Call to Order

In Las Brisas Colonial we live within a democracy. Scheduled meetings, the occasional campaign speech and a show of hands voting are procedural – unlike Mexican politics beyond the perimeter of our Hood, we expats have an equal vote – makes no difference what nationality, if you own a place in the Hood you have a vote.  It is more than a privilege here, it is a requirement. If a resident does not attend a community meeting they are fined. They are serious about this.

The meetings are quite an insight to Mexican organization and politics – or lack thereof.

Most of those serving as officers in this little morality play work without pay. It is pretty apparent that their jobs are of the thankless variety.

The sound system is marginal and backless two dollar plastic stools leave an impression on my skinny butt; hard cement seating around the courtyard perimeter is an option; equally uncomfortable.

During a good turnout like we had this past Sunday morning the total vote body count might be 200 with an additional 20 to 30 unbridled children running about. Generally Mexican parents do not expend much energy making behavior demands on their ninos.

The gringos tend to group together – an island of white faces in a sea of brown.

The scene is pretty chaotic, lacking in procedure and planning. Voices get raised occasionally. Mexicans seem to not take criticism well – not at all well. These fledging politicians do not have the hard shells seen on nearly all NOB politicians. Clearly they are more Latin lover than Latin Lucha Libre wrestlers. That suits us just fine.

The meetings always start and end late. Yesterday’s marathon meeting had an 8 AM call and ran three and a half hours –church be hanged. At the onset it was announced there would be 10 issues to cover. Upon hearing the list I leaned in close to Anita, “Ten minutes an issue minimum – meeting the length of a feature film. Oh boy!” This one would be epic, Ben Hur proportion [a 224 minute movie].

There was a lot of discussion, venting, about recent crime in our little Hood. Some seem to feel we have an extraordinary amount of burglaries and thefts. The ladrones are bold entering in bedrooms of sleeping people to steal their iPhones, jewelry and laptops. In some cases these are daytime attempted robbery with physical threats and even physical abuse.

The other day an ATM machine, which was very new to the neighborhood, was stolen – the entire unit was loaded into a van – the machine was freshly filled with a large sum of crisp new pesos – ‘According to the report the company that owned it had put 300,000 pesos into it prior to the theft.’ That is about 20,000 usd. Not a small caper.

It was further reported that a [thought to be] foreigner witnessed the heist and managed to get a photo of the get-away van. The robbers turned around, hunted down the photographer taking his camera and badly beating him. ‘Word is someone took a picture of the truck they used as they were driving away with the ATM but they saw the flash go off, they returned, found the person that took it, took the camera, his stuff and beat the crap out of him….’

A number of people got up to speak their complaint about the lack of police support. Voices and intensity were raised. Here it got interesting:

There were several police officials at the head table. As the complaints boiled over grim faces awash on the police side. In a manner of minutes there were more than a dozen to as many as two-dozen uniformed police sporting their semi-automatic rifles, visible in all directions. Where did these guys come from?

It was pretty obvious someone had got on a phone and called in support; successfully creating quite an intimidating scene. it should be noted when the police were called about the ATM machine around 2 AM they showed up around noon to address the issue. But, here they were in rapid fashion guns drawn.

While it is generally understood that there are in fact no police to call upon within the Hood, there certainly seemed to be no lack of law enforcement personnel at that moment. If there was one there were three in groups all around us, inside the meeting area and beyond its fenced perimeter in the streets.

Here I am thinking perhaps our little community meeting was about to become a riot venue.

Eventually things seemed to lower in heat, flared tempers began to cool and as quick as all those gun toting hombres appeared they were gone. Rest assured their little demonstration got the message across to this writer.

We are of the opinion that there is easily as much crime at our U.S. home base of Las Vegas. We all are taking measures to better secure our property. The Calypso Couple has had no loss of possessions or otherwise robbery problems. We operate carefully, proceeding everywhere with caution. We will have to consider our safety attending those meetings – perhaps the one-hundred peso fine (about $7 usd) is money well spent?  Stay Tuned!

Rain Report and Project Updates

We have 5 to 6 weeks more here in Puerto Escondido – out of a total of about 30 weeks. About now we start thinking about wrapping up projects and planning the securing of our little beach casita. As always there are projects that we are in the ‘thinking stage’ or even perhaps started that will be shelved until next time or beyond; like my greatly desired vista platform – I crave the view. Not that we have any right to complain as it is – we are spoiled.

Something like this but spiral staircase and perhaps a small palapa

I should mention that we have had no rain like much of our fellow occupants of Mexico. Even Steve Cotton has had 5 inches of rain in the last two days – none here – but we have had some overcast mornings – burns off by noon – we missed it which is OK by us as we soon will be in Xico where it seems to rain EVERY DAY. No, actually totally true – the last two times we have stayed in Xico is rained every day – these are long stays – for months – RAIN EVERYDAY.

Recall the wall. We have been noticing a loss of air flow from the south and southeast – quite disappointing. But, here again the macro weather scene during our time here is pretty great.

We as in you and us had been discussing how to deal with the visual impact of said wall. We discussed planting appropriate wall vines and nearby plants as well as painting. We have more or less decided on both; an easier decision indeed.

The neighbor graciously and beyond the call of neighborly behaviors offered to paint our side of his wall in the same fashion as he had done his sides of the walls. With a lime and seawater mix they create a stark white-wash which some might construe as better than bare grey cement blocks – that probably would not be our take.

We went out to several hardware and paint supply stores to research our options for color. We thought it might be good to accept our neighbor’s kind offer, but add some color to the mix. This is a powder used to color cement. CEMIX brand. Color para Cemento. Cemencrom – ROJO OXIDO

We ended up selecting a brick red or rust color which is turning out to be very much salmon in color. We thought it was a good fading color; it will look good even as it fades which it will undoubtedly do.

Here are a couple photos of that.

Wild Salmon Wall

Pretty and PINK – Real men call it SALMON

In keeping with the two topic essay, I have been branded, rightly so, as that by Kim – one of my favorite readers. Recall the stepping stone project that encompasses two perimeter lines of our lot. We have completed making stepping stone, at least for now. I bought a couple boxes of 50 by 50 centimeter tiles that look like river rock. I lopped off 10 centimeters from one side and cemented them down to the front most stepping stones – nine in total.

Walk on the Wild Side – In this case our front yard

I will apply a beveled mortar edge to tie the tile to the slab as a wrapping it up project in the next couple of weeks. In truth this is probably a one day job – but I am sure I will stretch it to three.

Life is good here without using the ‘paradise’ word – more on all that soon.

OH and HAPPY BIRTHDAY BENITO JUAREZ – well sort of – read on.

Benito Juarez’s birthday (March 21) is a national holiday in Mexico and, to make a three-day weekend out of it, schools and government offices are closed on the third Monday of March, which in 2015 falls on March 16th. LOCO Mexican holidays. Benito is from our State of Oaxaca – one of the good guys.

 Stay Tuned!

Whale of a Tail

There is a joke: No one goes to that restaurant anymore because it is too crowded.

Restaurants are transient in nature; be it caused by the throes of the business, or whatever, we can agree restaurants come and go.

One such cause for closure, and it is no joke, is becoming too popular. It becomes too much work. At minimum over-popularity usually means increased prices; change is inevitable.

When one finds an eatery they really like it is to be coveted and perhaps even kept secret. It might be said, ‘Enjoy it while you can.’

The Calypso Couple discovered just such a secreted place not long ago. We were scooting out the back way to the highway from Dan’s Deluxe (we have written about Dan’s in the past HERE) headed home when Anita spotted this sign:

What titillated us in particular was the ‘Osheanic Restaurant Organico’ signage; positive pandering to our palates. I Google researched ‘Ananda Restaurant’ in Puerto. There were very few reviews; but they were all good – recommending breakfast in particular.

We ventured there one morning recently, where we met Neelam, the proprietress. She proved to be as charming as she is lovely and the accolades for her Osheanic Restaurant were validated.

Cocina de Ananda

Neelam sits down for a few minutes with Anita

We became friendly, hitting it off. We were invited to join Neelam and friends Sunday night for some organic desserts, tea and live music – a private gathering. I should mention here the breakfast was spectacular! Our bellies easily prodded us to return at any opportunity.

The prices were near absurdly minimal. Two orders of fine roasted coffee, wonderful complex Mexican eggs and potatoes, toast etc. Everything organic. Total bill 70 pesos ($4.60 usd) – amazing!

We arrived on time which is early by Mexican standards; the first ones there.

Neelam’s place which is a seven room hotel as well as the restaurant is about 150 meters from the sand and ocean. I crossed the street and took a shot of the water – always a draw for me.

Sea View – across the street

Out on the ocean’s panorama perhaps another 150 meters I caught a glimpse of what I thought might be a whale’s breath spout.

Thar she Blows!

It was fleeting and indeterminable – I waited and sure enough I spotted signs of a couple of whales.

Looked like perhaps two – whale and calf?

I called to Anita who was already in the restaurant to come and see. Several times while living here I have spotted whales out in our bay – even from our second-level deck at our little casa by the sea. But, Anita had never had the pleasure being that most of my previous spotting’s were early in the morning – she is not an early riser.

Anita came out as well as some of the staff and a few arriving early guests. We all watched from the street. Lucky me I had my camera.

Yup – mom and calf dorsal fins

As the sun began to go down we all headed back in the restaurant.

Sunday’s Sunset

Organic vegan pies were being set out as more people arrived.

Homemade Organic Vegan Pies

Soon the music performance started. A couple from Hungary brought out their exotic Hungarian instruments, setting up a microphone and small amplifier. We were treated to soothing cosmic New Age genre music for about an hour and a half.

Direct from Hungary

Exotic Arsenal of Hungarian Instruments

Opportunities like this occur often in our special little town at the bottom of North America. Come on down, maybe I will reveal how to get to our special ESCONDIDO restaurant.

It just does not get any better than this. Stay Tuned!

Exchanging Dollars for Pesos

The good news is the exchange rate is very favorable for those of us that convert dollars to pesos south of the border. The exchange rate is nearly the best in the last ten years or so. In 2008 it got to 15.7 pesos for 1 US dollar; for a couple of days.  This morning (it varies throughout the day) it is 15.5 to 1.

Without drawing out complicated comparisons I will put it in practical dollars and sense. The amount we usually exchange once a month gives us an extra 114.00 usd of buying power as compared to a year ago. That is a substantial bonus, and if one is buying a high ticket item the difference can amount to several thousand dollars – sweet!

On the other hand – this is not so good for our Mexican friends and neighbors. The exchange rate slowly improving in getting more pesos for a dollar has helped offset inflation here in Mexico which has been increasing at a pretty good clip. While we expats enjoy the fact most of the inflation is being offset by the exchange rate – this does not help our Mexican national friends.

We are shopping for some major home improvements – the timing is right. We just replaced our kitchen cabinet which was getting munched by termites. I installed the old cabinet in our bodega (having two new drawers made as we speak).

The new cabinet is in place having cost $220 usd instead of $245 usd for last year’s pesos exchange rate.

We removed the old cabinet and patched the wall – the cabinet builders installed the new one. This cabinet is made with solid parota wood – termite proof and a bit more stylish – including real drawer slider mechanisms.

If you are thinking of taking a trip to Mexico – this is a good time. The weather is wonderful, the pesos are cheap  – Come on down – VIVA MEXICO.

Stay Tuned!

Scooter Fleet

La Poderosa (we call her Rosa for short), our 2014 motor scooter has a driveway mate and a bit of new competition in the Calypso Casa.

Our friend Aaron has entrusted us with his 2014 Italica WS150 to have and to hold until he returns in September – we have his go ahead to sell the little graphite jewel if that opportunity comes up – but, I may be having too much fun riding it to let anyone know they can buy it ;-)

Aaron is one of the good guys. He spent this 6-month trip (an annual event) living out at the Manialtepec Lagoon; one of the most beautiful spots in our area. During his return he operates a power washing business that he manages to leave 6 months out of the year – a nice situation – working 6-months and then retiring six in our lovely area. A most clever fellow to have made all that happen.

I would be remiss not to mention Restaurante La Alejandría and its associated cabanas. It is a short 15 minute drive west of Puerto and worth the effort to enjoy the beautiful lagoon and some fine food; also some very inexpensive and quiet rentals. A cool place.

The WS150 is ten percent higher in horse power and it shows. That scooter gets off the line in a hurry. We see a lot of that model here in Puerto. When we were shopping around before buying Rosa the WS150 was recommended on several fronts including by Pricilla, our favorite Italika mechanic.

Priscilla signs up a scooter driving lessons candidate

My only reservation, because I love the boosted power, is the legroom. The shorter wheel base condenses things. I am a shrinking six-foot-one ‘er and darned if my knees don’t rub the front fork cowling. Another reason why the short in stature Mexicanos might covet the model.

I stand behind my liking the Chinese scooters – keep the rubber side down.

 “Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.” Stay Tuned!

La Pita at the Gate

HERE is a ‘living in Mexico’ advantage – Usually once a week a pretty woman comes by our casa with a basket and or pan of tasty pan dulce; not the typical Mexican pastry, more of the European bakery varieties. We are talking rich – no calorie-counting, and scrumptious pastry.

Today we have brownies and turnovers.

Over the last few years La Pita formerly operated a restaurant in a couple of locations here in her, and our, neighborhood. While her restaurants were successful, each time she closed them deciding it was just too much work. She is a homeschooler; a busy mother. And she found an alternative source of income – selling dessert door to door.

La Pita Takes a Break Enjoying a Cool Drink

Actually her husband makes the delicacies, La Pita merely sold them at her restaurants and now on foot. She is the marketing arm. La Pita always arrives here with a smile and a hug; usually she will come in and sit down for a chat with Anita – girl talk.

GIRL TALK

I being much more of a sweet tooth person, am the chief benefactor of her visits – often for a couple of days enjoying rich chocolate brownies or Napoleon otherwise called mille-feuille, which is a flaky layered pastry with custard slathered between layers – YUM!

She also occasionally brings large apple turnovers with a delicious crispy flaky crust filled with an apple compote.

You can probably tell I like!

North of the border ‘ers may have a Schwan’s truck cruising around their hoods – but we seriously doubt lovely La Pita types are wandering about those NOB neighborhoods.

Yet another reason to be happy here South of the Border. Stay Tuned!

Blowin in the Wind

The wall has been completed. The jury is still out on the effects it may have on our jet stream prevailing winds. In the last few days we have had some fairly high wind speeds coming from the direction of over-the-wall. There is still wind here.

Anita very cleverly spoke with the wall builders requesting blue glass shards along our stretch of environmental interruptus. We are happy with the results of her petition. A bonus – the oddly angled shards of blue glass capture street light at night producing a sparkling blue glow that appears almost as if it is electrically lighted. Perhaps this is a rational to make it all easier to accept?

All still physically the divider is intimidating and unwelcoming. Possibly in time resurgent plant life and other tricks may eventually soften that pain.

We should have disclosed perhaps that we have never been fans of walls. Be that as that bias may be, Mexico has many and varied walls. One learns to adapt.

Living a few blocks from the majesty and powerful Pacific Ocean is a bonus in life.

– we have little to complain about.

So there will be no more discussion about the Great Wall.

Stay Tuned!

Setting Me Straight

Where you are standing or sitting is where you are – we can all agree on that. What direction or your heading is an entirely different story – that is not so easy to know or to necessarily agree upon.

A friend wrote this to me yesterday referring to my recent blog entry wherein I described the great wall in our driveway running along our south property line, “…hate to be a stickler about this but the wall is on the EAST side of your house, not the south. The beach is on the south and the sun sets in the west, as you have no doubt noticed from your balcony.”

Of course my friend is wrong about this correction. The interesting thing is this person has been living here in Puerto full time for ten years or so; and knows the area generally about as well as anyone – even better.

It is easier to get turned around than one might think. Let us try and sort this out. First there is true north and compass or magnetic north and magnetic declination, sometimes called magnetic variation to take into account. To avoid the complications of compass readings let us just use True North and not use any magnetic compass directions, to be on the same page sort of speak.

Google Earth and most maps depict north as the top-of-the-page thus the bottom is south; the far right is east and the far left is west. Using that standard below is a Google Earth photo of my house ostensibly from 650 feet above, although Google uses the word satellite, most of the high-resolution imagery of cities is aerial photography taken from aircraft flying at 800 feet (240 m) to 1,500 feet (460 m); however, most of the other imagery is from satellites. The photo I use here was taken August 7th, 2013.

The most current Google satellites are orbiting at 311-mile (500-km) high. From that altitude, the satellites are able to image objects less than 32 inches (80 cm) in diameter – amazing! In this photo I can clearly see our little bodega in the backyard – also amazing!

Pulling the view back a bit.

Clearly, to me, you can see the two vacant lots east of the two white rectangles and south of where our casa is located.

So how did my friend get turned around? Easy actually. Most people know that the sun “rises in the east and sets in the west”. However, most people don’t realize that is a generalization. Actually, the sun only rises due east and sets due west on 2 days of the year – the spring and fall equinoxes! On other days, the sun rises either north or south of “due east” and sets north or south of “due west.”

Each day the rising and setting points change slightly. At the summer solstice, the sun rises as far to the northeast as it ever does, and sets as far to the northwest. Every day after that, the sun rises a tiny bit further south.

At the fall equinox, the sun rises due east and sets due west. It continues on its journey southward until, at the winter solstice, the sun rises are far to the south as it ever does, and sets as far to the southwest.

Puerto is only about 50 kilometers from the most southerly point of Mexico. Jump in the ocean heading south from Puerto and the next landfall is Antarctica.

In my last Blog entry I closed mentioning “Tune in next time to view an unusual visitor to the Calypso kitchen.”

The other morning Anita came charging out of the kitchen area like a rodeo bull being released at the gate. I noted fear across her lovely face. This is more of a concern these days as small bugs, spiders including scorpions, geckos and even iguanas in our yard and even in the house are customary to her. In other words she does not rattle easily.

I am not sure where she was going as she streaked through the living room area heading towards the door saying something about, “…In the kitchen….” I had to investigate.

There right next to the sink, where Anita is often found was a pretty large toad – a two fisted sized amphibian. I grabbed a broom trying to gently direct it out of our house. It was not coHOPerating at all. So I went into a sweeping action that eventually rolled it into our front garden outside – where I was able to capture a photo.

This hombre was better suited in the garden.

Most of you do not live amongst scorpions, geckos, possums, crabs, toads and small crocodile sized iguanas – and even small crocodiles. Our friend Charlie related a story the other day about returning home from the States to find a small crock in his pool!

What can be said – living at the beach has its Wild Kingdom attributes and I would not have it any other way.  Stay Tuned!

Miles and Miles and Miles

Last week our new Italika scooter passed 1000 miles on the odometer. Less than three months old and rolling up the kilometers faster than our Xico scooter which is around 8000 kilometers traveled (about 5000 miles) since 2008 – going on 8 years. We have always traveled around more here at the beach than in the tri-cities (Xalapa, Coatepec, Xico).

Our Italika remains un-named.

We offer no resistance to accusations of the perils of riding a two-wheeler on Mexican streets. It is not for the faint of heart or those not possessing motorcycle operation safety skills as a major theme. We mostly wear our helmets, always remain aware of our road surroundings and step down carefully etc.

Full disclosure; we had two ‘incidents’ on our Zenetti scooter in Xico – both scooter side-ways events – at nearly stopped speed – but all still our Zenetti scooter sports the badges of meeting pavement beyond the rubber side. We believe our scooter skills are better honed and our Italika remains pristine – keeping the rubber side down.

Our relationship with the local Italika service center remains excellent. This is totally opposite concerning our dissatisfaction with the dealerships in Coatepec and Xalapa. So give Puerto an add for excellent service.

The numbers are less than 20 cents a mile amortized since we bought Cruise Azul. Which coincidentally is the exact figure for our 2008 Jetta. However the maintenance and fuel costs are higher with the Jetta. We also have enjoyed the convenience of easy parking and excellent maneuverability with the scooters.

We met a hombre at our friends Charlie and Yoli’s yesterday that asked about the viability of the scooter, “…ONCE WE GOT ON THE HI WAY YOUR SCOOTER TOOK OFF LIKE A SHOT.  WHAT MAKE IS IT AND HOW MANY CC’S?   I’VE BEEN LOOKING AT LOCAL MOTORCYCLES AND FIGURED I NEED A 250 AT LEAST FOR TRIP TO PUERTO AND BACK.” (All caps our new friend’s METHOD – not mine).

I suggested we get together and talk for more details on the pluses and minuses – of course they are all in here as well.

As mentioned we spent the day out about 12 miles to the east at Charlie and Yoli’s. We had not been together for a year – which is crazy because we REALLY LIKE the two of them, and invariably they have interesting friends to meet and enjoy as well.

Charlie who is a young octogenarian is a total southern gentlemen. He hails from Alabama and reminds me of President Jimmy Carter. He has that gentle southern drawl. Soft spoken and a terrific host with an equally terrific location set back from the ocean with a long stretch of vacant beach as his southern exposure.

Sunset at Charlie’s Yesterday

We met some new friends, had a tasty chili rellenos lunch and got our feet wet in the pool. A good time was had by all.

Tune in next time to view an unusual visitor to the Calypso kitchen. Stay Tuned!

Going Out on a Limb

I know there will be someone out there that has a logical answer for this. There is that word logical. Let us start with a couple visuals.

If you have been reading along you know there is a GREAT wall rising between our neighbor’s vacant lot(s) and our south property line. You also know this was spawned by crimes in the neighborhood.

The great wall around two lots next-door is nearing completion. Like smashing your thumb with a hammer – this pain too will subside.

The nuts and bolts of construction always comes with noise, dust and dirt, strangers on the street and did I mention the mess? Did I mention the NOISE!

But without delving into those complaints let’s talk about construction practices and the tools of the trade. Let me set the stage here. This crew is part of a large construction company. The contractor/owner has a terrific reputation. He builds high-end properties here in the Puerto area.

He has things like a gas cement mixer (not used on this job thus far – must be busy somewhere else). He has multiple jobs going at all times. He moves his crews and equipment around in a timely and efficient manner as far as I can tell. Did I just write ‘efficient’? Read on.

Referring you to the above photos, did you notice the freshly cut tree limbs wedged in a manner to apply pressure on the board pressed against the blocks? Looking closely we see many nails driven into the freshly laid blocks. Many man hours have been put in to assemble these frameworks to build out the beams and posts. They used machetes to cut the limbs first off – then hours devoted to applying box frames. This is a common antiquated practice here in Mexico. In the U.S. clamps and reusable framework make quick work of preparing cavities to accept cement used to produce posts and beams.

While there is a certain charm to some of the Mexican building practices – this one always maddens me in its inefficiencies. I know we could argue the fact that this labor intensive part of the construction process provides jobs for many a Mexican Albañil (construction laborer).

As I sit here next-door cement is being poured in the boxed frames. The cement has way too much water in it (excess water weakens cement). The liquid splashes, dotting my car and scooter. We could park those out on the street, however the last time that was done the water delivery people crashed into my car – so we hesitate to park in the street anymore. It will all be over soon. And we will remain confused and moving on…. STAY TUNED!