Jim and Mindy in
Rural Veracruz, Mexico
- TEOCELO BLOGS, 2006 -
Jim and Mindy in
Rural Veracruz, Mexico
- TEOCELO BLOGS, 2006 -
- PLEASE NOTE -
in which we traveled to Mexico and in which we lived for the frist two years here is now available FOR SALE. It's a perfect way to get started living in Mexico or to travel about the country. Consider visiting our area of Veracruz and staying free of charge in the Airstream for awhile and see first hand if it might meet your needs.
(parked at Rancho San Gabriel near Teocelo, Veracruz)
(parked in it's present location)
UPDATE ON APPLE ANNIE - 1/15/07
Since posting the story of Apple Annie last week, we have had many people write in to express their concern and find out how she is doing (more than after any blog we have written). This is so gratifying.Annie struggles for her life but she is a fighter. At first eating 3 good meals of puppy chow a day we began to imagine that her ribs were showing slightly less. We sprinkled her bed with flea powder and that seemed to help with the constant itching and scratching that she showed at first. Of course her terrible mange must hurt her a lot. Then she began refusing meals. Refusing food is a very bad sign in a dog especially in a street dog who will often eat what is available even if not very hungry, never knowing if anything else will be available any time soon. Then we noticed she had developed diarrhea, another very bad sign. Sunday and Monday she just wanted to lie curled up in her bed and rest. She managed to avoid soiling her bed but the puddles of diarrhea got closer to the banyo. On Monday afternoon of this week we had to go to the coast for two days. We left out a big bowl of food but she wasn't eating that morning, not even a bit of chicken that I have never seen a street dog refuse. We are sure some of the other street dogs polished off the bowl in short order.
When we returned very late Wednesday night, Annie was no where to be found and not in her bed as usual in the banyo. We fretted but early the next morning, Annie showed up. And most eager for a meal she was! She had lost a lot weight in those short few days.
Before we could even bring out a bowl of dog chow from our trailer, Annie had discovered our cat's litter box and starting eating kitty poos! Mindy informs me cats don't digest their food all that well and the poos have a decent amount of protein in them. Hmmmm...She had her head in the dog bowl before we could even set it down on the ground and wolfed down a big meal. Then she immediately returned to the litter box and polished off the rest of the poos. :)Though so very thin, Annie was very lively and foraged around in the yard all morning for anything else edable. She seems to have rcovered from her dairrhea. She has remained spirited the past two days and is looking maybe a little fatter. She has such a long way to go but she is a survivor.
Our neighbors threw some old tortillas into the chicken enclosure directly adjoining our trailer. Annie went nuts trying to pull one of these treasures through the small holes in the chain link fence. She worked a couple of hours at this, just for the reward of a couple of partial pieces of old dry tortillas.
As far as we can tell Apple Annie does not sleep in the banyo anymore. It has been fairly warm the last couple of nights. She shows up regularly for breakfast but not for lunch or dinner these days. Yesterday Annie didn't visit us at all but she was here again today in a mighty hungry mood. She has been out truckin', foraging, and doing what street dogs do. It is her choice
- jim and mindy
THE STORY OF "APPLE ANNIE" - 1/7/06
It's hard living in a place like Mexico (indeed in the whole world really) if you are sensitive and care at all about others. The more we know about certain families here, the more sad and tragic their stories become. It breaks our hearts. And then there are the street dogs. Many are amazingly healthy and cute and truck around all day sniffing up possible places for a meal and just peaceably hanging out here there and everywhere. You feel like adopting several everyday. We have many here in our neighborhood and there are many more on the streets in town.
But occasionally we see one that really breaks our hearts and is basically close to death from mange and starvation. Such a young lady came into our yard early this week. Our dog, Ty, who is usually protective of us and the yard didn't try to chase her off. This surprised us. She was not shy to be around us either as many street dogs are but laid quietly in the sun in the yard looking just very very tired. Her coat was awful with mange and was quite dirty from lying in the mud - this is a rainy time of year. She was skin and bones.
She seemed beyond being hungry but when Mindy showed up with Ty's bucket of dog chow she perked up. She stood up and ate and ate and ate and ate. Perhaps she had never had such good tucker as this but to be sure she was starved for it..
It is quite impossible not to want to help dogs like this and get them back on their feet. And so our visitor was made a "queen for the day" (and longer if she stays around). She got more meals and much sweet talking, and Mindy made her a bed in our outdoor bathroom with a four inch foam pad to lay on. It's well protected from the elements in there being made from solid concrete block. She immediately went for it and took a long long nap on the first full tummy in who knows how long.
I could not help thinking of the original queen for the day movie staring Mae Robson and directed by Frank Capra. It was made in 1933 and was called Lady for a Day - a true classic and not to be missed. It's central character was named Apple Annie. And so that is the name of our new addition to the family. Annie for short.
Annie has rested quietly almost all days in her new home. Just occasionally she wanders about the neighborhood, but she sure does know her way back for dinner and bed time. She sleeps curled up in her banyo bedroom without moving all night. She doesn't come out the next morning until she hears the sound of even one doggie kibble poured into her bowl, then she is out like a shot. Mindy has had to walk up the street and lay in a bigger supply of dog food of course. Annie may only be about 1/3rd the size of our big Ty, a Great Dane - German Sheppard mix we think but she is eating three times as much as he does!
The last couple of days Annie seems to be growing weaker and has refused food for two days in a row! We have no way of knowing how sick she might be. We can not be sure if we are running a temporary rehabilitation center here to get her back on her feet or simply a hospice situation which will enable her to die with a little more comfort and dignity than out on the streets. Either way she needed some help. Stay tuned!
- jim and mindy
ADVENTURES IN ACQUIRING
A NEW CAMERA IN MEXICO - 1/3/07
Santa brought us a wonderful new camera for Christmas, a Canon Power Shot S2 IS...
My sister and brother-in-law and my two daughters chipped in about half for the Christmas Camera Fund, and Jim and Mindy the other half. About two months ago my top-of-the-line Nikon CoolPix 950 which I bought in 1999 stopped working. It had taken nearly 12,000 pictures, but within a few short years had become a real dinasaur at only two megapixel resolution and a 3x zoom. The new Canon has five megapixels, a 12 X zoom, and many sophisticated features like image stabilization - all this at about 1/3rd the cost of my original Nikon! Wow, times they had changed I discovered -- my motivation to have the old camera fixed was not high after learning this.
We bought this camera off the Internet at a considerable saving over the cost of cameras here in Mexico. It was sent to my sister's house in L.A. and then on to Jalapa, Veracruz via DHL. However, by the time DHL socked us a whopping $94 shipping for a box weighing less than 8 pounds and customs nicked us an incredible $80 duty, our "saving" was all but wiped out. Customs also "inspected" our equipment with a vengence, tearing open everything and then tossing the stuff back into a big outer shipping carton minus the padding material which they had already thrown away. I guess they were just sure they were going to make a good cocaine bust or something. Obviously, we will give considerable thought to ever buying something in this manner again. On the other hand, we were just not coming up with the particular model of camera we had chosen here in Mexico, at least not in Jalapa, the capital of Veracruz. I am sure we would have found our Canon in Mexico city, but you will never catch us in that place. No way. :)
I started my camera days with a Brownie Hawkeye! Now look at what things have come to -- the new Canon fairly glistens with buttons and dials and funny looking protuberances and the user's manual is a 186 page tome -- downright intimidating. Yes, the learning curve is steep but actually we found all the buttons and features sensibly placed and basically intuitive, and the manual was very clearly written. Still we didn't quite get the hang of some features without trial and error. Take a look for yourself at five early trial shots after a few of our inital failures which we will not show you. :)
Here is our cat, Ghost, in the early AM warming himself against one of the stands of bamboo in our yard. Ghost has been a V.I.P in our lives for seven years now and merits his very own web site.
This is what the road looks like after it passes by our casa in Teocelo which is the last house on a three block long street. It goes on this way, very secluded, for about two blocks then drops down into Teocelo again. Some very special friends here, Stoffle and Cinthia, live in one of the first houses. Stoffle is from Belgium, Cinthia is Mexican.
Check out what we get by lifting a single frame from an AVI movie we shot of Cinthia and Stoffle with the new camera. This was taken indoors in rather dim lighting.
This is Mr. Cock-of-the Walk who lives across the fence from us (about 8 feet from the trailer door). He is very noisy and thinks he's a grandfather clock. He crows at least every hour on the hour if not more often. He also thinks he's pretty good looking. And he is. This shot was taken very early in the morning when there was still very little light. It is taken at an amazing 1/8th of a second. It would never have been this clear and in focus at such a slow speed without the image stabilizer (anti-shake) feature on this camera.
This is Mindy with our friend Marisol. She just turned 15 which means she is now considered an adult in Mexican society. The 15th birthday celebration is usually very elaborate and by far the biggest event in a lady's life - more so even than her wedding. It begins with a special Mass in the church to bless this coming of age...
AROUND OUR LITTLE TOWN -
A PICTORIAL ESSAY (Part 2)
- 12/24/06 -
" A Lazy Afternoon in the Plaza"
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- click to enlarge -
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"One of the World's Finest Front Yards"
Well... that's our opinion. Aside from being attractive and blending in so beautifully with the natural surroundings, there is no lawn to mow. :)- Jim and Mindy
CLOTHESLINE WATCH - 12/18/06
Ok, we have a confession to make which may perhaps seal our "reputation" forever. Here goes: we enjoy studying other people's clotheslines. I am sure Sigmund Freud had a term to describe people like us, but seriously a great deal is to be learned about a people by making careful observation of what they put out on the line to dry. One obvious thing is that they use a clothes line at all and not one of them fancy and expensive drier gadgets. This option is of course completely beyond the realm of financial possibility for most Mexicans. Use of a clothesline is not illegal here (hallelujah) and way earth friendly. We lived in covenanted communities up North of the border where we got in big trouble for putting up a clothesline and hanging out our undies on it.
But getting on to the heart of our investigation.. we find everywhere that the clothes hanging on all those lines are the cleanest darn clothes we have ever seen. This is true everywhere we look, in Teocelo and im all other towns nearby. Clothes are spotless -- they gleam as new. White clothes are really WHITE and colors are vibrant and bright. It just doesn't matter if the clothes line is outside a nice block house on a paved street or outside a shack with a dirt floor down a steep trail in a banana grove. All the clothes just sparkle everywhere.
It is clear Mexicans know how to wash clothes and they appear to do it daily. Of course clothes are washed by hand. This may be time consuming but they get washed to perfection. No machine we have ever used has gotten clothes this clean. Mindy hurt her hand awhile back and had to hire a gal to wash her clothes for her for a few weeks. Err... we didn't recognize a one after the gal finished washing them. :) We were a bit chagrinned.
We have noticed time and time again, kids emerging from the very poorest of houses with freshly washed clothes and looking very tidy and spiffy and presentable indeed. We know now that making sure their kids have nice clothes and that they are freshly washed is a VERY high priority for Mexican parents and that this is true of the very poorest of families. It's not just the kids who are squeaky clean, either. We can hardly remember a time when we have seen an adult on the streets on Teocelo in old dirty clothes unless it was an alcoholic who hadn't washed or changed clothes in "years". Follow a "campesino" as he emerges from a hard days work with his machete in the dense coffee plants or a workman getting off a construction site and he looks pretty dirty and ratty all right. But follow him home and he disappears inside only to reappear a little while later all washed up, hair washed and combed, and wearing a freshly washed shirt and pair of pants.
On a trip into Xico we stopped on the outskirts of town in a small, very poor colonia to buy some snacks. Four adorable little girls were playing on the front porch of a house there. Though obviously from a family of very modest means, they were all dressed in nice freshly washed clothes, including one young lady with a lovely blue dress.
The kids in Mexico all wear uniforms to school. They are beautiful uniforms and the kids look so handsome in them. These uniforms are also rather expensive and represent a serious expenditure for many Mexican families. What a contrast to many of their North American counterparts who despite coming from families with vastly greater financial resources look just plain scruffy and rag tag to us.
Mexicans are a resourceful lot. We really appreciate the many creative places they find to put up their clotheslines, given the almost total lack of yard space for some homes. Roof tops are of course a favorite choice.
A slight digression is in order. Mindy and I moved here from Tucson, Arizona where the border problem is critical. Every night on the local news we were saturated for the seven years we lived there with images of "dirty" Mexicans being picked up and herded into vans like cattle to be taken back across the border. It takes 3-5 days for a border crosser to make his way from the border itself through rough desolate desert country to reach Tucson. It is over 100 degrees during the day in Summer and often below freezing at night in the Winter -- conditions unknown to most border crossers. Carrying only a gallon milk bottle full of water (not enough for even part of one day) and at most a small ruck sack with a few belongings, many die making this journey. Between 500 and 600 bodies are recovered and reported each year. Surely many more die of dehydration and exposure that are never to be found in this vast uninhabited area of desolate land.
Given the ugly media coverage every day, it's no wonder Americans see Mexicans as "dirty". Americanos would be dirty too if they had spent many days without being able to take a shower or change their clothes and often having to hike at night, falling repeatedly over rocks and cacti and bushes covered in thorns and stickers. To Mexicans accustomed to being squeaky clean all their lives, this must be a terrible experience in itself, not to mention what it is like to be herded like animals and treated as criminals in addition. Many get abandoned by their "coyote" to whom huge sums of money have been paid to get them into the U.S.
We try to explain all this to folks in Teocelo who tell us they want to enter the U.S. and work. The climate and environment are so benign here, however, they just can't imagine what we are telling them. Some folks now have told us of friends they knew who went North and were never heard from again. We die a little inside every time we hear a story like this.
We digress into the story of this terrible border tragedy in Arizona to highlight the fact that like so many Americans, we came here with erroneous stereotypes of the Mexican people. Thankfully, it took but a very few trips into town and meeting the people (and observing all these beautiful clotheslines!), for all this nonsense to be blown to pieces.
Join your local clothesline watch! It's fun.
- jim and mindy
AROUND OUR LITTLE TOWN -
A PICTORIAL ESSAY (Part 1)
- 12/12/06 -
"Just Sitting on a Sunday"
"Bananas in Our Yard"
There's no need to buy an expensive franchise when you can set up a card table in the street and smoke up some good barbecued chicken in a black 55-gallon drum on the side walk. No business license required.
"Audience Participation"Processions and parades are very frequent here as they are all over Mexico, and they almost always involve closing down most of the town or at least the main street. If you are in a hurry to get somewhere else you are out of luck. Many shops just close up. Most interesting to us is that there are often more people following in the streets who have joined in the procession than there are spectators as shown above.
"An Old Woman in Her Doorway"
" Chapel on the Corner"
"Three Blocks from the Center of Town"
- click to enlarge -When you are in Teocelo itself it is one busy bustling berg with lotsa people and traffic - much like countless other well developed urban areas in the world. What is still hard for us to believe, however, is that not three blocks away is what you see in the picture above. We are not even sure what to call it? The jungle? The Wilderness? The boonies? It certainly is a pristine natural place of incomparable beauty, and we feel so blessed to be here.
- Jim and Mindy
AN UNEXPECTED JEWELL - 12/6/06
There is only one radio station in all of Mexico which is supported entirely by the community and it's listeners. It is our very own Radio Teocelo located not three blocks from our house. In fact such a station is totally against the law here in Mexico (!) thanks to powerful commercial interests and monopoly. The feds shut the station down in 1998 but the hue and cry from Teoceloans was so great they finally let the station re-open. How Teocelo managed to slip through the cracks and establish a completely listener supported (non-commercial) station and keep it running makes interesting reading. Go to: www.radioteocelo.org It's in Spanish of course but Goggle will happily translate it for you. We are not sure, however, if it's more work translating the inscrutable translation or translating the original. :)
Since I spent all four of my years in college working at the student radio station (first as an engineer, then second year announcing my own classical music program, working as program director my third year and finally as student manager my Senior year), I couldn't wait to visit Radio Teocelo and check it all out. It was in my blood. I was flabbergasted to discover immediately that Radio Teocelo was using exactly the same engineering board as I did at dear old KSPC-FM, Pomona College California, in the early 60's. In fact the station had recently purchased this 40 year old board - a wise move as it will probably last another 40 years while newer fancy ones will have already joined the junk pile of obsolescence and cheaply made foreign components.
Now this was one mighty sophisticated set-up for a little radio station in a little town in the wilds of Southern Mexico! The station boasted 1000 watts of power with a 120 foot tower and contained separate broadcasting rooms, a huge library storage room of CD's and vintage vinyl recordings (some very rare), and several offices for staff...
The station also had it's own truck for recording live events in Teocelo and in other communities in the area.
And so there is only one place in Mexico where you can still hear the clicks and pops of old vinyl recordings (some real gems long lost otherwise) and have your birthday announced on the air or any other personal news you or your neighbor wanted the community to know about, yet at the same get hard hitting news reports and public affairs programs that far exceed in scope and depth the more sanitized and whitewashed versions available on commercial network television and radio. When all the terrible trouble started this year in Oaxaca, it was on Radio Teocolo that we could hear what was really going on there. HOORAY for non-commerial radio.
We discovered Radio Teocelo early on not by being told about it or happening by the station one day (though that happened soon enough), but finding the very first week we were here that if we tuned our AM dial to 1490 we got the best and widest variety of music anywhere on the dial. In fact, we found the station being listened to all over town.
The lovely lady at the engineering console you saw in the picture was named Eva. She was engineering her own three hour music show. I can tell you from personal experience that this takes some skill, and Eva was a real pro at it. We spent a long time listening and chatting in the control booth with Eva, trying not to talk when she had the mic on. I don't think she noticed the tears of nostalgia I quickly pushed back from view when I first entered the engineering room, but she sure heard my enthusiastic praise of the station. Eva was grinning and without warning clicked on her mic right in the middle of a song, faded down the music, and announced to all listening in Teocelo, Xico, Coatepec, and a third of Jalapa that Jim and Mindy from Tucson, Arizona were visiting in the studio that morning. Then she declared that Jim had just said he thought Radio Teocelo was "muy chido" (very cool)! Being less than three feet from an open microphone our laughter was heard over the air for sure.
The informality and freedom of expression of community radio is something wonderful to behold. May it live long and prosper!
- jim and mindy
THE SPRING - 12/3/06
We already knew before we came to Mexico that the waterways of Mexico are polluted with sewage and the water not safe to drink. There ARE many flush toilets south of the border, but without the funds to build expensive sewage treatment plants, the contents are just flushed straight into the local waterways. Composting of "human manure" is a perfect solution but few have learned about this. Where DO people get fresh water to drink we wondered. Some boil their water, we found, while others just drink it. Hmmm... Most people, however, buy bottled water in 5 gallon bottles sold in stores all over town or transported to houses by an army of small trucks. At around $1.40 (14 pesos) a bottle, this adds up fast. There are many in town who are just too poor to afford this.
While being more or less lost one day trying to find someone's house, we stumbled onto another wonderful source of pure, drinkable water. For free. Teocelo is perched on a long ridge top at about 4000 feet in the mountains. The main street meanders level for about a mile then plunges off down the mountain like all other streets. It was at the very bottom of one of these streets that we came on a curious sight, a father and his three sons carrying 5-gal bottles toward the jungle. It was idyllic there. An attractive red-roofed shelter housed a natural spring!
Water flowed freely from a large pipe which came right out of the side of the hill. People from the community were free to fill their containers from this pipe which then flowed into a large pool with many smaller concrete basins for washing clothes.
Now doesn't this water look tasty and good?! It sparkled, and indeed is WAS tasty and good.
Once father and sons had filled all their jugs, papa started to carry the first jug of water up the steep hill toward their home while the boys stayed back to watch over the remaining bottles. Papa was short and a bit pump and struggled and huffed and puffed under the weight of the heavy bottle. Water is 8 3/10 pounds per gallon - you can do the math! The bottles were far too heavy for any of the kids to lift and get more than 10 feet with. Where was "home" we wondered and how would papa last carrying all of those bottles by himself? It would surely take him all day.
We volunteered to transport the bottles to their house in our pick-up truck, and there were many grins (4). We backed the truck down the hill to where the bottles waited and got all the bottles loaded in.
Off we went off up the steep hill with our Ford F-150 doing a lot less groaning than papa, but with seven big bottles of agua and six people aboard we had to gear down. The hill continued up quite a ways, then leveled off as it made it's way into Teocelo. Once we reached the Plaza, we turned right and proceeded a few more blocks before we were instructed to stop. This was a LONG journey! And papa was going to do it seven times that day laden down like a mule!! And don't forget that big hill he had to climb every trip. We were shaking our heads. There was many more smiles and thank-you as we off-loaded the water and said good-bye. It was a really sweet experience.
And a very educational one, too... for now we knew where folks got pure drinking water without paying almost a dollar and a half a pop for it (a lot of money relative to the economy here). We also appreciated why people did pay for water who didn't have a car (most people in the community actually) considering the job of getting it home!
"All saddled up and heading out"
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- jim and mindy
MEDICINE MEXICO STYLE - 11/29/06
We wondered about the quality of health care in Mexico as we considered the possibility of moving here. This was particularly important because of existing health problems and having to take medications which are known bad actors. We came across so much contradictory information on the Internet and in books on Mexico and so many differing opinions from folks we corresponded with, we had to give up and head south armed only with a hope and a prayer.
There was no opportunity to find out the answer to this question as I was quite healthy for the first six months here or so. Then about a month ago I got very ill with symptoms which seemed for all the world like the first stages of liver failure, something we had been repeatedly warned to watch out for given the particular meds I was on. We went straight to the Internet and found much research we didn't know about -- real horror stories about interactive effects between some of the very meds I was taking. Didn't my doctors back home have a computer or access to the Index Medicus at a local medical or college library where all these studies are? Or did they just rely on the "research" given them by the Pharmaceutical companies? It is very likely the latter, as this is what is represented in the Physicians Desk Reference which almost all doctors rely on these days for their knowledge of medications. I have seen my good doc (several of them actually) disappear into his office, thumb through the PDR for awhile, and emerge with a script to make me all better. I know for a fact that doctors get little training in medical school in pharmacology and the research involving the very medications which will become for most doctors their main tool for treating people. Something wrong here!
Without yet crawling out of bed and getting to a doctor, we pulled the two meds I take for pain. We were in a bit of a panic. But without them I could scarcely walk anymore (I had been a wheel chair before starting on these meds). The 50 meter trip to the truck from our trailer was agonizingly painful and slow. We had long ago tossed that horrible wheel chair in the trash. We drove up to the nearest doctor (Dr. Raul Ortega) who had an office not two blocks from our house.
No doctors make appointments here that I know of. Perhaps they do in the bigger cities. You just show up and take your chances. Dr. Ortega's waiting room was always stuffed we had noticed when we have driven by on the way to and from our house. So it was a goodly wait. But it was certainly no different than in the States where I always had an appointment but usually still waited an eternity anyway. :)
Dr. Ortega turned out to be a most loveable and patient man and he was amazingly knowledgeable and thorough. We were really impressed. After his evaluation of my history and my current symptoms and reviewing the meds I was taking (we didn't mention we had pulled two of them), he said without prompting from us to get off the two pain meds pronto, and he would try to find some substitutes which were safer and at least somewhat effective so I could walk. In fact, he did! And they work!
Now this was amazing to us as the new substitute meds were old timers which had been known and available back when I first started my meds about ten years ago. I had expressed my worries back then about known liver failure from the meds they were giving me and had been told there were no alternatives. Hmmmmm...! We of course went straight to the Internet when we got home and found far fewer horror stories with the new meds Dr. Ortega had prescribed. These meds were also much cheaper than the expensive stuff I had been on for so long. I seem to be saying this a lot but...hmmmm.
This first evaluation visit with Dr. Ortega lasted at least 30 minutes, but he only charged us $11 which included about $3 worth of meds to start with! Isn't the going rate in the U.S. about $80-100 plus for a first visit? A second follow-up visit came to $8 which also included some meds. And so I have come to a third world country to a tiny town (in the "middle of no where" some would say) and received much less expensive but also much better and more responsible medical care than ever in the States (this includes Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Tucson). And the cost for this care was so low we are still reeling from the shock. This is only one man's experience in just one place in Mexico, of course, and there may be many a horror story other places to counter it. I don't know. But here it is for you to evaluate for yourself..
But wait! There is a delightful epilogue to this story of our first encounter with the Mexican medical establishment. I also had to have extensive blood work done at the hospital across from the Plaza in addition to our visits to Dr. Ortega. This little hospital was spotless. It just sparkled. I was seen immediately. Oh, when does that ever happen in the U.S. unless you are bleeding all over their floor? The blood work came to a grand total of $12. This price included a consult with the doctor on call and a shot of something to get the pain and inflammation in my gut under control. The doctor's nurse actually mainlined the stuff to me rather than by using an IM injection. That surprised me but it got a little relief started quickly, and I wasn't complaining at all. I have had many similar blood workups in the States (minus any shots) and they have always been $100 and up.
And get this! I kidd you not. When I went in for the actual blood draw (it was the next morning as I had to be fasting), the place was mobbed and there were no chairs to sit in at all. When it came "our" turn Mindy explained that I could not stand for more than about 30 seconds or so and was waiting out in the truck up a side street. The supervisor asked where the truck was and ordered a tech to gather up his stuff and go up and just do it there! Not in the U.S. No, me thinks not! Liability junk and all that! The truck was parked awkwardly straddling a pile of sand (welcome to Mexico) where the tech had to stand to draw my blood! All who read this may not approve of such medical procedure but I thought it was wonderful. As you know from the "Rules? What Rules?" blog, I love the lack of rigid regulations here and a flexibility to going about things that serves the needs of real people not the insanely rigid ideas and fears of lawyers, politicians, and administrators. The sight of that lab tech in his perfectly starched and gleaming white uniform, shoes newly polished that morning, and hair perfectly combed standing in that sand pile on the side of a street taking my blood will stay with me a long time. He scrubbed my arm like I was going in for some surgery.
This made my day it did!
- jim and mindy
BACK ON THE ROAD TO BAXTLA - 11/24/06
From the last blog you know that our trip to Baxtla was delightfully interrupted by the discovery of our "pool in paradise" but of course we just had to see what was further on up that road. The road headed out of the Valley in a series of spectacular steep switch backs and just got wilder and wilder as we drove and more and more beautiful. For awhile the road turned into rough dirt and was a real kidney basher. It was so green and lush everywhere, flowering trees lined the road in many places.
Baxtla was located high up on an airy ridge, just like Teocelo. For the first time we got a real perspective on how mountainous our new home here really was. From the main street of Baxtla here is the view we got looking back at Teocelo, perched as it was back on it's own ridge top just as Baxtla was. An awesome afternoon thunderstorm approached as this picture was taken...
Baxtla is a little town which time has more or less forgotten. There was just one long main street and a couple of short side streets with very modest structures, many simply shacks. Two grocery stores (mainly stocked with snack foods and soft drinks) and one store with building materials was the extent of the shopping there. There were no vehicles moving about, just a few cars parked at the side of the road which looked like they had been there awhile. The street was reserved (as it should be from our perspective) for chickens, street dogs, a couple of burros, and many giggling laughing kids playing happily.
We know from watching the "traffic" by our pool in the Valley that few own a car in Baxtla -- just a few work trucks and rather beat up VW Beatles. Three busses a day, however, run between Teocelo and Baxtla and back again. Hooray.
Mindy created quit a stir when she popped out of the truck in her usual white cowboy hat to buy some snacks at one of the stores. The kids stopped played and there was stunned silence. Then they started to stare and point and then to giggle and chatter away. She tried to talk with them but her "funny American accent" we are guessing got them to giggling worse than ever. :) Oh, yes, we felt like "strangers in a strange land" all right.
Baxtla was so pure and simple and so relatively untouched by the modern world that we felt it wrong somehow to take any pictures there, and we didn't with one exception. This was of their lovely church, known as the Heart of Mary. They had made an absolutely beautiful arco for it. There were no people around so I snapped this shot through the truck windshield.
And yet there were a few signs that the modern world was reaching Baxtla. Sad in a way. One young man sported a t-shirt which read "Calvin Klein"! We wondered if he knew what the words meant? We had to smile and we hoped not.
Baxtla touched our hearts.
- jim and mindy
RULES? WHAT RULES? - 11/18/06
As we walk down the main street of Teocelo, virtually everything that we see happening there would be ILLEGAL in the United States. Yet all is well and happy. Are you listening America?
You build things as you like here. There are no building inspectors ordering things changed or torn down that haven't been built to code. There are no codes. There are few traffic regulations. People park in any old direction on the street which is most convenient for them. We have never seen an instance of road rage. There IS a lot of horn honking but it is usually to beep hello to someone you know. Ocassionally it is to say: "please don't park in the middle of the street, you are blocking traffic" but it's still all amazingly friendly. There is virtually no police presence.
There are no health inspectors either condemning the selling of food without a license. If you want to open a store, open the front door of your living room, put out a sign advertising what you have to sell, and you're in business. Spread out a blanket on the sidewalk, and you are in business. Folks rustle up tasty things in their kitchen and go and sell them on the street. We often buy "street food" ( yum) as well as raw milk (heavenly) and are happy to report we are still alive to tell you about it. Booths selling everything under the sun spill into the street. If you have some nice fresh coffee beans to roast you spread them out in the sun on the sidewalk. Folks don't mind having to step off the curb into the street to walk around your beans.
Mexican towns are a U.S.building and zoning inspector's worst nightmare. Houses are built right out to the edge of the street or sidewalk and rarely have any space in between them, most houses sharing a common wall with their neighbor. They have never heard of "setback rules" here. Teocelo and most Mexican towns are really just like one big sprawling condo! Many houses have a second story and a nice balcony but some are without railings. If you are stupid enough to walk off the balcony and fall into the street, it's your fault for not being more careful. You don't sue your neighbor or the "county". People take responsibility for themselves. Oh, what a breath of fresh air this is from sue happy America. If you do a shoddy job of building a house and the roof falls on your head, that's your problem. This is all just as it should be we think - people taking responsibility for their own behavior.
Electrical wiring is often only two wires, no ground. Hmmmm... Wires are sometimes run from the pole by stripping a bare spot on the main wire and wrapping a new bare wire around it. Much of this wiring work is done with live wires. Confused about which wire is the hot and which is the ground? That's simple. Hold one of the bare wires between your fingers and ground it. If nothing happens, you got the ground wire. If you are shocked off the roof, you got the hot wire. :)
The police seem to have little to do here in Teocelo. I can not recall the sight of a motorist being given a ticket. There are speed limits posted every now and then, but we have not seen them observed or enforced. The police hang out around the plaza and are all most friendly. We got shooed off a one-way street going the wrong direction, but it was with a big grin. The police do work hard for social events setting up metal chairs in our new social hall. They serve a very usefull function in clearing the streets for parades and funerals which are very frequent. The police do have their hands full directing traffic in the bigger cities but not here.
We were in for a shock, however, the first time we went to the bank. There were two policemen with AK-47's, one standing at the door, the other across the street looking... well... very alert and at the ready. There ARE at least some things in Mexico that you don't do -- robbing a bank being one of them!
From all levels of government, federal, state, and local, Americans get 150,00 new laws and 2 million new regulations every year so I read somewhere. How many are on the books already?!! Is all this necessary for health and security and happiness? Judging from life here in Teocelo and the many small towns like it in Mexico where we have visited so far, the answer is NO. Now when it comes to running the Government itself, Mexicans do seem just as in love with their red tape as Americans, but such does not reflect the situation at the local level.
As the size of cities increase here (as everywhere on Planet Earth), so do the rules and regulations, however. Begging the question of whether this is necessary when people live together in larger numbers, we will just say that we think our species was never meant to live in large groups like this, and the toll in human health and happiness is tragic and terrible. But now we have opened up quite a Pandora's box and we shall quickly close it for now. :)
- jim and mindy
SO WHERE DID YOU GUYS DISAPPEAR THIS TIME?! - 11/15/06
More than a few folks have written why we announced we were back three weeks ago, then promptly disappeared off the edge of the earth again. We have been lost in the bowels of blogger.com, trying to work out a technical problem and not being allowed to publish any more blogs. Lots of other folks on blogger were complaining of the same problem on the forums but there were no answers forthcoming. So we have scrapped blogger and what you see here is simply a newly composed htm document on our own website and using our own server. There won't be any of the fancy formatting of before or the ability to post comments for now, but we shall work on a way to do this. Please write to us using our email address posted above.
WE ARE BACK ! - 10/25/06
We like living in the boonies in Mexico all right but NOT being disconnected from the rest of our fellow earthlings. Being off-line without an Internet connection for the past three and a half months has been awful. We appologize for disappearing from sight and not keeping up our blogs and answering mail. The only way we have to connect to the Internet here is via our own satellite dish. There are no phone lines where we live to have a regular dial-up Internet connection. Our equipment just quit and we had not a clue if the problem was the satellite's modem or it's power supply or the transmitter on the boom of the dish itself. This equipment is sold in Mexico but is three times as expensive as in the states -- beyond our modest budget. Trying to have a friend buy a system on eBay and send it to us failed and the shipping was an extra $300 to get it here. UGH.
So it was the calvary to the rescue. John Calypso bought us a used system on eBay and just brought it down here to us. It was both our power supply and our transmitter which were blown, and we replaced them yesterday. AND HERE WE ARE.
We are sobered by the vulnerablility of electronic equipment in Mexico run on the not always reliable grid power. And by the difficulty of obtaining replacement equipment here OR getting anything shipped from the U.S. without going in the poor house. There is also some fierce thunderstorms here at times. Perhaps it was lightening that hit our dish. We just don't know but will take extra special steps to ground the dish better this time. We will also set up the four solar electrical panels we brought with us and run the satellite's modem and power supply (and our computer) with that power via batteries and an inverter not the grid.
I guess we live a contraditction here, trying to live a simple, natural life yet finding outselves addicted to highly sophisticated and vulnerable electronic gadgets from another world entirely. It's here in paradise we shall stay, however, and we will just have to suffer the conseqences of our addiction. :)
- jim and mindy