Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Midas Touch

In the business section of today's El Norte appears an article about Carlos Slim. The headline reads, "Slim Prefers To Create Jobs Instead of Donating His Fortune". He is quoted as saying the following:

"The only way to fight poverty is by generating jobs. Billions of dollars have been donated to charities over the last 50 years and it hasn't solved anything. Donating 40% or 50% of your wealth does nothing. They say we should leave a better country for our children, but it's more important to leave better children for our country."

Don't think for a moment that Slim doesn't donate money to worthy causes. He does, he just makes sure that the money is used to actually benefit the cause. I agree with his statement above 100%. Throwing money at a problem doesn't fix a problem. Thank you Lyndon Johnson and the welfare state. One in five Americans is now receiving some type of government handout.

We need jobs, but to create those jobs Mexicans and Americans alike have to accept the fact that they won't be handed out to them. Competing in today's global economy we need education. I have a hard time trying to understand since when it was a bad thing to go to school. It's a requirement for a job without a doubt. However, education brings so much more to the table in the long run. It helps to make a person well-rounded, gives them an understanding of the complete picture of how the world turns. All that math, algebra, calculus, world history, language studies, civics and ethics plus many more subjects are what makes a human being complete. Imagine doing any job without some basic knowledge of math and science. It can be done sure, but to really understand what your purpose is becomes something else.

I think Mexicans should be proud that Carlos Slim is one of them. After all, he is the richest human being on the planet. Imagine that. Instead, some people talk him down saying he took advantage of a broken economy. Thank god for that. We can say now that Telmex provides outstanding service and at a rate much more reasonable than before Slim took over. It's that socialist cry of take from the rich and give to the poor. Fine. History repeats itself. Hugo Chavez has run his country, one of the richest in petroleum, right into the ground. His friend and cohort here in Mexico, Lopez Obrador, is doing his best to convince the people that the rich should be defeated, take away their money and give it to the poor fixing all their woes.

Thank you Mr. Midas and I hope we have more like you here in Mexico someday soon.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pemex Prices August 2010

Contrary to what is being posted on Pemex gas and diesel prices, the increases are monthly and at a rate of .08 centavos for interior Mexico and .04 centavos for the border areas. What is making the price of gas so unattractive is the price of the peso versus the dollar this week. Today the peso closed at 12.15/12.65 to the dollar (compra/venta).

What amazes me is that the correct or official information can be found yet people always like to refer to their "friends at Pemex" or their "friends at Immigration" and so on. Show me the facts.

Every month the news makes a big stink about the increase and it really riles people. They have sondeos or polls showing how everyone's economy is going to be affected. Such b.s. increases are increases and no one likes them.

Here are the official prices taken directly from Pemex-Precio al Publico

Magna Border 8.44
Premium Border 9.55
Magna Interior 8.44
Premium Interior 9.94
Diesel 8.80

BTW, you can always check a Mexican bank's webpage for daily or even hourly for updates on the peso exchange rate. In fact, Banorte show this information on their front page. If you click for detail you will also find the interbank rate and the ATM rate which is always cheaper than the teller rate. I hope this helps.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tatuajes (Tattoos) Is It Just Me?

It seems as though everyone is getting a tattoo. No thats not true. People are getting a lot of tatoos. It may not be common knowledge, but in major Mexican companies a new candidate has to go for a battery of physical and psychological tests. In those tests, one of the exams includes a visual inspection of the outer skin. Any tatoo, no matter how well-hidden, is reported to HR in the final report. Tattoos are not looked well upon as they send a message that the person may not be stable, shows a lack of conviction and overall immaturity. Dont get angry at me, those are the rules.

My female hairstylist is 40 and wants a tattoo on the back of her neck. Sounds okay to me, but what happens when she goes to a formal party or wedding and wears a strapless dress or backless dress?

A butterfly, a ladybug, some under the belt or below the neckline tattoo seems okay to me. I have no problems with self-expression, but as I always say, "express yourself somewhere else". Its just that in these times of uncertainty, violence and overall "me-ness", one would think about putting forth a good image. Sure, actions speak louder than words, but I am still a person who believes first impressions are a big part of what human beings are all about.

I see people today with complete arm tattoos, facial tattoos, and so on. Many of which now give the impression that one belongs to a gang or maybe even a cartel. Lets face it, tattoos can give a bad impression. One interesting part of the long arm swirling tattoo is that most people dont know it is very common with gay porno stars. That would freak out some straight guy who thinks he trying to look tough. I say a San Antonio policeman with one of those along with a Schwarzenegger haircut and wrap around sunglasses. To me personally, not appropriate for someone of authority in a uniform.

I have been turned off by tattoos since I was 16 years old. I was a hospital volunteer and would take patients to their chemo and radiation therapy. It was a stressful job but I felt someone had to do it and it made me, at a very early age, think about life and death and how precious it was. Anyway, I took an 82 year old woman in a wheelchair to her therapy. As I helped her into her chair, the back of her gown opened to reveal a huge black patch on her shoulder blade. I told the nurse who I reported to that the cancer must be really bad. She said that it wasnt cancer, it was a large tattoo that over time lost its elasticity on the skin and was bunched up into a black spot. Had I extended the skin, I would have seen what the tattoo was. Lesson learned for me with tattoos.

I say, "tattoos are tabu" in these days and times. At least the way they are being done now, not pretty, just plain scary. I guess younger folks think their future is very short. Life can be long now, people are easily living to 100 years old. We are still not teaching values, finance, and future goals in school. Everything now is short term. Not an organized religious person, but a very religious person and I believe my body is a temple to be taken care of, cherished and valued or maybe Im just showing my age.

Friday, September 24, 2010


What is the difference between a 3G and a "true" 3G? From what I have heard, the Telcel USB works great. It has been a real success here in Mexico.

We lost another mayor today and another great boondocking spot. Cross Dr. Gonzalez off your boondocking list in Nuevo Leon. We had a great time there in 2008, met the town historian and got a tour of the place. Quiet town and very nice people. They are holding five brothers as suspects.

When will this end?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The "Missing" License Plate

The rain and flooding continue to plague us. Here on the ranch those that continually build along the rivers with the excuse that they have no money or other place to go seem to put themselves and their children in harms way. This area has been devastated again and we now have implemented the plan DN-II. The military is here to help out those that are trapped or have lost their homes and to prevent "rapiƱa" or "saqueos" (looting).
As I have said before, no one is exempt from nature because of their social or economic status. Los Cristales which sits about 8 kms to the north is an exclusive gated community. Doesn't matter now if it were gated or not. The gates were torn from their hinges and are now somewhere south of the area and buried below the riverbed. The neighborhood is "incomunicado" and there is no getting in or out. Children and spouses who left for work and school yesterday morning are now in hotels or relatives homes and their wives and mothers are sitting in their gated community by themselves. I feel sorry for everyone, but when we purchased our house the first thing we did when we looked at it was to check the construction and the level compared to flood charts supplied by the city and state. That isn't a guarantee either but a little common sense goes a long way.
Oh, right, the license plate. Well, with all the rain I must have picked up a nail. I saw the tire was going flat so I stopped by the vulka on my way into town to see a movie "Hidalgo", a Mexican film about our Independence hero. While they were changing the tire a muchacho said, "did you lose your plate?". Oh shit! The front plate was missing but the screws were there. Another friendly thief. He didn't rip it off or damage the bumper, he took his time to remove the screws and put them back in place after he did his dirty deed.
With what is going on around here you don't want to wait to long to report a stolen plate. Was this going to be a nightmare? Not at all. We went to the ministero publico in our town, filed a report, turned in copies of identification, our tag and plate payment for 2010. The report was signed, we went upstairs to the licensing department with the rear plate in hand only to find out they close at 1:30. We drove to Monterrey, walked into the state treasury department, paid the fees, turned in the copies and the rear plate and we were done.
I can swear to you, the state of Texas couldn't do it any faster. If the rest of Mexico and the state of Nuevo Leon would take note at what our treasury department does and how it does it, we would be considered a first world country. We even have treasury offices in malls that are open all day so that people can go before work, during their lunch hour and after work. A driver's license takes less than 15 minutes and you walk out with the license in hand. In Texas, you wait for it in the mail forever.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Karl Won't Leave Us Alone

After all we went through with the last hurricane now we are facing similar if not worse conditions with Karl. The rain hasn't stopped for four days now and today was a real humdinger.

I went into town around 4 p.m. to drop off my reports for Mazatlan at the FedX office. Just leaving the house I got caught in a downpour. The highwas was stopped, traffic pulled over on the shoulder waiting for it to let up. It never did so I kept moving. As I got into town, I always listen to talk radio in Spanish, the news came on and said we were being hit by the worst of the hurricane.

As of yesterday some of the areas that were affected in the last hurricane got dumped on again and all the reconstruction that has taken place in those areas is being undone. Of course, these are all homes in the 200K to 300K (u.s.) range and they all want to live on the hillsides so they can have a great view. I guess we'll never learn.

The good news is that our new sidewalk and entrance ramp is doing a wonderful job of holding back the water as our road is currently a small river. Some of you know that the road I live on has a dry riverbed in the middle and when it rains it can get as high as two meters. So here I come down the road and the stretch of water from one side to the other is at least 25 meters. I sat there until one of our neighbors came through with a pickup truck. I decided it was now or never. I made it without a hitch.

On A More Frustrating Note

I read the Rv.Net forum daily and my favorite forums are the Snowbirding, Folding Trailers and Mexico South America. I came across some talk about rv insurance for Canadian rvers spending time in the U.S. and Mexico. I find in very interesting that the hassles are the same to visit the U.S. no matter where you are from. Getting in and out of the country, or staying there, can be a real pain in the ass.

One insurance company was mentioned and the poster included a link for the FAQ section. I went over to read it and this is what I found. Talk about scare tactics:

Get out of jail "Free" card: On top of this, most gringos don't know that should you have an accident in Mexico , the usual method of settling the matter is for the Federalies to lock you in the clink for a few nights, until things are sorted out. Our package includes a bond to make sure that this will not happen to you.

I decided to send the following mail showing my concern for such information and you will see the reply I got. Amazing.

I have been reading a thread on the forum regarding insurance for Canadians who travel in and out of the U.S. Rv.Net Canadian Vehicle Insurance in USA .

As an rver and Mexican resident who deals with Canadian and American rvers during winter months via the forums; places to stay, roads and routes, guest stays at my house with rv connections, I find the topic interesting. I decided to check out your webpage and read the FAQ section and the Mexican insurance section.

I have known many Mexicans, Americans as well as Canadians who rv in Mexico and some who have had accidents. You state the following:

Get out of jail "Free" card: On top of this, most gringos don't know that should you have an accident in Mexico , the usual method of settling the matter is for the Federalies to lock you in the clink for a few nights, until things are sorted out. Our package includes a bond to make sure that this will not happen to you.

This information is false, gives Mexico and it's highway patrol and police deparrtments a bad name in addition to their already tarnished reputation thanks to the current situation in Mexico . As in the U.S. and Canada , if you kill someone in an accident, you will be detained no doubt. In Mexico , you may be detained until the situation is resolved when the accident is your fault, you are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or using a cellphone, and the other party in the accident does not have insurance, or you run over someone.

In accidents where there are no major injuries, or you or not at fault, a police report is taken and adjusters appear on the scene to resolve the issue, authorize repairs, and tow the vehicles if necessary. I have been able to obtain a check in two instances for Canadian rvers who had one of their vehicles stolen in less than two weeks versus the standard 30 days.

I take issue with your statement as it paints a picture of insecurity and lawlessness with a very wide brush, or better said, a scare tactic. You should be putting rvers in a foreign country and foreign language at ease not scaring them.

Thank you in advance for your time.

Reply from the insurance company:

Thank you for the info. Unfortunately, your information is very different from what we have seen happen and what our insurers have advised on. That is why U.S. insurers to post a bond so that the foreign driver can be released from jail within 24 hours. We are not trying to scare clients, we are trying to make sure that they are informed so that when they buy a policy, they can make sure that they have a policy that will post a bond, so that they are not unreasonably detained.
Having said that, I travel to Mexico annually and the last time I was there, had to pay a bribe the police to not detain me and give me a ticket for something that I had not actually done. So it goes with the territory...
I would rather have foreigners going in with their eyes open, knowing the worst, and being prepared for the worst, rather than going in with rose coloured glasses and then finding out that they are not prepared or covered for the worst.
Best regards,

I'm not saying it can`t happen but this company paints the picture as if it will happen, you will go to jail and you will pay through the nose. I think it's a bit exagerated. JMHO

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Viva Mexico! What A Show It Was

Sitting here at the airport in Mexico City waiting for my connection to Mazatlan. It is always a small world. Here I am on a plane with 160 people and the girl next to me tells me she is from Reynosa, born and raised. So I told her my life story like I do to everyone. I said, " I lived in Monterrey 1o years ago". "Really, Where?" "On Julian Carrillo, which divides Colinas from Vista Hermosa, there's a castle on the hill." She stops me dead in my tracks. "The house with four arches in the living room?" "Yes, Why?" "My boyfriend is the son of the Irishman who lives four houses away. They told me about you." Scary to say the least.

Below is a small thing I wrote for today celebrating Mexican Independence. I didn't publish it because I wanted to add pictures of the fabulous event we witnessed on TV. I don't have the pictures with me now so . . . .

After much speculation, uncertainty, and problem solving, there were no incidents reported throughout all of Mexico as we celebrated the Mexican Bicentennial. Every plaza in Nuevo Leon celebrated El Grito last night. I don't know if anyone saw the celebration in the Zocalo en Mexico City but it was the show of shows.

Apart from the fanfare, screams and laughter there were a few tears shed also. We made it last night without a hitch despite what some had predicted or via rumors that were spread around the country. Floats, some as long as six trailers, pulled through the Zocalo each representing a different part of Mexican history. Even a show of 26 gymnasts who scaled a huge net, and after performing various acts, spelled out with their bodies the country "Mexico".

Mexicans are proud of their country no matter what they or anyone else says. This is home to 100 million Mexicans. In fact, El Grito was celebrated around the world in places such as Madrid, Paris, London, Cairo, Los Angeles, Chicago just to name a few.

Today our armed forces are celebrating with huge parades displaying their power, strength and dedication to their country. God bless our boys in green and I hope every time you pass a military checkpoint you give these guys a thumbs up. We are so proud of them and the job they are doing to keep us safe.

They haven't lost a fight yet. In every confrontation they come out ahead. In fact, there are fools who think they can go up against our military forces. Good for them if they believe they can but the proof is in the pudding. Last night there was a confrontation along the border of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas. 19 deadbeat bums were shot dead after trying to battle with the strongest military Mexico has ever seen. People have said the Mexican military doesn't have the know-how. They only know how to put out forest fires. Well geewhiz. When was the last time Mexico fought a war. We are a very peaceful country you know.

The celebrations continue today with parades in just about every town and city. Imagine, last night in the center of Mexico City almost 1,000,000 people showed up, Monterrey, 100,000 people, Guadalajara, 35,000. All with tons of security and safety so that everyone could enjoy such an historic event as the 200 anniversary of Mexican Independence.

Viva Mexico!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Going To Mazatlan

Traveling to Mazatlan tomorrow night. I will be there until Saturday afternoon if anyone is there who would like to get together for a drink or lunch. Send me an email and I can give you my schedule.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mexico RV Parks List?

Over our years of rving in Mexico we only stayed in a couple of rv parks. I would bet it was 10 or less.

So I was wondering if there is such a thing as an rv park list and their monthly fees? If anybody knows of one please let me know. I'm not looking for a book or guide, just a simple list of parks, their locations, website and fees.

If it doesn't exist, wouldn't it be a great thing?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Monterrey Keeps Growing

Talk about population density. Yesterday afternoon we went into town to watch the Clasico between Monterrey's two teams and to have a cookout. I was just amazed how much the city continues to grow.

Builders are now reclaiming areas that were once dominated by small factories and have since moved out of the city to industrial parks (we now have 57) or were taken over by larger companies. The areas had become run down and forgotten. So it has really vitalized the city in many good ways. Now there are big shopping centers and gated communities right in the middle of the city with modern names such as Centrica which houses three gated areas; condos, apartments and residences all with fountains at the entrance, security guards and large gree areas and parkways. Walmarts, VIPs, Office Depots and shopping malls are all within walking distance.

Taken from one of the many new hilltop communities

Also, high rise towers now cover the hillsides as people are moving up instead of out. There is no lack of construction work here, nor are there problems finding jobs. Monterrey's unemployment rate in the formal market is less than 5%. Everyone who went to the game last night works, has a new house, drove a car to party and the kids are all in school. These aren't all college grads either but hard working people who fall into the middle and lower-middle class.

The new fashion, high rise condos with underground parking, pool and gym.

After the party, we stayed at a friend's house. She lost her partner last year to cervical cancer. They had purchased a house in one of these gated communities. She has since moved back to take care of her aging and ill mother. The house is furnished and sits empty so Juan stays there during the week to eliminate the drive back and forth. Apart from having to drive through some dumpy neighborhoods you drive up what I call a small mountain. There you find gates, guards and cameras. With a swipe of a card and a wave you drive into another world just like the one I described above. Within the gates are three other gated communities. We reach ours and swipe the card again and the guards greets us with a howdy do.

The houses are quite nice, built on very small lots but you do have a two-car garage and walkways between the houses with a small patio. Some neighbors have opted to purchase a house with an empty lot next door. These are all 3 bedroom, 2.5 bath and are about 1400 sq feet and sell for 850,000 pesos. You pay a small HOA fee each month. The views are very nice. I guess I could live there but it is the density of the city and the traffic and noise which just really turns me off. I did enjoy the newness of everything and the order within the community. No noise after 11 p.m. on weekends, no unsightly stuff sitting around. You get the picture.
Model homes where we spent the night.

Monterrey has outgrown me or I have just gotten used to large open spaces. My comment this morning was that if I had to, I could live in the city but I would prefer a small apartment in an upper-class neighborhood. That would be the only way. Forget that though, because then we are talking 160K (u.s.) to 500K (u.s.).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Keeping Up With The Jones

Last month Croft and Norma redid their bathroom and now they have new bamboo flooring in their house. Really nice job on both.

We're waiting for the go ahead from the insurance company on the repairs and remodeling of the bedrooms that suffered some minor damage from Hurricane Alex. In the meantime, I went to Home Depot here in Monterrey. I go there at least once a week to walk around and pick up something we need like chemicals for the pool, light bulbs, etc.

I saw some bathroom vanities on sale and I thought about Croft's Mexico remodel. I also thought at the moment that we have had the same toilet and pedestal sink for over 10 years. In fact, I don't think we purchased a new toilet when we moved in, just changed out the sink. It had a crappy cabinet and a marred vanity top.

So we decided to go for it. I have wanted one of those one-piece low profile toilets with water saver for a long time. Being a boondocker, well I won't go there now. They had a real deal except for the vanity was not quite a match with the toilet. So you know who (and it wasn't me) convinces them to teardown a display that they have and swap out the sink tops.

This is what we ended up with. Now that I'm taking the picture I realize the bathroom is the size of an rv powder room. Yikes!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

It's A Squirrely Business

I'm talking about real estate. We have met all kinds of people. Some have brought money in briefcases, some have offered to make six payments, others say they can't do the transaction via certified check. You get the idea, and the list goes on. Now the latest one is; let's see how desperate they are and keep lowering the price. I would love to move on, especially now. I had that taste of San Miguel de Allende last month and it has given me the hitch itch. Hook up and move 'em out! Rawhide! So all this is on the back burner but I have decided not to have spoil the rest of my life.

I have to tell you one thing. I wrote a post the day before yesterday. Wow, it was a good one. Don't ask me what happened but the whole thing disappeared. It's this cheap ass laptop I have. I get my just desserts. Everytime you brush across the pad something wierd happens. Not to mention the constantly changing keyboard which keeps me from using symbols sometimes depending on what application I'm in. I keep vowing to use my little mouse so that it won't happen but that will be someday. I really hate when I lose something I have written.

So where was I. Oh yes, moving on. December 19th is the promised last day of work in this household (I hope you're listening). And then it is time to take off, move on and find a new life. Now that all that is off my chest.

With school back in session we have had a representative from the SEP (Secretaria de Educacion Publica) on the news everyday answering questions. that parents might have The most popular is, "If education is free in Mexico why do I have to pay an "enrollment fee"? Finally, someone with some brains decided to explain to the world how the system works and it only validated what I have said all along. Education is free in Mexico. The question is, how does the system work?

The government provides the land, the buildings, the teachers and a janitor or two depending on the size of the school, and free electricity. That's it. That's as free as you will see. Each school forms a PTA and the association decides how much each child will pay to start the school year. The monies collected are used for maintenance, repairs, and landscaping.

As I have said before, there is no reason that a school doesn't have air conditioning in Mexico. There is no real cost at least in terms of electricity. If you have a good PTA you first have hundreds of parents who work in factories, companies, own their business and can all ask for donations. What respectful company wouldn't want the free promotion and advertising to say that they donated a mini-split air conditioner to a school? The key is getting parents organized. Like everything else in life, you need a plan. In my little town, the kinder, primary, secondary and the high school all look like private schools. We are organized, we have beautiful courtyards. No dusty grass-less place to play here and all the classrooms are air conditioned. We just made it happen, that's all.

I have heard over the years from the comandante del Kino about kids going to school shoe-less, not having food to eat, and of course his famous YouTube video showing him collecting goods for needy people. Noble as it may sound I am a firm believer in the Chinese proverb about the fish. Give a man a fish and you have fed him for today, teach him how to fish and you have fed him for life. Organize, teach, educate. If people want to do some good for Mexico select a family that needs some help. Buy school uniforms for the kids, help the family organize their expenses, set up a bank account. I am convinced that many Mexicans on the lower end of the scale lack the education to plan their lives and thus they live day to day. I have seen it in my extended family here. A bank account is the first place to start. If you have cash in an envelope in the house I can guarantee you the money will be flittered away. No offense to anyone, but I find it, geez, I don't know the word, but you see these people coming across the border with a pickup filled with used junk. Trust me, we have enough used junk. Teach a kid how to sell newspapers after school, set up a bank account, put money away for school, home and his bicycle. Now that is helping someone out.

Sorry but I am preparing for winter and all the things I will read on the internet about what used crap to bring down and how to get it across the border and how much to bribe the border agent (that just throws all our values out the window). Somebody says, "we give out pencils". What am I going to do with a cheap ass Chinese pencil? At least buy them here and help out the local economy a bit. Gosh, shoot me while I'm down.

Go visit a school near the rv park or find one that looks like it needs some help. If you're spending some time in the area, a month or two, talk to the principal and ask what the school's needs are. The task of running a school can be overwhelming and just keeping it running takes time. You don't need to spend any money, worry about crossing the border with used junk, and you could do a lot of people a lot of good with your experience, knowledege and education. My finance workshops have done miracles. We don't teach people about finance and marriage in school. If we did we would see a lot more rich people not to mention single people. Most human beings just don't know where to start so it becomes a lifelong habit. A simple explanation, goal setting and review of expenses helps to organize people's lives. All the people who come to Mexico in the winter have something to offer besides money. Make it happen.

If you do decide take this route and need help once you are here, let us know. We have been in the business a long time and know the ins and outs.

BTW, I'd like to thank all the nuts that continue to send me hate mail and news information I already receive daily and see on TV three times a day. I don't need to be reminded by some armchair politician what is going on where I live. So I have now set up your mails to go directly into the trash heap and removed the "anonymous" posting option from the blog.