It’s been pretty quiet over here at LJT. After fast travelling like we were running from the law in Europe, we were all ready to settle down and be stationary and do a whole lotta nothing. Well, I can’t do a whole lotta that, but I’m trying.
But we are settling into Playa del Carmen and making a life for ourselves. This is the 8th time we have stayed somewhere long enough to get a regular routine going. It’s both a familiar process and exhausting to do yet again. In any case, here are some first impressions of life here, as well as some of the things we are up to.
Lawdy It’s Hot
Yeah, I mentioned this before but I need to make sure you understand: it’s hot. Sooo hot. Temp-wise it’s not hideous but with the humidity it’s like you are living in a sauna. There is so much sweating, and it starts the minute you exit the building. It’s hard to know how to structure my day because I need to shower AFTER all the sweating but if I go out several times a day, it’s sweat layered on sweat. It’s complicated. If my worst problem right now is when to shower each day, I’d say I’ve got it good.
Wow, is this a tourist town. I mean, I knew that, but I’m reminded of it. The tourists seem to congregate in a small area and are easy to spot. But it’s not just tourists from other countries, as I was expecting. It’s a lot of Mexican tourists too. I’m hearing a lot more Spanish than I thought I would. And that whole “beachy imperfect” vibe that we had in the Dominican Republic is here too. People walk around in all sorts of disarray, like they just rolled off the beach or out of the pool or they’ve been walking in the hot sun for days. No one really looks great here. After the “look beautiful to go grocery shopping” in Medellin, it’s kind of nice.
We did an unplanned social experiment the other day. Whenever the girls and I go to the grocery store we are usually in our normal shorts and tank tops. But the other day before going to the cenotes, we stopped to get some things while wearing bathing suits and cover-ups. We got approached by the designated Tourist Greeter who wanted to sell us something-or-other. Zoe said that she’s seen that guy every time we’ve been to the store, but this is the first time he approached us. Lesson learned. Bathing suits = tourists.
Yeah, yeah, I told you about this already too but I need to mention it again. I found Pilates. It ticks all the boxes! It’s about a 5-minute walk from my house, they have two classes every morning, it’s the reformer beds that are super good for you, it’s a HARD class so there is definite muscle building happening, and it’s $62/month for unlimited classes! In the USA each class is between $17 and $25 so I definitely feel like I’m getting a bargain here at $2-$3 a class. I go 5 days a week and it keeps me sane. I’m happy. Oh and it’s all in Spanish. Despite being a major tourist town, the people who go to Pilates with me are all locals.
Mexican Food Rocks
We liked Mexican food in the USA but in Mexico… even better. We go to the grocery store and the options are endless. Not just our old favorites from the USA (not as many of those, actually) but there are so many things that are local to this area and to Mexico that we love. Corn tortillas! Melty cheese! Beans! Spicy Mayo! Avocados! It’s really awesome. And for those of us who do miss the comforts from home (#Zoe), a weekly large Domino’s pizza works great for lunches for days. Haley and I have had a harder time finding our gluten free items but slowly we are sourcing them. It’s a bit of a treasure hunt because a store might carry a gluten free item one visit but then be out of it for the next 8 visits. We are now on a DAILY trip to the store to look for our favorite bread. Moral of this story: when you see it, buy them all. Clearly that’s what our GF friends are doing. I’m not above making friends with a store worker and paying them to alert me the minute the item hits the shelf. I know how to FSO like that.
Finding Stuff To Do
We are kind of like the Veggietales pirates: We don’t do anything. That’s why these blog posts have been so infrequent. We really don’t need a lot to do. We are trying to save money right now (because 2 houses) and Zoe has a full load of homeschool as she prepares to enter 8th grade in about 5 months. But we still need some things on the schedule lest
we I go crazy. But I think I’ve mentioned the heat…? So yeah, it’s complicated. But we’ve found a few things, including:
- We are working our way through Friends, which Haley has never watched in its’ entirety and will be going off Netflix at the end of the year. If we watch 2 episodes a day, we will be done by the time we leave Mexico. Don’t judge, Worldschooling can be boring sometimes. We like a routine.
- We are doing a lot of cooking inside. We don’t go out to eat all that much (because heat and it’s just another unnecessary expense) so we have been making good use of the kitchen. Haley’s famous GF banana chocolate chip muffins turned out well. Too bad the house got way too hot while she was making them. (Have I mentioned it’s hot?)
- I’m doing my puzzling, which makes me happy. Finding a puzzle board is always an adventure, but this time I got it on the first try and it works like a charm. Too bad it would cost Dan $250 to send me the other puzzles I bought in Europe. I’m going to have to do some FSO on sourcing new puzzles once I finish this one.
- Zoe is making my BandMom dreams come true and plans to join marching band when she returns to public school. Not leaving it up to chance, I’ve got her lined up with weekly drum lessons and she already has her practice pad and drumsticks. I was a marching band kid and I’m practically bribing Zoe to do the same.
- The apartment complex we live in is filled with kids, like, FILLED. Consequently, the girls have started babysitting. They don’t earn as much as they would in the USA and even less when they split it in half, but I tell them that they earn more money than when they sit home and watch Friends.
- Bottom line: We are slowly but surely finding things to do. Second bottom line: If you see me on Facebook like… ALLTHETIME, that’s why.
This technically falls under “stuff to do” but it deserves a category all on it’s own. We’ve been finding lots of good volunteer opps with the animal rescue organizations in town. There are 3 of them and they all have good volunteer programs. So far we’ve gone to kitten cuddling and doggie bathing. They are not cool activities (have I mentioned it’s hot?) but they fall under “the sweat is worth it” category. Having worked for a volunteer organization and knowing how hard it is to integrate volunteers in a way that is helpful, I am impressed with the way they’ve done it. The dog bathing followed by dog walking is a well oiled machine and we usually stay for 4 hours. There are a lot of clean and happy dogs when we leave. I’m usually dehydrated and sun sick the rest of the day. #old
Zoe met a friend, which happens whether she tries to or not. A 13-year old Spanish-speaking boy was one of the dog bathers and walkers who clearly had been there before. About halfway through the first day he used a great pick-up line on Zoe: “Are you on a famous YouTube Channel?”. She fell for the line and they began talking. Turns out he was born and raised for part of his childhood in Medellin, has lived in Spain and now lives here. They exchanged Instas. He also showed up at the other rescue organization where Zoe takes care of kitties coming out of anesthesia. He must be a real animal lover. Or maybe just a Zoe lover? We’ll see.
Even more animal news… we have permission to foster a cat! Our property management company employees are fellow animal lovers (when I went to drop off some mail there were two dogs and a cat in the office). So when we asked if we could help socialize a cat for a few weeks, they said YES! A few weeks later we met a fellow expat who was in need of a kitty sitter for a month. Introducing Lucy! She’s a curious, playful but very loving addition to our little household. And she’s temporary, which is the best kind of cat.
Mentioned above, Zoe has a weekly veterinary clinic volunteering gig at the local rescue. She assists the kitties during their recovery from spay and neuter surgery. Dan calls it “dead kitty petting” because they look so dead when they are coming out of anesthesia! This is her 4th country where she’s volunteered with animals and her 3rd where she’s helped at sterilization clinics. She loves the clinical side of volunteering and the other adult volunteers who are there with her seem to love her too. Who says homeschoolers don’t know how to socialize? Zoe is in there with those adults, holding camp like she’s doing a Ted Talk.
Haley’s schedule is a little on the lighter side. She joins us for weekly dog bathing, and she’s the babysitting supervisor, but other than that she’s grown weary of the “build a life, leave a life” routine. She prefers to take it a little easier here in Mexico (Worldschool Senioritis). During the first few weeks of our stay here she was working through some medical issues we ignored while in Europe. But we found great and inexpensive medical care and she’s feeling herself once again. Now that she’s healthy she’s found a crafting workshop that seems interesting, she’s doing some experimenting in the kitchen and if you ask her what kind of furniture she wants in her bedroom in Arizona, she’s got a lot to show you.
Remember my Happy and Crappy from Medellin? I got so tired of navigating our life via taxi. Here? SAME. I can drive here, but right now we don’t have a car because we live so centrally to everything. So for the days when we need to be somewhere, we just walk over to the grocery store and catch a taxi from there. Unfortunately the taxis are not metered here. The good news is that once you have a rate for your ride, they take a direct route because there’s no incentive to run up the meter (looking at you, Medellin). But the bad news is that the rate varies based on the day and how much of a tourist they think you are.
This is why I like to catch the taxi at the grocery store, because I’m less rushed while doing my negotiating for the rate. I always try to speak a LOT of Spanish and by now I’m getting good at knowing what is the average rate for our regular trips. But at first I got a huge variety of rates. One day when we went to the doggie bathing it cost 70 pesos ($3.50) to get there but only 40 ($2) to get home. The guy driving us home told us that he was giving us “the local rate because you speak Spanish”. Thank you… I think? The other day going to the mall the guy wanted to charge me 150 pesos ($7.55) but normally I get the ride for 70 ($3.50). When I got out of his taxi, refusing his ride, the taxi behind him agreed to take me for 100 pesos ($5). Still felt like a rip off, but less so.
Cenotes, Our Old Friend
One of the things we loved about Mexico from when we lived here before were the cenotes – the naturally-formed fresh-water pools and caves. They feel so good on hot days and with no sand or saltwater, you feel clean at the end of your swim! I overcame my distaste for driving and rented a car for 2 days. On the first day we drove to Cancun in hopes of finding more gluten free options. That trip was a bust and we came home cranky due to no gluten free hamburger buns,
my granny driving dealing with impatient drivers, a lot of traffic and a very uncomfortable car.
But we set out on day 2 and headed for our favorite group of cenotes. Success! We had a blast jumping from the cliff (the girls, that is, #notme), Zoe met a British girl who appreciated the company of a peer for the day, and Haley and I got a great natural pedicure from the fishies. We were reminded of our love of cenotes and despite my irritation at driving, we vowed to do more cenote days soon.
You’re thinking WUT? You are in Mexico, Allison, not Canada! Yeah, I know. But this is what I’m watching on TV right now, other than Friends. The Netflix options, in English, for this region are pretty minimal. I was really hoping to catch up on some things that we missed while outside the USA (looking at you, Game of Thrones), and since we’ve got down time here, and a relatively strong air conditioner, it seemed like the perfect combination. Netflix had other plans. So now I’m consulting with the President of Family Technology (Dan) and we are coming up with some other options.
Dan Does Arizona
Dan is doing well in Arizona. He went to visit his dad in California and was told by the doctor that his dad needs to have more care on a daily basis. So Dan returned to Arizona and rented a two-bedroom apartment, in preparation for moving his dad to Arizona in October. They’ll live as bachelors until all the Sherman Girls return from Mexico in December, when Dan will find us accommodations for, by then, what will be an expanded family.
Dan has also started real estate school. Dan is not a fan of classroom instruction and definitely not a fan of starting school every day at 8 a.m. But he is a fan of making his way in the real estate world so sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. He passed his school test the day after finishing classes (people usually take some time to study… Dan, notsomuch). So now all he has to do is take the vaunted state test and he’ll be in business.
In summary, we’re doing fine. We’re not doing much, but we’re doing fine. Playa del Carmen feels like a comfortable pair of shoes; they don’t look all that fancy, but they feel good when you put them on. We appreciate the many services available to tourists (spas, tours, shopping) and the low cost of services (hair cuts, doc visits, massages) and the active expat community who shares all the secrets of the city. Not gonna lie: we are really looking forward to going home in December. But until then, we are content.