Sunday, July 05, 2009

dependent on independence

Independence Day was yesterday.

At least, for Americans, it was.

And it got me to thinking: independent of what?

Well, independent of King George quartering his troops in our houses, and snooping through our private papers.

But we won that little dust up.

Certainly, it must be something more than that.

There is a line from a musical about Ben Franklin that goes something like this: "Will those Americans, for whom the name American will not be new, love liberty -- being given it outright in the crib, for nothing?"

Good question, Ben. Just how much do we love liberty -- and how much do we really have?

My friends, the Milers, arrived from The States yesterday. We spent the day watching the ocean and having a very nice lunch-dinner in Barra. To top off the evening, we were invited to the restaurant owned by my Spanish teacher, Ricky Campbell.

The celebrants consisted of Mexicans, Canadians, and Americans -- all there to celebrate Canada Day and Independence Day. The live entertainment was just plain fun. A multi-national group listening to music from at least four decades was a pretty good indicator that liberty is alive and well.

But I also discovered today that independence is sometimes an illusion. Our technology provides us with almost miraculous tools to live our lives in foreign lands. But those life lines can be rather fragile.

Somewhere today my wallet disappeared between noon and 5. There were several obvious places to look. We did. It is gone.

And, of course, it is never the wallet itself or the cash. It is all of those other things that keep us tied to institutions: driver's license, credit cards, bank cards.

So, I start the process of cancelling cards and getting replacements. If I were in Oregon, I would have the replacements in about 10 days. In Mexico, it will be -- well, let's just say it will be longer.

Independent. Yes, we are. But when the independence fades, we can see just how dependent we are.

I am extremely fortunate to have friends like the Millers. They are bending over backwards to help me.

There are times where we need to learn to rely on the kindness of people who care a lot about us.


Felipe said...

The donkey´s already out of the barn, but it´s a great idea here NOT to carry debit cards, credit cards, ATM cards, etc., unless you specifically need them for something on that very day. In large part, Mexico is a cash society anyway, and it´s good to start thinking that way.

I leave those cards at home 98 percent of the time. And don´t cart your passport around either.

Good luck with this mess. You´re gonna need it.

Croft Randle said...

I hope you had a spare bank card hidden away at home Steve! I lost mine to an ATM machine in Mexico last winter that was quicker at sucking it back in than I was at grabbing it! Luckily I had a spare back in the motorhome. Losing your source of cash in a cash society could make things very difficult. Credit cards are of limited value in Mexico even if you had a spare one hidden away.

Islagringo said...

Loosing your wallet anytime, anywhere is always a pain in the patoot. But down here! Yikes. Like your last paragraph.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I am so sorry your wallet was taken. Recently we were on a cruise. My husband was working out in the gym when apparently his wallet slipped out his pocket. He did not notice it was missing until the next morning when he got a phone call from the desk letting him know his wallet had been found and turned in. All cash and credit cards were still in his wallet. We were so thankful that a very honest person found it. Whoever returned it remained anonymous. A few days earlier another man lost his wallet in the same gym and he had $650.00 cash in his wallet. It never turned up!! I hope you get your cards replaced in a timely manner.

Constantino said...

Sorry to hear about your wallet. I have been there twice myself. Not a great feeling, I would have rather handed the cash to someone, just not to go through the hassle. My Passport was there also, ( it was one of those man-purses, which I no longer use) For years, I got the 3rd degree each time I got off the airplane at any airport.
I hope you have other spare cards, AMEX can overnight a new card to you via DSL, Hope you spent a few hours on the phone already. Welcome to new experiences. Some good some bad.
If there is anything I can help, please advise...other than writing about it!

Anonymous said...

Qué golpe de mala suerte! Espero que no agotes tu efectivo antes de reponer tu tarjeta bancaria.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we absolutely dread losing our wallet in a foreign country. Or anywhere.

Jan said...

Sorry Steve. That's terrible. It is a pain but you won't be out of pocket...maybe you should think about getting a mexican driver's license. If you can prove your residency (which is easy to do (at least in Jalisco) the process is simple. No one fails the test. I'm glad you have friends with you. I have both US and Mex licenses ssshhhhhh. Another reason to put down some roots and get a Mex. bank account to use occasionally or open a Lloyd in Barra.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

UGH. I second the being in foreign country comments above ... good luck. We have had similar challenges a couple times - inlcuding this moment when I am still without a debit card due to the ATM scam down here.

On a brighter note, it does sound like you had a great time with friends!

Steve Cotton said...

Felipe -- Good advice. The hardest replacement will be the driver's license. Oregon seems to require my presence to ascertain that I am not a narco terrorist. They will be disaoppointed either way.

Croft -- No spare card. My bank refused to give me one. I stupidly had all of my eggs in one tempting basket. I have not carried a wallet in two decades. Of course, I re-start the habit now.

Islandgringo -- I am amazed at the number of people who have contacted me to help out. I should be able to weather this quite well -- with the help of friends.

Anonymous -- I was hoping that some kind stranger would appear with my wallet in hand. It did not happen. This begins the bureaucratic churn.

Constantino -- No spare cards. No backups. When I left Oregon, I knew I had a financial weakness that has come home to roost -- to mangle my aphorisms.

Kim -- I suspect I will become exhausted before my cash does.

Jan -- I thought about getting a Mexican driver's license, but there are certain reasons I need an Oregon license -- for a bit. But a Jalisco license may fit part of my bill.

Steve Cotton said...

AMM -- At times I wish that I could simply work for my daily pesos and then take them to the market to pay for my daily needs. If I never had to use another financial instituition, I would be happy.

Inmigrante Rentista said...

Local banks (HSBC, Banamex, etc ...) can issue replacement debit cards on a walk-in basis and cancel the lost one at the same time. I also do not carry a wallet but instead carry a metal calling card holder from Office Depot in my front pants pocket.

Steve Cotton said...

Immigrante Rentista -- When I set down my roots, I will open a local account. It would have helped a bit here. But the biggest problem is my driver's license.

Inmigrante Rentista said...

If you are temporarily outside of the state and cannot come to an Oregon DMV office, you may be eligible for a Valid With Previous Photo Driver License. Call DMV at (503) 945-5000, send an online request or write DMV requesting information. See: and follow directions.

Croft Randle said...

Did you make a copy of your driver's license? If so, get it laminated and use it in place of the original. Many Mexico travelers do this as it is not unheard of for local policia to confiscate your driver's license and even your license plates, until a fine is paid "downtown". When asked for their license, they hand over the copy and keep the original in their pocket.

You could probably even Notarize your own copy. Mexican bureaucracy is usually impressed with official stamps and signatures.

If you do not have a copy, then that is something to put on your "things to do next time" list.

We have copies of everything in the laptop, just in case....

Steve Cotton said...

Immigrante Rentista -- Unfortunately, my last last renewal was prior to 28 June 2008. As a result, I need to show up at an Oregon DMV with a passport, proof of social security number, and a bill posted to my Oregon address -- and get a new federal government-approved photograph. My libertarian instincts start getting real grumpy at this point. Of course, I was the person who lost the license, not the people's republic of Oregon.

Croft Randle -- We Oregonians and Americans have a little problem copying licenses and pretending that they are official. It is a felony. As much as I rail against governmental collectivist instincts, I will obey the law until it is repealed (if ever). In my case, the lawyer union could (and would) disbar me if I were caught in such activity. I know there are plenty of expatriates who do what you are suggesting. It just makes me feel a bit uneasy. I wouldn't do it in Oregon or Canada. And I see no reason to do it here. It may turn out to be a good excuise to return to Oregon for the grand opening of the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Salem.

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