Monday, September 29, 2014

You Could See This Too - Bustamante

We were invited to a confirmation mass and party for Ivana.  Here parents are our good friend Felipe and Lorena who live in Bustamante, Nuevo Leon.  It is a small pueblo magico on Hwy 1 from Monterrey to the Colombia Bridge.   They run a small hotel and restaurant and live in a truly wonderful place.   There are caves up in the mountains with a new cable car that takes you up to a visitor's center and then a tour of the caves.   Nearby is a Nuevo Leon state park with a natural spring, palapas and electricity for campers.   It is a long and narrow park that runs about 10 kms.   Bustamante is well-known for its fantastic sweet breads such as semita and empanadas de piloncillo.  
We headed out Saturday afternoon after picking up some parts for the VW.   It needed new belts and a wheel bearing.   The work was done today in the afternoon at a mechanic up the road.  The timing belt, two others and two wheel bearings cost 630 pesos and the labor 900 pesos.   The parts are German but a knock off brand that we have used since the early eighties on my past VW cars;  a 72 Beetle, 78 Rabbit, 93 Jetta and now the 09 Pointer.   Never a quality issue.
Here are some great shots of our trip once we left the north side of Monterrey.   It has been raining off and on since the big storm but the clouds and the greenery are truly amazing.  Enjoy.


We spent Saturday night out under the stars at the hotel until 3 a.m. telling stories, laughing and chatting up a storm.  We have known most of these people over the last 30 years and many are folkloric dancers.   One interesting point came up.  Almost all of the members in the dance group went on to do great things; getting a university degree, buying a home, starting a family, etc.   Discipline and team work are great things.   

Needless to say, Sunday was a bit difficult.   I didn't drink much but those of you who know me, I'm pretty much a party pooper who drops out early.   Sunday came and I was up by 8 o'clock and down to the lobby for breakfast and reading my mail.   By 1 p.m., time for the mass and confirmation, I was pretty much beat.   But I stuck it out and we had a wonderful lunch.

The bishop said the mass and the mayors from six nearby towns came to the mass and lunch.  It was truly an event.  Here are some pics.

Proud parents with their daughter Ivanna.

The godmother with two teachers.

Yours truly with my lovely friend Clara.

Friday, September 26, 2014

I Joined IMSS (Mexican Universal Healthcare)

This week I signed up for IMSS.  My status here in Mexico is inmigrado and I have worked most of my 30 years here on my own.  I spent the first four years working for a company before making the change and had established myself in the IMSS system, Infonavit, and the Afores or the Mexican 401K.   Once I was self-employed, I let all of those services lapse and decided to sign up for private medical insurance.  Now at 57, that policy is becoming expensive albeit not like those of the U.S. or Canada.  I also want to be able to collect my Mexican social security as well as my American SS.   To enter the IMSS system again, I had to establish myself as an employee of a company for one year.   Fortunately, I am on the payroll of a private school.   All of my benefits are now retroactive.   I have five years to increase my SS account here in Mexico and will be able to pay in on my own although I cannot just throw money into my account but will have to justify its origins.   SAT (Mexican tax system also known as Lolita) is very strict these days and makes it hard to move money as all bank and invoicing is being tracked.  

My “new employer” set me up in the IMSS system and on my first visit I had to “dar de alta” or register.  I was looking forward to a long line, bureaucracy, and general malaise from employees.  I was assigned to my local IMSS hospital and clinic in Santiago, NL.   I was greatly surprised to find that not every office, hospital or clinic is alike.   The hospital is over 40 years old and in very good condition; clean, well-maintained, fairly modern and up to date.  

I wasn’t sure where to go when I entered and found an office near the front entrance that says, “quejas y ayuda” (complaints and assistance).  Two young women working behind their desk were very friendly and eager to help me.   They directed me to “ventanilla uno”  or window number one.   A young man asked me what I wanted and I told him.   I was waiting for him to ask me for some identification, paperwork or a thousand copies of something I didn’t have.   To the contrary, he asked for my electric bill, my Immigration ID, and a copy of my CURP which is my official registration in the tax system that everyone who works in the formal market has to have.   I showed them to him, he entered me into the system and handed back my originals.   He asked if I had a picture with me which I did and he affixed it to my booklet.   He handed me the booklet and said, Bienvenidos a Seguro Social.   All of five painless minutes. 

I then returned to my friends in the complaints and assistance department and asked them how to start getting my check ups.  In IMSS we have PrevenIMSS or preventive medicine.   All I do is go during my selected time which is any day from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. and set my booklet into the order box.   I take a seat and wait for them to call me.  From there, I can request a regimen of regular testing for all general preventive medicine tests such as blood pressure, cholesterol, prostate, EKG, stress test, and general blood workup.  

In November I will test the system to see how it works.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Just When You Think You're At The Bottom

It's been raining cats and dogs here and that is a double entendre.  Yesteray the rains were so bad we couldn't get out of the house.  The street was flooded.  As some of you know, there is also a rio seco (dry riverbed) in the middle of our street where the water at one time was over one meter high.   I had left for the gym and had to turn back.   We tried several times yesterday morning but to no avail.

Finally, I made it out around noon as the rains had died down but the water was still pretty high.  I took my time and made it through the water only to get to the highway to findout the southbound lanes were flooded and they had shut it down.   Waiting patiently, they allowed cars to get through being ushered by our Fuerza Civil state police.  I headed to Allende to get to school and when I got home later I found that my front license plate was missing.  That requires making a police report, copies of the original invoice, title and registration.  Add that to the list of things pending;  missing passport and renewing my driver's license.  

This morning I headed for the American consulate.   I stayed in town last night only because I had a 10:15 appointment and needed to have passport pictures taken first.   It all worked out.   I had a great sleep last night as the air in Monterrey had cooled from the rains.  Windows open with the breeze and I slept a full eight hours.   I left the house this morning, had my pictures taken and off I went to find the new consulate.  They have moved out of the city and are just below the autopista to Saltillo.  That was an experience that I try to avoid.  Too scary to be there and they are very strict with their rules.  I won't go into details but I haven't been there for over 9 years and that was when I renewed my passport the last time.   Well, I passed with flying colors and I will have a new passport in two to three weeks.   They gave me a paper to show at the border next week along with my birth certificate to get to Texas for work.  

The clock kept ticking and Juan calls.  He wants me to pick him up on the way home so we can go file the report for the missing license plate.   First I stop for my driver's license renewal.  Great system I have told you about before.   It took me all of 12 minutes and I walked out with my new license.  They do a check for pending offenses, take my picture, I show my old license and pay the amount.   Done.  I called home to say I was on my way and Juan walked up to the highway to meet me.   

I pulled into the lateral in Los Cavazos and  could see him walking across the pedestrian bridge with paperwork in hand.  He got in the car and said, "let's go to lunch first".  What?  This could take all day I thought.   He then told me he started to leave the house and realized it was muddy.  So he went back for the car.  

As he headed down the street he walked across the riverbed, waters receded, and decided to look down inside.  He entered the riverbed mud and all, and there it was, all beat to heck, my little license plate.   Can you imagine.  There is a fence that goes across the water and that is where it got stuck.  

Saved by the bell along with lots of time, hassle and money, we headed out for a fried shrimp lunch and a long nap afterwards.  Now that's an ending to a story.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Another Great Weekend

The rains haven't let up and the weekend has been gray and soggy.   Yesterday we hung around the house and had the gardener helping us with yard work and the pool.   I had quite a long nap yesterday and when I woke up we decided to go downtown to the Rio Santa Lucia to see a free show called Fous de Bassin which is like Cirque de Soliel but on water.   It was unbelievable.  The traffic, mostly due to a new metro line being built, was a nightmare.  Once we did arrive to the riverwalk, the four story parking garage was almost full.   We took the elevator down to the ground floor and when we walked out to the river there was a maze of thousands of people.  I've never seen such a crowd in all my time in Monterrey.  So good to see that people are out and about and life is good here.   The show was difficult to see through the crowds and I imagine many people arrived hours before.   It was a bizarre show but truly delightful with fireworks at the end not to mention the music that was piped throughout the rivewalk sound system.

Sunday at the house is always our big breakfast day.  During the week I'm usually fed oatmeal and black bananas.  Today was the usually fantastic huevos rancheros with papas con chorizo and refried beans.  A slice of panela cheese on the side really topped it off.
I also have been working with some inexpensive LED lights Juan picked up here in town.  I want to make a pyramid lamp that we can use in the house and the rv.   These are small squares and it would make a very easy job and something kind of attractive too.  They really light up the room.

I spent most of the day working on my PowerPoint presentation for my talk at the convention in Puebla next month.  It is coming along well.  I'm trying to do it with all visuals and the least amount of text possible.  When there is text, teachers in the audience do a lot of note taking from the screen along with photos of my intellectual property and they don't seem to listen as well. 
We had our monthly beef dinner.  Two delicious rib eyes on the grill along with fresh veggies and a bottle of wine.  That's how it ends and tomorrow I have a list of pendientes (things to do) and I will give you a rundown after I am finished.  I have an appointment with the American consulate on Tuesday at 10:15.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Rough Couple of Days

I took my trip to Dallas on Tuesday and all went fine.  I arrived on time, picked up the rental car and headed to the hotel in time for the manager's happy hour.  I took a few minutes to drive by the school which was nearby to make sure it was easy to find.  The hotel room was pretty standard and I didn't get such a good night's sleep for some odd reason.

The event the next day was also pretty standard except for one thing.   I had 150 students in a fairly new school.  Too much politics today for me.    I noticed on this trip to the U.S., from the trip, the hotel to the school, being politically correct is even bigger than ever.   Everyone is on watch to make sure they don't make any comments, movements, or judgements that someone somewhere might find offense no matter if another person is right or wrong.   Kind of like losing your freedom of speech.   Also, on the plane, in the airport, the rental car shuttle, I realized how lucky I have been in my life to not have a corporate job.   I left that years ago and even then I could see it going on.  Being able to talk the talk, dress the walk, knowing corporate lingo and watching people walk over everyone else to get ahead.   I wouldn't want to be a 25 year old in today's business world.  Am I being politically correct here?

Bad news on this trip is I lost my passport.   I think it slipped through a slot in my computer bag that is used for sticking a doubled up newspaper into.   I boarded the plane with the passport and boarding pass in hand.  I put it into the zippered side bag but it may have been the part mentioned above.   Anyway, I continue to check with both airports and the airline and have an appointment next week with the consulate here in Monterrey.  The American Airlines lost and found department doesn't talk to you in person.  You are instructed to leave a message with your email.  If it is not found, they will not contact you.  So you don't know if they got your info or not.   Not a big deal, I had one year left on a 10 year passport.

The rv park is still a ghost town.   I took advantage of the gym and the jacuzzi over the last few days.  I need to get an adjuster to look at one of the slides on the rv.   I complained about a grapefruit tree next door that kept getting in the way and I think I may have been the top of the slideout on a branch.  It sticks out about half an inch at the top corner on one side.   Maybe my imagination.

Oh, did I tell you my return flight was delayed?  Original take off was 6:50.  The flight was delayed 45 minutes for lack of an on-time crew.   After getting up in the air, we returned to DFW because of a supposed hydraulic fluid leak.  We were on the ground for a couple of hours until they determined it was a faulty gauge in the cockpit but the mechanic assured us that the fluid levels were full.   Needless to say, we smelled something like oil or rubber burning in the ventalation system.  It went away after about 20 minutes.  

Back home here in Monterrey for two weeks before heading to Corpus Christi.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Harrowing Story . . . Of Survival

Yesterday, I received an email from our friends Pat and Mike in Simcoe.  We met them in the Rio Grande Valley a couple of winters ago.   They are fun people and have become friends.  Our visit with them in Simcoe this summer was the best.   I posted many pictures from our adventures together including a trip to the lake, visiting historic sites and hanging out together for some great meals. 
In her mail, Pat told me they were returning from a short trip in their Roadtrek.   All of a sudden, Mike was driving across the median and heading into the woods on the other side.  They slammed into a tree which stopped them from careening over a cliff.   Things came flying out at them from the overhead cabinets.   Mike was able to get out and call for help.   Pat suffered severe whiplash and Mike is now undergoing tests to see what caused his blackout. 
I just want them to know that we are so happy that they are okay and that the powers that be were on their side.   The Roadtrek is dust but it can always be replaced, but friends can't.  Well, we won't be seeing them this winter but I hope we meet up again soon.  Get well soon guys and get back out there on the road.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Made It To The RGV

We took off on time and it was pouring down rain.  I pulled out the VW so we could get the rv out and I put it close to the sidewalk.   I got the rv out, I was worried about all the water and mud but I pulled it right out no problem.  I slowly take off down the road and I don't see Juan moving in the VW.  He calls me and says the car is stuck in the mud.  I started to back up and then I saw him coming down the road.  He was able to get out.
A quick stop for gas and air and off we went down the highway to Monterrey.  Town was pretty empty with the rain and the fact that it is sort of a four-day weekend with the Independence celebrations and early morning.   Juan passed me about two miles before the convention center so he could go park the VW.  He was there waiting when I arrived.   You do this so much in your lifetime we forgot we were going to Reynosa and almost headed to Laredo.  As he got in the car we both said the same thing. 
Stopped for tacos and the rain stopped but the sky was still menacing.  I looked at him and said, "maybe we should take the libre".   Good in that we saved 50 dollars but the down side is that they are making the libre a four-lane highway from Monterrey to Reynosa to provide a high quality no-toll highway.   So we did have about 5 kms of rough stuff but it will turn out to be great.
Waited on the bridge for an hour and passed through with only a visual interior inspection.  Too many buses in the X-Ray line so they let us go.   I dropped Juan off to do some shopping at the Dollar Store and he headed home on the bus. 
Made it to the rv park after a quick stop at the HEB.   Nobody is here but a handful of full timers.  The storms here are worse than at home.  I got setup and took a nap and there was a heavy downpour.  The place is very nice but one downside.   Poor wifi.  I'm very disappointed.  I'm out by one of the pools in a cabana which is wonderful but I want to use the internet at home.
More later.