Doing the Misty Mountain Hop in Palenque, Chiapas

First, I recommend pressing play on this video before you read my post:

Alrighty then, although I didn’t have flowers in my hair when I toured the ancient Mayan site of Palenque, in the Mexican state of Chiapas, I was walking in the park and saw crowds of people sitting on the pyramids, tripping out on all the beauty of this magical place. It’s spectacular, well worth the journey and expense of schlepping it to the far Southeast corner of Central Mexico….

Palacio de las Inscripciones, where treasures are still being found, like Mayan death masks.

The site is huge, and you can climb on all sorts of structures.

The humidity meant I had an awesome hair day. (I'm one of those insane people who like it muggy.)

The lush greenery surrounds Palenque's temples and structures.

After the Mayans fled Palenque, nature quickly took over, making excavation impossible in some areas. Here, a tree has rooted itself in the ruins.

Brendan ascends one of the many passageways located within the temples.

The right side of this temple reveals what it looked like pre-excavation. Brendan is in the lower right corner of this photo.

Limestone carving, still intact.

I stuck my camera through one of the many "windows" of the government palace.

A fresco (a dude holding a torch).

Although it rains almost every day of the year here, the Mayan gods blessed us with simply a foggy, dark day, so that it wasn't blazing hot. Howler monkeys (no, not pictured above!) could be heard in the near distance.

Someone found a home in one of the ancient temples.

And now that you’ve seen some of my photos, here’s a really cheesy video I took. I’m new to videolandia, and so, bear with me:

Please, Have Some Yogurt. No, Really, I Insist

In anticipation of my in-laws’ arrival to Mexico City today, we ordered a bunch of groceries online from our local chain, Superama (sadly, owned by Wal-Mart, the biggest private employer in Mexico). We like to order online rather than go to the store because, unfortunately, the store is always crowded, and therefore as claustrophobic as the middle seat in an airplane with a kid kicking you from behind and two obese snorers on either side of you. Yeah, not fun.

No matter what, though, our online ordering always somehow goes a little awry. They won’t have something in stock, or they’ll send us incredibly un-ripe fruit.  This time, it was the size of the yogurts. We wanted the normal single-serving size that humans eat.

They sent us these instead (and we failed to notice on the invoice):

That's 8 kilograms of Alpura yoghurt in our fridge.


Adonde Voy?

El Blog de Joy is hitting the road, and will be spending the next week visiting the Mexican states of Tabasco, Chiapas and Campeche. If you’re not sure where any of those places are, that was the point in our selection of these areas — remoteness.

We’ll visit jungles, beaches and ruins, like Palenque:

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You Can Celebrate About the New Toilet for Only So Long

A few months ago, our toilet seat cracked at the hinges, and because tenants in Mexico are expected to make minor repairs themselves, we embarked on a multi-week journey to find a new suitable toilet seat.

We knew the toilet itself was bulky, ugly and awkward, but we hadn’t really thought about how it was also ceramic and incredibly heavy.  Meaning, old, outdated, and irreplaceable. Even in this land where flat tires can be endlessly patched and electrical wires endlessly strung, every plumber we consulted said “no mames.” We told our landlady this, and she suggested we visit a mercado in Colonia Doctores (known for its high rates of car theft!) that specialized in plumbing products. We, being nice people, did not throw major temper tantrums, and decided to embark on this adventure.

So, wasting a weekend morning, Brendan and I tucked a 15-pound broken ceramic toilet seat into a bag (that poor bag) and went to the mercado. We stopped by several vendors and pathetically pulled out the broken seat. They all tried earnestly to hunt down a replacement seat, while we stood around and admired the rows and rows of plumbing accessories.

Again, the message was the same: No mames.

We reported back to our landlady. So she sent over a plomero, Senor Gerardo, to have a look-see himself and see what he could do. He decided to caulk it back together. It worked. For about a week.

Because all the caulking material was bulky, the seat sat at a strange angle, and even though my buttocks are incredibly tiny (like a small deer’s, really), the toilet seat broke under the pressure. DISCLOSURE: The actual breakage occurred while the husband was using it.

So we were back to the toilet seat drawing board.

This time, we did one of my favorite hobbies — nothing — and let the problem fester. However, in recent weeks, we realized we’ve got several visitors arriving in late January, and it really wasn’t fair to make them suffer by sitting on 2/3 of a toilet seat, the broken portion digging into their skin (although I contemplated telling them it was traditional Aztec style and seeing how far that got me.)

We emailed our landlady a photo to show her just how bad things had gotten:

My Microsoft Paint attempt at highlighting the special issues facing our gimp toilet seat. I apologize for posting this photo, but this is what my life has been consumed by lately, and I need to share my pain or else I'll start posting even worse photos. Before you freak out about how unclean we must be, THIS TOILET IS 50 YEARS OLD!

She decided she’d finally break down and buy us a new toilet. I was treated to a return visit from Senor Gerardo, who is as pleasant as a plumber can be, and incredibly patient with my lack of Spanish plumbing vocabulary.

On Monday, he removed the the old toilet, and placed it on cardboard, scooting it from the bathroom to the elevator, preventing god knows what sort of leaking stains from forming on the hardwood floors. He took the elevator to the lobby, and I assumed,  dropped the toilet off in Toilet Heaven.

Then he installed the new toilet. When I heard “Ya!” I jumped up from my desk and went to congratulate him. A new toilet, a new day! Gracias, Senor Gerardo! He asked me if I wanted to see it flush. How could I say no? We stood in the bathroom, watching the water go down. I tried to seem very impressed.

I thought, once and for all, this saga was over. That I’d soon be christening the toilet in peace, saying a silent prayer that all this humiliating toilet talk was over.

But no. He tells me to go with him downstairs. So I do. While in the elevator, he asks me “are you here all day?”

I thought he was making conversation with me. “Si!” I told him. I brought out my well-rehearsed lines. (I get defensive when I think the locals assume I’m a housewife, even though there is no higher calling here for a female — it’s a sign of familial wealth.)

“Yes, all day. I work at home, as an editor for two web sites in the United States. I have much work.”

Gerardo nodded his head and pursed his lips as if to say “well how fucking great for you, kid.”  Then he had me follow him to an empty room in the lobby, where our old toilet sat waiting, looking lonely, like a lost friend of The Brave Little Toaster. Gerardo tells me I’ll have to flag down the garbagemen who show up every afternoon at indefinite times, and bribe them to cart the appliance away.

“Great!” I faked, seething that the discarded toilet was not truly gone from my life. All my happiness disappeared. “No problem,” I lied.

(Also, in the empty room, I discovered our old water heater, which also was replaced recently by Gerardo after multiple attempts to kick-start the old decrepit heater failed….I  had assumed it too was in its final resting place and was made even more annoyed when he explained it too would need to be disposed of, by me.)

After listening to my extensive whining about yet another household task I’d have to deal with simply because my office is located within our home, Brendan man upped and told me not to worry —  he’d bribe our doorman to bribe the trashmen, leaving me mercifully free of having to manage this task any further. It worked!

The long toilet saga finally ended yesterday, when our toilet was loaded up on the garbarge truck, and taken to Toilet Heaven. No mas no mas no mas!

Mexico, It’s Been Damn Fun, But We’re Moving On

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At the end of March, we’ll be packing up our things (and our dog) and moving back  to New York City, aka la gran manzana.

We’ve still got some great Mexican travel planned over the next couple of months, which will help keep my mind off how I’m actually going to have to say good-bye to  tacos al pastor.

If All Weekends Could Be Like This (AKA “We Heart Ixtapa”)

When it’s 40 degrees outside and you have no central heat, your mind starts telling you desperate things like “You live in Mexico and you’re cold? Hijole! That’s not right. Don’t you think you should plan a last-minute weekend trip to someplace warm?”

If you’re smart (and lucky enough to have the resources to plan such a trip), you’ll listen to that inner demon, and get thee to someplace warm and scenic (right now, the former is strangely hard to find, and the latter, as always, is everywhere).

For us, we decided it was time to visit Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo, on the Pacific Coast, north of Acapulco. We lucked out and got a cheap-ass room via Priceline, at the normally spendy Hotel Las Brisas. The hotel is situated on a nearly private beach, halfway between uber-touristy Ixtapa and more relaxed Zihuatanejo. I definitely recommend the hotel, just be warned that they do price-gouge you. Example: Only breakfast option was 220 pesos per person. We’d definitely go back, but first load up on breakfast items at the grocery store before checking in, and then stashing them in the in-room fridge.

From Mexico City, the flight is only 45 minutes long. We left the city at 2:30 and we were all checked in by 4:05 p.m. on Friday! And what welcomed us?

First, the view, which I spent many of my waking hours admiring:

Purrrty shades of ocean blue

Then, we down went to the beach, and randomly got to take part in the hotel’s sea turtle hatchery program. We hadn’t even been in town for more than a couple of hours and already I was holding a baby sea turtle? QUE AWESOME!

“Let me go, woman!”

Saturday, we opted to spend the whole day at the beach, swimming in the big waves (but not overly big, just enough to be fun/thrilling). From our beach chairs, the view again, was not too shabby:

And then later, we went into “Zihua” for dinner:

We had a nice meal at La Sirena Gorda — the fat mermaid — where I couldn’t resist taking pictures of the artwork. (Becoming a fat mermaid is sorta a lifelong goal of mine.)

And we had some drinks and conversation with locals at El Senor de las Chelas:

On Sunday, before our return flight, we spent a couple more hours on the beach, chillaxing.

Last but not least, the Las Brisas property is startingly chock-full of nature. We watched a coatimundi crawl up the hotel walls, and I spotted a fat-daddy iguana fall out of a cactus. In addition, we saw several pairs of black-throated magpie jays, saw Chachacalas climbing up the hillside, and were surrounded by lots of yellow-winged Caciques.
I don’t know if these animals have been intentionally trucked in to maximize guests enjoyment, but it definitely enhanced our weekend.

Mexican Internet Ads: How Dumb Do They Think We Are?

Few of us enjoy internet advertising, though, as an internet editor, I directly benefit from the industry.

However, you truly haven’t seen annoying advertising until you’ve lived in Mexico, where the display ads almost seem to be competing for title of “craptacularly crappy.”

If I may bore you for a second, part of the reason is because of the unreliable mail system. If you can’t trust the mail, then you can’t go shopping online, because your stuff may never get delivered. And if there’s no substantial online commerce, then there’s no resulting advertising worth a damn.

So, that means yours truly is forced to see this shit all day. (Each ad asks you: Is this image real or fake?)

"Human-Dog Hybrid: Is this image real or fake?"

The largest tongue in the world: Real or fake?

A boy with a big mouth: Real or fake?

Why You Should Stop Visiting Sea World

Scientists say dolphins should be treated as ‘non-human persons’

“The researchers argue that their work shows it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing.”

Why spend a shit-ton of money at places like Sea World when it's easy to find happy, non-captive baby dolphins (and their watchful mothers)? This pair was spotted near the marina at Port Aransas, Texas. (Photo by Betty V.)

That Damn Perro Is Ladrando, AGAIN?

Among the many sweeping generalizations I like to make about Mexicans is the one about their incredibly high tolerance for noise…

…as evidenced stateside by visiting any New York City bar patronized mostly by Mexicans — the jukebox will be set to “decibel level: ear bleed.”

…as evidenced by visiting any small Mexican town, where blaring music and constant fireworks make for a lovely night of little sleep.

…and, more close to home, as evidenced by our neighboring building, where a dog has been barking — nay, shrieking — almost non-stop for the past few weeks, I’m guessing afflicted with a raging case of separation anxiety.

Fortunately, I can turn on my internet radio and mostly ignore the shrieks. But I don’t understand why the more immediate neighbors haven’t staged a hunt, and released el perrito so it can join the many ranks of dogs who end up on “¿Me has visto?” posters around the park (which is due mostly to idiot dog owners refusing to use leashes, and that’s another rant, for another day).

Anyway, I was reminded of this by the always-terrific Onion:

Tiny Dog Has Been Barking Nonstop For 6 Years