This is a story about serendipity or Divine Order. You decide.
My intention from the decision point to come to Morelia, Mexico was for more than a short term tourist stay. Like most adventures we can only see so far ahead on the journey’s path. If you would like the background you can find it a journal entry to commemorate my arrival on February 27th of this year. Five months went by fast and I had a month left to renew my tourist status for another six months or apply in the same time frame for a temporary resident status. Both of these required a trip back to the US.
My own Internet research affirmed that for a number of reasons a temporary resident visa was in sync with my intentions. Morelia United is a small congregation of mostly retired Expats from the US and Canada that gather once or twice a month and on special occasions to connect. Some of the members of that group made introduction that confirmed my intention and became advisers and participants in process that unfolded.
Michael Dunham was my transit connection from the US to Morelia and introduced me to the group in my first days here. The story of my connection with Mike is a tale in its own right. In short, Mike was a software consultant in California and reached out to me in the early days of my software company. He later became the COO for a Morelia software company and on his retirement decided to make Morelia his home. He is now an accomplished photographer whose primary interest is in the jazz scene here.
Morelia, with all its many charms and attractions , is not a hub for international airline travel which I hope to become important to Workplace Hidden Opportunities. It also proved problematic for my return to the US for the necessary paperwork and documentation. The sequence of personalities and events of Turista a Residente started in my first few weeks here with an invitation to visit Jan Starr and see if her home might be a candidate for my rental needs. The visit with Jan, which deserves its own extended vignette, and her spacious home in the Vista Bella neighborhood south of Centro Historico introduced me to two of her go to taxi drivers she used for special occasions. Gabriel and Jesus both spoke English which she knew was a requirement of mine. She called as our visit was ending and Gabriel picked me up, we discussed potential future engagements, and he deposited me back downtown near my temporary neighborhood at Mike’s on Calle Aldama. Jan is an 87 year old Canadian who resides half of the year in Morelia and the rest in her home in Thunder Bay. She is human vibrancy and spirit extraordinaire.
The week I began my active search for my own apartment with only a few weeks time in Morelia, Mary Chacon placed an ad for her rental apartment (which had been in her family for a long time) on Aquiles Serdan in a neighborhood which I was yet to encounter about twelve blocks from Mike’s place on Aldama. We exchanged messages through the day and made arrangements to meet at the apartment that evening.
A short but important aside; the first days here I injured my right leg on extended walks. The combination of the 6000 foot elevation change from Nashville and challenging pedestrian walkways added a sciatic nerve disruption. The environment and circumstances did not allow for the rest and rehabilitation my leg was calling for.
The evening I met Mary and her husband, Jorge, the pain had become excruciating, but not so much so that I could not see the potential for the apartment. I expressed my interest, disclosed my circumstances, including that it would be several more weeks before I could move. Mary and Jorge ended up taking me to the emergency room at Star Medica that evening which I had identified as my vital next step. The whole medical saga is a story for another time and place. The next day I showed Mike the link to the apartment and it was clear that he was impressed with both the apartment and the neighborhood. Mary and I agreed later that day and the lease signing and move was scheduled for the evening of the 25th of April, some three weeks later.
The day before the move I called Gabriel to see if he would pick me and my two bags up and help with any translation issues. After a celebratory dinner with Gabriel in the neighborhood I spent my first night at Aquiles Serdan 803 (Aquiles Serdan was a leader in the Mexican Revolution and the number 803 in numerology translates to Eleven). It is worth noting that all these events have occurred on the fourth Wednesday of the month, my key financial transaction date, which has been around the time of the full moon this year.
On a return from Panoli, a bakery and cafe on the Portal Matamoros across from the Cathedral, after a late Saturday breakfast I got a taxi to bring me home. Within a few blocks Jesus Lopez (Jan’s earlier other reference) and I were connected and we spent the next hour getting acquainted. We talked about my need for help acquiring a temporary resident visa and the month deadline that was before me. He was well acquainted with a lot of the Expat community and referred me to one of the Morelia United participants, Nancy Reddish, who I had met only a couple of weeks earlier. She in turn introduced me to Rossy Izquierdo as consultant who could help.
Rossy met me at my apartment on July 25th and we began the consultation 33 days before my tourist permission expired. She validated my intention to become a temporary resident and outlined the process and cost it would take to accomplish. Morelia with all its charms, history, and gracious people is not a convenient hub for air travel. The airport is remote for most and even planned in advance the flight costs are exorbitant. For me Laredo was the closest US destination by bus to advance the process and seniors can travel at fifty percent of the regular price. Most of Rossy’s clients are not as cash flow constrained so getting me to Laredo, guided through border crossing, and process at the Consulate were an exercise in creativity which she excelled.
As I have shared with a few of my friends the story of any protagonist whether in fiction or life is one of obstacles. The most luxurious buses only have twenty-four oversized reclining seats with individual WiFi. The bus terminals look like modern airport facilities in the US. The bus we arranged left at 8pm on Sunday and arrived in Nuevo Laredo at 11am on Monday.
In my first few weeks I had met Ana Espino and her son at Onix on the Portalas on a Sunday afternoon. She spoke no English and her son spoke some. They greeted the gringo and we did our best to communicate with cell phone translators and connected on Facebook. Ana and I shared several attempts to connect but the distance between our two communication capabilities made it too difficult. After I moved to Aquiles Serdan and knew I needed help I posted a search for a personal assistant on Facebook. Quite a few weeks later I received a message from Ana there and after some challenged translated messages back and forth she was interested in meeting me. We arranged a time. She arrived with her son. We discussed my needs and hers with her son translating partially in in talk and a lot with our cell phones. Unknown to me at the time another angel had appeared. Ana was going to come once a week and clean the apartment on Tuesdays. July 3rd was her visit including getting keys for herself and all the supplies she needed. What she accomplished on that first visit was beyond my expectation. The following week she began shopping for me at the mercado as well. The eve of my departure for Laredo I left her a message about my trip and that her money would be on the table and I looked forward to seeing her the following week.
Jesus picked me up at my apartment at 5:00 and we had a two hour chat before the bus departed and talked primarily about his tour business which is extraordinary. Rossy had reconnected with contacts of hers from six years earlier in her own move back from the US to Morelia. They had a border crossing and transportation business and we agreed to having their son as guide and caretaker from my arrival through the process and departure on Tuesday afternoon or evening after the scheduled appointment at 9am the Consulate in Laredo. Rossy was at the ready by phone to interface and translate through the entire adventure. Oscar, the son, spoke English and as the saying goes the plan looked great on paper.
The bus, unknown to any of us, arrived not at the main new bus terminal in the heart of Nuevo Laredo but in a secondary location that reminded my of a scene from Night of the Iguana. There was no sign of Oscar on arrival and Rossy began the connection search immediately. At one o’clock he arrived with not so much English. The open air terminal, flies, crying babies and coming an goings of the passengers in the 95 degree temperature had burned my toast. Oscar’s old blue pickup with litter on the floor of the cab did not inspire confidence for what was ahead. Fifteen minutes or so later we pulled up in front of the room he had arranged which was a sixties style motel with broken shades facing the parking lot and no sign of a lobby or restaurant. I pulled up my earlier search for hotels on my cell phone, pointed to one I had tagged earlier, and instructed him to take me there. At 2pm I checked in to the Colon Plaza Hotel and what looked and felt like an oasis in the desert. Just to recap the time frame it was now 3 hours shy of 24 hours from when Jesus picked my up at my apartment.
I went to the room turned down the air-conditioning and headed to the restaurant. Martini’s and some incredible food, a short ride to the second floor, carpeted padded floors, the best mattress and sheets (reminded my of the Cipriani in Venice), three hours of sleep, and on awakening I felt like a baby ready for his next feeding. Back to the restaurant, a bottle of wine, salad and I was feeling not intense pain. Francisco was at the desk, fluent in English, and I described my mission and appointment the next morning at the Consulate in Laredo. With confidence he said they had a courier service they used regularly for that purpose and called and the appointment was set for 6am the following morning. I called Rossy with the good news so she could relieve Oscar and it was back to bed.
At the stroke of 6am on Tuesday morning the phone rang to announce the courier’s arrival and five minutes later I met Sergio, checked out with no further charges, and climbed in the back of his 2018 showroom clean Chevrolet and we were off to Texas.
The early dawn drive along the Rio Grande before we got to the border crossing had me thinking of my childhood exposures in Washington DC; before the fourth grade Texas history lessons began in Dallas; the Alamo, Davy Crockett and my Tennessee transition from high school through my career; my recent move to Morelia; and now, the current state of affairs in our two countries; which in the grand sweep of things didn’t seem to have progressed that much. All of this in the kaleidoscope of the minds eye with nary a concern for the process ahead, thanks to Rossy’s thorough preparation and the quiet calm of Sergio.
The processional line of cars was already ten or twenty deep across all the open lanes which would only grow as the day progressed. This was my third border crossing. The first was on foot during a fraternity outing from The University of Texas to Nuevo Laredo in 1965 in the late night hours for cultural exchange of a different sort; the second was in my Volkswagen Beetle with my girl friend, Blythe, at spring break in 1966 on our way to Acapulco; and now. Ages 18, 19, and 70 respectively. What a difference a day makes.
The agenda in Laredo was an ATM for dollars to pay the Consulate fee and Sergio, the post office for my official change of address in the US from Nashville/Antioch to Seattle/Siverdale, the Consulate appointment at 9am, before the return to Nuevo Laredo bus terminal and a ticket for San Luis Obispo to break up the ride home. We drove by all the locations in close proximity to one another and it might as well have been Sunday morning. The border crossing had been that fast and smooth. Sergio and I went for breakfast at McDonald’s and I had my first egg, sausage, cheese and biscuit since my last workout at Planet Fitness the week before I left for Morelia and we talked about Sergio and his family of one child and wife with a bump in her stomach. Our use of translator tools on our cell phones kept the conversation moving.
We made the rounds and were at the Consulate at the appointed hour and the waiting area was already full with approximately 40 people waiting to accomplish a variety of tasks. Thanks to Rossy’s planning the process proceeded without a hitch in a little less than the estimate two hour time frame. There was one more stop at Immigration before returning to Mexico. Sergio knew the landscape like the back of his hand and about an hour later we were in Nuevo Laredo at the bus station buying a ticket for San Luis which didn’t leave until early evening. We went back to Colon Plaza, settled our accounts, did our adios, and I set up my office in the restaurant with a martini.
Francisco arranged a taxi pick up for the short ride to the bus terminal at at dusk I was on my way for the night ride to San Luis. My plan was to spend the day or even night, do some discovery, and recovery before returning to Morelia. It was just past dawn and in my search for a ticket there was a bus leaving in 30 minutes and my sleepless weary self was more ready for home than a short recovery and discovery could provide.
The good news was I got to see the first of the country side since the Monterrey to Nuevo Laredo leg of the earlier trip and the towns and cities as the bus made a few infrequent stops. The dichotomy of Mexico, its landscape, and culture is the dramatic time-warp that separates the old from the new – sometimes within a few blocks of each other. The distance from San Luis to Morelia is all at high elevation, rolling and rugged passing through the states of San Luis Obispo, Gueretaro, and into Michoacan. Nuevo Leon is one of thirty one state in Mexico to the north of San Luis Obispo and borders the US.
My project Workplace Hidden Opportunities resonated through out this pilgrimage. With all the discussion about migration from Mexico to the United States and too a smaller extent the migration of Expats in the reverse, this observation holds true for both. Mexico is more ripe with opportunity than I would ever have imagined. There are cities, to name two Santiago de Gueretaro and Monterrey, that are boom-centers beyond description. For the long-rooted agrarians where the leap to the information age is too far to go the industrial age opportunities abound. Population growth and age shift demand housing, commercial space, and infrastructure all of which means jobs. Public and private investment in those in Mexico is rampant.
People like the Ramirez family in Morelia are examples of that leadership. Regardless of where an individual is on their own evolutionary path there are three industries that provide unlimited opportunity: construction, hospitality, and technology at every level from entry-level day labor to the executive management.
My apartment was a site for wanting eyes and a sore body. Ana had come and the place was spick and span. I deposited my things, refreshed myself, and taxied to Onix on the Portalas where libation, protein, potassium, and friendly faces would remind me I’m home! Juan brought me a drink, laid a cloth napkin in my lap, and the prevalent gentle breeze on that corner of the plaza were like a hug from an old friend. El Amigo Gringo de Portalas had become over these past months a friendly face and acquaintance from the regular street merchants like Adam and map-man to the beggars whose workplace that was. It is amazing to reflect on the insights that had poured forth on that corner across from my first writing office at Virrey de Mendoza hotel lobby the week after my arrival.
Rossy, another of my earthbound angels, went earlier this week to the Immigration offices in Morelia to continue the residence status with everything in order and only two perfunctory steps remain. For today my passport and visa asserts that I am a resident of Mexico.
Turista a Residente has been an incredible journey and I know it had only just begun.
This is a story about serendipity or Divine Order. You decide.