Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Lucky us.

Lake Louise, Alberta
We went for a walk at Lake Louise on Sunday with the dogs.  Before we set off on the path along the lake, a young family of middle-eastern origin with two small girls approached us with smiles and a camera.  The little girls wanted to pet the dogs, and the father wanted to capture the moment.  They were very nervous about actually touching the dogs, much like Mexican children.  I put Annie into a calm sit - Teddy is much less threatening-looking since she resembles a fluffy teddy bear.  The girls were very cute and asked me things like "do they have sharp teeth?" and "do they eat dog food?".

Mike chatted with the father who told him they were living in Dallas, Texas and had come up to Banff/Lake Louise for a 5-day vacation.  He asked where we lived and when Mike told him Calgary, he said, "It must be wonderful to live so close and be able to come here anytime you want," with an authentically awestruck look on his face.

I gazed around me at the stunning views and realized anew that we were indeed very lucky.  Seven months in Mazatlan, and now here in the Rocky Mountains where people come from all over the world for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  The languages I heard as we walked the path were many and varied.  They all came for a week or two, and may never come back and see it all again.  We came for a couple of hours, and could come back on a daily basis if we wanted to.

Yep - very lucky.  Do you feel lucky to be living where you live?

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Come on in!

I'm seeing an increase in readership lately from various sources - it feels great!  I'd love to have you on an automatic email update so you will know when a new post comes out.  I am shooting for once or twice a week, depending on whether I have something interesting (hopefully) to say.  So look to your right - there is a box you can enter your email address into - or become a follower.  I am also on Twitter (sujess) and Facebook (susan.jessup).  Leave me a comment too!  I'd love to hear from you, whoever you are.

This is a picture of my two dogs with a couple of  friends coming in from a romp on the beach.  They got to be guests at a beach house for a week this winter - more than I did!  Annie is in the middle and Teddi is on the right.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

New Beginnings in Alberta

Quite a different view out our window than last week!  Once I got over the shock of the difference in climate (the air is so dry here), and having to put the furnace on in the house, I am quite happy to be here and be with my dogs again.  There are several great features to the house we have rented.

Across the gravel road you see here there is a crystal clear creek with a plain wood bridge across it and walking paths on either side.  We are just about at the end of the road so no traffic to speak of.   It is a five minute walk to the town centre and all manner of shopping including groceries.  I love that about Mazatlan and now Canmore.  I can't even do that in our own town of Okotoks.  And it is QUIET!

Mike is all set up with a quiet space and desk in one of the bedrooms to work in.  We did a big food shopping on Sunday and I have been COOKING all meals since then, and actually enjoying it.  After months of eating out on almost a daily basis in Mazatlan (because its inexpensive and is just such a part of the lifestyle there), I know we can't do that here - or we'd be broke!  We are also following a low-carb diet now that I have control over the food we eat - it's really not difficult for us and seems to be the only way for us to lose weight.  We have a couple of tricks up our sleeves to satisfy a sweet tooth with very few carbs too.

Mike is still working on the remote work contract for BHP Billiton and has another part-time remote contract coming up in June. Something else has transpired on the software front too.  We heard that it has been approved for another Alberta business development grant to pay for a professional marketing plan to be developed by a Calgary consultant.  We have to contribute 25% of the cost, which isn't a small chunk of change but we are going ahead.  The software application (we have more than one) that is going to be pursued is one for securely sharing and exchanging legal documents by smart phones and other electronic devices - the target market is law firms in Canada at first.  We had a market study done back in the fall/winter (also paid for with a grant from Industrial Research Assistance Program of Canada) and three markets were looked at - medical, music industry, and legal.  The research showed the strongest interest from the legal market.

Being chosen to receive this further grant lends stronger credibility in the eyes of Canadian investors.  And we'll circle back around to IRAP to apply for further grant money to help pay for further software development - meaning, paying programmers.  These kinds of things seems to be the ONLY way we will ever get launched in Canada.  This isn't silicon valley - Angels and VC's are virtually non-existent here, and those that exist are loath to part with their money and take any risk whatsoever.  So even though I really don't like working through government programs (seriously, it rankles my libertarian soul), there does not seem to be any other way - and believe me we have tried for years.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Time to go

Today we fly out of here for the season.  We stayed the last couple of nights at Casa de Leyendes so that we could pack up the house and put it to bed for the summer for the owners, who will come down in October to open it up for us.

So, this is naturally a time to reflect on our feelings and thoughts about Mazatlan after our third winter.  One major aha stands out for me.

I have never really been someone who had a lot interest in things like "culture" and art.  I'm a left-brainy gal, not big on emotions and feelings.  But slowly over this particular winter, I became aware of just how much those types of things add to one's enjoyment of life and cause you to form an stronger attachment to places like this.  I had not known much about Jackie Peterson and the hard work she has done for many years to encourage the sharing of cultural events between the locals and the gringos.  I did not know until she died.  Her memorial service was an eye-opener.

We made many new friends this winter, and got to know some old ones better.  Back in Alberta, our circle of friends is tiny.  We have lived there for 9 years.  And we live in a relatively small town - about 20,000 people.  Still, life north of the border simply does not lend itself to the kind of social life we have here.  It's not just that most of the gringos here are retired and have more time to make and be friends, although that might be part of it.  For me, it has a lot to do with living in historic Centro which is like a small town onto itself, except one walks everywhere and that means you are apt to run into people you know all around town and spend a few minutes chatting, maybe even sit down and have a drink or a meal on the spur of the moment.  Going out with friends anywhere doesn't mean getting in your car, driving somewhere in heavy traffic, finding parking, and then repeat to go home.  And, if you want to enjoy a cocktail or two with dinner, well, you can't because one of you will have to drive home.  The entire experience in Mazatlan is completely easy and relaxed.  I love that.  I'm quite certain living here extends your life - and if not, you will enjoy it immensely while you are alive.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Just gotta write

My son Simon atop Deer Island
I have come to the conclusion lately that I am highly unemployable in any conventional sense.  Of course, I do "work" in and on our business and have been handling just about everything related to that administratively and financially.  I do it because we can't afford to pay someone else.  It's the type of work I have always done, whether for someone else or ourselves.  I'm the organizer, the manager, the detail person.  Yuck.

Recently I was toying with ideas for what kind of work I could do (or would do) now if I REALLY had to.  Sensible people might actually be thinking that I really should be working at my age, and using my income to more aggressively pay off debts and save.  I know my accountant thinks so.  So, I thought, well, what if I was to work just 6 months of the year in the summer - what would I do that would make it worthwhile.  A review of my work history is confusing quite frankly - I've done so many different types of jobs over the years, it is really very difficult to put me in a box and say "this is what she does".  I've never had a "career". I'd be a recruiter's nightmare. I actually thought I might try taking a self-taught course to write the test for getting certified as an insurance broker - something that might tie in with a lot of my other background and give it a focus.  Yeah, that might be good......and then a few minutes later, I am shuddering when I picture myself in a cubicle wearing office clothes with a phone to my ear.  NOOOOOOOOO!  Likewise, I think about taking a few computer courses with a particular focus, like document management systems......Mike could help me learn that shit.  But god, I just don't want to!  I'd have to work in big corporations downtown and commute on a train and sit in traffic for hours a day.  Please, never again.

No, it would seem that the only thing I am suited for now is writing, particularly if I want to continue to spend winters in Mazatlan, or travel to other places more.  I just have to find a way to get paid for it.  Luckily, this is the age of self-publishing e-books and social marketing.  I'm going to give it a try.  There, I said it and I want everyone who reads this to hold me accountable.  I'm a lazy so-and-so, and I MUCH prefer reading other people's writing than my own!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Oh, these Latin men..

Mike and I went to one of the ocean-front restaurants last night for some delicious fish and seafood.  (La Fonda).  As the youngish waiter served us, I caught a subtle look from him - a slightly flirtatious smile and glint in his eye that instantly made me feel good.  It hit me then that this happens all the time and it's not because I'm some hot bod young blonde - far from it - it's just because I am a woman.   The men here just seem to appreciate the femaleness of women, no matter what they weigh, their age, colour of hair, or body shape.

I mentioned this to Mike, trying not to alarm him or make him jealous, but just as an observation - something I had been experiencing and observing all along but it hadn't really crystallized until that moment.  He says North American men certainly do appreciate women in the same way, they just feel they should suppress any expression of it - kind of a "PC" thing - in public. I disagree.

I think North American men have been programmed more by the media and society in general to place far more value on the young, the slim, the blonde (not necessarily but more than other hair colours), the buxom, and that a woman like me becomes "invisible" after a certain age.  A youngish waiter in a restaurant in Calgary would NEVER lightly flirt with me.

The kind of flirting I'm talking about is totally harmless.  It just sends a little message - I am a man and I see you and appreciate your presence.  That's it.  It's lovely.  There's no leering, no "pervy-ness" (Mike's word).

It's a kind of payback to all the mature women in this place for the fact that the young mazatlan women here are extraordinarily beautiful, and the expat men do a fair amount of drooling over them - some quite overtly. We just roll our eyes.  Meanwhile, the youngish waiter is giving us secret little looks and smiles and we remember we are women.

Another reason I love Mazatlan.

Monday, 7 May 2012

What about the software business?

Okay, so as I posted last January, I reached a burn-out point and basically refused to even talk about software, or invest any more money it.  And we haven't.  Well, maybe a little.  But our focus (well, my focus) has been on getting finances under control and paying down debt.  Mike has been a good boy and did not start any new initiatives on the software.  Andy was also busy working full-time as a consultant, which actually made us money as opposed to paying it out to him.  I began to breathe a little easier.

Until recently.

Now, I'm not saying I'm freaking out or anything.  So far, there have been no large requests for funds (a couple of small ones).  But I'm also very skeptical.  I've earned my skepticism.  I'm not being discouraging either.  

I am being told that Andy, using existing code, has created a new, deceptively simple application that actually works and can be sold for easy download to a market with a demand for it.  He did it in three days.  While on the road in his camper.  What is it?  It's not something a lay-person would understand or need so I'm not going to try to explain it - even I barely understand it.  Doesn't matter.  It does something cool and necessary for those enterprise document management people, and several immediately offered to beta test it.

Mike won't be quitting his consulting jobs anytime soon, but let's see what happens shall we?

Friday, 4 May 2012

More about The House in Mazatlan

I capitalized The House because it is so special.  The original building is from the 1860's - one of many huge homes built by wealthy German immigrant families.  It was a complete wreck when the current owner bought it about 12 years ago, and was also much larger.  He divided up the building into three and sold off two.  Then he restored the house to historical standards for this old city area of Mazatlan.  The red tile floor you see here is original and extends throughout the house and patio.

The main house itself is spacious and open, with 25 foot ceilings.  It really has only one bedroom, but there is a loft bedroom too, with a small spiral staircase up to it.  Kitchen, dining, living, bathrooms, bedroom all lie in a row facing out to the patio and courtyard.  Across the courtyard (and I'm not sure this is an original building) is a two-story building with a full studio apartment on each floor (called casitas) and a roof-top patio above.  But the main attraction of this place is the courtyard with its many and varied tropical plants and trees and vines.  There is a fountain in the center which is not functioning now but still adds to the ambiance.

The patio and courtyard are wonderful for entertaining. Three huge iron doors (seen in the picture) open the house up fully onto the covered patio and courtyard, providing total easy flow between them.  We have hosted several cocktail parties and potluck suppers over the winter and it never fails that everyone enjoys themselves immensely and comments on the relaxed and beautiful old world atmosphere.  The house is truly the envy of many expats.  How lucky we were to be able to rent it, and at a reasonable price.  We have reserved it again for next winter.

This winter, my husband, Mike, has been able to work remotely from here on a consulting contract for a company back in Canada.  He uses one of the casitas to work from.  How wonderful the opportunity to do that has been for him.  I hope it can be arranged again for next winter!  I remember my first winter here (see my first post in the blog).  I spent most of the winter by myself that time, and it was a good experience for me.  But part of my motivation to do it was to lay the groundwork for future winters here, hoping that we could eventually design our lives to be: exactly what they were this winter.