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If I Have a Cold Hot Pocket
May 26th, 2011 by Les

“I went to the bank and reviewed my savings, I found out I have all the money I’ll ever need, if I die tomorrow.” —Henry Youngman, Comedian

“I’m spending a year dead for tax reasons.”  Douglas Adams, Author

As we sit and wait for someone from Telecable (cable TV/Internet), my mind flits from one thought to the next.  If you have a cold hot pocket, is it just a pocket?  Can a hearse carrying a corpse drive in the car-pool lane?  If a man alone in the words says something would a woman still say he was wrong?  If a hermaphrodite got sent to a certain gender prison, which one would it get sent to?  If the cable guy said he’d get here before noon, does that mean today, tomorrow or yesterday?  You know…things of that nature.

When we first arrived in Ajijic I did a piece on the 11:00 a.m. theory.  Most service people will not state a time of arrival merely going with: “I’ll stop by tomorrow…or Monday”, etc.  When pushed their eyes glaze over their mind locks in on the obvious and they proceed to say (to themselves) “ah, a gringo” and they realize time (no matter if we have a lot of it or not) is important.  Okay, we’ll be there by 11:00, would be the customary response.

I can’t tell you how many times we heard we’ll be there at 11:00.  Of course, as time went by and instead of arranging our entire day around the 11:00 arrival time, we laughed about it and went about our business…being home at 11:00 but not feeling compelled to remain after, oh let’s say 2:00 since we knew they’d get to us eventually.  If we didn’t have a modicum of patience prior to our arrival in our little village in Mexico, we have it now.

What brought us to the point of needing the Telecable people here again – after two years of great service?  David has been researching ways to live our lives more cost effectively.  He has come up with several ideas over the two years since living our expat existence.  Reality is the leading cause of stress for those in touch with it.  Since I am not in any danger of becoming stressed out, I’ve asked David to explain the cost-savings tips below.

When we first moved we set up our US land line through Vonage.  It worked very well and allowed us to call anyone in the states for free. It also allowed our friends and family to phone us on a state-side number.  An added bonus, if they had Vonage service as well, it did not cost them a long distance fee to call us, and if they used their cell phones the cost was a wash as well, since cell phones can call anywhere in the US for free. Vonage cost $37.50 or $440 pesos a month at today’s rates. It also requires a one year contract.

Purchasing a magicJack in the US will cost $50 US or $585 pesos. If purchased here, in Ajijic, it will most likely cost $750 pesos ($65 US) for the first year and $20 US a year or $230 pesos a year after that, broken down to approximately $1.70 US ($20 pesos) a month.

Vonage is VOIP (voice over internet), and comes with a wireless router. As long as your internet connection is up, it is running. Depending on the promotion, you may or may not have to pay for the router. I don’t know if they are available here in Ajijic. You probably will have to pay for shipping to get one.

MagicJack, like Vonage, is VOIP. However, magicJack connects directly to your computer, there is no router. Your computer must be on to send and receive calls. However, if you turn it off the calls will go into voicemail and when you turn it on again, an audio message or “wave” file will be sent to your email for retrieval.  The sound quality is excellent and, so far, it is working perfectly for us.

Thus, after an initial $750 peso ($65 US) startup, which includes the device and 1 year’s service, the magicJack averages to $1.70/month, compared to the Vonage’s $37.50/month, or a savings of $35.80 US or $420 pesos/month. It has paid for itself in 2 months.

Both services allow you to choose your number in the states, so it is easy to choose a number with an area code where your family lives, and there will be no charges for them to call you whether they have Vonage or cell phone or not.

This has led us to another cost savings (at least for us) realization, if we discontinue Telemex (both our Mexican land line and Internet service provider) at $601 pesos/month, or $52 US monthly, we will realize another savings.  We have used Telecable for our cable TV service. The price is $301 pesos, or $26 US/month. The combined Telmex and Telecable bills were $902 pesos or $77 US/month. We have found that we are able to drop Telmex altogether, giving up their land line and internet service, and subscribe to a no-contract wireless internet + television package at Telecable for only $530 pesos, or $45 US/month. Thus, we have saved $372 pesos or $32 US/month by making this switch. We use low-prices Telcel ‘Amigo’ plan services for our local lines. The price comes to $50 pesos, or $4 US/month, or less.

Altogether, these two moves have saved us $35.58 US ($416 pesos) for the US phone service, and $32 US/month ($372 pesos) on internet and local telephone for a grand savings of $68 US or almost $800 pesos at today’s rates.

The above is David’s contribution to this blog post.  I tried writing the information out and you can’t even imagine what little sense it made…even to me.  My take on most things is not a shred of evidence exists in favor of the idea that life is serious.  Consequently my mind, such as it is, could never wrap itself around the cost savings information David has so graciously supplied.  What a team we make.  Thank goodness for David’s research.  I research things such as chocolate, particularly dark chocolate (my favorite) produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana.  Of course, the same people who researched the whole chocolate thing also discovered other similarities between the two, but can’t remember what they were.

Viva Mexico!

Below are photographs of our in-home gallery of David and other Ajijic artists’ works.  Last Sunday one of the “arts” writers for the Guadalajara Reporter called and asked if it would be okay to share David’s recent National Geographic photograph and information in their paper.  The article should be in this Friday’s edition.  I will keep you posted.  Enjoy!

Gallery Shots

Gallery Shots

Gallery Shots

Gallery Shots

Gallery Shots

Gallery Shots

Gallery Shots

Gallery Shots

Gallery Shots

A sketch given to David's dad done in 1932.

Gallery Shots

Gallery Shots

Home Gallery Shots

Home Gallery Shots

Heading toward David's new office....

New Office and Studio

New Office and Studio

New Office and Studio

New Office and Studio

New Office and Studio - David's mom's self portraits.

Tastefully done semi-nude artist in residence.

Viva La Difference
May 19th, 2011 by Les

Dave Barry, American writer and humorist, has said:  “The difference between men and women is that, if given the choice between saving the life of an infant or catching a fly ball, a woman will automatically choose to save the infant, without even considering if there is a man on base.”

“No one will ever win the battle of the sexes.  There’s too much fraternizing with the enemy!”  Henry Kissinger, American political scientist.

Let’s say a guy named Joe is attracted to a woman named Katrina. He asks her out to a movie; she accepts; they have a pretty good time. A few nights later he asks her out to dinner, and again they enjoy themselves. They continue to see each other regularly, and after a while neither one of them is seeing anybody else.

And then, one evening when they’re driving home, a thought occurs to Katrina, and, without really thinking, she says it aloud: “Do you realize that, as of tonight, we’ve been seeing each other for exactly six months?”

And then, there is silence in the car.

To Katrina, it seems like a very loud silence. She thinks to herself: I wonder if it bothers him that I said that. Maybe he’s been feeling confined by our relationship; maybe he thinks I’m trying to push him into some kind of obligation that he doesn’t want, or isn’t sure of.

And Joe is thinking: Gosh. Six months.

And Katrina is thinking: But, hey, I’m not so sure I want this kind of relationship either. Sometimes I wish I had a little more space, so I’d have time to think about whether I really want us to keep going the way we are, moving steadily towards, I mean, where are we going? Are we just going to keep seeing each other at this level of intimacy? Are we heading toward marriage? Toward children? Toward a lifetime together? Am I ready for that level of commitment? Do I really even know this person?

And Joe is thinking: …so that means it was…let’s see…February when we started going out, which was right after I had the car at the dealer’s, which means…lemme check the odometer…Whoa! I am way overdue for an oil change here.

And Katrina is thinking: He’s upset. I can see it on his face. Maybe I’m reading this completely wrong. Maybe he wants more from our relationship, more intimacy, more commitment; maybe he has sensed – even before I sensed it – that I was feeling some reservations. Yes, I bet that’s it. That’s why he’s so reluctant to say anything about his own feelings. He’s afraid of being rejected.

And Joe is thinking: And I’m gonna have them look at the transmission again. I don’t care what those morons say, it’s still not shifting right. And they better not try to blame it on the cold weather this time. What cold weather? It’s 87 degrees out, and this thing is shifting like a garbage truck, and I paid those incompetent thieves $600.

And Katrina is thinking: He’s angry. And I don’t blame him. I’d be angry, too. I feel so guilty, putting him through this, but I can’t help the way I feel. I’m just not sure.

And Joe is thinking: They’ll probably say it’s only a 90-day warranty…scum balls.

And Katrina is thinking: Maybe I’m just too idealistic, waiting for a knight to come riding up on his white horse, when I’m sitting right next to a perfectly good person, a person I enjoy being with, a person I truly do care about, a person who seems to truly care about me. A person who is in pain because of my self-centered, schoolgirl romantic fantasy.

And Joe is thinking: Warranty? They want a warranty? I’ll give them a warranty. I’ll take their warranty and stick it right up their…

“Joe,” Katrina says aloud.

“What?” says Joe, startled.

“Please don’t torture yourself like this,” she says, her eyes beginning to brim with tears. “Maybe I should never have…oh dear, I feel so…”(She breaks down, sobbing.)

“What?” says Joe.

“I’m such a fool,” Katrina sobs. “I mean, I know there’s no knight. I really know that. It’s silly. There’s no knight, and there’s no horse.”

“There’s no horse?” says Joe.

“You think I’m a fool, don’t you?” Katrina says.

“No!” says Joe, glad to finally know the correct answer.

“It’s just that…it’s that I…I need some time,” Katrina says. (There is a 15-second pause while Joe, thinking as fast as he can, tries to come up with a safe response. Finally he comes up with one that he thinks might work.)

“Yes,” he says. (Katrina, deeply moved, touches his hand.)

“Oh, Joe, do you really feel that way?” she says.

“What way?” says Joe.

“That way about time,” says Katrina.

“Oh,” says Joe. “Yes.” (Katrina turns to face him and gazes deeply into his eyes, causing him to become very nervous about what she might say next, especially if it involves a horse. At last she speaks.)

“Thank you, Joe,” she says.

“Thank you,” says Joe.

Then he takes her home, and she lies on her bed, a conflicted, tortured soul, and weeps until dawn, whereas when Joe gets back to his place, he opens a bag of Doritos, turns on the TV, and immediately becomes deeply involved in a rerun of a college basketball game between two South Dakota junior colleges that he has never heard of. A tiny voice in the far recesses of his mind tells him that something major was going on back there in the car, but he is pretty sure there is no way he would ever understand what, and so he figures it’s better if he doesn’t think about it.

The next day Katrina will call her closest friend, or perhaps two of them, and they will talk about this situation for six straight hours. In painstaking detail, they will analyze everything she said and everything he said, going over it time and time again, exploring every word, expression, and gesture for nuances of meaning, considering every possible ramification.

They will continue to discuss this subject, off and on, for weeks, maybe months, never reaching any definite conclusions, but never getting bored with it either.

Meanwhile, Joe, while playing racquetball one day with a mutual friend of his and Katrina’s, will pause just before serving, frown, and say: “Norm, did Katrina ever own a horse?”

And that’s the difference between men and women.

The other day, while endlessly sweeping outside our gate, our new neighbor, Roberto, stopped to chat.  He explained he and his wife had just moved into their new home.  It was a lot of work and, while there were still a few things that needed doing, he was looking forward to relaxing and kicking back for a while.  I asked: “how is your wife doing?”  To which he said, with this confused and puzzled look on his face, I think she is doing okay but I’m not sure.  Oh?  My response to his thoughts.  To which he replied we’ve been married over 25 years and I’m still not sure what my next move should be, that is why I am out walking so early in the morning.

Viva the Difference. It simply doesn’t matter where you live, it is universal!  Viva Mexico!

David visited the Ajijic malecon early one morning.  Below are some of the photographs he took.  Enjoy:

Lake Chapala

A Boat on Lake Chapala

Boats on the Lake

Mountains in the Distance

I love this shot.

Boats on the Malecon

Quiet Beauty

I love the look of this photograph!

I’m Not as Daft as I Look
May 15th, 2011 by Les

Philip Johnson, American architect and graduate of Harvard said: “All architecture is shelter; all great architecture is the design of space that contains cuddles, exalts, or stimulates the persons in that space.”

“An architect is a drawer of dreams.”  Grace McGarvie, retired teacher, Plymouth Minnesota.

“A doctor can bury his mistakes but an architect can only advise his client to plant vines.” Frank Lloyd Wright, American architect and writer.

Mexico is an amazing place.  Admittedly, a bit hectic and certainly cluttered and somewhat chaotic area, while at the same time fascinating, challenging and romantic.

Granted Mexico may not have the crenel-lated gothic structures like the Masee National Du Mayen Age, Thermes De Cluny (Cluny Museum of Medieval History) in Paris.  Or, Westminster Abbey, as my father would say a great French thought expressed in excellent English.  The wonderful city of Guadalajara located only 45 minutes from our little village of Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico and is the cultural center of all of Mexico.  The Guadalajara Cathedral is just one example of the beautiful ancient architecture one can see when visiting the center of the city.  When first built in 1541 it was a small and simple church.  The current Renaissance style structure with neo-gothic towers was finished in 1618 and is as beautiful an edifice as one might find anywhere, in my humble opinion.

What do I know about anything and, in particular, architecture and history?  This may explain my take on both…one of my favorite places would be the Spy Museum in Washington DC.  Architecturally nothing special, however you can purchase the “Handbook of Practical Spying” at the museum with an entire chapter dedicated to: “Keeping Caution from the Wind”.  The chapter explains how contacts could be safely approached and might explain my favorite place comment.  I can tell you this much, wearing a Sherlock Holmes cap does put people off a bit. I’m not as daft as I look, maybe, just a bit cheeky.  As usual, I digress.

My point you ask?  Well, much confounds me.  I can wander the streets of our little village, and have done so for almost two years now, and each and every time I go out I see startling beauty everywhere I look.  We all know David has the innate ability to capture, with his ever present Nikon, actual photographers that often take your breath away.

By the same token, I have not learned as much as a feel I should have in the time I’ve lived here about the history of Mexico and, in particular, the Lake Chapala area.  I am soaking everything up as quickly as I can folks.  Often time I think I am thinking when I’m merely frantically rearranging my brain cells to complete a thought.  However, I shall move ever forward in my quest to learn about Mexican history.

In the meantime, dear folks, and since I don’t believe my main purpose in life is to serve as a bad example, I shall trod the streets of my small village and those surrounding it soaking up the atmosphere, smells and excitement of every day life.  As it was explained to me recently, much of what you see in Mexico has been here for hundreds of years.  For example the adobe homes have remained and some have been adapted to the 20th century (yes, 20th century) with electricity and in-door facilities.  Some still have windows put into place in the 1930’s.

It doesn’t stop at the architecture, lives are lived differently here.  Many of the people we share our lives with in Ajijic centro, have walked these cobblestone streets since they were born.  Learning to speak the language has helped us to hear stories about life we could not have heard when we first came down here.  Granted, David’s grasp of the language is much, much better than mine.  Right now I know two languages: English and Body and I’m not so sure about Body, with a smattering of Mexican and, of course, Welsh if one is singing.

I leave you with a snap of the National Geographic web page upon which David’s hummingbird appeared this week in all it’s splendor.  The web site is http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/your-shot/daily-dozen .  This will take you to the daily dozen page and if you hit the forward arrows to your right you will come to David’s hummingbird photograph.

Below are photographs David took of “six corners” in Ajijic one recent early morning.  Enjoy.

Viva Mexico!

Carniceria - Butchers

Laboratorio De Patologia Clinica - Clinical Pathology Lab

Tapiceria Upholstery El Cojin - "The Upholstery Cushion"

Six Corners is just two blocks from our casa.

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© Copyright 2009-2011 David and Les Lawrence, Ajijic, Mexico