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!


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!

The curious incident of the walker in the daytime

Hi I’m Sarah and I walk places.

For most Europeans, this is quite normal. In Dublin, I lived in Stoneybatter, a 30 minute stroll from my former workplace. Again, normal. I walked to and from work every day unless it was raining, I had to carry anything bigger than a can of tomatoes or I’d had one glass of wine. Then I caught the bus.

Here in Arizona, walking’s for weirdos. This morning I awoke to yet another endless blue sky and I decided to take a walk to Whole Foods, a fancy schmancy supermarket that stocks mostly healthy stuff, which is about four blocks from my apartment. (Side note: I’m not talking girly Manhattan blocks here,  blocks in Arizona are pretty huge.) I estimated it would take me about 20 minutes or so. Grand, I thought, and lashed on the factor 30.

As expected, I was the only person pounding the pavements. After about 10 minutes of what I would call a brisk walk (an amble, to anyone else) I heard a shout. I stopped and looked around. Some dude (dudes drive trucks) had pulled in and was calling me over. Now, I’m not and idiot, so I didn’t race towards him. I did cock my ear though, and heard him ask me how much further I had to walk. I shrugged, turned on my heel and kept going.

Jesus Christ Americans are lazy, I thought to myself as I crossed a street the size of the M50. They complain about the problem of obesity, and the fact that every second person here has diabetes, and yet anyone who tries to be slightly less sedentary than a couch potato is basically open to ridicule on the streets! Ridiculous, I sniggered, and kept going.

After my smash and grab around Whole Foods (Vicki is right, it’s truly amazing, if a little on the pricy side) I started back towards the homestead. I had to stop at the pharmacy just at the end of my road for batteries (I could have picked up a bottle of whiskey, some DVDS and a box of cigars while I was there, such is the nature of American drug stores, but I didn’t) and as I was leaving the carpark I heard yet another shout. And so I stopped and turned around, yet again.

What are the chances, another dude in another truck! From what I could gather, this guy wanted to know my name, but I kept walking. The first time it happened, I thought it was kind of funny. Now I’m not so sure, and it makes me feel a little vulnerable. The suburb we’re living in is lovely but for all I know it could be the sex offender capital of Arizona. I don’t think anything bad could happen in broad, retina-splitting daylight at 11.30am on a Friday morning, but what do I know? Enough that I certainly won’t be walking anywhere alone after dark, that’s for sure.

So I think it’s time I hopped on the automobile bandwagon. I have driving school on Sunday. Wish me luck!