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.

Advertisements

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

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!

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?

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)