Rocks In My Head

25 Jun

Writing a blog about life in Mexico seemed like a good idea when I started in 2012. As we near the end of our fourth year of living in Bacalar, I did not expect my time to be filled with dealing with my aging body. Two weeks ago was the first time I missed an entry due to illness. Having always been healthy, and I admit, judgmental of others’ aches and pains, I feel the need to tell the truth about what’s been going on. I’m a mess.

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Sunrise from my hammock.

I thank God for the healthcare system here in southern Mexico and the excellent doctors. My motto has always been that a doctor’s is a second opinion since mine is the first. Lately I’ve needed second, third and fourth opinions.

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Isn’t he a cutie? Our internist Oscar Rosaldo.

Back in February I had a sudden and severe headache that took me out. After a day in bed, it resolved itself and I went on my way. Several months later, as we were leaving for Texas, it hit again. Time for that second opinion.

My doctor Oscar sent me for a CT scan which he reviewed with a worried face. There were white spots on my brain that he said were calcium deposits and sent me to an arterial doctor. The arterial doctor did a sonogram of my carotid artery and declared it normal and sent me to a neurologist.

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Painting to stay awake.

The neurologist sent me for an EEG which was a most interesting experience. I had to stay awake all night before the 8:30 am test. It’s been many years since I stayed awake all night and I had concerns if I could do it. It turned out not to be terribly difficult after all.

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The test involved wires attached all over my head which read brain activity during waking, sleeping, lights flashing and numerous other instructions. It turns out that I actually do have rocks in my head and it’s thought that they’ve been there a long time and are not responsible for my headaches. Sigh.

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So I came away with a prescription for migraine medication, having eliminated a tumor and seizures as the cause of my headaches. That’s the way it is with headaches, process of elimination. Since then I’ve had a virus with fever followed by strep throat. I am now on antibiotics and coming out of it. At least I have a comfy hammock to recover in. Gratitude abounds. DOS TORTAS.

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A Mexican Dog Story

18 Jun

Monday we took Cielo, our outside dog to the vet. Cielo adopted us about two years ago, moving into our construction site and living in our house before we did. We tried our darndest to get rid of him but he persisted and we relented.

He is a doberman with cropped tail and natural ears.  He is a free spirit and even though the yard is fenced, he finds a way out and comes and goes as he pleases. Truthfully there’s been times we’ve been afraid of him. He’s gotten aggressive when we’ve tried to examine his foot that was causing him pain. We give him a wide birth. Mostly he’s a big goof and loves his head scratched more than he likes to eat.

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Lisa getting to know Cielo.

Two years ago when we decided he could stay, we took him on his only car ride, to be sterilized. I think he’s never forgiven us. Lately we have noticed a discharge from his penis tinged with blood and have been wanting to get him checked out. He also needs his vaccinations. It’s been low on my priority list and I’ve been hoping it would just fix itself. Well, it didn’t.

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Floppy ears.

So I made an appointment and Monday was the day. He took one look at something strange in my hand, the leash, and took off running. With the help of our neighbor, we cornered him. I thought a treat would help, but he was having none of it. We managed to get him in the truck and off we went to see Veterinario Joel.

Dr. Joel had a muzzle which I suggested we use. Thank God. Cielo was not a happy camper. The diagnosis was tumors. Don’t ask me where they were located. The bloody glove had been inserted somewhere I didn’t want to see. So he’s now on chemo therapy, one treatment a week for four weeks. Monday’s bill was $33us. Each additional week is $22. The vet and I both scratched our heads at the origin of said tumors since they are sexually transmitted and Cielo has had no interest in that department for two years. Some things I just don’t have the Spanish for and frankly don’t need to comprehend.

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Cielo means sky. My original painting.

I know we are bad pet parents for not taking care of this sooner. I saw Cielo after we returned and he came up to me with his little helicopter tail going. So I guess he forgives me. At least until tomorrow when we get to do it all over again. Treatment number two here we come.  DOS TORTAS

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It’s All About Relationships

11 Jun

Making the decision to move to Mexico required many considerations. One of them was Lisa’s mom, Alice. Lisa left her California home at nineteen and only returned for the occasional family visit. Alice made a few forays to Texas but their relationship was not close. What to do?

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Lisa and Alice. They’re relationship has blossomed.

Alice was feeling increasingly isolated and her capacity for self care seemed to be diminishing. We felt like she would have a more vibrant and varied life with us and decided to invite her to live in Bacalar. After a rocky adjustment, life has settled into a new normal. I decided to ask her a few questions about her decision to move with us. It was a fun chance to connect and get to know her a little better.

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Alice’s 300 sq foot house on our property.

What made you decide to move to Mexico? – First and foremost to be near my daughter. I never really liked Bakersfield and I was ready for a change. My siblings all have their families and I was ready to do something different.

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A secure front door, media room and tiny kitchen.

How has Mexico surprised you? – I had visions of donkeys and huts. People are poor but they work hard. I am always amazed how kind they are. I like that people are not stressed. It’s such a peaceful environment.

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A porch makes the house feel spacious and comfortable.

What do you like here? – I love my house. I also get to see things I’ve never seen before like pyramids, villages, churches and markets. I would like to do more traveling.

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One of the few tubs in Bacalar, a colorful bathroom and cozy bedroom. A design all her own.

What do you miss? – I really miss driving. (we both laughed, as her driving was a problem in CA) I miss going out at night. Sometimes Bacalar is a little too sleepy for me. Truthfully I don’t miss much. I’m really happy here.

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Saving a visitor stuck in the fence and corralled by the dogs.

We talked awhile and agreed that it’s hard to connect with other foreigners here. People live their busy lives in Mexico much like the US. The responsibility is ours to reach out. It’s not easy but very worth it.

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No Blog Today

4 Jun

Unfortunately I’m under the weather. Dos Tortas will be back next week.

Advice For Living In Mexico

28 May

What advice do you have for those planning to move to or travel in Mexico? I penned “Retiring To Mexico Is It In Your Stars?” and reposted in July 2016. It has been my most popular blog. It’s worth taking a look back and see if things have changed in four years of life on the Costa Maya.

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Lisa making friends everywhere.

Learn Spanish – Our Spanish has improved tremendously in four years. But not without lots of work. Lisa had zero prior Spanish. Her first words were highway signs as we drove south from Texas. Today she understands almost everything. She will miss words but understand the basic conversation. She also speaks passable Spanish. Lisa is not afraid to make mistakes and will try to converse in all situations. People love her for her willingness and she continues to grow in confidence. We both use the Ap Duolingo. Mexican friends are the best.

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After an hour conversation, a shop owner in Ticul shares local history and gives great discounts!

I had passable Spanish upon arrival. I was worthless on the phone. Understanding was my weakness. I now too understand most conversations. I no longer avoid making phone appointments. I feel confident and am continually improving.

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An international group of friends celebrating our marriage in July 2014.

So yes, LEARN SPANISH. Don’t avoid it no matter how uncomfortable.

Start Preparing Today – I did a lot of research before we took off for Mexico. Many people want to get on Facebook and simply ask questions. It’s lazy and does not prepare you for the strong independent life you will need to lead. If you are planning on living in a gated community with only English speaking immigrants and hiring bilingual help, you will miss much of the beauty that is Mexico. No strong opinions here.

Come Happy – I stand fast with this suggestion. There is so much here that delights, the people, the culture, and the natural beauty. However, like life, the same things that delight will dismay if you take them personally or impose your own standards. The relaxed living means things don’t get done in a timely fashion. The use of plastic is through the roof and recycling cannot begin to keep up. Much of the natural beauty may be littered in trash.

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There was so much trash floating in the water of this little village, it was hard to be here.

Words are incomplete to describe our chosen life and country. It is painful to see the distrust and animosity between the US and Mexico. We are like sibling who’ve had a falling out and haven’t spoken in years for an infraction we can no longer remember. So sad. We will continue to be ambassadors. Please ask questions and suggestion topics.

DOS TORTAS

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This Is Your Assignment

21 May

As I sat and pondered a topic for this week’s blog, I was approached on Facebook by Camille E. Torok de Flores for inclusion in a series she is putting together on Blogs About Mexico Worth Reading. I expressed interest so she sent me a list of questions to complete. While I have blogged in the past on most of these topics, I realize that four years into our life in Mexico perhaps it’s time to revisit the answers.

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Why do you blog? What is the purpose of your site? For whom do you write? In the beginning of the whole move to Mexico process, the blog was a response to the questions asked by family, friends and strangers, why and aren’t you afraid?

Then there was the retiring, planning, packing and never ending garage sales. My brain was spinning and the blog was an opportunity to process and share.

When we arrived in Bacalar, everything was new and exciting. We were adjusting to a new life and every aspect was intriguing. There were endless blog topics just walking around town.

The next few years were occupied with jumping through hoops to begin construction of our home, the construction itself and its completion. Mixed in were our various travels both within Mexico and to the States.

Where do we go from here? It’s a good question. September 2017 begins our fifth year in Bacalar. I do not know my readers well. I would love to hear from you what you get out of the blog?

Where can you be found? (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc)
I am on Instagram at dos_tortas Pinterest at Bacalar, Mexico and on Facebook at The Adventures of Dos Tortas.

What is your favorite blog post? Why? No favorite stands out for me, although my readers clearly have a favorite, First of All Have Fun (February 2017).

What has been the most difficult for you to blog about? Why? My most difficult blogs have been the ones that I share the pain of having left our family or the death of friends. Being vulnerable is required to live an honest life. But it’s hard.

What advice do you have for those planning to move to or travel in Mexico? I can see that it’s going to take more time than I have today to answer these questions. It’s time for a personal reassessment so look for future blogs to cover these topics.

What has been the best experience you’ve had in Mexico? What did you learn from it? To be continued.
What has been the worst experience you’ve had in Mexico? What did you learn from it?

DOS TORTAS

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A Week In The Life

14 May

Life in the jungle can be quiet at times. The question I was asked most frequently during our recent visit to Austin was “what is your day like?” This week the excitement entailed watching a rain storm (I am grateful, our plants were thirsty). Lisa washing the truck in preparation for its sale (thank you Lisa, it’s been hot here!) and a trip to Chetumal.

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All shiny and clean, inside and out.

Yesterday the Laguna was flat with no breeze so I headed out in my little blue kayak. Thirty minutes later, I turned around to race a storm home. The sky to the north looked ominous. The wind picked up and I surfed homeward. What fun with the wind in my back. How quickly the weather can change on the Laguna.

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On Wednesday we went to Chetumal, our nearest city and state capital. Halfway, there is a security checkpoint. We are near the border with Belize, so this is routine. We are used to being stopped in our big black pickup, but assumed it would be smooth sailing in Lolita. Not!

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Our new little car.

The security guards are dressed in black, long sleeves, bullet proof vests, boots, the works, and standing in the sun on a blacktop highway. I don’t know how they don’t pass out. We were signaled to pull over and asked the usual, “where are you from?” We said that we live in Bacalar, but the officer persisted in wanting to know where we were from. We told him, Texas and for some reason he proceeded to tell us all about his 15 day vacation to Florida. His eyes were wide and animated as he talked of Miami, Key West, Ft. Lauderdale…his enthusiasm for our country was palpable!!

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While this may have been an odd security checkpoint conversation for us, to him it appeared an opportunity to share his experience with someone who understood. It was sweet and comical. What a hoot. We laughed for miles.

DOS TORTAS 

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You Know You’ve Made It When…

7 May

Lisa and I have always been very self-sufficient women. When we retired to Southern Mexico in 2013 there were many tasks to be accomplished that needed more language proficiency than we had at the time. We got assistance with the initial immigration process, opening a bank account and all of the federal and local permits required for building our house.

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There are some tasks that are worth figuring out ourselves. It improves language skills and confidence. This week we bought a car.

In Mexico, there are two types of residency cards, temporary and permanent. We are quickly approaching our permanent status. As temporary residents we are permitted to drive a car with US license plates. Not so with permanent residency. Besides it was time ro get rid of the truck.

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Mexican green card.

Our trusty Ford 150 pick-up not only carted all our possessions to Mexico, and made two long trips NOTB, but hauled endless building supplies for the construction of our house. With 158,000 miles, it has served us well and we are so grateful. She is however, too damn big.

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Pulling out the drive in Austin 2013.

City driving in our truck has been a nightmare. Mexican cities are old and streets are narrow. Parking is a whole other story. Buying gasoline is our biggest monthly expense. Our plan all along has been to return from our US vacation and begin car shopping.

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Registering the car and ordering our Mexican license plates.

While on our trip, a car was posted for sale to the Bacalar Yahoo Group. It was exactly the size we wanted, a 2008 Chevy Captiva, merlot red, little wagon with ridiculously low mileage.

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Meet Lolita, the newest Torta!

We struck a deal this week. On Friday we managed to get the car registered in our names and purchase insurance all in about three hours. Feeling quite proud of ourselves we headed out for a road trip to Tulum. It’s nice to feel that we can manage basic tasks in Spanish. Our hard work has paid off.

DOS TORTAS

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The Long Trip Home

30 Apr

After a twenty hour return trip from our vacation to Austin Texas, the Tortas are very glad to be home. No, it doesn’t normally take that long, but we had a five-hour layover in Dallas. It’s a long story.

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A great find tucked away at the end of a hallway in the Dallas airport allowed us to work out the kinks. Every airport needs a yoga studio.

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Lisa is a veteran so we checked out the USO.

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What a welcoming spirit and comfy chairs to pass the time!

A shout out goes to our house sitters Paul and Natasha. We returned to healthy, happy dogs and a home much as we left it.

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Puppy kisses from Luna who was very happy to see us.

After sailing through customs, we met up with Lisa’s mom in Cancun. She was arriving from California. Our travel was not particularly stressful, just long.  It is great to be home.

DOS TORTAS

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Go With God Sandy

23 Apr

The recent visit to our hometown of Austin, Texas included a drive through the old neighborhood. You could tell which houses had had a facelift or complete makeover and likely changed hands. One house stood out with its overgrown yard and clunker parked in the driveway. It looked absolutely the same as when we left almost four years ago. We laughed and wondered aloud how Sandy was doing.

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Pulling out of our driveway August 2013

Leaving Austin after having lived there forty years for me and more than twenty for Lisa meant lots of goodbyes. We visited with friends, some of which we hadn’t seen in years, but who wanted to connect before we took off for the wilds of Southern Mexico. We even threw a party in our yard, complete with live music. There were many opportunities for folks who wanted it. But we never saw Sandy.

She was our neighbor a few doors down. She played softball with Lisa’s team for a few years. I remember hanging out in her hot tub with a group of women naked and laughing. It was a first for me but lots of fun.

Over the years, Sandy became more and more of a recluse. I stopped by her house more than once to invite her to some event and she was clearly uncomfortable and did not invite me in. The house reeked of cigarette smoke. She promised to show, but never did.

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Sandy’s trusty little white truck.

I knew Sandy had retired from her job as a surgical assistant to an eye doctor. She also volunteered with children. I wonder what happened. Lisa and I had dinner last week with some mutual friends who informed us that Sandy had died. When she didn’t show for a cancer treatment, the clinic sent the police for a wellness checkup. They found her in her recliner.

I believe a lifelong struggle with depression and alcohol contributed. She only died the first of March and it makes me so sad. I just came from the grocery store and saw someone who looked like her and did a double take. Then I remembered.

Adiós means “go with God”, so adiós Sandy. I know that you are at peace. We just never know when we say goodbye if we’ll ever see anyone again. So hug them tight and tell them you love them, even if they’re your neighbor.

DOS TORTAS

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