South of the Border and North of the Border

There’s nothing like a trip back to “the old country” to remind you of what you left, what you miss, what you have now and where you are.  Although we’ve been in Mexico for less than a year, and we’ve made a few one-day trips across the border for various reasons, being “up north” for ten days was different.

In late June, we made a road trip to see family in various places and ended up traveling 4,000 miles to do that in a circle from Rosarito north to Seattle, east to South Dakota, south to Utah, west to San Diego and then home with a last stop in Barstow, California, which I don’t recommend unless you absolutely have to do it.

We made stops along the way and had a good time introducing each other to the relatives on both sides of the equation.  And we did learn a few things along the way.

For one thing, traffic.  We’re both road trip veterans but neither of us could remember as much traffic as we encountered especially in previously light traffic stretches where the image of “road trip” is breezin’ along with the breeze.  Being stuck in traffic or at the very least being paced by all the other vehicles on a six-lane freeway is hardly “breezin’ along.”

Prices.  Yikes!  We’re so spoiled down here that we were mildly stunned to be reminded that one reason to head south was better prices on so many things.

The Mexico caché.  When asked where we were traveling from, we watched the faces when we answered “Mexico.”  Wow, that’s a long way from… wherever we happened to be. And despite visits to family, we did miss our local friends who greet us when we stop in for breakfast or lunch or a margarita.  We missed the little old lady we pass on our walks, a lady who sells candy for 5 pesos. We missed the kids and the quick hugs from strangers and the smiles and genuine charm.

We learned that “Full breakfast” has many meanings in the lodging business these days.  And when we got caught without a reservation during a big quilt convention and had to settle for a less than desirable room, we learned that “guest library” and “pleasant furnishings” also have different meanings.

                     

We also remembered the good, the bad and the ugly that infects towns and cities on both sides of the border.  When people see real pictures of urban Mexico – not the ones in the tourist brochures – they’re often put off by what look like hovels or unpleasantly trashy neighborhoods, but we passed through these, too, on our trip.  There’s no need for Americans to get uppity about conditions south of the border.

One of the main things we learned was that 4,000 miles in 10 days is pushing it for a couple of semi-retired folks who are more used to a walk along the beach or sitting on the balcony looking at the sea than strapped into a vehicle doing 75-80 on the freeways (when the traffic allows).  We loved seeing all the family, but on about Day 8, we laughed that we’d signed on for something like one of those “See Europe in 10 days” trips.  If it was Saturday, it must be Spearfish!

We’ve asked ourselves from time to time if we want to return to the States in the future.  We haven’t come to a definite conclusion on that, but if we do return, the Oregon coast and the Black Hills of South Dakota are in the running. Neither one of us is considering a big city this time around.  Time will tell.

As with most things in life, there are no perfect answers and no perfect places.  Trade-offs, always trade-offs.  Our time in Mexico has many pros, but also the cons.  We know if we stay we’ll be moving to a new place not adjacent to a party beach where most of the entertainment is rappers with big amp systems.  And where professional quality fireworks explode well into the night just yards from our windows.  Sleeping is difficult.

We like the little Mexican bands that play during the day on weekends and we enjoy seeing families having fun on the beach on weekends, too, but the party crowds are different.  We’ve learned not to try and walk downtown on Saturday or Sunday, and we know full well what an open sewer smells like.  Living in our fine condominium doesn’t mean we miss any of this.  We could have been warned by the agent who rented us the place during the winter, but we were not, so someplace else is in store for us on one side of the border or the other.

Neither of us, it turns out is quite ready to fully retire and would like to work just a little longer, but both the language and the work laws make that nearly impossible down here.

Pros and cons. Pros and cons.

Meantime, a sense of humor still prevails most of the time.  We have not only the good, the bad and the ugly.  We’ve also got the weird.  Here’s proof.

Stay tuned for more about our adventure.  If you have questions, please include them in a comment and we’ll try to respond.

Adios, amigos y amigas!

Michael and Molly

 

 

Christmas Old and New, Los Perros, Beauty and Blessings – Not Bad for Our First Month Here

It’s Christmas week, that time between Christmas and New Year’s when I so often have “called” the end of the year.  This year, however, there’s plenty to do down here – exploring, finding the stores we need and the restaurants we want, learning that a Google map does not necessarily reflect any current landscape and also learning that whatever current maps we find are mostly those that feature drinks, food, or spring break hot spots (which include both of the above).

Living down here, I’m reminded of an old bit of wisdom from my consulting days – The Three Laws of Information:

The information you have is not what you want.
The information want is not what you need.
The information you need is not available.
and for me
If the information you need is available, it will be only in Spanish.

But one activity we never tire of is watching  –  watching the ocean, watching the people and horses and occasional camels on the beach, watching the sunsets and moon rises and constellations that we missed while living in the city, and – in Mexico – watching los perros, the dogs.

I read about the dogs before coming down and have not been disappointed.  They run in little packs, little dogs mostly in those little packs.  I always think of “The Lady and the Tramp” and can imagine their conversations and songs as they wander the streets happy to see other and gentle on the mind.  They’re well-behaved when waiting outside any restaurant (because down here they do wait outside), they occasionally tag along on a walk, and bigger guard dogs bark without cease although some of them are not as bright as others.

We passed a place yesterday with two large snarling black dogs right out of a horror movie behind the fence.  When we came out of the shop, an open air fruiteria, they were quiet and the biggest dog was apparently on siesta break. He didn’t notice us at all until Michael called out, “Hey, we’re over here,” whereupon Rommel or Raoul or whatever his name was lunged into ferocious action.   Even the dogs have a kind of easy come, easy go attitude, which is refreshing after the hurly burly of the city.

Speaking of watching, in the last week we’ve seen a wide range of weather including beautiful sunsets and the stunning full moon.  These were both taken from our balcony.

We’ve also seen a variety of ocean-going critters including, in addition to our beloved pelicans in bigger and bigger flights, dolphins and a quartet of orcas playing just off-shore.  The gray whales will soon be headed north after calving time in San Ignacio Lagoon.

Our Christmas was great, our first one together and we got sentimental enough to find a tree and decorate it and wrap the packages complete with ribbons and bows.  We tried watching “White Christmas,” an old family tradition for me, and it was fine except that I realized with Michael’s hilarious narration that it was even hokier than I remembered.  Sometimes a person just has to move on!  I did fast forward to watch the old soldiers follow Dean Jagger, the “old man” with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye leading the song.  Of course, I shed my usual tears and Michael understood.

We’re almost at the end of 2018 and ready to head into 2019 not quite fully-fledged in Mexico but more fledged every day.  Mexico turns out to be something like Ralph’s Pretty Good Grocery on the old Prairie Home Companion.  If Ralph didn’t have what you wanted, you probably didn’t need it.  Back to the Three Laws of Information.

Things don’t work the same way (ask me about having the power shut off in the middle of a shower because the bill – somebody else’s – had not been paid).  “Familiar” food does not taste the same but there are really good other things to eat.  Sizes are different – I now wear a size 26 shoe.  But as more than one advisor counseled, “If you want life exactly like you live it in the States, stay home.”

We didn’t want to stay home and we are falling more in love with Mexico all the time.  At the moment, Michael is building my art table with things from Home Depot – our Mexican Home Depot.  We want to be where we are.

We hope your holidays have been great and that 2019 will surprise you in the best possible ways.  If you’re not in the mood to make resolutions for the new year (and who is in today’s craziness?) there’s one take-away from “White Christmas” that’s not hokey at all…Irving Berlin was right on the money:

“If you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep,
and you’ll fall asleep counting your blessings.”  We’re counting ours.

And you’ll more than likely dream sweet dreams without care, or at least dreams in another language with a lot of friendly smiles.

Until next year, hasta la vista, amigos and amigas!

 

 

 

I Speak Only a Little Spanish so Please Talk Slowly

As promised, our new connection to the rest of the world, The Pelican Diaries, is up and running.  We hope to keep you informed about our Mexican adventure with something more interesting than a Christmas newsletter and something less tedious than Fox News.  The proof will be in the reading.

On November 30, we fastened our seatbelts and drove across the border at Tijuana with the car full of personal belongings.  In truth, we had very little as these things go, but a CRV fills up pretty quickly.  We’d rented a fully- and beautifully-furnished condo, so what we had were a couple of suitcases, a few boxes and miscellaneous other items chosen either for comfort (favorite books, art, pillows) or usefulness (tools, computer, art supplies).

In the weeks before the move, we took the advice of those who’d gone before us – sell and buy new! Great advice and we recommend it.

A grueling but educational several hours at the local Swap Meet on an unseasonably hot day, ads on Craigslist, donations, giving things to family, friends and neighbors, and just plain trips to the dumpster had accomplished most of the task.  Still we left behind a car and a small storage unit full of the leftovers.  We’ll deal with them another time.

The crossing was not without incident, but I’m not going to elaborate on that because we never know who might be reading and nobody wants to send bail money from the U.S.  To be clear, we did nothing illegal but there was some confusion and the young border agent apparently didn’t know any more than we did.

Despite that, I want to note how friendly and helpful both the locals (who are entertained by my wild pantomimes as I try to find things in the stores) and the ex-pats who offer advice in the hallway of our building or at the “post office” (more on this later) are.  Occasionally someone in the aisle of one of the already noted stores comes to the rescue, although no amount of gesturing and combination of corazon and caliente could help me when I tried to find Pepcid at one of the dozens of farmacias.

Yo hablo Español un poquito so the pantomimes are still necessary and will be for a while yet. Worse, I keep wanting to confuse the Spanish with my rusty but still serviceable French.  I was always good at charades, and it will all get better.

Fortunately for us both Michael is fluent in Spanish and has rescued me from more than one minor mix-up although he was not nearby when I purchased a small box of envelopes at Office Depot (yep, it’s here) which turned out to be not letter envelopes but a box of manila pay envelopes.  Maybe for lay-aways.  Maybe not.  Christmas cards?

We’ve only just begun, so for now, I’ll leave you with a note about the many wonderful and sometimes mysterious places and images we encounter every day.  The one below is outside a large hotel/restaurant complex called Festival Plaza on our main street, Blvd. Benito Juarez.  It has some kind of history but so far we haven’t been able to learn much about it.  I always think this fellow looks like an ad for a once-thriving but now a little tarnished Cirque de Soleil or in this case circo del agua.  See, I’m learning every day!

swimmer

That’s it for this post.  Hasta la vista, mis amigos y amigas!  Be back soon…