Updated Comment Policy for This Blog

This is an update to the comment policy for this blog that I posted in 2013. Unlike that post, this post is is most certainly in response to some comments I have received lately. I used to get excited when I saw I had comments waiting for me and they helped me feel that I was not blogging in a vacuum. But lately, I’ve started to cringe. I thought of just turning off comments for a while, but then I realised that I just needed to update  A Life By Design‘s comment policy.

-This blog is my home on the web and my readers are guests. I practice an open door policy and welcome dialogue. However, if you consistently use the comments section to make passive-aggressive remarks that have nothing positive to contribute, you will be blocked from commenting without notice.

A good measuring stick for whether a commenter deserves that is when I start getting emails from folks who are essentially strangers commenting on those comments and wondering what’s up with the commenter. To those emailers, I appreciate the solidarity, but please reply to the comment instead. If they’re not shy about being ridiculous in public, why should you be shy about calling them out for being ridiculous?

-I receive all comments by email, regardless of the age of the post. So you do not need to email me to let me know you commented on an older post. 🙂

-All comments on this blog are moderated unless you are a previously approved commenter. So if your comment does not show up, please do not recomment. Either I will get an email with the comment and, if it is legitimate, I will approve and reply to it or you were banned from commenting.

-Legitimate comments with a lot of links or no text (such as someone just commenting with an emoticon/emoji or with a punctuation mark) may end up in my comment spam folder. I do not get these comments by email. I go through the spam folder every few days and usually catch the odd legitimate comment, but if I don’t, please don’t be insulted. I get hundreds of spam comments every day and out of the thousands each month, I might get one legitimate comment in there so I really don’t spend a lot of time going through the spam folder. If your comment had something you felt I should know, then, please, do send me an email with the info!

-I reserve the right to edit comments. For example, sometimes someone will post a comment with typos and then comment to apologize for the typos. I will delete the second comment and fix the first one (I will not correct typos until the commenter points them out!).  Or if someone posts erroneous information and then follows up with the correct info, I will delete the incorrect information.

-I do not moderate comments, unless I feel that they are particularly inflammatory and will not lead any valuable discussion. I will never delete a comment from someone respectfully disagreeing with me or offering a contrary opinion, but, again, I may choose to eventually ban that commenter if all they ever do when they come here is nitpick.

-I reply to comments when I have time, usually within a few days.

Some Post Title Are Harder to Come Up With Than Others

I can’t believe I’m already at the two-week mark of being on my own here and the three-week mark of having landed! While I’m disappointed that there’s really nothing for me to walk to, I have plenty at home to keep me busy between long bouts of typing.

My chore list is nowhere near as overwhelming as I thought it might be and I’m having no trouble keeping up with it. I keep a calendar so that I know when I’m due to do things (because the days tend to run together) and I schedule work around the things that can’t be postponed (like watering the garden) and the things that can (like vacuuming the pool).

I’m really happy to have Puppy for company. I was apprehensive at first about minding him, but he’s proving to be a delight and really no work at all, not like my last two dog sits. Several play sessions a day get my heart pumping and give him sufficient exercise, but I’m otherwise not a “slave” to him since he’s an outdoor dog, meaning that he doesn’t have to be let out constantly and I can go out all day if I want. He follows me around the minute I step outside and he’s not shy about literally knocking on my patio door while holding his favourite toy in his mouth so that I’ll go play with him!

Work continues to be unrelenting, but I’ll have managed to make this month, even with being off a full week and only working half-days the second week to make, what I make in an average month! I know I can’t keep up this pace, but right now I’m spending money as fast as I’m making it so with some big expenses coming up, I really need to rebuild my savings. On top of house hunting, I’ve got Moya now making some alarming noises, so I’m trying to avoid going out with her unless I absolutely have to. Some trips, she runs absolutely normally and others she doesn’t, so it’s hard to pinpoint what’s wrong and how serious the issue might be. I thought at first that she needs new brake pads already, but it’s really too soon. It could be a bad bearing, rust, a steering component… I know that it won’t cost me much to have her looked at and repaired here compared to Canada, but it’s an expense I wish wasn’t on my list.

So that was one of the reasons I decided that I would walk into Chelem today to pick up some produce. It’s only 5KM round trip, so I thought it would be a quick trip and that I’d soon be home in the pool and then back to work…

Here’s that sand trap I got caught in three weeks ago:

Here’s Called 17, the “beach road,” looking towards Chelem…

And towards Chuburná

It was a very long and rather boring walk, although I did enjoy looking at the variety of houses. I was certain I’d come across a small shop along the way, but no! I finally made it into town and went to Willy’s for a few groceries, including flour, since I want to treat myself to banana pancakes this weekend! I also picked up a box of this:

You’d think that with the word puré in the name that it would be a super thick tomato concentrate, but it’s actually a very thin and well seasoned tomato sauce. It became such a staple my first winter in Mazatlán that I brought some back to Haven for the 2015 summer! I picked up some tricolour noodles on offer at Bodega Aurregá on a recent trip and thought that pasta might be nice for dinner tonight.

I also picked up two Montejo beers, a brand I discovered when I came to Mérida last year, and a few other sundries, including cinnamon-flavoured graham crackers that were quite the surprise when I opened the package while I was making tea a few hours later at home. Well, I was expecting the cinnamon part, but not the graham flour base, and I love graham crackers. I’ll have to remember those!

I also wanted some tostadas, but didn’t find any. Tostadas were quite the discovery my first year in Mexico. They look like a tortilla-sized yellow tortilla chip, but they are baked rather than fried and are not salty. I get all the flavour I like from a tostada and none of the guilt! I have some black beans, onion, lime, and salsa verde here at home and figured that I could pick up an avocado and some tomatoes to make tostadas de frijoles for one of my lunches this weekend. When I got to the till, I was asked if I’d found all I was looking for before and the gal laughed and pointed to a stand behind me. Ah, there they were with the baby food. Because why not?

Next stop was a produce stand. The first one I went to didn’t have anything nice, but the second did. My assessment last February that produce was going to be a disappointment here was correct. 🙁 Yucatán isn’t an agricultural state and it imports everything. So far, only Bodega Aurregá and Costco have had nice looking produce while the other supermarkets carry only very sad looking fare. It’s rather disappointing, but I imagine I’l find my sources for fresh things as I settle in. I did well for onions, lime, and jicama at Super Aki the other day and the stand today had tomatoes, potatoes, and an avocado that looked good. I also picked up what I thought might be the light green zucchini, but when I asked their name was told they are “pepino blanco,” or white cucumber. I bought two. I haven’t been able to find much info about them, but I’m sure I’ll come up with a use for them!

I headed home then and made the mistake of taking a different road, thinking that I could just meander my way back… Well, I found myself in a literal maze where I would reach a dead end and have to double back sometimes up to four blocks to be able to move forward any further. I’d forgotten how hard sand is on the feet and had nasty blisters forming, so the extra effort to get home was not appreciated. I was happy when I finally made my way back to the beach road and was able to make real progress towards home. I was incredibly footsore and exhausted by that point and am fairly certain that I won’t be doing that walk again. I’d really be better off taking the highway so that I can wear proper shoes and walk on pavement! At any rate, I jumped in the pool, then had a cold shower (the pool was too warm to be refreshing!), had a late lunch, played with Puppy, and went back to work.

It was almost seven when I stopped to make dinner. Instead of just the tomato sauce, I added a bit of crema, grated cheese, and a generous handful of dried basil to my noodles. The basil is from my neighbour Caroline’s garden back home. She sent me off with heaps of it, savoury, and oregano, and it is proving to be such a treat! It made my simple meal really something special. I then went back to work for a bit before going back to the kitchen to clean up and take out the trash.

Rediscovering my cooking equipment has been a real joy. I’ve missed it all, from my heavy bottom pots to my cast iron pans and especially my… rice cooker. I still haven’t done much real cooking yet, but I’m still building up my pantry. It’s lovely to be able to buy things with no concern about having to use them within a certain timeframe, plus I have a good sized fridge here so I can get the big jars of things like jam and peanut butter that I eat in large quantities.

I guess one could say that I’m in nesting mode. I had a Skype meeting with a client the other day and he commented on how different I sounded from when we spoke in March when I was still in Quebec. “I can hear in your voice that you’re home,” he said. “I’ve talked to you when you’ve been in half a dozen countries and you always sound different in Mexico, more peaceful.” Isn’t that something?!

I wonder how long this honeymoon period is going to last… However, looking at the stages of immigration, I think I may have very well jumped from honeymoon to ease-at-last. 😀

Well, I suppose it’s bedtime already. I’m going to have a very full weekend, but I’m really going to make an effort to treat myself to a day in Mérida centro next week. Just don’t hold your breath because it’s clear my clients have no intention of punishing me for the time off I just took!

A Social Experiment: Helping a Family in Need with a Basic Income

I would like to invite you all to contribute a few dollars a month to crowdfunding a basic income for a family in need.

Have you ever heard of the concept of a basic income? It’s the idea that everyone in a society receive the same unconditional amount of income to be able to meet subsistence needs. Manitoba ran a very successful basic income experiment in the ’70s. Finland is about is about to launch a basic income trial. The PEI legislature just unanimously passed a basic income motion. Basic income programs improve health as well as finances.

I’ve long thought that such a program could help my best friend Bast’s family.

Bast is one of the toughest people I know. She has a chronic illness that, unmanaged, makes it difficult for her to hold down a regular job. Living in a country where regular healthcare is practically non-existent to the poor (ie. the United States), she’s caught in a vicious cycle. She can’t maintain steady work because of her illness and she can’t get the medical care she needs that would allow her to work because she does not have sufficient income. Bast does work very hard, though, with her writing, zine, and proofreading business that allows her to earn money when she can and she is very resourceful. For example, she recently repaired the washing machine and she can do some work on the family car. I have no doubt that she is doing everything she can to provide for her family.

Bast lives with her elderly mother and her daughter, who both have their own medical challenges. Because they live in a rural area with no public transportation and don’t have a reliable car, her daughter can’t get a job either. However, because this is a family that has learned how to survive, her daughter is building her own transcription business to work from home. She’s doing well, but, of course, cannot support a family of three on her income.

What Bast and her family need is a basic level of financial security. To start, they want to make sure they can cover the mortgage every month, their medications, the bills, and food. In time, they would like to be able to afford a decent car and its maintenance and even some sort of health insurance.

If they lived in a socialist regime, like Canada or Europe, they would be doing just fine with a variety of programs available to them. But living in an individualistic country that hates those who cannot help themselves, they just keep falling through the cracks. I have known and loved Bast and her family for about fifteen years and I am so angry at how things for this family just keep getting worse as the few benefits they are eligible for are cut. They exemplify how the U.S. is not the best country on Earth, as evidenced by how it treats its sick, elderly, and disabled.

It’s been many years that I’ve thought that this family needs a crowdfunded guaranteed basic income and I finally found the platform to organize that.

Please visit patreon.com/bastravenshadow to learn more about Bast and her family and how Bast earns income every month. I know so many people who give hundreds of dollars a year in Kiva loans or who contribute to GoFundMes or provide donations in other ways to complete strangers. I would like to invite you all to help fund a basic income for this one family for as little as a $5 commitment a month. The idea is not for a few people to contribute a lot, but for a lot of people to contribute a little.

Bast has a list of goals on her page that show how her basic income will be spent to better her family’s condition. They’re not looking for a handout to live in the lap of luxury. They just want the same assurances we all do that they’ll have a roof over their heads every month, food in the pantry, and necessary medicines; things that should be taken for granted in a so-called first world country.

Bast is proud and has set modest goals. Her family needs so much that even just an extra steady $100 a month would help them tremendously. But I want more for them. I want to get them into better housing. I want them to have a reliable vehicle. I want them to have access to healthcare when they need it. I want them to be able to sleep at night without worrying about what new calamity they will face in the morning. And I want to save the the shame of having to go their friends every month to get help putting out a fire. So I’m hoping to crowfund them a basic monthly income of at least $1,000. Please help if you can.

Here’s a meme that Bast shared recently:

A Chess Game

I don’t play chess, but I have some vague notions of how masters play, that they are always several moves ahead in their minds, anticipating a number of scenarios. That’s rather how my life is. I’m always thinking far ahead, planning for what ifs, allowing for contingencies, and always doing my best to have an end game.

There are some bloggers who like to lay out their whole game plan ahead of times, with all its possible twists, for their readers to pick apart and dissect and give advice on. That’s just not me.

So that’s my mindset in answering here a couple of comments I got last night. I’m doing so in a post because I can imagine that other people are thinking things along the same line.

But before I start, let me digress for a moment and comment on an astute observation:

“I wonder if life is easier in Spain in the areas that have more tourists.”

Exactly. One of the reasons that Almería so appealed to me is that it is not on the tourist track and could show me the real Spain. One month here has taught me more about what this country is really like than any number of visits friends and family have made. This is why I want to travel, to see how people live in other places, not to play tourist.

Now, back to the chess game:

“No matter what happens you always have the option to fly back to Canada”

That has never been an option at this time of year! When I left, it was knowing I would be on this side of the pond till the spring and I had a loose plan to get me there, depending on what opportunities presented themselves.

First of all, I don’t have a home to go back to in the winter season. Power’s off completely, there’s no water, I don’t have any windbreaks set up, and I have no internet etc. Moreover, the cost of going back to North America is not cheap and once I get there, travel within the continent is even more expensive. The plan was always to maximise my initial ticket to get to this side of the pond and only return to North America when I absolutely have to.

Which brings me to another comment:

“However, this is not the time to fly back to Canada; it is like trading one cold country for another cold country, i.e., the UK. ”

I was always going to end up in the UK in early 2017. I’ll be a few months earlier than I planned, but it was always going to be my end point. One reason is that it’s the cheapest country to fly back from. A second reason is that it is where there are the most housesitting gigs. But the most important reason is that I can stay six months. This gives me a lot of options I didn’t have in the Balkans and in the Schengen area in that I can bounce around at my leisure and take longer sits if I want to. The climate won’t be great, but spring will come much earlier than it would in most parts of Canada.

“But, if you could find cheap transportation to and lodgings in Mexico for your remaining time”

And here is where we get back to my initial point about not giving my readers all the information. I will just say that Mexico is not an option right now for reasons that will become clear in the next couple of months…

So all that to say, I’m right where I need to be, albeit a few months earlier than planned. But that might end up working well if what I think is going to happen in March does happen. And even more so if what happens in May comes to fruition.

All this boils down to three scenarios for my return to North America. The only one I’m ready to discuss right now is my plan A that I left with last year — at some point in June, I’ll fly back from the UK to Regina with funds I’ve been keeping aside for that and spend the summer at Haven, riding the high of an amazing adventure!

Or maybe not… *evil cackle*

A Message for R.S.

I tried to email you, but your address bounced. I hope you will see this. Thank you for the lovely and unexpected surprise. I appreciate your kind words and will toast you over a sushi dinner in Sofia on Thursday. 🙂