Dog Walking at Cancun's Ciclopista

In the city of Merida, Yucatan (4 hours from Cancun), they shut down one of the city’s main streets every Sunday to open up a “ciclopista“. The road is closed off for biking, walking, rollerblading, etc. It’s a great family event.

A few months ago, Cancun started doing the same thing. The Andres Quintana Roo Avenue is shut down for a few hours every Sunday. I remember the first time I saw it, there was hardly anybody there. When we went yesterday, however, it was packed!

My friend Carlos owns a pet store and has tons of cool ideas for marketing his business. He’s started getting together a group of his friends and family to walk their dogs all together while wearing t-shirts for his store. It’s a great way to grab people’s attention, and he can hand out business cards to other dogwalkers. It seems to be great for business. They also walk some dogs that are up for adoption!

So yesterday Jorge and I took Suki, Dolly and Konan out to the ciclopista to do some promoting for Econopet. It was one of the first times Konan has been out in public. She does very well with humans… not so much with other dogs. Every time another dog walked by, she would bark at it with a horrible screech. I now understand how moms feel when their kids scream in the grocery store. Humiliating. Luckily after about 10 minutes she was able to calm down.

In general, our dogs were very overwhelmed, but it was a great opportunity for them to learn to socialize. By the end of the day, they were pretty calm! (Except for Dolly, who was calm and happy from the beginning. She lives her entire life as if under the influence of heavy sedatives.)

There were about 20 dogs in our group, and everyone behaved very well!

Some people from our group walking along the ciclopista (yes, that's a doggy stroller!)

Our friend Coyi walked Dolly, who is an instant hit everywhere she goes thanks to her calm and sweet disposition, plus her tiny size.

I walked Suki because she freaks out if I'm not walking with her. She was the most excited to be there, as always!

Jorge walked Konan, who seemed very overwhelmed by it all.

We saw this dog walking around with all his "gear". By far the most stylish dog at the ciclopista. (If I ever put goggles on one of my dogs, please intervene.)

There were tons of families!

Halfway through, our group stopped for some R&R and bowls of water in the shade.

Econopet also has a dog training class. After our walk, we enrolled Suki and Konan. Considering they've never had any training whatsoever, they didn't do so bad!

The dogs had to do some obstacles during the class.

In the end Konan was able to go through the obstacle course (with a little help from Jorge). I’m so proud!

We had such a good time, and we’ll definitely be back next week! I know the dogs loved it, too.

I’m really glad Cancun decided to open up the ciclopista. Locals are always complaining that Cancun has no culture and no sense of community (the city is only 40 years old), so I think this is a great step in that direction!

Culture Shock

A few weeks ago I was reading the blog of my friend Nicole, who lives on Isla Mujeres. She mentioned in several posts how frustrated she was with the culture and the island, and I realized she sounded exactly like me 5 years ago.

Most people have heard of culture shock, but not many people actually know what it is or how it looks. Surprisingly, many expats don’t know what it is either, even though they’ve probably suffered from it or are currently going through it.

I was lucky. The first time I came to Mexico I was a missionary intern for a summer in Acapulco, and we had to take a course before we came down. The class I remember the most was about culture shock, and I’m really glad they told us about it. That way, when I actually experienced it, I knew what was happening to me.

PHASE 1

The first phase of culture shock is the “Everything is amazing” phase. When you arrive in the new culture, you love the scenery, the language sounds beautiful, the cultural differences are charming… you could live here forever, right? This phase can last a few days or a few months, depending on how long you plan to be in your new country. I remember my first night in Cancun, driving through the Hotel Zone with all the bright and glittery hotels. I was in love. Exploring the city was tons of fun. My apartment was perfect, school was amazing…everything was great for a few weeks.

PHASE 2

Then comes the second phase… the “Everything sucks, get me out of here” phase. Like the first phase, this can last days or months (or years), depending on how long you plan to be here. Why can’t the Mexicans do things the way I do them… the RIGHT way? Why does nobody understand that my way is better? Why is it so hot ALL THE TIME? Why is everything so slow? Why does every small daily task take 3 times as long as in the US? Why can’t I throw toilet paper into the toilet? Why can’t people drive correctly? Why is nobody ever on time? What kind of idiot puts ketchup on their pizza? (Ok, the last one still frustrates me!) I was a real jerk during this phase.

From talking to other expats, it seems most long term expats start to go through this phase around month 3 or 4, with a strong, pissed off peak at the one-year mark. I remember when I reached my angry peak… I got into an argument with my roommates, which was the final straw. I called my friend Cesar and asked if I could go to his house. At his house, I pretty much bawled and complained for an hour, going through half a box of tissues. I was certain I wanted to leave NOW. Cesar was very patient with me, and told me to wait it out until the end of that semester, which I did. During those next few months, something just clicked. I finally realized that I wasn’t going to single-handedly change an entire culture. I was the one who had to change, Once I opened my mind, things became much better, and I moved on to phase 3…

PHASE 3

Phase 3 is the “Hey, Maybe They Were Right All Along” phase. You’re able to immerse yourself more in the culture and learn from it. I learned Mexicans are always late because of their “time is fluid” concept, which is actually a pretty cool way to live once you get the hang of it. I learned people in Cancun have a different way of driving because there aren’t many signs or lane dividing lines, so the people here have kind of developed their own rules… it appears to be just as good as our system because there aren’t too many accidents here.

This final phase will last throughout the rest of your time in the country. You’ll get many “this place is amazing” moments and many “this place sucks” moments, but overall it will just feel like normal day-to-day life.

Beachfront Lunch in Puerto Morelos

First of all, thanks to everyone for the advice last week on this post. I was expecting it to be more of a unanimous opinion, but everyone had something different to say!

I think everyone was right, which was what made this a difficult decision. In the end, Jorge and I decided that we won’t be getting involved in real estate anytime soon, and there will probably be more courses available in the future, so we’ll save the money now and take a course later!

—————

Anyway, moving on…

This weekend was a blast! On Saturday, my friends Juan and Viri invited me to lunch with their families in Puerto Morelos, a small beach town about 20 minutes south of Cancun.

I’d passed through Puerto Morelos many times, but this was the first time I’d seen the beach!

We had a late lunch at Pelicanos restaurant (lunch in Mexico is at about 3 – 4 pm). The food was ok, but the drinks and the view were AMAZING.

Pelicanos restaurant
View from our table

My shrimp ceviche... not bad, but a little dry!

Juan Sr's giant fried fish

The boardwalk

The dock and the beautiful Caribbean

*sigh*

Viri and I stopped by this neighboring restaurant for some Kahlua flan.

"La Panza Es Primero" - "The Stomach Comes First" .... amen.

My strong but delicious mojito!

I’m so glad I finally got to spend some time in the town of Puerto Morelos! I could enjoy those views (and those mojitos) for a lifetime.

Reader Advice: Saving vs Education?

Normally I try to keep this a bit more of a cultural blog, but hey… it’s a personal blog too, right?

Jorge and I have been thinking a ton about finances lately. Now that we’re done paying for the wedding, Christmas, and basic furniture (mostly), we can finally start saving up some serious cash. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a year. We even set up an Excel sheet for our budget! We’re so proud.

One thing I’ve been dying to get involved in for as long as I can remember is real estate. My parents have always loved houses, and I think they passed that love down to me (and my sister). 7 months ago I was almost more excited for apartment hunting than I was for my wedding. For the last 4 months I’ve been obsessive about House Hunters International (showing on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). I even find myself looking at houses for sale, even when I don’t have the money to buy one… I just love learning what houses look like in different cities, and what you can get for your money in different areas.

That being said, I have never, ever had even the least attraction toward being a real estate agent. Can’t say why not. What I would love to get into someday is real estate investment… which I know nothing about (except what I’ve learned from House Hunters International, of course).

Where is all this going?

Jorge recently read the book Rich Dad Poor Dad, and one of the points that stood out the most to him was that if you ever have the opportunity to take a course in finances or whatever field you want to work in, TAKE IT. And who can say no to this guy…

Interestingly, Jorge and I were just talking about this last night. He said, “If you really want to get involved in real estate investment, you should take a class! You’d save tons of money in the future by doing more things yourself. If we hear about a real estate course, you’re taking it.” I said sure! ( I suspect he’s tired of me obsessing over houses without making some money from it.)

Little did I know last night that I would get an e-mail from my university just this morning, offering… guess what? A 3-month course and diploma in basic real estate. The timing was uncanny. It was a message from God.

Problem? The money we were so excited about saving up in January and February would go straight to paying for this course. Most of the savings would be gone before I could even get my hands on them. So… no big saving until March. *sigh*

Also, I have no short term plans to get involved in real estate! This would be something a few years into my future.

AND, we’re getting our Mexican marriage license next month (February 14! Valentine’s Day!), which involves paying a few hundred dollars to immigration.

Jorge and I have a lot of talking and number-crunching to do tonight. I’d love to take advantage of this opportunity, but I’m not sure if it’s something that should wait.

So… should I take a great opportunity to improve my knowledge in my desired future field now, or slow down and start saving up some money this month so I can actually have money to invest with?

Any advice, warnings, scolding, etc… I’d love to get some comments from you!

 

Yucatan Folklore Part 4

I promised you a story about how Yucatan’s mystical aluxes are known for getting even. Here, it’s commonly known that you NEVER, EVER make fun of or insult aluxes.

Maria, a close friend of mine, is really into bike riding. From time to time, she’ll go biking up north towards Isla Blanca with her bike group. This is a fairly undeveloped area north of Cancun, and the roads are lined with jungle.

On one particular trip, Maria had stopped to eat an apple, then she threw the apple core into the jungle and yelled, “Take that, aluxes!!”

Big mistake.

She used to never have any problems riding there. But now, every time she drives along that stretch of road towards Isla Blanca, her tires go flat 3 times.

Yucatan Folklore Part 3

Another alux story from the town of Yobain!

To read my previous stories on Yucatan’s mystical pranksters, the aluxes, check out the following:

Yucatan Folklore Part 1

Yucatan Folklore Part 2

Uncle Mike told us another story about an alux encounter from when he was a kid. Mike was walking through Yobain at night with his older brother, Eduardo. Mike looked behind him, and suddenly saw two bright red eyes following them down the road. He told Eduardo, who replied “Don’t look at it, just keep walking.” They got home quickly, and once they were inside the house, Eduardo said “I can’t believe that thing was following me again.”

To answer some questions from previous posts, aluxes aren’t considered violent or evil. They love playing tricks on people, and if you deny their existence or mock them they will get even with you! (I actually have a pretty good story about aluxes getting even… ya’ll will read it next week!)

Yucatan Folklore Part 2

For those of you just joining in, this week I’m writing about aluxes, a mystical creature that haunts the jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula. Many of Jorge’s family members live in a small town in the Yucatan called Yobain, and on New Years Eve they told me about some of their run-ins with the supernatural.

Last summer, my brothers-in-law (Darwin and Jair) were staying the night at Uncle Mike’s house in Yobain. They were hanging out one evening with cousin IsisĀ  by the window.

Isis saw something moving on the neighbor’s roof. She pointed it out to Darwin and Jair. They climbed out onto the 2nd floor patio to get a better look. By then, it had crossed the street to a thatched roof home across from the house. Isis described this “alux” as being about 3 feet tall, sometimes moving on all fours and sometimes moving on two legs. It had “eyes that burned red like coals” and the only way she could describe it’s body was as a white, glowing shadow.

The three of them got so scared, that they went back inside and closed all the curtains.

Street in front of Uncle Mike's house (the yellow wall on the right is their house, and you can see the thatched roof home on the left) Sorry about the blurriness.

Yucatan Folklore Part 1

On New Years Eve, we went to Jorge’s Uncle Mike’s house for a gift exchange with his dad’s side of the family.

As I’ve mentioned before, most of Jorge’s dad’s family lives in a small town in the state of Yucatan called Yobain. This little town is filled with lush jungle vegetation, locals riding their bikes, people chatting with neighbors on doorsteps, and beautiful white-washed stone walls around many of the houses.

The Yucatan Peninsula is filled with incredible stories and superstitions handed down by the Mayan culture, and the town of Yobain is no exception.

After all the gifts were handed out, I sat around with Jorge, his father (also named Jorge), his Uncle Mike, Uncle Tony, Aunt Elsy and cousins Isis, Yaresbi and Damaris. Uncle Mike, one of the youngest in the family, spent the next hour telling us about some of the run-ins their family has had with Yucatan’s spirits, and I found myself with chills running down my spine.

This week, I’ll be telling you several of the stories Uncle Mike told us that night.

First of all, you should probably know a little more about the culture. The jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula are believed to be inhabited by “aluxes” (The “x” is pronounced like an “sh”… “a-loo-shes”). You’ll hear different stories about their appearance or where they came from, but everyone agrees that they have a child-like mentality. They love pranks, and will quickly get even with you if you insult them.

The first story took place years ago when brothers Mike, Jorge and Tony were walking through the streets of Yobain at night. Back when they were kids, this small town had no electricity and the streets were dark. They were walking along when they heard movement among some nearby trees. Startled, Tony calmed his brothers by saying it was probably just some other kids.

The three brothers continued walking until they reached the town’s central plaza. Here, they heard noises behind them but didn’t see anything, and began to feel frightened. Suddenly, Jorge was lifted up into the air by both arms by some invisible force, and the brothers could hear laughter. When Jorge reached a nearby corner, an older gentleman stepped out of his home. The invisible forces dropped Jorge back to the ground and left.

After hearing this story, I asked my father-in-law if he remembered this happening to him. He said that yes, he did.

More alux stories to come this week!

So Adorable I Can't Stand It

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Chabihau and Yobain was getting to see some newborn puppies! Jorge’s cousins have 3 dogs, and 2 of them had puppies together (again). They just so happen to be the brothers and sisters of my dog, Konan.

They’re 75% French poodle and 25% Maltese.

Prepare yourselves for cuteness…

And no, I didn’t take any home. 3 dogs is more than enough for me, thanks!