A Day in the Life of John Stokdijk

20131017_103233Friday, October 11, 2013

I got up at 6:45 this morning. I am often up earlier, usually around 6:00. I used my little flashlight to find my way downstairs so that I would not disturb Pat by turning on the light. Because of the way Mexico has determined its time zones, the sun doesn’t rise here until around 7:45. I appreciate the quiet time I have almost every morning.


Most of my days start the same way, making a large mug of strong coffee. I grind some coffee beans, boil some water and use a French press to make the coffee. Because I take medication before I go to bed, 25 mg of amitriptyline, I am sluggish until the caffeine hits my system. I do not feel fully alive until the coffee kicks in. But when it does, my mind becomes very active and sometimes this is a problem.


When I lived in Calgary I enjoyed reading the newspaper, the Calgary Herald, in the mornings while drinking my coffee. But there is no newspaper delivery here in Mexico and technology has almost made newspapers obsolete. My iPad with its many apps is all I need now.


I usually check the weather in Calgary and doing so reconfirms the wisdom of my decision to retire in Mexico. The weather is now cooling off rapidly in Calgary as winter approaches but here we will soon begin six months of near perfect weather. I check the weather for this part of Mexico including a look at the cloud cover on radar. The forecast high for Calgary today is 10 degrees compared to 26 degrees here.


The news aggregator application I use on my iPad is News360. It feeds me stories organized by the topics I have selected. It uses the information from the stories I open to feed me similar stories in the future. Consequently, there are often more stories of interest to me than the time I have avialable to read them. When I don’t want to spend time on a story of interest at the moment, I mail myself the link for later follow up. Later I open the links in such emails on my desktop PC and I bookmark websites with content of interest to me. I also usually open my Bloomberg app and check the Dow Jones, TSX, the Canadian dollar, the Peso and the price of oil. Bloomberg usually has several articles of excellent quality which are of interest to me.


At dawn the song birds awaken. At this time I open the big sliding doors to our terrace to let in the beautiful sounds and strengthening light. The cooler air is also refreshing.


Shortly after 8:00 Pat comes downstairs. We try to go for a walk at various times of the day and have decided to do so before breakfast today. We have various routes and today we head west on the bike path beside the carretera. We walked for over an hour at a good pace. Unlike Calgary early in the morning, here we can usually walk comfortably in shorts and T-shirts.


We turn home to shower and prepare for the rest of the day. I have some extra time because I get ready more quickly than Pat. Today I used that time to hire a contractor on oDesk.


One of my retirement projects is to build a website which celebrates my life. I developed two other websites several years ago but technology changes rapidly and I have forgotten most of what I learned building those websites. The first two contractors I hired have proven unsatisfactory, partly because I was unable to be clear about what I needed. But these were learning experiences and I am optimistic that my latest hire will prove beneficial. He lives in Kathmandu, Nepal and costs me $7.00 per hour plus the 10% fee that oDesk charges. My eyes were opened to the truly global nature of competition a few years ago when I was looking for online consulting projects. I learned that there are plenty of MBAs in third world countries willing to work for far less than an amount acceptable to me.


Today is a day that we want to use for doing some errands. Pat has not yet had coffee so we first head to OasisCloud, a small café in Riberas del Pilar which is another community in the Lakeside area about eight kilometers east from where we live. An American couple operates the café and because we have been there several times they consider us regulars. Pat and I really like their freshly baked scones. Later Pat and I laughed about me misspeaking, asking for rollover coffee instead of pour over coffee.


Our next stop was at Superlake, Pat’s favorite grocery store. It caters to the gringos and has brands familiar to Canadians and Americans and charges high prices in return for this convenience. It is much smaller than Wal-Mart but offers a more pleasant shopping experience.


We stopped at HSBC for cash from the ATM. Lakeside is mainly a cash economy so it is necessary to always have plenty of cash on hand. HSBC is one of my great frustrations here because it took months to open a bank account and many more months to link my Calgary and Ajijic bank accounts using their global connect feature.


We went across the carretera to Wal-Mart to buy a light bulb and a few other items that Superlake did not have. Pat, and many other gringos, do not like shopping at Wal-Mart but we visit the store about once a week anyways.


We stopped in Ajijic, also called “the village”. I bought two tickets to a performance of Don Quijote by the Russian State Ballet on October 24th at the Auditorio. For its size, the Lakeside area offers lots of entertainment, some of which is world class which is what we hope this will be. Tickets are $380 pesos each, about C$31.00, which is more than what most events around here cost. We now have a number of events on our calendar that we are looking forward to. Anticipation is a part, a small part, of the whole experience. We also picked up a couple of bottles of wine to take along when we visit with neighbors who have invited us to join them for a “getting to know each other” evening.


Our last stop is at OXXO, a small convenience store which is part of a large chain with many locations, where I buy bottled water. Our tap water is perfectly safe but has a flat taste and sometimes leaves a trace of a white residue. We drink lots of water but we regret that there is no easy way to recycle plastic containers here.


It is around 2:00 by the time we get home. One of the many enjoyable aspects of retirement is that the use of time is less structured. Time is precious when working but in retirement the inefficient use of time adds a relaxing element to activities. We go on errands several times during a typical week. If we forget something, no problem, we can go again tomorrow. We can eat lunch whenever we want to and today it is a late lunch.


While preparing a salad for lunch, Pat disinfected the berries, fruit and vegetables she bought. Some may wonder why anyone would live in an area where that is necessary. But many Canadians do not realize that disinfection in Canada occurs before items go on display. In Mexico it is done after purchase. This is a procedure that most people here quickly adapt to.


Lunch today is a salad, something Pat makes often and with considerable variety. I also eat a handful of almonds. We each eat half an orange. This is worth mentioning because it is from a small orange tree (more like a bush) in our garden. We hope someday to have a larger garden with avocados and lemons and more. I also hope to have a herb garden. Like many gringos, we have a local Mexican who comes once a week to look after our small garden.


After lunch I replaced the burned out light. The new bulb burned out immediately so I’ll need to go back to Wal-Mart for another one sometime. Life is full of these tiny frustrations.


My next activity is a favorite of mine, reading a book. I’m reading KINDS of MINDS – Toward an Understanding of Consciousness by Daniel C. Dennett, one of a group of men known as The Four Horsemen, all brilliant men. The book is interesting but is certainly not light reading. After about 75 minutes I’ve had enough of it for one day.


Another quick activity I try to do almost every day follows. I do several exercises for my arms and upper body with resistance elastic bands. I’m not strong but I do like to stay in shape.


It is also my intention to study a little bit of Spanish every day, another retirement project. I have been far short of achieving this objective. Today I did a short, easy lesson using an application on my iPad called Duolingo. Sometimes Pat gives me a Spanish lesson and sometimes I study more extensively on my own. But learning a foreign language is not easy for me; the task does not align well with how my mind naturally works.


However, my mind lines up well with playing the oriental board game called go. I often play go on the internet. My current ranking is 12k and my objective is to reach a ranking of 9k. Today, I spent about a half an hour reviewing a couple of my recent games which the internet platform enables me to download. This game is played professionally in the orient but is quite rare in North America.


Another intention in my retirement program, which I have not lived up to, is to cook dinner once per week. It is a way to relieve Pat but I also actually enjoy cooking. She is both much better and much quicker at it than I am.  I enjoy finding a new recipe on the internet, using an iPad app of course. Today I made a Potato Crust Quiche and it turned out fine. Pat enjoyed it and gave it a “make again” stamp of approval and considering her skill in the kitchen, this was a nice compliment.


I watched Piers Morgan on CNN while Pat disappeared upstairs. Pat and I like to watch TV together in the evenings and we then settled down to watch a movie. Shaw Satellite service is available here and we have two PVRs that we bought in Canada and had shipped here with other household goods. It took a while to get the system functional but now it works fine (most of the time).


I went to bed at about 10:30 which is my regular pattern. I need regular sleep and I know from both reading and from experience how important sleep is for good mental health. As I stated earlier, I take 25 mg of amitriptyline before I go to bed and have been doing so for over a dozen years.


Friday, October 12, 2013 was a very good day in the life of John Stokdijk.


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