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 . . . .  '

Friday, August 15, 2014

Something I Can't Understand

Someday, a family member who may not even remember me will say, my Uncle Chris was there.
I'm slowly getting back into the blogging mode.  I have been a busy bee this week with my teacher training course.  It takes a lot of energy to work with teachers four to six hours a day non-stop.  I am not the type to sit down, I stand and walk around during the entire course. 
Something came up on Bill and Dot Bell's Facebook page this week.  It involved a couple who wanted to move their belongings to Mexico.  My personal opinion is that if you are changing countries, bring your personal memories and what can fit in your car.  The rest, like fulltiming, requires eliminating "your stuff".  Back to the FB story, some people posted things along the lines of, "boy are you going to get screwed, you're going to pay bribes" and on and on.
I said the following and I stick by it:
"I'm not sure why there is so much negativity from people who live in Mexico. The country isn't all about corruption and bribes. You "can" follow the rules if you so choose to do so. It puzzles me that so many people live in a country they have such little faith in."
The bottom line for me is that a lot of ex-pats who live in Mexico live here because they don't have a lot of income and Mexico is still cheap.  That is one reason their knowledge of the country is limited.  To live cheaply, you have to live in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  That's a fact.  I have met people in San Miguel de Allende who live on $700 or less a month.  Not an easy thing to do when you have NOB taste.   But they do.  They don't live in the "zona historica" and they don't own a car.    Rving isn't cheap because of toll roads and fuel prices although I have to say that Tioga and George did a pretty good job of it considering he started with nothing.  His life has changed and although I didn't agree with much of what he posted about Mexico (hence what I said earlier about limited knowledge) he lived a Mexican boondocker's life. 
In the end, I guess it takes all kinds, doesn't it?  People who come here for different reasons.  Some to enjoy the warm weather, food and drink, beaches, cheap, or they love the country, the people and the language.  Most rvers I know attempt to do things in Spanish and I could make a list but I won't because I always end up leaving someone out :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back To Work - Well, Not Really

This is one of my favorite photos.  I think I have a hundred!

Okay, so where am I now.   We are in the middle of a family illness.  One of our nephews is very sick and death is imminent.  A sad story but one that will have an end.  Someday I will recount it.  Everyday is a roller coaster ride.  There is no turning back at this point even if miracles do exist.
I'm back to work so to speak.  I am teaching a certification course for this week.  My Texas seminars are starting to appear on the schedule so that is extra work and credits that go towards my social security in the U.S.
Speaking of social security, I will be giving up my private medical this next month and becoming part of the social system.  The price continues to increase and as age creeps up on me it will skyrocket.   I am also eligible for ACA in the U.S. based on my U.S./Mexico income so that will also be an option until Medicare kicks in.
I will also be receiving a pension from Mexico.  Although I have worked independently over the years, there were periods where I was an employee and paid into the system.  I am short quite a bit but the beauty of the Mexican system allows you to pay up in the last five years prior to retirement, building your account and also supporting the system at the same time.  To reactivate my account, I need to be an employee in a company for at least one year.  The school where I work/volunteer has offered to take me on as an employee and I will continue to work independently.  No time commitments either.  I work the hours I want and they pay me my consulting fee.  I will receive the medical insurance, Christmas bonus, profit sharing (private school) and Infonivit points (government housing loan, if not used, at retirement they pay out the account) plus more.   This is a real boost for me.  After one year, I will resign and then be able to sign up for insurance independently.
The money I earn in Texas will be paid into my SS account in Mexico and increase my final benefit.  I also have the Afores or Mexican 401K I pay into.  This is really working out but no check from either side until I am 62.  Well, that's life. 
The weather continues to hit 38C daily.  We hunker down in the bedroom in the late afternoon with the air on.  Nice.  The pool is getting back in shape and the deck will be patched and painted this weekend. 
That's about it for now.