Tag Archives: Life in Mexico

Xel-Ha – The Magical Lagoon!

So, the hillbilly and I spent two days in the past two weeks doing the “parque” thing. My youngest son, Kenny, and his girlfriend, Julie, were here for 18 days through Christmas, New Year’s and beyond. It just seemed appropriate that we do something fun and touristy.

Kenny &  Julie in their snorkeling get-up at Xel-ha.

Kenny & Julie in their snorkeling get-up at Xel-ha.

First up was Xel-ha. Its activities center on a lagoon fed by an underground river that eventually opens out into the Caribbean. It is, of course, a beautiful setting, and the lagoon has a couple of small lava rock islands which lend themselves beautifully to great snorkeling. There are platforms all around the lagoon that provide easy entre to the water. Each platform has racks of life jackets and plenty of room to don your snorkel equipment (which is provided as part of the fee). Then, you simply go down the steps and splash into the realm of los pescados.

Having two young people with us meant that the day was an adventure. The kids and I jumped Leap of Courage Xel-ha IIoff the “The Stone of Courage” into the lagoon.  It’s purported to be five meters high (about 16 feet), but on the way down, I know I counted a good 20 feet. My son remarked to me, “Good jump, Mom. I don’t know any other 67 year old women who would do it.” My first thought was, “It never occurred to me not to do it,” followed immediately by, “OMG, I’m suffering from serious age denial!!”

Continue reading

The Amazing Free Animal Clinics of Mexico!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In December 2011, when we moved to Uaymitun, we inherited two beach dogs – a starving, pregnant gal and one of her grown male pups who didn’t have enough sense to “leave home.”  Naturally, we named her, “Mamacita,” and we called him, “Brucie.” The caretaker for our house didn’t speak English, but like many poor Mexicans, he was completely “up” on American culture. He thought we were calling the dog “Bruce Lee,” so Bruce Lee he became.

Mamacita Before!!

Mamacita Before!!

The four of us, the Hillbilly, Mamacita, Bruce Lee and I lived together, rather contentedly at the beach for about a month. Then, Mamacita did what pregnant females everywhere do – she gave birth – to eight puppies!! Holy Cow!! The most I had ever had was twins, so I was awe struck!! But, by the end of the first two weeks, four of them hadn’t made it, so we were down to only four puppies when they started getting social. Mamacita was so thin from providing for the pups and not getting much for herself anyway (beach dogs are scavengers), that we had started feeding her shortly after we arrived. Bruce Lee somehow felt entitled to join her for meals. We had also picked up a cat when we lived in Chicxulub, and as is our habit, we took her to a vet to have things “fixed.” When we picked her up the next day, we told the vet about the plethora of beach dogs we had acquired and the vet told us about a free neutering clinic in Progreso (about 18 klicks down the highway from us) that was being held in February. I decided then and there, that the sex life of “our” dogs was going to change. We called our friend, Edwin, in Chicxulub and told him to have his dog ready to go on February 14th at 8:00 am.  In the end, we had three adult beach dogs and four puppies neutered at the clinic!!

When Valentine’s Day rolled around, the Hillbilly and I loaded up Mamacita and Bruce Lee. I had bought them collars and leashes so I would have some control over them when we got to the clinic. The two dogs and I were dropped at the entrance, and we got in line to be registered. The Hillbilly went back to Chicxulub to get Edwin’s dog, and when he returned, we found out that since the pups were more than four weeks old, they could be neutered, too. So, off he went on one more trip to Uaymitun to get the four puppies.

Bootsie - 8 weeks old.

Bootsie – 8 weeks old.

What an amazing process they have created – the place was full of people, dogs and cats! It looked like pandemonium, but was actually highly organized from start to finish. The clinic lasted two days, Friday and Saturday. They had successfully sterilized 306 animals on Friday, a record, and they were easily headed for another record on Saturday.

These clinics are primarily paid for through sponsorships, and corporate and civic donations. My vet sponsored 20 spots, and also stayed on to help people like me whose Spanish is “limitado.” The staff is strictly volunteer, up to and including the doctors. In the “recovery” area, the majority of the volunteers were gringos. There were gringos manning the refreshment stand, and several gringo-guys had brought in a couple of barbeques and were cooking for the staff and volunteers. All volunteers are organized as “teams.” A crew from “Lesley’s Team” went out and picked up “street” dogs, and brought them in to be sterilized, given their shots and adopted. The street dogs are walked through the neutering/vaccination process by a member of her team. Then they go into the “adoption” area. In addition to gathering the street dogs, Lesley’s Team ran the “adoption” area, and on the previous day, had adopted out 30 pets (neutered, with all their shots and given away at no cost to the adopter). We brought home one of Mamacita’s puppies, and left the other three at the clinic hopefully to be adopted. But, I told Lesley, we will come back to get “our” pups, if they hadn’t found homes by the end of the day. The Hillbilly made the trip back at 4:30 pm, and all the puppies had been adopted. Whoot, whoot!!

Many of the “tech” volunteers (doing the pre-surgical checks, the follow-ups, administering shots, etc.) were interns from the University in Merida, or from local area vets’ offices. The veternarians were volunteers who came from all over North America, including Mexico, Canada and the United States. The non-professional volunteers are trained in how to handle the animals at all points along the process.

Here is the process by which they register, pre-surgery check, operate on, post-surgery check and give shots to over 300 animals in a single day:

First step, register your dog and get assigned a “number.” The dogs are weighed, respiration, blood pressure and teeth checked, etc. At this point the dog is issued a “tag” that stays on its collar until they leave. The “tag” is a strip of masking tape with the dog’s name, weight, gender (in symbol form) and the all-important “number.” Paperwork involves three differentdocuments, each bearing the “number.”

Ready to be revived. Notice her paperwork stuck inside her collar.

Ready to be revived. Notice her paperwork stuck inside her collar.

Next, comes the waiting. When your “series” of numbers (in lots of 10) is called, you move from the “general” waiting area to the surgery waiting area. Then when your specific number is called, you walk the dog into “anesthesia” where they are given two prep shots. At that point, a volunteer takes the leash and leads them back into the surgery unit. About 40-45 minutes later, a “carrier” brings them out of surgery to the recovery area. One of the interns jumps in, pulls out the breathing tube, notes respiration and blood pressure, and gives them a “wake-up” shot. The carrier then gently lays them on the recovery area floor (which is covered in newspapers).At that point, a recovery volunteer jumps in with a towel to begin the rubbing/massaging process that gently brings them awake. The animals cannot leave recovery until they are able to walk on their own. Once that happens, they go through “check-out” where the paperwork is turned in, they receive their antibiotics and get a rabies shot. It was inspiring to see so many people, of different nationalities, working together in this efficient process that had been developed over the previous three years. Ten veterinarians worked from 8:30 AM until 5:00 PM each day. Each vet did more than 30 operations per day.

At the end of the day, along with more than 300 other animals, Mamacita, Bruce Lee, Edwin’s Chona, and Mamacita’s four puppies were all neutered and given their shots. And best of all, the pups had all found homes with people who wanted them.

All-in-all, an incredible way to spend a day!  And, these wonderful people do this all over Mexico.

Mamacita After!  (With her last puppy, Bootsie, who came to live with us)

Mamacita After! (With her last puppy, Bootsie, who stayed to live with us!)

Xplor the Underworld!

When I ordered the tickets for our day trip to Xel-ha, I ordered a package deal for the hillbilly and me that included a day at Xplor. You have to use the second ticket within six days, so the week after seeing Kenny and Julie off at Cancun, we headed for the challenges of Xplor on our own!

When you check-in, you are issued a locker key and a helmet that you must wear the whole time you’re in the park. I’m surprised, shocked really, that this ensemble-topper hasn’t caught on in the larger human community – it is incredibly flattering (see picture below), and adds a touch of haute couture to the most mundane outfit. The helmet also has a number on it that will be used to pull up your pictures when you’re done.

WXplor - The Beginning 5e did the zip lines last. There should be another name for the zip lines at Xplor because the zip line at Xel-ha was a ride on a line, in a sling, into the lagoon. At Xplor, you climb up, up, up, up and up, and eventually get to a platform from which you “zip” over the jungle.  No problem, I told myself, I can go with gravity and a seat under my butt forever.

Yeah, right! I found that the sling was now a thing of the past. It’s all well and good to put someone into a sling if they’re zipping over water, looking at a soft landing in a lagoon, as you are at Xel-ha. But, when sending them over the jungle, those people are strapped into a contraption that basically acts as a tourniquet at the top of both legs and the waist. If you lose your hold while zipping, no problem –you’re in a death grip that restricts all circulation below the waist. However, if your rescue isn’t timely, you may have to have both legs amputated.

At the end of each “zip” segment, there is another climb, sometimes up stairs and, occasionally, up a (very steep, in retrospect) ramp to the next zip segment.

There is a seldom discussed benefit from having a spouse who has smoked since he was 15 years old – Marv fell farther and farther behind me in the climb to each new zip tower, which meant I had to wait for him for longer and longer periods. By the time we got to the 10th leg, I was easily getting a six-seven minute breather each time.

Xplor Marv's Happy FaceBefore the zip line runs, we swam the underground river.  Have you ever noticed that if the water is just a few degrees cooler than the ambient air temperature how some people just go to pieces.

Once we got past all the squealing and shrieking that accompanied the initial plunge into the river, I noticed that most of the folks, in front of and behind us, were not “swimming” but standing up and walking, which I kind of thought was cheating. But, Marv is 6’3”, and the aforementioned smoking does not allow for a lot of powerful swimming strokes, so he walked, too. What the hell? I grabbed the back of his life jacket and let him float me along behind. After all, it was a good, non-strenuous way to see the cave and get pictures.

After our “swim,” we paddled a raft in yet another part of the underground river system, using these little paddles (about 12″ x 9″) that strapped to your hands.  Me in front, the hillbilly in the rear.  It took me a few minutes to catch on to the fact that I was, not only doing all the steering, but all the paddling, too. However, it took less than 10 seconds to correct that little oversight.Xplor UW Raft

At one point during our raft ride, the cord that kept my camera attached to my wrist gave up the ghost and my camera went into the drink. The couple immediately behind us very kindly stopped to help us look. The nearest “monitor” paddled over to see what the problem was (and I noted somewhat bitterly, did so with a real paddle, not one of the hand-thingees). Miracle of miracles, the lovely man found my camera, just as I was mentally writing it off. For the record: I firmly believe that if you really want to find something, give up on it and it will show up.

During your excursions through the Xplor cave systems, there are cameras set up throughout that are set off by motion detectors. As soon as they “detect” you, the cameras snap your picture. This process creates a series of pictures during your escapade in the caves that you can buy at the end for $75 USD a package. I really don’t like looking at myself anymore, and I definitely don’t want to pay $75 to do it, so I told the park rep to enjoy them.  Though the thought of being on camera in my helmet did give me a moment’s pause before I issued the denial.

Xplor Amphib Veh 2Xplor has multiple zip lines systems, river swims, amphibian treks and river raft trips, so if you want to do your “activity” again, you are not locked into seeing the same stalactites, nooks, crannies or jungle. They also have several trails for the amphibious vehicles. And, as with Xel-ha, the entrance fee also includes lunch (all you can eat) and drinks (non-alcoholic only).

But by this time, even the thought of just sitting in a car while trundling through the caves and jungle did not stir the hillbilly’s adrenaline. So, we trudged back up the long ascent back to the entrance, turned in our helmets and locker key, staggered into the parking lot and, more or less, fell into the car.

It was another wonderful day.  Xplor is great fun and offers a variety of fun “adventures,” both above and below the jungle canopy.  Plan on a whole day there, unless you’re like the hillbilly and I – then plan on fewer hours, depending on how much steam your factory still manufactures.  We lasted about 6 hours.

The visa process for Mexico changed dramatically in 2013!

There are now three basic types of visas: Visitante, Residente Temporal and Residente Permanente. The last two are the ones used by expats who want to live in Mexico, and those are the ones I will address here: 1) Temporary Resident Visa (“Residente Temporal”), and 2) Permanent Residence Visa (“Residente Permanente”).

First time resident visa:  If you want to upgrade your status from tourist (Visitante) to Residente Temporal, or Residente Permanente, now you have to:

  • Return to your home country before your tourist visa expires (which you would have to do even if you don’t want to change your visa status),
  • Apply for a resident visa in an embassy or consulate there,
  • Once your application is accepted, go to the INM office nearest to where you plan to live in Mexico to obtain your visa.

Again, for a first-time resident visa, you will have to apply for your visa through the Mexican consulate in your home country (and state), and will be able to receive it only at the nearest INM office in Mexico.

To begin, renew or change your immigration status, you start here by filling out an online application and receiving a NUE (file number).  Continue reading

My Mexican Bone Density Test!

Beach houses in Mexico are constructed of concrete and tile.  Even, the ceilings are concrete.  This means they are very sturdy and very, very hard.  If you want to test how resilient something is, you can throw it against any part of a beach house and have your answer immediately.

The other night, I took my two glass snack bowls downstairs to the kitchen, but did not turn on the stairwell light because I have been up and down these stairs so many times, I could do it in my sleep. My bowls and I made it to the bottom and ended up in a decidedly abnormal configuration on the floor (me), and scattered from the front door to the terrazzo doors (the bowls). This impromptu action generated a very loud noise (from the bowls hitting the floor – from me, there was more of the pathetic, guttural sound of someone trying to breathe again).

Continue reading