Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Vini Vidi Vici - Little Brother Heads Home


CaƱada de la Virgin San Miguel de Allende

My little brother (I guess I should say "youngest"), arrived last Monday and we have been on the go since then.   We toured the city of Monterrey, Santiago, and then we took a trip to San Miguel de Allende for five days to show him the colonial side of the country and a bit of history.  That trip included Dolores Hidalgo, Atotonilco and other sites in between.

We had the opportunity to visit with our friend Barbara and have dinner out one night. 

Visited the pyramids outside San Miguel de Allende and enjoyed a wonderful tour.

On the list of activities was a formal tour of the botanical gardens.   As often as we have stayed there, walked the gardens and lake, we had never taken a tour.  It was great and my brother truly enjoyed it.  One thing we learned is that there is a fight for the land by developers.   The wall in front of the parking where I have parked the trailer in the past was torn down by the city claiming it was violating the passage of vehicles.   We have now lost that boondocking spot.   I know that progress comes at a price, however, this is coming at a cost to the environment as well as the community.  Many homes between 3 and 5 million pesos that make it impossible for Mexicans, especially locals, to purchase.

We spent a few hours at the thermal water, La Gruta.  It has now become the gringo tourist center and prices have really shot up.  There has to be another more economical and less crowded place.

Philip left on Wednesday and we hope he enjoyed his stay and will come back soon. 

On another note, we were trying to get some things done before his visit.  The rains were heavy for more than three weeks.   People couldn't make it, couldn't do the work or something.  One of the things we wanted to remedy was our showers.  Both had old plumbing and it required opening the tile and concrete walls.  It didn't happen.

Now that he's gone, the plumber found the time and did an incredible job.  We had saved a few pieces of tile just for this type of event and it came in handy.   Before there was little pressure and it took forever to get hot water.   We don't take long showers.  In fact, we pretty much follow the boondocking method of getting wet, soap up and then rinse turning the water off in between.  At the gym, I never use hot water.   If I won't waste my own, I won't waste someone else's, doesn't matter if we are paying for it or not.   Water is a valuable resource.   The faucets were changed out for a mono-faucet.   We had to wait until today to use it.  Full force water stream (water saver showerhead), and instant hot water.  Total cost of materials and labor, 1500 pesos ($80 U.S.).  

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Another Side of Me (You Probably Didn't Know)


The other night, we ventured out in the rain.  It has rained here for three weeks non-stop.  Hard, heavy downpours that have left many people and homes completely soaked.  We need the water, no doubt.  That said, my little brother is coming for a ten-day visit and we wanted to do some repairs and updates around the house.  The rain put a stall to all of it.   A long list and I won't bore you with the details.  More on this trip later.

We went to a concert.  Not just any concert and not one with loud amplification and crowds.  A very good friend of ours is a well-known music teacher at the state university.  He plays piano, string instruments and his love is the accordion.   You're already conjuring up ideas of folkloric music and polkas.   Not even close.  Alfonso plays classical music and very, very well.  Not necessarily related, but he is also a polyglot speaking six languages of which he all learned on his own.  

The invitation was for a two-hour concert which is located in a house in Monterrey.  It's not a big house but has a place downstairs to mingle both inside and out, with a small pavilion next to a pool where they have outside cocktail parties and concerts.  Very accommodating.   We had a glass of wine before the concert and met some of our friends there as well.

Upstairs is a small theater.  Dark, walls covered in long black curtains.  It's all with assigned seating and maximum capacity of 50 persons.  This place is incredible.  I've never quite understood, and have mentioned it before here on the blog, the need for amplification. Some of the pieces we listened to were; In A Persian Market, Funeral March of a Marionette, Por Una Cabeza, which to most of you are all very popular but have a long history in terms of musical composition.  If you were to hear them you would say, "oh, that's from a show or a movie".   Very true.

The interesting part of the evening was that Alfonso gives historical background about the composer as well as the intended story behind the piece so that as you are listening to.  You can actually imagine what is happening based on what you are listening to, just like they did before electricity, movies, and musical recordings. 

Back to my past.  When I was in high school I became a fan of symphonic orchestras, classical music and opera.  I don't speak much about it and don't play the music when other people are around.  They always seem to find the music boring and give me strange looks and poo poo classical music.  I started out as an usher at the Kansas City Auditorium where the orchestra played.  It was a great escape for a young kid but in a healthy environment.  We started a fan club for Jorge Messer who was our conductor and who by the way is Mexican but from a Hungarian background.  I met such greats as Zubin Mehta, Van Cliburn, Zara Nelsova (aka Sara Nelson) and many, many more famous people as well as opera singers and groups such as the Rolling Stones (yes, I was backstage watching them perform).  It was a lot for a 14 year old, at least at the time.  

One last thing, I haven't even checked the blog in a few weeks and I see several messages.  I apologize for not seeing or answering them but will do so this week. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Illegal Immigration - The Rush For The Border


I've discussed this in the past but it seems the problem is getting worse and Trump is losing ground.  Illegals are swarming to the U.S. border by the truckload and that term is literal.   This week on the toll road between Monterrey and Reynosa, Mexican immigration stopped a semi loaded with 336 people.

That's not a typo or a stuck key, 336 human beings herded into a trailer comprised of men, women, 31 children and two pregnant women just days away from giving birth.   They are safe now and housed in the shelter for illegals with food, hot showers, beds, and blankets as well as clean clothes.   The 31 children have been turned over to DIF (National System for Integral Family Development) whose job it is to care for as well as provide psychological evaluation and reunite them with their parents.

This cargo had a value of over $ 2,500,000 U.S.  Each person paid over $7500 to be taken from the Guatemala/ Mexico border to Houston, Tx.   This isn't a once in a lifetime trip, this trip is constantly being made through the Americas delivering people, not to the border, but to cities inside the United States.   Keep in mind, many people pay just to make it to Mexico which for many can be just as safe and lucrative in terms of improving one's condition.

How long did it take some or all of these people to raise $7500?  I ask that question because that is a lot of money.  When was the last time you spent that much on a trip?   We didn't even spend that much on our four-month-long excursion through the U.S. and Canada when fuel prices were at one of their all-time highs.

In Mexico, a person with a high school diploma who makes 10,000 pesos a month is doing extremely well.  With that 10,000 pesos a month you have socialized medicine for yourself, your spouse and your children until age 18.  You have access to a government home loan with a fixed rate.

85 sq meters (765 sq ft) 2 bedrooms, one bath.  Not a big house but a good starter home.  Imagine if the spouse works also and makes around the same.  Not a bad life.

So this blog post has been delayed for a week due to the fact that a certain cat strolled across my keyboard and erased this part of the post.  I couldn't retrieve it.  Too bad but my point with this topic was that I am not sure why people, especially Mexicans, risk their lives and families, not to mention their families money, to do something that they could easily do at home.  

Not sure why the United States doesn't just tell people not to come as the "dream" really doesn't exist and it's something they can do at home.  How many have died?  How many have never returned home to their families because of a change of plans, they had started a new family and forgotten the other, or ended up in prison?  

With the exception of those from Central America, a place that has no real future that I can see, who seek refugee status.   Central America is one of Mother Nature's mistakes in terms of human existence.  Battered yearly from both sides by cyclones, hurricanes, and heavy flooding.  No wonder those countries, although beautiful and I know a few, are so corrupt and crime-ridden.  

Just my take on this as we see them pass through Monterrey on their way north.   Stay home, get a good education, find a way.  There are solutions and as frequent visitors to Mexico, we can all help.  Used clothes and tips aren't the answer.   Help provide a good education and support for a family.  So when you come this winter, find someone to help, not with money with a better future.

Monday, September 3, 2018

It Finally Happened


It's not what you may think but it is certainly good news.  The rains have come and the temperatures are dropping.  I don't expect the heat to stay away for long but we will see a gradual decrease over the next few weeks.

Coming off the road after some hectic weeks and trips.   Oh the stories I could tell about almost having to turn Saturday night's flight around because of a drunk guy who locked himself in the bathroom, people listening to videos on their cell phones without using headphones,  kids running up and own the aisles (I guess if you are a grandparent that may sound cute), people attempting to stuff an oversized (supposed) carry on and being told it just won't fit and raising a stink and then almost breaking the compartment door clasp.  Oh and I didn't mention the flight delays that they continue to blame on the Mexican president's plane landing at the CDMX airport.   Not true, there are large posters in the airport dispelling the myth and showing a pie chart of the actual reasons.  The most common is that discount airlines have very few or no extra equipment so that when one is taken out of service unexpectedly, it throws the rest of their system off.  

So the drought has been broken or at least for now.   The lake is slowly filling and we seem to always make the right decisions sometimes at the last minute but right on time.   I was never happy with the gutters we had on the front of the house.  First off, they were ugly PVC gutter material and second the water came off the roof and over the gutters.  I found a great place that makes all aluminum gutters and they installed them on Friday.  As we say, "justo a tiempo".   The downpour lasted three hours and the gutters did the job.   They came back today to do some touchup and adjustments.   It rained again this evening and all is well.  Imagine, they brought a one-piece 15 meter gutter all the way from the northside of Monterrey.

Looks like I may be moving on from the school.   It appears they are not going for a bilingual program based on the demographics in the area.   Not a bad thing but I worked very hard to get where we are today and there have been some amazing advancements.  If the board decides to change its strategy I always have other things to do for the next year.  One is a course I am writing for the U.S. Embassy.  I'm just getting started and the pay is great.   The university publisher keeps me busy enough as it is and as December rolls around I think we will be rving much more.  

That's it for now.  I could go on but . . . 

Sunday, August 12, 2018

After Two Weeks On The Road . . . Working


This is the high season for visiting schools.  My trips took me to the following cities but only for a night and a day.  It wasn't possible to do any sightseeing and there wasn't much to take pictures of except for schools and airports.

2 days in Culiacan
1 day in Guadalajara
2 days in Queretaro
1 day in San Luis Potosi
1 day in Queretaro 
1 day in Garcia
1 day in Guadalajara

Unlike other consultants, one in particular who traveled throughout the state of Sonora by car, I was confined to basically boring trips.  I made money though and that is a good thing.   Come two weeks, I will have one more year before taking my U.S. pension and I think I will be finished with the daily grind.  It's not really a daily grind.  I go to the gym and then work from 8:30 to noon and do things around here or traveling for work.  Not bad but it's not being on the road.  Mexicans need their feet planted in the soil.

The weather has really sucked here at home at still hovers around 100F everyday.  The electric bill just came in and it was the highest ever in my Mexican history.  1449 pesos for two months, which comes out to $39 a month U.S.  I refused to not use the air conditioning and turn it on after 4 p.m.  

As a welcome home dinner tonight, I grilled a couple of steaks and some shrimp on the barby.  Very tender and delicious not to mention the shrimp.  

My little brother is coming in October for a 10-day visit and then I hope I am off to Ecuador.  

I have a couple more tasks to finish to make the rv ready for our next trip.  New batteries moved indoors plus some other minor things.  

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Social Media - It Could Be So Much More


Eygpt used social media to start a revolution that brought about change.  It was very dramatic and took off like wildfire.  It seems to pretty much end there.

I find social media sites, such as FaceBook which is the largest, to have evolved into a space for social disconnect as well as business.  It works for both of those things but I believe many, like myself, had hoped for so much more.

It seems like things happened many years ago and we've forgotten about them.  You know, things like world wars, holocausts, fascism, starvation, and hunger.   Where did those things go?  They've gone nowhere and still continue to this day.  It's as if we live in a world of fantasy and we have put those things in the closet in hopes they won't rear their ugly head again.   But, they will.

My grandparents were immigrants of the poorest kind.  Tenant farmers who had no education whatsoever spoke a dialect that was ridiculed and came to the U.S. looking for that freedom that everyone speaks so highly of.   My father started school at age 8 not speaking English and was bullied for it as well.  However, this isn't about me or what my family or many others go through.  

Facebook, with over 2.46 users, is a free social media site.  If you can connect to the internet you can become a member.   We have over 1/3 of the world posting and reading the website.  In addition, there is YouTube, Blogger, Wordpress and many others.   Just like myself, we post daily activities, pictures, and videos of places we've been to or seen.   Take a quiet scroll down your Facebook and see how many of those posts you read really have anything to do with change.   I still associate Facebook with the Austin Power's movie where he shows Beyonce arriving in the future.  He gives her a look at social media and it's a video of a monkey in a tree scratching his behind.  Isn't that cute!  But hey, that's where social media has gone.
It didn't take long for users to get into the business side of the website.   Now, everyone is selling or hawking something. Clothes, houses, vacations, used items, why even Facebook has MarketPlace where you can advertise just about anything new or used for sale.  It's a good thing and I'm not knocking it and I know many people who use it for advertising what they sell.

What I am knocking though, is a simple fact that we now have a global medium in which we can make a change.  Yet I see very few people post anything that is world changing.   Facebook has pretty much gone silent on the political state of the U.S., Mexico, and Canada.  That should be raising an early warning flag.  It's not about bashing the politicians or countries, it's about making people aware of what is going on and the opportunity to change the world.   Remember hunger and starvation?  Maybe, just maybe, we could have an impact on some of those issues.  Then again, most people are fearful of social discourse, afraid someone might say something against them or start an intelligent conversation other than LOL, OMG, WTH.

I posted this definition the other day; 

Fascism - a form of radical authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition and control of industry and commerce, which came to prominence in early 20th-century Europe.

Either people didn't read it, are ashamed to admit that they've read it and understand it, or they simply think it will all go away.  If a person has any education at all, along with an understanding of world history, we should all know that it really is true that history is repetitive.  The U.S. may be experiencing some of this and Mexico appears to be heading in that direction.   They said after WW I it could never happen again, well, it did, WWII.  Recently, a standing president made a comment regarding the possibility of WW III.  And here we all thought it couldn't happen again.  

Isn't it strange that after WWII, a small group of my family from Europe came to visit?  Why was it such a small group?  Read your history books.

To make a long story short, this is one of the reasons why I don't post much anymore.  If it isn't all roses and happy, happy, or funny and amusing, or some sort of consumerism, no one seems to be interested anymore.  "Let's not worry about tomorrow", or, "there really isn't much I can do about it anyway", "who cares, I'm retired now and will just sit back and watch the show". 

Even though technology didn't exist back then, whichever back then you're currently thinking of, just remember that it can happen again and we can all help to make a change, any change.  Spread the word.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tuesday Market - Trip To Atotonilco


Yesterday was another busy one.  I still get up early but we don't seem to get out of the house until 9:30.  We're relaxing and I enjoy watching the news, reading, and using the internet.  Tuesday market at the top of the hill is a gringo day as well as locals.  It's much bigger than the Sunday market but what makes it different is all the characters that show up.   I don't know if they flock to SMA because they're different, odd or interesting but I usually don't see these people in the U.S. unless I'm never in the right place at the right time.  People watching is fun and I could do it all day.

We had a light breakfast there with a quesadilla topped with a bit of asado de puerco.  It was delicious.  Just enough to get in a good walk around the market, pick up and look at stuff and then put it back down.  That's what people do when they shop.   The used clothes market is really something.  There are tables for 10, 20 and 30 pesos per item and now I see quite a bit of Chinese imports that sell from 1 to 10 pesos.  1 peso?  I mean really, people will buy anything.

Heading out to Atotonilco, I remembered we had gone as a group with Norma, Croft, Claudia, and P.J. several years ago.   Atotonilco was established over 300 years ago.  A Padre Neri claimed to have seen a vision of Christ telling him to build a place for penance and meditation.  Another version says that the terrain around Guanajuato looked similar to those lands around Jerusalem, I am assuming he had read about it in his studies or had seen drawing and painting of the Holy Land.

The church in Atotonilco is also known as the Sistine Chapel of the Americas.   It took the artist 30 years to paint the interior.   This was also the first stop for Hidalgo on his march for Independence in 1810.  The church underwent restoration in 2010 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Independence.  Several major issues were discovered and they all had to do with humidity and minerals that were being absorbed by the walls from the aquifer that flows below it.  This is the water that goes to La Gruta where they have thermal water pools.   So not only are there minerals that affected the structure also the steam from the naturally heated water did its job as well.  Walls were sealed, paintings restored and sealed and an addition added in the last 100 years was torn down as it blocked sunlight from entering and keeping the walls dry.  Atotonilco is listed on the World Monuments list.  Well worth seeing.