First Three Weeks on Isla Mujeres
After surviving an ice storm in April and the return of winter to Toronto, we were happy to board the plane to Mexico!
We arrived safely on Isla Mujeres. Our direct flight from Toronto to Cancun was easy and uneventful, and we had a fun ferry ride from Cancun to Isla Mujeres.
The girls are charming everyone with their “hola”s and we are stumbling through with our almost nonexistent Spanish. I’ve started up my Spanish learning app again and am determined to learn this time. Nothing like throwing yourself in head first!
Our Airbnb is delightful and magical and Charlotte loves it. The stairs and ramp to the third level make Ama’s stairs look like the safest stairs you’ve ever seen and the girls love them! Jonathan has a mini heart attack every 30 seconds. Will send updates soon!
Quick update: we have found a two bedroom apartment to rent for 3-6 months. We move in April 28, so we are going to another Airbnb tomorrow for 4 days.
It’s sad because we love our neighbourhood and just started making friends with some local kids – all it took was taking the soccer ball out to the field across from our house! Aria is already a great little soccer player. Charlotte kicked the ball a few times and then chased after her new friend, trying to give her the purple flowers she’d picked – remind you of anyone?!?
(that’s an inside joke only my family will get: I played soccer for one season when I was five, and I spent every game practicing my ballet moves at the other end of the field and making daisy chains – I just couldn’t, for the life of me, see the point in chasing after a ball in a huge clump of other five-year-old kids! Apparently the other parents found me adorable, and my lack of participation didn’t affect the team – we still won our division! I still have those soccer trophies stashed away somewhere, as they make me laugh every time I see them.)
Charlotte gave away some of her toys to her new friend because we saw their house (a small, one-room concrete little place) and she saw that the girl didn’t have very many toys – cue my heart exploding!
We’ve loved this Airbnb. They provide bikes, and one even has a baby seat, so with Aria (or sometimes Charlotte!!) in the Boba Air baby carrier on my back, and the other kid in the baby seat, we are able to bike five minutes to super gorgeous beaches and pools. It’s also an easy walk to our already-favourite restaurant, Basto’s Grill, (they have the BEST veggie fajitas I’ve ever had!) and the grocery store.
We finally got to Playa Norte this weekend. It’s the big beach at the opposite end of the island that is rated one of the top in the world – Jonathan said it was the nicest beach he’s ever been on! It has that picture-perfect white sand and completely clear turquoise water, with lots of palm trees for shade and lovely cabanas for rent. We plan to buy a hammock so we don’t have to pay every time, but it was fun to have a bit of luxury.
We also took a trip over to Cancun to explore buying bikes (we didn’t yet, but figured out where we could). For those who listen to the fear mongering in the media, the areas of Cancun we went to were super clean and super safe! I’m sure there are sketchy areas, just like there are in every city (Vancouver’s downtown East Side and Toronto’s… hard to put into words but I’ve been there… anyone??), but taking a taxi to Costco, walking 15 minutes to Walmart down wide, leafy boulevards, then taxi to Plaza des Americas was easy and felt completely safe.
Charlotte and Aria started at a Spanish preschool today. Aria cried until I came back 20 minutes later, which hurts my heart. But I know the immersion in the language will have her fluent in no time and be so worth it! She yells out “Hola!” to anyone who will listen and has made up her own sign for “Cómo estás” (“how are you?”) based on a YouTube video we watched of Spanish songs. Charlotte loved the preschool – lots of dancing and singing and reading.
Also, Google Translate is a miraculous tool – I was sort of conversing today! Definitely learned a lot in the past six days. I am really excited about the potential to learn a new language here.
Hello, everyone! Sorry it’s been so long since our last update. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen my post about our dehydration sickness escapades. The upside of all that? I got to watch lots of episode of The Crown! (you can also read about ALL of our sickness/injury in Mexico in my post So Long and Thanks for All the Sickness.)
In addition, Charlotte has possibly broken her pinky finger. She slipped off the curb and fell, scrapping her knees and hurting her finger. So, we had yet another house call from Dr. Salas. He wasn’t sure if it was broken, and didn’t want to do X-rays if we didn’t need to. It was like a repeat of her broken arm all over again, where we got sent home because they didn’t think it was broken at first – he’s palpitating the area, she’s saying “yeah, that hurts”, but not pulling away or wincing or anything, but it’s all swollen and kind of blue. She can make a fist but not a tight one. It happened two days ago, yesterday we tried to keep it taped up/splinted because she would say it was hurting, and it still looks swollen and blue, but she was also doing the monkey bars without a problem at the park last night, so…. Kenzie high pain tolerance plus actual fracture?? Just really bruised?? Hard to tell… and the treatment doesn’t seem to change. So, we’re just kind of waiting it out! Poor Jonathan has a harder time with it than Charlotte!
We are settling into life here a bit. The girls are enjoying their preschool now – Aria still cries at drop off, but she doesn’t cling to us, and she’s super happy and excited when we pick her up (not because we’re there, but because she’s had lots of fun – if you ask her, she’ll tell you she had a great day and had fun!). They are learning Spanish, and two new kids started who are 5 and 7 and speak English, so Charlotte has some friends there now.
Jonathan has his website really going now, and has received his first contact/inquiries from people who found him through the website, which is very exciting. With the girls at preschool every morning for 3-4 hours, we’re finally getting concentrated time to work on our projects, and then we get to enjoy the afternoons and evenings as a family.
We’ve been to the Sea Turtle conservation centre, where you can see baby sea turtles all the way up to full grown young adults who are about to be released into the wild (they rescue eggs, raise them, and then release them, so it’s a really nice, humane place – not about animals in captivity for humans to gawk at, but about saving endangered populations, and we get to see them as a side bonus).
Charlotte has become great friends with a few neighbourhood girls – one in particular, Eva, basically lives at our house now. We are becoming the house that all the kids come to to play at, which we love – we can keep an eye on our kids, but they can get that neighbourhood experience. Charlotte just struts around the street looking for her friends (luckily we are on a very quiet street with very little traffic).
Eva joined us for dinner last night, and I had my first real conversation in Spanish with her. It went something like “Tu ama escuela?” – Smile and nod – “Estas aprendiendo ingles a escuela?” – shake head and smile – “Es escuela abierto mañana?” – shake head and smile (it’s Mexican Mother’s Day today, and schools are closed – not the best Mother’s Day present in my mind, but they seem to use any excuse to take a holiday here!). But she understood me, and I didn’t use Google Translate at all!
It’s pretty cool to be so immersed in a language and just have to figure it out. It’s exhausting and frustrating and all of that, too. But I’ve always wanted to speak another language, and I can’t wait to keep getting better at it.
Charlotte has started dance lessons here, too. Jazz and ballet, so she’s loving that. I don’t get to watch, but she says she’s having fun! It’s also been a great way for me to make friends – there are two other expat moms whose kids speak Spanish and English, so they’re becoming friends with Charlotte and the moms and I hang out during class (well, while I also try to keep Aria alive).
The family that just joined our preschool also just moved here, and aren’t sure how long they’re staying, either, so we’re becoming friendly with them, too.
It’s been a tougher first few weeks than expected because of all the sickness – means we weren’t out meeting people and getting to know the place, especially Jonathan – but things seem to be turning around and settling down (Future Meredith says: famous last words… read blog post So Long and Thanks for All the Sickness for how things really ended up going!)
Our landlord/neighbour, Jorge, is an amazing godsend – he speaks English, so we get a break from struggling through the language barrier, and he is so kind and helpful. His wife is lovely and speaks a tiny bit of English, so she and I have stumbled our way through a few conversations with her English and my Spanish.
They have a 1.5 year old boy and babysit their 3 year old niece a lot, so we all understand what young kids are all about (e.g. noise, mess, craziness, etc.). It makes it easier to deal with our two little munchkins hanging out on the shared porch, re-arranging everything constantly and hanging out with their neighbourhood friends!
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