Journal: Back in Playa del Carmen

Last Updated on August 6, 2023 by Lil Ginge

Playa del Carmen in a photorealistic style

Back in lovely Playa del Carmen

This digital nomad is back in sunny Playa del Carmen, Mexico. It’s a lovely place, and very very hot. Like fry eggs on your face hot. Nevertheless, it feels great to be back. And in some ways, it feels like I never left. The houses are still colorful. The tacos are still muy delicioso. The strip on La Quinta is bustling with tourists and natives out for a good time in all the right and wrong ways.

Last year, my first time living in Playa, abroad, on my own, for a month, was one of the more wild things I’ve done. And I’m not known for riding a Harley on the side of a cliff in my leather jacket, so this was pretty big for me. This, my second time in Playa for a month, feels much more comfortable and familiar. This time, I know how to order pastries from the grocery store without almost getting arrested! Also, I know how to find the grocery store, which is also huge.

The poquito amount of Spanish I speak is still muy mal. However, I can order coffee and get through a grocery store trip or a cafe order without speaking any English already. Which is fun and makes me want to learn much more Spanish. Also so everyone here doesn’t look at me like I’m a total idiot all the time.

My first week here was spent working remotely and setting up my temporary co-living apartment. Although, I did have a little time to catch up with an old friend, which was great. It made coming back to Playa feel like home.

We’ll see what Playa has in store for me over the coming few weeks. I definitely hope to check out some local music, try a few more of the local restaurants, and even get a trip to a resort pool or beach soon. Stay tuned for more from my adventures abroad.

What I’m Listening To

When I got to Mexico, I immediately threw on the Spotify Top 50 – Mexico playlist. I’ve been streaming the first ten tracks or so, which are mostly very good listens and definitely remind me that I’m currently outside of the United States. Nary a Tay Tay or Drake track here!

The playlist is largely dominated by Peso Pluma. Peso Pluma (real name Hassan Emilio Kabande Laija) is a Mexican rapper and singer. Born in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, Peso Pluma began his music career in his teens, teaching himself how to play the guitar and writing songs inspired by regional Mexican music.

Pluma’s music has been streamed over 1 billion(!) times on Spotify, and he has collaborated with artists such as Luis R Conriquez, Natanael Cano, and Eslabón Armado. His song “Lady Gaga”, a collaboration with Gabito Ballesteros (but not with Lady Gaga), currently sits atop the Mexican top 50 and has been streamed over 1.6 million times.

In addition to Pluma’s music, I have been obsessing over the song “Primera Cita” by Carín León. León is a Mexican singer-songwriter from Hermosillo, Sonora, who specializes in Regional Mexican music. Leon’s music is a blend of traditional regional Mexican music with a modern twist.

He is known for his powerful vocals and his ability to tell stories through his songs. His lyrics often deal with themes of love, loss, and heartbreak, the latter two of which I am a specialist in as well. “Primera Cite” combines Spanish lyrics with Mexican sounds and traditional blues and soul elements. I highly recommend you give it a listen.

What I’m Watching

Now Playing: Barbenheimer

The week before I left for Playa, I went to the movies. Twice. To watch Barbenheimer. My mom made fun of me for how badly I wanted to see Barbie. I did not care. I’m a huge Greta Gerwig fan and it sounded like it was going to be great. By the way, Mom liked it, too.

Both films are very good. I saw Oppenheimer Saturday and Barbie on Sunday, which is the correct order to see the two films because Oppenheimer is like existentialist torture and Barbie is like an existentialist sweet delight. You probably know that these two films have both been box office and critical smashes and for good reason. I like to think that my two tickets contributed to that great success.

Oppenheimer, directed by the incomparable Christopher Nolan, is based on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who led the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. The film chronicles Oppenheimer’s early studies in Europe, his direction of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos during World War II, and his eventual target at the hands of a communist witch hunt (it’s a witch hunt!!!) in 1954.

With a star-studded cast including Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) as Oppenheimer, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt, and Florence Pugh, the film is excellent. The second hour of the movie is as exciting as anything I’ve seen put to film. Comparable to Spielberg movies like Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark. But the movie is VERY. LONG. In a theater, I found the third hour extremely difficult to sit through. Like I sort of wanted to jump out of my seat and run away. Credit my smartphone, Twitter, and my probable adult ADHD for that.

Barbie, on the other hand, is an easy, breezy 1 hour and 54 minutes, and each and every minute is thrilling and wholly enjoyable. It’s the best movie I’ve seen this year and the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater since at least seeing The Menu. And probably significantly before that. The cast is impeccable. The writing is brilliant. Greta Gerwig is a genius. Go see it.

Now Streaming: David Lynch’s Lost Highway

On streaming, my current obsession is the David Lynch cult classic Lost Highway. I purchased the film a while back, and this week I am already on my second watch. Lost Highway stars Bill Pullman (Greatest Presidential Speech ever given) as an avant-garde jazz musician and (avant-garde?) husband who is tortured by a simmering jealous rage. For he suspects his beautiful wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette, understated nonchalant intensity in every frame), is cheating on him.

Lost Highway is an expressionist, surreal neo-noir film, combing elements of romance, horror, gangster films, and thrillers. It also borrows elements from other genres, including German Expressionism and the French New Wave. The film’s narrative is nonlinear and dreamlike, and it features a number of surreal and disturbing images. It’s pretty much a perfect film. Go stream it.

Barbie and Oppenheimer = "Barbenheimer"

What I’m Thinking About

South Florida Real Estate.

It feels out of control. As of March, the median home price in Miami is over $575,000 and the average rent is $2,400. For much of the working and middle class, this is simply unaffordable. Especially if you are a single individual without a dual income.

Why is Miami so expensive? Several reasons:

  • Low housing inventory. There is a limited supply of housing in Miami and South Florida, due to a number of factors. These include the region’s geography (it is surrounded by water on three sides) and its popularity as a tourist destination. This low supply has led to a bidding war among buyers, driving up prices.
  • Strong demand. The demand for housing in Miami and South Florida is strong, due to a number of factors, including the region’s warm climate, its proximity to Latin America, and its growing job market. This strong demand has also contributed to rising prices.
  • Investor interest. Miami and South Florida have become popular destinations for investors, who are attracted to the region’s high property values and its potential for capital appreciation. This investor interest has also helped to drive up prices.
  • Rising interest rates. Interest rates have been rising in recent months, which has made it more expensive to finance a home purchase. This has put some buyers on the sidelines, but it has also increased the demand for homes that are already on the market, which has further driven up prices.

As a result, according to a report by the Brookings Institution, more people are leaving the Miami area than moving to it. The report found that Miami-Dade County lost 79,535 people through net migration to other parts of Florida or different states between 2020 and 2022. This is the first time since 1970 that Miami-Dade County has experienced a population loss.

The Power of Geo-Arbitrage

This is also part of the reason I am enjoying living abroad this month. The rent I’m paying here is about a third of the median rent in the Miami area. That’s the kind of geo-arbitrage that is hard to resist when you’re trying to cut down on your monthly expenses.

Like other major cities in the United States, in Miami there has been a lack of investment in affordable housing for the working and middle classes, leading to a housing crunch and skyrocketing prices. Unless the private market or government starts building some incentives to step away from building only expensive, luxury housing, this problem will likely continue and worsen.

That’s all for now. ‘Til next time!

— Lil Ginge

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