Our Life in our Magickal Cottage

Raya, Tovah and I lived in a little white cottage in London, Ontario for 10 years. It was not fancy.  I couldn’t afford any upgrades but I also didn’t want any.  I adored our wee bathroom with the wood paneling that resembled a sauna and our tiny clawfoot tub that I could comfortably soak in because I’m only 5 foot 2. I loved our country style kitchen with no counter space and no fan above the stove.  Tovah was constantly annoyed with me for broiling chicken without closing her bedroom door making her room and her clothes smell of chicken.  It still makes me smile.

Early in 1990 I sold our 3 story duplex.  I couldn’t afford the repairs and upkeep on the house.  We rented a lovely 3 bedroom home in the neighbourhood. With the sale of the house, I paid off all our debts, bought a new (to us) car and we spent the whole summer in Norway.  That is another story for another time.  We were in the rental only a year when the owner put the house up for sale and the next year was spent with real estate agents looking at our home, open houses and all that entails.  A whole year of it!!

One day I was sitting in my taxi – yup, I was driving a taxi full time that year.  I just didn’t have the capacity to work in a normal workplace environment.  I needed a break from bosses, corporate culture and all the BS that came with it.  So I’m in my taxi and I say a prayer.  “God, I need a house that my girls and I can live in until they graduate high school.  It has to be in the South Secondary School district.”  South had a great reputation as one of the best high schools in the city with about 95% of the graduates going on to post secondary schools.  That was my goal for my daughters.  I opened up the newspaper (that’s what we did in 1994) and there was a little ad “Rent to Own”, 3 bedrooms, Old South.  I called immediately.  Where is the house located?  It was exactly where I needed it – within the school district parameter. I’ll take it, I said.  The owner asked if I had seen it yet.  Nope.  He insisted that I go and look first and call him back.  I was annoyed since it meant checking out of work to go look and losing money that we desperately needed.  

I drove across town to find this adorable little white cottage.  I walked through to find 3 bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and a bathroom.  The basement was dry and clean and completely unfinished.  The backyard was ginormous!!! There was a long driveway and an old wooden garage.  Perfection!!!!!!!  I called him back and we arranged to meet at 4pm.  He told me the monthly mortgage amount – same as I was paying at the other house.  He said if I paid on time every month, he would get me a bank mortgage.  I found that very unlikely but a year later his wife cosigned for a mortgage and the house was really mine.  We lived there for 10 years. 

 The other miraculous thing he mentioned was that he knew we would want to paint and fix the house up so he would give me the keys right then and there.  We weren’t supposed to start paying for 2 months.  He said he didn’t live in town and he only asked if I was going to be there often to switch the utilities to my name!!  Later that day I called our landlord and gave notice asking if we could move in 1 month.  I had not put up a security deposit and there was no last month rent paid.  They called me back an hour later and asked if I would consider moving out earlier.  The end of the month was a week away.  I quickly agreed.  2 months without paying rent gave me the down payment I needed.  The next week was a whirlwind of cleaning and painting our new house, moving everything and cleaning up the old house.  I was working 12 hour shifts six days a week at the time.  My best friend Alice, Raya, Tovah and I became painters.  I bought our paint on the backroom shelf at the paint store for $5 a gallon.  Raya was about 14 years old and Tovah was 11.  We had our house and I had my miracle.  I chose fun colours – forest green for the living room, yellow for the kitchen, a green for my bedroom,  yellow in Raya’s and turquoise in Tovah’s.  A few years later it was evident that the colours were bothering Tovah and we painted her room and the living room white.  It was an instant attitude change for her.  

It’s a rainy summer afternoon today and it just reminded of similar hot and muggy days in our cottage home where I would sit out on the porch under the aluminum awning (listening to the sound of rain) stretched out on a papasan chair that I probably scavenged from the street. I loved finding things out on the street and bringing them home –  I still love a good find.  “Is that garbage?” brought a smile to all of us.  I once embarrassed Tovah because I took old railway ties that were out in front of the home of one of her friends.  They were there to be taken but Tovah was having none of it. Mom, how could you do that??  I found a child’s swimming pool and dug out a pond using the railway ties as a little walkway to it.  Hmmmm, wish I had a photo of that. Eventually I spent money on a pond liner.  I put in some goldfish and just loved this space.  I also had a hammock.  Memories that I am recreating on my little balcony here in Toronto.  Memories that bring Tovah into my space and hold her in my memory.

I can feel her here today as I can feel the humid summer air on my skin.  I have chicken cooking on a little indoor grill.  I would often grill chicken on an old gas barbecue that I inherited but I would fill it with charcoal because I also have a fear (like my fear of birds) of propane tanks.  I love summer so much and I hate using air conditioning after spending most of the year being cold.  This was an ongoing argument in our little house.  One day I came home to find an air conditioner in the kitchen window.  My girls had asked their father for one and he had come over and installed it for them.  Both their bedrooms opened onto the kitchen and this gave them the cool air they wanted.  I closed the door between the kitchen and living room where my bedroom door was.  Open windows and a fan!!! Summer breeze!  Summer bliss!

One summer I bought an above ground pool that was on sale at Canadian tire.  The upper rim was inflatable and you only needed to fill the pool from the outdoor hose and it took shape and we had a nice sized 3 foot pool.  At night the girls and I would wrap ourselves in sarongs and go out into the backyard – no lights on – and slip into the pool completely nude.  We’d swim around, talk, laugh and cool off.  Then into the house for a comfortable night’s sleep.  The girls with a bit of air conditioning and me with fresh air from my window.  

I remember one day I smudged the house with sage to clear the energy.  I don’t remember what was going on at the time but it felt like something that needed to be done.  I learned smudging when I had a contract facilitating a women’s group at the Oneida Community.  I have adopted it as part of my own practice since then.  Tovah came home from high school – the house was sparkling clean because that’s what I had been doing all afternoon.  Tovah was furious because she was certain that I had been smoking marijuana.  She wouldn’t believe that it was sage.  It’s funny because I don’t like marijuana (it makes me paranoid and is not fun).  There was no changing her mind or convincing her.  Tovah could have some very strong opinions.  For instance she was also absolutely certain that I ate raw ground beef. She swore she saw me do it!!   I never did but I did marinate steak and would eat it raw while putting it on the skewers to grill.  Just last year she was still convinced that I ate raw ground beef.  

At one point Raya lost her wallet.  She looked everywhere.  We all looked for it but we couldn’t find it.  One early evening Raya came into the living room and asked if I would use my pendulum and see if we could locate the missing wallet.  I felt it was worth a try but didn’t have much faith in the process.  I spun the pendulum – clearing the energy and asking for guidance.  All of a sudden Tovah comes barreling out of her bedroom and runs into Raya’s room.  We here some crashing and banging and then Tovah yelling, “I found it!”.  She had the wallet in her hand.  She said that she was sitting on her bed and out of nowhere she could see the missing wallet in her mind.  It was in Raya’s room tucked back behind a solid wood bookshelf.  That was my magickal daughter.

I asked Raya today what Tovah would have been doing in her room.  I realized that kids didn’t have the electronics they have today.  Raya said Tovah would try on clothes, play around with make up, do her hair and that she was always listening to music and both singing and dancing.  That’s my Tovah.  Raya asked Tovah’s friend Heather the same question and she said that Tovah talked on the phone ( we had a portable one).  She remembered Tovah’s comforter – white with jelly beans on it.  She didn’t think Tovah spent a lot of time in her room.  We often watched television together.  We ate dinner together almost every day.  Raya, Tovah and Mom – we were invincible, inseparable and we always had each other’s back.

Raya, Tovah and Mom in our little white cottage home

Visit From the Other Side

I have an irrational fear of birds.  I’ve had it as long as I can remember.  I have never seen the Alfred Hitchcock movie “The Birds”.  I’ve just always been afraid. It’s silly and irrational but it is what it is.  I especially think they are going to attack my head and ears!! That will explain my plan to solve this dilemna. 

My daughter Tovah was with me in October, 2006 when I found my apartment.  She looked out the window and said that it was perfect for me since the balcony was completely netted and would keep out the birds.  We always joked that her eyes were like x-ray eyes – nothing got past her.  This sealed the deal and I signed the contract.  I love it here.  Eventually Tovah met Wesley and moved near me which was an added blessing.  She loved this Beach neighbourhood as much as I did.

After Tovah died, people including her sister Raya, said that she was visiting them as a Robin.  A robin came up to Raya and sat at her feet squawking loudly at her.  I have never heard of a squawking Robin.  I said she wouldn’t come to me as a bird because she knows how irrationally afraid I am.  Raya said that she thought she would anyway.

Just a week ago, I met with a spiritualist.  I truly believe that she made contact with Tovah.  I will write more about it soon.  She told me that Tovah wanted me to watch for hummingbirds  – especially the way they flap their wings wildly and don’t move.  There is a message there for me.  I have visited a butterfly conservatory and they also had hummingbirds.  At first I didn’t think I could go in but in the end I did and found that the hummingbirds didn’t frighten me. I was sure that this was the bird that my girl would visit me as.  I was wrong.

This morning I found a robin on my 100 square foot balcony.  Inside!!! Pacing on the railing.  Sitting on my hammock! Flying around!!  Trapped!!! I didn’t know what to think or what to do!!!  I texted Raya and my brother Peter.  Help!  What should I do???

A few days after Tovah died, I woke at 2am and felt an incredible urge to sit on my balcony.  I felt compelled  to sit there day after day bundled up in blankets with warm furry slippers that both Tovah and I loved.  I started making my balcony my haven and I have spent hours there.  One of Tovah’s friends gave me a gift card and I used it to buy a hammock.  I bundled up and laid and rocked in it since late in April.  I often nap in it or sleep a few hours in the night.  I feel closest to my baby girl when I am on my balcony.  

This morning I found that robin – trapped and afraid.  My anxiety was over the top!! What should I do?  I wanted to do this on my own.  Face my fears.  Be brave.  My brother suggested a broom to gently nudge the bird up to rip in the netting.  Raya suggested getting someone to help or to contact my building manager.  She reminded me that the wee bird was also very afraid.  A good friend then  called me out of the blue and agreed that she could come around noon to help.  That was 3 hours away.  So what should I do?

I decided to try.  First –  a hat to protect my head.  I had a large floppy brimmed hat that belonged to Tovah. 

The floppy brimmed protection hat

I then took out my Priestess Pom Poms that had been given to each womyn in my cohort at our ordination last summer. 

Then I prayed.  I stepped out on the balcony waving my Pom Poms and she flapped her wings.  I moved toward the end where the opening was and waved upwards and out she flew!!!!!!!!!  The whole thing was less than 30 seconds.

Warrior Priestess

I miss you Baby Girl.  I love you.

Sara and Kellie

Sara and Kellie

Sandra Ruch was a wonderful, warm and engaged officiant at our simple marriage ceremony. She knew how to strike the right tone. The vows that she suggested were perfectly attuned to our feelings for each other. We invited her to join us after our celebration because we felt that she was a friend as well as an officiant.

Sara & Kellie Nov 2019

Christian and Amanda

Christian & Amanda

Sandra Ruch was professional and warm and exceeded our expectations. She gently walked us through all the decisions and choices that we had, she helped make our ceremony personable and unique. We would recommend her to anyone. Christian & Amanda September 2019

Inspiring Front Line Activism- Building Hope for Palestine

By: Tiffany Goskey, August 2, 2012

A couple Tuesdays back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sandra Ruch, an international human rights activist, Coordinator for the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, and a member of the Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee .

Sandra Ruch

Since 2004, she has been heavily involved in human rights work, advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people. Her involvement in social justice activities started with helping new immigrants become established in Canada. But, it was her experience in Palestine that sparked her passion for anti-occupation and anti-Zionist activism. Her involvement became very personal as the events she witnessed conflicted with her views of Judaism.

All her life Sandra was a Zionist activist, leader of a Zionist youth group at 13, later as a member of an adult Zionist organization and as a Hebrew Sunday school teacher. After WWII – Israel became the safe place for the Jewish people to reside. She whole heartedly believed in the rhetoric. Essentially, Zionists believe that Israel should be there for the Jewish people – and they don’t see it as a racist statement.

Sandra was born 8 years after Israel became a country and so it made sense to her. She believed that the army was there to protect. As a woman of faith, she thought the Israeli government were following the principles of Judaism: healing the world, acts of loving kindness, and obligations of charity. Additionally, the Ten Commandments are fundamental in Judaism – such as condemning killing. Sandra lived in Palestine for 2 years and witnessed a total disregard for human rights. She saw crimes against humanity; murder and theft by the Israeli army.

Because Sandra saw it personally – she can speak about the things she experienced. She was appalled by the human rights violations and the lack of respect for humanity. It was the catalyst for her work – however, she would fight for anything that disregards human rights and disrespects humanity. She has focused on this area because it is directly related to her personal experience living in Palestine.

Her work and life is now for the Palestinian people. The ones displaced in the diaspora and in Palestine. But, this dedication has created a riff with her siblings as they no longer speak to Sandra. She has lost much of her spiritual family as it has been difficult to find a temple for support. Many Zionists cannot understand why she engages in this type of work. Additionally, the arrest in Greece on the last trip with the Canadian Boat to Gaza could have resulted in jail time for 3 years. These events coupled by Sandra’s 2 year absence have been very trying on her family.

Although, many within the anti-occupation community have become her new brothers and sisters, she acknowledges the sacrifices that must be made in order to continue with her work. She is not afraid to be arrested – but outside of the activist community it is sometimes difficult to understand this level of commitment.

The most important element in whatever you are working on, be it activism or something related to your passion, Sandra believes you should follow your own heart. You must do what you need to do. Live authentically. You can never please everyone – so you must do what you think is right for yourself, and the rest will follow. Sometimes life is not an easy road, but when you overcome the barriers, and stay on the journey, your life will be meaningful and full of hope.

Sandra’s triumphs are in every aspect of her work. These triumphs have fueled her passion and continual commitment to this cause. Just starting a project and seeing it to completion is a personal triumph.

In 2005, the Women in Black, a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence, had a conference in Jerusalem. There were 700 female participants from around the world. It highlighted the occupation but didn’t make the news. However, it was such a powerful and meaningful experience to be around so many brilliant women who came to share their perspective on the occupation.

The next triumph came when the movement planned the Gaza Freedom March and 1500 people came to Cairo to attend the march. The Egyptian government locked them down – but they worked together. It was a catalyst for the movement. Then after the massacre of the Mavi – they went to the street and started a hunger strike in front of the Israeli consulate in Toronto. Every media in Toronto came out to cover it. It was a great awareness event. Did it take 9 people to be murdered? Yes, but it got the word out about the atrocities. Within a month, they announced the Canadian Boat to Gaza. Massacre on the Mavi – was in May 2010. They announced the boat in June/July – raised $400,000 even though the original goal was $300,000.

Sandra went to Greece, figured how to buy a boat, and hired a captain who happened to be the first one to break the siege. Then she arranged for the 47 people to attend. She coordinated the logistics while in Greece – hired lawyers, listened to Greek partners – there were a lot of sleepless nights worrying about the decisions made.

Through these experiences Sandra has learned that every person must truly believe in the work they do. Then connect with people who have strengths in different areas to build upon your passion. She states that they were the only boat to get out of Greece. They made it to Turkey and then sailed to Gaza. The difference this time is that they are going to refurbish and build the boat in Gaza – which is why Gaza’s Ark is such an apt name for the project.

Essentially, the issue is that Gaza has been under an Israeli blockade for over five years.  This means that the local fishers cannot feed their families or fish for trade. According to International law – Palestinians would have the rights to 12 nautical miles from shore. The Israeli government would only allow 6 miles. But, since the massacre, it is only 3 miles. This water is overfished, polluted, and their infrastructure is collapsing. Now the fishermen – are putting high powered lights on their boats to attract the fish. But, it is super dangerous – one person has been electrocuted. The Israeli army has been known to shoot anyone within 1 in a half mile off the shore.

Is the UN doing anything? Not really. According to Sandra, John Ging from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency has made statement after statement but not much has been done. The Gaza’s Ark team know their boat will be captured again. But, it’s the statement they are trying to broadcast to the world – to demonstrate how Israel is not supporting the Palestinian people and making up their own rules. For example, the Tahrir was in international waters when it was captured last year. It was brought over to Israel. The authorities made their team say that they entered Israeli waters illegally when they didn’t.

The Israeli government tells the world that Palestinians want to kill all the Israeli’s. This is absolutely untrue. The Israeli government enforces what food items can go in and out of Palestine, and what people can eat – essentially they have put them on a collective diet. Some items such as chocolate and tomato sauce have been banned. It’s a form of oppression.

Gaza’s Ark will carry local trade items, and distribute them to the world for sale. This is to help the local people work around the occupation and be able to feed their families from their earnings.

If someone is interested in getting involved – Sandra suggests checking out Gaza’s Ark website http://gazaark.org/ and endorse the project. Then donate to support the funding of the boat. Are you willing to go to your MP to state you don’t support this? She says “that it is important to get the message to the political leaders as that is where the power lies. You make sure in every election – you vote. Then – join the team. Get on a committee. Find out where your strength is – and join us. You will find great pleasure in working on something that you are passionate about”.

Sandra for a Just Peace

http://inspiredactivist.wordpress.com/

Inspiring Front Line Activism – Building Hope for Palestine

By: Tiffany Goskey

A couple Tuesdays back, I had the opportunity to sit down with Sandra Ruch, an international human rights activist, Coordinator for the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace, and a member of the Gaza’s Ark Steering Committee .

Sandra Ruch

Since 2004, she has been heavily involved in human rights work, advocating for the rights of the Palestinian people. Her involvement in social justice activities started with helping new immigrants become established in Canada. But, it was her experience in Palestine that sparked her passion for anti-occupation and anti-Zionist activism. Her involvement became very personal as the events she witnessed conflicted with her views of Judaism.

All her life Sandra was a Zionist activist, leader of a Zionist youth group at 13, later as a member of an adult Zionist organization and as a Hebrew…

View original post 1,262 more words

When Racism Rears Its Ugly Head

 This is not a travel information blog but instead about several of the people from the United States that I met when I was in Puerto Penasco, Mexico.  They call this area Phoenix’ beach. I felt sad and discouraged and realized how sheltered I am in Toronto by friends and my family and our “radical left wing ideas”.  I have witnessed so much ignorance and so much prejudice here that it shocked me. I also have to add that I have an abundance of radical and awesome friends from the USA.

I met a couple and the husband asked me, ” why do people hate the Jews.  I just don’t understand it.”  The wife agreed and said – “it’s just a religion right?  We don’t hate Jews and we like you.  We like all people.  We’re not prejudice” -(note my secret eye roll here).  I replied that there is hatred everywhere and the American president is allowing it to escalate with his rhetoric.  Husband nervously glanced at his wife.  I said I worried a lot about Islamophobia.   He said that he totally understood being afraid of Muslims and anyone who believed in the Koran.  I said the Koran is a wonderful book and told them that Mohammed the Prophet said that “heaven is under the Mother’s feet”.  I said that unfortunately, men over the centuries have bastardized religion and weakened the role of women.  I knew this whole conversation was fruitless but I felt better just saying it. On top of it, they were both many beers in and not worthy of my time.  Then they told me they were very worried about the caravan and how it would affect them.  Goddess help me – where is the sense of humanity?

The things I heard repeatedly:

  • why should I work so that others can stay home?
  • I hate paying taxes. 
  • People are getting free money from the government and driving fancy cars, wearing expensive clothes -I saw them on television protesting that their cheques would be late.
  • The government builds them houses. 
  • Natives shouldn’t get assistance now – that problem happened years ago.
  • I heard complaints about people hanging out in front of the grocery stores offering to buy your groceries with their food stamps in order to get half the value in cash.  When I hear how no one wants to work,  everyone is lazy, no one is competent, it make my heart hurt.

I suppose there are always people abusing the system but why is that the only thing they see?  Why is the story I know about people dying from lack of health care, families living in cars, in tent cities, children going to school hungry.  I have never heard about this apparently generous welfare system in America that they are talking about.

On Facebook so many of my “friends” are speaking out about Anti-semitism.  It is definitely there and the escalation is frightening.  However, I can’t help but wonder where were our voices as we see this hatred for the blacks and the browns, for the Muslims, for the Indigenous?????????????

Remember the poem by by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984).

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

I was invited to join a group of Jewish clergy at the border between USA and Mexico but the logistics didn’t work out.  I wish that I had.  My Judaism is based on Tikkum Olam – Healing the world.  One of the core commandments of Judaism is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), sometimes called the Great Commandment

I am proud to be a Canadian.  I am proud to be known as a radical left wing activist.

Getting to Know Puerto Penasco, Mexico

This adventure of mine starts in Puerto Penasco – also known as Rocky Point, Mexico.  It is a border town and located about 4 hours from Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.  It is referred to as Phoenix’s beach.  The town is full of people from Arizona.  It is a desert situated on the shores of the Sea of Cortez.  I guess that makes it an oasis.  I remember learning about deserts and oases (had to google the plural form) in grade 4.  I can actually picture my drawing of an oasis in my notebook. 

I am here on a work exchange – room and board in exchange for helping with the family’s AirBnb business.  I am responsible for some online editing and some property management.  My exchange is with the sister of a close friend of mine in Canada.   

I arrived here in mid November – the same weekend as the famous Rocky Point Bike Rally.  During the rally the population almost doubles with over 10,000 bikes and 60,000 tourists I am told.  My host and I were selling tequila with a friend of hers to raise money for a children’s charity.  I made a few new friends and also heard lots of rock music. This is the beginning of the winter or off season.  The water is cooling down and only the bravest are swimming now.

The weather is not hot but it is also not humid and the sun is bright and warms up the air every afternoon. The temperature is usually in the mid twenties in the afternoon and night lows around 10 celcius.   There are small trees with bright and beautiful flowers but a lot of this town dusty, dirty and impoverished.  It is the reality of a Mexican border town.

There a few very posh developments here with huge homes that are mostly owned by Americans.  There are condominium developments too.  I attended a brunch that was a fundraising event in one of those areas – about 75 mostly American women paying $20 USD for brunch and bidding on silent auction items and raffles to raise money for a women’s shelter in Puerto Penasco. One item went for over $600.

I am living in the old part of the town on a dusty unpaved road that leads to the beach. The street is about 1.5 kilometres long. I make this walk a few times a day often bringing the family dog, Cilantro.  There are many dogs in every house and they come out to greet me as I walk – barking loudly and running towards me.  Many, many Chihuahuas. Actually one of my new friends adopted a little one before returning to the states.  Meet Lara.

Often Cilantro (the house dog where I am staying, will block the barking neighbour dogs from getting to me or distract them.  He is such a sweet, quiet fellow – I love him.  The only time I hear him bark is when a stranger is around the property at night and he also howls at the whistle of the train as it crosses through the town around 2a.m. every night.  A- woooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There isn’t much to do here especially in the off-season.  There are a few bars, many restaurants, an American legion and not much else.  I don’t enjoy spending time in bars and I am not one to eat out that often.  That is for both financial and health reasons.  I heard there is a bingo game in a bar somewhere. (not interested in that either).  I was thinking of volunteering to tutor English in the women’s shelter but now I am leaving early so I won’t be able to.

I’ve eaten out only a few times.  This week I had the enormous Wednesday special at the German KaufeeHaus.  It was very good – salad, ham steak on a bed of creamy sauerkraut, a German sausage and meatball with a big helping of mashed potatoes along with two thick slices of homemade rye bread twith sage in it.  Too much food but the change I needed from Mexican cuisine and my own home cooking.  The price was a very reasonable 165 pesos which is less than $10 in both US and Canadian currency.  They have a huge breakfast menu as well with so many kinds of omelettes. It would take you an hour to choose one, I think.

Bryan’s Sports Bar is another popular place that has specials on different days and on Thursday there is a pasta special and a drink for $5 USD.  I ate there on my first night in town.  We arrived at 9pm and went directly to Bryan’s for a quick meal.  I had linguine and shrimp in an Alfredo sauce. Yummmm. This  is a shrimp town and shrimp is easy to find and will run you about 100 pesos for a half kilo.  It’s fresh and big and absolutely delicious.  I cooked some the first week I was here and promise to do that a few more times before I leave.

There are several big, luxurious hotels in town but I honestly have not been to any so I am not able to give an opinion.  There are many AirBnb listings and I have been helping with 10 of them.  I really can recommend the properties owned and operated by my hosts Rita and Tommy.  They are clean and well kept and offer good value for your $$$.  Check out the many options on AirBnb or on the website Welcome to Go2 Rocky Point or click  here.

How to Discover a New Town

I’ve been in Puerta Penasco for over 2 weeks .  It’s time for me to discover this town – figure out on my own how to get around and how to direct our guests in the AirBnb properties.

I’ve gone on several walks in a variety of directions (don’t ask how far I get) but I now have a much better sense of where I am and where many of the main streets are.  I started driving this past weekend.  In Mexico you can purchase a car insurance on your driver’s licence for $90 USD that gives you liability insurance on any vehicle that you drive.

Walking to town

This isn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve worked and lived in Greece and Israel/Palestine. I’ve had to learn my way around Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank.  Also in Greece in Athens, Pireaus, Aghios Nickolas and other places on the island of Crete.  I often travel on my own with poor language skills.  It’s an adventure that I truly love.

So now here I am in Mexico – in this small town of Puerta Penasco with a population of just over 60,000. Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, is a Mexican fishing and resort city on the Sea of Cortez. It’s known for the dune-backed Sandy Beach and Bahía la Choya’s tidal pools.  Neither of which I have seen yet.  I am looking forward to whale and dolphin watching.

For the past week, I’ve walked to the beach about a kilometre from the house and from there a little to the left and the right along the sand. The rest of the time I have been in a vehicle with someone else driving and it’s really hard for me to get a sense of where we’re going.  I have to go on my own and get lost a few times. I don’t have data on my mobile phone so I need to get directions for where I am going before I leave the house.  I now have a little tourist map in my bag. 

How do you discover a new environment?

How to Travel for Free: Believe!

There are many companies across North America that pay a person to drive a vehicle long distances.  There are thousands of snow birds in the north heading south for the winter.  What’s a snow bird?  A person (usually a senior) who wants out of the snow for a portion of the winter months.  Canadians tend to head down south around the first of November and head back sometime in April.  In Canada, we can only be out of our province for a maximum of 6 months to maintain our health insurance.  I’m away for 4 months this trip which will leave another 2 months for later in the year.

The company I chose to drive for was Toronto Drive-Away.  They’ve been around for a very long time and my brother has driven cars to Florida for them many times so I knew they were legitimate and dependable. Ken, John and Jean will treat you kindly, professionally and with a friendly respect.  It took a week to receive my payment but when I called to follow up, I was told that there were 700 drivers to be paid.  That tells me that this is thriving business.  I had to pick up my car in Barrie and I was given a $250 bonus.  It was not convenient to get there and took a lot of my day but in the end the extra money was awesome.  I received a total of $650 for driving and was reimbursed for all the gas.  I saved my receipts and had them scanned and sent off to the company the next day.

The car was great – a 2018 Honda CRV that had only 1500 kilometres on it and had only been off the lot for a week.  That new car smell was still there!  Mmmm.  I memorized the  licence plate number.  I stayed in hotels for 2 nights.  I had promised to drop the car off at a parking lot with shuttle service near the Fort Myers airport.  It was so easy since the couple came on the shuttle and I took it back to the airport.  The owner did a quick walk around inspection of the car as I had done when I picked it up.  I  had booked a flight on Southwest Airlines at 6pm.  We exchanged the car at around noon.  I was almost an hour late.  I had given myself an hour to get to the airport (only a 17 minute journey according to google maps) but I got caught in traffic because of a horrific 3 car pile up.  It was a mess!!  One of them was a state trouper vehicle.  You can read about it here.

Honda CRV
Honda 2018 CRV that I drove to Florida

3 car accident
Florida Highway Patrol trooper, driver he was helping on I-75 hit in Lee crash

The drive took me 3 days.  I tried to reach Athens, Georgia the first day but after 11 hours in the car, I was exhausted.  I had driven through rain in Ontario and New York state and even a bit of snow in West Virginia.  I left before dawn and it was not only dark but raining from Toronto to the Peace bridge at Buffalo. When you cross the bridge for Toronto Drive-away, you must follow the truck lane.  The look of surprise on the Custom Officer’s face was hilarious.  “Are you a commercial vehicle?” “Yes, I am bringing this car into the US,” I replied.  “Ok, give me your papers.”  I handed him the entire stack including my passport.  The papers included the list of everything packed by the owners in the trunk, a copy of both their passports, copies of the car insurance and registration and the contract between me and the couple as well as a manifesto with a bar code. The whole process took me about 20 minutes.  I had to park and go inside the building, hand my papers to another officer and wait for my name to be called.  I was on my way very quickly.  Easy peasy!

I started driving each day around 5am but I really don’t enjoy driving in the dark.  I think in the future I will plan to stay over night in hotels and to drive only from dawn to dusk – 8 to 10 hours a day especially if I am the sole driver.  I will go to sleep a bit later and get up and enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee and breakfast before hitting the road.  The hours in the dark, I found myself driving under the speed limit with my shoulders tense as I managed the unfamiliar highways.  The other problem, of course, is the blinding sun early in the morning.

However, the majority of my trip had clear roads, sunny skies, and no traffic delays. I love sirius radio – I found a channel with Beatles music, a 60’s channel, a 70’s channel, one called Bridge – singing at the top of my lungs with no critics or anyone to annoy – heaven!!!!!!!!!!!! When I reached the Florida state line, I stopped for a break, a free cup of grapefruit juice and a short conversation with a nice man who took my photo.

Florida Travel Centre
Florida welcome travel centre for a cup of free grapefruit juice and a moment in the warm air

I also have to mention the torrential rains just as I was exiting I-75 to Fort Myers.  I couldn’t see anything and slowed my speed to 45 kilometres per hour – the other cars were doing the same but it was a frightening period as I took the first exit and pulled into the parking lot of a business.  When it calmed down, I got back on I-75 to the exit for my hotel.  I recommend using hotwire to get some amazing hotel deals at the last minute.

After checking in, I went to the nearest grocery store to get a few things for my dinner and breakfast and lunch the next day.  Grocery stores are great for rotisserie chicken and premade vegetable and/or fruit salads.  I added a mini baguette and a bottle of seltzer water to my fruits and vegetables and I had 3 healthy meals for less than $20.

This is a great way to travel but it’s not for the faint of heart.  Put on your big girl pants and hit the open road!  Tell me what you think!

On Route to Mexcio: Must Love Horses

 

My only full day in Athens, Georgia included a visit from the farrier.  A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses’ hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves, if necessary.  I was fascinated at his work having never seen a horses hoof up close and had no idea what trimming or putting on horse shoes would entail.  I was also fascinated and appalled at his running racist commentary – a view into southern, conservative America.  Quite an education for me. It was election day in the USA and I didn’t remind him or encourage him to vote.  Erev, my mentor in no way reflects this type of thinking – she is an amazing woman with the most generous spirit I have ever witnessed.  She is a champion mounted archer. How cool is that!?!?!?!?!?

Erev
Erev on a galloping horse

I haven’t been on or even near horses since I was a teenager.  I love horses and dogs and this new adventure has me surrounded by both.  My host in Mexico has horses in Phoenix and in Puerta Penasco.  I visited with Erev in Athens, Georgia for a few days on route to Mexico and we spent a half day with her horses.

I spent a morning in Phoenix at the ranch observing Jorge training 3 of the 4 horses.  Jorge is a volunteer from Spain staying in Phoenix for a while as he travels in the United States.  He is a real horse whisperer and it was fascinating to watch him.  He spoke gently in a soothing, soft voice to the horses.  He continually explained to me what he was doing and why.  It was mesmerizing to watch and a lesson for sure in patience.

horse training.jpg
Volunteer from Spain, Jorge training horse

Why all this talk and time with horses?  Many of you may know that I am studying now to become a Kohenet, a Hebrew Priestess.   This past spring my cohort and I were initiated and this summer we will be ordained.  I am very excited about the whole process. Kohenet is a training program in spiritual leadership for women on a Jewish path. It is also a movement, a sisterhood, and a network of communities. It is creating a paradigm of earth-based, embodied, feminist, Judaism. I am now working with a Kohenet mentor who uses horses and archery to teach energy-work.  The archery helps with my ability to concentrate and to focus.  Horses are known for their incredible sensitivity.After a day in Phoenix my host drove me to Puerto Penasco in Mexico.  It is a small fishing village located on the Sea of Cortes in Mexico. Commonly referred to by American visitors as Rocky Point, this small fishing town has blossomed into a popular modern day vacation destination. Rocky Point is a little over 60 miles from the USA border which makes the seaside city a popular drive to destination by visitors from the USA.  It is here that I will be managing 10 AirBnb properties.  Check it out.

Sandra Laya Puerta Penasco
SandraLaya in Las Conchas, Puerta Penasco, Mexico