Invisible Neighbours

Urgh… Neighbours. On average, I move every 1.7 years, so as you can imagine, I’ve had plenty of neighbours over the years. There were the C-brothers, two fat Italian potheads. The marihuana smoke would enter through the airing into my bathroom turning a trip to the loo into a somewhat surreal experience. Then there was Mr. B., a ridiculously handsome photographer who would bring home a new aspiring young model almost every night. There was a lot of drama, a lot of heartbreak going on, very often I would see those pretty little things leave the apartment in the morning, crying and sobbing behind their dark sunglasses.

After moving into a new apartment, I had a similarly charismatic neighbour, a doctor. Being single at that time, I wouldn’t have minded a date with him, but every time we met, I embarrassed myself completely. Either I met him on one of those quick shopping runs, you know: Oh,  nobody is going to see me anyway… And then you leave the house with unkempt hair sticking out in all directions, no makeup, or worse: smudged makeup for you were watching the Ally McBeal episode where Larry left, some sloppy pants and flipflops – and bam, there he is, your gorgeous neighbour, grinning from one ear to the other. I also always bumped into him when I would take out the trash for recycling (meaning: plenty of empty wine and champagne bottles). Needless to say that I never scored a date with him.

In our first home here, we were living next to an American couple in their 60s. She liked to showcase her plastic boobs, the one part of her that was not wrinkly. And he liked to tell the story about her having hundreds of Victoria’s Secret panties. When I got up at 5 to do my asanas, they were already up smoking in the garden. But they were also very friendly, offered us to lend us their complete DVD collection of The Nanny. After we had moved to our 2nd home, a dream came true: Our neighbour was a terrific baker, and every Sunday they would pop over to bring us cake. On the other side, there was a young French couple who apparently spent all their money on marihuana and sunglasses for they had no furniture. I mean: NO furniture. No sofa, no chairs, no table, just a big flatscreen TV on the floor.

Now we have got new neighbours who like to party the night away. Rumour has it that they fight a lot, get drunk and, from what I can tell, bump into all their furniture. Well, at least they do have furniture.

And then we have some invisible neighbours: the aluxes. Some of you might have read my post about duendes and aluxes, if you haven’t: Aluxes (speak: alooshes) are little invisible people, dressed in Mayan costumes. If you treat them well, they can bring you good luck, otherwise they are quite vengeful. (Remember the Cancun airport bridge?)

Downtown Playa there is a little plaza called “Bosque de los Aluxes” (Forest of the Aluxes) where you can find miniature homes where people can leave little gifts. Some leave money, some leave cigarettes, but since I cannot imagine what aluxes would do with our money and since I also don’t want to support bad habits, MM and I left some almond biscuits for them today. I really hope they like biscuits, but who doesn’t, eh?

Apparently, aluxes don't need luxury homes.

Apparently, aluxes don’t need luxury homes.

Run, Baby, Run!

Our housekeepers M&M (whom  I love dearly, I have to add) are always a fountain of wisdom when it comes to raising a child. (Some of you might still remember the pregnancy tips I received.) So, dear mothers, this is for you (and of course for everyone else who finds these old wives’ tales entertaining).

If you want your child to walk, there are 2 options which you might find helpful:

  1. Apply some raw egg white to the hollow of their knees. Don’t ask me why this should work. I asked, but apparently it is just some kind of miracle remedy. I have to ask for a good use for the egg yolk, as I would hate to see it go to waste, though. Maybe applying egg yolk to your left ear will make you better at mathematics?
  2. Put your baby on hot sand. He will run in an instance, they assured me. Really? Maybe we should carry all fat people to the beach on a hot day and have them run, too. Weight loss guaranteed.

Mexican Mythology: Sacred Trees

In various places all over the city, you can find these huge ceiba trees, gigantic sacred trees that for the Mayan people represent the connection between the heavens and the underworld. They are 20 to 40 meters high (65 to 130 ft) and their canopy is up to 50 meters (9’10”) wide. Somewhere I read that their roots can be the size of a fully grown man. (Well, you know that in general Mexican men are not too tall…) Thanks to the formation of the branches that allows for the wind to pass right through them, these trees are resistant to hurricanes.

Up to this day people honour the ceibas and instead of felling them they rather build around them. Especially in a country that cares so little about the environment, this is something really beautiful, don’t you think?P1050693

Expat Adventures Part II: So you think you can… telephone?

My very favourite student M. left me. Not because I am such a terrible teacher, or so he says (although he consistently referred to my classes as “German curse” instead of “course”), but because he moved to Germany to be with his German wife.

The poor guy really had to pay for falling in love with a German lady. Literally. First, he had to learn German in order to pass a German test for his visa. Once he had moved to Germany, he then had to attend an integration course of 645 classes!

Moving to Mexico is a lot easier. However, if there were integration classes there are a few points I think they should cover, like e.g.:

  • The various kinds of chili peppers. So your eyes won’t pop out because you thought it a good idea to take a big spoonful of salsa habanera.
  • How to bribe a policeman.
  • How to kill a scorpion.
  • Tequila tasting.
  • How to increase resistance to non-stop mariachi music for hours. Might come in handy if you decide to spend some time in the delivery room of a local hospital.
  • Differences between tacos, tortillas & friends.
  • Basic knowledge of (Mexican) Spanish. For those expats who have been living here for years and still don’t speak a single sentence are just unbearable.
  • How to make a phone call.

Say what? – Yes, how to make a phone call.

My son is a lot smarter than me in that he uses his cell phone only.

My son is a lot smarter than me in that he uses his cell phone only.

I never understand how people here do it, and whenever I bring up the subject it causes hysterical giggles from everybody. The best thing is to not use a landline phone at all, because if you do you need to use a whole lot of prefixes that are not required if you use a mobile phone. But if you are a little old fashioned and belong to a generation that’s still used to using landline phones (“Oh, I’d rather use landline, mobile is far too expensive!” Sounds familiar? Welcome to the club…), and if you have just moved to Mexico, this is for you:

Long distance call landline to landline: 01 + area code + phone number

Long distance call landline to mobile: 045 + area code + phone number

Local call landline to mobile: 044 + area code + phone number

Local call landline to landline: no prefix, no area code

Since you cannot tell from the number whether it’s a mobile or landline phone, smart people always point out which is which. But if you don’t know what number you were given, you just have to try the different prefixes. That’s no big drama, but again it shows that Mexico is not on your side if you are in a hurry.

And if you want somebody from outside Mexico to call your Mexican cell phone, make sure they dial a 01 between country code and area code. This doesn’t apply for your landline phone. See, it’s a good thing to have a landline phone, even if only for incoming calls from abroad.

On second thought, using a banana might be just as effective.

 

 

 

 

Souvenirs, Souvenirs

In case you didn’t know: Playa del Carmen is a metropolis. And like any other metropolis, we, too, have a 5th Avenue that is our main shopping area, only that we call it Quinta Avenida. Which is a good thing for not everybody fancies getting spat on by people trying to pronounce “fifth”.

Lately, this area has changed a lot. We got a somewhat fancy new mall with stores like “ALDO”, “Forever 21″, “The Body Shop” and whatnot. All of a sudden, we also got MAC, BOSS, ZARA, and Armani Exchange, so we do not have to drive to Cancun all the time we want to shop something other than beach wear or souvenirs.

Look at that! Those are refrigerator magnets mostly. Almost a work of art.

Look at that! Those are refrigerator magnets mostly. Almost a work of art.

Already, I heard people complain about Playa losing its charms. Well, I am not so convinced it was the least bit charming before with nothing around but touristy knickknacks and beer bars for miles. Luckily, though, for those people who consider this kind of shopping experience desirable, they will still find what they are looking for.

Last week my in-laws were visiting and during our many strolls I came up with a list of what I’d consider the most worthwhile souvenirs (apart from a large variety of STDs and party drugs that you can both get on every corner if you are interested… just sayin’…):

1. T-Shirts with silly messages. Always a big trend. See, what I found:

I pooped today. - Really?

I pooped today. – Really?

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“May I suggest the sausage?” – How terribly polite. I also like the numbered stuff, like “Bitch 1 – 4″. It’s a good thing to let people know what they are dealing with.

P1050705 2. Bracelets with your name. Always comes in handy when you had too much tequila.

3. Temporary tattoos. So venturesome.

4. Hair braids. Honestly, who doesn’t look good with those? Around the corner, there is a family business of hair braiders. In the evenings, I can see how they are checking each other for head lice. Sounds promising, right?

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Hair braids, tattoos, bracelets – what more could you wish for?

5. And my absolute favourite: Wrestling masks. I actually see people buying those and I cannot help but wonder: Do they use those in the bedroom? Or when driving too fast so nobody can prove it was them? Or is Playa just THE holiday destination for wrestlers?

In this case, these are also suitable for children, but they were the only ones I found that were displayed on dummies. I was actually tempted to get a spiderman mask for my godson... yes, yes, I admit it!

In this case, these are also suitable for children, but they were the only ones I found that were displayed on dummies. I was actually tempted to get a spiderman mask for my godson… yes, yes, I admit it!

Have you ever bought some silly souvenirs? Do you like getting souvenirs? 

Botox anybody?

Recently, I went to see an ophthalmologist. He’s a nice guy, and we were talking and laughing – and then it happened: He took a step back, squinted, and suggested botox injections around my eyes. Say what? I was flabbergasted. Not because I had been unaware of those dozens of laughter lines around my eyes, but because I kind of like them and never thought that anybody would actually find them ugly. I replied that I didn’t mind the lines, and now it was his turn to look confused. Then he shrug his shoulders and said, well, yes, Europeans always went for a more natural look.

However, this conversation got stuck in my head. As you can imagine, I spent a good amount of time in front of every mirror I came across, squinting, smiling at myself, looking at myself from every possible angle and in various lights and came to the conclusion that I still like those lines and would never consider botox. Don’t get me wrong, I am all pro plastic surgery. If I was married to a plastic surgeon, I would by now look like Angelina Jolie. At least if I managed to move to a different continent and not see my family for a while because having a new face must be worse than wearing a new sweater. I already hate it if somebody asks me, “Oh, is that new?” And I always go like, “Oh no, I’ve had that forever. Really, just an ugly old thing lying in the back of my drawer.” Silly, huh? Are you the same? So just imagine me being asked, “Oh, is that a new face you are wearing?” I would probably photoshop a few old pictures to back me up when I say, “Oh no, I’ve always looked like Angelina Jolie, you just never noticed.”

So, yes, I would change probably everything about me if a plastic surgeon fairy turned up and all it needed was a tip of her wand. But that’s just because I would want to be prettier, not younger. If there is one thing that I never really understand it’s why people are so obsessed with youth. Doesn’t it say a lot about our society that it appears more desirable to be young than to be experienced? People would rather be 20 and stupid than 60 and experienced.

I know, they say it has something to do with fertility. Men would rather jump women who look like they could be the mother of their child. But which woman in her right mind would like to get jumped and impregnated by strange men? So what is our obsession with youth? We all fall prey to it at least every now and then otherwise we wouldn’t spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year on anti-aging products. You can hear delighted giggles and see blushing cheeks when a woman gets a compliment on how young she looks. And yes, I admit when I look at pictures on FB of friends or classmates I haven’t seen in a long time, I kind of feel relieved when I can see that they, too, have gotten older. Of course, we all want to look our best as long as we can, but do we really want to get mistaken for a younger version of ourselves? Shouldn’t we rather be proud of the fact that we have survived until now?

I remember when I turned 30, I was so relieved that finally I had crossed this “age line” for saying that I was 29 always felt like saying, “I am still a baby”. However, I know a few women who almost had nervous breakdowns when turning 30. Back then I thought that maybe I would feel that way when I’d turn 40, for in my mind 40 was quite a big step for a woman. Now that 40 is  just around the corner, I couldn’t care less again – but maybe my 50th birthday will bring me to my knees? Maybe then it will be time to go for some botox?

Just in case, though, I came up with a few strategies to feel younger longer:

  1. Surround yourself with people older than yourself. My grandma who will turn 100 this year refers to her 90-year old neighbour as “young woman”. No further explanation needed, right?
  2. If you fail at No. 1, get the people around you drunk. It’s a fact that we find others (and ourselves) more attractive when we are a little tipsy. What other excuse do we need?
  3. Move to a sunny place where you can wear big sunglasses all the time. No wonder old people are all moving to Florida.
  4. Become a rockstar. Rockstars are never ashamed of their wrinkles.
  5. If you fail at No. 4, wear a shirt that says, “I slept with Mick Jagger.” Then nobody will mind your wrinkles, you’ll be cool anyway.

Happy Aging!

Not a real post…

…instead I would like to simply announce that Expatially Mexico has its own Facebook page now. What? She cannot even keep up a regular posting routine and now she is on Facebook, you might ask yourself. Well, that’s exactly the point. On Facebook I post little things and pictures that don’t make it into a big WP post.

So go ahead, and take a look: https://www.facebook.com/expatiallymexico. See you on FB!