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On Sunday November 24th, Taste of Playa was held once again in the beautiful Parque Fundadores on the shores of the Mexican Caribbean. Now in its 5th year, Taste of Playa has grown to be one of the most anticipated events of the year, drawing visitors to the city of Playa del Carmen to sample the cuisine of 40 or more international chefs who have come to the Riviera Maya from all across the globe. All year, Playa del Carmen foodies look forward to this culinary festival hoping to try the very best signature dishes from the regions very best chefs.

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa

Taste of Playa

 

Taste of Playa 

 

Taste of Playa 

Once again, Taste of Playa did not disappoint! The park filled right up at 3pm with hungry visitors all anxious to sample their favorite dishes and find some new ones. Tables were well laid out and organized in several areas to offer people a place to sample all the dishes. The beautiful VIP area was completely transformed this year in vibrantly colors to comfortably accommodate the lucky VIP pass-holders.

Taste of Playa

Taste of Playa

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

There was a wide variety of cuisines represented: Thai, French, Alta Mexicana, Comida Corrida, Italian, Vegetarian, BBQ among many others. Guests could quench their thirst as numerous bar stations provided by iconic Playa watering holes like La Ranita, Tequila Barrel, Dirty Martini and Off the Vine. Whether you were looking for a cold cerveza, a fine wine or a good stiff martini, there was something for everyone!

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa

Taste of Playa

 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

As the day went on, the crowds even began to spill over into the neighboring beach area and children entertained themselves on the playground while their parents took a rest from the crowd and recharged their batteries. With its breathtaking location, nestled between 5th Avenue and the beach, Parque Fundadores provides the perfect environment with spectacular views over the ocean. This year we were treated to a magnificent sunset that got everyone's cameras snapping including mine.

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa 

Taste of Playa

Playa del Carmen Mexico

As always, the Taste of Playa Executive Committee, the participating bars and restaurants and the volunteers all are to be congratulated for a job well done. Having served on the committee, I know exactly how much time and efforts goes into putting on an event of this size and caliber year after year. As local business owners, we feel like we have a responsibility to support events that promote the Riviera Maya as a destination and raise funds to help those less fortunate in our community. We are proud to have our companies, BuyPlaya and FurnitureMEX associated with an event that so many people attend and enjoy.

 

Michele Kinnon
Michele Kinnon
and her husband Rob are the owners of BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors and FurnitureMEX, both based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Michele is a member of Rotary Club of Playa del Carmen Seaside and participated on the founding committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya's largest and longest running culinary festival. She also blogs, writes local interest articles and administrates the Riviera Maya Events Calendar. Michele and Rob have lived in Playa del Carmen with their two children since 2004. Follow her updates on Google+.

 

Since 2000, a group of kind-hearted residents of Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya has helped local non-profits connect with those who need a little extra attention during the Holiday season. In years past, this group has helped organize the collection and distribution of thousands of Christmas presents for disadvantaged and special needs students as well as much needed dispensas (essential non-perishable food items) for families and elders in impoverished outlying villages. Two years ago, the group has struck out on their own and created Christmas Dreams Playa

This year, one of the Christmas Dreams projects is to answer these "toy wish" letters which were written by school children from the impoverished village of Nuevo Noh-Bec, which is in a rural area outside of Playa del Carmen. This is the same village BuyPlaya is supporting with the "Kicks 4 Kids" Holiday Sneaker Drive. Read the letters and see how simple these wishes are --these kids are not asking for Ipads or Xboxes. In fact, they live in a community without electricity or running water and will be over the moon about a soccer ball or a baby doll.

Christmas Dreams PlayaThe average cost of each gift to be 25 usd per child -- this means with just 100 usd you could give gifts to 4 children. For many (if not all) of these kids, this will be the only gift they will receive all year. The goal is to provide a present for each of the 219 school children in the village.

You can view all of the letters here in the album on the Christmas Dreams Facebook page. If you would like to sponsor one of these kids, simply choose "your" child by commenting under their letter in the Facebook album. If you live in Playa del Carmen, please purchase the item requested. Toys can be dropped off at one of the locations to be announced later or you can send an email to christmasdreamsplaya@gmail.com and the Christmas Dreams volunteers will arrange to pick it up from you.

If you are not in Playa, you can still choose a child and then send your donation via PayPal to christmasdreamsplaya@gmail.com and the volunteers will do the shopping on your behalf. If you would simply like to make a donation to support this project, ANY contribution, no matter how big or small will be greatly appreciated.

These humble, lovely kids will be just thrilled to receive a gift at their Three Kings Day party (which will be held on January 7) all thanks to your love, compassion, and kindness. The "Kicks 4 Kids" sneakers will be delivered at the same time!

Thank you for helping Christmas Dreams Playa put big smiles on little faces. 

Christmas Dreams Playa del Carmen 

Christmas Dreams Playa del Carmen  Christmas Dreams Playa del Carmen

Christmas Dreams

These annual toy drives require an enormous commitment of time and superb organizational skills. Special thanks to Heather Andersen for her ongoing and tireless support of this project! If You would like to volunteer your time to this heart-warming project, please contact Gayle Collins at christmasdreamsplaya@gmail.com.

 

By Maribel Correa

The language barrier faced by the English-speaking residents of Playa del Carmen tends to create a gap in local political activism and understanding. It can be a struggle to integrate into the cultural and political ambiance without a strong grasp of the political and legal terminology in any given language. In this series of interviews with some of our newly elected local government officials, we attempt to bridge that gap by detailing the positions they hold within the municipal infrastructure of Solidaridad and by putting a face on these public servants.  


Our first interview is with Luis Ernesto López, the new Director of Culture for Solidaridad

Luis Ernesto LopezWhere are you originally from, and how long have you been in Playa del Carmen?

I'm originally from Mexico City, and in February I'll have been in Playa for 14 years.

What brought you to Playa?

I had a project in Mexico City: a music group that was on the rise but fell apart due to conflict of interest from two of its members. My personal way of moving forward from an emotional setback is replacement. If something I care about ends, I look for something else to distract my mind and get to work. I came to Playa del Carmen on a friend's invitation. Even though I didn't know much about the city back then, I still decided to come on a day's notice. I arrived with my bass, an amplifier and a thousand pesos.

What do you love most about the Riviera Maya?

The quality of life is definitely what I like the most. I believe it's something that attracts everyone: the ability to commute to work in 5 minutes, to get around town by bike, the cultural diversity, etc. It's a melting pot. There are no well-defined economic or cultural classes. It's a city made by dreamers; we're people that are always looking to move forward, so we have many possibilities for growth. There are also many possibilities and opportunities to contribute because Playa is a relatively new city.

What are your favorite hobbies outside of work?

That's a tough question to answer because my hobby has become my work! Another is music and being with my family, conversation, I love communication.

I'd like to know about your professional career. What did you study and what made you choose it?

Music came to me when I was 6 years old, through my dad. My dad is one of the most passionate musicians I've met. In reality he's not in the music business; he's a physical therapist, but he has a collection of instruments that he loves. It was my dad who really gave me that love of music. From that moment I realized that I wanted to be a musician... but as we grow up there's a certain ingredient that destroys childhood and turns us into a ruined adult: that ingredient is fear. All the fears that came to me were the classic comments like "You can't make a living off of music" or "Artists starve to death", etc.

When I got out of high school I went in search of a music school, but I found out the maximum entry age was 15 years old, and I was 18. And so I was very disappointed and that's when I began to study journalism. One day, a friend invited me to a party, and on the way there I ran into a very large music school that had no age requirement, and I was accepted. That was what changed my life. I studied music, specializing in the electric bass.

What was your first job?

Working at MixUp, a music and record store.

On Explayarte:

Explayarte is my baby. It was my way of thanking this school that opened its doors to me without conditions like age. With some sacrifices but with no suffering. I'm still a part of Explayarte, but no longer in the operations area because I have a spectacular business partner who is doing excellent work. The school helped me to see the cultural needs of Playa del Carmen. This project is a great opportunity to contribute something to the city. David Sánchez is the new General Director at Explayarte. The activities I do today as the Director of Culture aren't so different from what I do at the school. The only thing that has changed is the magnitude: now I'm at a city level.

AguamalaOn Aguamala:

Aguamala was my education as a musician; it has very talented people and musical geniuses. The demands of the group are what have helped me to grow as a musician, but at both Explayarte and Aguamala I have completed my cycle in the operations area. However, they will never leave my mind or my heart.

What are the challenges you have seen in developing your career in Playa del Carmen?

I think the most difficult part of developing anything is being consistent. There are always so many stumbling blocks in the road, needs and things that can make you stray from your path. I've fallen, but that has made me value what I have and always turns me back toward the path.

What suggestions would you give to someone who wants a career like yours?

Consistency, and to not limit your goals. Considering your dream to be a given is the only way to make it a reality.

How do you go from being a musician to working for the government?

I've always been a part of the cultural scene in Playa del Carmen, but everything came together with the play Les Miserables, when the Municipal President was in the audience. The next day, he contacted me and my business partner. The first thing he asked was if the actors in the play were from Playa del Carmen. When we said yes, he was pleasantly surprised and couldn't believe there was so much talent in the city.

And that's where it all began: first with consulting, and next we presented a project for cultural development in Playa. He read it and loved it.


Luis Ernesto LopezHow has your family helped you to reach where you are today?

My family has been my foundation. Moral support is more important that anything. It's the drive that always pushes you forward. My immediate family, my parents, my siblings and my significant other. Also my son, who is 13. He has always been my motivation to set a good example.


What do you think sets you apart from other politicians?

Everyone has their own personality and goals. I don't think there's something that sets me apart from the rest.

What are your short term goals with your new position?

First I want to find out all the existing plans and try to improve them. I want to make the direction of culture a magnet for big players in Playa del Carmen's art and culture scene. Our project is called Ciudad de Artistas (City of Artists), focusing on what we can all do as artists regardless of our profession or job. We need to remind the population that it has a goal and a purpose in the evolution of society. Supporting our artists, getting their names out there and making them a source of pride for Playenses. We need to promote all of our artistic heritage to make it an outstanding example, stimulating art so that society's emotional intelligence can grow.

How will you achieve these goals?

First I need to get to know my team and explore their strengths. Listen to each of them. That's what we're here for. We're public servants. There will be an image change. We'll work on getting word out through all media so the people can see the fun and quality that's out there. Let everyone know their options and make it attractive for everybody.

How do you think these changes will affect Playa del Carmen society?

What interests me most is emotional health; that's where everything else begins. I would also like Playa del Carmen to appear on the list of the happiest cities in the world.

If you could choose again, what career path would you choose?

The same one. It's a question I've never asked myself because I love what I do.

How would you like to see Playa del Carmen in 5 years?

The Cultural Center full! More art schools. Society more involved with culture. Positive evolution in society's development at the same level as the city's commercial development. This project belongs to all of us, but there are so few of us compared to the total population. We need to spread the philosophy of emotional growth throughout the population, grow as a healthy society... we all create change. We want to be given the opportunity to approach you all and see that these changes can be made.


Maribel Correa BuyPlaya
Maribel Correa, originally from Torreón, northern Mexico, came to Playa del Carmen 6 years ago to learn more about hotel administration. She speaks 3 languages: English, French and Spanish. Maribel loves culture and art, and she's passionate about traveling and learning more about local culture. Maribel works for BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors.

Arielle Newman, the owner of Yoga by the Sea is teaming up with best selling wellness author Sedena Cappannelli for a week-long yoga-wellness retreat.

The retreat is planned for Jan. 25 - 31 2014. Guests will be have accommodations in a luxurious private beachfront villa in Playa del Carmen.

Of course, there will be yoga but participants will also enjoy cooking classes, a trip to Tulum and empowering techniques to reinvigorate their life. All activities, lodging and food are included in the price.

Arielle has extended the Early Bird Rate just till Nov. 28th which is $1900 USD per person double occupancy.

***For anyone who books now and mentions my blog post, Arielle has agreed to donate 100 USD to the local Riviera Maya charity of your choice!****

To reserve, contact arielle@morethanyoga.com.

Yoga Retreat Playa del Carmen

 

On Wednesday evening, Taste of Playa celebrated its 5th anniversary with a spectacular wine and food pairing event hosted by La Casa del Agua. Of course, Rob and I were first in line for reservations! Hans and his staff did an amazing job. The food was excellent, the wines thoughtfully paired and the service was outstanding. The menu included a salad of Melon and Goat Cheese, Seabass in Romescu Sauce, a slow roasted Portabello Confit, sauteed Squid filled with Pancetta Mousse, Beer Marinated Short Ribs and finally a Triple Chocolate Cake. All six courses were timed perfectly, the food was served at the right temperature and the wines were poured on time.... no easy feat with a group of 50 discerning, well-traveled and in this case rowdy foodies. Everyone was there to have a good time and ramp up the excitement for the big event which takes place in just a few short hours.

TASTE OF PLAYA 2013

Taste of Playa 2013 

Taste of Paya 2013

La Casa del Agua 

Taste of Playa 2013 

Taste of Playa 

La Casa del Agua 

Rob and I are both so proud to be sponsors for this amazing community event. We can argue the monetary "ROI" of our sponsorship dollars all day long. In the end, the real reward is knowing that we are contributing to an event that helps to support and promote this beautiful region that we call home and the many local business owners we call friends. I was honored to sit on the committee for the first 2 years and I am equally honored to be a corporate sponsor. Kudos to the Executive Committee for all their hard work and dedication to keep Taste of Playa going and growing every year.

Taste of Playa 2013

Photos courtesy of Kat Carroll of Cat Eye Creations.

It's hard to believe until you see it for yourself but if you drive a few kilometers in any direction from the center of Playa del Carmen you will find tiny pueblos tucked away in the jungle with families eking out a meager existence and living without even the most basic services. Nuevo Noh Bec is one of these remote communities. Noh Bec is located on the NW side of Playa del Carmen...beyond Guadalupana, beyond Pueblo Sac Be...down a horrible road that you can't believe would lead to anywhere. A few weeks ago, I learned about this settlement from fellow Rotarian and KKiS organizer Gayle Collins who described the living conditions and the needs of its 1500 residents. I had seen some photos on the KKiS Project website but really wanted to see it for myself.

Nuevo Noh Bec Project 

Nuevo Noh Bec

nuevo Noh Bec Project

Nuevo Noh Bec 

Kicks 4 Kids Playa del Carmen

Nuevo Noh Bec Project 

On Monday, I took the long trip out to the village with Gayle Collins and Janet Lowe from The KKIS Project. They were scheduled to deliver school supplies to the secundaria classroom and distribute the lists for this year's Christmas Dreams toy drive. We were accompanied by my friend Cesar Lagunas Garcia of El Fundador 8m and a kind gentleman named Aniceto who helped with translation and prepared us a fantastic breakfast. Hipolito, the principal of the school, greeted us and introduced us to the students in his secundaria classroom. He spoke to the students about the KKiS Project, Christmas Dreams and finally our own Kicks 4 Kids Holiday Sneaker Drive. The kids were all very sweet and graciously accepted the donated school materials. We all got our photo taken together and stood witness as a visiting mission priest blessed, the classroom, the students and all of us. 

KKiS Nuevo Noh Bec

KKiS Nuevo Noh Bec 

Kicks 4 Kids Playa del Carmen

Kicks 4 Kids

Nuevo Noh Bec

Kicks 4 Kids 

The residents have slowly carved a small town out of the jungle over the past 5 years. There are a few concrete block structures in the village. Most are made with recycled materials, palettes, plywood, tar paper, old windows...whatever can be found or salvaged. Many of the structures are incomplete, abandoned left to fall into ruin. Water is obtained from hand pumps which are scattered throughout the settlement. A few families have been able to drill their own. There is no indoor plumbing. On a piece of borrowed land in what can be considered the town center, the parents have built classrooms for students. Some are open air, a few are almost fully enclosed, others are getting knee-walls to keep out snakes, insects and rodents. The buildings lack basic services like running water and electricity however the parents are proud of what they have accomplished and seem to enjoy the life they have made for themselves. Now a permanent home for a school has been donated and fundraising has begun to build a proper school for the village's 400 kinder, primary and secondary students.

Kicks 4 Kids

Kicks 4 Kids

Kicks 4 Kids Playa del Carmen 

Nuevo Noh Bec

Kicks 4 Kids

Kicks 4 Kids 

With no textbooks or teaching materials, teachers write all information and instructions on white boards. The students are expected to copy everything into their notebooks. The new municipal government has recently provided the classrooms with whiteboards to work on and KKiS is going to be able to to help them with school supplies, but the need goes so much further. There is no health care for this community of 1500 people. Should a health issue arise, no matter how serious, the closest medical care is located 9km away, down a very badly pot-holed road. It was an uncomfortable 30 minute trip in my car. A few of the mothers confirmed that their primary health concern for their children is snake bite, insect stings and other puncture wounds which, in this climate and without access to medical supplies, often infect. I told them about our Kicks 4 Kids sneaker drive and their faces lit right up!

Nuevo Noh Bec 

Kicks 4 Kids Playa del Carmen 

From there, Hipolito took us to see the piece of land that the new school is to be built on. It is about a 10 minute walk from the center of town but accessible. The land is very rough and heavy machinery will need to be brought in to clear and grade the land before anything can be planned or constructed. Municipal President Mauricio Gongora and his wife have visited the village and committed to assist in the building of the new school. Without support from the government, this project would not be possible but it will still require a lot of work from the parents and help from charitable groups.

To finish our morning, Aniceto invited us to the home of a friend where we were treated to a fantastic breakfast. We had pan fried tostadas with eggs and beans topped with a tomato sauce with peas and hot habanero salsa all cooked over a wood fire. We were joined by a group of young missionaries who had been sent to work in the village. It was delicious and a nice time to sit and reflect on our visit.

Nuevo Noh Bec Project 

Nuevo Noh Bec Project 

Nuevo Noh Bec Project

Kicks 4 Kids Playa del Carmen 

Nuevo Noh Bec 

Cesar Lagunas Garcia 

Nuevo Noh Bec Project

Kicks 4 Kids

This is just one of many tiny pueblos that have sprung up in response to the explosive growth that Playa del Carmen has experienced over the past 15 years. The people who live in these settlements are here because of the tourism boom and the need for labor to support an industry they will never have the chance to enjoy. As business owners in Playa del Carmen who have found great success in this region, Rob and I feel compelled to give back to the community and help those less fortunate than us. The needs of Nuevo Noh Bec, Cristo Rey and communities like them are many. If we all pitch in and help in whatever way we can, the lives of these disadvantaged residents can be made exponentially better. KKiS will bring school supplies and classroom support. Christmas Dreams will make their holidays a bit brighter with presents for Three Kings Day. Rob and I will help put shoes on their feet. What can you do?

 

Michele Kinnon
Michele Kinnon
and her husband Rob are the owners of BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors and FurnitureMEX, both based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Michele is a member of Rotary Club of Playa del Carmen Seaside and participated on the founding committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya's largest and longest running culinary festival. She also blogs, writes local interest articles and administrates the Riviera Maya Events Calendar. Michele and Rob have lived in Playa del Carmen with their two children since 2004. Follow her updates on Google+.

 

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching. This is the time, every year that we reflect on everything that we have that is good and the people we love and express a special appreciation for the joy in each of our lives. It is also the time when we start to look ahead to the Holiday gift-giving season and perhaps take pause to think of those less fortunate than ourselves.

Recently, Gayle Collins from KKiS - Keeping Kids in School made us aware of a local community in need of support. The village is called Nuevo Noh Bec and it is located in the far northwest quadrant of Playa del Carmen, about 9 kilometers into the jungle. The only road into Nuevo Noh Bec is rough, requiring a 4-wheel drive vehicle to make the trip. As you can imagine many of the residents will never leave the village. There is no health care available meaning most ailments go untreated and emergency situations become grave more often than not.

Nuevo Noh BecIt was surprising to learn that the #1 health issue in the village is snakebite. Many of the homes and all of the classrooms are open air or enclosed only by sticks, which allow the air to circulate through but do nothing to prevent snakes and other undesirable jungle residents from entering. Because the children do not leave the village many of them simply do not have shoes. The shoes they do have are simple plastic flip-flops or "chanclas" which provide no support or protection from sharp stones, stinging insects and snakes. It seems like such a simple thing, to buy shoes to prevent snakebites and other injuries but in a town with no resources and virtually no access to conveniences like shoe stores or even grocery stores, this is not possible.

The good news is assistance is coming! Caring people in the Playa community like Gayle Collins and Russell Granger with The Amigos Network are slowly but surely getting the word out about Nuevo Noh Bec and similar communities in need and putting them in front of individuals, business leaders and charitable organizations who can and want to help. KKiS is working to bring much needed school supplies to the children of the village and the Amigos Network is finding sponsors to build "knee-walls" to partially enclose the classrooms and collecting medicines and first aid supplies so that basic medical needs can be met in the village.

For our part, Rob and I are starting a holiday giving initiative we are calling "Kicks 4 Kids". Our mission is to provide shoes for all the children in Nuevo Noh Bec...specifically sneakers which provide adequate support for growing feet as well as protection from snake bites and other potentially dangerous puncture wounds. Some of the children are walking up to a kilometer to school everyday without proper shoes. Imagine trying to run and play a game of futbol (soccer) in bare feet or thin, flimsy flip-flops. Our goal is to collect 400 pairs of new or gently worn sneakers to deliver to the children of Nuevo Noh Bec before Christmas. Of course, shoes for growing children are an ongoing need and the collection will continue to run throughout the year with deliveries to the village every few months. We hope to make a big shipment every year just before Christmas.

Kicks 4 Kids Playa del Carmen 

How can you help? This is a simple one! If you are coming to the Riviera Maya, bring along a pair of new or gently worn sneakers and leave them in one of The Amigo Network's three convenient drop-off locations. It seems to me my children are growing out of their sneakers long before they have outlived their usefulness. Maybe you have the same situation in your household. Maybe you have a Target, Walmart or Payless Shoe Store near you running fantastic holiday sales with sneakers at bargain prices.

The shoes sizes needed are US Toddler 3 - Youth/Adult 7 and MX Child 12 - 25, Adult 4 - 7. Please consider tucking a pair or two into your luggage when you come to the Riviera Maya this holiday season and dropping them off at one of the following Amigos Network partners.

Wah Wah Beach Bar - Calle 2 on the Beach

Glamour Salon - Under the Mega Supermarket, Av. 30 & Constituyentes

The Bric Hotel - Calle 28 between Av. 5 & Av. 10

It seems like such a simple thing but you can't imagine what a new pair of sneakers will mean to these children who have so little.  Special thanks to Kim and J.J. Johnson at Wah Wah, Kristin and Marcus Roehmer at the Bric Hotel and Rosa Gonzalez at Glamour Salon for their support and assistance with this project. For more information, contact me at Michele@BuyPlaya.com . For more information about The Amigos Network and their projects, follow them on Facebook.

 

Michele Kinnon
Michele Kinnon
and her husband Rob are the owners of BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors and FurnitureMEX, both based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Michele is a member of Rotary Club of Playa del Carmen Seaside and participated on the founding committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya's largest and longest running culinary festival. She also blogs, writes local interest articles and administrates the Riviera Maya Events Calendar. Michele and Rob have lived in Playa del Carmen with their two children since 2004. Follow her updates on Google+.

 

Continue your studies with accreditation in Playa del Carmen! All Distance Education, Independent Study, Online Learning Programs, and Home School Programs are welcomed.

Schools in Playa del CarmenPlaya Distance Education was created by the need to build a community for online and alternative education for students in Playa. Our goal is to provide a learning experience and classroom environment for students who are completing, or interested in completing, accredited distance education, online, or home school programs in English. Playa Distance Learning serves students from Grades 4-12, and host programs from the US, Canada, England, Australia, and France.  Students are managed by a full time teacher, Monday-Friday, and special attention is given to both students’ academic and social needs.

Students work on four major subject areas from their programs, as well as daily enrichment activities, like journals, novel study, and Spanish language and culture class. Students have an opportunity for individualized instruction from an experienced, certified bilingual teacher, as well as socialization with students from different backgrounds and countries, who share the experience of being new to Playa del Carmen.

The program is hosted at the family community center El Arbol, a unique sustainable campus located just inside the south entrance of Playacar Phase 2, behind Hospiten. Lunch and recreation occur outdoors daily, and field trips are planned bi-monthly.
 
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, skills for the 21st century surround virtual learning. These include:

  • Global Awareness
  • Self-directed Learning
  • Technology Literacy
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Time Management
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Information and Communication

 
Schools in Playa del CarmenDistance and online education programs facilitate the opportunity for students to build skills for the 21st century. In addition, these programs are up to date, efficient, independent, flexible, as well as economical, and sometimes free, as more US states are providing online public education. Families with stateside addresses can qualify for tuition free online schooling, if their state participates.

Playa Distance Learning provides a place for families, who are new, transient, or considering moving to the area, to continue their accredited studies from their home country, while living in Playa del Carmen. The program can also serve students who are struggling in a bilingual program and may benefit from studying in one language, English, and learning Spanish as a foreign language. We enrich online schooling and distance education programs, and provide a solution for the educational needs of the individual student.

Objectives of Playa Distance Learning include:

  • Build a community for online and alternative education students and their families in Playa.
  • Increase social participation for students working on individual educational programs or online programs.
  • Provide a classroom environment, managed by a full time teacher working in a small group setting.
  • Facilitate Spanish foreign language classes, fitness and recreational activities, and field trips for integration.
  • Offer a place for families and students, who are new or considering moving to the area, to continue their accredited studies from their home country while living in Playa.

Education in Playa del CarmenBring us your selected educational program, Grades 4-12, to be managed and supported by a full time teacher in a classroom environment, providing curriculum enrichment.

Schedule:
Monday-Friday 9:00 am-2:30 pm
Location:
El Arbol Playacar
Playacar Phase 2
Inscription Fee: $500 MN
Cost: $3,500 MN monthly per student
Sibling discount: $3,000 MN monthly per student

Note: Enrollment, registration, and fees associated with a selected home school program is the responsibility of the family. Educational Programs are accredited by the USA, Canada, or the country of origin of the program. Enrollment does not offer official Mexican accreditation. An inscription fee is required for enrollment, and monthly tuition is due the first of the month.

Enjoy the benefits of a customized learning program in Playa del Carmen!

Alicia Meno, Director
www.crecerjuntosmex.com
info@crecerjuntosmex.com
984 745 0250

The Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia; SNDIF or just DIF, is a Mexican public institution of social assistance that focuses on strengthening and developing the welfare of Mexican families. The Mexican president credited with the formation of DIF is President José López Portillo y Pacheco who was president from 1976 to 1982. His wife, Carmen Romano Nolk de Portillo, took a leading roll in the development of DIF and became its first National Director. Since that time and following her lead, the National Director of DIF has traditionally been the First Lady of Mexico. Local chapters of the DIF report to municipal presidents and governors and traditionally their spouses head up the local chapters. The mission of DIF is to improve the situation of vulnerable children, youth, seniors and persons with disabilities by driving public policies and administrating projects that promote social welfare and family integration.

DIF Playa del Carmen 

On Monday, I had an opportunity to visit DIF Playa del Carmen, tour the facilities, learn about their programs and discuss ways in which the Playa expat community can contribute to projects and initiatives in the community. I joined Russell Granger accompanied by his assistant/translator Roberto, Gayle Collins and Heather Anderson to meet with Isabel Lara, Director of Therapies at the Centro de Rehabilitación Municipal de Solidaridad (CRIM) a division of DIF. Inaugurated in 2011 under Municipal President Román Quian Alcocer, the CRIM center was created to fill the unique and varied needs of Playa del Carmen residents with disabilities of all kinds, physical, emotional and developmental. DIF works with people at all economic levels and carefully determines what people are able to pay, works with seguro popular and IMSS and helps them to get affordable or even free assistance.DIF also manages a number of social programs for the elderly, children and families.

DIF Playa del Carmen 

Recently, Playa del Carmen Rotary Club Seaside, donated a much needed boiler to the physical therapy unit to feed two hydro-therapy units which had previously stood unused for lack of hot water. With the municipal coffers virtually empty until "predials" come due at the end of this year, DIF and other governmental agencies are woefully underfunded. These units assist in therapies of adults and children recovering from injuries or suffering from physical disabilities such as muscular dystrophy. It was great to see them up and running and the staff was visibly grateful for the donation. We visited the physical therapy studio which houses the hydro-therapy units as well as the rooms set up for occupational therapy and visual brain stimulation.

DIF Playa del Carmen DIF Playa del Carmen

CRIM Playa del Carmen

CRIM Playa del Carmen
Very trippy.

The next stop on our tour was to the Centro de Órtesis y Prótesis, a simple workshop which houses the only prosthetic limb fabrication center on the Riviera Maya. This small operation provides ALL of the prosthesis and anatomic braces for patients from Felipe Carillo Puerto all the way to Puerto Morelos. Raul, a modern day Geppetto, creates each piece by hand, each carefully fitted to match its new owner perfectly. Raul also provides temporary prosthetic limbs for patients to use in physical and occupational therapy sessions to prepare themselves better for life with the finished limb. While patients are required to pay for their prosthetic piece, a range of materials is available from the very high-tech to the very basic, and the labor is free. Raul then makes contact with the vendors, orders and takes delivery of the materials and constructs the piece. Raul took us through the process from beginning to end. He showed us a prosthetic leg that he was putting the final touches on an explained that this limb, which cost its owner 15,000 pesos, would cost upwards of 15,000 USD in the United States. He admitted that he has done custom pieces for people from the US and Canada who could otherwise not afford them. 

 



Lupita....

Our final stop was a sit-down with Luis Miguel Campos, Director of Operations for DIF. Russell on behalf of his Amigos Network and Gayle representing The KKiS Project and Christmas Dreams both wanted to familiarize Luis Miguel with their projects in the community and asked for the organizations support and guidance in finding areas of great need in Solidaridad. Russell has already been instrumental in connecting DIF with local community groups and helped orchestrate the donation of the hot water heater from the Seaside Rotary Club. Gayle was able to confirm the needs of a remote community called Nuevo Noh Bec and arranged for our group to visit the community together with Luis Miguel. We also introduced the Christmas Dreams project and got the thumbs up to support the children Nuevo Noh Bec this year. Luis Miguel is taking on the task of finding 200 elders in need to receive blanket and dispensas. One of our main concerns is that we might be targeting groups or communities who have already received assistance. With the help of DIF, we can be sure that our efforts are going to those who are truly needy. Luis Miguel is on the same page and it looks like a nice partnership with DIF is being formed.

DIF Playa del Carmen 

So far, without exception, everyone we have met at DIF has been welcoming and excited to work together with The Amigos Network, KKiS, Christmas Dreams, the Seaside Rotary Club and other local community groups. There is a lot of need in Solidaridad and limited funds to help everyone. Working together we can improve the lives of many more Playense.

 

Michele Kinnon
Michele Kinnon
and her husband Rob are the owners of BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors and FurnitureMEX, both based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Michele is a member of Rotary Club of Playa del Carmen Seaside and participated on the founding committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya's largest and longest running culinary festival. She also blogs, writes local interest articles and administrates the Riviera Maya Events Calendar. Michele and Rob have lived in Playa del Carmen with their two children since 2004. Follow her updates on Google+.

 

On Monday, after many weeks of protests and a walkout that shuttered schools all across the country, Mexico's public school teachers returned to work and children were welcomed back to their classrooms. Teachers have been on strike since the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year in an effort to reverse President Peña Nieto's sweeping education reforms, which would institute mandatory teacher evaluations and reduce union discretion in the hiring process. This would be a shock to an antiquated educational system in which some teachers simply inherit their jobs from their parents.

In a nutshell, the President's education reform is comprised of three new laws: the General Education Law, the National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INEE) Law and the Professional Teaching Service Law.

Mexico Education Reform Bill
Photo courtesy of banderasnews.com

The national education reform bill is seen as Peña Nieto's first major legislative victory since taking office. The new constitutional amendment effectively eliminates Mexico's decades-old practice of allowing the buying and selling of teaching jobs, and replaces it with a standardized national teaching test.

Beginning in July 2014, competitive exams will be administered for admission to elementary, middle school and high school teaching positions. Within the next three months, a calendar for job "auditions" and the evaluation processes will be issued.

Peña Nieto's new standardized system of test-based hiring and promotion is expected to give the government the teeth to break teachers unions' overwhelming control of school staffing and teacher placement. That control includes the corrupt sale and inheritance of teaching jobs, and has been widely blamed for much of the poor performance of Mexican schools, which rank the lowest among all the countries in the 34-member Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

With these education reforms now passed into law, the teachers say they are simply trying to protect their rights and privileges as the government puts the changes into effect and reduces union control over teacher hiring and assignment. Strikes, protests and blockades disrupted daily life and commerce all across the country especially in urban capitals like Mexico DF. The main strength of this union is its tremendous ability to activate and mobilize supporters country-wide, to close schools and make life inconvenient in Mexico's economic, political and cultural centers.

The Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación(CNTE), the smaller of the country's two main teachers unions fears the new law will be used to fire or otherwise discipline teachers and permit the state to hire new teachers with less seniority, allowing the government to pay lower salaries.

Mexico Teachers Strike
Photo courtesy of popularresistance.org

CNTE, has about 250,000 members, most of them in Mexico's poor southern states. The CNTE was formed in 1979 as a movement to fight for labor democracy in the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), which was dominated by powerful union bosses who aligned themselves with Mexico's long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The principal goal of CNTE, supporters say, is to protect members' jobs, many of which are handed down generation to generation or sold outright. Critics maintain that CNTE has turned into nothing more than an extortion machine using enormous protests as a way of wresting money and privileges from terrified state governments.

CNTE and its supporters argue that the problems in Mexico's educational system are primarily due to decades of massive government underfunding. Their claim is that evaluating teachers will not reverse inequality or stimulate social mobility, particularly in the poorer states like Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero, where resources are scarce and teachers would suffer most heavily from the proposed reforms. Furthermore, the new regulations fail to differentiate between professionalization and teaching evaluation. The CNTE argues that a standardized test is an unfair evaluation a teacher's entire career, and suggests that parents and student evaluations and other factors should be taken into consideration. The Peña Nieto administration counters that teachers will have multiple chances to pass the test, and says failing teachers won't be fired, but re-assigned to positions outside the classroom. The bill implies that teachers who refuse to comply with the evaluation procedures will be terminated.

It is important to note that the larger teachers union, the 1.4-million strong Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), popularly thought to be in bed with the PRI party, has publicly supported Peña Nieto's reform bill.

 

Michele Kinnon
Michele Kinnon
and her husband Rob are the owners of BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors and FurnitureMEX, both based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Michele is a member of Rotary Club of Playa del Carmen Seaside and participated on the founding committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya's largest and longest running culinary festival. She also blogs, writes local interest articles and administrates the Riviera Maya Events Calendar. Michele and Rob have lived in Playa del Carmen with their two children since 2004. Follow her updates on Google+.

 

The Mexico Teachers Strike comes to a close, peacefully in Solidaridad!

Playa del Carmen - November 11, 2013 - "Today is a good day for our boys and girls, our commitment is to continue providing quality education, but above all, we have to preserve the rights in our town for the benefit of the residents "said Municipal President of Solidaridad Mauricio Gongora Escalante, referring to the agreement between the teachers' union and the state government that resulted in a return to school without incident in all educational institutions of the municipality and the state.

Teachers' Srike Ends 

Gongora acknowledged that the willingness of teachers, who through the magisterial commission and the state government led by Governor Roberto Borge arrived at agreements through dialogue and consultation, the fundamental way to build bridges that allow the school year to be recouped and move forward.

He celebrated as well the agreement to create an inter-agency committee to meet and review all legal action arising from teachers' movement, which in the future will address any discrepancy through dialogue without interrupting classes or taking actions that harm others.

"Education is a fundamental right of our children to encourage their development, is a basic tool to teach values​​, skills and knowledge, so this return to school reflects the willingness of the authorities and teachers to improve the educational level of students. "said the Mayor .

The Mayor also said that the administration, headed by the board of education and libraries, is contributing to monitoring schools to ensure that the return to school is carried out smoothly.

"My government is committed to supporting young students. I have confidence that all children of Solidaridad can make the municipality, the state and the country a better place to live." noted the Mayor.

He noted that following the policy of the Quintana Roo Governor Roberto Borge to solidify a higher quality education to students. the government of Solidaridad is working on the structure of projects which will be carried out starting next year, for the benefit of students.

"I instructed the members of the board of youth, to perform the necessary work and beginning next year, we will institute the " Allied Scholarship " which will bring benefits to all qualified students who stand out for academic excellence and also support to those who excel in sports and cultural activities." said Gongora.

He also mentioned that the two public libraries are now operating at one hundred percent to support to those who require them, and he reiterated his commitment to provide all educational institutions with a sports dome so that students can take classes in open space without being exposed to inclement weather.

 

Source: El Fundador 8m

Today, I had the pleasure of visiting the new organic/farmers' market organized in Coco Beach inside the Les Alizes Condominium complex. Located just of of CTM, the mercado is a lovely option for the many residents and visitors to Playa's ever-growing north end and those of us who will travel far and wide for good, locally made, healthy food. Vicki and Scott Lyall of Les Alizes Condominiums, who were instrumental in bringing this market to the north end, were also on hand to great newcomers and direct traffic as people arrived for the first time. There was quite a bit of buzz on the inter-webs about this new option for healthy home made products and over 50 curious and hungry customers showed up as well as representatives from the local press! Vendor coordinator and Baker Anja Schafer got some time in the spotlight and a chance to really get the word out about the new market, its mission and the kinds of products that people can expect to find there.

The Coco Beach Market is just gaining momentum with 6 vendors committed at this time. Anja is hoping to find organic produce growers to join the ranks and offer local, organic fruits, veggies, herbs, leafy greens and even mushrooms on a consistent basis. Today, shoppers found a very nice variety of healthy homemade treats including a variety of gluten free and vegan baked goods and pizza, Argentinean empanadas with chimichurri, organic granola, organic eggs, homemade quiches and savory tarts, a variety of sprouts and potted herbs and other plants among many other things! I'll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. I promise they will leave you hungry!

Healthy Playa  

Healthy Eating Playa

Healthy Eating Playa del Carmen 

Healthy Eating Playa del Carmen

Farmers Market Playa del Carmen 

Organic Playa del Carmen 

Organic Playa del Carmen 

Organic Playa del Carmen 

Organic Market Playa del Carmen 

Healthy Living Playa del Carmen 

Farmers Market Playa del Carmen 

Healthy Playa

Organic Market Playa del Carmen 

Healthy Playa

Organic Food Playa del Carmen 

Healthy Food Playa del Carmen 

Farmer's Market Playa

Organic Food Playa del Carmen

Organic Food Playa del Carmen 

Playa Farmer's Market  

Organic Market Playa del Carmen

Healthy Living Playa del Carmen 

Organic Market Playa del Carmen

Healthy Lifestyle Playa del Carmen 

Healthy Playa Living 

Farmer's Market Playa del Carmen 

Healthy Living Playa 

Organic Produce Playa del Carmen

Organic Produce Playa del Carmen

Coco Beach Market

Coco Beach Market 

Organic Market  

Playa del Carmen Farmer's Market 

Coco Beach Market 

Coco Beach Market 

Healthy Playa 

Coco Beach Market

Coco Beach Market

 

 

Throughout the past week, Dia de los Muertos and Hanal Pixan have been celebrated all over Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya with altars and other representations set up in various locations. Schools, stores and businesses all set up their own ofrendas. An exhibition of Hanal Pixan altars was erected by members of the Maya community downtown under the DIF palapa. Organized by a cultural group, the Playa del Carmen community was invited to help set up a large altar on 5 Ave. set against a backdrop of paintings from famous local artist Jaime Fiero Duran.

One of the more whimsical expositions is the "Calaveras de Paseo" on display in the Centro Maya Mall. Calavera is a Spanish word meaning skull, and can refer to a number of cultural phenomena associated with the Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead and the Roman Catholic holiday, All Souls Day. It can refer to any artistic representations of skulls or poems that are written for the Day of the Dead but intended to humorously criticize the living. For the past few years, cultural and civic groups, local businesses and other organizations have decorated giant "calaveras" which are then set up for display in the corridors of the mall. This year, the skulls are all gathered in the circular formation at the east end of the mall, near Italianis Restaurant. The colorful calaveras will be on display for the rest of the week at least. Stop by and see them!

Exhibition Calaveras 

Playa del Carmen Festivals

Calaveras Dia de los Muertos 

Calaveras Centro Maya

Playa del Carmen Festivals 

Day of the Dead Playa del Carmen 

Dia de los Muertos Playa 

Playa del Carmen Calaveras 

Halloween in Plya del Carmen 

Playa del Carmen Halloween 

 

Calaveras in Playa del Carmen 

Calaveras for Day of the Dead 

 

Michele Kinnon
Michele Kinnon
and her husband Rob are the owners of BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors and FurnitureMEX, both based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Michele is a member of Rotary Club of Playa del Carmen Seaside and participated on the founding committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya's largest and longest running culinary festival. She also blogs, writes local interest articles and administrates the Riviera Maya Events Calendar. Michele and Rob have lived in Playa del Carmen with their two children since 2004. Follow her updates on Google+.

 

In celebration of Taste of Playa's 5th anniversary event, The Taste of Playa Executive Committee names the month of November ‘Taste of Playa Month.'

Taste of Playa 2013

Just shy of three (3) weeks, the main event will take place on November 24, 2013 at Parque Fundadores in Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya from 3:00 PM to 9:00 PM. The event is open to the public and boasts forty (40) participants, consisting of restaurants, bars and caterers.  The day-long festival celebrates the creativity and cultural influences of Chefs throughout the Riviera Maya, all of who have helped make this destination one of the top travel spots in the world.  For a list of this year's participants please visit http://www.tasteofplaya.com/restaurants/2013.html

Taste of Playa 2013Taste of Playa is excited to announce two (2) additional pre-event celebrations to jump-start their 5th Year Anniversary. Taste of Playa invites everyone to attend the "Taste of Playa Kick-off Beach Party," which will take place on Saturday, November 16 from 3:00 PM - 7:00 PM at Wah Wah Beach Bar, located at 2nd Street and the beach. For only $500 pesos, this event includes open bar (National drinks) and snacks, plus live music performances.  Tickets are available for purchase on the day of the event or online at http://www.tasteofplaya.com/ticket-sales.html. Tickets purchased online for this event automatically enter guests to win two (2) VIP Passes for the day of the event.

Taste of Playa will also host a second pre-event, the ‘Taste of Playa 5th Anniversary Food Tasting and Wine Pairing Dinner', to be celebrated on November 20 at 8:00 pm at La Casa del Agua on 2nd Street and 5th Avenue. There are only 75 seats available for this exclusive dinner. Reservations can be made on line http://www.tasteofplaya.com/ticket-sales.html or via email: info@tasteofplaya.com. Space is limited and will sell out fast.

Last but not least, Taste of Playa is proud to announce the first "Taste of Playa 2013" cookbook, featuring more than 85 recipes submitted by many of the 2012 Taste of Playa restaurant, bar and catering participants.

 

This week, KKiS - Keeping Kids in School started up their regular in-class English reading and mentoring program at the Pelopidas School in Guadalupana. This year, volunteers will be in the 4th and 5th grade classrooms every Wednesday at 1:00 pm. Organizer Gayle Collins provides the curriculum and course materials needed each week based on what the children are already studying. In each classroom, there will be 6 volunteers working with small groups of students. For now, 12 volunteers are needed weekly. No Spanish skills are required. Just bring your smile and a sense of having fun with the kids. Also, please bring a bottle of water for yourself and dress appropriately for the classroom.

KKiS Playa del Carmen

This year, KKiS be using a new website designed to facilitate volunteer signups. Volunteers will receive a weekly email to respond to to sign up and indicate if you can drive. The website will then send a reminder out a few days before. Past volunteers and KKiS supporters should already be on the distribution list. If you would like to participate, send your contact information to Volunteer Coordinator Marge Tancre at gypsygringa1[at]gmail.com. You can unsubscribe at anytime to stop receiving notifications and reminders.

You can also keep updated with KKiS projects on their Facebook page and on their new website.

A list of drivers and pick up spots for the carpool will need to be established as the weeks go on. If you are able to drive, please let Gayle or Marge know.

Keeping Kids in Schools

Michele Kinnon
Michele Kinnon
and her husband Rob are the owners of BuyPlaya Real Estate Advisors and FurnitureMEX, both based in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Michele is a member of Rotary Club of Playa del Carmen Seaside and participated on the founding committee for Taste of Playa, the Riviera Maya's largest and longest running culinary festival. She also blogs, writes local interest articles and administrates the Riviera Maya Events Calendar. Michele and Rob have lived in Playa del Carmen with their two children since 2004. Follow her updates on Google+.