Sunday, November 30, 2008

Merida for the Weekend

Our friends, Jim and Janet, invited Allan, me and another friend James to go with them to Merida, the Yucatan capital for the weekend to see a craft show and just enjoy the city.We gladly accepted and agreed to meet them there; they would take the bus with James on Tuesday and we would drive down Friday morning, spend Saturday and Sunday in the house they rented and then we would all drive back on Monday. Today is Saturday, our second day into the trip, and I must say the trip so far has been quite enjoyable, certainly with memorable stories and experiences.

On the 4 hour drive from Playa del Carmen to Merida we passed through 3 armed road blocks all without incident. What is most notable is that at every one my stomach drops, heart begins to beat faster – there haven’t been many experiences in my life more intimidating than armed police dressed in military fatigues brandishing loaded automatic machine guns who stop my vehicle and begin to ask questions of me. Without fail they ask the origin and destination of our trip, always let us pass and never fail to show us a genuine smile. I have heard horror stories from other travelers, and I’m sure many are true, but luckily I haven’t experienced one so far.

Unfortunately Allan was pulled over once for speeding. I conceded to the cop that I did speak some Spanish, and luckily the officer wasn’t interested in getting us in trouble – he much preferred to resolve the matter on the spot. To my disappointment as the officer was attending to us a black Hummer passed by traveling much faster than us, but instead of stopping as the officer waved him over, he kept going and was never pulled over as far as I know. It’s been recommended to us to do the same thing (i.e. not stop), but I’m not sure we’re bold or foolish enough.

Once we arrived in Merida, got settled and began exploring what has been most remarkable for me has been that Merida in many ways it reminds me of what I love about New York City: the unique artisan craft and clothing stores. I’ve spend hours just wandering around all the different shops searching for one of a kind treasures. Merida is also filled with a sophistication and culture that is lacking in Playa, perhaps only because Merida is a metropolitan city. What I don’t like about Merida (and what I don’t miss about Boston) is the exhaust fumes and traffic congestion.

We did attend the craft show today, which was quite enjoyable – it can be hard to find such a diverse array of hand crafted treasures in Playa. Allan managed by purchased a Mayan statue while I settled on a piece of ornamentally sewn fabric while I’ll use to drape over a night stand. Tomorrow we’re going to a gigantic fair, which also should be a ball, especially considering Allan loves fairs, and since moving to Mexico has missed all the good ones in New England.

There is supposed to be another craft fair in 6 months, and I’m already looking forward to returning to Merida to see what other treasures I’ll discover.

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I pose in the back patio of our rental in Merida with small pool in the background
A local artisan weaves colorful Yucatan blankets.

Janet and Jim on our open roof bus tour through Merida.

Boston? Who would have known we would find a restaurant in Merida bearing the name of our home town.

Me on the open roof bus tour of Merida.

James, Jim, Janet and Allan in front of one of Merida's colorful buildings.

I relax on a hammock in our rental.

Jim, Janet, James and Allan pose in front of our rental in Merida

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

You Get Aroused When You Talk to Me

There must be some truth to the rumor that married men are often attracted to their hired help because I keep (accidentally) hitting on my housekeeper due to my rusty Spanish skills. This evening my housekeeper, Zoila, and her cousin, as well and Allan and I were dining on Chinese food at a local restaurant when Zoila began explaining that although we often understand each other there are instances when we just don't comprehend. She speaks only Spanish, and although I've taken 10 years of Spanish and even studied in Spain for 6 months my Spanish is very rusty after not having practiced for 10 years.

The rest of the conversation (in Spanish) goes something like this:

Me: I don't understand you (Zoila) when you start to get aroused because you speak very quickly.
Zoila: I don't think you mean aroused. I think you mean excited.
Me: What did I say?
Zoila: You said when I'm horny I talk to you very quickly and you don't understand what I'm trying to say.

We both laughed about it after wards, no offense taken. The reason for my faux pax was that I was using the word "exitada" (aroused) when I should have used "emotionada" (emotional) or "nerviosa" (nervous). That's the problem when I try to use direct translation of the English word excited and expect I can just remove the ending, add an "a" and have it mean the same. Regardless Zoila and I now feel closer... in more ways than one!

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Day of the Dead

Every year on November 1st (All Saints Day) and 2nd (All Souls Day), Mexican's celebrate the life of loved ones who have now since passed. While it may be strange for many to understand the connection between the dead and living, for Mexicans the two are intertwined. After celebrating my first "Day of the Dead" I was more able to understand this connection.

My American friend, Janet, who has lived in Mexico for the past 2 years recently lost her father. Janet decided to take up the Mexican tradition of constructing a small alter in her home in his memory. In remembrance she placed photos of him on the alter, his favorite food, tools he used, a hat he wore, and in the end the physical and mental act of commemorating his life and death helped Janet come to terms with the loss of her father. Many people loose loved ones and never overcome the tragedy because many fail to confront the fact that this person is gone - they refuse to completely grieve the loss and to mentally and physically get over the death.

Although Janet has since removed the alter, leaving it standing for only a few days during the Day of the Dead, its impact was significant on me - people both living and dead can have substantial impacts on our lives. To write them off and to not remember and commemorate their lives is a tragedy. Too many loved ones now gone sit dead beneath grave stones in graveyards, rarely receiving a visit. I think next year Allan and I will construct our own alters in memory of our deceased loved ones.

Janet has written more about the Day of the Dead, the alter to her father, and living in Mexico (she's from Philadelphia) in her blog here:

The following photos were taken at the XCaret theme/aquatic/cultural park during Day of the Dead celebrations.

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I pose with a girl dressed as La Katrina (or "Lady Death", Mexican's most popular phrase for death).

Janet, ever the wonder artist, paints her partner, Jim's face.

I guess Janet and I are just a little hungry... or crazy?

Allan, Janet and Jim, showing off Janet's face painting skills

Mexican women dressed in traditional skirts pose as the living dead behind skeleton masks.

Dead but still married, this skeleton couple proves that love endures forever.

I guess there are cowboys in heaven! Thank God!

Even children die, as we are reminded by this little Mexican girl posing as a skeleton

Why can't death be fun? Let's ride unicyles!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Drinking Too Much

Yesterday was the first day I didn't drink a beer or mixed drink in I don't know how long. You would think I was an alcoholic by the amount of adult beverages I consume in Mexico. Friday I had 6 throughout the day: 2 beers, 2 pina coladas and 2 mojitos. Most days I have at least 1 or 2 whereas back in Boston I might consume 1 a month. There's just something about living a relaxed lifestyle that induces a minor drinking habit: going to the beach and sipping pina coladas on lounge chairs basking underneath the sun or meeting friends to listen to live music at a beach side bar. It's not that I need a drink to get me through the day or to face myself or the outside world - it's more that it's fun and relaxing and a great social habit.

Now I am consciously trying to do without - and it's not that easy living in Mexico. We met friends at a beach side bar last night for some good 'ol camaraderie, live music and dancing and everyone was drinking - except me. I didn't feel left out or out of place or uncomfortable. However, it did make me realize that my lifestyle could perhaps be conducive to a drinking habit if I was so inclined. Luckily drinking is something I can easily control and feel no strong desire to get a buzz or become plastered. I don't know how long I will endure this self-imposed abstinence from alcohol. Perhaps instead I will just consciously remain aware of my daily and weekly consumption and try to reduce the limit, mostly to preserve my liver in old age and my waistline, which is remaining constantly too big given my 3 days a week of running.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Leave Chocolate on the Balls

The following is an actual transcript of a conversation I had with my housekeeper, Zoila, regarding some chocolates I left in the guest bedroom for my 2 friends who were visiting this week. The conversation happened in Spanish, and although my foreign language skills are improving, there's much which can be misinterpreted. I was trying to explain that when she cleans the guest room to leave the chocolates on the pillows. However, I confused the words "cojines" (cushions) and "cojones" (balls).

Me: I've left some chocolate on the balls for my guests. Please leave them there.
Zoila: Excuse me?
Me: Please leave the chocolate on the balls in the guest bedroom.
Zoila: Balls?
Me: How do you say pillow?
Zoila: Almojada
Me: What did I say?
Zoila: You told me to put chocolate on your balls
Me: (In jest) Do you want to?

We'll see if she comes back to work next week... Perhaps she'll bring her friends!

Playa del Carmen Condo and Villa Vacation Rentals

Monday, November 17, 2008

Why We Chose Playa del Carmen

As mentioned in a previous post my business partner, Allan, and I run a property management and rental business in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. There was a point in time back when we were living in the States that we hadn't even heard of Playa del Carmen. I mean, 20 years ago this place was a quiet fishing village, and the only way to reach it was via dirt roads or the ferry from Cozumel. Now Playa del Carmen is one of the top global vacation destinations. Guiness Book of World Records rated it the fastest growing area in the world. However, it wasn't until friends in the States starting mentioning Playa that I learned about it. Within a short amount of time it seemed like 1/2 of our friends and acquaintances had already been there - and many of them dreamed of moving to Playa.

Upon advice from friends Allan and I decided to visit. We were enamored with Playa right away: 300 days a year of sunny, cloudless skies; 82 degree ocean water; fantastic cuisine; gorgeous turquoise waters; top rated snorkeling and scuba diving; a relaxed lifestyle; no snow; and friendly people. Rather quickly into our trip we considered moving. I think it was a conversation with a realtor that really convinced us to move. The realtor knew we had significant property management experience State side and felt that if we moved to Mexico we could easily become successful if we kept the same quality and standards we maintained in the US. He emphasized there are many property managers in Playa - some good but most are either inexperienced or frankly take forever to get things done. Allan and I considered our options and decided after much thought that we both wanted a change. We both dreamed of living abroad and this seemed like the perfect opportunity - so we decided to grab it!

So far, things are going great. We are quickly picking up new clients and making tons of new friends. We try to network at every opportunity, whether it be at a party or event and feel it's not only good for business but also fantastic for our social life. I would highly recommend living in Playa. Come to visit and at least check it out. Stay in one of our gorgeous vacation rental properties at We've got some great vacation rentals in condos or villas in Playa del Carmen and Puerto Aventuras.

Our billboard as seen around town - one at Mamitas Beack, one of 5th Avenue and one due shortly outside Playacar Phase 1.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Photos Nov, 16, 2008

Our housekeeper's adorable daughter, Carla. She keeps asking when she can come to our home and visit the dogs.

My mom, me, Rickey and Mitzi at Punta Roca, Puerto Adventuras. On the right is a pool filled with ocean water that has a water feed and drain to keep fresh water moving. There are even lounge chairs made from rock that sit just below the water so you can relax and stay cool.

Allan and his new mate, an iguana he met in Cozumel.

Native pottery on the way to Coba.

A butterfly at the butterfly sanctuary in XCaret.

Mitzi, our beloved companion. She was rescued from a shelter and has just simply been a blessing and a joy!

Janet Lowe and me at XCaret, an aquatic and cultural theme park. We're here for Day of the Dead Celebrations. Janet and her husband, Jim, are from Philadelphia and have been living in Playa for almost 2 years

Allan poses in front of some parrots at the bird sanctuary in Playacar.

Me at Cenote Azul. Cenotes are natural springs - many are below ground - and in some you can reach by climbing 50 foot ladders down to swim in illuminated pools connected via underground rivers. This centote is above ground though it does have an access underwater to reach the underground river network. Sport some scuba gear and a flashlight to check out the hidden wonders. As in most Cenotes, this one is filled with colorful fish. Swim at your heart's content and escape the heat and crowds of Playa.

Me at the top of the pyramid of the Maya ruins of Coba, about 2 hours from Playa. I climbed the precipitous stairs to reach this sumit and barely made it to the top.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Work, Work, Work

Yes I took a nap at 11 am for an hour and watched part of Armageddon, and yes I walked down the beach with Allan to meet friends for lunch under palm trees only 10 feet away from 82 degree turquoise Caribbean waters (some of the warmest in the world), with unobstructed views of Cozumel, and yes I stopped by trendy Mamitas Beach club to jump in the ocean and listen to cool instrumental club beats originating from large speakers at the beach club as topless Europeans sip pina coladas, but it's currently 11:15pm and I'm still working. Yes, I have a perpetual tan and no, it's almost never cloudy or rainy or below 85 during the day. But I do work 6 or even 7 days a week and I'm loving every minute of it.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Yes, I'm You're Friend, so I'm Only Going to Stab You in the Back a Little

I'm starting to believe the rumors and the reasons why people say Mexicans don't trust each other. From good friends in Playa to Mexicans themselves, they all seem to reiterate this so called cultural fact. Although such generalizations may help to give a cursory understanding of the culture here, I try to stay away from such broad classifications. I'm sure the same could be said about many Americans.

Generally speaking Mexicans only invite family into their home. Friends, business associates and others are met in cafes, bars, etc... and are generally never brought into the inner circle. I'm not sure if this is because people are ashamed of their homes, don't trust their friends and associates or if it's just the culture. I'm thinking it's a combination of all 3.

At the gas station the other day the attendant saw my Massachusetts license plate and began telling me that his brother is living and working near Boston. The attendant then began to relate how he himself was working in Michigan and his Mexican boss in Michigan stole all his money and that of all his fellow workers, so the attendant had to flee back to Mexico.

Another Mexican, a lovely girl in her 20s who works at the XCaret theme park, was telling us she traveled from Mexico City to Playa to visit her Aunt. However, when she arrived her Aunt stole all her money including her bus money and now she's stuck here.

It was my birthday the other day. As a surprise Allan arranged to have a party at a local bar for me and about 25 friends. This is an establishment that we visit almost daily for lunch, and have become friends with the manager and all the staff. I even translated their menu into English for free and have paid to have our business logo placed on their menus. Apparently when Allan was negotiating the price of the party the manager, someone we considered to be a friend, wanted an exhortation amount of money for the party - more than we would pay in the States. Allan almost walked out he was so mad. In the end Allan was able to negotiate the price of the party to a small fraction of what it was originally. (Think $700 USD down to $150 USD.) He apparently thinks were rich and dumb - or perhaps that's just how business is done here.

The party was a blast, but I can't stop thinking how this friend tried to screw us. I've been told that this is just how things operate here - you have to negotiate. Start high and then go down. However, I would never think for a moment of trying to rip off a friend - or even a client or someone I did not know for that matter. It's just not in my blood to take advantage of people. Granted the same situation could happen in the States. However, I've been told by many friends, Americans and Mexicans alike, that it's just how things are done down here and "that's why Mexicans don't trust each other."

I guess the jury is still out on this subject. I'm not entirely ready to give into the fact that most Mexicans are not to be completely trusted. Sure, I'm careful when having contractors come into my home. If I make Mexican friends I'm not going to assume they're going to rip me off at the first moment. I just don't want to generalize or not give someone the benefit of the doubt. Granted, my radar is always on and if I'm suspicious of someone I'll act accordingly. I'm trustful but not entirely naive or out of it. I'm fairly astute when it comes to reading people. However, there's always someone out there who flies under the radar who is looking to screw someone. Does this self-centered person live in the hearts of all Mexicans or just some of them? Is this person in us? Should I automatically be distrustful of all Mexicans or give them the benefit of the doubt (while keeping an eye on them) if they make it past my radar?

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Down to Business

My posts lately have been noticeably infrequent and sparse at best. I'll blame it on the fact that I spend about 9 hours a day working on the website for our business. After a full day staring at the computer screen and wondering when I'll have to go in for a new eye exam (think computer screen burning my pupils), the last thing I want to do is write. I wouldn't say I'm a naturally talented writer. In fact I spent most of my youth watching tv which left me with poor grammatical and verbal skills. It's really only been since college that my writing and reading has reached a level where I feel comfortable communicating online or in a professional setting. The reason why I say all this is that I am constantly proofreading my writing - revising it, changing words and sentence structure. So the 15 minutes it may take to write an entry turns into an hour or even more depending on the depth of my rambling.

I've contemplated for sometime whether to talk about my business in this blog. In the back of my mind I keep thinking "keep business and personal life separate". On the other hand I can think of many advantages to mixing them: more business exposure and more topics to write about. So in the end I've decided to discuss business here as well - perhaps not down to every detail but enough so you can get the idea. Well, here goes.

My partner and I have started a property management and vacation rental business in Playa del Carmen called North American Standards Property Management. We originally came to Mexico in the spring solely with plans of staying two weeks for vacation and had no inclination whatsoever of moving here and starting a business. However we couldn't help but notice the rapid real estate growth in Playa and the need for competent and experience property managers. Considering Allan and I have over 40 years of combined experience in the industry moving here and starting a business seemed like a good idea.

Granted there are many property managers in Playa. Many have been struck with the manana attitude which has lead to many unhappy clients: problems are not addressed quickly enough. Other managers are very good and charge too much. Then there are companies like mine which charge reasonable rates and give best efforts to respond to our client's needs rapidly even with the obstacles of dealing with Mexican maintenance staff who perhaps are on a different time schedule (think laid back beach attitude).

So our website is We have about 15 vacation rental properties all near the beach and trendy 5th Avenue. We are spending a good deal of time and money on advertising both online and in Playa itself. In the past 24 hours our online ads have been displayed over 95,000 times. Yes, that is correct - almost 100,000 times in 1 day. The online global market is simply mind boggling. Yes, those are exact figures folks - many thanks to those brains at Google. In my next life that's where I'm going to work. Although we are seeing less than 1% of that traffic actually clicking on our ads, we remain hopeful.

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My Mom in Cozumel

My first taste of live native creatures - a tarantula on the side of the road!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Water Problems

We haven't had water since last night and I'm beginning to get just a little irritated. I mean we've scheduled back to back massages at 10am this morning for the three of us (my mom, Allan and me) and it would be nice to feel clean. I might have to jump in the pool if it doesn't come back on soon. That's no consolation for my mother: it's raining outside, and she can't easily walk in the rain and then maneuver to get in the pool since she walks with crutches. She acquired polio at the age of 5. I can live with the inconvenience. It's when it starts to bother my guests that gets me going.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Muzzle That Mutt

Why is it many Mexicans approach our dogs with caution? It's been a question perplexing me since we arrived in this beautiful land. Our beloved companions, Rickey and Mitzi, are 2 of the most gentle and loving creatures around. Why do they invoke such trepidation?

Local: "Will they bite me?"
Me: "Will they bite you? If you're Mexican they might" I respond in jest. "Actually they don't bite. They just kiss."

The answer to my quandary came in the shape of a four legged terror - my neighbor's dog - the one that tries to kill us whenever we walk by. The dogs here are SCARY.

It's got to be pretty bad when I prefer getting plowed down by a crazy driver by walking down the middle of the street rather than strolling down the sidewalk and having some terror jump from behind a fence fangs showing, hair standing up and growling. Seriously, I'd rather take my chances in the street.

People have guard dogs because crime is a real problem here. Fences have been constructed to keep people out and then barking dogs have been placed behind the fences as a deterrence. My neighbor's German Shepard literally tries to jump over the fence and attack. I don't care, I'm not walking anywhere near that fence! I mean, really - can't I just walk down the sidewalk in peace?

We haven't experienced crime here personally, but we know it exists. Friends have been robbed more than once. Coming from Boston, Allan and I take all the necessary precautions (lock our doors, keep valuables in our car and home out of sight), but generally feel very safe here. Those perpetrating such inexcusable acts are a very small minority of the population. However, I don't think anyone is free from the risk of being the victim of crime, including us. It's just a fact of life in Mexico as it is the US and around the globe. Granted some places are more safe than others.

People in Playa feel they need mean dogs to keep out the unsavory section of the population. Finding a scary four legged security system can be a lot cheaper than a sophisticated electronic one. I just wish people managed their mutts with just a little more respect for their neighbors. It's got to be pretty bad when I'd rather risk getting hit by some maniac driver than being bitten!

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Working diligently at the Coffee Cafe, our neighborhood hang out. The service is great, the coffee savory and the wireless is free.

I can never get tired of the beach.

Rickey and Mitzi pose below the palapa in the entrance to our complex.

My mother arrives today - I'm so excited!! This photo is of her wedding day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My Date with the Motorcyle Cop

I'm going to tread carefully on this topic since any discussion of police in a public forum can be a potentially problematic situation. Luckily for me all my experiences with police in Playa have been pleasant. Having armed cops patrolling the streets can be unnerving at first - but after a while it becomes old hat - and adds a nice sense of security. I've heard negative stories of police in Mexico and in Playa but haven't met the same sort of unpleasant encounter myself.

Last week when driving out of Walmart onto a two way street cut by a couple of separated islands which allow for two way traffic to turn into either lane, I made a split second decision to turn left going the wrong way so I could quickly turn right between the islands and head in the exact direction I wanted. Otherwise I would have had to turn right and then go around the block. I should also note that the exit to Walmart is right next to an intersection with traffic lights. Just as I exited the parking lot the lights turned green meaning that oncoming traffic was headed my way - and I was facing the wrong direction. Leading the traffic was a motorcycle cop, who I unfortunately did not see until it was too late.

He immediately spotted me and began saying something, though I couldn't hear with my windows up. He indicated for me to pull over, which I did. He then drove up behind me, unmounted and approached my window. Feeling amazingly calm I apologized and pleaded my ignorance of the Mexican driving laws. The officer was very nice, but firm, indicating that it was my responsibility to know the laws of this land. He asked for my license and then began to tell me it was expired. Knowing it wasn't I pointed to the expiration date - sometime in 2009.

The officer began to write me a ticket and explained he was going to take my license and I would have to pick it up out of town at some station once I paid my ticket. Wait a gosh darn minute. You are not taking my US license. I don't care what I've done. I've heard of cops taking license plates off cars for being parked illegally but never a license.

I began to explain to the officer that I didn't want to lose my license and asked if there was another was to resolve this issue. Without getting into too many details (use your imagination), I was able to leave with my license in hand and without receiving a ticket. I even introduced myself to the officer and feel like I've made a friend. I have to tell you he was really nice.

I'm sure there are many who have horror stories of experiences with police whether they be in Mexico and abroad. And I'm sure many of them are true. Luckily for me my experience was a pleasant one. And from now on I'm going to drive going the correct way on the street and will obey the traffic laws more closely.

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Views from Punta Roca, a condo complex in Puerto Adventuras, which is about 15 minutes south of Playa del Carmen. I'm taking this photo from a balcony in a condo owned by a friend of a friend.

Most all our furniture has arrived. Now it's starting to look like home.

When is this going to be over?

Rickey, the rebel. He's such a ladies man!

Mitzi poses for the camera. I swear she's such a ham!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wearing Pants is like Eating Candy

OMG - this is the first day since we've been in Mexico that it's been cold enough to wear long pants. By cold I mean it's in the mid 70s and rainy. Now if you're native to this region you might already be wearing winter clothes. I've heard when it hits the 70s the natives pile on winter boots, hat and down jacket - no kidding.

Today is also the first day since leaving Boston that the sun hasn't appeared all day. Usually in Playa there might be a cloud or two somewhere in the sky, and occasionally they do pass overhead and drop rain for 15 minutes or so - but they always pass quickly. The clouds and rain are actually a pleasant relief from sun, sun, sun - and this is coming from someone who LOVES summer, loves the heat.

Tonight Allan and I are going to hit Bad Boys, a beach side bar where the expats (Americans) hang out. To get there we'll stroll down trendy 5th Avenue and then cut down a side street, take off our sandals and walk along the sand a couple hundred feet to the bar. Hopefully by then the clouds will clear and we'll have the stars and moon to gaze upon in addition to the ocean and lights from Cozumel across the water. After a beer and a shot of tequila I'll be stumbling home.

Today I don't need alcohol to get high - I'm already feeling like a million. I haven't worn a pair of long pants in almost 60 days. But tonight I'm going to wear 'em with pride! Don't ask me why I'm excited - I haven't thought about it and had time to break down my feelings and search for their origin (yes, I really do this - often). All is know is I feel like a kid in a candy store - pure elation, like nothing can get me down.

P.S. - I just tried on the pants and they don't fit as well as they used to. So maybe I feel like a hundred thousand instead of a million. But, who cares?! I'm still going to have fun!!

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Steak fajitas with potato and grilled onion - OMG the food here is delicious - and cheap. This only costs $5 US with a drink.

On our way to the beach - we're trying a section where the locals hang out - north of Coco Beach.

I'm enjoying the waves, weather and warmth at the beach. Yes, I really am that fat.

Allan searches for plants to adorn our outdoor patio. We've stopped at a roadside nursery.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Feeling Like an Outsider

Yesterday Mexico celebrated it's independence from Spain. Much like the 4th of July in the States, there were fireworks, large crowds of drunken party goers, celebratory hats and costumes donned by kids and adults alike and the cacophony of plastic horns being played by everyone at ear piercing decibels. Although Allan and I are early birds, we just had to partake in the festivities which began Monday night at around 10pm.

It was shoulder to shoulder in Playa's main square as locals and tourists alike gathered to be in the center of it all. The focal point of the night was a live broadcast from Mexico City where the country's president reenacted the call to freedom made by Father Hidalgo some 200 years ago. Father Hidalgo, tired of being ruled by Spain, rang the bell of his little church calling everyone to fight for liberty. This was the beginning of the Independence War, which lasted 10 years and eventually ended in Mexico's freedom from outside rule.

What struck me most about the celebration wasn't anything I saw or heard - rather it was how I felt. Numb - like I didn't care. I felt absolutely no emotion even among the crowds chanting "Viva Mexico" (Mexico, live). The Mexicans displayed such pride for their homeland - in their smiles, in their songs and in their celebration. I'm not Mexican, and I'm not proud of Mexico as a country. I'm not ashamed of it either - it just doesn't evoke strong emotions either way.

I began to realize that we're really outsiders here. Allan and I are just visitors - hopefully not temporary ones. If something were to go awry, it's the US we'd flock to. The US is our home - where our friends and family live - where we were born and where we have our allegiance.

Granted we've only been in Mexico just over 30 days. We're still newbies, and there's plenty of time to get acclimated and to develop some sense of pride for our new homeland. It's not like I hate it here. On the contrary, I love living here. The weather is great, people are nice, food is amazing and landscape is breathtaking. I guess I just realized for the first time that although we live here, this is not really where we call home.

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Allan checks out the various carts selling patriotic goods.

Celebrations outside the municipal square. In typical Mexican fashion someone from the roof shouted "that'll be $5" after I shot this photo".

Eating panuchos and empanadas at Dona Marias. Panuchos are like open faced tacos while empanadas are like dumplings.

Fireworks Mexican style.

Allan reviews our marketing brochure. Why sit behind a desk when he can relax?

Beach front condos - great in the sunshine, awful during a hurricane.

I try my hand at boogie boarding. It's been about 15 years since I've last tried. Being out of shape and overweight certainly helped me miss every wave!

I try to hide the 10 or so pounds I've gained since leaving Boston.