My New Career

(Post 41 of 193. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr! Unfortunately, only one quarter of our goal was met, so I have decided to leave the campaign open for the time being.)

In December, I revealed that I spent 2019 completing a course that would let me shift my career in a new direction, transcript proofreading for court reporters.

There are a few steps to creating a legal transcript. This process is generally the same for all the jurisdictions in which I’ve worked in the U.S., Canada, and even the UK, with some regional variances, of course.

1) A court reporter goes to a deposition, trial, hearing, or other legal proceeding and “writes” what is said using stenography.
2) That stenographic record is machine translated into English.
3) A “scoper” goes through the machine-translated document to make sure the translation is perfect.
4) A proofreader receives the scoper’s transcript and reads it without the audio to catch any egregious errors, like transposed words, formatting issues, typos, and punctuation issues that could affect the meaning of the transcript.
5) The court reporter does a final review of the transcript and certifies it.

Some court reporters do all these steps themselves, but the good ones know to outsource.

Scoping is where there is the most money and work, but it is done exclusively in a Windows environment (never again) and involves sitting at a desk listening to audio. I’ve been doing that for the better part of a decade, so that doesn’t interest me. The proofreading is appealing because it is increasingly done by annotating PDFs, so you can work from an iPad. But I also do a little “scoofing,” where I proofread to the audio in Word. This is usually for “digital reporters” who transcribe from recordings, what I’ve been doing all these years.

When I went to Europe in ’16-’17, I brought a backpack full of equipment — a laptop, a laptop charger, headphones, a foot pedal, a mouse, and more — in order to be able to run my business. In Oaxaca, I worked a full week, doing everything for my business, including responding to emails and doing all my bookkeeping and order tracking on… this, a 2019 iPad Mini 5! I have had it exactly one year, and it is my third iPad and the first that I could really say was bought for business use.

I caved and bought myself an Apple Pencil at the start of the year. It’s an amazing tool that lets me annotate more quickly than with the cheapie stylus I was using before because it is so precise, plus it lets me take handwritten notes.

To my surprise, I found a beautiful, functional, and good quality case to hold my iPad and my Pencil. I cannot believe it has Van Gogh’s “Almond Blossom” printed on it! I know from having seen it in person (!!!!!!) that the painting is much more turquoise than periwinkle, but I suspect the colour change is for copyright purposes.

Now, let’s put this all in my perspective. Here’s my iPad next to the little purse that I bought for going around Oaxaca. I could fit in it documents, a wallet, sunglasses, a few personal sundries, and everything I needed to run my business.

The only thing not included is the charger and brick, which are tiny. I’ve since purchased a battery pack for the iPad since the Jackery Bar I bought in England for my iPhone isn’t quite powerful enough to charge the iPad. I can’t get quite a full work day out of a charge, so the battery pack will bring peace of mind. I was surprised that the best-reviewed one I found for my model of iPad was 20% off, only 500 pesos, this week on Amazon Mexico, so it was an easy purchase to make.

Proofreading has turned out to be everything it promised it would be, and more. It pays better. It doesn’t feel like work. I’m treated like an actual professional and can set my rates (to a point). I feel so professionally satisfied in a way that I never expected to be, like I have a real career now, not just a gig that pays the bills. I’m paid to find mistakes and point them out; doesn’t that sound like a dream job to you? And I’m really good at what I do. I could do this for the rest of my life. If I get bored with transcripts, I can get a designation to move into academic or technical proofreading. But proofreading is where it’s at for me. It’s where I always knew I should be, but like with a lot of things, it took me a while to find the right path to get there.

This whole Covid-19 thing has ground a lot of businesses to a halt, but the legal system must push on. Some states are now allowing video teleconference depositions and other proceedings to occur, so court reporters who can adapt to the new technology can still work. That means there is still proofreading work. Some fellow proofreaders who only work in one jurisdiction have found themselves with no work for weeks or even months. But because I work in so many jurisdictions, I’ve been working steadily. My income had been down a full third each of the last two months, but a third of my income goes to debt repayment and savings. So as long as I can maintain at least the current level of income, I will be fine for the day-to-day and exactly where I was when all this started long-term. I’d call that luckier than most.

Since I’ve been working from the couch a lot, I have a view of the iguanas sunning themselves on the garden wall by the dining room. Today, I followed this little guy to the rear patio, where he climbed up and then appeared to do some sun salutations when he reached the top.

Finally, a bonus pic for Bast, who complained about there not being enough Bonita content. This picture is blurry for a reason — to show just how seriously and enthusiastically she takes this whole having to keep everything clean due to the pandemic thing. Either that or she was a cat in a past life!

B is struggling a bit with my new work routine. She was used to spending days under my desk, and that’s where she seems happiest. She doesn’t like to be on the couch for long, probably because it’s too hot. She hasn’t found her new daytime perfect lounging spot where she gets a breeze and mommy within sight. I’m sure she’ll figure it out eventually as she’s such a clever girl. 🙂

I Really Tried My Best

(Post 40 of 193. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

I went out today for the first time in a week because I had to pay the rent. Even though my landlady and I bank at the same location, I haven’t figured out if there is a way do a transfer online between our accounts. It’s something I’ve sort of looked at over the years, but most months, I have to get most of the money from my Canadian account and don’t have the full 10,000 pesos in my Mexican account anyway. So physically going to the bank just seems easier. But that could change. Today, at least, the bank was operating as normal.

The plan was to walk to the bank, get a few things at Superama, and walk home, thus avoiding getting into a car with a stranger. Even though the temps were already infernal by 9AM, I set out anyway, using an umbrella as a parasol. Did my thing at the bank, crossed Montejo much too easily (no traffic!), and… lost the soles of my sandals. 😐

These sandals served me SO well in Oaxaca. They have died a Good Death. 🙂

No problem, I thought, I’m tough. It’s not a long walk. I can still do this.

Did my shopping, loading up my little cart, and… it fell apart. 😶

So I enjoyed a lovely chat with my Uber driver in his mercifully air-conditioned car. 🤷‍♀️

Mexico has now declared a state of emergency as we move into phase 3, so there are going to be increased restrictions on going out. Still curious as to whether my next dental appointment really is going to go forward. But so far, this party feels a lot more like a polite dinner party than the raves I’m seeing up north.

Life Carries On

(Post 39 of 213. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr!)

I’m almost jealous of how much free time most people seem to be having right now at home. I work primarily now for the legal system, so I am an essential service and I am starting to be busy again.

Still, things just feel very weird. I am in my usual routine. I’m too busy to go out. And yet, I feel unsettled, because at the back of my brain, I know this is not normal life right now. There is such a dissonance between my reality right now and that of most of the people that I know.

I am closely following all the latest updates about what the various governments in the Yucatán are doing to keep us safe and to protect the most vulnerable. The state is clearly being very proactive and learning from the mistakes of other countries. I’m seeing non-essential services shut down so that more money can be pumped into the essential ones and various social programs. I’ve witnessed care packages brought to neighbours with a few resources. And I am hearing about how they are creating a measure of unemployment income for those who are out of work right now.  But it is sadly not like this all over Mexico. Yucatán is wealthy and has a lot more resources than other states, so at this time, I feel that I am probably in one of the best places in the world to ride this out, but I wouldn’t feel like this, most likely, if I still lived in Sinaloa.

It has been so quiet.  Well, except for my mechanic neighbour getting back to his regular production about the same time that I started getting a lot of work again. There is nothing like trying to transcribe police  body cam audio while somebody is backfiring cars on purpose just a few feet away from you! 😆 (Hey, he was here first and I’m the one who rented a house next to a mechanic!) But there is almost no sound of buses, almost no traffic going by.  I heard the children in the house on the other side of me playing and laughing today and it was music to my ears.

If I wasn’t many times a day dictating emails and various messages, I would be afraid I would lose my verbal English. I’m pretty sure all my verbal interactions since I got home have been in Spanish or in French. It seems that everyone is a little lonely and eager for a chat. So when I expect a delivery and am standing at the gate door, passersby will stand the requisite two metres apart, but gladly engage in conversation. Restaurant delivery guys are not busy, so they are happy to shoot the breeze with a customer  for a minute before going off to wait for maybe another order.

I had to laugh when my water delivery guy came on Friday morning. For some reason, some of his bottles were leaky and it took him a minute to find me a good one. He asked how I was doing and I said that if I had a pool, I would be an introvert paradise. He chuckled at that and said that if I needed any donations to fill my pool, he could help me, gesturing to the leaky bottles. 😂

Really, as long as deliveries  don’t break down — I can still get drinking water, groceries, the odd restaurant meal, and just about anything I need from Amazon — I am good to stay home as long as I need to. I am frustrated seeing extroverted friends looking for any excuse to go out, not understanding that the recommendation is to go to the grocery store once a week, not once a day. I just don’t see any reason to go out when I can get anything delivered, which really limits my interaction with other people and my chances of catching something that I could then pass on. In fact, I don’t plan to go out until my next dentist appointment on April 14th. I am not even at this point feeling any strong need to leave my property for a walk, maybe in the evening or early morning. I’m just really comfortable here. But I have been out of my routine since the end of January, so maybe I’m just enjoying getting back into it and I will eventually start to go stir crazy.

So I am making sure that I have plenty of projects lined up for the quiet hours between jobs. Some of you asked about my colouring book that you saw in the video. It is Colour Quest by Joanna Webster. A friend in the United Arab Emirates talked about it on Facebook. I looked it up on Amazon Mexico and it was available for only about 100 pesos, with free Prime shipping. I had it in two days! I am really enjoying it as a creative outlet that doesn’t require a lot of energy. I am just frustrated that I needed a better pencil sharpener for my coloured pencils than the one I have at home and I have to wait for it to come from Amazon because I can’t walk a couple blocks to the amazing art supply store by my house where I have been buying all my art supplies since I moved here. ☹️

Well, that’s the latest update. It doesn’t sound like I have much going on, but I am working on some pretty exciting stuff at work. I just can’t talk about 99% of what I do. 😆