Monday, March 29, 2010

Back from Cancun, back to work 03/29/2010

The Mexico trip ended last week and we arrived safe and sound back in Auburn, GA. I worked 2 days last week, and am on call this week – time to get back in the swing of things!
I gained 4 pounds during the 2-weeks we were in Cancun, which honestly is not all that awful. I’ve since lost almost 2 pounds, so I hope that my weight-loss slope is back on the downward momentum (currently at 242lbs)
While in Cancun I found that the fresh fruit and seafood were plentiful – and the restaurant food was…. OK. Laurie and I could have split most dinners, but honestly we didn’t eat out all that much. I found a new WalMart Superama, which is like our local Publix, and they had a fresh seafood section that was – amazing. As was their deli offerings. At another supermarket called Sorianna I found amazing fresh salads including a Pico De Gallo that is unbelievable – I found that I could buy “a mess” of fresh seafood (steamed) that included a mix-up of squid, crab, mussels, scallops, shrimp, and surimi (fake crab), mix that with several spoonfuls of the Pico and a liberal application of catsup (!) and I had a Seafood Ceviche that was very close to that available at El Cejas (in Market 28).
We rented a car this trip – a great move – and to avoid the Hotel Zone madness, we would take the alternative route to get back to our condo at Solymar and we had to pass right by this WalMart Superama, it was never crowded so I could run in and out with no troubles.
I got a real kick out of the ladies at the deli there – they of course spoke no English but we were able to get business done with a lot of pointing, smiling, nodding, and “si!” The offerings at the deli were tasty – the macaroni salad was what I am accustomed to in the US but there they add small chunks of sliced ham. The chicken wings are more like HUGE wings – like a leg or thigh at KFC – and their wing sauce is very aggressive! Not too hot/spicy, but very strong. The deli also had beef and chicken offerings, but they were more of a stew or goulash – I haven’t really gotten “back into” beef just yet, so I passed on these meals.
El Cejas is my favorite restaurant while in Cancun. It is located in Market 28 and has a fantastic menu at what I consider “Mexican prices”. Nearby is La Parilla, which offers great buffets three days a week – Since my volume is way down, a buffet may seem like an unnecessary thing, but I like the wide selection offered in places with a buffet. We also like Mocambo’s – in the Hotel Zone but out of the way and has a great view of Isla Mujeres and Cancun “bay”.
I did get to eat at Taco Factory once and got the Tacos ElPastor, which is a carved pork roast that is interlaced with pineapple and cooked on a spit similar to what your see in a Greek restaurant. The authentic tortilla are very small, about what you could fit into your palm, so I got 4 of them and ate more of the insides than the tortilla! This place is in a very bad section of the Hotel Zone. During the day the workers are cleaning up from the mess the nighttime partiers make, and at night you just flat out stay away from this area. Drugs, prostitutes, just a bad scene. But good food! There are about five ‘clubs’ in this immediate area, all offering ‘all you can drink’ packages to partiers for about $30USD – I’m surprised more people don’t get in a lot of trouble in those places.
I have my 6-month post-surgery follow-up on 4-28-2010 with Dr. Richard, and as part of our discussion, I have cut back on my Reglan from 4x-day to 2x-day, with plans to eventually cut it out altogether. He placed me on this med after my digestive ‘events’ on t’giving 2009 and New Years 2010, - his first though was that my intestinal area was acting like an accordion and collapsing in on itself as a result of excessive stomach acid in my “old” stomach. He also fears a kinking action where the ‘y’ part of the Roux-en-y procedure took place – he said he could go in and tack that up to stabilize if necessary, but he wanted to wait as long as possible to allow my weight loss to stabilize, as the chances of success a much greater if the weight loss has been achieved prior to any surgery. The same prognosis goes for my hernia (repaired 03-92) that needs to be readdressed. But since I have been on the Reglan, I have not experienced any further pain or discomfort since the New Years Day event; we will see what the good Doc has to say on 4-28. I also had an appt with my Cardiologist that I missed (gasp!) for I had foolishly scheduled it for the day after we got back from Cancun. I now have to call and reschedule.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sat and Sun in Cancun (3/13&14/2010) - Chamber of Commerce weather!

Sat March 13 & Sun 14 2010. Weekends are the busy times here in Cancun. A Typical vacation starts and stops on Saturdays, so those days find the most traffic, crowds, confusion, and partiers. All four of those found their way into our lives over the past two days. On Sunday Laurie gave herself her Humiera shot, which is a new drug therapy for her to help with her Crohn’s Disease. It has some minor side effects, but just the injection itself is pretty intense. She has to find a suitable injection site – this time it was in the back of her upper thigh. She quickly started a low grade fever, but that is somewhat normal.
We hung around the condo for the past two days, watching the world go by and enjoying the beautiful weather. It is what I describe as “Chamber of Commerce” weather, for it is the absolute perfect conditions that the local tourism authority and politicos know will draw great crowds of visitors. The days started out in the low 70’s and never got out of the 80’s and not a cloud in the sky and with light breezes. How could it get any better?
I am on my 2nd book of the trip, The Memory Collector, by Meg Gardiner. I just finished The Dirty Secrets Club by the same author on Saturday. Meg Gardiner is a mystery writer, in the Michael Crichton vein; I discovered her books while reading a Stephyen King article in Entertainment Weekly – he found Ms. Gardiner’s Evan Delancy series to be a great read, and I bought the set of five books for our trip to Solymar two years ago. DSC and Memory Collector introduce a new character, Jo Beckett, a forensic physchologist. She comes in after a “life ending event” – maybe a murder, maybe a suicide? And works to unearth what the state of mind of the deceased was and tries to unearth the truth from that angle – very interesting. I highly recommend her books if you are looking for a engrossing book(s) to read! But be sure you have some time to devote to reading (like on a vacation!) for you will not want to put them down. One thing for sure, sometime before next summer I will invest in a Kindle or similar, as lugging over 10lbs of books around is no fun – I have the new Stephen King book to read during this trip, “Under the Dome” – it alone is several inches thick! I did bring two paperbacks, but it seems that all of the most interesting books aren’t out in paperback yet (or so the marketers would have you belive!)
OK, back to the vacation. Saturday found us just lazying around here, enjoying the beautiful weather and the peace and quiet. We are enjoying so just ‘wtaching the world go by’- there are cruise ships passing by on their way to Cozumel, vendors roaming up and down the beach selling items (constantly, it seems) and and entire generation of different kinds of people all with different plans and agendas, hopes and dreams, some on schedules and some not, young and old, working and relaxing – it is amazing just to sit and watch.
Our condo is on the 2nd floor, which means there are really three levels below us. Solymar is built on an interesting floor plan – the two hallways have three accessways to the rooms. As an example (look at my pics for more info), from Level 1 you see several doorways. On the left there are doors that lead to rooms overlooking the ocean. On the right there are doors to rooms overlooking the lagoon (much cheaper), but there are also stairways. Some of the stairways go up, others go down. So from Level 1 you can access rooms on the ‘ground floor’, rooms on that level, or you can access rooms on the next level (but that is not Level2). If you were to take the elevator (or stairs, lots of stairs) to Level 2, you would find similar access – there are rooms on Level 2, there are stairs leading down to rooms below (which would be ‘above’ the ‘up stairs’ rooms on Level 1) and stairs leading up to rooms above Level 2 (which are the penthouse rooms). So if you are standing at the beach and look back at Solymar, you see there are six floors of rooms, but if you come into Solymar you only find 2 hallways. Very Efficient.
From our room, 2407, we have a great view of everything. We can see the pool, the restaurant and the beach. The sun angle is great in this room as there is just a few early hours of direct sun – which is a good thing, for after a few minutes you can get quite sunburned. Below us on the ground level are some college-age young men, and they have ‘the best spot’ in the complex – direct access to the pool, a nice patio with chairs (and a bathroom), which makes their room ‘party central’. Laurie and I have had a great time watching people come and go with this group. At times the crowd of young people at the pool can exceed 30 – the girls are not paying any attention to the guys, the guys are acting like typical college guys trying to get the girls to notice them, there is a lot of alcohol involved – even drinking before 9am! – and it seems that the world is in a good place – there will be this kind of interplay for generations to come, now and forever. There are families with young kids that play around the perimeter of the action – the pool to the left of our view is a very shallow “kiddie pool” – we are having fun watching the kids play and the parents and grandparents concentrate on them while also watching (staring?) at the college kids and maybe remembering times back when they were part of that group….
The Solymar “entertainment staff” cranks the music up early to get everyone’s blood moving around – but this is not The Oasis or The Rui Palace, though they try very much to be. They drag a volleyball net across the pool occasssionally and try to get the crowd involved, the poolside bar is constantly busy with imbibers, The beach has just been ‘rejuvenated’, the Cancun Association brought in barges to pump sand back up to the beaches which was washed away by the active hurricane season they had last year. But as oceans can do, Mother Nature is busy moving all of that sand back where she wanted it to be in the first place – you can see in some of my pictures the dramatic dropoff at the oceans edge – with each wave, more and more of that sand is working its way back into the ocean – right where it was intended to be. But for as long as man has assets on the beach, he will fight for the right to exploit The Beach, and Mother Nature will fight back just as hard and quite relentlessly to set things back the way she intentended. Such is the cycle of life.
Laurie and I tend to just eat one meal a day here – we used to say it wsa because of the heat, but in March it is just not that hot… anyway, on Saturday we went to The Shrimp Bucket – Laurie had a 1/2 lb of the Peel-and-Eat shrimp – they were the size of your finger and quite tasty. I had the Scallop and Shrimp skewers, and they too were quite tasty and pretty much exactly as described – scallops and shrimp on skewers (kabobs). I had cole-slaw as well. The Shrimp Bucket is lagoon side, and we got to watch the Aqualand Marina customers as they went on their Jungle Cruise excursions, rented JetSkis, or took group rides on the Jet Boat – everyone is looking for a different thrill. Me? I am too old for thrills like that :o)
Sunday was a quiet day, we lounged around Solymar most of the day, Laurie was really feeling the after effects of that Humiera shot. Late yesterday we headed to La Isla mall to find an internet café where Laurie could call back to her mom and Bridgette (our cell phones cost $.99min to call back to the USA!) but the café that used to be at La Isla is not there any more. We went by the new WalMart Superama and got some macaroni salad, chicken, and refried beans and stuff to make grilled cheese sandwiches and headed back to the condo. This new WalMart Superama is out in the middle of nowhere, so we gringos were quite out of place – and not a single person there spoke any English. I was peering into the deli selection and was able to get my ideas across to the deli lady – 2 of this, 4 of that, can you wrap this in cellophane? She offered tastes of things I didn’t recognize (and there were a lot of that), I also got a small container of their seafood mix – it looks like squid, crab, scallops, pico (salsa) – and Kenneth, I found the Rooster Sauce! After a quiet eat-in meal, we relaxed. A quiet day in paradise!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Cancun MX part 2 - Playa Del Carmen

Fri March 12 2010 – today we decided to head south to Playa Del Carmen, since we had the rental car, why not see some new sights? Our first stop was at a new WalMart Superama in the commercial district near the airport to get some sunscreen – the two aerosol bottles we had purchased would not work! Heavens knows how to return them… the Superama was interesting, very small, more like a Publix vs Kroger. After we stocked up, we headed south on MX307 – the main drag that heads south of Cancun. It is as wide as a 4-lane interstate (2-lanes each way), but there are really no road rules – if there is room for 3-wide cars, then there are 3-wide cars! The speed limits are in KPH, and 100KPH seems to be about the maximum.
We traveled through Puerto Morales, past several new large hotel entrances, over several arbitrary speed tables and huge speed ‘bumps’ – all mean, I assume, to slow things to practically a stop for no obvious reason. We arrived in Playa Del Carmen and really had to hunt for a parking spot – one of the perils of having a car in this part of the world. We wandered around this town a bit – it was really just a smaller version of Cancun, as we expected, but it is a major port for ferries that run to Cozumel, visible on the horizon. Cozumel is a major port for cruise ships, and you could see them as well. Hit my flickr page for more pics. The beaches in Playa Del Carmen were pretty, but they were occupied by two major hotels – both looked pretty pricey. We had lunch at a nice eatery – I had shrimp and chicken fajitas and Laurie had chicken tacos – neither of us ate all of our meal, though we did get some table-made guacamole dip which was very, very good. The waiter asked if we wanted it ‘spicy’ – I did, Laurie didn’t :o), so we got it not spicy. We arrived back at Solymar in plenty of time to be able to enjoy the evening, and Laurie was able to get on the net and ‘text’ message her daughter Bridgette. We bought some bootleg DVD’s at Mkt 23 and tried to get them to play – we found out the DVD player didn’t have any cables hooking it to the TV! We’ll have to talk to Michelle about that! Laurie was able to watch one of her movies on my laptop. I awoke this morning to a beautiful moon, pre-sunrise. Check out the flickr page for those pictures – and I found out that Starbucks doesn’t open till 8am on Saturday and Sunday – I saw the “7am Lun-Vic” on their sign, but didn’t recognize the ‘8am Sab-Dom’ meant Sunday AND Saturday! I gotta learn some Spanish.

Friday, March 12, 2010

3-09-2010 We started this trip to Cancun in the most traditional way – packing out suitcases. How people can go to far-flung destinations with just carryon bags amaze me – just Laurie and I ended up with two suitcases each – I brought books, electronics, medical supplies. The stuff we brought just seemed to grow with each moment. But we made it. This year we were able to get our two Delta tickets with frequent-flyer miles that I had accumulated over the past 10 years; I paid for the taxes and fees, the rest was covered by the miles.
My brother Ken volunteered to deliver us to the airport and pick us up after the trip. Laurie’s Mom and Dad offered to keep Koko, and we sure do appreciate all of that great help. Without it the trip would have not only been that much more of a hassle but also cost us more.
We boarded out plane early and with little effort – the plane was much less than half full, so and that made the 2.5 hr flight just a bit easier to take. Landing was “good” – I’ve heard that “any landing you can walk away from is a good landing”. The airport in Cancun has changed over the years, the latest change made immigration and customs very easy to navigate. Cancun Valet was waiting for us as we exited the airport, and we arrived at Solymar about 3pm Cancun time. We got our bags into out room, 2407, and got unpacked. And we crashed. No food to speak of today, Laurie and I each had snacks on the plane and some more munchies in the room, but we were so tired the first night that we just crashed.
3-10-2010. Wed. brought the discovery that the promised internet access in the room really didn’t work. I can ‘see’ the signal while sitting at the kitchen table, but not connect. We later figured out that if we take the laptop into the bathroom we can connect there (a bit closer to the wireless access point in a nearby condo). OK. So that is what we have to do. I went to Starbucks on Wed morning to do my Univ. of Phoenix work and was there from 7am to a bit after 9am. While at Starbucks at the La Isla mall I stopped at one of the car rental agencies and found that we could rent a car with all insurance for about $50/day. Hmmm. Talked that over with Laurie and we decided to splurge on it, and the next thing I know we are driving a fire-engine red Nissan Tsuru, an entry-level 4-door car. Auto tranny and an entry stereo, but it is a nice car for Cancun. Our first trip was to WalMart, but we first stopped at Bubba Gumps for an early dinner. After the WalMart run we went to Soriana for some Pico-de-Gallo, and then came back and unloaded our purchases. Again exhausted, we retired early. I gave Laurie a necklace for her birthday; it is of the state of Georgia with ‘heart” over where Warm Springs is located. :o)
3-11-2010. Thu found us on the balcony listening to a CD and reading. The sun was out, the wind was blowing, and we had a nice quiet afternoon. We headed to Market 23 to buy some DVD’s – they had Avatar :o) – and we ran by Plaza Las Americas to hit the drug store for some Tylenol (needed for Lauries sinuses). I am navigating the Cancun madness pretty well in the red Tsuru, we took the “aeropuerto” road home and saw the Cancun Autodromo (where a future Formula One race is slated to be held) and the Cancun BMW dealer, a bunch of new building going on, and in general controlled mayhem on the roads, but everyone going along and getting along.
Our return to the condo brought the discovery that, while we do have a DVD player, there is no cables from it to the TV! We will have to talk that over with Michelle the next time we see her. Another fun day. Tomorrow we go to Isla Mujeres. Peter and Michelle came by and dropped off some flowers for Laurie’s birthday. They are beautiful.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Off to Mexico for 2 weeks... pray for me!

My wife and I leave on Tue 3/9 for our annual 2-weeks in Cancun, we stay at a condo managed by good friends of ours. (they have great condo's at an even greater deal - here is their site - use my name! It might be worth something, maybe even for me ) Michelle and Peter Hermick, great folks.

The big thing is this year I will be (at least) 110 pounds lighter than any year before! The condo we are renting is on the 4th floor, and though there are elevators, I am gonna use the stairs when my hands are free to do so! During all of our previous years we have had a ground-floor unit - which at my weight then (350ish) was almost a necessity.

And this year I am draggng alot of new things that will almost fill a suitcase - a tub of IsoPure protein (enough for 14 days), six bottles of mineral supplements and vitamins, five bottles of prescription drugs, liquid Lortab (haven't needed this in several months, but better safe than sorry) Liquid Tylenol (2 varieties, simply not availalble in Cancun).

And this year I will be able to take advantage of the nice wide sidewalks in front of our condo - the question is, will I take avantage of it (my plans say yes!) Access to the condo from the main highway requires a pretty good hike up their driveway - rea;listically not all that far, maybe 2 minutes and up a nice paved driveway to the main entrance - previous trip this hike alone would have pratically brought me to my knees, gasping for breath and sweating like a, well, like a stuck pig.

I am still under my 'no alcohol for a year' pledge to my surgeon, so no cervesa or margharita's but lots of water and relaxing and enjoying our time together. Lots of pics to follow!

But here is where it gets tempting - the food! I know some great seafood places, and plan on visiting them moreso than the equally-great tamale, burrito, enchilada, nachos (oh those authentic nacho chips!), rich sauces, Tequila (!).... my favorite breakfast spot has a great grill that makes absolutely tempting omelettes, but also has an equally tempting fruit bar and such....

I'm taking six books - two by Stephen King, one by Michael Crichton, two by Meg Gardinier, one by Temple Grandin. I will have an internet connection there, but promise I am just going to use it to teach my college classes and email, and for no longer than 2 hrs a day and only while my wife sleeps late. I promise!

Friends, please pray for me! I am heading off to this trip at 238, blood sugars "normal", blood preessure "normal", my knee(s) don't hurt near as bad - and I want to return on 3/23 even lighter / healthier / happier / rested / refreshed - can I do that? Ah, the journey is where the fun is!