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But What Do You Do All Day?
Polly Vicars

When you retire to Puerto Vallarta, all your friends come to visit. Charmed by the pure beauty of the land, the friendliness of the locals, the warmth of the air, the music of the sea, and the majesty of the sunsets, they begin to talk of doing as we did - - sell the old homestead, and retire South of the Border.

Then that old Yankee work ethic takes over and out comes The Question, "But what do you do all day?"

Settle in, as it will take a while to answer that question and to regale you with the fascinating possibilities that challenge you when you change your attitude along with your latitude.

First, I think you need to know that there are many things we no longer do since our move. If you are prone to envy, or are unprepared to turn green, you might want to skip this chapter.

I do not clean bathrooms, sweep floors, clean cabinets, dust furniture, take out trash, wash windows, change sheets, or carry out any of those awful chores that have to be done over and over again no matter how well you do them the first time.

Every morning a young señora comes to our condo and does all those tedious chores with pride and a smile. Our monthly condominium fees (which are less than you might imagine) cover not only utilities, insurance, taxes, telephone and maintenance, but also daily maid service.

Washing and ironing? The condo launders our sheets and towels, and once a week another señora picks up our dirty clothes and returns them the next day washed, folded and sweet smelling. For those few items that need ironing, yet a third señora comes to mi casa, not just to iron, but also to administer a luxurious and therapeutic massage. Can you stand this?

All these services are performed professionally, at a price much below what you would pay in the States, and come with that warming Vallarta smile. Housework, washing, ironing, and other chores are not considered demeaning. Not doing your best job is!

I cook (by my own choice), but the meat and poultry I choose from the mercado come straight from the source - with none of those ukky and unhealthy preservatives added. Fish, we don't buy it, we catch it! (see, "Raise the Blue Flag") When I serve fish, it is still wiggling.

Moreover, we never eat canned or frozen fruits and vegetables. At the market I can choose from corn, peas, green beans, chayotes, tomatoes, jicamas, potatoes, mameys, mangos, melons, bananas, papayas, pineapples, oranges, and other field ripened delicacies that will never suffer a cold storage bin or the prick of a dye-inducing needle.

And guys, listen to this! Husband does not change the oil or spark plugs, clean, scrape, paint, or repair his fishing boat. He does not even clean the fish we catch! Our jack-of-all-trades Capitán does all of those chores and more for very reasonable wages.

All the changes in our lives are not so mundane. Some are truly fundamental. Time, for instance, no longer dominates us. We find no appointment nor meeting so urgent or so compelling that it can't wait until we finish what we are currently enjoying. It was not always so. After having lived here a short time and not being totally acclimated, we made lunch plans to meet friends at one o'clock at a secluded north beach restaurant. While the friends were driving to the restaurant, Husband and I opted to arrive by boat, fishing on the way. We planned to anchor the boat in front of the restaurant and swim the short distance in to shore.

The sun was shining and the water was calm. We told our captain (He came with the boat when we bought it and was struggling to make us deep sea fishermen. See, "You're Invited to Party Vallarta Style") of our luncheon time and the need to fish toward the area of the restaurant. Not long after getting the lines set the fish began to bite. We hauled in yellowfin tuna, Spanish mackerel, and even a few dazzling dorado.

Still I didn't forget to remind the captain, several times, of our appointment. Each time he nodded and said, "Sí, Poli."

But as it neared one o'clock and we were nowhere near our destination. I said sharply, "I told you we had to meet our friends at one o'clock and now we are going to be late."

The Captain looked at me in utter amazement and not a little disdain, and answered, "Oh! You really want to meet them at one?" He could think of nothing so important that it would cause anyone (not even a crazy gringa) to pull in lines with the fish still biting! But that day, we made him do so. Incidentally, when we arrived at the restaurant, our friends were sipping coco locos and enjoying sea and sun. If we were early or late, they couldn't have cared less!

While we definitely didn't agree with everything this Captain tried to teach us, this valuable lesson we took to heart. Time is for savoring the moment became a rule to live by, and we learned it from a Captain young enough to be our grandson!

Now, we never let what might be ahead deter us from the moment. If the fish are biting, we stay with them. If the sunset is unusually beautiful, we sit and watch. If the company is especially agreeable, we ask them to stay longer, even if it means missing or being late for a meeting or a party. Those who were expecting us, if they miss us at all, are not concerned, they understand the time rule. They know if we don't make it that day, they'll see us the next day or the next.

Another thing we don't do anymore is get "bent all out of shape" when things seem to go wrong. We no longer think the world has ended if a water pipe breaks, the elevator is not running, the refrigerator goes on the blink or the car breaks down. We know, sooner or later, the broken will be fixed, the wrong will be righted, and in those happenings might lurk a serendipitous experience.

A couple of years ago we prudently had our four-year-old Volkswagen van serviced for a six week sightseeing trip to Oaxaco, Chiapas, the Yucatán, Cancún, and the island of Cozumel. We had no timetable (remember, we had already learned the time lesson), but we did anticipate getting farther on the first day than Santiago, a tiny pueblo about three and a half hours south of Puerto Vallarta.

Husband noticed something amiss in the van when we were hardly out of Vallarta. Every time he slowed for the topes, those ubiquitous speed bumps, he found it harder and harder to shift gears. Several miles outside Santiago and still ten miles from Manzanillo, the closest city of any size south of Vallarta, we spied a ramshackle building with a large hand printed sign, "MECANICO."

We pulled over and stopped - - stopped in the most literal sense. Husband could no longer change gears at all. We were completely broken down![continued...]

Polly G. Vicars' book "Tales of Retirement in Paradise" is available throughout the area. Proceeds of her book sales benefits the America-Mexico Foundation Scholarship Program. Visit them online at

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