Sunday, July 6, 2014

Our Time in CT, USA

Having already reported on our day's adventure into New York City to get our Mexican Permanent Residence Visa, I will give a brief overview of what our last 3 weeks have entailed while visiting family here in CT.  But first a few more photos of our NYC day trip.


NY fashion statement.

Times Square





The Intrepid.


Mike and I are both lucky to have relatives that live within a short distance from each other.  This certainly makes it nicer for getting the biggest bang for the buck on the airfare. 

Because we flew AeroMexico and it's partners, Delta and Alaska, our trip one way to CT and return Spokane to PV, it's considered a round trip keeping the cost down to about $600 each.  We will be flying South West from CT to Spokane, WA for only $244 each.  However, don't be fooled, returning to the US is quite an expensive venture even though we are great moochers on places to stay.

But it's certainly worth it to be with family!!  Seeing our 10 year old grandson play his heart out in competitive baseball games, being with him when he celebrates his 10th birthday with other boys during a pool party with a photo booth, watching him in his 4th grade "move up" celebration at school, getting lots of BIG hugs and kisses from our older 2 grandsons who are in high school and college, hanging out talking with them with real adult conversations, spending time with our daughter and son-in-law around the fire pit or lazing in the pool on a hot summer's day, going to Watch Hill, Rhode Island for a day of meandering in and out of shops and a couple of hours at the beach, visiting with cousins at their MA "Gingerbread" estate for a couple of days, and sharing a wonderful meal with cousins and aunt just high light a few of our memorable moments on this year's visit!!

Maddox got another hit!


 

4th grade class at Noah Wallace Elementary.

He's so handsome! 

Proud Grandma & her boy!

Proud parents, Denise & Michael!

Cousins, Denise & Dennis, in their MA home.

One of the silo suites at Santarella, Tyringham, MA.

The MA countryside.

Dennis & Mike went kayaking on the lake. 

I took quite a ride on the swing. Felt like a kid again!

Santarella Estates, Tyringham, MA.  A very historical location for events.

Hubby by the beautiful pond.

Having lunch on the patio of Chatterley's in New Hartford, CT.

Maddox's BD pool party.

Sugar fix anyone??

Me, Aunt Louise, smudged Mike, Tom, Mike, & Kathy.  Mike's cousins and Aunt.  Sorry for the smudged on the lens.  It has since been wiped clean.  We have lots of Mike's in our family on both sides!

A beautiful garden estate home in Avon, CT.  Couldn't resist taking pictures!

Other Mother-in-Law, Ginny, Denise, Michael & Me by the fire pit.

Grand Dogs, Maci & Guinness.  Wonderful boxers !!

Main Street, Watch Hill, MA.
 
Yacht Club

Olympia Tea House for lunch.

Historic Ocean House hotel.

Gorgeous beach time!

Watch Hill lighthouse

Denise, Me, & Tom (Mike's cousin).

Nice swing!


Quite the storm arriving!

Nasty clouds that brought high winds & torrential rains.
 
Our final weekend was spent having a pool party bbq with family and friends followed by fantastic fireworks at the park.  Both of these were postponed a day because of a rainy day on the 4th.  Thankfully, the 4th was a Friday so it wasn't a huge issue to postpone.
 

The immediate family: Peter (18 & Sophomore in college), Maddox (10 & 5th grade), Michael (Son-in-law), Mike, Me, Denise (daughter), & Tim (16 & a high school Senior).

The group waiting for darkness & fireworks.

Stanley Park, New Britain, CT

The boys had a pick up football game while waiting for fireworks & darkness.

On Tuesday, our US visit continues by flying to Spokane, WA for our final 3 weeks.  Excited to see and visit with many more family and friends.

So here's hoping you all had a wonderful Independence Day and appreciate the true spirit of what it has meant for all of us USA citizens!  And to my large Canadian contingent of friends, hope you all had a great Canada Day on July 1st !!

Continue to have a fabulous summer everyone and thanks for following along on our journey!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Mexican Permanent Residential Visa!

We have been enjoying our time with our daughter, son-in-law, and our 3 grandsons here in Farmington, CT. The weather has been fabulous!

However, our main focus since arriving was the goal of getting our Mexican Permanent Residency Visa. I had scheduled our appointment for 11:20am on Tuesday, June 17th at the Mexican Consulate in Mahattan, NYC. 

Our decision to apply for the Permanente Residencia Visa was made after much research. I began searching for detailed information after we made the decision to make PV our home and Mexico our home country back in January, 2014. 

My first find was the website of http://www.mexperience.com. Here I purchased the Visa Guidelines but they were still the 2013 rules, which didn't reflect the new law and rule changes that took effect in November, 2013. I read and reread over and over again but the way it was organized was a bit confusing. One of the great things about this site is that it's very interactive. 

I wrote to the site about my questions and some of the confusion the guidelines caused. They were very prompt in not only answering my questions but when the new guidelines came out for 2014, they had taken my comments to heart and made adjustments to the outline and now the guidelines were extremely easy to follow. 

The new laws/rules allowed us to go immediately straight for the Permanente, whereas in the past, you could only apply for Temporary. You must renew the Temporary for 4 years in a row before you then are granted a Permnente, if you wanted it. 

The Permanente allows us the same rights as any Mexican resident such as the right to work legally, the right to apply for national health care, the rights of being a senior (60+), the right to own a car but it must be a Mexican plated auto, and we no longer have to worry about leaving the country every 180 days (Tourist Visa). And, in 4 years, we may apply for citizenship and, if granted, are given a Mexican Passport. You then have a dual citizenship and two different country passports. You are not required to renounce your original citizenship. There are advantages to this but I'm not going to discuss those here. 

So once we had made this decision on which visa to apply for, I began researching on which US Mexican Consulate we would make our appointment with. It is a NEW requirement that you MUST make application in your country of residency. You no longer can apply in Mexico. 

Before making the final choice, or should I say, our first choice of where to go, I went to each consulate website to look at their requirements for a Permanente Visa. Yes, they are all different!! Some require documents that the others don't. For instance, Seattle, WA, which is the one closest to our home address, requires a WA Sherriff's report to show that we are residents in "Good Standing" with no police record. 

So since we were going to be visiting our daughter and family in Connecticut first for 3 weeks, we made the decision to go to New York City in Manhattan. A list of Consulates and their locations can be found at http://embassy-finder.com/mexico_in_usa to determine where you might want to go. There is no requirement that you must apply at the one closest to your home address. But, if we had issues at this consulate, we would have the opportunity of going to Seattle once we head to WA in July. 

You need to make the appointment online by creating an account, very easy. You can't make an appointment way in advance. It must be after the 15th of the month preceding. You will be sent a verification certificate by email and told to be there at least 20 minutes before your scheduled time. I would recommend that you try calling the consulate to speak with the visa representative to verify everything - appointment and necessary documents.  However, we were not able to make telephone contact so we had to go simply on what we were reading and what other friends who had just completed the process told us.

The week before we left PV, I spent hours gathering and downloading all of the required documents per the NYC website so that when I got to the states I could just print them out. I'm NOT going to list them here. They may change at any time and I don't want to be responsible for misinformation. AT ALL TIMES, please reverify everything!!!  Do your own research to make sure you have up to date information!!!!

So the day finally came and our daughter was driving us into Manhattan rather than us taking the train. Since she lives in Farmington, CT, close to Hartford, we left just before 8 am thinking that was plenty of time. Well, after being in bumper to bumper traffic for almost the whole trip, we arrived at the corner of East 39th & ???, only a few blocks from the consulate at approximately 10:40 am.





I needed a restroom so bad that my eye balls were drowning!!!  There was a McDonald's on the corner and Denise was yelling at me to get out of the car and go. She said that I would be out and finished before the car moved very far. So finally, after much encouragement, I hopped out of the car, ran across the street, into the McDonald's, did my business, and returned to her car that had moved no more than 20 ft !!  After only one more block, Mike and I got out and walked much faster than her car was moving to the consulate. 

Upon entering, the young, cute and nice guards asked us to walk through the security checkpoint and one of them said "I'm a mind reader...you're here for visas". After we all laughed and spoke a few niceties in Spanish, we were directed to the 3rd floor via stairs. Must say that the first floor was packed with people. A very busy place, for sure!!

On the 3rd floor there were about 8 chairs lined up in the hallway, which acted as a waiting area. We found 2 chairs together and sat ourselves down. First I got up and poked my head into doorway that indicated where the Visa section was but saw no receptionist much less anyone to talk to. So we sat and waited figuring that someone would come out to greet us for our scheduled appointment. Really, I truly believed that! LOL

After waiting and watching others get waited on, Mike got up at our appointment time of 11:20 am and poked his head around the corner and asked in Spanish about the appointment to a woman walking by, she said she would be back in a minute so he waited by the door. By 11:30 am, she came back and Mike motioned me in. She had us sit at an empty desk close to the visa section where we waited until the couple from India completed their appointment. 

Now the fun began when we were invited to sit in front of the "Visa lady". She took my paper showing the appointment and immediately stated it was for me ONLY. That Mike needed his own appointment. At this point, I felt my stomach start to go into knots. This appointment was not starting off well at all. I nicely said to her that I was sorry but I didn't realize that a "married couple" needed 2 separate appointments. All said with a very nice smile to keep the peace. 

In the meantime, another man from New Jersey had made his way into the area and sat down trying to get her attention. She did get up and answered a few of his questions but politely told him he must come back with a scheduled appointment and that now she needed to attend to us since we did have an appointment. Whew, one good mark for us!!

She then proceeded to start asking me for documentation. At each request, I handed her the paperwork. I not only gave her proof of all of our monthly income but that we also qualified with just our savings balances for the last year. Once she had been given all of the paperwork along with a brief explanation for one source that wasn't a pension or Social Security, she started to circle amounts, dates, and account names. 

Then she looked up and stated we didn't have enough income because we both needed $2,400 US monthly. As this was way different than anything I had seen in the requirements and my understanding was that the primary had to have the $2,400/mo but the spouse only needed another $500/mo. I stated this to her, again in a very nice non threatening manner. At which point she stopped what she was doing and just stared at me for a very long pregnant pause. Mike and I just held our breath knowing this was not going well. 

We could then see something in her eyes change. She then pulled out a reference book with yellow post it notes sticking out all over and began reading what we would guess was the new "laws and rules" for Permanent Residency. And, from that moment on it went beautifully!! She looked over at me and gave me the biggest smile and began explaining how the process works. 

We were told that she would take our picture and our fingerprints and collect $36 for each of us and once she came back with the signed paperwork, she would complete the visa right then and there! And, that is what happened. I was actually in total disbelief that we would actually walk right out of there with everything. 

I've had 2 couple friends actually go through the same process within the last couple of months, one in Ecuador and one in Seattle, and both of them had to wait after going through all the presentation of their paperwork and come back later in the day to get the actual visa placed in their passports. The rules actually state that they have 10-15 days to get the paperwork in order.

So, despite the rough beginning, we were in and out in 1 hour with everything. Mission accomplished!! I shed some tears in front of her with my joy and happiness at this accomplishment and she just beamed back at me. Never did get her name since she didn't introduce herself but I know she felt better than when we first arrived. I don't know, maybe she wanted to go to lunch and she knew we were going to take awhile.

So for whatever reason we got off on the wrong foot, we do think us knowing the law and rules made a huge difference in our situation.  This may not always be the case!!  Each person in each consulate is different and they have total control regardless of what the law says. All you can do is go as prepared as possible and then some. I took documents like our marriage certificate, our apartment lease in PV, my divorce decree, anything I could think of that they might ask for just to be sure I had all the bases covered.

We celebrated by going around the corner to Mulligan's Irish Pub on Madison Avenue for lunch.  After a couple of nice hamburgers, salad, 1 beer, 1 wine, and a water for $70, we made our way to the parking lot where we shelled out another $50 for 3 hours of parking.  So the bottom line is that our visas so far have cost us $72 but we will have more charges when we get back to Mexico.

The visa placed in your passport is good for 6 months by which time you must return to Mexico and go to the Immigration office with more filled out forms and documents, more fingerprinting, etc. and pay another fee.  We are using a legal facilitator in PV to help us through this final process.  Once everything passes through in about 10-15 days, you get to go pick up your absolute permanent residency card that you will carry with you.  Sort of like the "green card" in the states.

I must say that this process is a breeze compared to what others have to go through in other countries.  There are less documents, they don't have to be translated into Spanish nor apostilled, the time to go through the bureaucracy is minimal, and the cost is far less for the full process. 

So now Mike and I can just enjoy our vacation in the states and be with family and friends with no worries or anxiety.  Yay!!  I love it when a plan comes together.

So have a great summer week and enjoy life!!  And, of course, thanks for walking this journey with us. 









Thursday, June 12, 2014

Budget Update - Month 6 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

This chart is now dedicated to our living in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Anyone still wanting to take a look (and, they should) at our country and location comparisons from our living in Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Mexico, you can find it in my Archives in March, 2014. 

I will now concentrate on a full year's monthly budget to show absolutely everything we spend money on. And, now that I've proved that you actually can live in PV on the $1,800/mo budget if we chose not to have medical insurance (which many do choose to do), we are now allowing ourselves to use $2,000/mo as our GOAL budget including medical insurance.  Mentally, I will continue to use the $1,800/mo because it keeps us accountable.  But I'm certainly not going to beat ourselves up over it!

We chose to keep our rental amount at what we were paying during high season because we found a great apartment exactly where we wanted to be and didn't really compromise on much. A very good value! And, because we are living here year round, we chose to purchase some items that make our life more comfortable and pleasing for us.  This was total Discretionary spending and not necessary at all to live here. 

I have also now included the cost of our Traveler's Medical Insurance.  We have decided for the near future we will continue to keep our Traveler's Insurance for both of us at a cost of $772 for 6 months or $129/month.  The coverage we get in this policy is as good, if not better, than what we would get through private insurance and it includes coverage to fly us back to the states in the event of a disaster or illness.

Living Expenses: Dec - Jan, 2014 Jan - Feb Feb - March March - April April - May May - June
Rent w/util $1,050.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00
Electric $4.00 $50.00
Cell Phone $16.00 $16.00 $16.00 $15.00 $16.00 $31.00
Groceries $247.00 $308.00 $230.00 $331.00 $326.00 $298.00
Meals Out $274.00 $283.00 $167.00 $382.00 $255.00 $224.00
Drinks Only $211.00 $193.00 $164.00 $130.00 $160.00 $136.00
Entertainment $70.00 $74.00 $102.00 $238.00 $72.00
Massages $40.00 $40.00 $40.00 $30.00 $33.00 $57.00
Bus/Taxi $72.00 $28.00 $5.00 $21.00 $39.00 $14.00
Dental Cleaning $24.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $14.00
Incidentals $22.00 $4.00 $23.00 $20.00 $31.00 $25.00
Medical Ins. $129.00 $129.00 $129.00 $129.00 $129.00 $129.00
TOTAL $2,155.00 $2,079.00 $1,876.00 $2,296.00 $2,075.00 $1,964.00
TOTAL W/O RENT $1,105.00 $1,079.00 $876.00 $1,296.00 $1,075.00 $964.00
Discr Spending:
Tours $203.00
Home Improve $793.00 $1,110.00 $678.00
Medical $60.00 $15.00
Dental $118.00 $705.00
Air Travel
Hotels $38.00
Car Rental
Spanish Lessons $117.00 $124.00 $36.00
TOTAL Discr. $320.00 $124.00 $96.00 $831.00 $1,243.00 $1,383.00
TOTAL ALL $2,475.00 $2,203.00 $1,972.00 $3,127.00 $3,318.00 $3,347.00

*We continue to buy a few things for the apartment but this amount also includes a new computer because my old one died a quick death very unexpectedly!
*Mike had a crown come loose and it needed more repair than thought and he decided to have his teeth laser whitened while he was at it.
*For everything this last month, we were still within our monthly income. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Anxiously Awaited Week! Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Last Sunday night was the first time in way too long that we got together with our good friend, Mel Enge, who also is living here full time.  We decided to meet up at the Thirsty Cougar to watch what turned out to be the final Black Hawks hockey game of the season.  And then our friend from San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, Heather Austring, met up with us for a nightcap.  Love being with my peeps!!

Mel & Heather

Mike and I had been preparing for weeks and weeks our power point presentation that we gave this past Thursday morning here at the Sheraton Hotel in PV for the International Living Ultimate Conference. We wrote and rewrote, practiced and practiced some more. Each time we would time ourselves and make adjustments so we would stay within our 20 minute time limit.

Our presentation was not about any one country or location that we lived in but was about the process we formulated and followed to choose a final destination or place to call "home". We call it Country Shopping. We used 18 slides of mostly pictures taken by Mike along our journey. We discussed the criteria we used to choose the initial 5 countries of Panama, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Spain and then why we changed our plan along the way replacing Uruguay and Spain with Nicaragua and Mexico.

We really felt ready for it but certainly didn't get much sleep the night before. There were about 300 attendees and we met many of them. From the moment we sat at our assigned table in the vendor/speakers/networking hall, we had people asking questions. There was almost never a moment we were alone. We were extremely impressed that so many of the attendees were extremely knowledgeable and had travelled extensively already all over the world. It made for some wonderful interactions and new friendships were formed!



 

What we were so pleased with also was how many people told us that Mexico had never been on their radar much less PV but now they were both being considered as definite possibilities. We do believe we were an asset to the conference but certainly for Mexico and definitely for PV. Our way of paying it forward.  Thank You International Living for giving us this opportunity!  And, most certainly our friends, Suzan Haskins and Dan Prescher, International Living editors that we met and became friends with during our stay in Ecuador.
 
But we not only met and enjoyed the interactions with the attendees, we finally got to meet so many other expat presenters and International Living representatives that I only knew from reading the magazine and daily postcards. They were from all over the world and we are overjoyed to now consider them friends!

 


Rosalind, Glynna, Wendy, Barbara, Michael, Tuy, Suzan, Dan, and Me.

                                                                  At La Palapa
Our group the last night after the conference ended.

Having been to many a conference and being a part of the process in our past life, we were very impressed with the IL organization. They put on a class act and it's a well oiled machine!!  What we were further impressed with was the amount of quality and honest information given about places all over the world. As this was their Ultimate (world wide) conference, it was incredible how they covered so many countries around the world. There were presenters that spoke about not only Latin America but European and Southeast Asian countries. Mike and I had to take a deep breath and not get that wanderlust feeling again. But there are certainly places we still want to go. 

Vendor/Networking Hall


Final departing cocktail party

During the conference we enjoyed a couple of great dinners out with some of the other IL representatives and expat speakers. And, we felt fortunate to be included in the VIP sunset cruise party boat on Friday evening. Unfortunately, the bay was quite choppy and you really had to hold on or your drinks would get spilled. Fortunately, the rain held off until we were boarded on the busses to come back. Sorry you were so green, Niamh!!

Our Boat

Marina channel




Warren & Trudy Hardy of the Hardy School of Spanish



Very threatening skies above El Centro.

This is our apartment building with its white cupola viewed from the boat.


Just Us!


Maria, Tuy, and Me.  New friends from Nicaragua!

Just before the skies let go with a horrendous night of downpours!
 
After the wonderful evening on the bay, Mike and I along with a couple of the attendees went off to enjoy some good blues music at, where else, Nacho Daddy's.  Sean Moore and his band entertained us all and it was most certainly a standing room only crowd!  Not bad for "low season" while it poured buckets outside!




I now have to pay tribute to our good friend and great musician, Joe King Carrasco!!  He was honored with HIS STAR on the South Texas Music Walk of Fame in Corpus Christi, TX this week.  So very proud of you, mi Amigo!!!

Joe with Annie, PeeWee, & Peanut.

There have been some really heavy rain, thunder, and lightening storms during the week. It's officially rainy season. But what we love about the tropical climate is that even in rainy season there is almost always a good bit of sun and no rain during the day.


 
That wasn't the case we found along the South American coast of Ecuador and Peru. There it's all day every day of thick heavy fog or cloud cover, much cooler temperatures, and almost no sun at all for 5-6 months. Not at all what we expected for countries located close to the equator. There their weather is affected tremendously by the Humboldt Current where 2 patterns collide causing the discord.  What was wonderful was learning so many new things about different areas of the world!

The conference came to a close on Saturday evening after 4 days filled with excitement, lots of talking, making new friends, and a newfound appreciation for what Mike and I had accomplished during our journey so far.  When you live it, you truly have no idea how your story will affect others when they hear it.  I was encouraged many times over the last week to write not just one book but many to truly tell our story.  We'll see.  It's been a full time job just living day to day in each country.

We leave for the states on Friday morning to begin yet another real journey.  On Tuesday, June 17th, Mike and I have an appointment in Manhattan NYC at the Mexican Consulate to apply for our Permanente Residencia visa.  The law in Mexico changed last November and we are now allowed as pensioners to apply for this permanent visa.  Before, we would have had to go for a Temporary first for 4 years, then get an automatic permanent. 

We are very excited!  Hopefully, all will go well.  If we've learned one thing on this whole journey is that NOTHING is a given no matter what the law is!  If they don't like our looks or had a bad night's sleep or had an argument with their spouse or children, it might not bode well for us.  So fingers crossed!!  We've got all of our paperwork together in accordance with the consulate's rules.  Two of our good friends both had excellent encounters - one in Ecuador, one in Seattle - and they were issued their Permanente Visas in a matter of hours.  We hope to report the same!

Today we got an update on our legal issue with our previous landlord.  David had an operation in Guadalajara 3 weeks ago but was supposed to be home a week ago.  However, whenever our legal advisor went to his home the young lady who works for him, Jess, keeps saying he's not there.  Felipe believes they are not telling the truth.  He will try one more time this afternoon to see him.

Our biggest concern is that we will be out of country for 6 weeks.  Felipe tells us that is not a problem and he will now not play nice in the sandbox.  The boxing gloves are off !!  Stay tuned.

Last night we got together with friends, Dora and Bo DuBose at their place for a BBQ.  They invited their other friends, Carol and Bob, whom we hadn't met yet.  They live in Mismaloya about 9 miles south of PV.  What delightful, wonderful people!!  Hope to see them again.



View looking south from their terrace.


Sun setting on the Marietas Islands.


Before dinner could be served, we moved the table in under the covered porch.



Dark skies that produced quiet the thunder & lightening storm!

This coming week will be one of catching up our rest.  The weeks of preparation have taken its toll on us.  It was exhausting especially because it was the first time and we had no idea what to expect.  It's also time to being preparing for our trip back to the states on Friday.  Eating what's left in the frig, freezing what we can so it won't spoil, cleaning, washing, and finally packing.  We are also both going to have massages for our June fix before we leave.  And, I'm hoping it will be sunny enough to tone up the tan a bit before we leave.

My next post will be to post our monthly expenses for our 6th month here in PV.

So until next weekend where we'll be in CT with our daughter, Denise, our son-in-law, Michael, and our grandsons, Peter, Tim, and Maddox, please have a great week of summer!!  And, thanks for following along on this continued journey with us!