Thursday, February 28, 2013

Life Under The Volcano

One Hand Giveth…

The latest news from our BC Government is that they are enacting Legislation that will give us snowbirds an extra month away from BC every year. We used to be allowed six months away per year before we lost our medical coverage and they are adding another month to bring it up to seven months. This brings us in line with some other Provinces and Territories but still below others. It will still be nice not to have to hurry home or delay leaving in order to stay in that six month window. This is only common sense and is way overdue. Those of you who winter entirely in the USA will not benefit as the USA still limits visits to 180 days per 12 month period. You will have to duck down into Mexico (or somewhere else) for a month in order to take full advantage of this.

So with one hand our “Liberal” Government gives us this little token, which really costs them nothing because when we are out of the country we are using very few of our medical benefits, and are making drastic funding cuts affecting BC’ers with the other hand.

While The Other Taketh

Funding for BC adults suffering with fetal alcohol syndrome and autism is being slashed by 33% this year and by over 50% over the next two years, even while the numbers of patients with these problems is rising. They are making the desperate gamble that by throwing us seniors a crumb, we will rush back home by May and vote for them in gratitude for the gift, ignoring these and other cuts they have and are making. Well, it is not going to happen. We are tired of the Liberals, who are down in the polls, and will be out as soon as the polls close on May 14. We know that the incoming NDP is also in favor of this extra month as well so we will be getting it in any case.

Ha! I see the “BC Liberals” have changed their name to “Today’s BC Liberals”, as if this means they have changed anything from what they were “Yesterday”!

Well, so long BC “Liberals”, thanks for the extra month and don’t let the door smack you in the ass on your way out!

308 poll

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Huamantila Road Trip

Finally, a day to do whatever we want! And I wanted a road trip to Huamantila, a small pueblo about 50 KM northeast of Cholula that has just recently been designated a Pueblo Magico. This is so recent it has not even been marked as such on the maps. We headed out on the rough, crowded and under construction Mex 150D and turned north on 140. 140 is a great highway, two lane, smooth and straight as an arrow. It has very wide, paved shoulders to facilitate passing. We gained a bit of altitude along the way but there were no steep hills.

puebla road trip

Huamantila is a very tranquil, spotlessly clean, friendly pueblo. Everyone on the street has a smile and a “buenos dias” for us and a couple even tried out their English. It was change of shift for the school kids who attend school either in the mornings or afternoons, so there were dozens of happy young people in their spotless school uniforms milling about in the square and a few that found out of the way benches to do a little necking.


Spotlessly clean and freshly painted.


This exploring is tough work, time for a coffee break!


Huamantila is known for the day every May that the bulls are sent running through the streets. Young men from all over the area come to show off their ability to stay away from the hooves and horns. Most succeed. There is a statue of one of these bulls at the entrance to the town. I much prefer this display of macho bravado to the bullfights, which are still present in much of Mexico, as the bull stands a much better chance.


Zona De Talavera

We decided to continue along the secondary road that took us off Mex 140 to Huamantila and to get back to Cholula by a different route. This proved to be a smart decision because this route took us past the Zona De Talavera, the Talavera Pottery making center of Mexico. Everyone has heard of this blue pottery that is sold all over the world at prices that are hugely inflated over what you pay right in the craftsmen's front yards. We stopped at one of the shops and were amazed to find items that sell in Victoria for $50 to $100 with price tags of 20 to 200 pesos ($1.60 – $16). Norma tried to bargain these already ridiculously low prices down even further but met her match with the smiling young man who would not budge except to round our total purchase down from 915 pesos to 900. He made it up to us by giving each of us a beautiful Talavera tile.


Norma and her newest friend! With her free tile.


Home Again

Here is a view of the volcano from the main street of Cholula as the sun is setting behind it. Not the perfect photo but sometimes even a mediocre photo is better than no photo. We cannot see the volcano from the RV park or else I would be able to await the perfect time to catch the dozing giant. I find living near the foot of an active volcano, I don’t know, invigorating! It’s last eruption was in April of 2012, ten months ago. Come on Popocatepetl, show a little lava!


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Timed Out

My Banda Ancha timed out before I could finish my post It might let me send this. I will buy more time tomorrow. I used up my 3 GB before the 30 days for the first time.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Magia Mexicanos

I have no explanation for this! I am sure the Occult is involved!

The tech came back with a helper and as he was explaining to the helper (another tech) everything he had done, he pushed the start button and it started! We repeated the process several times using all the remote start buttons and it worked every time.

You can't fix something that is working perfectly so I gave them each a Coke, shook hands and thanked them very much. They told me to phone if I had a problem and I will indeed check it a few more times before we leave Puebla. I hate these kinds of problems.

This used to happen to me when I worked and the "repair" usually involved a couple of thousand $ in helicopter time. In one case an old analog microwave radio on a mountaintop (Woss Mtn) would fail and when we got to the site, just the small jar of the door opening or our footsteps would jiggle something in the radio and it would start working. It drove us nuts for about two years and cost BC Tel tens of thousands in helicopter time as we could not find the problem or make the radio fail while we were there. We finally replaced the whole system with a digital radio and never did find the problem. We smashed all suspected areas with an axe to make sure the bad part did not get recirculated in spares.

Norm in the comments in the previous post advised me to take apart all connections and clean them. This is the same advice I got from the Onan tech but it was nice to hear (read) it in English. Thanks Norm, I will do this and also apply some dielectric grease to everything.

The Onan Saga Continues

As you recall we paid up front for and ordered a new solenoid for the Onan generator. Conducting tests with the Onan technician on the phone determined it was the solenoid of "Starting Relay" as Onan calls it that was at fault. They would not order the part unless we paid 100% in advance for the part and the service call..

Today the technician come out and installed the new solenoid. It is in a very cramped area and it took him quite a while to get it swapped. When he was done we pushed the start button and ......... silence..nothing, nada, zip. We tried the two remote start buttons and nothing there either. Well, that lead to a bunch of head scratching and a couple of phone calls.

Bottom line, the generator must be removed from the motorhome and taken to their shop where they can do a full diagnosis and get at a few parts accessible only with the cover off. The tech will be back this afternoon with a helper and will remove the generator. They made a point of giving me the old but obviously still good solenoid so that I did not get the idea that since they mis-diagnosed the problem they might take the part back and give me a refund.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Laundry Day Mexican Style

Yesterday we did the laundry. Laundry day in Mexico is a much easier. We gathered up all the laundry, separated it into three loads, white black and colours (I am sure this step is unnecessary) and dropped it off at the tiny lavendaria across the street. The woman there weighed it and told us it would be ready at 5. That is it! No finding quarters and sweating in a hot laundry for hours!

At 5:00 I went over to pay the very reasonable charge of 114 pesos ($9.10) (10 pesos ($.82) per kilo) and brought it home. It is bagged, spotless and neatly folded. Another hard day's work done!

We didn't do much else yesterday. We had to make a grocery run and while Norma was shopping I wandered over to the appliance section and found a nice 12 cup Black & Decker coffee maker to replace our leaking Mexican branded machine that we bought last year. It was also labeled 12 cups but was much smaller than the new one, they must use smaller cups. A while ago it started leaking a couple of tablespoons of brewed coffee onto the counter with every pot. After we stopped accusing each other of spilling we discovered the leak. This one has auto shutoff which will save us the many pots of coffee that we used to forget to turn off at night. After I set up the new Black & Decker I took the old one over to the night watchman's shack and gave it to him. He was very pleased. I did not tell him about the leak but I don't think it will bother him.

On the way home from the store we passed a car wash much like the one in Oaxaca and pulled in. They did a very nice job, hand washing inside and out, vacuuming and treating the dash and tires, They charged 30 pesos ($2.40). If I can find some time today I will put a couple of coats of wax on the hood of the Honda. That was the only place the painter did not wax as he decided to repaint it when he took the car away for waxing.

Aside from that, it will be a TV day here in Clolula. We are watching the Scotties curling semi finals and the Daytona 500 is about to start with Danica Patrick in the pole position. After that the Canucks are playing hockey. So much for the day. Come to think of it, I will not have time for the hood waxing.

Life is good.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Little Corn Fungus For Lunch?

I have been wanting to try a Mexican dish called Huitlacoche for some time now. Our friends Chris and Juan tried to describe it to me but it is just one of those things you have to try yourself.

It is the result of Corn Smut, a plant fungus that causes smut disease in corn. This disease causes galls to form on all above ground portions of the corn. Some Mexican corn crops are intentionally infected with the disease and the galls are harvested just before maturity. When cooked they have a mushroom like flavor, "sweet, savory, woody, earthy".

Attempts have been made to introduce huitlacoche into the USA market but for some reason, it has not been quickly accepted. The US Government was hesitant to allow intentional infection of corn crops after having spent millions to eradicate the very same disease in domestic corn crops. An attempt by Chef James Beard to popularize huitlacoche met with mixes reviews, even though he called it "American Truffles".

Anyway.... I decided that if I ever saw the dish, I would try it. After all, I love mushrooms of all varieties so why not? A mushroom is basically a fungus.

Today, I was put to the test. Vitterio's Restrante Italiano, a nice open air restaurant on the Zocalo had Lasagna de Huitlacoche! I told the waiter I wanted to try it and questioned him on the taste, He told me that he liked it and was sure I would as well. Good enough for me! I ordered it thinking it was only 100 pesos so if it was that horrible, it was not a huge loss.

Well, first off, it was black and left little spores stuck to the plate. I took a photo for you and then cut it up into bite size pieces and took another photo. Then I had a half of one of those pieces. It was "OK", different but not repulsive. I had a bigger piece and it was actually pretty good. It tasted kind of like mushrooms but not quite. The texture was mushroom-like. The third bite was good. I finished the plate and even wiped up the spores with a piece of bread. The waiter asked how I liked it and when I told him, he said, "I knew you would"! I will have it again, maybe in a dish that includes tomato sauce.

Here is the fungus on an ear of corn. Delicious looking, eh?

Friday, February 22, 2013

Puebla Centro Historico

Puebla was one of the main Spanish Colonial cities in Mexico. It was founded in 1531 in an area called Cuetlaxcoapan, which means "where serpents change their skin". The land was previously uninhabited but centered between two large indigenous areas. This new city was named Puebla de los Angeles "City of Angles" because the Bishop Julián Garcés said a flock of angles told him to build here. First attempts to inhabit the city failed because of constant flooding of the nearby river. The city was designed in the classic Spanish style with a central Cathedral and a Zocalo or central square.

We drove to the Centro Historico after a late breakfast, found a convenient parking lot and started walking. We strolled down the main street until we got to the Zocalo. We explored around there, investigated the Cathedral and found a place for lunch. More on that later. Here are some of the photos I took along the way.

Reforma Street

Morales, Hero of the Revolution. Keeping watch over the Hall of Justice.

Brick and Talavera tile wall. Amazing! The whole building front is done in it!

Law Library at the Justice Ministry (the guard invited me in and allowed a flash-less photo)

The Zocalo with the Cathedral in the background.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


We finally got the Onan repairs organized for next week and can get out and about. We dropped the laundry off (10 pesos $.80 per kilo to wash, fold and bag) and headed to downtown Cholula for lunch and a walk. We stopped at a street side cafe for crepas where Norma had miel y limon (honey and lime) and I had cream cheese and blackberry. We shared each order and mine were by far the best. With coffees the bill was 108 pesos ($8.20). The Zocalo was being worked on as the cobblestones were being replaced with paving stones. It was a little dusty and noisy as a result but very nice nonetheless.

The "Church on The Hill" Actually disrespectfully built on top of a pre-Aztec Pyramid that they "thought" was a "hill". Would the Catholic Church lie?

A tile fronted building. Beautiful!

A Cuban butcher shop.

The Jardine (Gardens)

Ice cream anyone?

Fresh potato chips? Delicious and 22 pesos a bag.


Local church with a fresh paint job.

From our lunch table