How Mexicans Treat This Gringa Fool With Kindness

Mexicans know how to do magic. Fortunately they choose to use their powers for good not evil.

I went exploring in the car with the dogs today. I was taking random streets of a village two over from mine and enjoying the vibrant lively neighborhoods. I was paying close attention to directional signs because so many streets are so narrow there is only room for cars in one direction. I saw an arrow pointed the way I wanted to go and went.

I was thrilled to see a painted mural at the top of the hill. The murals here are bright colored eye candy. It even looked like on this one they had painted the road to look like steps. But then I got closer I saw that the street did in fact turn into steps.

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I kept driving upward looking for a place to turn around and it soon became clear there was none. I’m an awful back-er-upper and it was a longish steep narrow road so I decided my tiny car could manage to maneuver turning in just the street area.

If you look at the photo, you will see I managed to get my car at about a 45 degree rotation before I was stuck. Couldn’t go forward, couldn’t go backwards. Oh Sh$& !!! I had no flicking clue what I was going to do. I got out of the car and just stared numbly until the Spoos saw a street dog and barked me back to reality. I regret not taking a picture of how wedged in I was from the outside of the car. It truly was dumbfounding.

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At that point the clock turned two. A very important thing happens every day at two: construction workers take lunch. Four men came out of the area you see with the locked chain fence. A conversation ensued of which I understood zero but did gather they were very amused – with the Spoos…

It took a little miming to get them to see I was asking for them to help me get unstuck. I got back in the car to watch as they told me how far I had until I hit a wall and which way to turn the wheels. But they all seemed to be indicating something different and confusing me so I got out and motioned for one of them to get behind the wheel.

At this time I took the dogs out so the driver wasn’t afraid of getting bit and three of the guys were petting and fussing over them. When I turned around, the fourth guy had my car pointed in the right direction! Magic!!!! I tried to pay them some pesos and they refused. I guess the selfies with the dogs and the story about the dingy American told over the dinner table was enough reward.

I took the dogs home and should of called it a day. Heck, I should have called it a year. Instead I headed to Superlake.

Superlake is a grocery store that caters to people living here from north of the border by carrying US/Canada brands and packaging in English. It also charges an arm and a leg and three toes.

I have tried to wean myself off this highway robbery but my ventures into buying items in true Mexico stores based on the picture on the box can/have been solid fails. I bought cookies that were like communion wafers with Elmer glue filling and tuna that turned out to be a can of oil with four or five seafood chunks that I prayed weren’t dolphin. My only success had been cheese but that had taken a long time to get right. I stood for probably 20 minutes watching what everyone else was buying, comparing it to the rest of their basket, and deducing who had like tastes with me. BTW – all cheese here is white. Just like god intended.

Anyhow, I digress greatly. I finished my Superlake shopping, paid the king’s ransom, and headed to the car with a basket full of good ole USA dyes, trans fats, corn syrups, and artificial additives. I had to park way down from the store so I started my trek. The sidewalk was busy so I pushed my cart down into the street and was clipping at a good pace.

Then I hit the invisible wall. The nice paved street in front of Superlake turned back into cobblestone streets of my quaint Mexican village and three of my cart wheels jammed in the crevices between stones. The video below of the dogs show what kind of street I thought I could push a 20 year old wobbly-wheel cart over.

My purchases were heavy so when I started trying to wrench the basket loose it was having none of it. I was aware a lot of other shoppers were watching this lucha libre match I was having with my trolly. I started looking for a cobblestone crevice big enough for me to hide in. No such luck.

Suddenly two men swooped in and started grabbing my bags. Being an American, my first reaction was that they were vultures swooping down on a dead-in-the-road animal and I was being robbed. Then the bi-lingual man said, “which car is yours?” Lighting quick – like magic – they unloaded the items into my car and freed the cart I now call Willie.

I tried to offer them each a cash reward but again they wouldn’t take it. So I walked over and gave the money to the indigenous woman selling needlepoint cloths by the sidewalk. This action caused the non-English speaker to slap me on the back like I had just scored a goal for the local soccer team and then start talking a mile a minute to me. I understood muy bien so I knew he was okay with my move of giving their reward to the old woman but then I thought he said something about a turkey with chicken pox roller skating in Tibet. I really REALLY have to hire a Spanish tutor.

So these were My Mexican Magicians of Mercy today. Now one more unrelated story…

This morning my Architect came by. The day before I had lost my redhead temper about furniture scratches and all the dust mess the remodelers were leaving. He calmed me down and promised to make everything right.

So, buddies once more I was showing him my new fancy vacuum sweeper. In the demonstration process, he watched as I had a hard time getting two “easy release” buttons to work. Then, in my zealousness of showing off the hand held canister feature, I rammed the vacuum into the furniture, hitting the release button just right, and dumping a very full waste container all down my leg and onto my foot and floor. It was all white construction dust. Again!!! If I had thought to take a picture! My foot looked like Pennywise’s face. Now who needed to be scolded?

All-in-all a day of complete humiliation – but it has me basking in the glow of human kindness. What a warm magical glow it is!!!

The Spoos Move to Mexico!!!!!

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It has been a while since you have heard from me (Momma Mim,) and Shasta, and Sherlock. That is because it hard to find time to peck at a keyboard when deciding where, when, and how, to start a great adventure. The first question I usually get when I tell people my adventure is permanently moving to a new country is “WHY?” This requires a blog post of it’s own and I will address it later. But the important thing is: we are here!!! Our adventure in Ajijic, Mexico is well underway!

Once I decided it was time to leave the USA it was easy to make a list of the “wheres.”  Paris, Rome, Barcelona, Adelaide, Vienna, Helsinki, Melbourne, Singapore, Stockholm, Luxembourg…. Then I started researching living expenses for the places on my list. One by one I saw I would have to choose between the city of my dreams or luxuries like toilet paper and a home with electricity. So I started a new list.

Affordable countries were reveled through research: Croatia, Panama, Portugal, Mexico, Vietnam, Ecuador, and Morocco all made the cut. I loved the idea of Split, Croatia so that is where I started my search. Split is amazingly beautify and is indeed affordable to live in but most of the expats are German and the locals seemed to be either depressed or withdrawn.  I did go in the off-season when the tourist dollars weren’t abundant so that may have had something to do with it. I also decided that the plane flight was too far to be able to go back and forth visiting the states with the dogs as they are so large they have to fly cargo.

The long-flight dread made me cross off Portugal, Vietnam, and Morocco. I was down to Panama, Mexico, and Ecuador. Diving deep into expat forums for Ecuador and talking to people living there, I discovered some deal breakers that I hadn’t seen when just researching the country and reading the glowing articles about moving there. Next on my list – Panama.  Everything about it sounded perfect until I got to the part about the weather. I could not see moving my Spoos to a place so hot and humid year round. We had already struggled in Houston, TX during the summer months as we couldn’t walk on sidewalks except early morning and late evening.  And, they refused to wear the hiking boots I got them. So….Mexico here we come.

I first checked out Mexico City. Love love love!!! The drawback was Mexico City is like any other city – fast paced.  And since I do not know how to speak Spanish, I found myself holding up lines, lost, and frustrated.  A large portion of people in the area I was in spoke English but as they were living the rat race, it was hard to find someone with time to help me out.  Don’t get me wrong. Mexican people are so kind anyone would have stopped and given help if I asked; but, I just didn’t want to be constantly intrusive.  It was clear I would have to find a smaller village to live in while I learned Spanish and then move to Mexico City.

I immediately crossed off any of the tourist beach towns as I don’t like even myself when I’m a tourist in Mexico. The idea of living with a bunch of loud drunk Americans cycling in and out of my town was shudder worthy.  This resulted in a list of four places that appealed to me where there was a large enough population of English speaking expats to assure an easy transition. They were Puebla City, Ajijic, San Miguel de Allende, and Merida.  I bought my ticket for Ajijic because I like to do things alphabetically and off I went.

The minute my taxi drove over the hill and I could see Lake Chapala I felt like I may had found home. The next day, walking the malecon and having coffee in the plaza, I KNEW I was home. The search was over.  I felt it in my heart. The sights, sounds, smells, and tastes delighted me and the friendliness of the people gave me a huge sense of joy.  I looked for the negatives but they seemed so small that a gentle breeze could blow them away.   I started house hunting the second day there, found one the third day, and spent the rest of the week falling further in love with Ajijic (even though I had no idea how to pronounce the name of my new love.)

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The next decision was the “when.” I knew I did not want to move during the heat of summer. I also knew because of the oil recession, homes took about three months to sell in Houston then one month for the buyers to close on the house. I got out my fingers and counted. September would be when it would finally be cool enough to move enough to move.  It was the last week in May. Perfect time to list the house to have a moving date around the end of September. The house went on the market.

That is when all heck broke loose. The first day the house was listed, seven people came to look at it. Five of those seven made offers. Four of those five started a bidding war. The one winner could close in three weeks. Liars!!! Oil obviously was not as recessed and buyers repressed as the news let on.  Oh – and the house I found on day two in Mexico fell through.  I found myself on the internet looking at houses and found one with pretty pictures. So I did what any insane person who was moving to a country where she didn’t speak the language or know anyone would do: I bought it sight unseen.

The buyers of my Houston home sweetly let me back rent my house in Houston for a couple of weeks so I had five weeks to pack/sell/give away my belongings, get a Mexican visa, wrap up business, attend to dogs healthcare, deal with friends and family who watch too much TV (“you will get kidnapped;” “you will die of infection when you go to the dentist;” “Mexicans are rapists and murders [fu$%^&# Trump;]…….) and learn to say, “help me. I have lost my mind” in Spanish.  Somehow I did it all WITHOUT losing my mind or any fingers, (although the finger loss came close.) But of course, I did it all in the heat of Houston’s summer.  I have never been one to time things well. No matter how much effort I put into it.

The “how” to the move was something I changed my mind on daily for the first few weeks.  I knew my belongings would go with a professional moving company as I had no desire to drop box after box on my toes.  But getting the dogs and I down there was problematic. I found out my car could not be nationalized in Mexico, (I envisioned a ceremony with a bunch of cars raising their right tires and swearing their allegiance Mexico roads and mine not being able to because she was of Japaneses descent) so I would have to drive it to the boarder every six months if I wanted to keep it. Heck no. The only time I drive anywhere every six months is when I go to the grocery store (I don’t cook so every six months works well.)

So, I could rent a car, leave it at the boarder, walk the dogs across to Mexico, rent another car, then buy a new one after my visa paperwork was finished. Or I could fly then buy a new car. Options with less steps always have appealed to me so to the sky we were bound. I bought my ticket and purchased two cargo tickets for Sherlock and Shasta. Easy breezy – NOT. I got an email after a few days that because of the crate size of the dogs and the size of the airplanes that flew into Guadalajara, only one could go on the plane at a time. The option to ship one on a flight ahead was given but, that meant the dog flying alone would have to go through cargo customs as opposed to inter-airport customs.  It was not an option for either of my babies to spend the night in a customs office alone. So, since I’m a brain sturgeon, I came up with my flight plan. I would fly someone from Ajijic to Houston to fly back with my one of my kiddos.  After all my back and forth between flying and driving, flying was written in stone.

At first I stressed day and night about flying my dogs cargo. There were so many horror stories – so I thought. Turns out there were just a few horror stories as documented because the airlines are required to keep records of animals being lost or croaking in flight and the numbers were very very low.  People just tend to tell the same stories over and over adding, “a friend of mine” before each to make it seem like millions of animals take off into the wild blue to never return again. It is SAFER to fly your dog than to drive unless you have a short snout dog.  Dogs die in car crashes, are stolen from cars when owners stop to eat, or get loose and ran over at pit stops way more often than being harmed in flight. But no one has a friend who tells the story of how they were side swiped at red light and Fido died when you mention your driving your dog to the dog park with you.

I followed the instructions of doing the paperwork to a tee and even had Spanish speaking vet tech review it all.  I got the proper sized crate and secured it like instructed.  Dropping off the dogs, filling out the paperwork, having them and the crate looked over, and saying sweet long goodbyes was so easy.  The problem came with me flying – not them.  Shasta and the young lady I had flown in to fly with her had zero problems. My flight was the last of the day and I had checked Sherlock in with ease. But when I went to check in, I was told because my gate had changed and my seat was not assigned yet, I would have to go to the customer service counter to get my seat assignment.  The line to customer service was insane because of the “last flight” time period (I stood there for a total of 75 minutes,) and everyone who was bumped or on canceled flights were taking forever to get on a plane the next day.  I waited until 20 minutes before my flight then said, “screw it” and ran to the gate to plead my case (which I had tried once already and was sent back to customer service.) I was told I had no seat on the flight. My dog was being loaded into the cargo hold and United had failed to get me a place on the plane.  I started crying telling them to get my dog off the plane or get me on.  People started taking out their cell phones to record the drama. One nice woman offered her seat as she was a dog lover and couldn’t imagine a dog at baggage claim over night without an owner.  Five minutes before they shut the door, they “found” me a seat. Turns out it was assigned to me all along but hadn’t been synced??? Yeah right 🙁

As soon as I was seated the flight attendant notified me the captain had been told there was a dog in the cargo area and my baby was fine as reported by baggage.  Once again, the dog was SO cared for. I was put through hell. When we got to Guadalajara it was after midnight. Sherlock’s crate was so big it wouldn’t fit through any of the luggage doors so they had to find a person with security clearance to open a people sized door.  I could see through the window and there were a group of people around him sticking their fingers in his crate, and from looking at their body language, making baby talk in Spanish to him. As soon as they got him in, the customs vet looked at his papers then took us to a small room to examine him.  Everything went smooth.  As it was late, the vet even helped me get my luggage and the big crate through the rest of customs.  Sherlock danced out of his crate when we got out of the airport and peed his first Mexico pee on a patch of lovely green grass outside the terminal.

We had our arranged driver take us to pick up Shasta and then we went to our cute Airbnb (I still had to sign papers on the house so we Airbnb’ed it for three days.)  The dogs were no worse for wear from the trip.  The joy of the new smells and new sights had them prancing on air. And they didn’t miss one single night hogging a king sized bed and making me sleep on the edge.  The adjustment to the new house went even better as I think they sensed my ease at being home.

So here we are, six months later and mind boggling happy. I treat culture shock as learning experiences and laugh when things go wrong because they always go wrong in such a way that I feel like I am living a sitcom.  I will add some of the experiences I have been sharing with another forum and keep you all up to date on living and loving Mexico.

La maleza vuela al sur cuando truena. I think that means “Wishing you all happiness and health;” in Spanish. (I have only had time to look through chapter one of “Learning Spanish in One Afternoon.”)

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