When you travel full time you hear a lot of stories about fellow travelers who have run into bad situations dealing with theft. There are many blog posts out there on how to avoid being burgled, pick-pocketed, etc. in areas all over the world. When we head to a new area we read up on these tips, take the safety precautions very seriously, and hope that we won’t ever have to deal with such a situation. Up to this point we have been very lucky. In our travels we have never had any direct interaction with thieves or anyone that might try and do harm to our family.
However, this past week our luck finally ran out as we were awoken very early Friday morning to an intruder attempting to open the courtyard-facing door that leads to our bedroom. It is a very good thing that Five Spice has an obsessive habit of checking on the kids whenever there is any sound at night. For the past seven years she has slept with one ear trained on the children, and any cough, cry, or strange noise sends her running to their bedside. Usually it is nothing and she staggers back to bed. However, this time she awoke to find a young man standing at the screen door to our bedroom. Luckily the house we are staying in has bars over the windows and locked gates over the doors. So, even if we leave the inside doors open for ventilation we are protected by a sturdy gate.
The intruder was attempting to unlock the gate when Five Spice noticed him and that is when we went into our protective parent mode. Our first thoughts weren’t that this person was here to try to steal from us, but that a stranger was in close proximity to our children. So, we stood at our gate and screamed threateningly at the intruder in Spanglish like a bunch of wild apes while he quickly climbed back onto the roof and fled the property. In retrospect maybe not the smartest course of action but instinct took over. Of course our yelling woke the children who were more than a little freaked out.
When we all calmed down we spent the rest of the night (who can sleep after that?) talking about how we were completely safe and had done everything we could have done by locking all the entrances to our house. We talked about how this situation could have occurred anywhere and that based on the intruders actions he was just after valuables and not here with the intent to harm us. However, we quickly realized that once a situation like this has occurred it is really hard to get that jumpy, looking over your shoulder reaction out of your brain. The roof of our rental house is not secure and we cannot prevent people from accessing it from the abandoned property next door (a property that seems to be home to many folks down on their luck). It is unfortunate that we can’t do anything to make the roof of our rental more secure and it is very troubling to us all that we can’t feel safe in our courtyard, which we dearly love.
Luckily this travel lifestyle that we have chosen gives us the option to leave such an uncomfortable situation behind. So, tomorrow we will take the bus to Cozumel where we are hoping to put this situation behind us. We are so incredibly grateful that we have the luxury to leave an uncomfortable or unsafe situation when there are so many in this world that can’t. While the past days have not been the most pleasant we have learned many lessons as a family and we will take these with us as we continue to explore the world.
Next stop Cozumel
For a few months now we have been watching a bunch of bananas growing in our back courtyard. Part of what fascinated us was that the bunch was growing really high up leaning over a concrete wall, and we couldn’t get a really good look at it. So, from afar everyday we would gaze up at the slowly growing bananas and wonder when they would be ready to pick. Finally this week we decided that the time had come, and if we waited any longer we might loose the bunch to insects and other wild animals.
So, this morning Five String slipped on his Chacos, got out the ladder, and cut the stalk containing the bananas. In retrospect we probably should have done a little bit of internet research on banana growing first. It turns out that there is quite a lot of discussion out there about when bananas are ripe and when to cut the flower. Bunches of bananas actually continue to form down the stalk as long as the flower remains alive and healthy. Once it appears that no more bunches are forming, then you can go ahead and cut the whole stalk.
However, we had already made our decision to cut and Five String triumphantly climbed down the ladder with a very heavy bunch of bananas. Once on the ground it turns out that they really weren’t ripe enough to eat. The boys’ dreams of sitting around the backyard, devouring bananas like the monkeys they are, quickly vanished. However, several of the bananas had split open, which reinforced our theory that they would soon be food for other animals unless we got them first. So, while we can’t eat them yet they are safely hanging away from nibbling jaws until they ripen up and we can enjoy them in smoothies, baked goods, and cereals.
Fives’ Facts about Bananas
* Herb: The banana plant is considered an herb, not a tree. In fact, it is the largest herbaceous flowering plant in the world.
* Hands and Fingers: A cluster of bananas is technically called a “hand,” while a single banana is called a “finger.”
* 27 Pounds: Americas consume an average of 27 pounds of bananas every year.
* Pennsylvania First: The banana split was first served in Pennsylvania in 1904.
* Origins: Most commercially grown bananas are clones of one another and originated from a single plant in Southeast Asia.
When we lived in Maine we had our share of backyard visitors. From rabbits to bears there was always an interesting species to gaze at through the windows. However, since they were wild animals we never interacted with them, and we instructed the kids to give these animals plenty of space.
Since arriving in Merida, Mexico we have encountered a new type of backyard visitor: the alley cat. Little did we know when renting our house that it came with a backyard full of alley cats. The landlords left us instructions to feed the cats as they help keep away rodents and other pests. At first we weren’t sure that this was such a good idea. It definitely goes against our “leave wild animals to themselves” motto. However, we quickly discovered that many of these cats are more akin to pets then wild animals, and a few are used to being fed several times daily by the inhabitants of the house.
So, we began a daily ritual of feeding and getting to know the cats. Most of them stay up on the roof and only come down when food is put out. It is actually kind of creepy to know that they are watching you from above all day. Usually they are very skittish and shy, but the group has no problem flocking into the yard when they hear the cat food being poured.
In our first few days here we noticed one little fellow (we call him Young Tiger) who was the runt of the group. He was often picked on by some of the older, street hardened alley cats and pushed away from the food. Our family took a liking to him and we began to give him special treatment. After that he started to spend all of his time in our yard and put up with High Five’s loud, erratic attempts at becoming friends :) With the kids’ protection and constant care he has gained weight and is starting to hold his own against the other cats.
Feeding alley cats is an odd situation to find ourselves in, and we probably wouldn’t be doing it if the landlords hadn’t made the request (and provided the initial food). It feels weird to take care of an animal knowing that we will be leaving in a short while. However, the kids have dearly loved getting acquainted with their favorite, Young Tiger, and hopefully the landlords will step back in and continue with his feedings when we leave.
What is your policy on feeding alley cats? Have you ever lived in an area with stray cats?
Our time in Mérida, Mexico has taught up many lessons about living in a tropical climate:
- Never go to sleep without a fan
– Try to wear as little clothing as possible
– Ants will find their way to any scrap of food, no matter how minuscule
– Mosquitoes are very efficient carriers of disease.
Over the last two weeks our home school science lessons have been made very easy as the kids witnessed first hand how those annoying buzzing bugs (that we just can’t keep out of the house) transferred Dengue Fever between mom and dad. So, just as Five Spice was back up on her feet Five String was taking her place in the fetal position waiting for the fevers to run their course. This time around we have learned our lesson and are keeping Five String covered from head to toe in clothing, which will hopefully keep the mosquitoes from transferring the disease once again. The clothing also helps to hide the very prominent Dengue Rash that covers almost 90% of Five Strings body.
While the tropics sound good during New England’s freezing cold winters we are starting to long for a Fall Freeze that would kill off our flying house guests and take down Dengue Fever with them.
Things have been a bit slow for us as of late. We’re still in recuperation mode as Five Spice recovers from a one week bout with dengue fever, so there’s nothing much to report. Except, of course, an important first step in her convalesce: a dance party. Not letting the 92 degree heat and 80% humidity deter us, we really got the white blood cells flowing in tune to the rhythm. Probably not what the doctor would recommend, but definitely what the doctor ordered :)