“Where the Sky is Born” by Jeanine Lee Kitchel

January6

I had reserved this book at the library years ago only to find that it had been lost in the circulation system.  I kept holding out hope that it would one day surface and so I did not cancel my reservation for a year or so.  After which, I conceded that it was unlikely that I would ever get to read it.  Then one day near the end of my time on Isla, I was in the lobby of our little villa (3 suites) and I spied it on the shelves of books that other guests have read and left behind instead of lugging home.  I have poured over every word because I have this gift of being transported to anywhere I am reading about (I have to be very careful with my selection of reading material).

The story is so intriguing to me as it is the story of a couple who decide to abandon their hectic life in America and opt instead for the laid back lifestyle of a little fishing village by the name of Puerto Moreles.  The book was published in 2004 and her memoirs of the building of their Mexican home went back as far as 1985.  I am sure life in the Yucatan was different then.  Very different.

This is one of the many reasons why we love the island of Isla Mujeres so much, because it feels as if it grew less quickly than Cancun and Playa de Carmen.  To my delight, Jeanine and her husband loved the island too and had this to say (p 137):

At that time, twenty years ago, the travel agent hadn’t heard of Cancun nor the nearby island of Isla Mujeres, and Paul had to convince her to get out a Mexico map so he could show her the location.  A month later we were on the a Mexicana flight, stopping only at the Cancun airport to catch a cab, then onto Isla Mujeres by boat, known only as the people’s ferry.

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We fell in love with Isla.  Adored North Beach with the shallow, turquoise ocean bumping up onto a white sand beach that stetched seemingly for miles (standard fare for the Mexican Caribbean we were soon to find out) and especially loved Maria’s, a small resort with French restaurant serving excellent cuisine.  Maria had only five rooms to rent, bungalows fit for a tropical highway paradise, with palapa roofs, and a bountiful exterior garden brimming with hibiscus, crotons, and areca palms.  A narrow cement walkway, etched with geckos and tropical flowers, wound its way down to two prized bungalows, close enough to the beach to hear the waves lapping at the shore at night.  Although we’d started out in the less desirable rooms closer to the restaurant, we stayed long enough to nab one of the sought-after bungalows below.  We spent long hour’s on Maria’s lonesome beach, sharing the ocean with her ancient loggerhead sea turtles that swam in the ocean by day and by dusk returned to a funky zapote cage that straddled the sand at the water’s edge.  We hunkered down in Mexican style Adriondack chairs, sun-bathed, talked, napped and dreamed, and I think it was right then and there on Maria’s beach, that we decided somehow we would escape northern winters and city life and life in Mexico.

I “get” Jeannine and so would my siblings and friends who are in love with Isla as well.  By reading this book though, I see that it is not specifically Isla that must have smitten us but the experiences of this laid back time that Isla still has managed to retain (p 7).

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Coco palms were planted in a line all the way up the way down the narrow two lane road.  Mangrove swamps with shallow brown water bumped up to the roadway, a few ducks in attendance.  Lazy dragonflies hovered aimlessly at the waters edge.  No cars passed us, only an ancient bike ambled by a young driver balancing a pot of tortillas on the handle bars.

At el centro my first impression was that of a rustic, unpolished little pueblo with a few shops.  The town square, known as el zocalo in Spanish, lacked foliage, either by design or lack of interest, except for a large almendon, or almond tree, dead centre and a couple of scruffy pinones or pines.  A basketball court, though off to the side, predominated, its backboards lacking hoops and nets.  Several concrete park benches donated by the town fathers lined the pathways.  One or two of the benches needed repair….

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…The handful of locals working that day nodded to us in passing, exchanging smiles and greetings.  Friendly.  No doubt about it, the place was authentic.  No gringos, save us.  We eavesdropped on conversations, thankful they were in Spanish.  Could this be the place we’d been searching for? It had just the right amount of funk.

Giddy, we decided to ground ourselves with a bite to eat at one of the local restaurants before finding Alejandro’s house.  We chose one right on the beach with a large thatched palapa roof .  The waiter dressed all in white, meandered over with menus and asked quietly if we would like something to drink.

“Let’s drink to our good luck,” Paul said. Then he ordered two margaritas….

After a Yucateca style lunch featuring the local cuisine-fresh camarones with garlic for me and pibil chicken, a Mayan specialty with the fowl wrapped in banana leaves for Paul, and zesty lime soup-we sat for a moment on the outdoor terrace and took everything in.  From the tiburonera fishing boats docked nearby to the rustic, neglected beach to the calm that emanated everywhere, this was certainly Mexico.

(page 15)

At night we walked into town along the dark jungle road, slowly becoming accustomed to finding our way without the aid of a flashlight, guided only by the rays of the moon.  In Puerto Moreles we were getting used to the streets, the people, the tempo of life.  We knew when to find the bank open; what day the vegetable vendor set up his stand; what time we could find the sporadic baker selling bread.

We noticed the friendliness of everyone from children playing in the street to taxi drivers to shopkeepers.  We started to become accustomed to the polite nods or the occasional “buenas tardes” from people we didn’t even know.  We were fitting in.

The story is primarily about the years that it took to muddle through all the illogical red tape of securing land in Mexico and the agonizing process of building their precious Casa Maya right on the beach, devastating hurricanes and all.  This too, we know is authentic.

Did they live happily ever after, in their little Casa? Apparently not. I was watching House International recently, which is one of my HGTV addictions and a couple from Edmonton made the adventurous decision to purchase an abandoned villa that was a shell its former self, to restore it to previous grandeur.  The property? Casa Maya.

Kath’s quote: Mi casa es su casa.”

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Love-that is all.

 

 


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3 Comments to

““Where the Sky is Born” by Jeanine Lee Kitchel”

  1. Avatar February 3rd, 2014 at 11:04 pm marilyn Says:

    Ah Isla. 29 more sleeps. 33 of us going this year for my sister’s first year anniversary. are you going this year or have you been already?


  2. Avatar February 3rd, 2014 at 11:05 pm marilyn Says:

    I enjoyed this book too. Got it from the bookstore in Puerto Morelos when we stayed there a couple years ago. One week there then one week on Isla. Wasn’t long enough for Isla.


  3. Avatar February 4th, 2014 at 7:28 am Kathryne Says:

    33 beats our record number! Where will you all stay? We will have left by the time you arrive. Drat.


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