Spending a quiet evening at home with the kids last night I had plenty of time to sift through all of our photos from 2008 and do a bit of much needed reorganization. Judging from the many yearend comments on Facebook, it seems that most everyone is bidding "good riddance" to 2008 and looking hopefully toward 2009. Certainly, for many, this past year has taken its toll financially and it seems, perhaps even more so, emotionally. The past year has had its ups and downs for Rob and me as well but, for the most part, we have been very fortunate in business and happy in our personal and family life. Looking at all the pictures we took over the past twelve months, all the places we visited and the nice people we have met, reminds me how fortunate we truly are. Here are my personal highlights from 2008.

Way back in 2004, before we had made the big move to Playa, Rob and I agreed to attend a smallish and rather awkward "peep meet" to meet (as the name suggests) and have some cocktails with a group of folks active on the popular playa.info forum. Little did we know that we would end up befriending a smart young couple from Minneapolis whose visits we now look forward to year after year. This year, Dean and Jody joined us for a day trip to the lovely colonial town, Valladolid. Our visit fortuitously coincided with not only the 465th anniversary of the town but also a mass wedding of over 250 couples from all over the Yucatan. Amazing.

Valladolid Mexico

In anticipation of our first getaway to Belize, of course, I did a lot of homework on the internet. I quickly came across a fellow expat blogger, a Canadian now living in San Pedro on Ambergris Caye. I read her blog religiously, digesting as much information as I could to make our trip perfect. A year later, I am pleased to count Laurie aka Tacogirl as a friend. We exchange emails, send each other blogging tips and links to cool websites and support each other's efforts at shameless self-promotion. Of course, we spend a lot of time together when Rob and I steal away to Ambergris and I have had the pleasure of showing Laurie and Paul (Tacoboy) a little bit of our home on the Riviera Maya. This day, we spent a lazy afternoon at Cenote Azul.

Tacogirl at Cenote Azul

As a newcomer to the blogosphere, I had absolutely no idea the impact that this activity would have on my life. One of the perks is getting to know like-minded travelers and expats all over the world. The 1st annual Latin America Bloggers Conference, hosted this year by Wayne on Isla Mujeres, was an amazing opportunity to actually meet some of the writers of my favorite blogs and pick the brains of some excellent writers. I was a bit nervous to be in the company of such established bloggers as Theresa in Merida and CancunCanuck but my fears were quickly put to rest. It was a terrific weekend and I am counting the days until the next gathering! Where will we meet in 2009? Merida? San Miguel de Allende? Ambergris Caye?

Latin America Bloggers Conference on Isla Mujeres

There is nothing better than being on the beach in Playa del Carmen as the sun is coming up and the light sparkles across the water. This day, Rob and I took off for a morning of fishing with Cowboy and C.C. and brought home a beautiful Dorado for our efforts. Let's hope, when our own little panga is finally finished, we have many more days like this.

Morning on the beach in Playa del Carmen

Rob and I were so honored when our dear friends J.J. and Kim asked us to accompany them as they became husband and wife under the watchful eye of the Mexican government. While their beach wedding was beautiful and memorable, this day and the unexpected hilarity of the surroundings will stay with me always.

J.J. and Kim Get Married...again.

I know that a day at the beach may not seem like such a big deal given our proximity but a birthday on the beach is a special day. I had the pleasure of spending my 41st birthday on the beach in Akumal with my family. Is there anything better?

Birthday on the beach in Akumal

Chicago Don Jose has been the scene of the crime for many, many fun, alcohol fueled evenings over the past year. Rob and I have come to find comfort in our regular Friday nights out with good friends J.J. and Kim. Generally, it is just the four of us but on one occasion we amassed a group of nearly twenty, completely taking over the small dining room. There was a lot of good food, multiple bottles of wine, mariachis and dancing. Pretty much a perfect night out on the town in Playa del Carmen. Dalia and Peter took it all in stride and were the perfect hosts throughout the mayhem. In case I haven't said it out loud, they are deeply missed.

Chicago Don Jose in Playa del Carmen

It seems impossible to me that Rob and I made our first trip to Belize just one year ago this month. After our road trip across the mainland and numerous trips to Ambergris, I feel like Belize is almost like a second home, San Pedro a gritty Caribbean sister city to our sassy European Playa del Carmen. I couldn't possibly choose just one moment, the best moment to sum up our experiences in Belize. Scrambling to the top of the main temple at Lamanai, bushwhacking in the rain to a hidden ruin in the Cayo, watching my children wrap their heads around the Garifuna beats in Hopkins. It would impossible to choose just one. We have been captivated by Belize, the country and its people.

BBQ Chicken in Belize

The night that I brought the kids to watch professional wrestling with friends John and Libby will be forever burned in my memory. It was an evening of fun and mischief mixed with equal parts of frustration and bewilderment. Oh yes. I would do it all again.

Lucha Libre in Playa del Carmen

As unlikely as it may seem, sometimes we need to mix things up a bit down here in paradise. An iminent invasion by alien visitors long predicted by allegedly clairvoyant kooks provided us with the just the excuse we all needed to cut loose with our tin foil hats.

Alien Party in Playa del Carmen

Remarkable that I could take these pictures at all as I had tears in my eyes the whole time. The Winter Solstice festival at Ak Lu'um International School was one of the most magical events I have had the pleasure of participating in. A time for quiet reflection and contemplation, this evening would prove to be a more meaningful manner in which to close out 2008 than the usual New Years Eve shenanigans.

Solstice Festival at Ak Luum School Playa del Carmen

As I look back over the past year, it is not the daily struggles and strife that come to mind. Rather, it is all the good times with good friends, this collection of shared experiences that will make 2008 stand out in our memories. Who knows what 2009 will bring. Certainly, we share the economic concerns of our countrymen both here and back in the U.S. but we also look toward the future with cautious optimism and renewed hope for better days ahead.