"So, what is the downside of living in Playa?"

This is a question I seem to be answering a lot lately as more and more people are contacting me, considering moving their families to Playa del Carmen. Sure, we all post pretty pictures of sunny beaches and smiling children but is the reality really just that sweet and simple. The truth is, life in Playa del Carmen can be pretty darn frustrating. Some of the challenges are obvious: Adjusting to a different culture, learning a different language, making new friends, finding suitable schooling for your children...not to mention trying to make a living! All of these daily obstacles must be embraced and overcome is one is to lead a successful and happy life here. All of these things can be anticipated in advance and approached in a very logical manner.

Other challenges are not so obvious. They creep up on you and wear away at your resolve, making tiny chinks in your emotional armor. One that I struggle with the most and have written about before is transiency. When I was a girl, I went to the same school from kindergarten through Grade 12. Many of the girls who started with me in primary school went all the way through as well. My family attended the same church for 20 years and there too I had friends who I would see every week at choir practice or confirmation classes. Summers were spent at the club where a daily routine of tennis lessons and swim practice kept me and my friends busy and fit. There was a consistency and rhythm to life that was comforting to me and made me feel sure of the world. Other than the occasional death of an aging relative few people disappeared from my life and seldom did newcomers matriculate in.

Skip ahead a few years and I find myself happily married with beautiful children who I am raising thousands of miles away from my family home in one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world! Their childhood could not be more different from mine. Again, many of the differences are plain to see. What you don't see is the steady stream of "friends" that flow in and then out of their little lives. Cole has been pretty fortunate. Of the kids he started school with at age 3, almost all of his friends are still here. He is still kicking the ball around with Gabriel and Ricardo and Ulise. Still trying to decide between Danique, Ana and Valeria for his favorite girl. He sees that Mommy and Daddy seem to have new friends and  inquires at times about the disappearance of others but for the most part, his world has been steady.

Birdie on the other hand has really gotten the short end of the stick. It seems that every time she makes a friend, a really good friend, they leave. The circumstances vary but the outcome is always the same. A tearful Birdie curled up on her mama's lap, the one person she is sure will never leave her. Her school is quite small and attracts a good percentage of expat families. Many come here with unrealistic expectations and leave after a few months or a year. Others are on a journey in life and Playa del Carmen is just one of many stops they will make along the way. Despite everyone's best intentions to "stay in touch", in the end, the emails and phone calls promised during tearful goodbyes never seem to happen and another friends is just GONE. Birdie has had more than her fair share of loss at her tender age and it pains me to watch it happen again and again.

Today my sweet daughter will say goodbye to another important figure in her life, her beloved riding instructor Noel. Birdie started training with Noel and right from the beginning they butted heads. As those her know her can attest, my daughter can be stubborn, overly dramatic and a bit of a know it all. Noel took all this in stride and pushed back just as hard. She patiently worked through the "issues du jour", all the while reminding her to keep her eyes up and her heels down. As her trainer, she never asked too much, only that she TRY. "I can't." was never an acceptable answer. She pushed Birdie to reach her potential even when she did not see it in herself. She has become a mentor and an inspiration to my daughter and a friend and ally to me. She has taught all of her students to respect the horses and to respect themselves.  As a mother, it has been a pleasure to watch Birdie and the other young riders, Brittany, Danique, Vale and Delicia struggle at times and then blossom under her watchful eye. The girls have become not just confident riders but confident in themselves. As riding instructor, she can and will be replaced. As a positive force in their lives, her position can never be filled.

So today, we will say goodbye to Noel and wish her and darling Cristobal all the best in their new adventure. Tomorrow, there will be one less woman in my daughter's life to pick her up and dust her off when she falls, in the arena and in life.

Cat and Noel