Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Definitive Test - Swine Flu

Try it and see for yourself!

Click here.

Enough posting for today?


Yucatan Governor Speaks on Swine Flu

Special address by the state of Yucatans' governor here.

Scientists see this flu strain as relatively mild - LA Times Today

Here is the link to the LA Times story this morning!

You Look Stupid With Your Cheap Face Mask

I'm not one to criticize (who, me?) but I have to admit that all the people wearing those cheap disposable light blue face masks look pretty darn ridiculous to me. Plus, they don't work (doctors words, not mine)

For one thing, they don't fit properly around your nose area 'cuz they're not anatomically designed so anything in the air will get in your nasal passages from the openings around your nose. If you were really concerned you'd go out and find a real face mask that seals your nose and mouth area. Oh, there aren't any of those.

Add to that the fact that the swine flu is not airborne, it's a contact thing where you have to get sneezed on or grab a handful of germs from a telephone or something and then rub your hand in your mouth, the whole exercise seems rather futile.

I suspect most people either a) already know this; or b) could care less in true Mexican laissez faire fashion, but are obligated to wear the face mask because their employer insists on it. So most people are putting it on, but choose to use it as an interesting fashion accessory in the form of a headband or neck scarf. Often, however, the blue clashes with the clothing you have decided on wearing that day and it just clashes grotesquely. Not good.

So they don't really work and you look ridiculous.

Happy now?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Official Information - Finally!

Here is a link to the Yucatan State government's website page where you can find information on the state of the influenza in the state. How many times can you put 'state' in the same post?

It seems everything is OK in the Yucatan. No cases reported; even that French guy in Valladolid was given a clean bill of health. Or so they report.

Still nothing on the Governor's Facebook page, though. It still says "Hola Muchachos" and asks what those muchachos think of the informe. Maybe the people writing on her Facebook page think only the muchachos use Facebook? I haven't been a muchacho in quite a while.

Let's Get a Grippe

I'm no doctor, so don't look to me for medical advice.

Did you, dear reader, know that last year, in the US alone, and according to the CDC, 36,000 people died of flu-like symptoms? I read that this morning on CNN.

We don't know how many in Mexico or even if anyone's counting of course, but there's probably a number out there and its more than 1000.

Let's lighten up, shall we?


Mobile Blogging from here.

Monday, April 27, 2009

School's Out!

Yes, although there is nothing on the official Yucatan government website ( all schools from kindergarten through university - in Merida at least - are suspending classes until May 6th.

I even checked our governors' Facebook page ( where I can respond to her question: what did I think about the 'informe'. Nothing on the flu or school closures or anything else related to the current situation. I don't think anyone could care less about her informe at the moment.

With absolutely everyone talking about the swine flu and many people resorting to wearing masks, the state government doesn't feel it warrants any update or further information. The fact that there is nothing on the government website is nothing new, really. During the 3 hurricanes I personally have lived through here, the government run radio station will happily play music as if nothing was going on.

Perhaps they might consider updating the site every 12 hours or so to calm the populace...

HSBC Fees - Outrageous or Just My Imagination

HSBC, my favourite worst bank to deal with (and they all suck so there's no where to go) just charged me the fees detailed below. I had given my daughter my debit card and she didn't get the PIN right and so made several attempts at accessing the account.

HSBC, the bank that will give you a Mickey Mouse Made-In-China cheapo plastic digital photo display frame 'as a gift' if you open an account with them so they may fleece you indefinitely, decided that each of these attempts constitutes some sort of 'service' and charge for it. And of course the 'service' incurs a 15% IVA tax.


The following is from the online bank statement this morning. They don't charge for checking this online - yet.

04/20 I V A $ 0.45


04/20 I V A $ 0.45


04/20 I V A $ 0.45


04/20 I V A $ 0.45

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Favourite Things - Funny Sign

This little gem was photographed surreptitiously with the crappy camera that comes with Apple's iPhone at one of Cancun Airports Terminal 3 gift shops.

The employee was busily accommodating merchandise on the shelves so I was able to snap this wonderful sign that made my afternoon a little more pleasant.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Influenza in Mexico

Apparently, there is some sort of influenza bug in the air and there is an alarming amount of cases out there; enough to - according to the press - warrant the IMSS apparently issuing an 'alert' and proceeding to apply vaccines to people already in the hospital system. There are reports that there are no more vaccines in the Mexico City area.

This information was corroborated the other night by a local doctor I happened to have coffee with who said that here in the Yucatan the IMSS did not want to issue a general alert as this would cause a rush on the available vaccines, which, according to this source, were scarce. There is, he said, indeed a shortage of vaccines in spite of a report in the local press citing the contrary for the state of Yucatan. He suggested that if you can, to get a shot.

Influenza is a health problem that affects everyone, but those most susceptible are the very young and older people.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The First Rain of the Season

Last night, I woke up to the sound of something I haven't heard in months, it seems! Rain!

The arrival of a 'cold' front to the Yucatan peninsula has brought some respite from the ungodly temperatures and the rain is a blessing to the parched landscape, wracked by drought, brush fires and the hand of the government and private construction companies intent on removing everything green and native and replacing it with more gray concrete and imported palms, water-intensive lawns and parking lots.

In a day or two, the dry sticks that currently comprise the native Yucatecan vegetation will probably show a sprout or three, turning the brittle underbrush into a bright green.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Things I love about here - Mangos

My therapist thinks that my neurotic posts are working, but is suggesting that I also accentuate the positive, as I see it.

There's nothing better than coming home from work on a scorching 40 degree day, with a throat parched from the 40 plus degree Yucatan heat and finding a stash of cold, ripe bright orange with a hint of green mangos in the fridge! I like to eat 5 or 6 at a time, leaning over the kitchen sink with sticky mango juice running down my chin and forearms, taking in that sweet pungent nectar and savouring rapturously their soft exotic flesh...

And no amount of flossing seems to want to remove those tiny little fibers from between my front teeth!

Another CFE Note

Whenever there is a problem between you and the CFE (you say you consume a certain amount, they allege differently) they will offer to 'check out' your home or business to determine what your consumption 'should' be. They call this a 'censo de los aparatos' where they will go from room to room counting lightbulbs, television sets, fans, air conditioning units; anything and everything electric. They will then determine, based on average usage tables that they have made up, what your consumption really should be. They will then propose that as what you should be paying.

The word they is bold for a reason. They decide how you are using your aparatos electricos. If you tell them 'but I only use my blender once a month for the MEL margarita nite' they will just nod and smile; 'Sure you do.' There is not much of a recourse for you once you have gone that route. It will be up to you to somehow prove that you are really not using that air conditioning unit: it's your word against theirs and they are holding all the cards. If you lodge a complaint with the CFE you lodge it with them. What possible motivation could they have to fix your problem? There is of course, the PROFECO, but be warned that a fight with the CFE will be costly, time consuming and they will probably cut off your service for the duration.

As a foreigner, it's easy to be taken in by the politeness of the fellow asking you for permission to come into your home. My advice, from the cynical Mexican Yucatecan POV, and from years of experience living here and talking to other Mexican Yucatecans is to politely but firmly deny them this access. Once you do, it's like the Miranda statement thing police in the U.S. tell their arrest victims "anything you say or do can be held against you..." And it will be.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

CFE Woes

At the Blogger Summit alluded to in an earlier post today, it was suggested to me by my good friend Ellen that I should/could write more from the unique vantage point that being married to a Yucatecan has given me.


Turns out that our good friends at the CFE (Comision Federal de Electricidad for those new to the initials) have been billing yours truly incorrectly. Yes, the bills have been rather low, almost to the point of being ridiculously low, but I attributed it mostly to the fact that both teenagers are out of the house and the adults are working all day and rarely use air conditioning, thanks to high ceilings and plenty of fans.

In any case, the Mexican in me found it rather stupid to actually go to the CFE and say "Hey, I'm paying too little, can you check this for me". The Mexican thinks "Do I look like a p****o?"

The Canadian in me of course, was thinking it the whole time.

Finally, the CFE, perhaps with the stimulus of the economic downturn or for whatever reason (if reasons are to be found at the CFE in their decision making processes) decided to check the entire neighborhood. This entails going from house to house, leaving notices that will freeze your blood - they are notorious for imposing enormous sanctions on businesses or private residences that have problems with their electrical usage - advising you, Mr. or Mrs. Homeowner that the CFE wants to check your medidor and is making an appointment with you via the notification.

I don't know how to translate this, so briefly: the medidor is that glass encased mechanism at the front of your property that has the spinning thingie inside and tells the CFE how much wattage you are consuming. Oh look, there's a photo right there.

While you wait for the appointed moment, you sweat, you bite your nails, you stare at the ceiling unable to sleep, you call a lawyer who specializes in CFE abuse cases; all the symptoms usually associated with something more violent, like a kidnapping .

Finally the day arrives, and the abnormally polite CFE technician and you, the nervous customer meet at your medidor where another CFE guy removes the medidor, attaches another, different aparatus. Your old medidor is attached on top of that.

"What's that for?"

"It's for measuring the actual current coming through the line directly. It will tell us how much current is going through to the medidor."

Several tests are made, they are offered a glass of pineapple agua with ice which they gratefully accept and then the diagnosis is complete. The medidor is not working properly. There is something inside that has been damaged or burned out and so they have found what they are looking for, validating their inspection. This is not something caused by us, the homeowners, it's a mechanical failure of some sort.

"What now?" we ask nervously.

"Well, we are going to install a new medidor" we are told matter of factly. "There was a problem with this one and it evidently resulted in you being billed less than your real consumption"

"And then?"

"After a period of about 15 days, we will take a reading and determine what you should have paid, compare that with what you actually paid and present you with the difference, which will have to be paid."


We have heard horror stories about these visits from the CFE. However, a lot of these horror stories are the fault of the homeowner, who has opted to hire an electrician or corrupt CFE employee, to alter the medidor so that it spins more slowly thereby causing a reduction in the bill, or worse, having an installation that BYPASSES the medidor altogether. This latter option is called a 'diablito' and if you are caught with one, you WILL pay BIG time. In fact it is a crime known as Robo a la Nación or Stealing from the Nation. You have to live here to appreciate how insanely attached Mexicans are to their simbolos patrios and the CFE is practically up there with the flag. To steal from the CFE is like betraying the country. Almost firing squad material.

This was not our case. It was a simple case of a mechanical failure.

Yesterday, we got the bill. It comes to $19,000 pesos. The difference between what we paid and what we should have paid, for the last 24 months.

And this is where Ellen's comment comes in:

The Canadian in me is saying "Why the hell am I responsible for the CFE's equipment!! This is outrageous! If I buy Ben and Jerry's ice cream at Walmart can they come back 24 months later and say, 'you know what, that price was wrong, you're going to have to pay the difference'. What the hell! I'm ready to go to the PROFECO!"

The Yucatecan Mexican in me however, is saying, "Well, $19,000 pesos is not so bad. Let's just pay it and get it over with. After all, our friend Fulana got hit with a $50,000 bill so this is much better. Hell the CFE even gives me the option of paying in monthly installments. Just pay and shut up about it."

So there you have it.

Kind of a long story but what Ellen said struck a chord. I had both reactions at the same time. One Mexican, one Canadian. Which one will prevail? Probably the Mexican. My fellow homeowner and much better half is Mexican as well. Simple majority.

The Blogger Summit

I had the opportunity to meet some fine folks who write blogs about their lives in Mexico at a recent get-together that saw bloggers attend from here in Merida and also Cancun, Playa and Isla Mujeres. It's actually still going on as I type this. The common thread is that we were all foreigners writing, in one form or another, about life here in Mexico!

There was a half-day of presentations which I found interesting, especially the parts about making money with your blog (forget about it) and finding inspiration. My inspiration has always been kick started by something that really gets under my skin ie pisses me off, but this made me think about other, less energetically angry motivations to write.

After the presentations there was a cantina lunch at La Ruina, which the Casual Restaurant Critic comments on himself so there's not much point in going on about it here. If you've ever been to a cantina, you know that you can do much of your entertainment shopping (CDs, DVDs) there as well as having your shoes polished or perhaps buy smokes or candy from outside salespeople off the street. What really stuck out was the enthusiasm shown by many at the table for the pirate DVDs offered at the cantina. I'm not saying it's only Mexicans that buy pirata, just that it came as a surprise to see that level of interest.

Thanks to Theresa for setting all this up - I think I am going to invite Jorgito next time there is one of these blogger meet-ups!! I'm sure he would have a blast.

Friday, April 03, 2009


As I continue to reluctantly deal with my branch of the infamous HSBC bank (is any Mexican bank really better) I never tire of looking at the their misleading and blatantly stupid advertising.

For example, in their severely service-challenged Gran Plaza branch they announced just recently "New operating hours - more ventanillas open - to serve you better!!!" A ventanilla is a window. In this branch there are 3. Well, they did modify their operating hours; they reduced them, eliminating Sunday opening and shortening Saturday service. As for the ventanillas, the same number is open as before. 2 or 3. Absolute crap.

Signing in to their online banking site, I was greeted by this message, trying to sell me on the idea of using this pathetic bank for my family's insurance needs:
If you read any Spanish you will notice the spelling errors, which, IMHO do not inspire any more confidence in this mediocre-at-best banking institution.