Saturday, January 31, 2009

Home in Salem

Moving is hard work. And we have moved 3 times since May 2008. Enough already! But we are almost settled into our new apt in Salem and it is beginning to feel like home. Mike is fighting a cold and ear ache on top of his constant struggle with the effects of his anti-seizure medications. We have appointments with a doctor and Social Security so we hope to soon find out how to make Mike feel better and get his SS claim processed.

We haven’t had much time to explore Salem yet, but from what I have seen it is a lot like the Seattle area where I grew up. The natural beauty is amazing. Check out Salem Oregon Daily Photo for great pics from Jill!

Speaking of great pics, below are our landlords, Betty and Ron. They have a wonderful house that had a recreational basement. But they remodeled the space into a studio apt and that is where we live. It is totally furnished and supplied with everything we would need or want. Betty and Ron are both very creative and they make environmentally friendly products like grocery and tote bags. Check out their website at one more pic…everyone’s friend, Mr. Steve Cotton! Finally we got to meet the man that enticed us to move to Salem. We went out to dinner at the Newport Seafood Grill last night and talked and talked and talked. Steve’s move to Mexico is planned for mid-April and we all had stories to share from our Mexican experiences. Dinner was great and the conversation was even better.This morning I took Sitka for a walk in Bush Park. It was hovering around 32F, but I was bundled up and it was wonderful. I think I’m going to like Salem a lot…

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Willows, CA to Medford, OR to Salem, OR!

We made it to Salem this afternoon! The drive through the mountains after leaving Medford was somewhat treacherous with steep grades both up and down. Plus, it was cold and SNOWING! Luckily, Mike was napping so I just told Sitka to relax and we took it nice and easy. Boy, I was glad to hit the lower elevation and cruise north into Salem.

That is until I noticed that my gas gauge was right on E. E for EMPTY! By now Mike was awake and we figured we’d just have to see how low our gas gauge would go. We got gas in Salem and our 15 gallon tank took 16.7 gallons!

We called our new landlords, Betty and Ron, and told them we were close. Their house (and our basement apt) has a driveway on a fairly busy street so they were literally stopping traffic for us when we pulled up. When I saw the driveway I needed to back down into and all the cars that were now waiting I panicked! Thank goodness Ron jumped in the driver’s seat and got the truck and trailer down his driveway without a problem. THANK YOU RON!

The apt is PERFECT and Sitka is already sacked out here next to me. It’s colder here than we remember, but we have a nice electric fireplace and the apt is warm and cozy. We love it! Now all I need is a job. Tomorrow we’ll unpack some more stuff and I’ll put out some more resumes.

It is almost surreal to think that last Sunday we were in Mexico wearing shorts and today we are in the USA wearing jeans and sweaters - Mike acutally has his leather jacket on. And last night we feasted at Red Lobster…Mike finally got the steak he had been dreaming about and I had lobster. Yum! Good service and good food.

Oh and by the way, my best friend, Cheryl, clarified for me that the Super Bowl is NEXT Sunday…hahaha…see how out of touch I was? Pics of Betty and Ron to follow. And meet up with blogger Steve Cotton will hopefully happen soon…stay tuned for more from Salem!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday in Willows, CA

Thursday afternoon we “landed” in Buttonwillow, CA, near Bakersfield. (We had to stop there just because the name is so cute!) We had an 8:00am start from Indio and decided to find a room at about 1:00 so we could spend some time with Sitka outside of the truck and kick back at our Super 8 Motel. It had wireless, but only in the lobby…and actually Mike was happy to know that I wouldn’t be using my laptop all afternoon and evening!

One thing we really missed in Mexico was fast food American style – not that we eat a lot of fast food, but every now and then we’d get a hankerin’ for a Burger King veggie burger or Taco Bell tacos or pizza with cheddar cheese. So Mike got tacos and I had a cheese pizza and salad. Simple comfort food…and as long as we were being indulgent we skipped the spa and just watched some TV, read US Today, and hit the hay early. (But I must admit we turned the HEAT on in our room because it was chilly! HA After that hot and humid summer in Guaymas I never thought I’d actually turn a thermostat UP again.)

We slept so well that we were up and on the road today by 6:15 this morning!! And I’m happy to report that our trip has been somewhat uneventful. No drama so far…the truck is running like a dream (we hit 194,000 miles today,) I am able to maneuver the trailer as needed, and Mike has not asked me to quit singing as we listen to oldies on the radio. Knock on wood…

This afternoon we are in Willows, CA at another Super 8. Mike is outside “checking out the property” and Sitka is right next to me sleeping. As of today, it looks like we’ll be in Salem early on Sunday. Which, by the way, we just learned is Super Bowl Sunday! Who the heck is playing anyway?!

It’s funny…we entered the US on Inauguration Day and arrive at our new home on Super Bowl Sunday…2 of the biggest events in the US this year…we can’t wait to pull up to Betty and Ron’s!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tucson, AZ to Indio, CA

Even though we had a nice soak in the outdoor spa last night, we did not sleep well and we got a late start today. I hate that. I’d rather be up and on the road by 7 or 8, not 10:30!

Nevertheless, we gained an hour due to the time difference between Guaymas and Pacific Time in the US. So we rolled into a Quality Inn in Indio at about 6:00. Except it was really just 5:00! I was so happy to figure out that we were off by an hour! (Again, I must recant my declaration that time does not matter to me.)

Sitka has eaten and she is now spread out on the carpet. We are headed to the restaurant next door for some Mexican food. Ugh. No offense intended, but I sure could go for some Italian tonight! But we’re too tired to look around so Mexican it is…I wonder if I can pay with our leftover pesos…

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

January 20, 2009 - A New Day!

We’re back in America and watching CNN in our Super 8 Motel room, just north of Tucson. The motel allows dogs, has wireless in the room, gives a AAA discount and has room in the parking lot for our truck and trailer...everything we need!

The crossing at Nogales was a breeze. There was a short wait in line and then we were directed to a parking area for inspection. We showed Sitka’s rabies vaccination certificate and her certificate of health; opened the truck canopy, Coleman cooler, and trailer; and showed a copy of our list of our belongings (menaje de casa) that we had certified at the Mexican Consulate in Seattle. Fortunately, we didn’t have to unload or unpack anything! Mike and I continue to be amazed at our “luck” in this crazy life we share together.It seemed so appropriate to come back to the US today – the day Obama was sworn in as our President. Sitka wore her Harley Davidson bandana with American flags and we wonder if maybe that helped us with the US Customs Officers?! What a day. A day that we will not quickly forget.

Guaymas, Sonora to Salem, Oregon

It’s 6:15am. The truck is packed. The trailer is packed. Sitka is fed. Mike has taken his meds. I have taken a deep breath and we’re ready to go.

Mike’s daughter, Robin, recently asked us if leaving Mexico is exciting or bitter sweet. The answer is both. Having driven though a good part of Mexico this year, another trip is indeed exciting because it will be through a new area. Conversely, having moved to Mexico with the intention of never moving back to the USA, going back is indeed bitter sweet.

But we did it. We lived our dream; albeit it a shorter dream than we had envisioned.

Stay tuned for the drive north…

Monday, January 19, 2009

Francisco & Mike

We live in Mama Lolita’s “compound” with her immediate family living within the compound. This post is about Lolita’s grandson, Francisco.

Francisco turned 17 late this summer. His mom, Lolita, has a house in the compound, but Francisco lives with his grandmother (Mama Lolita) at the main house. Francisco likes to work on cars and over the past 8 months Mike has been his mentor.

And not just with cars. But with life. I watched as Mike took Francisco under his wing and worked with him. Remarkably, Mike knows little Spanish and Francisco knows little English, nevertheless, those 2 spent day after day together and they shared a lot of information. When I got home from school Mike would tell me long, detailed stories about Francisco and I had to ask him how in the world he knew any of that. He’d look me straight in the eyes and say, “Francisco told me all about it…”

As we are finishing our packing and making plans to leave in the morning I am watching Mike and Francisco. We are giving our TV, DVD player, microwave and water dispenser to Francisco. As Mike tells him about the stuff, he looks somewhat bewildered. And Mike looks sad. Sad to leave Francisco.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Get 'em up...move 'em out...

New adventure, new look...

Yesterday the much awaited truck and trailer license renewal tabs were delivered to us via our old friend, the United States Postal Service! We have been waiting for these so that our trailer will be legal again and our truck tabs expire in February anyway so now we are all set.

I have begun packing and Mike and I are strategizing about how to most efficiently pack the truck and trailer. We've decided to leave a few things behind...including the file cabinet Mike got me for my birthday. It turned out nicely after a couple of coats of paint, but it is HEAVY and we're afraid it will get banged up on the trip.

Our TV and DVD player received several dings and dents with the moves up and down the two flights of cement stairs in the Mexico City condo disaster so we are also leaving these behind. Plus, the TV is older and not compatible with the new frequencies so we'll need a new model anyway.

The microwave is also staying in Mexico. It cost us about $50 when Mike and I bought it when we got married 1998 - I hadn't owned one as a single gal! I used to cook the old fashioned way.

We're also "recycling" many, many things by setting them on the ground next to Lolita's garbage can out on Calle 25. I like to put things out (yesterday a broken ironing board, a basketball that no longer holds air, a box of English language activity sheets I had printed for teaching) and see how quickly they disappear. And I had to laugh as I watched 3 boys on bicycles stop to look at the box of language activity sheets. Somehow one of the boys managed to prop the box on his handlebars, all 3 boys turned their bikes around and they headed back the way they had come. Their smiles were HUGE! I hope they find the activities helpful in learning English.

Today I'll finish packing clothes - remembering to keep sweatshirts and long pants easily available and stashing the shorts and tank tops. Tomorrow I'll attack the kitchen and just about be done. Monday we'll attempt to empty and close our bank account and see about exchanging our pesos for dollars. Is our bank the best way to do that?? I hate to see how much we "lose" now that the dollar is so strong.

I'll arrange to have our US auto insurance reactivated, buy extra meds for Mike, get doggie food for Sitka and we may be outta here Tuesday morning.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The End of my Teaching Career

Sometimes when I was frustrated with the antics of my kids I'd give them my “You better learn English” speech which went something like this:

You are the luckiest children I know. You have the opportunity to learn English at such a young age and be truly bilingual speakers. You will know both Spanish and English. And that will get you into a University. And at a University you can learn really important things. And after you know really important things you can get a professional career. And after you have a professional career you can work really hard and become very successful. And after you are very successful you can provide for your family and travel and experience the whole world. But it begins with you learning English…

Yesterday I told all 26 of my English students that Mike, Sitka and I are headed back to the US. And then I followed with my “You better learn English” speech. I went on to explain that they will have a new English teacher on Monday and that they better use all the English they know with her. It was emotional and 2 of them cried quite a bit. And I secretly cried too.

I think teaching was the hardest thing I have ever tackled. And at the same time it was very satisfying. Maybe some day I’ll hear about one of the little rascals that has become a Mexican leader of some type!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Lou Rawls/Epiphany/Steve Cotton in Salem

I could not believe it. I was driving home from the Preschool today and Lou Rawls’ sweet, deep voice came over the radio with You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine (in English no less!) Try YouTube to hear a great live version!

I had to crank it and rock out on the way home. When I got here Mike was outside with Sitka and he told me to TURN IT DOWN! Hahahaha…I’m in Mexico – music is LOUD here.

On another note, today is the Epiphany, the celebration of the coming of the three wise men to Bethlehem for Baby Jesus. From Google:

In Spain and certain parts of Latin America, children (and many adults) polish and leave their shoes ready for the Kings' presents before they go to bed on the eve of January 6. Sweet wine, nibbles, fruit and milk are left for the Kings and their camels. In Mexico, it is traditional for children to leave their shoes, along with a letter with toy requests for the Three Kings, by the family nativity scene or by their beds. In some parts of northern Mexico the shoes and letters are left under the Christmas tree. The shoes may be filled with hay for the camels, so that the Kings will be generous with their gifts.

In the afternoon or evening of the same day the ritual of the Rosca de reyes/Roscón de Reyes is shared with family and friends. The Rosca or Roscón is a type of pastry made with orange blossom water and butter, and decorated with candied fruit. Baked inside is a small doll representing the baby Jesus.

In Mexico, the person who finds the doll in their piece of rosca must throw a party on February 2, "Candelaria Day," offering tamales and atole (a hot sweet drink thickened with corn flour) to the guests.

Flash back to my classroom today…This afternoon 2 teachers brought me a piece of cake while I was teaching. I didn’t know what it was for so I started eating it. Before long THE DOLL fell out of the cake! Of course, I had no idea what that meant. When I showed the doll to another teacher she started laughing and she tried to explain what it meant. I didn’t understand her at all. Especially when she started taking about tamales! Later I showed it to the one Spanish teacher that knows some English and then I finally understood.

Lastly, you may wonder why we picked Salem, Oregon USA to make our new home. A lot of it had to do with blogger, Steve Cotton, who I have added to my blogroll. Steve is an attorney in Salem who is retiring soon and moving to Mexico. I have been reading his lively and entertaining blog for a year or so and I feel like I know him. Steve has made many comments on my blog and we have shared a few emails. Steve also has an older dog, Prof. Jiggs, and as a doggie person I connect with him in that regard.

There is something “unwritten” about his hometown that is appealing…close to Seattle, yet not as expensive; big city (about 150,000 peeps) with a small town feel; environmentally forward; close to the Pacific, and I-5; rainy and grey (what else can a Seattleite say about that feature?); and the people we have “met online,” Betty and Ron who have extended an offer for us to live in the daylight basement apt of their home.

Check out Steve’s blog. No matter if you live in Oregon, Mexico, or where ever I think you will find it to be good reading!

Monday, January 5, 2009


“Truckin’, got my chips (pesos) cashed in. Keep truckin’, like the do-dah man (water man, gas man, parking lot man, window washer man, grocery bagger man)
Together, more or less in line, just keep truckin’ on…

Truckin’, I’m a goin’ home (well, close to home.) Whoa, whoa, baby, back where I belong,
Back home, sit down and patch my bones (and tie up my doggie,) and get back truckin’ on…”

Yep, we’re headed north. There are a multitude of reasons behind our decision, the most important being Mike’s health. We are not satisfied with the health care he has received in Mexico and since it is his brain we are talking about we don’t want to take any chances.

Soooo, we are writing the closing chapters on our adventure in Mexico and contemplating new chapters to be written from our new home in Salem, Oregon, USA.

Departure date: soon

Armida Hotel Guaymas

Mike is still on his quest for a good steak here in Guaymas. We're thinking about the Armida Hotel which actually features a steak house restaurant. Has anyone tried a steak there?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

San Carlos Plaza Hotel & Resort

Happy New Year!

Mike and I decided to splurge and bring in the New Year from San Carlos, the resort town about 15 miles north of Guaymas. We picked the San Carlos Plaza Hotel & Resort because it has a four star rating and we wanted to be spoiled. And for $119 USD we thought we deserved it!

Unfortunately, we knew when we walked into the room it was not what we were expecting. I thought there would at least be a coffee maker, a clock/radio and some brochures about what the hotel has to offer (activities, pool hours, menus.) But no, there were none of these things. There wasn’t even a Bible in the drawer. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the view of the Sea of Cortez from our room on the fourth (and top) floor of the hotel.The bellman assuredly told us that at midnight there would be a wonderful hotel fireworks display that we could see from our room or that we could go down to the pool area to watch. That was perfect for us! So at 8:30 we went down to the hotel restaurant, Joey Bistro, with the intention of enjoying a leisurely dinner before the fireworks. We had already looked at the menu and Mike was dying for a plain, ole rib eye steak.

The restaurant was very busy when we got there, but there were still empty tables. We were asked to seat ourselves and it was quite a while before a waiter gave us menus and water. Eventually our orders were taken. To our surprise our waiter presented us with a complimentary Caprese Salad (traditionally mozzarella, tomato & basil drizzled in olive oil, but this salad had prosciutto and no basil.) He apologized for the long wait in getting our orders taken. That was a great gesture.

Unfortunately, Mike’s long awaited steak (keeping in mind that his appetite has been off for quite some time and he needs to eat) was full of gristle and it was tough. I had a salmon filet, but it was very dry and without flavor. Also, it was served on a bed of julienne carrots with a barely warmed accompaniment of carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. I like carrots but enough already! Where was some rice or something??The other diners were older like us and at least the restaurant had a nice ambience. That is until the four wild children began running circles through the restaurant, barely missing the waiters, and screaming the whole time. It took just a minute to pick out their parents – two younger couples laughing and pouring wine at their table 30 feet away, totally oblivious to their obnoxious children. HMPFFF!

And the fireworks? Well, there weren’t any at our hotel. (Maybe our bellman was "new"?) But when we stuck our heads out our window and strained to crank them at a 90 degree angle, turning our faces to the right, we could see the short fireworks display from down the beach. And that was it.

Oh and we did have three phone calls on our room phone. One while we were getting dressed for dinner. Mike answered, but there was a hang up. One at 4:10am with two rings and then a hang up. And one at 6:50am with two rings followed by a hang up. Hmmm, we hadn't requested any calls in the middle of the night.

We were home by 9:30 this morning. The pool and spa just didn’t look as appealing today as they had yesterday. It was not the New Year’s Eve celebration that we had anticipated, and we are very disappointed with the San Carlos Plaza Hotel & Resort.

Here’s to new twists and turns in 2009!