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? 

Last Year was just 5 Minutes ago, or: Mexican Yip Yips

Even if some people will hate me even more for saying this, I claim that time specifications of any kind should be considered redundant in Mexican Spanish, hence could be deleted from the dictionary. Let me explain:

Everybody knows that the Mexican “mañana” can actually mean anything from “tomorrow” to “never”. I also learned that there is a difference between “en un rato” and “en un ratito” which may be translated into “in a while” and “in a bit”. At first, when someone told me “I’ll be there en un rato” I expected that someone to show up within the next hour. But in fact, “un rato” is not much different from “mañana” as it can mean “in a few hours” or “never”, whereas “un ratito” seems to mean at least “today”.

Well, time is relative anyway, isn’t it? I was reminded of that today when a friend of mine announced she’d swing by for breakfast for all of a sudden I remembered that our doorbell is broken so she had to call me upon arrival for me to open the door. You would think a broken doorbell could easily be fixed when in fact, I’ve been waiting for those repair guys for 5 minutes now.

It all started when we moved in here in October and I quickly discovered that our doorbell wasn’t working. So I talked to our property management and they promised to send handyman R. over. He came en un rato which in this case meant the next day and uninstalled the interphone unit. He then said he needed to go and buy a missing tool in a shop that’s just down the street, so he’d be back in half an hour.

At 9 pm I sensed that R. probably wouldn’t show up again. Yes, sometimes I am a bit slow. 2 days later I decided to phone the office again, maybe there had been a misunderstanding of some sort. The lady told me to stay in for she would send him over again. En un rato.

To cut a long story short, he showed up a few days and many phone calls later, installed a new interphone and as that didn’t work either, he shrugged his shoulders and told me the system was faulty in the entire building. Nothing that could be done about it. We both sighed, and to me that was the end of the story.

However, a few weeks later I got an angry text from the lady at the property management company asking me why I wouldn’t open the door. As I was driving on the highway at that time, I called her a little later and explained to her I was out. Bummer. Apparently, some other handyman had decided to stop by and take a closer look at the matter. We made a new appointment for the following day which I didn’t take too seriously, but sure enough at 7pm somebody knocked on my door. 2 guys entered, examined the interphone and told me that it was the wrong device, that we were the only apartment having this problem, and could I please hand them the old unit. When I informed them that R. had taken that one, they deliberated for quite a while, very much to my delight bearing a striking resemblance to the Sesame Street “yip yip” Martians. Finally, one of the yip yips told me to stay put, they’d be back in 5 minutes.

Well, I am waiting. Boy, those are the longest 5 minutes of my life!

 

Merry Christmas from Playa!

Today I took a little walk to capture a few Christmas impressions. Have a look!

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This Christmas tree is standing in our stylish new mall “Alegria”.

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This tree is in front of our Palacio Municipal. The nativity scene includes a horse and an elephant!

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These statues made from sand are really impressive and a total tourist attraction down at the ferry terminal.

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Wishing you a wonderful Christmas wherever you are!