Tag Archives: expatriate

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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Sailing The Laguna

21 Aug

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

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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Frieda Kalo Museum – Mexico City

12 Jul

On my recent travels to California from our home in Bacalar Mexico, I had a layover in Mexico City. It’s been many years since I visited one of the world’s largest cities. I stayed in a small hostel near the airport having an early morning flight the following day. I had done my research on what to do nearby with an afternoon in this city known for museums, mercados and amistad (friendship). The Frieda Kalo Museum was a taxi drive away, so off I went on a Torta adventure.

I was surprised to see so many people had the same idea on a gray, cool, weekday afternoon. After a thirty minute wait, listening to all the different languages spoken around me, I entered the great blue wall that housed the artist’s compound.

Waiting in line.

Waiting in line.

Large paper mâché figures welcomed all guests.

Welcome from overhead.

Welcome from overhead.

I was immediately transfixed by the large garden at the center. Her presence was there. I could imagine her sitting peacefully with the plants, fountains and sky.

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Garden paths.

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Entrance to the house and private antiquities collection.

Entrance to the house and private antiquities collection.

Walking through the house I was struck by her work. I believe that she was one of the most self-assured women in history. She put herself out there in photography and paint and really didn’t seem to care what others thought of her work. After a debilitating accident in her youth, her art was an expression of both pain and her unique view of life.

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I was transfixed by her use of color.

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As I walked through the house, I could feel the presence of many historical figures that had once graced the dinner table.

A colorful stove to prepare the meals.

A colorful stove to prepare the meals.

Fragrant aromas of traditional dishes filled my imagination.

Fragrant aromas of traditional dishes filled my imagination.

Seeing her art studio brought tears to my eyes.

Painting from pain.

Painting from pain.

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The small bedroom with mirror affixed to the ceiling allowed her to paint self-portraits lying on her back.
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Her funeral urn was at the foot of the bed.

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The sky opened as I was preparing to leave the museum. A cold rain did not stop me and I set off to visit the mercado of Coyoacán. To be continued…DOS TORTAS

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Gratitude Gratitude Gratitude

1 Mar

Looking at the world through the lense of a blog makes for an interesting experience. The Tortas are visiting Austin, Texas, home to family and friends and our former life. There’s been a mountain of loving connections, tasks completed and lessons learned.

Taking selfies with Sophia age one.

Taking selfies with Sophia age one.

Hunter age three with Grandma Lisa.

Hunter age three with Grandma Lisa.

There was a great sunrise out first morning in town. We were on our way to an early appointment at the Veteran’s Administration Clinic. The VA has checked Lisa’s health from head to toe. She will have new glasses and the continued support she needs to stay healthy.

Heading toward the VA Clinic on highway 71.

Heading toward the VA Clinic on highway 71.

A walk along Lady Bird Lake provides a view of downtown Austin. This was the warmest day we had during our stay. Note to self: come back when it’s not so cold!

View from the newly extended hike and bike trail.

View from the newly extended hike and bike trail.

While visiting Austin, I celebrated my birthday. We had a small gathering of friends at a local restaurant that had a swing band playing on a weeknight. After all, Austin is the live music capital of the world. No small claim.

The Lucky Strikes

The Lucky Strikes

We are blessed to be staying with family members Steven and Terry. There are two pictures on the shelf in their home that make me smile and bring back sweet memories.

Our backyard commitment ceremony in 1999.

Our backyard commitment ceremony in 1999.

The same backyard in 2012 for my 60th birthday.

The same backyard in 2012 celebrating my 60th birthday.

Time is flying by as we prepare to wend our way home to Bacalar. All I can say is gratitude, gratitude, gratitude, for a city that opens its arms to welcome us, family and friends who make time in their busy schedule and comfy homes, and everyone at the VA who went out of their way to adjust appointments and meet our every need. I am also grateful for the amazing life we have chosen in Bacalar. Life is very, very good.

A breakfast stop at Mother's Cafe. Great vegetarian/vegan restaurant and an Austin treasure.

A breakfast stop at Mother’s Cafe. Great vegetarian/vegan restaurant and an Austin treasure.

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A Literary Suggestion for the Mexico Bound

11 Jan

Bacalareños had a quiet Saturday night. The long holiday vacation is over with adults back to work and the children in school. The cool weather and rain had the perros curled up and quiet until the rooster alarm clock went off this morning. We cherish these mornings.

Rainy Sunday morning.

Rainy Sunday morning.

I’ve been hearing from readers about adventurous plans to travel or retire to Mexico. I thought you might enjoy a reading suggestion to pass the time until your trip.

On my night table is The Lacuna by Barbara Kinsolver.

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The main character tells of life growing up with his Mexican mother and his relationship with Frieda Kalo and Diego Rivera.

Artists of Mexico.

Artists of Mexico.

As a young adult he returns to seek out his US father and ends up living in Asheville, NC. of all places. My brother lives in Asheville and I’ve visited many times, however familiarity with the city is not a requirement to enjoy the book.

I found The Lacuna slow to engage but persisted after I saw it included among the coffee table collection at La Casa de los Venados in Valladolid. If the owners of this amazing art collection thought enough to place it front and center in a room where there are no accidents, I decided to give it a second go.

All things Mexico.

All things Mexico.

The largest private collection of Mexican folk art.

The largest private collection of Mexican folk art in the world.

Our reclusive protagonist develops into a writer of Mexican ancient history and weaver of stories that capture the hearts of post WW I, communist fearing Americans. I cannot tell you the ending, as I am within pages of finishing myself. It feels much like the story of Dos Tortas, off to a slow start, but now within days of receiving our permission to build our retirement home. How perfect a life reflection. DOS TORTAS
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Holiday Minimalism

11 Dec

In the 1980s I was at home with three young children and a big house. My mother wasn’t the best housekeeper and to say my skills were lacking is an understatement. As I struggled to stay on top of “things” I came across the book, Clutter’s Last Stand by Don Aslett. Don had worked his way through college cleaning houses and upon graduation discovered a far more lucrative business than his original degree provided.  His ideas about having less to clean and organize resonated strongly. I also belonged to a Unity Church which taught the principle of flow. If you own something that you don’t need, let it go and what you DO need will come to you. Between the two, I started on the road to a minimalist lifestyle, or so I thought.

Sunrise of the week.

Sunrise of the week.

Moving to Mexico provided an opportunity to downsize in a big way. We sold our house and reduced everything into a 6×10 trailer pulled by an over stuffed truck. Two bicycles, two kayaks and a living room rug were strapped on top. They were all things we thought we needed to begin life anew.

Pulling out of the drive in Austin Texas to live our dream in Mexico.

Pulling out of the drive in Austin Texas to live our dream in Mexico 2013.

We had multiple garage sales and shipped “family heirlooms” to adult children, took loads to thrift stores and learned to let go, let go, let go. And still we hauled away more possessions than we needed. For the past year most of them are still stored in the trailer. We don’t even remember what we own any more.

The house we are building is about 900 square feet, larger than I originally envisioned, huge by some standards, impossible by others. We are still challenged by acquiring “stuff”. It’s the American way and deeply ingrained. And so easy to do.

The clouds enchant.

The clouds enchant.

I recently came across a website that encourages minimalism and was reminded of the original book that started the “less is more” way of thinking for me. So whether an international move is in your cards or a desire to free up your life, time and money, I suggest turning off the TV ads advertising the latest deal and try buying less, or NOTHING this holiday season. Trust me, it can be done.

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On a recent trip to Cancun we met Mercedes and Ramon, owners of Bed and Breakfast Poblenou in Barcelona Spain. They sat at our table in a crowded dining room and were visiting Mexico for a little vacation. Who’s up for a trip to Barcelona? Me, me, ME!

Our new friends from Barcelona.

Our new friends from Barcelona.

The Mexican Consulate and hitting the Salvage Yards

11 Aug

The skills you acquire when turning your life up-side-down and moving to another country are varied and numerous. This week we visited the Mexican Consulate to apply for residency in our adopted country. A residency visa will keep us from having to cross a border every 180 days in order to stay in the country. Mexico has recently rewritten its immigration laws and the process must be initiated in our home country. When we get to Mexico we will have to prove adequate income as retirees and hope and pray we have enough. The exact amount is sketchy and imprecise, as are so many things in Mexico. We were photographed and finger printed. Visas acquired. CHECK

On to the job of transportation. The truck and trailer have new tires and have received a complete once-over by Jason and his crew at Leonard’s Automotive. I can’t say enough about these guys. AC has been juiced and brakes repaired. We are ready to rock’n roll. CHECK

So what about the salvage yards you ask? When we got the truck, we were missing the jack and important levers to lower the spare tire. Riding around Austin, it is easy to be reckless, but not when driving 30 hours and crossing a border. I visited five male car parts heavens on the south end of Congress Avenue. Each time there was head shaking and pointing me up the street to their compadres. What to do? I returned to see Jason who referred me to David at the local dealership. It pays to have connections and after $100 (gulp) we were ready to go. CHECK

Getting out of the glass tower of state government and moving among mortals has proven to be fun and productive. The coming week is filled with packing and loading the trailer. I think some practice in backing it up is in order. Another skill I hope never to need again.

Mexican Consulate in Austin

Mexican Consulate in Austin

Residency Visa

Residency Visa

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Thought For The Day

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