Lunch at Café Stash and a Play at the Centaur Theatre

Thank you to everyone who checked in to ask if I’m still alive. Work has been a tad… busy. But I decided to take today off so as to accept my cousin Lee’s invitation to join her for a play this afternoon. She’s the cousin who visited me in Maz my first winter there. She has a season’s pass to the Centaur Theatre and with that, she gets one complimentary guest pass for any show. Aren’t I lucky that she invited me?! The Centaur Theatre is an icon on English Montreal and the premiere English theatre in the province. I hadn’t been in about 20 years, but used to go often when I lived in the area.

To my surprise, there are hourly buses to Montreal from Chambly on Sundays. I was  meeting Lee and a friend at noon for lunch and had a choice to leave at 10:05 and arrive around 10:40 or leave at 11:05 and arrive around 11:40. I picked the first option so I’d have a leisurely stroll from the bus station to the restaurant (about 20 minutes) and then be able to walk around the neighbourhood.

On the way, I saw that construction is underway for the replacement to the Champlain Bridge. I cannot believe that the bridge is already obsolete when we were paying tolls until 1990 to use it.

Approaching the terminal at 1000 de la Gauchetière, the building I think looks like a carpenter’s pencil.

Doesn’t it?

From there, I headed down Mansfield towards Old Montreal, parts of which look a lot like Europe. There are buildings dating back to the late 1600s!

I found my lunch destination, Café Stash, without any difficulty. I was a full hour early, so I made a note of the location and then continued down rue St. Paul Ouest to a café.

I settled myself with a cup of coffee and one of the trashiest newspapers in the city, Le journal de Montréal. There was an interesting article about Cuba courting Quebecers for medical tourism. Healthcare here is so bad, with terrible wait times and many people not having a family doctor (I was something like 157,000th in line for a family doctor in Quebec the last time I tried to get one, circa 2004). I’ve been looking at basic (emergency) health coverage in Mexico and while most Canadians find it inadequate, Quebecers generally praise it.

A bit of good news is the the drought crisis in California is officially over.

I lingered at the café a full 30 minutes and then went out to enjoy the first sunshine I’ve seen in about a week.

This is the Pointe-à-Callière archeology museum. Last time I visited was way back in 2010.

A very European-looking alleyway.

I loved the contrast of new and old here.

Isn’t this a pretty building?

I finally met up with Lee and her friend at Café Stash. She and I were famished and went with the “table d’hôte,” which is a set menu for a fixed price. I’m sorry I didn’t take pictures, Vicki, but here’s what I had:

-barszcz (beet consommé, which was unbelievably deliciously. Nothing at all like the thick Russian borscht I was expecting);

-two kielbasa sausages (served with Dijon mustard) with boiled potatoes (that I doctored with sour cream) and sauerkraut;

-coffee

-apple crumble.

Lee had their sampler meal with a bunch of different things and graciously passed over one of her precious pierogis for me to try. She went with the peach crumble for dessert. By the way, she considers Stash her favourite restaurant!

Her friend had two cabbage rolls with beet salad (cold) and boiled potatoes and said his food was excellent.

My menu was priced at $25, but, of course, you have to add 30-35% to prices when eating out in Quebec (15% for taxes and a 15% to 20% tip) so my total was $33, which I found to be really good value!

We then had a very short walk to the Centaur Theatre. It really hadn’t changed since the last time I was there.

The play we saw was “Clybourne Park,” which is both a prequel and sequel to “A Raisin in the Sun.” It is a tale of race relations, gentrification, and how the more time progresses, the less things change. It was funny, shocking, and sad. I’m actually surprised by how much I loved it, considering I knew nothing about the source material. Most surprising, I came out of it even more certain of the kind of expat I do not want to be when I settle in Mexico.

The play finished around 4:15, so I didn’t have time to make the 4:35 bus home. With the next one being at 5:35, I decided to accompany Lee and her friend to a nearby Tim Horton’s by a métro.

There, I picked up a wonderful Earl Grey tea to go since Lee and her friend decided to walk with me to Place Bonaventure since her friend was catching a bus from there as well and Lee could take the métro. By the time we arrived and said our goodbyes, I only had about 20 minutes left to wait for the bus and there was free wifi.

I took the above photos with the camera on my new-to-me iPhone 6, which I was able to get since I got a free flight home to SK with my travel reward points and therefore had some space in my budget. I cannot believe how much of an upgrade this already obsolete phone is! I was out all day with it and didn’t even lose 50% of my battery capacity. It is very responsive and has some nice features like iTouch (signing in with just a fingerprint), a bigger screen than my 5C, and Apple Pay. I’m super happy with it and glad that I’ll have a reliable phone for my upcoming insane journey across two of the biggest countries in the world.

So it was a great day in downtown Montreal. My time here is winding down, but I have a full week left. The way things have been going, it’s going to be pretty much nose to the grindstone the rest of my time here!

Killing Three Birds With One Trip

Today was a big driving day, but I was able to make three stops on the same route, so it was a very productive use of my time.

Of course, I awoke to SNOW. Vicki, I don’t have any pictures because it was already melting by the time I got outside at 7:30. It just nasty stuff to scrape off a car. I am really so beyond done with winter…

Even though I had to get clear across Montreal and back today, I figured it would be easy since it was a Saturday…

I stopped first for fuel and then headed to the Giant Tiger/Tigre Géant in Ste-Catherine/Delson to meet my sister because I had to give her a few things. We agreed to meet at 8:30. I was in the parking lot by about 8:12 (having given myself time to get the fuel and find the store) and she pulled in front of me at exactly 8:30. I was impressed.

I got to my next destination a few minutes late, but barely. Travel there had been no problem. I was meeting for breakfast an old friend from high school I hadn’t seen in 20 years! We only had a few hours to barely get caught up and we hope to see each other in Mexico…

It was then time to head back the way I came to visit family in Lasalle. A trip that had taken me less than 20 minutes earlier in the morning took over an hour thanks to wonderful Montreal construction. An idiot in front of me came darting in and out of my lane without flashing and after I almost hit him, I gave him a solid honking to. It’s not often that I do that, but he was being very dangerous!

So I arrived last to the family thing, but was able to spend a couple of hours catching up with everyone before heading home to work.

Thankfully, the drive back to Chambly after was almost uneventful, other than sometimes being behind people inexplicably driving 70KPH in a 100KPH zone… So according to Google, I should have spent about 2 hours driving today, but it was much closer to 3. I’m telling you, from the crappy driving conditions in this area to the insane amount of bureaucratic red tape and corruption, Quebec was the best preparation for moving to Mexico that I could have ever had and likely one of the reasons little there has yet to faze me!

If I can get this job done tonight, I am OFF tomorrow since a dear friend from Ottawa is coming all the way here to spend the day with me. Then, I have to put in a solid day on Monday, but it’s not transcription, so it should feel like a break. My social calendar should be lighter for the next two weeks now that I’ve seen everyone. I’ll see my siblings at least one more time each and my cousin asked me to join her at the theatre next Sunday since she has a free ticket, an invitation I was especially happy to accept since the show hours match up with the very limited Sunday bus schedule.

I’m pretty sure that this frantic pace is going to keep up right till I get to Chelem in just six weeks. Yes, six weeks. Let me graph that visually for y’all:

Am I insane? Probably.

The Visa in My Passport Makes It Officially Official

It’s a bit of a complicated story, but I ended up getting a chauffeur for most of my day, which made going downtown to the Mexican consulate to pickup my passport very easy rather than something to have nightmares over. I settled my driver at Starbucks with a coffee while I walked up Peel to the consulate. I arrived around 9:15, gave them my receipt, and was told to have a seat. Less than five minutes later, the visa lady called me over and handed me my passport with this beautiful thing stuck to one of its pages (redacted, of course!):

She then wanted to give me a spiel on how things work from here on out, but when she started off by telling me that I had 180 days upon arriving in Mexico to do the “canje” (exchange to the residency card), which is incorrect, I knew I was better off just saying thank you, I can handle it from here. So I was in and out in less than ten minutes!

We then headed up to Laval for several hours so I could meet my uncle, for whom I do non-transcription work, as he had a big job he wants me to do and it was easier to show me everything in person, plus I got to see the company’s new offices. I also got treated to lunch, where I rediscovered insane North American portion sizes (glad I declined any sides with my burger that ended up having pulled pork and coleslaw on it!).

Coming home from where I’d dropped the car was “fun.” Traffic was already starting and even though I followed all the signs from the 20 to take the 30 ouest to do this route:

I somehow stayed on the 20 and ended up in Brossard having to take this route:

I’m not an idiot. That’s just typical terrible Quebec construction detour signage for you. Surprisingly, I only went 9KM out of my way and I wasn’t lost! Traffic was heavy in parts, but reasonably fluid, and people here are civilised enough to let you merge.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day of driving for me, but I feel confident now that I’ve got some mileage under me again. Busy, busy!

Applying for a Mexican Residente Temporal Visa (at the Montreal Consulate)

Today was the day that I presented myself at the Mexican consulate in Montreal to request a residente temporal (temporary residence) visa. This post will cover what the process was like at the Montreal consulate. It may be very different at other consulates and in other countries. Because I can read Spanish well, I did the process myself using information I found on the consulate website. This post will provide translations of Spanish, but please make note that I am not a professional translator or fluent in Spanish. So the translations are provided as information only and may not be legally correct. If you do not have strong Spanish language skills, you may wish to go through this process with a lawyer.

The process started with checking out what I needed to bring with me to request the visa. Be sure to check your consulate’s site as the requirements and even amounts to prove economic solvency can differ from consulate to consulate!

This is the list that I got from the Mexican consulate in Montreal’s website for a residente temporal visa (edited to remove irrelevant items):

Requisitos para los visitantes extranjeros que pretendan internarse y permanecer en México en condición de residente temporal por un período mayor a 180 días y menor a 4 años.

Requirements for foreign visitors who want to enter and stay in Mexico as a temporary resident for more than 180 days, but less than four years.

Formato de solicitud de visa impreso en una hoja, por ambos lados, debidamente completado y firmado.

Visa request form printed on one sheet (both sides), duly completed and signed.

My mother showed me how to make her printer do this, thankfully! I opened the form in Adobe so that I could use the typewriter tool to fill it out. The form is in English, but where I could, I answered in Spanish.

One of the questions is “reason for the visit.” I wrote that I want to discover a new culture and improve my Spanish.

Pasaporte o documento de identidad y viaje válido y vigente, en original y copia de la página donde aparecen la fotografía y los datos personales.

Passport or other identity document valid for travel, both the original and a copy of the page with the photograph and personal information.

I brought two copies of the passport page.

Una fotografía de 3.9 cm x 3.1 cm con el rostro descubierto, sin anteojos, de frente, a color y con fondo blanco.

A photo 3.9cm x 3.1 cm with the face uncovered, no glasses, from the front, in colour, and on a white background.

This was surprisingly tricky since the requirements are not the same as for a passport photo in Canada. So I had to go to a dedicated studio and pay for a photo there (about $17 with the tax, very fair). Lo and behold, the photographer is Mexican! She was perplexed by the instructions because it wasn’t clear if the dimensions were for the face within the photo or the photo itself, which made a big difference. A common format in Mexico is “infantil,” but that doesn’t match the information provided. She decided to make the photo itself 3.9cm x 3.1cm and make my face within the photo as big as possible while still having some background visible. Spoiler: the photo was fine.

Pago de derechos en efectivo por la expedición de visa.

Payment of the visa fees in cash. That linked to a page in Spanish only where there was a range of visa fees ranging from not much to hundreds of dollars. I was pretty sure that I wanted “Visas a pasaportes extranjeros,” for $49.

Adicionalmente, se deben presentar los siguientes documentos de acuerdo a la categoría solicitada:

Also, you must present one of the following documents in accordance to the category under which you’re applying:

a. Solvencia económica:

Economic solvency

Original y copia de comprobante de inversiones o cuentas bancarias con saldo promedio mensual de $27,654.00 dólares canadienses durante los últimos doce meses; u

Original y copia de los documentos que demuestren que cuenta con empleo o pensión con ingresos mensuales libres de impuestos por un monto superior a $1,659.00 dólares canadienses durante los últimos seis meses.

Original and copies of statements of investments showing a monthly balance of $27,654.00 Canadian dollars during the last 12 months, OR

Original and copies of documents that prove that you have monthly employment or pension income of more than $1,659.00 Canadian dollars after taxes during the last six months.

Because I am self-employed and my money comes into different accounts (PayPal mostly, but I have some direct deposits into chequing and wire transfers into a USD account), I don’t have nice neat monthly bank statements that show that I make the necessary income. So I preferred to bring my investment statements as they are very clear and there is no puzzle to put together.

But, not being a stranger to Mexican red tape and being a belts and suspenders kind of gal, I also prepared the following:

-12 months of chequing account statements showing an average monthly ingress of just barely more than the minimum needed;

-a print-off of 12 months of PayPal ingresses in support of the bank statements. PayPal, frustratingly, doesn’t have nice neat statements every months, so that was the best I could do;

-a print-off of a list of my invoices for the last 12 months in support of the PayPal document and which is the most complete look of my income over a period of time. I did a total for the 12 months I printed off, converted it to CAD (99% of my income is in USD), and then divided by 12 to show my monthly average income.

This is what my pile of paper looked like when I was done. Disclaimer: the investment statements are four pages each (both sides), so 12 statements x 4 pages x 2 copies = 96 pages for that alone!

I tried to make an appointment with the consulate by both phone and email and they never got back to me. So I decided to show up in person and hope that they could take me, even if I had to wait, or else I was prepared to make an appointment in person and return.

Getting to the consulate is hassle-free by public transport. From Chambly, I left the car at the park and ride this morning and caught the 7:58 almost direct bus to 1000 de la Gauchetière Ouest, the downtown terminal, which took about 30 minutes. As an aside, my sister-in-law takes this bus every day, so we got to ride together and catch up, which was lovely!

It wasn’t worth taking the métro for just 1KM, so I just walked from the bus terminal to the consulate, at 2055, rue Peel. Plus, I had to stop at a CIBC en route to take out cash.

The office number for the consulate is 1000, so I correctly assumed I had to take an elevator to the 10th floor. There, I had to ring the doorbell to be let into a a neat lobby. There was a window for visas, one for reception, and one for passports. I waited to be served at the reception. I was ready to do everything in Spanish, but was grateful to be served in good French since I was, of course, nervous, and didn’t want to make any mistakes. The man at reception said I absolutely needed an appointment, but his colleague at the visa counter might be able to take a few minutes to make sure I had everything I needed for when I came back. So he told me to have a seat.

It was about 9:30 by the time I sat down and I only had to wait five minutes for a young woman to call me to the visa counter. She said she had a 9:30 appointment and if they showed up (they were late by this point), she’d have to serve them, but if they were a no-show, I could have their slot!

So she started the process. I hope I can remember the order of things! She started by asking what I wanted, if I’d been to Mexico before, and where I planned to live. She also asked me about work and whether I had clients in Mexico or if I was was just physically working in Mexico, but earning money outside the country. The latter, of course, which Mexico is fine with and still qualifies for the less expensive visa without work authorisation.

She then had a look over my application form, which was fine. She saw that I had printed out info in Spanish and filled out what I could in Spanish, so she confirmed that I speak Spanish. I told her that I could do the process in Spanish if she preferred, but she said we could stick to French.

Next, I had to show her my passport (and copy) and the photo.

Then, I passed over the investment statements, but she wasn’t entirely satisfied with them and I didn’t ask why. She wanted to know more about my work. Do I belong to a professional order, the way translators and accountants are? No. I offered a business card and she said that wasn’t enough. So I pulled out all the backup financial stuff I’d brought and all of that together was sufficient for her to believe that I do work remotely, make a steady income, have regular clients, etc. So she gave me all that back and said that she would use the investment statements for my application. I was not sweating during any of this. Her questions were pertinent and while I hadn’t anticipated this exact scenario, I was, ultimately ready for it!

Finally, she told me to have a seat while she went off with my documents to do who knows what.

When she came back, she said that I needed to have a photo taken for the visa itself and she could do that right there. So that’s how, without fanfare, that I learned that I was granted my residente temporal visa.

She then took electronic fingerprints of both my index fingers, right, then left. Then, she had me pay. Then, she told me that I can pick up my passport, with the visa in it, on Friday morning. That works out well since I have to go to Laval (north of MTL) for 11:30, so I’ll leave right after rush hour and pop in. There is ample street parking in the area, so I can just pay a parking metre.

So now, I have six months to get to Mexico (will be there much sooner than that!) and once I cross the border, not once I arrive at my destination, I will have 30 days to convert my visa into a residency card. This means that I will only get a 30-day TIP for my truck. This means that there is going to be a strong risk that I will lose my truck deposit and that the only hope of that not happening is to be in regular contact with aduena (customs) and Banjercito (the folks who hold the deposit). So there is a huge pile of paperwork ahead of me, but I’ve decided I do want to drive down, if only for the adventure.

So, really, applying for the residente temporal visa was the easy part since there is a ton of hoops ahead of me now, especially since I intend to come in with a Canadian-plated vehicle. My hosts in Chelem, where I’ll be spending the summer, say that the immigration office in Progreso is fantastic and that the process for converting my visa into a residency card should go smoothly.

The residency card will only be valid for one year. Next May, I will be able to renew for an additional three years. At the end of the four years, I will be able to convert to permanent residency and, if I want, to begin the path to citizenship and a Mexican passport.

So it’s official. I’m moving to Mexico.

Back Behind the Wheel

One of the perks of housesitting for my parents is that I have access to their car. That’s great in theory, but I have driven all of a week in the last ten months and the greater Montreal area is one of the most harrowing places I’ve ever driven. I went out for a very short run on Saturday to run errands within Chambly, but tonight was the big test: driving my parents to the airport in Dorval and then getting back home!

Despite traffic, the drive to the airport was quite easy since I had navigators. Like when I drove on Saturday, I found that the biggest stress was driving their new car with all its gadgets. I could have used one of those gadgets on Miranda, though, rearview mirrors that flash if there is someone in your blind spot and beep at you if you put your flashers on when someone is in your blind spot. That’s a feature I’d love on my next car!

When we got to the airport, they explained to me where the “cellparc” is. That’s a great feature at PE Trudeau Airport where you can park for up to an hour for free to wait for an arrival. There has to be someone in the car who has a cellphone. So when I go pick up my parents in three weeks, I will just go there and they will call me once they’ve cleared customs and have their luggage, then I will swing around and pick them up. That will save a hefty parking fee.

Then, I had to go home. They’d showed me the route when I arrived last week, but I wasn’t in a mindset then to remember much, although some landmarks stuck in my head. I was pretty sure I was headed in generally the right direction and that I’d hit a bridge to the South Shore, even if it wasn’t the one I meant to take, but I could get home easily from any of them even if I went out of my way. So I was very happy when I saw the first sign telling me I was indeed on the way to the Honoré-Mercier Bridge that I wanted to take. There was no traffic at that point, so the drive was very easy. I was exhausted when I came in, though!

I’ve got a big day of work tomorrow, but Friday should be focused on getting together my documents for my residente temporal visa application so I can go to the consulate on Saturday morning. If my request fails in Montreal (I hear that service here is abysmal), I’ll make a second attempt at the embassy in Ottawa. But I’m optimistic that I will be fine here as long as I have all my paperwork and proceed in Spanish. I’m having fun reading all the Spanish legalese to make sure I have everything and have no idea how people who don’t speak Spanish get through this process.

My host in Mexico keeps sending me teaser photos of where I’m headed and it looks so much like Isla that I’m really getting homesick! Who knows, I may change my mind about moving to downtown Mérida. 🙂