Sunday, July 16, 2017

Tour of Monterrey - Guests Always Bring Opportunities

Last time I posted I mentioned that my godson was coming from Germany.   He was here for a week and we did all kinds of things.   I'm not sure how impressed he was but I did my best to give him a good tour.  

Before he came, I took the opportunity to paint the spare bedroom and install a mini-split air conditioner.  I didn't check beforehand what the weather is like in Tubingen but I figured it was never as hot as here.   The temps were over 100 for three weeks.   

The palapa hasn't been finished and we knew in advance the probability was very low.  That's how it is in Mexico or at least the area we live in.  You give 50% down and when that money is used up they look for a new job.  We called and called, he would send someone for a few hours and then they'd leave.   The last time, the guy sent his son and he was working away.   All of a sudden, at 2:30 in the afternoon I saw him backing out of the driveway.  I checked the cameras at the front gate and he had loaded up all of his equipment never to return.   We aren't out any money but the job isn't finished.  Wait for the next episode.   The pool deck was completed by the other fellow and he did a great job.

Day by day events with my godson:

Day 1:   Local trip to the plaza in Santiago, mirador overlooking the lake and lunch.

Day 2:   A hike through our state park, Estanzuela

Day 3:   Hiking in the national park Chipinque, folkloric dance performance in the theater of the city

Visitor's center at Chipinque Natl Park

Lining up for the folkloric dance performance.

One of the last and best dances from our state of Nuevo Leon.

Day 4:    Hung out at the house and had a cookout Saturday night.

Day 5:  Day trip to La Laguna up in the mountains with a wonderful en-route breakfast.

The lagoon is dry.  Last time we were there with David it was full of water.

Day 6:  Tour of Monterrey and the riverwalk.

Dau 7:  Visits to museums, the governor's palace, the main post office.

Michael Angelo exhibit.

Looking down on the riverwalk from the bridge between the museums.

Governor's Palace

The main post office built in 1930.

Everyday we used the pool and usually watched a movie in the evenings on Netflix.  He took off for Atlanta where he will visit friends, return to Germany for two days and then head to Israel where he thinks he will be moving after 25 years in Tubingen.

As for us, looks like we are heading to Valle de Juarez to get a reprieve from the heat.   I'm not sure what day we'll take off, probably Thursday or Friday with no rush to get there.  

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Heat, What Else!

Simply Magnificent!

Well I'm happy to report that I'm suffering from a head cold in 45C heat.  The temperature has remained above 40C now for over two weeks.   It's all those preschoolers that want to give me a hug, handshake and a kiss.  Yikes!

Still working on my pension.  There is an error in my name that has to be fixed.  When the system was first set up for the Mexican 401K, the field for names was not long enough.   Remember that we use both paternal and maternal last names and my passport and birth certificate has both Christopher and Michael.   The SS system just has Mi in the field and it doesn't match.  I went to this building below to make the change.   Literally, they estimated the day I went, there were over 800 people making some type of transaction be it birth certificate, name change, corrections, the list goes on.  I was there in a long line for only 20 minutes.   Amazing what technology has done.   Still not fixed, I found the problem and I have to fill out a two-page form and they will do it.   No big deal.  

Because I always worked for myself, I still have over 60 weeks pending to start my pension, or as they say in the U.S., quarters.   I can pay that last year and start my pension.  Once I have the name changed I can get more details.  Very exciting.  

I went to Saltillo recently to work in two schools.   I will return on the 30th for a training with teachers in a preschool.   I love working with little ones, they are so open to new things and pick them up so quickly.   Here is a picture coming off of the toll highway from Saltillo to Monterrey.  The publisher pays my expenses and requests I take the toll roads.

You're probably wondering how the palapa is going.   Since my last post nothing has changed.   Just as I had said, they came up with other projects which now have priority.   They did come today though, starting working on installing the roof when they discovered that the sheets of galvanized tile roofing did not match the four that they had installed.   Now we have a huge delay.   I hate to say it, but that's Mexico.  I hope we get it resolved this week.

My nephew will be here next Tuesday the 4th and we were hoping the palapa would be finished.  It's not going to happen.  Oh well.  I finished painting the spare bedroom, washing the miniblinds, windows and protectors on the windows.  I called a guy to come and finish the rest of the house.  I'm not doing it anymore.  I'm through with house and yard work.   

I took this picture of the presa near our house.   The lowest the water level has been in 25 years.  They are attempting to send 1 cm per day after evaporation to raise the level but at that rate it would take a year.   Believe it or not, as I write this blog post, it has started to rain.   A few days of relief from the heat.

I want to go to SMA for a few weeks and have Juan meet up with me and then go to Valle de Juarez for a couple of weeks.   I can't handle the heat anymore.   One of my readers, Barbara, has been kind enough to let me stay at her house and I may just take her up on her offer.   You all know me and I like to have company but I don't like to be company.   Weird I know.  

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I Just Got An Idea

Let's begin with the contest and the winner.  Dee was the winner and she pegged it right on the money.  Congratulations Dee!  You'll be receiving a LivingBoondockingMexico mug.  We'll be in touch so we can send it in the next two weeks.  We'll be making a trip to McAllen on the 23rd.  

I did it just to see how many people would participate.   There have been 111 readers on that post and only 22 voters.   Boo hoo hoo.   Could have won a coffee mug!

We are trying to slowly eliminate stuff from the house just in case.   I found a bunch of videos that we had taken years ago before when video cameras were popular.   Our trips to Hawaii (we took three as we were on a Hawaii kick).   That's when travel was much cheaper than it is today.   We made grand trips out of it.   We drove to McAllen and spent the night and had dinner with friends.   The next day we would fly to Los Angeles and spend another night and go shopping.   After, we took our flight to Maui.   Those were fun days.   Now the prices, thanks to deregulation and the failure of it that followed, have left us with exorbitant airfare pricing and little selection of airlines not to mention all the extras they charge now.

Anyway, before I get too off track, we have videos of our very first rv trip and our then new to us, Trailmanor travel trailer.   All these miniature video tapes are going to be converted so I can download them and share "some" of them with readers.   You don't want to see all of them but a couple would be fun.  

What got me started on this?   I was on my morning 8 km walk yesterday morning listening to my favorite singer, Astrud Gilberto.  She sang Oh Gingi.   That song brings back special meaning.   On Christmas vacation back in 1999 while we were living in Monterrey, I went for my morning jog.  Believe it or not I used to run 10 kms every morning on very steep hills if you know Monterrey.   Coming down a hill I heard some meowing and took a look in the bushes only to find, on that cold and foggy morning, kittens that had been thrown away.  One was still alive.  I promised her that if she was still there when I returned I would take her home.   She was and I carried her home.   We had listened to Astrud the night before and I decided to call her Gingi.   We miss her a lot.  

All of our pets have been rescues.   Imagine if we could have adopted kids.   We'd have a house full.

On to other news.   I am looking for a free place to stay in SMA the end of July and first part of August.   I have been asked to return to EdCaminos, the volunteer group that teaches underprivileged kids in the city.   

Our palapa is coming along albeit slowly.   That's okay, we weren't in any hurry and it should be done in the next week pending the new tile floor and the kooldeck application.  

It's hotter than hell here already topping 100F most days.   The good news is that I received the electric bill yesterday for the last two months (bimonthly billing in Mexico).  Shocking difference.  As I mentioned before, they lowered our rate and also extended or doubled our usage, passing that limit would put us in a commercial rate.   We used 562 Kwhs in two months; pool filter, well pump, A/C on extremely hot nights.   We wait until 5:30 p.m. to turn on the air in the bedroom to watch PBS news and have happy hour.  We have been leaving it on all night sometimes in the last month.  Yikes.   I read the meter daily but this new minisplit we installed is very high efficiency.  Plus, we keep it at 26C with the ceiling fan on low for circulation.   Keeps the humidity out and we sleep well.   So, bottom line, the bill was 493 pesos ($27U.S.) for two months.  The same usage last year was 992 pesos or $55 U.S.   

This is a huge relief.   We now feel a bit freer in our use of A/C.   The pool helps to keep us cool as well and the water level doesn't change since we fixed the leak.   We have a 2 ton minisplit in our living/social area but it hasn't been turned on in over two years.   Now, maybe we can enjoy it once in awhile.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The New Palapa and The Pension

The new palapa got underway just after the pool was re-grouted.   Still a couple things to do like the cool deck cover.   We had a slow start because of rain, then the guy couldn't come because of another job he was finishing.   Then the weekend, Saturday's in Mexico are only until noon and they usually don't show up for work until 9:30.  Then Monday rolls around.  It's better known as San Lunes, Holy Monday.  No construction worker reports on Monday and then Tuesday they come late.

Anyway, it's under way and the main frame is finished.  It's all steel construction with the faux clay tile roof made out of sheets of metal that are made to look like tiles.  They last forever.  Even though the posts are simple, they will soon be enclosed with sheet rock to match the columns in the front of the house and a ceiling inside the palapa.   The extension that covers part of the grass will have a slab poured and the floor tiled.  It will look nice when done.   

I forgot to post that I went to make some changes to my Mexican pension.  We have a system similar to the U.S. based on weeks worked, age, and income.  The last five years are the most important in terms of income.  We also have Afores which is similar to the 401K.   We can make additional deposits but without any limit as long as we can prove the origin of the money.  So if you sell a piece of property you can deposit a portion of that money to increase your lifetime benefit.  There was a change in the registration back in the early 90s.  I already had my SS# here but never tied the new registration to my account.   Two weeks ago I made an appointment on line, took the required paperwork and made the updates to my account.  All done.  Next week I will be able to continue my personal contributions and work on a plan.  They have counselors who will help you.  I'm finally on my way.  My U.S. account is growing with my work in the SAT/ACT test program.   I have to wait two more years for that check.

The poll will continue on the laboratory test costs.   I will reveal the winner in the next three weeks.  Yes, there is a small prize for the winner who posts a comment with a dollar amount.  The person with the closest amount wins the prize.  

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Medical Care In Mexico

After you read this post, please answer the poll in the upper right hand corner.  How much do you think my blood work up cost for the items below in U.S. dollars?

Things just seem to coincide, don't they?   Yesterday I went for my blood work up.  This is the one I do in between my yearly physical and I do it on my own.  I had the following exams for a total of 36 different items:



Complete Liver Profile

Cholesterol Profile

Minerals and Metals

I use a well-known clinic, Laboratorios Dr. Moreira.  We have a lab here in Santiago and it just happens to be two blocks from the gym. They are located throughout northern Mexico and open at 7 a.m.  Top drawer facility (except for the fact that it is located next to our town's funeral home) with well-staffed nurses and lab technicians.   They only take walk ins so it is  on a first come first serve basis.   I arrived at 7:15 and was out 20 minutes later.   All the latest in administrative and medical technology.  The results are available by 3 p.m. on line or a printed format from the office after 4 p.m.  You also receive a card for record keeping and earn points for discounts.   The results are easy to read showing the score as well as the norm and ranges high to low.   Easy to read.

I mentioned coincidence only because I belong to a Facebook page for ex-pats.  It always surprises me that many foreigners have such little faith in medicine outside of Canada and the U.S.  Many doctors in neighboring countries study medicine in Mexico and I know many of the readers here can attest to the great work done by dentists.

You've read my post on my chest pain that I suffered and the great work and specialists I was able to see for literally next to nothing.   I've had some minor cosmetic work done as well and the prices are so reasonable that if I received my pay in dollars I'd be looking like Michael Jackson.  So on this FB page for ex-pats I read about people who fly home to see their doctors and pay outrageous amounts of money for medical care.   Again, the praises of Mexico come out of the woodwork but when it comes down to brass tacks then it's, "I gotta fly home, I'm not feeling well".   I do realize that most if not all of it is the language barrier.  However, most foreigners in Mexico don't speak the language but don't realize that a good portion of Mexican doctors speak English.

You need to do due diligence just like you would with any doctor when you move to a new location or snowbird for any length of time.  Obviously, you can't just run your finger down the pages in the phone book under doctors to find a good medico.   

The same goes with prescriptions.  No wonder so many Americans cut their prescriptions in half to save money or even go to a doctor to begin with.  Most of what ails human beings is lack of exercise and diet not to mention bad habits such as smoking and heavy drinking.  Gulp.  

Monday, May 15, 2017

Most People Are Pigs And Other Things

My meat for the month of May celebrating Teacher's Day!  We also had a great salchicha along with the burger and the bun was a wonderfully fresh baked margarita.   Delicious.

We sat out on the porch after a swim and watched the burgers cook.   Lots of fun and very relaxing.

As I mentioned, we are enjoying the last of three-day weekends in the month of May.  It's been great.  Two rv outings and this weekend was pure relaxation.  The heat is coming and it's been 35C to 37C so taking the rv out was kind of silly when we have a pool in our backyard.   

We did some odds and ends around the quinta; yardwork, laundry, grocery shopping and a to do list for the rv.   I saw a really cool makeover of a van dweller.  She built overhead cabinets but the doors have picture frames with artwork in them.  What a cool way to add art to the rv.  Hanging things on the walls always brings up certain issues like drilling holes, tearing the paper on  the luan board, etc.   Personally, we haven't done it.  It always seems to be an issue when you decide to sell.  The artwork might be the trick though for our photographs we have collected from our trip.

When the gym is closed, like the last two days, I go for my morning 8 km walks.   Sometimes I take different routes and sometimes I stick to the highway with its series of walking bridges, five in total.  Like today I stuck to the highway.  I was out at 7:30 a.m. and there was literally no traffic (holiday).  As I pass a bridge I go over the bridge to the other side and keeping walking to the next one and switch back.  I do that three times around and that gives me the eight kilometers.  

It embarrasses and pains me to post these pictures but it's the awful truth and those who are Mexiphiles know the reality. 

This pile was left by a group of men who sell birds that are probably exotics and mistreated.  They stand on the corner and eat and drink (discretely) and throw their sh#$ on the ground.  Pigs.

These three-day weekends really bring out the tourists and with them their trash.   I don't think we will ever get the idea of putting trash where it belongs.  For a Mexican guy, it's a macho thing.   Only a sissy would walk over to a trash can and to dispose of their trash.  In fact, this morning as I was just getting on my route, a car with three guys passed me on the lateral.  As they made a right turn down the road that goes behind the lake, the guy in the back seat threw his candy wrapper out the window.  I was steamed.   We have litter drives at schools, we have Art, Civics and English projects about the environment and the kids still do it and sometimes at school right in front of me.  I ask them to pick it up and the first thing they say is, "it's not mine".  "Well, pick it up anyway".   "Why?"  "Because I said so, it's the civic thing to do.  Remember the value for the month, respect?"   If there is one thing I don't like about Mexico it's the litter.  

Okay, I'm done.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Enjoying Three-Day Weekends

I headed out Saturday morning.   Friday was meant to be a lazy day and it was.  Lots of internet and odds and ends around the quinta.   I left around 9 p.m.  All was quiet in the neighborhood so getting the rv out was a breeze.   I took it to a small commercial center nearby while the technicians checked the security cameras.  We needed a new DVR and one camera replaced.   They had some difficulty getting the program to accept remote internet access.   It's more peace of mind than anything else.

Here I am sitting and waiting.  Good wait though.  I read the newspaper, worked on reading a book and listened to some music.  Just as I was ready to call home to find out what was happening here comes the straggler walking into the lot.   The camera guys nice enough to give Juan a ride so that meant I didn't need to loop around.

While I was waiting I also finished a long wanted modification.  The trailer has a 600 watt inverter it isn't tied into the converter.   In the entertainment center between the living room and the bedroom there is the antenna booster with a 12V outlet.  I have a small inverter, 150W, and use it to power the LED television and the two table lamps in each room.   I put in these great little cable openers (don't know the name of them), one in each room.  Now there are no messy cables.

Saturday night we finished the steaks we cooked on the Weber from Friday.  They were great served up with some fresh asparagus and a bottle of Merlot.

Later in the evening we had a campfire and a movie.   It was a great time and it looks like we will do the same this next weekend. 

It was also Mother's Day celebration.  All the mothers in the resort were invited for a lunch complete with live music and great service provided by a catering service.  They also walked away with raffle prizes as well as a rose.   All the men looked on with envy :)