A Travellerspoint blog

El Gallo Humana

George Reporting...

sunny 78 °F

Here in Merida everyday begins with a morning wake up call.
Around dawn, a deep voice wafts high through the surrounding neighborhood, eclipsing all other
sounds except the chirpy birds in the trees right outside our window. The voice sounds like it's
yelling a long drawn out "Help". "Helllppp! Haallllpppp!" But the tone is more like an offer TO
HELP rather than a need for it, which is strangely comforting. We have heard this voice everyday
since we moved into our month-long rental stay. At first we tried to guess what it was but later
learned from the landlord that it is the voice of a man a few blocks away.
Our landlord doesn't like it and has confronted him to tone it down but to no avail.

One early morning, we decided to head to the Campo Deportivo (Sports camp) a few blocks away
to take advantage of the 7am Taebo class. We cross the street and see 'the Voice' weaving through
the cars stopped at a traffic signal. He turns out to be an older man in his 50's or 60's nonathletic with
a slight paunch. However he was seemingly possessed to sell the morning's newspaper to the outstretched
arms protruding from the autos heading to their prospective job sites. The earnestness with which he is operating gives me pause to
gaze at him respectfully and admire the fact that this older person is so completely dedicated to his amazingly
low paying job. It also reminds me of how much the elderly men here, who bag the groceries or offer to
push your cart to your car free of charge, also work for little or no pay. I had thought these people were being paid something
from the companies they "work" at but it turns out they do not and only get paid when a customer
gives them a few pesos for some small service ie. grocery bagging. In all the stores, these
elderly gentlemen are well-dressed, usually in all white, and always have a smile yet here they are EVERYDAY
working with no salary and truly dependent on the 'kindness of strangers'. They are like some modern day Don Quixotes
fighting to bring chivalry and goodness to a world filled with Sancho Panzas. Someone told me that it is what keeps the elderly from living on the streets or becoming beggars.
It appears to me the older workers set some kind of example since we've seen many hardworking
people here in Mexico. From the guys carrying bag after bag of heavy cement into a renovation
project in the 85 degree sun to the ladies selling peeled oranges along the streets
from dawn until dusk. In most of the touristy areas, the people are quite a bit more pushy
in their selling of a tour or timeshare but here in Merida, it is less so. I guess I've sort
of come to think of 'The Voice'- newspaper- seller as the defacto 'town crier'. Announcing to
all that it is time to "get to work and work hard all day no matter the low low pay." As a matter of fact, I read that this how Sting the singer/songwriter first started his singing career....selling newspapers by yelling on some small town corner UK street.
Now when my sleepy ears hear the human-rooster I think too, "It's time to get to work and to work hard
no matter the low low pay." Well, to me that last part matters but it's better than sitting
around and laying eggs all day. lol

P.S. Yeah I know roosters don't lay eggs.


Posted by woa 08:39 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

La Cuenta Por Favor?

George Reporting..

sunny 75 °F

Well we've been in Merida long enough to get a good sense of the cost of things. Below we offer to you a typical way you can enjoy the day in Merida without spending too much.

7:30am Wake up and realize you are paying only $8 a day to rent
a private casita with kitchen and private bath. Cost 118 pesos or $8

8:00am Walk over to the Mega Store and order a Cafe Americano which
comes with a croissant. Cost: 10 pesos or 75cents
8:30-9:30am Get your daily exercise at the Campo Deportivo or other state
provided public exercise area which includes weight rooms, cardio equipment, running track, ab machines etc.
Cost: 0 or 15 pesos for 1 hour Taebo Class

9:45 Take the 10 min bus ride to Plaza Grande Cost: 14 pesos for two people/ $1
10am Eat a nice breakfast of pancakes or eggs with fruit bowl and
coffee somewhere in downtown Merida. Cost: 60 pesos per person.

11am Check your email, write a blog entry or surf the web while sitting
on a bench underneath the trees in any park in Merida. Cost: 0 as wifi is free in all city parks.


Visit the nice art museums located around the Grand Plaza Cost: 0. Museums are free.
Noon-2pm. Attend the Teatro and enjoy a wonderful performance by the
Merida Symphony from a balcony suite. Cost: 75 pesos or $5 per person.

2pm-3:00. Take a siesta. Your brain needs the sleep. Cost: 0

3:00-4:00 Get Chinese take out (with 3 items from the menu)
and go sit in Plaza Grande eating and people watching. Cost: 60 pesos per person
4:30-6:30 Visit Parque Centennial and ride the choo choo train
that takes you around the entire park. Get off the train and
enter the zoo and see pink flamingos, bengal tigers and monkeys. Cost: 1 peso (for the train)

7:00-7:30 Walk to downtown and enjoy an "expensive" meal with red wine. Cost: 110 pesos or $7.50 per person.
8:00pm Watch an Orson Welles film at the theater which is part of the Merida Fest. Cost: 0

10:00pm Take in a live musical/poetry or dance performance happening
at any of the nearby parks. Cost: 0
11:00pm Take a nightcap. Margarita or Pina Colada. Cost: 30 pesos or $2
Total 493 pesos or $33

It is possible to spend just ONE PESO the entire day in Merida. Here's how:

Morning: Exercise for free at the Salvador Alvarado Sports Complex including free weights, cardio and machines all outside in the bright blue sky.
Breakfast: Stop by a friend's place. Most likely, they will offer you breakfast and coffee.
Early Afternoon: Check out an art exhibition at any of the free museums particularly the History of the Maya people at the Governor's Mansion.
Afternoon: Stop at another friend's home for lunch. Most likely they will serve you lunch and cerveza or wine.
Afternoon: Visit Centennial Parque and Zoo and Ride the Train. All is free except the train which costs 1 peso.
Dinner: Stop at yet another friend's house etc. etc.
Evening: Take advantage of any number of free live events or movie showings held in and around Merida.

Go over budget by visiting Pancho's bar during happy hour (6-9pm) and get 2 for 1 cocktails (4 drinks) for $8

Now this sounds like serious mooching. However, I do believe we did have a few days like that without even asking. Our new friends kindly fed us and took us to parties the first week we were here. However, it is our expectation that you should return the favor some time in the near future and we will!

If you don't want to feel like a moocher, then go to any inexpensive restaurant all around the city or eat ever cheaper using the sidewalk vendors.

Posted by woa 07:55 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Springtime and Symphony

by Andrea

sunny 75 °F

Apparently Spring begins in late January in Merida. Pink blossoms in the trees are now in abundance, and the weather has been in the 70s (which is considered slightly cooler if you are from California).

On Sunday we attended the Orquestra Sinfónica de Yucatán in Merida and what a treat that was! The theater is old-world beautiful with great acoustics. The symphony performance was themed 'German Romantica' that included Ludwig van Beethoven, Max Bruch, and Robert Schumann. To me, it was the sound of heaven. To George, it was a "cenote for the ears".

Generally, we appreciate how accessible the arts are in Merida. Our seats in the balcony for the Sunday matinee were about $5.00. We plan to attend at least one more time (if not more) during the remainder of our stay. large_Symphony_col.jpg

A few more highlights from this past week include:

I took a Pilates class in Spanish. It was a little challenging with the language but I could follow the moves since I am familiar with Pilates, and could understand only a tiny bit of her. I did not have a mat so the instructor even let me use hers during part of the class! It was a positive experience and a nice workout.

George met realtors to view properties and learn more about that process in a foreign country.

I also went to a Reiki session with my new friend Mario which was held at the gorgeous Eco-chic hotel, La Pantera Negra on the rooftop terrace. Jean-Pierre and Isabelle are the lovely owners.

Posted by woa 15:10 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Reinvention is Serious Business

by Andrea

79 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.


Caribbean breeze
Breaking waves
Finely-sifted sand like powder, that sticks to everything
I dig my toes into its cool softness
I feel a vibration of music thumping
as I try to listen to my soul's desires
Reinvention is serious business.

I used to sit in my backyard garden in Oakland
often pondering what to do with my life.
Now I'm lying on the beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, still asking similar questions.
In a different country, with no house or job, there is nothing else to distract myself with.
Nothing else needs to be done.
Only to be present, and notice everything I can, while listening for my clues.

It may seem like a vacation - just lying on the beach...but long-term travel brings you face-to-face with who you really are. Both the good, and the challenging parts. I don't mind staying in hotels or rentals though they do vary in quality and location. The limited wardrobe is working okay though I have added a sundress, sarong, and minor items. The challenge is keeping the load light! I don't get enough veggies or fruit every day, and tend to get constipated in new places (tmi?).

The real 'new work' is very much MENTAL for me. As the saying goes, 'wherever you go, there you are'. Here in the Yucatan, my sneaky irrational fears continue to follow me. My reinvention consists of replacing behaviors that are negative, with positive which I now get to practice in new and foreign places. The ultimate goal being to discover what I want to do for my second act, and continue develop the qualities to become the person I really want to be.

This includes but is not limited to:

  • being more involved in our travel planning
  • staying present (hello meditation, breathing, & yoga practice) to help tame fear & anxiety
  • Trying new things and meeting new people
  • Re-reading an e-book or other tools from my friend Tess, a passionate coach and author who helps you face your fears and create the life you want.

Every day is a new adventure, to explore, try something new, replace fear with excitement, share, and enjoy. After three months, I know which weaknesses clearly need strength training applied, to build more confident, and pro-active travel muscles.

Most people on this beach are sitting with families or friends, talking, reading, eating, drinking soda or cerveza, swimming, walking, or sleeping. I lay here brushing away this fine, sticky sand, writing with a leaky pen, listening for any clues the Caribbean breeze may whisper.

Posted by woa 11:09 Archived in Mexico Comments (1)

The Doggy Days of Travel

George Reporting...

overcast 72 °F
View WOA: GANDA TRAVEL 2014 on woa's travel map.

At some point you knew I would have to write about some of the more difficult aspects of
long term travel.

I'd hate for you to think that all travel is romantic, rewarding and renewing. There are days
you wake up in yet another small, messy room in a not so interesting place with a slight head cold, and you
begin to look at things differently. You question a few things but find yourself grasping at answers
and you just want to lie in bed like some laconic doggy sprawled in the middle of the road.
Very often here in Mexico you'll find sullen-faced pooches lying casually strewn about most of the
unbusy streets like fur-matted leaves dropped from some dumb-dumb-doggy tree. They just lie there in some kind of
drunken siesta-like stupor with a look on their face that reads: "Maybe I'll eat today or maybe
I'll get run over. Either way it's all good."

For me, I occasionally have travel days where I feel like that and I've come to realize that
that is OKAY.

Longterm travel is difficult in that you are constantly uprooted every so often from your 'faux home'. You are constantly
shlepping a big bag and then you must contend with a new environment and new people virtually everyday.
Add to that the pressure of feeling like you have to "live every moment" in order to appease
your reasons for taking this long journey in the first place. All of that can wear on you from
time to time but usually lasts about a day. I'm lucky that it is raining outside so I
don't feel too guilty about wanting to stay in this prison-like hotel room to write.

I suppose when we decided to take on this journey we thought everyday would be an exhilerating learning adventure
filled with good food, great sight-seeing and great thoughts to ponder. Well, it CAN'T be that
way everday because you'll just burn out in a few short months and give up on the whole year-long
travel thingy.

Andrea occassionally reads to me samples from books she's considering buying for her Kindle.
Memoirs, meditations and travel-related stories are her current interests and I would sometimes
hear parts that I fully understand and appreciate. One author describes how all travel is really
just a 'quest'. Often times we don't realize that we are on one and other times, quests we thought
we were on turned into some other different quest. The author made it clear too that "travel shouldn't
be a way of escaping something because no matter where you go, you will always bring some baggage you
thought you left behind."

She also read a chapter written by the singer/songwriter Sting. Sting describes taking a long
taxi ride through a rainy Brazilian forest, with his wife, to take part in a unique ritual.
The ritual involved drinking a foul concoction (called Ayahuascar) made from indigenous roots and trees that
apparently induces incredible visions. The very well-written story about what he experienced
afterwards was fascinating but what most intriqued me were his concerns, fears and confusion about this
whole endeavor. He was concerned about a myriad of dangers that could
befall him and his wife while in the hands of complete strangers and he grappled with his own
sense of reality while coming to grips with broken familial ties and death. Sting also referenced
a few Beat poets and the writer Joseph Conrad and I could see that we would get along well should
we ever meet.

What I mostly took from these reading samples was a sense that any new situation could turn out
either good or bad and that the truly important thing is to continue your quest regardless of the
outcome. That one should have the attitude that a quest or endeavor could help you or kill you but
attempt it regardless. "Maybe I'll eat today or maybe I'll get run over. Either way it's all good."

Maybe those laconic doggies are on to something?

Posted by woa 11:05 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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