Friday, September 23, 2011

Mexico Today: "My Mexico" video featuring Cancun Canuck

Alternate blog title: "Look Ma, I'z on the Yoo Toob!"

Way back in June when I began working with the Mexico Today project, they asked me to be a part of a series of videos promoting the destination. I spent the day with an incredible film crew at Garrafon Park Isla Mujeres and met them once again for interviews in Oaxaca. I had SUCH a great time that I pretty much forgot that I was being filmed as I kayaked and zip lined and gazed dreamily out to sea. I've been awaiting the day we could see the finished product and here it is! 

While it's always strange to hear recordings of your own voice or see yourself on video, I am really pleased with the finished product and proud to be a part of the Mexico Today adventure. I believe that Mexico is a destination for EVERYONE, tourists and travellers, families and couples and singles, adventurers and laze-arounders, history buffs and foodies. While my focus is usually on Cancun and the Riviera Maya, the diversity of the country is astounding and I am excited to have the opportunity to discover even a small portion of what the rest of the country has to offer. My visit to Oaxaca in June was amazing and I have some exciting travel plans set up for October (more on that later!) My "Mexico Bucket List" is LONG, from the Copper Canyon to Guanajuato to Campeche, Chiapas, Veracruz....ok, really I could just add every state to the list because they each offer unique experiences in nature, culture, history and gastronomy to thrill the senses! It may take me a lifetime to see it all, but I've got the time....

The video above is part of a series, the other videos are just as lovely! Check out the Mexico Today Youtube page to see more!

I also invite you to become a fan of "A Canuck in Cancun" on Facebook, I would love to have you be a part of my community, the more, the merrier!

Marca País – Imagen de México, is a joint public and private sector initiative designed to help promote Mexico as a global business partner and an unrivaled tourist destination. This program is designed to shine a light on the Mexico that its people experience every day.

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contribtor for the México Today Program.All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

And So First Grade Begins....

Primero. First grade. Or as we say in Canada "Grade One". Where the big boys play, no more kindergarten babies. I get a lot of questions from people about schooling in Mexico but I must admit, it's impossible for me to make a comparison to NOB schools as I didn't have any experience with kids "up there" and my own school days were spent doing arithmetic on cave walls and commuting on dinosaurs.  I'm also pretty private about which school Max attends, safety issues et al, but I will try to give a peek into a typical day in primero in Cancun.

Our days start EARLY. Like, waaaaay too early. First class begins at 7 am. On Mondays they wear a uniform and the first thing they'll do is honour the flag and sing the national and state anthems. The rest of the week he actually gets to wear "normal" clothes and there is no anthem or ceremony. The wearing of "normal" clothes has become a bit of an issue in the house as Max has decided that HE gets to pick his clothes and he has to look "cool". Not many rules about dress code (except for the girls, no flip flops or high heels, no short skirts, no revealing tops).  So shorts and t-shirts are the order of the day, except for my weird kid who thinks he's in the Arctic and demands to wear jeans and long sleeve shirts (he really wants to look like Justin Bieber, sigh).

He attends a bilingual school, in this case it means half the day in English, half the day in Spanish. English is not taught as a second language, they teach it as a first language. Sounds great in theory (and it is) but with Max being fully bilingual already, the "vocabulary" lessons are a bit dull for him. He is learning spelling and the BIG frustration of the year is that all the other kids already know cursive writing and he does not. (He skipped "pre-first" after an evaluation day and I guess that is where they all learned). So I am not only trying to help him with spelling, but with spelling in the "foreign" letters of cursive. He doesn't have the luxury of learning one letter at a time, he's just going full throttle into words and sentences. He was UBER frustrated the first week or two, but I am kind of blown away by how he's grasped the concept. We still struggle, he can spell all the words when I quiz him out loud but makes errors in the cursive and therefore doesn't ace the tests like I know he can.

Spanish class seems to be easy for him, he can read fluently (in English too) and he's nailing the math and science. I'm pretty proud of him, he's one year younger than all his classmates so I know this is a challenge for him, but he's doing great.

He studies math, reading, values, civics, social science, physical science, and computers. He has classes in "activating intelligence" which is really creative thinking (love this!). Swimming class is mandatory and is graded as well. Music class must be a riot to see, 18 little ones trying to bang out notes on the recorder (poor music teacher!)

Academic classes run from 7 am to 1:30 pm. At 1:30 they start their "talleres" (workshops). The kids were given a list of activities to choose from and have two different ones per semester. Max does soccer on Mondays and Wednesdays and capoeira on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He's also taking extra soccer classes, so four hours a week of soccer in total. He has mandated that he is the team paramedic and he "must" bring elastic bandages and bandaids to school everyday "just in case". Throw in his six hours of gymnastics a week and we've got a pretty darned active little kid.

Big changes for him, going from a tiny kindergarten where he was king of the castle to a large school where he is the new kid and the little one. More rules, more responsibility and a whole new social scheme, we've had some battles with behaviour issues. I'm not overly concerned, he "gets" it and has been improving. A couple of trips to the director's office, not being allowed recess time and getting kicked out of capoeira should be taking effect by now. He's not a "bad" kid, just a mouthy one (he's mostly in trouble for "groserias", bad words, gasp!)

I'm excited about his year and thrilled with the new school and the concepts they promote (values are HUGE, respect, honestly and responsibility). The teachers are tough, but not mean. The campus is sweet, filled with plants and flowers and palm trees and buildings with palapas. Eco-friendly is a big component and they teach kids right off the bat about being kind to the planet and responsible for the future. He has good days and bad, like all kids in all schools but hopefully the positive is going to shine and outweigh the negative.

Now, if I can get him to stop saying "No manches!" when the teachers ask him to do something, we'll be on the right road...... 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

And She Was.....

I must confess, I am "ochentera" to the bone, a real 80's kind of gal. My "go to" music when I am happy, sad or angry is always something from the decade of leg warmers and parachute pants. One of the finest bands OF ALL TIME (well, in my humble opinion) is "The Talking Heads". One song in particular comes to mind as I make my way through this crazy thing called life, a song that makes me feel at peace with the world and connected to the planet. "And She Was" was written by David Byrne about a chick he knew in high school who would go drop acid by the Yoo Hoo factory, but I always feel it is less about a drug trip and more about accepting and embracing and enjoying where we are in life and the simple moments of just "being".

I have been somewhat stifled the last few months, not making enough effort to embrace being single and the new life I have. One of the things that I must do is make this house MINE. It is time to take down the old photos and bring new energy to my daily environment, do a spring cleaning and maybe even bring in a shaman for a "limpieza". To that end I have been going through the last nine months of photos to select a few to print to create an environment that will allow me to feel like the girl in the song, happy with where I am, in a place where I can just "be".

And so I bring to you a picture post, if it was in a gallery the show would be called "And She Was", a selection of photos that make me happy that will soon be adorning my walls....

I am "Sirenita", happiest under the sea

Happier still when I am having adventures with my boy

Good times with GREAT friends

Connecting with culture and history, powerful moments

The edge of the world at dawn

The biggest fish in the sea allowed me to "be"in his world

Appears to be one soul in this photo, but imagine
all the LIFE under that water

My amazing, incredible, most perfect creation
(He brings me more joy than anything on the planet)

And she was. I think surrounding myself with these images, moments of bliss, times of adventure and times of relaxation can only bring good things into my home and into my life. Let the spring cleaning begin, let the new life burst into action, it can only get better from here....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mexican Independence Day in Cancun- Viva Mexico!

Mexican Independence Day, a time to wave the old red, white and green, paint your face with the colours of the patria, eat chiles en nogada and shout out loud the pride one has in Mexico at the annual "El Grito" ceremony. People in every pueblo and city will gather in the "zocalos" (town squares) to hear the speeches given by the politicians and join their countrymen in shouting "Viva Mexico!" Others will gather with friends in a restaurant or bar or join their families in private celebrations. Much tequila will be drunk, politics will be discussed, the TV will be tuned to the president's speech and children will be told tales of Mexican history.

President Calderon delivering "El Grito" in Mexico City 2010

Cancun may not be a town of history, we don't have a "zocalo" or ancient cathedral, but that doesn't mean we don't celebrate the occasion. "El Grito" will be given at City Hall by the mayor, the decorations have been up for a while and preparations are well under way for the event. News sources say that popular Mexican singer Pablo Montero will be performing at the main event (in 2001 he serenaded Laura Bush on the White House lawn) and he is sure to please the crowds with other artists such as Celso Piña, king of cumbia! 

If you are going to be in Cancun for the big day (September 15th of course), here is a short list of some places you may celebrate if you are not up for the crowds at the official "El Grito". (A huge shout of gratitude to "Cancun Foros" for the information!)

Restaurante Los de Jalisco. From midday on Sept. 15 to 4 am Sept 16th they will be serving traditional pozole and a lively atmosphere. Located on Avenida Luciernaga Esquina Granadillo, Supermanzana 500, behind IMSS  Avenida Nichupte. Info  9981-193363.
Carlos’n Charlie’s, Cancún (Hotel Zone): Sept. 15 everyone is invited to "scream all they want" at this popular tourist bar. They will have a Mexican "kermes" (fair) with esquites (corn dish) and cotton candy, games of skill, Mariachi and dancing with "Las Adelitas". Reservations are recommended tel. 883-4468.
Restaurante Paloma Bonita (Hotel zone).-  One of the most well known Mexican restaurants in Cancun, they will be serving a traditional Mexican menu for the festive day. (They are offering a 20% discount for Cancunenses too). Reservations 848-7000. Located beside hotel Dreams Cancun.
Señor Frog’s Cancún (Hotel zone): The “Unplugged” party with live bands and mariachis, and an "all inclusive" package for 350 pesos (three course meal, open bar and pozole for the next day) Reservations 883-3454.
Fiesta Mexicana Hoteles Be Live: Los hoteles Be Live Viva Beach y Be Live Grand Viva Beach estarán ofreciendo en sus instalaciones una Fiesta Mexicana que entre otras cosas incluirán: Música y Ballet Folklorico Mexicano, Comida Típica Mexicana, Mariachi, Postres, antojitos y juegos. Todo esto desde $ 350.00 pesos por persona y los niños tienen un 50% de descuento. Para mayores informes y reservaciones comunicate a los telefonos 848-7600 ext. 2844 de 9m a 6pm.
Restaurante La Joya (Hotel Zone).- Located in the Fiesta Americana Hotel at km 9.5, they will be holding a "Gala Night" with a dinner of traditional Mexican dishes and desserts. There will be shows with live music (mariachis of course) and an "El Grito" ceremony. Reservations and info 881-3200 Ext. 3380.
Barezzito.- This HOT nightclub in downtown Cancun is offering "tacos for everyone all night long!", live music, a Luis Miguel impersonator and lots of surprises. Cover 300 pesos for men, 150 pesos for women. Info 889-9966.
Bubba Gump.- "Parrillada Especial" ("Special Grill) plus five beers for 295 pesos and you can party like Forrest.  Info and reservations 885-3010.
La Cantinita.- This is one of the most popular downtown restaurant/bars in Cancun, located in front of Plaza de Toros. For Sept. 15th they are offering dinner and a show with the bes of Pedro Fernandez, 400 pesos per person. Reservations 209-1370.
Hotel Ixchel, Isla Mujeres.- This lovely beach hotel on Isla Mujeres is offering packages from 625 pesos (2 night minimum) which includes standard room and a Mexican dinner on Sept. 15th. Reservations and info: 01800-717-0911.
Mexican Celebration at Sea.- Sail from Cancun to Isla Mujeres, enjoy a buffet dinner, open bar, games and a folklore show with Caribbean Carnaval.  The ship sets sail from Playa Tortugas at 8:30 Sept. 15th. Reservations and info: 884-3760.
Servicio a Domicilio de Chiles en Nogada: If you don't feel like leaving the house (or cooking!), you can order authentic chiles en nogada (they promise to use the original recipe!) Call to order 9981 53 4542 o al 9981 421214.

Whatever you do, wherever you go, take a moment to reflect on all things positive about Mexico, the battles the country has fought and the pride in this great land. Viva Mexico!

(This post is part of a "Blog Hop", my fellow "Mexico Today" ambassadors are all writing pieces for "El Mes de Patria", there are some fantastic articles, see the links below and show them some love!)

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own

Monday, September 12, 2011

Caution: Cancun Crab Crossing

Not a real crab

As I have been preparing this post in my head, my inner voice has taken on a Marlin Perkins tone, a little "Wild Kingdom" theme running through my head (brought to you by Mutual of Omaha, the company that pays). One of the joys of living in Cancun is being surrounded by nature and wildlife. On the downside, with the continued growth and development, the city is encroaching on the habitat of all the amazing creatures that have lived here for thousands of years.. 

A real blue crab

And thus the need for events like the "Crab Crossing" that happens every full moon in September and October. During this time, the female blue crabs migrate from the lagoon to the sea, full of eggs and ready to create the next generation of these pretty little snappers. Before Cancun was a destination for millions of tourists, this was an easy jaunt across a sand bar. Now it's a dangerous game crossing a four lane road with speeding cars and the necessity to find their way around concrete hotels.

Desperate crab hunter

For years now local agencies have solicited volunteers to help make the journey safer for the blue crab. Citizens come out armed with buckets, flashlights, bug spray and leather gloves to assist in the move and ensure the survival of the species.  Last night Max and I made our way out to the hotel zone to participate in a crab crossing for the very first time. My little guy was pretty darned excited to be out doing something past his bedtime and contributing to "helping the planet". Like most little boys, he was totally intrigued by having "gear", the thick gloves, the flashlight and his own special reflective vest. During the orientation we learned a couple of important things. Number one, we were only to move the females, identified by the eggs on their underside. Number two, never touch the area where the eggs are attached, only lift the crab by the sides or by their limbs. Number three, we could pick up males if they were in the middle of the street.

Got her!

When darkness fell we headed over to the lagoon side of the street, anxious to do our part. We searched and we looked and we waited. And...nothing. We found a hole that had a crab in it, but every time a light flashed or a screaming teenager raced by, it ducked back into hiding. A friend showed up with her little girl and we went searching with them, ducking under the mangroves we found another little blue guy, but it quickly hid as well. The two little ones were getting pretty desperate when a group of teenagers approached with a bucket full of crabs. They were so kind, they asked if our kids had found any and when we said no, they let the munchkins take a crab each for their own buckets. Two smiling kidlets marched happily back to the crab reception area, feeling pretty darned proud.

A whole kiddie pool full of egg-laden females

The event will continue tonight and tomorrow (September 12 and 13th, 2011) and again next month. If you are in Cancun, come out and lend a hand! A unique experience and a chance to give a little something back to the creatures that were here long before we were. There are three main locations in Cancun, Playa las Perlas and Punta Nizuc in the hotel zone and Playa Niño near Puerto Juarez. If you haven't got your own gear (and I suspect most tourists don't travel with buckets and leather gloves), you can borrow some from the organizers if you leave your ID with them. If you are lucky, you'll witness the magical moment when all the female crabs are released on the beach and make their way to the sea, following the full moon and continuing the circle of life.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tulum and the Art of Zen

The last few months have been....well....a bit of a ball of confusion. I went from having super lows to super highs and recently started having "highlows", feeling happy/sad/elated/crushed/overworked/bored/frustrated/peaceful/depressed/ecstatic all at the same time.  This past Friday night I had an experience that left me feeling completely discombobulated and I realized I needed to reset and recharge. I woke up Saturday morning and booked myself a cabaña in Tulum and boarded the bus for the two hour trip south.

The hotel zone of Tulum is pretty much the opposite of Cancun. Where Cancun is high rise cement resorts, Tulum is small cabañas and palapas, off the "grid", running purely on solar/wind/generator power. Not many TVs or telephones in this retreat in paradise. The hotels are reached by a narrow road that leads from the town of Tulum through the Sian Kaan biosphere, surrounded by lush jungle, cenotes and the sea.

I made my way to Cabañas Tulum where I was greeted by a lovely receptionist from Ireland of all places. She welcomed me warmly, brought me a fruity cold beverage and took me to my sweet little escape. Like most hotels on the strip, it is small, right on the beach and filled with lush greenery and flowers. My room was clean and bright, with (surprise!) air conditioning (only available at night and I found I didn't need it with the ocean breeze) and a fantastic little porch with a couple of chairs and my very own hammock. I spent the remainder of the day drinking beers on the beach and unwinding completely.

I felt my confusion and angst and whirl of emotions sliding away. My head began to clear. I awoke EARLY the next morning and walked the few steps down to the beach to welcome the sun. (Super sappy cheesy moment warning....) When the sun peeked over the horizon and through the clouds, I felt a powerful surge of energy, tears came to my eyes, I got to my knees and I whispered "thank you". I really don't think the moment can be explained, you'll just have to experience it for yourself.

I took a million sunrise photos then crawled back into bed more relaxed than I had been in a long time. I set my alarm for nine, took a quick shower, donned my bikini and pareo and followed my growling stomach to the restaurant for some brekkie and coffee on the beach. Amazing how hungry inner peace can make you and the Eggs Benedict hit the spot perfectly.

Caffeinated and stuffed full of yummy goodness, I sought out my palm tree and lounge chair, slathered on sunblock and ran for the sea. It was a windy day, the waves intense and I let the ocean knock me around and enjoyed myself massively! I got pretty banged up, spun head over heels (lost my sunglasses and almost lost my bikini top) and took one wave to the kidney that I felt through my whole body like a punch from a prize fighter. And it was PERFECT.

Refreshed, renewed, healed and at peace, it was time to go home. Tulum has POWER, this was only two quick days and I felt ok with myself again. Zen. At one with nature and the universe and aware of my place in it and just fine with it all. I boarded the bus north with a contented grin on my face, ready to face the hustle bustle again. Namaste and ommmm everyone, peace and love......

Monday, September 5, 2011

2011 World Travel Awards- Multiple Nominations for Mexico!

It's no news to me that Mexico is one of the best vacation destinations in the world, but the "World Travel Awards" are making it official. Mexico has been given the big thumbs up by travelers, receiving numerous nominations for these prestigious awards in 2011. My personal favourite and the one that has definitely got me excited is Cancun's nomination for "World's Leading Destination". Sharing the nomination with world class destinations such as Miami, London, New York City and Egypt is quite an honour indeed and I am thrilled for my city to be in such company.  The nominations are in and now we await the results, YOU can vote too, share your passion for travel in Mexico!

Here's a look at some of the other nominations for businesses in Mexico in the "World" categories (there are sub-categories by region as well and of course Mexico ranks highly)....

World's Leading Tourist Board- Cancun Convention and Visitor's Bureau

World's Leading Airline Business Class- Aeromexico

World's Leading Airport- Benito Juarez International Airport, Mexico City

World's Leading Business Hotel AND World's Leading Hotel- W Mexico City

World's Leading Family All Inclusive- Azul Beach Hotel

World's Leading Family Resort- Casa Magna Marriott Puerto Vallarta

World's Leading Green Resort- Hacienda Tres Rios

World's Leading Beach Resort- Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort

World's Leading Hotel and Spa- Esperanza, an Auberge Resort

World's Leading Luxury Resort- Rosewood Mayakoba, Riviera Maya

World's Leading Meetings & Conference Center- Cancun Center, Conventions and Exhibitions

World's Leading Meetings & Conference Hotel- Hilton Mexico City Reforma

World's Leading New Resort- Banyan Tree Cabo Marques, Acapulco

World's Leading Resort- ME by Melia Cabo

World's Leading Spa Resort- El Santurario, Valle de Bravo

World's Leading Spa Resort- One and Only Palmilla Resort

World's Leading Thalasso & Spa Resort- Hotel Villa Rolandi Thalasso Spa

World's Most Romantic Resort- El Dorado Seaside Suites

The World Travel Awards "grand finale" presentations will take place in Qatar on November 29th, 2011. I urge you to VOTE, these awards are chosen by people like you! The deadline for the "world" categories is November 10, 2011 and I hope you will show your love for Mexico (and particularly Cancun in the destination category of course). You can choose to vote in all the categories or just one, let the world know that Mexico is one of the finest destinations on the planet!

Disclosure: I am being compensated for my work in creating and managing content as a Contributor for the México Today Program. All stories, opinions and passion for all things México shared here are completely my own

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