Sunday, November 30, 2014

Buying Car Parts in Mexico.

As I previously mentioned, try to buy a North American car in Mexico (like Chevrolet/GM, Ford/Lincoln, Dodge/Chrysler, and specific to Mexico Volkswagen and Seat); and if you can find one in the 1990's to early 2000's, you will find relatively cheap parts for them almost anywhere.  Cuernavaca has a population in the city of almost 350,000, and it is loaded with car parts stores.

We have already found our favorite parts stores, and the prices are relatively similar from store to store.  What you need are the parts stores that sell GENUINE manufacturers parts.  You have to have a sharp eye to find these stores.  They usually have a tiny storefront, with a large storage area in back.  You can identify them by the signage located somewhere on the front of the store, and you will see words like Motorcraft for Ford, Mopar for Dodge, and OEM for GM/Chevrolet.  Also, of course, you can look for the symbols for the Manufactures name or symbol.

You would think that spotting these stores would be easy, but if you know Mexico at all, there are thousands of stores situated side by side on busy streets, and every business has about a hundred signs on their storefronts.  With crazy traffic thrown in, it's a little like finding a needle in a haystack.  That is why, when you find a good supplier for the make of your car, pray he stays in business at his current location for years to come.

Once you have your parts to repair your vehicle, hopefully you can drive it safely to the repair shop.  DO NOT take your vehicle to the dealership or you will have to mortgage your house back home to pay for the repairs.  For example, we have found a mechanic that does general car maintenance and repair.  I have left my car with him for some fairly major repairs, and the parts that I have not pre-purchased, he will order himself.  Many times my vehicle has been there all day, and my bill for labour was less than 500 pesos (about 40 Cdn).  He not only does excellent work, he is cheap and his work is guaranteed.

This is just the engine/automobile mechanic.  In Mexico you also need an Electrical Mechanic to do the repairs to your car's entire electrical system;  a Front-End Mechanic to do the repairs on your suspension (our's also does work on automatic transmissions);  a Radiator Mechanic for the obvious;  and an Electronics Mechanic for repairing your car's internal memory system.  Thank god my landlord in Mexico shares his mechanics with me.  Trying to find them myself would be next to impossible.  There are many of these mechanics out there, but many of them are as shady as the dealerships.

It is always best to contact your mechanic a few days ahead to organize an appointment, and on appointment day, arrive right at their opening time.  If you don't arrive first, even with an appointment, you may not get in before others.  Many times we have arrived early at the business, left the car and walked to breakfast (our favorite toquito restaurant is nearby) and then take the bus home.  Many of our mechanics are in the North part of the city, and we live in the South, but the bus only costs about 6 or 7 pesos each way.

Anyway if you move to Mexico and buy an old car (and get your Drivers Licence), I hope this helps.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

More driving in Mexico.

Well, I've almost got one year of driving in Mexico under my belt, and I can't believe all that I've learned.  Here are a few helpful tips for anyone crazy enough to attempt driving down here.

1. You can only rent vehicles in Mexico with your current drivers licence.   To own and drive an authentic Mexican vehicle, you need to become a resident and obtain a Mexican Drivers Licence.

2. Mexicans do not look after their vehicles like, say Canadians do.  They basically drive them until they quit, doing very little or no maintenance, and then sell them.

3. Car dealers service departments are one of the biggest ripoffs in Mexico.  If you are crazy enough to buy a new car, don't take it to the dealer for warranty servicing. You will likely get the vehicle back with unchanged oil and filters, parts not replaced but charged for, etc.  In other words, they charge you for servicing they didn't do and parts they didn't provide, and sell the parts to someone else.  Any work you have them perform is usually about 10 times the price of local mechanics.  We use mechanics that we have found to be honest and cheap, and pray that they stay healthy for many years.

4. Many street lines have completely faded, so driving in your lane can be difficult, if not impossible at times. I was told to look ahead, find the place you think your lane should be, and drive in a straight line - or just follow directly behind the person in front of you.  People behind you will try not to run into you.

5. Parking.  It is best to always park in lots.  Even though you will probably have to pay a nominal fee, they have security and your vehicle will likely be safe.  Many lots give you a discount if you get your slip stamped by a local store (oh, and don't forget to get a parking slip when you park).  If parking on the street, be sure to park only in designated areas.  Yellow curbs mean it is safe to park, and red means no parking.  Put your club on your steering wheel, and if there happens to be a Mexican assisting with parking on the street, give him a few pesos, and they will usually watch your vehicle for you, just like in a parking lot.

6. Topes.  These are found everywhere in Mexico except on the paid toll highways (generally).  We call them speed bumps, and they can be found on all neighborhood streets and free highways.  These will wreck you car in a hurry if you are not vigilant.  Some are small, some are huge, and some are downright dangerous even at slow speeds.  You are extremely lucky if you happen to find one that is painted yellow.

7. Other obstacles.  Holes that appear out of nowhere in the middle of the road, people walking out in front of you, no one stopping at STOP signs, changing lanes without signalling, crazy bus and taxi drivers, fallen trees and rocks on the highway, and instead of wild animals on the highway you will find dogs, burros, cows and horses.  Constantly scanning the road in front of you is critical, not just a suggestion.  Speaking of suggestion, that is what most of the signage is, a suggestion.

8. If buying a car in Mexico, stick with the old standbys, Ford, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Seat (a Spanish vehicle), and to my surprise, Volkswagen.  The old style Beetles were made in Mexico up until a few years ago, but there are still large VW plants located here.  I purchased a 1999 Pontiac Sunfire, and with our trusty mechanic(s), it is now in almost perfect condition.  There are hundreds of tiny parts stores in the city (many of them started by employees ripping off the dealers parts), and they are cheap too.  Do not buy a new Toyota, BMW, Nissan, Mercedes or Audi.  They are not only expensive to buy, they are expensive to repair.

9. There are two major types of highways in Mexico.  Libre (free) highways will get you from town to town with no tolls, but you will take the longer scenic route.  Only take these highways during daylight, and in some cases, not at all because they are through dangerous areas.  Cuota (toll) are the faster, straighter, and generally well kept freeways that have tolls (usually near any city or town).  Tolls range from a few pesos to over 100 in some areas.  These highways, however, are far less dangerous then the Libre's.  Also there is almost no chance of hitting animals on these highways.

10. Making left turns.  Generally in Mexico, there is no such thing as a left turn lane.  You may find a few of them in the larger cities, but most turns to the left will involve taking a Returno.  The sign for these areas is similar to a 'U-Turn' sign back home, and that describes the process rather well.  If you have to turn left on a certain street, you must pass that street and then look for the next returno.  Oh and if there happens to be a traffic light at the returno, the left turn arrow happens after the green light, not before.  You then whip a Uee, and head back in the other direction and take your turn on the right.

I'll try to provide more helpful driving tips as I progress in my skill improvement here.  And don't forget, the secret to driving successfully in Mexico is:  Don't hit anyone, and don't get hit by anyone.  If you follow these two simple rules, you'll be fine.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Many writers like to read. Sometimes good and sometimes bad.

I have found that one of my main downfalls as a writer is the fact that I love to read.  Before the deterioration of my eyes made it difficult to focus on my favorite pastime, reading books, I used to consume at least one novel a week.  I loved to lay in bed and read a book before falling asleep.

Now my reading consists of editing my own writing, and reading the news online.  This second one has become quite a distraction for me because I now have the TIME to actually read about what is going on in the world.  Before I retired a few years ago, I never seemed to have the time to read the news, let alone comment on it.  In fact, I tried to ignore the news as much as possible back then.  News was almost never nice, and I wanted to remain as happy as possible in my own safe little world.

The point is, when a writer hits a lull in their daily business of storytelling, it is far to easy to get distracted on the internet.  With MSN as my homepage, it is too easy to read all the news and keep up on the stories of the day (even commenting once in a while) while letting my creativity sit on the back burner.

There are some internet sites that are not a complete waste of time however.  My twitter account allows me to keep my followers up to date on how my books and writing are progressing.  Also I am constantly trying to increase the number of followers for potential futures book sales.  My blog is a great venue to promote my writing, and when I get the motivation, to even try to write some knowledgeable gems for other writers.  My Facebook site is also a good place to keep in touch with other writers and to promote my books.

So, in essence, even though I may not be actually writing my books every day, I am still marketing the works that I have already completed.  Not a complete waste of time I guess.  Anyway, if anyone has some good advice about maintaining and improving my motivation to stay focused on my book writing, I would appreciate it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Free medical heroin prescriptions in Vacouver BC coming soon.

I read an article that soon, medical heroin will be administered by the Vancouver Addiction Clinic to heroin addicts that cannot seem to quit.  I agree that drug addiction is a terrible thing, and my heart goes out to those people addicted to them.

But wait a minute, aren't there other dangerous and addictive drugs out there that people are trying to quit?  Perhaps there should also be Government controlled sites where this group of addicts can shoot or snort quality controlled cocaine, crack and other impure drugs.  And what about the drug dealers that just can't seem to quit pushing.  They've tried so get other work, but with no success.  Should they be provided with safe outlets to sell their Government provided safe drugs to clients?

And what about the alcoholic that has been trying to quit for years?  Should there be free alcohol provided for them in a controlled situation.  Oh my goodness, what about the other criminals in our society that have been trying to beat an addiction.  What about the rapists that just can't seem to get control of their sexual urges.  Perhaps they could be provided with a safe place to rape their Government inspected victims, while at the same time, receiving free counseling until such time as they are able to quit.  What about mass murderers that truly can't seem to stop.  Should they be given free reign under controlled situations until they get their addiction curbed?

If we want to do something truly helpful for people who truly need it, how about providing food and shelter to those that can't find a job and are trying to support themselves and/or their families, instead of supporting medical drug manufacturers, or worse, the drug cartels.  Your tax dollars at work.

Has the Government gone completely crazy?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

ISIS jihad - On the positive side.

The situation with ISIS in the Middle East is quite sad in many ways.  But on the positive side, I believe it has created the perfect platform for a means of cleansing some of the worlds new and youngest monsters, who would have probably been culled naturally anyway.

ISIS has called on supporters from all over the world, the weak-minded fanatics, or those without a peaceful direction in life and who will follow anyone like sheep, and amassed them all in one general place.  This has now made it much easier for the USA and it's coalition to bomb the hell out of them, while at the same time, destroying ISIS and it's leaders.  Instead of having to weed these traitors out from the various countries throughout the world, they are now all in one general area overseas, just asking to die.  Give them what they want.  I feel sorry for their parents though.

When the conflict is finally over, it is critical that any surviving jihadists are not allowed to return to Canada or whatever Western or European country they came from.  This will be the perfect opportunity to leave them in Syria or Iraq, or whatever Middle Eastern country they are in at the time of the end of the war.  There they will get what they deserve from the locals they have been killing.

Secondly, this conflict has awakened peace-loving countries, and they are re-examining their immigration laws and policies.  It is time for them to better screen new arrivals, and turn back criminals, before they are able to abuse our immigration and welfare systems.  There are a lot of immigrants out there that really do want to move to the West to improve their lives, not destroy others.

Okay, I'll try not to blog about war and death all the time.  But this seems to be all that is in the news recently.Should I concentrate on writing about books or living in Mexico?

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Terrorism has come to Canada. What should we do, or do I even have a say?

I am currently retired and living during the winter months in Mexico; spending my spring and summer at my home on beautiful Vancouver Island.  I like to keep up on world news, and particularly Canadian content, while I'm away.  Now that Canada is participating with the USA and other countries in the coalition fighting ISIS in Syria and Iraq, terrorists have brought their fight to our soil.

I may be spending the winters away from my country, but I am still a Canadian - born and raised.  I spent almost 60 years living and working in Canada, and now that I can, I choose to spend the cold winters in sunnier climates.  Recently, after commenting on a Toronto Star or other news article about the problem of Canadian born terrorists going to Syria and then returning to Canada, I received a reprimand.

My comments were unimportant, but a response I received from a fellow Canadian was not.  I was called an 'expat', which in my mind (and the USA Expatriation Act), meant that I had relinquished my citizenship or had had it stripped from me.  This is what expatriate meant to me.  It is now my understanding that 'expat' also applies to retired Canadians that reside part of the year outside Canada.  It was not his use of the word expat that bothered me so much, it was the context in which he used it.

His implications were that because I spent my winters outside Canada, I should not have a say in what my country does unless I provided specific solutions, and I should rather concentrate on the many problems found here in Mexico.  After deciding that this fellow was actually a bit of an idiot, I did realize that he had one valid point.  I could not only spend some of my golden years assisting with the problems in Canada, I could also help out here in my 2nd home, Mexico.

So anyway, to the jerk, thanks, and here are a couple of my solutions; instead of your suggestion that we basically just let these people come and go as they please.  Our border guards, police and CSIS are already far overworked. 

1. A Canadian leaves to fight jihad against non-Muslims (which includes most Canadians).  Charged with treason and sent directly to jail.  But hopefully they will be killed in a Canadian airstrike and this problem will not arise.

2. A Non-citizen leaves Canada to fight jihad.  If they have a Canadian Passport, it is revoked and their information added to the customs database to stop them from re-entering Canada.  Immediate deportation and never allowed back into the country.

3. This then leaves the citizens/non-citizens that have already left and now returned, and it is unknown whether or not they participated in the jihad.  There appear to only be about 90 of these people, so it shouldn't be too taxing on our Government to watch them.  24 hour surveillance for all of them, and if they are found to have participated in the jihad, if Canadian, charge them with treason;  if non-Canadian, send them back to Syria or their home country.  Drop them off via parachutes if you have to.

4. Of course, anyone providing money or other assistance from Canada to these terrorists should be charged and dealt with as in 3 above.

Face it, Canada's perception has now changed from Peacekeeper to Coalition Participator.  So let's start being more aware at home, particularly at large events, and protect ourselves and our Country against these lunatics.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jian Ghomeshi and Chimpanzees.

It states that scientists believe that overly aggressive chimpanzees have developed this trait in order to procreate more often and create more offspring - continuing their blood line.  Darwin's theory, I guess.  It's ironic that this article has been published shortly after the public heard about the CBC's problems with Jian Ghomeshi and the numerous accusations of his sexual abnormalities.

Perhaps if Mr. Ghomeshi can be scientifically linked to Chimpanzees he can get off any potential charges on a technicality.  I don't believe it is yet possible for a chimpanzee to be charged with sexual assault or even rape like a human can be.  His lawyer should get him tested to see if he has any chimpanzee DNA in his jeans (sorry, genes).  Oops, I guess we all do.  BTW, I wonder what a lawyer thinks in order to convince themselves that an apparently guilty client is innocent.  Then, can they sleep at night, or does their paycheck eliminate their own feelings of guilt?

So, if the Government continues with charges, he could just use the defense that 'The monkey made him do it'.

Sorry to make light of this situation, particularly for his or any other rape or sexual assault victims, but this type of behavior is inexcusable, for any human being.  The monkey defense just won't fly.  Sorry scientists, nice try.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Imposter at Canada Day Ceremony in Ottawa interviewed...

I am not a vet, but have had many veterans in my family (including my father).  I am totally amazed that this fellow was able to blend in and actually be interviewed on camera on Canada Day.  He must have done some fancy footwork to make this happen.

My opinion is that he is either crazy, a publicity seeker, or lastly, has ulterior motives that may not be nationalistic.  If it is the latter, his fake uniform worked well.  But I wonder why the veterans and servicemen didn't do anything more than just notice him and feel angry.

With the country under threat of terror, and terrorists apparently targeting large congregations of people (particularly soldiers so far), then why on earth didn't anyone actually confront him.  If it was so obvious to attendees that he was an imposter, why didn't find out what was actually going on, rather than just getting angry.  Particularly since Canada is currently under threat by terrorists.

I think people have to start becoming more aware of their surroundings, especially at large gatherings, and question things that are out of the norm.  Don't just notice them.  It is scary that this nut was able to blend in so well, and no one actually did anything about it at the time.

Monday, November 10, 2014

I was in Iguala Saturday, and..

I found that the town appears to have recovered from the tragedy of the missing (and now found murdered) students.  I bought 3 lots on a mountainside overlooking the city a few years ago and had to drive down to make my quarterly payment.

Myself and a few friends from Cuernavaca purchased 8 lots in this huge development and are either waiting for our investment to increase or the right time for development.  Although there was a definite lack of police visible in the city, the opposite was true for the Army.  There is an Army Base located in central Iguala, but on numerous past visits, I hadn't even realized it was there.  Basically until things settle down in Iguala, it is under martial law.  I don't know whether this actually made me feel safe or not.

We made our property payments and chatted with the lady selling us the property.  She went into great detail about how these innocent students were not quite as innocent as the news had made them out to be.  They come from a nearby town and are poor students trying to survive and continue their schooling.  Groups of them in the past have been hired to protest in theirs or nearby towns on behalf of various factions (including police, politicians and narcos).  Their protests have always been boisterous and many times have led to extreme violence.

Recently they burned the city hall with all the records in Iguala, destroyed the local mall and have stolen buses to return home and from what our friend told us; even set people on fire and killed them.  The residents of Iguala know these 'students' to be a little more than protesters.  We were even told explicitly that the residents were sorry that they were murdered, but quite relieved that they were gone.  Anyway, I have to return to Iguala to make the last payment on two of my lots this January, and we'll see if the city has settled back into it's normal routine by then.

As an aside, I have witnessed many protests in Mexico, and the chanting and sign-waving are always exciting.  However, if you ask many of the protesters just exactly what they are protesting and what the issues are, they will look at you dumbfounded.  You see, most of the protesters in Mexico are paid to attend, and some even make it a career.  Amazing.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

My 4th winter in Mexico...

Winters in Mexico are fantastic.  I'm well into my 2nd month of 7 in my 4th winter living in Mexico.  Today a strange thought struck me.  I remember my first winter here, and it was totally new and exciting.  Every day seemed like a new adventure, and the warmth, oh how I enjoyed the freedom from Canada's cold winters.  Now, it all seems normal.  I am still busy, and I'm sure there are many adventures to come, but life here now leaves me with a feeling that I can only describe as comfortable.

Although I live my summers on Vancouver Island, I can clearly remember the winters there were nothing like winters on the Prairies or the Rocky Mountains.  But it can still get cold - especially compared to Mexico.  Cold here, now that we are into November, is a chilly 75 degrees during the day and an icy 60 at night.  It sends shivers down my spine just thinking about life in Canada at this point in time.

The winter smells here are extremely similar to the summer smells back home, but perhaps just a little more pungent.  However, the sounds of the local birds (including roosters crowing every morning) and insects are completely different than Canada.  Today I noticed hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower in my yard, and realized that they seemed much larger than the northern variety.

I now own a car and have my Mexican driver license, so I think it is time to do some exploring.  Hopefully this will put a little spice back into my life. It is funny how as we grow accustomed to new situations, excitement wains.  So now it's time to make a new life decision.  Do I sit back in my new comfortable position, or do I get out there and explore more of the world?