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Moving On!

Hi Everyone!

This will be my last post on “Ashlie’s Cancun Blog and other stuff! “which for the most part has been focused solely on Cancun.  I want to write about more than just my Cancun exploits. Don’t get me wrong I love Cancun and it has been my home for better or for worse for 18 years now but there is so much more to my life than just Cancun. So that being said thank you for showing an interest in my often sporadic ramblings about Cancun and I hope that you will decide to check out my new blog: http://travelfoodphotography.wordpress.com/

 

I plan to continue to blog about Cancun but I will also be sharing my love of travel, food and photography. A winning combination don’t you think?

I hope to see you again!

Sincerely,

Ashlie

I belong to a Facebook group called “Cancun Expats and Friends” which is a great group of people who like me decided to make Cancun their home.People post questions, tips, and articles about what’s going on in Mexico. Recently one of its members, T.J., reached out and asked if anyone could help with some donations, specifically milk, for an orphanage in Bonfil called Casa Hogar Para Niños Esperanza. I thought that this would be a great way to give back to the community where I have been living since 1995.

Esther in one of the rooms

Esther in one of the rooms

Casa Hogar Para Niños Esperanza is a Christian based orphanage just south of Cancun (about a 10 minute drive) in Colonia Alfredo Bonfil.  It has been in operation since 1992 after someone left a baby on Pastor Ascencio and his wife, Esther’s doorstep. Sadly most of the children that make their way to this orphanage have a history of abuse. Casa Hogar currently takes care of 12 kids ranging in ages from 3-18 years old.

Computers for doing homework

Computers for doing homework

Yesterday morning my husband and I accompanied T.J. to the orphanage as I wanted to get a better feel for the place. We met at Costco on a Wednesday as T.J. takes supplies to the orphanage every Wednesday. My husband and I decided to donate a case of milk and 4 kilos of apples. We followed T.J. to Bonfil and parked outside a medium sized two-floor building that houses the children, the Pastor and his wife. After unloading the “goods” which consisted of cases of milk, hot dogs, hot dog buns, eggs, apples and juiceboxes we were introduced to Esther whose whole demeanour gave off a warm, friendly glow. She thanked us for our help and encouraged us to look around. We checked out the bedrooms, the newly renovated kitchen and bathrooms and met a little boy who is still too young to go to school. He came over to us with a big smile and said “hola” just as the bigger kids arrived from their morning classes. The place came alive with chatting kids and activity as one by one they dropped their bags on the floor and greeted T.J. and Esther.

Playful decoration

Playful decoration

After looking around some more we left as I had to get back to work but not before making a commitment to supply 1 case of milk and fruit every month. It isn’t much but every little donation does help. If you are interested in helping out this truly worthwhile cause you can by either donating money:

Donations can be made at www.friendsofcasahogar.org/donate

T.J Carter is the contact person and their phones are: Mexico:  887-2000 Local Call : 011-52-998-887-2000 From USA USA Phone:  407-354-3600 Rings in Mexico

Boy's room

Boy’s room

Or you can donate food or clothing. Adult clothing is sold at a Bazaar to get money to further help the orphanage by paying utility bills etc.

Food:

Cases of milk

Fruit juice boxes

Cases of eggs

Chicken

Meat

Pork

Chorizo Sausage

Fruit (especially apples)

Vegetables (though Costco donates some fruit and veggies on a regular basis)

Hot dogs

Hot dog buns

The occasional box of cookies

If you are interested in donating food or clothing you can either visit the orphanage yourself or contact me for further information. This orphanage receives zero funding by the government so please do consider lending a helping hand to such a worthwhile charity.

Since the beginning of Feb they can be found here : www.friendsofcasahogar.org and www.facebook.com/friendsofcasahogar

Let’s help keep these kids smiling.

Kids outing...photo courtesy of Casa Hogar's Facebook page

Kids outing…photo courtesy of Casa Hogar’s Facebook page

****My Husband and I are not Christians. It doesn’t matter what faith you are as the goal here is to help children in need.

"Family" photos

“Family” photos

Mini Vacay in Akumal

We just got back from a spur of the moment weekend getaway at Hotel Akumal Caribe Villas Flamingo. It was the ideal place to go away with our two best friends and their 4 year old for fun, sun and relaxation. Akumal which means “place of the turtle” in Maya is about a 30 minute drive from Playa del Carmen and about 1.5 hours from Cancun. It is a quiet little town engulfed by two bays: Akumal Bay and Half Moon Bay. It is a diving and snorkeling mecca as it is teaming with sea life…especially turtles. Last week I found a great deal on a site for Cancunenses (locals) that I just couldn’t resist and in a flash we had booked a two night/3 day mini-vacay in a 2 bedroom villa right on the beach all for just $220.00

View from the bedrooms

Our Villa (number 3) was one of 4 villas that share a pool and overlook the white sandy beach of Half Moon Bay. We were pleasantly surprised by the layout and by how well equipped the villa was it was almost as if the owner had stayed there himself and thought about what people could possibly want or need while on vacation. The two bedrooms both overlook the pool and the ocean and have a large balcony with a table and chairs to enjoy the afternoon sun. And the casually strung up hammock is perfect for catching up on your reading or for nodding off to the sounds of the rolling Caribbean waves.

Trolling the beaches for crabs

We spent our time swimming in the pool, playing games and enjoying nightly BBQ’s on our patio. At night, we looked for crabs (not to eat more for the amusement of our friend’s curious daughter), drank wine and stretched out on the Bali beds on the beach admiring the endless starry sky. Unfortunately, Half Moon Bay, though a great spot for snorkeling has a lot of rocks in the water so waterproof, thick-soled shoes are a must if you want to swim in the ocean.

Bali beds on the beach

On our last day, after checking out, we headed over to Yal-ku Lagoon—a favourite spot of mine. There is great snorkeling and it is a huge, beautiful blue lagoon with simple but elegant sculptures scattered throughout the carved out paths in the jungle that lead to the water’s edge. We got there early before the crowds arrived and left just as it started to get overrun by people. Then like all good things our quick getaway had come to an end and it was time to go home. It had been a great weekend made even better by our friends being able to join us. Work schedules in Cancun are often such that it can be difficult to organize quality time with those that are special in your lives. Moments like these that we shared are truly the “stuff” of memories. We will definitely be going back there again soon as Hotel Akumal Caribe Villas Flamingo is the ideal place to kick-back, relax and remember why we chose to live in Cancun in the first place.

Yal-ku Lagoon

Where do you go for your weekend getaways?

Last month after a long break from blogging I posted about becoming a Mexican citizen. If you missed it you can read it here Becoming a Mexican In that post I focused on how I was feeling about becoming a Mexican citizen and what it meant to me but I didn’t go into the “nitty gritty” of it all. After reading several comments in response to that blog I realized that my next post should be a “Survivors Guide for Applying for Mexican Citizenship”

Let me start off by saying that I finally decided to apply for my citizenship after being here since 1995.  I could have applied many years ago but for various reasons I didn’t and then after that certain immigration paperwork mishaps (not my faultJ) prevented me from doing so until I was able to apply this year under the category of “married to a Mexican national”.  The form is basically the same for those that apply under “time served” or for those that apply because they are married except for a few variations. The only difference that I can see is that it is cheaper to apply under the “married” category but you have to supply documentation for your spouse. You can also apply under other categories. The general link for naturalization is  http://www.sre.gob.mx/index.php/tramites-y-servicios/nacionalidad-y-naturalizacion Be sure to click on the link on the left-hand-side that applies to your particular situation for a more accurate description.

This particular “Survivors Guide for Applying for Mexican Citizenship” deals with applying under the “married to a National” section but I believe it will also be useful for others and provide helpful tips as many of the sections are the same. But please do verify that the SRE haven’t changed any of the points since this post.

I will not be translating section by section the requirements for your application as a) it would take up far too much space and b) I think that everyone should do their due diligence if they so choose to embark on this process. I will however provide you with useful tips that will hopefully prevent you from having to make numerous trips to the SRE like I had to.

Let us Begin….. (You will need a printed copy of the Requirements to follow along)

1)      The DNN-3 form.—You MUST fill it out using a computer; however, the form available on the SRE website is NOT user-friendly. I requested a friendlier format and they sent me a Word file which was almost the same as the one on the website—useless!. My better-half, knowing that I have zero patience, used his mad computer skills and  converted the file into something that even I could fill out. (If you would like this user-friendly file give me your email and I will send it to you). Make sure you fill everything out in Spanish, in black and use the actual words for months instead of numbers. Under the section for your parents make sure that you use your Mother’s full maiden name as it appears on your birth certificate and not her married name. Also, if you have property in your name make sure that you put the date of your Fideicomiso and the address of the bank that holds your contract and the number of your contract.

2)      Be forewarned that any original documents that are requested like your birth certificate, marriage license, your spouse’s birth certificate will be retained by the SRE. It is not like the Immigration office that requests the original and copies but always returns the original. Be prepared to say goodbye to those documents! Make sure you make copies of your originals for your files so you can request new ones.

3)      When you have to make photocopies of EVERY page of your passport (#6) don’t try to save paper like we did….UNACCEPTABLE!!!! Even though the form isn’t specific you must copy each page of your passport on a separate page—don’t use the back-side and you can’t use the first copy to make your other 2 copies. Use your passport to make every copy. Saving trees is not a priority here :(

My final stack of papers for submission

4)      Unfortunately, now it isn’t simply enough that you get a document from your local police station that clears you from having a criminal record in the State where you currently reside. In the past that was all that you needed. Now you need a Federal “carta de  antecedentes no penales”as well  . So what does that mean? Start looking for cheap airline deals online to Mexico City (I suggest Volaris). Either you or your spouse needs to go in person and if your spouse goes he will need to take  a “carta de poder” to get your  “carta de  antecedentes no penales” for you. In Mexico City, the process is very simple all you need are the following documents:

  • -Birth Certificate and a copy
  • -Your FM2 and a copy
  • -A bill with your home address on it and a copy
  • If your spouse is doing it for you:
  • -same as above
  • -“carta poder” (get one from your local “papeleria”.It doesn’t need to be notarized)
  • -wedding certificate and a copy
  • -spouse’s ID and a copy
  • It takes 20 minutes and is FREE!
  • ****VERY IMPORTANT—this document hast to be submitted with your application within 3 months from the date that you receive it in Mexico City or it isn’t valid!

To get your State “carta de antecedents no penales”

 

  • -A bill with your home address and a copy
  • -Your FM2 and a copy
  • -Birth Certificate and a copy
  • -photographs—size: “infantil” –Make sure you get these done on matte paper as the seal doesn’t hold on glossy ( I had to get mine redone as the seal has to be clearly visible over the photo and mine rubbed off)
  • -150 pesos
  • It takes 48 hours after you submit your paperwork.

5)      When you get to section where you have to declare your “entrances and exits” for the last 2 years into Mexico make sure that you copy their “cheat sheet” exactly as shown on the page that they provide you with or it will not be accepted .Also, if your passport is less than 2 years old and you don’t have your old one you will have to go to Immigration to get another document that costs 320 pesos to back up what you are declaring for your “entrances and exits” for that time period.

6)      Once you have all of your paperwork ready for submission I recommend that you take a USB with all of your letters and forms that you had to fill out  backed up on it so that once you get to the SRE if there are any small changes that need to be done….and trust me there will be…they can adjust them there instead of you having to go home to make any corrections. This will save you time and a great deal of frustration.

7)      Do not pay the 1400 pesos until after you have taken the test…and passed… they will tell you when to pay. The date on your payment receipt must match the date of submission of your paperwork. I made the mistake of paying in advance and had to get the bank to reimburse me which of course required more paperwork :( This is ridiculous bureaucracy at its finest.

The form with all the submission requirements

8)      EXAM: You can find the 100 possible questions on the SRE site but they do not come with the answers. I just love the recommendation on the application  that tells you that you should get a copy of the “Historia Minima de Mexico” (condensed version) and read it in order to pass the exam. Who has the time? I found a great blog “Migracion con Integracion”  that listed the answers (a true godsend!) or if you like I can email you a document with the questions and possible answers with the correct answers highlighted that I made up as a study guide. You are only asked 5 multiple choice questions out of a possible 100. As always, I studied for this test, like any other tests I have ever had to take, with an almost religious fervour and I can proudly say that I aced my test and probably now know more about Mexico’s history than my own.

9)      Once you have submitted your papers, passed the test and paid you can now sit back and relax for the next 6-12 months until you receive notice that you are now an official Mexican citizen. That is the stage that I am in now :)

Well, that concludes my “Survivors Guide for Applying for Mexican Citizenship”. This blog has been by no means an amusing account on life in Mexico and may I dare say it is probably quite boring but I do hope for those of you out there embarking on this process that you will at least find some of these tips helpful and most importantly save you some time. Please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions that you may have about this process and by the same token I would love to hear about your experiences if you have already completed this arduous task.

This blog post should have been a follow-up to my previous post about Becoming a Mexican. I have been working on it since last week and it is called “A Survivors Guide to Becoming a Mexican Citizen” Essentially it deals with the nitty gritty of submitting your citizenship application with helpful tips so that others will hopefully have a much smoother experience than I did. BUT…..Life happened (as it so often does) before I could complete that post.

So tonight’s post is about seizing the day or carpe diem! I am all about sucking the marrow out of life whenever I can and I especially believe in spontaneity. These types of opportunities seem to present themselves less and less as the sands of time seem to slip away faster and faster. Today; however, was one of those glorious days when an unexpected opportunity fell squarely in our laps.

A lot of my work deals with social media marketing and today while I was scrolling through my Facebook updates I came across a post by Grupo Cenacolo saying that the first person who sent a message via inbox to reserve a table for Monday (tonight) would receive a free degustation of their new menu (drinks not included ). Of course, I jumped at the opportunity….it was a foodies dream come true. Miraculously we won (I never win anything)! After several messages back and forth with Daniela, the social media manager for Grupo Cenacolo, we booked a table.

Hubby at Cenacolo Mare

From the get go we had a wonderful experience. Daniela, in advance had advised the restaurant that we were coming, so we avoided the potentially uncomfortable situation of having to explain that we there because we won a free meal. We were greeted warmly by Karina (the hostess-it was her second night on the job). She took us to a table lagoon-side and introduced us to Israel, who would be our server for the night. We were thoroughly impressed with the décor of the restaurant. The lighting was soft and inviting and as we were seated we caught the remnants of another beautiful Cancun sunset. We ordered a bottle of wine…recommended by Javier…the wine expert and sat back with eager anticipation for what was to come.

View of the restaurant from our lagoon-side table

What came next was a true foodie extravaganza! Six small plates of exquisite seafood dishes that included lobster, seared tuna wrapped in prosciutto, squid, white fish bathed in black squid ink, and Carpaccio. Then two dishes of succulent meat prepared two ways. One of which was covered in a silky, pale yellow, rich, melted cheese. Oh my!!! Thank God we didn’t skip our Pilates class today! Then Chef, Mauro Amati, stopped by our table and graciously sent us a divine glass of red wine to accompany our meat dishes.

Seared tuna wrapped in proscuitto and white fish bathed in black squid ink

Our final dish provided a perfect ending to a marvellous meal. A martini glass filled with a mixture of assorted fresh berries folded into an impossibly smooth mascarpone cream. Truly a dessert fit for the gods. We washed it all down with a sweet anise and ordered the bill. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable evening especially since our plan for Monday night had been to work –out and then channel surf. It was an unexpected, spontaneous night and it reminded me that though my life may seem more ordered and tame these days that there are and still will be many more surprises in my future!

The view form our table–we just missed the sunset

**** I would like to thank all of those responsible for making tonight possible—Daniela (Social Media Manager), Karina (hostess), Israel (our server), Javier (wine expert) and Chef Mauro Amati. GRACIAS!!! And I almost forget to mention the freshly baked Foccacia bread….amazing!!!

Becoming a Mexican!

So it’s been 4 months since my last blog….and believe me I have started writing on more than one occasion but for some reason or another I never quite finish and eventually they all end up in my virtual garbage bin. I remember starting off my blog posts with such gusto, critiquing restaurants, describing my weekend escapades but never really sharing my opinions of what it is really like to live in a foreign country…Cancun, Mexico. I guess that I was always wary of offending people….which is so easy to do nowadays.

 I have been here since 1995 and I have finally applied for Mexican citizenship (long story). WOW! That means in about less than 8 months I will be able to call myself a Mexican. I am a Canadian by birth but my family are from England and in just 5 years I will have lived in Mexico as long as I lived in Canada….double WOW! So what does all of this mean?? Not sure really except that I feel very proud of my roots and that I love Canada but I also love Mexico too.

Image

So once I am an official Mexican citizen what does that mean….how should I feel? Will I feel like a Mexican? I will still retain my Canadian citizenship as well as my British citizenship but I will also now be a Mexican. So who am I? Canada embraces their immigrants. My parents consider themselves Canadian….they “feel” like they are Canadian. They have been living in Canada longer than they lived in England. But Canada is such a melting pot of ethnicities so being a “Canadian” means something different  than here. In Mexico, even though I will have the paperwork, I will never truly be viewed as a Mexican. I will always be viewed as a foreigner and treated as thus even though I chose 18 years ago to make Mexico my home.

I speak Spanish fluently, understand, respect and embrace the customs and I am married to a Mexican. I accept the good and the bad…and granted right now Mexico is experiencing their fair share of tumultuous times but at the end of the day Mexico is a country full of noble people and rich in history. And I think that once I am granted my citizenship I will feel proud to call myself a Mexican….even though I may never be truly accepted as one.

Image

*** I have decided to blog again; however, aside from bubbly reviews of restaurants and weekend escapades I would like to share more personal insights with the hope that I don’t offend anyone.

Several months ago we tried a new place that had just opened up at the Ibis Hotel in downtown Cancun and after that 1st meal I was hooked! I enjoyed everything about our dining experience that in just a few short months we have been at least half a dozen times already. Piola, which means, “Meeting Place” in an ancient Italian dialect  was started over 20 years ago by two brothers from Treviso, Italy and can now be found in Italy, US, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Turkey and Honduras.

Piola

Piola has a varied menu that features simple Italian food at great prices in a colourful setting, with great music and very friendly service. Hubby and I have been making our way through the menu and so far we haven’t been disappointed in any of the dishes. From the “vacio” that melts in your mouth (similar to rib-eye) served with salad and pasta, to the beef Carpaccio and various pasta dishes each and every meal has been satisfying, tasty and a reasonable price .

Picanha-Argentinian cut of beef

We have gotten to know the staff and we are always greeted warmly when we arrive for dinner or lunch and the place is always abuzz with people which is rare in Cancun.  They have inside and outside dining on a pleasant semi-enclosed patio and space for large groups. Be sure to order their house speciality-frozen basil martinis- a real refreshing treat! After, six visits we still have a long way to go before we have tried everything so if you see us there be sure to say hi and Buen Provecho!

Pasta!

What is your favourite neighborhood restaurant?

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