Friday, March 27, 2020

One custom that is present all over the latin world is that of a kiss and a hug upon meeting.  An embrace for the men and a kiss for the ladies.  It is a long tradition and as we talk about changes, this is a tradition  we do not want to lose.
            As we can feel at this moment, the world is changing. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. What we are being asked to do is calling to the surface feelings I have harbored for the past several months.  When you get to a certain time and you start to wind down and are faced with an uncertain future. Over the last few years Sandy and myself have worked hard on remodeling a home,  planting gardens and also making a close group of friends here in Mexico Now we are faced with the same challenges that we encounter when asked to stay inside your house for the next fifteen days.

            This time of social distancing presents the same challenges as I faced in retirement, not of an uncertain future but a lack of direction in my life.  Two weeks or two years does have an end zone.  We hope at the end of that time things will return to normal, or whatever normal we want to have.  In retirement there is also an end zone, but an end zone we are not excited to meet. In both cases you asked yourself in the morning is “What am I going to do today?”   Many people have tried to answer this question for me but somehow I do fit into golfing, pickle ball or model building.  When you spent your whole life working hard every day at something you love it’s hard when that is taken away from you. Be it something you’ve done all your life or something you are just in the habit of doing.  When that is taken away your life changes. Am I being asked to save the world by laying on my couch for two or three weeks or am I being left to lounge on the couch for a much longer time. It is the same with “stay at home” or “retirement.”

            So at the moment I am trying to figure out both. I am trying to “flatten the curve” and contemplate this world will look life after this pandemic.  This thing has already done terrible things to the world’s economy.  Nobody believes that after we begin to recover things will be the same.  Small businesses and large are going to be affected. It might take years for the damage to be repaired.  The question is “What will the new normal look like?

I hope the world always looks like this man.
Thank you, Vincente Fox

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The River of Life is timeless. It is not unchanging, but it is timeless, and it changes in its own time.

            Well, the coronavirus is moving faster than I can plan.  I promised you a report on my trip to Real de Catorce but my Doctor had better ideas. It seems heart disease and blood thinners constitute a weakened immune system. Not so by me but that’s a medical opinion. So I cancelled the trip, kissed the advance payment goodbye and dream of doing it at a better time.  Will be Sheldering in Place for the near future.
            Instead of giving you a trip to an historic ghost town I want to let you know what it’s like living in a foreign country. A country full of foreigners and Canadians. Please note that at this moment people are working about getting out of the country.  I will try to answer questions in the order they are always asked of me by my friends in Texas.  Please remember that I am living in a modern city that just happens to be 500 years old.  When this city was founded Texas was still part of Mexico.

            Is it safe? That’s a philosophical question., and by far, the number one question I am asked. When I first moved to San Miguel de Allende, one of the considerations was how safe it was. I had no fear of anything bad happening and would felt safe walking anywhere in town.  The relative high living standards attracted a lot of mafia bosses.  Also attracted were their children, wives and mistresses.  With this investment in the community, by the head knockers, life was relatively safe. Nobody would miss up their own bed. The Centro area was and still is teeming with visitors and tourist late into the evening.  Just like any large city you know the places you’re not supposed to hang out late at night.  Would you go to Fair Park or South Dallas at 1:00 in the morning?  You know the answer. The locals are always ready to help you out anyway they can.  Truly they are a kind and generous people and will look out  for  your safety.
            It was about two years ago things began to change:  maybe the change in government, the gas shortage or just the coming of a new generation.  The old bosses gave way to the new generation, that generation with no families or children, had nothing to lose.  Guanajuato has become one of the leading states in Mexico for crime. This criminal violence is not directed at the native population or even ex-pats and visitors.  It is almost completely a gang on gang problem. The young Turks need to fight for their territory.  It is not the drug deal anymore but extortion of business and pipeline theft in the area, each gang wants to control it’s territory.
I still have no problem in going out to restaurants and pubs late at night.  Just remember Fair Park and South Dallas. Safety right now is relative ifs the corona gets us all.

            What is there to do? Unlike Porte Vallarta or Cancun we are not on the beach.  It’s a 5-hour drive to get to one. It’s easier to fly to the beach than drive and, no there is not a Diamond’s International in site.  San Miguel de Allende is located in the middle if the country and 7300 feet high.  (That’s at my house)  We are in a valley surrounded by mountains.  Although it is a desert climate we are covered with blooming flowers and trees.  As I write this I can look out on rows of bougainvillea and purple blooming jacaranda trees.  Lets not talk about spring time allergies.
  But I’m getting off the subject, what is there to do?  San Miguel is considered the wedding capitol of Mexico.  Think,“Here comes the Bride”.  To support that their are some 400 plus restaurants, ranging from street tacos vendors to fine French restaurants.  There is plenty of live entertainment every night of the week.  There are several Playhouses and Live opera.  Try outs for New York’s Metropolitan Opera were held here in November.  That being said, as of today the party life is canceled by the city government.
            The town is also located in the historic equivalent of Concord, Mass in terms on Mexican history.  When Spain needed to be sent home or the revolution needed starting, it happened here.
            We do have a trip planned for Palm Sunday weekend.  We will visit Morelia and Uruapan in the Sate of Michoacán. Weaken immune system or not, I will make this trip.  For today I will say adios and see you next  time.
P.S. That trip is canceled also.  

Friday, March 13, 2020

Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.

            At this point we don't know what is going to happen with the coronavirus.  I don't want to tackle this, my best guess is a lot of us will get sick.  So wash your hands and that's my best advice at present.  My main concern is what I'm doing with the rest of my life. I will be addressing that in the coming weeks.  Right now I need to come back to where I live and  why I intend to stay here.
            My first clue that something might be wrong came in 2011.That year we had many days when the temperature was above 110. Our life consisted of running from air conditioned cars to air conditioned houses and offices. Them came the fires to central Texas.  Large sections were burning.   That was went my wife, Sandy, said, It’s time to get me out of here. For somebody born and bred in Texas, that was a hard thing to admit.  The heat and fires had pushed her to the point of no return.  “Find me somewhere to live that is not as hot.”  We had attended seminar at Texas A &M that addressed climate change.  The prediction for our location was not encouraging.  
            Since I was approaching the time for retirement, I decided she was right. If the climate did get hotter and drier, we needed to be somewhere that living was more comfortable.  My first thought was we needed to be somewhere cool. A quick computer search produced the 10 best climates in the world.  Eight of the ten locations were scattered around the world, but two of them were in Mexico. Mexico, I thought, that’s drivable if I needed to come home but still it was going to be cooler.
            We did still own a home in Florida, right on the river, still very humid and hot.  The old home had been raised high above the ground because of flooding, which happens several times a year.  That along with pollution and the yearly threat of hurricanes pushed us to the conclusion that Florida was not for us.  It is when I realized that we could probably, because of our age, avoid the worst of climate change. Not a conscious decision but just a fact of life.
            Of the two locations, the one we decided on, after several visits was San Miguel de Allende.  San Miguel is located at 7300 feet on the central mesa of Mexico.  It’s a dry desert climate but high in the mountains.  It is a town of seventy thousand people of which a large number are Americans. There would be no lack of friends or lack on amenities. The town has many restraints, theaters and art galleries.  Gringos had been coming here since after World War Two. It would be our little piece of paradise.
            In this blog I will try to impart what it is like being an expat and living in Mexico.  Next week I will be visiting Vincente Fox’s ranch near Leon and later in March, we will be visiting the old mining town of Real de Catorce.  Stay tuned.