Tag Archives: not the news

Speaking of Americans

Now that we are on the subject of July 4th (OK we aren’t/weren’t but isn’t this a nice segue) there is an article I read this morning regarding the term ‘American’ which was enlightening, especially in the definition of the term. I always thought that a citizen of the United States referring to him or herself as ‘American’ was really pretentious, since I believed that ‘Americas = continents’ theory, but I am almost ready to let it go.

From the article I read this morning:

How to tell whether or not you believe the term “American” really applies to you.

If you were to go to India and speak to someone who said she had family in America, would you truly respond “Oh really?  Where exactly.. in Chile?..  Guatemala?? … Peru perhaps?”

If a forklift driver in Moscow with nothing more than a high school education reads that “only in America can a dockworker with nothing more than a high school education earn 50 grand a year and if he works hard enough start and run his own business…” , do you seriously believe he’s just as likely to pack his bags for Venezuela or Mexico as he is for the U.S.?

Read the rest here.

The “Real Merida”

If there’s one thing that bothers me about idealistic folks coming to retire and/or live here semi-permanently, it’s those individuals that don’t visit northern Merida or go to a mall or eat at Carls Junior because it’s not, in their constrained and limited perception of what a modern Mexican city can be, the ‘real Merida’.

Maybe it’s because I have lived here for over 20 years and consider myself more local than foreign or maybe it’s because I am just a neurotic bastard, but this comment always manages to piss me off. It’s right up there with the ‘the children are so beautiful’ comment, which I have also had the pleasure of hearing on more than a dozen occasions and which also provokes from me the same, negative reaction. I feel like saying “of COURSE the children are beautiful – ALL children are beautiful, not just the brown ones that smile hopefully up at you, wealthy foreigner in shorts and sandals and flowery shirt.” It just seems so condescending, somehow.

Like the idea of a “real Merida.”

What is the real Merida? Are we (and I am speaking as a Yucatecan now) all supposed to run around in guayaberas and alpargatas and dance jaranas with trays of glasses on our adorable heads? Are we to eat only salbutes and panuchos and ‘typical’ food all week? The mistakenly romantic idea that in Merida time stands still and sushi, malls and Office Max are somehow contaminating someone’s vision of what the city should be is, again, condescending and frankly offensive.

I am motivated to write this little rant thanks to Beryl over at gorbman.com who just had a brush with the ‘real’ Merida; the Merida that most gringos don’t have to deal with and that, for the most part, lies just under the surface of the charming mess that is modern Mexico. You can read all about her brush with the ‘justice’ system in her fun account of what happened when she ran into Big Caesar (check out her photo to get a glimpse of Big Caesar)

Put your feet up, serve yourself a glass of typical cebada and enjoy a tale of one womans immersion into the ‘real’ Merida.

Allianz Medical Insurance – My Experience

Here is a post that I started writing about two years ago and never got around to finishing. Apparently at the time I was venting on subjects more political than Merida.

I think it still pertinent and also somewhat interesting for those of us who pay private medical insurance in Mexico in the hopes that if something goes wrong one won’t have to stand in line dripping blood at the nearest IMSS clinic along with a hundred other unfortunate beneficiarios of their magnificent service.

And it is interesting to think that if the medical insurance companies in the united states are unregulated, imagine what they are like here. In any case here is what I wrote, again, two years ago:

It’s about time I got back to writing something – anything – about life in Merida from a neurotic foreigners POV before this turns into another political blog, of which there are so many. It’s just that sometimes I can’t help myself; my neuroses are not limited to local events or situations and must be expressed, divulged and otherwise expelled from my neurotic mind, according to my therapist. You, my dear readers, suffer the consequences of my therapy.

It turns out that Yours Truly, under a lot of stress during the holidays, had a Medical Situation happen that involved a restaurant, a loss of consciousness, an ambulance, paramedics and a short stay at the Star Medica hospital here in sunny Merida.

Without going into too much detail, once I was declared alive and well, the $18,000 peso bill was paid by credit card on the 24th of December and this neurotic foreigner was let loose and went home with the understanding that the medical insurance he had been paying for the last 7 years would reimburse the costs (or a portion thereof) forthwith.

It turns out that Allianz, through it’s representative who is also my soon-to-be former insurance agent, informed me that no, they can’t pay for any of the hospital bills until further tests are done. Apparently the doctor on duty referred my case to a specialist who wrote epilepsy on the preliminary diagnosis and so, Allianz needs more tests including MRI’s and what not to determine if that is the case, in which case, they will (perhaps?) pay.

It also turns out that Allianz will pay for an emergency stay in a hospital if you are in there for 24 hours, a fact which my excellent and informed insurance representative and former friend neglected to mention to my Better Half, even though he was actually at the hospital talking to the doctors about the case. I was released from the hospital about 18 hours after arriving, and had we known, I am sure my Better Half would have knocked me on the head to keep me there for a few hours longer.

A visit to Allianz’s offices later resulted in a receptionist giving me some forms to fill out, which were exact copies of the ones I already had where the doctor had filled in his preliminary diagnosis. No help there.

Moral of the story? Nothing major happened to me in this case, nor did this incident bankrupt me. But one should be aware that the health insurance horror stories you hear about from the United States are not limited to the HMO’s in the United States; they are part of the system here too, where supposedly we have an excellent public health system which, unfortunately, leaves much to be desired and requires a backup plan.

Caveat Emptor.

Remixto Sunday Brunch

The Casual Restaurant Critic had the luck to be advised of this once a month brunch event to be held at Casa Mexilio, in downtown Merida put on by remixto.com and hosted by the intrepid MexiChica and her hubbie.

Let it be said that to start a Sunday morning in a jungle patio with an exquisite Bloody Mary or a Guayaba mimosa is a hell of a great way to wake up in Merida, even with the 40-plus degree heat that is currently plaguing the formerly white city.

Highlights, after the Bloody Mary, were the Eggs Benedict, cooked to perfection and prepared not with ham but with a sabroso hunk of roast pork aka lechon, accompanied by a grilled tomato and some greenery. The french toast, made with rompope and served with a caramelized bacon and soft, mushy-sweet cooked bananas was delicious. So good were these two dishes that the Critic actually ordered both (and ate both, thank you very much). Federico Navarro’s coffee was strong, hot and fresh, silverware was sparkling new and the whole affair was like having brunch at someone’s home; someone who transforms fresh, local ingredients into marvelous mouthfuls in their kitchen and invites you over to sample them.

El Gran San Carlos – Monterrey

Excellent cabrito, as far as cabrito goes.

The Critic, having been spoiled by the cochinita of Yucatan and Spain (if you have eaten at El Segoviano in Meridas Mejorada Park you know what the Critic is talking about) can not get his tastebuds around the famous cabrito everyone talks about when Monterrey and restaurants come up in a conversation.  Cabrito, or baby goat, can be a dry, chewy, flavorless affair, especially if cooked too long or is from the box – frozen and then reheated – that you can buy in Mexico City airport. This was the only cabrito the Critic had tried and he was under the impression that he was chewing on some dry, dug-up remains of the Santa Elena mummies

The cabrito that the Critic had at El Gran San Carlos was a whole lot better; probably because it was cooked in-house and fairly recently and probably because the Critic was advised to order ‘paleta‘ instead of just ‘pierna‘. The pierna being the leg, supposedly more flavorful but drier and chewier (no kidding) while the paleta is the equivalent to our shoulder with a big hunk of meat that is a lot juicier and fattier than the meager offerings of the legs…

The meat was decent enough, but it just does not have any flavor; and so you smother it with the delicious salsas offered and that makes it a whole lot more interesting.

The other highlight of the visit to this restaurant was the introduction to the Critic’s Yucatecan palate of the ‘frijoles con veneno‘ (beans with poison) which are refried beans swimming in fat scooped up from another Monterrey dish called puerco asado (roast pork), topped with chunks of the aforementioned pork. Be warned: take your stomach acid blocking medicine before eating here!

Photos:

1) the entrance to El Gran San Carlos;
2) Tostadas and hot salsa;
3) Frijoles con Veneno;
4) the local beer, Indio which you ask for like this: “Una Indio por favor” which just sounds so wrong;
5) Mollejitas, which are deep fried chunks of something beefy… the Critic will have to get back to you on this one;
6) The famous cabrito;
7) and 8: Desserts: Guayaba cake and Merengue with Ice Cream

More on the Cell Phone Debacle

Many Mexicans were surprised that there was no ‘prorroga‘ (extension) on the deadline for registering your cell phone; in fact, anyone who has lived in this country for any length of time knows that any new law requiring anything to be done on the part of the populace, ends up getting postponed and those who rushed to comply on time feel foolish, cheated and are laughed at by the more seasoned pros who knew that the deadline was not really that firm.

You might remember when former president Fox announced his ‘borron y cuenta nueva‘ tax program, essentially forgiving fines and back taxes on those who had not paid their federal taxes. Those of us who did pay their taxes felt like a bunch of idiots as the tax cheats laughed their way to the bank.

Water bills? Same thing. The JAPAY regularly forgave debt in order to invite customers to get back on track. While some of these folks might have had real economic troubles, a great number of them did not and simply abused – and continue to abuse – the system.

Well, everyone expected the deadline for the cell phones to be extended and were indeed surprised when it was not. Lineups at TelCel offices were long and the whole RENAUT system collapsed under the pressure of so many people doing last minute registering via text message.

Meanwhile, the question of whether this idea was really that great in the first place has come up. Turns out that a good number of people registered their cell phones in the name of Felipe Calderon (president) and many more registered them in the name of someone else (read more on this here). You perhaps? You’ll never know, unless a crime is committed somewhere with that phone and you get the knock on the door – if they are polite; if not, they will kick it in, to use a phrase by our illustrious governor.

And now, the major player in the cell phone market in Mexico, TelCel, has announced that it has in place an ‘amparo‘ which is essentially a legalistic delay tactic that permits them to NOT cancel any unregistered cell phone accounts, as the law dictates it should. Telefónica, another cell phone provider here is in the process of doing the same. It is difficult to imagine the “powers” that be telling Carlos Slim what he can or cannot do, so it will be interesting to see how the government handles this.

Aren’t you glad you took the time and trouble to register your phone? I know I feel good about it.

More on One of My Pet Peeves: El Tope

So (I have been listening to interviews on NPR and am surprised by the number of times people answering Terry Gross’ questions start with the word ‘so’) I live in this neighborhood – let’s call it La Ceiba, just for fun – that one could consider ‘upscale’  for Mérida; it’s on a golf course, the lots are large and there are a fair number of BMW’s and Audis driving around which seems to indicate a certain level of socioeconomic prosperity. What I am doing there sometimes baffles me, but we got in at a good time and I anxiously look forward to the day when golf will become appealing to me.

The roads within this fraccionamiento were all repaved with actual asphalt a few years back and the smooth surface seems to be irresistible to the frustrated Fitipaldis and Schumachers that inhabit the luxurious homes, and so, topes were introduced. First at occasionally conflicting intersections, then curves, then any straight stretch lasting for more than 500 meters.

Originally, yellow ‘boyas‘ also known as turtles in some quarters were used. These required a full stop and then gentle acceleration as you eased your vehicle over the obstacle; not doing so would result in severe damage to your cars’ suspension system. Interestingly, I observed that the drivers who would come to full stop were mostly men, while the women and offspring thumped over them with little concern. I attribute this to the fact that the men are paying the costs of their vehicle repairs, while the other drivers are oblivious to the damage they were causing.

After the stop and accelerate process became unbearable – do this eleven times on your way to and eleven times on your way from your home and you will slowly go insane – these nasty bumps were replaced by large concrete ramps that had an incline, a top and a decline, if that is the right word. Imagine a kind of wedge. These new topes are much easier to roll over; a high speed traverse will throw the whole car into an Evel Knievel fit, so they were also more effective at slowing down all drivers.

The tope project however, has meant an ongoing maintenance program in which thousands and thousands of pesos are spent sanding, smoothing and then painting these obstacles a bright yellow. I cannot think that there must be a more effective use of time and money than to spend it on these aberrations!

And yet, we can’t live without them, it seems. It’s a sad reflection of reality: Mexicans want the smooth streets they see on TV or have experienced on trips abroad, and yet, they can’t be bothered to drive responsibly on those same smooth roads, thereby requiring the almost medieval solution of physically placing barriers on those smooth roads to make them horribly bumpy again, thereby defeating the purpose of having a paved road in the first place. Because the undisciplined lot that we are cannot be trusted to obey a speed limit, even with the threat of injuring or killing a neighbors’ pet or child.

Slow Food in Merida

This morning I visited the ‘fresh market’ associated with the so-called slow food movement, right here in Colonia Chuburná, in Merida.

My first impression was that I was back in Lund, BC, at an organic hippie food fair; I expected a sweet waft of pot smoke any minute.

Instead, I found a lot of Merida’s more interesting citizens, mostly furriners, selling everything from Peruvian tamales to Los Dos peanut butter and everything in between. And instead of marijuana, what wafted through hostess Monique’s house was an acrid smoke coming from some close by comal, where someone was roasting chiles. The result was something out of a comedy; everyone, vendors and customers were coughing, throats burning and eyes watering.

After buying far too much (never go shopping hungry especially when there are samples) I headed off to work.

As Arnold said, I’ll be back.

Volunteers needed for Elton John

As I mentioned earlier, Elton is on his way to Chichen Itzá, where he will perform April 3 under the auspices of the state government, Jorge Esma etc.

It seems that they are now ready to contract volunteers to help in the organization/running of the concert itself; I suspect these people will help direct people and cars and that sort of thing, in exchange for a view of the concert or Elton up close or even to shake Jorge Esmá’s hand which would be the best thing of all.

Tickets are still for sale, from $70 USD to $700 USD (seven HUNDRED dollars, yes) and there now young people, presumably volunteers also since there is no budget to pay these earnest youngsters, handing out leaflets at intersections in Merida’s fashionable north, where one supposes that those who could afford these ticket prices habitually circulate in their late model vehicles.

But, let’s not criticize; it’s all for the promotion of the state (people have probably forgotten about Chichen since the Seven Wonders thing) and tourism. Or is it?

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In a related-but-not-really note, there was a tiny ad in the Diario de Yucatan offering an excursion to see Elthon Jhon. I wonder if this is the same guy as Elton John or an imposter? It is normal for Yucatecans to add an H where there really isn’t a need for one, ie JanetH, WilbertH, YanetH, HumbertHo,  etc. but one would think that if you are going to promote this excursion you would probably have seen Eltons’ name SOMEwhere, no?