Chelem Chicken

Amusingly, my work flow went from RED ALERT to wondering if I’m ever going to sleep again in the space of about 12 hours. I’m booked through to the end of next week. Wow!

Since things have been so slow, I’ve been taking it easy and haven’t felt much pressure to go out and run errands. So of course I’ve ended up with just about no food in the house and the nearest restaurants being closed. Therefore, huge work day be damned, I had to run into Chelem today for emergency rations.

I’ve been here, what, five months now? And I have yet to manage to time a trip to Chelem with the sale of chickens. I’m either way too early and they’re not cooked or I’m way too late and if there are any left, I’m concerned about how long they’ve been there because they really don’t look fresh. Today, I was determined to be there around 1PM, a time during which I’ve ascertained there should be cooked and still fresh chickens available.

First, I went to Willy’s to get some cheese as well as food for Puppy. I had cash, but decided to try my new debit card. It worked!  Unlike with Canada’s Interac system, the money is not yet debited from your account. It works more like a credit card, where your available balance changes, but the amount has to post.

I don’t know yet if there is a fee for using the debit card. I’ve had fees for depositing cash into the account and a PayPal transfer so I wouldn’t be surprised. I’m really starting to wonder if I will actually save money having the Mexican account, but regardless, the practicality makes it worth having!

I then went to a chicken stand almost right by Willy’s and, sure enough, there was cooked non-scary chicken left. I asked for the price of half a chicken. The lady sized me up and said, “Half is $55. Whole is $95…” I grinned at her and said I’d take the whole one.

I watched as she bagged it up for me, then added baggies of rice, salsa, and a mushy white thing. When I got the bag, I fished out the white thing and poked it, completely confused as to what it might be. So I asked.

It was mashed potatoes.

I’m still laughing at the look on her face at my question. It says a lot about my diet and my expectations for food here to not have recognised the contents for what they are! Since I was obviously new to the world of mashed potatoes, she slipped a second baggie of them into my bag, saying that I would find them so delicious that I’d need a second one. 🙂

One final stop for water later, I was home (and amused that Puppy was way more interested in the water than the chicken!). I laid out my lunch and tucked in. The chicken was great, of course, and much meatier than other chickens I’ve bought in Mexico. The rice was like the rice I recently has in Mérida and must be the way it’s cooked in Yucatán. I don’t care much for it, to be honest. I didn’t sample her hot sauce, saving it for leftovers since I’d had hot sauce at breakfast and was still feeling it. As for the potatoes, they were very tasty indeed! It’s a rare day that I prefer spuds over rice!

Thanksgiving is on Monday, so I should have at least one leftover meal of the chicken and spuds with gravy, peas, and carrots. 🙂 I’ll miss the cranberry jelly, but I’d have to go into Mérida for that and that’s not happening until at least Saturday. But, hey, at least when I get to Mérida I can actually afford to go pick up a few pieces of furniture and get some paint mixed up! The tides of fortune do ebb and flow… 😀

Autumn Comes Even to Yucatán

I can’t believe I’m down to my last weeks here!

Unfortunately, my house move isn’t going to go as planned/hoped for. After starting off super strong, September (and the past several months!)’s workflow dried up overnight and October is promising to be more of the same. For the first time in ages, I have to take things day by day. Thankfully, I’ve so far been able to pretty much fill all my work days, but I forgot how stressful it is to sit and wait for work to come in!

I have touched base with all my clients to confirm that they’re just slow and that there’s nothing wrong with my performance and was suitably reassured. Usually, I can just enjoy these slow periods and the free time they bring, but finances are super tight, as one can imagine they would be at this setting up a home stage. So this means I’m focused on essentials only right now and have to be prepared to move into the house pretty much as-is. Thankfully, I have everything I need to be comfortable!

I’m again super grateful that I rented a house with so much good furniture. I don’t care that I’ll have to keep cooking on a hot plate for the foreseeable future, not when I have three comfortable places to sit and dine, a proper workstation, a bed (even if it’s in the wrong room), a couch to relax on, and a fridge to keep the beer cold!

A certain someone did send me a housewarming gift (thank you again!) and I am watching the classifieds so I can spend it on either shelving for my kitchen or a storage solution for the master bath! And, of course, I’m still planning to move and paint the desk before the end of the month. 🙂

That’s what’s going on on the new house front. There was some excitement here in Chelem over the weekend in that I had to take Puppy to the vet. He’s thankfully okay and our bond has strengthened since he was such a good boy on his adventure. I sure am going to miss him! It was really gratifying to be able to handle the whole situation in Spanish although it took a few tries before the vet thought to say “Does he have an anti-scratching necklace?” for me to understand that she meant a flea collar!

I’ve spent a lot of time in the last year or so pet sitting and I’m glad to have had my only real vet emergency at the end of it or I might never have done this again. Pet owners: empower your pet sitters! It was really reassuring to have permission and funds to do what needed to be done to give Puppy the best care possible. Again, he’s fine and this was not a life or death situation, but it was still not much fun to have to tell a pet owner that their baby is in less than optimum condition!

At any rate, to my surprise, even here in the tropics, it is most definitely autumn. The days are super short — it’s fully dark around 6:45, meaning that I have to do my outdoor chores much earlier in the day and then finish my work quite late to make up for the long lunch — a great way to ease myself into more of a Mexican schedule! It’s also surprisingly chilly in the evening and the pool has been downright cold! I don’t enjoy an after dark before bed swim anymore and it’s even not that nice at 4ish. Today, I swam around 2ish and didn’t last long. Quite surprising!

Here is a photo I took on Saturday evening (last evening in September). In Mexico, there are palm trees at the end of the rainbow….

Use an Old iPad as a Second Display with the Duet App

A couple of weeks ago, I made a comment on a forum that mentioned that I have an iPad 2, for which I got a lot of derision for having such “ancient” tech. People are really awful. *shaking my head* At any rate, some of my long-term readers might remember that I got my iPad as a bonus at my apartment management job back in late 2011. Because of this, it has quite a bit of sentimental value and I haven’t wanted to part with it. I still use it for playing some games and watching Netflix, but I favour my (also “ancient”) iPad Mini 2 and can go for weeks without touching my iPad 2.

The other piece of tech I have is a 13″ Macbook Air. The display actually feels more generous to me than did that of my old 17″ Macbook Pro, but it’s not always enough. I have a non-transcription client the tasks for which make me rue my tiny display. It would be really help to have another display where I could put the reference materials I keep having to flip back and forth to. I also have some transcription clients with documents or videos I have to refer to that would be nice to have on full display all the time. But neither of those needs would justify shelling out for an external monitor.

Well, in between all the trolling on the forum, one guy replied that he had an “out in left field” suggestion to make since he remembered from another comment I’d made that I only have a 13″ computer display — why not use the iPad 2 as a second display using an app called Duet? This would connect the two devices over USB, allowing for a more stable connection than other similar apps that connect over WiFi.

I was intrigued and did some research before shelling out about 20CAD for the app. This was a fraction of what it would have cost me to get set up with an external monitor as I would have needed to get a Thunderbolt “splitter” so that I could have both the display and an Ethernet connection.

I downloaded Duet on both my Mac and my iPad 2. Duet is also available for PC, but I don’t know how it works for a PC. On my Mac, the app shows up in my menu bar.

I just turn it on there, make sure WiFi is on both the Mac and the iPad 2, plug the iPad 2 into my Mac, and voilà! It just works.

Not only can I slide any app window to the iPad, I can slide one (or more) Safari tabs over and work with some tabs on the Mac and others on the iPad. The iPad has to be on the right-hand side of the computer as it adds space to the right of your screen.

The only disadvantage I’ve found to this setup is that since the iPad is feeding off my computer battery, the computer battery drains more quickly. I therefore prefer to plug the iPad into an extra port on my keyboard. This means that the iPad doesn’t stay charged, but I can go at least a full work day on an iPad charge, so this is good solution for me.

Duet is a breeze to use and immediately fit into my workflow. I leave the app on all the time and it’s just a matter of seconds to put my iPad in the stand (if I happened to take it out for some reason) and plug it in. The stand is actually a heavy metal bookend that came with my desk and a binder clip. I got inspiration on Pinterest. There are tons of other free or nearly free stand ideas on there that use things from around the house rather than shelling out for a pricey purpose-made stand.

The iPad is the perfect size for the content I want to display. This is really all the extra space I needed and I can’t believe that a random stranger’s tentative comment solved a problem I couldn’t see myself solving in the near future due to the cost, as well as making a nearly obsolete iPad useful again. I made sure to thank him profusely!

Spoiler: In Which I Get a Mexican Bank Account (and 21st Century Connectivity)

Yesterday was an absolutely insane work day. I woke up thinking I had at most two hours to do of typing only to receive an actual call from a client in a panic — one of her typists got in a bad accident and was out of commission, leaving a mountain of work that needed to be done. The amount of money I was offered to work a 14-hour day was worth it and, thankfully, the files were easy and mostly interesting. But even with how committed I was, there was really too much to do in one day and I was grateful to have a few hours to finish up this morning.

That done, just as I was about to head out, I got a text about the shelving I was going to go pick up — apparently the husband sold them under his wife’s nose. 🙁 She was quite upset and sent me pictures of other shelving she had for sale, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. At least she got me before I left and drove to the very south of Mérida!

Since I now had some extra time, I loaded a few more things into the truck, including the shelves for my bookcases so there will be less to move on furniture moving day (possibly this weekend).

I then headed to the house and got there around 11:30 after stopping at the bank. The maintenance man was there doing a final clean, which was really appreciated. I’ll still want to go over everything, but he did a lot of the heavy scrubbing for me, especially in the guest shower. This was his final visit to the house and I got his keys after. The house is all mine now! 🙂

Since I expected to not have internet and wanted to go to the internet office in person (since I had such a hard time understanding the rep on Saturday), I’d parked on the street instead of wrangling Moya into a parking bay. So imagine my delight that I had internet and phone service! I promptly did some downloads to test my internet and called my mother to test my phone (again, I can call Canada from both the cell and the landline at no extra cost).

I cannot believe how easy and fast it was to get my internet service! Yes, today is a week from when I had the techs come in, but remember that I haven’t been at the house. If I was actually living there, I would have known something was wrong by Thursday morning, called, and solved the problem straightaway.

Since 50Mbps was the last reasonably priced speed, after which costs went up exponentially, I decided to start with that. I was delighted that I just about get that speed with wifi:

I Facetimed with my parents later in the day using my phone to give them a virtual tour of the house and while the connection wasn’t perfect, I had service all over the property. Woohoo!

Compare that to my speeds in Chelem:

The connection in Chelem has been absolutely fine! Really! It’s very stable and except for a few outages and uploads being a tad painful, I’ve been satisfied. I mean, I can watch Netflix without buffering! But it really was great to download and upload in a blink while doing my tests in Mérida!

My landlady showed up around 1:00 and we did a final walkthrough. Then, she suggested that we go to the bank together in her car and that she would drop me off later. I said that I definitely wanted to go with her, but that I’d make my own way back since I was meeting very near the bank a guy selling a faucet.

We got to the bank, HSBC, at just shy of two and waited and waited. There was a gentleman ahead of me in line and by 2:10, I knew I wasn’t making my appointment at three. Well, imagine that the guy let me go ahead of him! He said he’d been waiting for 2.5 hours (OMG) and that an extra 30 minutes wasn’t going to kill him. I still can’t believe that.

The bank rep had to speak to his manager and a few other people before he could confirm that he could open the account for me on a residente temporal visa. The manager said that if I had my passport, migratory document, proof of residency, and an existing client right there to vouch for me, we could proceed. I did have to explain that my FMM (“tourist card”) had been changed for the residente temporal card.

I was a bit shocked, though, that even for their most basic account I had to deposit 2,500 pesos and was thankful I’d gotten some cash earlier or that would have been embarrassing. Other banks I looked at only wanted a 1,000 peso deposit. I was reassured that I would have access to those funds within 24 hours, but warned that if I don’t keep a 2,500 peso balance, I’ll have to pay 100 pesos per month in account fees instead of only 30 pesos. Business is slow right now, the current US-CAD exchange rate is killing me, and expenses are high, so I’ll take door number one please. 🙂

My account will be linkable with PayPal (for which I’ll need a separate Mexico account) and I’ll have online banking (including the ability to pay bills), and a debit card. Seems very similar to having an account in Canada. I do know that Mexican accounts tend to nickel and dime their clients, so I have to go over my account documents very carefully to make sure I understand all the fees.

While the mountain of virtual paperwork was being filled out, the faucet guy texted to let me know he was at the meeting point, a full 30 minutes early. I apologised to the bank man and my landlady and quickly dealt with that, telling the guy I’d probably be a few minutes late and begging him to wait. He said no problem.

Once all the paperwork was completed (and I’d convinced the guy that I don’t need to sign any IRS forms), I was handed my debit card and was able to encode it with my chosen PIN. That was pretty funny — the guy said to enter your “NIP” and then he caught himself and said, “I think you call it a PIN?” I replied, “Actually, I’m French-Canadian and do my banking in French, so it’s definitely a NIP!”

The meeting went very well, linguistically speaking. I sometimes had to ask for clarifications and my landlady had to translate (ie. repeat what was said in different words), but, really, I could have done this on my own if I’d had to.

Once everything was signed, it was 3:00 and I had to go to the teller window to deposit my 2,500 pesos. Thankfully, there was no wait for that! And I had another one of those lovely moments where someone was a bit brusque with me at the start of a transaction and then completely softened as he realised we could communicate.

Done, I was going to race off to the meeting point, but my landlady said that was ridiculous and to get in her car. En route, I texted the guy that, “I’ll be there in five minutes in a yellow car!” and he replied with, “I’m blind if I miss you then!” We pulled up and the guy was exactly where he said he’d be, in front of a hospital right by where I rented an apartment last February. That was fantastic because I knew where I was meeting him and how to get to a bus to get me home. So I thanked my landlady for her help and sent her on her way. She’s amazing. 🙂

The faucet appeared to be exactly what I wanted so I bought it. The guy bought the wrong model for his house so it’s brand new. Here it is:

It really looks strange — the faucet part is like what I imagine for a kitchen, but the handle is more for a bathroom. I really hope that it fits. If not, I’m sure I can sell it for what I paid for it and start over. 🙂 There are two covers for the holes in the sink where the existing taps are, so that reassures me. Anyway, I’ll see what my installer has to say and for 324 pesos (22 CAD) I think it was worth the gamble. It really feels nice and solid. (Edited to add: I just Googled how to tell a kitchen and bathroom faucet apart and the first link showed nearly exactly my model of faucet as being for a kitchen!)

I’d thought to hang around Centro for a bit, but it was an exceptionally hot day (you know the weather’s not normal when the locals are complaining!) and the faucet was heavy. I didn’t want to look for a bus, so I just went to the Hyatt on Calle 60 as I knew for sure I could get a bus there. Sure enough, the first bus that pulled up was definitely going to my part of town. It was only a 3.3KM ride and cost me 8 pesos (0.55CAD). At that price, it’s really not worth driving to centro and I plan to use the bus a lot, although I’ll probably use cabs to go to other parts of town. The bus system here really isn’t very good and the buses are in really dangerous condition anyway, so I’m not as keen to learn the bus routes as I was in Maz.

By the time I’d given my parents the virtual tour of the house, I really had to get going as Puppy was going to be needing his supper. I did stop at Chedraui for coffee and Costco for (almond) milk and a slice of pizza. I usually just get sauce and cheese, but they had a new flavour that I just had to try even if I had to wait five minutes. You see, my absolute favourite pizza topping for non-Italian pizza (what you find on this side of the pond at places like Dominos or Little Caesar) are red onion, pineapple, and sweet Italian sausage. You can’t get sweet Italian sausage here, but Costco came close, with their new pizza having red onion, pineapple, and… al pastor meat! OMG, it was so good. 🙂 I’m not crazy about the sauce on the Costco pizza (way too tomato paste-y), but as long as they’ve got the al pastor version, that’s where I’m getting my pizza fix. 🙂

I missed a rainstorm while I was in Costco and drove home in increasingly blue skies. Puppy was glad to see me!

Well, now that the challenges of renting a home, opening a bank account, and ordering internet service are behind me, it’s time for some new ones. Next on the list are healthcare coverage and a driver’s license!