Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Cancelled USA Passport? Use this World Passport you Anarchist Waterman, you!!!



You do know that Johnny Fed can cancel your passport now for bogus reasons? If merely ACCUSED of tax evasion, even if a computer glitch, the State Department can cancel your "slave card". Bad news for you, Bonzo! You probably won't know until you try to cross some national border. You freaking criminal, you!!!



Let's say you're avid waterman surfer Fred Q. USAnik and you have this nifty life living 6 months at a shot, on the Peru tourist visa, surfing the awesome northern beaches and their great point break waves. Every 6 months you take a day trip up to the Ecuador border and cross right back with a new 6 month stamp. Fred.... you are AWESOME, bud. You got it nailed.




Mancora, Peru waves.... delightfully cool but not cold water....


But in the foul bowels of Johnny FedDom something jacks up. You've dutifully stayed well under the $100K income level where you don't have to pay USA taxes as a expat and filed every year. But.... you freaking insidious criminal you... a computer somewhere says you owe some back taxes. And your passport gets cancelled.



Enter the World Passport. Issued by the World Service Authority based out of Washington DC. A PRIVATE organization. These wildasses feel passports are bogus and issue you a passport as a "world citizen" for $100 for 10 years. You supply the little passport pix, as normal, and prove you are you. Looks like a passport, smells like a passport, doesn't scan microchip wise like a passport (sorry!!). Or $75 for 5 years. Takes 2 months usually but you can get it quicker for a fee: $40 for 20 biz days or $150 for 2-3 biz days (for you Assange types).



Sorry Fred Q. USAnik...... accepted by just a handful of countries worldwide. But, glory be, one of them is.... Ecuador. Dig it.



Here's the rub. You can't get back into Peru with it. And thus you'll have to disappear into Ecuador until the whole sorry world passport system either collapses, the USA is recognized as a police state and asylum is a no-brainer almost globally elsewhere, or you marry a local. Lucky for you, groovy waterman type Fred, Ecuador has great waves too. You can call your buds back in Mancora and have them bring your stuff up for you.



But..... at least you won't be deported back to the motherland for tax dollar cavity searching by the IRS and Homeland Securitys finest. Because they feel they own you as their tax slave and you went off the designated reservation somehow. Thank the Great Maker you had a bit of vision, Fred. Oh yeah, it was your girlfriend who lined it up for you but so be it.



That's about it. A back-up plan for those who do not want to jump through the flaming hoops of gaining residency in another land and thus, eventually, a second passport. For you "permanent tourist" types or those who just can't afford all the fees and costs of getting residency and a second passport.



Even Doug Casey has one and has used it successfully here and there. Seems to depend on the border situation, like, for example, some remote andean crossing between Bolivia and Argentina along with a quart of good scotch.





  Worth a shot...........................

On Surviving Cancer 20 Years Now....



Almost 20 years now since stage 4B Hodgkins. Never thought I'd last this long. Oh the things I have seen and done for the last 2 decades that I would not have otherwise. I am very lucky to have enjoyed more planetary time in this embodiment of the Great Spirit.

Each year I live with no real long range plans. For 20 years I have tried to live simply, with low stress, and tried to be happy. All this adds to a good immune system. So no Captain of Industry endeavors. Lots of boatbuilding, a fair bit of sailing, and great traveling and living some cool places with a bang-up wife. It's worked so far.



Remission stats were something like 50% after 5 years for a guy with my severity of cancer. I had gotten down to 160 pounds on a 6-3 frame, had lumps all over my body, sweated the bed horribly each night, never could get warm, and had about zero energy overall. I attribute it all to one night I severely ODed on epoxy paint fumes while painting a ships galley in the merchant marine with no respirator.



One 6 month round of chemo looked good then failed. A second 6 month round, this time with a shitpot of steroids, failed. My original doctors bailed. My asshole wife of the time bailed when the money ran out (a relationship going south anyway). I signed up for a experimental regimen for a bone marrow transplant. Free.... but you had to sign off on it. That culminated in 24 hours straight of IV burnout chemicals, me flipping around in the bed semi-mindless like a catfish fillet in a deep fryer. Each day for a few weeks after I forced myself to push my little IV cart around in the halls for as far as I could walk.



That one took. I remember going in a month later to be tested and got the all clear. In the basement hallway of Shands hospital (UF Gainesville) I sagged into the wall in relief. My parents helped me out with a place to stay and for that I will be eternally grateful as I needed time to get my head straight from that and divorce. Time in Mexico helped too.



Stress is a weird thing. I kept a stiff upper lip for most of it. But during a stint as a sub teacher (to stay busy during the first round of chemo) I had a flat tire on the way to the school. I was weak already and changing the tire was exhausting. Once I got to the school I was walking up the stairs and just started crying. A teacher asked me what was wrong and I choked out "I don't know what's wrong". And didn't. But I see now that you can only load up so far then you have to unload. The ole emotional battery thing. I cried heavily a good 5 minutes straight. Then was OK again.



You can see this in cinema in the WW2 tank battle movie "Fury" with Brad Pitt. As tank commander he is war weary but, at one point, after keeping his shit together before his men after a tough moment, he walks off all tough and ducks behind a building to just cry. He gets it out and continues on.



Anyway...... it took months to get my energy back. My white cell count was below the normal bottom for a long time. It still is barely normal. I'll take it!



So anyone who wonders why I don't have a shitpot of money can figure it out now. I've had a lot better things to spend money on over these past 20 years, and better things to do with my time. And I could relapse tomorrow. I'm going to try to be true to my waterman pleasure because that's what makes me happy and when I am happy I am healthy. Period. Helping others makes me happy. T makes me happy. This hobby blog makes me happy. Surfing and sailing make me real happy. I am happy as a clam when boatbuilding. So sue me.... I am going to try to stay happy.



If this little missive has escaped bird cage liner for you then maybe you'll take away the idea that there is nothing wrong with keeping yourself happy. You'll be better for others as a result. And maybe actually reside in happy memory a bit longer as a result when you finally absorb back into the Great Spirit. Peace be with us all on our planet side journey and beyond.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Oaxaca Living Costs Feb 2016 (w/ pictorial market ramble)


Time to share some of our living costs in southern Mexico as of early 2016. In our 2 years here the peso has gone from 12:1 to 18:1 so we're riding a wave of falling pesos right now.... as long as it lasts anyway.



That's me tromping out of my barrio to catch a city bus with T to the central market. Temp maybe 71 or so about 9 am up at 5100 feet here in the outskirts of the capital city of Oaxaca state. Altiplano weather: the land of eternal spring all year long! I dress down around town and wear a old backpack. There are plenty of old gringo expats in Oaxaca city wearing LL Bean stuff. We prefer to live WAY off the usual gringo runs and Oaxaca is not that at all. But.... I am working on that. Meanwhile, better to try to dress down, not be flashy, and blend in. At 6-3 a bit tough for me in the land of shorter people but I do what I can.







A few hundred meters from the house we catch one of the plentiful 7 peso buses to the center of town and the central de abastos (supplies center: most every big city down here has one). In USA money about 40 cents apiece. Never wait more than 5 minutes usually. A taxi would cost about 60 p (maybe $3.35 or so). Local taxis are about 30p.




If you haven't caught on yet I am doing this price briefing "adult picture book" style and am tagging the various costs in as we go.








Backing up a bit here's our rental. It's 4000 pesos a month and includes WIFI, power, water, trash, furniture, art, and even came with a stocked bar. That's about $225 US at 18:1. It's a deal for down here. 5000-6000 is probably more realistic but shows what you can do if you network and look hard, which Tamara did on a scouting trip to Oaxaca before we moved our stuff here from Comitan (in Chiapas state and further south from here). We have great neighbors here and we sit at the edge of the Monte Alban ruins road and rural country yet are a 15 minute bus ride from the center.








Me cruising one aisle of the monstrous, city block spanning central market. Tons of produce here and dirt cheap. A bag of 15 tangerines, about a kilo or so, is about 70 cents. A huge cauliflower head is about 20 pesos ( $1.10 or so). Kilo of avocados 20 pesos. Kilo of ground pure pork from tenderloin is 90 pesos and ground in front of you. Fresh cheese 45 a half kilo. Bananas 10 pesos a kilo. Tomatoes 15 p a kilo. A huge bunch of garlics 5 pesos.  Herbs and spices way cheap, like out of this pile:







This lady is a herb seller and check out her selection.







Eggs, like in this egg outlet, about 18 pesos for a rack of 20. Or about a buck US right now at 18:1.







We do ourselves a BIG favor and buy a "verde" (green) type of fresh juiced drink for 20 pesos ($1.10 or so). A bath for your guts: celery, nopale cactus leaf meat, aloe, cilantro, spinach/kale and all in a orange or grapefruit juice base. Very clean. If the locals are flocking to a place it's generally safe to eat or drink there.







Another glimpse into the bounty of food that comes from 4 growing seasons in the land of eternal spring. This portion is outside the main market, as are a lot of satellite sellers. This aisle stretches a good soccer field length and is wall to wall locally grown stuff. And is just a portion of what's in the central de abastos.







This meat sellers aisle stretches a LONG way deep into the main market building. We buy, so far, from number 51 and the guy already calls T by her name. Beef is as expensive as the US. Pork and chicken are way cheap. Why? A mystery right now in our green expat journey.







T chats up the meat guy.................







Tamara buying avocados......







Different types of the local Oaxacan specialty, mole. Green, yellow, black, coloradito, etc.. You mix it with chicken stock and render it down and it goes on meats, rice, potatoes, in tamales, etc.. A little goes a long way...... wonderfully spicy.







A long row of cheese sellers and a lot of them outside the main building as well. In all shapes and sizes. The local variety is called "oaxaca quesillo" and is a stringy cheese with a more pronounced flavor than mozarrella. Cheap!







T likes coconut water. Very good for you. Ladled out in a plastic bag with a straw in it. 10 pesos (about 60 cents or so).







Where we buy our coffee. This guy specializes with the locally grown stuff from Pluma Hidalgo, a small town of 3000 folks just a hour up from the pacific ocean at 4800 feet. A kilo is 150 p. That's 2.2 pounds for about $8.30 US. We get it whole bean and grind out daily. Yummy.........








And so we head home. I could have taken our van but it would have cost us far more in gas and all the hassle of parking.




That was this particular ramble. On another ramble I bought about 40 pounds of beans (many varieties locally) for about 40-50 cents a pound. Honey is about 100 pesos a quart. A fully roasted chicken at the local regular grocery store down the street from our barrio is 69 pesos or about $3.90 and comes in a regular plastic container with pop off lid. A six pack of good Bohemia brand dark beer is 96 pesos or about $5.30 US. I like the working mans lager, Superior, at 51 pesos a 6 (about $2.90) and tasty ice cold with a squeeze of locally cheap lime on the frosty rim with each working mans sip.




I'll finish with some other items germane to the expat experience.




Dominoes pizza specialty grande on Thursday special for about 7 bucks and good for 2 meals for T and I. Small three wheeled and enclosed taxis for 6 pesos apiece or about 35 cents each down to the mall. Matinee at the movie on a really nice cineplex with about 12 screens is $1.65. The english versions are few and far between and usually at 10 or 11 pm but we did luck out and see Star Wars 9, in english, at the matinee. Otherwise good to listen in spanish to practice and, of course, the big screen experience is nice for blockbusters.







Three wheeled taxi is 6 pesos (worth mentioning twice) a trip but just run inside barrios and to the mall. Most seem to be made in Italy. Immense fun to ride in these and how nice they'd be for the USA cities. Mom and pop pineapple stand across the way.




Lots of neighborhood food sellers buzz the neighborhood in carts, clapped out cars, etc selling tamales, ice cream, otole (spicy corn drink and in many varieties), fresh made tortillas, etc. and quite inexpensive. Really nice, big tamales, with pork or chicken, in mole or verde sauce, cost about 10 p apiece (55 cents US or so) and two will fill you up. Most vendors have regular routes and the food is clean.... otherwise they'd quickly be out of business. Each has his own distinctive cry or horn or whistle. But street food in stands is great too and Oaxaca has a foodie reputation overall in Mexico. We have a favorite family run food stand in the Lions Park area and it is cheap and delicious.




That's a bit on costs here in 2016 so far. Inflation doesn't seem to really be taking off down here and I haven't seen huge price increases in the last 2 years overall. If the peso keeps getting hammered though I wonder if eventually there will be a devaluation like in 1995. Who knows? With oil prices so low and Mexico being a big exporter..........




You can only work at getting yourself resilient down here for anything that comes down the economic pike these days. T and I are working at getting off the grid, somehow. The grid here is dodgy anyway.  One might purchase a small plot of rural land in a nice friendly community higher up in the altiplano (the sweet spot for us is 5000 to 6000 feet climate wise) but with climate change variables now it might be wise to go to 7000 or above. Cold ass nights up that high right now.







No civil liability down here to speak of..... you watch your own butt walking the streets. Here's some rebar sticking out at (my) eye level. I'd say the most dangerous thing in mexico is walking the streets. Lots of ways to get jacked up  (manhole covers left off, jagged holes, jutting objects, bus rear view mirrors conking you senseless as they pass, suicidal young motorcycle idiots, etc) so one learns to slow down and pay attention. 



It ain't perfect and has it's trials down here but, overall, a damn fine place to live overall. Gracious and polite society and politicos more interested in greed than control. As a perpetual tourist you are always treated as a guest and off the gringo trail often as a C-grade rock star. Just not a real salty place, this high desert, but I am working on that. If we can find eternal spring weather on a verdant coast..... now we're talking.