Leave work behind, head to The Office on the beach

Leave work behind, head to The Office on the beach

The Office’s “doctor” is ready to cure whatever ails you. (Image: Susan Wood)

Where do people often conduct business. At an office, right? In Baja people do the same thing. Only difference is sand, margaritas and the Sea Cortez are involved.

In this day of working remotely or needing to be connected to the boss or clients 24/7, people wouldn’t be lying if they answered a call, text or email and said they were at The Office. Business just might not be what they are conducting. The Office is actually a restaurant on the famous Médano Beach in Cabo San Lucas.

Its humble beginnings date to the 1970s when this area wasn’t much more than a fishing village. The big hotel/condo projects were still to come. Cabo wasn’t a destination for the masses; it was authentic Mexico in every direction.

The Office is open for business seven days a week. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

A palapa (thatch roof made of palm fronds) was erected and a tiny kitchen built. Tacos and other Mexican fare were on the menu. Soon some water toys were available for rent. It was loosely known at The Office, a name that stuck and is now part of the local lore.

It’s open from 7am to 10pm seven days a week. It’s not uncommon for alcohol to be on the table at an early hour – and not just mimosas or bloody Marys. Dr. Hang Over walks around with a stethoscope, lab coat and notepad. He writes prescriptions for hangovers and who knows what else. A “shot” of something is always in order. Medicine is not administered in the form of a syringe, but instead in a shot glass.

The vegetarian omelet is filling. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Today The Office is much more than a makeshift eatery. It now shares Médano Beach with a slew of restaurants. The Sea of Cortez is just steps away. The scenery – natural and people watching – is wonderful. The hawkers selling their wares must stay a certain distance away, which is nice to be able to eat without that disturbance.

While it’s touristy, the food is good and there are options for vegetarians.

Corona virus an opportunity to bring much-Needed change

Corona virus an opportunity to bring much-Needed change

If this is the end of the world as we know it, is that such a bad thing?

I was talking to someone about how long she thought it would be until things return to normal. I said I didn’t believe they would return to normal. I’m not sure I would want to if we could. Was the world so great before this strand of the Corona virus entered our lives? Were we too dependent on others?

While so much of the world is in isolation, it is actually uniting us. Finally, (nearly) all of us have one focus. It is the Corona virus. Those being responsible are diligent about telling others where we have been and if we were really 6 feet from others. We are honest about underlying health issues and not wanting to be in contact with good friends or family. We are finding new ways to socialize – remote happy hours, watching the same movie at the same time to hear each other’s laughter. People are helping others personally and professionally however they can. I know new businesses will be created as a result of this. The Great Recession saw my massage business dry up, and my freelance work disappear. I launched an online news site in 2009 in the throes of the economic downturn. It might not have been a smart decision, but after year one it was a profit-making one. I have confidence there will be other entrepreneurs who will see this upheaval as a time for renewal. Already businesses are repurposing their plants to create things we need now like perfume manufactures making hand sanitizer.

Not to trivialize matters, but what if we considered all of this a reboot like you would with your computer or phone? Every now and then they need to be turned off, caches cleared, files purged and then restarted to be operating faster, cleaner and more efficiently. To take it to more of an extreme, consider this a hard drive crash. Can you repair the damaged drive or is it better to start with a brand new one? It’s a personal decision, but something we all should be thinking about. What do we want life to be like post-COVID-19? We have the power and obligation to be thinking about this. We need to take control and not let others keep controlling us.

But also consider this down time as an opportunity to personally recharge. In the era of being connected to work and others 24/7 through our electronic devices, getting news around the clock, it can’t be good for us. This should be a time for introspection so then you are in a better place to help your community.

Now we are feeling the effects of China being the supplier of so many products, even if it’s parts for an item. This is not to condemn China, but to call out the U.S. (and other) countries for going after cheaper labor instead of paying their own citizens a living wage to make the same product. Corporations for too long have been favored over people. The U.S. Supreme Court made that all too clear in 2010 with Citizens United. Shareholders (of which I am one of many individual stocks) have been the priority, not the general public. Remember, greed is one of the seven deadly sins, if you believe in that sort of thing. It’s the bottom line, not people at the bottom of the line that we care about. That mentality is changing for the good, and ideally permanently. Grocery store workers and gas station attendants are now deemed essential workers. Would you have ever thought they would be more important than you and your job title?

Perhaps this is also a good opportunity to rethink education. I don’t know what the outcome should be, but how about rethinking what is being taught and how it is taught? A friend posted how she allowed her kids to come up with questions and then they researched the answers. Children are naturally curious. Let’s encourage that creativity. Let’s not keep boring them in the classroom by preparing them to take another standardized test. I’m not criticizing teachers; I’m critical of the system. I hope through all of this teachers might be more respected as parents are dealing with their kids all day, every day.

It’s also time to rethink health care. Prior to the novel Corona virus most people had a strong opinion about socialized medicine. Now many of the naysayers believe tests for the virus should be free, the treatment should be free, and they should be compensated for missed work or losing their job. Why is it that we have to have things affect us directly, so personally, before we are willing to see the light and help others? I hope this pandemic helps us have greater compassion and understanding for those who are more vulnerable – be it people who are older, have underlying health conditions, are living paycheck-to-paycheck, those who want to work but can’t for whatever reason, who were already caring for a child or parent and still trying to make ends meet, and all the others. Health care should be a right, especially in the United States where the wealth is so great.

We also need to be providing health care workers with the tools to do their jobs. It is mindboggling there is a shortage of essentials like masks. Everyone on the front lines – which includes people in the food supply network and so many others – needs the tools for their jobs, deserve our gratitude, and should be applauded for not quitting. Remember, they have a choice to work. They are showing up every day. That says something wonderful about them.

I hope we are stronger when we come out on the other side of this. I hope we re-evaluate our priorities as we are in the thick of it. I hope we figure out we have more in common than we previously were willing to admit. I hope we see this mass disruption in our lives as an opportunity for good. We’ve had other disruptions, but apparently not significant enough for us to change our trajectory. Sept. 11 and the Great Recession are two that happened this century. But they didn’t rattle everyone enough to make the change needed for a better world. I hope this crisis affects everyone. By no means do I want everyone to get the virus, or anyone else for that matter. What I hope for is that you take the time to see how the world as we knew it wasn’t so great. It was time for change.

I thank people for electing the current president of the United States. With the other option, we would have had the status quo – but still have been a country (and even world) that needed fixing. Donald Trump is the ultimate disrupter. He says things no other leader has said, does things no other leader has done – all bad, crappy, offensive, raw, in your face, inflammatory things. He has no grasp of science and refuses to surround himself with officials who are experts. A good leader surrounds herself with people who are smarter than her and lets them do their jobs. She is the conductor, so to speak, and the ultimate decision-maker and the one who has to take responsibility when things don’t work and gives credit to others when things do work. This president believes the opposite. I hope this virus allows others to see how the actions of this president are detrimental to all of us – not just people in the United States. I hope the chaos that he has brought to the office of the presidency, to the United States, and to the world is happening for a reason that will make us all stronger, smarter and living without blinders as we go forward.

If a better world order doesn’t come from all of this frenzy, we will have wasted a rare opportunity for significant change. Things aren’t going to be the same, so start reimagining how you want your world to be – as an individual, a family, a community, a state, a country and the world. As Mohandas Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

Array of choices to solve medical ailments in Mexico

Array of choices to solve medical ailments in Mexico

Tea from three Mexican plants can bring stomach relief. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Long before big pharma came into existence people used the land to cure what ailed them. They still are. I tried it earlier this month.

The main ingredient in my homebrewed tea was a handful of leaves from the nicle plant. Having never heard of the plant didn’t alarm me. I was tired of an ongoing intestinal issue that started with a night in the bathroom, and then kept zapping my energy, and left me with a wonky appetite.

I’m blaming my friend Marilyn for passing her stomach virus along to me via contaminated tennis balls. (Nothing scientific about that diagnosis.) She chose big pharma to cure her. I started with whining and sleep (no relief), then tried papaya seeds per my a friend’s recommendation (that worked in the moment, but wasn’t long lasting), then went to 7-Up (always settles my stomach, but then I could tell I had had too much, which caused more stomach discomfort), then Jill started plucking things from her property. It was time to go all in.

She got the recipe from her housekeeper, Laura. Jill had also heard about nicle being a medicinal plant from other local women.

“Laura gave us a cutting that she rooted so that we would have the plant. It is actually a large bush that evidently has a lovely flower,” Jill said.

According to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the nicle plant is good for diarrhea and stomach ache, kidney ache, fever and constipation. The plant is listed under the section: Traditional Medicine of Baja California Sur.

The journal says, “We have now registered 252 local names of traditional medicinal resources in this area. One hundred twenty medicinal plants have been collected. From these 120 species, 80 have been botanically identified and 49 are reported here.”

The Center for Biological Diversity in a paper titled “Medicinal Plants At Risk” states, “In the United States, of the top 150 prescription drugs, at least 118 are based on natural sources.” The problem is a tiny percentage of tropical plants have been screened to know their medicinal applications, and those that have risk being overharvested.

Jill supplied the necessary leaves, while I stopped at the market on my way home to get an avocado and cinnamon stick. I’m not sure if the cinnamon is there for medicinal purposes or flavor, since it alone has health benefits. The tea tasted great. However, I am grateful for the warning that the liquid medicine would be a magenta color.

I was also warned I could feel flush, even start to sweat and that drinking it could make me feel a little high. I got warm, but nothing alarming. Then I felt a little off and extremely tired. I was in bed at 8pm and asleep moments later. The best part is the relief was almost instantaneous.

The problem is that I got cocky thinking I could immediately eat regular again. Wrong. My body let me know the bug wasn’t gone. Another night of feeling like I was prepping for a colonoscopy. While I ended up on antibiotics to kill the germs, at least I was in Mexico. No doctor’s visit required. I just walked into the pharmacy to get what I needed. It also helps to have a sister who is a nurse practitioner to tell me how much to take and how often.

Jill collects nicle leaves. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Tea Recipe

1 handful nicle leaves

½ handful quaba leaves

3 small mango leaves

1 avocado pit

1 cinnamon stick

2 cups water

Bring the above to a light boil and drink.

Acknowledging what I am grateful for

Acknowledging what I am grateful for

Life can be full of stressors. There are times when only the negative prevails. It doesn’t matter where one is in life, there is always stress. Sometimes it seems out of our control and then inevitably casts a pall on the rest of the day, maybe causing a restless sleep, only to awake with the same anxiety.

This all happens without a pandemic.

Sometime in 2019 a friend posted a challenge of sorts on Facebook to write something you are grateful for, tuck it away, read it later. The point being that no matter the crap going on some good could be found in every day.

I randomly started writing “grateful notes” and put them in a container. I found myself doing so on days that were a challenge. Where I had to really look to be grateful. The simple act of writing the phrases helped get me out of my funk, or at least lessened it. It made me aware that plenty of good exists in my life.

I stopped writing them when I went back to the United States last year and have not resumed doing so since returning to Baja. Each day sitting at my desk I would see the container not getting any fuller. It was time to read what I had written.

This is what I wrote; the order is how I pulled them out of the container:

  • I am grateful for people helping me with book projects.
  • I am grateful for the people who believe in me.
  • I am grateful for the love AJ gives me.
  • I am grateful for friends near and far.
  • I am grateful for people who push me to write.
  • I am grateful for honest friends.
  • I am grateful AJ and I were not hurt worse.
  • I am grateful for my sister, Jann, giving me this opportunity.
  • I am grateful for the richness books bring to my life.
  • I am grateful for new friends in Todos Santos.
  • I am grateful for the unconditional love AJ gives me.
  • I am grateful for everyone who helped get my book published.
  • I am grateful I get to travel.
  • I am grateful for caring neighbors.
  • I am grateful my mom signed me up for tennis when I was a kid.
  • I am grateful for friends who look out for me.
  • I am grateful for the comfort AJ brings me.
  • I am grateful for nice Airbnb guests.
  • I am grateful for AJ.
  • I am grateful for my time in Baja.
  • I am grateful for neighbors who look out for me.
  • I am grateful for everyone who helped me after the dog attack.
  • I am grateful for authors who write interesting books.
  • I am grateful for friends who tell me what I don’t want to hear.
  • I am grateful for my health.
  • I am grateful for an abundance of fresh produce.
  • I am grateful for people in Baja welcoming me.
  • I am grateful to spend time with my mom.

This does not exhaust the list of things I am grateful for. I am certainly grateful for the friend who put the challenge out there to everyone to try this. I’m not sure if I will resume writing what I am grateful for, though it makes it more real. What I hope to do is pause long enough each day to consciously acknowledge what I am grateful for. I also need to start sharing with people how I am grateful for them being in my life. Let this writing be the beginning.

Book Review: ‘Dangerous Divide’ delves into border issues

Book Review: ‘Dangerous Divide’ delves into border issues

Often when the border wall between the United States and Mexico is talked about it has to do with keeping immigrants out. Discussions seldom occur about the drugs being brought in as well as the guns going in the other direction.

A wall isn’t a new idea. Presidents before the current one started the process. What changed was Sept. 11. Homeland Security became a department in the U.S. government. Fear grabbed hold even tighter. Rules were implemented without logic, and budgets increased to hire the manpower and toys to demonstrate strength.

The reality is if terrorists are entering the United States through Mexico, they have never been caught. Safety is a reason for spending billions of dollars on a wall. It’s the reason given to hire more people and invest in technology. But that border isn’t a national security threat even though the government acts like it is.

Peter Eichstaedt in his book “The Dangerous Divide: Peril and Promise on the U.S.-Mexico Border” (Lawrence Hill Books, 2014) deftly illustrates that the United States’ immigration policy is woefully lacking and that the wall is not making anyone safer.

Eichstaedt was in Todos Santos in February to discuss his novel “Borderland” that was based on research he did for “The Dangerous Divide.” Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the lecture. However, both books are available at El Tecolote bookstore in Todos Santos, Amazon and other locations.

In “Dangerous Divide” people tell their stories of why they are crossing the border. Border Patrol agents and others explain their reasons for wanting to stop people from coming illegally. Others offer solutions to benefit both countries.

Eichstaedt delves into the economic reality that the U.S. and Mexico need each other because of commerce.

What often is missing in news reports in the U.S. about the drug cartels in Mexico is where they got their weapons. They are being illegally smuggled in from the United States where they are legal. There wouldn’t be a drug trade if people in the U.S. weren’t using. At some point the United States has to take responsibility for its role in what is really going on at the border. This and so much more are all points made by Eichstaedt.

Baja Sur ranch community celebrates artisanal work

Baja Sur ranch community celebrates artisanal work

An array of bowls from Baja Woods Cookware at the Ranchero Festival. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Tradition. That is what El Mercado Ranchero in Todos Santos is selling.

For the last four years, ranchers and artisans have gathered in front of the store on Calle Morelos to celebrate their culture, share with locals and expats what they have made, and demonstrate their crafts. It started with 12 artisans, and included 48 this year.

Fresh meat is grilled during the festival in Todos Santos. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Much of what is sold in the ranchero store comes from people living in the surrounding mountains of Todos Santos and over in La Paz. One never knows what might be on the shelves. Pottery is often there, as are skulls from bulls. People like to paint them or display them in some decorative form. Food includes cheeses, honey, butter and organic eggs. All from the ranches, not mass produced in some factory.

At the street festival Doña Mari demonstrated how to make a sugar cane candy that resembled taffy; a process that is 100 years old. The concoction was spread on what looked like a slab of granite. Then she took the substance and began working it on a wooden knob resembling a hook on a coat rack. This kneading of sorts thickened the candy and changed the color to a light brown.

Knives are like art; each is unique. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Across the way was a man heating coals in order to turn metal into knives. The blades as well as the handles are works of art; so are the sheaths. They are often a regular item at the store.

Furniture and food were for sale, as well as pottery. Marcos Agúndez, who doesn’t use a wheel for his pottery, but instead crafts it by hand, sold out of his goods in the first 20 minutes.

Baja Woods Cookware in La Paz makes items out of neems, pine, hibiscus and mesquite. With each being one of a kind, those who dawdled in their decision-making lost out to more decisive shoppers.

While the festival is once a year, the store is open year round.

Ranch store deets:

Femicide no longer a hidden nightmare among Mexican women

Femicide no longer a hidden nightmare among Mexican women

Women in Todos Santos take to the streets on March 9. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Women in Mexico not only marched, they boycotted work to make International Women’s Day (March 8) a two-day event. In Todos Santos on March 9, they marched and essentially went on a one-day strike.

While it’s not known how many local women didn’t go to work, about 60 people marched Monday morning from the town square to the park. A couple men joined in as did gringas, but mostly it was Mexican women showing solidarity. A few carried signs about the power of women. Purple was the dominant color of choice; as it represents the color for women seeking gender equality.

At the park were various booths. At one, the questions (all written in Spanish) asked women: Have you judged or spoken ill of other women because of how they dressed? Have you ever been bullied?

Another station allowed women to write something personal, to share a story – one that related to anything they wanted, but tended to have the #MeToo movement in mind.

One table was set up as a place to receive a safe hug.

One of the only signs in English at the Todos Santos women’s event on March 9. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The point of March 9 being a day to boycott work and for others – especially women – not to be consumers was to show what it would be like if women were not here. Who would be there to do so many jobs? Who would be there to buy the goods? After all, there are 21 million registered female workers in Mexico.

The Washington Post reported, “After several recent grisly killings, feminists proposed the action to draw attention to Mexico’s stunning levels of attacks on women, and the idea quickly went viral. Federal and local government offices and dozens of universities are granting leave to female employees and students, and some of Mexico’s biggest companies are also backing the action. Walmart has said its 108,000 female employees in Mexico are free to join the one-day strike. Other corporate supporters include Ford, the Grupo Salinas banking and media conglomerate, and Bimbo, the baked-goods giant.”

While plenty of businesses in Todos Santos were open on March 9, the popular restaurant La Esquina chose to be closed. On its Instragram page the notice said they were doing so “in support of ‘a day without us,’ the national movement to stand up against violence toward women in Mexico.” Landis Restaurant on Instagram posted, “Today we don’t want to be brave, we demand to be free. We stand for those who are not today. We demand a change for all! We demand to remove prejudices and stereotypes. We want freedom! We want respect!”

Mexico can be a dangerous place for women. The government reports more than 3,800 women were killed in 2019, which means more than 10 women were killed every day last year. Reports are that one-quarter of the female homicide victims in Mexico died in their home. Violence is becoming the norm, with nearly two-thirds of women 15 and older having been a victim.

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