Friday, December 29, 2017

Got The Call

I received a call yesterday at 2 p.m. to appear for the closing on our house in San Antonio.  We  arrived late last night with a short two hour border wait.  Last year, the border wait was so long we pulled out of line and spent the night in Nuevo Laredo.  When we approached the U.S. border agent, he asked for our passports and wished us a happy holiday and sent us on our way.

We closed this morning and now that is part of  history.   My life is now focused on our future  retirement here in Mexico.   

"Never look back unless you are planning to go that way." - Henry David Thoreau   

Monday, December 25, 2017

Mexico Apps Gas Prices

With the advent of the energy reform, apps are now appearing that are similar to GasBuddy in the U.S.  There are three that I know of, one (Gasoapp) is sponsored by Profeco (BBB), one  (Guia Pemex) by Pemex for Pemex only stations and the third is Zenzzer.

All are available at the Google Play store.  All three pretty much work the same. stations within in a specific range, prices, ratings by user, distance and routing to get to a specific station. 

I haven´t downloaded any apps yet because my phone is full.  I´m anxious to try it as we saw prices yesterday in Monterrey with a range of 35 centavos.  May not sound like much but for the SUV a tank could mean a savings of 33 pesos or more.  Like in the U.S., you wouldn´t drive miles out of your way but if you see a station on your route that has a better price I´m sure you would take it.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow

Dee asked if we were having snow.  Well, we did and we still do.  The mountains are covered and only 16% of students went to school.  

Here in the north we have snow occasionally, but this time around the cold makes it even worse.  It dropped down to a low of  -6C and it will continue tonight.  The snow on the ground is gone but last night all the water froze on the trees.  This morning it was raining under the palm trees.

Yesterday I received a call from a U.S. number on my cell phone.  I was headed home from school and figured it was the guy who worked on the house in San Antonio.  It was Sue and Brian who had crossed the border yesterday and were heading to San Miguel de Allende.

Croft posted this story but they were stranded on the highway between Laredo and Monterrey.  They wanted to know what was going on and I found the Policia Federales twitter site and it said snow had shut things down.  Great website by the way because it is constantly updated.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

December - What Next

Don´t know if I posted this or not, but it´s bread baking season.


I worked in Puerto Vallarta on Friday.  I left Thursday afternoon and came back less than 24 hours later.  Funny though, how cheap travel by air in Mexico has become.  I started out dreading the travel agency´s mainstay of Interjet.  They have great on-board service but they are always delayed by  hours.  They don´t have enough aircraft and one is out of whack the whole system suffers.  

I checked my favorite for business travelers, AeroMexico but the cost was not justifiable.  I then moved to my last choice, Vivaaerobus and was pleasantly surprised to find out the following.  Here is the price breakdown of my particular travel plan:

AeroMexico 13,000 pesos
Interjet            9600 pesos
Vivaaerobus   4400 pesos

But here´s what happened.  I was late in the week, less than seven days due to the scheduling of the event which was out of my control.   I went with Viva because, believe it or not, is the only airline with a non-stop to Vallarta from  Monterrey.  They have one flight coming and one going.  It really worked out because AeroMexico had a pilot´ strike this week over medical benefits.  So even though it wasn´t an advance purchase, it only cost $237 U.S.  You just can´t beat that and rvers and snowbirds who come to Mexico should take advantage of that.

Not sure what Santa Claus has planned for us.  The house in San Antonio is showing regularly so there is interest and it won´t be long before we have an offer.  

Several things I want to talk about involving ex-pats living in Mexico, all good things that would help them make decisions on where to live and how to do it but I need time to sit down and write. 

The rv is getting some minor modifications for our winter trip if we take one and still not sure where to go.  I´d love to make it to the bloggers fest in Quartzite but that seems to be more of a dream than anything else only because of schedules.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wow! I´ve Been Called Out By A Blogger

And the blogger even used my full name!  Isn´t that great! You can read her blog post attacking me here:

I call em´ as I see em´.  However, you´ll to read the complete blog posts to understand my comments that she misquotes.  Turns out that others who have met her on the Isla seem to find her in the same light as I do.  

I just find her take on Mexico to be typical ex-pat and undermines Mexicans and their culture.  I have never been blocked from someone´s blog before.  Never knew someone could be so hateful.

My name will go down in infamy!

You be the judge!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Cheddar Cheese and Pueblos Magicos

We´re on a three-day weekend here in Mexico celebrating the Revolution and it happens to be Buen Fin.  I won´t go into the Mexican Revolution.  It was over 100 years ago, and as I have written in the past a complete failure responsible for the current condition of Mexico.  Buen fin though, is an idea that was generated around five years ago to combat Black Friday in the U.S. and help the economy here not there.  Well, it´s been such a success that this year has surpassed previous years by over 20% and not all the data has been collected as the sales continue at this moment.  We even participated and the savings are overwhelming. 

Yesterday we attended a grand event at the Cintermex Convention Center in downtown Monterrey.  Pueblos Magicos, with more than 110 towns represented marketing their artesanal goods, tourism and business investments.  We took advantage of it to plan our Christmas vacation.  Several good spots for boondocking as well as formalized camping.  

Here are two spots in particular that interest me:

San Joaquín, Queretaro  located about an hour and a half from San Miguel de Allende and another hour and a half to the Natl Park Campo Alegre.

The other is here in the north in Guerrero, Coahuila close to the border an hour from Piedras Negras.  A bit warmer weather than San Joaquín which says it is the coldest spot in Queretaro. 

We know that many foreigners have a penchant for their native treats and cheddar cheese is one of them.  Mexican cheddar does exist and one particular producer insists that his cheddar can stand next to any Canadian or American if not better.  Cheddar is a good cheese but I usually don´t buy it or eat it.  Mexican cheese is my favorite and I prefer it.  We bought a half pound after trying it and it is, well, very cheddar.  He says there are many producers but they are not marketed nationally.  Located in Aculco, Edomex.

The palapa now has its floor and tile and light waiting for the ceiling fan.  The next step is the sheet rock in the ceiling and the columns.  That´s next.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Received An RV Present

While waiting for the water to come back and  the palapa floor finished, I received a very nice and long awaited rv present.  Since we bought the rv, I've always had one issue.  My side of the bed doesn't have a night stand.  In other words, I have no place to put my glasses, mug of coffee, ear plugs and cell phone.  Believe it or not, I stuff a lot of things into the side light next to the bed.  They've never worked although when I had the new headlights put in the VW, I asked the electrician if he could fix them.

So, in the dark light of all the things going on here and in San Antonio, there is a spark of bright light.  This was handmade and the workmanship is incredible.  Very light and should I bring in the slideout and forget it is there, it will scoot it's way until I hear it and take it out of the way.

Fits beautifully!  I'm blessed to have someone who thinks so much of me to have this done.  Now that most of my earnings are being converted into dollars for the repairs on the house in SAT, we won't be going there this weekend.  Since it is a three-day weekend, we may take off for Montemorelos and enjoy the cool weather for a couple of days and I can try out my new nightstand!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Boondocking Skills Are Handy At Home Too!

Mural in the Leon/Bajio International Airport in Leon.  The airport is currently under expansion.

Got home from Leon yesterday afternoon only to find out that we had no water.  I tried everything possible but the pump wouldn't come on.  They are extending the floor in the new palapa and tiling also.  I thought maybe they had cut an underground cable.  The pump man came today and pulled up 180ft of pipe.  He took the pump in for evaluation and possible repair.  We replaced that pump 14 years ago with one that was more efficient.

We are using buckets of water out of the pool for flushing and bathing.  I figure it's chlorinated and we are limiting our cooking to reduce water use.   We had to get a couple of garrafones of water for cooking and drinking.   Pool water doesn't taste so good :)  We're peeing outside and as far as water, apart from bucketing, we have about 45,000 liters before the pool is empty.

Good friend and colleague Lou Pineda, who happens to be from Guadalcazar, SLP, giving orientation to newcomers.  When she started this a few years ago, she only had ten teachers in attendance.  Now it has swelled to 150.  

Teresita is from Monterrey and always finds a venue to speak at.  Very talented and comes from our state university.

The convention was great.  Over 3000 teachers packed into the Poliforum Convention Center in Leon.  It was fun meeting up with publishers, coworkers, fellow teachers, speakers and student teachers.   

Poliforum Convention Center in Leon.

We attended two to three workshops or presentations everyday along with a plenary.  It was very informative and you just never stop learning.  I guess I beat the curve with my work on Mindfulness and Social and Emotional Learning, talks I have given at two conventions over the last year.  It's all the rage now in teaching.  I don't know how to sell myself, I've never been a good salesman.

Our hotel was right across the street and it included very ample breakfast buffet included in the price.  We skipped lunches and opted for nice dinner out.  We found a winner!  If you are ever in Leon and want an elegant dinner out with wonderful service, excellent ambiance, Agaves is the place.  It is two blocks from the convention center at the Stadium Hotel.   They have two rooms.  The first, when you enter, is open and set up like a bar/restaurant.  The back room is something else.   Judge for yourself.

Now this is how you serve mexcal!

Three of us had ample drinks (2X1) all night, appetizers, main dishes and expresso for 1400 pesos or about $25 U.S. per person.   We were there for three hours and never went without something in our hand be it a fork or a drink of some kind.

Most of the passengers coming and going on our flights were teachers.  Juan sat next to a friend from Saltillo who teaches at the university.  Believe it or not, four years ago she weighed 300 pounds.  She has stuck with it.  Gorgeous.  

Our flights were on Aeromexico.  I'm loving my android.  You can download your boarding pass to your phone saving you checkin and you walk right to the gate.  Both of our flights saw us at the airport just 20 to 30 minutes before takeoff.  In other words, we walked right onto the plane from our car or taxi.  I did the same thing this last trip to CDMX and Ecuador.  International flight to South America from Mexico City only need an hour check in time.

The house in San Antonio is officially up for sale and on the MLS system.  We have a very interested buyer who wants to raise the price and have us cover the closing costs.  She is waiting to see the house after all the details are done.  Let's hope!  We may have to go again this weekend but it is a three-day holiday so it won't be so bad.  At least the house is clean and painted.  I had to laugh when I spoke with the realtor this afternoon.  She said she replaced all the light bulbs with incandescent as they show better.  If anyone has ever stayed at our house they know we practically live in the dark :)

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Rest of The Story

I've been so busy I haven't had time to post.  Well, not really.  It just isn't anything exciting or related to rving.  Here goes!

My return trip from Ecuador was long.  We finished our school visits around 1 p.m. on Friday and headed out for lunch.   You saw the pic of the traditional encebollado.   That was a delicious dish and when I go back I am sure to devour more.

Heading to the airport was easy.  It's within arms reach of everywhere in the city.  My flight wasn't leaving until 6:30 p.m. so I had time to take a nap.  Immigration was easy.  It took a couple of minutes in line.  I am now using my android for boarding passes so I was able to go straight to the gate.   I found what I thought was the perfect place and it truly was.  I used my backpack as my pillow and put my earplugs in.  It wasn't 15 minutes later that a parent brought three screaming kids, 4 to 8, and let them run around me for half an hour.  He thought it was funny but didn't.

The flight was on time and quite comfortable.  This aircraft didn't have individual screens but they put on an inflight movie.  Dinner was Ecuadorian consisting of empanadas, salad and fried banana with cookies and coffee for dessert.  Bar was open and we all sat back with a cocktail of choice and finished the movie.  On our descent into Panama City a small aircraft decided to take our airspace and the plane literally took off like a rocket heading straight up into space.  It was smooth but we knew something was up and the pilot later explained as we made the go around.

Arriving in Panama, it was off one aircraft and the walk down through the duty free mall to the other end of the airport.   I literally walked right onto the plane.   The flight to CDMX saw me sleeping off and on.  I arrived in CDMX at 1:45 a.m. and was scolded by Mexican immigration.  I always use the foreigner side of immigration as I am a resident but still a U.S. citizen.  He asked why I waited so long when I could have used the Mexican citizen lane.  He smiled and said it was my right and I should take advantage of it.  He was happy to see I have lived here so long and happy to be here.

I headed for the hotel in my Uber.  10 minute trip and I hit the pillow hard.   Three hours sleep and up and off to the airport again.  Caught the 8:30 to Monterrey and was in the house by 10:45.  

This last weekend was a holiday weekend.  I headed to San Antonio and lined up the painters and the people cleaning all the debris from the backyard.  Mostly junk and lots of tree branches that the ex-tenant said was always being taken care of.  I had to take care of the electricity and water, run errands, look for materials and the list went on.  There was no time for visits or shopping.  Like last time I took the air mattress with me and set up my bedroom in the house.  The house smells like cigarette smoke and leaves anything you take in the house smelling the same.  The painting and carpet cleaning will take care of that.   I never liked central air conditioning.   The snakes are out.  Investors pouncing on it thinking it needs to be a quick sale.  We are holding out.  As I told the agent, "once we start repairs and painting, the price goes up".  

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Ex-Pats In Mexico and Money

I just want to make it clear that when I talk about ex-pats, the comments are not about people who rv in Mexico or spend six months a year here.  An ex-pat has temporary or permanent residency. 

I read quite a few forums and blogs about ex-pats who live in Mexico.  One thing that always seems to come up is money. 

How do I get money transferred to Mexico?  
How can I pay my bills?  
Why do I get charged so much at the ATM for withdrawals?

The best way is to stop thinking like an American or a Canadian.   Why are you taking large sums of money out of an ATM to pay rent, groceries, gas, etc?   If you are a temporary/permanent resident you can have a Mexican bank account.   With a Mexican debit card you can do all of the above and it beats withdrawing money from an ATM two or three times a month which is expensive and not very savvy in terms of safety.

Also, with a Mexican bank account, you can also apply for a Mexican credit card.  Interest rates are extremely high, up to 35%.  However, in case your foreign card is declined and you are out to dinner, you can do charge the bill to your Mexican card and then pay before the month is over without interest.  Simple.

With a Mexican debit card you can pay at any supermarket, retail outlet, gas station, and the list goes on.  I've never had an issue with debit cards and fraud.  Credit cards, just once and it wasn't in Mexico as you may recall last month.  

My online bank account allows me to pay everything from home, utilities, groceries, cable tv, newspaper and grocery delivery, car, home and health insurance, even your school tuition. No need to take out cash or use gasoline to run around paying bills.  There is no commission charges in doing so either.  You can even set up monthly direct pay from your Mexican account for all of the above.

So, if you think that you can only pay by cash from your foreign bank account, think again.  Your social security checks can be deposited directly into a Mexican bank account as well.  Make life simple and forget all the myths and horror stories. You'll find that Mexico could even be one step more advanced than its neighbors to the north.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Ecuador - A Dollarized Land

I haven't had the chance to post all week.  The publisher in Ecuador kept me busy all week.   I spoke at eight schools, each for an hour and a half, taking into account wait times, moving around the city, breakfasts and lunches with school administrators and strategy meetings over dinner with coworkers.  Oh, and I forgot, my conference with 150 attendees. 

Let's see where I left off.  I spent my first night at the Holiday Inn at the airport.  Very nice accommodations not to mention the wonderful Ecuadorian breakfast buffet.  I enjoy South American food as it includes rice for all three meals.  Nothing tastier than a mix of rice, vermicelli and local spices topped with two fried eggs and served with a wonderful dried chorizo sausage with a similar taste to a good salami.   The food here is very local and incredibly tasty.

School visits everyday were mostly religious schools.  The publisher I work for, with corporate in Spain, specializes in Spanish, English and religious texts.  The majority of my coworkers worked for a publisher that was booted out of the country because of anti-monopoly laws.   The level of teacher varies just like it does anywhere.  In some school districts in Texas not all teachers have a four-year degree but there are no other options in the area.  Some have master degrees and some only speak English as a native speaker and the school encourages them to take certification courses and then study a degree.

In 2000, the economy was in shambles.  The sucre, the national currency, was 20,000 sucre to the dollar.   The country made the decision to dollarize and now, there is no Ecuadorian currency except for a few coins that are used for parking meters, buses and the like.  All the U.S. coins and paper money is used in Ecuador.   All sucre above 25 cent coins is prohibited and really doesn't exist anymore.  People are paid in dollars, buy houses, food, clothing, cars and entertainment in dollars.  There's nothing confusing about being a tourist there when it comes to money.

The downside is that the cost of living is a bit higher.  Teacher salaries range from $350 to $1200 a month.  Very similar to Mexico so now you know what we earn and why our trips to the U.S. and Canada have an OUCH! attached to them.   The area of Guayquil looks pretty much like any Mexican city but with a coastal flair.  The wide and fast flowing River Guayas runs through the city.  Along the banks and in the sector of Samborodon live the rich and upper crust.  It's actually a city in itself and has wide avenues lined with upper scale shopping malls, restaurants, gated neighborhoods with houses ranging from $100,000 to $250,000.  Ecuador has a thriving economy and one that is similar to Mexico, up and coming.  The middle class is growing and there are quite a few Americans and Canadians who are now ex-pats living there.

I did a run through a supermarket and found that liqour, eggs, and meat pretty much cost as much in the U.S.  Eggs were $2.79 per dozen versus $1.20 or less on sale in Mexico.  Vodka runs from $8 a for a 750 ml bottle and up to the "no limit".  Stores are filled with Ecuadorian products, produce and appliances that are national products.  You see signs everywhere urging you to buy Ecuadorian.  

Regular unleaded is $1.48 a gallon.

Traffic is interesting.  There are no lines painted on the streets so there are, well, no lanes.  People just move around and make changes, turns and stops when necessary.  In the week of running around, and we covered a lot of territory, I never saw an accident.  With a population of 3.5 million the city runs smoothly.   It's a bit crazy the first day but you soon get a hang of it and find that water flows downhill and things just seem to work.  I have to say, when I arrived home this morning and drove through Monterrey, we live in a very modern and civilized country and people really follow the rules.  I have noticed this throughout most of the Americas, North America seems to follow rules, not that it makes things any better because Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have a myriad of issues.

This is a small sidewalk cafe that serves cebollado.  The owner, a young guy, is a Mormon and spent time in Utah.  He speaks excellent English and does a lot of volunteer work on his own to help the poor.  Very nice kid.  

People even eat cebollado for breakfast.  It's addictive and a very healthy, low calorie, low fat meal.

Food.  Incredible!  Nothing spicey or hot although they do use one particular chile but it's not common.  Ecuadorian cuisine is made from local South American produce from the tropics.   I had several tasty dishes and the two most flavorful and common are cebollado and bollo o bolon.  They are made from masa verde or green bananas that are not sweet.  They are made similar to tamales and wrapped in banana leaf.  They have fish or chicken in the midddle are the size of your fist.  They are delicious, I mean, you can't stop eating it.  Then, the cebollado is a soup made from ground yuca root and fish mixed with potatoes making it a creaming soup with the fish in chunks (albocore tuna).  I couldn't put my spoon down.  It is served with platano macho chips, so they are salted and crispy.  

My team in Ecuador.

A great group of teachers and we did a lot of group activities and shared ideas on teaching strategies.

My conference was one of the best planned.  My coworkers did an excellent job of sending out invitation, hand delivered to schools, making the arrangements for the ballroom I had and had a wonderful lunch for the teachers.   Teachers came as far as 400 kms to participate in my CLIC presentation.  It was a blast, they learned, laughed and took a lot of pictures.   

I've been invited back for two to four weeks over the next six months.  

The trip home comes tomorrow.  

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Trip To Guayaquil Ecuador

I have to apologize for not posting sooner but I'm on the run with work.  Monday evening I flew to Mexico City and arrived around 9 p.m.  I messaged for an Uber and he was there in a few minutes but airport traffic delayed my ride over 10 minutes although I could see him across the airport rotunda.

We had an interesting chat on the way to the hotel which was only a few minutes away.  He told me his experience shaking through the earthquake last month.  I related my stories of my friends whose apartments suffered minor and major damage.   CDMX as we now call it, is on the quick mend.  Funny though, tonight I saw on CNN (yep that fake news station) that people in Houston are still on standby getting their homes repaired from severe flood damage.  How could that be?  I don't see much about that or Florida in the news.

Checked in and walked down the street to Sanborn's where I had a delicious plate of enchiladas suisas.  Now, let correct that.  Sanborn's is the original for enchiladas suisas (swiss enchiladas).  That said, they were very good but they now have very stiff competition from their competitor VIPs.  If you've never been to either one, you are missing out.  The cleanest, tastiest food you can buy from a chain restaurant which I can't even say compares to a Denny's or Jim's.  It's the food, the ambiance, the culture.  Should you go to Sanborn's for an experience, make the Casa de Los Azulejos, which is just outside the zocalo or main plaza in CDMX.  It dates back to the 1500s and has quite a history.  You can check it on Wikipedia.  Tacos on the street aren't the only thing that makes Mexican food famous.

My hotel, City Express, was on my complaint list earlier this year.  They are a super discount chain but one that was just not good enough to spend the night.  It was like staying in a hostel.   Well, things have changed and they have now created three different levels of their hotels and this one is brand new and meets or exceeds my expectations.  Imagine jets flying at a height of 10 stories and I'm on the forth floor of the hotel.  Never heard a sound all night or early morning not to mention the in-room amenities.

Slept in and checked out at 11:30 for my 2:00 p.m. flight.  Uber picked me up and we headed for the terminal just 3 kms away.  Uber charge was $4 U.S.  Checked out with immigration, headed to my gate and headed off to Panama.  The airport in Panama is called, Hub of the Americas.  It is one, long, and super extended duty-free shopping mall.  Once on board a great lunch with a very good red wine followed by an in-flight movie.  Arrived in Panama with 15 minutes to catch my connection.  I walked fast but didn't run.  Heck, if I miss it what could happen?  

The flight to Guayaquil was an hour and forty minutes with a very good hot snack and of course free drinks.  We arrived on time and my coworker was there to meet me and whisk me off to my room at the Holiday Inn for an excellent night's sleep.  

More tomorrow.  I have pictures but don't have a cable to download them.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Problem With Ex-Pats

As you all know, I'm a Mexophile.  It's in my blood and I will do just about anything to defend this great place that all of you live or rv in or certainly would love too.  But, there always seems to be some issues that people can't seem to overcome.

1)  Mexico is not the U.S. or Canada
2)  We have country specific issues
3)  We have a much newer and stronger electric grid than other American countries
4)  Poverty levels in numbers are the same in Mexico as in the U.S. (not per capita)
5)  We are not a country of immigrants
6)  We respect, for the most part, our large number of Native Americans and their languages
7)  We lack rv parks (It's really not a Mexican thing and it's a niche market that is slowly dying)
8)  We're not a bilingual country,  unlike the U.S. and Canada, so learning the language is a must
9)  We're a society that isn't big on suing people, aesthetics, or maintenance
10) Most U.S./Canadian immigrants come here because Mexico is cheap  (forget the fresh produce thing)

I am listing these things because I belong to a Facebook group called Ex-pats in Mexico.  It's truly a picture perfect example of ex-pats in the country.  They piss and moan about everything and never take the good parts of Mexico into account.  They have little knowledge of tax laws, employment and benefits and the how and why Mexicans live the way they do.  It's understandable.  How can you read, investigate or watch anything in Mexico if you don't understand the language, work here, study here or have family here.  I'm convinced it is the make it or break it for those who would really like to embrace the Mexican culture.

OTOH, few ex-pats in Mexico really look for or desire the true Mexican experience.  They want to live in an American compound, hang out in an rv park where they will rarely find a Mexican, they want to buy American/Canadian products (I truly believe that cheddar cheese is a religious sacrificial offering), they require English speaking handymen, housekeepers, storekeepers, and every other service that exists to speak English.  Sorry folks, it's not going to happen.  It's not the culture.  

I bring this up because I am leaving that group.  No matter what factual information, charts, webpages (which they can't read anyway) that I provide, they base their experience on a very small slice of Mexico.  For example, rvers that spend the winter in some small beach town (I can't stand the word village), where the services are limited, people live in palapas and collect crabs on the beach selling them to people in the rv park.  Few of these same people have ever visited Appalachia or the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, well you get the idea.  That's not to say that all Mexicans who live in rural or small beach communities fit into that category. 

Now that I've said this, please do not take this as a wide brush that paints all ex-pats with the same color.  In fact, we recently met someone in SMA who has fallen in love with Mexico and is here for many, many reasons.  Many of you who read this are also Mexophiles and love the country as much as I do  (like my long lost friends Sandy and Dennis). 

As a side note, I have found a secret friend.  His name is Danny.  He is a preschooler and has autism.  He is a truly wonderful person and brightens my day.  He sees me and says in English, "happy".   That makes me happy.   

Monday, October 16, 2017

I'm Blocked!

That could lead you to believe one of several maladies.  This one happens to be writer's block.  I've been working on my presentation for Ecuador and I got a bit stuck.   Sure, there is a myriad of webpages, Wikis, books I've read, personal and teaching experience and more but once in awhile it requires a time out.  

This is my time out.  I'm presenting CLIL.   You can go look it up if you want and discover that it is a very broad subject and its interpretation is even more than that.  There's soft CLIL, hard CLIL and a list of CLIL acronyms in between.  That may be gibberish to some of you but to me this is what I do. 

Now for my break.  We came, we saw and we conquered.  The drive to San Antonio was long, tedious, but fun as we yuked it up along the way as Little Bit slept for seven hours.   When we arrived to the house I called the police and the locksmith.   The police were witnesses to the locksmith opening the door to the house to make sure there were no belongings in there and if a security alarm should go off there wouldn't be patrol cars out front with guns drawn. 

The house was filthy dirty to put it mildly.  We decided not to spend money on a hotel since the power was still on.   We packed an air mattress, pillows, sheets and blankets along with coffee service for the mornings and our favorite music.  The first order of business was to clean a room and the bathroom so we could work from there.  We chose the living room as it was the cleanest and of course the one bathroom the house has.  Yes, this house dates back to 1956 and then, three bedrooms and one bath was the in thing.   We cleaned up as much as we could and hit the hay.

Friday, I headed off to the CPS which manages the power and gas.   They closed the tentants' account and then informed me that there was a $334 deposit I had to pay based on usage.  Who in the heck spends $150 a month on electricity?  We cringe when the bill comes in at $40 for a two-month billing.  Anyway, I wasn't a happy camper and she began to get personal about the tenants and  why they used so much power and abandoned the house.  She asked me where I was from and the conversation turned to speaking in Spanish.  We finished the deal and I asked her, "Can the deposit be paid in payments without interest?"  She said, "don't worry, I've waived the deposit".  Yes!

The rest of the day and Saturday was spent on cleaning and more cleaning.  Trash everywhere, cigarette burns on the carpet in one bedroom and dog poop in another.  It was obvious it was done purposely as they dumped the cat litter box on the floor as well.  Pigs.

It was a great weekend, we worked as a team and got it done.  Now, we need paint and to re-tile the bathroom shower.   The house has a new roof and a new central A/C so that is a great selling point.  Other than filth and trash it wasn't all so bad.  They violated the lease by smoking, having pets, and renting out an additional bedroom.   Had they left the place clean, kept in touch with me, they would have received $1000 minus any minor repairs.  Too bad.

We came home Sunday afternoon and both of us with back and leg problems.  Not from the work but from that damned air mattress.  Thank goodness for rvs.  

Sunday, October 8, 2017

It's Not Going To Be Easy

This week won't be easy.   I have a list a mile long of things to do.  The house in San Antonio is high priority.  I never heard from the tenants after we gave them a very warm and friendly notice with a juicy offer even though the lease is expired.  I got a call from our neighbor that they packed up and moved.  I've attempted to contact them to no avail.   We will be going there towards the end of this week in hopes the house was left in good condition.  We are meeting with a lawyer to do some deed changes and also with the realtor to sign the agreement.  I'll make arrangements to get the place cleaned up and painted so we can start showing the house a.s.a.p.   It's been a long time coming and it will sever one more tie to the U.S. 

I'm trying to be positive about it but you just never know what to expect.  They are a wonderful couple who, as of our last visit in January, kept the house pristine and in order.  Some things have occurred over the years but we never said much as it was no harm done.  

The house was built the year I was born so it has some negatives but those are covered in clauses for older homes.  It has the new roof, new central A/C, new wiring 10 years ago but it has the original 50s bathroom and kitchen tile.   Spend on one end and make a little on the other so we will just sell it without any remodeling unless repairs are involved.

I'm not very good in these situations until I'm in there and working.  It's this lead up to period that keeps me awake at night.  Yes, I know, wasted worry. 

I'm ordering some odds and ends for the rv and some clothes for winter.  Still not ready for a color change.  I bought a nice white pull over and it stayed in the bag in the trunk of my car for over seven months until last Friday when someone said, "if you're not wearing it don't let it go to waste".   

Dee mentioned a Roadtrek she saw at CW.  We saddled up yesterday to go look at a van.  It was a Ford extended van, 15 passenger.   We're thinking of doing our own conversion.   I would need someone to do the wiring but the rest we can do little by little.  The high top would have to be purchased and installed.  

The next few days I'm getting the VW ready for the trip to San Antonio.  Tire balance and rotation, oil change and antifreeze.  I'm thinking we're leaving Thursday afternoon.   

More this week.  

For those of you who aren't on Facebook, check out a company called Battlefield Vegas which is one block off of the Las Vegas Strip.  They offer fun and games with automatic weapons, army tanks, army helicopters and missiles all for $400 U.S.  I found them on TripAdvisor, Google, and GoogleMaps.   Sorry folks, I feel for those that lost their lives but you can't have your cake and eat it too.  The greater the population, the less freedoms one can have and more rules are needed.   

Monday, October 2, 2017

It's Been Awhile . . .

Sunrise on the road to Reynosa.

It's been awhile since my last post.   I've been busying traveling but it's not rving.  A big difference.  I'm pretty beat and it took the weekend for me to catch up.  Here's a quick rundown of what I've done.

Did  I mention our U.S. credit card was compromised?  If I did here's a repeat.   Two weeks ago Sunday I received an email saying I needed to call the bank.  Turns out, there were charges from Thailand, Malaysia and Zimbabwe.   The operator told me that MasterCard had been hacked.  

I had to go to Dallas anyway a week later so I made arrangements to pickup the credit card at a bank branch.  It's getting harder the longer we live in Mexico to get things done in the U.S.  Not sure what will happen the next couple months after we sell the house and have no mailing address.  I know I can open a mailbox to pick up mail here in Monterrey with a U.S. address but that's an expense and a pain also.  We don't receive much anymore anyway.

Went to Reynosa the following Saturday morning and made it to the bank early.  I activated the card and off I went.  I spent the night after some CostCo shoppping (they don't sell our Vitamin C in Costco Mexico).  Sunday I had breakfast at the hotel and headed for the airport.  No big deal and the flight was pretty empty.  I picked up the rental car and off I went for the next for days to three Texas cities; Stephenville, Forney and Joshua.   Rotten little shits, I hope nobody there reads this.   Talk about dumbing down.  Another story for the campfire.   

I've been told before that I am preaching to the choir.  In this school, they purchased the church across the street to use as their auditorium.   It was cushy but there was no singing.  I couldn't joke about it either as we can't mention religion or politics in front of the students.  Communism?  I wanted to tell my pirate joke and asked beforehand.  It was rejected as it was possible one of the students may have a family member who is missing a limb, a hand or an eye.   Oh brother.

I arrived in McAllen late Wednesday night, spent the night and headed home early Thursday morning to heavy flooding.  The highway was closed for a bit because and underpass was flooded and the water went down pretty fast.  I don't take chances even though many cars made it through.  Once outside Monterrey it took me over an hour to find a work around.  As a side note, my Google Maps on my Samsung cellphone beats the heck out of our TomTom GPS.   I did all my trips in Texas and found work arounds here to avoid flooded roads.

This month begins working on the sale of the house in San Antonio.  I'm sure we will be spending a few weekends there getting the house ready and signing the papers.  The average sell time in the neighborhood is 44 days and at very good prices.   Let's hope it's quick and easy.

I went out to the rv and did some cleaning yesterday.   The refrigerator has one shelf above the veggie drawers that is a sheet of plastic.  Cheap and ugly.  I'm looking this week to replace it with a piece of tempered glass.  Also the mini-blind in the kitchen is shot and the paint is worn off from rubbing and the drawers in the bedroom dresser need new slides.  That's what I'm working on now besided my trip to Ecuador at the end of this month.  Three long and fast days.  Too bad I can't stay and do some sightseeing.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Message Of Hope CDMX

Things are really coming together.   Even at my school we have formed an official collection center.  We're going to survive this.  After only 30 hours into the earthquake, thousands of volunteers have come together in CDMX to move rubble bucket by bucket, make sandwiches, form collection centers, distribute water, canned goods, hardhats, gloves and vests.  Companies have donated the use of heavy equipment, fuel, generators.  Truly pulling together.

The latest message from my friend and coworker in Mexico City, very emotional to read:

Afortunadamente, los mexicanos hemos sido mucho más contundentes que el sismo de ayer. Docenas de miles de personas se movilizan, se empieza a hablar de los lugares donde ya no se necesita ayuda. La ciudad está invadida de gente con casco y pala, jóvenes repartiendo víveres en sus bicicletas y automóviles, y mesas dispuestas con agua y alimentos preparados que han aparecido por todos lados.
En algún rincón de nuestra alma colectiva guardábamos una vasta reserva de compasión que ahora nos desvivimos por vaciar. 

Fortunately, as Mexicans, we have been much stronger than yesterday's earthquake.  Tens of thousands of people have mobilized, they have begun to talk about places that don't need help.  The city has been invaded by people with hardhats and shovels, young people handing out food on their bikes and from their cars, tables covered with water and prepared food that has appeared miraculously from all sides.

In some part of our collective souls, we have kept a vast reserve of compassion that we are will now do our utmost to let out. 

As I stated on a forum, let's not make this a "woe is me" Mexico issue.  Mexico is strong, able and willing to pull together to overcome this natural disaster.

Looking back to 1985, The event caused between three and four billion USD in damage as 412 buildings collapsed and another 3,124 were seriously damaged with an official loss of life at 5000 when in reality it was in the range of 25,000.  With social media and internet you can't hide the truth as easily anymore.  This time it was 40 buildings and we are now at 300 dead.  Not to diminish life, but we are much further advanced now than before.  

We are in the month of patriotism.  Viva Mexico!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Messages From CDMX and The Earthquake

As you all know, Mexico was hit with another earthquake this time covering six states including the Ciudad de Mexico.  I've been glued to the tele all afternoon and have received messages from friends and coworkers there.  Here is one:

La escena en la Ciudad de México. Hay gente que lleva horas caminando a sus casas, y no encuentra donde comprar comida o usar un baño porque todo está cerrado. El ruido más común, las sirenas y los helicópteros. Socavones y edificios colapsados han hecho que cierren varias vialidades importantes. Muchas personas han salido a ofrecer ayuda: Dirigen el tráfico, regalan botellas de agua o comida, llaman a las estaciones de radio para avisar de edificios dañados y el estátus de los hospitales. Todos, absolutamente todos, transformados por el temblor.
Qué frágiles las ficciones que componen la paz de nuestras vidas. Colapsan con solo unos segundos de vislumbrar la muerte. Repararlas realmente puede tomar incontables días.
The current scene in Mexico City.  It is taking people hours to walk to their houses, the streets, traffic, public transport are paralyzed.   You cannot find anything to eat or drink because every shop is closed and there are no bathrooms.  The most common sounds are sirens and helicopters.  Sinkholes and collapsed buildings have closed major arteries.  A lot of people are outside offering help and forming lines to remove rubble and search for people.  They are directing traffic, giving away water and food to people working to excavate and calling radio stations to give more details on collapsed buildings and hospital status.  Everything, absolutely everything hass been affected by the earthquakes.

How fragile are the stories that make up our lives.  Collapsed in just seconds of death.  To repair the damage and return to normal will take endless days.  

A good friend from Canada who lives in CDMX sent these pictures of his two dogs and his apartment building.  He said they had just attended an earthquake drill an hour before as if they knew something was coming.  He is reporting from a nearby Starbucks but is unsure where he will spend the night as he cannot return to his building until it has been inspected.

Out of 17,000 buildings only 29 collapsed.  You can see what great work the Mexican government has done since the big quake of 1985 when tens of thousands lost their lives.   The new structures are built to code and older buildings before 1985 have all been steel reinforced.  

Let's hope there aren't more replicas this week.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Democracy and Blogs

To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. 
Louis L'Amour

I've noticed over the last couple of years, a trend in blogging.   It used to be that a blog was a place for someone to share their life, their ideologies and to also allow others to share in those thoughts.   The new trend I've seen is to 1) approve comments before they are posted or 2) at the click of a button delete a comment that may not sit well with the writer or blog owner.   YouTubers have also done the same now by disabling the comments section of their vlog posts. 

That's a real shame as it takes away from the writer and the reader.   I love sharing comments and I let Blogger tell me when there is a comment that may not be appropriate.  The only comments that I do delete are advertising.   I could let them run but I doubt readers are interested in sexual toys, condoms, condominiums and webpage builder news.   

As for comments in general, I love a little public tete-a-tete, a bit of a rumble, a little controversy.  It's good for the spirit, the soul and it opens the writer's eyes to things they may not have seen or discovered.

On this blog, feel free to let'er rip, as they say, and write what you want.  Speak your mind.

Regarding other matters, I received an email today alerting me to a credit card breach.   I called immediately only to find out that my card number had been used in Malaysia, Thailand and Zimbabwe.   It was cancelled and a new card is on the way.  Only problem being is they don't send cards to international destinations and they may not send it to a bank branch in Texas which presents a major problem for me.  I need that card for my trip next Sunday to Dallas where I will work for three days.  Hmm.  Let's see what happens.

We spent last night with family and friends celebrating Mexican Independence.  It was a fun time had by all and ate some real homemade goodies such as pozole, enchiladas, tostadas, and of course a delicious cake.  You may have seen some of the pics on Facebook.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Finally, My Time Of Year

With the changes in the last few weeks; hurricanes, earthquakes, climate change, etc., the weather has changed in my favor.  This is my favorite season, fall, and also winter and spring.  The weather is so good even I don't want to get up.  

With this weather I can now use the oven and it helps in the evening to warm things up a bit.  I'm sure for most of you, my cool, is your hot.   

I'm back to making bread and this first loaf turned out pretty good.  No oil, milk, butter, just whole flour, yeast and some water.   I did add one teaspoon of honey to get the yeast working well.  Next is some banana bread, and I want to try potato bread as well.   

This guy turns 18 years old this month.  Still spry, jumping, playing and chasing things in the yard.  

Friday, September 8, 2017

That Was "Suite"

I was invited to speak to parents at a private Catholic school in Ciudad Juarez this week.  The titile was, "Bilingualism In My School".  I was told in advance that I would only have 45 minutes but I extended it to a little over an hour.  I guess they really wanted me to speak at their school.  I arrived to the hotel and the front desk called a bellman and said, "please show Mr. Bauer to our master suite".     I arrived in the afternoon just after 1 p.m. and left the next morning at 8 a.m.   Fun trip, great people and they want me back!

Sounds cool, doesn't it?  Not really.  I'm just about through with all of this.  The pay is good, the strokes are always welcome.  In the end,  I'd rather be rving somewhere sitting under the trees with smell of pine, chirping birds and wildlife and watching the sun come up and go down with the stars above me before I turn in.

Ciudad Juarez has come a long way in the last 10 years.  It's safe at night, the streets are clean and the avenues wide.  New housing is everywhere and their not typical cheap, tiny houses.  This is a shot of the Mormon Temple and the surrounding neighborhood.   There are many now.

Lots of gated communities, new strip malls, restaurants, car dealerships, and private schools.

Did I mention that the house in San Antonio is up for sale?   I've notified the tenants and we sign the contract on November 1st.  Looks like we're making some changes.