This is not Mexico, you are in the Yucatán…

Walking off the plane in Merida from Mexico City was a contrast of pace. The intense hustle and madness of Mexico City was met by calming Caribbean style music and a warm Yucatan breeze.

Our hotel is simple, spacious and clean. The Luz de Yucatan https://www.luzenyucatan.com/en/home-2/ is right in Centro Historico so we walk out to the Merida night. Music echoes through the streets as restaurants wake up for post comida and what we call dinner is La Cena. La Cena starts about 7pm and builds into the evening. 

We walk the streets taking it all in and feeling the warmth of the Yucatan. Warmth in the weather and the people. One man we met asked us; de donde eres?Where are you from? We answered: “vivimos en San Miguel de Allede aqui en Mexico.”  He answered quickly in English.  “This is not Mexico, you are in the Yucatan.”  The people of the Yucatan hold on to their Mayan heritage like no other. They continue to hold on to the Mayan language and customs. He is angry about Mexico, the gangs, the crime, the extreme violence. “We do not rape women and kill people.”

To the people of New York, Paris, or London, “death” is a word that is never pronounced because it burns the lips. The Mexican, however, frequents it, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, celebrates it; it is one of his favorite toys and most steadfast love. Of course, in his attitude perhaps there is as much fear as there is in one of the others; at least he does not hide it; he confronts it face to face with patience, disdain, or irony.

The Labyrinth of Solitude (1950)

He said. “Do not be afraid, you are in Yucatan. We did feel the difference. We stick out as tall big headed Americans but they did not hawk us, only sincere questions about where are we from and gentle smiles.

We have seen the capital city of the Yucatan by night. The next day we awake to walk the city and learn. We walk to Casa Azul. A beautiful hotel we researched. http://www.casaazulhotel.com/ We arrive at the entrance and it is locked. We ring the bell and a young man greets us. Santiago tells us the hotel is private and always locked. We ask in Spanish, “es possible ver bonita hotel?” Si! Santiago answers and we walk into a beautiful French colonial mansion with only eight rooms. The courtyard is lush and green with tropical plants. He points us to the front desk to show us the 4 star diamond ratings. Santiago walks us out and directs us two blocks south to the most famous boulevard in the Yucatan. Paseon de Montejo. A wide boulevard with more French colonial mansions bright white as well as pink and blue. Giant sidewalks with monstrous trees creating a shaded tunnel to protect us from the sun. 

On Sundays streets close, Mercados open. Street food stalls on one side as the smell of meat and fish on the grill fills the air. Beautiful craft stalls on the other side and music frames it all. We stop on one corner to soak in the music, color and love as people of all ages dance together, swaying, laughing and caressing. Just another Sunday in Merida.

Merida is also a city of day trips. You can explore Mayan and Aztec pyramids, cenotes and a biosphere reserve to protect birds and the cleansing mangrove forests.

Day three we jump the local bus to Celestun, a small village on the Gulf of Mexico. The bus ride is wonderful as we pass through small villages picking up and dropping off kids going to school and mothers headed to market. A man jumped on for two stops selling peanuts. The peanuts were fresh roasted and still warm. Twenty pesos for three small bags. Yum!! The bus ride took two hours and costs 60 pesos each or three dollars. 

Celestun is still trying to hold on to its fishing heritage. As you walk about town you see nets strung and rolled being repaired and prepared. How long will the fish last? Overfishing is a problem and rules and catch limits are ignored here. The only thing this village has to hold on to, whether they know it or not, is ecotourism. People are coming here by the bus loads to see the Pink Flamingo. Thousands of them migrate here and live here in the estuaries digging shrimp in the mud from the almost pink water. It is said that the pink color of the Flamingo comes from the shrimp. We planned our trip to be an overnight trip. We always love seeing small villages and learning about how people live. We booked the Santa Julia hotel. The reviews were off the charts for this 2 star hotel. I know that sounds strange but the truth is this is a poor village with few options. Santa Julia was simple, clean and our host was kind and helpful. 

We take a funky tricycle cart pushed by a motorcycle to the lagoon to meet the boatmen for our trip out to see the Pink Flamingos. Our boatman Filipe and his son of the same name welcome us to the 18 foot skiff with a 60 horse Yamaha outboard. We ease out of the marina and soon Filipe presses the throttle forward and skips us over the estuary out past thick Mangrove forests  and flocks of Pelicanos.

Soon we see the pink hue on the horizon and within minutes we slowly approach a flock of Pink Flamingos, many standing a meter tall in about 8 inches of water.

There are hundreds standing, cuddling and posing mostly for each other. More Flamingos join the gaggle flying in stretched out looking like F18’s coming in for a landing.

We see a few babies, which are white, and the sound the birds make is a low warble as they flirt, talk and dig shrimp from the mud. We sit quietly floating amid these beautiful creatures with our boat mates Sophia and Etiene both from Mexico City. We all look at each other in amazement. As we slowly edge the boat back away from the birds Filipe turns over the outboard and we are now flying down the other side of the estuary. Without backing off the throttle he banks us into the mangroves through a small tunnel. Felipe pulls back the throttle and we glide into another world.

The mangrove trees reach for the sky as the roots dig into the water. The small river like waterway takes us inside the forest.

Birds small and large find life here and you can see fish down into the clear water. These forests and estuaries clean the waters of the Gulf of Mexico as well as provide shelter and life for so many species. 

The only place we had ever seen Pink Flamingos had been the plastic yard art outside the beautiful American Mid Century modern homes. We will now appreciate these beauties even more.

We have so much more to explore here and look forward to all the warmth the Yucatan has to offer!!

“To do no wrong is to do nothing”

Our hearts, home and life are in Southeast Asia for the next five weeks.  Our plans are not plans.  We have a ticket to Bangkok and a flight leaving Bangkok.  That’s all we know.  For two hard driving sales people this is a big challenge.  We plan, we execute.  On this adventure we let things go, and check out our surroundings, we talk to people, learn and make adjustments.  Come to think of it that is a solid sales trait as well. 

Bangkok where we find beauty, the hustle of a big city and the peace of the Thai people. 

The traffic here is intense and it only takes us one trip in a taxi to learn that the streets are not the place to be in a car.  We learn the sky train and everywhere we go we find our way to and from on the train.  Caroline is a transit genius and has taught me to appreciate public transit and how to understand systems all over the world. 

We tour the Chao Phraya River in a classic long boat.  Our skipper is proud of his brand new boat.  It’s only one month old, with a powerful 6 cylinder engine.  The boat is at least 50 feet long and holds about 15 people. Long BoatOur driver skips us over the water through the middle of Bangkok.  We see beautiful hotels like the Mandarin Orient, The Peninsula and the Lebau Tower where the movie Hangover II was filmed.  We turn from the main river to a side channel which winds us deep into the underbelly of Bangkok.  We see small ramshackle homes on the channel some with beautiful Orchids dripping from the decks right over the channel.  Catfish boil in the water and giant lizards lounge lazily on the decks below the Orchids.  In this back channel away from the city is where I see a hand painted sign. 

“To do no wrong is to do nothing.” 

We make mistakes.  We have to move on. 

On our way back to the train we walk by  a brand new condo building with an open sign so being the real estate addicts that we are we pop in for a look.  The materials are beautiful.  Cool white marble floors and well crafted doors and windows.  It’s small about 600 square feet with a small kitchen a nice bathroom and a great bedroom with views to the river or the city.  The pool sat on the 18th floor and looked out over the city.  Price tag was about $260,000 US or $9,000,000 Thai Baht.  What do we think?  How exciting to think what it would be like to live here for a few months a year.  We decide if we are to do that renting is the best option.  So fun to look so fun to dream so fun to stop before you make one of those mistakes we learned about. 

On day two the heat intensifies and we jump the train back to the river to tour the temples riverside.  This is the Wat Arun temple built in the 1700’s.  Across the river we visit the Wat Pho temple which is an amazing campus of temples and tombs.  Monks mix in with the tourists from all over the world especially China.  The Chinese travel in groups, large groups and take over almost every tourist area.  It becomes too much and we beat it away from the temples and to the comfort of the sky train.

Back to our neighborhood in Sukhumvit we find an hour long foot massage for 250 Baht or about $7.  The foot massage is magic that finishes with a strong shoulder and back massage. 

Day three we grow to love this city!  The coffee is amazing and today we find the Siam Paragon mall. Every brand, every shop that you can imagine.  In the basement much like Harrods in London is a gourmet grocery store with rows and rows of beautiful food, produce and like Harrods lunch counters serving champagne and caviar.  We skip the caviar but enjoy a few nice glasses of champagne and seared tuna.  Where are we? 

There are many neighborhoods in Bangkok of course.  We are staying on Sukhumvit which is a large thoroughfare through the city.  The Sky Train hovers overheard and hums with efficiency.  We like it here and love to explore the Sois which are streets that stream off Sukhumvit.  On one side the even numbers on the other odd.  Sois 2 and 4 are in the Nana district which is known as a red light district.  Bars and foot massage parlors are the flavor of these Sois.  We wander up 4 and over to 6 winding our way to 8.  Each So has it’s own personality and it is so fun to find your favorite Soi.  At night we head to Soi 11 which at first looks seedy.  Then the restaurants, hotels and apartments appear and the vibe is fantastic.  We sit at the bar at Oskar’s and enjoy a few drinks and soak up the local flavor. 

Day four becomes night four for this story.  As we explore doing something even if it is wrong.  We head out for sunset at the Lebeau Sky Bar.  Yes, Hangover II filmed a memorable scene here.  Sky Bar!The view is spectacular and the people are beautiful.   The circle bar is 64 floors above Bangkok with the river winding through the city below. 

They are serving Perrier-Jouët Champagne and it is amazing.  Rick’s family name Jewett is from the French name Jouët.  We are told the story of the Perrier and Jouët love affair. We laugh, drink champagne and imagine the year 1811 and being Jouët.  We enjoy a bottle and a few more glasses as the sun sets and the music begins.  By the time we get the bill it is enormous.  We didn’t ask the price or look at the menu.  If you have to ask you shouldn’t be here.  Right?  We learned the next night that there is a 400% import tax on wine in Thailand.  “To do no wrong is to do nothing.”  I don’t think we did anything wrong.  Next time a glass not a bottle. 

“One night in Bangkok makes a hard man humble.”  This Murray Head song is stuck in our heads, and we had four nights in Bangkok.  We may have more?  The trip now shifts to Chiangmai, Thailand in the north.  Stay tuned…More to come. 

A return to Journalism-A Story of Survival.

The phone rings. The shoot is on!  The call is from my good friend and journalist John Larson.  We are about to take off to shoot a story on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.  John is in San Diego and we live in Mexico.  We can meet him on the Baja.  I haven’t shot a story in 23 years.  My last story was with John and it was the Clinton inauguration day storm in Seattle.  The gear is different, the editing is different and the world is different.  

Before I left Seattle I invested in equipment that I could use to gather broadcast quality video.  My Canon 70D is an amazing camera.  I do question my skills or lack of skills.  John and Caroline both encourage me to go for it!  I’ve been practicing knowing this could happen but can I hold up my end? 

The story is incredible if nothing else we go for the experience, learn from the experience.  Grab life, tell a story!

We fly to Tijuana and rent a car to drive the 4+ hour drive across the Baja.  John enters Mexico through Mexicali for his 4+ hour drive south to San Filipe.  John is in his brand new Chevy Bolt, an electric car with 250 miles of range.  His trip is 243 miles one way so he will have to depend on newly installed charging stations in Mexico to ensure arrival and return.  Stressful but the chargers work and it is reported to John that he is the first user of these chargers in Mexico.

Map_of_Mexico_1

Continue reading “A return to Journalism-A Story of Survival.”

Mighty is the earth, mighty are her people!

 

Mighty is a word prompt from Ben Huberman of the Daily Post. https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/27030/posts/1600207536

We are in a time right now where the Earth feels mad.  Two massive earthquakes, in Central Mexico, in as many weeks.  Many people dead, missing and without homes. 

San Miguel de Allende
Weekend Celebration of Independence Day

Hurricane after hurricane pounds the Atlantic destroying Puerto Rico and Dominica, making the powerful hurricanes Harvey in Houston and Irma in Florida feel like a distant memories.  As Florida and Houston recover other communities suffer. 

Mighty are the forces of nature that remind us we are small.  Is the earth mad?  Is global warming making things worse?  The ocean waters are warmer than normal making the hurricanes mighty. 

Mighty is the Orca Whale in the Miami Seaquarium.  Lolita/Toki has been in captivity in a small tank for 47 years.  Yes, 47 years!  She was captured in a brutal human act of domination in the waters of Puget Sound in Washington State on August 8th 1970.  She has survived Irma the storm, the winds and the tidal surge.  Her tank is a mess with intake valves polluted  by a massive sewage spill. caused by the storm.  It is time to send her home.  There is a plan.  A good plan.  Here is a link to the plan.  Please learn the plan and make up your own mind if she belongs in her home waters or in a shallow bathtub like tank in Miami.  #FreeLolita #Blackfish

http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/The-Plan-to-Retire-Lolita-371083321.html

Earthquakes likely have nothing to do with global warming.  Likely?? 

Mighty are the people of Mexico who are surviving 8.2 and 7.1 earthquakes within two weeks of each other. Both Mexican quakes occurred on the Cocos tectonic plate.  Five states and thousands of people are devastated by the latest earthquake which happened on September 19th, thirty-two years to the day from the massive earthquake that killed thousands in 1985.  32 years to the day?  The earth is mad and we must listen to her voice.

As we watch the news in Spanish here from San Miguel de Allende we are un touched physically by the devastation.  We see the mighty people of Mexico by the thousands pitch in to help the over worked rescue workers.  Thousands of people, in Mexico City, line up to help clear the rubble of collapsed buildings with hope of finding someone alive.  The line of volunteers work to clear ruble, gently bucket by bucket.  Rescue workers raise their fists as a sign to the crowd for Silencio! Silence so they may hear the cries of trapped men, women and children under the weight of totally collapsed buildings including schools filled with children and teachers.  The crowd goes silent. Thousands of people go quite as hope of someone alive grows.  Next, cheering as they do find someone alive and pictures captured by a brave photographer show a small child crying being pulled from between broken concrete slabs.  We are un touched physically but we are touched emotionally as the people of Mexico suffer. Families here in Mexico and the United States will be touched by these earthquakes.

Mighty are the people of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominica, Houston, Florida and more.  Mighty are the people.  Mighty is our earth.  Please mighty people guard our mighty earth like your lives depend on this duty. 

Thank you for the prompt Ben!  https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/27030/posts/1600207536