Hacienda of Love by Monika R Martyn.

Special thank you to Literally Amazing!



Hacienda of Love by Monika R Martyn.


The weather app on my phone lies and says there’s only a 10% chance of rain; it’s raining. I listen to the sound of the soft rain as it mingles with the stillness evaporating with the rising sun. The world sleeps, and only the doves are awake with me. Humidity is 96%. Maybe it isn’t raining after all, and the sky is merely sweating. It’s hot in Mexico.

My free hand brushes over Honey’s dusty fur. She needs a bath. With each gentle stroke, I’m reminded of the mango tree. There are thousands of mango trees; they stink as the fruit rots and ferments. Before fate intervened, Honey’s life centered on being tied to the trunk of a dusty mango tree next to the highway that runs from Cabo San Lucas to Tijuana and switches sides from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez for optimum viewing.

Although there’s a dark desert highway, Hotel California is a fifteen-minute drive north and snakes along cactus after cactus to provide a point of direction. The lawsuit has been settled.

Abandoned to the Mexican heat, often without food and water, and denied the simplest gesture of love, Honey’s chances were slim. Dogs are social creatures, and even to this day, she soaks up affection like a dried up sponge. Beneath her shaven white fur, which acts as a strip of Velcro, her skin shines through in patches—a mishmash of seal-grey and purple. Her twitching nose is as black as her eyes. She’s one of four rescues. All thanks to a compassionate woman who one day couldn’t bear driving past the mango tree and seeing that pitiful sight. She paid to have Honey untied from a life of misery and brought her home.

Falling coconuts don’t make a sound until they land.

The thickness of the hovering humidity shrouds the mountain range to the east in a dense mist. But I know it is there. Mountains don’t move. Yet they move me with their breathtaking beauty on those mornings when the sun rises between the peaks and highlights the countryside surrounding me. I’m at the hacienda in a semiarid desert and a temporary surrogate for the pets.

A hacienda is a homestead on rural, agricultural land.

To see the beauty of Mexico, keep your focus trained slightly upward. Allow your eyes to skim over the palms and mango trees, the greenery that is coaxed from the soil with plastic water lines and plastic tarps to conserve each precious drop of water. The fields look like a Christmas tree, red and green, growing either tomatoes or peppers. The soil is a perplexing mix of dust and sand. Snakes leave their ribbon pattern; dead scorpions squashed by car tires are still recognizable if you know where to look.

A dead, upside-down lizard looks in bone structure like an alligator.

A good place to look for scorpions is in your shoes before you put them on. It’s not simply women who have a shoe fetish; scorpions like them too, only they don’t care about brands or size. It takes months to stop the habit of shaking out your shoes and clothing when you return home to the northern hemisphere.

The humidity drops to 95%, and the temp hovers at 19C. The chance of rain remains at 10%. The cement deck is awash and a shade of chocolate brown and slippery as hell. Gentle drumming raindrops land on the enormous palm leaves all around me. It is like the sound of God’s tears falling. He sure has much to cry about. I have no idea what God sounds like; I’m just saying.

Although it’s imperative always to look where you step in Mexico, look up if you want to see its beauty. The sky in Mexico is a moving picture show. Clouds moving across the blue canvas are like Monet’s brushstrokes and palette, best seen at a distance to appreciate the spectrum and detail. At dusk, I see islands and oceans in the sky, even though there are no islands and oceans in the sky. I do see the Pacific.

The Pacific makes me humble. It is a reality check that despite 7.674 billion of us, each of us is about as important as a single grain of sand. It doesn’t mean we don’t have a purpose and bring meaning to someone else’s life. Just as each grain combines to form a beach, each person needs to realize they are on Earth for the greater good. Alone we are ineffective and meaningless.

The Pacific is varying shades of blue. I’m lucky because I have seen a long portion of the magnificent Pacific. From Vancouver down to San Francisco. I’ve swum along the coastline of Panama where the water is about as warm as your bathtub. I’ve seen the sunrise in the Pacific in Panama, which is so wrong when you think about it. On the Mexican Baja, it inspired my novel and this short ramble and musing. No matter how often I stand on the shores of this natural wonder, I am awed anew. Its relentless heartbeat, as it heaves and rolls the waves and sends them crashing ashore, leaves me humbled. It’s only toying with us, giving the world a minuscule sample of its power. I’m not a gambler, but in a contest, my money’s on Big Blue.

Despite the 10% chance of rain, I take a walk. I worry about the gecko in the bathroom sink. It sometimes moves but most often doesn’t. My husband and I argue. He wants to end its suffering; I say, “give it another chance.”

The rain makes tiny dots on the soil; I’m hardly getting wet. The difference between humidity and rain is minimal. I head back to the hacienda. I walk through the plot of manicured land ready for sale. A Mexican retirement plan. The rectangular field is divided into sellable “Gringo” plots and cleared of weeds, cacti, and trash. Embedded deeply in the soil are the shredded black plastic sheets that speak of its farming history. I spot one can of Corona cerveza in my periphery. The rest is as pristine as it gets: that’s marketing to your target audience.

Cerveza is Spanish for beer. Corona Extra is a type of Mexican beer owned by a Belgian company. Corona Extra is not responsible for the virus, though it may make you sick. Why people chose to boycott it? (Insert head shaking.) That’s people for you.

Humidity is 94%—time for more coffee.

Here, I could go on a tirade about the trash, the plastic collection of soda bottles, agricultural waste, but no one gives a damn. In Canada, we also have individuals who chuck their trash wherever, whenever, too. It doesn’t even phase their conscience, and they don’t lose any sleep about the garbage they leave for someone else to remove and the generations yet to come. Don’t get me started on what it does to wildlife.

And I’ve heard every argument. You can’t make people care.

If you want to see a difference, you have to be the difference.

In Mexico, the sun sweats, the air is wet, yet the land is dry. When the coconut lands, it makes a thud. The jury is still out if coconuts kill as many people as some internet blogs suggest. Yet, I believe in the one-sidedness of truth—a falling coconut to the head will make you see stars, regardless. Coconut is a drupe and technically a fruit, a nut, a seed, and delicious. So is a fig. Learn something new every day.

About the stars. The sky at night in Mexico is also breathtaking. The Big Dipper follows me throughout life, always to the left of me. Satellites criss-cross in erratic patterns, and I had no idea there were so many. It’s a veritable freak show of space debris.

Humidity is 85%, temp at 21C. The chance of rain is still 10%. It’s no longer raining. The dogs had a bath. It’s not something I’d try with the cats. Honey’s coat is sleek and curled around her neck and stilt-like legs. We remove the prickly stickers she collects on our walk; remember the Velcro I mentioned, stuck to her upper and lower lip. I now know why I travel with nail scissors.

Later that day, the gecko vanishes from the sink.

Lester, the coolest cat in Mexico, a YouTube star in the making, is stretched out on the leather sofa. He doesn’t like getting wet but enjoys shrimp for breakfast. He’s number one in the pack of rescues, and his claws are about as sharp as Edward Scissorhands. Only he doesn’t sculpt any hedges.

Chuy, a black mini-pin pug-cross and sometimes a diablo, hates anything with wheels and is sound asleep in his little basket. Snoring, he’s dreaming of chasing hot-dog cookies and Honey’s tail. He doesn’t know he’s a rescue dog. He was too young when fate intervened in his life twice.

Ha! Chuy is a nickname for people named Jesus.

Lola is curled into a tri-colored ball. She purrs in her sleep but is still timid when a hand moves too quickly toward her. That she flinches tells you everything. They were all brought to the hacienda of love by that same woman.

The next chapter is waiting at the front gate. He’s black, not a good color to be under the Mexican sun. He wags his tails and whimpers whenever I meet him with a bowl of kibble. Black Dog doesn’t have a home, but I see the inevitable. He now lets me pet his head.

That night, a gecko climbs the wall, and I say to my husband, “See, you have to have hope.” I suspect, however, that he had something to do with the miraculous recovery of the gecko.

In Mexico, life happens. The Pacific reminds you that life is precarious for everyone. Hard for many. There are varying degrees of hardship. Yesterday, on a return trip from La Paz, I saw a man walking along the highway. His legs, bowed as if his hips were two sizes too large, were spindly. He wore flip-flops, which are never good for posture or walking long distances. The lines etched into his face wrote the textbook thesis of hardship. He carries bags slung over his shoulder. He collects aluminum cans to earn a few pesos.

In the rearview mirror, I watch as he dives into the ditch and vanishes—what a bunch of spoiled babies we are.

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The weather app on my phone lies and says there’s only a 10% chance of rain; it’s raining. I listen to the sound of the soft rain as it mingles with the stillness evaporating with the rising sun. The world sleeps, and only the doves are awake with me. Humidity is 96%. Maybe it isn’t raining after all, and the sky is merely sweating. It’s hot in Mexico.

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When Traveling Was Fun

Mexican Skyline is Always Breathtaking

As an internationally qualified housesitter, I’ve been places. Back in the day the biggest hurdle while traveling used to be dragging my suitcase over cobblestones or through narrow aisles on trains.

COVID sadly changed all that. Not only has it cost the lives of millions, but it’s also impacted industry and families alike and complying with the ever-changing rules leaves most of us breathless, stunned and wondering, now what? 

Although the cost of increased airline fees and molecular testing inhibits many from traveling it can’t be compared to the cost of having anyone infected with the virus. 

Of course, I shouldn’t complain because after all I have had so many wonderful travel experiences, met amazing people, seen ‘stuff’, and have fortunately never been infected by this stupid virus that won’t go away, but I have been affected by the inconveniences of new regulations that don’t always make sense. Throughout, I’ve followed the guidelines and not always understood the shifting goalpost. For over a year I’ve lived with my husband in almost constant isolation. I’m so f’n done with it. 

Old Cannery Near Hotel San Cristobal

I traveled to Mexico in May when it was first possible to leave because I’m a housesitter. I take care of people’s pets and homes and enjoy this unconventional lifestyle. I got the first jab in the arm as soon as the government allowed my age bracket the chance to get immunized.

Before leaving for Mexico, even though restrictions were lifted at that time, I cautiously avoided meeting with family and friends. I couldn’t risk a negative test because people relied on me. It hurt not being with people I care about; I did what I had to. I’m a bit miffed that the government was too slow in allowing me to get a second shot before leaving. I know, cry me a river.

What’s interesting about the travel restrictions in place at the time was that a flight to Cabo San Lucas used to take four and a half hours on a non-stop flight. With the restrictions, it took 24 hours and exposure to so many more people. The logic, well, I know, cry me a river.

A Moving Picture Show

While in Mexico, I continued this self-imposed isolation. I didn’t socialize, I shopped once a month and avoided people. My husband is pretty sick of me by now. Just kidding of course. I’m sure I’m highly flammable from all the sanitizer on my skin.

When the time came to return to Canada, I booked a flight, downloaded the government regulation app, had a PCR test and waited for the airline to take me home. This is where my trip came unglued. A fallout from COVID that most experts probably didn’t predict. No qualified staff. I mentioned this to my husband months ago, I worry about the mechanical problems of sitting airplanes and pilots.

With all my apps lined up, the paper version in hand I arrived at the Cabo airport prepared. It was a bit of a gong show right from the start. Our flight was listed as delayed but optimism persevered because in all my travels, I’ve never experienced this issue that would become a nightmare for me and everyone else booked on the flight.

Information about our flight status was sporadic. The airline representative tried to keep us informed but vagueness never makes anyone feel comfortable. With eyes perpetually trained on the departure board and what others were saying, I waited. I read lips, I eavesdropped on conversations for news.

The Sun Always Rises Somewhere

Scheduled to leave at 3 pm, the clock ticked and after several annoying delays, we were summoned to the gate where further vague instructions were given about our cancelled flight.

  1. Follow person to gate 13 to reclaim your luggage
  2. Retrieve luggage and make your way out through customs; follow the faces that have become familiar 
  3. Duty free shoppers with tobacco, liquor make sure you get your declaration form back (it’s your responsibility to ask, don’t rely on the agents to hand it back)
  4. Instructions will be as vague as finding your way through thick fog
  5. Return to airline check-in and wait for an eternity while the line moves slower than you could have believed possible (move quickly, first in line is always a good place to be)
  6. Wait for assigned accommodation voucher and make sure it comes with food allowance on voucher (you will be hungry) (allocated hotel may not have a restaurant or be near a restaurant)
  7. Follow instructions to get on shuttle, or bus provided by airline
  8. ***Get bus or shuttle contact phone number*** I cannot stress this enough
  9. Do not rely on hotel to provide you with information about any changes to your shuttle pick-up times
  10. Do not rely on your airline to personally notify you of any changes to your shuttle pick-up times
  11. Check your flight status app or go online to monitor flight departure changes
  12. It’s virtually impossible to contact your airline via phone; the wait lines are longer than your holiday
  13. While you may not be reimbursed by the airline for any taxi/uber fares sometimes you have to fend for yourself (we booked an uber to the airport because the airline changed our shuttle pick-up without notifying us which left us with no confidence in their ability) (another long story, the shuttle driver who picked up the first group rescheduled on an earlier flight refused to pick us up because of his company rules laid out by airline)
  14. Always have paper copies of everything if you can, which of course becomes a challenge when you are in transit
  15. If the hotel is not up to your standard, let them know
  16. Be considerate of other travelers in your group (in our group several weary travelers were given a voucher for one hotel only to be told that there was a mistake and they had no accommodations booked. Not words anyone wants to hear. Luckily many travelers from a large group bunked together freeing up rooms for others.)
  17. Be courteous to staff at the hotel, at the airline, these people are doing what they can but that doesn’t mean you can’t send management a note to suggest improvements. Which I will do once I compose this note
  18. Send valid but unemotional feedback to the airline carrier about your experience and what you see as a way to improve the experience for future travelers
  19. It may seem impossible at the time, but remain positive
  20. Quarantine

We’re In This Together

Quarantine is not fun. The officer and the system that decides this fate for you don’t care that you have been following all of the guidelines, restrictions, precautions and they can’t differentiate between those who have followed the advisory and those who haven’t. It doesn’t matter to the system that you have a story behind your choices or that you haven’t seen members of your family for months and years. Covid has made us cogs on wheels that perhaps aren’t heading in the same direction as you intended to go.

Quarantine feels like a sentence for a crime I’m sure I didn’t commit and circumstances make me guilty just for living. Suddenly, the idea of freedom has a new meaning yet I also understand that my restrictions are for the great good though at times that goal is difficult to see.

For me, the difficult part is that I have to depend on someone else, and I may put someone else at risk. COVID is like slinging mud and it may stick to my skin or someone I care about. Quarantine isn’t about me. It’s about the rest of the world.

I admit I’m sick of the pandemic. I miss the old ways of doing things, but mostly I want people I care about, and the frontline workers to be safe. I also want everyone else out there on this frequency of suffering in quiet isolation to know that I am embracing the choices you make for yourself and your family, just as I am. I wouldn’t think of degrading you because of those decisions, please respect mine. Stop the hurtful name-calling, the spiteful memes that only goad us deeper into the divide.

A new feeling amidst all of these is anxiety. It’s that rushing of nauseating adrenaline that makes my heart race and a ball in my throat gag with an attack of emotions that are mine yet I don’t want them.

What if I have this frigging virus? 

Always Checking Over My Shoulder

Because of my lifestyle choices, I rely on the kindness of friends and family to put up with my needs once in a while. To them, it might also mean more frequently than I like to admit. Being beholden even within the circle of kindness is not something I do lightly. The idea that these virus spores are stuck to my skin and clothing each time I enter a house causes panic.

With this last airline fiasco, I was upset about the many levels that went wrong. The missed flight, having to stay put, having to ask family and friends to change plans to accommodate mine is annoying. But the airline also exposed me. As I said, my contribution to avoid spreading this thing has been isolation, a lot of handwashing and cleaning, more isolating, physical and social distancing, yet they forced me into a situation I’ve avoided.

And each day I log my symptoms on the ArriveCan app, I read the yelling letters from the Government of Canada about quarantine rules and that I will be beaten with legal implications and worse for breaking the rules. 

Traveling is still fun. After my quarantine ends I can venture into territories, perhaps a beach resort, an upscale boutique hotel, or a road trip because I am so blessed to have these experiences and grow from them. 

These hurdles are mere learning opportunities to keep everyone safe.

Life isn’t just about me. It’s about community. It’s about appreciating the good things in life. They exist.


The Little Things in Life

My Lost and Found Pearl

The Little Things in Life

All too often, we get caught up in the big moments in life. Moments that define us and bring us joy or sadness. They are part of the circle that moves us on the journey of life. But I feel the true pleasure of the small things and experiences that are integral to who I am.

This morning, I took the dogs for a walk, and I was so grateful for the beautiful rain that showered the countryside during the night. The sound of rain is so soothing; it brings life and washes us clean.

The landscape on the Mexican Baja is mesmerizing. It’s breathtaking and heartbreaking all in one go. There are hills and mountain ranges that vanish at dusk and dawn and become silhouettes, portraits awash in shades of grey and mauve.