My sweet escapes on Isla Mujeres

What to get involved in outside of school

~ By Kate

Here we are a little past halfway through our time teaching on Isla Mujeres.  Every time I travel somewhere, the saying always proves true, “time flies when you’re having fun.”  A friend on Facebook recently commented on a picture of mine saying, “You look so happy in every picture you post!” And I truly am.  Living in Mexico has exceeded any expectation I had.  Island life has its ups and downs, but the beach, turtles, puppies and local friends will always cheer me up!

There are three gems of this island that I want to share with you. Many tourists know of Tortugranja, some know of Isla animals, but not many to my knowledge know of the “bead ladies.”  I have spent a lot of my free time not teaching at Isla animals and frequently visit Tortugranja, and hope to spend more time getting to know the women of the bead project.

One thing that I enjoy is teaching only half a day. This allows us to get involved in other areas of the community.  Among many of my passions is rescuing animals and in general helping others.  I am such a curious person, I want to get involved in everything, know the story behind it all, and learn from the experience.  There is a small shop located in the middle of the island called the “Women’s Beading Cooperative”.  It is filled with smiling women, thousands of handcrafted bead items, and many spirited conversations.  The ladies of the co-op make gems ranging from bracelets, earrings, necklaces, keychains, hair-clips, glasses chains, rings, anklets, coin purses, wallets, you name it! Each item handcrafted with great artistry, heart and thought. I’ve only been to the bead co-op three times, but I’ve felt this great calling to keep going back and talking more with the ladies about their work and their island! They are always so welcoming with a big smile. As you look at the endless pieces in the shop, you can listen to the ladies laughing and gossiping about their lives, families and who knows what else! Instead of the common souvenir shops downtown that all contain the same things and bracelets that were probably made in China – I urge the tourists and visitors of the island to wander down the island to the Women’s Beading Cooperative and buy a piece of the island that was handmade and has a story behind it!

One of my favorite sea animals is the sea turtle. It just so happens that there is a turtle conservatory on the island! It is a popular place for tourists to visit.  They pass through, look at the turtles and feed them way too many pellets.  But what many tourists don’t do is ask the staff members about the turtles or obey the rules posted on the signs or stick around to simply watch the turtles do their turtle thing. The turtle conservatory is called Tortugranja. Isla Mujeres is a popular location for the turtles to lay their eggs, however there is a poaching culture here and also some people even eat the turtle eggs. It is so important to save the turtle eggs and continue their species, we do not want these amazing creatures to go extinct! So, Tortugranja works very hard to collect the eggs once they’ve hatched on beaches around the island and transports them to their private beach where they are placed into the sand again and protected. Once they are ready to enter the real world, they are hatched into small tanks in their aquarium facility for a short period of time until Tortugranja organizes a release to the big blue for them.

One of my favorite things to do is go to Tortugranja and just be with the turtles. Many people just look at them quickly, throw some food in the tank and walk away. It is important to obey the signs that say “DO NOT TOUCH”. The turtles can get skin rashes and tumors from the chemicals on our hands and skin products.  Especially the baby turtles!!! They need to be as healthy as possible to make it into the big blue ocean and live long turtley awesome lives! So I suggest if you go and visit Tortugranja during your time here, spend an afternoon there, talk to the staff about the turtles. Learn how old each of them are and why they may be there (could be an injury, etc) Don’t feed them excessively and just observe them naturally. You will learn more than you think!
The last gem of Isla life that I will share with you is Isla Animal Rescue.  I love helping others, people and animals!! It is truly the only thing that makes me happy in this crazy world. I have always adopted my animals, learned their story and they’ve changed me for the better as well. Before I moved to Isla, I searched about the island and the Isla Animal Rescue came up. They are a small shelter that takes in street dogs and cats to put up for adoption, but also offers sterilization services for any animals on the island at an affordable price for the locals. It is very important to sterilize the animals because of health benefits and also to reduce the population of abandoned puppies and kittens on the streets.

Isla Animals welcomes tourists and locals to visit the shelter, donate and walk the dogs. Many tourists come and fall in love with a four legged local and end up adopting them! Isla Animals facilitates adoptions to the United States and Canada. The dedication the staff of Isla Animals has is admirable and I love spending my afternoons there. Puppy therapy is one of the best ways to end a crazy day teaching! I’ve also gotten to know the Señora that takes care of the puppies every day. It is so nice to talk to locals and learn about their lives on the island. She works so hard and loves the animals so much.