Saturday, October 25, 2008

Odds and Ends




The weather is turning a bit chillier in the morning, the rains have ended, for the most part, and it won't be long before the hills start to turn brown and our snowbird friends return from the cold north. And, try as she might, Maggie has not been able to learn to fly. She runs outside into the garden with great earnestness and jumps into the air to try to catch one of the birds or butterflys. Hope springs eternal.

We finally decided to get our Jalisco drivers licenses. Pixie's Maine license had expired, and so she could not drive legally. I decided to get mine at the same time so they would expire at the same time. We had heard mixed reviews about the experience, but we decided to go for it. We got a copy of the questions in English from our next door neighbor, and Pixie practiced her parallel parking (she had not done it since getting her Maine drivers license.) We hired a facilitator to take us into the Guadalajara translate for us. His name is Fernando; he speaks English and promised us we would have no trouble getting our licenses. We left early in the morning to get there before it got crowded. He obviously knows everyone there and had done his homework. He brings all the necessary people little snacks and stops to chat with everyone. "These are my friends," he assured us, "So you will have no problem with your license."

We first took the written test. The Mexicans take it on the computer, but we needed an English version, so we needed to take a paper test. The questions were generally the same we'd seen, but not exactly. Some of the English translations made no sense. On my copy, someone had circled the answers, but I could see some of them were wrong, but some were confusing to me. We evidently passed, because they took our tests and returned several minutes later to have us take our absurdly easy eye test. The symbols were huge; anyone could pass it unless they were completely blind.

Now came the part we were dreading: the road test. There was a line for the test, but, thanks to Fernando, we were taken to a beautiful new Honda Accord almost immediately. (The others had to take their test in an old Nissan or a huge pickup truck.) Pixie went first, driving around the driveway, by herself, while the inspector more or less watched. When she went to parallel park, she bumped the sign in the back. Fernando told me not to worry because his friend was there. Then it was my turn. I also hit the sign, but we were both shuttled into another line which apparently meant we passed. SO here's a copy of my new license:


If you look closely at the expiration date, you'll notice it expires on June 27 of next year. "It's a new law," Fernando explained, just for foreigners. Your license expires the date your immigration expires. Since our FM3 expires every year, so does our license. It seems like a tit for tat for the way Mexicans are treated in the US. Oh well. But last week we noticed an article in the newspaper which indicated that a group of foreigners had hired an attorney to challenge the law. Come to find out, this policy was made up by the Guadalajara office, and the rest of Jalisco was not doing this. It was straightened out, so we will have to go back with Fernando, and they will issue a new license for the full four years. We'll hope for the best!

I had a successful book signing event at the Lake Chapala Society. One thing I have learned about publishing your own book here is that the people who buy your book are generally your friends. I had lots of friends and fellow members of the writer's group attend and buy books. Some even bought extra copies as gifts. As a result, I made my publication cost back, and now I am collecting money to donate to the English language program at Wilkes.
Here I am with some of my Writers' Group buddies: Next to me is Alex Grattan, the founder of the group and editor of the Ojo del Lago. Victoria Schmidt is next to him, a new arrival who worked in the film industry, as did Alex. In the front is Karen Blue, author of a popular book on living here, Midlife Mavericks (no reference to McCain or Palin), Jim Tipton, an excellent poet, writer, and good friend of Isabelle Allende, and Jim Rambo, my friend and fellow Phillies fan from Wilmington.
Here are Vicente and Donna. Vicente is the artist who did the cover illustration and Donna did the translation of the title poem. It was a fun event, and I felt lots of affection from my fellow writiers.

The lakeside area has been excited all week because of the arrival of the circus. The circus pulled into town last week, set up a big tent, and had been driving a truck with a trailer with tigers in the back selling tickets. The cheap seats are only 25 pesos, or $2.50 US, so families can afford to go. We went on Thursday night with our friends, the only gringos at that show. We saw death-defying acts, clowns, and lots of animal acts. For some reason, however, there was a problem with the tigers so they did not appear. It was a fun way to spend an evening.































We are awaiting the arrival of our friends from Maine, Curt and Judy, on Tuesday. They were down last year and are returning this year for the Day of the Dead festivities. Democrats Abroad has been very active with the election this fall, although most of us voted absentee weeks ago. The Mexican TV station even did a spot about the gringos voting here. The Mexicans are obviously very interested in the results of this election, and when we wear our Obama T-shirts, we get many positive comments from Mexicans. The Mexican peso has been dropping in value since the beginning of this economic meltdown, which is good for us expats but terrible for the Mexican economy.

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