Monthly Archives: April 2014

Solo Travel in Mexico?

http://m.budgettravel.com/feature/travel-advice-best-places-to-book-travel-tours,12661/?page=2

Just the very title may cause some fear and heart palpitations due to the sensational media coverage that Mexico routinely gets. And cover it they do in the most negatively descriptive way!

Which leads to the next question. Can the truly horrifying things happening (either with or without direct or indirect connection with any of the nasty drug cartels)when you get right down to it be attributed to the growth and wealth of what exactly? Why has the very, expensive so called, ‘war on drugs’ largely failed miserably. The image of the little boy with his fingers in a leaky dike with far too many holes comes to mind…

http://www.pantheon.org/articles/l/little_dutch_boy.html The difference being of course is that unlike the Dutch boy NO ONE came to his aid EARLY enough. Now, it’s sadly and tragically a case of pay now OR pay later and pay later we do.

Both America’s burgeoning and insatiable desperate demand for illegal drugs. Always the bottom line.

If a 22nd century milagra/miracle happened and every drug addict suddenly went to rehab the mind boggling customer base that cuts through all social classes would cause the drug empires of the Mexican cartels to immediately collapse. Also  statistically speaking, the per capita crime rate in Mexico is no higher than the deceptively ‘safe’ cities of Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago or for that matter the immediate encircling neighborhoods around the White House in Washington, D.C.

And I’m not saying that Canada is crime free, either. It’s just that we do not have the equivalent of the clout of the powerful National Rifle Association blocking gun control legislation. Canadians overall do not have what might be termed a gun mentality imho.

When I lived in Los Angeles and Oxnard, California I found it shockingly easy to legally obtain a gun a la ‘Bowling for Columbine.’ In fact, I was even asked a few times whether I had considered gun ownership (for protection, of course) due to the lower income neighborhood I lived in at the time. As a teacher with no crime record, I could have easily walked into the nearest WalMart and walked out with a deadly gun that previously I had only seen in movies. I would hope that I’m overgeneralizing this but probably not by much.

Getting back to the safety in Mexico issue, first of all let me say that risk for foreigners does exist. Mexico is still considered a third world country (although a visit to the nearest Costco or Sam’s club or big city high end galleria/shopping mall might cause you to think otherwise.

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Just based on the first two pictures, you would have thought that you were magically teleported back to the Costco in any major Canadian city.  Two things give away the actual location. The Salida entrance sign and the rather large  liquor, wine and beer section conveniently located near the front of the warehouse.

But, yes the wages are lower here and poverty is widespread with it’s resultant link to crime as the ‘have nots’ take from the ‘haves.’ Or provide the ‘haves’ with illegal substances. Last winter, I had my IPad physically snatched out of my hands in a quiet neighborhood wifi bar in my neighborhood. I was intently typing not paying attention to my surroundings zoned out which is what often happens when using electronic devices and before I knew it two guys in the bar were chasing the ladrone/thief down the cobblestone streets accompanied by me alerting the meighbourhood with the sound of my piercing Red Cross whistle hanging around my neck. This ensuing mayhem was to no avail because of the prearranged getaway vehicle waiting just down the street in the shadows alas. And what really was criminal that I had NOT registered in ICloud and about 75% of my pictures and videos were tragically lost.

Speaking as a reported crime victim (and that’s a whole other story!) certainly this up far too up close and personal incident shook my confidence to the core about traveling on my own in Mexico. In fact, I had a significant amount of fear going to Mexico City this past December opting to book a group bus trip instead of traveling there on my own. Just the prospect of actually being in a place where there are about the same or even more people than ALL of Canada just gave me the heebie jeebies or the ‘willies’ as my mom used to say.

I had heard…incorrectly that it was the most polluted city in the world and you never saw a blue sky. Not true. I had heard that gringos were constantly targeted and always in grave danger. Not true. I had heard that this city was unpleasant and unliveable despite it’s history and architecture and impressive sights. Again not true.

My bottom line based on almost forty years of traveling either one my own or with the ‘boyfriend du jour’ is that yes, you do have to make some good decisions vis a vis your safety and above all stay PRESENT and pay attention to your surroundings. Some gringos that I have witnessed both here and in the Lakeside area blithely flaunt their affluence, treat their domestic and gardening help poorly and then may or are subsequently targeted for a b &e, home invasion or worse.

The ubiquitous design of the casas, states and villas here are such that you live behind a complicated system of iron gates, metal and wooden doors all with separate keys that you need to employ to leave as well as come back. Windows have bars. In fact, after five months of being here when I spouted a storefront bakery with just windows I had to immediately stop, buy something of course and investigate. It was such an unusual sight! As it turned out the way that they were able not to have bars was to have one of those roll down metal storefront covers common in large cities.

So IS Mexico safe for snowbirds and expats?  My feeling that a MILLION North Americans wouldn’t be here either on a full time or part time basis if it wasn’t.  Do you have to stay alert and present and above all pay attention to your surroundings?

Absolutely…So be alert and do not zone out using electronics. Use common sense and yes, do have a small 50 peso bill tucked in an outside pocket ready to pay your taxi driver who may or may not ever have change for a bill larger than that day or night. The ‘no cambio’ cliche does have some basis in fact on a day to day basis in my experience!

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14 Frugal Ways to Meet and Stay in Touch With People Around the World

http://www.wisebread.com/14-frugal-ways-to-meet-and-stay-in-touch-with-people-around-the-world

Connections, connections, connections…

When you are traveling the path either less or even UNtraveled and you are the one breaking trail the importance of establishing and maintaining connections at home or abroad cannot be underestimated.

The professional hobo, Nora Dunn offers a very helpful list to do just that!

I call it a ‘beyond Skype’list!

The Always Up-to-Date Guide to Streaming Blocked Content Overseas

http://lifehacker.com/5983904/the-always-up-to-date-guide-to-streaming-blocked-content-overseas?utm_campaign=socialflow_lifehacker_facebook&utm_source=lifehacker_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

Now THIS is useful!  I’ve noticed how some YouTube and Vimeo videos and yes the http://www.nationalenquirer.com is mysteriously blocked here in Mexico so after I manage to zip up those suitcases for the last time and have time here and there in the #Leon, #Houston and #Calgary airports to fill in I’m going to have another look at this and field rest a few!

And what magazine will I be buying first thing at the Houston airport enroute to the duty free shop to pick out my ocean blue birthday bottle of Cool Water for Women?

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You got it. The National Enquirer, #nationalenquirer, my-should-be-but-isn’t guilty pleasure.

Here’s an extra hashtag just for good measure, #guiltypleasures for all the Twitter aficionados!

25 Career Ideas to Design Your Location Independent Lifestyle | NuNomad Location Independent Living, Lifestyle Design, Independent Travel

http://www.nunomad.com/blog/25-career-ideas-to-design-your-location-independent-lifestyle/

Here’s just one more site that lists some very interesting location independent flexible occupations that no, surprisingly enough are not all online. Previously I was going to wind down this blog this weekend and switch over to the Artist Way blog http://www.nanaimoartistway.wordpress.com in preparation for my next Finding Water Artist Way group on May 14th but with my newly awakened interest in topping up my teacher’s pension while traveling or being a snowbird for that matter,I think next week, I’ll just slightly move the pots around on the four burner spirals of this reimagined, reconfigured retirement life. Spending threw winters in Mexico has opened quite a few more doors that previously I didn’t know existed!

And as Martha Stewart likes to say, ‘It’s a good thing!’

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Btw, this symbol was spouted at one of the many impressive galleries at Fabrica Aurora, an art school/gallery/retail complex that also has bistros! 

Location Independent Living Around the World

http://www.creditwalk.ca/dear-nora-much-money-need-travel-long-term/

Far from being an anomaly, as I’m finding out,  more and more people are like six year full time intrepid wanderer, Nora Dunn of http://www.professionalhobo.com who claims to have so fine tuned her independent location globally wandering lifestyle that she claims that she flies only with carry on luggage. Seriously.

This weeks Attencion newspaper also has an article about a couple who used to (past tense) have property both in North America and here in San Miquel but have now chronicled their current globetrotting location independent lifestyle in a book called, ‘Home Sweet Anywhere.’ Interesting…and yes, amazing!

Surveying my two rather heavy suitcases in my casita tonight I find the carry on claim rather incredulous and would actually like to see this in real life. Did someone say ‘Reality Show?’

As a former backpacker in my earlier traveling years now I’m quite happy to establish a temporary ‘home base’ in a foreign country and really explore the city and surrounding cities being in one place long enough to volunteer for local festivals (San Miquel Literary Festival in February)or English schools.

The Mexican bus lines are very competitive here and are clean, efficient and convenient. Last week I went in a field trip to San Juan de Rio which is an extra bus past Quereterro and I easily went there and back even with my typical late morning start.

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My slowly improving espanol was definitely put to the test during a walkabout in Centro San Juan de Rio because unlike Guanajuato and Quereterro there is not even a small expat presence or none that my Canadian friend who operates an English Escuela there was aware of. It’s a picturesque city but from what I could tell from my short visit there it lacked some of the amenities and shopping that after four months in San Miquel I’m now taking for granted.

And I DID find out that my current level of espanol was indeed functional and I managed just fine doing a bit of shopping, going to a Chinese restaurante and hailing a bright orange, not green taxi to return to the bus station to return to San Miquel.

Ladies Who Lunch…

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One of the many joys of being a snowbird in Mexico is the ability to try out so many of the wonderful restaurantes here in San Miquel de Allende. Earlier today, I had a wonderful Adios…for Now lunch with three of my new amigas that I met in the Artist Way Gathering led by local assemblage artist/interiour designer/ improv troupe leader, Joesph Bennet currently NOB in Dan Diego, California.

We convened upstairs at 13 Cuna Allende in Centro within view of the iconic landmark El Jardin and orderlooking the spectacularly beautiful colonial city of San Miquel which has been my south of the border home for four truly amazing months.

We had drinks, guacamole and chips, four substantial muy rico entrees, dessert and coffees and all for about half of what a lunch at a mid range restaurant NOB would be and we’re talking for only two people and two drinks and coffee with no dessert. The staff was friendly and took the picture above. Adios, Mary Beth, Barbara and Robin!

Si dios quiren/if God is willing, a great Spanish expression, I’ll see you all (and our absent friends) at the end of the year in November!

I’ve found a wonderful townhouse rental in the San Rafael Colonia just outside Centro but which has frequent bus service and a manageable hill to and from Ignacio Allende Privada. This fortuitous turn of events just before my departure really makes me very happy. And this is in quite a long serious of happy days, weeks and months here whether I attend Spanish our art classes, go to a concert or a movie or simply go on a walkabout stopping here and there taking a picture with my handy dandy Galaxy smartphone.

Here’s a peek at the new digs where I’ll be able to entertain and with two bedrooms, one upstairs in the loft I can even have guests visit. The tiny casita up on the hills of Los Balcones has been clean, safe and comfortable but the location and all the road and sewer construction has been problematic both leaving and coming back for the last two months!

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This is my winter rental of 2014. It is located in a large estate owned by an expat from Germany and contains other rental units now empty because the high season is ending for this winter.

Here’s a peek at my new rental in the San Rafael colonia. Even though the expat owners from Atlanta, Georgia call this a casita I think it’s more of a multi level townhouse with a loft overlooking the living room that has a fireplace with a cabinet above for the television. The owners lived here while they built their dream house with a beautiful city view. It has a secure, separate metal door to the street and a nice size fenced yard and patio with a gate.

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Lots and lots of light coming in from all four directions! And of course, Mexican sunshine which is what brought me to Mexico three winters ago in the first place!

Teaching English Abroad: Preparing to Go Checklist

http://www.oxfordseminars.ca/teach-english-abroad/preparing-to-go-checklist.php

I wrapped up my second class here at the San Miquel School of English but I was invited by my Level 6 classe to attend their graduation on Saturday so I will post pictures of facility that is truly past old to the ancient category, in desperate need of paint and the classroom I was in was dark as a cave and not very well equipped by North American standards.

Doesn’t matter. One of my five adult students attended this school as a child and still has good memories. It’s really not the physical building that make this or any place in the world a school, it’s the teachers, the students and the rapport between them. 

I’m am so very glad and yes grateful that I still have this nebulous ‘x ‘ factor to ‘jack’ a Simon Crowell term. My very last career school had a great students,parents and a community but a truly appalling McPrincipal whose chief talent was to kill my joy and force me to return to and stay in a SD approved ticky tacky box that supposedly the ‘suits’ downtown encouraged their teachers to think outside of. He contributed his ‘straw’ to the camel’s back and my decision to take the early exit ramp out to retirement.

Lip service and glib teacher-ese/teacher speak imho. Now a full three years out with NO parole officer to report to…ever… I finally, finally  feel like myself in the classroom. I’ve moved into adult education leaving early childhood ed in the rear view mirror but that’s okay; more than okay, actually.

This new frontier opens up a whole range of new opportunities in both the volunteer and paid realm (f2f and online)to top up my less than full teacher’s pension.  My life is so much more richer, more colorful and infettered is a word that comes to mind now. Hanging on for more dinero just wasn’t an appealing option. What is ever enough really?

I have enough, more than enough but in many more fantastico ways than merely numbers on my automatically deposited monthly pension cheque. So many more.

With just five days left in my third snowbird winter I am grateful and give thanks that I did take that early exit ramp into the unknown escaping the soul deadening shackles of SD 67 with it’s collection (yes, sadly not just one) of micromanaging McPrincipals…

What do they say about the road far, far less traveled? That it made all the difference in the world.

True enough…

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Purgatorio: A Journey Into the Heart of the Border

http://www.nwfilmforum.org/live/page/calendar/3100

La Frontera, a searing look at what is termed ‘the border’culture.’ When I was a volunteer usher at the San Miquel Literary festival the very best key note speaker was       and his talk was’Juarez Doesn’t Stop at the Border.’ Not to often you are part of a one move, simultaneous and well deserved standing ovation but this speaker was powerful!

Was just idly looking up Film Festivals in the Pacific Northwest when I came across this listing for a documentary. Will put it on my ‘must see’ list!’

Mexican Dogs/ Peros de Mexico

Mexican dogs are a special breed. They are tough survivors in a place where some small stores do not even sell dog food. On the other hand, also in Centro there is an exclusive, high end doggy boutique that has all kinds of cutesy outfits for pampered canines that are cared for as well or even better than family members!

Mexican dogs prowl flat rooftops and like to survey and bark at passers by letting them know that they are walking past their staked out territory. Even small dogs can sound loud and fierce at a height! There’s a shocking amount of stray dogs in this city and apparently the shelters are jam packed with dogs hoping to catch someone’s eye and move to a forever home.

The two rescue German Shepherd dogs here in the Los Balcones colonia have certainly acquired a great home on this large walled property where they have a lot of expanse to run around. I had to dog sit Max and Bella when the landlady was visiting her home country of Germany and I got to know them quite well. They are terrific guard dogs and are patient sentries at the iron gate seeing you off and welcoming you home whether it be ten minutes or ten hours.

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Mexican dogs are sooo relaxed. When they are tired they just tip over absolutely anywhere and of it’s on a busy sidewalk and a constant stream of walkers have to step over them well, there’s no cause for alarm…or to wake up right in the middle of a perfectly good siesta and move to a different spot. The dog pictured below in the art gallery was so peacefully sleeping he could have been a very realistic sculpture with a tag and a price!

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Fancy fancy dog bed? Noooo, that’s for gringo dogs!

Good Friday Procession…

Lo siento, sorry this is a bit out of sequence. I m sure there is a way to reorder the postings but I don t know how to do it…yet. In any case, I ve got some great pictures of the very impressive Good Friday procession that started in the Jardin/Plaza and slowly, very slowly snaked past the Starbucks esquina/corner where I was waiting with hordes of people packing the sidewalks the whole length of the procession. It started with the priests carrying the banners followed by a full contingent of Roman soldiers including drummers and then the reason for the season came into view. Yes, there He was on the cross with His long hair blowing in the breeze. Since I m writing this on Sunday after seeing the newly released Hijo de Dios/ Son of God at the Cinemex yesterday afternoon my recollection and reflection is somewhat tempered by the very strong visuals in this movie. And as for the actor that played Jesus,. well don t get me started haha…Suffice to say he was very credible and compasionate and possessed all the traits that he was supposed to have; and then some!

 

Anyway, i was in a great place just outside Starbucks to hoist my Galaxy smartphone above my head and capture some superb shots as the crucified Christ was carried ever so slowly around the corner and down the street. Then there were various and sundry angels of all persuasions and a chicken of all things. I m sure it is symbolic of something important, I m just not sure at the moment what it was. After I lost track of the angels being carried and the choir boys and girls dressed as angels and was getting a bit clautraphobic I decided to return to Starbucks for a coffee or something so I could escape the maddening crowds so to speak. Since this Starbucks is located in a old hacienda it is elevated above the sidewalk and offers an excellent vantage to see the rest of the procession as dusk fell in Centro. Naturally, the procession participants was well equipped and some of the city men carried gas lanterns along the route.

I just got my order and relocated my chair close to a window to watch the rest of the procession when I sensed the crowd getting really emotional. I looked up and through the barred windows and the glass coffin bearing the deceased Christ went by stopping right in front of me so I could snap a few pics before it went down Hidalgo Calle. Then there were more children and other angels as night descended so at that point I decided to hike down the blocked off street to one where a taxi might be going by to take me back to my casita in Los Balcones. As I get closer to my departure date my casita is looking more and more like a b and e site with my suitcase out and my piles of things to either give away to my friends here, the maid or throw out. I ll probably have to mail back a box of assorted items to make sure that mi maleta is withing the weight limit. I really haven t shopped as much as in the last two previous winters but still…the mercados are sooooo good here!

Okay, we now return you to your regular domingo programming whatever that may be. In checking my blog statistics, I see that I ve had a spike in readership over the Easter weekend so the pressure is on to post some more content and pictures before heading home. And yes, I still have two guest postings pending one for www.professionalhobo.com and one for this retirement living blog that contacted me a while ago. I don t know where the time goes…but it does…