Thursday, June 30, 2011

New bloggers on the block

I've been following three new sites that are new to the Mérida blogging scene. It is always fun to read what others say about our shared theme, i. e., beginning a new chapter in our lives in the Yucatán. A different perspective is quite refreshing. These bloggers are all different in their approach to the subject of 'coming to Mérida.' Take a look.

Imagine Mérida: an incisive look at what this writer is finding as he searches (frustratingly) for the right home. He has done excellent research and almost daily, sometimes twice daily, presents information that you probably won't see on similar blogs. Case in point, the post on casinos in Mérida. Who would have thought?

Yucatango: Yucatango has come to Mérida and brings her web-based business and much needed social awareness. In her own words, she has come with "a cheap camera, a bike, and an appetite." You will see a variety of topics and some great photos, with an emphasis on green living and navigating the streets of Mérida on her bike(s). And food. And dancing.

Casa del Gato Azul:  Carlos Q and Pat Q are '4-5 years away from retiring', and hail from St. Louis. They are just beginning renovation on their home in the Centro. Carlos will have his own music room. They will be neighbors of ours, which is a good thing, because they love to cook good food and share with their neighbors. It's in writing. Right on their blog. Carlos is Puerto Rican and Alan (of John & Alan) is Italian. There's going to be some fine cooking going on in our neighborhood!

images from Hassle-Free ClipArt

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


Tropical wave #4 dumped up to 88mm (almost 3.5 inches) of rain over parts of Yucatán on Monday. As usual, streets in the Centro flooded and some homes as well. As wave #4 made its way into the Gulf of Mexico it became Tropical Storm Arlene, and as it slowly gains strength could now become Hurricane Arlene as it heads toward the east coast of Mexico. According to the National Hurricane Center:
Tropical storm force winds are expected to reach the east coast of Mexico Wednesday evening, which could make outside preparations difficult or dangerous.Arlene is also expected to produce 4- to 8-inches of rain in some areas. Meteorologists say isolated rainfall amounts of 15 inches over mountainous terrain could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.When Arlene makes landfall, the storm surge could raise water levels up to 2 feet above normal tide markers.

Arlene makes her way across the Yucatán peninsula
The northeastern Gulf coast of Mexico and the US Gulf coast share the misfortune of sustaining devastating damage from hurricanes. For 2011 NOOA predicts 12-18 named storms throughout the entire Atlantic basin, of which 6-10 will become hurricanes with sustained winds of 74 mph and 3-6 will be major hurricanes (category 3,4,or 5) with winds of 111 mph or greater. This does not take into account activity in the Pacific basin. 

Check out this link to a collection of YouTube videos and photos of Hurricane Isadore which struck the Yucatán on September 22, 2002. 

Let us all pray that these storms stay out at sea and spare both Mexico and the United States horrendous devastation. 
Images from NOOA, National Hurricane Center

Monday, June 27, 2011

Who will do it if they don't?

Yesterday I saw a link to Sanctuary Evolucion, a shelter and so much more for abandoned and neglected or unwanted dogs and cats.  I have seen articles in Yucatan Today and Yucatan Living and the "Dog of the Week" videos produced by In the Yucatan, but this link is to a new program initiated by Evolucion founder Silvia Cortés and her staff of volunteers. There is an amazing and heart-warming video about teaching kids that abandoning an animal to the streets is an act of violence. It is a violent act to leave a dog locked in an abandoned home to starve to death. As a Boy Scout badge shows, it is about learning 'Respeto - Compasión - Responsabilidad'.  The program was initiated in an effort to stem the incidence of domestic and other acts of violence in the Yucatan by teaching children to respect and appreciate all living things.  I have not seen estimates for the number of abused animals in Mexico, but the Humane Society of the United States (HUSU) estimates that animal shelters care for 6-8 million dogs and cats every year, of whom approximately 3-4 million are euthanized. This is a sad and alarming statistic.  When we finally make it to Mérida full time, I know where I will be volunteering.

It's even hot in the shade

All images from Sanctuary Evolution Website

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The cost of NOT living in Mexico

Less Time.
Less Freedom.
More Taxes.
Less Money.

At least according to a young man named David Krug, who has a huge website, to which you can subscribe and download the first chapter of his book, then purchase your own copy. Any of us who have scoured the internet for information on this topic are well aware of the preponderance of sites devoted to expatriation. Another blogger I discovered, Steve Schwab (any relation to 'Chuck' ?), reports that in the next 15 years  upwards of 6,000,000 baby boomers will have settled in Mexico. Thankfully, they will be scattered throughout the entire country and not just in Yucatán. Schwab states "Do the math on 6,000,000 people buying a $300,000 house or condo and you will understand why the U.S. Government is trying to tax this massive shift of money to Mexico through H.R. 3056. The U.S. Government calls this 'The Tax Collection Responsibility Act of 2007'. Those who will have to pay are calling this the EXIT TAX". Well, this certainly caught my attention. How could I have missed something this big and costly?  I immediately googled H.R 3056 and found that the bill was introduced and sponsored in 2007 by Rep. Charles Rangel (D) NY (who was censured by the House this year for ethics violations). The bill passed the House but never made it out of committee to the Senate, so it has effectively been killed. Good. That would have eliminated Krug's 'More Taxes' from the list of the cost of  NOT living in Mexico. And it might have stopped our Mexico retirement plans dead in the tracks.

One of the most photographed buildings
(j&a 01/11)

You rarely see this building in photos of Mérida, but I actually like it.
(j&a 01/11)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

For our two Dads

Happy Father's Day,

Beejay and Mr. Jules
Thanks for indulging all our, er slightly neurotic behaviors. We're a team.
(Beejay: Excuse the floppy ear. That happens when I'm relaxed)

Mr. Jules
Thanks for not getting angry when I sing loudly every morning at 5:00 AM

Kenya (Keny)
Thanks for letting me sleep in your lap when you watch a movie... all 60 lbs of me!
(and for letting me shower you with kisses)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Yucatán safe enough for 1500 women from around the globe

Lobby of Siglo XXI
Another sign that the world is possibly beginning to believe that Mexico, and particularly Yucatán, is not the dangerous place that US government and media continue to reinforce. This conference of 1500 business women from all over the world, originally to be in Tunisia, is coming to Mérida. Tunisia was deemed 'not safe' for this type of conference, which is to be held at the Siglo XXI Yucatan Convention Center in north Merida.  Congratulations to Merida and to the 1500 business women!
Chichen Itza gallery of the Siglo XXI
(Siglo images from Kprateek88)

Chichen Itza, in the heart of Yucatan, is a long way from the US border and drug cartels
(Google image ABC News)
Chichen Itza
(Image from Google )

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Where oh where did some of my pics go?

Have any of you noticed that photos are disappearing on some of the posts in Blogger? I checked the Buzz site and evidently other people have had the same issue with no good answer as to why this is happening.
It's not all of the images, but most of the ones from my last couple of posts. Annoying. What to do??

Pasta tiles

This design seen in sala 1 and 2

The full pattern here
 We fell in love with those pasta tiles the first time we laid eyes on them. Especially in the renovated colonials where they are used in the center of rooms to create a 'rug' with a neutral color tile as the border, or with a polished cement surround. Some of the old original tiles are beautiful when restored and new ones can be made with updated designs at the same location where they were made more than a century or two ago. The 'mosaico' tiles originally came to Yucatán as ballast in merchant ships and were quickly duplicated to be used in all the colonial mansions that were being built by the Spanish elite. Because of the beauty   and durability ( periodic polishing brings them to a high lustre), eventually they were used in more modest homes as well.  They can be seen in most every building in the Centro.
Still looking for art

One of our readers asked to see the finished floors in our home, so I've posted a few photos taken with my point and shoot SureShot. Not the best in the world but you at least can get the picture ( pun intended).  We have discovered that, unlike ceramic tiles, these cement ones are not impervious to stains. We made the mistake of leaving some  colored cardboard boxes on the floor between visits and when I moved them there was a pinkish stain remaining on a few of the cream colored tiles in one of the bedrooms. Floor polisher guy was to work on them the day we left, but he wasn't promising success. These porous tiles have a tendency to discolor slightly and show fine hairline cracks, so they actually look like 'old' floors fairly quickly. Part of the charm! (:D
 The tile in the terraza, our indoor/outdoor room, was chosen to bring the color of the pool and fountain inside.  I think that worked pretty well.                                                                  
Indoor/Outdoor living
Alan semi-incognito

Monday, June 13, 2011

And the rains came

Just around the corner from our house

With the rainy season in Mérida getting into full swing, it's interesting to note that we are going from one city prone to flooding to another.  Norfolk, Virginia sits at sea level and in some cases, below sea level. We are surrounded by water....the Chesapeake Bay, Elizabeth River, James River, Lafayette River, and various creeks and inlets that meander throughout the city. High tides during Nor'Easters, the savage winds that can blow for days, or heavy tropic-like downpours can cause severe flooding, damaging both homes and cars. And if we ever experience a Category 4 or 5 hurricane, we'll be looking at another Katrina.

A few Mérida bloggers have mentioned the proposed underpass to be built on Paseo de Montejo. The accompanying photo shows flooding beneath this overpass in Norfolk which deceptively appears to be only a few inches of water. The roof of a submerged vehicle can just be seen near the center of the photo. This happens over and over again in Norfolk. Some people are in such a hurry to get to wherever they are headed that they forget the consequences. Let's hope that if the underpass/tunnel is built, a REALLY large drainage cistern is blasted into the limestone.

The passover runs above 'Tidewater Drive'
Images from the Virginian Pilot

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Getting to know the neighborhood

Soho Galleries

Walking down Calle 60 between 41 and 43 we spotted SoHo Galleries and stepped inside for a respite from the mid-day heat. I immediately recognized owner Adele Aguirre from a video I had seen featuring one of her exhibitions. She warmly greeted us and noticing our flushed faces, bumped the air conditioning down a notch. Much appreciated. The gallery was between shows with some of the pieces from the Erotica and Fantasy exhibition still hanging and a few from an upcoming show.  Santa Ana has emerged as an art destination with several expat galleries now in operation, but SoHo and Galería Tataya are two we have found open during our visits.
Had just finished at our visit
Poster from a 2010 show
Having been entrepreneurs in the antique  
business several years ago in addition to our professional careers, we understand the nature of those types of businesses. It is necessary to have some semblance of regular hours, but higher end art or antique dealers usually don't rely on vacationing tourists but rather on a following of local residents.

After almost five years of shop hours, shows, auctions and estate sales, we quit our break-even business. It takes hard work and talent to be successful in such endeavors, and nearly impossible if only part-time. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by these galleries. Much of the art is quite good and the prices are much more reasonable than similar work in the US. You can view works by Cuban and Mexican artists, and possibly an extranjero or two.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

¿A qué hora se cierra?

The first day we spotted the home we bought, we noticed the Tecmodinamico almost directly across the street. We heard the tink-tink-tink of someone tapping a metal object. Our first thought was ugghh...that's not a pleasant thing to have right across from your front door. Before we had even made an appointment to see the house, I casually walked to the front of the building and asked ¿A qué hora se cierra? What time do you close? The men looked up puzzled while a woman seated at a desk, without a glance my way, stated something like "cinco y medio."  I figured she was telling me 5:30 or so. I look back and think how rude that must have appeared to the shop owners. They surely knew that we had nothing for them to repair. Obviously we were inquiring to see how adversely the appearance and noise made by their business would impact our living across the street. We discovered that the previous owners of Las Lechuzas had approached the owner of the shop to see if he would sell the property. His response went something like this: Why would I sell the business? We just remodeled the building! Quite certainly he mumbled other words under his breath. We now smile and wave occasionally  but I hesitate to walk over and introduce myself because I feel embarrassed. The truth is that we are not bothered by any noise made by their work, and around 5:30 or so they roll the doors down and go home. Our street looks just about like every other street in the Centro. This is what we see when we look out the front door,  but we don't spend our days peering out. The door is merely a means of  entering or exiting our home.  We could have chosen the nicely landscaped country club community of north Mérida, or for that matter a solidly Mexican colonia.
We chose El Centro, warts and all,  and not once has the tink-tink-tink of Tecmodinamico interfered with 
a siesta or an afternoon swim.

We do spend a good deal of time peering out at this

Friday, June 10, 2011

Excusar la interrupción

Template change in process...


Thursday, June 9, 2011

It's Mérida weather in Virginia

Think it's really hot in the Yucatan? Yesterday the gauge in my car registered 98☀F in Norfolk, the humidity was high and not a breath of air was stirring.  Plus there is no pool in our backyard.  The AP reports that the temperature climbed into the 90's across more than half the country, forcing schools with no A/C to close and cities to open cooling centers. Some scientists say "we had better get used to it".  Despite what the global warming naysayers proclaim, a new study from Stanford University says global climate change will lead to unusually hot summers in the coming years. The study concludes that 'by mid-century, large areas could face unprecedented heat and the effects are likely to be first felt in the tropics but will extend to parts of the United States, Europe and China." {Disclosure: Stanford University is a bastion of liberalism and the study is therefore likely tainted, no?  Yes, all scientists at Stanford are liberals.}

Now I'm just wondering what Mexico will do when air conditioning is necessary in order to be able to breathe? Will the government make electricity more affordable and will cooling centers be opened? The malls are not large enough to hold a million people. The Gulf of Mexico will feel like bath water. The cenotes will most likely remain cool and refreshing, but you probably will not see too many of us doing this.

Better start adapting now.
Image from free ClipArt- video courtesy YouTube

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gorky González

All images courtesy of COSAS website

While out and about on our last trip to Mérida, we discovered Gorky González pottery. Based in Guanajuato, his beautifully colored hand-made pieces are found throughout Mexico and the rest of the world and I'm certain that he has legions of collectors. You can view a dazzling array of his work here. To view a nice collection in person stop by Mérida Tradicional furniture show room on Paseo de Montejo at Calle 45. It's worth the trip just to browse their beautiful showroom full of traditional furniture made in San Miguel de Allende. We purchased a few smaller pieces (not shown here) of Gorky pottery to use as decorative objects in Casa de Las Lechuzas. Got to be careful here. Somewhere on his website I spotted an amazing owl water pitcher and owl salt and pepper shakers.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Social Etiquette in Mexico

I've read other blogs referring to social interactions and proper etiquette in Mexico, and I've read Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado's delightful Magic Made in Mexico (which you can review on my Favorites link), but I recently found yet another site devoted to "making the most of your Mexico experience." Mexperience  provides a handy guide to everything from immigration to health care and bringing pets. You can sign up for a free newsletter, purchase their guidebook, or simply print the pages you like.

I'm particularly interested in the social etiquette section. The rules are somewhat different from those in the US, Canada or Europe. Many are subtle while a few are strikingly different.  For example:

        "Politeness, patience and tolerance in situations, however frustrating they may appear, is always appreciated and, indeed, ultimately rewarded in Mexico. Conversely, a display of impatience, anger, frustration or lack of general respect in formal or informal situations tend to fall on 'deaf ears' when dealing with most people in Mexico; ...the ultimate outcome in a situation could be made worse for you through deliberate obstruction or total rejection of your wishes, a reaction to what is deemed your impoliteness."
Now, this could sometimes be the case NOB, but many times pitching a fit is the only way to get action.

Or this:
        "Personal space: Mexicans tend to stand closer to each other than in the US and Europe. It may be off-putting at first, if you are used to having two feet or more of 'air' between you and other people (and especially those of the same gender as you), but in Mexico it's quite common for people to stand and converse with each other a foot or less away from each other, regardless of gender. Stepping back too far may be taken as a sign of mistrust."
This section goes on to describe 'men meeting men', men meeting women', and 'women meeting women.'

And this:
       Eating Out and Dining  Etiquette - "If you invite someone to eat out, it is assumed (and expected) that you will settle the bill. Splitting the bill is not done in Mexico and, indeed, suggesting it should be done is considered rude and uncouth. The invitee(s) will always offer to pay: this is a social grace, and one that should always be politely declined. If you are invited out for a meal you, too, should offer to pay, and then gratefully accept the decline of your offer."

And, OMG, this:  (guilty!!)
        "Putting your hands on your hips is a sign of aggression in Mexico; hands in your pockets when in conversation with someone, as in many countries, is regarded as bad manners."