Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Peso

The Mexican Peso began 2015 at 14.74 on January 1st, and is currently at 17.25. If it ends the year there, the dollar will buy over 17% more pesos.

See Interactive chart here.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido

We have just returned to San Miguel from Christmas in Oaxaca. While there we heard about the great beaches in Puerto Escondido, but it was trip taking six to seven hours. The other night we met Robin and Donnie Crisp at Hecho and they raved about Puerto Escondido. It's great to read that the new highway being built will cut travel time to two hours, BUT it's behind schedule and out of money: From Mexico News Daily: When the Oaxaca governor met earlier this year with federal transportation officials and representatives of the construction firm ICA, there was optimism that two new super-highways were nearing completion.

But like previous pronouncements regarding the two massive projects, the optimism was overdone.

One of them is a 104-kilometer highway through the mountains that will provide a new link between the city of Oaxaca and the coastal city of Puerto Escondido. Construction began in 2010 and completion was slated for 2013.

That date was later amended to the end of 2014. Two months later, in February this year, Governor Gabino Cué said it would be operational by the end of 2015.

But last month, nine months after that promise, the highway was only 60% completed. The new completion date: the beginning of the third quarter of 2016.

Now, it turns out, ICA’s financial problems have thrown another wrench in the works. The state said on Saturday it was working with the federal Communications and Transportation Secretary to find the 700 million pesos needed to finish the road. ICA is no longer able to provide it.

Mexico’s largest construction company missed a US $31-million bond payment in late November and entered a 30-day grace period. Thirty days later, it defaulted.

The firm said it did so “to preserve liquidity, prioritize ongoing operations and fund projects currently under development.”

The second highway, linking Oaxaca city with the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, was reported to be 54% complete. It was scheduled to be operational during the first half of next year, but that date was amended last week to the third quarter of next year. However, there was no indication that it was facing a funding shortfall as well.

It, too, is a big project in difficult, mountainous terrain requiring 54 bridges, 11 viaducts and three tunnels over the course of the 169-kilometer route. The 9.3-billion-peso highway will reduce travel time between the state capital and the isthmus from four and a half hours to two.

While a third-quarter completion is still anticipated for the highway to the coast, that is now subject to coming up with the funds to finish it. And while the state said in November that it had resolved land ownership disputes with communities located on the route, it has said so before only to be faced with new ones.

Slated to cost 5.25 billion pesos, the highway will shorten the trip between the capital and Puerto Escondido from six or seven hours to just over two.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Artists San Miguel

A Peter Leventhal

What a wonderful day Bev and I had yesterday. First stop was Saturday Market, a teeming spot to sit with strong coffee and two great cinnamon rolls with rasas raisins. Bev and I sat down at a table in the shade that we shared with a very pretty young woman, a gringa. I commented to her that she had beautiful blue eyes. She traveled as Mary and she her destination would be the tip of Argentina. From there she hoped to catch a ride to Antartica. We enjoyed talking with her. She was 28 and had the same way of talking as my daughter Erica. She had traveled throughout Asia and now from San Miguel her goal was to walk, bus or travel by car...alone!

So much like Erica who traveled alone through eastern Europe.

We told her we were next going to the Aldea and the book fair put on by the Literary Sala. Mary asked if she could tag along. My gosh, we met people we knew outside the doors of the market, then another on the street on the way. Sheila met Mary and when she heard she was going to Columbia, raved about the not to be missed coffee plantations. Then when we walked into the room where books and art was being sold we met Marcia Loy and Steven. I introduced Mary to Marcia and said that Mary was headed to Antartica. Marcia had been there and enthused to Mary about the place. We introduced her to John Scherber and Kristine, and Lynda Schor. In the end, Mary siad the was headed next to Parque Jaurez to look at the art. We wished her a safe trip and silently said a prayer for her safety. She has more courage than I.

While at the Literary Sala I met Margaret Paul author of Conversations with Artists in San Miguel de Allende. More of her book later. I met Sher Davidson author of Under the Salvadoran Sun. She is a transported Oregonian, who lived on 30th between Siskiyou and Stanton. We lived on 32nd Ave between Brazee and Knott. I met Pat Hirschl author of Winter Bloom, who will be reading at the Literary Sala on Thursday Decembwer 10th. I met artist Susan Dorf who every other week has a cartoon in the Attencion. Finally, I bought two books from Lynda Schor and Bev bought a handmade bracelet from Kristine Scherber.

Christmas At Fabrica Aurora

Then it was on to the Art Walk at Fabrica Aurora. This is a wonderful event each month. You get to talk with the artists in their studios. There was Mary Rapp, at 90 still producing cutting edge art. Mary Calderoni was beautiful as always and she and Bev have a special bond. The were Crystalized every week. Crystal Calderoni led them through intense workouts. We spoke with Cecilia Rivera about her art. There were several that would fit in a home of our own. I had a wonderful chat with two men, partners for thirty years, who got married on July 3rd in New York, three years ago. After they were married, New York seemed to celebrate the next day with a massive display of fireworks.

A Peter Leventhal

Finally, I chatted with Peter Leventhal. I've been following the progress of a very large painting that he has been working on for more than three months. I would love to have it. He is a sweet man, suffering from Parkinsons. He talks so softly, I really have to concentrate to get all he says. I was looking online at Margaret Paul's Conversations with Artists in San Miguel de Allend and found that it has a chapter on Peter. It helped me understand Peter's influences, Raul Dufy. I would love to have something of his, too.

To top the evening Marsha, Darryl, Bev and I took a taxi to La Gratta for pizza and Esther, the owner, shook our hands and welcomed us to the best pizza in SMA.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel

A reviewer on TripAdvisor said, "You could spend an entire day just sitting at the Parroguia and watching. It is like a movie...people walking, people singing, burros with tequila, weddings, classes, dances, food carts, merchants, and oh the bells...the bells. I spent an entire day watching the Christmas tree bring built-it was amazing. AND oh the church. SMA I love you.

Friends of ours, Richard and Jerry, recently visited our city and we captured these images at the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel.

The Myth of Malintzin: Book Now in Spanish

Maybe, we are seeing history revised.

"In the collective conscience of the Mexican people the historical figure La Malinche has been forever associated with treason and servility, particularly in favor of foreign people or interests.

"The myth of Malinche — also known as Malintzin, Malinalli or Doña Mariana — has even given birth to the term malinchism, a pejorative term for a preference for all things foreign over one’s own culture, to the point of self-destruction in an attempt to fit in."

I first encountered malinchism when I told a few expats about a wonderful book about the origins of Mexico titled The Jade Steps.

I was immediately told that she was a traitor to her people and not to believe what I read.

Now, But Camilla Townsend, a professor of history at Rutgers University, paints a very different picture of this controversial character in her 2006 book, Malintzin’s Choices: An Indian Woman in the Conquest of Mexico. The book’s theories are now available to the broader Mexican population as a result of its recent translation into Spanish.

Townsend believes that the Indian woman who served as an interpreter for conquistador Hernán Cortés was an intelligent person with unmatched abilities to whom history has been unfair.

“History has been unfair to her, and with other protagonist women of the Conquest; they suffered greatly and did all they could to survive. In her case, the historical impression is that she betrayed her people, being fascinated by the outsiders, but that was not the case,” said Townsend.

The historian has dedicated her studies to relations between the indigenous people and Europeans throughout the Americas. Her publications have spanned Mexico, the Andean region and the Chesapeake. She is also an expert in Náhuatl, the Aztec language.

Aided by a vast bibliography — including original texts — Townsend exonerates Malinche of her historical guilt, describing instead a woman of extraordinary intelligence who, far from a betrayer, was a victim of the circumstances who became aware of her role and managed to survive. The writer even hints that Malinche could have been worried about the future of her conquered brothers and sisters.

Little is known of Malinche’s origins; even her real name has been lost to time. The author concluded that she was most likely born to a noble Nahua family in the border zone between the Aztec and Mayan empires, in the Coatzacoalcos region of Veracruz.

As a child, she was abducted and sold as a slave to Mayan lords in the ancient port of Xillacanco, in present-day Campeche. Taken to the nearby capital of Putunchán, she learned the Chontal language, adding this knowledge to that of her native Náhuatl.

When Cortés conquered the region, young Malinche was handed over to the Spanish along with 19 other young women.

Traveling with Cortés was Jerónimo de Aguilar, a Spaniard who had lived with natives in the Yucatán region for eight years after being shipwrecked. “Malinche initially worked with de Aguilar [translating from Náhuatl to Chontal while de Aguilar did so from Chontal to Spanish], but in a very short time, after about six months, she could manage without him; she had very quickly grasped the Spanish language,” relates Townsend.

The historian believes that Malinche’s is a doubly joyous story: she was favored by the circumstances, but she was also very skillful. “She was a slave, and through her experiences with different cultures she learned different languages. Frankly, many women were imprisoned and enslaved at that time, there were many potential ‘Malinches,’ but I must say that Malintzin definitely had more skills than anyone else.”

Marina, as she was baptized by the Spaniards, never felt remorse for aiding the Spanish conquer the Aztecs. Her resentment towards Moctezuma’s people was clear, and it was natural for her people to see the Aztecs as an enemy.

Malinche died sometime around 1529, after living for a decade among the Spanish and becoming Cortés mistress, giving birth to his first son.

Says Townsend: “After all that time, seeing the conditions in Mexico, I imagine she began to realize: ‘My God, millions of these people are coming, and we’re going to suffer.’ It wasn’t possible for her to know all this at the beginning, but I think it’s very unlikely that she didn’t realize what the future would bring.”

The two books are available on Amazon, The Jade Steps is a great read and considerably cheaper.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Bank of America Sees More Inflation in Mexico

ERIC MARTIN Bloomberg News, writes, "With Mexico's inflation rate plummeting to an almost 50-year low in October, bond traders have naturally set about slashing their cost-of-living expectations.

"To Bank of America Corp.'s Carlos Capistran, they've got it all wrong.
"The pace of consumer-price increases is poised to accelerate as growth picks up in Latin America's second-biggest economy and a weak peso drives up the cost of some imports, said Capistran, the most-accurate inflation forecaster among 23 economists surveyed by Bloomberg."

Either your numbers for inflation in Mexico are understated, as they are in the U.S. or something else is going on. The peso over the last seven years is down from 10 pesos to the dollar to almost seventeen to the dollar. Yet there is little inflation. Or the measurement of inflation is wrong and goods in Mexico have moved up sharply in the last seven years.

"He expects the rate to rise to 3.5 percent next year and 3.2 percent in 2017. That's well above the 2.6 percent inflation implied by a bond-market gauge known as the breakeven rate.The inflation expectations implied in the market in the short term are too low, possibly as a reaction of realized inflation so far this year," Capistran said from Mexico City. "Risks for inflation are tilted toward the upside." The inflation rate fell to 2.48 percent in October, the lowest since 1968, as sluggish growth, falling phone-service costs and lower gasoline-price increases outweighed the impact of the currency's 12 percent tumble this year.
"That's not likely to be the case next year as Mexico moves beyond the immediate impact of some legal changes, such as the end of connection fees for long-distance phone calls, Capistran said."

Mexico it seems to me is experiencing the same deflationary pressures as the rest of the world.

Also, some importers who buy products in dollars may raise prices after exhausting inventories that they bought when the peso was stronger, he said.
Bank of America recommends buying inflation-linked bonds due in 2046 and selling similar-maturity fixed-rate notes.
Yields on the linkers have plunged to a record low, leaving the difference with the fixed securities at 2.92 percentage points. That's too low, said Bank of America strategist Ezequiel Aguirre.
Mexico's economy will expand 2.5 percent in 2016, up from 2.3 percent this year, Capistran said.

The U.S. is on the brink of recession and will Mexico experience higher growth as the world's economy slides into the abyss?

He's not alone in predicting a spike in inflation. Bank of Nova Scotia's Mario Correa forecasts the pace of consumer price increases will accelerate to 4.6 percent in 2016 as the peso's weakness feeds through into the cost of living.
That's the highest rate forecast in a Bloomberg survey of 23 economists and would exceed the upper end of the central bank's inflation target range of 2 percent to 4 percent.
While Correa acknowledges that the peso's impact on consumer prices has weakened, he said it's still a factor.
Each 1 percent decline in the peso's value today fuels less than 0.05 percent of inflation, compared with about 0.5 percent 20 years ago, according to Bank of America.
"The currency pass through isn't dead, though it's less than in the past," Correa said from Mexico City. "Once people realize this exchange rate move is something more permanent, we're likely to see more of an impact on prices."

I'm not a big fan of experts who project today's trend into the future.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Saturday at the Organic Market

Saturday morning here in San Miguel is a time to wander down to the Saturday Market in the Instituto. We wandered down and bought two cinnamon rolls and a donut naranja orange and coffee. It is fun to watch the people, strike up conversations with expats and sometimes Mexican families.

There is usually free entertainment. This musician looked like he came in from the campo. He was the complete guitar player with harmonica.

A family sat down opposite us and Aphonso sat across from me. He is four almost five. He looks like he doesn't enjoy the music.

Next to us at another table was the cutest little girl with her daddy, who Bev said was a hunk.

Here are some other sights of Saturday Market.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

San Miguel de Allende - City of Culture, Cool and Progress

San Miguel de Allende is a city and municipality located in the far eastern part of the state of Guanajuato in central Mexico.

Malcome Harris writes at Huffington Post about his love for San Miguel:

A year ago, if someone had asked me to travel to Mexico for any reason other than a quick holistic trip to Tulum, I would have thought they had lost their ever-loving mind. You see I, like many Americans, had bought into the don't cross the border unless you want to be kidnapped, robbed or murdered rhetoric of the mainstream media as well as uninformed public opinion. It was as if someone had put all the bad news coming out of Mexico on some sort of subliminal, mind-altering loop and it had definitely worked. Then this pass Spring I was hit with one of those life altering and heart shattering experiences - my mother passed away.

Here's more

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Oil Hedging Could Mean $6-bn Windfall

Mexico’s oil hedging strategy could earn the country a hefty US $6-billion payout, according to an analysis by Bloomberg.

That strategy entailed locking in the price it received for oil during 2015 at $76.40 a barrel, while the average price so far, with fewer than two weeks remaining in the hedging contract, has been $46.61 per barrel.

The contract, which cost Mexico $773 million, covered 228 million barrels and runs from December 1, 2014 until the end of this month.

The strategy was effective in maximizing petroleum revenues. “This was a very good move from the risk-management perspective to lock in a higher price than they would have gotten just on a spot basis,” said Joydeep Mukherji of Standard & Poor’s in New York.

If Bloomberg’s analysis is correct, the payout would surpass the record $5.1 billion Mexico received in 2009 following the plunge in oil prices that year.

The $6 billion estimate does not include fees.

Mexico’s is one of few countries to carry out such a hedge.

Source: Bloomberg (en) -

Lower Propane Prices are Coming Soon

A propane tank may not be far off.
Lower propane prices are coming soon, according to a prediction by a gas distributors’ trade organization, due to new import rules that take effect January 1.
In Mexico, two significant changes are coming for LPG: the liberation of import restrictions in 2016 and the elimination of price controls the year after.

The first will see private companies being allowed to import gas themselves, rather than go through Pemex, the state oil company. At present, a firm such as Grupo Tomza, one of the larger transportation and distribution firms, buys its gas in the U.S. and transports it to Mexico, where it is purchased by Pemex, the only company allowed to import the product.
Tomza then buys it back from Pemex and sells to consumers. As of January, Tomza will be able to bypass Pemex, but gas prices will still be subject to regulation by authorities.
Then in 2017, supply and demand will dictate pricing.
Landeros said this week that although the international price for LPG was 4 pesos per kilo, Pemex was selling it to distributors for 9.2 pesos.
By the time it gets to the consumer, a 20-kilogram tank costs 280 pesos. However, Landeros predicts that price will drop to 200 pesos, a significant change in a country whose propane gas consumption for domestic use is said to be the highest in the world, used by 80% of the population.
Annual sales are worth an estimated US $8.5 billion.
Gas distributors expect consumption to rise further following the decline in price, perhaps reversing an upward trend in the use of wood and charcoal, which has risen in rural areas from 36 to 39%, said Landeros, with negative implications for health and the environment.
Although new pipelines are delivering natural gas to more of the country, there isn’t enough infrastructure in place for its household distribution in large urban areas, so propane enjoys widespread use. Residential customers represent 60% of consumption, followed by commercial consumers at 14%, automotive fuel at 10% and industrial at 9%.
The new import and pricing regime, a product of energy reforms, is not only expected to bring price reductions but it’s already changing the face of the highly fragmented gas distribution business.
The big players — four companies control about 40% of the market — are buying up the smaller ones, of which there are some 500. Money is also being invested in ships and private terminal facilities to bring more LPG into Mexico.
Source: El Economista (sp), Milenio (sp), The Oil & Gas Year (en)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Roof Dogs

Russell Monk is an editorial and commercial photographer. He writes at the NY Times:

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico — To wander among the working-class neighborhoods here is to think, at times, that the world is a cacophony of barking dogs. When the sun goes down, in the middle of the night and at first light, they bark. “How long can they keep it up?” I have often asked myself.

For the first few years I lived here, those sounds startled me. Now I find myself growing somewhat accustomed to them, inured, or maybe just plain resigned to their inescapable presence.

When I go to the local store, often accompanied by my lively little dog, Lola, we are often greeted by howling heads, thrust, jutted, skewed — peering down from rooftops, their bodies contorted, sometimes leaping in an almost comical abandon — or teeth bared and snarling, or at times crying aloft, like cartoon hounds. Meanwhile Lola darts to and fro, safe in the knowledge that if any danger exists, it is usually at least one or two stories above.

These roof dogs spend much of their lives up there, surveying their territory from an advantageous perch. But great as the views are and as much as their height adds to their sense of superiority, they are not there by choice. My friend and neighbor Pedro Moncada says the dogs are a kind of early warning system, a rooftop alarm. But that’s not all: He believes that dogs somehow know things we don’t. If someone nearby is going to die soon, he said, they bark throughout the night.

A local ironworker scoffed at the very thought and between hammer blows, he huffed that they were just there as a scare tactic. Either that or their owners were lazy, or just didn’t have room in their cramped quarters.

Pedro says that he has three dogs, but that doesn’t mean he understands their minds.

“All I am certain of,” he said, “is that dogs are very mysterious.”

American retirees flock to Mexican shore in Baja looking for living and financial ease

Despite what many Americans may believe about the dangers of Mexico, there are a few “brave” souls who would argue that the Mexico they know is not only safe, but safer than the U.S., and has maintained the core values America lost years ago.

Thousands of Americans annually retire to various Mexican cities, making up a good chunk of the estimated 1 million U.S. citizens that call Mexico home.

Pam Salzman and her husband Brian retired 12 years ago. They say they were vacationing in Mexico so much that at one point they decided to try living there full-time and see how it felt.

In 2013 the Salzmans sold their house in Alpine, a rural neighborhood in the San Diego County of California, and promptly plunked down $500k in cash for a 3,700 square foot oceanfront property and never looked back.

Read more at FoxNews Latino

Friday, November 13, 2015

Economic Power In Latin America Shifting From Brazil To Mexico

Over the last year three key factors have weighed heavily on Latin American economies: The end of the U.S. Fed’s quantitative easing, which has brought about less favorable international funding conditions; the decline in commodity prices, which has depressed LatAm export revenues, and the Chinese economic slowdown, which also has hit commodity-exporting countries in the region. As a result, economic growth this year has been a huge disappointment. In January, the consensus forecast was for GDP growth of about 3%, but now expectations have fallen dramatically to a 0.4% contraction.

The impact of the shocks, though, has been uneven across the region, reflecting very different economic fundamentals in each country. Brazil, the biggest economy in the region, is the standout disaster area, suffering its worst recession in 25 years. This alone has been responsible for most of the sharp deterioration in growth expectations for LatAm as a whole. The list of problems in Brazil is daunting: Interest rates have rocketed in the face of high inflation; confidence has been depressed by corruption scandals; and the public finances are a mess. As a result, the labor market has fallen apart. Ultimately, these problems are the self-inflicted consequences of President Rousseff’s inappropriate populist policies, state interventionism, and a lack of real structural and fiscal reform. No one should have been surprised when Brazilian debt was downgraded to junk status in September by Standard and Poors, while the currency, the real, has lost about 30% this year against the dollar.

As a result of the appalling situation in Brazil, economic power in the region has shifted rapidly to Mexico, the second biggest economy in LatAm. Mexico’s growth has been hampered by the crash in oil prices but the economy is growing, by around 2% year-over-year, and the economic outlook is positive. Solid domestic economic fundamentals, and my expectation of a resilient and improving U.S. economy over the next year, should help push Mexican growth towards 2.5%.

Read more at Forbes

Friday, October 23, 2015

Marcia Loy, Long-Time Cubs Fan

Our condolences go out to Marcia Loy, friend here in San Miguel and member of our Writer's Group AND life long CUBS FAN. Yes they missed the World Series again, this time in four straight games to the Mets. Marcia however was resplendent in her Chicago fan jacket. Wait until next year.

Marcia swears she will not leave this earthly realm until the CUBS win the World Series.

Hurricane Patricia Now Category 5

Dr. Jeff Masters at the Weather Underground reports, "History is being made tonight in the Northwest Pacific as Hurricane Patricia churns about 200 miles off the coast of Mexico, south-southwest of Manzanillo. With its 11 pm EDT Thursday advisory, the National Hurricane Center upgraded Patricia to Category 5, with top sustained winds of 160 mph and a central pressure of 924 millibars. Hurricane warnings are now in effect for the coast from San Blas to Punta San Telmo, including Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo, with a hurricane watch and tropical storm warning eastward to Lazaro Cardenas.

"Patricia’s rate of strengthening since Wednesday has been truly remarkable. In a mere 36 hours, Patricia’s official NHC rating went from minimal tropical storm (40 mph) to Category 5 hurricane--among the most rapid intensification rates one might expect in a hurricane anywhere."

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Hurricane Patricia Comes Ashore late Friday

Turbo-charged Hurricane Patricia is on track to deliver a devastating one-two punch: landfall as a major hurricane on Mexico's Pacific coast, followed by the storm feeding an extreme rainfall event in parts in Texas. Drawing on near record-warm sea-surface temperatures of 30.5°C or 87°F (1-2°C above average), Patricia is also taking advantage of very light wind shear (5 - 10 knots) and rich atmospheric moisture (greater than 70% relative humidity). Within a span of just 27 hours, from 15Z Thursday to 18Z Friday, Patricia metamorphosed from a minimal tropical storm (top sustained winds of 40 mph) to a Category 4 hurricane (130 mph). This puts Patricia among the top rapid intensifiers in the modern record of hurricane monitoring. Stepped Frequency Microwave Radiometer (SFMR) data collected from aboard a NOAA Hurricane Hunter reconnaissance flight confirmed a peak wind of 114 knots (131 mph) on Thursday afternoon near 1:30 pm EDT.

Mexico's Popocatepetl Volcano Puts on Spectacular Show

Friday, October 16, 2015

Two San Miguel Artists

Two writers with connections to San Miguel de Allende have made news recently. Kaylie Jones received a book review by Sheridan Sansegund titled A fast-paced thriller set in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico: “The Anger Meridian” by Kaylie Jones,  Akashic Books, $15.95

The police, are there at her door to tell her that her husband has been killed in a car crash, together with a young woman, while engaged in activity best avoided while driving at high speed and drunk.

Not only was her unlamented husband abusive but it gradually emerges that he was up to his crooked neck in financial shenanigans that are going to bring panicked business partners, vicious money launderers, and the F.B.I. down on Merryn’s neck like a ton of very angry bricks.

Her only concern is to protect her bright but physically fragile 9-year-old daughter, Tenney, from the ensuing scandal. The only safe place she can think of is her mother’s house in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and within the hour they are on the road (and, yes, this is going to look suspicious to the F.B.I.) driving to Mexico.

The second mention is an interview about ‘House on Mango Street’ author Sandra Cisneros traces her life through places she's lived By Bryan Llenas, Bill VourvouliasPublished.

Cisneros, who in recent years moved from her longtime home in San Antonio to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico, has also authored the critically-acclaimed novel “Caramelo” (2002), collections of short stories, poetry books, children’s literature and now her memoir, which is composed of a series of essays that she wrote for different newspapers and other publications over the years.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Expat or Immigrant

Joy Diaz at writes, "The question of how Americans define friends living in foreign lands – and how Americans define people who’ve migrated to the U.S. – has been on Sheila Croucher's mind for the last decade or so. She teaches Global and Intercultural Studies at Miami University of Ohio, and says a word as seemingly straightforward as "immigrant" is anything but.

"I think it absolutely is politically charged, and I think it is racially charged,” Croucher says. “I think it is charged in a number of ways."

In 2006 Croucher went to the colonial city of San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico, to study a large community of Americans living there. She noticed something interesting: No matter what their legal status, none of them called themselves immigrants.

"When I would push on the issue of terminology I would be told 'look, I'm just an American living in Mexico,'” she says.

"I don't refer to myself as an immigrant,” Russell Henson says.

Henson lives in San Miguel – the city Croucher studied years ago. He’s a retired engineer and pilot who now teaches aviation in Mexico.

"We are called temporary residents on our immigration status, but socially we identify with our tribe,” he explains.

They identify with other Americans living abroad, who call themselves ex-pats, or expatriates. Professor Croucher says the term ex-pats could carry a negative connotation – as in ‘renouncing one's country’ – but it rarely does. On the contrary, the term often carries a certain cachè, and it's mostly used by Americans and Europeans living abroad.

"There have been some recent studies, and I think an interesting article in the Guardian within the past year or so about why the Brits in Southern Spain get to be ex-pats, when everybody else going in the other direction are immigrants,” she says.

It may be because immigrants are often thought of as people who leave their homeland for economic reasons. But it clearly isn’t that simple, since most of the Americans she studied in San Miguel fit that profile.

"They were absolutely moving for economic reasons and motivated by economic concerns, whether it was declining pensions in the United States or the rising cost of health care," Croucher says. "I think it would be politically interesting as a move for Mexican immigrants to say, 'OK, I'm an ex-pat too' and vice versa. I think it would be an important political move for the increasing number of Americans and Canadians living abroad to start calling themselves immigrants."

More American civilians now live abroad than ever before. Census data from host countries puts that number at around eight million.

At the same time, patterns of migration into the United States are shifting. In the last 5 years, fewer arrivals say they have come for financial reasons. The Pew Research Center says almost half are highly educated.

Juan Wah is one of them. He's a marketing expert from Mexico. His father is Chinese, and his mother Mexican. He was educated in the U.S. and once lived in Germany. Now, he lives in Texas.

So how does he identify himself?

"I don't know, it depends on who is asking," Wah says. "But sometimes I just describe myself as a 'foodie' or 'a happy person.' I don't think customs will take foodie. I don't think there's a box for foodie yet!"

Croucher believes the terminology is likely to change because millennials like Wah are the most racially diverse, gender non-conforming generation so far – and their identities often don’t fit into neat little checkboxes on official forms.

For them, "immigrants" and "ex-pats" are just people.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Pueblos Mágicos List Gets 28 New Additions

In May I wrote a post about Pueblos Magicos.

Sayulita, Nayarit: magic town. OLDVALLARTA.COM

Mexico News Daily reports, "One hundred and eighty Mexican towns were vying to be part of the magic at a tourism fair this week in Puebla, but only 28 made the grade.

"That’s how many towns were officially added to the list of Pueblos Mágicos, or “Magic Towns,” a designation reserved for cities, towns and villages with special symbolic features, legends and history, and opportunities in tourism."

The additions to "Magic Towns" are Atlixco and Huauchinango in Puebla; Huautla de Jiménez, Mazunte, San Pablo Villa Mitla and San Pedro y San Pablo in Oaxaca; Isla Mujeres and Tulum, Quintana Roo; San José de Casas, Aguascalientes; Candela and Guerrero, Coahuila; Aculco, Ixtapa de la Sal, Teotihuacán, San Martín de las Pirámides and Villa de Carbón in the State of México; Tecozahutla in Hidalgo; Mascota and Talpa de Allende, Jalisco; Sayulita, Nayarit; Linares, Nuevo León; San Joaquín, Querétaro; Mocorito, Sinaloa; Tlaxco, Tlaxcala; Palenque, Chiapas; and Coscomatepec, Orizaba and Zozocolco in Veracruz.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Avoid mosquito bites with nim tree seeds

Mexico News Daily reports Health authorities say the best way to avoid either dengue or chikungunya is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes. Now, just as both viruses are being widely reported in Mexico, along comes a new repellent.

Developed by researchers at the Academic Department of Zoology at the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur (UABCS), the repellent’s formula is derived from the nim tree and can be prepared simply and cheaply at home.

Research leader Ramón Cepeda Palacios and his team carried out a double-blind test – giving six volunteers the real repellent or a placebo – in a mosquito-infested area. The test found that 80% of bites sustained by the volunteers were on those who had not used a lotion made from the tree.

Cepeda Palacios said the research was intended to devise a treatment to neutralize the disease-carrying bite of infected mosquitoes. Currently there exist around 100 supposed remedies, consisting of ingredients as diverse as cloves, garlic and tobacco.

Researchers at the university took advantage of a locally growing resource – the abundant nim tree – whose flowers and fruit they used to make a lotion.

Cepeda Palacios said the tree flowers in June when mosquitoes are at their most numerous. Its fruit matures in August and September, which coincides with the rainy season. Again this is ideal timing, as more mosquito bites and higher reproduction of female adult insects are recorded during this period.

But the principal ingredients of the repellent can also be obtained from the seeds alone.

“To prepare 250 milliliters of lotion all that is needed are 20 grams of nim tree seeds [about 100], 250 milliliters of 70% alcohol solution and a wide-mouthed bottle measuring 350 milliliters,” said Cepeda Palacios. “Grind or crush the seeds using a mortar and pestle or blender, then put them in the bottle along with the alcohol and shake the mixture every three hours for a day to macerate.

“Leave this to stand for another half-day before separating the seeds and liquid, pouring the latter into an atomizer [used for sprays such as perfume], or simply another clean bottle. This lotion can then be used from the next day onwards.”

Cepeda Palacios added that the lotion should be applied every three to four hours, particularly on the legs, arms and neck. “One 250-milliliter bottle should be enough to last a small family one week,” he said.

The lotion will last up to 10 months after preparation if kept in the bottle.

Products from the nim tree have been used for medicinal purposes in India for many centuries.

San Miguel de Allende's got charm

No beaches? No problem says Alice Diamond, in the San Diego Reader.

With no beach, no stoplights, and not even an airport, one might be surprised that San Miguel de Allende has been a magnet for Americans for decades. This strikingly beautiful and history-rich 16th- century town in the mountains of central Mexico got on the tourist and artist circuit soon after World War II as one of the few places outside of the U.S. where returning veterans could use their G.I. benefits to study art. No beaches? No problem says Alice Diamond, in the San Diego Reader.

Read more here

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Expats in Mexico: Full-Time Dream Vacation

Deborah Charnes writes about expats in Chron

Bill Clinton recently said: “Between 2010 and 2014, there was no net in-migration from Mexico.” In fact, in the five years prior, more people moved from the States to Mexico than the reverse.*

Given the way immigration is covered in the media, this may be a shocker. Not for me. My thrifty depression-era father talked about retiring in Guadalajara. I’ve long considered Mexico my segunda patria, and have considered making the land of Tenochtitlan my home.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Zapotec culture under threat in Oaxaca

Mexico News Daily has an article about the Zapotec culture near Oaxaca.

Gutiérrez and loom: preserving the culture.

A weaver in Oaxaca has been selected by a Smithsonian Institution program for an award he hopes will support efforts to preserve Zapotec culture.

Porfirio Gutiérrez of Teotitlán del Valle, a village famous for the artisanal production of textiles, was one of the winning candidates for the 2016 Artist Leadership Program administered by the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI).

Gutiérrez and his family are descendants of generations of Zapotec weavers who have made the village synonymous with fine weaving. As many as 70% of the residents of the town, whose population is about 5,000, are engaged in some facet of textile art.

But a multi-year decline in tourism — Teotitlán is just 30 kilometers from the city of Oaxaca, which has been slowly regaining its reputation as a safe place to visit — has been hard on the weavers, who have suffered a severe reduction in income.

Other changes, too, threaten not only the tradition of weaving but the Zapotec culture. “In our town,” says Gutiérrez, “other components of our Zapotec legacy are about to vanish forever.

“My parents speak Zapoteco, my siblings and I speak Zapoteco and Spanish, but our children speak mostly Spanish.” And the same goes for their art.

Gutiérrez’ parents spin, dye and weave, and while he and his siblings have those skills to some degree, most have had to find outside work in other fields in order to survive.

It was his concern over the potential loss of the art form that Gutiérrez approached the National Museum of the American Indian with a project in mind.

“The youth in our village may never know the arts of their ancestors unless they are shown by the remaining masters who are still practicing our ancient techniques,” he says.

So he proposed bringing together experts and interested individuals in the village for a workshop on traditional dyes, whose use has been declining as more weavers opt for the speed and simplicity of the chemical variety.

The NMAI agreed and will fund a four-day training program in which students will learn about the plants from which the dyes come and how to make them.

The museum will also produce a video to follow the dye-making process as well as offer a glimpse of life in Oaxaca.

Gutiérrez sees the program as an important step in sustaining Zapotec culture and a traditional art form. We hope to visit Teotitlán when we visit the area around Christmas time.

If you love unspoiled Mexico, meet Nayarit

"Almost everyone has heard of Puerto Vallarta," IRENE MIDDLEMAN THOMAS said, "the long-popular Mexican vacation destination in Jalisco that draws droves of vacationers from the United States and Canada each year (along with many who have moved there permanently.) But there is much more to explore and enjoy outside of the beautiful city in the heart of the sparkling Bay of Banderas."

This region is full of dense jungle foliage — where towering ferns, palms and vines join together in jumbles of tumbling bougainvillea and hibiscus surrounding azure Pacific waters. The dense mountains loom behind at various angles, making for landscapes Gauguin would have loved to paint.

We’ve visited numerous times, and we never run out of new places to see.

From the Puerto Vallarta Los Muertos beach pier to Yelapa, an itsy-bitsy pedestrian-only village hugging the rocky coast at the southern tip of the bay.

Somewhat reminiscent of an Italian fishing village, Yelapa has a rather weird melange of bohemian Yanks, Canadians and Europeans, some living in lavish villas, others residing in humble abodes alongside the friendly locals.

Just 10 minutes north of the international airport, we entered the state of Nayarit.

Never heard of it? Mexico’s 10th smallest state (out of 31), is a diverse destination that attracts birdwatchers, wildlife enthusiasts and those seeking a taste of the authentic, unsullied-by-tourism Mexico.

On our weeklong visit, we traveled through a scenic green countryside with rolling hills, enjoying endless views of sugar cane fields with fronds blowing in the breeze; mango, banana, and papaya orchards; and tobacco farms.

Read more of  Thomas's travel near Puerto Vallarta here.

Monday, September 14, 2015


An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 struck the Gulf of California early Sunday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The temblor struck at 1:14 a.m. and had a depth of 6 miles. The epicenter was 37 miles south-southwest of Topolobampo, Mexico, and it was preceded by two other earthquakes of magnitude 4.9 and 5.3. Mexico's national coordinator of civil protection, Luis Felipe Puente, sent a tweet saying that there were no immediate reports of damage in Sinaloa state, where Los Mochis lies, or in Baja California Sur on the other side of the gulf.

Mexico, which lies on three tectonic plates, is one of the world's most seismically active regions.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Peso at Record Low, Growth Forecast Cut

Mexico News Daily reported "The peso plunged today to a record low of 17.28 to the dollar to crown a week of dismal news, including another reduction in the growth forecast for this year, lower industrial output, sliding oil prices and worries about U.S. interest rates, China and Greece.

The Finance Secretariat yesterday reduced its forecast for growth this year to 2% to 2.8%, down from May’s figures of 2.2% to 3.2%. The Bank of Mexico lowered its forecast last week to 1.7% to 2.5%.

The Mexican economy expanded by 0.5% in the second quarter, which was just above expectations. But industrial output was flat, another cause for concern, as exports to the U.S. were uneven and oil production continued to drop.

Those two factors are weighing on the economy, said Undersecretary of Finance Fernando Aportela. And Deutsche Bank economist Alexis Milo said industrial output “remains the main concern for growth.”

If there was any good news it was in the 0.9% expansion in the second quarter of the service sector, the strongest in a year.

Source: Reuters (en), Bloomberg (en)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Mexican Peso Hits Lowest Level Against the US Dollar

A news story from ABCNews:

The Mexican peso has hit its lowest level ever against the dollar Wednesday, trading an average of 16.52 16.76 on the interbank market, the Bank of Mexico said.

The decline, the latest in a string of new lows this year, is due to pressure from falling oil prices and an anticipated interest rate hike in the U.S., MetAnalisis consultant Gerardo Copca told The Associated Press. He said it also was influenced by the poor performance of China's economy, which puts pressure on the exchange market.

The peso has seen a big fall this year despite efforts by the Central Bank to prop it up by auctioning dollars on the exchange market. The bank auctioned $233 million Wednesday, but it did not stop the currency from hitting the new low.

MetAnalisis statistics say the peso has depreciated 12 percent 13.6 percent in 2015.

Copca said a rise in U.S. interest rates creates a demand for dollars in the Mexican market to be shipped north, strengthening the price against the local currency. He said it's difficult to predict, but the peso "could continue to depreciate."

Bank of Mexico Gov. Agustin Carstens, in a column in the newspaper Reforma on Sunday, said the causes for the record drop are global and external to Mexico, with the dollar strengthening against currencies in both advanced and emerging countries.

"Our country is not among those hardest hit," he said, adding that despite the currency devaluation, Mexico is seeing low inflation and interest rates. He said the drop will be offset by financial stability and steady economic growth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Who Stole Our License Plate???

By Beverly Landfair

The Clampett Mobile

After returning from a great treat of an afternoon at Rancho Zandunga to hear Gil Gutierrez and Pedro Cartas entertain us with music, drink and food, Michael found a close parking place on our street, Calle Umaran.  Sometimes, parking can be very tight here on the week-ends and we felt fortunate to nab a good spot.  

Upon pouring our first cup of coffee the next morning, a neighbor guy knocked on our door handing us a traffic ticket.  What???  Apparently, that great park job was in front of a garage door on the opposite side of the street and is a big no-no to block here in Centro San Miguel.  In addition to the ticket, the Policia took our back license plate.  After marching down to the Municipal Building on the Jardin and plunking down our $171. Pesos, they gleefully returned our back license plate.

Lesson learned.  Maybe the United States of America should take a tip from San Miguel.  It sure would be easy to spot the slackers who did not pay their fine. 

Life is never boring here in San Miguel.

Nagasaki Survivor Lives in San Miguel de Allende

Interesting story in the Japan Times:

Yasuaki Yamashita moved to Mexico nearly half a century ago to try to forget about his exposure to atomic-bomb radiation, but for the past 20 years he has been speaking publicly there about his experiences.

Yamashita was 6 years old and was at his home in Nagasaki when the atomic bomb was dropped on Aug. 9, 1945, reducing much of the city to dust.

His father began to help recovering bodies the following day, but about a month later he became half paralyzed and fell into coma. He died of a brain hemorrhage a decade later, having never regained consciousness.

The family struggled in poverty. To help support them, one of Yamashita’s older sisters got a job at the prefectural office after graduating from a junior high school. She delayed her marriage to enable Yamashita to go to high school.

He graduated from high school and repeatedly changed jobs over the next three years while experiencing recurrent anemia.

When he was about 20 and working as a clerk at the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital, an atomic-bomb survivor of the same age who was a patient there suddenly developed small spots all over his body and died the following day.

Yamashita recalled it was at that time that he became painfully aware that he was an atomic bomb victim himself, and feared a similar fate.

“Being afraid of the prejudice and discrimination (against hibakusha) I had seen and heard, I wanted to get out of Japan (and travel) to a new place,” Yamashita, 76, said in an interview in New York.

He became interested in Mexico, learned Spanish and left for the country in 1968 after landing a job related to the year’s Summer Olympics in Mexico City. After that event, he stayed in the country with the support of local friends, working as an interpreter or translator for Japanese companies and other clients there.

In 1995, at a time of international protests over a French nuclear test, Yamashita received a phone call from a Mexican university student who wished to hear about his experiences as an atomic-bomb survivor.

He turned down the request but the student persisted, and Yamashita eventually agreed to speak publicly about his experiences for the first time at the age of 56.

“I felt relieved because the students listened to me attentively, and I found it necessary to talk to more people about my experiences.”

Yamashita has continued relating his experience ever since then, in the hopes that he can contribute to ridding the world of nuclear weapons.

“I’m hoping so, having been healed myself by talking about my experiences,” said Yamashita, who now lives in San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Joyous Evening in SMA


What a night. Last night we dined with the Waddy-Wares at El Correo. Good Guac, margs and lemonada mineral and enchiladas. On the way home, we walked in the setting sun. It was warm and a little windy. Coming down Umaran, I spotted a man with a yellow lab on a leash. The lab had a beautiful face. I stopped to take her picture. Poe was her name and just a sweetheart and loved the attention. She is nine and owned since birth by artist Joaquin Pineiro. He offered me his card and I laughed. He explained, in so many words, how he was devoted to his dog and provided a service. His card shows a painting of his dog Poe.

I laughed at his humor and vowed to visit his gallery Joaquin Pineiro at 20 de Enero 110B, Col. San Antonio.

In the Jardin, the giant lady bowed to tickled children, families spent time with their children, lovers stood in the enwrapped in arms, tourists snapped selfies and group photos all in the evening light while the mariachis played their music. It just puts a smile on my face.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

An Aging Population With Limited Services

Seniors: greater numbers, greater needs. HORA CERO
The U.S. isn't the only country with an aging Boomer population. Mexico, pointed out by Mexico News Daily, has an aging population of Boomer's. "Twenty-five years ago there were 5,536,866 seniors in Mexico and today it is estimated there are more than 12 million. By 2030 there could be as many as 20 million."

Yet there are not the support services for this group in Mexico. Read more here.

Sunday, August 9, 2015


Astrid Galvan of the AP, reports, "The cost of dental care has surged in the last two decades in the U.S.and continues to increase at a rate of 5 percent annually. Many dental plans have high deductibles and don't offer extensive coverage. Many people opt out.

"... many are seeking cheaper care in places like Los Algodones, where Mexican dentists who speak English and sometimes accept U.S. insurance offer rock-bottom prices for everything from a cleaning to implants. Dentists in Los Algodones say a large portion of their clients are seniors.

"Mexico has lower costs because of cheaper labor and fewer regulatory requirements. Residents in border towns like El Paso, Texas and Nogales, Sonora, often make the short drive to the Mexican side for basic medical needs and prescription medications that are much costlier in the U.S. Some businesses even offer shuttle services from the Phoenix area to Los Algodones, a nearly 200-mile ride.:

Read more here

3 Mexican authors for a summer reading list

Latin American authors are often absent from suggested English-language reading lists, wrote Maria Sanchez Diez for Quartz June 28, despite a demographic shift that has been taking place in the United States for many years. For Mexico News Daily readers who might enjoy reading the work of the new generation of Mexican authors, here are the three Mexican writers from the Quartz list and some recommended reading.

First up is Yuri Herrera, whose Signs Preceding the End of the World is described as a breathtaking novel that tells of the mission of a young girl sent to track down and rescue her brother, who has disappeared in the U.S. “Makina’s character encapsulates the Mexican immigrant’s Odyssey toward the north, as Herrera explores the symbolic and psychological dimension that every transition carries,” writes Diez.

The book was Herrera’s third. His fourth, The Transmigration of Bodies, is due to be published in English next year. Novelist and short story writer Guadalupe Nettel has created a mosaic of unforgettable characters in Natural Histories. Among them, the pregnant woman who spends her days observing how two fishes fight, the bourgeois family whose apartment is taken over by cockroaches or the couple of musicians who share a genital infection.

The tales explore the intersection between animal and human behavior, and how biological instincts influence relationships. Another more recent book by Nettel is The Body Where I Was Born, an autobiographical novel in which the narrator recalls her childhood and an eye anomaly from the couch of a psychoanalyst.

Valeria Luiselli is one of the youngest “and most talented” figures in Mexican literature, says Diez. Her Faces in the Crowd is an award-winning tale about the Spanish-speaking literary diaspora in New York.

For non-fiction, Diez suggests Luiselli’s collection of essays entitled Sidewalks. Her latest book is the novel The Story of My Teeth, which relates the tale of a man who tries to replace his repulsive teeth.

Mexico News Daily

Purchase the electronic edition of any of the suggested books by clicking on the name of the bookseller.

Yuri Herrera:

Signs Preceding the End of the World

Guadalupe Nettel:

Natural Histories

The Body Where I Was Born

Valeria Luiselli:

Faces in the Crowd


The Story of My Teeth

Saturday, August 8, 2015

How to Handle Bank Card Trouble When Traveling Abroad

Banking nightmares can happen to even the most seasoned traveler.

Just ask Billie Frank. An avid traveler and co-founder of concierge and trip planning company The Santa Fe Traveler,, Frank tried to withdraw about $230 after hours from a Banco Santander ATM in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in October. The machine gave Frank her card and a withdrawal receipt, but kept the cash.

“The great takeaway for us was not to use an ATM when the bank is not open,” she says.

Whether it’s a malfunctioning ATM, a misplaced card or an aggressive pickpocket, banking issues that are merely inconvenient at home can spur panic when they occur in a foreign country. Planning ahead and knowing what to do can spare you headaches and save your trip from getting derailed.

Call your bank If you lose your debit card to an ATM or pickpocket, or simply misplace it, the best thing to do is stay calm and call your bank, says Tami Farrow, senior vice president and head of retail deposit payments at TD Bank, which serves the eastern U.S. from Maine to Florida.

“Make sure you know how to contact your bank internationally,” Farrow says. “Quite often your bank’s 800 number won’t work when you’re overseas.” A

Although your bank may not be able to retrieve your card from a faulty ATM, it can advise you on what to do next and suspend the card if necessary. In some cases, it will even send you a replacement by overnight carrier.

Larger banks usually have a number for customers to call when they’re outside the U.S., but smaller credit unions and community banks often have just one all-purpose number for customers to report a lost or stolen card. Doing your research will help provide peace of mind when you need it. These links are a good place to start:

It’s also a good idea to call your bank before heading overseas to let it know when and where you will be traveling. That can be a good opportunity to confirm which number to call if something goes awry with your card.

Jessica Pociask, owner of  WANT Expeditions,, a wildlife and nature tour company in Traverse City, Michigan, suggests taking photographs of your plastic so you can easily find the account number of a lost or stolen card, as well as the number to reach the card issuer.

“Before every trip, I lay out all of my credit/debit cards, license and passport, take a photo of both the front and back, and email it to myself,” says Pociask, who has visited nearly 80 countries. “This has done wonders from preventing additional charges that I could possibly be liable for while traveling.”

Better to avoid storing the images on your cellphone, though, as they could wind up in the wrong hands if your phone is lost or stolen.

Have a backup If possible, it’s best to avoid relying on one card when traveling abroad. Instead, it’s better to pack multiple forms of payment — cash, debit and credit cards — so you have options if one goes missing or simply doesn’t work, Farrow says.

Some merchants in other countries may accept only MasterCard, while others take only Visa, for example. In many countries, you can use cards only with an EMV chip at unattended ticketing kiosks, like those at train stations and subway terminals.

Travelers should always have backup cash, Farrow says — advice Frank echoes after her ATM incident in Mexico.

But that snafu had a happy ending — eventually.

“About three weeks to the day the money was returned to our account,” Frank says. “We have a good relationship with our bank. I’m not sure it would have worked out, otherwise.”

Kelsey Sheehy is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Twitter: @KelseyLSheehy.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Three Quakes Near Cabo

  1. 5.1132km NE of San Jose del2015-08-07 01:52:20 UTC-05:0010.0 km
  2. 4.9106km SW of Navolato, Mexico2015-08-07 00:53:58 UTC-05:0010.0 km
  3. 5.3119km NE of San Jose del Cabo, Mexico2015-08-06 23:34:59 UTC-05:0010.0 km

And We Are Back

We arrived back in San Miguel de Allende at 11:00 pm. We got up at 3:30 am in PDX, so it was a long day.We schlepped five pieces of luggage including a box of clothes from the storage unit along with two carry on bags and my laptop. I managed to get my freelance writing done for 25 clients while away.

Front row: Gregor, Gary, Mom, Cheryl, Gilyn
Back row: Kevin, Ryan, Bev, Mike 

We were gone for 10 days to the states and stayed with Mom who celebrated her 91 years with a dinner at Beaches in Vancouver with the family, minus Erica who suffered heat exhaustion while hiking eight hours in the 100 degree heat. Sister Cheryl and Bev and I teamed up to buy a brewing machine for Mom that brews one cup at a time.

The one question that kept coming up was, "What do you do all day in SMA?" Then, "Do you like it there?"

I can wait at least a year before going back to PDX again. I think next time we drive so we can grab more stuff from the storage unit. We visited the old neighborhood for a block party, It was fun to see the good neighbors again. We felt no sadness or nostalgia however. It's like that part of our lives is over.

Oneonta Gorge


Jumping into the pool

Erica and part of the old highway

Erica and I decided last year to go to John Day and dig fossils for her birthday. With the weather so hot we decided all that time driving in the heat was not a good idea, so we opted for Bridle Vale Falls and Oneonta Gorge. Erica challenges me every time and this time was no exception. Getting to the falls at the back of the gorge was tricky. We had to climb over this huge log jam and at 71, I wondered if I was tempting fate. A fall here could lead to nasty consequences. I made it going and back and only fell once in the river. I fell to my knees and elbow, the one I broke last year, in water up to my neck, but managed to keep my phone above water.

Here's Bev and sister carol with Jane's 10 month-old Lauren

We stayed the last five days at Carol's, Bev's sister. We had a very relaxing time in their new Mountain Park house. The highlight was spending time with two-year old Perrie, who talks with a high little voice as she is in perpetual motion and Jane's 10 month-old Lauren.

As I write, I'm looking out to the terrace. The sun is shining and we are home.