A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: titosarah

Visiting Oaxaca with the Family Dog or Cat

Advice for a Oaxacan Vacation with a Pet

As the proprietor of a bed & breakfast in Oaxaca, Mexico, I frequently field inquiries from travelers with plans to visit the city who are intent upon bringing the family dog or cat along for the vacation. They initially ask if pets are permitted in our guest level, and then after receiving a reply in the negative, in a second email ask for names of alternate hotels or other accommodations which do accept pets. The advice is always the same, but the inquiries keep coming.

This pet lover and owner of a brindle boxer is not a pet psychologist, nor professes to intimately know what’s right or wrong when it comes to decisions about the family dog or cat (or one’s children for that matter – lord knows we’ve made and will continue to make mistakes raising our daughter), nor the impact that leaving a pet behind could have on the mutt or his “parents” or “siblings.” However, there are certain factors which ought to at least be considered prior to deciding definitively to take Fido or Tabby along for the trip.

Yes, Some Hotels and Bed & Breakfasts in Oaxaca Do Accept Pets, Including Dogs and Cats

Of course virtually every major tourist city in the civilized world includes the odd hotel, guest house or bed & breakfast which accepts pets, at minimum dogs and cats. Oaxaca is no exception. For example, a couple of members of the Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast Association are happy to extend invitations to the four legged. But most shun the thought of even the possibility of a cat meowing or dog barking, and therefore having to contend with complaints from pet-less guests. Certainly there are exceptions; but what might it reveal about the quality of lodging if the owner is struggling to rent out rooms to the extent that he feels compelled to accept dogs, cats, rats, parrots, snakes and lizards?

Your choice of lodging is dramatically reduced by restricting the selection to accommodations in Oaxaca which accept pets. Is the vacation for the Homo sapiens in the family, or for the canines and felines?

But Think of the Poor Pet, No Matter How Attached You Insist He is To the Family

Believe it or not, family pets are in fact different from the human members of the family, no matter how much we might treat them the same as we treat ourselves, no matter that they sleep with us in our beds, no matter they might pick up on our emotions and even thoughts. After the first couple of hours of the road trip to Oaxaca, will the pet not be less patient than the children? Is he capable of playing board games in the car? Would he be happier being cared for in a quality facility back home where he can frolic with his own kind?
When we vacation we board Tito with a dog trainer. Now, seven years later, whenever we begin to gather up his food and water bowls, and leash and choke chain for the ride, he becomes unimaginably excited, sensing that he’s off once again to the country club.

Pet Owners with a Dog or Cat Accompaniment in Oaxaca are Otherwise Restricted

Many ruins and cultural sights do not permit pets, leashed or otherwise. Yes, the dog or cat can be left in the car, windows left slightly ajar. But do you want to run the risk of returning to the parking lot and finding Fido has fled the coup with the help of a Oaxacan anxious to turn the catch into coin? Do you want to constantly be obsessing about that possibility rather than expending all of your energies enjoying Monte Albán, Mitla or a marketplace? Bringing the pet will on balance dramatically restrict your ability to enjoy a number of priority tourist sights.

If Still Not Convinced, Consider Boarding the Pet in Oaxaca, and Compare Costs

True enough, boarding costs in the US and Canada are prohibitive for most of us.
Accordingly, as a last ditch effort to convert the otherwise committed, consider boarding the beast here in Oaxaca. The advantages of doing so include:

• The cost is about a quarter of what it costs back home.
• Your vacation will have no restrictions in terms of the sights which you can see.
• You hopefully will not be constantly obsessing about how your dog or cat is doing; and you won’t have to incur long distance calls to assure yourself.
• Your pet can still enjoy spending quality time with the rest of the family driving through the American mid-West.
• You can drop by to see him daily and exchange stories about how the day went. Most boarding facilities have posted visiting hours.
• He’ll be having the vacation of a lifetime, and perhaps even pick up a bit of Pet-Spanish.
• You won’t have any such restrictions on selecting a hotel or B & B, and accordingly your vacation in Oaxaca will be that much more relaxing and enjoyable.

Since pet boarding facilities in Mexico invariably have dog psychologists on staff, you can kill the proverbial two birds with one stone – use the first half hour for the dog to deal with his stress, and the other half hour for yourself.

Together with his wife Arlene, Alvin Starkman operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com). Alvin has written over 200 articles about life and culture in Oaxaca, assists tourists in planning their visit to Oaxaca and tour of its central valleys, and with Chef Pilar Cabrera arranges culinary tours of Oaxaca (http://www.oaxacaculinarytours.com).

Posted by titosarah 07:13 Archived in Mexico Tagged dog vacation hotel mexico in with dogs pets accommodations oaxaca accept which Comments (0)

Vivo Resorts in Puerto Escondido

Mexican Resort Community Comes of Age with Development of Luxury, Accessible Homes and Condominiums

Alvin Starkman, M.A., LL.B.

Two-time Canadian Olympian and World Cup downhill champion Cary Mullen was recovering in Maui, Hawaii, from a ski accident. He began to ponder a prime location in the world to build an affordable beachfront community of homes and condominiums for people like him; those who are still relatively young, yet are already starting to think about a warm climate for part – time residence, a future for themselves and their families. He compiled a list of 44 factors to consider, investigated 30 countries, and personally visited over a dozen before settling on Puerto Escondido, in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca.

Mullen wasn’t interested in building simply a sun, sand and surf retirement community. In a conversation at his Vivo Resorts building site, he explained that the idea was never to attract just retirees:

“I was looking at two demographics; Baby Zoomers, and generation Mex. ‘Pretired’ Canadians [and Americans] who realize that they don’t have to live in a cold weather climate all year round. People like me who want to practice for retirement, which might come three, four or 10 years down the road.”

In 2007, Mullen purchased 30 hectares of land, about a 12 minute drive up the Pacific coast from Puerto Escondido. The development has 735 meters of oceanfront, is 400 meters deep, and includes a tranquil piece of property (slated to remain as such) for the exclusive use of residents, backing onto a lagoon filled with mangroves, fish, birds and other assorted flora and fauna.

Mullen has already sold a number of oceanfront and ocean view lots, as well as several condominium units in Phase One of his development. As of late November, 2010, construction of the condos and pool was well underway.

Why Buy in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, Versus Anywhere Else Around The Globe?

Four of Mullen’s 44 factors stand out. A comparative analysis made the choice of Puerto Escondido, as opposed to any other beach location, relatively easy.

Weather as a Key Determinant in Selecting Puerto Escondido

Amongst other considerations, Mullen studied frequency and strength of hurricanes, temperature variation and rainfall. He found that, for example, over a 150 year period Cancun has had 38 significant hurricanes, compared to only three in Puerto Escondido. In Puerto Escondido there is only a 5 °F average temperature variation year round, ranging from 78.3 to 83.3, and total rainfall between the end of October and the end of May is about 1/3 of an inch.

The water temperature is warmer in the Pacific at Puerto Escondido than in the Caribbean or Hawaii. “When vacationers can only take off work for a week or two, they want good weather; they actually want to be guaranteed that they’ll have great weather the entire time,” Mullen stresses. He continues: “I came to realize that real estate agents only want to show warm climate ocean properties in the mornings, because in the afternoons the wind tends to pick up. But in Puerto Escondido we’re blessed with just gentle breezes.”

Investment Timing for Purchasing Land or a Condominium in Puerto Escondido

Puerto Escondido is one of the few beach locations still showing relatively low cost of land and construction per square foot. Mullen cites resort properties in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California, as an area where exorbitant land costs have made purchasing there inaccessible for most. He illustrates that in Cabo San Lucas it’s almost five times as expensive as buying along Oaxaca’s Pacific coast.

“And here in Puerto Escondido we’re seeing really strong investment returns for condo rentals.” He continues, with a sound prediction: “Just wait until the highway widening project between the city of Oaxaca and Puerto Escondido is completed. A lot more people, both residents of and vacationers to south and central Mexico, will be interested in renting homes and condominiums along the coast. Mexico has one of the strongest world economies; compare it to that of the US in recent years, for example. The Mexican stock market has been performing phenomenally.”

Safety & Security in Puerto Escondido, Mexico

“I spent a big part of my life on the World Cup circuit, risking my life,” Mullen admits. “The last thing I want to do now is anything which would create fear and insecurity in my life. I’m in my forties with a wife and three young children, and parents in their sixties who are thrilled to be able to spend time here in Mexico with their grandchildren. I’ve bought a condo unit in the development for us. Right now I, my wife and children live here six months a year, and in Canada the other six months. But our future is Puerto Escondido, perhaps not 12 months a year any time soon, but it’s something I want for my wife and our family, and an investment for our children; so they’ll always have somewhere to go to vacation, and the option of making Puerto Escondido their home.”

Mullen cited the recent arrival in Puerto Escondido of a new hospital, several car dealerships, vastly improved options for private schools for children, and a large grocery store chain. In addition, a number of construction material outlets have been springing up, evidence of a building boom. “And there’s more on the way. Look, in the state capital,” he boasts, “we already have a Sam’s Club, Sears, Fábricas de Francia [similar to Bloomingdale’s]. These chains don’t open up unless they’ve done their homework, and are confident about growth potential, signifying confidence in future safety and security of the region.”

Mullen correctly cites comparative statistics in support of the proposition that the media carelessly and wrongly paints all of Mexico with one broad stroke of the brush, and that Puerto Escondido is much safer than the cities in which most Canadians and Americans live. He continues:

“Last week in Calgary there was a bad snowfall; there were more than 600 traffic accidents in one single day. People caution about swimming in the ocean, yet only five people die of shark attacks annually worldwide, while 200 die from faulty toasters and 1,000 from hippopotamus incidents. My mom has no qualms whatsoever about going for long walks by herself along the beach here in Puerto Escondido, or in town for that matter. Do you think she’d feel that way about walking alone in Chicago, New York or Acapulco?”

People & Pace in Puerto Escondido

While it’s difficult to compare statistics when it comes to the people and pace of living in one part of the world versus another, according to Mullen Puerto Escondido does stand out from many other warm weather retirement and tourist destinations. He finds the people extremely friendly, always greeting with a smile and offering their assistance. He believes that he and other non-Mexicans don’t particularly stand out, and are certainly not constantly harassed by hawkers of every kind of product and service. It’s easier for Canadians and Americans to become part of the broader society if they’re so inclined, perhaps because residents of Puerto Escondido have been accustomed to dealing with foreigners for generations; Puerto Escondido has existed as a port town for literally hundreds of years, with non – Mexicans coming and going, and staying.

Puerto Escondido Versus Huatulco, A Short Drive Down the Pacific Coast Highway

My personal bias has always been in favour of Puerto Escondido over Huatulco, two vastly different cities, yet separated by only 1½ hours of coastal highway. Back in 2005, I predicted that over time, Huatulco, a resort town built by the Mexican government to be a world class tourist destination, would develop its own quaintness akin to that of Puerto Escondido, and a unique culture complete with color and pageantry. My thinking was that over the course of a generation, the Mexican population in Huatulco, that is, those individuals transplanted from other parts of the state and country to provide goods and services, would inevitably build for themselves neighborhoods, marketplaces, bars and comedors, and other indicia of a complete social structure. Mullen sees such a metamorphosis as being a long way off. He maintains that there’s still a significant difference between the two sister cities; I have to agree with his assessment:

“Huatulco is like a movie set; designed and manicured. Except for the very small downtown area, La Crucecita, which is a fair distance from most of the resort areas, there’s an air of unreality to it. And even La Crucecita seems moulded for tourists and no one else. It just lacks something. Puerto Escondido has a soul, and there’s a positive vibe that Huatulco in my estimation is missing, plain and simple.

“Even the surfing sub-culture component to Puerto Escondido is remarkable. And yes, it feels to me like a [winter] ski town. Perhaps that’s part of what attracted me to it. It has vibrancy; it’s full of youth and energy. But at the same time, there’s a very strong local dimension, with traditional native festivals going on throughout the year, as has been the case for generations. So while Huatulco does have many of the attributes of Puerto Escondido, and ranks up there based on the factors I initially enumerated and compared, there’s a significant difference, in the respect I’ve indicated.”

Cary Mullen’s Pedigree: Success in Real Estate Development Leads to Mexican Investment

Cary Mullen is far from just a retired ski champion looking to conquer a different series of moguls. Success in real estate is in his blood; no different than his athleticism. When Mullen was 10 years old he saw his father buy his first investment building, and he took notice of it, and an immediate interest. Mullen would spend weekends alongside his dad, learning the trade. At 19 he got his real estate license, and at 21 purchased his first property, on his own: “I knew that I had to have a fallback plan, and that being a professional athlete is a short career, especially as a skier. We’re not like major league pitchers who can work into their forties by finessing how they throw the ball, or like the Bret Favres in the football world.”

Mullen had an eye for the residential real estate market, such that he began buying and selling houses, invariably making a handsome profit at every turn. He would always purchase prime geography. He converted a duplex into a four-plex, then an apartment building into condo units; all this while competing on the ski hills.

The Canadian real estate experience taught him to look for opportunities – undervalued properties. “This is my new play, finding affordable beachfront that is attractive to people in my kind of demographic. I didn’t just go out and buy a piece of oceanfront and decide to build and market. I’ve been doing my homework for several years, using study habits I’ve honed and perfected over the course of more than 20 years.”

It’s one thing to have investors, and to work with their money and hope for the best. But it’s another to do it all on your own, relying on your experience, instinct and research, and to put it on the line. Indeed Mullen has had opportunities to take in partners in Vivo Resorts. But he’s an expert at what he does; the same drive, passion and talent which lifted him onto the world stage in skiing, is guiding him in Puerto Escondido.

“Wait just a minute Alvin,” Mullen says as we’re walking through one of the oceanfront condos under construction. “I have to speak to one of my men and show him something. A couple of days ago I decided to make a change to this unit, to make the living room larger and appear much more spacious, with more of an ocean view. I have to show him what I mean. You see if I had investors, we’d have to have meetings and discussions; but it’s just me, so I can decide on my own what I know is best for the people I’m selling to. And yet I am very fortunate to have an incredible team working with me.”

Vivo Resorts in Puerto Escondido Caters to a Cross-Section of Investors, Vacationers & Retirees

One of Mullen’s goals is to provide as much of a view of the ocean as practicable, to as many condo units as possible. At the same time he’s committed to making prices as accessible as possible to the broadest range of prospective purchasers.

In his initial development there are 156 condominium units and 104 building lots, although he’s now just concentrating on the first phase of the development. The prices of the condo units range from $59,000 for a studio, to $549,000 for a 3,886 square foot four bedroom oceanfront penthouse ... and everything in between. Vivo Resort building lots range from the $40,000 mountain-view lots, up to sprawling $265,000 sandy beach oceanfront properties. I did the math, and the pricing per square meter impressed, both in terms of the serviced lots, and condominium units built with higher end finishes.

Those purchasing raw land have the option of using one of Mullen’s recommended contractors (he opted for a Mexican crew for his development after interviewing and evaluating Mexican, Canadian and American companies), or retaining architects and contractors on their own. Homeowners have access to all of the facilities of the condominium clubhouse such as restaurant, lounge and spa; meditation and yoga room; tennis courts and sports field; ocean view fitness club; VIP business center; conference space; general store; and kids’ club / daycare center; “As you can see, Vivo Resorts is not just for retirees; I want families just like mine to have the option of spending a large part of the year here; and with the internet and the global economy, many working men and women have the option of earning a living from anywhere, even here – while gazing out onto the ocean from their living rooms.”

Casa Rubia in Puerto Escondido Facilitates Opportunity to Visit Vivo Resorts

Even though Mullen sponsors information sessions to attract prospective purchasers, he’s not one who believes in the hard sell, or in the guise of giving away something for nothing. He assures: “No, no, no; that’s not me, and it’s not my style, and never has been. I know what I have and what I am building, and that it sells itself; at least to those who have done their due diligence. In fact I never dissuade people from looking around at different opportunities. That’s exactly what I initially did a few years back, looked at all of my options, and why I purchased this tract of land and am doing what I’m doing.” He’s up front about it: “And I’m not giving away free trips to a Mexican resort.”

What Mullen is in fact doing is providing potential buyers with an opportunity to fly down to Puerto Escondido, spend a few days scoping out the area, and his resort, within the context of a vacation. While visiting, they stay at Mullen’s Casa Rubia, an ultra – luxurious oceanfront complex with six bedrooms each with en suite, media room with WIFI and satellite TV, living room with expansive wraparound sofa opening onto an exquisite dining area, and other facilities all spread over 15,000 square feet.

Yes, Mullen pampers his guests, with a dedicated bilingual staff including maids, butler, property manager, chauffer / handyman, and Mexican chef. But he doesn’t give away free trips to Puerto Escondido. Prospective purchases can look at his website, communicate with him or his staff by phone or email, and then if the interest is there, fly down at their own expense, and stay at Casa Rubia at a rate well below the value provided. “Sure, for those who end up buying we reimburse part of the cost of the vacation,” Mullen acknowledges, “but those who come down and decide it’s not for them, for whatever reason, they leave having had a great vacation, first class all the way.”

Mullen provides visitors to Casa Rubia and Vivo Resorts with an all-inclusive package. Each visitor is provided with a personalized, comprehensive and extremely detailed “Stay & Play Itinerary” for the full six days, outlining meals and happy hours, shopping and boat tours, visits to the main beaches, relaxation periods to sun and swim at Casa Rubia, and of course, time to visit the Vivo Resorts development to learn and ask questions. Significantly, portions of only three days out of six are devoted to visiting the development and question and answer periods – two mornings and one after – lunch discussion session.

One thing for sure, a visit to Casa Rubia and Vivo Resorts makes you start thinking about your future, and the quality of life you want for yourself and your family, both down the road and right now.

Vivo Resorts Oceanfront Properties in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Mexico

For further information, contact Vivo Resorts:
Phone from Canada and the US: 403 – 827 – 3210
Phone from Mexico: 558 – 421 – 7212
Email: info@vivoresorts.com

Alvin Starkman (M.A., LL.B.), is a resident of Oaxaca. Alvin and his wife Arlene operate Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com); however Alvin has no vested or other interest in Vivo Resorts. Alvin writes articles about life and cultural traditions in Oaxaca for magazines, newspapers and websites, takes couples and families to the sights in Oaxaca’s central valleys, consults to documentary production companies working in the region, and arranges Oaxaca culinary tours (http://www.oaxacaculinarytours.com).

Posted by titosarah 12:19 Archived in Mexico Tagged rental resort puerto for homes condo sale escondido Comments (0)

Am I paying my staff too much?

Improving leisure and peace of mind: A case study from Oaxaca, Mexico

Alvin Starkman, M.A., LL.B.

It’s now two months before Day of The Dead in Oaxaca, and Juanita’s hotel still has rooms available for one of the busiest times of the year. The City of Oaxaca, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Southern Mexico, relies on tourism for its very existence. Juanita is trying to figure out where she went wrong, realizing that Día de Los Muertos should top up her bank balance, just like the Christmas season, the summertime festival weeks known as Guelaguetza, and Easter.

Time and again Juanita asks herself, “Am I paying my staff too much?” Merely asking the question reveals why her bottom line is so low.

Oaxacan business owners with non-unionized staff who either think they’re overpaying, or provide a level of remuneration only because they believe they can’t get away with paying any less, will never maximize their profit potential. Attitude towards employees, and failing to recognize the importance and potential value of each and every staff position, affects how business fares.

Here in Oaxaca it’s a well-known fact that non-Mexicans (extranjeros) pay their help more (i.e. “too much”) money relative to Oaxacan employers. Until recently I had assumed that the reason was simply that Americans and Europeans resident in Oaxaca come from wealthy societies in which entrepreneurs can afford to pay large salaries, and although now living and working here in Oaxaca they still think and operate in American Dollars --- not understanding or accepting Oaxacan economics. But now, armed with data concerning the salaries customarily paid to employees in diverse positions of trust, authority and responsibility, and having conducted a rudimentary analysis of comparative levels of success between foreign and domestically owned businesses, it’s clear that the differences are rather simple, and relate to three fundamentals: 1) business acumen; 2) attitudes towards leisure time and piece of mind, and; 3) willingness to acknowledge that “you get what you pay for.” Each is integrally related to the other.

Juanita (names have been changed) pays her receptionists 115 pesos (roughly $9 USD) per day, and her chambermaids 100. Mary, an American who owns a bed and breakfast, never pays staff less than 150 pesos per day. The American travels outside of the country to promote and conduct business, and to vacation, on a regular basis. The Oaxacan rarely leaves the city or takes a vacation of longer than three days, and does so only when there are virtually no guests in the hotel. The Amercan says that she knows she pays her staff too much relative to Oaxacan salaries, but when she stops to think about what “overpaying” enables her to do, and how her business fares, acknowledges that perhaps she is not being unreasonably generous with her staff.

Why is Mary’s B & B one of the top-ranked tourist accommodations on a major international travel website, while Juanita’s is in the doldrums? Juanita says she’s paying her staff double minimum wage, and could pay even less if she really wanted to. Mary has had the same staff for several years, and even acknowledges their birthdays. Juanita has high employee turnover.

Juanita’s financial outlay is significant. She spends an inordinate amount of effort making her hotel look pretty, and money promoting it. Her hotel is in a high rent district in the downtown sector of the city. It should be packed day in and day out given its location and the expenditure to maintain it. Yet two months prior to Day of The Dead, she is one of only two lodgings in her association with rooms still available for the high season. Funds are earmarked for the wrong places; prioritization is skewed.

Juanita’s retort strikes a familiar chord, and at first instance might seem rational: “It wouldn’t matter if I paid my receptionist 30, 40, or even 50% more,” she laments. “She wouldn’t work any harder or be more dedicated, because more money doesn’t motivate them; that’s just the way they are. And besides, I can’t afford any more, with all my other expenses, and business generally down.”

Juanita’s response can be summarized as twofold: paying more won’t yield results, and; she can’t afford it anyway. Dealing with the first, Juanita has to step out of the box, out of the colonial way of thinking. She sees “the culture of poverty,” insofar as it relates to native workers from small towns and villages, not allowing employees to break from a fatalistic pre-determined mold, because that’s just the way they are. More money won’t make a difference to their lot in life and therefore won’t motivate.

It does not behoove me to tell Juanita she’s wrong, and it is beyond the scope of this essay to even try to illustrate that she is, which may or may not be the case. But there’s another solution to Juanita’s dilemma which does not threaten or test her ingrained beliefs. She can seek out prospective employees whose expectations are higher to begin with; those who have perhaps had a taste of higher earnings and what they can provide, or have achieved advanced education, if only a high school diploma which has lead them to a career path (una carrera). Juanita then begins with the knowledge or at least an expectation that the change in hiring will bear fruit. But that might entail going as far as paying her receptionists 200 pesos a day.

Can Juanita afford to pay her daytime and evening receptionists, Alma and Rosita, almost double? And why would she? After all, reception is a non-management position. This leads us to the second prong of the equation, that is, affordability and making a difference. We must look at the question in terms of higher profit potential, and peace of mind and its natural consequences. What then would be the implications for Juanita’s after-tax income, and more generally the quality of her life?

Juanita has eight rooms in her hotel. She would be increasing the pay of only two of three receptionists, on the basis that the all-night position might not yield results with a higher level of pay. It would therefore cost an additional 170 pesos per day to raise each of the two shifts to 200 pesos, plus other sundry expenses, so call it 200 pesos more per day. Juanita could make it up by raising room costs by 25 pesos, or roughly 4%. Or she could absorb the extra cost and see if it makes a difference. Let’s assume, although I’m not certain we should, that vacationing couples would resist paying 625 instead of 600 pesos per night, or 12.5 pesos more per person.

How would Alma react to having a 200 peso per day job, rather than working for 115? Her sense of self-worth would receive a shot in the arm; her name would be on her uniform; she would be more likely to stay at work after her shift has ended, without resentment, if for example Rosita arrived late on occasion; she would less likely be constantly looking for a job paying 10 pesos more a day; and she would feel that her education has paid off. Juanita might even give her the responsibility of making bank deposits if she proved completely trustworthy and loyal. Without a doubt she would be more likely to provide hotel patrons with “value-added service” … and with a smile, literally.

Alma and Rosita would remember patrons returning the next year, and the guests would surely recall them, because of their friendly faces and the service they provided. There’s nothing like returning to a hotel and seeing familiar faces. It breeds comfort … more so than a soft duvet. Both Mexican nationals and foreigners tend to be family oriented. They would perceive the hotel and its staff as a family, again leading to familiarity and comfort. They will be more likely than not return to the same establishment next year, and recommend it to friends.

Over time the nature of and expenditure for advertising can be adjusted, from paying out higher costs every year for the same and new promotional techniques, to the more economical promotion of emailing those on the client list from time to time to keep the hotel’s name in their minds. The hotel will be able to use the written testimonials of its guests, which will undoubtedly be received, instead of pay its marketing specialist to come up with catchy slogans of questionable value (at least that’s the Oaxacan norm).

Staff staying with Juanita for longer stretches of time means Juanita spends less time interviewing and hiring and firing, and less money advertising for positions. Juanita can spend more time with her family, or find more productive ways to keep business growing, instead of constantly being on the defensive by having to staff, yet again. She will no longer have to constantly be looking over the shoulders of Alma and Rosita, since she’ll know that they’re doing their jobs, because they’re happy to be doing them; Alma and Rosita will have begun to appreciate the monetary and non-monetary rewards resulting from meeting and exceeding expectations of management. It takes time and energy to always be watching over the work that staff is doing to ensure that it’s being done competently. If paying higher wages relieves Juanita of that responsibility, she will then have more opportunities to perform other tasks more directly relating to marketing and making money.

Once the level of trust has been established, Juanita can take the odd day off, knowing that Rosita will be able to resolve small problems on her own such as calling the plumber, the electrician, the water delivery man and the municipality. She’ll have the confidence and the sense to call Juanita when she cannot resolve problems, not feeling as though she’s been a failure for not dealing with issues on her own. Juanita won’t be constantly calling the hotel to make sure everything is running well.

Rosita will sense her value to Juanita, and anticipate regular raises, which will keep her content. And Juanita will hopefully have the sense to not wait until Rosita takes the bold step of asking.

Juanita will be able to take off not only the odd day, but actual vacations.

Reception is the most important staff position a hotel can have. It provides the first impression that a prospective patron will receive about Juanita’s hotel, whether the inquiry is by phone, or in person. Unless Juanita wants to be the one answering the phone and selling her hotel to off-the-street tourists, she’d better begin paying Alma and Rosita the value of their positions … or they’ll be gone, and Juanita will in fact be working 24/7.

Once her staff is patterned to provide value-added service, Juanita can raise her prices. No one will begrudge that extra 25, or better yet 125 pesos per night. After all, Alma and Rosita will be doing the selling for her.

Next adjustment? Think of the level of responsibility entrusted to chambermaids, and how much they are being paid. They ensure patrons’ valuables do not disappear, and the cleanliness of surroundings and level of comfort for a full one-third of the time travelers are on vacation!

Alvin Starkman has a Masters in Social Anthropology from Toronto’s York University, and a law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School. Alvin ceased practicing law in 2004, when he and his wife Arlene began living permanently in Oaxaca. Since that time, Alvin has written over 90 articles about life and cultural traditions in and around Oaxaca and its central valleys, for newspapers, magazines, and websites promoting tourism in Mexico and abroad. Alvin and Arlene operate Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast (http://www.oaxacadream.com).

Posted by titosarah 15:12 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Considering a more permanent stay in Oaxaca?

Advice for the snowbird or retiree considering at least a seasonal move

Alvin Starkman M.A., LL.B.

It took 8 years for my wife and I to find the right piece of land in the ideal location in Oaxaca, obtain good title, decide upon an architect/project manager, and commence and complete construction. Throughout the process the learning curve was significant, as were the frustrations and the simultaneous fits of disillusionment and excitement. Had I used my Canadian legal knowledge (as a litigator versed in construction law, contracts and land disputes) and life experiences in approaching the multitude of issues which arose, even with the differences in cultural and legal systems and business practices, the agony would have been significantly reduced.

Here in southern Mexico we’re tempted to follow neither gut instincts based upon a northern worldview nor the fount of knowledge we’ve accumulated in our earlier lives. Instead we are guided by a Mexican multitude of advisers, friends and tradesmen.

On the other hand, long ago I received sound advice that it’s imprudent to lay down permanent roots until you’ve lived in a city at least six months. While in our case we never rented for more than six weeks while on vacation, we nevertheless ultimately decided upon building. A dozen or so years vacationing in Oaxaca two or three times yearly reduced the importance of that counsel in our particular case.

Determine whether or not on balance you’ll feel comfortable in your prospective neighborhood. Chock up one point for initially renting, since you are not tied to a particular home or area of the city. You have the opportunity to get a sense of the life of the colonia (neighborhood), to determine whether or not you can tolerate the level of noise at night, to make an informed decision as to whether or not it will be overly burdensome for you living away from the zócalo and heart of the city, or for that matter too close to el centro with its unique set of issues. Finally, there’s the water issue which you may want to understand first-hand, especially if you won’t be blessed with a large cistern and don’t want to be at the mercy of the pipas (water trucks) which, during dry season, can take a couple of days to arrive after ordering.

Initially renting makes sense if you are in the fortunate position of not having to make an irreversible life decision, let’s say if you own a business and can have someone manage it while you’re doing a trial run so as not to burn a very important economic bridge, or if you’re an employee with marketable skills enabling you to go back and get another job if things don’t work out. The downside is that your money is “thrown away”, and you’ll be subject to inflationary factors since the cost of buying a home, or acquiring land and building, increases significantly on an annual basis, at least here in Oaxaca. Those who are former homeowners tend to lack that sense of comfort while in a rental, resulting in an unsettled feeling, the last thing you want when deciding upon a dramatically new lifestyle.

If you’ve previously rented in a certain colonia or have otherwise familiarized yourself with it, then buying an existing home in that neighborhood has many advantages. You avoid the dual problem of having to buy land and then build, and the plethora of pitfalls associated with the process. You know what you’re getting and have already decided that it’s what you want, or are willing to accept … you can look out and see the vistas (or lack thereof) from your bedroom window, rather than wonder based upon reviewing an architect’s plans, of which you can make little real sense. You’re not faced with the uncertainly of a landlord asking you to leave or not knowing when your home-in-progress will be ready for occupancy. Your home will have already stood the test of time in terms of resisting minor earthquakes and dealing with leaks during the rainy season. You don’t have to deal with many issues which frequently crop up when you build: you can hear the phone ring and know there’s phone service, turn on the light and know that there’s electricity, listen for water entering the cistern and know that there’s already a city water connection, and you can drive up to the house and know that you won’t have to wait years for pavement.

Whether you buy or build, ensure that you look out from the home / piece of land, and consider whether or not your exquisite view of the valley and mountains could possibly become blocked by new construction on the vacant lot next to you, or a two-storey addition onto the home of a neighbor. Building codes outside of the centro histórico are generally do not deal with aesthetics, and there will be little to prevent a new, tall structure from blocking your vistas.

On the other hand, with all of these and a multitude of other problems associated with building in particular, still nothing compares with fulfilling the fantasy of constructing one’s dream home in the mountains, which in Toronto or elsewhere north of the Rio Grande would be virtually impossible to achieve due to climatic, and much more importantly economic factors. While some may have gone through the building process, you are in the minority, especially when it has included searching for land and knowing that you’re building this one time, and never again. The phrase “wouldn’t it be great if we could…,” here in southern Mexico is not necessarily a pipe dream … but the process does take a lot out of you.

Some of my comments regarding process are applicable to purchasing a home as well as buying land and building, but in our particular case refer to the latter. As a representative of one of two loathed vocations (law and real estate), I have no difficulty generalizing that one ought to exercise the utmost caution in trusting real estate agents, anywhere. In any job where there’s potential to make a lot of money with little effort in a short period of time, there is significant potential for abuse, cutting corners and putting one’s own financial interests ahead of those of the client, especially when the relationship with the client is for a single transaction. The use of real estate agents is still in its infancy in Oaxaca, as compared to in the north (and the more popular retirement communities relatively close to Mexico City), and thus as one would expect, in a society with relatively little in the way of consumer protection laws, the regulatory framework within which agents work lacks the training procedures and checks and balances to which we are accustomed. Put another way, you have reason to be overly vigilant when working with an agent. Our realtor urged us to buy a lot in suburban Guadalupe Victoria, with services close-by … too close, as it turned out. It was only after viewing it for the second time with an architect friend that we learned that because of the wires running above part of the tract of land, we would be subject to restrictions and complications when it came to building. But the agent was from a then prominent realty company, so we stuck with her. Next time out, while climbing a brushy hill trying to determine the exact measurements of a smaller yet equally attractive property, our rep, with title papers in hand said: “Yes, this is it.” Then someone came by asking why we were on his land. After the proprietor and agent compared papers, we learned once again that the knowledge of the agent was suspect.

It is not only foreigners who can be deceived by unknowledgeable or less than forthright vendors of land or their agents. A Oaxacan friend purchased a piece of sloped land from a friend of his, whose family had been the landowner for years. It was only after excavation had begun that my pal learned that the lot had previously been filled, and that his “friend”, the vendor, knew it. The cost of construction immediately became much greater, and the proposed construction methods would have to be dramatically altered. My friend could no longer afford to build what he wanted, or how and when he wanted to do it, and is stuck with land that must now be sold at a discount.

After giving consideration to land in various colonias, ranging in size from 200 to 3,000 square meters, in fraccionamientos (gated communities) and otherwise, both fully and “soon-to-be” serviced, we settled on a lot in Guadalupe Victoria owned by Don Julio and his wife. We found it on our own, and after checking with an architect and negotiating price, executed the papers and provided our deposit to Don Julio personally (here, such deposits are often not held in trust by the attorneys), in our notary’s office, the deal to close as soon as government okayed subdividing, since the land was close to an ecological zone. The closing was to be completed within days (cince días or two weeks, as they always say). The deal didn’t close as a result of administrative issues, but some three years later, after several discussions and the execution of a release by us, Don Julio’s widow and children counted out that 10,000 peso deposit, late at night at their kitchen table, saying that they didn’t want to have to look the other way and run if they came across us on the street. Knowing that the likelihood of getting title was growing slimmer and slimmer, by that time we had already purchased another much smaller lot and on steeper land, but closer to downtown, serviced, and with a wonderful panorama … welcome Colonia Loma Linda.

Architects in Oaxaca are often also the project managers and builders, and as such may prepare plans, obtain permits, liaise with regulatory bodies and hire trades. Your architect should be hired before you buy land, since he should be consulted to determine the viability of what you have in mind for the land, any additional or unusual costs associated with building as a consequence of elevation, the subsurface composition or required municipal involvement in terms of pavement or sewer/water connections. In our case, that was one of the things we did right … that is, used architects at the outset.

Interview more than one architect. We walked through homes built by four, prior to deciding. Our error was not speaking to the owners about the relationship they had with their architects, problems with the finished houses not apparent to the eye, timeliness of completing the project, and financial issues, all of which became issues for us down the road notwithstanding that, and perhaps because, our architect was a friend first. Next rule is therefore, don’t befriend your architect. Keep the relationship as businesslike as possible, though this may be difficult in Oaxaca where business relationships quickly turn into friendships, and acquaintanceships frequently become solidified through compadrazgo (co-godparenthood, involving the appointment of godparents). In our contract our architect was to receive construction draws, with fee paid upon completion. Because of the pre-existing friendship, when she asked for a significant advance against her fee for some urgent family matter, we naively provided it. We lost the upper hand which resulted in ongoing problems, ultimately costing us an additional 100,000 pesos or more, and a year’s delay in completing the project. While I ought not generalize about lending money to friends, and I have done so in Oaxaca, at times without incident, if something doesn’t seem to sit right, follow your gut instinct. Surely our architect must have had closer friends than us from whom to borrow.

When contracting with an architect you should have someone with experience, from your camp, review and redraft the construction agreement. Be as exact and detailed as possible, no matter how long it takes to get it right and how many pages of verbiage are required. Take time to enumerate what type of wood and other construction materials will go where, the sizes, brands and models of appliances, tanks, pumps, etc., the type and quality of finishes, and a timeframe for reaching designated stages of completion. Include implications for missing or reaching deadlines, to create an incentive for the architect to finish on schedule. Go with her to the building supply outlets to choose. Let her factor into the timetable the weeks when trades will be off work in their pueblos with family for fiestas, how many times she’ll run afoul of regulations and be subject to an obra suspendida (stop work notice), and how much delay will result from unavailability of construction materials such as adobe during the rainy season. We indeed had a multi-page contract, but it failed to include all of the above. Had I been negotiating on behalf of a client, it would have been different. Get yourself a good, fully bilingual notary, or possibly a lawyer with a litigation background, to assist. A lack of solicitor-client confidentiality and conflicts of interest are not uncommon, so be careful to whom you say what, and ensure that there are no or limited connections between your architect and legal representative. Remember, you and your architect at this preliminary stage are adverse in interest. While certainly you can sue to attempt to obtain justice, recall that you are not dealing with the British Common Law system to which you are likely accustomed. In most if not all states and provinces we have legislated home ownership warranty plans to which home builders are subject, providing the new homeowner with speedy and effective recourse…not so here in Oaxaca.

The following is a short list of problems we encountered subsequent to moving into our home after our architect had been paid virtually all of her fee, which would have been covered by the standard warranty plan had there been one:

-leaky toilets, sinks and cistern;
-several areas where water pooled instead of drained; damp walls;
-a serious polilla problem (insects eating away at the wood and carrizo --- river reed akin to bamboo);
-shoddy carpentry;
-a non-functional carport which had to be reconstructed at a cost to us of over 50,000 peso;
-both water and gas leaks.

But we do have our dream home, and look forward to years of ongoing expenses as further deficiencies become apparent, until the house is finally sound ... and it’s time to sell. Would we do it again knowing now what we didn’t know then? In a heartbeat, but taking my own advice!

Alvin Starkman received his masters in social anthropology in 1978, and his law degree in 1984. Thereafter he was a litigator in Toronto until taking early retirement. He and his family were frequent visitors to Oaxaca between 1991 and when they became permanent residents in 2004. Alvin writes about life and cultural traditions in Oaxaca, consults to documentary film companies, leads couples and families on tours to the sights in the central valleys, and together with wife Arlene owns Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ), a unique Oaxaca bed and breakfast experience combining the comfort and service of a four star downtown Oaxaca hotel with the personal touch and quaintness of country inn style lodging.

Posted by titosarah 15:02 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Principles of universal design and cohousing ...

spur green housing project in Oaxaca, Mexico, for aging North Americans

Alvin Starkman M.A., LL.B.

At first blush David Hornick appears to be the most unlikely candidate to be spear-heading a housing development in the state of Oaxaca, one of the southernmost and poorest states in Mexico; his Spanish is sparse to be generous, until earlier this year he had never ventured to this part of the country, he’s never designed or built a home, and he’s lived virtually all his life in Schenectady, New York, leading a more or less typical, middle-class Jewish existence.

But Hornick had a vision, born of other life experiences which made him more qualified than most to proceed with the project. “One thing about me,” he explained on his first trip to Oaxaca, “is that once I decide to do something, you know it’s already been thoroughly considered – and then there’s no stopping me.”

For more than three decades Hornick, a graduate of Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has been a geriatrician, diagnosing and treating exclusively aging Americans … through home visits. He and wife Roberta, his partner in the medical practice, have learned that where and how we traditionally live is rarely conducive to graceful and easy aging from a position of economic security.

The answer, as I’ve come to conclude over the past several months of tutelage from Hornick, at least for creating a blueprint for the solution, is to import some of the characteristics of collaborative housing (cohousing) and as many key elements as practicable of universal design, into a region of the world where the concerns can best be addressed – Oaxaca … for starters. And that’s exactly what Hornick’s done.

Collaborative housing

Cohousing communities are usually designed as a series of attached or single-family homes along one or more pedestrian walkways or clustered around a courtyard. While the concept originated in Denmark, since the early 1980s it has been promoted in the U.S., and since then similar communities using the basic concept have developed throughout other countries in the Western World such as Canada, France, Germany and New Zealand.

Each community includes a larger building facility, a “common house,” constituting the social center of the complex where neighbors can meet, dine, attend to activities which traditionally are not required on a daily basis (i.e. laundry), and even host guests in small apartments. The latter two points have implications in terms of minimizing overall cost for each resident, since space not normally occupied on a daily basis is omitted from individual homes.

While in the purest of models residents actively participate in the design of their own neighborhood, in this case prospective members are spared that effort – Hornick has devoted his entire adult life assessing the needs of Americans as their stages in life change. Accordingly, substantial progress for the Oaxaca project has already been advanced, and in fact there is a website in place, addressing those interested in pursing a lifestyle change in the foreseeable future. It currently includes photographs of the two proposed tracts of land, site plans and architectural drawings of the two models of home (http://www.mexicommunity.com).

Hornick prefers to avoid commonly used terms such as intentional or collaborative housing, as well as cohousing, in favor of simply “neighborhoods” and “communities.” The former import the idea of consensus decision-making, which he does not believe is workable. He does envision, however, a “resident council” (perhaps similar to a condominium’s board of directors) to assist with suggestions relating to the neighborhood. This indicates that his approach is realistic and his model is feasible. The project does require, he stresses, participants’ acceptance of, and working together to promote, certain basic goals: energy efficiency; respect for the environment; the utilization of locally produced “green” materials (in construction and otherwise); affordability; and universal design which enables people of all ages to live comfortably and safely in their own homes and neighborhoods and delay or avoid transfer to institutional care.

Universal design

Universal design (UD) can be defined as the creation of products (including communication systems) and environments (including landscapes) which are usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. It has often been associated with exclusively addressing the elderly and infirmed. And in fact there should be no doubt that within the context of the Oaxaca project the concept will be extremely attractive to those in their fifties and older, many winding down their careers and embarking upon a new phase of life, “retirement.” But the project’s use of universal design addresses more – compatibility with a natural progression of functional changes throughout the lifespan, according to Hornick.

So how does UD address all ages and levels of capability, and thereby make the project attractive to families at every life stage? Hornick explains:

“We’re all born helpless and short. We can’t reach most light switches until we are about four years old, long after we can stand and walk. Functional capability improves (normally) up to our mid- to late-teenage years, then begins to decline.

“Light switches can be lowered to three feet to be reachable by children as well as people in wheelchairs with limited shoulder mobility. Round door knobs can be replaced by lever handles that accommodate arthritic hands, but also permit people encumbered with arms full of groceries to open a door with a free elbow. Steps can be replaced by ramps, even at the entrance to a home. Lighting intensity can be adjustable to accommodate vision as it dims with age. Shower stalls can be built without that little step-up-and-over. And there are literally a hundred or more other alternate designs and products available in the marketplace which can be considered, which do not detract from either ‘normal’ functionality or aesthetics of the home.”

Hornick has been consulted on seniors’ apartment retrofitting projects involving production of state-of-the-art adaptive design prototypes. The Oaxaca project enables his wealth of knowledge and experience to be put into action using a slightly different orientation.

We’re in an era when an increasing number of individuals and couples in North America are becoming disillusioned with the work-until-you-drop mentality, the less-than-optimum environments in which they’ve felt compelled to live and raise their families, increasing inaccessibility to basic goods and services including healthcare, and much more recently both insecurity in the workplace and shrinking nest eggs.

The Oaxaca blueprint

Based upon Hornick’s due diligence, Oaxaca proved to be a potentially attractive location to develop a prototype for what he initially labeled, when he first contacted me for advice in November, 2008, a “retirement community.” That initial characterization was probably meant to pique my initial interest without having me ask too many hard-to-answer questions. I fell for it, and have been enthralled ever since, hosting David at our home, introducing him to a number of professionals he could potentially tap to advance the project, and advising him regarding prospective plots of land.

Latin American locations have distinct advantages over Canadian and American prospective project sites. While remaining north of the Rio Grande may initially appear attractive because of language, ease of access for friends and family as well as for return visits, and cultural familiarity, Oaxaca was selected because of its own unique set of pluses:

1) Access via ground transportation is consistently being improved and upgraded through Mexico’s system of toll roads, already extending from various locations along the the U.S. border, directly to the City of Oaxaca; and via more convenient flight paths (such as being able to avoid Mexico City by using Continental’s non-stop service from Houston, and Mexicana’s from Los Angeles);
2) Its highly agreeable climate, 12 months a year, attractive both on an individual personal level and for providing solar energy;
3) Proximity to Pacific Coast beach destinations such as Puerto Escondido and Huatulco;
4) A modest cost of living (i.e. labor, public transportation, entertainment, food and taxes) relative to the U.S. or Canada, and even to the northern half of the country;
5) Availability of reasonably priced tracts of land, fertile enough and with sufficient rain and ground water to support partial self-sufficiency in terms of agricultural production;
6) A number of prospective development locations from which to choose, no more than a half hour’s drive from downtown Oaxaca, assuring proximity to restaurants and cafés, galleries, museums and other cultural institutions, as well as health care professionals and hospital facilities;
7) Its burgeoning expat community (including programs facilitated through the English language Oaxaca Lending Library) together with support from the Canadian and American consulates;
8) Local populations which welcome non-Mexicans, motivated by both a recognition that Canadian and American immigration translates into more work and higher wages for a relatively depressed economy, and an innate desire to embrace foreigners with open arms;
9) An understanding on the part of many of its professionals, trades and business people, and government, of what the project hopes to achieve, and the potential for the growth of more of the same in other parts of the state.

Each of the two “eco village” sites identified on Hornick’s website is equally attractive, meets all criteria, and easily facilitates advancing the set of common goals. The San Juan del Estado development consists of 25 acres and is about 30 minutes from downtown Oaxaca, and San Lorenzo Cacaotepec sits on 75 acres and is only 15 minutes from the city. Each is about 10 minutes from the town of Etla, known for its bustling Wednesday marketplace and production of dairy products, in particular the well-known Oaxacan cheeses (queso, and the more popular “string cheese,” known as quesillo).

Each of the two developments will contain 30 detached homes of about 1,000 square feet, the common house, sheltered walkways, green and garden areas, and its own sources of water and energy as well as waste-disposal facility, thereby providing for independence from the vagaries of municipal, state and federal government utilities.

Hornick emphasizes that with more than 300 sunny days per year, the communities will be able to generate and store electricity using photovoltaic technology. Hot water will be produced using solar water heaters. Interior temperatures will be kept comfortable all year round using passive solar heating and cooling techniques – such as constructing walls of locally mined stone (known as “cantera”), clay brick or adobe, depending on relative direction of the sun and prevailing winds.

But self-sufficiency has its limits, and to some extent dependence on the broader Oaxacan community will be a key element. Hornick plans to develop relationships with residents of nearby towns and villages who are interested in employment as housekeepers, gardeners and personal care aides. In addition, there’s a well entrenched practice in the state of Oaxaca whereby expats engage locals in an intercambio language arrangement, whereby a couple of hours a week informal meetings are held to help Oaxacans with their English and expats with their Spanish.

Hornick assures: “…both [locations] will have access to health care services via home care professionals who will live onsite and also via internet video teleconferencing with professionals at recognized centers of excellence.” For several years he has been advancing his own medical practice along such lines. Naturally, in today’s technological world he does not see distance, political boundaries, or differences in language and other aspects of culture, as impediments. “Of course there are challenges, but with perseverance they are readily overcome,” he continues. “Look at where I was just a few months ago, with merely an idea and my index finger pointed to a strange location on a globe – and look at where we now are.” Indeed, Hornick with his team of professionals (including Prometeo Sánchez Islas, Dean of the School of Architecture at a Oaxacan university) continue to work diligently on the project.

While visiting Oaxaca Hornick paid particular attention to indicia of cost of living, to the point of photographing sale prices in a supermarket (which attracted the attention of store management). He is currently attempting to pin down other costs such as transportation; medical insurance and other expenses; housekeeping, maintenance, landscaping and gardening (although he believes that it’s important for residents to participate in such activities for exercise and to maintain a sense of function and purpose). “I’m trying to come up with a ‘soft’ figure to enable interested parties to determine if they can survive on social security alone.” he reassures. But one thing is for certain – cost of living should be less than 50% of what most live on in the U.S. or Canada.

The horizon

Hornick plans to begin pre-selling houses at summer’s end or perhaps into autumn, at a small discount for those electing to participate early on in the project, as a kind of kick-start to the development. For him, and for most on his team, the motivation is pure altruism, having identified a sense of urgency on the part of many American, Canadians, and even Mexicans, and being in the enviable position of being able to address it in this fashion, without profit motive.

In a sense he’s a pioneer, having started with a dream for a better, more respectful, easier and self-fulfilling life for others in a new environment, virgin land to continue with the metaphor. He plans to lay down roots in Oaxaca, and carry on a medical practice, encouraging others of similar means to follow suit.

It was clearly different for those who had the fortitude and the instinct to find something better hundreds of years ago in opening up the American frontiers. Today there’s more of a necessity, yet with virtually no gamble involved. After all, investing between $100,000 and $150,000 to have a quality constructed new home, in a safe, secure southern climate, while at the same time substantially cutting expenses through supporting a sustainable living environment, shouldn’t be too difficult a lifestyle decision to make – especially for those who have already been contemplating change.

Alvin Starkman received his Masters in Social Anthropology in 1978. After teaching for a few years he attended Osgoode Hall Law School, thereafter embarking upon a career as a litigator until 2004. Alvin resides in Oaxaca, where he writes, leads personalized tours to the villages, markets, ruins and other sights, is a film consultant, and operates Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast ( http://www.oaxacadream.com ), combining the comfort and service of a Oaxaca hotel with the lodging style of a quaint country inn .

Posted by titosarah 15:26 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

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