Friday, May 15, 2009

Several Seemingly Unconnected Incidents

In December my Dive Computer broke – a bit fell off. Fortunately, it was still under guarantee so I sent it back to the manufacturers to be repaired. I have a spare computer (my old one), which is basic but still works, and I had a spare watch.

My spare watch broke within a week. Some water got inside it and it gave up and died. So I bought a new watch. Knowing I would only need it until my computer came back (my dive computer is also a watch), I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I was delighted to find a decent underwater watch for a very reasonable price.

Last month I had to go to Belize for a few days. On the way back I met a girl on the bus who told me her life story (this happens to me more often than you might think! I am someone to whom people tell their life stories. I don’t know why: I like to think I am a good listener; but I think mainly it’s because I’m nosey and ask a lot of questions). Her life story was both fascinating and disturbing, and I may well write a blog about it – but this is not it. She asked about my watch: she wanted to buy an underwater watch but couldn’t find one she could afford. She was very impressed with the price I paid for mine and asked me if I would go back to the shop to see if they had any more. If they did, she said, she would pay the money into my account and I could buy it and post it to her. These days you’re not supposed to give people your account details – even sweet Belizean girls who believe they are, and have been raised as, the reincarnated spirit of their dead Aunt. But we exchanged email addresses and I promised I would go and look.

In the following week she sent me a number of emails asking if I had had time to go to the shop, but I didn’t make it until a week later, only to discover that they had no more. I did intend to email her immediately to let her know – but to be honest, it slipped my mind. In the mean time my Dive Computer came back, shiney and intact, which was great.

The following weekend I attended an Ashtanga Workshop, which the teacher offered as a ‘Karma Class’, because it was his birthday. So the Workshop was free (and fantastic) – and at the end of the class, he reminded us all that we should try to pass on the karma by helping someone or giving something.

So later that afternoon when my Belizean friend contacted me on Messenger it seemed clear what I should do. I explained that I couldn’t buy her the watch, because there were no more, but that if she gave me her postal address I would send her mine as a gift.

She was quite surprised by this! So I explained about the Karma Class, and also that my Dive Computer was now fixed – so in fact, giving her this watch was a small thing.

I haven’t heard from her since.

So what do you think? Does she just not want a second-hand watch? Does she think I’m a weirdo and is reluctant to give me her postal address? Or was she a very credible Identity Fraudster and I have had a lucky escape?!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

From the Plague-zone: Bring out your dead!

Mexican newspapers are bloodthirsty. What they really love is a good car crash – some twisted, smoking metal with a bleeding, near-dead victim inside... Super! That will make the front page every time. Dead bodies are pretty good too – especially if there’s some guts. There was a big gang-shooting incident just after Christmas and the local Newspaper had five, executed corpses on the front page the next morning. Great.

I have a friend here who used to work as a Journalist in Mexico City and she told me that after an Earthquake that she covered, the Mexican Authorities had no qualms about inviting Journo’s into the hospital to shoot photos and video at the bedsides of victims. She also tells me she’s been allowed in Prisons and into numerous ‘high risk’ situations.

So this is why it seems very odd to me that after several weeks of being in the epicentre of the Global Flu Pandemic I have yet to see a picture of a victim. Who are these people? What were their names? If we can’t have pictures of them, then why not some of the families they left behind? If they were Mexican be assured they left an extensive family behind! Where are these people?

Playa del Carmen is a tourist town, the area was not very well populated before the tourism was developed so most of people who live here come from elsewhere in the country, and most of them come from Mexico City.

I know of no one, who knows of anyone who has had swine flu. Obviously Mexico City is a big place – but it’s odd that out of over a 1000 (allegedly) victims, all of whom have families, all of who have friends... that no one has met or heard of anyone who has it? Surely some one would know some one whose friend had an Aunt whose cousin’s boyfriend was sick?

I read an article recently, which said that three years ago the US Govt bought 1 billion Swine Flu vaccinations in preparation for the Avian Flu Pandemic. These Vaccines have a shelf life of three years. Gosh, what a spot of luck - how convenient.

So how is the Plague-zone? Well you know those towns in Spagetti Westerns with the tumbleweed drifting down the main street?

Nah! Don’t be silly, it’s not quite like that! But the streets are quiet.

Last week a few people were wearing masks. The staff in the Supermarkets still are, but no one else is bothering any more. Most people think the Pandemic has been fabricated or at least greatly exaggerated. So we’re all pretty relaxed about the health aspects.

The bad news is that most of the tourists have cancelled. The hotel where I work is down to 23% capacity at the moment and I have had 2 customers this week. Very few people get a salary. Like me, most people work for commission – so there’s gonna be some tumbleweed drifting through my next pay packet, I suspect. Two hotels in Cancun have already closed down. There are rumours that other places might too. The future is not bright. The foreign, transient workers, like me, can leave (and many are) - but for the Mexicans with mortgages and children to feed, this is a nightmare. It's not as if we were having a great season anyway - with all the economic woes in Europe and the US.

So if this was some little scheme to sell off all those unwanted vaccines - then I hope that someone in the Mexican Govt will get a new house out of this! Or perhaps the US Aid package to Mexico will be significantly increased this year? I hope that at least some of the 'Pay Off' goes to the Mexican people and not all of it into some Politicians’ pocket.

Mostly though, it's the Press who have created this situation. In a bid to sell a few more Newspapers, 1 case became 'over 100 suspected cases...' and each reported death becomes '200 suspected deaths...' I thought the Media was supposed to report the News, not attempt to create it.

So I hope when the Editors get their fat bonuses, they spare a thought for the people who will end up paying.