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!

Xstatic to be in Xico

Continuing from yesterday: The rest of the trip went like this: we got a very slow start Sunday morning leaving El Rey Hotel after 11 AM. We needed the rest from the 1050 miles we had driven the previous 24 hours – a long haul for anyone long in the tooth.

Before we leave Soto La Marina we should mention our discovery of a terrific restaurant there. The desk clerk at El Rey Hotel turned us on to Restaurant Tampico. Now usually just the word Tampico sends shivers down the spine – Mordida Central, not to mention the threat of road bandits and kidnappers lurking behind every bush.

Putting the name behind us, we enjoyed a terrific dinner that was extremely reasonable; having just spent 2 months being astounded at the cost of dining in Las Vegas and even Capitan. Just a few blocks further south of the El Rey, Restaurant Tampico is a gem of an eatery.  If you take our path or find yourself in Soto La Marina for any reason – do have a meal there – highly recommended.

We placed no pressure on ourselves as arriving in Xico in the wee hours of the morning is pretty much a norm coming from the border or traveling north from Puerto to Xico.

Of course we faced the dreaded travel path through downtown Tampico – noted as one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico.

We were sticking to our theory that Sunday is the safest day to venture through Cartel Country. We are assuming the criminals are home with the family on Sunday – perhaps even in church repenting their bad behavior the other days of the week?

The GPS has been a great help meandering through the maze of downtown Tampico, and Tuxpan after. All went smoothly save the terrible roads nearing and then following Tampico, nearly all the way to Tuxpan – very bad roads; lots of holes and hundreds of topes to slow you down (as if the holes and broken highway aren’t enough!).

We encountered some delays. Several accidents.  The highways were jammed packed with travelers for some reason – maybe just a bunch of folks out for a Sunday drive? We always seem to manage to get to Coasta Esmeralda about the same time. It should be noted that there are many insane drivers on these Mexican highways. Way more nuts per capita than in the U.S. I mean there are many that appear to have a death wish. Drivers that drive as they will. Accident avoidance is strictly up to you – they do not waver or back down from idiot moves.

Costa Esmeralda is a seaside resort about 3.5 hours before home. We usually like to time our arrival to this beach town at dinner time. Truthfully in the last 10 years Coasta Esmeralda has become a little ragged. It has been beaten-up by several tropical storms and hurricanes. Generally maintenance is not adopted by many of the hotel/motel and fooderies. Build it and let it run down seems to be typical.

All still there are some good dining opportunities there. We stopped at our favorite roadside family restaurant. The owner always recognizes us and goes out of her way to make us happy – her food alone would fill the bill! We ate until comfortable and headed out about 9PM for the last 3.5 hours to home.

It has been written in so many places that driving at night in Mexico is highly risky – we do not disagree. And yet we continue to do it. It is very dicey to say the least. But once again we made it to our door just after midnight – completely intact. However let us second what has been said so many times – DO NOT drive in Mexico at night – quite simply it increases your chances of a problem by a lot.

Wired at midnight Anita vacuumed spider webs while I unloaded the seven guitars, two amplifiers and what seems to be a vast amount of other stuff.  Note the cool fuchsia (or is it mauve?) fan, George, our neighbor in Capitan, turned us on to. The fan has most all plastic parts –  better for the metal eating beach environment.

6 of 7 guitars and MORE – Anita says we need a bigger house!

We are unpacking and trying to shake-off the trip today.  Stay Tuned as next time there will be news of future directions.

Trip Report

The Calypso Couple just completed part of their annual 4,400 miles/7100 kilometers round trip. That is: Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca; to Xico, Veracruz; to Capitan, New Mexico; to Las Vegas, Nevada and back.

We made another successful border crossing yesterday.  We left Capitan, New Mexico at 5:30 PM “A strange departure time”, you might say. Well yes but this facilitates a schedule that sets up a proper arrival time in Costa La Marina (it completes a long day after mowing the lawn in Capitan, saying our goodbyes and packing up the car which is filled to capacity, then driving 1000 plus miles to here.

We always have more to bring than fits. So we just fill to capacity. This means we cannot use the rearview mirror as too much stuff is stacked to the headliner. Also the Thule car carrier is pulled shut with great effort, enclosing lots of clothes and shoes mostly. We even managed to ‘mule’ a few items for John and Jane.

This time we added a step ladder to the roof rails which will go to Puerto in the fall. You might imagine by now our setup is starting to look like the Beverly Hillbillies (for those of you too young to remember this was an American sitcom running nine seasons from September 1962 to March 1971, a while back). Photo resembling the Calypso departure below:

What, Only One Guitar. We are Hauling Seven!

The drive goes like this:

Our Travel Time Chart

Probably the most interesting (if there is any) information is the border crossing. Each time in the last twenty times or so it has been different. This time would have to go down as the easiest – we are talking smooth sailing!

At the border crossing from Brownsville, Texas, U.S.A to Matamoras, Tamaulipas, Mexico we drove through the recently added layer of border crossing red tape on the U.S. side, a stop for questioning – this was very friendly and less than 5 minutes.

Proceeding forward we paid $3.25 (do not pay the more costly option 52 pesos). Now we came to the red light/ green light entry. There is a lane to declare new items being brought in to Mexico. This here-to-fore open lane was closed??? All were closed save one. We drove through and on out into the streets of Matamoras – as if all the Mexican border patrollers had been raptured. Siesta time? I mean the place was clear of any authority. Great! We proceeded on through the streets of Matamoras. We drove slowly fully expecting to be chased down by a border patrol truck – but no, clear sailing.

Fifty kilometers or so beyond the border is yet another check point (Aduana Inspection) where one might expect a more thorough inspection. We got a green light and drove in the maze of poles and lanes looking directly into the eyes of a couple inspectors that were busy ransacking a couple of vans full of Mexicans (all their stuff laid out on tables).

The eye contact was for naught – we slowly drove through and proceeded back on the highway leading to Soto La Marina and beyond. WOW! No stopping just clear sailing. We could have had a vehicle full of AK47’s or the car full of Mexican’s returning home. Even a nuclear weapon.  No problem Amigo!

Anita and I high-fived it as we headed down the road.

Now we just have to get through Tampico.  Recall our Sunday theory that the ladrones (robbers and kidnappers) take Sundays off to be home with their Catholic families; or perhaps with their other family. Stay Tuned for the rest of the story.

A Happy Ending

Everybody loves a happy ending.  Here is one for you.

Recall back 7 months ago how we had a startling visit at Puerto Escondido from our friend’s son and his wife and one year old. They arrived unannounced to work with us on the beach house for a couple of months. They had taken a 17 hour bus ride from Xico to Puerto ostensibly to help work on the beach casa. We had not authorized such a trip. Because we were scheduled to leave town we had to put the little family on a bus going back home (here in Ursulo Galvan, Xico) nearly immediately.

The reporting of said mix-up (READ HERE) caused a flap with one of our next-door neighbors here in Xico. She apparently misunderstood the situation to the point of her being labeled a total wacko.  It was actually quite ugly. Even now reading through the comments from that entry – wow!

So anyway life has moved on these seven months. When we returned here about a month ago, the main characters involved in that situation resolved the mix-up (save the next-door neighbor who there is no rational talking to). The youthful worker assured us he would pay us for the costs of him and his family’s miss-adventure. We gave that no thought realizing a couple hundred dollars plus was pretty much unobtainable for him.

We had written it off as a learning experience well likened to a quip provided by one of our then commenters, ” ‘Música pagada no toca buen son’. (Music paid in advance will not sound good) — If you are going to have a wedding celebration and you hire the musicians, DO NOT pay for their service until the end of the celebration. You can pay half the price, or make and advance payment, but do not make a full payment in advance. You may regret it later.”

On a couple of occasions the worker and his family have visited us to reassure us of their commitment to reimburse us. The good news in his mind (and ours actually) was the fact that the quick return from the unauthorized excursion had enabled him to answer a call for a really good job. A job in which he would have missed the opportunity had he not returned when he did.

We were all happy to gather a positive from the ashes of the mess. Anita and I thought how terrific it was for him to find good in an otherwise not so positive situation.

Yesterday the young man came to me with the full amount of pesos owed. We were taken back not having expected to ever see those pesos again. A very pleasant surprise. Not so much about the money, but the fact that this young hombre by way of his good new job was able and willing to make all things right. Gives one hope and faith in young people. There are still some good ones out there.

Stay Tuned!

Making Radio Waves

My little corner workstation – Ursulo Galvan, Xico, Veracruz, MX this foggy Sunday morning.

We are getting better with the radios.  I am after all an electronic engineer by education (and much practical experience I might add). The radios to which I refer are ones used to relay Internet connections.  We had a dandy installation between John and Jane’s place (recall the robber’s tienda they lived in across the way a couple of kilometers).

But alas those fun loving, persevering victims, enchanting fellow seniors  and good friends have escaped the house of ladones bounty, moving to safer digs in Coatepec. So we chopped a few sections out of our very tall bamboo mast; lowering the radio to communicate within the Hood and voila we garnered a connection with ease.

Tancho who reads and writes from a mountaintop in Pátzcuaro  turned us on to the possibilities of radioing Internet long distances (in excess of 5 miles). As communication possibilities develop the radios eventually become unnecessary – but before Internet comes to your neighborhood  they are a wonderful thing.

The catch for the Calypso Couple is having to maintain “mainstream” local internet connections at locations wherein we reside for 6 months or less only.  The service providers demand contracts and ongoing connections.  If there is one operating condition in the process of multiple abodes that irritates it is having to pay for ongoing services we do not use. So listen up all you potential part time expats – some of that can be foiled.

We pay for continued water and trash service as well as electric connections in three houses (not counting our storage warehouse in Capitan, New Mexico. You can see the problem – multiple Internet connections really add up and contribute to our services frustrations – hence the radios here in Xico.  We retired their need in Puerto securing a shared connection with our next door neighbors. By the way when we are at our New Mexico casa our neighbor and friend George allows us a logon – ah George he is a terrific fellow in so many ways.

The point here is there are alternative methods to being strapped with ongoing service requirements. It just takes some Yankee ingenuity and friends.

Last night we watched our Cruz Azul soccer team play to a tie on HD television (free air no less). Being connected to the rest of the world makes living outside of the United States a more comfortable situation – rest assured.

We are settling in. Yesterday was the annual Capilla at the top of the drive celebration.  The weather did not cooperate. It was a small and mostly peaceful event (smaller and more peaceful than previous years).

It is cold and foggy this Sunday morning. I will go read my electronic copy of yesterday’s Washington Post and maybe flip through the electronic June Esquire magazine until my Guapa Señora rises. Life is Good – Stay Tuned!

Life Update

We had planned on heading to Xico, Veracruz (our other home) two Sundays past. Recalling our return to Xico last year, it was cold and rainy leaving us wishing we had stayed in Puerto longer. So we cancelled the early departure and will remain here until the 27th – two weeks longer than originally planned.  Follow the sun – the Calypso’s path.

Our Beach Across from Hotel Santa Fe in Puerto Escondido

Jane, half of our friends John and Jane who are living near Xico wrote spontaneously the other day, “Burrr! you two are lucky you did not come back yet”

Because we were nearly packed up to leave we are living a bit awkwardly, not wanting to unpack. Will try and plan this better next year.  In the meantime we are laying low as the town is FULL of tourist enjoying our fair pueblito.

Over on the other side of town Anita’s brother is packing up to head to the States for two months. Sadly he and his mate have decided to leave Puerto Escondido after living here a year and a half. Brother-in-law’s daughter is with child. Grand-parenting is calling, giving him the desire to live closer to Las Vegas and daughter. He will be missed.  We enjoyed having family across town.

We have been shopping online for guitars (yes – more than one). At 67 we have decided to revisit an old hobby with more time to devote to it – time will surely be needed. Author, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Ten thousand regardless of one’s possible inherent talent. We are shooting for something less than being a master at guitar playing.

Willie Nelson’s Classic 1969 Martin “Trigger”

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists in Berlin studied violin students. Specifically, they studied their practice habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. All of the subjects were asked this question: “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”

All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice.

The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.

Natural Talent: Not Important is claimed.  

This suits me ;-)

I called upon my calculator which revealed 10,000 hours practicing 4 hours a day is nearly 7 years’ time – ouch! Let’s just work on being able to scratch out Neil Young’s “Old Man” as a goal.

“Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
The whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
And you can tell that’s true…”

I leave you with this appropriate cartoon about Jimi Hendrix shopping for guitars (he did not have Amazon, Ebay or any other computer shopping place)

Peace – Stay Tuned!

An Artists Palette of
Colors and Textures

The Calypso Couple is about ready to start preparing to head north for the spring and summer.

Actually we have already started in that mode – gathering things up to be stored away, covered, or otherwise prepared for 6 months of abandonment.

In that light we decided to take a few photos of the many plants and flowers in our yard today – to serve as a memory when we are gone. So please indulge us in looking at a lot of photos – all taken today, all shots of our property here in Puerto Escondido.

We are more of permaculturalists than gardeners or flower lovers.

A year or so after purchasing this property we went to extensive measures to install a drip watering system. A system that would mostly tend to itself during the time we are gone. In fairness we do have a gardener that comes and checks on things 2 hours a week. He is to make sure our drip system is dripping and kind of keep the major growth down to a manageable point.

The first time we returned here after being away six plus months it was a veritable jungle. Arriving late at night we had to machete our way to the door – truly. Since we have made the arrangement with our friend and gardener Simplicito we have come back to a much nicer situation each fall.

Not only is our Blog an attempt at service to you good readers, it is a memory storehouse for us. So here’s to the memories of the past beautiful six months of beach living and an artist’s palette of color and textures:

Sneaked in a Photo of the New Screen door

Had to include a photo of our neighborhood street dog Pirata. She does actually have a home across the street but we all treat her as our own here on the block.

Thank you for allowing us to indulge in this little home photo essay.

Back on message next time, when we will start reviewing all our home improvements made at Casa El Punta Es. Stay Tuned!

Tuna Boats a Float

The Calypso Couple are well known, or so it seems,  in the community for their love of fresh tuna off the boat.

Yesterday while visiting our favorite panaderia (bakery) a small little hombre came running up to Doña Anita, breathlessly notifying her that his mom has atún (tuna). The muchacho had crossed the dirt road where his family operates a fresh fish market. I continued on for my pan dulce (sweet bread).

We ended up with 1200 grams of thin sliced tuna steaks. This is $3.47 a pound and the current market price in our area. The odd point to all this is that tuna usually appears in the markets in November through January. Never have seen it here in March.

According to the nice fish mujer (woman) the water got cooler than usual and tuna has appeared in the off shore water. We were happy for whatever caused this cooling, especially since it has been a bit unseasonably warm for the last two weeks?

A word of caution here: Tuna in Spanish is atún (AH-TUNE). Asking for tuna one might just end up with a cactus, prickly pear, or even a bowl of olives  (aceitunas).

We made it home with our tuna stash and began storing our pan dulce when we were beckoned to the gate by yet another charming mujer. This one had a broad weaved basket on her head. She came to tell us she had tuna. A common thread was sensed – the tuna are running.

She thought of us knowing our proclivity for the chicken of the sea. Even though our larder was full of tuna we bought another kilo in thanks for her thinking of us and to guarantee her return.

Mexican tuna is usually sliced thin like most of them apparently like their beef steaks. We have no problem with that – fire up the barbecue. We cook enough to have some to shred for tuna sandwiches another time or two – yum.

We have not had much fish in our diets lately what with all the news and fear mongering of radiation soaked fish arriving on North American shores from Japan and such. Anita encourages me to find a portable Geiger counter that would enable us to arrive at our own conclusion. But for now we trust the local water here at the southern tip of Mexico and just could not resist – see why below:


All this tuna talk makes me want to go and watch a few episodes of Wicked Tuna

Come on by for a  barbecue tuna fry – Life is Good. Stay Tuned!

Viva Puerto

A local magazine helps Puerto Escondido’s reach and image. Barbara Joan Schaffer, the editor in chief, can be seen scurrying about town collecting news as well as marketing ad space.

Latest Issue Cover

We first met Barbara a few years ago when researching buying property here. Published in 2010 Barbara had a book on local shelves titles, “Oaxaca Coast: The Lay of the Land, Real Estate Tips & Day Trips” We found the small volume very helpful steering us in the direction of a successful purchase of the Calypso’s Casa La Punta Es as well as sending us off on several surrounding area excursions that are indeed fun “day trips” and more.

She starts the Introduction of the book with this “I see you gentle reader, sitting on the terrace  of a beachside restaurant enjoying your 2 for 1 margaritas while the sun sets over Zicatela beach, and you are thinking, ‘I could live here.’ And the next thing you know you are crazy in love with buying or building a house on the Oaxaca coast. I know because I was once that person too. Truth be told, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco and everything in between are places of enchantment.

She had my full attention at “…sitting on the terrace of a beachside restaurant… while the sun sets over Zicatela beach.” Her book had an infectious, personal tone that was as much a promotional piece as it was chock full of detailed information. It truly worked on us.

Because Puerto is a small community our paths eventually crossed. We shared writer’s enthusiasms and we learned of her soon to be project “Viva Puerto” magazine. Just about at closing of our casa purchase the first issue of her magazine hit the streets. Since then we see each other regularly discussing magazine topics, and our shared love of movies; we even have contributed several photos that have been included in both the hard copies and the Internet E’zine versions of the magazine. We have talked recently about collaborating on an updated book on buying land in mysterious Mexico or is it “Mysteriously buying land in Mexico?”

In as much as many of the readers here have an interest in Puerto Escondido, be it a possible vacation destination to a full on place to live, we want to direct your attention to Viva Puerto magazine – Like her book before it Viva Puerto Escondido magazine reflects and exposes Barbara’s bubbly personality and is not to be missed online or in hard copy found all around town.

Barbara is also a regular contributor on the local Tom Zap Forum. It is there she is even feistier. But you must sign-up to read her and other’s comments – the Forum is not for the timid. It can be a rough crowd, yet also informative and definitely worth having a look if you are thinking about visiting or living here.

Stay Tuned!

Bright Lights, Big City – NOT!

Dateline Puerto Econdido: Our little beach town is getting new solar lights along the main highway (Highway 200) into and out of town. A short run that. I believe it is about 5 miles from one end to the other (east to west).

We have noted in the 7 years we have been coming here that it is dark at night (not such a bad thing).  Illuminating the main highway has to be a good thing. And the best part is how they are going about it – with solar panels and fancy high-tech looking light poles.

It has been reported that the Mexican government is establishing a National Energy Strategy with policies to be implemented over the next 15 years, to increase the Country’s electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 35 per cent.

Lots of chatter on the local Forum about the new lights – ‘whose paying for all this?’ Barbara Joan Schaffer, our local editor in chief of VivaPuerto Ecscondido Magazine writes:

“Generally infrastructure improvements, like solar lighting, happen because of federal or state grants to the municipalities, not from business license fees.

I went to pay for my business [license] for San Pedro. New procedure this year. They wanted to see my SAT federal tax ID, a map showing where my business (my house) is, and my birth certificate! So I down loaded a map from Google maps, and told them no way would they get my birth certificate since I don’t have it. Past years they just wanted my name, address and money.”

Mexico’s finances are a mystery and I am pretty sure the powers that be like it that way. Another comment from a popular contributor on the local Forum, Farkem, “…don’t think those extra fees are going to be spent on public works, but rather on someone’s home improvements.”

Full public disclosure might give a clue – however judging from the effect exposure has on the general public north of the border – people could care less that their monies are being wasted and worse. Let there be light!

Time to don the barista apron and make some cappuccinos.

The Calypso Couple Coffee Workstation

Stay Tuned!