Now that we have spent almost one full week in the beautiful, balmy weather of Cancun, Mexico, some of our party is beginning to wonder about how, exactly, they are going to get back, since American Airlines is/was the carrier of choice after our first choice (ATA) went bankrupt just days before our flight. Now, American Airlines has canceled numerous flights, and the question is, “How do  I get there from here?”

     The “there” in question is either Chicago or Atlanta, both of which sound like they are having less glorious weather than Cancun, Mexico! With the daughter in school in Nashville, Tennessee, the CNN weather reports of tornadoes in that area, plus the news that tornadoes touched down in Iowa (the home state) are distressing.

     Tried to call the youngest child on her cell phone in Nashville from the Lobster Dinner Cruise the other night, but she tells me (online) that she was at her boyfriend’s concert. His band was playing. She also tells me that she is (probably) going to become an Assistant Manager (of sorts) for a band called “Moon Taxi” that she is very “high” on. She is still interning with Rick Clark Productions and helping select music for at least 3 movies, plus receiving a Producer’s Credit for an XM/Sirius radio show for Mr. Clark. She’s even feeding the pet cat (“Keeks”) while Rick is in Santa Monica on business. Busy, busy, busy!

     The impressions of the United States from another country, while far away, are interesting. The violence towards a teacher in a Baltimore classroom, caught on cellphone video and posted to the internet, illustrates the disrespect towards teachers in the classroom and the need for reform in the nation’s schools. The President of the Teachers’ Union in Baltimore (MD) spoke, saying that the policy has Principals urged to cut down on suspensions, so unruly students sent to the Principal are just sent back to class. I remember this technique from 1985, so is there anything new about that? She went on to say that there needs to be an “alternative school” or a different facility where aggressive, disobedient, unruly students can be sent, to isolate them from the general population of students and teachers. This has been in effect in both the Davenport (Ia) and Rock Island and Moline (IL) schools for years, so I wonder why Baltimore has no such system? Of course, it was the alternative school in Moline, Illinois, that was the breeding ground for the youths who cold-bloodedly murdered a fellow student in the Sarah Kolb case, about 3 years ago. The schools are not getting the message that the 21st Century requires different sort(s) of schooling from those of the agrarian past. Better use of facilities. More computer usage and teaching. Greater emphasis on math and science. All have been indicated by national studies, but the old practice(s) of loading up classrooms with up to 35 students continue. As a long-time Sylvan Learning Center owner/operator, to me, it seems obvious that the number of students assigned to teachers needs to come down. Perhaps 3 to 1 (Sylvan’s ratio) is not realistic in a public school, but certainly 35 to 1 is even less realistic. If we had back the money being spent on the Iraq (and Afghanistan) Wars, just think what innovative change could take place in our schools, rather than this “fill in the bubble” testing emphasis that has added nothing, but, arguably, taken much away from real teaching and real learning. Most teachers I know personally (and I know a lot of them) are praying for the days when “No child left behind” becomes “A program left behind.”

    But I digress. Last night, we scoped out 3 relatively new eating places in the Cancun area, all built since the disastrous hurricane of a couple years back. First was Porto Madera, which we have eaten at previously. It is an Argentinian steakhouse, with high prices, but great ambience. I had the shish-ka-bob (which is called “brochettes” on the menu) and it was HUGE!

     Next, we wandered to a brand-new restaurant open only 3 months. Name: “Harry’s Bar and Grill,” a tribute to Ernest Hemingway’s famed Key West hang-out. This is an extremely romantic get-away, with a great view of the lagoon and a pricey menu. There is a fake waterfall, 3 fountains lighted in the lagoon itself that spout water, and….for your tableside snack while having a drink: crisp bacon. (Weird). A beautiful place.

    The last place (3 in a row, geographically) was entitled Grill 14 and was similarly romantic in tone, but the entire menu was printed ONLY in Spanish and there was an abundant presence of sushi on the menu. It was far less crowded than either of the first two mentioned, although the approach to the restaurant, itself, is very romantic. I would say a drink in this one might suffice, as the menu did not support the eating habits of two Midwesterners who don’t care for sushi and don’t read Spanish well-enough to know what they are ordering. Three very nice new additions to Cancun’s dining life, however, since our visit of one year ago.