Colima and the Corona Virus

With the Corona Virus (COVID-19) spreading around the globe, I have been asked to address this in my next post. I hope that wherever you are, that you are safe, taking precautions, have adequate supplies on which to live and have adequate resources in the form of income, savings, childcare and understanding bosses.

We are a small rural village here in western, central Mexico. Our nearest airport is an hour away, and it is tiny – one story tall and about the size of a large restaurant. Mexico City Airport is 12 hours away by bus and Guadalajara airport is 3 hours north of here. Colima City is an hour away by bus or about 30-40 minutes away by car.

We have no bank, no post office, no big hospital – although we do have a small clinic, no supermarket or big box stores like Home Depot or Sears. What we do have is small grocery stores plus specialty stores, such as the butcher, vegetable market and bakery. So we really don’t have to travel out of the village very often. We have a preschool and a primary school in the village, and students in secondary and high school need to travel outside of the village to attend.

We have a farmer’s market which comes to the village every Tuesday. Except for big holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, or when someone get married or has a Quinceañera celebration, it’s pretty quiet around here. Most of the noise, outside of the firecrackers and bands for every celebration, will be dogs barking and roosters crowing (roosters don’t only crow in the mornings, they crow all day long).

We also have the main office of Project Amigo here – a literacy project that gives scholarships to local children here in Cofradía de Suchitlán and surrounding villages. Several times per year, we welcome volunteers from many countries, but mostly from the United States and Canada.

With the virus spreading throughout the world, Project Amigo felt it was wise to cancel the next few volunteer work weeks, so as to limit the possibility of spreading the virus further – especially since you could have the virus but show no symptoms for 2-14 days.

Schools here are closed for a month and Catholic churches are not celebrating Masses. I heard the Masses will be broadcast on TV or on the internet for those who want to attend. Teachers are giving their students assignments to study and homework to do until school begins again.

My New Year’s resolution was to become more physically fit, and so in January, my neighbor Lourdes and I began going to the gym in the nearby town of Comala. Now we have decided that it would be a good idea to just exercise as best we can at home, since with all the sweaty people exercising, everyone touching the same equipment, and it being hard to avoid touching your face as you want to wipe the sweat away, it’s probably a good idea to avoid the gym for now.

As of today, March 18th, there have been 118 confirmed cases throughout our entire country. And as of today, it is almost impossible to find hand gel and many other supplies, though the other day I went into Colima City and found shelves fully stocked.

For those of us who are expats, travel to visit the U.S. is on hold right now. I thought I had read that Aeromexico had cancelled all international flights, but now I just read that they are scaling back their flights, not cancelling them altogether. It is sometimes very confusing to get up-to-date information, and it seems to be changing frequently.

If I had been planning to go to the U.S. now, I most probably would be cancelling, as we see videos of U.S. airports screening passengers after they disembark. The people are packed like sardines in a tin and are like that for hours as they wait to be processed. In my mind, if even one of those passengers is infected, they have now infected many more people simply by having them in close quarters for so long.

So I am very lucky to be living here as opposed to a large, crowded city. Everyone here is either related to many others or are close like family. Generations live under the same roof, and if anyone should need help, there are plenty of people willing to help.

Meanwhile, the governor of our state has set up a WhatsApp account that we can join to receive information directly from our government, which helps to avoid false or misleading information.

So we are living our quiet lives here, avoiding crowds, homeschooling the children, helping each other out and hopefully by our actions minimizing the risk of more people becoming infected.

And, again, my hope for all of you is that you stay safe and well and that with caring for ourselves and others, the curve will flatten and the worst will pass before very long.

Yes, expats can vote

Did you know that even if you live in a foreign country, as long as you are a U.S. citizen who would be able to vote if you still lived in the United States, you can vote from wherever you are living now – and that includes the primaries. This primary ends on March 10th at midnight Pacific time, so if you want to vote and haven’t done so yet, the time is NOW.

I had been aware that I could vote in the presidential election, but mistakenly thought the primaries were off limits. Recently, I found out that is not true. Another question was how delegates are counted if voting from abroad, since we are not voting within the states. Well, expats around the world are like the 51st state – we have 21 delegates.

At the end of this month, I will be attending a conference where I will learn more about voting in the general election for president, so I will save that thought for a future post, when I have that information. For right now, I will focus on the primaries.

For a non-partisan site with information and help to register and to vote, you can click on and you will find instructions for military members, their families and U.S. citizens living outside the country. For Republicans, there is also the organization Republicans Overseas and for Democrats there is Democrats Abroad. Another site is for anyone who wants to register and vote.

According to the government website, this is required for absentee voting:

  1. Each year, submit a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to your local election officials. They will:
    1. Confirm your eligibility to vote and put your name on a list to receive absentee ballots for any elections held that calendar year.
    2. Send you a blank absentee ballot electronically or by mail.
  2.  Complete and return the ballot so it arrives before your state’s ballot return deadline. OR
    1. If you have not received your blank ballot 30 days before an election, use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot to vote.

IMPORTANT: U.S. citizens abroad must submit a new FPCA each year to vote in U.S. elections. Submit your FPCA at the beginning of the calendar year, or at least 45 days before an election, to allow ample time to process your request and resolve any problems. Once approved, your name will be put on a list of voters to receive absentee ballots.

Since there are only two more days (UNTIL MARCH 10th) to submit an absentee ballot for the primary, I have been busy this week, finding American citizens in my area and helping them to register to vote, or giving them all the information they need in order to vote. So 4 of us submitted our ballots by email and two other people have been given all the information and instructions they need to submit them from home.

There are polling places in your countries of residence where Americans can cast their primary ballots in person, but the closest one to me is three hours away, and I decided I would rather stay here, do mine via the internet and encourage my fellow expats to vote, while assisting those who needed information and help.

With my laptop, I am able to download and print documents, but am unable to scan. I asked around and found a friend who has that capability with her equipment, so we had ourselves a little “Get Out the Vote” party and scanned the ballots in on her equipment.

The battle for the right to vote was hard-fought and hard-won, with African Americans and women suffering imprisonment, physical brutality and worse fighting for this basic right. Black men were granted the right to vote by the 15th Amendment ratified in 1870. Women were granted the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920.

In 1965 the Voting Rights Act was passed, but in 2013 the Supreme Court struck down a provision of this Act that required states with a history of voter discrimination to seek federal approval before changing their election laws. The ink was barely dry before new restrictions on voting were put into place by these states, and interference in the right to vote continues to this day.

This is why we must make every voice count and not be complacent. So – active in this process, make your voice heard and VOTE !!!!!


Life Among the Geckos

Living here in western, central Mexico in a small rural village means that I live with several roommates, as well as their counterparts in my garden. There are spiders that spin webs in the garden and house spiders that do not spin webs, but sit on the walls waiting for their prey. The house version is shy and just blowing on them will cause them to scurry away.

But by far, the cutest and my favorite are the geckos. There used to be so many in my garden until my two cats began living with me. Their names are Ginger and Peach and they are working cats, keeping my property and house free of pests, and they are excellent hunters. So far they have left me “gifts” of 3 dead rats, 2 dead snakes and I have even seen them eat a few roaches. They also managed to catch a baby chick that somehow wandered into my garden and made quick work of the poor things before I could rescue it.

And, they seem to love to catch and kill my lovely geckos, and now I rarely see any of them any more. Unfortunately, it is a cat’s nature to hunt and I cannot tell them, “It’s ok to catch this, but not that.”

There are two types of geckos here. The first is a gecko, such as what you see on the Geico commercials – solid body with a long thin tail and their toes are long and skinny like sticks. They live outside in the garden and their color is brown.

The other type is called a besucona. They have a waterlogged appearance, with pale, translucent skin and shorter, rounded toes. They live inside the house and eat roaches, spiders, scorpions and other insects. They usually keep pretty well hidden, but occasionally I see them scurry on my wall and hide behind my bamboo curtains. However, you can tell they are there by their very distinctive sound.

sound of the besucona

In my house, they get into trouble when they apparently are looking for water. I found one in my shower and have found several in my stainless steel sink. They could not climb out, and so I have to help them. One time, one poor thing somehow fell into the water chamber of my coffee maker and drowned, so I now only add water when I am ready to brew coffee.

I also was able to observe a very distinct method by which they try to escape predators. With the latest one I found in the sink, I took a paper towel and wrapped it around its body to lift it out of the sink. Next thing I knew, the tail popped off and was thrashing around in the sink like a wounded animal. The tail, no longer attached to the body, kept up the thrashing for several minutes. In the meantime, I put the besucona on the counter so it could climb up the wall and escape to safety.

Curious about this, I looked it up on the internet, and, sure enough, when they are stressed or trying to escape a predator, the blood vessels at the base of the tail constrict to prevent bleeding and the tail drops off and flops around. After a certain amount of time, the tail and spinal cord grow back. However, the tail may be a slightly different shape and color. Scientists have been studying this for clues in order to possibly discover a way to help humans with spinal cord injuries.

Here is more information about tail regeneration:

Meanwhile, one of my other “roommates” has not been so welcome. In the U.S. there is the general term “scorpion,” but here they are differentiated. There is the scorpion, which is large and black and less venomous than its counterpart, the alacrán. The alacrán is smaller, usually a yellowish color, and much more venomous, though my gardener claims he has been stung many times and is immune to it.

Both of these creatures make their appearance during the dry season. As the weather changes from chilly to hot, they may look for a place to hide to keep warm. One such time, I lifted up a garbage bag in my kitchen and one started to run away before I stepped on it. Two other times, I found them on my bedroom floor – so tiny I thought they were specks of dirt until I got a closer look. One never forgets that silhouette !

A few nights ago, I was lying in bed getting ready to go to sleep and looked up at the ceiling. I was shocked to see that silhouette – on the ceiling ! I had never seen one up there, but there it was. My ceilings are about 12 feet high. I grabbed a can of Raid and started spraying for all it was worth, over and over again. Normally Raid will kill an insect or spider within a few seconds, but this little bugger would just straighten its tail and then curl it back up. Eventually, it fell to the floor and started running away !!!!! I couldn’t believe it was still alive! Normally, I would examine any creatures I find, but with the alacrán or scorpion – nope, nope, nope. Just stamp on it with my shoe or sandal and end it quickly.

This is what was on my bedroom ceiling. I took this photo before I started spraying it with Raid.

And this is why I always wear shoes or hard-sole slippers or sandals in the house and on the property. Before taking a shower, I check the floor, walls and ceiling. And shake out my shoes before putting them on.

Well, anyway, I didn’t get hysterical, but I definitely was creeped out – a few inches to one side, it would have been directly over my bed. I’ve slept with the lights on the past few nights and inquired about fumigation.

But then, I was talking with some people and thought about it some more. In the 3½ years since I’ve lived in this house, I have seen less than 2 alacráns per year inside the house. Outside is another story, since they love the heat outdoors. Since the besuconas eat alacráns, either there have not been more than the 4 that I have seen in all that time, or the besuconas are doing their job by making a meal of them.

So I have decided NOT to fumigate, as the chemicals would also kill the besuconas. If in the future I see many more of those nasty little creatures, then I might consider fumigation, but until then, I will let my little house guests happily chow down on whatever pest they find.

So, until next time, I hope you have enjoyed this little biology class. And I would also like to add that even with the uninvited venomous guests, I still prefer to live here instead of ever living in snow country again. You may not agree with me, but to each his own.

Adios, and hasta luego !

Gecko similar to those in my garden