Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pan American Baseball

The big excitement here is still the opening of the Pan American Games in Guadalajara last week.  As I mentioned in the last post, the games are very popular, particularly in Latin America.  The US and Canada are attending and doing well in the medal count, but the games are not popular in the US, unlike the Olympic Games.  Nevertheless, it is a huge job to accommodate the games, and it appears as though Guadalajara has been doing a wonderful job and getting some excellent press for Mexico, for a change.  

Our friend Lew Crippen wanted to drive up to attend some of the baseball competition and asked Pixie and I if we'd like to go along.  The baseball stadium, build especially for the games, is in Lagos de Moreno, a couple of hours northeast of Guadalajara.  We drove up last Friday and had great seats for the game between Cuba and Puerto Rico.  There was a large contingent of Cubans at the game who were very excited to be there (Cuba was the gold medal winner at the last Pan Am gmes in 2007).  Below are a goup of Cubans we met outside the stadium before the game. 
We were anxious to see the Cuban team, who were undefeated in the tournament.  Puerto Rico had lost both games they had played, so we expected a Cuban rout.  Surprisingly, Cuba struggled with a persistent Puerto Rico team.  There were some sloppy plays on both sides, a lot of base runners, and the game was tied 5-5 after 9 innings.  Interestingly, when the Puerto Rican team came to bat in the top of the 10th, there were men on first and second base!  I was confused until we figured that it was an international rule designed to get a quicker decision than a traditional extra-inning game.    Puerto Rico, not surprisingly, scored two runs in the tenth.  Cuba came up to bat, similarly, with two free base runners, and loaded the bases.  There were to outs and two strikes on the batter; they were within one strike of being upset by the upstart Puerto Ricans!  But they hung in there with a few hits and scored three runs, the final play on a disputed missed catch by the Puerto Rican outfielder, but the game was over, and Cuba had won 8-7.  Here are some photos of the game.  In the last one, notice Pixie with Trudy and Lew enjoying the game with the enthusiastic Cuban crowd.  

 There wasn't much food available at the stadium, just sandwiches, chips and beer.  We had been able to pick up tickets for bleacher seats at the next game, which featured Mexico against the Dominican Republic.  We had to clear the stadium after the first game, so we went down the road to have a meal at a local restaurant.  We made it back to the stadium for the third inning of the Mexican game.  Of course, this game was standing room-only.  We managed to find a few spare seats but we couldn't sit together.  We could see the game from a ways away, so I didn't get any good photos, but we did have a great time sitting in the cheap seats with a bunch of enthusiastic Mexicans.  They were drinking beer and yucking it up with each other and with the umpires.  I learned a few spicy Spanish expressions!  The Mexicans were clearly curious about us.  When they asked where we lived, they were surprised to learn we lived in Mexico.  So we enjoyed the game from that vantage point.  Mexico won the hard-fought game 3-2, setting up the final qualifying game with the US last night.  

Since the US had clobbered everyone thus far, I was expecting the US to win the game.  We had gone home Friday night, but Lew brought another group up to last night's US-Mexico game.  I was surprised this morning to discover that Mexico beat the US team 3-2.  So tomorrow, the US will play Cuba and Mexico will play Canada, with the winners playing for the gold medal on Tuesday.  It would be great for Mexico to win the gold on their home turf.  We'll see.  At any rate, it has been fun to see some baseball down here!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Let the Games Begin!

The torch is passed in Chapala on Wednesday on its way to the opening of the Pan American games in Guadalajara tonight. (Photo:Consuejo Municipal del Deporte).  The entire area is gripped by excitement and horrendous traffic which will last for the next two weeks as the games continue.  The only event to be held here, as far as I can tell, is Water Skiing. 

Note: For those readers from the United States, you can watch coverage of the games from Guadalajara on ESPN2.  Canadian viewers can watch the coverage on CBC.  

We've been enjoying getting back in the swing of things here as most of our activities have started up again after a summer hiatus.  We have been having crazy weather for several days this week as two hurricanes have been organizing off the Pacific coast near Puerto Vallarta.  We've been drenched with rain all day for three days.  We were used to this unpleasant weather periodically in Maine, but not here!  Today seems better; it's good to see the sun. 

We've stayed in touch with our Australian friends, Mattie and Fiona.  Mattie is a marine engineer who has to leave periodically to work.  He just returned from a 12 week job back in Australia.  Fiona has found a new house sitting job in Chapala and is teaching English in a local school.  She will be here for the rest of the year but Matty will head overseas again this week.

We've been having a problem recently with smaller dogs getting attacked by larger dogs while walking on a leash.  Chuy has been attacked two times by larger dogs.  Both times I have been able to grab him away form the other dogs, but I have started just walking him around our immediate neighborhood before I go on a longer walk up the hills for my exercise.  I also now carry a small can of pepper spray to dissuade any dogs.  By the way, the attacking dogs are generally owned by gringos who do not keep them restrained, not Mexicans.  Below is a photo I took in front of our house and shows Chuy socializing with three other small dogs. 

Speaking of dogs, we celebrated our pets a couple of Sundays  ago with a service called "The Blessings of the Animals."  It's not that the animals needed blessings of any sort; it was rather to honor the blessings they give us with their presence in our homes.  It was a little chaotic; we met outside on the patio for rather obvious reasons.

This Sunday, I will be leading the service with my friend Bob McKeown.  I will be reading and leading discussions of poems about aging.  I am looking forward to it.  

Pixie and I enjoy going to a local restaurant on the lake which features music almost every night.  The restaurant is La Tasca, and the night we were there, the owner, Roberto Cerda, a virtuoso guitarist was featured.  Here's a photo. 

I am preparing my new book of poetry for publication.  It will have 57 poems and is entitled Migration after the title poem which is about our experience visiting the Monarch butterfly migration preserve in Michoacan in March 2010.  I will include more information about the book when I release it in November.  We writers here are fortunate to have a Guadalajara printer, who specializes in small run, high-quality printing jobs, like our books.  He lives in Chapala, so we can do our business with him without having to drive into Guadalajara.  His name is Carsten Groppe, and he is pictured below in his Chapala home. 

We continue to experiment with our vegan diet, and we are making more and more delicious meals.  Today we are heading to the market to pick up ingredients for a carrot-butternut squash-ginger soup.  Yum.  Below is photo of the whole grain bread table at the wonderful organic market we attend every Tuesday. We usually pick up greens, tomatoes, bread, grain-based veggie burgers, honey, chocolate, granola and other treats.  
Finally, a recently-published article is receiving some buzz down here because of its comments of the desirability of Ajijic as a retirement destination. I am including it below for your perusal.  I think the comments about Ajijic are exaggerated, especially the estimate of how much it costs to live here, but it's an interesting piece.  incidentally, three women, including a friend of ours from Maine, Michele Bernier,  who live here will be featured on Conan Obrien's show next week.  They won some kind of contest and won a stay at a B&B in Burbank, California.  

Places to Live the American Dream Abroad

September 19, 2011 RSS Feed Print
Del Webb understood. When he conceived Sun City in Arizona, he realized that an important part of the appeal behind this retirement option would be the promise of community. Retiring to Sun City meant retiring among like-minded folks and never having to look too far to find company for dinner or someone to share a round of golf with you.
About 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire every day for the next 19 years. Nearly 12 percent of these (about 26 million would-be retirees) are considering retiring overseas.
[See 10 Places to Retire on Social Security Alone.]
If you’re among that group, one thing to recognize is that there’s no such thing as Sun City in most of the rest of the world. The formalized U.S. retirement communities that many of our parents opted for at this point in their lives don’t exist in the countries that today offer the greatest retirement advantages and benefits.
That is not to say, however, that it’s not possible to retire overseas among like-minded folks.
A friend who relocated his family from the United States to the south of France about the same time that we moved from the States to Ireland (some 13 years ago) once remarked, “You know, I think we’re doing this the hard way. Here in France, we’re scrambling to learn French so we can figure out what’s going on, because we’re always confused. We’re trying to make friends and to find a place for ourselves in a French country community where families have known each other for generations. We don’t understand French cultural nuances yet, so we’re committing one faux pas after another. And we don’t have any other Americans around to commiserate with, no one to show us the ropes. We’ve really jumped into the deep end of this living overseas thing.
[See Ireland: A Low-Cost Place to Retire.]
“And you have, too, in Ireland. You aren’t struggling with a new language [in fact, my husband and I would have argued that we were!], but you’re on your own in a foreign community. You’re living and working and sending your children to school among the Irish. You’ve plopped yourself down and are trying to fit in among the local community.
“It’d be a very different experience, I think,” my friend continued, “to move as an expat into an ‘expat community,’ a place like Lake Chapala, Mexico, for example, where you’d be surrounded by other people just like you, other people who’ve already done what you’re doing and who could offer a word of advice when you needed one.”
Which is better? Assimilating into the local culture or becoming part of the American Dream abroad? It’s entirely up to you. There’s no right or wrong way to retire overseas. Understand, though, as you begin your retire-overseas thinking that choosing to “go local” or not is one of the most important and fundamental decisions you must make. For many, understandably, the promise of familiar company is comforting.
If you’re interested in the idea of retiring overseas but also like the idea of retiring to very familiar surroundings, where, specifically, should you consider? Here are two top choices:
[A Beautiful Beach Town for $1,000 a Month.]
Top Expat Community Pick #1: Ajijic, Mexico. Ajijic and the area around Lake Chapala, Mexico, hosts the most organized, developed expat community in the world. The Lake Chapala Society reports about 4,000 American and Canadian residents in Chapala proper. The Mexican government, meantime, estimates that nearly 20,000 expats reside full-time in the state of Jalisco, the region where Lake Chapala sits.
In other words, the path has been cut. Moving here, you could slide into a way of life not dramatically different from the life you left behind in the States. You wouldn’t have to worry about learning the local language if you didn’t want to. You wouldn’t have to work to make a place for yourself among the local community, because this isn’t a “local” community. This is an entire community of nonlocals. You could wander into the restaurant down the street anytime and find English-speaking companionship, someone to complain to about the bureaucracy at the Department of Immigration or the challenges of studying to take a driving test in Spanish. Retiring to Ajijic, you could make a very comfortable life for yourself in a place that’s exotic, beautiful, safe, and very affordable.
[See How to Retire for Half the Cost Overseas.]
Friends who have taken this path live comfortably on less than $50 per day (U.S. dollars), including housing, food, transportation, entertainment, and in-country travel. They eat well, play tennis, socialize, and travel comfortably. As they put it themselves, they want for nothing.
Don’t misunderstand. Ajijic isn’t a retirement village. This isn’t Sun City South, at least not formally. This is a legitimate Mexican town that, over the past three decades, has attracted such a volume of foreign retirees that it’s become less Mexican and more foreign resident–friendly.
Top Expat Community Pick #2: Boquete, Panama. Boquete, Panama, is this country’s Gringolandia, as some foreign retirees in residence refer to it affectionately. According to Boquete’s information and tourism office, about 3,000 foreigners live in this colorful mountain town. Migration continues, and the number of foreign residents in Boquete is expected to increase to 10,000 by 2016.
What’s the attraction? Beautiful setting, good climate, straightforward pensionado rules (for all Panama), yes, but, mostly, the draw in Boquete, as in Ajijic, is the established gringo community. This is a place to come to enjoy many of the benefits of being retired overseas without leaving behind too many of the comforts and conveniences of American suburban living.
[See 5 Critical Issues When Retiring Overseas.]
In one private, gated, residential community development I know in this region, for example, amenities include a golf course, stables, even a small central town created specifically for foreign residents; and construction, for both the shared amenities and the individual homes, is to U.S. standards, with U.S.-style finishes, fixtures, and fittings. In Boquete town itself, shops and services catering to the ever-growing foreign retiree population continue to open. In the U.S.-style restaurants serving American-style menus (featuring scrambled eggs for breakfast and cheeseburgers for lunch), you’ll hear all-English conversation at the tables around you and all-American music on the speakers. People you pass on the street will greet you with a wave and a “hi” or a “hello,” assuming that that’s how you’d like to be addressed and that you’ll reply in kind.
Kathleen Peddicord is the founder of the Live and Invest Overseas publishing group. With more than 25 years experience covering this beat, Kathleen reports daily on current opportunities for living, retiring, and investing overseas in her free e-letter. Her book, How To Retire Overseas—Everything You Need To Know To Live Well Abroad For Less, was recently released by Penguin Books.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Calm Before the Storm

Well, I say this is the calm before the storm because Guadalajara and the surrounding areas are going to host the 2011 Pan American Games starting October 14.  Most of the events will be in various areas of Guadalajara, but Chapala will host the water skiing events on Lake Chapala.  Athletes from 42 nations will descend on Guadalajara creating security challenges.  The city expects 800,000 visitors for the games and 2000 Federal Police are already in the city.  We have noticed increased security presence here at lakeside as well.  Most of us plan to stay out of the city during the Games.  I can just imagine the traffic!

 Meanwhile all was peaceful at the Ajijic Plaza today (above) with the gazebo still decorated with the red, white and green flags left over from Independence Day on September 16.  We have discovered a wonderful video shop in the plaza.  It is jointly owned by a Mexican and an American and they stock many films and television shows we gringos are fond of.  We just asked today if they could find the first season of Mildred Pierce and the first season of Mad Men for us.  Here is Pixie browsing through some sale items in front of the shop.
Last week at our Fellowship we had our annual service dedicated to Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of our own Unitarians.  Each year we have this opportunity to highlight the creative talents of our fellowship members.  We have writers reading their stories, artists showing off their art,  and musicians performing.  It is always a favorite service as we can enjoy one another's creativity.  Our photographer, Kelley, caught me on camera performing a blues song during the service.
 Tomorrow we will have, for the first time, a blessing of the animals.  Actually, we are celebrating the blessings animals bring to our homes.  Many Americans and Canadians living here enjoy the companionship of dogs and cats.  Some own birds and fish as well.  We will see many of these animals tomorrow as we conduct our service out on the patio with our animals.  I, personally, think it will be a bit of a zoo!  Of course, Chuy will be there and I am sure he will enjoy seeing all the other dogs especially. 

There was an article in the local paper addressing the issue of violence in Mexico.  I thought the readers of this blog might be interested in getting some perspectives on this topic.  Although the rise of gang-related drug crime has been well reported in the US media, how bad is the violence here?  It clearly is a problem.  Murder is the greatest cause of death for youths aged 15-29 years, followed by motor vehicle accidents. The murder rate in Jalisco (our state) has increased 125 percent form 2007 to 2010 (from 389 to 879), but the vast majority of that increase is from the increase in gang-related crimes.  The vast majority of these victims are gang members, police, and journalists.  The risk of murder for regular people has not risen much at all.  

The murder rate in Mexico is far less than other Latin American countries.  The Mexico the murder rate is 18 per 100,000 people, less than Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Belize, Guatemala, Panama, Brazil, and Columbia.  The rate in Mexico City is  9.2per 100,000, while it is 22 per 100,000 in Washington DC!  

The media continues to focus on Mexican violence.  Whereas it is clearly a concern, it would be easy to overestimate its frequency.  

Not a lot is going on at the moment.  The rains continue to diminish, as the weather is comfortably cooler, especially at night.  We have another month or so until the snowbirds start to arrive.  It's interesting to note that even now, without the winter visitors here, traffic is bad at Lakeside.  I can just imagine what it will be this winter.  In the meantime, life goes on at a slow rate.  I am working on a new poetry book which may be released in November.  Here's another view of the plaza in Ajijic this morning.