Sunday, September 7, 2014

MISSIONS ACCOMPLISHED !!! Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

We are OFFICIAL in 2 different ways!!  And, so very excited about it.

After only 2 weeks of waiting, we were notified that our Residente Permanente cards were ready.  So on Mike's 66th birthday, September 1st, we went along with our facilitator, Felipe, to pick them up!!  After signing some more documents indicating that we had reviewed all paperwork for its correctness, we were given our beautiful cards along with the "official" approval paperwork signed and sealed by the government of Mexico.  The cards are, in fact, very pretty with a gorgeous hologram on the front for security purposes and several different numbers on the front and back. 

The INM building.

Picture day in the new uniforms.

Felipe at the counter.

One of the first things we did was go for lunch on the Malecón to celebrate both Mike's birthday and to see if we would receive the "local" discount since we were now officially "locals".  YES, it worked and we received the standard 10% discount, which although may not be much but it was used to pay the tip.  Every little bit counts when you're on a budget!

This is actually a good segway into our next successful endeavor.  Once we had our visa cards, we could then apply for our INAPAM cards.  This is a national senior discount card that is the right given to all Mexicans including temporal or permanente visa holders that are 60 or older.  The list of discounts of up to 50% off of local and luxury bus tickets, airlines, shops, restaurants, pharmacies, lawyers, cpa's, and more.

The process was simple and easy once you determined the correct place to go.  The location has been changed several times within the city and anyone who applied to an old location (DIF or City Hall) and were told to leave their paperwork will either have to go back to where they applied to retrieve their paperwork or start over.  The correct new location is in the UNIRSE government building on Grande Lagos (Great Lakes) in Fluvial several blocks behind Costco. 

We went prepared with originals and 2 copies of everything that was required - passport, permanent visa card, copy of proof of address (utility bill or lease), birth certificate, and small (visa size, not passport) pictures.  The young man only wanted to see the originals and took one copy of each document but did use both pictures (frontal only).  We found out that if you need copies of anything, the copy center set up right in the building is actually the cheapest per copy we have found anywhere at 1.5 pesos per copy.  Once he typed up all of the data necessary on the card and pasted our picture on it, we had to press one finger print on the front of our forefinger and that was it.  All accomplished in 10 minutes!!

Typewriter, glue stick, stapler, white out, ink pad, pens, & stack of cards.

So, of course, we had to try it out almost immediately to see if it worked.  After making a quick stop at Costco, where we purchased Mike's new water camera for his birthday, we got on the bus to come home. And sure enough, with the presentation of the card, our bus ride was 50% less - only 3.75 pesos each ($.30) !!  Sweet!!  We are now excited about booking a bus trip somewhere the end of this month.

Now that all of the in country business is finalized, the only remaining open end is still our reimbursement of our $1,050 security deposit from our old landlord.  After what we thought was such a positive turn around by meeting with the new attorney representative, we have once again been led down the mañana trail with one lie after the other.  So now we're supposed to get our money back on Monday.  Yeah, whatever!

Between all of our running around for our cards, Mike's been really busy trying to put our swimming pool back in order.  A couple of weeks ago a hose between the pump and filter burst.  Of course, it was no easy matter of finding the part. So after getting to know many pool shops throughout the PV area, Mike realized that the actual part didn't exist in PV.  So his mission was to make the part by using some of the old parts and buying new pvc piping and couplings rather than use a hose again. 

After a very successful plumbing fix, Mike was grateful for some free pool lessons by the neighbor's caretaker and a couple of great guys from a pool company.  Between them all our pool has never looked so good!!  So yesterday we were finally able to get back in and enjoy it.

We've also been very pleased to meet up with several potential expat couples, Abby & Greg, Hank & Jennifer, and a couple, Gorgina & Tim, who've lived in Spain for 12 years but were forced out because of tax law changes there.  Gorgina & Tim have decided they really do like it here and are now looking for an apartment. Yay!!  It's truly a pleasure meeting people who are enjoying my blog and find true value in it. And, we get to make some really good new friends! 

Abby & Greg, Silver Spring, MD
Hank & Jennifer, Virginia
Gorgina, Me & Tim, Spain/Costa Rica/Denver
I also enjoyed a girl's lunch out at the Botanical Gardens.  Such a gorgeous spot with beautiful views of the mountains, river, and so many beautiful plants! A wonderful lunch and a very strong margarita was really good too.  Unfortunately, the black flies liked me a bit too much and I have the battle scars to prove it.

Belly up to the bar!

The new Orchid center.

Tammy Prust feeding the Koi.

September 1 (Labor Day in the US) was Mike's 66th birthday.  We celebrated several different ways.  Mike usually makes us a wonderful Sunday brunch but he decided he wanted to go have the fabulous brunch at La Palapa on the beach.  It's such a great value and the food is outstanding!!


Shrimp crepes smothered in cheese hollandaise sauce.

Cinnamon dipped with shaved nuts sprinkled over the French Toast. Fruit & Raspberry/Chocolate sauce.

The view from our table.

That evening we had friends over for drinks and great conversation!

Mike, Rob, & Abby.

Greg & Shauna.

The first cruise ship of the season arrived last Tuesday and a long time Facebook friend that lives in Panama was on it.  Sarah used to live in PV and owns a condo here that she rents out on a short term basis.  So it was simply awesome to finally get to give her a huge hug in person!!  Several of us gathered on the beach at CC's and enjoyed each other's company for 6 hours.  Love you, Sarah, and can't wait to see you again.

David, Mike, Tammy, Sean, Me & Sarah!

Sarah has missed the beach serenades.
But the really big news here this week was Hurricane Norbert.  Turns out Sarah's boat, Carnival, was the last boat allowed in.  All of the others were cancelled because of the storm off the coast of Mexico.  We got some really good rain, which we needed, but it brought with it horrible waves, under currants, and pounding surf.  Most of our beaches were pummeled and tons of sand swept out to sea undermining many of the beach bars.
Our waves reached up to 3 meters, which is extremely high in this area.

This is the Sea Monkey beach bar area completely washed away.

The Palapa tops of the Sea Monkey.

A lop sided and under mined life guard stand.  It's being held up by rope.

The severe erosion of the sand on Los Muertos beach.

The rocks around the Sea Horse statue are usually buried in sand.

Close up of Sea Monkey beach bar area.

Close up of the undermined life guard footings.  If you look close, you can see the sand lines.

Even though the beaches were officially closed, there are those that can't resist.  One man lost his life this morning just south of here.
And, of course, we continue to have some beautiful sunsets in between our tropical rains.


And now that it's football season, we'll be venturing out to watch our beloved Sea Hawks and Bears.  So we were very pleased to watch the season opener at Los Muertos Brewing with our friends Shauna and Rob.  Go Hawks!!

So wishing all of you out there hopes for a great week ahead!  Thanks for being with us on this journey which continues to unfold in many new ways.  Loving life here in Puerto Vallarta!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


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. We have proved that you actually can live well in PV on the $1,800/mo budget, and I will continue to use the $1,800/mo as our goal because it keeps us accountable.  But I'm certainly not going to beat ourselves up over it if our expenditures creep a little closer to $2,000/mo.

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. 

This first full month back, our grocery bill was a bit higher because we needed to completely restock after being gone for 2 months, we went out for dinner a bit more than we normally would have because we were meeting back up with friends that we missed while being away PLUS we continue to be contacted by potential expats that have been following the blog and want to meet up to ask questions and meet face to face.  We also completed our Permanent Residential Visa process.  The $300 for each of us is drastically lower here than in all the other countries we considered!

We also made a final decision on health insurance.  We could have chosen the national IMSS health care insurance for $360/year for each of us but because of the restricting parameters for the first 3 years, we decided that for us the better option was for Mike to continue complimenting his US Medicare with Traveler's Insurance at $483 for 6 months of coverage, which he'll renew as needed.  And, I chose an IMG Global Insurance program that covers me most anywhere in the world with a $1,000 deductible for $1,569/yr.  To qualify for mine, I had to have a full physical and lab/blood work done at the local hospital at a total cost of $184 out of pocket.

Living Expenses: Dec - Jan, 2014 Jan - Feb Feb - March March - April April - May May - June June 13-July 29 August
Rent w/util $1,050.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00 $1,000.00
Electric $4.00 $50.00 $36.00
Cell Phone $16.00 $16.00 $16.00 $15.00 $16.00 $31.00 $125.00 $23.00
Groceries $247.00 $308.00 $230.00 $331.00 $326.00 $298.00 $397.00 $372.00
Meals Out $274.00 $283.00 $167.00 $382.00 $255.00 $224.00 $897.00 $273.00
Drinks Only $211.00 $193.00 $164.00 $130.00 $160.00 $136.00 $0.00 $170.00
Entertainment $70.00 $74.00 $102.00 $238.00 $72.00 $0.00 $164.00 $5.00
Massages $40.00 $40.00 $40.00 $30.00 $33.00 $57.00 $0.00 $52.00
Bus/Taxi $72.00 $28.00 $5.00 $21.00 $39.00 $14.00 $29.00 $45.00
Dental Cleaning $24.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00 $14.00 $0.00 $0.00 $0.00
Incidentals $22.00 $4.00 $23.00 $20.00 $31.00 $25.00 $844.00 $25.00
TOTAL $2,026.00 $1,950.00 $1,747.00 $2,167.00 $1,946.00 $1,835.00 $3,456.00 $2,001.00
TOTAL W/O RENT $976.00 $950.00 $747.00 $1,167.00 $946.00 $835.00 $2,456.00 $1,001.00
Discr Spending:
Visas $72.00 $600.00
Clothes/Shoes $538.00
Medical Ins. $129.00 $129.00 $129.00 $129.00 $129.00 $129.00 $129.00 $211.00
Tours $203.00 $32.00
Home Improve $793.00 $1,110.00 $678.00 $120.00
Medical $60.00 $15.00 $184.00
Dental $118.00 $705.00
Air Travel $1,846.00
Hotels $38.00 $90.00
Car Rental/Gas $1,028.00
Spanish Lessons $117.00 $124.00 $36.00
TOTAL Discr. $449.00 $253.00 $225.00 $960.00 $1,372.00 $1,512.00 $3,703.00 $1,147.00
TOTAL ALL $2,475.00 $2,203.00 $1,972.00 $3,127.00 $3,318.00 $3,347.00 $7,159.00 $3,148.00

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Taking Care of Business!

So much has been going on with us since we returned on July 29th !!  So I guess I'll just start from the beginning....

We left Spokane VERY early on the 29th. A 5 am Alaska flight to Seattle, a quick in and out in 40 minutes to LA with a very quick in and out there caused by a delay getting out of Seattle due to a faulty computer while on the runway. So, when we arrived in PV...yup!!! No Luggage!!! That was a bit scary because almost everything we owned was in those 2 bags!

I have to say that the claims guy in PV was wonderful and efficient. He told us to go buy whatever we needed and they would pay. I was hoping that I wouldn't need to take them up on that offer!  And, sure enough, the luggage arrived at our home by courier the next day when it came in on the same flight we had taken the day before. Albeit, my suitcase looked to have suffered some damage. 

Damaged luggage is one thing we have grown to expect over the last 2 years of traveling so much. We buy inexpensive light weight hardcover pieces for about $79-$89 at Marshall's or TJ Maxx when back in the states because it's cheaper there. We also aren't so upset when it gets trashed. And, it most surely will!

I had to replace my beloved Colorful Paris scenery case after our first 6 months out. Mike continued to use his original until no more duck tape could patch it together. Or more precisely and truthfully, I was way too embarrassed to be with him and that piece of luggage!!  So his new luggage arrived undamaged, which we were grateful for. Mine is now over 1 year old and has made it through 4 Latin American countries and 2 visits back in the US and it took a beating on this last trip. 

The first call we made was to our legal advisor, Felipe, for 2 reasons. We needed to find out if anything had happened with our ex landlord and our $1,050 security deposit plus we needed to schedule a time to meet to begin our final visa process. 


Coming into Mexico for the first time with the Visa papers for our Permanente Residencia status was quite exciting for us.  The forms that they give you on the plane must be filled out differently. We knew this from others but was also told this by the lady at the Mexican Consulate in NYC.  So, please beware!

You must make sure that you check "other" as your reason for entering not "tourist" any longer. And, that when you come through Immigration that they mark "canje" on their portion of the form, which gives you only 30 days to finish the process. And, make sure that they don't stamp a tourist entry into your passport. Because if they do, it negates the process and you must start all over again! It must only be a stamp actually on the visa papers that were glued into your passport from the consulate. Our guy knew exactly what he was doing!

Upon making our way to the airport lobby I got more and more excited about being HOME !!  The familiar sounds, sights, language, and rhythms were what I'd been missing!

We met with Felipe 4 days after arriving back regarding the visa and gave him all the documents that we needed for processing the Mexico immigration portion of our Residenica Permanente. We had been running around the first couple of days back making copies and getting our required mug shot photos that were required. We handed over our passports (that was a bit scary), color copies of the inside portion of the passport that has all of your info, original and copies of our 30 day visa paper given to you when you enter the country, and the government form that was downloadable from the government site. Felipe needed to provide a letter written in Spanish that we were requesting permanent residency. 

He then took all of these documents to INM, the immigration office by the marina where the cruise ships come in. The documents were reviewed and all was given the ok. He then brought back another form that is required but must be given to you directly by the immigration office for completion. We again met with him at his home and we filled out the form together, signed everything where applicable and gave him our legal photos. 

He then went back to INM and was given approval with a form from them that we then had to present at any bank for payment of our new Visa cards. The payment was 3,953 pesos or basically $300 each. To do this, we accompanied Felipe to the bank. He then returned to the INM office with the receipt of payment and received a password to their website that he could check to see when all was approved. We also were to receive an email notice that all was approved in Guadalajara. 

Mike received his notice of approval within 5 business days but I hadn't gotten mine. Felipe wanted to take us to INM anyway and he was sure they would let me be processed. 

Sure enough, they did allow me to be fingerprinted, as well. What I didn't realize was that my approval had been emailed that morning while we were already at INM. So everything has been approved and in 3 weeks we should have our "green" cards!!


Now as to our landlord issue, we found out that Felipe had gone to try and meet with David at least 3 times while we were away with no luck. The "girls", Jesse and Anna, wouldn't answer the door and David never showed his face. So Mike made an appointment with Felipe to make one more attempt at seeing David. 

Mike left to meet up with Felipe at 9:45 am the next morning and was back by 10:30!!!  I was sure that this meant nothing had been achieved. But I was wrong.  David actually answered the door and told them he would have the money the following Friday. Mike said David looked awful and has lost at least 80-100 pounds due to his sickness.  He's been sick ever since we knew him, had an operation before we left, and were now hoping we could come to a resolution before he's too sick to handle anything!

On the Friday we were supposed to be given our money, Felipe received a phone call from David's lawyer who said that he wanted to meet with us to discuss some items in the contract before giving us the money. Felipe told him there is no contract because the one we have is not a valid one. Anyway, we agreed to meet this past Monday. 

Felipe drove us to meet at the café in Mega (large chain grocery store). The strategy that we decided on was to just let him speak first and make their demands. Well, it turns out that there were no demands made. It was a very civilized conversation. Turns out David is no longer managing the property and this gentleman would be.

He seemed surprised to learn that our situation had been going on for so long. David had told him we moved out last month. David had also told him only about one of the robberies not both that had taken place at the condo building. He even went so far as to say that he too had gotten the impression when meeting the "girls" that all was not kosher. 

He said he would be speaking with the actual owner of the building, Eduardo, and would contact Felipe the next morning. And he did but gave an excuse as to why we couldn't meet. Almost a full week has gone by and one excuse after another and we still don't have our money.  Supposedly again, we're to meet with him this afternoon to receive our money.  We aren't holding our breaths on this time either.  In fact, we feel worse after this run around than we did with David, because our hopes had been raised.   

I should say that there is a FREE legal service to tourists and expat residences. Their office is located in a building right at the Lazaro Cardenas Park. We chose to initially not go that route since we had already established a relationship with Felipe. We have been most pleased with his services!


In addition to all of this, we managed to meet with our friend and insurance advisor, Mike Altman.  After studying all of our options and asking many questions, we decided to do what he suggested.  Since Mike is already 65, a critical age that shifts your options from good to almost impossible, it was decided that we would continue with his World Nomads travel insurance.  Mike has Medicare he can fall back on if he chooses to go back to the states to be treated.  The cost for the traveler's insurance is currently $483 for 6 months or $80.50/month.

But for me, I had a few more options but still needed to determine the "sweet spot", which means where do I get the biggest bang for my dollars. It was determined that an International Medical Group (IMG) Silver level with some country exclusions would be best for me currently at $1,569 or $130.75/month. And I could make my application online, which I did a week ago. 

Their response was extremely quick.  Because I had not had a full physical or full blood/lab work up in the last 2 years, they required that I go have this done before they would approve me. A phone call to our closest local private hospital (Med Assist), only 15 minutes walk away, and we were told to just walk in, no appointment necessary to see the General Physician. So we immediately walked up to the hospital and within 20 minutes I was being questioned and examined by a wonderful woman doctor. All vitals were in order and I was given an order to come back at 8am in the morning for my lab work. Cost for the exam was 500 pesos or $38.

This meant setting our alarm since we're usually not up by then, a retirement luxury.  We were at the hospital by 8:10am only to find out that the lab really didn't even open until 8:30am.  Grrrr!  I think they tell everyone 8am so that they get there by 8:30 am.  Anyway, Dr. De La Torre took my advice about using a "chica" needle and within minutes I was finished without any issues.  I have small rolling veins so regular needles don't work and always cause huge pain. Cost for the total lab workup with the 20% discount card I had received at the Expat Medical Conference was 1,923 pesos or $146.

We returned at 3pm later that afternoon and was given the written results.  I could have gone online and used the password they gave me to get my results but I needed printed copies to provide to the insurance company.  I had no issues with any of my results except that they found a nasty parasite that's existing in my gut.  So now I'm on medication for 10 days with no alcohol for 13.  Cost of medication $6.80.  BUT NO ALCOHOL!!!!

Suffice it to say, that in less than 24 hours later, I was approved for my medical insurance!! Yay! So glad that's all in a place.


All of the business that we have been taking care of entails numerous trips to the internet shop to make copies and scanning; to taking busses to the photo shop to have pictures taken; to filling out forms; to walking to places for meetings.  In addition, we have gladly been helping our landlord with getting the bills paid here at our building, which entails getting to all of the locations where you can pay the bills; to ordering propane to be delivered here, which meant Mike setting his alarm for the 7am delivery that didn't happen until 8:30am; to buying pool chemicals after taking the bus to 3 different locations so that Rueben (the caretaker) is able to clean the pool.  So when people ask "what do you do all day?"  Hahahaha!! We have certainly not been bored!


In between all of this "business", we have managed to have some fun since being back.  We've discovered a new beach bar (Mahi Beach Club), had drinks with friends Shauna & Rob at Signature Lounge, gone to a summer closing party for Nacho Daddy, had dinner out at Fusion Gourmet on their 50% night, gone dancing at Garbo's, had a wonderful dinner at our friend Tammy's house, gone to the movies with a few expats to see The Grand Budapest Hotel, got caught in a huge rain deluge, helped a friend move to a new apartment, taken a tour of Estero el Salado (a wonderful estuary of 460 acres right in the heart of PV), and, of course, seen many a beautiful sunset since being back!!

A few videos of different venues: (the estuary); (the storm); (the beach); (the sunset sky);

Shauna & Rob

Nacho Daddy Closing Party

Shauna, Rob & Me at Closing Party

Mahi Beach Club at sunset.

Jim Lee, Sean's mother, Freda, Ray, & Pat at Garbo's Piano Bar.

My new dance partner!

The Super Moon.

What an awesome adorable sight in the Marina.

Mahi Beach Club

Julio, our guide, Estero el Salado.


The deluge! Huge amount of rain in very short period of time!! 

Shauna, Me & Rob.

The view from the Lookout Tower at the estuary.
Look close.  It's a bird!

Our boat.

Yup, a crockodile!

Beautiful crabs.

A fledgling.



So sorry for so much "talk" but thanks for taking this ride on our journey with us.  I've been hearing from many of you and in the coming few weeks, I will be meeting several of my followers as they venture into the discovery of PV life.  My way of paying it forward!

Hasta luego - until later ....