Tag Archives: Hawaii

Cement, hammers, nails

HERE’S SOMETHING about Mexico you don’t know if you don’t live here: Our nation’s in a building frenzy. You can hardly drive an urban mile without passing numerous construction projects. You’ll see them on rural miles too.

These can be small, medium or large in scale. Businesses that sell construction materials are ubiquitous.* Trucks carrying material down the road from Point A to Point B are an hourly sight. Cement, rebar, bricks, you name it.

We never stop building here — or renovating.

hammerI view this positively. A nation that’s constantly building is a nation that’s moving ahead, and Mexico is moving forward at a remarkable pace.

(We’re even taking steps to legalize marijuana, and that would be lousy for the narcos and great for the rest of us.)

Construction labor is inexpensive. Compared to the United States, it’s incredibly cheap. I like this, of course.

A man who builds things here is called an albañil. It’s invariably a man. I’ve yet to spot a female albañil.

Mexico knows men and women differ.

A Spanish-English dictionary often defines albañil as bricklayer, but a good albañil does far more than lay bricks. A great albañil is a magician. He can build anything.

Barry Obama, the Mohammedan sympathizer and half-white Hawaiian-Indonesian, would not be able to look an albañil in the eye and say, “You did not build that” because the albañil would have built it, and built it quite well.

(Yes, I can inject politics anywhere.)

Unlike tradesmen in the United States and teachers in Mexico, albañiles are not unionized.  You never encounter them blocking highways because they are out of sorts.

The lack of trade unions is a big reason you can get work done at a very good price south of the Rio Bravo.

Many, perhaps most, get into the profession as children, helping relatives. An albañil now working at the Hacienda began when he was 13. Now 40, he’s remarkably talented.

Perhaps the narcos who find themselves without income due to drug legalization will put down their M16s and turn to honest construction work. There’s lots to be done.

Mexico is on the move.

* * * *

* I rarely use two-dollar words, but sometimes it’s fun.

The young organizer

THIS RECENTLY discovered video shows the young Barry, in his mid-30s, delivering a talk on his book Dreams from My Father. It’s long, almost an hour, but well worth the watch.

It’s very revealing. It shows how very smooth the man is.  Of course, he’s long had a reputation for eloquence, something I utterly fail to see. I find him quite wooden. But here, not being president or even running for office, he’s more natural.

His racial conflicts are clear. A perceptive observer easily concludes that he’s not comfortable with having white grandparents. He obviously identifies with his black half, not the white. I have a theory about mixed-race people, especially when the two sides are such stark contrasts. My belief is that these people have a big bunch of inner turmoil.

Everybody wants to belong to a tribe, to feel they have “their people.” It’s our nature. This can be manifested in many areas, occupationally, economically, educationally, nationally and, of course, racially, perhaps the most blatant, certainly the most visually obvious.

My tribe is white Southern American Gothic, subset of educated and above-average smarts.

What is Barry’s tribe? Hawaiian, Indonesian, black, white, American, Kansan, Chicagoan? He seems not to know, but for whatever reason, he’s chosen the black tribe which comes with loads of baggage, especially in the United States.

This confusion led Barry into radicalism. He refers in the video to a man named Frank in Hawaii “who schooled me.” Frank, it turns out, was Frank Marshall Davis, an angry, black, journalist, poet and labor activist and, according to some, a communist. At least the FBI kept an official eye on him.

Barry’s life, as we all know but many choose to ignore, has lots of links to unsavory, left-wing, sometimes violent, extremists: Davis, Ayers, Alinsky, Wright, et al.

America these days is awash in racial and sexual conflict and adolescent attitudes. As America anguishes ad nauseam about who is racist and who is not, who is sexist and who is not, who is anti-gay and who is not, the shrinking world beyond its borders spins increasingly out of control.

This will end badly.

I’m reading Dinesh D’Souza’s informative book America: Imagine a World Without Her. Let’s look briefly at two words that D’Souza focuses on: guilt and theft.

America feels guilty about its slavery days.* This was the primary reason Barry was elected twice to the presidency. His economic policies are based on the leftist notion of theft. Wealth is a zero-sum proposition. The successful have what they have due to its being stolen from the less successful.

Thus, redistribution, “fairness” and the infamous “You didn’t build that remark.

To these people, wealth is not created. It is simply stolen. Indeed, Barry’s conflicted worldview runs counter to liberal democracy, wealth-creating capitalism, and liberty.

The video is an hour well spent. He’s mighty smooth.

* * * *

* Slavery has existed through most of history across wide swaths of the Earth, and it still exists today, especially in the Middle East and Africa. It was hardly a phenomenon restricted to the American South or even to white owners. Indeed, 19th century American slavery was enabled by African blacks who captured and sold rival Africans.

The final adventure

hourglasssIt was a dark and balmy night.

Fifteen years ago today, I began my final adventure.

I stepped off a Delta jet from ice-bound Atlanta that landed in warm Guadalajara around midnight. I went to baggage claim and picked up my two suitcases. From the taxi kiosk I took a cab to a downtown hotel, the name of which has faded from memory. I was 55 years old, alone, and spoke no Spanish.

deltaTwo days later, I took a bus on the posh ETN line to a state capital high in the middle of Mexico where I lived two months in a frigid, thinly furnished room above a garage and studied Spanish in a private school. After the two months, I rented an almost empty house nearby for another six months.

That capital city is a 40-minute drive from my current colorful, Colonial mountaintop town which I happened upon by pure good fortune. I moved here after those eight months in the capital.

* * * *

PHONES, ROADS AND STUFF

In the past 1.5 decades, Mexico has changed dramatically, mostly for the better. We were still a one-party oligarchy when I arrived. Now we are a democracy. The downtown of the nearby state capital, a beautiful Colonial city, was hidden behind thousands of street vendors who clogged sidewalks. They have been swept away.

Cell phones were primitive and service was sketchy. Service is now excellent. The internet was only available by telephone modem. Now we have wireless. Highways were usually bad, and directional signs were just not there. Highways now are often better than above the Rio Bravo, and signs are clear and informative.

sombreroAt that time, you could drive neither to Mexico City nor the border — which is 700 miles distant — nor the beach on nonstop autopistas. Now you can. Driving to San Miguel de Allende, about 140 miles away, was slow and cumbersome, averaging about 45 mph.

The autopista to the beach is now just a three-hour jaunt. And San Miguel takes fewer than three hours. Mexico City takes under five hours. And soon a new highway bypass will be completed that will allow us to circumvent the state capital completely.

That circumvention will reduce the time and hassle to most points north, east and west significantly.

The state capital back then was likened to Topeka, a dull backwater. There was one Walmart, a Costco, and a few movie screens. A couple of humdrum shopping malls were available. Now there are four Walmarts, Starbucks, shopping malls that rival Miami or Rio, massive cineplexes with cushy seating.

* * * *

NO OBAMACARE HERE, GRACIAS

There were a couple of relatively small but reportedly good hospitals in the state capital. Now there are huge health complexes that serve our every medical need with modern facilities and reasonable prices.

The manner in which we get our healthcare hasn’t changed much. It was excellent 15 years ago, and it’s excellent today. Two systems, two levels: Government-subsidized for the needy or anyone who wants to use it, free or very low-cost. Private system, also for anyone who wants to use it. Level Two costs a good bit more, but still just a fraction of what medical care costs above the Rio Bravo. And nothing is coercive.

stethSince most folks use the public system, that does this to the private system: Little or no waiting. Speedy appointments. Next day? No problem. And no sitting endlessly with hordes of other people in waiting rooms or little cubicles. Very personal service.

Since we are not a litigious society, doctors don’t need to pay astronomical malpractice premiums, so they can afford cushy waiting rooms, high-tech equipment in their offices and reasonable charges.

You don’t need medical insurance.

* * * *

MY BEST MOMENT

PatioThis patio is where I got married in 2003. There were a surprisingly large number of guests.

And the bride was beautiful in a blue dress. She later regretted not picking white.

* * * *

GETTING ABOUT, PAYING BILLS AND STUFF

Fifteen years ago, public transportation was plentiful and cheap. That has not changed. What has changed are the vehicles. Here on my mountaintop, apart from taxis, the public transportation, 15 years back, consisted of aging Volkswagen hippie vans and rattletrap, belching school buses recycled from above the Rio Bravo.

vanThe belching school buses are all gone, and so are most of the VW vans, replaced by late-model Nissan and Toyota vans. And all remains plentiful and cheap and fast.

Back then, we milled about in mobs in a government office to pay our annual car taxes and get license plates. Now we print the forms from a website and pay online or in a bank. Getting a driver’s license is relatively fast and painless. I hear horror stories of DMVs in the United States.

Mail a letter? Go to the post office. It’s cheap, courteous and usually no wait. Mail is slow, but it gets there. I’ve experienced U.S. post offices, the long lines, the surly service. Pay property taxes (generally very low), water bills, phone bills, electricity bills? Can be done online from your bank account. We now live in modernity.

For years, after we built the Hacienda in 2002-03, our water came from periodic visits from a tanker truck that filled an underground cistern. Now our water comes automatically from the town just like yours does.

We still don’t drink it, however.

* * * *

STUFF TO READ

kindleFifteen years ago, finding books to read in English was dicey. Our town’s library had a few shelves of novels that tourists had dropped off, available for borrowing. Sanborn’s in the capital city would have four or five popular novels in English at sky-high prices.

Most of my reading material, and I still only read books in English, came down in box-loads from Half Price Books during our then-yearly visits above the Rio Bravo, usually from San Antonio, Texas.

Kindle to the rescue. Amazon will send a Kindle to my front gate in three days. I have three now. One for me. One for my wife, and a spare. Problem solved. About any book I want comes via cyberspace.

* * * *

PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

ponytailI never grew a ponytail.

Nor a stubble, and I never started dressing like a hippie.

And I don’t smell of patchouli.

* * * *

GRINGO DOINGS

All is not positive,  however. When I arrived in my small mountaintop, lakeside city, there were about 40 foreigners, mostly Gringo* crackpots, living here. Now there are maybe 400, significantly more normal people, and they are setting up art galleries and saving pooches and feeding old folks.

In short, turning the place into another San Miguel de Allende. This is a mixed blessing, mostly negative.

Soon, waiters will respond in broken English; burglars will move here from all over; rents and housing prices will soar; and everybody will dress like an artist. Then some wiseacre will start a blog to make fun of us.

* * * *

NOISE AND ACCLIMATING

One of Mexico’s most notable characteristics is the racket the natives love to make at all hours. In some respects living here is akin to living among millions of unsupervised children.

This long drove me nuts, but not anymore. Amazingly, I am now used to it. When the lunatics light explosives a block away on the plaza at 6 a.m., sometimes I don’t even wake up. If I do, I go right back to sleep.

This is a positive development. And it’s not the only way I’ve changed. Mexico is incredibly different from the United States and Canada. The language is different. The way of thinking is very different, all of which unsettled me a lot when I moved here, in spite of my previously having visited fairly often.

But after 15 years here and — perhaps as important — not having set foot in the United States in seven years, this Mexican world has become the norm. If I ever visit above the border again — which I very well may not — I will find that old Gringo world of mine strange and unsettling, I am sure.

* * * *

MY LOVELY COMPANION

Giggle

The absolutely best result of my moving south is pictured above. My child bride, caught in the middle of a giggle in our Mexico City apartment about four years ago.

Note to the guys:  You can do something similar if you are reasonably presentable and didn’t move south with a wife in tow. If you did, there’s nothing that can be done for you. Sorry. You’re out of luck.

* * * *

15 GREAT YEARS

These 15 years have been kind to me.  And I live in a cool, refreshing world of green, mountain beauty. It’s been my final adventure, one that has yet to end.

It started as quite a challenge. The first couple of years I would have returned to the United States in a nanosecond had I been able to afford it. Now, however, returning is unthinkable. Mexico has greatly improved while the United States has significantly worsened. This was the best move of my life.

* * * *

* Many people will tell you Gringo is disrespectful, an epithet. They are mistaken. It is simply what Mexicans call us, usually behind our backs because they don’t know how we’ll take it. It is a neutral word that can be disrespectful depending on the tone and intent. But, basically, it’s just the locals’ name for us, and has been for ages.

(For my first five years here, I was a pretend Mexican. In 2005, Mexico made me a bona fide citizen and gave me a passport. No more visas, and I can vote, which is great fun.)

(TOMORROW: Drinking, smoking, drugs.)

R.I.P., Mr. Zapata

I, FERDINAND ALOYISUS Mgambamba IV, solicitor, magistrate and of Royal Blood, have been appointed to settle the affairs of Mister Felipe Zapata who died Sunday, caught in a crossfire near midnight between Federales and a Narco gang in the Bar, Cantina, Nightclub and Bordello Café Inéz at Calle Mango #45.

Mgambamba
Magistrate

After all debts were paid, and an annuity was purchased for Mrs. Zapata, there remains an estate of $19,000,000,000 in crown sterling or Canadian dollars or Mexican pesos, whichever is lower.

Mr. Zapata’s LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT states that this amount will be divided equally among all his faithful readers over the past nine-plus years.

The sole requirement for collecting this generous gift is that each of you send a cashier’s check for $5,000 U.S. dollars, as a show of good faith and to offset administrative costs, to the following address:

Post Office Box 672

Freetown, Sierra Leone

Postal Code 45698

Africa

Include in your letter all pertinent details of your personal bank account (include PINs), your Social Security number, at least five credit card numbers (Diners Club not accepted), your home address,  and whether that home has a security system and/or burglar bars.

This information is strictly routine and will pass no further than the desk of Lady Jessica Bahiti Outoulee, the receptionist and Girl Friday of the Magisterial Court in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

On receipt of the $5,000 check, your inheritance will be wired to your bank account posthaste.

Trust me on this.

Sincerely, Ferdinand Aloyisus Mgambamba IV, Esq.

* * *  *

(EDITOR’S NOTE) Services for Mr. Zapata are scheduled at noon on the central plaza.  Paramahansa Yogananda Jr. has flown in from Lahore to give readings from the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Bhagavad-Gita.

The Rev. Franklin Graham will voice his version of things.

Mr. Zapata’s earthly remains will be cremated and cast to the Four Winds.

Survivors include 146 Mexicans, principally Mrs. Zapata who will continue to live in the Hacienda, plus a daughter and son-in-law who live in Georgia and Hawaii. And two ex-wives who knew this would happen one day.