“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.”
The Value of Friends
When I wrote my last post in June 2020, I did not have a very rosy outlook for 2020-2021. The world, including Merida, was in the depth of the pandemic, and I spent most of my time cooped up in my house alone. I also felt some residual discomfort leftover from the Express Kidnapping I lived through in Puebla in January 2020-
In 2020, I settled down in Merida full-time after spending most of the previous nine years on the road, in Montreal or living part-time in Merida. But, honestly, my heart would have preferred to be on the road.
Thankfully, a happy set of coincidences aligned that made me feel glad to be anchored to Merida. While I still want to travel when things calm down, I am now excited about establishing a new chapter of my life here.
The reason for this change of heart: my friends: and my dog, Lobita. As the pandemic winds down, I plan to make even more friends through social events and volunteering around Merida.
I got my precious dog, Lobita, through a rather unexpected event. My friend, Ann Tanchuk (also mentioned in my post on my Express Kidnapping), went to Canada in late February 2020 and planned to return in early April 2020. However, she couldn’t come back due to the pandemic. After a mutual friend couldn’t take care of Lobita anymore, Ann asked me to care for Lobita. I agreed because I like dogs and thought it would not be for a long time.
I was mistaken. Ann just arrived in Merida a couple of weeks ago. I have had the dog for seventeen months and have fallen in love. I love Lobita because if I take good care of her, she will respond in kind. It is not complicated.
Last year she caused problems pissing on rugs, scratching at doors, etc. But just paying attention to her and making sure she got her food and regularly walked etc., she got better. Now she is a delight. I look forward to seeing her every day when I wake up.
Juan Carlos (and Chucho)
I met Juan Carlos, my dearest new friend, through Mario Leduc, in April 2020. We got together a few times in April, May, and June 2020 but couldn’t spend much time together because of the pandemic.
From April to August 2020, I ordered food for four months using Uber Eats. In early August, I realized that I could have Juan Carlos cook for me for almost the same cost. Juan Carlos needed a job. (He was a manager for a local hotel that closed its doors temporarily during the pandemic).
I realized that I would eat better if someone cooked for me. I also knew deep down that since I was depressed and alone, I needed someone in my life daily. So, it seemed natural that I would offer him a job as a cook and property manager. (By the way, I pay him around $400 a month for his services which is a good wage here. So good that when the hotel offered his job back, he refused because I gave him a much ¨cushier¨job than the hotel).
Juan Carlos is both an excellent employee and friend. He is very reliable, attentive, kind, and intelligent. His support has helped me get through my depression, take better care of myself, and design a new chapter of my life.
After I got my Coronavirus shots, I got to know Juan Carlos’s family and friends. One of his friends, Chucho, needed a place to stay, and I offered him my casita and a job helping me around the house. Chucho is very charming but a bit flighty. He is now studying to be a massage therapist with my help. I am hoping the school will help him get more focused and responsible.
I greatly care about my friends and Lobita and look forward to them becoming lifelong friends and essential parts of the next chapter of my life as a teacher and business owner.
Other Important Events
- Generally, dealing with my house in the past year has been relatively easy. Juan Carlos and I have found contractors to help when necessary, and he and Chucho have done some work themselves. I plan to offer classes here in 2022 and will need to spruce up the place beforehand.
- I received my temporary residency renewal quickly in January 2021. The last two times I tried to renew were a nightmare (see my previous post). However, the immigration office here in Merida has upgraded its technology so that it now only takes two weeks to get a residency card. In addition, I used the beneficial services of Yucatan Expatriate Services (YES) to help. I will try, if possible, to become a permanent resident in two years (probably with YES’s help).
- With assistance from Mario, Juan Carlos, and several doctors (including a local sleep doctor, psychiatrist, psychologist), I fought off a bout of depression and dealt with sleeping apnea. While I paid for all these services out of pocket,- all -except the sleep apnea machine, tests, and a brain scan- cost considerably less than in the US, and everyone seemed entirely professional. (An office visit for 45 minutes costs around $35-45; usually, you can get an appointment the same week, and doctors typically have appointments available at night). Most also spoke good English.
- I have had both doses of the Pfizer vaccine (first at the end of May, second at the end of June), but many people in the Yucatan have not. Most things are open, but the overall situation is still somewhat tricky. Both shots were easy for me to get for most people in my age group and older. Now they are taking younger people and people who have not received the vaccine before. It seems to have gotten more difficult for them. (Juan Carlos, who is 26 years old, got his chance to take his first dose in early September). The Coronavirus situation is not as bad as last summer, but there is still a significant death rate. (The number of reported cases of Coronavirus in Mexico is relatively irrelevant because access to testing is limited and has been throughout the crisis). People are still mostly wearing masks though they have become more relaxed than in the past.
- A couple of weeks ago, Juan Carlos convinced me to try to lose weight. (I am fatter than I’ve ever been before, having gained around 10 kilograms during the pandemic). Most Mexicans visit nutritionists when they want to lose weight. So, I decided to follow in their footsteps. I spent over an hour with a nutritionist, and she was able to set me up with a menu based on my needs, tastes, and habits. Juan Carlos has religiously cooked the menu, and I am pleasantly surprised so far. The food keeps me feeling full, and it is all quite tasty. If I keep to this diet and begin integrating exercise into my routine, I should achieve my target weight in about a year.
Rediscovering My Love For Teaching
Teaching Juan Carlos
I also rediscovered something I’ve always loved doing: teaching. I taught in Russia in 1994-5 as a volunteer under demanding situations. The classes did not have a regular schedule, and there was no curriculum. I enjoyed the freedom to try new things and found it an excellent way to learn about Russian people.
Between fall 2005 and spring 2009, I taught seminars in living and traveling abroad to over 500 classes through adult education programs throughout the USA:
In December, Juan Carlos asked me if I could teach him English. I thought about it for a while and realized that I missed the classes that I taught in Russia and the seminar teaching. I loved the creativity required to develop a lesson plan and wanted to see how much teaching had changed in the 26 years since I taught in Russia.
I was delighted to discover the rich array of resources on the internet and YouTube that did not exist 26 years ago. I also rekindled my love for giving lectures about cultural and societal differences between the US and other countries.
Juan Carlos and I have studied together for around an hour and a half a day for eight months (equivalent to 250 class hours). He has made substantial progress. He can now handle and understand most English conversations with little difficulty. We have used many YouTube videos, songs, TV clips, audiobooks, and vocabulary-building exercises (My favorite is based on Jeopardy)
Check Out the New Face of Fifty-Plus Nomad
As a result of rediscovering my love of teaching and a desire to change my website to ensure that it better meets the needs of the Fifty-Plus Nomad community, I have completely redesigned my website and launched a new business and will offer individualized Spanish and English classes and the following seminars in my home in Merida, Mexico in 2021:
- How to Learn Spanish (and English) Like a Polyglot — 2 weeks
- Living and Traveling in Mexico – 1 week
- Survival Spanish (and English) for Travelers and Expats- 2 weeks
- How to Be a Fifty-Plus Nomad: Make the Most of Long-Term Travel and Expat Life – 2 weeks
Other Posts About Paul Heller, Founder, Fifty-Plus Nomad
- Yippee! I Was Interviewed on the Retirement Rovers PodcastListen to my interview on the Retirement Rovers podcast and let me know what you think-
- Introducing The New Fifty-Plus Nomad Blog: The Perfect Place to Begin Your Long-Term Living and Traveling Abroad Adventures Over 50Visit the all-new Fifty-Plus Nomad blog and learn all my tips for long-term travel and living abroad gathered from my 16 years of first-hand experience.
- My Complex Language Learning History: How I Learned 4 Foreign Languages Without Going CrazyI have learned Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian using a wide variety of methods. Some were more successful than others. I believe the most effective way is to combine several methods like I do with my exclusive polyglot method.
- Check Out My One-on-One Spanish and English Classes in Merida, Mexico: I Can Help Anyone Learn Using My Exclusive Polyglot Method (Coming Soon)Introducing Fifty-Plus Nomad Spanish and English classes in my home in Merida, Mexico. Come learn Spanish or English using the same techniques used by polyglots to become fully conversational in multiple foreign languages
- What a Difference a Year Makes: How I Found Contentment with Friends and a Dog in Merida Despite CoronavirusWhile I haven’t written any posts, the last year (Summer 2020-Summer 2021) has been very eventful. I have developed some essential friendships, improved my health, and really settled down into my new life as an expat in Merida.
- My Surprising and Complex Journey from Nomad to Expat in Merida, Mexico During CoronavirusIn March 2020, I decided to live full time as an expat in Merida, Mexico. It was not an easy decision. I spent 2011 to 2015 as a full time traveler. From 2015 to March 2020, I lived part time in Merida and Montreal and also traveled three to four months a year. Right when I was excited about becoming a full time expat, the Coronavirus pandemic happened and changed my plans even more.
- Mumbai, India: The World’s Most Surprisingly Interesting CityFind out why I consider Mumbai as the world’s most surprisingly interesting city. Mumbai is dirty, crowded, and polluted but also very sophisticated, modern, and culturally diverse. It features some outstanding museums and sights, too.
- Lessons From An Express Kidnapping in Puebla, MexicoIn January 2020, I was a victim of an express kidnapping in Puebla, Mexico. I discuss what happened to me and what I learned about travel safety from the incident.
- Why Pack Light Advice Doesn’t Work for Me (and May Not Work for You Either)I have had more problems because I packed too light than too much. Packing light advice is mainly geared toward people who are going on a whirlwind trip through Europe independently. I usually travel for long periods and stay in only a few places often with great climate variations. I also hate washing my own clothes.
- My Temporary Home Base in Montreal: 10 Reasons I Loved Coming Home During My Five Year Trip Around the WorldDuring my round the world travels,, I was glad to spend tree months every year at a home base in Montreal. Not only did I grow very fond of Quebec and Eastern Canada but it was fun to just do day-to-day activities with friends.
- Frequent Flyer Miles: A Lazy Man’s GuideThis is a synopsis of my use of frequent flyer miles during my round the world travels from 2011 to 2015. It should help you to see how the programs have changed in the 2010s and give you some ideas how you can design a frequent flyer strategy that works for you.
- Round the World Travel: My Top 4 LessonsI learned four lessons from my five-year journey around the world: 1) Mix group and independent travel; 2) Travel to varied parts of the world; 3) Avoid travel burnout, and 4) Have a home base.
- 24 Top Food Tips for TravelersDiscover tons of tips for finding authentic food while traveling. Learn about some of my favorite dishes and drinks.
- My Favorite 50+ Top Travel MemoirsThis is a list of Paul Heller’s, the Founder of Fifty-Plus Nomad, top 50 travel memoirs.
- 10 of My Favorite Travel Stories From Around the WorldThis blog contains some of Paul Heller’s, the Founder of Fifty-Plus Nomad, favorite stories about his ten or so years of traveling worldwide.
- My Own Travel Personality InventoryPaul Heller, the Founder of Fifty-Plus Nomad, has outlined in detail his own travel personality. This inventory was developed after taking all the quizzes and answering the questions contained throughout the travel personality section of the blog. It is intended as a model for other fifty-Plus Nomads to use in developing their own inventory.
- Yaizu, Japan and Gatchina, Russia: My 2 Most Magical Travel ExperiencesTwo of the best moments of my life occurred while traveling. The first was the overwhelming kindness of Japanese people that I met spending summer 1979 as a fourteen-year-old exchange student in Yaizu, Japan. The second was an unexpended exclusive visit and dinner at the Czarist summer palace in Gatchina, Russia, in 1995.
- My Favorite Music and MoviesThis is a list of Paul Heller’s favorite movies and music