“They” Said There Were Going To Be Days Like These

Sometimes, life happens smoothly. Sometimes, life is like swimming upstream through molasses. My spring feels like the latter.

When I last left you, it was Saturday morning. To my surprise, I actually got my Saturday off! I had a super lazy day with Bonita and by dinner time-ish, I had ants in my skirt and needed a leg stretch. I decided to go check out Pho Mx, a Vietnamese restaurant with rave reviews. I Googled the location and discovered that it is literally across the street from the real estate agency I worked with to rent my house!

Google is always off on its time estimates since I’m a fast walker. I do about 1KM in 10 minutes, so it took me exactly 30 minutes to walk to the restaurant.

I set off some time just past six at the best time of day at this time of year – when it’s still very light out, but the sun is low enough to not beat down on you and there’s a cool breeze. The 3.2KM walk went very quickly.

The restaurant is located in a strip mall and is beautifully decorated. Reviews said that the pho is the star of the show (as it should be), so that’s of course what I ordered. Pho is a soup and the one I ordered had thin slices of beef and pork with veggies in an incredibly savoury broth to which I added jalapeños, hot sauce, a sweet sauce, lime, and bean sprouts. I had it with a cold ginger-lemon tea.

I could not believe how good my meal was. It had flavours I have never had in my life (a spice in the broth, plus the sweet sauce). While very filling, it was light. I cannot wait to eat there again!

I thought to Uber home, but it was still light out and it was just such a joy to be out in the cool breeze and have this part of Mérida almost to myself. It didn’t get properly dark until I was a block or two from home — I can’t believe how much longer the days have gotten!

When I got in, Bonita gave me her happy dance (if you haven’t seen it on Instagram, you’re missing out) and then she showed me there were no hard feelings for going out by having a proper cuddle. Awwww.

Despite having had a day off, Sunday was a mess since I had not slept well and I had hard files to do.

Monday, I checked tracking on some packages I’d ordered and decided to stay in as I suspected two would be incoming. One arrived super early, but the other, delivered by FedEx, was languishing at a depot. I’ve gotten a “delivery incoming!” notification as late as early evening from them, so I didn’t dare go out. Little did I know that I was about to enter FedEx hell.

You see, last week I ordered a bag of dog food for Bonita from a seller online with much better prices than the vet here. He got the bag out on Friday morning with delivery expected Monday or Tuesday. So when the bag never showed up on Monday, I figured it would be here Tuesday and, again, waited all day even though I was gasping for groceries (ie. was out of coffee).

By 7:00, I’d given up hope, but still left a note just in case, and then walked to Mega (now Soriana) to get what I needed. It was pitch dark and threatening to rain when I came out so I splurged on an Uber home (a whopping 30 pesos — not worth wrestling the truck out of the parking bay!). Still no sign of FedEx when I got home.

The next morning, I got a notification that there was a delivery exception and that there was no scheduled delivery. I called FedEx and they would not help me. So I contacted my seller and he contacted FedEx and was told that they promised to deliver by the end of the day.

By early afternoon, I had an update that my package was still at the depot with no scheduled delivery. I contacted FedEx via Twitter and they escalated my problem to the Latin America office, who thought that telling me, “We told the depot to deliver ASAP” offered any sort of resolution.

It wasn’t until 11:00 this morning, Thursday, that I finally got an “out for delivery” notification and the food finally arrived at 2PM. I only had enough left for one more meal so they cut it way too close.

Now, here’s the interesting part of the story. When I had my FedEx issue last year with an Amazon order, the Amazon clerk posited that FedEx didn’t want to chance delivering to the middle of nowhere with no confirmation that they’d be able to actually make the delivery. So normally, the driver would call to make sure the recipient is home. The Amazon clerk guessed that since I have an obviously foreign name, FedEx figured there was no point calling me as I wouldn’t be able to deal with them and it was just easier to return the package to sender.

Well, guess what FedEx flat out told my seller yesterday? Yup, that their driver couldn’t contact the recipient due to a language issue. Amazon was right!

(By the way, I’ve had another unexpected jump in my linguistic skills — FedEx Mexico’s phone tree was easy yesterday when I had to make multiple calls last year to understand all the options.)

I have no idea how FedEx remains in business. I’ve had issues with them in four countries. Needless to say, the time I’ve spent on this issue has negated any savings. 🙁

Back to work I go. I woke up yesterday morning happy that I’d somehow managed to not have any files in my queue and vaguely dreamed of taking a couple of days off, but within an hour of being up, I was booked through the weekend. Can’t complain about business being good! 🙂

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. 🙂

The Magic of Beginnings

As I approach the end of the first full month of living in the house, I’m starting to understand the magnitude of what I’m getting into regarding upkeep of what is practically a mansion to someone who has lived in an RV for the better part of a decade!

But as I suspected, the more settled I get and keep on top of the daily chores, the more time appears to deal with the extra chores, like taking care of the garden. As a case in point, I found a couple of hours in the last few days to weed and also trim cacti (ouch). I love the view from one of my kitchen windows and it’s even better without tons of weeds!

The housekeeping is taking the time that it takes, but I’m on top of it. I do possibly have a house cleaner lined up to come in once a month just to do the floors and bathrooms in depth to start and am just waiting a month or so until I have the funds to pay a lawyer to draw up an employment contract before I hire her (or someone else if she’s no longer available at that time…).

I did the math and I can earn in less than two hours what it would cost me to hire someone for six hours, freeing up four hours to do something else. I doubt I’ll ever want a full service housekeeper (I’m fussy about having my things touched and not put back in the right place), but if I can work up to have six hours of help per week to do the bathrooms, floors, windows, and dusting of the public spaces, that would be fantastic.

I’ve also been doing some cooking. With the fridge not working right, I’m shopping almost daily, which is good for the budget and health since I’m having lots of fresh veggies and meat. I’ve been mostly buying my food at the Super Aki up the street because I don’t have time to shop-shop these days and they’re so convenient. I buy whatever meat and produce looks good that day.

Yesterday, to my delight, they not only had yellow onions, but they were on mega offer. I was sad that I couldn’t stock up (onions need to be stored in the fridge here if not eaten straight away). Mexicans tend to favour white and red onions, neither of which caramelises the way a yellow onion does (but which are nicer raw!), and I can only think of one other time that I’ve seen yellow onions since I got to the area (I don’t even remember seeing them in Maz). So I got a few of those, as it’s been cooler and less humid and I doubt they will spoil practically overnight.

At the butcher counter, I picked out the biggest boneless turkey breast they had, which cost a ridiculous $30 (2CAD) — I really need to compare the cost of turkey to chicken! 300 grams of ground pork was so inexpensive it was almost free ($17 or about 0.80CAD!). Between the two, I had at least six if not eight meals sorted!

I came in and put together a lovely stir fry with the turkey, onion, carrot, zucchini, and turkey, plus garlic I had on hand, adding commercial sweet chili sauce and soy sauce. The pork will go to making spaghetti sauce in a day or two.

Now, the fridge. It is sadly in need of repair. 🙁 I contact LG Mexico and they confirmed that what I’m seeing with the lights on the control panel is a code indicating a problem with the control panel. The guy who sold it to me said that he can try to repair it for a few pesos or pick it up and give me a partial refund, which, after three months, is incredibly fair of him.

I’ve come to the realisation that I approached the fridge purchase with the wrong attitude — sure, I don’t need a fancy new fridge, but if I lose groceries because of poor cooling and freezing, I’m out even more money. Moreover, while I have no certainty that I will be in this house more than two years, it would take some pretty extraordinary circumstances for me to commit to Mérida for less than four years. So since a fridge is going to be a long-term purchase, I’m going to be buying a brand new one rather than taking a chance on another used one or a repair of this one. The new one will probably be smaller than this one and I’m sad that I’ve missed out on all the November sales, but I’ll at least have some peace of mind that it most likely won’t go out on me as well as a proper warranty if it does.

I should be in a position to make a purchase Wednesday next week. I’m again looking for something fairly low frill and bargain brands like Mabe and Daewoo make nice units at affordable prices, less than $6,000 (about 400CAD) for a tad smaller than what I have now. Some even have a water dispenser, which I have to say would be really nice to have (there’s an attachment available to make this feature work with the 20 gallon water jugs)! I’ve only been shopping online and will be going to local stores to see if they have leftover stock or floor models from the November sales at even better prices.

I don’t know yet if I’ll accept a partial refund on the current fridge. I think I will first try to resell it for more than the offered refund, yes, with full disclosure. The freezer on it is very good and when you put the fridge on the coldest settings, it is is the same temperature as the freezer so it could actually work as an upright freezer. I’ve considered keeping it for that, but decided that I don’t need that much freezer space!

Once I’ve got a good fridge sorted, the next priority will be to do a really good pantry-building shop, then to find a washing machine. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a range by February. I’ve shopped hard for that already since I need one with cast iron grills as well as an oven with not only a broiler, but which also holds its heat. That leaves out anything by low-end brand Mabe, but the next Mexican brand up in terms of quality, Koblenz, appears to have what I want and for less than I’d pay for an international brand like Whirlpool. So that’s something to work hard towards. 🙂 The hot plate continues to serve me well enough, but it really doesn’t generate enough heat. Going to a proper stove will be such a treat!

I’m grateful to have had a really good month of work despite the US Thanksgiving. I was a bit concerned about December since it was such a slow month last year. The promise of another book editing contract eased my worries a bit until everything changed and I was reminded to trust the magic of beginnings. For what else could come with a new house in a new country but a new career?

I started with a new, non-transcription, client when I was in Europe, gradually taking on more tasks. In the spring, they asked me to take on a part-time admin assistant-type role that would have been a dream job. Unfortunately, it was an absolutely terrible time for me to consider taking the job — I had just returned to Canada, was heading back to Haven where I had no internet access and would need to focus on packing, and then I was taking about two weeks to move to Mexico! I was bummed when they said they couldn’t wait for me and had to hire someone else.

Well, that someone else, while great at the job, has even more aptitude for another part of the business and so she’s migrating there and her job is now available to me! We’ve worked out a deal on a retainer so I can feel comfortable dropping one of my transcription clients. I am super excited at the thought of spending half my time doing this sort of work and then spending the other half doing transcription jobs that I actually like and that are truly worth my time.

My big goal for 2018 was to be able to start taking weekends off and this new job will definitely contribute to that. The stars continue to align for me and and I feel so blessed!

A Good Fit

Monday was pretty much a lost day for me since I’d taken it so easy over the weekend. I worked straight through a very, very long (close to 14-hour) day. My only “break” was a Skype meeting with a client mid-afternoon. I finished close to 9PM, opened a bottle of white wine, and actually made a proper dinner that included chopping vegetables.

No, that’s not eggs. It’s tofu! I found a brand of tofu the other day that is shelf stable (!). I wish I’d bought a few more containers since it wound up being so good. I thought I preferred a really firm tofu to make a scramble, but this was wonderfully silky smooth and probably close to the texture of scrambled eggs. I added onions, carrots, and snow peas (the yellow colour and all the flavour come from turmeric). Breakfast for dinner, but with wine instead of coffee. 🙂 I then enjoyed on Netflix the latest episode of the newest Star Trek series, which I’m thrilled with. I still can’t believe that I would have had no legal way to watch it in Canada but I do here.

Tuesday morning, I took a gamble and made a deposit on a custom furniture order. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I got scammed, but if I didn’t, it will be a fantastic purchase that will go a long way towards finishing the setup of my kitchen. The correspondence I had with the guy tonight didn’t inspire confidence, but I will know Friday.

Then, around noon, I headed out to our little village market to meet an expat lady and help her order a turkey. She’d done it on her own the last time and wasn’t entirely satisfied, so she was thrilled when I offered to go with her as a translator.

Here’s the outside of our market:

The city is working on the market and the park around it. It will be a wonderful space once its done. The lady and I aren’t the only ones who think the Mérida central market in centro is an absolute disgrace for Mérida and overdue for a complete overhaul like this.

The turkey ordering went smoothly. I had a printed out instruction sheet to give to the vendor, but I still discussed it with her. I find that it’s sometimes easier to get what you need if you explain why you need it. For example, last time, the expat didn’t get the skin she wanted around the neck and butt of the turkey. I was able to explain to the vendor that the skin is needed to seal the openings after stuffing the bird and was rewarded with a “AH!” of enlightenment in response to that.

Transaction complete, we got some veggies, gabbed, and then I went to see what the Chinese place had to offer. Wonderful grilled chicken, noodles, an egg roll with filling tasted like egg roll filling, and potato wedges made two nice meals for me for just $45 (3CAD).

Today was going to be another big work day, but this morning, I had to go pick up something I found on the classifieds last night. It was one of those things that was too good to pass up and that I can’t believe I spotted.

There is a little nook on the kitchen side of the breakfast bar that is really just wasted space. It’s not even deep enough to put water jugs. I thought that I should have some shelves made to give me more pantry storage space without having to use up “good” floor space.

This is pretty much what I had in mind:

In the photos, it was filthy and hanging from a wall. I’m convinced that if the seller hadn’t posted the dimensions, I would have scrolled passed it. As you can see, the depth is absolutely perfect, the height is such that the top gives me a long shelf, and the length just about perfectly fits the space. What a find, especially at only $350! Yes, I will be painting it. 🙂 I’m going to wait until Friday to see if my custom order comes in as that will get first priority on the turquoise paint I have left. If I don’t have enough turquoise for both, I’ll go get some orange for this one. 🙂

The pickup point for the shelving was actually quite near to me. I headed out around 11:00, pleased that I’ve finally figured out where to aim my garage door opener to have it open the doors at my first click. I’m still unable to do that reliably while sitting in the truck (meaning I have to run into the yard to open and close the door) and am going to try to have the battery changed as I think that could be the problem. But at least now, I’m almost not concerned that a day could come that I wouldn’t be able to get my truck out when I need to. I am going to have to ask the landlady if she knows who set up the system because, surely, there has to be another way besides the remote to open those doors!

Since I was already out, I decided to swing north to Home Depot in the hopes of getting anti-ant stuff as I haven’t had luck at the few places locally where I’ve looked. Ants are pretty much a given down here. I don’t consider them a problem if I forgot crumbs on the counter while cleaning up in the evening and come down in the morning to find a few ants enjoying the unexpected buffet. That’s just a great incentive to keeping a spotless kitchen. But when they start coming out when I’m preparing food, that’s a real problem.

Home Depot not only had the pellets I needed for outside, but also Terro liquid ant baits, which are the equivalent to using a nuke against ants — they work that well.

Getting home from Home Depot is easy, but a detour since you have to go north to the roundabout at the Chedraui and then come back south again. I did quite a loop this morning, but was only gone an hour:

I got in and set the traps out. The ants were in them within minutes. Now, I have to wait a few days and see if things improve. I still have outside to treat with pellets and hope I won’t have to call an exterminator. Again, I don’t consider ants a major issue, but they are a pain and they do bite, so I like to keep them under control. I’m much less tolerant of things like cockroaches. I caught a few here before I moved in (I think they come up drains, which I saw in Truth or Consequences), but I keep a clean house and have never had a roach problem.

After another big work day (for which I am so grateful), I decided to head up Calle 21 to a restaurant I spotted the other day that’s only open in the evenings. I was pleasantly surprised as it looks brand new. The decor is like what I’d expect a Mexican cantina-type restaurant in a tourist town in the US to look like — lots of dark wood, bright colours, tin roof, tasteful decor. It was absolutely impeccable and super cute. Sorry, I forgot my phone or I’d have a picture. The prices and food were both good.

I ordered about the closest you can get to fajitas in the real Mexico, alambre, which is meat (turkey tonight) grilled with onions, poblano (green non-spicy) peppers, and cheese that you can put into a tortilla and doctor up with stuff, which included Tex-Mex style guacamole. I was even brought a grilled sausage (looked and tasted like a fancy hot dog) as a free appetiser. With a drink and tip, I was out of there for under $85 (5.65CAD) and I didn’t even finish everything! I suspect that I may have found my local Miguel’s, but I still have more exploring to do. At any rate, I can’t wait to take guests there.