Why I Can’t Compete with Mexican Women

My first clue was 9 years ago at university here in Cancun.

In 1st semester, my Mexican classmates would frequently ask me, “Laura, where are your earrings?” “Laura, why didn’t you do your hair today?” “Laura, why do you have huge bags under your eyes?” So for the past 9 years, I have made sure to never leave the house without earrings and concealer. The comments have almost entirely disappeared. (I still don’t “do” my hair, though, because I’m not sure what that means. Now that it’s super-long, nobody says anything, so I think I’m ok.)

On Saturday, Jorge and I went to a wedding. I put on a pretty dress, strapped on some nice sandals and covered my face in exorbitant quantities of makeup. This time, I was determined to get it right.

And yet, once we were at the reception, I looked around me and saw scores of Mexican women with beautifully crafted makeup designs. We were surrounded on all sides by immaculately blended smoky eyes, perfectly glossed lips and expertly placed lashes, all complemented by skin-tight cocktail dresses, push-up bras and sky-high heels. These women are good. My makeup looked bland and colorless by comparison. So what is a girl to do? I rushed to the ladies room, where I had to wait for two tween girls to take some selfies before I achieved mirror access, then I put on as much eyeliner as my eyes could handle. Better. But still not enough. Eyeliner was all I had in my arsenal, so it would have to do for now. I swore that for the next big social event, I would attempt a smoky eye.

Today, it’s happening all over again. The internet at my house is down, so I had to rush to Starbucks this morning to start work at 9am. I barely had time to wash my hair before I left the house, but I did manage to shower and miraculously iron my shirt. So here I am right now, sitting at Starbucks, with a naked face and damp, tangled hair. This Starbucks, however, is a fancy Starbucks. The people who come here are Cancun’s elite… or at least, they pretend to be. The women here have perfectly straightened hair and brightly colored wardrobes that look anything but effortless, or sometimes expensive workout gear paired with a full face of makeup so they can look spectacular during a session at the nearby gym. When the men walk past my table in their tightly-fitting button-up shirts and overly gelled hair, overpowering scents of Lacoste and D&G reach my nostrils for a brief instant. My ears are filled with the sounds of the baristas preparing Pumpkin Spice Lattes, the giggles of 30-something Mexican trophy wives, and the over-enunciations of Mexican businessmen trying to impress their colleagues. It’s a fashion show, and I showed up unprepared.

And surprise, surprise… once again, I’m the only female in the room with no earrings.

 

A Cancun-Style Fairytale

In summer 2005, I left my family and friends behind. At age 19 I had moved to Cancun, a place where I didn’t know anybody. My first memory of the city is riding in a van from the airport to the downtown bus station. The van passed through the entire length of the Cancun Hotel Zone, stopping to let off other passengers along the way. The city had me hooked immediately. From that first van ride from the airport, I was mesmerized by the glittering lights of the huge beach hotels. This was where I belonged.

This week, 9 years of exploring, writing and learning have culminated in something pretty cool: one of the biggest travel publications in the world has named me a Cancun expert.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’m the Travel + Leisure Cancun Local Expert!

It’s every travel writer’s dream to write for a huge publication like Travel + Leisure, and I’m beyond happy to be working with them. I’ll be sharing my Travel + Leisure articles periodically on the Gringation Blog Facebook page so you can see even more of this city that I love so much.

They also have an extensive list of other great travel experts in different cities across the globe, which you can see here. I’m in good company.

From confused teenage American in 2005… to top Cancun travel expert in 2014!

Thanks to my parents for going along with my crazy move to Mexico, to Jorge for always being there to convince me I’m superwoman, to my boss Michele Kinnon at BuyPlaya Real Estate for recommending me to Travel + Leisure, and to all of my Mexican friends who have showed me what this culture is all about over the past decade.

Rapsodia Bazar: Showcasing Cancun’s Designers and Artists

I cannot stress enough just how happy I am that Cancun is starting to create its very own art culture.

This weekend was yet another example thanks to Rapsodia Bazar. This little market has popped up 3 times now, showcasing local Cancun artists, designers and small business owners in a 1-day event.

Saturday was my second time at Rapsodia Bazar (more on my 1st visit here), and this time they hosted the event at the large park in the Supermanzana 20 neighborhood of downtown Cancun. I didn’t make it there until 7pm and it was already dark. I also hear they had a lot more stuff earlier in the day, which surprised me because there was still quite a lot left!

Here’s a taste of what I found:

Overall I loved the location in the park, and I found tons of stuff I considered buying. My only complaint would be that some of the items didn’t seem very unique. I saw very similar items at different tables, especially some of the jewelry.

I only bought 1 thing this time: yet another piece of art by Michelle Bordon! (See Michelle’s Facebook page here.)I bought a toucan drawing from her at the last Rapsodia Bazar, and this time I bought a very large hermit crab. Normally I’m not much of an art freak, but I can’t get enough of these. They’re done with pen! This guy is gonna go in my office:

Thank you Rapsodia Bazar for contributing to Cancun’s cultural scene! You can follow Rapsodia Bazar on Facebook here.

Cancun Art Right Under My Nose

Anyone who lives in Cancun knows that locals love nothing better than to complain about how little culture the city has to offer. We’re only 40 years old, and the entire state of Quintana Roo used to only be populated by a few scattered Mayan villages. Over 90% of Cancun residents are originally from other parts of Mexico (and the world), so we’re still trying to figure out who we are. Personally, I kind of love being part of something new and exciting where I can be an important element in forming the city’s culture and legacy. (I flatter myself by considering this little blog to be part of the Cancun cultural evolution process.)

At any rate, this past Sunday after church I talked Jorge into going on a field trip. We walked over to the intersection of Calle Labna and Avenida Tulum in downtown Cancun because I had seen from a distance some cool murals and graffiti on the walls surrounding a water tower. Jorge, my camera and I found a whole lot more than we expected!

First were the painted trees. I have no idea who painted them, or when, or why, but they’re pretty cool. Here are just a few…

 

Two of the walls surrounding the water tower were covered in graffiti. Have blank canvas, will tag.

Normally I’m not a fan of vandalism, but I have to admit I kinda love all the color.

 

But the other 2 walls have the best part of all: the Mayan murals. It was pretty spectacular. Dare I say the best day of my camera’s short life thus far.

 

And the most awesome element: the skull helmets. We need to make this the latest fashion trend. Who’s with me?

For more of my pics of the Mayan mural and to find out where it came from, click through to my latest blog post on Cancun360.mx.

Fish Fritanga: Authentic Mexican Seafood in Cancun

I’ve been gone from the blog awhile… lots of work, lots of trips, but now I’m back. It looks like I have finally caught up on all my work. (Famous last words, amiright?) If you want to catch up on what I’ve been doing, I post mostly to my CancunGringa Instagram account now. Still, I really miss blogging and hopefully now I can get back into it.

Back to the blog post at hand… A few weeks ago, Jorge and I had a lunch date! We used to go on dates all the time, but lately we’ve been hanging out more with friends on the weekends. We decided to revisit Fish Fritanga, where we had gone once with my blogging buddy Ang and her fiance (now husband!) and loved. Fish Fritanga is a little bit expensive, in my opinion, but it has the best seafood I’ve ever had in Cancun. It tastes just like the freshly caught seafood we eat with Jorge’s family in Chabihau, Yucatan, so it must be authentic!

It’s located in the Hotel Zone, about halfway between Plaza La Isla and Plaza Kukulcan on the lagoon side. From the street it looks like a tiny takeout place, but if you head downstairs you’ll find the main restaurant and bar area with palapas on the sand and views of the Nichupte Lagoon.

It looks empty in the pictures (and it was), but that’s only because Jorge and I got there early. The big lunch crowd came in as we were finishing our meal, around 2 pm. Since we got there before the crowd, we picked a table right by the lagoon/marina/mangrove and got to watch the little fish swimming around.

We started off with some guac…

And I couldn’t resist asking for a mojito, which had some words of wisdom to offer:

"A veces no hacer nada es hacer algo" (Sometimes doing nothing is doing something)

For the main course, Jorge got his usual ceviche, while I got my favorite: chilpachole soup!

If you’re ever in Cancun, Fish Fritanga is one of my top restaurant recommendations. (My 3rd favorite!) Authentic Mexican seafood, great outdoor atmosphere, and an easy-to-find location right in the middle of the Hotel Zone.

 

Beach Day With Some Amigos

I haven’t been posting as much lately because I’ve been ridiculously busy (a very very good kind of busy, even if it drives me crazy sometimes), but I did get some free time this weekend to go to the beach with some friends. We went to Forum Beach in the Cancun Hotel Zone on a whim, and it was such a cool day.

Here come the pics…

My amigo Miguel

Missey and Miguel

Me and Missey

Missey and me

Who do you like to go to the beach with?

Jorge Lives It Up at Cancun’s SoyCerveza Beer Fest

Last Friday and Saturday, The City Beach Club in the Cancun Hotel Zone hosted SoyCerveza, an international beer festival on the beach. (For my non-Spanish speaking amigos, “SoyCerveza” translates to “I Am Beer”… not “Beer Made with Soy” haha)

There was a reggae band, a DJ and a cool lounge atmosphere in the evening. We stayed til 1 am, and the party was still going strong! Entrance bracelets were free, but to try beer you we had to purchase a tall glass for $50 pesos. Beer could be purchased in a sample amount (20 pesos and up) or as a full glass (80 pesos and up).

I didn’t have any because I hate the taste of beer, but Jorge was in heaven. His favorites were the Canadian and German beers, but he enjoyed some of the cheaper Mexican beers, too. Mexicans tend to drink only lighter beers at parties and get-togethers, so Jorge took advantage of the event and ordered his beloved dark beers.

I saw a ton of friends there, and it was a great night listening to music and sitting on the beach. I’m positive Jorge will want to go back next year!

Have you ever been to a beer festival?

 


A Weekend of Clubbing in Cancun

Jorge had to work the graveyard shift Friday and Saturday. Since I don’t like being in the house by myself all night, I decided to make the most of it and spend each night out!

 

Friday Night in Party Center

I met up with Nadia for a girls night out at Señor Frog’s in Cancun’s Party Center. Can you believe I’d never been there after living here 7 years? I’d always heard it had a crazy party atmosphere, but I think we might have gone on a dull night. There were plenty of people and the music was good, but it wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.

I will say that the guys there were a bit… um… “agressive”, and I felt pretty uncomfortable the whole time we were there. We even had this conversation:

Argentinean Guy: You guys should really try this drink I just ordered! It’s so good!

Nadia and Me: Umm, no thanks.

Argentinean Guy: No really! It’s good for your heart.

Nadia and Me: No, no thanks.

After the weird Argentinean drink incident and several other frightening moments, I’ve come to the conclusion that women should never go to Señor Frog’s unless they’re with a large group or there’s a guy present.

Senor Frog's

Next we walked up the strip to Congo, my personal favorite. It was packed (as always), but at one point they turned the fans off and it got so hot that we wandered next door to XX Bar. I love XX, although it gets so crowded that it’s hard to dance much. There were tons of people there and everyone was having the best time, plus they play a lot of hip hop, which I love to dance to (even if I’m really bad at it)

A very blurry XX Bar

We also saw a guy who looked exactly like Peeta from Hunger Games. I really wanted to get a picture with him, but I didn’t want to freak the poor guy out.

All in all, I only spent $130 pesos the entire night (about $10 US dollars)! Since Nadia and I don’t drink, we just chose Party Center clubs that don’t charge cover, then didn’t order anything while we were there. We did buy some bottled water at the Oxxo between clubs, though, and we got some snacks at Surfin Burrito before we went home.

 

Saturday Night in Downtown Cancun

I went out to celebrate my friend Grelty’s birthday at Dubai, a popular nightclub for locals in downtown Cancun. While tourists usually dress pretty casual to go to the club in Party Center (I wore shorts and flip flops on Friday, for example), locals loooove to get all dressed up in their most sparkly outfits and their highest heels. I fit right in:

Sparkly top? Check. New jeans? Check. Sky-high heels? Check.

At Dubai, nobody gets too crazy because Cancun is a small town, and you probably know/work with/went to college with half of the people there. Mostly it’s just locals wearing cool outfits and dancing a lot, which I don’t mind at all!

Benja, Penny and Jhonny

Me, Nelly and gorgeous birthday girl Grelty

Penny and me 🙂

At Dubai, I only spent $40 pesos (about $3 US dollars). I ordered a bottle of water, which Jhonny generously offered to pay for, and I only had to pay for my cab ride home!

That’s just $13 dollars for 4 nightclubs plus Surfin Burrito! Transportation included! It may not be for everybody, but not drinking at the club can be a huge money saver. 🙂

Bonus: I even managed to get up on time for church Sunday morning.

What are the nightclubs like where you live?

Reader Photo Requests: My Neighborhood

When I asked for Reader Photo Requests last week, Meredith and Joe asked to see more of my day-to-day life. Sometimes things that seem so ordinary to me might be interesting to someone else, like my neighborhood.

I love my neighborhood! It’s very family-oriented and everyone always says “buenos días” when they see me walking down the street. The best part about it is the parks. Even though Cancun is a tropical tourist destination, the downtown area (where the locals live) is surprisingly low on green areas and parks. We do have some great ones, but they are few and far between throughout the city. My neighborhood is one of the few exceptions! We have a small park on every corner, along with 3 large ones.

Here are some pics of the little park by my street.Whenever I walk by and see the palm trees, I remember I’m in paradise. (Minus the brown patches of grass and the middle-school graffiti, of course.)

**I apologize for the less-than-stellar photo quality. I snapped these on my way back from work while holding my gym bag and purse.**

What’s the best thing about your neighborhood?

Weight Loss and 5K Training

Hopefully this will be one of my last weight loss update 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

Diet

Remember that 2-week diet from hell I was just on to get over my end-game weight loss plateau? Well, it worked! I was able to lose 2 whole pounds (1 kg). That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s actually quite good when you’re right near the end. I’m at 132 pounds, with only 4 pounds to go to get to a healthy % body fat. My regular weight loss diet is now back in place (with a few less portions of carbs per day, but still nice), so I’m a happy girl.

My nutritionist even asked me if I wanted to stay where I am or continue. Wow! That means that she thinks I’m A-ok! I told her I wanted to get rid of the last 4 pounds to be at the % body fat that I should be, so onward we go.

Here are some more before and after pics… not very recent, but enough to give you an idea of how my double chin has disappeared! When I get down to my goal weight, I’ll be sure to have some awesome pictures for ya.

Before

After

Exercise

I’ve also decided to train for a 5K that’s coming up in August. This is very scary because I am horrible at running. Always have been. Back in grade school in Virginia we had physical fitness testing twice a year, and I always dreaded running “The Mile”. I was always among the last kids to cross the finish line, and the experience was just humiliating.

And now I’m doing it voluntarily.

This is what happens when you have too many athletic friends to talk you into things.

Most of you have probably heard of the Couch to 5K (C25K) program, and that’s what I’m using to train (along with a few friends). I’m just about to start Week 4 of the program, and it’s going… ok. It’s still unclear if I’ll be able to run the entire 5K without walking, but I will at least cross the finish line without crawling.

Several of my friends will also be participating and a few of them are at about my same level, so we’ve been keeping eachother motivated and even running together on a few occasions.

I started out training on the treadmill at the gym, but trust me: the treadmill is much, much easier than running outside. So this week, after some advice from my friends, I’m starting to do the vast majority of my running outdoors. Cancun has some great areas for running. Maybe I can post about that sometime next week.

What’s the biggest personal challenge you’ve ever overcome?