Hello to all my readers and I hope you are all safe and well.
I am thrilled to share the news that I will be doing my first livestream presentation. It will be on the WebEx platform and I will be talking about my experiences as a volunteer, how these experiences eventually led me to live in Mexico and what life in rural Mexico is like. The host will be Democrats Abroad Mexico, but this is not a political event. I just will be sharing the experiences and benefits of volunteering and living abroad, as well as talk about Rotary International and Project Amigo, just as I do with this blog. For those who will be unable to attend, it will be recorded. No RSVP is needed.
It will be held on Wednesday, May 19th at 7pm Mexico City time.
I’m going to keep this post short, as I am also preparing for a live presentation/conference about life here in rural Mexico and how I came to live here. I will also shortly be preparing a program in Spanish and one in English regarding end-of-life care vis-à-vis healthcare proxies. I will keep you all informed of those broadcasts, which will not be here on my blog, but will provide links so that those interested can join.
Anyway, election season is here, at least here in the state of Colima. It is not long and drawn-out as in some other countries where candidates might begin electioneering for the next round of votes shortly after entering office. Our elections will be in June. So we are starting to see the electioneering only two months ahead of the voting.
Some of the offices for which people will be voting are the governor of Colima and the president of Comala (a municipality of Colima). Signs are hung from walls of buildings and balconies. People may be ignoring them or reading them with interest, but as far as I can tell, there is no rancor such as tearing them down or fights among neighbors. Or maybe I am just unaware since my Spanish still isn’t 100% perfect – which also helped out where gossip was concerned. When I first moved here, I did not understand a lot of the conversations I was hearing, so I had a good excuse not to have to take sides in gossip. As my Spanish improved, I could feign ignorance and poor understanding of the language even when I could understand the topic of conversation…………….But it does seem that everyone is ignoring them.
On radio and television, they will air commercials for the political parties, one after the other (there are 4 major parties here – Morena, PAN, PRI and PRD). As far as I can tell, there is no station that airs only one party to the exclusion of the others.
And now we come to the dance music. I don’t know about the large cities throughout Mexico, but we are a rural/agricultural state here and maybe different, but cars with loudspeakers strapped to their roofs blare music and songs extolling the virtues of their preferred candidate and party. The music just makes you want to dance, and I imagine that even if it is not for your preferred candidate, just listening to it will make you dance – or want to dance and brighten your day.
So for your enjoyment, I bring you a little bit of political music, Colimense style:
Have you ever inhaled a pleasing aroma and it brought back wonderful memories of your childhood or a pleasant event? In addition, have you ever had a craving for a favorite food? When you are in a foreign land that has a very different cuisine, that is bound to happen. Initially for me, I greatly missed lemons and lemon juice, since everything here is flavored with limes. I also missed bagels, lox and cream cheese, so when I last visited my son, he made sure to take me to a deli where I could have them.
Eventually, you get used to the new flavors of your new country of residence, but at times you still wish for “a taste of home.” Since I am from New York, I can understand why we have so many ethnic neighborhoods with their tasty and varied cuisines, such as Indian, Chinese, Italian, Dominican, Afghan and many, many more.
Over time, you get used to the new foods and flavors – though for me it is still difficult to physically tolerate picante/enchiloso food, seasoned with chilis. In any case, I recently had a craving for pizza, and before I go any further I have to describe pizza in Mexico.
Here in Colima, I have seen two pizza establishments, Little Caesar’s and Benedetti’s. I don’t know about the rest of Mexico, but here everyone likes those pizzas with either pepperoni or ham and pineapple. In addition, once they have their slices, they cover them with ketchup and chimichurri sauce. Chimichurri is composed of garlic, peppers, cilantro, parsley, olive oil and salt. I’ll just say it’s okay and leave it at that.
Lourdes’ daughter Nadia made some pizza from scratch, but didn’t like how the crust tasted, so I told her I would ask my son for a recipe, which I did, and then one day we had “pizza day” and made our pizza, which came out pretty good.
Sometimes products available in your home country are not available in your current place of residence, and this is what I was faced with here. My son said if you are going to use bottled sauce, you should use marinara sauce. Well, there is no marinara sauce in Colima, so I settled on Prego brand Tradicional and Prego brand Pizza Sauce. Second problem was onion powder. Besides an abundance of fresh garlic and onions, and dried garlic in every configuration you can think of, such as garlic powder, garlic salt and dried chunks of garlic, there is a definite lack of the equivalent when it comes to onions. As a seasoning, garlic is much more popular here. So I searched through several stores and finally came across onion powder in a very large container. So now I have enough onion powder to probably last me the rest of my life.
So Nadia, her husband Gustavo and I set to work making the sauce, mincing garlic cloves and onion, adding spices to taste and letting it simmer. While it was simmering, we started on the pasta. My son told me he buys the pizza dough already made into balls of dough at the supermarket. Not available here. So he directed me to a web site named “sugarspunrun” and I copied the recipe that was called “The Best Pizza Dough Recipe” and had 5 stars and good reviews. My son also told me it is better if you add a little honey to it. We mixed the dough, put it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap and set in on a stool in the sun to rise – it’s currently in the 80 degree range Fahrenheit here during the day (26.7 Celsius) so it only took a half hour to double in size.
We then spread out the dough with our fingers, ladled out the sauce, sprinkled imitation mozzarella cheese (no real mozzarella available at this time) and then topped it all off with pepperoni and ham slices. Popped it in the oven, and the flavor was good, but it needed a thinner crust and not so much sauce. So we made a second pizza and it came out much, much better. Everyone LOVED it and no one even put ketchup or chimichurri on it. YAAAYYYY!!!!!
The other day, I bought a bunch of plum tomatoes and decided to make the sauce from scratch. Sautéed minced garlic and onions, added diced tomatoes and put the whole thing over a low flame for I-don’t-remember-how-long. Seasoned to my taste and then blended it with an immersion blender. Since I want to eat healthy, I now use it as a sauce for my steamed vegetables.
And that is my latest adventure in adapting local produce to my taste. As for the lemons mentioned at the beginning, they were occasionally obtainable in Colima City, and now we see them more frequently. So I buy maybe 10 or 20 of them when available and squeeze and freeze the juice so I don’t run out.
So, wherever you are, I hope you will try and come to love the local cuisine, but when you get nostalgic for something from home, there are ways to prepare a familiar dish that is exactly or close to the original (though I still haven’t managed to find anything close to Stouffer’s Frozen Macaroni and Cheese, which is my comfort food when I am recovering from a migraine headache. If anyone can send me a recipe for that, I will be ETERNALLY grateful….).
So, see you next time and ¡Buen Provecho! and Bon Appétit!
Hello once again from my home in Mexico. It has been many months since my last post and honestly, I had been at a loss as to if I should write and what I should write about. There has been so much suffering around the world with the pandemic – sickness, death, loss of jobs, horrific weather, schools and businesses closing; I didn’t feel it was right to post cheery travel blogs nor did I want to write about the misery.
In addition, there were the elections in the United States. It seemed to bring out the worst in many people, especially on social media where people who didn’t even know each other felt free to hurl venom at those with whom they didn’t agree, which led me to finally take a break from social media, which I mostly continue to do today with Facebook and the comments sections of online articles. However, I did do my part by phone banking to assist Americans living abroad to vote, assessing their status and giving them information that they would need to register to vote, obtain their ballot and submit their ballot. So even in the midst of a pandemic and restrictions, I was able to be a part of a wonderful group of people that helped Americans abroad exercise their right to vote.
As some of you may or may not know, I am also a member of Rotary International – a worldwide volunteer service organization. My club has members from many countries around the world and we meet online, in the same manner in which I attended University when I went back to finally earn my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (graduating at the age of 61 I might add). My club posts our meeting on Monday mornings and we attend at our convenience before the following Sunday night. We pay online and post comments at the end of the meeting. Back in New York, I was a member of what we call a “terra club” where we would meet in person at a set time, but here there are no terra clubs nearby, so I joined what we call “an E club.” It took some getting used to, and at first I missed the in-person camaraderie, but now I have adjusted and am perfectly happy to be able to attend at a time that is convenient for me.
Every year, Rotary has an international convention in a different country every year. Last year’s venue was in Hawaii and this year’s was to be Taipei, but due to the pandemic, both were cancelled, with the convention being held virtually. I hope that they will continue this practice, or at least have a virtual component to it when we can travel again. It would be nice to be able to attend from home for those who are unable or don’t wish to travel every year.
Because I am a retired nurse, I also joined one of our Fellowships for healthcare professionals. It is wonderful to be able to converse with other healthcare professionals around the world, plan projects, learn what is happening in other parts of the globe and have educational conferences. We have had many lectures about Covid-19 since this started and are also involved in other aspects of medicine, such as telehealth, maternal/child care, pediatric heart procedures, etc. Even though I am retired, it is a great way to still be involved in the medical profession and do good in the world.
Meanwhile, here in Mexico, vaccines are being distributed. I had read in the news about various different vaccines being sent to Mexico, including the Russian Sputnik V. After reading about the various brands, I decided that I would take whatever is offered. From what I have read and heard, I believe the brand delivered must vary from state to state. Here in Colima, the healthcare workers are receiving the Pfizer vaccine and the rest of us are receiving AstraZeneca. We had a clinic in the village in which those of us 60 years old and older received our first dose, with the second dose arriving in somewhere between 8-15 weeks. From what I’ve read, the second dose is more effective if given after 12 weeks, so I hope that second shipment arrives after the 12-week mark.
Mexico is using a stoplight system to let people know how severe our pandemic restrictions are at the moment. Currently there are two states that are green, with many others (including Colima) being yellow. Within our village, we have to wear masks outdoors, no celebrations such as for Christmas, Easter, quinceañeras, funerals, etc. However, except for those celebrations, my village is usually pretty quiet anyway. There is plenty of open space here; I think it is quite different for people who live in apartments in major cities, making their lives much more difficult and stressful.
The nearest city is Colima (same as the state, kind of like New York, New York), about 20 km away, 40 minutes by car and one hour or more by bus. Some of the stores allow me in after a temperature check, hand gel, stand on a mat with disinfectant and wear a mask. Some of the stores there will only allow anyone 60+years old, those under 12 years old or pregnant women to enter between the hours of 7am-10am with the same other restrictions (temperature check, etc.). When I went to Toyota the other day for routine maintenance, I was only allowed to enter the dealership alone – no companions allowed.
Regarding school, classes are online only, at least in my area. Fortunately for the grandsons of my friend Lourdes, the teacher has many activities to keep the boys (8 and 10 years old) interested besides the usual studying, reading and writing – such as art projects.
Also regarding education, I have kept in touch with the two students I sponsor at Project Amigo, our local literacy project. We talk with each other by email, and the project has also helped them with care packages of food and cash. They are a little stressed at not being in school and seeing their friends, etc., but are adjusting. Hopefully by the end of the year, or sooner, they will be able to go back to their physical school. I am happy that I live here, just a few streets over from the main office of the project, so that I can stop by, speak with the administrators and find out ways that I can be of help.
On another note, recently we were in the path of the International Space Station and were able to watch it fly overhead – an amazing sight that lasted for 5 minutes. This coming Sunday, it will pass overhead again and Lourdes, her family and I will view it from her backyard. In the meantime, I have shared online videos with them – interviews with astronauts, view of space and the space station, etc. It’s easy to find these videos on YouTube narrated or dubbed in Spanish. Hopefully one day in the not-too-distant future we will visit a planetarium. I see online there is one in Guadalajara, which is only 3 hours away. It will certainly be a nice post-pandemic trip.
So – that is about it for now. Life goes on, we adjust and continue to maintain precautions and with the arrival and distribution of the vaccines, hopefully this pandemic won’t last too much longer and life will continue with fewer restrictions. Meanwhile, I present you with a video about my state of Colima, Mexico and a photo from my kitchen of flowers I received from Lourdes and her family for Valentines’ Day, or as we call it Día de Amistad y Amor (Day of Friendship and Love)
Take care everyone – I hope you stay safe and healthy and have access to all the services that you need.
Since what is posted on the internet lasts forever, those of you reading this in the future might not remember the year 2020. For those of us living in the present, this year will forever be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 (“19” because it began in the year 2019) pandemic. So many people infected and died, untold numbers with effects that will last for a long time, businesses shuttered, etc. And day by day scientists and doctors are continuing to learn more about this virus than we originally knew.
Here in Mexico our normal holiday activities have been disrupted – Easter, Independence Day (September 15-16 —– NOT Cinco de Mayo), and so it will be with Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and almost certainly Christmas.
Normally for this time of year, graves in the cemeteries are cleaned, altars to the dead are constructed and decorated, but now the cemeteries are closed to this holiday and funerals are very restricted. To see how we normally celebrate, here are links to previous posts, one of our celebration in Colima, and one in Guadalajara/Tlaquepaque:
So this year it will be a very quiet period of time with a few decorative reminders of the season. I have planted marigolds, which provide a pathway for the spirits to join the living.
I’ve also put out a few decorations .
Meanwhile, in the creepy spirit of Halloween, I will devote the majority of this post to spiders, and there are a greater variety of them than I have ever seen.
First, something cute – this tiny, furry white little creature that I found on a leaf stem of my lemon tree. I’ve never seen one before or since, so I really don’t know anything about it.
Here I classify spiders as “indoor spiders” and “outdoor spiders.” The outdoor ones begin spinning their webs at the end of the rainy season, which is where we are right now. You can’t always see the webs, and they are everywhere, so when I leave my house to go into my garden, I look like a crazy woman, waving a stick in front of me to catch any unseen webs. A few times, I have gotten a face full of web after inadvertently walking into it.
Most of the webs are spun by these large scary ones. I’ve seen them strung between trees with no idea how these creatures construct them with such a great distance between the points of contact. As long as they are high enough for me to pass underneath without contact, I am fine with that.
One spider here is very unusual – it seems to have a little triangular house on its back. Perhaps that is where the silk is created, I don’t know. In any case, I have taken videos of it moving incredibly fast, plus spinning the web as well as eating an unfortunate bug.
Finally, there is what I call the “house spider,” which does not spin a web, but waits on the walls inside the house. Less scary in appearance and quite timid. When I blow on one, it scurries rapidly away.
It really is amazing to witness the checks and balances of nature. All the creatures that one would normally not notice I can observe since I am living in their world on my property. My cats keeping the property free of rodents and snakes, spiders controlling insects and the sapo (toad) which eats insects, but will soon disappear when the dry season is in full swing, only to reappear with the next rainy season.
In the meantime, we humans of Colima will celebrate the season in a more subdued manner, while keeping the spirit of the season alive, many with altars inside their homes, with decorations and maybe just a skull-shaped glass will do.
Hoping you all stay safe and healthy. Until next time…………………..
Fifty one years ago today, the crew of the Apollo 11 first stepped on the moon, just 65 years and 7 months from December 17, 1903 when the Wright brothers made the first ever powered flight from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA.
My grandparents were born before that first powered flight and lived to see men walk on the moon. Just thinking about that three pounds of wet cells that are our brains can contemplate, conceive and create out of raw materials heavier-than-air creations that can perform actual flight and in the span of less than a lifetime escape our planet and land on the moon.
Of course, in 1903, those who created these machines and the technology were standing on the shoulders of those who came before them in millenia past. Going WAY back, as in harnessing fire, to extracting and using metal, mythologies of men flying like birds as in the tale of Icarus, the invention of radio, radar, the discovery of oxygen and learning to contain it so humans could breathe under water or up in the atmosphere. And let’s not forget mathematics and the women of NASA – especially the black women who were the brains behind sending men to the moon and bringing them back safely.
So many discoveries that probably began as curiosities, things that no one could even imagine would lead to or become part of our life today. And this leads me to think about many of the ways technology has changed the way we live just in my lifetime.
I was born 4 years after the end of World War II. In primary school, we had a little newspaper made just for us youngsters called The Weekly Reader. I don’t remember much of what was in it, but I do remember news of a new thing called a computer that took up an entire room and could do calculations. Many telephones were party lines and I remember picking up the phone, telling the operator the number of my grandmother so we could be connected.
Typewriters were not electric yet and they had ribbons. Mimeograph machines were used in schools to make copies and for us folks at home there was carbon paper. As school progressed, the teachers at times requested that we type our papers instead of turning in handwritten homework.
In 1964, the World’s Fair was held in Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, New York. There were so many wonders to behold, and one of them was in the Bell Telephone exhibit – a phone of the future where you could actually see with whom you were talking. I remember the anxiety some of us had as to whether or not this was a good thing. We imagined receiving a call when we were not looking our best – horrors !!!
As time marched on, we saw progression in technology. In the original Star Trek television series, the crew of the Enterprise had communicators that could flip open and you could communicate with each other on the ground or even with your crew up in space. What fantastic science fiction that was !!! Now we have cell phones. What was once science fiction is now such a part of everyday life that we hardly think about it. And for people who say, “Why do we go up THERE when we have problems DOWN HERE,” well, without going “up there” you would not have the worldwide communications networks that we have now, nor would we have our GPS capabilities, thanks to the Global Positioning Satellites that are “up there.” And we have life-saving telemedicine, where we can consult with physicians thousands of miles away from a disaster or remote area.
In the meantime, other forms of communication have evolved greatly over time. In the 1960’s, I had a pen pal in Japan. Extra postage on the letter to make it go by airmail. Air mail envelopes were of thinner paper and so was the writing paper so it would weigh less. It took 4 days to go from Long Island to Kyoto and vice versa. And a PS here – if any of my readers is in Japan, or has connections with people there, I had an unsuccessful search for my former pen pal. Perhaps there is someone out there who can help.
I continued to be an avid letter-writer but the events of September 18, 2001 forced me into the age of the internet as far as personal communications were concerned. That was the start of the anthrax scare – people receiving envelopes in the mail with a white powder that turned out to be anthrax, with people becoming ill. A friend with whom I was corresponding in Vienna said they were concerned and we should communicate with email – and so, I finally came into the modern world and got myself an email address.
In 1998, when my son was 10 years old, I was part of a nursing delegation that visited two hospitals in Nepal to discuss our respective countries’ methods of treating neurosurgical and neurological conditions. During that time, I received a message from the cyber café near the hotel to call home. I panicked, thinking something had happened to my son. I placed a phone call and discovered he only wanted to hear my voice. That 20-minute call cost $100 USD, payable immediately to the hotel clerk.
Now, we can instantly talk with and even see one another by directly calling someone with our cell phones, Face Time, and send emails instantly instead of waiting days or weeks for mail to go each way. And in some cases, snail mail has not improved over time. More than 50 years ago, my letter took 4 days to go from New York to Kyoto. Currently, a paper letter going from my home in Colima to the United States takes anywhere from one month to three months, with an average of 6 weeks – IF it eventually gets delivered. God Bless DHL and FedEx, which costs a fortune, but the mail or package does reach its destination in a timely manner.
Since I am a retired nurse, I will also briefly touch on how technology has changed the medical field. When I entered nursing school in 1967, there was no such thing as CT scans, etc. To detect something such as a brain tumor, there was a test called a pneumoencephalogram (PEG for short). You’d sit in a chair, the doctor would do a spinal tap and extract a bit of spinal fluid. Then they would inject an air bubble, which would rise up to your ventricles in your brain and they would take x-rays. If your brain was atrophied, you wouldn’t feel a thing. If your brain was intact, it felt as if your head exploded, the most agonizing pain I had ever experienced, much worse than childbirth and kidney stones combined.
Gratefully with CT scans, PET scans, MRI’s and other forms of imaging, that barbaric test is no longer in use. You can see inside the body without having to cut it open to find or treat a problem.
Likewise, telemedicine is a blessing. In the past, x-rays were taken, the film was then developed and a radiologist would interpret it. The phrase “wet reading” comes from reading the film before it is completely dry. Now, x-rays can be transmitted digitally halfway around the world for consultations, when the patient is in a remote area, such as after a disaster, or a radiologist is not available at the time he is needed.
The final change that I will touch on is managing diabetes. In 1967, we did not test blood sugar. We would take a fresh specimen of urine, put a few drops in a test tube, add a few drops of Benedict’s Solution then hold it over an open flame. When the liquid changed color, we would compare it to a chart to see how much sugar was there and then calculate how much insulin to give. Over time, there were tablets to add (Clinitest and Acetest) instead of Benedict’s Solution, and more changes over time until we have the hand-held instant glucometer of today.
I could write a whole book solely on the changes that have occurred during my lifetime, but I am only writing a blog post for now. And so, I will leave each of you, whatever your age, to contemplate the wonders of the human brain and how it is possible to manipulate our world to bring us closer together and improve our lives and widen our horizons when it is used for the benefit of all persons everywhere. Teamwork and sharing knowledge and ideas will help make this a better world.
Since my last post, Easter has come and gone here in our little state of Colima. Normally my village is very quiet, but around holidays it is transformed. It becomes a village bursting with color, music, dancing, singing, parades and processions.
This year, however, it was very somber. Normally, when it is not a holiday, there are children running around and playing in the village square, women congregating in front of their houses or inside their houses and men congregating in the square. Now it is like a ghost town.
Mexico is a very religious and Catholic country, and all the churches have been closed for a while. My neighbors will “attend” the Mass either broadcast from Mexico City or from the Vatican. Schools have been closed, restaurants that are still open serve takeout only.
The governor of our state has been very diligent about the public taking precautions to stay safe. Those precautions, possibly in addition to the fact that we are a small agricultural state, has led to our good fortune to only have had 7 positive cases and no deaths from the pandemic. Cities like Mexico City and Guadalajara have been harder hit, but they are more urban and crowded – sometimes reminding me of New York City.
Children are receiving their homework assignments from the teachers, given a due date, and then their families return the homework to the teachers and receive their next assignments. We will have to wait and see when the schools might open again.
I have been somewhat busy with gardening – replacing my almost-dead, dried up rosemary plants with 5 new ones, discovering a still-alive cherry tree sapling that I had forgotten about as it was “buried” in an overgrowth of weeds and ground cover. I also planted 10 bell pepper plants, and my chayotes are starting to produce more than I can eat by myself.
Also, there’s my banana trees. Three of them are producing at once. When they are ripe, there will be a total of somewhere between 150 and close to 300 lbs of bananas.
The area which our literacy project, Project Amigo, serves has a lot of poverty, so I will be donating my excess fruits and vegetables to them to distribute to those who need it.
It’s also Sugar Cane Time !!!!! Recently, our ground was covered with black ash which resembles strips of burnt paper. That lets us know that the owners are burning the sugar cane fields and soon the cañeros – the sugar cane cutters – will be in the fields cutting the stalks of cane that are left after the leaves, etc. are burned away. Once the cane is dried in the fields, it is loaded onto huge trucks and taken to the refineries. A few days ago, I started to see these cane trucks on the road. As the season progresses, we will be seeing many trucks driving by every day.
As you might be able to tell, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in spite of the pandemic Cows still need to be milked, farms still need to be tended, and then there’s construction. Road repairs, work on houses, all those people are still working, but there are only a few men at a time, not large crowds of people.
And then there was Palm Sunday and Easter. For Palm Sunday, the people in the village were told they could attach any kind of branches they wished above their doors, and so they did. For Easter, there were Masses broadcast on television or the internet.
For me, thanks to modern technology, I was able to attend the Easter service of my old church in New York, the First Presbyterian Church of Goshen. It was nice to see familiar faces, first the pre-recorded service and then attend “Coffee Hour” live via ZOOM (?). For this special occasion, I actually got dressed up, even though I was alone in my livingroom.
And I would like to take a few minutes to share some thoughts with you about being a foreigner, no matter during extraordinary times or normal times. I have lived here for 4 years, and been a permanent resident for almost 3 of those years. I do not live in an expat community and therefore speak Spanish probably 90% of the time. I can manage with daily conversations, though my grammar and vocabulary are still lacking in many ways. I am trying to improve my grammar so that I sound more like an adult, rather than a foreigner.
Anyway, I can tell you that what others might perceive about foreigners is not what we feel inside. Inside, I know that I am a professional, I have a degree and worked as a professional for 45 years. Outwardly, it is often hard to express myself in a second language which I only began to learn as an adult, and this might make me seem “less than” to native speakers. There are many nuances to languages which are not taught in school, or local dialects and expressions which you will not automatically know or understand.
Here in Mexico, I have found nothing but acceptance in my community, but I know that the foreign-born living in some other countries are not accepted or not considered intelligent if they do not have total command of the language of the country in which they reside. So I am asking that if you know or see someone for whom your native language is THEIR second language, that you take this into consideration, and maybe say something if you see them being mistreated or made fun of, compliment them on their efforts to speak your language or ask them how they are doing and learn something about their life.
Anyway, I’ll get down from my soapbox for now and wish you and your loved ones safety and well-being and hope that for whatever holiday you may have celebrated, it brought you some comfort.
Until next time, remember that we are all in this together.
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.
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 https://www.fvap.gov/ 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 http://www.votefromabroad.org for anyone who wants to register and vote.
According to the government website, this is required for absentee voting:
Each year, submit a completed Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) to your local election officials. They will:
Confirm your eligibility to vote and put your name on a list to receive absentee ballots for any elections held that calendar year.
Send you a blank absentee ballot electronically or by mail.
Complete and return the ballot so it arrives before your state’s ballot return deadline. OR
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 !!!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.