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 cafĂ© 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 ....

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Playing Catch Up !!

Although I did post our US budget last week, I've been remiss in our comings and goings while in Washington for 3 weeks.  So I'll be brief and try not to bore you with too many photos. However, we did some awesome excursions in our beautiful part of the Northwest USA & BC, Canada.

The first day back, we spent the evening and night with Mike's daughter, Ara, at her new home in Spokane.  It was a delight to be able to hug her in person once again!!  It was also a time of some healings for Mike, as he and his son, Travis, made amends.  And, a true joy for Mike to be able to spend some quality time with his grandson, Dallas, for the first time in 4 years.

Ara's new home! So cute and filled with our furniture & furnishings! Felt really weird walking in and see our things but so happy she could use them!  

Dallas Lyman, Mike's 6 year old grandson.

We are very fortunate that our good friends, Mike and Leslie Anderson, have opened up their beautiful apartment to us that they lived in while they built their new home in Northport, WA on 20 acres very close to the Canadian border.  It was a nice respite to have our own space and not feel we were intruding on their space. 

This is the Anderson's shop/garage with full apartment on the 2nd floor.
Back side of shop.

Their beautiful garden.

The entry to their new home!  Mike did most of the construction and he's a former architect.

Living Area with craft room loft.


Wood Stove.

Master Bedroom

Soaking tub.

One of the reasons for deciding to be in WA at this time of year is that the weather is perfect for enjoying several of our favorite things to do - floating the Kettle River, attending Blues Festivals in various parts of the state, and taking short trips into BC, Canada.  We managed to fit them all in with some unexpected Plan B & C's.  It's always good to be able to shift gears when Plan A just doesn't come together.

So we enjoyed several get togethers at friend's homes or at a local restaurant/bar for our meet & greets and to catch up with each other.

Leslie & Mike Anderson, Alan & Linda Hall, & Me.

Party at Jack & Beth's.

Planetary Refugees playing for the party.

Mike's cousin, Gabriel, Thea, their youngest, & Gretchen, his wife.

Me, Tina Matney & Don McLean.

Sandy Moore, Leslie & Mike Anderson, Rick Moore, & Me on the Moore's deck overlooking a gorgeous valley.

This was the sunset from the Moore's deck.


Erol Erensel & Me out by their pond.

Drew & Erol Erensel & Me at the Orient Tavern.

Another glorious sunset in WA!!


Emily Gordon & Mike.

Mike Anderson making a spectacular meal for us!

Ex client - now good Facebook friends, Ryan Kucher.  He lives in Canada and he just happened to stop by the Acorn Saloon when we were there visiting with other friends. You just never know when you'll run into someone or where!

Linda & Alan Hall at Maverick's.

Mike & Leslie Anderson at Maverick's.

When our planned party boat excursion on Christina Lake, BC didn't come together as planned, Mike, Leslie, Mike & me shifted to Plan B and went to spend the day in Nelson, BC in their beautiful park along the lake to try and keep cool, as the temps had surged into the 100's.  The water up there hadn't quite warmed up enough to take a real dip.  Up to our knee caps was about as far as we got.  But a great day anyway!!

The young with their talent! Stanley Park, Nelson, BC.

A nice picnic spot in the shade. Stanley Park, Nelson, BC.

View of the beach & Lake in Stanley Park, Nelson, BC.

Only up to my knee caps!! Way too cold for us!

Beach & Kootney Lake, Nelson, BC.

Beach & Lake.

This was my $13 citrus salad. 1 finely sliced strawberry, 3 small pieces of grapefruit, & a small amount of greens with flowers. Not the best value I've ever had.

And so since the weather was nicely accommodating our plan to float the river, we did so with a group of 13 on a 105F day!!  Such a wonderful place to be idling away the time and watching the Bald Eagles sore overhead and their young figure it out while bickering on the river bank.  Again, such a wonderful day spent with family and friends!!  no photos though since we didn't want to chance the camera with the water, so I'm posting some pics of a river float from days gone by. 

Family enjoying the river.

This was our beach back in WA on the Kettle River.

Me just lazying away the day!

The Winthrop Blues Festival is held every year the 3rd weekend of July and for years Mike and I would go with friends and spend the weekend in a cabin on the river and listen to beautiful music all day by some of our finest musicians at the "ranch" venue.  We were so looking forward to attending again this year and camping out at the state park. But, alas, the huge central WA forest fires kept us from getting there due to road closures. 

So we thought about Plan B, which meant driving an extra 10 hours through BC, Canada to get to the west side of the state to then drive east into Winthrop, which lays on east side of the Cascade Mountains.  Once in Osoyoos, BC at a Visitor's Stop, we made the decision that that was still too risky when the fires were raging all around and you just never know when the wind will whip up and blow it right at you. 

So we did Plan C, which was made up as we went along.  As we were in the Okanagon Wine Country region, we continued to drive north up through Penticton, West Kelowna, and finally to a Provincial State Park on the north side of West Kelowna and directly across Okanogan Lake from Kelowna.  A peaceful tent site where we were able to set up both tents and park both cars. We felt very lucky to find a camp site since we had no reservations and there were campers everywhere with most parks that we stopped at being completely full!

The drive north in BC on Highway 97.

One of the wineries along the way.

Beautiful drive.

Another wildfire on the hills of West Kelowna. They evacuated 2,500 homes that evening but got it contained before it got to town.

Our campsite!

The smoke filled valley.

After setting up the site, off we went into Kelowna to enjoy all it has to offer.  A wonderful growing town with a true cosmopolitan flair!!  Such a delight to walk along the lake's malecon and enjoy a sumptuous meal at the local Irish Pub!

Our journey continued the next morning after packing it all up.  Sitting around the citronella candle the night before and enjoying drinks and conversation, we decided we would continue on to Nakusp Hot Springs, which entailed a ferry ride across Upper Arrow Lake.  But along the way, we had to stop for fresh picked cherries and a stroll around a very out of the way Farmer's Market in a small spit of a town called, Cherryville.

An MG club was with us on the ferry.

The hot springs are way back into the forest about 12km from the main road and you climb and climb up the mountain.  The last time Mike and I had been here was in 2002 in February when there was close to 5' of snow on the ground.  A simply stunning venue!!

The new bridge over the hot river.

Even though we had camping gear, it looked like it might rain, so we decided to rent one of the chalets together.  A great evening in the hot pools and a good night's sleep in a bed.  We once, again, chilled out in the pools before heading back to WA and catching up with friends for dinner that were supposed to meet us at the Blues Festival.

Mike & Leslie, Linda & Alan, Me on the Anderson's deck.

We had some company.  Lots of these beauties around our parts.

That following week, we drove over to Pend Oreille County and spent the night with other good friends, Donna & Randy.  They live right on the river there and have glorious views of the river and mountains.  It turned out that their cat need immediate attention by a vet and the closest one open was in Deer Park just outside of Spokane.  I went with Donna while Mike & Randy headed to take the boat out for a ride.

While we were driving south we could see lots of nasty bolts of lightening and a storm front that was colliding right in front of us.  Sure enough, the wind became incredible and the pine trees started to fall in front of us and behind us!  When we came to a tree that we couldn't see how to get around and the rain was coming down so hard that we couldn't see, we just stopped.  The wind pushed the car from side to side and it felt like we were going to be thrown.  Pretty scary!!  And, then we saw an opening to get around the tree, so we did.  The carnage that displayed itself right on the other side of the downed tree was devastating to see!!  A mobile home park with at least one if not two, trees on almost every home!!  It looked like a war zone and we were smack dab in the middle of that horrible storm like sitting ducks.  We felt extremely lucky that we didn't have an accident or that a tree hadn't fallen on top of our car.

Randy & Donna's boat on the Pend Oreille River.

Donna & Randy's home on the river.


Trees totally broke off.

Trying to keep going, we took some detours around other downed trees, and eventually the storm passed.  Only once we made it to the vet clinic, their power was out.  So we left the kitty in a safe secure environment and she would be taken care of in the morning when, hopefully, power could be restored.

We retraced our steps trying to get back to their home and were able to see the carnage all over again.  By now, people with chain saws, trucks, loaders, emergency vehicles were everywhere to begin picking up the pieces.  We began to shake all over again with the realization of how truly lucky we were!!  Let's just say that more than a couple of bottles of wine were consumed once we were safe & sound!

Our final weekend was spent at the Rock Cut Blues Festival, which has taken place over the last 16 years on ground that Mike had sold them and directly across from where we had lived on the Kettle River.  This is a truly special venue for us, as it's our neighborhood party where we get to see people that we may not have seen all year.  This year was no different and we got to catch up with some folks that never knew we had left!!  Such is life in rural America.

Stazya and her band.

Lots of campers at the festival.

My favorite blues lady, Sara Brown, a local young lady.

We had also made several trips into Spokane to see family over the 3 weeks and to spend more time with our grandsons, Robert, Arlo, and Dallas.  We were even thrilled to be able to spend one whole with just Robert hanging out, going to the movies, having lunch, and doing some shopping.  It's nice to be able to have one on one time with them!

Mike & his cousin, Walt, from New Mexico.
Me, Carol (Walt's wife) & their granddaughter.
Robert, Me & Ara.
Our beloved, Arlo.

So our trip to the US came to an end and with a 5am flight out of Spokane to PV via Seattle and LA, we arrived back HOME in PV.  This was our first return here with it being our home and it felt ... well, like coming HOME!!

It's been a very busy week since we've returned with much to tell you about our continuing ex landlord saga and the second phase of completing our Permanent Resident visa in Mexico.  So stayed tune, that too shall get posted soon!  And, thanks for continuing to follow along on this continually unfolding journey of ours!