Saturday, May 30, 2009

Mokito and Weasel: Double Trouble

I was happy when Mokito made friends with little Weasel. When Weasel first descended into the patio the female cats told him he was infringing on their territory, but Mokito said, "Come on in! There is plenty of food and when that runs out we'll ask for more! I'll show you all my toys and and how to manipulate these humans." And so began their friendship.

As time passed Weasel talked Mokito into fulfilling his dream of climbing the tree, walking the broken glass path, and entering the big wide world on the other side of the wall. You may have read about Mokito's learning curve during that adventure. It took him three tries to work up the courage to come down alone. But once he learned, he was struck with wanderlust. He goes over to the other side several times a day.

After Mokito's last post, he brought home the scorpion that stung him. He started bringing geckos and eating them. Then his eyes went all googly and his balance was off. I called the vet. Through "Planned Pethood" he was tested for all potential cat illnesses and came up clean. But his eyes were looking in opposite directions and he had haws. He lost some weight. The vet said he probably ate something poisonous that may have affected his nervous system. After a week or so he was looking pretty good, except for the googly eyes. Even when he felt weak he would follow Weasel over the wall and carry out his daily adventures. Things were going pretty well until he came home like this:

Mokito the grease monkey.

The next day he came home like this!

Mokito got a bath, a little humiliating but he took it in stride.

He looks and smells wonderful again!
Except for the googly eyes.

Mokito reminds me a little of myself. He is very independent, even a little (?) spoiled, and lives for adventure. He was born with wanderlust. He is afraid to try new things at first, but once he works up the nerve he loses all fear and runs head first into the new and unknown. Consequences be damned! We can work them out later! Then when he gets injured, his feelings are hurt. No one abuses him, he brings it upon himself. It's just that his natural cat instincts are not as sharp as his siblings'. He is a slow learner, smart but a bit naive. He even repeats his mistakes after getting burned a few times. But he forges ahead on to the next adventure with wide eyed innocence. I have said this before, but with Mokito around, we always expect the unexpected.
"I'm just a boy whose intentions are good, Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood."
Sorry, Weasel, we will be cutting off those cute little furry balls!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mayan Ruins

I am not sure if you are into Mayan ruins, or interested in my photo logs and tidbits of information about them, but I am trying to post more often on the Mayan Ruins Explored site. Today I posted Labná and last week Tikal, Guatemala. We try to visit the ruins on Sundays whenever possible. I changed the site from Lesser Known Maya Ruins to its new name and now have visitors from 13 countries. I was shocked. I think I am learning a lot about this blogging game, finally.


I have a confession to make and evidently need to rant today. I speak and listen to nothing but Spanish about 90% of each day here. And I speak “pretty good” Spanish. However, on a good day I understand about 80% of what passes through my senses. I can live with 80%. It is in fact a good number. I get the big picture of what is going on around me, how I fit into it, how I don’t fit into it….and then I stumble along my own merry route. I don’t sweat the small stuff, because I am completely unaware of the small stuff! No, that’s not entirely true; I make a serious effort to not sweat the small stuff….I see so many people all bungled up inside it. But I always like to understand every f’n thing that goes on around me and that is how I base my decisions on matters. I figured it was good for me to live less specifically, grasping more or less what is going on around me, without having to actually dive into the pea soup, so to speak.

On a good day I can accomplish business negotiations successfully, even if I end up paying twice what Pablo might have if he’d taken on the task without me. That is just one of the hazards of living here as a foreigner. It is assumed by almost all Yucatecans that we foreigners have a bottomless bank account, and although they don’t know the terminology, basically treat us all as if we were “trust fund babies”. Other than stores and services with fixed prices, where we are all treated equally until we get to the checkout counter and are the object of bad attitude. We buy so much shit! It bugs them because on their salaries they can’t just whiz through the aisles and pick out things on a whim. They see us throw money away and it affects them in a strange way. I can even overcome that by making a joke or remark to bring about a smile. Usually I get the stink eye buying huge quantities of cat food and canned tuna. So I tell the cashier that we really eat mostly cat food, thus saving money on other groceries. The ones with a sense of humor laugh. The others think I am probably not kidding.

I get cross culturally confused.

But today was a 50% day, where I was only understanding 50% of what I heard in Spanish, and I woke up half-brained in English. If I am not mistaken that brings me down to 25% functionality because with half a brain I only understood half of the half I was hoping to understand. I got real frustrated and the rest of the morning, at least, no matter what I tried to say or even think about, I seemed to become defensive about everything. I went off on an Anti-Schwarzenegger rant in the pool this morning. Everyone felt so peaceful in the soothing warm velvety water until I discussed a documentary I watched on HBO last night about anabolical steroids. I was watching a Michael Moore style documentary so it would take a lot of research for me to make my own decision on the matter. The producer was pro-steroids but he did a good job of presenting both sides. I would have to say it was a thought provoking documentary. I learned a lot about all kinds of steroids.

And I have nothing against Arnold Schwarzenegger. You would sure have thought so listening to me rant today! I don’t like hypocrites and what I learned about him last night plus his recent change of heart about the plight of the illegal alien situation in California, made me decide he was just that and I guess I took some frustration out on HIM: say what? All I know was I was emotionalized (Sorry, Spanglish) and talking loudly and firmly about something that I really don’t care about and up to this point in my life has had absolutely no impact whatsoever.

See. I am operating at 25% today. I need a roll in the hay and a trip to the beach. Or a shot of tequila and the afternoon in the pool. Or all of the above and maybe I even need a swift kick in the ass.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

San Pedro Nohpat: Los Cuartos

Breaking ground. Part three of San Pedro Nohpat project.

Pablo asked the engineer about putting up rooms. I thought five would be reasonable, but Pablo got caught up in the moment and ordered ten. That would probably be over-extending the finances a little. But what the hell, ya’ pays ya’ money ya’ takes ya’ chances. As the construction began and started taking shape, several ideas came to mind about how to occupy the rooms. My first thought was that the obreros (albaniles and other construction laborers) would be interested in weekly or monthly rentals. Many of the laborers drive long distances from their pueblos to various job sites. People working around here could use a place to hang their hammock during the work week.

We also fantasized about the entire project being rented out by the government or some big medical corporation. We imagined a small pharmacy, doctors’ offices, a reception bodega, exam rooms. I can’t remember the fantastic rent they were going to pay us as they offered decent medical care for the folks out at San Pedro Nohpat, Kanasín, and other less developed areas. But it was just a dream. It was a fun fantasy though. The kind of fantasy that helps pass the time between “the rooms will be ready a week from Thursday” and five months later, when the rooms are actually ready.
When the guys got together they too cooked up a fantasy. Pablo and Manzana talked about renting the rooms by the hour. I wasn’t too thrilled about that idea. In fact as a legal alien resident here I am not allowed to engage in illegal activities, such as running a bordello. Luckily that idea sounded pretty complicated once they considered the details involved, so the guys scrapped that and kept on thinking.
The rooms were just completed three weeks ago. They are small, accommodating a matrimonial size bed and a few other belongings. If the space is used creatively, as in building up on the walls, I could see it being an efficient little studio. Each unit has a bathroom which is also small, but complete. Shower, shower curtain, sink, toilet, toilet seat cover, and toilet paper. That is pretty complete, right?
If these look familiar, it's because I did a swap. I took my old beds out to the terreno and will be getting two new sturdier frames and fresh firm mattresses this week!

As of today, we have 7 rooms rented out. Three more to go. And two bodegas. We ended up renting them on a monthly basis. The price is unbelievably cheap, but until the road is paved and there are more services out there, I think the priority is to keep them rented out. Our first renter, Don Gilberto, arrived on the exact day we needed to find a new security guard. He and his wife live in the room toward the back of the property with their three young children. Gilberto is our caretaker/vigilador and is doing a great job out there. He has been gracefully showing the bodegas and cuartos and cleaning up the property.

Don Gilberto, caretaker and Licensiado Pablo, project manager.

I answered several of the inquiry calls. That got a little complicated. Giving directions was hard enough, but “What bus do I take to get there?” stumped me.

“Hold on, I’ll ask.” I said. But before I could get to Pablo teaching class IN the swimming pool….the lady said she’d call back and hung up. She called me five times. I never seemed to have the answer she was looking for.

We originally purchased five beds. I thought folks would prefer to sleep in hammocks, but people asked first thing if there was a bed and a bathroom. So we ordered five more beds. The bed winning over the hammock surprised me. The engineer didn’t put hammock hooks in the rooms. He must be a chilango. I won’t speak badly of chilangos (people from Mexico City) because a few of our renters are from DF.

We began this project in October of 2008. Our world has changed a lot in just 7 months. The international financial crisis has negatively affected the real estate business in all of the Yucatán. There are a lot of expats who came here to flip houses. Unfortunately that market is not lucrative right now. I am glad we didn’t jump on that bandwagon and struck out on something unique, original and more useful for everyday folks. We are helping people and they are helping us. Isn’t that what makes the world go round?
The big picture. Project complete...except for adornment. Little by little.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Project San Pedro Nohpat: Terreno

I felt the only way to cover this "story" would be in three separate parts. Welcome to Part One.

This is the raw land before we did anything, well, other than have weeds whacked down.

Pablo has a sizable piece of property, 10 sq. meters by 30 sq. meters, out on the outskirts of town. We wanted to build something on it. The area is being developed slowly, but the city continues to spread its wings outward. After I completed my own house renovations Iwas looking to invest what (little) money I had left. I wanted to buy some financial security. I was working with an international consultant from my US bank, but when I was getting serious about studying the information, options, etc., I never received the packet of info the guy was supposed to send me. I called him and he had disappeared from the employee roster. Omen.

In my research, I came across what I thought was excellent advice, considering the US economy was showing signs of trouble last year. I read "Do not invest in anything you can't touch or step on." That sounded like good advice. So when Pablo suggested we build bodegas on the property, I thought, "Why not?" It's land improvement. We can't go wrong, Even if our little development is premature for the slow growth in the area, there is a shortage of storage space here, and mini bodegas just off the highway just might come in handy.

I have never had money to invest before, so I had cold feet about the mutual funds. Oh, Jim and I had mutual funds once, thanks to the generosity of my brothers when my Mom and Dad died. But we didn't understand what mutual funds were at first, so when my brothers suggested specific funds, we went for them without much additional research. I will say that we had incredible luck with that investment. The funds increased in value considerably. When Jim and I decided to buy our first house, we cashed them in and had enough for a down payment on our piece of the rock in Kona. Here's the lucky part: the day after we closed our mutual funds, the stock market had its first major crash of the new milennium.

The current project is located in San Pedro Nohpat, “a la salida de Cancún” (at the exit to Cancún.) Most locals know where that is with that simple information. On the periférico (the highway that circles the outskirts of Mérida) there is a bridge and glorieta offering the motorist many options. One of those is Cancún. A few kilometers on the highway toward Cancún or Valladolid, between the Hotel Real de Palmas and the Pemex Gasolinera, there is a white road (as of now, unpaved) turning to the right. One and a half blocks back is our construction site, which we lovingly call the “terreno”. It is visible from afar since it is the only completed construction, as well as having the only buildings painted white. Or painted at all.

Looking out to the right from the property, there are some houses constructed, and a few neighbors living in the area. Yes, they are humble abodes.

There are houses built, half of which are occupied. A block away is a dirt bike race track, and of course a beer store. A block back to the highway and the Pemex station, there's a 7-11, and a few cocinas económicas (cheap eats) within walking distance. The cross country truckers park their rigs at Pemex and stay in one of the hotels, or sleep in their cabs. We are also hoping some want to sleep in a room nearby.

Looking straight out from the terreno, the connecting road currently leads to nowhere. Paving is in the plans for this year. Water was piped in to the area two months ago. Yes, we have water and electricity.

The actual colonia of San Pedro Nohpat is a small community, and only a few blocks walk or tricycle ride to the outskirts, or "polígamo". To me the area still a bit of the wild wild west, but it is safer than I imagine our old west was! You can see a factory in the distance, and a slew of partially constructed condos and houses. Hard times have hit México. With no tourism many jobs are affected. With no real estate market and little construction, those jobs are also cut. Mexico is used to living with hard times, but this year has been particularly harsh.

Looking left from the gate, toward the factory and location of the condo developments. You can't see the condos in this shot.

I was somewhat hesitant about the project. I am not used to being in areas like this, let alone have visions of their futures. I don't really have this kind of imagination. What I see is what I see. Luckily Pablo did have a great vision. And after several months of "it will be finished next Thursday", we finally have a finished site. We have our own little community.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Project San Pedro Nohpat: The Bodegas

Welcome to Part Two of Pablo’s and my development and first construction project. This is the property with the beginning of the bodega creation.

The bodegas went up, and things were going smoothly. Pablo talked to the architect/engineer about putting some rooms in since they were already digging and building. After a well and septic tank are in, one starts to think about perhaps a little bigger picture.

The bodegas are well constructed cement buildings. I believe they are 4 x 6 sq. meters. There are four of them. Each has a half-bath. The roll-up doors are handy for storing and they lock securely. A truck can back up to the bodegas for loading and unloading.

So far we have two of four bodegas rented. If you are reading this in the Yucatán and know someone who may need to store belongings, please send this information to them. The price is reasonable, they are well constructed, and we have a 24 hour security guard. I am pleased with the bodegas. By next year they may actually be locales, where you can shop, get laundry done, shoes fixed, who knows? Dirt bike parts? My imagination has been inspired now that I see the buildings!

This is the finished product. I am pleased. We have our own little development. We are land barons. Kings of the Barrio. Call it what you like.

Here I am sitting in the bodega as we get ready to set up phase three....the cuartos.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Gucci Fruits for Nuts

I was reading today’s Diario del Yucatán and an article grabbed me. They just auctioned off the first harvest of this season’s Yubari cantaloupes in Hokkaido, Japan. The first two sold for $5,200 US Dollars EACH. Last year the first two canteloupes brought in $23,900 US Dollars. The article said this is a sure sign of the global recession. I am shocked. I knew prices in Japan were ridiculous, but this is beyond absurd. We are talking about the Gucci of the melon world. Here is what burns my ass about this: Some nutcase in Japan paid the equivalent of a year's salary for, say, a typical Indonesian, or even a Chiapaneco(!) to buy one piece of fruit.

I had to know more about this cantaloupe. Is it made of gold? Does it grow a little diamond in its center? NO. It is a simple, supposedly sweeter than usual, and most importantly….perfectly proportioned fruit. It is in fact the perfect summer gift in Japan. If you want to impress your boss, mother-in-law or girlfriend, you give them a cantaloupe, or if on a tight budget just one slice. These canteloupes have been genetically designed to be perfectly shaped and, well, just perfect! Just like the Japanese themselves!

Only the first melons sell for the high price…once the Japanese Agriculture Association grades the rest of the crop, they sell in the supermarkets for a mere $100-500 US dollars EACH. In Hawaii I rarely ate cantaloupe because one piece of fruit, not necessarily sweet or ripe since they are all imported from mainland USA, cost around $10 US. I thought that was exorbitant. This is other worldly.

Yubari Muskmelon intended as a high-priced gift.

Now let’s talk about watermelon. The black, almost square, Densuke watermelons sold at the Hokkaido auction last year for $6,100 US Dollars each. From what I can find online, the watermelon auction will take place next month, so I will keep an eye on the news. We can follow the global financial trends via fruit sales in Japan. The black watermelon is also a near perfect fruit, thus another great option for those “summer gifts” (?)..and available at the supermarket for a mere $300 US.

Time bomb? No, black Densuke watermelon. Ripe and ready for sucking up to your boss!

Here in the Yucatán we eat lots of melons. I don’t remember how much they cost per kilo, but the cost didn't make an impression on me so I think they are within most folks' budgets. You can get a sandía (watermelon) juice or melón (canteloupe) juice practically anywhere for under a dollar. We have the Mennonites who provide us with fresh tasty canteloupes as well as nice cheeses. The fruits may not be perfectly round, but I would rather eat an imperfect melon every day, than to think I had to wait for someone to give me a summer gift. Six thousand dollars for a piece of fruit? Just fork over the cash. I’ll eat papaya.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kids Helping Kids: PROJECT MÉRIDA

Meet my bro's family: Linda, JASON, LAUREN, and Larry Wodarski.

My family values sports as an important part of a child’s education. My brother Larry lives in Incline Village, Nevada. His 14 year old twins recently read that the kids in the 9th Ward of New Orleans still have no little league, almost four years after Katrina hit. They decided they would like to gift their outgrown, unused, and slightly used baseball equipment to them. They wrote to the Mayor of New Orleans, who expressed his delight and the city’s interest in receiving their donations.

However, when they cleaned out their garage they discovered that in their house alone, they found this much gear:

In our garage we have about 15 soccer jerseys, 5 baseball t-shirts, 14 youth baseball caps, basketballs, soccer balls, baseballs, athletic shoes, a few soccer shorts and socks and we haven't officially started our campaign.

As we discussed their idea, the kids became aware of the shortage (and high cost) of sports equipment in the Yucatán.  When they heard about kids playing soccer in their bare feet using a ball made of duct tape, Lauren and Jason decided they could probably help children in both New Orleans and the Yucatán.

And so they started their project called PROJECT MÉRIDA and engaged their entire village. They have set up collection stations all over town. Their pastor donated storage space for the gear and agreed to accept and hold monetary donations to assist in the shipping of the goods. Here in Mérida I am working with a customs agent to see if we can eliminate duties and lessen border crossing hassles.

Mérida and its surrounding villages have countless children who would appreciate a few baseballs, bats, mitts, soccer balls, and even uniforms. We wrote a letter to the Director of the Department of Deportes, the Department of Education, Cesar Bojorquez, and Governor Ivonne Ortega. Our request was accepted and stamped. Permission granted, but we are now on our own.

Engaging in sports is food for the soul. It’s necessary in a country where child obesity is rampant and rising fast. It teaches camaraderie, sportsmanship, competitiveness and gives kids something healthy to occupy their time other than playing video games.  All kids should have an opportunity to play ball with their old friends while making new ones.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Looking For Adventure

This is Mokito.

The kitties are nearly a year old. For several months three of them have been enjoying the freedom of climbing the tree, walking the wall, and heading over to the other side. We had to perform a few tree rescues at first, but they got the hang of it. Not Mokito, however. He just played in the patio and would sit for hours longingly staring at the “path to freedom”.

A couple of weeks ago he did it! He made it to the other side! The wide open spaces of the abandoned meat packing building next door. Large creatures live there! There is so much adventure and so much to learn. But then he tried to come home. And he freaked out on the top of the wall.

The others tried to help. Sak Boox climbed up and down to show him how. Lorenza went up and licked his head, but then set off on her own adventure. (Moka doesn’t go there! So the Sargeant in charge was helpless and upset!) Busmo went up, licked Mokito’s head to calm him down, and slowly walked in front of him. He looked back and Mokito was still frozen in position. Busmo turned around, went back to Mokito, and got behind him. He nudged him gently a few times. He really gave it a good try. No go.

We called the neighbors, who were kind enough to lend us a tall ladder, and Pablo rescued him. He was humiliated of course, but happy to see food and water again. The next day he did the same thing. Pablo said, “No, let him learn to come down. He has to learn.” I agreed. But Pablo left the house and I was just watching him pant, and listening to him cry, and couldn’t handle it. I gave in and borrowed a ladder from Pedal Loco next door. I brought him down.

The third day he went up again. In the evening he was crying out, and we thought, NO, this has to stop. But we gave in and Pablo climbed up and tried to rescue him. He stepped back. I told Pablo to leave him; that I thought maybe he was ready to do it on his own. It was difficult but we walked away and left him there.

Fifteen minutes later we were sitting talking and we heard “MEOW! MEOW! MEOW!...” approaching us. Mokito ran in, jumped over us, and kept on running, sliding into his water dish, meowing all the way. He finally figured it out. He was so proud of himself. He finally joined the big league.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Creature Features

A person living in the tropics gets used to seeing insects, butterflies, moths, iguanas, birds, and other creatures on a regular basis. What is interesting is how HUGE they are! The iguana that suns himself on my patio wall is nearly three feet long. He watches me in the pool and I watch him back sitting on the top of the wall. I think he will let me take a good photo of him soon.

With a house load of cats, often when I wake up during the night, I see the cats in a circle carefully studying something. Curiosity gets me and I check it out. The cats particularly enjoy hunting the prehistoric sized cockroaches outside, bringing them in, and chasing them around until they are unable to play anymore. Sometimes roaches just turn upside down and play dead. When the cats lose interest the roach flips over and heads back to his business. The cats hunt down a few of them a night. Picking up "roaches" in the morning has taken on a new meaning around our house! They are not house roaches, they are the larger variety. I'd call them sewer roaches. In Florida they avoid the usage of the word roach at all, they are called palmettas.

One night I found the cats surrounding a small snake. The snake was found the same day that a swim student's mom thought she saw a big snake under our bodega. Well, we cemented up the hole. He dug another one. I doubt a snake did that, but whatever was living under the bodega has since moved. We think it was a zorro, or possum. We do have a sneaky possum around here. The snake was much smaller than this earthworm I found the other day in the garden.

As a kid I loved to hunt for nightcrawlers with my dad, so I figured I would show you how big the earthworms are here. Just so you know, the snake was not even half this size.

Last night the kitties brought me this scorpion.

That is my writing pen next to it for size, and of course it is covered in cat hair. By the looks of Mokito's eyes all gooned out, I am guessing he made the kill and was probably stung. The good news is that the scorpions in this area are not highly toxic, and the larger the less toxic. When I lived in Akumal I accidentally stepped on a Mama red scorpion as she was giving birth to at least 50 little toxic buggers and I got stung. I almost jumped through the roof. The pain was horrible, much like a portuguese-man-of-war or box jellyfish sting; it makes your entire body hurt.

I can't wait to see what animalitos the rainy season washes out of their hiding places. I am sure the cats will provide more fodder for another creature feature in the future.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

México Gets The Short Straw

As I was catching up on the other bloggers' news, I came across this tidbit. It is a very well written article and is worth a read. I linked this from Debi in Mérida's blog post from two days ago. It is called, "Let's Blame Mexico"...give it a go.

Toilet Paper and The Kitchen Sink

I have been thinking about some of the more subtle differences I experience living in another country. There are constant major hurdles of language and culture differences. I speak Spanish reasonably well, but there are times when I get completely lost in conversation. I cannot imagine what it must be like to go through this culture shock and not speak any Spanish. Mérida is not an English speaking city. Cancún, Cozumel, sure! They want the Almighty Dollar and have learned to speak some English, and even Italian, French, and German. But much of our tourism in the Yucatán comes from Mexican nationals. At the present, of course, there are NO tourists due to the worldwide panic pandemic.

Before I go on I would like to say that Yucatecans are very clean people. We didn’t need any of China’s alcohol or cotton balls here! These folks shower several times a day. This is understandable, especially when the temperature is in the 100’s from April until November. The men here wear long pants, socks and shoes. The women wear dresses, nylons and sport high heels. Walking to the corner I break out in a full sweat wearing a singlet and shorts, but I can jump into the swimming pool when I finish my walks. These folks enjoy an occasional cold shower, a heavy dousing of talcum powder, and on they go to the next task in the midday heat.

Let’s talk about toilets. If you have been to México, you know that most toilets do not have seats. Toilet seats are not an expensive item, so cost can’t be the problem. A 45 peso investment could comfort your hind end for years. Maybe they don’t want people to get in the habit of sitting on the toilet. Maybe the idea is to make sure you squat. I happen to like toilet seats, so my five bathrooms have them.

Why is toilet paper such a coveted item? I know when we travel we wouldn’t go as far as Chichén Itzá without carrying our own roll. The Pemex gas stations along the highways constantly surprise me. I always carry my own paper, and sometimes am pleasantly surprised to find a super clean, nicely tiled restroom, with toilet paper, soap and hand towels. Other times I have to hold my breath, squat over a disgustingly full toilet, and just be glad I have a place to relieve myself as I unroll the flimsy paper I had smashed in my pocket, having not a square to spare, so to speak. Those situations are when you MOST want to wash your hands thoroughly, but of course there is no water…..or the toilet would have flushed six users ago.

Mexican toilets are not built to accept foreign matter. No one throws their paper into the toilet, let alone feminine supplies! There is always a trash receptacle next to a toilet for used paper, even if there is no paper provided. Every now and again I forget and accidentally throw my paper in the commode. After several flushes, it will finally swirl down. It is enough hassle to remind me to use the trash bin.

Now here is what confuses me. Considering an entire culture that doesn’t throw paper in the toilet, I don’t understand why they think it is ok to throw shitloads of food, paper, or whatever, into the kitchen sink. There are no garbage disposals. Sinks are always plugging up. Why? Because there are wrappers, chunks of food and all kinds of gross shit in there blocking the drain. If the toilet couldn’t take it, what makes them think the sink can?

Next up, dental torture.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Time To Rant

A time to live, a time to die, a time to rant, a time to sigh.

Things are pretty difficult right now in México. The entire country has been closed off from the world for an undetermined amount of time, at an undetermined level of security. The Yucatán insists there have been NO CONFIRMED cases of the AH1N1, or Human Flu. Yet we remain sequestered. The Mexican people are being punished.

The only event I can compare how this flu is affecting us in México is 9/11, in so far as it feels like we are under a terrorist attack. Life is practically at a standstill…very little traffic – pedestrian or vehicular, few flights, no ships, no tourists, no sports, and mandated closures. Schools have been closed for a week and won’t reopen until next Monday, the 11th of May. All sporting events will go another week with no spectators allowed. Officials are worried about gearing up to normal life again because it may be too soon to tell how widespread this influenza is. Mexico is reporting no new deaths in the past five days, but many other countries are reporting increases in flu cases.

I was shocked to see the US has nearly 380 confirmed cases in 36 states, yet México has only 840 cases confirmed in 4 states (out of 32). How could that possibly be? The influenza was first discovered in México. If it has been here longer, how could it possibly spread faster in the US than here? As the days quietly pass, the less sense it all makes.
The streets of Progreso were quiet.

Friday we got cabin fever and drove to Progreso for fresh fish. We were the only patrons in the restaurant. Pablo swallowed an habanero chile seed which made him cough. The waiters all flinched and started watching us closely to make sure we weren’t sick. Paranoia is rampant.

The Chinese sent México an airplane full of cotton balls, alcohol and hygiene supplies, as if to say…….Cleanse yourself, people! Although it was a nice gesture, it went over like a lead balloon. Now China is simply sending all the Mexicans home!

Excerpt from Yahoo News 2pm, 5 May 2009: China, Argentina and Cuba are among the nations banning regular flights to and from Mexico, marooning passengers at both ends. Mexico and China both sent chartered flights to each other's countries to collect their citizens, with the chartered Mexican plane hopscotching China Tuesday to retrieve stranded residents. Argentina also chartered a flight to bring Argentines home.

My friend in Isla Mujeres said there are approximately 50 tourists on the entire island. I’m not surprised after last week’s closures of large hotels, restaurants and bars in Cancún and along the Mayan Riviera that sent tourists scurrying home. Those who stayed behind were advised they would be quarantined IN MEXICO if they got sick here. That was enough to send some people running. (What some people don’t know is that we actually have GOOD medical care available.)

Another friend was planning to cruise to the Yucatán on Carnival Cruise Lines. She called to get information before booking and was advised that all cruises to Mexico were cancelled UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Tourism is down 70%. It was low before we got the flu because of the world’s economic crises.

I have no confidence in the tests or the statistics. If it takes two weeks to get a blood test back, then too many patients have been dismissed prematurely. I don’t want to see this become a level 6 pandemic. I want it to go away. I want time to stop and back up and AH1N1 just disappear. I want a lot of things… beachfront property for free and a pot of gold!

Is there a worldwide movement to send all ‘nationals’ back to their ‘nations’? A pharmaceutical company takeover? A political act to shift focus from the world’s financial crisis? Biological warfare? A media event? Or just a pesky pandemic?

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Week of Sundays

The Van Gogh Jigsaw Puzzle

On Sundays, most of Mérida seems like a ghost town. The families that go to church in the morning are likely hidden in their patios in the afternoons. Lots of people head to the beaches. There is almost no traffic. No one is out walking around.

That almost describes Mérida this week. The difference is that the people are all hiding in their patios, and no one is at the beach.There is practically no one outside. The schools closed down on Tuesday. Immediately following were NATIONWIDE closings of museums, movies, parks, archeological sites, gathering places of all kinds, swimming pools, etc. Sporting events will be held but without spectators. Cruise ships to México were rerouted to other ports. This list keeps growing.

I read today that restaurants and hotels that accommodate more than 80 people in Cancún closed. That would explain the mass exodus of 40,000 tourists from Cancún yesterday and today.

The Mexican TV stations and news people call it "el psicosis de la influenza". The media loves to sensationalize. When they first reported this there were 69 deaths in México and 3,000 suspected cases. Now the stats are down to 12 confirmed and 68 suspected deaths in México. The officials are playing it down now. There are NO confirmed cases anywhere in the Yucatán. And personally, I doubt there will be any confirmed cases reported here. The public would panic if we confirm its existence here. I have a good friend who came down with the flu last week and this week is in the hospital with pneumonia. The tests for swine flu came back negative, I was told. Some coincidence, though, isn't it?

The Yucatán is shut down until at least May 6th. Recent news flashes on the radio and TV hint they are considering extending that date to May 11th. The death toll rises as I write this. This is my third attempt at a post on this flu pandemic. Yesterday there were changes before I could finish one post and I just gave up.

The good news is that almost everyone we know here is healthy. We really don't mind having to stay at home in this city. It is built for us to live in our own little worlds. I personally have tons of projects started, other ideas occurring to me at random, the pool...where I pass a good amount of time on these hot days. Pablo and I like to play board games and we have a jigsaw puzzle spread out on the table. We are eating well, taking vitamins, and going with an anti-psychotic flow, hoping life returns to normal one day soon. Not that we would know normal if it hit us in the head....

The 2nd Annual Bloggers' Meet and Greet

Theresa is my neighbor and friend. She comes over almost every day to exercise in the swimming pool. Early last year she told me about her blog WHAT DO I DO ALL DAY?. I started to read her blog regularly, check out and follow several of her links, and even was inspired to create my own blogs. I’d been trying to keep up with my family and friends by email since I moved, but it got to be difficult and repetitive. I figured it would be more fun and effective if I created a blog to post information and photos of my new life in Mérida. That way, if folks were interested, they could read my stories and later, email correspondences would be easier to handle.

Last year Theresa went to a bloggers’ meeting in Isla Mujeres. She had a great time and enjoyed meeting other Yucatecan bloggers. She decided to organize this year’s event in Mérida. A few months ago another aquatic exerciser, Mikey, started Adventures of Merida Mikey. The three of us discuss blogging in the pool, and we talked about the bloggers’ meet and greet while it was in Theresa’s planning stages. She invited us to participate.

The first event was a cocktail party on Thursday, April 16, at the home of Blah Blah Blah Ginger. Jonna and Mimi showed off their beautiful home by sponsoring our first event. At the party I met a few new folks, but spent more time photographing and petting the animals. Out in the patio I had good conversations with Wayne of Isla Mujeres Gringo In Paradise and Mikey. Mike is a close Mérida friend, and Wayne seemed familiar, like I already knew him. I talked to the hostesses but just barely, probably about Akumal and animals. I enjoyed talking to Nancy and Paul from Countdown to Mexico but I don’t remember what I was jabbering about. I drank too much, ended up in a discussion with Heather in Paradise about dog poop, and as a result I imagine I made a lousy impression.

Photos from Jonna & Mimi's cocktail party, April 16, 2009.

Next , on Friday at my house, speakers gave presentations. Wayne, Theresa, Ellen of YUCATANLIVING, and Paul of Hammock Musings from Mérida spoke about using digital photography, making money, finding focus and inspiration for our blogs. Sixteen people attended. I learned quite a bit, not only about blogging, but about bloggers. It was interesting, fun, and I managed to meet a few more of the participants. I also learned how to link these folks up on this blog, causing the delay in posting. It took a while to figure all this out and put into action.

Presentations on Friday, April 17, 2009 at my house, Ko'ox Báab.

After meeting 20+ bloggers, it struck me that I had not read everyone’s blogs. I know I spend plenty of time on the computer, but if I try to read 30 blogs a day, I will never get anything else done. I might have to schedule actual blogging time so I don’t get carried away .

After the presentations we all went to the Las Ruinas bar and restaurant, chatting and sucking up a few beers, enjoying botana of various pickled vegetables and pigs’ innards, etc. What a great place Theresa found!

I was tired from the day’s activities and skipped the walking tour of the Centro, but Pablo and I met up with the group at Los Cumbancheros restaurant. Pablo and I enjoyed dancing to the live Cuban music, and some of the others joined us on the dance floor. The food wasn’t great but the band was terrific.

Saturday I had to work, so I missed the breakfast at the Hotel El Castellano. It was a long hot day at home with swim classes from 8am until 5pm. We were wiped out and decided to crash in the hammocks early…never going anywhere that night.

Sunday’s plan was to meet in the Centro and walk around again. I thought about going, but it’s the only day I can relax with Pablo. I could only attend so many functions. Later I found out Sunday’s plans changed to a farewell breakfast. I may have given the impression I wasn’t interested in people by missing Saturday’s events. That’s not true, and I would like to say to Dodwells Head South, YOLISTO, DEBI IN MERIDA and TOM'S BLOG, Livin' The Lisa Loca, Not The News - Life in Mérida, and anyone else I didn’t get a chance to chat with, that I enjoyed our blogger weekend. It was a pleasure to meet everyone. It is interesting to meet other expats and learn why they decided to live in México, hear about their journeys, their special places, etc. It was a great learning experience that I would enjoy participating in again next time.

We are going to link up all our blogs on a site called Mexico in English. When we get that organized, I will update.