Mexico Trip Part 3: Daily Activity at Playa Viva

Yoga Mat

Day 4: Getting Fit

The night had only yielded three more bug bites from the previous day, so I counted my midnight bathroom break a success. It was morning and in only three days time, I had developed the habit of jumping in the ocean upon crawling out of the mosquito net. I found that a morning ocean dip helped cauterize the previous night’s wounds.


Today however I decided to try something different before my plunge. I had made up my mind to go beach jogging and would continue to do so a couple more times throughout the trip. I expected my legs would be entirely worn out but I didn’t expect the cuts and scrapes from the seashells on the bottom of my feet. This morning and each morning after, I came across these guys.

Fishermen near Juluchuca, Mexico

They would spend most of the morning walking up and down the beach catching bait. Later during the day you could usually see a boat out fishing just off shore but I couldn’t be sure it was the same guys.


After my run and my daily fall into the ocean, I learned that this morning was a yoga morning. Several days a week Playa Viva offers yoga classes.

Now yoga. I’ve tried yoga, usually with Brandy, and have seen a variety of teachers. The different types are as follows:

  1. The Med-i-taters:  This particular lot likes to sit still, and think about nothing. At the same time they encourage you to “touch your third eye.” I’ve yet to find my third eye, and, if I ever do, I would be hesitant to touch it.
  2. The Killers:  A killer is the yoga teacher who also teaches pilates and the spin class and the water aerobics class and the cross-fit class all before lunch. His or her job in life is to show you how inferior you are. When a killer says the phrase, “If you are a more advanced student, try doing this pose,” he is the only one in the class doing that pose. Spare time consists of doing 100 push ups and then popping a power bar before chasing down an antelope and strangling it with bare hands.
  3. The Balanced:  These people know what they are doing. They practice yoga because it keeps them healthy and sane. They know that yoga isn’t the whole answer, so they also encourage healthy nutrition, massage, cardio, and other positive things we all know we should be doing anyway.

Amy Zimmerman, our instructor and resident massage therapist, fell in with the balanced approach. We got to know Amy during our 10 day stay. She’s been doing yoga and massage for 15 years and is currently traveling the globe while plying her trade. We were lucky enough to have arrived during her several month stay at Playa Viva.

Brandy and Amy

During class Amy was quick to walk around and help people.  No one was left behind. She was patient, professional, and knowledgeable.  She’s a great teacher.

Amy Zimmerman Yoga Amy Zimmerman Yoga Amy Zimmerman Yoga

Later during the trip, Brandy started having some significant muscle pain in her neck. Usually she would have to go to her chiropractor to get things worked out, but without a chiropractor on site, she decided to try massage for the first time. Amy did a fantastic job. Brandy went from having no mobility in her neck to being able to turn it again within hours. By the next day the therapy had done wonders. So if any resort out there is looking to hire a fantastic yoga instructor and massage therapist then contact Amy.

Amy Zimmerman Yoga Amy Zimmerman Yoga Amy Zimmerman Yoga Amy Zimmerman Yoga Amy Having Fun Amy Having Fun


Johnny, resident all around guy of everything, asked us all if we would like to participate in a staff vs. guests soccer game to which most of us replied in the affirmative.

I’ve never played soccer with people who knew how to play soccer. I didn’t grow up with it, so every time I played some semblance of the game in the past, I recall it involving a lot more contact. Eventually someone would get tired of the uselessness of trying to kick the ball and would pick it up. The game then became “kill the man with the ball.”

The game started with me on the team of the two playing staff members, Johnny and Abraham. Midway I had to run to the restroom and when I got back the teams were all turned around. Anyway,the pictures below say a lot more than I can write.

Me "Playing Soccer"

What I learned about playing soccer on the beach in Mexico:

  1. You can’t use your hands.
  2. Or an arm.
  3. You can’t set picks.
  4. You can’t kick through someone else’s leg(s).
  5. Kicking the ball should not be accomplished with your toes.
  6. Sand will stay resident in your nose for no less than a day and a half.
  7. Kicking the ball at the goalie accomplishes nothing.
  8. Kicking the ball too far away from the goalie accomplishes the same.
  9. When you see a someone getting to kick the ball without defenders (the penalty shot), a wall of guys will form ahead of him. If you are in that wall of guys, it is customary to take one hand and place it over your heart to salute your country and put the other hand respectfully over your junk (i.e. picture #7).
  10. Passing it to someone who knows what to do with the ball is a strong option.

What a day! Busy times. Join me next time when I discuss releasing baby turtles, food, and other vacation-ly things. If you missed them, here’s Part 1 and Part 2.

Mexico Trip Part 2: Farm Fresh

Mexican Farm

Day 3: “You Can’t Be Scared All Your Life”

…is a saying I heard from my Dad on many occasions. Working in security, you learn a few things about international travel.

  1. Obey US Department of State warnings. They are there for a reason. Much of Mexico outside areas of tourism are off limits to US government personnel due to continuing drug problems. A friend of mine was assigned to the Monterrey Consulate and some of his stories are chilling.
  2. Always know your route and destination. If things go wrong, you’ll have an idea of how to get home.
  3. Stick to the populated areas.

We had signed up the day before to go on a trip to a local farm. The brochure had mentioned chocolate. No other convincing was needed. We were to meet this morning at 8:00 am to leave. Johnny, Playa Viva’s tour guide/bartender/concierge/translator/purveyor of awesome, was to be our leader.

Today we will be taking ATV’s (four wheelers) to the farm. It will take about 1 and 1/2 hours. If you look at the farthest mountain ridge on the horizon, that is where we are going. There is no electricity. We will space out the ATVs because of the dust on the dirt roads that lead up to the ranch. Two people will sit on the back of each ATV and I’ll take two small people on mine. –Johnny

Rural, mountainous Mexico, check. Arrive at unknown destination via backwoods dirt roads, check. Disobey warning of the US government, check. All aboard!

(Note: At no time during the trip did I feel as though my life were threatened in any way. Playa Viva has round the clock security plus the Mexican Army and Marines had stepped up their patrols in the area prior to our departure.)

Playa Viva Guests
The merry band of travelers.

Farming Like It Was Is

After seeing the electric poles end, we crossed over the top of a mountain ridge and arrived at the farm. Jesus, the owner, quickly stepped off of his front porch and greeted us all warmly. We were then escorted to an outdoor pavilion adorned with hammocks and colorful plastic chairs. Jesus talked to us about the farm and his family while Johnny translated.

Mexican Farmer
Jesus entertaining his guests.

The farm primarily grows coffee and cacao but also has a huge variety of crops.  He told us no chemicals or pesticides were used on any of his crops. All crops are fertilized with natural fertilizer, and the only crops that get any other type of fertilizer is the corn because the government sells corn that requires it. Any corn he tries to get elsewhere has poor yields. Incidentally the government will sell you the fertilizer as well.

They raise all manner of animals: pigs, chickens, cats, donkeys, and birds. While we were there, we noticed the baby chickens and the kittens eating under the table together. When we asked how this works, Jesus said they are content to be this way.

Because of their remoteness, they have a pavilion on the property to host a local church and also due to the remoteness, the newest member of their family was recently born on the farm. The baby was so new when we arrived that he didn’t even have a name yet.

Brandy and the Baby
Brandy and the newest member of Jesus’s family. Homemade wine on table to left.

After talking to us for awhile, Jesus then took us on a tour of the farm showing us trees, produce, farm animals, and the land.  He explained that the farm did have electricity. They had acquired a solar panel that charged a 12V battery. This was there sole electrical power source. As we continued to follow our guide, the ladies of the farm were busy preparing us lunch starting with the corn.

As we walked corn was ground into meal, the meal was worked into dough, and then the dough was shaved into the best tortillas God has ever let grace planet earth. As we ended our tour, lunch was served. Rice, beans, BBQ goat, salsa, and all manner of delights that I lack the skill to pronounce were laid before us on a covered, wooden table.  As the meal progressed, fresh coffee and chocolate were served. Then fresh coffee and chocolate were sold. Four pounds of chocolate later and we were headed back to the ATVs.

One More Thing I Wasn’t Supposed to Do


Jason, whatever you do, don’t do any cliff diving. We want you back in one piece. –My Boss

Before we loaded up, Johnny asked us if we wanted to see the waterfall. What waterfall? The waterfall in the middle of the jungle between here and Playa Viva. Yeah!

Mountains near Juluchuca, Mexico

A short 20 minute drive later, we dismounted.  After ducking behind a lady’s back yard, walking through a cow pasture, hiking through the forest, and jumping over pipes that gravity fed water to the houses below, we emerged into a fresh, cool lagoon.

WaterfallThe water was clean and refreshingly cold. After swimming, then came jumping from the boulders. The jumping got progressively higher until towards the end several of us, including Johnny, had trekked to the top of the falls.

Waterfall Jump

Stick it to the man. Check. Sorry boss.



Me: Johnny, if the farm we visited didn’t have electricity, then how did they know we were coming? Who told them to get everything ready?

Johnny: They didn’t know. We just show up and they take care of everything.

In the next post I’ll be discussing my ignorance of soccer, no football, no fútbol. Miss the start? Then click here.

Mexico Trip Part 1: Playa Viva for the Disconnect

Brandy and Jason in the Mexican Mountains

Get Gone

Sometimes it’s time to go, not for a weekend or even for a week, but get-out-of-town-as-long-as-you-can-afford GO. This was one of those trips. Brandy and I rarely have these trips. As travel is part of my job, we usually get a few hours to see new places, experience new cultures, and try exotic food. It’s immensely fun but it’s usually not restful and there’s really no time for a recharge.

So after traveling, working, and being inundated by all the stimuli and challenges of living in an urban environment, there comes a point when we want to get absolutely away from everything and press the OFF button on life. Our last trip like this was 6 years ago to Prince Edward Island, Canada. This time we headed south to the village of Juluchuca, Mexico to stay at a remote eco-resort, Playa Viva.

Mountains and Ocean

We scheduled all 10 days of our vacation at this location. Its top features include no telephones, TVs, or communication devices of any kind in the rooms.  On the whole, huge plot of land this sanctuary resides, there is only 1 place to get WiFi internet access. Guests refer affectionately to that small corner of the commons area as the “internet chairs.” The place is gloriously and wondrously disconnected from everything (even the power grid). Think about it. For 10 whole days we had no idea what has happening in the world. Fantastic!

Day 1: Poo, Bugs, and Fleeting Sleep

Our first day was a travel day, and we arrived at the resort with two other travelers Mario and Christine. We had a wonderful meal and then settled into our room for the remainder of the day. Our room was the Private Casita.

By private I mean private to other humans but as you can see from the pictures, the rest of the jungle has a perfectly clear idea of what’s happening.

When traveling to a resort of this kind, there are a few things one must get comfortable with.

  1. Take the time right now to read the sign in the last picture.  That’s right, your used paper goes in a basket, not a bowl.  It’s eco. Get used to it hippy.
  2. There is no inside. It’s all outside. So when a grasshopper chirps, you hear it. When a cicada decides to sing and 1,000 of his cousins join him, you embrace it. When the whole forest decides that tonight they’re going to have a concert to show you that the 4:30am cargo train horn from DC to Philly can’t touch the ceaseless echo of the swarm, you remember you brought ear plugs.
  3. In the middle of the night you will have to pee. You will not be able to hold it. When you leave the fortress that is the mosquito net, you are done for. Baring a mason jar, I highly recommend having pants and a long sleeve t shirt nearby for emergency runs.
  4. It’s hot. Sleep naked.

The first night’s sleep reminded me a lot of what it’s like the first night you’re out hiking. You hear everything and you don’t get much sleep, but unlike my hiking experiences I wasn’t starving, I wasn’t on the ground, and I didn’t really fear a rat running across my face in the middle of the night.

Day 2: Glorious Morning and Wondrous Nothing

The next morning I awoke to no alarm clock, I did not stumble to the shower, and finally I did not drive down the expressway like a zombie drinking milk and eating cold cereal from a bag.

I awoke to the rising sun, I stumbled over to my bathing suit, and I plodded across the sand and fell headlong into the ocean. GOOD MORNING!

The rest of the day cycled between food, ocean, pool, books, and back again. It was a wonderful cycle of getting absolutely nothing productive done. What a dirty word at a place like this. Productive. HA!

Stick around for subsequent posts where we visit a farm with no electricity, I destroy my feet, and I display my inability to play soccer.

Spring is in …My Pants

Springtime Flowers

My Spring, Summer, Fall, and 1/2 Winter Pastime

Today marked the beginning of a wonderful season of the year.  It’s the time of year when nature beckons, the indoors are odious to the senses, and competitive juices begin to flow.  It was the first day of lunch-time frisbee golf at work.

When I first arrived at my office seven years ago, I noticed an amazing amount of green space that surrounded the building and a park across the street.  So one day Roger, a colleague, and I decided to map out a frisbee golf course using roots, parking spaces, and tree shadows as tee boxes and picked railings, stumps, and trash cans for targets.  Through the years the course, discs, people, injuries, and amount paid for damages has varied, but the tradition continues.

It’s great for morale. Work frustrations fade when you get outside on a warm day with your friends and channel all your energies into throwing a small disc as hard as you can at an impossible to hit target.

Trouble on the Links

This round was to be the first of the year, and I started off the season with a drive that miraculously zipped through the Y-shaped branch of an oak. I followed up with a cautious second shot and was about to finish up my par.

“Ouch,” I exclaimed.

Quite unexpectedly I felt my leg hit a thorn, but strangely, there was not an offender in sight. As the pain lingered, it happened again.

“What’s going on?”

As I pulled up my pants leg, something had bitten or stung me. I looked all around my leg several times, rolled up my pants further, and finally concluded that the whatever had attacked me had flown or crawled away.

Finishing up my par shot, I gingerly walked to the next tee box, whined about being stung by something, and with one pant leg up and one down, thug style, sent I beautiful tee shot below a low hanging branch, up the hill, and onto the sports field beyond. It was the perfect shot. I confidently strode forward and although happy my mind wandered back to the throb in my leg. The following conversation began to play out.

Self 1: What could have stung me? I didn’t see anything.
Self 2: It could have flown away.
Self 1: No, I lifted my pants leg really quick.
Self 2: Well, that only leaves 2 options. Either you didn’t see it fly away or it’s still…
Self 1: What’s that buzzing soun…


The Passenger

“Holy, merciful, sweet-lovin caretaker of Martha Stewart!” I’m pretty sure I expounded.

Somewhere on the first hole I had picked up a passenger. He was happy enough to ride around the flower-filled field for about fifty yards, but then grew tired and wanted to get off the train. I must admit he did give me ample warning. Politely tapping on my leg twice should have won him his freedom, however he only sealed his prison when I tight-rolled my pants leg.

What’s a yellow jacket to do. One can’t fly down. One can only go up and upon arriving at the top floor he finds his alternate exit sealed. The only option left in this predicament is to ring the exit bell.

***Ding Dong***


Until this day I had never known the true meaning of “dancing like your pants are on fire.” With my friends looking in wonder and with my last shred a modesty disappearing, I turned to the woods and freed the angry prisoner in my pants. Oddly enough the pain in my leg was no longer even remotely an issue.

After buckling my pants and with my friends laughing hysterically, I hobbled to my disc and took the most painful frisbee golf shot I am likely ever to have in my entire life. Par.

Counting the Cost

I was stung 3 times. I’ve never been allergic to stings and today I was holding on to that blessing. I birdied 2 holes after that then flubbed the last hole and forced a play off. I lost the game in the end, however I gained one of the most memorable rounds in office frisbee golf history.

Welcome back frisbee golf!

Rolling Thunder 2013

Bamboo Tiger Cage

Every Memorial Day thousands of veterans descend on Washington, DC with a presence that can be felt. Literally. If you can’t feel the pressure coming off an endless stream of Harley’s parading down Independence Avenue, then I doubt you can feel much at all.

Rolling Thunder, named after bombing campaign Operation Rolling Thunder in North Vietnam,  started in 1988 as a demonstration to draw attention to POWs and MIAs that were feared to have been left behind during the Vietnam War. Although Rolling Thunder continues to champion it’s original cause, it has become an event and organization that celebrates the sacrifice of veterans and sponsors military families and individuals in need. I, personally, think it’s a great event because every year it gives so many warriors the opportunity to commune and reunite.

So every year I feel there is no better place for a skinny, white guy in shorts to take his camera and 14 speed bicycle.  I know I should try to fit in a little better, so next year I’ve got a little studded, leather number picked out.

Wishing all our veterans and active duty a great weekend! Thank you for your service and love for our country!

Breaking In, Breaking In, and Locking Up

The Crisis


Time: 12:00 Midnight

“They forgot to turn the ice machine off again,” said Brandy.

“Call the owner,” I responded.

A couple of weeks ago during our first night in the new place, we thought we had made a critical mistake. Starting at 11:00 pm and ending just after 7:00 am the next morning, the ice machine belonging to the downstairs restaurant had whistled, whined, and wailed on fifteen minute intervals throughout the night. The next day after an email, some phone calls, and a talk with our downstairs neighbors, we settled on a solution. The ice machine would be run after sleeping hours and before business hours. Why before business hours? It turns out customers don’t enjoy the rapturous noises of uneven water pressure either.

The Solution

“Hi Ms. R.  Yeah, someone forgot to turn the ice machine off in your restaurant. I think I can get in if that’s okay? So, have your permission. Okay. We’ll handle it.”

When you are in the physical security field, at some point you learn about locks. You’re taught this primarily not because you need to know what kind of locks to use in certain situations, but because the people you work for will at regular intervals lock themselves out of places unintentionally. Being the only guy in the building who has training, you are expected to be able to pick a master lock off the boss’s gym bag (hammer, lock-pick, pair of scissors) as well as crack a 500 lbs safe with a state of the art, digital, spin dial lock (drill, thermal lance, 20 story drop).

Breaking In

“We’ll start at the back door. Nothing like having the added pressure of picking a lock in my pajamas on a main road,” said me as we closed our apartment door and rounded the corner of the restaurant.

“I’ll hold the flashlight,” said Brandy.

12:10 am

Me: “I picked it!….the wrong way. Crap, I wish I had a plug spinner!”

Five More Minutes

Me: “Okay. I think I’ve got it. Hold on. Okay.”

I pull the door. “What the…?? I know I heard the bolt slide. Let me turn the plug back.”

The plug doesn’t turn. “Aaahh!….. To the front door.”

8 Seconds Later

Brandy: “I think a car is come…”

Jason: “I’m in, let’s turn it off that scream machine!”


The Crisis, An Encore

As we enter the restaurant, we walk to the back and quickly find the circuit breaker, turn off the ice machine, and realize that the back door has two more locks on the inside than is apparent from the outside. It turns out I don’t own a lock-pick for large, steel, sliding bolts.

“Alright. Looks like we’re done. I’ll turn out the lights if you want to go back up,” said I as the realization hit that I would now have to pick the lock shut.

“I might be a minute.”

45 Seconds Later

“We’re locked out,” said Brandy as I try to pick the lock shut.


“Yeah, it seems our new apartment locks behind you when you leave.”


Breaking In, An Encore

If there are two weaknesses I have when it comes to picking locks they are:

  1. Turning the plug the wrong way
  2. Opening really crappy, almost-about-to-fall-off-the-door, locks

The latter weakness was making itself quite apparent as I continued to work on the lock to my own residence. After five minutes of struggle, it occurs to me. We’ve yet to lock the windows for the night.


“Don’t try to climb up there in your PJ’s. Let’s get the ladder around back,” said Brandy as I readied my spider monkey abilities.


Me as the screen and window go up: “I’m glad I got some experience doing this with dad.”
Me Quieter: “…except this time I don’t have to look for a shotgun barrel on the other side of the window.”

Brandy: “You what?”

Me: “I’m in!”


Locking Up

As the clock passed a quarter till one, reverse picking the restaurant lock was proving to be a challenge, especially since I had to stop every time a car, taxi, bicyclist, or wandering drunk passed.

Me: “There has got to be another way.”

Brandy: “Can’t we just get some string and tape, tie it around the inside thumb bolt, and pull from the outside.”

Me: “No we couldn’t…yeah, yeah we could.”

It’s wonderful to have someone around who’s a small part gypsy.

Seven Minutes, 2 pieces of dental floss, and 5 pieces of tape later. . .

*Click Click*

Us: “Yeah!”

Me: “High Five! We’re dangerous!”


1:00 am Back in Bed

Me: “If it happens again, we could do it 10 minutes, tops.”

Brandy: “It better not take us that long!”

Goal #1: Complete, Really (and Lovely Merchandise)

Pecan and Nut Cracker

We closed on our condo and walked away with a pen, some paperwork, and a box of girl scout cookies. Yeah! Cookies!

Thanks to everyone for all the prayers and encouragement every time we hit a road block the last six months and thanks to all those who helped us move for the past few weeks.  We are now started to get nestled into our new apartment above a great restaurant.  The smells of the restaurant plus the smells of Brandy cooking equals a big win for me and the combination tends to squelch any lingering odors that might or might not be my responsibility.

Pecan Cracker

In other news, we are selling lots of crap highly useful merchandise. If anyone is interested just let me know. If you are not interested, you might still have a good time reading the descriptions.

Random Stuff:

  • Pecan and Nut Cracker: Bust’n Nuts and Taking Names!
  • Mikasa Cameo Platinum Salt Pepper Shake, Shake, Shake, Shakers!
  • Two Cursed Champagne Glasses: Destroy Your Enemies
  • Casserole Dish: Because You Know You Like Casserole
  • 3 White Ceramic Canisters of Wonder
  • Cupcake Carrier: Stuff Your Muffins In It

Furniture (not as entertaining but we’re getting rid of it also)


[Funny Moment] Brandy just pointed out that the title of the article might lead to some raised eyebrows as I had neglected to put “ly” on the end of the word “Lovely” above.[/Funny Moment]

Goal #1: Complete-ish…AAAHHHHAHHHH!


Complications. Today we received a call from our buyer’s realtor. It seems that we have an issue involving our condo building, the management company, and our buyer’s lending institutions. The short of it is that we might lose the buyer and might not get a new buyer until all this mess is resolved.

We received this information after going to visit our new two bedroom apartment we began leasing as of today! The past few hours has been a mixture of prayers, phone calls, and emails to try and get everything back on track. We’re working it and would appreciate your prayers.

On the flip side we are very fond of our new apartment. It’s a two bedroom unit above a restaurant in a quaint little corner of Northern Virginia. It’s fantastic. We are the only residential unit in the building, it’s the largest amount of space we’ve ever inhabited since we’ve been married, and we have room for guests.

Of course it’s going to be quite a task to hold on to this place if we are still stuck with our condo.

Before we came back home to our news, we took the opportunity to enjoy the new spring sunshine by taking a walk through our new neighborhood. Recently opened is the Del Ray Variety Store. They lure you in with candy in the window and then keep you hanging around with toys, balloons, art supplies, household supplies, and more candy. We’re sure to be visiting more often, provided the area actually becomes our new neighborhood.