Sunday, December 30, 2007


The term quinceañera refers to the young lady who has arrived to the tender age of 15 years. It's sort of a "coming of age". Wikipedia has a definition and some historical facts from various Latin American countries. I was shocked, though, to find that there was no reference to Mexico. Particularly disappointed because, if there is a country where the quinceañera party is relevant, it would be Mexico!

We went to the Quince Años party of one of my nieces last Saturday. It was a really good party, although quite different from what I was used to. First, there was lots of dancing and even an spectacle (the Quinceañera put a show with dancers and choreography and so on). Second, the music was computer-generated (no actual live group). Third, it started super late... we were having dinner at midnight, and it went until 4.30am.

The party was really good in many ways. One of them was that it provided a forum and an opportunity for some members of my family (and the extended family) to erase former grudges and create new bridges. For doing that, I'll have to give my Mom props. She's the family's diplomat. It was nice to see members of my family that I hadn't actually seen or had any sort of contact with after a few years.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

4TheRcrd is officially launching tonight!

Jark is the strong force behind 4TheRcrd. Tonight (Dec 29th, 2007) is the launch party at The Wild Coyote, co-hosted by Phreshvibe. Details can be found here. I like the concept and I'm very much looking forward to seeing great stuff on the blog/magazine. Sleek and sexy design and layout, I think will be a good addition to the blogosphere.

I am so sorry I'm not there for the launch, but well, can you blame me? Beautiful views, gorgeous architecture and warm and sunny weather... I'll be back in Vancouver soon enough! Congratulations to the team!

Travelling around San Miguel de Allende

There are towns in Mexico that just seem like paradise. San Miguel de Allende is one of them. Do a Google search of the name of the town and you'll find thousands of websites. The reason behind it? It's one of the top tourist destinations for both foreign and national tourism. It's a gorgeous city, very cosmopolitan and cultural, beautiful architecture, lots of history and more than anything, wonderful people.

The parents of one of my best friends in Vancouver (A and N) moved to San Miguel de Allende a few years ago. They have integrated into the community in so many ways that you would seriously think they're SanMiguelenses since birth. Since my visit to Mexico is rather short, I wanted to make sure to see them before I returned to Vancouver, so we scheduled a visit.

As it usually happens with family visits, the number of visitors fluctuated between when I mentioned I was coming and when I arrived (originally it was only going to be me, my Mom and my good friend M who is visiting, then I suggested to my brother and sister-in-law, who are also visiting, to come and join me as I figured they'd enjoy the visit, in the end my nieces decided not to come in the end, so finally the group was reduced to 5 visitors).

When we arrived to N and A's house, we didn't find a house - we found a palace! Their home is so beautiful, spacious and cozy. There is lots of room for everything - several terraces and gardens, two offices, anything you can imagine. That's a dream house, really. But the best part of the house are the owners. Both N and A are just as sweet and warm and welcoming as H (quite obviously, H is his parents' son!). They treated us to an amazing lunch (fish, potatoes, green beans - not spicy, unlike H's which are spicy - and a great corn and chile soup).

We felt at home right from the beginning, and despite the sad news of a family emergency, we had an amazing time. I feel very blessed with H's friendship, and whenever I see his parents, I feel that they treat me like part of their own family too. I hope to be as good a host when they come visit (either in Mexico or in Canada) as they were to me.

I haven't uploaded the pictures of our SMA trip yet on to Picasa, but I can leave you with an image of the beautiful Cathedral in San Miguel de Allende [photo credit, Wikipedia: San Miguel Allende Article]

If you get a chance to visit Mexico, you should visit San Miguel de Allende. It's a not-to-be-missed destination.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I've made it big!

You know you've made it big on Vancouver's blogosphere when Rebecca (AKA Miss604) adds you as Best Blog in 2007 (Restaurant Reviews). I can't tell you how humbled and amazed I feel about this distinction. Thanks Rebecca! I have poured my heart into this blog, and have really appreciated getting to know new readers and fellow bloggers.

Interestingly enough, I've started noticing an increase in readership outside of Canada. A few people from the United States have started following my blog, and I feel quite excited. Normally, I know my readership is usually Canada-based or Mexico-based (for obvious reasons). But now I've got new readers (welcome!) that aren't based in either country. I even know that someone reads me from India!

Hope you had a wonderful Boxing Day. I spent today travelling with my brother, his family, my Mom and ML (around the beautiful city of Guanajuato). I will tell you about my adventures as soon as I am really exhausted. We all are. But we had a wonderful day. Let me leave you with a panoramic view of this beautiful city [Photo credit:].

Christmas review

I was dreading Christmas like the plague because I wasn't sure how personal relationships amongst stranged family members would play out. I was actually terrified and stressed. However, when it came to the actual celebration, we had a great time. I personally had one of the best Christmases I had in years. Even though it was only my eldest brother's family and Mom and I, it was great.

I did miss my other brothers and my Dad not being with us, but overall, the celebration was phenomenal. My brother prepared a main course, as did my Mom, and lots of fun were had. We even toasted! I think the rest of my holiday will be just as enjoyable. But I plan to steer away from alcohol :-)

Movie review - Flicka

I went to Mexico City today to meet my good friend ML who is visiting Mexico for the first time. We both live in Vancouver and she's here to spend a couple of weeks travelling. Since I didn't feel all too well (post-Christmas hangover) I decided to take the bus. Normally, my iPod would be fully charged and I would listen to music all five hours (yeah, it's a five hour bus ride each way).

Anyhow, since I knew that I might not have enough battery in my iPod, I decided to watch the movie (in between naps) shown on the bus. Starring Maria Bello, Tim McGraw, Alison Lohman and Ryan Kwanten, Flicka shows a young girl who tried to prove her father wrong about her (apparent) inability to manage the family ranch (when the time comes for that).

I generally don't like this type of movies, not because they're showing a Western rural family and I can't relate to the topic of the movie, but because these movies tend to be rather slow. As it was the case with Flicka, these movies ARE generally slow. I managed to have a nap right in the middle of the movie and I still caught the ending (quite predictable).

But it's a feel-good movie, and quite uplifting. If you want something that bad, you can really accomplish it with hard work. Nothing is given to this young girl (Katy). She works hard to gain her father's approval and demonstrate to him that she is capable of domesticating her mustang.

Snippets found below courtesy of YouTube posters.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas 2007!

While still considered a Christian tradition, more and more people have started to celebrate Christmas. Even though I've lived in Canada for over 12 years, I still consider Christmas Eve (tonight) as the celebration and Christmas Day is pretty much a day of relaxation and family gatherings. Only one year (1996, in Ann Arbor, Michigan) have I celebrated Christmas in the American and Canadian traditions.

As I was trying to find the Wikipedia definition of Christmas, I also found a discussion page on the controversy surrounding Christmas. All the time since I've lived in Canada, I've had more and more people tell me "Happy holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas". I chalked it up to an interest in being more culturally diverse and religiously aware. But many people think otherwise.

You'd be surprised at how much content you can find on Wikipedia on Christmas. Many of my friends in Canada, while not typically religious, tend to be followers of the tradition (in several cases, just to follow family customs). That works the same way in my case. I was born and raised Catholic (well, born into the Catholic tradition, some would say). However, with time, these customs have relaxed, particularly given my exposure to different cultures and religions while I've lived abroad.

Last night I made a point with my brother that, the only reason why I am in Mexico for the holidays is to see my parents, my brothers and their family, to spend time with my close friends
here and, specifically, to make this holiday season as enjoyable for my Mom as I possibly can. So I guess I'll embark in a pseudo-Christmas truce: I'll stop bickering and fighting during these holidays. I can get back to those when I am back in Vancouver, hehe :)

Merry Christmas to all my readers, and for all of you who do not celebrate Christmas in that sense, happy holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Pre-Christmas fun?

This morning, Mom and I were having breakfast and discussing our different views of Christmas. For her, this is the season when she goes to traditional Mexican parties, spend time with her children and grandchildren and friends. In my case, it becomes a stressful time, when I have to negotiate relationships with family members (both close and estranged), take care of stuff I haven't been able to do while I am in Canada, etc.

While the whole holiday season allows me to spend time with friends and family for whom I care a lot, the actual two or three days before and after Christmas are stressful. So, today, tomorrow and Tuesday will be a tad stressful. But I am looking forward to the 26th onwards. A friend is coming to visit me, and I'll get a chance to spend time with HZ's parents and other good friends. So I won't complain.

And to get you and everyone else in the Christmas holiday spirit, here is a video by Wham, "Last Christmas". It's one of the sweetest songs out there (even though the lyrics aren't that sweet if you think about them).

I hate MSN, however useful it may be

In its continuous effort to "improve your experience", MSN has become extremely cumbersome. It takes FOREVER to log on, and frequently crashes my computer. Yeah, it has perks (allows me to keep up with friends all over the world) but I *hate* the fact that it consumes lots of memory and makes my life so difficult.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I'm a definite light weight

I am trained as a bartender. I've got a certification and all. However, last night I got again a demonstration of why I am still a light weight. Had dinner with my undergrad best friends (LEAD has a new house and he insisted I see it). So Mom and I headed to his place (he's got a wife and four kids, so their house is really big) for a night of drinks and dinner.

I have no idea how I got to the state of drunkedness (spelling?) I got, I think it was the four vodkas I had, but OMG by the end of the night, Mom had to drive us home. I don't think I did anything inappropriate (Mom would obviously have stopped me) but my recollection of facts is minimal. I think I must have apologized about a thousand times for the one time I had a fight with LEAD. Well, that only makes me realize that I am a total light weight. Back to training in the New Year!

I had an amazing time though. But now I know that I need to learn how not to be drunk on four vodkas.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Lots of love - Mexican edition

Since I wanted to promote my 500th post, I didn't blog any content for the past few days. However, it would be unfair not to talk about awesome things that have happened to me this week. Particularly, it would be unfair to loved friends of mine who have made every effort to spend time with me as they know I'm here for just a very short time. So, a toast to...
  • Dinner on Monday with LGS. L and I became friends in high school. She was one of 7 friends (the Magnificent Seven: DA, LEG, AAF, LGS, LL, APV, AND RZL) with whom I was extremely close in high school. You see - I have always been pretty selective with whom I choose as friends, but I was even more when I was younger. So, instead of having dozens of pseudo-friends, I just made 7 close friends (this circle has grown through the years, as I have re-acquainted myself with others). At any rate, LGS invited me for dinner to a gourmet pizza place called Francachela. I don't know how she does it, but she still looks as beautiful as ever. It's like some sort of Dorian Gray club (my Mom and her are members of the club, as they both look so young!). Furthermore, I not only enjoyed spending time with her and the great conversation, but also knowing how she has evolved. She's such a strong woman, with a willingness to never let anything stop her. I am glad we still see each other whenever I come to Mexico, and exactly in the same light: as though no time has passed. Ah, good times :)
  • Dinner on Tuesday with Mom, IT, AF and PT: When we were young(er), my best female friend (IT), her now husband (AF) and my great friend PT, we all worked for a soft drinks company. So, it was really funny to see us all sitting around the same table. IT and AF invited us for dinner and drinks, which I really appreciaetd, because even though IT and AF are parents to a cute wonderful boy, they always make time for me. IT and I have always shared an amazing friendship. Her parents (whom I visited on Wednesday) always treated me like a son. We reminisced about good times we've shared through the years, and enjoyed wonderful hors d'oeuvrs (with salmon and jamón serrano) - mine without cheese, thank you (they had cheese fondue... eeeww!)
  • Talking on the phone with AAF: For some bizarre reason, we hadn't chatted over MSN for a while, but my great friend AAF found my phone and gave me a call. It was so nice to hear his voice again. AAF and I have enjoyed a wonderful friendship since we were in our very early teens. We both played competitive volleyball and he is the model of a man who never gives up. He is building his company from the bottom up, and he moved to a different city to start all over again. I'm very proud of him, and I hope we have a chance to spend time on Christmas day (and the following week).
  • Spending the Christmas holiday dinner of my former workplace with AE: Not only have we managed to build a great friendship, but AE and I share a very unique (and liberal and open minded) view of the world. She's a wonderful friend and an amazing Mom, and she dances great too! She looked beautiful that night as well. How she does all that she achieves - work, personal relationships, friendships and taking care of her daughter? No idea. But she does. I'm proud of having her as a friend, and moreover, it's exciting to think that she might have found the love she deserves. It was also nice to see all my friends who were my co-workers. Ah, good times! And as usual, I danced the opening piece.
  • Weekends with my brothers: Even though they live in different cities, we managed to squeeze two visits with my brothers. The first weekend we went with the second of my brothers, whose energy and personal commitment not onlyu to his work but to his family (both direct and extended) are beyond belief. Honestly, if I had 10% of the energy JE has, I would be in great shape. His daughters are absolutely adorable, and great athletes. The second weekend we went to visit my eldest brother, AJ, whose daughters are also adorable. We had a good time and managed to see Enchanted a second time! Ah, great times. They're coming to spend Christmas with us and I'm looking forward to a family reunion.
  • Dinner with my Dad: Although, technically, that was lunch, he took me to the best Argentinian restaurant in town, and one of the best in the world. You'll see... while in Vancouver, I try not to eat red meat. For many reasons, one of them, the fact that nobody makes steaks like this restaurant does. So I refuse to eat at, say, The Keg or Mortons. I know, I'm a snob. So sue me. At any rate, Dad treated me to lunch/dinner ... it was like old times. I really value my Dad's insights, and I would like to share one with you (which I will expand upon soon enough): fear is THE worst adviser.
All in all, life is great, and I'll get to see my undergraduate best friend (LEAD) and his family tonight, something I am really looking forward to. As I was talking to JT last night, I told him something that more and more I realize that I am a pretty damn lucky guy. I may not know how to define love (we had a conversation about that), but I sure know how to love people. I couldn't help but giggle when he said "yeah, and you are pretty good at it too". It's nice feeling loved.

Quite obviously I miss my Vancouver friends, but I have come to realize that distance is really nothing. I spent an hour chatting with AF the other day, and we talked about how much we miss each other. Truth be told, I am loved everywhere I go. What else can a guy ask for? Oh, yeah ... right... well, a few million dollars would be handy hehehe :) but love is golden!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

My 500th post

I started blogging in April of 2006 (wait, I already used that opening line...)... ahem, here we go again...

Every year, I do a "Year in Review" kind of exercise where I toast to the New Year (in this case, 2008), and speak with my loved ones about what I have learned throughout the past year: about myself, about themselves and about life in general. My 2007 has been a rocky one, yet I don't regret a single thing. I just wish it hadn't gone by so fast. And faster than I thought, my 500th post arrived. Therefore, this post is both a celebration of 500 post, as well as as a preliminary "Raul's Year In Review".

I had given a lot of thought to how I would celebrate my 500th post, so I asked Meg, Rebecca and Tanya to loan me a bit of the concepts they have popularized in their own blogs: the Friday Love List, the Mid-week Socializing Game and the Miss604 Poll. It was complicated to try and merge such unique styles and fuse them with my own, but I came up with an idea: Your own year in review, side by side with me. So you will not be alone, I'll be there with you!

Here's the deal: You can do one, two or the three elements that are involved in this post. The key is to have fun. However, everything in each one of the elements you do, should be related to YOUR own year in review.

The poll:
I have chosen four of what I think are the best essays I wrote in 2007. If you want, you can read them and vote for the essay that has rung closer to you (or that you have felt most associated with, or the one you like best). The poll will be located on the right hand side of my blog, just before the archives (I have to go out and can't create the code right now). Thanks to Rebecca for letting me borrow her idea!

Links to what I think are my four best essays here:
The love list:
Below you can see a list of the things I loved this year. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to re-shape my list with your own. You might have loved some of the things I did, or just have loved your own. Post your love list in the comments section. Thanks to Meg for letting me use this unique concept!

My love list for 2007 (in no particular order). This year, I have loved...:
  • UBC cinnamon buns.
  • Dhiwali at BS's house.
  • Friday night dinners with CG, BX, LB and JN.
  • Gin and tonics at JH's.
  • Chocolate fondue in Montreal with SF.
  • Brunch with LF, KG and RT (any location will do).
  • Crepes at La Bretagne Creperie with AF.
  • Ethiopian food at Red Sea Cafe.
  • Impromptu brunches with LMT
  • Sunday nights with JT.
  • Volleyball (Saturdays and Sundays).
  • Discovering new African places with SK.
  • Salsa dancing with AF.
  • Bumping into NE at the Black Door and having her over for orange juice the other night.
  • American Thanksgiving dinner with HZ, CS, M and K
  • Coffee with KP at Delaney's.
  • My iPod, courtesy of HZ, and my iPod case, courtesy of LF
  • Coffee at Continental with ML.
  • Spending time with my friends, both in Canada and in Mexico.
  • Re-creating my memories of Victoria and Vancouver Island.
  • Curry with basmati rice
  • Canadian Thanksgiving hosted by HZ and CS
  • Summer with Mom and my brothers
  • Rhizome, The Cascade Room, Sodas Diner
  • Friday night cocktails with DMcN
  • Wednesday movie nights with BS, HZ, JN and BB.
  • My birthday celebration at La Bodega
  • .... and many more things
The socializing game:
I will pose the starter question (which is directly related to the year in review) and you will answer it in the comments section, and then pose a new question. I may answer in the middle of the game, but most likely, I will do so only if I don't see a lot of action happening. Thanks to Tanya for allowing me to spin her game in my own way!

So the starter question is: "Q. - Describe one challenge that you have overcome in 2007?"
I am sure that those of you who have followed my blog know that I'm rather popular for my restaurant reviews (I think I've got more than 43 restaurant reviews at Urban Spoon). However, with time I've gained more readership when I blog about other things, such as life in Vancouver, the music I listen to, thoughts about environmental issues. And I think that Tanya summarized it very clearly in her latest comment on my blog (LB had also mentioned that recently): I value my friends and family dearly. I am very appreciative of the great friendships I have formed, both in real life and in the blogosphere. Thanks to you all for reading my blog and for helping me achieve this milestone!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nearly 500!

I started blogging in April of 2006, primarily as an outlet for pseudo-scientific thoughts I had. Then I realized that I enjoyed writing more than I thought I would, particularly writing up about stuff that makes sense to me. Initially I read blogs just for the fun of it (and to keep up with what my good friend LM had been up to). Now I blog because I enjoy disseminating my thoughts to a broader audience.

JT2 equated my blog to Facebook. However, I indicated that I could see four types of people who read my blog:
  1. Those who know me in real life, and who know that I have a personal life beyond work. Those friends of mine enjoy reading my adventures and my comings and goings. For them, my blog is a way to keep into a facet of my personal life that very few people see in my work life.
  2. Those friends of mine who live far away and whose only method of knowing what I am up to. These friends really cherish seeing my "life abroad" through the lenses of my blog.
  3. Local (Vancouver and surrounding areas) bloggers whom I've met through my blogging. These bloggers have become good friends and I really do cherish the opportunity to get to know them through the blogosphere (shout-outs to Keira-Anne, Rebecca, Paul, Keith, Jark, Erika, Jennifer, Darren, Tanya, Corinna, Meg, Marcela and Lino, Beatriz, Ana Laura, Carolina).
  4. Random people who reach my blog by way of Google and then become hooked on my stuff. These are the ones I need to grow. I want more people who come to my blog and then decide "this kid writes good stuff" and then become hooked.
I am going to take a page of Meg's, Tanya's and Rebecca's books and do something fun for my 500th post. Not sure what just yet, but stay tuned. Since I'm not in Vancouver right now and won't be back until the first week of January 2008, I might not do an actual celebration, but I'll think of something.

In the mean time, I'll ask you all to tell me - what have you learned about Raul by way of reading my blog (and in the case of my outside-the-blogosphere friends, that you didn't already know)? Comments absolutely welcome.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Music Review - Elsewhere by Paula Cole & Sarah McLachlan

When I lived in residence, this song was my anthem. I used to listen to the standard version by Sarah McLachlan in my room, at night, while pondering whether it was worth to fight to maintain a relationship that seemed doomed from the start (and perhaps the first relationship where I felt I was truly, madly and deeply in love). I became addicted to this version by Paula Cole and Sarah McLachlan after the Lilith Fair tour. I found this videoclip on YouTube, hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I'm astonished

I've spent about ten days here. Last week I had to give talks and do some work-related stuff. This week, I've managed to sneak in a few hours of work here and there. But OMG I have been able to sit down and completely veg on my couch! I apologize if this post is completely inane, but I am so shocked at my ability to spend a full day doing pretty much, absolutely nothing!

Las Mañanitas a la Virgen de Guadalupe

One of the most traditional events in the past few decades has been the "Mañanitas a la Virgen de Guadalupe". As a predominantly Catholic country, Mexico has many festivities that are associated with religious figures. The Virgen de Guadalupe is the Mexican version of Virgin Mary (Our Lady of Guadalupe). I would expect that Vancouver-based Latin American (primarily Mexican) Catholics would attend services on December 12th, which is is observed as the anniversary of the apparition of our Lady of Guadalupe .Actress and singer Lucero has sung to Our Lady of Guadalupe since a few years back, here is a video of one of her performances.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Praising Mom

I have praised my Mom in my blog before, but tonight I was reminded of how lucky I am to have the Mom I have. As we were driving from my brother's place towards hers, we were chatting about that night when I called her at 3:00am to let her know that I had broken up with my ex.

Our conversation went something like this:
- Mom : "Hi sweetie, how are you?"
- Raul: "Hi Mom..." ... (starts sobbing uncontrollably for 45 minutes straight)
- Mom: "Sweetie... you broke up, didn't you?" ...

And then she proceeded to try and console me. That was the saddest night in my entire life, and I can tell you, the only person whom I could talk to was my Mom. I knew she would understand how I felt. Both my parents love me and support me, but that night, I realized the magic relationship that Moms have with their children. She knew that we had broken up (my ex and I) even before I told her. How do they do that? How do they know what to say to soothe our pain? I think it's a miracle. And I am extremely grateful for that. Gracias Mamá.

Accepting intolerance? Never.

Last night I was talking to a friend of mine about things I would accept if I were forced to live in a specific country (in this case, Mexico). I think I can deal with people trying to take advantage of me. I can be ok with people who don't have a sense of time and forget to be punctual and on time. I can live with a society that is complex and complicated.

But I can't live within an intolerant society. I heard some of the "most educated minds" in this country speak about homosexuality as though it is a sin, as though it is "something that people didn't ask to be born with", as though it is an illness. People whom I admired in the past have come out of the closet as being complete homophobes. I have also heard people saying nasty things about indigenous peoples, spitting out racist comments. I honestly can't deal with this. I am ok with a society filled with problems and issues, but I can't live in an intolerant society. Not now, not ever.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

More great things about Mexico

Beatriz has insisted that I see the good side of things and that I should relax and enjoy Mexico during my brief visit, so I figured I'd post something about the nice things I've enjoyed so far.

  • Family-owned businesses:
    • I discovered a super cute hotel in Zamora, Michoacan. It's called Hotel Ram-Val. Best hotel ever. It's small, cute, clean, and has wireless internet. The cafeteria is amazing. The level of service is above and beyond the call of duty. If I had to return here, I would seriously stay here. Inexpensive too, less than 50 dollars a night.
    • I found a family-owned enterprise from San Julian, Jalisco that makes dairy-based products. This family manufactures "ate" (a kind of jelly) and cajeta (sort of nutella). I make a point (whenever I am in Mexico) to only buy Mexican products, so it was nice to find my own supplier of cajeta.
    • I have been able to drink a litre of carrot juice for $1.50 Canadian. Where else can you do that?
  • Friends
    • I got the chance to spend an evening having drinks with PT. He's one of my very best friends here, and we had an amazing time. I even got to do karaoke! It's been so long since I last sung. Ahh, good times :)
    • I'll be seeing other friends this weekend, I hope. PT and I had plans to hang out tonight, so we'll see how that pans out. He is so laid back and relaxed, I am sure we'll end up doing something low-key.
Ok, time to start cleaning up my room (well, my former room)...

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Well, there are perks to being here :)

After my initial cultural reverse shock, I had a chance to hang out with Mom and my brother. We went for dinner and had a "caldo tlalpeño", which is one of my top favorite Mexican dishes. Top of the top. Greatest food ever. I just had a chance to drink carrot juice by the litre. Papaya and other fruit is super inexpensive here. Ok, now I'm starting to see the perks. Plus, I love hanging out with my family. So maybe it's not so bad after all :)

I am looking forward to seeing very good friends of mine who live here. My very good friend PT picked me up at the bus station when I arrived, but we haven't had a chance to really hang out. But we will soon. Now, let me tell you, there is something about the pace of life here that absolutely mesmerizes me. I'll have to explore more...

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The powerful reverse cultural shock

I landed in Mexico City and no later than 10 seconds after the plane door had opened, I had been swarmed by more than 10 people trying to get past me. That's something I am not that used to even though I use public transit in Vancouver. But it really shocked me.

I have been here for only a couple of days and I want to fly back to Vancouver ASAP. I miss my friends, I miss my apartment, I miss my life there, and more than anything, I have mixed feelings in regards to being here. I love seeing my parents but I really do not like the negative sides of this country. I guess I have to learn to deal with this.

In the mean time, my laptop died so I might be posting content only irregularly.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Movie review - Enchanted

I am well known for being way too sweet and a tad too mushy for a guy. I'll add one more thing... I love Disney movies. Enchanted is a great production. Starring Amy Adams, James Marsden, Patrick Dempsey, Susan Sarandon, this is a wonderful and uplifting movie. Combining special effects, animation and great music, Enchanted is a fairy tale that oozes sweetness and "feel good", warm fuzzies.

You can read Wikipedia's description of the movie, but if you want to get a general feeling for how good the movie is, listen to "That's How You Know" (the main musical performance in a park, of all places). Do yourselves a favor and treat yourself to a viewing of Enchanted. Preferably with someone you love a lot.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Weekend roundup and forecast

I had a wonderful Friday evening with K and R (see bar review), followed by appetizers and drinks at RC's place. My volleyball team was having a party to celebrate the end of the term and begin the bonding for the following term. Everyone in my team was there, which was very fun. We danced, ate, drank, laughed, did the "worm" hip-hop/breakdance move, some salsa, went to Public (it was empty), went to Honey/Lick/The Lotus and the line-ups were super long. So we ended up heading back home. And of course, you can believe I had a horrendous hangover on Saturday morning.

I had brunch on Saturday with colleagues and friends and my day on Sunday was looking quite busy with dinner with J, brunch with C, B, JN and L, showing up at SK's brunch as well (two brunches and and on top of everything, I had to arrange for a conference call with the high command - e.g. parents).

Breakfast at SK was awesome, I got to see her place and spend some good times with her and JT1 (there are two JT's). Brunch with C, B, JN and L at Rhizome was amazing. I felt a little bit guilty because L and JN are stressed out now with work (and I added a couple of errands on my behalf to their list). However, it was (as always is) very nice to see them again. I will miss them tremendously, particularly now that L is having a birthday party.

Then I went to see Enchanted (the movie) with JT2, and then dinner at Red Sea Cafe. I'll do a movie review soon enough, but I just wanted to say that the movie rocks. Simply awesome. JT2 drove me to the airport (as he usually does) and we both know we'll miss each other.

I always say this on my blog and in person. I am very privileged. I have amazing friends in different countries and it's nice to know that, no matter where they are (or where I am), we'll always be there for each other. That's what friends are for.

Bar review - The TransContinental

The past couple of weeks, I have been feeling myself again. That meant of course taking the time to rekindle old friendships that had been dormant for a while. K and R are two close friends of mine with whom I hadn't had the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time.

In a way, I think I (involuntarily) pushed them away because I didn't want to pretend I was all that well, when it wasn't the case. I felt like I had to apologize for my behavior. However, both K and R were extremely sweet and understanding, and they said I had nothing to apologize for. It was so nice to have again a chance to just chat and talk about the good old times, like when we used to go for brunch to a different restaurant every Sunday.

I agreed to come downtown to make it easier for K and R, who generously treated me to drinks and appetizers at The Transcontinental. The Transcontinental is an upscale restaurant/bar located in the Canadian Pacific Railway Station. A branch/new location of popular post-work drinks hangout Steamworks, The Transcontinental is much nicer in many ways than Steamworks itself (less loud, more room and better atmosphere, in my opinion).

Not to diss Steamworks, though! I really enjoy going there for a drink after work, but I am not always able to talk to people because it is quite loud. Nevertheless, I show up for Green Drinks @ Steamworks quite often. But I think I enjoy better The Transcontinental.

The service wasn't as good as I expected it to be (the server was quite bad, actually). The first spiced rum for K was flat, but the second one was better. The appetizers were quite good (when they finally showed up). However, the best part of the evening was spending time with K and R like old times. It was almost like no time had ever passed.

It is very nice to find that, no matter how much you push your friends away (consciously or unconsciously), they always find a way to get back in your life. And I am very happy that K and R came back to my life. Really, I'll say they never left. They gave me enough space to sort my life out and now that I am back as the Raul I (and they) used to know, they've welcomed me back with open arms. So that means that when I get back to Vancouver in the New Year, brunch Sundays will be back with a vengeance :-) Yipee!!!!

It's all about the equipment - Winter edition

Since I'm traveling soon, I had to come into my office and ensure that I would not be forgetting some important document (which, luckily, I discovered I was about to forget - MY PASSPORT!... phew, that was close!). As I'm sure you all know, it's snowing in Vancouver right now, so I had to gear up and head out in the middle of snow showers.

When I first moved to Vancouver, I had no idea about the climate and weather here. I had no idea of the natural beauty. I was completely and entirely clueless. So I packed leather jackets and a couple of light sweaters. And then it snowed... in November... and I was FREEZING!!!

I've learned a few things about myself and temperatures/weather throughout my 12 years in this city.
  1. I don't tolerate rain well.
  2. I don't tolerate snow very well either.
  3. I am always cold.
  4. I like fashionable winter clothing.
  5. There is no sense of fashion in Vancouver - hence, 4 does not apply.
  6. Corollary: I should get myself winter and rain gear that will allow me to feel comfortable while traveling in the snow and rain, regardless of the fact that it isn't fashionable.
Knowing how much I hate falling, my brother S kindly bought me a pair of winter boots (with increased traction, almost completely waterproof, great and sturdy support for my ankles). Furthermore, I have learned how many layers I need to wear in order to avoid feeling cold.

So, for example, right now I am wearing winter socks (thermal), thermal underwear (only the pants), a t-shirt, a sweatshirt, a wool sweater on top of the sweatshirt, a rain jacket that has another jacket attached (layered), toque, Thinsulate gloves, scarf, winter boots, umbrella and my iPod. And I think this is as prepared as I've ever been to walk out in the snow. For someone who loves warm climates, I think I'm doing fine for myself here.

Now, admittedly, I went out last night and dressed quite fashionably and quite warmly, but normally, I won't care much about how I look (unless I'm coming to the office or going out with friends). Now, I am headed back to the cold...brrrr...

Congratulations Miss604 on your 4 years!

Rebecca Bollwitt (aka Miss604) is celebrating four years of blogging and I'm taking this opportunity to congratulate her on my own blog. You'll see... even though we live in the same city, and technically only a short commute from each other (I understand John and Rebecca live in the West End, while I live in Mount Pleasant), we have never met in person.

However, it was Rebecca who encouraged me to Blogathon (I chose the charity, A Loving Spoonful, but basically she gave me the gentle push to join in Blogathoning). She has also provided some really useful, techie, geeky advice and even invited me to be a guest blogger on her own blog, which was a great honour (and a lot of fun, I might add).

Rebecca has also challenged me to think about relevant issues, including the ethics of blogging (and photo credits), the divide between mainstream media and bloggers, and at times, about fun stuff such as "do we need Starbucks at Skytrain stations?". Here is a toast to her four years of blogging, and to many more to come.