Tag Archives: Mexico


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In 2007, the Hillbilly and I took my daughter, Courtney (“Corki” to me), with us to Cozumel, Mexico. We spent a week in Paradise with a gorgeous three story home and a whole island to play on. It was our first trip to Mexico and we learned about Mexican grocery stores, tourist traps, snorkeling, and traffic. Mexican drivers treat all motor vehicle laws as if they were merely suggestions, and when you factor in the enormous motor scooter population, well, even Marv became a bundle of nerves. Yes, Mr. Unflappable got stressed!! Frankly, we’d have walked everywhere if I’d have had to drive.

We visited Mayan ruins and Chankanaab Parque, climbed the southern point lighthouse, made the acquaintance of Alex, the huge bull crocodile, and his wives in the habitat reserve, discovered snorkeling, ate in tourist traps and in places only the locals knew about, toured a tequila factory and rode in a submarine. We made two friends, Alex and Francisco (Paco) who were both quite taken with Courtney, and who showed us the sights and took us places where the tourists don’t go.

On the night before we left, we went to a new restaurant owned by an American ex-pat and had dinner with Alex (not the crocodile). Afterward, Marv and I headed back to the house, but Alex and Corki headed for Señor Frogs. The next morning when I went in to wake her at 7:00, I asked what time she got she got in. “About an hour ago,” she said. “Boy, that Alex can party – and he had to be at work at 8 am!”

We, however, had a plane to catch and Corki slept the whole way to DFW.

It’s beautiful and relaxed, but . . .

holaLiving in another country is full of challenges and this is certainly true of Mexico.  Below are the four biggest challenges that I found in my two years on the Yucatan Peninsula.

1.  Language.  Let’s start with the biggest cultural wall you will run into – language. Most of us from north of the border, come here with little to no Spanish language skills. And, let’s face it – this is their country. It would behoove us to learn to speak Spanish, even rudimentary Spanish, if we want to live here. But, for some reason (arrogance, indifference, laziness?), we believe that everyone should/will speak English, and we settle right in without even an “hola” to our name.

This one thing alone will make your life five times more difficult in Mexico. Yes, there are many Mexicans who speak English, or a bit of it, but there are many who do not. And, there are some people who may speak it, but don’t like all these gringos in their country, so they won’t use it, particularly if it helps you in any way. (On the other hand, there are many Mexicans who will go out of their way to help you, even if they don’t speak English.)

Best advice: Start learning Spanish before you arrive, but at the very least, make an effort to learn the language of the country.

2.  Time.  The second thing that was not a comfortable fit for me is the difference in the concept of time.  Be prepared. Unless your patience makes Job’s look puny, you may become disenchanted with charm of living on “Mexican time.”  Don’t get me wrong, much of the problem was mine – I am not, in any manner, a patient person.  And whatever patience I was endowed with by nature, or learned at my mother’s knee, was used up long ago by my four children.  I am, however, a fairly practical, and practically fair, person, so when a “repairman” doesn’t show at the appointed hour of 9:00 am, I am not crushed, do not panic and murderous rage does not set in.  I actually got to the point where if the job was done by the end of the appointed day, I was willing to call it “good.”

But, when days and even weeks would go by, without even a phone call, my last nerve stretched to the breaking point.  To me, a gringa of “Type A” persuasion, this behavior seemed dismissive and arrogant, as if they could only be bothered with me when it was convenient for them.  As if, all I had to do with my life was to wait around until they showed up.

However, to a Mexican, my reaction is inexplicable.  They have a totally relaxed attitude about time, schedules, appointments and that over-riding “north of the border” concern, efficiency!  To a Mexican, it will happen – in the meantime, just relax and enjoy life.  Since I’m retired, and time for me is a copious commodity, it’s particularly good advice.  But, alas, my Type A personality nurtured by a culture in which efficacy is revered cannot deal with it.

Best Advice:  If you’re not long (very long) on patience, then try before you buy in Mexico.  Rent for at least two years.

3.  Third big issue – Trash!!  Here is another area where the Mexican attitude and mine are polar opposites.  My European roots dictate that I make every effort to keep my “home area” clean (how far your area of responsibility actually extends is a personal matter, but most likely includes the street in front of your home).

A Mexican’s home area stops literally at the walls of the casa.  This becomes clear when, as part of a morning’s rituals, all the dirt and debris from inside the house and yard is sweep out into the street.  I used to marvel at my neighbors in Progreso as they fastidiously swept everything from their property into the street every morning where, of course, it was tracked, or blown back in as the day went on.Trashy Beach

A walk along the Progreso malecon (“boardwalk” to gringos) was a bi-polar experience.  There were palm trees, white sand beaches, the ocean, and trash everywhere.  Worse yet, the number of stray dogs that used the malecon as a public bathroom was unconscionable.  And, bear in mind that there was a mighty effort made by the city to keep the malecon clean because it pulled in the tourists.  Go four streets back from the beach, and all efforts at gringo-style cleanliness stopped.

I found the same thing in Merida, Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Tulum.  Obviously, Mexicans are aware of the cultural conflict because they keep the tourist areas clean, but back home in the poblano (“hood”), the street’s a dumpster.

Best Advice:  Get used to it, or live in “gringo” or tourist areas which are more expensive because they pay for things like picking up the trash and cleaning the sidewalks.

Business in Mexico4.  The last BIG issue was the business culture.  And, I’m not talking about the problem of showing up late for appointments.  The overriding aspect of Mexican business culture is best described as a “predatory” attitude toward customers.  They go through the motions of “customer service,” but they are fundamentally “motions” without substance.  And, make no mistake, they will not pass up a chance to “gig” you financially.

First and foremost, you’re a gringo, therefore you are rich and need to be fleeced for the good of the Mexican economy.  But, truly the attitude is universally applied, and a Mexican is just as much a target as someone from outside of the country.  However, Mexicans, having been schooled their entire lives in these practices, have developed sharp “consumer defenses (aka dickering).”  The irony is that a price that has an enormous profit margin to a Mexican entrepreneur is often a bargain to a gringo.

Best Advice:  Go in with “low expectations” about getting real satisfaction.  Good deals are plentiful, but good customer service is rare.  Accept that you have no leverage if they have your money.  And, learn to dicker no matter how good the deal appears to be.

As with any transaction, living in Mexico has benefits and drawbacks.  After two years of life in “Paradise,” I found I was not happy enough with living on white sand beaches, crystal clear ocean waters and beautiful geography to keep trying to deal with the frustrations of life in Mexico.  Seems petty, doesn’t it?  But, for me the “snow bird” life is the way to go – in the future, I will visit in the winter months only.  This eliminates many of the frustrations of dealing with business and government, relegates the “trashiness” to a part-time annoyance, while still allowing me to enjoy the gorgeous scenery, a beach life and warm winters.

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!!”

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The Amazing Free Animal Clinics of Mexico!

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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!)

Things I wish I had known before I landed!

Maya I

Numbers Mexican-style 

Dates are in the form DD/MM/YYYY.  It takes a while to adjust to seeing them that way, especially when you’re dealing with the first 12 days of the month.  June 10, 2012 is written as “10/6/2012,” which still, at first glance to me, appears to be October 6, 2012. 

Decimals and commas in numbers are reversed, too.  The number, “45,012.66,” American-style is written as “45.012,66” Mexican-style. 

Money in pesos is designated with a leading “$,” which immediately makes it look like a dollar amount.  If the amount seems very high, or it is not followed by “USD,” then the price is likely in pesos, but it’s smart to make sure!

Numbers, dates and money are small things, but can cause confusion and misunderstandings, so it’s important to be aware of the differences, and to take a second look to be sure you’ve understood it correctly.  I had a friend who waited until June to discover that her visa had expired in May, not on August 5th, like she had thought –  8/5/2012 (Mexican style) versus 8/5/2012 (US/Canadian style).

Maya III

How to find a city address

In metro areas, the secret is in understanding “Colonias,”or “Fraccionamientos.”  Colonias (to be used to include both names) are neighborhood areas.  If there are eight colonias within a city, there can be eight separate 20th Streets.  It’s a drill-down effort – first the state, then the city, the colonia (or fraccionamiento) and, finally, the street and address number within the colonia.  Most addresses contain a designation after the street and address number, on the same line, that tells you which two streets the address number falls between (this is helpful, although, it may seem superfluous to gringos at first). 

Mexican metro addresses are listed something like:

Calle 20 #47, x 15th y 17th

Hidalgo Colonia

City, PC (postal, aka zip, code), State, Mexico 

 This interprets for gringos to:

(Building) #47 20th Street (between 15th and 17th Streets)

“Hidalgo” Neighborhood (area)

City, State, Mexico Postal Code

Because one-way streets are plentiful and frequently found parallel to one another going in the same direction, you often have to “circle around” an address to get to it.  If you don’t know the neighborhood and which streets go which way, this can be a daunting mission.  Getting a detailed city map that shows what direction you can drive on a given street (or, downloading directions from Google Maps), will save your sanity and preclude a stress alert. 

Maya IV

How to find a country address

There are no addresses in the “country,” so there is no mail delivery.  But, if you need to give someone directions to your home, then your address will look something like:

Casa Mar Azul

KM 21, MX Carreterra 27

City, PC, State


Casa Mar Azul (“Name” – or, what will be found on the sign at the driveway turn-off)

At (or, very near) Kilometer marker 21 on Mexico Hwy 27

City, PC, State

Maya VII

Proof of Address

If you’re going to stay in Mexico long-term, a “proof of address” is essential for opening cell, cable, satellite, or bank accounts!! 

Because landlords in Mexico tend to keep utilities in their own names, the easiest way you can do this,  is to open a bank account at a Mexican bank.  They will require a utility bill with the address on it, but the bill doesn’t have to be in your name (go figger).  You can take your landlord’s electric bill to the bank (along with your passport and visa – they want to know that you’re legal) and they will use the address on the electric bill to send your statements to.  Once you receive the first bank statement, you have your “proof of address.”

You can also get a local bill of some kind in your name and mailed to you, but if you’re renting, the utilities are normally in the landlord’s name, and the landlord will want to keep it that way.  A “proof of address” guarantees that you will have fewer problems registering your visa, your car, and that you have an address identity for other services. 

You can also use a notarized, signed copy of your lease agreement as a proof of address – but, a notarization costs in the neighborhood of a month’s rent.  Notarizations are done only by a type of lawyer called a notario, and the fees charged for them are lawyer fees.


Getting a local PO Box

You can buy a PO Box at the local Post Office, but first you have to receive mail at the “Post Office’s address” in this form:

Your name(s)

Lista de Correos

City, PC, State

To arrange this, go to the local Post Office and asked to be added to the Lista de Correos.  After you’ve received mail, you’re legitimate and can purchase a PO Box.  You should be aware, though, that a “PO Box contract” always begins in January and will cost you the same for one, six, or 12 months. If you get one in January, July, or December, you pay for the whole year whether you’ve used it or not.


Paying in Pesos versus Dollars

The Mexican economy is cash-based, like the US economy in the 50s and 60s.  Yes, you can use your credit/debit cards in the large, internationally-based stores.  For paying regular bills, you have a decision to make. With the constant fluctuation between currencies, you can count on the cost in pesos being the same from month-to-month.  If your recurring cost, like rent, is in dollars, then you have to pay at whatever the current exchange rate on the due date is.  This means the cost in pesos will go up and down, and need to be refigured at every payment.

However, if the dollar is up against the peso, it’s cheaper for you to pay in dollars.  Obviously, the opposite is true if the dollar is down.


Paper – DON’T flush it

The use of toilet paper and paper towels is a “given” in the American culture.  They are convenient, disposable and recycle well.  And, we use them hugely.  But, unless you had a home with a septic tank, you are not likely to appreciate how insidious they are to the Mexican waste disposal system.

It is very rare in Mexico that you will not be asked to use toilet paper, and then put it into a garbage can that is conveniently located next to the toilet.  In other words, you DON’T flush it.  This requires some personal habit-breaking, but after you’ve don’t this for a while, it becomes rote (exactly like flushing it did).

Paper products in Mexico – toilet paper, paper towels and paper napkins – will disappoint you in the beginning because they will seem flimsy.  Although they don’t seem different initially, they are more likely to dissolve than the products you are used to.  It will take more paper towels to mop up a mess.  And, napkins will seem positively ethereal, as will toilet paper.  You will just have to accept this difference and adjust to it.  And, in the end, you may begin to wonder why, the US hasn’t adopted this “paper” product standard. 

Maya VI

Utilities – they don’t bill the same way

Water, especially if you live in the “country-side,” is worth its weight in gold.  While, it costs somewhat less than in Mexico than it does in the US, it is not as readily available.  Unless you’re in a metropolitan area, you will likely have to call the “water” man to come fill your cistern every month, or so.  This is, by no means difficult, but it can mean that you wait without water, at times.

Electricity is  fairly expensive!!  No way around it.  Unless, you have budgeted a large amount (equal to, or possibly more than, you paid in the US) for electricity, you will have to be very careful in your use of electricity.  Costs are scaled the opposite of the way they are in most of the United States – i.e., the more you use, the higher the rate per kilowatt.

Gas, on the other hand, is fairly cheap and easy to come by.  But, like with water, if you only have one source (tank) and you run completely out, you will have to do without it till the gas man cometh.  Many houses are equipped with a double-tank system that lets you flip a valve and start the gas flow from the second tank.  This is a built-in back-up system so you won’t have to change your dinner plans for the day – just remember to get the empty replaced as soon as possible.

The upside to this is that all those conservation efforts that they hound you to practice in the US will become second-nature in Mexico because of the detrimental effect on your pocketbook.

Maya II

Making Telephone Calls – it’s confusing

It is more complicated than in the US and Canada.  Check out the information on “How to make calls in Mexico” on our website at http://www.gringosinparadise.com.mx/wp-admin/post.php?post=4292&action=edit.

On the personal side

Patience is NOT a virtue, it’s a necessity

It’s best not to do your banking on the first business day of the month.  It can be done, but bring a good book, because you’ll spend some serious time in line.  In fact, your best bet is to figure waiting in line at least two times to accomplish anything (except banking).

Interpersonal Relationships

In the Mexican culture, personal relationships are very important and, for instance, a landlord will take a renter who has been given a personal recommendation over one from an agent.  A recommendation from someone who is a friend of the owner, or who is established in the gringo community, can be invaluable.  With a personal recommendation, you can also deal with the owner directly and establish your own rental parameters (i.e., no deposit, month-to-month basis, utilities included, etc.), rather than the property manager’s established policies.

It is also important to have the name, number and address for a local personal reference.  It can be a friend, neighbor, property manager or mechanic, but it can’t be Aunt Bessie in Iowa.  You’ll find it useful for getting services such as Sky Satellite or Telmex phone/DSL services.

Tip often and tip well

It is my personal experience that tipping well, in any country including the US, gets you remembered fondly, and being remembered fondly gets you the best service.  The youngsters bagging your groceries are high-school kids trying to help the family eat, and if you give them ten pesos, instead of the standard five-six pesos, they remember you. While they may be limited in how much service they can offer bagging your groceries, they have family and friends.

Sometime you may need a mechanic.  If the mechanic’s son happens to be your regular “bagger,” it will probably get you in faster and cost you less for repairs.  Personal relationships matter a great deal in Mexico, and that mechanic is definitely going to factor into his service and invoice, the fact that you are good to his high-school son.

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