The Bungee Effect

We’re back in La Pause, I mean La Paz, that scrappy little city on the Baja Peninsula that grabs cruising boats by their jingle bells and doesn’t let go. The wind is howling at gusts to 29 knots outside; so pretty much the weather is as usual. We’re used to it now. The locals say that La Paz sports an invisible bungee cord, tying people in place for months at a time. In fact, last March we discovered that very cord during our first trip to La Paz. So we had fair warning. We knew that if we pulled into La Paz, we’d be here for awhile. Knowing what we do about the magnetic pull of the place, why did we come back? One word: services.

I found this great no-slip material at the local Home Depot.

Like cell reception. We’ve been really grateful for the excellent cellular reception in La Paz. Mike even bought a Mexican TelCel sim card for his phone, which we now use as a hotspot.  Really, it’s the only reason we wanted to be here by Christmas. We were able to talk to both our kids/their spouses and our family back in Washington, all at the same time, with video! What a Christmas miracle that was. We’re in Mexico, we’ve got kids in Paris and Ecuador, and my mom and sister are back in Washington State. What a time to be alive. It does make cruising so much easier to have good communications with people you love. Reliable cell service has also enabled me to work with clients while I’m here. I’m enjoying being ‘back in the saddle’ professionally, so we’ll be spending a little more time in areas where I can spend hours on the phone. Thanks, La Paz.

A lot of people really love La Paz. They love it so much they live here on their boats year round. We like La Paz about as much as we like any city; which is to say when you need to get things done, cities are the place to be. After that, not so much. We enjoy going on long walks each day; sometimes longer than we anticipate. We like having resources like the plastics store, which smells alarmingly like styrene and you can almost feel the braincells screaming as they die, where we bought 20 liter plastic water containers; 2 for 12$. We found a dandy material to replace our wornout cockpit mat. Mike has bought fuel filters and some unguents to clean out the fuel tank, one of our projects while we are here. He will be posting a more detailed analysis of that extended project in the coming days. Polishing fuel on your boat does have its charms. (Note to new cruisers: if you are still in the states and find a good deal on fuel filters, stock up. They are expensive in Mexico; at least the cost of what they are in the states.)

In La Paz we are experiencing some of the benefits of being in Mexico that we’ve only read about until now. This includes ordering new eyeglasses. Both of us wear progressive lenses because our eyes are old and getting worn out. Those things are expensive in the states, even if you have vision insurance, which we don’t. Accustomed to the financial trauma that is ordering new glasses (or any medical intervention, really)  back home, not to mention having to choose frames that will be comfortable for at least 2 years, we put off this drudgery until we could not stand it any longer. Mike had actually broken his titanium frames and the repair job he did on them brought the term ‘geek’ back into everyday parlance on our boat. My glasses were so scratched and worn that seeing things clearly was no longer feasible. It was past time.

We had no idea where the best place was to go and people recommended all kinds of places. So, out and about doing shopping one day we found ourselves in front of the optical shop at Walmart. Ordinarily this would not be our first choice. But why not look? Our feet carried us into the shop and the frames seemed reasonably priced. We were immediately helped by a nice woman who did her best to understand our broken Spanish. Somehow it became clear that no appointment was necessary, the eye exam was free, and she could do it for us right then. Well why the hell not, then? We went for it. When in Mexico it’s sometimes important to just go along for the ride. 

She gave us a thorough exam and very quickly was writing up a prescription for new lenses. We found quite reasonably priced frames, mine made of titanium (which I really wanted because of how lightweight they are), and soon we had ordered two new pair of glasses with lightweight polycarbonate progressive lenses for about $249 together; yes that’s for both pair together! No insurance crap, no extra anything. We were so pleased! Of course, the glasses will not be ready until January 16 or so, but we decided what the heck. We’re in “La Pause”. We’ll wait. The bungee cord adjusted a bit tighter.

People in the states are always curious about how the medical care is in Mexico. Well, I’m finding out. While we are here I decided I needed to see a doctor. I may have picked up some sort of bacteria that my body is not accustomed to and it’s not going away. Apparently it loves living in my stomach. Nothing serious, mind, I just feel like it should be checked out. So on New Year’s Eve I emailed one of the doctors listed on the Club Cruceros resources list for cruisers. This is a list of service providers that other cruisers have checked out and use regularly. I wanted to get the email out so I wouldn’t talk myself out of it, thinking I would arrange something for after the holiday.

She got back to me by email right away and then called me during our walk into town. We  arranged to meet me that very evening at the marina since we would be attending the same holiday function that evening. Whaaattt??? Let me recap: I EMAILED her and less than two hours later I had a same day appointment on New Year’s Eve.  By 6:00 I was sitting on a park bench explaining my stomach woes to a lovely woman who spoke enough English to understand me, looked at me when I was talking, and asked clarifying questions. In short, she treated me like the human being I am. She spent over 30 minutes with me, wrote me a script for some lab work and will contact me with the results when they are in. I have to go get my own lab specimen jars (3 for 1$) and take my specimens to the lab up the street.

I paid her 500 pesos in cash on the spot (about 25$) for her time and attention. No paperwork. No filling out anything at all. No weighing and measuring and charting and checklists; no waiting rooms with oversized TV’s, no telling your story to three different people, no medical billing, no muss no fuss. No overhead, either, since we met on the bench! It was a glorious feeling of freedom, seeing a medical professional who is not part of a large institutional setting where I feel like a number rather than a patient. I’ll report back when I get the labs done as to how much they cost.

Mike sports the latest in fashion eyewear. Ok, really these are just what you wear around to be sure the prescription is good.

While I’ve reported about the costs of the appointment and glasses because people are rightfully curious about those things, I’d like to say that the cost is really only one part of the overall whole of the experiences. The lack of stress, not needing to make appointments through a front desk, not having to wade through myriads of forms and procedures to get to the final product, whether eyeglasses or a simple doctor’s appointment, is the greater message here. I’m sure things would be different if we had to go to a hospital, or if we were seeing a physician in a larger clinic. But it’s nice to know that you can access medical care for minor things without all the hoopla we’ve begun to do anything to avoid back home. Gee whiz, for 25$ I might actually be able to afford to see a doctor more regularly if I need to.

I admit I am starting to get itching to be moving on from La Paz; mostly because I know how seductive it is to be in a place that has this many conveniences. The longer we stay, the harder it is to break free. The more access I have to unlimited cellular service, the more likely I am to try to work more hours per week just for the sheer joy of feeling useful again, not to mention how it helps out with the cruising kitty.  If we stay much longer, Mike will surely find another project that needs doing immediately on this old boat. We are anchored right outside the entrance to Marina de La Paz and we leave our dinghy on their secure dock almost every day. It’s easy to walk almost everywhere here and if you need a bus, the little Collectivo buses are 10 pesos, about 50 cents. They run all the time and will stop for you even if you aren’t at a real bus stop. Just wave them down. A city this size makes the living super easy. So we better get going soon. I’ve got my bungee cutting scissors in my pocket.