A Couple of Good Nights

After a big work day on Saturday, I decided to give myself Sunday morning completely off. I don’t know if that’s what did the trick, but I actually managed to sleep more than 8.5 hours straight! I’ve been averaging 5.5 hours a night straight since I moved in, then falling back asleep for another 1.5 to 2 hours. Needless to say, I was feeling perkier yesterday morning than I have in a while!

I decided that instead of making coffee, I would walk to Oxxo to get one of theirs with hazelnut creamer, as well as a ham and cheese croissant. I came in, heated up my sandwich and prepared some fruit, then lingered over breakfast and watched an episode of a TV show on Netflix. Having been sufficiently lazy, I decided to see if the laundromat was open as I was beyond out of clean clothes.

The laundromat was open and so loud that it was really hard to communicate that I wanted to use a machine. The gals finally figured it out and set me up. I was confused as they wouldn’t take my money and instead fed tokens into my machine. I felt so awkward that I decided to just stand there and wait for my clothes to wash rather than go home for 20 minutes or so (the laundromat is only a short block from me). Finally, their industrial dryer finished up and the place got almost quiet. One of the ladies asked me some questions and the ice finally got broken! We had a really nice chat and they asked me questions about travelling to Canada that really makes me want to finish the post I’ve been working on for ages about Canada as a travel destination.

At the end, they rung me up on a cash register and gave me a proper receipt. So at least now I know the procedure. But I’m hoping to have a washer of my own before I get so desperate again for laundry. I know it’s only $21 a load to wash only (or $65 to have it done for you), but after 20 years of mostly laundromats and hand washing, having my own washing machine isn’t a luxury I’m willing to pass on.

I came in and set out everything to dry. Dresses and tees went on hangers to hang from the racks in the laundry drying area next to the tinaco and unmentionables went on the little rack I bought at Costco. I actually prefer this to a proper clothesline since I don’t have to deal with clothespins. I can just sweep the little things into my basket to take upstairs and everything already on hangers can go straight into the closet.

The laundry was done by  noon and then I got my work done. Late afternoon, I went out to pick up a few groceries at Super Aki, grateful to have a basic supermarket only 700m from home! I’ve sadly given up on my fridge — it’s now not cold enough after freezing everything! — so I’m shopping daily and eating out until I can replace it. 🙁 At least the freezer is good! I’ve been looking at used fridges and I’m almost convinced I’ll be able to get my money back or just about even with it being problematic. I am also considering contacting the guy who sold it to me to see if we could work out a deal on a trade since he repairs fridges, but I’m not holding my breath. I’m really disappointed as it is a very nice fridge and I doubt I’ll be able to find anything as good for about that price. Anyway…

I slept pretty well again last night, but woke up after only 6.5 hours of sleep so I was glad that I managed to doze off again. It promised to be a busy Monday, so I got to work right away.

While waiting for my second coffee of the morning to be ready, I very carefully moved the painted shelves to the kitchen. They are still very tacky and so I don’t dare put anything on them, but it’s nice to have them in place. Looks good!

On my lunch break, I did the same with the cart:

I’ve officially had enough of that turquoise so I’m going to transfer the rest of the paint to a glass jar to have it on hand for touch-ups and am moving on to another colour. 🙂

I had made a mental note to go find a placemat or something to use as a food preparation surface when I remembered that I bought four flexible cutting boards recently and only have two in rotation! Not only does the orange one look great against the blue, it is the perfect width!

Late afternoon as I was finishing up work, my landlady called to give me a rooster update. You might want to empty your bladder before continuing with reading this. She informed me that while, yes, there are definitely a few roosters up the street that she told the owners to get rid of because we are living in the city and there are by-laws and the owners promised they are eating chicken as fast as they can, these roosters were not the source of my woes.

The source of my woes is that the neighbour right next to me decided to use an obnoxious rooster crow as his alarm clock and he likes the snooze button.

While, yes, I have been bothered by genuine roosters since I moved in, the most bothersome one that was waking me every morning was an alarm clock. I have to laugh!

It was then time for me to make my landlady laugh by telling her about my water shortage adventure the other night. There I was in the shower and absolutely covered in soap when the water just stopped. I should have known I as going to have problems because the water pressure hadn’t been great in the days prior, but I didn’t put two and two together. Anyway, there I was covered in soap and the only water in the house was about half a garrafón of drinking water. With drinking water being so expensive here, I sure wasn’t going to rinse off in it!

Let me pause here in my story to explain how the water system is at my house. It is a fairly common system in Mexico. City water fills a tank (tinaco) at ground level. For some people, that tank is underground (cisterna). The pressure of the city water connection pushes the water in the ground-level reservoir to a rooftop tinaco, which then supplies the house with water, gravity providing water pressure. In Mérida at least, the water is potable until it enters your ground-level reservoir. If your water system is closed and you occasionally run bleach through it, then you have potable water in the house. That’s the case here — I can clean my teeth and wash veggies with the tap water. It tastes pretty bad, though, so like most people, I buy my drinking water. If I owned the house, I’d have a filter at the kitchen tap to make the water taste better, but I don’t so I’ll stick to the jugs.

So there I was that night without water fumbling around my yard looking for the switches that would turn on the exterior lights where my ground-level tinaco is located. When I did that, I was able to get to the tinaco, open the lid, and see that the tinaco was full. Okay, so I had water (I did have a momentary flash of concern that the water company had failed to process my payment last month!). The roof-level tinaco is so far away that I figured that it would need help to fill. Ah, yes, I found a pump! But there was no switch or button to turn the pump on.

I pondered this for a moment and like in a TV show, I had a flashback to a moment some weeks ago when I tried a switch on a wall in front of the washing machine room and it caused a racket I couldn’t identify. Flipped that switch, went back to the tinaco, and it was already almost a full quarter empty! I let the pump run until I stopped noticing a change in the water level, about two-thirds empty, turned off the pump, and went back to the shower. Success — I had water, albeit super cold! The next day, the ground-level tinaco was full again.

And that’s how I learned that once I get a washing machine, I should get in the habit of turning on the tinaco pump when I got to the laundry room. In the meantime, I made a note to do so every few weeks! By the way, the tinacos do not over fill because they have a float in them, like a toilet tank, that stops water inflow when a a certain level is reached.

After we hung up, I quickly finished my work so I could start on dinner. While that was in process, I decided that the cart didn’t feel nearly as tacky as did the shelving unit (likely because it is made of a more porous material). So I took a chance and set it up! It felt great to get out of the way that huge table that wasn’t doing much for me and instead start to get a sense of how the room will be when it is fully kitted out.

I still don’t know what I’m going to do with the middle and bottom shelves as I’m not married to the idea of using them for putting other small appliances. Time will tell. 🙂

Even with a pretty bare larder, I put together a super nice dinner. I softened an onion, then cooked it and pasta in homemade chicken broth, adding near the end good butter, the juice of one lemon, cracked black pepper, and sweet frozen peas (the La Huerta brand of peas is so good it should have them listed as a controlled substance). It was a shame I didn’t have any Parmesan to finish off the dish, but it came out very nicely for what I was working with.

I’ve been here three weeks now and can’t believe how quickly I took to the house. I can imagine things will only improve as I start to bring in the bits I’m missing to fully settle in a routine!

Custom Kitchen Cart

I’m starting to get unpleasantly cynical and suspicious in my advancing age as the effects of society in general are starting to rub off on me. There are so many people in my life, some of whom I love very much, who are very much in the frame of mind that anything that sounds too good to be true is too good to be true or who have the mindset that everyone is out to scam them. I try to have faith in people and the odd time that I am scammed, I remind myself that it was more of a failing on their part to have not been trustworthy than on my part to have trusted.

So…

As I’m spending more and more time in my kitchen, I’m figuring out what I need for storage based on how I cook. For one thing, there is a problem with outlets being in very awkward spaces. Just to do something as simple as make coffee has me having to reach around the microwave to plug in the kettle. I determined that what I needed was a cart on wheels on which to put all the things that I might want to plug in, with the top being my breakfast and snack centre, complete with toast, kettle, phin, coffee and tea canisters, etc.

I would want the cart parked for use by this outlet, but I wouldn’t want it nearly as deep or long as the plastic table because I will eventually have a stove. Also, I’d want it counter height (90cm/35in) as a table is way too low to work at.

I was worried that by the time I get a stove and an island, the cart would be in the way, so I wanted to be able to park it in this nook:

Needless to say, I couldn’t find anything available commercially at any price. I did come close with a cart I found that was the right height, but it was very shallow and narrow, with only one shelf and wire metal baskets underneath.

While browsing Facebook Marketplace on Tuesday, I saw a cart marketed for the storage of cosmetics and thought that something like that, but bigger, would work for me. I clicked on the link and got to a page for a woodworking shop that seemed to have nice things. So I contacted them with a picture of the cosmetics cart and explained that I wanted something similar, but 90cm tall by 35cm deep by 75 to 100cm wide and with shelves instead of boxes .

They almost immediately replied with a quote of only $700 and they could deliver on Friday. So I asked how I could order it. Of course, all I had to go on was that page, so I had no idea if this company was legit or not. For ordering, I was told I could come to their workshop and pay $400 in cash or I could deposit that $400 to their debit card at an Oxxo. The debit card was in a name that matched the Facebook page and I thought why would a scammer give me their banking information and address? So I went ahead and made the deposit through Oxxo and the company reverified my order. I thought all was good.

Wednesday evening (the following day) is when things got weird. They messaged to ask if I still wanted the cart. I replied that I’d made the deposit and provided a picture of the receipt. I then got asked a few things that made me think that I wasn’t speaking with the same person, but he insisted he was. Then, I got told the last thing you want to be told when you suspect you might be in the process of being scammed, “Don’t worry. We’re honest people.” Hmm…

So I was surprised this morning, Friday, at nine, when I was messaged again to ask when I could pick up the cart! I was provided an address in a residential neighbourhood in south Mérida near the airport. The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up. I haven’t had that happen a lot in my life, but I knew that I wasn’t comfortable going out there as things stood. I was going to ask my neighbour to go with me when I had a DUH moment.

I messaged the shop to send me a picture of the cart. If they could provide one, then, obviously, I wasn’t being lured into some sort of trap. The picture came immediately and there was no doubt it was my order. I let out a sigh of relief (and a giggle of happiness because I liked what I saw in the picture!) and immediately headed out.

It was a very long drive through centro, but I knew that I could come home via the periférico, which would be twice the distance, but half the time.

I found the address without any problems. By the time I got out of my truck, there was a guy standing outside the curb with my cart! I examined it and couldn’t stop smiling as I took in all the details. It was better than perfect. Exactly what I wanted, but with unexpected actual craftsmanship. My gamble had paid off. I was pleased that I’d listened to my gut and made sure I was safe, but also that I ignored the voices in my head telling me I’d just wasted $400.

So here it is! 🙂

If you click the picture, it will embiggen and you can see more details!

The way the legs were done, the whole thing is 40cm deep so it doesn’t fit perfectly into the nook, but the door still opens fully so I’m happy to have the extra depth.

Look at the corners of the shelves and the routing along the edges!

The wheels are very good quality and the shelves are thick, solid, and double reinforced. This cart is going to serve me very well! I asked for it unfinished because I have turquoise paint to use up. 🙂 With how long paint takes to dry here, I probably won’t get to use the cart for a full two weeks, but it will be worth the wait!

Eep, I’d better get back to work so that I can hopefully get a first coat of paint on the cart and maybe the shelving unit too tonight!

I Got a Letter Today!

The Mexican postal system Correos de Mexico is terrible. It is slow and unreliable. I once mailed my best friend a letter from Mazatlán and it never arrived. So when she told me that she mailed me a letter to Mérida on October 5th, let’s just say that I wasn’t holding my breath about ever seeing it.

A month and 10 days later, I went out to look for mail, something I do almost daily because 9 times out of 10, mail ends up wedged into a door grill or slipped under a garage door instead of in my mailbox. But today, there was something in my mailbox:

I teared up as I clutched the precious gift to my chest. I could not believe that it had reached me!

(I was amused by the purple stamp on it, “remember that November 12 is mail carriers day,” when the letter arrived four days after it!)

As always, Bast’s letter had a funny sticker on the flap, this one related to the sticker that she put on the letter that took just 10 days to reach me in Bulgaria:

Now, I’m feeling motivated to find a post office here and to try again to send her a letter. My limited experience so far with Correos de Mexico really gives me a sense of what it would have been like to send mail in ancient times!

It’s been a pretty good day. I had my best night of sleep here so far, which meant I got a bit of a late start. But I still met all my deadlines and work wouldn’t stop pouring in. I remain eternally grateful for that. Cashflow this month is tough, but I think that things really will be better starting in December.

Late afternoon, a couple came by to pick up all the moving boxes I had stored in the maid’s room. In a less humid climate, I would have broken them up and stored them for use in a few years, but they would have likely been mouldy, smelly, and possibly even too damp to use by that point. Better to let someone else use them while they are still in good shape. So now, what to do with that room? Hmm…

After, I paused to make a really nice dinner that included the packet of butter chicken sauce my hosts in Chelem brought back for me. What a treat! I had to go back to work after, but it was nice to stop to make a full dinner and then eat on my pretty china.

I hope I’m going to start catching up on sleep as I’m too exhausted in the evenings to go enjoy all the wonderful free stuff going on in Mérida, like movies, concerts, and dance shows. I have to keep telling myself that things are likely not going to slow down until January, but that after that, I’ll still have 21 months (at least) left to enjoy all that Mérida has to offer. I just need to get over this last hump — and remember that I’m here a year earlier than I thought I would be after spending 10 months in Europe. Of course, things are going to be tight. At least, business is very good and my house is very comfortable! So really, I have no complaints. 🙂

A Good Fit

Monday was pretty much a lost day for me since I’d taken it so easy over the weekend. I worked straight through a very, very long (close to 14-hour) day. My only “break” was a Skype meeting with a client mid-afternoon. I finished close to 9PM, opened a bottle of white wine, and actually made a proper dinner that included chopping vegetables.

No, that’s not eggs. It’s tofu! I found a brand of tofu the other day that is shelf stable (!). I wish I’d bought a few more containers since it wound up being so good. I thought I preferred a really firm tofu to make a scramble, but this was wonderfully silky smooth and probably close to the texture of scrambled eggs. I added onions, carrots, and snow peas (the yellow colour and all the flavour come from turmeric). Breakfast for dinner, but with wine instead of coffee. 🙂 I then enjoyed on Netflix the latest episode of the newest Star Trek series, which I’m thrilled with. I still can’t believe that I would have had no legal way to watch it in Canada but I do here.

Tuesday morning, I took a gamble and made a deposit on a custom furniture order. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I got scammed, but if I didn’t, it will be a fantastic purchase that will go a long way towards finishing the setup of my kitchen. The correspondence I had with the guy tonight didn’t inspire confidence, but I will know Friday.

Then, around noon, I headed out to our little village market to meet an expat lady and help her order a turkey. She’d done it on her own the last time and wasn’t entirely satisfied, so she was thrilled when I offered to go with her as a translator.

Here’s the outside of our market:

The city is working on the market and the park around it. It will be a wonderful space once its done. The lady and I aren’t the only ones who think the Mérida central market in centro is an absolute disgrace for Mérida and overdue for a complete overhaul like this.

The turkey ordering went smoothly. I had a printed out instruction sheet to give to the vendor, but I still discussed it with her. I find that it’s sometimes easier to get what you need if you explain why you need it. For example, last time, the expat didn’t get the skin she wanted around the neck and butt of the turkey. I was able to explain to the vendor that the skin is needed to seal the openings after stuffing the bird and was rewarded with a “AH!” of enlightenment in response to that.

Transaction complete, we got some veggies, gabbed, and then I went to see what the Chinese place had to offer. Wonderful grilled chicken, noodles, an egg roll with filling tasted like egg roll filling, and potato wedges made two nice meals for me for just $45 (3CAD).

Today was going to be another big work day, but this morning, I had to go pick up something I found on the classifieds last night. It was one of those things that was too good to pass up and that I can’t believe I spotted.

There is a little nook on the kitchen side of the breakfast bar that is really just wasted space. It’s not even deep enough to put water jugs. I thought that I should have some shelves made to give me more pantry storage space without having to use up “good” floor space.

This is pretty much what I had in mind:

In the photos, it was filthy and hanging from a wall. I’m convinced that if the seller hadn’t posted the dimensions, I would have scrolled passed it. As you can see, the depth is absolutely perfect, the height is such that the top gives me a long shelf, and the length just about perfectly fits the space. What a find, especially at only $350! Yes, I will be painting it. 🙂 I’m going to wait until Friday to see if my custom order comes in as that will get first priority on the turquoise paint I have left. If I don’t have enough turquoise for both, I’ll go get some orange for this one. 🙂

The pickup point for the shelving was actually quite near to me. I headed out around 11:00, pleased that I’ve finally figured out where to aim my garage door opener to have it open the doors at my first click. I’m still unable to do that reliably while sitting in the truck (meaning I have to run into the yard to open and close the door) and am going to try to have the battery changed as I think that could be the problem. But at least now, I’m almost not concerned that a day could come that I wouldn’t be able to get my truck out when I need to. I am going to have to ask the landlady if she knows who set up the system because, surely, there has to be another way besides the remote to open those doors!

Since I was already out, I decided to swing north to Home Depot in the hopes of getting anti-ant stuff as I haven’t had luck at the few places locally where I’ve looked. Ants are pretty much a given down here. I don’t consider them a problem if I forgot crumbs on the counter while cleaning up in the evening and come down in the morning to find a few ants enjoying the unexpected buffet. That’s just a great incentive to keeping a spotless kitchen. But when they start coming out when I’m preparing food, that’s a real problem.

Home Depot not only had the pellets I needed for outside, but also Terro liquid ant baits, which are the equivalent to using a nuke against ants — they work that well.

Getting home from Home Depot is easy, but a detour since you have to go north to the roundabout at the Chedraui and then come back south again. I did quite a loop this morning, but was only gone an hour:

I got in and set the traps out. The ants were in them within minutes. Now, I have to wait a few days and see if things improve. I still have outside to treat with pellets and hope I won’t have to call an exterminator. Again, I don’t consider ants a major issue, but they are a pain and they do bite, so I like to keep them under control. I’m much less tolerant of things like cockroaches. I caught a few here before I moved in (I think they come up drains, which I saw in Truth or Consequences), but I keep a clean house and have never had a roach problem.

After another big work day (for which I am so grateful), I decided to head up Calle 21 to a restaurant I spotted the other day that’s only open in the evenings. I was pleasantly surprised as it looks brand new. The decor is like what I’d expect a Mexican cantina-type restaurant in a tourist town in the US to look like — lots of dark wood, bright colours, tin roof, tasteful decor. It was absolutely impeccable and super cute. Sorry, I forgot my phone or I’d have a picture. The prices and food were both good.

I ordered about the closest you can get to fajitas in the real Mexico, alambre, which is meat (turkey tonight) grilled with onions, poblano (green non-spicy) peppers, and cheese that you can put into a tortilla and doctor up with stuff, which included Tex-Mex style guacamole. I was even brought a grilled sausage (looked and tasted like a fancy hot dog) as a free appetiser. With a drink and tip, I was out of there for under $85 (5.65CAD) and I didn’t even finish everything! I suspect that I may have found my local Miguel’s, but I still have more exploring to do. At any rate, I can’t wait to take guests there.