Friday, June 29, 2012

Mind Lag

We wonder how long it will take our brains to catch up to our bodies.  We left Merida at 5:30 in the morning on a Thursday and by 9:00 a.m. we were in Houston.  By noon we were in L.A., by 6:00 p.m. in San Jose, 7:00 p.m. in Santa Cruz.  The next day we drove to Auburn to visit Colleen's folks, the day after that we were on the road to Seattle for our next house sitting assignment. We arrived the following day, crashed and tried to sleep, then met the homeowner at 8:00 a.m. for a 45 minute orientation before they handed us the keys and drove away.  So, here we are.  In a new city, a new house, with a new pet.  Whew!  Forget jet lag....we've got mind lag.
The house in Seattle is a well kept 100-year-old craftsman style with a cottage garden to die for.  It may rain a lot in Seattle, but they can grow anything!  We walk around the neighborhood and feel like we are in one big botanical garden.  From the house's second story we have a view of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle.  There are coffee shops, trendy restaurants and tempting food trucks, three organic farmer's markets and the "World of Wine" store just around the corner.  We must have died and gone to heaven somewhere over the Gulf of Mexico....

We have just one kitty to take care of here.  But she is one big kitty.  Her name is Hope and she is a Main Coon with a tail that talks.  Swish, swish, she lets us know in no uncertain terms when she is not in the mood for us, preferring to watch the birds in the feeder attached to the bedroom window.  We're okay with it.  We're just glad she finally came out from under the bed!

Seattle is sunny today - we know it won't last. But while it does we're headed out to enjoy it and you may not hear from us again until it rains.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Merida Stays Up Late

Merida clock tower on main square at Night with park in front
Clock tower at the main plaza towntown
In Merida we live our life according to temperature.  This time of year it is hot, usually mid to high 90's during the day, and humid with the occasional brief rain in late afternoon.  It's easy to understand how people who live in hot climates adopted the concept of "siesta".  It's just too uncomfortable to do anything under the blaze of the afternoon sun.

Our routine is to get some exercise, take a walk, run errands and do all of our exploring in the early morning.  We are rarely out past 10:30 or 11:00.  On the rare occasion that we've stayed out longer we've paid for it...dizzy, overheated, dehydrated.  So, we've learned.  We are siesta converts.  We stay home during the hot hours, work on the blog, photos, travel plans, read, take a cooling dip in the pool. 

Motion shot of cars in downtown Merida Mexico at Night
Our local market buzzes in the evening
Like everyone else we go back out in the evening and life resumes.  Restaurants begin setting tables out on the sidewalks around 9:00 and customers begin to wonder in 9:30ish.  

Afterward, families stroll through the main plaza and enjoy "coco helados", coconut ice cream.  The kids play and old women sit in front of their homes and visit with each other.  People do their grocery shopping, go to the pharmacy, stop into the church for mass or a quick prayer.  Almost everything stays open.  Merida comes back to life, and it stays up very late.

Merida Mexico's Contemporary Art Museum at night with street Traffic
Outside the MACAY, Merida's Contemporary Art Museum

Merida Mexico's Cathedral of San Ildefonso facade lit at night
Cathedral of San Ildefonso, the oldest cathedral in the Americas

Buses run late into the evening

Merida Mexico's Governor's Palace at night with street traffic
The block long portico in front of the Governor's Palace is a busy thoroughfare for both foot and auto traffic.

Merida Mexico street vendor at night
Street vendors bring out their carts in the evenings - the Mexican equivalent of our trendy food trucks

Merida Mexico food vendor stall closing for the night with empty tables
Late in the evening the vendors roll down their shop doors for a few hours until the cycle begins again.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Trip to the Market

Merida Mexico two women food vendors cooking

The downtown market in Merida is huge.  You can buy anything and everything, get stuff repaired, have breakfast, get a tattoo, and wander around getting lost for hours.  It's both interesting and completely overwhelming, particularly on Saturday morning when it seems like half of Merida's population is shopping, visiting, and hanging out. But it's an experience not to be missed and we wanted to share it with you.  

Merida Mexico  main market downtown with vendors and people shopping

Merida Mexico El Pastor meats cooking with food vendor and table

Merida Mexico old woman carrying brooms for sale

Merida Mexico woman and son flower vendors making bouquets to sell

Merida Mexico market scene of Yucatan woman in traditional dress selling fruits and vegetables

Yucatecan woman in traditional dress selling flowers in Merida Mexico

Merida Mexico downtown market stalls and shoppers

Merida Mexico women preparing flowers for sale at downtown market

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mexican Mysteries

We've learned many things about Merida in the 6 weeks we’ve been here.  Most of what we’ve learned makes sense to us, but some things don’t.  We’ve come to consider these things as “Mexican Mysteries”.  There is no judgment intended.  In fact, we think it’s our Norte Americano, practical, linear thinking, time obsessed minds that stand in the way of our understanding and chalk it up to cultural differences.   We wanted to share a few of the mysteries we’ve pondered with you.

The mail....

Our mailbox is right next to the entry door of the house and we check it almost every day.   In the time we’ve been here only two pieces of mail have been delivered.  Interestingly, neither one of them was in the mailbox.  The mail is left anywhere that is convenient for the deliverer, between the ironwork in the gate or on the ground in front of the door.  
Both pieces of mail that came were bills from the local utility companies and were delivered not by the post office, but by a utility company employee.  Both were wedged in the iron grill outside the front door, neither had an envelope.   We wonder why everyone has a mailbox, many of them quite fancy, but no one uses them.

It may be 5 o’clock somewhere, but not here in Merida....

Not long after we arrived in Merida we took a walk to the supermarket to pick up a few groceries.  We went early, to beat the heat. We had everything on our list, about a dozen items, when we proceeded to the checkout counter.  There were about 15 checkout lanes in the store, 4 of which were open, and 3 of them were “rapido” for those shoppers with less than 20 items.  We were definitely within the 20 item limit, so we zipped into the “rapido” line and started to put our items on the conveyor belt when the clerk points to the contents our cart, squints her eyes together, and says to us in Spanish, “diez”, which is a word we actually know.  It’s the number 10.  We have more than 10 items, but the sign says 20, so we’re not sure what’s going on.   She’s adamant though and keeps repeating the word and waving us away. 

Confused, we went and stood in the regular checkout line which was a much longer wait.  When it was our turn, the same thing happened, the clerk started saying something in rapid fire Spanish, and about the only word we understood was “diez” again.  We looked at one another, both really baffled at this point, when the guy behind us (who probably thought he was never going to get through the line) tells us what the problem is.  We’ve got three bottles of wine in the cart and, in Merida, you can only buy alcohol between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.   Ah, “diez” we say, nodding our heads, comprehension of our situation dawning at last.  
Understanding, well, that’s a whole other matter....

Other things we wonder about….

Why the police drive around with their vehicle’s flashing lights on all the time and use their loud speaker to get your attention…..why they will tow away some people out in front of our house, but not others…. why the church bells ring at odd hours and never the same number of times….why the gardener didn’t tell us he wouldn’t be around to mow the lawn and just assumed we’d know he went to Oaxaca….why, when construction is done, the custom is to break into the walls after they’ve been built to install the plumbing and wiring…. and lastly, how we are supposed to identify which vendor is outside by the honking of their horn as they drive down the street?  Is it the propane guy or the ice cream vendor?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Around the Corner from the Camels

Merida Mexico neighborhood identifier sign featuring La Tucha the Monkey
We walk everywhere in Merida and enjoy seeing all the little details we’d speed by and never notice if we had to focus on driving.  Some of the most interesting things we’ve come across are these little clay plaques around Centro affixed to the corners of the buildings.   

At first we thought they must identify the buildings, but then we saw the monkey plaque and the building housed a bakery, so that theory went out the window pretty fast.   We asked around and finally found someone who knew what they were for.  They once provided the address system for Merida, before it grew into a big city, and the depictions apparently did have some significance to their locations originally.  For instance, the scorpion was in a neighborhood that was known to have an unusual number of scorpions and the parrot was where the trees were that the wild parrots liked to roost in.  The kind of things the locals in a small town would know about.   How fun, we thought, that our address would have been three doors down from the raindrop and around the corner from the 2 camels.   So far though no one can explain why camels were in the hood....

Merida Mexico clay neighborhood identifier signs 8 examples
Here are the turtle, the little girl, the drop of water, the ring, the 2 camels, 2 we can't translate, and the pearl.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Merida Museum Tour - Day 4

Museo de Arte Popular, the folk art museum presents examples from various regions of Mexico.  We liked the museum's introduction of folk art, paraphrased here for you:

Merida Mexico Folk Art Museum close up of clay Jaguar "el Balem"
Detail from life size ceramic "balem", the Jaquar
"Folk art is born from daily life, ceremony and tradition as a response to surroundings, history and world view.  Transmitted from one generation to the next, incorporating the innovations of the individual is never static.... and is a means of gaining insight into the life of a people..."

Presented here is but a very small sample of Mexico's rich folk art heritage.  

Merida Mexico Folk Art Museum 5 examples of burnished Majolica ceramic ware
Brunido "burnished" and Majolica ceramics

Merida Mexico Folk Art Museum colorful Day of the Dead procession figures
Day of the Dead procession

Merida Mexico Folk Art Museum colorful Tree of LIfe sculpture
Arbol de la Vida, tree of life from central Mexico

Merida Mexico Folk Art Museum examples of dark green ceramics from Oaxaca known as El barro verde de Oaxaca the green mud of Oaxaca
El barro verde de Oaxaca, the green mud of Oaxaca, ceramics

Merida Mexico Museum of Folk Art with 4 examples of traditional textiles featuring embroidery and back-strap loom weavings
Examples of embroidery and "back-strap" loom textiles, various regions

Merida Mexico Museum of Folk Art 4 examples of Yucatecan traditional clothing called "Huipils"
Huipils, woven on "back-strap" looms and embellished with hand embroidery are worn by women in the Yucatan

Friday, June 8, 2012

Merida Museum Tour - Day 3

Merida Mexico's Museum of Contemporary Art interior gallery and exhibit space
MACAY Interior
Merida Mexico's Museum of Contemporary Art Atrium entry with visitors and glass ceiling
MACAY Atrium Entry

Well, actually it's evening 3 and we are going downtown to the MACAY Contemporary Art Museum.  The spectacular atrium entry is a popular place to hang out and people watch.

Tonight we're going inside to see two exhibits.  Ana Laura Salazar and Martha Salazar, both talented painters with their own unique vision to share. We think their work is wonderful and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Merida Mexico's Museum of Contemporary Art Martha Salazar paintings on exhibit

Merida Mexico's Museum of Contemporary Art Martha Salazar paintings on Exhibit
Painting by Martha Salazar

Merida Mexico's Museum of Contemporary Art Martha Salazar boat painting on Exhibit
Painting by Martha Salazar

Merida Mexico's Museum of Contemporary Art Ana Laura Salazar Painting Exhibit

Merida Mexico's Museum of Contemporary Art Ana Laura Salazar Painting Exhibit
Painting by Ana Laura Salazar

Merida Mexico's Museum of Contemporary Art Ana Laura Salazar Painting Exhibit
Painting by Ana Laura Salazar

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Merida Museum Tour - Day 2

Merida Mexico Casa Museo Montes Molina building front
Casa Museo Montes Molina
Today we're taking  you on a stroll down the mansion lined Paseo Montejo to visit Casa Museo Montes Molina.  It was constructed between 1876 - 1911 by Don Aurello Portuondo y Barcelo, a wealthy business man from Havana, for his new bride.  They kept the home until 1915 when politics and the Mexican Revolution made it necessary for Don Aurello to return to Cuba.  He sold the home to Don Avelino Montes Linaje, whose descendants still occasionally occupy the home.  Kept in its original condition, it is furnished as it was in Don Avelino's time.

Merida Mexico Casa Museo Montes Molina entry foyer with antiques
Marble tiled entry foyer

Merida Mexico Casa Museo Montes Molina parlor with stained glass and ceiling molding details
Parlor and ceiling molding detail

Merida Mexico Casa Museo Montes Molina Murano glass chandelier and custom Tiffany glass french doors
Dining room with Murano glass chandelier.  Detail of Tiffany glass created for the room's French doors.

Merida Mexico Casa Museo Montes Molina antique bathroom and bedroom
Master bedroom and bath with claw foot shower

Detail of painting in bedroom

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Merida Museum Tour - Day 1

Merida Mexico Palacio Canton Archaeology Museum Chac Mool reclining statue from Chichen Itza
"Chac Mool"  Considered one of the masterpieces of Mayan sculpture.
Chichen Itza, 800-900 A.D.

Merida Mexico Palacio Canton Archaeology Museum ceramic plate detail
Plate detail

A museum a day keeps the blues away....

This week we're taking you along on a tour of Merida's museums. We'll explore architecture, contemporary art, folk art, history and archaeology. We'll visit one museum a day for the next 4 days.  

First up, Mayan anthropology and history at the Palacio Canton.  


Merida Mexico Palacio Canton Archaeology Museum Jaguar frieze from Chichen Itza
Jaguar "Balem" frieze from Chichen Itza

Merida Mexico Palacio Canton Archaeology Museum two examples of jewelry from Chichen Itza Cenote
Mayan  jewelry offering recovered from Chichen Itza cenote

Merida Mexico Palacio Canton Archaeology Museum 6 examples of jade offerings recovered fro Chichen Itza Cenote
Carved jade offerings recovered from Chichen Itza cenote

Merida Mexico Palacio Canton Archaeology Museum two examples of Mayan clay heads
Mayan clay sculptures

Merida Mexico Palacio Canton Archaeology Museum 2 Mayan clay figurines and one frieze example
Mayan clay sculptures and frieze detail