Wow. Done.

Sorry about the lack of posting over the past week or two. Life has been BUSY (a very, very good kind of busy with mini-vacations and lots of new projects). I’m kicking myself that I didn’t set up my Gringation Facebook page sooner because it has been a great way to share my adventures when I’m not able to do a full post.

One major thing that happened recently was…

I reached my goal weight!

My nutritionist had recommended that I get down to 24% body fat, and 30 pounds of fat later, I’m finally done!!

The new dieta de mantenimiento (“maintenance diet”) has been a-ma-zing. The fat loss diet never left me hungry, but it is so weird to be eating 3 TIMES as many carbs as I used to. I also get 2 cheat meals a week, plus the occasional brownie, should the opportunity present itself. When I saw the list for my new diet, I actually got tears in my eyes. It was so much food. I’ll be honest, most days I don’t eat all the portions I’m supposed to, and that’s 100% ok.

I’ve also been keeping up with my workouts. Today I ran 2K without stopping for the first time ever! A new record! Then I ran/walked another 6K after that. What a morning.

So here are the before and after pics for today…

Before: 160 pounds and 35% body fat

After: 130 pounds and 24% body fat

Aaaaand the face…

Before: 160 pounds

After: 130 pounds

 

Thanks to all my readers for the amazing support, e-mails, comments, workout tips and compliments. Ya’ll are THE BEST.

 

Read more about my weight loss journey with these posts:

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 1

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 2

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 3

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 4

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 5

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 6

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 7

Weight Loss Before and After: Part 8

 

 

How to Halfway Graduate from a Mexican University

I graduated from university here in Cancun 3 years ago. I studied Tourism Administration, a 4-year degree that required about twice as many courses as a USA university and no less than 5 internships, along with 240 hours of community service. My expat friends and I often joke that here in Mexico, they feel that more work must mean better work, which is why they Mexican companies looooove 6-day work weeks.

Back in 2009, my class had a lovely little graduation ceremony. I even have a graduation picture to prove it…

So that means I’m done, right?

Wrong.

At my university (and I believe at many other Mexican universities), after you graduate, you need to do one of 3 things:

  1. Take a 1-semester course to study for a huge final exam
  2. Write a thesis
  3. Have an overall GPA of at least 9 (in Mexico, grades go from 0 – 10)

I was lucky enough to have a GPA of 9.01, meaning I didn’t have to take the final course/exam or write a thesis. Hurray!

So I began my paperwork to get my 9.01 GPA approved to be able to get my official degree. Most students in Mexico take about 1.5 years to get all this paperwork done and approved. Due to several immigration paperwork issues (nothing bad, just incredibly annoying), my degree paperwork took about 3 years to complete.

Last night, I was finally able to attend the ceremony for my “Toma de Protesta”, which is when university graduates take an oath promising to uphold the university’s values and ethics when working in their chosen profession. It also means I am now officially a “licenciada”, a fancy title given to people who have completed their 4-year degree in Mexico.

Here's me (in black) shaking hands with all the university coordinators... again.

Me with my college friends Jhovana and Juan (sorry about the redeye)

I was also under the impression that at this ceremony, I would be given my degree and my “cedula profesional”, an official document to show potential employers that I have completed my degree… although I’m not sure why it’s necessary because every single person I graduated with was able to get a good job in the tourism field before receiving their cedula profesional.

However, I found out last night that I have only put in the paperwork for my degree and cedula profesional… I won’t actually receive them for another 6 – 8 months. No word yet as to whether there’s a 3rd hand-shaking ceremony in my future.

As much as I love the frequent visits to my university, I really just want this to be over with. I’ve jumped through enough hoops.

Come on, Mexico. What gives?

Expat Life: Do You Immerse Yourself in the Local Culture?

There’s a lot of debate about just how much an expat should integrate into the local culture. During my years in Cancun, I’ve met many expats who hang out almost exclusively with Mexicans. I’ve met even more expats who have mostly expat friends and hardly speak any Spanish. I also know lots of people who fall somewhere in the middle. Some expats criticize others for living in an expat neighborhood, not learning Spanish, not socializing with Mexicans, etc etc etc.

Here’s my personal experience:

When I first came down to Cancun, I went to a Mexican university, had all Mexican friends and lived with Mexican roommates. For 4 years, I watched only Mexican TV (didn’t have enough money for cable), listened to mostly Mexican music and only talked to Mexican friends online (Facebook wasn’t around yet.) I would often miss home and my family, but at no point did I ever really miss the American culture. Still, with nobody around to understand the culture shock I was going through, I was often in a bad mood and sometimes became a little anti-social. There were great memories and my amazing college friends were unfailingly patient with my endless questions, but I often felt kind of alone. Sundays were always especially hard for me because Mexicans spend Sunday with the family… and I had no family here.

University Me with Damayanti, one of my best amigas in college and today 🙂

Soon before I graduated, Facebook became popular and I was once again able to be in touch with my old friends from back in the States. I also discovered celebrity gossip websites. Even though they’re a horrible habit, for some reason I felt that these gossip sites connected me in some small way to my culture.

Amigos Cesar, Pamela, Jhovana and Graduation Me

After I graduated, I began to work a job with a few other native English-speaking expats. They introduced me to some online expat communities and I began blogging. Finally I got cable TV, which in Mexico means lots of American TV shows (with Spanish subtitles, of course). At this stage, I still hold on to many of my Mexican friends and of course now I have a huge Mexican family through my husband Jorge, but lately I’ve become closer to my expat friends. It’s so great to be able to speak in Spanglish, rave about how great it is to live in Cancun and yes, occasionally gripe about things in Mexico that annoy us.

The current Me, hanging out with Mexican amiga Cyndi and Brazilian amiga Nadia

I’ve seen both sides, immersing myself in the culture 100% for 4 years, which allowed me to learn everything I possibly could from the Mexican culture, open up my mind and even take on a few cultural traits that I used to hate but now love. However, after leaning more toward the expat community in the past 3 years, I’ve found friendships where I can be more open about my frustrations and reclaim a bit of my “American-ness” without leaving behind everything I’ve learned.

The new me loves trashy American reality shows, enjoys Mexican banda music, listens to Top 40, eats tortas, only reads books in English, speaks 100% Spanish at home, speaks 100% Spanish at work, speaks Spanglish with her friends and loves to explore Mexico. I’m able to take the best of what I love from both countries and make my life my own.

That’s just my experience, though.

What do you think? Should expats be closer to the Mexican culture or their home culture?

Culture Shock Strikes Again

Even after 7 years in Cancun, I still go through culture shock from time to time (as evidenced in the infamous sheet shopping incident a few months ago). These downswings used to last weeks and weeks when I first moved down here, but now they typically only last anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 days.

Today I went to lunch at Plaza Las Americas, downtown Cancun’s main mall. I was already frustrated that the ATM at work was broken (which seems to happen pretty much every payday… convenient) and I didn’t have enough money on me to buy lunch. The salad place at the food court informed me that they only accept cash. This wasn’t surprising, but it did begin a stream of curse words and arguments in my head.

  • “Why don’t most places in Mexico accept cards? They have the technology!”
  • “But wait… even the places that do accept cards always have problems with their machines not working.” (Starbucks, I’m looking at you.)
  • “If I were in the US, they’d let me buy a salad with a card. Heck, I bet they’d even have ATMs that don’t break down every 2 weeks!”
  • “Well now I have to walk aaaaaallll the way to the mall ATM just to get $100 pesos. FML.”
  • “Stupid Mexico with their stupid cash only policies.”

And then a miracle happened.

When I finally got back to the salad place with my cash in hand, the cashier gave me this with my meal:

That’s a free card worth 10 movie tickets at just $39 pesos each! (Just over $3 USD)

They may not accept cards at many places, but I’ll be darned if Mexico doesn’t have much better movie prices than the USA.

God bless you, Mexico.

Foam Party at The City

Last Wednesday, Jorge and I went to a foam party at The City nightclub in the Cancun Hotel Zone. We had an absolute blast! It was mostly tourists there because it was a weeknight, which usually makes it more fun.

Here are some pics from the night (click to enlarge):

Pre-foam, amazing view from the DJ box

I was so psyched to see LMFAO, even if they were just impersonators!

I love how the foam looks like lava in this one!

Another lava-esque picture

Me and Jorge 🙂

This guy passed out pretty early on at midnight, just when the party was getting started! Jorge defined this moment as "Screw fun. I'm going to sleep."

 Have any of you ever been to a foam party? What did you think?

I Ran One Mile Today

When I was growing up, we had physical fitness tests twice every school year. Part of these tests included a timed 1-mile run. From 4th grade through 10th grade, I remember always dreading “running the mile”. It was such an embarrassing experience, even though I’m sure I’m the only one who cared about my time. I hated being among the last kids to cross the finish line. Always. I could only ever run part of it and had to walk the rest, and my time was always one of the slowest ones in my class. Running the full mile without walking was something only the more athletic kids could do, and my entire life I’ve had this mental block telling me that I’m too weak to run a full mile.

But I ran 1 mile today.

Without stopping.

At 6 am.

And my running buddy Nadia told me this:

Mexico vs USA: When to Move Out?

Last night, Jorge and I were talking about a friend of ours who recently moved out of his parents’ house at the age of 25.

  • My thoughts: Ok.
  • Jorge’s thoughts: Well that’s controversial!

In the USA, most people move out of their parents’ house when they get a steady job after high school. Others go off to college, live there for 4 years, then move their leftover stuff out of their parents’ house when they get a job after graduating. If anyone is still living with their parents after age 23 or 24, it’s most likely because for whatever reason, they can’t afford to live on their own (not uncommon in today’s economy).

In Mexico, things are quite different. People are much more dependent on their families. Mexicans typically don’t move out of their parents’ home until one of three things happens:

  • They decide to study in another part of the country (somewhat rare)
  • They get a job in another part of the country
  • They get married

Universities in Mexico don’t typically have dorms or any kind of on-site living facilities, so most Mexicans choose to go to school somewhere close to the house they grew up in. I had a few friends in college here in Cancun who were living with roommates since they came from another state, but most of my university classmates were still at their parents’ house. I also know several Mexicans who have gotten 2 or 3 college degrees, all while living at home. Once, a 25-year-old friend even told me, “I’m thinking about moving into my own place, but my mother would be heartbroken. She’d wonder where she went wrong!”

Even now at age 26, the vast majority of my Mexican friends still live with their parents. I do know a few newlywed couples who live in their own home, and Jorge of course moved out of his parents’ house when we got married (although we almost moved into my in-laws’ upstairs apartment to save money).

Jorge with his family 🙂

Personally this is a cultural aspect that still boggles my mind. As someone who grew up in a culture where you finish school then get the heck out, it’s hard to comprehend why someone would want to put their independence on hold until they get married. Obviously the Mexican system works quite well, so I can’t criticize it, and I can’t say there’s anything wrong about it (sometimes I even wish I could live rent-free) … I just don’t understand it on a personal level because I was surrounded by something completely different growing up.

It’s common for me to have strong personality clashes with my Mexican friends, and lately I’ve formed stronger friendships with other expats (Canadians, Brazilians, Americans, Brits, Australians, etc). I sometimes wonder if it’s because my expat friends and I been living independently for so many years (7 years for me), while most of my Mexican friends still live at home and have a different, more family-oriented mindset. Or maybe it’s some other cultural difference.

Since the day I moved here and to this very day 7 years later, the most common question I get asked by Mexicans I meet is, “And your parents were ok with you moving away? What did they say?”

Friday Night at Sensations Club

Friday night, a group of girlfriends invited me to a new Cancun club called Sensations. I hadn’t heard of it, but it just opened a few weeks ago and looks like the new hotspot for Cancun locals.

Sensations is an outdoor nightclub located in the downtown area on Avenida Bonampak. (Lately all the great new bars, restaurants and shopping centers seem to be popping up all along Avenida Bonampak. It’s the new place to be!) Located on the rooftop of a small plaza, it has a lounge atmosphere and great views of the lagoon, Puerto Cancun and the Hotel Zone.

The place was packed by 1 am, and the DJ played a lot of my favorite new pop songs as well as some techno (I hate techno haha)

I’ve been to so many clubs in the 7 years that I’ve lived in Cancun and I’m really picky about music, but I have to admit that Sensations was one of my favorites so far.

Viri, me and Cyndi

Amigas!

Most of the partygoers seemed to be around my age, from 18 to 30 years old. I’d highly recommend this rooftop lounge to all my local friends.

What’s your favorite club in Cancun?