Archive | January, 2013

Day One Bacalar

30 Jan

Getting off the bus, we grabbed a taxi to Casita Carolina, our home away from home for the next two weeks. We dropped our bags and walked to the water and out on to the dock. There are no words to express the beauty of the water and the sky. I immediately put on my bathing suit and went for a swim. It was fabulosa. The next day we met with Steven (, our realtor who swept us off to see available property in the area. I wish I could say that we found just what we were looking for, but by the end of the day we were both disappointed and drained, and then I ended up at the emergency clinica…

The lawn slopping down to the laguna.

The lawn slopping down to the laguna.


Busy Week

28 Jan

This has been a busy week for Dos Tortas. Lisa worked all weekend to get the computer room painted. It looks like a completely different room. Today she power washed the outside of the house to get it ready to paint. I went to the Mexican Consulate this week to get information on immigrating to Mexico. My friend Karen in Mexico put me in touch with an immigration lawyer who has put together the details as he’s determined them to be of the new laws that went into affect in September 2012. There has been much confusion as to what the new laws are and this document spells it out in a very understandable way.

Renovated Office

Renovated Office

January Progress Report

21 Jan

Damos gracias for a three-day weekend to move along the preparation for the move to Bacalar, Mexico. Major things have happened and continue to happen, even though people have said, “but you’re not leaving until July!” We know better. There’s much to do and time is short. This month we purchased a 6×10 cargo trailer and moved it to the driveway in front of our house. It serves as a storage unit for garage sale items as we clean out closets, drawers and rooms. We also made a trip to Target and purchased 20, 30-gallon plastic tubs for $6 each. Score! It makes sorting that much easier.

Our catch-all room, the “computer room” which served as massage studio, office, yarn/craft room and bicycle-gear storage room had been slated for painting this month. I’m happy to say that the room is empty and Lisa is texturing and prepping the walls for painting as I write. This is HUGE! The room was our nemesis. Much of its contents are stacked in our living room to be gone through nightly while watching TV…photos, diplomas, books, knitting patterns, tax returns, old love letters, geesh. Years of not being responsible certainly can bite one in the tush.

Another milestone is that Lisa got new pictures to renew her passport. We also have an appointment on Tuesday to meet with a Title Company to talk about self-selling our house. You can see that there are many things that must be considered. Cleaning up 20 years of our lives has certainly been an emotional process. What to do with the toys I keep for my grandson to play with when he visits? If I give them to him they will disappear in his electronic playland. Sigh. Good thing we’re prepping for the biggest adventure of our lives. Stay tuned dear readers. February is right around the corner and believe me there’s more to do.





From Tulum to Bacalar

19 Jan

After months of suenos of Bacalar, Mexico, Lisa and I were finally on our way. We had flown into Cancun and traveled to Tulum to visit the town, pyramids and our friends Karen and Skip. I think I held my breath all the way from Tulum to Bacalar. What if it wasn’t what we wanted? What then? The highway was smooth which made travel rapido y comoda. It was two lanes with wide shoulders (perfect for cycling), with an occasional exit for somewhere else, a few casitas and mostly long stretches of thick jungle. What I found out later was that the highway passed through Sian Ka’an,  a million acres of a biosphere reserve, i.e. protected wetlands, tropical forests, mangroves, and home to over 300 species of birds and wild monkeys. It borders on the Caribbean and has only five entradas. Sian Ka’an is Mayan for ‘Origin of the Sky’. This amazing ecological wonder is within dos horas de Bacalar and literally in our back yard and is available for camping, kayaking, birding and many other activities.

As our bus chugged along, I kept watching for a glimpse of the lake. I knew we had to be getting close and I wanted badly to see if it was as beautiful as I hoped. FINALLY, off in the trees, aqua azul! I was confused when the bus driver announced almost immediately, “Bacalar”. I thought I’d misunderstood. The lake is 55 km long; surely we couldn’t be there already! But we were. The lake is not visible from the highway, and one could miss it if they didn’t glance to their left as you pass through town.

We gathered our luggage and found a taxi to our destination, Casita Carolina. This was one of the first times we’d made reservations while traveling, usually we lean toward spontaneity. As we got off the bus, Lisa and I looked at each other and grinned from ear to ear. This felt like our new home. Bienvenidos a Bacalar.

Casita Carolina – the website is filled with information about Bacalar.

The lawn slopping down to the laguna.

The lawn slopping down to the laguna.

The common area where travelers access the computer and visit.

The common area where travelers access the computer and visit.

Lisa relaxing in the shade at Casita Carolina.

Lisa relaxing in the shade at Casita Carolina.

The Trip to Bacalar

13 Jan

In summer 2012 it became clear that I could be available to retire from my state job in 2013. After a conversation with the retirement office and a purchase of back service, I determined that a retirement date of July 31, 2013 was possible. The annuity would be small and living in Austin with it’s increasing taxes would be challenging to say the least. With Lisa’s help we created a plan. With my small annuity and her VA disability check, just maybe we could afford to retire and travel as we’ve always dreamed.

The search for a retirement location was narrowing and everything pointed to Bacalar in southern Yucatan. It was time for a visit to see el pueblo for ourselves. The trip would also be an opportunity to stop in Tulum on the way to Bacalar to visit my friend Karen and see her house.

We planned the trip for the first two weeks in December and made arrangements to fly into Cancun. We left on a Friday and arrived among the beach vacation and bachelor-party crowd, already in flip-flops and ready to soak up the sun (them not us). I stopped at the kiosk in the airport for ADO (ah-day-OH) bus line and got our tickets to Tulum. Buses in Mexico are clean and comfortable. We arrived easily and found the Weary Traveler Hostel not far from the bus terminal. Hostels can be a fun way to connect with other travelers in a laid back environment. For about $30 a night, we had a basic room, communal kitchen, breakfast and a free bus ride to the beach.

We spent the weekend exploring the pyramids, visiting Karen and Skip’s house and hanging out on the beach. Come Monday morning, we were ready to put Tulum behind us and head off to Bacalar.

ADO is a government supplemented transportation company that offers extensive and efficient transportation services.


The Weary Traveler


Los Arboles Tulum – An off-the-grid community near Tulum Mexico


Karen & Skip’s beautiful home on five acres in the jungle is waiting for their solar panels.



Why Bacalar?

9 Jan

When my friend Karen showed off the plans for her house in Mexico at her retirement party in spring of 2012, a light went off in my head. I immediately began googling, “retire to Mexico”. One of the most useful sites I found was MexicoGuru and their very creative, “Take the Test”.

I thoughtfully filled out the “Test” designed to point me in the direction of the perfect Mexican retirement location. For those who know me, swimming, kayaking and being close to water comes as no sorpresa. Lisa has wanted to own a boat for the twenty years I’ve known her. We want a pueblito where amigos/as speak both Spanish and English and where we feel like neighbors, rather than outsiders. I realize that I will always be an outsider in Mexico, but we want to live among faces that recognize us and value our friendship. We do not want to live on the coast. I dislike being hammered by the wind blowing off the ocean (besides, too many tourists and expensive). We want a simple life, close to nature and near an airport for the occasional viaje to the States. After taking the test several times, the answer was clearly, SOUTHERN YUCATAN. This was a surprise for me since I had never been any further south in the Yucatan than the pyramids de Tulum.  Lisa and I have been to Belize which is less than an hour drive from Bacalar and liked it very much.

I put my research skills to work to find possible areas to live in southern Yucatan. Somehow I discovered a long skinny swath of blue called La Leguna de Siete Colores or the Lagoon of Seven Colors. The pictures were stunning. There wasn’t a lot of information on the pueblo of Bacalar, but I was very fortunate to run across Steven Sohrakoff (, a realtor who lives there.  Steven happily answered a bazillion questions that we sent him. Based on his answers and my research, Lisa and I took the plunge to visit Bacalar in December 2012.

Map of Bacalar

This was a boat ride with a friend we met in Bacalar. We rode the lake for four hours and didn’t visit half of it. We also only saw two other boats.


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Every day the sunrise was more beautiful than the last.


A Story Worth Telling

5 Jan

As I prepare for the move to Mexico and sift through my life. I am reminded of past experiences that have not taken up much of my mental space for a long time. Posting the picture of making tamales in Mexico (the first time I’d ever tasted them) reminded me of what happened during that birthday at age 22. When I told my Mexican family that it was my birthday, they became excited and insisted on a party. La señora asked me if I had a white dress. (as if that was the first thing I’d packed for my stay in a foreign country.) At her insistence, I invited friends for a fiesta. I came home on the day of the party to find their meager house swept clean and all furniture magically disaparecido. My bedroom was decorated with red streamers and plastic flowers. The familia Vasquez were not a wealthy family by any standards. Their one room house was divided by curtains to give the semblance of three rooms for this couple and their three children. There were communal sinks in the courtyard, shared toilets and two showers for the four apartments, one of which I rented with another university student. The night of the party, my classmates arrived to celebrate and my family was so happy. As the evening progressed, there was banging at the entrance to the courtyard and a procession of people carrying a large glassed-in statue of the Infant of Prague invaded my party. People knelt and began to pray (what I later figured out was the rosary) with no explanation whatsoever. Well, there might have been an explanation, but my Spanish was limited and I really had no idea what was going on. My friends and I escaped to the courtyard to scratch our heads and wonder at this seemingly spontaneous show of piety and what it had to do with my birthday. I later learned that the rainy season was seriously delayed and the statue was being taken from house to house in order for prayers to be offered for rain. Cisterns were empty and crops were in danger. I love that a prayer service, complete with portable alter (it took four men to carry the statue on a stretcher and it must have weighed a ton) took precedent over a private birthday celebration with no thought to apologize. It was a blessing all around, as the rain started a short time later and I got to experience the most memorable birthday of my life.

My room decorated for a feliz compleaños

Mis compadres
The birthday girl
Juan y Ramon Vasquez
The courtyard facing the street. My room was the door on the left. Funny, I don’t remember it being this stark. It was a home where I felt loved and welcomed

Why Mexico?

1 Jan

There have been a series of questions that people have asked when we tell them that we are moving to Mexico. I will attempt to address them each in their own blog. The first is Why Mexico? I studied and lived in Central Mexico during my junior year in college at The Universidad de Las Americas in Cholula, Puebla 1973-74.

I was in school for nine months, six of which were studying intensive Spanish, four hours a day/four days a week. The school was on a trimester program, so three-day weekends allowed me to travel. I visited Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, Monterrey, Tampico, Vera Cruz, Oaxaca, Puebla, the Yucatan and Tehuantepec. I fell in love with churches, pyramids, small pueblos, big cities, museos, Mexican artistas, dancing, history, the people and speaking Spanish. At 21 I was designing the house I wanted to build in Mexico. Who knew it would take me forty years to realize my dream.

After my studies in Mexico, I moved to Austin, TX at the suggestion of a teacher who knew how much I loved my time in Mexico. I wanted to continue to speak Spanish and live as part of a Mexican/American community. I never could have imagined the life I’d get to live in Austin. I’ve loved the community and being part of the experience of living here. It’s time for a change. The city has grown and I am ready for a smaller home-base that will allow us to travel and live simply. I feel as if I am going home. I am forever grateful to Lisa who is excited to share this sueño conmigo.

Making tamales for my birthday with my Mexican family. Feb. 1974

Making tamales for my birthday with my Mexican family  February 1974

View from the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, outside of Mexico City. Sept.1973

View from the Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan, outside of Mexico City September 1973

During a festival in Cholula, Puebla.

During a festival in Cholula, Puebla.


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