Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Getting Prepared For July


One of my morning walks.

There are still lots of things going on here at the ranch.  I told you last time that we found the leak in the pool.  The guy really knows his stuff.  We asked for an estimate to replace all the PVC pipe and the jets.  That means opening up the concrete deck, replacing the pipes and filling in the deck so it can be recovered with CoolDeck.  That's a stucco type material that doesn't get hot in the sun so you can walk around barefoot.

We had an old tree in the front yard that had died.  We tried saving it by removing limbs one at a time but it finally tired out.  Also, the trees that act as a barrier between neighbors was getting way out of hand and a crew came and did that as well.  They cleaned up all the mess and hauled it away.

Still pending are replacing the sliding glass patio door and a bedroom window with dual panes, subtle makeover for the laundry room, and moving an air conditioner.

Sunday afternoon I got a wild hair and decided we should move the studio from the front bedroom to the back bedroom.  That was at 4:30.  By 5:45 we had moved the studio furniture to the living room, the living room into the new den and the spare bedroom into the old studio.  Did you follow that?

Now we have A/C when and where we want it.  The studio didn't have a minisplit so now we are all happy during happy hour.  I hate being in bed to watch a movie, I enjoy sitting up.  In the future, should guests spend the night, we won't be three feet away from them like before, they will be on their own side of the house with the half bath.

The RV is ready to go.  I still have one project to finish and I may make a DIY video.  I have been working on preparing a YouTube channel.  I already have three old videos on there but there are a lot of nuances to work out.  

Kevin posted some pictures on his blog the other day of crops growing in the fields while they were driving.  He asked if it was mustard or some other crop?  I told him it reminded me of an anecdote from when I was a kid.

My mom had grown up on the farm, didn't finish 6th grade, and worked as a maid for a well-to-do family in Kansas City until she married my dad.  We would go to visit relatives on the farm in the summertime.  My mother always pointed out the different crops along the roadside, what was growing, and how far along they were.  On this particular trip, all of us sitting silently in the station wagon as my mother named crops, my little brother popped out of the back seat and started yelling, "Look mom, the horses.  They're mating they're mating".  My mom, quick as a whip, grabbed his jaw turned his head, "and over here we have green beans, broccoli, corn . . ."

The things we remember.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

The Story Of Don Yeyo And His Nephew


As most of you know, we live on a dirt road about 7 km from the town square of Santiago.  Having lived here on this road for 20 years I slowly got to know the neighbors.  When we moved here in 2000, there was a small house close to the highway that was built by the owner.  Not much of a place, not well-constructed but Don Yeyo lived in it for many years with his wife.  His wife's sister lives next door, I call her an old crank who could give a rat's behind about anyone else.  I say that because even though that part of the road and water and sewage services, she has insisted, for the 20 years we have lived here, to do her family's laundry and discharge all the water onto the road.  She not alone, most people do that and it leaves huge potholes in the road.

Don Yeyo lived to the ripe old age of 98.  He had his quirks and most of them not so good.  He drank and when he did he mistreated his wife, only verbally as far as I know.  She was a sweet woman who would always wave to me.  She still lives around these parts but I haven't seen her for some time.  Like most people in small Mexican towns, they all look alike because of inter-marriage.  When I worked in Allende, a town of 10,000, there were five major last names that dominated the city registers.

Don Yeyo made his living in his older years with what we call an "estanquillo" or a very small store similar to the ones you see in SMA and Valle de Juarez that are actually a room in someone's house.  Don Yeyo didn't let anyone into his house.  He had an opening from the most exterior wall of the house with the front made out of wood with a door or window that opened upwards.  He would be there bright and early and sold what most people wanted; sodas, milk, eggs, tortillas, etc., basic foodstuffs.  Funny though, there is a convenience store less than 400 feet away on the highway but people came from all over.  Old habits never die.

The thing I remember most about Don Yeyo was his old Ranger pickup.  It had Texas plates and no one ever stopped him for not having it registered here.  Very common though, stay in a small town and off the highway and the local cops won't say anything.  Why you might ask?  "Todos somos primos" (we're all cousins).  One day I had walked up to the OXXO, it was a Sunday in fact because that is the only time I would ever go there and that would be to buy the Sunday paper.  He was in front of his rickety chain-link gate to his driveway honking madly.  His wife hadn't responded quickly enough for the old grump and as I got closer I could hear him screaming and calling her names.  The next thing I know he plowed right through the gate with the front of the truck. As he drove in, the gate bounced back and forth along the side of the truck several times.   

Let's move forward a few years and after Don Yeyo had passed, his wife stayed for a short period and moved to the other side of the highway.  His place lay empty for quite some time and then it was rented out but no one ever seemed to stay.  I'm sure the place never went for more than 1500 pesos which would be about $75 USD per month.  Then two years ago, his nephew moved in.  Word around here is he is a "chismoso" y "vicioso", a gossip and trouble maker.  The guy looks pretty shifty but very quiet.  I guess the worst kind.

I never paid him much mind.  I don't buy anything there, never have.  I know his business isn't registered, he pays no taxes, his plates on his truck were expired years ago (remember, todos somos primos), and he probably finished secondary so at least he knows how to read and write.  As a side note, we have a local from Veracruz that I hire once or twice year and I asked him this week to fill some of those infamous potholes.  I hadn't seen him, but he drinks beer with the worker across the street.  I asked the neighbor's worker and he gave me his cellphone number.  I said I would send a Whatapps and he told me I couldn't.  Why?  He never went to school and can't read or write.  The guy is young, maybe 32 years old.

Anyway, I had changed my daily exercise routine to our road to do laps of brisk walking or running.  Every morning the Don Yeyo's nephew is up early.  He opened his own estanquillo and his business has grown.  He sells pretty much the same stuff as his uncle but his routine is what irked me in the beginning of this new exercise routine.  I start out before 7 a.m. and he is just opening his window just like Don Yeyo.  He wheels out a "diablo" (two-wheeler) loaded with cut wood for fireplaces or cooking on leña (wood).  He sells four measly pieces for 40 pesos or $2 USD.  He hangs some used items he rummages from the Tuesday market.   Since the town market was closed because of Covid, they have opened one up in the hills where the police never go and if they do, well, they all chip in to get rid of them.  The items he throws over his fence are a few used women's handbags, a backpack or two, and his seasonal items that during the winter include old coats.  

After several weeks of watching his routine, I started to think about his life and mine.  I followed the rules, I paid my taxes and quite a bit since I had to file both here in Mexico and the U.S., have always bought from a legitimate business, pay my plates on our vehicles, insurance and the rest of all that stuff.  But when I go past his business after he opens, he's sitting out front with a "taza de barro" (a coffee mug made out of red clay), he reaches back into the window of his estanquilla and grabs a piece of pan dulce.  He crosses his legs as he sips from his cup of hot coffee, eats his bread and looks up at the trees in front of him slowly twisting his head back and forth wondering how things work in nature and marvels at the things that are most simple in life. 

Maybe I have been wrong all these years and his life is actually much more fulfilling than others like myself.  Food for thought.   Life is very, very short.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Memory From Our Past Travels


For years we thought this was a hacienda.  One day we ran into a couple from Nuevo Padilla who told us it was the elementary school built in 1934.

Today in the news they shared the story of Don Alejo, an honorable and well-known man in Allende, NL who defended his ranch in Padilla, Tamp. 10 years ago. He died in a gun battle with narcos leaving four dead. They were determined to take his ranch away from him.  He knew in advance they were coming because they warned him. I remember these dark times here in the area where I live; fear, terror and helplessness.   A ballad was written about him.  They interviewed his wife and two daughters in the newspaper.  

The church was underwater for many years.  The walls are filled with holes.  Like all old and abandoned churches in Mexico, legends exist about hidden treasure.

You can tell this was a few years back.  This is a picture of our old travel trailer.  It took us a lot of places.

Viejo Padilla was a place of escape from reality. A dam that covered the original town that after years took its water level exposing parts of the old town. We took the trailer there several times over the years spending days enjoying what you see in the photos.  It was the perfect rving spot, boondocking at its best.  All of the foundations from the houses remained, nice and level with some right next to the water.  Fishermen sold their catch, bass, and you could grill them there on the spot.  Lots of nooks and crannies to explore and always some digging going on to find someone's treasures they left behind before the town moved them 15 km away.  

Times have changed and so have those of my life, but we have great memories of Viejo Padilla and our trips down the East coast. We met a lot of Rvers back then in Tamaulipas and Veracruz. Sad though because still, it is a place where you cross the line from happiness to danger.  Stop any federal and ask them what they think about traveling that way.  They'll tell you not to even try it.  I am thankful for the opportunity to get to know Viejo Padilla and her past history. Hopefully one day we can return.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Some Are Red and Some Are Orange


You can see we are not improving.  The map only reinforces the fact that the number of cases continues to rise.  Today we are closing at over 18,700.  

The map and the colors red and orange relate to the stoplight you see in the upper right-hand corner.  Some businesses are opening that are still considered essential but not at the original definition.  Everyone has an opinion about Mexico but you don't hear them giving an opinion on the U.S.  I have one.  Florida, Texas, and Arizona are opening up and the number of new cases have skyrocketed in the last week.  It's not that opening up is a bad thing.  The problem is that human beings cannot be trusted to follow the rules.  How many times have you said to yourself, your partner when rving or boondocking, or a friend, "it's just this once".  Fine, now multiply that by the millions of people are saying the same thing.  If you are rving right now, I think you are safer than going out from your house.  You have less contact with people and the things they touch.

Let's talk about the things people touch.  Including children, we have a tendency to touch everything.  Tactile senses are part of what every living thing does, even the virus.  Men generally do not wash their hands after going to the bathroom.  I can attest to that having worked in schools with children, adults and teachers.  Using restrooms in public places like RV parks.  We all pick our noses and scratch our privates, some discretely and some not so much.  We rub our eyes, scratch our asking and run our fingers through our hair.  That's all good and we are immune to what most of us do from the above.  But when a virus without a cure, remedy or vaccine is involved it is a different ballgame.

Okay, so now that my state has turned orange, we can legally go outside for exercise maintaining distance, using a mask when required and getting fresh air.  This week I extended my walking area still doing 10K daily.  I have found new paths where there are no people or less than 10, which has been the maximum that I have crossed.  I keep my mask at half-mast and when I see someone coming from a distance up goes the flag.

Tomorrow will be my day out.  I am taking the SUV, one more time, to have the fan clutch checked which we replaced two months ago.  I'm still not happy with it and it wasn't done by the dealer and it shouldn't have to be.  I just need confirmation that it is working.  It seems to come on and off by itself with no visible increase in temperature (meaning the dummy gauge) and it roars so loud it is almost embarrassing.  I will swing by Home Depot for a small item I need for the rv.

All this in preparation for a trip we will be taking in July to Tula, Tamaulipas.  If I think the SUV is working well after the diagnostic, and I use it for some short drives, we may change our destination.  I am still skittish about mountain driving after our event we had three years ago.  I need to get over that. 

After 10 years with a nagging pool leak, and many attempts to find and fix it, we found it today.  A young guy who charges 4000 pesos said he would find it.  I was very skeptical after attempts of drilling holes in the deck and injecting LP gas, digging holes and listening with a stethoscope, and other odd and bizarre methods that took our money.  They worked for four hours.  Found it.  These guys earned their money and they showed us the leak.  No holes and no divining rods.  Amazing.  He will send an estimate tomorrow evening and we will begin work on repairing the leak, replacing the pipes and then a remodel.  The pool hasn't been in service for two weeks now because I just couldn't keep topping it off and wasting water.  

Speaking of water.  We have a well so we pump using electricity.  We got our bill for two months.  After using the A/C almost every night (it's been in the high 90s and over 104F a couple of time, the bill came it at 564 KwH and a total of 535 pesos or $13.50 per month.  I have the A/C on right now.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

So Much Misinformation - Lost In The Experience And The Translation


Disclaimer:  In my humble opinion there are no experts left in the world.  Galileo, Michaelangelo, Einstein, Lao-Tsu, and a few others.  Even Mother Teresa turned out to be a non-believer.  I am not an expert by any means but share based on personal experience and factual information.

Being sheltered in place can be fun and somewhat exciting once in a while, but on other days a complete bore and that's when I get into trouble.  As of today, I've made the decision to stop reading ex-pat forums and ex-pat Facebook pages.  There is just so much misinformation about Mexico. 

There are people, somewhat well-known in ex-pat communities, who shares information about their town.  So misconstrued but when the ex-pat population doesn't speak the language and is tuned into American and Canadian television and not learning the langauge it's hard for them to judge for themselves what is fact or fiction.

Today it was about guns and self-defense, home break-ins, and thievery in general.  Answers come in various forms.  The first issue is that the personal experience is almost always missing important details.  "My house was broken into and so I hid in the closet".   Okay great, but did the burglar attempt to harm you?  Did he steal anything that would make him a certain kind of burglar, such as jewels, art, money, etc?  Where exactly did the assault take place?  As the days roll by, innocently some of the same people confess that they have no protection on the windows, no alarm system, no cameras and they didn't call the police.  Who can be of help to this victim after the fact?

Please don't mention the state or local authorities.  They are all in cahoots with the bad guys and are setting you up.  You can't trust them.  If you let them into your house to do an investigation they will have you robbed again, according to the forums.

Then there is the issue of small businesses shutting down during COVID.  It's all a government set up to bring in big business and high-end shops and restaurants.  If it's a tourist town, would you prefer low-end shops and restaurants that employ only a few, bring in less money via the tax base?  Maybe it's just me, but I have said this on several occasions as a generalization.  "We don't want things to change here in Mexico.  We enjoy seeing women with babies strapped to their backs and that poor old man with the firewood weighing down that downtrodden beast of burden".  Great! Makes for a wonderful photo op, doesn't it?

The poor, and no doubt there are a lot of poor people in Mexico like most other countries, brings on a completely new set of misconceptions.  If you're poor in the U.S. you would want the person to take advantage of government programs that you pay for with your taxes.  Oh ho ho ho, not here in Mexico according to the ex-pats.  First, you need to convince them (will never happen) that the programs do exist and many poor Mexicans are wise enough to take advantage of them while others don't.  Then the NGOs kick in.  

My question of the day.  If you had a neighbor living in the house next door, a single mother with six children, without electricity,  the roof is covered in tin sheet metal (oh wait, you would never live in a neighborhood like that, to begin with much less allow the authorities to tolerate that kind of a neighbor) and the kids are going door to door asking for food and money and have no shoes, "What would you do?".   You'd call the authorities and child protective services.

Okay, so things work a bit differently in Mexico.  Live and let live.  I would, and you would too, help the poor woman for the sake of the kids.  At the same time, it wouldn't occur to you ask or wonder what has happened that they are now in that state and wonder how they got there?

I leave you with the old Chinese proverb although it is really an adage and not Chinese at all, but better said like this:

Anticipate charity by preventing poverty, namely, to assist the reduced brother, either by a considerable gift or loan of money, or by teaching him a trade, or by putting him in the way of business, so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding up his hand in charity.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

What Happened To Sunday - Lockdown?


A scene from my morning walk.

Sunday I had my chores to do; cutting grass, cleaning the pool and I also cleaned the house.  After came a wonderful nap and around 5 p.m. I realized that I had been living in Saturday when it was actually Sunday.  I don't know if that is part of the "shelter in place", retirement or a bit of both.  I'm losing track of time and I guess it really doesn't matter anymore. 

The heat is on and we reached 40C 104F.  The pool is coming in handy.  We close up the house around 11 a.m. and it keeps it somewhat comfortable until around 4 p.m.  Now the A/C is on here in the bedroom.  It is really hard to take a trip somewhere at the moment.  Highways seem to be okay but when your in a small town you might get stopped.  A lot of controversy on social media rving sites in Mexico about crossing the border.  The majority of it is hearsay and we've heard of no one being denied entry into Mexico with an RV or vice versa.  People like to really talk this stuff up and it's like a gossip chain.  I prefer first-hand accounts, pictures and video.

We are setting our sights on Tula, Tamaulipas in July.  It is a pueblo magic and the highway takes us through Ciudad Victoria.  I would like to spend the night there or nearby before crossing the mountains to Tula. It's not a big event of a place but we did pass it on our way to SMA and it merits a couple of days.  It's only 400 km but we like Cd. Victoria and they have good food there.

COVID is now taking it's toll in Mexico.  As of today, 14,053 deaths.  The number is growing and people are still believing it's a hoax thanks to Presidente Dingus.  He refuses to wear a mask, is traveling to visit small towns again and gathering people to listen to him

Now he is saying we need to return to an austere life.  Food should be Mexican basics; beans, rice and corn tortillas.  As he speaks and says we only need one pair of shoes, he goes to cross his legs and you can see he is wearing a pair of Crocket and Jones estimated at $1000 USD.

His latest is that he has no bank accounts, needs no money, and has turned all of his worldly assets over to his sons from his first marriage.  They work for the government too, how convenient and are also owners of a brewery, a soft drink company, and a high-end chocolate producer in Tabasco.  A bit hypocritical, isn't it?  His friend and head of the CFE (electric company) Don Manuel, is also the owner of 200 properties and businesses although he put them in his live-in girlfriend's name and that of his children.  Don Zoe, the head of IMSS, contracted the COVID virus as well as all of his children.  Turns out, his family is the owner of seven medical supply companies that supply IMSS.  So, you're probably glad that with Presidente Dingus he has eliminated corruption from the face of Mexico as he claims.

He is also attacking the Jalisco state governor because they are in disagreement over the number of cases being reported, lack of hospital supplies for doctors and nurses, and the fact that the governor and seven other states want to run their states differently than the federal dictatorship.

The outhouse hole gets deeper and deeper as we go on.  Four and a half years to go and counting.  I wonder how long it took Chavez to implement his plan of austerity, nationalization and general destruction of a wealthy country?