Saturday, April 09, 2011

Dad; Isla
I received an email from Sophie today.  She called the hospice this morning and Nurse Wynona said that Dad had a breakthrough pain med this morning about 4am and he had his shower, breakfast and went back to bed.  He awoke a bit later to ask for his shower and breakfast.  The nurses showed him that he was already dressed, then he remembered . Sophie said that he's been more forgetful in the last two weeks but with the heavy doses of medications, I'm surprised that he isn't more forgetful.

This morning after breakfast, we rented a golf cart for an hour to go around the island.  There are no rental cars here so if you want to get from one place to another, you either walk, ride a bike use a taxi, or rent a golf cart or moped.  We've been walking everywhere in the centre of town.  The town consists of about 8 streets in a North/South direction and about 4 streets in an East/West direction and these are by no means long streets.  There aren't even any traffic lights anywhere on the island.

After we were done driving around, we went to the market to buy some more cinnamon bark.  We got a whole lot for about $3.  It's incredible that we would probably pay five times as much for the fake stuff.   We also got quite a few guavas and some fig bananas.  I, who am not a lover of bananas unless they are the small ones, promptly had a bite of Sunita's.  It needs another day or so to ripen.  I had the best starapples two days ago and the sapodillas are so sugary, that you can positively taste the sugar crystals in them.  Same for the huge papaya adn all the mangos that we bought earlier in the week. We came back to the hotel and Ronin ate about 5 guavas - granted that they were small ones.  He wants us to buy some to take back to Edmonton so what did we do?  We went back to the market in the blistering sun (29C with a Humidex of 38C) and bought some more, just so my grandbaby could take home some. 

We made some guacamole and then went off to buy some water coconuts.  The first one was not very good.  The husk was a bit wrinkly and dry. The jelly was already hard and the water had no taste. I think the amigo didn't think we knew anything about coconuts.  By the time we asked for a second one, he picked a nicer one - the skin was green and smooth and he only made one cut and you could already tell that it would be good.  It was.  The water was sweet and refreshing and the jelly was nice and soft but had a bit of texture.  Ronin thoroughly enjoyed it, especially with his coconut husk spoon.  He thought that was a bit wierd but he went with the flow. 
Enjoying a first coconut
Why am I talking about all this fresh fruit?  Well, if you live in Winnipeg and are reading this, you'll know why.  If you're not from Winnipeg, you probably get all this stuff and it's good.  We get some horrible papayas and guavas.  I buy them but by the time they are ripe, they are rotten so I don't even buy them unless I happen to be in Toronto and can bring them home right away.  I am loving all the fresh fruit and veggies and the food is pretty safe to eat because all the water is purified water that is piped in from Cancun. We do, however, use bottled water - just in case. 

Yesterday I treated myself to a haircut and pedicure.  It was nice to sit in a chair and have someone else paint my toes for me. Because I am a trained hairstylist and manicurist (in another life), and I used to teach these skills, I don't often take the opportunity to treat myself because I am always watching to see how well they are doing their jobs and if they are sanitizing their instruments and in most cases they don't do as good a job on my feet as I could do myself.  Call me fussy about this.  The girl at the salon did a pretty good job and for $24, I got a cut and a pedi.  Bena are you reading this? 

 I was thinking that I could retire (again) and come down here for the winter and work for 2-3 hours a day - just enough to pay for my room and food....or I could come here and just blog about my experience and that would be enough...or I could hire on as a cook at a restaurant (nah... to hot), or I could teach english on the beach in the evenings...or...I could....just do nothing...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Dad; Isla
I called home this evening and Mom said that Dad called earlier today to say that he was not sure what was happening to his throat.  The reality is that the cancer is growing more now and most of it surrounds his throat.  He knows what is happening but I think he is looking for some reassurance from anyone that it's not as bad as it is.  Dr Hartley said on Monday that the tumour is growing around Dad's throat (which we already knew) but there is nothing he can do but make Dad comfortable.  I forget to ask Mom about the car but it's been giving her some problems in the last month so she had to take it to the mechanic again today. The car is over 12 years old and looks more like a small plane than a car.  It's time to get rid of the thing.  I am trying not to think of all the stuff I have to deal with when I go back.  In the meantime, I will focus on the few more days of relaxation that I have left.

Today we did not hang out at the beach because all of us have now had some reaction to the sun.  Ronin was itching his neck for the last two days and by this morning, he also had a rash.  So we went to the rocky beach and threw some rocks in the water.  This evening, we went to Picus for dinner and again, the food was very good.  It's lovely to eat fresh fish every day.  After dinner we saw the most beautiful sunset.  There was hardly a cloud in the sky and the sun looked like a huge globe sinking into the ocean with the most glorious colours of pink and orange with a scattering of various shades of grey for the few clouds that were in the sky.  There was a man standing there watching me watching the sun set so he thought he should show me la luna (the moon), which was clearly in the sky but he had to point it out anyway. 

Isla sunset in progress - 1
Isla sunset in progress - 2

Isla sunset in progress - 3

Isla sunset in progress - 4
After watching the sunset, we went off to get our churros but no leche flan tonight.  We're going to go to the top deck of the hotel and do some star gazing from a lounge chair.  I used to do that when I was a child.  Karran, Bena and I used to spread a blanket on the landing of our front steps at night and lie down next to each other and cover with another blanket and we would try to count the stars in the sky.  I'm not sure how far we ever got but there were millions and I know we never got that high.  I'll have to see how high we get tonight.  The temperature today was a high 31C but with the humidity, it felt like 38C. 

Sunita and I were checking out airfares to Phoenix in June.  I submitted an abstract to present a paper on Quality Assurance processes at a conference in Phoenix in June and yesterday I got an email from the selection committee that the paper was accepted for presentation  So my three colleagues and I will be going there to do the presentation.  Last year we attended the conference and Sunita and Subhadra joined me for a few days.  We went to the Grand Canyon for a day and it was 113F at the canyon.  If you have not felt desert heat like that, trust me on this one, you DO NOT want to.  It was a blistering heat and no matter what we did, we could not cool down.  Sunita had an allergic reaction to the sun but I was a bit more careful and did not get as bad a reaction as she did.  I know that some allergies are hereditary so she may have inherited that from me.  I wonder if I got it from an ancestor. 

Having been accepted to present at a conference is quite a good thing but of course that means that I have to do some preparation and that means more work in the next two months.  I have also been looking at all the work related emails and I am resisting the urge to start dealing with some of it.  So instead I found a good Agatha Christie book (I love her books) downstairs in the hotel lobby so I am going to spend a couple days reading and taking my mind off work. I am quite happy that I am now finished transcribing my focus group session.  But guess what?  Irene did another one for me yesterday so I now have another one to transcribe.  Sophie offered to do it so I might take her up on it. 

Off to do some star gazing and then sink myself into my book...

Thursday, April 07, 2011

We woke up very early this morning (6:30am) by our little alram clock - Ronin - who was hungry.  Sunita took him on the veranda and gave him a bowl of cereal.  He and I then went to the waterfront where the fishermen bring in their catch for the day and clean them to sell to restaurants for the day's menus.  We took some tortillas and crackers to feed the birds.  We saw a few pelicans and lots of gulls.  It's amazing how there are none around and as soon as I pull out some bread or crackers, they swoop down from nowhere and gobble up the food.  I was actually trying to see if we could see any fish swimming but the fisherman clean their fishes and throw the remnants into the water so the gulls and pelicans wait around for the food. I think the fish are smart enough to know to stay away from this spot until the birds have had their fill of fish entrails before showing up anywhere near the docks.

We walked along the pier and we saw a fishing boat.  Ronin wanted to know what it was and when I told him that it was a fishing boat, he waited for the man to take him fishing and was quite disappointed when I said that we had to leave.
Ronin waiting for his boat ride

On our way back to the hotel, we saw two roosters (or to use a more familiar term for some of us - fowl cocks) and Ronin was quite fascinated with them.  They were crowing several times and of course Ronin crowed all the way back to the hotel.  He's never seen a live rooster so he kept forgettng the name and kept referring to them as "osters".  I think he has it now.

We went off to the beach and spent about two hours in and out of the water with him.  He stayed in the water and we took turns in with him.  By the time he was done and we made it back to the hotel and he had his shower, I thought for sure that he would put his head in his plate of chicken and rice and have his nap.  He who loves to eat didn't want anymore lunch; he only wanted to go for a nap.  What a life.  Wake up, eat, play, swim, shower, eat, nap, eat, play... Get the picture?  The biggest thing he has to worry about is what to eat and how much.  I'll have to get a new box of crackers for him to eat this afternoon. This is the third box in as many days not because we are such cracker eaters but because I forgot that the humidity makes the crispness go out of the crackers in a few hours so we end up with some soggy tasting stuff. 

When I saw Ronin being so fascinated with the roosters this morning, I remember that Subhadra was almost 4 when we went to Guyana and we went to Auntie Bhano's house in Golden Fleece.  Subhadra saw some very little ducklings that were only about 2-3 days old and she thought they were so cute that she put them to swim in the barrel of water.  Only thing was - the barrel was drinking water for the family.  This was the first time that she ever saw ducklings and she and Sunita were laughing at how fast they were swimming.  They had so much fun that they decided to do the same with Auntie Bhano's 3 day old baby chickens.  Good thing I was just coming down the steps when they dropped the chicks in the water or Auntie Bjano would have had 4 or 5 dead chicks from drowning.  Sunita and Subhadra could not understand why ducklings could swim but chicks could not.  That really was very funny and if you can't get a visual of that, perhaps you had to be there. 

We are now having a siesta.  It's 30C but feels like 38C.  That's beyond hot.  Even the sand was scorching my feet.  I was trying to walk barefoot on the road but it felt like walking on hot tar.  How many of you remember those days when the tar trucks used to tar the roads in Guyana and sometimes the heat was so much that it melted the tar into soft puddles and some - like me - would stick our toes into the soft tar just to see if it was really soft.  Of course it was!!! It was hot everytime but we would do it again and again as if the next time the results would be different.  It never was.  I for one, would end up with burnt toes but I'd do it the next time.  Sometimes I got clever and tried it with my shoes or yachtings.  Well the inevitable would happen.  I would get tar stuck on the bottom of my yachtings and then try to walk home without making it touch the ground or else I would get small stones stuck to it and that would be worse because by the time it cooled on my shoes, it would be heck to scrape off.  Then we'd have to get out the kerosene. Man the dumb things I used to do. 

I'm reading a book called The Tipping Point (one of the 30 books to read before you're 30 [a bit too late for me]) and that might help to explain why I did that.  If you want to know, you'll have to read the book and then decipher this blog to get some insight.  I'll leave you with that for now...

Siesta time.. 

It is now later in the evening.  We went to Cocteleria Justicia Social (a co-op where several people own the fishing boats and the restaurant that sells the fresh catch)  We had the hugest snapper that is supposed to feed two people but two of us could only eat half of the fish.  It was literally hanging over the plate. The fish was very fresh and tasty and well worth the whole $10 that we paid for it. 

We went to the sqare and had our nightly treat of leche flan and churros but not from the same vendor who we usually buy from because he was closed.  We went to the one we bought from on the first night but it wasn't as good. The second vendor's churros are crunchy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside with an unhealthy (but delicious) sprinkling (more like drenching) of cinnamon sugar. Did I mention tha that I buy the real cinnamon when I come here?  I love to bake so I bought a whole lot of it.  The vendor thought I was buying it for cafe, but I am a sort of purist for a good cup of ground coffee with freshly ground beans so I rarely use my cinnamon for coffee.  Another bit of trivia: the cinnamon sticks we get in the stores rolled up like cigars are not the real cinnamon.  The real cinnamon bark is soft and smells much more fragrant and is so much more delicous than the other stuff.  When I went to Indonesia, I saw the cinnamon trees and a man showed me how they remove the bark (you have to do it carefully so the tree doesn't die but actually heals itself by making another layer of bark).  My friend Barry from Toronto also brings me back some real bark when he goes back to Jamaica.  A really good thing about cinnamon is that as little as 1/4 teaspoon a day has been shown to help keep diabetes in control.  I don't have diabetes but both parents have it so I am trying to do whatever I can to stave it off as long as possible.  Hence the walking, cinnamon and if I could stand the taste, neem tea but I can gladly leave that alone.

Okay, enough trivia.  I had some habanero picante (hot pepper) and it was fiery hot but I loved it.  Since dad can't eat pepper anymore, I'm taking his share along with mine.

Reminder: I am titling my posts with the subject of the day so if anyone is getting bored or doesn't want to read my general musings about life, please feel free to skip past and look for the content related to Dad and his illness.  As you can see, there is nothing to report today and as I mentioned previously, if I have something new or different to say, I'll post it.
Good night...

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Update: Isla; Dad/Mom

Last night we went to Negrita for dinner. The place looks like a shack but the food was good. I ordered fried plantains and each time I go there, the owner runs over next door to see if the little shop has plantains and he then comes back to tell me that yes I can have it. It’s funny but he does it each time. After that, we went to the square and bought some leche flan (I think it’s crème caramel) and it was as delicious as every other night I’ve had it since arriving. We also bought some churros (donut sticks rolled in cinnamon). I would not eat this stuff at home but on vacation, I indulge and will have to do a few more laps around my lunchtime circuit at the college when I get home but it’ll be worth it! I’m trying to balance that with fish at lunch and/or dinner.

Today we went to a little cafe in the market and I had a great cup of coffee. They make coffee from beans and put lots of hot milk just the way I like it. It’s surprising how much Spanish I can remember when I have to. All of us had eggs for breakfast at the same place – Alexa & Geovanni. Each time I come to Isla, I go there for a nice cup of morning coffee – sometimes before I go to the seawall or after my walk – depending on how much caffeine I need to start the day.

This morning I didn’t go for my seawall walk. My plantar fasciitis has been bothering me quite a bit so I thought a rest was in order. It did help that I was not aggravating it with a 45 minute walk in the morning and same in the evening, with a few walks to and from the beach each day.

flower Garden Wall

Lovely flowers along the beach walk
Today we were going to take the local bus to Playa Lancheros but the bus is now much smaller than it was before so we took a taxi instead. It was a much better plan because the taxi took us right to the door of Lancheros restaurant. The temperature was a hot 30C so we would have burnt our skin much more than it’s already burnt. My rashes on my arm are no better but at least no worse. Robin on the other hand, had welts from head to toe – literally. This is the first time this happened so I went to the pharmacy to get some Benadryl. Hopefully it will help. Maybe it’s the time of year and the sun is much hotter in Isla or maybe we were not as cautious as we usually are. We had a special grilled fish at Lancheros – the same one that we’ve had before.

At least Ronin is not reacting to the heat or the sun but we’ve been pretty diligent about using sun block. Sunita asked him today what he liked about Mexico and he said that he liked building sand castles with Grandpa and jumping the waves with Nani. Yesterday he was an Avatar and today he was Superman. I was showing him how to skip rocks on the water and he was laughing his head off. I threw a rock and he said that he wanted to throw a rock up to the sky like Nani. I showed him how to position his feet but a few times he got so excited when throwing, that he missed me by a hare’s breath once or twice. I have to say though that being here with him is great therapy for me.

I called home about 5pm and spoke to mom. She was at the hospice this morning with Sophie and Darwin and she said that dad was not doing well today. He was very shaky and seemed to be trembling a bit. He was not able to feed himself breakfast so he had some assistance to do that. He skipped his morning shower because he was too weak so the nurses gave him a sponge bath instead. That’s unusual. I asked if he asked for me but he didn’t. He is less coherent so he may not remember that I have not been there for days. That’s a blessing in a way. I could use the break without feeling guilty that I am not there when he asks. Mom said that Kathy the nurse trainer said that dad is going down slowly but I think we all knew that – hence the move to the hospice in the first place. He is on more meds and that’s probably contributing to his confusion as well.


Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Update: Isla-better than icecream!
It's 31C and mighty hot right now.  I am in the zocola (the square) where there is free wifi but fortunately there is a church and I can sit on the steps while I am blogging otherwise it would be too hot.  Today was another beach day  The water was very warm and the waves were a perfect height for me to take Ronin and ride them.  He found a long piece of the root of a coconut tree and he was walking up and down the beach pretending that he was Avatar and he was killing the bad people.  He looked so cute in his slightly big swim trunks and his little blue Tshirt. 

Ronin building sandcastles

Waves catching Ronin's feet
I am still covered in rashes but I can't resist the water so of course I piled on the sunscreen and went in anyway.  We came back to the hotel and had lunch.  Sunita took Ronin to a hairstylist about 10 metres from the hotel to get a haircut - all of $5.  Can't beat that except if Nani is doing it for free. He is now having a nap as is Sunita.  The sun really drains your energy or as Sabreena used to say "N-Der-Dee" (She wasn't quite 3 yet).  I'm off to get an icecream or snow cone.  Life here for the last few days is better than icecream.

I called home and mom said that she had a somewhat quiet day.  She rested which is a good thing.  I told her to leave the things in the house because we'll take care of the clean-up and disposal of the things.  Karran and Sophie have been doing some of it already so that will help tremendously.  Karran said that he went to the hospice during the day and dad was fine except that his lips are swollen again as big as it was two weeks ago but he seems to be able to follow along with the conversations.  Karran told him that he was going to Suriname on Thursday and dad seemed to understand.

PS: Sorry if there are spelling mistakes in the blog.  I use spell check (although I am a good speller - just not a good typist) but the spell checker is working only in spanish so it thinks all the English words are spelled incorrectly. 


Monday, April 04, 2011

Dad; Sunita and Ronin arrive in Isla; allergies

I called home yesterday and mom said that she went to the hospice and while she was there, dad fell in the bathroom. This was at 7:30am. The nurses went to pick him up and they had a bit of a time doing that. They told him that he is to call when he needs help but he says that sometimes it takes too long so he goes by himself. He is very shaky and doesn’t seem to realize that it is dangerous to try to get around on his own. The tumour was bleeding but it was probably from the fall and not from anything more serious. After that, he was fine so when Sister Leila and her friends went to visit in the afternoon, he told them that he was doing good. Sophie sent an email update letting me know that dad fell and about the tumour. She said that Nurse Janine said that although it was some blood (about an ounce), they have seen more blood from previous bleeds.

When I spoke to mom, she said that she was over at her house and the new buyers bought some of the garage items and a few things in the basement but not much else. Her neighbour came over and bought some things too. A plan for disposing/storing the other furniture and clothes will have to be made pretty soon. Sophie said she’ll be taking care of some of that (finding storage rental space and selling some of the items). Lots of work to do but at least we don’t have to spend time cleaning out the garage and shed. The buyers said to leave it as it is.

Sunita and Ronin arrive in Isla

We went over with the Ultramar ferry to Cancun to meet Sunita and Ronin. They arrived in really good time and because of the change to Daylight Savings, the sun was still up when we crossed back to Isla.

Ronin on his first ferry ride
While we were crossing on the ferry, Ronin saw the beach and he was telling me that there was lots of snow. I told him that it was sand but he wasn’t sure that I was telling him the right thing. It reminded me of when Subhadra was in Guyana when she was 3 and she thought she was also seeing snow when she arrived there in March. We took their luggage to the hotel and went to Rolandi’s for dinner. Rolandi makes the best pizza in a wood burning oven. I had a shrimp and cheese pizza with a pesto base. That was quite yummy.


I was quite tired by the time 9pm came around. I think it was from the sun I had yesterday. We went to the beach and although I didn’t go directly in the sun, by the time I got back to the hotel, I had a good rash on my chest, arms and legs. I wore sun block but didn’t wear it for my early morning walk – hence the rash. You’d think that I’d know better. I am allergic to sunlight. Yes, you read that right. I am allergic to UVA and UVB rays. I remember the first time that I had hives more than 27 years ago. It was late in August and the hives were around my left eye. Dad the quack doctor said that it was ringworm because some cat must have done his business in my garden and I must have scratched my eyes and got ringworm. So he told me to put some Nixoderm on the rash and you can guess what happened. I burned my skin and made the area with the rash much larger. So I went to the pharmacy to get another cream to treat the ringworm and the pharmacist said that it looked like I had a chemical burn on my face from the Nixoderm. She said that she thought it looked like a sun allergy. I must have had a blank look on my face. I had never heard anything that preposterous as people being allergic to the sun. That’s like being allergic to the air that you breathe.

I went to my dermatologist and he did some allergy tests which basically consists of exposing your skin to sunlight for different amounts of time to see if you’ll react. After the first 20 seconds, I told the technologist that my back was burning and she said that it couldn’t burn that quickly. Well it did. As soon as she was finished the first two exposures, my skin blistered so she didn’t continue with the other ones. The problem 27 years ago is that sun screens were not as prevalent as they are now so trying to find a sun block that would block out UVA and UVB rays was almost impossible to find and if I did, it had so much PABA that it caused me all kinds of grief. Eventually more products came to the market that were better and more available So here’s one piece of trivia and one piece of advice. Trivia: Sun block with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) any higher than 30 is useless, especially if you are paying more for it than the SPF 30 one (this from my dermatologist who is a genius). It’s only a marketing ploy directed to those of us who don’t know any better. Advice: Look for sun block that protects against UVA and UVB rays. Some only protect against UVA (the more common) but UVB are also harmful. The one good thing about being allergic to the sun is that I don’t spend endless hours out in it baking myself (a sun tan is your body’s defence mechanism against a burn on the skin) so the darker you are from a sun burn, the more harmful it is to your skin eventually. So I may have been saving myself from skin cancer for almost 3 decades. And by the way, brown people can also get skin cancer so don’t think that you’re immune to it.

Now back to my sunburn from yesterday and today. I barely spent any time in the sun today and did wear sun block (not sun screen which generally has an SPF of anywhere from 4-20) but the sun is very hot here so now I have a huge rash on my upper chest and neck, as well as my arms, shoulders and tops of my legs. I put some aloe jel but I needed some cortisone cream which helped with the itching. Well, at least the weather is warm and I don’t have to wear a coat every time I go out. Tomorrow is a new day and I will remember to wear my sun block on every exposed part of my body.

Just had dinner - pescado de verecruzana _ Basically "stew fish Guyanese style" with lots of pepper. It was very dellicious. Ronin was quite enjoying the beach today and I loved seeing him enjoying it. I'll be posting some pics of him when I return.  He was laughing his head off when the waves were "catching" his feet.  Off to the seawall for another 30 minute walk.  Had a 45 minute walk this morning but I think I'll have to walk in the evenings when the sun is down.  It's nt hot and quite pleasant.

North Beach at Isla