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Bren and Jen were in Ethiopia, now Mexico.
Bren and Jen were in Ethiopia, now Mexico.

Bren and Jen were in Ethiopia, now Mexico.

This blog was used to talk about our Ethiopia experience, now we live in Mexico city and talk about that instead

Bren and Jen were in Ethiopia, now Mexico. RSS Feed

Bren and Jen were in Ethiopia, now Mexico.

We decided that we would keep this blog going if only to irritate Alex a little more with big posts. It seems like a good way of keeping in contact with everyone back home and around the world.

We plan to update every few weeks on all the times we get kidnapped or involved in drug battles (which has happened several times already).

However its sufficient to say that we have arrived, our house is awesome, the school looks great, we have some great people here and I have already got a drum and bass night lined up in two weeks.

A decent post will come once I stop getting hangovers and start working.

Final thoughts

So we are now back in Addis for a few days sorting out paperwork before we leave. We are UK bound next week. I had been pestering Jen to write a post before this on current events however for some reason she didn’t want to (I didn’t know what to write!!!!- Jen). Therefore I will run down what happened in the last month or so.

First highlight was the leaver’s conference around four weeks ago which was supposed to be about sorting paperwork, thinking about the future and doing exit visas and the like. However whenever volunteers meet up for events in Addis it certainly means week-long drunkenness. It was great to catch up with everyone and some of them for the last time. However unfortunately one of our very good friends Jeremy was attacked as he was walking home (he is an Addis volunteer) and stabbed three times, twice in the back and once in the chest. If he weren’t in the right place at the right time (after being in the wrong place at the wrong time) he would have died. The chest wound was very close to his heart.

Hospitals here are grim and several turned him away as they didn’t want the responsibility for him. Eventually a Korean Christian hospital took him in and he was looked after by a Norwegian team of doctors who saved his life. All the volunteers here rallied around him afterwards including ourselves which was great to see.

Back at home any pretence of work has finally left my job in Harar, with only a few weeks left it seemed futile to start fighting for money again and with day on/day off power cuts everyone is on half-weeks anyway. Work also did a leaving party for us, which was nice of them. I can’t say I will miss work really, but there are a few people that did make work slightly more interesting. 

I did have to save a huge tortoise from a gutter in the side of the road on the way to work last week; it took two of us to lift it out and I nearly broke my back doing it. It’s not often I get to handle a giant tortoise so it certainly made my day.

We also had several leaving parties from the ex-pats living in the East. My liver has returned to university levels of damage. We will certainly miss the friends we have made here and it was a great send off. Highlights include Jen drinking ¾ of a bottle of gin and trying to dance and us holding a birtcha at our house for everyone. There are plans afoot to meet up in England as well which will be amazing.

After that we got to packing up the house and attempting to leave. The shear amount of paperwork and bureaucracy involved in exiting has been exhausting. My dreams are currently filled with official purple stamps. The fight to get our ‘certificate of good conduct’ from the police station was a fantastic way to spend our morning, honest!

Actually leaving Harar wasn’t as painful as I thought it was, I am sure to miss our friends, fresh juices, gorgeous bread, street food, khat, cheap alcohol and of course Hilda, our last chicken who is quite possibly ‘doro wat’ by now (chicken stew). However I am certainly not going to miss cooking with kerosene, injeera, day on/day off electricity, no water for a week at a time, people hassling for money and the damn mosque waking me up at five in the morning. Plus all the niggles and dramas of living in Ethiopia that means I am not too sad to leave. 

So a few days in Addis saying our final final goodbyes and catching a few sights we have not done yet, plus the leftover paperwork and we are home.

See you all in a few days!

Being a Volunteer

It’s been a while since my last post unfortunately, work was busy and then we left for Addis for a week. Jen will write up a post on what happened in the last few weeks (of which quite a bit occurred) as I tend to miss important details. So instead I’m going to waffle on about some of my final impressions of Ethiopia and probably say what I have already said before on this blog.

Firstly though I have immensely enjoyed my time here in Harar and feel I have learned a lot and grown as a person. The people I have met here have been great and it’s been fun immersed in another culture for so long. From a personal point of view I don’t feel my time has been wasted.

I do feel that volunteering is well worth the experience as long as you don’t expect to make much of a change. Its not that the work you do isn’t valuable, or that the people you work with don’t appreciate your efforts, it’s because you are free.

When the country has to pay for its specialists such as the American lecturers or the Chinese road builders these expats are used fully and locals take away learned experiences because they have paid for that experience. However when someone is free, the impetus to use that person fully and learn from them isn’t there. If they improve something or provide something great, if they don’t, so what – they were free anyway.

To me volunteering is still the best way to provide support to a country and the best way for DFID (Department for International Development) to utilize its money. Just giving away money and resources is certainly not the right way to develop a country and these countries do need support. However volunteering will have a high failure rate and just will not be as effective as private enterprise will be in pure development terms.

Speaking purely from an Ethiopian viewpoint volunteers need to be better placed and the approach more targeted. The current scattergun method leaves too many volunteers without enough support and therefore wasted money. I don’t want to be too critical of VSO Ethiopia here, I do honestly believe that with their remit and scope and their resources they do the best they can. The backup I have received from them has been great. However should this placement in Harar have occurred? I have largely been working on my own here and although I have worked with schools and provided lots of training will my efforts be continued when there is no volunteer next year. Basically no, so have I really achieved much in a developmental sense?

Really it’s my fault that I am slightly disappointed. I came out here with a little ‘I’m going off to save the world’ mentality when clearly all the signs and even the training I received said otherwise. VSO’s ethos is that development is really slow baby-steps up a steep hill and in that sense I could never had made the impact I truly wanted.

Looks like I will have to get my ‘saving the world’ kicks from somewhere else!


Not really a post from me until next week, but I thought I should let everyone see this blog. Beth (my fathers partner) has been travelling around the UK on a tandem raising money for charity. Well worth checking out as its been a fantastic journey -


EDIT: Although I have just realised the name is unfortunatly similar to 2girls1cup.

Chicken Massacre, pig flu and everything in-between.

This is a kind of ‘summary’ post on what we have been up to in the last few weeks. It has been a month of ups and downs ranging from the massacre of our chickens, preparing and delivering another workshop, swine flu and preparing to leave Ethiopia. I will start at the very beginning.

Upon our return to Harar, we were quite looking forward to settling back into our daily lives: going to work, having a beer in the local, going out with friends, picking up our parcels, and getting reacquainted with the chickens. However, the latter was not meant to be.

As we walked into our garden we found our worst fear had occurred. All but one of the chickens had gone. After frantically searching around the garden, Bren noticed the chicken massacre inside the coop: blood and a mass of feathers. As you can probably imagine we were not too happy at this finding, particularly as our ‘house guard’ is never supposed to leave the house unattended and was in full charge of the chickens whilst we were gone. We had kept them for seven months without so much as a problem, all of a sudden we had left them for ten days to find only one survivor.

Getting to the bottom of the chicken massacre was harder than we thought as a number of people were telling us various different stories. We were both so angry that not only had we been let down but we were now also being lied to, that we decided to let our guard go (we had good reason for this as one morning, very early, we found him cutting a hole in the coop so it looked like an animal had got in that way). This dismissal of the guard however was also a complete headache as the college had no one to replace him. As you can imagine, things were pretty awkward for a while but got better once he apologised and the steam from Brens ears had started to dissipate. All is well now but we are a one chicken house and it’s not really the same without them.

Moving on from the ‘chicken massacre’, our days were picked up by the arrival of two great friends from the South who popped up to visit. We visited the brewery and did the whole Harar tour thing (feeding the hyenas again!!) and then got hammered. A great weekend with everyone being around Harar for once.

At work we were looking at trying to get a workshop approved on special needs. After having being told there was no money for such a workshop we both walked home with our heads hung low, only to be told the following day that we could do the workshop and that we had to do it the following week. Cue panic stations all round as we realised we had to invite all 60 schools in the region, write and plan a full four day workshop, prepare the room and all resources and sort out the various admin jobs that go with planning and delivering such a workshop. After lots of hard work and late nights in the office it was complete (JUST) and the workshop went on to be a big success- thank goodness!

Just as our stress level couldn’t get any higher we found out that Mexico had been hit by this swine flu virus. Just our luck! Things were looking bad but we have been assured by the school that it will not affect our contract with them or our arrival date in Mexico. I’m stocking up on face masks just in case!

After a stressful, busy week we had the long weekend of 5 days to look forward to (any excuse for a holiday and Ethiopians will take it). We had nothing planned other than to spend time with everyone in Haramaya.
We arrived in Haramaya on Friday, Bren was drinking and chewing with the boys and us girls were left having a girls night in with American idol and popcorn! The plan was to leave Haramaya the following day and chillax at home; however the American lot had a very different idea. Saturday accumulated in a house party which has to be one of the funniest and most stupid house parties ever ending with beer fuelled dancing to Michael Jackson and a touch of break dancing from myself and Ally. Bren became DJ for the night and played a range of classics from Ghostbusters to Chumbawumba.

Sunday was pretty much more of the same, we all decided that the best cure for a hangover was drink more cheap beer, so that’s exactly what we did near enough all day- fun times.

Having returned to work this week, we are now having to sort everything out for our return home. We are both currently working through a ton of paperwork so we are able to leave Ethiopia in the next 4- 5 weeks: Exit visas, police checks, house rent and bills are all on the agenda to be tackled this week.

From now on there are no more workshops, no more staff training, a few more school visits, a little more drinking and then we leave this fantastic country to return to the equally as fantastic Manc land- cant wait!

Northern Ethiopia part two

This continues directly on from part one yesterday. Jen will post her stories over the next few days.

After Bahar Dar we travelled up to Gondar which used to be the capital of Ethiopia but is now a dump. It holds a few castles which were built by the Portuguese in the 17th century for another Ethiopian King but Gondar got under our skin after the relative quiet of the lakeside and we decided not to even bother paying the extortionate entry price to the castles. Especially since we are all British, I probably have older castles in my garden. Gondar actually reminded us of Harar with the levels of hassle and attempts to rip off foreigners so we were quick to leave.

One of the funniest and occasionally frustrating things about the trip was that all of us on the trip were veterans of dealing with attempts to overcharge and with hassle and bureaucracy in Ethiopia so on numerous occasions the local people were overwhelmed by this group of clued foreigners and at least once a day an argument would occur over a bill or entrance fee which we mostly won. We only paid tourist prices a few times throughout the trip.

We barely spent a day in Gondar before moving out, after the castles there was nothing else to see and we were all itching to get to the Semien Mountains. However Gondar was my first experience of Cipro, an awesome antibiotic that nukes your digestive system and clears up stomach problems within hours. Cipro is my new favorite wonderdrug! At the Semiens we all booked into the Semien Lodge, apparently the highest hotel in Africa at 3300 meters above sea level. It definitely comes in as one of the most expensive hotels in Ethiopia costing 100 dollars a night! The hotel was fantastic and in a stunning location although the food was very disappointing considering how much it cost. In the Semiens we got to see Ibex and Galada monkeys. The monkeys were the highlight for me. They travel in huge groups of several hundred individuals and are so calm you can walk within a meter or two of them before they get nervous. It was brilliant to watch them sitting eating grass (they are the only monkeys that live on grass alone) and interacting with each other. Monkey pictures probably account for half of the total pictures taken on the trip. The mountains were also spectacular and I really enjoyed walking through them. A few volunteers in Harar and Dire Dawa are doing a full trek through them at the end of June and I really wish I could join them. It would be a great adventure. I also should have brushed up on my geology. The Semiens were a geological dream and there were lots of structures and formations there that I had forgotten the name of. It is surprising what you do remember though.

We left the Semiens after two days gutted we couldn’t stay longer and spent a night in Debark. A small town which ironically had some of the best local food we have eaten and at a tenth of the price we paid at the Semien lodge.

Finally we took the longest car journey of the trip up to Axum and our last tourist stop before heading back to Mekelle. Axum was another great stop and a place that is massively overlooked by the rest of the world. Axum was the capital of the Axumite people from 600 BC onwards and ruled over a significant portion of East Africa and most of what is Yemen today on the Arabian Peninsula. They controlled Red Sea trade for 800 years and considered a great empire by the Romans, Greeks and Egyptians before falling to internal disputes and the rise of Islam. Archeologists keep digging in the area and find new fantastic discoveries all the time. Recently they found a huge slab called the Ezana Stone written in Sabaean, Ge’ez and Ancient Greek writing and it is considered as important as the Rosetta stone. Axum is also the resting place of the Ark of the Covenant (apparently) although only a single priest is ever allowed to see it.

The best monuments in Axum are the Stelae which are huge obelisks dedicated to the kings of Axum and like the Pyramids got bigger and bigger with each successive king. They can’t really compare with the size and majesty of the pyramids but they are pretty impressive and like Stonehenge you cant help but wonder how people 2000 years ago carried 520 ton granite slabs several miles from the quarry to the Steli fields. Some of these steli are 30 feet tall and are again monolithic. The best part was that a recently returned Steli which was stolen by the Italians has been completely restored and the scaffolding removed only a few weeks ago.

Axum itself is a pretty nondescript city, but considering it was completely burnt to the ground twice it’s no surprise that the only things left of this civilization is its stone monuments.

After Axum we returned to Mekelle and took a flight down to Addis. It was great to leave Harar and see the rest of Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a beautiful place and has a very long and exciting history and I have seen lots of evidence that if the current society can drop their mindset they can achieve fantastic things and work together successfully.

Northern Ethiopia trails

It’s been a little quiet on here recently because both of us have been travelling northern Ethiopia and doing the tourist thing. We had a great time and pictures will eventually go on facebook although very few of them are from either me or Jen as neither of us has a camera at the moment so the pictures were mostly taken by the. Having said that there are some great snaps and mostly I couldn’t have done better with my camera anyway.

We travelled around by car with two other couples who despite being much older than us were great fun. Peter and Ivy were based up in Mekelle and all the organizing and planning. Glynnis and Seamus are based in Addis and flew up to Mekelle with us.

We started in Mekelle which is right in the far north of the country and regional capital. It holds several NGO’s and lots of volunteers but very little else. It was much bigger than Harar which was surprising as Harar is often cited as Ethiopia’s third city and I was under the impression it’s pretty big by Ethiopian standards. However Mekelle doesn’t have any real history or attractions so all we really did was catch up with other volunteers and collectively moan about work (or lack of it).

The trip really kicked off with the car driving down to Lalibela via a fantastic unpaved road snaking through the mountains. The journey was a bumpy nine hours but the scenery made up for it. Lalibela on the other hand was amazing. It’s a small town, 2600 meters up, which holds eleven rock hewn churches which are carved directly out of the bedrock. Most of these churches are monolithic (made from a single block of stone) and the stonework was pretty impressive. Even stranger was that they were all built under one king (predictably called king Lalibela) who was trying to build the ‘New Jerusalem’ in the 12th century. Although not on a par with Angkor Wat the churches are fantastic and surprised me with their detail. Carving out eleven churches, some of them huge and with several floors, from solid granite must have been hard work.

Lalibela was also were Jen tried Tej for the first time. Tej is a potent honey wine which I personally find disgusting but Jen seemed to love, depending on the strength it can be up to 35% alcohol. Coincidently this was also the most drunk I have seen Jen for a long time and she spent the evening practically kidnapping street children and giving away pieces of her jewelry to strangers.

The next stop was Bahar Dar, a tourist town which is situated on the huge Lake Tana and source of the Nile. We paid a visit to a few of the islands on the lake and looked at a few of the monasteries based on them. They couldn’t compare to Lalibela though and I have to admit I got bored after the first one. The artwork was good, but really they were just very big tukels. We also got to see hippos on the lake although at a distance.

The big attraction of Bahar Dar however is the Blue Nile falls just outside the town. Or at least it was the big attraction until the government built a hydroelectric power plant next to the falls and diverted 70% of the water. I have no problem with HEP (actually I think its great) but why they decided to ruin one of the best waterfalls in Africa when there were other locations along the river the plant could have gone I have no idea. Apparently they are going to close this particular plant within the next few years and move it upstream so commonsense will prevail eventually. As it stands the Blue Nile falls are still pretty impressive and certainly the biggest waterfall I have seen in person. We also got to catch up with a few volunteers based in Bahar Dar who we trained with as well which was fun.

Another highlight of Bahar Dar as we were leaving was to see a village called Awura Amba. It’s unusual for Ethiopia in that it was a community set up by one man thirty years ago. They have given up the Orthodox Christian church and Islam (although they were eager to tell us they still believed in a God) and every member of the community is equal. They provide their own schools and have communal farming and weaving as well as a care home for the elderly and sick and regular town meetings where everyone has one vote. They have a strong work ethics and it was a massive refreshing change from the rest of Ethiopia. The people looked happy and proud, in the weaving buildings I have never seen so many Ethiopians working at once! Everyone was busy.

Part two will go up tomorrow; having proof read it I think a four page blog is a little excessive so I have split it.

Somali and Afar

We live in a small city and are lucky enough to get by with the shops and utilities on offer. Harar is an easy place to live and although we miss a lot from home, there is enough here to keep us happy and occupied. We are certainly better off than other volunteers placed in much smaller places, the situation for them is much harder and I certainly would not have been able to update this blog, occasionally eat western food or even take regular showers had I been placed somewhere else. For example Ethiopian water is off much more often than it is on, however in Harar we do get a burst every few days and our garden tank usually keeps us happy in-between. Some volunteers have reported having no water for several weeks recently! Having no running water for more than a day really sucks.

Even the volunteers in small towns and remote places usually have access to some civilisation and we are all placed within distance of communications and transport. There have been volunteers sent further out, however they are usually well informed and certainly hardcore individuals. Many Ethiopians don’t have access any of the comforts we would consider vital. Particularly there are two regions of Ethiopia which have not changed in thousands of years - Afar and Somali. The government here calls them emerging regions, although what they are emerging from and to is difficult to figure out.

These places are the Ethiopia which all of us would recognise complete with malnutrition children, emaciated animals, flat dry scrubland, dead trees with vultures on and about 15,000 flies per square metre. Just being near the edge of these places makes you squint looking out for advertisement makers talking about giving men fish for a day and asking for credit card numbers.

These are hard and dangerous places. Afar people are known for being tough and unforgiving. After the Italian occupation and the Second World War it was common for Afar peoples to remove the testicles of any white person they met. Plus being one of the hottest places on Earth with little water means any trip into Afar needs to be carefully planned. Recent deaths have occurred when cars break down and people run out of supplies getting help.
Somali is slightly different in that as well as having hot, dry conditions and scary people it also is disputed land and a highly militarised area. Bombings and kidnappings are regular enough that the only westerners there are attached to the UN and the only transport is either military or UN vehicles (UN cars are so cool, you see loads of them in Ethiopia. When I get back home I might buy a white car and make my own).

The whole reason Somali is unstable though is because as soon as it was granted independence, Somalia attempted to annex Somali (a big chunk of Ethiopia), the top section of Kenya and Djibouti at pretty much the same time and was met with such resounding failure that the country still has not recovered. However it still lays claim to these lands and gives rise to further terrorism in all four countries.

At the moment myself and Jen are the closest VSO volunteers to Somali and we are forbidden by VSO to go any closer (although the regional capital of Somali is only an hour away and apparently quite safe). I doubt we will be exploring very much of it. Same goes for Afar which is a very difficult place to travel. Which is a shame though, as it does have some fantastic volcanoes and geology and it would be cool to travel in one of the hottest places on Earth (daytime temperatures of 50c are the norm). Plus I do quite like my testicles.

It was Afar that was hit most during the famines during the 80’s and the people there are still only ever one season away from famine again. There is so little there in terms of natural wealth that I personally can’t see that changing for a long time to come. It’s a huge problem for Ethiopia being an area that requires huge support and generates nothing in return.

Wow, a whole blog post and I didn’t use the ‘D’ word once!

This is Ethiopia

There are many things slowing down Ethiopia’s development, and each person that you ask will give a different reason. Jen would say it’s because all the men here are barbaric and stop, stare and shout obscenities at you in the street. Whereas others say it’s the lack of skilled workers or the towering bureaucracy or maybe even the misspending of what little money the country has. For myself I feel it’s the poor excuses that let Ethiopia and probably many other developing countries down.

‘This is Ethiopia’ is a phase we hear a lot, and it’s usually because something has gone wrong, a job is half done or that nothing has occurred at all. Some of the many questions and answers we have gotten here - Why do most schools here have no onsite toilet – ‘this is Ethiopia’, Why does the college have several printers and photocopiers but no toners – ‘this is Ethiopia’, Why do the overhead power cables keep failing - ‘this is Ethiopia’, why are offices and workplaces half empty in the afternoon – ‘this is Ethiopia’, why is there no bus today – ‘this is Ethiopia’. We are in Ethiopia, but it is not an excuse.

For example, I have been helping the college install a network across its computers and it’s been a good learning experience, it was especially amusing to have to explain to the IT lecturer that it DOES matter which order the coloured wires go in when crimping RJ45 to network cables! The actual internet connection is not owned by the college but they do have access to a single port on the router which they connect to a switch (sorry none-geeks if you are already lost) in the library and off to another switch in my office before connecting to other office computers.

All of these are connected by wires running through windows and over the roof of the building. I never thought I would be involved in wrapping network cable around drainpipes and fishing them through cracks in windows. I am glad I was not involved when they decided to lead a cable from the first floor up over the roof, three floors up, and then wrap the cable around a tree trunk before once again entering the building via a window on the first floor.

Apparently drilling holes is not an option as permission has to be gained and apparently cable clips would have been extra expense and would have taken longer! So we have this set up which is silly and lazy. I doubt it will last out the year. At some point I will take pictures of the horror/comedy. The aim of giving the college internet is a great one and I am glad to be part of it, I just wish that the job could be done a little better.

I suppose all the excuses underlie a basic lack of respect for the local environment, people and animals from the whole society. There are some great people who you can rely on, but the percentage of people willing to cut major corners and fail to do even the simplest of tasks is so much higher than I come to expect in the UK.

The fact that cutting corners and failing is part of the national culture is even worse. ‘This is Ethiopia’ is not a valid excuse for failure. The country has water, fertile land, an able population, good worldwide ties and valuable natural resources and is easily better placed than most other developing countries. I can’t image Japan behaved in this way when developing.

I know I keep bringing my experiences here back to development but it is why I am here. I feel that the hard work and effort of a lot of people, including myself, is squandered by excuses. Then again I should probably sit back a little, have a beer and enjoy watching the world go by even more often, after all, this is Ethiopia.

Viva La Mexico

I am under strict orders to come up with this week’s blog post however Bren and I both decided that we would make this blog more of an ‘announcement’ than an actual post.

A few weeks ago we were debating what to do after our time here in Ethiopia comes to an end. We have both really enjoyed living and working abroad in a completely new and different culture/ environment, we were not too sure whether we wanted to return to the UK (we miss everyone a lot though!). We decided we would look on the internet for paid teaching jobs abroad and if there was nothing suitable we would return to the UK and get work there. I threw myself into job hunting for the two of us, however finding two suitable jobs in the same country was harder than I originally thought especially because I am specifically looking for Psychology positions which are few and far between.

On Tuesday 10th February I came across an advert in the Times Educational Supplement advertising for several positions at a certain school. We decided to go for it and see what happens. Bren applied for the post of Teacher of Biology, and I applied for the post of teacher of Psychology, Sociology and Humanities. The following day, much to our amazement we were asked to take part in a telephone interview on the Wednesday. I spent near enough the whole of Tuesday in complete shock panicking about what I was going to be asked and preparing notes for every possible question!

Wednesday evening came around fairly quickly and I sat down to go through my notes and prepare myself. It was an hour before the school was due to phone, light was fading and the big man upstairs decided to throw me into even more of a panic by giving us a power cut- typical! At 7.15pm the head of secondary at the school finally got through to us (she had been trying for 20 minutes) and so the interview began. Bren went first which made it all the worse as he is very good under pressure and gave some fantastic answers to her questions. Then, it was my turn. It actually wasn’t half as bad as I was expecting and it turned out be quite an enjoyable conversation. Afterwards we both felt it went really well and headed out for a swift G&T/Beer before bed.

We could not believe to find the following day in work an email waiting for us from the school offering us both the teaching positions! Reality sunk in as we weighed up the pros and cons of working in Mexico City. We decided that it is just far too good an opportunity to pass up (especially because the Psychology job was the only post for Psychology advertised in the international jobs section of the Times Ed, the 409 other jobs were predominantly for Science/Maths/English). We would be silly to pass up the opportunity to get paid teaching the subjects we love in a fantastic country like Mexico. We have both accepted the job offers and will be heading over there in the second week of August 2009.

Bren’s placement here finishes beginning to mid June so before returning home for a month or so we are hoping to have a holiday. July will be spent catching up with all our fantastic friends and family, hopefully eating and drinking lots of nice food and wine/beer! We will be returning to the UK more frequently during our time in Mexico compared to over here- I can’t face another year away from the Christmas Markets! See you all soon. xxx