Sailing The Laguna

21 Aug image

Living in the southernmost part of Mexico does not lend itself to many visitors. The little village of Bacalar where we live is a five-hour bus ride south of Cancun, nestled along the coast of one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Add to that the fear of Mexico that is actively promoted and it is no wonder why people choose to vacation in Costa Rica, the Bahamas or a cruise to anywhere.

This past week, our friend Karen who lives in Tulum, jumped on a bus to escape the deep jungle heat where monkeys fly through the trees, to hang out with Dos Tortas and enjoy lake breezes.

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As always, having a guest is a good excuse to do something we’ve been putting off for forever…like going for a sail with our neighbors Teresa and Paul.

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Climbing aboard the Gabriela.

It was the first time my MIL had ever sailed and she had a blast on our three-hour tour.

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Lisa and her mom

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Eco Lodge Kuunich Kaanil.

Kuunich Kaanil

 

It’s been on and off raining and threatening to rain. The weather cooperated to give us enough wind and not too much sun. A fabulous time was had by all.

DOS TORTAS 

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On Laguna Bacalar starts the sky.

 

A Matter Of Perspective

14 Aug image

A year ago we were up to our eyeballs in the construction of our house in Bacalar, Mexico, a small town near the southern border of Mexico and Belize. We had bought lakeside property in 2012 and then returned to our home in Austin, Texas to turn our lives upside down and retire to Mexico. Eight months later we kicked off the Adventures of Dos Tortas. And what an adventure it’s been!

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Our bright functional beautiful kitchen today.

 

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The floors were newly painted. Sept 16, 2015

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Building the center island. Lots of sanding. Aug. 24, 2015

Our followers can’t seem to get enough pictures of our house, so I thought I’d post some before, during and after photos. It gives us perspective on how far we’ve come. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

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Counter on the east wall. This morning.

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One year ago.

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Pantry off the kitchen. During and after.

Here are a few more pictures. Some days we have to pinch ourselves.

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The mistress bathroom. 

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Guest Bath. Building a stub wall.

Pictures of the outside will be in a future post. Thanks for this little walk down memory lane. As you can see, we’ve come a long way baby. DOS TORTAS

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Preparing For Our First Hurricane

7 Aug image

As The Tortas approach three years of retirement on Laguna Bacalar in Southern Mexico, our first hurricane was predicted to arrive Wednesday evening with up to 75 mph winds and twelve inches of rain. We live about thirty miles as the crow flies from the Caribbean, separated by water and mangroves and not much else. As with all hurricanes, much depends on their direction and intensity. We watched the sky and prepared for the worst.

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A Beautiful Day For A Hurricane

We hired workers to help us prepare. They cut dead branches, put away outdoor plants and furniture, tied up the kayaks and set sand bags in place. Our concern was for water barreling down the hill toward the house, if we got the foot of rain that was predicted.

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Machetes Were Flying Trimming Trees

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Plants Off The Roof and Kayaks Secure

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Reinforcing the Dock

As predicted the rain started late Wednesday afternoon. And then it stopped. We waited. Everything we could do was done, so it was time for the TORTAS first ever hurricane party!

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Dinner, Dominos and Drinks with Neighbors

During the night Earl turned south and took the brunt of its damage to Belize. Lisa slept through the wind which was hardly more than any tropical storm that blows through Bacalar. We had several heavy showers over the next few days, and that was all. Almost disappointing.

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The Islands Of Belize Were Not So Lucky

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Thursday morning with intense skies and waves.

While we are grateful for the lack of damage we received, we are much more aware of the amount of work it takes to be prepared. In the future, a generator, hurricane shutters and improved drainage could cut the time in half. Lesson learned.

DOS TORTAS

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Don’t Pour Gasoline

31 Jul image

I try to keep my life chill. When a problem arises, too often the pull is to pour gasoline rather then step away from the ledge. I make problems bigger and scarier rather than talking them down. This week I had the ultimate test of my resolve…a car accident.

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Pulling out of our drive in Austin, Texas

The Tortas drive a large Ford F-150 truck that was perfect for hauling our possessions to Mexico but does not work well maneuvering in a small town like Bacalar.

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A busy mercado with limited parking.

During a quick stop at the mercado to pick up some veggies for dinner, I found a taxi double parked in front of my little fruteria and leaving me little room to maneuver. I squeezed through but did not leave enough room to pass the car parked on my right. I clipped the bumper and tore it off completely. My stomach began to flip flop and I was in a panic before I even got out of the truck. We all know what’s it’s like having a car accident, not fun at best and a complete life-altering disaster at worst.

A man and his wife and adult son emerged from an older sedan.  They circled the car, pointing out damage and shaking their heads. My fear was that they would call the police. It’s not that I’m afraid of the police, but the more people that get involved, the higher the price goes.

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Local police.

I didn’t know what to do. They began discussing mechanics. I was pouring gasoline.

When I asked what they wanted to settle things, the man meekly asked for two thousand pesos which I did not have and was an outrageous price. I pulled a 500 peso bill from my wallet and offered it as compensation ($30us). The woman looked me in the eye and said, “we’ll take it”. I handed her the money and we shook hands. When I came out of the store, they were gone. To put this in perspective, most laborers make about 250 pesos a day for hard manual labor.

It took me hours to get the adrenaline out of my system. How often do I create problems where there are none, but there “could be”? Valuable lessons were learned, among them, always deal with the woman. DOS TORTAS

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A Day In The Life

24 Jul image

Living on Laguna Bacalar, three kilometers (2 miles) from the pueblo of Bacalar makes for a vida muy tranquilo

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We didn’t know about the magnificent sunrises when we moved here.

Up with the sun about six thirty. Lisa starts the day making coffee while Luna and I walk down to the dock to photograph the sunrise. It’s been our ritual since she was a puppy. She waits at the back door impatiently every morning.

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We watch the fish, listen to the birds and watch the day come alive.

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Our rickety dock.

Meditation and exercise play a daily part of the routine. On this day it was an exercise video with Alice, Lisa’s mother. Luna likes to join in.

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On alternative days we’re off to the gym. This week we had a visit with blog follower Heather and son Jonathan. What a treat when people travel to Bacalar after reading the blog.

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A trip to the pirate fort and picture in front of the mural is a must when visiting Bacalar.

We visited shops featuring local art and sampled snow cones shaved from a block of ice right before our eyes. We had our choice of homemade tropical fruit toppings, pineapple, lime, tamarind, nance and more.

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Light and refreshing, not like the syrupy sweet snow cones we’re used to.

What day would be complete without a parade!

I’m not sure what the parade was for, but we never need a special reason to celebrate life in Bacalar. DOS TORTAS

Be sure to follow us on Pinterest and Instagram at dos_tortas.

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Real World Peace

17 Jul image

It’s been a heartbreaking week, month, year. Sometimes I feel guilty that I concern myself so little with world violence; as if watching the news, talking about it and worrying could make a difference. I live in a safe place on Laguna Bacalar in Mexico and feel very blessed and privileged to do so.

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Sunrise This Week

I do my best to be genuinely happy one day at a time. No complaints and gratitude, gratitude, graditude. I figure it’s my best contribution to world peace.

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Garden Delights

Some days all I can do is make dinner, clean the kitchen and love the person in front of me.

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Always Curious Luna

I fool myself into thinking that I actually connect with people through social media and blogging. This week I commit to making three phone calls to have real conversations. How about you? What will you do to connect? DOS TORTAS

www.reallove.com

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By Matt Haig

No Stone Left Unturned

10 Jul image

When we dismantled our 1900 square foot house in Austin, Texas to retire and build our dream home on Lake Bacalar in Southern Mexico, no stone was left unturned. We emptied every drawer, closet, and box. The garage, garden shed and attic were swept clean.  It took eight months from making the decision to pulling out of the drive. 

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6×10 trailer, kayaks and bikes

We made decisions about family photos, books, clothes, furniture, appliances, tools, kitchenware, art supplies, exercise equipment, artwork, rugs…and the list goes on.

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Lisa and me with our Sons

We had garage sales. Lord, we had garage sales, and gave our children their photos and whatever furniture, tools and plants were left. A local preschool took bags of yarn. There were multiple trips to Half Price Books and Goodwill. The house got bigger as our stuff got less.

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Our house in Austin

We put our hands on ever “thing” that we owned. I thought I was a minimalist, HAH! Three years later and it’s time to do it again. We have less but we also have a much smaller house. Not everything we brought works for this climate. I will never wear these winter scarves again no matter how much I love them. We have bartered many of Lisa’s tools and the trailer with our contractor.

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Cielo hangs out on the Front Porch

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Front

When I look around at where we have come in three years, I can hardly believe it. It’s time to go through our stuff again. The other part of retiring is that it can make you lazy. Time to get to it.  Life is amazing and beautiful if you choose to make it so. DOS TORTAS

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Retiring in Mexico – Is It In Your Stars?

3 Jul image

Enjoy our most popular blog post. – There are many videos on the web celebrating and promoting retirement and tourism to Mexico. There are thirty-six Magical Cities of which Bacalar is one. Each individual Mexican state invites you to visit with stunning scenery, colorful fiestas and beautiful children (Quintana Roo). Even TV personality Anthony Bordain raves about Mexican cuisine and culture.

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Facebook has many pages, Expats Living in Mexico (4,700 followers), Traveling Around Yucatan, On the Road in Mexico, and many city-specific group pages, where you can ask questions and plan your getaway. There’s even an Adventures of Dos Tortas Facebook page and follow us on Instagram at dos_tortas.The 2010 Mexican census counted a million foreigners living here. If you hope someday to be one of them, Lisa and I have put together a few suggestions:

LEARN SPANISH
Even if you didn’t get those high school language credits in Spanish, and are of a certain age, (older than three), start today. Your life will be so much richer and easier if you understand rudimentary Spanish and can navigate basic living functions – grocery shopping, restaurants, and travel. It’s challenging to learn a second language, and takes commitment and perseverence, just ask Lisa. Another option used by USers is to throw money at problems. You can hire people to do all the work of finding you a place to live and shipping your possessions. They will navigate the immigration process and all you have to do is show up for fingerprinting. It depends on your resources and how you want to spend them.

Local market.

Local market.

START PREPARING TODAY
Even if retirement is years down the road, there is much that you can do and need to do today. Whether you will be living on social security or in a condo on the beach, have a plan, talk about your priorities, dream and take action.

Casa de Los Venatos, Villadolid

Hacienda  Los Venatos, Villadolid, Yucatan

COME HAPPY
Living in a foreign country is hard. Our biggest challenge is that we don’t know what we don’t know. We have exchanged one set of stressors for another. People who succeed in creating a life here must be resilient. It is so easy to carry a satchel of unrealistic expectations. Do not expect Mexico to save your marriage, be the laid back country it was in the seventies or make you happy.

Sunrise of the week.

Sunrise of the week.

Don’t get me wrong, we are very happy and glad we came. Do we wish we had done things differently? Some days, yes. Have we learned things we couldn’t have learned any other way? Absolutely. Is our experience everyone’s experience? Not even close. Do you love adventures and are willing to take risks? Then just maybe, Mexico is perfect for you too. DOS TORTAS

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The Gods Were With Us

26 Jun image

Watching a wall of rain barrel across Laguna Bacalar is a breathtaking experience. There’s barely time to batten down the hatches before the tormenta strikes. During the rainy season we close up the house before any outing, no matter how clear the sky or the weather predictions. You just never know.

Last weekend was the maraton or swim across as we fondly call it, across Laguna Bacalar. It’s a three quarter mile swim with hundreds of flailing bodies. I saw three boats almost run into each other trying to get to a swimmer requesting help. People were panicking in water that wasn’t even over their head.

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Over a thousand registrants.

The weather was perfect and the Laguna calm. The sun even peaked out as the race was beginning. After days of torrential downpours, the gods were with us.

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Checking out our medals.

Swimmers come from all over Mexico, Central America and the US to participate in this open water, fresh water event. There were many young people who left me far behind, some old people too. My official time was 37m 33sec. Not bad for not having trained. I was experiencing residual pain from the kayak marathon.

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Team Bacalar – Shawn, Alex, Jim, Polly and myself

I know so many people that say that they hate to exercise. I don’t go to the gym because I love going to the gym. I go because I can sleep better, walk further and lift more without hurting myself. I go because it helps me live in my body in a way that nothing else does. DO TORTAS

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Blog follower Emily came from San Miguel to swim!

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Swan Lake – Lago de Los Cisnes

19 Jun image

A ballet in Chetumal? It was a student production with 40 peso tickets ($2.50). I had extremely low expectations. If you have read previous blogs, you know that even though it is the state capital, Chetumal is not exactly the cultural center of Mexico. But we take what we can get from our sister city to the south and off we went our little group of four gringos.

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The theater itself was a nondescript building. We took public transportation which was a good decision. There was only street parking available.

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Constitution Theater

As with all ballets, the audience was peppered with little girls dressed in their Sunday best.

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The doors opened and everyone filed in and got settled. Out came the cell phones. I think some people actually recorded the entire production.

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The theater attendees were not well versed in ballet etiquette, which is understandable given the dearth of opportunity in Chetumal. Our little band of gringos led the applause at every opportunity.

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Selfies with honorary Torta and neighbor Teresa.

I wish that I had read the synopsis prior to attending. The program was in Spanish of course. With the low lighting and these old eyes, there was no figuring it out. I simply enjoyed the set, costumes, recorded music and performance.

 

The surprise was that it was wonderful! I was in awe of the young dancers and the professional lead (I am making assumptions here). They got a standing ovation from our little band and none other was more deserved. We chattered all the way home in our taxi how amazing the performance was. The best $2.40 I ever spent! DOS TORTAS

 

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