Mexican Bureaucracy in Canada OR Lots of Lost Things

I can’t quite belive that even in Canada, Mexican bureaucracy followed me and tortured me this week.  We had a great work/vacation/family time in Canada, but after 2 weeks we were eager to get home to our life in Mexico.  We had commented many times over the weeks how very easy things are in Canada and the US.  Stores open when the sign says they will open, things cost the same for everyone no matter what color their skin is and rules can always be found in the fine print.  But still we missed our crazy unconventional life in Bucerias and were ready to head back.)

We boarded the West Jet plane that was the beginning of our long journey from Sasktoon to Vancouver to Mexico City to Puerto Vallarta.   The flights weren’t great but using Air Miles the price was right.  We had printed all our boarding passes and the luggage tag for our one suitcase.  We were assured the bag was checked through to Mexico City where we would pick it up at Customs.   We spent the day with our daughter in Vancouver, searching for maple leaves for little Lucio who had requested them and then headed back to the airport for our overnight flight to Mexico City.  That is when I realized I had lost my boarding passes.  No big deal right?  They’ll print me more right?

First we tried the West Jet desk in the Domestic arrivals area where we had first landed.  No, since the West Jet leg is finished, you need to go to the Aeromexico desk in the International Departures area.   We headed to Aeromexico and explained our dilemna.

Yes they could print me new boarding passes – no problem.  But Senora, where is your luggage tag that is usually attached to the boarding pass?  Well yes that is lost too but I’m not worried – I’m sure the luggage won’t be lost.  But Senora, you can’t board the plane without the luggage tag – they have to look at it at the gate.  And you won’t be able to get your suitcase in Mexico City without that tag. 
Okay I have traveled a LOT and no one has ever asked to see the bag sticker – except that time in Ottawa when I lost my bag and filled out all the forms and then realized the bag was sitting right beside me all the time  – but that’s another long story.   Certainly no one has ever asked to see my sticker BEFORE letting me board the plane!  So I pushed back a bit.  That doesn’t really sound right.  My bags  were checked in Saskatoon all the way to Mexico City.  Why would the gate agent in Vancouver need to see my bag receipt before letting me board?  Senora, they need to prove it is your bag.  But it’s already been proven – in Saskatoon where it was loaded.  Well they won’t put it on this plane until we see your sticker.  So you mean all of these people in this line are going to show you their bag tag?  Yes Senora.  Can I double check this with your supervisor?  Who said this was certainly the case – no luggage tag, no boarding.

Okay well can’t you just print me another bag tag along with the boarding passes?  No Senora, only West Jet can do that.  I can see the record of your suitcase on my computer so let me write the number down on your new boarding pass and you go to the West Jet desk and tell them you need another tag with this number.  It is not far.

So off we went to find the West Jet desk  – which was definitely far.  We were in the International Terminal – West Jet is at the far end of the Domestic terminal.  Of course when we got there they said what I expected them to say.  What?  That makes no sense.  I can’t print the bag tag since the flight is in progress.  But I’ve never heard of anyone ever checking the tag at the gate.  That’s total crap (quote).  But let me get my supervisor.  Who raised his eyebrows very high and said, Well that makes no sense.  I’ve never heard of that.  Are you sure that’s what they said?  Sigh.  Just like getting our trailer license plates all over.  The kind agent tried to help.  Okay well here is my computer screen which shows your luggage number – why don’t you take a picture on your phone of my computer and show it to them.   Which I did.  But the thing is, it was the same computer screen the Aeromexico lady had already shown me when she was writing down the number to show West Jet.    

We headed back to the Aeromexico line, found the supervisor and showed her the photo on my photo – WHICH WAS ALSO ON HER COMPUTER – and she said that was fine, just show it to the agent at the gate.  We wandered around a bit – decided that it was not worth $34.95 to bring a tiny box of maple chocolates home to the children at the orphanage – and then headed to our gate.  Where the exact same lady we had been arguing with in the ticketing line was now the gate agent.  I walked up to the gate and handed her my boarding pass.  Oh yes Senora Swanson, we were just paging you.  We need to verify your bag tag.  I rolled my eyes and pointed to the spot where she had written our bag tag number.  She punched away on her computer.  Oh yes, I can verify this is the correct number of your bag tag.  WELL NO KIDDING – YOU JUST WROTE IT THERE after looking it up 30 minutes ago.  I never did show anyone the picture on the phone.  And as expected, no one in Mexico City asked to see my bag tag.  They didn’t even ask the standard questions like did I have alcohol or cigarettes or $10,000 or maple leaves from Stanley Park which I may or may not have had.


So I can say that the story of the lost boarding passes and lost luggage tag worked out just fine.  Unfortunately, when I opened my briefcase this afternoon, I realized that we have now moved on to the story of the lost computer in the Mexico City airport.   Stay tuned…

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    Another Grad…. Another Head Table

    What the heck is with me and graduations and head tables?  This weekend I was thrilled to attend the graduation of my dear friend Veronica from the Information Services computer class she has been taken for the last 2 years.  Veronica is the director of Manos de Amor – a fireplug if there ever was one.  She invited her children and her sister and some Manos children and a few friends to the ceremony and dinner, and Grant and I were excited to be included.

    Like every Mexican event we have ever been invited to, it started about an hour late.  We arrived at 2:00 sharp and the only other people in the whole room were our friends Francisco, Anita and Manuela.  Not another graduate.  Not a staff member from the school.  5 of us alone in the room.    At around 2:45 people started to trickle in and things were ready to start at around 3.

    There were 4 chairs at the head table, and 3 people sitting there.  One empty chair. About 5 minutes before the ceremony was to begin, Anita came to me and told me the organizers would like me to sit at the head table to help hand out certificates  and to give a few words on behalf of Manos de Amor.  WHAT???   Déjà vu flooded over me – was this a mistake again?  (Remember this? We’re Padrinas mistaken for Celebrities)  Because I don’t speak Spanish and these people are all Spanish and what on earth should I say and why do they want me to say it?  I slightly panicked.  They told me Anita would translate for me and then that was it.  They were announcing my name and I was sitting at the head table.

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    I am still a bit confused.  I think that Veronica is just really well respected amongst her peers as is her organization and they were genuinely pleased that we were there.    So what did I say?  I congratulated the graduates, told them I recognized how they had sacrificed in order to help their families and their communities and in fact all of Mexico to become stronger.  I told how much Manos de Amor values education and that it was important that children who are watching them see that they value it too.  I told them not to stop learning.  And I promised that even though I am old, I can going to continue learning until I can speak Spanish.

    And the really funny thing?  All of the graduates had agreed to wear pink dresses to the ceremony and guess what color I was wearing?  I fit right in as if it had all been planned.

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    So Felicidades Veronica – Mama Vero – we are proud of you and I was  honored to be the one to hand you your certificate!

    Now let’s have a party!!!

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    Who Cares if it’s a Square?

    Today is Friday -the final day of our Monday, Wednesday, Friday English class schedule.   On each of those days we teach 3 classes to the children of Manos de Amor Casa Hogar.   These children are living at Casa Hogar because their parents or caregivers need a helping hand.  A few have no parents.  Many have 1.  Lots of grandmas have stepped in.   They have all experienced great trauma in their young lives – abuse, prostitution, alcoholism. And poverty.  A lot of poverty.

    So 3 days a week we arrive at the home with our bag full of worksheets and crafts and videos and songs and tablets.  We have divided the groups by age.  The 6-9 year olds have learned about colors and families and counting to 20 and greetings and this week we learned about Day and Night.  We are working on vocabulary but also trying to learn some sentences.    “I have 4 shoes”. “Touch something red with your nose”.  They love songs and sing them REALLY LOUD.  I expect the whole neighborhood now knows the days of the week.  They especially love the English learning apps we have on the tablets that we use once a week or so.

    20170906_163354The oldest children – those 10 and over – use the Duolingo language learning app.  We don’t really have to teach them – we are there to help when they are stuck and to do group review from time to time.  We are also there to stop their little fingers from ‘accidentally’ going to the App store and ‘surprisingly’ downloading games.  “I don’t know how that happened Karen”.  Sure you don’t.  We do reward them with a few minutes of game time to keep them coming back.  I love using this app because each child moves at his or her pace and new students can join at any time.

    20170922_145605The funnest class is the littles, the 4-6 year olds.  They are hilarious and are actually learning quite a few words.  They are the ones who speak to me in English every chance they get.  “Hello, my name is Azbeth, how are you I am fine and you?”  They just run it all together and are so proud.   This week they learned shapes and today we finished the week by making Shape Guy heads.  They practiced shapes and face parts and colors on one little craft and they were pretty excited with the final product once they had added some butterflies and dogs and family members.

     

    We are having fun but I have to admit that some days I look around at the needs and problems in this country and I wonder what possible difference it will make if Jose knows the difference between a square and a rectangle.   Will knowing their colors keep 12-year-old girls from getting pregnant and will greeting gringos in English stop boys from becoming trapped by alcohol?  Today after our final class we drove children from 3 families to their homes for the weekend and as I am every Friday, I was saddened by what I saw.  How can we think our little classes can make a difference?

    But as I held babies and hugged toddlers, and stepped in poopy diapers littered on the ground, I smiled.  Yes, if children here learn English they will have an opportunity to secure a better paying job in the tourism industry.  But these 4-year-olds aren’t out looking for jobs.  What they are looking for is acceptance, confidence, affection, hope, safety and security.  For LOVE.  I watched Jose show his sisters and his niece Lupita his Shape Guy and I realized that for a few minutes today he felt proud of himself.  For at least an hour he experienced confidence and creativity and joy.   I remembered the look on Jorge’s face when he told me he had finished 8 Duolingo lessons.  The cheer Mareli let out when she finished a whole section of today’s learning app.

    Our English class is not going to change Pricila’s life.  But maybe it will bring a tiny bit of healing to her broken heart.  Her mom isn’t there for her – but on Monday and Wednesday and Friday I can be.

    As we left each of these children at their homes today – I really hate doing that – I did what I do each week.  I opened their little hands, tapped my fingers to their palms and then touched their palms to their hearts, “Okay, here is Jesus.  Don’t forget he’s going to be here with you all weekend.  You’re going to be ok”.

    I realized what our class has to offer these little ones. – it offers US.   Our hearts.  Our acceptance.  Our love.  And really, that’s all any of us have to offer.

    Posted in manos de amor, Uncategorized, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

    One Full Year to Get Some Plates

    (Warning – this post is pretty long!  Much like our experience….)

    1  year.  1 entire year.  To get Mexican license plates on the trailer we brought down from Canada …. it took 1 full year.    I am happy to report that we now have the Nayarit plates – 2-ND-7586 – but it was a crazy ride that you won’t believe.  Unless you’ve tried it.

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    At the Border

    The story started after we had gone through a sketchy 2 days at the border to get the trailer and the tools it contained across the border.  That was scary enough.  I am still not entirely clear exactly what went down there but we made it here to Bucerias and were certain the worst was behind us.  As we often are, we were wrong.

    The week after we arrived, we headed to the DMV office to get our plates – passport, registration, and importation papers in hand.  We weren’t foolish enough to think it would be easy – but we did think it could be done that week.  Bahahahaha.

    First hurdle – apparently we didn’t own the trailer.  WHAT?  The lady who would become our ‘new best friend’ showed us the importation paper that had someone else’s name on it.  Did we have a bill of sale – a pedimento -from that company?  Ah no – because it’s our trailer.  And I’ve never heard of that company.  We called our broker guy in Tucson and I could see him hitting his own forehead over the phone – that’s the import company and I forgot to send you a bill of sale to get it back in your name.  You’ll have to come back to the border to get it.  WHAT?  We are definitely not going back to the border.  He made a few phone calls, talked to some people and a few days later, “I’ll courier it right out overnight.”

    A number of days later it arrived, along with his invoice to cover the cost of the courier – even though it was his fault that we didn’t get it at the border.  Fine.  Whatever.  We headed back to the office.  We have all the correct papers.  “Okay, but these papers have to be stamped in Tepic and you have to pay the fees there.”  WHAT?  Tepic is 2 ½ hours away – through the craziest mountain road and WE JUST CAME FROM THERE with this trailer.   We do not want to go back.  There must be another way?  “Well for $1000 pesos, I can send it there for you?”    Yes please.  Of course.   And then the copying, shuffling, stacking, reshuffling, stapling, unstapling, reshuffling began.  “Wait, you have given me a copy of your telephone bill to prove your address.  I need the original.”  You’re kidding right?  It’s just a phone bill.  “No, I need the original”.  We drove home and got the original.  The addition of that 1 piece of paper meant she had to start over unstapling, reshuffling, recopying, more shuffling, more stapling.  Some more fees.  And finally the papers were on their way to Tepic.   “Come back in 2 weeks for your plates.”

    Okay, that’s not so bad really.  We returned in October to get the plates and met the same lady.  She pulled our file, shuffled through the papers and then told us “No, you will have to come back in 3 months.”  WHAT?  Why 3 months?    “Blah blah blah  Spanish Spanish blah blah 3 months.”    Apparently, the government had run out of plates and there would be no new ones until January.

    In February, we returned to the office.  We had given them a couple of extra weeks – surely our plates would be ready for pickup.  Nope not yet.  We waited another month.  “Yes, everything looks good, but you will need to take the trailer for inspection now”.  WHAT?  We had the trailer thoroughly inspected at the border.   Why another inspection?

    There are simply no common-sense answers to that question WHY and I have no idea why I keep asking it.  We took the giant pile of stapled papers, went to the storage compound, loaded up the trailer and headed for the final (?) inspection.

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    The young inspector came out. Looked at the serial number on the trailer and headed back inside to fill out more papers.  Until he didn’t.  “I’m sorry.  The serial number on these papers doesn’t match the sticker on the trailer.” WHAT?   That’s impossible.  It was checked and double checked at the border.  “Sorry they don’t match. There’s nothing I can do”.  Now since this conversation was happening in Spanish, we were not 100% sure we understood, so he told us to come back the next day when his English-speaking boss would be there.  The next day we returned, and hearing the pronouncement in English did not help at all.  The numbers don’t match – you’ll have to take the trailer back to the border.  WHAT?  There is no $#**x.@@**!!!!  way we are taking the trailer back to the border.  “Well then you’ll have to go to Tepic to talk to my boss”.  Nope.  We’re not doing that either.  Give us something else.  “Okay well my boss comes to work out of the Bucerias office sometimes.  You can meet with him there”.

    Of course, first we had to figure out what had gone wrong – why didn’t everything match?   As we looked closely at the paperwork and the stickers on the trailer, we found a perfect storm of problems.  Our trailer had been manufactured in 2005 and a serial number sticker affixed.  Then it was shipped to a dealer who wanted to sell it as a 2006 so another sticker was put on top of the older one.  Apparently not all Canadian businesses are honest either.  The top sticker had faded and you could see the original sticker through – which made the numbers really tricky to read.  Bottom line was that our Border customs guy had simply written the number down wrong at the border.  A 5 that looked like an 8 was transcribed wrong.  It was obvious when you looked closely at the label on the trailer.  Surely this little mistake could not shut down this entire transaction which had already cost us many thousands of dollars. This couldn’t be the end of the road could it?  We tried calling and emailing our customs guy hoping he could get the papers reissued with the correct number.  He never did return our call.

    A few days later we headed over to the office in Bucerias to meet with the boss, el jefe.   Every day for a week we went there.  “He’ll be here in an hour”.  We heard it over and over.  He was never there in an hour.   Eventually they gave us his cell phone number and we decided we needed translation help from a friend.  Francisco phoned El Jefe and finally we had an appointment – and this time Francisco came along.

    El Jefe – the boss – was friendly and he listened.  He unstapled the papers, reshuffled them and restapled.  Francisco laid it on thick – my Canadian friends are good people, they work at an orphanage, they are going to build houses and employ people, they are good for our community.  There must be something you can do to help them.   Even I was impressed.  “I would like to help them but the numbers don’t match.  I don’t know what I can do.  They need to go to the border to get new papers to match the serial number on the trailer.  Or they can find a local welder who will write a letter saying he built it in Mexico and they could give it another number”.  WHAT? Then Grant spoke up.  What if we can get a new serial number plate to put on the trailer to match the papers.  Instead of changing the papers, let’s change the trailer.  Then it will match what the Mexican government has put in the system?  ‘Yes that could work.  If you get that, I’ll just sign off on it all and you can get your plates.”  Okay we had a plan.  We had no idea if it was possible, but it was a plan worth pursuing.

    The next few weeks were full of telephone calls and emails to Canada to the trailer manufacturer and the dealer who had sold it to us. We pushed hard.  You guys sold us a 2005 trailer and passed it off as a 2006 by hiding the original serial number label.  We thought we were buying a 2006.  You left 2 stickers on the trailer which has caused all these problems.  You need to help us.  “Sure, we can make you a new sticker with the new number – it will only cost you $500”.    What choice did we have?   We waited a few more weeks and finally the manufacturer told us he had mailed the new sticker.  WHAT?  You just don’t mail things to Mexico – it will never get here.  We had specifically asked him to courier it.  As expected, it never did arrive in our mailbox.  A few weeks passed.  “Okay, I will courier it overnight – today.”  By which he meant 5 days from now.   Another week passed until we got the new sticker.    And then we opened it and immediately saw the new sticker said 2006.  And we needed it to say 2005 to match the Mexican paperwork.  Which we had said in our emails.  Ahhhhhh.  More phone calls, more emails, more overnight courier packages that weren’t overnight.   But eventually we got a new sticker to match the Mexican paperwork.  Surely, we were close.

    By this time, we were into August.  We took the stack of papers and the new sticker and we headed to El Jefe’s office hoping to get his signature on the whole mess.  First problem – it had been so long he had forgotten our story.  Second problem – he doesn’t speak any English.  But eventually he remembered and looked it all over and nodded and eventually said, “Okay now you need to take it for an inspection.” WHAT?  I thought you were going to sign off on it?   “No …. Inspection”.  Which is how we found ourselves back at the inspection building almost a full year after we had started the process.   20170908_104622.jpgThe same inspector looked at the trailer yet again and this time he admired our ladders on top of the trailer.  “I could really use a new ladder – how much are these worth?”  We ignored the bait and we headed inside.  He looked at the new sticker, shuffled and reshuffled the papers, punched away on the computer and finally said “Sorry – this number doesn’t seem to be in the computer database.  There’s nothing I can do.  You’ll have to go back to the border”.   WHAT?   Okay I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS.  We are not taking the trailer to the border.  You can see the serial number matches the papers now.  “Well then you’ll have to see my boss in Tepic”.  We already saw your boss – in his office in Bucerias.  “That’s not my boss.  That guy has nothing to do with this.  You need to go to Tepic”.  I really wish I had taken a selfie right then – my face had to be in complete shock.  What was going on?  So I did what I should have done 11 months earlier.  I sat down in a chair in front of his desk and said, “We are not going anywhere – you have to do something.”  And then I sat there.  For 90 minutes.  A standoff of silence.   I was not leaving until the inspection forms were stamped and stapled to the other papers.  Just.  Not.  Leaving.  He phoned a few people.  Told me over and over he couldn’t do anything and I just sat there.  After about 90 minutes I said “Look, just fill out the form and give us the plates.”    And you know what he said?  He said “Okay”, and he pulled out his inspection pad and filled it out in triplicate and handed me the green copy to take back to the DMV office.  We were getting plates – and just to be sure, one small ladder stayed behind.

    20170912_113614When we arrived back at the Transito office we lined up at the cashier – one last step.  But nope.  Back to our friendly lady in the office.   I am not even exaggerating.  She unstapled our stack of papers, made new copies, reshuffled, and restapled.   Then she sent us back to the cashier.  After another ½ hour or so the cashier went to talk to the woman in the office and they both came to us, “This telephone bill you gave us to prove your address – it is dated September 2016.  That’s a year old.  We can’t use it- we need a current one.”  WELL NO KIDDING IT’S A YEAR OLD – CAUSE THAT IS HOW LONG THIS THING HAS TAKEN.  ONE YEAR.  Luckily we had just paid our phone bill that morning and it was in our car and we handed it over.  Surely that is it right?  “No we are missing the original registration to prove it was registered in Canada.”  Oh my gosh – you are seriously kidding me.  How can you need more papers?  You have every paper I have ever owned.  It is all stapled in that stack with 1 million staple holes.  I don’t have anything else to give you!  And then she pulled an email out of the file folder I was carrying.  It was the email Grant had sent to the manufacturer asking for another Serial number sticker.  “Okay, this is good enough”.  WHAT?  That paper had nothing to do with the registration – in fact it was evidence we had changed the serial number on the trailer.  But it was in English and she had no idea what it said and she was happy to have one more piece of paper.  Whatever.    Back to the cashier.  We paid the fees.  And then the cashier handed us all our papers back, divided into 2 piles and told us to go back to the office and get 2 copies of this pile and 3 copies of the other one.  WHAT?  We were just in that office.  She made lots of copies.  How can you need more copies?  Back to the office.  More copies.  More fees to pay for the copies.  Back to the cashier who stamped every copy, reshuffled the piles, restapled them all.

    And then they handed us the plates.   One year to get plates for a trailer that sits in a storage compound.  Thousands of dollars.  1 ladder.   I have never experienced anything like it.  I still am not really sure what happened – why numbers didn’t match and weren’t in the database and who was really the boss.  I can’t imagine where all those stacks of papers are tonight.  Have they not heard of scanners?  Of computers?  Of the paperless society?    But it is done.  2-ND-7586.   Transaction completed. It would be kind of funny if we didn’t have one more trailer to register and plate.  Stay tuned…..

     

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    Update – This week’s flyers

    You thought I was exaggerating didn’t you?  Here are some pictures of the flyers delivered to our house in the last couple of days:

    On the truck windshield:

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    On the car windshield right in front of the door:

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    Taped to the garage door – directly beside the front door:

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    Taped directly above the mailbox:

    Mailbox

    Stuck in the door right below the mailbox:

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    Everywhere but IN the mailbox!  And since mail does not ever show up here in Mexico, I’m thinking I may have wasted my money!  On the up side, I am very aware that there is a 2 x 1 Pizza special this week.

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    What I’ve Learned …. So Far….

    It was 2 years ago this month that we rented our house and began our move here to Bucerias.  Last September we moved our first big load of belongings here and really settled in.  It is our Mexico Anniversary month.  We have survived all 4 seasons, celebrated all of the annual holidays, and embraced the rhythm of this community.  I know many of you are probably wondering if our mid-life crisis has passed, if the honeymoon is over, if the ‘phase’ has ended.  If we are happy.  I dare to ask myself those same questions from time to time and today as I celebrate this anniversary I am confident in the answer.  We love it here.  Almost every single day I say to Grant “Can you believe this?  That we get to do this?”   It has not been easy but it has been good.

    I have definitely learned a lot and I decided on this anniversary to share 10 pieces of important wisdom I have picked up:

    1. There really are not 4 seasons here – there is high season and low season; Gringo tourist season and Mexican tourist season; dry season and rainy season; fan season and air conditioner season; mango season and sadly not mango season; hot season and bloody hot season. Today I was teaching the children in my English class the months of the year and most of the little icons I had downloaded for my calendar were useless – no January and February snow, no April showers, no May flowers, no September orange leaves, no October turkey.  Just sunshine icons and rain cloud icons.
    2. Golf carts are not practical means of transportation in rainy season. Even little children will laugh at you when you try.
    3. Mexican bureaucrats like to shuffle papers and staple papers and stamp papers. That absolutely does not mean you will get what you are asking for.  It has been 12 months since we imported our trailer full of tools.  We still do not have license plates even though we have been shuffled and stapled and stamped.  Maybe next week?
    4. No matter how many little Mexican children I cram into my little VW, I can always fit in one more.  Always.20170728_132244
    5. No matter how big or obvious your mailbox is, the delivery guy will always stick his flyer in the cracks of the door, under the door, on the car, on the tree.  He will even tape the flyer ON the mailbox.  He will not put the flyer in the mailbox.
    6. Mexicans love to sing – I love walking around town and hearing men on job sites, men on street corners, men lounging in plastic lawn chairs, men climbing trees to pick coconuts – men singing old Mexican folk songs without caring who is listening. That just feels friendly to me – like life is one big karaoke party.
    7. mini.pngMarket analysis and profit margins and business plans are not a thing here in my neighborhood. There is literally a corner store, a mini super – on every single block.  All selling exactly the same things.   At the cheapest price you have ever seen.  You can buy one egg, one diaper, one cigarette, one bun.  No one is getting rich – but everyone can have his own business.   And this week when I went to buy a loaf of bread at my neighborhood mini super, the owners were in the middle of eating their family meal and offered me a tostado.   Customers, neighbors, friends.
    8. Mexicans really like to please people and hate to say no (well except for the bureaucrats!). A few months ago we noticed a Café that serves cake and coffee in the neighborhood so in the evening we decided to go for a walk and grab some dessert.  When we got to the café, we noticed a pizza delivery guy in the doorway and the owner paying for the pizza.
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      The cake lady.

      We pushed past and when the owner asked if we wanted something we said that we wanted cake and coffee.    Sure.  Okay.  Then she closed the door behind the pizza guy and locked it – the café wasn’t even open.  We looked around and realized her family was there gathered around a table to eat together.  She told us to sit wherever we wanted and then she went into the back – into her own home – and brought us some cheesecake and a jar of instant coffee.  We sat there, in a closed restaurant, with her family, and ate that cake and drank that coffee.   And it was delicious.   

    9. If the sign on the store says it is open from 10-4, it is not going to be open from 10-4. If the gas guy says he will be there in an hour, he will not be there in an hour.  If the street sign says STOP, no one is going to stop.  If the sign on the baby stroller says it costs $700 pesos, it does not cost $700 pesos.  If the internet says the store is at a particular address, the store is not at that address.  If they tell you the party starts at 5:00, the party actually will start at 7:00.  Get over it.
    10. Mexico is not an easy place to live. I always thought that at this stage of my life I would want easy.  Comfortable.  Safe.  But I have realized that life is best lived with a bit of uncertainty, a touch of adventure, a sense of being stretched and tested.  Yes, some days I get frustrated, I’ve had a meltdown or two, I’ve felt lonely and homesick for things that are familiar.  But on this anniversary, I celebrate this new life.  Even the crazy parts.  Maybe the honeymoon is over – but the good part of the marriage, the real love story, is ahead and I can’t wait!

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    Old Folks for the Win!

    As we continue to settle into our daily lives here in Mexico, there are many familiar habits that have changed.  Some of these changes are good – some still need some adjustment.  We have grudgingly accepted that we cannot live as if we are on a perpetual vacation.  This is our life and it is time to choose how we want to live it.   One of the good changes is that we no longer watch TV.  So far, we have decided not to buy a satellite dish, which means we have no English speaking TV.   We do have Netflix, and every now and then we watch a movie.  And we always figure out a way to watch our Riders play – either on our computer or at some local sports bar.  But we don’t have that endless TV background noise playing in our house anymore – that is a welcome change.   Another good change is that Grant and I really do spend all our time together.  I like that and I am crossing my fingers that he does to.

    One of our biggest changes has been in the area of health and exercise.  Grant has always been super active with his construction business.  He didn’t need exercise because he was lifting and climbing and pounding every day.   I, on the other hand, have always been a paper pusher so I do need to exercise.  In the last couple of years I had gotten into a good rhythm using online and/or DVD exercise programs and the gym equipment we had purchased.  Even when we traveled I was able to exercise.  And I had started to cook and eat pretty healthy.  Then we settled here and I was flooded with perceived barriers.  My house is too hot.  It is too small.  The floors are all tile which is uncomfortable to exercise on.  I sold all my equipment before I left Canada. My daily schedule was completely different.  I just couldn’t get into a rhythm.

    5 weeks ago, Grant said “That’s it – we need to start exercising.”  So we put on the spandex, filled up the water bottles, updated the playlists and drove 10 minutes to the community of Nuevo Vallarta, the only neighborhood with smooth roads and sidewalks.  Grant strapped on wheels, I tied on running shoes and we started the painful journey of getting in shape.  As a former hockey player, he wanted to skate.  Fast.  I couldn’t possibly keep up on skates, so I ran while he skated.  I have always hated running – A LOT – but it was the best solution so I decided to JUST DO IT.  I started by walking more than running.  The low point was the day when TWO different taxi drivers stopped to ask if I needed a ride.  Apparently, I did not look like an athlete in training.  But we kept going 3 days a week and last Saturday I actually felt a moment of victory when my fitness app told me I had run 42 minutes and walked 11.   I realized I was enjoying my time more – running part of my route on the beautiful morning beach.  Praying as I ran – feeling peace and hope and joy in the journey.  Breathing it all in.  I can’t say I like running yet – my knees and ankles still hurt.  I look at my watch a lot.  But we are doing it.  Grant had a good day Saturday too – he skated 16 km, hitting his goal.  Old folks for the WIN!

    Jungles and street paths and beaches – even some coatis checking us out

    Progress and pain go together!

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    Happy Birthday Francisco

    Let’s face it – change is uncomfortable.  Stretching yourself is uncomfortable.  Walking in a direction that you know is going to hurt…. It’s all uncomfortable.   But if you want to live your best life – you just have to do it!   This weekend we went to two birthday parties for our dear friend Francisco.  I ate tacos and tostadas and strudel and 2 pieces of cake.  Because celebrating is also part of a good life and sometimes that comes with amazing Mexican food.  Tomorrow we will get up and head back to the street where the taxi drivers wave at me now.  And the one thing I know for sure?  It’s definitely going to hurt…..

    And I’m okay with that.

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