Sunday, August 31, 2014

Up Early!

 I woke up before 5 a.m. and tried to go back to sleep but I started thinking about all the things I wanted to get done.  I had a few cups of coffee, read my Rv.Travel Newsletter and decided to get started.  I actually washed the trailer before breakfast so the pictures are reversed.   The trailer was filthy even though I had given it a good bath when we came home from our trip.   I've been cutting back on food the last three weeks along with exercise and have dropped a couple of pounds.  Today was a "free" day so Juan fixed a big breakfast.

Need the breakfast of champions to get the day started along with the Sunday paper!

 Washed and ready to be waxed.  Tomorrow I'll start on that.

I finished the door after a second sanding and another coat of paint.  The paint isn't a match but I had bought it for another project.  Most of it will be covered with the flat screen anyway.

An update on the oil spill.  I'm not a genie or a guru but I have learned a lot about the media here as well as the culture.  I knew something was behind all of this and it came out Friday night.   It wasn't an accidental oil spill.  Someone or a group attempted to tap the line thinking it was gasoline (we call it ordeñando or milking).  Turns out it was a crude oil shipping pipe.  They also think that this may have been going on for some time and the crude was being used in clandestine brick production somewhere.

This has been going on and the fuel is normally sold to small oil companies in Texas and Georgia.  Several of those companies have been caught and the owners sentenced to prison.   So now an investigation is going on to see if any of these ejidetarios are involved and have caused this disaster which by the way has been 90% cleaned up, the oil is off of the water. Pemex now claims to be a victim as the were robbed.  Here goes the merry-go-round.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Getting The Rv Ready

The passenger side door that was hit by the runaway driver.  Repair will cost $150 u.s.

Waiting for the rain :(  Notice our lawn furniture isn't there.  How does aluminum lawn furniture get broken?  Well it did and it has been a problem finding an aluminum welder.  But we did and we are waiting for one more chair to be returned and we can put in our new furniture cushions.
Another great weekend and it looks like the heat may be winding down.  This should be the end of the heat wave that has had it's grips on Texas and Northern Mexico.  It attempted to rain last night but it turned out to be all show.  Lots of light and sound but no rain.   Same thing again this morning and again in the afternoon.  I think it's too hot to rain.
I got my working papers for Texas.   I have an event on September 17th in Dallas.  I'll fly from McAllen to DFW and back.   We're taking the rv to the Rio Grande Valley on the 14th for at least a month depending on what other events come up in the meantime.   I would like to go back to Casa Del Valle but the early bird special pricing is only for one month at $210.  We've always had our eye on Victoria Palms which is an upper scale rv resort that has multiple pools, saunas, a gym, apartments, park models, you name it.  They have a valley health fair every year to attract newcomers to the park.  I sent off for rates and they came back with $210 for the first month.  The person I received the email from said maybe we could get another month at a similar price.  It is conveniently located to McAllen and Harlingen so that makes getting to work in the morning easy.
Today I started doing things to the rv.  One thing I needed to finish was the door on the entertainment center.  I sanded it and gave it one coat of paint.  Tomorrow another sanding with fine grit and then a final coat of paint.  The flat screen which wasn't working should be ready soon so I can attach it to the door.
On our trip we did a bit of caulking every week around the rv.  I still need to do the slideouts but the "special caulk" for rvs leaves a mess.   I had a small can of Goof Off under the kitchen sink here at the house.  Cleaned it up nicely.   Tomorrow if there is no rain, I will give the rv a good bath.  I want to paint the frame and the rear bumper.  Also, the front cap needs to deoxidized and give a couple good coats of wax.  We want to look good at the park when we get there!
I haven't been able to enjoy happy hour for over a week now.  I still have another week to go.  I am having some minor outpatient surgery and the doctor recommended I disconnect the vodka IV for a couple of weeks prior.  All will be well and it is really nothing especially of concern.  I'm having a club soda right now while Juan sips on a cool, cold, tingling, clear vodka on the rocks.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Endings Aren't Always Bad

Panteon (cemetery) San Jose

Juan stayed at the house in town last night and I got home around 9:30.  There was not much else to do and some of Daniel's brothers and sisters were going to stay the night at the funeral home.   I had some difficulty going to sleep but when I did I was out and slept hard as a rock.  When the alarm went off this morning I must have been dreaming because someone was telling me the alarm was going off.
I went to the gym for an hour came home and got cleaned up.   Off to the funeral home we left right on time for the cemetery.  Juan was had gone to the cemetery early in the morning to sign the papers and pay the grave fees and taxes.   We didn't have any transito to guide us but the funeral home did a wonderful job.  Mexicans, at least here in Monterrey, are pretty respectful of the funeral procession.  The funeral home gave us all directions and instructions on what to do and not to stop at any lights.  It was a long drive through town at 20 kph but we made it there.  Juan's older brother, his wife, another nephew and great-nephew road with me and we talked about everything under the sun.  Life and death. 
In Mexico they open the coffin at the cemetery for one last goodbye.  We hired musicians to play a few songs.  I had been a trooper through the whole thing until they played Amor Eterno, a song made famous by the now deceased Rocio Durcal.  Once they started playing that, I gave in and it all came out.  I was just saddened to see so many people who at the moment were in pain.  Yes, it's life but as I told one of Juan's great-nieces, "you can't know happiness unless you know sadness".
We waited while they closed the grave and said our goodbyes.   After, we headed to Nelly's house for lunch.   We had roasted and fried chicken with mashed potatoes, rice, and macaroni salad.  
From my personal experience, I related to others the importance of getting together and keeping in touch.  Today we saw so many distant relatives that we hadn't seen in years that it was a bit sad seeing we all live in the same metro area.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Sad Day Today

I had mentioned last week that one of Juan's nephews was terminal.   Daniel passed away yesterday afternoon.  Juan was at the hospital at the time.  Fortunately, his nephew's brothers, sisters, and parents were there.  A sad time for all but everyone had the opportunity to say their goodbyes.
Daniel was 42 and lived a bit of an obscure life.  He left home early and pretty much kept to himself.  He had a couple of children along the way and his 22 year old son stopped by the hospital for a visit the other day.
Always under the radar, Daniel didn't have a formal job which didn't provide medical benefits or funeral services.  I know I talk about that a lot and all I can say is, "only if ".  All water under the bridge now and time for us to be with family.  I'm glad we came home early from our trip.  Daniel was at his mother's house in the heat suffering and in pain.  With some push and pull, we got him into a hospital where he was able to spend his last days in comfort in an air conditioned room with the care everyone deserves.
Sure to be a big event, everyone in Juan's family lives here in the metro area of Monterrey and at last count there were 120 direct relatives (brothers, sisters, inlaws, nieces, nephews, and all the greats)from his parents.   It will be a long day and one that we all have to do as part of being human beings, honoring our dead.
I remember the last years of my parents lives.  Every morning my dad would walk out to get the newspaper, sit down and go through the obituaries and then plan their day based on that.  They lived to be in their mid-eighties and attended a lot of funerals. 
As a side note, someone backed into the SUV at the hospital yesterday afternoon.  A woman took a picture as it happened, got the plates and then showed Juan the person from the truck who was in the hospital waiting room.  The guy said, "yes, he gave me a ride but I don't know who he is".  Right.  We'll let the insurance company figure it out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Oil Spill Update

The news stations have been battling to see who can report first and get the latest scoop onto the presses.  The cleanup of all the oil on the water should be complete by next week and then continued work for another eight weeks to clean up the banks and repair any other damage. 
The ejidatarios (people who live in ejidos), are now being pushed by their local priest to file a lawsuit against Pemex.   Do they deserve it?  Sure they do but they are looking at it as a payday.  These people who have ranch land and belong to one of the eight ejidos have never paid taxes on land or income.   Their animals have also been defecating in the river for years and the waste from their ranches flows into the rivers affecting fish and water quality.   It's kind of a no man's land when it comes to rules. 
I say this only because they would be so much better off if they were part of the system.   They would have medical insurance, benefits from their labors such as loans to improve their farms, purchase livestock and equipment.  I'm sure many of them work their butts off to make a living off the land.   At the same time, education levels are low because they don't send their kids to school and because of their status,  just live day to day.
The media continues with their opinionated views begging on the conditions that the ejidatarios are now living in although 40 tons of food, clothing and bottled water have been collected by the community of Monterrey not to mention the federal funds, potable water trucks, 8 per day, pour into the ejidos. 
In less than a week it has become a zoo.  In on the circus are consultants, private contractors, new media, NGOs, politicians running for elections,  etc.  They all have their hands in the pot.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Things Are Shaping Up

My birthday dinner out on Friday night in Santiago
A nice walk around the plaza after dinner.
One thing I need to do is get back into the blog.  I've been so lazy since getting back home and it's not like I'm posting the most exciting things.  The weather here is at its peak.  The temps rarely drop below 38C, baking hot.   In Spanish we call this the canicula, or the hottest part of summer and some believe it lasts about 40 days.  So we have about two more weeks, let's see if this holds true.
We are also suffering from an oil spill.  Many of you coming from Reynosa to Saltillo have passed the Pemex refinery located northeast of Monterrey just coming off the autopista.  A river runs nearby.  It a small spill compared to world oil spills but has affected about 400 families who depend on the river for irrigation of crops and watering livestock.  Their water supplies have been cut off and wells shut down. 
The cleanup is taking place but the local news media has turned it into a zoo.  All systems are in place.  The oil was contained to a small part of the river, the families are receiving help from Pemex and the community.  We have collected foodstuffs, drinking water, and legal help is now available for the families.  Funny how we are.  Now the problem is so bad the world is going to collapse, Pemex has done nothing, reporters are have now turned to their personal opinions.  I believe the situation is being handled properly but it is the "big news" to distract us from what is really going on around town.
It's taken a few weeks but we have the house and yard in good shape.  It's hard to depend on someone to do things if you're not here to tell them what to do.   The pool didn't get the attention it needed.  Even though we had told the gardener we would deposit his salary and any additional money he needed for supplies he never told us when we called.  We had stocked the shed with chemicals, tools, etc.  but it didn't work to well.   Our water here is very heavy with deposits as it come from the well.  Coming home, I had to add 50 liters of acid.  The walls of the pool were rough, algae had been embedded in the deposits making it impossible to clean.  That's all fixed now and the pool is back to where it should be.  Next year we may just drain it and deal with any cracks that may occur.
Did I say next year?  You bet.  We will probably spend the summer in San Miguel de Allende.  Gosh, I feel like an old fart rver.  "There's too much to see right here in the "good ole U.S. of Mexico".  Not far off I guess and we want to start working on our rv trip to South America.  Not sure how we're going to approach that yet.  It might be cheaper to rent an rv in Chile and just tour one country at a time.  Chile has a lot to offer and has excellent infrastructure.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Explanation of Previous Post

Bob posted a comment on my last post and was wondering if I could give more information about what I had written.  I don't think I have ever spoken badly of someone, at least not openly and definitely not on this blog.  The comments I made in the previous post were about some rvers or ex-pats who live in Mexico.  Keep in mind, I am saying "some" not all and it is a generalization.

One of the first things that happens is that travelers to Mexico for the most part, have a tendency to stay out of major metropolitan areas.  Sometimes for good reasons.  In the case of rvers it is usually because rvs are not allowed on major avenues, or to cross some overpasses and it can get tricky and they prefer to avoid transit police.  For ex-pats, major metro areas are things they either wanted to escape or because they are more expensive.

Another is the northern border territories.  This seems to be because of the "so-called dangers" that persist in the border region.  The border is an imaginary line.  If you live in a place like the RGV, watching local evening new on KRGV you'll find it is the same on either side.  It presents a false sense of security just as do the autopistas or toll roads.  In reality, the northern states have proven to be safer than the southwestern states by a long shot.  Here is an example:

In the above graphic you can see that the states most rvers frequent are the most dangerous; Baja California (both North and South) Chihuahua, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero, Durango, Sinaloa, Morelos, and Edomex (State of Mexico).  Of course, Tamaulipas is in the top three.  That leaves the Colombia Bridge crossing coming down Hwy 1 through Nuevo Leon.  Nuevo Laredo, down Hwy 85, and I'll explain in a minute.

(Categories are as follows:
  • Homicidio - Homicides
  • Secuestro -  Kidnapping
  • Extorsion -  Extortion
  • Robo a Casa - Home burglary
  • Robo a Negocio - Business burglary
  • Lesiones - Physical assault
  • Violacion - Rape

Looking at the cities in the state of Tamaulipas, the danger zones are the far east coast. That is why I included  Nuevo Laredo which is in all green.  My point is that the news media has created this hype by painting the picture with a wide brush.  How many rvers travel through Jalisco, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Morelos, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Baja?  A lot.  Because it is their perception that those areas are safe.  In reality, for rvers and ex-pats it's pretty much true.  For some Mexicans and organized crime members, not true at all.

This is a graphic of Nuevo Leon where everyone is afraid to pass through the state including the city of Monterrey:

Believe it or not, according the graphic, my little town is riddled with break-ins.  In Monterrey, the issue is bank robberies.  We have had a few in the last couple of months which is an increase over previous months increasing the percentage by quite a bit thus the red light.  Think of a change from 2 to 10,  that is a 500% increase.  Little do people know, the majority of the robberies were customers in the bank with large sums of cash in hand meaning that someone knew they had the cash such as an employee of the company.  Cashiers in Mexican banks only have access to 2000 -3000 pesos in their till at any given time depending on the institution.

Making this long story shorter, some people have rved full time or have lived as ex-pats in Mexico.  Most of their experiences, because of their limited knowledge of the country as they  only live or travel in small communities or rural areas, have led to misinformation about the country.  Here are some examples of past and present:

  • There are no ATMs in Baja California
  • Electricity is free to poor people (in actuality it is stolen)
  • The border crossings are very dangerous
  • You can't find food stuffs such as peanut butter, cheddar cheese
  • Gas station attendants will rip you off with the 500/50 switch (people claim it happens, imagine how many times I have filled up throughout Mexico in 30 years and have seen or heard of it from anyone other than rvers)
  • Everyone is poor and that's why they go to the U.S.
  • People actual earn minimum wage of 58 pesos a day (it is actually a measure,  my pay is 10 minimum wages per hour as shown on my Mexican income statement, a seat belt violation from transito is charged as 4 minimum wages)
  • Things can only be fixed with bribes and corruption is rampant (could be but I hear Mexicans say the government is corrupt.  Okay, those people are our children, parents, relatives, neighbors, well, you get the idea)
  • Electricity is bad in Mexico (in actuality it is within the norms established by the CFE, the US published standard for electric is 120 volts, for Canada the standard is 120 volts but for Mexico the standard is 127 volts. With a variable of + or - 4 or 5 volts on every case and it turns out that Mexico is usually within it's published standards)
  • Public schools are not free (they are and I challenge anyone to the contrary)
What most people don't know and I have published this before is that there are a lot of programs for Mexicans.  One of them is that milk is free to Mexicans under the age of 16 or 18 if pregnant or lactating.  The problem is that people have to solicit the service from the government agency Linconsa and have a minimum of 100 members.  For those who have been to Hacienda Contreras, the milk cans we see on the roads are delivered to Sahuayo to the milk production plant on the corner as you come down the hill from the rv park as you enter town. 
There are a ton of services including money paid to all Mexicans over 65 "who apply" and receive between $1000 and $1500 pesos a month in addition to their pensions.  This money comes on a debit card and is used for groceries.  Doesn't sound like much but how many retired Americans receive that type of assistance plus free healthcare if they worked in the formal market? As many of you know, food in Mexico is very affordable and 1000 pesos buys a lot.

As you can see, most people base their knowledge on personal versus factual information.  So many times over the years I've heard people say, " I heard someone say that they knew someone who . . . .  '