Have you ever considered retiring in Mexico? Have you wondered about daily living in a foreign country where you don't speak the language? What about hotels, hospitals, doctors, restaurants, banks, real estate and cultural activities? This is a diary of my daily life in Lake Chapala and other areas of Mexico. I don't speak Spanish. I am a single retired woman. I hope this blog will give you an idea of what to expect if you decide to make the move.
I went to the bins again with my friend Marie. This is my haul: one black leather jacket, 2 long sleeved black t-shirts, one long sleeved green silk/cotton t-shirt, one short sleeved blue t-shirt, three stretchy blouses, 2 Gore-Tex jackets (I will need them for my trip to Guatemala this winter) one short sleeved Hollister t-shirt, One pink tank top t-shirt.
I was standing next to a woman, waiting for a huge table to be rolled out and I said to her, This is fun. She said, No. I come here everyday. It has become an addiction for me.
I have been there three times now. Hope that doesn't happen to me. The atmosphere inside the warehouse isn't very pleasant. I feel sorry for the children. While their parents rummage around through all the old clothes and junk, they stand there at eye level to the tables and stare. I wouldn't think it was very good for their self esteem.
I don't feel so great myself by the time I leave there and I am an adult. I even feel a little embarrassed, writing about it. But I can't resist a bargain. All those clothes cost me seven dollars.... That is the total cost. Seven dollars....and the clothes are all in good shape. I think that rummaging around there reminds me of when I went to the dump with my father and had so much fun.
Maybe those dazed looking children will have fond memories of their time spent at the bins with their parents after they grow up. Quality time. That's what it was for me with my dad at the dump. (I took these photos in my son's house.)
What a beautiful evening. I took these photos on my son and daughter-in-law's deck. I needed to see this sunset. It was a stressful day for me here because I was too caught up in the lives and needs of everyone around me. That happens to me easily. Sometimes I try to hard to take care of others and I lose myself. Being in nature always brings me back to my center.
Yesterday I saw online a brief article about something that happened in New Jersey. I tried to find it again today under yesterday's news online. But all I could find were photos of rich, famous people going about their daily business. So I can just give you a brief sketch of what I read yesterday.
A forty five year old Mexican man was resting in the park across the street after work from the restaurant where he had been the cook for five years. Minding his own business. Three teenage boys beat him up. One of them videotaped it on his cell phone and later sent it around to his friends. Bragging about it. The man was taken to the local hospital. He died in a few days. He was the soul support of his family. Another shocking part of this tragic story is that when he was in the hospital the nurse attending to him took his wallet and stole his wages, over six hundred dollars......
I don't like to be negative in my blog but this story really hit me hard. There was a photo of the man online. He looked like many of my friends in Mexico. People are always warning me about how dangerous it is to live in Mexico.....
I went to this New Age bookstore in downtown Portland yesterday morning. It is located at 1338 NW 23rd St. It has been there for 21 years. Notice the Huichol beaded objects in the second photo up. I love the crystal flower in the last photo. (But not enough to pay for a week's groceries in Mexico.)
It is fun to wander around in there. Calming chants are played over the speakers, (calming if you don't mind hearing the same three or four words repeated over and over). Incense is burning and there are many interesting books on various aspects of spirituality. All expensive. I didn't buy anything. They also have different people come in to do readings. A man was there yesterday doing Tarot readings for 48 dollars a half hour, eighty dollars an hour. That's half my monthly rent in Mexico. I went around to all their sample Tarot cards instead and at random choose cards and read what they meant. Pretty accurate and that reading was free. Besides, I trust myself and my own interpretations better than I trust a stranger when it comes to my spirituality.
There were many shelves of expensive books written by people giving advice on how to live. Their photos were posted below their books with extremely expensive workshops they do to tell you the same things in person. I looked at those photos and decided that my money would be better spent in other ways. Like food and housing for myself; not for them.
I found books on communicating with dolphins, horses, dogs, cats, birds and even people. Dead people and alive people. One was about Why Cats Do Art. A strange book introducing several cat artists and photos of their art work; paw print paintings on walls and in bathtubs, sculptures made out of scratched up furniture and dead mice arranged in artistic ways....A funny book. But I think the author meant it to be serious. That's what made it funny to me.
When I was taking these photos the woman at the counter asked me why and I said it was for my blog. I said I was living in Mexico. She asked me how it was for me to be back in the States. Just an hour earlier I had had a negative encounter with a rude employee at the restaurant across the street. Over the weekend I went grocery shopping with my son and the checker was extremely rude to me. I have experienced several of these kinds of encounters. Also, the smiles from people I meet on the street are more like---I am not dangerous, don't hurt me, smiles than---- Hi, I am happy to see you---smiles that I get in Mexico. I have to admit that my own smiles are also very forced here. It is hard to have a genuine smile when you feel stressed. I find it stressful here. Life is much more difficult and demanding than in Mexico. At least for me, that is true. But I am lucky, I have an income from Social Security. I can survive in Mexico quite nicely. That is, if I don't buy Cat Art books or have expensive Tarot readings while I am here.
Her answer to my complaint was something about the planets being lined up in a T formation right now and that was bringing up everyone's ISSUES.....
Okay, if you believe that, I was thinking. And cats are artists...... But I had a good time. It sure beat being insulted by the man behind the counter across the street while listening to his hard core, glass shattering music.
Last night's sunset. It was a beautiful day here. Lots of sunshine. Today the Salvation Army truck comes to pick up the rest of the junk in the garage. I have to stay here all day as they won't narrow it down more than that. I don't mind because it is beautiful here at my son's house. I will be glad when they take all this stuff away because I keep rummaging around out there, finding things to haul back into the house. I do that. I am terrible about getting rid of things. If someone at a yard sale finds an object interesting, I immediately regret that I put it out for sale. I think of myself as a preserver. I can easily cross over into the hoarder category. Okay. I admit it. I am a hoarder. It is a good thing I don't own a house, or a car. All I have are two suitcases here and they can only carry so much stuff! (I hope my son doesn't read this. I even hid a few very special things in the corner of his garage. I just couldn't throw them out. Maybe I will be able to let them go on my next trip up here. Out of sight; out of mind. What can I do with the things in my son's garage when I am living in Mexico? Crazy, but I never said I was rational.)
What I notice about junk is that if you care for something enough, you can usually revive it. (Most Mexicans know this. It is partly how the economy works in Mexico and why yard sales are so expensive there.) Also, once I get rid of something I will need it within the next few days or weeks. The housemate here is an architect. He put an old plotter in the sale. A plotter makes blue prints. They are very expensive when they are new but they have to be connected up to computers. This old one wouldn't work on a newer computer. His boss told him to get it out of the office. He put it in the garage here. He tried for weeks to sell it but no one wanted it. He said, Give it away. I need it out of here and I can't sell it. Someone, (a Mexican) took it the first day. And guess what, two days later the housemate came in and said, Today I was offered me a hundred dollars for that plotter.
I have experienced this phenomena time and time again. Something that I haven't used for years, once it is out of the house, within days, I need it. Thus, the hoarding instinct.
Also, if you care for an object, and give it your attention, it starts to be useful. A good cleaning can do wonders for things. Simple repairs can make useless things valuable again. I believe that I inherited this quality from my father. He would haul a truck load of junk to the dump and return with it refilled. I used to love to go to the dump with him. I don't know if they allow people to wander around in the dump anymore. But at that time I got to play the old pianos and jump on the piles of tires. It was fun. But when we returned home my mother was always furious. She was the minimalist. It is good to have both in one family. Otherwise, things get out of hand.
I had a half brother. I didn't meet him until he was in his sixties. He passed away right after he retired. He was my father's son. He looked like my father. He acted like my father. He was a garbage man all his life. I know there is a better word for that job but I can't think of it at the moment. He loved junk, like my father. Like me. His wife said he was always bringing home broken radios to fix and other things. I have another brother. He is like my mother and he isn't like us at all. The realist. The minimalist. A police officer all his working life. Funny how so much is inherited. When I met my half brother I felt as if I had known and loved him all my life. We were so much alike. Left handed, emotional, kind of scattered, junk lovers......Also dreamers.
Sometimes I think that junk is a lot like people. If you focus your love and energy on people, they shine. They are healed, fixed. It is all in what you value. People and things respond to love and attention. That is my theory.
Now that the yard sale is finished I have to tackle my paperwork. (By the way, we made eighty dollars at the sale. I wonder how much that comes down to per hour. I am sure it is a lot more than I make on this blog which is two cents a day. By that standard, I made a fortune.) But back to the paperwork. I was dreading coming here because I had to do this stuff, taxes etc. I have a box filled with the past. Not just my own past but the pasts of my son, my parents, my brother, grandparents. It goes as far back as my fifth generation great grandfather because one of my relatives sent me a book about our family history. That great grandfather was Matthew Thornton, a doctor. He signed the Declaration of Independence. None of the Thorntons could stand to have anyone tell them what to do, and that includes me.
So this morning I was taking this backward journey. Old photos of us. I was surprised to see how pretty I was when I was a young woman. Too bad I didn't know it at the time. That knowledge might have changed some of my stupid decisions. Like that last marriage. If only.... If only each of us could know how beautiful and precious we are....... It would be a different world. But we don't and it isn't.
I even found an insurance burial policy that my mother and father took out on me when I was still in high school. I remember when they bought it. It made me angry that they were thinking of my death instead of planning for my future; college education, or anything else that comes between high school and burial. But there it is, my burial policy and I am not even going to be buried. Cremation is the way for me. Burn me up and throw my ashes into the lake (Lake Chapala), where I have been happy these past two and a half years. But just for fun, I am going to call that insurance company today and see what is up. Too bad it wasn't just a bank account. I would have been getting a little interest on it all these years and it would be worth something. I know my parents bought this policy out of love. They were looking to the distant future while I was concentrating on the immediate future at the time.
I just finished reading a book by Don Miguel Ruiz titled The Mastery of Love. The beginning statement is this: ..... A Toltec is an artist of Love, an artist of the Spirit, someone who is creating every moment, every second, the most beautiful art --the Art of Dreaming. Life is nothing but a dream, and if we are artists, then we can create our life with Love, and our dream becomes a masterpiece of art.
This morning I traced my father's war battlefields that he had scribbled out on a thin piece of paper. I filed my marriage and divorce papers. (Several of them. Big mistakes. Well, not big mistakes. There was a lot of love in each one at the time. The endings are just hard to relive.) I filed death certificates of people I have loved, papers of home buying and home repairs gone wrong, old tax returns....all of it---- dreams written out on faded and torn pieces of paper. My past. The past lives of my family members. I need to finish this up and get on with the future. Go home, back to Lake Chapala. Thank you all for continuing to read my blog while I have been away from the area that is of interest to you, Mexico. Okay, one more thing to say. Every journey is a journey of the heart. So thank you for following me through my heart journey these past couple of weeks.
That is an old damaged photo of my mother, my brother and I am the fat, bald one. We were so full of life and possibilities then. My mother has passed away. My brother and I don't speak to each other anymore. We are damaged, like that old photo.
I hate to admit this but the two photos directly above are of a yard sale I went to with my friend the DAY before we had one. I am incorrigible. The sole purpose of ours was to get rid of junk and I brought in more junk from that yard sale. I found myself comparing our yard sale to theirs and ours came up short. I liked their junk better. I wonder if they would be willing to trade junk......
Tomorrow is the yard sale. How I wish I could do THIS in the morning instead........ Oscar has a great life. As you can see, he gets enough to eat and plenty of snooze time. He has actually trained my son and daughter-in-law to cook for him. He gets brown rice, eggs, meat, sometimes fruits and veggies. He gets all the good stuff that they have left over. He loves cookies.
Do people believe that they own dogs? I think it is the other way around. I can't see Oscar out there in the garage, wearing a little apron with change in the pocket, haggling over the price of a pair of old shoes. Sniffing them, yes but not selling them. He has his priorities straight.
Just a couple of more days until our yard sale and I am sick of looking at junk. It has been overwhelming and the sale hasn't even happened yet. All I want to do is hop on a plane and go back to my simple life in Ajijic. Owning stuff means having to take care of it, move it from place to place, clean it, fix it, etc. I go from one thought about stuff to the other extreme.
On one side is my hoarding tendency. Since I grew up poor and always felt "less than" others because I was never prepared, I have this desire to make up for it. I don't want just ONE pair of shoes. I want forty pairs. The right pair for every occasion that might come up. I don't want ONE bottle of lotion. I want twenty bottles, enough bottles to last a lifetime so I will never feel this inner sense of lack again. It is stupid. Who wants to carry around all the lotion they will ever need the rest of their lives or all the shoes they will ever wear? It just ties a person down so the things become more important than the experiences. It is impossible to be free to run around having new experiences when you are carrying a bunch of things.
The other extreme is this desire to just chuck it all, to have nothing, to be free. I keep thinking of packing my small carry on bag and taking off for Guatemala from here instead of shopping for clothes and packing my two huge suitcases with all the clothing I think I might want or need for this next year. As I have said many times, it is too hard to try to buy clothing in Mexico. The stores are very expensive and the second hand clothing is just old Goodwill stuff from here at high prices.
One time in Mexico I met a woman who had been traveling around the world for fifteen years with nothing but a backpack. She was wonderful. She was loving and open. When we walked down the street together, many people talked with her. She had lots of friends. Maybe because she had her priorities straight. She never shopped because she couldn't carry anything else around with her. She had few worries because she had nothing to worry about. So she was totally available to everyone she met. I will never forget that woman. Of course I have forgotten her name but not her style. (I was only with her for a couple of hours.) I wish I could be that free. As long as this fearful side of me has something to say about what happens, I won't ever be like that. I will continue to believe that if I have the right STUFF then my life will be in control. I guess it is a lot about control.
Thinking about it in those terms, I realize that we have so little control over our lives. It is a myth that physical objects can bring us anything of value in this world. Objects come into our lives and they go. As I am getting ready for this yard sale I am going through all my ex-mother-in-law's things. I knew her almost all of my adult life until she passed away a few months ago. And during that time I thought her life was happier and better than mine, mostly because she had money and things around her. She was always showing me her beautiful things and I always reacted with envy. I could have any of those things now. They are in the garage, ready to be sold for pennies on the dollar. I don't want them. They mean nothing without her. Now I see that it wasn't the things I envied. It was her spirit that infused those things with meaning. It was her spirit that kept her family around her. Loving her. Maybe through those forty three years of divorce from her son, my ex, I really wanted him to cherish me as much as he cherished his mother. Maybe, in the end, being cherished is all that matters. And of course, cherishing others. We all know this but I will say it again. We come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. So what choices do we make in between?
I don't have any answers here. I just have questions. What is the meaning of my life? Where do I go from here? And how much freedom am I willing to sacrifice in order to take the THINGS along with me? What THINGS are worth that sacrifice? When will this yard sale business ever end?
My friends and I were looking for yard sales today but most of them had closed down. We went to the Goodwill last stop before oblivion. I think it is the last stop. I have no idea of what happens to all the junk if no one wants it from here. I just know that it comes from every Goodwill store in the area. Stuff that hasn't sold. Sometimes it is because things had originally been priced too high. Sometimes it is because it is too specialized. (My friend bought a bubble making machine for her store.) Or it might be thirty or forty years out of style clothing or broken furniture. Or just plain ugly or uncomfortable furniture. You name it. Everything can be found here, including the HOARDERS.
This is a hoarders paradise. Every few minutes, more huge tables filled with junk are wheeled out on the floor and others are taken away. People stand at attention in lines, waiting to descend on the new tables. You have to be careful not to get into anyone's space or touch things they had been eyeing. It is like trying to horn on an old woman's extra slot machine. You could get yelled at or maybe even poked or stabbed for that.
I have heard that some people go there to buy things to resell at the flea markets, Craigslists or eBay. (Many times in Mexico I have seen people selling clothing with the Goodwill tags still attached. Maybe they bundle them up as rags and sell them for even less after this stop. And then they make the long trip to Mexico to be sold at inflated prices.) Clothes and small items are sold by the pound. The more you buy, the less per pound. Fifty pounds or more go for 89 cents a pound. The larger things are priced by the young people at the counters. They are not very nice to the shoppers but you had better be nice to them.
This is a giant warehouse. It took me twenty minutes to find my friends when we were separated. It is not a place for the faint of heart. I bought a large suitcase for five dollars so I can bring home all the junk I have already collected from the sale we are going to have next week end. I may be having nightmares soon from all this junk. It is overwhelming. I am beginning to look forward to going back to my simple life in Mexico.
This is my friend's dog Winnie. I think she could be one of the world's oldest dogs. My friend should contact the Guinness book of world records. She has health records of Winnie from when she was a puppy. Winnie has problems seeing, hearing, walking and peeing. But she doesn't seem to mind. She is happy sitting on her soft blanket all day. It is just good to be alive. So does that make her 147 human years old? Is it 7 human years to one dog year? She deserves all the comforts she can get.....