Tuesday, June 27, 2017

CULTURE SHOCK LESSONS #101: MOVING TO MEXICO--No Dishwasher, No Garbage Disposal, No Washer or Dryer

And No Air Conditioner!

Downsizing & Simplifying, Life in Mexico is Pretty Restful
     More and more people are expressing interest in moving to Mexico, living a simpler life on less money. Simplifying means living with some inconveniences and fewer luxuries. Adjusting to fewer amenities is not for everyone! 
Where is the Dishwasher?!!
     Possibly the most frequent comment from others about our new life in Mexico is, "I couldn't live without a dishwasher!" I recall saying those very words myself at one time in my life. How our perspective can change! While I was washing dishes today, I thought, "How much time did I spend loading and unloading the dishwasher in my old life in the United States?" Now, I wash dishes once or twice a day while Jon dries and puts them away. I'll bet the 30 to 45 minutes we spend doing dishes each day is about the same as it was when we had a dishwasher. That's time we stand together each day now, working and talking about our plans for the day. Not such a bad thing.
     Why do most homes in Mexico lack a dishwasher? First of all, it is a relatively large expense to purchase a dishwasher, especially when living a frugal life where every peso counts. Secondly, dishwashers are water and electricity hogs. In Mexico, if something uses electricity, it is an expensive luxury. If there is another way to do the job without using electricity, then that's the way it is done.
What? No Garbage Disposal?
     Another common question from those unfamiliar with life in Mexico is, "Why wouldn't you have a garbage disposal?" The first reason is that a garbage disposal is just another expensive, unnecessary appliance that uses electricity. We scrape our dishes into the trash can as quickly as we would scrape them into the sink, so no time saved by having a disposal. An important reason not to have a garbage disposal in Mexico is that the sewer systems cannot handle grease and solid materials, even when ground up by a disposal. We put drain screens in each sink and shower to keep solids from clogging the drain lines and we clean the screens at least daily. It is much better to put food waste into the compost pile or the landfill.
Who Needs a Clothes Washer and Dryer at Home?

     We are frequently asked, "How can you live without a clothes washer and dryer?" Easy. We take our dirty laundry to the Lavandería once or twice a week and pick it up clean, neatly folded, and bagged for a very reasonable price. Since my skin is sensitive to fragrances and dyes in most Mexican laundry detergent, we take our own Kirkland UltraClean Libre y Transparente, Sin Tintes Sin Perfumes, purchased at Costco in Puerto Vallarta. We include one Rubbermaid container with a one-load measured quantity of our "detergente especial" in the top of each bag of laundry. The ladies at our Lavandería know us well, so they always use our detergent, no fabric softener, and return our Rubbermaid containers each time for reuse. Who needs a clothes washer and dryer at home?


     "What about an air conditioner?" When we bought our little Mexican house, there were ceiling fans in every room, but no air conditioner. Many Mexicans and expats live without air conditioning year around in their homes. We lived with that just fine through the first winter. By April I could see that I was going to need the bedroom cooled for sleeping at night. We soon took a bus trip to Home Depot in Puerto Vallarta and a taxi ride home with a new Rheem® minisplit that Jon installed in the bedroom. Beginning sometime in May each year, we start using our air conditioning when we sleep, set at 25°C which is 77°F. Around mid-June, it becomes hot and humid enough in the afternoons that we close the exterior doors and windows and run the minisplit to cool the three main rooms of our home. With fans pushing the air from the bedroom, that one little air conditioning unit keeps our home at about 83°F in the afternoon, just cool enough that I can sit in my office and work. 
We Added One Air Conditioning Minisplit in the Bedroom

     Or we turn off the air conditioner and take our boogie-boards to the beach and cool off in the ocean.
Jon Catches a Wave on His Boogie Board

     We adjusted to Culture Shock Lessons #101 easier than many would because we lived full-time in our motorhome for a year before we purchased our small home in Mexico. We still live in our motorhome three to four months of each year and enjoy the RV life. It's not so different really. In the motorhome there is no dishwasher, no garbage disposal, no washer and dryer. But, there ARE TWO air conditioners. We have not yet adjusted completely to the summer heat after living in Mexico for almost three years. That's when it's time for an RV trip to the Redwood forests of California and the beaches of Oregon.
Cooling Off in the California Redwood Forest

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Our Favorite Restaurants in Sayulita, Nayarit are Open During the Summer

Barracuda Fish Tacos and Ruben's are both on Calle Delfines
     Summer may be the low season in Mexico when fewer tourists visit, but Sayulita still has lots going on. In many small towns, restaurants begin to close in June when business slows and don't reopen until November when high season begins. 
     In Sayulita, we are grateful that most of our favorite restaurants are still open. The June heat means it's too hot for me to cook. It's easier and more fun to walk downtown for dinner, for good people watching, and to see what kind of street entertainers are performing that day. Plus, I don't have to wash the dishes!
Yeikame Traditional Mexican Restaurant
Yeikame is more than a taco stand, with excellent traditional Mexican food and wonderful service! This is one of our favorite places for lunch. We are hooked on their large, cheesy chicken quesadillas made with blue corn tortillas (we order them with less salt). They have very good aguas frescas, a light, refreshing drink made with fruit juice, fresh herbs, and then served over ice. Currently in the top 5 of 109 restaurants on tripadvisor. At Calle Jose Mariscal # 10, downtown Sayulita.
Tierra Viva has Fine Dine Downstairs, Sports Bar Upstairs
     Tierra Viva is only a ten-minute walk from our casita, and the food is amazingly good, so it has become our second home. We eat breakfast or brunch there at least once a week, usually the Eggs Benedict with ham or bacon and avocado--yum! Our favorite dinner, often once weekly, is the Tierra Viva Shrimp--the freshest grilled shrimp in town, we think, served over a bed of vegetables sautéed in soy sauce and other delicious ingredients.

     To read about more of our favorite restaurants in Sayulita, most of which stay open during the summer months, click HERE
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

10 Reasons I Can't Learn Spanish While Living in México

After Almost Two Years, I'm Still Struggling!

Learning Spanish Feels Like Getting this Burro to Move!

     We've lived in México for almost two years now and I'm still struggling to put a full sentence together in Spanish! It's like trying to get the stubborn burro to move in the bronze sculpture show above, 'Andale Bernardo' in Puerto Vallarta's Lazaro Cardenas Park. That burro is never going to move, no matter how hard the boys and dog push and pull! Will I never speak Spanish fluently? What is my excuse for not being able to carry on even a simple conversation yet?
     I don't think I'm alone in this struggle to learn a second language. Quite a few other people from the United States and Canada tell me they also have trouble learning the native language here in México. Some are expats who live here year around. Many live in México for the winter six months and return to their home north of the border for the summer. That's plenty of time to grasp a significant number of Spanish words and phrases! 
     To be honest, I know lots of names of things. I can order my meals and drinks in restaurants, with help from a menu written in Spanish, of course. I can understand numbers when they are spoken (most of the time) and I know the Mexican currency well enough to handle paying for my meal or groceries. I can even ask where to find items including cuts of meat, vegetables and fruit, queso (cheese), leche (milk), totopos (corn chips) and most other things in the grocery store or pharmacy. Luckily, much of the Spanish language is spoken with fewer words than English. I have mastered the sentence, "Do you have granola?"--"Tiene granola?" That one is easy! Even I can handle two word sentences at the grocery store!

Limones, Pepinos, Tomates, Papas, Cebollas, Zanahorias, I've Got Those!

But, my Spanish is very poor and not getting better. I have "10 Excuses for Not Learning to Speak Spanish Fluently" after living here for two years. I use one or two of these whenever the situation calls for it:
Cooling Off at the Beach in Puerto Vallarta
1. It's Too Hot to Learn Anything! This excuse only works from about June 1 through October 31, but I used it to drop out of Spanish class last June. I had stuck it out for two months though, attending a one-hour class twice a week, and I have the notebook and hundreds of flashcards to show for it! But, June, July, and August are pretty hot in Mexico. Cooling off at the beach usually wins over practicing Spanish this time of year!
Fine Restaurants or Taco Stands, Waiters Speak English to Us!

2. Most of the Waiters at the Restaurants Speak English so I Don't Need to Learn Spanish! This is one of the quirkiest things I've observed in México. When we speak to the waiters in restaurants, we greet them in Spanish and we order in Spanish, intending to practice the local language. But, whether we are in a fine restaurant or at a taco stand, they reply to us in English in almost every case. So, we carry on a completely bilingual conversation, with us practicing our Spanish and the Mexican waiter practicing his or her English. Sometimes I think, why bother to learn Spanish? A wise Spanish teacher once taught me to say, "Quiero hablar Espanol; me ayudas?" (I want to speak Spanish; will you help me?) I have been lazy about saying this to waiters, but they are happy to help me with words or sentences, so it's time for me to be more persistent about asking for help.
Fine Restaurants or Taco Stands--Waiters Speak English To Us!

3. It's Too Hard! I Just Want to Speak English. It is hard to learn Spanish! Conjugating verbs, present tense, past tense, slang, Mexican Spanish variations... There were times during Spanish class last year when I would "hit the wall" after just 30 minutes of lessons. The instructor would kindly excuse me from speaking in Spanish and let me finish the class by just listening to the other students speak while I took notes. I think I've progressed to the vocabulary level of a 2 1/2-year-old child. The neighbor kids speak to me at times when I'm outside watering the plants or walking through the barrio (Mexican neighborhood). One day three of them gathered around me and asked where Jon was. I thought for a minute, but couldn't find the words, so I used hand gestures, two hands together next to my ear with my head tipped, to indicate he had gone to sleep. The four-year-old said "dormir?" I smiled and replied, "Si, dormir!" I was excited that I knew that word--it means "to sleep"! Maybe if I try harder and keep talking to the neighbor kids, I can improve my Spanish to the speaking level of a 3-year-old by the end of the year.
These Kids' Dad Asked Me to "Share" a Photo of Their "Zebra-Donkey"

4. Facebook has a Translation Button so I can Read my Mexican Friends' Posts. That is a pretty humble excuse, I admit. But, look how lazy we can be with that little translation feature. I am going to commit to trying to read the Spanish sentences from now on, before I click "See Translation"!

5. I'm Too Old to Learn Another Language! Well, I'm no longer "Before the Age of 59", or even before the age of 60. I still feel young, but learning new things does seem much more challenging now than during my school-years. Why didn't I take Spanish classes in high school rather than the two years of German I took? I would have a much better grammatical basis to build upon while learning to speak Spanish here in Mexico. At times, I believe that old saying "You can't teach an old dog new tricks!" But, maybe I should focus on that other saying, "You're only as old as you feel" and start practicing as though I'm in high school language class again, only it's Spanish this time!
Feeling Young Next to La Catrina--I'm Only As Old As I Feel!

6. I don't want to make a mistake and sound ignorant when I say the wrong word. I'm not confident enough. When I go to the beauty salon to have my hair cut and colored, I speak mostly in English to the hairdresser, Marta, and she speaks in Spanish to me, trying to teach me, I believe, because she does speak English at times. We both understand each other with enough hand gestures. Jon speaks Spanish to Marta and I envy his ability to carry on a conversation with her. One day, Marta said to Jon, in English so that I would understand her, "I think Terry is shy. She doesn't want to speak Spanish." I nodded, thinking that was a very tactful way to put it. I answered her in English, of course, "Yes, because I am afraid I will say the wrong words." I was thinking, "...and I am afraid I will sound ignorant." Marta just nodded, smiled politely, and continued to speak Spanish to me, helping me learn a few words each month when I have my hair appointment. 
Vicki Points and Says "El Cangrejo!" and Laughs
7. I can use Spanishdict.com to write my instructions for our housekeeper and my Spanish posts on Facebook. Do I really need to learn to speak it? I like it when our housekeeper, Vicki, speaks Spanish to me, complimenting my flowers and showing me that Bella has "el cangrejo"--a crab cornered in the yard. Jon helps me by translating since he knows more Spanish than I do, learned when he was a child in Ecuador. I know how to say "Gracias" for her information.  Vicki teaches me a few words each week while she cleans our house. I know how to answer her when she asks where to start cleaning, either arriba (upstairs, literally above) or abajo (downstairs, literally below). I even understand when she tells me "necesita una escoba nueva(you need a new broom) or asks me "¿Dónde está la escalera?" (where is the ladder?) But I can't come up with a sentence to ask her if she can dust the cobwebs, even though she has tried to teach me multiple times. So I use www.Spanishdict.com to find out the translation. It even has a Speaker Button next to "Translated by Microsoft" that speaks the phrase so I can hear it and practice saying it over and over. So then I ask Vicki, stumbling a little over the words, "¿Puede limpiar las telarañas?" She smiles and says, “Sí, puedo limpiar las telarañas.” Maybe I'll learn a few sentences if I keep practicing and Vicki continues to patiently help me each week.
What Would I do Without the SpanishDict.com Translation Website?

8. I'm Too Busy! I teach Zumba class Monday and Wednesday mornings each week and after that I am too tired! Jon and I volunteer in various events including beach and riverbed clean-up days, SayulitAnimals Dog and Cat Spay and Neuter Clinics, and at the ProSayulita Fiesta. When I'm not writing my books and blogs, I'm gardening, sweeping the street in front of our casita, cooking, washing dishes, and doing everyday chores. Then, it's time to take a walk or do something else that's fun. Life may be simpler here in México, but we are always busy!
Teaching Zumba each Monday and Wednesday Morning Keeps Me Busy!
9. It's Too Expensive to Take Spanish Classes! I did find that after two months of taking Spanish Classes two days each week, it was really cutting into my budget. I had also purchased one Spanish workbook and could foresee needing additional books--more expense. So I told the Spanish instructor that I needed a break from classes and took my Spanish workbook and flashcards home with the full intention to keep practicing every day. When I got bored with my flashcards, I purchased an online Spanish class called "Shortcut to Spanish" for only $39.95. It seems pretty easy to use, but the key is you have to use it. I have used it maybe a total of 10 hours, and that is definitely not enough. Then we bought a 10 CD Spanish lesson that we planned to listen to while we drive the motorhome. We haven't made it past CD #1. It is expensive to keep investing in all these Spanish lessons and still not learn enough Spanish to be fluent. I guess there is more to it than just spending the money! 
Since I Spent the Money on "Shortcut to Spanish", Maybe I Should Use It!


10. I would rather go boogie-boarding, Stand-Up Paddleboarding, golfing, gardening, teach Zumba, anything but practice Spanish! Let's go Stand-Up Paddleboarding after I practice a half-hour of Spanish!
Stand-Up Paddleboarding is More Fun than Practicing Spanish!

     Yes, I'm embarrassed to admit that I have used all ten of these excuses for not learning Spanish. I'll bet some of my readers have used at least a few of these excuses, too. Now that I've written my pathetic excuses and publicized them, I see how ridiculous they sound. I am committing to practicing Spanish at least 5 hours each week, and not just when we are dining out in a restaurant! At the end of each day, I know that I have spoken Spanish multiple times throughout the day, greeting people I pass on the street, talking to the cashier at the mini-supermarket, introducing myself to a Spanish-speaking Zumba student in my class, and during other brief encounters as I walk through town. I do speak Spanish. I just need to work harder to learn to speak more, and I will. No more excuses!
At the End of the Day, I Realize that I DO Speak Spanish
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