Search results for 'Passport '

The Best Laid Plans

10 Jan

On Monday of this week, the cast came off my broken leg (Taking Staying Home To A Whole New Level). I had been counting the days, hours, minutes… I had it in my head that I would be able to start walking and getting my life back. How silly am I?

My passport (Living On Borrowed Time) had expired in mid-December and I admit to some anxiety about being without a valid passport while living in Mexico, in the time of Covid. My renewal appointment for April was canceled outright due to the shut down. Finally in December I got a date that I had to postpone after breaking my left fibula. It was only a small break, nothing dramatic. So why was I still in pain four weeks later and wanting to rip the cast off with my teeth!

I rescheduled with the US Consulate for January seventh. I would travel by bus to Playa del Carmen, a couple of hours away. I would spend the night and give myself plenty of time to take a taxi and be at the appointment by noon. Sounds like a plan, right? Crutches be damned.

Sometimes my life feels totally upside down.

Only I didn’t count on the level of discomfort I’d still be in when the cast came off. I must have sprained my ankle pretty badly on top of the fracture. It’s still swollen and bruised. No weight bearing for two more weeks. That didn’t keep me from plowing ahead with my plans. Hotel reserved, check. Bus ticket purchased, check.

https://youtu.be/BEyjS69ZEIQ Hotel Maria Bonita

On Wednesday morning my beloved spouse sat me down and informed me in her most loving, sincere tone, that I was out of my mind. I wanted to object, be right, and revolt, but that small voice that I so wanted to ignore, knew she was right.

How many times has this happened?

We’ve arrived at this place in our relationship after twenty-six years where we trust each other. She’s got my back. I also know that my stupid decisions aren’t without consequences to her. I know I’m selfish, but I try not to be insane. So the best laid plans were cancelled, again. The consulate will reschedule and I’ll have more time to heal. The blog I had hoped to write for today was postponed as well. Oh well, it’s not like any of us are going anywhere any time soon.

DOS TORTAS

Living On Borrowed Time

5 Jul

My passport expires mid-December 2020. I was reminded by a friendly airline attendant the last time I traveled. (Seems like ages ago.) With added security measures, one cannot travel with less than six months left on a passport. You do the math, July! And somehow July is already here.

Leaving myself lots of time, I had an appointment for March 18 at the US Consulate in Playa del Carmen, about a two hour drive toward Cancun. New photos, check, directions to the Consulate, check, application filled out, check, prepaid return envelope from FedEx, check, renewal fee, check. I was all ready.

While giving up my passport always makes me nervous, my research told me that it was a relatively painless process and that I would have my new passport fairly quickly.

Then it happened, Covid and the quarantine. An email arrived the night before my appointment. The Consulate would be closed until further notice.

I have called several times for a status update. Still closed. They will issue emergency passports only. I once had my passport stolen, in Greece. I was issued a temporary passport to get me home to the US. That wouldn’t be bad if I absolutely needed to leave Mexico. The trouble is that the US is not renewing passports either. That means that I could be stranded in the States for who knows how long. Not what I want for sure.

Stela helps write my blog.

I will keep calling but with the cases of Covid going up in both Mexico and the US, things are not looking good. What would it mean if I were living in Mexico on an expired passport? I have no idea. As with so many other things in our lives, I’ll say a prayer and take it one day at a time.

DOS TORTAS

Adiós Amigos/Amigas

4 Nov

Dear Followers, Friends and Family, this will be my last blog post. I have been toying with the idea of discontinuing DOS TORTAS for sometime and the decision is final. With over six years, 310 posts, 5,848 views from all over the world, 195 likes, and 341 followers, it’s been a wonderful experience and a lot of fun. I’ve grown as a writer and pushed myself in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise have grown. I remember being thrilled at having 100 followers, woohoo!

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Our original route from Austin to Bacalar September 2013

There are so many blogs about moving, traveling and living in Mexico. I have veered off topic quite a bit lately which is death for a blogger. Any “how to” guide will tell you to be narrow in topic and write to a specific audience. I’m afraid that ship has sailed. 

A few things we have learned on this great adventure:

  • Living in Mexico is not easy. There is a gaping cultural divide. It is not insurmountable but there is a price. 
  • Living in a gated expatriate community is not living in Mexico. 
  • If you don’t speak Spanish you better have money to pay someone to help navigate a system that is frustrating and complicated at best and incomprehensible at worst – renting, construction/renovation, banking, immigration, shopping, medical, veterinary, etc. etc. 
  • Air travel back and forth from Mexico to wherever has only gotten more problematic. The easy travel that we imagined no longer exists. Missed connections, flight delays due to bad weather, the cost of rescheduling tickets and the unexpected need for a hotel room adds up. Not to mention the inconvenience of lost passports, credit cards and other identification. 
  • Be fearless no matter where life takes you. It’s so much better than the alternative.

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My hard won permanent residency card.

None of this is said to discourage anyone. We love it here in Bacalar and have no regrets or plans to return to the US. Even at 55 and 66 we talk more frequently about aging in place. Illness and disability are probably the main reasons foreigners pack it in and head “home”. Life can turn on a dime. It’s good to have a plan B.

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Lisa’s mother’s tumble which resulted in multiple broken bones, surgery and physical therapy.

I would still love to hear from you with questions or comments. I will continue on Instagram at dos_tortas.  With much gratitude, blessings and peace. 

DOS TORTAS

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Held Hostage In Mexico

8 Apr

For seven and a half hours, over two days we were held, not at gun point but at pen point at our bank in Chetumal, Mexico. Sign here, and here and here. I felt like I was buying a house. And all because of a TYPO!

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Four years ago after retiring to Mexico from Austin, Texas , we opened a Mexican bank account. Once we had our green cards, it was the first things we did. Mexico has a very clear path to legal residency. If you have retirement income, a job or a familial connection, you can apply and obtain residency. The process is clear, electronic and takes about a month. Imagine that.

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No, not our mug shots.

What we didn’t known until now is that there was a typo on our original account application. The bank’s simple solution, cancel the old account and open a new one. Easy right? Au contraire.

Following Spanish tradition, Mexicans have two last names or apellidos. The father’s first and then the mother’s. On any application there is a box for both. Since we have a different tradition and our passport have only one last name, for some unknown reason, the person who processed our original application put an “X” (or equis as in the beer Dos XX) in the box where my mother’s name should have been. We’re unsure as to why this finally caught up to us and had to be rectified immediately.

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Don’t you love signing documents you can’t read?

Mind you the entire 7.5 hour process was conducted completely in Spanish. My head was swimming and there’s no bathroom in a bank. Our green cards and the fact that we had done thousands of dollars of business with this bank in the last four years did not seem to count as adequate identification and proof of residency. Did I mention the bank holds the title to our property? But that’s another never-ending story.

To our frustration, we could not find our most recent electric bill. Note to self and you who are considering retirement in Mexico, the CFE (Comisión Federal de Electricidad) bill is right up there with your green card as proof of residency. Keep the most recent original in your car at all times.

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In that case, did we have a…
Water bill? Nope, we have a well.
Phone bill? Nope, we pay month to month. ($16 a month unlimited talk and text to MX, US and Canada)
Internet? Cable? Nope and nope. We pay cash to a private server and no cable.
Mexican drivers license? Never saw the need.

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It’s a good thing we left the dogs home for what we thought was going to be a quick trip to the bank.

This went on for seven and a half hours over two days. I must admit, I’ve never met more patient people. We did get it resolved after lots of signing and sighing. They had new software…blah, blah, blah and I’m sure the paperwork for international money transfers contributed to the hostage situation. After all, we could be drug smugglers laundering our millions. We were exhausted but extremely glad to have this straightened out. It might be relatively easy to get a green card in Mexico but it sure isn’t easy to open a bank account.

DOS TORTAS

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You Win Some You Loose Some

30 Jul

On Wednesday this week, I lost and found my diamond necklace and had my iPad stolen from my luggage, both on the same day. Travel has its perils.

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Winery beauty Northern California.

Sitting on the plane as we landed in Mexico City to start our U.S. vacation, my hand went to my throat and my necklace was missing. With an attempt at no drama, we looked through the plane seat and sent messages to our house sitter and friend who drove us to the airport. No luck. There wasn’t much else to do, so we continued with our travels.

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Petunias

Hours later, Lisa pointed incredulously at my foot, “what’s that?” and there was the necklace tangled in my shoe laces! It must have fallen and in my 3 a.m. stupor, I tied it into the bow! How crazy is that? I was feeling pretty smug at not having gotten upset at the possible loss of my beloved necklace. Not so fast, the day was young.

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Blooming artichoke.

Any way you look at it, travel these days is getting more stressful, especially international travel. There’s the luggage, fees, passports, immigration paperwork, security, finding your gate, layovers, delays etc. etc. In our case, all is negotiated in Spanish.

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Who doesn’t love goats at a winery ❤️ she looks pregnant.

We landed without further event in San Francisco. The plane arrived thirty minutes early. We slid through immigration and ran to catch an earlier shuttle than we expected for the two hour ride to my daughter’s house. Things were clicking along until I reached into my suitcase to retrieve my iPad. I had it stowed in my checked bag due to newly released security warnings. Drum roll….

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The cover was there but no iPad. Our very long day just got longer. Fast forward to today, I have a new iPad and thanks to that mysterious thing called the cloud, my old pad has been erased and a new one restored. I wish I could say that there was no drama. I understand in my head why people steal, but it’s hard not to take it personally. Replacing a device is an inconvenience, not to mention a pain in the ass and an expense. Lesson learned, nothing of value in checked luggage. When we moved to Mexico we had visions of zipping north to visit the grands. Not as easy as we though and one more thing to consider when making plans to retire in Mexico.

DOS TORTAS

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Belize – Amazing Race Style

5 Jun

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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The One Quality Most Needed to Live in Mexico

16 Aug

When life is so much about being safe, how do I process someone taking a risk, sticking their neck out and saving my bacon?

When we left for the good life in Mexico, everything went…paperless…bill paying, most communications, and all banking. We dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s. We even closed on the sale of our house in Austin from Mexico. It’s easy to feel confident and capable, even a little smug about our ability to live electronically in two worlds, that is until something goes wrong.

Pulling out of our drive in Austin two years ago with everything we own.

Pulling out of our drive in Austin two years ago with everything we own.

Last week I called the investment company where I have been squirreling away money for years. We had been planning to draw funds from the account for the final leg of our house construction. Apparently I had not set up banking information with them as to where to transfer money when I needed a withdrawl. Darn.

Sometimes it's like this, an angel riding shotgun with death in the backseat.

Sometimes it’s like this, an angel riding shotgun with disaster in the backseat.

I discovered that setting up the transfer would take much paperwork, a bank guarantee and a thirty day waiting period. But, but, I live in Mexico!! I’m building a house, I need the money NOW! On top of it all, the conversations were being conducted via Skype which dropped calls repeatedly requiring much redialing.

My dear wife and fellow Torta. What a ride it's been. (The god of corn with cacao pods.)

My dear wife and fellow Torta. What a ride it’s been. (The god of corn with cacao pods.)

I began with the person who answered the phone. After explaining what I wanted, was transferred to their boss, and eventually to THE boss, working my way up the chain of command trying not to sound victimy and whiney. (Not too good with that.) Each step I attempted to convince the person that apologies for putting me on hold were unnecessary. Explaining the rules were mostly unnecessary. I was looking for a loophole.

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I understand that the procedures are in place to protect ME from a slick impersonator wiping out our savings. Requiring a bank guarantee of signature is actual insurance stating that I am me and my signature is mine. To transfer money without that written guarantee meant someone sticking their neck out and probably getting fired if I were a really really good scam artist. And that someone was head boss Maurice. In my book, the man is an angel. He gave me a list of all the documents he would need to make the transfer and provide the loophole. He made no guarantees. I even threw in a few receipts he didn’t ask for just in case. I wish I could have included a dozen roses.

Orchids blooming near an ancient pyramid.

Orchids blooming near an ancient pyramid.

I travelled this week to the U.S. Consulate in Cancun to get a copy of my passport notarized and sent an envelope of documents off via Fedex. Fingers crossed and gods invoked.

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Yesterday the package arrived in New York. I won’t know for a few days if Maurice is convinced and the money is transferred. Our only option at this point is to stay calm and keep building. The one quality most needed to retire in Mexico?….fearlessness. And optimism doesn’t hurt. DOS TORTAS

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Feliz Cinco Ya’ll – Take Two

4 May

Due to a mishap over the last few days, I’ve decided to repost my Cinco de Mayo blog from last year. We sure have come a long way in our relocation to Mexico.  On Friday I  went down hard on my bike and have a hairline tibial fracture behind the right knee. I will be in a brace for three weeks. This morning I’m on pain medication and not thinking too clearly. A handsome traumatologist got me seen, xrayed, diagnosed in and out in two hours for less than $200 Xays, brace and medication.

 

Immobile for three weeks.

Immobile for three weeks.

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A Repost From 2013

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Austin by waving green, white and red Mexican flags. So much so that I once heard someone point to a Mexican flag and refer to it as a “Cinco de Mayo” flag. It’s a day for family, friends, eating tacos, listening to conjunto and drinking cerveza. Few know what the holiday is really about. When living in Mexico, I visited the Fort de Puebla where a fight for independence took place in 1864. The French, with their highly trained forces thought they had a cake walk in taking over Mexico. A rag-tag militia of about 500 strategically placed Mexican soldiers proved them wrong. Mexico’s independence took years of battles with French, Spanish, US, and British troops. It’s no wonder everyone celebrates a win by the underdogs.

But Cinco is a celebration of much more than the Battle of Puebla. It’s the celebration of a strong, proud, independent people who love to celebrate just about anything. As a youngster from New Jersey, I was wary of a picnic in a cemetery for Day of the Dead. It was a delightful day that allowed me to experience another culture in a very personal way. There are birthdays, saint days, quinceñeras, religious holidays, Sunday picnics, and many more events that I hope to learn about and participate in.

We continue to pack containers, take books to Half Price, have dinner with friends and plan our escape. There are no “final” goodbyes. Just about everyone is invited to visit. So if you think that southern Yucatan may be a vacation destination in your future, get your passport, practice your Spanish and bring a “celebration state-of-mind”, and remember your hammock.

Alex Enjoying a Sunny Lake Bacalar Day

Alex enjoying a sunny Lake Bacalar day

Sunset on the Bay of Chetumal

Sunset on the Bay of Chetumal

Off to Immigration We Go Hi Ho

15 Sep

Countries all over the world struggle with how to deal with migrating populations. Folks are looking for a better life, job, spouse, opportunity, cultural experience or like us, a slower, more relaxed life. We met Max and Aliza who hooked up in Africa and have been traveling for three years. They are from Canada and the Netherlands and make a living photographing, building websites, waiting tables and whatever it takes to barter their way around the world. They came to Bacalar from Cuba where they had been living for the past month.

In the US, the issue is citizenship. If people come to the States to work, should they be given the opportunity to become citizens? To be clear, Lisa and I have no intentions of becoming Mexican citizens. Relinquishing US citizenship is a movement that we are not part of.

For many retirees in Mexico, acquiring residency has been long and complicated. Up until last year, a multi-tiered process was in place that took many years to complete. In an effort to streamline the Mexican government completely overhauled their system. As a former state employee, I am intimately familiar with legislators who write law, provide no additional funding and expect well meaning, short staffed and underpaid workers to seamlessly implement it.

The new system provides temporary and permanent residency and must be initiated in one’s home country. For vacationers, a 180-day visa is supplied at the boarder. Temporary residents (retirees/jubilados) must prove adequate income from outside of MX. No working is allowed. Residentes temporales may drive a US-plated vehicle and keep temporary status for four years. After that time, they must sell or pay high fees to keep their US cars and apply for permanent status. The whole car thing is to protect the Mexican auto industry.

Our trip to the Mexican Consulate in Austin provided visas which we presented at our local immigration office in Quitana Roo. The requirements to prove financial solvency are a vague formula and perusing the internet and talking to expats in Bacalar only contributed fear and confusion. We gathered what we thought were the supporting documents needed (bank statements, copies of our passports, and proof of domicile) and began our petition with a visit to INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración). The advice we had been given was to arrive 30 minutes early to get in line and go when it’s raining because there will be fewer people. The weather cooperated and after three trips, our application was completed and submitted. My Spanish ability certainly enhanced and hindered the process. The alternative was an immigration lawyer or Spanish-speaking paralegal. I am stubborn enough that I thought I could figure it out and I did. The three trips were due to my inability to locate and understand the instructions, nothing more.

We were told that we would have to wait a month to get our residency card. Friends here smile at our naivety. It is true that nothing is timely in Mexico. Agreements are flimsy.

Lisa and I are extremely grateful for the opportunity to live in Bacalar, MX. We decided to remain happy and peaceful no matter what happens. Actually, that is pretty much the formula for our lives. If more is required of us, we will provide it. For now, we will wait. Our motto remains, “No Complaining in Paradise.”

If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace. – Thich Nhat Hanh

Bird of Paradise

Bird of Paradise

Trumpet Vine Blooming

Bogavilla

Thought of the Day

Thought of the Day

Feliz Cinco Ya’ll

5 May

Cinco de Mayo is celebrated in Austin by waving green, white and red Mexican flags. So much so that I once heard someone point to a Mexican flag and refer to it as a “Cinco de Mayo” flag. It’s a day for family, friends, eating tacos, listening to conjunto and drinking cerveza. Few know what the holiday is really about. When living in Mexico, I visited the Fort de Puebla where a fight for independence took place in 1864. The French, with their highly trained forces thought they had a cake walk in taking over Mexico. A rag-tag militia of about 500 strategically placed Mexican soldiers proved them wrong. Mexico’s independence took years of battles with French, Spanish, US, and British troops. It’s no wonder everyone celebrates a win by the underdogs.

But Cinco is a celebration of much more than the Battle of Puebla. It’s the celebration of a strong, proud, independent people who love to celebrate just about anything. As a youngster from New Jersey, I was wary of a picnic in a cemetery for Day of the Dead. It was a delightful day that allowed me to experience another culture in a very personal way. There are birthdays, saint days, quinceñeras, religious holidays, Sunday picnics, and many more events that I hope to learn about and participate in.

We continue to pack containers, take books to Half Price, have dinner with friends and plan our escape. There are no “final” goodbyes. Just about everyone is invited to visit. So if you think that southern Yucatan may be a vacation destination in your future, get your passport, practice your Spanish and bring a “celebration state-of-mind”, and remember your hammock.

Alex Enjoying a Sunny Lake Bacalar Day

Alex enjoying a sunny Lake Bacalar day

Sunset on the Bay of Chetumal

Sunset on the Bay of Chetumal

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