Archive for February, 2015

Bye, Bentonville!

February 12, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

I’m headed to the airport soon. It’s time to go home! It’s been a great week and a half. IMG_3223In a strange way I feel like this trip has been like a reset button for my mind. I feel like myself again after a half year without being on survey. I had gotten so used to the solo travel routine. Now I’m excited to go home with this renewed sense of self.

Hopefully there won’t be any more delays due to snow. Yesterday was a good day. I finished work and even got to visit the Walmart museum. Conveniently, it was in the square where I went to lunch. IMG_3231Lunch was tacos and iced tea. At the museum, I learned a lot about Sam Walton. Walmart employs about 2.2 million people. The Walmart Museum also has an ice cream shop (pictured below). One of the flavors is “Spark” as in “Walmart Spark” and it’s blue and yellow. Apparently it is sweet cream flavor. I passed.

In the evening, I met up with one of the friends that I made on the first night. IMG_3238We went to Core Brewery tasting room. I drove first to the wrong Core Brewery… the actual brewery, which was a lot further away. It was cool to see, though. When I finally got to the right place, both the beer and conversation were awesome. When I got back to the hotel, I had a salad at the bar and then packed. At the bar I met a guy from Ohio who sells chocolate turtles. What a fun thing to sell.

Love, Annie

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Awesome Day in Bentonville

February 10, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. Today I was very productive again and most of the work for Bentonville is done. IMG_3213MAYBE I’ll have time to visit the Walmart museum. Today went by very quickly. I spent the morning making phone calls. Around midday, I went to  a meeting with our client that went well and then gave a survey demonstration. I went to an awesome restaurant for dinner. Shamefully I could not finish the entire bottle of beer because I had to drive home. That dish is called High South Poutine. It’s meatloaf on french fries.

Love, Annie

Work and Fun in Northwest Arkansas

February 10, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. So far my time in Bentonville has been fun. The flight from Houston to the Northwest Arkansas airport was easy. IMG_3202I sat next to a guy from Germany who works in the automotive industry and was going to Joplin, Missouri. At the airport I rented a compact car, a Nissan Versa, and have been enjoying zipping around the city in the little Versa. The radio stations are terrible, though.

Last night I worked out and ate at the hotel bar and met some really interesting people. The night was way more fun than expected. We watched the Grammy Awards and talked about music for a long time. Today I was extremely productive. In the evening, I worked out and ate again at the hotel bar.

Love, Annie

Day off in Polanco

February 8, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hey there from Houston. I’m hanging out at an airport restaurant and in about an hour I’ll board the plane to Northwest Arkansas! IMG_3177This morning, I got to the airport in Mexico City very early. I anticipated traffic on the way to the airport, but there was none and it took only twenty minutes to get there. The ride from the airport to the hotel on Friday was about an hour.

IMG_3142Yesterday was a great day off in Mexico City. I slept late and then took a walk around Polanco, the area around my hotel. Polanco is fancy, clean, and relatively safe. I had a cappuccino at a coffee shop and started a new book. Then I went to an electronics store to purchase a much needed battery charger for my phone. IMG_3141For a kind of brunch, I ate a quesadilla from a stand at an awesome outdoor weekend market in Parque Lincoln and drank fresh orange juice.

Satisfied from breakfast and full of energy, I rented a bike and explored Chapultepec park. I had planned to bike to the Chapultepec castle but missed it, and that’s okay. It’s pretty big but somehow I missed it. I’ll just have to come back. IMG_3147 (2)I returned the bike and explored more of Polanco on foot. I stopped to do some shopping because I passed one of my favorite stores that they don’t have in Boston, and because the dollar is pretty strong right now.

After the shopping, I had a michelada and ceviche at an outdoors bar. I met a father and son who were from Puerto Rico and living here in Mexico City for four years. IMG_3153The dad seemed less than thrilled about the length of his assignment.

In the evening, I went out to a mezcaleria to learn about and drink some mezcal. Most mezcal is made in the Mexican state of Oaxaca (pronounced “wahaka”). I learned that it’s made the same way as tequila but with a different agave. There are many different types of agave. IMG_3164Tequila is made from blue agave. Mezcal is made from the other agaves. Mezcal generally has a smoky flavor, but there are of course a ton of different varieties of Mezcal. It seems as though tequila is just one of the kinds of Mezcal. Generally, the alcohol content in tequila is slightly less than the alcohol content in Mezcal but just by a few percentage points, and of course this varies between brands. IMG_3172I’m not sure why tequila became a super popular type of alcohol while mescal remains more exotic and less widely available, at least in the US. Apparently exports are increasing. Mezcal is usually consumed straight and NOT put in cocktails. The bars I’ve been to have clearly been doing it wrong.

IMG_3143At the mezcaleria, I tried three different kinds of Mezcal all with a distinct flavor and ate a traditional Oaxacan dish that used the same ingredients that you would probably expect in Mexican food but in a slightly different format. It was delicious… you can’t really go wrong with melted cheese, beans, peppers, and avocado. After a short walk, I had an espresso back at the hotel and played computer for the rest of the night. All in all it was a great, relaxing day.

Arkansas should be interesting… ! I hope you had a nice weekend and for those in Boston, good luck with the snow.

Love, Annie

adios carmen, hello mexico city!

February 7, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are having a nice weekend. After a morning at Wal Mart, my colleague and I had a nice lunch at Mosto Beer House. Such an expat bar. At this place, there was no beer list but only beer pairings with the different pizzas on the menu. We were pretty surprised that a place that calls itself a beer house would not have its own beer list, but then remembered that Ciudad del Carmen may just be full of weird menus. IMG_3124The pizzas were good and the beers were excellent. Lunch was awesome overall.

After lunch, we worked a bit more and finished the training, and then I headed to the airport for my flight to Mexico City. The flight was delayed because the airport in Mexico City was too busy, but it wasn’t so bad. The hotel here is absolutely gorgeous. I went out around 11 pm for a michelada and a snack at a bar nearby. I sat and drank my beer, people watched, and just enjoyed the atmosphere … I haven’t felt so relaxed, comfortable, and just content for a while. For a snack I ordered some tortilla soup that was SO delicious. I felt so happy. I’ve really missed the survey routine. IMG_3128A gorgeous hotel in walking distance to great bars… I feel like I’m back in action. I don’t even need to survey Mexico City! I almost wish I did.

The training was wonderful, and I loved my time with my colleague, but wow, I had forgotten how much I love exploring new places on my own. I finished my small meal with a tequila that was served with tomato juice on the side (apparently it’s called sangrita) and was invited to join the men at the table next to me. They work together at what seemed like a startup printing company, and here I am at 3 in the morning after a few more tequilas and some great conversation. The evening was awesome.

I’m looking forward to a relaxing and fun day tomorrow!

Love, Annie

working like mad en esta ciudad

February 6, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hope you are well. Today was frustrating, productive, and fun – a good day of training. We started work at the hotel making phone calls. It took us a long time to just get a taxi from the hotel in the morning because of some issues with the reception. IMG_3096But we finally did, and had a solid four hours of sitting in traffic pounding the pavement, visiting outlets and realtors around the city. There is a steady stream of traffic congestion here, even late at night. Our driver put on some super strong cologne right before dropping us at the last stop. IMG_3100We were so happy to get out of the car at that time because the scent was strong and gross enough to give both of us a headache.

We ate a late lunch around 4:00 pm at a restaurant in Ciudad del Carmen’s best new mall. Good thing we were ready for some beers because it was a happy hour. Food was free if you order drinks. In fact, IMG_3101you could ONLY get food if you ordered drinks. One beer gets you a soup, two, a small plate, and three, a larger plate. So we had to order a third beer to get the entrée we wanted plus a small plate. I tried a michelada, which was delicious. I’ll definitely have more of those in the future.

After lunch we had a newfound energy and spent until around 9:00 pm working in the mall. IMG_3099We weren’t hungry for dinner and instead I had a mixed berry yogurt popsicle that was quite good. We were a bit concerned about how we were going to get back to the hotel, but there was a taxi stand outside the mall! This surprised us both because it’s been so difficult to get a taxi around here. The ride home was filled with excellent music. Now I’m exhausted and excited for bed, for work tomorrow, and for future micheladas.

Love, Annie

bienvenidos a mexico!

February 5, 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Hi from Ciudad del Carmen, Mexico. This is an oil city on the Gulf of Mexico in the state of Campeche. It is known for its seafood. I have a short survey this quarter, just ten (well, now nine because of the snow in Boston) days long. IMG_3075I’m here in Ciudad del Carmen to train my newest colleague. After the training, I’ll head to Mexico City for the weekend and then to Bentonville, Arkansas. So far, the training is going well and we are having a good time.

It’s hard to believe it’s still the first day, though. We arrived this morning after four flights over a 24-hour period between some tough layovers. Fortunately, the hotel is better than expected. Ciudad del Carmen is not actually that far away from Boston. We were supposed to make the trip in two flights and a comfortable overnight in Houston, but Boston was hit with an enormous storm so we could not leave when we were supposed to.
IMG_3087Our first flights from Boston to Newark and from Newark to Houston were both delayed. In Houston, we got VERY lucky to get on the last flight to Mexico City with standby tickets as we missed our original flight to MEX, and the second one we got ourselves booked on was delayed (probably cancelled) due to a medical issue with the flight attendants (ugh!). IMG_3083You know, it was way crazier than it seems as I write it now. We got to Mexico City just before midnight, but flight to Ciudad del Carmen did not depart until 630 AM. We figured we would be able to chill out and sleep in the priority lounge, but we were not even let through security. We made our way up to a nearby hotel and tried to lie down on the couches there, but were kicked out. IMG_3093The rooms were, in my opinion, unjustifiably expensive for a few-hour stay so we did not rent one. In retrospect, we should have.

We needed somewhere to camp out and went to the 24-hour Wings restaurant and got some beverages and then rested in the booth benches. This was a safer bet than the open airport lobby. It was so cold so it was hard to sleep. I should have packed warmer clothes for this trip! At about four AM, we went through security and slept for another hour on slightly more comfortable couch/benches in a coffee shop near the gate. It was much warmer inside the gates. We woke up surrounded by people who gave us funny looks.

The fourth flight was easy, and we arrived in Ciudad del Carmen around eight AM.  We took the first half of the day to sleep and regroup, ate lunch at a seafood restaurant, and then started work. We were surprisingly productive and ended our work day around seven. We went for dinner and beers near the water. I apologize for any weird writing style on this post, I’m still very overtired. Aside from one woman at the United customer service desk in Newark, people have been very friendly.

I’m looking forward to work tomorrow. We have some frustrating yet rewarding tasks to take on. I didn’t want to work on these more stressful parts of surveying on this first day because we had had enough issues on our way over.

I hope you are having an excellent week.

Love, Annie