Friday, August 31, 2012

Trying To Land That Plane

All cultures have their quirks and it's good to learn some of them so you get what you want or you don't offend someone.  That's why I say it is sometimes hard to "land the plane".   In Mexican culture, people aren't very direct like Americans.  Americans say what they want and when they want it.  In other words, we pretty much just bring the plane in for a landing.

Today I saw the gardner taking a break under the palapa.  It still gets hot and humid during the day and we have had some rains.  I wanted to talk with him about the timer on the pool.  He doesn't understand how it works and always turns off the power after cleaning the pool so that the filter doesn't come on.  He says the pool starts to turn on us because the sand in the filter needs changing.   The problem is that the filter doesn't come on and I am not around to check everyday.  I could argue with him for days and he wouldn't ever give in.  Kind of like painting the tree trunks white to keep the bugs away, in reality, for some it looks nice but does nothing to keep pest out.

Well, as I said, I couldn't rush out there and say, "hey, Gerardo, don't mess with the timer on the filter", "oh, and one more thing, make sure the handle pin on the filter is well secured" and then walk back into the house.  So I sat down and we chatted for over forty-five minutes.   We talked about the neighbors, the weather, the road and how we are going to do the maintenance before winter comes, la viejita up the road, and I was able to squeeze in the two items during that time.  

In the beginning, it was hard for me to get what I wanted.  I would bark out orders like we do in the U.S. (obviously a bit of an exageration), always in a hurry to get things done without having to kiss somebody's butt.  It didn't work very well until I learned how to manage conversations and ask for things to be done.   

Never refuse anyone's offer.  If they offer you a beer and you're a vodka drinker, drink the beer.  If they invite you for dinner and you say you won't be able to make it, you'd better be prepared for some hurt feelings or at least some dirty looks.   There are ways to handle those situations though where you just have to say "no" but for me they are now few and far between.   Since then, I have learned to take time to stop and sit down for a minute, share a drink or a lunch that is being offered.   When I can't, I always remember to give back something to make up for it so people know it is not against them but just the moment.

Speak of the devil, I hear the weed wacker out back, Gerardo is back.  Today is Friday and it is his way of saying he wants to be paid.  See how that works!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Las Dejó Pelonas

Today I had a guy come by and clean up our palm trees in the front yard.   I forgot he was coming and good thing, I left the gate open when I went to the gym in the morning.  I came back and the driveway was full of dead palm fronds.  Even though I couldn't see him way up there, I could hear him hacking away with his machete.  He hollered out, buenos días and I answered back.

Next thing I know I hear him talking to someone.  I took a look out the window and boy, it was break time.  He was chatting with a worker from another quinta.   I thought they would never shut up but then I remembered he works for himself.   So after about a half an hour, he was back at work hacking away.

Only problem is that he left the palms pelonas, or practically bald, empty of any fronds.   They look good but all that does is keep them growing taller.  These type of palms are sought after by commercial landscapers and can bring a thousand dollars or more a piece because of  their size.   I have a newer one we planted about 10 years ago, it was only a foot tall and now reaches about six feet.   As you drive through the state of Veracruz down the hwy 180, you can see palm farms.   Not a big deal, they just let grow wild and when they need cask they sell some.   They ship them all the way up here to Monterrey and fetch quite a good price.

The temperature right now is 26C at 8:30 p.m.  A week ago it was 35C at this time.   So you can see we are finally coming to an end of the heat.   I went to the gym this afternoon (going twice a day now) and it rained like crazy for 15 minutes.  That helped a lot.   I took a nice swim when I got back to cool off.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Egg Shortage In Mexico

In case you haven't heard, we are suffering an egg shortage.   Prices have skyrocketed, we are waiting for approval for importation from the U.S. but it hasn't happened yet.  Reason for the scarcity and price increase is the aviary flu that has hit Jalisco pretty hard.  Jalisco happens to be the largest producer of eggs in the country.  

I haven't been to the store for two weeks so I haven't seen for myself.  The price of eggs had been so low for the last six months they were giving them away and we eat lots of egg whites here at home.  It was great while it lasted.  Apparently there has been a lot of speculation in the commodities market surrounding the aviary flu so this has also driven the price up along with hoarding.  Eggs are a staple here in Mexico so it is a big deal.  I say, eat something else, it isn't forever and the price will come down in a month or two.

I was going to title today's blog "Mexico No Tiene Huevos", but that is a double entrendre (Mexico doesn't have any balls).  So the jokes are flying, even on the news.  Reporter can't keep a straight face when reporting the news on the egg shortage.

As a side note, a lot less heads have been rolling lately and I will leave it at that.    Let's hope things get better in November when we install our new president.  I could care less if deals are brokered or not, just as long as we can get some normalcy in our lives again.   I want to return to full blown boondocking.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Monterrey and New Technology

When we came home on Friday I noticed workmen changing street lights on two major avenues.  What I found amazing was that they were being replaced with rectangular light cages filled with LEDs.   All of our street lights and our subway system are powered by generators which rely on methane which come from our landfills.  A pretty cool system.   The street lights that are on overpasses are powered by solar panels, including luminated signs.

We also have a new ground transportation system going in called EcoVia.   It  will run on major avenues and is an alternative to building new subway lines.   It is almost ready and it will provide upgraded climate controlled buses with special fares and transfers.  This is an attempt to break the concessions that control city bus routes and hopefully eliminate the mafia, their crappy service and equipment.   Not all bus lines in Monterrey are bad, some are actually quite nice with air conditioning.   Times are a changing.  

On Sunday we went for family visits and I decided to come home early.  I took a free bus which is provided by the subway system that takes you to the station.  From there, you chose your number of trips and board the train.  Fast, clean and efficient.   I enjoyed it quite a bit.  When we lived in town I used the subway quite a bit.

Apart from that, it looks like we are on the downside of the summer canicula (dog days of summer), or 40 days of severe heat.  We are hovering around 37C during the day having passed the 40s range.   The nights are cooling down and I doubt we will need the A/C at night much longer.  Good on the electric bill.

I'm getting bored already and looking forward to a a trip somewhere.   We have the rv in McAllen for the next couple of months so we will have to go there before heading out anywhere.  There are some cheap back to school airfares around so maybe we can visit Oaxaca for a week.  I'll be checking.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The King of Corn Has Passed

Yesterday the King of Corn passed away at age 82.  Roberto Gonzalez Barrera was a true example of a successful Mexican.  He started out working on the family farm in Cerralvo, Nuevo Leon and shining shoes in the town square as a kid. 

He grew his family business and formed alliances with government agencies and formed Maseca, Gruma, Molinera and what most Americans today know as Mission Foods and Mission Tortillas along with a complete line of corn products. 

His company went international providing the raw materials and technology for many countries and their corn products above and beyond the tortilla, chips, and Mexican food products.   We had the opportunity of being a provider to the corporate offices for over five years and profited greatly from our work there and I have to thank RGB and his vision for that work.   It paid us well and gave some of what we have today not to mention the employees, providers, suppliers and tranportation companies that have also profited by his work and generosity.   RIP QEPD

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Help Choosing A Tablet

While we were in McAllen I was supposed to pick out my birthday present.   I have wanted a Kindle for some  time now.  We went to an Office Depot for some school supplies to bring home that were on sale and there it was, a Kindle Fire for $199 plus a $20 gift card that I could use towards a case.

However, once the guy was showing me how it worked I had doubts about what really is the best thing to buy.  I don't want a big tablet, I think it looks obnoxious taking pics with it, and I like something small enough I could put it in my backpack (thinking ahead to European travel) and I think I might want something to take pictures with.  

I'm not a gadgets person but my brother Steve has a Kindle Fire and he seems to like it.   I want to have access to wi-fi, netflix, skype, all the things or "apps" that I have on my laptop.   I guess I want it to be a handheld substitute for my computer with the exception of Office tools although the guy told me there are apps that can handle and convert those types of files, oh and one more thing, a micro USB port which KF does have.

Okay guys, fill me in, I know you are experts at this.  Less than $300.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Life Back At The Rv Park

We've been in La Feria now since Sunday.  The trip up was fast and uneventful.  We didn't get X-Rayed but did get a thorough inspection at the U.S. border.   We sailed through and were set up here at the by 3 p.m.  It was really hot this week and the a/c has been running non-stop.   Last night we got a reprieve and slept wonderfully with the windows open.   The a/c drives me nuts, it drones and vibrates the whole rv and when the compressor comes on it is even worse.  I'm still looking for a solution there and have several things in mind.

I'm keeping this short today, this is my last day of training and I need to prepare for my final test tonight at 5 p.m.  I have a very good trainer who is patient and also understanding.  I have a lot of work to do in the next month to prepare for my first seminar in October.  After that it looks like they will be keeping me busy with work through the end of November.  Yippie!  Travel money, plus I can spend time with people in the park.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Off For The Border

Monday is my big day.   I officiallly start me new job in Texas.  It is part-time seasonal and Monday I will do a trial run of my presentation.   I am working for a company that offers workshops for high school students preparing them for official tests, focusing on strategies.  I have been working on this for over a month now and they are offering a training.  What my trainer doesn't know is that this is what I have done for a living for the last 20 years in addition to teaching English.

It was a real kicker the way I ran across it.  I was attempting to show someone how easy it was to find a job via internet.   I used all avenues, online newspapers, companies I thought would have positions for that particular line of work.   I happened to be looking on Craigslist when I saw an ad looking for an educational presenter for south Texas.  I thought, "what the heck", and I zipped off an old resume I had in my laptop.

I got an answer and even though I wasn't looking for a job, this one really drew my attention.  The pay is great, it is close to home so I can come home in between stints and we can leave the rv there for a couple of months enjoying the Winter Texans.   Did I mention the pay is great!

The plan will be to do my work on Monday and Tuesday and then head off to South Padre Island for a couple of days before bringing the rv back to La Feria.  We are hoping to get the summer rate for September which is $189 a month and then the park is offering a two-month winter special I hope we can get.  The months of November, December and January we will be rving in Mexico.

Friday, August 17, 2012

My Interesting Visit With Lolita!

Photo taken last fall boondocking in front of the botanical gardens in SMA

As a persona fisica (self-employed), I use invoices to get paid.  These invoices are only good for two years from the day of print and I needed to renew mine.  This time around, there were more changes which included an electronic signature as well as bar codes.   Fortunately, the system is Mexico is light years ahead of the U.S.  I went online and found out I had to update electronic signature which I had done originally 10 years ago.  A visit was in line to the main office in Monterrey.  Of course I'm thinking of an IRS office in San Antonio which is filled with paper forms, long lines and tons of confusion. 

I made my appointment on line which was scheduled for 10:06 exactly.  Hmmm, I thought that was odd and began to cover my ass by putting together my birth certificate, the apostal or translation of the birth certificate, latest electric bill (comprobante de domicilio) to prove where I live, FM2, and my U.S. passport.  

On the day of my appointment I wanted to stop and print something, my printer was out of ink so I stopped by the Office Max.   I was done 9 a.m. so I bought the paper and thought I could just wait in the Hacienda office until my appointment.   As I arrived and found a parking spot, the poli (guard) told me I was way early but I could go in and register so they knew that I was there.

I walked up to the front desk and gave her my registration number and she too said I was way early and gave me a number of 6005.  Oh boy, how long is this day going to be?  I looked around in amazement at the office, two story inside with an atrium, offices around the bottom with glass cubicles and offices around the top as well.  Two flat screens with the local news on and a screen with the "who's next number".  As she handed me my slip with my number on it, I turned around and there it was on the screen, my number.   I was called to desk number 17 and I was greeted by a young gentleman in a shirt and tie with his name badge around his neck.  We shook hands and I handed him my USB with the files they had sent me via internet and my folder with originals and copies.   He handed the folder back and said he may not need it.   Sure enough, clicking away on the keyboard and within five minutes he handed me back the USB and said, "that's it".  I asked him about the folder and he said they had everything on file except for a change of address and that I could do that on line at my leisure.

Five minutes and he had processed my request, downloaded my huella digital (digital print) and my exclusive bar code and now I could have my new invoices printed.  Five minutes.  That would never happen in an IRS office.  This country is so advanced in many ways.   I guess here we have the option to live in the here and now with technology or we can continue to ride a burro with a serape and watch life go by at our leisure.   That's a good thing about Mexico, choose the lane you want to drive in.  Fast or slow, here or there, and in almost all cases no one will ever bother you.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pemex Gas Stations Are Franchises

Sounds kind of funny to start back the blog with a subject like gas stations but there is good reason.  An issue came up after an event at a gas station in San Miguel de Allende last weekend.  I am a member of the Yahoo group, Civil_List.   I mentioned that Pemex gas stations had private ownership and I received a slew of emails telling me how ignorant I am having lived in Mexico for so long and not knowing that Pemex was a state run oil company.

Yes, I do know that Pemex is a state run oil company, but like all things state run could you imagine the condition not to mention the service one would receive if the state were truly owned and operated by the government?  Any Mexican national, be it an individual (persona fisica) or a privately held company (persona moral) can purchase a Pemex franchise.  Just as a primer on becoming a franchisee here are some of the benefits that you would receive:

  • attractive discounts on the sell of products
  • the opportunity to add additional or complimentary services to your service station (OXXO, restaurants, truck stop services, rv park)
  • on-site help for the construction, technical aspects of operation and maintenance
  • Pemex programs that help develop and advertise your products and service
  • open communication with Pemex and their franchise department
  • employee and management training programs
  • automated processes for point of sale and operational administration
Wow, I feel like I work for the company!  But it is true, it is a real franchise just like that of a MacDonald's but it is state owned.  You can tell by the quality of the stations today compared to 30 years ago that Pemex is a rising company and it must treat their franchisees well.

This ticked me off so much that I felt I should start writing the blog again.  It all started with a group of ex-pats who live in San Miguel de Allende, cradled there in their little niche where few speak the language and grab onto what they think is real.   That isn't meant in a negative way, but as I said yesterday, living as a retiree, an rver, an ex-pat in an ex-pat community can limit the amount of knowledge one has about their new found home and how things really happen.

I remember back quite a few years ago there were debates about the availability of ATM machines in the Baja penninsula.  Well, I wasn't rving there but I was working there and for the life of me I wasn't able to convince anyone that they were there.  Some who had rved in the region for years just didn't know because they were rving in the middle of nowhere and not in touch with what was going on around them.   

The blog will now focus not only on our travels and rving but also on the aspects of actually living in Mexico and dispelling some of the myths that people may have about this great land.

Tomorrow I have an interesting story from last week about my encounter with Hacienda or Lolita, better known in the U.S. as the IRS and Uncle Sugar.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bringing The Blog Back To Life

I guess I have a calling and it took me these past few months to discover what it was.  My experience in Mexico does count for something and I will be posting all of that in the next few weeks.   Rving in Mexico, living in Mexico as a retiree or ex-pat on a pension, and studying, working and living in Mexico are all different.  

I know that I am not a expert, but I have studied a degree in a Mexican university, I have worked in Mexico since 1985 and continue to do so, and I have lived my life here as an adult.  I have much to offer.  

What brought this upon me to bring the blog back to life?  I will tell all in the next couple of days.

As for what is new, we just returned from a weekend rv trip to the beautiful pueblo of Bustamante.  We were among the 100 guests who filled the three hotels in the town to celebrate the First Communion of our friends' daughter.  They are the owners of one of the hotels and we had a real humdinger of a party.  We danced, and drank, we ate a lot and stayed out until after 3 a.m. in the morning.  You know that isn't normal for me.   And to top that off, we also did it again on Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Life in Mexico is great, we are happy and enjoying our lives more than ever before.  Welcome back and I hope you tune in.