Independence Day 2017 – part II

After last night’s festivities and a good night’s rest, there was a parade through the streets of Cofradía – not a very big parade by many standards, but still a chance for the children and social organizations of the village to celebrate and show respect for the independence of the United States of Mexico.

And my battery died at the point that this video ended. In the first video you can see the newly crowned Queen of Cofradía riding on the hood of a car. At the end of the second video, my battery gave out again just as the little Princess of Cofradía came around the corner, riding on the hood of another car.

Changed the battery of my camera and caught the end of the parade

Independence Day – 2017

Once again it is Mexican Independence Day, which starts on the night of September 15th with the Grito – the cry of freedom. We had a wonderful celebration last night and since I am sure I have already posted the history of this celebration in another blog posting on this site,  I will cut the narrative short and mainly post videos and photos.

This is the true Mexican Independence Day – not Cinco de Mayo, which only celebrates the people of Puebla’s victory over Napoleon’s forces. The evening started out with a parade of the flag, speeches, prayers and suggestions to help for the victims of the recent natural disasters in Oaxaca and Chiapas and the toro, an effigy of a bull surrounded by fireworks. The fireworks were lit and a man ran around the village square with it. I still don’t know if or how many times someone was burned from holding it as fireworks shoot off.

There was singing and dancing and between 11pm and midnight fireworks were set off into the sky. So enjoy the videos and  photos (including some taken on more artistic settings) and have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are.

Cofradía version of the Running of the Bulls

Mariachis playing Camino Real Colima

Children watching the performances

The Joys and Pitfalls of Charitable Giving

I have been a volunteer in one capacity or another outside of the United States since 1998, and so I thought I would take the time to offer personal insight into the world of charitable giving. This is by no means an official guide, nor an exhaustive study, but only my personal experiences in the countries of Nepal, Cameroon and Mexico – advice I have been given or lessons learned the hard way, and the rewarding results when things have gone as planned, or at least not been completely derailed.

My first overseas volunteer trip was in 1998 to Nepal as part of a nursing delegation. There were 10 of us nurses from the United States traveling to Kathmandu, Nepal to hold discussions with the medical and nursing staff of the neurology and neurosurgery departments of two hospitals there – one a university hospital and one a public hospital.

Our discussions centered on the way each country cared for these patients, comparing and contrasting our methods. During the discussions, charitable donation was also discussed, and one of the first things mentioned was that donors need to know what is perceived by the recipient to be  their needs.

Many facilities or donors might be purchasing new equipment and desire to get rid of their old equipment, or may be looking for tax breaks which will result from their donations. You are only placing a burden on the recipient by sending things they cannot use or do not need.

If you discover that you are able to donate something that actually is useful to them, then you must find a way to deliver the goods. What we were told in Nepal was that the safest way to make sure they actually receive the goods is to ship them to the American Embassy, and then they could be securely delivered.

Nepal was a one-time experience, but for several years I was involved in volunteering in Cameroon and since 2012 in Mexico, where I now live, and I can tell you that there is nothing like “eyes on the ground” to help determine how you can help and the best way to go about it.

Nothing can compare to trustworthy local people to explain the realities of their lives to help guide you, but oftentimes you will need to navigate different personalities and opinions to attempt to  discover the realities.  Having volunteered at a medical clinic I saw the need for living quarters for volunteers and interns, and also the need for a new service vehicle.  While trying to negotiate for a vehicle, I was running into difficulty with the person who took over the clinic after the head doctor became incapacitated with a stroke. This person was demanding a brand-new and very expensive vehicle, much more luxurious than what was actually needed.

In the meantime, the staff and I had worked together to rent a large domicile to house volunteers and interns, and I was paying the rent. The best way to transfer the money at that time was through Western Union, with two trustworthy staff members collecting the money using a password that only we knew.

Unfortunately, the new head of the clinic was stealing from it, abusing the interns and volunteers and being that the clinic was supported by international donors, it collapsed when word got out and the donors pulled the funding.  So one unfortunate lesson here is that sometimes you cannot save the world, even with the best intentions and greatest efforts, but on the other hand, there are many success stories.

Aside from direct monetary donations, it is best to research where the needed “things” might best be obtained. When insulin and syringes were needed at a clinic, with research and discussing it with the locals, it was decided that I would bring in syringes but money would be donated for the insulin. Insulin was available in the country, and purchasing it within the country would alleviate the problem of proper storage and temperature of the medicine in transporting it from one country to another.  So one lesson learned is to discover if what is needed is already available in the host country and maybe just cheaper and more practical to donate money specifically for that purpose (books in the native language is also a good example).

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Distributing medicine against intestinal worms in Cameroon. The medicine was bought in Cameroon with money donated from the United States.

And this leads into another aspect – bringing in donations by hand in your luggage vs. shipping it from one country to another. Many countries will charge the recipient for shipments received, even if they are charitable donations, so this needs to be discussed ahead of time with the recipients.

My first volunteer trip to Mexico was to work in the vision clinic with a Canadian optometry group. They brought their eyeglasses and examination equipment, but I was asked to bring in the dark plastic eye shields to cover the patients’ eyes after their pupils are dilated.

I said “sure” and next thing I knew the post office delivered an immense box to my porch containing 2000 eye shields. Well – I was able to fit 1000 of them into two suitcases and an extra cardboard box to bring with me when I flew down. And – I was stopped at Mexican customs. It took a while to explain to them and have them understand that I was not bringing them down to sell, but they were donations. So that is one thing to keep in mind, and something that I was not expecting. For the next trip on which I did not go, I was able to send the extra 1000 to other volunteers to bring with them, and everything worked out in the end.

Vision clinic – partnership of Project Amigo and Canadian optometrists

These duties were turned over to the local Lions Club after 2013

 

In the case of something that can not practically fit in a suitcase or hand-carry, there is always shipping, and here is where different methods and issues with customs are important considerations, which were my latest lessons learned.

During one trip to Mexico, I visited the school of  nursing at the University of Colima, having already become good friends with Magda,  one of the nurses. As I toured the university, there was a basic life support class going on in one of the open areas, and students were practicing the CPR technique on each other (of course, not actually doing full chest compressions).  Turns out there was a need for CPR mannequins.

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Students “practicing” CPR on each other because of lack of mannequins

A few years later, I became aware of a facility in the U.S.  that was purchasing new mannequins and getting rid of their old ones. While the old ones were not state-of-the-art, they were sufficient for the needs of the U. of Colima, and so I inquired about obtaining them.

I was told that I could have them for free, as they would otherwise just be tossed in the garbage, and so I informed my contacts in Mexico. Over the course of maybe a year I tried to connect the people in Mexico with the person in charge in the U.S., but opportunities kept getting missed and meetings never happened, and so, being very frustrated and discovering that the mannequins were still needed in Mexico and available in the U.S. I decided to collect them and ship them myself during my next visit to the U.S.

First, I looked up shipping costs and found out that it would cost about $400 USD for 50 pounds of freight through FedEx, then I informed the people in Mexico and questioned what they would be willing to pay, as I could not shoulder an exorbitant cost on my own to donate equipment.

Then I went to pick up the mannequins and was shocked to find that, instead of the torso-only mannequins that I was used to as a CPR instructor, these were full-body mannequins – adults and infants, each adult weighing about 42 pounds (mannequin, carrying case and included equipment).

I wasn’t sure what to do and was discussing it with a staff member, when she told me of a service called Shipnex, which ships internationally as a third party – you pay them, print out a label and then your package is shipped through FedEx or DHL, and it costs about 1/3 what FedEx or DHL costs. What a relief!!!

So I took 2 full-body adults, one infant, suitcase carrying cases and miscellaneous equipment, paid Shipnex and sent them on their way with DHL, with an expected arrival a week after shipping. Problem solved, right? Well, it turns out, no.

After about 2 weeks, I was messaged by my Mexican counterpart, asking where the shipment was. I checked online with Shipnex, which said “in transit” and gave them a call. They then gave me a phone number and tracking number for DHL – and then I discovered that the shipment was being held by customs, and suddenly knew what that meant.

I informed the Mexicans, they called customs and argued that it was a charitable donation of  old mannequins to be used for teaching, but it didn’t matter. And so they had to pay customs to release the mannequins. Fortunately, they were able to pay and now possess 1 infant and 2 adult mannequins, but this is something that I hadn’t planned for and needs to be considered for anyone considering donations in the future.

So, finally, while this post contains many cautions and precautions, it is ultimately spiritually satisfying when a donation is successfully received and you know it will make a positive difference in so many lives, from new eyeglasses for the visually impaired, much-needed medicine, funds to purchase books and now mannequins on which the nursing, medical and first-aid students can practice their life-saving skills.

Students practicing on their “new” mannequins.

 

 

It Takes a Village – My Virgin of Guadalupe

One of the joys of working the land is having a vision of what it will look like in the future, much like an artist creating a beautiful picture from a blank canvas. I knew I wanted chayote vines, and so a part of the land was cleared, the chayotes were put into the ground, and from there, the vines grew.

Likewise with my herbs and my moon garden. However, there is a rectangular piece of ground on the outer part of my brick wall, and I had no idea what to do with it. Choked with overgrown weeds, surrounded by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire and surrounded at the base with a low cement and rock wall, which had broken apart and had partly fallen into the road, it was ugly to my eyes but I was at a loss as to what to do.

There was no drainage system within it and it had no door with which to access the inside of my property. It wouldn’t be easy to water if I should place a garden there and there are no electrical outlets, either.

A neighbor suggested placing a door there, but I really didn’t want to do that. While discussing the situation with my friend Ted, he suggested I place a Virgin of Guadalupe there, and as soon as he said it, I knew he was right.

The Virgin is the patron saint of Mexico. Her statues are everywhere. Her feast day is December 12th, and other than that, each local village has its own specific week to celebrate, with a week of festivities culminating in the Castillo, a large tower covered in fireworks, set off one stage at a time.

And so began the process of creating a special sanctuary out of this piece of property, and it really did take a village. I liken Cofradía de Suchitlán to Museum Village in Orange County, New York, or my father’s stories of growing up in the Bronx, NY during the depression ( http://www.lepanto.com/ryan/ripple.letters/ ) – a small town where everyone knows everyone else and each person and artisan has their own specialty.

The first order of business was to repair the part of the stone and cement border that had broken off and fallen into the street. For that we hired Rogelio, who was able to break up the part that had fallen away and re-cement it back together.

The gardener Ángel then dug out all the saplings and weeds from the ground and applied fertile earth which I obtained from the worm farm outside the village. Ángel and Rogelio felt that stairs were needed, since the top of the wall was pretty far above the ground, so bricks were laid down and covered with cement to make stairs – the bricks being obtained from the local brick maker.

The next task was to have the Virgin carved. My neighbor Lourdes stated that she knew someone who carved stone, José who lives in Cofradía and works in the next village of Nogalera. We visited him and decided on a statue made of black volcanic rock, which he would be carving by hand, and so it was arranged.

Now I also needed to plant something in the bare earth, but I wanted ground cover instead of grass, and once again my friend Ted came up with a suggestion. He has on his property Wandering Jew plants, and offered to give me some of them, so Ángel set about bringing them over and planting them.  Their green and purple colors would contrast nicely with the volcanic rock.

And so, the ground was readied, the stairs were constructed and in 3 weeks, the statue was ready. José arrived with 2 other men, and even with the 3 of them and Ángel working together, it was extremely difficult to lift up the statue, and so they had to back up the pickup truck to the lower end of the space (the side opposite from the stairs) and dismantle part of the chain link fence. They also realized that the statue needed a base, or it would sink into the earth, so a suitable rock was found on which to place her.

IMG_4661 (1)     Of course, a more proper base was needed, so Rogelio was asked if he could construct one. In addition to that, a roof was needed to shelter the Virgin from the rain to protect the rock from weather damage, since the rainy season lasts about 5 months out of every year.

For that purpose, we contacted Chencho, who had previously helped me by shaving the bottom of my sliding metal gate, enabling me to open it more easily, and also sharpening my machete, as I had been unaware when I bought it that the blades are sold blunt and needed to be sharpened after purchase.

In any case, he created a metal frame, after which a laminate roof was placed over her head.

So Rogelio made the cement base with Ángel’s help, and 5 flowering plants were purchased and planted around the statue. Two solar floodlights were also placed on either side, and now all we needed to do was to have the dedication, or inauguracíon.

For this, Lourdes gave me a Rosary to place on the statue and I purchased two vases with white roses. Ted also pointed out the ugly cement post in the wall, and sent someone over to cut it down with a saw just one hour before the priest arrived. And so the priest, Father Gamaliel, came and said prayers and applied holy water to the statue.

I had invited all my neighbors,  so there was a crowd of about 25 people. After the prayers and benediction, we retired to my garden and for iced tea, soda, fruit and cheese and pineapple cake to celebrate the culmination of this village project to help beautify a small part of the neighborhood…

And so ends my story for now. Wishing you all a wonderful week, and see you next time…

Poor Audrey

In spite of this area having a fantastic climate for growing things, sometimes there are failures. It might be poor soil, it might be an unfamiliarity with the difference between gardening in Mexico versus gardening in New York, poor sun or too much sun, not enough water or too much. Could also just be bad luck, but this post will discuss my most recent failure.

As you all know, I had wanted a moon garden for years, and set about creating one in the past few months – white flowers more visible in twilight or at night with fragrant perfume. Initially I did not have the malla sombra – a frame with fabric to provide shade – to protect the most delicate ones from the harsh sun, and so about 7 of my plants died.

Once the malla sombra was up, I replaced the dead plants with gray/white succulents and white gardenias. But, the crown jewel for this garden was to be my Queen of the Night (Reina de la Noche) – in my mind, a spectacular flower. Here is what it should have looked like:

Image result for photo queen of the night flower

And so I purchased and planted one of them, tended it carefully and checked to see when flowers would appear. And a few weeks ago, three of them appeared.

I was very happy and hopeful, but at the same time taken aback.  The stems of the flowers were actually growing from the edge of the leaves, and were hanging down like snakes. I had never seen anything like it, and the first thought that came to my mine was Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.

For those who don’t know the story, Little Shop of Horrors is about a plant (named Audrey II) in a gardening shop and this plant lives on human blood, or eats whole human beings. In any case, seeing these flower buds, I can never get the image of Audrey II out of my  mind, so I have christened my queen “Audrey.”

I observed her every day, talked to her waiting for her magnificent flowers to bloom. And it did seem like they would:

However, today – in spite of the rain, the sunshine, the malla sombra so carefully and lovingly constructed, I found dried up buds, brown with the texture of tissue paper. The stems continue to have good turgor, but I fear the buds themselves are a lost cause…

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On a hopeful note, there are still leaves that have not sprouted stems and buds , so I am sure that I will see the beautiful flowers of the Queen eventually.

IMG_4656Just as my bougainvillea appeared to be undeniably dead, yet came back to life with the rain,

IMG_4666I have hopes that Audrey will once again produce buds which will become the flowers that signify her royal name.

The Plant Kingdom and Dress Code for Gardening in the Rainy Season

Greetings again from western Mexico. As the title states, it is now the rainy season, resulting in changes in the way I garden. It does not rain all day every day, but for most days, it will rain off and on.

Normally you will have creatures flitting about, or crawling about, drinking nectar, collecting pollen, eating leaves, etc., etc. – your hummingbirds and an assortment of other types of birds, bees, ants, and so forth. We also now have an overabundance of flies in addition to the normal tiny biting things that you don’t even see half the time. What you do end up seeing are the pin-prick holes and welts on your skin after they bite, which you notice once that area starts to itch.

And so, as a result, this is my gardening outfit:

 

IMG_4659Kerchief on my head to keep those pesky flies out of my hair and ears. Long-sleeved shirt to keep the little biters off my arms. Gloves to protect my hands from spiny plants waiting to impale my fingers, or crawly things hiding at the base of plants or in the dirt. No scorpions during the wet season, but still there are worms, probably an occasional spider and who knows what else.

Long pants to protect against spiny things, creatures and dirt. My beloved Skechers sneakers which are used solely for gardening and my morning walks as they get hopelessly dirty and often wet.

Sometimes, when it becomes unbearably hot, I will wear short sleeves, but the long pants and sleeves do a good job of protecting my skin against the sun. And when it gets too buggy, I put repellent on what little skin is showing.

Since this is the first rainy season I have experienced while living in my house, I am discovering new plants and fruits that I had not seen before with the explosion of growth that comes from the generous supply of rain water falling on my garden.

I woke up one morning to find white lilies when I had no idea that the leaves were part of a lily plant –

IMG_4648       My avocado is now producing its bounty having been pruned and now watered.  It is difficult to see the avocados as they blend in perfectly with the leaves, but I have been able to make out 4 avocados so far.

The guayaba japonesa – Japanese Guava – is producing multitudes of green fruit which turn red when ready for picking:

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The pink lilies and bird of paradise plants continue to bloom as always, but now other pink flowers are also beginning to show themselves:

There is an explosion of green coffee berries on my coffee trees, which will eventually ripen into red berries ready for picking. However, since it takes 8 pounds of berries to make one pound of coffee, I’ll still have to buy 99% of my coffee from the local growers, though it will be fun to try to process what little I have in my own house.

IMG_4619And then there is my pumpkin patch. I planted about 10 seeds, and the vines are taking over that corner of the property, including winding their way around tree trunks. I see quite a few flowers and lots of large green leaves that haven’t been eaten by insects, so I imagine I will have a nice supply of pumpkins from which I can make homemade pumpkin pie, instead of having to use camotes or go all the way to Guadalajara to find store-bought pumpkin pie or cans of pumpkin.

My neighbors can also make jack-o’lanterns from real pumpkins – I do see plastic ones occasionally…..

IMG_4636I still have hope to see chayotes from the vines. They are covering the frame so much so that the grass underneath has plenty of shade, the vines are reaching up into nearby trees, and I see lots of flowers which hopefully will turn into the edible chayotes now that fertile soil has been mixed into the soil at the base of the vines.

And I am still waiting to see the flowers on my banana trees which will indicate that the long-awaited bananas will finally appear, with each tree producing enough to feed my entire street.

And finally, there is my moon garden – the malla sombra is providing much-needed shade while allowing the rain to nourish the plants. The dead plants have been removed with new plants added – 4 grayish-white succulents and 6 gardenia plants which are providing a very nice perfume.

When my Queen of the Night finally blooms, that will be a separate and special posting all to itself, but meanwhile, here is my beautiful moon garden as it is right now:

IMG_4613And finally, a few random pictures of other flowers to finish this off:

IMG_4632And a pleasant good evening from all of us at Casa Paty – me, Peach and Ginger. Hasta luego y buenas noches…..

The Animal Kingdom

Well, the rainy season is upon us. With the rain comes an explosion of green, growing things – grass, trees, flowers, and clean, fresh air. It may be cloudy during the day, but mostly the rains come during the night or late afternoon and evening, leaving daytime free to do chores.

view from my porch in the rain

 

There are no more scorpions to be seen.  They have been replaced by hordes of flies, and of course the little geckos are still around.

However, there are now two new creatures – toads and something that looks like a miniature iguana.  I had seen toads as road kill during my walks last year, but now I am in my house and hear them in the dark, calling to each other, and in the darkness I can see their silhouettes on my stone driveway and sometimes hopping around on my porch.

20170626_084953 (2)This one was resting between a flower pot and the edge of the porch. I almost didn’t see it, nor get a photo of it. They seem to know when they’ve been spotted and disappear by the time I can grab my camera.

     This particular one was larger than my fist. The kitties didn’t seem to interested in it, but they definitely WERE interested in this guy:

 

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I was startled when I came upon it. My neighbors tell me it is not an iguana, but couldn’t decide what it IS called. I’ve seen iguanas up close, and I know they move exceedingly fast, and this creature was just sitting there, very still, and was a lot smaller than an  iguana.

At one point, I thought it might have died, as I saw ants crawling over its body and it still wasn’t moving, so I threw water on it to get rid of the ants. Then Peach started pulling on its tail,  it inhaled a deep breath, so obviously it was alive.

Glad Ginger didn’t get bit, as you can see from one of the photos that it has some nasty teeth. After a while, they lost interest in this new creature – or else simply became more cautious – and left to play in another part of the yard.

I went inside the house and came out after a while to find that it had disappeared. I had feared that it was sick, but maybe it just took that opportunity to escape our prying eyes.  That was a huge relief, as having to bury it if it had died was not a pleasant thought.

So here ends my tale of the newest seasonal creatures with whom I share this land. Until next time, have a pleasant week wherever you are…..

The Worm Poop Farm

If you have read the book or seen the movie The Martian, you would remember that the stranded astronaut Mark Watney (played by Matt Damon) planted potatoes on Mars to increase his food supply until a rescue mission could be launched. Since the soil of Mars was lacking in nutrients because there is no life on Mars, he fertilized it with his own body waste and the dessicated, sterilized waste of the crew which had been discarded by the them during their mission. It was mostly scientifically correct – the soil would have had to be washed first to rid it of chemicals poisonous to humans  – but the basic premise that growing things need nutrition was accurate.

Around the world over the millennia, feces (the medical term for poop) has been a source of fuel and fertilizer, among many other uses. And why do I bring this up? Well, I’ll tell you…..

There is a small patch of ground on my property on which I set my sights for my next project. After clearing out the weeds, we realized that there was no drainage system installed in that particular area, so we needed to fill it in and raise it up to the level of the rock-and-cement wall with extra dirt so excess rainwater could run off the top.

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My neighbor had piles of dirt on his property as a result of construction, and he allowed us to take as much as we needed. The problem was,  the soil was devoid of the nutrients plants would need to survive and thrive.  His solution? Go to the worm farm.

So off we went to the worm farm, and what I saw and learned were quite amazing.  Long, deep tanks made of cement blocks greeted me after I entered the property. When the lids were lifted, I could see they were full of soft black dirt with millions of worms wriggling about.

The owner told me that they put dirt and organic matter in these tanks –  mostly the unused organic material from sugar cane and the pulp and skin from the coffee cherries (which are removed from the coffee bean during processing), and some organic matter from other fruits and vegetables, but never any animal matter.

The worms are then allowed to eat, poop, and make little worm babies to their hearts’ content for 8 months, and then the process begins to remove them, so you end up with pure, rich soil.

To preserve the lives of the worms while separating them from the dirt, the workers begin to place their food in one area of the tank. As the worms migrate towards the food, the worm-free dirt is extracted. This continues until all the rich soil is separated from the worms.

It is then bagged and sold to people like me to allow our plants to grow happy and healthy, courtesy of the circle of life.

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And there ends your biology/organic farming lesson for now – so enjoy your day, wherever you might be, and catch you next time!

 

Greetings from Atlanta, Georgia !

Although this is a blog about being an ex-pat living in Mexico, it is not entirely about the country of Mexico, but rather about my experiences AS an ex-pat, no matter where I happen to be at the moment.

I often find myself at a loss for what to post, so if you have any suggestions, please write them in my comments section. When I first arrived in Mexico, there was so much to experience, and therefore I had tons of material to work with. Now, I often think that I would be repeating myself and have writers block, so suggestions and questions that have not been addressed are more than welcome.

So now, I am in Atlanta, Georgia for the Rotary International Convention. I absolutely love these events, as I can meet and interact with people from all over the world, find out about their lives and learn about their projects.

I was last here in 1996, passing through on the way back from Florida with my family. We didn’t have tickets to any of the events, but wandered around the venue anyway. I remember the fountains spurting from the ground, and my son playing in them, as it was incredibly hot at the time. We returned to our car by way of the metro. Being from New York, I have been calling it the subway, and have to explain to people what I mean when I get a puzzled look in reply to my queries about where the “subway station” is.

I wonder if my son, who was 8 years old at the time,  remembers any of this, including the child who was continuously singing while we were on the train car.

One of the things I had been wanting to do for many years, was visit the Carter Center, founded by former President Jimmy Carter, and I it was one of the first things I did, after registering at the Georgia World Congress Center for the convention.

It was a 3-mile walk from the GWCC each way – and I am eternally grateful for the modern technology that brought us Google maps, as I notoriously have absolutely no sense of direction.

The center had beautiful gardens outside, a research center and an incredible museum dedicated to Jimmy Carter’s life and his dedication to serve humanity. I do remember many of the things from my lifetime, such as the peace talks between Menachim Begin and Anwar Sadat.  It was noted that after the Camp David Accord, there has not been any incident of an Egyptian killing an Israeli, nor of an Israeli killing an Egyptian.

He has also been the leader in the fight to eradicate Guinea worm, a painful disease which has plagued mankind for millenia. I had thought it was eradicated, but apparently there are still a few cases. I listened to an interview he did one time describing this campaign and how he was privileged to use his status as a former president to coerce leaders to join the fight.

Apparently, this disease had already been eliminated in Guinea, where it was first discovered. President Carter was trying to convince the head of Ghana to join in the effort to eliminate it in his own country, and the leader was resistant. President Carter then told him that if he did not commit to eradicating this condition, he would be forced to re-name it Ghana worm, and this tactic did work. He said that if he had not had the status of a former president, he would not have been able to talk to the Ghanian leader in this way.

At 91 years old, he is still actively involved in lifting up humanity and making the world a better place, including Habitat for Humanity and eliminating other diseases and promoting world peace efforts.

For those of you who would like to learn more about his life, I would suggest you read the books “A Remarkable Mother” which describes his life growing up and the influence his mother, Lillian Gordy Carter, had on him. I believe she is the reason he is such a humanitarian.

I would also suggest the book “Letters from Home” written by Lillian Carter and her daughter Gloria Carter Spann. It details her decision to join the Peace Corps at the age of 68, and what it was like as a nurse in the Peace Corps in India.  “Miss Lillian” was a great inspiration to me, and I have given these two books as gifts many times.

After visiting the Carter Center, I walked the 3 miles back to the Georgia World Congress Center.  I like walking when I have plenty of time, because you see many things you would not notice when in a car, bus or airplane.  So please enjoy the pictures, and there will be more about the convention in the next post.

 

Paying Bills and Playing Hide-and-Seek in Mexico

Perhaps it is because I am in a small village. Perhaps it is different in larger cities and municipalities such as Comala, Colima and Mexico City.  Paying bills here is a whole other world from what I was used to.

In the United States, paper utility bills are delivered to your home via the United States Postal Service. The bill usually arrives within a business day or two after it is mailed. Even across the country mail doesn’t even take one week. In these modern times, you can even arrange to receive and pay your bill online. Not so here, in Cofradía de Suchitlán.

We have neither a bank, nor a post office here in the village.  The electricity bill (or cuenta de luz – light bill) is paid every other month, beginning in February. The bills for electric for the entire village go to one person in one house. Hopefully, someone tells you when they arrive (fortunately for me, I have Lourdes).  Once the bills arrive, you have one week to go to that house and pay the bill. From what I understand, if you don’t pay it, then you must go to the main office in Colima to pay it.

When I moved into the house in December, the person collecting the bills lived on the next street over. She would post a sign on her house to let everyone know the bills were here and when was the last day to pay.  In February, things changed. No sign on the house and I was told by Lourdes that the bills were being delivered to ANOTHER house halfway to the crucero (the crossroads at the highway leading away from the village) and one street over, so it was not visible from the main thoroughfare.

So – fortunately, I went with Lourdes, since there was no sign on the house.  This is where the bills were paid for February and April, and hopefully it remains so – at least through the end of this year. By the way, for my house, the bill came to 595 pesos. That is about $30 USD for 2 months, or about $15 USD per month.

The water bill is turning out to be the serious game of Hide-and-Seek. I hadn’t received a bill and wasn’t sure how that worked. I asked Richard, the previous owner, and he told me that you pay the water bill once per year and, just as you do with the electric bill, there is one person in the village who collects the money.

Apparently, you just have to pay once per year, but they would prefer that you pay in the beginning of the year. I seem to recall that, in New York, you paid twice per year – or maybe that was the sewer bill. I can’t recall, and I haven’t owned a house since the year 2000, so who knows if it’s even done the same way anymore.

In any event, the search was now on to find out who collects the water bills. Apparently those bills also changed hands, but then someone told me that the owner of the local hardware store knows or is related to the right person. The woman at the store told me that the family in a house across the street were the proper people. I went there, the door was open, but no one answered when I shouted a greeting several times.

I then decided that I could try another time. Then I was told that it was the owner of the house next to the taxi driver’s house. Went there, and in her rapid-fire Spanish I THINK she said that the woman was no longer there, and gave me the name of the person who is now in charge.

Well, this morning on our walk, I mentioned the name to Lourdes, who knows this person and showed me the house – the same house across the street from the hardware store that I had tried before. So – this being the weekend, I will try again during the week.

When I finally pay the bill, I will let you know how much it is.  I do live alone, and it only takes me 5 minutes to shower, the kitties don’t drink a whole lot of water, but I DO do a lot of cooking, which entails a bit of water. And – most of all – I do irrigate the fruit trees, flowers, plants and vegetables daily (I will be using MUCH less during the rainy season, which begins towards the end of June). I was concerned about that, but Richard tells me that everyone is assessed the same amount for water. I don’t know if that is good or bad. Thanks to the filters and ultraviolet light for my water supply, I can actually drink the water straight out of my tap.  Everyone else has to buy their water.  I am also not sure how they figure the amount of water used throughout the village, but I am told also that we have greater water security (secure in the knowledge that we will have an adequate supply) than in the city.  I suppose it all evens out in the end for everyone in the village.

The phone is much simpler, at least for me. I do not have a landline, preferring just to use my smartphone.  I paid the Mexican company for a new chip for my phone – I don’t remember how much it was – and received a personal phone number. Now I just walk a few blocks to the “Ciber” and pay however many pesos I choose for more data when I run out.

So, that is about it for now. Sorry, no pictures this time. But I did get all of my white flowers, the frame is up for the ones that climb, and I will be writing a post about that soon, with lots of pictures of my beautiful moon garden.

¡Adios, y que tenga buen día!   ‘Bye and have a great day!