Women Of Akumal, 2

                IT’S IN MY SOUL!


There seems to be a theme about discovering Akumal – it tends to be a tertiary thought in the minds of first-time travelers to the area, especially back in the 1970s and ’80s when it was merely a blip on a map.

She first experienced Cancún with a group of girlfriends and by chance they rented a van and headed to Tulum. If it weren’t for the need to stop for lunch, she would never have experienced Akumal that day.  Lunching at Zacil, a restaurant that used to occupy the current location of the CEA (Centro Ecologico Akumal), made a big impression on her.`

For the next couple of years, she and her husband travelled to Cancún on vacation, and made the trek down to Tulum, always with a stop in Akumal. The area gradually began to grow on them, as it does with many who visit here, and soon they left Cancún vacations behind. “This was 1983 and so started our life in Akumal”.

Born and raised in an admittedly sheltered environment in Massachusetts made for a shy girl  in the 1950s and 60s. College wasn’t for her, but the work environment was. Waitressing in a large department store restaurant and later a management position forced her to ditch the shyness and step into her own. “Anyone who knows me now, would never know how shy I was.” Little did she know back then that this positive attitude was going to serve her well in the future when she would be faced with life altering events.

“I hated banking.” This one statement sums up a short-lived bank job. “If you think people are picky about food, just try dealing with them and their money.” Shortly after, she found a job as a restaurant manager at a Hilton Hotel, and with long work hours it meant she and her husband, a trooper with the Massachusetts State Police, saw very little of each other. A career shift came along in the form of House Manager at the President’s house at Amherst College where she had a lot of duties to keep the house running in perfect order.

But it was her parents who impacted her love of cooking from early on. “If we went fishing, my dad would say, how do we want to cook these fish, baked or fried? … It just sort of rubbed off on me.” Regarding her chef duties at Amherst College, she says, “I have every dinner I cooked in a file with notes and guest lists … There is a cookbook in there somewhere.” I think all of her friends would agree!

In 2001, retiring at 50, she and her husband began a road-trip that took 7 days from Massachusetts to Akumal. “We had GPS hooked up to my computer, maps in the computer … You’d think we were waging a covert operation with the way I was wired. Amazed they let us across the border.” They did this round trip for eleven and a half years until health forced them to start flying back and forth.

They stayed in a variety of places, including three years in a house in Rancho Santa Teresita. “I found it too isolating to be in the jungle.” After a few years in a condo on the beach, an opportunity to stay in Sirenis came along, but it was on “… the other side of the lagoon …” Little did she know that this condo was eventually going to become a true home of her own.

Life has a way of trudging along, lulling us into a place of comfort and contentment, and then  suddenly without warning, turning us on our heads. In December of 2015, she was faced with 5 months of tragedy: the death of her younger sister, followed 3 months later by the death of her mother, and less than a month after that in Mexico, the death of her husband. To say it was an unbelievable time in her life is simply an understatement. “To be honest, I’m not sure how I got through it all.” She had resilience in abundance, but it could not protect her from some very difficult times ahead. She feels if it wasn’t for “…the wonderful friends that I have in Akumal, I’m not sure how I could have made it.”

She returned to Massachusetts the same month David died, and began to “reconstruct my life, doing all the things that had to be done. Never once did I ever consider not returning to Mexico. I love it too much to give it up … It’s in my soul.” The dream of owning property in Mexico came soon after, as the Sirenis condo she and her husband had shared, came up for sale. She still owns and lives happily in this condo today.

She doesn’t want to give the impression that living in Mexico is easy. “It can be very frustrating” but what makes it doable is friendships. “Our friendships go deep.” And I think that is the essence of what makes life as a woman alone here manageable. Oh, and one other thing, “… thank goodness for Google translate” admitting her command of Spanish is not great. Recommendations from friends become vital here whether you are on your own or not, but “… many times, you really have to figure stuff out yourself.” A very accurate statement of life as a woman alone in Mexico. She remembers being on her own after her husband passed away and thinking, “OMG, who’s going to carry the jugs of water up the 32 steps to get to my condo?” She has the wonderful people at Aku Ha Water to help with that. Everything’s possible, you just need to know how to get it done!

“Moving here full time is not all beach time and shots of tequila. Banking is a whole new experience. Paying property taxes early (to get a 25% discount), trying to get high speed internet, and how about what phone system to use …?” All aspects of daily life some don’t take into account before they make the big move, yet all crucial to life here.

“Then there are the great joys of living in Mexico. The people of Akumal are wonderful and caring and helpful. Just hit Gilly’s Tequilaville on Christmas Eve morning, and see how 600 plus children can all receive a gift from Santa.” We challenge you to come see for yourself, and don’t forget to bring along a gift or two!

And as for living safely alone in Mexico, “I don’t feel the least bit uneasy … Like anywhere else, there are places I will never go …” A true statement for all of us no matter where we live. “I am happy with my life. Of course, everyone has regrets. You just don’t let them rule you.” Wise words from a lovely lady who enjoys walking in the mornings, entertaining house-guests, going to her favorite beach, being social when she wants, and staying “in my tree house condo … [to] be alone” when the mood strikes. As for her future in Akumal? “I see myself as a full time person in the fairly near future”.

Resilience, stepping up when life throws you curveballs, and a positive attitude to adversity, sum up the life of this long term resident of Akumal and area.“There is nothing in this world you cannot overcome. You might not like what you have to do to overcome it, but you can.” A motto she lives and succeeds by. “Sometimes I look back and amaze myself.” You amaze us, too, Shirley Pogodinski, major contributing writer of AkumalNow. Thank you for sharing your life with us!

— story compiled by Brenda Calnan

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