Las Cruces, NM to Phoenix, AZ

We left Las Cruces, NM pretty early so we could get into town, check in, change, and go to the Mid-Week Meeting in Phoenix this evening (Hebrews 10:23, 24). 

On this portion of I-10 we drove through dust storm warning areas. 


We passed the Mae West Peaks and saw some awesome rock formations. 


We also drove through Tucson and admired the surrounding peaks 

When we passed the Saguaro National Park I made a literal note to go back and explore there soon. 

It was so serene. 

During this drive we found out where truck stop coffee comes from… a tanker. That would explain the bitterness. 

We beat rush hour and checked in to the Ramada in Glendale, on the north side of Phoenix (see review warning/notes below). 

Meeting with the Bellair Congregation was lovely. Their Hall is beautiful and the people were very warm. We met a family who just came back from the North Rim and they gave us tips on what to see at the Grand Canyon. 

I would NOT recommend the Ramada in Glendale, Arizona:

  • Very sketchy people in the parking lots at all hours of the day and night. 
  • Non smoking rooms reeking of smoke. 
  • Huge stains in the carpet. 

Tomorrow we head to the Grand Canyon!!

Mexidonia 2017 Updated

Starting this Spring we will be driving through Mexico in order to determine where we would like to live. And… we changed our route (still driving from New Orleans to the Yucatan Peninsula and Belize)!

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In the book of Luke, Jesus advised

“For example, who of you wanting to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the expense to see if he has enough to complete it?” – Luke 14:28

In order to really get to know where we want to live we will take three months to live in a few different places and gather information on “the expense”.  We plan to make this decision before we head home and we may want to go ahead and secure a rental before we leave the country. We will also be visiting Belize (so that country is still on the table, but doesn’t have as many pros as Mexico). Our route is now as follows:

  • Saltillo, Coa, MX
  • Guanajuato, Gto, MX
  • Puebla, Pue, MX
  • San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chi, MX
  • Valladolid, Yuc, MX
  • Cancun, Qro, MX
  • Chetumal, Qro, MX
  • Belize City, BZE

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On our return trip we would like to see the Rio Bec archeological sites near Xpujil, Palenque, Oaxaca, and maybe go to Guadalajara for the July convention. We also plan to stop in Villa de Santiago (Nuevo Leon) to hike El Laberinto, El Salto,  Cola de Caballo waterfall, and stay at Apple Tree Cabanas.

This is a very aggressive itinerary and will likely change as we drive depending on where we decide to rent and how much time we have before our own regional convention in July.

We have friends in a couple of the places we will be visiting and we have brothers and sisters in each place who we will meet at the local Kingdom Hall 🙂 when we attend meetings. I really fell in love with Valladolid on my last visit to Mexico, so that place is one I wanted to concentrate on. We’ve also heard great things about Guanajuato, San Cristobal de Las Casas, and Chetumal. Cancun is where we have the most contacts, but I don’t know if that city is a good fit for us. It might be a good first place to be until we become better with Spanish. Some of our deal-breakers are:

  • Availability of good medical care
  • Proximity to airport
  • Too many expats
  • No English congregation of JWs

I found this pre-1965 map of the Yucatan and my favorite places are on it, as they existed before Cancun was invented.

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I’m a big history buff, so I’ve been researching what I want to see and do in each place besides meetings and ministry. This is what I’ve found so far:

  • Saltillo, Coa
    • Churrigueresque facade of their cathedral on the Plaza de Armas
  • Guanajuato, Gto
    • Museo del Pueblo and La Valenciana
  • Puebla, Pue
    • Museo Bello and Museo Amparo
  • San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chi
    • Na Bolom museum, Chinkultic, Plaza 31 de Marzo
  • Valladolid, Yucatan
    • Zocalo, Dzitnup cenote, Grutas de Balankanche, Palacio de Municipal
  • Cancun, QRoo
    • El Rey
  • Punta Allen, QRoo
  • Chetumal, QRoo
    • Museo de la Cultura Maya, Cenote Azul

Spying Out Venice, Italy

We will be in Italy this fall attending an English congregation about an hour from Venice. Here is some info about La Serenissima.

 

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Venice (Venezia) is in Northeast Italy

 

 

This post is from Gracia’s Travels blog. See link at bottom of post.

 

We had an overnight in Venice before we boarded our ship.  We had no agenda for this visit…just wander the streets and alleys.  Since we had been to Venice before, we tried to visit some of the more far off corners of the island.  Every turn brought a photo opp.  The weather was overcast and threatened to sprinkle but, having no heavy shadows, was good for pictures.

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DSC02563 C    I have another 130 pictures of Venice.

But I don’t want to wear you out.  Next, we board the ship and set sail for Dubrovnik.

 

Read more from Gracia’s Travels at https://graciamc.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/venice-hard-to-take-a-bad-picture-here/

 

 

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Venice is in the Veneto Region

 

Never Give Way To Doubt

When I read the text this morning I was struck by how close to home the message was. When facing issues of depression, anxiety, stress, or other illness symptoms I have been guilty of giving way to doubt. Cancelled service plans, avoiding text messages from friends who want to get together for an interchange of encouragement, lingering in the bed for hours after my chosen “wake-up” time of 8:30 AM… these are all things I have done because I felt like “I can’t”. But, I didn’t feel that way when I made the plans. This text brought the reason to light.

I made the plans for service because I felt like I could; I could face strangers in metropolitan witnessing or knock on a door not knowing who might be on the other side. Why? Becuase Jehovah expects me to. Because I dedicated my life to doing his will. Because it’s part of acting in concert with my prayers to ‘let Your kingdom come’.

But then… I give way to doubt (Matthew 14:31).

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Laying in bed at 11 PM the night before my 8 AM service plans I start to doubt that I can. I start to think that I can’t. I start to believe that I just can’t. Anxiety sets in. Panic begins. Fear takes over. So I send a text to cancel. I tell myself this is ok. That I have a medical reason. That my PTSD isn’t going to allow me to meet my commitment. That I am a failure. That I will try again tomorrow.

Honestly, there may be times when I just have to try again tomorrow.  However, if you read the paragraph beneath the scripture below and pay attention to the full transcript of the passage to the right, you might hone in on the same sentences I did when I read it:

“Peter… trusted that God’s power would support him…”

Perhaps, in addition to deep breathing, anxiety medication, and staying hidden when I have a panic attack, I can also remind myself (even repeat to myself) that Jesus and Jehovah will support me in all the ways I need support especially when I am giving my time in support of the Kingdom. I’ve spent time today in personal study of this span of scripture using the SOAP-JW method I modified and, let me tell you, it is just what I needed. I hope it encourages you as well.

If you’d like to get the daily text on your smart phone or tablet just go to your app store and download the free JW Library app. The screenshot below is of mine on an iPad mini.

 

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Spying Out Ferrara, Italy

We will be doing need greater work in this area in the fall. Just wanted to document some sights to see and things to do while we are there.

 

 

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Location of Ferrara in Italy

The following was written by the blogger at Gracia’s Travels. See link at bottom of page.

 

Ferrara was another day trip from Bologna.  It’s a larger city and the Old Town sites here are more spread out than in Ravenna.  And as the old saying goes … timing is everything.  Several sites were closed when their signs said they were open, and some sites had limited hours.  So, we walked quite a bit farther and had to do some backtracking.

Castello Estense, built in 1385, is in the center of town.

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Much of the castle is now used as government offices but the royal suites are open to visitors.  The rooms are empty but the ceilings make up for that.

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The orangery overlooked the moat and a market that was set up in front of a castle entrance.

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A pleasant walk from the castle brought us to Palazzo Schifanoia, built in 1385.  Frescos from 1470 depict the months, seasons and signs of the zodiac.

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Our guide book noted that these frescos are unusually unreligious in tone and the only ones of their type in Italy.  One room had this ornate ceiling.

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We walked down Via Volte through what was once the Jewish ghetto (1627 –1859).

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As in other Ghettos, because so many people were packed into a small area, residents added more space by adding rooms that span the narrow lanes.

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We made our way back to the center of town to the Piazza Cathedral…

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and went into the 12th century Duomo.

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The Cathedral faces Palazzo Municipal which is linked to the castle. It was the home of the Este family until they built the castle and moved next door.

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The 15th century Palazzo dei Diamanti was starred in our guide book so we walked north a 1/2 mile to find it closed, although the sign said it should be open.   It houses an art museum which would have been interesting but at least we could see how the building got its name … the façade is covered with spiky diamond shaped stones.

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The photos are deceptive.  It’s a very large building.  Notice Will in the doorway.

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There was a pretty park across the street.

On our walk back to the train station we passed through a part of the old city walls.

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DSC02279 C    There is a lot to see in Ferrara.

We would have run out of time if all the sites had been open.

Next stop, Venice.

 

See this post on their blog at https://graciamc.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/a-day-in-ferrara-italy/

 

 

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Ferrara is in the Emilia Romagna Region

SOAP-JW Bible Study Method

I just attended our circuit assembly with the theme “Maintain Your Love For Jehovah”. It was a great day of bible discourses on all subjects relating to the theme of maintaining your love for God. One major point made regarding Matthew 22:35-40 was that the commandment to love Jehovah God, described at the greatest commandment, is connected inextricably to the second commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”+ 37  He said to him: “‘You must love Jehovah* your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul* and with your whole mind.’+ 38  This is the greatest and first commandment. 39  The second, like it, is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’+ 40  On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40

So I made a graphic containing some of the key scriptures from my notes and will use a modified SOAP (scripture, observation, application, prayer) method to meditate on them. Let’s call my method the SOAP-JW method 🙂

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The SOAP method itself is very simple but allows for deep meditation on the scripture you choose to study. In adding JW to the method I will ask myself ‘what does this teach me about Jehovah’ for J and ‘how can I use this while witnessing’ for W. I can use the method for all the key scriptures I took notes on.

How SOAP-JW works:

  • SCRIPTURE: The first step is scripture. Since I use this for personal study I always start off with prayer. Then I choose a verse that I want to study more fully; a scripture I heard at meeting, the theme from a new song, from a morning worship, during the monthly broadcast, or from a friend and I write it out in its entirety.
  • OBSERVATION: The next step is observation. This is where I write down what I think the scripture means and why it was included in the bible. What did Jehovah want us to learn from it? Is it similar to others I have read? Is there a prophecy or fulfillment connected with it?
  • APPLICATION: Step three is application. What does it mean? How can I apply the scripture to myself, my life, or something I am going through? How could it help me?  I look up the scripture on wol.jw.org and see if there are further explanations in reference material that could help me understand the scripture and application more fully. I take notes on what I uncover.
  • PAUSE: In the original method I would end the process the same way I started- prayer. I could even write out the points I prayed on… but for my modified method I will label this step pause. I pause and take some time to think about what I learned and how it applies to me.
  • JEHOVAH: This is a key step, the step where I think critically about Jehovah, our creator. What does the scripture teach me about Jehovah? We use this question during our Christian Life & Ministry Meeting (LMM) and it is a really good one to ask during personal study, too.
  • WITNESSING: Another question from the LMM, how can I use this information while witnessing to others about the good news of God’s kingdom?

When I follow this method I know I will meet all the points recommended in our Ministry School book (see first reference link for the entire article):

TO REAP THE GREATEST REWARDS
  • Prepare your heart

  • Preview the study material

  • Isolate important facts

  • Consider how the scriptures provide reasons for statements made

  • Review the main points

  • Meditate on how your own life should be influenced by what you study

  • Seek opportunities to use the material to help others

 

 

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Reference Articles On Personal Study

Study Is Rewarding  http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102001056

Study – Rewarding and Enjoyable http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/2000723

San Cristobal de Las Casas, MEX

Since we will be taking a three-month trip to do need greater work in Mexico this summer I wanted to document some of the sights in the cities along our route to Valladolid.

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Location of San Cristobal de Las Casas

 

 

 

The following is a blog post on San Cristobal written by goats on the road. Their link is at the bottom of the page:

Our bodies slid from left to right, from one side of our seat to the other, as our bus driver took the seemingly endless hair-pin turns at full speed. Trying to fight off the inevitable nausea and motion sickness was the ultimate goal of this 5 hour journey from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas (San Cristobal), which took us from a mere 60m to an altitude of 2,200m and into the mountainous, rugged hills of the Chiapas State. With each ascending, winding turn, the scenery changed and so did the climate. The tropical air, palm trees and thick humidity soon dissipated and we embraced the cool air and familiar pine trees.

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Pine trees in San Cristobal (by Leo via Wiki Commons)

San Cristobal is located in Chiapas, the Southernmost State of Mexico. Set in a small valley surrounded by pine-forest highlands, this charming colonial city is the perfect place for exploring. This State has the second largest indigenous population in the country and surrounding San Cristobal are dozens of Tzotzil and Tzeltal villages, just a short bus ride away. With many pedestrian-only streets, narrow cobblestone lanes and numerous towering churches and cathedrals, this is a great place to stay a while.

Nature & Landscapes

The first thing we noticed when arriving in the city were the mountains. We had become so accustomed to the flat terrain of the Yucatan area, so it was a breath of fresh air (literally) to be surrounded by such wild nature. We had read about the San Cristobal Church and the Guadalupe Church, each set at opposite ends of the city and were really looking forward to visiting them. The only catch was that we had to hike up many uneven steps to reach these sights. We made our way slowly up the steep rock-cut stairs, taking our time not only to rest, but to enjoy the unbelievable views over the city down below and the surrounding mountains.

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Views over San Cristobal de las Casas city

The churches were beautiful and there were only a couple of people around. We sat and enjoyed the serenity and peace at these viewpoints before slowly venturing back to the maze of streets and speeding cars in the city below.

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Views from Guadalupe Church

Although nature and mountains can be seen while staying in the city, there are many natural sights just outside of San Cristobal as well. The towering Misol Ha waterfall, Sumidero Canyon and the cascading waterfalls of Agua Azul are all great day trips from the city. We visited the Sumidero Canyon, but we’re saving that story for another time…

The Coffee & Cafe Culture

There seems to be a growing cafe culture in this city, which gives it a bit of a European feel. Tourists and locals alike spend hours a day enjoying a cup of Chiapas’ finest beans. Producing 4 million sacks of coffee each year, Mexico ranks 5th in the world behind the likes of Colombia and Brazil. We would spend our mornings lazily sipping on a freshly pressed cup of coffee while planning out our day. During the evenings we would wander by different cafes and be enticed inside by the strong waft of coffee beans and vibrant live music.

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Nick under the umbrella – A beautiful area to enjoy a cup of coffee

Churches, Convents & Plazas

While exploring the city, we stumbled upon many pastel coloured, historic churches, convents and plazas. Some we planned to visit, others we were pleasantly surprised by as we rounded the street corner.

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Beautiful Templo de Santo Domingo, one of the many gorgeous churches here

We were even lucky enough to witness some traditional dancing at the main square, which was truly a treat.

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Traditional dancing in the plaza

The Plaza 31 de Marzo, Templo de Santo Domingo and Church of Santiago were highlights for us. As far as walkable cities go, San Cristobal is one of the best! With many pedestrian-only streets, sauntering around this city while gazing up at the architecture and mountainous backdrop was an enjoyable experience.

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Plaza 31 de Marzo and the surrounding areas are great for walking and people watching

Markets & Food

One of the things that we really enjoy when travelling is visiting the local markets. The hustle and bustle of the vendors setting up their goods, people bartering for products and the overall vibe makes for an authentic and exciting experience. We explored the Municipal Market not only for pure enjoyment, but also with a purpose. We were on a mission to purchase local produce for dinner. We browsed, sniffed and felt the fresh fruits and vegetables before deciding on some we liked. The market was hectic, loud and a lot of fun to visit.

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Selling chickens and roosters in the Municipal Market

The candy and crafts market near the San Francisco Church was also a highlight. Here we wandered through the many aisles of sweets and textiles and even got lost in the maze of shops a few times.

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Yum!

Not only are there food markets in San Cristobal, there are many art and textile markets as well. The indigenous people of Chiapas are known for their fantastic weaving skills; colourful blankets, scarves and clothing can be found for sale all over the city. We explored the daily, tented crafts market near the Templo de la Caridad where bohemian travellers and local Chamulan women sell everything from bracelets to leather bags. Even though we weren’t there to purchase anything, it was a colourful and lively place to wander through.

Blinded By The Beauty…

Many people come to San Cristobal for a couple of days and are blinded by the bright churches, lively squares and colourful traditional clothing that is worn by the local people. It’s easy to come here as a tourist and only see the surface charm. But as each day went by in this city, we began to notice certain things. We learned more about the ill-treatment of the indigenous people and the high levels of poverty that this state is plagued with.

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Bright Church of Santa Lucia

As far as natural resources are concerned, Chiapas is the richest State in Mexico, yet economically it is the poorest. An astonishing 70% of people live below the poverty line. There is an embarrassing lack of resources for the inhabitants here (mainly the peasants, farmers and indigenous people). According to Wikipedia and the Edinburgh Chiapas Solidarity Group, 18 out of every 100 people 15 years or older cannot read or write. Only 38% of homes have clean drinking water, 15% have drainage systems and less than 30% have access to electricity or gas.

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Women from nearby villages come to the city to sell their goods to tourists (Photo by: Wolfgang Sauber)

There have been uprisings and rebellions against the Mexican Government in the past, with the most famous being the Zapatista uprising of 1994, which took place on the day when the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect. The Zapatistas fought (and still fight) for autonomy of the State of Chiapas, support of indigenous people, public health, women’s rights and more.

Final Thoughts

Despite the in-your-face poverty and repeatedly saying “no, gracias” to 3-year-old children trying to sell us bracelets and blankets, we really did enjoy our time here. We weren’t ignoring the issues of Chiapas, but we’ve travelled to many 3rd world countries in the past and have experienced this type of poverty before. We chose to help where we could and to enjoy the city for all of the positive things it has to offer tourists.

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Enjoying the beautiful city of San Cristobal with some freshly made ice cream!

On the surface, San Cristobal is the perfect retreat for the weary traveller, and to the naked eye, this is a city full of stunning sights, historic wonder, affordable textiles and gorgeous landscapes. But dare to dig a little deeper and you’ll find a culture and history that is as windy and bumpy as the bus ride that gets you here.

You can read their blog here http://www.goatsontheroad.com/san-cristobal-de-las-casas-mexico-revealing-sides-cool-colonial-city/

Valladolid

I absolutely LOVE Valladolid (pronounced “v-eye-ah-dough-leed”) and plan to spend a few weeks there during our 3-month trip to the Yucatan next year. The city is located halfway between Cancun and Merida on a new highway. I found this amazing article about the city and wanted to post it and give you a feel for this small city that captured my heart. The friends there were AMAZING. There is no English congregation there, only Spanish and maybe Mayan. Sounds like a good reason to increase my proficiency 🙂

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This article can be found at http://www.yucatanliving.com/valladolid-living/valladolid-sultaness-of-the-east

Next to Merida, the largest and most famous colonial city on the Yucatan Peninsula is Valladolid. Both cities are named after cities in Spain. Valladolid in Spain has the distinction of being, among other things, the place where Christopher Columbus died. In the Yucatan, Valladolid was established by another famous conquistador, Francisco de Montejo, like Merida, in 1543, the year after he established the city of Merida.

Long ago Valladolid was given the nickname of the Sultaness of the East, indicating its function as the business center of the Eastern Peninsula. But it seems to have always been number three, behind Merida (number one) and Campeche (number two) in the hit parade of colonial cities here. When we first moved to Merida, lo these many years ago now, we traveled to Valladolid on the way to somewhere. On the way to Tulum, or on the way back from Cancun or Playa del Carmen. We would stop by and have a delicious lunch around the patio at the Méson del Marqués Hotel, look around the zocalo and not find much, and then move on. Valladolid didn’t feel like a destination in our minds, especially compared to the places we were going to or coming from. Cancun, Campeche, Playa del Carmen, Merida… they have all seen an influx of government money for sprucing things up over the past few years, building hotels or renovating colonial facades and making the centro historico more attractive to tourists. Finally, about 2009 or so, it was Valladolid’s turn.

Why Valladolid?
So what makes Valladolid interesting? First, there is a lot of history here. The very first city in Mexico called Valladolid had its named changed to Morelia in Michoacan. The next settlement called Valladolid was set up near its current location in a place filled with mosquitoes and humidity (in the Yucatan? no, really?) and after protests from the early Spanish settlers, was moved to where it now stands.

 
Of course, the current location was then a Mayan settlement, and the fact that the Spaniards tore down the settlement (which probably included a sacred site or ten) and used the stones to build their colonial town just encouraged the local Mayan population to revolt, which had to be “put down” (according to Wikipedia). This should have been an indication to the Spaniards of the nature of the Mayans in this locale, but apparently it was not.

 
They were reminded again, however, when the Caste War broke out near Valladolid sometime in the early 1840’s. The spark that ignited the fire of the Caste War was the execution of three Mayans over land disputes, a consistent problem between conquering Spaniards and the Mayans whose party they insisted on crashing. At one point during the Caste War, Valladolid was completely under Mayan rule, with every Spaniard and Criollo (Mexican-born Spaniards) either fleeing to Merida or dead in the process. Eventually, after Merida stumbled into victory over the Mayans that had surrounded the city, Valladolid came back under colonial rule but it never quite regained its previous economic or cultural importance… until now.

 

The last time we visited Valladolid, we had a distinctly different experience and impression of this mysterious Sultaness. Dare we say it? Valladolid is starting to seem almost hip.
First of all, there’s the zocalo itself. Once a completely sleepy place, with a few huipile-clad women selling huipiles, it now seems to be bustling and humming every time we’re there. Yes, the same ladies are selling huipiles, but they are selling other locally-made products too, including Barbie-doll huipiles (how hip is that?), and doilies made of the same beautiful embroidered flowers that you see on huipiles. We always pick up a few of those, as they make great drink coasters. And Working Gringa was quite thrilled with a woven sisal purse she picked up at our last visit for only 70 pesos (a little more than $6 US).

 
On the main plaza now there’s the Maya Cafe, an espresso bar to the left of the Maria de la Luz Hotel/Restaurant which serves a great capuccino and is owned by a Merida/Valladolid couple. Yalat, the gift shop on the corner near the Meson de Marques, is owned by a member of the famous Barbachano family (Miguel Barbachano was the first governor of Yucatan), as is the dress shop and coffee bar directly opposite the Meson, named La Cantina Restaurante Bar. In La Cantina, we were drawn to the locally-made Surya jams and other concoctions (we bought the Mermelada de Mango con Chile) that we found rather high-priced, but uniquely tasty (they would make great gifts…). What clinched the deal was the label, claiming the jam was “Made with backyard mangoes from the Mayan Villages of Yucatan”. Que chido!

 
What we discovered is that there is more going on in Valladolid than immediately meets the eye.

 
From Vogue to Valladolid

On one of our last visits, we met up with Nicolas Malleville and his lovely partner, Francesca. Now what, you might ask, is a world-class male fashion model doing in Valladolid, other than passing through? As it turns out, quite a bit. Years ago, Nicolas bought a colonial building on the beautiful street that runs diagonally from the zocalo area to the San Bernardino Monastery, the Calle de Los Frailes (Street of the Friars). At the same time, he bought a beachfront lot in Tulum and a plot of land near Coba. And then he proceded to create a little empire of seductive beauty, which he has also expanded to Merida.

Coqui Coqui (a nickname he picked up somewhere along the way and then bestowed upon his endeavors which also happens to be the name of a Puerto Rican frog) is a four-location web of experience designed for the rich, the famous and the inquisitive. Coqui Coqui in Tulum is an intimate beachfront hotel with a few luxurious rooms, a tiny spa and a beach. Oh, and an uninterrupted view of the Caribbean. In Coba, Nicolas built a destination small hotel with seven rooms, each one with a unique theme. And in Valladolid, he has created the Coqui Coqui perfumery and spa (on the Calle de Los Frailes). The front room where they sell the perfume is dominated by a huge dark wood bookshelf, displaying the Coqui Coqui perfumes that Nicolas produces in Valladolid. In the rooms in the back, the spa is exquisitely decorated and appointed. We didn’t indulge in a treatment when we were there, but we did see a room where indulgence was encouraged, complete with a clawfoot bathtub, elegant mirrors, candles and fluffy towels, accompanied by the Coqui Coqui scents. We had to pinch ourselves to remember we weren’t in Paris. (Well, just stepping outside into the heat helped too…). While he may not be terrifically organized and while flying to photo shoots around the world might make it a bit hard to run his Yucatan empire, Nicolas is an expert at the art of creating caché, and nowhere is this more evident than at his ventures in and around Valladolid. We highly recommend a visit, and if you’re like us, you’ll be hard pressed to resist a perfume purchase at the very least.

Casa de Los Venados

On our next visit to Valladolid, we spent the afternoon with John and Dorianne Venator (pronounced like “senator” but with a “V”). This couple spends most of the year in Chicago, where John works (as of 2008) as the president and CEO of the CompTIA Educational Foundation, an industry trade association. He and Dorianne have long been fans of Mexican folk art, and a few years ago, set about looking for a home in Mexico. They originally considered Oaxaca, but decided that building in Oaxaca was going to be too much trouble. They had a condo in Cancun, John knew Puebla from living there during college and they had spent time in Merida as well. But nothing had fallen into place for them. One day, they happened to drive into Valladolid, looked at some houses there for sale, and fell in love (you can read the entire story here).

 
They eventually purchased an old colonial just off the main square which they have named Casa de Los Venados (House of the Deer), a name that relates to their surname and is a tribute to the deer which are a revered animal in the state of Yucatan. They maintained the historically-protected facade, but inside they constructed a massive and modern 18,000 square foot compound… sort of a house-cum-private-hotel that serves as a place to entertain friends and visiting dignitaries, and as a museum for their massive collection of Mexican folk art. Their art collection, by the way, rivals the folk art in the Museo de Arte Popular in Merida (they are big supporters…).

 
When we visited, the Venators graciously showed us around, pointing out magnificent paintings, sculptures, carved furniture, pots and more. Many of the pieces of art and craft that were created for the house and feature deer, as befits the name. The entrance to the house alone is awe-inspiring: a colorful and playful 11 by 17 foot framed high relief, ceramic mural, commissioned from Luis and Jorge Valencia of Oaxaca, depicting a Mayan village scene. This ceramic mural was created in Oaxaca and then shipped and installed in the entrance to Casa de Los Venados… and it is spectacular (what you see in the photo to the left is just a detail). The Venators took us through all the rooms of the huge house, explaining that what we saw was just a fraction of their collection. All we can say is wow…

 
The Venators could be the gringo Medicis of Valladolid, although their reach is far beyond the city limits. They are serious art collectors, both in Mexico and in Chicago, whose collecting adds support to many Mexican artists. Their hard-won philosophy of life is that there are two ultimate luxuries in life: Time and Space. They have created a luxurious space in Valladolid, which may someday include an art museum open to the public, as well as a space suitable for public events. And they hope soon to create more time to spend in their chosen city of Valladolid. Not only do they love the peace and tranquility that Valladolid has made available to them, but they have given back quite a bit to the city in the way of jobs and financial investment. They have made friends with everyone in government there, calling the mayor and other important personages their friends. Their quest for art continues, and we hope in the future, their vast art collection will be available for Valladolid visitors and residents to see and enjoy.

 

The Future of Valladolid

The Venators are Valladolid ambassadors among the English-speaking community here and wherever they go. They are big believers in the future of Valladolid, and we got the feeling that we weren’t the first people they had squired around town, pointing out the highlights. We had a lovely lunch at the Méson del Marqués Hotel (does *everybody* eat there? it seems to be the case…), including guacamole fixed fresh at the table (we highly recommend it!). After lunch, the Venators drove us around a bit.We visited Casa Quetzal, a small hotel just off the very spacious park in front of the San Bernardino Monastery, as well as the ever-popular Casa Hamaca, just a few blocks from the main square.

Nicolas Malleville, Larsen and the Venators are just two examples of the growing group of expats who are choosing to make Valladolid home. Others we have met include Lucie Levine, a transplant from California who is renovating a home in the Candelaria district. Lucie specializes in community educational projects involving solar energy, compost toilets and other accoutrements of sustainable living. The Candelaria district is also home to a few Italian expats who have opened Casa Itali, an Italian restaurant featuring authentic brick oven pizza, fresh pasta, caffe espresso Illy, and authentic capuccinos. And of course there is Denis Larsen, who runs Casa Hamaca, a B&B that is also a center for alternative healing, including his famous hammock massages. We’ve read that Valladolid is already visited by one million tourists per year, and that this number is growing. And of course, Valladolid has now been designated a Pueblo Magico, making it a target of funds from the federal government for preservation and promotion.

 
Expats and Mexicans alike are beginning to appreciate what Valladolid has to offer. The Mexican government is pouring money into Valladolid, recognizing it as the closest colonial city to the hyper-tourist region of the Mayan Riviera. And it’s exactly halfway (approximately 160 kilometers) between Cancun and Merida, making it the perfect stopover for travelers between the two cities. It’s not far off the carretera, and now the entrance to the city is clearly marked. (By the way, if you are a car buff, as you are entering Valladolid, be sure to stop at the Hacienda Sanchez on your left… they have an antique automobile museum that is quite interesting!) We are of the opinion that Valladolid’s fame and fortune is just beginning… and apparently we’re not alone in that opinion.

 
Grupo Plan has constructed Valladolid’s first shopping center, called Plaza Bella. Anchored with a Chedraui grocery store and Cines Hollywood movie theatres, the shopping mall also contains Italian Coffee, Burger King, Telcel stores, Big Home and various smaller stores, which opened in January 2009. Also planned for the coming years in other locations are a Bodega Aurrera (WalMart’s grocery store that caters to Mexican tastes) and Soriana (another large grocery chain). A new state hospital has been built that holds 62 beds, 2 operating rooms and a heliport. The city has been named the Honey Capital of the World, as noted by Yucatan Living in one of our weekly news reports, and there is a plaque on Santa Lucia Ave. saying so. And if the Gobernadora’s Super Fast Train between Cancun and Progreso ever becomes reality, Valladolid will be a stop along the way.

 
Mysterious Sultaness

Valladolid… in a few short years, it has grown from a historic but sleepy colonial town into a major jewel in the crown of colonial cities in the Yucatan. We haven’t even mentioned that Valladolid is just 15 short kilometers from Uayma, one of our favorite Yucatan destinations. And we haven’t even touched on the cenotes within walking distance of the zocalo, the great food that Valladolid is known for, or the other neighborhoods and activities going on around the city.

As the Sultaness of the East, Valladolid keeps a little mystery about her. She seems to be a normal, colonial town, just basking in the Yucatecan sun. She tempts, she teases, she hides beyond a veil of sleepy anonymity. Don’t be fooled into thinking there is nothing there!

Let Your Will Be Done

So, I really want it all! I’ve realized that I have been favoring Italy over a closer opportunity because of my own desires so tonight I poured out my heart to Jah. This really needs to be His will and not mine. I can still go to Italy for vacation, but I can’t ignore the signs pointing due south to MX and Belize. I guess that’s a bit of spiritual maturity and progress, right? I’m a work in progress 🙂

Communication For Marriages 101

how to discuss problems

Reblogged from JW.org 

THE CHALLENGE

When you and your spouse discuss a problem, do you seem to end up further apart than when you started the conversation? If so, you can improve the situation. First, though, there are a few things you should know about the different communication styles of men and women. Read the article as reblogged here and then go to the original site for more encouraging, informative, and helpful articles for couples here

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW

Women usually prefer to talk out a problem before hearing a solution. In fact, sometimes talking is the solution.

“I feel better when I have expressed my feelings and know that my husband understands me. After I talk about it, I’m over it—usually within just minutes after the conversation.”—Sirppa. *

“I can’t move on if I don’t have a chance to explain to my husband exactly how I feel. Talking it out is a form of closure for me.”—Ae-Jin.

“It’s like detective work. As I talk, I’m analyzing each step of the problem and trying to get to the root of it.”—Lurdes.

Men tend to think in terms of solutions. That is understandable because fixing things makes a man feel useful. Offering solutions is his way of showing his wife that she can rely on him for help. So husbands are baffled when their solutions are not readily accepted. “I can’t understand why you would talk about a problem if you didn’t want a solution!” says a husband named Kirk.

But “understanding must precede advice,” warns the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. “You have to let your partner know that you fully  understand and empathize with the dilemma before you suggest a solution. Oftentimes your spouse isn’t asking you to come up with a solution at all—just to be a good listener.”

WHAT YOU CAN DO

For husbands: Practice empathetic listening. A husband named Tomás says: “Sometimes after listening I think to myself, ‘That didn’t accomplish anything.’ But often that’s all my wife needs—a listening ear.” A husband named Stephen would agree. “I find it best to let my wife express herself without interrupting,” he says. “More often than not, she finishes and tells me she feels a lot better.”

Try this: The next time you discuss a problem with your wife, resist the urge to give unsolicited advice. Make eye contact, and focus on what she is saying. Nod in agreement. Repeat the gist of what she says to show that you get the point. “Sometimes my wife just needs to know that I understand her and that I’m on her side,” says a husband named Charles.—Bible principle: James 1:19.

For wives: Say what you need. “We might expect our spouse to know just what we need,” says a wife named Eleni, “but sometimes we do have to spell it out.” A wife named Ynez suggests this approach: “I could say, ‘Something is bothering me, and I would like you to hear me out. I don’t need you to fix it, but I would like you to understand how I feel.’”

Try this: If your husband prematurely offers solutions, do not conclude that he is being insensitive. Likely he is trying to lighten your load. “Instead of getting annoyed,” says a wife named Ester, “I try to realize that my husband does care and wants to listen but that he also just wants to help.”—Bible principle: Romans 12:10.

For both: We tend to treat others the way we want to be treated. However, to discuss problems effectively, you need to consider how your spouse would like to be treated. (1 Corinthians 10:24) A husband named Miguel puts it this way: “If you are a husband, be willing to listen. If you are a wife, be willing to hear solutions once in a while. When you meet in the middle, both spouses benefit.”—Bible principle: 1 Peter 3:8.