Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sitting In Victoria, Texas


I made my way to McAllen yesterday afternoon.   I have two courses this week and two next week.  Tomorrow's course is in Port LaVaca and Thursday in El Campo outside of Houston.  I spent the night at Victoria Palm's Rv Park and Hotel in Donna.   That's where I stayed last year for a month while I was working.   I went to the gym this morning and a lady walked in and said, "long time no see".   I was surprised anyone would remember me.

I stopped by the office and picked up 300 sets of books to be used between the two schools.  This course is for the SAT and it is much easier and an hour shorter than the ACT.   I took off up Hwy 281 to George West and cut over to Victoria where I am spending the night.  Not sure why they booked me 30 miles from the school but that's not up for me to decide.  

It was tense going for the first 100 kms getting through Brook County.   I was truly shocked I wasn't stopped today.  It happens 80% of the time.  They see this gringo in a Mexican plated car filled with boxes so I guess that looks suspicious.  I made it through the northern checkpoint with a few questions about my work and off I went.   After George West it was smooth sailing. 

Tomorrow in the afternoon I'll be heading to El Campo to spend the night and work there on Thursday before heading home.  The company has made one good decision.   We no longer deal with money and the schools are billed directly.   It was a hard thing to do because most people in the border area don't manage bank accounts.  Imagine if I had ever been stopped and searched and had to explain why I was carrying 200 envelopes each with $39.  It was far from safe too having to carry all that cash around.  Glad that is over with.   Maybe some hanky panky was going on there, not for me to say.

Next week I return to McAllen to take a flight to Dallas, spend the night and work the next day in a town called Kaufman.  After, I fly to Corpus for another event and then take a rental car back to McAllen airport.

That should pretty much be it for the fall season but the Spring is booked solid.   That will be a good thing because we can come up and vacation with the rv.  

At home the battery terminals were changed on the SUV.  Total cost, 50 pesos or $3 at the current exchange rate and freon was also put in at 400 pesos.   The roofers did the tarring of the roof but haven't come back.  Yesterday was Monday so we can understand that but today was a big let down.  Anyway . . 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

One Of Those Weekends - Off To Texas


The weekend was really going full steam and it was a fun one.  Sometimes though, there are trabas obstacles in the way and we need to overcome them.

Friday was a great evening at home.   I started happy hour at 5:30 shelling peanuts and watching PBS, my favorite news channel.  We shared a slice of pizza from Costco along with a salad and wine.  Slept like a baby.   Saturday was working around the house as usual and doing maintenance.  

Last night we attended the Festival Santa Lucia (Santa Lucia is our riverwalk) and we saw a Siberian dance troop perform.  The esplanade was packed with a few thousand people and about half got there early enough to want to stand in line for a seat.  We opted to watch standing along the sidelines.  Very good show but it was a bit too long.  One hour and thirty minutes.   Make it an hour and cut out the goofy stuff, but who am I, definitely not a dancer.  hahaha.   We ran into a couple we know who had taken there kids for a ride on one of the river boats and we talked most of the show about what was going on and catching up.   Got home in time for SNL which as usual now is a real let down.  Bring back the old days I say.

This morning we went out for breakfast because we are looking for a good place to take Ruth and Kevin when they get here.   I know Sherman can fit in the driveway.   I hope it's cool at night so we can share an evening by the fireplace.  So much to catch up on and talk about.   

I am getting ready for my work in Texas.   I have two events this week and two the following.   This week is lots of miles to put on the little car but the pay is well worth it including mileage.  The following week I will be driving to Corpus for one event and flying to Dallas for another.  When I return to Corpus I will take a rental car back to McAllen.  Sounds confusing and it is.   There are a lot of changes in the company along with several deserters.   I may be next.   I had to take a psychological test that proved that I was; overly motivated, highly managerial and a moron!   At least they were 3 Ms, hahahaha.   There is someone new in the company that is doing stuff we did 15 years ago like the Japanese 5 Ss.   Big deal.  I'm a teacher not a salesperson and we have new names.  Sales people are "advocates" and teachers are now called "coaches".   

So here we are getting ready to settle in for a nap and the refrigerator goes on the blink.  It's freezing everything so I am sure it is the thermostat.  I discovered the batteries in the rv aren't charging.  I thought I had found the problem but no go.   Kevin can maybe help me out when he gets here.  Then, Juan goes to wash the truck and the battery is dead, dead, dead.   We took off looking for a place to get a charge as the jump didn't work.   I think we need a new battery but who am I to say.   Came back unsuccessful as today is Sunday.  We have a LTH battery that comes with service.  However, the battery is three years old and the replacement is 62% plus service call.   

Sitting here trying to figure out what to do and it dawned on me that we have Autozone in Monterrey.  Yeah!!! And then another revelation, we have a new Autozone in Santiago.  The battery is there now being charged and we pick it up in an hour.   Nice people and they don't close until eight.  We still need to find out what happened to the battery.  

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Return from Zacatecas, and I Thought The Roof Goes On Top


Wednesday night I was invited out to dinner by the embassy staff.  I recommended the Italian restaurant I had gone to on Tuesday.   It was a hit and we stayed until almost midnight which is not my style but we laughed so much it was worth a couple of glasses of wine.  The next morning I had to get up to go the airport so it didn't really matter as I couldn't have made it to the gym.

Here is a video spot of chef Luciano and the restaurant To-Tlalli.  

A quick stop by the theater for a tour before going to work on Wednesday.

Arriving in Mexico City for my connection to Monterrey I saw this sad sight.  Aviacsa was one of the first discount airlines to enter the Mexico market but it wasn't meant to survive.  They had excellent service and the best in-flight lunches.

The new AeroMexico terminal.

Now to the roof on the floor.  You can see the workers have removed all the tile from the front half of the roof and are getting ready to put down the water proofing material before replacing the tile.  They were able to save the majority of it and it was power washed and stacked.  We need to buy 20 meters to complete the job.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Visit To Zacatecas


This was my veggie burger at Chili's while I was waiting for my flight in Mexico City.  It was a portabella mushroom burger served with baked french fries.  It was really delicious.  I'm getting back into the swing of things.

Arrived to Zacatecas late last night.   Air traffic  was heavy in Mexico City and I got to the hotel after midnight.  I got up early though and took advantage of the morning taking pictures and walking around.   My budget is in dollars for this trip and I can understand why Americans and Canadians like Mexico.  Based on the current exchange rate things are very affordable; food, hotels, transportation.  Amazing.  

Zacatecas is a wonderful colonial city with beautiful architecture, good food for those on a budget and most of all it isn't crowded.   The weather is cool and fresh and the air is clean.

Hotel Emporio where I will be staying until I check out Thursday morning.  Very nice hotel.

There was an advantage to arriving late at night.  Zacatecas uses a lot of lighting (LEDs) and it has a magical effect.  There were little to no people or cars on the streets and made taking pictures easy.   Colin would have a hay day here.

My course started at 2 p.m. and I finished at 6.  It gave me time to roam around a bit and to figure out what I want to do tomorrow morning.  One thing is to ride the teleferico.   Tomorrow I'll tell you about one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever eaten at and I encourage anyone passing through to stop by.  That's all for now.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Priorities And An Electric Blanket Test


First off, I want to thank everyone for the kudos on my September 16th photos of me in a suit.  I'm glad you enjoyed it but the suit is usually reserved for weddings and funerals.  I hate buying clothes and the worst part is trying them on.  It was tough for me that day but I did it anyway.  

Priorities.  I've heard a lot of complaints from people in the last couple of weeks about how bad the streets are in Monterrey.  I'm no exception.   A friend just returned from a week in the northeastern U.S. singing the praises of the United States and how nice everything looks and the fact that there was not even one pothole to be found.  A bit of an exaggeration but I can accept that.

My reply was simple.  Most of it is based on money.  The property tax in the state of Nuevo Leon is .15%.  In Texas the property tax is 2.87%.  So on a million pesos home the difference is 1500 pesos to 28,000 pesos.  Most people never pay their property tax and when they do it is because they are selling their house and the government always gives us a 15% discount if we pay the first month of the year.

In addition, only about 50% of Mexicans pay any income tax.  The other 50% are those that sell things in street markets, clandestine shops, street corners and of course that poor farmer who only works a few hours a day.   We call it the "informal" market.   

Last night we attended a cookout with family and friends and to watch a soccer match.  Everyone bitched about the streets, trash pick up, and public transportation.  I had to remind them that we just built a $55 million dollar soccer stadium and that exact amount would have paved every street in the Monterrey Metro area which is made up of nine municipalities.  Everything is a choice.  OTOH, if you live in the U.S. someone could write about all the taxes, rules, and the fact that your house can be foreclosed on if you don't pay your property taxes.  Here that would never happen because Pancho Villa would rise out of the grave.  BTW, the fanaticism is so great now over soccer that a great niece started crying because her daddy's team was losing.  Sad, sad situation.

Electric blankets.  Today I saw some ridiculous posts on Rv.Net about not being able to keep warm in winter and that you need a full blown generator running all night long to keep you warm.  It's raining here and very cloudy and dark.  I went out to the trailer and plugged the electric blanket into the inverter.   We use it on the lowest setting L (L to 10) and put it under the fitted sheet and sleep on top.  Works great all winter here in the house as well.   The batteries are not up to 100% but when I started the test they were at 12.6.   After six hours on a setting of  "2", the batteries had dropped to 12.4.   

Mix that with our Heater Buddy and you stay warm and toasty all night.  We were at 6500 feet in the rain and cold at Lake Botanie in Lytton, BC and it was -6C.  We had more than enough heat to keep us warm and toasty.  Only issue was the condensation.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

September 16th Mexican Independence


Today we celebrated Mexican Independence.   I led the parade in Allende with the school where I am working.  First off was a presentation and reenactment of Hidalgo and the original "grito" en Dolores Hidalgo on the church steps.  You remember the picture I took in July of the spot where Hidalgo stood.  Very impressive.  BTW, a state policeman took my picture above.  Not the best photographer but a nice guy who later waved at me as we passed by.

We walked the town along with other school from our municipality.   Honor guard, marching band and the streets and houses lined with towns people waving and cheering us on.  It was quite a morning and the weather was on our side.  

The old Presidencia which now houses a museum in the town square.

The reenactment which takes place in every school and town square every year.  I wonder how many people have played the role of Hidalgo over the years, millions I would guess.  Talk about bringing history to life. 

I call them my "soldados de dios"

Last night we took in another French film, Marguerite.  It was fantastic.  If you get a chance to look up the trailer on YouTube it will interest you.   I love international film.  I'm not big on Hollywood movies.

On the way into town we snapped these pictures.   The rain is doing wonders here and the green is coming back.  Mother Nature really knows how to run things.

You can see the famous Cerro de La Silla (Saddleback Mountain)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

It Finally Came


Looks like the canicula has finally passed and the cool weather is now upon us.  The rains came on Thursday night and we have had some showers off and on since then.  More rain is forecast for the middle of this week.  I haven't posted because it's just daily stuff that's going on. I don't feel so bad, it appears most Mexico rvers with blogs have slowed down quite a bit too. 

What's happening now is that Little Bit scratched his inner eyelid and has a weepy eye.  I took him to the vet yesterday.  She didn't charge for a consultation just the 60 pesos for the eye drops.   Gotta love Mexico, and for many reasons.  Little Bit feels bad, imagine how it feels when you hurt your eye, it's a constant irritant.  He just sits next to me.  I hope it ends soon.  He's no fun when he's sick!

I blew my vegan diet when I went to San Miguel de Allende and the pounds are packing on fast.  I made the decision to get back to basics, I worked very hard not only on the vegan part but also on baking breads and making good things to eat.  With the heat though, it was impossible.   Nothing is forever and we can always start again.  So, here I go!

I made my plane reservations for my work in Zacatecas with the embassy.  That will be the week of September 21st.   Zacatecas is a beautiful place but very expensive to fly to.   I have a grant but any funds not used have to be returned apart from my stipend so I might as well use it to my advantage.  I could have driven and saved the money but it didn't work out like that. 

Yesterday was an academic Saturday.  Not a lot of people showed up because of the impending weather.   It was held at the state university but we have several campuses in Monterrey.  This one is located just on the southern edge of town by the big Walmart and Sam's.   Two speakers, one from Italy and the other from New York.   Great talks about technology in the classroom and I picked up some great websites we can use with students.  While I was there I ran into my friend Angie from Mongolia.  She is teaching English and Chinese there.  We had a great afternoon together.

Last weekend we had a family get together, about 12 people came and spent the night.  We swam, barbequed, spent Saturday night outside under the palapa talking until midnight.  It was great.  No loud music, in fact, no music.  We told stories, laughed a lot and discussed our plans for the winter.

Speaking of winter plans, it looks like we will go to Veracruz to the Emerald Coast for a few weeks.  We have good memories of meeting our friends Sharon and Bill there and the wacky things that went on when we were there.   I like the beach better in the winter when it's cool and gloomy.  It's a good time for thinking about things and what comes next.   We need to get on the ball and plan our yearly trips like the rv trip to Chile.  Better do it now before we get too old.