A Travellerspoint blog


Are Canadians really more polite than others?

sunny 80 °F

I clear my nostrils as well as possible in the mornings using shower water and then finishing with a good supply of kleenex.
Everybody picks their nose....but avoid it in public. My Canadian experience of this is that, if caught, there is a slight embarrassment, stopping the action and maybe reaching for a kleenex to complete the job. Not so here in Mexico.
Children pick their noses. Bored shopkeepers dig in. Sales people pick their noses. Oh and yes, even those in restaurants, we have caught doing this. And when you catch their eye? Nothing! pick away! No stopping. No adjustment. This is simply not a manner I am comfortable with.

But then, here in Mexico, there are alot of different behaviours that I am not familiar with.

When walking along the sidewalk and coming to a clump of trees that must be navigated through, Mexican men see no reason to stop and let me pass before thinking of moving into their own push through the path. Yes, I've only noticed men act like this.

When I was working out in the local gym, I observed several people take turns on a piece of equipment and I moved in once the piece was clear. Then a young man who had used it prior came up to me and demanded that he had not finished his turn with it - expecting me to vacate in between my sets.

Some of this behaviour comes close to threatening. While my daughter was in town, I pointed out to her that some of the 'silver' shops had signs in them suspending them from silver sales. Down the street, I noticed that the signs were posted in some shops but covered with "30% off sale" signs. My daughter being an astute consumer, responded to the shop keepers invitation to walk up to the sign, peek behind and give him a BIG frown. OOOOPs, that triggered a drastic flip in attitude and she was run off the property with a "That's none of your business!!!!".

I understand that we are in a tourist zone and the street hawkers are out there to make a living off of our giving them money. We smile and wave them off with a "Yo aqui vivo / I live here". But some of the comments that I have heard come from the rejected suitors are definitely sexist and downright rude.

This isn't true of everyone and many people are still very polite and helpful and accommodating. But Playa del Carmen has changed from the village of fishermen who lived modest but liveable lives back in the 1990's when we first came here. Something has happened to the people and their attitude. Actually - those villagers have been overrun by people who aren't from here. The city has grown from a town to almost 200,000 residents with an annual growth of 7% each year in the last decade alone. This doesn't count the millions of turisimos who visit the Mexican Riviera each year.

In looking for answers, we came across a young film maker. He was very cautious about making statements about the local noise by-laws and the apparent lack of enforcement. He was more willing to discuss changes in the city and the land developers methods. We came to understand that he is part of a growing population of educated environmentally minded people who are concerned with the unbridled growth. His YouTube Channel expresses some very strong attitudes towards the tourism industry on the Mexican Riviera.

We fell in love with Playa Del Carmen because of the excellent weather and lovely atmosphere. It was paradise! But paradise doesn't last long when human greed gets involved. Are the people becoming rude? or are we an infestation that has made them defensive?

I doubt there is a clear answer.

Posted by travelDIAS 09:17 Archived in Mexico Tagged development manners rude attitudes Comments (0)

Spanish lessons

Taking a week at International House can be fun!

Within a few days of arriving, I developed a strong desire to do a better job of speaking to the locals. TV is in Spanish or English with subtitles and there is a little learning going on here, but some research uncovered several places where actual Spanish lessons could be had.
Fortunately for me, the International House was literally two blocks away and had a beginners class starting the following Monday. Each day from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm I put my schoolgirl pack together and joined other adults who were beginning the journey to speak better Spanish.

The school is in a building with lots of rooms and outside hallways. Perhaps it may have been a small hotel once. Each classroom is a small room with those desks that have built in desk shelves (...there was one for lefties! yeah!) and chalk boards. They are equipped with air conditioners that would take the temperature from hot sweaty sleepy to cold frigid alert temperatures.

I am joined by:

  • A couple from Korea who worked for a mining company who was there beginning four months of intensive language training before continuing on to tour mines in South America for the remainder of the year.
  • A nurse from an Eastern Block country who was spending her vacation time adding Spanish to her repertoire of excellent English, plus a variety of Cyrillic based languages.
  • A receptionist from the states who thinks Spanish will help her get a better job
  • me

The class time starts with an instructor who will not speak english. I discover that my classmates all have fairly extensive vocabularies. Within 10 minutes I am in a panic. Did I just drop a load of cash so I could be totally drowned for a week? What am I doing here? I don't know anything that is going on! Freak out alarm!

I had been taking Brazilian Portuguese through Rosetta Stone and thought it was close to Spanish. It is - on paper. But here I was trying to do it in real life! My ear was totally untrained, but slowly as the hours passed I was able to participate and even felt like I was learning something.

The best part was the social activities each afternoon - where Fernando could join us. City Tour, cooking lessons, salsa dance and then on Friday, margarita party. All conducted in Spanish with other students at other levels of learning who would attempt to converse and still have a good time. English became the default when searching for words. This was amazing considering the many countries that the students were from.

I think a light went on when I found myself having a hard time speaking in English. I found my tongue was twisting in a different way. My pronunciation was distinctively different and I looked a English writing with suspicion. (We really do have weird spelling.)

By the end of the week we were speaking in full sentences, playing games and conjugating a lot of basic verbs and even reviewing irregular ones.
What a great experience!

My classmates have gone on to attend 4 weeks, 6 weeks and longer. In some ways, I wish I has committed to more time, and yet I simply had other things to do. Emily and Paul paid us a surprise visit for Christmas and I'd rather spend the time with them.

This experience taught me that I am not too old to learn and that I can apply myself to the goals I have of learning Portuguese in a functional way. I also know that it is important to surround yourself with others who speak the language in order to fully embrace it.

Posted by travelDIAS 18:37 Archived in Mexico Tagged spanish classes lessons lifelong learning. Comments (0)

Fishermen and other early risers

...or 'don't these people sleep???

sunny 81 °F

This morning we woke at 5 am to the thump thump base a jumble of music coming from the southeast corner of our block and threatening to shatter the windows of our balcony doors. It wasn't one tune. Rather competing, desperate strains of parties trying to outdo each other. So we made a pot of coffee, got dressed and went out to see what was going on.

It turned out to be an afterhours club that would stay open til 6 am on the corner of First Ave and Calle 12 Norte. Police were hanging out, security were in the street and we learned that the other two clubs had closed and it is always hard to encourage the partiers to head home when the final club was set to shut down. It was full of locals, I'm assuming the resort workers. Talk about blowing off steam. It was LOUD.

While we were up, we headed to the beach to watch the sunrise and caught up with some fishermen who were taking advantage of a calm sea after several days of stormy weather.

The birds were out in full force enjoying the breezes as well.

Sadly, we found the security at one hotel chasing after this guy, who was all wrapped up in fishing line. Of course, the bird whisperer stepped in and we had him free and flying in short order.

Not the way we would normally choose to wake, but turned out to be a great start to the day.

Apparently, high season has started and the streets and beaches are about to get very crowded.

Posted by travelDIAS 15:27 Archived in Mexico Tagged sunrise fishermen clubs early waking noise Comments (0)

Sunday Morning Options

Looking for a Christian Church in Playa Del Carmen

sunny 81 °F

Being an outsider looking for a community of fellow Christians to worship with can be quite a look-in-the-mirror experience. How a community portrays itself really makes a difference to attract or repel others. I've got to assume that those who put themselves out there on the internet are interested in making the connection. So onto a computer, using my super sleuth research skills and here's what I found: three nearby options in the more 'evangelical' flavour:

Fellowship Church of the Riviera Maya has two websites: one old, with old locations. The clue was that the blog stopped awhile ago. I took the time to use the contact form on what turned out to be the old website and noted the website concern and request to confirm service time/place. Got a pretty short note saying that the person I connected with was the pastor of the other (spanish) location and that the English service in Playa took place at 10:45 Sundays. No location, no website explanation nor any encouragement to come out. His name was not indicative of a non-english speaker. I found the 'new' website and it looked friendly enough and full of good info.

Antioch is a Four Square church with a Facebook page that describes itself as an English only church. Skimpy on info, contacts or service times. Also a note that there is English and Spanish available. Comments on the time line ask about service times, but replies don't give them. Buried in the 'cover photo' is a service time and address. But these are not visible in the standard page preview.

Lighthouse church has a well populated Facebook page and also references a website. They are the only ones who have recent posts on their timeline. Also of interest is that they are advertising a Christmas Eve Service in a local community centre - looks interesting.

So we picked one and went. Suffice to say it was quite an awkward experience. The service is best described as 'contemporary christian, with worship songs that I recognized and a schedule I would be familiar with. The congregation was very small and we obviously stood out as 'guests'. But after receiving a 'get in the door greeting' along with the others, not one person approached us or talked to us. People looked at us and we smiled. We are friendly people and know how to connect with strangers given the opening. But this time? That's it. That's all. This was the english service after all. The pastor took the time to connect with others in the group, but totally ignored us. At the end we stood, and watched people greet each other and slowly made our way out making eye contact where possible. Nothing.

At first, I hesitated to finish and post this blog, because I do know that there are people out there who will jump on it for the 'accusing' angle and I really don't like giving them ammunition by being negative about these things....much less members of my own faith. I had truly started writing about my research into where to go expecting to complete the piece with a lovely story of community and common worship. But instead, I walked away puzzled and stunned to say the least.

Well, travel adventures can be like that. That's how our day went. Have you ever had a similar experience? Do you attend a church that might offer a similar experience to a stranger?

Posted by travelDIAS 15:12 Archived in Mexico Tagged church del playa english carmen worship sunday christian Comments (0)

What to do on a Rainy Day in Playa Del Carmen

storm 72 °F

Last night we experienced a big thunderstorm with lightning, and loud bangs and crashes.

When it rains near the ocean, it pours. Fortunately, an average temperature of 26 celcius on the Yucatan peninsula, makes getting caught in a thunderstorm more like taking a shower - I wish I had such pressure in my bathroom at home. Some people on the street are hiding under hotel umbrellas and others are purchasing garbage bags from enterprising young Mayans (I'm talking 6 yr olds). Still more are simply getting soaked to the skin and walking to where they are going with their clothes sticking to them.

But there is a point where you can get waterlogged and need to find some rainy day activities.

  • Sitting in a bar and drinking
  • Staying inside and watching spanish tv - some channels will have english tv with spanish subtitles
  • Going on a timeshare tour involving free meals and high pressure sales tactics
  • The movies: Cinemex is located in the Centro Maya Shopping Centre with prices for admission set at ~40 pesos with cheap day being Wednesday for 30 pesos. Cinepolis is located in Plaza Las Americas and offers information about whether the movie is in Spanish or Subtitled in spanish.
  • Wednesdays and Sundays you can find stand-up comedy about Lucky Lucianos on the corner of Calle 28 and Fifth Ave. It is 'adult' rated.
  • Planet Bowl is open from 10 am to midnite, located in the Centro Maya Shopping Centre.

Posted by travelDIAS 12:15 Archived in Mexico Tagged rain del weather playa carmen indoor activity thundershower inclement Comments (1)

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