Monday, June 18, 2012

Things I Learned While Visiting Ireland

Things I Learned While Visiting Ireland:

  • I can’t read maps. Once streets are no longer on a N-S E-W grid, forget it. Without the keen eye of Andrea and her mad mapping skillz, I would have been lost. Let’s just say I’d wouldn’t win The Amazing Race.
  • Two pints of beer and I’m done. Those Ireland folk sure do know how to drink! And a pint is big! I know I’m out of practice but geez. One town for example had a 1,000 residents /50 pubs ratio. They even have taps on tables!
  • The Irish know how to make a good and real cup of coffee! Their espresso drinks were melt in your mouth to die for!
  • Speaking of coffee drinks, their Irish Coffee is now my list of “Favorite Drinks.” Good morning!
  • The Irish believe in magical fairies. So much so that they change highway construction plans just so that they wouldn’t have to cut down a bush that the fairies live in because that would be bad luck! True story, I saw it.
  • Castles have secret peep holes. Great for spying on others. Where do you think the saying “the walls have ears” came from?
  • I want to own a castle. One with it’s own draw bridge, moat, trap doors, peep holes. I mean come on! It’s like an adult tree house!
  • Wifi on tour buses is a great marketing tool. They should all have it.
  • Ireland has had some odd economic problems. For example, they have 100′s of Ghost Towns spread out across the Irish countryside. They are like pockets of nice neighborhoods in the middle of no where. Someone had the smart idea of “build it and they will come.” Except no one came. So these expensive homes, in the price range of $300,000, just sit there abandoned or never occupied and rot away in the Irish rain. Sad reminder of their economy problems.
  • The Irish love to have festivals. They have festivals for any and every reason. I guess any reason to drink is a good reason?
  • Sheep herding is fascinating!
  • I didn’t pack enough Dramamine. Oops. I even told one bus driver, “I need to get some medicine from below, or I may throw up on your bus.” He quickly opened the hatch.
  • A grumpy bus driver once told me to “get your rubbish off the bus.” I couldn’t take him seriously, he just said rubbish!
  • The sun never goes down. Andrea and I would be laying in bed at 9:45/10:00 p.m. and the sun would still be shining bright as can be through the window. And then it would be a quarter of the way up in the sky by the time we were waking up at 5:30 a.m. Bizarre! You NEED a watch there.
  • Andrea taught me how to pop open an airplane bathroom door from the outside. Muhaha
  • Having Business class seats flying across the Atlantic is awesome! Totally spoiled now.
  • I can’t count the number of old men in the airports I saw reading Hunger Games. Makes me smile.
  • And lastly, the constant overcast weather in Ireland is great for photography

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Letter To 2010 & 2011

Dear 2010 & 2011,

You rocked me hard. You shook me violently like a ragdoll for months and showed no sign of letting up. You pushed me to my physical, emotional and spiritual limits. It was to the point that I was numb to any emotion and there wasn't any other place to go. I visited multiple counselors, doctors, family, friends, priests, nuns and churches. My job wasn't even a safe zone. I walked in everyday with hate and fear and walked out with self doubt and tears. I felt betrayed and beaten down. I was sick. It was an emotional sickness that cut so deep it made my whole world ill.

I was scared to leave a job in a bad economy because it was required of me to bring my husband in from Mexico. But my happiness was on the line.

Then I got all Eat, Pray, Love up on myself. I decided to get the hell out and dedicated all my time to looking for a new job.....and then, I was laid off. No surprise there. The hatred was written all over my face. Usually losing a job means spiraling down into a deeper hole but this was a blessing from God. I then went to a retreat for 3 days and it was my chance to heal. My wounds slowly callused over and the bleeding slowed down. A month later I was offered 4 different jobs. I picked the best one and it's amazing how different it is. I'm treated like a human. A human with a soul and a mind.

I am thankful for my new job and the retreat. I can only hope that 2013 is way better.


I am also thankful for these following happy moments that happened in the past year:

Traveled to Mexico City and stayed with a wonderful family.

Added two new ruins to my "been there done that" list.

Saw my first bull fight in Leon, Gto. Mexico

Became a Godmother at my first Mexican Baptism.

Took a stab at a dream and started a photography business called PhotoBox Studios with my sister. 

Took a girls trip to Belize with a good friend after I was laid off.

Ran right into this guy - Gene Simmons on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize.
Let my sister experience the hipster vibe of Playa del Carmen and the beauty of the Riviera Maya.

Discovered how much I'm in love with cenotes and underground caves!

Took an express trip to Chicago with my mom and sister.

Had a fun anniversary road trip to Kansas City for an art fair. 
Took my dog Rico Suave to his first Woofstock. Then we made him do a dog race and he lost bad.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Visiting Our Lady of Guadelupe

Monday, December 12, was the feast day of Our Lady of Guadelupe and last January I had the honor of visiting her site in Mexico City. To me, it was on the top of my "Mexico City To Do" list. I always enjoy a pilgrimage here and there and this was the biggest yet.

The day started out early on a Wednesday morning. We stopped at a local restaurant for some delicious quesadillas. The morning air that once chilled our skin was warmed with a cup of Mexican hot chocolate. After our appetite was settled, we were off. I was a little nervous. I knew this was a big deal and I expected chaos. I knew how much Our Lady of Guadelupe meant to the Mexican people.

What I saw and felt was much different. There was some chaos but it was in the form of a respected low hum. You heard whispered prayers flowing out of all the chapels and into the courtyard. You saw lines streaming in and out from each building. Birds fluttering here and there. You felt the strong desire of the people to be there with Our Lady. Families in their traditional Mexican clothing gathered on the footsteps of the Cathedral as if just being in the company of this miracle was all that was needed.

To make a long story short:
Spanish missionaries came to Mexico to convert the Aztec Indians and stop their mass killing and offerings on their temples to other gods. One Roman Catholic convert, Juan Diego had visions of a lady on his walks from his village to Mexico City for daily mass. She told him to build a church on the site. So he told the Bishop and of course he was asked to show proof. On one of his last visions, the lady filled his cloak with roses (not in season) for him to take back. When he presented the roses, it was what was imprinted on his cloak that shocked the viewers more than the roses. It was an image of the Virgin in Aztec clothing, pregnant, standing on the moon and in front of the sun, gods that the Aztec worshiped. Our Lady was showing she was higher than those gods. The image then converted millions of indigenous people in what had been the Aztec Empire.

There are many churches on the site but I will only talk about the three main ones. The first one is a small chapel on the hill with a picturesque view of the city. It's walls covered in paintings depicting Juan Diego's story. It was then outgrown and a new one was built below. But because Mexico City is built on a large lake, it has started to slowly sink. As you walk up to the building, it's clearly visible that the ground slopes in ways that can't be healthy to a building. So a new larger Basilica was built right next door, this time supported with underground beams so that it wouldn't sink into the soft ground. It's round shape allows viewers to see the Virgin from no matter where you sit.  All around the back, confessionals line the walls. The most I've seen in one church.

Back behind the altar you step down into a small chamber with four moving conveyor belts. They pass from right to left allowing the lines to never stop as the faithful keep their eyes on what's above. Now you can jump on whichever conveyor belt as many times as you like but just don't stop! The security will be right on you telling you to get a move on. It's forever a crowded room.

Besides the original miracle in 1921, Juan Diego's cloak has never even shown signs of wearing down! This cheap textile is only known to last a couple years at best! It has even survived a bombing in 1921. A brass crucifix (pictured above) that was placed in front of it was bent over backwards in the blast while the cloak was kept in perfect shape.

There is no doubt that Juan Diego helped make Mexico the second largest nation of Catholics after Brazil. Pope John Paul II has even visited 5 times and made Diego a saint! He's visited so much, they built him his own platform to speak from on the front of the Basilica. And all around the grounds there were signs of his visits. There is no doubt he too believed there was something special about Our Lady of Guadelupe.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Mummies of Guanajuato

Their families were poor, not around or just plain dead. They couldn't pay the grave tax that was required for their loved ones in the ground. The punishment for not paying the tax? Taking the body out of the ground and putting it into a museum for the whole world to see......

Fortunately for the grave diggers, some of the bodies were naturally mummified. The soil conditions and the dry climate of the mountainous areas were perfect for the bodies to dry out and not decompose.

On one of my visits to Guanajuato, Mexico, I thought it was due time to check out these "mummies" every tourist in town had been talking about. What I saw, I was not expecting. There were all kinds of mummies only about 146 years old! Some had all their clothes on while others just their socks. And all the babies! There were case after case of tiny dead babies. Yes, insert dead baby joke here.

Speaking of dead babies, there was even a mother and child mummy. The baby had died during a caesarean section. The mothers stomach was nothing but folded skin and the baby is known as one of the smallest mummies. One other one is said to have been buried alive! Her arms were covering her face and there were scratches on her forehead. Oh and don't forget stab wounds. Gross huh? So gross I took pictures!

But is taking photos and touring a building filled with dried up people that died not that long ago right? And only because their families couldn't afford to pay the grave tax? Don't know. How many years have to pass till it's "okay"? All I know is that this tourist spot has earned a great deal of money for the city and shows it's history and how it's mountains not only produce gold, but VERY interesting mummies. They have stories, lives, even relatives in the case with them. I learned so much more about these people than I would have if they were ancient aztecs.

If you would like to tip toe through the halls of this mummy museum, you can find it in Guanajuato, Gto. Mexico (NW of Mexico City). The closest airport is in Leon and it's about an hour car ride to the town. The city bus also does frequent passes. Happy Halloweeny!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Hotel Review - Riviera Caribe Maya

Hotel Riviera Caribe Maya, a home away from home. Also a hotel with a very long name. But this hotel surprised me with excellent customer service. From our first steps out of the taxi and into the lobby we were greeted with a smile and an employee that knew exactly who we were. "Are you looking for Javier?" Why yes I was! I was meeting my husband, who had arrived that morning, and our greeter knew we were the two gringas he had been waiting for. Finally, someone that cares about their guests and speaks English! Our room was small but large enough for 3 beds. It was on the first floor and one step away from the refreshing pool. Perfect. No walking necessary. It was like it was our own personal swimming oasis and great for a pool, patio, cerveca sequence on repeat.

This hotel may look small but it packs a good 21 rooms and the ability to make you think you might just be staying at a boutique like hotel. It's beautiful spiral staircase curls around a circular seating area with all the most hipster and gossip magazine for your reading pleasure. Would you expect anything else from Playa? Every room has a working air conditioner, fridge and mini bar. Their suites come with a classy rooftop pool overlooking the city. Now that's a way to chill in style! Internet is free and available at all hours and there is a café right next door for your complimentary breakfast. Keep in mind, it only includes toast and coffee. Not to worry, the menu lists an array of Mexican dishes that range from $5-$8. Very budget friendly and filling.

Location wise, it's one block from 5th Avenue and about a 5 minute walk from the beach. If you are one to complain about noise pollution, Playa may not be the place for you. From early in the morning to late at night we heard music, sport games, traffic and Mariachi bands singing to their hearts content. For us, it added to the atmosphere.

When it came time for us to leave, we had to some how arrange for a trustworthy taxi at 4 a.m. The reliable hotel staff was willing to wake us and have our taxi waiting. That was one less thing to worry about on a hectic travel day. I had a wonderful stay and would be honored to stay again. Maybe this time with the rooftop pool.

Hotel Riviera Caribe Maya
Hotel Riviera Caribe Maya Facebook

Wednesday, August 31, 2011