6 October, 2019

Back from the Europe trip and now off to México City and Puerto Vallarta! Thought I’d make a quick post about my experiences with the CBX (Cross Border Express) crossing between Tijuana and San Ysidro (San Diego).

CBX is the walkway between México and the USA. You need a ticket, which you can buy online here: https://www.crossborderxpress.com/

As a Méxican resident, when crossing from Tijuana into the USA, you will most likely NOT be required to complete an FMM tourist permit. Not only will you not be required to skip this process, you’ll be denied if you ask to. Yes, the Méxican government says that when leaving the country you need to fill out the FMM and retain the top part – which you turn back in when you return. NO, they won’t do it at this crossing. It scares the holy jicama out of me to not follow the regulations I know can result in my residency going poof, but this is what it is. The INM agent swore to me that no one would ask for the top portion on my way back – and he was right. I presented my residency card and my passport (which they stamped), and was asked a couple of questions (what were you doing, how long were you gone). Then I proceeded on my merry way and let out a big sigh of relief!

Also, when going from Tijuana to San Ysidro, you will need to take transportation to San Diego proper. There’s a shuttle company or two right before you exit the facilities on the USA side. They’re fairly reasonable. You can also call an Uber or a cab. I asked about buses and they said there weren’t any. So, if you’re doing the crossing to save airfare – factor in another $20-$30 each way, plus time waiting, plus the 20 minutes or so getting from San Ysidro to downtown San Diego. In the end, saving $50 in airfare might not be worth the trouble. Saving a couple hundred definitely would though!

Ok, I need to finish packing! México City for 11 days, then Puerto Vallarta for 7! I stay at the Lindo Mar in Puerto Vallarta – they have killer margaritas! The first one is always very tasty and doesn’t seem very strong. Same with the second one. I can’t tell you about any after that as the blackout happens and I wake up with vague recollections of the intervening time! Be sure to hit La Playita at the Lindo Mar when you visit Puerto Vallarta – and experience the margaritas for yourself!

Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

14 September, 2019

Adventures in Mazatlán: Today’s topic: Article 33.

Since I’ve been in the United States of America for the last two weeks, I’ve been sucked back into US politics. Thankfully medications keep my blood pressure in check as having to go through another election cycle would otherwise do me in.

Watching debates, listening to political commentary, just seeing the evening news has me thinking that I’m very thankful for the Constitution of México. Specifically Article 33. This is the one that says, in no uncertain words (when translated to English), “Foreigners may not in any way participate in the political affairs of the country.” It also defines who a foreigner is and what may happen to those who violates this article: ” Foreigners are those who do not possess the qualifications set forth in Article 30. They are entitled to the guarantees granted by Chapter I, Title I, of the present Constitution; but the Federal Executive shall have the exclusive power to compel any foreigner whose remaining he may deem inexpedient to abandon the national territory immediately and without the necessity of previous legal action. “

“Foreigners may not in any way participate in the political affairs of the country.” Not a whole lot of wiggle room here. Yet each and every year I will see posts from ex-pats and snowbirds asking people to sign some petition they’ve become enamored with. Or someone will give details of attending a political rally. Or they’ll discuss the merits of this candidate for mayor/governor/president. “Foreigners may not in any way participate in the political affairs of the country.” I really don’t want to jeopardize my residency because I like that a local candidate for office supports animal rights and I’ve been attending rallies. I really don’t want to jeopardize my residency because my street is too loud, and I circulated a petition to ask the mayor to deal with it. Do you? Do you really? And before you say otherwise, I’m certain many could provide a winning argument that a petition is a political instrument. And as a non-citizen of a country gracious enough to allow me to live here, why would I ever want to do something contrary to their most basic governing document?

I am not saying that México doesn’t have problems. I’m not saying that I’m not concerned, privately, about some issues. I’m also not saying that the President of México is going to eject me from the country because I signed a pro-spay/neuter petition. I am saying that until the day I’m a Méxican citizen, my mouth is shut and my hands are in my pockets. It’s a matter of respect for the laws of the country that provides me with a much happier existence than I’d have elsewhere.

An English version of the Constitution of México is available to read here: https://www.oas.org/juridico/mla/en/mex/en_mex-int-text-const.pdf

Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

13 September, 2019

Adventures in Mazatlán: Countdown to Europe and How to Travel Light episode!

Three days until the trip to Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, and Budapest! I booked my tickets through Brussels Airlines who are using Air Canada to get me from Boston to Paris (via Toronto). A little concerning in that I could see my reservation on Brussels Airlines website, but not on Air Canada. So I gave Air Canada a shout today and, after holding for 20 minutes, they gave me their record locator for my reservation. They also were nice enough to assign seats for me! Now I can see my reservation on both airlines, and don’t have to worry that I’m going to be in a middle seat between two sumo wrestlers!

Three days and I begin a journey that will take 24 hours, 14 of them in the air. I am definitely not looking forward to that many hours of sitting, but I have aisle seats on all flights, so I’ll have the opportunity to get up and move a little whenever I feel the need. I’m only traveling with a small backpack, and think I just might tie my Amtrak Comfort Kit to one of the backpack straps. It has a blow up pillow, earplugs, sleep mask, and a fuzzy blanket. The pillow is the selling point! If it doesn’t live up to Amtrak’s hype, I’ll leave it in the hostel in Paris.

Yes, staying in hostels. They let me keep the cost of travel & lodging under $1,500 for a five week trip from Mazatlán to Tijuana, San Diego, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Toronto, Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, Budapest, Paris, Zurich, Boston, San Diego, Tijuana, and back to Mazatlán. I only have concerns about Munich (I’ll be there, totally unplanned, during Oktoberfest) and Budapest (staying at the “Hive Party Hostel” on the advise of another traveler – my idea of ‘Party’ these days is saying yes to a second beer). Munich I’m probably locked into because of Oktoberfest, but I’ll grab a hotel room in a flash if the party hostel keeps me awake.

As I said, I’m traveling with just a small backpack (35 liters). If it weren’t for my daily medications it would have a lot of room left! So, here’s what I’m bringing and how I intend on maintaining during the duration of the trip. Two long sleeved shirts. Four short sleeved shirts. Three pair of socks. Two pair of underwear. One pair of flip-flops (for the hostel showers). One pair swim trunks for sleeping in. Two electrical outlet converters/adapters. One Olympus TG-4 travel camera. One multi-USB power center and some assorted USB cables. Travel sized hand sanitizer. Small bottle of water (which I need to remember to empty before going through airline checkpoints). Four folding clothes hangers. One TEPI portable hotspot for WiFi. One knee brace. A microfiber towel.  One travel money belt. One extra backpack, flattened into it’s small travel size. One Ipad and one Kindle. Meds and toiletries in a separate travel bag kept on top of everything in the backpack. One light knit jacket that I loop through one of the backpack straps if I’m not wearing it.

I’ll be wearing some of the clothes – as well as jeans and a pair of tennis shoes. The shirts, underwear, and socks are all made of nylon/rayon/polyester type materials that dry quickly. I’ll wear them into the shower every day, clean them then clean me, and hang them on the folding hangers to dry. Of course, everything hinges on my not spilling mustard on my jeans while I’m eating all variety of wurst in Munich!

I intend on emulating this food vlogger, at least while in Munich!

Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

7 September, 2019

Adventures in Mazatlán: Seattle Edition

Other than really good Asian food, I’ve discovered one thing about the United States that I miss – water pressure! And I even have an on-demand pump on my water line in Mazatlán! But here, my shower is crazy strong! I can spend 10 minutes in the shower and feel as clean as 25 back home in Mazatlán. Sigh. Sometimes it’s the little things 🙂

Tried to kill myself the other day doing yard work! The incursion of morning glory didn’t seem to care that I put down plastic tarps – it grew under them! I’m not allergic to poison ivy. I’m not allergic to poison oak. Morning glory gives me itchy hives, and I’ve discovered that more prolonged contact results in something that looks like burns. And it made me nauseous for a day. From now on it’s long sleeved shirts when going anywhere near morning glory!

It took a week to get my meds refilled, but I finally got them! Tried for 180 day refill, but they only gave me 90. I’ll take it though as I was *almost* out. I should have filled up before I left México. Live and learn!

We just had a quick thunderstorm. 30 minutes of thunder, lightning, and cold rain. I don’t miss the cold, and I finally understand why my Aunt who lived in Phoenix was always complaining she was cold! 72 during summer is NOT warm. I mean, how can you sit on the beach and have an enjoyable day? Oh, that’s right – that’s why I moved to Mazatlán!

I’ve gotten most of my chores, minus some yard work, done so tomorrow I’m treating myself to Chinese buffet. They have never ending mounds of shrimp available, and they let me practice my Mandarin on them without laughing! It’s a win-win!

A week from Monday is my flight to Boston connecting to Toronto connecting to Paris! I remembered to order the power adapters and some folding clothes hangers so I’m all ready to go! I just need to decide if I’m going to bring my dslr camera, or if I’m going to stick with my Olympus TG-4 (which I highly recommend – it’s water resistant and shock proof, and it takes very decent photos).

Fun, fun, fun!

Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

3 September, 2019

Adventures in Mazatlán, Road Trip Edition!

Took a plane from Mazatlán to Tijuana, where I walked across the border to San Diego.

The answer to the question is, NO. They would NOT give me a FMM to fill out when I left México. I asked. I gave them stern looks. I threatened to cry and stomp my feet. The customs guy swore to me that I will only need to show my passport and residency card when I come back into México using the same method. I’ll be sure to report back when that happens to tell if there were any bumps. I’m not a happy camper as I know that I am supposed to fill out an FMM, keeping the top part until I return. We’ll see.

Took a shuttle van to my hostel downtown, had some pretty good Indian food for dinner, got a little rest and then took the train to Los Angeles. From Los Angeles I rode the Coast Starlight to Seattle. Fun, and lots of great scenery – but it’s really hard on my tender little tushie! I need to find a comfy inflatable donut!

I’m seriously debating writing a full length novel about the staff and passengers on the Coast Starlight. Let’s just say that the following clip will not even come close to doing the cast and crew of the #14 Coast Starlight justice. It was truly an experience!

Took care of business today and got my car legal again (license tabs/insurance). Started the process of getting a hefty supply of my meds from the pharmacy. Did a little shopping so I’m not relying on the nice staff at Domino’s. Got Amazon to send me a couple of travel power converters, some folding clothes hangers, six pair of quick dry socks, and some extra memory cards for my camera. Filed for my Social Security benefits! They should start January 2020! Woo!

Tomorrow will be yard work. Thursday is adult beverages with friends, and then I’ll slow down and mentally prepare for the jaunt to Europe. I’ll be hitting Paris, Amsterdam, Munich (during Octoberfest), and Budapest – for two weeks. Travel and lodging arrangements have already been made, although the “Hive Party Hostel” in Budapest is scaring me. My “party” days ended in the early 1980’s! Lol! If it’s too much I’ll give in and spend a few bucks on a hotel.

And now you’re caught up on my adventures!

Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

22 August, 2019

Last night, from approximately 3:00 am until 3:30 am, tropical storm Ivo came through Mazatlán. In that half hour, three and a half inches of rain fell! Wind speed was almost 40 mph! Needless to say, there were a lot of streets underwater. Around 4:00 am the rain started again, but without intensity. Rain fell, off and on, until about 9:00 am today.

And that’s not to mention the lightning and thunder! Before the storm totally woke me up this morning, I thought “why am I seeing lights flash when my eyelids are closed?”! Then the thunder boomed, and I popped out of bed to open the curtains and watch the show!

I needed to venture out this morning to take my clothes to my lavandaria and had to wade through several intersections. One of the main drags, Miguel Alemán, was a river for several blocks. And I’m not exaggerating, the water was up over the sidewalks. Residents of several of the houses I passed were pushing water out of their homes.

The street I live on gradually slopes, and when the city repaved a couple of years ago, they didn’t pave all the way to the sidewalks, so there are ‘gutters’ the rain can travel down. When I looked out the window a little after 3:00 am, I couldn’t even see across the street, so I’m not sure the gutters were working, but my building and the section of street out front didn’t flood.

My property manager said her power was out, and she thinks she heard a transformer near her blow up during the storm. Hopefully she’s back up and running! Seattle has a storm like this, almost always at Thanksgiving. Winds blow, rain falls, it’s just not 75 degrees at 3:00 am, so there’s not much lightning and thunder. But it usually kicks the power grid’s ass, and leaves many in the proverbial dark for several hours.

Here’s an article and a “shock and awe” photo. Evidently there was a street that was severely flooded – mine were bad, but not that bad.

Tropical Storm Ivo Kisses Mazatlán
Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

20 August, 2019

Today I’m taking a more serious tone. Summer in the coastal towns of México are HOT. Hot AND Muggy. Today in Mazatlán it’s 92 f/33 c and the humidity is 71%. This is a dangerous combination if you don’t prepare yourself.

Today was also a cruise ship day. During my brief (yes, it got too hot even for me. I stopped when my fitbit said I’d walked my 10k steps) stint as a Mazatlán Tourist Aide Volunteer I saw several cruise ship passengers whose faces were bright red. After exiting the cruise ship terminal, tourists can elect to see Mazatlán a few different ways.

First, they can take a tour from a tour group. Big, air conditioned buses with tinted windows that drive them around the city and have someone who speaks English giving them history. Second, they can take a pulmonia (it’s like a fun golf cart) or a taxi, or an auriga, or a mini-van. Pulmonia’s hold about four people. Taxi’s might hold five. I’ve seen about ten people in an auriga (they’re red converted flatbed trucks). Mini-van’s hold about the same as an auriga, but they’re not open-air. Whichever of these are chosen, they normally provide the same kind of experience as the group tours – but are a little more personal. And they stop in the places the tour buses are too big to go. Third, they can walk. There’s a blue painted line from the cruise ship terminal that leads people into the historic section of town. It’s not a short walk if you aren’t used to walking.

And it was the latter group of cruise ship passengers that I saw having trouble today. HOT. Did I say it was HOT? The fifteen to twenty minute walk from the cruise ship terminal to Centro might seem a short time – but it can wipe you out in this heat. Please bring/buy a big bottle of water. One for each person. Stroll, don’t power walk. Sit in shade (yes, you can find it here) when you feel the need. Stop at a restaurant for a bite and something cold to drink so you can cool down. Scrap the walking idea and grab a pulmonia for a tour. Do whatever it takes to avoid heat exhaustion/heat stroke. Whatever it takes.

We actually had a couple, already sweating profusely (and no water bottles in sight), tell us they’d rather keep walking than spend six dollars to have a pulmonia drive them to their destination. Don’t be these people. Whether you’re playing tourist, or resident – be mindful of the weather and just don’t take chances with your health. We want your visit in Mazatlán to be memorable – because you fell in love with our city, not because you had a medical emergency here.

Please take a couple of minutes and read the article about heat exhaustion from the Mayo Clinic. They give symptoms and steps to take to prevent you from getting it. Being informed is the main step for never getting to the point where medical attention is needed. And when you’re in a coastal city in México, enjoy! But check the weather and plan accordingly.

Mazatlán Summers are HOT!
Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

19 August, 2019

Today’s topic: Gas!

Most of the houses/apartments here in Mazatlán use liquid propane gas. Either 30 liter cylinders or the bigger tanks that are usually located on the roof. Either variety will eventually run out, and not at a convenient time!

My apartment uses gas for my little hot water tank, which holds enough for a shower and about 5 minutes of washing dishes. I also have a gas stove. I’ve been fairly lucky in that my gas has run out during cooking and not in the middle of a shower! Even luckier, it’s been the stove top and not the oven – so I notice right away.

It would be convenient if there were a meter of some sort on the cylinder, but alas there is not. Some people do have a two tank setup so when one runs out the other kicks in. Neither I nor my neighbors are so lucky!

The predominant propane company in Mazatlán is Gaspasa. They have both the trucks that are loaded up with cylinders, and trucks with a giant hose they pull up to your roof if you have that large tank. Ordering is very straightforward, but they don’t speak any English. I start the conversation with “¡Buenas tardes! Mi Español is muy malo” (Good afternoon, my Spanish is very bad). Then I tell them “Necesito un cilindro de repuesto. Mi dirección es ____________” (I need a replacement cylinder. My address is ________). Of course, if you have a tank on your roof, don’t tell them you want a cylinder! They actually have my address pop up from the caller id, so giving it to them again confirms they have the right account. They will respond with the estimated time until delivery and the price. The price is usually printed on the side of the truck too – just in case you need a reminder! When they’re done, I tell them Gracias, and hang up. If you need to let them in at a door on the street, make sure you’re keeping a lookout for them at least 15 minutes before they told you the driver would arrive. I’ve found the estimates are very generous and they’re at my door pretty quickly.

Every time I get a receipt it has a different phone number on it. Today I called +52.669.981.05.05. The receipt they gave me has +52.669.980.10.10 (my cellphone has a different area code, and it makes me enter the +52.669 before it’ll let the call go through). If the first number doesn’t work, try the second! If neither work, walk over to a busy street and do some window shopping. When you see a Gaspasa truck coming, flag them down!

Oh – if your delivery person has to lug the tank a distance, or up flights of stairs, consider giving them a little propina (tip). I’m on the third floor and there is no elevator. It really does not look like they’re having fun when they’re carrying my tank to my apartment. Fifty (or more) pesos will get them a little lunch, and won’t break your piggy bank.

30 Liter Gas Cylinder
30 Liter Gas Cylinder

Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

14 August, 2019

I have a little gift to myself in my refrigerator!

Yesterday, after my Mazatlán Tourist Aide Volunteer shift, I stopped at Las Changueras (the Shrimp Ladies)! Un kilo (2.2 pounds) of shrimp, and I’m going to be a happy camper today!

Mazatlán says it’s the shrimp capital of the world (I think Thailand might have an edge, but since I live here I’m not going to bring that up). Surprisingly, there are a lot of places that can’t seem to cook shrimp properly. Today I’m going to give you a little lesson in the way to cook shrimp that will shock and amaze your friends and family!

First, shrimp and American cheese, no matter how assembled, or wrapped in bacon, or battered and fried, DO NOT GO TOGETHER. Don’t do it. Don’t encourage others to do it. It’s just wrong.

When buying shrimp you want to buy them with their shells on. I also buy them without the heads as they aren’t that much cheaper with them on. My sauce suffers for it, but it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. You also want fairly large shrimp. The 16/20 would be about the smallest to use. 16/20 means that there are between 16 and 20 shrimp to a pound.

Next you want to get your equipment ready. You will need a bowl large enough to completely submerge your shrimp in water. You’ll need one chopstick – of the pointed end variety. You’ll need one pot (with lid) large enough to hold the shells, one wooden spoon, a strainer, a cast iron skillet, and a small saute pan. You will also need a colander.

At the sink, you will want to turn your cold water on so that a very slow stream is running. Grab a shrimp in your left hand (assuming you’re right handed) and hold it by the tail. Peel the first two or three segments of shell away from the body at the point where the head was removed. Placing your thumb and forefinger at the point where the last of the meat is in the tail, squeeze hard. The shrimp should come clear of the shell. If it’s being stubborn, you can loosen the shell a little more. Place the shells into the pan.

Take the shrimp meat and lay it flat in your left hand, curling your fingers a little to secure it. With your right hand, push the chopstick all the way through the cavity in the shrimp where the digestive tract and innards are. You might have to poke around the shrimp to find the opening – but it’s there! Now, lift up on the chopstick, ripping through the thin layer of flesh at the top of the shrimp. Remove the digestive tract and any innards that may be there as well. Give the shrimp a rinse and toss into the colander. Rinse your hands. Repeat until you’re done.

See, that was easy! A little time consuming, but easy!

Now, add water about 1/2 way up the shells, cover, bring to a boil and then turn down and simmer. Every once in a while, stir the shells and mash them down with a wooden spoon. About 10 minutes after the shells have turned pink, remove the lid and strain the liquid into the saute pan. Throw away the shells. Place the saute pan on the stove, turn on high, and boil until you have about 4 Tablespoons of liquid left. You are going to add this to whatever sauce you make for your shrimp!

Now you want to prepare the shrimp. Rinse the shrimp and place in the bowl. Add enough water to amply cover the shrimp, then add a couple of Tablespoons of salt. Stir things up with your hand until the salt is dissolved. Cover and refrigerate between 1 and 2 hours. Remove from the fridge, drain, and rinse the shrimp in clean water several times to remove the salt. Lay the shrimp out on a baking sheet and pat dry, then return to the refrigerator (uncovered) for a couple of hours, until the shrimp have dried completely.

Melt two tablespoons of butter in the cast iron skillet over medium. Add a clove of minced garlic at this point if you desire. Place a layer of shrimp into the pan – don’t have more than a single layer of shrimp. When the bottom of the shrimp turns pink, wait 15 seconds, then flip the shrimp. When the shrimp are totally pink on the outside, but still just a tiny bit grey when looking at the place you removed the digestive tract, take them out of the skillet. They will continue cooking a little, and you’re going to add them to something hot (noodles, rice, sauce, …) which will make them cook a little too.

That’s it! Perfectly cooked shrimp. Plus you have a shrimp reduction to add to your sauce, and don’t forget the butter (and garlic?) from the skillet. These are great with noodles, in rice, as a stuffing for shrimp chili rellenos, on top of steak, added to some steamed broccoli and cauliflower – basically anything that isn’t a slice of American cheese!

And now that your tummy is happy, have a little dance with las changueras of Mazatlán!

Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment

8 August, 2019

Summer in Mazatlán is a little different this year. Rain usually comes at night, in torrents with spectacular thunder and lightning shows. This year it’s coming whenever it wants. Drizzle, light rain. Medium rain. An hour of torrent. Mix and match. Maybe thunder and lightning. Maybe not. And while it’s hot and humid, it’s been easier to tolerate than previous years. I miss the shows, but easier to tolerate I’ll take!

Ok, quick note on the upcoming travel plans. September will find me in Seattle for a couple of weeks. I’m flying to Tijuana and walking across the border. Staying in a hostel in San Diego, then taking the train to Los Angeles, where I’ll take the Coast Starlight to Seattle. I like the train, and haven’t had the opportunity to do the full run – am looking forward to the views on the Southern California coast!

After Seattle I’ll be flying to Paris, Amsterdam, Munich, and Budapest. Two weeks in Europe – my first visit! Somehow I timed it so I’ll be in Munich during Octoberfest! That hostel stay should be interesting!!! I plan on doing the hop-on-hop-off buses everywhere, but I did schedule several days in each location so I can wander and stuff myself full of good food!

Coming back, I’ll be spending a few days in Boston. I’ve been through Boston three or four times, but never had an opportunity to stop and smell the McDonald’s Lobster Rolls! Lots of USA history to experience, and I’ll appreciate a little slow down time before coming back home. Am flying to San Diego then doing the San Diego –> Tijuana thing, then flying into Mazatlán from Tijuana.

Two days after I get back to Mazatlán I’m off to México City for 11 days. I have to visit the Chinese Consulate to get a visa, and their website says it can take up to 4 business days. I’m allowing for problems 🙂 Plus I’ll get to eat some good food and see a few things I wasn’t able to see in June. From México City I’m going to my timeshare in Puerto Vallarta for a week. That’s going to be my relax and enjoy life time!

Oh, yeah. China. About a year ago I signed up on a airfare alert website called Secret Flying. They email me a recap of the day’s discounted fares every afternoon. That’s where I saw $288 (usd) round trip between Boston and Paris. They recently sent me one for $305 (usd) round trip between Los Angeles and Beijing. I couldn’t pass it up! So early in November I’ll be racking up some more frequent flyer miles and giving myself some travel bedsores with a 10 day trip to Beijing!

I really need to do some things at my house in Seattle, so I may just go up there after getting back from Beijing – but I have to be back in Mazatlán by January as my residency needs to be renewed.

And here I thought I’ve already been busy traveling!

Posted in Adventures | Leave a comment