Monday, May 14, 2012

Rretiring To A Tropical Paradise On $1,200 US Per Month?

  My dear readers I opened up Yahoo early Friday morning and read a banner headline saying that one could still retire to a paradise for around $1,200 US per month. I read the article in detail. It extolled the virtues of Panama and the small seaside village of Las Tablas. It all sounded so wonderful and tempting.

      This came one day after another shocking headline stating that the average person retiring in the US and covered by the financially-strapped medicare program would face $240,000 US in "out of pocket " medical costs before the end of life.

      If my wife were not still employed as a medical doctor I would be facing retirement on a monthly Social Security salary of $1,254.00 US. Here is the San Francisco Bay area, I could rent a room for $500 US to $600 US per month. I could pay for food, a couple of tanks of gas in my 6 year-old Saturn, auto insurance, and a cheap cellular phone. I could not afford private medical insurance. Since I am a military veteran I would qualify for medical care with the Veteran's Administration. Basic care would be covered but I certainly could not get a heart transplant at the VA Hospital, for example.

       On the other hand I could go to Bariloche, Argentina, and rent a furnished apartment for about $550.00 US per month.  I could use the excellent public transit system. Food would cost a couple of hundred per month. Medical care would range from full-coverage medical insurance with Swiss Re for $392 US or just a pay as you go system that would be cheap. If I wanted to go to where my son lives in Goiania, Brasil my costs would be about the same. In both places I would have a better social and family life than here in the San Francisco area.

     Many of you will seriously consider retiring to another country. Thirty or forty years ago there were tropical paradises where one could retire cheaply. Sadly the rest of the world has become more prosperous and the dollar has declined against major currencies. All of a sudden these paradises have become expensive.

     You also have the challenge of meeting immigration requirements of the country where you want to settle. Let me give you a couple of examples as follows:

-My dear wife Elena arrived in February, 2001 in San Jose, California as a tourist. In June of 2004 she proudly became  U.S. citizen. The total bill for this transformation including lawyrs, fees, etc. was $30,000 US.

-In 2007 I started the process to become a permanent resident in Argentina. In January of 2009 I got my DNI book and was officially declared a permanent resident of Argentina. The total cost of this legal process including trips to and from Argentina was over $13,000 US.

     In both of these cases a foreigner was married to a local citizen. If you are not married to a local citizen the process becomes far more expensive and challenging.

    I have lived on six of the seven continents. At various times in my life I have been a permanent resident of Brasil, South Africa, and now Argentina. In most countries I have been to, you can live just as well as you would live in the USA but it will cost about the same with the exception of cheaper medical care. Yoiu can live like a lower-class local person for a low wage but it would not be a pleasant life. You certainly would not want to depend on the public medical system in most countries.

     Let us go back to the example of Panama. This country is booming and becoming a major banking center for all of Latin America. Life in Panama City would be just as expensive as life in a major American city. Life out in the seaside town might be cheap but you would live like alower-class Panamanian. If you depended on the local public health carre system you would get slow care and questionable quality.

    Let us now look at retiring to Argentina. If you are not married to a local citizen you will face minimum legal fees of $4,400 US+ You will have to produce a lot of documents. You will have to prove that you have the resources to support yourself in Argentina. It will be a tough year to work your way through the bureaucracy and you will have to learn to speak Spanish.

       Once you're accepted and ready to move, your US appliances will not go with you as they are all 110 volts. All Argentine appliances run on 220 volts. You might be able to take your computer. The cars there do not run on lead-free gas. Your car is gone. Cars are more expensvie in Argentina than the USA. A decent car will cost you between $12,000 US and $25,000 US. It will be cheap to move your furniture in a cargo container on a ship. You will need a skilled customs broker to get you through the corrupt and arbitrary customs service.

   Once you arrive you will need a good real estate agent to find you an apartment or a home. In Buenos Aires, there are several real estate agents who speak good English. The same cannot be said out in the provinces. You will find rents cheap by US standards. Housing in Buenos Aires will cost about the same as housing in Miami. In Bariloche housing costs will be the same as San Francisco. You will also need a good lawyer to guide you through all of the bureaucratic hurdles. The US Embassy will be able to assist you here.

    You will then have to make decisions on medical care. Argentina has doctors of varying quality. My wife graduated fromn the University of Buenos Aires Medical School with an honors diploma. When she got to the USA, she scored in the top 5% of medical school graduates taking the test for a medical license. She was up there with graduates of Harvard and Stanford Medical Schools. If you Google "U of Buenos Aires Med School graduates in the USA" you will get a big list of Argentine doctors who have come to the USA and had great careers. Other doctors do not have this high quality.

        Argentina has an extensive public mediucal system. Report sof its quality range from abysmal to good, in spots. It is best to go with an insurance company called Swiss Re. Their doctors are high quality and many speak English. At 63 years of age with slight overweight and cholesterol issues my monthly fee would be $392.00 US.

        As you can see from all of this retiring to a foreign country is neither cheap or easy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Into Thin Air-True Believers


Into Thin Air, True Believers

Andray Voronov
Thousands of Peruvians gather in a remote Andean valley for the Snow Star Festival.
I STOPPED, again, to catch my breath in the thin Andean air, struggling to ease the dizziness as I inhaled from a portable oxygen tank. I must have been a curious sight to the Peruvians passing by. My friends, Andray and Louise, stood beside me, concerned. Realizing we were blocking pedestrian traffic, I pressed myself into the side of the mountain to let the other pilgrims pass.
At about 15,000 feet above sea level, we still had farther to climb to our destination, the Sinakara valley in southern Peru’s Ocongate province. We had come to participate in Qoyllur Rit’i — the Snow Star Festival, the annual midyear Andean pilgrimage, which attracts tens of thousands of Peruvians who travel from all over the country, the largest festival of its kind. They divide themselves into nations — groups with distinct traditions — and are invited by the Brotherhood of the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i, a volunteer body that organizes the event. During our trip last June, our guides, whom we hired from the tour office at the Casa de la Gringahotel in Cuzco, told us that as many as 500 nations had sent delegations.
Each year, whole families journey together, from old men to young mothers carrying babies tied in bundles on their backs, their horses laden with blankets, costumes, cooking utensils and the occasional weary passenger. Some, like my travel companions and me, arrive by bus in the nearby town of Mahuayani, east of Cuzco, where the five-mile ascent begins. Others, including indigenous Q’ero Indians, walk for days from their villages in the mountains.
Our guides, two brothers, Juan and Luis Quispe, are Q’eros who have lived at this altitude all their lives. They ran up the mountain as easily as I might walk along a city sidewalk. As I struggled, they smiled sympathetically and offered me the horse we had hired for this possibility.
Qoyllur Rit’i (pronounced KOL-yer REE-chee) is ostensibly a Catholic festival. Most sources agree that the celebration began in 1780 after an image of Jesus appeared on a boulder after the death of a young shepherd boy. As we made our way to the valley, we passed numerous cross stations decorated with pictures of saints and icons. The celebration is also scheduled according to the Catholic calendar, taking place during the full moon before Corpus Christi, the Christian feast commemorating the Holy Eucharist. This year’s festival will be held June 2 to 5.
And yet Andean people worshiped the earth and the mountains in this spot long before they were converted by their Christian conquerors. So the festival offers a uniquely Andean trinity, combining worship of the Apus (mountain gods), Pachamama (the earth mother) and Jesus with no apparent sense of contradiction.
When I asked Juan whether this was a Catholic celebration or a celebration of the mountains, he replied that they are celebrated together. But why this spot? Luis mentioned the miracle, but first he offered that “there is a sacred energy here,” pointing to the peaks around him.
Not many tourists attend Qoyllur Rit’i in part because of the high altitude and freezing temperatures. But of the few that do, some, like Andray, from Australia, come to experience the sacred energy. Others, like Louise, a New Zealand native currently living in Peru, “just came for the party.” I was there because I had been told the festival has the power to restore order to chaos, both in the outside world and within.
After climbing for another hour, we arrived at the Sinakara valley, a plain of grassy land the size of several football fields, crisscrossed with streams of glacial water and presided over by the glistening peaks of snowcapped mountains. The festival’s main attractions take place in and around an enormous white-walled, orange-roofed church that seems to jut out from the side of a mountain. By the time we arrived, a long line had formed outside the church with those waiting to light candles inside and pray for the coming year; later, several people told me they had waited in line for five hours or more.
In the smooth rock surface on the mountain above, the words “Viva Cristo-Rey” (“Long Live Christ the King”) were carved in letters large enough to be seen anywhere in the camp. Below, makeshift dwellings assembled from blue tarp and wooden sticks stood alongside shiny modern tents. It was a hastily constructed city that might have resembled a refugee camp were it not for the festive atmosphere.
Juan and Luis picked a spot of flat ground to set up our tents. Moments later, an elderly woman arrived, selling sheets of the ubiquitous blue tarp. Like many of the women here, she was dressed traditionally, wearing a fedora-like hat, with her hair in two long braids down her back; an embroidered jacket; ruffled skirts; and heavy stockings made of hand-woven wool. Some of these women walked through camp selling knit sweaters, scarves and gloves. Others set up ersatz shops, spreading their wares — toilet paper, flashlights, shaving cream — on woven cloths.
The main commercial center is closer to the church, and Juan led us down for a better look. Rows of restaurants constructed with tin roofs and tarps competed for customers, advertising their dishes on handwritten placards. Inside, large, heavy pots boiled on wood-burning fires. Some offered fried trout, others lamb stew. All seemed to have lomo saltado, a plate of fried strips of steak with generous helpings of rice and fried potatoes.
Farther down was the Albacitas market, a place where worshipers could symbolically buy their dreams. On sale were piles of miniature houses, tiny cars and tableaux depicting marriage and children — all representations of the pilgrims’ desires. Juan, who speaks Spanish and Quechua, explained through a translator that “if you come to this place and make the wishes, like how they have these things for sale” — he gestured to the trinkets — “they will come true because you believe.” He told us of a ceremony in which pilgrims bury these objects on the mountain and pray over them, hoping they turn into reality in the coming year.
But the most remarkable aspect of the festival was the dancing. Each of the nations had its own ritual costume and dance routine. Some had sequined butterflies embroidered on boards on their backs; others donned masks with large noses and wide smiles. One nation’s dancers wore full-body condor costumes, while others sported elaborate headdresses topped with crowns of feathers two feet high. To the sounds of their own music played on drums, flutes and the occasional accordion, dancers moved to routines they’ve known since childhood. The dancing continued throughout the night.
Each nation also appointed men to be ukukus, mythical half-man, half-bear creatures. Dressed in black masks and black costumes covered in fringes, they carried whips and acted as intermediaries between the people and the gods. At 3 a.m. before the principal day of the festival, they alone scaled the peak of the mountain in the light of the full moon, dancing on glaciers, hoping to bring blessings to their villages for the coming year. Luis, our guide, was one of them.
On the final cold, clear morning, as we stood in front of the church, we watched the ukukus wind their way down the mountain, returning from their dance with the Apus, undulating like a colorful snake on the path. Processions of brightly costumed dancers joined them, nations taking turns performing in the plaza in front of the church. They danced in whatever space was available; there was no apparent organization, no timeline, no set schedule. Hundreds of people performed simultaneously, and what should have been chaos was instead a harmonious celebration.
I looked over the tent city that would soon be dismantled. Thousands of people would pack up their families and walk down the path to the town, or back up to their villages. Everything would return to its rightful place, flowing as smoothly as water melting from a mountaintop glacier, finding its way to the river below.

What Eduardo Saverin owes America. (Hint: Nearly everything.) | PandoDaily

What Eduardo Saverin owes America. (Hint: Nearly everything.) | PandoDaily:

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

Bluer Skies for Brazil's Embraer -

Bluer Skies for Brazil's Embraer -

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More On The British Drug Smuggler Lucy Robertson

       The lady Lucy Robertson had two suitcases full of crack cocaine. Here in the US she would get life for such a drug possession. In Argentina they immediately gave her bail and even sent her to a youth hostel to live pending trail. They were civilized to her. Then they decided to revoke her bail and she made a run for it.

       She escaped to England in 2007. She went right to the police and they found no warrant for her arrest. Two years later Scotland Yard picked her up on a warrant from Brasil. The British Home Office and courts considered the extradition request until early 2012. They rejected the request at precisely the time Cristina was putting pressure on England over the Malvinas. If that girl had been sent back she would have got 16 years for that crime. Next door in Brasil they would have given her 8 years.

       If that lady Lucy decided to take a trip across the English Channel to France, for example, she would be arrested and facing extradition to Argentina. She is a prisoner of England for the rest of her life.

       When I lived in Brasil from 1975 to 1980, there were armed robberies every day. The normal sentence for an armed robber was three years. The jails were so full that the robber would get a ticket and be told to report to jail a couple of years later. Some robbers would accumulate 5 jail tickets before they reported to jail to do a sentence. In Argentina during the military government an armed robber got 12 years. The legend was that within 2-3 weeks of the robber's release from prison, the police came around and shot the robber dead.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Warnings of civil unrest in Venezuela -

Warnings of civil unrest in Venezuela -

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Repsol: after the grab -

Repsol: after the grab -

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The Malvinas Saved A Drug Smuggler From Extradition To Argentina

I watched an episode of Locked Up Abroad. It was about a British woman caught in Buenos Aires with a suitcase full of cocaine. She was given bail and even put in a youth hostel. For some reason the police came to take her back to jail. She escaped without a passport and took local buses up to the border with Brasil. She swam to Brasil and made a report of a lost passport. She got an emergency passport at the British consulate in Sao Paulo. She made it back to England and thought that she was home free. Two years later she was arrested on an international warrant from Argentina. England considered the extradition until early 2012 and then rejected the request for the lady’s return to Argentina. I suspect that the rejection of the extradition request had something to do with the fight between Argentina and England over the Falkland Islands. This young lady had incredible good luck. But she is stuck in England for the rest of her life. If she went to some other country she would be sent back to Argentina and sent to prison for sixteen years. If she did not have a lot of money for bribes her jail time would be very unpleasant. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bilingual daughter: English and Portuguese: "Everymore"

Bilingual daughter: English and Portuguese: "Everymore":  PALAVRAS INVENTADAS... "Daddy will not ride horse everymore ". "The horse brushes teeth by self ". " meself "   "The bird is so cute, "...