Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Grocery Shopping and Holidays


Today is Diá del Niño, everyone gets crazy buying gifts, food, and cakes for their kids.  Parents leave work early, usually at lunch, and go  home to be with their kids.  Schools make a holiday out of it with presentations and parties for the kids.  Truly a great day for family.  Tomorrow is Labor Day and although we have changed many holidays to Monday, this is one that cannot be changed.  Next Monday, we celebrate Cinco de Mayo as an example of a holiday that has been moved.

We went grocery shopping today so I thought I would post our purchase.  This will last us two weeks at least with the exception of a couple produce purchases such as brocoli, cauliflower, etc.  Tomatoes were 2.95 a kilo so we got 1.5 kilos, or three pounds at .35 U.S.  Juan will make a couple of jars of salsa that we will use during this time. 

 This included five dozen eggs (I eat 4-6 egg whites a day for my workout), ground pork, ground turkey, sliced turkey breast, two liters of milk, yogurt, spices, laundry soap, softner, veggies, peanuts, olives, well the list goes on.  Total cost was 895 pesos or $71 U.S.   As Kevin and Ruth say, "you gotta love Mexico".

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Gone Are The Bachelor Days

My two week bachelor ship came to an end Friday morning.   Juan arrived safe and sound from Mexico City.  We now have an offer to house sit for six weeks in D.F.   The only issue are the cats.   We can't take them with us.  Finding a house sitter for us would be hard I think for a number of reasons, one being the weather in the summer.  Hot and very hot.   It would be fun, we know quite a bit about the city and it is easy to move around.  So many things on my list to see including convents and monasteries not to mention side trips to other places nearby.  The month of July may bring me a two week stint in Brazil touring major cities and speaking at EFL conventions.  We could just settle in for the summer again at Hacienda Contreras.   There we can have our pets and I can still travel when necessary.  We love it there and it fits our routine to a "T" having a gym, good restaurants and a wonderful rv park.  It's nice to have so many options now and so much flexibility.

I got a petition written up that will be sent to our local municipality.  This will be my last effort to get our street paved.  I had it written by an expert and will deliver it to all the neighbors.   Many people don't actually live here and some only come to their quintas once a year.   I am creating an email and asking the groundskeepers to deliver the petition with a cover letter explaining that they can sign, scan send it via email in hopes we collect as many signatures as possible.   I hope to get that done this week.

Repairs are coming up on the house and the pool so that get us through the rest of the year.   It looks like I am not the only one now anxious to get the house on the market and move on.

As for our striking teachers or hoodlums, the governor of the state of Guerrero has promised to do all he can with the help of video recording to bring these "machines of educational destruction" to justice.  He means business.

The air is heavy with humidity, it has been raining off and on for the last three days and looks like more is on the way.  We need rain.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Defending Education in Mexico?

 I'm ashamed to say I am a teacher in Mexico.

 Take a good long look at what unionized teachers have done in Chilpancingo.  These are the same people who claim to be responsible for the education of our youth.  These aren't doctored pictures.  Thousands of teachers have taken to the streets in Guerrero, Hidalgo, Chiapas and Oaxaca to fight the new reform in education.  In Oaxaca this year students have missed 100 days of classes and in Guerrero 60 days.  How do you make up for 100 days of missed educatoin?

What is the big issue they are fighting?  A change that over years was brought on by corruption with in the teachers union with their notorious national leader who is now behind bars for robbing their own union accounts of over 160,000,000 dollars and up to 500,000,000 dollars in pilfering funds over 20 years.  The change now says that teachers will be treated as employees and not like idols on a pedestal.  

Up until now, teachers couldn't be fired.  Their jobs could be held for life and then their positions sold for a price.  Teacher could commit crimes, go to jail and then, because of the protection provided by their union, return to work and sometimes in the same school and position without losing any of their privileges.

Now, the system will be performance based, there will no longer be "plazas" or permanent positions.  If you don't do your job, you're out.  The part they are really pissed off about is the 100% of their salary they would have received as a pension.  Now they will work with a 401K and have the option of receiving a check for life during retirement or a lump sum.

Let's get real, whatever is right or wrong, is it fair to deny children the 60 days of school missed while the teachers are out terrorizing the streets and destroying the city?  Remember this, these four states are the poorest in the country.  Some of you know these states.  There is a direct relationship between education and poverty and these "so-called" teachers are the ones who are responsible for denying Mexicans the right to climb out of poverty.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Knew There Had To Be More


Okay, I know what you are already thinking but it's not that.   Last month our state legislature put a new law into effect, Codigo Ambar or Amber Alert.  As I am sure all of you are well aware, Mexico and human rights groups have complained for years about the disappearance of Mexicans.  No doubt, just like everywhere else in the world, it happens.   Many blame the last six years and organized crime on this phenomenon and rightly so.   What they have discovered and I have said this in the past, is that many people just don't leave anything behind.  No dental records, no fingerprints, no DNA to speak of and for reasons that can be dismissed to poverty, lack of education and money.

Now we have the new alert in effect.  Calls are coming in like crazy and the local news and newspapers are posting the pictures, clues, and information about the missing kids.  Every story has two sides.   Young girls seem to head up the list of the missing.   News channels here in Monterrey make telenovelas out of a news story.  They visit the family of the missing child, have pictures of the likely suspect who may have "kidnapped" the child.   After, they do their investigative work and find the family of the supposed culprit.  

Let the truth will out.  They are guys who have lured "unsuspecting" teenagers out of their homes because they are poor and are looking for a way out.  They are now living with the boyfriend who may be twice the girl's age.   They don't want to return home and insist they are happy where they are at.

Think back, Mexico City earthquake 1985, Hurricane Katrina, the organized crime war going on here in Mexico, unhappy teenagers who are preyed upon by sexual perverts.   This is nothing new, people for centuries have used major disasters and calamities as a way to escape hardship and unhappy relationships not to mention financial problems, the law and criminal element.

I've always known this but now it is confirmed.  Not to say people are truly stolen, we know that is a common practice in the U.S. and other countries to pick a kid up off the street.  I'll leave it there without all the gory details.

I thought it was interesting though.  Maybe an answer to unsolved mysteries.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Trip Canceled

Stuff happens and my trip to Sinaloa has been canceled.  They waited to long to book the flight and the cheapest was 900 dollars.   Someone on top has to authorize ticket purchases and I won't go into that.  So here I sit broken hearted, well not really.  I have a list of things to work on and will continue to do that.  I would really like to take the rv out for a spin and just might  do that.

Funky weather we are having now.   It was 40C all week and now I'm wearing sweats.  What's that all about?  Now, the universe willing, we will have rain on Wednesday and we're talking thunderstorms.  We need rain so bad that some of the wells are already giving saline water.   Not good for crops, animals or humans.  I've cut way back on watering.  In fact, a friend I had coffee with this week had been in San Antonio and said he couldn't believe that people were only allowed to water once a week and by hand.   It is really getting bad.

I hope I'm not p------- off anybody with my blog but it is my blog and I have to say what I feel.  I'm not a flag waver and I don't believe in patriotism, those two things really hack people off and we live in a world that is multi-cultural, multi-lingual, and to respect each other. 

History is being made ever day and we have some control over it and how we want it to turn out.  As they say, history does repeat itself so we have thousands of years of experience to glean from.   Why experiment with things that take us into sketchy areas if we already know the outcome?  Better to make friends, help others and share all that we have, and I'm not talking about money either.  

We've made big business out of much of this in terms of media, military, souvenirs, and other marketing madness.  It is time to put things into check and work on things that are truly of greater importance such as economic independence, a drug-free society, international relationships, countries without boundaries, hunger and disease.   Sounds to optimistic?  Not really.    

As for stoning people, sounds much more fair than a firing squad.  It's like hunting deer with an automatic weapon, what chance do they have?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Difference In Cultures


I was listening to a very interesting Mexican radio talk show from Mexico City.  A true fact that I never really gave thought to:   In the U.S., when there is an explosion or mass shooting, people automatically think it is a terrorist attack.  In Mexico, the first thing we think is that it was an accident (recent case of the explosion in the Pemex corp office in D.F.).  

That gives us a good indicator about culture and why we feel that way.   I won't take this any further but to say we never feel threatened here in Mexico by outside sources.  We don't have to.   What country would want to bring down the Mexican government?  We haven't had a war in umpteen years not to mention an international incident since the Mexican-American war in the 1840s.

Correct me if I'm wrong.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ready To Hit The Road!


I got  a call Wednesday to take a job next week in Sinaloa.  I knew about it for some time, but I wasn't sure it would materialize.   So I take off Sunday for Culiacan.  Two days there, one in Los Mochis and then back down to Mazatlan.  Hopefully I'll be back home Thursday night.  

I finished redoing the dresser drawers in the trailer.  I also rewired the leaf blower.  It is not the most expensive model and over the years yanking on the extension cord pulled one of the male contacts.  I took it apart before and fixed it but it happened again.  This time,  I took out the male end and got to the wires.  I added an old piece of an extension cord.  That should hold it for awhile.

I have to say, I thought it was a bit silly to lockdown all of Boston.   This is not the first time there is a manhunt and they never locked down a whole metro area.   I think they want to show that they can't be beat, flex their muscle.  Unfortunately, I believe they will find out these kids worked on their own.  There is no proof yet that they had long-term plans for this or had any connections to any terrorist group.  The sad part is that "if" they did this (the jury is still out as these two are suspects, well, now only one is a suspect.  It will be deep shit if they find out that they didn't do it) it will truly affect their fellow Chechenians and their Muslim religion.  People seem to go ape shit over this type of thing and you will hear all kinds of things about Muslims when in reality it is a relative small group of people.   Muslims are highly religious and don't believe in violence much less terrorism.  Truly a sad event and I hate to see innocent people killed and maimed. 

I really think the western world needs to back off of the middle East.  They don't deserve to be beaten down, humiliated, and shamed.   It is a very different culture and deserves the same respect that we want from others.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

We Know How To Make Things Big


I just heard a minister say " people ran towards the wounded as sacraments of saving".   She also forgot to mention that right after the explosion there were looters who ransacked the official stand of all its merchandise that was destined as prizes for the winners of the race including jackets, hats, medals, etc. 

Sorry, but when it happens on American soil it is a big deal.  Don't get me wrong, it is a big deal.  But it is a big deal anywhere in the world when it happens.   Why is it that we change the channel and say, "oh, that's too bad" when there is a terrorist bomb in Iraq, Iran, England, or any other place this terrorist tragedy takes place.   In the U.S. we make memorials, sell souvenirs and coins to commemorate the event.

Every life that is taken by a terrorist attack is another human being.  This human being had a family, friends, children, a life, work, responsibility.  All I am saying is, it's not just us, it happens to all of us everywhere in the world.  

I mourn the loss of any human soul as I know the suffering that those that knew the person will suffer.   Imagine the magnitude;  family, friends, coworkers, neighbors.  Exponentially, the numbers continue to increase.  

However, the numbers increase in every country in the world.   Mourn all the Iraqis, Iranians, French, British and all the countries that lose citizens to these terrorist attacks when this happens, there are no boundaries.  It's like the war in Afghanistan.  How often do you hear about all the allies who have fought along side of Americans and have lost their lives or limbs in the process?   Hardly ever.  

Tragedies like this cannot have boundaries.  They are all equal in terms of collateral damage.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boy Did I Screw Up


Today was my appointment to see Lolita, the Mexican tax person.  A little background on how this works, it is a really good system.  Turns out that there is an error on my tax records.  They have two systems that talk to each other and one system still shows our old address.  I may have been the cause and I have known this problem exists for years.  I first discovered it when I had my wallet stolen in San Antonio, Tx.  In my wallet was my tax card.  I use this card to pay my taxes monthly at any bank or tax office in the country.  The payment is registered via internet at the bank and there is no charge for the the transaction.  Well, I applied for a new card and that is when I discovered the error.  It doesn't affect my tax payments but my affect my tax refunds.  

My accountant made an appointment on line.   Once the appointment is made, you receive an email with the date, time and place of the appointment.  Mine was for today at 9:42 a.m.  (none of the transactions you need to do take over 7 to 10 minutes, try that with the IRS).  I received a PDF with the confirmation number and I was set to go. 

I got up at 5 a.m., showered and went to the gym.  I worked out until around 8 o'clock and headed home to shower again, eat and take off.   Well, I realized that the office had been changed to the one out here in the zona citrica.   Not a problem but it did set me back a bit because I didn't know exactly where the office was in Montemorelos.  I was still on time and got my things together.  As I headed out the door, I left the front door open because it was still cool so I closed the gate on the porched and locked.   That's when I realized . . . . . I didn't have the keys.   WTF!  I had locked myself out of the house, first time in many, many years.  No problem, we keep a magnetic tin hidden in the laundry room.  Not there!  Got used when someone came to visit and we weren't home and the keys didn't make their way back to the laundry room.

I took the screen off the window, fished the keys off the hook in the kitchen with the long pole we use to skim the pool.   The keys hit the floor and I was able to push the dining room chairs around and get the keys my way.   I walked around, unlocked the door, set my folder down, shut the window and put things back in place (my fear is that if I die and someone comes to the house they will think I was a slob so I like things in order) and dashed out the door.  

I arrived to Montemorelos, not lost but not sure of where to go in the downtown area.  I saw a mailman on his motorbike and asked him.  He started to explain and said, "follow me".  My dad was a postal employee, they all have good hearts but who would stop their route to helps someone?  He led me there, I shook his hand and told him "dios te bendiga" and off I went.   I walked into the office at 9:45.   My name was on the list and as I walked toward the counter, the woman said, "do you have a utility bill and your official ID".  OMG!  I left it on the kitchen counter.  SOB!  (Kevin, I know you don't like acronyms).

Not a problem, I went home, got on line, made another appointment for tomorrow.  The system is super-smooth, I am the problem.  Live and learn.

P.S.  Looks like I won't be too bored next week.  I got a job in Sinaloa for the week!  Mazatlan, Culiacan and Los Mochis, here I come.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

May Have To Going Camping


It is going to be a long two weeks.  I think I may have to take the rv out and go somewhere.  I'm not bored yet by any means but I should take full advantage of the time.   I am working on our trip to Chihuahua.  New Mexico is too far to go and with the price of fuel we could stay out longer in Chihuahua.   Still undecided, I want to do both.

I got up early and went to the spelling bee.  This is the first one ever for the school and the teachers as well as the students were pretty excited.   I was hoping for the parents and other students to come to the auditorium but the teachers didn't have the confidence that they could pull it off.   I only oversaw the process giving input when needed.  I made it clear from the beginning that it was their show.

The kids had a blast and the teachers were very proud of their hard work and all the enthusiasm on part of their kids.
Primary winners!
 Secondary winners!

I go back Thursday to give a talk on the "Importance of English".  This is culture week at the school and they have many events going on.  I love to see schools like this where teachers, parents and students are all involved. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Living The Bachelor Life Now!


Well, just for two weeks :)  Juan took off for Mexico City to do some more research for his doctorate.  He will be visiting schools and the education departments in different delegaciones.   I took him to the airport Sunday morning leaving the SUV at our place in town.   I realized when we left, the front tire on the SUV went flat.  I came home, did laundry and farted around the rest of the day.

Today, up early and out the door.  I went to the gym and then headed into town.  First stop was the ISSTE clinic to get Juan's cholesterol medicine.  Wow, what a system.  I had his ID card and his prescription.  I walked in, went to window 1 to sign in and then off to window 2 to turn in the prescriptoin.  The place is really top drawer and everyone is very friendly.  Excellent service.  They pull the prescriptions, bag them and then call your name.  I saw lots of people waiting and thought I should have brought a book with me.  Less than 10 minutes later they called my name.  Free prescription, a months supply of cholesterol drug that costs 95 dollars.   Maybe I should join the social system, well, I have been thinking about it.

That done, I drove to the house in Monterrey and looked at the flat tire.  There was the culprit, a screw was driven into the tread.  I pulled out the compressor, filled the tire and drove down to the vulcanizadora where he fixed the flat for 70 pesos, $5.50 U.S.  A bit expensive but hey, this is Monterrey.

So here I am and tomorrow I have a spelling bee to MC in the colegio in Allende where I have been volunteering.  After that, I am planning on power washing the house.   I got the materials to fix the last drawer in the dresser in the rv.  I can tackle that in a few minutes.

On Wednesday, I have an appointment with Lolita (Uncle Sam or Sugar) to fix an error in my address.  I have put it off for years and now that I am working on my social security it is important that it is fixed.  The appointment lasts about 15 minutes and the problem will be solved once and for all.  

Bad news on the bombing in Boston.  I would never wish such a tragedy on anyone or any country.  Innocent people don't deserve that treatment.  However, it is another sign that we need to withdraw troops from other countries and bring them home to do what they were meant to do, protect their country.  The U.S. has a huge border with both Canada and Mexico not to mention the East and West coasts.  They need tens of thousands of people to do that.  It is very porous and I can vouche for that.  Too many people crossing where and when they want and that doesn't include ships and airplanes.   I don't think the TSA is really prepared to do that job. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

My First CouchSurfing Experience


Last week I thought I would be working here in McAllen  on Monday.   I logged onto Couch Surfing and found two people who answered right away.   I then found out the event was switched to today.   I had to send an email to my host and tell her I couldn't make it but appreciated her offer.   I went back to CS and found another for Friday but was then told they had surfers for the weekend.   I thanked them and they wrote back and asked me to come over for dinner anyway.  

I got here yesterday and ran my errands.  Aldy called me in the afternoon to see if I was still up for  dinner and I told yes.   Turns out their house is just minutes from my hotel.   I got there not knowing what to expect.  I pulled into the apartment parking lot (they gave me the gate code) and I found their building.  I parked next to a new Class B Sprinter based rv and thought, I wonder if that belongs to them. 

Got to the door and it was as if we had known each other for years.  We talked all night about all kinds of things.  Aldy and Yani are from Puerto Rico, she is a nurse and he works from home for a software company.  They are right up our alley.  They want to rv and travel and most of all retire early. They are already set to come down and stay the weekend sometime soon in Monterrey.  They want to learn the ropes of Mexico so they can bring their rv.  The rv I saw is theirs.

Yani fixed a great dinner, Indian  food, spicy with curry and rice.  I brought a bottle of wine and we spent a fun evening.  I think we could really get into CS more.  Based on Kevin and Ruth's experiences it looks like we will meet many more in the future.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Taking Off Again


The 40C did come and now the heat has passed.  Wierd weather.   Now we are expecting a cold front and tomorrow night it will be 12C here at the house.  Not bad weather as long as the nights cool down.  The house, because of the tile roof, stays pretty cool during the day as long as I close things  up.

Tomorrow it is off to McAllen again.  One day of work on Friday and I'll be zipping back home around 3 p.m. in the afternoon.  I've been to this school before so I know the routine.   I am expecting 150 students, as I say, the bigger the group the easier to manage. 

I attempted to order the charge controller but the place I wanted to order  from has webpage problems. They keep insisting I click on their link and I have sent them numerous mails to tell them the link doesn't work but they insist it does.   I found three places in McAllen that I will visit tomorrow.  I may get lucky.

I've been exercising the batteries since I got the cables cleaned up.  The LP alarm is working as well as a 5 watt LED that I run all night.  I get up in the mornings and the batteries are still at 12.6.  

I still have one dresser drawer to fix and I have the materials.   I think I'll save that for Saturday.  I am going to Goodings RV tomorrow too, hoping they have the clear door slide as well as a spare wheel cover.

Monday, April 8, 2013

It's Getting Hot!


Today we hit 38C and tomorrow it will be above 40C.  Looks like summer will be hot and dry.  We are really starting to get desperate for water here in Nuevo Leon.  The south is really  suffering and they are trying to get water to them as fast as possible.  It's not a highly populated area but people are spead out on ranches and up in the mountains.   They 80 tankers working around the clock but most of the cattle are now dead and the fields  dry.   Nuevo Leon has agreements with Tamaulipas (a state to the east of us) that go back decades and they refuse to renegociate.   They claim they need water for crops.   As an ex-water department said, "we can always import corn, but we can't import water".   

I got off my duff today and worked on washing the trailer head to toe.   The roof wasn't too bad but the gutters were filthy not to mention the front cap.   I used a good shampoo on the gelcoat and it shined up quite a bit.   I think I found a local guy who can wax the trailer tomorrow or Wednesday.  Now that it is clean I should get a better rate.  Wow, I worked three hours.  What say you?

The peso is at it's strongest point since back in 2011.  The last two weeks have been record-breaking.  This is a shot of April 2012 to date.  Let's see how long this lasts, I'm not convinced it is a good thing.  It is to fast and there could be a slippery slope.  We've seen this before in the past.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I Actually Went To The Movies


I like Mexican cinema especially old movies from the period of Cine Dorado, the 40s and 50s.  Very easy to understand and I learn a lot of new words and phrases (well, maybe not so much now like before).  Yesterday, I saw an ad for a new Mexican film called Nosotros Los Nobles.   We get ticket discounts from our local gas station when we fill up and the movie would cost  us 28 pesos a piece.  We give the tickets away to people who can use them with their kids.  

Today, we got up early (no shit) and decided to go to the movies.  I haven't been to a theater in a couple of years and it was a real shocker.   The theaters are tremendously well-done.  Great screens, spacious seating, reclining seats, no talking, no smoking, no issues.   We bought our tickets but the discounts we had are not good on Sunday.  Bummer.  Regular tickets for the 11:50 matinee were 53 pesos, 4 dollars U.S.  I don't othknow what a movie costs now in the U.S. as I dread to think of how many years ago it was that I was in a U.S. movie theater and now too afraid to be in one (if you get my drift).

The movie was hilarious.  In brief, it is about a rich widowed Mexican business who has three early 20s kids who have never worked a day in their lives and are looking forward to inheriting their trust from their mother.  The father, fed up with all their excesses including private company jet, etc. decided to teach them a lesson.   One day the kids are home and helicopters, police and agents raid the mansion.  The father, now dressed as a worker helps them escape and explains they no longer have a dime to their name.  Disaster for the kids.  They hide out in an old house (grandfather's abandon home now in a bad part of town) and are forced to get low-level jobs such as waitress in a cantina and bus driver.  You take it from there.  A great movie for all teenagers to see and a lesson to learn about life.

Changing times and tenses, I have been reading quite a bit about the checkpoints in the U.S. and whether they are constitutionally legal.   I can say just one thing: in all my years in Mexico I have never been asked to prove my citizenship to anyone other than INM, Mexican Immigration.  That says something about democracy and freedom.  I would never offer my passport to anyone other than an INM agent.  Should I be asked (which I never would be) at a checkpoint or by police or federales I would ask that an INM agent be present.  In fact, I have never been asked for ID at any Mexican checkpoint other than airport security which is an international standard and I use a driver's license.

The same is true of the pedimento (importation permit and invoice) for the travel trailer.  As told to us at the aduana on several occasions, "never carry the original, the only person authorized to ask you for these papers must be an employee of SAT (Servicios de Adminstracion Tributaria), never show it to anyone else and a copy is more than legal".   No one has ever asked to see those papers except SAT and  I would never show them to anyone.   I only show my "tarjeta de circulacion" or the title card that we carry in the glove box.  Again, I would refuse if asked by anyone else.

Makes you wonder what is happening in the U.S.  If you are asking me if I am a U.S. citizen 100 miles north of the Mexico or south of the Canada border, then the job of national security is not being done.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Working On My Pension


I made a mistake the other day when I was talking with Croft about pensions.  My Afore (401K in Mexico) pays 7.71% per year.  I had said 6% but it has gone up.  Some pay higher but the bank I have mine registered with pays that amount and happens to be our bank here.  There are tons of government services on line to help me make choices about where I want the money, what low, medium and high risk plans are available.

I can retire with my Mexican pension when I am 62.   Working for myself I haven't always contributed to the fund and now I am in the final years and can pack some money into it as long as I watch the amounts.  Lolita (Mexican Uncle Sam) doesn't like us to go overboard and can penalize us tax wise.  Since I started working in Mexico way before 1997, I get the option of making withdrawals every two months or receive a pension check that is calculated as social security.  I am aiming more towards the check as it will be for life.

It is very easy to register on line and to use the services.  One is the Infonavit, which is a low-cost fixed federal housing loan which I never took advantage of.  When I retire, the money that has accumulated in the account will be paid out to me in cash.  The bank portion give me calculators with  options for funds showing long-term estimates of growth depending on the amount I contribute.   As I said, I am short on weeks but I can make those up over the next six years.

I had intermittent 12V problems over the last couple of weeks with the rv.  When we were in HC we cleaned the batteries and cables which helped tremendously.   Sal put some battery post lubricant which protects from corrosion.   Today I took it all apart and found the culprit.  I had tightned one of the nuts on the post a little too much and this was the result:

This was the cable that goes between batteries and I happened to have a spare as there were two in a box when I bought them.  All the posts now have covers on them too to keep them clean and dry.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ready For The Weekend


I got quite a bit done this week.  I had plans to work in Kingsville, Tx and even found a Couch Surfer to stay with.  There were three listed there and one replied so far.  I had to tell her my plans changed from Monday in Kingsville to Friday in McAllen.   Too bad, she seems like a pretty nice person.   Maybe next time.

I still have one drawer to finish fixing in the trailer and will probably do that tomorrow morning.  I got a mail from Brian who gave me some ideas of how to fix the crappy construction of the dresser.  As I may have said the other day, one of the drawer rails was not even fastened as it was cut to short, they did attempt to screw it down but it broke right through the edge of the wood.   I could add a wood block but I have some metal pieces I think will do better.  Thanks Brian!

I had the VW in the shop this week.  Same problem as two years ago.  Hydraulic fluid leaked into the cabin underneath the accelerator.  The dealer wanted 12,000 pesos and we filed a petition with VW in Puebla saying the parts are defective and we have proof of many Pointers with the same problem.  They came back and offered us 50%  off and we still weren't satisfied.   Then I did some on line investigation and found out the complete piece doesn't need replacement but can be repaired with a kit that contains some gaskets and  other goodies.  Found a mechanic do to the work and found the kit.   Done in one day before 3 p.m., total cost 1500 pesos.   Drives like a charm.

The heat is coming again and it appears summer is here.   I need to get off my duff and get the rv washed and waxed.   I took the Pointer to the car wash yesterday in Monterrey after we got it out of the shop.  I was hoping to ask some of the guys if they wanted to earn 800 pesos to come out and do the work.  They didn't seem to interested.  I guess they are happy with their 10,000 pesos they earn each month.   1000 a week salary plus benefits and the rest in tips.   Pretty good job for someone who doesn't want to study and didn't finish secondary.

Here's what things are looking like around here.  Kind of looks like summer!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why Is Mexico Always The Whipping Post?

Just in the last two days I have read so much b.s. about Mexico by people who rv, live or travel in Mexico.  Unfortunately, a lot of people base their comments on their personal experience.  If it isn't bad wifi, it is the bad electricity, if it isn't the bad electricity it is a Pemex ripping someone off.  The problem here is that bad information is more readily believed than good information or positive comments.   Test it sometime.  Post something on a forum like, "Rv Stolen" and it could be in Michigan or Timbuktu it doesn't matter.  Read further and find out it was then recovered in good condition and it turns out it was a misunderstanding between relatives over loaning it out for the weekend.  You will rack up hundreds of comments and views.

So why the beef this time you may ask.  Mexico has one of the most modern and sofisticated electric grids in the world, and one that outbeats that of the antiquated U.S. anytime.  Mexico also produces energy with hydroplants, solar, wind and one nuclear power plant that has never had an accident.   Yet in the U.S. they are still building new coal-fired plants.   Lets get down to the real issue with power in Mexico.  One is cable size like at rv parks and the other is the fact that many people, to the tune of 50% steal electricity.   It is either by throwing a cable over a power line or fiddling with the meter to slow it down.  Yes, we do have a strange way of billing people for their electricity.  

1 250 kWh/mes
1A 300 kWh/mes
1B 400 kWh/mes
1C 850 kWh/mes
1D 1,000 kWh/mes
1E 2,000 kWh/mes
1F 2,500 kWh/mes  

These are the maximum kwhs per month before a user goes into the DAC rate (I call it overload).  Here at home we are in the 1B rate.  If we exceed that amount X2 in any two month billing period we are forced into a "commercial" rate which is the equivelant of .30 US.   The rate at the bottom, 1F, is for the state of Sinaloa and this rate is for summer only because of the extreme heat and the use of air conditioning (air conditioning in Mexican homes is more common than thought).  During winter months they return to the "1" rate.   It isn't much different than billing in the U.S. as some areas have higher rates and others lower rates and they can vary in the U.S. depending on the time of day as well as having a utility company install a thermostat in your home that will cut off your a/c depending on the time of day and the thermostat temperature, as is the case of San Antonio, Tx.

Another misnomer is the nutrition issue in Mexico.   As stated on the rv.net the other day, "milk in Mexico costs 14 pesos per liter" and there are kids starving.   It is a fact that you can buy milk at 14 pesos per liter or at 9.90 pesos per liter.   Even better is that every child until the age of 14, single mothers to 16, and elderly over age 60 can receive a subsidy for milk.  Cost, "free".   The organization has been around since the 40s and is a government program called Liconsa.   Maybe you have seen women in a small town early in the morning carrying a bucket, pail, or container sometimes with a cloth to cover the top.  They are going for their free milk.   

In some states such as our great state of Nuevo Leon, we also pay out to everyone over the age of 65, a monetary food subsidy card of 100 dollars per month.   Apart from their pension, if they worked and paid taxes, they also receive this money.  But remember, you have to be a registered tax payer to receive a pension.  Many Mexicans in the beginning of social security (1940) were leary of the government and chose to work on their own and not pay taxes.   Many still do today.   A real shame as Mexico has Afores which is similar to 401K and has had them since the 90s.   If you were registered in the system before 1997 like myself you can choose a pension check or to make withdrawals from your 401K.  Companies continue to contribute to employee accounts and employees are encouraged to make additional contributions.  The Afores pays 6% a year, I bet you didn't know that as well as banks that pay 6% to 11% on savings and CD accounts.  Beat that Bank of America!

I could go on and I am sure that you are tired of reading this, but Mexico is truly a great place and just like everywhere else it has its problems too.  I truly believe that most of Mexico's problems are self-inflicted.  As I have said many times, many people want Mexico to remain "old and colonial", wanting to see someone sitting under a cactus with a serape and a straw hat taking a snooze or a woman carrying her child on her back or a canasta on her head.   Sure, it still exists, but Mexico's youth want what everyone else wants in the world and they are more than ever determined to get it.   Change is in the air.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Thanks Croft!


We have had problems with the three dresser drawers in the rv bedroom from the get go.  Today I finally took them out and lo and behold!  That good ole rv crapsmanship!  The rails were loose as the screws were never set properly, one rail was cut to short so there was no anchor, it just hung there, and another had several holes drilled for the same screw which left one big gaping hole.  Last week, Croft had mentioned a loose cabinet hinge and said he used glue and toothpicks.  Worked for me!  Thanks Croft!  Croft also helped me run new cables from the battery to the inverter.   That works well too!  BTW, the glue below is not pronounced yoo hoo.  The pronunciation are the letters in Español, ew ahchey ew.
Croft also said to add some drawer magnets.  I did and those drawers will never roll open during flight.

 These are pics from last week.  Juan took these from the top of the tobogan ride at one of  tthe pools.  You can appreciate the size of the club.  It is over 600 acres and is comprised of 4000 lots, the club house, showers and bathrooms, and over 100 palapas.  There are security cameras throughout the property.  How does it work?  Each member has to purchase at least one lot of 500 sq meters.  We have 1500 sq meters and it is an irregular lot in terms of dimensions.  It is a sloping lot on a triangle and ends at a point at the bottom of the hill so we have no neighbors on the sides or southern slope.  Now they have watera nd electric to  each lot.  It is not a fancy place by any means, and the land is semi-arid so it is mostly mesquite trees, cactus, etc.   We pay 325 pesos a month for dues which is nothing.  Outside of Semana Santa, and a few holiday weekends, it doesn't get much use.  Quite a few retired couples live there full time in their houses or cabins.  Some are very rustic and some are very well-designed.  We also receive 1000 liters of water per month if you are not on the water system and it is delivered to our lot.   Security is excellent, noise and music came to a screaching halt every night no later than 10:30.  If you are a foreigner, you have to be a permanent resident to belong.

We were located in an overflow area that  has about ten palapas.  We hooked up to the electric via extension cords.  No air conditioning but everything worked well.

Tennis courts off in the distance.

 A night at the fogata, karaoke, show and fun.

Monday, April 1, 2013

What A Week It Was!


We said goodbye to Croft and Norma yesterday morning.  We caravaned for about 30 kms where we left them to continue on their way.  We headed to our piece of land in Allende where the original sales office and palapa is.  We parked in the big palapa and set up for the day.  We visited with neighbors and had a nice nap.  Another new house is going up in the neighborhood so that is good news.  Land prices here around the house have skyrocketed in the last six months with some places selling land at 3100 to 4800 pesos per sq meter, where just last year it was 2000 pesos.  Looks like things have turned around and time to put the house back on the market.  San Jose is still buried upside down in our backyard (supposedly it helps to sell a house, I'm not a firm believer but hey, whatever it takes!).

Today we have an appointment with VW to have the Pointer serviced.  It has a little rattle here and there plus it is time for a check up.

Maybe tomorrow I will post some pics of how the weekend finished at Monte Sur and explain how the place works.  There are many around Mexico and if you are a resident you can join a club.  I can tell you now, it's cheap and it can always be used as a home base.