Sunday, January 03, 2016

Mom in Mexico

Kellane decided to travel to Mexico to do some volunteer work and see the Yucatán.
"Mom!  You should come!"  I had only been to Mexico once - 30 years ago to Cancun on my honeymoon.  My understanding was that Cancun - now being a major tourist destination had changed a great deal.
Kellane selected Mérida for her trip.  Mérida is the capitol of the Yucatán a good size city rich in culture and history.érida,_Yucatán

I thought - "How often is your daughter going to invite you to share an adventure?  and what the hell - I should go!"  I had frequent flyer points to get me there and started looking at prices of places to stay and realized it would be pretty cheap.  I booked a flight and started making arrangements.
Kellane was staying at a student house with several other volunteers and had made friends fast.  Her house was on the outskirts of town and required a bus (small van) to get there for just a few dollars.
I found a small boutique hotel in the historic district called Julamis on airB&B that looked and sounded perfect.  My expectations were exceeded with this lovely slice of heaven.
I arrived on November 12, 2015 and took a cab to the Julamis.  I'd been practicing on the plane how to give the address to the cab driver in Spanish.  I have a great Spanish accent but I can't speak but a few words and phrases.  This blond gringo got taken advantage of a couple of times because of that.....
It was hot as hell, like Columbia, SC in August hot. All of the uninviting facades fool you with their blandness and lack of curb appeal until you step through the door.  Alex, the owner of the hotel answered the doorbell and welcomed me in.  Kellane was to meet me there shortly.  The place was lovely. Beautiful tiles, cheery and bright, open air dining area, lanterns, stained glass, hand painted walls, clean and dancing with spirits of the past - it is over 200 years old.

Rooftop Lounge

Alex showed me my room which had two beautiful beds, a sitting area and a large bathroom.  Outside of our door was a small balcony.  The room had a small frig that was stocked with water, soda and beer which he explained he restocked everyday at no cost. He gave me a map of the area and pointed out places to eat and see and then showed me the rooftop lounge area.  Another couple had just arrived - Sylvia and Micheal from Switzerland.  They were in "law enforcement" but on vacation.  Super nice, young and attractive couple.  They spoke good English. Alex showed us the rooftop and explained every evening at 6 there would be tequila on the roof.  "You can drink as much as you like!"  It was only 4:00 so "too early".  As I went back to my room to freshen up  I asked where I could get a cold bottle of white wine and he said he had a cabinet and he would bring one with glasses.  There was a small fee.  He said just ask anytime or I could get from cabinet at anytime and just pay later.
Kellane arrived shortly after.  It was so great to see her!  She looked great and tanned.  "I hope you are using suncreen!" was all I could think....She liked the hotel and was happy to be there.  There was a new air about her - an ease that comes with being in Mexico.  We caught up on her adventures and had a glass of wine on the balcony.  Her friends from the house wanted to come have dinner with us so we picked a place to meet.  Chiaya Maya.
At 6 we went to the rooftop and were joined by Sylvia and Micheal and I believe there was another German couple there as well that were friends of Alex.  We tried the 3 different tequilas that he had put out and remarked on which we favored.  We traded stories of our travels and our lives then left to meet her friends.
Kellane's friends from the volunteer house

Stone, José, Pepe, Miriam and Beth met us and we had a nice dinner and conversation.  They seem to all get along very well and spirits were high.  We then walked across the street to Plaza Santa Lucia where there was music and dancing and a good crowd of people. Every night  there was something happening in the plazas.   It had been a long day for me (I left at 4:30am) so the kids (I can't think of a better term - no offense) walked me back to the hotel and they went out.  By the way - everyone talked about how safe it is in Mérida and I felt completely comfortable there.  No thugs, murderers or rapists that I could see.........

November 13th 2015

Our host Alex Rudin (look him up) was a master chef in Switzerland and served us the most amazing breakfast each morning.  Fruit, croissants, muffins - one morning chocolate chip another - something w nuts,  another cinamon rolls,   a spicy red jam, good strong coffee, orange juice - unlike any I've tasted -  light, sweet - and also a different daily sumptuous egg dish.  Like - an egg souffle lightly wrapped in prosciutto topped with grilled asparagus.    He kept the coffee mugs full, would bring out the tray of hot bread for another round, discuss the days agenda and all of the guests would add into the conversation.  "Uxmal.  Oh yes it is the best...  If you want a great Yucatan meal - Chaiya Maya".  I mean!  We were pretty euphoric about his breakfast.  He was wonderfully attentive and made sure we had everything we wanted.

Alex Rudin

Kellane and I explored some of the historic buildings around the Centro Plaza - beautiful architecture, enormous murals of the Spanish Conquest in the Governor's building and then sat in the plaza in those funky white conversation chairs.  I think that may have been when she said she was thinking of joining the Peace Corp. 
We happened upon an antique shop and chatted with the son and mother of the shop.  He had been to Charleston and Goose Creek....I loved a poster she had on her door about a bizarre the next day and asked if I could buy it. 
She went and got another copy and rolled it up in a tube for me and gave it to me.  She said her daughter would be there selling Frida Kahlo things.

kitchen at the volunteer house

Common area and pool at volunteer house
We then took a van to Kellane's house - about a 20 minute ride.  As we got off it starting POURING rain and we had several blocks to walk so we were soaked when we got to her house.  Jose and Stone were sitting in the courtyard and Jose jumped up and got me a towel.  We hung out there for a bit, walked around the corner to get some lunch and waited for the rain to stop.  The vibe at the house was very chill and I could see how the students liked being there.  Simple, quiet and manageable.  It didn't stop raining and although Kellane resisted the idea of a cab ("MOM!  NO! thats what tourists do!")....Pepe helped us get a cab - I was ready to go back to town and to the comfort of our hotel.  
We heard the news of the attacks in Paris.  I was glad to be with my baby at the time...We had conversations about it with the guests at Julamis and had a shot (or 2)of tequila.   The kids came and met us at the hotel and we went to find a bar.  Hanging out with 20somethings was fun and interesting.  It was raining again.  
Nov. 14th
Uxmal - Mayan ruins was one of our outings.  It was threatening rain but we had an umbrella and a poncho.  Four of us got our own English speaking (with a thick Spanish accent) guide, very passionate about the Mayan history and was himself of Mayan decent.  It started pouring about half way through so we just ventured out on our own, climbed the extremely steep steps of the only pyramid you are allowed to climb at Uxmal... and explored the compound.  At some points it felt we had the compound to ourselves.  The spirits of the ancient past were thick and heavy even in the pouring rain.  I thought about what the ancient Mayans must have done when the weather turned severe.   We marveled at what the Mayans produced.  The intricate carvings, the massiveness of it all.


 Another day in Mérida with Kellane's friends.  

Santiago Bizzare
La Negrita
Centro Plaza

The plazas are wonderful central parks that are surrounded by usually a cathedral, important buildings, restaurants, bars and its where everyone goes to socialize.  Great place to people watch. There were many in Mérida.  At the Centro Plaza a college student came up to us looking for donations towards his education.  He was selling candy.  I asked what he was studying and he said "Music."  I said "What kind?"  he said "Opera"  I said - "Sing me a song and I'll give you a tip."  It startled him at first and then he said "OK."  He told us what he would sing and his voice was so wonderful and mature.  We were delighted!  I gave him a wad of pesos...

Music and dance are a deep part of the cultural fabric in this area.

We went back to the rooftop at Julamis with Miriam and Stone where we enjoyed tequila.  The kids then left and I hung out with Alex, his wife Mary, Indra and the German couple on the roof.  Indra lives in Cancun and I booked my last nights stay with her.

Another night Pepe and friends picked us up in his dad's car from a little Italian place on Montejo Blvd... we went to a German place, complete with Mexicans dressed in German attire.
Kellane and I check out of Julamis on Monday and headed to the bus station for our next destination. We almost missed our bus to Vallodolid and there were not a lot of options.  I was starting to feel like we were in the amazing race for a minute.  Kellane was very chill about it all and it was one of the many times I was thankful for her ability to speak Spanish.   After a 2 hour ride we searched for the room I had booked at the Santa Maria hostel. At about $12 a night it was very simple and quiet, was only a few blocks from the bus station and was nestled next to a small plaza and cathedral.  No AC, no towels and a small thin blanket on each single bed with a common kitchen area outside.  It kind of reminded me of what a nun must live like... Our hosts were a couple of old Mexican guys that didn't speak English. There were a few other guys (much younger than me) that were traveling the area also  at the hostel.
Lobby of Santa Maria Hostel, Valladolid
Cenote, Vallodolid
We checked in, went to drop off Kellane's laundry and headed for the cenote that was in the middle of town.  Beautiful cave with clear aqua water.  It was hot as hell so the water felt good  although I didn't like the little fish nipping at my feet.  I walked over to the plaza across from our hostel and heard music coming out of the church.  I went in to find a group of adults and children playing guitar and singing. It made me cry it was so pretty.

To get to our next location - Holbox (Holbosh) we had two options... one was for 5:30 am and the other for 11:3am the next morning.  5:30 was out because Kellane had taken her clothes to be washed and they would not be ready.  Holbox is a small sliver of an island off the tip of the Yucatán and getting there was like putting a puzzle together.  We had to take a ferry from Chaquila but we couldn't quite figure out how to get to Chaquila.  The bus didn't go there but we were told there is a transfer station.  Felt like the Amazing Race again... but with Kellane's Spanish, the map that I brought and GPS - we figured it out.
Our only night in Valladolid - we had mescal and dinner at one of the touristy places on the plaza, went back to the hostel and drank wine with the other travelers - hearing their tales, talking politics and the sometimes vast differences of places we come from.  Gun control was one topic.
We got the last two seats on the bus to El Ideal which we understood was the transfer station where we'd take another bus to Chaquila and catch the ferry.  We got to the transfer station and it was just a crossroad with several taxis waiting.  The taxi took about an hour, we hopped on the ferry and arrived on Holbox around 3ish.  Very picturesque, charming island - no paved roads but a vibrant main square with lots of shops, bars, al fresco dinning.   The transportation is golf carts and it was apparent there had been lots of rain - the dirt roads were flooded.  Our place was Casa Blatha - a "crunchy", natural, small B&B with a surreal view of the ocean and island with its own organic garden.  It sat a block off of the beach and was on the outskirts of the town.  Part of our ride there was on the beach and it was stunning.  Soft white sand, blue and teal clear water with no surf.  Lots of dogs.... not like wild pack dogs but dogs that looked happy and fed and tended to....
They call it "Dog Heaven".  
The young international staff were warm, knowledgeable and very laid back.  We were warned about the "vicious mosquitoes" after sunset.  We had repellent but it was not enough.... They unfortunately caused some misery on this leg of the trip but the island and the people were so nice that we had to just get over it.

The sunsets were amazing and everyone gathered on the beach to celebrate the beauty.  We also had a lovely spot on the rooftop of Casa Blatha for the sunset.   Lots of murals and art all over.

We rode horses one morning. The setting was extraordinary.   "Is this real?" was a common comment to each other.

Even with the mosquitos - we had a good time and it was very relaxing and absolutely gorgeous.
After 3 nights in Holbox, Kellane had to leave at 4:30am to catch the ferry to catch the bus back to Mérida.  I don't think either of us slept that night...I waved goodbye to her as she headed off in the taxi golf cart in the dark.  I left around noon and caught the ferry to catch the bus.  There were taxi drivers offering to drive to Cancun for cheap if you had 4 people.  I jumped on that and it took a little over 2 hours.  I think it cost about $30.
I arrived in Cancun and took a taxi to find Indra's house.  He took me to the wrong house but thankfully the nice woman that greeted me at the gate (and spoke English) knew Indra and pointed me in the right direction.  Indra met me with a smile and was serving lunch to her two boys Max and Salvador and their two friends.  We had homemade pizza and rice water.   My room was very comfortable and private, had AC and my private bath. YAY! (our rooms in Valladolid and Holbox had no AC only was hot)
Indra, Gerson and myself in Cancun
I took a short siesta and then Indra made us some vodka drinks.  We chatted about our lives and had lots in common.  Her friend Gerson came over with a bottle of wine and tales from a trip he had just taken.  He showed us his photos and told funny stories - he is sooo photogenic! - we LAUGHED so much and stayed at the kitchen table all night. It was a great time.
The next morning Indra had a pottery class that she takes twice a week and I invited myself to go along.  Her teacher agreed to take a new student so I worked on a bowl for about 3 hours along side three others and Indra.  Our teacher did not speak English but did know the word "No!" when giving me instructions.  Hopefully when it dries Indra will send it to me.
Indra was kind enough to drive me to the location in Cancun I had stayed 30 years ago - 1985 - so I could take a photo.  This is the lighthouse where the original photo below of me 30 years ago was taken....I got Kellane to pose in a similar way... I mean really - when will I ever get to put up this photo of me for any good reason except for this?!  I was 25 at the time.

I think back on the moment before I decided to take the trip - the moment that I felt like I wouldn't be able to do it - money, time, work, stamina ....I couldn't possibly make it happen.... Whew - I'm glad that thought was fleeting....
Traveling with my daughter was great - pushed me to do things that give me pause and challenged me to keep up the living of life!  

Monday, March 24, 2014

Music, Life and the IT thing

Sometimes, there are moments when you realize that this moment or this action or this engagement is why life is worth living. THIS moment is what makes me feel alive and good and fulfilled.
I have had this feeling over and over in my life - sometimes with months in between - sometimes with seconds in between.  Thank you universe.
Overwhelmingly those moments have been while listening to or playing music.
So interesting how music is what raises the endorphin levels to the preferable degree.
Marvin Chernoff and I would watch Jennifer Holliday sing "And I am telling you" from Dream Girls over and over and cry and weep and shake our heads in agreement that this was the best thing we have ever heard... playing West African music with some of the most talented and respected West African artists in the world... now that is magic to me, having Danielle Howle sit on my porch and write a song and sing as she writes..... And something I experienced this past weekend is playing West African music with really great and talented friends who know the music and for a couple of hours just set the soundtrack for a a perfect musical nirvana.    Thank you universe and thank you friends for being the conduit for one of my enchanting life moments.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Love Ann Lane

Ann Lane

I was named after my mother's sister, Ann.
The recent discussions surrounding Bull Street and the potential to develop the site have sparked my interest in my Aunt Ann's story.  She was a patient there from 1951 - 1970.
My mom - who keeps everything "important" shared some letters that Ann had written while  there.  They are touching and sometimes sad, but reflect the life of a young girl living in a tragically unique environment.

Ann Roma Lane's life began normal... an "A" student with a solid group of friends and a loving family. Shortly into her teens things began to unravel and became troubling and confusing to this small town family in Latta, SC.
Ann's slow descent into irrational behavior as she was entering adolescence was at first automatically accounted for as overactive hormones.  One of her childhood friends said she became "boy crazy" at a very early age.   At 16 she became pregnant, was taken to Florida to have the baby,  but when the father became aware of her pregnancy - he came to get her.  They were married and lived together until the baby came.  Her irresponsible behavior and total disregard for the baby's well being was more than he could handle and he brought Ann and the baby back and left them, literally, on her parent's doorstep.  Life for the family was chaotic.  My mom was away at college so the burden mostly fell on grandmother who tried to keep up with Ann and her young baby, grandmother's own pre-school son and her job at the local bank.  Ann's behavior became more and more irrational.  She would appear at the bank in only her housecoat, barefooted.  She smoked constantly and sometimes set things on fire with careless cigarettes.  She would get in the car with any stranger.   She dangerously ignored her baby.  According to a diary my grandmother kept she also threatened suicide and had to be watched constantly or she would "slip away".  It was obvious that something was dreadfully wrong. There were no mental health clinics or psychiatrists to turn to at the time in their small town.  The local doctor recommended that she be taken to Duke Hospital for testing.
They did and she was diagnosed with encephalitis (swelling of the brain), progressive and incurable.

Her baby was adopted by loving and close relatives.

November 2, 1951 at 18 years old, Ann was admitted to The State Hospital or "Bull Street" as it is called and remained there except for one trial home visit in October of 1952. The visit proved impossible.

My grandmother mourned for Ann and was a faithful visitor.  My grandfather could not seem to bear this tragic twist in his family's life and my mom does not remember him mentioning her again after she was admitted.  Although it suggests in one of her letters early on that  he had come to get her to take her home at one point.

Ann's letters came just after she entered the hospital.  They are tough to read because she is often pleading to come home.  What appears to be her first letter dated Jan. 2, 1952 says:  "They transferred me from Williams to the Center Building (Babcock?) and so I have made new friends over here and they all seem very nice." There are two letters both dated Jan. 14th, 1952.  One to "Dearest Mother," and one to "Dearest Dad,"  The one to Mother says:  "Well they moved me over here just because I was out in the yard.  When you left they called me to the main office and said I should not talk to every man that went by.  It is no fun whatsover." Dad's letter says: "I wish we could convince mom that I will stay at home if I do ever get there.  When and if I do finally get out I would like to go up and stay with the baby a little while.  After all, I have just about forgotten how he looks."
Some of the letters are just asking for money,  for candy, the state newspaper, cigarettes (she mentions cigarettes a lot) or a perm for her hair while another talks of "Myron" who she wants to marry and says he loves her too while another talks of a girl that died of epilepsy.  A letter dated  Feb. 1952 she signs off by saying "I'm getting as crazy as a bat."   She often changed her sign off name from Ann Lane, Ann Campbell, Angie Lane and Angie Campbell.
It must have been heart breaking for my grandmother to read those letters knowing that she couldn't handle or help her very sick child.

I recall one time she came to our house - I must have been 4 or 5 and thinking what an interesting character she was.   Loud, giggly and wacky.  I also remember visiting her at Bull St. once with my sister - we sat outside on a bench with Ann, and her tourette like speech was peppered with explicit language.  She was totally uninhibited in her speech and behavior.  

My dad went into Psychiatric Social Work and eventually worked at Bull Street.  Mom felt he made that choice partly because of Ann.

Ann died at The State Hospital after an extended period of being bed ridden at age 32,  in 1970. I remember Dad brought mom the news of Ann's death in the driveway of our Forest Acres home.

Having had a facility to house Ann, to give her medical care and something of a life and a community for a while brought a small measure of comfort to the family and still does.
I'm grateful.
It was a place for people who had no other place to go.

The State Hospital's history is incredible, unmatchable, compelling and often uncomfortable, but holds a wealth of stories like Ann's.

I have a few letters that inspired me to look closer into her life and what life was like at Bull Street.

By Betty Lane Kornegay-Kaneft and
 Lee Ann Kornegay