Been Too Long Since We Blogged…so Restarting with “Award Winning”

Why has it been so long since our last blog post? Simple, we revamped the website about a year ago and the blog was not part of the new site. But many of you were still searching, finding and commenting on content on our blog; so we decided to bring it back and incorporate it into the new website. While much of our content updates have been visual, posting photos on our Instagram page with links back to our Facebook page, we still have a need for words, for WordPress and for non-visual content that provides a narrative update for what we have been up to at Playa Viva.

So what have we been up to since the last post? Stay tuned as we provide updates on the same topics we have covered before: Green, Sustainable and Regenerative Travel, Architecture, Building, Community Development, Volunteering, Local and Organic Agriculture, etc.

One notable item is the new Treehouse at Playa Viva. It was designed by Kimshasa Baldwin at Deture Culsign and the construction was completed by Will Beilharz and his firm ArtisTree.  The end result is stunning and has become an iconic image for Playa Viva.

Most recently, the treehouse can now be called “award winning.” NEWSFLASH: the “Treehouse Suite at Playa Viva has been selected as one of the finalists in the Lifestyle Guestrooms category…,and all winners and finalists will be featured in the June issue of Hospitality Design magazine.”

Also, Kimshasa and Will along with David Leventhal of Playa Viva also presented at the Boutique Design Magazine’s BDWest conference. The session was entitled: “EARTH STAYS: MAKING SUSTAINABLE DESIGN HAPPEN IN A NANOSECOND.”  The focus was how an introduction by Mary Scoviak of Boutique Design in April of 2015 lead to the design and construction of the treehouse opening in October 2015 (a nanosecond in hotel design and building).

More about the design and building process in future posts. Please come experience the Treehouse for yourself.

Treehouse 1

Photo by Leonardo Palafox

 

 

 

2015 Mexico Peace Index

Reposted from Borderland Beat from content developed and distributed by Vision of Humanity’s Mexico Peace Index.  Playa Viva is located in the State of Guerrero which is rated as the Least Peaceful state. It appears that the factor contributing most to this rating is the high rate of homicide (most likely taking into consideration the 43 “disappeared” students). However, taking into consideration the other 6 evaluation criteria, Guerrero would rank closer to the middle.”  While safety is the number one concern of our guest, the overall trend shows an improvement in the Peace Index (and correlated safety in Mexico) and tourist areas such as Playa Viva continue to be safe for tourists.  We hope this provides valuable information to help you make an informed decision about traveling safely to Mexico and Playa Viva.

“The Mexico Peace Index, produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace, provides a comprehensive measure of peacefulness in Mexico from 2003 to 2014. This report aims to deepen the understanding of the trends, patterns and drivers of peace in Mexico while highlighting the important economic benefits that will flow from a more peaceful society.”
Highlights
  • Mexico has experienced a large decrease in violence since 2011, with the national level of peace improving by 16 percent.
  • Progress in peace has plateaued in the last year; it is too early to determine if this is the start of a new trend.
  • The level of peace as measured by the 2015 MPI is still 18 percent lower than in 2003.
  • The most peaceful state in Mexico is Hidalgo, followed by Yucatán, Querétaro, Campeche, Tlaxcala, and Chiapas.
  • Of the 76 largest metropolitan areas of Mexico, the most peaceful is Orizaba in Veracruz and the least peaceful is Culiacán in Sinaloa.
  • The eastern region remains the most peaceful in Mexico, while the northern region is still the most violent, although the gap between the north and the other regions is now at its lowest point since 2004.
“The Mexico Peace Index (MPI) derives from the work of the Global Peace Index, a leading global measure of peacefulness that has been produced by IEP annually since 2007. The Index follows a similar methodology to the United Kingdom Peace Index and the United States Peace Index, also produced by IEP, and defines peace as ‘the absence of violence or fear of violence’.
The MPI measures peace at the state level in Mexico. A key reason for choosing this unit of analysis is that, similar to the United States, Mexico’s state governments have wide-ranging powers allowing them to have a significant impact on the level of violence, therefore the response to violence may differ significantly from state to state.”
The Index is composed of the following seven indicators:
1. HOMICIDE
— Homicide rate per 100,000 people
Source: Executive Secretary of the National System for Public Security (SESNSP)—cases being investigated by the State Prosecution Authorities
2. VIOLENT CRIME
— Violent crime rate per 100,000 people
Source: SESNSP
3. WEAPONS CRIME
— Weapons crime rate per 100,000 people
Source: SESNSP
4. INCARCERATION
— Number of people sent to prison per year, per 100,000 people
Source: National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI)
5. POLICE FUNDING
— Federal Government funding to States for the Public Security Contribution Fund per 100,000 people
Source: Secretaria de Hacienda y Crédito Publico (SHCP)
6. ORGANIZED CRIME
— The number of extortions, drug-trade related crimes, organized crime offenses, and kidnapping per 100,000
Source: SESNSP
7. EFFICIENCY OF THE JUSTICE SYSTEM
— Proportion of convictions for homicide to total homicides
Source: INEGI
“All indicators are scored between 1 and 5, with 1 being the most
peaceful score, and 5 the least peaceful. After the score for each
indicator has been calculated, weights are applied to each of the
indicators in order to calculate the final score.”
There is a wide range in levels of peacefulness across both indicators and states in Mexico. A higher score indicates lower peacefulness. Scores out of five.
Most and Least Peaceful States
With a few exceptions, states in the southern and eastern regions of Mexico are more peaceful than the western, central, and northern regions. Of the ten most peaceful states, only two, Querétaro and San Luis Potosí, are not from the south or the east, while Guerrero is the only southern or eastern state amongst the ten least peaceful.
In the last two years, the most peaceful states, while decreasing very slightly in peacefulness, have had only small changes in rank. There has been a much higher degree of variance amongst the least peaceful states. Guanajuato and Michoacán have steadily declined to now be amongst the five least peaceful states. Juxtaposed to this, many of the least peaceful states have recorded large reductions in homicides and violent crime over the last two years. Tables 2 and 3 show the scores and ranks for the most and least peaceful states, both for the overall index, and each of its seven indicators.

Full Report:

Volunteers Come and Go….

The following is an article written by Samantha Orive as she completes her tour of duty as a volunteer at Playa Viva.  

2015-01-17 07.00.50Mornings in the quiet town of Juluchuca Guerrero start with a morning concerto starring the local roosters. Although rehearsals go on all throughout the day, it seems that the five am showing not only has the most beautiful voices, but there is a feeling of encouragement that manages to clear the mind and allows you to find energy for the long day ahead.

A much ruder awakening awaits you in the back of a pick up truck. A feeling of recklessness hits your stomach (not unlike a double scotch would) when you are going 80 km/hr and that sexy morning chill always comes on too strong, raising goosebumps in your arms and adventurous intentions in your thoughts.  A sense of well being spreads though out your body, it is not yet seven am and you are drunk on circumstance and high on life.

You come to doubt if Van Gogh’s starry night should actually be considered a masterpiece once you look at the canvass over you. The stars not only seem to perfectly describe their chosen constellation names, but to sit you on their comforting knees and whisper their tales in your ears. Orion The Hunter looks bright enough to jump out from the sky and continue his hunt on earth, followed closely by his loyal dogs. We all paint clumsy brushstrokes in our minds, never truly capturing the mysterious beauty of the sky.

2015-02-11 11.21.21Volunteers come and go, looking for something, someone, running from something, or maybe someone. And while you are digging trenches, weeding the relentless verdolagas, or planting row upon row of lettuce, you forget why you are here or maybe even who you are. Dirt finds its way under your nails, it changes the hue of your eyes and when it reaches your heart you conclude the questions are invalid and the answers are futile. Dirt is the absolute here.

Hunger. There is a deep hunger to learn, know, experience and share; but there is a more literal hunger that strikes exactly at eight thirty am. Stomachs rumble keeping tune with the sea and images of plump fresh handmade tortillas, dozens of eggs drowned in salsa verde, and those evil cups of coffee that seduce the strongest of wills with promises of productivity and stability come to mind. There is an instant gratification after meals at Playa Viva that turn into future life dilemmas, for how on earth will I go back to store bought tortillas?

A hammock is not merely a handy set of strings to rest, but a way of living. Within it lies enough entertainment for every evening. The trees like to divert you playing shadows with the sun, the characters in your book grow impossibly difficult to walk away off, and conversations with friends brim with candor and emotion. In the steady swaying of a hammock, a soundness anchors in the foundations of that little white house in Juluchuca.

2015-01-07 06.45.21The sun does not like goodbyes, it prefers a quick painful farewell at six forty two pm, and if you look away from the horizon you will miss it. The best comforting remedy is named Vicky, who is always more attractive when accompanied by just gathered limes and thick local salt. She may be cold hearted, but after a flirtatious conversation with her she will warm up your insides and you know you will fall deliciously in love with her every night.

The answers are there of course. The seeds will sprout in record time, the muscles will ache with pleasure, the children will laugh in bare feet, the skin will darken, the women will launder by the river, the men will sing their melancholic tunes, the smiles will grow more genuine, and at the end of the day it will not only be the sun saying a painful goodbye.

 

The Bridge to Discovery – Volunteering at Playa Viva

Recently, we were asked, “what is the reason and purpose of having volunteers at Playa Viva?” Never having formalized the rational for this program, it was surprising how easily the answer flowed. Volunteers are a bridge between guests and the local ecosystem, both the landscape of the property of Playa Viva and the people of the local community of Juluchuca. We see this as a long-term investment, just as our permaculture work is a long-term investment in the biodiversity and health of the ecosystem.

Lynda Curtis 15

The mission of volunteering, at a day-to-day level, is for volunteers to engage with the community and then engage guests in the activities they are undertaking (more about the mission on a long-term basis in future blog post). Since we were asked, it might also be worthwhile featuring in this blog the good work of some of these volunteers.

We will start with Lynda Curtis who is currently (Nov 2014) a volunteer at Playa Viva working on with the Permaculture team during the day and spending two days a week teaching English in the local community of Juluchuca.

She sent some photographs of her experience and answered a few “interview” questions:

PV: “How is the experience volunteering at Playa Viva different from volunteering at other locations?”

LC: “Playa Viva is a very unique experience compared to many of the other options through WWOOFing and Work Exchange. The surroundings are amazing and the Eco Hotel is a very special place to be a part of. There are not many places where you get to relax by the pool or sun lounges during your time off. For me the food is a big highlight. Nutrition is very important to me and the fact that most is grown organically on site is a huge plus. The normal experience might be some toast for breakfast. Big difference!  The workers are really great, very helpful and I felt part of the team straight away.”

Lynda Curtis 9

PV: “As a volunteer, do you really think you are making a difference in people’s lives and, if so, how?”

LC: “I have had a short time volunteering teaching English to the young children in town but I can already see the value it adds. It is certainly an advantage for them to have English skills, opening up job opportunities when they are older and having the confidence to communicate with visitors. There really is no option here for them to learn English otherwise so it is important to continue with this work. We are currently compiling a folder of different activities that can be used by volunteers in the future with the kids.”

PV: “Would you recommend Playa Viva to others as a volunteer experience and, if so, why?”

LC: “I would certainly recommend Playa Viva to others. The amazing thing is the freedom that is afforded to volunteer in the way you feel can add the most value. This way the community can take advantage of a great skill set and the volunteer feels fulfilled and that they are really contributing.”

PV: “What have been some of the pleasant surprises of your experience volunteering?”

Lynda Curtis 6

LC: “The kids are always a pleasure and provide great entertainment every lesson. What surprised me is, that for the most part, they are really well-behaved and want to learn. It’s very nice to have them calling my name as I walk through town. Also, it has opened up some of the other volunteers and workers to want to learn more when they realise I am teaching English. It’s great to share knowledge and skills.”

PV: “What have been the unpleasant surprises?”

LC: “For me there hasn’t been anything that surprises me. I have travelled in Latin America enough to know about the toilet paper basket, heat, mosquitos and every other creepy crawly. I love lizards, insects…any animal really. When a tarantula got inside I was excited to hold one much to the disgust of my friends! So what is unpleasant for me is probably quite different to others. Also for me the accommodation is fine – this might be different for others too as it is basic. If I was recommending to others to stay here I think they would need to understand it’s not like living in Australia.”

PV: “How would you describe the town and the people?”

Lynda Curtis 3LC: “The town is a very typical of Latin American. Very basic services, pretty hot, down and dirty but has a very unique flavor which I have grown to love.”

 
PV: “Can you tell me a story about working with the kids teaching English?”

LC: “Well, day-to-day, the kids are super cute of course. Yesterday I started teaching them Head Shoulders Knees and Toes. We first coloured some pictures showing the body parts. Then Franz played the song and I made a fool of myself doing the song and dance with them. They were super cute and really enjoyed it. I will do it again next week and maybe take a video, haha.”

PV: “Tell us about your overall experience at Playa Viva.”

LC:Playa Viva – such a special place that I have been so fortunate to be able to experience. Every morning I get to watch the sunrise over the palm trees while sipping on a coffee and easing into the day. On very special mornings this includes spotting a mama turtle making her way back into the ocean after nesting. Just amazing.

Working in the garden has been a great opportunity to connect with nature and every day I discover new plants and creatures I never knew existed.Picture9

While the environment is truly spectacular, the staff, volunteers and local people really make the experience something special. Learning about Mexican culture, getting involved with local activities and teaching English to the children has really made me feel a part of the community.

I am having such a wonderful life experience and I hope that many more people get to experience what I have been so fortunate to encounter.”

Update from US State Department on Travel in Mexico

The US State Department recently updated it’s travel advisory for Mexico. While this is generally for US State Department employees, it also applies to US citizens traveling in Mexico. You can find the full advisory including specific updates for each Mexican State. Below we have included the first few lines of the General Conditions followed by an except from the specific update for the State of Guerrero where Playa Viva is located.  Your security is very important to us and we take certain security measuresUSPassports as well as ask you, our guest, to take normal precautions (many outlined by this advisory). These include traveling during the day on major highways; not displaying expensive cameras, watches and jewelry; and using common sense precautions when traveling.  Playa Viva makes sure that all transportation provided is with bonded taxis and tour guides (or well known employees and contractors).  We provide safe’s for your valuables, accept credit card on file for all payment so you do not need to carry cash and provide on site security 24×7.  We are happy to report that we have not had any incidents with guests to date and assume that part of this has to do with the great relationship we have built with the local community.  We appreciate your continued support of tourism in Mexico, to Playa Viva and support of the local community.

Below are excepts from the US State Department update on Travel to Mexico.

General Conditions: 

Millions of U.S. citizens safely visit Mexico each year for study, tourism, and business, including more than 150,000 who cross the border every day.  The Mexican government dedicates substantial resources to protect visitors to major tourist destinations, and there is no evidence that organized criminal groups have targeted U.S. visitors or residents based on their nationality.  Resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the levels of drug-related violence and crime that are reported in the border region or in areas along major trafficking routes. 

Nevertheless, U.S. travelers should be aware that the Mexican government has been engaged in an extensive effort to counter organized criminal groups that engage in narcotics trafficking and other unlawful activities throughout Mexico.  The groups themselves are engaged in a violent struggle to control drug trafficking routes and other criminal activity.  Crime and violence are serious problems and can occur anywhere. 

Guerrero: Acapulco, Ixtapa, Taxco and Zihuatanejo are major cities/travel destinations in Guerrero – Defer non-essential travel to the northwestern and southern portions of the state (the area west and south of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and west and south of the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca), except for the cities of Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa. In those cities, you should exercise caution and stay within tourist areas. You should also exercise caution and travel only during daylight hours on toll highway (“cuota”) 95D between Mexico City and Acapulco. Use the toll road towards the Playa Diamante area and avoid the highway running through the city of Acapulco for travel to and from Acapulco. In Acapulco, defer non-essential travel to areas further than 2 blocks inland of the Costera Miguel Aleman Boulevard, which parallels the popular beach areas. Lodging for U.S. government personnel is limited to the “Hotel Zone” of Acapulco, beginning from the Hotel Avalon Excalibur Acapulco in the north and going south through Puerto Marquez including the Playa Diamante area. Any activity outside the Hotel Zone for U.S. government personnel is limited to the coastal area from La Quebrada to the beginning of the Hotel Zone and only during daylight hours. In general, the popular tourist area of Diamante, just south of the city, has been less affected by violence. Flying into the coastal cities in southern Guerrero remains the preferred method of travel. You should defer non-essential travel by land between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa, travel to Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa only by air, and exercise caution while in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. If traveling by land, use toll highway 200 between Acapulco and Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. You should also exercise caution in the northern region of Guerrero (the area north of the town of Arcelia on the border with Estado de Mexico in the north and north and east of the town of Tlapa near the border with Oaxaca). The state of Guerrero was the most violent state in Mexico in 2013, with 2,087 homicides and 207 reported cases of kidnapping, according to the Mexican Secretariado Ejecutivo Nacional de Seguridad Publica. Self-defense groups operate independently of the government in many areas of Guerrero. Armed members of these groups frequently maintain roadblocks and, although not considered hostile to foreigners or tourists, are suspicious of outsiders and should be considered volatile and unpredictable.

Extra Layer of Protection

applying sealant to Juluchuca kindergartenFollowing up on a story from March of 2014, when a group of guests and parents of the local kindergarten joined together to paint the school, one of the outcomes from that “painting party” was that the paint needed to be re-applied almost yearly. The reason why was that the roof was leaking and thus the paint was peeling almost annually. When this story was recounted back at Playa Viva by the painting party, other guests staying at Playa Viva took it upon themselves to donate the funds to pay for sealant for the leaky roof. These funds provided by Playa Viva guests along with a funds raised by the kindergarten parents was sufficient to pay for the sealant and even give a small fee to the volunteers who applied the sealant. Here is one of a few photos forwarded by one of the kindergarten teachers to show that the work was finally done just in advance of the coming rainy season.  Thank you to our guests for the original painting party as well as for those guests providing additional funds to seal the roof. This extra layer of protection will hopefully allow the paint to last longer and next year’s “painting party” will have to take its talents to a new school or community center.

Halcyon Days with Master Mixologist Don Johnny

Photo Courtesy of Tom Seawell
Photo Courtesy of Tom Seawell

Guest Blog by guest Jim Neeley with photographs by Tom Seawell

 

We are just back

from spending five

wonderful days

celebrating

a 25th anniversary

at Playa Viva.

 

A group of 14 friends

and family joined us

for the celebration.

 

Photo Courtesy of Tom Seawell
Photo Courtesy of Tom Seawell

Lazy days were filled

with morning yoga,

quiet conversation,

napping in hammocks,

sharing great meals,

riding the gentle surf

and being pampered

by the gracious team

that is Playa Viva.

 

Guests were invited

to participate in meal

preparation in the open

kitchen.

 

Photo Courtesy of Tom Seawell
Photo Courtesy of Tom Seawell

And to learn a few

of the secrets from

the irrepressible,

never at a loss for words,

activities organizer extraordinaire

and Master Mixologist

Don Johnny.

 

More than a few of his

trademark cocktails

were poured for our guests

over these five halcyon days.

Actually a lot more

than a few drinks.

 

Photo Courtesy of Tom Seawell
Photo Courtesy of Tom Seawell

Our very special friend and

professional photographer,

Tom Seawell with an

impromptu stylist assist from

his wife Laura created

these beautiful images

of a few of Johnny’s concoctions.

Cheers!