Tag Archives: Retiring to Mexico

USA Here I Come

15 Apr

When looking for a retirement location in Mexico, proximity to an airport is an important consideration. We had grand designs of easily zipping NOB (North of the Border) to visit family, as well as traveling the world. The tiny Chetumal airport, forty minuets from our house, does the trick. It beats a five hour bus to Cancun which adds two days of travel on the front end. The trouble is, the connections are not always that great, resulting in longer than we like layovers in Mexico City. Sigh. Life is not perfect.

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Chetumal airstrip top left of the page. The plane did a wide loop over the city before heading north.

I decided last minute to take a trip to Texas to visit my kids. I procured a well-priced flight and jumped on it,  leaving Lisa to walk the dogs and hold down the fort. I did not, however pack warm enough clothes brrrr. There was hail last night outside San Antonio!
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A stunning view of the volcanoes outside of Mexico City. Popocateptl smoking above the clouds.

So I’m in Texas for a brief week-long vacation enjoying grandchildren and celebrating our oldest son’s 35 birthday. I have no idea how he got so old.  Until next week…
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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Winter In Paradise

21 Jan

This is our fifth winter living in beautiful Bacalar, Mexico, on the Belize/Mexico border. In past years we’ve had a weeklong “cold spell”which required the addition of a light blanket and a long sleeve shirt in the morning until the sunrise. Our house is screened with persianas (Florida shutters) to protect from rain. We call it “glamping”, (luxury camping). This year has very been different.

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Persianas looking onto the screened porch and out to the Laguna.

With extreme snow and ice storms covering Northern Mexico, the US and other parts of the world, we have been enjoying a very cool, comfortable two months here in paradise. My MIL Alice, skinny little thing that she is, has been “freezing” and has brought out her electric blanket. Lol.

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The view to our front gardens.

Our nights have been in the mid 50s (13C) with lovely sunny days in the 70s (23-25C). Knowing how hot it gets in the summer, we are enjoying every minute.

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The women’s solidarity march in Chetumal 2017 (I’m second from right with Lisa in orange and Alice in pink)

It has also been dry, so my jungle walks have been wonderful beyond description. Watching the dogs cavort, I have been reminiscent of my lifelong predilection for walking.

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Luna heads for our jungle trail.

I used to pick wild blackberries walking down our country lane, crossing the railroad tracks on my way home from school in New Jersey. Those were the days parents didn’t hover fearfully over their children. My first homesick days of college, I walked the neighborhood around my school enjoying the falling leaves and breathing the cool air. In the 80’s I pushed my son’s stroller through the alleyways around our house in Okinawa, Japan, peering in windows, again homesick, but loving my new adventure.

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Summer will bring heat, rain and mosquitoes. Even the dogs won’t walk in a shower. The dirt trail will be a mud slide that will likely shorten our daily ritual. For now I will enjoy the time with the dogs, the temperatures and my musings. When Luna gives me the look that can not be ignored, I will lace up my shoes and head for the door. Seize the moment! for the only thing we can count on is change.

DOS TORTAS 

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A Quiet Sunday In Paradise

9 Jul

The front gate is almost complete. It’s not only beautiful but it adds another level of security, dogs in, unwanted people out.

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Pouring a foundation. Materials delivered.

We’ve been reminiscing of our early visits to this property four years ago. The non-descriptive turn off the highway gave us access to our lake-front lot. One day, out of curiosity, we drove past Teresa’s, our neighbor to our north and the trail ended in the jungle 100 yards away. We had to turn around. It was quite primitive and isolated, just the way we liked it.

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The stonework is a lovely detail.

Today, that primitive trail is a well travelled lane where we walk the dogs and guests and workers arrive to visit the houses popping up along the Laguna. We brought in electricity from the highway and sold it to our neighbors. And the games began.

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The blue wall is a great contrast to Alice’s orange house that sits behind it. 

Development is always a double edged sword. We want services such as trash pick-up and pharmacies that carry more than hair dye and nail polish. For this we need to grow the population. Hotels and tourism is booming. Everyone loves Bacalar.

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The ironwork and lights have been installed. We must clean up and do some landscaping to finish.

Which of course leads to an increase in crime. Our friend’s rental property was broken into this week while guests slept. All their electronics were stolen. Crimes of opportunity are on the rise in Bacalar as they were in Austin when we lived there. I guess we thought we could outrun it.

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Luna loves the new gate. Eventually it will open by remote control.

Our solution is to make it harder on the thieves and not to be afraid. We have house sitters for our extended times away. The dogs, as annoying as they are, do their part in alarming us of unusual activity. It’s only stuff. There is little violent crime. Living in paradise comes with a price we’re willing to pay.  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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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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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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Inspiration And A Plan

12 Mar

Painting and being more artistic, whatever that means, has always been a big part of my retirement vision. It’s funny how I’ve had this corner of my brain where I put things for “some day” when I am no longer working. Of course that vision has changed with actual retirement. (Now Is As Good A Time As Any). Joining with other painters for Rendezvous 2015 and 2017 was fun and pushed me to paint but I returned home with no idea how to continue. No clear plan in retirement means trolling Facebook and playing solitaire  

When my dear friend Alison (Deva Designs, San Antonio), posted an invitation by artist extraordinaire Connie Solera to participate in a 21-day paint along, I jumped at the chance. I respond well to pressure and structure.

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I’m all about self-exploration  and making peace with whatever is getting in my way. After all, what else have I got to do? In this case my body seemed like a good healing target. Lots of material there.

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LUNGS for the kicker.

My first day was a blast. I never would have thought to paint lungs. I went in for the medical illustration, a career that I would have loved if I knew it existed. I have recently discontinued all asthma medication thanks to my Mexican pulmonologist. Woohoo I can breathe!

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HEART

A shout out to my Catholic roots. This time however, it’s MY Sacred Heart with no thorns, thank you very much.

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BACK

A bit more playful this time with a selfie in the bathroom mirror. This may be my favorite so far.

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BONES

I started with an X-ray of my pelvis from a fall of a couple of years ago. This painting really took on a life of its own. Some days you have to get out of the way and let the creativity flow.

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HAND

My other retrospection of late has been my relationship with God. This painting is from a pendant, a hamsa, which represents “the Hand of God”.  I like hand images and have a few.

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FEET

Feet are not the easiest subject. I did notice that I hit a wall with each painting, doubting my skill, doubting myself. Mmmm I wonder how often I do that?!

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ARMS

I chose to celebrate the hug, the hugger and the huggie. My life would be so much less without them. My biggest lesson so far has been that I don’t need to compare myself to the other artists. My work (or play) is my own. Please visit, comment and share at #21emBODY on Instagram and Facebook to see the amazing art being produced by participants of this challenge.

DOS TORTAS

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