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.

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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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Belize – Part Two

12 Jun image

When we last saw the intrepid Tortas they had sweet talked their way across the Belize boarder not knowing if they would be allowed back into Mexico. No drama here!! (Belize – Amazing Race Style)

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The newly installed Belize sign.

First things first, we are indeed home in Bacalar. Crossing back into Mexico was easy-peasy. No questions asked. Alice got a 180 day visa, viola.

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Peacock Palm on Caye Caulker is common in Belize.  They are extraordinarily.

During our three day visit to Belize, we took a tour of the sites which included the Belize Zoo. I had heard good things about it and was not disappointed. It is worth adding to your bucket list of things to do in Belize. For a very small zoo, that’s saying a lot.

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It looks like we were close because we WERE.

Belize Zoo

“A non-governmental, non-profit organization focused on wildlife conservation through wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education.”

 

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Rarely seen in the wild tapir. National animal of Belize.

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This macaw was putting on quite the show. He came out of his cage to say hi.

The zoo provides educational programs to thousands of Belizan children and educators annually. Teaching children about the animals of their country gives them an understanding of the environment and why it is important to take care of it.  Making even a small donation to support the zoo will make a huge difference. DOS TORTAS

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Belize – Amazing Race Style

5 Jun image

Lisa and I are big Amazing Race fans. We even applied once with a stellar video, but never got the call. On Thursday we crossed the border from Mexico into Belize. It’s a good thing we held onto the taxi. They wouldn’t let us in!

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Our Belizian taxi driver who helped us get from the border to Belize City.

Lisa’s mom is visiting Mexico on a 180 day tourist visa which is about to expire. We decided that a vacation to Belize would allow her to leave the country and start another 180 days ticking. We hired a dog sitter to stay with Luna. Off we went.

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Pick up point, a lovely hostel in Bacalar.

After boarding a bus in Bacalar, we settled in for the drive to Chetumal and then across the border to Belize City, where we would catch a water taxi to Caye Caulker for some island snorkeling. Sounded like a plan.

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Adios” from Lulu at the Quetzal Hostel

We arrived at the Belizean border and hit a snafu. They wouldn’t let us in! We went round and round with the woman wearing the badge behind the glass box. She refused us entry into Belize because we didn’t have confirmed hotel reservations (hotels are always cheaper when booked in person). Our bus driver tried to help, but eventually left us at the border.

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Lisa and her mom about to board the water taxi to Caye Caulker, BZ

A supervisor looked at our passports and confirmed that we could NOT enter Belize with Alice’s soon-to-expire visa. He directed us to return immediately to Mexico to get an extension.

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Boat ride to Caye Caulker off the coast of Belize in the Caribbean.

In true Amazing Race style, Lisa ignored his directive and went back to the original agent and apologized. We would get the hotel reservation she requested, which we did. AND SHE LET US THROUGH! Apparently there is no communication at the border, surprise, surprise.

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View from our hotel balcony. You can see the Caribbean in the distance.

As I write this we are still in Belize. To our knowledge, no All Points Bulletin has been issued for three “older women” trying to overthrow the government. No security risk here. The trick of course is to get Alice BACK into Mexico. I guess we’ll cross that border when we come to it. To be continued…DOS TORTAS

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Mother-in-Law Adventure

29 May image

I’ve been wanting to take my MIL to Mahahual since she arrived to live with us in December. It’s an hour and half drive to the Caribbean coast, around the top of Laguna Bacalar, here in the southern-most part of Mexico.

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From Bacalar we traveled around the Laguna to the yellow square that is Mahahual.

A friend gifted us a night in a hotel which was the perfect opportunity to pack an overnight bag and catch a one pm. shuttle from Bacalar.

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Porto Coral on the beach.

Mahahual used to be a sleepy little village. The addition of a huge pier to accommodate cruise ships changed everything.

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We cruised the malecon, pedestrian walkway, lined with restaurants, vendors and shops. Alice, who lives to shop was in heaven.

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A creative way to display glass hearts for sale.

We found Restaurante Las Chiquitas on Trip Advisor and had a lovely dinner.

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And then there was breakfast on the beach the following morning.

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The town is pretty deserted when the cruise ships are not in port.

It was just the right amount of time for people-watching, swimming, eating and shopping. A perfect bonding trip for Alice and me. Catching the combi (shuttle) was easy. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day we find a note on Alice’s door that says “gone to Mahahual, back whenever”. DOS TORTAS

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I’m Not A Hugger

22 May image

I distinctly remember the first time I saw my oldest brother hug my father. We were not a demonstrative family and I bolted upright in surprise. There were few hugs or I love you’s after about ten years old. While the embrace shook my world, it was the 70’s and I chalked it up to the times.

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My youngest brother on the left, died of brain cancer in 2000. Oldest (of 4) on right.

Fast forward many years and I now live in Mexico, the land of huggers. It is not uncommon to be introduced to a stranger and have them embrace you and plant a kiss on your cheek. BTW, you are now family.

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Alice living the good life in Mexico.

Speaking of family, I have been adjusting to life with my mother-in-law Alice who moved to Bacalar in December. She has also been adjusting to life with me. Not only does hugging not come naturally, nor does “please, thank you or I’m sorry”. I was raised a Yankee and I can be bristley, a lot;  in other words, I’m a pain in the ass.

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Visiting Palenque.

I am also teachable. I’ve asked Lisa to point out a missed opportunity to be softer, gentler, kinder. That goes for all of you too my friends. A hug or a kick in the pants can sometimes be the same thing. DOS TORTAS

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