Around Merida

You may have come to the realization that we’ve slipped into a ‘living in Mexico’ routine. We get up and work out in the mornings. I go to yoga or zumba and walk with Doug on yoga days. Each walk day we head out in a new direction attempting to see new neighborhoods within a 30 minute walking radius from our house.

The weather is warming up considerably (90’s). The locals lay low from around noon to 4 – 5 PM and we’re finding ourselves doing the same. In the evenings people go to the parks in the squares, to visit, listen to music, walk, eat and let the children play.

We go to Spanish classes on Mon – Wed – Fri from 12:30 – 2:30 now that we’re in Level 2. On the other days we work on our homework during the hot time of the day. Sometimes we’ll read or watch a movie. We only have Mexican TV.

We’ve met some interesting folks and have been to their homes for food and drinks. The English library hosts an “Evening of Merida Magic” which is a wine tasting and Home and Garden Tour that we’re scheduled to attend this Thursday evening.

The local Irish Pub, Hennessys, is a gringo hang-out. They host free first run movies on Monday nights and live music on Friday nights. The music is primarily North American rock, past and some current also. It’s been fairly low-key but people definitely, go to dance so that’s fun.

There’s actually a lot going on so one can be as busy, or not, as you choose.

Since we’ve had Spanish class on Saturdays until the last week, we’ve stayed fairly close to home on the weekends.

A couple Sundays ago we did hop on the bus and head to the beach in Progresso. It was much more commercialized than expected. Then again, the cruise ships dock there so it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise.

Three mile pier in Progresso.

Three mile pier in Progresso.

The three mile pier in Progresso is no doubt for the cruise ships but there also seems to be quite a bit of heavy truck activity. You can’t see the end from the beach.

Since it was Sunday, the locals were out in force. Mexicans have a different definition of personal space than we in the US. It wasn’t long before the family on our right had their table within an inch of ours to share the shade and the family on our left were using the end of my lounger. It’s all good!

Sunday at the beach

Sunday at the beach

It would have been a perfect opportunity, you say, to practice my Spanish. Sometimes my head needs a rest! AYEYE!

There’s a street along the beach and on the other side of the street are restaurants that service the beach with food and drinks. We really had a nice day.

Fishing Pier

Fishing Pier

The malecon ends in a boardwalk taking you under the long pier. On the other side is a well used, good sized fishing pier. We caught the bus back to Merida around 5:30 before the mass exodus. It was dark by the time we walked home.

Another favorite Sunday activity is spending time in St Lucia square. There is always dancing to a live band from noon to 3 PM. It’s great fun watching the older (probably my age) Mexicans dance. Maybe one day we’ll be brave enough to join in.

Watching in the shade

Watching in the shade

On this particular day there seemed to be more people watching in the shade or

Dancing in the corridor

Dancing in the corridor

dancing in the shaded corridor,

Dancing at St Lucia

Dancing at St Lucia

then dancing on the sunny stage.

One Sunday we took a tour bus around the city. Most of the points of interest were places we were already familiar with or had visited. We saw more mansion type houses and churches outside of the downtown area.

Church in a neighborhood outside downtown

Church in a neighborhood outside downtown

Then made a stop at the Park of the Americas which is made up of four blocks each representing a different interest.

Park of History

Park of History

The park of History.

The Arts

The Arts

The Arts park where live theatre is performed in the amphitheatre.

The Children's Park

The Children’s Park

The Children’s Park is filled with all sorts of free activities. And the last block is a library encouraging interest in the sciences and literature.

A few more interesting sites around Merida.

Door-knocker on a home in the barrio

Door-knocker on a home in the barrio

Ahh, yes, a serenade

Street Serenaders

Roving Troubadours

Is that a rabbit in the restaurant?

Is that a rabbit in the restaurant?

Is that a rabbit in the restaurant?

Look again

He likes to follow the waiter.

He likes to follow the waiter.

Getting close and personal

Little Bunny FuFu

Little Bunny FuFu

No, rabbit is not on the menu!

More sites around Merida

Gorgeous!

Gorgeous!

Practicing Spanish, “Quiero un tequila con sangrita, por favor.”

Now, for the GOOD:

Street Vendors

Street Vendors

Most anything can be delivered to your door in Merida.

THE BAD:

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Take another look…

See it?

See it?

Yup, she’s smoking under a no smoking sign. Not only that, the waitress brought her an ashtray. Smoking is banned inside public places and for the most part honored. However, outdoor spaces are another matter and sometimes one has to  look around before selecting a table in a restaurant.

Whatya gonna do? It’s Mexico!

Adios Amigos…

Carnaval Merida

Carnaval Merida is a major event that lasts eight days. Until this year, the activities, parades, concerts, and parties have been held on a 3 mile stretch of main streets through downtown Merida (from the Paseo Montejo to the Main Square downtown). The festivities typically begin around 4 PM and last through the night. Officially, everything would shut down at 2 AM, however, we’ve heard the parties often would last until 5 AM. At this time the clean-up crews would come through and clean up the mess for it to all begin again.

This year there has been quite a bit of controversy. Evidently certain business owners along or near the parade/party routes got the attention of the city fathers. They complained about the mess, the noise, and lack of access to their businesses. In short, they would typically close down for the 8 days of carnaval to save headaches dealing with the situation. This meant a loss of income.

Therefore, Carnaval Merida 2014 is being held at the fairgrounds. With the exception of the opening ceremonies held on the Main Plaza last Wednesday, “The Burning of the Bad Mood” (Quema del Mal Humor), The Children’s Parade last Thursday and the closing, “Burial of Juan Carnaval” (Entierro Juan Carnaval) on Ash Wednesday, all the activities are at the Fairgrounds.

Of course this decision has set off a series of debates amongst the residents of Merida with nasty online and public conversations. Family members have even been pitted against one another. The jury is still out on whether this will be a successful decision. We went to the fairgrounds for carnaval on Monday and watched the parade.

The Burning of the Bad Mood was the opening ceremony. We had a pretty decent watching spot in the crowd. People gathered for the half hour before the starting time. The spotlights on the screen were working. The screen would occasionally provide a light show and the same carnaval song kept being played over and over and over. Once the event started there were three emcees who introduced the Carnaval events, a comedian act, the royalty, fireworks and then a band that played till midnight. However, it was tough not being able to understand much of what was being said. We moved out of the crowd, got some ice cream, watched the fireworks and headed home.

We were in La Paz for carnaval several years ago and the fireworks were set off on the streets, yup, people everywhere. Merida’s fireworks were set off from the top of a building. It felt very safe in comparison.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Last Thursday we went downtown to watch the Pre-School Parade (Desfile de Preescolar). There were 17 school groups represented. For the most part the children were between 3 and 5 years. By the time they reached our spot on the parade route they’d been walking about 8 blocks. They looked like they were either overwhelmed with the ordeal or taking this parade very seriously. Maybe you’ll pick this up in some of the expressions.

I can’t begin to tell you what the children’s costumes represent. Some, you can guess. Be assured each child was totally decked out from head to toe. Each of the 17 schools was led by a pick-up filled with music equipment. The music was loud with the typical deep base that reverberated in your chest. Most of the music was computer controlled/generated.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Carnaval at the fairgrounds was interesting, in some ways like going to the fair in the U.S. without any agriculture. There were free buses. The entrance was free. All the music and all the other events were free. You could pay $2.50 for preferred seating along the parade route, however, the bleachers were free. So not exactly like the U.S. You did have to pay for your food.

The parade start time was 7 PM with the note that all times were approximate. The parade actually started at 8:40 with a 10 minute gap after the first two entries. This was the regional parade with entrants from the Yucatan villages in their native costumes. We headed home after the parade and were getting into bed around midnight. Yup, it was over two plus hours. Here’s a little taste.

Front and center

Front and center

Once inside

Once inside

Path to the parade route

Path to the parade route

Coke! Let the parade begin.

Coke! Let the parade begin.

Pretty girls

Pretty girls

Senior Royalty

Senior Royalty

Regional costumes

Regional costumes

Regional dances

Regional dances

Gotta have beer - big carnival supporters

Gotta have beer – big carnival supporters

More regional costumes

More regional costumes

We guess about 30+ regional groups

We guess about 30+ regional groups

Uhhh, yup

Uhhh, yup

Hey Miss Piggy??

Hey Miss Piggy??

After the parade we did pass by the fried hot dogs with French fries to have an order of churros for the ride home.

French fries with deep fried hot dogs

French fries with deep fried hot dogs

So it all ends today, Ash Wednesday, with the Burial of Juan Carnaval on the Main Square downtown. If it’s like the opening there will be speakers and fireworks and dancing.

We did learn of English church services this week. There was an Ash Wednesday mass this morning in an old convent about 6 blocks from us. About 20 of us were in attendance. The service was complete with ashes on the forehead. The Father is from Portugal and speaks very good English. He holds English services on Sunday evenings at 5 PM. There are also English services in a chapel in the main Catedral at 9 AM on Sundays. Evidently the priests from the catedral don’t speak English very well but there is a good choir and good attendance. We’ll be checking it out. Most of the people attending these services are not Roman Catholic.

And last but not least:

The good in Mexico (notice the Gold Stars). We have begun Level 2.

Finishing Level 1 Spanish!!

Finishing Level 1 Spanish!!

The Bad:

Torn up sidewalks. They are the responsibility of the property owner.

Torn up sidewalks. They are the responsibility of the property owner.

And the ugly:

Trash for pick-up, it's still ugly.

Trash for pick-up, it’s still ugly.

I may have to adjust the Good, Bad and Ugly since we’re having trouble finding a lot of bad and ugly and lots of good.

As we begin this season of Lent I ask that you take time to reflect on your relationships, with God and everyone else in your life and to do so with a heart of justice, humility and compassion. (Thank you, Padre Jose, for the message this morning.).

Love to all. Adios.