Friday, December 01, 2006

First of December?

As December begins, it is hard to believe that Christmas is near. I suppose I will get used to it eventually, but I have always associated Christmas with cold, miserable weather. The weather here is absolutely perfect now, and will be for the next several months. Nice warm days, about mid-80s, and a little coolness at night, maybe 65-70. The humidity is much lower and I notice the difference in the kitchen, where the salt and sugar no longer clump together, and it is possible to keep potato chips crisp after opening them.

The stores here have been full of Christmas items since September, and I was SO disappointed to see that most of the merchandise is exactly like something we would buy in the US, and all of it is made in China. It is disorienting, when the temperature outside is 85F, to walk into a store with palm trees in the parking lot and find 8 foot plastic snowglobes with snowmen and fake white stuff swirling around inside. Do they actually sell this stuff to somebody? I guess they must....but not to me. To get something uniquely Mexican to decorate our house this year, I'll try going to the Sunday tianguis (open air market) in Bucerias.

Now that we are finished remodeling and redecorating the inside of the house, we are beinning to focus on landscaping. Jerry has been busy with outside projects - he built a small "fence" along the patio to make sure that the dogs don't root up the roses I plan to plant there this afternoon. He has been experimenting with plaster molds and concrete to make some beautiful art objects to adorn our stairway and gardens. As soon as we have some progress to show, I'll post pictures to our flickr site. This site is STILL unable to process picture uploading.

Hasta luego for now.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Day, 2006

Ah, winter is here! The humidity disappeared overnight a few days ago, and the days are lovely and sunny; the nights are a bit cool (65-70F). We started a new Thanksgiving tradition and made tamales today. Jerry and I sat down at the kitchen table with home-made Chile Colorado sauce laced with moist and succulent chicken, spread the home-made masa on the corn shucks and tied them up into neat little bundles. Steamed them for two hours and they were delicious. A wonderful and new type of Thanksgiving feast for our new life together in Mexico.

Yesterday, we were honored by a brief visit from some good friends from Portland, who were on a cruise ship that made a stop in Puerto Vallarta. It was so wonderful to see Lesley and Candy. They were full of questions about our life in Mexico, and in telling them about our experiences so far, I realized how contented I am to live here. I am particularly happy to be living in this small Mexican town of Bucerias.

After they returned to Vallarta, we went for a walk on the beach and watched the sunset. Then, we stopped by The Coffee Cup, a small coffee shop that we visit often. The manager greeted us cheerfully , as did her children who often keep her company while she works. People walked by with a friendly "Buenas tardes" as we sipped our lattes in the cooling evening air. I began to understand and appreciate that we are beginning to feel at home in this small community, where the clerks at the ferreteria (no, this is not a place where you buy ferrets, it is a hardware store) greet Jerry enthusiastically by name whenever he comes in, where our next door neighbors call "Buenos dias, Jerry and Karen" when they spot us on the roof having our morning coffee. We miss our friends and family back in Oregon, to be sure, but we have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and we are happy to be in Bucerias, Mexico.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

New pictures - but not here

Well, I am having no luck at all loading pictures on the blogspot - they have a new beta product, and it isn't working very well. After reading the "blog about the blog" I realize that others are having the same problem, so maybe they will fix it. In the meantime, I've loaded some pictures at the address below...should be easy to reach...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Hola amigos! Here are "before and after" pictures of our little casa from the outside. Quite a difference! Note the wall and gate, driveway with improved elevations so the rain does not run into the yard, glorious new color, and the palm trees have been trimmed a bit. There is still lots of landscaping to be done along the wall, where we had flower beds built. That was before we realized that we would be visited by a small herd of Brahma cattle every few days - they are pastured down the road, but regularly roam to greener pastures. We'll have to find something to plant that cows won't eat and is also somewhat trample-proof. On the roof, you can see our little "gazebo" where we sit and have our morning coffee and watch the sun come up. (Being so close to the equator, we have about 11-12 hours of daylight regardless of the season. Right now, the sun comes up about 7:15 am and sets about 6:30 pm. In the summer, we have slightly more daylight.) With my next post, I'll add some interior shots...we are both well and happy, and SO glad to have internet access again.

Monday, November 13, 2006


After my post from the internet cafe this morning, I returned home and guess what? The switch in Guadalajara had been turned on and we had access at last!

Here's a picture of our puppies, Blondie and Dagwood. We adopted them from our next door neighbors, a Mexican family, and they are quite a challenge, but bring lots of joy and laughter into our lives.

I'll get to work putting together some new pictures of the house and post again ASAP. Thanks to so many of you who have been asking about our blog and wondering why we haven't posted in awhile. Hasta luego!

Internet access getting closer!

We finally gave up on the cable company and applied for a phone line, we were promised that it would be installed within seven days. Three and a half weeks later (last Wednesday), it was actually installed! Now, we are waiting for the DSL to be turned on by some mysterious and unreachable process in Guadalajara...we are almost there!

Much has happened since I posted last - the staircase is now built, we have had a wonderful visit from daughter Justine and we have a acquired two puppies, Blondie and Dagwood. Hopefully, I will soon be able to post many pictures of our remodeled casa and our menagerie as well.

Until then - hasta luego y buena suerte!

Saturday, September 30, 2006


We still don’t have an internet connection in our Bucerias casa – Telecable (pronounced tay-lay-COB-lay) does not have a line on our street and would have to run a cable from the nearest cross street to hook us up (only about 10 meters away). They haven’t decided yet if they want to do that, so we wait. Our other options are satellite dish (expensive and not very fast) and waiting about two months for a phone line. Hmmmm. But we have found a café not far from the house where we can take our laptop and use their wireless internet. That will have to do for now. Not a bad gig – the café is called “Pie in the Sky” and serves fresh mango pie and great coffee!

So much has happened since I was last able to post. We have lived in our house for four weeks today, and it is proving to be a lovely place to live. Very quiet and peaceful, especially at night, when we can hear the iguanas whistling “goodnight” in the trees, the ubiquitous geckos chirping away and many other (so far) unidentifiable jungle-type noises just outside our windows. We are the only gringos in a Mexican neighborhood and our neighbors have been very friendly and welcoming.

Today, the cement is being poured for the outside stairs to the second level, and our new gate will be installed. We have gone through so many bags of cement that we can’t count them, and we have inhaled enough cement dust to construct at least one pillar of the Fremont Bridge. We have accomplished a lot in the last four weeks:
  • the house has been completely rewired, with LOTS of electrical outlets;
  • the kitchen has been renovated, with new counters, shelves and beautiful tile, a new stove and refrigerator;;
  • the entire interior and exterior have been painted with bright and cheerful colors;
  • the wall has been completed on the north and west sides of the house;
  • a new elevation was created for the driveway and a cement driveway was built, with flower boxes along the outside wall;
  • new fans were installed;
  • beautiful new patio built in the backyard;
  • a "bodega" (storage space) was built in the backyard;
  • a staircase to the roof level has been built (almost);
  • new wrought iron gate (almost).

I know there is more, but can't think of it all right now! I wish I could post more pictures, but for some reason, this connection won't accommodate - perhaps it is not powerful or fast enough. I'll keep trying!

And our three Mexicano gatos are having a great time – climbing trees, chasing bugs and playing in the goat pasture next door. They are much happier – and safer- than they were in Vallarta, and so are we. More later – hoping for internet access soon!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Morning sky in Bucerias

Ahh, we have moved into our house! It is a mixed blessing, because it is also still a construction site...but it is lovely and quiet there at night, also much cooler and less humid than Vallarta. . The cats are having lots of adventures and progress continues more or less smoothly - the subject of another blog when I have more time.

Yesterday, the workers pointed excitedly up into the large mimosa tree and I got some great pictures of our resident iguanas, thanks to a 10X zoom lens. The big one is about 4 feet long and his esposa is about 3 feet long. They are magnificent. One word of caution if you come to visit - don't sit under the tree. S**t happens. And it is BIG.

I will post again soon - no internet access for awhile until Telecable hooks us up in Bucerias. Who knows when that will be!

Friday, September 01, 2006


I was right - Manuel and the team have been hard at work and the tiling is done. And look at the pretty new gas range! Cesar is polishing the cement on the shelves and putting on a primer so they will be ready to paint. We bought the paint today, no mean feat when you consider we were ordering several different colors and we wanted to come back later to pick them up. Between the clerk's good humor, a Spanish-English dictionary he kept behind the counter and our own feeble efforts , e.g. "regressar esta tarde?" (What is the word for "mix"?) we managed to get all of our paint. Also, the refrigerator, bed, bookcase, washer/dryer were all delivered today and tomorrow we start to move! Hooray!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Non-Hurricane

Today we readied ourselves for category Four Hurricane "John", which was predicted to skirt Puerto Vallarta around 1 pm with 78-157 MPH winds and up to 24 inches of rain. So we waited. And we waited. Finally, we got tired of waiting, and around 3 pm, we took a walk down to the beach. The top picture shows what we saw. No people. No big waves. No hurricane. The bay is usually full of "pangas" or small fishing boats. None were in the water. Just a light rain. So we got in the truck and drove downtown. PV's famed Malecon was also pretty deserted - the only other vehicle (to the left) was a "policia transito" or traffic police vehicle. Most of the businesses were boarded or taped. (Plywood is a rare commodity here - where did they get that plywood???)

CNN and MSNBC continued to report that Puerto Vallarta was being "ravaged" by Hurricane John. C'mon guys - get it right! Eventually, these stories disappeared from their web pages as they finally figured out that they were inaccurate.

We were lucky. We did not have to live through our first hurricane this day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Other Side of the Coin

We had a really good day today. And, we had a really good day yesterday. And the day before. The house is progressing well, as you can see from the pictures. The top picture shows Beto (equivalent of "Bob" in Spanish) mixing cement for the wall - this is the way ALL cement is mixed here except for huge commercial jobs. There is no magic formula - they just add sand, powdered cement, gravel and water , then mix it with a shovel until it is just right. For finer jobs, like the kitchen shelves and counters, they mix it differently, of course (no gravel!) and even sift the sand and cement through a screen. It is pretty amazing.

The second picture is our palette for the inside of the house - gold, coral orange and blue for the kitchen, green and watermelon for the bedroom, aqua for the living room. Lots of beautiful color!

The third picture shows Bernardo putting some finishing touches on the cement countertops. Notice how nice the shelves look! The counters are polished tinted cement - they are really beautiful. When we left today, Herman was getting ready to start the tiling - oh boy!

The bottom picture is one of the plumeria bushes in the yard - aren't they lovely?

We spent the day at the house today, observing the amazing progress. Manuel was laying the tiles on the bathroom floor while we were there, Pedro and Alejandro were finishing the side wall, Herman was getting all the walls ready to paint. Jerry felt a little restless and prowled around, watching and learning about Mexican construction methods - he is not used to standing by and watching someone else work on his house. So he lent a hand here and there, steadying a board that needed to be cut and trimming trees.

I mostly sat in the shade of the big mimosa tree, watching the many birds and butterflies and hoping for a glimpse of the iguanas. It is very quiet here - much different from where we are living in Puerto Vallarta, where there is lots of noise all around us. We have only four houses on our whole street. I can hear children from the next street playing, distant traffic on the carretera a few blocks away, and birds singing. Pedro (just like Jerry) is whistling as he works and Herman likes to sing.

Tomorrow, we plan to paint the bedroom, but the weather may interfere. A Class 4 hurricane (John) is making its way up the western coast of Mexico and will reach the Vallarta area about 1 pm tomorrow. If it doesn't change course, it will be centered about 50 miles offshore, so is likely only to give us lots and lots of rain. But the airport is already closed and the Wednesday cruise ship did not appear today, so it is being taken seriously. We will likely stay put tomorrow until we see what is happening.

We have been doing some real power shopping - Monday we bought a new mattress and bed frame, washer and dryer, refrigerator, bookcase and a cabinet for the kitchen that holds the water bottles. Yesterday, we bought a great floor lamp that is actually a handcrafted tin mask, two beautiful tin mirrors for the bathrooms, a 300 liter propane tank and an equipal dining room table and chairs. To see what that looks like, go to Today, we got faucets for the kitchen and bathrooms, a microwave oven, pretty new dishes and nice trash receptacles for the kitchen and bathroom. Wow - that is some real power shopping, even for me. Jerry is holding up great.

I'll come back and report on the hurricane in a few days.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Living in Mexico - getting it right

Before we began this adventure, we read everything we could get our hands and eyes on to prepare us. Probably the best book we read was “Head for Mexico” by Don Adams. You can buy it on Amazon, and if you have any desires at all to follow in our footsteps, you should get a copy and read it at least five times. Don’s message from the beginning is that “Mexico is not for everyone.” You need to have a sense of adventure. Obviously. You cannot be obsessive-compulsive about neatness, punctuality or living an orderly life. You must be patient. That one bears repeating – YOU MUST BE PATIENT. As he points out continually, there is a vast difference between being a tourist in Mexico and living here full time.

OK – we read it all and said to ourselves and each other, “Of course. We understand that.” But there is no way to understand it until you experience it. Primarily because of the language barrier and the cultural differences, conducting day-to-day business becomes a real challenge. Every day.

For example, we have learned that the previous owner of our house did not seek and receive any building permits to build the house. This means that when Manuel (our contractor) goes to the municipal office to seek permits to build the second story, the clerk will look at the file on our property and say “But there is no house there to build on to.” What would happen next is anyone’s guess. Perhaps we would have to pay the delinquent permit fees (at $120 MXP per square meter, that would be $10,800 MXP, or about a thousand dollars). But wait, there’s more! We might also have to pay fines and penalties of an as-yet-undetermined amount. It also could mean that the rather modest property tax of about $35 per year would be re-assessed for the past ten years and we (as the current owners of the house) would have to pay the difference.

Fortunately, we have a good lawyer (we think). His name is Sergio Santana, and for less than $500, he will prepare a packet for the municipal officials which shows that the house was already built when we bought the property (this requires lots of pictures). He will make several trips to Valle de Banderas, the equivalent of the county seat, and maybe one to the state capitol in Tepic to convince the officials that we do not owe the past penalties or the original fees. How he will do this is too complicated to explain here. Then he will assist in getting the appropriate permits to build the second story.

This is not a catastrophic or even an unusual situation. It happens all the time, and must be taken in stride. But it was unexpected. And it illustrates one of the other points Don Adams makes in his book – expect the unexpected. Always.

These unexpected events, in varying degrees of magnitude, occur just about every day. Jerry and I are both good problem-solvers, but we lack the necessary cultural tools and language skills to make the right choices in many cases. So we rely on new friends to help us. We have been very lucky in that regard.

So why are we here? And why do we stay here? At the end of a long, hot and humid day, when we have made two trips back and forth between Vallarta and Bucerias (40 minutes each way) to get copies of documents or pick up an item that is needed right now, we do get a little weary. The feelings of helplessness or frustration in not being able to express needs or wants can be quite overwhelming, something we could not possibly have appreciated ahead of time. The internet chatter and forums make it look easy, seamless. Big shock for some, upon arrival and believe it or not, many folks move here and are quite indignant that English isn't widely spoken.

But where else can you fall asleep at night to the sound of geckos chirping? Wake up to the bluest sky you ever saw? Paint your house any color you want? Never worry about heating bills? Pick limes, bananas and orchids from your back yard? Experience a smile and a cheerful greeting from everyone you pass on the street? Eat fresh, ripe mangoes every day? Buy the most delicious taco you ever ate from a smiling vendor on the street corner for five pesos (45 cents)? Accompanied by a glass of cold watermelon juice? Experience thunder and lightning so intense that it sets off every car alarm in the neighborhood? Then feel the rush of coolness from the rain showers that make everything fresh again and turn the surrounding jungle (jungle!) an unimaginable variety of green hues? Feel completely safe from gangs, road rage and random gunfire? Receive excellent health care from a caring and compassionate doctor for about a tenth of the price US?

We’re staying right where we are.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

More progress, more pictures

Top picture - the wall is getting a coat of "cal" or whitewash.
Second picture - our talented contractor Manuel, who speaks very good English.
Third & fourth - open shelves being built in the kitchen of (what else?) cement.

Today, Jerry and I spent the day shopping for new ceiling fans (bought three - one for the living room, one for the kitchen and one for the bedroom) and a new kitchen sink. We looked at five places before we found fans that were (1) affordable and (2) that we liked. Choosing a new sink is difficult. Almost all of the sinks here are stainless steel - there are NONE in porcelain and only a few selections in fiberglas/PVC. Double sinks are very rare. The most expensive and attractive choice is copper - crafted by hand in the state of Michoacan. We went to three different places to look at copper sinks today. We found one we like (and can afford - barely), but need to measure to see if it will fit. You can see how beautiful they are at: Of course, we are attempting our fledgling Spanish, but can't communicate very well beyond "How much is that? (Cuanto cuesta?)" Then we have to listen very closely for the answer..."Tres mil y doscientos ochenta" ($3,280 MXP) goes by fast and takes some careful attention. "Does it come in white?" or "Are those lightbulbs easy to replace?" are way beyond us. Next is lighting....

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Work has begun...

Lots of activity at our new house! It's good to have plenty of "before"pictures, but bear in mind that things are changing fast. Our contractor Manuel has hired a full crew to completely re-wire the house (it had ONE circuit and got its electricity from a neighbor by extension cord!), build the wall and rebuild the kitchen...the pictures above also show Jerry with his new fifty peso ($4.45) Mexican haircut - that's upper left. Top right shows a portion of the new wall, along with a stack of bricks for building the rest of the wall. Right under Jerry is Alfredo building my new kitchen counter - everything is built of bricks and concrete, even the kitchen shelves. This kitchen will be beautiful - we have chosen a variety of colorful Talavera tiles. Next is another picture of the wall...note that the concrete bricks have been covered with cement. Then, the wall will be painted. A lovely arched blue iron gate will span the center. On the right is Pedro, the Maestro mason, covering the wall with cement. He uses a very skilled technique where he throws the cement on the wall with a trowel, hardly wasting a drop as he flicks his wrist. Bottom left shows the trench for the wall in the backyard being dug...unfortunately, they encountered the septic drain field, but they seem pretty cheerful. That must be why that lime tree grows such big limes!

We are very busy every day now, buying appliances, toilets and furniture, getting building supplies for Manuel and conferring with him about choices to be made. We actually plan to move in on the 31st of August. The house won't be done, but we will make the best of it...Manuel hopes to have the downstairs ready for us, but will start consturction of the second story after we move in. Some chaos for a month or so, but it will be worth it.

One of the best bonuses this week is our discovery of two beautiful giant green iguanas living in our large mimosa tree. They are about 3 feet long and we could hear their feet slapping on the limbs of the trees as they climbed. Fortunately, they are herbivorous and won't eat the cats. But the cats have certainly never seen anything like them and may be a bit surprised!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Necesitamos hablar espanol....

We have been fortunate to find a Spanish school here in Vallarta that uses a method especially tailored for "mature" learners. Three hours a day, three days week for three weeks - and we just finished our second week. Let's see...I have learned to say "Do you want to play more tennis? (Quiere jugar mas tenis?)" That may not prove to be so useful, but I have also learned to say "I need to think about it a little more ("Necesito pensarlo un poco mas)" and "Can you understand me? (Puede entenderme?)" And especially, "We need to learn more Spanish, (Necesitamos aprender mas espanol)" And don't forget "necesito usar el bano."

The truth is, we are living in a country whose people speak a language that we do not understand - and simply conducting basic business from day to day is a real challenge. Things like opening a bank account, paying the cable bill, buying paint for our new house and getting our truck insured become projects that could be accomplished so much easier if we spoke the language.

Of course, there are some cautions involved here. If you start trying out your Spanish before you really know what you're doing, you could end up saying things like: "Es regalo de queso. (It is a gift of cheese.)" or "Alto! ¡Yo soy plomero! (Stop! I am a plumber!)" A waitress got quite a laugh when I explained that I would order for "mi esposa." (Esposa is "wife" and ESPOSO is "husband.") Oh well, the people we encounter have all been encouraging and patient with our attempts to speak their language, and we have to keep saying that we "hablamos espanol un poco." Hopefully, that will change soon.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hard to say "goodbye."

We had a wonderful visit from my son Jeff and his family from the 13-18 of this month. Their two little girls (Josie - 7 and Amelia - 9) had a great time at the beach every day and especially enjoyed their dolphin encounter at Vallarta Adventures. Jeff and Kim are starting new teaching jobs in Wuhan, China soon - they have spent the last year there teaching English in a high school in Huangshi. We had a great time comparing our unique cultural experiences in China and Mexico. I think their cultural adjustment is a little steeper than ours, but the people of both countries are courteous and welcoming. It was such fun sharing some of our favorite places with them and it was so hard to say goodbye. They have made a two-year commitment, so I will be making a trip to China sometime in the next year.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

New member of the family...

Given the number of abandoned and stray animals in Mexico, I was sure it would only be a matter of time before we added to our gato family. I didn't think it would be quite this soon, however. Two nights ago, we were having dinner at our favorite beach restaurant, about a 1/2 block away, and Jerry spotted a little black kitten under a nearby table. Turns out that the chef had found three little kittens thrown away beside the road in a bag and rescued them. He has been taking very good care of them, but was happy to adopt one out. So after Jerry cuddled this little fellow for awhile, we brought him home. He has settled right in, and the other cats are tolerating him remarkably well. The chef had already named him "Negro", so that is what his name will remain, I guess. Very sweet and affectionate little kitty. And very happy to have a new home. Only in Mexico - in the US, kitties are not allowed to sleep under tables in restaurants. One more reason we are glad to be here!

Friday, June 30, 2006

A Good Day's Work!

Buying a used vehicle in Mexico (or anywhere, for that matter) is a perilous business, and we would not have attempted it without the help of our friend Salvador. We started out by asking Salvador to look through the local equivalent of "Nickel Ads" called "Mano a Mano". He found the perfect vehicle for us: a 2003 Nissan double cab pickup. We wanted a vehicle that we could haul a few things in for our house, but that we could also use for transportation when people visit us from home. The man selling it (Jesus Gerrard Treviro Rodriguez) did not speak much English, so Salvador made the call for us and went to look at the truck on his way home from work - it happened to be in the same little village where he lives - about 20 miles from Vallarta - Valle de Banderas. He reported back the next day - it was perfect! Only 32K kilometers and amazingly well-maintained. We went to look at it and agreed - and it was a beautiful shade of azul/blue. Now - how to pay for it? Jesus did not have a bank account, so we could not write him a check. With Salvador interpreting, we agreed that we could do an international wire transfer to the Ford dealer where he is buying his new truck. We went to Banamex, the large Mexican bank where the Ford dealer has an account and had the money wired from our US credit union to Banamex. That took three days!

Then, we had to register it and transfer the title. That was the work plan for today and it took ALL day. We needed passports, FM3s and a current water bill (we used Salvador's - that was discussed at length with the officials and deemed OK, because we don't yet have one in our name). Because we want to register the truck in Nayarit (the state where Bucerias is located), we went to the government offices in Mezcales. Salvador and Jesus went with us (thank goodness) and we went one place to make copies (an open roadside stand with a long extension cord and a big Xerox machine - they also sold pastries and sodas.) Then we went another place two towns away in San Juan de Albeo to have the car inspected to make sure it wasn't stolen (the policia). Then we went to the registrar in San Juan and filed all the papers. They filled out the registration forms for us on an old manual typewriter (no computers). Then we went to yet another place to get the new license plates. In between, Jesus and Salvador went yet another place (across the street), but we never figured out what it was.

End result? WE GOT IT and we are legal. Thanks to some very patient and helpful people. Once again, we were treated with courtesy and respect at every turn.

So I have also included a picture of the truck parked outside our condo building in Vallarta. As a bonus, you get a pictorial example of the unique Mexican electrical system!

This Sunday, we will take both families out to dinner at Adriano's, a wonderful oceanfront seafood restaurant in Bucerias to thank them for all their help. We will hear about the Rodriguez family's upcoming trip to Colorado to visit their son - Jesus is a biology teacher and we have had great fun trying to communicate with each other. We are looking forward to it and will post some pictures to the blog.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Our "stuff" has arrived!

Here are the three hardworking and friendly men who brought our shipment from Guadalajara to the storage unit north of Puerto Vallarta this afternoon. They did a great job and also have a fine sense of humor. It was a very HOT day (muy calor!). Every single item was accounted for, and we have unpacked the most fragile items with no evidence of damage. There was not room in the storage unit for one more box, so we figured it very closely. The driver gave me a copy of the customs documents that made little sense to me, but it made us very glad that we entrusted this complicated task to people who knew what they were doing. The company, UNIGROUP Worldwide, was represented by Mayflower in the US and Seymi in Mexico. They did a great job and stayed in touch with us frequently to let us know what was happening. (If anyone wants contact info, send me a private email.)

Jerry and I were REALLY glad to get some additional hot weather clothes that we couldn't fit in our suitcases. At this time of year in Vallarta, long pants (even capris) are out of the question. Am I ever glad to have several new pairs of shorts! Another example of the many kindnesses we continue to encounter - while we were waiting for the truck in the hot sun, the security guard brought us a big ice-cold bottle of water - oh, it tasted good. He also brought me a comnfortable chair to sit in the shade. All in all, a great day in Mexico.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006


We have been having a great time looking for property to buy, and have driven a rental car as far south as Mismaloya and as far north as San Pancho (about 20-30 miles either side of Puerto Vallarta). We have become smitten with the little town of Bucerias, which is only about 10 miles north of the Puerto Vallarta airport. Close to the city we love, but with the peaceful advantages of a small town of 6,000 population. Many foreigners live there, not just Americans and Canadians, but from all over the world. And they are not all retired - many work and live there and own small businesses. Like the German woman and her husband who own Carnes del Mundo - a wonderful butcher shop that sells all kinds of sausages and deli meats. We have found a house (a bit of a fixer-upper) that we like very much and we will probably make an offer this week. Here is a picture - we love the round front of the house with nine little windows!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

FINALLY we have internet access!

It took almost three weeks, but the cable company tech arrived today and installed our wireless internet. Hooray! The original appointment was for May 22, and we have waited (sometimes not so patiently) every day since. It was worth the wait.

Our little Casa Luna is very comfortable. Situated in Old Town Vallarta, we are only 75 yards from the beach, and even closer to our favorite restaurant, El Dorado, where we love to go drink a margarita, eat a HUGE shrimp cocktail and watch the sunset. (see picture).

The cats have settled in very well and stay close to home after a skirmish with a neighborhood alley cat the first week. They seem to be enjoying the warm weather and like sleeping on the cool tile floors.

We had an email from the moving company today (mostly in Spanish, so navigating it was a challenge) and our shipment of household goods has arrived at the border. We will hear from them again next week to see how successfully the shipment has cleared. We are crossing our fingers for a green light.

Puerto Vallarta is a world away from Portland, Oregon. I'm not sure we anticipated how different it would be, but so far we have not regretted our move. Learning Spanish better is now our top priority - getting along from day to day requires it. More later.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Wow, we are really here. We had a long day yesterday but everything went really well. The cats turned out to be very good travelers. They did not make a peep, and when we had to take them out of their carriers for security at both ends, they behaved very well and did not try to escape. We had dinner at our favorite restaurant last night - a few steps from our new home - right on the beach where we could watch the moon and the breakers hit the shore. Fabulously balmy and warm with a slight breeze stirring. Our dream. Hard to believe that it has happened.

We went grocery shopping today and bought Jerry some shoes because he didn't bring any sandals (don't even ask). Everything is certainly different - as we expected. We have lots of adventures ahead of us...

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Our stuff is on its way!

Two 200-cubic foot containers of our memories and everyday essentials were filled and sealed in this moving van yesterday. No furniture - we can buy new furniture in Mexico (and many homes are sold furnished). Jerry sent most of his tools (even his drill press) and I could not imagine parting with my Kitchenaid, Cuisinart, espresso machine, etc. We sent a few cool-weather clothes to wear when we come back to Oregon for a visit. We sent a few boxes of books, lots of DVDs, CDs, art supplies, artwork, computer, TV, stereo and lots of family memorabilia. It will arrive in 3-4 weeks following its very complicated journey through the border and customs processes. One of the huge advantages of hiring a company experienced in international moves is that they take care of all the paperwork. Fret-free. We hope and trust. The cost, for those who are interested? $5200, plus any customs charges and fees.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Our house is sold....

One of our most stressful remaining "loose ends" was the house. We didn't put it on the market until two weeks before we were scheduled to leave. We had so many little finishing touches we wanted to complete - like Jerry's ambitious fence with four gates. It was on the market for five hours before we got a full asking price offer. It will close after we leave, but we have a friend who will act on our behalf to sign papers with a power of attorney. Whew.

The movers come in two days to pack us up. We are sending about 400 cubic feet of our belongings - about 10% of what we had when we started. This has been the most challenging part of our whople you keep the birthday card Aunt Helen gave you in fourth grade? What about that first valentine you ever received? And this book that a boyfriend gave you in college - look, he even wrote a poem inside the front cover! Difficult decisions, but we got pretty ruthless before it was over. We scanned lots and lots of old documents and pictures, then recycled the originals. All of our important documents (passports, FM3s) are also scanned as a backup.

We find ourselves at loose ends. We are saying lots of goodbyes - many lunches and dinners. I said goodbye to my dear sister yesterday - she lives 300 miles away and we met halfway. That was the hardest thing yet, but I look forward to seeing her in Mexico when they visit (soon, I hope).

Eight more days.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

We are making progress....

This is our new home, on Amapas Street in Puerto Vallarta. We will rent here through August, when we will hopefully have a permanent home. The movers will be here to pack our "stuff" on May 8. LOTS of paperwork involved here, but fortunately, the movers will take care of that. We are not taking any furniture -just what will fit in an 8' by 8' by 4' container. Memories of two lifetimes - and neither of us is very good at throwing things away.

Our new official address, however, will be in Miami, FL, where the mail forwarding service run by Mailboxes, Etc. in PV operates. Once a week or so, they will courier the mail to PV and it will end up in our box. The Mexican postal service is apparently not very reliable, and most expats use a forwarding service.

Less than three weeks now!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A huge sense of accomplishment

We have our FM3 visas and the process was relatively painless, in spite of the waiting - a day and a half at a very crowded Mexican consulate. For those seeking to do the same, the requirements vary from one consulate to another, but for those applying in Portland, OR they currently include a valid passport and at least $2000 monthy income for a couple. You need to be able to prove your income with pension statements, SS award letters, etc. I cannot say that the officials were overwhelmingly friendly; I got the idea that there is considerable tension surrounding US immigration policy, both real and proposed. On Monday, we will have the house listed. Almost everything is packed and we are taking loads to the Salvation Army daily. The cats have gone to the vet and have all their shots. We will go again 3 days before we leave and get the Certificate of Health that is required. 26 DAYS.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

We have a departure date!

The plans are now in motion - we have our tickets and are leaving the United States for our new home in Mexico on May 15. In order to make the cats more comfortable, we've purchased three seats. That way, we can take their carriers out from under the seats as soon as the plane achieves altitude and set them on the middle seat and comfort them a bit. We need to get an international health certificate for each cat within 5 days of our departure. And there are very strict requirements for the dimensions of their carriers, so we'll have to get new ones. We had one big yard sale, but the weather will not cooperate for another, so we are just giving things away right and left. We are packing and the house is almost ready to sell...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

We are really retired!

We are now in the middle of our first week of retirement and we haven't quite wrapped our minds around it yet. We both miss our coworkers and feel like we are going back to work any day now. There is lots of work to do (packing!) and we need to get the house ready to sell. The rain, rain, rain has returned, making it hard to get anything done outside. So we spend alot of time sitting at our computers, looking at PV property and dreaming of warm weather.....

Monday, March 13, 2006

Drowning in paperwork...

The process of retiring takes LOTS of paperwork, most of which has to be notarized. Moving to Mexico is the same, and not only do all your documents have to be notarized, they also must have an apostille, an international type of document verification that can only be executed by the secretary of state. Since I was born in Oregon, Jerry was born in Idaho and we were married in Washington, we had to mail our documents to three different states for the apostille. In order to get our resident visas for Mexico, we also had to be fingerprinted to receive a "letter of good conduct" from our state police. Whew!
All the paperwork is now done, and we will go to the Mexican Consulate here in Portland next week to get our FM3 visas.

There is SO much information on the internet about moving to Mexico. If you are interested, start with For lots of information about Puerto Vallarta, take a look at

This is our last week of work...this time next week, we will be RETIRED. Lots of nice parties and get-togethers, so I approach this with mixed feelings. We plan to make our move around the middle of May. Lots of work to do.....

These two kitties are about to become "dos gatos Mexicanos"