Friday, February 28, 2014

Friday 28th February 2014……another month gone!!

For some reason I thought yesterday was the last day of the month..anyway….I took Gail and Larry to the bus station this morning it was so great having them visit and sharing my home and my life and meeting my friends we crammed a lot into 4 days and safe travels back to the beach.

Carolyn and I went and hit some tennis balls for a while this morning then I went and started on the long list of chores I have to do.

This evening we were invited to an open house  of friends of ours and we had a good time met some new people and enjoyed the time.

Today was just so nice warm and sunny all day I sure love this kind of weather…..enjoy the last evening of the month.

Found this interesting article on the BBC home network!!


The heavy-lifting 'mule women' of Melilla

By Linda Pressly BBC World Service, Melilla

Women carrying loads at the border crossing


They are known as the mule women of Melilla. Everyday they carry heavy loads across the border between the Spanish enclave and Morocco. Melilla is an important entry point for goods into North Africa - and if the women can carry them, they can be imported into Morocco duty-free.

In the early morning sunlight, a cloud of dust hovers close to the 6m-high fence that separates Melilla from Morocco. The dust is kicked up by frenetic activity as traders prepare goods to cross the border. There are second-hand clothes, bolts of fabric, toiletries and household items, all of it destined for markets in Morocco and beyond. Thousands of people are here and the noise is deafening - a cacophony of revving engines and raised voices.

Massive bales are everywhere, all wrapped in cardboard, cloth and sacking and fastened with tape and rope. And under the immense bales, obscured and bent double by the size of their loads, are Moroccan women. They are the mule women of Melilla, known locally as porteadoras.

This commerce takes place daily at Barrio Chino - a border crossing from Melilla to Morocco for pedestrians only. As long as a porteadora can physically carry her load, it is classed as personal luggage, so Morocco lets it in duty-free. The women have the right to visit Melilla because they live in the Moroccan province of Nador. But they are not allowed to reside in the Spanish territory.

Map of the border crossing

Latifa claims her place in one of the rowdy queues made up of hundreds of women, and drops her load of 60kg (132lb) of used clothes. She has been doing this work for 24 years and will be paid three euros ($4.10 or £2.60) for transporting her bale across to Morocco. It is not work she chooses to do.


"I have family who must eat," she explains. "I have four children, and no husband to help - I divorced him because he beat me."

And then as the queue surges forward, Latifa disappears in a sea of merchandise.

Many of the women who work as porteadoras are divorced or separated like Latifa, single mothers providing for their families. Life is difficult for them in Morocco's traditional society, and often this is the only work they can get. Some of them make three or four trips a day from Barrio Chino, carrying up to 80kg.

Rates of pay vary and the women complain they must give bribes to the Moroccan guards.

In Melilla, there is debate about whether this trade should be allowed to continue in its current form.

Women carrying loads

"These are women who are risking their lives - there have been deaths as a consequence of this physical labour. It's carried out in conditions of semi-slavery," says Emilio Guerra, from the Union Progreso y Democracia political party. "What we would like is that they work under a concrete set of rules in conditions that aren't precarious."

Ultimately, he believes Melilla must change its economic model, and become less reliant on trade. Melilla's business advisor for the local government, Jose Maria Lopez, disagrees.

"There are very positive outcomes of this commercial activity. For some of the porteadoras it's the only chance they have of making a living. Sure, it's really hard work, but some of them get an income that's larger than the average income of workers in Morocco."

And the benefits of the trade to thousands more Moroccans and their families - those who sell the goods in their shops, or export it again to countries further south - are huge.

Lopez estimates that this informal trade is worth about 300m euros to Melilla, and calls it "atypical". Others call it smuggling, and believe it is worth perhaps twice that.

Women at the border crossing

Back at Barrio Chino, there is a pervading atmosphere of semi-hysteria. The gates close at midday so the pressure is on to get across to Morocco and return for the next consignment.


Spain's North African enclaves

Ceuta and Melilla, fragments of Europe on North Africa's Mediterranean coast, came under Spanish control about 500 years ago.

Madrid says the urban enclaves are integral parts of Spain. They are surrounded by Morocco, which views the Spanish presence as anachronistic and claims sovereignty.

The enclaves are surrounded by fences, intended to deter illegal immigrants. But Ceuta and Melilla are nonetheless used by many Africans as stepping stones to Iberia.

Tourism is an important money-earner with duty-free goods being a big draw for visitors.

"It's a little bit quieter today," says Arturo Ortega, an officer with the Guardia Civil in charge of maintaining order and preventing human avalanches that risk serious injury to the porteadoras.

"If you come here every day you begin to think that what you see is normal. But it isn't normal."

Hasna is leaning against a barrier, without a bundle of anything. In front of her is a mob of young men, all of them loaded up.

"The men are taking our places," she complains. Traditionally, the porters here have been women. Now they face competition from unemployed Moroccan men, and Hasna is having difficulty getting through the crowd to pick up her bale. She has one child and a sick husband. And she is six months pregnant. That does not deter her.

"If I do one trip today, I'll be paid five or six euros," she says. "If I could find another job cleaning houses or cooking, I wouldn't do this. But at the moment, there's no other work."

Also watching the men is Maria. She stands out because she is leaning heavily on a crutch.

Maria Maria still works, despite her injured leg

Unusually for the porteadoras, Maria speaks a bit of Spanish. She explains that she injured her leg when she fell in the queue - she has also had a breast tumour. Maria has been here all morning, but confronted with the chaos at Barrio Chino, she does not feel well enough to work. Today she will return home without earning any money.

Maria lives just the other side of the border from Melilla in Beni Enzar. She has two rooms that she shares with her three daughters. There is no running water - a neighbour lets her use a tap at his house. Maria used to be married and worked as a waitress. But four years ago her life began to unravel. After being diagnosed with cancer, her husband left. Maria was pregnant at the time with her smallest daughter, Malak.

"The doctor said I would lose the baby with the treatment. But she was born alive. That's why I called her Malak - it means angel."

While Maria talks, her two oldest girls listen. Neither is in school - they stay at home and look after their little sister while their mother is at Barrio Chino. They worry about their mother.

"This is not the first time she has injured her leg and the doctor says she shouldn't carry anything heavy," says 16-year-old Ikram. "She only works as a porteadora so that we can eat."

Maria is incensed by the idea that her daughters might be forced to become porteadoras too. "It would be better for them to get married," she says. "It's dangerous work and there's no dignity in it. I hate the job but I need it."

And then Sanaa, who is 13, puts a small skateboard on the table. Maria smiles. It will help her shift merchandise more easily on her journeys across the border from Barrio Chino.

Yashi koshi!!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Thursday 27th February 2014….a tour day!!!

Last day of February tomorrow where did the new year go it seems just a short while ago it was the Christmas season…….

Your lucky day today…you get to come along on the free, donations will be accepted of course, Pearson  tour of the pyramids Canada la Virgin….

At 10 am Carolyn, Gail and Larry and I met our tour guide Albert Coffee down town and along with 2 other couples were driven the 15 miles to the site….I can only say how brilliant Albert was and through the course of the tour the knowledge he passed on was very informative, humorous  and interesting.

There is so much to know that all I can say is that this tour must be on your bucket list when you come to SMA.

The site was only opened to the public 3 years ago and to have this so close to the city is incredible…..Albert guided us through all the stages of the complex and then explained about the history of the site and the people who dwelled here he was even part of the site’s digging crew when the excavations began.

He explained about the plant life, the solar systems and so much history here are some of the shots….hope you enjoy!!!



Albert explaining about this plant




Gail and Larry taking it all in!!!






Two trees melded into one!!







Looking back to SMA from the peak…


We did not get back till gone 2 o clock and we all agreed it was such a special time and so glad we took the tour!!!

Rested for a while in the afternoon before we went and picked up G & L and went out of town to a restaurant called the Pizza Pig where we met Linda and Guy and we had a wonderful meal, great conversation and the food including the blackberry pizza dessert was a amazing!!!

Wonder why they call it




The food!!!


A great way for Gail and Larry to send their last evening in SMA.

So yet another day for the memory banks!!

Yashi Kochi!!!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Wednesday 26th February 2014…A wonderful day!!!

but a busy one as my Wednesday’s always are…it started with me picking up Gail and Larry and we went into town and parked and then went into the main Jardin where we joined a walking tour of down town SMA I have known about this tour for a long time but never taken it and the three of us really enjoyed the tour guide Marmie, she was a hoot and very knowledgeable and I learned a lot and also saw things I had not seen before.   Well worth taking if in town!!!!

Check out some of the photos…




My shot of the day!!!





I bailed out a few minutes early and left G & L and went to my poker afternoon where I am very happy to report my winning ways returned in the sum of 200 pesos

We had to move out of the restaurant where we have played for a long time they are doing renovations so one of the guys invited us to come to his home so a nice setting..



…immediately after I went and picked up Paola and drove her to her class and then came home and got cleaned up and got my class notes ready and then went back for Paola, we stopped for a chicken dinner for her to take home and after I dropped her home went straight to my English class.

Tonight we did some book work, then a spelling test and then read an article I had printed out for them on the drug cartels in Mexico which we all found interesting and finished off with a game and chocolates as rewards…another great class.



  This is the article we read and talked about!!!

The shoes of a victim are seen next to a flower and a cross during a mass for the commemoration of the first anniversary of a crime in Monterrey, Mexico, in which 52 people died on 25 August, 2012. Most of the violence is attributed to fighting between rival drug gangs

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico over the past seven years.

Most of the violence is attributed to fighting between rival drug gangs for control of territory and drug shipment routes. Who are these groups and who are they fighting against?

Who are the main players?

The Zetas are one of Mexico's largest cartels, with operations in Central America as well as Mexico

Mexico's largest and most powerful drug gangs are the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel. The Zetas operate in more than half of Mexico's states and, according to US geopolitical analysis firm Stratfor, overtook their rivals from the Sinaloa cartel in 2012 in terms of geographic presence. Stratfor says the Zetas' brutal violence gave the gang an advantage over the Sinaloa cartel, which prefers to bribe people.

However, the Zetas have reportedly been weakened by the loss of their long-time leader Heriberto "El Lazca" Lazcano, who was killed by the Mexican military in October 2012, and his replacement, Miguel Angel Trevino, who was arrested in July 2013.

Mexico's government hailed the arrest of Zetas leader Miguel Angel Trevino as a great success

Other influential and violent cartels are the Knights Templar, the Gulf cartel and the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion.

What do the cartels do?

Mexican soldiers cut off poppy flowers during an operation at Petatlan hills in Guerrero state, Mexico, on 28 August 2013 Cartels control much of the heroin, cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana trades

Mexico's cartels control much of the illegal drugs trade from South America to the United States.

They import cocaine from South America and smuggle it on to the US. Some groups grow and smuggle marijuana, while others have specialised in manufacturing methamphetamines, importing precursor drugs from as far away as China.

Most cartels also extort local businesses and bolster their finances through kidnappings for ransom. They have also been involved in people smuggling, prostitution rings, intimidation and murder,

Who is fighting whom?

Vigilante groups have entered the fray in Mexico, arguing that federal forces cannot protect them

Government security forces are fighting the drug cartels in an attempt to re-establish law and order. Rival cartels are at war with each other in bitter territorial battles.

There is also internecine warfare between cartel members, and the emergence of break-away factions is not unusual.

The Zetas, for example, were first created as the enforcement arm of the Gulf cartel, but later turned on their former allies and have been at war with them ever since. The Knights Templar are an off-shoot of La Familia Michoacana, a cartel that was weakened after the killing of its leader in 2010.

Allegiances shift, and former rivals sometimes band together to fight emerging groups.

Vigilante groups have emerged in the western states of Guerrero and Michoacan

Armed residents take part in a march for the first anniversary of the citizen's vigilante groups, in Ayutla de los Libres, on January 5, 2014, in the south-eastern state of Guerrero, Mexico Dressed in their trademark white clothes, they have taken control of a number of villages and towns

Vigilante groups made up of civilians who say they are fed up with the lack of action by the security forces emerged in 2012 in the western states of Michoacan and Guerrero to fight the Knights Templar.

The Knights Templar have accused them of being in league with their rivals from the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion.

What has been Mexico's strategy to tackle drug-related violence?

Mexican soldiers check a motorcyclist in Apatzingan, in Michoacan State, on 16 January 16, 2014 The army has been deployed to Michoacan where violence has been on the rise over the past months

Before taking up office, President Enrique Pena Nieto said he would break with the approach of Felipe Calderon, his predecessor.

Mr Calderon had deployed the army to go after cartel kingpins and had declared "war" on the drug gangs.

Mr Pena Nieto promised a lower-profile approach aimed at tackling the violence on a local level by setting up a national gendarmerie to take over from the troops.

But with growing violence in Michoacan, he too sent the army to back up federal and local police forces.

He also struck a deal with vigilante groups, allowing them to keep their weapons as long as they agreed to be integrated in the official security forces.

Where are the worst hit areas?

According to a study by international think tank Institute for Economics and Peace, northern Mexico continues to be the region worst affected by drug-related violence due to its proximity to the United States, the region's most important market for illicit drugs.

But Guerrero on the Pacific coast and central Morelos state have joined the list of most violent states, suggesting the cartels are extending their area of influence.

A study by Mexico's Citizens' Council for Public Security and Penal Justice suggests the city of Oaxaca has the highest occurrence of violent crime, followed by the resort town of Acapulco and Cuernavaca in Morelos state.






Yashi Kochi!!!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesday 25th February 2014…..Gail and Larry arrive!!!!

I had tennis this morning at 9am and as always a great way to start the day and afterwards went home to make sure the casita was in top notch shape and it was even though I say so myself…everything really clean…towels in the bathroom with chocolates, roses, food in the fridge….wine and coffee all set out..Gail and Larry have been my great fiends for over 33 years and have hosted me so many times so I was thrilled to let them have my casita for the few days they are going to be here.

I was at the bus station at 1pm and they arrived 10 minutes later we drove to my casita and they love it and after a few minutes we went up on the roof top for a little happy hour.  The weather is perfect and we had a great time catching up.

We then went to Carolyn's house where she put on a wonderful turkey dinner and fabulous dessert



and we had a great time getting to know and enjoy each other’s company…..I then drove G & L back home.

What a special day for me to be with my friends again and  thanks to Carolyn for all that you did.

We have a busy and interesting three days planned so stay tuned!!!!

Yashi Kochi!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday 24th February 2014…..the busy week starts!!!

  • First off Gregg sent me this photo from last night’s party.
  • IMG_4861-001
  • Tomorrow my special friends Gail and Larry are arriving and staying for 4 days….I saw them just a few weeks ago when I drove down to the coast for Larry's Birthday party..we have been friends for over 30 years and although they live in beautiful Kelowna, BC I see them more often in Mexico.
  • They are staying in my casita and I want it to be just perfect for them because they have hosted me many times so it feels really good to be able to return the favors so I spent all morning getting everything ready and the yard and the roof top too….my maid Patty comes in the morning and G & L arrive tomorrow in the afternoon on the bus from Guadalajara……I have a few things planned and it will be a wonderful visit.
  • I then prepared my lesson for class tonight and after book work we are going to talk about the article below I have printed off copies for each student!!
  • Now going to get Paola for her appointment with the counselor and then I picked her up and took her to her dance class  this time they were doing dance movements and she really was enjoying the class…came home and got changed and ready for class tonight and then back to get the kid and take her home and then dash off to the English class….which was as always a great time I do so enjoy it and they are so enthused and eager to participate.
  •  This is what we read and talked about…

Is Hubertus von Hohenlohe the Most Interesting Athlete in the Olympics?

By Melissa Locker

Olympics Most Interesting Athlete Mexican Skier Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe

Olympic Skier Hubertus von Hohenlohe



The Olympic Games officially commence on Friday, but at least one Olympian has already scored an impressive title.
Hubertus von Hohenlohe has been named the "Most Interesting Olympian in the World" by NBC, who is airing the Games. It's a well-deserved moniker, too.
The slalom skier – who is Mexico's sole competitor in these Games – has represented Mexico in six Olympic Games. He's also a 55 year old German prince whose grandfather, Kaiser Franz II, was the last Holy Roman emperor. He is fluent in five languages, palled around with Andy Warhol, is the heir to an automobile fortune and will be the second-oldest winter Olympian in history when he hits the Sochi slopes in his mariachi-inspired uniform.
So, how did a descendant of the Emperor of Austria end up skiing under the Mexican flag? Both by birth and by choice.
"In the beginning, I remember that I was considering racing for Liechtenstein because I have a Liechtenstein passport," von Hohenlohe told NBC. He also has an Italian mother and German citizenship, and he had established residency in Spain.

"In the end, it seemed ideal that I do it for a country where I could control my own moves," said von Hohenlohe.
von Hohenlohe decided to ski for Mexico, where he was born, due to careful family machinations. "We always wanted to have one member of the family who was Mexican,” von Hohenlohe explained. "So they chose that I was going to be born in Mexico with the intention of following in the family business there." While he has yet to follow in the family auto business (his father introduced Volkswagen into the country), he is eligible to ski under the Mexican flag at the Games.
As a student in Austria, von Hohenlohe developed a passion for skiing, winning the university downhill championship there when he was 21, before embarking on racing the World Cup circuit. In 1981, the prince founded the one-man Mexican Ski Federation and has been skiing for his birth country ever since, as the country's sole Winter Olympian.
"I hope Mexicans are proud to have someone at the Olympics and, through that, hopefully they get to know who I am," he told NBC. The prince made his Olympic debut in 1984 in Sarajevo, finishing 38th in the downhill, a career-best.
Skiing isn't his only pastime, though. He's also an artist who befriended Andy Warhol at Studio 54, as well as a musician who has put out eight records so far, including this 2013 track "Higher Than Mars."

Prince Hubertus, as he's called, is also an accomplished photographer with gallery shows, commercial campaigns and a ski instructor calendar to his name.
His artistic side is evident in his skiing career, not only in the way he glides down the slopes, but in the outfits he wears. While this year he is competing in a mariachi-inspired suit, when he competed in the Vancouver Games, he wore a ski suit inspired by Mexican banditos complete with fake pistols and bandoliers.


Is Hubertus von Hohenlohe the Most Interesting Athlete in the Olympics?| Olympics, Winter Olympics 2014


His fashion sense is just one way that the prince pays his respects to the country he skis for: “I can understand how they would think that this rich prince bought himself into the Olympics so that he can show off his cool racing suits, or whatever,” he told NBC. “I am not hiding behind a pile of money to realize my dreams. I have Mexican roots."


I asked my students what they thought about this and they all agreed they were not very happy about him using Mexico for his own gain..interesting comments!!!

Meanwhile back in Nanaimo over 15 cm of this stuff!!!!



Have a great evening!!!

Yashi Kochi!!!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday 23rd February 2014…..Canada ROCKS!!!!!


SOCHI, Russia -- Team Canada's best players brought their best game and left with gold.

On the world's biggest stage, Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby made good on their strong tournaments and controversial roster pick Chris Kunitz sealed the victory as Canada won its second straight Olympic gold medal in men's hockey with a 3-0 win over Sweden on Sunday.

Canada did not trail at any point in the final or over the course of the entire tournament and finished as the first undefeated gold medallist since the Soviet Union in 1984 in Sarajevo, beating Norway, Austria, Finland, Latvia, the United States and Sweden along the way.

Until Sunday, Toews and Crosby were two of Canada's best players through the first five games but did not have a goal to show for it. Canadian coach Mike Babcock brushed off concerns about a lack of offence from his forwards, figuring they would come but hoping the stars wouldn't "run out of time."

Toews, who opened the scoring with a deflection in the first period, and Crosby, who beat Henrik Lundqvist on a breakaway in the second, delivered just in time. Putting up two goals meant Sweden would have had to score as many goals in the third period as Canada gave up in its first five games of the Olympics.

That defensive dominance continued against Sweden, which was without first-line centre Nicklas Backstrom, a late scratch. NHL stars accustomed to more offensive roles continued to display the kind of hard-working defensive intensity Babcock needed out of them, limiting Sweden's scoring chances in the process.

Goaltender Carey Price made 24 saves for his second straight shutout to cap off his impressive tournament in which he allowed just three goals in five starts.

By beating Sweden, Canada became the first back-to-back gold-medal winner since the NHL began sending its players in 1998. It was the first time Canada won gold in two straight Games since 1948 and 1952.

And this didn't take a fortunate bounce

Quality chances came fast and furious in the game's first few minutes. Crosby generated the first one 57 seconds in when he batted the puck down and found Patrice Bergeron for a shot from between the circles that Lundqvist got in front of.

Canada's Jamie Benn and Sweden's Niklas Kronwall traded shots before Bergeron picked off a pass from Johnny Oduya three minutes in and shot it right into Lundqvist.

Sweden's best chance of the first period was a minute later, when Gustav Nyquist's shot from close range hit the left post behind Price. Canada's starter looked behind him to see the puck inches from the goal line before covering it up.

Bergeron continued his tremendous start by shooting off the shaft of Lundqvist's stick and hitting the post 11 minutes in. That helped Canada turn the tide after being on the receiving end for a handful of shifts.

It was the line of Patrick Marleau, Jeff Carter and Toews that has been together the longest that got Canada on the board at the 12:55 mark.

Carter skated down the right wing almost to the goal-line and found Toews streaking to the net. Able to keep his stick free from Patrik Berglund, Toews got it on the puck and deflected it off the inside of Lundqvist's right pad and in.

With Martin St. Louis inserted onto the fourth line in place of Patrick Sharp, Canada generated a couple of scoring chances and got a power play after Matt Duchene drew a penalty on Swedish defenceman Jonathan Ericsson. Unable to score in those two minutes, Canada went on the kill late in the first into the second after a Kunitz high-sticking penalty and got the job done.

Canada had the lion's share of chances throughout the second period, save for a couple of opportunities by Loui Eriksson and Erik Karlsson, who came into the day tied for the tournament lead in scoring. Karlsson also made a good stick check on Crosby to thwart the captain in open ice.

But Crosby wasn't going to be denied at the 15:43 mark, when he poked the puck away from Ericsson at Canada's blue-line and blew right by Alexander Steen to get a breakaway. Crosby had just enough time to think, go backhand and bank the puck off Lundqvist's left pad an into the net.

It didn't have the drama of Crosby beating Ryan Miller for the golden goal in Vancouver four years ago, but as he raised his arms in the air it looked like Canada couldn't be beaten on this day.

Kunitz, who made the team because of his natural chemistry with Crosby, did it all by himself to provide Canada with breathing room. Kunitz took the puck away from Daniel Sedin, skated over the blue-line and beat Lundqvist clean at the 9:04 mark of the third period.

Because Canada gave up just three goals all tournament, that set off quite the celebration on the bench.

Eleven players, including backup goaltender Roberto Luongo, won gold for the second straight Olympics. Crosby, Toews, Rick Nash, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Marleau, Bergeron, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and Drew Doughty got to celebrate twice.

Some of the biggest contributors in getting Canada to the final came from newcomers, including Carter and Benn. But two of the three goal-scorers against Sweden -- Crosby and Toews -- were the same ones who scored to beat the United States in Vancouver in 2010.


I was out of bed at 6am for the opening face off with tea in hand and it was a great game that really Canada dominated from start to finish……..Carolyn watched the closing ceremonies with me which were spectacular and after breakfast she did a lot of work on my plants on the roof then we hiked into the canyons!!!





It is really quite beautiful here and very peaceful only three other hikers!!!





Later we went to visit one of our friends Ann, who is just recovering from knee surgery and then tonight we were invited to Karen and Gregg’s for a birthday party….it was a lovely evening, great company, great food…and Karen enjoyed her party….


DSC01588Karen and Gregg!!!





So another wonderful day!!!

Yashi Kochi!!!

Thursday 5 th January 2023…it was a great run!!!

 This was my first ever blog post back in November of 2006!!! With just a couple of days off I have written a blog every day since and I hav...