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Amy F. Quincy Author/Freelance Writer

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On An Adventure

Traveling and Having Fun

More Moxie

This week will be a special re-post of something I wrote in January of 2013 about my dear friend, Diana Lane. A post called “Moxie Personified” …

amy & diana

 

 

 

And you guys think I’m gutsy. Meet Diana Lain. More positive, more adventurous, more disabled than me. And more full of life than most anyone I know, able-bodied or otherwise.

It’s not often I meet someone with this much gumption. She’s game for anything and loves speed. Some of you may recognize her from other adaptive sport photos. She waterskis, body surfs and plays power soccer (driving the ball into the goal with a power wheelchair.) Not to mention, occasionally joins in on bowling and billiards nights. All this is made more remarkable because she doesn’t have much use of her limbs.

Diana was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1992 and has lived with friend, caregiver and trusty sidekick, Kathy Bailey, for close to 10 years (read the recent article that appeared in The Florida Times-Union.) I don’t remember actually meeting them. It seems, instead, they’ve always been there, giving me countless rides in their wheelchair van since my own disability, and becoming my good friends along the way.

So, I didn’t hesitate when they invited me to check out Little Talbot Island on New Year’s Day. The park has plenty of boardwalks, bike trails and accessible restrooms, so it didn’t feel I was living too close to the edge. I forgot who my companions were.

Our first escapade came when Diana spotted a seagull with a broken wing in a parking lot. I think I have a bleeding heart when it comes to creatures of nature. Next to Diana, I’m the hunter poised to take out Bambi’s mom. Continue reading “More Moxie”

Gringa Goes Sightseeing

dd6Halloween weekend I dragged myself off the lounger, tore my eyes away from jade colored waves (the water’s more green than blue here, hence the name “the Emerald coast”) and left the conch lined walls of the Casa Solana property. Having seen many of the Mayan ruins and other more “official” sites last year, I told Neydi there was only one thing I definitely wanted to see – the Day of the Dead festivities.

El Dia de los Muertos – the Day of the Dead – is a beautiful Mexican holiday steeped in tradition that takes place around our Halloween. Both holidays have skeletons, yes, but they couldn’t have more different meanings. To get a better idea of the significance and meaning of the holiday, check out last year’s post here.

dd8Hanal Pixan is the name of this festival in Merida, the capitol city dd11of the Yucatan, about 90 minutes or so from Casa Solana and Chuburna. The focus of the festivities is on the various altars (ofrendas) to commemorate lost loved ones, complete with offerings of food, flowers like the Mexican marigold (cempasuchil) or photographs of the deceased.

dd16I know my mother will laugh at me, but what I found the most dd15wonderful was (of course) the food. It was all free! Women made fresh tortillas over open flames next to many of the altars and Neydi would just shout “dos, por favor!” as we went by. They were still hot and often covered in pico or lime which I learned basically goes with everything.


I’m having too many technical difficulties trying to write much more from here so I’ll let the rest of my pictures do the talking. Enjoy, assuming I manage to get them loaded.

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Snippets from Solana

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Ricky
Jeff with Oliver
Jeff with Junior

It’s a new day here at Casa Solana and there’s no shortage of fur babies. Meet Ricky. Like me, he’s a paying guest. Turns out in addition to running Casa Solana for humans, Jeff is also a dog groomer, trainer and pet sitter extraordinaire! Here he is with Junior,  a salon client.

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Did you know that a breeze through palm fronds sounds exactly like running water? The first week I just thought our neighbor took very long and frequent showers. I still have to open the door to make sure it’s not raining.ss5

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The sun flirts with me at sunrise and sunset, kissing all the clouds and making them blush, but never actually letting me see her.ss4

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Here’s a decorative plate that was in my room. May you heed its advice wherever you are!ss2

Serene Solana

unnamed (7)I imagine if you are going to follow along on this journey with me, I should start by introducing you to the other inhabitants of Casa Solana, the heavenly seaside vacation rental where I have planted myself for the next month. For those of you who don’t know, I’m in the Yucatan peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico (in the northeast corner of the country and about as far away as you can get from where Hurricane Patricia made landfall, thank goodness).

Casa Solana is owned and operated by Sonya and Jeff Damon. I’ve yet to meet Sonya, she goes back and forth between here and Canada, but Jeff has proven to be a wonderful host on his own. I’ve even given him a title. Here at Casa Solana he’s the Chief Creative Solutions Director in charge of Handicapped Services.  The property is now littered with little makeshift devices: pieces of red or yellow rope to help me reach some switch or pull a door or gate closed behind me. There’s even hockey tape on a door pull so I can get a better grip. Being from Florida, I called it hurricane tape, but was corrected, dontcha know, by the Canadian – it’s hockey tape.

Me and Neydi
Me and Neydi

Neydi is the local Mexican woman I met last year who, having the somewhat rare commodity of a vehicle, is solely responsible for getting me out and about, though I don’t plan on doing much of that. I mean c’mon, the ocean is in my backyard.

With Lydia
With Lydia

Neydi and her sister, Lydia, have the task of making sure I don’t starve. And Neydi’s daughter, Sarahi, is helping me work on my Spanish. It’s a family affair.

Solana
Let’s play!
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One-eyed Weenie

Best of all, even though I’m without Frankie, I still have puppy love! Meet Solana, the mystery mix (Pit Bull/Boxer/Terrier?) who is tireless in her love of fetching the ball and Weenie, the sweet, one-eyed pug who has an endearing way of cocking her head so she can see. I already feel myself growing attached.

Even though I purposely didn’t make any sightseeing plans so I’d have plenty of time to write, I can already sense time slipping away from me. I think all I accomplished yesterday was starting a new book and staring at the surf. So, I’m making the following disclaimer about my posts: they’ll be less cohesive and themed and more like short snippets and photos. Turns out, I’ve taken my time problem with me. It evaporates just as easily here as it does at home. It must be a disabled thing. It’s time consuming to get ready in a different environment! And all that mindless staring at the horizon doesn’t help.unnamed (6)

 

Sola!

unnamed (1)So, I’m in Mexico. In honor of my solo adventure I’m re-running a post about being brave. You should try it. And it doesn’t have to be jumping-out-of-a-plane-scare-yourself-half-to-death brave. Maybe it’s just going to the movies by yourself. You know your comfort zone. Push it.

And next time you’re feeling like Chicken Little, think of me negotiating a foreign airport by myself. Sorry don’t worry, Grandma. It’s actually easier by myself because everyone rushes to help me. It’s how I know that human beings are basically good. A disabled woman traveling with friends is presumably taken care of. A disabled woman traveling alone is a universal sign, like an S.O.S. Just ask the two friends who traveled with me through that cluster you know what of an airport in Mexico City. (Sorry again, Grandma.)

Everyone may think I’m brave, but traveling alone is actually in my comfort zone. Now, public speaking … I think I’d rather jump out of that plane.


Original Post: Be Courageous 

A friend called me last week, upset that she had to cancel our plans, but much more distraught over the reason why. She was exhausted by work. Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. Her job, it seemed, was eating her soul. Well, perhaps I’m being a little dramatic about it. So I guess you can see where I stand on that subject.

If my life could have a theme, I think it would be that life is short. I’ve always felt this way. Even before becoming disabled. After all, I did quit my own soul-sucking job when I was twenty-seven to bike solo throughout Europe. Then again, I stayed for the money for years before quitting, socking it away and planning my escape while driving home every day miserable and in tears. So, who am I to advise?

But, I’ll do it anyway. Maybe, the question for my friend is — is it worth it? Is the trade off of investing more of your time in this unfulfilling place all for some nobler cause? I think, in her case, it is. And we’re talking about sticking it out for less than four months anyway! People can survive a lot for just four months.

In my case, I stuck it out much longer. But I’d like to think my plan was that much grander, too. And what about now? Now that I’m in a wheelchair? You better believe I think about that trip all the time now and am filled with gratitude that I had the guts. What if I hadn’t gone? I had some friends making bets behind my back about how long I’d last. In case you’re wondering — those are naysayers. What if I’d listened to the naysayers? “Aren’t you worried about the gap in your resume?” they asked. Look at me now. Do I seem concerned about the gap? And it was a big one. I was gone for close to six months.

I have another friend who just quit managing a restaurant she’s owned for twenty-five years. She had to listen to lots of naysayers. I tried to be the voice of reason. “Think of it as simply making space. You’re making more room in your life for the things you really want to be doing.”

And these courageous acts don’t have to be as huge and life changing as the ones I’ve described. Heck, brave for me nowadays is rolling into the Subway at the gym and ordering from a stranger who I hope will understand me and be patient while I fumble through the transaction.

I was at the gym last week, using the only machine I felt comfortable with and suffering from a severe case of gym-timidation when in rolled my friend Dani. (I’ve written about her before. The girl with Spina bifida? Who’s blind?) Well, you haven’t felt cowardly till a blind girl in a wheelchair taps her way right past you to try out several different machines. So what’s my excuse? Or yours, for that matter?

I guess what I’m trying to say is, in the words of my friend Michele and Nike, do it. Whatever it is. Take a deep breath and go for it. And in the words of that overplayed song that I love, I wanna see you be brave.europe2europe


 

El Dia de los Muertos

imagesEl Dia de los Muertos. (Sorry, I haven’t figured out how to do those little accents on my keyboard and I’m not sure about the capitalization of Spanish words.) And now with those little disclaimers out of the way, let’s get on with the post. El Dia de los Muertos. The Day of the Dead. It coincides with our Halloween and children get treats, but other than that it’s not even close to the same thing.

I’m not a “dark” kind of person. I don’t like crime-dramas, horror movies or scary skeletons. As a kid, I was much more likely to carve a goofy, grinning pumpkin than a ghoulish one. And I don’t like anything jumping out at me. All that said, The Day of the Dead is a holiday I could really get into.Unknownth

I grew up with skeletons representing haunted houses and scary stuff like zombies, fright nights and chainsaw massacres. In Mexico, and other Spanish-speaking cultures around the world, th3skeletons become brightly colored works of art. The holiday is spiritual, not scary. Not to rain on your trick-or-treating parade, but it really means something. It focuses on gatherings of friends and family to remember loved ones who have died.

th2I think it’s a beautiful tradition. We have our funerals, but then we’re left alone to sadly mark the passage of time — birthdays, anniversaries and holidays without our loved ones. Imagine coming together with family and friends every year to celebrate the memory of those we have lost. To feast and make music! At gravesites even! th9Consider the beauty of this celebration (click here) in Merida, Yucantan, just an hour outside of the small fishing town where I stayed. Next time, I’ll better coordinate my trip to see this in person.

And next time, Neydi says she’ll cook the Yucatan’s special dish for the festivities: pibi. It all seems to vary a little by region but from what I understand (yes, another disclaimer) The Day of the Dead actually lasts three days, with each state’s speciality meal being served on the second day, November 1st. Pibi is a kind of cake made of dough and chicken or pork and baked chicken and so is called pibipollo (for chicken). When I explained I don’t eat meat, Neydi assured me, “No carne. Pollo.” I felt like John Corbett in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the aunt yells, “YOU DON’T EAT NO MEAT?!” and then says, “That’s okay, I make lamb.”

November 2nd, the party usually moves to the cemeteries, where families clean and decorate graves with flowers like the orange Mexican marigolds,

Mexican_marigoldcalled cempasuchil. Ofrendas, or altars, in the home may include food such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto (bread of dead), and candied sugar skulls.th7

 

Don’t get me wrong — I still plan on passing out candy and I’ve already purchased an infant T-shirt for Frankie with a Mexican flag on it. I’m just saying, if you’re not doing anything but nursing a toothache those first few days of November, it might be a good time to think fondly on those not with us. After all, Mexico’s doing it. And I think they might be onto something.el-gato-dia-de-los-muertos-cat-pristine-cartera-turkus

First World Problems

blg1We are rich. Make no mistake about it. We are.

By “we,” I mean you and me. And by “you,” I mean most of my readers. We live in Northern America, most of us in the United States. A very developed, First World kind of place. We’re very wealthy here. I don’t care if you’re “middle class,” live paycheck to paycheck, or are even currently unemployed. Most of us know where our next meal is coming from, be it the grocery store or take-out. And I’m willing to bet most of us have seen the inside of a Starbucks before.

I think what I’m experiencing now that I’m home is a bit of culture shock. Where I stayed was lovely. But right outside the walled perimeter of the property, people were living in poverty. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I got used to seeing run down houses, graffiti covered walls and small, beat-up cars.

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When I entered my home that first night, my immediate comment was, “Has it always looked this nice?” The next day driving to Publix, I marveled at everything. All the lawns were so green and manicured! All the buildings so neat and clean! And all the cars so big and shiny! We have money here to spend on pretty pictures to hang on our walls. Art. It doesn’t do anything. You can’t eat it. It serves no purpose whatsoever except our enjoyment. Imagine that. How strange.

And the grocery store! What a plethora of choices! In one aisle alone there are at least 15 types of crackers. And everything is clean and refrigerated and in plastic. Meat is virtually undistinguishable from the animal it came from. Contrast that to this open air market outside of Celestun, Yucatan. It’s not hard to figure out what kind of meat is for sale here!mar3

I was reminded of my comparative wealth all the time. Neydi and Lidia, the two women with whom I spent most of my time, lived a few blocks from where I was staying. On one of my first days there, Neydi found a packet of crackers I’d thrown away, unopened, crushed by airline bag handlers. She wagged her finger at me. “This no garbage.” I didn’t throw out unopened food again. I gave them all my uneaten groceries when I left, but I was embarrassed by how much there was. How often do we buy more than we can eat? I used to throw away food I’d let spoil all the time. I’ll be more aware of it now.

sb1An hour away, in the city of Merida, I gave Neydi and her daughter, Sarahi, their first introduction to Starbucks. “Starbucks only for rich people,” Neydi said. For once, I knew my way around someplace they did not. I explained we had to order at the counter and then sit. How many Starbucks have you been in? For crying out loud, there’s one on every corner!

I think it’s important to get this kind of perspective and only travel can give it to you. And I’m not talking about the kind of filtered experience you get looking at the world through tour bus windows either. Cruise ships came to the town where I was staying, but those were the days I preferred to stay at the pool. And not a five star hotel pool either. On cruise days, the prices went up and the English music came on. And there is something profoundly wrong with listening to Michael Bolton on the streets of Mexico.

I was in search of an authentic experience and I think I got one. These are the experiences that make you grateful for what you have, simply because you were fortunate enough to be born into a First World country and not a Third World one. So consider that the next time you sit down to pay the bills and lament your money troubles. And consider venturing out to see how the rest of the world lives. You just might gain some perspective.

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P.S. Enjoy the rest of the market photos. I’m including them for those of you that missed them on Facebook and because they’re just so darn pretty and interesting.

blg7mex1mar4blg6mex5mar2mex6mex4mex3mex7mex8mex9mar1Photos by Carol O’Dell and Laura Havice

Fantastica!

Well, so much has happened, I have some catching up to do. For those that haven’t seen the multitude of pictures on Facebook, here’s where I’m staying. wpid-20140922_123245.jpg I miss Bella and Frankie (and you too, Mom), but there are plenty of cats to keep me company, even if they are a little stand-offish. wpid-img_20140922_084224.jpgWriter pals Carol and Laura stayed with me the first week. We saw Merida, the capital of the Yucatan. We saw Mayan ruins, mangrove forests, and traditional markets. All things I may (or may not) post about. Those two proved to be superb and skilled travel partners. Here’s a picture of the three of us. wpid-wp-1411995993647.jpegBut they’ve gone home now and I’m by myself. Yesterday, I managed to get down to the shore with my new friend, Nadine (in Spanish, it’s Neydi.) This is the Gulf of Mexico and the Malecon (or boardwalk) just outside my door. These pretty shots were taken by Laura earlier.wpid-wp-1411996237600.jpegwpid-wp-1411995777718.jpegwpid-wp-1411995906354.jpegA strong Mexican man wheeled me through the soft sand, no problem, but once there I had to employ the old scooting technique. As a result, my body’s a little banged up. I’m sore enough that I’ve decided today is pool and ceviche day (there’s a great local place that delivers). Here’s me in the Gulf.wpid-img_20140928_181313.jpgWe had a little scare when I dropped my $300 prescription sunglasses in the surf. After looking in the not very clear water for about ten minutes and drifting about a block from where my wheelchair waited onshore, would you believe Nadine came up with them? I squealed at the top of my lungs and kept shouting in English that I couldn’t believe it. That’s when I learned the important Spanish exclamation – fantastica! The day was capped off by laying in the sand listening to the sounds of a Mariachi band drift from a restaurant across the street. And trying a local meringue sweet sold by the vendors walking up and down the beach. Here are some not-so-pretty shots of Nadine’s, but I share it in the spirit of capturing a moment of a trip fantastica!wpid-20140928_152101.jpgwpid-20140928_152052.jpg

Mexican Moment

For those of you that don’t know – I’m in Mexico. It’s a little surreal because once I became disabled, I thought I’d never travel internationally again. A long flight and the inability to get up and walk to the airplane lavatory conspired to clip my wings and limit my adventures to the contiguous forty-eight. Never say never.

Turns out that most flights to Latin America are doable. Shorter flight times coupled with a few layovers make it all possible again. And as some of you have heard, I’d love to speak Spanish fluently.

So, here I am. For the next month. Writer pals Carol and Laura have joined me the first week. And thank God I had them to travel with.  The Delta flights were as expected. But look at what greeted me in Mexico City on the first Aeromexico flight.IMG_6655723843398The posts will be shorter, but sweeter. Fewer catchy openers and cute endings, but maybe some good pictures. And this one is to be continued. Right now there’s a margarita with my name on it.

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