How I came to St Elena

My Story by Valerie Pickles                                        

 Hi and welcome to  my blog site    my name is Valerie Pickles (hence the name  of the restaurant, the pickled onion) I was born in  Nelson Lancashire England  but spent most of my life in Ontario Canada  where the winters are sooo cold that I was ready to leave to find sunnier places .I really had no intentions of opening a restaurant ,although lots of my friends used to say I should .

I thought to write this introduction of how I came to be here in St Elena  as  so many people ask me this question and am unable at times to get the opportunity to chat with you due to business being brisk or  sometimes not available .

Why did I choose Mexico ? Well I did not really think of Mexico  it kind of choose me!

I really wanted to learn a second language, you see when I went to school- eons ago  -the opportunities to learn another language was just not available  . Then being married and divorced raising two children alone, time and money did not allow me further education.Then when my children left home to begin their life journey it gave time for me to take a different path . After taking a TESOL course (teacher as a second language)  in Canada ,I came to Progresso Yucatan to continue with a practicum course in teaching , with thoughts of going to South America .I had previously visited Guatemala and Panama and was looking to travel to unknown to me, places .Whilst in Progresso, I took some side trips on the weekends ( the course was for three weeks in all ) one being to Merida for a weekend. On this trip, staying in a hotel close to downtown I met a Canadian lady by the name of Rose , She sat down at the table where I was eating breakfast and we started a nice conversation about each others life and what we were doing. As  soon as she heard that I was going to teach English somewhere in a Spanish speaking country she said “,why not here in the Yucatan”’? “Because I had never thought of it “, said I.Then she preceded to say she could put me touch with a lady called Martha who would be looking for someone to help her  in September in her  little private school( this was in April 04 ) where she taught English .Rosa told me she used to help her out a little but that she was returning to Canada with her mother after settling the affairs of her parents  property in Ticul.

You see Rosa’s father ( then deceased)and mother had lived in a small town of Ticul south of Merida for over 30 years coming themselves first from England emigrating to Canada and then arrived in Ticul where they set up home .They taught some of the local children to speak English and Martha was one of them.

I wrote down the email address of Martha and decided I would write her an email when I arrived home in Canada ,to which I did and got an immediate response. And so my journey began. I decided to sell my home putting a sign on the front lawn without a real estate  agent and within three weeks is was sold Mmm I thought this is meant to be as things were going along so smoothly. Next onto selling furnishings and other STUFF  which left my self with two suitcases ( now I have three ha ha ) I did leave a couple of boxes with my daughter which contained some of my favourite books and family photos just personal memorabilia.

Now with everything in order I set off towards my new adventure in September 04 and arrived at my destination, Ticul, without difficulty and without speaking Spanish. Martha met me at the front gate, a sweet tiny Mayan woman ,wearing a look  of shock on her face .Dropping my bags on the ground outside I was whisked in to be shown  a portrait of Martha’s mother  (deceased) who was also Mayan but had long blond hair ( as I ) and blue blue eyes ( me too).Upon seeing me Martha said ,”how much you look like my mother I cannot believe it “ From then on our relationship was cemented .After a couple of days I became aware that the reason I was here was to be her mother.. we had long discussions on life in general and her longing to find a husband but a North American and  to have her own  family ,her guilt feelings of leaving her family behind to pursue her dream . Her dream did come true in 08 and she is now living happily married in the U S and gave birth to her first child 09 .

I worked in Martha’s school for nearly two years but I was getting the feeling of time to move on but not knowing what to do and not wanting to return to Canada .Most of my life I have been self employed running a business in England and again in Canada so it was time to go it alone again. Through help from  a local person I was able to secure the buying of land here in St Elena and was told by a local business owner that they were in desperate need for a  decent restaurant  to which I replied Oh I don’t mind cooking .The locations just fell into my lap sort of speak , a great place I thought right on the main highway situated between two bed and breakfast places .And then work began clearing of the land building at first the restaurant and then a place to sleep for me. Money was not going as far as I was led to believe so henceforth a typical palapa style house for me was just fine and dandy.

The first day of opening was Christmas 06 working without electricity for six weeks .It was quite romantic in the restaurant with only candles to light the way.This worked out good until the winds came and would blow out all the candles but it was fun .I had lamps in the kitchen and cooked by gas.Every day going shopping for supplies and blocks of ice . The day electricity arrived I gave a big sigh of relief now onto the next step getting a liquor license.  This took another 6 months going through lots of red tape but finally it happened .Phew another relief.Now everything is running fine and well and am able to continue building such as the swimming pool. A great addition!, A rest Palapa which I hope eventually to serve as more space to eat or for sacred spiritual ceremonies , or even a family accommodation unit.The next thing on my list are new Palapa houses for  rent and a gift shop.

So this is how I came to be here in St  Elena.

About thepickledonionyucatan

Born in England emigrated to Canada and now reside in the Yucatan Mexico. LIfe is a journey so enjoy as much as you can
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8 Responses to How I came to St Elena

  1. Congratulations Valerie on a job well done. I look forward to following your adventure through your blog and hopefully get out to see you too. I love the Pickled Onion and am so glad you are doing well. IN LAK’ECH, Trudy

  2. Beryl says:

    I am pretty sure I knew Rosa’s parents, George and Janet Cobb. They were delightful people, and the only gringos in Ticul back then, as far as I know. George wrote several early guidebooks and Janet was a serious authority on Yucatan birds. She was credited in many publications. When George died, Janet was delighted to move back to Canada. I used to get Xmas messages from her, but haven’t heard from her in a while.
    Your story is wonderful and inspirational. Very few women alone would do what you did – move to an obscure location in a foreign country and open a business. And what a business!

    • Oh Thank you Beryl for your lovely comment. Yes, then indeed you knew them,Rosa is the daughter of the the belated George Cobb. They , Janet Cobb, Rosa and Rosa,s sister paid me a visit earlier in the year . We had a lovely time together and as it happened there was a group enjoying lunch after their trip to Mul Chic, Xcooch with Abels tour….. Walk the Maya Way… whom I introduced them to. It was great because they were asking many questions about life here and Janet suddenly became a guest speaker, with help from Rosa.It turned into quite a magical afternoon.
      Janet was a little feeble but doing fine but still loves to come back to the Yucatan when she can.Who wouldnt?
      A word of recognition about Walk the Maya way. This came about by the hard work of Joanna Rosado and her students. I will write about this in a later blog.
      love Ya

  3. I usually don’t post in Blogs but your blog forced me to, amazing work.. beautiful …

  4. branchenbuch says:

    Wonderful blog! I truly love how it? s easy on my eyes as well as the data are well written. I am wondering how I can be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which need to do the trick! Have a nice day!

  5. Lynda Lukey says:

    Yes, … I too remember Janet and George Cobb when I visited them 40 years ago.
    This was a time before Cancun, parking lots and wild horses used to run along the beach. They were really hospitable and generous inspirational people. If you get to talk to Janet please say hi. Rose would remember me.
    I agree the Yucatan is wonderful…
    Yet,I fell in love with the Canadian Maritimes and opened a B&B in a little ocean front village there.
    I am planning a visit soon.
    Love the name of your place. Good Luck

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