We had another big storm this week! It seems that these storms are what define summer here. The days are gorgeous with blue sky and big white fluffy clouds, followed in the late afternoon by big purple and gray ones!
Then, of course, around 3 a.m. the storms hit.
This week it was terrible again. A friend who lives down the hill from us -- a retired school principle from the East Coast in the United States, named Carol, went to bed as per usual.
The next morning she heard someone knocking at her door early and could not figure who it would be. So she went out and it answered the door. It was her next door neighbor who told her about the terrible storm the night before which Carol had not even heard at all.
The neighbor gently asked Carol if she was aware of the tree in her yard. So Carol turned to look at the huge pine tree that used to be there only to see the tree was totally uprooted, it had crashed through her perimeter wall, and came down on top if the neighbors van, fell across the street and hit two more cars and on the way down took out part of the roof on two houses across the street. Everyone affected was without electricity and had rather significant damage to their property --- except Carol.
When she asked them when it happened, they told her it was around 2:30 in the morning. "Why didn't you come and tell me?" asked Carol. "Because you were sleeping and we didn't want to wake you!" they replied.
Carol lives in a house surrounded by Mexicans. As many of her neighbors as could, including the children, were out that whole day with the police, the fire department, and their chainsaws, cleaning up her yard, cleaning up the street, bringing her food (remember she was the only one with electricity), and generally overall caring for the situation.
Because the neighbors who lived right next door didn't have car insurance, their parked van that the tree hit first was pretty damaged. Carol found out how much it would cost to get it fixed and then paid them the money.
They repeatedly told her she didn't need to do it, but she did it anyway! Carol said that only in Mexico would everyone come together like that and help her. Where she had lived in the States, it wasn't community. It was just people who didn't know each other living in close proximity. We all know it's not like that everywhere in the States, but it seems to be more like that for sure.
There is something so wonderful about the normal Mexican and the normal Mexican community that warms your heart. They are the dearest people and care so much about "the other" and they come together and help each other out when the going gets rough!
I'm so glad to be a part of this place and to see the caring that goes on with them. They are awesome.
You've never experienced a rain storm until you've lived in a tropical or semi-tropical location! I just imagine it is probably similar to the storms that those who live in the middle and Southern United States experience when their region is inundated with a tropical storm. Again that darn word "tropical".
Our home is two story. We sleep on the second floor. The roof of our house is made of plywood sitting across huge, and very strong, metal beams and cross-beams. The outside is painted with a heavy sealer paint of some kind and that's it. The inside has the exposed beams and the bottom side of the plywood pieces.
When it rains and thunders and lightenings here -- it feels like it's right in the room with us. In fact, some nights we actually go downstairs because the noise is deafening! It's sort of fun and a lot scarey! Last week on Wednesday night we had the most vicious of all the storms we've had since we moved here.
We went to bed about 10 pm. All of a sudden, there was a huge flash of lightening and simultaneously crash of thunder and simultaneously a sound like I've never heard before of wind and water crashing about us. It was terrifically frightening. We had no idea if the roof would come off or raise up (it did neither), of if there was some kind of terrible thing happening outside. We grabbed our pillows and ran downstairs. As we did, we noticed that there was a waterfall running down the stairs and running down the walls, and moving its way across the living room.
Then we noticed that water was coming in at all the sliding glass doors as well. I ran to the part of the living room where the electronics were --- modem, backup battery, surge protectors, and the water was literally 6 inches or so from hitting all of them. I grabbed my office chair with one hand and moved it within reach of the whole bunch of electronics and saved the night.
The next morning when I went to Operation Feed to work, I found out that even the most stalwart Mexicans and seasoned expats were really frightened too. It was an unusual storm and, to them, sounded like the time when a huge water spout formed in the lake and chose to wander up through the Raquet Club and up the side of the mountain causing a massive land slide that came down and took out a few houses and parts of houses as it tore down the path of least resistance --- the main drag.
That gave us pause to think about living at the foot of a mountain! We no longer live in the Raquet Club, but then found out that the landslide was so big it went right into the town where we live.
To be honest, that particular scenario happened after a particularly heavy rain season where everything was totally saturated with water. When the water spout cyclone formed and came up into the neighborhood, every place it went had no defense against the deluge of water that a spout carries with it. I have learned a lot about water spouts. I never knew they could form on a lake the size of our lake here.
Though this is the largest freshwater lake in Mexico, it doesn't begin to compare with the Great Lakes in Michigan, nor with the Ocean as in Uruguay and Brazil and along the extensive shores on either side of Mexicos land mass.
So where can a person live where there is not going to be a weather anomaly. Kris and I and my sister have had long talks about this, just for those of you who worry about either us or other friends who live in places with lots of contrary weather activities.
Here is our conclusion: if you pay attention to what's happening globally, you will notice that without exception, every single place on earth (just about) is having a weather anomaly. The once-in-100-year events are now happening in 1, 10, 15, 20, 50 years instead of sticking to the once-in-100 or once-in-1000 years timetable.
So, really there is no totally safe place on earth. Mother Earth is doing her thing. The best thing to do is to take precautions as best you can before you experience an event. Have a little extra food and water set by. Be sure your flashlights have batteries. Make sure you never let your gas tank go below half.
Example: Buy a couple of jars of peanut butter or some other butter, a box of Saltines, a couple of 5-gallon jugs of water, and maybe some canned tuna or sardines, or other canned food. Not a lot, but just enough to stave off "starvation" for 3 days or so. In Michigan, we always had tons of food stored away in a little room in the basement, because we never knew when we might lose power for several days because of blizzards.
But we practice pretty much the same thing here only on a smaller scale. Even with that massive and very frightening storm last week, we didn't lose power. Some people did, but it was restored by the end of the day. They've got this recovery from storms thing down to a fine science here in Lakeside.
The bottom line of living in a "safe" place is to choose your location after you know what's possible. Here, there are two volcanoes --- one is about 75 miles south of us and would have to come through a mountain range. The other is about 60 miles north of us and would have to come through an even higher mountain range.
However, the fact that there are vacation hotsprings throughout this area leads us to believe that something lies beneath us that heats that water! Hmmm maybe our location is more active than we knew. Meanwhile, and considering how long the Mexicans of this region have lived here, (at least 2000 years!) I think we'll enjoy the "attractions" as much as possible.
(The prices in the advert below are in Mexican pesos! Divide the figure by 19.5 and you'll have the cost in dollars.)
Question #1: Why do you want to move to a new country? Be honest with yourself and check all motives you may have, so that you know for sure you're not "running away" from someone or something, or escaping some relationship or other disagreeable situation. What are your motives? What are your reasons? This is a self-check so that you will be able to enjoy your new life in your new country to the fullest and not have regrets because you left simply as an escape mechanism. Much better to have it be as a desire for new adventures and new experiences that are not available in your current setting. Longing to experience a new culture and people and to see new beautiful sights are great motivations too.
Question #2: What kind of life do you intend to live in your new chosen home? Are you going to be 100% expat and basically have your friendships and activities be with others like yourself who have relocated to the new country? Or are you going to go native? -- or a combination of both? Have you got an open mind to at least learning enough of the language so you can communicate at the grocery store or street markets? Would you like to be able to actually form friendships with the nationals? How integrated do you plan to be?
Question #3: How much stuff do you own and intend to keep? Many people choose to pack nearly everything they own to take to their new place! But how much will it cost to ship? How do you know where you will put it? Will your home be large enough for all the collected "stuff" you've acquired over the years? Most of the homes in third-world, or even the more modern foreign countries, are not nearly as large and spacious as they are in the United States or Canada, for example (the two countries I'm most familiar with.)
Question #4: How long do you plan to live in your new chosen place? Is this a definitive move? Have you already visited for an extended period of time, so you have enough information to make a sensible and wise decision about your future? Have you thought about the considerable cultural adjustments that will undoubtedly be necessary even if the place you're moving to seems to be similar to your home country?
Question #5: Do you plan to keep your current residence, or will you sell it and find a different place if your "abroad" experience comes to an end sooner than you thought it would? This is a decision that everyone of us who have traveled and who have relocated to a new place have to make. Some people want to have a place they can go back to if they have family and friends they wish to see. Some like to spend 3 - 6 months in one country and then head back to their familiar home. If you decide to keep your home, you will also have to decide if you're going to close it up and leave it unoccupied, or if you're going to rent it out and store your personal items. If you make that decision before you move, it will save you money in the long run regarding extra travel costs and/or storage fees.
How many of these would you need? What could you easily replace? How long are you planning to stay abroad? Will those belongings still be important to you? Do you have particular emotional ties to the things in storage? Will your belongings be outdated? Where did they come from? Were they all made in the USA or wherever your home country is? If you plan to stay abroad for 5 to 10 years and then return, how much will you have paid in storage fees?
Question #6: Do you have support from those closest to you for the decision to move abroad? If not, how will you handle their objections? Not everyone I'm related to thought it was a great idea to move abroad. In fact, a couple siblings expressed the thought that they felt like I was turning my back on my family to pursue selfish wishes. Silly me! At the age of 42 I thought I probably could make those kinds of decisions on my own. But all kidding aside, it's important to have support from those who know and love you. They may not agree with your "dumb" decision, so it would be great if you could explain to them your desires for adventure, or a new life, a less expensive way of life, and whatever other things figure in your decision. They may not end up agreeing 100%, but at least they will know you listened to them and tried to understand and explain your desire for the move.
Question #7: How do you plan to sustain yourself in the economy of your chosen country? If you are retiring and moving abroad, then you will need to do your homework and know how you're going to get your money to your pocket from your bank account! It's not always as easy as you thought it would be. Where we live now, there are basically 4 places where, if you don't have a bank account in this country, you can withdraw money in the local currency. You cannot get US dollars anywhere -- only the local currency.
At each of these 4 locations, you have to pay exchange fees that are deducted from your bank in the USA for example. The local bank or ATM also charges you a fee. You need to know these things. In some countries, you will have to pay taxes on your income no matter where it comes from, but in other countries only on what you earn in that country not your home country. Do you work online? Then you have to be sure the speeds are sufficient to sustain what you do. This is a huge issue in many places! People may tell you the Internet is great because all they do is email. But if you work online it may not be enough. Find out before you are too sorry and your method of income disappears!
Question #8: What is your plan B if the situation in your chosen country changes? Do you have a place to relocate to? Did you keep your house and you can go back to it? Do you have an alternate place you could head to if your first choice doesn't work out? If you work out these things before you move, it will save you lots of heartache and headaches if such a situation occurs. You won't feel so lost and you won't feel like you made the biggest mistake in the world by moving abroad.
These are 8 of the most important questions you must ask AND get answers to before moving abroad! If you don't ask them, and you don't know what the answers are, your experience will be significantly compromised. Make the most of your new life! BE INFORMED! Living Abroad and Loving It is based on being informed so you can enjoy and truly love your living abroad experience.
What I never would have expected, or wished for, has happened to me!
There is an Internet provider that is installing fiber optic cable in the region. We were so excited because the casita where we were living was on the list of prepaid subscribers to receive it. Of course, not all regions are going to benefit, because they are a business after all! So the installing has been done in the areas where the most people have the most money to afford --- and demand --- the service. However, installation has been very slow.
As they began to install this new service, the rest of us had a significant drop in the effectiveness and power of the company we were with. No one understands what that's all about so no point in trying to figure it out. Download times went from being a good solid 10 megas, to 4 or 5 megas, but the upload times, which affected my ability to manage this website plus my new Relationships Alive! course website, went from 2 megas (which was slow enough as it is) to
Yes, you read that correctly --- somewhere between .4 and .5 (that's point four and point five) megas. As anyone who understands the Internet knows, that is not enough to upload much of anything --- sometimes not even just the words, but definitely not photos or videos.
I apologize for not posting for the last month. It just hasn't been possible --- plus it got me really depressed!!
THE GOOD NEWS!
After being told several times that the service was going to be either inadequate or not available in our new place (oh yes, we moved to a new location during this time as well --- another story for another blog post!), we have finally found a service that will give us 10 megas upload and 10 megas download.
They came yesterday, unannounced, to install the service (which we had not even purchased yet). However, the installer did not have a high powered enough antennae to install our service so they will be back next week. But at least there exists something for us!
As it happens, it works like this --- there are several centers with towers around the region. You have to have a clear view to one of them to receive the service. Guess what? We are in direct alignment with one of them. We're excited to know that shortly --- we hope soon --- we'll be up and running with at list minimally adequate Internet! Yahooooo!
And I'm planning some really good stuff on living abroad, adjustments, fear factors, crime, surviving your relationship, good books to read and much more when we are back up online with full mega-power. Three cheers for Spiderweb.com!
You all know how that goes? This time it was my computer! I only have this one, and this entire past 2 weeks it decided to freeze whenever it wanted to. We finally found the problem, ordered the part, and the wonderful and patient computer guy came over to the house and installed the new 8 GB of RAM.
Yes, I was doing too much for the processing to take place and when the computer had had enough, it simply froze in place and I was done doing whatever I'd been doing.
This past Sunday was really cool though so in the next day or so I'm going to put something up here that will be fun for you all. We went to a gathering here they call Open Circle. They had invited a family of mariachis to come and present a concert. This family is working with the kids from our town, San Juan Cosala, to become future mariachis, but they are already pretty good. Unfortunately my phone ran out of memory after two videos, so I didn't get them doing their part. But I did get the adults playing. I'm going to attempt to upload the videos and photos.
Here's hoping it all works! Happy Wednesday!
The water is geneally around 86 degrees or a bit more. This last Saturday the pool was full of people for class. Sometimes there are lots of people, and sometimes only this many. Whatever the day, I love it.
I realize that it's been a long stretch in between posts. There is just so darn much going on, and we're having so much fun, it's overwhelming to decide what to share with you all.
At one time I thought I was going to be lonely because I didn't know anyone. Now...I have to choose how I spend my time because there is so much to do --- and it's all great fun and/or very meaningful.
Recent list for the last week includes:
Life is sometimes stranger than fiction! Sometimes we get into situations where if we were anywhere else, we might just be scared. But we were not!
There is a house next door to ours. We look over our wall and see the upper half of the house. A few months ago we met the owner and a friend of his. They are 40-ish. Juan's family owns the house and he generally takes care of it. But due to a variety of circumstances, he was unable to do much for about 3 or 4 years. That ended a few months ago. We met he and his friend when they came to work on the house. They were here for a few days and then went back to Guadalajara.
Once in a while we would hear from Juan that he would be coming soon. But he never materialized until day before yesterday. Then that evening, he sent a text message that he was outside our gate and could we come and talk to him.
It turns out that by accident (obviously) he locked one of the doors of his house, and then the other door he was going to use to go in and get his keys and money and stuff, shut on it's own accord, locking him out. He said he was on his way to pick up a pizza because it had been a long time since he'd had anything to eat.
It was 10 p.m. We did everything we could think of --- asking down at the security gate if anyone had a saw we could borrow. We went over to a construction site where a worker was staying but he was totally out of it. We called who we could think of, but everyone here goes to bed fairly early.
So we did the only decent thing --- we invited him to spend the night at our house. Lucky for us he is truly a great guy. He came in the house and immediately said he wanted to call his sister and let her know he was alright and that he was staying with us.
He hadn't had any dinner, so we rustled up some bacon and scrambled eggs with toast. All in all it was totally odd, but a whole lot of fun. He speaks English and, of course Spanish. So when he couldn't think of the word he'd speak Spanish, and when we couldn't think of the word in Spanish, we'd speak English. We laughed and had a good time. We talked about places and family, travels and friends. Turns out he's a professional illustrator, his mother is an artist and paints, and so we discussed that too!
Finally, around midnight, we called it a day and went to bed. Our neighbor in the apartment above us came home the next day (she was one we had called, thinking she was upstairs) and she said "so.....did we have a sleepover last night?" and chuckled. Well, yes we did, of sorts. Nice to have 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms! ha ha ha
That's definitely one way to get to know your neighbor!
What do you think about living abroad? Do you have any desire to live in another country long enough to learn a little of the language, to understand the culture some, to enjoy the sights and sounds?
If so, where would that be?
If not, why not?
If you already have done it, what were your take-away feelings?
We have been asked many times by family and friends what our status is. So I think this blog is one of the best places to clarify what our status is and what my intentions are as a traveler in this big, beautiful world!
When I arrived in Uruguay from the United States I immediately did all the paperwork to become a legal permanent resident with hopes to gain citizenship one day. But we didn't do that. We changed our minds for various reasons.
Instead we moved to Mexico. We are technically tourists by definition. When you come to Mexico you can enter the country and stay for 180 days. This is referred to as a tourist visa and there is no application process for US Citizens or Uruguayan residents (which we were).
We are just now completing 180 days, so we are going to leave Mexico and stay out of the country for a couple of days and return for another 180 days for me, and hopefully, my partner will get her temporary resident visa good for a year and renewable. Later on, for reasons I'm not going to go into right now, I will apply for my temporary resident visa. We plan to live here as long as possible. I do not plan to become a Mexican citizen at this time.
However, both the United States and Mexico allow a person to have dual citizenship. I have no plans to renounce my American citizenship. Renunciation is an entirely other subject. It is very serious and irreversible. I, personally, and like so many others here in Mexico and in the United States, am not happy with my home country right now. But I do not have any plans to renounce my citizenship.
There is no perfect place on the face of the earth. There is no 100% safe place on the face of the earth. So you have to pick carefully where you think it is most appropriate for you to live for all the reasons that mean something to you. We are here in Mexico not running from anywhere or anyone, but because the cost of living, the climate, the people, and the closeness to the United States were all contributing factors for us. You have to make the decision based on your own set of "factors".
That is exactly what we've done! At this time we are very happy with that decision and hope we can enjoy this beautiful country with it's wonderful people and awesome culture, it's fabulous weather and terrific food, for a long time to come.
There! That about does it! If you have any further questions about stuff like this, please feel free to post it here and I will do my best to answer it.