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.

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?

IMG_2308

“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?

P1050708

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? 

Merry Christmas from Playa!

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

IMG_2164

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

IMG_2165

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

IMG_2168

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

IMG_2171

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas wherever you are!

Hemhem… Hullo!

In case you missed me – I am still here! But oh well, probably you haven’t even noticed my absence.  Let’s pretend you did, though. (And while on this subject: Thanks to those who checked in on me!)

Queen of United Kingdom (as well as Canada, Au...

My good old friend Liz. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You know, I had so many things going on: tea appointments with the Queen for example. We had the most delightful chats, but yesterday, just when I had finished my third scone (and feeling bad about it, you shouldn’t eat three scones when teaing  with royalty) and was wiping off some crumbs I said to her, “Liz, listen, I need to get back to blogging. My readers need me.” And she nodded her head, although it was clear she didn’t know what blogging was, and said, “Well, as always, my Dear, it has been an absolute pleasure. Please come and see me again when your time allows.” She’s so classy. But then, she’s the Queen.

Yes, that would have been my daily life had I been on Prozac. But I wasn’t. Instead, I was fighting a battle with the beloved rainy season. In a way, we got lucky as we had not one hurricane this season and since hurricane season is over, I don’t even have to knock on wood. On the other hand, we got plenty of rain.

Some of you may remember that we had just moved last year. Well, we should have known better than to move into a new construction… Let me tell you: Never a good idea in this country. And even if you think that a 2 year old building might not count as new, make no mistake! The problem is, that people are in it for the quick money, so they build up everything really fast and really sloppy, a bit of paint and it looks all shiny and fancy, they ask for a high rent because, hey, it’s all marble, right? Which is good, because you see, when the indoor rain starts you can just mop it away. A carpet wouldn’t work.

Well, we did a lot of mopping this season. I got used to the sound of water dripping into the buckets we put everywhere. I also got used to the sight of colourful beach towels on the floor in all the rooms. Mrs. P. got used to getting wet feet and we didn’t have to carry her outside anymore. We got into the habit of having self-made stilts ready to lift the furniture. But then the mould started. Our walls turned black, so we washed them with chlorine. Two days later the mould was back. It was bad. And then we learned something fascinating: where there’s mould, there are booklice. Never heard of them? Nor had I, but now I am a booklice expert. Our walls were covered with them, and if you took a closer look you could see them crawling about. It was horrid! In my mind, our home turned into one of those nightmare places that are eating you alive. At night, I was sure to hear the  booklice munching, and I could feel them getting under my skin and into my ears and nose… Luckily, our lease was up anyway, so I contacted our realtor and within 10 days we had found a new home and arranged for our 3rd move since coming here. Yay.

The move was a freakin’ disaster. We had asked for two days of packing and moving, yet the moving company convinced us to do all in the same day. Never listen to moving companies, honestly. After 12 hours of packing and schlepping they were not nearly done. More trucks were ordered but there was none available. Paco and Jose showed up with their little family vans where they tried to squeeze in the rest, but it didn’t work either. New permissions for our fenced-in community were required, we were running back and forth, the new apartment wasn’t ready yet, so we had to cram everything into the living room, all furniture, all boxes, it was a desperate sight. Then the movers had to come back after the weekend to carry the rest over into our new home, and still, we had to stuff everything into the living room so in the end, we couldn’t even set foot into it.

That was about one third of our moving disaster. Looks like fun, huh?

That was about one third of our moving disaster. Looks like fun, huh?

Mr. R. was all busy those days and couldn’t get away even for an hour to help me sort things out what with a baby is a bit of a hassle. So I arranged for some strong helpers who agreed to meet me at lunch time. In the end they showed up at 5pm, but finally, things were moving and we were glad when we actually were able to sleep in our new bedroom.

The next morning we found our adjacent bathroom completely under water – the air condition was leaking. The next day, I almost blew up the entire building due to wrong insulation material behind the oven. Luckily, Mr. R. was at home to pull the oven out and discover a cosy little fire. Soon after that, we left for some family time in Europe, and ever since we got back, everything seems to be more or less under control. We now live downtown Playa which I enjoy so much more than living in what my mum called “the ghetto”. True, we sometimes cannot sleep because of mariachi music outside. When you open the door you take a bath in fried chicken smell thanks to the restaurants downstairs. But the beach is one block away, so far we haven’t had any tarantulas, nor cockroaches, and more importantly, it stays bloody dry in here – when the A/C is working properly that is! (Oh, and if you are still there, Mrs. Cakelady: I have a French patisserie just around the corner, so I can stuff my face with croissants and cake all day long!)

So that’s my little and long overdue update. Thanks for still hanging in there, and I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas!

It’s all fun and games at the Mayan Riviera – or is it?

I’ve just come downstairs, sweaty and exhausted. It’s a good thing you can’t see me, believe me. Why am I sweaty? Not because I did some kick-ass workout, let me tell you. No, I was mopping up water. You see, it started raining again. After our last rainy adventure, Mr. R. discovered that those geniuses of builders built in the door leading to the roof top the wrong way, so the outside is on the inside and vice versa. So the little thingy that is supposed to keep the water out is on the inside. How very convenient. At least the house is waterproof from the inside.

That's the paradise part of the deal!

That’s the paradise part of the deal.

And while I was merrily mopping and moping, I was thinking of a conversation I recently had with a friend of mine,  a Mexican lady who also used to live abroad, but came back with her European husband to try how they’d like living here. She surprised me by telling me that she would actually prefer to live someplace else, but that her husband is the one who refuses to leave. And I can see why, I mean, it is just stunning out there with the turquoise sea, the white beaches and all. People are genuinely friendly, everything and everyone is pretty relaxed. If you are into golfing and water sports, you can’t go wrong either.

What I understand is that this area is unlike every other area in Mexico – at least, that’s what everybody tells me. When I ask people from different parts of Mexico how they like living here, a lot of them say, “I like it, because I have a job.” Or, “I like it, because this area is so safe.”  It all seems pretty welcoming at first glance, and there are most certainly beautiful things to enjoy here. But like everything and everywhere: Nothing is perfect!

Another friend of mine put it in a nutshell when she said, “This place is paradise – if you get the chance to get away on a regular basis.” And yes, I do know a lot of expats who spend about 6 months of the year abroad and just come back to relax.

I remember when we got here, I felt like this was going to be one big vacation. And I was joking around that my husband’s company now made up for our honeymoon we once had to cut short in order to move to Seattle. Well, we had our honeymoon here for about 2 months – which definitely made up for the lost time on Hawaii. Then we moved out of the resort and into our new home, and that’s when I got a first glimpse of everyday life.

Yes, there are things, nobody tells you before you move to the Riviera Maya.

So if you consider living here, this checklist might help you to determine whether you are ready for this Caribbean adventure or not:

A bit of water.

A bit of water.

Play rainy season:

  •  Set your entire house under water and let the water stand over night. Remove water in the morning. Repeat for a week and see how you like the experience.
  •  Put on a cocktail dress, squeeze your feet into high heels and put on lipstick. Then head to the nearest spa and request access to the steam room. Stay in there for at least 3 hours. Maybe you can persuade someone to pour you a glass of white wine so you get the full cocktail hour experience.
  • Take your car to the next public open air pool and drive through the water for an hour. Maybe you can get some mariachi radio station to keep you entertained?

Test your patience muscle:

  • Ask a friend to cut off your electricity and then make a plumber appointment for you within the next 3 days without telling you when. Sit around and wait and see if you like it.
  • Do the same thing with the water supply.

Ready for some fun?

  • Visit the next funfair and hop on the bumper cars. Drive around for an hour to pretend it’s rush hour in the city.
  • If you intend to give birth in Mexico or undergo any kind of surgery, ask some friends to strip you to a bed for the amount of time that procedure would take and play some Mariachi music real loud.
  • Try to find someone who can set loose cockroaches, millipedes, geckos and whatnot in your home. Maybe in addition, they can throw in a tarantula as special surprise. Also, try to raise ants in your kitchen.
  • Invite your friends for a supermarket scavenger hunt: Everyone goes and hides products in various supermarkets in town. Then hand out and receive shopping lists and go look for those products. This might even add a more festive note to the Easter holidays.
  • And last, but not least, as we must not forget that this a touristy area: Go to a typical spring break location and mingle with the teenagers. Ask some random adults to come too and hand out free liquor. Lean back and enjoy.

Oh dear, have to rush. It started to rain again!

How I ended up in my nightgown under an umbrella in the garden in the middle of the night

Still I am trying to catch up on all the award stuff, but life in Mexico has been rather turbulent these past few months. You know, rainy season is in full swing. Doesn’t sound exciting? Well, it actually can be pretty exciting!

As a matter of fact, I always love those first few grey days that remind me of autumn. Finally, it’s time to cuddle up on the sofa with some hot chocolate and a book, a sleeping baby on my lap, and when I keep the A/C on, I can bamboozle myself into thinking that Christmas were around the corner. Might not sound tempting to you, but I am just not this eternal summer kind of gal. I miss autumn and winter.

So when the first heavy rainfalls started, I felt very content and was determined to get as cosy as possible. Until I opened our front door. You see, our front porch was gone and the water was just about to enter our hallway. That’s when we put our furniture on stilts and put a towel in front of the door to absorb the water – just in case. But so far, no harm done. Apart from the water that came in through the roof, but that’s an in-built feature in many homes here, and we are pretty used to it.

She does look like a princess, doesn't she?

She does look like a princess, doesn’t she?

But we have one family member who never gets used to the water: Our dog Mrs. P. Some of you may recall that I rescued Mrs. P. from the streets. Now you might think that a street dog should be used to rain, right? Well, poor Mrs. P. had been tethered for a long time and couldn’t get out of the rain, so naturally, she dreads getting wet. Or she is a princess. Whatever. Fact is, she won’t step outside as long as she only hears the sound of a light drizzle. And as long as we don’t train her to use our bathroom, this will continue to be an issue.

That very morning, we had an appointment and didn’t want to leave her at home. But there was no way, Mrs. P. would have walked the way to the car! Instead, Mr. R. took off his shoes and his shirt, rolled up his trousers and carried her to the car. (And I did the same with little F., only that I left on my shirt – those paparazzi are everywhere, after all.) What can I say? We didn’t look remotely as sexy as people on TV in these situations.

Late at night, Mrs. P. woke me up for she needed to use the bathroom. Apparently, she had forgotten about the rain, but when I opened the door to the terrace, she looked at me reproachfully and refused to step into the garden. So I grabbed an umbrella and a biscuit (mmhm, chocolate flavour, her favourites!) and went outside myself. I made a mental snapshot of myself: cowering under an umbrella in my nightgown in the middle of the night pretending to sniff at a dog treat in order to get my dog to pee. Well, Mrs. P. did what she was supposed to do, and we went back to bed.

Fancy a swim?

Fancy a swim?

When we got up the next morning, our entire ground level was flooded. I mean, the entire level. So we had to move all the furniture to dry the floor underneath and had to empty all our closets for there was water everywhere. Everything inside the closets was soaked, too. All the boxes and suitcases, and everything inside those boxes and suitcases, so we had to empty those, too… – you get the picture. So Mr. R. and I were running around in our night attires, hair unkempt, trying to keep the damage as minimal as possible. It was one of those glamorous moments that life hands you every now and then. Then we got aware of the state of our garden. Except there was no garden but instead, our house was in the middle of a muddy lake. The pool water had turned black, and there were frogs jumping about. No kidding.

Do you know these situations when you pause and think that this can’t be real? I was sure that I was in the middle of some bizarre dream. Or the Truman Show. Then little F. started crying in his nursery, and I ran upstairs – and whoosh, there I slipped and crashed on the floor for now the water was not only dripping through the ceiling but also came gushing in through the door leading to the rooftop terrace. And our staircase had already turned into a mini waterfall. Oh, the gadgets that come with Mexican construction! Well, my hair was still unkempt, but now my nightgown was soaked, and my ankle was swollen and blue. When I was little, my dad would say in these situations, “This will all be forgotten by the time you get married.” Now I am married, but I guess this will all be forgotten by the time I move into that nice nursing home in Florida.

Once the ground floor was more or less dry, I started mopping up the water upstairs. However, since the rain didn’t stop and little F. had an exceptionally hungry day, it seemed I could never finish this task, and I still wonder how I managed but I did.

The next day, the sun came out again. We removed the furniture stilts, all the big towels in front of all doors, the pool guy came and cleaned the pool and it would have almost seemed like a dream – had it not been for all those frogs still hanging out in the pool.

Some amorous frogs in our pool.

Some amorous frogs in our pool.

So when some concerned friends or family members ask me whether life would get boring, I have to say no. No, it doesn’t. Aren’t I lucky?