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Off the beaten path in the region


We foreign correspondents have enviable jobs. We consort with princes and poker players, bankers and brewers. We poke our noses in all kinds of places.

It’s the end of the year nearly, so I can’t help but think of the fun places and interesting people I’ve been blessed to write about in 2012. Sure, there’s been plenty of serious things to report on. But then there’s been the fun things, those that are personably memorable.

Topping the list for me this year was a trip to Baja California to visit Scammon’s Lagoon where thousands of gray whales migrate each winter. I actually got paid to do this so I could write this story. That’s my video above.

Less than a month later, I visited a town in Veracruz state that created its own currency. I had never considered the ramifications of alternative currency till I did this story.

I’m still the butt of jokes in our house for something that happened after I was sent by editors to Costa Rica to write about “poker refugees” – American online poker players who moved abroad once several online poker sites became illegal. I expected to find frat boys swigging beer and playing online. To my surprise, I found brainy engineers, Russian literature experts, math whizzes and assorted other oddballs, all of whom I quite liked.

Then I made a mistake. I mentioned to our older daughter, who is very good at math, how much money these guys were making and, er, OK I confess: I suggested that she might want to look into online poker as a temporary career option.

I might as well have suggested a life of crime for all the guff I got about this later.

Still, it was a fun story. Almost as fun was this story about an artisanal chocolate maker in Nicaragua, and this one about a ghost town that has come back to life on the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I also enjoyed writing about the Kuna Indians in Panama, a surprising number of whom are albinos.

It’s been a great year. I head off tomorrow through the end of the year to Florida so no more blog postings till January. To all my readers, Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!


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Happy Fiestas


btw: With your daughter, you used the wrong approach. You should have mentioned that she might meet up with Rafa Nadal.


Merry Christmas to you too.

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This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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