El Equinoccio De Otono

We decided to head to Puerto Escondido early this year. Honestly we were tired of the rain. We left Sunday morning arriving here exactly 12 hours later – a quick drive by Mexican standards – even included a stop for lunch.

September Puerto Escondido Sunset

We arrived to more activity than was expected this time of year. There is a lot of building going on – some BIG hotels and an upgrade to Chedraui, our local grocery store (large chain type).

Due to good planning and closing down policies our beach casa was in good shape and easy to open. We do have a problem with the gardener – but that for another time. We went and enjoyed breakfast at the Bungalows on the Zicatela strip. There we can watch the waves roll in as we enjoy our first Puerto meal of the season.

Judy (actual name Yuridia, but pronounced JU.DEE) our favorite waitress is always smiles and appears to be happy to see us. Many faces we see greet us as if we had never been away – that is cool.

Anita asks Judy if she knew anyone we might hire to help clean off the dust, dirt and palapa shreddings acquired at the beach casa while we were absent. I talked with Joe about scooters; always have admired his little 100cc Honda. Joe informs me that the newest version of his has been upped to 110 cc and costs a couple thousand pesos less than when he bought his 6 years ago.

But alas I am hesitant to get a scooter with 10” wheels and less power than our Zenetti 150 from China – stored away in Xico. We brought our helmets, which was no small task with all the stuff we brought down this time (includes FOUR guitars, an amplifier and a large-ish JBL powered subwoofer as well as a step ladder, large box fan and the Dyson vacuum).

I am pretty sure a new motor scooter is in our future here this time. Stay Tuned for that and more from sunny Puerto where yesterday was the day of El Equinoccio De Otoño.  Our Sun crossed the celestial Ecuador: autumn begins in the northern spring in the south. A phenomenon celebrated by many cultures. Goodbye to summer: The Northern Hemisphere’s autumnal equinox—the first partial day of fall—occurred Monday evening, September 22. Today is the first full day of Autumn.

Viva Mexico

Last night at 11 PM local time we in Mexico enjoyed the GRITO celebration of Mexican Independence. The Grito de Dolores (“Cry of Dolores”), was the pronunciamiento (pronouncement) made from the small town of Dolores, near Guanajuato, on September 16, 1810. It marked the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. Miguel Hidalgo a Roman Catholic priest made the call. Since October 1825, the anniversary of the event is celebrated as Mexican Independence Day.

The First Grito!

The Siege of Guanajuato, the first major engagement of the insurgency, occurred 4 days later. Mexico’s independence would not be officially declared from Spain in the Declaration of Independence of the Mexican Empire until September 28, 1821, after a decade of war.

It can be likened to the United States July 4th celebration. Leave it to the Mexicans to celebrate the beginning of a war rather than the victory ten years later.

Headed up by Mexico’s First Family, we watched the pomp and circumstance in all its regalia on television in our little casita in Xico, Veracruz.

The First Family is combined families consisting of our Mexican President, his famous novella actress wife and his (3) and hers (3) children. As governor in 2008 the widower Peña Nieto hired major Mexican television network soap opera actress Angélica Rivera to publicize his government work. Pope Benedict XVI gave the couple his blessing and Peña Nieto and Rivera eventually married in November 2011.

Last night the Family was center stage, arguably the loveliest first family ever. I mean they are an amazingly handsome couple with gorgeous children.

Mexico’s First Family

The President is a former Governor of Mexico City. Small in stature yet a very colorful guy.  While running for the presidency he was criticized as being out of touch when he was quoted as not knowing how much tortillas cost. Peña Nieto insisted that he was not “the woman of the household” and thus would not know the price. In another interview, he admitted to have cheated on his past wife with another woman and fathered two children out of wedlock. Yikes with that stuff out he surely would have had a tough time getting elected in Amerika. But these are barely noticeable little sins here in Mexico.

Peña Nieto can be characterized politically as a tax and spend liberal having doubled the tax base in six years while governor but making some vast inroads in health care and alleged major crime reduction. As expats we do not get involved in political issues here in Mexico as demanded of us by the Mexican Constitution – so as to any of the aforementioned we have no opinion.

We Have NO Opinion!

I will say generally that the yanking of the liberty bell and the passing of the flag from a military color guard of five or so to the President which was subsequently waved over the crowd (the zocalo looked to be filled to capacity) was pretty corny to my eyes. But the fireworks were great to watch from this distance, the ensuing smoke that fell on the entire area was happily avoided by watching in our warm little casita in Xico. We were treated to a simulcast of actual bombs bursting in air here locally and the visual treat of the fireworks in high definition free air television coming from Mexico City (rain free for a change).

That out of our systems this morning it is pouring rain. Life returns to normal.

Stay Tuned!

Half Price Sale

Waiting for the rest of the story…

Last time you were left at “Stay Tuned for the rest of the story.” This part of the story ties in with the topic of square meters and square feet as a measuring stick for the value of property, be it vacant land, rental property or a house. For example $110 or so a square foot is the average and $85 a square foot a bargain in Las Vegas right now. Then there is Boston where $585 a square foot is an average priced house – wow! This is computed by dividing the asking price by the total square footage of the house. That figure lumps in the value of the land and any other improvements. Thus an average 1600 square foot house in Las Vegas will set you back about $176,000.00 USD and an average pad that size in Boston is a whopping $936,000.00 USD.

When I buy or sell a property, and I have done much of both, I evaluate vacant land value, add costs before swinging a hammer like architectural fees, building permit fees, service connection fees, perhaps drilling a well or installing septic, accessing power etc. Then add building per square foot cost. Add up all other improvements like walls, sheds, patios etc. And finally adjust for depreciation. All that a more detailed version of a cost per square foot lumped into the size of the dwelling as described above. Whew!

My advice is to never pay more than replacement value less depreciation – kind of leaves Boston off my playlist. Well a million dollars actually scratches Boston.

Some of the differences between Mexico and the United States include there are usually less pre-hammer-swinging fees. Also the finished product is usually less refined. Mexicans are famous for their lack of attention to detail like light bulbs mounted in sockets hanging by wires from the ceiling.  Truly I have seen this in otherwise very fancy hotels. Flimsy quality plumbing because most water pressure is gravity fed etc. There is a laundry list of quality issues.

Of course there are bargains to be had everywhere – but it often takes some hard looking. I could write a book on our purchase experiences on the three properties we own in Mexico – perhaps I will.

Getting back to our square meter or square feet example. My custom is to multiply square meters by 10.8 to come up with a close square feet answer. So for example 80 square meters would be about 864 square feet. That worked out in my head. Using a calculator the actual answer is 861.113 square feet – using more decimal places – but yes 10.8 times the square meters is a close approximation. After a while you may just perceive size in square meters – but that takes time for those that started with square feet and inches/feet tape measures.

You can convert pesos to dollars and divide that number by the number of square feet to give you an idea about the cost of a place – is it a better deal than replacement value less depreciation? You get the idea. The greater attention to detail (and decimal places) will give you a more accurate picture of real value.

OK all that said here is how this ties in to my story. Our beach house was prominently listed by a number of realtors (seldom are there exclusive listings here in Mexico). The description in all cases was depicted as a 700-800 square foot house – decidedly small but proportional to the smallish asking price (which recently had been reduced $20,000 USD after being on the market 3 months without so much as a looker).

Because Senora Calypso and I tend to look at a wide variety of houses and prices in our exploration stage, even though the description led us to believe the place was probably too small – we decided to have a look (maybe build –on or ???).

Our Beach Casa before we owned it November 2010

When we viewed the beach house in person, I remarked to Anita that the casita just seemed much larger than the advertised square footage. I went back to the hotel and did the numbers.  It appeared as if the size of the house was described by using the measurements of the footprint rather than doubling it accounting for two stories – or whatever! The bottom line was I suspicioned it was near twice the advertised size – hmm.

We contacted the real estate folks inquiring sheepishly about the size of the casa – again it was described as it was in the sales literature. We made an appointment to look again – this time with metric tape measure in hand. After perimeter measuring the casa was in fact twice as large as advertised. We kept our mouths shut, eventually buying the place while from the start through the completed sale those grossly inaccurate figures went along for the ride.

It should be noted that the actual sellers had inherited the property from afar. They made one visit; Mexico not being on their list of places wanting to be. So truly an oversight that was not to be caught by the new owners/sellers.

We have bought enough property to know there are arguments that state ‘What you see is what you get – forget what the papers say.’ Or ‘What is in writing are the facts. Seeing can be deceiving.’  Take your pick – and they often do – pick to fit.

Our Beach Casa March 2014 

However that descriptor error came about, it remained in place and presented a unique value. The story has not even been told until this day. We put it all on black and came up winners. We started all this by suggesting you go and learn about the metric system. Now you have read an example of just how valuable that lesson can be. Stay Tuned!

What are Your Measurements

So you want to live in Mexico – start boning-up on the metric system because it is the standard in Mexico. The truth is once you get the hang of it you will realize why most of the world is on metric. The stubborn U.S.A., go figure.

Let’s get practical: using metric to describe the size of an apartment, a lot, a house is much the same as square footage in the United States. What person looking for any of the aforementioned options has not used square feet as a measure of value and space?

The basic building block in Mexico is 16 meters square or 4 meters by 4 meters. Usually any construction size is divisible by 4 meters. In U.S. terms a 4 X 4 meter space is 172 square feet. This is about 13’2” or a bit larger than the typical 12 X 12 (144 square feet) room in the U.S. (a common sized bedroom). So your average sized room in Mexico is slightly larger than the U.S. equivalent – but that is pretty much the only typical size that is larger in Mexico than the U.S.

In the U.S. the average American home grew from 983 square feet in 1950 to 2,349 square feet in 2004 — a 140% increase. Yet the American household shrank by 18% between 1970 and 2003, from 3.14 people to 2.57, on average. I am sure the average Mexican home is nowhere near 2400 square feet or (223 square meters). I am guessing the average Mexican home is nearer the 1950’s 1000 square foot U.S. figure.

As Example: Our Beach House Specifications

So how much space does a retired couple require in Mexico (or anywhere for that matter)? We have three houses in Mexico. Before we say anything more we are probably not your typical renter/buyer. We are ‘green’ people and would not ever consider more or even equal to 2000 square feet (185 square meters). And that is 400 square feet less than the U.S. average – yikes. What do you people do with all that room?

In any case metric is a winner to my way of thinking. Take for example in the grocery store. Obviously manufacturers make best effort to confuse the buying public by way of volume and weight in packaging.

Using the metric system one can compute (in the head) per liter or per gram making comparisons far easier than ounces and pounds. While they still try and bamboozle the consumer, it is more difficult to confuse. Not that they do not try.

Here in Mexico they do have the advantage of doing their best to NOT educate the public. Do not even get me started on the educational system here – or I just did get started – O.K. I will stop. Learn the metric system if you are coming South – you too will appreciate it. Being able to understand and share your measurements will make your Mexico experience a good fit. There is an interesting story to buying property by the square foot or meter – Stay Tuned for the rest of the story.

Talking Trash

In our last Blog we reported the passing of our neighbor. The Mexicans have quite a ritual for the dead. A traditional Hispanic Funeral will consist of 3-4 days of services and vigils to honor and pray for the departed soul.

Our neighbor’s body was discovered on Sunday after 13 days missing. His daughter informed us this will not be an open casket event – too much time had passed.

Upon discovery the family and friends sprang into action immediately. I think part of the process of busying the principals (wives and children host the saddened friends) reduces the immediate pain or at least distracts it?

The Calypso Casita property fronts the roadway that leads to the neighbor’s casa. Theirs is a very narrow piece of land down along the river’s edge (southern end) of our contiguous lots. Literally hundreds of folks have come to pay their respects. Space is very limited in their little casita and outside beyond.

Many hombres crowd around on the roadway. They talk amongst themselves in little groups, often sharing an alcoholic beverage.

It seems the drink of choice is aguardiente. Essentially a Latin compound word for fire water – and it is that! Some very high percentage of grain alcohol and cane sugar liquor. Often it is mixed with Coke in a 32 ounce bottle. This is passed amongst the grieving throng – all hombres. And they spend hours drinking and chatting while the ladies sit quietly in a room with many chairs and a folding table displaying flowers, lit candles and the framed photo of Emilio.  Emilio’s mother, sisters, wife and children are seated sitting in shifts accepting condolences near the table. If you are there you will be offered tea.

It is as if it was all suddenly choregraphed, which I suppose is fact. Yesterday it started before daylight and finally became quiet around 2 AM. A few short hours later it started all over.

Before 8 AM I caught a glimpse of the casket passing by our house – This hand carried by a group of pallbearers. Groups of people started heading down the road on the way to the cemetery in Xico (about 4 miles away).

A Typical Mexican Cemetery – Colorful and Compacted

An hour and a half later a 4-wheeler ATV came up the road pulling a small trailer loaded with folded metal frames and plywood tops – components to be assembled as tables for the food to be served when the folks return from the cemetery.

It will be another long day of activity just beyond my office/bedroom window.

Earlier I went out and policed the area picking up many Styrofoam cups and beer bottles as well as food wrappers. Anita and I agreed leaving a garbage can out front might reduce the amount of trash just deposited where one is standing – we shall see.

Mexican people in the country-side handle trash differently than in the U.S. They quite simply throw their trash in the roadway with no thought for who or how it will be picked up from there. It is just the way it is.

It seems over the years this condition has lessened, but it is far from cured – far from it – especially a bunch of hombres drinking along the road for hours on end.

I suppose the thought of trash has diverted my own thinking regarding the loss of our neighbor – my friend. We will send up a few prayers for a successful journey from here to there. Rest in peace Emilio.

Stay Tuned!

Our Missing Neighbor Found

Sad to report that our neighbor was found dead. His body was discovered in the local river a ways down from here. Needless to say it is a very somber time here in the Hood. We will go to Coatepec and have a large print made and framed of the photo we took of him a while back and take it to the family.

Emilio will be missed.

Our Missing Neighbor

Xico, Veracuz, Mexico: Here in the Hood we are saddened that our neighbor Emilio Cortes is missing. We have lived next-door to one another for 9 years. We watched his daughter grow up.

MISSING!

 

Emilio has always been pleasant and a gentle man. He always greets me with Don John como esta? As he says this he extends his hand. We shake the gentle Mexican shake (Mexican men do not try and out squeeze the hand of the greeter like U.S. men – perhaps they are more secure in their strength?)

Thirteen days ago Emilio told his family he was going out for a little while. He has not returned. He has no history of this kind of behavior.

It should be noted Emilio has had a drinking problem over the years. It is possible he laid down somewhere and or was very inebriated to the point of having a memory problem?

Of course the family has checked with police, hospitals, dry-out hospices and known places he might frequent.

We want Emilio back home with his family.  PLEASE if you have any information contact us here or see the phone numbers on the flier enclosed.

A better photo of Emilio –

Emilio in 2012

PLEASE CONTACT US IF YOU HAVE SEEN THIS MAN

  Stay Tuned!

A Visit to the U.S. by Enrique Peña Nieto

Disclaimer Right Up Front: I am a libertarian or one believing in a political philosophy that upholds liberty and freedom as its principal objective. My public religious stand parallels this statement by the Dalai Lama, “My religion is kindness”.

The President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, was just in Los Angeles, California politicking for better immigration policies that might improve migratory reform in the United States. His speeches included the declaration that the position of Mexico is very clear:  “We want to be a factor of cohesion, not of division, with full respect for the sovereignty of the United States.”

He stated there are those that believe and support exclusion, discrimination or opposition to diversity, “The future will show them their ethical error, time will show us right.”

We agree.

The objective typically of those wanting to migrate to the U.S. is quite different than those wanting to migrate to Mexico. In each case the advantages are quite different: move to the U.S. and get a better paying job; move to Mexico and get more bang for your retirement bucks. Mexico sees an influx of dollars (pesos or USD) from the expat invasion into Mexico.

The United States see dollars being paid out to foreigners that leave the country as well as jobs robbed and a lot of burden of support via social welfare programs, something Mexico pretty much disallows and any opportunity in that regard is minimal.

Mexico seems more bent on sovereignty in that unlike the U.S. it is not a country of diverse ethnicities. The U.S. has no restrictions on foreigners owning land for example. They are not worried that their melting pot society should be protected and preserved from foreign invasion; that is its foundation.

So some big difference in motivations and policies. I do not mean to oversimplify this very complex relationship of neighbors, but the principals have less meaning than the practical realities from my perspective.

Obama (I am NOT a fan) has just announced he may have to delay any immigration reform ”….at a news conference on Thursday, Obama was circumspect about the timing of his announcement, which will be controversial ahead of November midterm elections where Democratic control of the U.S. Senate is at stake.” Continuing his do nothing about anything policies.

Personally my next encounter with all the Mexican red tape will be connected to my becoming a citizen of Mexico. In the mean time we hope for better relations between these distant neighbors.  Stay Tuned!

Moto Review

We have not checked in on our Cruise Azul motor scooter for a while. Also have not reported that we sold our beloved Burgman 650 Suzuki scooter in New Mexico a month ago. It was impossible to get the Burgman in Mexico for a reasonable import fee.

For those that have not been here for these many years – six years ago come October we purchased our 2008 blue motor scooter (better known as Cruise Azul). It is a Chinese knock-off of a Honda 150 cc moto – however built with lesser quality in China as opposed to the more refined Japanese manufacturers – Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda for example.

That October we tossed the numbers around – We could buy FOUR China dolls for one of Honda’s finest. As is often the case, we opted for the cheap route – we would see how it goes. We bought two scooters at Chedraui grocery store in Coatepec. We bargained for a 1000 peso discount (each) buying two – an acquaintance came in with us. We each paid $950 USD out the door. Now we are six years down the road and about 5000 miles later. Not counting maintenance (regular or otherwise) that works out to about $14.00 a month – pretty cheap transportation.

Of course we only ride it 6 months out of the year – but even $28 a month is not bad for reliable transportation.

Did I just write ‘reliable?’ OK well there is some debate on that. With less than 5,000 total miles we have replaced and repaired: new front fork bearing; new battery; new brakes (twice –don’t ask); new brake cable; new starter motor; frame to motor bolt; new rear tire; some wiring problems and as of today a new clutch assembly.

This after doing a recommended 20 + point improvement and care set-up upon purchase. This included changing all hoses and tubes; change spark plug, solder some wiring connections, changing fuel filter assembly, modifying the exhaust system and the air intake box etc. Tear down to tighten and inspect bolts and belt etc.

It should be noted parts are more expensive in Mexico – labor much less as compared to the U.S. In Mexico we have never registered (not required) our 149 cc scooter – so a saving there as well as no insurance cost.

Cruise Azul Circa October 2008

We know a local (here in Xico) mechanic we like.  He is competent and slightly expensive (Mexican expensive). More on this later.

Cruise Azul in the shop yesterday

A little history: Cruise Azul has never left us stranded (mostly). We have had two INCIDENTS: twice we laid the scooter down stopped or nearly so, mostly due to sand.  On one of those spills I had bruised ribs and a scuffed ankle. Anita hobbled on crutches for two weeks (in fairness she has weak ankles). We are fully recovered (except for Senora Calypso’s ankle).

We drove 120 miles one day on Cruise Azul – a lot for a little scooter – sore butts later – not recommended. A scooter here is very handy when parking is difficult to find as well as economical fuel and maintenance as compared to driving a car. It also is a bit dangerous as compared to a car – all factors to consider.

Cruise Azul in particular has a large ‘landing’ space for groceries as well as a nice large box under the seat and ours came with an additional rear stuffing box large enough to hold a helmet or a bag or so of groceries (it has since been replaced with a new one). We could transport 3 bags of groceries or haul a 20 liter bottle of water and more. The design of our scooter is such that it really carries a lot – even more we think than the large 650 cc Suzuki Burgman – the key being a flat floor between the seat and front fork assembly.

We have money from the Burgman sale burning a hole in our pockets! What to buy now? We are again weighing the advantages and not of Chinese versus Japanese (or even German). We are also considering a 4-wheeler to get to-and-from our Rancho up in the mountains.  We would lose some parking advantages as well as needing increased storage area and perhaps more safety issues driving one of those on our Mexican highways. Also have thoughts about a rack on the back of the Jetta that would allow us to transport a scooter to and from Puerto and Xico – that would give us full time usage instead of 6 months per year.

In the meantime the scooter is in the shop: Oil and change; new clutch assembly, installed; throw in 4 Jetta sparkplugs we brought from the U.S.  Oh yeah – we asked the mechanic if he knew where we could get our plugs changed – right here was the answer – cool! His total bill for parts and labor – $1400 pesos or about $110.00 U.S.D.  Not bad ;-)

No fancy motorcycle stand in this garage!

I explained with Anita’s help that I was having a clutch problem – he went right to it.

The automatic clutch assembly is the round protrusion on the side of the rear wheel – attached by belt to a pulley of sorts that is on the crankshaft

We are good to go for another ??? miles. What to buy or do next? Lots to think about regarding two-wheel transportation (or even four). Stay Tuned!

Gone but Not Forgotten

Some of you may recall the trials of my brother-in-law’s move to Mexico, almost two years ago now (They arrived in Puerto early November 2012). We waited with anticipation his arrival to the new world here in Mexico – it took about the same time as a covered wagon might make the trip.

A More Stream Lined Rig Heading to the U.S.

But he and his girlfriend made it here to Xico and then in another painfully long 500 mile trip they made it to Puerto Escondido where the plan was to start a new life in Mexico. (Read more about their trip HERE)

Sans the Original Trailer a Faster Return was Achieved

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.

John Lennon

After a very short week they rented a more or less furnished apartment across town from us. Later they moved to a house not far from their first place. The house was not furnished. They started acquiring the stuff required to live – bed, refrigerator, washing machine, curtains, tables and chairs etc.

Wood working was taken up as a new hobby as well as guitar lessons (he gave me that bug). Life was good – or so it seemed.

Moving out of the United States is certainly not for everyone. We have painted it as “…not for the faint of heart”. It most certainly is a feint move.

The move did not take for my brother-in-law. A few days ago on Facebook he declared, “WE ARE NOW IN THE GOOD OLD USA! !!!!!!!” This was followed by an entry praising the fact the first place they went to upon arrival was McDonald’s restaurant. Even though they had some transmission trouble their trip back was far shorter than their trip here.  Fortunately his truck broke down while still in Mexico where typically car repairs are a tenth of the cost in Amerika.

I believe they made at least 5 trips back to the U.S. individually or collectively during the year and a half they lived in Puerto including a 2 month visit a couple of months ago.

So let’s examine what went wrong: The weather in Puerto May to September is pretty unbearable. It should be noted he is moving to Surprise, Arizona where the dynamic of heat and cold is far more dramatic. In our opinion no real gain there. However we had warned that we had never been in Puerto Escondido during these months; and still have not. It is well documented that we follow the sun avoiding the need for HVAC (heating or cooling).

In fairness his daughter avowed to never have children is expecting in October as is his son’s wife later in the year.  So two new grandchildren pulling on the heart strings is a kneejerk response to where one needs to be.

The couple initially announced to us they were looking to move more northerly in Mexico, Lake Chapala or Ensenada where more favorable weather might be obtained and a trip to the States is simpler and more affordable. Chapala was still not close enough. Ensenada which is really just Southern California without the frills was in the plan for a visit to scope out for living. This did not materialize after a stay in Surprise with his girlfriend’s son and his family of four.

Surprise, Arizona is now their new claimed residence, although we think they have not arrived there yet as they are camping about in Texas and New Mexico.

Their experience certainly reinforces the fact that moving to a new country without visiting it is never a good idea. Adapting to a new country is not always a success.  Of course we wish them the best with their new adventures in living and will miss them as Puerto neighbors and family across town. Stay Tuned!