Monday, July 16, 2018

I Walked A Thousand Miles - SMA

Some things never change and others seem to be under a constant morphosis.  We always find something new going on and yet you can always count on the World Heritage Site maintaining the historical and architectural side of the city.  It continues to grow and I'd say by leaps and bounds.  Traffic on Sunday was a bit hectic even walking.   It is summer and vacationers are here from all over and as I said yesterday mostly Mexicans.  One huge downside that has turned me off completely is the introduction of RZRs.  They are like dune buggies but much more sophisticated and extremely noisy with huge speakers attached to them with the boom, boom, boom.  

First gas station in San Miguel de Allende.

Today was a marathon.  We walked, almost non-stop from 10 a.m. until we stopped for linner (combination lunch and dinner).   Lots of steep streets and rocky roads but we saw many things we had never come across before.   Mostly neighborhoods that are off the beaten path.  One of our goals was the Mask Museum.  That was a one-hour walk from our house and it took us to some new streets; Homobono and Acamapixtle.   Homobono was a canonized a saint in 1199 for his good works and deeds just as his name translates, good man.  He apparently had a vision in front of the crucifix in a local church.  Acamapixtle was the king of  Tenochtitlán in the Aztec period around 1375 and ruled for almost 20 years.  As for the museum, it was a flop.  In my internet research, it says it is open daily until 3 p.m. but no one answered and we saw a small, 4 X 4-inch sign that read, "by appointment only".  

See the sheet music attached to the back of the kid in front!

Bummer, we started down the hill and decided to take a bus further up the hill to the Mirador.  We gawked at the sights and watched tourists getting off and on the trolley and buying their mugs of something that was quite expensive.   From there we walked around the Parroquia and just happen to catch a procession.  Look closely at the picture and you can see a hunched-over man with a homemade cane and his wife tailing behind him.  They must be in their late eighties or early nineties and they just kept right along.   We watched the procession for a while and then attended a funeral in the cathedral.  Well, we didn't stay long but we did see the cuerpo presente  (coffin with the body).  

Lots of shops looking for a lamp for a friend to put in his new house.  It started to rain but we kept on until we arrived to the Dragon Chinese restaurant just down the block from the Canadian bakery.  That was our linner.  We split a plate of dumplings and hot and sour soup.  Very good restaurant but lacks any interior design.  I think that's where Les plays cards in the winter.

Walked home for a well-deserved nap and now we are in happy hour.   Sorry to see what Trump did today.  I think we're all in for some trouble in the coming years, here in Mexico too.

Visit To The Market - Evening Walkabout

Had a great sleep for the first night.  This is a very quiet neighborhood and the bedroom is very comfortable.  The rest of the house is so-so, but again, you get what you pay for.  It's well equipped but could you some basic maintenance.  Talking to the guy who rented us the place, he and his parents have several rentals.  Paint and some details would work well.   

Yesterday started early with the World Cup match between France and Croatia.  Good game and it was a great way to start a Sunday.   We headed out on the bus to the market.  The bus passes right in front of us where the Cruz Roja is located.  It takes you all the way to the market.  Parking is usually a problem but it seemed as if the market has lost some of its pizazz.  They used to have three covered areas and now there are only two.  One of those has a very nice permanent structure or roof that makes it very light and airy.  Once we meet up with our friend Barbara, she can fill us in on all the changes we are seeing.

Of course, the market is for buying produce and food.  So we had a slice of very good pizza and shared 30 pesos of borrego which easily turns into four very full tacos along with homemade yellow corn tortillas.  Very good salsas along with sliced cucumbers, onions, and pico de gallo.

Lots to see and do and I bought a Stilson, as it is known in Mexico but to gringos, it is a pipe wrench.  The old one I had finally fallen apart after more than 30 years and it was used, to begin with.  Tons of used clothing which comes from the U.S. in bails.  You probably know that these used clothes make the rounds and go all the way through Central and South America before becoming those famous rag rugs that they sell at the dollar store.


After a well-deserved nap it was off to the Parroquia to see all the tourists and their antics.  Mostly Mexicans, there were all kinds of activities going on.  A band played in the kiosk while people danced, children played with their balloons and taking pictures with mojigangas.  Walked there and back.  You just can't get lost anymore if you have a cell phone.  The GPS works great so we were able to take many back streets we haven't been on and still found our way home.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

"Long Day's Journey" Into SMA

Took off on time, out the door by 7:30.  Made a quick top off on the gas tank, bought the newspaper and off we went.  A fun day, to say the least, but nothing out of the ordinary.   We crossed the mountains without an issue stopping at our favorite taco stand at the entronque of Galeana.   Our friends remembered us.  They took care of us when we broke down in April.  

Headed down to San Roberto and Matehuala.  Lots of highway traffic and federales everywhere.   Overall a very safe trip.  We took advantage of Spotify music app and hooked up a cellphone to the car stereo.  The signal left us a couple of times but we had some great classical jazz and some great conversation.

Getting off the highway to head to SMA we hit one heck of a downpour.  Truly beautiful and a wonderful welcome for us.  At home the forecast is 40C to 42C for the next week.  Looks like we left in time.  We stopped at the Mega for a short list of supplies and then called our AirBnB host who met us at the house just 10 minutes after the call.  

The house has two bedrooms and a small studio.  It has a gate over the driveway so we can pull in the car but it looks like a pretty safe neighborhood.  There is a roof terrace also that we didn't know about.  No furniture there but we can take a couple dining room chairs up there.

The house is a bit rustic but has a great master bedroom and bath.  For the price it will do just fine and we don't plan on being home anyway.

Overall I think we will like the place and it seems to suit us already as we are into the happy hour, national news and checking our internet which is extremely fast.  Tomorrow morning we are watching the soccer game between Croatia and France. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Heading Out In The Morning - SMA

A trip couldn't come soon enough.  This one is a real relaxer.  As I may have mentioned, we found a great spot behind the Burger King in San Miguel de Allende for a great price.  Two bedrooms, two baths, complete house for a steal.  So if you want to come to visit there is an extra bedroom and bath.  Granted, it's not in the World Heritage Site zone, but we are about 10 minutes from the Parroquia.  

I hope we take off around 7 a.m. and of course we are driving the new to me Volkswagen.  It gets great gas mileage so it shouldn't be a big expense.  

The car is packed and ready to roll.  I had the tires rotated and checked along with hoses and belts.  All is in good order.  I figure we should be there before 5 p.m., as usual, in time for happy hour.

We're going to miss taking the rv but this is only for a week anyway.  Looking forward to visiting friends and old haunts.

See you soon!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Wow, Two Weeks Without A Post!

After waiting three hours for the polling booth to open, volunteers that never showed up, someone decided to take things into his own hands and get them organized.  After screaming and shouting, four lines were formed, people quieted down and voted. This voting post finished in less than 20 minutes.  Small town as you remember.  

A lot has happened since I posted last.  I've been to a couple of places.  This week I flew to Villahermosa, Tabasco, home of the newly-elected Mexican president.  I won't go there other than basic information.  He has never held a job in his life in the private sector, lives in a mansion, his sons drive Lamborghinis and ski in the Swiss Alps.   He claims to be a president for the people and drives around in a basic economic white car. He's as full of it as any other politician.  Another six years of false promises.   He wants to sell the Los Pinos (Mexico's White House), sell the presidential plane, and give all the ninis money while they go to school.   Pure B.S.  He's a nationalist, believes he can revive Pemex, and thinks that we need to reduce and/or eliminate imports from other countries.  Wow, all of this sounds so familiar, like someone from a northern country.  

Not all of Mexico supported him contrary to the news.  36% of registered Mexicans didn't even bother to vote and that has its own message.  He claims he will eliminate poverty and corruption.  He can't do either much less in six years.  Corruption starts at home.  Every politician is corrupt according to him.  Fine, it might be so, but it is also true that every politician is a spouse, neighbor, cousin, brother/sister, coworker, or family member.  They're not from Venus but right here on this planet.  Poverty is an age-old problem not likely to go away in my lifetime and for many reasons.

A fire broke out at a local business.  15 minutes later a helicopter from Protección Civil starting dipping into a neighbor's swimming pool to put out the fire in a short time.  I had to be Nosey O'Donnell and check it out. 

The SUV had a pretty detailed inspection at the Dodge dealer.   They found several suspension issues which we are having done at our own mechanic.   The issue of the temperature gauge and the electronic shutdown on our last trip has yet to be resolved.   Still working on that. 

Some repairs to the house are going on.  Because of water damage a few years ago, the house suffered some minor structural damage.   It has since been repaired but left some cracks in the walls and the floor tiles around the perimeter of the house.  The floors are being fixed this week with like floor tile and the walls are next.   Looks like an expansion of the master bedroom is in order.  

I replaced the built-in microwave today.  That was a two-hour chore and the use of four hands.  A worker from a neighbor's quinta came to help and was happy to have the extra money.  I went to pay him and he said he only deserved half as I did the other half.  He had never installed a built-in microwave but has electrical experience.   I told him he could now tell people he has experience and then hire me as his assistant.  

Next Saturday we take off for San Miguel de Allende.  We will take a week's true vacation and rent a house taking the cat with us.   Although I am now on a semi-permanent vacation, I need to get completely away.  We want to visit friends, sleep in, do some hiking and visit the botanical garden, Peña de Bernal and maybe a day trip to Queretaro.   The pension process I mentioned in my last post is now taking place.  

Coming home, I start my 100% freelance life and am booking trips to all the countries where the publisher has a customer base.  I've received authorization from CDMX to directly contact all of the offices looking for work.  The hope is to turn those trips into vacations.  No guarantees but we will see.     

Friday, June 22, 2018

Finalizing My Mexican Pension

Next week I will leave the school payroll.  I only receive a few hours per week to keep me in the social security system and the universal medical care.  Leaving the payroll, I will now pay for that medical care with one yearly payment of 6000 pesos, or around $385 dollars a year.  By doing this, I can now work on what we refer to as Modulo 40.

Modulo 40 allows registered workers to leave the system and begin to make additional payments to their social security account.  How does that work?

First I selected an amount that I would like to receive as a monthly pension for life.  I have chosen an amount, that along with my U.S. social security will make for a comfortable income in the near future.  I've complied with the minimum quarters or in my case weeks required to enter the system.  I am required to pay 10,75% of my desired payment for the next 48 months or until I am 65 years of age.  19.75% of that will go into my Afores (401K equivalent) and I will be able to withdraw that money plus what I have in the account along with any other contributions I wish to make.

Next year I will apply for my U.S. social security and use some of that money to make the monthly payments on the Mexican account.  

As for work, next week I will be free to work as little or as much as I want.  My work income will not affect my Mexican pension in any way.  I could stop work altogether and just make the payments and then collect in four years and that is a possibility.  However, I will continue to work for the University of Dayton as well as the school and maybe other schools as a consultant leaving us free to travel when and where we want.

I am already filling my August/September calendar.  I have a trip to Ecuador in September and we might decide to stay for an additional week and take in the sights.  

It pays to be a registered worker here in Mexico.  The benefits are great and the maximum you can collect now from Mexican SS is 50,000 pesos a month or $2500 U.S., not bad is it?  Oh, and did I mention, I will also receive three lump sums; a payout from the school for the years I worked, a payment from an old 401K that no longer exists with interest, and a payment from Infonavit which is a housing program for all registered workers that I never took part in.  

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Two Trips To Puebla - And Some Gringo Stuff

The last two weeks have taken me to Puebla twice.  Both times for work with little to no time to do any sightseeing. It was quite warm for the Poblanos although it was less than 30C during the day and 13C at night. The weather across most of Mexico has been extremely hot with temps hovering between 37C and 44C.   The Secretaria de Salud has been issuing warnings and recommendations to the public via television and radio spots.   It's hot.   

After a long workday, we stopped at 1 p.m., we took off for the local market.  We ordered a famous Poblano treat called cemita.  We have semita here in Nuevo Leon but our semita is a pan dulce made with whole wheat flour, piloncillo (dark, raw sugar) nuts and raisins.   

This is a cemita Poblana.  Homemade bread with a very thin milanesa de res (chicken-fried steak), wonderful local cheese, ham, avocado, onion, tomato, and an herb called pápalo which tastes like a combination of cilantro, arugula and rue.  For me, it's kind of a mint type taste but not minty, if that makes any sense.

We've used the heck out of the bedroom air conditioner (mini-split) and I am very happy with it.  We changed it out two years ago and bought, at the time, a high-efficiency unit.  Now they offer mini-splits with built-in inverters, costly but super efficient.  I turn it on at 5:00 p.m. and it runs all night at 26C (78F).  The bill for the bimestre (last two months) was 708 pesos for 740 kWh.  That's 2.8 cents (U.S.) per kWh taxes included.  Truly amazing.  So when I'm old and broke, I may still be able to keep cool and warm here in Mexico.

We've been trapping possums in the backyard with a failed attempt to capture a feral cat that is sick.  It has severe mite infestation and fleas.  It had gotten into the house and we were afraid it would infect our cat and house.  It was trapped but the gardener accidentally let it lose when he attempted to bag it.  The plan is to take the cat and have it cared for and spayed and then let it lose if no one wants to adopt it.  We take the possums on the back road around the lake and turn them loose.  I'd say it's about an eight km drive.   

On that trip around the lake, we passed the Cueva de Murciélagos (bat cave), the largest in northern Mexico.  They have a visitors area where you can watch them come out at night.  It's quite a spectacle.  This is a protected area so there is no climbing or spelunking.   Maybe you remember that we've had a bat in the house on several occasions.  Bad radar I guess.

Gringo stuff along with my CFE info above can be found online such as my recently posted Mexican airline fleet age, and now it seems that Mexican airline seating is the smallest in the world.  Well, that's on the web also and the seats range in leg room from 29 to 34 inches and that's not including first or business class. So that's a myth. One super discount airline gets a bad rap, Vivaaerobus.  It has lots of restrictions, but the best on-time record.  They've taken steps to ensure that record by eliminating all but a few connections and mostly non-stop flights.  I like the non-stop feature and the 35-minute check-in time if you have only a carry-on.  Most of my overnighters are a backpack and I carry a sports coat in my hand.  On my last trip to Puebla, I flew Aeromexico and returned on Viva.  I got to the airport at 2 p.m. for a 2:30 p.m. flight.  No hassles.

Another thing to do when you come to Mexico for the winter or full-time living is to peruse the shelves of a Mexican supermarket.  You'd be surprised how many Mexican products there are and many are regional.  There is usually have an aisle dedicated to canned jalepeños and chiles of all types and the other half is dedicated to bottled, canned and even hermetically sealed bags of salsas.  Here in the north, we have a section dedicated to carne seca or dried beef in all types of packaging and products even a sweet empanada made with carne seca, piloncillo, raisins, nuts, and spices.  I checked our shelves earlier and we have no foreign products, they are all Mexican.  Exceptions would be soy sauce and sesame oil although it is not imported but foreign.  Mexico also produces some good curries as well.  As I've said before, HEB stocks 78% Mexican products and the rest come from all over the world.  A Mexican cake made with Canadian butter wouldn´t taste like a Mexican cake, now would it?