Friday, September 28, 2007

Susana Zabaleta appears with OSJEV

Personally I am not acquainted with the song styling of Susana Zabaleta, but it appears she has fans in Xalapa that eagerly anticipate her upcoming concert on October 6. Señorita Zabaleta is an award winning singer and actress. As usual, the venue for this OSJEV performance is el Teatro del Estado and the performance time is 20:30 hours.

Judging from articles in Diario Xalapa and on her web site, her repertoire covers a wide range from pop to opera. Tickets are higher than normal for an OSJEV concert ($250 and $350); but somebody has to pay Susana. I believe advance tickets are available at the upstairs offices in the theater (and in other places, but I don't have the information in front of me). If you want to attend, an early ticket purchase is advised. I promise to be better organized the next time I write a blog entry.

As Diario Xalapa notes:

No se pierden este concierto altamenta recomendado.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Insensible CNN weatherman Rob Marciano

This morning I watched CNN weatherman Rob Marciano describe the probable future of Tropical Depression 13 off the coast of Veracruz. Now, I don't think Rob is a jingoist or harbors any bad wishes for Mexico. In fact, he seems to be a rather nice guy. However, as he was wrapping up his coverage of this depression (in front of a storm map displaying a huge ugly red air mass) he indicated it could develop into a tropical storm. Which, is rather bad news. He then drew an arrow straight at the heart of the state of Veracruz.

Casually saying, "it kind of wants to drift this way. Good for us".

I know he only meant that a possible tropical storm did not threaten the states, but I wish he had instead said, "bad for Veracruz". Because, as a weatherman he has to know the tremendous damage and hardships that recent storms have inflicted on Mexico. Here in Veracruz state, homes are flooded, crops are ruined, and entire communities are cut off by washed out roads and damaged bridges. Pánuco to the north of Xalapa has been particularly hard hit.

I cringed as I thought of all the Mexicans here in Veracruz state, and indeed across the world, who watch CNN. Rob's thoughtless remark certainly did not help Mexican-American relations.

I'm going to write to American Morning. If you feel as I do, perhaps you'll send them a courteous note also. Here is the web address:

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Let's talk about the weather

People seem to all agree that the weather in Xalapa is ideal so far as temperature. I have heard opinions about the humidity, but I cannot understand the complaint. It must be a personal thing. I do have one pair of shoes in my closet that has some signs of mildew, and I must dry them out and find a way to overcome this problem. None of my clothes or other items are indicating a mildew problem. When I go out for a walk, the humidity is not at all oppressive like down on the coast. The reason for the mild humidity and temperature is commonly attributed to our 4500 foot elevation.

Friends I talked to in Mazatlan tried to argue me out of living here because of the rain. This is a cloud forest climate after all. The fact is sometimes during the summer the rain comes down in blinding torrents. On the other hand the weather is really very predictable. Sort of reminds me of the song in the musical Camelot.

The rain may never fall till after sundown
By eight the morning fog must disappear
In short, there's simply not a more congenial spot
For happy ever-aftering than here in Camelot

Actually, the rain doesn't usually fall until later in the afternoon, but sometimes like the song says, it holds off until after dark. Which is all the better to observe the lightning that frequently accompanies strong rain storms.

Another weather condition is fog, but I have not experienced much of that. I think this happens during the winter so we will get a chance to observe this before long. MSN, Accuweather, and The Weather Underground all have comprehensive information about Xalapa weather. When making web searches be aware that there are many towns bearing the name Xalapa. Specify Veracruz-llave or just Veracruz. The modern spelling is Jalapa.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pico de Orizaba

This shot of the monster was actually taken from the small town of Naolinco, which lies a short distance to the north of Xalapa. I estimate Pico would be at least 70 miles distant from where this was taken.

The following post displays a hybrid mashup of a Google satellite picture and a cartographic map of the mountain and the surroundings. The town of Orizaba is to the southeast of Pico, but it is a bit hard to see on the following post because I have it set so both Pico and the town are in the frame.

Our next travel adventure is to drive up to the base of Pico, which if I have my information straight will be at about the 10,000 foot level. What I won't do for pictures to keep this blog interesting and unique.

Hybrid map of Orizaba, Veracruz and vicinity

View Larger Map

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Veracruz triathlon 2007

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At the Veracruz triathlon there seemed to be more contestants than spectators. Now I did not exactly go around and count noses. But I did read that 4,000 entrants showed up to test their mettle in what must be one of the more demanding triathlons in the world. The crowd seemed to number much less, maybe in the hundreds, but certainly not in numbers equal to the athletes. In the interests of accuracy I could have verified the number of athletes by walking down the long row of bicycles and counting them up.

One thing that puzzles me is that I saw a lot of youngsters competing. Surely they were not doing all the events. Perhaps there was a 10k run in conjunction with the triathlon.

You may have read or heard that Veracruz has a reputation for being hot and muggy, and based on my experience I think the reputation is deserved. The temperature was around the 90 mark and so was the humidity. Nonetheless, I enjoyed the experience of watching others test themselves while all I had to do was take photographs and swill water.

The venue for this annual event is the Gold Coast, so named because of the pricey sea side location. Nearby are many multi-story condominiums, international class hotels and a big modern shopping mall. I will go back and explore more of Veracruz during the winter when the temperature drops to something in the toleration range.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The best Xalapa street map ever

If you go here:

and enter, Xalapa, veracruz-llave, Mexico you will land right on the map of Xalapa. Use the zoom in/out and left/right arrows to center the map where you desire and achieve the desired level of detail. Zooming in magnifies the region you are interested in.

This is a new feature Google has just released and besides mexico there are many other Latin American countries that are now covered. I will be writing more about using Google Map in future posts as I describe driving in Xalapa and share tips on intersections that have given me trouble and other ideas for surviving in a strange traffic environment. All made easier, because I can pinpoint these intersections easily to share with you. Likewise, I will make it a long term project to pinpoint important features, such as buildings, shopping centers, entertainment venues and the like. Should keep me busy.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Do I have to know Spanish?

Xalapa is not like the resort towns and cities of Mexico. In Mazatlan, for example, you find a great many hotels, restaurants, and shops that have employees who speak English. There is a large expatriate community of permanent English speaking residents and the place is swamped with tourists when cruise liners make port. Accordingly, you can survive quite well in most situations if your Spanish is limited or even non-existent.

Xalapa is not a big tourist destination like Mazatlan, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta and the like. Although you will meet many people here who speak English it is much less common. Another difference is the fact that Xalapa is very cosmopolitan, probably because of the many universities located here. You will find people from all over the world living here.

For most situations you encounter in shopping, dining out, and site seeing you can probably get by with a pocket guide that has lists of common phrases organized by topics. Learn Spanish pronunciation rules and these little guides can be your lifeline. A different approach is a digital language translator, but these can get expensive if they are at all comprehensive. The best answer is to learn as much Spanish as you possibly can and work at it every day.

The good part is that the Mexicans you meet are extremely friendly, courteous and patient. Don't be hesitant to try out your Spanish on cab drivers, store clerks or just people you might encounter standing in line at a bus stop. In the big cities of the United States strangers rarely speak to each other. The exact opposite is true here in Xalapa (I cannot speak for Mexico City, it may be different there.)

Rest assured, there are strategies you can use to help get over the language hurdles.

TIP: Ask people to write down anything you don't understand. Most people find reading Spanish easier that interpreting speech.

TIP: Have trouble with pronunciation? Check out this unique University of Iowa website:

that contains animated libraries of the phonetic sounds of English, German, and Spanish. You will be amazed, entranced, missing many hours of your life practicing Spanish pronunciation. I promise.

Keep watching this post for more tips and information. You can easily subscribe to The Free End either by email or by a syndicated feed.