The price of sanity

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that I had a lot of reasons for deciding to move to Latin America.  But if I had to boil them all down, I’d say it was to finally, once and for all, seize the day.

Remember days?  They used to have them up in the States also.  We used them for reading books, hitting baseballs and petting our dogs.  Sometimes we’d get an ice cream. Every once in a while, we’d have a bad one; a day when a plan fell through or a toe got stubbed.  But we had a secret weapon against those.  It was called tomorrow and–like an unopened gift–there was no telling what was inside.

Then something happened.  We could debate just exactly what it was, but the net effect was that days started colliding together and melting into each other.  They became this sort of amorphous blob of gadgets, money problems, politics, sleep aids and fear that no longer seemed to have any discernible structure.  Pretty soon we were setting calendar alerts to remind us to wash our underwear.

Here in Mexico, I’m living my life in 24 hour increments again.  Each generally begins with plucking a small drowned rat from the pool and flinging it across the fence.  This is a daily gift from our cat who goes out into the night desert, brings them home, and makes them walk the plank.  It is what it is.

Next I’ll fire up the coffee maker and practice my Spanish as it drips.  Then, if it’s a workday and I have projects waiting, I’ll step out to my poolside office armed with a laptop and flip flops.  Remember trying to study outside back in college?  Well for some reason it works much better at age 49.  I suspect it’s because my testicles have dropped.

My writing seems to be evolving as well.  It’s as if someone unscrewed a plate in the back of my head, remove a filter clogged with First World trappings, swished it around in the Sea of Cortez and reinserted it.  Professional writing projects are being completed and approved in record time.  My own writing–little bits of fiction mostly–has never come more easily.

This blog, however, has been neglected.  There are many reasons for this, but it’s a trend I plan to reverse.  After all, this is “The Big Reveal.”  The payoff I promised you all back in May of 2012 when I suddenly realized I was about to do something crazy.

Although we chose NOT to live as cheaply as possible for the first 6 months, we are learning that life can be very inexpensive here, if it needs to be.  Our large Mexican adobe–with a boat, a pool, more than a dozen citrus and mango trees, and a groundskeeper to take care of it all–is not cheap.  Frankly, telling you the rent would be counter-productive.  Most of you are interested in how inexpensively you can live, and this is not a good example of it.

However, if we were older and trying to live on a couple of social security checks, there are ways to do that here and maybe even put a few bucks in savings at the end of the month.  As I’ve mentioned before, Loreto is struggling economically.  There are brand new apartments just down the road from us, in a very safe, almost too-quiet, area of Nopolo for just $300 per month.  But apparently even that is considered extravagant by some expats we’ve met.  One lady we encountered on the street told us she rented a “great little place” in the Saragosa district for $100 a month.  Of course we met her because she was handing out flyers offering a reward for her recently stolen laptop.  If that sounds just a little too “affordable” for you, any number of large, like-new homes with pools, garages, furniture, dishes, linens and modern appliances can be rented for $800-$1,000 while they sit abandoned, waiting to sell.  If you have negotiating skills, it’s anyone’s guess what you could work out.’

As for the cost of groceries, gasoline, electricity, etc., most of it is cheaper than the States, some of it is not.  The Baja is a bit unique in that very little is grown or made here.  It’s a strip of desert surrounded by saltwater.  So gasoline, for example, goes for about what it does in the States.  Here are some other indications of cost for you to consider…

Produce: cheap if you buy it as the farmer’s market on Sundays.  A solid week’s worth of can be hand-selected, bagged and drug home for $15-$20 US.  There are produce-only markets in town, called “Fruterias” if you happen to miss a Sunday.  The prices are comparable, or a few pesos more.  Of course you are free to pay too much, if you choose, by simply going to the gringo-style grocery store.

Meat: it’s a similar story as produce.  The farmer’s market has beautiful meats and cheeses, more or less shaded from the sun, for reasonably low prices.  Careful when you reach inside that chicken to remove the giblets, though.  There are a couple of feet in there, with pointy talons.

Tortillas: hot off the press or, my favorite, precooked (“precocida, por favor”) for the first couple of coins you find in your pocket.  Purchase these at “Tortillerias” located up and down Benito Juarez Street.

Beer: Not super cheap, slightly less than in the States, I guess.  Whiskey is hard to find and also not cheap.  The finest Tequila money can buy however (100% agave) can be had for as low as $12 a 950ml bottle.  About 1/3 of what it would go for in the States, I’m told.

Dish Satellite TV: we haven’t gotten around to this yet, because Netflix works down in Mexico now.  But if we did, it would go for $12 US a month.

Telephone service: So far, we can’t figure out why anyone would pay for it.  You’ve seen the Magic Jack commercial right?  Well it’s not bullshit.  I talk to family, friends and clients as if they were right next door.  It’s reliable enough that I’ve used it to make large presentations to corporate vice-presidents without a hitch.  Next week I’m going to try it on a CEO while he lights cigars with $100 bills.

Electricity: We just discovered a bill for our first two months, rolled up and wedged in the wooden slats of our front gate.  Good thing it wasn’t windy.  $100 a month.  Not horrible considering we’ve got both pool and well pumps kicking on and off regularly.  Like the rest of Mexico, we use lights sparingly at night, opting for your standard, government-issue Jesus candles at 10 pesos apiece (about 80 cents).  There is irony here that I won’t go into.

WiFi: This goes for something like $30 a month and comes with a Mexican phone line as well.  The broadband is First World fast and reliable.  The phone line sounds great, but every time we answer it a flurry of Spanish gets thrown at us.  We hope they’re just sales calls, because either way they’re getting hung up on.

Sea Bass: Pitched fresh from the Sea of Cortes daily.  Delicious and made even more so by its price of perhaps a couple bucks a pound.

Clams: Even fresher than the sea bass as evidenced by the fact that they are often served open face, uncooked and, yes, still moving.  My brother Mike and I enjoyed them on his birthday.  Diana ate one so she could say she did it.  For the record, none of us detected anything wiggling on our tongues.  About $7 bucks for a plateful at a beachside restaurant appropriately named The Clam Shack.

Dove Ice Cream Bars: $5 apiece.  Don’t buy these if you can avoid it.

Hasta manana.  And by “manana” I mean, pretty soon.












El Capitan!


El Capitan!

My 83-year-old dad taking the helm off Isla Del Carmen. Minutes after this photo was taken, we followed a pod of 300 or so dolphins, saw a massive blue whale, caught a shark, and ran out of gas. Details on this and the rest of our first two months in Loreto coming this weekend. I promise!