Sunday, November 29, 2009

Going to Acapulco

In a couple hours, I'm going to Acapulco. I'll be staying at the new Hotel One Acapulco. From what I've read, Hotel One is a fairly new semi-luxury hotel chain in Latin America. Acapulco, located about 4 hours south of Mexico City on the Pacific Ocean, was the first resort city in Mexico. In the 50s and 60s it catered to the Hollywood jet-set crowd (Elvis made an Acapulco movie that, not surprisingly given the low quality of many of his films, was not actually filmed in Acapulco), but since then, it's gone downhill as other new resort cities (Puerto Vallarta, several hours north of Acapulco, Cabo San Lucas on the Baja Peninsula south of California, Ixtapa, a quiet resort town a a few hours north of Acapulco that my family and I enjoyed, Cancun, the over-the-top city on the Yucatan Peninsula in the Caribbean and the more serene Riviera Maya a few hours south of that) have sprung up.

Prices for certain thing can be outrageous in Mexico, including telephone and internet service, imported electronics, and the lady who has a monopoly on laundromats in my neighborhood (to wash and dry 3 loads of my own laundry costs me $17 US). The bus lines (which I'll be taking today) and wealthy drivers take instead a very nice highway to Acapulco that rarely has traffic. The problem: a one way trip on it costs $50 US in tolls. That being said, if you have 3 or more people in your car, even counting gas and tolls, it's cheaper to drive a car than take a bus. Here's an interesting article on that highway. There are back roads that one can take to Acapulco for free, but they take about 9 hours instead of the 3.5 to 4.5 hours on the expensive super-highway. This highway is owned by a private company. Though the price is annoying, it is good that taxpayers don't have to subsidize a road used primarily by wealthy people.

One really interesting thing to me is from all the hotel reviews I've read, it seems nearly all the hotels in Acapulco, even the ones associated with good brand names, are in desperate need of renovations. I think the hotel chains have sort of ignored Acapulco since more foreign travelers are now going to the other Mexican resort cities. Nowadays it is a very popular college spring break destinations for the Gabachos from up north. Certainly what keeps Acapulco popular is that it is the closest resort city to Mexico City. Wealthy Mexicans still go there a lot, but many of them stay in their own vacation houses there. Given the recession and the fact that it's not a busy season for the hotels, prices are really cheap right now for hotels (though flights to Acapulco and Mexico City are almost twice as much as what they were in better economic times, when I'd imagine more flights were being scheduled).

Anyways, I'm very excited, I haven't been to the beach since I got here over 4 months ago.

Heading home for a month in Naperville starting December 8th!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mexico in a Nutshell

This article I found today gives a great summary about everything about this country: geography, history, politics, economics, present challenges. It's a very good explanation of why Mexico is like it is.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sunday Wrapup

I would call this the weekend wrap-up, but tomorrow is a holiday (Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution of 1910) so we still have one more day of the weekend. This is a big year of celebration for Mexico, as it gets ready to celebrate its 200th birthday.

I was very happy to see Michelle Wie win the Lorena Ochoa Invitational in Guadalajara. She has worked very hard and I feel good for her that she no longer has to hear the "When will she win?" question. I can't imagine how stressful it must have been to have constantly put up with that.

Finally, a funny article about this country from an issue of the Wall Street Journal this weekend. Three years ago, Felipe Calderon (a conservative) defeated Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Amlo, the liberal/populist former mayor of Mexico City) for the Presidency, which came with a six-year term (presidents here cannot run for reelection). The contest was extremely close, and it's very likely that there was fraud. Amlo refused to accept the result, and has been running a government ever since then. He and all his ministers take their government very seriously and act as if they are in a real government. Not surprisingly, they public support is very low. Still, it makes for great comedy whenever the "Legitimate President" feels the need to make a proclamation.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

12 Hours in Guadalajara

Thursday night, I took the 7-hour overnight bus to Guadalajara (the country's second largest city, a couple hundred miles west of the Distrito Federal), to see the penultimate tournament of the 2009 LPGA season. The Lorena Ochoa Invitational was first played last year, it is a 36-player invite that despite only being in its second presentation already draws all of the top players in the world. The event is played at Guadalajara Country Club, the course where Lorena Ochoa, currently the top-ranked player in the world, grew up playing golf. The course was really cool, with lots of hills, some solid foliage, very close to downtown and lots of cool modern condo buildings surrounding it.

I walked 18 holes with a group of three Americans (a rarity in the increasingly Asian-centric LPGA). The group was Cristie Kerr (a former US Open champion with over $10 million in career earnings), Brittany Lang (a 24-year old former Dukie) and Brittany Lincicome (also 24, the winner of this year's first major, the Kraft Nabisco Championship). The group all started the day at 3 under after shooting 69s the first day, and they all shot 70s yesterday. I spent most of the round talking with the player's families and agents/reps (there was a group of about 8 following the group), and they were all nice.

Every time Lorena's back home, everyone wants her attention constantly. Combined with launching some new ventures and being engaged to a divorced airline CEO with three kids, Lorena has had a relatively tough year by her standards. That being said, she still has a chance to win the player of the year race (the season concludes next week). Her main rival is Jiyai Shin, a 21-year old South Korean rookie who has already won seven times on Tour (including one major, the 2008 British Open). Jiyai enters today's third round with a three-stroke lead over Michelle Wie, the 19-year old Stanford Cardinal who has still yet to win professionally. Ochoa is a few more back. The tournament is on the Golf Channel today and Sunday at 3pm central (tomorrow is the 4th and final round).

Some random thoughts:
-Overnight bus rides aren't so bad

-Watched 'marley and me' on the bus ride home last night (dubbed in Spanish, obviously), first time I had seen it, I definitely liked it

-Guadalajara Country Club is amazing, it has an equestrian park, tons of tennis courts (including two with roofs/lights), a great course, and a beautiful clubhouse (snuck in for a tour / free food in the press center). Listing price to join: $185,000 US! (the average country club in the US costs between $30,000-$40,000 to join). That fee doesn't include annual dues, etc.

-These players just play mistake free golf. Jiyai Shin usually only drives it 240, hits tons of fairway woods when other plays are hitting mid-irons, but just doesn't make mistakes (bogey-free 66 for her yesterday)

-Laura Davies seems to follow my philosophy on the driving range: take approximately 2 seconds until hitting the next shot

-They all take forever on the putting greens

-Jiyai Shin was really personable when I snuck into the press conference. She has a good command of English and made me laugh a few times. That being said, language barriers aside, I do think the LPGA faces a marketing challenge when it comes to the fact that so many of their top players are Asian. One thing that really surprised me as that for many of the Asians, when their name was called on the first tee, they barely looked up. It's one thing to not be able to speak with the fans, etc., but you don't need to speak English to look up and wave and smile at the crowd.

-Will Wie win? (I'm an alliteration aficionado)

-Mexicans still aren't the most sophisticated golf fans (soccer fans, lucha fans, etc.) in the world. Several fans would routinely applaud Ochoa's playing partners for missing putts. Very weak sauce move right there.

-Good food and drink selection, but I was disappointed with the lack of desserts in the press center

-Natalie Gulbis withdrew due to back injuries. Tough start to my day.

-One marshall allowed us to enter a crossing, and thinking she actually knew what she was doing, we did so without looking. Turns out Juli Inkster was addressing her ball on the tee box. Woops!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Protests in Mexico City

Ken Ellingwood of the Los Angeles Times really is the best American reporter in Mexico City that I know of. He consistently does a great job of reporting on not just big government/political issues, but also on how life is for daily residents here in DF.

Here's his article today on a huge protest yesterday that attempted to shut down traffic. Protests here commonly shut down traffic.

Anyways, I'm glad these workers were forced to protest. President Felipe Calderon, with the support of the majority of citizens, recently shut down a government-run electricity company that was losing billions of dollars a year. This country has lots of huge government companies that lose lots of money (especially the oil company Pemex), so I hope the president has the ability to streamline more of those, and to privatize if necessary. This country sorely needs new laws that promote greater competition and weaken the hold of monopolostic companies (both private and state-run).

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Being on time

Very good article (in English) about how no one in Mexico City is on time for anything ever.

The article quotes a writer, who, in typical Mexican fashion, says there's "nothing we can do" about being late for everything. There's times when I wonder if that phrase should be Mexico's national slogan.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Checking In

Currently live blogging the World Series game,

Very slow blogging the month of October, sorry about that. I could pretend I was busy but we all know that's not true ... at all. So, anyways, how's it going? Being so high here in the mountains, weather is definitely starting to show it here in mexico (my capital 'm' isn't working). Apparently, just being so high up in the mountains, most of the next few months will be fairly cloudy during the day, mid-60s and a lil windy, and mid-40s and windy at night. Sadly not beach weather, but certainly better than the midwest where I've lived my whole life.

I'm definitely happy with the group of people I've met here. I really like the other students at Tec and I'm enjoying the classes. I translated a paper for my advisor that's getting published here in January.

Still the most frustrating thing is not having anything to do during the day. I've been doing a lot of job searching, but that obviously takes a long time. I've been trying to go to a lot of business events around the city (mergers and acquisition reception, breakfast for the Dominican Republic's Treasury Secretary, mexpat parties, etc.) and am meeting some good people, but nothing yet. I'm pretty flexible about things, so hopefully something will happen soon. The average job search in the US now lasts 7 months, so I realize it just takes time. For comedy sake I went to an Accenture recruiting event on campus last week, seemed like a very exciting company to work for! The other major problem still is living as far south as I do. most of my friends live more in the center (areas like Condesa, Roma, and Polanco), and more businesses are there (and also wayyyy west in Santa Fe). So, if I find a job, I would likely move. Until then, it's not worth it, considering the traffic to get to school

Day of the Dead, a huge holiday here in mexico, is being celebrated today and tomorrow. Families gather in cemeteries to remember their loved ones. It's more celebratory than melancholy. Been eating a lot of Pan de muerto lately.

my friend Kendall (his never-updated blog is linked on the right) has had swine flu the last flu days. Fortunately none of the other students in my house have had it.

I went to a costume party Friday, mainly gabachos, it was very fun. Went as Forrest Gump, here's the photo. Definitely glad I got the haircut, even though my dance partner in salsa class thought it was so bad that she basically was laughing the entire way through our class a few days again (though, my still-improving moves could be a significant factor). Halloween is getting bigger and bigger here, I saw lots of kids Trick or Treating yesterday.

This article is a very good summary of the biggest news story in mexico here during the past month. President Felipe Calderon decided to shut down a state-run electricity company that was losing $3 billion US a year, and the populace strongly supported the move. Power goes out a lot here (I've had to throw out a lot of spoiled food), so hopefully it'll get better now that a new company has taken over. The article implies the president, for the short term, has a window to make mexico more economically competitive (break up more monopolies and unions, better tax collections, etc). The other big news is the president trying to get a sales tax increase in order to keep the country's finances in order. That definitely doesn't seem likely. my favorite newspaper here is milenio. If you're on Twitter, I recommend following the mexico city news, a feed (in english) that offers a sarcastic take on news in mexico.

I really miss playing golf. Hopefully over winter break there'll still be enough days in the 40s that I can play a couple rounds of golf, I haven't played since I've been here and really miss it. Golf is extremely expensive here in mexico (and most of the developing world), and despite golf's addition as an official sport in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, I don't see that changing much at all, at least not anytime soon. Nonetheless, I greatly respect guys like this Tony Ciabattoni, an American living in Colombia and attempting to make golf accessible to people of all classes.

This semester will be entirely complete December 7th, and assuming I don't have any obligations to keep me here, I'll probably be back in Naperville by December 10th. I'll be home for an entire month and hope to find some 'holiday job' (retail/restaurant). maybe I'll work as a viene viene. Possible quick trip to Vegas w/ my sister and her boyfriend's family during the month, but otherwise nothing else planned. Definitely looking forward to being home, and hopefully I can stay busy while I'm there. I'm planning on coming back for the spring semester, hopefully I'll find some sort of job for this spring. If done full-time, the program runs 3 semesters (not sure what I would do in the summer).

Well, I hope everyone's doing well. It'll be a weird Thanksgiving for the Stiling family; I'll be here, and my parents will be with my sister in Boston as she's recovering from hip replacement surgery. I'm hoping to organize a Thanksgiving meal here.

Enjoy November!
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