Learning to Love the Peso; How to Move to Mexico and Why by Jeffrey Crimmel - Read Online
Learning to Love the Peso; How to Move to Mexico and Why
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There are many American, Canadians and Europeans who have thought of moving to Mexico or another Latin American country but have no idea how to accomplish such a change. This book is an account of the author's move to Baja California in Mexico. Included in the book is an index of information one will need to know in order to make the transition.

The author also includes in the book the history of Snowbirds and why so many people are seeking to escape the cold winters of North America and Europe and spend their retirement years enjoying 60 degree and warmer winters. The complete move is detailed in a journal style book including the activities enjoyed while living in a third world country.

The stories are entertaining and humor is used throughout the book. One needs a lot of laughter to make such a transition in their lives.

Published: Jeffrey Crimmel on
ISBN: 9780985223212
List price: $3.99
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Learning to Love the Peso; How to Move to Mexico and Why - Jeffrey Crimmel

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So! You’re thinking of retirement and have heard stories about living in some exotic town in a foreign country. Friends who have traveled tell you how inexpensive places in Central America and Mexico are and there is even a maid to clean the house for almost nothing. For an added bonus Americans, Canadians and a few Brits are already living there.

Magazine publications at Barnes and Nobel are full of tales about investing in these countries. How about buying a house in a development with other Americans as your neighbor or having a home for your vacation and renting it out during the times you are not staying there sound? Does it seem too good to be true?

The stories are accurate when describing the inexpensive life styles and the beauty each community holds. The articles are usually from the perspective of the real estate person wanting to get you to invest, build a house or buy a home already finished. There are no descriptions about making the move and the hurdles one faces when transporting all your belongings to a development or town in a third world country.

Learning to Love the Peso is my tale of how I found my place in one of the many areas in Mexico where foreigners have moved to and changed their lives. An explanation of why I wanted to move south of the border and all the steps needed to make the transition are included throughout the book. An historical perspective of why people move to warm climates in the winter is presented as well. The present day migration, made by thousands of persons who call themselves Snowbirds, brings us to the locations where people move in their attempt to avoid the winters of the North. Much of the information about the historical migration was discovered during my nine-year odyssey around the globe from 1970 to 1979. Living Beneath the Radar is my first book describing those adventures.

You will find the contents of the book helpful, interesting and hopefully dispel the views many Americans have about third world cultures. Mexico is especially given a negative view as it is described in the news. The stories concentrate on the drug wars and killings in a few of the border towns along the Texas and Arizona borders. I have been told by many friends and acquaintances how bad Mexico is and living in a Third World Country is not all what it is stacked up to be. When I ask them if they have ever visited Mexico; not to my surprise, most said no. They instead tell me about their local news channel where they heard these reports. Those who said they visited Mexico acknowledge their port of entry from their cruise ships either in Baja or the mainland. They never got further than the guided tours and souvenir shops waiting for them in their protected environment. This experience would compare to taking a tour ship into San Francisco Bay, eating a meal at Fisherman’s Warf, buying a few sweatshirts for the grandkids back in Germany, getting back on board and sailing home. Can this person say they have seen America?

This book includes many stories describing the personal adventures encountered while making the move to Mexico and the adjustments after relocating. The information and experiences of this journey are written down within a day or two of them happening so the reader can join in with me on the adventure. Learning to Love the Peso is not just about the pleasant encounters during the transition. Filling in the gaps of the fun stuff with the difficult obstacles as well, gives the reader the hard facts about such a move and the situations one has to navigate to make such a dramatic change happen. Learning to Love the Peso may increase your desire to make a metamorphosis in your lifestyle or completely wipe out any aspirations of living in the land of sunshine. Believe me, such a move is not for everyone. Hang on and hold tight. The journey begins.

Chapter 1

June 2010

I mentioned at the end of Living Beneath the Radar my wife and I were going to be moving to Baja, Mexico when we were both retired. Suzanne was her mother's caretaker and manages all her affairs. Medications, doctor visits, filing her taxes and any other matters arising, Suzanne deals with. Whatever was necessary to be done for a woman of 94 years, Suzanne carried out the duty. Alice was no longer capable of these tasks due to her age and the difficulties accompanying most elder people. Caring for a parent is an involved, part-time job and it takes a lot of focus and energy to get these tasks completed.

We recently moved to the Phoenix valley from Flagstaff after Suzanne retired in June of 2010. We moved her mother to Phoenix the month before and she now resides in a very nice home full of elderly people, many of whom have dementia.

My first visit to the home was indeed an insight into a population not remembering the conversation they had with you ten minutes ago. As I sat in the room, enjoying the air conditioning cooling me from the 90+ degrees outside, I was approached by different ladies in the home who were curious as to how I fit into their lives and why was I sitting in their home. I explained my connection with Alice in as much detail as I believed they needed to satisfy their curiosity. In about ten or fifteen minutes the same woman would return to where I was sitting and start the same inquiry all over again. The exact same questions would be asked and I would again give her my answer. I was visiting the world of Groundhog Day. The movie starring Bill Murray is about living the same day over and over again until the star gets it right. I realized if I did not give all the information I wanted to give to the conversation the first time, all I had to do was wait. The opportunity would present itself again in a matter of minutes when one of the ladies returned. This situation happened each time we visited the home where Alice lived, usually with the same woman asking the questions.

Future visits taught me a little about the life of women in a home for the elderly. A lot of their daily routine is centered around the meals served in the main room. An hour before dinner the women started to appear in the main living room and found their seats on the couch and chairs near the dining table. Each of the ladies knew who sat where.

Peggy sits on the end of the couch while Mildred likes to be at the table where she can snack on the cookies before dinner.

Routine is an important part of the ladies living in the home and when a new arrival comes then a bit of confusion exist for a few days until the new seating chart is established. Alice was the rookie. She took whatever location became available near the TV and dinning table.

Alice can have Sally’s seat. She left us about three weeks ago and is not expected back.

I believe the reference to Sally leaving and not coming back meant she passed on but I did not hear the word ‘death’ or ‘died’ used much in the home. The women knew they were old and the end could be near for some of them. They were comfortable in the home they shared with each other, not remembering what happened the day before or even ten minutes before.

Now you have a little background as to why we are still in Arizona at the moment of this writing and not in Mexico. I can now begin writing about the process of moving to Mexico from my perspective and maybe ease some of the fears some readers may have, who may also hold similar desires of visiting the nation to our south.

Chapter 2

Why A Sunny Climate is Desirable

The first thing one has to have before they ever think about moving to another country, especially Mexico, is the desire. In the latter part of 1973 and most of 1974 I was living in Amsterdam, Holland. I loved the Dutch and everything about that country. The one fact stopping me from still living there I described in a chapter of my first book called, Where’s The Sunshine. The story happened in the early summer of 1974. Amsterdam, weather wise, can have great summers or terrible summers. In June of 1974 the weather was terrible which means the skies remained overcast all day due to the location of the city on the North Sea.

One day the sun came out and all of Amsterdam went into an occult worshiping ritual like I have never seen before. Long sleeve shirts and sweaters came off. Tank tops and shorts were removed from chests labeled, Do not open unless the sun is shinning. People called in sick for work. Owners had to either run their own businesses or join in with the movement sweeping the city.

Walking along the canals that snake through this magnificently beautiful postcard perfect city, people were preparing for their worship of the sun. Deck chairs were set up around tables either on all the boat houses that lined the canals or on sidewalks or decks having access to the sun. Bathing suits that never saw the light of day during a cloudy summer where now in full view. Beer and drinks were set out with an abundance of the staple food of the Dutch, bread and cheese. Music could be heard everywhere. English tunes as well as a few Dutch songs poured out into the sunny afternoon. The Beatles and Stones were big in the early 70s. The party had begun.

In Amsterdam you do not need to know how to speak Dutch or even know the people to join in on the festival. I tried to learn Dutch for a few weeks but gave up when I found out that carpenters and common laborers could speak better English at a level higher than I could ever hope to learn from the Dutch classes. All I needed to do in order to join a group was to say hi and start sharing where I was from and why was I living in Amsterdam. The Dutch are some of most friendly, liberal minded people in the world and they are the most accepting of different cultures and beliefs of any nation I have come across. Now you see why I almost stayed in Amsterdam and permanently lived there.

The day continued with the Sunshine Occult population remaining in the warm sun until it set in the west below the British Isles. The next day Amsterdam awoke to cloud covered skies, the same weather we experienced for the many weeks before and for me presented as the norm for summers in Amsterdam. Everyone went back to work. Employers forgave the lame excuses of their employees, knowing sun worshiping was just a part of what to expect in the city when the sun came out. The party was over and the summer clothing was carefully placed back into the trunks marked ‘’Do not open unless the sun is shinning" with the hope they would again see the light of day before the month of October.

That night I went into a pub to get a beer and be around the Dutch who had just participated in one of the most magnificent citywide parties I ever witnessed. After about an hour of being in the pub I heard a voice yell above the conversations and noise level of the bar.

Isn’t that interesting? Summer came on a Tuesday this year.

The laughter following the comment came with a few groans of recognition the statement could easily be true. I realized at that moment, warm weather and sunny skies were not a part of the normal summer patterns and if I wanted to live in this special part of Europe, I would have to accept this fact. The sun doesn’t shine very much.

After having lived in Amsterdam for six months, Pavitra, who later became my first wife, arrived after visiting her mother who was living in Spain with her oldest daughter. I met Pavitra in India and we traveled together for a while and returned to the west in the fall of 1973. Her mother was English and lived on a pension in Spain with her other daughter, Peggy. Norma, the mother of Pavitra and Peggy, could live quite well on her limited income in Spain. This fact was probably the seed guiding me to think about where to live when I retired. Residing in a country where the dollar went further made good sense. I did not think about retiring in a foreign country again until I was remarried in 1992 to Suzanne and worked as a teacher in the Sonoma County School District in California. I realized the career I choose and loved to do was not going to provide me with a huge retirement in the future.

Chapter 3

How We Found the Baja

In 2005, friends of ours, Scott and Pam Anderson took Suzanne and myself on an exploratory trip to Mexico to a community called Rocky Point (Puerto Penasco), a popular vacation spot for Arizona residents. Suzanne and I moved to Flagstaff, Arizona in 2000 and both taught in the school district. Rocky Point is located on the Sea of Cortez and faces west so the sun sets over the strip of land coming down from California called Baja California. This was my first visit in many years to Mexico, my last one coming in 1990. I earned a reward while working for a cultural exchange company bringing Japanese students to live and learn English for several weeks in the summer. I used my reward to visit Ixtapa on the Pacific side of Mexico far south from any other Mexican town I ever visited before.

Rocky Point was a town of interest for Pam. She spoke fluent Spanish and wanted a place to visit in the winter when Flagstaff was buried under two feet of snow and she needed a break from the cold weather. A two-hour drive to Phoenix is what many Flagstaff residents did in the winter in order to warm up. The idea of a place in Mexico only a few more hours further than Phoenix, including a cultural experience, cheap living and a beach, rounded out her desire to explore Mexico.

Gila Bend, Ajo and Sonoita became towns I would eventually hear or visit more in the coming years because they were on the way to Mexico. Gila Bend is located at a crossroad taking the driver either to Yuma and California on interstate 8, Tucson to the east or Mexico through Ajo and Sonoita to the south. Gila Bend is one of those towns that would attract a movie director who wanted to shoot some footage about strange places in the middle of nowhere.

The first thing the town did was post speed limit signs to force drivers to slow their vehicle to 35 mph as they drove either towards Phoenix, Yuma or Ajo. The residents in town want the traveler to really see what they have to offer in the way of desert oddities. A giant dinosaur and a few other sculptures molded in plaster or metal decorate one gas station. Tourist items in the store found only in this unique town make the experience of getting gas unforgettable.

A little further to the south, if you are coming from Phoenix, is the Space Age Lodge and restaurant owned by Best Western. The 41 bed motel offers comfortable sleeping quarters and a restaurant located beneath a Flying Saucer about the size of a small tract home, giving the location a one of a kind look only found in a small desert community trying to attract customers. Families with kids do not have a chance of avoiding a meal at this place because space aliens and the unknown from the stars never seems to go out of style with the younger generation. I have eaten their once and the booths were packed with families looking around at the pictures and decorations on the walls, giving the hungry eaters visual entertainment while waiting for their order of burgers and fries.

A few gas stations, pizza parlors, an Italian restaurant and different stores selling desert knickknacks found only in small communities like Gila Bend, rounded out the offerings of this town with the strange name. The Gila River is one of the main water canals in Arizona and it is at the location where the river makes a ninety-degree turn that the town was built. Thus, the name Gila Bend came about.

In 2010 a large solar company started developing a plant near the town. Harvesting the only resource in the area other than tourism, the sun. The last time I passed through the town, construction seemed to be happening on the north end of the road from Phoenix. The solar plant was also under construction off the 8 on the way to Yuma. With 1500 jobs needed for the plant, Gila Bend could go through a boom period feeding, housing and entertaining the workers from the solar facility.

Scott, Pam, Suzanne and I headed to Rocky Point in February of 2005 when the grasp of winter was starting to loosen and warmer weather began to return to that corner of the world. Tiny border communities along the way provided gas and food.

The drive into Rocky Point eventually took us to one of the camping spots overrun by the giant RV population. These large homes on wheels were parked in two campsites allowing them to pop out the side rooms of their vehicles. The travelers set up awnings and got the cards out. Card games seemed to be the way many of these home on wheels residents passed the afternoons. We looked like gypsies putting up our tents and securing them in the windy conditions, which seemed to dominate the weather in the month of February. The town was a short drive from where we were camped and the beach could be reached with a short walk through the rows of the mobile homes. Our tents were among the few found in this Snowbird retreat and during our long weekend stay we found out a little about our neighbors and their lifestyle.

RVs usually travel in groups of two or more. That way there is always four players for bridge or any other game needing more than two players. Retired military men and their wives seemed to make up a large portion of the RV traveling retired community. This was evidenced by the bumper stickers and decals honoring the military branch they served in. The communities seemed to be full of residents who knew each other and every night a party was held at some sight with drinking the main focus for the party. I am sure Vietnam may have been brought up a few times during the fiesta since these vets were of that age group and that war would have been their life changing experience, saving America from the spread of Communism.

Several miles down the beach large hotels were either built or being built giving the area a Miami or Honolulu coastal appearance. Fifteen stories seemed to top out the height limits. Every morning gangs of workers could be seen, walking from the town along the beach towards their work, constructing more of the high-rise monsters. The long-range plan was to continue construction until the entire beach was full of these units. I knew I wanted no part of making Rocky Point a future retirement local.

Our stay in Rocky Point included my purchasing a margarita set of glasses and pitcher colorfully decorated with a Mexican motif. Shrimp boats were out each morning bringing in the number one catch of the area and providing the many restaurants with the pink crustaceans served either in Tacos, enchiladas, or on a plate of rice. The town is also a favorite of the college student and provided a release from the educational grind. A few students still remained in town and we got to see them in action. While having breakfast on our first morning we watched several of them ordering a breakfast of pizza and a pitcher of beer at 10 a.m. This behavior had me wondering how many brain cells could be killed on spring break before the students returned to the books and writing papers.

Nothing in Rocky Point presented us with desire towards making it a future place of residence. The one comment I heard over and over again from those who made this Mexican town a vacation destination was,

You should have seen it 20 years ago.

I assumed the comment had to do with the town being a quaint fishing village at one time before the commercialism arrived and was turning it into a Puerto Vallarta of the north. The services for trash pick up could not keep up with the demand and the main beach contained many overflowing basura (trash) cans from the previous week of the college population. Papers and other trash items decorated the gray sands. The beach experience did not happen for us.

Another comment I have heard from those who visit Mexico, regards the trash found everywhere. If Mexico could focus on the job of hauling away the waste left in the cans and develop a consciousness of not leaving piles of trash for long periods of time in public places, the images brought back to the States by those travelers in Mexico would be greatly improved. I understand the services for clean up are nowhere near the level found in the country to the north but in tourist towns the extra monies spent to improve this one service would be returned in more revenues by visitors returning each year to spend their money.

At the end of February a Home Show is held in Flagstaff. The Andersons attended in 2005 and came across a booth at the show advertising another community in Mexico. This one was on the Baja California side of the Sea of Cortez about 100 miles south of the border from the state capital, Mexicali. Scott and Pam were invited to an information dinner held in the Little America Hotel just off highway 40, which runs through Flagstaff. They invited me to join them in the dinner and slide show presentation to find out more about the newly developing community and the area where it is located. San Felipe is the closest town seven miles south of the development called El Dorado Ranch. From the description of the area I heard the town of San Felipe was now like Rocky Point twenty years ago. The town remained as a quaint fishing village and the prices for property were far below what was being asked for in other Mexican communities found on the Pacific side of Baja or near the border of Arizona.

The year was 2005 and the economy of the U.S. and Mexico seemed to be in a boom period with investment in real estate both out of control. The population of the States was buying properties with little or nothing down and hoping to sell and make a profit within six months. Poor money lending practices contributed to the insanity taking place and people were now expanding into Mexico with monies either made or going to be made in the future when they sold such and such property at a profit. The baby boomer generation made up of those born on or after 1946 were starting to retire and many sought to get out of the cold of the northern states. Mexico offered an alternative to the prices starting to climb in the usual retirement states of Florida, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and California.

The presentation held interest for Pam, Scott and myself. We decided to take a tour on one of the school holidays coming up in the future since we were all educators. Memorial day worked out the best for us and we arranged a meeting with one of the agents who lived in Sedona by the name of Dan. The weekly bus tours did not go down to the Ranch on Memorial Day weekend due to the many travelers who went to the area on their own. The tours tried to avoid crowded conditions so those seeing the development for the first time would not be hindered by traffic or large numbers of people enjoying the beach and pool activities at the Ranch.

Suzanne stayed home for this trip. She remained the caretaker for her mother, Alice, who lived with us in 2005. On Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, Scott and