Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Snorkeling Garrafon Park, Isla Mujeres

Living here for the past six years, we've done a LOT of things, seen so much, but we had never been to Garrafon Park on Isla Mujeres and I have always been curious. We got some freebies to head over on the weekend and thought it was a great way to celebrate Hubby's birthday. It was a jam packed day, we started by swimming with the dolphins at Dolphin Discovery then made our way over to the absolutely gorgeous Garrafon to do a little snorkeling, graze on the buffet and hang out in the panoramic pool. We had a great time, not much more I can say than that, I think the pictures tell the story better than I do.

The view of the reef at Garrafon

The zip lines over the sea

School of pretty fishies

Fishies having a little nosh on the barrier rope

These little guys kept banging right up on my lens

I LOVE these blue guys, always sticking together

My super snorkeling guys

A rare peek at me, Canucka, hanging in a cave

The highlight of the snorkeling part of the day was chasing a HUGE, I mean giganto barracuda. When he turned around to chase me, I had a bit of a panic (silly girl), which you'll see in this video. I crack myself up every time I watch this, such an over reaction to a "little" fishy. Just because he's got a mouth full of teeth doesn't mean that I would be at all tasty to him. Does it?

So, happy birthday to Hubby, I hope you had as much fun as we did, we love you!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


I must admit to being a bit scattered lately, big life changes have affected my focus and ability to concentrate. Everyday a million blog posts go through my mind and slip through the cracks, ending up as vapor in the humid air. One of the problems is that I can't yet write about what I really want to write about so nothing gets written! Soon, precious, soon. In the meantime, here's a few things that have been happening lately that I can actually share with you.

1. Another baby, another caesarean. A lovely friend of mine had her baby girl this week, congrats amiga, I can't wait to meet her! Throughout her pregnancy she was insistent on having a natural birth and I supported her fully. Unfortunately there is a huge problem here in Mexico, doctors almost always insist on c-sections. I don't know anyone who has had a natural birth, even the women who wanted one so badly get laid out on the operating table in the end (myself included). The c-section rate is one of the highest in the world, a frustrating problem considering that it is most definitely about money. Doctors get paid more for surgery than for delivering a baby naturally. I haven't talked to my friend yet to find out exactly what happened, but I want to send lots of healing energy to her and restful vibes to baby girl. I think if I ever have a friend here give birth naturally I will make it a national holiday.

2. Fiesta, fiesta, fiesta. Now that Max is back in school, we're back to kid party hell, er heaven? On the weekend we had a christening, a 3 year old mass (there is always a special mass for children when they turn 3, I'm not Catholic so don't ask me why!) and a 4 year old birthday party. Thankfully Hubby took over the churchy stuff (no need for the inevitable lightning strikes were I to walk into a church) but I did go to the birthday party. Burger King, 20 kids and their corresponding parents, chaos!! It was nice to be able to chat with the parents of Max's friends and discover that we are all dealing with the same issues and Max is not the demon child I sometimes think he is. He's normal, he's normal, hurray!

3. Skool dayz. I'm really proud of my little student, he's made some big changes since returning to school. His teachers say that he is actually paying attention and getting down to work (most of the time) and his writing skills have improved dramatically. He's beginning to read and most impressive of all, he's learning his sums. In the afternoons he comes out and ASKS to do his homework! Huh? Where's my little drama king of last year, throwing his head down on the table and saying "I no can, it's hard mommy!"? It's not all peaches and cream, he still has his four year old days where he doesn't want to do it, but it's a relief that he seems to be really eager to learn most of the time. Homework time sometimes feels like an Abbott and Costello routine, especially when he's working with me on his Spanish homework. "Circle the pictures of things that start with the letter "M"" (in Spanish of course). There are pictures of a moon, a butterfly, a bean and an apple. Even though I asked him to do it in Spanish and to name what the pictures were, he responded in English and wanted to circle the moon. It's hard to explain that yes, he is right, "moon" starts with "M", but "luna" does not. And that "butterfly" starts with "B" in English, and "apple" starts with "A", but "mariposa" and "manzana" start with "M" so he should circle them. We go in circles on things like this, but he's getting there. So, if you see me with a big dent in my head, don't worry, the edge of the table isn't that hard.

And there you have the short of it. Too many other things to talk about and so little time. Hopefully I'll get settled in to a schedule soon and be able to devote more time to blogging and to reading and commenting on your blogs. And oh yeah, responding to emails, returning phone calls and so on and so on and so on......Hope your life is grand, thanks for reading!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Renee Wathelet- A Tragedy on Isla Mujeres

Last week a terrible tragedy occurred. A Canadian woman living on Isla Mujeres was brutally murdered in her home by a young Mexican man who had been her acquaintance. I did not know Renee personally, only peripherally through her blog and twitter. After reading some personal accounts from bloggers who knew her (Dentro del Jardin and IslaZina), it sounds as though she was a person I would have liked to have spent some time with.

Of course this event has stirred the media, leading to the inevitable "Mexico is dangerous!" comments that come from the masses who have no idea what they are talking about. People who have never been to Mexico form opinions based solely on headlines without taking the time to investigate what exactly happened. There have been a few, I mean very few instances in recent past where Canadians have been killed in Mexico by violent means. Compared with the millions of Canadians who have visited without incident, I think that is a pretty low number and not indicative of Mexico being a dangerous place to visit. What happened to Renee on Isla could have happened to her anywhere. I have read about a couple of homicides in her hometown of Montreal over the last few days, but I don't see anyone screaming for a boycott of Canada. This was a very sad, very tragic and violent occurrence, but to somehow blame Mexico for it is absurd. This was an isolated event, involving a mentally disturbed young man, a crime that could have happened anywhere in the world. The perpetrator was caught, confessed and will be going to jail for a long, long time. Yet reading the comments on news stories, you would think that his arrest was a ruse and that the police and authorities are no better than the Keystone Cops.

My wish is for people to think of Renee, think of her love for her adopted country and to wish her peace. Please do not turn this into another reason to bash Mexico, I really don't think that would make Renee very happy at all from what I have read of her. Leave your xenophobia at the door and just send positive thoughts to the friends and family of the victim. Rest in peace Renee, repose en paix.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Swine Flu, AH1N1 Cancun, September Update- What Flu?

I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I am. I continue to get emails and comments on old posts from people with concerns about AH1N1 influenza (swine flu) in Cancun and Quintana Roo. It's incredible how misinformation and fear are spread, months after the outbreak which barely even reached this area of Mexico. The only real effect the virus had on the region was the complete shut down of businesses and schools and the terrible toll on the local economy.

Here are some facts:

1. Since the beginning of the outbreak, the entire state of Quintana Roo has suffered only one fatality.
2. Since the beginning of the outbreak, the total number of confirmed cases in the state total 513. (As a comparison, September 6 news indicates that there are a suspected 2000 cases at Washington State University alone)
3. The AH1N1 virus does not survive well in humid environments like that of the tropical climate in Quintana Roo.
4. While the numbers are extremely low and the risk is minimal, authorities continue to be vigilant in sanitary procedures and in monitoring the situation. Schools have taken extra steps this year to thwart any spread of viral diseases and tourist locales are doing all they can to ease the minds of travelers and maintain a healthy environment.
5. Treatments for the virus are widely available, further minimizing the risk of the disease becoming fatal.

This past weekend I watched a documentary on the Discovery Channel entitled "La Gripa Letal-AH1N1: Mexico Reacciona" (The Lethal Flu- AH1N1 Mexico Reacts). It was interesting to watch the events unfold now that we've gone beyond the original panic and shock. Mexico did a superb job of handling an unknown situation and preventing a devastating spread of the virus. Authorities around the world now recognize that lessons are to be learned from Mexico's reaction. Yes, many people became ill and many died, but if the government hadn't stepped in and basically shut down the country, the losses would have been much higher. With all the information currently available and with the education of the public, I expect that any further outbreaks will be under control in very short time.

So, as of this moment, September 16, 2009, there is absolutely zero reason to think that you are in any danger from the flu in Cancun and Quintana Roo. In fact, people are probably at greater risk staying home as the flu season begins in the cold regions of the US and Canada and other parts of the world. There is speculation that the disease will be coming for a second wave, but until that time comes, I do not hesitate to recommend travel to this area. Come on down, the water is fine!

For more detailed information about the current AH1N1 situation, please consult the following links:

Google Flu Trends Mexico
Google Flu Trends United States
Secretaria de Salud Mexico (Spanish)
World Health Organization H1N1
CDC H1N1 Flu Situation Update
New England Journal of Medicine HealthMap

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Xpu Ha Solo Camping

Like all mommies and wives (well, everyone I guess) , occasionally we need a break from it all, a refresher for the soul, time alone to recharge. I had my chance this past weekend and snuck off for a solo camping trip in Xpu Ha. Saturday morning I hopped in the car and cruised south to the prettiest little spot in Quintana Roo. The drive is about 90 km, an hour and a half on the highway if you are lucky (driving through Playa del Carmen is a bit of pain, stop and go at all those lights and maneuvering around gaping tourists in the slow lane). I spent my time listening the the 80´s music station and belting out every song as loud as I could (one of the joys of alone time, no one to criticize my singing!).

I found the rough dirt road entrance and made my way to the chained off entrance. The ¨security¨guy seemed a little surprised that I was camping by myself, but it made him smile. I paid the bargain rate of 70 pesos for one night and spent five minutes trying to get dude to understand what my name was for the receipt. I should have just told him ¨Lulu¨and been done with it (that´s my Starbucks name, I´ve learned that it´s much easier than trying to explain my real name and the barristas don´t have to struggle with the announcement that my frappuccino is ready).

Security dude directed me to the shady spot for pitching tents, pointed out the showers and bathrooms and disappeared back to his palapa and chain duties. I picked out a tree and got to work unloading the car and setting up the tent. I was pretty proud of myself, got everything up zim zam zoom without hurting myself or causing a ¨look at the funny white girl with the flying tent¨scene¨. It was time to relax and enjoy the scenery.

I went for walks, I read one and a half books, I drank two beers and six Coca Colas, ate some sandwiches and jumped in the waves. The night time sky is almost indescribable, there was no moon so everything was pitch black (no nearby resort lights, yahoo!) but there was a blanket of stars from one end of the sky to the other. I lay on the sand, watched the stars and listened to the waves. I was kind of hoping to see some UFO action, alas, it wasn´t my night for the visitation.

I woke early the next morning and continued my relaxing ways, missing my boys terribly by this point. Around noon I started to pack up, not quite as successfully as the unpacking process. The winds had been high since I got there so taking down and folding a big tent on my own was tough. I´ll confess, I could not get it folded well enough to fit back in the bag, but at least it was close! I got the car loaded and was on the road again, more 80´s tunes, more traffic in Playa and finally home to my guys. I was glad for the break but happy to see them again, I´ll take them with me next time if they´re good.

My home away from home

The reading lounge

Xpu Ha Bonanza Camp Ground

Bring yer own hammocks

Early morning kite boarding

Crab tracks


Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Divine Revelation" Leads to Cancun Airplane Hijacking

We had a bit of excitement yesterday afternoon with the news that an airplane leaving Cancun en route to Mexico City had been hijacked. Twitter was abuzz with the happenings, the first reports indicating that three Bolivian men had hijacked an airplane out of Cancun and were demanding to speak to President Calderon. We watched live streaming coverage as the plane landed at the airport in DF (as Mexico City is commonly known). In a few short minutes we saw passengers exiting the plane while armed forces and federal police arrived on the scene. We observed the authorities entering the plane and coming out with several men being detained, including a "diputado" (kind of like a congressman) of Quintana Roo. Shortly thereafter it was reported that there was no bomb, no weapons of any kind and that everyone was safe and sound. The whole event took about an hour, a fun ride on the information super highway (only fun once we learned that everyone was ok).

After all was said and done, one man was responsible for the hijacking and the other detainees were released. Jose Marc Flores Pereira, also known as Josmar Flores Pereira was the sole perpetrator of the crime. SeƱor Flores is a Bolivian singer who has lived in Mexico for 17 years, a "reverend" of a fundamentalist cult. He claims that he had a "divine revelation" that he should hijack the airplane on 9/9/09 as it was the Satanic "666" upside down. He threatened to blow up the plane with his "bomb", three cans of hummus with red lights attached, unless he was able to speak to President Calderon and warn him about an upcoming earthquake.

I have to say that I was impressed by the actions of the authorities in Mexico, they took prompt action and ensured the safety of everyone involved without incident. It was a relief to find out that there were no breaches of security in the Cancun airport, if he had actually managed to get a bomb or weapon on the plane it would have been very bad news indeed. In the end, it was just a nut job fanatic wreaking terror on 104 innocent people and while it's an event they will never forget, at least they'll be able to laugh about it soon.

They're probably already printing t-shirts "Sobrevivio el secuestrador loco en el coco" (I survived the crazy in the head hijacker).

Here's a little sample of the song stylings of the hijacker.....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Little Catch 22

In order to change jobs while on an FM3 or FM2, you need to get permission from immigration. In order to get permission, you need a letter from your previous company saying you don't work there anymore. So, I can't get a new job til I quit the old job but then there is no guarantee that I will receive permission to start the new job, thus, I could be left jobless and without a visa.

This is where I am right now and therefore I am feeling the stress. A couple of weeks ago I was approached by a company about coming to work for them. They had found me through the blog and through Twitter and were interested in having me join their team. I declined at first, I was very happy in my teaching position, but in the end they made me an offer that was difficult to turn down. It seems that all is a done deal, I've got an offer in writing, have had a few meetings at head office and ready to move ahead so I quit the teaching position I had held for five years. So, now I wait. I wait in the hopes that the job gods will allow me to start the new position ASAP. I'm waiting for the letter from the old job so I can take it to immigration, then bring it to the new company who will send their lawyers to immigration with a package asking for "permiso". I'm waiting with pounding heart and sour taste in my mouth, I really need to work and I really need this process to go smoothly. I feel like I am on a bit of a ledge, currently unemployed in order to become employed again. I wish I could have just stayed in the old job during the process of change at INM, but alas, it's not allowed. And I am not allowed to work until the process is finished. So, basically I am stuck at home with no income until the whole thing is sorted out, playing Farmville on Facebook and contemplating my navel.

Hey brother, could you spare a "cambio de actividades" stamp?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ruinas el Rey Cancun- Iguana Party!

Hidden away amidst the flashy resorts of Cancun's hotel zone is a little piece of history, the small Mayan ruins site called El Rey. While not as significant as Chichen Itza or Tulum, the ruins do offer a glimpse of the ancient Mayan life. Archaeologists estimate that the area was inhabited from roughly 900 AD to 1550 AD when the Spanish conquered Mexico. There are several structures on site, from the religious temple to the castle to simple living accommodations.

While the ruins may no longer be inhabited by people, they are home to hundreds of iguanas who know to come running when someone starts throwing tortillas. They appear out of nowhere with their bouncy little run and flicking tails, fighting each other for a little nibble. They're certainly not afraid of humans and humans should not be afraid of them, iguanas don't bite though they'll use their powerful tails to take a swipe at you if they feel threatened.

We paid a little visit to El Rey yesterday, stocked and ready with two bags of tortillas to feed the monsters. The ruins are located around km 17 in the hotel zone, across from the famous Playa Delfines and the old El Pueblito hotel (a ruin itself since Hurricane Wilma). El Rey is open from 8 am to 5 pm and the entry fee is 37 pesos (discounts for locals with ID). We were the only people there, had the place to ourselves, most likely as it was a million degrees when we went. I've never had so much sweat pouring off of me! It's unsurprising that Max was more taken with the iguanas than the "old rocks" of the ruins. We explored on our own, no guide, so we really didn't have much idea of what we were looking at, but it was fun nonetheless (Max would have been bored with a history lecture anyway).

View of the site from the top of the castle

The ancient Hilton....

Typical castle structure of the Maya


Sloppy eater

I took a short video of the iguanas, it's amazing to see them run from long distances, obviously they put out the Batsignal that breakfast is served. I kept getting spooked by the ones running up from behind me, I'm not afraid of iguanas but I don't like them sneaking up on me.

If you find yourself in Cancun and are short on time for a trip to Chichen Itza or Tulum, take a little peek at El Rey for a taste of history. You can see the whole site in a short period of time and be back on the beach in a flash with some great iguana tales to tell.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Am I in Kinder Dos Yet?

Big boys shave to go to school, right mommy?
(Sure son, just usually not their eyebrows.....)

Finally, FINALLY I can answer "yes" to Max's most persistent question of the summer, "Am I in Kinder Dos Yet?" My little guy (excuse me, big boy) officially started "kinder two" yesterday and he was so proud. This is the beginning of his fourth year at the same school, he started out as a wee bebe in Maternal Uno and learned quickly that the "big kids" in Kinder Dos had the power and respect of the lesser Kinder Unos and Maternal babies. He's all set to rule the school at four years old.

Getting ready for the school year was pretty painless, except on the pocketbook of course. How is it that a four year old can have $200 USD worth of books? Math books, Spanish books, English books, French books,computer books, books on values, books on creativity, CD's, art kits, the list was endless. Then we have to buy the notebooks. Now, I really don't know if they do this in Canada or the US, but here each book must be covered in a special shiny paper, colour-coded based on the subject, then sealed in sticky clear vinyl with a sticker stating name and subject. It took us hours to cover all the stupid books, I don't understand why we can't just use a magic marker and write "Max" on it somewhere and be done with it like we did when I was in school. (I promise, I won't use the expression "In my day.....", I'm not that old yet). I am not overly particular about neatness, throw the paper on and get it wrapped up, who cares if there are air bubbles in the plastic? Unfortunately, Hubby is a proud "type A" personality so we clashed over the ridiculous book covers. He asked me to do them, I started whipping through them in my way and he couldn't bear it and re-did the books I had already done and took over the project. My feeling is "Hey, it's coloured and it's covered, what's the big whoop?". He says that doesn't fly in Mexico. I think it just doesn't fly with him. Anywhoooooooo....

When Max got home from school yesterday I asked him what he had done. I hate to be predictable, but that's the standard first day of school question I guess. I was hoping to hear about him learning new words, a new song, practicing his letters. But oh no, he had to tell me that he got to see his girlfriend after a long summer, that he gave her a kiss on the lips and called her "his love". Focus child, focus! Perhaps an all boy school would be good for this kid, his love for the ladies is going to interfere with him becoming the brain surgeon that he is meant to be! Of course, he doesn't know he is going to be a brain surgeon, his big dream is to be the taco delivery guy, he gets to ride a motorcycle you know (and the ladies love a motorcycle man!). If he's serious about that, I guess we could save ourselves a lot of money on private school, just get him his license and a moto and we're golden. At least it's a step up from his goal from last year to be the "viene, viene" guy who helps cars back out of parking spaces at the supermarket. Dream big kid.

So it's begun, another school year, another year of me doing homework, finding costumes for event days, trying to decipher the teachers' handwriting and strange Spanish phrases (why say "anaranjado" when you can just say "naranja"?) and the inevitable visits to the director's office to discuss Max's behaviour. He was number two in his class last year, the only thing that prevented him from being number one was his "comportamiento", he preferred telling the teachers what he was going to do than to listen to their commands. The work would get done, but when HE wanted to do it. This year I am using the "Fear Factor Approach to Parenting" in the hopes that his competitive nature will force him to be "the best behaved" kid in the class. It's working with getting him to eat his vegetables ("It's just like Fear Factor Max, eat the yucky stuff as fast as you can and you win, 3, 2, 1 GO!"). There may not be a $50 000 prize, but I did promise him a cookie for everyday where I don't hear a complaint from his teachers.

Maybe I should change the cookie prize to a kiss from a girl......

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...