Thursday, December 31, 2020

Ending 2020 With A Bang 

Sometimes blog titles can be hard to come by and also misleading.  I've seen some that really attract my attention only to find out it's not what you would have thought.  The year has come to a close and I have to say, all things considered, it has been a good year.  I retired in March and received my U.S. pension.  My Mexican pension is only eight months away and it's almost a double bonus as I will not be making those additional contribution payments.  

We've done a lot of maintenance around the house, mostly painting and small repairs.  We remodeled our kitchen and the pool and resodded areas of the yard with still more design work to go.  I read a lot of books and watched many, many movies.  My conclusion on movies is that I am a film noire fan.  We have really enjoyed watching movies from the 30s through the 50s along with Alfred Hitchcock Hour, One Step Beyond and Boris Karloff's Thriller series.  

Lots of aromas have come out of the kitchen including new dishes, cakes, cookies and most of all whole wheat breads.  We beefed up our spice cabinet and tried new recipes.  Even with my 10 km power walks and weight routine I managed to put on 8 pounds.  But, that has always been a yo-yo thing for me ever since I was a kid.  Some are born thin, some are born chubby.  There's always that one person who says, "I can eat whatever I want and never gain a pound".  Well good for you!  

One interesting yet puzzling thing that happened recently is the stimulus check coming from the U.S. government.  When I applied for social security they interviewed me via telephone from the U.S. consulate in Cd. Juarez.  I started receiving direct deposits and have not had an issues with my account.  Two weeks ago, I happened to see a letter in our mailbox by the gate.  It was from the U.S. government saying that I was approved for a stimulus check.  

Tell me if my logic is right or wrong.  The letter dated November the 6th (Mexico has a lousy postal service and it took seven weeks to arrive) states that I was approved for the stimulus.  It also states that they will be sending me a check in the mail to my Mexican address.  WHAT?  I've given up on all government, doesn't matter what country it is.  Amazing. 

We've been zooming with friends and family lately and that seems to work out well.  We find though that one on one works best, be it individuals or couples.  Too many screens and too many people wanting to talk at the same time.

As for Christmas, we don't usually buy gifts anymore.  We have everything we need and we don't buy much in the way of clothes.  I did buy my yearly supply of underwear and socks and that will work for another year.  However, I couldn't resist ordering online.  It's nice when someone rings the doorbell and delivers a package.  Juan received an Adidas jacket and some airpods for his phone.  I got a Smart watch to track my exercise, blood pressure and pulse among other things.  It works really well and the blood pressure matches 100% to our BP machine.  Our caravan to the south of the state took off without us because of the virus.  We did manage to send clothing we collected along with lots of groceries and water.  That's the best we could do this year. 

One more homemade pizza to make for dinner tonight and that will be it for a while.  I have to admit, my big downfall the past few months has been cheese.  It's not good to have it in the house.  Another rule we are trying to put into effect is for Juan not to go get the newspaper, or stop for something "essential" and then walk in the door with all kinds of evils we don't need to eat.  

I could go on and I guess posting every couple of days would be better but life at Quinta Aruanda doesn't change much from day to day.  

Have a wonderful New Year, this one's been good but it will get better.  We're looking forward to the vaccines and getting out on the road as time heals the pandemic.  Be safe, wear a mask and keep away from others.

Mexico now has 125,000 COVID deaths as I had predicted and the U.S. 335,000.  The globe is at 1,800,000 and we are still in the beginnings of the second wave.  

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Interesting How Some Things Change

I have to admit that sometimes I believe we live in a backward society here in Mexico.  Oversized shopping malls that the middle and upper-class flock to and just down the street a mercado rodante or street market.  Monterrey's avenues and boulevards are jam-packed with new cars including Teslas, Ferraris, Lincolns, and Cadillacs and on the edge of town, a horse or donkey is pulling a cart.  

Here we sit during the COVID crisis, ordering groceries, gifts, and necessities online.  I recently ordered a spark plug for our Honda generator, bed linens, and did Christmas shopping without leaving the house.  Yet we drive an hour south of our house outside the Monterrey city limits and people live (quite well) in cabins with fireplaces and wood-burning stoves.

I told you recently about the saga of the Best Buy electronics retailer and the closing of their 52 stores in Mexico.  A lot of very disappointed Mexicans.   We had also purchased a new printer on the cheap.  It's one of those HP $50 USD jobs.  We had purchased it on November 12 and it sat here in a box and never opened.  I kept saying, "open that box and test the printer because the guarantee is only 30 days".  It was never opened until December 13 and was after the announcement of the store closing.  It didn't work from the get-go.  The rollers wouldn't pick up the paper.  We fiddled with it but no go.

We attempted to return it saying that all the stores have been closed on weekends as part of the COVID lockdown and we were only a calendar day late.   They wouldn't buy it because unbeknownst to us, printers only have a 15-day guarantee because they are mechanical products.  We came back home and I never made a big deal out of not testing when we first got it.  We rarely print anymore but we do scan and make copies.

Juan wasn't going to accept defeat and throw $50 down the drain.  I thought it was a worthless venture as the stores are now closed and it just sounded like a huge waste of time.  He got on the phone with HP in Mexico City.  They have a major call-center there and a help desk.  The first guy helped him run some diagnoses and determined that yes, it was a bad unit from the factory.  

Put on hold for a short period, he came back and asked Juan if he could hang up, attempt to print something but take a video of it on his phone and send it via email to him.  That took a few minutes and the phone rang.  The technician confirmed the call center operator's diagnosis.  He asked us to hold again and said he would talk to a supervisor.   Next thing we know he gave us instructions via email and said a new printer would be shipped in 15 working days.  Kind of a "well that's fantastic" and an "arghhh" for waiting so long to get it.  

Tuesday night at 8:45 we were watching a movie and I heard the doorbell ring.  We had the bedroom door closed and the television on so Juan said he hadn't heard anything.  I got and checked the security cameras and lo and behold there as a DHL van sitting in front of the gate.

The delivery driver had the new printer!  We exchanged printers, he slapped on some pre-printed labels, and off he went.  We were shocked.  less than 3 working days.  We can't find anyone to fix an electric outlet, replace a few patio floor tiles, or chop down a tree unless we hire someone from Monterrey or pay through the nose and that still takes up to a month to get it done. 

It's an odd place sometimes, but you've got to love all of the contrasts, the culture, and the people.  After 35 years of living here, it can still surprise me sometimes how diverse it all is.  

Friday, December 18, 2020

I Was So Wrong About COVID In Mexico

My apologies to the Mexican government to speculate over the depth of the virus in Mexico.  I reported two months ago that Mexico would reach 100,000 COVID deaths by the end of December.  I was so wrong.  

It is now 116,487.  16,487 just doesn't sound like much when the total is over 100,000.  Take away the 100.000 and the 16,487 looks quite large.  That is still 3,000 more than in Canada for the nine months of the pandemic.  The 1985 Mexico City earthquake numbers were under 10,000 in one event.  

Our illustrious president Dingus has now decided that the pandemic is real and isn't getting any better. He still refuses to tell people to use a mask but that they should social distance and stay at home "when possible".  We are on a very slippery slope.

I hope you don't mind me sharing these things with you but I don't think this information is disseminated in English-speaking countries and if it is it doesn't make the news.  For the U.S. and Canada, it is vital as we are neighbors and share economies, trade, and both legal and illegal immigration.

One giant political reform we were able to dodge this week was the Reforma de Banxico.  Banxico is our federal banking regulator similar to the Fed in the U.S.  The idea behind the reform was to allow dollars to come into Mexico, mostly from Mexicans working abroad, but without having to prove the origin of the dollars.  Estimated remunerations from Mexico for 2020 are estimated at 40 billion USD.  Other countries raised the red flag weeks ago saying it could open the door for money laundering.  That was the final decision made by the Senate this week saying cartels would definitely take advantage of the system.

I have a theory, not a conspiracy theory 😎.   Since the early sixties, socialist dictators have belonged to a circle that meets every year mostly in Cuba.   These have included Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Cuba, China, North Korea, and even Romania.  They support each other and that is proven with the exile last year of Evo Morales.  First, they shipped him here to Mexico, then to Cuba, and after, off to Argentina.  

Their goal is to make Latin America a socialist continent.  So far, they have failed with Chile and Ecuador but are feverishly working with Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia.  I see president Dingus pressing for the reform.  He would allow dollars, without known origin, to be deposited into Mexico's private banks.  After a few years, he could easily prove that they are money laundering operations for organized crime and politicians.  Then he would move in and ----  nationalize banks which is the next step in the seven-step recipe for dictatorships.   These steps were outlined by Hugo Chavez from Venezuela.  Sounds cuckoo right?   History repeats itself.

On to lighter and merrier events.  The weather has been between 1C and 4C at night for the last two weeks.  Another week of it to come and maybe below freezing on Christmas Eve.  I'm happy because along with the cold temperatures and extremely dry weather we have a clear view of Cerro de la Silla or Saddleback Mountain in Monterrey. That's 23 km away.  Amazing.

On my daily power walks, I now have a tag along.  He belongs to one of my neighbors.  He used to try and attack me.  Then for two weeks, I would walk by and he would literally put his nose up at me as if I wasn't there.  I would talk with him, extend my hand and he wouldn't look at me.  Now the little guy just follows behind me back and forth for an hour and a half.  Someday, I hope to have him eating out of my hand. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Christmas 2020

You can tell by the woodwork and just about anything else made of wood has been restained and varnished or oiled.  That was my Covid project for two months including repainting the inside of the house a wall at a time.  Who says you can't survive during a lockdown?   I'm not sure if I mentioned it in the last blog but I am doing even better than when I went to the gym every day.  I'm not as big as I was but I am happy with the results.  Maybe I'll do a pic like Kevin and Les have done 😅💪

The really big news is that the vaccine is on its way and the vaccinations will begin soon.  I know it's not the end of the road for the lockdowns, precautions, and being safe but it is a great start to what will be one heck of a new year.  We are expected to get ours sometime in March according to the schedule.  We're itching to go somewhere and probably a boondocking spot.  The trailer is more than ready and so are we.

You wouldn't know by looking at the picture above that today is December 12, 2020.  The leaves just never seemed to want to leave the trees and the grass has never looked better.  One thing we did since changing gardeners (our longtime gardener retired), is we keep the grass longer.  It requires less water and endures higher as well as lower temperatures.  The previous gardener cut it very short to keep from having to cut it so often.  We seem to have more squirrels as well and that is not related to any of this other than to comment that I have made friends with one of them.  I call him/her, Sally.  She meets me in the mornings when I go out for exercise and follows me for a bit on the overhead telephone cables.  In the afternoon when I'm out in the yard, she comes to see me for a treat I give her and have some water.  She's not very close yet but little by little we are making friends.  Yes, I know it's probably just the food but I can pretend.  

I took this the day they laid the sod.  They hadn't yet covered with compost and it looked a bit ratty.  Now, two weeks later, the grass has grown and melded with the surrounding turf and it is just about ready for a trim.  So we're happy with the work they did and it beat doing it ourselves. 

I've been baking as well.  Made another great loaf of whole wheat bread and a batch of chocolate chip cookies.  Having not eaten out since March we have become even better cooks trying new recipes and cooking all our meals at home.  An occasional pizza which we split into four meals and freeze.  I sure miss eating out, we have so many favorite places for tacos, local Regiomontano food such as machacado y turcos and of course our favorite Italian restaurants.  That will all come back with time.  

Santa Claus is on his way!

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Nuevo Leon (Monterrey) In Weekend Lockdowns For December

My niece Virginia, married to my oldest nephew, went to a family celebration of life for a brother who passed away last year.  They couldn't wait.  Her uncle died last night from COVID.

Our excellent state Secretary of Health, Manuel de la O along with our governor Jamie Rodriguez, made the decisión to lockdown the state of Nuevo Leon every weekend for the month of December.  That includes the following:

  •  Supermarkets closed
  •  Restaurants, no dine-in or take-out, only home delivery
  •  Bars closed
  •  No Christmas parties
  •  No party romos
  •  Churches are closed
  •  No peringinaciones (pilgramages to the virgin of Guadalupe)
  •  Ley seca, no alcohol sales
Only gas stations and convenience stores are open with sales restrictions.  We were warned and nobody wanted to follow the rules so here we are.  Now everyone is p------ and moaning including big businesses.  Well, we have had eight months to figure this out and come up with a strategy.   Eight months!  Nobody did anything to prepare and we all know that this will last for at least three years.  The scenario is going as the virus has planned for the last 2238 years (recorded history).   What could businesses have done?  Developed strategies to reward people for good behavior, provide free rapid testing, créate permanent safe spaces, more online benefits for placing and receiving orders.   

Small local mom and pop shops; taco stands, small neighborhood businesses, mechanics, etc.,  could have set up webpages that are practically free, offered discounts to online buyers, free delivery with a mínimum order, hung banners advertising their webpages.  Nothing was done because no one took this seriously.   The American continent now has 850,000 COVID deaths and by the beginning of 2021 that number will likely hit 1,000,000,  That's right, one million dead people from Canada to Chile.  

I'm glad the world isn't on my team because I would be running with the ball and they would be sitting there doing their own thing.  In other words, nobody really cares about anyone but themselves.  We have spent the last 100 years living the high life with modern inventions, the age of technology, computers, internet and now social media.  George Bush Sr. was called the "me" generation.  That turned out to be a lie because we are living in the midst of a "me" annihilation.  Everyone is out doing their own thing and to hell with anyone else.   If I pass away during this pandemic from some other ailment, well, that's just history.  

I've got major computer problems.  Best Buy Mexico has 52 stores here.  We had a great policy with the Geek Squad for one year.  I took my laptop this week for a cleaning and to check the mouse pad.  Guess what?   Best Buy closed all their stores here in Mexico two days later.  I don't know if I'll get my laptop back.   Not good  and  not happy.  We have been calling but the phones just ring and the local news says the stores are not reopening.

It's been cold here this week.  Down to 1C 34F, and it will continue into the next week but warming up during the day and around 6C at night.  Good thing we got the LP radiant heaters checked and clean.  I don't like be cold or hot.  I have never slept with a hat on and never will, not in my line of thinking.  If I'm going to wear a hat to bed I'd might as well sleep outside in a cardboard box.  I'm the biggest sissy in the world when it comes to being uncomfortable.  Life's to short for suffering.  

I need to go, I'm supposed to be baking bread.  Be safe, stay home and read a book, paint a wall, do some yard work, knit, sew, work in the wwoodshop, wax the car whatever it takes.  Wear your mask.  Remember, BE THE EXAMPLE.