Friday, December 27, 2019

Mahahual, After the Party’s Over

Mahahual sunset. Tranquil. Beautiful. Escape from the pressures of daily life. Ha!

Mahahual is a tiny village on the Caribbean coast of Quintana Roo, Mexico. In looking for information on its population, I found a government site, undated but obviously old, that said it was 280, but the 2010 census put it at 920. I would guess it is higher now, but it’s only about a mile long with two streets and about three short cross-streets.

Mahahual, sitting on the coast away from everything else, was almost nothing until the government developed a nearby port for cruise ships to dock. That was a huge gift to this tiny village. Then, in 2007, Hurricane Dean pretty much leveled the town and the cruise ships quit coming. Within a few years, everything was rebuilt and the cruises were back.

That’s what keeps the town alive, but that’s also what ruins it.

When I arrived on Christmas day, there were two ships in the port. I was told that they each hold 3-4,000 people. Between 9 and 10am, all those people pile into taxis and head into town. By then, all the hotels and restaurants along the malecón have set up tables and chairs and lounge chairs under umbrellas or trees or some sort of shade, literally covering every bit of sand on the beach. Each has its own designated area called a “beach club”. Passers-by are “encouraged” to make themselves comfortable and are assured that they will be well cared for by their waiter. Juan or Pedro will be happy to keep them supplied with their favorite drinks and plenty of snacks and a delicious lunch. And, if that isn’t relaxing enough for them, Maria or Lupita is ready to give them a message with her table set up right there on the beach. Vendors are set up all along the malecón, selling all the standard cheap trinkets, at double the prices we see in other parts of Mexico. They all speak English - at least enough to do business. And everything is conveniently priced in dollars. Lots of dollars.

Peace returns to Mahahual around 4 or 5pm when everyone returns to the ships. But then everything quickly closes down again. All the tables and chairs and lounge chairs are stacked, all the mess of the day cleaned up, and all the workers go home. And there is nothing to do. By now the sun has set and a cool breeze has kicked up, so it’s time to head to one of the few restaurants still open for dinner before returning to my little hotel.

Today, there were three cruise ships. I can’t imagine what is must be like when there are four.

Since I wasn’t interested in hanging out in the middle of all the insanity, I found a quiet place way down at the end of the malecón where I could spread my parreo in the shade of some palm trees right next to the water and relax with my book for a couple of hours.

Tomorrow morning I’ll be on a bus to Tulum. I haven’t been there for over 40 years. I wonder how it has changed???

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Bacalar, Quintana Roo

I chose Bacalar as the first step of my next adventure, my escape from the cold of Chapala and into the glorious warmth of Caribbean beaches. Bacalar saw things a bit differently. The first few days were heavily overcast and barely got up to 80 degrees. I know some of you are rolling your eyes at my complaints, but, hey, it’s all relative. When I left Chapala, it was still getting up to something near 80 degrees outside in the afternoons, but the temp inside my house struggled to get up to 65. I understand that changed right after I left, and I’m sorry for you who are still there, but it just goes to show that I had the right idea. Anyway, after the first few days of clouds that looked very threatening, the sky finally dumped all that moisture on us one night and we woke to clear blue skies ever since.

Other than warmer weather, I don’t know what I expected of Bacalar, but this isn’t it. I mean the lagoon is beautiful. And it really is at least the seven different colors of blue that they advertise. But the color is just based on the depth of the water. The bottom is covered with white sand, so the shallower it is, the lighter the shade of turquoise. And a 90 meter deep cenote has water that is pretty close to black. This is just a small set of examples.

Pretty, right? But now what? I took the suggested boat tour and saw these and many more variations in water color. And now what am I supposed to do? What are all these other tourists doing?

As far as I can tell, all anyone does is lie out in the sun. But even that isn’t easy. The thing is, there is no beach in Bacalar. All the sand is in the water. Really. There is no beach! There are some parks along the shore with really nice lawns that allow families to access the lagoon and have a picnic, but the only way to enjoy the water is by walking out on these long wooden docks to palapa-covered areas with benches. I tried sitting out on one of those shady benches to read, but it just wasn’t like spreading a towel in the sand.

So, I guess you can tell that I’m not thrilled with Bacalar. I haven’t even mentioned the hotels packed side-by-side around the cenotes’ edges. How in the world did the government allow that???

Actually, once I’d seen the color of the water, the best part of Bacalar is the murals. I don’t know anything about them except that they are everywhere, and they are very good. They may be part of a annual event or competition because most of them say “Bakalarte” and a year. They are on houses, and  commercial buildings, and government buildings. I have enjoyed discovering new ones on my walks around town.

 Another thing about Bacalar that surprises me is the apparent lack of culture in such a culture-rich country. Beside the murals, I can see no sign of local artesanías, except the universal hippie braided bracelets and dream catchers. No local food traditions. Even the church is very sad, with few decorations and walls, both inside and out, covered with salitre and peeled-off paint. I just don’t understand it. 

Anyway, this is my last night in Bacalar. I’m off to Mahahual at noon tomorrow. It’s a tiny town on the coast about 100 kilometers east of here. I pretty much ignore all holidays any more, but I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas. And maybe after tomorrow, I’ll finally be able to get Jimmy Buffett’s “Christmas in the Caribbean” out of my head. It’s been in there ever since I got here.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

From Chiapas to Palenque and Villahermosa

The bus ride from the highlands of San Cristóbol to the lower elevation of Palenque could have been long and boring and, considering the winding mountain road, car sick-causing. Fortunately, it was well-planned,  and the many pilgrimages for the Virgin Of Guadalupe added lots of road-side interest.

The pilgrimages gave Jaime, our wonderful tour guide, plenty of opportunity to explain the story of the Virgin and her importance to the people of Mexico. The Virgin of Guadalupe is a manifestation of the Virgin Mary, but she is said to have presented herself here in Mexico with brown skin like the local indigenous people. There are many versions of her all over Mexico. The Virgin of Zapopan comes to visit and bless Lake Chapala every year. It is a different version of her, but she’s still Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is the most revered figure in all of Mexico, and December 12th is her day.

Our tour began on December 3, so for the entire trip we were surrounded by celebrations leading up to her day. There were multiple parades every day we were in San Cristóbol. But once we got out into the countryside and the mountain villages, it was as if the people felt that they needed to try harder to show their devotion to the Virgin. I would guess that we easily saw hundreds of pilgrimages consisting of a person, usually a teen or young man, carrying a torch and running or jogging along the side of the very narrow road while being followed by a truck decorated with images of the Virgin and flashing lights and loudspeakers and relief runners. Usually one person ran while the others rested in the back of the truck. Almost all of these pilgrimages were headed uphill. Was that to make their show of devotion more difficult and therefore stronger? I have no idea. I was always worried that they would be run down.

About half way between San Cristóbol and Palenque, we stopped for lunch at Cascadas Agua Azul. I have no idea where the water for these falls comes from, but they are just amazingly beautiful.

There is something about the water or the ground it travels over that makes the pools under the falls a wonderful turquoise color. Jaime told us that a few years back, there was an earthquake (the same one that messed up the churches in San Cristóbol area?) that caused the flow of water to be blocked and there was nothing coming over the falls. No waterfalls meant no visitors.

 The government decided to do studies to see how the situation could be fixed, and they came up with a plan that would cost millions of pesos and take a long time to implement. The people of the area had come to depend on visitors to the falls to eat at the restaurants and shop with the many vendors.

By the time the government actually got around to fixing the problem, they would have died of hunger. So the entire community went up-river with whatever tools they could get their hands on, and before the government officials could even decide how they would divide up the millions of pesos they could skim off the project, the locals had chopped and dug their way through the obstruction and had the water flowing again.

I don’t think anyone was anxious to get back on the bus, but we still had another couple of hours before we would arrive in Palenque. It wasn’t long before we finally got out of the mountains and into flatter jungle.

Our hotel was a resort near the Palenque Mayan ruins, but we would have to wait until the next morning to visit them. But by this time we had developed the happy habit of five o’clock wine and goodies time. We all rounded up the stashes we’d bought before we left the big city and headed for the seating area near the outdoor lobby. Before a single cork was popped, the guy at the desk was on the phone to management. Another guy came to tell us that they would require a corkage fee. We said okay, no problem, how much? He said $200 pesos per bottle. I (acting as translator for the group) pointed out that our wine averaged $100 pesos per bottle, but all I got was a sympathetic shrug.

So we picked up our bottles and goodies and headed back toward our rooms, which were in another building. Fortunately, we trouble-makers happened to all be in a one building of the many on the property. We all went into our rooms and hauled out our very heavy metal chairs and our water glasses and went on with our party, well within site of the front desk. We were ready to go into one of the rooms, if necessary, but the evening was too nice to go inside. In just a little while, Jaime came by to tell us that he had received a call from management and, although we would not be permitted to drink our own wine (without a ridiculous charge) in the common area, they would look the other way if we stayed by our rooms. A good time was had by all.

The next morning was spent at the Palenque Mayan ruins. Apparently, these ruins were originally set in the middle of a bustling city with many, many buildings and lots of people. Now, Palenque ruins are in a beautiful park with lots of huge shade trees and gravel paths through manicured lawns. I can’t remember ever seeing a more beautiful ruins setting.
The most interesting building was one that is still undergoing restoration, mostly because we could wander all around it.

We had a local guide who was very knowledgeable about the ruins to explain it all to us - at least as much as has been figured out. There is lots of info online, so I’m not even going to try to explain it all.

We had planned to visit the Palenque museum but found out that it was closed on Mondays, so Jaime made a slight change in our schedule so that we could make a quick stop the next morning before we left the area.

Our final stop was in Villahermosa, which must have been a beautiful village at some point in it’s history but is now a big, bustling oil town. West of Villahermosa and into the state of Veracruz is the location of the ceremonial centers of the Olmecs,  considered the “mother” civilization of Mexico. I was hoping we would go to the original La Venta, an important ceremonial center that I’ve never visited before, but we were told that it is now the center of an oil field, so we would visit the La Venta that is now a park in Villahermosa.

Although not much is known about the Olmec people, they are famous for the giant stone heads that have been found all around the area. The geography of the area proves that the stone from which these heads are carved had to be somehow transported quite a long distance. But as these people had not discovered the wheel, no one knows how they did it.

The park had many interesting smaller stone carvings, but I kept waiting to see the giant heads. I have seen quite a few in the state of Veracruz, and I was looking  forward to seeing more here. I was disappointed to learn that they only had two. Scientists expect to uncover many more as they continued to explore in the area of the original La Venta ceremonial center.

Really, the highlight of the park was to discover that the jungle between the walkways was full of coati mundi. I spotted the first one, and then the park guide showed us how he could make them come running by making plastic crackle like a potato chip bag. They seemed to be quite tame.

Unfortunately, their coloring gives them excellent camouflage in the jungle, so it doesn’t show up very well in my photos. They look like a cross between a opossum and a raccoon but with a long ringed tail that they hold straight up in the air.

We had one final night in a nice hotel in an uninspiring area before our very early flight back to Guadalajara in the morning. As always, the vacation was great but it was nice to return home, at least for a few days. The day after tomorrow, I will again be at the Guadalajara airport, setting out on another adventure. See you then!

Monday, December 16, 2019

Selling a House, Mexican Style, the Next Step

First, I’ll get the house stuff out of the way. I spent the last two weeks worried that the buyer would back out, and then she came to see me yesterday to talk about depositing a million pesos in my account. Okay! That was done today, so I guess there’s not much chance she’ll back out. The closing has been moved to the last day in February, but she hopes it will be sooner.

Next, my condo. My landlord has gone to Mexico City for Christmas with his family while the crew continues the work on the condo. They will send photos soon. I decided to go ahead with my trip to the Yucatán peninsula, and we came up with a February 1st move-in date.

My next step is to try to arrange hotels and a flight, which I’ll do as soon as I finish this. I’m hoping for this Friday. I’ll take you all along with a post for each town I visit. I’m not really planning too much because I want to be able to stay in a place or move on depending on how much I like it there. I will start at Bacalar, just north of the Belize border and then head north from there.

I plan to return to Chapala about January 20, pack up the rest of my stuff (it will fit in my car) and drive to Barra de Navidad so I can pay the property tax and water bill down there. After spending a few days with Terry, I will drive to Puerto Vallarta while he returns to Chapala and then to Florida. Of course, all of this is subject to change if the Barra house, which has been on the market since June, sells.

Now for the fun part - my trip to Chiapas. We flew from Guadalajara to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, on December 3. There we met some friends from Cozumel and boarded the bus to San Cristóbol de las Casas.

I need to admit two things right up front here: I pretty much froze the entire time we were there and there just isn’t enough oxygen at that elevation from my asthmatic lungs. Honestly, if I hadn’t been on a tour, I would have headed for lower ground by the second day. But I was on a tour so that was not an option. I decided to just do the best I could.

The tone for the trip was set that first night when two couples of our group settled in with wine and goodies. They invited us to join them but we didn’t want to stretch their wine too thin. The next night, however, many of us showed up with lots more wine and goodies to share. Those evenings together became a habit and may have been the highlight of the entire nine day tour.

Because we were in the days leading up to the celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe on December 12, we saw many, many parades and pilgrimages dedicated to her.

My roommate, Judy, and I wandered downtown and found a wonderful Thai restaurant where we got great veggie bowls, plus wine, of course. I got colder with the dark so we headed back to our hotel room. At least the shower was warm!

Breakfast was included, so it became another great social time for the group. Then we took a tram tour around San Cris and ended up at the Santo Domingo museum and the craft market that surrounds it. The museum had some very interesting ancient weaving, and I got to photograph these lovely ladies in their traditional clothing who were there for a textile conference.

Unfortunately, the main cathedral was damaged in a 2017 earthquake and they haven’t gotten around to repairing it yet.

The next day we went to Sumidero Canyon. The canyon is near Tuxtla Gutiérrez, at a much lower elevation, so it was quite a bit warmer (and it has plenty of oxygen!) The boat ride through the canyon was beautiful, but I really wish I could see it in the rainy season when the plants are greener and all the waterfalls have falling water. We did see four crocodiles and lots of different birds.

The next day was one of my favorites - a visit to San Juan Chamula and Zinacantan. This trip took us above 8,000 feet, so the breathing was tough for me, but it was worth it. San Juan Chamula is a rather peculiar town. The town is a very close (and closed) community and has some very strict traditions. Everyone who lives there must follow the rules or they will be expelled. The guide said there are no outsiders permitted to live there, even if they marry into a local family. (However, I read a book a few years ago written by a woman who had married into an important family there and was eventually kind of tolerated.) The highlight was the church, which is not quite Catholic. Apparently, a priest visits occasionally to baptize babies, but the Catholic Church does not recognize the people as Catholics. I don’t think they consider themselves Catholic, either.

The town is in a valley surrounded by mountains that the people consider sacred. They see the church as a mountain, also. The doorway represents a cave leading into the interior of the mountain. The interior of the church feels very much like a cave. It is rather dark except for thousands of candles and long beams of light that come in from windows high on the walls. The light shines through smoke from the copal incense, creating a kind of mystical atmosphere. There are no pews. The people kneel on a carpet of pine needles, and there are shamans wearing clothing of sheep’s wool. Visitors are tolerated because of the money they bring to town. They must pay an entrance fee to get in and cameras are strictly prohibited, but I think you can google the church and find some photos online.

Then we went to the nearby town of Zinacantan, where we visited a weavers’ co-op. Much of what they had for sale is mass-produced and even available in Chapala, but I found a runner that had been woven on a back strap loom with very intricate patterns. It was almost my only purchase of the trip.

Our final day in the San Cris area featured a trip to Amatenango to see the workshop of a famous potter who often brings her work to the Maestros del Arte feria here in Chapala. After our bus driver performed the amazing feat of actually driving the bus over a tiny bridge and right up to the workshop door, apparently something never done before, we were treated to a demonstration of how she does her beautiful work.

This is where I made my second and final purchase - a clay cup with an intricate design painted on a band around it. I will use it to hold some drawing pens.

This is getting long and with so many photos, I’m afraid you might have problems downloading it, so I will stop now and continue the trip tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Selling a house, Mexican style, Part 3

Subtitle: The best-laid plans of mice and men...

Here we are, two weeks from the scheduled closing, and I got a call from the buyer yesterday afternoon. It seems that the buyer of the property that they are selling in Guanajuato has not yet come up with the money for their closing, so, of course, that means that my buyers also can’t come up with the total for our closing. My first reaction is panic, but no one is backing out of anything. It is just going to take a bit longer. The notario will draw up a contract to extend the deal until February and we will use the appointment scheduled for the closing to sign the extension. All will be well.

So now I have to figure out what I’m going to do in the meantime. When I thought I would be homeless two weeks from now, I planned to take a long, slow trip around the Yucatán peninsula until I could rent an apartment in Puerto Vallarta after the snowbirds leave in April. Then I found my condo, but it looked like it wouldn’t be ready for a few months, so I could still take my trip. But my landlord has been hustling to get it done. He’ll be in Mexico City for Christmas but plans to leave the keys with my friend so I can get into my new home right away, even if it’s not yet totally furnished. And now I have no reason to leave on the 16th.

So I’m sitting here trying to figure out what my options are.

Should I go on down to Puerto Vallarta anyway? Should I take my previously-planned trip to Yucatán until the condo is completely done? Shall I just stay in Chapala until February? Are there other options that I haven’t even seen yet?

I’ll let you know as soon as I figure it out myself.

But first, I’m leaving in less than an hour for a long-ago scheduled trip to Chiapas. Im determined to enjoy myself.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

I Found an Apartment!

Third floor - three windows on the left

I found an apartment this morning! It is owned by my friend Judy’s landlord and is only about a kilometer from her apartment. It is being completely remodeled, so I will get to choose cabinets, colors, furniture, etc. It is two bedrooms, but it is small, about 550 sq. feet - almost like a tiny house on the third floor. One bedroom will be set up to accommodate my quilting and art and the other will be for sleeping. I’ll have a sofa bed in the living room for guests.

The remodel is still in process, but this allows them to take their time to get it done while I am wandering around the Yucatán Peninsula. It will help me to know I have a place to come home to and it will help the landlord to know that he already has a long-term renter lined up.

This isn’t any thing fancy; it’s rather simple and minimalist - just what I want. Even the rent is minimalist: $400 US per month. I don’t have a pool, but if I want to swim, I can visit Judy. It has safe parking for regular use but not secure enough to leave my car while traveling. Again, Judy will save the day. I can park in her very secure space while I travel. And, at sea level, those two flights of stairs aren’t bothering me one bit! I’m not even out of breath when I reach my door!

I thought for sure I would rent in Old Town, but when I spent four hours walking those streets on Sunday, looking for “for rent” signs, I realized just how bad the roads are, how difficult it is to walk the sidewalks, how dirty and crowded it is, and how full of tourists. I recognized just how different it is a bit farther north, near the marina. I will be quite near Costco, Sam’s, Mega and La Comer, and yet I will live in an apartment complex that is almost all Mexicans (and, interestingly, almost all women.)

So now I have my house sold, almost all my stuff moved and in storage, and I have a place to live. I feel like I’m on a roll!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

My Bags are packed; I’m ready to go...

All my worldly possessions (well, almost):

I have everything packed and stacked and ready to go. The movers are due to arrive in two hours to load up the truck, then we will head to Puerto Vallarta in the morning.

I sold the house furnished because I intend to rent furnished, but this is still too much stuff to be moving around. I will continue to work on purging the  excess and try to avoid buying anything that is not consumable.

Actually, over half of this huge stack is quilt-related. I’ve always been a better artist than salesperson, but I think sales will come easier in the larger population of Puerto Vallarta.

I have a few items that I will take in my car. My grandmother’s cedar chest that she promised to give me when I was a child and then made sure it would get to me after she died, and her Martha Washington sewing cabinet. My trusty sewing machine and my cutting boards, which would warp in the heat. And my meditation pillow.

I’ve been working pretty much seven days a week since late June to get the house all fixed up and then to go through every drawer and cupboard and closet to decide what to get rid of. I never realized what a hard job that would be! I hired professionals to handle my yard sale in September because I knew that I would think things were worth more than other people would. I didn’t even allow myself to check their prices; I just hid out in my casita next door.

Once that was all cleaned up and my pocket was full of money, I started doing the same thing with my fabrics and quilting supplies. I did sell lots of fabric, books, patterns, quilting supplies, etc. - it was just like I had my quilt shop again. I had hoped to sell lots of quilts, but that didn’t happen. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble selling them in Puerto Vallarta because there are so many more potential buyers there.

Anyway, once everything is safely stored away in Puerto Vallarta, I will enjoy a week of relaxation at my friend Judy’s house. She is fixing me up with some rental agents to see what might be available in  March or April. I’m hoping this will work out so when this year’s flock of snowbirds heads north, I’ll be able to move into my new apartment.

I’ll let you know how that comes out when I write again in a week or so.


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Selling a House, Mexican Style, Part 2

I feel as if I’ve been on a roller coaster since I last wrote. I wanted an adventure....

The buyers were a bit slow in coming up with the Contrato de Compra-Venta that laid out the terms of the sale, and when it came, I was surprised that I understood so little of it. I’ve signed three of these since I’ve been down here, usually a form from a realtor, but one was private, and they were pretty clear. This one was very confusing, so it is a good thing that the notario had offered to check it out for me before I signed.

He told me that the reason I couldn’t understand it was that it was written with very archaic language that would even confuse a Mexican who wasn’t a lawyer. Who knows where they got it from, but it was crazy!

It said they would deposit 10% in my bank account and then bring me a receipt to prove it had been paid. Then I would sign the contract. That part was pretty standard. But then it went on to say that the buyers would take possession of the house at that point. It allowed either the buyer or the seller to back out for a mere $20,000 peso penalty. That’s about $1,000US. The way the notario explained it, the buyers got to move in upon payment of the 10%, but then they could back out of the deal and we would never close. Eviction laws protect the person in the house, so it was likely to take years of court battles to get them out. Eventually, they would lose and would have to leave and then would have to pay me the $20,000 penalty - and nothing more, even though I’d spent years fighting the case in court.

I sent the buyers a message stating that their contract was totally unacceptable and carefully explained why. Up to that point, I had been communicating with the nephew because he understood some English. That night the señora called me to say that all communication was to be directly with her from then on.  I guess the nephew was responsible for that contract. Although the buyers are responsible for all the closing costs, I offered to have the notario draw up a contract and I said I would pay for it. I wanted to be sure that I was protected in this deal.

I was worried that they would change their minds in the week it took to get the new contract, but, no, they deposited the 10% in my bank account before I even had a contract for us to sign. I sent them a copy but I still didn’t have it signed quite a few days later. I finally explained to the señora that without that contract signed by both of us, if I was less than honest or if something happened to me, they had no proof of any agreement and I had both the house and the money. They got the signatures and got it back to me the next morning and I got my signature witnessed and back to them right away.

I don’t think there was any bad intention with the crazy contract. My guess is that someone copied it from a very old document which required 10% down and then the rest on payments over time. A $20,000 peso penalty would have been very substantial in those days.

So this is where things stand right now. The current contract has a penalty of 20% if  either party decides to back out. I know I won’t change my mind, and I have to admit that I wouldn’t even be too upset if they backed out and I ended up with the house and 20% for my trouble. But that’s not going to happen. The closing date is December 16, five days after I get back from my trip to Chiapas.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Selling a House, Mexican Style

This post is nothing like I’d planned. I’ve taken lots of photos of my house and was planning to write an ad to try to sell it.  I expected that the house would sell fast because it is in a really good area and there just aren’t any other houses in this area for sale. My good friend owns a printing company, and they made me a big sign to hang on the front of the house. It very simply said “For Sale” in English and Spanish and included my phone number. I had a feeling that I could sell it without a realtor, just as I did my house in Portland before I came here.

The sign went up last Saturday, just after my last post. Within 30 minutes, I had a call requesting a showing. I continued getting daily calls, about half of them from realtors wanting me sign a contract with them. Everyone who saw the house loved it, but most said they needed to sell another house before they could buy this one. No, I was not willing to wait.

I received another call this last Saturday night. I was actually already in bed, but I’m an early to bed, early to rise kind of person. Normally, I wouldn’t have answered, but this time I did. It was a Spanish-speaking lady wanting to make an appointment to see the house on Sunday. I was glad I had answered.

Time in Mexico is kind of a relative thing, and a one o’clock appointment could end up being any time within the next few hours. I was surprised when my bell rang at exactly one. The young man named Jonathan told me his family was coming down the street and as we waited, he seemed to test my Spanish ability. I was surprised when ten adults and two children filed in my gate!

I got them all into the house and proceeded to give the tour. It seemed that the interested parties were the older couple, but I wasn’t sure. Sometimes parents buy houses for their kids. It was kind of strange.  I gave my whole shpiel in Spanish, and I don’t remember being asked a single question. I figured they didn’t like it for whatever reason and led the group back toward the front door.

As we returned to the front room, Jonathan sat down at the table with his cell phone in front of him. For a few minutes no one said anything, and then the older man stepped forward and asked Jonathan to figure out the exchange rate, since I was thinking in dollars and they were thinking in pesos. Jonathan told him what it was , and he turned to me and asked if I would accepted an amount 25% less. Without hesitating, I cut the difference in half, which was conveniently exactly what I thought I’d get. He hesitated for just a minute and then told me that they had some other property that they were selling - but this time, they already had a buyer. Honestly, I was confused. I wasn’t sure if they were agreeing to my price or not. He shook my hand, said something about talking about it, and led the family out the door. But Jonathan and the señora stayed behind. She asked if I would accept 10% down and close in 30 days. I finally turned to Jonathan to be sure I was understanding what she was saying. Yes! With lots of hand-shaking and many “gracias”s from both sides, They left, saying they would call me today.

I was still afraid to get my hopes too high. They could easily back out. I told a very few people because I still didn’t trust that it could be true. We aren’t even done with the touch-up work!

This afternoon, again about one o’clock, the señora returned with Jonathan and one of the young women. They asked me to show it to the young woman because she hadn’t seen much in the crowd. Then the señora asked if I would be willing to sign a private sale contract without a lawyer involved. (The buyers are responsible for costs here.) She asked for my bank account information so they can deposit the 10% in my account and bring me a receipt to prove that they had done so. (That is a very typical way of paying here.) Then we will sign the sales contract with witnesses.

My friends, both Mexican and American, are trying to watch out for my interests. The bartender at the American Legion next door says that I also have to call the bank to verify the deposit. The notario (who is also my lawyer) says he would like to review the contract before I sign just to be sure all is good. I will take their advice, but I honestly don’t think these precautions are necessary. I feel like I’m dealing with a family whose handshake on a deal is as good as a contract, just like I think. Today, the señora told me they are from Irapuato, in the state of Guanajuato. I told her that I love Guanajuato and she told me I have a home there. I told here that I have a small problem in that I have a tour booked for early December that leaves from here and if we close before that, it will make things a bit difficult for me. They offered to wait until January, but we settled on mid-December for the closing.

So it looks like I’ve sold my house and will soon be on my way to my new adventure. Since I have realized that my road trip will take place during the winter, I’ve made some changes in my plans. Winter in the highlands of Mexico can get pretty cold and it is probably not a good time for car camping. So I’m going to fly to Chetumal, just north of Belize on the Yucatán peninsula. From there, I will take my time (I’m thinking three months) traveling by bus around the states of Quintana Roo, Yucatán, Campeche, Tabasco and Veracruz - all those places that are too hot (and hurricane season) during the summer. I’ll save the car camping in the highlands for the summer when it is too hot and humid in Puerto Vallarta.

Until next week!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Has it really been three years since I last posted?

Yep! I guess I abandoned all my faithful readers a long time ago, and I am sorry about that, but I just kind of moved on to genealogy, became totally engrossed in that, started a new blog, and left you all behind. I’m sorry! Please forgive me. I think you will be happy you did.

I’m still here in Chapala, and life is still wonderful, but I have some serious changes coming! I’ve lived in Chapala for fifteen years - at least five years longer than I’ve ever lived in one place before. I’m ready for some changes, and I would be happy to bring you along with me.

I’ve decided that I’ve become too stuck in one place, so I’m ready to become unstuck. After all this time in a relatively small town (I think the population is about 22,000, but that might include the whole county), I think I would enjoy some place larger. I also want to move to a lower elevation where breathing comes easier to my asthmatic lungs. So I’ve decided to move to Puerto Vallarta. Sun, sand, the beach, and apartments with air conditioning for the very hot and humid summer.

I’m seriously downsizing my “stuff” so that I can easily lock the door and go or put it all in storage and take off for even longer trips. I’m planning to rent a furnished apartment close enough to the beach that I can take a walk along the malecón early each morning. There’s only one problem with that: by the time I sell my house, all of the best apartments will be rented to people who come down for the winter. But I’ve got a plan for that.

When I rudely left you three years ago, I had been carless for over three years, but I came to realize how much that limited my ability to head out on a road trip. The buses are wonderful here, and I used them a lot, but I kept getting bronchitis and realized that it was usually after long bus trips. So in December of 2016, I bought a Honda Fit. What a great little car! I love it!

Another big change since I wrote is that I became a Mexican citizen in April. Now I have dual citizenship with the US and Mexico. I guess I’m an American-Mexican, but that certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue like Mexican-American. (Yes, I know very well that Mexico is part of North America. I didn’t have anything to do with the common language usages, so please don’t hassle me about it.) During the year I was studying for the exams and jumping through government hoops, I told myself that I would celebrate becoming a citizen by traveling around Mexico, revisiting favorite places and discovering others that are new to me.

Since fall is the best time to sell a house down here (that’s when new retirees coming looking) but spring is the best time to find a good long-term apartment in Puerto Vallarta, I’m going to end up with a few months without a home. Don’t worry; I know there are a bazillion ways to solve that issue, but I’ve decided to solve it by taking that trip around Mexico that I’ve been looking forward to.

I don’t want to be tied down to a strict schedule and reservations, so my little Honda Fit is about to become a Car Camper. This way, I’ll be free to follow up on suggestions from other travelers and to change my plans at the last minute. When I get to the town I want to stay in, I will look for a hotel. But if I don’t find one, and there is no campground, no problem! I’ll just park next to the village plaza, climb into my comfy bed in the back, close my privacy curtains, and go to sleep.

I don’t know when all this will happen. I’ve shown my house four times, and three of the people say they love it and say they are working on figuring out the finances. It could go quick or it could take a while. My next post will be a blatant ad to try to sell the house. If you’re not interested, don’t read it. But wish me luck for a quick sale.

In the meantime, the sun is setting on my relationship with Chapala.