********travellerfromDC*************

Old Mar 19th, 2006, 04:42 PM
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********travellerfromDC*************

HI travellerfromDC,

I see that you lived and worked in Cuernavaca! My husband and I are thinking about moving there. I would love to get some insight and/or advice from you.

Here's are story:

My husband and I are planning on teaching English in Mexico. We both will have a CELTA certificate before embarking on this endeavor. My husband has a BA in English, a MA in Music, and teaching experience (one year of high school English) here in the States. He is also a professional musician (in New Orleans for 10 years, where we lived before Katrina kicked us out!), so somewhat of a live music scene of ANY kind would be great. I have a BA in Anthropology and I have studied Spanish for years, not fluent, but I have a pretty good proficiency. We are serious about being teachers and want to make a long-term career out of it.

We have "narrowed" our destinations down to 4 places.

1. Cuernavaca
2. Guanajuato
3. San Miguel de Allende
4. Oaxaca City

Would you tell me what the rents are like in Cuernavaca (for a 1 or 2 bedroom)?

Where is the best place to look for rentals?

Do you have any tips for going about renting a place in Cuernavaca?

What about healthcare AND health insurance for Americans in Mexico?

Again, thank you so much.

Tara
tarajane is offline  
Old Mar 19th, 2006, 06:00 PM
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Hi Tara,

The folks I worked with (I was teaching and doing molecular biology research on parasites at a branch of the University of Mexico - UNAM) very kindly found an apartment for me, which was waiting when I arrived, so I don't know about rental agencies. I'm pretty sure my place was advertised in the local paper. I remember seeing ads in the English language paper, too (for all of Mexico, as I remember). That might also be a good source for listings. The "apartment" was actually a small, one-bedroom house in a small development of sorts, which was hidden behind high walls (of course). My landlady had found herself in financial difficulties when her husband had died (a few years before), so she rented out the main house and lived in a tiny adjacent house, which was probably the maid's quarters originally. There were about ten houses in the development, surrounding a lovely large central garden with fruit trees and a reasonable sized swimming pool. Some of the residents were clearly weekenders from Mexico City. One of the homes belonged to a well-known pianist (I found some recordings by him), so I got to hear him practice and give lessons. The house "came with" a maid, which I found to be very awkward, but I had no choice but to let her come and clean - the weekly payment was ridiculously low, which made me feel all the more guilty. Somebody once told me that in Mexico, either you HAVE a maid, or you ARE a maid - nothing in between. I don't remember seeing any apartment houses. Everybody I knew, even the graduate students, lived in small houses (although not as luxurious as mine!). In general, the students had very little money, so I doubt that the rents were very high. (I was fortunately on a north american salary, so I lived like a queen).

I'm sorry, but I don't remember what the rent was. That was ~15-16 years ago, so it's probably not relevant now, anyway. I do remember that the rent was considerably less than my previous apartment in NYC.

Cuernavaca rests on the side of a mountain. I would try to find a place, if possible, about half way up the mountain. The weather is ideal there year round - but can get hot at the lowest points, and cold in the outlying areas at the top of the hill.

As for health insurance, again my employer took care of that for me, so I'm afraid I can't help you. Fortunately, except for a couple of bouts of very bad food poisoning, and a wisdom tooth that had to be pulled, I didn't need health care.

I don't know for sure about the quality of healthcare in Cuernavaca per se. For the toothache, my friends at the university recommeded a Swedish dentist who lived in Cuernavaca, because they didn't trust the Mexican dentists. He was OK, although I learned later that the neighborhood children had named a very mean, nasty dog after him - not what you want to hear about your dentist! Also, he charged me in accordance with rates in Sweden (far higher than the rates in Mexico)! There was a series of letters in the English language paper when I was there by people who encountered horrendous problems with ambulances throughout the country - drivers stopping en route to the hospital to visit their relatives, ambulances stopping at gas stations and waiting in LONG lines instead of going to the front of the line, as one might have expected in an emergency, etc. But I don't know if these instances were typical - I suspect not. Also, I think there may have been some exaggeration by disgruntled ex-pats, who are sometimes fond of making fun of the laid back attitude of Mexicans. Remember, Mexicans have a much more laid back way of life and a different sense of time than we do - nothing is ever a rush! In any case, I understand that the level of care is world class in Mexico City, which is only about an hour drive away.

Do you have work permits? I had to go through all kinds of rigamarole to get mine. Again, this was shepherded through by the university, but I had to provide a variety of documents, including a transcript of my grades and copies of my college and graduate school (PhD) diplomas. Maybe I was getting a special sort of permit for some sort of over-educated category, but it is probably something you should look into.

Will you be working through one of the language schools? If so, they might be able to help you with housing, insurance, ...

As for music, I play the violin as an amateur and I took my fiddle with me. The qualtiy of classical music was not great. I played chamber music several times in Mexico City with members of one of the big orchestras there and was not terribly impressed by the level of playing. (I think I was spoiled by living in NYC, where there are lots of excellent Juilliard grads who can't make a living as musicians and thus are willing to play with amateurs like myself.) There were some good chamber groups who came through Cuernavaca or Mexico, though. For example, the Cuartetto Latinoamericano (now in residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music, I think) is quite good, and comes back periodically for concerts. The father of the four players (brothers and cousins, I think) lives in Cuernavaca and is a passable amateur violinist, himself.

I also made friends with the organist at the Cathedral, and got a few gigs playing at weddings in little outlying towns. great fun, and a real insight into "real" small town Mexico.

There are mariachi bands, of course. I made friends with one of the groups hanging out in the zocolo once, borrowed his fiddle and played a couple of fiddle tunes. Before I knew what was happening, the mariachis had gathered around, and were stomping their feet in time to the tunes. They invited me to join them in a regular gig at one of the restaurants (!), but I backed out because I knew none of the mariachi tunes and, of course, they are not written down. I could probably have caught on eventually, but I was afraid of making a fool of myself. I regret that decision now, think I missed out on something great. Does your husband play an instrument that could fit into a mariachi band?

I don't remember seeing a jazz music scene, which is presumably what your husband would like, but I never really looked.

well, that's enough for now. I didn't intend to write this much, guess i got carried away reminiscing. Cuernavaca is a wonderful place to live!
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Old Mar 19th, 2006, 06:25 PM
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I forgot to mention. There is a famous "mariachi mass" held at the cathedral. not sure if that qualifies as a "music scene," but it is worth checking out.
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Old Mar 19th, 2006, 08:20 PM
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THANK YOU!!! WONDERFUL WONDERFUL INFORMATION!!!
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 09:52 AM
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glad to be of help.

I realized after I wrote my opus that there are, in fact, some large apartment buildings. I used to visit (and take an occasional lesson from) a retired north american violinist who had played in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Reiner. He and his wife lived in a very large apartment complex, near the center of town. I don't remember the address, but it was near the big supermarket and had scenic views from the balcony of a big canyon. This was a very large apartment complex,with several buildings.
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 10:21 AM
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another funny remembrance about music: I was attending a concert (there was a quite good chamber music series in Cuernavaca) and the lights went out - which they are wont to do during the rainy season! The quartet continued playing the movement in the dark, from memory. The audience applauded loudly and enthusiastically at the end of the movement. People told me that, contrary to the usual etiquette of not clapping between movements, this is one of those rare instances where it is proper to applaud!
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 10:38 AM
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tarajane,
Spend time in all four "cities" to get a real appreciation for the differences.
M (TA SMdA Gto.)
M
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Old Mar 20th, 2006, 11:57 AM
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I agree with Mikemo about checkinh out each of the four "cities." Also, with regard to the "demand" for English teachers, I think he is right that most middle (and upper) class people in Mexico learn pretty good Spanish in school, starting at an early age. And the poorer folks probably couldn't afford what you probably want to charge. You might be able to help people polish up their skills? Alternatively, is there a way you could teach through the school system?
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