Moving to Mexico: Chapter 24

Back from Dallas, Texas

Here is a copy of something I posted on Facebook while in Dallas, Texas, at the recent Escape Artist conference:

Man, does it feel good to wake up and know that I am in TEXAS.

Strangers say, “Good Morning”. People of all races were at Bible study together Saturday night at the hotel. Staff with entry-level, service jobs are smiling, not angry.  I had MANY of those jobs coming up. I didn’t protest or demand higher wages or cheaper housing. I worked harder, just like these folks.

A beautiful black woman who runs the hotel lounge bar calls me “baby” every time she sees me. She rubs my shoulders as she passes me. I didn’t call her manager, or CNN.  Imagine if I (a white man) did that to her (a black woman) in Oakland, SF, or Berkeley. I would probably be arrested, lose my job, and certainly get my fifteen minutes of fame on TV.

Longhorn fans were sitting with Sooner fans and Red Raider fans. No fights. And Texas had just lost the big game. Could Giants fans do that with Dodger fans?

I ate “Gunslinger Chicken Wings” and no one was offended, apprehensive, or shot, for that matter.

It’s so nice to be out of the waist-deep victimology of California and just breathe for a few days, with genuine people.

It’s reassuring to see that this still exists outside the whiny Bay Area bubble and the tribalism of California.

When I tell people where I am from, they say, 
“Oh, I’m so sorry to hear about all the trouble y’all have been having.”
And I reply, “Do you mean the fires and mudslides?”
And they say, “Yeah…that too.”

I have dreamt of being here again since I left in 1986.  Someday. Someday soon, but not soon enough.

Back from Dallas, TexasRIP President Bush

As you probably know, I write articles about my move to Mexico and Escape Artist publishes them.  I also publish them on my website: The boys at Escape Artist invited me to their annual pow-wow to meet and chat with like-minded expats, soon-to-be expats, and others who may just be dreaming of a different life.  

We met in a nice little hotel in a semi-industrial area of Dallas.  I knew I was in the right place when I exited my Uber car and right near the entrance was this:

Back from Dallas, TexasI’m not sure if I have ever mentioned it, but I am a Christian, which means I’m not perfect, just forgiven.  Before you begin judging me, just know that I’m not THAT kind of Christian.

I know I’m supposed to spread the gospel, the good news.  But I rarely do. I think pretty much everyone who needs to know about Christianity already knows, and if they’re interested, they’ll ask.  So, you’ll never hear me preach to anyone. If you’re an atheist, go for it. I hope that works out for you. If you’re a Muslim, awesome. I couldn’t care less.  I dislike the radical folks in your camp as much as I dislike the radical ones in mine. We both have houses to clean. God bless everyone and God Bless TEXAS.

You see, in Texas, the owner of a hotel can place the Ten Commandments at the entry to his hotel.  If that offends you, don’t stay there. If that goes against your religion, don’t work there. Do you really think they are going to remove pork from the local BBQ because it’s not part of your diet?  NOPE. Keep walking. There are plenty of restaurants. What about if you want to work at the Christian hotel or the pork place? Should they change everything for you? In Texas, no. In California, absolutely.  *Don’t even ask in Mexico.

Back from Dallas, TexasAnd that is why I am leaving.

At the conference, there were many interesting topics including international investing, taxes, precious metals, valuable teak wood farming, living in Belize, Panama, etc.  There are other companies that do the same thing that you may have heard of, but this meeting was nicer because it was a smaller, more intimate group of about thirty or so. I’ve been to huge functions like this with hundreds of people and it’s tough to ask a question or have a dialogue.  This was much better.

Back from Dallas, TexasA huge, decorated tree in the hotel lobby.
This was no “xmas” tree.  It was a Christmas tree.

Mob mentality can sometimes take over at events like these.  No, there was no violence. I guess it can be described as more of a “pack” mentality where the expat group can adopt a certain group-think based on emotion rather than reality.

For example, at one point I just had to speak up after there had been several mentions of how screwed up it is here in the USA.  From taxes to laws to politics to corporations. The common opinion was that the USA is a sinking ship and we need to get off ASAP.

“As a proud American and a US Army Veteran, I’m sorry but I can’t just keep listening to the America bashing I keep hearing here today.  I will bet that not one of you plans to tear up that blue passport, right?” I asked the group. No one stated that they planned to rescind their US citizenship.

“I thought so.  Because when the shit hits the fan, you know that you can hightail it back to the good old USA.  Or if you get kidnapped or otherwise caught up in a wartime or terrorist situation where you need rescue, the US Military is the one who will come to your aid.  I’m not sure how many of you here have ever even lived outside the USA, but I have three times. Once in France, once in the Bahamas, and once in Belize. I won’t even tell you how poorly I was treated in France, they practically spit on me.  I could not even get a job washing dishes at an Irish pub where they spoke English.  In the Bahamas?  Forget it. It took six months to get a phone installed.  When I tried to get Internet? Well, here’s how it went…”

*This excerpt was taken directly from my book, Bahamian Rhapsody (available on Amazon/Kindle).  Let me know if you ever get a chance to read it.  If you’re nice and I can find a hard copy, I just might send you one.  Autographed copies are an extra…nothing. ☺

The slow pace of the island is relaxing and calms the nerves of the American tourist.  But that slow pace has two sides to it.  I quickly learned that some things that are charming to the tourist are maddening to the expat.

In a Bahamian restaurant, you can wait ten minutes before anyone even acknowledges that you are there.  It may be another ten minutes before you are asked if you would like to see a menu.  As a polite person, I used to feel awkward asking for service because there appeared to be a flurry of activity going on around me.  Everyone seemed to be very busy and working on something important.  I hated to bother them with the fact that this was a restaurant and I had come to eat.  After a while, I realized that nothing was really getting done.  Most of the activity was just socializing among the staff and there really was little to no organization to the business whatsoever.  After I actually got to place my order it took three times the normal amount of time I was used to waiting for a meal to arrive at the table.   

I learned that there generally was no systematic way of doing things like there was at home.  And I could either accept this fact, or spend my day complaining.  Either way, things ran slower.  My son and I once waited 30 minutes for our food at Burger King in Cable Beach and there were only four people that had ordered ahead of us.  It seemed that even “fast food” was defined differently.   

I was surprised at the slow service in Bahamian restaurants, but I was downright shocked when I had to deal with the cable man at our rental.

“I can be there on Friday.”  The installer said.

“That’s four days from now.  I really need the Internet up sooner.  Is there anyone else?”  I began to plead and prepared to bargain and even bribe.

“Just me for the whole west side of the island.”   

“OK, what time?”  I asked.

“Oh, I can’t really give you a time.”  He said.   

And I realized I’d have to wait all day for him, but I needed the Internet to run my business back in California, so I had no choice. 

I waited all day that Friday, but the installer never came.  At about three o’clock I finally called the cable company.

“I’m waiting for the installer to show up.  How late do they work?”  I asked.

The woman on the phone asked me for the installer’s name, which somehow I luckily had.  

“Oh, he’s here.”  She said.

“There?  Well, may I speak with him?”  There was a pause and then.

“This is Robert.”

“Robert, this is Jim.  You said you’d be at my place in Cable Beach today.” 

He asked for my phone number and I gave it to him.

“Ohhhhh.  I see.” He said.

“You see what?”  

“I put you down for Friday.”  He said.

“Right, well today is Friday.”

“I did not say which Friday.”  He said.   

And I swear that is a true story.  I was a bit dumbfounded. I kept waiting for him to laugh and tell me he was kidding.  He wasn’t.  After some wrangling I was able to get them out the next week but being new to the island at that time I really let that situation bother me.  In my American mind, his comments and actions just had no place in this world.  Yet, here they were.

Back from Dallas, TexasWhat about our time in Ambergris Caye, Belize?  I don’t want to beat up that little island too much.  It’s really a gem and we loved visiting and owning our home there for over 13 years.  *Ever notice that a loving compliment almost always precedes a negative comment?

“You know, she’s got a great sense of humor.  Awesome gal, love her to death. If she wasn’t such a ditz.”

I told the conference attendees a quick story about the time my mother and I were visiting our home in Ambergris Caye, Belize, driving our golf cart along the dusty roads we both contracted nasty nasal infections.  

“Go see Dr. Local.  She’s delivered every baby on this island.  She knows her stuff.” A local friend told us, so off we went.

“Pull dem down.”  Dr. Local said within five minutes of our first meeting.  I’m a married man now, but back in the day I had certainly experienced some “quick” relationships where business was handled before names were really exchanged or remembered.  But this was faster than anything I had ever experienced.

“What, no kiss?”  I thought to myself.  But what I said was, “Ummm, why?”

“For da shot.” She grinned.  She enjoyed my discomfort and basked in my bashful behavior.

“OK.”  I said and pulled down my damp boardshorts, dumping about half a pound of sand on her floor.  She shook her head. She had seen all of this before: bare white butt and a pile of sand falling from the damp gusset of a tourist’s bathing suit.  She injected me with what felt like tequila burning my bum from the inside out, the way tequila does.

“That really burns.”  I said.

“It’s working.”

“But it itches, too.”  

“Dat go way in a coupla hours.”  She smiled. I nodded and handed her a wad of pretty paper money and headed for the waiting room where my mom’s eyes widened as she looked for my reaction.

“Ya need da udda stuff.”  She motioned to a wall of bottled pills, all written in Spanish.  Wasn’t English the national language of Belize?

“Dey from Mexico.”  She said as I tried to read the bottle.

“Well, that’s reassuring.”  I said and paid with more pretty paper.

Neither I nor my mother felt any better over the next few days.  The plane ride home was difficult; noses full of dusty crusty, sinus congestion and headaches.  I headed straight for my doctor when we got home.

“Well, here’s why you’re not feeling any better.”  He said. “I don’t know what she injected you with, but these pills are for post-natal care.

“I must say, my boobs do feel better.”  I said. “And my mood swings have calmed down a bit.”

“You’ll be fine.”  He said. “No more bush doctors, OK?”  

I nodded.Consumer Resource Guide

Look, medicine in the USA is a criminal enterprise.  The cost of treatment is ridiculous. Insurance is a racket.  We all pray for a solution, but one is not coming anytime soon.  That’s why crazy people get cheap surgery at foreign resort hospitals at 1/3 the price and then pay 300% to get an American doctor to fix the mess later.  It’s also why expat retirees in Belize and other places south of the border opt to get the local insurance as well as emergency airlift insurance back to the States in case something serious happens.  It’s reality.

We want it both ways.  We want paradise and we want it cheap.  The USA doesn’t have fifty cent tacos on a beautiful beach and Mexico doesn’t have the infrastructure of the USA.  Case in point: I had an issue at my house in Mexico, called my local insurance agent for relief, he came almost immediately to survey the issue and promise to get me a check to cover repairs and damaged goods ASAP.  That was two months ago.

Back from Dallas, TexasLife in the slow lane.  It’s all about balance.

Captains Log, Stardate December 12, 2018:  On board the USS Collins, Christmas tree has been acquired and lit for almost a week, but duties, education and illness have prevented the crew from decorating the tree.  Detail has been assigned for installation of decorations at 1900 hours. Regrettably, this appears to be the last such entry. This time next year, the USS Collins is scheduled for deployment with a new crew.  Current crew morale hopeful but remain unsure of current course. Details to follow. Captain, out.

Back from Dallas, TexasMerry Christmas, y’all.