Pitaya Surprise

I went into the garden this morning to get one Puppy’s toys, when I was stopped dead in my track by something pink hanging from one of my cacti:

Yes, that’s a pitaya/dragonfruit!!!

I did some research and determined that it was ripe for picking!

So pretty! I was surprised by the hard “rib” across the middle of the fruit (like a very stiff grapefruit segment), giving it two hemispheres.

It was so delicious!!! So THIS is what pitaya is supposed to taste like! I always found it a very bland, but refreshing fruit, one that is prettier than it tastes. But this one had so much flavour. I was reminded of the time during one of my Klondike summers that I had a fresh picked cantaloupe.

I’m seeing other fruit emerging from other plants and will keep a closer eye on the garden for more treasures!

Parched

So far this month, I’m starting to settle into a more “normal” routine. I’ve figured how much I need to work to do better than just scrape by and with decent-paying contracts and working seven days a week, it’s making for pretty short days (about five to six hours of actual typing, plus whatever time I put in for client communications and bookkeeping).

In 2018, I plan to lengthen my work days, but start taking my weekends off, just one a month at first and then moving to taking all of them by the end of the year so that I’m effectively only working three weeks a month. It’s a big step, but most of my current clients don’t work weekends and I’m getting fewer and fewer projects for Saturdays and Sundays. I’m much better off working harder Monday through Friday and saving weekends for the truly special projects that pay well.

So it’s making for relaxed days now compared to June. I get up when I’m ready, sometime between 6:30 and 8:30. Puppy gets his breakfast and play time, I have coffee, and I get to work between 7:00 and 9:00. Even with a lunch break, I can clock out between 4:00 and 6:00. My evenings vary depending on how much I have to cook and if it’s raining. But I usually have time for a good meal, a swim, a play session with puppy, outdoor chores like weeding, and then something on Netflix, the length of which depends on the time I’m done. I wind down with a bit of reading and am usually asleep between 10:00 and 12:00.

What I’m doing is getting used to more concentrated work sessions, something I’ve struggled with over the years, so that I have longer chunks of free time. While it’s worked for me in the last few years to stretch out the work day and take regular small breaks to deal with chores and to run errands, I know that won’t work in Mérida. I’m going to want time in the morning for a walk to get tacos for breakfast. Evenings might include an arts performance like theatre or the opera or some sort of lesson. And the weekends hold so much potential — getaway trips, volunteering, painting, or even just wiling away an afternoon with a dark beer and a good book.

That’s what I was keeping in mind this afternoon when I decided to clock out really early and head to Mérida. I knew I wouldn’t have time during the week. Now that I’ve got some spending money again (thank you, June!), I’m probably going to start going to Mérida more often than I have simply because I never get everything at once. It’s really hard to get all my errands done in one trip here compared to, say, doing a Moose Jaw run for a lot of reasons — traffic, slow service, the heat, having to hunt down things, etc. It would be easier to shop online, but that won’t be possible till I live in the city and then, I won’t need to because going out won’t be a huge production anymore.

At any rate, I got to Mérida around 3:00 (Sunday isn’t a special day here and things are open very late!) and parked at the Gran Plaza, then went in to get lunch at its food court, which was packed since I actually managed to want food at a normal Mexican meal time for once. I was planning on sushi, but a savvy businessman at a Yucatecan stand called me offer to try some samples. Get this: he’s a Mexican-born Canadian citizen from Edmonton and he’s only here to help his family launch their restaurant. We had such a laugh at practically being neighbours! He hates it here because of the heat and dreams of going home to the snow!

Everything I sampled was wonderful and I was almost full when I was done, but I still put in an order for some salbutes, deep fried pockets of tortillas with very specific toppings — shredded chicken or turkey, lettuce, tomato, pickled onion, and sliced avocado. I also requested something else, but before I get into that, I want to say that I had a heart attack when I went to pay the $63 I owed for lunch and my wallet wasn’t in my purse! I apologised and ran down to my truck where, thankfully, the wallet was on the passenger seat. I think it’s time to replace my beloved tote bag with something with a zip top. 🙁

At any rate, my lunch was waiting when I got back. I had a bit of work to find a table, but finally did. This is not the most prettily staged meal, but anyway:

That bowl contains hard boiled eggs (he forgot that I told him to leave them out) with turkey parts cooked in an oily black sauce. This is called “relleno negro” (black filling/stuffing) and it is the most wonderful thing in Yucatán cuisine. Imagine the most beautiful performance of Leonard Cohen’s “Halleluja” that you have ever heard — that’s what relleno negro tastes like to me. I’ve never had it like this, whole turkey parts bathed in sauce, only as shredded and quite dry on a tortilla, and it was all I could do not to drink the contents of the bowl. But I know from last year that greasy Yucatán cuisine does not agree with me in any sort of major quantity, so I resisted.

Yucatán cuisine is so different from what I’m used to back in the northwest. The staples here are different (more sour orange than lime, in my experience), it doesn’t have as many veggies, and the food tends not to be spicy unless you add some very strong habanero-based sauces. It’s not at all what I think of when I think of “Mexican” food and makes me eager to discover other regional cuisines!

So lunch ended up being so yummy I don’t care that I didn’t get sushi. 🙂

Of course, I wanted a little something sweet after because I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to ice cream, and, thankfully, there was an abundance of choice.

I saw this video a little while ago on a travel blog and thought, “I’d like to try that some day!”

Today was the day! There’s a rolled ice cream stand at the Gran Plaza!

I requested peach, strawberry, and pineapple in mine. The boy working at the stand did all the work, including chopping the fruit, manually, but the gal blitzed mine first with a hand blender. I wish she had done it for a second less than she did because I didn’t really have any fruit chunks. I thought the results were quite pretty and the show had made the $45 worth it, so I was delighted when I was told I could add three toppings at no extra cost! I went with what is called a marzipan-style peanut candy that’s very popular, Oreos, and shredded coconut.

To be honest, I found the ice cream a bit bland. I think it might work better with stronger-flavoured fruits or with some cookies mixed into the cream. I’d do it again if I want a lighter frozen treat (this was so perfect after my heavy lunch), but not if I want “real” ice cream.

I ran a couple more errands in Gran Plaza and then headed to the Office Max a short ways south, stopping at an Oxxo to top up my phone. I had a long list for Office Max and got most of the items. It infinitely amused me for some reason that Spanish decided to add an accent to an English word and call it a day:

The word “colgantes” is reminding me of the linguistic process I’ve been making in the last few weeks. It is absolutely astonishing. It stands to reason that the more words I know, the fewer new ones I need to pick up and so linguistic acquisition is proving to be exponential. I’m reading a young adult novel, a reading level that is good for me because the stories aren’t too childish, but the vocabulary is basic and limited, and I’m really seeing phrases I’ve struggled with for years finally sink in. I mean, really basic things like sin embargo (however or nevertheless), demás (the rest), and tampoco (neither).

I’ve been working on a particular past tense and that’s what they’re using in the book so I’m getting comfortable seeing and hearing it even if I haven’t started using it. And I’m catching myself daily using words I didn’t realise I had acquired, like when I said, “Puedo traerte a casa” (I can bring you home) to my cleaner to the other day, the first time I’ve ever used traer although I’ve understood it now for a bit. And colgante (hanging or pendant) is one of the words that’s been everywhere lately so I’m sure it won’t be long before I utter it and make it mine.

I still have so many stumbles and moments where I’m tongue tied or that people sound like the adults in Charlie Brown, but I’m starting to believe that I’m going to master Spanish well enough to be able to do my master’s degree in it. And with that, I just realised that I need to take Spanish courses at university — not as as second language, but as a first one. I’ll have to go speak with an advisor at a university once I’m settled this fall and see what s/he suggests I take to get me on track to taking advanced university courses in Spanish. With public university and cost of living here being so inexpensive, the idea of getting a master’s (and maybe even Ph.D.) just for the fun of it seems so much more realistic than it did in Canada. But I digress immensely.

It was getting awfully close to Puppy’s supper time when I made it back to my truck so I only made a quick dash into “Mega,” mostly to pick up wine and beer. Which is where we get to the title of this post. I got to the till around 5:30 and the cashier took my booze, put it on the counter behind me, and said, “Liquor sales close at 5:00 on Sundays.” I took that as a custom I wasn’t aware of and was disappointed more than surprised, but the Mexican guy in line behind me was shocked. He argued that there was no signage to that effect and that I should be allowed my booze. I appreciated the effort, but he lost that argument.

I could have probably stopped at a Six store en route to pick up a six-pack, but by the time I got in my truck, I was ready to get home. I got in and gave Puppy his supper. Then, I went to get his Kong to partially fill it with peanut butter for his dessert (he’s a little underweight so he’s getting extra rations), but he snatched the Kong away from me, eying me defiantly. I shrugged and said to him, “It’s your loss. I was going to give you a treat.”

His eyes went round and he dropped the Kong and kicked it over to me.

I think that proves that my dog understands English…

I’ll leave you with a shot of tonight’s full moon:

Hump Day Done Almost Right

My cleaning guy was coming today and I somehow managed to have only an easy job to do that I could mostly complete in the morning and then finish up after returning from a jaunt to Mérida. This way, I could leave him free to clean without me being in the way. What luxury to be able to go have fun while someone else did my deep cleaning! 🙂

I left around 11:00 and headed to the Galerias (formerly referred to as Liverpool, right next to Costco) to catch a 12:15 showing of Wonder Woman. I had my work cut out for me finding an English (Spanish subtitled) showing at a convenient location and good time, but it must have been meant to be because this was absolutely perfect. The film would end around 2:45, with a 40-minute drive waiting for me after, getting me home around 3:40. I had to be home by about 3:30-3:45 to let my cleaner out of the yard (no extra keys to leave him) and to finish my job, so, really, impeccable timing.

So I arrived in town around 11:40 and wanted to have lunch. I wonder how much longer I’ll need to live in Mexico to remember that noonish is a terrible time to be hungry in this country? The only restaurant at the food court that was up and running and could serve me food in time to make my movie was a Carl’s Jr. hamburger stand, so I had a burger again. I have to say that they do a really nice one with real cheese and plenty of veggies. I especially liked their fries, which I got since I didn’t think I had time to wait for onion rings, and they were fresh cut with skin on them. So a pretty good meal even if I would have chosen tacos or Chinese if everything had been open. There is a sushi joint that I need to check out next time, but they only opened at one.

The movie was surprisingly wonderful and left me utterly entranced for its very long run time. I wasn’t particularly impressed by Batman vs. Superman, which I saw in Mazatlán last April, but this one absolutely worked for me. I still can’t get over the fact that a first run matinée was just $39!

The movie ended at 2:38 and I decided I had time to grab an ice cream. I asked for a single and was given two big scoops! Totally worth my $20!

Little did I know the surprise that awaited me as I headed towards the exit of the mall nearest my truck…

It was raining. And I mean, RAINING. Apocalypse levels of rain. Enough rain that Méridians were taking videos!

I finished my treat and then decided that the rain wasn’t getting any better so I might as well make a run for my truck. I was still soaked when I got there. I immediately cancelled my plan to pick up a pizza at Costco unless I could get a parking spot right by the door, which I was unable to (not even an “illegal” one by the curb). So that was a bummer as I know my cleaner would have been happy with a slice to take home with him. Maybe next time.

It was very slow going home because of the amount of rain on the roadway making it very easy to start hydroplaning. Strangely enough, it rains more in Mérida than it does in Progreso, so it lightened up a bit the further north I drove. By the time I got to my part of Chelem, it was just drizzling and our sandy roads were almost dry.

My cleaner was just finishing up my suite and hadn’t started on the part of the terrace that isn’t as open to the elements. I figured that he’d thought I’d be super late and so he had taken a long lunch. I went to work and when I was done, I was shocked that it was almost 4:30 and he was still working. So I checked in and it turned out that he’d put on music and was having so much fun he’d lost track of time! Of course, I compensated him for his accidental overtime. I also offered to drive him home and have him come back tomorrow to get his moped, but he declined.

It was then time to put together Puppy’s supper. He gets fed in his Kong now to stretch out his meal times and keep him occupied. He loves it and I’m having fun coming up with meals for him that go beyond just his kibble and wet food. I don’t consider this extra work at all. I mean, it is more work that just pouring out dry food, but he’s so appreciative that it’s totally worth it. I am amused that the first few days, I had trouble finding his Kong at his next meal and now he knows to drop it by the kitchen door when he’s done! Dogs really are clever.

Now, to figure out my dinner since I didn’t come home with pizza. I have some leftover broccoli soup that I’d rather keep for my lunch tomorrow, so maybe some pasta? I think I need a cook… 😀 But, hey, it’s a goal that I could work towards here in Mexico that couldn’t even be a dream in Canada!

It’s been a very good Hump Day here in the Yucatán. Back to the old grind tomorrow, but this is turning out to be a much slower week than was last week, a rather welcome breather.

Today Amused Me Greatly

I’ve been trying to get to Mérida for a week now. I meant to take it easy this past week, but that didn’t happen. I have a one-off contract that’s ending shortly and after that, I should have much fewer opportunities to spend endless days just typing and typing and typing…

But I somehow found myself able to take this afternoon off if I was willing to get up super early and also to work overtime tomorrow on a very easy job. I needed to get out. I was losing focus on work, starting to get grumpy, and I was beginning to sleep poorly, all signs that I really needed a change of routine. It’s starting to be a bit frustrating being out here in the middle of nowhere and needing an hour just to drive to Progreso and back for things because I can’t just “dash out” for a long lunch the way I did in Maz.

Anyway, there was nothing really pressing for me to do in Mérida, but I did need to do a massive shopping spree for Puppy and decided to fit in errands of my own in between.

I got all dolled up and tried to leave around 11:30. This is when I discovered that life in the tropics during the rainy season is just like winter in the snowier and colder parts of Canada — you can find your desire to run out to run errands impeded by a vehicle stuck in something, there snow and ice, here sand. My passenger rear tire spun out into a deep crater before I even knew what was happening and my truck wasn’t going anywhere. *sigh*

Never mind that I was wearing one of my best dresses, I went back to the house to get a spade and some tiles to use as traction. I dug around the tire, arranged the tiles, and then tried to get out of the hole. SUCCESS! This reminded me of the time I changed a tire while wearing high heels and a suit because I was on my way to a day of training with the RCMP. You haven’t lived until you’ve jumped up and down on a tire iron in high heeled shoes to loosen a bolt to get a flat tire off your car. But I digress.

Thankfully, the rest of my drive to Mérida was uneventful.

The pet store where I wanted to try to buy a Kong chewing toy for Puppy is in a part of Mérida I have not been to yet, so I got to take the periferico to the eastern side of town. Traffic was horrible and when I got to my exit, I knew there was no way that I was going to be able to merge into the right lane to make my turn. Driving here is nothing like driving in other parts of Mexico — people actually drive civilly/less defensively and and if you try to muscle your way to where you want to go, you are very likely to get an accident.

Thankfully, though, my turn was at a roundabout. So I just stayed in my lane, entered the roundabout and drove it all the way around. When I got back to my turn, I had priority since I was in the roundabout and was able to go my merry way. Yay for roundabouts! 🙂

Of course, the pet store was closed even though they’d told me they are open all day Saturdays. I asked my GPS to take me to the nearest Walmart since there are a few things I’ve been needing, haven’t found, and suspected I would find at a Walmart, even if I’m not a fan of the Mexican version.

I got to the Walmart more than ready for lunch. I really wanted a hamburger and there happened to be a Burger King across the street. I had my first Burger King burger in England this spring and was pleasantly surprised. My second was today and, really, it’s not nearly as “fast foody” of a burger as I expected and it was loaded with vegetables. I’d still rather support a local business, but needs must sometimes! I do like that Burger King has onion rings!

I went back to Walmart and was pleasantly surprised to get everything on my list and things I hadn’t expected to get there, like Earl Grey tea (two boxes for $99 on offer when I paid $65 for one box at Superama!) and some food and treat for the dogs that were the brands I was looking for. No Kong, though.

From Walmart, it was time to head to Costco and on home. But I was hoping to buy a Moleskine notebook and had a lead on a supplier in Mérida. This is where I have to sidebar for a second and recount my tale of woe about my first Amazon.mx order…

Middle of June, I put in an order on Amazon for some office supplies I couldn’t get locally. I was happy with the prices, selection, and estimated arrival time. The package took a while to ship, but then made it to Mérida on a Friday. On the following Tuesday (this past week) I called FedEx and they asked for better directions to my house. I suggested that the driver meet me at a nearby hotel, but they insisted on coming to my door. I sent them in writing very detailed instructions.

Wednesday, my package was finally out for delivery… then delivery failed because the driver could not find my house. I contacted Amazon to cancel my order. At first, they were very unAmazon-ish and gave me the runaround on canceling and getting a refund. Then, they saw what I had sent Fedex and they were pissed. So many people in Mexico don’t have a proper easy to find address and delivery people have to be flexible and use directions and landmarks. The Amazon manager who ultimately dealt with my case even sent me a Google Map with an X marking where he expected my house to be and he was right. Amazon is reviewing its relationship with Fedex in Mexico… At any rate, I got a refund immediately (!) and also a $200 gift card to put towards a future order (I may try again when I live in Mérida…).

So back to today, I lost leave of my senses and asked my GPS to take me to the store that might have Moleskine notebooks. With the odd numbering system and some construction detours, it wasn’t until we passed the zoo that I realised that I was WAY out of my way and the GPS had no idea where I wanted to go! But hey, I was in a part of town that I actually knew from having lived there for ten days, so not all was lost. 🙂

I headed north to Costco and missed where I had to stay in the left lane to continue on the main road that goes by Costco and leads to Progreso. This left me caught in the Bermuda Triangle-like area around the Grand Plaza where once caught in the maze, escape is difficult. I finally worked my way around and… passed the art supply store I’d meant to go to! Talk about serendipity!

It was only as I parked in front that I realised just how unflustered I was so far about driving today. Driving in Mérida isn’t the nightmare I was told it would be. I guess I have Mazatlán to thank for that. 🙂

I went in and they said that they only carry blank Moleskine notebooks, but they could order what I want. However, there is a bookstore in the Galerias that has a better selection. I was advised to try there and if they didn’t have what I want, I could send them an order via Facebook. I’ll be back to this store when I’m ready to start oil painting again since they have all manner of supplies!

A quick check of Google revealed that “Galerias” is what I call Liverpool… right by the Costco! So I decided to drop the truck at Costco and walk to Galerias. Little did I know the discovery I was about to make…

Here’s a map of my day to hold you in suspense for a bit:

Little did I know that today I would win the prize (if there was such a thing) for most amazing thing ever found at a Costco. Behold… my first cenote!

I can’t believe it’s right there by the Costco without any signage or anything!

I ogled for a bit and then crossed the road to get to Galerias. There, I discovered that Scotiabank has an ATM again (YES) and I was able to make a much needed withdrawal. I then started to look for the bookstore when I passed… a pet store. That had Kongs. I think I was meant to come home with one!

I then asked a very nice security guard if he knew where the bookstore was and he sent me in the right direction. The store did have Moleskines, but not what I wanted and the prices were way too high. I decided to give up for now and bought something else that will tide me over until I can try Amazon again.

I then did something I haven’t done in far, far too long and asked a sales clerk for help in picking out a book! I told him that I can read at the level of Harry Potter and I like epic stories with lots of characters. He and another clerked hemmed and hawed and then settled on a few titles. The first one did nothing for me, but I got shivers reading the description of the second one and knew it was it. It was also only $90! At the till, I was asked if I have a membership card for the bookstore and decided to get one even thought it was $70. I have to look over the terms, but I think I’ll get my money’s worth out of it because the store has all manner of stationary supplies.

I then went back to Costco where I did a decent sized shop for myself. I’ve been comparing prices of some things in supermarkets and Costco has them beat. The best supermarket price I’ve found for almond milk, for example, is still about 30% more than what I pay buying it in bulk at Costco. I also bought two ginormous (read heavy) bags of dog food and two bags of rawhide bones. I lamented to the guy that loaded my truck that I had no help at home to unload. He told me to look on the bright side — I’ll have arms like Schwarzenegger after that. Thanks. I think.

It was past five by  this point and Puppy gets his supper no later than 5:30, so it was time to head home! I got there, tied puppy out of the way, then backed the truck into the yard to make it easier to unload. That still took a good 30 minutes since most of my purchases were super heavy and bulky. Puppy got his supper, then a bit of peanut butter in his Kong for dessert. He’ll be getting most of his breakfast in the Kong from now on.

I was so overheated by this point that all I wanted was the pool. I had a quick swim then went in to make an easy supper of croissants (I blame the Costco sample woman) with salami and mini sweet bell peppers.

Looking back on my day, driving around so much in a super hot car in terrible traffic and making so many unnecessary detours, one would think that I’d be exhausted and frustrated and maybe even peeved, but no. I’m in one of my happy moods where I find humour in everything. My outing did me a world of good even if I’ll pay for it tomorrow!

Now, to get myself lost in El atlas esmeralda (The Emerald Atlas), which I’ve just learned is the first of a trilogy!