Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Seasons of His Life

My son John has had an amazing and interesting life.  Now in his early 50's, he says it is the best time ever.

Now that is quite a statement from a man who backpacked through Europe while in college and then at the age of 29 was wise enough to realize that if he was ever going to back pack around most of the world, he better get busy.  He, in fact did that.  Quit his job and was gone for almost three years.

Little did we know then, how important all those adventures would be for him in the next season of his life.

Back in the business world using his degrees in marketing and his passion, wildlife biology, he worked in many parts of the USA.  The beneficiaries of his work and talent were dot com companies still in existence and also Ridley turtles, dolphins and birds.  He's a gentle, caring man.

Fast forward to about eight years ago when John decided to take up where he left off on his world trip.  India was calling.  He came to San Miguel to tell me goodbye, with an airline ticket in his pocket.  Destiny intervened.  Eight years later he is still in San Miguel working to support his beautiful family, Matilda and Sebastian.

Those of you who read the blog frequently have witnessed their life from beginning to now.  It's been a joy.

John has been working at consulting with companies in San Miguel on a full-time basis in marketing their businesses.  Quite successfully, I might add.  Bajiogo and Real de Minas Hotel come to mind, as two of those companies.

Now John has decided to go into real estate.  He is a man who has made many business acquaintances and friends in San Miguel.  It is his hope that these people will be able to benefit from his integrity, honesty and perseverance in finding the best property for each and every person.

John is now with Coldwell Banker Smart after meeting with many agencies and deciding that the people in this firm and its owner were the right combination for him.

If you, or anyone you know has a property to sell or is looking for a property to buy, please send John an
email at John@ColdwellBankerSMART.com  and he will get back with you ASAP.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Good News for Mexico...and Me

Mexico's revenue comes from (1) remittances of workers in the USA sending money home to their families,
(2) oil revenue and (3) tourism.

On July 31, 2015, the US Commerce  Dept released the statistics on international tourism to Mexico from the USA.  Up 24%, 25.9 million visitors visited Mexico.  Despite two warnings from the US State Department, US citizens are making their own decisions.

In 2013 the number of tourists was 29.1 million, according to statistics from the Mexican Tourism Board and of that number, there were 11 deaths of US citizens.  Only two were homicides.  To me, that is an amazing number which shows that Mexico is indeed a safe place to be and to travel to.

With the peso at 16.98 to the dollar today, tourism will benefit with everything being so inexpensive.
It is good for that, but not good for the every day Mexican resident.

In other good news, a sweet thing happens each week.  Josefina, the woman who cleans the house and does all kinds of wonderful things for me, goes throughout the garden and even to the wildflowers out on the path  next to the house, to gather flowers to make "a bouquet for Jennifer".  I keep fresh flowers by her photo next to my bed.  My heart is always touched by this kind and thoughtful gesture.  In the photo below are the flowers this week.


Other happy news for me!  I got a new chair for my bedroom.  The first new piece of furniture in a long, long time.  The chair that was in that corner is now in the living room.  And, here is the new chair that I'm thrilled with.  I had been looking for many, many months for just the right chair (it's a designer thing).  Last Friday, with no intent of finding anything but only to kill some time until lunch, I walked in Finca, a consignment store and voila, there it was.  Now it is here and I"m loving it.  It was delivered last Saturday morning by the son of my former gardener.  He is now all grown up and I have known him since he was about 8 years old!  My time flies.
Lunch with great friends has happened twice in the last week!  I treasure long time friends and my cup runneth over this week with lots of laughter and good food.  Life is good!
Hope yours is as well...........

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Donald Trump - An "Unconscious Incompetent"

This will be my one and only political blog post.  I just cannot sit back and keep my mouth closed about inaccuracies that I have heard said in the last few weeks.

Back in the days when I was part of the business world, I would know men like Trump.  They were bullies with big egos.  However, even though I knew many, few were as incompetent with facts as Trump.  Note, I don't dignify him by using the term Mr.  His ego is so big, that he doesn't even know that he doesn't know what he is talking about - hence an "unconscious incompetent".  

Just last evening as I scanned the channels and came upon his speech in Alabama, it was horrifying to realize that all he was doing was rehashing all the businesses and people who he says "Are incompetent losers and not worth talking about".  However, of course, he did.  From Macy's to ESPN, to, well you get the idea.

He then rehashed all his accomplishments, how smart he is, how much money he has, ad nauseum.

BUT when he gets to illegal immigration, which evidently was what the people from Alabama wanted to hear about, his facts were all skewed.

For one thing, there are more Mexicans returning to Mexico then are going to the USA!  Don't believe me, do some research.

For another, the major majority of people crossing the border are from Central America - not Mexico.  The political unrest and danger in some of the countries such as Honduras and El Salvador is fueling the exodus.

AND, surprisingly, if you look at the latest research that I read yesterday, there are more immigrants coming from India and Africa and South Korea then south of the border!  Surprise.

Trump also talked about the newborn babies being born to illegals.  He said, "NO other country gives citizenship to a baby born in their country".  Sorry to disappoint you Trump, but not true.  I don't know about all the countries in the world, but Mexico gives citizenship to any baby born in their country immediately.

How do I know that?  My granddaughter, Matilda, was born in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico.  She had immediate Mexican citizenship.  Once the documentation was supplied to the American Consulate in Mexico City, she also has her American citizenship.  She is a dual citizen!

The other subject, in Trump's plan is to withhold remittances going back to Mexico.  This is a ludicrous statement.  Remittances go back to help the workers' families.  Most people I know do not have bank accounts so they send it via Western Union or some service such as that.  Actually, remittances are the largest revenue coming into Mexico.  Even ahead of oil revenue and tourism.  How could the money earned by the workers be held by the US government?  It sickens me.

I remember when the Berlin Wall was built.  People were aghast and horrified that one group of people would not be able to see friends and family for fear of reprisals and possibly death.  As a little girl, I couldn't believe that people would be so cruel.  And now, today, we have a person running for President who would do that very thing for 2000 miles.  Wouldn't that money be better spent repairing the infrastructure of our country, the USA?

Now this is really going to shock you.  Why not just open the border?  There would be a natural ebb and flow.  Most Mexicans WANT to come home to see family and friends.  Many do.  I drive back and forth to the border frequently.  Just last week I saw a car with Georgia plates loaded to the ground.  It was a family of pickers coming home after the summer picking season.

This whole thing, the racism, the bigotry, the attacking hard working people from other countries is an embarrassment to me as an expat.  I live in Mexico where I never experience anything but generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness from the people and yes, even the government.

When a resident of Mexico asks me what I think of Trump, I am tongue tied with embarrassment that I come from the same country as that man.  I try to explain that there is a very, very small percentage of people who feel as he does.  AND, that I certainly AM sorry for the things he says about this beautiful country.

Hopefully, as some pundits say, he will "flame out""  I sincerely hope that is true.




Thursday, August 20, 2015

Traveling the Back Roads of Mexico - La Trinidad - The "Fire" Opal Village

A couple of years ago, my friend Shannon wrote a blog about visiting a village near Tequisquiapan where the mine for fire opals is located.  You can read Shannon's post back in 2013 by going to her blog on the sidebar under Rat Race Refugee.

While in Tequis in June, I remembered that, and at some point contacted her about where exactly this village was.  It is NOT on a map.  At least not on Guia Roja, the book we use for traveling in Mexico.  But, Shannon's husband Todd, also a fellow blogger, gave me Google directions along with these instructions.
"Look for San Nicholas.  Then a billboard that says Spa something or other.  Then a Pemex station and do a retorno back to La Trinidad."  Now with THREE landmarks to look for going about 50 MPH, we made it.
We made the retorno, turned at the sign for La Trinidad and went down the road that turned into a dirt field.
Hmmmm, something was not correct.

So heading back to the tienda for "mine tours", I rolled down the car window and said "Donde esta Senor, es casa para Sr. Hector Montes".  He pointed down another road and off we went.  And we went and went down this beautiful country road with boundary trees on one side and a field of corn on the other.  Eventually we came to the village of La Trinidad.  Pretty much in the middle of nowhere.  In fact, when we left, we had to go back the way we came as there was no other way to get out.

But, it was all worth it for what all happened next.
As we came into the village there were several signs that said "se vende opalos".  On the side of the road up ahead were several men working on a car so we pulled over and again, I rolled down the window and repeated my question about Sr. Hector Montes.  A young man stood up and said he would lead us to his home!  Of he went with a University of Colorado t-shirt on his body.  That is him above leading our van down the road.

We arrived at the home of Sr. Montes and I was relieved to know he was home and, as usual, oh so gracious.  His wife led us back to his work space.  He wanted to know if we wanted to see the process or the finished product.   Since Shannon had said it was a lengthy process to take a rock, find the opal and then remove it, we asked to see the finished fire opals.   It was interesting how small his work space is as seen in the photo below.
 Sr. Montes showed us small orange fire opals.  It's amazing all the work to get these tiny gems from something that has to be mined first from the mountains surrounding the village.
                                              The "fire" was definitely in each of these stones.
 Sr. Montes took us  through the courtyard and into his home where he has a room with finished opalos
and other stones made into jewelry.  Beautiful pieces with either 18 karat gold surrounds or sterling silver.
 He proudly stood and showed items to us and told us the special features of each gem.  Everybody bought something or more.  Everyone would have liked to have purchased much more.  There were some beautiful earrings with a cherry red opal in 18 kt gold that were exceptionally beautiful.  Cost?  About $80 USD!
I asked if I could photograph Sr. Montes and his wife, along with the young man who led us to his house.

The young man told me he had lived near the University of Colorado for seven years.  He crossed the border when he was 18 and worked as a carpenter.  But, then, he wanted to come home and he did.  Sr. and Sra Montes are his aunt and uncle.  It is not unusual for men to go to make money but then, they come home to Mexico.

I asked him if he was happy to be back here and he said, "Oh yes".
 As we left, we saw this new billboard right past Sr. Montes home with information about the opals and the mines.  If you want additional information, I even found info by going on the internet to read about La Trinidad and the famous fire opals only available there.

If you ever want to take a back roads journey to La Trinidad, it's a fun  day trip from Queretaro or San Miguel de Allende. It is in the State of Queretaro.  It is also about 45 minutes from San Juan del Rio.
These were my "partners in the adventure".  Fred, Ron, Trey and Bill.  What fun!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Mercados of Mexico

                                                                    Photo by Chrlie Huynh/David Richey

If you want to see some of  the REAL Mexico, go to the mercados of whatever village or town that you visit.  It is always a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

The photo above is of the mercado in San Miguel de Allende. Mercado Ramirez just down the hill from my house.   It is a cornucopia of beautiful fruits and vegetables along with shopping bags, fresh flowers and small serving counters where one can have meals.

It is not grand, but serviceable.  On the outside of the market are women from the countryside selling nopales with the thorns removed, tuna (the fruit of the cactus) and all kinds of other items that are used for cooking.

The small counter service food stands are  kinda like a food court in the malls of the USA!  Well sorta.  The people who own their stands remember a shopper from one week to the next.  They will get anything for you that they don't happen to have the week that you ask for it.  And, they almost always give you a regalo (gift) of a piece of fruit for your patronage.  It's such a touching custom.

The most spectacular mercado for me in all my life, has been the one in Guadalajara.  I was there starting in the early 80's until the late 90's off and on.  Always, as fast as my feet could take me, I would head upstairs in the gargantuan market to the aisle with the herbs and salves.  What you see there is other worldly.  At least it used to be.  The indigenous women would come in from the countryside to get the things that they wanted or needed for healing or cooking. 

A memory of a happening that I experienced one day seldom leaves me.  I was sitting on the stairs overlooking a small courtyard.  An indigenous woman in a long skirt and rebozo had a swaddled baby in her arms.  Earlier, she had been on the herbal aisle.  Totally unaware of any other person, she knelt, opened the swaddling of the baby, and began to tenderly rub oils on the skin of the baby.  It wasn't a quick fix.  It was a long drawn out process that mesmerized me.  With such tenderness and love, she eventually re wrapped the baby, stood and left.  I felt as though I had been blessed to be present at a beautiful, surreal, ceremony of two people.

That occurrence was probably thirty years ago or so, but, in my mind's eye, I can see the entire event as though it happened yesterday.

I guess that's why when I visit a new place, I don't head for the big buildings or fancy restaurants, but rather,  to the markets, parks and out of the way places.  To see the real Mexico always touches my heart.

Sadly, I confess, that I have not ever been to the many, many mercados of Mexico City.  Perhaps the size of them overwhelms me.   However, the market in Guadalajara is two stories and covers many, many blocks.  So, I do need to go in DF, the next time I am there.

What mercados have you visited?  And, have you had memorable experiences?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Making lemonade out of lemons!

While lost in San Miguel de Allende on Saturday, I happened upon a street that I recognized, but had not been on in at least a year. 

It had always had a long, long grey concrete wall with tons of graffiti.  It was the back wall of a lovely condo complex, but the back wall looked horrible.

Imagine my surprise when I saw what had happened recently to this space.
 It has now become a wall of art that enhances the street with beautiful color and drawings.
A few years ago, a woman, Colleen Sorenson decided to do something to enhance the Colonia she lived in.  That is Colonia Guadalupe.  There are many, many street art pieces throughout the colonia now.  In fact, it has been designated an art district!
 A call went out for well known street artists to come to San Miguel to paint this wall in their own style.  I don't know if there were other parameters.  It is well done, in my humble opinion.
This is my favorite.  It would appear to me that this person is an illustration artist by the amount of detail in
his panel of work.
To me it seems that it was a brilliant idea to cover the bare, grey concrete wall with art that lends itself to the culture of Mexico.

Walk around in Col. Guadalupe.  You'll be amazed at the talent and artistic ability of all of these people.

It's kinda like making lemonade out of lemons.............The other interesting bit of information I"ve been told that when there is street art, there is no tagging or vulgar graffiti.    Viva Mexico!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Burger King and the Living is Easy............

I have finally figured out that kids would rather have a play area and a crown then a hamburger and french fries.  Well, that is how it seemed on Thursday, at least when as a mini surprise, we (John, Matilda, Sebastian and I) headed for the new Burger King.


 It's a counter service restaurant of good size.  Spotlessly clean and ready for business.  Open a couple of months or so, we stopped in to check it out.  The great part is while you are waiting for your food, which seemed to take quite a bit of time, the kids can be playing in the small, but fun, play area.
 Decor items are well done and have an environmental feel to them.  No bright colors, but subtle, soft ones with a crown on every table.
 Interestingly, there are different seating areas.  Booths, tables and even  comfortable chairs in a lounge kind of setting.
 The Kid's Clubhouse was definitely fun for Mati and Sebastian.  Interactive stuff from the floor to the ceiling.
 The construction was great.  A tilt wall building but with lowered decorative elements to make it feel softer and comfortable as with this lowered ceiling element with lighting.

 What was hilarious was when Sebastian put the crown on his head.  He turned into a knight or a king
or something.  Note his pretend sword.
 The next thing, I think, was some kind of a karate chop.  All this because of a piece of paper on his head and an imagination.
Oooops, its not just little boys who can play act, so can a Dad.
 Then the proverbial funny face from Mati was part of her schtick!  Hilarious.
Last, but not least, the family with their burgers, fries, cold drinks, crowns and happy faces.


The new Burger King is on the libramento between the glorieta by Mega and Bodega Aurerra.  It also has a drive thru. Our first in San Miguel de Allende.

Life is good!