My husband surprised me by planning a special destination trip, to bring in a certain decade birthday, in a very memorable way. Who would have known that this trip to Mexico would be our final International trip for an unknown time due to the global pandemic? No masks. No hand sanitizer or washing stations in sight! No physical and social distancing yet. Presenting our trip to Playa del Carmen, Mexico in December 2019.
Conveniently, prior to our departure, The British Columbia Provincial Museum in Victoria was running an exbibit entitled Maya The Great Jaguar Rises. We drove 110 km south on Vancouver Island to our capital city of Victoria excited to gain insight and learn about the Mayan culture and history. The information about the archaeological site of Chichen Itza was fascinating and we vowed to visit the actual site while in the Playa del Carmen area.
Prior to our Mexico bound departure, we enjoyed touring our capital city of Victoria. Yes. It is winter time on Vancouver Island, Canada.
My son Alexander also purchased a sweet white Mazda 3 car. Our bags were packed, it was time to travel! Our float plane from Nanaimo to Vancouver departed at sunrise. In spite of some rain, the view of the islands and activity around the channel is always engaging. Conversation is limited though, as this mode of travel is very noisy! From Vancouver airport we boarded Westjet to fly via Calgary to Cancun.
We departed Nanaimo, Western Canada at sunrise and were famished when we arrived in Cancun, Mexico at sunset. However, we soon discovered that there were more line ups and waits ahead prior to arriving at our resort in Playa del Carmen. The WestJet holiday package promised to have a representative meet us and take us to our resort. Hundreds of tourists were in a similar situation. Eventually, we were divided up and put on various buses. The bus we were allocated to stopped at 5 or 6 resorts, and Sandos Playacar Beach Resort was last on its agenda.
It was dark and the restaurants were about to close when we finally arrived at our resort. Although tired and a little disillusioned, the lobby was spacious, bright and inviting. The staff were friendly and helpful. Our room was fabulous and the grounds looked clean and enticing. The restaurant staff welcomed us staying open late and served us a most delightful meal. We could not wait to see the resort in the daylight and make the most of our all inclusive resort.
This was our view at Sandos Playacar Beach Resort the morning after…. December 1st 2019.
Although we like to explore and be active, we allocated this day to chill and relax around the resort exploring the pools and the ocean. We donned 50 sunscreen and slowly, carefully added some color to our winter time pale Canadian skins. Mark was approached by one of the beach vendors to purchase some Cuban cigars. He thought they were great!
We had a wonderful day. The following video depicts some of the fun and highlights of our first full day in Playa del Carmen, Mexico including an AC/DC tribute band in the evening.
Tomorrow we have a private full day tour planned — Chichen Itza, swimming in cenotes, and learning about Mayan culture. Guess what I’ll be blogging about next?
Based on estimates from several veterinarians, Sophia’s probable birth was late May. We adopted this little rescue kitten when she was approximately 7 weeks of age after she was discovered in the woods near Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island. Sophia’s markings are quite unique and gorgeous. Her cat coloring is classified as a blue diluted Tortie with white.
Sophia continues to suffers from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and can be aggressive and anxious; but she is learning to trust and adapt to our family and neighborhood.
Her snuggles are becoming more frequent and she truly melts our hearts. One moment she is fascinated watching water drip through a drain, the next she is burrowing and hiding.
But whether Sophia is curious or timid, playful or resting, aggressive or calm; she is always amusing and unpredictable.
Sophia’s happy place is definitely outside exploring the yard and climbing trees. So with her recent freedom (at aged 4 1/2 months) to explore the outdoors, came the responsibility of wearing a collar and a bell! She was not impressed!
We started with a safety quick-release collar with no bell. After several attempts, she eventually decided to leave it on and not rip it off anymore. Next, we introduced a safety quick-release collar with a bell attached. It took persistence, and eventually she gave in to wearing that collar too.
Sophia has long, incredibly sharp claws (trust me!) and a light muscular body. She leaps up fence panels and literally nearly flies through the air at times. She seems quite fearless outside in nature.
Look carefully at the trunk of the Hemlock tree… Sophia is camouflaged in her position to the left of the tallest silver ladder. She zipped up the tree with her legs spread-eagled apart at an incredible speed. At approximately 5 metres from the ground, her pace slowed and she stopped holding on to the tree trunk. Then she proceeded in reversing by backing down (spread eagled) until about 2 metres from the ground, turned her body around still attached to the tree, then jumped down head first to land on the ground. She has clearly done this before, or has incredible survival instincts!
Whenever we work around the yard, Sophia thinks it is playtime and she happily races around the yard and climbs trees near us. She seems to have a playful sense of humour. She loves to hide, then leap out and tag me on the leg (no claws)or hide in a tree and tap me on the head if I am gardening below her. She is also getting quite interactive with my husband and adult son.
Sophia is always curious and her trust has grown to the level where she now investigates whatever we are involved with. Sometimes we end up with extra little white paw prints in unexpected areas!
All this activity can be quite exhausting for a 5-6 month old kitten. She is such an expressive, cute little sleeper!
My adult son, Alexander, returned home to Canada after living/working in Bangkok, Thailand for 6 years. Thankfully, he arrived home just prior to the Covid pandemic! Sophia’s circle now extends to my husband and I, Alexander, my mother, and the neighborhood deer.
Having my son home opened up the freedom for my husband and I to escape south to Mexico! Little did we know this would be our final International trip for an unknown duration due to the Covid 19 global pandemic. Playa del Carmen, Mexico here we come!!!
The year 2020 was challenging and the covid-19 pandemic brought unprecedented change. However, 2021 offers renewed optimism and a fresh start. There will be new ways to explore, have adventures, stretch comfort zone levels, and develop new insights. My blog is my chosen venue to share my story.
Background information is provided by clicking on the Menu (upper right). The Search feature assists quick location of previous blog posts including travel to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Northern B.C., Canada, and Mexico. You are welcome to join my journey. Virtual Hugs Sandy.
During a period of time when our home was undergoing substantial renovations/updates, I saw online photos of a tiny kitten recently rescued from the forest up around Port McNeill on northern Vancouver Island. My heart swelled with maternal love. I knew I needed to adopt this tiny creature.
After phone calls and a hasty drive 4 hours north, we adopted this tiny waif on the spot. We named her Sophia as we were quite taken by her beauty and the “eyeliner” look around one eye. People commented….She is so beautiful and sweet.
It did not take long for PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to show its colours. She was terrified of overhead revolving fans…most men…and multiple things she encountered.
Her personality would change instantly from an intense need to be around me (I guess I became the surrogate mom) to racing around biting and destroying things. Challenging, was a mild prognosis. But I loved her from the moment we met. I have abundant love and patience and I believed she was worth the effort. Besides, she was so darn cute and had a tail like a monkey!
The drive back down Vancouver Island from Port Hardy to Nanaimo was a prediction of what lay ahead! She meowed endlessly in panic trying to hide until finally she fell asleep tucked into a blanket on my lap. It was a long, slow 390 km trip home! Thankfully, she was toilet trained!
Once Sophia arrived home, she explored everywhere! In spite of her tiny size, she was strong and coordinated. She raced up and down the stairs, jumping up and climbing up, on anything she could find. But at regular intervals she checked in, and was immediately anxious if I was out of her eye range. One of Sophia’s favorite tricks, if I wasn’t giving her enough attention, was to sit on top of my laptop screen until she managed to close the lid then look up at me.
Sophia continued to be extremely worried, anxious, and aggressive at times. In addition to consistency, and lots of time and love; 3 different veterinarians agreed she needed to use a Feliway pheromone diffuser, Zylkene medication, and calming chews to assist her ability to cope and calm down.
We tried them all. Some helped for awhile. (After she was spayed and started spending time outside and inside, we were able to reduce to only using the pheromone diffuser.)
All 3 vets agreed upon Sophia’s probable birthdate. Their best guess was that Sophia was about 7 weeks of age when we “adopted” her. Sophia’s markings are classified as a blue dilute Tortie with white. She is a domestic short haired cat. While a kitten, Sophia was non stop active until she crashed, then she fell asleep in the funniest positions!
Sophia is always curious and has an insatiable appetite for exploring and experiencing new things. We were quite stunned one evening as we watched a documentary about Africa, when Sophia jumped up and watched the entire show from a front row seat! She was not frightened of the animals or sounds. She even moved her body as the animals moved on the screen.
After a couple of months together, Sophia continues to be curious and her trust of humans is evolving–even letting me cuddle her periodically. Her coat is becoming lush and the rest of her body is catching up to her incredibly long tail! She loves napping beside me with her front paws over my leg and playing peek a boo from inside any type of bag.
Sophia’s instinctive desire to be outside increased as she aged past 3 months. She sat at the window meowing to go outside and she was becoming more aggressive trying to escape outside. I had been advised by several vets to get her spayed early and allow her outside access.
So….Each day I put Sophia in the travel carrier and we went to different areas of the yard. While I worked in the garden she would be beside me in the travel carrier. I spoke to her and introduced different things from around the yard into her box. She loved chewing grass and playing with pinecones, small apples, etc. Initially our visits only lasted about 5-10 minutes before she got restless and noisy. Eventually, she grew to enjoy her outdoor time and most daily visits lasted about 30-45 minutes.
As soon as she was 4 months old, Sophia had her surgery. We waited the advised time after surgery and exactly 2 weeks later Sophia (aged 4 1/2 months) experienced freedom!
I must confess I was quite worried that as soon as she was given outdoor freedom, she would run away. But her reaction was pure bliss! I carried her out into the yard in her travel carrier as I had done so many times in the previous month. But today, instead of opening the door after returning inside….I opened it by her favorite location near the sunny retaining wall.
Her reaction was priceless! First she peeked her head outside the carrier. Next she exited the carrier and stood beside me. She was there looking around for a minute or so…and then she raced! With her tail fluffed out and head high she raced as fast as possible all around the yard. She leaped through the air.
She ascended our 120 foot tall Helmlock trees to about 5 metres up, faster than any logger I’ve ever watched in Logging Contests! I thought… Oh no! How will we get her down? Then, she independently backed down to about 2 metres above the ground, turned and jumped to the ground. She was ecstatic! I thought she would leap up the fence and depart.
Sophia stayed within the confines of our large yard–at least for today. Most importantly, she kept checking in with us and returned home for dinner. We all slept soundly that night. At 4 1/2 months of age our rescue kitten is now officially an indoor/outdoor kitty.
I have been taking a hiatus from writing. However, travelling through B.C.’s Caribou country this past summer was so noteworthy, that I find myself drawn back to my laptop to share the historical beauty and intrigue we witnessed this past July. Commencing in lovely Quesnel, then progressing through the B.C. Cariboo country to Historic Soda Creek and the Aboriginal Settlement at Xatśūll Heritage Village. Both communities at Soda Creek are located adjacent to the majestic Fraser River. Lunch at Williams Lake, then the day’s adventure concludes at quaint Clinton, B.C.
Quesnel is a city in the Cariboo Regional District of British Columbia located nearly evenly between the cities of Prince George and Williams Lake on the main highway to northern B.C. and the Yukon at the confluence of the Fraser and Quesnel Rivers. It is a pretty community to walk through and have a coffee or meal.
About an hour past Quesnel exploring gravel roads meadering beside the Fraser River, we discovered the historic community of Soda Creek, B.C. There seem to be 2 distinct areas and histories in this area.
The first area we discovered had signage, a well kept cemetery and historic monument, and evidence of past homesteads and buildings.
There are even some families currently living beside the river. This area was developed during the mid 1800’s when a Cariboo Road was built connecting Lillooet to Alexandria for access during the gold rush period. Construction was completed to Soda Creek in 1863. The location was also deemed perfect as a sternwheeler terminus on the Fraser River. Steamers named the Entreprise, and the Victoria were based here to transport miners and supplies during the Omineca and Cariboo Gold Rushes.
In the early 1900’s, this area was also a thriving base during the building of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Additional sternwheelers, stage coaches, and automobiles were utilized during this busy second stage of Soda Creek history.
Upon further investigation and exploring, we discovered another historical site at Soda Creek called the Xat’sull Heritage Village. Xat’sull /ˈhætʃəl/ means “on the cliff where the bubbling water comes out”. (Wikipedia). The website created to promote this fascinating Heritage Village indicates the proper pronunciation is hat-sull.
We arrived at the Heritage Village; Unfortunately, there was nobody around to direct us or explain the spiritual, cultural, and traditional history. However, the grounds were spacious and fascinating to explore. There were several types of realistic sized dwellings displayed and it would be a fascinating tour with knowledgeable elders. One word of advice though…Bring insect repellent! The mosquitoes were brutal especially around the wigwams.
Onward to Williams Lake where we stopped to have lunch with my close friend, Julia.
Our final stop of the day was quaint Clinton which is located 40 km northwest of Cache Creek and 30 km south of 70 Mile House. For antique enthusiasts, there are several shops displaying stagecoach wheels and historic homestead supplies in this sleepy little town.
The remainder of the journey home to Vancouver Island includes heading south through the Thompson River area, Lillooet, Squamish, and finally the ferry over to gorgeous Vancouver Island.
Lakes District in mid northern British Columbia has won a piece of my heart!
The Teacher-Librarian/Learning Commons Specialist position with School District 91 started as a 6 month contract and ended as a 7 1/2 month contract during the 2018-2019 school year. I experienced a “true Canadian winter” in northern B.C. unlike the milder winters we experience on temperate Vancouver Island.
The amount of sunshine in snow country, and variety of year round sports opportunities, were bonuses I had not anticipated. I was also so grateful for the friendliness of the people thriving up here, diversity of cultures, and vast range of arts available.
It is no wonder there are so many young adults starting careers in the Burns Lake area. This blog post reflects my final few days as a member of the school staff and community of beautiful Burns Lake, British Columbia.
During the final days at Burns Lake my husband and I booked a lovely Airbnb “Lakeside Hideaway” on Gerow Island 2 minutes from Burns Lake. Each morning we awoke to birds singing, geese honking, sun reflecting off the lake, and tranquility of this peaceful, beautiful area.
The courtesy kayaks called our names and we enjoyed a paddle or two most days. Sunsets were a kaleidoscope of red and yellow hues dancing above the hilltops each evening.
Inside, the suite was modern and well equipped. Even in late June we enjoyed the mesmerizing flames from the fireplace on the cooler nights. We will definitely return to this lovely accommodation on a future trip to northern Burns Lake.
Meanwhile at school, the bustle of year end events was in full swing. Sports Day was very relaxed and it was wonderful to see so many parents in attendance. Triple Jump is normally my specialty, but at Decker Elementary I was assigned Standing Long Jump! I hadn’t seen this event in decades, but was pleasantly surprised at the distance some children achieved.
The new Aboriginal school blanket was unveiled at a school assembly by the Top All Around Grade 7 students from 2018 and 2019.
Several Learning Commons Leaders students created a QR code and riddle type scavenger hunt designed to introduce younger students to new areas of the library collection.
In the Library/Learning Commons we were busy with year end book collection, weeding of old books, Library collection inventory using Destiny, and QR Code scavenger hunts for the younger students.
Over one-half of the students in grades 5-7 were members of my Learning Commons Leaders’ club at Decker Elementary. These amazing students were quick to assist me deleting old/outdated/damaged books which we then displayed for all students and staff to take home Free!
As a special treat for these incredible, dedicated, energetic students we had an ice-cream sundae treat day.The sweet treats were a sticky hit!
On the final day of school with students in attendance we had the usual Award’s Day celebration. Although some students had departed on an early vacation, these photos give a glimpse into the number of grade 5-7 students involved as Learning Commons Leaders with me.
It was exciting to see the growth in attendance of boys as initially all leaders were girls.
The P.A.C. (Parents Advisory Committee) showed their appreciation to the staff by preparing a delicious hot lunch on the final day of the school year. The wonderful menu included pulled pork buns, stuffed baked potatoes, corn on the cob, salads, corn bread, and desserts. We emerged satiated and extremely grateful.
After school I was invited to the year end staff party of my other school–William Konkin Elementary School. As you may observe…This school has a larger population and there is a substantially larger staff. The party was hosted by the husband/wife team Richard and Judy at their home in downtown Burns Lake.
Under familiar blue skies, surrounded by lush green trees, we had a lovely time chatting and laughing together. From surprise mystery gifts and free summer time novels to read, to giant games and ‘be creative’ paint stations. Prior to the potluck dinner, two of our young female teachers made their grand entrance by driving up to the party area in their muddy side by side ATV.
This staff knows how to connect, laugh, and have fun. I made so many friends and will miss these caring, dedicated individuals very much as I return to Vancouver Island.
The final day of the school year was an administrative day at school. While teachers packed up their classrooms and filed all paperwork; in the Learning Commons my husband worked tirelessly beside me as I endeavored to complete the first ever automated inventory of the Decker Lake Elementary library collection.
Scanning over 18,000 barcodes while teaching and completing year end procedures is no easy feat! I was working late into the evenings and during weekends determined to get the library collection inventory accomplished prior to my departure from sd91. At 3:19 p.m. on the final day of the school year we finally achieved 100% completion!
The staff had all departed for summer holidays except Dylan, the principal, who informed me he planned to set the school alarm at 4:00 p.m. My husband and I hurriedly threw my personal teaching belongings into several bins and we exited the front door from Decker Lake Elementary school at 3:59 pm.
Goodbye School District 91 and Burns Lake. Feeling immensely proud to have completed the dreaded library inventory, it was officially time to switch to summer vacation and commence retirement for the second time!
Prior to departing to Prince George, we stopped in to view two local stores I had not seen yet off Highway 16–Woods ‘N Water and the adjourning sewing store Yarn and Sew On. Both stores were filled with fascinating merchandise as shown on the accompanying video which highlights the last few days in Burns Lake.
Saying goodbye to the family I stayed with and lovely Brat the cat was emotional and difficult. Loretta, Joe, and Brat have become dear friends whom I will sincerely miss.
Thanks for the memories Burns Lake and School District 91.
Tomorrow the next chapter of my adventure commences.