Christmas in Mexico or Chrismico, if you will

It was lovely; relaxing and fun. Isla Mujeres, where we stayed, is a tinchy island (only 5 miles long) 15 minutes by ferry from Cancun. The beaches are amazing and it was the perfect mix of peaceful with a nice buzz at nighttime. I ate loads, drank loads and became champion of a little card game called Shithead. Highlights were visiting a sea turtle sanctuary, snorkeling, driving around in a golf cart, a trip to the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itxa and having quesadillas for breakfast in the same little loncheria every morning. The only lowlight was flying home through North Carolina, which added four and a half hours to our travel time. We didn’t get in til 2.30am on Wednesday night and I had my driving test at 11am the next morning. Somehow I still managed to pass. Yuss! (It was a piece of piss, obviously.)

Here are some pics of my trip for your delectation:

So that’s it from me for 2010! Here’s hoping all our dreams come true in 2011. Happy new year!

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The Christmas block

Today, over a yummy lunch in Pita Jungle, an article in one of the local papers caught Eoin’s eye. It was about a neighbourhood, pretty close to where we live, that takes Christmas lights very seriously. Like Clark Griswold seriously. The following quote launched my ROFLCOPTER:

“This is the Christmas block,” said Tom Miller, who’s lived on the street for over 15 years. “When people move in here we let them know that.”

I would not like to mess with Tom Miller. He sounds quite intimidating and Tony Soprano-esque when it comes to the serious matter of outdoor decorations. I bet he has a gun. Anyway, this evening, cos we’re in search of the Christmas spirit and a bit nosey, we decided to find Upland Drive and see what all the fuss was about.

ZOMG IT WAS AMAZING!

The brightness hits you as soon as you turn the corner from Ellis Street. Not only are the houses covered in enough bulbs to tear you a new cornea, there are also lights strung across the street, and signs saying Happy Christmas From Upland Families on every lamppost. Pretty awesome stuff, and I generally abhor the A word. There were people everywhere: on bikes, walking (you know this is unusual) and standing around taking pictures. At one point a tour bus even trundled in and offloaded sightseers wearing woolly hats and scarves (ridiculous behaviour for Arizona, I was in flip-flops). And it wasn’t just lights they were coming to see! Some houses were playing music and one even had a big screen outside showing Christmas movies. Seriously, I’m not making this up. And it was all crammed on to about 500 metres of street. I took some pictures but the quality is appalling and my battery ran out so I missed a few good ‘uns. Soz!

I liked this BELIEVE garden decoration. I also spotted a JOY, a NOEL and a HAPPY CHRISTMAS further along. Must have been a sale on letters.

This is the outdoor screen I mentioned. It was loud so I’d say it’s actual hell to live in that house considering their living room window is right behind it. Still, the random kids on bikes seemed to be enjoying it and sure isn’t that the main thing?

Here is Santa (I KNOW HIM!) and a massive inflatable snow globe. There were a lot of inflatable Christmas trees and characters going around. Nativity scenes seemed to be popular too, although I wasn’t arsed taking any pictures of them.

Now this house had to be my favourite. They went to town on the lights. I don’t think there was an inch of spare space anywhere, not even on the lawn. It was also playing Christmas songs and flashing away. I only wish the picture did it justice. I also liked that this family had a sign outside asking for food donations. When I go back tomorrow (I’ve decided I’m going to visit the Christmas block every day til I leave for Mexico. Like, why wouldn’t I?) I’m gonna bring some cans of beans and stuff. Get my karma started for 2011 and all that.

Now, can you guess who lives in the festive red-trimmed house below? Yes, dear reader, only Tom bloody Miller! As you can see, he set the bar high with the lights on his own gaff. Bravo, Tom. You have every right to insist the standard remains high.

But really, when you think about it, nothing says Christmas like a two-storey high inflatable bear, does it? God bless America, and the crazies who live here.

All I want for Christmas…

…is a dog.

In Ireland, the general consensus is that if you want to have a dog, you need to have a garden. Not so in America (and mainland Europe, I might add). And so we’ve asked that our new gaff in Portland be pet-friendly. So unless I somehow make it on to Santa’s naughty list in the next week or so, I should be adopting a canine chum in January. Can I get a HELL YEAH?

Deciding on the perfect dog for us was tricky. Temperament has a lot to do with breed, and we wanted a pooch that would be active enough to love playing in the park and going for long walks, but at the end of the day would be happy to lounge on the couch watching rom-coms. My favourite breed ever is the King Charles Cavalier Spaniel (cos my family used to have one) but, how can I put this, they’re a bit gay looking for Eoin. And so, on Petfinder, we came across  the Mini Australian Shepherd. Not only are they the right size (medium) but they’re extremely cute and love playing around. Here’s an example. Couldn’t you just eat them?

And so my dream was born. After a little research, I discovered that there’s actually a Mini Aussie shelter near where we’re gonna be living in Oregon. I think it’s fate, don’t you? I’ve downloaded and printed the adoption form (seriously, I bet Brad ‘n’ Angelina didn’t have to answer so many questions) so here’s hoping me and the Aussies make a good match. Fingers crossed!

Do you know any Mini Australian Shepherds? Are they as cute as they look in pictures? Do they like rom-coms?

Back to the future

The following is an actual conversation that took place between two actual people. Names have not been changed.

Eoin: “Do you know what we’re missing?”

Me (bored): “What?”

Eoin: “A local drug store”

Me (annoyed): “What are you on about? There’s a CVS two seconds from our apartment”

Eoin: “I know that, I’m talking about a place where locals go to get a malt and hang out”

Me (suicidal): “You’re thinking of the 1950s, Eoin”

Eoin: “Oh”

On the move again

What? You didn’t think I was going to stay in Arizona forever, did you?

As of January 5th, Eoin and I will be living just outside Portland, Oregon. Yes, moving again so soon is not ideal but at the same time Portland sounds lovely, and it will give me the chance to have a bit of a winter. Oh yes, Portland, unlike Arizona, is cold. Actually, the climate is much like the one I’m used to at home in Ireland. Yay for seasons!

Below is (a really crude, in hindsight) map to show you where I’m at now and where I’m headed.

Now, isn’t that informative? I like to think of my new home as “just a California away.” We’ll be living there from the beginning of January til the very end of April/start of May, after which we’ll be coming back here for a long stint.

So what do I know about Portland?

  • It’s one of the greenest (as in, most eco-friendly) cities in the United States. That means the public transport up there is top-notch. (Although I’m driving now, I like to have options. And drinks.)
  • It’s famous for having a thriving music scene. Bands like Modest Mouse and Death Cab For Cutie originated in Portland and apparently (if you can believe Wikipedia) it’s where Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love met way back when.
  • One of its nicknames is Beertown. Why? Cos it’s home to lots of micro breweries. HELLO, BEER.
  • It’s very leafy. Leafy is good. I like leafy.
  • The Roloffs live there. And yes, before you ask, I intend to stalk them. Especially Jeremy, the 20-year-old son I’m not ashamed to say I have a crush on.

Overall, I really like the sound of Oregon. It rings my bell. Now all I have to worry about is the small matter of moving house. It feels like I only unpacked all this crap yesterday but c’est la vie. In this case though, the shipment shouldn’t take as long to reach us cos a) customs won’t be a factor and b) surely they can just put it all in a truck and drive it up to us. I would be less worried if we weren’t going away for Christmas. Oh didn’t I tell you? I’ll be raising a margarita to Baby Jesus from here as of next week:

That’s Isla Mujeres, just off Cancun, Mexico. EXCITED!

Have you been to Portland? Any tips for things to do in Oregon? Sharing is caring.

Hitting the road

The time has come.

Last Sunday I had a six-hour road safety class in preparation for getting my drive on. Obviously everyone gets their permit here at 16 so the class was basically me and 20 15-and-a-half-year-olds. You know that scene in Elf when Buddy is in the classroom? Well it was kinda like that. I was most definitely the odd one out.

I found the class quite helpful, although I already knew most of the practical stuff from just being a passenger. Our teacher, Officer Perez, was gas though. He’s a cop, and a retired marine, and he’s exactly how you’re imagining him. The first lesson of the day was about integrity. The second was respect. I’ll tell you something for nothing, I’d rather eat a bee than be a teenager again. People treat you like an idiot if they think you’re 15.

I did learn one major thing though: FEAR. Officer Perez’s favourite thing was telling us about the car wrecks he sees all the time being a cop. He illustrated how dangerous drinking and driving is with some lovely pictures of dead bodies and showed us footage of a pedestrian being mowed down by a red light runner. He put the shits up me, basically. Since then I see every intersection as a Potential Kill Zone (Officer Perez’s words) and look at the car as a big Murdering Machine (mine). But because public transport around here seems to be reserved for rapists and hobos, not driving is just not an option.

So with my shiny new Instruction Permit in my wallet, today I had my first practical lesson, which lasted a whopping three hours. Surprise surprise, my instructor was another former military man but he was slightly less intense than Officer Perez. In fact, he was lovely. And, much to my surprise, so was driving. I already had some experience back home but it’s a completely different ball game over here. Like, not only do you drive on the wrong side of the road, but you can do mad stuff like turn right on a red light. Oh, you crazy Americans!

After driving around Chandler, into downtown Phoenix and around the airport (who knew I’d be able to do all that?) we got to the scary bit: the freeway. I was apprehensive cos the traffic moves so fast, and merging is basically a one way ticket to Terror Town, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. It was actually handy not having to stop at lights every five seconds and you get used to the speed quick sharp.

After we came in from the open road, I had to practice some parallel parking, which I’ll be tested on when the Big Day comes. Outstanding. That’s how the instructor described my first attempt. I am unbearably smug now and am rather excited about doing some more practicing and (hopefully) passing my test in the next few weeks. Bring it on!