Mmm, Pitahaya. Also known as Dragon Fruit.

Jun 30, 2008

The other day I stopped by the Wal-Mart and saw something I hadn't seen before. It was called Pitahaya, according to the sign above it. I'm always adventurous, so I decided to buy one and see how it was. They had a few sliced open, so I picked one that was of a similar firmness to the one that was open.

When I got home I looked it up on the internet and it's also called Red Dragon Fruit. I think I've heard of Dragon Fruit somewhere, sometime, but I had certainly never tried it.
The flesh inside is smooth and juicy. It is sort of like a kiwi and actually somewhat similar in flavor, though the one I had wasn't quite as sweet. I ate it by slicing it in half and then scooping out the flesh with a spoon. I had read on the internet that they're better chilled, so I ate half as a snack and put the rest in the fridge for breakfast.

Apparently these delectable treats are grown right here in Mexico. I love that there are so many strange fruits I've never tasted here. Recently I saw a Mamey in the produce section but wasn't sure what it was. I thought it was a potato, but it's actually a melon-type fruit.

Yesterday I bought a bunch of guayas. Check back here for my review of that tomorrow.

Soy Adicta

Jun 27, 2008

The other night we were returning our painfully overdue copy of the latest season of West Wing (seriously, I don't know why we don't just buy the damn thing) when a T.V. series that I've never seen caught my eye. Right there next to all the other American series was Sexo y Otros Secretos or S.O.S. It looked cute and it was in Spanish, so I thought "Why not!?!"

Last night I watched something like 6 or 7 episodes. It's like Sex and the City only the city is Mexico City and the Sex is more implied rather than giving us gratuitous boob shots as proof that it's happening. I'll admit some of the actors over-act a little bit, and I was left occasionally wondering if the way these ladies freak out about normal stuff is the way that Mexican women want to be portrayed (or if that's the way that Mexican men think Mexican women really are). I haven't met any groups of Mexican women who squeal and make as much noise as these ladies do in real life, but you know, suspend disbelief. Once I was able to let go (really it's only Sofia's character who is a little loony- I think she needs lithium or something) I really started enjoying it.

It's about 5 women who are in their 30's and/or 40's and each has a different thing happening in their sex life. They're all good friends and when they need each other they'll send SOS text messages to each other and then they all come together to offer sisterly support. These emergencies happen about once an episode.

Between the 5 women (and the episodes I've seen so far) they cover topics like: long time husband caught cheating, said husband cheating with good friend on separate occasion, teenage pregnancy, teenage sexual activity, being the 'other woman' whilst dating your boss, going into business with said boss' real wife, insane sexual promiscuity with fear of commitment in a 40+ year old woman, how to avoid your insane boss who is in love with you, raising a baby with your husband and dealing with leaving your job as a lawyer, and dating again whilst having a teenage daughter who is starting to be sexually active.

The show didn't come with subtitles, so I did a bit of a "sigh–what did I get myself into," but I found that I am able to follow along pretty well. I probably miss a sentence or so of every conversation, but I get the gist. And, as I've been watching more and more, I've gotten used to each person's tone of voice and the type of things they say, so understanding them has gotten easier.

One of the things I like about S.O.S. is that it's not shot like most telenovelas. There's no dramatic lighting and no ridiculous music. The camera is a little jerky sometimes and the editing is annoying, but I can tell they're going for a certain hip/modern style, so it's ok. The story lines are somewhat believable (at least they're not like "I'm your mom, I have AIDS and I'm pregnant with your husband's kid!"). The women sometimes act like teenagers themselves and they do an awful lot of squealing, but I'm seriously digging it! I'm addicted!

If you're in the market for T.V. shows in Spanish to become addicted to, I highly recommend it. I read on Wikipedia that they're already filming the next season, so my addiction can live on!

10 Things I Love About Living in Mexico

Jun 26, 2008

Following on the heels of Cancun Canuck's post about positivity, I thought I would post on something that's not often focused on here in Mexican blogsville- the things I like about living here! Sure there are lots of blogs out there that tell the not-so-wonderful stuff about Mexico, dog poop, big puddles after it rains, calling for more gas, etc., and I agree with lots of them, I've even written posts like that myself (see ants living in our car, gargantuan Mexican cockroach, or waiting on the gas truck). It's important for people to know that it's not all roses here, but sometimes I think it's easy to focus on the negative so much that you forget the positive. So here is my gratitude list of things I love about living in Mexico.

1. The role the family plays in daily life. I love that on any given Sunday I can stroll down to the beach or to a local cenote and see several extended families enjoying the day. They often bring Grandma and she brings a big pot of something and a bunch of tortillas and they have their Sunday Dinner right on the beach. They will often build make-shift shelters from the sun and install Grandma and any babies that are too small to crawl around beneath them.

2. No junk mail. I already touched on this when I got a letter last week, but one of the good things about not having the most reliable mail system is that I'm not getting 10 lbs. of junk mail every day. I'm not a huge "green-living" enthusiast, but I always thought that all that junk mail was overkill on the whole deforestation thing. I love not having to check the mail everyday, or even every week.

3. Yummy foods I've never tried. I've been thinking about this for a while. I did a little research and it turns out that much of what we think is Mexican food in the states is either TexMex or CaliMex. I dated a guy from the left coast for a while and we used to trek over to the Mexican neighborhoods in Charlotte in search of CaliMex food and that's what we found- burritos. I have to confess that I had never even heard of Tacos al Pastor before we moved here, not to mention sopes, tostados or horchata. And I'm not even talking about Mayan food- that's a whole different thing! I'm just still here enjoying learning more about traditional Mexican food. Oh- and the candy...

4. Living really close to amazing, deserted beaches. I grew up vacationing at the North Carolina Outerbanks. The Outerbanks are beautiful in their own right, and when I was a kid there were long stretches of sand dunes that were pristine (now they are covered by multi-million dollar homes). But the Outerbanks can't hold a candle to the beaches in Tulum and points south. Just a little over an hours drive I can be laying under a palm tree (who needs an umbrella?) on a virgin beach with sugar-white sand and water that is 10 shades of blue. Is this really my life?

5. Everything is in walking distance. Well, this isn't totally true, but most of the things that interest me are within walking (or biking) distance. This is the first time that hubby and I have owned one car and not had any problems with who gets to use it. I can easily walk to the beach, to yoga class, to meditation, to the gym, to the grocery store, to the wine store (I figured that one out in our first week here), to salsa dancing, to regular techno dance clubs, to bars where our friends hang out, to coffee shops, to Spanish lessons, to tons and tons of restaurants, you name it. When we were living in the burbs it was a 1/2 hour drive to anything. When we lived just outside of Manhattan everything required you to go into Manhattan. This is the first time that I have lived somewhere that has most everything I want to do just around the corner.

6. Reduced addiction to air conditioning. Who woulda thunk that living somewhere hotter than New Jersey would break our addiction to A/C? Well the truth is that electricity is fairly expensive here (but still cheaper per month than running our pool in the summer in NJ). We have a decent ocean breeze and when we open our balcony doors the air blows clear through the apartment, so we only use A/C at night and on the occasional still day. It's nice to be accustomed to regular, humidified air and hubby doesn't wake up with a stuffed up nose everyday (although we think it has something to do with Jersey because even when we go back for a week he gets it- doesn't matter where we stay). At home we used to run the A/C all the time.

7. Lots of people from lots of countries. I love that on any given day I might be hanging out with a German, a Russian, a Swiss person, a French person, a French Canadian, a Dutch person, you name it. Playa del Carmen attracts a lot of Europeans and I love the international feel. It almost feels like we're all exchange students. The best part is listening to Europeans effortlessly switch between the 4 or so languages they're fluent in.

8. Chico can go practically anywhere we're going. At home our dog got the short end of the stick. He wasn't welcome at restaurants and the weather was often not nice enough to be outside so he didn't get nice long walks during the cold months. Here he goes to dinner with us regularly as most of the restaurants have outside seating. He gets to walk around town with us an pee on whatever strikes his fancy. Everyone brings their dogs, and leash laws, if they exist here, are not enforced. Chico's life is probably better here. The only place they're really sticklers about dogs is on the beach. Chico can't go to any beaches here in Playa, but he can go to the beaches in Tulum, including many of the beach clubs down there.

9. No carpet. I hate carpet. It's really gross and requires one to own a vacuum cleaner. I abhor vacuuming- I'd rather clean the toilet, don't ask me why. It was a problem in the states because we had carpet and we had a dog and a cat. The carpets needed to be vacuumed regularly. I love that we have tile throughout the apartment here. I love that if I spill some water I can just leave it, too, which is a plus over wood floors. It just feels like our apartment is cleaner because the tiles can't really collect anything- one sweep and it's gone. Plus I like the smell of the pinesol/bleach mixture the cleaning lady uses.

10. No "real" winter. I seriously do not miss wearing long underwear 9 months of the year or bundling up just to go get the mail. Chico gets many more walks because it's reasonable to be outside year round. I have to admit that I may actually miss fall this year, but winter, uh... I can visit it. Seriously, one week of winter per year is plenty for me. Plus, people want to visit you when you live somewhere warm and beautiful. There's less, "So when are you coming home?" and more, "When can we come visit?" Me likey.

Those are just ten of the things I love about living here. Do you have any to add about living in Mexico? What do you love about living where you live?

3er Mundialito Playa del Carmen

Jun 23, 2008

On Saturday the American team showed up at Mamitas Beach ready to kick some serious booty in the Mini World Cup. Though not the general favorite, we thought we might have a chance, having recruited one more Mexican to round out our team.

The day started with a game against Israel. The US team was feeling ready. While most of the teams were made up of a small handful of people from that country and the rest Mexicans, Israel fielded a team of mostly Israelis. For perspective, Canada had only one Canadian on their team.

There were sixteen teams playing: Mexico, Germany, Holland, Uruguay, Argentina, Italy, Spain, Israel, Canada, England, US, France, Chile, Cuba, Brazil and Switzerland.

America held it's own against Israel, which is pretty good considering how bad they beat everyone else they played. About half of our team didn't even know the rules, so we think we had that going for us- maybe they were just so confused by our "technique" that they couldn't score! They did beat us, but only by 3 points.

Next up was Argentina. They won last year, so they were pretty amped, plus there is quite a large Argentine expat community here, so they had lots of fans to cheer them on. Here is a photo of the American cheering section:

Anne (who is Mexican but not afraid to shout "USA!") and yours truly. At one point the announcers even called out "Where are the American cheerleaders?" and I yelled out "Here I am!" Yeah, it was that bad. Anne asked me why there weren't any Americans there to watch the game and I had to tell her what I guess is the truth, Americans don't care about soccer?!?

Anyway, Argentina kicked our butts bad, 6 to 0. They were very rough and had bad attitudes. If the ball hit them in the arm they would fall down like it was the end of the world, hold their arm and roll around in the sand until the referees awarded them a penalty and they got to take a shot at another goal. (I told you I don't know the rules, but that's how it looked like it was working...). At one point they asked our guys to stop hitting them and we responded that we would only hit them as much as they were hitting us. It was a rough game and losing so bad made us feel a little depressed, but we rallied.

Just before breaking for lunch we caught a little Capoiera action on film thanks to the Brazilian team. It was generally agreed upon by all the women present that the Brazilian team should have to play without their jerseys.

The last game of the day was against England. They were another team that had maybe 2 British players. They had spent the morning tying with Argentina and then getting beaten by Israel, so I’m sure that they were looking forward to an easy game.

The guys on the British team were super nice. They came over and introduced themselves and shook hands. We all had a nice laugh over the fact that if they beat us by 7 points Argentina wouldn’t progress to the final (due to the fact that they tied with them in the morning). They beat us 11 to 0 but somehow Argentina progressed and not them.

By the end of the day we had lost a couple players, but we still managed to smile. Mostly, I think the guys were proud that they lasted all day physically! Only the young Mexican guys were accustomed to playing lots of soccer.

Having lost two games, we (thankfully) didn’t have to play on Sunday. Apparently, Argentina lost to Israel and then Israel lost to Italy. I heard that the game between Italy and Israel was excellent, with Italy winning by 1 point.

Congratulations to everyone who played and big ups to Italy for winning the whole thing. This was the 3rd Annual Mundialito, we’re planning on training from now until the next one, viva Estados Unidos!

Anne helped me understand a pun that the announcers made. The referees during the game against Argentina wore black and yellow striped jerseys.

When they came out the announcer said:
“Que bonito son los arbitros! Parecen abejitas. Salieron bien rayados!”

The first part basically means: How pretty the referees look! They look like little bees!

“Salieron bien rayados!” means something like “They came out here really lucky.” Or “They came out here just in the nick of time” but has a double meaning of “They came out really well striped.”

I can’t wait till I don’t have to ask what the pun means!

Cavern Diving at Cenote Chac Mool

Jun 20, 2008

We decided to play hooky yesterday afternoon late in order for Hans to do a rebreather checkout dive in preparation for this weekend. Assuming that the Americans will lose the Saturday games in the Mundialito, Hans made plans for Sunday to go assist with a Free Diving competition as "deep support" so he'll have to be under the water in case any of the free divers pass out. If one passes out under water he will attach a lift bag to them and send them up so surface support people can work on them.

He hadn't dove using his rebreather in quite a long time. The rebreather recycles his exhaled air by running it through a chemical "scrubber" that removed the CO2 and then returns the breathable air to the loop with a little added oxygen (or something like that, don't quote me on it). The problem with them is that they're large, and if you're into cave diving they are quite often the wrong tool for the job when you want to get into small spaces.

Anyway, we went so Hans could practice his buoyancy, since it's a totally different process than diving regular scuba set up (or open circuit). I went along to practice my underwater photography skills, which are currently undeveloped, because I'd like to take photos of Hans and Patrick assisting this weekend.

So we headed to Cenote Chac Mool. It's just a little ways South of the entrance to Puerto Adventuras and is actually a set of three cenotes. There's a nice cavern line there and we didn't want to complicate things by taking all this extra equipment on an actual cave dive, so Chac Mool it was.

There's lots of algae growing on top of the water, which is different from your usual crystal blue cenote, but makes for some pretty cool pictures. You might have to click on the picture to see the swirly patterns on the surface of the water.

Because we were already sort of "task loaded" (had too many pieces of equipment) we decided not to bring the ginormous flashes that stick out from the side of the camera. As you can see, more light would have been nice, but we got some cool silhouette photos.

I like how these have a sort of other worldly quality- like space or something. The light was pretty cool, too.

Please note that if you are open water scuba trained, you can hire a cave guide to take you on a cavern tour. Make sure that you are properly trained before you even think about entering an overhead diving situation. Also- I'm no expert and I'm not saying it's ok for you to do this, so don't sue me if something happens to you and other legal, covering my butt for posting these pics, stuff.

I got a letter!

Jun 19, 2008

I remember when I was about 13 years old I started writing letters to my friends over the summer. We only lived 20 minutes away, but there was something really cool about going to the mailbox every day to check to see if there was anything in there for me. We made collages and sent them, or decorated our letters with wax or by burning the edges.

Then I went to Australia for a year as an exchange student (this is all before the internet, folks) and letters were how I connected with my friends and family back home. They would take a couple weeks to get there, but they were always a welcomed surprise. We always wrote long letters, 4 or more pages, because we were far apart and there was so much to cover between letters!

When my sister went off to college, we started writing letters to each other, too. We got along pretty well until she was a teen and I was still a kid and she didn't want to play Barbies with me any more. When she went off to college we connected through our letters and that was the beginning of the friendship that we now are so lucky to share.

Once I started working from home and Hans was working on site with a client I would wait for the mailman to come so I could go see what we got. Mostly it was junk mail, but really it was a break from my computer. It meant that I could sit down with my Anthropologie catalog and veg out for a few minutes before getting back to work.

The mail system in Mexico is spotty at best. When we got our cable set up they told us we were responsible to come and pay the bill on the 17th of each month whether or not we got a bill. I told family and friends not to send me something if they really wanted me to get it, so naturally, I only check the mail box once or twice a month.

Today I went to check the mail and I had a cable bill (it came!), an electric bill (man, electric's expensive here), a phone bill and A LETTER! I got a letter! Yeah- it's just a little thank you card from my cousin, but still... it got here! Wow!

I know some people order stuff online here and receive it fine. I dunno. I sort of like not getting mail. I sort of like not being able to order online. I like the challenge of finding the things I want here on Mexican time. So far, I have found that if you want it bad enough you'll be able to find it.

Anyway, it still feels good to go to the mailbox and see a little envelope with your name on it an a ton of airmail stamps. Nice.

Sopes: Possibly the Meaning of Life?

Jun 18, 2008

A couple weeks ago my cleaning lady came early and brought with her all the items she would need to show me how to make Sopes. Sopes are a traditional Mexican antojito (basically "snack" or "appetizer") constructed of a thick, homemade tortilla whose edges have been turned up to create a sort of boat for holding all the condiments. On top of the tortilla goes refried black beans, (in our case) shredded chicken, strings of Oaxaca cheese, tomatoes, that powdery, sprinkle-y cheese that they put on everything, Mexican-style sour cream (runnier than the sour cream in the states) and homemade tomato hot sauce. They can have anything you'd like on them, but that's what ours had.

I should have been taking pictures, but I was so amazed at the whole process that I failed to get the old camera a-clicking. Next time we do a cooking project, I'll be sure to get some photos, but for now, I just wanted to say:

Sopes, oh how I love you, let me count the ways...

1. Your yummy, warm and crunchy/chewy tortilla bottom is the perfect base for all things wonderful and diet-busting about Mexican food.

2. Refried beans so carefully placed seem to make the difference between just an ordinary sandwich and a delicious Mexican one. Sope, you would not be the same without your refried-beany goodness.

3. Oaxaca cheese is quite possibly the best, most meltable cheese that could adorn your luscious corn tortilla flavor. In fact, a handmade tortilla with Oaxaca cheese is a delicious snack just by itself, but don't worry Sope, I won't cheat on you.

4. Sprinkle cheese, I wish I knew your name, you add your cheesy flavor to this already awesome creation. You make Mexican food so, so good. Without you the Sopes would not be as pretty as can be.

5. Homemade tomato hot sauce, where have you been my whole life? Thirty one years is too long to live without knowledge of your existence. Now my life is complete.

6. Media Crema you are the proverbial cherry on top of this delicious concoction. You crown this small joy in life with extra fat and flavor, and you make me smile.

Now that I have participated in the making of the most-delicious (and, coincidentally, the only) Sopes that I have ever eaten, I can't get them off my mind! I will be trying restaurant-made Sopes soon to see if they're just as good. They take quite a time dedication to make, and while they're not exactly waste-band friendly, they are muy rico and satisfying in a way that only warm, homemade corn tortillas can be.

If you are in the States I recommend you find your way over to the nearest Mexican part of town and get yourself an order of Sopes. Order at least two, because one will leave you wanting another. If you live in a part of the country that suffers the misfortune of not having a Mexican part of town, you can make them by following a recipe like this one. You won't be disappointed, addicted maybe, but disappointed, no.

New Look!

Jun 17, 2008

You may have noticed that we've got a new look around these parts. What happened? I got accepted to host some BlogHer ads and they have certain requirement for where the ads have to be placed, so I moved to a three column design.

It's kinda funny, too, that I work as a web designer but was totally using a stock template with some minor color tweaks. I would love to say that it was my undying passion for design that made me want to change, but that would be a lie. I've been lazy about my own blog, but if I'm going to put some ads there then I'll change!

Expect to see some ads appearing on the right side of the page some time in the near future. Hope you like the new look!

3a Mundialito de Futbol: Let the butt-kicking begin

Our good friend Robert, the owner of Coffee Cafe, got this great idea a few weeks ago to sponsor the US team in the upcoming Mini World Cup that is being put on by Quinta Magazine and Mamitas Beach. The thing is, none of the Americans on the team actually know how to play soccer, but that's just a small detail.

Somehow Hans got roped in to play. He's been practicing running on the beach and kicking a ball (since the games will be played on the beach) and the last two days the "team" has gotten together in the AM to practice. We're all pretty sure they're gonna lose, the question is just HOW bad they're gonna lose.

This is the third annual Mini World Cup and last year there wasn't even an American team. Argentina walked away with the cup last year, but not before they came to blows with the Italians. Latin Americans take soccer seriously, so the US is just in it for the fun of it (and because Robert got this great idea...)

Each team has to play three 30-minute games against another team. Whoever wins two of the three advances in the tournament. We aren't expecting to last the day, but we couldn't help thinking that if we could just get paired against Canada, or even (gulp) England, we might have a chance.

Last night we went to Coffee Cafe to see all the jerseys (copies of the real jerseys worn in the World Cup by each country) and to learn who would be paired against who. They had divided the 16 teams into four groups lead by Mexico, Argentina, Spain and Italy. They then proceeded to pull the rest of the countries out of a hat and place them in groups. Each group would have A. B, C, and D teams.

As they started pulling, and we started praying, they pulled all the B teams (and since A plays B and C plays D- per group) we did a collective sigh of relief since we weren't A or B. We wouldn't play our first game against Mexico, Argentina, Spain or Italy. There might be hope for us still, although they had already picked England (and they'd be playing Argentina- wha ha ha ha ha- but I digress).

Time to pick the C teams. The US got picked to play in Grupo B, with Argentina and England. Now we just have to wait and see who we'll be playing against. Then Canada got picked to play under some other group, so we knew we were in for it.

Israel. They US team will be playing against Israel. Have you seen the kinds of Israelis we get here in Playa del Carmen? Try young, just out of the Army, in awesome shape, tall, muscular... you get the idea. Here's their team captain if you need some help imagining:

Anyway- the game play starts this Saturday, June 21 at 9am on the beach at Mamitas. Please come out and show your support for our fledgling American team! (Don't worry, we only need 4 out of the 8 team members to be Americans and we have one German and three Mexicans, so maybe we do have a chance)! I'll be there documenting the whole thing.

Oh- and as a plus, because my little camera died, I got a press package thanks to the fact that I was toting Hans' fancy semi-pro Canon SLR. Gotta love that- at least they didn't think I was a tourist!

Crococun Zoo

Jun 15, 2008

For my birthday this year I asked Hans to surprise me by making plans to do something we don't normally do. That meant that laying on the beach and scuba diving were out, as was working or watching t.v.

On Friday night he gave me a rough schedule: 9am I could go to yoga class, 10:30am we were going to run on the beach and kick a soccer ball (he's preparing for the Mundialito- the mini world cup that's coming up next week... more on that later), then lunch and after lunch there would be an "activity" followed by wine and cheese at Winery & Plus and then dinner at El Asador de Manolo (yummy, fancy Argentinian restaurant on Av 10 between Calles 22 & 24).

So, after a brutal workout- beach running is hard enough without the pinche soccer ball- we cleaned up, grabbed a slice of pizza from Pizza Pazza and headed north. We passed the horseback riding, so I knew it wasn't that, then we passed the ATV tours, the jungle ziplines, Puerto Morelos and I started to figure it out.

About half way between Puerto Morelos and Cancun on the Cancun highway sits the Crococun Zoo. This is a crocodile farm and petting(!) zoo. We walked up and they took us right away, there were no lines or anything. It cost us about $20US per person (cheaper if you're a kid or have a local I.D.), plus we each bought a little bag of food for the animals.

The tour started with some parrots that are local to the region. They had a beautiful parrot with a yellow head named Lorenzo who could talk. He laughed at us and whistled and even said his own name.

Then we headed over to see the baby crocodiles. Our guide was a vet specializing in crocodiles, so he was very knowledgeable. He pulled Paco out of the water and handed him to us. He's a 7 year old croc and could live something like 60 or 70 years.

Paco is the boss in his tank, so when he's in the water, the other crocs won't even think about getting in with him. Our guide pushed one of the other crocs in the water with Paco and he bolted out to safety. Apparently, Paco defends his ground!

Next up were a series of snakes. Some of them they let us hold, like this boa constrictor. Some of them are seriously poisonous, including two vine snakes that looked exactly like vines. The guide said that if we had vines in our yard we had these guys in our yard, too. Yikes!

While we were holding the snakes, some Spider Monkeys came over, so we fed them one of the little bananas in our food bags. The Spider Monkeys are generally rescued since it's illegal to keep them as pets here, though people often try to keep them because you can charge entry to see them. One of the cenotes we dove in had two captive spider monkeys who were really suffering and being mistreated, but I digress...

Next up were some interesting lizards and turtles. This guy was pink in color, but not native to the Yucatan. This guy came from Costa Rica and (I hate to say this) would make really beautiful boots. He has these pouches on the sides of his mouth called "food bags" where he stores food for later, so they only feed him every few days.

I got to hold a baby sea turtle, which was very cool, but we didn't get any pictures. Then we headed in to the adult crocodile pen. Luckily, this portion of the tour did not involve touching, petting or holding. I think I would have had to gracefully decline holding an adult croc!

Next we visited a pen with some white tailed deer. These are cousins to the deer we get in the states. They're smaller and more silverish-brown than brown-brown and don't have any spots. Some of them had antlers that were covered in velvety fur. They were very interested in eating the branches that the guide gave us. The guide told us we could touch, pet and hug the deer if we wanted to. I'm not sure they were that in to hugging us, so instead we just petted them and fed them.

After the deer we visited some more Spider Monkeys that had just been rescued. These guys weren't free to roam about the park yet because they needed to learn how to interact with people properly, so we fed them some bananas and peanuts and headed on our way.

On the way out we visited some animals that are a cross between a raccoon and a possum. They were very cute and very interested in the sunflower seeds we had. I can't remember their name, though.

The Crococun Zoo is totally cool. I would highly recommend it for anyone who can't sit on the beach another day or as a perfect alternative to visiting ruins if you're sunburned. I would definitely take my 4 year old niece there, although she might be a little freaked out by being that close to baby crocs.

After the zoo, we headed down to Puerto Morelos and had an ice cream on the beach. Then it was back to Playa for a nap and then dinner. Unfortunately, my camera stopped working. We looked up the error message it's giving us and it's got an irreparable error with the flash, so RIP little Sony digital camera. :( We're heading to La Zebra beach club in Tulum today, so I'll take what pictures I can take without a flash, but I think the salsa dancing photos won't work tonight. As my British friend, Anna, would say, Bugger.

Sexo y la Ciudad

Jun 14, 2008

I've been a lazy blogger and haven't blogged about seeing Sex and the City with Heather (the one who lives in paradise) and a bunch of her girlfriends! Apparently when she said she was dressing up, she wasn't kidding! About half the girls showed up in dresses and the other half, like me, showed up sorta spiffied up and ready for a night on the town.

The movie was really, really good. Much better than I had imagined it could be. I never really watched the show while it was on, so I didn't know what to expect really, but it was really entertaining and I appreciated that they caught us up on each girl and what had happened during the show so someone like me could just jump right in.

I think the reason I was never into the show was because I had just moved to New York when it came out and I was busting my butt there and I just couldn't buy it. I couldn't buy it that Carrie was a journalist and had a $1 million apartment and a $500,000 shoe collection. I also couldn't buy it that they could all go to lunch whenever and never had to go to the gym, etc. I think I was too tied in to the real NYC experience. Now that I'm removed from it all (and also no longer in my early 20's- you know- doing all that soul searching), I think I'd like to rent the whole series and get addicted!

Anyway, I forgot to bring my camera to the theater (see, bad blogger) so I stopped by and picked it up before meeting the girls again at The Dirty Martini Bar. Here's a slightly fuzzy pic of me and Heather:
I took this photo before the light was really low and I had to turn on the flash to make the pictures nice. Here's a couple of the chicas who came out. I think this photo really shows the cool atmosphere of the bar, too.
Of course, Michelle from Life's a Beach came out!
And finally, here's a shot of some of the chicas right before I left (which was pretty late, incidentally).
It was a really fun night with some fun girls. Hopefully we'll all do another movie thing, or maybe even just another bar thing! lol! Good times, good times.

Goodbye Ross and Sandy!

Jun 11, 2008

Over the last six months we've done our fair share of cave diving around the Riviera Maya and in the process we've met lots of wonderful people who also share a passion for cave diving. Most of our dive friends also work in the diving industry- wait, ALL of our diving friends work in the industry. They get to live in exotic locations and dive beautiful reefs and cave systems, but the other side of the coin is that they also don't make that much money.

Ross had been living and working in Playa for about a year when he was offered another opportunity. He, and his lovely girlfriend Sandra, are leaving today to go run the diving portion of an extremely high-end resort in Mozambique for the next 6 months followed by some traveling around Africa.

On Monday they had a farewell party over at La Hora Feliz and lots of diving peeps came out to see them off. (Of course, across the street at La Fe there was another farewell party for another diving couple who were off to Egypt and the Maldives).

This sort of thing doesn't do well for our wanderlust. Both Hans and I daydreamed for about 10 minutes on going to Mozambique, but the reality is that we have the sort of jobs that require us to be available and working regularly (Hans even had to stay up working all night one night last week when there was a problem with one of our servers). So jetting off to Mozambique just isn't in the cards for us right now (besides, we just got to Mexico!).

So, farewell Ross and Sandy! We hope to see you guys again and best of luck in Africa!

What's in a name?

Jun 9, 2008

I saw this over at Fned's blog and I loved it! I've always liked that joke about your stipper name being the name of your first pet and the street you were born on, for me that would be Snowball Mattheson! Wha ha ha! For hubby it's Baron 49th! Anyway, here's the list as per Fned's blog:

1.YOUR ROCK STAR NAME: (first pet & current car): Snowball 4-Runner

2.YOUR GANGSTA NAME: (fave ice cream flavor, favorite cookie): Belgian Chocolate Chocolate Chip (see a theme here?)

3. YOUR “FLY Guy/Girl” NAME: (first initial of first name, first three letters of your last name): Akas

4. YOUR DETECTIVE NAME: (favorite color, favorite animal): Blue Giraffe

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME: (middle name, city where you were born): Overby Charlotte (Lol- it looks like Over by Charlotte, but it's pronounced like Over-bee)

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME: (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 letters of your first): Kas-al

7. SUPERHERO NAME: (”The” + 2nd favorite color, favorite drink): The Green Chardonnay (blech! Can you please open a new bottle?)

8. NASCAR NAME: (the first names of your grandfathers): John Clifton

9. STRIPPER NAME: (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy): Cucumber Runts (GROSS!!! LOL!)

10.WITNESS PROTECTION NAME: (mother’s & father’s middle names ): Karen William

11. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME: (Your 5th grade teacher’s last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): Can't remember 5th grade teacher, so using 4th grade teacher: Houser Houston

12. SPY NAME/BOND GIRL: (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Summer Peony

13. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you’re wearing right now + “ie” or “y”): Papaya Shortie

14. HIPPY NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree): Smoothie Magnolia

15. YOUR ROCKSTAR TOUR NAME: (”The” + Your fave hobby/craft, fave weather element + “Tour”): The Spanish-Speaking Sunshine Tour

Diving in Casa Cenote

Jun 6, 2008

Ever since it was mentioned to us by our cave diving instructor, Steve, we've been meaning to head down to Casa Cenote to check it out. A couple months ago we drove by just to see it, but it was a Sunday, so it was mobbed by locals who were enjoying a nice day in the sun and we weren't prepared to dive there, so we just drove by and went home.

We finally got an opportunity to dive there this week with Patrick and Katy. Patrick just got back from 6 weeks in Austria and Katy just got back from two months in Russia, so this was going to be their first fun dive back in Mexico. Patrick was nice enough to drive, so we piled in his pickup with all our dive equipment and headed down.

Casa Cenote is a long, dog-legged cenote that is connected to the ocean via a cave that runs under the little road separating the cenote from the beach-front houses there. You can literally see the ocean from the cenote and even feel the flow of the water out to sea while you're swimming. Here's the view from the road looking at the Cenote.

It cost us 20 pesos each to dive there (not sure what it would cost to just swim there) and we parked to the side of the cenote and started setting up our gear.

Katy and I were diving backmount, so we were buddies, and Hans and Patrick were both diving sidemount, so they were independent divers. Hans took the opportunity to show us just how sexy a sidemount helmet can look when modeled with perfection.

Once we finally got all our equipment ready, we headed into the water. You have to swim quite a ways up the cenote if you plan to dive on the "upstream" side. (See hubby's blog for more on the whole "upstream, downstream" debate). Once we found the place where we wanted to enter the cave system, we tied off and headed in.

The water was quite interesting. Because it's connected to the ocean, there's salt water entering the cenote from one side and fresh water entering from the other. Unlike your normal Mayan Riviera cenote, there are mangroves surrounding Casa Cenote, so there was also a layer of water about one foot thick at the surface where the water was tannic, stained reddish by the leaves and other organic material rotting. As you enter the mouth of the cave, the water is blurry because the halocline (a natural separation between salt and fresh water, much like oil and water) is being disturbed by the force of the fresh water exiting the cave. So after a few minutes of navigating in low visibility, we finally got well enough inside the cave for the water to clear up.

We chose to follow a different route than Hans had chosen when he came and dove Casa Cenote before by himself. The first part of the cave was a little boring (what?!? I'm spoiled by living here!) but after our first T intersection it got a lot more beautiful.

You could tell by the sheer amount of percolation caused by our own bubbles (percolation is when your exhausted air bubbles cause silt and other debris to rain down from the roof of the cave) and the easy silting of the cave floor that people don't dive there very often. You could also tell that by the looks we got from the Mexicans as we were entering and exiting the water that they thought all our gear was a little overkill.

We ended up inadvertently completing a circuit because we made a left and one intersection and after 20 minutes or so ended up back at the first intersection. So we called the dive and returned the way we went in. We didn't have a map, so we were just going to go on the line until we reached our air consumption limits.

On the way out the water flow was amazing! At one point we all stopped kicking and just rode out on the water flow like we were drift diving in Cozumel! I have never been in a cave in Mexico that had that sort of flow! (It's a fairly common thing in the caves in Florida). I felt like one of those turtles in Nemo, Duuuuuuuude!

It was a nice, chill dive with some very good friends and there's no better way to follow that up than by heading across the street to the Casa Cenote Restaurant for a Margarita and some chips with Guacamole and salsa.
Casa Cenote was cool and I'd definitely like to check out the section that connects to the ocean. I'm not sure if there's a time that you can go when there's not such a strong current out to the sea, it could have to do with the tides, but if there isn't then I may just be satisfied with swimming in the ocean out to where the cave comes out and just taking a look from there.

If you're looking for a cool cenote to snorkel in then Casa Cenote probably isn't it. There weren't many fish, and none that were particularly beautiful, and there aren't any sort of cave formations that you can see. You can, however, see the ocean and go back and forth from swimming in the ocean to swimming in the cenote, so that might make it cool.

If you're just looking for a nice cenote to swim in I would suggest Cenote Azul or Cenote Cristalino (both fairly close to Playa del Carmen). Of course, there's always Gran Cenote or Dos Ojos for snorkeling with beautiful formations.