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The New INM Regs Part 4

The helpful young lady at the Mexican Embassy in London promised to send me an email, and she was as good as her word. I had it, and all the information I need. I think. And providing I understand it all correctly, then this visa business should all be very, very straightforward. For me, anyway. I know that a lot of people whose circumstances are different may have some problems ahead.

I simply need to turn up at the embassy with Mrs P and a bunch of documents, and my visa will be ready two of three days after that. The documents? My passport. Her passport. Some passport sized photographs of myself. And our marriage certificate – apostille not required! Oh, and I need to bring originals and copies of all those. The consular fee is £22, and I have to pay a further £150 for the visa proper in Mexico when we get there.

The visa is good for two years I think, but doesn’t permit me to work. That’s not a problem – once I am in Mexico I can apply to have the visa changed to include work. I dare say another fee will be involved. There is a final  requirement though. It seems almost too easy, and almost pointless. Unless I have misunderstood, I simply have to provide some bank statements from the last six months that shows there has been, on average, a balance of £903 or more in my bank account. If so, that is again no problem. Have I got it right…?

Original y copia de comprobante de inversiones o cuentas bancarias con saldo promedio mensual equivalente a trecientos  días de salario mínimo general vigente en el Distrito Federal ($18,699.00 peso mexicano o £901.35 durante los últimos seis meses

The New INM Regs Part 3

After two weeks of constantly phoning the number provided on the London Embassy’s webpage, the call was both connected and answered! I was promptly given another number to ring – this wasn’t the correct number for visa enquiries. Which either failed to connect or went straight to an answering machine. Day after day.

But yesterday, Mrs P found a new number to ring. From where I do not know. She wouldn’t explain this piece of magic. It was magic because this number lead to a phone which was also answered. Happy days. Further, it was answered by a very pleasant and helpful Mexicana. She gave me some basic info – Mrs P and I will need to go to the embassy together with a selection of documents. What documents? She gave me an email address to write to, and she would reply with the list.

Our marriage certificate is of course a must. And we have that, so no problems. Except, there may be a problem. Does it need to be apostilled? She wasn’t sure, and will let us know. And if so, will we need to get it apostilled in Milwaukee where the wedding took place? Or can we pop into the US Embassy in London? Will I have a visa in time to spend New Year in the United States of Mexico. Will that country even still exist? We will find out shortly. In the meantime, let us pray…

Glow All Night-2

The New INM Regs Part 2

I suspect this could turn into an epic series of blog posts, documenting my efforts to obtain my Mexican visa. Perhaps it will be useful to people who come after me. Or forewarning for those who might want to put their lives to more productive use than enduring this process.

I phoned the Mexican Embassy in London today. Again. The line produced a range of results, from ‘this number isn’t recognised’ to an engaged tone. Until one o’clock, when the visa section shuts. Then their answerphone cuts in, telling me to leave a message or ring back some other time. Great. Mexican efficiency, or an overload of curious visa applicants?

The embassy website does show one bit of information that I like:

As of November 9, 2012 came into force new rules on immigration, in order to regulate the entry and exit of foreigners and Mexican national territory, as well as transit and residence of aliens in it. This, in a framework of respect, protection and safeguarding of human rights, contribution to national development and preservation of sovereignty and national security….

2. Visa Authorization family unit: Mexicans have the right to the preservation of the family unit so they can apply for a visa at the Consular Section for entry of the following aliens:

……

II. Spouse, which will be granted the status of temporary resident’s stay for two years, after which it may acquire the status of permanent resident stay as long as the marriage subsists

Which suggests an easier passage for me and my Mexican bride. But then there’s a bit I don’t like the look of so much…

If a foreign national wants to live in Mexico with his/her Mexican spouse, the Mexican national must apply for the entry permit of her/his spouse as Family Economic Dependant (Dependiente Económico) in Mexico before the National Institute of Immigration (INM).

Does that second passage suggest that Mrs P must be in Mexico? And if so, then where must I be? The UK? Or is it possible to get away with being in Mexico? Answers on a postcard, please. Or, alternatively, clever suggestions / interpretations / guesses…

The Mexican Winner

I’ve been looking out for Mexican dining options since arriving back in the UK in 2011. Sadly, most of the restaurants I’ve found purporting to be providers of fine Mexican cuisine are non-starters. I won’t even waste my time in walking through the door. The menu displayed on the window or door tells me all I need to know – Tex Mex. Which is not, of course, Mexican. It might be a good Tex Mex restaurant, but it’s not what I’m looking for.

I held out hoped for Wahaca, following the owners TV series. But that turned out to be 99% Tex Mex too. Not real Mexican food. I’ve since discovered Benitos Hat, but the atmosphere was a little dull. And Mestizos, but the staff aren’t the friendliest and the £55 Independence Day charge was extortionate.

That leaves just Lupitas, behind Charing Cross Station on the Strand. Not cheap, but not expensive either – a fair price. Genuine Mexican food. And a Mexican atmosphere. Mexican staff! It’s a real little piece of Mexico in London. We had a booking for last night at 9.30pm, but our plans changed and we had to do dinner earlier. They were heaving, but still managed to smile and find us a table for four. Look no where else for your Mexican experience in London!

Viva Mexico  Cabrones! I hope you all had a jolly good time if you were out celebrating Hidalgo’s big night.

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Mexican Olympics

The Olympics, Paralympics are over. Completely finished. No more turning on and off flames or waving Union Flags, or singing God Save the Queen, or pretending to sing the second verse of God Save the Queen, of which no one knows the words. It is over. But what a blast it was. Patriotism is something that has become controversial in some people’s eyes in recent years, with an accusing light shone (quite rightly) on the negative aspects of nationalism. But there’s nowt wrong with cheering on your band of brothers, and sisters, in a positive, competitive and sporting arena. And boy did we cheer.

Many great things have come out of the Olympics. Team GB won a bucket load of medals. The country had something to be happy about. The recession, austerity, murders and the impending implosion of the universe in general were all consigned to small columns buried deep in the back pages of newspapers. And Boris Johnson took a giant step towards becoming Prime Minister one day soon. You don’t know Boris? He’s the most brilliant, bumbling buffoon you could ever wish to see. A most loveable buffoon. Who tells it like he sees it. Sort of. His Team GB parade speech was great. His GQ speech better. And getting stuck on a zipline was no embarrassment. That’s the great thing about being a buffoon. There’s no such thing as a gaffe or awkward moment. Did you watch those videos? You might doubt my sincerity. But he’s definitely a PM in the making. Watch this space.

I cheered on the British team as loudly as anyone. In my rather reserved, not-very-loud manner. Except in the football. I cheered on Mexico. I would have cheered on Mexico even if they had come up against the British team. I cheered them on from the beginning. It turned out to be a great decision, given that they won gold.  I paid no attention to the British team whatsoever.  I’ve given up on England and Britain as far as national football is concerned. I still think it’s a disgrace that the English FA, and all other significant national FA’s didn’t simply resign from FIFA the moment that Qatar were awarded the right to host the 2022 World Cup. But then the FA are, and have for a long time been, an utter disgrace. A shambles. A national embarrassment.

I can’t quite believe they picked Roy Hodgson to be England manager. It’s as unbelievable as FIFA ranking England the 3rd best team in the world, when quite clearly they are not deserving of a place even in the top ten. For the Olympics they chose Stuart Pearce. Who is everything wrong about English managers. Some would describe him as a safe pair of hands. I’d describe him as the same old ‘one foot in the grave’ sort of chap. He didn’t pick Beckham for the Olympics. It was, Pearce claimed, a decision he made based on form. Beckham has been knocking in 30 yard screamers for LA Galaxy all season. Instead he picked Ryan Giggs. Who can barely get through a match.

Pearce is an idiot. You might think his prior record qualifies him. He managed Manchester City, a club he took from high up in the Premier League to near relegation, setting records for low scoring. He then lead England youth teams to various humiliating thrashings in world tournaments. So it made complete sense to install him as Great Britains first manager in decades…

I’m beginning to digress. Anyway, the upshot is this. I’m going to go and live in Mexico someday soon. I’ll never be Mexican, no matter what any document says. But I want to engage in being at least a little Mexican from time to time. I remember in the 1980’s, British Asians got a hard time for supporting the Indian, Pakistani and Sri Lankan cricket teams when they played England. Which was completely unfair. But still, it’s good to support your adopted country. And I have no problem in casting aside my home nation in favour of Mexico as far as international football is concerned. This is, it has to be said, my own way of protesting at the ineptitude of the English FA and the scam that is the England team. And I can be won back. But I don’t see that being likely in the foreseeable future. I make this pledge to Mexico – I will cheer on El Tri in Rio in two years time. Even if they play England.

As far as the Olympics are concerned though, I’ll stick with Team GB. One of the joys of having multiple allegiance is, of course, being able to pick and choose according to whim and current form! I’ll sign off my coverage of the London 2012 Olympics with one final video. One last blast of unashamedly brash patriotism. Courtesy of the Last Night of the Proms.

A New Mexico

The podcast I’ve embedded at the bottom of this post is a recent show from the BBC, called Mexico Rising. It is, happily, a more positive look at Mexico. Although when not looking at the ‘big’ picture of Mexico’s growing economy, it also paints the more personal, and often depressing, picture of life that most Mexicans lead.

There are plenty of very wealthy people in Mexico City living in plush homes in nice neighbourhoods. They are, needless to say, vastly outnumbered by those who live in poverty in shanty towns. It puts the economy in the UK into perspective. Whilst more and more people in Blighty need to look into a debt management plan to help sort out their finances, there are very few people this side of the pond who wonder if there will be a meal on their dinner table in the evening. The recession that began in 2008 was hard on Mexico. Harder than any other large Latin American economy, and harder than it was on either UK or US. But the country is rebounding

It will be an entirely new adventure for me. The Distrito Federal is full of opportunities and pitfalls. The battle with bureaucracy and corruption, with the ever present issues of health care and security – things we take so much more for granted in the UK. When I return to Mexico, it will be with a very different set of goals and challenges than I faced in 2003. I’m older, I’m going for longer. Things will have changed, and I’ll have to learn some of the ropes again.

I’ve been busy researching visas and other bits and pieces relevant to a fresh immigrant. Senor Calyso today points out how much outdated junk there is on the internet. He’s not kidding. It’s virtually impossible to sift out the current relevant data from the trash. In the real world, leaflets, brochures, documents and guides get binned and new editions replace them. In the virtual world, the old stuff that’s been lingering around for years seems to get pushed to the front of search engines. I’ve gotten in the habit of entering ‘2012’ to my searches. Sometimes that works…

I’m open to tips and up to date info, especially on visas and health care. I understand that legislation is ready to radically change the FM3/FM2 visas, but hasn’t yet been implemented. I don;t know what this will mean for me. Private health insurance is also important. I have a ‘get out of jail card’ in holding a British passport. Mrs P doesn’t, unless we stayed longer in the UK and got her citizenship, and I have to make sure she’s taken care of. I’m all ears. Enjoy the podcast.

 

 

Scale and Scaling

Every now and then I sell a photo. Not as many as I’d like, not as often as I’d like and never for as much as I’d like! But every sale is appreciated. For the cash it brings in, you see. Usually, sales are just from direct contacts from someone who has located the image on Flickr. But I discovered just a couple of days ago that I’d sold one through the Getty Images deal on Flickr. My first Getty sale. A whopping US$99 headed straight into my bank account.

I had signed up for Getty months ago. Nearly a year, I think. At their invitation – I had a couple of images that their customers were interested in. Sadly, I was unable to provide the necessary copyright paperwork to sell them. But they plucked four images to add to their catalogue. The photo below was one of them. I do like the photo. The critics on the Delete Me group also liked it. It was sent to the Lightbox as a winner by 10 votes to 3, probably my best ever result.

Anyone remember what that’s a photo of? I’ll save you guessing – that  was the giant, world-record setting, Pepsi sponsored Christmas Tree put up on Reforma in Mexico City a few years back. And it was taken with my lowly Panasonic TZ5. Getty are not, it seems, total camera snobs. I don’t get to find out much about what the photo will be used for or where though. I know that the purchaser was an Australian advertising company, and that’s it. Still, I have my $99, and I know where that is – in my back pocket. And that’s what matters most.

Scale and Scaling

Axes and Exiles

Seventy two years ago today, a  young revolutionary-minded Spaniard strolled into an office in a Coyoacan home and plunged a ice axe into the head of an old revolutionary Russian. A day later, Leon Trotsky died as a result of the wounds inflicted by the pick axe. His home today remains largely as it looked on that summers day in 1940. The photo below is one I took in 2009 of his desk, where he sat when the the fatal blow was struck. Although these days, the people sneaking around the compound are tourists, rather than Soviet assassins. It’s one of my favourite museums in Mexico City, yet doesn’t get the footfall it deserves. they really need a decent multi-language website, perhaps.

Political fugitives still exist in the 21st century. The most famous, or infamous, of which would be Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. I’m not sure I approve of what he’s done. Although I certainly don’t entirely disapprove, either. But regardless, I support his fight against extradition on two grounds. Firstly, I would not trust the Swedes to not extradite him to the US – and I most definitely do not trust the United States to afford Assange either a fair trial or even civilised treatment.

Iraqi jails, Guantanamo Bay and the incarceration of Bradley Mannings have somewhat tarnished the reputation of the US judicial system. Further tarnished, I should say – any country still operating the death penalty is a bit backward in my opinion. China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia….and the US. It’s not a good list to be in. Secondly, I do not like the way successive British governments have implemented and acted upon extradition treaties.

I am seriously disappointed in the way the British government has approached the impasse that has been created by the Ecuadoran government granting Assange political asylum. Threats to burst into the embassy and take Assange by force? That’s simply not on. It’s what you’d expect of a tinhat dictatorship. I really don’t believe it will happen. It won’t have much public support here. I hope it doesn’t happen – it’d be a national embarrassment and would reflect poorly on us as a member of the international community. I would hope it would be the death knell of our current government too. Perhaps the Liberals will grow a pair, pull out of the coalition and force a general election.

I’ve pretty much given up on the current government doing anything to help out the economy. As far as the average Joe is concerned, it’s just about watching the pennies and hoping the pounds will take care of themselves and not turn into Euros. I think most of us don’t fully appreciate exactly where all our money goes and just how much (or how little) expendable income we actually have.There are personal finance tools available, one of which I have been trying out. It is quite amazing how much money leaves my wallet on frivolous purchases. A proper money management tool really brings it home. It also makes it easier to see savings that can be made. There’s no need to wait until you are in the dire financial straits of the Greeks to start economising.

Here He Fell

The Mexican Connection

I’ve previously covered my recent trip to Paris with Mrs P. But there are a few more photos to share. The photos with a Mexican connection. In Mexico there’s plenty of evidence of a French Connection – the Battle of Puebla, the installation of Maximillian and the aftermath of the French intervention. Which, incidentally, began with British involvement. But we caught wind of the true intentions of the French, and withdrew. We weren’t the sort of country that just strolls in and takes over sovereign nations for the sole purpose of plunder. I think…. :)

In Paris, there’s less evidence of a Franco-Mexican bond. A corner dedicated to the Virgin de Guadalupe in Notre Dame wasn’t a great surprise. They are both Catholic comrades to the core. My moment of historical interest turned up elsewhere, during a walk through the Montparnasse Cemetery. I hadn’t been looking for it, and hadn’t consciously been aware it was there. But stumble across it I did.

The grand mausoleum of Porfirio Diaz, one the most contentious presidents in Mexican history. I’ve always found him a beguiling and fascinating figure. Modern Mexico has plenty to thank him for. Like many dictators, he left a fairly grand architectural legacy for us to enjoy. We also get a day off work each year to remember/celebrate the Mexican Revolution that his presidency caused. Whilst he doesn’t quite fit all the necessary criteria for an Enlightened Monarch, his ‘reign’ does make for comparison to some of the European kings and queens who ruled in that vein. For both good and bad.

The interior of the mausoleum looks as though it had recently been tended too. Not with too much vigour, mind. No dusting or window washing. But the petals look quite fresh. They could be plastic, of course. But even so, they still don’t look like they’ve been in there too long. Perhaps the Mexican Embassy houses a fan of the Porfiriana, who stops by the ensure the chief is remembered.

Vote Obama! Or Romney…

Everywhere I look, there’s political turmoil. It’s not surprising really, I guess – a sound economy tends to produce political apathy. Not many countries, if any, are boasting sound economies at the moment. It’s not election year in the UK at the moment, although the British political system and the uncertain state of the coalition does mean that that could all change. In an instant. The controversy of the moment is all about reform of the House of Lords. Some believe it should be an elected body, rather than the chamber of old unelected and unaccountable duffers it currently is.

I’m inclined to believe the status quo is preferable, although I’d like to see a few changes. The House of Lords does have a political role, although it can only delay the workings of the House of Commons, where the PM and MPs all sit. The Lords can be over-ridden. That’s a good thing. Having some involvement by unaccountable and unelected old duffers is also a good thing, in my opinion. They have a far greater tendency to show up because they have a passion for politics, rather than for the pay. They also tend to speak their mind, rather than follow the party line. And their opinions and thoughts aren’t swayed by thoughts of pandering to the electorate – they don’t need anyone’s vote. Some things need to be said, even unpopular things.

How about Mexico? I’m missing all the drama. I don’t know what all the fuss is about. Everyone’s been screaming for drugs to be legalised and the government to take control of the narcotics trade. They’ve got half their wishes granted, haven’t they? Apparently, if what I’ve read is true. Or even half true. There are question marks over the election, I grant you. Probably more than six years ago, even if the result isn’t as close. But I suspect that the PRI of new probably won’t be the PRI of old. If I’m wrong, let’s hope it’s the PRI of the Mexican Miracle and the not the PRI of the December Mistake. A lot is being said of the president elect and what will happen. I, on the other hand, think there is nothing certain about the new administration. We’ll have to wait and see.

How about our good friends in the US? I don’t know where to begin. They pay triple in health costs what we in Europe pay. And die earlier. I’ve been told by some defenders of the system that this is down to cultural reasons. You know…shootings and stuff. I’m not sure how that explains the higher infant mortality rate. I personally think it’s inexcusable for a developed country like the US to not have a government funded health service. For a number of reasons. We can argue about it in the comments if you like.

The November election looks far, far too close to call at the moment, although I notice those who really hate Obama have already declared victory. It appears that the big issues in the US at the moment is what colour is Obama’s skin exactly. And where was he born, exactly. And that Obama is a socialist. So, the same sort of stuff as four years ago and ever since. The answers, in case anyone is interested are: not important, Hawaii and no he isn’t by an awfully long shot. These answers will not appease morons, of course. I suspect most voters will mostly cast their ballots based on jobs and the economy.  I would probably vote for Obama if I had the vote. Purely based on his health care program (which is an awkward, unbalanced step in the right direction) and that he doesn’t believe in this.

Oh, and also because Romney hasn’t got a clue what the issue is with the 99% and 1%. To be honest, I don’t think most of the Occupy protesters have either. But there is something very wrong when an economy not only becomes so divided, but also exclusive.  This guy definitely hasn’t got a clue. And isn’t it ironic that when capitalism falls over, the only way of saving it is through socialism? The opposite can also be argued to be true. Either way, we need a system where everyone has a fair shot at success, not one where futures come pre-determined.

But what I’d really like to know, is which of the two contenders will be better for Mexico? Obama or Romney? I would like to hear some opinions on this subject. I suspect ole Mitt might be better for the Mexican economy going on track record. So perhaps I’d vote for him instead. One thing is for sure. He’ll always have a home away from home awaiting him in Mexico City – the Aztec inspired Mormon temple.

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The Gamble

In May 2005 when I stepped on a plane for Mexico, having quit my job and sold most of my (non digital) earthly belongings, I did so without really taking much of a risk. Most of my earthly belongings didn’t really mean so much to me any more, and the ones that did are easily re-obtained. If things didn’t work out, I had a home to return to and , more importantly, a choice of decent paying jobs to walk back into. I was taking the smallest of gambles, and it was worth a roll of the dice. It did indeed turn out that I had rolled a pair of sixes – I had a fantastic six years in Mexico.

In a few months I’ll be doing it all over again. This time, I’ll be going the whole hog. This time I leave with the intention of staying in Mexico for good. This time, though, is perhaps more of a gamble. There’s much more of a necessity to make it work in Mexico. I can’t keep chopping and changing my mind, crossing the Atlantic every few years. On top of that, I’m not a young chap just into my 30’s this time. I’ll be 40. Not old, I’d like to think. But it is an age where health care, pensions, retirement and a settled career aren’t frivolous matters that can be worried about tomorrow.

I’m looking at global events more carefully. The impending collapse of the Euro, followed by the collapse of the European economies is worrisome. It’d affect me if I stay in the UK. How will it affect me in Mexico? I find it hard to believe the ripples of a Eurozone meltdown wouldn’t have a profound affect on the US and Mexican economies. I’m also watching the Mexican presidential election with interest. I might get to vote in one of them one day. But not this one. Fortunately. Who to pick? The sleaze bag who has the most transparent agenda for six years of corruption?  Or AMLO, who is at least a conviction politician – even if his policies do threaten to plunge the country into an economic abyss. From 2006 to 2010, I’d never have imagined, for even a moment, that I’d ever consider AMLO my preferred choice. But I think he probably is. Or maybe not. I don’t know. Phew….I don’t have a vote to cast.

Going back to Mexico isn’t a bad decision though. In fact, I think for more and more people in the UK, moving abroad is a sound decision. It’s possibly the only decision, if the desired outcome is a comfortable retirement. Life in the UK has become extortionately expensive. I suspect more than a few corporate pension pots are going to be found to be empty too. A lot of Brits of my generation are going to find themselves selling up shop to be able to live on a decent income in their golden years. The one bonus of the UK’s hyper expensive economy is that the value of a house here will, largely by itself, fund a pretty nice retirement in a Latin American country.

Moving to a country with political and economic stability is a key factor though. Many surveys have shown modern Brits have the urge to upsticks and leave. We have a long history of doing so, although in the old days it was known as colonization rather than emigration. But most people are stay put. It’s their loss. But, hopefully my gain. We’ll start to find out in just a few more months. I just have my fingers crossed that, whoever wins this election, Mexico continues to enjoy what have been twelve years of comparative economic stability. The photo below is mine, from 2006.

Obrador

The Safety Factor

The photo below is a real front page story down here in deepest, darkest Dorset. The good people of Bournemouth are living in fear of old ladies and their mobility scooters. One old lady in particular, who callously ran over a ladies leg and then, having loitered around for about five minutes, fled from the scene at top speed. So, about 5  mph then. Distressed bystanders commented on how powerless they were to stop her. One of them lamented, ‘what can you do, rugby tackle a disabled pensioner in a mobility scooter?’ The first though that popped into my mind, was that one could casually stroll after her and place one hand on the front of the scooter to prevent its feeble motor propelling the vehicle any further. But I wasn’t there. I just simply don’t understand the terror.

How more far removed can you get from the graphic front pages of Mexican tabloids, with their beheaded bodies and other gruesome photo shoots? It’s easy to jump to the obvious conclusion. Mexico must be far more dangerous than the UK. The truth? It is! Far more dangerous! But that’s rather a broad truth. Sure, measure the murder rates per capita of each country, and there’s only one conclusion you’ll come to.

There are about five crimes that you’d think you could, potentially fall victim to on the streets of Mexico. Being murdered, kidnapped, robbed, assaulted or pick-pocketed. Being murdered didn’t worry me. Highly unlikely. I gave murder less consideration than I did my chances of winning the lottery. And I didn’t play the lottery. Robbed? It definitely happens. Probably a bit more in DF than in London, but I’ll bet there isn’t a massive amount of difference in it.

Assaulted? I never felt in fear of that in Mexico, and not just because the average would-be-assailant would need a ladder to clock me one on the chin. The average Mexican just isn’t particularly violent or confrontational. Not compared to the average Brit, who seems only too happy to lash out with little to no provocation. Pick pocketing? Pretty similar odds in both countries I’d say.

Then there is kidnapping. It is virtually unheard of in the UK, and when it does occur, it’s rarely the type of ransom inspired kidnapping that Mexico has earned a degree of infamy for. It’s usually a non violent, non threatening custody dispute between parents. There’s no way around it, as far as kidnapping is concerned, Mexico is much the more dangerous place. The prospect never kept me awake at night, but I must confess that of all these crimes it is the one I was most wary of, the one I would most worry about. Mexicans agree. The Green Party had plenty of support from people I knew there when they proposed executing kidnappers.

So where do I feel safest? Mrs P told me the other might that she’ll miss the safety and security of the UK. I understand her point. Me too. But there is one consolation. We can sleep pretty well at night in DF, safe in the knowledge that whatever the next day might hold in store for us, it is extraordinarily unlikely that either of us will have our toes mildly squashed by a rampaging, arthritic señora in a mobility scooter.

Travel Up One Way

I’ve never quite understood why a one way long haul flight costs the same, or more, than a return ticket. Or at least, I’ve never heard a rational explanation as to why. Flights from the UK, thanks to excessive taxation, have become prohibitively expensive. To the point that to get to Mexico City,  it’s cheaper to catch a bus to Paris and fly from Charles de Gaulle. In case you’re wondering, the Paris route, including a bus there, costs about £565 versus the £700 plus it costs from London. Ridiculous.

I do search long and hard for flights though, and start well in advance. And I may have stumbled across a potential bargain. It does seem possible to get a one way ticket to Mexico from London. There are two companies offering the fare. The first is Budgetair.co.uk, a shady looking company based in the Netherlands who are not ATOL members. I wouldn’t touch them with a very long stick.

The other is Travel Up, who look a bit more professional, are ATOL members and are based in the UK. They get mixed reviews, and I’m the positive ones aren’t convincingly genuine. It has to be said, people tend to leave reviews when they have something negative to say. I also understand what I’d be buying, and the consequences. Not a ticket from London to Mexico City with a connection in Madrid. I’m getting two single tickets, London to Madrid and Madrid to Mexico.  The flight to Madrid is with Air Europa, a Spanish airline, owned largely by Spanish banks. Which is further reason to pause. How will they be doing in September/October? Rest assured, I’d be paying with a credit card, not debit card. One would want the protection.

Normally, I’d probably steer clear. But it’s a one way ticket with a one way price. Plus, I need two tickets – that’s £780 instead of £1,400. It’s a big saving, to say the least. I’m going to keep checking them out, and monitor prices before I commit myself. I’ve been through the booking process as far as one can without typing in card details. It seems fine, and there was no sudden last minute jump in the price. We’ll see. And I’ll let you know. Travel Up will be getting either a rave review or a dose of literary wrath on these pages at some stage!

Religious Differences

I stumbled across the photo below when looking through some old snaps of Mexico. Churches and cathedrals in England* and Mexico are very different. As far as cathedrals go, England wins. Hands down. As impressive as the Metropolitan Cathedral is, it is (at least architecturally) a poor cousin of Westminster, St Pauls or Salisbury. In my opinion, anyway.

But cathedrals are few and far between. Churches, in both lands, are everywhere. Churches in England are best suited to the movies. They add great atmosphere as either backdrop or centrepiece on a dark night with a full moon shining eerie light across gothic parapets and adding a ghostly glow to the ground hugging mist.

But Mexican churches are much the better to actually visit. There’s none of the cold, spartan approach the English take to interior design. Every church in Mexico is an art museum unto itself. They ooze charcter and warmth. And, most importantly perhaps, a heavenly connection.

* I often switch between referring to my country as England, Great Britain and the UK. It may seem very random, and sometime is. Often not though. On this occasion I use England because I’ve never been to Scotland, Wales or Ireland. Not once. I’ve only been north of Watford a handful of times. Manchester and Stoke, once each. Leicester twice. All but the Manchester trip was at least a quarter of a century ago. It’s quite shameful, really.

Ink Angels

Bribery

I see Walmart is in the news, with a big bribery scandal surrounding its venture in Mexico. I was stunned. Shocked. Amazed. Since when was bribery a scandal in Mexico? It seemed to be standard fare to me. I don’t know exactly which other companies in Mexico have also  engaged in a little bribery from time to time, but if I had to hazard a guess, I probably say ‘all of them’. Yes, it’d probably be quicker to name the companies that haven’t participated in bribery, or it’s ugly twin sister nepotism. That’s amighty short list. None of whom are probably doing business any more.

I suspect high level bribery and cartels are rampant in most countries, including western ones, albeit to differing degrees. It wasn’t something which ever directly affected me in Mexico though. But low level bribery – la mordida – was pretty common. I had a few encounters. They are usually infuriating. But once the act is done, calm has been restored, and you’re on your way – well, it was a lot more painless that would have been the case for the same legal infraction in the US or UK. You get over it pretty quick.

I did fall victim to one slightly bizarre case of nepotism in Mexico though. I was hired by some university professors – English teachers themselves – to help them with their English proficiency. The big cheese in the university, a stern old lady, caught wind of the scheme and thought it was a great idea. Such a great idea, she decided to sanction the classes and have the university fund the course. I was invited to meet her for an interview/meeting/rubber stamping.

I arrived on time, to discover there was a rival for the job. A Mexican, who ran an English school. He was offering to give the classes himself. I hadn’t been aware there would be a rival. But I did meet with the lady anyway. She was stern. And surprisingly hostile. It ceased to be an interview, and quickly became an exercise in her finding reasons as to why I would be unable to teach this course.

How was my Spanish? Very poor at the time. How can I possibly translate during class then?! She said this with incredulity. I just got irritated. I asked if the other teacher was prepared to translate English to Spanish in class? He was, apparently. I suggested that, with this being a class of near fluent students, any teacher uttering a word of Spanish was clearly incapable and should be fired. Which is true.

She began to explain that sometimes it is necessary, to save time. I countered by pointing out that meanings and contexts need to be explored and answered in English, because this is, well….a proficiency level English class. As advanced a level as you get. And translations can be misleading. She disagreed. I asked her to translate ‘mas o menos’. She replied, smugly, ‘more or less’. Incorrect. It usually doesn’t. Not when used in context. I explained the context. She got irritated, and I a little smug.

To nail home my point, I reeled off a half dozen examples of why a native English speaker is needed at this level. Could my rival explain the context behind ‘bold as brass’? Of course he couldn’t. But of course, he got the job. My rival was, after all, the stern lady’s brother-in-law. The students didn’t take his class though – their level of English was, as they themselves attempted to explain to the stern lady, well ahead of the new ‘teacher’. Perhaps he would pay to be taught by them?

I’m sure my rival pocketed a tidy sum from the short lived and never fulfilled contract. At the taxpayers expense. And the stern lady, I’m equally sure, got a nice little kick back. I had been made aware, minutes before my ‘interview’ of the relationship between the two – and the undoubted outcome. The photo below…I took that from someone near Plaza Santa Domingo, a matter of days before I left Mexico. I shouldn’t think  many Mexicans were surprised that Walmart’s been naughty. I bet there’s a bit of surprise they got caught though.

Viva La Corrupcion