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 Lot of Little Things Happened Today

Today started with initial contact with a potential new client. Business is officially back to normal! 🙂

But, again, I need a proper office. I had a long typing day yesterday and am paying for it in pain. But there is hope on the horizon. I posted a wanted ad for some office furniture and someone who just bought a furnished house and currently has doubles and triples of a lot of things responded. She’s putting together a price for me for my dream desk, a chair that will tide me over, a few bookcases, and the exact type of armchair and ottoman combo I was hoping to find for my house! She knows my budget, so let’s hope I can pay for it all!

It’s been a week since I went to INM in Progreso, so I checked the status of my application this morning and nothing had changed. But when I looked back in the afternoon, there was an update! I was told things move very quickly after that first update, so I kept checking back. Well, I can go back to immigration tomorrow to give them photos for my card and to get fingerprinted. This is really happening!

Monday is curry night in Chelem thanks to the Chelem Curry Club. Two British expats nearby make curry for takeaway on Monday nights! I had it last week and it was fantastic, so I put in an order for tonight to pick up at 5:30. They are just a few blocks away, so I can walk.

Here’s my filthy Moya who needs a good bath inside and out. I park her outside the compound because dealing with the gate and the dog is way too much.

Looking down my street:

Turning towards the beach. Can you see how turquoise the ocean is?

This is Calle 17 or the Beach Road. I can walk down it all the way into Chelem.

Monday night curry is a set menu for just $150. This is what you get, a container full of the main and sides, plus a piece of hot and buttery garlic naan.

Going clockwise from the bottom right:

-chicken Mumbai (creamy, coconutty chicken curry)

-served with pilau rice (ie. cooked in turmeric)

-onion bhajia (like a fritter) with mint yogurt

-saag paneer (spinach with cheese)

“all smeared with our own mango chutney and garnished with fresh cilantro”

Last week was similar, except I had a samosa-type thing instead of the bhajia and the chicken had a tikka masala sauce.

This meal is a real bargain at $150. It’s just a bit too much for one meal, but not quite enough for two. I would pay $15 to $20 in Canada for this meal and feel that I got my money’s worth, but it would be an occasional treat. At about $10, it’s something I plan to do every Monday that it’s offered. That’ll be next Monday, but then there will be a hiatus for three weeks. I am really impressed, to be honest. You can tell this food is made by Brits who are passionate about their curry!

After dinner, I played with the dog for a bit since he was being a brat, which I know means that he just wanted some attention. I wore him out! Now, I have to get back to work since I’m going to immigration tomorrow. I’m regretting take it so slow this morning since I’ll now be slammed tomorrow! But, hey, this really does beat the famine days! 🙂

A Quick Introduction to Chelem

My hosts are leaving tomorrow and I have a full day of dishwashing to look forward to to set up my kitchen. But I didn’t have dish soap or scrubby pads (everything has a greasy layer of grime from my long time away) so I decided to pop into Chelem this afternoon to get a few thing at “Willy’s,” what passes for a supermarket in this sleepy fishing village. I am about 2.5 to 3KM from “downtown” Chelem and can get there by the beach. So it is walking distance, depending on how much time I have, how hot it is out, and what I need to bring back.

First stop was to exchange an empty water jug for a full one. I’m not sure how I feel about getting drinking water there since the process doesn’t seem particularly sterile. My hosts buy bottled water for drinking at Costco (I think it’s a 1.5L size) and only use this water for doing a second rinse of veggies (yes, they do the initial clean of the veggies with tap water) and to use for making coffee and cooking stuff like pasta and potatoes. I’ll have to see what I feel comfortable doing.

This is a colectivo, or minibus, that goes to Progreso. I can grab one near my house to go into Chelem or Progreso and then take a bus to Mérida. Depending on what I plan to do that day, that will likely be my preferred way of getting around as it will be much cheaper than paying for fuel.

Here is the main plaza/square:

I walked around for a bit and this is a typical street:

I got what I needed at Willy’s (it’s a bit “better” in terms of selection as to what I could get at the City Deli on Isla) and then wandered a bit to see what was up and if anything smelled good for lunch.

I wandered into this covered area with some stalls on each side of the aisle, some open with food cooking.

Some ladies saw me looking at menus and were quick to tell me what they had available for lunch. I asked for two tacos and sat down.

I’d bought that bottle of Fresca at Willy’s and would regret having nearly downed all of it before my tacos arrived. See that green sauce over top? The lady brought me the tacos without the green sauce and asked me if I wanted chiles. Yes, of course. So she brought me back a little sauce. Great, I love the green better than the red! But I assumed it was the readily available commercial stuff, poured it onto each taco, and dug in. Well…

It wasn’t the commercial stuff. Oh, the PAIN. I don’t think I’ve ever hurt so good while eating Mexican food. LOL I felt myself flush and, of course, my nose started to run and my eyes to water. I doled out my Fresca, bravely finished, paid, had a five-minute conversation the ladies running the stand (one said that I really should consider Progreso over Mérida — more house for my pesos and sea breezes while still having access to all the services I want…), and then hoofed it to a store across the square to get a fruit juice! I then headed home and didn’t get lost or stuck in the sand!

I’m told Chelem will come to life as the hot weather comes and folks from Mérida escape to the beach. So it will be interesting to see if more things open. There really wasn’t much today.

Besides this lunch counter, I’ve also been to two expat-owned restaurants in the area. I’ll be going back to both and will do posts then. One does Indian (!) for takeaway that is at least as good as anything I’ve had in England (!) and the other has very good pizzas, calzones, and salads, all at super reasonable prices (expensive for most Mexicans, but a bargain by expat standards).

My hosts are leaving tomorrow and then I will get working on properly settling in. As I said, I have to wash all the kitchen stuff, but I also have laundry to catch up on so I can switch to my own blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, etc. Once that’s all done and I’m more properly settled, I’ll share some pictures! Now, I don’t plan to give a full tour of the property, but I’ll show you my space (living room/bedroom + bathroom), the kitchen, and the courtyard with the pool. 🙂