Month: May 2012

Considering everything….

It turned out that while we were dealing with our own issues in New York, we missed several really horrific murders and kidnappings right here in our little village. Even USA Today had an article about our lakeside retirement paradise  and how much things are changing with the ongoing battles between the various cartels who want to take control of the routes in and out of Guadalajara. Which gangs they are changes from time to time – but there’s no doubt that it’s gotten worse. So far, they have just targeted Mexicans, and left the expat community alone.

But we are all very concerned, and a number of people are pulling up stakes and heading back to the States or Canada or Europe or wherever they came from. Not good, as Arnold says pensively, not good. After several innocent young people were massacred a few weeks ago, the entire town is on edge and people are terribly frightened. Various stories are flying all over the pueblo, and some of the local expat chat boards which are usually great resources for “can anyone recommend a good barber” sorts of questions have had all references to crime shut down as there was no way to verify much of what was being posted. So now on top of the reality we have a form of censorship. It reminds me so much of Death in Venice – I do feel like Aschenbach hearing rumors of cholera, wondering if I should head back to the Frozen North away from the sun and the flowers where I’d hoped to find a sort of permanent peace.

We had our own little taste of it earlier this week: Not in our village, but in one a few miles away, one of our Mexican friends was working at the home of an American couple and four men broke in, tied them all up, bound and gagged them and covered their heads with hoods. Then they locked them all together in a bedroom. There was the couple, their maid, a little kid, and the Mexican guys working there. They left them tied up and held pistols to their heads while the robbers ransacked the house. Only the maid managed to hide in the laundry. They were ready to kill them all and one even said to the other robbers to put the silencers on the pistols. Something – maybe the little kid? – made them change their minds but  they had been told “don’t move, we will kill you if you try to untie yourselves” He then commented that the first guy he killed, he was scared, but now he’d killed more than seventy people, and it didn’t faze him at all. While all this was going on they forced the American to sign documents to empty his bank accounts and transfer everything to some Mexican account, forced him to give him the ATM cards and his passwords; it just went on and on.

They loaded up the couple’s SUV with everything they could remove from the house; they took everyone’s cell phones, wallets and car keys and had cut the power and phone lines. Finally they left in the stolen car, and the maid crawled out from her hiding place and untied them all. Their wrists are all cut up from where they were tied up; naturally they are completely traumatized. You’re never the same after something like this happens to you, I can attest from my own experience having been carjacked at gunpoint. Much to think about and none of the options are particularly compelling. In spite of it all, we really, really, don’t want to move. We love our house and our life here. But yes, there is much to think about.

People are saying things will calm down after the election in July, that this is just the cartels’ laying the groundwork for getting things arranged favorably for them by whoever gets in. But people say all sorts of different things about the brutality and barbarous ways of these thugs who kill dozens of people at a time. Who knows? And Arnold is dealing with the psychological aftermath of the pacemaker: “We can’t run away from the fact that we are indeed getting older”, he sort of says with a certain resigned air. It is all just “demasiado” (too much) for me, and as I was really beginning to freak myself out worrying about all this, tonight I decided to experiment with making some sugar-free Mexican chocolate ice cream, which turned out terrifically, if I do say so myself.

Meanwhile after three weeks “off” on our trip, I have returned to my thrice-weekly workouts with my trainer, who tells me his fifteen American and Canadian clients are now down to but three. His business is really falling apart; this horror show is affecting everyone. And starting this week I am driving the two blocks to exercise class, not walking, as I used to. And it is such a pretty walk, a great warmup going and a great cooldown coming home, down cobblestone streets with flowers cascading over the tops of the walls.  But Arnold can’t exercise for awhile yet and I am going by myself for the moment; I’m not willing to be a woman walking out there alone just now.

Will it get worse? Will it ever get better? Where will this all end, for us, for México Lindo y Querido???

The village…

A Doctor’s Excuse

I have been so neglectful of my poor blog; a million things have conspired to keep me from writing. But hopefully I can catch everyone up a bit. But I do have an excuse for my silence from a doctor, or a bunch of doctors; I really do. Our best laid plans for diverting ourselves in the big city were changed and our lives and our assumptions about what the future might hold have been altered over the past several weeks’ events  – everything looks different these days and we are still getting used to some new realities.

On May 8 Arnold and I set out for New York City anticipating a week of opera, concerts, shopping, a couple of museums – our usual New York madness. The first few days were loads of fun as we crossed items off our various shopping lists (the things one MUST have that are not available in Mexico) and walked around the city till we had blisters on our feet. But a few days into it, Arnold began to notice that he was having trouble climbing up the two flights of stairs to the apartment we had rented. At first, he thought it would just go away, and I said “maybe you should have yourself checked out”….and it really didn’t make any sense to me because we live in a two story house so one more flight shouldn’t have made any difference. And whatever difference there was should have been negated by the fact that whereas at home we’re at five thousand feet above sea level, here we were at sea level, where I was pretty much bounding up the two flights (at least after we got the luggage hauled up there).

But the shortness of breath came back and Arnold was concerned enough about it the second time around so that he said “yes, let’s get me to a hospital”. But not before he did a bit of research on the internet to find out what the best cardiac hospitals in New York were! We ended up taking him to New York-Presbyterian where they basically took one look at him, ran a few tests, and said “you need a pacemaker, sooner rather than later”.  And they wheeled him off right away to have that done, leaving me to both be scared to death about what was going on but also enormously grateful that we were there, in New York, in the States, where Arnold could speak English to the doctors and nurses, it would virtually all be covered by Medicare, and that actually, if it was inevitable, we were in the best possible place for this to have happened.

A few hours later he was back in his room with the new device installed in his chest and hooked up to a million different wires and computers. The nurses showed me how to interpret what was going on and how to read the different numbers and even I could see that once they got the pacemaker sort of adjusted in there, it was already making an enormous difference in his heart rate. It was actually kind of amazing. Every couple of hours someone would come in to check something or other out, sonograms, x-rays, all sorts of blood tests. They had him stay in a couple of extra days just to be sure everything was functioning properly, and then by Tuesday they did one more final round of tests after he’d been up and around and walking around town again. At that point the cardiologist literally and figuratively cleared him for takeoff, so we could fly home. We tore a page out of my mother’s book and cashed in a boatload of mileage so we could go the whole way back first class. It made a huge difference – no lines, wheelchairs at each stop, everyone was nice to us, we had room to stash our stuff without it interfering with Arnold’s arm, and they even fed us! (That wasn’t necessary after two weeks in New York but, well, why not be pampered?)

No matter how you slice it, though, it made us both stop and think about the fact that we are getting older, that this unexpected medical stuff can and probably will happen to both of us. It has raised a bunch of questions for us about our lives in Mexico, far from family, far from the kind of state-of-the-art medical care we received while going through this adventure. On top of the stress of going through the ordeal itself, we also were faced with a lot of other nettlesome questions about our lives and our future. But the main job for me was to be there for him and so I went off to the hospital, across town to the East Side, every day, and stay with him for awhile. I kept thinking “I think he’s officially a cardiac patient now….” and tried to grasp what, as far as our future plans might be, what this could mean.

Arnold’s doctors told him he has to take it easy for a few weeks and especially not to lift his left arm higher than shoulder height. So far, he’s being very good ! And already he admits to feeling better, and his color is better, too. What a relief. We made an appointment to go back to New York (just the excuse we needed, I’ll probably need some more makeup by then!) in October for them to do a routine check on the pacemaker. For now, we are both exhausted, but happy to be home. Reina, Rosie and Missoni all went nuts when we came through the gate after Luis picked us up at the airport. All in all, rather than being gone for just eight days we were gone for more than two weeks.  We are both relieved and hoping this means he will be around for a long time to come. Still, as they say, always something!

Meanwhile back here we are plunged once again into the increasing crime affecting all of us; the expat community’s efforts – misguided? hopeful? sometimes even a bit effective? to do something about it. And the rainy season is drawing closer every day. The brown hills and dusty gardens are just waiting, waiting, now for the first serious rains to fall.