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June, 2009:

And now for something completely different…

Many thanks to any regular readers out there who have been patient with my month-long absence!! I assure you postings should return to some modicum of regularity moving forward. This month has been a hectic one, diving back into my 3rd semester of my MBA program (virtually HALFWAY DONE!!!) as well as surviving 2 major events that I coordinated at work– Días de Tecnología, day-long technical training events for ~380 Texas Instruments fans in Mexico City and Guadalajara. We were also honored with a visit from friend Emily who thus far wins the “longest distance traveled” award from John & Julie’s B&B, as she currently resides in Germany.

My pal Paul Westbrook at the TI booth during my first Mexico tradeshow, MexEEdev.

My pal Paul Westbrook at the TI booth during my first Mexico tradeshow, MexEEdev.

Anyway, the biggest news in my life right now is that this week marks the end of my employment with Texas Instruments, the company I have worked for since the summer of 1998. I started as an intern for 3 summers in Houston, joined their sales training program in Dallas after college, spent 4 years in technical sales in Boston, and another 2 in the Washington DC area. I thought that would be the end of it when we headed down to Mexico City last year, but conveniently someone had just left the Marketing/University Programs position for TI Mexico. 

Yes, I am a dork, but yes, this is my favorite TI demo: an LCD powered off of grapes.

Yes, I am a dork, but yes, this is my favorite TI demo: an LCD powered off of grapes.

And so it came about that last fall I joined a great team of 7 guys located in 4 cities across Mexico, with a patient boss who was willing to take a risk that I might be able to learn Spanish faster than someone new could learn the 8 zillion acronyms & intricacies of TI! :) Though I certainly still have room to grow on the Spanish, I will say that I have progressed from feeling a flash terror whenever the phone in my office would ring, to being able to have a 3-hour long meeting in Spanish at a university discussing how they might use TI products in their engineering curriculum. (I will admit to getting a bit lost during a biomedical lab tour though…)

A workshop I coordinated in Mexico City, taught by our star trainer extraordinaire, Ken Schachter.

A workshop I coordinated in Mexico City, taught by our star trainer extraordinaire, Ken Schachter.

The experience working for TI in another country and another language has been both fun & challenging, enlightening & frustrating, all mixed together. At this point, however, John & I have about one more year left in Mexico. After much debate, I decided that this is my best (and probably only!) chance to take a break, enjoy Mexico, and figure out what it is that I want to do when I grow up.  The fact that this MBA is coming out of my own pocket is inspiring me to actually take some time & try to get something out of it, vs. the panicked reading/homework-doing/paper-writing the night before class every other week to date.

Here's lunchtime at our Día de Tecnología 2 weeks ago in DF... Let's play Where's Waldo... Can you spot me???

Here's lunchtime at our Día de Tecnología 2 weeks ago in DF... Let's play Where's Waldo... Can you spot me???

I’m really interested in starting my own business, and while I don’t know yet what that might be, I DO know that I need some time to really investigate it. TI has been a fantastic place to work & I truly hope to stay in contact with the many amazing people I’ve met there. After 11 years there, however, I am ready for a change! I feel amazingly lucky to have this opportunity to hit the reset button, not to mention a husband who’s totally supportive (as long as he sees an uptick in tasty dinners prepared by yours truly, which I suppose is only fair). 😉

Me with Clementina, one of the good friends I met in this role, and her esteemed colleagues from CINVESTAV!

Me with Clementina, one of the good friends I met in this role, and her esteemed colleagues from CINVESTAV!

So anyway, expect the occasional brainstorming / introspection / call-for-ideas as I begin this year-long odyssey here in Mexico City. Please feel free to offer any proactive hot tips & insights!! I have so many things I want to do/work on, I am certain that next summer will be here way before I expect it… For those of you who know me, it is time to make a new Excel spreadsheet!!!

In the trendy bright-green shirts, you'll find the proud TI Mexico sales team, accompanied by some other TIers who visited for the Tech Day events 2 wks ago.

In the trendy bright-green shirts, you'll find the proud TI Mexico sales team, accompanied by some other TIers who visited for the Tech Day events 2 wks ago.

And for those of you who are like “what happened to the ‘Mexico’ part of your Mexico blog?”, here is a smattering of the posts I am delinquent on:

  • John’s trip to a luxury house in Ixtapa (while I had MBA class, boo)
  • DF activities for when the parents visit!
  • More Lucha Libre trips!!
  • Views from the top of the Torre Mayor in downtown DF
  • BFF Kim visits from Boston!
  • San Miguel de Allende
  • Guanajuato (go now!)
  • Anniversary trip to Huatulco, on the Oaxacan coast
  • Karaoke night out at Escaparate in Polanco
  • Julie finally goes to the pyramids (Teotihuacan)
  • How to become a luchador: an interview with El Matador
  • Navigating the Mexico City airport

So yes, more to come, honest! Thanks for sticking with me during my month of near-radio silence, and cheers to John for filling in with his Yaxchilan posts. Off to get some sleep in preparation for my waning hours as a TIer…. 😉

And here is the metaphorical mountain I am ready to climb to figure out my new career path!! Please be ready with bottles of water along the way... ;)

And here is the metaphorical mountain I am ready to climb to figure out my new career path!! Please be ready with bottles of water along the way... ;)

Yaxchilan in photos

If you read the previous post, you know that we’ve finally arrived at the Maya archeological site of Yaxchilan on the banks of the Usamacinta river.  There are more than 120 structures in the central area, distributed in three complexes at different elevations.  Yaxchilan shares similar characteristics with other regional sites, including roof combs, stelae, carved lintels, alters and murals, among others.  As I noted in the previous Palenque post, much of the ornamention was done by painting the layer of stucco covered the exterior of many buildings.  Very little remains, but what does is breath-taking; it must have been simply amazing.  Make sure to bring your flashlight!  We were the only group there for the majority of our three-hour visit and I was by myself much of the time.  It was pretty awe-inspiring to wander around alone and imagine what life must have been like over a thousand years ago.  Let’s start the photo essay, shall we?

We entered the site at the rear of a temple which had a bunch of underground tunnels.  You can see the base of the roof comb above my head.

We entered the site at the rear of a temple which had a bunch of underground tunnels. You can see the base of the roof comb above my head.

Descent into creepy darkness, anyone?

Descent into creepy darkness, anyone?

Checking out the tunnels.  Note the classic Maya arch.

Checking out the tunnels. Note the classic Maya arch.

In addition to bats, the tunnels had some awesome spiders.  Check out those jaws!

In addition to bats, the tunnels had some awesome spiders. Check out those jaws!

The main courtyard is about 50 yards wide, 400 yards long, and is flanked with buildings.

The main courtyard is about 50 yards wide, 400 yards long, and is flanked with buildings.

One of the lintel carvings

One of the lintel carvings

This Maya writing is on the underside of one of the lintels.  A good reason for tall people to duck and look up!

This Maya writing is on the underside of one of the lintels. A good reason for tall people to duck and look up!

A close-up of one of the stelae carvings.

A close-up of one of the stelae carvings.

Another fantastically detailed stelae close-up!

Another fantastically detailed stelae close-up!

Check out the staircase leading up from the main plaza to the Great Temple.

Check out the staircase leading up from the main plaza to the Great Temple.

The Great Temple, which still has a fair amount of the roof comb intact.

The Great Temple, which still has a fair amount of the roof comb intact.

The Maya in Yaxchilan supposedly believed their world would end if the head of this warrior, in the Great Temple, were replaced.

The Maya in Yaxchilan supposedly believed their world would end if the head of this warrior, in the Great Temple, were replaced.

Three temples sit perched a few hundred feet above the river and the main site.

Three temples sit perched a few hundred feet above the river and the main site.

A cross-section of a building shows just how big a fan the Maya were of this arch (sorry, I'm obsessed).

A cross-section of a building shows just how big a fan the Maya were of this arch (sorry, I'm obsessed).

Getting to Yaxchilan in Chiapas

Since Julie’s been slacking off a bit of late, I decided to revisit my promise made in my original post on our trip to Chiapas to check out Palenque with a rundown of our visit to the Mayan archeological sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak southeast of Palenque.

Yaxchilan, on the west bank of the Usumacinta River which forms the border between Mexico and Guatemala, was a large regional center and a rival of Palenque (fought in 654), among others.  It seems war wasn’t its forte as I believe they were dominated pretty badly on at least a couple of occasions.  Yaxchilan was at its zenith during the long reigh of King Shield Jaguar II, who lived into his 90s (unthinkable at that time) and died in 742; the city was abandoned around 810 AD.  Yaxchilan is known for excellent sculpture including carved stela and narrative stone reliefs on lintels (the top of the door frame which spans temple doorways).  If you visit, make sure to crouch down in the doorways and look up – some of the coolest and best-preserved carvings are on the lintels.

The crew - Ashley, Bertie, Nicole, Alla, Emily, Ben and John!

The crew - Ashley, Bertie, Nicole, Alla, Emily, Ben and John!

Getting to Yaxchilan is half the fun.  First, one makes the ~2.5 hour drive (we had our own car) from Palenque to the town of Frontera Corozal, largely by way of the Carretera Fronteriza before taking a really cool 30-45 minute boat ride to the site.  The road is very nice compared to others we’ve driven, though be sure to start from Palenque with a full tank or make sure you hit the one gas station we saw on they way…it’s in a small town 30-45 minutes from Palenque; I believe it’s also the location of the first military checkpoint we hit – and where I took the below photo.

You may recognize this woman's striking Maya features on subsequent photos!

You may recognize this woman's striking Maya features on subsequent photos!

Like most of Mexico, it’s inadvisable to drive at night to avoid hitting animals, people, topes (speedbumps), and lastly (and likely the smallest threat) because a handful of signs along the road proclaim that this is EZLN territory (the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a revolutionary group comprised largely of indigenous Maya folks whose 1994 uprising was quickly put down by the Mexican Army).  To be clear, we felt completely safe and no one we talked to in Palenque or elsewhere offered warning, but as we joked, it’s all good until dudes with guns jump out of the jungle. 

The countryside is lush with rolling mountains everywhere; standards of living are very basic.

The countryside is lush with rolling mountains everywhere; standards of living are very basic.

Escudo Jaguar  may be the only gig in town for lodging; it offers cute, if basic bungalow-style rooms at very reasonable rates which start around $20 and go to $60 for a triple w/ 3 double beds.  The grounds are very well maintained and folks are friendly.  We only ate there given our one night stay; the food was fine but runs no danger of being labeled gourmet.

 

The digs at Escudo Jaguar

The digs at Escudo Jaguar

The river and embarcadero (boat launch) is just a couple hundred meters away, and you can arrange a boat to depart at your leisure.  I HIGHLY recommend leaving at or just before sunrise; we left around 6:30 am and Escudo made us box-breakfasts for dining on-board.  Watching the sun rise and fog lift from the river was magical, and there’s no gate at the site, per say, so if you get there before the caretaker you can just pay when you leave, after all, it’s one way in, one way out and a looong walk back to Escudo!

Your chariot awaits!

Your chariot awaits!

Gorgeous sunrise

Gorgeous sunrise

Bertie and Nicole are happy campers!

Bertie and Nicole are happy campers!

I'm unsure if this look is "Blue Steel" or "Imminent Death"

I'm unsure if this look is "Blue Steel" or "Imminent Death"

Sorry to keep you all in suspense, but this is already getting long and it’s well past my bedtime, so you’ll have to sit ON THE EDGE OF YOUR SEAT until I can do part 2 “Yaxchilan, this time for real”.  Saludos!

Final Wedding Flashback: the big day

Let us cut back once more to a little over one year ago, to the big day in Glasgow when Julie & John officially became “The Talls”. (Official wedding day blogging delayed by higher priority anniversary vaca + subsequent MBA class prep…) :)

The day before the wedding, we suggested a day trip to Edinburgh to our guests, sending them on their way with one of my favorite Popout Maps of both Edinburgh & Glasgow. John & I remained in Glasgow to relax & finish final wedding-day prep activities, i.e. a hasty table plan + a last minute decision to get my dress steamed. That evening, I arranged to meet the bridal party at my favorite Glasgow pub (Ben Nevis) for a quick prep discussion & perhaps one cheeky pint. Famous last words.

For those of you not familiar with Tanya's patented game of Dance Ball, one person does a dance move then "throws" it to another person, who then has to repeat that dance move & introduce a new one. Note: this does not go over well at pubs where "dancing" is not socially acceptable... but it is freaking hilarious. As you can see, I am not a good dancer.

For those of you not familiar with Tanya's patented game of Dance Ball, one person does a dance move then "throws" it to another person, who then has to repeat that dance move & introduce a new one. Note: this does not go over well at pubs where "dancing" is not socially acceptable... but it is freaking hilarious. As you can see, I am not a good dancer.

You always hear stories about the brides who go on crazy diets for the month before their wedding and/or wouldn’t dream of ingesting any fatty foods or alcohol in the days before the event, lest they puff up like a tick for the big day. Well, my “last meal” as a singleton was a fried fish supper from the chippy down the road, followed by an impromptu near-bachelorette party drinking numerous pints of lager until midnight and playing an intense game of Dance Ball (not appreciated by our fellow middle-aged Glaswegian pub-goers). And it was fantastic. Some additional Carmanns even made an appearnance. :)

The girls drinking healthy, nutritious Kronenbourg 1664's to cleanse our systems before the wedding day.

The girls drinking healthy, nutritious Kronenbourg 1664's to cleanse our systems before the wedding day.

The Carmann brothers joined in the festivities as well!

The Carmann brothers joined in the festivities as well!

Our festivities were accompanied by a fantastic live session in the corner.

Our festivities were accompanied by a fantastic live session in the corner.

The boys + a few of the ladies had a similar pre-wedding get-together at my 2nd favorite pub, The Goat. However, I do not believe it entailed any Dance Ball, which I can only assume made it inferior to ours. 😉

The crew gathers for a group pic as the night winds down outside of The Goat. Who's ready to get married tomorrow???

The crew gathers for a group pic as the night winds down outside of The Goat. Who's ready to get married tomorrow???

Needless to say, the evening offered just the calm, relaxing experience traditionally hoped for before a wedding. :) The big event was held at House for an Art Lover in Glasgow, an amazing facility designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh (excellent Scottish architect who is somewhat Frank Lloyd Wright-esque). Located in beautiful Bellahouston Park, we chose it because of its unique design, gorgeous setting, and super-tasty food. We held the ceremony as well as reception there, thanks to the support of the fantastic Pastor McNally that my mom found at St. Columba’s Lutheran Church. All went smoothly, thanks to great support from Gillian & James @ HAL, Ken Thompson of Team Thomson Photography, and wittily-named ceilidh band Ceilidh Minogue, who talked all of us novices through some very fun Scottish highland dancing. Anyway, enough chit-chat; here’s a few favorite pics courtesy Ken!! (click on individual photos to enlarge a bit)

the last-minute hand-made programs with my new favorite font, Mackintosh

Thanks for letting me take a quick trip back to our fun times in Scotland last May! We will now return to your regularly scheduled programming of Mexico, so expect a post on our recent anniversary trip to Huatulco this week… honest… 😉

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