Wednesday, May 28, 2014

First it was birds waking me up, not the Cicada's are the culprits..

It is a couple of weeks before the rainy season here in Cuernavaca, and the Cicada's have emerged from their underground lairs.  I asked Raul what all the noise was about, and he informed me that this happened every year to signify the change in season.  The 5 months of rainy season was about to begin.  Luckily for me, I was getting packed for Canada, and would miss this wet season once again.

I thought there were only one or two of these large beetles (I have yet to actually see one) in the neighborhood, but it seems that the first one or two woke up all the rest.  Now they are everywhere around the house, and their noise can be quite disturbing.  If they are close, you can actually hear their wings, at least I assume they make the noise with their wings, start to slowly beat with a pulsing noise.

Then they reach their full pitch, and the noise is a steady buzzing noise that remains on one note; and is extremely loud.  Each burst lasts about 20-30 seconds, and when one starts, they all seem to chime in.  We drove downtown the other day, and they were everywhere.  It seems like they are making the noise up in the branches of trees, but because they live in the soil, I guess they are on the ground and their sound is emanating upwards.

I hope I get to see one of these creatures one day.  Sorry, posted a couple of weeks late from Canada.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Oh Canada...

Well, made it safely back to Canada last week, and I'm amazed I arrived on time.  While sitting in the airport in Mexico City, we were notified that our flight was going to be arriving two hours late, and guess what, it was coming from Chicago.  Say no more.

We caught our flight and arrived in San Francisco two hours late of course, and I now had 45 minutes to clear immigration, collect my bag, clear customs and then run to Terminal 3 to find my gate.  Oh, and did I forget, clear security.  But a long story short, I made my gate when they were calling my name for the last time.  Luckily I couldn't hear this announcement at the security gate, or I may have had a breakdown.

I would like to thank the people in the immigration line that graciously let me slip in front of them (there were about 50 or more).  The customs officer was great too, and I literally ran to the carousal to pick up my bag.  Another piece of luck sent my luggage to me in the first group.  Thank goodness for wheels on luggage because I was able to make it to the luggage re-check in just in time.  Then more running across the airport to security and my gate.

I had decided that morning before leaving Cuernavaca to not take my mile and a half speed walk that morning.  Good decision because I must have ran at least two miles through the SF airport that day.  It would have been nice to have a bottle of water with me, but then of course, I wouldn't have gotten through security as fast as I did.  Anyway, I made it to Victoria right on time, and my daughter was right there to pick me up.

Thanks United Airlines, San Francisco immigration, customs and security, various travelers in the airport that let me sneak ahead of them, and Sky-link, who waited for me.  The next day in Victoria, a bus driver almost ran me off the road, but that is another story.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Back to Canada in 4 days, a little sad but happy too...

I absolutely can't believe how fast seven months can fly by. I feel that I haven't accomplished as much writing as I had hoped, but I finished my second book, and it is currently being edited.  The cover is looking good too.

Upon arriving in Mexico last October, I immediately applied for my Temporary Residency, and now have my first one year card.  I have to return this September to renew it for a further three years.  After that, I can apply for Permanent Residency, and who knows, even Citizenship.

We traveled to Toluca for a few days, had another trip to Acapulco, and then I spent about a week in Veracruz with my daughter (who had flown down for Christmas).  I got my Mexican driver license, and went to the Dominican Republic for two weeks to visit my mother and sister and her new husband.

I published the first book on Amazon and a new site called Inkbok, set up a Twitter site and a Blogspot and have been posting regularly.  The third book in my series is organized and I have just started the first chapter.  On reflection, I guess I have accomplished more than I thought I had.

Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am now retired, and everything does not have to be completed today.  This is Mexico and "manana" should be my new word of.

Happy Mothers Day Canada.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Six-Flags in Mexico City, am I crazy?

About a week ago, Raul my landlord, asked me if I wanted to go to Six-Flags Theme Park in Mexico City.  Of course, being almost 62 years old, I told him 'not in your life'.  After a couple of days of pestering on his part, I finally gave in, and committed to going on a minimum of five of their scariest rides.  Okay, I'm both crazy and weak for agreeing.

We just got back from a full day (and I mean a full 12 hours of rides), and I must admit it was fun.  My only apparent injuries were sore shoulders from being strapped into the various rides.  I made it to four of the five committed rides, and the only reason I missed the last was because it was shut down temporarily.

The park itself has been around for many years and is located in south Mexico City.  A few years ago Six-Flags bought it and have been upgrading and adding new rides ever since.  I was very impressed with the cleanliness and professionalism displayed in the park.  The rides all looked extremely safe, and I know because that was one of my pre-requisites before getting on any of them.

We made sure not to eat a large breakfast before attempting the scariest and most difficult rides, and once we arrived at the back entrance to the park (just at 10 AM, the opening time), we walked under the largest ride (Superman) and to my first ride, Batman.  Because it was early, there was really no lineup, and we were able to get on the first ride withing minutes - unfortunately.

I'll backup for a minute.  Part of our agreement was that Raul would purchase my entrance for the day, which included some money for food, and I would go on the five rides he suggested.  Batman, he thought, would be an easy ride for me to start on - because of my age.  He was wrong.  I have been to Disneyland numerous times, but have never been on one of the rides that the seats are underneath the rails.  I hung on about as tight as anyone could, and thank goodness, the ride only lasted about a minute or so.

I'm not a screamer, but after the ride was over, both of my arms ached from hanging on so tight.  The upside down turns and spins are what I really hated.  Raul asked me if the ride was fun, I guess because I hadn't made a sound and he was screaming the entire way, and I said emphatically - NO.  Now that he knew that I was a seasoned rider, he decided that we should immediately go to Superman next door.

It was lucky that I was still shaking from Batman and was basically being led to the next ride, or they may have never gotten me on.  Oh, and let me mention, there were five of us on this excursion today.  Raul and his girlfriend Carolina, our friend Horacio and myself; and a German student that lived at our casa.  It was her first time ever on a roller coaster.  Carolina sat out during the Batman ride and held my glasses and our money.

Superman was an extremely long ride that went from one end of the park to the other.  In size, it made most of the other rides look like ants.  Not only was it long, but at one point near the beginning, it was over 60 meters tall, and at the top, it was almost straight down.  I've never been so scared in my life.  Thank god it didn't go upside down at any time during the ride.  But it was fast too.

I was shaking after Superman, but don't know if I was more amazed about not screaming again or just that I was alive.  As we left, I did however notice that I wasn't quite walking in a straight line.  After surviving these first two rides, the group decided it was time to slow down for a little while and take a couple of easier rides.

It was a sunny day, and Carolina suggested that we take the river ride.  It was easy and you just floated down a couple of little waterfalls and got a tiny bit wet.  Horacio decided that he didn't want to go on this ride and I thought it was because it was too wimpy.  He had another notion about why he didn't want to go, which I soon found out.  

About 10 people were on the ride with us and we all sat in this round floating thing with seats all around the inside facing inwards to circular railing to hand onto.  I had brought a ziploc bag to carry my money in, and put my glasses into the bag before the ride - luckily.  After the first few little rapids in the river, we went past some statues spraying water on us.  We got a little bit wet, but at the end of the ride, there was a waterfall.  We tried spinning the boat like crazy so some of us didn't get wet, but nope, we all got thoroughly soaked.  I must have looked like a drowned rat, because the three others could only laugh when they looked at me.

We came out of the ride soaked to the skin, but fortunately I was wearing my clothing that dries quickly.  After standing in the sun for a few minutes I could already feel a little warmer.  We heard an announcement and off we all went to the Dolphin show.  The show started out with a couple of seals doing tricks (Canadian seals), and then progressed to the dolphins.  I have never seen a show like this, but have seen lots of seals and dolphins back in Canada.  I live on a boat.

The show asked for volunteers to swim with the dolphins, and a couple of little girls got selected.  I was disappointed for them though, because they didn't get to swim with the dolphins at all.  They just got to pet and kiss them.  Oh well, I guess they had fun anyway.  When we left the show, it was time for the next scary ride.  Raul thought it was time for the Kilahuea, the one that goes straight up 60 meters in about three seconds.

As we walked to it, Horacio told us that he had seen that Flash Passes were cheaper than Raul had previously thought.  Raul had told us that we could pass the long wait lines with these passes, but that they cost 300 pesos for 3 passes.  Horacio found that they were 3 for 50 pesos, or 10 for 120 pesos, but you couldn't share with others.  We all bough ourselves three passes for the next big rides.

So we Fast Passed to the Kilahuea, and Raul told me that the view from the top was fantastic.  At least this one doesn't spin upside down or get you wet.  Carolina again didn't want to go on this one, and held my eyeglasses again.  Now how was I supposed to see anything without my glasses?  Raul also told me that I should keep my head back at all times, and once we got to the top the last time (the last time?), it took three seconds before we did the last big drop.  God, what had I gotten myself into?

As we sat there waiting to go, I could hear the machine starting to pump up and get the large air cylinders filled.  Then all of a sudden, off we shot 60 meters to the top of our tower (there were three), and then immediately back down again, almost to the bottom.  Then back up and then down and then up and then down, and finally one last climb to the top.  Once there, I guess the view was nice, but even if I could see, I think my tongue was blocking my eyes.

Then the chair took us slowly up about another five meters, and we just sat there.  Then all of a sudden, we dropped full speed to the bottom.  I actually lifted right out of my seat when we took off.  Thank god the shoulder harness didn't come undone.  I staggered out of the ride area and could feel my entire body shaking.  I don't know if it was pure fear or adrenaline.  All I know my hands were shaking when I held out my arm.

By now it was about 2 PM, and we were all starting to get hungry.  Even though the plan was to get all the difficult rides finished before we ate, we decided to take a chance and eat anyway.  Besides we were more than half way through my commitment.  We found a place called the Saloon Corona, and had a Michalada and lunch.

We had a liesurely lunch, and it was almost 4 PM when we began our afternoon shift of fun.  We decided to start out easy and ride the Carousel.  They had a double floor antique ride that looked fantastic.  The two girls and I decided to try it while the guys waited.  As we stood in line, I remembered that I hadn't ridden a Carousel in oh, about 55 years.  There were sure a lot of little kids in the lineup.  Oh well, we got in and immediately took three horses on the main level, side by side.  The ride started, and it brought back fantastic memories, and I didn't even get dizzy or sick from my horse going up and down.  Too bad Horacio's phone died and he couldn't get a photo of us on the horses.

After the Carousel, we all went to the Bumper Cars.  We had a great time there, and that brought back memories for me too.  Then it was off to the 4th scary ride, The Boomerang (or sometimes called the Scorpion).  Raul said that after my brave first three rides, I was obviously a professional ride rider, and the Boomerang would be a piece of cake.  Little did he know.

The ride itself only lasts about a minute, but what a ride it was.  We used our Fast Passes and got to our turn in record time - darnit.  This time the two couples sat together in their own cars near the back, and I had to find my own seat, right in the front car.  My Spanish is not good yet, but luckily my partner spoke English.  All he told me was to hang on.  Great, the ride started by us being pulled backwards up a steep (a very steep) hill.  Once at the top, off we went back down through the loading area and up.  Then the ride went upside down and made a turn, the crossed over and flipped around and over two more times with a final full upside down loop.

And the ride wasn't over yet.  We went up a last tall hill and climbed to the top for about 10 seconds.  Then a release and we went backwards through all the twists and turns and flips back to the start.  When I climbed out, my new friend in life asked 'otra' again?  No way, I could hardly stop shaking and my shoulders, hands and arms hurt like hell.  Also my legs were cramped from being so tense.  I definitely didn't like this ride at all.

Of course, Raul had to now ask me what my favorite ride had been so far.  None of them.  He laughed, but again repeated that I was a professional.  He hadn't heard me scream once all day - he should have heard inside my head.  It was time to slow down again, and on our way to the final big ride, The Dark Knight, we stopped at the Roller, a kids tiny roller coaster.  It was just what I needed, something easy.

Then the girls decided that they wanted to ride on the Vuelo Alpino, one of those rides where everyone sits in their own seats hanging by long chains from above.  The ride starts spinning around in a circle, higher and higher and faster and faster, and people feel like birds flying around in a circle.  Raul and I bowed out of this one and found a washroom.  By the time we got back it was dark.  So that meant it was about 8 o'clock and we only had two hours left.

Raul couldn't make up his mind what my final scary ride should be.  He thought of either the Dark Knight, the Hurricane or perhaps The Joker.  Or, of course, we could do Superman or Batman one more time.  I said no way to the latter.  We started walking and there was the Dark Horse in front of us.  I guess this would be it.  To make a long story short, I sat this one out, because the lady at the gate wouldn't let Carolina on with her tiny bag.  I volunteered to hold it because I could see she really wanted to go on this one.

When they all came out a few minutes later, Raul decided that I should definitely go on this one with him.  I used my last Flash Pass and he and I went into the building.  He told me that compared to all the other difficult ones I had already been on, this one would be easy.  Not.  It was one of those rides where two of you get into your own car and go way up into a dark building.  The you quickly work your way down and around past corners that feel like you are going to fall off the tracks.  Definitely not an easy ride, for me at least.

But now I felt better;  I had met my commitment.  From here on, it should be no problem.  Raul, Ricarda (the German girl) and Horacio all wanted to finish off the night with either Superman or Batman.  We worked our way towards them, and decided that the next roller coaster looked neat.  It was called Vudu and next to it was the Tsunami.  We had tried to get into Vampire Infestation, but it was closed.    By the time we finished these two rides, we only had about a half hour before closing.

We walked towards the exit and parking lot, and in front of us was The Joker.  Everyone but me wanted to try it, so I sat this one out.  I decided to find another washroom and check out one of the sales outlets.  But first a 49 peso cappuccino.  Now I could shop.  The store had thousands of extremely high-priced junk.  For example, a key chain for 100 pesos or a coffee cup for 190 pesos.  No thanks.

I returned to the ride area, and the group was finally starting to get close to their turn.  Carolina threw me the purse thing she had over her shoulder.  I caught it and waited, drinking my cappuccino - god it tasted good.  About 10 minutes later, they emerged from the sales store, and we headed for the last ride of the evening.  They voted on Batman.

Carolina and I both sat this one out because she hated Batman, and I was sore and tired.  After they finished the ride, we wandered down to the exit.  As we walked, and maybe because it was dark now, we had a perfect view of the bottom of the Superman ride and the huge hill.  We would be walking right underneath the spot where the car was going the fastest.  From this vantage point, it looked like about the scariest ride I had ever seen - and I had been on it.  We stopped for a few seconds to watch, and I swore that this was the last time I would ever do this.  Yeah right.

As we left Six-Flags, we drove past a car near the entrance trying to tie one of the stuffed animals they had obviously won, onto the top of their car.  It was some kind of purple animal and was as big as their car.  Thank god we hadn't played any of the games and won one of these monsters.  Now an hour and a half drive home, and bed.  We took the highway and paid the toll instead of taking the freeway and possibly getting robbed.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

I love Acapulco...

I spend seven months in Cuernavaca Mexico every winter, and one of my all time favorite escapes (if you can escape from an already beautiful place) is to drive about two and a half hours south to Acapulco.  Acapulco used to be the place all Canadians and Americans flew to in order to escape the cold winters.  Now it is basically a Mexican tourist beach destination.

Two years ago, on my first visit, the city was under martial law.  Of course I didn't realize this when we booked our hotel rooms, but I quickly found out.  Supposedly the Narcos (drug dealers) had hit hard times and some of their workers decided to try extortion as a substitute occupation (just until the drug dealing market improved).  A few of them entered a local elementary school to talk to the principal.

After threatening him and the students with harm if he didn't pay, the President of Mexico decided that it was time to send in the army.  When I arrived, the city was full of Federalies, The Army, and of course the Navy was already there in the harbor.  Driving down the malacon was like traveling in a war zone.  We even drove by a tank rolling down the other side of the avenue.

My landlord in Cuernavaca, Raul, had previously booked our trip on his favorite internet site (sorry it is his secret and I can't reveal the name of the site), and when we finally arrived at the hotel, I couldn't believe our luck.  The deal on the hotel included a room for up to 4 persons for two nights, and had a tiny swimming pool and each morning an international breakfast was provided free.  To top this off, the hotel was about 100 meters from the public beach.  The cost for the hotel, 600 pesos total.  The only other costs, other than meals, was fuel and about 800 pesos in tolls.

The hotel was called the 'Hotelita', and was fantastic.  Wal-mart was just up the street near the malacon, so after checking in, we went there and purchased a small cooler, ice and some cervezas.  Then to the beach.  We rented two chairs and a table for the afternoon for about 50 pesos, and Mario looked after our every need while we enjoyed the beach and sun.  This beach is one of the few that is safe to swim at and the water is quite clean.

Later that night we took a cab to the centro area of the malacon, where all of the night clubs and restaurants were located, and walked for about 4 blocks experiencing the sights.  Because it was a weekday, it wasn't as crowded as on weekends, and we had an easy walk.  Let me add that I did not see one single Caucasian during my entire trip.  When we got back to our hotel, we had a nice evening swim, and the pool area looked really great at night.

Of course we drove to see Nuevo Acapulco and the surrounding area to the south of the city, and did a tour of the huge cathedral at the top of the mountain.  The view from the cathedral was spectacular.  We also visited a new outdoor mall in Nuevo Acapulco that had just opened.  Sorry I can't remember the name.  All in all, it was a very interesting visit, and I have been back 3 times since.  I've been to Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, but I must admit Acapulco has it's own charm, which I like.