Next House!

It’s getting busy over here as house hunting is becoming a second job. I’m on schedule financially and slacking a bit to give myself time to make trips into town. Unfortunately, I have to use my truck for that (was hoping to use public transportation), which is very expensive, but it is what it is. I’m also having only so-so luck consolidating trips.

For instance, I had to meet someone in Progreso about a cooler she had for sale, but she would not agree to meet me tomorrow on my way to Mérida (where I have three commitments), only at 11:30 today. At least, she did concede to meeting up in the Bodega parking lot, saving me a bit of time. I was mercifully able to finish my pressing work for the day by 11:00 and dash out to meet her. The cooler was smaller than what I’d hoped she had, but good enough for the price so I bought it.

Then, since I was there anyway, I went into Bodega to get some of their “famous” (expats rave about it) fried chicken for lunch and to get a few things household things. One of those was a set of plastic drawers for storing office supplies (especially writing implements), which I haven’t been able to find in a pleasing colour or the right size. So when I saw this, which is exactly what I wanted, on offer for $80 I was quick to snag it:

I also wanted a bucket like the pink one I use as a trash can in the office to store the parts for my stick blender, but Bodega was out of them. So I decided to buy the office a new (purple) trash can and move the bucket to the kitchen!

I also bought myself a two burner hot plate. I cook daily and am having trouble keeping the stove here looking pristine. Mexican stoves, even expensive ones, just can’t seem to handle heavy scrubbing or being used with cast iron without the finish coming off. I always get hives about having to maintain other people’s stoves and three months here was my limit of dealing with that stress. The hot plate will keep the pressure off when I get my house since I won’t be desperate for a stove. I’m using my crockpot, ricer cooker, and the toaster oven here a lot and actually wondering if I need a stove. It’s amazing how one’s worldview changes after a couple of years of living in other people’s kitchens.

It was a super quick trip and I was home by one and absolutely ravenous. My lunch was good, and I’m pretty sure that was my first time ever having fried chicken, but it’s definitely not something I’d be keen to repeat regularly (I’ll stick to the roasted birds). But it was definitely a nice Friday treat!

Now, as for house hunting, I’m starting to feel like I’m on an episode of House Hunters International… 😀

I have an appointment at 2:00 tomorrow to see a house located in the northwesternmost part of Mérida, in the Francisco de Montejo neighbourhood that has been dubbed a city within a city.

This would put me about 3KM walking distance to Chedraui, Costco, and the Galerias (which has Scotiabank, sushi, and a cinema) and according to Google, there’s quite a bit in the heart of the neighbourhood, but it’s hard to gauge what there is on the outskirts, where this house is. It appears to be a quiet residential neighbourhood with a good economic mix.

Part of me still wishes I was looking in Centro, but I have to be sensible — my line of work is not conducive to living downtown!

The location right off the Periférico would be very convenient for going back and forth in October. So while I’m not immediately going OOH at the location, I think it has potential.

Now, the house.

The exterior is inoffensive. The neighbouring houses are much prettier, but this isn’t too hard on the eyes. I just don’t know if my truck would fit in the driveway (which would be nice because it would be out of the sun):

The kitchen appears to be one of the better ones with cabinets that I’ve seen:

The house here only has a long counter with stools to eat at and I like it. I wouldn’t have any pressure to get a kitchen and chairs for a bit, just some stools.

The stairs have a handrail!

Both bathrooms appear to have been recently redone and this one (which I think would be the guest suite’s) even has storage:

At least one of the bedrooms has built-in storage:

The master bath has what appears to be a very clean Jacuzzi tub. I have yet to see outside of the super huge compounds a pool that is big enough for doing laps. So a tub like this would equal a pool and be less maintenance:

The red would absolutely have to go. I could learn to live with those floors. They appear to be grey or blue, not black, so they would work well with the pink/purple/green/orange things I’ve accumulated. I really don’t like them, but between them and the beige or white floors that I’m seeing too much of, they are fine.

Another bedroom, but without a closet organiser:

This house has three things that you can’t see in the pictures that make it an extra special candidate:

1) The huge covered upstairs deck that would be a dream backup office for extra hot days;

2) The fact that the house has FOUR bedrooms. FOUR. Two on the ground floor sharing a bath and two on the upper floor sharing a bath. FOUR.

3) And all this for a mere $6,000 a month. That makes a not particularly aesthetically pretty or interesting house a bit out of the way very attractive. The fourth bedroom could be a den or a craft room or even a second guest bedroom should my Airbnb idea get off the ground.

The house also has a back garden.

I’m really excited to see this house tomorrow as it is presenting quite well in photos (ugly paint job not withstanding).

Now, back to work I go. I was supposed to take the weekend off, but, of course, that’s not going to happen. I’m going to have a very long day Sunday as I’m sure I won’t work a bit tomorrow.

First Dibs

Another large contract has ended, so I’m going to have a lot less to juggle in the next few weeks. The clients I have right now appear capable of filling any gaps in my schedule, so I’m happy to slack off a bit as I enter into August (August already!) and not look for anything else.

But yesterday was a pretty full day and I was looking at working late into the early evening when I got a message from a lady on the local garage sale group I belong to. She is an ex-ex-ex-expat in that she’s a Mexican who moved to Canada then back to Mexico and is finally returning to Canada for good. She’s doing some major downsizing ahead of return north and is pricing things to sell quickly.

Some weeks ago, she was selling a bunch of Pyrex dishes for very little and I unfortunately was too far down the line to score any of it, which was on my wanted list for ages. My kitchen has been very well equipped in Miranda, but one can never have enough mixing bowls that can go in the oven and the microwave and Pyrex is the best. It’s also super expensive and savvy thrift shops price it accordingly.  She was practically giving it away, but was vetting her buyers to make sure she got some that would appreciate and use the Pyrex rather than turn around and resell it for a profit.

Yesterday’s message to me was that she had three more pieces that she’d decided to part with since they don’t fit in her luggage and I could have first dibs on them! I couldn’t believe it because they were three of the exact pieces I wanted — a large bowl with handles and two medium-sized bowls! The colours, blue and orange, were a bonus!

Even though I really didn’t have time to go out yesterday, she was in Progreso and I needed some groceries. So it made sense to take an hour and a half or so to go pick up the loot. Well, not only did I drive into a major storm, but there was a huge accident right around Bodega Aurrerá, so traffic was veeeeeeeery slow and there were no detour signs, resulting in a lot of confused people. I finally made it through the mess and across town to the seller’s home, which I found with no trouble using a combination of Google Maps and my GPS.

When I showed up, she asked if I’d be interested in a fourth bowl for a token sum, and it was another piece on my wish list, a small bowl I could use to heat up a bowl of soup or serve salsa in, and in a cute yellow! Yes, of course! Here’s my haul (which nests perfectly), for just $320 (about 24CAD or 18USD):

I only have one more type of Pyrex dish on my wish list now. I’m inordinately pleased with my treasures. 🙂

I then made my way to Bodega as best I could considering the one way roads and closures. I really needed to get home, so I got through my shopping list quickly. Just as I was heading for the till, I remembered that they sell roasted chickens, which would make a super quick dinner when I got home. I went to the chicken counter and there was just one left, but there was a time stamp on it that showed that it hadn’t been sitting long (only about 20 minutes) so I was pleased. However, there was also a man waiting for service… An attendant finally came out to serve us and started with me so I said that the man was ahead of me. He said, “Oh, I just want that chicken, but you can serve this lady first.”

Eep.

I said that I wanted the chicken, but, obviously, the man had first dibs on it. The attendant said she’d have more in about 15 minutes. I thanked her but said I couldn’t wait so I’d pass. The man told me not worry, his wife always takes forever to do her shopping and he could wait for a fresh one so, please, really, have the chicken that’s there.

I could have kissed him. 😀

Then came a very long wait at the till to pay. Bodega is affiliated with Walmart and has the same problem of not enough cashiers for the volume so I’m used waiting. It’s a good time to read trashy magazines. 🙂

To get home, I had to detour literally halfway to Mérida, so I didn’t get in till well past seven. I bolted down some dinner, gave Puppy some love and attention, and went back to work. The job wound up being shockingly difficult and I didn’t finish till 11:30 (I thought I’d be done by 10:00!). I really hope that’s my last time having a job that finishes that late; it just messes up my sleep schedule too much!

The Game Is On!

The last two and a half months of ludicrous work hours have paid off. By the time all the July and straggler June receivables come in in the next week or so, I’ll be in a position to start house hunting!

I found what I thought could be The House on a real estate website and contacted them some weeks ago. They happened to get back to me tonight. Funny timing!

They actually caught me while I was out for dinner. Monday has normally been curry night, but the curry place is taking a break. 🙁 (They did make that a bit easier on me by sharing their recipe for The Best Peas I Have Ever Had.) I decided to take a chance on La Barca de Chelem, the hotel/bar/restaurant a couple of blocks away that I’ve been purposely avoiding all this time (they are way too convenient). But I was in a celebratory mood and had already budgeted the money to eat out.

I showed up just past five, too late for lunch, way too early for dinner, but they said their restaurant is open all day. The menu had a pretty good variety of things with prices being so-so (Yucatán has generally been slightly more expensive than Sinaloa). I was a little annoyed at myself for settling on a burger, but there were onion rings on the menu and the pairing would be nice and I also wanted to know if there’s been a decent burger within walking distance all the time that I’ve been here…

With my order, I requested a beer. Their selection was dismal, so I settled on a Tecate and then went out to the pool area to wait for my food.

My onion rings came out first. I was surprised/pleased that the server made sure I knew this was ranch dressing rather than mayonnaise since I’d declined the latter on my burger. I found the rings a bit doughier than I’d like (I like my onion rings really crispy), but the veggie within was perfectly cooked. This could have been dinner on its own and totally worth the $40.

The phone rang just as I finished up with them and I caught just enough to understand it was a guy from the property management company. I replied, “I understand, but, please, my Spanish is so-so. I’ll need you to speak slowly.” He agreed and then informed me that the house I was interested in isn’t available. However, his tone about that changed when I told him I’m looking for October and would be open to a two-year lease…

But he pushed on and asked me what parts of the city I’m interested in, how many bedrooms I want, what amenities I’m looking for, do I want furnished or not (fridge and stove would be nice), and my budget. This last one was where I knew the guy wasn’t leading me on and would be willing to work with me. This is because I had no idea what the hell a presupuesto is and he took a second to figure out how best to reformulate that with “What price per month do you want to pay?”

We chatted for close to 10 minutes and then he said he’d have a look and send me info on what what he found that could be suitable for me. Sweet! Now, you might be surprised that I’m willing to go with an agent, but I think I prefer going this route. Yes, I will likely pay a bit more than if I was renting directly from an owner, but things will be done by the book. Plus, an agent can do all the leg work for and I can just show up and see what he’s found. There is so much available on the market right now that it’s a bit overwhelming. Once an agent has a clear idea of what I want, the selection pool will get much smaller and I’ll save a lot of time. I thought I’d be able to take public transportation into Mérida ($), but the buses are always full so I have to drive ($$$).

My burger came out just as the conversation ended. The server had brought me my mustard in little packets that he had actually cut open for me. I was very dismayed that the burger was amazing — great bun, real beef with spices (and so juicy!), and real cheese that was brown and crispy on the edges, plus lettuce, tomato, and onion. The fries that came with it weren’t worth touching, though, and I was glad I’d had the onion rings. Thankfully, this burger was $80 so while it would be cheaper than curry ($150), it’s still too expensive to be a regular lunch the way Patti’s incredible $40 burger and fries were on Isla!

Happy and sated, I headed home to do some chores, play with my dog, and begin to dream of the Home that I have finally begun searching for. It’ll be hard to be renter again after so many years of being a homeowner, but it’ll be way better than being a house sitter. Living in other people’s spaces is fun for a while and a great way to travel on the cheap, but you’re never really home and it gets wearing after a time. At least here, I have some of my own furniture and, of course, most of my own personal belongings (including kitchen equipment), so that makes things much easier (there are no words for how much I love my desk!).

I can’t believe we’re a week to August and I only have two full months left here!!! Of course, I’ll be here most of October, but I should have keys by then and soon as internet is set up, I’ll likely work there a few days a week so I can start receiving furniture deliveries and do other tasks to make sure the house is all ready for me by the end of the month.

July was a bit of a rough month and I know I need to get out and start living a bit beyond the walls of this compound. August should be an interesting. The way things are going, I will have to make a real effort to slack a bit because nearly all my clients wish they could keep me busy full-time! It’s really great to be in that sort of position and to be choosing how much money I make in a month (to a point) rather than sitting around waiting and hoping for work to come in. I’ve worked so hard to get to this point and I’m incredible proud of myself.

Well, it’s time to jump in the pool. How spoiled am I? 🙂

 

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: