me that they've decided to leave today, for fear that travel may become increasingly difficult over the next month, as a result of the spread of swine flu. A wise move (and when an unborn baby is involved I think caution is the best way forward) but its meant that I didn't get to say goodbye which has kind of hit me hard today. Its made me feel a little lonely here in Mexico. I still feel very happy in my choice of lifestyle and just in myself at peace and content, but increasingly recently, I've been missing my friends in the US and UK. Other than the friends who are now leaving I suppose I have begun to develop one or two close friendships in Mexico (and of course my boyfriend who is my best friend ever). Teaching by the pool one day last week I overheard one of the guests listening to Led Zeplin - this reminded me of living in England and of all of my friends from Uni and I suddenly became not 'homesick' but 'friendsick'. Then with my only really close friends leaving Mexico this feeling got worse and today - well I'm feeling a little bit alone.

I also spoke to my Mam - my parents are planning a trip to Mexico on May 11th. I am very excited about this, but my mam said today that her friends have been calling her telling her not to come. I kind of poo poo'd this but now it seems that there is a real possibility that travel to Mexico might be seriously impacted. The European Union health commissioner has advised Europeans to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico. I hope this does not affect my parents trip as I really want to see them (although I don't want them to get swine flu).

This brings me back to the feelings I had of remoteness right after September 11th when I was marooned in Brooklyn on my own.

There is also the issue of the impact all of this will have on tourism to Mexico and the impact that that will have on my and other's in this region ability to earn money. Coupled with the US economic situation and media coverage of drug wars here in Mexico I worry about falling tourism.

Ak I'm being a big baby I know and I am incredibly lucky with the life I have here. As usual I'm just going to trust that this will blow over. I'm about to deliver a bottle of fresh orange juice to my boyfriend who is sick (excuse for a big hug) and then head to pilates and yoga to put my mind into a peaceful state.

Going to miss my friends though!!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Lion Fish - ANOTHER 10 mins of fame

Some of you may recall my radio debut when I was interviewed by Radio Newcastle following the September 11th 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center buildings in New York. Well today I was captured in the lime light once more. The reason???? This little guy:

He is a Lion fish - actually a juvenile Lion Fish, about the same size as my little finger:
Lion fish are native to the Indo-Pacific, but have recently been spotted here in Cozumel. No-one knows how they got here although there are various theories involving releases in Florida. They look innocent enough right?
In fact they are voracious predators eating native fish and crustaceans in large quantities. They are not known to have any native predators here in Mexico and because of this and the fact that they reproduce quickly there is concern within Cozumel's National Park Organization that they will compete for food and space with local species and damage the delicate ecological balance on Cozumel's reefs. They are equipped with venomous dorsal, ventral and anal spines, which deter predators and can cause painful wounds in humans.

So how does this involve me? Well on Saturday I was diving along with a group of divers and I saw a tinsy lion fish. Pretty cool I thought and looked around for something to catch him with. 'Rats teeth', I had nothing. So I left the little guy at large. Well today I armed myself with two plastic bags - those who know me know I like to dive with back ups:)

Anyway I figures I might see him in the same spot as on Saturday. The conditions today were good and with my discover scuba group in tow I made my way back to the spot where I'd seen him. On the way we saw two carribean reef squid. This put me in high spirits because I love to watch squid. When I got to the general area I started to look around. We found a sting ray and I checked a few rock piles which looked like the ones I'd seen him on on Saturday. Just as I was about to give up hope (what are the chances of finding such a little guy in such a large ocean I thought), there he was. Hanging out on a sponge. So I poped out my little plastic bag and scooped him in.

He caused quite a stir on Sunset Beach. One of the other instructors (Caesar from Caribbean Divers) called the local TV station - Chanel 10. My first thought - I look a mess - hair like straw, dry salty wrinkly skin from the ocean, and they're going to want me to talk (yikes!). I made a quick decision not to attempt to speak in Spanish (a wise move I think). The reporter took lots of video of the fish, a little of me and a lot of Caesar. I have to say Caesar took to the lime light very well!

I then took my little friend to see Julio where we transferred him into a cooler. Feeling hungry, I returned home. I had planned to keep him overnight, take him to show the people at work and then take him to the Marine Park tomorrow. Well, within 10 mins of my getting home I received a call from the Marine Park asking if they could come and collect him. Someone had turned me in! They arrived in minutes. I learned that this was only the 3rd lion fish to have been caught in Cozumel. Sadly I doubt my little friend will survive the week. The NP officer told me that he'd probably end up pickled in alcohol. When he saw the look on my face he back tracked and said that they would probably keep this one alive to study. A likely storey - I think he was just trying to stop me from crying.

So off he went in a big white van. Very pretty little thing - difficult to believe he'd cause such havok:

And so the question is -am I a reef preserver or a lion fish murderer???