Operation: Devolución – No News Is Good News?

Well, unless I missed a holiday in there somewhere, the initial 20-business-day waiting period for my INM refund has passed. I was told if I got through it without any contact by SAT, I’m in the clear and can expect my refund within a further 20 business days (end of June).

I’m no more optimistic than I was a month ago that I’m going to be getting this refund, but I’m hanging in there. I don’t feel there’s any point in going to SAT right now to ask for a status update since I’m only halfway through the 40-day window, but I will go the first week of July just to clear my mind that I did everything I could to get back the 7,518 pesos that INM “borrowed” from me.

At this time, I’m in the process of gathering all the paperwork to go to Cancún to replace my passport. I cannot believe the incredible amount of extra fees Passport Canada is tacking on beyond a reasonable $25 out of country processing fee. Add in that they’re making me go through extra hoops by making me completely reapply, including having to send in my irreplaceable birth certificate, and I’ve got a better outlet for venting my anger than the government of my host country. This whole process that could have been avoided by having an actually water resistant (not proof — I have low standards when it comes to the Canadian government and technology) plastified page is going to end up costing me, between fees and the trip, about 500CAD — the amount of the refund that I’m waiting for. 🙁

That said, I’ve got a sitter lined up for Bonita so I’m going to try to make limonada out of the passport fiasco. The plan at this point is to rent a car (Better gas mileage! Air conditioning!) so I have freedom to do some tooling around and take a few days of vacation at the end of this month. Croft, I’m planning on going to Chichen Itzá and Valladolid. If you can think of anything else between Mérida and Cancún that I need to see, speak now or forever hold your travel advice. 😉

I’m trying to remember what else I wanted to update you all on, but memories of last week have been lost to the melody of keystrokes. I took it rather easy at the end of May, but June came in like a lion and I’ve done about seven days’ worth of work in the last four.

This morning, the gardener came to do some yard cleanup and now that we’ve agreed to make this a monthly thing, we came up with a plan of attack for the weeds for him and a shopping list for me. We want to get to a point where he’s not spending a whole day working on weeds so he can do exterior cleaning, paint touchups, maintenance, etc. While he was here, I had him confirm that I have a termite infestation in the exterior kitchen door and that I should keep doing what I’m doing (ignore it so the termites don’t move to my furniture) and the answer was yes and yes. But he’ll talk to the landlady to see what she wants done as she may choose to have the house treated just in case. I hope not — termite treatment is extremely poisonous, which is why I had my landlady in Maz wait until until I moved out (her preferred choice as well) before treating the house there.

Even with the gardener here (we chat!), I finished much earlier than expected tonight and decided to dress for town and go enjoy the last few hours of Mérida en domingo, when there is always a lot of activity around Plaza Grande. I posted a video to Instagram that did not get posted here and that for some reason has no sound. 🙁 So you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was very lively!

I bought a banderilla for a quick supper. That’s what in my culture we call a “pogo” and is also known as a “corn dog,” a hot dog on a stick covered in a deep fried corn meal batter. Not a bad treat, especially since French’s mustard is readily available here, and it’s what just about everyone was eating.

For my second course, I decided it was high time I tried a marquesita, Yucatán’s unique in all of Mexico answer to the crêpe. It is a very thin dough that is rolled around a filling and becomes crispy I don’t have four hands to juggle food and a camera, so go visit this page to see a picture of what a marquesita looks like.

There were a lot of carts offering them and I went for this one that had a sign explaining the history of the marquesita and the origin of its name (mar for the ocean, the appearance of the dough, and quesita from the word queso, cheese). I also liked that I could see what the different combinations are.

Click to embiggen and make the sign legible!

I asked what is traditional and was told just with the “queso de bola” as a filling. That’s Edam Dutch cheese. It is very popular here in Yucatán and you will find it in varying degrees of quality from authentic to sad rip-off. Read your labels before buying this cheese, but when you find a good one, it’s like a treasure because it’s so much more flavourful than the fresh Mexican cheeses (which are all delicious, but sometimes you want a cheese with a smell that’ll knock your socks off — if you wore socks, that is, which you don’t since you live in the tropics, but I digress).

Here’s a closeup of the two-sided griddle, rather similar to a waffle iron.

So I had my first marquesita with just queso de bola, even though I knew that queso de bola with Nutella is very popular, and I was so happy with my choice. I got to really taste the slightly sweet dough and how it contrasted with the sharp salty cheese (browned and crisped up with the crêpe inside, then a generous pinch of it fresh added into the top opening). I can see how this treat could get very addictive if one were to go on a mission to try different fillings and combinations! I love that McCormick’s strawberry jam you can see above to the left of the Nutella and that with queso de bola will probably be my next pick. But Nutella and queso de bola has definitely got to happen some day as I can imagine the salty-sweet combo would work well.

I did a final tour of all the vendors before heading home and was very amused when a very proper looking jewellery seller made sure to out a selection of nose studs! I’m not fussy about what material my earrings are made of, but I only wear surgical steel in my nose and since I couldn’t confirm the material these studs were made of, I passed. But the encounter made me realise that I’m overdue for a change. 🙂

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to Progreso to file with Aduana the copy of my new residency card. I was hoping to have the rest of the day off after typing 28 hours in the last 72, but ha ha ha ha ha. Anyway, I’m getting time off in a few weeks!

Bonita sends a snore. She’s worn out from all the excitement of having a new two-legged friend who fawns over her. <3

A Pause

Holy moly I have been running at about 180% since… well, for so long I can’t remember the last time I had a day off.

Yesterday I said enough. I was supposed to have a big project the week before that got bumped to this week, completely upsetting my schedule. And then, the client kept changing her schedule and sending me different file lengths than she’d said, with absolutely no regard for the fact that I was having to rearrange my entire schedule around her and work very long days to fit in all my commitments. This culminated yesterday in my having to work straight from 7AM to almost 1PM to finish the last job in the file — which I was supposed to get early enough on Thursday to start on — and then work a further two hours for another client. At 3:30, both projects were done and I knew I had to be off today even if it meant a longer work day Sunday.

Knowing that I was going to pass out on the couch with Bonita way too early, I dressed in going out clothes and hopped on a bus make a bank withdrawal and get a late lunch at Gran Plaza. I then walked just north of the shopping centre to the the Siglo XXI (21st Century) convention centre to check out a craft and hobby fair.

The fair wound up not really being my thing — it was more for crafters than for people wanting to buy crafts. There were booths set up to try different hobbies and selling specialised tools and supplies. I have several crafty friends and they would have been in heaven! There were some wares for sale, but most of those were just mass produced things I could buy anywhere.

I did regret having lunch before arriving when I saw all the food booths, but I still had space for what turned out to be an enormous Oaxacan-style ice cream. The lady was generous with the samples, so I was able to try a few flavours I’ve been curious about, including mamey (can’t find a translation), which was a very pretty coral colour, but bland, and piñon, pine nut, which was surprisingly flavourful and was one of my choices. I topped it with a scoop mango topped with chamoy, tajín, and Tapatío sauce (picture posted yesterday!).

It was at one of the last booths I visited that I made purchase of something that I put to use the second I stepped out of the convention centre, one of those things you don’t realise you need until you get one:

Can you see what it is? It’s a padded case for eyeglasses. I find it such a pain to fumble with my big plastic cases when I want to switch between sunglasses and indoor glasses — it is so much easier to slip them in and out of a soft-sided case like this! Notice the interior has a smooth material to prevent scratching. I love the orange flowers against the blue. A very useful buy for only $50!

As I studied the case, trying to understand what it was, I finally blurted out, “Ah, para las gafas!” and earned a bemused smile. Which is when something finally hit me after nearly four years  of first coming to Mexico — they don’t use gafas here but instead say lentes. What I said to the lady was akin to a Brit saying, “Oh, for spectacles!” We know they mean glasses, but the word sounds quaint to our colonial ears. Glasses in Spanish have been gafas to me for 25 years, so wish me luck making the conversion!

I was home and passed out on the couch with Bonita by about 5:30. At 8:00, I called in a taco order for delivery because I didn’t have the strength to go pick it up. I was in bed and passed out by 11:00 and slept straight through to 9:00! Bonita was so happy to see me and howled more loudly than I thought she could!

I’ve got nothing much on the to-do list today. The only chore I’m a bit behind on is laundry, which I enjoy doing, so I’ve got a load on and the whites soaking and almost ready to go. I’m so grateful the landlady took seriously my complaint about the abnormally low water pressure here and had a guy check it out. He got rid of a huge clump of mineral deposits that were blocking the pipes. The water pressure still isn’t amazing, and I wouldn’t expect it to be, but at least it no longer takes hours for my washing machine to fill and I can do several loads in a day!

Hope you all have a lovely Saturday. I’m off to make more coffee and reheat last night’s leftovers. 🙂

Side Quest: Mobile Banking

This is a follow up to my post earlier today. I’m starting to feel like in a video game since I was sent on a side quest this afternoon!

I need a bank statement to get my refund. Simple, I thought, just print one from my online account.

😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

I don’t know if all banks here work the same, but there is a very close relationship between HSBC online and mobile banking and there are things you can’t do with online banking if your mobile banking isn’t working.

I tried to set up mobile banking when I opened my account in September and failed. I asked for help at the bank and was told to call for help. I didn’t think I’d be able to sort something that complex out in Spanish over the phone and it wasn’t pressing, so I did without.

But today, I needed a bank statement and for that, I needed mobile banking to work.

I called earlier this afternoon and had no trouble getting through the phone tree and the steps to reset my mobile password. I was waiting for an email with a new activation code and figured I wouldn’t need help beyond that so I thanked the lady and hung up.

The email came in and still I could not get into the app. It said the system was down and to try later. This was absolutely ridiculous — I just want a bank statement. Could I please have one fewer detour (and queue to stand in!) tomorrow?!

Since I got through the first call, I hit redial on my landline phone and called back. I had to wait five minutes in the queue before another lady picked up. She was amazing. She walked me through every single step to getting my bank statement. I bet someone with a Ph.D. in computer science would not have been able to do it. It was a complete labyrinth of various passwords and having to use the desktop and mobile apps in the right order.

Once she actually got me into the app (which involved deleting it from my phone and then reinstalling it at precisely the right moment after doing some steps on the desktop app), after about 10 minutes, she remembered without prompting that I wanted my statement. She then guided me through that all the way to having the PDF opened on my computer and saved to my hard drive. She’s the hero of my day.

So now, I’m all set to go straight back to SAT in the morning. I just hope the coconut ice cream vendor is waiting outside again like he was today. 🙂

Operation: Devolución

Most other Quebecers I speak to who have seen how things are done in other provinces are quick to agree with me when I complain about how overburdensome procedures are, how apathetic is the civil service, and how corrupt the provincial government is in general. When I planned to move to Mexico and people would tell me how “bad” it was here in terms procedures being burdensome and corruption being rampant, I thought that there is no way Mexico could be as bad as Quebec.

Today, I continued to be proven correct on this point.

I was really unhappy at my last visit to INM when I was told I could not get my refund for their error until I got my new card, which is not happening until the end of this month or the beginning of next month. I resolved to go back ASAP to speak to a different person. I didn’t have time until today to do that because, you know, I’ve been working double overtime to compensate for that serious crimp in my cash flow.

Yesterday was a federal holiday so I had a feeling that INM might be very busy today. I decided to arrive around 10AM to let the initial opening throng get through, figuring that things would have slowed down a tad by that point, but still be sufficiently busy to put Operation: Devolución into action.

I was only about fourth in line despite the waiting room being very full — likely folks with appointments. I got to the head of the queue in probably no more than 10 minutes.

My first step was to get through the initial checkpoint, where you say what you want to do and then are funnelled to the correct window. INM wasn’t busy last time I came and I was not able to get by this point. When INM is hopping, this woman has to process a lot of people quickly and doesn’t really want to deal with them so I thought I might be able to slip through on a busy day.

She was busy today — the Cuban in front of me had an odd scenario and her phone would not stop ringing. After asking me three times what I wanted (“To speak with the lady at window 2 about a refund,”) she finally gave me a ticket to put me in line there. Step one was a success!

The lady at window 2 was not the lady I’d spoken to on the day I’d been advised about the steps to get a refund. In fact, not a single person I recognised was working today. I was very worried because I didn’t have a single piece of paper about the refund — everything was taken from me on that second to last visit.

I took a deep breath and recapped the situation for the agent. She said that I was misinformed by the front desk person last time (when I went to get an appointment for the fingerprints) and that I should have been funnelled to her window. *sighs* But better late than never, let’s get the ball rolling. She started to put my ID number into her computer when I had a niggle. “When I was here last time, I had to handwrite a letter asking for the refund, which the lady kept.”

The agent stopped typing, went, “AH!” and jumped out of her seat, returning momentarily with a huge binder marked “Refunds – Window 2.” She went through several bundles of papers in it and could not find my application for refund. My heart was pounding by this point, but as she was putting the papers away, I saw my picture on the last page of one of the packets! I pointed that out and she gave a sigh of relief. She went through the paperwork, checked my passport, and then passed me two pieces of paper to give to SAT, Mexican CRA/IRS, to request my refund.

That was as far as she could advise me. It was now up to me to go to a SAT office to see what they wanted so I could finally get my money back. I thanked her profusely and, clutching my precious documents, I hightailed it to Starbucks for a cold coffee to enjoy while looking up locations of SAT offices in Mérida.

I was delighted to see that there was one just north of home within easy walking distance since I knew I’d likely have to make a couple of visits. So I got on a bus and rode it about 1KM past my normal stop.

There was low-key checkpoint to get into the SAT office — I just had to open my purse for the guard on duty. I then went into a building that felt incredibly chaotic. There was so much activity — hundreds if not thousands of people waiting or being served at dozens of different “modules” and desks. I took a second to orientate myself and found an information desk. The lady there told me I had to register online and to wait for help at module 1, which was a computer lab where people were registering online for tax services and completing various types of returns (from what I could gather based on conversations I was overhearing).

I waited there 10 or 15 minutes and was finally sat down at a computer with no idea what to do. After a further 10 minutes and being told twice by an attendant that he was going to help me, he finally came to check what I wanted and took off for a further 10 minutes with my documents after I told him I don’t have an RFC (Mexican tax ID number).

He finally came back to say that this office isn’t used to dealing with this scenario — foreigner without an RFC needing a refund — but the centro office is. Since my Spanish was good enough for this gentleman to deal with me, his supervisor had given him permission to call the centro office for advice rather than just telling me to go there. I remain incredibly grateful for how kind and helpful just about every Mexican official I’ve dealt with has been.

So finally, the agent had an answer for me. He said I had to come back with a letter for SAT asking for the refund, but he had a template for me that I could reproduce in Word and just fill in the missing info (THANK YOU). I also have to bring my last bank statement (so that they know where to refund the money. They don’t want 50 billion copies, but they do want me to bring all my documents in PDF form on a USB key. And because I don’t have an RFC, I can’t make an appointment to come back on another day — so I have to face the massive queue and funnelling and massive queue again — but I was given the exact phrasing to tell the info desk so that I get funnelled to the correct place next time. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have been sent to module 1 and there was nothing for me to do on the computer.

I’m going to work late tonight and will hopefully have time to go back tomorrow first thing. Who knows how long it will take to actually get the money back into my account so I definitely don’t want to leave this to next week.

It’s been a Day, but a good one. I am eventually going to open a business here and so dealing with SAT at some point was an inevitability. It’s nice to have the ice broken in a context like this.

Now, on to work. But first, maybe a nap?!