Archive for 2007

Housekeeping in Cancun

Monday, December 31st, 2007

On about my 3rd day in Cancun (more than 4 years ago) I found myself talking to the U.S. Consular agent here. She told me that one of the best things about living in Cancun was that you could have a housekeeper full time for about $60 USD per week (prices have gone up since then).

I was completely repulsed by that. The idea that one of the best things about living somewhere is that labor is cheap and so you can have someone else clean your shit while you sit around on your lazy ass did not sit well with me. Tell me that the best thing about living in a place is the pristine nature or the rich culture or the great infrastructure or the great employment opportunities. But don’t tell me that I should be happy because I get to order someone around and pay them so little that their quality of life will be significantly lower than mine.

When I lived in the U.S. the various house cleaners who helped me over the years were all paid well, and from what I could see each had a very similar level of life to mine. They traveled. One of them was a member of the same gym I went to. Two of them drove nicer cars than I did. And all of them spoke at least two languages fluently.

But here in Mexico housekeepers get paid crap and both their standard of living and their educational levels are dramatically lower than mine. And it makes me sick.

I feel blessed and taken care of by the woman who cleans my house for me. She keeps this chaotic house full of pets and knick-knacks and messy people in order. I’m immensely grateful to her, without her the house is a pig sty and I always feel I’m behind. But with her cleaning the house just once a week I feel like I can catch up with myself. And so I pay her very well at $250 mxp per day; the woman across the street pays her housekeeper just $150 mxp per day (and her house is bigger). I gave my housekeeper a Christmas bonus, and two Christmas presents. And when her kids have their birthdays I will give her another bonus, so she can spend a little extra on them then.

Recently my housekeeper came to me and asked me to help her find more cleaning jobs. She had a couple of days a week to fill in her schedule. So I sent around an email to my rich ex-pat women acquaintances and I recommended her. One of these women called immediately and wanted to hear all about my housekeeper. But when I told her how much I was paying she actually got upset with me. She told me that I couldn’t pay my housekeeper that much because I “will spoil her” and then she would think she was worth too much! I actually got yelled at because I was at risk of raising someone’s self esteem and sense of self worth. Yuck.

I would pay my housekeeper 4 times as much if I could. She’s cleaning my toilets for God’s sake. And with 11 animals and 2 messy people here she works plenty hard for us. Unfortunately I have to live in this strangled economy also, and so $250 mxp is all I can afford. But I’m happy to be able to give her as much as I can afford, she deserves it and she earns every cent.

A Trip To Isla Holbox

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

My daughter and I just visited Isla Holbox for a few days. For anyone who doesn’t know, Isla Holbox is located on the northern edge of the Yucatan peninsula. It’s in the same state as Cancun and is just about 2.5 hours away; the drive from Cancun is 2 hours and the ferry is another 30 minutes.

Holbox is small enough that people walk, ride bikes or drive golf carts there. We saw no more than 5 normal vehicles and all were trucks, we saw a truck delivering soda, and truck full of cops, a garbage collection truck and a couple of private trucks. Last I looked Holbox had a population of just under 2000 people.

What I like about Holbox is that it’s completely and totally boring. There is just not much to do there. You can go for a jog on the beach. You can lounge around on the beach. You can have long leisurely meals. About the most exciting thing to do there is to go out on a boat to go fishing, or visit some nearby bird nesting areas. It’s truly a place where there’s nothing going on.

After about 12 hours on the island I found myself coming unwound. And I was able to relax in a way that I normally don’t. It’s just so peaceful and boring in Holbox that it’s hard to have any stress when you are visiting there.

The one bummer about Holbox is that I didn’t find a decent meal there. Everywhere we ate was mediocre. I couldn’t even find a proper cappuchino. Maybe I missed the good restaurants, but it’s a pretty small town and I couldn’t have missed much. When I was there a few years ago I remember a decent Italian place, but couldn’t find it this time (it either moved or it’s gone). Oh well.

I’ve got a lot of photos to share and will do so on another day.

Christmas in Cancun: Litterbugs and Disco

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

In the days leading up to Christmas I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of litter in the streets of Cancun. Most of that litter is made up of spent fireworks’ wrappers and used up rockets. The holiday season in Mexico seems to mean fireworks, lots of fireworks. For the last several weeks we’ve been hearing fireworks go off each evening. Last night, from the comfort of my own bed, I could see fireworks shooting up 40 feet in the air. They were pretty but the noise made it hard to sleep.

The other thing that made it hard to sleep was the party my neighbors had. It started at around 10 pm and at 4:30 am this morning they were still outside their house with music playing. These particular neighbors aren’t the loud awful rude inconsiderate ones, but their house is packed so full of furniture that they always end up having parties outside in the front yard. I don’t really understand that, but that’s what happens. Their parties are outside, but they don’t usually have anyone screaming or yelling, and if I shut the windows I can almost not hear their parties.

This morning, Christmas morning, at 8 am I was awakened by really, really loud disco music coming from a different neighbor’s house! Clearly this was meant as revenge against the first neighbor for his just-ended party. All that eye for an eye Old Testament revenge stuff goes over really well here. But the revenge disco music was worse than the original party had been. The whole street was treated to such favorites as “I will survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “In the Navy” by the Village People, “I just want to be your everything” by the BeeGees, and a dozen more lovely, thumping, tedious, monotonously boring hits of the disco era. Next time you need to get revenge on your neighbor you will know just what to do. It was pure torture.

What’s Your Favorite Place?

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I just got an email from a blogger who is collecting photographs of people’s favorite places on earth. I think it’s a great project. I submitted a photo of my favorite spot in the Yucatan, but I’m not sure that I have a favorite place on earth. If I do it’s probably my bed on a lazy Saturday morning when the bed is full of cats, but I didn’t want to submit that since no one else would care. Take a look at Your Lovely Places and be sure to send a photo of your favorite spot.

My Dog Is Not Your ‘Perrita’

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

When I was a kid growing up in the U.S. (where it’s normal to neuter pets) I learned that the way to discern a boy dog from a girl dog was by the presence of that crucial symbol of maleness called the “weewee”. If a dog has a weewee it’s a boy. If it doesn’t have a weewee then it’s a girl. And if it’s too furry to be able to see if there’s a weewee then you have to ask the owner “does your dog have a weewee?”.

In Mexico apparently the presence or absence of a weewee is not part of discerning the boyness or girlness of a dog. The deciding factor in Mexico seems to be the presence or absence of “huevos”, testicles, balls, nuts. If a dog has testicles it’s a boy, if it does not it’s a girl. It’s so simple that even the kids figure it out.

My male, neutered dog and I run together almost daily. And almost each time some kid in the street will yell out “hola perrita” expectantly, as we go by. “Perrita” means female dog. It’s the equivalent of bitch in English (and can be used in the derogatory sense as well). And each time one of these little twirps calls my dog “perrita” I get a little mad.

First I get mad because, DUH, I’m running and I am not going to stop so some little kid can pet my dog. I may be a “perrita” myself for my attitude, but that’s tough. I think it’s a sign of how completely social Mexicans are that a little kid here would naturally expect me to to stop running so that my dog could get petted. But OMG if I stopped for every dog-petting occaision I would never get any exercise.

The second reason, the important reason, that I get mad is because my dog is MALE. I’ve been a responsible pet owner and I’ve had Adriana-The-Wonder-Vet cut off Sam’s testicles so he can’t make anymore unwanted street dogs! But here in Mexico it’s so uncommon for a male dog to be neutered that people don’t expect it! And it’s not just the kids that make the mistake but adults too. In fact I’ve had adults tell me that it’s not healthy for me to have neutered my dog and they actually pity him his missing balls!

This drives me crazy. This is a country full of unwanted, starving street dogs. If I drive to the poor areas of Cancun it’s hard not to hit limping starving mangy street dogs, they are on every corner! And still people think that it’s wrong to neuter your dog?!

Here’s an example of the poor street dogs you see in Cancun:

street dog Cancun Mexico

If more people in Mexico would neuter their dogs maybe there would be fewer dogs suffering like this poor guy.

Videos of Destinations in Mexico

Monday, December 17th, 2007

My husband and I were just Googling for information about Campeche, which is a place we plan to visit soon (I can’t wait). And we came across a web site that has nice videos from all over Mexico. Check out: Rincones de mi Tierra.

Who Me Cold?

Monday, December 17th, 2007

My husband always says that because I’m “nordic” (meaning in his mind that I’m from somewhere cold) that I should be comfortable with cold weather. And so he nevers gives me any sympathy when I complain of being cold. The reality is that he is far more comfortable with cold weather than I am.

It’s true that I grew up in a cold climate and I have plenty of experience with staying warm through a long winter. I even went camping in the dead of winter once; I skiied 6 miles up a valley in Rocky Mountain National Park, touched off a point release avalanche along the way (you haven’t lived until you’ve done that!) and ended up digging a snow cave to sleep in. It was beautiful but perversely cold and I’m in no hurry to repeat that experience.

So here I am in the tropics, in Cancun, in December, and I’m freezing my butt off. I need to remind you that THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! It’s apparently 75 degrees F, but I don’t believe that for one little minute. I’m certain that weather report is simply propaganda being spread by the hotel industry who just wants everyone to think that it never gets cold here!

I’ve had to break out the socks and give up on flipflops! And I am even wearing a sweater inside my house. Horrors! The trauma! Even the cats are cold, instead of laying around separately on the tile floors they are snuggling together on the beds; cats that don’t get along with one another are putting aside their differences in favor of staying close and warm. And the dog’s name has been changed from Sam to Heat Source and I’m encouraging him to lie at my feet where ever I am so I can rest my frozen toes on him and suck some heat from his fat little furnace of a body.

I’ve been drinking hot beverages all day long. I started with coffee, switched to herbal tea and two hours ago I graduated to chai tea with milk. No one can tell me I’m not well hydrated today.

I don’t use my oven very often but today I decided to make baked potatoes not because I wanted to eat them but because, without a heater in the house, running the oven was my best option for warming the house up. And it worked, sort of. Between actually shutting ALL the windows (which we almost never do) and running the oven for over two hours I think I managed to raise the temperature in the house a whole 5 degrees. Well, it’s better than nothing.

At least I can’t see my breath when I exhale, not yet anyway.

Laugh Another Day

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

As 2007 draws to a close I’m finding myself thinking over all of what I’m grateful for.

First, I’m grateful for my good health. I’m grateful that I didn’t break this arm when I fell. I’m grateful that my endometriosis doesn’t hurt everyday any more. I’m grateful that I rarely get sick or have days when I feel anything worse than tired.

I’m grateful to my husband for being there, and for making sure that I feel loved everyday. And for always putting up with me, even when I’m being an uptight neurotic bitch.

And I’m grateful that my daughter is happy and healthy, and that her dad is taking good care of her.

I’m grateful to all my friends for their loyalty and concern. It means so much to have so many friends who really care and really empathize.

I’m grateful to my mom for everything.

I’m grateful that I live in a place with clean air.

I’m grateful to my cats for teaching me that love is all about having your ears scritched in just the perfect way.

And I’m grateful to my dog for his undying love and for how patient he is with us.

I’m grateful that I finally learned to touch type, it makes it faster to blather on about nothing important in my blog.

I’m grateful that Joyce got kitties because kitties are good for the soul.

I’m grateful that my sister finally has time to knit and make art, even though she’s sick. And I’m grateful that she’s getting better now.

I’m grateful that I don’t have to work for someone else and that I don’t have a mortgage or any debt.

And most of all, I’m grateful to be here, grateful to be able to laugh another day.

Photos from Tulum

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Below are some photos from our recent trip to Tulum. We rode our bikes a couple of times and stopped a lot to take photos. I also took some photos from our room overlooking the sea.

Tulum Sunrise
View of sunrise, this is what I saw from bed.

Tulum Sunrise
More sunrise, this is what I saw when I went out on the beach to see the sunrise.

Cenote in Sian Ka'an
We road our bikes into the Sian Ka’an Bio-reserve and we saw this cenote (near the arch).

Cenote in Sian Ka'an
Another pic from the Sian Ka’an Cenote near the arch.

Tulum Shoreline
We took this pic when we went for a ride north of our hotel toward the ruins. Much of Tulum looks like this to me.

I was going to make disparaging remarks about our hotel. But then the hotel emailed me asking for my opinion and I let them have it directly. So in all fairness I will give them a chance to fix things rather than tell you all about how dirty it was and about how the maintenance was lacking and how the bed sagged and forced us to sleep on top of eachother and how the plumbing fell apart while I was taking a shower and sprayed water all over the floor. I’ll decline from saying those things. For now. Grin.

Like a Ton of Bricks

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

I hate running with my dog. I mean, I don’t hate it in theory, just in practice. In practice there’s no place decent to run with him here in Cancun. We are forced to run in the streets. And in Cancun that usually means literally in the pot-holed uneven street with cars going by and street dogs following us.

The sidewalks in many places here are narrow, broken and uneven, so they are not pleasant to run on. And when you run on sidewalks it means your dog passes right in front of the gates of the houses along the street, and that means that each time you pass a house with a dog in its yard there’s a big drama of barking and pulling and all that dog-drama shit.

So we run in the street. And that means we have to watch for cars.

Well, today we were running along in the street. And a car came up too fast behind us on our left side. And the dog was on my left. And the dog decided to move to the right to get away from the car. Except I was in his way. And he ran into me and knocked me down in the street.

I landed on the palm of my right hand, followed quickly by my right elbow and right hip. The hip is ok at least. I’m not sure about the elbow or the wrist yet. As you can see I can still type ok, but the pain is intense. My palm hurts a lot, but given that I can move my wrist with out pain I’m thinking it’s just a big bruise. My elbow has a weird lump on one side that’s swelling, the other elbow doesn’t have that lump, so I’m not sure what’s up with that. But the elbow only hurts like roadrash, so I may be ok. We shall see.

Just yesterday I was bitching about how much I hate running in the street with the dog. I much prefer to run in the park (where dogs aren’t allowed), I run farther there and get a much better workout. But this dog needs the exercise, he needs to get out and run several times a day. And if he doesn’t get his run then he is hard to live with, he gets hyper and his behaviour is bad. So I run with him, for him, not for me. And look what I get for it.

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