The BBB

Photo: Tripadvisor

Have you ever entertained the thought of retiring to some romantic place and opening a bed and breakfast there?

We have.

Nothing fancy, mind you; just a comfortable, offbeat place where weary workers or disheartened folks – single or couples – can relax and find some charm (or curiosities) and respite, off the beaten track.

For us, that means Portugal and southern Spain.

In these days of AirBnB, almost anyone can open a bed and breakfast. Anywhere. Even if you only have one “guest” bedroom to spare … or a sofa-sleeper in your living room!

Not long ago, we spent several days at a bed and breakfast outside a substantial suburb at the fringes of a major Iberian provincial capital. The chaps who own the place obviously love it and lavish cook-and-clean duties diligently on it daily. They’ve invested a lot of time, funds, and creativity in establishing an attractive b&b.

But it can be the little things – sometimes overlooked by people thinking they can create an idyllic bed and breakfast – that make all the difference between a memorable experience and one that won’t be repeated anytime soon.

As many people are hoping to move away from the USA or the UK or anywhere else and open a B&B in Spain or Portugal, here are a few observations and considerations for building the better bed and breakfast (The BBB):

Warmth—Beyond the comeliness and hospitality of a bed and breakfast is the mere matter of its comfort factor. As in temperature. Nobody enjoys staying in a bone-chilling room when it’s raining and nasty cold outside. If heating is provided by a single source (i.e., the warm setting of an air conditioner), consider back-ups. Even a portable electric heater can turn an unpleasant environment into a more comfortable one. Conversely, an air conditioner is an essential cost of doing business when inviting people to stay during warmer times.

Beds—Some people prefer to sleep au naturel. So, sleeping in a bed covered only by a nice duvet cover over a heavy blanket or comforter may be okay; but top (and bottom) sheets are better. After all, do you really want guests to wonder whose skin had caressed the comforter before they did? And, of course, provide comfortable mattresses.

Breakfast—Juice, fruits, cereals and yogurt, eggs, tortillas, toast, an assortment of charcuterie, and coffee (or tea) are delicious. Tasty and fulfilling. The first day (and maybe the second). But lacking distinction in this all-too-important meal, day after day, can become tiresome and ritualistic. There’s truth to the adage that, “variety is the spice of life.”

Lighting and Electrical—By all means, have enough. Some is good … more is better … too much is just enough! Many of us like to read in bed. A light – even a clip-one to the headboard – is essential. Who wants to get up to turn off the overhead light(s) just when we’re ready to close our eyes and fall asleep, because there aren’t any lamps on the nightstands on the side of the bed? Then, too, some of us travel with quite a few contrivances: computers, laptops, devices, irons, whatever. Outlets providing 110/220-AC/DC are essential!

Slipping and Sliding—Having suffered a broken a leg (and currently saddled with five pins around my ankle and a titanium rod in my shin), I have no desire whatsoever to repeat the experience. So, please – please! – consider your flooring … especially in the bathrooms. Shiny surfaces (aka “glazed” tiles) may look wonderful, but they can become sheets of ice when wet feet come in contact with them. Especially when trying to reach for that towel at the other end of the bathroom! How much safer and simpler are those tacky plastic mats for inside the bathtub, a rug and a utilitarian hook close to the shower for hanging the towel! Similarly, you may have gorgeous marble staircases … or ceramic or tile. Remember that they can be slippery. We’ve heard more than one sad story about a top-of-the-line b&b where a guest accidentally slipped down the steps.

Hot H20—Honestly, is anything worse than running out of hot water when you’re in the middle of taking a shower or about to begin shaving? Fortunately, today’s technology can provide hot water, continuously, courtesy of relatively inexpensive, on-demand water heaters. If you’re thinking of turning your place into a b&b, please be sure your guests don’t get a cold shoulder without continuous running hot water.

Computers—They may be called “laptops,” but sitting in bed with a computer on your lap is awkward at best and doesn’t work (at worst). Better bed and breakfasts provide a desk (and chair) where one can work online conveniently and comfortably.

• Je ne sais quoi–When push comes to shove, it’s the congeniality, the ambience, the undefinable yet unmistakable personality of your place that guests will remember and why they’ll come back again and/or recommend your hideaway to others. Those teeth-gritting exercises in being pleasant to people arriving four or five hours before check-in time … the tasty treat or homemade snack … the continued cleanliness of your rooms and gathering spaces distinguish you from the downtown hotels and near-to-the-airport facilities.

Each of these little comforts and conveniences add up to a BBB: a Better Bed & Breakfast!

Bruce Joffe is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine. You are invited to read our current and past issues on this page of its website. For those who prefer the feel of paper pages, paperback editions of the magazine are available at all Amazon sites.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Welcome to Portugal Living Magazine

With the steady increase of Americans and other English-speakers in Portugal, it became evident — while living in the country’s interior — that news and commentary was focused on one region (the Algarve) with nods to Lisbon and Porto … and presuming that all English-speakers here are British.

Something more than fragmented Facebook groups and online “expat” forums was needed to cover stories of interest throughout all areas of Portugal to people residing here or in the process of relocating to Portugal … from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Ireland, Belgium, South Africa, and other English language countries.

That’s why we created Portugal Living Magazine.

Layering a variety of engaging features, integrated departments, continuing columns, commentary, photos, and original artwork, Portugal Living Magazine presents a wide variety of stories about people and places, invaluable information, and answers to questions about living happily in Portugal.



Offering free digital subscriptions and promoting a national community orientation for expats and immigrants, Portugal Living Magazine took root and flourished. In addition to growing issues from 48 to 70 pages, the magazine hosts this popular Facebook Page, a website, and a new YouTube channel.

Different in content and purposes than Facebook groups and online forums, Portugal Living Magazine is delivered directly to subscriber email inboxes. Our Facebook Page is updated daily with dozens of news stories and a wealth of irresistible pictures, while our website includes everything from current and future issues to blog posts, linked resources, and advertising or sponsorship information. Our YouTube channel with original content premieres 1 February.



Read our current issue and subscribe at no cost–for all future one. Complete past issues are also posted on our website, as is a peek at upcoming issues. Some of the best blog posts about Portugal living are conveniently grouped on our website. Adverting data and details, links grouped categorically to indispensable resources from our sponsors and supporters, and complete contact information for reaching us are all on Portugal Living Magazine’s website.

Our continuing commitment is to provide free subscriptions to everyone who wants to read Portugal Living Magazine, with advertising covering the publishing costs of production and distribution. Alas, we’re not there yet. Deficit spending has been funded from the pockets of our founder.

We’ve created ways that you can help: Our Patreon page encourages donors to contribute one, three, or eight euros monthly. Prefer to make a one-time gift? Deposit it directly to our bank account at this IBAN: PT50.0036.0136.99100034067.63.

Felicidades from our team to you and your loved ones!

Upcoming

Bruce H. Joffe
Publisher/Creative Director

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Meninho

This is Meninho. We called him ninho (niño), for short.

Two months ago, Manny, our little boy schnauzer, died of liver failure. We were heart-broken. Bereaved. Grieving.

Nobody can ever replace Manny – his personality, love, and memories are too special – but, in time, the hole in our hearts can be healed through a new furry family member.

A friend informed us that her dogs recently had produced a litter. One was available. We went to her farm to meet and spend time with the puppies.

Meninho was one of seven. One died during birth. We just learned that the remaining six have developed Parvo. The last thing any new puppy owner wants to hear is a diagnosis of parvo. Parvo in puppies is a common disease with deadly consequences. Puppies ages six weeks to six months are the most susceptible. Meninho was six weeks old when we met him … we were to bring him home when he reached ten.

We were grief-stricken. Again.

Helping families to deal with the demise of a beloved pet was a major part of my ministry as chaplain at an animal rescue shelter in Northeast Wisconsin after retiring. Because they couldn’t understand, well-meaning people would ask, “Why does an animal rescue shelter need a chaplain?”

Current circumstances reminded me of the challenges, concerns, and considerations people experience with their pets throughout their too-short time with us.

Life would go on, for our family …

The best time to bring a new beating heart into your home after the demise of a beloved one was one of the struggles I tried to help people deal with during my time as a chaplain.

Others further explain why “pet-people chaplains” are vital:

● I probably spent more time consoling and counseling people upon the traumatic and heart-wrenching departure of a family member, albeit a four-legged one, than any other aspect of my ministry.

● A woman called the shelter to ask if there was someone she could talk to about a difficult choice regarding her nine-year-old cat. It wasn’t a life-or-death decision. Her cat was going blind. After its preliminary diagnosis and second opinions, the consensus was that the only hope to save the cat’s vision was at a specialized facility in Madison, the state capital. The procedure would cost about $5,000 … almost all the money she had in the world. Should she spend it on her cat? She made an appointment to speak with her pastor, whose response was, “Geez … it’s only a cat!” Alas, he just didn’t understand.

● People adopting pets and bringing new ones into their lives often want the pet to be blessed. Sure, some churches honor St. Francis (of Assisi), patron saint of animals and the environment, with an annual “blessing of the pets.” Up-close-and-personal, however, is something different entirely.

● Prayers over pets (sick or otherwise) and home visitations were frequently requested. Other times, disappointed and desperate, many wanted clergy to be there with them, holding their hands and hugging them closely, as they said “good-bye” to their family member departing for the rainbow bridge.

● Some deeply spiritual people wanted their houses blessed before (and after) pets entered and exited.

● Of course, many times were frequently spent visiting and playing and helping with the pets housed in the shelter.

Probably my most extraordinary moments as chaplain at an animal rescue shelter, however, were those spent in a variety of area churches, preaching about God’s love for all creatures great and small. The subject matter is rarely taught (or quickly passed over) in most seminaries and schools of theology.

Lions, leopards, bears (although no tigers), along with nearly 100 other animals, insects, and non-human creatures are mentioned throughout the Hebrew and Christian Testaments. And, while dogs figure prominently in several biblical passages, interestingly there is not a single mention of a domestic cat in the canon.

(You’ve heard it before: “What is dog spelled backwards?”)

What does the Bible say about animals?

In Genesis 9:3-4, God tells us that a person cannot cut off the limb of a living animal. In Exodus, the Ten Commandments remind us that we are supposed to treat animals with respect and care, particularly those who work our lands.

Psalm 147:9 shows us that God is concerned for all creation, including the animals: “He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call.” In Psalm 104:21, we see that “the lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God”; implied is that God feeds them. In Luke 12:6, Jesus says, “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”

And, who can forget these words from the 23rd Psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd …”

If God cares for creation and the animals, so should we.

In fact, it is God’s care for animals that probably explains our desire for pets.

We have inherited the part of God’s nature that cares for the animals. In the very beginning, we’re told, God blessed the people and commanded them, “Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).

When beginning my messages from the pulpit, I asked those in the pews if they remembered the story of Balaam and his donkey (Numbers 22:21-39).

After Balaam started punishing his devoted donkey for refusing to move, the animal was miraculously given the power to speak. It complained about Balaam’s treatment. Balaam saw an angel, who informed him that the donkey’s behavior was the only reason the angel did not kill Balaam. Balaam immediately repented, and was told to go on his way.

I reminded the congregation that, if God could speak through a jackass, God certainly could speak through me!

Disclaimer: I share these stories of our experiences not to complain or seek sympathy, but because we are North Americans acculturating to another country’s norms and expectations. Information in posts such as this aren’t found in tourist or relocation guides … nor asked about and answered in most Facebook groups. Hopefully, some will learn from my anecdotes and be better prepared for the grit and grist, the grain of living abroad.

Bruce is publisher and creative director of Portugal Living Magazine. Read the current online issue and subscribe to the magazine at no cost whatsoever: http://portugallivingmagazine.com/our-current-issue

Mother Nature’s Teardrops

I’m depressed …

Because of this relentless, obstinate, continuous rain.

Today marks the tenth consecutive day that rain – mist, fog, drizzle, downpours – is omnipresent across the Iberia peninsula … hovering intransigent, dismal, and unmoving.

The damp is everywhere, manifest in mold and mildew seeping through our walls. Swollen doorknobs and jambs pregnant with moisture protrude, disabling the opening and closure of doors, even as legs and arms broken decades ago remind us that they’re still hurting. Walls without windows to open (even in this weather) are wet. Clothing refuses to dry; umbrellas become the rite of passage.

Anyone who believes that the rain in Spain “stays mainly in the plain” obviously hasn’t been here in a while. Including the weather forecasters: wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, day after day! The rain is everywhere, crossing closed borders between Portugal and Spain.

Alas, whether vestige or herald, brief glimmers of sunlight hardly hint of days filled with cheery sunshine and overall brightness.

Perhaps it’s a government conspiracy, forcing us to stay inside, alone with our families, as the sun flees from new, more contagious variants of the virus?

More probably, it’s just the weather, whither here or there. After all, doesn’t everyone complain about the weather? Everywhere? It’s far better than complaining about people or politics! I’m beginning to feel sorry for the cows and sheep in the meadows, with nowhere to run or hide from these bloody torrential buckets and lingering, lackluster leftovers that won’t lift. With heavy heart, I hurt for those who are ailing (physically, mentally, or emotionally).

And me?

I just want to curl up and wait for it all to end: Covid. Unreasonable politics. Fearsome fulcrums of flooding, earthquakes, foolhardiness the world over.

But I can’t; I’m a pastor. It’s my responsibility to minister, lifting the downtrodden with words which belay belief. Not today, though. Instead, I will count my blessings:

• I have a roof (in fact, several) over my head.

• For a 72-year-old, I enjoy relatively good health.

• I love and am loved.

• There’s food in our fridge and freezer, even if we can’t go out to eat. In the pantry, there’s food for our furry family, too.

• We can stay busy – even entertained – at home. There are people to talk to, messages to share, films to watch, books to read, writing to ponder, floors and furniture to clean, food to be prepared, repairs to be made, problems to be fixed, dogs to fed and walked.

Which brings us outside as toys, yet again, of the weather.

Let’s think of Mother Nature crying, shedding tears for how we have hurt her. Let’s be grateful for all that we have, instead of what we’re wanting. Let’s appreciate the beauty cast even in the gray. Let’s hope, once again, that tomorrow will be better. Let’s promise to do one thing – whatever – to make it a bit brighter.

A wise man once said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” to which he added, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Days of drizzle, countless clouds, nightfalls of rain.

Blessed be!

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Nursery Rhyme Conspiracies

As we grow older, we subconsciously return to the years of our youth and adolescence, remembering – in dreams as well as when awake – the words of songs, TV tunes, and even advertising jingles from back in the day … nonetheless, we can’t remember where we left our spectacles, why we went to a room in the house, or what we were saying.

Lately, I have been awakening from fitful night sleeps with nursery rhymes running through my mind.

Have you ever revisited them and wondered — whatever was their genesis, meaning, and purpose — how they may have affected our later lives? I believe I may have put my finger on the primal source of our fears and frustrations, anxieties, neuroses and psychoses—sadistic or masochistic.

Maybe it’s my own paranoia, but I’ve come to suspect that nursery rhymes are nowhere nearly as benign as Mother Goose and her ilk would have us believe!

Consider, if you will:

“Peter, Peter pumpkin eater, had a wife but couldn’t keep her. He put her in a pumpkin shell. And there he kept her very well.”

Peter, Peter may well have been the first real vegan, an organic and sustainable living diehard. But why couldn’t he keep his wife? Was it something that he did or didn’t do (perhaps he couldn’t satisfy her?) or something which was her responsibility, not his? The plot thickens in the second verse, where we learn Peter had another wife and that he didn’t love her.

In terms of double names, another nursery rhyme speaks quite negatively of women. Is this how women would like to be described—or your wife, daughter, sister, friend?

“Mary, Mary, quite contrary.” And then, out of nowhere, Mary is asked, “How does your garden grow?” She answers: “With silver bells and cockleshells. And pretty maids all in a row.” Contrarian, indeed! (Not to mention sexist.)

If there ever was a case to be made for women’s health, reproductive rights, and the potential for child abuse, it dates back to that old woman who lived in a shoe:

“She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. She gave them some broth without any bread; Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.”

Maybe, in fact, Old Mother Hubbard was really that old lady living in a shoe? Talk about problems. And we blame the dog, not her, for being misanthropic:

Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard, to give her poor doggie a bone; When she came there, the cupboard was bare, and so the poor dog had none. She went to the baker to buy him some bread; when she came back, the dog was dead! She went to the undertakers to buy him a coffin; when she came back, the dog was laughing.

Cupboards and pantries bring up the matter of eating disorders. Along with bulimia and anorexia, who ever would want to eat something less savory or nourishing than this:

“Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold, Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old; Some like it hot, some like it cold, Some like it in the pot, nine days old.”

Evidently, expiration and use dates didn’t exist back in the day when children would pair up and clap their hands to the rhyme. Talk about bad influences! Is it any wonder that some youngsters reject proper table manners, with Jack Horner as their example?

Little Jack Horner sat in the corner, eating his Christmas pie; he put in his thumb, and pulled out a plum, and said, “What a good boy am I!”

Why was that poor child eating in the corner, in the first place … especially during Christmas? We’ve all heard of holiday fruit cake and even plum pudding; but a plum in a Christmas pie? Give me a break, please: What a self-serving egotist Jack Horner must have been, anyway!

And the discipline – punishments! – doled out by these sing-song voices and verses …

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey; there came a big spider, who sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away.

Poor little Miss Muffet. Not only did she have to eat while sitting on a tuffet, but her food sounds rather unpalatable. Then a spider (a big one at that) decides to sit down beside her. It’s truly frightening, I daresay.

Spiders figure prominently into nursery rhymes. Remember this one? It gives me the heebie-jeebies just imagining:

The itsy-bitsy spider went up the waterspout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sun and dried up all the rain, and the itsy-bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.

Ugh!

Of course, spiders aren’t the only creatures and critters whose plight incites fear and terror. Consider mice:

Three blind mice, three blind mice. See how they run, see how they run! They all ran after the farmer’s wife. She cut off their tails with a carving knife. Did ever you see such a sight in your life as three blind mice?

Danger lurks in harm’s way amid many nursery rhymes. There’s the tale of those mischievous siblings who made it to the top of the hill, only to roll all the way back down: 

Jack and Jill went up the hill, to fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.

Falling down and breaking more than a crown is the lot of Humpty Dumpty:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty together again.

And then there are those nursery rhymes that, seemingly, make no sense whatsoever … unless they’re coded chatter messages to co-conspirators:

Hey, diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon; the little dog laughed to see such sport, and the dish ran away with the spoon.

There are lots more cases to be made against nursery rhymes and their nightmarish world to which children are subjected. As is the case, as well, with our favorite fables and fairy tales. Woe to Hansel & Gretel! The trials and tribulations of three little pigs against the voracious wolf. Little Red Riding Hood, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast. Like many of their friends — the Pied Piper, Snow White, Rumplestiltskin, et al — they’re Frankensteins in disguise.

People love to tell dark scary stories. Fairy tales often had lessons in them to teach kids. They were dark, because the protagonist would suffer a consequence for a behavior that is deemed undesirable. Essentially, they served the same purpose as telling a kid that Santa won’t deliver presents if they’re not good.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Sermon: WWJD About the LGBT

Driving across town, I passed a corner church near my credit union. A banner on the side of its lawn had “WWJD About the LGBT?” printed on it, inviting all to come and hear the pastor preach.

Curious, I listened to what he had to say.

To sum up his message: Christians should be on the same team–especially those attending his church. All humanity sins and has been separated from God, except for Jesus (who IS God and who wrote the Bible). Don’t doubt that the Bible speaks the authoritative voice of belief. And, while some of the clobber passages in Leviticus no longer apply anymore since Jesus dismissed them, other verses (Old Testament and New) refer to eternal “lifestyle laws” like alcoholism, gambling, promiscuity, men laying with men and/or women with women.

“If you are LGBT, I want you to come to this church!” the pastor urged at the tail end of his sixty minutes. “I want you to get to know us! I want you to come week after week! I want you to get to know the Bible and Jesus! I want you to feel at home and welcomed here, not judged!”

Hmmmmmmm …..

“BUT,” the pastor emphasized, “you can’t be a member of this church. We’ll ask you not to take communion or to participate with us financially. These are things we do as Christians here, as the church … but that doesn’t mean we hate you!”

Yeah, I’d sure feel comfortable at that church. (Not!)

Worship of the mean, old, imaginary, monster God in the sky that millions have feared for millennia hasn’t produced the best life experience or society possible on earth … or even close to it.

I suspect we can do better.

As can God!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Channeling Andy Rooney: Breaking Bad for the Greater Good

I’m going to get some flak-back on this post … because I believe that good manners are preferable to bad.

Common courtesy and proper protocols transcend cultures and/or countries. No matter where you are or what language you speak, correct conduct is always appropriate and appreciated.

Why, then, do some people ignore “etiquette,” alienating, antagonizing, or offending others? Is it deliberate or incidental?



As a child, weren’t you taught to cover your mouth when you cough and your nose when you sneeze—especially in public?

Queuing at the supermarket or grocery store, I am shocked by how many people cough or sneeze without covering their faces while standing over food. And by people who work in restaurants, where they cough or sneeze – without covering up – when dispensing beverages or handling food!

It’s a matter of respecting personal places and private spaces.

Whether breaking into line out of turn, cutting someone off on the road, denying right of way to pedestrians at cross walks, or invading those sacrosanct spaces immediately surrounding us, it’s self-serving behavior rather than observing conventions for the greater good.

Some people shower or bathe regularly. Others don’t. Some brush their teeth and practice good personal hygiene. Others don’t. Some people apply deodorant. Others don’t. Some smoke. Others don’t. Some people douse themselves in perfume or cologne. Others don’t.

Whether you do or don’t is your choice. But, please, be considerate of mine.

The same can be said of our pets: If you have dogs and cats, especially, please pick up after them and dispose of their waste. Simply opening the door to let pets roam the streets, do their business outside, and then return home is irresponsible. Your home may be clean, but who wants to step in feces … or have our dogs contaminated by it? Sickening to see and worse to smell, it’s a public health hazard.

Driving aggressively, carelessly, and/or inconsiderately also violates the rules of acceptable behavior. Recklessly speeding down the narrow streets of our villages – especially with a cigarette in one hand and cell phone in the other – makes it harder to stop and control a vehicle if/when something unexpected or unforeseen should be presented. On the other hand, we’ve been taught to drive in the right lane and use the left only for passing. So, why stay in the left lane driving 60 kms/h in a 90 kms/h zone? I’m told there’s no specific law here against tailgating (despite all the warning signs); but please stay off my butt. Planning to exit the roundabout or roadway? Again, you need to be where you belong … rather than drifting across in front of us and nearly causing an accident. That little lever (usually) attached to the left side of your steering wheel? It’s called a directional signal for a purpose: to alert others of the direction you’ll be taking or changing. Use it! And, granted that some parking spaces are smaller or tighter than others—even in public shopping centers. But, that doesn’t give anyone the right to park haphazardly … taking up two or more spots, leaving none for others.

Courtesy extends beyond these spaces, streets, and roadways. It also includes online behavior. Just because you’re virtually anonymous doesn’t entitle you to act aggressively, ugly, snarky and/or petulant. What pleasure do some people derive from being so snooty, anyway?

Finally, here’s a nod to professional responsibility: If you want my business, practice good public relations. Return phone calls or reply to my emails promptly. Show up when you say you will. Charge me what we’ve agreed to. I’ll be appreciative and likely to do repeat business with you, as well as to refer others to your products and services.

Finding fault is distasteful.

Yet being selfish, indignant, and malicious have become increasingly in vogue and accepted … especially when spotlighted daily by the revolting conduct and shameful language of our leaders.

Nonetheless, antagonism and rudeness never are really successful. Except when it comes to breeding. They poison a healthy environment and turn prevailing positive attitudes hostile and rotten.

So, let’s do what we can to make this world better for all!

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Other Options

I will always admire Canada and respect the Canadian social contract with its people. But I wouldn’t want to live there. Wisconsin has been cold enough for us. Delving into international retirement trends, we learned that many Canadians owned property in Mexico, where they retreated, if possible, to escape the blustery cold.

So, we looked into Mexico as a potential retirement haven. But the stories about traveling through Mexico – especially around towns near the U.S. border – were chilling in a different way: the fear factor. Americans inadvertently (but sometimes deliberately) had been targets of drug cartels and other criminals in the country.

We considered the Lake Chapala and Ajiic areas outside Guadalajara – known for its “ideal climate” and the number of English-speaking expats residing there – but these places, not far from Mexico’s second largest city, also became headlines when Americans were found murdered there.

“They were in the wrong place at the wrong time,” explained people quoted in the news stories. “They should have known better: You don’t go out here alone at night … especially to certain places. You travel only on the major highways and roads. Don’t wander around. You learn that, to stay safe, it’s wise to live in a gated community.”

That wasn’t what we wanted; our dream included late-night strolls along cobble stone streets of old towns with lots of lanes and paths.

Mexico’s Yucatán peninsula – home to cruise ships calling on expansive, intentionally constructed resort destinations like Cancún, Cozumel, and Playa del Carmen – advertised itself as Mexico’s “safest place to be.” Rather than these tourist traps featuring all-inclusive vacations and panhandlers shilling free meals at luxurious spots in exchange for touring the premises and listening to pitches on the benefits of buying their time-shares, we decided to take a close look at the historic city of Mérida and its nearby beaches—especially Progreso.

It’s hot there. Very hot. Hot and humid and buggy. 

We stayed in a charming little hotel in downtown Mérida, on a small street not far from the city’s market. With Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, Office Max, and other U.S. brands, we felt “at home,” although stifled by the climate if not put off by the language.

But Mérida wasn’t where we wanted to be—even its own people looked to escape the oppressive heat by heading to the beaches, not even an hour’s drive away. We headed there, too.

We went there to look at “Big Blue,” a property in Progreso, just two blocks from the Gulf of Mexico beach. The stately building boasted five big bedrooms, five full baths, a separate “casita” with its own facilities, and a heart-shaped swimming pool … all enclosed and private. We’d seen it listed online by more than one property agent based in Mérida, although one seemed to be more familiar with the property and the Canadian family that was selling it. It had been on the market for a while, the agent informed us, and the owners were “motivated” to sell it.

“What does that mean?” we asked. “Come down and look at it,” replied the agent. “I’ve spoken with the sellers and feel sure that they’ll sell it to you for $10,000 less than their asking price.”

The house was truly awesome. But it needed work. And furnishings. Especially if it were to become the bed and breakfast we envisioned. How much would it cost us to have the repairs and updates made, with so many trades – electrical, masonry, plumbing, carpentry – involved? What would we pay for all the new appliances – air conditioners, a commercial kitchen, all the usual suspects – that needed upgrading? And what kind of estimate would be appropriate for the furnishings, especially comfortable new bedrooms and mattresses?

We made an offer—exactly what the agent told us the owners would accept. Leaving later that morning, we waited at the airport for a response, laptops opened and WiFi on. Just before boarding, we received the news: “Sorry. The owners changed their minds. They’ll sell you the house … but want the full asking price.”

Six years on the market. We offered what was recommended before we flew down to check out the property and Progreso. But, now, it didn’t feel right. If we were misled about the acceptable price for the property, what else might be mistaken?

More importantly, where should we consider next?

I engaged all my contacts and connections in seeking a church seeking a pastor. Preferably a Spanish-speaking pastor.  Like the patriarch Abraham long ago before me, I felt a tugging at my spirit urging me to move on to a place whose Spirit would call.

That’s when I came across this mission statement from an international church in Panama serving all people, but especially English and Spanish speakers, which was looking for a new lead pastor: “To be a bridge of cooperation and understanding among religious groups of all faiths; of acceptance of others regardless of social class, race, gender, or sexual orientation; between all of God’s children, mirroring and practicing the love God has for us; of freedom in the study of religion, the interpretation, and the practice of faith; and for God’s love in a troubled world, expressing a generosity of spirit to all those in need.”

Now, that sounded like a perfect fit in terms of my personal beliefs.

I submitted a letter of application, along with my CV, via email.

Within days of completing and submitting the application materials requested, I heard back from the pastoral search committee: “We would like to schedule an interview this coming Monday. Any chance we can hold it at 7pm or 8pm CST?” It would be an hour conversation.

The plot was thickening, but what did we really know about living in Panama? Our only experience with the country was a cruise ship excursion through Panama City, culminating on a boat that would take us through the fabled Panama Canal. But what would it be like to live there? What was its quality of life and cost of living? Even closer to the equator than Jacksonville, Florida, or Progreso and Mérida, Mexico, how hot and humid would the climate be there?

Panama is very, very hot and very, very humid. It is also very expensive, especially the areas around the church. How much would it cost us to move there—including our three dogs? Would the church help defray some of these costs? When did they expect me to start? How long would it take for us to sell our house and our cars? Would the church pay for Russ to join me for a week or so to do house-hunting while I was being oriented to the church? Ultimately, there were more questions than answers forthcoming. And those answers that were provided indicated that the move would be more difficult than either Russ or I had anticipated.

Sadly, I turned down the offer. But I continue to use this church’s mission statement as an example of what I believe a church should be.

We were beginning to become indoctrinated to the “expat” community and decided to consider the possibilities offered by two other countries in South and Central America: Ecuador and Nicaragua.

During a year in high school, Russ’s family had hosted an exchange student from Ecuador. More recently, we were hearing increasingly good things about expat life in this country: Relatively low crime, a large and active expat community, extremely generous homes at very affordable prices, and quite a comfortable climate … even in Cuenca, a beautiful colonial city high up in the mountains, where many expats have settled.

In Ecuador, you can enjoy some of the lowest prices in Latin America on everything from groceries to real estate and domestic help.  A couple could easily live a modest lifestyle on as little as U.S. $1,200 per month, including rent. With less money needed for housing and utilities, retirees have the flexibility to travel and pursue other dreams.  Inexpensive transportation is readily available and makes getting around the rest of the country a breeze.

Ecuador also offers great benefits to its senior residents, with discounts as high as 50% on things like international airfare and entertainment.

Many expats who retire to Ecuador find themselves extremely pleased with the country’s medical system, particularly with the quality of care they receive. Most doctors speak English, and many trained in the U.S.  Hospitals are excellent and equipped with state-of-the-art technology.  Best of all is the cost: Health care can run anywhere from half to one-tenth the cost for the same services in the U.S.

Yes, we’d certainly think about Ecuador.

But we also were being tickled by Nicaragua, especially Lake Granada, a freshwater lake and the largest in Central America. The lake drains to the Caribbean Sea via the San Juan River, making its lakeside city an Atlantic port, although Granada (as well as the entire lake) is closer to the Pacific Ocean geographically.

Other parts of Nicaragua can get disturbingly hot, but Granada and its lake are quite comfortable and its real estate is altogether reasonable.

“Life here [in Granada] has been good to us,” shared one retiree from the USA who was active in one of the Nicaragua online expat groups we had joined. “What you really need to think about is what you will do when you get here. Successful expats reinvent their lives and do things that they have always wanted to do. We do some volunteer work, are active in our church, and pursue interests we didn’t have time for in our former life. We also travel a great deal. Central America is a great place to see. The availability in stores is great, although imported food is expensive. We have found most of what we want. We go to Managua once a month for groceries and to have a fun time,” reported this Granada expat. But another expat living in Nicaragua had these words of warning about Granada:

“You can live here very well on whatever income you have. We live in a middle class neighborhood for a fraction of what it would cost in the U.S. or Canada. Our neighborhood is very safe, our neighbors are friendly and watch out for us, but you must practice common sense. Most of the crime is opportunistic and, if you are walking home drunk and talking on your iPhone at midnight, expect to invite trouble. We also avoid heavy tourist areas like La Calzada, which are magnets for crime. Be just as careful of expats as Nicas. Don’t trust anyone you meet in a bar. Get to know people before you get too friendly.”

Good advice. For everyone, no matter where.

While we had heard through the grapevine that “Nica” was the next best place to invest – because China was planning to spend lots of money building a canal there that would beat Panama’s – there was just something about Nicaragua that made us uneasy. Maybe it was its history. Or, perhaps, it was because of El Salvador, Honduras, and (to a degree) even Costa Rica, its current neighbors, whose citizens were among the “immigrants” fleeing their countries to live in the United States. Whatever the cause of our hesitancy, neither Nicaragua or Ecuador, nor Mexico and Panama, felt right for us to retire there.

None of these places had our names on their welcome mats.

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

“Partners”

“The people of Portugal don’t judge a person’s sexual orientation but, rather, his or her character,” a wise woman said to me.

As hate crimes continue to escalate in the USA and same-sex marriage, though now the law of the land there, faces renewed opposition and denials by government representatives, I am reminded of yet another reason why we love Portugal and Spain.

Sexual orientation and gender identity don’t appear to be issues here.

How ironic that two of the most “Catholic” countries in the world – Portugal and Spain – have been in the forefront of recognizing both civil and human rights, regardless of the church’s official teaching and position.

In fact, the entire nomenclature – the words we use to identify and call this or that – takes a bit getting used to and understanding on this side of the pond.

Take “partner,” for instance. Despite its business associations and financial connections, it’s my own preferred word to describe a relationship in which we share the substance of our lives together.

Evidently, others feel the same way, too.

We’ve met more married couples here who refer to their spouses as “partners,” rather than husband or wife. The same goes for committed couples who, but for common law, aren’t technically married.

And, although I advocate gender-neutral vocabulary whenever possible (and practical), “spouse” simply doesn’t convey that warm-and-fuzzy feeling as does “partner” (or husband and wife, for that matter).

“Mate” can also be gender-neutral, but no longer implies what it did. Once upon a time – for many Americans, at least – one’s mate referred to one of a pair. Like socks or matching earrings. A sexual connection was often implied or inferred when referring to someone as one’s mate. Not anymore: Now, especially among Brits, “mate” is more commonly used as a familiar form of address—as in “friend” or “buddy.”

Attraction, like emotion, is legitimate but not logical … less a product of the mind than what abides in our hormones and hearts. So, whatever term of endearment – partner, spouse, mate, husband, wife – you’re most comfortable with when referring to that special companion in your life is yours to choose and use.

Yet, how does that play out among the Spanish and Portuguese, who refer to their intimate relationships as “esposo” and “esposa” (husband and wife, in both languages), but “marido” and “mujer” (“mulher” in Portuguese)?

The man is a husband in both countries; but the wife is referred to as “my woman.” Both countries are rather progressive, yet with remnants of provincial sexism and property ownership.

What’s more, do the same standards hold true for the Portuguese people and Spaniards today? Look around: Depending on where you live, the answers may vary. Or maybe they won’t.

You’ll need to get to know your neighbors better.

Which is how it should be, anyway.

But don’t interfere!

# # # # # # # # # # # # # # #

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Square Peg in a Round Hole

When Sexual Orientation and Identity Conflict …
Men May Marry, Yet Carry-On Clandestinely with Other Men

Many older and middle-aged men are intimately involved with other men. Married or not, most of them tragically choose anonymity over acknowledging their true selves to others and, often, even themselves.

Why are these men so secretive and afraid of revealing their sexual orientation?

Because they grew up at a time when culture and society exorcised homosexuality, treating homosexual men and lesbians as lepers: sick, reprobate, reprehensible pariahs.

So their sexual behavior, orientation, and identity conflict and increasingly collide.

That’s the thesis of Bruce H. Joffe, a college professor and church pastor whose new tell-tale book is a memoir about myriad masked men supposedly “straight” but actually same-sex oriented.

Square Peg in a Round Hole follows the author’s attempts to delude himself and loved ones, tracing his experiences rejecting, confronting, and ultimately embracing the man he now believes God meant him to be all along. For Joffe and many men like him, the challenge required reconciling religious beliefs with his innate disposition.

An enigma within an enigma, Joffe is a Gay Jewish-Christian whose academic focus for the past ten years has been on Gender Studies. The connection enabled him to meet many men from the baby boom generation still struggling with their sexuality—online, in support groups, at churches, and through other social networks.

“We tried to deny ourselves, hoping the burdensome secret would disappear,” he shares. “But, of course, it never did. So we turned to prescription drugs, self-inflicted voodoo, and pejorative prayer. Mostly, though, we married … expecting that wedding rings and children would add legitimacy to our lives and help keep the demons at bay. Inevitably, other people got hurt as we woefully dealt with a painful identity crisis.”

Married with children or still single, politicians, celebrities, sports figures, and even evangelical leaders are now coming out and confessing … or being forced to do so.

“Guilt, shame, and remorse plague many homosexual men but, especially, those who are married and lead hypocritical or duplicitous lives while cringing in the closet,” Joffe says.

“Denied equal rights, respect, and even their religion, how could people with same-sex orientations lead legitimate lives?”

All too often they couldn’t, because they wouldn’t come to grips with what they thought was wrong: to be born a homosexual … or to love someone of the same sex. The author maintains that we can’t control one and the other is a natural expression of the birthright.

“Homosexuality almost always has meant second-class status, or worse. It shouldn’t. Gays in society have harmed themselves – and others – long enough,” insists Bruce Joffe who, in writing this book, realized that he would pay the piper for coming out publicly.

Square Peg in a Round Hole (Hardcover: ISBN 978-1-4257-6918-5 & Softcover: ISBN 978-1-4257-6908-6) is available from amazon.com and most online booksellers in all formats: hard cover, paperback, and eBook.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.