Monday, February 8, 2016

Things Just Aren't Right

I've been working in Texas most of the last three weeks and this is my last week until hopefully the fall season.  I've seen more than I should have and wonder where we are going as a society.  

I have seen some real wonders while I've been driving Texas back roads.   All of them are two-lane no shoulder Texas highways.  Funny isn't it?  People always wonder how we can have no shoulder in Mexico and I've driven more than 2500 miles in the last month and that's all there seems to be out here in the country.   One good thing is there are no police.  I guess if you don't have a shoulder they can't pull you over.

Some of the great things I've seen are some wonderful sunsets.   Too many that we should head out this way with the rv for a month or two.   It has to be in the winter because it's too darn hot in the summer.   Wild turkeys, two bobcats, deer in abundance, a pair of javalinas and their piglets, not to mention an occasional coyote and pretty big ones.   Also lots of hawks, buitres (sorry but the English word won't come to me right now and I'm not looking it up) and two owls.  It's very beautiful country in the areas of Uvalde, Hebbronville, Encinal, Batesville, etc.   Weird, we used to drive to San Antonio and back via Laredo stopping at the Dairy Queen at the exit for Batesville.  We always thought it was Batesville but it's only the exit and the town is 37 miles away.   

Here's the downside.  Most of these towns and all the smaller ones in between are severely depressed, abandoned or rundown.  Some beautiful old homes, farmhouses and main street buildings dating back to the late 1800s are in terminal decay.   

The schools I am working at on a special project are on the verge of closing or falling down due to lack of funds and maintenance.   You can tell by the kids shoes, clothes and general appearance.   One school on has 224 students in their high school and the principal could seem to care less.  He's from a long line of gringos that run the town.  This particular high school didn't allow hispanics until the mid 1950s.   Where they went I don't know but all the school pictures that line the halls, going back to 1937, are all whites and the last names are few and repetitive.  

Like most public schools, there are lunch programs.  This school is so poor that they bring in breakfast in coolers for some of those that qualify and also offer an early dinner at 4:30.   I have to say, this school only had 38 students in the course but they were the best behaved of all the schools this season.  Good kids all of them.  Times are hard with corporate farming and the oil fields have pretty much closed down and that's where most of them went after they sold or rented out their farmland.  Others have land to go back to but it takes a couple of years to get things up and running again.

This week I am in Eagle Pass and will teach for three days heading back to Edinburg on Thursday afternoon and then home on Friday.

If you haven't heard, we are renting a house to share with Norma and Croft for Semana Santa.  Where?  San Miguel de Allende.  Can't wait, it will be a blast.

As for the election debates, Hillary screams a lot,  Trump is, well . . . Trump, Christie cracks me up and Ben Carson should be come a political whisperer.   Bernie is way to socialist for me and I don't think either side is really interested in fixing anything other than winning the presidency.   End.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Back To Texas and a Three Day Weekend

Today is Constitution Day and a Mexican holiday so it was a great three-day weekend.  Friday I flew to Mexico City only after having been on the road in Texas for a week.   I was in Laredo for three days, San Antonio last weekend, back to Laredo for a couple of days and then home on Thursday.   I spoke at a small convention, 500 teachers.  I gave the opening and closing plenaries and a workshop in between.  It was a great time and I always love visiting Mexico City.   I arrived Saturday night in time for happy hour.  Sunday I had a meeting with the board of trustees from a school.  It was an informal breakfast delivering what I thought will be a good five year plan for the school.  Why am I telling you all this?  Because I'm not in the rv like all of you.

This is half of the ballroom where I worked.  There was a screen on both sides for my presentation.  It looks a bit messy because we were doing activities.  I also raffled off some books and an iPad.  Teachers were happy.

It's been a rough few weeks and there are more to come through the beginning of March.   I have to say though, my work is not full time, I'm not in an office, and I take what I want and don't want.  I get to fly places, stay in fancy hotels and have rental cars.  It's good but like everything else I don't want it to last too long.   We're almost there.

Semana Santa is coming up and I turned down a few opportunities but we'll need a break.  I'm trying to find something exotic but inexpensive (I know, good luck) like maybe going to Paris or Madrid.  South America is always a good get away too.   I keep searching.   Fuel in the U.S. is so cheap that going there is also attractive like maybe visiting Norma and Croft in Arizona.   We'll see.  I just don't like seeing the rv sitting in the driveway.

I've thrown in a few pictures of what is going on around home too.   We lost a good part of our grass in the front yard over the last two years.   We had such a shady canopy from all the trees that the grass just gave up.   We hired a company to come and cut down the trees to almost nubs.   It will all come back once we replant.  The person who did the work says we should plant monkey grass but I have always thought monkey grass for trim and decoration.  I need to check.

Speaking of my post and my conference on Digital Citizenship you wouldn't believe what happened on the flight home that shows we all need to get involved in DC.  As they were serving free drinks, the guy next to me had the huevos to take out his cellphone and put on music.  Not using earphones but for everyone to hear.   After three passes by the flight attendants, they finally asked him to turn it off.  But wait, here is the best part.   As we came down just below 10,000 feet and announcements were made, the guy behind received a call on his cellphone.  Everyone went ape s@# crazy.  He just kept on talking.   The guy in the picture just refused to take his seat during pre-flight instruction.

The day I pulled out of the driveway over a week ago.  Fufi looked so lonely.  

So that's what I'm up to.   All is well and we are both healthy, wealthy (in friends and life) and a bit wise.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

Healthcare - It's Just Nut's

I was in San Antonio over the weekend.  Our tenant had a major water leak and the estimates were coming it at $800 to $1200.  Crazy!   I then asked the tenant to go to Craigslist and look for a plumber.  By the time I had arrived, the price was down to $350 and the job was done with a receipt and guarantee.  

My neighbor had a blood clot problem two months ago.  Severe leg pains and had gone to the emergency room.  Sent home with varicose vein problems.  The pain persisted until he returned to the hospital via ambulance the next morning.   Now it was three blood clots; one in the leg and two in the groin.   After a catheterization to remove them, the bill came to $84,000.   I asked how the bill was going to be paid and the answer was, Medicare.  Yes, but who pays for Medicare?   Before that it was cataracts at $5000 per eye.  What?  In Mexico, private treatment is 5000 pesos or $300 U.S.  It's nuts.

Nothing is free.  Everything has a cost.  I'm back in Laredo and all I see are new $200,000 homes and all the parking lots are filled with new cars.    Please don't tell me that all of these people paid cash for their cars.   The economy cannot continue in this way borrowing, borrowing and borrowing.  $20 trillion U.S. in debt.  Criminal.  How much more are they going to allow the U.S. to borrow?

Speaking of healthcare, I went for a dental appointment with my IMSS social medical care.  Free cleaning with high tech equipment and  a filling to boot.  Yep, I pay with my taxes as nothing is free but not to the tune of . . . 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Digital Citizenship and Blogging

First to the digital citizenship.  It's how to be a responsible user of technology.  Too many kids today have not been taught how to use the internet, cell phones, chat, and social media such as Facebook.  Believe it or not, for most students, homework consists of copy/paste.   Nothing is being learned.  

Students have little to no contact with libraries.  In Texas, high schools have large libraries.  The type of library a reader dreams of.   They sit idle or are used to check their email on line while at school.  The www needs to be treated as a library where people know how to search for information, choose responsibly that information which we believe to be true and not misleading.  

Digital citizenship also teaches us how to respect others, they personal safety as well as their opinions, comments and information they post for example Vlogs or videos on YouTube and FB. 

There are nine basic elements to digital citizenship.   Bottom line, students and teachers have access to a wonderful tool but it's not being used to the best of its ability.   80% of male secondary students use the internet for pornography and chat.

There is plenty to read on the internet and there is a website dedicated to the subject:

I'm not trying to kill my blog or blogging, but there are some statistics that show a trend towards a slow decline in blogs.   For me personally, in terms of travel, if you don't know what you're looking for on a blog you won't find it.   I think a webpage is better where you have country, state and local information.  Otherwise, like on my blog, you have to sift through a lot of chat related to non-travel, etc.   If and when we become frequent travelers I think we will switch to a webpage.

Monday, January 18, 2016

This Year Is Off With A Bang

I haven't blogged for awhile.  I've been reading quite a bit about the demise of blogs and that they are in decline.   What's to follow?  A Facebook page?  YouTube video page?  A vlog?  Not quite sure but things are changing.

We had visitors this last week.  Marina and David spent a couple of nights  and then headed out for Puerto Escondido.  We always have fun and great conversations when they are around.  We enjoy everyone who stops by for a visit. 

Marina prepared a wonderful pasta dish for dinner one night at home.   

Over the weekend we went to a party in Bustamante.   Bustamante is located on Hwy 1 which runs from the Colombia Bridge to Monterrey.   It took us about two hours to get there.  This is an annual affair that our friends Lorena and Felipe throw.   They own  hotel so we spend the night, enjoy the dinner and party and in the morning have breakfast and head home.

Here is a picture of just the guys with Lorena.  There are always party favors and games.

The scenery on the highway is incredible following mountains all of the way.  This is on the other side of the mountain range where Hwy 85 follows.   Not sure why more people don't take this highway from the Colombia Bridge.  It takes you to Hwy 40 heading to Saltillo before you get to Monterrey.   If anyone is interested, let me know and I can offer more information.  You pass many small and quaint towns along the route including state parks and the caves in Bustamante.

This week I start my trips in Texas and Mexico.  Thursday I head to McAllen and the great town of Ben Bolt, Tx, Friday to Laredo, Saturday to San Antonio for two days of rest and then back to Laredo Monday afternoon for two days in Laredo and then return the rental car to McAllen and home on Thurday.   Then on Friday the 29th I fly to Mexico City for the weekend starting my Mexico tour.  First group of 500 teachers wanting to know about Digital Citizenship.

Friday, January 8, 2016

More Canadians Heading This Way

I took the whole week off and got quite a few things done around the quinta.   One of the biggies was negotiating the purchase and install of a pool filter.   The old filter needed a change of sand as well as a new valve.  The valve sits on top and you use it as a dial to select the function of the filter.   Our "trusted" gardener who cleans the pool abused the valve.  It has a pin to hold the handle in place.  The pin began to slip out and he would bang it in with whatever he could find;  a rock, a stick, a hammer, etc.  ( I feel like breaking out in song with "If I had a hammer").  Anway, it was finally beaten to death.   The cost of the sand was over half the price of a new filter, a new valve and sand was more than the replacement so we settled on something in between.   A new filter, new sand, installation and no more beating the poor handle.  The pool is squeaky clean now.

I did quite a bit of painting.   We have a great place that does a perfect paint match.  Our wood kitchen cabinets had a few knicks and worn spots so we got a liter of paint.  I only needed 1/4 of an ounce but I got the job done.  They look brand spankin' new.  

Marina and David from Perth, Ontario will be here on Sunday.  I just got a FB from David saying they are in Texas and will cross the border on Sunday.   Can't wait.  They are good guest but hey, who hasn't stopped by that isn't a good guest.   Any rver is a friend of ours.   

Back to work on Monday.  Not so bad as I only work until noon everyday and I will be out of town a week or two for the next couple of months either here in Mexico or in Texas.  

Looks like 2016 will be a good year, but I haven't had a bad one since 1957.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

A Funny Thing Always Happens

Settled back at home.  I spent yesterday power washing the SUV and the trailer.  They were filthy from the rains on the way home.   Being a Sunday when we arrived we weren't sure we could get into the road.  Did I already mention this?  Well, worth mentioning again because it's good to have an rv.  We couldn't get down our road so we napped at a local supermarket with the electric blanket on.   Warning to Marina and David, this weekend will be cold at night.  We have all you need to keep warm but be prepared.  In other words, it's cold at least for us.

Today I did some chores around the house and updated my work calendar.   Got another convention speak for February with the British Embassy.   I will also be doing time in Texas and some may include taking the rv with because of the amount of days I will spend there.

So the funny thing that always happens.   When you meet rvers for the first time in Mexico, they don't necessarily know you.   I say this because an ex-rver is returning to Mexico but not as an rver.  It will be interesting to hear what they say.  Why do I say that?  Imagine traveling in Mexico and listening to people tell you their stories when you have spent a lifetime here or say 10 to 20 years traveling the country.   You want to say things like; yes, I know that,  I know the rules thanks for reminding me, no that's not really true it's a myth, who told you that?, that's not what they say in Spanish, and the list goes on.  I guess I see the person being a good listener and musing about their past travels here while someone tells them the glories or war stories they supposedly have experienced.   I've found over time that the older you get the more you seem to exaggerate.

I've said before, an rv park is so much more different than actually living day to day in another country.  It's not meant to be one uppish at all but really true.   Retired and hitting the mercado, or a restaurant doesn't mean that's life in Mexico especially when the rv parks are generally out of sight of the big cities where daily life, like in rural areas, really takes place.   How do you pay taxes? In Mexico it is truly a modern high tech system.   How do you pay bills?   Well, again, everything is online or you go to your local OXXO.  Forget banks, they are passe.   I can't wait to hear this person's experience.

As I made my rounds today I stopped by the local HEB.   It is Tuesday or Dia de Mercado in most parts of Mexico and that includes supermarkets.  All the fresh produce is out and on sale.   I kept running into a woman who seemed to be in a hurry.  We met up at the panaderia (all places that end in "ria" are pronounced reeh ah) and she came up with her bread after me and I said that she could go ahead because I was in no hurry.  She thanked me and told me how she was running around like a chicken with its head cut off.   I said that I was on vacation.  

She said, "oh, you'll love Monterrey, it's a beautiful city".   I only agreed with her and left with a big smile on my face.