Eternity in an Hour

I cannot believe how much has happened over the last couple of days. It feels like I’ve lived a week since Monday night.

The big news this week was Tropical Storm Franklin, which has just gotten upgraded to the first hurricane of the 2017 season and is battering gulf coastal Mexico from Campeche to Veracruz. Mérida and Progreso were on the outskirts of the path, so we really weren’t expecting much to happen. I still made sure Monday night to shut down with all my appliances fully charged so that if I woke up to no power and internet, as Franklin was supposed to roll in over night, I’d be set. I also arranged for a light work day.

Well, Franklin wound up being a dud here. I’m really glad I did not stress out about it!

But… 3:30 yesterday afternoon, I lost power.

It wasn’t until almost 8:00 that I realised that I was the only one on the block without power, clueing in when I saw the streetlights and my neighbours’ lights on. I called the solar guy and he said that all I could do was call CFE (the power company) and he gave me the emergency number and walked me through the steps.

The number has been down for a solid 24 hours. I never managed to reach CFE by phone. I tried the Progreso office this morning and the two times someone picked up, they let me say about three words before saying, “No hablo ingles,” and hanging up quite rudely. Wow.

I did, however, make contact with them via Twitter, of all things. Last contact was at 8:45 when they asked me for my service number.

I had a fitful night because the power would come on for about 30 seconds every few hours and it kept waking me up even though I had turned off most of the breakers. I didn’t want to shut them all in case the power did come back so that the fridge would turn on.

When I finally got up at 7:45, I saw a message from CFE at 7:00 saying that they had dispatched crews to my area.

I was sure I knew what the problem was. The house has new “smart” meters that have very low tolerance to low voltage situations, even if they’re not at brownout levels. Over a series of exchanges on Twitter, I learned that this was what was happening and that others with smart meters in my area were also affected. So I knew not to expect a work crew at the house.

Somehow, I got through a ridiculous amount of work today. I kept the phone and computer charged through the truck battery. Get this — TelCel had gifted me a whole GB of data, so I didn’t have to pay anything for the bandwidth that got me through last night and most of today! I’m pretty sure TelCel has my business for life at this point.

It was about 5:20 when the power started to come on for 30 seconds and then shut right off. This went on until about 5:45, literally as I submitted my final job for the day, and then the power finally seemed ready to stay on. I let it go for a bit, then turned on the AC in my suite. All seemed good. My UPS (uninterrupted power supply) for the computer is advises me of power issues and said that all was good so I eventually turned on the other units.

What was frustrating during this outage is that the property has a grid tied solar system that was useless to me. My friend Shane wrote a very informative bit about grid tied solar and why it is incompatible with batteries. I’ll post it in the comments for those who are interested. Thanks, Shane!

Needless to say, I needed a cold beer after this and was very grateful to have La Barca within walking distance. I had a really surprisingly good burger with XX Ambar that helped restore my mood immensely.

Now, while all of this has been going on over the last 48 hours, I’ve also been organising a marathon house viewing schedule tomorrow! I’m seeing three houses for sure, five very likely, and possibly six!

First up is a house in Montecarlo (seriously, I really am moving up in the world, LOL). The exterior made me realise that I need to add covered parking to my List and the location is probably too far northeast, but at $7,000 a month, it will be worth a look. It has one of the better kitchens I’ve seen, with tons of counter space, a double sink (!), and no grimy cabinets. It unfortunately has those floors and that wall colour throughout, which is doing nothing for it.

The agent for this one has two nicer houses to show me, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to fit them in before my next appointment. They are $10,000 a month each, so it would be interesting to see what the extra money will get me.

The next house is also up there price-wise at $9,000, but by far the best location so far, right by the main north-south street (Calle 60) and the northernmost edge of the neighbourhood is only 5KM from the heart of Centro. This is the first house that I’m going to see that I think could be my first hard consideration. It also suffers from unfortunate blandness, but has some nice built-ins.

I’m curious about the third house as there are no inside photos. The agent says that it has the layout I want, but is “small.” That might actually be a good thing. Many of the houses I’m looking at are way more house than I need! This one is in Campestre, which many Mexicans have told me should be where I would be happiest. I dismissed the neighbourhood last year as being too far north, but now it’s in the running. The outside looks cute and it’s only $6,500.

Finally, there is a house that I may not be able to see until the weekend, but they’ll try to fit me in late tomorrow afternoon. So far in my house search, I’ve gotten butterflies in my belly twice, and this house is one of them. The first house that caused those butterflies is not available. This one is. I had a very definite idea in my head of what I wanted my first real Mexican home to look like and this house is the first I’ve seen that matches that vision, as evidenced by this room:

Look at those windows and doors! This is a house built for this climate.

It is way more house than I need (three bedrooms and two baths upstairs, maid’s room with bath and a study on the ground floor!) and $9,000 a month, but it speaks to me and I will not ignore it.

These houses all represent such a variety of prices, styles, and locations that I should feel ready after to make an educated decision and to start asking about things like internet service in the neighbourhood. Tomorrow is going to be a huge day, but I’m glad I’m going to fit in so many viewings!

16 thoughts on “Eternity in an Hour

  1. Grid tied solar is set up that way because during a grid down scenario they don’t need power feeding into the grid as it can hamper fixing downed lines BUT its also how govts managed to get power companies on board with people making their own power. Sort of a we all gain/we all suffer sort of deal. I believe its possible to set up a system that when the power goes out you could flick a switch (like a breaker) to use the power yourself and ground the rest instead of grounding all of it. Just not in your current situation and maybe not in Mexico(depends on how much influence the power company either had when the laws were made or currently has over government)

    • Thanks for that, Shane! In the RV world, there such a thing as a transfer switch like you describe, but I’m quickly learning that what I know about mobile solar doesn’t translate to the housebound solar world!

      • A great, simple explanation. Your house needs to be isolated from the grid during outages. It is not a hard thing to do and I am surprised they have not thought of it or invented it. All our telephone sites had them to prevent back feeding power down the damaged lines and putting the repairmen in danger.

  2. Exciting times! Your own home! Some interesting posts coming up. Almost had some house hunting in our future, evacuated from our spot in the Cariboo, we were away in Alaska, some anxious moments during our holiday. Back home, praying for rain!

  3. When we were apartment hunting we checked our phones at each location for signal strength. We don’t get paid for all the hours we spend on our computers but we would sure be lost without them.

    I hope you find the right one in your long day of hunting.

    • Good thought, but with the way Mexican houses are constructed, signal strength tends to be non-existent. I have a Wilson booster cradle that I will install in my office is need be.

  4. Re the bland floors and walls… I pass on something to you that a dear friend told me when I was house hunting and had the very same reaction you are having to the blah walls and floors. Think of them as a blank canvas. You can add “all the Mexico you want” via rugs, serapes, pictures, Talavera pots, etc. It will not be bland nor blah when you’re finished with it. I’d much rather have a blah floor than the checkerboard tile floor I saw in another casa you looked at.

    YOU can make it Mexico! It is only as bland and blah as your imagination. That advice served me very, very well, and opened my eyes to things I’d discounted before.

    So look at each with soft vision, imagining what it would be like all tricked out to your taste.

    Again, your middle will tell you – but leave room to “finger paint”, and be rid of the bland/blah that way.


    • Dean, I’m normally with you on this, but I lived in one of these very bland houses for a year and they are VERY hard to make cosy. All the white and/or beige with tiles makes them very “cold,” no matter how many blankets you buy. And with the walls being cement, you can’t really hang anything on the walls.

      • For concrete walls, 3M Command Strips are your friend! They come in various sizes and some are metal. The adhesive strips hold firmly if applied properly (clean the wall & press the strip firmly), but peel off easily leaving no residue when you want to reposition or move out. The large metal hooks can hold 5lbs./2kgs each if I recall correctly. Really they’re a godsend for any tenant!

        • I LOVE Command Hooks! I just wouldn’t trust them with my larger glass covered pieces. But they’ll be definitely used for pieces that wouldn’t be damaged if the hook failed.

  5. I’ve seen a bunch of Mexican homes on line and then visited in person. You really have to see both it and it’s surroundings. I have seen some lovely ones on the net but let down by the area it is in.
    I asked a realtor about bars being on the windows of one lovely house in Ajijic and he said it was to keep admirers away from the owners daughter. Of course why didn’t I think of that?
    I’ve looked at a few older homes and it really makes you wonder why they aren’t all built with a the high ceilings and the pasta floors can be exquisite.
    Have a wonderful time looking at these possibles, Merida is pretty level but I’d wonder what areas are prone to flooding or where it tends to accumulate. Maybe the realtor will give you a heads up there? It’s amazing the variety of houses there though isn’t it?

    • Colm, your comment is so timely! There’s lots of good stuff in there that I will add to tonight’s post. 🙂

  6. It is my understanding that installing bars on windows gives one a great discount on house insurance. It is more a financial thing than a safety thing alyhough it probably gives a sense of security to some.

    • That’s part of it. I will write about that in tonight’s post. Pretty sure I’ve written about it before, but it bears repeating. 🙂

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