Monday, December 20, 2010

Feliz Navidad!

Greetings from warm and sunny Mazatlan! Since my last post Rosi and I have basically fallen into the “groove” of day-to-day living down here. Nothing too exciting, just basically all the things we’d do at home. Which is why I haven’t been posting anything. No one really wants to read about shopping at the supermarket, getting our eye exams and buying new glasses and contacts or our 5 K walk each morning. Just know that we’re alive and well and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Brad is coming down on Friday to join us for Christmas, Patty and John will be here next Monday for New Years and Tami and Marilyn will be here at the end of January. We’re going to save some of the touristy stuff for when they’re all here so we may have a few things to share after that. As for now, we just want to send Christmas greetings to all our friends and family and wish everyone all the very best during the holidays Feliz Navidad

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Our hearts still belong to Mexico!

Hi Everyone
Greetings from Mazatlan!

I wish I could tell you tales about the ongoing drug war and how we bravely fought our way south through bandito infested badlands. Or how the "vibe" has changed in Mexico because of all the problems. Or even how crossing the border has become an issue of running a gauntlet of death and destruction............but I can't.

But don't think we weren't just as worried about all these things as some of our friends and family. We were! As a matter of fact, by the time we were close to Nogales we had pretty much convinced ourselves that we would cancel any plans to buy in Mexico and concentrate on some of the alternatives in the US: Phoenix, Palm Springs and others - all places with warm weather, no language barrier and best of all, HUGELY depreciated property values. Places where it's now possible to buy a nice townhouse or patio home in a gated community for less than $150,000.

But then we crossed into Mexico.

Prior to arriving in Nogales we corresponded with other Snowbirds we'd "met" on a discussion board specifically set up so people could convoy down together to mitigate the risk of road blocks and (insert whatever you fear the most at this point: carjacking, theft, murder, gang rape etc. ) The theory being that there's strength in numbers. So at 8:00 am we joined three other Snowbird couples at the Wal-Mart parking lot, two from BC and one from Ontario, them with motor homes and fifth wheels and us with our CR-V loaded to the gunwales, and we headed to the border.

The border is only five minutes from where we started and the first realization was that nothing much had changed. We expected guards, tanks and machine guns - or at the very least someone - anyone - with some sense of concern. Instead we drove though a checkpoint on the US side where smiling US border guards simply waved us through and on the Mexican side......nothing. No press the button for red light/green light, no stern guards with guns and fact no anything. One minute we were in the US and the next, Mexico. And because this time we used the truck crossing south of town rather than the main crossing we crossed over onto a ring road that by-passes Nogales on the Mexican side altogether so there's even less of the normal culture shock of crossing from the US into Mexico. So, Voila! We were in Mexico with no muss, no fuss, and even more important, no apparent changes.

Our second realization came within a few more minutes of driving south; driving in a convoy, especially a convoy made up of RV's, is a HUGE PIA if you're the one in a car. We stuck it out until we reached the customs and immigration checkpoint 20 klm south but when we got there we were the only ones apparently, that knew you could make all your arrangements in advance on-line through the Mexican govt website. Rosi and I were done in five minutes but everyone else was going to take at least an hour.

And that's when it hit us. We were "home". No anxiety, no more fear of death and destruction, and without even realizing it, were already more relaxed and upbeat than we'd been since leaving the house.

We also noticed something else.....Snow Birds - lots and lots Snow Birds! In the short time we were there, more and more motor homes, RV's and retires arrived and all stood in line for their paperwork (Have NONE of these people heard of the internet!?)

One couple though, behind us in the passport line, seemed to be just as “in the know” as us. We struck up a conversation and it turns out they’re a retired couple from Victoria driving down to their house in La Manzanilla, just outside of Barra de Navidad. They’re travelling with their 12 year old Husky/Shepherd mix, Jade, who looks exactly like the littlest Hobo. We ran into them again at dinner, when we both stopped at the same hotel for the night. We exchanged addresses etc and we would have invited them to overnight here in Mazatlan with us but because it was our first time renting here we weren’t sure what we’d find so we didn’t. But now we have our first Snow Bird friends so maybe next year!

We rationalized that if all of these Snow Birds(all of them older than us) are still coming down it must be fairly safe - and with the thought that there would now be people behind us to pick up the pieces so to speak, we ditched our convoy and headed out on our own.

And from there........there's not much to tell. How does one convey the absence of something? The absence of fear, the absence of......pretty much anything out of the ordinary? It was a normal, uneventful two-day drive on good Mexican divided highway, the last three hours or so of which was high-speed Autopista. We averaged 120 - 130 KPH, stayed one night in a great Best Western half way down and arrived unscathed at 2:00 on Tuesday.

We're now firmly ensconced in a nice townhouse in an area north of Mazatlan known as the Cerritos district. It's a new area under development approx 20 minutes from downtown, similar to Nuevo Vallarta in PV. We're in a large gated community with a mix of middle-class Mexican families and Mexican retirees, seasonal Snow Birds and a few permanent ex-Pats. Since arriving we've made a HUGE grocery run to a VERY modern Mexican grocery store - think Wal-Mart Supercentre except much more high-end - and today our mission is to buy a Mexican cell phone so we can stay in touch with friends and family back home. All pretty routine and pretty boring stuff so, unless there’s something new or exciting to report, this will be my last blog entry for a while.

As Ward said to us once, we're not on vacation, we live here. For the first time Rosi and I can say the same thing.

We're not sure what we'll decide vis-à-vis buying here vs. the US. All it would take is for the drug war, which still exists whether we sensed a change or not, to escalate and real estate here will be worthless, but we're certainly more open to the idea than a few days ago. As Johnny Depp would say, are you a Mexi-can, or a Mexi-can't? I've often said God seems to favour the brave, or the blissfully ignorant in our case, so don't be too surprised if we end up here after all.

Take care all
Adios Mi amigos Y Mi Familia