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Somehow I expected this to happen. As big as my aspirations were for this blog, I knew that I would not keep to any schedule or deadline.

Does that make me a bad blogger? Certainly. Does that make me a bad person? Of course not!

These last couple weeks have been more eventful than I could have imagined. I play basketball on Thursday nights with the guys from my internship. I’ve made friends outside of my roommate’s group of friends. And best of all, my camera is fixed!

All my running around has provided me with plenty of anecdotes and obersvations. So why don’t I share them? Well, a person needs to prioritize, and I will always choose a night out full of new adventures over a night in writing about previous ones.

There is much to tell, so I will stop using this time to write about not having enough time to write (did ya follow that?). Instead, I’ll write up a few entries and post them throughout the week.

Still no way to upload my videos, so let’s hope my writing is enough to keep you reading my forthcoming entries.

– todo tranquilo

Final Word: I love to write, but not as much when I’m the subject. Maybe that’s why I’m not an avid Tweeter?

Nothing ground-breaking here, I just want to share some random observations of life in this Yucatecan paradise.

Atmosphere

1.) Most of the buildings shorter than two stories high. The tightly packed Centro district and a handful of hotels are the exception. Add the fact that the peninsula is mountain-free, and a wide horizon full of blue sky and white clouds unfolds. It’s easy to know when it’s going to rain, because you can see the storm coming from miles (kilometers) away.

2.) That being said, no one uses umbrellas here! The Spanish word for umbrella is “paraguas,” which literally translates to “for water.” So why do I receive weird looks when I use my “paraguas” when the “agua” is rushing down during the rainy season???

3.) Because everyone uses their “paraguas” as parasols here! The sun beats down so hot, that shade becomes a valuable resource. Even a lazy gringo like myself has learned to walk on the shaded side of the street, wait for a bus under a tree, and sit in an aisle bus seat. Window seats are good for a refreshing breeze, but it comes at a skin-squelching price.

People

4.) Everyone is friendly. In fact, they’re so full of love for their fellow man, young couples can’t help but to love on each other in public. This isn’t the cutesy, puppy-love PDA I’ve grown to ignore in the states. One time, I had to change seats on a bus because the teenagers in front of me were practically eating each other’s faces.

5.) I am taller than the average Yucateco. I’m taller than the above-average one, too. I used to be annoyed by all the stares, but now I enjoy the ability to spot friends from across the room.

6.) This advantage was immediately dwarfed, however, when I decided to play some basketball. It’s just my luck that I went from the tallest guy in the room to the fifth tallest guy on the court. Sorry I couldn’t live up to the “you’re from America so you must be good at basketball” stereotype.

7.) I am going to invest in Mexican hair product when I go home. Almost every guy I see has his hair greased back with enough goo to match the BP oil spill (too soon?). That’s not including all the youngsters with their faux hawks and dare I say, double faux hawks. Gasp!

Food

8.) Burger King was the first American fast food to hit Merida in the late 80s. A massive restaurant with a play room opened at the biggest intersection of the city, where it still stands today. And if I’m too lazy to go buy it myself, BK delivers. *See #9

9.) McDonald’s is a far second to the King, and revered as an over-priced novelty that’s only eaten when it’s craved. I know a few people that praise the McFlurry with Cornflakes. No word though on the Quarter Pounder w/ Guacamole and Doritos.

10.) Nearly every restaurant delivers: pizza places, sushi bars, chicken shacks, even name brands like Burger King, Subway, and KFC. Yes, that’s right. If I were able to ignore the massive guilt hanging over my head, I could order the All-American glory that is Kentucky Fried Chicken without leaving the couch.

That’s it for this round. Maybe next time I’ll include some observations from my travels to Campeche. I’m headed there this weekend!

Final Word: This blog would be better if I could upload photos, but I can’t even use any from the web. Stupid Mexican links!

– buenas noches

I was fortunate enough to see a semi-pro baseball game (actual stadium) this past Saturday. I would certainly place the stress on “semi”, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

In fact, America’s favorite pastime (only in name, because football has dominated for years) could attract more fans if it took a few notes from its Mexican counterpart.

My first suggestion to U.S. baseball clubs is cheerleaders. Who doesn’t love cheerleaders? Men can ogle them and women can pick apart all of their faults ( like how the girls I was with did). Of course I can’t upload the video from my camera, so here’s an idea of Mexican baseball cheerleaders.

Now before anyone accuses me of testosterone-fueled ideas, consider the excitement they would bring to the game. There’s always a lull between every half-inning, so why not entertain the crowd? Simply replace one of the many hot dog cannons with these girls, and see what happens. At the very least, put them in front of the “over 21” section (Left Field Box if you’re in Tampa!).

My second suggestion is family-friendly, and sure to liven up baseball fans around the nation – a drum section.

Forget the pre-recorded music. Forget the organ (I know it’s a classic, but man is it boooring). Put a couple of these guys in every section, and people will put their cell phones away. No more texting everyone in your phonebook just to pass the time. The beat is live, loud and movin’ the crowd.

Final Word: I’ve loved baseball for as long as I can remember, and would rather see the MLB experiment with these recommendations in the post-season than extended replay nonsense.

– Buenas

I waited a couple of days to write this, because I’m extremely upset. My computer crashed earlier this week, and I was devasted. I still am.

Without a computer to edit my videos, I cannot maintain this blog as I originally intended. Sorry, amigos. Thanks to the timing of the crash, this blog will remain video-less until I receive my OS disc in the mail.

I’ve been told not to worry about the problem, and just to enjoy Mexico. I very much am enjoying my time here, but without a purpose, I feel like a vacationer. Sure, my internship keeps me busy, but this blog was going to be my own project. And now this problem has halted my soaring productivity just as it was taking flight.

The silver lining, however, is my roomate. He has a nice point-n-shoot digital camera and fucntioning laptop. Lucky him!

With his help, I plan provide some still photos to this blog. In fact, I already have my next project in mind – “Yucatan’s Top Ten Food & Drink”. I don’t exactly need video of the om-noms, and pictures will work perfectly.

These won’t be the engrossing news and feature stories that I yearn for, but they will maintain my productivity, nonetheless. I hope you enjoy them, and thank you for letting me vent.

– Nos vemos

Felicidades, Mexico! Your people, food and music have traveled the world over, and you, as a nation, have endured 200 years.

Although I wasn’t alive for my own countries bicentennial celebration, I am confident that it was nothing like Mexico’s. Every one of its 31 states held their own festivities. Lucky for me, Canal 13 provided me a press badge to be close to all of the night’s activities in the state of Yucatán.

Speaking of Canal 13, here’s some of the news team in action.

They’re in front of the stage that’s setup directly in front of El Monumento de Patria. It’s enormous! This only shows the top third, but I wanted to show the detail.

The party didn’t start until nightfall. By then, all the chairs were taken, and thousands of people piled in shoulder-to-shoulder in hopes of seeing the stage. That’s understandable, because who would want to miss the Mariachis?

Everyone loves a good Mariachi band, even this little guy. There’s more to him though, and you’ll find out just as soon as I finish editing the video.

Now let’s change the mood from happy horn blowing to fierce yelling. Here’s Yucatán Governor Ivonne Ortega Pacheco assuming her role in “el grito”.

While she screams all the names of Mexico’s legendary revolutionaries, the crowd calls back “Viva!” The experience gave me chills.

Once all the serious business was over, Juan Gabriel took the stage. The world renown singer returned to his home country for the historic occasion. Even though I didn’t always understand his lyrics, I’ll admit that the man is one helluva entertainer.

I hope you enjoyed my photos. To see the biggest and best of Mexico’s Bicentennial, check out this photo essay on Mexico City’s events. I highly recommend taking a look, because the events and pictures are infinitely more impressive.

Final Word: Juan Gabriel started his performance just before midnight. I left exhausted around 1:30 am, but most of the crowd remained until Juan Gabriel finished at almost 3 o’ clock in the morning!

-Hasta pronto

It’s about time! I finally took my camera with me to my internship. The video is currently being edited, so don’t be too excited.

However, I did pull a couple of stills. The stories I covered today were all lacking in the video department – mostly press conferences. And it was just my luck that the only decent story happened while it poured down rain. Sorry folks, no rain gear for me.

Just to show you how serious the precipitation can be during the rainy season, here’s a look at the night sky from the other day.

Not too bad, eh? Yeah, that’s because the storm is moving that way. It could have been a beautiful sunset. Instead, this colossal storm ruined the moment.

Don’t worry, I made it off the roof before it hit.

Major storms are expected to cover most of the peninsula for the next two days, which is a shame because of the timing. Wednesday night begins the celebration of Mexico’s Bicentennial with “el grito“. And Thursday is the actual Independence Day, so that should be wild. Here’s a closeup of one of the banners hanging in “el Palacio del Gobierno”. Notice the second “A” is replaced by the pyramid at Chichén Itzá.

Now that I think about it. Unless I finish it tonight, that video is going to have to wait. Because the coming two-day celebration is going to be a tequila-fueled whirlwind. Let’s just hope there’s no rain when the storm hits.

FInal Word: Yes, I bought the tequila that came with the mini-tequila that has a Bigote Bicentenario.

-Emocionado!

As promised, here’s the continuation of my first week of life in Mérida.

I’m writing this post on a mini-couch. Push it together with its pair, and my bed is formed. Now that simple description makes it sound like I’m sleeping on a cozy, padded Voltron, but the two pieces are barely long and wide enough to fit me. It is hardly a sanctuary of slumber. So I’m celebrating 10 consecutive, successful nights’ sleeps on this couch / office chair / reading lounger / bed.

When I’m not stationed at home, I’m always trying to sample the local flavor. I had my hands (and belly) full this past Friday. I tagged along with my roommate and his friends to a bar known for micheladas. What are micheladas you ask? Well, it’s a big ol’ beer mixed with lime juice and chili powder!

Did you gag? No? Okay, good. I wanted to add a picture of the drink, but it was too dark for photo. Google Images has plenty to choose from, but they all look too nice – salted rims, chilled classes. Not this one. The camarero gave me a giant Styrofoam cup full of Sol (Mexico’s Natty Light) and a chili covered rim. Strangest of all, it was served on ice with a straw.

The first couple gulps were alright, the next several started to warm my throat, and halfway through my stomach was hating me. But thanks to Mexican culture, my stomach was not suffering completely. Anywhere you go that serves mostly booze will supply snacks while you drink. Similar to peanuts or popcorn at a bar, these little botanas were just what I needed to counteract the taste and effect of my first michelada.

I won’t say that I’m never going to drink one again, because it wasn’t completely awful. I did finish it. I’ll just make sure there’s plenty of botana around the next time I do. Also, it will have to be a time when I don’t intend to drink much, because that one drink filled me up.

I’ll finish this post by saying that I was expecting a lazy Sunday today. I slept in, loafed around and checked all my Internet happenings. As I was about to check the start time for the Steelers game, my roommate turned it on! I planned on following a game cast, but was rewarded with my first international Steelers experience. What luck!

Attending Ohio University made it difficult to watch Steelers games. There would usually be a Browns or Bengals game on instead. So how ridiculous is it that I had to leave Ohio for Mexico just to see the Steelers play on TV? And they won the home opener in overtime! But my excitement didn’t last long, because no one likes to celebrate alone. Wow. I can’t believe one of the first things I miss about the states is watching football with friends.

FInal Word: Spanish announcers can make a three-yard gain sound exciting.

-Salio por misa

What a first week! I began my internship with Canal 13 on Tuesday, and that is without a doubt the highlight of Week 1.

The News Director paired me with the station’s only reporter that speaks some English (I know why he’s the jefe). She’s immensely helpful and I don’t know what I would do without her. Sure, my Spanish is passable in most conversations, but anything more is risky. So when we’re in the news room and three different people are talking at once and everyone’s joking around, she slows down the pace for me.

I’m confident that I’ll improve quickly, but for now, sometimes the best I can do is smile and nod.

So I follow her and a cameraman (there are no camerawomen) around the city to various stories. The journalistic process is no different, but there are a few small differences.

The first is food. Food is provided anytime the government or an agency invites the media to a meeting or press conference. This would be extremely unethical in the states! What would Mary Rogus say if I returned from a story with a sandwich and a drink? Granted, refrescos are all that’s provided, but one early morning meeting fed us a full breakfast of eggs, potatoes, beans and juice. Did I mention I love comida Yucateca?

As well fed as the journalists might be, there are still plenty who show up late. Now I’m not talking about the acceptable lateness that comes with a busy day of interviews. I’m talking about people stumbling into a press conference as the last question is being answered. Their photos / video has to be terrible. “In other news, a meeting happened, and here’s everyone leaving it.”

But Canal 13 is never late…at least from what I’ve seen. As a state run news agency with a 40 year history, it’s considered the best in the city. That being said, the news room feels more like a comedy club than a work place. Everybody’s rippin’ on each other and cracking jokes. One guy they call Vaca (he’s a large man) hit another guy with a chair! Not hard, but enough to get the other guy out of his. Oh how I love this place.

Final Word: Return tomorrow for Part 2 of Week 1 recap.

-Hasta pronto

I was glad to see that the many “discos” of Mérida continued to profit in my absence.  Traveling down Paseo Montejo (the main drag of the city), I could see crowds of teens, twenty-somethings and adults.

Yes, it is possible to spot a handful of middle-aged men posted at the bar. Once they grab their drinks, they circle the club with heads a bobbin’ and chest hair a poppin’. It would be creepy, if it weren’t so entertaining to watch.

From that description, it should be obvious that I enjoy people watching. But boy are the tables turned when I walk in a club. It definitely has nothing to do with my style or dance moves though. I just happen to be taller and whiter than everyone else. And did I mention less coordinated on the dance floor?

Alright, that’s enough selfdeprication for now. Friday night my roommate and I met some of his friends at Tequila. You’re right to assume from the name that Tequila is not a family establishment.

Like I said, people crowd around club entrances until the velvet rope trolls let them pass. And without any attractive females by our side to catch the bouncers attention, we waited outside for about 45 minutes. And it wasn’t a friendly experience either. Cocksure guys and glam’d up gals push and elbow their way around as if  I’d prefer them to get in before me.

Once we made it inside, we paid the 166 peso cover charge. Two years ago it was 150 – damn inflation!

Who am I kidding? That’s only an extra $1.50. And for unlimited drinks, I won’t say another bad word about it. Especially considering my roommate’s friend hooked us up with an impromptu table. It might not seem like a big deal, but club tables are more than a small circle to stand around with your friends. Servers deliver bottles of Smirnoff and Squirt and buckets of ice faster than you can finish them. No waiting at the bar for us!

Fast forward to the club closing at 4:00 am. Everyone gathers around a little cart selling tortas de carne asada. They looked and smelled amazing. But I decided that my American stomach still needs a few days to prepare for the spicy goodness of street food. Although it felt like a college night, I’m certainly not in Athens anymore.

Final Word: I was told that I understand Spanish very well, but it’s funny when I speak it. How reassuring.

-Buenas noches

I have arrived! It took almost two years, but I’m finally back in the land of cenotes, cochinita and…sushi?? Yeah, my first meal in Mexico was sushi. Go figure.

This is my first post, so I’m keeping it short. I arrived safely, the heat is intense and sabritas no longer have pokémon tazos. Looks like this nerd won’t be adding to his collection. =(

Well, it’s Friday night. That means this post is ending now, so I can scrub up before going out.

Final Word: The house now has wireless!

– Besitos