The Broken Christ (El Cristo Roto, San Jose de Gracia, Aguascalientes)

One of the challenges of moving to a new city and being a host to foreign visitors (well, so far all Canadian and all from Vancouver) is that very little is available in the way of English-language information for foreign visitors in the state of Aguascalientes (or the city of Aguascalientes, for that matter). And whatever little is available is usually not presented in the best form. So I have now come to realize that I am the one who will have to write in English about the wonderful things there are for foreign, English-speaking visitors who might come to Aguascalientes, either to visit me or to visit on their own, much as I did for Vancouver, and British Columbia.

Mom's visit to Aguascalientes * El Cristo Roto One of the things that I was told was a must-see was to travel north-west of the city of Aguascalientes to a little town called San Jose de Gracia, which is the home to the largest dam in central Mexico (the Presa Plutarco Elias Calles). From the outset, when you arrive to San Jose de Gracia (you need to drive north towards Zacatecas and turn left once you arrive to Pabellon de Arteaga and drive towards San Jose de Gracia), you would think that the dam is actually a reservoir or a lake. But once you are almost in the midst of it, you can totally see the wall of the dam. It is within this dam that the island of the Broken Christ (el Cristo Roto) is located.

The Broken Christ has an associated legend with it (notes in Spanish from the Wikipedia page) and a poem as well. Legend says that around the independence of Mexico time, when the image arrived into the church in San Jose de Gracia, it arrived broken, and that it spoke told the would-be seller to leave him broken so that he would always have a reminder to think about his brothers and sisters without opportunities, without limbs. While I’m not really religious anymore, I found the inscription incredibly motivating and humbling.

Mom's visit to Aguascalientes * El Cristo Roto

To get to the Broken Christ island, you need to take a little boat (I took Airdrie when she visited me and JT when he came down just a couple of weeks ago as well as my Mom, so in total I’ve visited 3 times).

Mom's visit to Aguascalientes * El Cristo Roto

The area is well staffed and transportation is really inexpensive ($28 Mexican pesos or less than $2.50 USD per person per trip). Obviously you can also rent cabins, and a longer ferry trip which costs about $200 pesos per person or so. There is a restaurant (Las Playas) and several smaller places for food. There is also a little bit of an artificial beach, and the Island of the Broken Christ is considered a must-visit in Mexico when visiting Aguascalientes.

Mom's visit to Aguascalientes * El Cristo Roto

El Cristo Roto (San Jose de Gracia, Aguascalientes)

El Cristo Roto (San Jose de Gracia, Aguascalientes)

Overall, I enjoyed visiting the Broken Christ Island, and so did every single one of my guests. So I would strongly recommend that if you visit the city of Aguascalientes you take a chance to come visit. You can also get to San Jose de Gracia by small van or “pesera” as they are called in Mexico.

Remembering @Penmachine Derek K. Miller on the anniversary of his passing

May 3rd marks both a joyous day (my brother’s day) and a really sad one (my dear friend Derek K. Miller’s passing). As regular readers of my blog will know, Derek blogged for 4 years about his stage 4 metastatic cancer. Derek’s Last Post went viral with over 16 million hits in less than a week. Derek’s wife Airdrie is one of my best friends (and she recently came to visit me in Aguascalientes). Thinking of Derek always gives me happy thoughts and I miss him terribly. Derek, missing you today. Air, L, M, Hilkka and Karl, I’m thinking of you today too. Much love always.

Best of 604-097

Me, Derek and Airdrie at the Best of 604 Awards

On having higher standards of living in Mexico compared to Canada

My Dad and I had a lovely conversation this morning as we walked through the downtown core of the city of Leon. We were commenting on the incredible gap between my standards of living in Vancouver as compared to Aguascalientes. He was extremely happy that I have “moved up” and gotten closer in standards of living to what I deserve. For starters, I didn’t have a car in Vancouver. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment that was 450 sq ft or less (rented). In Aguascalientes, I have a three bedroom, 1 1/2 bathroom, front yard, backyard terrace house. I own a car. My office in Mexico is about three times the size of my office in Canada. And let’s not talk about the salary increase (which was substantial).


The Aguascalientes cathedral. Photo credit: Christian y Sergio

For many years, I’ve had the same conversation with many Mexicans who either want to immigrate to Canada or simply want to leave Mexico. Some of them, live in Canada in conditions that I would call below the poverty line. The housing situation in Vancouver is absolutely insane (read my friend Melissa’s blog, The Thirties Grind, just to read more absurdity of real estate prices in Vancouver). Why would some people choose to stay in Vancouver as opposed to move elsewhere to make a better life is NOT beyond me. I loved Vancouver. I lived there for more than a decade, and I was happy. VERY HAPPY.

Sunset in Vancouver and North Vancouver

A sunset in Vancouver as seen from North Vancouver’s Lonsdale Quay. My own photo.

But my life here is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, and I feel that my standards of living are much higher here than there. For one, I can’t stand the rain. I tolerated it for more than 10 years, but I suffered extremely profound SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) which affected my productivity. Here, I have sunshine. I have family, friends. Obviously I miss Vancouver, and as I blogged before, I have always lived grand wherever I’ve been. For two, I can’t stand Vancouver’s incredibly expensive status, and terribly low salaries. For three, I now can offer visitors who come and visit me a much nicer experience than I could offer when folks visited me in Canada.

I do feel a substantial increase in my standard of living since moving back to Mexico. Of course, I miss my friends. I miss the water. I miss my social life and some times (not often, though) the status I had as a “social media celebrity”. But overall, I am pretty happy here and I feel that I have moved up, instead of moving down. I am happy I moved.

Mamatango (Aguascalientes)

Mamatango (Altaria, Aguascalientes)Normally, I wouldn’t even dare to eat Argentinian food that wasn’t at El Rincón Gaucho, a restaurant in the city where my parents live, but a friend of mine wanted to meet me for lunch and the closest restaurant to my house was Mamatango, an Argentinian restaurant, so we went there. I had already been to Mamatango when a colleague of ours left and we were bidding him farewell.

Generally speaking, I love the food, and while it’s on the higher end of the scale in terms of pricing, it’s not unaffordable (probably $150-$200 Mexican pesos per entree). This time I played it safe and had a pasta Diavolo Duo, fetuccine with shrimp and salmon, and a touch of pomodoro sauce.

Mamatango (Altaria, Aguascalientes)

Mamatango (Altaria, Aguascalientes)

The restaurant is very spacious and the service is very solid, although it took them a really long time to bring us the bill. It also has a separate room for when you have a larger group, although it’s not very private as it is like a fishbowl, everyone can see into the room (it has glass all over). Mamatango also has a small area for children to play in.

Mamatango (Altaria, Aguascalientes)

Overall, I would definitely come back to Mamatango, whenever I have a lunch that is more or less official or when I have to treat a friend to a nice lunch.

Disclosure: My friend treated the both of us to lunch and he paid on his own dime. As always I retain full editorial control over anything I post on my blog.

Cafe Casa Vieja (Aguascalientes)

You know what surprises me the most about Aguascalientes? Just about no business at all have their own website. In my past few posts, I’ve been linking to their Foursquare location or their Facebook page. This is really bad. Particularly because I think many of the businesses I’ve been patronizing in the past few months should have a basic website, and of course, some basic social media presence. One of the shocking ones is Cafe Casa Vieja, a lovely (and HUGE) coffee place in the heart of Aguascalientes, which should totally have a beautiful website.

Cafe Casa Vieja (Aguascalientes, Ags)

Even though I tried really hard, I’m not 100% certain that my photos do justice to the gorgeous decor of Cafe Casa Vieja. The coffee is great, don’t get me wrong, but I think it’s the atmosphere and absolutely beautiful decoration that makes the place.

Cafe Casa Vieja (Aguascalientes, Ags)

This is the kind of place where I would very happily bring a foreigner (and so far I’ve brought 2, one Canadian and one American) to have a coffee and just chill.

Cafe Casa Vieja (Aguascalientes, Ags)

My frozen capuccino was delicious, although it was also super sweet. But overall, the one thing I enjoyed the most was the atmosphere and ambience. It’s an old house, certainly, but the owners have done their job in maintaining it.

Cafe Casa Vieja (Aguascalientes, Ags)

Disclosure: I paid for both my coffee and that of my friends who have visited Cafe Casa Vieja with me.

Grandmas Tea House and Crochet (Aguascalientes)

I’ve got a fascination with houses that are turned into businesses ever since I was a child. The northern part of the city of Aguascalientes (in particular the Bosques neighbourhood) is filled with these. I recently went with a colleague to visit Grandmas Tea House and Crochet, which is located in a converted large house in the northern side of Aguascalientes.

Grandma's Tea House and Croche (Aguascalientes)

Grandma's Tea House and Croche (Aguascalientes)

What makes Grandmas Tea House and Crochet very unique is that it’s not only a tea room. It also sells knitting supplies and they offer lessons. Yes, literally. Like you were asking your grandma for advice on knitting. Or as though you wanted to bring your grandma here to have tea and knit.

Grandma's Tea House and Croche (Aguascalientes)

I found the rooms spacious, was delighted at the quirky display of knitting supplies (yarn, needles, everything). I also found out my colleague does know how to knit (several men I know DO know how to knit, now that I come to think about it).

Grandma's Tea House and Croche (Aguascalientes)

I just couldn’t get over the yarn supplies. Seriously, this is a fantastic place to learn how to knit (something I don’t know how to do to this day).

Grandma's Tea House and Croche (Aguascalientes)

There is a number of quirky mementos here all related to knitting.

Grandma's Tea House and Croche (Aguascalientes)

Overall, a nice place where to bring people for tea and cookies, and maybe learn to knit. I had a juice and my friend had a coffee, and overall, the experience was super sweet. Next time I come I need to check out the knitting lessons.

Disclosure:As always, I paid my dinner off of my own pocket. I did not get any special treatment nor any freebies

Los Bagels Cafe y Restaurante (Aguascalientes)

Los Bagels (Bosques, Aguascalientes)

You’d probably be right to think “why would Raul decide to eat bagels if he’s pretty much unable to chew because of his braces?“. Yeah, you were right. And I wasn’t thinking straight. The mere thought of eating a bagel the way I used to do in Vancouver just got the best of me. And the fact that this lovely “New American” restaurant, Los Bagels, is located very near to my house (a 2-3 minutes drive).

Los Bagels (Bosques, Aguascalientes)

So yeah, I ordered a bagel and I proceeded to destroy it. But at least I took pretty pictures of it! Pretty inexpensive (maybe on the higher end of pricing for a Mexican place, about $55 pesos), and filled with delicious chicken, I was thrilled to find out that, had I not had braces, Los Bagels would be my new favorite place for lunch. The bagel was cooked to perfection, the chicken was well seasoned, and it was an abundant portion.

Los Bagels (Bosques, Aguascalientes)

Overall, a lovely place. I will have to come back in well, about a couple of years when I get the braces off.

Disclosure:As always, I paid my dinner off of my own pocket. I did not get any special treatment nor any freebies

Yotsuba (Aguascalientes)

Yotsuba (Aguascalientes)You know when you find Japanese people at a Japanese restaurant serving sushi that you will get great food (or at least, reasonable). As a Mexican, I felt heartened when I visited a Mexican restaurant and saw fellow Mexicans in the same restaurant. It made me feel that it was perhaps solid enough. That was the case with Yotsuba (a cute sushi restaurant located in the northern part of the city of Aguascalientes

(The actual address is: Prolongación Zaragoza 210 in Plaza Privilege, Col. Fatima. I recently went there with 3 colleagues and we ordered a few sushi dishes. As I normally do with anything that is sushi-specific, I went for California rolls and spicy tuna rolls. The latter were disappointing not because of the flavor but because they are not done the way Canadian ones are. I am heading to Tokyo later this year so I’ll compare. The California rolls were very flavourful and I loved them almost as much as Momo Sushi in Vancouver (which is high praise!)

Yotsuba (Aguascalientes)

Yotsuba (Aguascalientes)

I ordered an additional roll with an external cover of cucumber, which although was nice, I wasn’t completely sold on. But still, this is perhaps the best sushi place in the entire Aguascalientes. I am totally becoming a fan. It’s also relatively close (5-7 minutes drive) from my house.

Yotsuba (Aguascalientes)

Disclosure:As always, I paid my dinner off of my own pocket. I did not get any special treatment nor any freebies

Braces are my new reality. And a demonstration of self-care.

El Cristo Roto (San Jose de Gracia, Aguascalientes)If you follow me on Twitter, or are my friend on Facebook, you probably know that I got braces installed in December of 2012. Yeah. At this age, I decided to get teeth surgery (I had the four wisdom teeth removed at the same time, and thus needed endodonthics). I also got braces (and no, I didn’t get Invisalign. I got the full metal deal!). And like with anything new, I share how I feel with the world. Not always painless, let me tell you.

So why do I make such a big deal of having braces? After all, most teenagers had them at one point (though it’s deeply refreshing to read friends of mine who got braces installed after they became 40!). Well, because to me, having braces is a daily reminder that I MATTER. That I care about myself. That I am my own priority. And I live a transparent life. If my braces hurt, I’m going to tell you if you’re riding with me while I drive us somewhere. I am going to tweet about it, I’m going to post about it on Facebook.

Getting braces will improve my physical appearance, will fix problems with my eating habits, and will make me feel way more self-confident when I smile. So, as painful as they are, and as much cutting I’m getting inside my mouth (OUCH) and as much as I am not able to eat just about anything (the list of things I can’t eat is way longer than the list of things I CAN eat), every time I spend 20 minutes brushing my teeth, using all sorts of contraptions to clean up each bracket, etc., I remind myself of the fact that I love myself enough to force myself to go through the process of getting braces. I am also paying for my braces on my own.

So, please forgive the frequent Facebook, Twitter and blog posts about braces. Braces are my new reality, and a demonstration of self-care. A daily reminder that I matter, and that I am my own priority.

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes, Mexico)

It’s always hard to try and showcase a city and a state (the Mexican equivalent of a province) when you are pretty much a recent transplant. So when my good friend Air came to visit me in Aguascalientes, it was a bit difficult to think of what to do. I asked a colleague of mine at work and he recommended to visit the Hacienda de Letras vineyard and hacienda. While not exactly in the city of Aguascalientes, but a little up north, 20 minutes drive to be exact, or even less, in the small municipality of Pabellon de Arteaga, Hacienda de Letras is a lovely day visit.

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes0

We walked through the property and visited the vineyard. Obviously we didn’t see actual blooming vineyards (and couldn’t taste the grapes), but when the time comes, I’ll probably come back to check it out.

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes0

We did walk around the property and enjoyed a quick walking tour of the facilities for wine production.

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes0

You can purchase a full tour and a 3 glasses-flight tasting for $200 Mexican pesos (less than $20 USD) or a 6 glasses’ flight for $100 Mexican pesos (you can then add on top the tour). We only got a 3 courses’ flight (which was $75 Mexican pesos) as I was driving and I really couldn’t drink that much.

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes0

The architecture was absolutely lovely, typical of the colonial Mexico I have known and adored. The Hacienda de Letras even has a chapel!

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes0

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes0

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes0

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes0

Hacienda de Letras (Pabellon de Arteaga, Aguascalientes0

I can’t recommend visiting Hacienda de Letras enough. It was fun, entertaining and something out of the ordinary. And really not expensive nor time consuming, gas included. You do need to check and look closely for the entry to San Luis de Letras, the little community where Hacienda de Letras sits.

Disclosure:I paid for both of our tastings. The owners did not know I blog, nor did we receive any special treatment. As always, I retain full editorial control over everything I publish on my site.

Back to blogging: Harder to do than I thought (plus, I’m bored of social media)

My Talk at Social Media Week Vancouver 2011 (Blogging Summit)

Me giving a talk at Social Media Week Vancouver 2011 on pitching bloggers

A few days ago I noted on my Facebook personal page that I was terribly bored of social media. No offense to anyone I follow or with whom I’m friends with. It just doesn’t have the same appeal to me as it once did. I’m specifically talking about my personal outlets, not the professional ones (which I have religiously maintained up until this point). I have also had zero interest in blogging (although admittedly that has been the case because I am incredibly busy and have no time to blog personal stuff).

I suppose that the best way to get words out is to just get them out, and while some people criticize other bloggers for blogging about blogging, this time I had to blog about NOT blogging. Will I ever resume my regularly scheduled writeups? I seriously doubt it. I don’t have the time to put any effort into my personal blog, although a part of me never gets tired of the idea of blogging. But that’s because I am in love with the idea of having time to blog. I don’t particularly have the time to do so!

One thing that may actually get me to write more and to carve some time to blog is something I commented with my friend Air: I want to continue doing travel writing. My professional activity makes me travel a lot, so therefore I have an incentive to write about the places I travel to. We’ll see how I manage to maintain a professional life while travel writing on the side, on occasion!

Suit & Tie by Justin Timberlake featuring JAY Z

I’m obsessed lately with this song, not because of Justin Timberlake, which potentially I could be obsessed with, but because of the melody. Suit & Tie showcases a Justin Timberlake suave and charming. The choreographed middle part of the song is extremely catchy and will probably have the same effect on you as it had on me – I just wanted to start dancing and snapping my fingers.

The Jay-Z influence is completely recognizable and you can tell Timberlake was having a lot of fun with this song. Another reason why I identify with this song. I’m having a lot of fun only blogging when I feel like it and when I want to, not when I feel obligated to. Hope you enjoy the ride along the way.

[Intro: Justin Timberlake]
I be on my suit & tie, shit tied, shit tied
I be on my suit & tie, shit tied, shit
Can I show you a few things?
A few things, a few things, little baby, cause
I be on my suit & tie, shit tied, shit
I be on my suit & tie, shit tied, shit
Let me show you a few things
Let me show you a few things

Wait a minute. You ready, JT?

[Verse 1: Justin Timberlake]
I can’t wait ’til I get you on the floor, good looking
Going hot so hot, just like an oven
And owww, burned myself I just had to touch it
But it’s so fire and it’s all mine
Hey baby, we don’t mind all the watching
Cause if they study close, real close, they might learn somethin’
She ain’t nothin’ but a little doozie when she does it
She’s so fire tonight

[Hook: Justin Timberlake]
And as long as I’ve got my suit and tie
I’ma leave it all on the floor tonight
And you got fixed up to the nines
Let me show you a few things
All pressed up in black and white
And you dressed in that dress I like
Love is swinging in the air tonight
Let me show you a few things
Let me show you a few things
Show you a few things about love
Now we’re in the swing of love
Let me show you a few things
Show you a few things about love

[Verse 2: Justin Timberlake]
Let me get a good look at it
Oooh so thick, I know why they call it a fatty
And awww, shit’s so sick, got a hit and picked up a habit
But that’s all right, cause you’re all mine
Awww, go on and show ‘em who you call daddy
I guess they’re just mad cause girl they wish they had it
Oooh my killer, my thriller, yeah you’re a classic
And you’re all mine tonight

[Hook: Justin Timberlake]
And as long as I’ve got my suit and tie
I’ma leave it all on the floor tonight
And you got fixed up to the nines
Let me show you a few things
All pressed up in black and white
And you dressed in that dress I like
Love is swinging in the air tonight
Let me show you a few things
Let me show you a few things
Show you a few things about love
Now we’re in the swing of love
Let me show you a few things
Show you a few things about love

[Justin Timberlake]
Get out your seat Hov

[Verse 3: Jay-Z]
All black at the white shows
White shoes at the black shows
Green card for the Cuban links
Y’all sit back and enjoy the light show
Nothing exceeds like excess
Stoute got gout from having the best of the best
Is this what it’s all about?
I’m at the restaurant, my rant disturbing the guests
Years of distress, tears on the dress
Try to hide her face with some make up sex
This is Truffle season
Tom Ford tuxedos for no reason
All saints for my angel
Alexander Wang too
Ass tight denim and some dunks
I show you how to do this young
No papers, catch vapors
Get high, out Vegas
Dussess on doubles, ain’t looking for trouble
You just got good jeans so a nigga trying to cuff you
Tell your mother that I love her cause I love you
Tell your father we go farther as a couple
They ain’t lose a daughter, got a son
I show you how to do this huh

[Hook: Justin Timberlake]
And as long as I’ve got my suit and tie
I’ma leave it all on the floor tonight
And you got fixed up to the nines
Let me show you a few things
All pressed up in black and white
And you dressed in that dress I like
Love is swinging in the air tonight
Let me show you a few things
Let me show you a few things
Show you a few things about love love-love
Let me show you a few things
Show you a few things about love

PEP Talks (Parenting Educational Program) 2013 (win tickets)

pep talksAs many of you know, I am a proud uncle as well as an educator. So when the Vancouver
International Children’s Festival
emailed me to ask for help in spreading the word about their new parenting education series, I could hardly say no. The PEP Talks series (Parenting Educational Program) 2013 speaker series looks really interesting, and knowing how many parents follow me on Twitter and read my blog, I figured I should help spread the word out about PEP Talks 2013 in Vancouver.

The 2013 PEP Talks Series brings an exciting mix of world-class speakers to Vancouver. Four thought-provoking evenings featuring some of the top thinkers on the issues every parent faces today. PEP Talks is bringing to Vancouver four compelling speakers over four consecutive months (March through June 2013) to delve into the challenging and sometimes messy world of parenting today’s millennial child.

All shows are 7:30-9pm at the Vancouver Playhouse 600 Hamilton Street, Vancouver, British Columbia. You can buy tickets here. Ticket prices are $130 for the entire series or $35 per speaker, with net proceeds to benefit the Vancouver International Children’s Festival. Call 604 708 5655 for more information.

Other speakers include Sheryl Feinstein (April 10) “The Adolescent Brain”, Deborah MacNamara (May 15) “The Lost Art of Play: Helping Children Grow Up”, and Lisa Bloom (June 12) “Raising Smart Kids in the New Millenium”

I am giving away a pair of tickets to the PEP series speaker of your choice. The first speaker, slated for March 7th looks like a really fun one, Lenore Skenazy, the author of Free-Range Kids: Why Does an Old-Fashioned Childhood Sound So Radical? You can check a Big Think interview with Lenore Skenazy here:

The media labeled Lenore Skenazy “America’s Worst Mom” when she let her 9-year-old ride the subway alone. She wore the badge with pride and went on to found Free-Range Kids: the book, blog and movement dedicated to the idea that our kids are SAFER and SMARTER than our culture gives them credit for. In this funny lecture (she used to write for Mad Magazine) Lenore discusses how today’s parents became so afraid about everything from predators to non-organic grapes (even if cut into quarters!), and how we can regain the perspective that allows us to trust our kids, our community and our own good-enough parenting.

I know several of my good friends are free-range parents (mine were, at least!). And I predict that there will be interest in attending the PEP Talks. Thus to enter my giveaway, I have (as usual) several modes of entry. The first (comment on this blog), I’d love you to give me your best parenting advice (whatever you’ve heard, if you are a parent, or if you have some wisdom to share with other parents). The following modes of entry include Twitter and Pinterest.

Entry # 1) Comment on this blog with a piece of your best parenting advice.

Entry # 2) Post the following on Twitter:

Share w/ @hummingbird604 a parenting advice tip to enter to win tickets to #ParentingPEPTalks I shared mine here

Entry # 3) Re-pin my Pin of this blog entry.

Entry # 4) Comment on my Pin of this blog entry telling me what item of Q4′s menu you’d like to try.

As always, I’ll draw a winner from the randomized pool of entries on March 4th, at 2pm. (if you do all 4 you have 4 entries into my contest), and each mode of entry you use I will include in my contest (up to 4). Hopefully you will have a chance to enjoy the PEP Talks!

Before Dawn by Joyce Cooling

I was a fan of soft jazz, but my good friend Liz McT was the one who really got me into this kind of music. I recently discovered, an internet-streaming music channel with dozens of fantastic channels. Their Soft Jazz channel was streaming this song (Before Dawn by Joyce Cooling) and I had to write down the name because it feels amazing to write to. Normally, I write listening to classical music as that enables me to focus but this song is fantastic, and thought I’d share.

EDIT – One additional thing that makes Joyce Cooling even cooler is that she supports mental health initiatives. Read from her wikipedia entry:

Although Cooling had been a long-time member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Revolving Door signaled Cooling’s official involvement with NAMI as a national advocate for the organization. Joyce has performed at NAMI national and regional events across the country and Cooling and Wagner donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of their CDs to NAMI.

La Estacion (Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes)

Frankly, I love restaurants that serve great food at reasonable prices, and La Estacion definitely is a gem worth visiting next time you are in Aguascalientes (the capital city of the namesake state, Aguascalientes).

La Estacion (Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes)

Located in the Barrio de la Estacion, close to where the old train station used to be in Aguascalientes, this unassuming (yet large) restaurant is beautifully decorated and offers excellent food and service. It’s the kind of place I am going to bring foreigners and guests from other cities and states for lunch.

La Estacion (Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes)

La Estacion (Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes)

La Estacion (Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes)

I went there with my friend KNG for lunch, as we were both exploring the city (given that I really haven’t still gotten to know much of it). We were promptly seated and our food was served really fast. I ordered meatballs with rice chipotle style (albondigas al chipotle con arroz) and K ordered enchiladas, which were served almost Guanajuato-style (enchiladas mineras). Our lunch combined wasn’t even $30 USD (less than $300 pesos), tip included.

La Estacion (Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes)

My meat balls were perfectly cooked and the spicy sauce they were covered in wasn’t overwhelming. Flavourful and filling, I could have gone for an additional food item but I was a bit too full.

La Estacion (Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes)

I love how the decor is typically Mexican and filled with references to things from Aguascalientes. While there isn’t one particular dish that is considered “from” Aguascalientes, La Estacion offers a very broad variety of dishes that are at the same time delicious AND inexpensive. I couldn’t try many of the delicacies because of my braces, but I think that they cook great food as I’ve read other reviews, and from my own experience here. A gourmet restaurant at very reasonable prices, in my view.

La Estacion (Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes)

I’d definitely recommend a visit to La Estacion for lunch. I still have to come down for dinner and see what else do they have in store for me.

Disclosure: KNG paid for both of our lunches on her own dime. I have no relationship with La Estacion whatsoever, nor did we receive any complimentary food. We just enjoyed our experience, very much.

The Glamorous Life by Sheila E

One of the things I think we can all agree upon is that the 80s gave us fantastic music. One of the tunes I heard in my childhood and it never has left my brain has been “The Glamorous Life” by Sheila E. I would like to think the life I lead is pretty glamorous, even if it involves 16 hour workdays most of the time. Hope you enjoy Sheila E’s rendition of The Glamorous Life as much as I do, with this video of one of her live performances in 1985.

Happy Valentine’s Day: Celebrating love, friendship by being vulnerable and wholehearted

A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often – just to save it from drying out completely.
– Pam Brown

Mike gave me this Valentine gift 45/365

Photo credit: Carol Browne on Flickr

I have always celebrated Valentine’s Day as the day when I thank my friends for being there. In Mexico, February 14th is celebrated as the Day of Love and Friendship (el Dia del Amor y la Amistad). For me, romantic Valentines were few and far between. Valentine’s Day is always a day when I remember how blessed I am for having the friends I do.

I cannot even imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy. Let’s face it, friends make life a lot more fun.
– Charles R. Swindoll

As time has gone by, I think the thing that made me realize my success online was (as my friend Robert Ballantyne aptly put it, my capacity to show myself vulnerable). I strongly believe this is the case. Much as a few people may see the Hummingbird604 persona as conceited and self-absorbed, the reality is that I am an intensely sensitive man. I don’t let anyone hurt me easily, but the people who can hurt me the easiest are my friends. It takes me a very long while to trust people and call them friends. I don’t overuse the term easily, and that’s why I hate that Facebook calls people “your Facebook friends”, to the point where the meaning of Facebook friend has been translating to “I know you and I need to be connected to you online”. So when a friend betrays my trust, it hurts me deeply.

The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing… not healing, not curing… that is a friend who cares.
– Henri Nouwen

But at the end of the day, I can’t live any other way. I love intensely and thus I suffer intensely. I do what Brene Brown calls “wholehearted living” (although I’ve always done that without knowing that the term was called that – Brown arrives to that definition after doing research on shame and vulnerability). I live without fear of being heartbroken. I’ve been heartbroken once before, and I absolutely thought my life was ending. I felt pain like I had never felt before. In fact, I felt physical pain from so much emotional pain. But I survived, and here I am.

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.
– George Washington

On Valentine’s Day I celebrate my friends. Those who have stood with me even when they disagreed with my views. Those who have always had my back. Those who can subtly but firmly tell me when I am wrong and why I am wrong. Those who have always time for me, no matter how busy their agendas are.

It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.
– Marlene Dietrich

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of my friends. You know how much I love you.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
- Jim Rohn

Parque Explora de Leon (Explora Park, Leon, Guanajuato)

Explora (a lovely park towards the southern part of Leon, Guanajuato, in central Mexico) is one of those gems that needs to be written about more than once. In this post I’ll only extoll the beauty of the park, because it’s one of the nicest spots in Leon where you can actually go for a walk or a run.

Parque Explora

Foro del Lago (Forum of the Lake)

Events such as outdoor concerts, ballet and dance exhibitions, are often held at the Foro del Lago.

Parque Explora

I’ve often gone to Explora for a walk with my parents. It’s such a beautiful and peaceful park. Explora has also a science museum, much like Vancouver’s Science World (or TELUS World of Science, if you want).

Explora (Museo de Ciencias) [Leon, Guanajuato]

Explora has 5 science halls (Salas). Obviously, the Sala del Agua (Water Hall) is my absolute favoritest, although there are a number of other halls that are intended to impart knowledge on visitors. Explora hires high school or undergraduate students to work providing smart commentary on each one of the apparatuses shown in each one of the halls.

Explora (Museo de Ciencias) [Leon, Guanajuato]

I had my faith renewed in Mexican youth when I visited Explora, Museo de Ciencias (Explora, Science Museum) because every single kid who worked there was very well versed in the scientific facts that they were supposed to share with their audience.

Explora (Museo de Ciencias) [Leon, Guanajuato]

Admission to Explora isn’t all that expensive (I think I paid $60 pesos, about $4.50 USD for myself and for my Mom).

Explora (Museo de Ciencias) [Leon, Guanajuato]

Explora (Museo de Ciencias) [Leon, Guanajuato]

Explora (Museo de Ciencias) [Leon, Guanajuato]

There’s also a number of transportation exhibitions in the outskirts of the museum. These include a helicopter and an aircraft.

Explora (Museo de Ciencias) [Leon, Guanajuato]

Explora (Museo de Ciencias) [Leon, Guanajuato]

Overall, I would strongly recommend that people come visit Explora. It’s totally woorth the visit, particularly for parents with children.

Explora (Museo de Ciencias) [Leon, Guanajuato]

Disclosure: I paid for both my Mom and my own entry fee out of my own pocket. I have no financial nor otherwise ties to Explora. I just wanted to share my experience with my readers and potential visitors to Guanajuato.

Dia de la Candelaria (Presentation of Jesus to the Temple)

I have written before about January 6th, Epiphany or the Day of the 3 Wise Men (or 3 Magician Kings, as we call them in Mexico), and I have shared how we eat Rosca de Reyes (a large, elliptical-shaped bread that is eaten communally to celebrate when the 3 Wise Men came to Bethlehem to visit newly-born Jesus Christ. Those who cut a piece of the Rosca de Reyes and find a little plastic child (a representation of Jesus himself) is supposed to throw a party on the anniversary of the presentation of Jesus to the temple (Dia de la Candelaria, February 2nd). At this party, tamales usually are usually consumed.

Chicken tomatillo tamales

Photo credit: Katie Schumm on Flickr

Today is Dia de la Candelaria, but unfortunately none of the people I know who got the little plastic child actually are having a party. Which is too bad, because I wanted tamales!

Locked Out of Heaven by Bruno Mars

You can call me an old man, but I do recognize The Police when I hear it. This song (Locked Out of Heaven) by Bruno Mars has a number of chords that sound pretty much like “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” by The Police. I didn’t know who sang it or what the name was, but Dr. Matthew Hayday told me the name via Twitter (thanks, Matt!). For your listening pleasure (and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do).

And yes, as indicated on the Wikipedia entry, it does have the vibe of The Romantics’ Talking in Your Sleep. I can’t find anything Roxanne-ish (as the entry says) but I definitely can see Talking In Your Sleep, and The Police’s Don’t Stand So Close To Me. Awesome song nonetheless.

My 2013 Manifesto: Maintaining focus

Downtown Aguascalientes at nightMy parents have always loved that I use the hummingbird as a metaphor for my many interests and projects. I fly from flower to flower, from project A to project B, and in the process, I exert so much energy that I exhaust myself. But luckily, every month, I take some time to take stock and reflect on how my life is going and what projects I’m working on and how will I move forward. I also take time towards the end of the year to work on a Manifesto. I establish the ground rules for what I will be doing in the coming year. 2012 was a year of enormous change for me, and I have grown so much, in so many different aspects of my life.

This is what Raul’s Manifesto has looked like in the past 3 years:

- In 2010, I promised myself that I would focus on my personal growth.
- In 2011, I promised myself that I would prioritize myself before anyone else.
- In 2012, I promised myself that I would embrace change.


Photo credit: Mark Hunter on Flickr

In 2013, my Manifesto and my promise to myself is that I will maintain focus. I will not deviate from my goals and objectives. You may think “well, didn’t you get back to personal blogging just now? Isn’t that going to deviate you from your objectives?”. No, in fact no. My blog was first and foremost a diary where I noted my thoughts. A diary that grew so powerful and broadly read that it became a tool to help people, whenever I could. But it’s still mine, and it’s still my notebook, where I jot down whatever I am learning along the way, so it helps me in documenting the growth process.

I know the prize, I have an objective, and all I need to do is keep laser-focus. And I hope you, my dear readers (and social media followers) will hold me accountable and tell me when you think I’m spreading too think and forgetting the focus I promised to maintain.

Welcome to 2013, everyone.

Resurrecting my blog, on my terms, on my own time

On September 17th, 2012 I took the extremely hard decision to stop blogging altogether (to take an indefinite hiatus). The reason I did it was because I had a professional life that had taken a toll on my own health, and because I felt that blogging the way I did it and to the extent I was doing it was going to end up making me sick (which it did, more than a few times).

But this fall, many things happened. Newtown, the fiscal cliff, the Instagram Terms of Service debacle, Delhi’s unspeakable gang rape, all of them a number of debates that I normally would engage with on my blog. And each time I stopped myself because I felt that I would betray my promise to myself to stop blogging. I also traveled and experienced a number of restaurants, hotels, airline companies, etc. and I stopped myself from writing about them, because “I had promised I would stop blogging“.

Sunrise at the Aguascalientes airport

But in an extremely enlightening conversation with my Dad a couple of days ago (my Dad has a TV show, very well seen by the way), I told him that I missed the superpowers that came with having an extremely widely read blog and a large following on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Using social media for good is not something I’m new to doing. In fact, in the past few months I have seen a number of local (Vancouver) bloggers take up the projects I left behind and run with them, and support the charities I used to, and do the kind of social media for social good I used to do.

And that’s fantastic. Because it leaves me with this, with the canvas where I continue to paint my life: my own blog. This time, a painting that will occur on my time, and on my terms. No more being stressed about publishing a blog post on a certain date, because otherwise X, Y or Z artistic production might be endangered, or ticket sales may be low, or a charitable event may not get exposure. Yes, I am resurrecting my blog. But I am doing so on my own terms, and on my own time. I may write a blog post here, or none at all.

As Monique and Arieanna said, this is MY blog. This is where I am supposed to tell my stories. And somewhere along the way, I lost myself. I lost view of what this blog was about and why I had it. Yes, I had it to support the arts and non-profits in Vancouver. I had it to tell the stories of my travels. But more than anything, this blog is MINE. And it’s for me.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am back!

Announcing an indefinite hiatus from blogging

Raul is BloggableLife has an interesting way of turning out. After almost 7 years of juggling my academic life and my social media life, I have come to the realization that I can’t do everything. This past week I’ve been at a high-level national and international scholarly meeting and my numerous scholarly commitments have precluded me from even answering many emails related to my blog. I also got sick for a couple of days from sleep deprivation and trying to juggle anything. Before my friend Derek K. Miller passed away, I promised him and his wife Airdrie, both very close friends of mine, that I would take better care of myself.

This week, I’m doing good on my promise. And this time, it’s not going to be like the previous times I’ve announced a hiatus. This one is going to be pretty much for good. I have reached the breaking point. I fret over deadlines. I feel bad when I have to tell folks who pitch me that I can’t either help them out writing, or when I miss a deadline. This is not way to lead a life.

Contrary to many other folks who are on the top of the Vancouver blogging world, I don’t work in a professional activity that enables my blogging. Much to the contrary. Writing this blog (which is also unpaid) actually takes my time and focus off of my professional activities. And yes, it’s a very professional-looking blog, because I have always taken my blogging very seriously. I’m a professional in everything I do. And everything I do, I do it well.

Raul's faceshot (it's my Facebook profile photo)I have achieved pretty much everything I wanted in the blogging world. I reached the top of Vancouver’s, BC’s and Canada’s blogosphere. I became well respected and mastered social media tools to the extent I wanted. I became one of very few Canadian international travel writers who is pitched from all over the world for travel writing projects. I put Vancouver, British Columbia and Canada in the global arena, through my writing about food, travel, dance and theatre. I helped countless non-profit organizations and charitable causes.

Arieanna Schweber's birthday at The Alibi RoomI authored a book on social media with one of my best friends and one of the best bloggers in Canada, Arieanna Schweber. I gave numerous talks and keynotes on social media topics for numerous organizations (including WorkSafe BC, the Canadian Public Relations Society Vancouver Chapter, the International Association for Business Communicators BC Chapter).

I also spoke at numerous social media and blogging conferences (including Northern Voice, Social Media Week Vancouver, Social Media Camp Victoria, WordCamp Victoria, to name a few). I participated in the design and implementation of social media strategies for The City of Surrey and The Community Against Preventable Injuries, to name just a couple of clients.

And I did this all the while maintaining a highly-productive research programme, mentoring students and teaching a 2-1-2 course-load. While sitting on the Executive Board of The Network Hub, Canada’s premiere coworking launch pad (and the one in Vancouver that has demonstrated leadership year after year). While playing competitive volleyball. While maintaining my friendships. I have no reason to be modest, I’m incredibly proud of what I have achieved.

Freelance Camp Vancouver 2011I co-organized Mental Health Camp Vancouver with my dear friend Isabella Mori, and helped launch Mental Health Camp Toronto. I volunteered my time with numerous Vancouver-based startup events. I contributed to the organization of Freelance Camp Vancouver. I was part of the process that saw The Network Hub New Westminster Campus be borne to help Lower Mainland’s freelancers.

I did A LOT for Vancouver, for British Columbia and for Canada. And I think it’s now time for me to take time for myself, for my own goals, for my own health.

It’s about time that the Hummingbird takes a break.

I do have a few guest blog posts due this week, but this is my last blog post on for a very long while, possibly ever. For those people whom I committed coverage, and whose posts will be written by guest bloggers, I will fulfil my promises.

But, what about travel writing? What about other types of writing, like a personal diary? Will you write ever again, Raul?

The answer is not as definite as I would like it to be. Travel writing is perhaps the one that I feel I’m most suited to, and I may take on the odd project on the side. I do not know yet what the future will hold. But I know for a fact that I am not going to pressure myself to help cover events, causes and projects anymore. If I do anything, it will be because I have the time (and right now, I’m pretty sure I will not have the time until possibly 2014). I will decide on a case-by-case basis.

As for a diary, there is another problem. My loyal readers will probably want to know how I’m doing in my new life in Mexico. But I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to write those details. All I can say is that, for now, I am going to take a break. Because I have not counted how many guest blog posts are due, I have no idea when will be the date for’s last blog post. But I expect that the last day a blog post will be published on my site will be Friday September 21st.

To my loyal readers: THANK YOU. It was a great ride. And to everyone who guest-blogged for me, thank you too.

Colonial by Co.ERASGA

Alvin Erasga Tolentino cred Jerome bontoI’m really delighted about the wold premiere of Colonial, a dance project presented by Co.Erasga in co-production and partnership with The Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreational Centre, MAI (Montreal Arts Interculturel) and UPLB (University of The Philippines, Los Banos, Laguna). This project, particularly because it’s a solo, looks incredibly interesting. I am a big fan of solo dance projects (probably because of my training!)
(Photo: Alvin Erasga Tolentino, credit Jerome Bonto).

World Premiere: Thursday to Saturday October 4-6 @ 8 pm & Sunday October 7 @ 2 pm matinee
The Roundhouse Community Arts Recreation Centre
181 Roundhouse Mews, on Davie and Pacific

Tickets: $25/$18 students, seniors from Tickets Tonight: 604 684 2787

Conception: Alvin Erasga Tolentino and Dennis Gupa
Choreography and Performance: Alvin Erasga Tolentino
Dramaturgy: Dennis Gupa
Lighting: Jonathan Chang
Video: Jon Lazam
Music: Angelica Dayao
Costume: John Carlo Pagunaling

More information below:

Alvin Erasga Tolentino dances Colonial, his 6th full-length solo work and the latest visionary creation for his 12th season as director, creator and performer of Co.ERASGA. A critically acclaimed solo performer described as “a serious tour de force, stretching our understanding of what dance can be”, Tolentino’s new work is as trans-continental Canada-Philippines initiative conceived and spearheaded by Tolentino and Filipino theatre director from the Philippines, Dennis Gupa.

Responding to the intense longing for self-determination and freedom, five Filipino artists of this generation unite to redress and dig deep to the complex, bitter and sweet account of Colonialism. In a tapestry of music, video, costuming and dance sourced from the Filipino culture and life, creativity transport the artist’s hope and voice to bring Colonial as a multi-sensorial and trans-cultural piece whose language speaks to a global audience.

Colonized, the artists choose to reveal fearlessly the hidden memories that yearn to resurrect. Forceful and transformative, these memories became the fulcrum for recuperating the subjugated body, has gone berserk, controlled and manipulated for centuries past.

Drawing from indigenous performative forms, Tolentino’s choreography enters historical, mythical, personal and political themes with past histories and present contemplation collide in his own umbilicus. His body transforms in a tripartite portraits of that of a primordial Babaylan, a healer cum priestess, the Katipunero/Katipunan, a bloodied warrior and finally Sinag, a light personified, who invites us, ceremonially to enlightenment. In this new work, Tolentino’s body encounters the real and the imagined past, dissenting the colonist and recovering from the yoke of domination. The dramaturgical and choreographic vigor lies from the premise that the remnants of colonial past can be re-created as a metaphor of light that can guide one to a journey in a country where bodies and souls are free, sacred and pure.

Vancouver’s very own, Alvin Erasga Tolentino’s work has spanned close to three decades interpreting, creating and contributing contemporary dance for Vancouver. He founded Co.ERASGA in 2000 and since then has brought full-length memorable works as; SOLA, Bato/Stone, OrienTik/Portrait, Field, Paradise/Paradis, ADAMEVE-Man/Woman, Shadow Machine and recently EXpose to name a few. An accomplished international dance artist whose body works has reflected identity, gender, interculturalism and cross-cultural collaboration that have reached four continents. His touring engagements and cross cultural collaboration has taken him and Co.ERASGA to over 50 diverse cities and in countries as France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Philippines, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and across Canada. In 2010 he received the Vancouver’s Mayor Arts Award for his contribution to the performing arts in Dance. Tolentino was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada in 1983.

Dennis Gupa is a theatre director who received his MA Theatre Arts degree from University of the Philippines. He attended directing classes with directors from Israel (Nil Alon), Germany (Christoph Gosepath), France (Alain Timar) Philippines (Jose Estrealla and Anton Juan) and the NY Theatre Movement Inc.’s Leqoc’s technique on ensemble directing. His collaboration with scientists in his home based, University of the Philippines Los Banos where he is also a tenured Assistant Professor of theatre arts and communication gave birth to some of the most cutting edge, site specific performances ever created.

His works are an investigation of cruelty, veneration and redemption among the hidden and unknown characters of our society. Some of these works are: Frank Wedekind’s ‘Spring Awakening’, John Millington Synge’s ‘Riders to the Sea’, August Strindberg’s ‘A Dream Play’, and Jose Rizal’s ‘Junto al Pasig’, these classic texts found its morphing into a Filipino-Asian culture based interpretation.

Co.ERASGA would like to gratefully acknowledge its members, the generous individuals, business and following funding bodies for their support: The Canada Council for the Arts, The City of Vancouver, BC Arts Council, BC Gaming, The Vancouver Foundation, Hamber Foundation, The Georgia Straight, EastVan Graphics, The Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre, MAI (Montreal Arts Interculturel) and UPLB, University of The Philippines Los Banos.

Fast and Female Gears up for Third Annual Sports Day in Canada Celebrations on September 29

fast and femaleAs always, I’m keen to promote events that empower women, and young women in particular. I love the work that Fast and Female does, and thus I thought I’d write about their upcoming 3 events.

These events will take place in Calgary, Montreal and my own hometown, Vancouver, for the 3rd Annual CBC Sports Day in Canada.

For its third year celebrating CBC’s Sports Day in Canada, Fast and Female will be running three events across the country. Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver invite participants to four events running concurrently in their cities from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on September 29th and will feature dancing, fitness stations, yoga and inspiration for women of all abilities between the ages of 8 to 88 years old.

The last two events were held successfully in Canmore and had 115 ladies in attendance. Now that Fast and Female is expanding nationally with their youth programming, they wanted to expand with this as well to Spread the Love! Dominate the World!

Still living on the high of the 2010 Olympics, Vancouver’s participants will have the opportunity to meet sailor and 2016 Olympic hopeful Isabella Bertold, triathlete Kristen Sweetland, and road cyclist Leah Kirchmann. The three Fast and Female ambassadors will be leading their activity at the Robert F. Osborne Centre at the University of British Columbia.

Founded in 2005, Fast and Female is a non-profit organization dedicated to the empowerment through sport of young women. By partnering with inspiring female Olympians, Fast and Female travels across North America to host camps for girls ages 9 to 19. Since its inception, Fast and Female has inspired girls involved in sports including cross-country skiing, biathlon, alpine skiing, cycling, and triathlon.

It is said that girls are six times more likely to drop out of sports than boys. Fast and Female aims to counter this phenomenon by leveraging the presence of inspiring female Olympians at all of its events.

“Most Fast and Female’s programming targets young women on their journey to athletic excellence,” said Marie-Hélène Thibeault, Executive Director for the program. “Keeping girls in sports offers many societal benefits and this is why CBC’s Sports Day in Canada is a great platform for our growing organization to reach a broader audience of moms and women as we strive to increase awareness for our programs as well as spread the values of wellness we cherish.”

All proceeds from the events will go directly towards supporting Fast and Female’s ambitious plans for 2013 including reaching more than 1,500 girls ages 9 to 19 all across Canada, the United States and Australia.

This 2012 Fast and Female Sports Day in Canada for Women event hopes to draw more than 150 lucky female fitness enthusiasts. In addition to featuring fun fitness activities, each venue will also offer silent auction items featuring many great products from local and national sponsors and donors.

Early bird registration for each event is $15 for youth and $35 for adults. All participants will receive a goody bag with product samples from Fast and Female’s partners. Participants can register by visiting their Eventbrite. More information can also be found on their website. Fast and Female would like to thank its national sponsors Best Buy Canada, Clarins, Cold-FX, Buff, Champion System, Karbon, SportChek, lululemon athletica, LUNA bars, and SAUCE Headwear.