Feliz Navidad from the Three of Us!

Dec 23, 2008

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

The Almost-One-Year Anniversary

Dec 16, 2008

Well, it's been almost one year since we moved to Mexico and what have I learned? A lot, to be sure. I've learned things about Mexican culture that I had no idea about, I've met new people, I've had an adventure. I've learned that I miss old friends from home and that it takes time and patience to meet new friends that are going to one day be old friends. I've learned that if I stop keeping up with my spiritual practices- praying and meditating as well as journaling- I start to feel loopy and disconnected.

I guess the overwhelming thing about coming up on one year here for me is that I realize how much stuff is no longer new and different here. When we got here, simple every day tasks were hard or scary. Now I hardly notice when I go pay bills (except for the pain in the butt of going to the Oxxo or the actual phone company). In fact, the sort of things I do note don't even make it onto the blog because they've been judged mundane by me.

For instance, yesterday I accomplished a lot more in Spanish than I could have dreamed of when we got here one year ago. I went to a bank and got two checks that had been written to me cashed without incident and on the first try. Then I went to a print shop and ordered 2000 4 color brochures to be printed off-set and even selected the paper weight and navigated the deposit process. This would have been a very big deal even 6 months ago, but all it amounted to (before this blog post) was a casual mention of the fact that I got the checks cashed without incident this morning on my run with Solomon.

I even have a couple of acquaintances that don't speak good English, so I relate to them in Spanish. Of course, most of my friends are English-speaking, even if that's not their first language, it is still the language that unites the most people here.

I guess I need to go on some trips, see something new. Once yoga teacher training is over I intend to make some plans to see various places in Mexico, like Mexico City, Chiapas, Mazatlan... you name it.

We've signed on for another year at our apartment and Hans has bought an underwater scooter. Tonight he is going to talk with Bill Phillips about assisting on some cave surveying, which was one of his goals for living here. I've been diving less, but that could be due to the fact that I've been working a lot and yoga-ing a lot.

I guess that's it for this somewhat meaning-less post! Just to say that we're coming up on a year and I guess I've just had less to blog about! Ahhh, well. Maybe I should break out the camera and start posting random photos from every day. I dunno. New Year's Resolution this year is to get fired up again- fired up about meditation and prayer, job, life, love, you name it. Vrooom. FIRE IT UP, BABY!

Allie and Anna's Right Jolly Good English Tour 2009

Dec 15, 2008

I have this obsession with not just traveling, but really seeing how it is to live in other places. That's why I love visiting places with people who live there or have lived there. So this got me to thinking... Now that Anna is no longer pushing papers and making phone calls and generally stressing out in the high-powered world of Maritime Law in New York City, she has the opportunity to go home to Newcastle, England for an extended holiday during the slow season here in Mexico. Why not go with her?

So, Anna and I are now planning our Right Jolly Good English Tour 2009 (she hasn't actually had a say in the name of the tour, so don't blame her for that ridiculousness). Basically, since we're both earning dollars and will be spending pounds while we're there (yikes!), we're doing this on a major budget, which means staying with friends instead of staying in hotels. This kind of stuff is totally up my alley (or Allie- see what I did there?).

Everything is still in the initial planning phase, but the idea is to spend 2 weeks (for me, 6 for her) in England going around and seeing things. Here's the tentative plan:

Stay for a few days in London (actually just outside London) with Anna's friend Sinead. Whilst we're there, we're going to take a tour out to Stonehenge because she's never seen it, I've never seen it and it's pretty close to London.

Then it's off on a cheapy cheap flight to Madrid to see the city and stay with Anna's friend Claire (Madrid is technically not England, but just bear with me). Then we'll head up to Barcelona (also not technically England... suspend disbelief and stay with me) and catch another cheapy cheap flight to Newcastle.

From Newcastle we're going to somehow aquire transportation through asking her brother or cousin to drive us around or borrowing her mom's car. We don't want to rent a car in England because they apparently ask for your first born at the car rental place and then they want your arm and/or leg at the gas station (seriously, I think gas is around $10 US a gallon there right now).

With said transportation, we're planning to go to Robin Hoods Bay because it's pretty, then spend some time in Leeds, where Anna went to University, with her friend Stu. From Leeds we intend to take a steam railway and see the Bronte House. We're also considering heading to Edinburgh for a day, since it's close to Newcastle and Anna has a friend there, too. Of course, we're also planning to see lots of Newcastle.

I'm really looking forward to this! I've been to England once, which was just to catch a bus between Gatwick and Heathrow on the way to Northern Ireland where I was visiting a penpal. I've never really seen anything except the highway, so this should be great fun.

This will probably take place in September, so I have about 9 months to save money! In the mean time, still enjoying Mexico and I will be updating the blog with more observations about life here shortly. I promise!

Magnum: Professional Wrestler and Friend

Dec 4, 2008

When I lived in NJ I used to work out with my friend Grant Hansen. He's a great personal trainer and an all around cool guy. He always hosts a cool Christmas party and even owns his own karaoke machine!

Anyway, the other day I got an email announcing an upcoming cage fight between Freak Nasty and Magnum. Grant has always been into professional wrestling- he even knows the plots! So it shouldn't have come as much of a surprise to learn that Grant is now doing his own wrestling as Magnum! If you've never watched much WWF (like I haven't), you might not know that it's sort of like a soap opera- there are story lines that affect the wrestling matches.

Then I got some pictures in my email and he had even more on his Facebook page. I am so impressed with him for doing this that I just gotta share. Check out how fabulous he is as Magnum! I feel so cool to know such a rock star!

Oh- and he won his cage match.... perhaps Freak Nasty will have to come for vengeance or who knows... more will be revealed as the plot thickens!

Yoga Teacher Training Taking Up All My Time!

Nov 19, 2008

Well, I was gently needled by my pal Grant to update this site! Sorry I dropped the ball there for a while, I've been just going with the flow here. Actually, I haven't been doing much of interest here lately just because I've been going to Yoga teacher training twice a week for 4 hours each pop, plus regular yoga classes (we have to take them and write down the order of the postures our teacher leads as a study in Technique). It takes up quite a bit of my time, especially since, for whatever reason, it seems to be gray or cold on Sundays lately, so there goes my beach day. I am learning a lot and I do really dig the classes, but I used to have a nice balance between my personal yoga practice and my life. It seems like now it's more about yoga and less about life!

I also decided that it was time to add a third language to my head, so I've been taking German lessons three times a week. That's just for fun and because I really like languages. So far I've only taken a couple weeks of German, but I can make simple sentences about myself and others. I can even say "I give the glass to you" which involves the fancy use of "dir" instead of "du" for "you." It was between French and German for my third language and, ultimately, I picked German because I didn't want to mess up my Spanish (French and Spanish are very close) and my friend, who is a language teacher, is actually German, so it would be her first language she would be teaching me rather than one she learned. It's been cool. Tonight we're going to Manne's Biergarten for our lesson and I'll be ordering my food from Manne in German! Woot! Looking forward to planning a trip to visit Cat in Berlin!

My parents, sister, brother-in-law and niece are coming to visit next week. They'll be here for a little less than a week. I'm really looking forward to their visit! My sis and bro-in-law will be staying with us and my parents will be staying at the Holiday Inn Express Playacar, which happens to have exceptional handicap accessibile rooms. Mexico can be tough in a wheelchair, but at least my mom can roll into the shower and then plop into bed at the end of the day! She says that the Holiday Inn Express Playacar has better accessibility than some hotels in the states!

Of course, I'll be missing some of my yoga teacher training while they're in town, but it's ok. I'll be able to make it up later. This week we've been studying Patanjali's 8 fold path and memorizing the muscles of the body for a quiz we have on Saturday.

I've also picked up a little bit of work here. I'm designing a brochure for a new development that is being built in Chetumal. There are so many oportunities here and it really does seem like if you have initiative you can make money. For instance, in the US I would never dream of opening a store and being successful. Here it seems like "if you open it, they will come." And of course, there's lots of design work to be done for all these places that are opening.

Other news: We went to see the new James Bond movie the other day. I think the last time I saw a James Bond movie was like 1996 or something and I'm pretty sure it was an old one on TV. Consequently, I didn't know that the new one is actually a sequel to the last one. It essentially didn't have any plot that I could really discern. Just action sequence after explosion sequence after fight scene. Add to it that Daniel Craig is the male version of a Butterface ("...she's cute, but her face...") and, honestly, if his face is going to be so broken, he should spend less time wearing a shirt! Plus, what about that signature line??? It wasn't my favorite movie. Ahh well, Crepúsculo (or Twilight) is coming out soon here.

Speaking of Vampire Addictions, I have discovered Diesel eBooks where I can download and read any book I want without waiting, ahhh, I love push button technology! Thanks to Diesel, I have now read 7 of the 8 books in the Sookie Stackhouse Southern Vampire Series. I can't believe I got so thorougly sucked in to these easy reads, but they're pretty entertaining. They're the books that True Blood is based on. I've also kept up to date on True Blood by watching the episodes online. If you thing Vampire Bill is cute, you should also check out Ny-Lon (New York - London) where he plays a British banker who falls in love with an American girl. He's very cute with his little accent. As Anna would say, Bless.

Majahual, a nice place to visit

Oct 29, 2008

Last week we learned that a funny thing happens when you forget to pay your electricity bill, they cut off your power. Please excuse the lack of posts, we were trying to work from Coffee Cafe, but getting actual work done can be a challenge in a place where your friends are regularly showing up and stopping to chat. The power is back on now, thank goodness.

It had been raining for about 40 days here (I was looking for materials to build an ark), but the sun popped out last Friday, so I thought I should jump on the chance for some holiday time. I decided to head to Majahual with a couple girlfriends for a mini-break (as Bridget Jones would call it).

Majahual is about 3 1/2 or 4 hours south of Playa del Carmen, just at the southern end of the Sian Ka'an Biosphere. The drive is easy and, apart from the topes (speed bumps) that mark small towns that you have to drive through, relatively uneventful. You just go past Tulum and keep going south until you reach a sign that tells you where to turn for Majahual (also written Mahahual) and follow that road. You can't miss it, it's the first beach town you reach along the road.

You may remember Majahual was devastated by Hurricane Dean. They had a cruise ship pier that was lost in the hurricane (the new one opens November 1) and the area has really suffered from lack of tourism. It's just a little too far from the Cancun airport to pick up much American tourism, but they did seem to be picking up a few Europeans (mostly backpacking around or coming up from other Central American destinations).

We stayed at the Maya Luna Eco Hotel which, despite the fact that there's no mention of it on their website, is actually located a couple kilometers from the town of Majahual. The hotel is nice and romantic. We had a beachfront bungalow that had a king size bed and a single bed, with a roof top terrace for $60/night. The best restaurant we ate in was actually at that hotel as well (I highly recommend the pineapple stuffed with shrimp and cashews- yum).

The main reason we wanted to go to Majahual was to see how the diving was down there. We had a friend who used to work in diving in Cozumel who was now working down there, so we made arrangements to dive with him. He rounded up a boat captain and a crew member and picked up some tanks and met us at the hotel.

The reefs are some of the best I have seen in Mexico. We didn't make it out to the Banco Chinchorro (because there wasn't any gasoline in Majahual at the time, so they couldn't fill up enough to take us out to the Banco), but we all agreed that it didn't matter, the reefs were so unspoilt that we had a lovely time just a few minutes out from our hotel!

Majahual is protected by a barrier reef that forms coral fingers, rather than a wall like in Cozumel. There is a profusion of healthy-looking soft corals and small marine life. We didn't see that many fish, but we did see quite a few crabs and lobsters, one turtle and one stingray. Mostly we just enjoyed the beautiful reef (and it'd been quite a long time since I dove in the ocean, so it's nice to relax my brain after so much cave diving). I certainly have a different feeling about ocean diving and safety after cave diving. Ocean diving just seems so much easier!

We spent the afternoon having lunch and a couple drinks in town. The beach is beautiful and I would recommend this location for people who really need to vacation away from other people and love their peace and quiet. There are a couple hotels in town and a couple restaurants, but that's about it. They have a malecon where people can walk along the waterfront that was clearly developed for the cruise ship people.

It's amazing to see the difference between how quickly Cozumel rebuilt after Hurricane Wilma and how slowly Majahual has been able to rebuild after Dean. Just goes to show the level of toursit dollars a place like Cozumel brings in. If Tulum is too busy for you, try Majahual.

Talking American Politics Abroad

Oct 16, 2008

Generally when I go out with friends, I am the only American in the bunch (unless you count that Anna is British, but also American as of this past summer). I like hanging with people from all over, but you're often called upon to answer for what ALL Americans think, did, voted, etc.

Last weekend we went to dinner with a few friends, there were two French Canadians, one Austrian, one Swiss, one Russian and Hans and I. It's pretty interesting to talk to Europeans about their political systems and the problems they have (mainly because I can't recall learning anything about modern European history in college), but you often end up explaining what's happening in the US. I'm no poli-sci major, in fact, news and politics didn't become interesting to me until the last 8 years or so, so I don't know the answers to tough political questions. I can't tell what the political machine was thinking when Bush got elected or we went to war, but I know it feels like a bit of a clusterf*** now.

A couple days later I got trapped talking to an Italian lady at lunch about Americans. She basically let me know that we shouldn't be as arrogant as to think that everyone everywhere should speak English (uh, preaching to the choir, lady, besides we were having said conversation in Spanish), nor should we come to Mexico and buy property and think that we actually should be granted any sort of rights because we own property (I wasn't actually following her logic on that one). Then she went on about how the only hope for the world was if Obama was elected. Strange.

That got me thinking. It seems like everyone I have run into abroad (at least non-Americans) are pretty strongly pro Obama. Today I ran across this website that shows how the world would vote in the US election if they could. I guess that explains it.

American tries to sue God

I just came across this news story on the BBC news website, my main news source (I figure if something important happens in the US, they'll report on it). Apparently this Nebraska senator tried to sue God for all the death and destruction he has caused to the world.


Only in America, folks.

Yoga and more Yoga

Oct 15, 2008

I haven't been partaking in anything extraordinary lately. I've been doing my yoga teacher training, so that takes up quite a bit of time. We go twice a week for 4 hours and are also supposed to do 5 or so yoga classes a week with our teacher so we can experience her teaching techniques. It's really pretty cool. I've been learning a lot about different styles of yoga and what goes in to being a good teacher. There's a very cool spiritual side to yoga that isn't often clearly explained in your regular yoga class- they'll usually say something like "Open your heart" or "Make this a mindful practice" but they don't really go into what they mean. I've enjoyed learning about the ways that other people experience the spiritual side of things.

October has been VERY rainy here. The last three times I made plans to go to the beach it was nasty and rainy all day. I think we had something like 8 rainy days in a row a week or two ago. I would hate for that to be my vacation here. But I see the tourists on the 5th smiling in their ponchos. I guess vacation is more than just sunny weather- they're doing the best with what they've got! It's funny, we never thought twice about coming down in October, but then we were always going on diving vacations and you can dive if it's overcast.

Hans has started some very organized exploration over at the Pit, an extremely deep cenote and cave system a little south of here. He has been working with three other guys to devise a rescue system to haul an unconscious diver out of the cenote (which has a large drop to the water- like 30 or 40 feet). Today he is going out there with a vertical rescue expert to review the pulley and harness system they set up over the weekend. This type of diving is pretty intense. It requires tons of planning, including running drills to practice worse case scenarios. It looks like we'll be in Mexico for another year at least so Hans can complete some goals he has set.

Yesterday I was talking to a girl in my yoga class who is a naturopath and massage therapist. Her husband is in real estate and they have two children. They're able to have a nanny who comes 6 hours a day, 6 days a week. What a major luxury! In the US, people in those fields most likely could not afford a nanny. It's funny to think how hard you have to bust your butt for a nice standard of living in the US. Of course, lots of people bust their butts for a much lower standard of living here- for instance- her nanny has 6 of her own children that she leaves at home. I guess that's the life of a nanny, though.

SNL is really on top of politics this year!

Oct 8, 2008

I haven't watched SNL in quite a long time on account of it not being funny for quite a long time, but the latest political skits have really been great. Here's an awesome one that makes fun of the VP debate. It might be a little old, but I'm only able to watch these things online, so I'm not always up to date.

Diving at Cenote Xunaan-Ha

On Friday we took a day off and went over to Cenote Xunaan-Ha with Anna, Patrick and Katy to do a little cave diving and practice some of our drills from our cave class. I really like Xunaan-Ha for a couple reasons: it's near Chemuyil, so it's a short(ish) drive, the water in the cenote is very clear and doesn't have muck on the surface (like Chac Mool does), the cave is small and bright, and the people that work there are the friendliest cenote caretakers I have met yet.

When we got there the caretaker had just thrown out a handful of ripped up tortillas for the coatis. I had never seen a coati (well, maybe in a zoo or something, but certainly not in the wild). They're in the racoon family and are about the size of a cat, but with a much longer tail. Their noses are flexible and they sort of move out of the way when they put their mouths to the ground. The cenote caretaker told us that they live in a large group and sleep in the trees. She also said they're pretty fierce when they need to defend themselves, and judging by the length of their claws and teeth, I believe her.

Anna and I wanted to do a little more practice with the reels and Anna needed to perfect her backwards fin kick. I needed to do another lost line drill, too. We decided to do a short cave dive with Hans and then practice our skills in the open water. We got suited up and ready just as an ATV tour group pulled up. Luckily, they were just there to swim, not dive, so we just hopped in and went on our dive.

Hans has been looking for the downstream side of the cenote since we discovered Xunaan-Ha. Most cenotes have an upstream and a downstream cave. The upstream cave is usually brighter/cleaner and generally more travelled. The downstream is often darker because rotten leaves and other debris float downstream and color the formations brown. Hans had previously poked his head into what he thought was the downstream cave entrance only to discover that it wasn't. He brought his sidemount gear so that he and Patrick could do a little exploration.

Anna was told that she wouldn't pass her full cave class if she couldn't do a backwards fin kick. Patrick, cave instructor extraordinaire, gave her a lesson on the mechanics of a backwards frog kick on the back of his truck.

Then Anna tried it a little on her own. Sorry Anna, but these photos were just too funny to leave out.

It was a nice dive and Anna and I both accomplished what we were looking to accomplish regarding practicing. I did another lost line drill and found the line this time, although I was wearing Katy's new 7 mm wetsuit, so I was quite a bit more bouyant than I am used to being. If I get a suit like Katy's I'll need to probably wear a little weight. I had trouble being truly negatively bouyant.

Of course, Friday was the first sunny day in like 8 days and we went underground. I am starting to look so pale that I look like a new arrival here! Anna and I are planning to remedy that with an afternoon on the beach tomorrow.

Arráncame la Vida

Oct 1, 2008

Well, this movie was so good I had to go see it twice! Actually, two different friends wanted to go see it, so I saw it once and then saw it again because I wanted to and also because it was actually a little difficult to understand and I wanted a second shot at understanding some of the dialog I missed the first time.

The costumes, architecture and acting are all lovely. They really cast this movie well. I only wish they had shown a few more wide angles of some of the buildings and towns. There was a particularly beautiful scene when they showed a panorama of the beach in Veracruz. I leaned over to my friend who was watching it with me and who is from Veracruz and asked her if that's how the beaches really look in Veracruz and she said, "Yes, 40 years ago."

Now the beach in Veracruz is on my list of places to go before I die! I want to see those beautiful mountains that close to the ocean! Anyone have any recommendations for beaches over there? That might be a nice 2 or 3 week house swap!

The first time I watched it, I thought I was missing things because of the language they were using. See, they never taught me cuss words and other things in school (although I have been learning these things rapidly since living here). But what I really think it was was that there are various scenes where there is a lot of ambient noise, like at a party or concert, and I have trouble understanding people speaking over extra noise. The second time I watched it, I got more of the subtle humor, and I picked up a little more of what people were saying when they were talking in groups and whatnot.

The music was also great! I bet the soundtrack is wonderful. There are lots of old tunes in Spanish that I'm sure are as recognizable to native Spanish speakers as "Let's Misbehave" is for Americans.

I will probably watch this movie for a third time when it comes out on video just so I can see it with subtitles and see if I had missed any other subtleties. I have to say that this movie was harder to understand than some of the other Spanish language movies I have watched in the last few months. Next up is Segundo Aire.

Seriously, I didn't fall off the face of the earth!

Sep 29, 2008

Things have been a little quiet around here lately, but it's because I've been pretty busy both with classes and just getting back into the swing of things around here.

For four of the days last week, I shadowed Anna's full cave diving class as a refresher. It was really great to go over the info again and practice some of the skills. As always, doing additional scuba training always makes me have a healthy respect for the sport, especially at such a technical level.

On Saturday I had my first meeting for my yoga teacher training class. We will be meeting twice a week for theory, history, etc. in addition to meeting regularly (suggested 6 times a week) just to take the regular yoga classes. At the end of three months, provided I do everything we're supposed to do and pass the quizzes, I will have a 200 hour certificate with the Yoga Alliance. I don't think I'm going to do much teaching around here (there are only about 5,237 yoga teachers in Playa del Carmen), but I am interested in using my certification when I get back to the States to teach yoga in Spanish. Then again, you never know and I am open to whichever direction life takes me.

In the meantime, I'm just sitting here biting my nails while I watch the American economy spiral downwards out of control. It's a little disconcerting, especially considering our jobs rely on the American economy to be healthy so people are spending their marketing dollars. Who knows, maybe that yoga certification will come in handy in more ways than one! ;)

I recently met a couple of new Mexican friends. I'm always on the lookout for friends who speak Spanish. I went to a BBQ with my German friend Angelika and some of her friends. It was a lot of fun to hang out talking about movies and music and general stuff. Everyone there was between 27 and 34, so it was kind of cool to see the differences between cultures for people of the same generation. For instance, the Mexicans and I knew of Menudo, but the Germans didn't. Everyone but me knew of Take That, I can't think of a single song of theirs that I remember.

Tonight I am going with my Spanish teacher to see Arráncame la Vida. I have heard great things about it. I love historical movies and it's been said that this was the most expensive movie that has been made in Mexico. I haven't spoken to anyone who didn't like it yet. I only wish I had time to read the book before I saw it, but I don't want to miss it on the big screen.

Music in Spanish that I reallly like

Sep 18, 2008

A few weeks ago (yes, I've been that delinquent in blogging), Fned wrote a post on the French music that she likes and she posted the videos in her blog. I loved that idea! I've been a fan (hubby would say addicted) of music in Spanish for some time now. It's a great pass time for practicing my translation skill, and besides, I just liked the sound of some of these songs even before I knew what they were singing about. Here are some of my favorites (thanks for the idea Fned)!

La Vecina by Los Amigos Invisibles
This isn't the official video, I couldn't find it, but it has good enough audio quality. This is a Venezuelan band that now lives in NYC. I didn't get a chance to see them before I left, but I own the album this is off of and it's ALL good.

Lo que pidas by Julieta Venegas
Ok, I know JV is like a Mexican Madonna in terms of popularity, so I don't expect this one to surprise anyone. I just love this song, and it's good practice for listening to subjunctive tense constructions.

De amor y de casualidad by Jorge Drexler
This song is just so sweet. Imagine your dad writing you a song about where you came from. Just so sweet. A mix of love and chance. This is also not the official video, couldn't find it.

Me Gustaria by Javier Garcia
I love this song. This whole album is also good, by they way. I never imagined it having anything to do with a murderous stripper, but you know, I guess I have a naive way of looking at things...

Agua by Jarabe de Palo
Of course, this is another one that probably everyone knows, but I love Jarabe de Palo. This album was one of the first that I bought when I got into music in Spanish. Such a nice song.

I think 5 is enough for today. What are your favorite Spanish songs?

File Under: More Problems I Never Imagined

Sep 17, 2008

A few weeks ago I had a terrifying experience. I was sitting on my deck in the morning, reading a vampire book, when I felt this strange creepy crawly, tickling sensation on my right elbow. I looked down and it was completely covered with these little white bugs, about the size of half (or even a quarter?) of a sesame seed. They were football shaped and there had to be hundreds of them on my arm. They weren't biting me, but they grossed me out immediately, so I freaked out and brushed them off my arm.

The next day, during the morning, I was sitting on my couch reading a vampire book (you see a theme here?) when the same thing happened. Same arm, same bugs.

The next day I was sitting at my desk reading the news in the morning when the same freaking thing happened, same arm, same bugs.

I started to think that I had scabies or something revolting (which was interesting because it wasn't affecting my husband whom I share a bed with). They weren't biting me and I couldn't see them anywhere else except on my arm. As soon as I brushed them off, they were gone!

I searched online and the closest thing I could find to it was some sort of disorder where people imagine there are bugs on them. Great. So I was either infested with some nasty, minuscule bugs or I was crazy.

The next time it happened, I called my husband over to witness it for himself. He saw the bugs, too, which meant (possibly) that I wasn't crazy and that this was happening. But why was it only happening to me and always on my right elbow and always in the morning?

Well. Flash forward to when I got back from Jersey (where I was magically cured of this weird phenomenon) and I went to pick up Chico from the kennel. The guy who runs the kennel told me that they had had to throw out Chico's food because it was infested with these weird white bugs.

A ha! It turns out that I am the one who most regularly feeds Chico, particularly in the morning since I'm an early riser. Every morning I would stick my arm into dog food bag (Beneful, if you want to avoid this happening to you) up to about my elbow and scoop out a cup of the stuff for Chico. Ew. In that 1 second, about 1000 nasty little bugs were crawling from the bag to my arm.

I don't even want to know how many of them Chico ate. Ugh. I see a trip to the vet and a poop review in his future.

File this under problems I never thought I would have before I moved to Mexico. I guess it's something about the nice warm weather that lets bugs breed like crazy. I had heard it before, but I never really took it to heart. I guess I have to second the opinion of many of my fellow Expat bloggers- if you don't like bugs, don't move to Mexico!

No, I didn't fall off the face of the Earth

Sep 16, 2008

I had to go back to the US for a wedding, and as is usual for me, when I travel I like to forget about computers and just travel. I guess it has something to do with working on a computer all the time. It always takes a few days for me to adjust to being back in the swing of things when I get home and then I just don't feel like blogging for whatever reason. But I'm back now and I have lots of things to share!

We went back to NJ for a wedding, which happened to be the most extravagant wedding I have ever been to (and this is counting a wedding I went to for the daughter of a mayor in Jersey that was pretty over the top). The couple got married in St. Ann's Catholic Church in Hoboken, the same church that Sinatra and his family (and la famiglia- if you know what I mean) attended.

The reception had a cocktail hour followed by a three course meal. The cocktail hour alone had probably three times the amount of food that Hans and I had at our entire wedding. Everything came off perfectly and the bride and groom ended up married (which means it was a success in my book). They headed off the next day for a two week honeymoon in South Africa.

The maid of honor said the nicest toast at the reception, the main part of which I hope to be able to use myself someday (if I ever find myself in the position of matron of honor again). She said, "May your marriage be modern enough to survive these times and old fashioned enough to last forever." Aw.

But I'm back in Mexico now, gracias a dios. I really enjoyed this last trip to the states, which might be proof that I have finally gotten a breather from some of the things that bothered me about the US and am once again able to enjoy the efficiency and ease of life there, or maybe I just knew I'd be back in Mexico in a few days.

Either way, it was hard to leave. I truly enjoyed hanging out with Liza, even just hanging in her house or taking her doll of a son, William, to the park. I had a ball hiking with Liza and Sean and talking all things gossip (rest assured that we covered it all, politics, religion and celebrity news, with a little bit of our own stuff thrown in there). I went to lunch with Sean and a bunch of very smart women and we discussed our takes on the GOPs' choice of Sarah Palin and our reaction to her speech and the convention. It's interesting to hear educated people voice their well-thought-out opinions on these things, even if I don't agree with them. I miss those Saturday afternoon lunches with honest friends. But, I know that that is always waiting for me when I go back the NJ and that these people are only a phone call away.

Somehow, when I touched down in Mexico, my heart sighed and, even though it was hard to leave NJ, I felt like I was home again. I don't know if it will be my forever home, but it's my "right now" home and that feels good.

In other, less gooshy, sentimental news, I'm addicted to these Vampire books by Stephenie Meyer. Seriously. It's like they're my drug and I'm not kidding! When I was in NC a few weeks ago I was at a book store with my mom and she was recommending books to me. I told her that I refused to read anything that wasn't in Spanish because I had made a pact with myself regarding improving my fluency and reading in English was out. The lady behind the counter happened to hear me and told me she had accidently ordered the third book of the four book series in Spanish and would never be able to sell it. She made a deal with me that she would give me the book in Spanish if I would buy the first of the series in English. I let her twist my arm and bought the first one.

"You might want to buy the second one, too," she said, casually.

I thought about it, but I knew I had to go back to the states in 10 days for another wedding, so I figured I'd just pick it up when I got back, if I really wanted it.

Bad idea.

I read the first book in two days, which left me scratching my arms and tapping at my veins for the second one! I had to get my fix in the Houston Airport as soon as our flight touched down. I bought the second and the fourth right away, I wasn't going to make the same mistake twice.

Anyway, I read the second book on the airplane and during my stay in NJ and finished it. I started on the third, this time reading in Spanish, which was good because it slows me down a little. Now I'm on to the fourth and I only have a couple hundred pages to go.

If you haven't already read them, I highly, highly recommend Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn. They're written for teenagers and they're NY Times Bestsellers, so they're super easy to read, but the stories are really compelling. And, they're good for teens and preteens because there's no sex, well it's alluded to, but only after marriage, so it sends a wholesome vampire message. The author is Mormon, so I guess that's to be expected. I'm not usually a beach read type of person and I LOVED these beach reads. Twilight the movie comes out this fall- woo hoo!

I'll be getting back to my regular train of thought and posting on life in Mexico shortly (only 200 pages till I'm free of my addiction). Happy Mexican Independence Day!

The best cure for hot weather

Aug 30, 2008

While I was in NC, we walked from the mountain cabin over to Kilwin's in downtown Blowing Rock for a little ice cream. My niece takes after me, with my chocolate obsession. I tend to get a little more of the ice cream in my mouth and less on my face, though, but only a little.

Gael García Bernal (otherwise known as "El Guapo") in a New Film

Aug 29, 2008

I have a slight obsession with Gael García Bernal. When I lived in the US and had NetFlix, I watched all the films they offered with him in the cast. There's something about him that is just super-sexy. Plus, he's a really good actor, and, like Johnny Depp, he tends to select films that have a greater message or challenge him as an actor. He's also a pretty outspoken liberal here in Mexico. All of this adds up to YUM in my book. If you're not on board yet, just take a look at him in Pedro Almodovar's Mala Educación, he's a serious taco de ojo in that one, just disregard the parts where he's playing a transvestite.

Anyway. Since I have this obsession and all, I knew that he was slated to appear in a new film that he's directing called Déficit. Yesterday I looked at the listings for the local theaters, because we've been waiting and waiting to see Tropic Thunder, and there it was! Déficit is playing starting tonight (so is Tropic Thunder).

I definitely want to go see this one! It's been a while since I saw a movie in the theater in Spanish without subtitles, and that experience was pretty good. From looking at the trailer, I think I'll be alright. Sometimes the slang gets lost on me and sometimes the jokes go over my head, but I usually get enough to enjoy the movie and understand what's happening. That is, if I can concentrate on what he's saying! mmmm.

I'm really looking forward to this film because it's also supposed to be about class differences in Mexico. I learned a lot about Mexico from watching some of his other films, like Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También. The second one, in particular, touches on the differences in class in Mexico and life in Mexico City.

But mostly, I just like movies with El Guapo in them. By the way, he's done a couple in English and he even played an American in The King, which wasn't that good of a movie, but it was interesting to hear his accent being near perfect. There was something about his cadence that wasn't exactly right, but very, very close. Much closer than Antonio Banderas could ever hope to come. I was pretty impressed with the fact that they didn't change the script to allow for his accent like they did in 10 Things I Hate About You, where they had to qualify that Heath Ledger's character had lived in Australia to account for his inability to master the American accent at that time. Anyway, I digress.

I highly recommend you check out Gael García Bernal if you haven't already, but I will warn you that his movies aren't for children and can deal with difficult or controversial topics.

I've been interviewed!

Aug 28, 2008

I was interviewed for my perspective on moving to Mexico at a young age and as a non-retiree over at Mexico Real Estate Investment. If you've been following my blog, you probably already know more about me than you want to know, but if you just can't get enough, you can read the interview here.

Mmmmmm is for Makkeroni

One of the things I love about living in Playa del Carmen is that lots of Italian people live here, too. No, I don't speak Italian, but I do love to hear them sing/shout at each other and pick out what similarities Italian and Spanish have, but it's more than that. It's the food. Mmmmm, the yummy Italian food.

I guess my love of Italian food started when I worked at the best Italian restaurant in Charlotte, Mama Ricottas. Before I worked there I wasn't a big fan of Italian. I wasn't a big cheese person and I didn't really like pasta. I think it's because I only knew spaghetti and meat sauce like I was served at home and at friends' houses. I had never known the joys of pesto sauce or tomato cream.

I further expanded my Italian food horizons when I lived in northern NJ. In New Jersey they have developed their own twist on Italian food, as well as their own dialect for talking about it. The dialect was always most amusing to me. Having talked to Italians from Italy about how they pronounce Italian words, Jersey's Mutzarel for Mozarella and Managot for Manacotti made me smile even more. I soon caught on and started saying Lasan for Lasagne and Canole for Cannoli, apparently these are not the same... Warning- never try to tell a Jersian that they don't pronounce it right, they would even try to correct an Italian!

Anyway, in Jersey I enjoyed garlic knos (that's Jersian for garlic knots- see what I did there? Man, am I funny) and fresh mozzarella as well as crusty Italian breads. I also learned about grilled calamari (they call it calamat there) over mixed greens, mmm to die for.

I guess that people the world over love Italian food. I remember reading somewhere that it was the most popular ethnic food in the world. So it should come as no surprise that I was happy to find great Italian food in Mexico, go figure!

There are several good Italian places to eat in here, Makkeroni just happens to be close to our house and we really enjoy eating there weekly. We like eating there so much that I finally reviewed it for Playa Eats, where I write reviews of restaurants in Playa del Carmen.

One thing is for sure, Italian food travels. Maybe it's because one of Italy's biggest exports over the last 100 years has been its people. I have seen Italian restaurants in almost every country I have visited. Do you have a favorite Italian restaurant in Playa?

As Seen in the Houston Airport

Can you believe they now have iPod vending machines?

Anna's Moving to Mexico!!!

Aug 27, 2008

I don't know if any of you have been following the blog of my dear friend Anna. She is leaving tomorrow to embark on a tour of the Americas with her Dad, ultimate destination being Cozumel.

I have known Anna for 5 or 6 years now and we are truly kindred spirits. I met her on a dive trip to Cayman Brac in 2003 and she was incredibly easy to talk to and laugh with (something I'm always looking for in a girlfriend). Over the last few years, we really became closer friends. We have a lot in common. We both like working out and eating healthy, keeping up with celebrity gossip, traveling, scuba diving, a nice glass (or three) of good wine, visiting the occasional psychic, live music, sexy Uruguayan men, and, of course, Mexico.

Anna has worked on the side as a dive instructor for the last few years and she always dreamed about leaving her stressful, high-powered job in Manhattan and living an island life (like so many Americans who are chained to their desks). She didn't want to leave the US, though, until she got her American citizenship. As of this summer, she is both American and English, so now's the time for her to head out and get her third passport, or should I say pasaporte.

Anna's last day of work has passed, her apartment has been packed away, her dad has arrived from England to accompany her on the drive. Tomorrow Anna sets out to explore her new life South of the Border. I am so excited for her! Although, I must admit that some of my excitement is selfish- I can't wait to have a good, old friend living just a 35 minute ferry ride away.

Best wishes, Anna, on your drive! I hope you have a safe trip and I can't wait to see you down Mexico way!

Fire Dancers at Coffee Cafe

I spend all together too much time over at Coffee Cafe. ;) It's a great spot for hanging out with friends, taking Spanish lessons, doing business meetings casually, and soaking up some cool music and great food and drinks (not to mention their air conditioning)!

A couple weeks ago we happened to be there on a Friday night and we got to see the Fire Dancers perform. They do a show on Friday and Sunday nights. I snapped a couple shots of them using my little point-n-shoot camera on the no Flash setting. I can't imagine how much cooler these shots could have been with a more hard core camera and a better lens!

Back Home Safe in Mexico

Aug 26, 2008

I just got back from a really nice trip to visit family in North Carolina. I love going back to NC! I guess it has to do with not having lived there in the last 8 years, but I love the people, I love the weather, I love how clean the cities are. I promised pictures, so here are some of them!

This time the whole family gathered to celebrate my cousin Lee's wedding. We had a great time and Lee and Jennifer got married without a hitch. The rehearsal dinner and reception had a decidedly Southern theme, with delicious southern/soul food. They got married in Salisbury, NC, one of the main cities in the Confederacy, so there was plenty of history and beautiful architecture. Plus, Salisbury is the home of Cheerwine Cherry Soda (a regional favorite), so they served Cheerwine, Diet Cheerwine, and various Scuppernong and muscadine wines along with sweet tea at the rehearsal dinner.

I got to spend time with my favorite niece, Lexie. She was a flower girl in the wedding and was exceptionally excited that the other flower girl would be her cousin when Lee and Jennifer were finally married.

We spent the afternoon at a very cool park in Salisbury that had a carousel, a train, a petting zoo and a playground (and more things that we didn't even see or do)! Of course, Lexie had to ride her favorite (the carousel) and she got to ride the train with Daddy Mack, her grandpa.

I got some time to hang out with my sister and do a self-led tour of Salisbury. We discovered a few funny signs around town. My mom was mad we didn't take any pictures of the old mansions, but I waged that you've seen a big mansion. I'm not sure you've seen a sign like this one we found on a house that was evidently being restored to it's glory from it's former use... Can you guess what it was?

And this is not the store you shop in when you want to look fantastic, just when you want to look "not bald."

One of the things I like the most about weddings is getting to dance with my dad! I was an avid swing dancer around 2000-2003, and my dad even took swing lessons. But our love of dancing goes back further than that, my dad used to love to Shag Dance in the 60's and he taught me and my sister. It's a form of swing that was developed at the NC and SC beaches in the 50's and 60's, but was really big in the 60's. Any southern wedding plays plenty of shag songs, since pretty much anyone from the south who is a baby boomer knows how to dance to it. We had to dance to 'My Girl' by the Temptations when they played it, since it was the song we danced to at my wedding.

We also enjoyed watching all the kids dance together!

After the wedding, we all headed up to Blowing Rock, NC, where my parents have a vacation home that they had recently redone. They basically tore it down to the foundation and started again, so it doesn't look anything like the old cabin! The new and improved cabin is now 100% handicap accessible, and much better than their first attempt at converting a traditional home to a universal one. They will most likely be selling their Charlotte home in the future and living in Blowing Rock full time.

I had forgotten how beautiful the NC mountain are! I hadn't been there in God knows how long, and it was great to see some familiar places as well as the changes that had happened since I was in college there. I snapped some pictures of the mountains to show Hans, who commented that they looked just like the photos we snapped of Veracruz, minus the orange orchards!

I'm back safe and sound. I really enjoyed my week of semi-retirement (I say semi because I knew I had to come back to work). My parents offered for us to stay at their mountain house next summer, an offer which is more and more appealing the more I sweat in the heat and humidity here. Two months in the NC mountains sounds like a nice way to spend the summer if you can have beach any time you want it all year round.

Heading North

Aug 14, 2008

I'm off today to go back to NC for 8 days. I'll be going to my cousin's wedding and then spending some time in the NC mountains at my parents' vacation house. Looking forward to some cool weather, I've been melting here. I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures!

Customized Blog Templates

Aug 13, 2008

I actually like playing around in WordPress and Blogger and taking a template from something that's stock to something that's custom. I've done it for a few blogs for myself, but recently I did it for hire!

Check out what I've done for hire:
Kyle Hepp Photography: Photography in Chile

Check out what I've done for myself:
This blog, you're lookin' at it
Playa Eats: Food Reviews in Playa del Carmen

Of course, I also like to do web design in other content management systems as well.
Here's some work I've done in Playa in ModX:
Playa Resale: Consignment Store and Storage

If you're interested in hiring me to help with a new look for your blog, email me at mexpatlife(at)gmail.com!

Playa Eats: My Latest Endeavor

Aug 8, 2008

I started a new blog about a month ago with Hans and Solomon to review restaurants in Playa del Carmen. We review the places where we eat, which isn't necessarily anywhere tourists would eat, but we like 'em. That's not to say that if we eat at La Parilla or Carlos n' Charlies that we won't review them, it's just to say that we've lived here some time now and haven't felt the urge to go to those places.

Solomon is a real "off the beaten track" guy when it comes to food, so many of his reviews will be of nameless restaurants, taco carts, changarros and more. He's not afraid to wander way up into the Colosio (a neighborhood north of Playa where there aren't many gringos, if any) to get food. Expect his reviews to include directions based more on landmarks, as many of his favorite haunts aren't clearly marked, or their cross streets aren't clearly marked (in Mexico.... imagine!).

Hans and I still occasionally eat on or around 5th or 10th Aves. I intend to post as many reviews that are accessible for tourists as I can. Part of that is motivated by wanting to know where to take family and friends when they visit, and the other part is just wanting to help people eat well when they don't want to stray out into the rest of Playa (or they can't speak Spanish).

Check it out, and if you know of a restaurant that we should visit, let us know!

A Beachy Weekend

Aug 4, 2008

I try to go to the beach at least one day a week here, after all, if I'm not going to the beach, then why do I live here? This weekend I went twice.

On Saturday I went with Hans and Solomon and our dogs to a little beach south of Puerto Morelos. It's not the nicest of beaches, but we can take our dogs on it and it's closer than Tulum, so it was a winner. It's a rocky beach, so we didn't do much swimming.

The boys (all 4 of them) investigate a Trigger Fish that was swimming in the shallows. We weren't sure if he was stuck. He kept swimming in close. Ultimately, we decided that he was just swimming close to shore.

On Sunday I joined my friend Simone and her 2 year old son, Kay (pronounced Kai) at the beach in Puerto Aventuras. I had never been to that beach, so I didn't know what to expect. Boy, was it nice! It's a lagoon, so there are no waves and the sand is powdery. It's the perfect place to take children.

It's impossible to say 'no' to this little guy. He is so cute.

It's almost like the baby pool! The water gets deeper very gradually and there are no waves. You can see schools of little fishies. Kay was able to just walk into the ocean whenever he wanted because he was wearing the water wings and we were sitting right there watching him. This little guy is not afraid of the water at all.

Sometimes we short people have to take photos to prove we're taller than someone else. See, I am just towering over this kid! LOL.

The Quest for a Great Class

Aug 2, 2008

I love taking classes, mostly dance or yoga, but I'm open to others. Since I've been here, where I can walk to most everything that interests me, I've taken several different classes. Some of them I went back to and some of them were, well, weird. Here's a quick review of the classes I've taken and what I thought:

Yoga at The Gym: These classes are awesome. I try to get there 5 days a week. They have classes every day at 8 am, on M-W-F they also have classes at 10 am and 6pm. On T-TH they also have classes at 7 am and 8 pm. There are two teachers, Ellen and Cindy. They both have different styles that compliment each other. Ellen teaches hardcore yoga, a mix of vinyasa and power yoga that kicks your butt. Cindy teaches vinyasa flow that is mellow and helps me recover from kicking my own butt in Ellen's classes!

Yoga/Meditation at Jardin de los Aluxes: This class is held in a beautiful palapa structure in a lush garden on 36th street, just past La Cueva del Chango restaurant. I went hoping for a really hard class, it ended up being a sort of strange mix of meditation techniques. The only actual yoga pose we did was corpse pose, but we did have to dance for 13 minutes and whistle along to a song. The whole time I was trying to keep an open mind and not judge the process until I could see how I felt afterwards. I'm not sure if the classes are always like that (although he did say that the group there had been doing the same class for the last 30 days as some sort of quest for child-like happiness, or something). I left feeling ok, but ultimately I was looking for a physically challenging yoga class, so I didn't go back.

Buddhist Meditation with Diamond Way: I used to do Zen meditation once a week with a group when I lived in NJ, so when I saw that there were meditation classes, or sessions, here, I thought I'd give it a shot. Diamond Way is different than Zen Buddhism in that they chant to Karmapa Chenu, one of their disciples or something. I was used to completely silent meditation, so I found the chanting a little weird and it sort of felt like idol worship to me. I figure I can do silent meditations on my own, so I didn't got back there, either.

Center 8 at Center 8 Studio: This awesome class kicked my butt. Seriously kicked it. I took it on Saturday morning and I'm still super sore two days later! The class started with lots of hip hop dance movements to get us warm, then we did a ton of lunges, arm weights, abs and a little visualization/meditation at the end. This is by far the hardest group class I've taken in years. I will definitely be going back. One of the coolest parts about this class was meeting some longtime Playenses, women who have lived here for 5-10 years or so. Several of them had kids, so it was cool to meet people who have roots set here, rather than just people young people who are here just having some fun.

Salsa Lessons at La Zebra in Tulum: This is by far my favorite place to Salsa dance around here, mostly because the dancing starts by about 8, so I can dance and still get some sleep. The places in Playa often don't start until 11:30, so it's gonna be a long night. I found the instruction here to be excellent and easy to follow along with. The band was great, and dancing right on the beach can't be beat. Plus, they have the best mojitos in the Riviera Maya. They have a sugar cane crusher right on the bar!

Change is in the Air

Aug 1, 2008

Our formerly orange building will now be known as the white and red building. There are lots of changes happening here. Our property manager is a real mover and shaker. The owner of our condo contacted us and asked us to give 1/2 our rent to the property manager this month so he can buy some sun beds, hammocks and chairs for the court yard. We've already gotten a new palapa roof over the seating area by the pool (you can see it in the bottom left corner). Now we're getting even more of a facelift with the paint. Soon I'll be living in "that posh building with the pool" instead of the "sort of sad-looking sponge-painted building with the pool." I have to say, I'll miss the orange since it was, at least, different from the rest of the buildings around.