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Fattening up in Germany with Family - A post by Dennis

Made in Canada - a product of Germany

sunny 20 °C

I often think of how brave it must have been for my parents to immigrate to the west coast of Canada. They left Germany as a newly married couple and headed to Vancouver where my Dad could find work as a European trained chef. Canada took them in with no language, no family, and a boatload of dreams. They left in 1971 and had me in 1972 and my brother in 1975.


Fortunately, there was an established German community in Vancouver through an organization called Kolping. I remember growing up with a large network of transplanted families in Canada, made of up German immigrants with similar stories to that of my parents. We would go on ski trips together, celebrate Christmas and Easter together, cook together and cheer for German soccer together. Today, they even sing in a German choir. This community was, an continues to be, strong with all of these wonderful German families in my life today (and some even reading this blog!). I think in some ways, moving north to Inuvik with Hillarie in the late 1990's and starting our own families and building our own transplanted family network was something special and familiar. Fortunately, our extended Inuvik/Whitehorse families are still largely together and feel like that of my extended German families from my childhood.


As a first generation Canadian, I am very proud to be Canadian but I will always have a place in my heart for Germany. I grew up speaking German, went to German school, ate German food, and when I grew up I wanted to be a professional German soccer player (not giving up on that one yet!). To say German is a part of my culture is an understatement. I have also always been scarred by the 1982 World Cup Soccer Final where Italy beat Germany 3-1 in the final. Fortunately, Germany has continued to prove their World Cup Soccer prowess over the decades and Italy....I won't even talk about it.


Aside from my mother, father and brother, all of our family still lives in Germany. As kids we visited our family in Germany every few years but as life, school, marriage, kids got busier, our visits became more infrequent. After a long gap, Hillarie and I have made a few trips with the kids to Germany over the last few years. Before every trip I am slightly apprehensive and nervous. Part of it is not wanting to inconvenience them, not be a trouble, not get in their way. This is of course absolutely ridiculous because family is blood and family is love. Even though my older Onkels, Tantes and cousins really can't speak english. The language is always love. I know it is cheesy, but it is true. Without exception we are always welcomed with open arms, love and copious amounts of meat, cheese, and cake. In fact the few German words that Zach and Max know are also the most practical - "nein Danke, ich bin satt" - "no thank you, I am full".


We only spent one full week in Germany but made sure to visit as much family as possible. Travel gives you the opportunity for broader perspectives and we had some great moments with the boys talking about their ability to get German passports and take in some (free) University in Germany. Travel with a car is easy in Germany all most of Aunts, Uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews live within a few hours of one another in the beautiful regions of Bayern and Baden Wuttenberg. Beautiful wine regions, towering castles, vast tracks of farming land, unique fachwerkhauser, "lecker" cuisine, in big and little places like Nuremberg, Wurzburg, Hardheim, Tauberbischofsheim, Bayreuth, and Walldurn. Known as the "romantische strasse" Romantische Strasse this is stereotypical beautiful Germany. A few additional highlights for us in Germany always include: visiting a Birkenstock outlet, eating Haribo (particularly Tropifruit), watching a handball game, eating Schnitzel/Knoedel/Schweinhaxe/Scheufelle, getting a German national soccer team jersey ("Oezil"), historic walking tour of Nuremberg with my Onkel, cafe und kuchen, eating at a restaurant on the Autobahn, and eating Brezen.


After muchos tortillas and eating with restraint, budget and purpose in Central America and Mexico, we were so looking forward to some German bread, meat and cheese. Germany did not disappoint and we happily and obscenely took in as much protein and carbs as possible in a week to fatten us up for the next few months. Even Zach and I couldn't keep up with the food offerings and we'd start strategically "take turns" on polishing off plates.

For my German family that may be reading this blog "vielen Dank für Ihre Gastfreundschaft und Liebe. Wir freuen uns auf ein Wiedersehen. Sie können uns jederzeit in Yukon besuchen".


Posted by fishonyukon 22:35 Archived in Germany Comments (0)

Mexican Memories - A Post by Dennis

Cenotes, Tortillas and Family

sunny 29 °C
View Around the world on fishonyukon's travel map.


After close to two months of travel we were looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and meeting up with friends in Puerto Morelos. Located a short hop from Cancun this was a great destination to meet up the Sarin-Toews and Charleton-Evans clans down for some sun on spring break. We rented a rustic, unique little Mexican villa about 9 kilometers from the beach. We had the run of the place, complete with a cenote, treehouse, volleyball court and much, much, more. We also hired a local cook and helper to cook for our group for the ten days. This was the best decision ever, as we were treated to authentic, fresh, outdoor cooked Mexican food, every moment of every day. It was also nice to support a lovely local family that we all grew to appreciate.


As you can imagine organizing the logistics on a daily, hourly, and moment by moment basis for a group of 12 is quite a chore. Fortunately, our little villa provided us with the breathing room we required to enjoy our time. Whether jumping in a cenote, reading a book, watching the NCAA sweet sixteen, fussing with social media, drinking tequila, playing poker, taking a nap, sitting and chatting...there was something for everyone. The villa even provided free of charge, a little mouse that would run between each unit, nesting spiders in our luggage, and a bathroom scorpion that popped up one day. Despite these little critters, it was a lovely place with a ton of character.

Each morning our group would enjoy our Mexican breakfast (typically a variation of eggs, tortillas, beans), research and plan our day, and get to it. We took in a few days of snorkeling, a visit to a few ruins, numerous cenotes, a couple of nights out and a reef dive. We particularly enjoyed the evening drives through little Mexican communities that came alive after the hot Mexican sun set. With windows rolled down we took in the sights, sounds and smells of life along the road.


As a family on the road for six months we knew there would be certain times when traveler's fatigue would set in. While our time in Guatemala, Belize and Mexico has been amazing we have all had our moments of fatigue. Meeting our good friends in Mexico and having such a great time, recharged us for the next leg of our journey to Europe.

Posted by fishonyukon 08:40 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

What makes a great city? Post by Hillarie

Top five amazing things about Merida, Mexico.

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I sort of hate to admit it, but I love cities. I love the hustle and bustle. I love the energy. I love the intensity. I especially love colonial cities. I absolutely love colonial architecture, the logical grid pattern of the streets, and the many city parks.

After weeks of being in small coastal towns, I was craving a big city. I had enough of "down time". I wanted to explore. So with this desire, we decided to travel to Merida, the vibrant capital of the Mexican state of Yucatan. It has a population of about 700,000, so enough "going on" to occupy the Zimmermann family for a week.

It has been an absolutely amazing week!! Here are my top five highlights of Merida - cuidad blanca.

1. Culture, Culture, Culture!

Merida is know as the cultural capital of the Yucatan. The city has made an unbelievable effort to support art, culture, and music. Almost every night, the city comes alive with free public performances. Huge crowds of people congregate in the many city parks to enjoy traditional Mexican dance, music, and theatrical performances.


2. Colonial Architecture

Merida is a traditional colonial city with beautiful building facades, a logical grid street pattern, green and vibrant city parks, and secret courtyards internal to most homes and buildings. Streets are narrow and uneven and it is such fun to discover old churches and lovely streetscapes around every corner.


3. Market Intensity

No city is complete without an insane, intense, stinky market. And Merida did not disappoint on this front. We walked through the largest municipal market and discovered the "real" Merida. Live fish, cats, watch makers, indistinguishable meats, chickens, clothes, noise, music, dirt, flowers, trinkets, and the list goes on. I think of markets as the heart of the city. It is where everyday people go about everyday life. They are intense, cramped, smelly, dirty, amazing places. I love them!!


4. Quirky Peculiarities

A city is also made interesting by the strange or quirky things that stand out. For Merida it is the abundance of old VW bugs. They are everywhere! Both boys have developed bruised arms during our week here given the ongoing game of "punch buggy". Extra punches are awarded for roof racks, stickers, multi-coloured, and new models. From 1955 to 1964, the Bug was shipped in un-assembled parts from Germany to be put together here in Mexico, and in 1964 the car began to be produced locally. You see the remnants of this local production on the city streets of Merida.


5. The People

Of course the true test of a city is its people. And once again, Merida does not disappoint. Everyone we have met in Merida is gracious, friendly, helpful, and interesting. Our daily encounters with people have been great. From the "buenos dias" acknowledgement from all of the patrons when you enter a restaurant to the helpful shopkeeper and people on the street - Merida is a very friendly city. Memorable encounters were the latino barber (see pictures of Dennis and Max's haircuts) to the barista at Starbucks who couldn't quite understand Dennis' name. The soul of a city is its people - and Merida has a kind soul.


On Monday we leave Merida to head back to the coast. Thanks for the fond memories, Merida, you will be missed!

Posted by fishonyukon 09:59 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

Hand-fishing and Bone-fishing - A post by Dennis

Fishing Along the Way in Belize and Mexico

sunny 30 °C

I missed my chance to fish with a local in Guatemala due to the windy weather on Lake Atitlan. I was excited about the artisinal and cultural fishing opportunity out of San Pedro in my quest to better understand global, small-scale fisheries. Riding around on our bikes in Caye Caulker I noticed a small sign about a half day fishing experience. It looked different than the other ads we've seen on the island. Most fishing was for big game, barracuda, sharks, groupers, tarpon, permit and more. This is your typical big game trophy fishing opportunity which is to to cruise around on large boats with other tourists using spin/trolling rods, with beer looking for the largest fish possible. I've done this before and many people enjoy this type of fishing but this is not what I was after.


As mentioned, I look for small-scale, artisinal and cultural experiences benefiting local fisherman. These local fisherman live in the community, have invested money into the boats and gear and apply their local and traditional knowledge catching the wide variety of large and small fish. It is an added bonus if they use techniques that they would have used historically or are culturally relevant. The fishing experience I noticed in Caye Caulker was using hand lines not far from shore. It was for a half day, only a 10 minute boat ride from shore to target various types of snappers and potentially get into other fish. I was sold.

Given Zack was invested into diving, I thought it would be a great opportunity for Max and I to hit the water. Our local guide was Amado. A friendly young guy with a family, born and raised on the island. He has a small, individually run tour company called Green Reef Tours. He offers snorkeling, fishing, overnight camping and expedition support.

They speak English in Belize which meant I had a half day to talk as well as fish with a local fisherman. It was another beautiful day on the Caye, slight breeze, turquoise water, coral reefs, and many fish darting around under the boat. We hit a couple of spots, anchored and began casting. Hand-fishing is a traditional method whereby you have your line, a hook, a weight and bait and you sling it out there using your hands, a plastic line holder and the weight. Gravity does the rest. The baited hook hit the water, sink and you strip it in slowly. The action is furious as there are many small fish eager to pick at and remove your bait. Getting through the really little ones to the bigger ones that can hook up is the trick.


In the beginning our casting was a bit sketchy. We could manage only a few feet. Within an hour we were both casting 15 feet with no problem. Working the edges of the coral we hooked into many, many fish. I love the variety of fish within the coral. We caught many types of snappers (Yellowtail, Mutton, Reef), grunts, and jacks. We had a blast when a school of Mackerel spent a couple of hours with us testing our hook set. They were lightning quick and would hit our bait hard with only a split second to set the hook. We kept a couple of small snapper and a Mackeral for an amazing dinner cooked later over charcoal.

Our second fishing experience was a long awaited "bucket list" experience for me. It was a birthday gift for me and something I have always wanted to do...fly fishing in the Caribbean on the flats. We engineered the week and the complicated logistics to get to Xcalak, Mexico for some of the greatest bonefishing in the Yucatan. I chose Xcalak and a company called Fishing the Flats based on reviews and feedback from anglers in some fishing forums. There is an entire culture built around saltwater fly fishing. Especially sight fishing on the gin-clear water for the Caribbean "Grand Slam". The "slam" is catching bonefish, permit and tarpon on the fly within a day. I had planned for two days of guided fishing in order to take Max out one day and Zack out the other. Given I did not travel with fly gear we rented some nice 9 weight rods and the flies, tippets and leaders required for a day of bone-fishing. Our guide was Jose with his son Jorge in tow. I thought it was fitting to have a father and son duo guiding and fishing for the two days.

I can't even begin to explain the fly fishing culture around this experience. These are major industries, with retailers, lodges, guides, and media fueling the frenzy. Saltwater fly fishers dress, talk and act differently. It is kind of like a surfing culture, skiing culture, snowboarding culture, golfing culture, or a hiking culture. Clad in muted colours, covered from head to toe in performance, quick dry, fly fishing specific attire, carrying 9-10 weight rods with large arbour reels. I have read many stories in magazines, watched videos, consumed social media, fly fishing shows all built around saltwater fly fishing in the Caribbean. To say I was excited and nervous is an understatement. Fortunately for the family, I was not able to "nerd" out and bring my gear or specific fly fishing clothes.


Our day consisted of heading out at 8am with Jose and Jorge on their boat and finding about 1-2 feet of gin-clear water from which to cast for these beautiful bone fish. Most people practice for months preparing for these epic trips. I have not casted in months and was worried I would not have the length or accuracy to get into fish. Catching these fish in a foot of water means seeing them at a distance and casting any where from 20-40 feet with stealth and accuracy to get the fly within a foot of a cruising fish. Easy to spook, this is not an easy task. The eagle eyed guides magically saw fish coming from a mile away and would point to it and tell you to cast.

The process goes something like this. You wade a step behind your guide, quietly so as to not scare the fish or warn them of your presence. The guide sees the individual fish or school of fish. Usually a flash of silver or a shadow in the water. They point at it and tell you where to cast. Quickly you false cast your rod (wave it in the air), bringing out the right amount of line, usually a quick double haul or two (build up line speed) and you shoot line (zing it out of your rod). The fly either lands too far in front, behind, to the right to the left or right on top of the fish...any you've missed your chance. Fortunately your expert guide is already looking for the next fish or school and points again. With your adrenaline firing, you take a quick breath and make a lovely cast, rolling the fly out and presenting it right in front of the fish. The guide says "wait"....you wait...and wait...and then he says "strip"...and you strip in with short bursts of line (about six inches at a time - imitating a fleeing bait fish)...you strip, strip, strip...and you feel a bump or pause....and you set the hook!!!! The hook set is very technical and requires a specific arm jerk with the line, before lifting the rod and fighting the fish. Often you miss the fish bite but sometimes it is "fish on". Then playing this fast, hard fighting fish can be tricky as well. It is all catch and release for bone fish in order to conserve this resource. I recently read a fisheries report that each bone fish is worth $3500 caught and released with a possible lifetime value of $75,000 per fish. In the end we were able to catch a few dozen bone fish and I was very pleased at how ethically and expertly the fish were handled and released. It is in their best interest to protect their investment.

For fear of writing a novel and for those of you still reading, I will sum up by saying it was an incredible few days of fishing with my boys that has met my expectations, fueled my love for fish, fish habitat and fisheries.


Posted by fishonyukon 09:47 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

Everyday Gaps in Caye Caulker - A Post by Dennis

Sometimes you just have to stay a little longer

sunny 30 °C

How long do you stay in one place? You want to stay long enough to truly see and appreciate it, but not too long that it gets tiring. This is all relative with the amount of time you have. With a two week vacation, you do the best you can with a different psychology. With six months of travel you really need to think about it.


We have decided to try and go to fewer places and stay a bit longer. I say "try" because there can be an attraction in keeping moving and seeing what is beyond the corner. What will the next town hold, the next city, the next country and the next continent? This is also a personal decision as some travelers are content in staying in one place for a long time and others like to keep moving and getting that rush from moving around. There is no judgement here as it really depends on how you are wound and your specific motivations for travel. I would say in our family, we have a mix of travel perspectives, psychology and motivations. Some of us are content in sitting while others need to keep moving. Some of us also love to struggle and push oneself when traveling but I will save that for another post. Overall, travel sounds like a metaphor for life doesn't it?


That brings us to our second week on the small Belizian Island of Caye Caulker (CC). Most people we ran into traveling throughout Central America said "you can do it in two to three days". In part for budgetary reasons, we decided to stay put and try it out for close to two weeks. This means that CC is pretty much the only place in Belize we will experience. We'll miss the other stuff Belize has to offer but generally speaking, the more you move, the more you spend. We did really well in Guatemala with our daily operational budget but Belize is much more expensive. As a result, we have rented properties in CC all with kitchens to try and avoid eating out and developing routines. We also don't have a big budget for the touristy stuff like tours and attractions. We try to do more with less.


By no means are we anywhere close to truly understanding this place after a week, however, I believe we are starting to squeeze more out of the this experience and seeing things through new eyes. After a week, we knew which stores held the best pineapples, avocados, and freshly squeezed watermelon juice. We knew what days they get their shipment in from the mainland. We knew where to meet fisherman to buy freshly harvested conch for dinner. We learned how to make fresh ceviche, our own fresh fruit smoothies and deep fried conch. We knew when the bakery was open to buy the freshest bread and cinnamon buns. We knew that buying a fry jack for lunch and a fresh fruit smoothie at the local stands would fill us all up and costs about $15 CDN. We started petting the cute puppies and visited the animal shelter for more pets. We knew that the local library has the best book exchange and is run by an ex-pat Canadian. We started learning about local marine conservation issues like the invasive Lion Fish, Manatee conservation and how to selectively harvest lobster. We know when the basketball court is available and when it fills up with serious pick-up ball. We started noticing the seahorses, tarpon and rays schooling at dusk. We knew that we can borrow a volleyball and start a game shortly before the sunset at the split. We knew where and how to lock up our bikes to not get in the way of the many golf carts. We are starting to see the daily life in CC watching the construction workers work in the mid-day heat doing much of it by hand. We learned that the local kids have to fund-raise to pay for their uniforms, school supplies and drinking water. We know which vendors peddling on their bikes sell the best banana bread, hot tamales, and coconuts.

We really started slowing down and began to fill in the everyday gaps by noticing and enjoying everyday things. There are many riches and things to see in the gaps. Life and travel does not always have to be exciting filled with the fix of tours, attractions and moving along. I'll be honest there are many times we have wondered whether we should be seeing more, doing more and moving on. It is after all a big world out there with much to see. We also have struggled to keep ourselves engaged and off of electronics ($%&@!). I have said more than a few times on the trip that we have succeeded if the kids are "bored". Celebrate boredom! There is so much beauty in everyday life. We are a work in progress and the "wheels will come off" a few more times during our travels but sometimes we need to try and slow down and stay longer. We leave first thing tomorrow morning on the ferry to the mainland to travel to Mexico. We can't wait to move on and travel and I am sure we'll miss this place once we hit the mainland.


Posted by fishonyukon 08:14 Archived in Belize Comments (1)

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