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? 

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There’s no time like the holidays for a good complaint!

I wished I could start this post by saying “It’s tourist season at the Mayan Riviera”, but of course, it is always tourist season here. But since I have my parents over at the moment, my daily routine has changed a bit, and sometimes I can’t get away from the hustle and bustle.

I said it before, and I will say it again: Tourists are a weird bunch. And yes, I am aware of the fact that I, too, am a tourist when travelling, and probably I, too, turn into an even weirder individual than usual. If that’s possible. But right now, I am just a keen observer, and tourists never fail to astound me.

Overhearing some conversations between tourists, it seems that many people come here with solely one purpose: Complaining. Luckily, there are many things that make complaining easy:

Such a wonderful opportunity to complain!

Such a wonderful opportunity to complain!

The weather. When people plan a trip to the Cancun area, they expect the weather to be a certain way. Strangely enough, sometimes the weather has its shortcomings. For some it is too cloudy. Or too sunny. For others too windy. Or too hot. Or too cold. Or too humid. Or too grey. Or too bright. Although this might sound petty to you, it turns out to be a serious matter, and many tourists expect a price reduction as compensation.

Some Caribbean lunch - not your regular Taco Del Mar snack, or so I believe.

Some Caribbean lunch – not your regular Taco Del Mar snack.

Food. It is a shocking fact: Food abroad never tastes like home. People can get very grumpy when they don’t find their beloved TexMex grub that they were so much looking forward to. In this part of Mexico, you will find Caribbean cuisine that has nothing in common with what you get at Mexican fast food chains in the US. You can get the most amazing seafood dishes (and meat, too, of course) prepared with lime, cilantro, coconut, chili and mint. Of course, you will also find taquerias, but a lot of tourists (mainly Americans, I have to say) complain that those Mexicans there don’t know a thing about Mexican tacos & Co. Yeah, sounds about right.

Speaking of food: Another popular reason to be grumpy throughout one’s vacation is the ever-present threat of vicious food poisoning! People are highly suspicious of the food they are being served. It is downright impossible that viral infections cross the US-Mexican border. Or that your child’s stomach can’t cope with 5 milk shakes by the pool. If you get sick in Mexico, you can always, always be sure it is food poisoning. It is almost a miracle how we poor expats can survive.

Animals also prove to be a delightful source of irritation. Why the heck does nobody fumigate the jungle? Life would be a lot easier without mosquitos & friends. And if it weren’t for those stupid crocodiles, we could even go for a swim in the lagoons. Wildlife is not only dangerous, but also highly annoying.

Other tourists are also a constant nuisance. No matter how many deckchairs might be provided, you can be sure that there will always be two families haggling over one. If you are lucky, you get to see a fist fight even.

And then there are those darn children. Honestly, who lets all those families out? Families shouldn’t be allowed to take a vacation, after all, their whole life is a vacation. Vacations are for adults only. Full stop. How is one supposed to concentrate on being grumpy when being distracted by children’s horseplay all the time?

"Horseplay That Causes Accidents is Sabot...

“Horseplay That Causes Accidents is Sabotage” – NARA – 514528 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Valentine’s Yada Yada…

We can’t get away from the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day, so brace yourself for the obligatory Valentine’s post.

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...

This lady seems ecstatic about Valentine’s Day, too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. R. and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day. I’d prefer to get flowers every now and then (a fact mostly forgotten by my undoubtedly wonderful husband) and not just on February 14th when they cost a fortune anyway… The happiest people of all that day are anyway the flower vendors and Hallmark shop owners. I can’t help but notice the big smiles on their faces (probably they are just calculating how many more roses / cards they have to sell until they can buy themselves a new Mercedes). However, I do remember one Valentine, I believe it was our first, when Mr. R. sent me the most amazing bouquet to the hotel where I was working at that time. I felt like a real princess! Maybe I even felt a little happier than the flower guy that day.When I came to think of that moment, I also started thinking about how we began dating. To be honest, the whole time we were on our first date, I had no idea it even was a date. (I never said I was the smartest girl on the planet.) But first things first.

Mr. R. and I met 16 years ago at hotel management school, and apart from Hello and Good-bye, we didn’t really talk much in the beginning. I knew that he had a girlfriend and was living in one of the suburbs, while I was being a single city girl. And as I mentioned before, people from my hometown are a bit peculiar when it comes to neighbourhoods: Only people from certain neighbourhoods tend to mingle, and people from the suburbs are mostly frowned upon. Yes, we are a snobby bunch special.

File:Monchhichi doll.jpg

That looks about right – minus the body hair. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But then a new seating order was put into place according to which Mr. R. and I all of a sudden faced each other from the opposite sides of the classroom, and while he for the first time realized that I had a face, I became aware of his quiet irony that reminded me of my brother’s – a fact that scored him extra bonus points. And as of that day, even the dreariest of lessons became so much more interesting. However, since I knew about his girlfriend, I didn’t even think he might be interested in me other than platonically. And as I have always had more male friends than girlfriends, that seemed pretty normal to me. (Also I pictured him as the kind of guy who is more into the barbie kind of girl, and having just had my hair cut to half an inch length, I clearly looked more like a monchhichi doll. No joking.)

And so one day when he stopped me on the street to ask for my mobile number, I still was a completely clueless chick. Well, in my defence, he did ask in kind of a long-winded way for instead of asking for my number, he asked me whether I had a contract with provider X which I denied. “Could you still write down your number for me?” he asked, and I said Yes and forgot about it – after all, I couldn’t help him with the problems he apparently had with his cellphone provider, could I?

The following Sunday I was just having a nice cup of tea in front of my parents’ fireplace, when my phone rang: Mr. R., who wanted to ask me out that night. Nothing unusual, I thought, he needed someone to keep him company and share a glass of wine with, and we agreed to meet at a cozy wine tavern where Mr. R. gallantly shared a bottle of red wine with me – although he didn’t even like red wine at that time! But that I should not know until much later. We talked and talked, it was a very pleasant evening, and only in the end did I ask him what his girlfriend might be doing that night. He replied that they had split up quite some time ago, and suddenly, it dawned on me that we actually were on a date! Maybe it was a good thing that I hadn’t known before, for I am not sure how well the red wine would have sat with me and thousands of butterflies in my monchhichi stomach.

Never would I have believed back then that one day, we would be travelling the world together as expats! Life is full of surprises!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everybody! And whether you celebrate this day or not, I hope it may hold only pleasant surprises for you!

The Thing about New Year’s Resolutions

So it’s been a while since my last post, therefore, I would like to wish you all a very happy new year first!

Why I have been so unusually quiet? Truth is, I don’t really know. I think it had something to do with the holiday season. I just didn’t feel like spending a lot of time in front of the computer. And also, I wasn’t in a very chatty mood because I felt a little left over given that all my collagues and friends went home for the holidays or got visitors from home. As much as I love Christmas, being far away from our families doesn’t make this the jolliest time of the year for me.

Here, the holidays were very quiet. For me at least, though not for Mr. R. who was busy, busy, busy at work. After all, it is tourist season at the Riviera Maya!

Jaded Bullyvic Says: My New Year's Resolution,...

(Photo credit: ImNotMraBut)

In my last few classes before the holidays, my students asked me about my new year’s resolutions. Like every year I have to say: I have none. And I don’t really get the concept behind this. It seems like a lot of people are waiting for the new year to commence to make a necessary (in their eyes) change, but honestly, why wait? Once I determine the things I want to change in my life, isn’t it time to get crackin’?

A lot of resolutions are about healthier living. People want to eat less sweets or fatty foods or drink less alcohol and whatnot. So until 31st of December, they stuff their faces with whatever they crave for, and then boom! As of 1st of January, it’s only salad and water. Or they want to start an exercise routine. They have known about this for months, but also for months, they haven’t gotten their butts off the sofa. However, come new year, you can see them going for half hearted jogs blowing their lungs out. By March though, their enthusiasm has long faded away, and they fall back into their lazy routines – until come new year…

Well, I guess it is good they are making an effort to change, and some of course do stick to their intentions. Many however, when they talk about their new year’s resolutions, they say “I’ll try to do this and that.” That never fails to baffle me.Try? Why try? It sounds as if it were beyond their control when it is in fact in nobody’s control but theirs. Whenever somebody tells me that he or she “will try”, I know for sure that they will make some effort for a few weeks and then give up. And I mean, that’s ok, they just don’t have the willpower or the energy or whatever you may call it – not for this particular task. In the end, I believe it comes down to passion and motivation. How badly do we really want to change? And why do we want to change?

The curvy woman who finally wants to rock those skinny jeans but otherwise feels happy with her looks will probably not muster the willpower to really follow through on a strict diet. Or the smoker whose physicals always show great results will probably not be truly determined to quit smoking. Instead he will say, “I will try” – and fall off the wagon again after a few months of grumpiness. (I know what I am talking about, my dad quit smoking at least 10 times in his life, and I am not sure whether he or we were suffering more…)

I just never can resist a good (or in this case: somewhat good) cheese cake!

I just never can resist a good (or in this case: somewhat good) cheese cake!

I generally have a lot of willpower. (Wicked Mr. R. calls that stubbornness, though.) Once I decided I would get up every morning at 5 to do my yoga asanas, I just did it without thinking about it any further. But of course, that’s because I am passionate about yoga. On the other hand, I have an extreme sweet tooth, yet sometimes I come up with this crazy idea that I should eat less sweets. However, if I hadn’t noticed any weight gain in advance despite having eaten tons of chocolate and ice-cream, I can be sure that I will creep around the pantry nibbling on carrot sticks for a couple of days before I happily give in to my cravings again. The minute though that I see the numbers on the scale going up, I won’t touch anything sweet anymore for my vanity is even stronger than my sweet tooth. In fact, being the shallow being that I am, vanity is one of my strongest motivators.That’s nothing I can be proud of, but it’s a fact. You think I should make it my 2014 resolution to change that? 😉

In the end, I think it all depends on how important this matter really is to us. And when something is that important that we are willing to change old habits, it would be foolish to wait for the new year to start. When we are truly determined to make a change, we should hardly be able to wait until the next day, don’t you think?

How about you? Do you normally have new year’s resolutions? And do you stick to them?

Feeling grumpy? Ernesto might help.

Everybody here has been busy preparing for hurricane Ernesto, but apparently, that guy decided to travel farther south. Well, good for him (see, I know how to use that stupid phrase, too!).Of course, hurricane season is far from being over, it lasts until end of October, so there still is a chance that we might get one or two. For private households it means to stock up on groceries, some extra water supply so you can take a shower or use the bathroom even if electricity goes off. During the last few days, you saw gardeners clipping off branches so they wouldn’t fall on cars (or in the pool, wouldn’t that be a major drama?), people getting out their hurricane shutters – all of a sudden, our little neighbourhood was bustling with a whole new energy.

For Mr. R. preparing for a hurricane means providing shelter for A LOT of people, and that requires A LOT of planning. What kind of food do we offer, what entertainment programme, where should everybody sleep, which employees can come in and who won’t make it because they live in an area that will be affected most of the hurricane, etc. Last year, everything went pretty smooth, however, the guests had to remain in the shelter for almost 10 hours. Only then did the hotel receive the official all-clear, and life could go back to normal.

10 hours, though, is a long time. It allows people to get all grumpy and frustrated. I mean, clearly, it is nobody’s idea of a perfect holiday to get stuck in a hurricane, but then – if you book your vacation during hurricane season, you should be aware of the risk. That’s my opinion. And would it really be better to go outside and get killed by a coconut?

Maryland Motorcycle Choice

Maryland Motorcycle Choice (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)

I personally never understand people complaining about safety precautions. I heard somebody complaining once that he had to wear a helmet on his motorcycle. Yeah, that’s a shame indeed. To me it seemed that in this special case, there was not much to be damaged anyway. Why deprive people of their chance to kill themselves in traffic if they apparently want it so badly?

It is the same at the airports. Everybody wants to travel safely, yet a whole lot of people keep complaining about being screened. Now that some airports implemented the full body scanners, people are very concerned about their privacy. Honestly, if you die in a plane crash because somebody overlooked whatever kinds of explosives your fellow passenger was carrying, do you really think your last thought will be “At last, nobody saw my love handles at that airport”???

A "Bombshell" -- not a bomb

A “Bombshell” — not a bomb (Photo credit: Stargazer95050)

And so these very coy people (who will probably expose everything on the beach later) can go for a pat down instead. Can somebody tell me what the advantage is? And indeed, it doesn’t seem to make Mr. & Mrs. Fuddy-Duddy any happier either, after all, somebody actually has to TOUCH them! Though maybe for some people a pat down means the only physical contact in a year, so they go for this bit of excitement – and keep complaining, of course.

Yes, I agree, it would be wonderful if there were a magical machine that would scan your mind instead of your body and go: “No worries, she is a good girl, goes to church regularly, always did her homework, she only wants to go and visit her grandmother.” But nobody has come up with this machine, yet. And on the bright side – this whole security thing is just another beautiful opportunity for us to complain!

So if you feel grumpy and miserable today and need an outlet: Why not hop on a plane to Belize? You will for sure encounter a beautiful hurricane named Ernesto there who will give you a very handy excuse for non-stop nagging.

So this is Easter!

So this is Easter? Not that it would feel anything like it, it is just another hot day at the Mayan Riviera.

Easter is a time I want to spend with my family, a time to pause and sense the promise of spring that is in the air. For me, Easter is all about spring. It is about primroses and daffodils and birch groves and cherry trees abloom. Yet there is no spring here. At the moment, we are having a cosy 90 degrees (32 celsius) and a refreshingly high humidity.

In our old life, on Good Friday I was usually delighted about some rain, then I would listen to the St. Matthew Passion and bake our traditional family Easter bread. On Saturday then, we normally went to one of the big bonfires with friends, and on Easter Sunday it was all about being together with family.

Yesterday of course, it didn’t rain. Nevertheless I switched on the Saint Matthew Passion and baked the Easter bread. So there I was in my kitchen, sweating like a pig if I may say so, and could hardly hear a single note due to the neighbours’ children horsing around the pool. It was a frustrating experience, but well, at least I will get to eat some Easter bread!

Tonight we are having dinner at my husband’s hotel, and I am tempted to set fire to the table decoration to make up for the missing bonfire. But as I am not keen on seeing a Mexican mental institution from the inside, I might refrain from that option. Tomorrow then, we will spend the day on the beach – needless to say there will be no easter egg hunt!

It is a funny thing with those bank holidays. As much as I used to like them back home, as much do I dread them here. Silly, but I always get a little nostalgic around those special dates and I feel like I am missing out on something. Do you know, what I mean, fellow expats? It is nice to watch how other countries celebrate those dates (if they do), but it doesn’t feel like it is YOURS – right?

Normally, I am not that kind of person always looking for the greener grass on the other side, nor am I someone drowning myself in nostalgia. But I can’t help it: these days I am carrying around a big birch grove in my heart while listening to the rustling palm trees and the beautiful exotic birds. And boy, does a birch grove weigh heavy!