Friday, December 13, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

One might think that in Mexico Thanksgiving is either non-existent or quite dissimilar to turkey day in the USA.  And in many senses you would be right.  However in many other degrees you would be dead wrong.  

This year we hosted an event with over 50 people, mostly Americans and Canadians living in Mexico from a couple of weeks a year to year round.  We hosted the event in the entryway to our condo complex under 2 large palapa (thatched) roofs.  Tables, chairs and tablecloths were ordered for the event and showed up the morning of, and had to be assembled.  We bought 5 turkeys which we distributed between various attendees to cook and bring.  Brent Parkin was also hired to play live music.  Then each guests brought the equivalent of $10 USD to cover the cost of items purchased/rented. Guests were also required to bring a dish to share (and their own beverages).

It's not like having dinner at home with family, but it's the next best thing.  We have made some wonderful friends, and by being inclusive we are always making more.  Our friends (who we now consider like family) have made our experience here in Playa del Carmen wonderful.  The sense of love, family and sharing one might feel at a USA Thanksgiving is just as strong south of the border at our turkey day event.

Me chatting with Larry and Leslie

Brent Parkin

Brie, Jackson and me.

Some of the spread.

Mary, Dan and Neil

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Recovering Scottie's Lost Ipad

After I found Allan's lost iphone (see entry: I guess word has got around that I'm fairly good at tracking down lost Apple devices.  Last week my friend Scottie called me and reported she lost her ipad and wanted my help in finding it.  Most likely she left it in a taxi in Playa upon returning from her trip to Guatemala.  I, of course, was up for the challenge.

An ipad is tricker to find then an iphone as the iphone with a paid data plan (unlike the ipad) has a built in internet signal which can be tracked by GPS.  Luckily Scottie had the Apple iCloud program activated on her ipad which allows for global device tracking.  Otherwise it would have been impossible. Using Scottie's iCloud login information in my web browser I entered into the find my device application.  On a global map the application can pinpoint the exact building the device is in. Unfortunately Scottie's ipad was not connected to a wireless network so it did not appear on a map.  And since she required a security code to use the ipad, it was not likely anyone was going to get back the opening login screen, never mind actually connecting it to the web.

Through the iCloud program I set the ipad to lost mode which not only will tell me where the ipad is, but where it has been.  I also set a message on the lock screen of the ipad (in Spanish - which reads "reward - [my cell phone number]".  So if anyone tried to login they would see the reward note and hopefully call.  We were willing to pay anyone some money for it - no questions asked. And that was really the goal - just to get it back.

I checked the find my device application day and night to no avail.  It was "offline" and until it was connected "online" or someone saw my reward note and called, I should expect to hear nothing.  A week passed, and then my phone rang.  A (Mexican) gentleman said he saw my reward note on the ipad.  He had bought the ipad off a taxi driver for $3,000 pesos and was told it was unlocked and just needed to be configured.  I explained it was my Ipad, that I left it in a taxi and asked him if he got a license plate or taxi number off the taxi, to which he replied negatively.  I offered him less than half of what he was asking.  He then responded he was out all this money and wanted at least half.  I agreed.

He lived across the highway and I asked him to take a taxi to meet me which I would pay for in addition to the cost of the ipad.  I was busy in a meeting so I could not go.  He agreed to come, but after one hour he did not show.  Thus began my texting and calling him and his not responding/answering.  Finally he answered and mentioned he was scared I was going to get him in trouble - was going to blame him.  I assured him I just wanted "my" ipad back. I added his number to the contacts on my cell phone and then added him to the free messaging program, Whats App, in hopes his profile photo would appear.  He had a photo of his baby in his profile photo, so I messaged him and said I had a lot of photos of my baby on the ipad which i really wanted.  I was trying to appeal to his fatherly instincts.  The ipad that once felt like it was in my grip was slipping away.

My calling and texting went on and off for about 2 hours and continued even into a dinner with clients who thought the whole experience was interesting and entertaining.  I called my friend Scottie and asked if I should offer the full amount he lost - $3,000 pesos. She agreed, so i texted him and sure enough he called back and agreed to meet me on 5th Avenue and 30th Street at Ah Cacao.

After 20 minutes had passed I texted him asking where he was.  He responded asking what I was wearing.  I told him and then he walks over with the ipad under his shirt. I literally said "why do you have the ipad under your shirt?"  He said something like he was afraid the cops would think he was doing something with the ipad.  I offered to buy him a coffee and we sat down as I logged into the ipad to make sure everything was there.

For some reason the ipad acted as if it was being registered for the first time. I'm not sure if someone tried to wipe it off or whether this was just a feature of it being placed in lost mode. Regardless at the login screen it asked for the original icloud login information from Scottie, which I provided, and then it asked me to restore the ipad from Scottie's last back up, which I did.  We had a nice conversation about work and life and then I paid him and went back to my dinner.

In short everything was there. Scottie got her ipad paying less than it would have cost to replace the one she had with far less hassle. The ipad guy got his money back. The taxi driver got away a thief among the other nameless 1,800 other drivers in town.  I was told it was no use even reporting it as the taxi union nor the police would do anything.  I believe Scottie reported it to the taxi union but without a plate or a taxi number there was nothing  that could be done.  And i got away feeling really good that I helped a friend. It was also very entertaining playing detective!!!  All in all I think all parties left feeling satisfied.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Grasshoppers on the Menu at Barro Negro

We met friends, Chris and Betsy, for lunch at the new restaurant Barro Negro in the old Origines building on the corner of 38th Street and Flamingo Avenue.  The waiter handed us menus in English which listed grasshoppers as a primary ingredient in several dishes.  We thought surely this was a mistake.  We asked the waiter who confirmed there was no translation issue - they were serving grasshoppers.

The server at Barro Negro explained that in the Oaxaca region of Mexico grasshoppers are a staple in the daily diet.  He then brought over some miniature dried and salted grasshoppers with lime for us to try.  I refused at first since I am not much of an adventurous eater, but after Chris, Betsy and Allan tried them and said they were good I figured what the heck.  They were a bit crunchy but really all you could taste was the salt and lime so it really did not taste like I was eating an insect. Betsy, who spent her child hood in Hong Kong said outside the Western diet, grasshoppers are on the menu in pretty much every other culture.

The waiter also brought over some grasshopper powder with salt and lime which some apply to the rim of cocktail glasses.  I had enough insects for the day so I passed on trying this one, but everyone else said it was good.  Allan was so inspired he ordered sautéed grasshoppers as his main dish and commented they were very good. I opted for a duck toastada with tomatoes, peppers, cheese and avocado - it was delicious.   In short I would say the food at Barro Negro (for grasshopper fans and those not) is really good but the drinks are very expensive - cokes are about $3 USD - more than twice what they normally are.

Barro Negro Menu

My delicious toastada which I split with Chris

Grasshopper powder

Chris enjoys dry, salted grasshopper with lime

Out of Work Sign

I found a sign on a non functioning door at the Plaza las America's mall which made me chuckle.  It's an example of how someone should check with a native speaker when trying to translate Spanish into English.  I understand in Spanish this sign says the door is out of service.  In English I'm led to believe the door is out of work and looking for a job...  I guess even doors need a hand once in a while.

I remember when we started putting for rent signs at some of our homes and instead of correctly putting "se renta" (for rent) I accidentally put "en renta" which is bad Spanish.  Perhaps I should start taking my own advice!