Operation: Devolución – No News Is Good News?

Well, unless I missed a holiday in there somewhere, the initial 20-business-day waiting period for my INM refund has passed. I was told if I got through it without any contact by SAT, I’m in the clear and can expect my refund within a further 20 business days (end of June).

I’m no more optimistic than I was a month ago that I’m going to be getting this refund, but I’m hanging in there. I don’t feel there’s any point in going to SAT right now to ask for a status update since I’m only halfway through the 40-day window, but I will go the first week of July just to clear my mind that I did everything I could to get back the 7,518 pesos that INM “borrowed” from me.

At this time, I’m in the process of gathering all the paperwork to go to Cancún to replace my passport. I cannot believe the incredible amount of extra fees Passport Canada is tacking on beyond a reasonable $25 out of country processing fee. Add in that they’re making me go through extra hoops by making me completely reapply, including having to send in my irreplaceable birth certificate, and I’ve got a better outlet for venting my anger than the government of my host country. This whole process that could have been avoided by having an actually water resistant (not proof — I have low standards when it comes to the Canadian government and technology) plastified page is going to end up costing me, between fees and the trip, about 500CAD — the amount of the refund that I’m waiting for. 🙁

That said, I’ve got a sitter lined up for Bonita so I’m going to try to make limonada out of the passport fiasco. The plan at this point is to rent a car (Better gas mileage! Air conditioning!) so I have freedom to do some tooling around and take a few days of vacation at the end of this month. Croft, I’m planning on going to Chichen Itzá and Valladolid. If you can think of anything else between Mérida and Cancún that I need to see, speak now or forever hold your travel advice. 😉

I’m trying to remember what else I wanted to update you all on, but memories of last week have been lost to the melody of keystrokes. I took it rather easy at the end of May, but June came in like a lion and I’ve done about seven days’ worth of work in the last four.

This morning, the gardener came to do some yard cleanup and now that we’ve agreed to make this a monthly thing, we came up with a plan of attack for the weeds for him and a shopping list for me. We want to get to a point where he’s not spending a whole day working on weeds so he can do exterior cleaning, paint touchups, maintenance, etc. While he was here, I had him confirm that I have a termite infestation in the exterior kitchen door and that I should keep doing what I’m doing (ignore it so the termites don’t move to my furniture) and the answer was yes and yes. But he’ll talk to the landlady to see what she wants done as she may choose to have the house treated just in case. I hope not — termite treatment is extremely poisonous, which is why I had my landlady in Maz wait until until I moved out (her preferred choice as well) before treating the house there.

Even with the gardener here (we chat!), I finished much earlier than expected tonight and decided to dress for town and go enjoy the last few hours of Mérida en domingo, when there is always a lot of activity around Plaza Grande. I posted a video to Instagram that did not get posted here and that for some reason has no sound. 🙁 So you’ll just have to take my word for it that it was very lively!

I bought a banderilla for a quick supper. That’s what in my culture we call a “pogo” and is also known as a “corn dog,” a hot dog on a stick covered in a deep fried corn meal batter. Not a bad treat, especially since French’s mustard is readily available here, and it’s what just about everyone was eating.

For my second course, I decided it was high time I tried a marquesita, Yucatán’s unique in all of Mexico answer to the crêpe. It is a very thin dough that is rolled around a filling and becomes crispy I don’t have four hands to juggle food and a camera, so go visit this page to see a picture of what a marquesita looks like.

There were a lot of carts offering them and I went for this one that had a sign explaining the history of the marquesita and the origin of its name (mar for the ocean, the appearance of the dough, and quesita from the word queso, cheese). I also liked that I could see what the different combinations are.

Click to embiggen and make the sign legible!

I asked what is traditional and was told just with the “queso de bola” as a filling. That’s Edam Dutch cheese. It is very popular here in Yucatán and you will find it in varying degrees of quality from authentic to sad rip-off. Read your labels before buying this cheese, but when you find a good one, it’s like a treasure because it’s so much more flavourful than the fresh Mexican cheeses (which are all delicious, but sometimes you want a cheese with a smell that’ll knock your socks off — if you wore socks, that is, which you don’t since you live in the tropics, but I digress).

Here’s a closeup of the two-sided griddle, rather similar to a waffle iron.

So I had my first marquesita with just queso de bola, even though I knew that queso de bola with Nutella is very popular, and I was so happy with my choice. I got to really taste the slightly sweet dough and how it contrasted with the sharp salty cheese (browned and crisped up with the crêpe inside, then a generous pinch of it fresh added into the top opening). I can see how this treat could get very addictive if one were to go on a mission to try different fillings and combinations! I love that McCormick’s strawberry jam you can see above to the left of the Nutella and that with queso de bola will probably be my next pick. But Nutella and queso de bola has definitely got to happen some day as I can imagine the salty-sweet combo would work well.

I did a final tour of all the vendors before heading home and was very amused when a very proper looking jewellery seller made sure to out a selection of nose studs! I’m not fussy about what material my earrings are made of, but I only wear surgical steel in my nose and since I couldn’t confirm the material these studs were made of, I passed. But the encounter made me realise that I’m overdue for a change. 🙂

Tomorrow morning, I’m going to Progreso to file with Aduana the copy of my new residency card. I was hoping to have the rest of the day off after typing 28 hours in the last 72, but ha ha ha ha ha. Anyway, I’m getting time off in a few weeks!

Bonita sends a snore. She’s worn out from all the excitement of having a new two-legged friend who fawns over her. <3

Last Run to INM, Hopefully for a Good Long While

I got up early this morning to finish a few small jobs and then hopefully have the rest of the day off (yes, but I have a full queue for the weekend!). By  the time I was done around 10:30, a torrential downpour had eased off, so I decided to go to INM to pick up my new residente temporal card. Since my truck was parked on the street and I was worried about getting caught in another downpour, I decided to drive.

That was a rather meh decision. The truck is so much hotter than is a bus and on the bus, I can do other things than avoid other drivers. Driving in Mérida isn’t hard/stressful, but it’s also not much fun. It was also surprisingly difficult to find parking (last time I parked in that area was to sign my lease and parking wasn’t an issue). I was finally able to ditch the truck just off of Reforma, one street north of INM (map below).

The waiting room was packed, but the queue moved quite quickly. I was finally funnelled to window 5, but told to wait in the main lobby. The second wait was barely worth mentioning. The person at window 5 was the same lady who had done my fingerprints last week and she asked how she could help me. She was surprised that my card was ready and I told her I got notice of that on the 23rd. That seemed to be the magic words because she went from doubtful to promising she’d be right back, which she was. I signed a ton of paperwork and finally was presented with my new card, good through April of 2021! Hard to believe that the next one will be for permanent resident status!

So now, I don’t need to go to INM again for nearly three years unless I need to file a change of address, want to add permission to work (ie. in my case start a business), or have a change in civil status (Prince Charming, you out there?!). What a relief this is! Now, to run up to Progreso to give Aduana a copy and possibly to SAT also for good measure. Although, I am coming up fast to the end of SAT’s “If you get through that period without news from us, your refund is imminent” period… Miracles could happen!

Going home from where I was parked wasn’t super obvious. I thought of turning right at Colón to go grab 60, but wasn’t sure I’d be able to make that left-hand turn. I ended up continuing to Cupules, going left, turn right (northish) on the first major street I crossed, and ended up at Circuito Colonias right in front of Bodega Aurrera and able to continue straight on a street that would, with a few turns, take me straight home. I’m really learning how to navigate here!

(I may have stopped in at Bodega for some fried chicken.)

I got in and realised that Bonita is getting to very loud (yippy) when I arrive. I can’t imagine it bothers the neighbours, but it’s something to be aware of. I don’t think she makes noise when I’m not around — she starts when she hears me. It’s rather lovely to know that someone cares that I’m home. I love her so much. 🙂

A More Stressful Morning Than Expected

I had an appointment at INM at 9:30 this morning to be fingerprinted and submit my photographs as the final step before getting my new residency card. The appointment card said to show up by 9:20. I decided to leave really early so I could stake a claim to a chair in case they were running late.

Well…

I signed in at about 8:50 and the waiting room was already packed, despite services not starting until 9:00. It was standing room only and they started to turn people away (made them wait outside) shortly after me. I went to the counter where you get funnelled to ask if I needed to check in and the lady snapped that I had an appointment and they’d call me when it was my turn. Ie. why would I need to “check in” when I’m expected? Duly noted for next time!

A chair opened up around 9:20 and I almost didn’t bother taking it since it was almost time for my appointment. But I’m glad I did.

Because I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Last time I waited like that at INM, they had “forgotten” me/skipped over my number. Finally, at 10:45, I cut to the head of the queue waiting to be funnelled to ask what was going on. I didn’t mind the wait — I had the day off and nowhere else to be. What I did mind was not knowing if I was waiting for nothing.

The lady at the funnelling desk was nicer this time — their systems were down and they were backed up! I couldn’t believe it because this happened last year too! She said I could reschedule, but I said I was fine waiting in case the system came back up before closing at 1:oo. She smiled and said that was fine and that I was actually next in line for fingerprints.

I went back to the waiting area and found a new chair. I barely had any more wait when I finally heard my name!

The visit itself was super short. I presented my photos and confirmed that they were new and not from last year. Then, I got my fingerprints taken the old fashioned way with ink. Getting my prints taken electronically has always been a huge pain because my hands are so dry so the old style might be messy, but it’s efficient!

I was then told my card would be ready in a week and to come back in two Mondays — one business week!  So that’s the 28th. I’ll try to get that day off as well so I can go to SAT and submit a copy of the card and then make my run to Progreso to do the same for Aduana.

It was just past 11:00 when I left. I’d thought to go “do something” today, but I am absolutely exhausted. I just wanted to sit quietly for a bit with a pot of coffee, so I decided to go home. But as I got to the Chili’s restaurant, outside of which I could take a bus to go home, I realised that they might have American-style coffee with free refills. So I went in and asked. They sure do so I ordered coffee and an early lunch. The coffee was excellent and they even warmed up the milk for me. I sat there for about an hour, just enjoying not being rushed.

When I came out, there was a bus I could take waiting at the red light so I flagged it down as it came through the intersection. The driver shook his head at me and zipped passed, only to slam on the brakes as the cars ahead of him stopped at the red light down the next block. The bus door was open, so I hopped on. That rather made up for last night!

My stop was 10 minutes-ish later. I decided to make one detour before going home — stopping at a blood analysis clinic not even a half-block from me to make an appointment to have my blood iron level checked as there is no reason but anemia, a problem that has plagued me on and off for the last twenty years, for me to be this tired. They’re expecting me Monday morning and then I’ll know what dosage to get on supplements to get me back up to speed.

I’ll eventually get government health coverage to deal with any big stuff that might come up health-wise, but for little things, I’m glad to have access to private clinics. I’ve gotten more routine/non-urgent medical care in Mexico in the two years sum-total that I’ve been here than I did in my 35+ years in Canada simply because it’s just so easy and accessible here (and affordable!). Since first paying out of pocket for a blood test in the US in 2011, I’ve been doing that when convenient rather than resorting to long waits and subpar service in Canada, but, of course, Mexican rates are a weeee bit lower. 😉

Bonita was super happy to see me when I eventually got in and even happier that I spent the afternoon on the couch with her watching a movie. I fully intended to go out tonight, but I don’t think I’m going to make it any farther than a taquería. I need to find something fun to do tomorrow — can’t just sit at home all day and squander a precious day off!

Operation: Devolución Is Officially a Nightmare

Back to the SAT (tax) office I went this morning with everything I needed to request my refund. I was given a number and told to watch the screen for a desk I would be called to. It took a while to understand the order in which numbers were being called, but I finally did and knew when I was next.

It was quite a long wait. I happened to notice the number on the ticket of the lady next to me and that she had just been called so I brought that to her attention and she actually waved dismissively and called me a bad name and said I had no idea what I was talking about. A few minutes later, she realised she’d missed her turn and would have to start her wait all over again. She’d been there two hours with a young child! Thankfully, everyone in her queue agreed to move one number down so she could go next. And somehow in all of that, she thought to apologise to me!

It was finally my turn and I went to speak with an agent at a desk. First thing she wanted to establish is whether I should have an RFC (tax number) — ie. do I have any reason to report income to SAT? I wasn’t stressed about that as I’d done my research (despite being told by someone who rarely knows what he’s talking about that I’d been misinformed). She looked at my bank statement and the ingresses were clearly being marked as coming from PayPal. “The PayPal payments come from clients outside Mexico and you pay income tax to Canada on those monies, correct?” I confirmed that. “Perfect. I’m pretty sure you don’t need to be reporting to us, but let me call my supervisor so he can confirm.” The supervisor came right over and confirmed the information.  So that’s both an accountant AND SAT officials who have told me I have no tax reporting duties to Mexico thanks to NAFTA.

And that’s where things fell apart. The SAT requirements are that I have to have my residency card to get the refund as that’s the only valid form of ID for the transaction I wanted to do. A different supervisor came over to see what was going on and she asked why I couldn’t simply wait until I get my card to do the refund. “It’s a lot of money,” is what I replied simply. “How much?” When I told her, she blanched. “My God!” she exclaimed. “No wonder you’re so upset, especially since it’s their fault!”

She spent a few minutes hashing out a few ideas with my agent. I had the letter from INM about my renewal and the two of them debated whether it qualified as something that is “refrendo.” I didn’t know what that word meant and the agent took a minute to Google Translate it for me (!) — endorsed or countersigned. The supervisor said that the letter had an official INM stamp on it so by her interpretation, it should suffice in lieu of the card in combination with my passport But she doesn’t make the final decisions and she said it’s possible that the request will be denied and I’ll have to start from scratch when I get my card.

So after much conferring between those two and the other supervisor who had confirmed I don’t need need the RFC, they decided that I had a very strong case since the error was on INM’s part and INM had given me a letter saying I was owed a refund. Therefore, it would be worth submitting my request. I cannot stress how absolutely amazing the three of them were — so empathetic, helpful, and kind. I felt that they were doing everything they possibly could to interpret the rules in my favour and create a solid dossier for me.

They had asked me to scan my documents onto a USB key but ended up needing more paperwork than I’d been told. They scanned everything that they were missing so I don’t have to come back — thank you! Last thing was to make a better copy of my passport and I was sent back to the waiting area until that was done, which only took a few minutes. I was there all-told about about 90 minutes.

Now, I am entering a FORTY BUSINESS DAY waiting period. If I haven’t heard anything from SAT within the first 20 business days, I can expect my refund in the next 20 business days. 20 business days takes me to the start of June, 40 to the start of July — three whole months since this whole debacle started. Again, for an error that was absolutely not my fault and could have only been avoided by the INM lady who didn’t do her job properly. So far, I’m out not only the visa fee, but also interest on credit accounts and all the time off I’ve taken from work (equivalent of two days so far).

So now, there’s nothing to do about the refund until the 20-day waiting period is done. The weekend before the INM error was discovered I came this close to buying a new computer chair (which I badly need — me duelen mucho las nalgas!). I had a niggle and didn’t buy it. I keeping going over that decision and what would have happened if I had bought the chair. I wouldn’t have been able to pay the new fee for at least a week later than I did, but I would be much, much more comfortable doing all this work overtime to compensate for the missing money…

As a side note, Croft was wondering how the poor and/or uneducated deal with how high tech Mexico is going and so many agencies requiring things to be done online or scanned. In the case of this SAT office, they have a large ACed room with dozens of workstations where people can do what they need to do for SAT and there are agents available to help those who are not very tech savvy. In front of every type of government building, you can find shops that will do copying, scanning, and printing for you (I once forgot a copy for INM and realised it only as I got there — so I popped into the shop almost right next door and had it done there for a mere 2 pesos). There are “ciber”s all over — “Internet cafés” where you can use a computer very cheaply. So in the places I’ve been, there’s a way for everyone to get done what needs done. I have no idea if this is universally true in Mexico, but I saw few barriers in Maz and here in Mérida.

I was sad that the coconut ice cream vendor wasn’t outside the SAT office today so I decided to instead pop into the Italian Coffee Shop (Mexican version of Starbucks) to see if they could make me an iced coffee. They served me a freshly pulled Americano on ice and it was exactly what I wanted — nice strong coffee and very cold. Not cheap at $29, but still better than Starbuck’s price of $36! Even with that detour, I was home, changed, cuddled to death, and sitting at my desk exactly 27 minutes from sitting down in the waiting area to get my passport. Just goes to show how close the SAT office is to me!

And with that, back to work I go. It’s going to be another very, very long day. I finished at almost 11:00 last night and it’ll be the same today.