Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Short Hiatus before the Holidays

Sorry folks, I don't have much to report. We have had a really bad cold spell, with the night temps dropping below the freezing mark for well over a week. As a result, most of my potted plants have died. So far the palm tree and palmettos are valiantly surviving this very unusual cold. My schefflera, very dead. The days are gloriously sunny and warm, though.

I have to renew my FM3 visa, which always necessitates many trips to Querétaro. Also, for variety and better prices, I have been shopping at San Juan del Rio and the trips back and forth are very time-consuming. Hence my silence, which I hope you'll forgive. I may not post until later in December. I'll be replacing my flooring in the rig. Yuk!

Once it's finished, I'll post photos. Take care!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Science and Scepticism

For what seemed to me long days going into a week, even longer, I had been feeling positively wretched for no reason that I could imagine or think of. There seemed to be no explanation for such dejection. (Which would explain why I didn't post anything. Sorry. I see no reason why I should subject anyone to my "stuff".)  I ended up thinking of times when I'd felt similar and vaguely recalled that my lack of vitality sometimes had little to do with what was going on in my life. What to think or do?

Whenever something happens to me that I cannot readily grasp or explain, I first subject it to logic and reason. A quick review of past events showed that things were coming right along. Check. Another review of my living conditions? Unchanged. Check. An overview of my emotional state. Awful. Physical? I'm not sick but why can't I lift a foot to put it in front of the other? An inveterate optimist suddenly cannot see the sun shine or hear the birds sing... why?

Without any logical or reasonable explanation for my wretchedness, I realized that I had to think out of the box. That's when I suddenly recalled that years ago, I used to check my biorhythm cycles, even if only sporadically. I'd since gotten rid of my old computer and bought a new one. In the process, I had let go of oldies that I was seldom using. One of those was the biorhythm program that I had downloaded from the internet.

Back to the internet and a search for "Biorhythm free download". There I recognized my old one from White Stranger. I downloaded it, put in my date of birth... bingo! It appears that I was functioning at 24% of my overall capacity. The beauty of it is that this lasted only for a short and determinate period of time. With a definite dateline, I would soon enjoy sun and birds. As before, I subjected the whole concept to my personal evaluation based on its concordance with my experience, or lack of it. I found that certain aspects were dubious while others were right on. Another tool for handling life with a little bit more knowledge. Can't say no to that.

Frankly, I don't care whether science has validated it or not. There are professional sceptics who have made a religion (I'm serious about this: it is based on THEIR BELIEF) of their scepticism and look at anything that cannot be duplicated in a laboratory unworthy of any intelligent consideration. My take on much of metaphysics is that, although we are all human beings, each of us is distinctly different from any other human being. Unique. So when it pertains to explaining anything happening to one of us, we have to let go of the scientific yardstick and accept another premise. No single life is EVER duplicated. We all go through experiences that might look similar yet often affect each one of us differently. Eventually this is expressed as uniquely as each one of us is. Not easily duplicated in the narrow confines of a laboratory.
So go ahead! Call me candid, naive, trustful, anything but a sceptic. Logic and reason are a tool. Just as I have found biorhythm pretty handy at figuring out what's going on when logic and reason fail.
I think you'll agree with me that I do feel a lot better!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Health Insurance, Work, and a Humorous Article on Being Mexican

I have been VERY busy first with trips to San Juan del Rio to get my health insurance. Although I had intended to go the IMSS route, I heard that going back some months ago, they no longer accept single applicants. Since I have no family here, I did not qualify under that rule. I had tried a few private firms but my age seemed to be a deterrent--I never heard a word! So on to Seguro Popular. I'm now insured for 3 years for anything but a pre-existing condition and covered for physician visits, diagnostic techniques, hospitalisation, surgery other than elective, even some medicine. At no cost. Wow!

Now, about the endless work. I had thought for a while about removing carpet tiles in my rig because of the constant dust. Regardless how often I'd vacuum and wipe everything in sight, the super-fine dust came back with a vengeance, the very same day! Before I'd start to rip up the carpet, I had to make sure that I could find vinyl tiles. There is a Home Depot in Querétaro but I kept delaying going there. So when in San Juan last week, I checked around to see if and where I could find any. I found one little store where the tiles are cheaper than at Home Depot and of a better quality. So I started to rip out the carpet tiles, which are backed by a semi-rigid product that provided a good insulation but are infinitely more difficult to remove than they were to install. And I did the installation, so I know. It isn't over yet. Hard and gruelling work. Which kept me away from either blog. Sorry folks. I am a busy woman.

Now, to levity. An article at Spanishdict.com appeared that I found hilarious. Some of the traits that could be attributed to a mamacita actually applied to my mother and my aunties (except for the language connection). I was born in a French-speaking milieu, in a catholic country and it is amazing how close the idiosyncrasies of one culture are to the other. Which would explain how and why I find myself so much at ease in Mexico. Home. Here is the link http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/144710/you-know-youre-mexican-if?sms_ss=favorites

I thoroughly enjoyed it and hope you do, too.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Heartfelt Thanks

Since today is a very special day, I feel that some thanks are owed.

I am grateful for my readers without whom my writing would be but a song unsung, thrown to the winds, forever untold. Thank you.

I am grateful for my children, and all my friends, new and old, in both the U.S. and Canada, and now Mexico. More than grandiose vistas, all of you have made my travels worthwhile just to encounter you, whether in person or through the written word. All of you have enriched my life. Thank you.

Today I received an email from a young friend in Alberta, Canada. She sent an attachment without words. I want to share it with you. It brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. Please click on it. You won't be disappointed. It's just one more thing for which I'm grateful and that I want to share. It's called a Random act of Culture at Macy's


Happy Thanksgiving to All!


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Friday, November 19, 2010

Pardon me for Stepping on my Soapbox

I generally opt out of following the news, but cannot totally remain ignorant since I use Yahoo as my internet opening page. Actually, it would be the same with MSN, or practically any other provider. A few days ago, I read about John Tyner who refused a full body scan at the San Diego Airport, and was then directed for a full body pat. He said to the attendant who would pat him thoroughly, "Don't touch my junk", meaning his genitals. It all turned out a very big hullabaloo with threats of a fine of $10,000. even after he had gotten a refund from the airline, and he'd been escorted by a policeman toward the exit.

The first fact that stared me in the face is how terribly invasive and offensive these procedures are. Who would choose to have a perfect stranger examine your naked body? Many of us are even ill at ease disrobing for a doctor! In the face of such losses as the economy fosters on families and individuals--loss of gainful employment and all that it entails, loss of home, bleak prospects for children's education, non-access to medical care, etc. etc. one freedom should remain. That of protecting one's own body from unwanted intrusions or invasions. I may not earn a salary, or even live in a regular home. But my body remains MINE alone. To reveal naked or not. My choice. To be groped at or not. My decision. To have one's most intrinsically private possession, perhaps the final one, exposed in stark nakedness or groped at in a way that would be judged an indecent act in other circumstances, and this by order of the government, is the final act of coercion into totally surrendering to Big Brother.

A second fact is that if we look back at 9/11, the greatest loss of human lives and property was the assault on the twin towers. The airplanes that slammed into the World Trade Center were piloted by privately trained men. Thousands of lives were lost and I feel quite sure that had those men been scanned for weapons or any article that could be construed as a weapon, they would have passed with flying colours (no pun intended)! Airplanes had been their weapon of ultimate destruction. I do not doubt for one second that whenever and wherever terrorists would plan an attack, most if not all would be knowledgeable enough to realize what procedures are in place at the airports of the world. If they are determined to mount an attack, they will find a way to achieve their goal. A difficult to accept but stark reality.

Meanwhile, civil liberties are increasingly eroded. When I spoke to my son yesterday, he told me of his sister-in-law who had to go to a pharmacy. She went with her miniature Shih-Tzu all properly leashed, then tied the little one outside the pharmacy. A civil security employee accosted her and told her that she wasn't allowed to leave the dog tied outside. OoooK. She then untied the dog, took it in her arms, and started going into the pharmacy. Whereupon, the zealous civil employee followed her in and told her that she wasn't allowed to take the dog inside either. A discussion ensued. Finally, the obviously annoyed pharmacist intervened and said that he was ok with it, then proceeded to fill her prescription.

When I decided to come to Mexico, it was following an incident where I had been parking the rig for years in a small town of rural Alberta. I had secured official permission from the RCMP to park on that abandoned road between a town street and the new highway through town. And it had been given every year. I was careful to keep Keesha and Teddie leashed when they were still with me, then Queenie for that last year.

I had undergone elbow surgery in June and was following a program of physiotherapy twice a week through August. One day when I returned to my parking spot, I noticed that signs had been nailed to the fences on each side of the RV. They posted "Private Road" (an absolute falsehood), "No Camping", "Positively No Camping"... This on a road where I had often witnessed big rigs with trailers full of horses dropping by the field a bit down from where I was parked to let their animals take care of natural needs. At other times, big 16 wheelers would park a bit ahead of me and let their engine run all night long. On weekends, youngsters in a mood to party would litter the area with beer bottles and fast food containers. At the sight of my RV, they would leave for another party spot.

It did upset me a great deal. Feelings of dejection, rejection and finally disgust and of wanting to be free from it all shook me up. You will tell me that these are the risks of boondocking in towns. Not necessarily everywhere, but increasingly so, and on account of bylaws. Pray tell what harm can a lone woman (or a couple for that matter) in an RV parked overnight cause? The week before, I had watched on the news how a woman from North or South Carolina who lived up a hill in what appeared more of a rural area than a high-rise or condo environment had been told on threat of a fine that she wasn't allowed to hang her clothes on a clothesline! 

It has been very insidious how bit by bit, one bylaw following another, our liberties (dare I say our rights?) have been eroded, most of the time without our really noticing it. All in the name of law and order? or to ensure conformity in the general populace? I suppose that many bylaws have an ultimate aim to protect citizens. But tell me how the size of a leash or the breed of a dog consists of a threat. When I got Teddie Rottweiler at 10 months of age, I wasn't aware that she was considered an "Unacceptable Breed". The condo association sent me an ultimatum in writing, get rid of the puppy or face expulsion. Within the month I had moved out. BTW my Rottweiler Teddie, in the 10 years of her life, never so much as adopt an aggressive attitude or made even an appearance of a threat to bite anything other than her kibble and her toys.

The football player Michael Vick ran dog fights (secretly) where some atrocities were taking place regularly in defiance of laws and bylaws. Many of the animals were rescued by Best Friends Animal Society and fully rehabilitated. Please check out Best Friends. If I was a four-legged and suffering, I would pray to be rescued by them. It's people who choose a particular breed as a way to vicariously feel the "power" of owning such a dog who are the culprits as well as those who breed them so carelessly for profit. 

As a result, all these liberties lost have created an environment where neighbour watches over neighbour for any violation of a sacred bylaw, eager to report it and see him, her, or them, suffer dire consequences. Have we become a society of piously intolerant citizens, impatient with non-conformists, eager to prey upon one another in the name of LAW? Perhaps not such a society everywhere or quite such a one just as yet, but certainly a litigious one. So now it is either conform or pony up the $$$! If you can't, jail time! In many places, you can't even paint your own house to your liking--bylaws forbid it. Why such intolerance? What happened to "Live and Let Live"? And please refrain from pointing out that it's all for the purpose of protecting citizens. How much liberty must we surrender for so called protection? I seem to recall how the Godfather and his minions also offered protection to merchants, bar and store owners...

How I love Mexico! What a breath of fresh air it is from what to me felt repressive if not outright oppressive! Houses are painted in many colours here and make it a vibrant, lively and amazing sight. Based on what I have lived, I'm saying Women Solo RV'ers, BEWARE! You may at times be envied. But all too often you'll be judged as foolish, dangerously courting grievous mishaps, and sometimes be hinted at as I was, "...why aren't you home knitting for the grand-children or taking care of the hubby or waiting for death in your rocking chair?" No longer willing to be subjected to such judgmental attitudes, I found comfort in numbers. Which is why I liked it so much boondocking on BLM lands. At least I was among other non-conformists. Bylaws and regulations at RV parks, coupled with serious crowding up of RV'ers parked (packed?) as sardines in a can, also sent me towards boondocking.

That is, until I made it to Mexico where I found a land of delicious freedom. And I love it so much that I don't even feel like visiting back "home". I'm not saying that Mexico doesn't have its problems. What country is without? But it does feel so much freer, so accepting, so friendly and nonjudgmental. Imagine, I had to give up my favourite Jif peanut butter, some bargains, books in English, and I'll even admit to sometimes a few things more. But my gains are undeniable. I'm living healthier, without many of the stresses imposed by laws, bylaws, rules and regulations. With time, I'll be able to read books in Spanish and will get them free at the public library. And imagine!  Instead of losing my house to recession, I'm boondocking on MY lot, and planning to build MY house to my liking, and paint it whatever colour I want! How I love my new country, Mexico lindo y querido!

Please pardon me for getting on my soapbox. I promise to restrict myself to boondocking, Mexico, and RV'ing solo in the future. It's just that sometimes, I feel either terribly disturbed or profoundly emotional about some issues, freedom being my main "obsession".

Photos, Generator, Mindy, House Plan, Forum

Welcome new followers! I've been asked for photos. I will oblige shortly. Right now, my photo ops are rather limited. I've lost some plants. My lot is not landscaped and won't be until after my little house is built, some time next year. $$$ constraints. I hope that my fruit trees are becoming dormant for the winter. They are devoid of leaves. We'll see in a couple of months. My beautiful schefflera is totally d e a d, just as it had begun to grow new leaves. I'll have to replace it in the spring but will plant it in a large ceramic pot. This way, I'll be able to move it inside when there is a risk of close to freezing temps. We did have a cold snap a while ago when the night temperature dropped once to -4 Celsius and kept around freezing for a week, but at night only. The days are superb but the nights confirm that there is a winter season here as well. The Pacific beaches have more of a tropical flavour and weather but I do love Tequisquiapan. It seldom is unbearably hot or long enough to warrant air conditioning as it does in more tropical places. And the change of seasons without ice and snow feels both familiar and lovely.

I have gone through a difficult time attempting to get my generator fixed. And it has kept me busy physically going on a search... (Since I have no car, it means using public transportation; it eats up so much more time!) A friend's husband had tried to fix it a while back but accidentally set the whole thing on fire. Now it appears that many components may have been damaged. It has become a costly and hopeless proposition. I'll simply drop it. I can live pretty well with solar energy but cannot use my washer. So I give the large items, like bath towels and sheets, etc. to be laundered elsewhere and look after my own clothes by hand.

Mexico also goes on Daylight Saving Time and since we switched back to Standard Time, my days have sensibly shortened because it gets dark around 6 p.m. Without the use of my generator, I must do EVERYTHING during daylight hours. Running the computer at night is now impossible as it would lower my batteries' voltage way too much. I had faced a similar problem in the desert. So now, it's definitely Early to Bed, Early to Rise; I'm certainly healthy, I'm nowhere richer, and will eventually find out if I've become wiser!

Something weird happened to Mindy. Before the girls reached puberty and got their first heat, I got them spayed in San Juan del Rio. Everything seemed to be going fine until a couple of weeks ago. Mindy appeared to be in heat! I took her to the vet as I'd been told that a vaginal infection might provoke similar symptoms. Well, all was clear and she was indeed in heat. The vet said that it sometimes happens when a few cells of an ovary are unwittingly left behind and begin producing estrogen. While there is no risk of unwanted pregnancy she's been pathetic, ardently approaching any male regardless of species that would venture forth on this side of the fence. A bit embarrassing for all but guileless Mindy.

I have been working on my plan for the little house. I must have revised it 5 or 6 times. But finally, I think I've got it. After I mark the perimeter of the house on the lot with powdered lime, I'll get a definite confirmation of it. When I did it a while back, it made me realize that my plan was all wrong.

Also, I haven't stopped checking the internet about adding a forum to my new blog. I have spent DAYS copying html codes, inserting them in my new blog template, even lost it for a while to my great consternation, all without success. It's driving me nuts! But I've been raised with the D system (for Determination) ingrained in my bones. I'll get it going!

So, please forgive me for no new photos. I'll remedy it this weekend.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Heartfelt Thanks to my Followers

I have been blogging for a couple of years now but was sometimes far from punctual with my posts. I'm not attempting to present apologies but simply to offer facts. Life trekking solo does present challenges and problems. At times, it was easy to pour out my soul to sympathetic readers. But hardly fair. So I tried to do it as little as possible. However, it did have an impact on my ability to share. I was terribly concerned about discouraging "wannabes" (as you call yourselves, and as I saw myself once upon a time, rather unflatteringly...) from attempting the experiences of a solo traveler on the roads of our beautiful continent.
But in all fairness, how can one feel confident unless fully prepared for the uncertainties of a new life so far removed from the everyday "humdrum", yet comfortable, challenges of a predictable routine? I did personally rely on others' experiences to gauge my preparedness for the road. I'm not sure whether I succeeded, but in the end, any tip was worth its weight in gold. I was earnest in sharing truthfully so that others would benefit from my experiences. The Good, the Exhilarating, the Bad, and the Awful. And here I'd like to offer an analogy. There is no school of parenting. Yet most, if not all of us, will eventually father or mother a child of more. And we do wing it as we go along. Sometimes with smashing successes, at other times with painful failures. Life goes on. And so do we.
Just as in an everyday "humdrum" life there are highs and lows, so it is on the road. The only difference is that when one is stationary, there are friends and family members to share with us in delighting with the highs and in helping to alleviate the lows, all with a sense of the familiar and readily recognizable. It is different trekking solo. When one wants to share in the awesome wonder of a spectacular sunset or the worry about faltering machines, one can sometimes feel rather lonely. However, I can state unequivocally that the Good and Exhilarating far outweigh the Bad and Awful. And THAT keeps most going.
So here I want to thank from the bottom of my heart all those who faithfully follow my blog. Although it appears as a connection through the written word only, nevertheless it feels as a heartfelt connection from my soul to yours and vice-versa. You simply have no idea how it can help a solo RV'er going on, whether trekking or stationary. 
Thank you. I love you.
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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Boondocking in Cold Weather

The temperature here has been plunging near freezing point in the middle of the night. This morning I woke up in a -4 Celsius temp! I'm told it is highly unusual and I do recall that last year, at this time of the year, it never got as cold as it has so far this year. At night, I couldn't use the forced air furnace in the rig since the electric fan blowing out the hot air drew a lot of power, dangerously discharging the batteries with the thermostat kicking in throughout the night. This was compounded by my solar panels laying flat on the roof. So yesterday I took things into my own hands...

Ismael has been coming a couple of times a month to help out with chores that are beyond my ken or power. Yesterday, he got on the roof of the RV to elevate the solar panels to about 20 degrees of arc to orient them towards the south according to our degree of latitude. Bingo! Immediately, the regulator showing the array current jumped from 7.4 to 10.1. Recharging the batteries now takes no time at all. In fact, using my PC hardly makes a dent in the voltage. Sweet!

The day before I finally convinced Emilio, the mechanic-machinist from Ezequiel Montes, to come to my rescue and attend to the generator. Actually, it was a cry for help since all I had to heat the rig was a small propane heater with only two ceramic plates. The cold had been so intense that it failed to provide enough heat for the bedroom area and the bathroom, way at the back of the rig.
So Emilio came, disconnected the carburetor and it was a shock to see that it was no larger than an orange. He dismantled it and thoroughly cleaned it. He then adjusted the air/gasoline ratio and voilà! That was all that it took to make it run perfectly. So now, for a quick warm-up I can use the furnace when I need to heat the whole house (especially including the bedroom and bathroom...) then switch to the propane heater for the night.

Next week, I'll have to skirt the rig to cut down as much as possible the outside areas exposed to the wind and cold. A fifth-wheel or regular trailer would make the job a little easier with a flat level bottom. Actually, mine rises towards the back of the rig and is thus on a slant. This allows for more cold to seep through the floor where the bedroom and bathroom are located. No worry. Ismael will land a hand. Or better, two.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Asking for Help re: Forum

I have spent hours (actually, it's more like a full day and then some) trying to get a free forum that works on Google's blogspot. The instructions were clear enough but were based on the presumption that a certain line of two possible ones would be present in the template html description. Neither of the lines appeared. I tried to improvise but it never worked. My forum is already registered with Nabble and I got the html script to include in the template. All I got was a couple lines of a message that "...cannot parse..." as written. I really don't know what to do to get the forum going.

Can anyone help?

Please email me if you can. I really want to get this blog going, like yesterday!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Generator and Time as a Relative Concept

He came! The mechanic/machinist from Ezequiel Montes showed up! On time! Well, relatively... There are a number of problems tied in to proper maintenance on the generator. The size of the machine and its fitting in a restricted space for one--no access at all to the carburetor. It was so plugged up that while it ignited at first, pretty soon the gasoline would fail to arrive and instead would get mixed into the oil while also dripping wherever convenient--on machine parts and/or outside on the ground. A no-fail recipe for an eventual fire or explosion. I DID find this to be oh-so-true...

There were a few other reasons for the dirty carburetor. Ever since I'd arrived in Mexico, we've been at an altitude of over 6,000 feet. I had learned that at this altitude, the air-gasoline ratio has to be leaner so an adjustment that should have been made never was. This for lack of encountering a Honda trained or Honda knowledgeable mechanic in my peregrinations and proper access to the part. Another was the difficulty in finding Honda parts and substituting with "equivalent" ones, which does not necessarily mean equal or identical. For a terrific workhorse, it does seem a bit temperamental, doesn't it!

While the mechanic was removing the air filter and its casing to check on the carburetor w...a...y behind, we chatted and I mentioned all of the above. He stopped for a second, looked at me, and said something to the effect that I appeared to know a couple of things about the machine. (You think... after 6 years!) A very good preamble to what I next suggested to him. "...why try to remove the whole machine if only the carburetor needs maintenance? Can you easily remove it?" Another meaningful stare... and a obvious smile of relief. He had come prepared with a truck, a jack, and even a trailer. But alone. No way it could have been done without at least 2 men.

However, by then the sun was way down and there was not enough light to comfortably work in the cubbyhole. Without the generator, not enough power was left in the batteries for a light extension if I wanted to have enough juice for the night. He said he'd be back at around 10 AM mañana, i.e. today. Haven't seen him yet.

A little aside about the law of relativity as it applies to time here in Mexico. Everyone knows that mañana means tomorrow (well... at least technically or linguistically speaking.) Let me disabuse you of this concept. Mañana simply means "not today". As I found out with Los Coyotes and my load of dirt that never made it here. Frustratingly so, it may also mean never. Only in time can one tell.

Yep... patience is a virtue. I fully expect that within a relatively short time by my northern reckoning, I'll become the most virtuous female well practiced in patience between latitudes 19 and 20! At least at this longitude.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Maintenance Woes

As full time rv'rs are well aware of, maintenance is of the utmost importance for a quality of life--and also to avoid catastrophes. Ever since I've been boondocking on my lot, I haven't had the luxury of air conditioning or doing my laundry in my new washer. My generator, normally a pretty fantastic workhorse, is also the size of a small horse, and probably weighs as much. It fits in a dedicated cubbyhole that is barely adequate. As a result, the carburetor had not been tenderly attended to for lack of accessibility to the part. It reminded me of Shermie and a remark I'd heard from another VW owner. "...to change the air filter, first remove the engine..."

In past posts, I related how the husband of a friend set the generator on fire. Since then, I've been looking for a qualified technician who, it was hoped, also had access to Honda parts--not a given in a smaller town such as Tequis.  I'd been given a number of references and checked them all. No such luck in Tequisquiapan. I'd heard of one in San Juan del Rio, but the gentleman was neither available nor accessible. Perhaps gone out of business? Never found out. Meanwhile, life went on.

Finally, I ended up going to Ezequiel Montes last week, a rather torturous affair. Santillan is smack between Tequisquiapan and Ezequiel Montes but public transportation offered only the option of first heading back to Tequis, then hopping on a bus to Ezequiel Montes, which more than doubled up on itself. It's as if from B, one has to head back to A, then go forward to C, passing again right by B. I'm out of breath just thinking and writing about it...

But I found my elusive technician! And joy of all joys, he has access to Honda parts! He was scheduled to come Thursday or Friday, but could not make it. Then we tried for yesterday, Saturday, but he could not make it. He'll be here tomorrow with a helper, a jack, the parts needed, and a lot of good will (I hope).

As an Aries, I have to admit that patience is not one of my most outstanding virtues (but I do have a few others). Perhaps living in Mexico might accomplish the task that my mom held close at heart, to teach me PATIENCE. I'm getting so much practice now that I'll master the #$@%&! thing!!!

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Blog

Well it's up. Still needs some tweaking. I'm having a few problems with the template and design. For an unknown reason, the changes that I decide upon fail to get implemented. I'll figure it out...

Thanks to Virago and Dixxe who came up with suggestions for the blog title, I've decided to use both. The blog is therefore called Metaphysical Musings and the description includes the Beyond the Body suggestion. I just loved both. Thank you Virago and Dixxe. The blog address is http://thehereafter-whatif.blogspot.com/ a tentative name I'd reserved before the suggested titles. Blogger accepted the change to Metaphysical Musings BUT when I try to access it by its new title, it states by invitation only. It doesn't even accept my name even though it's all spelled out exactly identical to ... as administrator. Go figure!

Since I don't own a domain, it appears a bit problematic to have a forum accessible directly from the blog, which is what I would like to implement so as to facilitate communication. I'm looking at alternatives and will post whatever I find out on boondocking blogger as I have no followers on the new blog. If you want to check out the new blog, for now, go to:

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Hereafter ... What If? - Part One

This is a topic that's a radical departure from boondocking and rv'ing. But in reality, it touches all of us since, as each one of us is born, each one of us will eventually face death. A statistical certainty. I had chosen to think about it some 35 years ago first by reading "On Death and Dying" by Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, and later when I went to a talk given by the author in Montreal to further look into it. Since then, I avidly read a great many accounts of people who had actually died and been brought back from either death or the brink of death. Boondocking in remote areas and wild places often fosters such pondering and research. Not out of morbid fascination, but out of concern that one is closer to the end than to the beginning. I've always believed in being ready. And I'm coming to what prompted this post.

Sadly, a few weeks ago, a friend's son met with a tragic death at his own hands at the age of 46. Understandably, a great many people were distraught and wondering: what's awaiting him ... total annihilation of his essence ... eternal condemnation ... or what? In the face of this momentous event, everyone had more questions than answers. And it tempted me to seek answers ... but I refrained.

There is one "occupation" that I failed to mention in my profile. And here, I'll gladly excuse anyone who might be turned off by such a topic. Neither will I entertain challenges, or efforts at refuting experiences that for me, were as real as the first diaper that I wore or the last meal that I ate. Here goes ... and again, this is the time for those who might be turned off from following me further to graciously exit without further comments. For a number of years, I was a medium. It began with spontaneous images at a time when I'd faced tragic events in my life. A huge unexpected development for a self-confessed and confirmed atheist for over 20 years, to say the least! Then, it blossomed some months after I'd begun to study astrology, as if a door to other portals of understanding had been opened. I'll get to this in later posts if there is any interest. So I DO need feedback, or I'll restrict myself to boondocking and the more mundane aspects of life at retirement.

However, be that as it may, I no longer want to tap into information from this other dimension as it depletes me of too much energy. But for the sake of clearing some misconceptions, let me state this; a medium is not someone's attempt at bewildering gullible clients with some hocus-pocus speculations. At least it never was for me. Neither is it cold-reading. For one thing, never was I interested in such endeavours, Furthermore, I have never charged a penny for consultation by anyone. Neither did I advertise this nor seek it; it simply happened when someone in my entourage needed help or it would help a bona-fide client with his/her astrological chart. Also, it was always a spontaneous and totally unexpected "capsule of knowledge" that would always serve someone other than me.

So, in a nutshell, I have come accept that, to the metaphysical known but as yet unproven, my life is but a drop in a bucket full of former lives and others to come. At death, all that is sloughed off is a physical body that no longer serves its purpose. If anyone is interested in my experiences, investigations, speculations, and conclusions, please let me know. Particularly if you might want to share some of your own experiences or questions, or speculations. or whatever. I may start another blog based on the subject of a human being being far more than meets the (physical) eye.

I'd also welcome suggestions as to the name of a new blog. Welcome all.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Day of the Dead

Last weekend I went grocery shopping and to my surprise and anticipated pleasure, saw that Pan de Muertos was already for sale, two weeks before November 1st. Yum! Some explanations are warranted.

El Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is an Aztec ritual that dates back to 3000 years. To the Aztecs, life was a dream, and only after physical death did a person truly become alive. It is uncanny how those who have had a NDE (near-death experience) report that never before had they felt more alive as when they had flat-lined and left the body. Before the arrival of the Spaniards, the celebration lasted about a month. In their effort to convert, the Spaniards tried to eradicate the ritual, which they considered pagan. When they realized that it was an utter failure, they moved it to All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, November 1st and 2nd. It is a celebration to honour the loved ones who have passed on. It is believed that their spirits come to visit on those days between October 31st and November 2nd and nothing is spared to guide them to their gravesite.

People visit the cemetery where their loved ones are buried. The families bring blankets next to the gravesites and the favourite foods of the departed. Their graves are decorated with candles and flowers, especially marigolds. A photo (or photos) of the departed is displayed. There are toys for children who died. Traditionally, the infants and children who have passed on are celebrated on November 1st, the adults on November 2nd. Tequila is brought for the adults, or whatever was the departed's favourite drink. Offerings are displayed. Sugar skulls are brilliantly decorated, sugar coffins and masks are elaborately adorned, tissue paper cut-outs are strung across the streets. Special foods are baked such as Pan de Muerto, a pastry made of a rich bread dough with eggs, decorated with dough in the form of bones, and covered with sugar. It's delicious!

In Tequis, the streets are filled with vendors and tons of flowers for sale. It's a veritable feast for the eyes. Far from being morbid, it is as much a celebration of the dead as it is of the living. The connection is in a way never severed. In certain parts of the country music is played and people dance to honour those who have passed on. It is believed that the dead will want to hear all that happened to their families and loved ones in the past year. In cities people prepare an altar decorated with flowers, handicrafts, candles and sugar confections. Copal incense is burnt. A feast of delicious foods is consumed. Deceased loved ones are thus fully integrated into the family, never to be forgotten.

Personally, I am enchanted with the festivity and the spirit of the holiday. After all, when we carry love in our hearts for those who have passed on, don't we keep them alive in a way?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fortitude and Courage - Miners & Women RV'ing Solo

The whole world applauded and breathed a sigh of immense relief today as the first 27 miners were brought to the surface after 69 days in the bowels of the earth. There is even a possibility that by midnight today they will all have reached the surface. Bravo for the miners! Bravo for the rescuers! Bravo for all who sustained them with prayers and well-wishing!
One has to marvel at the immense courage and fortitude these men have shown. I read that for 17 days, in darkness, in 90 degrees heat, not knowing whether they would ever be rescued, they held on. With only 48 hours' worth of food and water, they stretched it into more than 2 weeks for all of the 33 men! It took some serious thinking and a whole lot of altruism. No one died of starvation. Now, I can only imagine what their families went through thinking of their loved ones down under TONS of rock for 69 days... (Actually, I don't think that I can. Honestly.)
I have sometimes received congratulations for "taking risks" and leaving to travel solo and live full time in an RV and later on to move to another country. Well, let me tell you, it was a breeze compared to what these men went through.  Isn't everything relative? Which proves that when the human spirit is strong, it can conquer virtually anything. Mountains! Tons of rock! Darkness! Despair! Venturing out into the unknown! Even the possibility of a slow and agonizing death... A truly far-fetched proposition when it comes to full-time RV'ing.
So, to anyone out there who is thinking of going out solo in a contraption with an engine and wheels (albeit with a bed, a fridge, bathroom, etc.) trekking without a fixed address, yet having the facility of being in constant contact with loved ones, with the freedom to either go on or return, it's a BREEZE! As someone famous once said (I can't recall who did), the "tragedy is not in dying but in dying without having really lived."
We all witnessed the world coalesce toward one single purpose, RESCUE THESE MEN. So let me state my two-bits worth. The world out there is FULL of willing and kind-hearted people who will not hesitate to lend a helping hand. I have experienced this many times over. There is no underestimating the degree of human compassion one may encounter along the way. And that, my fellow travelers, is worth the "risks". That alone can reconcile one with humankind. And in the end, it's so worth it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

My Apologies to my Readers

Just so you know, I have no control over what gets sent and when. I usually compose my posts on Windows Live Writer and when I'm satisfied, just click to publish.

However, in my last post about llamaradas, I realized when I checked my blog today that I had made a mistake; my keyboard keys are sticky and sometimes, what I type doesn't show up. So I made the correction directly in the blog. Once again, this second time, I made a mistake and had to go back to remove one of the l's in llamarada. Arghhh....!!!

Then, a friend called me and asked why I had sent my last post so many times. I had not realized that once I publish a post, it gets sent to all those who follow my blog the very moment it's published. MY SINCERE APOLOGIES if you received multiple notifications. I promise it won't happen again. If I make a mistake, it will stay for all posterity...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Llamarada - Description and Name

Finally found the name of the lovely vine with bright orange flowers. Here's a description provided by California Gardens:
Pyrostegia venusta will bloom some throughout the year, but the best show is in the late Fall when little else is happening.  That makes the show from the Flame Vine even more commanding.  The vine can be almost completely covered with these brilliant orange flowers.  It also goes by the common names of Flame Flower, Flaming Trumpet, and Golden Shower Vine.  It is native to Brazil and Paraguay.
Thanks to Maria Luz who mentioned that trumpet vine is not what I have, which prompted me to look further and do a Google search. When I clicked on Images, there it was! All that I recalled was the name trumpet.
Anyone depressed or dejected cannot help but grin with pleasure looking at a stone wall brimming with Flaming Trumpet. I can't wait until I see my cement fence draped in all the colours of the bougainvilleas and flaming trumpet!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Gardener's Precious Help - Show and Tell

I haven't posted for a while. For the past two weeks, I've been shopping for plants and flowers. Then for containers to hold them. And to try to find another provider of BROWN soil. My post Something Got Lost in the Translation related an attempt at getting understood (my accent wasn't the culprit, every other Mexican native understands me perfectly!) Rather, I see it as what I would call an inborn tendency of many males of the species to lend only half an ear to the female of the same species... (has any other woman ever noticed this?) We had negotiated for a solid week but I kept ending up with nothing more tangible than hope.

Finally, Samuel the gardener arrived to move some soil--which, not surprisingly was absent. Kindly, he proposed that we both go to Los Coyotes and so we went. Strange how Samuel understood me perfectly... Yet, once more I got the run-around. Fed up, I just cancelled the whole thing. It had amounted to another saga. Then Samuel mentioned that he knew a place so we drove there. I asked for brown soil, was understood and shown it; Samuel checked it, declared it excellent and three measly HOURS later it was delivered.

That was the first stop. I had mentioned that I would like to grow flowers in large ceramic pots rather in the soil. Why? The lot is awfully narrow, and the climate is dry. I'd rather water a dozen or so pots than an area that would require triple the volume of water. Also, growing in large pots looks very Mexican (and I love it). It amounts to having a movable garden!

The place he knew sold not only ceramic pots but plants, trees, cacti, flowers that I knew and others that I was seeing for the first time. I went nuts! No house yet except my RV. But I couldn't live without beauty around. What can be more beautiful than flowers? And hummingbirds that come to sip their nectar? And butterflies? And red birds, yellow birds, birds that sing and others that make unidentifiable sounds?

Ok, enough words. Time for Show and Tell.

This schefflera will grow (I hope) to  top the 6 ft cPlants & boug 012-1ement fence. It's left of the entrance door (to come).







Both sides of the enclosing cement fence will, in time, be covered with bougainvilleas of all colours. Here are some of them. I had to protect them from inquisitive canine noses, hence the chicken wire.

Plants & boug 019-1  

Bodega, dogs, lavadero, flowers 017-1 Plants & boug 018-1

Then I also planted a palm treePlants & boug 015-1 Plants & boug 014-1And two palmettos






In time the 3 llamaradas will show these bright orange colours--loved by bees and hummingbirdsFlowering vine with tiny peaches in back of laundry room-1 (I believe they are called trumpet vines?) If anyone knows, I'd appreciate being advised





Now, here are the macetas or ceramic pots. I couldn't believe how Plants & boug 017-2 inexpensive they were--would you believe a bit under $10. each! They are the large ones holding roses (to bloom again). The puppies are very inquisitive so I had to put them higher up, that is on the rack that used to hold "stuff" behind the RV. In front are mandevilleas (phonetic spelling) with white, pink and red flowers. They're flowering vines that will eventually climb up and around the fence door.

 Plants & boug 006-1 Yes, I've been busy going nuts over the ceramic pots and posies. The round pots were about $7.00 each. I can't recall the name of the flowers.

Plants & boug 001-2

So, you see, I HAVE been busy...

Welcome to new readers. Do not hesitate to email me if you have any question about RV'ing solo, or moving to Mexico in my area--the safest of the country with the most pleasant climate.  I could not speak with first-hand knowledge about other areas.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Saving - The Planet and $

While reading the October Selecciones de Readers' Digest, I came across a small ad that offered software that could reduce my footprint on the environment by reducing the kilowatts while using my computer. For a full-time RV'er this is like manna from heaven.

Electricity usage needs constant monitoring, which is done by the regulator. It indicates the charge from the solar panels into the batteries and the usage, as well. When the sun goes down, unless the batteries have received a full charge, time using the computer in the evenings may be limited. Frustrating. Now, let's not talk about watching television. Anyway, I don't watch it at all. My command of Spanish is not yet sufficient to follow dialogue at lightning speed.

OK. Here is the information. The software is called Granola and it IS FREE. Here's the URL http://www.grano.la

I'm so impressed!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Something Got Lost in the Translation. . .

Last week I mentioned that I'd be taking photos of the new plants. The weather has not been very cooperative, however. Although we are extremely privileged in terms of natural disasters (namely, there are none here), when hurricanes get close to either coast, they send us rain clouds, dark and miserable, but way more liveable than the catastrophic events on the coast. Soooo... I've been busy, weather allowing, planting and levelling the lot.

With that in mind, last week I had ordered tierra morena, a rich brown soil that plants love. That, and tepetate, a calcium carbonate friable rock that packs quite nicely and will reduce the amount of dust stirred up by the running dogs. A previous order of brown soil had already been delivered by Los Coyotes some two weeks before. I was asked in what order I wanted the truckloads to be delivered. It was soil first, then tepetate. 

The first truck showed up--with tepetate. On the narrow lot that I have, dumping the tepetate first would have prevented any truck from coming in. He had to return and come back after the half-load of soil had been dumped further in onto the lot. He wasn't particularly happy. But wait, that's only the beginning!

Less than an hour later, here come two trucks. One with a half-load of soil that makes its way towards the back and begins dumping. Just as soon as I see the black dirt, I holler "STOP", both arms gesticulating in the air to make myself understood, but not quickly enough to prevent a sizeable portion of the soil to land. Black soil here turns up very spongy and sticky after a rainfall. With 12 active paws running around, the amount of dirt is unmanageable. Then when it's dry, it produces tons of fine dust! I hate the stuff.

The driver and his helper contemplated the dumped soil, about a cubic meter, probably wishing it away with a strong enough stare. . . and I insisted that it had to be removed. Meanwhile, the tepetate truck had been waiting in front of the lot. A short consultation took place with a final verdict that a maquina (I presume a front loader, but perhaps I should avoid presuming) would be sent to remove the black dirt, but it is now too late to dump either the brown soil or the tepetate. The helper asked me once more, meekly, "...are you sure you can't use it?" Absolutely NOT! The driver pointed out (somewhat acidly, I might add) that brown dirt here is called lama. Ah... I guess I should have known the technical term. Away both trucks went. Again. For the day.

No sooner had they left that rain clouds, as dark as the dumped soil, rolled in. I quickly called for help from my neighbour to spread a tarp over the black #%?# just in time to avoid the downpour that would have turned the whole #%?# into an unspeakable miasma. No way this late in the game that a front loader could be sent. Not in the downpour.

So today, I expect a front loader and an empty truck, followed by a truck with a half load of lama (see, I'm a fast learner!), in turn followed by another truck load of tepetate.

Then, maybe not. . .

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Making of a Full-Time RV'er... My Own

I find that, sometimes to gain perspective as objectively as possible, it helps to read old journal entries. It is particularly helpful when one is contemplating such a drastic change in one's life as taking to the road for a years to come, if not forever. For instance, when I read all my old entries while living in a stationary home, (my own house) I certainly do not appear overly distraught with my circumstances (except for Social Services, perhaps...)

Then I turned sixty-five and had a choice to make. The three children under my care for years were being moved to other foster homes (not my choice). There was no way I could afford, or keep for that matter, a five bedroom house, particularly in a small community in which I would not be able to find employment, but would need to, just to keep paying for the mortgage, taxes, and upkeep. Frankly, that last option held very little appeal for obvious reasons.

A few months earlier, I had signed up for the RV, thinking I'd take the children places during the summer. I simply used the equity on the house to pay for it. I was running TOWARD a new life so had no qualms about letting go of all that was associated with my soon-to-be former life. I put almost everything up for sale and managed in liquidating it all. Re-reading my journal entries, I'm waxing almost lyrical about my life to come on the road. Was I running AWAY from something? Not that I can recall. I knew the certainties and security of the world that I was leaving behind. I think that I was fairly realistic about that. I foresaw no propensity to miss any of it, just as long as I could make up for certain necessities afforded by having a stationery home, such as communications by phone and internet.

What I was running toward was a new life that I was ready and keen to embrace. I had lived it with VW Shermie in my mid-fifties for a year and a half. It meant the lure of unknown and (to me) exciting adventures, looking forward to new, ever widening horizons, people to meet, challenges to overcome. An almost inconceivable FREEDOM! Admittedly, I was the envy of many people who would confide that they too had often thought of running away from the rat race and do what I was doing...

What I realize with utter clarity, if somewhat belatedly, was that I had been running at once from and toward. I was running away from a world that offered stability and comfort yet often felt confining, stifling. A world in which there was almost an obligation to conform to society's expectations or else be somewhat of a loner, an eccentric or even an outcast. My sanity had sometimes been questioned for caring in my sixties for three young children. That fact alone set me apart from most people my age. And, from most younger people who were also caring for "their" children and were in their thirties and forties. Clearly, I failed to fit in either bracket. It was obvious then, as it is now, that conforming had not been an overwhelming need...

Had I idealized life as a full-time RV'er? UNDENIABLY. Did I ever question my decision in the worst trying circumstances on the road? CERTAINLY. Did I have any regrets? NOT ON YOUR LIFE! As stated earlier, although I realize that I had been running away from my previous life and all its contradictions and restrictions and (this one is probably the biggest!) constant judging by others' standards, the life toward which I had been running brought both a relief from all this together with a set of previously unknown challenges, restrictions, and compensations. I met them all, aching loneliness at odd times, the stark realization of being (technically... and obviously) homeless, the innumerable and inescapable chores, (I had little suspected how many of them and how overtaxing at times), a definite lack of privacy (perforce it must be when you overnight park on the street or a large parking lot), and too many more to list... Was it worth it? UNQUESTIONABLY!

It finally excised from me the last remains of the "obligation" to conform or else having to explain and justify myself. It is MY life, and I owe explanations or justifications only to MYSELF just as long as my choices do not negatively affect others. Conversely, it brought me an awareness that no one can be an island upon oneself; that regardless of one's lifestyle, self-sufficiency is possible, but rarely without other people's help at certain times. A lesson in humility, this. Together with the necessity to reciprocate, as well. Was I ready to keep RV'ing boondocking for years to come? NO LONGER at 70.

The time had come for a change and my options were still open. Although I'm still boondocking, now it's in Mexico, on my lot, where I DO NOT feel like a round peg attempting to fit in a square hole. The challenges are different, but manageable. I had never foreseen that I'd be designing and building a house in another country, but life on the road has prepared me for change and made me aware of what I can face up to.  And what I appreciate most both in the country and from its people? The non-judgemental attitude. So, I finally met what I had been running toward.

The freedom to simply BE ME.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Women Full-Time RV'ers

This is a sort of generic appellation since I'll be talking mostly about my experiences traveling solo. But I have met quite a number of other women who have opted for a life as a full time RV'er and we have exchanged many "tricks" of the road. All in all, I was on the road for a little over 6 years.

First and foremost, make sure all that's mechanical, tires, oil, etc. (I won't go through the list, it should be evident...) is checked out BEFORE you leave. This does not guarantee an accident free trip but certainly increases the chances of making it to the destination without INCIDENTS. Besides who wants the stress of wondering whether you may be stuck where you don't want to be and faced with a substantial repair bill?

Secure all that's in cupboards or tied to the rig. I recall once that, after a visit and a barbecue with my daughter and her partner, she offered to dry the dishes. I forgot, however, to warn her about placing the anti-skid squares between the plates and bowls. Your guess is right on. Everything slid off the shelves at the first sharp turn of the road. Even though it was Corelle, everything DID break. A real mess.

Make sure that your TV antenna is down or else everyone and his cousin on the road will honk at you (a tad nerve wracking, that) and point to the antenna. When I started out, I'd made a list of everything to check out before leaving. It helped as all that I had to remember was a bit overwhelming and I was afraid of forgetting something.

Tell family or close ones the date when you're leaving and where you're heading or how long you intend to keep on the road. Otherwise, they will worry about you unnecessarily and will contact you on your cell, which you DO NOT want to answer while driving. Once at my destination, I usually got in touch with a son, daughter, or sibling to let them know I was ok.

Safety must always be first. While traveling, I have made sure to stop for an overnight before darkness. There are a number of outlets that will let you stay overnight, have a security guard, and stay well lit for the night. For me, it's almost always been Walmart. I bought their atlas that lists all the W-M stores and specifically the Supercenters-a one stop shop. Also, preparation is the key to travel that will be as uneventful as possible, except for vistas and places to visit on the way.

I once witnessed a drug exchange at a rest area surrounded by tall trees and not visible from the road. (Yeah... I was a newbie). Five tough-looking guys kept looking toward my VW van when at first, there had been only two ordinary looking guys. Luckily I had made sure all the doors were locked before lying down for a rest. I was concerned with showing by my leaving that I was a woman alone so felt that I had to make myself "undetectable". My dog had already had her pit stop so I just stayed put quietly, without even moving, until they all went their merry way. A very disquieting experience. Since then, I've used rest areas ONLY during the day.

I always made sure my holding tanks were empty except for the fresh water one, which had enough water to sustain me through the travel only. Also, I stopped as often as necessary to keep the gas tank at mid-level. This alleviates the load and saves on gas, too. (Except perhaps for Nevada... and others with 80 miles or more between service station.)

I have listened to plenty of full timers and have always taken their advice to heart. Also, I bought plenty of books relevant to my journey and read them before leaving. That way, I felt prepared. I did not have a GPS. Without a co-pilot, I wanted to have an easily read itinerary for the next day. I made sure it was written large and dark enough so I could check it without getting my reading glasses on. I even marked the rest areas on it.

There are so many reference books, articles, websites, blogs, etc. that offer advice on traveling as a solo woman. I bought and downloaded as many as I could and read them all before leaving. The advice was at times a little too technical for my thorough comprehension, but I kept it anyway. 

Oh... yes, an afterthought. You will encounter PLENTY of people who will warn you of all sorts of potential calamities. Yet the doomsayers have not really gone through the experience themselves. Trust those who have. Even though people may talk out of concern for you, rarely is it from a place of knowledge based on personal experience. Each trip is just as individual as you are.

Using your head is the most important. Preparation is the key. Better to act than to react. As to keeping a blog, I never published my next destination. Although I always kept a journal, my report was written AFTER the fact. I never traveled with a firearm. I heard it said that it's not the finger that controls the gun, it's the head (I wasn't sure that I could trust my cool factor in a panic situation). Also, I'd once met a retired policeman (from San Francisco, if you must know) who warned me that unless I had considerable experience in the use of a gun, I'd probably end up with the gun being used AGAINST me. I took his advice to heart. He knew.

Oh, one more thing. I never opened the door--always kept locked--to a knock unless I could see if it was someone that I knew. And whom did I know on the road? Not a soul. If talk was necessary (and it did happen once that a kind mechanic warned me about a tire almost ready to burst--I had checked the tread but not the walls...); it took place through the window opened to a slit. I took care of it right then.

Finally, just remember that the world is NOT filled with axe murderers.

And DO enjoy both the preparing for the road and hitting it finally!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Wrapping Up Construction--For Now

Building is a heck of a challenge. Actually, the planning is worse than the building 'cause the planning is my job. There are a few constraints on account of the lot configuration. Also, because I continue to live in the RV and have to plan for where I'll eventually leave it parked. It leaves me with serious headaches at times trying to prepare for everything, allowing enough space for the work to get done while having enough free space to live in the RV.

The lot is narrow and long. Roughly a tad less than 40 feet wide by 90 feet long. It follows a natural slope West to East. The East side is lower by a little over 2 feet. Fortunately, the North/South is fairly level. Now that I have lived through the rainy season and heavy downpours, I saw that the eastside "ditch" got filled in a matter of minutes--what I would term a ferocious rain coming down by the bucket load! It took much longer to dry up. Tina found it to her liking and had a ball splashing in the brown water. Final conclusion, the lot will have to be levelled.

I must have revised my plans 5 or 6 times owing to a number of factors. The first one was the lot configuration. The second one is that my awning gave up the ghost. So off it went but I had to make up for its loss. I designed a simple roof of galvanized metal to put over the "patio" that provided me with an extension of the RV. Ismael built it fast and well. The whole thing is quite primitive but it suits my purpose. The awning posts are anchored in cement Bodega, dogs, lavadero, flowers 015and will be cut off when I can move into the house. The galvanized roof will serve very well over the laundry area. The bodega in the background will eventually get windows and a door.

Another consideration: since I have to fire up the generator to use my washer, I thought I'd buy a "lavadero" (a double sink made of cement, grooved for washing and polished smooth for rinsing) and use the washer for large items only. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I took photos. I got acquainted with the "lavadero" when I was in the casita on Juarez. I LOVED it! It brought back memories of a large laundry vat filled with dirty clothes... a washboard ...and plenty of elbow grease! The surprising thing is that clothes come out cleaner and softer with the use of the Mexican equivalent of kosher soap that I used to buy "on the other side".

Bodega, dogs, lavadero, flowers 014

A little aside about laundry terms. The sink is masculine LAVADERO. The washing machine is feminine LAVADORA. The place where laundry is performed is LAVANDERIA--feminine too. Could it be that, at some level, the terms are somewhat representative of real life? Hmmmm... I wonder!

As I'm writing this, three young men are digging a channel for the water to run from the water main to my lot by a pipe. Again, it will be a temporary installation while boondocking. In most of the country, water is channelled from the water main to a large water tank that is usually installed on the roof. It then simply flows by gravity. This way, if the city has to shut off water for a while (and it DOES happen) nobody has to be without water. Right now, a water tank in the soil supplies my RV with water. A "flotador" or float similar to the one in a water tank for the toilet works the same way. When a certain level is reached, it shuts off the water supply. All very clever. That tank will be replaced by the rooftop model---when I get a house, and a roof over it.

Now, as to the reason that construction is on hold is so simple. Lack of funds. I'm still paying for the lot and until I'm done at the end of January 2011, I will have to be content with boondocking. However, there are amenities. I have water, I have sewage (to the septic tank) and I have solar energy. And, I AM HOME!

I will however, continue to level the lot and work on detailed plans. Oh.... and I got plants. And trees. More about this in the next couple of days.

L'arte d'arrangiarsi

This is an Italian term that signifies to make do, to make something out of next to nothing. When I saw the pups insisting on using the couch for all three "comfortably", this is the term that immediately sprang to mind. Sleeping the sleep of the just. . . while barely fitting. They made it work!

Bodega, dogs, lavadero, flowers 012

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Doing Without - a Loss turns into a Gain

Since I've been boondocking in Mexico, I've had to do without certain things that I used to expect as a given. The first one and believe me, it loomed big, was reading. The second, almost as big, was TV. Not that I was ever addicted but I did enjoy some shows. Before my last season in the Arizona desert, I had bought a small digital TV. Close to Yuma, the reception was so good that I didn't even have to raise the antenna! Which is a good thing since the raising mechanism had broken down... Briefly, I considered getting a new one installed but finally opted against it since I had no idea what awaited me in Mexico, my ultimate destination.

Upon arrival in Tequis I rented a casita and got cable with quite a few channels in English. No way could I tackle anything in Spanish. Little had I realized that most shows were VERY dated. I used to enjoy "So You Think You Can Dance". Quite thrilled that I would get it here, I settled for an hour of visual delight (well, at least some of the dancers were skilful if not exactly artful) only to realize within the first two or three minutes past the commercials that the show had been taped some 3 years before! The experience was repeated many times over with different shows. Even some films in French were so old that I recognized actors from my younger days! So, when I finally decided to remain in Tequis rather than settle down in Oaxaca, it was to buy the lot on which I will eventually build my own little dwelling. I had other priorities besides TV so I let it slide.

I had discovered a lovely pastry shop in downtown Tequis run by an expat Austrian pastry chef. Stefan is multilingual and makes the most awesome desserts to be enjoyed with an espresso or cappuccino. His café sports a small shelving unit filled with books, some in English others in German, that he resells for a few pesos. I grabbed all that I could identify as new-to-me and filled a few evenings with reading--a short lived affair. I returned a few times and got the espresso and the strudel but no new books. My friends Jimena and Peter had given many books. Same fate. Within two to three weeks I'd run out of a boxful of reading material.

Evidently, I had to tackle that challenge head on. During the day I spent many hours learning as much Spanish as I could so that I could get a degree of understanding the written word for evenings to come. As I mentioned in a previous post, the easiest and cheapest way to get reading material was buying Selecciones del Reader's Digest and painstakingly work my way through the text with the help of the dictionary. The first edition was filled with handwriting. With the second one, I could leave quite a few lines of text unmarked. Then I passed both of them on to my friend Guadalupe who in turn lent me her book Siddhartha in Spanish, no less. I filled separate pages with translations, read it at least three or four times, until I could look at a paragraph without panic. Eventually I could take it no more. I'd read it in English centuries before and recalled the story line.

Yesterday I bought the September edition of Selecciones. Last night was stormy, a perfect evening for reading. After the first article without checking the dictionary -wait a minute- could it be that I had read the whole thing without underlining words? Wow... I had understood all of it! And the images formed in my mind without resorting to translating mentally!

Now, that's what I consider an unmitigated GAIN.

I can't wait until I get to the downtown library!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Final Note on Learning Spanish

I should have been more explicit. Briefly, here is how to access the Spanish lessons at http://www.spanishdict.com

Click on the above link. You'll have a number of tabs to choose from. The very first tab is LEARN SPANISH. Click on it, then follow the directions to register and choose a user name. Spanishdict will keep track of your progress and this way, you'll have access to many collateral services. And all you'll have to do is enter the site where your URL will be remembered and you'll be in immediately. Then click on where you left off last or choose to do any lessons or access any service you want.

A good way of adding vocabulary is to sign up for the "Word of the Day", which will be emailed to you daily. I have created a file just for it on my email provider and keep all that I get for reference.

Lately, I could not find the translation for a medical expression and appealed to Spanishdict.com. (Hmmm, ok . . .it was bone spurs--which was posted as a question and was answered by a number of people, who incidentally, showed immediate compassion for moi! The Spanish term was espolón óseo. And yes, they are bothersome, but more so painful, as they are in the shoulder joint).

The list of FREE services is too long to list here. Just go for it!

Now, that's about all I have to say about it.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

My Tricks in Learning Spanish

I have had some queries and comments on my post about learning Spanish. In it, I mentioned how I finally got to progress in my learning the language through free lessons on the internet at http://www.spanishdict.com (it does indeed help that I get to practice daily what I learn).

What I found most helpful, besides the fact that it's entirely FREE, I love that one, was that I could choose the speed at which I could assimilate the new language. We each have our unique learning style and capacity to memorize and recall; that's the immense advantage of progressing at one's own learning rhythm. And, away from a classroom and bombarded by everyone else's learning style, which I sometimes found was an impediment to my own. With spanishdict.com, I virtually breezed through certain lessons while for others, I had to go back two or three times before they would sink in. It was like having my own private tutor.

Look. I am not paid to tout spanishdict.com. I simply found it the most effective of all in my learning the new language rapidly and easily. When I had foster children, many of whom were afflicted with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder), I devoured all information so as to teach "my" children who were thus disadvantaged. I recall mention of a book or an article written by a psychologist (whose name I forget--come to think of it, he may have been an educator), who said that one should not ask "...how intelligent is my child", but rather "...how is my child intelligent". This to determine the style in which a particular child is apt to learn as opposed to another. Is he/she more of a visual learner, auditory, kinesthetic, or a combination of these? I applied this information with great success in tutoring my foster daughters. Now, in my case, strict memorization, a rather dry affair I might add, does not work. I need context.

Another trick of mine, which I'm actually finding most helpful in acquiring vocabulary, is the Reader's Digest monthly edition. I buy it here in Spanish, of course, and start with the simplest (and shortest) articles, underlining each word that's new to me. Strangely enough, the first article I read was on how to develop mnemonic aids. The suggestion was to arrange a context in which to recall a selection of words. For instance, memorize the word table and imagine yourself next to it. Then you disappear and a vase appears on the table; then the table disappears and a rose appears in the vase, and so on. I guess you could call it "...recalling by association". When I learn a new word, it is thus in a context that situates it into a logical association (namely a storyline); furthermore, it helps me to get a clear image of it. I check the dictionary, write the translation for the word over it, and re-read the whole article once or twice over to "gel" the meaning in my mind.

It works for me.

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