Heading to the Great White North

Apr 28, 2008

We're going back to Jersey for a week. As you can see, it's not exactly white right now (looks like it'll be more wet and gray) but it's definitely gonna be freezing! I haven't seen 50 degree weather (much less a HIGH of ONLY 55) since 2007! lol

But seriously, I feel like I have no idea how to bring the right clothes for this. I generally wore long underwear under my clothes from October to April and I'm not sure where my long underwear is now... I don't even know if I brought it! And I have sweaters that I brought, but it's hard for me to conceive of how cold it will be (or how not cold). All I know is that the most miserable I have been in my life was when I had to commute outside every day to work in Manhattan. Life improved substantially the first winter that I could decide to brave the weather outside or not!

Anyway- aside from the weather worries, I'm looking forward to seeing friends and have a couple dinner commitments already planned! I'm also looking forward to Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods and general clothes shopping. Woo Hoo!

To be completely off topic, we went to see "There Will Be Blood" the other day. Wow, what a weird movie, and so bloody! What's up with the Oscar winning movies this year being so strange and violent? Is that a comment on something we're going through as a country? Totally strange.

Public Service Announcements and other Ads

Apr 25, 2008

I really haven't felt like working today, so I spent some time reading and napping and thinking about how I really have to work, maybe Sunday... then I decided to watch a little television. I've never really sat around and watched daytime television in Mexico before. I mean, sure, I've been sick on the weekend and stayed in and watched tv, but for whatever reason, I've never watched daytime tv during the week.

In the past I've noticed that the commercials here are very much like the commercials in the states, but what I noticed today was that they can be really different.

For instance, I watched one commercial about how some bottled water company had brought 2 million liters of water to children in impoverished areas of Mexico where they don't have access to clean drinking water.

The next commercial was of a little girl playing with these giant parasites. She was having fun on a swing and drinking water out of a hose with them. It was an ad for a medicine that you can take to eliminate parasites.

The next commercial was various shots of people in Mexico interacting, buying things from each other, helping each other out, etc. The last part of the commercial talked about how if we work together and appreciate our diversity, together we grow and our democracy grows. A public service announcement against racism.

But it's not just on TV. One of the things that I think is so cool about living in a country that is still improving the basic standard of life for it's people is that they have tangible goals that politicians set and accomplish. Paving roads is a big one.

During the time that Cancun was electing their municipal president (like a mayor) they had all these billboards on the way to the airport from Playa that said stuff like "I promise to fix and pave your roads. All of them!"

A couple weeks ago we inaugurated our new municipal president, but before we did that, there was an assembly in the main park to talk about what had been accomplished in Playa with the last president. It was stuff like increasing the amount of green spaces and improving roads.

I guess it's not a huge thing, but it's one of the small differences I see between here and the US. At home the major topic around election time is taxes. Imagine how different life would be if the US had more tangible things to focus on like bringing water to impoverished areas and paving roads!

Agua, Por Fa'!

Apr 23, 2008

This morning I got up and went to the gym for my kick ass yoga class followed by a little running on the treadmill (caminadora in Spanish, if you need to know). My yoga class is hard and it's sweaty. She usually turns off the AC and fans and just opens the door to the garden and let's us sweat. So usually I just sweat like crazy and then hop on my bike and ride home and shower at home.

Today I got home, hopped in the shower and watched as the last little bit of water trickled out. Turns out that there are six units in our building and 4 of them are behind in their maintenance payments so our water got shut off. Of course, we're up to date and one of the units is vacant, so that means that we're the only ones who have paid. Awesome.

The building manager says the water *should* be back on by 4, but I'm not holding my breath. I think I'll be heading back to the gym to shower in a little while. File this under: More Problems I Never Imagined.

Cheezburger Time!

Apr 21, 2008

Ok- I just spent too much time over at the I Can Haz Cheezburger site on Mexico Way's recommendation. They have some seriously funny shiz-nit over there. Here's a sample:

Humorous Pictures

Humorous Pictures

Humorous Pictures

humorous pictures

Back in Action...

I didn't mean to be MIA, but we had basically two weeks of visitors! We had a nice visit from Paul (a diving buddy from Jersey) who came down to stay with us and dive some caves. He got certified to cave dive last November here in Playa, but he hadn't had an opportunity to do any cave diving without having to do skills and drills and pass a test at the end, so this trip was really just about having fun.

Unfortunately, I developed a cold just as he got here. I tried to go diving with Hans and Paul on the first day and couldn't descend past about 10 feet due to a sinus block (the air couldn't move around in my sinuses, so it created pressure in my sinus that felt like someone stabbing me with a screwdriver in my forehead. ouch).So I sat on the surface and listened to the birds and watched the ants move along a branch of the tree above me while they dove at Chac Mool Cenote.

I tried again a couple days later and had the same problem, so this time I hung out at Cenote Cristal and Carwash. Not fun when you really want to be diving. (Although I did learn some more Spanish by listening to a local family that came by to swim talking to each other).

Then, just as soon as Paul left, our friend Anna came over from Cozumel where she had been leading a trip from our dive shop back home. She had had to certify people and whatnot, so it wasn't truly a vacation for her, her vacation started after her students left. We hung out for a couple days in Playa going to the beach and asking people in the dive industry about what they know regarding visas to work and what the likely pay rate is.

Then I headed to Cozumel with Anna to enjoy some nice reef diving and general hanging out on Coz. We stayed at the Village Tankah, which was wonderful as usual. We had the Tree room which is on the top floor and is just screened in with a palapa roof. Really nice.

The currents were a little crazy on Coz the first day we dove. We hopped in at Palancar Caves (a personal favorite dive site) and the current was running south, which is opposite of how it normally runs. So we got blown down to Punta Sur and got to do the Devil's Throat (a deep swim through that goes straight down, like a throat). The next dive was just nuts! I'm not even sure where we went, I think it was Palancar Gardens, but the current was running left and right and up and down and forwards and backwards. At one point I got caught in an up-current and got thrown into the reef and then up and over it. It was the first time that I've ever dove in Cozumel and been witness to how strong the currents can be!

So after that non-relaxing day of diving we went to dinner to celebrate Miguel's birthday (he's officially a viejo -old man- now). You may remember Miguel as my model buddy. The next day the diving was back to normal and we had two nice dives with regular strength currents.

It was really great to catch up with Anna and talk about plans for the future and what we want out of life. I think we're kindred spirits in terms of the types of things we value and also our need to escape from the US right now! :)

Back to life as normal. I've made a commitment to get to yoga 6 days this week and I'd like to hit it 6 days next week because after that we're going back to Jersey for a week (which means, we'll be eating all the foods we miss here). My yoga teacher is offering a yoga teacher training session that starts in September. I'm about 95% sure that I'm going to take it. I've looked into teaching yoga about 5 times in the last 10 years and I never had the time to dedicate to it in the states.

File Under: Problems I Never Imagined

Apr 14, 2008

We live in Mexico and we like to cave dive. That means that we take our SUV into the jungle regularly and leave it parked there for a couple hours while we dive in the caves. When we get back from diving, we put all our wet gear into the back of the truck and go home. To accommodate the wet stuff, we removed the back portion of carpet and replaced it with those sort of honeycomb shaped restaurant floor mats, so the water can run through and out the back.

Earlier in the week I got in the car to go to the bank and noticed that there was a line of small ants busily crossing the dashboard. They're the small, fast kind of ant (luckily they're not fire ants or really big enough to bite). I know that ants come after water and there's not much we can do about not having water in the truck and still diving, you know?

When Hans got home later that day I showed him the ant trail. We had some ant powder in the house, so we got it out and determined that the ants were living under the carpet by the driver's side. There's a hole in the carpet with a grommet and they seemed to be coming in and out of that, so we poured the ant powder in the hole and on the shifter and a couple other key places that were on their path.

The next morning we woke up and there was a trail of ants moving across the dashboard, but this time they were all carrying eggs. Moving time! I guess someone fouled up their previous hole. We poured some more powder along their path in hopes that they'd track the powder with them wherever they were moving (which appeared to be inside the passenger side door).

As of the last couple days, there appear to me no more ants. I don't know if this will last or if the babies will hatch and we'll have a new batch of ants to deal with. But for now, no ants...

We asked around to our cave diving buddies and apparently ants are a pretty normal infestation for cars that go into the jungle a lot. One of our friends had a proper ant hill under her seat and had to have her car professionally fumigated! Some other friends finally rented a detached garage to store their scuba gear in after bringing home more than they wanted to from the jungle. ew.

Another Great Article about Integrated Schools

Apr 7, 2008

My mom forwarded me another great article on Charlotte Viewpoint about the history of integration in the schools in my hometown. My mom also pointed out that the author of the article has her son enrolled in a high poverty, predominantly black school in Charlotte, so she's actually walking the walk. It really makes me sad that the schools I went to are so very different. For more on that, see this rant.

Feeling Better

I'm back at it again! One of the things I like about living in a place where produce is so cheap is that when you're feeling like you're getting a cold you can pick up a bag of oranges and juice them. We have a nifty electric orange juicer, so I had three glasses of fresh-squeezed OJ on Saturday and by Sunday I was starting to feel better. I napped for a while on Sunday again and then headed out to the beach and proceeded to get burnt. (And also miss my family because we always go to the beach in the summer and I went to the beach by myself yesterday, which is sorta lonely... more on that later).

After I got burnt I watched The Golden Compass online, which was pretty good. Actually, better than I thought it would be. It was either watch that or go see The Spiderwick Chronicles dubbed into Spanish (I'm saving Eastern Promises because Hans wants to see it and he was diving yesterday).

Anyway, while I was watching The Golden Compass, this add came up behind the movie. Look at that girl's face... wtf? I guess it's an ad for Shell Oil? I don't know because I didn't click on the link, and I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to read the ad anyway...

Feeling Under the Weather

Apr 5, 2008

I've been feeling a little sick the last two days.

Today I dropped Hans and Patrick off at the ferry for Cozumel because they were going deep diving with a couple of clients from Protec who had brought Megalodon rebreathers, too, so they were all excited about it.

They had to catch the 8am ferry. After I dropped them off, I came home and lay on the couch (I already had a headache) and slept until 11:30 or so! The last couple days I've also had a sore throat. I chose not to go to yoga on Friday night or this morning (besides, that's probably where I got this bug- either yoga or the treadmill). By noon I was feeling pretty bad. I took my temperature and I had a mild fever- like 99.2- so nothing to be overly worried about, but probably where my headache was coming from.

Anyway, just not feeling great lately. I'm sure it's just a little bug and it'll be gone in a couple days, but for today I'm going to lay on the couch and watch tv.

You can take the American out of America, but you can't take America out of the American

Apr 2, 2008

Yesterday we had our cleaning lady come for the first time. When we lived in the states we had a cleaning lady that came once every other week (and cost three times as much as our twice-a-week cleaning lady here). She was awesome and cleaned the house REALLY clean in three hours. She was systematic and FAST and had lots of houses that she cleaned per week. With her income she was building a 2 story, 6 bedroom house in Colombia for her family.

Yesterday our cleaning lady showed up at 8AM and wasn't done until 1PM. That's five hours, folks, on a 1000 sqft apartment. Neither of us was really sure what she was doing the whole time, but the apartment is clean and smells clean. It just took her forever.

When she got here she was wearing a skirt and blouse, she changed into her cleaning clothes and then before she left again she changed back. She attends night classes, so I guess she was going straight there, which leads me to the title of this post...

Our cleaning lady charges a flat rate. In the states our cleaning lady charged an hourly rate (which happens to be our lady here's flat rate), so if she stayed 4 hours we paid extra. When we noticed how slowly the lady was cleaning here yesterday Hans said "Well, an hour is an hour is an hour, why rush through and do two houses when you can spend 5 hours at one?" But then I reminded him she's getting a flat rate!

So any healthy, capitalist American would come to the following conclusion: Right now, if she cleans 6 houses a week she's making around $120 a week. If she cleaned faster she could clean two houses each day and double her money.

Hans reminded me that she's making an average to good monthly wage here and that she might think that she's able to make that without really busting her ass, why push it? Her needs are met! Especially if her husband works, too.

It's funny because that's one of the things I wanted to get away from about the American culture- the drive to work harder to get more money so you can work harder and get more money so you can work harder....

Before I moved to Mexico I remember reading a story about a Mexican fisherman who would get up in the morning and go fishing. By lunch time he had caught enough fish for the day and would come home, sell the fish, eat lunch with his wife, spend the afternoon playing with his kids and napping in the shade and in the evenings he would go down to the bar and play music with his friends.

One day he met an American who asked him, "Are there more fish out there that could be caught?"

And the Mexican said, "Yeah, but I catch enough before lunch so I stop fishing and come home."

The American said, "You should fish all day and catch more fish so you could increase your earnings."

The Mexican asked, "And then what would I do?"

"You could then buy another boat and hire another captain and catch twice as many fish and earn twice as much. Then you could start to sell your fish to the large corporations."

And the Mexican asked, "And then what?"

"You would keep adding boats until you had an armada and then you could build your own fish factory and ship your fish world-wide! Then you, of course, wouldn't be able to fish any more, you could move to the US and run the company. You would be making tons of money!"

And the Mexican asked, "What would I do with all that money?"

"You would save it!"

"What would I be saving it for?"

"So one day you could retire, move to a Caribbean island, fish in the morning, eat lunch with your wife, spend the afternoon playing with your grandchildren and napping in the shade and in the evenings you could go down to the bar and play music with your friends!"

Sangre de mi Sangre or Padre Nuestro

Apr 1, 2008

Last night I went to Plaza Las Americas to see my first movie completely in Spanish without subtitles, Sangre de mi Sangre or, as I think it's called in the U.S., Padre Nuestro.

I was a little nervous about seeing a film in Spanish because before I moved here I had only watched a handful of films without subtitles and I had to watch them like 3 or 4 times to make sure I understood what was even happening. I think I was understanding somewhere near 75-80% of what they were saying.

Sangre de mi Sangre is a Mexican movie about a couple of boys who catch a lift in the back of a semi to New York. Their stories are radically different, one is a thief and the other is an honest guy. I don't want to spoil the movie for people who might go see it (because it's really good, if heavy), but suffice it to say that New York is probably easier to be in if you're a thief.

The movie is really well made, the acting is top notch and the shots of New York were really realistic. All too often movies make New York look like the land of milk and honey. I'm sure it is for some, but it's more realistically a place where the weather is unbelievably cold and all the doors are made of metal, locked and covered in graffiti. Ok, not that bad, but that is an element of NYC, and being an honest guy just trying to find your dad is not going to win you the help of anyone.

Anyway, I did really well with understanding the dialog. There were a couple parts I didn't catch completely, but got the sentiment- like all the slang and cussing in the kitchen of the restaurant where the dad works, some of the witty one liners that other people laughed at in the theater, and one part where the main character is talking about what he did with a prostitute (my friend said it was good I didn't understand that because it was awful).

I have to say that my comprehension level was much better than it would have been 4 months ago because I've been living here. Before I got to Mexico I didn't know specifically Mexican words and sayings, like basically all the cuss words, "Que Padre" or "es padrisimo" or anything referred to "Padre" (which basically is like "cool"), "chavo" which is like "guy" (I knew "tipo" which I think is more Spain-Spanish), etc.

So I would say that my first Spanish movie viewing experience was successful. I had a really good time and I would highly recommend that movie. It's not for people who need happy endings or don't want to see the gritty side of NYC life, but if you're into artsy movies with a message, it's great.