Tuesday, December 15, 2009
I received a special Christmas greeting from a friend and thought I'd share it with you. It defines Christmas and captures the spirit of the season and the joy of the occasion! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
Just click on the link below, volume on, sit back, relax, and enjoy a very special Christmas Greeting from me to each and every reader of my blog!
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I’ve been going to the Zona Libre (Free Zone), on and off for the past 4 years or so. I always take a bus excursion and leave the driving to someone else! The buses are clean, comfortable, air conditioned, equipped with a bathroom for when you just can’t hold it any longer, and movies! It’s an approximate 6 hour trip, depending on weather and traffic. We always stop about half way there to get out, stretch your legs, use the facilities, and get something to eat. Personally, I always bring a sandwich and a snack as I’m not fond of eating along the roadside, although I have and survived it!
The bus leaves Saturdays at 7:00 AM from the Fiesta Americana Hotel here in Merida, and returns Sunday morning at approximately the same time. We arrive in Belize around 1:30 in the afternoon, and leave at 1:00 AM for the return home. That gives you approximately 12 hours of shopping and casino!
Admittedly, I am not a “shopper”. I have only shopped in the free zone two or three times in all the trips I have taken, but they do have some great buys there. Liquor and clothing are at the top of almost everyone’s list. You can find things there that you can’t find elsewhere.
This past trip, I purchased a good supply of cheese for the upcoming holidays; some for personal use and some to give as gifts. I buy my cheese from a store called “Chavez”. I find they have great prices and you get great service. Everyone in the free zone is genuinely happy and makes you feel welcome. (Probably because they know you’re there to spend money, but also because that is their nature.) You can spend either, (1) US Dollars; (2) Mexican Pesos; or (3) Belizean Dollars. There is never a problem exchanging currency!
If you are interested in going, you should carry your immigration documents with you. You do not have to pass through immigration going or coming other than an occasional cursory “hi, where you headed”. The officials know and recognize the tour operator and there is never a hassle. In four years (probably 30 trips for me), I have been asked only once for my passport and my Mexican immigration papers. And then, the Immigration Official just briefly glanced at them and told me to have a good trip back to Merida.
On your return trip from Belize, you do have to pass through Customs. This too, is somewhat cursory, but if you abuse the import laws, you could have your merchandise confiscated or given an option to pay some outrageous taxes. You are allowed three (3) liters of alcohol, and the equivalent of 3,500 Mexican Pesos worth of purchases, per person. That will buy you a bunch of stuff in the Zona Libre!
The Golden Princess Casino is actually two separate buildings. One has nothing but slot machines and is also the hotel. The main casino is slot machines and table games such as poker, blackjack, and roulette. There are no “craps” tables. They play Texas Hold ‘Em, and some crazy variations of three-card poker and Caribbean poker. They have live entertainment and the casino is kept very clean and orderly. As long as you are “wagering”, you may order anything at all you care to drink! Whiskey to make you frisky, beer to make you cheer, gin to make you grin, or just plain, old-fashioned bottled water or a variety of soft drinks, coffee, this sort of thing. In addition, you can order free food (nothing special or to write home about), and later in the evenings they come around with various snacks and plates of fruit and salads, dispersed free to the “wagerers”
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Having lived 30 years in Florida, I was always taught to choose an orange or a tangerine by its vibrant color, firmness and fragrance! I can’t tell you how many times I have been disappointed in those beautiful, wonderfully smelling, bright orange citrus fruits that are pretty much inedible after you peel them because they are either too “pulpy/pithy” or too bitter. But! They sure do smell good!
The other day, I encountered a little Mayan gentleman on the street, pushing a fruit and vegetable cart, selling his wares. He asked me if I wanted some tangerines, only 10 pesos a bag (about 15 or so). That converts to approximately 5 cents a tangerine! I really didn’t particularly want them right at that moment, but purchased a bag just the same. Much to my (then) chagrin, they were small and very green! I asked if they were sweet and he assured me that they were. What else would he say, I thought. Check out these green tangerines in the photo below:
I cut one open to try it and was pleasantly surprised to find that it at least had a fragrant citrus aroma and was the right color on the inside! See for yourself:
I quartered it, peeled it, and thought “what the heck, give it a try”! I like eating my citrus fruits the way the locals do, so I put a few drops of lime juice on it, sprinkled it with ground red chili pepper and ate it! It was one of the sweetest tangerines I have ever eaten. I was absolutely shocked at the sweetness of this green tangerine!
I am currently on the lookout for that little Mayan guy pushing his fruit and veggie cart!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Because I am inflicted with wanderlust, I couldn’t resist when a friend asked me if I wanted to go with him to check on his house in Champoton. There was no way I was going to say “no”! He has actually asked me several times to go with him, but the timing was never just right. I was either already on my way elsewhere, or his wife and two small children were also going! This time, I was available, and the wife and kids weren’t going!
Champoton is about a 3 hour ride from Merida, given there isn’t much traffic or any weather to contend with. We piled in his VW Caribe convertible, and off we went with the top down. We left Merida at 9:30 and had wonderful, sunny (and hot) weather all the way. Clear skies let the sun shine through and literally burn my face to a bright red! Ouch! It all happened before I realized it.
We only spent two days and one night there, but it was enjoyable. The vast majority of the time was devoted to taking care of the house, finding a plumber/electrician to fix the pump so we could get some water in the house to shower with, pay his hired help, make arrangements with a local nanny to return to Merida with us to help take care of his children, and search out the best seafood in the area!
Champoton has a lively history dating back to the Mayas and pirates, the revolution, the whole nine yards. There just isn’t too much to do or see in this wonderful fishing village with less than 30,000 people except to eat seafood cocktails, enjoy a cold beer (or two) and just watch time slip away. Admittedly, these are a few of my favorite things!
While there is absolutely beautiful, clear, and inviting water along the entire stretch of shore line in Champoton, there is no beach! I didn’t see anyone swimming. The reason? There is no sand – only rocks and boulders. Plenty of boating/fishing going on, but no indication of any water sports.
The malecon (boardwalk) is alive and bustling morning, noon and night and is the center or hub of activity. Lined with numerous restaurants, one can also find lots of street vendors set up along the malecon selling some of the freshest and best seafood in Mexico. This is what this great little place is really known for. While there, I enjoyed shrimp cocktails, mixed cocktails of shrimp and oysters, and on my way out, a small cocktail of just oysters. All fresh, all incredibly delicious, and very inexpensive. The medium cocktails cost the equivalent of approximately $4.00US. Indulge yourself!
Friday, October 2, 2009
The city water is metered and costs about the equivalent of $5.00 US Dollars per month. It trickles in to your home and is stored in a “tinaco” which is made from high impact plastic and/or fiberglass. They can also be made from cement!. The tinaco is normally located on the roof and is almost always black in color. The black color absorbs the sun’s rays and in turn, heats the water stored in the tinaco. This could be the original forerunner of solar heating! However, keep in mind that when the sun goes down, so goes the temperature of the water in the tinaco, and hasta la vista agua caliente!
There is no pressure provided by the city unless you consider a gravitational trickle comparable to low pressure! The water flows from the tinaco to your taps via gravity. If you’ve never experienced it, perhaps you can imagine how long it sometimes takes to complete a shower. Lots of folks liken it to a gentle rain.
Personally, I’m not much into gentle rains. Give me a storm! Therefore, I purchased a pressure system for my home. When I did, the water heater I had (only 3 years old) sprung a leak and was determined to be “unfixable” due to the pressure system. Therefore, I trotted down to Home Depot, discussed the problem with a water heater technician (so-to-speak) who just happened to be in the office picking up installation orders, and I purchased a fancy Bosch model with an electronic ignition and on-demand hot water. This water heater is made especially for pressurized systems. Wow, good to go!
It’s the type of water heater that provides “on demand” hot water and doesn’t have a pilot light to go out all the time. When you turn on a hot water tap, the water flows through a special valve in the water heater and it, in turn, causes the electronic firing system to produce a spark, which then lights the gas to heat the water. Sounds complicated, but it works. (I have to remember to replace the batteries ever few months, or there will be no spark to ignite the gas!)
So, I now have pressurized water, hot and cold, in every tap in the house, including the washer! Talk about creature comforts! I don’t often allow myself too many extravagant luxuries, but I do like my hot showers and I like ‘em under pressure!
We’ll see how well this continues to work, and how long it will last. Hopefully, long enough to get my money’s worth out of it!
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I get back to Merida only to find the same damn thing! In September, Home Depot, Servi-Star, Sam’s Club, and COSTCO, each had their Christmas merchandise displayed for sale! And, GOOD GRIEF!!!! People were actually buying it! (Am I missing something here??) I even saw Christmas goods at my favorite supermarket, MEGA! It seems the gringo stores are influencing the local stores, and to be competitive, the locals are putting their Christmas goods out earlier, and earlier so as to not let the gringo stores get a jump start on them! (As I said before, I dislike having to deal with Christmas in September.)
I’m old enough to remember the way Christmas was celebrated by my (then) large family. The biggest part of the event was the gathering of the entire family for Christmas dinner. We embraced the religious aspects of Christmas and the spirit of the season. Gift giving was an added pleasure and always a welcomed surprise by kids, and not an obligation on anyone’s part. Things were actually simpler and less complicated then. The tree never went up until after Thanksgiving and all the leftovers were gone! Progress, ‘ya gotta luv it.
Have I mentioned that I dislike dealing with Christmas in September?
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I have a small condo in St. Petersburg, Florida, area that I have been trying to sell ever since the economy and the housing market took a dump a few years back. It’s completely furnished, absolutely exceptionally nice and a great little get-away, but not much interest from potential “get-awayers”!
I travel back and forth from my home in Merida to St. Petersburg to check on it and take care of some errands such as doctor, house and car insurance, this sort of thing. I have found it cheaper to eat every meal out (two per day only) rather than buy groceries and cook at home. Besides, I never learned how to cook for just one person. When I cook, I can usually feed the masses! Sticker shock is what I go through when I buy something in the grocery store, or just about anywhere for that matter! I’m too accustomed to Merida’s prices and our great markets.
Prices in the stores are out of sight! $7.00 for a medium size watermelon! Lemons, three for #1.29! Meats are at least twice, if not three times as much as we pay here in Merida, and aren’t any better! Absolutely everything is expensive and requires some smart shopping habits for those on a limited income and/or a budget. I see lots of price comparing going on by shoppers, and coupons are the name of the game! In-store specials are always a big hit.
I previously thought of my trips back to Florida as my “Gringo Fix”. But honestly, I’m no longer in need of a fix and will be quite content when I sell the condo and am out of Florida on a permanent basis. Everything there is so much “faster” and disorganized. Folks aren’t as friendly as I once remembered they were. Some of my favorite stores and restaurants have closed due to bad economic times. Traffic is terrific, people are always in a huge rush to get to wherever it is they are going, and generally speaking, folks seem to be a bit depressed and anxious. Many old friends are now residing in Nursing Homes, and I even attended the funeral of a close friend while there. The streets are full of homeless people holding signs and asking for work and/or money. The cost of utilities is out-of-sight and the State Legislature is considering one utility company’s request for a 31% rate increase! I could go on, and on.
I love my country and always will. Nothing will ever change that. I also love my adopted country, Mexico, and little could ever change that, either. It’s just that I don’t require a Gringo Fix any longer but will still have to travel back and forth a few times a year to check on things until I can sell the condo. Interested??
Monday, August 10, 2009
The staff mentioned to me that the 1,000 rooms were all taken for the weekend and they had 2,600 guests! Wow! Hard to visualize. Even with that many people there, it never once seemed crowded. I did notice that we had to wait an extra minute or two for transportation, but that was no problem. Also, there was no “free-flowing” lobster on the menu this time! I presume it would be difficult to give out lobster to 2,600 people. Instead of lobster, I ate my fair share of jumbo (emphasis on the word “large”) prawns, shrimp of all kinds, calamar, fish, ceviches, etc., and so on. The last night there we dined at the Steak House and had mar y tierra (surf and turf)! The filet mignon was so tender that you just had to look at it and it fell apart. The lobster tail was sweet and succulent, cooked to perfection.
We took in two very entertaining shows and enjoyed them both tremendously. As usual, the entire staff was happy, helpful, and went out of their way to accomodate you. Needless to say, we all had a wonderful time (again), and I would definitely go back.
Life is good.
Friday, July 31, 2009
WHO IS YOUR INSPIRATION???
Try it without looking at the answers...... Please don't look down until you do it
1) Pick your favorite number between 1-9
2) Multiply by 3 then
3) Add 3, then again Multiply by 3
4) You'll get a 2 or 3 digit number
5) Add the digits together
Now scroll down...
Now with that number see who your ROLE MODEL is from the list below:
2. Nelson Mandela
3. John Wayne
4. Helen Keller
5. Bill Gates
7. George Clooney
9. Merida Mikey
10. Abraham Lincoln
I know....I just have that effect on people....one day you, too, can be like me.... :-)
P.S. Stop picking different numbers. I am your idol, just deal with it!
Now, have some fun of your own with this. Here's all you need do. Copy the text of this blog post, and then paste it to the body of an e-mail. Erase my name and substitute your name. Send it to family, friends and foe alike! (Family and friends will be amused and "foe" will be distraught at the mere thought of it!
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Do you know what makes a chili pepper hot?? It’s a chemical compound called capsaicin. This name comes from the scientific classification of the pepper plant which belongs to the genus Capsicum.
In 1912, while working at the Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Company, Wilbur Scoville developed a testing method to measure the heat of chili peppers. As originally devised, a solution of the pepper extract was diluted in sugar water until the 'heat' was no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters. The degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville Scale. Today, however, more scientific testing methods prevail but still use the Scoville Scale.
Up until recently, and from personal "stimulating" experience, I thought that the hottest of all chilies was the habanero. Not so according to researchers using the Scoville Scale! The habanero registers a whopping 100,000 – 350,000 "fart-fire" units on the Scoville Scale. However, the Red Savina (habanero) measures an incredible 450,000 – 580,000 "three-alarm-fire" units! That, in my book, qualifies for “hell-hot”! But, break out the fire extinguisher, call in the Reserves, because the Naga Jolokia measures an unbelievable 855,000 – 1,050,000 units! After eating a habanero, I just cannot imagine how hot this chili pepper would be. And this truly hell-hot delicacy is in the Guiness Book of World Records! Compare that to the lowly, wimpy (but still delicious), sweet bell pepper that has absolutely no, zero, nada, capsaicin, and measures a paltry “0” on the Scoville Scale.
Yucatecans, and Mexicans in general, have a love affair with their chili peppers! I confess that I, too, have fallen in love. For me, it was definitely an acquired taste, but chilies absolutely add lots of flavor, fun, and fire to food! But, most importantly, chilies are one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Did you know that chilies:
Fight Migraine Headaches and Sinus Headaches
Prevent Sinusitis and Relieve Congestion
Help Lower High Blood Pressure
Can Help You Burn Fat and Lose Weight
Help Soothe Intestinal Diseases
Help Protect Your Heart
Have Loads of Vitamin C
Can Warm Your Feet
Note from Merida Mikey: For additional information on health benefits of chilies, go to: www.chilipeppermadness.com
Not only do I enjoy eating chilies, I enjoy collecting them! All kinds, shapes, sizes, and colors! My kitchen looks like a chili pepper parlor and I am always on the lookout for an addition to my collection. I even have chili pepper dishes, bowls, glasses, stirrers, canapé picks, salt and pepper shakers, paper towel racks, trivets, serving platters, salsa dishes, and spoon rests as well as assorted napkins and napkin holders, table cloths with matching napkins, bibs, and many decorative items. And I’m always on the lookout for more, more, more!
If you haven’t been eating and enjoying the spicy, savory flavor of chilies, it is not too late to start! You have plenty of time to catch up! Remember, most chilies have more Vitamin "C" than an orange! So go ahead, indulge yourself! Turn up the heat a bit - eat some chilies! Isn't it about time you added some spicy years to your life, and some spicy life to your years?!?
Thursday, July 23, 2009
If you are driving in Merida, or almost any other part of Mexico, you must always be keenly aware of pedestrian traffic that jumps out at you from absolutely nowhere and everywhere. And then there's the “intersection people” who want to wash your windows, sell you flowers, roses, newspapers, books, magazines, CDs, telephone cards, toys, maps, candy, fruits, veggies, soft drinks, food, coconut flavored water, etc., and so on. Then there's other intersection people dressed in freshly starched white uniforms of sorts with small tin cans with pictures of The Virgin who collect money for God only knows what, the poor folks who are looking for a handout of a few pesos (and I always oblige and urge you to do so also), the folks that hand out fliers that you have absolutely no use for but take one just to be polite, and the jugglers dressed in clown outfits when it's 110°F in the shade hoping for a few pesos for their performance before the light turns green. But let us not forget to watch out for the commuters on skateboards, bicycles, tricycles (both manual and motorized), horse drawn buggies, mule drawn carts, mopeds, scooters, motorcycles, assorted other two-wheeled vehicles, collectivos/combies, buses, taxi cabs, trucks and the occasional fellow on horseback! I’m really hard-pressed to identify the worst of the worst.
It is obvious that stop signs and traffic lights are considered by many as nothing more than mere annoying suggestions. Yield/merge signs are shaped like pieces of pizza to remind folks to eat, not yield or merge. Speed bumps can be fun to navigate! A solid yellow stripe down the center of a roadway is strictly for decorative purposes only, and posted speed limits are there to be ignored and exceeded. Left or right turn lanes are a complete waste of time and money and never utilized, and the shoulder of the road, right or left, is reserved for passing. And, if you're not talking on your cell phone, you just aren’t driving. Turn signals are a worthless accessory put on vehicles that serve no useful purpose and are seldom, if ever, used. But when they are, don’t believe a word of it! All two lane streets are easily converted into three and even four lane highways and speedways with wanton disregard for any foreseeable consequence. It is absolutely acceptable to turn left from the far right hand lane and turn right from the far left hand lane, or any other lane you happen to be in. And, of course, it isn’t necessary to use turn signals or hand signals while doing so because no one would believe you anyway. Be mindful of the guy who is stopped anywhere he so chooses and has his emergency flashers on. This could mean almost anything that you could imagine, and then some.
And where are the police you may ask? Sometimes you'll find them at a taco stand having a few snacks and a few Cokes. When not doing that, they are patrolling the highways and byways with their red and blue lights flashing, almost always in the far right hand lane going slow enough to cause major traffic jams and assorted problems and even accidents, just biding their time until their shift is over. With their flashing disco lights of red and blue, they certainly aren't trying to be inconspicuous or sneak up on anyone! In my 14 years in Merida, I have seen only a handful of traffic citations being issued, but have witnessed thousands of infractions that would require a court date and probable jail time in most other countries. The police here are very understanding and tolerant until they stop you! The Government is definitely missing out on a great source of revenue by not issuing more traffic citations. And yes, if you are caught doing a no-no, you can still pay your “probable” fine to the nice policeman who is giving you a hard time. "Mordida" is alive and well and living in the Yucatan.
The moral of this little story? If you plan on driving in Merida, or any part of Mexico for that matter, be sure to drive aggressively defensive! Keep your seat belts fastened and your insurance premiums up-to-date. You’ll be a survivor.
That being said, I have to go out now and drive around and do some errands. Wish me luck!
Sunday, July 19, 2009
My doctor wanted me to walk at least 30 minutes every day to help with my diet (perpetual) and for general health reasons. I chose to walk at the sports compound not too far from my home in Centro called Deportivo Salvador Alvarado. This great sports complex was founded February 1, 1939; almost 70 years ago! Wow! And it is still going strong and looking good! I hope that when I’m 70 people will say the same about me!
There are organized activities such as water polo, volleyball, basketball tournaments, and the like, and I even know one woman who goes there for salsa (dancing, not cooking) lessons! There are ample places to walk, jog, run, play tennis, soccer, volleyball, basketball, baseball, racquetball, handball, track and field activities, weight rooms, exercise equipment, rest rooms, showers, you name it. The list is quite long and I’m sure I forgot something! Oh, and yes – there is an Olympic sized swimming pool, too!
There is a nominal fee for some organized activities, but otherwise everything is free of charge thanks to the Government of the State of Yucatan. My hat is off to them as they are doing a great job in this area. They also provide a grounds crew on premises that keeps the place immaculately clean.
The photos below were taken on a Sunday afternoon between 12:00 and 1:00. The compound was all but deserted because of the hell-hot noon day sun. I walk there every morning between 6:30 and 7:00 AM, and the place is full! I figure it is best to go early to beat the heat so the heat doesn’t beat you! There are lots of folks who think just like me. The facility is open from 6 AM to 11 PM, so you have a large window in which to participate in your favorite activity and stay fit!
You have a choice of which type of track you prefer to walk on. One is paved with asphalt, the other is compacted sand and finely ground stones (of sorts). For me, the latter provides an easier, lower impact surface on which to walk and is lined with mature trees and bushes that provide welcomed shade at any time of day.
There is a great track and field area if that's your thing!
Racquetball and handball courts fill up early in the morning but are deserted at high noon.
There's lots of outdoor gym equipment and even a small weight room to enjoy.
I'm not a basketball player nor an aficionado, but I saw no potential NBA talent on the courts, but I have witnessed lots of people having lots of fun shooting hoops!
Tennis anyone?? There's ample lighting for nightime enjoyment and exercise.
And when you're done with your favorite activities, how about a nice cool dip in an olympic sized swimming pool? There are two diving boards. The type you have to climb up to - no thanks!
And here's a picture of Mikey's favorite sporting activity. What you do is, find a nice comfortable area to plop in while watching your favorite sports activity, and you perform a good brisk sit!
If you're in Merida or come here for a visit and decide to take an early morning walk around the track, be sure to say hello as you pass me by! And again, thanks to the Mexican Government for providing and maintaining this great sports complex. It is appreciated by all who use it.