Monday, February 17, 2020

Major Loco And The Case Of The Unwanted Flying Machine

You'll have to read between the lines but if you are abreast of the news in my land you'll know what I'm talking about.  I've decided to present this as the Flying Machine to avoid any issues as social media is now being scrutinized.  

In not too far off lands in North America lives Major Loco.  Major Loco inherited a tremendous flying machine that he despised, hated, and wanted to rid his land of.  For him, it represented everything capitalist and liberal.  He was determined to rid his land of the flying machine but found it very difficult.  From the start, he attempted to sell this flying machine but to no avail.

You see, this flying machine was purchased from one of the major worldwide manufacturers.  It was the behemoth of the skies.  It was meant for previous and future majors who thought it useful to demonstrate the power of the economy, provide space for 200 reporters and dignitaries, and included conference rooms and even a master bedroom.  It sounds very much like other flying machines from other nearby lands and they are useful in cases of attacks on their lands as well as visiting far off lands and showing the prowess and power of the land in question.

What Major Loco hadn't counted on was the simple fact that no one would want to buy a tremendous flying machine that is filled with security electronics, spying devices, and furnishings that wouldn't be to another land's liking.  So, the flying machine has sat in a giant aerodrome for over a year and a half.  The unforeseen consequences of not selling the flying machine are that it has a cost.  The flying machine is on a 20-year lease program, is less than six years into the program, and has depreciated greatly like most flying machines.  Then there has been the cost of storing the flying machine in the aerodrome, maintenance and keeping it shiny and dirt-free.  Imagine, it costs millions.

Major Loco has gone loco over this flying machine to the point that since it isn't wanted, he has decided to sell sweepstakes tickets at a small price to the general public.  But Major Loco recently informed those in his kingdom that the winner or winners will not actually receive the flying machine.  They will be paid a stipend of the supposed $150 million U.S., approx $1 million U.S. for the 10 winners.  The rest, well we really don't know what will be done with it or what will happen to the tremendous flying machine. We think it will be used to pay off the lease and then the major's air squadrons will maintain it until something better comes along.  Also, this last week, Major Loco invited some of his land's wealthiest people who provide millions of jobs to a meeting to "talk about the economy".  Well to those wealthy people's surprise, they were forced to sign documents promising to buy thousands of these tickets. 

Oh, the mind of a socialist major who just happens to be loco.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Mexican Utility Payments and More - How And Where To Pay

I read quite a bit about the difficulty ex-pats have in paying bills.  I write this as one comment send, "we live in the land of maybe".  It took offense to that statement.  I realize that not everyone is going to be a Spanish speaker.  As I have said, people live here for many different reasons and some feel just fine to stay with their own kind.  Although I have to say that I see many lonely women in and around San Miguel de Allende just as an example.  I also noticed that in Cuenca, Ecuador which is also another big ex-pat community.  They could learn some Spanish and meet a nice muchacho  :)

 Most of the issue with doing just about anything in Mexico is that if you don’t speak the language you have to kind of fuddle your way through things until you sort them out.  I have heard many people say, “well I have lived here for years and never knew that”.  Read the newspaper, listen to the news on the television or the internet.  Use an online translator and read ex-pat newspapers. 

So how do you pay bills in Mexico?  First off, there are very few countries with a decent mail delivery system and the same goes for Mexico.  We get our mail regularly but it only includes two bills; the phone and our membership dues payment at the resort south of our house. 

The most common things one has to pay are utilities and cable.  Telmex, CFE (electric), gas, be it filling a cylinder at home or in some major Mexican cities that have a natural gas network, cable, and internet.   The good thing about bills today is that mail doesn’t matter much anymore.  Even the CFE who delivers bills is slowly getting out of the business.   Everything is online these days including property taxes, Mexican car insurance, credit cards, etc.  I was shocked when my little brother recently told me that he still writes checks.  Egads! 

The CFE has cajeros or machines where you can pay your bill.  Some even had card readers to pay via debit or credit.  You can scan the bar code or enter your service number which is on any bill you may have or your contract.  The cajero accepts both bills and coins and returns change.  You can also pay at the counter.

Telmex has offices all over Mexico and again, you only need your phone number with the area and an ID in some cities.  This is good also if you just have the Infinitum internet and not the landline.

If you are a Mexican resident, temporary or permanent, you can also open a Mexican bank account.  Someone told me recently that another person had told this person that Mexican banks weren’t safe.  Wow, all Mexican banks have a counterpart in either Europe or the U.S. We even have investments in Mexican banks. We have used Banorte for over 30 years and never an issue. Banorte is associated with the International Bank of Laredo.  You can have an account there in IB of L and do transfers back and forth.
Your online account has a page for paying the most popular companies.  Banorte has a list of over 50 that includes all of the payments above and then some.  Speaking of banking, most Mexican banks are now going to mobile apps and you can pay with your phone in many places.  We saw the new readers at Mega and Soriana in SMA, as an example.  You just tap your phone and scan it with the QR code.

Then you have the famous OXXO convenience stores.  They accept all types of payments, bank transfers, deposits, credit card payments, school tuition, and then some for a small price of 10 pesos.  You can send money from one store to another in less than 30 minutes if someone you know needs cash.

After that comes banks.  Any bank will, whether you are a customer or not, allow you to pay any of your bills for a small fee of again, 10 pesos.  If it is not a utility bill, there will be a list of banks on the bottom of your payment slip with the corresponding bar codes for the bank to use.  We even pay our property taxes and car tags at the bank, online bank or at the OXXO.

When we are traveling in Mexico, we can pay the essentials at any branch of the utility company.  When we travel outside Mexico we then use our Mexican online banking.  We even make a payment transfer weekly to the gardener online as well.

Well, that’s that unless someone who reads this would like to add something I may have forgotten.  You can always send me an email and I will be glad to answer any questions.

BTW, we celebrate 35 years of blissful togetherness today.  Wow, how time flies.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

A Short Look Inside An IMSS Hospital

It's taken weeks to get over the virus I had.  We are both still existing with a mild cough on occasions.  It comes and goes.  Some people are reporting four to six weeks of cough after the end of the cold virus.  

IMSS 33 Monterrey

Yesterday we went to an IMSS hospital to visit a friend who is in pretty bad shape.  Diabetes, kidney failure, deep depression, and probably not going to make it.   His kids are all there taking shifts staying at the hospital.  He needs a catheter put in to help cleanse his kidneys but they have to wait until Tuesday.  No surgeries scheduled on weekends at this hospital.  Sad, isn't it?  But that is socialized medicine in Mexico.  

This particular hospital is located in downtown Monterrey and when we were there five years ago it was a dump.  With a new director, it has undergone some modifications and clean up.  There is still so much bureaucracy that some people would think it's still a dump.  Little things like extremely dirty windows, tape residue on the walls, windows and glass doors where notices were hung but never thoroughly cleaned, areas requiring simple paint touch-ups, etc.    

I didn't take a picture inside the room.  There are three other patients and the room is clean and has its own bathroom.   Our friend has all the latest technology including a defibrillator, monitors, oxygen and constant visits from staff with medications, meals, and checkups.  

This is the area for doctors' visits for those that were or will be admitted to the hospital.  It's quiet on the weekend as outpatient care goes to local clinics.

Only so many visitors are allowed at any bed.  You need to have a pass and after your visit, you come back here to the waiting room and give the pass to the next friend or relative.

You'll find signs like these all over the hospital reminding visitors to keep their hands washed with soap and water or using gel.  The bathrooms in the waiting area are in good condition and clean.

There are security cameras throughout the hospital so I was a bit uncomfortable taking pictures but did capture this orderly taking a patient back to his room after x-rays. 

I'm still not sure I would want to be a patient there, but until I'm 65 and have Medicare, there really isn't much choice unless I am willing to pay out of pocket.  I will do that with my angiogram later this month.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Nobody Leaves Without A Mention

Our good friend Norma always tickled us when she said Croft had many imaginary friends.  Imaginary friends are our blogger friends.  People, many of which we have never met and most but not all are Rver's.

Well, I had the great opportunity to make contact with "Our Awesome Travels".  Suzie and George full timed for 14 years.  Imagine that.  What a life that must have been.  George discovered this last year that he was sick.  

He spent the last couple of months in a wonderful hospice in Canada where his wife Suzie, family and friends stopped in daily to visit him.  He always had a smile on his face and was given the royal treatment.  He had wonderful meals and snacks every day and also had a beer or two as a relaxer. 

I admire his strength, and ability to spread that smile all those days that he probably didn't feel very well but did what he had to do for himself and his friends and family.

Goodbye George.  You always had wonderful posts, great cookouts, and some wise words. Blessings my friend.  Enjoy the eternal fulltiming. 

Saturday, January 11, 2020

IMSS ISSTE INSABI - A Visit To The Doctor Today

Apart from being sick, the above title is all the rage with ex-pats as our illustrious president decided to cancel the program Seguro Popular which was designated for the poor but many ex-pats found a way to get into the system.  How did they do that?  It is open to the public but was intended for the poor and those who were not formally employed and registered with the government to pay their fair share of taxes.  Many ex-pats got in on the cheap by using facilitators or as we call them in Mexico, coyotes.  Facilitators have contacts in government offices and use those contacts to get things done.  Many ex-pats shy away from doing it themselves for lack of the language and knowing how the system works.  That said, all of those services are free from the government and no one has to pay to do the paperwork.  

IMSS is the national healthcare system that is available for those who are registered workers be it in a company or independent but they pay taxes.  It's a huge system that cracks under the weight of millions of "derechohabientes" and their families.  In the case of a worker, be it a professional or blue-collar worker, they receive healthcare benefits via their employer which is required by law.  Along with the registered worker are their spouse, children, parents living in the same domicile and sometimes, disabled family members. Because I am an independent worker, I pay 10,000 pesos or $500 U.S. per year.  

Most but not all of the hospitals and facilities are in disrepair thanks to the IMSS workers union which makes it impossible to fire a person who reports to work but does nothing.   As of this year, there are no medications or very little, no supplies, as for chemo treatments forget it.  The president disqualified the providers because he said it was a monopoly(there were three major suppliers who submitted legitimate bids each year) doing this before finding replacements.  He went as far as to send a delegation to France to find cancer medications for children only to save 17,000 pesos, or roughly $1700 U.S.  Some children didn't make it while waiting for the medications.  

OTOH, there are good facilities and one of them is in Ajijic.  Also, specialty hospitals for cancer treatment, preemies, transplants (Mexico last year alone did 1600 kidney, 1300 cornea, 40 liver, and 23 heart transplants), dialysis, and bypass are top drawer facilities.  One of the issues is that the facilities are overrun with family members.  They are jammed packed with people waiting to visit relatives and they bring the whole family.  It's overwhelming in addition to unions and corruption.

Now to my visit this morning.  I have suffered from a severe head cold for six days going on seven.  I try to handle these events on my own but I guess old age is kicking in.  Funny, last six years I worked with 160 children ages 2 to 6 without any issues.  I decided it was time to get this fixed and go on.  I was missing the gym and when I went I was very limited.  

This morning was the day and off  I went.  The office is five blocks from the house and I arrived just after nine a.m.  Concerned that I was from Monterrey and not a local, they took me right in.  I have my carnet (an official booklet that records my visits) and I handed it to the nurse.  She asked me to take a seat and she would call me.  There were seven other people waiting and it was pretty quiet.  It is a nice facility, it could use some TLC but when you ask a union IMSS worker to paint they just slop it all over and it looks like shit.  Sheetrock ceilings need replacing in some areas but overall it was in good shape.  

The doctor called me and in five minutes he examined me and said my throat was very swollen, no congestion, but lots of guck.  He ordered a shot to reduce the inflammation, gave me antibiotics, pain medication, and two liquids to take for the next two days.  One is an expectorant and the other is cough syrup.  The total cost of treatment and medications that are good for two more years, ZERO.  I was in and out in 45 minutes.  

As for the new program INSABI, people are already reporting that they are being charged thousands of pesos for treatment and there are still no medications or supplies.  Typical of this president.  Instead of improving an already existing system, out of vengeance for his opposition, he has to relabel, recreate and remake it all with his mark on it.  Well here we are, now there is no reliable healthcare for the poor and indigenous.  Bless you, AMLO.

Saturday, January 4, 2020

I Think It's Time To Go Home Now

It's been a long two and a half months.  I've given notice that I will be leaving SMA on the 20th of January, which will make it a little more than ten weeks here.  

We've made the decision to get an appraisal on the house and put it up for sale.  Not much can be done if you don't have cash in hand and here in San Miguel money talks.

We're not sure what to do with the cats just yet.  We can't take them home but here there are some good home options available, or catteries as they are called and we are checking on them.  I've notified a relative so things are in the works. 

I just didn't know how long this would be and it has extended much more than we had planned.  We're not bailing ship but rather looking for alternatives until the owner can come back to SMA.

We need to also use our Aeromexico miles for a trip to Spain that is long overdue.  Too much time here to think about what to do, how to do it and when to do it.  

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year 2020

To all our friends, rvers, and family we wish all of you a wonderful new year for 2020.  We look forward to some new adventures, major life changes and of course, good health and lots of wealth.  

We spent a very lovely evening.  We went out for dinner to the Trattoria Italiana on San Antonio.  I'm sure most people know where the place is.  It is on the fork in the street heading down the street from the Mega or La Comer to centro.  We didn't have a long wait and the food was very good.  Carpaccio de atun, a salad, fettucini alfredo and a small pizza de cuatro quesos.  We also ordered a bottle of wine and to our surprise, the bill was very, very reasonable.  Barbara had dinner with us.

We went home and sat on our rooftop and watched the fireworks in the Parroquia.  Believe it or not, I stayed up until 1 a.m.  For me, that is a real challenge.  I was also reminded that when we lived in the city, I was a pretty good runner, running 10K every morning before work.  On New Year's Day I would go out at 6 a.m. to start off my year.  My oh my, how things change.