Setting Up My Command Centre

Today was the day to go pick up my new-to-me desk! The day went off without a hitch. The cleaning guy arrived on time and got to work on my suite so that it would be ready when the furniture arrived. My promised help told me they’d be there “around ten” and it was just shy of that when they pulled up. Off we went to La Ceiba. By the time we got through the very long queue to get through the entrance of the gated community, it was eleven.

The helpers are Mexicans I’ll refer to as M and R in this post. They work for the expat, D, who did the solar system on the house I’m minding and do all manner of labour. They’re really great and I’m happy they were available to help. D provided the truck and M and R the muscle today so that there were two trucks and four able bodied people to load, with the fourth being A, the husband of the maid at the house where I was getting the furniture, since D can’t do any heavy lifting.

M and R got to work dismantling the desk while I brought the bookshelves to the truck with A. I hadn’t actually seen the bookshelves in person and I gasped when I did since they are absolutely wonderful, deep enough for my biggest books and with heaps of adjustable shelves, as well as aesthetically pleasing.

We managed to get two bookshelves in Moya as well as the shelves themselves and some bits of the desk. M and R Tetrised the desk and the remaining bookcase into D’s truck. D had tie down straps, so he helped M and R get everything secure and off we went. It felt like we’d been there for ages, but we were out of there in 36 minutes!

I raced home ahead of them to get the dog out tied up and the gate open. The cleaner was just finishing up my suite, so that was perfect timing!

D took it slow because he didn’t want anything to fly out of the truck, which meant that he got caught in a big storm and all my things got wet. So first order of business was to unload his truck and dry off everything. The bookcases are solid wood, so it didn’t really matter, but the desk is particle board, so it couldn’t get soaked. That’s really not a great material for this climate and the desk isn’t aging well, but it’ll still serve me for a bit.

D took off once his truck was unloaded and then I backed my truck in to unload it. It was then time to figure out how to fit everything into my suite. The bookcases were a no brainer, but the desk was tricky. We tried a few configurations, keeping in mind that four months is a long time to be tripping over stuff. Finally, we came up with this:

I agree with M that it’s nice to have that “wall” separating the office from the bedroom. I don’t need the tables that were front of the couch and there’s plenty of room to walk between the desk and the end of the chaise longue. Once we agreed that this is where the desk was going to go, they reassembled it for me.

I asked if they’ll be able to dismantle, move, and reassemble it for me in the fall and they said of course, as many times as I want… but they agree with my assessment that the next move needs to be the last. Anyway, it looks pretty good, feels great, and fits in the room!

There is tons of space between the bed and the desk. We could have moved the bed closer to the bookcases and the sofa down as well, but I’m trying to keep the furniture rearranging to a minimum. This works absolutely fine for me.

Unpacking my books was like finding old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.

The desk setup isn’t perfect yet, but I’m waiting to see where I’m moving before I start buying any bins or baskets. I am really pleased that the file cabinet drawer was able to hold all my files with room to spare!

Speaking of moving, I spoke to the maid about that and she gave me some invaluable house hunting advice. She says that a standard layout in Mérida is a house with two beds and a bath upstairs and a “cuarto de servicio” (service quarter — room with bathroom) on the ground floor for a maid… and that this is not advertised as a three-bed, two-bath! So she told me to widen my search criteria because I could be very pleasantly surprised by what a house with two bedrooms actually has. I did a quick listings search after I set up my office and was shocked to find a bunch of two-bedroom houses that do have the cuarto de servicio on the ground floor! What I found were much smaller houses than I’ve been looking for (ie. more manageable for one person) and, of course, the price is lower so that opens up my search radius!

I had to do a job this afternoon and by the time that was done, I was completely exhausted, having worked really late last night so I could be off this morning and then not having had enough sleep. I was also ravenous since I’d had breakfast at seven, skipped lunch because the cleaner was in the kitchen, and had only two small peanut butter wraps mid-afternoon. I really, really, really wanted to order a pizza, but I would have had to go pick it up.

So instead, I got some pork thawing while I put my room back to rights. By the time that was done, the pork was ready to cook and I was able to throw together a really yummy stir fry with udon noodles, the pork, and tons of veggies, plus Blue Dragon sweet chilli sauce. So instead of eating a carb heavy meal that wouldn’t have done me any favours, I had a healthy dinner (with leftovers!) that truly left me nourished. It’s important to be good and kind to yourself, even if it takes work to do so.

I’m sure I had more to say, but my brain is fried and I have to go do some prep work for a job I’m doing tomorrow. I rather can’t wait to get back to work in my new office. It’s so great to have room to spread out!

The Kind of Typing Weekend I Like

I have a client who only lets me have two files at a time, usually about 60 audio minutes or half a day’s worth. So I can’t take more work until I’ve done at least one of my files and oftentimes, the work is all gone by the time I’m through. It’s frustrating and I’m hoping that they’ll increase my allowance at some point. But sometimes, there’s a large volume of work and an email goes out saying that extra files could be assigned to typists who want them.

Well, on Friday, there was a call out to anyone who could take a significant workload for the weekend. I requested what would be an insane amount for most of my other clients, but isn’t for this one since the files tend to be easy. To my delight, the order was filled immediately. And then, another client asked me to take work for the weekend. When I turned him down, he said that he had a different, and huge, job that I could do for Wednesday morning. So that was four really solid days of work sorted.

Friday was also really full, but I had to get away to Progreso for a few hours to pick up something I’d spotted on the garage sale site I belong to. I am being very careful to not “peso dribble” and pick up stuff just because I will have a house to fill soon, but sometimes, there are things, like the sheets, that would be absolutely stupid not to pick up. And then, there are times like last week where something you’ve wanted for a bit comes up at the right price and you say the hell with it.

One of the things I’ve noticed in a lot of Mexican homes are ceramic containers holding water. A bit of research told me that these are known as “water crocks” in Canada and the US and they are a natural way to keep water cool. I really liked the idea of them and thought that if I ever had a house here, I’d want some. For one thing, they are much nicer storage containers for water than are the 20 litre plastic jugs and their dispensers are much less work than the plastic jug pumps. I thought that if I ever had a house here, I’d want one for the kitchen and one in every bathroom where folks brush their teeth.

The jugs are all essentially the same shape, but come in many different colours and patterns. As former collector of Blue Willow china, I’m really fond of blue and white and the odd time I’d looked at these jugs when out and about in Maz, I noticed a pattern I particularly liked, with flowers and checks.

So when this showed up on the garage sale site this week, I knew I had bought my first functionally decorative piece for my new home, whatever it ended up being:

The seller wanted $500 (40CAD) and accepted $400 (32CAD), which seemed a very fair price to me. I really like it! I filled it and it sits by the coffee supplies and kettle and is very convenient. I do tend to drink water cold out of the fridge here (something I never did in Canada), but if I forget to fill the jug, the water in the crock is definitely at a more drinkable temperature than that in the plastic jugs.

The trip allowed me to see a bit more of Progreso. It’s a pleasant enough town at that end, but, really, I want to live in Mérida, at least to start.

Since I was in town, I went to Bodega Aurrerá to pick up a few things. I walked in to be met with a wall of Tecate Light on offer for a decent price, so I immediately put a six-pack in my basket. I was then at the butcher negotiating for a bone for my dog when something told me to check my email. My longest held client had emailed me a half dozen times in the last hour with the last email having the subject line to please email or call him ASAP.

I found a quiet corner and called (YAY for a North America plan!). Turns out there was a problem with the order I’d returned that morning, something pretty major, but not exactly a mistake on my part, just a miscommunication. If I could fix it in the next few hours, everything would be fine. So of course, I went through the store too fast to get out of there ASAP and forgot three quarters of what I’d come in to buy. But, hey, I had the beer, coffee, and a bone and eggs for my dog, so I guess that was the important stuff. 🙂

The coffee was notable. My last time shopping at Mega in Maz, I was able to sample a drip coffee made in Maz and found it very good. I filed away the information, but never acted on it. Guess what coffee I found at Bodega Aurrerá? I was so relieved because the last coffee I bought at Soriana was fine, but not spectacular and I wasn’t looking forward to possibly buying unsatisfying coffee again. This stuff from Maz is really good!

I got in and had a ton of stuff to carry into the house. The dog tends to be a bit of a brat when I come in carrying shopping, trying to rip my bags and trip me. Before I’d left, I’d told him I’d have a bone for him when I got in if he was good. So it’s a funny coincidence that he let me bring in all my shopping without interfering! He was very happy with his bone. 🙂

I threw together a very quick lunch with a yummy preroasted chicken I’d also picked up and then fixed my client’s file. I then worked very late on a number of different jobs.

Saturday and Sunday were pretty much the same, just tons of typing, but at all sorts of different jobs in different domains. It was all surprisingly interesting. I was able to break for meals and at a reasonable hour both nights to play with my dog (who is showing amazing progress at learning how to play fetch!), swim, and enjoy a beer before going to bed not to late.

Monday and Tuesday are probably going to be more gruelling since I’m working on tedious focus groups. Wednesday is the day I’m going to pick up my desk and bookcases since I was asked if I could pick them up earlier than Friday and my promised help says Wednesday is the best day for him. That works out super well since the cleaner will be coming and I’ll have to vacate for a few hours anyway. By the time we get back here, he should be done with my suite and we can just move the furniture back in. I’m desperately trying to clear my Wednesday schedule since I’ll have to dismantle my temporary desk and then set up my new one, but we’ll see if that happens.

I then have myself promised straight through into the start of next week. It’s nice to be busy and to know, based on my current receivables, that I’ll be able to really start house hunting in the next couple of weeks!

So that’s all the latest news here. I expect the next post will be me showing off my new desk, or command centre, as a friend who saw a picture of it described it. 😀

No Time To Get Into Trouble

Just a quick update since I’m apparently not providing sufficient proof of life…

My days are extremely full and something has to give. Blogging just isn’t something I feel like devoting much energy too right now unless something really major happens with my day.

Work is very busy and I’m working very long days, but I’ve also had plenty of time to keep up with my chores and manage some repair work on the house. As long as things keep up into the fall and the move into the new house, there are some major work-related lifestyle changes or adjustments ahead at the start of 2018. I feel really blessed.

At any rate, after repairs were completed on the water pump (which ended up having two separate issues), it was time today to move to the roof, which has been leaking. Thankfully, my hosts have a good friend with a reliable work crew so getting repairs done has not been stressful, only a matter of coordinating schedules.

The guys don’t speak English, so I’m learning new words, like escombros (debris) and brocha (which would be pinceau in French or a brush of the type used for painting in English (both French and Spanish have a different word for that and a brush for hair or teeth)). They were shocked that I didn’t know the latter, but, hey, I pick up my vocabulary as needed!

Late morning, I called my hosts’ friend to ask how much I should be paying the guys and how much of a lunch allowance to give them to go pick up something because I wasn’t at all prepared to feed two strong hardworking men. It’s great to have someone I can call on for questions like that now. He’s a wonderful man and I’m lucky to have met him. He even said he’ll help me get my desk and bookcases from La Ceiba next week!

Before any of you mother hens start clucking, this is the first summer that anyone has been in the house full-time and it was expected that there might be problems. I have been left with financial resources, trust, and autonomy to deal with things. 🙂

Puppy sitting is going as well as it did in Europe. I’m teaching the little fellow to play fetch now. It’s very slow going, but I think we made a breakthrough today at last. One of the last things I do every night is laps in the pool and he gets further exercise chasing me from one end of the pool to the other! He’s just really droll and a joy. The pool is also a joy!

I can’t believe I’ve been here on my own a full month now. I checked in with my hosts today regarding the work updates and sent pictures of the yard, pool, and dog to show that I’m keeping up with things. We’ve been getting a lot of rain, so the garden went from being a massive chore to barely being one at all. I’ve been using the time I save from not having to water to keep on top of the weeding.

I’m eager to start househunting, but still don’t have the means to do that just yet. Once the June receivables come in at the start of July, I can start looking at houses on the lower end of my budget. It’s a bit frustrating to be scrambling to much to put together three or four months’ worth of rent ahead of time and having to focus on the lower end of my budget when I could handle a monthly rent that is quite a bit higher. But I really do have to focus right now on how much I can reasonably expect to be able to save up by August and, really, it’s not a bad thing to have to rein in my rent budget. I do have to stress that I’ll have to compromise on house finishes and location to stay on budget, but I can still get the three-bed, two-bath I’ve been dreaming of, no problem. A pool might be trickier, but it’s on the wish list.

One stumbling block I’ve come across is a unique Yucatán requirement of having a lease guarantor who owns property in Mérida (aval de propriedad). I’ll cross the bridge if and when I come to it, but I’m glad I learned this. I had to do a lot of research to understand what the term meant since it didn’t translate to anything meaningful and I found no expat resources about it. Again, I was grateful for my language skills! I’ve seen some ads say that the owners will take an extra month or two of deposit in lieu of the aval de propriedad, so I may have some leeway. Anyway, forewarned is forearmed!

Well, another full day has come to a close. Time for a swim and some puppy time before I collapse to do it all over again tomorrow. Thank goodness I’m in paradise or this workload would be unbearable! 😉

Decisions Made for Me

I slept in late this morning (past eight) and was lying there on my new sheets comfy as can be thinking that I really should go feed the dog when I heard my phone ping, telling me that I had a text. It ended up solving the dilemma I had about my day. I had only a small easy job to do, so I was torn between hanging out at home and catching up on a few things or heading to Mérida to have lunch in centro.

Well, the text was from the gal who had sold me the sheets. She makes a lot of typos, uses slang, and does not use punctuation, so I had no idea what it said! I ran the message through Google Translate and it gave me a suggestion for one of the words that I did not recognise that ended up being the message’s Rosetta Stone. So I texted back to confirm that she had been unable to get towels for me, but had the two bathrobes and five face cloths. I also asked for four more pillow cases and if I could meet up with her around eleven. If so, that would be my excuse to go into Mérida.

She said that she had everything and that eleven would be perfect as her husband had to run errands. He would be waiting for me outside the Oxxo. I did some chores, played with the dog, dressed, and headed out around 10:30. I stopped for gas and then headed straight for the meet up, arriving around 11:02. Her husband was waiting for me! He was clearly in a hurry, thrusting a bag clearly marked with the contents into my hands and accepting the payment.

I then headed back to the highway to go into Mérida, stopping at the Liverpool to use the Scotiabank ATM… which was GONE. *sighs* There is no other Scotiabank ATM that is such easy access when I come into the city. 🙁 I decided to push on to the Office Depot, near where I planned to drop the truck and then take a bus into centro, where I knew there were several Scotiabanks. Well, I ended up passing one near the Home Depot that wasn’t on either my GPS or Google’s list! I only spotted it because of the logo on a tower. At any rate, it was easy to access with on street parking. Not a great location, but better than some of the others I’ve seen.

I had a reason beyond office supplies for dropping the truck off at the Office Depot, but we’ll come back to that. I parked behind the store and then flagged down some men to ask them where I might be able to catch a bus to centro. They told me right there on the Prolongación Paseo de Montejo and that I’d have the best luck in front of the chicken restaurant (pollería) a ways up. That was solid advice and I soon found myself on a decrepit bus taking the scene route to centro.

Soon as we hit centro, I yelled out, “¡Baja!” to be let off and the driver yelled back that I had to wait till the next stop, which ended up being several blocks away. I was surprised because I would have expected that he’d just drop me while stopped at a red light. More about buses in a bit.

It was lunch time by this point and I really wanted to go back to the Pita restaurant I’d found last year so I could have falafel, but I was completely turned around and couldn’t find any of the landmarks that would have helped me find it. So imagine my delight when I just happened to pass it! I asked to sit in the courtyard and said that I didn’t need a menu. I requested the falafel sandwich, but subbing the mayo-y coleslaw on it for a bit of hummus. Not a problem! I also requested one of their super sour and oh-so-refreshing limonadas.

Like last year, I was brought as a free started some fresh pita with pesto, hot pepper spread, and herbed butter (the link above goes to a post with a better picture of the spreads!). I like all three mixed together.

Here’s my pretty lunch. The salad wasn’t nearly as nice as last year and the dressing had an odd flavour I couldn’t place, but it was still delicious!

The falafel aren’t quite spiced enough, but are close enough to perfection for me to continue to be giddy that I can get a decent falafel in my adopted city!

When the server came to check up on me, I told him about how I had eaten there last year when I was scoping out Mérida and that I now live here and just how happy I am to have a decent Lebanese restaurant within easy access.We chatted a bit longer since there were no other customers.

It started to spit as I finished up and I decided that it was time to head back to my truck. Again, I had work to do in the afternoon, plus a few more errands to run, so it really wasn’t a sightseeing day. Like last year, I had a really hard time getting a bus to take me back north. I find the buses here really intimidating despite having had lots of tips on how to use them. For one thing, it’s completely bull that you can just flag them down anywhere. There are definite stops all over the city, but they are not all marked… and the ones that are marked aren’t all in use!

I finally got on a bus that seemed to be heading near where my truck was parked. I followed our route on my phone for a bit and was grateful to get to about 1.5KM of my truck when we suddenly veered in the wrong direction. Sometimes, buses have really random routes, so I hung on for a bit hoping we’d get back the right way, but once I was more than 2KM out of my way, I asked to get off and, thankfully, was dropped almost right there and was able to just take Calle 17 straight down to my truck. By the way, taking the bus hadn’t been a waste since I did save myself 2.5KM as it was 4.5KM from centro to my truck!

The detour was worth it for passing the Chinese House or House of the 500 (casa china o de la 500). It was owned by a white prostitute who married a Japanese man. 500 was apparently the price of her services. At any rate, the house is magnificent!

It actually appears to be a private residence.

Back in the area of my truck, it was time for the real purpose of my being so eager to get to that part of Mérida, visiting El Fenicio… an authentic Lebanese bakery!

There’s really not more to it than what you see in that picture. There’s a rack with various products on it and there is some baking behind a counter. I was served by a lovely man who made me feel very welcome. I suspect we will get to know each other. 🙂

My treasures for the day were a jar of tahini made on site, a spice mix that is more oregano than sumac, and a huge stack of fresh baked pita. It’s finding a place like this that helps me feel at home in a new city.

I then went around the corner into Office Depot because they were having a sale on some of their headphones. I’d had bad luck buying headphones at the Office Depot in Maz, but some of the prices this week were too good not to take a chance. Of course, the pair I wanted was out of stock, but, get this, the manager offered me another similar pair that wasn’t on sale at the same discount! The ones I got are actually better quality and were still very inexpensive. The first pair would have been about 15CAD with the 30% discount and these were 20CAD. But I still only have a one week warranty on them. 🙁 At any rate, I still can’t believe the manager did that for me!

It was then really time for me to head home, but I passed the Superama grocery store that I’d been told would likely stock Earl Grey tea… and came home with this. 🙂

The had a very English selection of teas! But, like Mega, regular Mexican food was super overpriced. It’s another one of those places I’ll add to my list for unusual items, but not for a full shop. I also found chickpeas and garlic to go with my Costco lemons and the tahini to make hummus. 🙂

I then drove home, where it was raining hard! I feel like I teleported to another world! I went through a puddle so deep that I literally felt Moya starting to float before finding firm ground again. Bit scary and quite a lesson!

At any rate, I got in and gave my dog some love and attention before sorting through my purchases and checking out the linens I’d bought. The gal had included six face cloths instead of just five! The bathrobes are really lovely (logo hidden to not advertise a now defunct hotel), but they don’t have a belt. At $50 each (about 3CAD), it won’t be a big deal to find someone to make me some belts for them.

Here’s a map of my day:

When I was here last year, I identified Barrio Itzimná as a strong candidate for where I might want to live and today pretty much confirmed that I was absolutely right! I’ve come to realise that don’t want to live right in centro because it is way too noisy and will be a pain to drive around in and park (since I’m unlikely to find a house with a driveway). There isn’t much between centro and Itzimná and if you go further, you start to get into surburban hell with the big shopping plazas. Itzimńa puts me right between the two extremes and has all the services I want.

However, it is a very pricy neighbourhood and I haven’t seen much within my price range for rent there online. It will be worth going back out to pound the pavement and see what I can find in its vicinity. I have a pretty solid list of my wants for the neighbourhood I end up living in and today added a pollería! If I’d had my cooler in the truck, I would have come up with a grilled chicken for dinner as I found a really great deal for one with rice and onions. There is a pollería in Chelem, but it hasn’t been open the few times I was in town. I’ll have to ask someone next time if they have the schedule for it…

It was a really lovely day in town. Back to the grind tomorrow. 😀

Into Suburban Hell for a Good Cause

One of the things on my to-buy list when I got here were bedsheets. I wanted to wait to see what size bed I would have and buy sheets to fit it, then I’d buy that size of bed when I got a house. I determined that I have a full size bed (matrimonial) and off I went to price good quality sheets in 100% cotton that wouldn’t pill.

I didn’t have much luck. Even though fabric is super cheap here, decent sheets were over 100CAD a set at places like Sears, Liverpool, and Costco!

So I placed an ad on a local classifieds Facebook group describing what I wanted. I actually wouldn’t mind gently used sheets because then I’d know for sure they wouldn’t pill.

Tuesday afternoon, I got a message from a gal saying that she had a lot of used linens from a hotel that shut down, all in good condition, and she happened to have two sets of full size sheets (the rest were queen and king). My ad said I preferred dark coloured sheets, but these were white. Otherwise, they were everything I wanted. Moreover I’d said I’d be willing to pay $250 for a set in my ad, but I could have both sets for $300, plus five big face cloths for just $35. Was I interested? Um, yes!

We made arrangements for me to meet her in Fraccionamiento Las Americas, on the north side of the perificico coming into Mérida. This is a new neighbourhood in the cookie cutter, American suburbia, car-centred style that sounds like my idea of hell.

She said to meet her at the Oxxo coming into the neighbourhood and send her a text when I arrived. I told her I’d be there around ten and was there right at ten, so I expected to have to wait for up to an hour for her to show up. I don’t know when I’ll get over my pathological need to be on time when it is an impediment here! At any rate, she texted me right back to say she’d be five minutes and almost exactly five minutes later, there she was!

The sheets were absolutely fantastic, lovely thick cotton that will wear well and be easy to wash. There are a few tiny spots, but nothing alarming, and they are plenty good enough for a guest bed, hence why I wanted two sets. The only thing I’m not nuts on (and why they are so cheap) is that they are all flat sheets. So they’ll be a bit more work to make the bed. However, I had no trouble at all getting the flat bottom sheet to stay in place in Hebden Bridge so it really isn’t a big deal. The face cloths are brand new and amazing quality.

Transaction complete, I was able to drive around that glorieta (pauses to translate that into English, having forgotten the word, LOL), I mean roundabout,  you see in the picture to head back to the highway, and then take advantage of a retorno almost right there to head back north. I ended up being gone about 75 minutes total.

I am going back next week to pick up giant bath towels, more face cloths, and bathrobes. I better have guests at some point to put this stuff to good use! 😀

Post edited to add: all the spots came out with a bit of bleach, detergent and sun! Don’t they look great?!