Sunday, February 28, 2010
Bars and restaurants with TV's in downtown Vancouver have lineups two blocks long of people hoping to get in.
One guy reported he turned down $17,000 for a front row seat. Norma said, "Who would pay $17,000 to see a hockey game? I answered, ""Who would turn it down?"
Unbelievable! The Canada / USA Gold Medal game starts in a few minutes!
Two nothing for Canada!!!!!!!!!!!
Two - one Canada at the end of two!!!!
I have a stomach ache!
Oh no, tied with 24 seconds to go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
OVERTIME!!!!!!!! Give me a match so I can set my hair on fire!!!!!!!!
I JUST AGED TWO YEARS!!!
Saturday, February 27, 2010
I had a small credit in my Kiva account so I went on their site looking for a deserving recipient for a loan. I found a group of four young people in Bolivia, two male and two female, who were starting a carpentry shop. They are talented in making wooden bed frames and bedside tables which they will sell in the market to earn money to help support their families. With this $800 Kiva loan they hope to buy a hammer, a plane, varnish and wood, their most important commodity. Individual Kiva loans are $25 from each participant and when all the money has been collected, it is passed on to the recipient. Banking is done by PayPal who have waived all fees as their contribution to the microloan initiative so every penny goes to the recipient. In about two hours, all the money had been raised and passed on. Bed frames and tables are probably already being made and several families will soon eat better. This loan will provide employment for four young people! What better way to spend $25?
In the two years of my participation, I have made 25 loans and never had a loan even partially defaulted on. All have been or are being repaid in full. I get no interest from this money but get the satisfaction of knowing that I have contributed in a very small but real way to making life better for a person somewhere in the world. There are loan recipients waiting in almost every developing and third world country so it is easy to find someone deserving. I try to keep my contributions in the Central and South America areas but have also made a couple of loans to people in Africa.
Here is my latest group in Bolivia. They are Omar Chambi Quispe, Ruben Choque Chura, Vaneza Condori Mamani and Betty Nayda Memdoza Quispe. They are in the back and some of their parents are in front. Omar is 18 and is the leader of the group. He has been making bed frames and bedside tables in his father’s shop for five years, since he was 13. The quality of his product is very good and his business is now well enough established to allow him to open his own shop and bring his sister and friends in as workers to help their families as well. His ambition makes my tiny contribution seem pretty insignificant. $25 is all it takes to directly help real people like these in Developing Nations.
If you have an unused $25 I cannot think of a better place to invest it. The rewards are great and when the money is repaid, you can withdraw it or re-lend it like I do. Go to http://www.kiva.org/. There is really no reason not to.
After you sign up, why not join Felipe, Steve, Paul and a bunch more of us on the Ian Lee Dickson Kiva Group? You still get credit for all your individual loans but the group also gets credit. Join the Mexico Bloggers and friends crowd! Here is a link to our group.
In contrast to the ambitious young people above, we have:
Another airhead Miss California beauty contest contestant has weighed into the Same Sex Marriage debate but this one is actually calling for death to gays.
Lauren Ashley, self-proclaimed Miss Beverly Hills 2010 is running around like an idiot, quoting the Bible and calling out for stonings. If you listen carefully, you can hear those very rocks rattling around in her head. "I feel like, I mean, God is like, really smart and everything and that is what he said.."
I wonder if she has read the Passage in the same Book of her Bible that says any woman who is not a virgin when she marries must be stoned to death. "OMG, like wow, I mean, I didn't know THAT'S what it meant! OMG!" She probably quickly whited that part out of her comic book version of the Bible before anyone else sees it.
Will she be charged with a hate crime? No. Will she become the latest Poster Girl of the Christianist Nazi movement? I hope so, they deserve each other.
No wonder our gay friends are moving out of that Christianist wasteland and into Canada and Mexico! Why can't we all just get along?
END OF RANT
A reporter on TV was just showing his four tickets for the hockey finals and closing ceremonies. When he went off camera, a bystander offered him $3,000 for EACH of the tickets which he refused. That is $12,000! I think I might have taken it and bought a REALLY NICE TV to watch it on. Better view anyway and no parking to pay. The leftover cash would have financed my next year in Mexico.
Friday, February 26, 2010
The problem is, the card has not been used or out of my pocket for over two weeks and the only place I use my debit card is in bank branded ATM's. It is not possible that it was swiped on the 24th. Her answer was that someone may have cloned the card and tried using it on that day. I was lucky their computers picked up on it, she said. Shit! Now what?
I got Norma to have her get some cash and two of her cards do not work either. One because of "suspected fraudulent use" and the other because she was using the wrong PIN number. The PIN number is a mystery because she has had the same card and PIN for years and it has always worked. Until today. The "suspected fraudulent use" card they will honor if she calls them every time she uses it. When they get the call they will take the block off for a short period of time. This is not workable in Mexico because there is never access to a phone where you are using the card. Big Problems. She tried a credit card that allows cash withdrawals (charging interest from the instant you get it) and it worked. Mixed blessings.
I bought groceries and handed her my Visa. It worked but I do not have a PIN for withdrawing cash as I refused to pay interest on it. It hindsight, that was a mistake. I have an ATM card from an unsed account at ING bank and can transfer money into it so I am not in big trouble, just inconvenienced. And even more paranoid.
When you leave the country make sure you have several ways to get cash! Credit cards are of limited value as few places accept them. Pesos rule in Mexico. Loose access to them and you are in real trouble!
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Man, it is BUGGIE out there tonight! We cooked spaghetti outside and got eaten alive by mosquitoes. This is the worse it has been in Mexico this year. Repellent does no good at all. These girls are hungry for blood!
There is a big wedding going on in the outdoor restaurant beside the pool. I hope there is a breeze by the ocean or else those Mariachis are going to be blowing mosquitoes out their trumpets along with the music!
I spent much time on email today with Rae, the woman parking her RV at our house. She is tackling a huge reno job on her motorhome and is using my shop and some of my tools to complete it. Today she was taking out some bolted down chairs and had to grind bolt heads off to get them out. I am very impressed with the abilities of this young woman. She will tackle any job! The unexpected shower of sparks slowed her down for a minute but she soon figured it out! Next she is taking out half the dinette. Watching someone else work is almost as much fun as doing it myself! Good job, Rae!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The annual crime rate there for the reported period was 1.5 crimes per person for the year! The government blames the pickpockets and purse snatchers who frequent the crowds there. It looks like the banditos have moved to the Vatican.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Norma is hooked on the Olympics and as a consequence, I have not been able to keep up with the news. I hope there are no more wars started in the last two weeks. I was bummed out by Canada's loss in hockey. No excuse for it. Wrong goalie and the old boys did not show up to play. There is more to it than skating around looking good for photos. It is not all over for them but they will have to play the USA again and they all better be awake for that game. Canada's Curlers are doing well although the Womens team seems to be getting as many points by stealing as they are by scoring. I still have hopes that they both will end up high in the Medals.
I went swimming in the crystal clear Caribbean today. The ocean is actually warmer than the pool and the high salt content makes floating easy. Next year I will bring down mask, snorkel and flippers. I intended to this year but waited to buy them in the USA on our way through and of course I found nothing. They are available here but the prices range about three times as much as in the USA. I used to Scuba dive when I was younger but gave it up when they started requiring a ticket to buy air. My nose got out of joint when I discovered the "instructors" knew less than I did about diving so I never did get a ticket. One more stupid mistake of my youth!
Anyway, another week here and then all of March to get to the USA border. From there we will try to find a new way home through the States and hope to cross into Canada on April 24 or 25. Life is still Good but moving a little slower right now. Go Canada!
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Claudia and PJ came over last night to watch the 1500 meter speed skating event at the Olympics. Claudia, as usual, wore her “Dutch Fan Gear” complete with a Netherlands Flag! Canada does not excel at this event so I wore my Dutch Orange shirt as well. It was fun and the Dutch skater took the Gold Medal! It was a good night for the Dutch!
Saturday, February 20, 2010
We have bought all our glasses in Mexico for the past ten years and have always been very happy with the quality and (especially) the prices. I have not had any major dental work done in Mexico but would not hesitate if the need arose. Their medical professionals are very well trained and very professional. Cleanliness is at least equivelant to Canadian or USA standards.
Friday, February 19, 2010
I would get up early and walk with Claudia every morning on her wildlife and birding walks. If I did that, these are examples of the shots I could get. All are reproduced with permission of Claudia and PJ, Dutch Duo Wildlife Photography. Thanks Claudia and PJ!
White Fronted Parrot
Jaguarundi (Lynx family)
Agouti (PJ calls it a “fat-assed rat)
Thursday, February 18, 2010
I went on one "birding walk" with Claudia to the North Beach but did not get any great shots. I will go through what I did get and see if there is anything good enough to post. There are some wild parrots there that Claudia has seen a couple of times, once close enough to photograph.
The weather is overcast and breezy today so it should be another day of Olympics. Sorry I have no exciting adventures to report on but it is just another "one of those days".
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Some things just need no comment!
Monday, February 15, 2010
We have decided to stay here one more week as, because of my preoccupation with the toilet, we have been unable to do much exploring. We also want to watch the Olympics which are on for another eight days.
This will put us behind schedule so we will have to pick up the pace a little after we leave here as we have to be back in Canada by April 24 in keeping with Canadian rules. Our week in Cancun and the trip to Isla Mujeres may have to be put off for this year. We would like to spend at least three weeks finding a new route home through the USA so that means leaving Mexico near April 1. I don't know how I fit everything in before I retired! The year is simply too short.
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Claudia stopped by this morning to tell me there were large iguanas on the beach. I grabbed my camera and followed her to the boat ramp beside the dive shop. There were five adults and several small ones sunning on the rocks.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
We watched the opening of the Vancouver Olympics last night. It was a great show but a small glitch left the torch bearers standing waiting while the malfunctioning torches were coaxed to rise from the floor. The highlight of the show for me was kd lang singing her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. I love her singing and was left in awe after this spectacular performance.
The tragedy on the Luge track in training yesterday was a terrible start to the event. It is an example of what can happen when speeds are allowed to get too high. They have moved the starting line downhill to the women’s start in an attempt to slow things down a little and have raised the wall where the Georgian luger went off the track.
Claudia came over to watch the Speed Skating and she was all decked out in her Dutch fan wear. The silly hat says “Holland” and the shirt says, “Watch Out For The Dutch”. Norma is holding the Canadian and Mexican flags because Mexico actually has an athlete in the Winter Olympics! He is 51 year old Prince Hubertus von Hohenlohe and is an Alpine Skier. He says he is not just here to race, but that he intends to beat someone! We will be watching him.
Friday, February 12, 2010
I get Internet wherever I have cell service and Telcel has very good coverage!
I agree that the 3 GB should be enough as long as I stay off YouTube and Limewire. I know Skype works with it but I will have to see how much bandwidth it uses. I will not use the video feature on Skype.
Anyway, so far, so good. I installed the software (in English!) on both computers and it is working great!
Note: Dave from Guadalajara tells me that I still have a very slow 125 KB service if I use up my 3 GB before the month is up.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Eventually we were directed to the cashier and paid our $903 pesos which included the hardware and the first 30 days service. Additional time can be purchased as we need it at OXXO stores for (I believe) about $500 pesos ($45 CAN). There is no WIFI at Cancun or at Merida so We will get full use of the card over the next month or so.
She explained to me how to initiate the card with my cell phone and I asked her to do it for me. This was no problem for her and I was glad she did it as it was not as easy as I thought. When we got home I plugged the USB card in and away it went! It installed the software, found a signal and when I opened the browser I was connected! The USB device is actually a tiny cell phone with a SIM card. I am allowed 3 GB up/download per 30 day period. I am not sure how much that is but I will probably be well under it as long as I don't use it to download music or send large photos.
One of the palapas here in Paamul is surrounded with yellow crime scene tape! It is one space away from us and here is the story, as much as I have been able to glean.
In 2008 a couple from the USA arrived in Paamul. He was wanted in the US for sexual abuse of a minor and his wife was apparently helping him hide from the law. They bought a palapa here under assumed names and stayed under the radar in their papa. In June 2009, he suffocated his wife and buried the body under a concrete slab he had poured over her. He lived in the palapa by himself until December 2009 when he took a drug overdose, accidently or intentionally. While in the hospital he confessed the murder to one of the hospital staff who called the police.
The police came to the palapa, broke up the slab and found her duct tape wrapped body, determining she was actually buried alive. He was arrested.
The Mexican prosecutors, for some reason, did not proceed with charges but instead deported him back to the USA where he is now facing trial on the original child sexual abuse charges. He will probably never be charged with the murder.
The palapa, in the meantime, remains marked off with police tape and crime scene signs. Some of their neighbours are attempting to sell their palapas. I wonder why?
We stopped in at Paamul RV Park for a couple of days. I don’t like this park but it was too late to carry on to Cancun and there are few choices for overnighting on the way. There are the “X Beaches” just south of here but I was told by John that it was full until Wednesday morning. We could have taken the car off to go in and have a look, but it was a bother and, as I say, it was getting late.
I clenched my teeth and drove up the road to Paamul. Our friends PJ and Claudia are here and had reported that there was room for us although they too are very busy. We pulled up to the gate and asked the English speaking Mexican if they had room for two nights. “Of course”, he said, “we have a couple of spaces for you to choose from”. We picked one near Claudia and PJ and asked how much. “Thirty US dollars a night”, he said. “No US dollars! How much in Pesos?” we asked. Well, he had no idea. We would have to go to the office where they would determine the exchange. This IS Mexico, right? This is why I do not like Paamul! How would you react driving into an RV park in Oregon or somewhere and being told the rate was $400 pesos? Or 50 Euros? Use the currency of the country you are in!! That is what we do and I have very little patience or respect for those who do not. That includes Americans who try to spend their US dollars in Canada, expecting the gas station attendant or waiter to know the current exchange rate.
Anyway, Norma went to the office and paid her $405 pesos a night. The highest rate we have paid yet and there is no WIFI. That would be another $40 USA a month (or portion thereof) and we are only staying two nights so that is out. I am sure there is an Internet Cafe in nearby Tolum so I will send this from there.
Paamul is a large park, most of which is covered with spaces that people rent by the year and on which they erect elaborate palapas. These palapas, which are actually houses, are very large and well built. Most allow for an RV to be parked inside and include two stories of kitchen, dining room, bathroom, bedroom(s) and balconies. They are very nice but you have to realize they are on rented spaces with no guarantee that the park will not be sold to condo developers and you will be left with nothing. Some of these palapas are for sale in the (up to) $100,000 USA range so you are taking a very big risk of losing everything. Not for me!
On the way out of Chetumal we found a Taller Mechanico shop and stopped for an oil change. I had the oil and filter with me so all the guy had to do was crawl underneath, drain the old oil, change the filter and refill. Easy – I have done it myself dozens of times.
It was really hot and humid. 94 outside and the best the air conditioning was about 83 inside so we stayed inside while they worked. Eventually I went out to see how they were doing and they had two buckets of liquid beside the truck. One was obviously the old oil and the other was unknown. I stuck my finger in it and it was RED!!! Automatic transmission fluid! I looked at the guy and he smiled and said, “Si, transmission”.
I asked him why he drained the transmission and he said, “No problema”, the Mexican answer to almost everything. I crawled underneath and could see where he made his mistake. The transmission drain plug was out in the open while the engine oil drain plug was kind of hidden. To be fair, he had only drained about a litre of it before he noticed his error. I asked if he could get more fluid and he said, “Si, no problema”.
They finished the oil change and another mechanic arrived and took the transmission oil into the shop. He poured it out of the bucket and through a filter he made of a rag (hopefully clean) and showed me. It looked clean, at least all the leaves were gone, and he poured it back into the transmission through the dip stick tube. He had me start the truck and put it in drive, pulled the dipstick and showed me that it was reading full. “No problema”, they all said…
I paid the bill, a fairly reasonable $150 pesos and we were on our way with me making a mental note to have the transmission serviced as soon as we get back to the USA.
Monday, February 8, 2010
"Gasoline and diesel fuel prices rose again this weekend, the second time this year… Magna gasoline increased by 8 cents, rising to 7.96 pesos per liter, while Premium increased by 4 cents per liter to 9.70 pesos per liter... Diesel increased by eight cents to reach 8.32 pesos per liter..."
This is still only $.65 per litre Canadian so I am not complaining...
Sunday, February 7, 2010
After that is the NFL Super Bowl from Miami with The Who playing at half time! We are cheering for The New Orleans Saints (and The Who).
The weather forecast for Chetumal is not so good with thunderstorms and rain predicted for Tuesday on. Cancun looks better with clouds and little chance of rain after Monday so we are moving north! Our Dutch friends are at PaaMul so we may stay there a couple of nights to catch up with their latest news and then on to Cancun and Isla Mujeres.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
This is the high water mark in Chetumal when Hurricane Janet made landfall right on the Chetumal waterfront at 1:00 AM on September 28, 1955 as a Category 5 storm. The storm surge was over 6.5 feet deep and extended 1600 feet inland. This plaque in on the side of a building in downtown Chetumal. All but four buildings were destroyed and an accurate death tally has never been made but it is known to have been at least 500 and this is considered a very conservative estimate.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
The humidity in Merida, the stop after that, is at 100% right now. Campeche is nice now but rain is forecast and my friend Les in SMA reported 36 hours of non stop rain yesterday. Veracruz, also on the way home, is also threatening rain!
We are into the curling from Canada and that goes on into the weekend. There is a very nice pool here and we are only paying $300 pesos a night ($25 CAN) so I think we will stay put for a while and continue watching the weather and delaying the inevitable return North. Life is Good!
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
When the trip started, both dolly fenders looked the same. A few days ago as I was unloading the car something had changed…
Tope damage? Unlikely. There were no gravel roads that day… Who knows? Anyway there was a nice quarter inch deep groove cut down the centre of the tire where it looks like a bolt has dragged on it. It is one of life’s mysteries… The licence plate was attached to the tail light and that is gone as well. I will have to call Master Tow to arrange for a new fender as we pass through the USA. The license plate will have to wait until we get home.
When I curled, our skip gave us s**t any time we blamed the ice as both teams play on the same ice. It is no excuse. We were also embarrassed when the other team "stole" points as that meant we missed a shot. And we were nowhere near this level of curling.
Anyway, we have just paid for two more days. It is hot and humid here, 27 degrees and 84% humidity at 11:00 AM. The fan is on in the motorhome trying to move the air and I will head for the swimming pool when the current game is over. This is the best pool we have found in Mexico. It is unheated, except for the sun, but is warm and it is cleaned every night.
The battery charger is on the car battery as it almost did not start last night. I know heat is hard on batteries but the battery is only a year and a half old. We will replace it in the states and take advantage of the five year pro-rated warranty from WalMart. In the meantime I will make sure my little solar charger is in the sun when we are parked. The jumper cables are in the trunk just in case we have to hire a cab for a start downtown.
Ah, the little trials and tribulations of traveling in paradise! But even with the tribulations, Life Is Good!
Monday, February 1, 2010
Getting a haircut in Mexico is always fun. I generally prefer to find a small barber shop on the street and go sit down for a simple haircut. This usually costs $30 pesos ($2.70 CAN) and is cut just the way I like it. Short all over.
Every once in a while Norma talks me into getting it cut at one of her places. They are much nicer, smell a lot better and the scenery is much nicer. However, they run around $100 - $150 pesos and I actually paid $250 pesos in SMA!
One thing however is common. Mexican hair cutters all think a man with a bald spot needs a comb-over! They always leave a long bunch of hair at the side that they try to hide the bald spot under. This works in the shop but as soon as you get in the wind or a pool, it is game over. I immediately go from a dopey looking Canadian to a dopey looking Canadian with a long mop of hair hanging over one side. The Mexican girls are supposed to like this - I guess.
If I am not paying attention sometimes I do not notice and get this comb-over cut. I solve it with a pair of scissors as soon as I get home but I am never happy about it. After all, I paid to get ALL my hairs cut, not just a few. If Norma is there, she usually comes to my rescue and holds the hair up and make scissor motions with her hand. This works and her reward is not having to listen to my cursing and complaining all the way home as I am brushing the hair out of my eyes and off my ear. The worst cut I got down here was the $250 peso job in SMA. I almost went back and rubbed “Mr. Ramon’s” face in it. I don’t care if he used to work in L.A. and has Toller Cranston as a regular customer! I just want a damn haircut with NO comb-over por favor!