Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Our Getaway to Puerto Vallarta: Marriott Resort and Rhythms of the Night

It Felt Like We Were in Hawaii!

View of Puerto Vallarta from the Marriott Resort

     Jon and I debated for months about whether to take this trip during the COVID-19 pandemic. In April when we were originally planning our getaway to Puerto Vallarta and to see the Rhythms of the Night show, our daughter told me, “Don’t go! This virus is dangerous!” As it happened, Rhythms of the Night canceled their shows in April due to the spreading virus, so we couldn’t go at that time.
     On June 15th, when hotels and beaches in Puerto Vallarta reopened, we discussed going again. If we would have asked our oldest son what he thought, he would probably have replied, “Do you think that’s a good idea?” Our youngest son, an adventurer like us, would likely have exclaimed, “Why not?” We thought, "Others are vacationing in Puerto Vallarta—why not go, as long as we are careful?"
The Marriott Resort Pool was Beautiful and Uncrowded

      Life is short. We never know how many days we have left on this earth. Today could be my last day. I want to live as though this is my last day on earth. I’m so fortunate that Jon feels the same way. We have been adventurers together for over twenty-five years. COVID-19 has taken that away from us for long enough!
     We decided to do it! We needed a three-day weekend getaway and decided to stay at the Marriott Resort near the Puerto Vallarta Marina, a hotel that we trusted to follow all of the protocols, procedures, and preventative measures recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We were very impressed and had a wonderful experience!
View of the Beach from our 8th Floor Balcony

     Masks in place, we arrived by taxi at the Marriott. A short 20-mile-trip from Sayulita, we felt we had traveled thousands of miles from home, as though we had stepped onto one of the Hawaiian Islands. The warm, humid air and the colorful tropical gardens prompted the memory of our last trip to Kauai about ten years ago when we decided our budget no longer included trips to Hawaii. This felt like Hawaii, but much less expensive.
A Garden at the Entrance to the Marriott Resort

     A friendly, masked front door attendant took our temperatures with an electronic gun-shaped, no-touch thermometer, asked us to clean our shoes in foot baths and dry them on a mat. Proclaiming us ready to enter the property, he offered to take our luggage to check-in, but we thanked him and declined, not wanting to increase any possible transfer of the virus. At check-in, we were told that masks were mandatory in all public areas except when we were seated at the pool, in the pool, at the beach, or at a restaurant.
The Marriott Infinity Pool and Swim-Up Bar 

     Seating areas were spaced well apart and the pool was not crowded, so distancing was easy. The only area that appeared too crowded was the swim-up bar—too bad. We soon settled onto lounge chairs at the pool, introduced ourselves to a man and woman about our age from Idaho who were lounging ten feet away, and ordered margaritas from the passing waiter. We weren’t the only ones who were tired of staying at home. Vacation time!
View of Puerto Vallarta from Rhythms of the Night Boat

     The next day was my 64th birthday and we had tickets to the Rhythms of the Night Dinner Show—our second time to see it. Vallarta Adventures, the company that puts on the Rhythms of the Night show, was meticulous with their procedures to keep guests safe. Not only did they follow all sanitation and health protocol, but they also used extra boats to keep passengers well-distanced from each other. While each boat is designed to carry 250 passengers, they only allowed a maximum of 100 passengers on each boat. I was surprised that there were two boatloads of international tourists and expats, two hundred people excited to see the Rhythms of the Night show at Playa Las Caletas!
Cruising by the Natural Arches (Los Arcos) Near Mismaloya

     The boat ride from the Puerto Vallarta Marina was half the fun. As we sipped our margaritas, the boat cruised along the shoreline of Puerto Vallarta giving us a tour of the city from a new perspective. We slipped between the natural arches near Mismaloya and watched the sunset as we neared Las Caletas where the dinner and show were held.
Sunset View from the Boat Near Playa Las Caletas

     During the hour-long boat ride, professional photographers mingled, taking photos of couples and families. They were careful to stage the shots so that groups being photographed were separated from other guests while they were without their masks. The memories they captured of our special vacation were priceless.
Jon Gave Me a Happy Birthday Kiss for the Photographer

     Tickets for the Rhythms of the Night dinner, cruise, and show were heavily-discounted at this time so I expected a few corners to be cut. The dinner was served family-style to minimize exposure between servers and guests, and, unfortunately, that caused the quality to be less than it had been two years ago. The show had fewer dancers and performers but was still spectacular, performed in the outdoor theater in the middle of the jungle. Guests were seated well-separated with every other row left empty and groups at least ten feet from each other. We are so happy that Vallarta Adventures was able to put on this dinner and amazing show while keeping people safe from COVID-19.
One of the Many Acts in the Rhythms of the Night Show

     We have two weeks before our next planned adventure, so there will be plenty of time to find out if we develop the SARS-CoV-2 infection. We think we had it once already, back in February (see my article Our COVID-19 Antibody Test in México), though our SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were undetectable. We are careful to prevent exposure to the virus, but if we do become infected, I feel confident that we have memory T cells that fight the virus, helping minimize symptoms. Also, doubling up on vitamin C, taking Zinc and vitamin D, as well as getting enough exercise and fresh air help build our immune system. Watch for my article about our next adventure.

     Have you read my “Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico” true-life adventure books and my “In Sickness and In Health” novels set in México? Check them out at my Amazon Author Page.
Pickle Jar Test: A Novel

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Terry L Turrell, Author

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Our Tropical Mexican Garden Keeps Giving Surprises

Flowers and Critters Provide a Therapeutic Effect

Watching the Orange Bougainvillea Turn Pink
Enjoying Small Bees Work the Hibiscus Blossoms
Discovering A Mexican Leaf Frog on a Bucket
Collecting Hawaiian Red Ginger for a Bouquet
Waiting for the Hummingbirds to Feed
Photographing the Juvenile Green Iguana that Visited
Admiring the Large Caladium Leaves
Planting Our First Coleus
Waiting for the First Two Heliconia Blossoms
Sending the Land Crab on His Way to Mate at the Beach
Counting the Peace Lily Blossoms in the Yard
Quietly Observing the Chachalaca Eat Palm Berries
Noticing 3 Tiny White Flowers Surrounded by the Bracts
Attaching Our First Wild Orchid Plant to a Tree
Arranging My Garden Photos into this Blog Post
     I hope you enjoyed this post. Thank you for sharing my version of healthy therapy on a hot, humid tropical day in Sayulita, Mexico.

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     Lindsay and Jake find peace by moving to small-town Mexico. When Jake's symptoms indicate Parkinson's disease…


Friday, July 10, 2020

Our COVID-19 Antibody Test in México

An Interesting and Informative Experience!

Punta Mita Hospital Emergency Room
     Near the end of February, before the COVID-19 pandemic had been announced to the world, I caught a cold. It started with a slight sore throat and a runny nose, like any winter cold. It’s always seemed strange to me that, even living in warm, sunny México, I usually catch a cold about once a year.
As soon as I noticed the sore throat, I took some Emergen-C and a Cold-Eeze lozenge. It was especially frustrating because we had been so careful when we flew down to Puerto Vallarta from Tucson in mid-February. Sitting on a plane full of people for five hours is a sure way to pick up a bug, so we took Emergen-C three times on the day we traveled to try to prevent getting sick. This was in addition to the 2000mg of vitamin C and other vitamins we take daily. But I guess we should have taken Emergen-C for two or three days to build up our immune system.
Then the cough started. The intense chills lasted a full day. I took ibuprofen or acetaminophen for the aches and headaches. The cough intensified until Vicks Formula 44 syrup had little effect. I resorted to using a Ventolin inhaler every four hours for the cough, which worked better and eased my breathing. Bed rest, Vitamin C, and zinc helped me heal.
Jon, my husband, caught my cold a week later. His case wasn’t as severe but the symptoms were similar, minus the chills. Though most symptoms disappeared in less than a week, my cough lasted for three or four weeks.
Remember, the coronavirus infections had not been labeled a COVID-19 pandemic at that point.
Ready to Go for Our SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Test

     Three months later, as we educated ourselves with reliable COVID-19 pandemic information, I began to wonder if we had already had the dreaded infection back in February and March. Could we have acquired SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and possible protection from the virus? We continued to be cautious when out in public to avoid contracting or spreading this virus, but hopeful that we were carrying protective antibodies in our blood.
We recently learned that the antibody test is available in the area where we live, Nayarit, México. We deliberated about whether it was worth it to go to a hospital and have the test administered. After all, if we didn’t carry the antibodies in our blood, a hospital is a risky place to go—we might contract the virus while at the emergency room having the test done. We decided to do it.
SARS-CoV-2 Antibody Test Package at Punta Mita

     Two hospitals near our home offer the SARS-CoV-2 Antibody test, St. Luke’s in Sayulita and Punta Mita Hospital. We decided to go to Punta Mita because it was significantly less expensive, has good reviews, and we could turn the afternoon into an adventure in the town of Punta Mita with lunch on the beach.
     I made an appointment over the phone for Jon and me to both have the test done. I spoke with Dr. Franco and made it very clear that we wanted the antibody test, meaning we had already had COVID-19 months ago, not the test for the virus. He assured me that they had the serology antibody test. The price was quoted as $116 U.S. dollars or 2297 Mx pesos for each test, including a 16% tax. We were told to come to the emergency room reception area when we arrived where they only allowed one person at a time. All people with respiratory symptoms that could be active COVID-19 infections entered a different part of the hospital.
Punta Mita Hospital Reception Sign

     We masked up and entered the emergency room reception area. They allowed Jon and me to come in together but others were asked to wait outside. After the technician tested our blood oxygen level, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and asked if we had any symptoms of COVID-19, we were declared healthy and could proceed with the test.
Jon Having His Finger Pricked to Draw Blood for the Test

Jon's Blood is in the Well, Serum Wicking Up the Test

Jon's Test Shows Negative for COVID-19 Antibodies

     We were impressed with the staff, the procedures, and the facilities at Punta Mita Hospital. The technician explained that Jon’s serology test results for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) Antibodies was negative because the line stopped at the “C” on the stick, meaning he has not had the COVID-19 infection in the past.
If a line appears at the M, it indicates the person has IgM antibodies. If a line appears at the G, it indicates the person has IgG antibodies. From my reading, I have learned that if a person tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, meaning they have had the COVID-19 infection at least two weeks previously, giving the body time to produce both of these antibodies, a line will appear at the G and the M.
My SARS-CoV-2 serology test was negative for antibodies also.
As we left the hospital, I told Jon I was disappointed. I had felt sure that we had Covid-19 back in late February and early March. I had been hopeful that we had developed antibodies against the virus and, therefore, most likely had protection against getting it again. Jon agreed with me. He was discouraged, too.
It’s possible that the test results were false negatives, meaning the tests themselves were faulty. I have read that not all SARS-CoV-2 Antibody tests are created equal and many have been found to give false readings. But we will trust the results. We will assume we do not carry any protective antibodies in our blood. We will continue to be extra careful when we are in public, washing our hands often and distancing ourselves from others. We still plan to live our lives as close to normal as possible while avoiding the risk of spreading the virus. We will still dine out at reputable restaurants, enjoying life every day. We believe living in fear is unhealthy.
Entrance to La Pescadora Restaurant in Punta Mita

     We walked the half-mile from the hospital to “restaurant row” on the beach in Punta Mita and had a wonderful meal at La Pescadora where the staff followed all precautionary steps to keep us safe from the dreaded virus. We enjoyed the cool ocean breeze on that hot afternoon, the view of the sea, and the entertaining wind-surfer getting a wild ride in the strong wind, as we were on the fringe of Tropical Storm Cristina.
The Bay View from La Pescadora Restaurant in Punta Mita

     Thank you for reading my books and blog articles. If you are interested in reading more about Serology Testing for COVID-19 from the CDC here's the link

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Terry L Turrell
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Thursday, July 2, 2020

Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico June Newsletter & New Book Release

Beaches in the Mexican State of Nayarit Are Closed, But…

The Ocean is Full of People Playing
     In Sayulita, the ocean is often full of people, locals and visitors, playing, cooling off, surfing, and paddleboarding. Some people sit on blankets having picnics. It’s wonderful to enjoy a meal at a beachside restaurant with an unobstructed view of the ocean as umbrellas and beach chairs are still prohibited at this time.

     But once every week or two, groups of police and National Guard or Marines come to the beach and ask people to leave. It is a peaceful yet sad scene as disappointed beach-lovers slowly pack up and head into town. We don't yet know if our governor will open our beaches in July... likely he won't.

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