Friday, August 13, 2021

Obtaining My Resident Visa - Done!

After having been approved for a resident visa by the Mexican Consulate in Chicago (Here is that process along with resources), I had to start the process at the immigration office in Mexico. I had learned that this could be a challenge because all the forms are in Spanish, both online and in paper. 

I hired an immigration attorney in Ajijic to do it for me and she was fantastic. Her fee? 1,800 pesos (about $90 U.S. Dollars). Well worth every centavo!

The immigration office's fee was 4,700 pesos (about $235.00). 

One of the most important parts of the process is to make sure you obtain the correct visa form when you come into the country. For me, it was at the airport. My attorney reminded me of this twice. When you go through immigration at the airport, show them the visa that the consulate placed in my passport. They will mark a big "30" on the immigration paper and give it to you. That's the first thing my attorney wanted when I met with her a few days after arrival. She was very relieved when I had it. Apparently, it's a big problem if you fail to get it. (Normally, you'll get one as a tourist. This had to be a special one with a big "30" marked on it with a sharpie.) The "30" indicates that you have 30 days to start the process with the immigration office.

So, I gave her my passport which had the consulate's visa affixed inside, the all-important little piece of paper from the airport, signed some documents allowing her to act on my behalf, and she took it from there. She said the process would take 4-5 weeks. In the meantime, I had to remain in Mexico. (If you do need to leave, she can submit a special request to the immigration office on your behalf, allowing you to do so for up to 60 days.)

She filled out the online bits and took my passport to the immigration office which was located in Chapala, about three miles away. 

A couple of days later, she emailed me to come get my passport. The immigration office had done what they needed to do with it.

A week later, she notified me that I had an appointment with the immigration office to get fingerprinted and photographed. Her assistant would meet me there at the appointed time. It all went well. Everything and everyone was on right time. 

About a week later, she notified me that my resident visa card was done, and I could go pick it up at an appointed time two days later. 

So, I'm officially a Mexican resident! I can now enroll in the public healthcare system. I can open a bank account. I can come and go as I please. I'm pretty sure this allows me to work. My card is actually green. I have a "green card."

I'm an American-Mexican. 

Another very important thing to do: 

Whenever I fly out of the country, I should fill out this two-part document at the IMM office at the airport and keep one part for when I fly back. It's so that the government can ensure that residents like me are leaving and coming back into the country properly. 

Failing to do this can void your resident visa. Wow. I would hate to have it voided and have to start this process all over again. 

So, to summarize the process: 

1) You have to start it at the Mexican consulate in the U.S. They do the main approving-stuff. Getting the appointment with them was the most challenging part for me. Emailing them seemed to work. Here is a list of all the Mexican consulates in the U.S. along with their email addresses. Here is a link containing the application to fill out.  The cost was $45

2) Come back to Mexico, (being sure to get that paper marked with 30 on it when you come through immigration.) You have 30 days to start the process with the immigration office in Mexico. I highly suggest hiring an attorney to do this part for you. It worked well and I was a Mexican resident within 3 weeks.  My attorney was highly recommended by lots of folks. Azucena Bateman Campos at ABC Legal. Email:

  • Consulate fee: $45
  • Attorney fee: 1,800 pesos (about $90)
  • Immigration office fee: 4,700 pesos (about $235)
  • Total: About $370. 
On a fun note: I took a taxi to the immigration office in Chapala to pick up my card. I got there about 20 minutes early and it began raining really hard. Luckily, there was an awning to stand under. I got my card, and it was still raining. I couldn't walk to the bus stop, for I had no umbrella, and torrents of water were gushing down the street. Finally, a taxi pulled into the parking lot. Yay!! It turned out to be the same taxi driving who'd dropped me off a half hour earlier. He was on his way back to Ajijic and saw me waiting there. That just goes to show you how lovely and nice the people are here in small-town Mexico. 

He got a big tip. 

I'd like to think I was lovely and nice, too. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Mail in Mexico

I remember after my dad retired, he'd wait for the mail to arrive every day. Boy, if the carrier was 15 minutes late he'd get anxious, wondering where it was. I'll admit that I found his obsession with the mail a bit humorous. 

Before I left for Mexico, I got a little anxious about what to do about my mail as well. You can't just change your address with Amazon and have it sent here; not with your bank, either. It turns out, mailing something from the U.S. is quite expensive and takes quite some time. It's as if the Pony Express is used at the border or something. 

So, what to do?

Technology came through for me. 

"How do you get your mail?" you ask.

Okay, I'll tell you.

I use a virtual mailbox. It's pretty cool, works well, and is awfully convenient.

It's called US Global Mail and here's how it works: I signed up for it and they provided me with an actual street address. (It's in Houston TX.) I submitted a change of address form with USPS and now my mail goes to my address in Houston. When I get a piece of mail, US Global notifies me by email and provides a scan of the envelope for me to see. If it's junk or something useless, I can opt to have it shredded. If I want to see the contents, they'll open it and scan it (for $3.00). If it's something I need, like a new ATM card, there are several options for getting it to me at various costs. 

Recently, I had received a new ATM card from my bank. It arrived at my new, Houston address, a scan of the envelope was sent to me, and I thought it was junk mail and had it shredded. Once I realized my error, I had my bank send a replacement. When it arrived at my Houston address, I had it Fed-Ex'd to me in Mexico. It was a whopping $38.00, but hey, it was trackable and I got it in three days.

There are several services like this, but I did my homework on prices, read reviews, and I'm very happy with US Global. Many businesses won't let you use a PO Box as your home address, but this service provides you with a real street address. Problem solved. The fee is $10 per month for unlimited pieces of mail. 

Of course, the best and most effective means of dealing with your mail is to simply go paperless as much as possible. It's efficient and, you know, the trees and all. . . 

So now, I'm like my dad when I get a notice that mail has arrived. I can't wait to see what it is. I'll even admit to glancing at the PDF on my phone . . . during church. 

My dad wouldn't have even done that. -- And he'd find such behavior a bit humorous. 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Morning Routine

My daily morning routine really does remind me of life in the monastery. Like in the monastery, it is often filled with incredible beauty. I know that sounds idealistic and that I'm looking at it with rose-colored glasses. Monastic life isn't all beautiful. Just like life in Ajijic, there is metaphorical dog poop on the sidewalks. But here goes:

I rise at 6:30 a.m. just as the neighborhood roosters are heralding the day. I think they're all screaming, "This is my territory! My hens. Don't screw with my hens!" I really think that's what roosters are cockadoodle doing. 

Water goes on to boil for my morning French-press Oaxacan coffee. Brush teeth. Fill the coffee press. By the way, French-roasted Oaxacan beans are incredible. Smoky, with a pungent, almost sour-salty background. A great way to begin one's day. 

I get these beans from a nearby "cafetería"

Shower: The water where I live is double-filtered and I know that costs money. The water is also heated by propane, and I know that costs money, too. My monastic vow of poverty kicks in and I've learned to enjoy a tepid "military shower": Get wet, turn off the water, soap up, scrub down, shave, shampoo, turn the cool water on, rinse, and you're done. I will always shower this way from now on. It's quick, does the job well, and is efficient. Why waste resources?

Morning Prayer Broadcast: I broadcast a morning prayer service along with a reflection for my parish every morning at 7:30 a.m. Monday-through-Saturday on Facebook Live. (If you'd like attend, here's the link) I spend a few minutes looking over the scripture readings in case there's a scary name like "Mahershalalhashbaz" or "Zaphnathpaaneah". Trust me, you need to have some Oaxacan caffeine in you to pull those off. I've been told that the attendees really enjoy the sounds of the birds outside (and the roosters). One two occasions, a couple of cats began "catting around" outside my window.  One time, there was a donkey braying. Feline mating yowls are hardly conducive to a prayerful atmosphere. I simply smile and say something nice about "all God's creatures", close the window, and soldier on. 

Morning Walk: Here's where the beauty comes in. I do a two-mile walk along Lake Chapala on the malecón (pier/boardwalk thingy) in the cool, mountain air. Sometimes, the clouds cover the tops of the mountains like a duvet.
Ajijic has the second-best weather in the world according to National Geographic. (I was finally able to find out the top spot -- It's Nairobi.) The temperatures during my morning walk are usually in the low 60s during the summer. (Upper teens for Celsius folks). The thing that really makes it paradisiacal is that the people are so outgoing and friendly here. You seldom pass anyone without saying a "Hola" or a "Buenas días."  
It's utterly delightful.

Along the malecón

I live at Namaste Village, an interfaith intentional community, in Ajijic. At 9:00 a.m., we have our "morning session" which consists of a presentation of the Daily Word from Unity church. This usually lasts about 40 minutes. Again, this reminds me of monastic life; the rhythm of attending and tuning in to something profound on a disciplined, regular basis. You can check out Namaste Village here. The sessions are also broadcast on Zoom and YouTube. Here's an example. It's a great place to retire and I can vouch for that. 

By 10:30 a.m., I'm usually out the door and down to the central plaza where I enjoy a leisurely café Americano at the same shop where I get those Oaxacan beans. Then, it's across the street to the beautiful St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church (Parraquia San Andrés Apostól) where I pray Noonday Prayer and spend a few quiet minutes in meditation. Unlike churches in the States, this one is left open to the public during the day. It's such a beautiful space, so this is truly a gift. 

One the way home, I usually stop by one of the many fruterias to pick up my bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables for the day. Mangoes, papayas, avocados, are my go-to's to have on hand. To us Americans, they are so incredibly inexpensive and taste much better than anything you'd find there. For example, three giant, juicy mangoes were 14 pesos (about 70¢). The clerks there are so very friendly and seem happy to help me with my Spanish. 
Me: Que son esos? ("What are those?")
Clerk: Membrillos! (Quinces). 

Then, it's back home for lunch. I keep it simple: Guacamole on tostadas followed by the aforementioned mangoes and papayas. 

And that, my friends, is my morning. Like I said, it pretty much stays the same -- Just like in a monastery. 

But I will admit to watching banal YouTube videos for a while after lunch. In the monastery, it would have been a trashy novel. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Last Day of Employment


Forty-seven years of employment. Today's the last day and then I'll be on a plane to Mexico.

Sure, it feels a little nostalgic knowing this is the last day I'll earn a paycheck. (Probably.) But I firmly believe that if you can live without being beholden to employment, one absolutely should.

I fully realize how fortunate I am. Yes, I've been very frugal with my income. Minimalism and monasticism has influenced that. Purchasing a modest studio condo rather than a larger one helped. Not having kids helped a LOT. Not having a spouse or a cat simplified things even more. Being blessed with good health has been an incredibly fortunate thing. Having the capacity to earn a living wage is something many people aren't afforded.

Yes, life can be an immense struggle at times and I've had my share of them. But, as Nigella Lawson once wrote, "It's true, life can be full of affliction. But when it's not taking place, you may as well be pleased."

I am pleased.
The sunset years begin

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Obtaining My Resident Visa - Part I

Many expats in Mexico from the U.S. are actually illegal immigrants; probably tens of thousands. The thing is, you can live in Mexico on a tourist visa for up to six months. What many expats do is to make a "border runs" -- That is, to cross the border, re-enter Mexico, and then they're good to go for another six months. Many do this for years. I'd hate to think that these are folks who look with disdain on people from Latin America who are working their tails off in the U.S. without documentation. You know, doing the jobs that our little teenage darlings are too lazy to do. 

The Mexican government is cracking down on the loophole of making endless border-runs, or so they say. Expats who do this may find themselves barred from re-entering someday soon. 

I didn't want to do this because (1) it's technically not legal (2) I didn't want to jeopardize my ability to remain in the country, and (3) I want the benefits that come with legal Mexican residency. 

These benefits are: (1) The ability to open a bank account in Mexico, thus avoiding excessive ATM fees like $16 bucks a pop (2) The ability to obtain a cell phone plan in Mexico -- Hello! $15 per month? (3) Lower medical costs for Mexican residents -- Hello! A colonoscopy for $300? Sign me up!

The first step to obtaining your resident visa is making an appointment with a Mexican consulate in the U.S. Let me tell you, this was easier said than done. Websites that I was directed to were in Spanish or they were glitchy and didn't work.  Phone lines were in Spanish.  

Here are two solutions: Try to find an email address at the consulate. Emailing the consulate in my city (Chicago) and requesting an appointment worked for me. Here's a list for you. I received a call the next day. Another solution is to enlist the help of an immigration attorney from Mexico. (You'll need one, anyway.) The one I contacted, apparently, had "bat-cave" numbers to various consulates and was able to find three appointments for me at border towns in Texas. By that time, I'd obtained my own appointment. HUGE relief. 

For your appointment, you'll need to bring copies of your bank statements for the past 12 months (an original and a copy), showing that you're financially solvent. Click here for 2021 requirements. You'll also need to bring your passport, the completed application (here) and a passport photograph. At your appointment, you'll be interviewed, pay $44 (the website said $34) and then have to wait up to ten business days. Mine took five. They called me to schedule an appointment to pick it up the next day. It felt great to have that visa affixed to my passport. 

I leave to return to Ajijic in two days and I have an appointment with my immigration attorney next week. Leave a comment if you'd like her contact info. 

I hope this helps. Just take things step-by-step and realize that it can be a tedious process. 

I was raised in South Texas and recall that anyone of Mexican descent was referred to as "Mexican-American." Hopefully, soon, I'll be an American-Mexican. 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

The Secret to Weight Loss

For years, I've tried in vain to lose weight. A few pounds might come off on occasion, but would consistently return. Real weight loss was more elusive than a floor attendant at Walgreens.  

I stand 6'2" and my weight has hovered between 225 and 230 lbs for over ten years (188 cm and 102 - 104 kgs.) I just couldn't get below that magic 220 lbs. or 100 kgs. 

I know I should exercise. But the thing about exercise is that it's boring and it hurts. My mom was an athletic coach and I can't tell you how many times I heard, "No pain, no gain," from her.

My philosophy has always been, "No pain? Hey. No pain!" Also, I don't do well with boredom. Nasty things like addiction looms when I'm bored. 

However, I'm so happy to say that one month in Mexico did the trick. How? How??

I lived like a Mexican grandmother. An abuela.

First, there was plenty of un-processed food on hand. The most delicious, freshest fruits and vegetables were available everywhere. There were at least four fruterias within three blocks of my apartment. I could return with a weighty bag of mangoes, pineapples, guavas, avocados, onions, tomatoes, corn, and zucchini for about $3.00. Every other day, I'd go out and come home with another haul. 

Dried beans of every variety were incredibly plentiful and inexpensive. It's no wonder abuelas can't imagine life without frijoles as a nutritional, high fiber protein source. Chilis of every flavor imaginable with which to flavor them were everywhere; an unimaginable palette of flavors: Ancho, guajillo, pasilla, mulato, puya, and smoky chipotles. 

I learned of sprinkling fresh mango with ground chili, salt, and lime juice. I will never eat it any other way. 

There was a tortilleria one block from my apartment. If you've never had fresh, corn tortillas hot off the press, you are truly missing out. At 50 cents a pound (10 pesos per half-kilo), I can see why they are a beloved staple. 

As you can see, there's nary a processed food item in sight. If an abuela tried a chicken nugget, she'd be appalled at how tasteless and salty they were. (And they are.) 

Even though I eat a plant-based diet, I did try a bit of roast chicken from a nearby rosticeria. It was the chickeny-est chicken I'd ever tasted. Also notice how the chicken fat drips down and roasts the potatoes and jalapeños. How clever is that? Flavor! Sabor! So, it's no wonder abuelas would be appalled at a chicken nugget. 

So, I got up off my backside to procure this gorgeous food every day, just like a Mexican grandma would do. 

A typical meal for me would be a small bowl of spicy beans with tortillas for dunking along with sautéed vegetables with a little crema Mexicana (a mild sour cream) added in. I kept fresh fruit on hand at all times for snacks. 

Walking  Yes, walking can be boring but not when you have such a gorgeous place as this. Ajijic sits at an elevation of 5,000 ft., so you're surrounded by cool, dry, mountain air. It just feels good to be out in it. At least once a day, I'd go for a walk along the lakefront. As you can see, it really was a bit of paradise: 

Why in the world would I stay indoors watching cat videos on YouTube when I have this outside?

After one month, I weighed myself and had dropped well below the 220 lb. (100 kg) mark. 

So that's the secret, dear puppies. Eat beans, fruits, vegetables, and walk to get them. Get up off your backside and it won't be as fat. 

Live like a Mexican grandma. 


Sunday, June 27, 2021

It turns out, Mexicans really don't drink tea (té). Not like we do and certainly not like the Brits. 

Every morning, I've enjoyed a pot of really strong Indian black tea. The tea leaves are dried into little granules and is very popular in India. It's like the espresso of black tea. It's inexpensive, too. It blows Lipton out of the water. 

Since Mexicans don't drink té, I can't find it in Mexico. Amazon in Mexico doesn't even have it. What am I to do? (Banging on my high chair ensues.)

In Mexico, you just learn to go with the flow. I'd noticed these coffee vendors around town who have old-fashioned grinders with which to freshly-grind your beans. 

Well, that sounds good.  

Need I mention that the coffee is less than a third of the price of the pricey stuff at Starbucks? Also, the coffee is grown nearby. In Mexico. And I get to practice my Spanish with the nicest guy you'd ever want to meet. He and his little truck are always there, ready to purvey the dark black beans to me. 

So, I'm buying something locally grown, supporting a local vendor, and getting a top-quality product, from a really sweet fellow. Isn't that a much more appealing way to get my caffeine beans? 

So, the absence of my Indian té -- "It's a good thing," as Martha would say. 

A really good thing. 


My coffee guy