Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Years Eve Traditions, Mexico Style!

New Years is our chance to get rid of the negative in our lives to make room for the positive. New Years Traditions abound here in Mexico and include:

1) Make a list of all the negative things of the past year and just before midnight, throw the list into the fire. This will rid them from your life forever.

2) Wear red underwear if you want love and yellow if you want money.

3) Eat one grape and make one wish with each of the twelve strokes of the clock as it counts out midnight.

4) Sweep out your house before midnight. This rids the house of the negative forces that have accumulated over the past year.

5) Bringing your luggage outside at New Years will ensure you will travel in the upcoming year.

6) Make an effigy of a hated politician, stuff it with fireworks and set fire to it at midnight. George Bush is going to get a big bang out of this one!

7) Visualize a huge cloud crossing the sky at midnight. People who are lucky enough to have a glimpse of the cloud are believed to experience good luck in the New Year.

Laptop Fixed!

This laptop screen problem was driving me nuts because the screen was so dim I could not use the computer in the daytime. I put out a cry for help on Escapees.com, an RV Forum I use all the time, and one of the regulars there made a suggestion that ultimately lead to my discovering the problem. It was a simple combination of Function keys that toggle the brightness! I don't know how it got changed but it did.

Now my new monitor can go into the storage bin to be used on one of the computers at home. I was planning on investing in one anyway and the price down here in Mexico was cheaper than I would have paid at home so all is well except we have lost some storage space. I will just have to drink a couple of dozen beer to clear some space. It is what you call a win - win situation.

Monday, December 29, 2008

New Monitor

I bought a 19" Samsung T190 Monitor at Sam's Club in Cuernavaca today for $2895 Pesos, matching the cheapest price in the USA. I plugged it in and it started working right away. I have to tweak the settings a little or maybe install a new driver to fix a resolution problem but I am sure it is going to work fine. It makes it a little more awkward to operate in a confined space but it sure is better than doing without a computer! The laptop monitor is visable at night but not if there is any sunlight on it at all.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Running Out Of Time

This trip is developing a life of it's own! We talked with another Mexican couple today and, as a result, added several more Chiapas cities and locations to our itinerary. It is looking more and more like Southern Mexico will become a two year affair, with the Yucatan waiting until next year.

We have to be home in April to submit our taxes and to comply with Canada's "Six Month" rule that decrees we must be in Canada for six months plus a day of every year in order to keep our Health Benefits. We do not like to rush home so that means we will have to start heading North in late March. We are running out of time.

I can remember when we used to think that three or four weeks was a long vacation!

Laptop Problems!

The screen on my laptop has suddenly gone very dim to the point where I can hardly read it during the day. This is disastrous for me! It has been acting up for several weeks but until now I could "fix" it by flicking the edge of the screen with my finger. This unscientific method of repair no longer works and it just stays dim. I suspect the LCD inverter but a close inspection of the inverter does not show any obvious problems like loose connections.

Replacing the laptop in Mexico is not really an option as prices of electronics is twice as much as in Canada and about three times as much as in the USA. Also, the version of Windows pre-loaded onto computers here is, of course, in Spanish.

I think I will have to look at purchasing a small LCD monitor to plug into it to get me by until we get back to the USA. Thankfully there is a WalMart and a Sams Club here in Cuernavaca that are having "Boxing Day Sales". I just checked my favorite TigerDirect.ca website and 16" monitors are as low as $89 in Canada. It will be interesting to see what they are here... This is not the perfect solution because of the desktop space it takes up but I have no choice. I now work on a small TV table beside the couch and the new setup will take too much space for that.

Edit* I may have to take that back. A Mexican friend just told me that it is now possible to buy computer equipment in Mexico at near USA prices. Tomorrow will be the trip to Sams Club.

In the meantime, please excuse any spelling mistakes as it is very hard to see the screen as I type and the SpellCheck suggestions are quite invisible.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

December 28 - December Fools' Day

On this day in Mexico as well as in many other Spanish Speaking countries, people play practical jokes on each other. It is the Spanish equivelent of our April Fools' Day. On this day you must not believe anything that you are told, nor must you allow anyone to borrow money from you. Traditionally, money borrowed on December 28 does not have to be repaid.

If you allow yourself to fall victim to making a loan on this day, the person who borrowed the money just may say, “Inocente palomita, que te dejaste engañar” or “Innocent little dove, how you've let yourself be fooled”.

Or, the longer version:

“Inocente Palomita
Que te dejaste engañar
Sabiendo que en este día
Nada se debe prestar.”

Innocent little dove
How you've let yourself be fooled
Knowing that on this day
You should lend nothing.

By the way, May I borrow uno Peso, por favor?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Next Stop - Chiapas

I had a chance to sit down with Sergio, the park resident who is a Professor of Anthropology and History specializing in the Pre-Columbian History of Mexico and it’s Indigenous People! What a connection for me! We poured over my maps together and he made many suggestions of places that we should not miss in the States of Chiapas and Yucatan. I now have a very long list and as his interests are also my interests, I want to see them all! My map is covered with notes. We leave for Puebla and then Chiapas early in January.

This has made us start wondering if the time we have left in Mexico this year will be enough to see Chiapas as well as the Yucatan. We never have any fixed plans when we travel and just make it up as we go. This means we could stay in Chiapas for a lot longer to see everything and ‘do” the Yucatan next year. It is nice to have options!

Chiapas is the poorest State of Mexico and facilities for RVers may be quite primitive. The term “Full Hookups” may just be wishful thinking. We will find a spot to park the motorhome and will then use the car to make day and overnight trips to see the sights.

My lack of good Spanish will be less important in Chiapas as they speak little of it there. The main languages are Maya based Aboriginal dialects. This will be fun!

Map image

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Mexico Christmas

In Mexico, as in many other parts of the world, family gifts are opened on Christmas Eve. This event followed Christmas Dinner which is also served on Christmas Eve. My mother had a Norwegian background and we did a slight variation of this theme when I was young as well. Gifts were opened Christmas eve (except for Santa’s of course) but dinner was on Christmas Day.
We were accepted as part of an extended family by our wonderful and generous Mexican neighbours, Hector and Martha, who included us in their celebrations and explained everything as it was happening. We had a candlelight procession, or posada around the RV park representing Joseph and Mary's search for shelter to give birth in. Lines were read from a script as we stopped at doors (well, really only one door, but we made do) and were repeatedly sent on our way. Finally a room was found and everybody knows the ending of the story.
One of our neighbours is Jewish and she asked if she could bring her Menorah over to light. She was immediately encouraged to do so, so she went to her RV to get it. She was happily received by the group (mostly Catholic, with the odd exception, including your lone Atheist) and everyone watched respectfully as she went through her ceremony.
Umberto, the owner of the Park came over with a huge bucket of hot fruit punch and a big bottle of rum for everyone and then lit a bonfire in the common area. The Pinata then appeared with all the kids (and Norma) getting a whack at it.
Karaoke followed with most joining in. I did not as I cannot carry a tune in a sack. Everyone had a great time. Sergio, one of the park residents who is a Professor of Anthropology and History at the University in Mexico City, took the mike and sang a long song in which he sang a couple of lines and then the crowd repeated the last word. It was interesting enough on it's own but then one of our Mexican friends explained to me that it was a very important song in Mexico and told the history of Mexico City. Needless to say, we were very impressed and honoured to be included in the gathering and we learned much of the wonderful Culture of this Country.
Snack Time
The Happy Crowd
Sergio & Estrella Dancing
The Menorah Lighting
Hector and Martha: "Look, we are dancing!"
Hector: "Look, I can sing too!"
Charlotte: "That's my dad singing!"
Sergio and the Singing History Lesson.
Martha: "It's pretty small for a Harley, dad!"
Hector Jr.: "Yes mom, I'm keeping my new shirt clean!"

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wishes On A Christmas Eve!

Feliz Navidad

I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, or, as they say here, Feliz Navidad! We spent part of yesterday afternoon putting lights on the two trees that live beside our space here in Cuernavaca. They twinkled away last night hopefully reminding Santa that we are here this Christmas and not at home. I am sure the Jolly Old Guy keeps careful track of such things but it never hurts to remind him.

The Mexican tradition is to have Christmas Dinner late on Christmas Eve and we will be joining in that tradition. We will be sharing dinner with a very nice Mexican family next door who have befriended these Canadian Nomads. They will be a family of nine by evening so there will be eleven of us sharing dinner on an assortment of picnic tables outside our motorhome. It will be fun and the most important ingredient of a successful Christmas, children, will be present!

Thank you all for reading my Blog and sharing our adventures. Thanks to those who have left comments on the Blog and if you have not yet left comments, please do! I like getting them as it reassures me that I am not talking into the void… It has been fun putting my thoughts into words and this greatly enhances the experience for me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Building a Tree

This Christmas Tree was being assembled in Morelia when we passed through. It is so huge, we failed to see the workers who had climbed the frame to place the branches until we got right up to it. Baloons are not necessarily a Christmas thing in Mexico, I just liked them.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Explaining Snow

Fellow Blogger CancunCanuck was trying to explain photos of Canada's snow to her small son, Max, who was born in Mexico and who has never seen the stuff up close. Their exchange went like this (I am quoting from her Blog):

"Why did the car have an accident?".
"Because it was very slippery on the road and he couldn't stop."
"Like at the pool?".
"Yes Max, just like the deck of the pool. Except it's minus a bazillion degrees and when you fall you get wet and cold and the odds are you'll land on a big $%@$#5 chunk of ice and bruise your a$$ for a week".

"Why are they wearing those clothes?"
"Because it's REALLY cold Max."
"Like in the movies?"
"Yes, just like the over air conditioned movie theaters Max, exactly the same. Except your $%@$# nose could freeze off."

"Why is he putting salt on the road?"
"To make the ice go away and make the roads less slippery."
"Salt is good."
"Yes, salt is our friend. Especially on the rim of a fishbowl sized Margarita."

Sunday, December 21, 2008

If You Want To Buy Roses

Buy them in Mexico. We stopped at a roadside vendor on the Autopista (Toll Road to Cuernavaca) today and bought four dozen perfect, fresh roses for $70 Pesos (one dozen of each colour she had)! That is about fifteen cents per rose!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Want To Rent a Vacation House In Mexico?

Our Mexican friends here have several houses available for short (or long) term rental. They are in a secure, gated community very close to the city of Cuautla, in the State of Morelos.

Map image

They are all spotless and come complete with all furnishings right down to table settings. They all have pools and the rent includes maid service and a pool man. A car with or without a guide could also be arranged for an additional fee. There is a Mario Schjetnan designed 18 hole golf course in the community with reasonable Green Fees. Click here for more golf course information and photos.

The community is within one hour's drive of Mexico City and forty-five minutes of the Colonial City of Puebla. The pyramids of Tepoztlan, Teotihuacan and Xochicalco are a short drive or bus ride away as well.

These houses are all different sizes, the smallest sleeps six and the largest twelve. They are all very reasonably priced! If anyone wants more information, send me an email at croft (dot) randle (at) gmail (dot) com and I will send your request on. These are a really great deal and the owners speak perfect English.




Local Flowers

In the RV Park here in Cuernavaca.







The Bigger They Are

The Harder They Fall!

Sorry everyone but I have been down and out with a bad head cold for the past two nights. I am feeling much better today and thought I would celebrate with a nice hot shower. Wouldn't you know it, no hot water! We lost the power to our rig a couple of days ago and had to plug into the empty space next door to us. We told the owner, a retired Electrical Engineer, and he told us that one of the phases coming into the park had failed. He said he would take care of it. Well, he didn't and I had a cold shower!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

New Friends

We have met a family here in Mexico. We met Hector when he arrived at the park to bring his new travel trailer. We became friendly with him and he asked us to go to his town to meet his family. We went yesterday and had a blast. They took us to their daughters School Christmas Pageant (pastorela) and it was a memorable experience! The daughter sang and the kids put on a wonderful play involving Cowboys, Devils and Angels! It was very Mexican. There was lots of action and singing and some of it was even in English! I have said before how much I like Mexican children and I was in my glory here. We had dinner at their house and spent the night there. I know it is a great privilege to be invited to a home here in Mexico and the gesture was greatly appreciated. We will see more of this wonderful family when they come here to the park.


Tepoztlan is another of the Pueblo Magico’s that surround this history rich area of Mexico. According to myth, Tepoztlan is the birthplace over 1200 years ago of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god widely worshiped in ancient Mexico. It is also the location of the Tepozteco Ruins, a unique cliff top Pyramid that can only be accessed by an exhausting long, uphill trail that we did not attempt even though we were tempted by the offer of free admission for Seniorssmile_wink.

We had a great lunch and then explored the town, including the ruins of the Ex-convent of Dominico de la Natividad (a World Heritage Site) near the market. Unfortunately, we missed sampling the unique ice cream the town is famous for and I was also sorry that I had forgotten my telephoto lens! The photo of the Pyramid is a blowup of the distant shot of the mountain after some serious “noise reduction” work. You can simply click on any of my images to enlarge them.



DSC_8636 DSC_8648

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Plans Are Made To Be Changed

Like the Mayan Calendar our plans require periodic corrections. We have decided to stay in this RV Park outside of Cuernavaca for another two weeks, taking us through Christmas. We have made this decision for a number of reasons. One, as we move South, RV Parks start having fewer and fewer services. Two, Norma wants to be somewhere "nice" for Christmas where we can go out for a nice dinner. Three, this park has WIFI and the owner speaks very good English. It is unfortunate that this is an issue as it is our responsibility to learn to communicate with the local people, not the other way around. Having said that it is so nice to be able to ask questions and, more importantly, to fully understand the answers we are given. We have been offered the site for $200 Pesos per day for two weeks. This includes full hookups, "real" 30 Amp electric and a pool. Oh, did I mention Four, The temperature here in Curenavaca is always 80 degrees!

There is much to see around here and we have just scratched the surface of it. We have seen one Pyramid but there are more. Also, the area where the peasant leader Emiliano Zapata (1879 - 1919) was born, lived and died is within an hour or two's drive from here and I would really like to see that. Zapata's image stirs the revolutionary genes in my body.



Zapata with Pancho Villa

We have also met Hector, a very friendly Mexican gentleman who came to park his new travel trailer next to us here. We have hit it off with him and he has invited us to visit his home near Cuautla, an hour's drive away. He is a young, semi-retired professional who speaks better English than me and has travelled the world. We would like to meet his family.

We have been moving quite constantly since we entered Mexico and it is time to stop and smell the bougainvilleas. I will try to keep you entertained with this local area. Stay tuned!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Xochicalco Observatorio

The pyramid complex of Xochicalco is the only one in Mexico with an Observatorio. It is a man made cave that includes a shaft cut through the ceiling. Twice a year, on May 14 & 15 and on July 28 & 29 the sun is in the Zenith of it’s orbit and it’s rays flow through the shaft to project it’s own image brightly onto the floor of the cave. The purpose of this observatory was probably to correct the calendar and perhaps to observe the moon in order to predict eclipses.

The Observatorio was open to the public today so I climbed all three levels of the site to reach it. As I walked towards the entrance to the cave an attendant appeared. He welcomed me and lead me into the cave, lighting the way with a flashlight whose batteries had seen better days. The floor is quite uneven so I stayed close to my guide and his dim flashlight. We got to the observatory room and I could see the reflected sunlight coming down the shaft. The guide then turned off his light leaving us in the most complete blackness I can ever remember experiencing. I could look up the shaft to see the sky but other than that four inch window, it was pitch black.



Observatorio Entrance and My Guide


The Light Shaft

Solar Equinox

Solar Equinox! (not my photo)


Xochicalco is the site of an important urban centre in Mesoamerica from 700 – 900 AD. It consists of several pyramids and other structures built on a hilltop that had been levelled off for the construction. It is located about a hundred kilometres southwest of Cuernavaca and we drove there today. It is a very impressive sight and a wonderful experience to walk in the steps of these ancient people. The site itself is built in three tiers with steep stairs separating them. The highlight is the Quetzalcoatl Pyramid which is covered with reliefs depicting a feathered serpent, the symbol of Quetzalcoatl. Other reliefs on the pyramid depict the gathering of wise men in 743 AD, the purpose of which was to make a small correction to the calendar.






Sunday, December 14, 2008


Cuernavaca is a beautiful city just South of Mexico City. It is known as "the city of eternal spring" because of its consistent 27°C (80°F) weather year round.

It’s climate is much better than the Capital and it has become the home of many of Mexico’s famous people. It is also a popular retreat for citizens of Mexico City who come to escape the heat and smog of the city. There are also many pre-Hispanic ruins and Pyramids nearby. We will explore one of them tomorrow. This is a city that we will definitely return to.

The highlight of our short trip to town today was dinner at the Restaurant Casa Hidalgo. We sat on a private balcony overlooking the Jardine de los Heroes and the Palace of Cortez. We both started off with a nicely mixed margarita, Norma had Medallions of Beef in Pepper Sauce prepared by the "Captain" right at the table and I chose the grilled Sea Bass. This was without a doubt the best meal we have had in Mexico this year. The service was great and the bill was a very reasonable $450 Pesos before the tip.



Palacio de Cortés In Cuernavaca

Cuernavaca is about sixty kilometres South of Mexico City and was the home of the conquistador Hernan Cortez. He built his Palace on top of the ruins of an important Aztec site as a symbol of his dominance over the conquered territory.

The building is now the Museo Cuauhnahuac, named for the Aztec site he built on. It is an amazing place that one could take all day to examine. We only spent a couple hours but I took Many photos. Flash was not permitted but the light was good. One wall is a mural by the great Mexican muralist Diego Rivera.