The Kind of Typing Weekend I Like

I have a client who only lets me have two files at a time, usually about 60 audio minutes or half a day’s worth. So I can’t take more work until I’ve done at least one of my files and oftentimes, the work is all gone by the time I’m through. It’s frustrating and I’m hoping that they’ll increase my allowance at some point. But sometimes, there’s a large volume of work and an email goes out saying that extra files could be assigned to typists who want them.

Well, on Friday, there was a call out to anyone who could take a significant workload for the weekend. I requested what would be an insane amount for most of my other clients, but isn’t for this one since the files tend to be easy. To my delight, the order was filled immediately. And then, another client asked me to take work for the weekend. When I turned him down, he said that he had a different, and huge, job that I could do for Wednesday morning. So that was four really solid days of work sorted.

Friday was also really full, but I had to get away to Progreso for a few hours to pick up something I’d spotted on the garage sale site I belong to. I am being very careful to not “peso dribble” and pick up stuff just because I will have a house to fill soon, but sometimes, there are things, like the sheets, that would be absolutely stupid not to pick up. And then, there are times like last week where something you’ve wanted for a bit comes up at the right price and you say the hell with it.

One of the things I’ve noticed in a lot of Mexican homes are ceramic containers holding water. A bit of research told me that these are known as “water crocks” in Canada and the US and they are a natural way to keep water cool. I really liked the idea of them and thought that if I ever had a house here, I’d want some. For one thing, they are much nicer storage containers for water than are the 20 litre plastic jugs and their dispensers are much less work than the plastic jug pumps. I thought that if I ever had a house here, I’d want one for the kitchen and one in every bathroom where folks brush their teeth.

The jugs are all essentially the same shape, but come in many different colours and patterns. As former collector of Blue Willow china, I’m really fond of blue and white and the odd time I’d looked at these jugs when out and about in Maz, I noticed a pattern I particularly liked, with flowers and checks.

So when this showed up on the garage sale site this week, I knew I had bought my first functionally decorative piece for my new home, whatever it ended up being:

The seller wanted $500 (40CAD) and accepted $400 (32CAD), which seemed a very fair price to me. I really like it! I filled it and it sits by the coffee supplies and kettle and is very convenient. I do tend to drink water cold out of the fridge here (something I never did in Canada), but if I forget to fill the jug, the water in the crock is definitely at a more drinkable temperature than that in the plastic jugs.

The trip allowed me to see a bit more of Progreso. It’s a pleasant enough town at that end, but, really, I want to live in Mérida, at least to start.

Since I was in town, I went to Bodega Aurrerá to pick up a few things. I walked in to be met with a wall of Tecate Light on offer for a decent price, so I immediately put a six-pack in my basket. I was then at the butcher negotiating for a bone for my dog when something told me to check my email. My longest held client had emailed me a half dozen times in the last hour with the last email having the subject line to please email or call him ASAP.

I found a quiet corner and called (YAY for a North America plan!). Turns out there was a problem with the order I’d returned that morning, something pretty major, but not exactly a mistake on my part, just a miscommunication. If I could fix it in the next few hours, everything would be fine. So of course, I went through the store too fast to get out of there ASAP and forgot three quarters of what I’d come in to buy. But, hey, I had the beer, coffee, and a bone and eggs for my dog, so I guess that was the important stuff. 🙂

The coffee was notable. My last time shopping at Mega in Maz, I was able to sample a drip coffee made in Maz and found it very good. I filed away the information, but never acted on it. Guess what coffee I found at Bodega Aurrerá? I was so relieved because the last coffee I bought at Soriana was fine, but not spectacular and I wasn’t looking forward to possibly buying unsatisfying coffee again. This stuff from Maz is really good!

I got in and had a ton of stuff to carry into the house. The dog tends to be a bit of a brat when I come in carrying shopping, trying to rip my bags and trip me. Before I’d left, I’d told him I’d have a bone for him when I got in if he was good. So it’s a funny coincidence that he let me bring in all my shopping without interfering! He was very happy with his bone. 🙂

I threw together a very quick lunch with a yummy preroasted chicken I’d also picked up and then fixed my client’s file. I then worked very late on a number of different jobs.

Saturday and Sunday were pretty much the same, just tons of typing, but at all sorts of different jobs in different domains. It was all surprisingly interesting. I was able to break for meals and at a reasonable hour both nights to play with my dog (who is showing amazing progress at learning how to play fetch!), swim, and enjoy a beer before going to bed not to late.

Monday and Tuesday are probably going to be more gruelling since I’m working on tedious focus groups. Wednesday is the day I’m going to pick up my desk and bookcases since I was asked if I could pick them up earlier than Friday and my promised help says Wednesday is the best day for him. That works out super well since the cleaner will be coming and I’ll have to vacate for a few hours anyway. By the time we get back here, he should be done with my suite and we can just move the furniture back in. I’m desperately trying to clear my Wednesday schedule since I’ll have to dismantle my temporary desk and then set up my new one, but we’ll see if that happens.

I then have myself promised straight through into the start of next week. It’s nice to be busy and to know, based on my current receivables, that I’ll be able to really start house hunting in the next couple of weeks!

So that’s all the latest news here. I expect the next post will be me showing off my new desk, or command centre, as a friend who saw a picture of it described it. 😀

Decisions Made for Me

I slept in late this morning (past eight) and was lying there on my new sheets comfy as can be thinking that I really should go feed the dog when I heard my phone ping, telling me that I had a text. It ended up solving the dilemma I had about my day. I had only a small easy job to do, so I was torn between hanging out at home and catching up on a few things or heading to Mérida to have lunch in centro.

Well, the text was from the gal who had sold me the sheets. She makes a lot of typos, uses slang, and does not use punctuation, so I had no idea what it said! I ran the message through Google Translate and it gave me a suggestion for one of the words that I did not recognise that ended up being the message’s Rosetta Stone. So I texted back to confirm that she had been unable to get towels for me, but had the two bathrobes and five face cloths. I also asked for four more pillow cases and if I could meet up with her around eleven. If so, that would be my excuse to go into Mérida.

She said that she had everything and that eleven would be perfect as her husband had to run errands. He would be waiting for me outside the Oxxo. I did some chores, played with the dog, dressed, and headed out around 10:30. I stopped for gas and then headed straight for the meet up, arriving around 11:02. Her husband was waiting for me! He was clearly in a hurry, thrusting a bag clearly marked with the contents into my hands and accepting the payment.

I then headed back to the highway to go into Mérida, stopping at the Liverpool to use the Scotiabank ATM… which was GONE. *sighs* There is no other Scotiabank ATM that is such easy access when I come into the city. 🙁 I decided to push on to the Office Depot, near where I planned to drop the truck and then take a bus into centro, where I knew there were several Scotiabanks. Well, I ended up passing one near the Home Depot that wasn’t on either my GPS or Google’s list! I only spotted it because of the logo on a tower. At any rate, it was easy to access with on street parking. Not a great location, but better than some of the others I’ve seen.

I had a reason beyond office supplies for dropping the truck off at the Office Depot, but we’ll come back to that. I parked behind the store and then flagged down some men to ask them where I might be able to catch a bus to centro. They told me right there on the Prolongación Paseo de Montejo and that I’d have the best luck in front of the chicken restaurant (pollería) a ways up. That was solid advice and I soon found myself on a decrepit bus taking the scene route to centro.

Soon as we hit centro, I yelled out, “¡Baja!” to be let off and the driver yelled back that I had to wait till the next stop, which ended up being several blocks away. I was surprised because I would have expected that he’d just drop me while stopped at a red light. More about buses in a bit.

It was lunch time by this point and I really wanted to go back to the Pita restaurant I’d found last year so I could have falafel, but I was completely turned around and couldn’t find any of the landmarks that would have helped me find it. So imagine my delight when I just happened to pass it! I asked to sit in the courtyard and said that I didn’t need a menu. I requested the falafel sandwich, but subbing the mayo-y coleslaw on it for a bit of hummus. Not a problem! I also requested one of their super sour and oh-so-refreshing limonadas.

Like last year, I was brought as a free started some fresh pita with pesto, hot pepper spread, and herbed butter (the link above goes to a post with a better picture of the spreads!). I like all three mixed together.

Here’s my pretty lunch. The salad wasn’t nearly as nice as last year and the dressing had an odd flavour I couldn’t place, but it was still delicious!

The falafel aren’t quite spiced enough, but are close enough to perfection for me to continue to be giddy that I can get a decent falafel in my adopted city!

When the server came to check up on me, I told him about how I had eaten there last year when I was scoping out Mérida and that I now live here and just how happy I am to have a decent Lebanese restaurant within easy access.We chatted a bit longer since there were no other customers.

It started to spit as I finished up and I decided that it was time to head back to my truck. Again, I had work to do in the afternoon, plus a few more errands to run, so it really wasn’t a sightseeing day. Like last year, I had a really hard time getting a bus to take me back north. I find the buses here really intimidating despite having had lots of tips on how to use them. For one thing, it’s completely bull that you can just flag them down anywhere. There are definite stops all over the city, but they are not all marked… and the ones that are marked aren’t all in use!

I finally got on a bus that seemed to be heading near where my truck was parked. I followed our route on my phone for a bit and was grateful to get to about 1.5KM of my truck when we suddenly veered in the wrong direction. Sometimes, buses have really random routes, so I hung on for a bit hoping we’d get back the right way, but once I was more than 2KM out of my way, I asked to get off and, thankfully, was dropped almost right there and was able to just take Calle 17 straight down to my truck. By the way, taking the bus hadn’t been a waste since I did save myself 2.5KM as it was 4.5KM from centro to my truck!

The detour was worth it for passing the Chinese House or House of the 500 (casa china o de la 500). It was owned by a white prostitute who married a Japanese man. 500 was apparently the price of her services. At any rate, the house is magnificent!

It actually appears to be a private residence.

Back in the area of my truck, it was time for the real purpose of my being so eager to get to that part of Mérida, visiting El Fenicio… an authentic Lebanese bakery!

There’s really not more to it than what you see in that picture. There’s a rack with various products on it and there is some baking behind a counter. I was served by a lovely man who made me feel very welcome. I suspect we will get to know each other. 🙂

My treasures for the day were a jar of tahini made on site, a spice mix that is more oregano than sumac, and a huge stack of fresh baked pita. It’s finding a place like this that helps me feel at home in a new city.

I then went around the corner into Office Depot because they were having a sale on some of their headphones. I’d had bad luck buying headphones at the Office Depot in Maz, but some of the prices this week were too good not to take a chance. Of course, the pair I wanted was out of stock, but, get this, the manager offered me another similar pair that wasn’t on sale at the same discount! The ones I got are actually better quality and were still very inexpensive. The first pair would have been about 15CAD with the 30% discount and these were 20CAD. But I still only have a one week warranty on them. 🙁 At any rate, I still can’t believe the manager did that for me!

It was then really time for me to head home, but I passed the Superama grocery store that I’d been told would likely stock Earl Grey tea… and came home with this. 🙂

The had a very English selection of teas! But, like Mega, regular Mexican food was super overpriced. It’s another one of those places I’ll add to my list for unusual items, but not for a full shop. I also found chickpeas and garlic to go with my Costco lemons and the tahini to make hummus. 🙂

I then drove home, where it was raining hard! I feel like I teleported to another world! I went through a puddle so deep that I literally felt Moya starting to float before finding firm ground again. Bit scary and quite a lesson!

At any rate, I got in and gave my dog some love and attention before sorting through my purchases and checking out the linens I’d bought. The gal had included six face cloths instead of just five! The bathrobes are really lovely (logo hidden to not advertise a now defunct hotel), but they don’t have a belt. At $50 each (about 3CAD), it won’t be a big deal to find someone to make me some belts for them.

Here’s a map of my day:

When I was here last year, I identified Barrio Itzimná as a strong candidate for where I might want to live and today pretty much confirmed that I was absolutely right! I’ve come to realise that don’t want to live right in centro because it is way too noisy and will be a pain to drive around in and park (since I’m unlikely to find a house with a driveway). There isn’t much between centro and Itzimná and if you go further, you start to get into surburban hell with the big shopping plazas. Itzimńa puts me right between the two extremes and has all the services I want.

However, it is a very pricy neighbourhood and I haven’t seen much within my price range for rent there online. It will be worth going back out to pound the pavement and see what I can find in its vicinity. I have a pretty solid list of my wants for the neighbourhood I end up living in and today added a pollería! If I’d had my cooler in the truck, I would have come up with a grilled chicken for dinner as I found a really great deal for one with rice and onions. There is a pollería in Chelem, but it hasn’t been open the few times I was in town. I’ll have to ask someone next time if they have the schedule for it…

It was a really lovely day in town. Back to the grind tomorrow. 😀

I’m Not Moving to Progreso

My cleaner called this weekend to ask if he could come today instead of tomorrow, which was fine with me and actually better suited my work schedule. He arrived at just shy of ten and I took off for Progreso to try to open a bank account at the Banamex there and then have lunch on the Malecón.

I found convenient parking and then headed towards the water. Here is the pier I had to drive to get to Aduana. It is the longest pier in the world! Aren’t I lucky to have had a chance to drive it!

I lasted about two minutes on the Malecón. It was overrun with aggressive touts offering overpriced services and goods in US dollars to folks coming off the cruise ships. It was very unpleasant. After one woman hounded me to buy her bottled water for 1USD, I told her loudly so everyone around could hear, “I’ve lived in your country over a year now. I know that water is worth 8 pesos at most, less than half what you’re selling it for, and I don’t want it!” I was done with the Malecón after that and didn’t even want to go into the central market area that reminds me of Mazatlán centro because the harassment just continued there. Very disappointing, but at least that eliminated any inkling I might have to move to Progreso instead of Mérida. This is not the Mexico I want to live in!

As I headed back towards the main plaza where the banks are clustered, I passed a clothing shop that had a sign saying they do Amigo (TelCel pay as you go) top ups. For some reason, the actual TelCel shop I’d been to did not top up Amigo, so I was glad for this since I’m using my phone a lot here and forgot to top it up the last time I was out. I put on $200, which gets me unlimited talk, text, 1.5GB of Twitter and Facebook, and an additional 1GB for other surfing for 33 days, all good in Mexico, the US, and Canada. Amazing value!

Then, I went into the Banamex and was quickly served by an executive. He would have opened an account for me on a residente temporal visa, but my water bill was no good as proof of domicile. He wanted an original power or hard wired internet bill (not one printed off the computer). That will be impossible to get, so I resigned myself to trying out the HSBC. I know a lot of expats use them, but they don’t have many ATMs, so they’re low on my list.

On the way to the HSBC, I passed an ice cream shop and popped in hoping they would have “real” ice cream made with cream, not the more sorbet-like nieve I used to get in Maz. They did! And the first flavour I saw was my favourite, cookies and cream (galletas de Oreo)! A small cup of that was a very reasonable $15. I enjoyed it while I did some quick research on the various HSBC accounts.

I had a bit of a longer wait at HSBC even though the bank was completely empty. They told me the same thing Banamex did, but a print off from the computer would work. So that’s my best bet for getting a bank account in Mexico. I figure that if it doesn’t work for me, I can try again with Banamex once I have a notarized lease. So I will see if my hosts can get me a CFE bill, but I’m pretty much resigned to not being able to get a bank account until I get my own place. I still feel like I’m making progress, though. 🙂

I was ready to head home after, but it was only about 11:30 and while the cleaner would likely be done with my suite by then, he’d be in the kitchen and so making lunch would be difficult. So it made sense to look for an early lunch. The was a restaurant a couple of doors down from the HSBC, right off the main plaza, that looked inviting. I asked for a menu and it had tons of things on it that looked good at very reasonable prices. The owner gave me her list of specialities and mentioned her enchiladas mole several times, so that’s what I went with. 🙂

Underneath the hearty (and surprisingly spicy!) sauce is seasoned chicken wrapped in corn tortillas. There were five of them! With a beer, lunch came to $93, so $100 with the tip. I was suitably pleased. What I liked best, though, after my experience on the malecón was that while the menu did  have an English translation, they were very happy to serve me in Spanish and the other patrons were all Mexican. So I managed to find a place to eat  that wasn’t a tourist trap. Isn’t the dining room pretty? Everyone else was eating outside, but I had to get out of the sun a bit.

Here is Progreso town hall:

A “silla de confidente.”

The main square.

I love these orange flowers.

I then found my truck (parked behind city hall, as it turned out) and headed home. Now, time to get back to work!

A Lovely Evening Out for Dinner

I’d more than earned a nice dinner out, so I made a reservation for one at 6PM at the nearby Italian Bistro “Maasai Maya.” I’d been there with V and F and it had been really good, with great portions and prices and a wonderful ambiance, so that made more sense than trying to hunt down something in Chelem or even as far afield as Progreso. Talk about convenient for living in the middle of nowhere! 🙂

I headed out a little earlier than needed so I could test Moya. Just getting out to the main road, I saw a difference and when I made her do a bunch of turns in Chuburna, she was once again purring. Ah… peace of mind is a lovely thing. 🙂

The entrance to the bistro is right off of Calle 21, the principal highway, then you wind and wend through deep brush a very short distance to get to the restaurant. This is the inviting entrance and that’s their poor pizza oven wrapped in a tarp because of the weather we’ve been having.

It’s an open-air restaurant decorated in bright colours. The owners are expats (American, I believe) and the name of the bistro is in honour of a family member who was Maasai.

They don’t have a liquor license and make a wonderful bottomless limonada for just $25 so that’a a nice treat instead of just having water. Their menu is really lovely and reasonably priced. It includes salads, pizzas, pastas, panini, and more, but the best bang for your buck are their calzones, which are basically like a folded over pizza. I had their meat one last time and so ordered their Alfredo today, which has bacon, chicken, and broccoli in a cream sauce

It comes with a garden salad. You have a choice of a few dressings. I had ranch last time, so I went with vinaigrette this time.

Here’s my limonada, which had the perfect balance of sweet and tart:

You really feel like you’re in the middle of the jungle at Maasai Maya!

I love this M*A*S*H or Watson Lake inspired sign post. One of the slats has the info for Richmond, VA, practically where my best friend lives.

Here is half of my calzone, complete with marina dipping sauce. I asked to have the other half boxed up straight away to ensure that I’d have room for dessert. This was to be a very special meal, after all. 🙂

Here are the yummy contents. There’s pretty much all my favourite food groups. 🙂 I can’t believe I have another half to enjoy tomorrow or Sunday!

Dessert is double chocolate cake with your choice of ice cream. I went for cappuccino. 🙂 This was way too much for me, but I soldiered through. 🙂

My bill came to $180 — $90 for the calzone, $25 for the limonada, and $65 for the dessert. So $200 with the tip and I have leftovers for a substantial lunch another day. What amazing value! I think everything on the menu is reasonably priced, but the calzone is definitely a real deal if you take half home

Service at Maasai Maya is warm, like being invited into someone’s home. I’m glad they are so close by for when I need to get out of the house and try someone else’s cooking! They do takeaway and I have a menu, so I may order a pizza to go next time!