Sunday, June 26, 2011

Heading to Maine

As I write this, we are getting ready to fly to New England on Tuesday for our trip to Maine.  We will be staying in Kennebunk again in the condo owned by our friend Beth Ayotte.  We are very familiar with the place now, and it is conveniently located near the beaches, and not far from Lewiston and Portland where Wendy and Cassie live.  Eric, Crystal, and Isabelle will be coming to Maine to visit, and we will also be able to visit Pixie’s brothers and sister.  We will travel to Gloucester, Mass. while we are there to visit my brothers as well.  At the end of the visit, we will fly down to Philadelphia to visit my dad who is celebrating his 91st birthday today!  We will be back in Mexico on August 2. 

Again, we used to locate a house sitter to stay in our house and watch Chuy while we are gone.  His name is Peter Podesta.  He is originally from New Jersey but lately has lived in northern Florida.  He has been to Mexico many times, last summer spending a month in Guadalajara studying for certification to teach English as a second language.  He is considering locating here for part of the year at some point.  His wife is still working, so he is here now by himself.  He and Chuy seem to get along well.  He brought Chuy a perfect gift: a new ball!  His old one was wearing out, and this one blinks many colored lights when it is bounced.  Chuy is in heaven!  Here are Peter and Chuy on our walk this morning.

Other than getting ready for the trip, we have been enjoying the cooler weather.  We have had some good times with Matty and Fiona from Australia who, you may remember, are house sitting for our friends and neighbors, Fred and Mardele.    Fiona is a vegetarian, so we’ve gone to the organic market together and we got together to cook and share a vegetarian meal together.  We made a pumpkin ginger soup and Matty made some wonderful California sushi rolls (pictured below), and Fiona made a roasted vegetable salad and ginger-mint-chia seed tea.  Here are photos of Matty’s Clifornia rolls and Matty, Pixie and Fiona at the table. 

The organic market is catching on here and growing each week.  We often buy veggies, homemade whole grain bread, chocolate and honey there.  Here are some photos. 

Pixie has been sewing an outfit for our granddaughter, Isabelle.  She was having a few problems with the project, so our friend Bebe came over to help.  Here they are:

We also enjoyed a dinner with our friend Marni and my student, Francisco.  They did not know each other but found much to talk about.  Here are some photos of the evening:

So, I won’t be posting as much over the next several weeks, but I will post some family photos while we are in Maine.  We’ll look forward to being back here in August.  Then, on August 24, we will be making our first trip to Mexico City with some of our friends.  I will definitely have some interesting photos to post from that trip!  In the meantime we’ll be enjoying some family time, some lobsters, and some good dark beer!  

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thirty Seven Years and Finally Raining!

Well, the title is kind of a joke.  The thirty-seven years refers to our anniversary on June 9, and, coincidentally, the rains have arrived.  This photo was taken on our anniversary.  We went to our favorite Argentine restaurant with Fred and Mardele (left), who celebrated their 47th anniversary last week, and Jeanne and Paul (right), who came to help us all celebrate.  

And, of course, the rain.  The rainy season began in earnest last week with a large storm during the evening hours.  It was so windy and so much water, that we found several leaks around the doorways in our new house.  Fortunately, as renters, we had only to report it and Mingo, the handyman, came and sealed the doors.  It's kind of a joke around here; after the first rain of the season, everyone can tell who has to have their roofs resealed or leaks fixed.  Since we had not had any rain since last October, no one knows how water tight they actually are!  The best part of the rainy season, in addition to having everything turn green and eliminating the dust, is that the temperatures are comfortably cool again, or fresco, as they say here.  And it really does rain almost exclusively at night.  The days are sunny and pleasant.  

I gave the presentation at our UU fellowship yesterday on the topic of "A Simple Life."  Of course, being retired makes it easier to keep one's life simple.  But it also takes some intentional decision-making.  It's easy, even here, to get very busy doing things, some of which you might not really enjoy. Most of us have simplified our material possessions when we decided to move down here, and that itself is liberating.  We had to do it again this year because our new house was so well furnished that we literally didn't have much room for much of the "stuff" we accumulated when we owned our house in Riberas.  I have been interested in this topic for many years; I think it goes along with my interest in Buddhist thought and living mindfully.  

Our friend, Kelley, took a great photo of Pixie a couple of weeks ago, so I thought I'd share it so you can all see how beautiful she is these days: 

We had the opportunity to meet an interesting couple last week.  Fred and Mardele have gone north to visit their children and grandchildren, and they have used the same organization we do ( to find a couple to house sit while they are gone and care for their dog, Rudy.  Matty and Fiona are from Australia and are spending about a year and a half traveling throughout North and South America.  They will be staying on the Mexican coast starting in July, in a village called Zijuatinejo, where Fiona has found a teaching job.  Matty is a marine surveyor, and may travel to do some jobs while they are there.  They will be using this as a home base to visit other parts of the hemisphere.  She is a vegetarian and we hope to get some ideas from her while she is here.  

In the newspaper this week, there was an article about the Mexican national medical program, IMSS.  Expats living here can sign up for IMSS for about $300/ year.  It supposedly covers all medical care, including drugs.  As I have mentioned before, Pixie and I have opted to not participate in the program, which has some funding issues, long waiting times for medical procedures, and, we think, some quality issues.  But many expats here rely on IMSS to cover their medical needs. A couple of dozen expats have recently encountered problems receiving medical care at the Chapala IMSS office. Several have actually been dropped from the program after paying into the system for several years.  They are in the process of filing formal complaints, suggesting that the Chapala office is applying different standards than the national system.  My sense is that they are encountering many older people with pre-existing conditions who are straining the system.  It would not surprise me if the Mexican government, at some point, decided that it could not afford to provide such cheap, comprehensive coverage, to temporary immigrants.  We'll have to see how it plays out.  

We have a couple of weeks before our annual sojourn north to Maine.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Chuy and I see these fellas every morning on our walk up and down the hills of Villa Nova.  They usually "BAAA" at us as we go by.  I stop sometimes and talk to them, but Chuy is afraid of these strange creatures and does not want to stop and fraternize with them.  So we usually proceed up the hill despite their plaintive cries. 

To be honest, things are slow around here lately.  The weather is still hot, people are going north to visit family, schedule medical visits, and pick up things which are hard to find here.  Many activities are slowing down.  Our Great Books discussion group had recessed for the summer.  We are going to pick up the new book we need for next fall at our daughter Wendy's house.  We had it shipped there; it's cheaper.  Pixie's classes at the orphanage are ending for the summer today.  I am still tutoring Francisco, although his classes at the library have ended for the summer.  We are making our final plans to head north to Maine, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia in July to visit our families.  So the days here are good for relaxing with friends, reading, and generally doing as we like.    

We did get together last week with our friends, from left, Kenya, Norman, Sharon, and George, to play Trivial Pursuit and enjoy a pot luck dinner at our house.  Kenya had brought an brand new version of the game down from the United States this spring, so we were anxious to try it.  Well, it was not as much fun as we had imagined!  Because the questions were so up-to-date, and we were not, many of the questions just baffled us.  We were thinking our children and grandchildren might have  better luck, especially with the television and music questions.  Next time we'll go back to the old game, most likely!  

I thought it might be interesting to update you on some prices here.  The local newspaper includes price comparisons to see how prices are inflating.  I'll give the prices in pesos.  The peso is relatively strong now, about 11.6 pesos to the dollar.  So to convert to dollars, divide the pesos by 10 and then subtract a bit.  For example, if something is 100 pesos, it's about $8.60.  If something is 18 pesos, it is about $1.55.  You can actually divide by 11.6 if you want accuracy.

  Here are some sample prices:

Large Dominos pizza, one topping: 100
Pack of Marlboros: 37
Car wash: 50
Movie, matinee: 20
Popcorn at movie: 18
Men's haircut: 50
Phone bill with internet WIFI: 399
Can of tuna: 11
Whole chicken: 31/kg  (Kg is 2.2 lbs)
Avocados: 56/kg
Limes: 10/kg
Oranges 9/kg
Netbook computer (Acer) with Windows 7: 4500
Flat screen TV (32") 6500

You can see that electronic items are more expensive here.  And, of course, imported foods are higher too.  If you want US Cheerios, you'll pay 110 pesos, but for the same "Mexican" cheerios, exactly the same as far as I can tell, 35 pesos. The other day I needed Kalamati olives for a dish I was preparing, and I had to pay 147 pesos for a kilo.  (It was worth it.)

We had what appears to have been a drug-related execution this week in Chapala.  A 29 year-old Mexican man was gunned down near the mayor's house as he drove away.  Several gunmen  blocked his path with two late model vehicles, jumped out of the car, and riddled his vehicle with bullets from automatic weapons.  The mayor has full-time bodyguards.  This type of killing, like the few others we've had here, are highly targeted, professional killings.  Again, no bystanders were injured.  We continue to feel safe here, just as we did in Maine when there was a brutal murder committed in Lewiston, Maine.  

I did note something else very sad in the paper.  A 63 year-old US citizen apparently killed himself in his home last week.  He tied a rope to his spiral staircase and hung himself.  His housemate discovered him when he returned home.  I guess people are depressed everywhere, even in this subtropical paradise. 

There is a big controversy here, as the government wants to build a second aqueduct to bring water from Lake Chapala to Guadalajara for drinking water.  There is already one aqueduct, and residents here are worried that another large pipeline to bring water to Guadalajara will lower the level of the lake.  (Several years ago the level of the lake was very low, and it affected the local tourist and fishing economy).  There have been many demonstrations against the aqueduct including a huge one last week in Guadalajara. 

In another demonstration, the Huichol Indians, whose homeland is in Northern Jalisco, but who have spiritual grounds in San Luis Potosi, are protesting the Mexican government's decision allowing a Canadian mining company to mine land they consider sacred.  The Huichol's are allowed to use peyote for their rituals, and much of the peyote they harvest is in San Luis Potosi. The remarkable thing about the protest is that Huichols generally do not get involved in political demonstrations.  They keep to themselves and live according to their ancient customs.  Here is  photo of a Huichol family in their native dress.  (Photo Credit 

There is also an article about the world-famous LPGA star and Guadalajara native, Lorena Ochoa, recently retired from the pro golf scene, and now pregnant with her first child, helping to promote the Pan American games which will be hosted in Guadalajara in October.  This will be a huge event, similar to hosting the Olympic Games, but for the Western Hemisphere only.  

So, we are waiting for our house sitter, Peter, to arrive from Florida later this month to take care for Chuy while we head north.  In the meantime, we're just waiting for the rain, which should arrive in the next couple of weeks and cool things off.