que chido wey..!! another blog..!!

courtesy of taringa.net

courtesy of taringa.net

Chido is a Mexican expression meaning cool. While wey is Mexican slang for ‘dude’ if you like someone or ‘jackass’ as an insult if you don’t. The other party will be able to tell whether it’s an insult or not by your tone, usage and the specific qualities of your relationship ๐Ÿ™‚

In this particular instance, my tone is excited, my usage is in good fun and my relationship with my fellow bloggers and readers is great..!! Therefore, que chido wey here translates to ‘how cool dude’..!! Now you might be pondering, ‘why is Rose in such a good mood?” Well, I will tell you.!

I received a request to write a weekly blog post for World Spa and Travel about Mexico..!! How cool is that?! Pretty chido, I’d say.! I will be writing fresh material for their Travel Network blog. So, if you get a chance and enjoy reading this blog please check out the post. I have included the link for you..!! Also, if you are interested in reading about other travel related matters, check out World Spa and Travel on their facebook page. I have included that link as well.!

http://www.theworldspa.com/travel-network/item/58-beyond-tacos-and-margaritas.html

https://www.facebook.com/WorldSpaandTravelMagazine

I hope you love the World Spa and Travel blog posts as much as the ones here..!! And by the way, que chido somos..!!

fungus and mushrooms – it’s whats for breakfast

coffee at "el hongo"

coffee at “el hongo”

One of the most memorable meals I had in Chiapas, Mexico was in Ocosingo, Chiapas. After my study abroad class, a few of us ventured on to Agua Azul waterfalls and the ruins at Palenque. Last week, I shared those photos and stories with you.! On our way, we stopped for breakfast at this wonderful roadside diner or comedor.

Ocosingo comedor "el hongo"

Ocosingo comedor “el hongo”

It was literally just on the side of the road in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere to me..!! The name of the comedor was El Hongo or the mushroom. Hahaha.. What a great name.! Though I have also heard it translated as fungus which is even funnier.! Usually, naming your restaurant after a mushroom or fungus is not considered inviting or appetizing.!

breakfast at "el hongo"

breakfast at “el hongo”

And I have to admit I was initally skeptical. But, I followed everyone else’s lead when ordering and was more than pleasantly surprised when my food arrived. The coffee was brought to me in an adorable mug. The fragrance itself woke me up and got me excited about the day. When the meal arrived, I couldn’t wait to dig in. I had ordered quesadillas with melted cheese and, of course, mushrooms..!! There was avocado on the side and fresh orange juice. There was also a slice of melon, but I ate it before I thought to take the photo above ๐Ÿ™‚ It was one of the best meals I have had far from ‘civilization’.

garden at Ocosingo "el hongo"

garden at Ocosingo “el hongo”

After the delicious meal, I naturally had to go to the restroom. Trepidatiously, I made my way to the back where the restroom was located. Once again, I was surprised to find this lovely garden on the way to el baรฑo. And the bathroom turned out to be just fine too (though I don’t have a photo to show you)..!! After so many strange and scary restrooms at rest stops in the States, I was grateful to find such well kept facilities. Eventually, we had to get our belongings together and be on our way to the waterfalls and ruins which turned out to be breathtaking.! But this little slice of breakfast on a road in Chiapas was no less spectacular.!

Tecate take 16

courtesy of tecate.com

courtesy of tecate.com.mx

It’s Friday..!! And I have nothing planned for the weekend. Honestly, I am pretty ok with that.! This week was another action packed adventure.! I am really looking forward to relaxing, enjoying the weather and maybe squeezing in a few naps ๐Ÿ™‚ jajaja… No seriously, I’m not kidding. I see a nap in my future ๐Ÿ™‚

The tecate commercial that I am leaving you with for this weekend is from the series Tecate con Carรกcter or Tecate with Character. It talks about knowing where you came from and knowing where you are going. Basically, it speaks about having character and how character is earned. And I have been doing a lot of thinking about where I have been and where I am going, so the commerical really resonated with me today. The commercial has subtitles so enjoy. Have a great weekend.! Y Salud.!

Palenque – the bone place

Temple of Inscriptions

El Templo de las Inscripciones or The Temple of Inscriptions

After my study abroad trip to Chiapas, a few of us continued on to Agua Azul waterfalls and Palenque. On Monday, I had posted a photo of my legs dangling over the rushing Agua Azul water.! Today, I want to show you Palenque.! Palenque is located near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas. It is a little over 400 miles or 7 1/2 hours from the Riviera Maya. From the Spanish colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas, it is about a 5 hour drive.

entrance to Palenque

entrance to Palenque

Palenque is the Spanish word for arena, palisade and fortification. It was so named because the ruins are laid out in an amphitheatre style with a central pyramid. However, the Tzeltal Mayan name for Palenque is Baak which translates to bone or boney. Hence, the reason it has sometimes been called the bone place. The bone reference may be due to possible ties to death, burials, spiritual rituals and sacrificial tombs.

Temple of the Skull

El Templo de la Calavera or The Temple of the Skull

The Mayan ruins of Palenque are considerably smaller than the sites at Tikal or Copan. However, in terms of some of the best architecture, sculpture, and bas relief carvings produced by the Mayans (and the fact that you can still climb the pyramids..!!), it holds its own against those two sites plus Chichen Itza and Uxmal.! Palenque was initially inhabitated around the first century BC. Under it’s ruler Pakal in the seventh century AD, it became a prominent city. The people began to abandon the city in the ninth century and several decades later it became a ghost town. For hundreds of years, it was hidden in the mist shrouded jungles of Mexico.! Finally to be discovered in the 19th century.!

The Temple of Inscriptions long view

El Templo de las Inscripciones or The Temple of Inscriptions long view

I loved Palenque..!! Just as the Caribbean Sea location of Tulum made it truly magical, the jungle location of Palenque is what made Palenque breathtaking. There were still many buildings that had not been resurrected from the jungle. Tour guides provided a hospitable pathway through the jungle to see some of these still “sleeping” ruins; as well as, useful historical anecdotes. Walking through the jungle was singularly one of the best experiences of my life. And possibly also one of the scariest as there still are real, live, wild animals walking in the jungle as well..!! But I enjoyed it immensely because if you closed your eyes for a moment and remained very quiet, you could almost see and hear the ancient Mayans bringing the city to life.!

El Palacio or The Palace

El Palacio or The Palace

The main buiding at Palenque is The Temple of Inscriptions or El Templo de las Inscripciones. It is the largest stepped pyramid at Palenque. The pyramid also houses the tomb of Pakal who had the building of the pyramid sanctioned after his death. The Temple of Inscriptions also contains much of the city’s recorded history. It is one of the pyramids I climbed while I was there. Though I have to admit I came down the pyramid sitting on my butt.! Just a little scared of heights and narrow stairs on the way down. But well worth the climb for the view at the top.!! The photo below was taken on the steppes with my study abroad group.!

DePaul study abroad group

DePaul study abroad group on the steppes of The Temple of Inscriptions

The other major building at Palenque is The Palace or El Palacio. It is a single storey building built in the shape of an irregular quadrilateral. The throne room is located inside The Palace. There are also three subterraneous ‘apartments’ inside. These ‘apartments’ house some of the many mysteries of Palenque, such as the three great stone tables (or alters). Also, originally the signature tower on The Palace did not have a roof. Ancient Mayans exhibited sophisticated astronomical knowledge and used the roofless platform for star gazing. However, early archaeologists who reconstructed the site were unaware of this morsel of Mayan history and put a roof of their own design on the tower.

me in a straw hat

me in a straw hat on top of The Temple of Inscriptions with The Palace’s tower in the background

The Palace was not only the residence of the king. It also was used as an administrative site and to celebrate large gatherings. On the east side of The Palace is a courtyard or patio called The Patio of the Captives or El Patio de los Cautivos. It was a perfect space for public events such as receiving other nobles and leaders. The enclosed walls are decorated with humiliated and captured slaves who were once free man to showcase the military prowess of the king.

patio of the captives

El Patio de los Cautivos or The Patio of the Captives

Other buidlings include The Temple of the Skull or El Templo de la Calavera. As you enter the temple, there is only one skull still intact. It appears to be part of a larger composition, but time, weather and the jungle have eroded the full stucco decoration. The Temples of the Cross group refer to the cross-like images which depict the tree of creation which is a central component of Mayan mythology. The grouping consists of The Temple of the Cross (El Templo de la Cruz), The Temple of the Sun (El Templo del Sol) and The Temple of the Foliated Cross (El Temple de la Cruz Foliada). It is said that if three people each stand on top of the three pyramids, they will be able to speak and hear each other without yelling. How cool..!!

bas relief at the patio of the captives

Bas relief at The Patio of the Captives

I highly recommend a visit to Palenque.! I know it is a little off the beaten path, but it is so worth the experience.! As a traveler, you can use San Cristobal de las Casas or the Riviera Maya as a home base. There are many tour operators who you can book a group tour with if you don’t want to drive yourself. Remember to bring plenty of sunscreen and wear a hat. It is not only particularly humid in the jungle, but being in the highlands (and so close to the equator) brings you nearer the sun.! Oh yeah, and let us not forget those pesky mosquitos.! It’s an adventure you will remember for a long time.! I know it’s one of my personal favorites ๐Ÿ™‚

Agua Azul Waterfall, Chiapas, Mexico

All last week, I talked about my study abroad class to Chiapas, Mexico and the lovely town of Nuevo Yibeljoj. This week, I thought I would concentrate on the two trips I took after the study abroad class. First we went to Agua Azul Waterfalls and then the Mayan ruins at Palenque. I will talk more about Palenque on Wednesday. Today, I leave you with a photo and post I submitted last week to toemail.wordpress.com – Check out their site at the link above the photo.!

Tecate take 15

courtesy of tecate.com

courtesy of tecate.com.mx

Happy Friday everyone..!! Feliz viernes a todos..!! I had an amazing week this week and I hope everyone else did too..!! I went to see “Man of Steel” and I really enjoyed myself. I had my doubts, but it turned out to be very entertaining and visually amazing. Also, this week, my blog was honored by being listed on the Expatsblog at this address – http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/2577/how-do-you-say-taco-in-spanish. If you get a chance, please take a peak. And if the moment strikes you, please say some nice things about my blog too..!! Thanks ๐Ÿ™‚

This Friday’s blog brings on the weekend with Tecate Abuela or Tecate grandmother. When I was growing up in Chicago both my grandmothers lived far away from me. And I too “adopted” several grandmotherly type women into my life to fill that void. However, I have to admit, I did not go to the lengths our Tecate drinker does in this week’s featured commercial.! At the end, the announcer boasts Tecate is for those men who do not have grandmothers or “para esos hombres que no tienen las abuelas“. Too funny..!! Enjoy your weekend..!! y Salud..!!

mocking birds

hanging out at union majomut

hanging out at union majomut

On Monday’s post, I talked about my initial visit to Nuevo Yibeljoj in Chiapas, Mexico. Meeting the children of the town at their school was one of the highlights of my trip. But of course the other highlight was talking about coffee.! As some of you may know, I have a thing for coffee ๐Ÿ™‚ After our initial meeting and the photograph of the peeking child, we were invited for lunch. So we followed these lovely women to our meal….

women from nuevo yibeljoj

women from nuevo yibeljoj

The lunch was delicious.! It consisted of chicken, rice and potatoes. There were also very spicy (picante) peppers if you wanted to add more zest to your dish.! And of course, there was coffee.!! It was straight from the villager’s farms to our cups. I think I had three cups..! It was so flavorful.! Muy sabroso.!

lunch in nuevo yibeljoj

lunch in nuevo yibeljoj

The village of Nuevo Yibeljoj belongs to the Union Majomut coffee cooperative. The majority of cooperative members are of Tzotzil and Tzeltal ethnic origin. The cooperative brings together more than 1000 coffee growing families. The main goal of Union Majomut is to empower indigenous communities which is why even the name is in the local language. Majomut means ‘mocking birds” in the native Tzotzil language. The cooperative was established in 1981 and is located in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas.

outside union majomuts' warehouse

outside union majomuts’ warehouse

In 1994, the cooperative became fair trade certified. This certification allowed the cooperative to continue enhancing the lives of coffee farmers through several methods. Union Majomut strengthened coffee production methods and improved coffee processing by converting to organic farming to conserve soil. It eliminated the use of middlemen or coyotes. The cooperative also organized women coffee growers and promoted micro banks in rural communities.

jute bag from union majomut

jute bag from union majomut

Union Majomut has received support from various foundations including the MacArthur Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and Oxfam Netherlands to name just a few. The coffee cooperative also sells coffee internationally to Cafe Direct and Pangaea. It was the thrill of a lifetime for me to not only be able to visit the coffee cooperative, but to also visit one of the villages that produces the coffee. The opportunity to sit and drink coffee with the actual farmers was a very humbling and rewarding trip for me.! I will never forget it because that trip changed my life ๐Ÿ™‚

If you are interested in learning more about Union Majomut – I have included their link –
http://majomut.org/#/Inicio-01-00/

esos ojos

esos ojos

In March of 2010, I took my last class for my master’s program. Luckily for me, that last class was also a study abroad trip to Chiapas, Mexico. While we were in Chiapas, we learned about sustainable growth, indigenous rights and the history of Mexico. We met with many groups, toured non-profit organizations and visited some villages. And of course, we ate some great food – moles, tacos, chicken, etc. And we drank some wonderful coffee as there are many coffee farms in Chiapas.!

front

One of the villages that most stands out for me during that trip is Nuevo Yibeljoj in Chiapas, Mexico. The town is in the highlands of Chiapas and in 2010 had a population of 595 residents. The town’s inhabitants are Tzeltal or Tzotzil speaking indigenous peoples. Many of the residents have small coffee farms in what can only be described as their backyards. The town belongs to the coffee cooperative Union Majomut. This is the reason I really enjoyed the coffee here. It was straight form the farms to the roaster to my coffee cup.! I promise in Wednesday’s post to speak more about the town, coffee and the coffee cooperative.

back

But today, I just want to describe the initial moments of that visit. We arrived at the town and were greeted very warmly. Eventually, our entire group was led to the building where all of the town’s ceremonies are held. There was a ritual performed before we entered and only aduts were allowed inside. The meeting was held in Tzeltal or Tzotzil (not sure), Spanish and English. However, while the meeting was very interesting, what soon caught most of our attention were the little kids from the town peeking through the wooden boards of the building.!!

side kids

I was able to capture what I believe is the best photo of this “peeking” because I was sitting the closest to the children who were outside. It was so precious.! And delightful.! As with all children, they were so curious to see who these strangers were (us – the students) and wanted to watch our every move. Later on, we went to the school and the children sang for us which was also truly amazing and inspiring. I have often wondered which of the children’s eyes I captured that day. But that will continue to remain one of life’s mysteries…..

front kids

Tecate take 14

courtesy of tecate.com

courtesy of tecate.com.mx

The weekend is here and honestly I need it to rest..!! jajaja… This last week has been a whirlwind between work and friends and errands. I even got to spend time with my former graduate group with whom I had traveled to Chiapas, Mexico.! We had a lovely dinner to welcome a fellow researcher from Chiapas who has come to Chicago for a few months. It was a lot of fun..!! And I got a lot done this week.!! So it was a good week ๐Ÿ™‚

My weekend is also jampacked – I am finally going to see the movie Before Midnight. I have heard good reviews about it. I am spending time with my father also which is always nice. Speaking of fathers, how was your dad about reading instructions? I don’t think my father ever read a booklet of instructions.! jajaja.. Which brings us to this weekends Tecate commerical called Tecate – por los que no siguen las instrucciones or Tecate – for those who don’t follow instructions. I am sure there are a few men (and women) out there who are guilty of this practice. Enjoy the commercial.! Enjoy the weekend.! Y Salud..!!

no thanks.!

courtesy of thegoodspark.com

courtesy of thegoodspark.com

As with every relationship, there are the aspects you love and adore. And then, there are the aspects you wish would go the way of the dodo bird.! In other words, you hope they become extinct and disappear. So, it should come as no surprise that my relationship with Mexico, in general, and Playa del Carmen, specifically, has the same attributes.

On Monday, I waxed eloquently, or at least waxed, about all of my favorite components about living in Mexico. Today, I am going to touch upon those less desirable parts of my life as an expat. They are in no particular order –

1) Clowns on buses.! Now as you all know form my post about clowns. I don’t like clowns at all, but especially when they are on buses asking you for money.! I do not miss those clowns at all..!!

clowns in playa del carmen courtesy of yucatanliving.com

clowns in playa del carmen courtesy of yucatanliving.com

2) Lines at the bank and the ATMs – Mexico still resides somewhere between a first world country and a third world country. Most people in Mexico get paid by having their wages deposited into a bank account. The bank account is usually provided by your employer or it can be set up by yourself. It is called a nomina account. Unfortunately, this means long lines at all the ATMs on the 15th and last day of the month as this is when almost everyone gets paid..!! And since most transactions are still in cash, people get in line to take out all or most of the money they will need for the next 2 weeks. Also, if someone pays you with a check, it’s almost a death sentence because you can’t deposit it into your account. You need to go to the bank in person to cash the check! So don’t miss that.!

courtesy of travelyucatan.com

courtesy of travelyucatan.com

3) Working 6 days a week.!! In most tourist areas in Mexico, employees are required to work 7-10 hour days, six days a week.! Of course, this doesn’t include doctors, lawyers or those who are not directly in the tourist industry, but still that does include a lot of people.! I don’t know about you, but back in the states, we complain about working 5 days a week with only the weekend off (or 2 days during the week). But in Mexico, there are slews of workers who only get one day off to run their errands which might include waiting in the pinche bank line to cash a check or spend a day with family and friends at the beach. I definitely don’t miss that.!

El Fogon - courtesy of vimeo.com

El Fogon – courtesy of vimeo.com

4) Low wages.! Many workers in Mexico get paid very small wages. Waiters, cabdrivers, hotel workers make anywhere from $100 to $800 dollars a month. Even police officers in Mexico make about $700 a month or $8,000 annually. That is why many in the tourist industry rely so heavily on tips. Of course, career positions such as lawyers and doctors do make a little more money, but not much more because then how would the average worker afford those services? Anyhoo, don’t miss this either.

courtesy of cartoonstock.com

courtesy of cartoonstock.com

5) Visa issues – Of course all foreign workers in Mexico need a visa to work. That is not the issue. Even really the amount of time it takes to get a worker visa, known as a FM3 or FM2, is not the issue. The issue is the cost associated with the visa which is anywhere from $300 to $700 depending on what you need. And the draconian rules that require foreigners to update their work visa anytime they change venues and/or positions. So if you are a concierge at one hotel and then transfer to another hotel to be a hotel maid – you have to pay to change the hotel and the position.! Therefore, changing jobs becomes even more difficult because what average worker has $600 just laying around to keep changing jobs.! Don’t miss that either.!

courtesy of blueroadrunner.com

courtesy of blueroadrunner.com

6) Water.!! I have to say I am enjoying turning on the faucet in Chicago and cleaning my vegetables underneath it and drinking from the faucet ๐Ÿ™‚ No more purchasing huge bottles (or small bottles) for drinking. No more purchasing aqua mira (or other iodine based water purification) in order to clean my vegetables. Yay.!! Another don’t miss.

courtesy of kongrex.com.br

courtesy of kongrex.com.br

7) Telcel.! But really IUSAcell, Nextel, Movistar, etc. How nice to have a phone plan.!! No more adding money for minutes which seem to run out the moment I call someone.! No more wondering when my minutes will run out. Now, there are phone plans in Mexcio, don’t get me wrong. But they are harder for foreigners to get and the ones that Mexicans have also have pre-determined minutes that run out before their due date. Unlimited minutes and text messages – love it..!! So yeah don’t miss running out of minutes.!

courtesy of servicio.mercadolibre.com.mx

courtesy of servicio.mercadolibre.com.mx

8) Mosquitos.! I have never had a problem with mosquitos in Chicago. They usually bit everyone else I knew. But being surrounded by (or sometimes in) a jungle most of the time, I did not get the same luxury treatment in Playa. I was a bonafide all you can eat buffet for those pesky mosquitos. And of course, snakes and scorpions, but mosquitos were more prevalent. For sure don’t miss that.!

courtesy of cartoonsy.com

courtesy of cartoonsy.com