Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Unexpected Twists

Well, as John Lennon has pointed out, life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.  I have been thinking about John Lennon more these days and listening to his music.  Perhaps this is because he was shot on my 30th birthday.  As I approach 60, it’s difficult to believe that was 30 years ago. 

Anyway, back to the unpredictability of life, we have decided to postpone our trip north because Pixie injured herself Sunday night.  We were walking back to the car after viewing the fireworks at the fiesta when she fell on the cobblestones and hit her face.  She knocked out her front tooth, bruised her lip, sprained her finger and banged up her knee.  Our wonderful dentist met us at his office at 1:00 AM and was able to reinsert the tooth.  He thinks it has a good chance of “taking” since the bone did not appear damaged.  But she will need a root canal in a few days to help prevent infection.  Mostly she needs healing time.  She can’t eat solid food and is still very uncomfortable.  So we have decided to postpone the trip until January or February.  The dentist, Alberto Garcia from Chapala, would not even take any payment for his two hours of emergency care.  “You are my friend,” he pointed out, “And I didn’t really do much.”  Not do much?  I beg to differ.  We will be sure to buy him a nice Christmas gift. 

The other big news is that our house sale is now assured, regardless of the peso rate, because we have decided to accept payment in pesos.  We can invest the money in banks here with a guarantee of 8%+ returns, then, when we choose to, change the money into dollars and transfer it to our bank in the US.  The danger of this is that there could always be a devaluation in the peso, but that seems unlikely for awhile.  So now we will definitely close on the house and move into the village on December 14.  I’ll post photos of the new digs after that.

Despite Pixie’s accident, we had the 60th birthday bash for me at Delicias Restaurant in Chapala last night.  We had over 50 friends gather for the occasion.  Unbeknownst to me, Pixie had asked our children, Eric, Wendy, and Cassie to each write a letter to me which could be read at the party.  She was going to read them, but could not, obviously.  My friend and MC for the evening, Fred Harland, read them.  They each wrote beautiful, eloquent letters that left many of us teary-eyed.  I was blown away.  How do I deserve such wonderful children?  The party was a great success with the staff of the restaurant preparing a wonderful Mexican buffet including hand-made tortillas, chicken mole, pork chile verde, chicken fajitas, frijoles, chile rajas, soy with brown sauce, red rice, and chile rellenos.  Four of the dishes were vegetarian; remarkable for a Mexican meal!  Some of my writer friends composed poems for me, including Don Edwards, Mark Sconce, Susan Wagner, and Mel Goldberg who wrote an Italian sonnet in honor of the occasion.  Here are some photos from the evening:

So, as Pixie convalesces and we putter at some remaining packing, we are concentrating on making the move and starting to think about when we can reschedule our trip.  By the way, we received full refunds from American Airlines, with no penalty for cancelling.  Amazing!  

If you are interested in seeing two short films of the castillo fireworks in Ajijic Sunday night, go to this link and click on the film photo: http://picasaweb.google.com/110328210164523410324/AjijicCastillosNovember2010?authkey=Gv1sRgCPXNhsLyzf6rbw#

Friday, November 26, 2010

Packing to Visit the kids...Packing to move...

Life has been a bit crazy for the last couple of weeks as we try to pack up the non-furniture contents of our home, preparing to vacate the property should the sale go through as planned on December 14.  Of course, we don’t know for sure that the sale will occur because, as I explained in the last post, the buyer is released from the contract should the peso weaken to above 12.5 pesos to the dollar by the closing date.  It seems to fluctuating between 12.3 and 12.49 at the moment, so anything could happen.  

In the meantime, we are boxing up our lives, and sorting our lives into two categories: items which we plan to store in the casita of our temporary rental and those items which we will need to use in our rental until we can move into a ‘permanent’ rental.  It’s not always easy to decide into which category a particular box should be placed.  The good news is that we’re making good progress.  Most of the ‘casita’ boxes are packed and in the bodega (like an outdoor shed) here.  Our house is looking more empty, although we are continuing to show the house and entertain ‘back up’ offers.

In addition to this uncertain business about packing and moving, we are also planning to leave for our pre-Christmas trip to Indiana and Maine next week to visit our children, their partners, and our granddaughter, Isabelle.   I am looking forward to this.  It will be great to see everyone and spend some special time before Christmas.  We are scheduled to arrive back in Guadalajara on the 13th of December, just hours before the closing.  Being a good Boy Scout, I am always prepared, and asked our friend Ron, from Kennebunk but here for the winter, to act as our power of attorney and be there at the closing in case winter weather keeps us from returning on time.  Just the bureaucracy of getting that power of attorney took us several hours in the real estate and attorney offices.  Thanks Ron!

In addition to all this, we are preparing to celebrate my 60th birthday in style Monday evening with a birthday party at a local Mexican Restaurant.  We had to limit the guest list to 50 for economic reasons, and there were some I wished to invite but could not.  We will have the party on Monday evening with a Mexican buffet (including four vegetarian dishes) and a Mexican harpist.  I will, of course, post some photos. 

We celebrated Thanksgiving in our usual way, with members of our Unitarian Universalist fellowship at the lovely home of Lew and Trudy Crippen.  We prepared a sweet-potato and fruit casserole that I found in the New York Times in a section devoted to vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes.  It didn’t thicken as it was supposed to, but Pixie added some corn starch to help it along.   It was good, and we enjoyed many non-turkey dishes!

We have had an extra dog around for the last couple of weeks.  Curly, Jeanne and Paul's dog, has been staying with us while they went to Virginia to visit Jeanne's daughter and her family.   Chuy has been enjoying having a canine friend around, and it give us an opportunity to teach him some dog manners as well.  Chuy will be staying with Jeanne and Paul when we go north next week. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

To Manzanillo for Pixie's Birthday

We took our annual trip to the beach for Pixie's birthday on November 10.  This year we tried a new place, Manzanillo, between Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco on the Pacific Coast.  Manzanillo is actually closer to us than Rincon de Guayabitos where we have gone the last two years.  Manzanillo is a working port and is not as picturesque as some other beach towns.  It is Mexico's largest port, I think, and we could see many container ships coming and going.  there is also an active Navy base there, so we could also see gray military ships as well.  

Here we all sat each morning under this palapa to chat and watch the ships. 
We stayed at a wonderful little hotel, La Posada, affectionately called the Pink Posada.  It's right on the beach and provides a good breakfast every morning.  With a discount for those of us who live in Mexico, the room rates are about $40Us per night.  We met a number of people who visit year after year, some have returned for over 20 years.  Here are some photos of the hotel with some of of the people we met there. We had a good view of the harbor and watched ship pass through.

Old Manzanillo in the background
Our friends, Ron and Jean, from Kennebunk, who just arrived for the winter season. 

Jessie and Bernie, a couple form Portland, Oregon

We spent a good deal of time playing Canasta with Ron and Jeanne.  They taught us to play this last summer when we were in Kennebunk.  We tried a different restaurant each night.  They were good, but a little pricier than we are used to here in Chapala.  They did make a big splash in an Italian restaurant for Pixie's birthday, with he entire staff marching out to the table and singing for Pixie.  
One day we went into the old city.  It wasn't really very attractive,but we did find an unusual place to visit, an iguanario, a preserve for over 400 iguanas, some up to several feet long, who live in the treetops, except when the staff feeds them lettuce and other vegetables.  A tame raccoon also lives in the preserve and is very attached to the staff.  One unfortunate incident occurred when I was standing under the trees taking some photos of the iguanas.  It appeared to start raining, but it wasn't rain.  To my chagrin, one of the iguanas was urinating on me!  The Mexican staff found this absolutely hilarious, as did Pixie and Ron and Jeanne.  

Well, we do have other big news.  While we were at the beach, we were on our cell phones every day with our real estate agent.  After having our house on the market for less than three weeks, we have a buyer.  We plan to close just after we return from Indiana and Maine in the middle of December.  There is one hitch, however. the buyer is a Mexican woman from Guadalajara who has her investments in pesos, so there is a clause in the contract which allows her to cancel the contract if the peso exchange rate is over 12.5 pesos to the dollar at closing. It's been trading recently at 12.2-12.3, but it could fluctuate.  If it weakens enough, the deal will be off.  We are being optimistic, and we've found a very Mexican house in the village of Ajijic. It's a house which is owned by a friend of ours, Bebe, from our fellowship.  She was having no luck finding renters this year, so it works well for both of us at $600US  a month.  So we're now packing up, since we will have to be out of the house in mid December.  We're keeping our fingers crossed that the peso remains relatively strong.  Finding this house will allow us to stay in the village for the winter, which will be fun.  Then, in March or April, we will have our pick of house rentals as the snowbirds head north.  We will be in walking distance from just about everything, although it clearly won't be as quiet there!    

I'll end with a photo of my student, Francisco, who is making spectacular progress in his English.  he is also a member of the choir at our fellowship.  This gives him even more practice with his English.  

Saturday, November 6, 2010

El Dia de los Muertos, Once Again

Well, it’s that time of year again, and instead of watching  the leaves change, we see colorful altars pop up around the village, in the graveyards, and in a huge display on Calle Cinco de Mayo in Chapala.  It’s El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, of course, Mexico’s colorful, celebratory, sometimes a bit irreverent, celebration of those souls who are no longer here but live on in the memory of those who remain behind.  As long as there  people who remember you, the tradition goes, you are still able to connect back to the living world, especially on this day. 

We enjoyed our annual Day of the Dead service at our UU fellowship.  We set up an altar of our own, and we all bring photos of friends and loved ones who have died and we remember them during the service.  Here is a photo of our altar this year.  In the right front, you can see a photo of our ex-sister-in-law, Janine, who died suddenly several weeks ago of a brain aneurysm. I've also included a photo  of our UU choir singing during the service.  Can you identify Pixie?

Although I was alive and well this week, I didn’t feel so alive as I was suffering from a common Mexican ailment: the infamous amoeba!  In developing countries like Mexico, where sanitation is not up to US standards, it is common for people to get infected with various parasites.  I didn’t go to the doctor because I felt as though I had some simple gastritis; my stomach hurt whenever I ate, but then it would feel better.  I had thought an amoeba would have symptoms comparable to “Montezuma’s revenge or something.  At any rate, I finally went to the doctor.  Luckily, Mexican doctors are very used to diagnosing this and he put me on a wonderful medicine to take care of the problem.   So now, I’ve parted with my little friends and am back in good health.  Over the last ten days, I lost 9 pounds though, because I had no appetite and couldn’t even tolerate much food.  I’ve gained back three in the last few days!

Our new next door neighbors, Wayne and Claudette, are having some work done on their house,  They’ve had a new pool built, and new den added on, and much redecorating inside.  They recently had Pixie and I over for an Asian vegetarian dinner.  Wayne is an accomplished Asian cook, so we were treated to a spectacular dinner.  Here are some photos:

Here is Wayne in his kitchen:

Here is Claudette standing in her new room, still under construction.  Since their house is identical in layout to our house, this room is where the left side of our terrace is.  Below are two more photos which show how their back yard is now very different from ours.  You can see both the pool and their new room: The photo on the left is taken from the back, towards the house; the photo on the right is from the house out toward the palm trees in the back .

Well, we had some excitement in Ajijic a week or so ago.  An American fugitive convicted of large-scale corporate fraud, Rebecca “Kitty” Parnell, was arrested by Mexican authorities and extradited to the US to serve a 25 year prison sentence.  She was a member of our Ajijic Writers’ Group and a popular lakeside resident.  Friends had absolutely no idea she was a wanted criminal who had been featured on America’s Most Wanted.  I have no idea about the details of her crime nor how she was identified and caught here.  There have been other American fugitives seeking escape here, who have also been caught.  I guess if you are running form the law, Mexico is a reasonable destination.  Here is her photo as it appeared in this week’s Guadalajara Reporter:

Finally, here is a photo of Chuy being very naughty.  He apparently grabbed the clothespin bag and proceeded to dump out all the clothespins.  I caught him red-handed!