My Word Cloud

March 21st, 2009

I got this idea from Joyce (thanks girl). The image below is a Wordle that was created using the words I commonly write on this blog…not too many surprises here:

Running for Charity

March 21st, 2009

My fellow ex-pat blogger Gary Denness, aka The Mexile, who blogs from Mexico City, is going to run the Mexico City Marathon 2009 this year and he’s raising money for charity in the process. The charity he’s chosen is Wildcoast which helps protect coastal areas of both the U.S. and Latin America.

You can keep up with Gary’s training on his special Maraton de la Ciudad de Mexico 2009 site. Good luck Gary! Drink lots of water and train hard. We all wish you well!

Cancun, Mexico is Safe for Tourists

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.


February 25th, 2009

I want to point out a cultural difference that I often see trip up Americans and other native English speakers when they begin to have dealings with Mexicans. It has to do with writing in ALL CAPS.

On numerous occasions I’ve had my native English-speaking friends tell me that they’ve gotten an email from a Mexican that was written in ALL CAPS. And each time my friend complains that he or she feels offended by the use of ALL CAPS. To an American, and I imagine to others who are native English speakers, getting an email that’s written in ALL CAPS makes you feel like you are being yelled at by the sender. And if the reader feels yelled at before they even begin reading an email it seems natural to expect that the reader might react more negatively to that email than if the same words were written with a normal mix of upper- and lower-case letters.

As a web and graphic designer I’ve studied typography and have learned to convey different moods through the use of different fonts and type styles. Italics feel different from bold. A headline written in all lower-case letters feels different from one written in ALL CAPS. And one of the things I’ve learned is that I’ve got to be very sparing and careful in my use of ALL CAPS, it turns readers away and often makes them not want to read what I’ve written.

So why do so many Mexicans write emails to English speakers in ALL CAPS? Well, to start Spanish is a language that uses accents and other special characters (specifically: á, é, í, ó, ñ, ú, ü, ¿double question marks? and ¡double exclamation points!). But there are times when people writing in Spanish can’t or don’t wish to use all those special characters and accents, so it is acceptable in casual situations to write in Spanish using ALL CAPS and to skip the accents.

I understand that this practice of writing in ALL CAPS in Spanish is not acceptable in formal situations, as it is not proper Spanish. And not using accents can lead to confusion about meaning. But in casual emails it is common for many Mexicans to write emails in ALL CAPS and skip the special characters.

So it follows that if you are getting an email in English, from a Mexican whose practice it is to leave the Caps Lock key on at all times, you will get emails in ALL CAPS. Don’t be offended, the person is not yelling at you, and he or she probably has no idea that ALL CAPS feels like yelling to you.

Is Cancun Safe for Tourists?

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

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.

Love Those Internets

January 27th, 2009

I’m enjoying the internet more than ever. Over the years it’s gotten more human. There’s less need to be a geek in order to enjoy its riches. It’s growing up.

I joined Twitter a few months ago. And we had our over-Tweeted honeymoon phase. Then I backed off and found that it has true sustaining value for me. It’s a great source of news (if you follow those who publish news and not shit). And it’s a great way to keep up with the incidentals in my Twittering friends lives. They Tweet about going to the dentist, about the kid being sick, about the hangover, about the dog barfing on the bed. Just the kind of shit I’d want them to tell me about if I bothered to pick up the phone to call them. Follow me on Twitter or don’t.

Yesterday, without any thought, I joined Momentile. I joined because I like the name and because someone on Twitter offered me an invitation. I didn’t even know what it was, except that it had something to do with posting photos online. I’ve only posted two photos but already I feel I’ve found a new form of expression. I can post a photo there without explaining anything about it. It’s meaning and relevance are entirely up to the viewer. All pressure is off. Nice. Stalk me on Momentile or don’t.

Recently I’ve found some blogs that I’m really enjoying. This is largely due to things I’ve seen Re-Tweeted Twitter.

Cake Wrecks – This is a blog that I won’t explain except to say that there’s a picture of a cake in every post. I find this blog to be a lovely vacation from all those blogs that think they matter. And I like looking at pictures of cake wrecks.

Margaret and Helen – Their tag-line is Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting… I love their politics and I love the way they write. I hope I’m that out-spoken when I get to be that age.

Flowing Data – I like this blog, if you can call it that, because it makes me feel smart. I worked for years for a company where part of my job was to take data sets and make them both interesting to look at and useful for making sound business decisions. Those fucks laid me off, but I still get off on visualizing data-sets.

Clusterfook – This is the personal blog of Lisa Kelly who is a cancer ninja. She’s detailed her battle with ovarian cancer in her blog and she’s currently in hospice care. She’s a great writer and has taught me a lot about having a proper attitude toward life and death. She’s a star.

Enjoy the Internets all.

Feeling Frosty in Cancun

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!

RAP Cancun Animal Rescue Web Site Launch

January 13th, 2009

I’m proud to finally launch the RAP Cancun Animal Rescue web site.

For those that don’t know, Cancun has a very serious problem with strays cats and dogs. In some parts of the city you see multiple street animals in a single block. The city of Cancun has few resources to combat the problem and doesn’t even have the money to humanely euthanize animals (from what I understand they electrocute the animals they catch).

RAP is working on the front-line to save street animals, to rehabilitate them and then help them find healthy, loving homes. RAP is also working hard to educate and support pet owners so that they understand how important it is to sterilize their pets.

Please visit the site, subscribe to the RSS Feed: http://rapanimalrescue.org/feed/ and, most importantly, please make a PayPal donation. RAP needs all the help we can give. I’ll keep you updated as I make changes and upgrades to the site.

My previous posts about RAP:

Moving Thoughts

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…

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