Monday, March 30, 2009

BBC Interview with Mexican President Felipe Calderon

In preparation for the upcoming G20 summit, Mexican President Felipe Calderon sat down for an interview with John Simpson of the BBC to discuss the current problems in Mexico. President Calderon addressed the issue of corruption, candidly stating that the governments of both the United States and Mexico must deal with the problem of corrupt officials. The president described the successes Mexico has had in arresting corrupt politicians, police and cartel members since he took office and began his fight against the drug trade.

It's interesting to hear the President speaking about the current issues in English. I think I've only ever heard him speak Spanish, with the exception of the occasional sound byte. For those of you who have never seen him speak or don't understand him when you do hear him, this video is well worth the ten minutes.

"If you see some dust in the air, it's because we're cleaning"
- President Felipe Calderon, March 30, 2009

video courtesy BBC

"We are recovering the streets and I'm sure we can recover the confidence of the people".- President Felipe Calderon, March 30, 2009

Finding a School in Cancun

"Finding a school", something that was never an issue in Canada but it certainly is here. In Canada, you go to the closest school in the zone in which you pay taxes, usually you've got a choice of public, Catholic and in some places, French immersion, but beyond that, you don't have much choice. While we are happy with Max's current school, they only offer classes up to Kinder 3 so we've got to find a primary school. He's got two years left of Kinder, but in speaking with other mommies, it seems the pressure is on to figure out what we're going to do with him come grade one. I saw a flyer last week for an exposition of Cancun schools, so Saturday we jumped in the car and headed to the Cancun Convention Center.

What a huge disappointment that was! I fully expected to see all the big schools represented and was hoping to speak with each of them to see what they have to offer. There was only ONE, I repeat, ONE school that offered primary education. There were three kinders, a handful of universities and a summer camp in Canada booth. We ended up finding more information for Hubby than for Max (he's considering doing his Master's degree). The one school that we talked to was interesting, Colegio Alexandre, they have an amazing facility, they are bilingual, offer several extra-curricular sports and activities and are REALLY FREAKING EXPENSIVE. I liked what the representative had to say and enjoyed the presentation, but wow, I don't know if we can swing the 5000 pesos a month in tuition fees. The school is quite advanced in terms of technology, all the classrooms have "smart boards" and the kids have a password for a special web page for homework and extra lessons, games if they earn enough homework points, etc, etc, that was very cool. The school is totally bilingual, with English classes in math, history, geography, etc, though I was disappointed that the English teachers are not native speakers. They were insistent that the coordinators were native speakers, but I want my son in a classroom with someone for whom English is their first language.

And that was that for the expo, yawn! (Well, except for the fact that I won a raffle with my entrance ticket, a free entrance exam to Alexandre, haha). I'm trying to find information about the other schools in town, but so many of them either don't have websites or their websites are useless, so I guess we're going to have to do some good old fashioned legwork. I hear a LOT of gossip and rumours and opinions on other schools from moms and dads in my daily journeys, but I really want to make my own decision based on discussions with the directors and teachers at the schools. The "I've heards" are starting to make my head spin, too much information and too much of it second and third hand. "I've heard that St. John's is good, but totally "fresa" (snobby)". "I've heard that Balam is good, but totally overcrowded". "I've heard that Britanico is good, but their facilities aren't so hot, no green areas" and so on and so on. "I've heard" that Boston is good, but for me, I will not send my child to a Catholic school (school is for learning, not religion thank you very much). Other schools I want to check out are Da Vinci, La Salle and CES (CES is a front runner right now, mostly because that's where most of the ex-pat kids seem to go, including the son of my best friend and a good friend of Max). Lots of choices in schools actually, picking the "right" one for Max is not going to be an easy task. The ideal school for us will be totally bilingual, have a small student to teacher ratio, offer extra curricular activities, have teachers with excellent credentials and zero religious instruction. Anything else is "buttah".

Now, back to kindergarten for a moment, Max has a special celebration of spring tomorrow and needed a costume to go with the theme. Soooo, in the interest of his future embarassment, I present to you my tree (thank you thank you yes I made it, as if the shoddy home made aspect wasn't obvious, what you think you can just buy a visor with three little birdies in a nest on it?!)

Come on, he looks happy about it, right? That photo is such a keeper for future romantic partners.

Friday, March 27, 2009

You're Not Invited to My Party!

We've been hearing this phrase for months and months and months. Max is obsessed with his upcoming birthday and the "requisite" party he thinks is his due. If we do something he doesn't like, the arms cross, the brows furrow and "You're not invited to my party! No te invito a mi fiesta!" is shouted in our faces. Wow, what a threat kid, you mean we don't have to hang out with twenty 4 year olds? Shucks darn. He talks about his party EVERY SINGLE DAY. It's becoming quite annoying actually. He uses his party to play Hubby and I off each other as well, "You're not invited to my party, just Daddy, hmph!", at which point we say we all go or there is no party, leading to "I make my party with my friends, not you!". Good luck kid, how's that job hunt going, you got money?

All this party talk is leading us into the world of guilt. We cannot afford to give him the party that he is imagining, in a "jardin de fiesta" (party garden) with thirty kids and their parents to feed, decorations, cake, piñata and entertainment, kids' parties add up to a lot of money, at a bare minimum 5000 pesos, probably more. I so wish we could do it, but it's just not in the cards. We noticed that some of his classmates have thrown little parties at the school, during class time they'll bring in a cake and piñata and maybe some entertainment for an hour and then back to work. This seems like our best option and the plan is in place to do just that. Of course, when we told Max (in our most excited voices with big smiles), he screamed "Noooo, NOT at school!". Sigh. The main thing he wants at his party is the characters from Lazytown and we do think we can swing that one for him. I've got a student who runs a children's party service and they've got a Lazytown show that includes three characters (Sportacus, Stephanie and Ziggy if you care) for 1850 pesos, I think we can book them and hopefully that will appease Mr. Demanding. I can make some food (pasta is easy and cheap and pleases the munchkins), get a cake from Walmart and a few decorations and I hope that satisfies our party obsessed child. I felt bad last year as we didn't do a party, we took him on the pirate cruise and convinced him that all the tourists were there for his birthday. Worked a charm actually, but I know that he really wants his friends to celebrate with him so school party it is.

Now, his thirst for a fiesta is actually working in our favour (as much as I'd like to duct tape his mouth shut the next time the word "party" comes out of it). He's finally connected the idea of "bad behaviour equals punishment, good behaviour equals reward" so threatening to not have a party has definitely improved his "comportamiento"! (Yes, there is a "U" in behaviour and favour, I'm Canadian, remember, now I wish my spell check would know that!) He's learned that we don't make idle threats either, if we say that he is going to lose a privelege, he loses that privilege so I think he's living in a world of fear that he won't get the party of his dreams if he fingerpaints on the walls. Thank the goddess for that!

Now, what threat can we use after his birthday? Help!!!!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bring on the Cancun Beach Recovery Please!

I think it's become quite obvious that I am a beach lover, obvious at least if you've followed the blog for oh, five minutes. You may have noticed that though we live in Cancun, we rarely visit the beaches here, we go out of town when looking for sea and sand. There are a number of reasons for that, number one, calmer waters in Puerto Morelos and Isla Blanca are better for Max, number two, fewer tourists (no offense intended!) and number three, the beautiful beaches of Cancun have taken quite a beating since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The beach erosion on the east side of Cancun island is noticeable and sad. When I first arrived in 2003, I was blown away by the huge spans of sand, soft and white and seemingly endless. Wilma did her number on us and took it all away, leaving the ocean pounding against sea walls and exposing rocks and boulders all along the shore. While the government and hotels spent millions of dollars to recover the beaches in 2006, they ignored the advice of the company doing the rebuilding and didn't take precautions to prevent the sand from being washed back out to sea. Shortly after the recovery project ended, the beach was gone again.

Cut to March 2009, over three years after Wilma and we still see some badly eroded beach. Oh it comes and goes, nature takes away and gives back depending on the weather, but it is far from what it used to be. The government has a plan in place and is taking bids from companies wishing to rebuild not only the beaches of Cancun, but of Playa del Carmen and Cozumel as well. I've been following the back and forth and the blah blah blah of the plan in the news, a lot of round and round of who is going to pay for what and where and when and all that jazz. Right now it seems that the plan is to start the project in April or May (ummm, I'll believe it when I see it) and take several months to complete. When things really get rolling, I'll be sure the share the details.

In the meantime, I have been taking some beach strolls this week, to get some air, some exercise and have a look at how the beaches are faring. I went out twice this week, on two very different weather days and here's what I saw. These were all taken between the Ritz Carlton and the Gran Melia, some on a beautiful sunny day (Monday) and some today while it was very windy, rough seas and occasional rain.

As you can see by the last photo, the rough seas and rocks are not stopping people from enjoying the incredible Caribbean. The red flags were out and the life guards were certainly on their toes today, I heard a lot of whistles and saw the guards directing people away from particularly rocky places. For once, Max had no interest in going swimming, he was screaming "Stupid waves!" every time we got hit by the crashing surf, it was just a bit too rough for his tastes. Spoiled, I tell ya.

So bring on the beach recovery, let's hope they do the job right this time and don't throw another bazillion dollars out to sea. I'll keep you posted when something definitive happens, it's still a lot of "yada yada yada" right now, I'll be happy when they've hired a company and set a start date. In the meantime, we've always got Puerto Morelos.....

p.s. Big huge thanks to jimincancun, regular contributor to Cancun forums and a wealth of knowledge. He's been keeping up with the "blah blah blah" of the beach recovery for all of us and sharing it on CancunCare with fantastic summaries and translations. Thanks Jim!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Are You Ready for Some Futbol?

Futbol (soccer) or "fut" (pronounced like "food", not "hut") is to Mexico as hockey is to Canada. Kids here are soccer crazy, getting their first kicks in as soon as their little legs start moving. It's the great equalizer, something that everyone can share from the poorest to the richest, youngest to oldest, find a scrap of bare land and something to kick, and game ON. From neighbourhood pick up games to full fledged official tournaments, everyone gets in on the action, I've even seen abuelas (grandmas) out-playing their grandkids in the park.

Not only is it a game that is played by everyone, but the professional league is a daily topic of conversation. In Cancun we've got the pro team "Atlante", new to town just last year and already a success. I may not be a soccer lover myself, but I'm always happy to support the local franchise, Arriba Potros! (Potros is the team nickname, means, "young horses"). I don't know all the ins and outs of the season or the tournaments, but I at least try to know when Atlante is playing so I can participate in the inevitable soccer conversations I encounter. And I certainly know that Mexicans consider their national team to be a joke, no one expects them to win anything, let alone a World Cup. If I even mention the national team, I get a sarcastic grin and a "Oooh si, son muy buenos", (oh yeah, they're really good) followed by an eye roll, but they love them and cheer for them when they play, knowing that most likely they'll be disappointed in the outcome.

On Saturday Hubby decided to take Max to an Atlante game as they were playing his hometown team, Puebla. We hit the ticket office in the afternoon to see if we could get some seats and voila, 100 pesos for Hubby, Max in for free. Unfortunately, the game was not until 9 pm, so of course our almost four year old had a nice little hissy fit that he couldn't go into the stadium NOW. Thankfully a good-hearted security officer saw what was going on and waved us over to the gate. He let us in to have a look at the empty stadium and Max was temporarily appeased.

Here's a peek inside the Atlante stadium in Cancun......

The boys went to the game that night (I gracefully declined and went to an ex-pat party instead) and they had a great time. Puebla won, Hubby was happy and Max came home singing all the soccer chants (and not using any bad words, phew!). I've hidden the EXTREMELY LOUD HORN that Hubby bought for him, we'll save that for game days and not hangover days thankyouverymuch.

I think I'll go with them for the next game, with some cold beer, stadium food and enormous amounts of people watching at my disposal, I would keep myself entertained. As long as you don't ask me what's going on in the game! Here's how I call a soccer game: "Red guy has it, the other red guy has it, now he lost it and the blue guy has it, blue guy has it, blue guy has it, blue guy lost it now red guy has it". And so on for 90 minutes. If you're lucky, I will scream "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOL" once or twice in that time, but only if you're really lucky. I admit I have a hard time paying attention to a game where nothing ever happens, who wants to watch 90 minutes of back and forth and end up with a tie score of 0-0? I love soccer for all the things it represents to the community, but as for the game itself, it's just a big yawn for me. But, on that note, Go Cancun, Arriba Atlante, Viva Potros!

Friday, March 20, 2009

My Kingdom for a Blue Box! (not) Recycling in Cancun

My first few months in Mexico were a maze of confusion. About everything! I hadn't planned on moving here so knew very little of how things worked. (For those behind on the story, I came on vacation with a backpack and accidentally stayed here, anywho....). One of my first realizations that life here was different came when I tried to dispose of my refuse. Every day I would gather my garbage and my bags of recycling and go looking for blue boxes. I was convinced that they had to be somewhere, it couldn't be possible that in 2003 they weren't recycling! I would ask people where to put my cans and paper and they would point to the garbage cans. I would try to express, "No, no, this is special garbage, it has a special place" which of course led to numerous guffaws and pointing at the stupid white girl. After a while I grudgingly put my cans in the trash bin, feeling the ache of guilt in my heart and the small ray of hope that some day I would find the magical blue boxes.

I'm amazed at what a hard habit it was to break, after so many years of living in Canada where recycling was essential (and mandatory), quitting the recycling habit was difficult to say the least. I was never an "eco-freak" or activist, but I did live the recycling life. Sadly I find that after five and a half years here, I rarely think about it anymore. There are still no blue boxes and I still put my recyclables in the general trash can, but now with less and less guilt. I find that I consume far less here than I did in Canada, but I do throw away my fair share of plastic Coca Cola bottles.

This is not to say that recycling doesn't exist here, but it is not a program for the whole city and it is not widely practiced. There are some bins (somewhere I'm told) where you can bring used batteries and there used to be a plastic recycling center in the Sam's parking lot but last I looked it was gone. The Department of Ecology of Cancun has recycling drives every so often, but it doesn't seem to be a regular event. Their website seems to come and go as well so trying to stay on top of their services is frustrating. Saving up all my recyclables for the possibility of an event in an unknown location, well, ech, no tengo ganas (it's so much better in Spanish, it kind of means "I don't have the energy" but that's not quite right). The website is up today (hurray!) and I notice that they are having a "Reciclathon" on March 28 between 9 and 3. Here's a copy of the announcement....

So for any Cancunenses who may be interested, mark the date and start saving up your bottles and cans and cardboard and cartuchos (printer cartridges). I'll make sure to save up my Coca Cola bottles (there will be quite a few by then) and head on over myself, I'd love to be able to get back to my more eco-friendly ways. Now, if they would just start a blue box program, I'd be a happy happy Cancunense!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

How I Spent My Birthday

I'm older, I'm older, but I'm still feelin' fine! Well, starting to, I am still kind of recovering from my weekend of debauchery. Hmm, "debauchery" might be too strong a strong word, but I certainly imbibed more than usual. I used to be such a "good drinker" (is there really such a thing and should I have been proud of my ability to suck back a 2-4 of Keith's?). I guess age and a lack of recent experience has decreased my abilities to put away large quantities of alcohol. Four women, seven bottles of wine (another smart friend stuck to a couple of mojitos then went home), I think all of us were feeling the pain on Sunday morning! We had a lovely time at Marakame, I really like this little oasis in the city, I recommend it for a "chill" night out in Cancun. No shot girls, no wet t-shirts, even with all the wine we socked away, we still felt "classy". Though I suspect that we didn't look elegant as we stumbled down the spiral staircase after closing the joint.

Sunday morning rolled around and I was BIEN CRUDA (really hungover). Max and Hubby had ventured over to Isla Mujeres the day before and I was off to meet them to celebrate. I was suffering badly, but wanted to be with my boys so I got myself down to the ferry docks in Puerto Juarez somehow (it's kind of blurry) and found myself on the 11:00 boat desperately hoping I wouldn't need the barf bag. I made it across without incident, hopped in a taxi to Playa Norte and found my family frolicking in the sea. Luckily, Hubby had drank his fair share of rum the day before, so we were both in the same situation and he didn't punish me for my "sins". I spent most of the day on my pareo under a palm tree or floating in the refreshing water. The sea is a great cure for the cruda and I started to feel almost human by the time we caught the ferry home in the afternoon. I had great intentions of taking lots of pictures of the beach, but I wasn't really on my game. Here's what I was looking at most of the day.......

Wayne, please note that I am not on the bed, but beside the bed, I know how those things gross you out and I didn't want you to catch me enjoying comfort or anything if you happened to find us. ;-)

We got home safely that evening, Hubby kindly went for some Super Carne take out and brought me home a big bag of all my favourite candies (Skwinkles for those of you who care to know the details). I slowly ate my arrachera, nibbled on my treats and promptly fell asleep in front of the TV (after Amazing Race of course).

Overall, a lovely birthday! Thanks to my lady friends for our great conversations, wish I could remember everything we talked about (do I need to apologize for anything?) and gracias to Hubby and Max for taking such good care of me. I guess I am getting too old to party like a rock star! Nahhhhh, Keith Richards proves that just ain't true.....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Canuck in Cancun Wins the Bloggie!

I am a very happy blogger today, the winners of the 2009 Bloggies were announced yesterday at the SXSW conference in Texas and I am pleased to announce that this little blog was the winner in the category of "Best Latin American Blog". I was truly shocked, I didn't expect to win, the blogs in the Latin American category were great and I didn't think I had a chance. I want to tip my hat to the other competitors and to offer congratulations to all the category winners this year. I wish I had been able to attend the ceremony and do a shot with you all.

I would really like to thank all of you, my wonderful readers for your votes, your support and your continued reading and commenting. Obviously if it wasn't for you, I would just be talking to thin air and I wouldn't have received this honour. I know a lot of people feel that awards such as these are quite meaningless (and in the grand scheme of things, they are), but it makes me feel good to know that there are people reading and enjoying my little slice of life. I know that a blog or a blog award cannot change the world, but I can hope that at the very least I can brighten someone's day or provide some useful information.

Some of you may recall that when I announced my position as finalist, I offered to donate the prize money to R.A.P. Cancun Animal Rescue and I plan to do just that. It's such an incredibly worthwhile organization, I would like to ask each of you to join me, match my small donation and help an organization that offers so much to my adopted city. The prize money was a mere $20.09 USD, if you would like to make a matching donation (or more!), please check out their secure Paypal page.

Again, thanks to all, I hope you stick around for a long time to come, I'm not done yet!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Random Canuck Thoughts

My head has been all aflutter lately, not much focus, kind of like a cat watching dust balls and seeing something shiny go by. Sitting down to write a comprehensive blog post seems beyond me right now, so I thought I would just share some random "goings on" and things and stuff on the mind of the Canucka.

1. I'm officially a professional writer! A lovely Canadian woman in Oaxaca contacted me about writing something for and I gladly accepted. I've never considered myself a writer, I just think through my keyboard, but thankfully I have changed my tune and may actually be at the beginning of something that could help us out financially. Check out my first piece of writing with my photos, "A Guide to the Beaches of Cancun and the Riviera Maya."

2. It's almost my birthday! That's right, I'm about to be older. One year older in fact. Sunday March 15th I'll be turning 38, recovering from a hangover from Saturday night's celebration and hopefully hitting the beach. It's a long weekend here, sadly not to celebrate my birthday, but I'll take that free Monday as part of my present. (And a happy birthday to K.W. who shares the same cumpleaños!)

3. Twitter. OH man Twitter. It's unbelievably addictive. I'm using Tweetdeck which allows me to follow a whack o' twitterers and do searches for specific terms etc.. Too much fun watching the column that shows me every tweet with the word "Cancun" in it. Such a wide range of comments, some simply "In Cancun, it ROCKS HARD" to "Don't go to Cancun, 10 tourists were killed this week". Very amusing to be a voyeur.

4. The cats are getting fat. I mean, really fat. I finally discovered that Max has been "helping" by putting food in their dish whenever it was empty. He's so proud of himself, how can I scold him for that? No wonder they are following him around like he's carrying sardines in his pocket.

5. High season. Cancun lives and breathes by tourism and the energy around town changes when the tourists really start to pack it in. This week is the busiest week of the year and you can feel it when out and about. There are tourists everywhere! (Easily spotted by their glowing white pastiness or the lobster-red sunburns). I will be avoiding the hotel zone at all costs (except to possibly visit my friend in Pok ta Pok which I still don't consider part of the HZ for some reason).

6. Preschool. We just got Max's "grades" back from this month's exams. "Bien" in Spanish, "Excelente" in Culture and English and "Regular" in math. He still skips "13" when counting in both languages, it's getting creepy. He got into double trouble at school this week though. I picked him up one day and he had a huge scratch down his forehead and across his eye. The teacher said he was jumping on his chair and fell off. When they asked him what happened, he said he cut himself with a knife at home! So, goofing off and lying about it, what a little sh*t! But oh yeah, we're focusing on the positive, ahem, so good job on the exams kiddo.

Well, that's probably enough randomness for now, I could go on all day about news events, family stuff, dogs in the street, flat tires and sleeping with a four year old on my back, but I will leave it at that. Going to find my center and breathe deep. Or, find out what people on Twitter are saying about, oh, I don't know, monkeys.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Am I Going to Be a Victim of Violence in Mexico?

I don't think I've ever "re-blogged" anything, but I just can't resist with this one. With so many questions about safety in Cancun and Mexico in general, this quiz written by the blogger "Midwesterner in Mexico" answers a whole lot of questions and gives some great advice. The more I read it, the more I like it. So, with the blogger's permission, I give you.....

The Official Quiz for Determining your Risk of Violence in Mexico

(please answer yes or no to the following questions)

  1. I am the head of a powerful drug cartel.
  2. I am employed by a recent drug cartel start-up, and my title is “Business Development Manager, Mexico”.
  3. I cannot leave the house without my 3 diamond rings, diamond stud earrnings, and emerald necklace.
  4. I only travel by limo.
  5. I insist on wearing shorts, sandals with socks pulled up to mid-calf, a Hawaiian shirt, and a floppy hat at all times, while using my obnoxious American “outside voice”.
  6. I have a tendency to flash wads of cash while trying to pay for a $10 peso bottle of water with a $1000 peso bill.
  7. I travel strictly using libre taxis hailed off the street in Mexico City, like the green VW bugs, because I don’t want to pay the extra $30 (+/-) pesos for a safer sitio taxi.
  8. I am a high-level Mexican law enforcement official actively engaged in the fight against drugs and am not on the narco payroll.
  9. I prefer to drive long trips between cities in Mexico only at night, and I am too cheap to pay the tolls to drive on the safe, well-maintained cuota highways.
  10. I insist on going out drinking by myself, getting loaded, then stumbling around the back alleys of Mexico City singing “You are my sunshine” at the top of my lungs.
  11. I sell drugs to a circle of depressed, soccer-moms in a US suburb, and I am traveling to Mexico to take advantage of the crazy dollar/peso exchange rate to find a new dealer for my drug supply.
  12. I am visiting Mexico to conduct a major business transaction for which I intend to convert $20,000 USD into $306,000 pesos in public at the airport currency exchange desk.
  13. I ask taxi drivers to take me on tours past the homes of local drug lords, where I get out of the taxi and take photos from the middle of the street during broad daylight.
  14. I insist on traveling to parts of Mexico City not mentioned in guide books or specifically mentioned as areas full of criminals, like Tepito, a.k.a. the “Thieves’ Market”.

OK, end of quiz! Time to review your score.

If you answered yes to #1, #2, or #8: I strongly recommend you avoid travel into Mexico, leave Mexico if you are already here, or seriously consider a new line of work.

If you answered yes to #3, #4, or #6: perhaps you have forgotten that you are visiting a country where the daily minimum wage for 2009 is $54.80 pesos. That is $3.58 USD PER DAY at the current exchange rate. Please bear this in mind and stop flaunting your money like a fool.

If you answered yes to #7 or #9: have you checked the exchange rate lately?? During the 8 months we have been here, it has gone from 10 pesos / 1 dollar to 15.3 pesos / 1 dollar. Stop being a cheap ass and spend the extra pesos to pick the safe option.

And finally, if you answered yes to #5, #10, #11, #12, #13 or #14: you are simply not very smart and probably shouldn’t be allowed to travel, period.

I hope this insightful quiz has eased your fears about travel to Mexico, as long as you are not an idiot or a criminal.

And there you have it folks, a fantastic piece from a great gringa blogger in Mexico City. I thank her for letting me share! Check out her blog for the whole piece and to see another perspective on being an ex-pat in Mexico.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cenote Snorkeling in Tankah

Max woke me up this morning begging to go snorkeling. We were prepared to go to the beach today as per usual, but decided to check out a cenote instead to please the little man. I'd recently read about Mindy and her family's trip to Casa Cenote and thought that might be a good adventure for the day. We hit the road, stopped for Ty-Coz on the highway (15 peso tortas, hot fresh baguettes and ham, yum) and filled up with drinks and snacks for the hour and a half trip south.

Casa Cenote is located just outside of Tulum, in an "almost" town called Tankah. There is a small entrance fee (20 pesos) and kayaks are available for rent for 100 pesos an hour. The cenote is extremely close to the ocean, just a few steps across the road brings you to the incredible Caribbean Sea and a small beach side restaurant.

The snorkeling was great fun, lots to see under the cool waters of Casa Cenote. I think instead of blah blah blahing about it, I'll just let the pictures and video speak for themselves.

And there you have it, a glimpse of Casa Cenote, another great day trip out of Cancun.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stinky Walmart

I really hate going to Walmart. As Max told me yesterday "No, not Walmart, it's stinky!". Perhaps it's my imagination, but there is an odor about Walmart that just doesn't stimulate my appetite. Can't put my finger on what it is, wet cardboard/fish/cleaning products, it's not overwhelming, it just perches on the edge of my nose and makes me want to get out fast. Unfortunately, the main Walmart in town is in between work and home and Max's school and home and is therefore convenient when I am driving and have the "Oh crap, we need eggs and milk" moment. For the big shopping excursions, we'll choose Soriana or Mega over Walmart every time, but on days when I only need a couple of things, the convenience of the big blue W forces me through its doors. In addition to the "aroma", Walmart is usually packed, has long lines at the checkouts and less than friendly cashiers. It's also a tourist mecca, wife beater shirts and socks and sandals trying to figure out why the milk isn't refrigerated. They hear me speak to Max in English and see my uniform and correctly guess that I live here. Suddenly I am a grocery interpreter, helping them choose the mayonnaise they want and pointing out where they can find the tequila and deodorant. I usually don't mind helping, but it sure slows down my whole "get in, get out" game plan.

Yesterday I had the "Oh sh*t, I forgot to get bread!" moment just as we were passing the Walmart Supercenter, made the quick turn into the parking lot, only to be screamed at by Max. He threw a mini-tantrum, screaming "Walmart is STINKY! I want Soriana!!!". Well, phooey kid, you get what you get, now let's go. It was a zoo, filled with tourists (nice to see after hunkering down at the computer reading all the alerts and warnings). I realized I should make the best of it and have some fun so pulled out my camera to become the crazy woman taking pictures of fish. Sooo, here's a peek at some of the delightful things you'll find in Walmart in Cancun.

The Deli
Would you like ham, ham or ham?

I'm sure that about halfway through the bottle
that goat starts looking pretty mean.
"Whatchoo lookin' at Mr. Goat? Eh? I'm going to kick your...."

Expensive shrimp at that, 454 pesos/kilo!

Jaiba- Much cheaper, too bad I don't like it!

Fresh Fish
(Max told me not to get too close to take the picture,
he felt it was "dangwous")

Run For Your Lives Frozen Shrimp,
The Octopus is Coming For You!!!!
(Another item I don't like, I can't stand 'pulpo', the texture
kills me, ewwwwww)

The Creepiest Photo of Pastor Ever
(Can you see the floating face over the onions? There was no one there
when I took the picture, ooooooooooooh, freaky! And is that steam
or some kind of ghostly vapor coming off the meat?)

And there you have it folks, the lightning tour of stinky Walmart. It must be haunted, the "buy more" spirits were certainly present, I went in for bread and came out with a lot of crap I don't remember needing. If you see me in Walmart, don't be afraid to ask for help, I promise not to bite your head off or mock you in the blog. No, really, I'd hate to see you walk out with crunchy instead of smooth, that could ruin your whole trip.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Resort Towns Safe in Mexico

With the apparent hysteria in the media about the dangers of Mexico and the anxious emails I'm receiving about upcoming trips, I thought I would touch on this subject one more time (see previous post here). In Cancun and Quintana Roo, at this moment in time, all is peaceful, all is calm and tourists are safe. According to today's local paper "El Periodico", the US State Department released a letter stating that their warning was intended to urge people to exercise caution in the border areas of the country, not to prohibit travel or imply that resort areas are unsafe. There have been no tourists killed in Cancun as a result of the war on drugs. Do people die here? Why, yes they do, car accidents, heart attacks, drownings, suicides, of course people die here, but random murders just don't happen. The entire city of Cancun had only 65 murders last year, none of the victims were tourists. For a city of about 700 000 residents with millions of tourists visiting each year, that is not a scary statistic. Does crime against tourists happen? Yes, this is not Disneyland (and I am sure there are pick pockets there too), robberies occur, credit card fraud, rape (usually of the "date rape" variety, not random assaults on the street), all things that happen in any major city. Use your common sense and don't put yourself or your things in dangerous situations. Don't buy drugs, don't use the services of prostitutes and stay away from unknown areas outside the tourist zones at night. Don't flash cash around, lock your valuables in the safe, don't get so drunk you can't remember the name of your hotel (or your own name for that matter), and stick with your group or travel partner, all reasonable travel advice for any destination.

But don't just take my word for it, a number of Mexican bloggers and reliable sources have chimed in on the issue

Heather in Paradise- Playa del Carmen is Safe
Luna Blue- Playa del Carmen: Is It Safe?
The Rosas-Standring Family- Is Tulum Safe to Visit?
Countdown to Mexico (Mazatlan)- Everyone is on the Defensive
Rivergirl- Is Cancun Safe?
Rivergirl- Cancun, Mexico is Safe for Tourists
TravelOjos- (multiple posts on safety in Mexico) Is Cancun Safe?
Same Life, New Location- She Walks in Beauty Like the Night
Mexfiles- Each Man's Death Diminishes Me (not really)
Dangers CancunCasa- Travel Still Safe to Major Tourist Hubs in Mexico
Isla Gringo- We're All Going to Die!

(If I've missed your blog on the subject, drop me a comment and I will add your link)

If the situation changes and things deteriorate, I'll be the first to shout "Watch out!", I'm certainly not going to deliberately put people in harm's way or mislead tourists in any manner. For now, I am living my day to day life, not worrying too much about what's going on in the north of the country and I'm still helping friends and family plan their upcoming visits.

**note: Any comments that do not engage in reasonable debate on the topic will be deleted. You are free to disagree, but back up your opinions with facts and sources and be respectful or your comment will be gone. Racist comments will not be tolerated and personal insults or attacks will result in the removal of your comment as well. Please note that anonymous comments are no longer permitted on this site. Thank you in advance.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Visit to Cancun's Hotel Zone

We rarely go to the hotel zone of Cancun, we just don't have the need and we certainly don't have the money to play at the big boy restaurants. The clubs don't interest us, the beaches are better outside of the city and neither of us works in the zone, so we just live our little lives downtown or in the secret hideaways of Quintana Roo. Yesterday I needed to go to the "HZ" (as some of us call it, Spanish speakers "la zona" or "zona hotelera") and decided to snap some pics for the blog at the same time. These are pretty random, some chosen because I like the shot, some for their story, enjoy!

Beach Club, Welcome!
200 pesos to use the facilities, no drinks or food included
(Please note I have no interior shots, I refuse to pay the price!)

The "Beach" Behind the 200 Peso Beach Club
Mmm, something seems to be missing....
Look at the photos on their website, can you see
what part of the equation is gone?
Right, there's no beach at the beach club.

Tourists! A Whole Busload of Japanese Tourists
I couldn't help but take pictures of them taking pictures,
they seem a little overdressed for the occasion though

Random Beach Roots at Playa Delfines

"Plant" on the Beach at Delfines
(Yeah, I have no idea what it is but it sure is pretty!)

The Famous "El Mirador"/"Lookout" at Playa Delfines
One of the most photographed places in Cancun I am sure

El Fish Fritanga
Hidden gem of a restaurant in the HZ
Down the stairs to the back is their outdoor restaurant
on the lagoon with great seafood at great prices

This Ad Was Not Meant for Me
I will not be making reservations, but thanks for the invite

Sunday Night? Damn!
"Amazing Race" is on, can I get a rain check on the whole
sinning and drinking for free deal?

And there you have it, a quick glimpse of the terrifying and dangerous place called Cancun. Looks scary huh?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hechos, No Palabras

The local Cancun government's latest slogan is "Hechos, No Palabras", "Actions, Not Words" and posters and billboards are all over town with this phrase and logo. This billboard is advertising the "Dragon", the road machine set to transform the streets of Cancun. While the city is still plagued by horrid potholes, it seems like some work really is getting done, slowly but surely streets are actually being fixed (though I have yet to see "The Dragon" in action, oh maybe one day I will be so lucky!). Will be interesting to see how long the repairs last once we see rainy season.

Now, I wonder if they've got a machine up their sleeves for cleaning up graffiti?

D is for Dengue, Depression and Dread

I'm currently sitting in my Cancun apartment, staving off the Covid 19 panic and using all my Jungle Kelly powers to maintain my cal...