Working Too Hard

Ouf, it’s rare that I think that I’m working too hard, but when I’m transcribing 100+ minutes of audio daily while still maintaining a spotless home and garden, there’s no other way to put it. The days are really running together, but, thankfully, I’m managing to get some quality sleep so I can start fresh every morning. I’m really looking forward to a day when I can drive into Mérida, park, and just amble for an afternoon, but I don’t see that day coming anytime soon.

This continues to be a novelty for me since the famine days of sitting around looking for work really aren’t that far behind me. One of my clients asked me to let him know when my queue is empty so he can send me more work and I was able to honestly tell him that that is not likely to happen in the near future. My queue has been sort of like a merry-go-round where clients have to catch an empty spot when it goes by them because it’ll disappear quickly!

I’m not exaggerating when I said that I landed here broke the likes of which I haven’t been in almost two years and so I would be a moron to turn down work just because I’m tired. Once the May income starts trickling in at the start of June, I’ll have earned myself some breathing room, but, really, I need to keep up this pace straight into July.

Yesterday afternoon, I had to go get groceries. It was one of those do or die moments since I was out of just about everything but rice and peanut butter. We had an impressive storm in the late afternoon as I was finishing up work on a new movie project. The amount of rain made me worry that the roads in my neighbourhood would be impassable, but when I went out about 30 minutes after the rain stopped, everything was fine.

I decided to just go to Bodega Aurrerá in Progreso and come straight back since I had more work to do in the evening. There, I was able to get some of the things on my list, including the so important beer, and a few treats, like dulce de guayaba letting myself be tempted at the till by a display of cacahuetes japoneses, or cracker nuts. I’ve been making some decent tacos at home for my lunches, so I also bought some commercial salsa verde and guacamole to put on them.

I’ve somehow found an hour every night before bed to work at my Spanish, so I also treated myself to a new notebook for that and a package of 10 different coloured pens, a very inexpensive gift (about $50 total) that made my “schoolwork” more fun that night. I’m working on a new verb tense, the imperfect (one of the past tenses) and treating it like a vocabulary lesson. Instead of using the standard verbs, like hablar and comer, to learn the new tense, I’m using new verbs that I’m struggling with, like dejar and romper.

I am once more grateful that I can go from French to Spanish because that makes learning Spanish so much easier. Dejar, for example, translates as “stop” or “leave” in English, but not in the senses that immediately come to my mind. Stop is more like quit (eg. smoking) rather than doing so in a car and leave is more in the sense of something being dropped off than exiting a room. There is no ambiguity as to the meaning if I go from French and so I’m once more understanding what an enormous challenge learning Spanish would be to a native English speaker with no other points of comparison. I mean, the imperfect of, say, comer (to eat) is  comía, comías, comía, comíamos, comíais, comían. In English? It’s ate, ate, ate, ate, ate, ate!

So it’s really just routine here in paradise, but dang, the living is easy. 🙂 Now, I have to really get to work!!!


Some Post Title Are Harder to Come Up With Than Others

I can’t believe I’m already at the two-week mark of being on my own here and the three-week mark of having landed! While I’m disappointed that there’s really nothing for me to walk to, I have plenty at home to keep me busy between long bouts of typing.

My chore list is nowhere near as overwhelming as I thought it might be and I’m having no trouble keeping up with it. I keep a calendar so that I know when I’m due to do things (because the days tend to run together) and I schedule work around the things that can’t be postponed (like watering the garden) and the things that can (like vacuuming the pool).

I’m really happy to have Puppy for company. I was apprehensive at first about minding him, but he’s proving to be a delight and really no work at all, not like my last two dog sits. Several play sessions a day get my heart pumping and give him sufficient exercise, but I’m otherwise not a “slave” to him since he’s an outdoor dog, meaning that he doesn’t have to be let out constantly and I can go out all day if I want. He follows me around the minute I step outside and he’s not shy about literally knocking on my patio door while holding his favourite toy in his mouth so that I’ll go play with him!

Work continues to be unrelenting, but I’ll have managed to make this month, even with being off a full week and only working half-days the second week to make, what I make in an average month! I know I can’t keep up this pace, but right now I’m spending money as fast as I’m making it so with some big expenses coming up, I really need to rebuild my savings. On top of house hunting, I’ve got Moya now making some alarming noises, so I’m trying to avoid going out with her unless I absolutely have to. Some trips, she runs absolutely normally and others she doesn’t, so it’s hard to pinpoint what’s wrong and how serious the issue might be. I thought at first that she needs new brake pads already, but it’s really too soon. It could be a bad bearing, rust, a steering component… I know that it won’t cost me much to have her looked at and repaired here compared to Canada, but it’s an expense I wish wasn’t on my list.

So that was one of the reasons I decided that I would walk into Chelem today to pick up some produce. It’s only 5KM round trip, so I thought it would be a quick trip and that I’d soon be home in the pool and then back to work…

Here’s that sand trap I got caught in three weeks ago:

Here’s Called 17, the “beach road,” looking towards Chelem…

And towards Chuburná

It was a very long and rather boring walk, although I did enjoy looking at the variety of houses. I was certain I’d come across a small shop along the way, but no! I finally made it into town and went to Willy’s for a few groceries, including flour, since I want to treat myself to banana pancakes this weekend! I also picked up a box of this:

You’d think that with the word puré in the name that it would be a super thick tomato concentrate, but it’s actually a very thin and well seasoned tomato sauce. It became such a staple my first winter in Mazatlán that I brought some back to Haven for the 2015 summer! I picked up some tricolour noodles on offer at Bodega Aurregá on a recent trip and thought that pasta might be nice for dinner tonight.

I also picked up two Montejo beers, a brand I discovered when I came to Mérida last year, and a few other sundries, including cinnamon-flavoured graham crackers that were quite the surprise when I opened the package while I was making tea a few hours later at home. Well, I was expecting the cinnamon part, but not the graham flour base, and I love graham crackers. I’ll have to remember those!

I also wanted some tostadas, but didn’t find any. Tostadas were quite the discovery my first year in Mexico. They look like a tortilla-sized yellow tortilla chip, but they are baked rather than fried and are not salty. I get all the flavour I like from a tostada and none of the guilt! I have some black beans, onion, lime, and salsa verde here at home and figured that I could pick up an avocado and some tomatoes to make tostadas de frijoles for one of my lunches this weekend. When I got to the till, I was asked if I’d found all I was looking for before and the gal laughed and pointed to a stand behind me. Ah, there they were with the baby food. Because why not?

Next stop was a produce stand. The first one I went to didn’t have anything nice, but the second did. My assessment last February that produce was going to be a disappointment here was correct. 🙁 Yucatán isn’t an agricultural state and it imports everything. So far, only Bodega Aurregá and Costco have had nice looking produce while the other supermarkets carry only very sad looking fare. It’s rather disappointing, but I imagine I’l find my sources for fresh things as I settle in. I did well for onions, lime, and jicama at Super Aki the other day and the stand today had tomatoes, potatoes, and an avocado that looked good. I also picked up what I thought might be the light green zucchini, but when I asked their name was told they are “pepino blanco,” or white cucumber. I bought two. I haven’t been able to find much info about them, but I’m sure I’ll come up with a use for them!

I headed home then and made the mistake of taking a different road, thinking that I could just meander my way back… Well, I found myself in a literal maze where I would reach a dead end and have to double back sometimes up to four blocks to be able to move forward any further. I’d forgotten how hard sand is on the feet and had nasty blisters forming, so the extra effort to get home was not appreciated. I was happy when I finally made my way back to the beach road and was able to make real progress towards home. I was incredibly footsore and exhausted by that point and am fairly certain that I won’t be doing that walk again. I’d really be better off taking the highway so that I can wear proper shoes and walk on pavement! At any rate, I jumped in the pool, then had a cold shower (the pool was too warm to be refreshing!), had a late lunch, played with Puppy, and went back to work.

It was almost seven when I stopped to make dinner. Instead of just the tomato sauce, I added a bit of crema, grated cheese, and a generous handful of dried basil to my noodles. The basil is from my neighbour Caroline’s garden back home. She sent me off with heaps of it, savoury, and oregano, and it is proving to be such a treat! It made my simple meal really something special. I then went back to work for a bit before going back to the kitchen to clean up and take out the trash.

Rediscovering my cooking equipment has been a real joy. I’ve missed it all, from my heavy bottom pots to my cast iron pans and especially my… rice cooker. I still haven’t done much real cooking yet, but I’m still building up my pantry. It’s lovely to be able to buy things with no concern about having to use them within a certain timeframe, plus I have a good sized fridge here so I can get the big jars of things like jam and peanut butter that I eat in large quantities.

I guess one could say that I’m in nesting mode. I had a Skype meeting with a client the other day and he commented on how different I sounded from when we spoke in March when I was still in Quebec. “I can hear in your voice that you’re home,” he said. “I’ve talked to you when you’ve been in half a dozen countries and you always sound different in Mexico, more peaceful.” Isn’t that something?!

I wonder how long this honeymoon period is going to last… However, looking at the stages of immigration, I think I may have very well jumped from honeymoon to ease-at-last. 😀

Well, I suppose it’s bedtime already. I’m going to have a very full weekend, but I’m really going to make an effort to treat myself to a day in Mérida centro next week. Just don’t hold your breath because it’s clear my clients have no intention of punishing me for the time off I just took!

Once Upon a Time

Stories I will tell when I am an old woman rocking on my porch…

Once upon a time, I had homes with no running water in winter and that required effort to heat. It was normal for me to survive half the year as I hung on to the promise of a few months of respite from the drudgery.

Once upon a time, I had bosses who were downright abusive and made me question my self-worth even as I worked myself to the bone for them. I had jobs that required back breaking manual labour and jobs with mind numbing tedium.

Once upon a time, I believed what my society told me, that to have a “good life” I couldn’t begin to live until I was in my sixties. And that the good life came at a hefty price tag I wasn’t sure I wanted to work hard enough to pay for anyway.

Once upon a time, I finally quit the rat race to search for my own version of the good life. Followed years that had long periods of hunger and drudgery that were a small price to pay for the wonders I saw.

Once upon a time, I found myself having high tea in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I finally understood what people meant when they said they had “arrived.”

Once upon a time, I chose to live where there is a perpetual summer. I turned my back on survival and began to demand more for myself.

Once upon a time, there was a day when the housekeepers took care of the tedium of house minding while I worked hard at my own enterprise. I then had a Skype meeting with a client and cemented a new contract that would secure my immediate future. After, it was time to go for a swim, play with the dog, lie on a chaise longue with a cold beer and bask in the sun for spell, and finally I made a lovely dinner in my spotless kitchen.

Once upon a time, I realised that over the course of several years I had inched my way across a line that could never be crossed again. That I wanted comfort and beautiful things and to be able to take an evening off without feeling guilty about it. I had found the Good Life and, best of all, I could not only appreciate it, I had earned it.

Peninsula-Wide Power Outage!

I lost power at 11:04 this morning and didn’t think too much of it. But with my computer being at only half charge and the freezer being full, I wondered if it would be worth firing up the generator. I went to the website for CFE, the power company, and there was no message on the main page about the outage. There was, however, a link to their Twitter and through that, I got the Twitter for the account for the whole of the peninsula (which includes the states of Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo).

There, I found out that it was a peninsula-wide outage! I kept monitoring the account (on my phone, which, thankfully, is now getting decent reception here) and I could see progress being restored along the same route I took to get here from Villahermosa. Shortly after their, “Next stop is Mérida!” message, a full hour and a bit after the outage started, the power came back on! I immediately tweeted that Chelem had power and thanked CFE for their service.

It later came out that there was a problem in the power line between the states of Tabasco and Campeche. It’s rather scary that we have such a tenuous connection to the power grid, but I was impressed by how fast CFE moved to fix the problem.


Legal for the Next 344 Days

Sunday was a pleasant at-home day. I had a bit of work to do in the morning, but then took the rest of the day off even though I had more work in the queue. Of course, that meant I spent the afternoon catching up on my bookkeeping, which I’ve been progressively neglecting. It’s hard to do it paperless and it was great to be able to print off all my statements and highlight and annotate as I went along.  I watched a movie in the evening and started on my Van Gogh puzzle, which, as expected, is going to take ages to do!

First thing this morning, I headed into Progreso to see if my residency card really had arrived already, as per the notice I received on Friday afternoon. En route, I stopped to drop off the trash. Collection at the house is not regular and my hosts find it’s better to hold the trash at home and then deposit it at the “dump” (area by the side of the highway on the way to Chelem) as needed. It’s really not a hassle and there’s a guy at the “dump” who takes the bags out of the truck for me.

I got to INM and, sure enough, my card was there! It was accompanied by a lovely welcome letter from Mexico laying out both my new privileges and my new responsibilities.

“Mexico, a hospitable country… is pleased to issue you this card as proof of your status as a temporary resident… Like for any other resident of Mexico, it allows for free transit across the country as well as access to education, healthcare, and the justice system.”

My responsibilities are to safeguard the card, show it when I need to prove my status, inform them of any changes (like my address), and to renew the card 30 days before it expires — so that’s the end of March since the card expires May 1st, 2018, which feels so soon!

I find it amazing how many expats don’t find getting to this point incredible and worthy of celebration. There is just such a sense of entitlement. 

From INM, I went straight to Aduana. The guy who was so surly last week actually greeted me with a smile and a few kind words! I didn’t have to wait long for the customs officer from last week to come out with some paperwork for me. As it turns out, it takes three to four months to process the extension for the TIP! OMG! What she had for me as a letter saying that I’ve requested an extension. That’s it. There was nothing in it about the request being granted. I asked the lady to confirm that this would be enough to be legal and she said to just hold onto the letter with my other TIP paperwork and that it will be sufficient if I get pulled over and asked to prove Moya’s legal status. Hope she’s right! I was given a website URL and request number so I can track the status of my extension.

When I got back to the pier entrance/exit checkpoint, the guard there told me I’d do well to make a colour photocopy of my license plate, have it laminated, and stick it to the front of my truck so that I don’t look as conspicuous! I’ve heard of other expats with no front plate doing that and getting the same suggestion from someone official cemented it for me. So that’s my next arts and crafts project.

Now, it’s time to get to work. It’s rare for a Monday to be busy, but this one is. I even had a request to take a job waiting in my inbox when I first logged on.

The house cleaner comes on Wednesday, so I’m going to lose most of that day and so I’ll need to work late tonight and tomorrow to make up for that. It was strongly advised that I leave when she’s here so as to not be in her way. So I think I will go to Progreso centro and have a poke around. I accidentally drove through there today looking for the Super Aki grocery store and it reminded me so much of Maz I got a little homesick! Looks like there’s a market to explore as well as, of course, a malecón. I figure doing that will kill the time it will take the cleaner to do my suite and then I can come back to work while she does the rest of the property. Yes, my hosts trust her! She has actually housesat overnight here to take care of the dog. I’m therefore not worried about having her here alone, but I will tell her not to touch my desk since there’s so much on it.

Tonight is the last curry night for a few weeks and so I’ll be heading out in a few hours to pick up supper. One of you lovely readers sent me some funds a few weeks ago for a treat and it exactly covered my three curry nights! So thank you again!