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.