Archive for the 'Life in Cancun' Category

Living Half a Life

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Maybe I should explain why I haven’t been blogging. The reason is that I’ve misplaced my humor about living in Cancun. I’m just sick and tired of it. It’s not funny anymore. And I don’t feel right using my blog to bitch and moan about all the things I’ve already bitched and moaned about in the past.

It would be redundant. Redundant is boring.

I’ve come to realize that Cancun is, and forever will be, a hustler’s city. Heavy tourism breeds a lack of respect for the land, the people and the animals. Cancun is a very troubled frontier town that is governed by backward-thinking corrupted officials. People come here from other places to escape things; it’s a city full of people who ran away from something. In short, it’s a troubled place full of troubled and unhealthy people.

These are not my peers.

Because Cancun is new it lacks culture. Every time I fly back to Cancun from some place that actually has art museums or science museums I die a little bit. Or a lot. I can’t believe people willingly raise children in this backward place. The world doesn’t need more adults who think like people do here.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not unhappy here, that is, I have close friendships with some lovely people here. And I enjoy the volunteering I do. And I enjoy my Book Club. And I like how cheap my house was to buy because it means I can live on next to nothing with no debt. I like my little life here.

My problem is that my life is little here. I’m not made to live a little tiny half a life.

I’ve resisted blogging because I don’t want tell the truth about life in Cancun any more. I just want to do my work, get coffee with my friends, and plan my trips back to civilization.

And I hope that one day soon we will be able to make plans to move from here. I’ve never wanted anything more than to move from here.

I look forward to missing my half-life in Cancun.

Swine Flu Fears in Cancun

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Swine flu isn’t here yet. As I write this we have no confirmed cases of Swine Flu in Cancun. But everyone is sure acting like it’s already here. I won’t bore you with details since my friend CancunCanuck has already laid it all out. Suffice to say that Mexican authorities are working very hard to stop the spread of this flu.

I’m getting emails every day from tourists wondering if they should cancel upcoming vacations to Cancun or the Riviera Maya. I’m telling everyone to wait as long as they can to make those decisions.

Something which has become clear to me in the last week is that Mexico has a significant lag time between finding a flu case “suspicious” and getting actual confirmation that a case is or is not Swine Flu. The reason for this is that there is not a lab in all of Mexico which can properly identify Swine Flu. So all samples have to be sent out of the country for identification and that takes time.

I don’t know how fast Swine Flu cases in the U.S. or Canada are confirmed, but I’ll bet it’s faster than here in Mexico. And I’m worried that this difference in identification time is skewing the data. Data which is being used by all sorts of people to make all sorts of decisions.

The fatality rate of the Swine Flu probably can’t be extrapolated until more cases are confirmed. And it’s likely that many cases in Mexico are simply not going to be reported at all, because they were so mild as to not warrant a hospital visit. Many are suspecting that when the data is fully collected this flu may not be more dangerous (in its present mutation) than a “regular” flu. But time and data will tell us this.

In the mean time I continue to tell tourists the truth, which is that it’s not here yet. And I continue to encourage them to wait as long as possible to make their decisions to change or cancel their trips to Cancun. There will only be more data later.

Cancun, Mexico is Safe for Tourists

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

I want to share the content of an email I got today. I think it offers some words of wisdom and some important facts regarding the safety of travel to tourist areas in Mexico right now.

Travel Still Safe to Major Tourist Hubs in Mexico

On February 20, 2009, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel alert to those visiting Mexico, warning of increased violence and drug-related conflicts in several areas. The alert states, in part, “While millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year (including thousands who cross the land border every day for study, tourism or business), violence in the country has increased recently.”

Travel agents should be aware that the most noteworthy crimes are taking place in border towns including Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez and the city of Chihuahua. The most popular tourist destinations, including Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Los Cabos, and Puerto Vallarta, remain safe for visitors.

The following is an abbreviated response from the Mexico Tourism Board:

Mexico remains a safe tourist destination and this is reflected in the 22.6 million international visitors that arrived in 2008, of which 18 million were Americans. This number represents a 5.9 percent increase from the previous year. Tourists who suffered any incidents were minimal. The violence associated with drug trafficking is isolated in cities that are far away from tourism destinations. We suggest using common precautions as when traveling to any foreign country.

Q: Is Mexico an unsafe place to travel?

Mexico ranks tenth as an international travel destination in the world and is the number one international tourism destination for North Americans traveling abroad. Many tourists to the country are repeat visitors, which demonstrates that the vast majority of tourists are satisfied and leave with overwhelmingly positive impressions.

Q: The travel alert issued by the U.S. State Department warns that even travel within the country beyond the border is dangerous. Should I just avoid traveling to Mexico completely?

No. Common sense and proper precautions must be taken when traveling anywhere, and Mexico is no exception. Whether traveling on the border or if you find yourself in another area of the country, stick to legitimate businesses and tourist areas. Be aware of your surroundings and your stay should be a memorable and safe experience. Mexico’s frontier, like many other frontiers in other countries, at times experiences certain conflicts and those crossing border states should do so while taking the proper precautions.

Q: Then what do you make of the U.S. State Department warning against travel to the border due to infighting among drug cartels?

In Mexico, the possession and consumption of drugs and narcotics are illegal. The laws governing these offenses are stricter and the resulting fines and prison sentences are often harsher than those provided for in U.S. and Canadian law.

The recent incidents involving drug traffickers have prompted U.S. and Canadian authorities to suggest travelers exercise extra caution when visiting certain border towns.

It is important to note, however, that this temporary announcement does not advise travelers against visiting the many safe tourist destinations. In fact, Leslie Bassett, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, declared that the intention of the alert is to inform of the violent acts that are taking place in specific states of Mexico as well as in other nations. She clarified that in no way does this alert seek to negatively portray the tourist destinations.

Q: Shouldn’t everyone just avoid going to Mexico, with everything that is going on with the crime and drug dealers?

It’s important to note that hotel occupancy in the popular destinations for tourists within Mexico remains strong. A report from the Secretary of Tourism elaborated this month (February 2009) shows the following: Cancun’s hotel occupancy at 73%, Riviera Maya at 85%, Los Cabos at 69% and Puerto Vallarta at 78%.

As the country’s promotion agency, the Mexico Tourism Board recommends visitors to contact our many offices for more information on the destination they are planning to visit.

Drug dealing and possession are a social problem that every nation faces, and Mexico is no exception. Visitors can be confident that local authorities are working hard to apprehend all those who violate the law to bring them to justice.

Q: What if something does happen? Will emergency services be able to help?

Federal and local governments are constantly working on improving emergency services, not only for tourists but for locals, too. Visitors should take precautions if they have any pre-existing medical needs and speak to their doctors before they travel abroad. We are also working on raising the bar in our standards to that our guests are kept safe, such as de-legalizing open bars in areas known as Spring Break destinations.

Hundreds of thousands of American students travel to resort areas throughout Mexico over Spring Break each year. The best way to enjoy their vacation without incident is to use some common sense to avoid dangerous situations. We encourage students to drink responsibly and be aware of the laws and regulations.

As stated in the U.S. State Dept. website:

“Excessive alcohol consumption and unruly behavior can lead to serious problems with Mexican authorities. Alcohol is involved in the vast majority of arrests, accidents, violent crimes, rapes, and deaths suffered by American students on Spring Break. Disturbing the peace, lewd or indecent behavior, littering, driving under the influence, drinking on the street or on public transportation, using public transportation without payment, or making obscene or insulting remarks are all considered criminal activities by Mexican authorities.

For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens in Mexico, please contact the closest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The U.S. Embassy is located in Mexico City at Paseo de la Reforma 305, Colonia Cuauhtemoc, telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000; telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000; telephone long distance within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000. You may also contact the Embassy by e-mail at: http://ccs@usembassy.net.mx. The Embassy’s Internet address is http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/

Here’s a link to the full text of the U.S. State Department Travel Alert, please read it yourself.

It is worth noting that in the past few weeks the Cancun Airport has seen record numbers of international flights arriving, the airport is busier than ever before with tourists arriving for vacation.

I also want to point out that the exchange rate between the U.S. Dollar and the Mexican Peso is such that Americans traveling to Mexico right now can enjoy real bargains.

Is Cancun Safe for Tourists?

Monday, February 9th, 2009

Whenever I return to the U.S. and mention to a stranger that I live in Mexico he or she always seems to ask some version of the question “is it safe there?” Mexico’s reputation for mafia-related violence seems to be eclipsing people’s previous distorted ideas of what Mexico was. No longer do they think of mariachis, or drunks in sombreros or cheap beer or bikini-clad chicas running in the surf. Now they think Mexico is over-run by mafiosos running drugs and that every person here is in imminent danger of being executed.

More than 5000 people in Mexico were killed by organized crime in 2008. That’s a huge number. For the most part those murders took place along the northern border of Mexico, well over a thousand miles from Cancun. In the last couple of years Cancun has had a few murders that appeared to have been mafia hits. In each case the victims seemed to be carefully chosen, they either appeared to be members of the mafia or they were known to be fighting organized crime.

To my knowledge no tourists have been among the mob’s murder victims in Cancun. And given what I’ve seen of the way the mafia operates, I wouldn’t expect tourists to be among their victims. It doesn’t make sense.

Cancun offers certain advantages to organized crime outfits that might be moving drugs or illegal immigrants to the U.S. One advantage is simply Cancun’s close proximity to the U.S., another advantage is that Cancun has miles of coastline. For sure Cancun is a natural stop-over point between cocaine-producing countries in South America and the consumer market of the U.S.

Another big advantage Cancun provides to the cartels operating here is the fact that it’s so busy with tourists. By most estimates close to 5 million tourists come to this area each year. Tourist traffic provides cover at the airport, on the roads and at sea. And the numerous restaurants, bars and nightclubs here provide obvious places to launder money.

The way I see it the very successful tourist trade here is part of the reason that organized crime has been able to operate in the Cancun area. The mob needs the tourists to keep coming in order to keep their activities hidden and to wash their money clean.

Does this mean the mob won’t bite the hand that feeds them? No. But so far the few victims murdered here seem to have been chosen because they represent a threat of some kind to the mafia. And the way I see it tourists are not a threat to the mafia’s business, they are cover for it.

There’s another fact which is easily forgotten. Cancun is a city of nearly 1 million people. I think visitors who come to Cancun often don’t realize how large it is. How many murders happen in American cities of 1 million residents? Would you choose not to go to Denver or Miami or Portland, OR or Seattle because of the murder rates there? Of course not. Yet people are murdered in those places regularly. But the difference between Cancun and those other places is that Cancun is supposed to be perfect, Cancun is supposed to “paradise.”

Well guess what? Cancun isn’t perfect. But millions of people come here each year, enjoy their vacations and don’t suffer anything worse than a hangover and a sunburn.

So how do I answer people who ask me if it’s “safe” here? I tell them that I walk my dog alone at night without fear. I tell them that I forget to lock my house often. I tell them that I’ve never once been scared for my safety here in Cancun. I tell them that it feels as safe as any place I’ve ever lived in the U.S.

Fish Tacos with Manners on the Side

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

For the last 2 weeks I’ve been wanting to go to Los de Pescado which is my favorite fish taco place in Cancun. So today, after a client meeting, hungry as a horse (well, as a pony) I twisted the already twisted arm of my husbandito and convinced him to meet me there for lunch.

I was nearby the restaurant. He was not. So I needed to wait for him. The place was PACKED, as it always is at lunchtime, so I also needed to wait for a table.

But us white girls are invisible dontcha know…one woman and her two kids pushed right past me and took the next available table, even though I was waiting for it. As I was just getting off my phone with the husbandito who was still 10 minutes away, and as she had two hungry kids, I just let it go.

I stood there waiting for the next table, politely, like a normal person. Then a guy comes along, with HIS two hungry kids, and he literally pushes me out of the way so he can enter the dining area of the restaurant. No tables are empty yet, but one is paying their check. He pushes past me, walks inside and then I hear him tell his kids (in Spanish of course) to run to the table and sit there as soon as the people there leave.

He’s in the restaurant, while I’m waiting by the door. I’m thinking that it’s impolite to enter until a table clears. And he’s going to get my table because I’m hanging back and being polite. And I start to feel the bile rising in my throat. I start getting mad. I start thinking that I’m not sticking up for myself. And then the guy leaves (I assume going back to the car) while his wife enters and begins to help her kids get seated at my table.

Then the waiter comes to me and asks if I’m waiting for a table and when I say that I am he goes and confronts the woman (who has no idea that her husband pushed in front of me). He tells her that I, all by my lonesome, am getting that table that her kids are already sitting at. She starts to argue. He tells her again that I’ve been waiting and that her husband jumped in front of me. She’s resistant (apparently HER husband wouldn’t do THAT).

But then the guy sitting at the next table, who’s been eying me like a piece of meat, jumps in and takes the waiter’s side and tells the woman that yes indeed her hubby was in the wrong and the table was really mine. So now I have two saviors, like it or not, and I get my table. (I did thank both of them, even the gawker.)

The waiter came over immediately and took my order and he brought the food about 1 minute before husbanito showed his face. The tacos were great, as always (though I wish they’d use better tortillas) and the service was quite good (even if some of the patrons were pushy). We enjoyed our meal and left a good tip.

Feeling Frosty in Cancun

Monday, January 19th, 2009

It’s a bit chilly in Cancun and here I sit in a house with no heater. I’ve been wearing jeans and long sleeves and have been thanking myself for dragging all those sweaters to Mexico because I’m using them.

I took a run today in the Parque Kabah and it was just like a nice crisp September day in Colorado. A hint of winter in the air, a gorgeous blue sky above with the sun out. It was perfect workout weather and I celebrated by doing extra stretches and extra sit-ups (I just wrote that to make you groan, I’m weird because I actually like sit-ups).

The other day I signed up for a Flash development class. I have skill with Flash now but have been feeling for a while that I need to deepen my knowledge. So today I did a dumb thing, today I logged in to the online classroom and got the reading assignment for the first week of class.

I think the teacher assigned almost 200 pages just for the FIRST WEEK, 200 technical pages, 200 pages full of programming examples and tech talk. I think I’m going to just roll over and die now. I’ve studied with this teacher before, and I know I have an aptitude for Flash, but 200 pages is going to KILL ME!

I suppose that if I get really frustrated with the Flash class I can just burn the book. It’s a big book, it might keep me warm for a whole hour!

Moving Thoughts

Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

I’ve noticed an interesting thing.

Lately a number of friends and family members who reside in the U.S. (none of whom have ever lived in Mexico) have told me “things are really bad here, stay in Mexico, don’t move back here, you are better off there.” They have a point. From here I can see how badly the economy is doing there. My prospects for finding a job in the U.S. right now are poor but I would need one to be able to afford to live there. But here in Mexico I live debt-free, on very little. We are financially stable here, my business is doing well enough to support me here and my husband has the kind of job you almost can’t get fired from (he’s works for the Federal Government). So there is a lot to be said for staying put in Mexico for a while.

But I also have a number of American friends who I met while they were living in Cancun, and who have recently returned to live in the U.S. Each one of them has been VERY HAPPY with their decision to leave Mexico and almost without exception each one of them has told me they will help me move my shit when I’m ready to move back. These friends are happy to be back in the U.S. despite the problems there. These friends understand just how difficult it is to live in Cancun. And these friends are willing to make an effort to help me move back to the U.S., that really says something important to me. It tells me that even with all the problems present in the U.S. it’s still an easier, and probably healthier, place to live than Cancun is.

The reality is that we will be in Mexico for a while yet. But I know who to call when I need help moving…

X-mas Spirit, Not Me

Monday, December 15th, 2008

My horrible neighbors have struck again. On December 1st they decorated every square inch of their front yard with Christmas kitsch. It’s bad over there. There are more plastic Santas that I can count. There are reindeer that pathetically move their heads up and down. There are seizure-inducing flashing lights hanging from every surface. There’s even a very fake-looking plastic nativity scene with a premature Baby Jesus in it.

But the worst thing is the X-mas musak. Somewhere over there is a 25¢ speaker that blares tinny, tacky, warble-ey Christmas carols from noon (when they wake up and turn it on) until 4 am (when they get home and turn it off) each and every day. I’m so sick of listening to X-mas muzak that I want to vomit. Can you tell I’m not in the Christmas spirit yet?

Maybe I need to sneak over there and destroy the muzak maker? That would go a long way towards putting me in the Christmas spirit, well, at least it would go a long way to making my perpetual headache go away.

Take Back the Day

Sunday, December 14th, 2008

Today we got suckered into a timeshare presentation. My husband tried to advert disaster by asking if this was “a timeshare presentation.” But he was told in no uncertain terms that it was not…and he believed them…and I believed him. So innocently, stupidly, we went, thinking that a “free breakfast and a tour of the Presidente beach club” might actually be a “free breakfast and a tour of the President beach club.” We are such suckers.

Eventually the presenter told us “it’s not timeshare, it’s a vacation club presentation.” But the sales tactics are exactly the same as timeshare sales. The drill is the same. And all the salespeople “used to work in timeshare.”

So what’s the difference between a Vacation Club and a Timeshare? Well, the difference I see is that a timeshare actually needs a deed because it’s actually (at least under U.S. law) a real estate transaction. But buying your way into a vacation club just means you are paying for the right to have “guaranteed discounts” at some hotel chain and that you get to carry some nice shiny membership card. Oh, and they send you a magazine every month. For $9000 USD. What a great deal.

If it’s a good thing for some people then that’s fine. For me, sitting through the presentation is a total waste of my life. I feel I was robbed of 3 hours of my time. Three hours are gone that won’t come back.

And I recently canceled a much cheaper subscription to National Geographic Magazine because the Mexican postal system could not be relied upon to actually deliver it, except in the rain. Can you imagine relying on the Mexican postal system to deliver a $9000 USD magazine subscription? They would probably wait until the middle of a hurricane to deliver it.

Anyway, I feel scummy, I feel like I have dirt on me that won’t come off. I want my day back. I want those 3 hours back. They can have their free breakfast back if they want…grin…just give me back my time.

Cancun Losing Folk Art Museum

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Yesterday we took my visiting amiga americana to Cancun’s Museo de Arte Popular Mexicano (Mexican Folk Art Museum). And as usual we enjoyed it thoroughly. They continue to add to their large collection of Mexican arts and crafts, so each time we go there we see new pieces. And this time we listened to the audio tour, something we hadn’t done before, and it really added a lot to the experience.

But as we were leaving husbandito did his always-make-new-friends thing and started talking with one of the people who works in the museum. Well it turns out that the museum, surprise, surprise, has never made any money there (it’s in a bad location and is always empty). And so the owners, who also own Xcaret Eco-Park, have decided to move the museum to Xcaret sometime in the next couple of months, sometime in January according to the employee.

The good thing about this is that Xcaret is popular so people will FINALLY start seeing this great collection of Mexican arts and crafts! The bad thing is that this museum was basically the only place in Cancun to see a large collection of good quality arts and crafts. So I’m completely bummed out, but not surprised at all. I guess now I have yet another reason to go to Xcaret again.

If you are a Cancunense and you have not yet been to the Museo de Arte Popular Mexicano I highly recommend it, but you’d better get over there soon.

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