Setting Up My Command Centre

Today was the day to go pick up my new-to-me desk! The day went off without a hitch. The cleaning guy arrived on time and got to work on my suite so that it would be ready when the furniture arrived. My promised help told me they’d be there “around ten” and it was just shy of that when they pulled up. Off we went to La Ceiba. By the time we got through the very long queue to get through the entrance of the gated community, it was eleven.

The helpers are Mexicans I’ll refer to as M and R in this post. They work for the expat, D, who did the solar system on the house I’m minding and do all manner of labour. They’re really great and I’m happy they were available to help. D provided the truck and M and R the muscle today so that there were two trucks and four able bodied people to load, with the fourth being A, the husband of the maid at the house where I was getting the furniture, since D can’t do any heavy lifting.

M and R got to work dismantling the desk while I brought the bookshelves to the truck with A. I hadn’t actually seen the bookshelves in person and I gasped when I did since they are absolutely wonderful, deep enough for my biggest books and with heaps of adjustable shelves, as well as aesthetically pleasing.

We managed to get two bookshelves in Moya as well as the shelves themselves and some bits of the desk. M and R Tetrised the desk and the remaining bookcase into D’s truck. D had tie down straps, so he helped M and R get everything secure and off we went. It felt like we’d been there for ages, but we were out of there in 36 minutes!

I raced home ahead of them to get the dog out tied up and the gate open. The cleaner was just finishing up my suite, so that was perfect timing!

D took it slow because he didn’t want anything to fly out of the truck, which meant that he got caught in a big storm and all my things got wet. So first order of business was to unload his truck and dry off everything. The bookcases are solid wood, so it didn’t really matter, but the desk is particle board, so it couldn’t get soaked. That’s really not a great material for this climate and the desk isn’t aging well, but it’ll still serve me for a bit.

D took off once his truck was unloaded and then I backed my truck in to unload it. It was then time to figure out how to fit everything into my suite. The bookcases were a no brainer, but the desk was tricky. We tried a few configurations, keeping in mind that four months is a long time to be tripping over stuff. Finally, we came up with this:

I agree with M that it’s nice to have that “wall” separating the office from the bedroom. I don’t need the tables that were front of the couch and there’s plenty of room to walk between the desk and the end of the chaise longue. Once we agreed that this is where the desk was going to go, they reassembled it for me.

I asked if they’ll be able to dismantle, move, and reassemble it for me in the fall and they said of course, as many times as I want… but they agree with my assessment that the next move needs to be the last. Anyway, it looks pretty good, feels great, and fits in the room!

There is tons of space between the bed and the desk. We could have moved the bed closer to the bookcases and the sofa down as well, but I’m trying to keep the furniture rearranging to a minimum. This works absolutely fine for me.

Unpacking my books was like finding old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time.

The desk setup isn’t perfect yet, but I’m waiting to see where I’m moving before I start buying any bins or baskets. I am really pleased that the file cabinet drawer was able to hold all my files with room to spare!

Speaking of moving, I spoke to the maid about that and she gave me some invaluable house hunting advice. She says that a standard layout in Mérida is a house with two beds and a bath upstairs and a “cuarto de servicio” (service quarter — room with bathroom) on the ground floor for a maid… and that this is not advertised as a three-bed, two-bath! So she told me to widen my search criteria because I could be very pleasantly surprised by what a house with two bedrooms actually has. I did a quick listings search after I set up my office and was shocked to find a bunch of two-bedroom houses that do have the cuarto de servicio on the ground floor! What I found were much smaller houses than I’ve been looking for (ie. more manageable for one person) and, of course, the price is lower so that opens up my search radius!

I had to do a job this afternoon and by the time that was done, I was completely exhausted, having worked really late last night so I could be off this morning and then not having had enough sleep. I was also ravenous since I’d had breakfast at seven, skipped lunch because the cleaner was in the kitchen, and had only two small peanut butter wraps mid-afternoon. I really, really, really wanted to order a pizza, but I would have had to go pick it up.

So instead, I got some pork thawing while I put my room back to rights. By the time that was done, the pork was ready to cook and I was able to throw together a really yummy stir fry with udon noodles, the pork, and tons of veggies, plus Blue Dragon sweet chilli sauce. So instead of eating a carb heavy meal that wouldn’t have done me any favours, I had a healthy dinner (with leftovers!) that truly left me nourished. It’s important to be good and kind to yourself, even if it takes work to do so.

I’m sure I had more to say, but my brain is fried and I have to go do some prep work for a job I’m doing tomorrow. I rather can’t wait to get back to work in my new office. It’s so great to have room to spread out!

Into Suburban Hell for a Good Cause

One of the things on my to-buy list when I got here were bedsheets. I wanted to wait to see what size bed I would have and buy sheets to fit it, then I’d buy that size of bed when I got a house. I determined that I have a full size bed (matrimonial) and off I went to price good quality sheets in 100% cotton that wouldn’t pill.

I didn’t have much luck. Even though fabric is super cheap here, decent sheets were over 100CAD a set at places like Sears, Liverpool, and Costco!

So I placed an ad on a local classifieds Facebook group describing what I wanted. I actually wouldn’t mind gently used sheets because then I’d know for sure they wouldn’t pill.

Tuesday afternoon, I got a message from a gal saying that she had a lot of used linens from a hotel that shut down, all in good condition, and she happened to have two sets of full size sheets (the rest were queen and king). My ad said I preferred dark coloured sheets, but these were white. Otherwise, they were everything I wanted. Moreover I’d said I’d be willing to pay $250 for a set in my ad, but I could have both sets for $300, plus five big face cloths for just $35. Was I interested? Um, yes!

We made arrangements for me to meet her in Fraccionamiento Las Americas, on the north side of the perificico coming into Mérida. This is a new neighbourhood in the cookie cutter, American suburbia, car-centred style that sounds like my idea of hell.

She said to meet her at the Oxxo coming into the neighbourhood and send her a text when I arrived. I told her I’d be there around ten and was there right at ten, so I expected to have to wait for up to an hour for her to show up. I don’t know when I’ll get over my pathological need to be on time when it is an impediment here! At any rate, she texted me right back to say she’d be five minutes and almost exactly five minutes later, there she was!

The sheets were absolutely fantastic, lovely thick cotton that will wear well and be easy to wash. There are a few tiny spots, but nothing alarming, and they are plenty good enough for a guest bed, hence why I wanted two sets. The only thing I’m not nuts on (and why they are so cheap) is that they are all flat sheets. So they’ll be a bit more work to make the bed. However, I had no trouble at all getting the flat bottom sheet to stay in place in Hebden Bridge so it really isn’t a big deal. The face cloths are brand new and amazing quality.

Transaction complete, I was able to drive around that glorieta (pauses to translate that into English, having forgotten the word, LOL), I mean roundabout,  you see in the picture to head back to the highway, and then take advantage of a retorno almost right there to head back north. I ended up being gone about 75 minutes total.

I am going back next week to pick up giant bath towels, more face cloths, and bathrobes. I better have guests at some point to put this stuff to good use! 😀

Post edited to add: all the spots came out with a bit of bleach, detergent and sun! Don’t they look great?!

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 Not Particularly Restful Day Off

Oof, it’s been a really full day, but hopefully one that will have worn me out enough to get a solid night of sleep. I didn’t sleep a wink last night, the second time that’s happen in the last week, which tells me that I’m spending too much time in front of the computer, finishing too late, and not giving myself time to decompress before bed. At any rate, I wanted to run into Mérida today to do errands and I had someone coming by between eight (when I said I’d be up) and ten (when I said I wanted to leave) to come look at an issue I’m having with the water system.

I got up at eight as planned, made Puppy a nice breakfast (he loves scrambled eggs), and made myself a coffee, which I enjoyed outside in the courtyard for the first time. As I did so, I surveyed the absolute wreck that was said courtyard and the pool because of the winds and rain we’ve had all week. I’m never hungry when I’ve slept poorly, so once I was done with coffee, I got to work setting the pool and courtyard to rights. By the time all of that was done, it was nine and the helper was honking at the gate.

Thanks to the troubleshooting I’d done, he was able to quickly determine what was wrong with the water system (pump keeps cycling because the system isn’t staying pressurised) and he also had a look at the roof leaks. He told me to get some sealant at Home Depot today and he would have “his guys” apply it this week. He also told me to try to get another pressurizing tank for the water system, but if Home Depot didn’t have them, he had another source and would pick one up himself. Before anyone gasps, I was left funds to draw on for such situations! My hosts are lucky to have such a wonderful friend and I’m glad the ice is broken so that I have someone to call on for help if anything else crops up. I thought he was just “the solar guy” and didn’t realise the relationship was so close.

I was hungry by the time he left, so I had my leftovers from last night (mmm…), moved some money around so I could make a couple of withdrawals, put on a pretty outfit, and headed out around ten.

First stop was the Scotiabank at the Liverpool mall. Their ATM was out of order. I went to another one a few kilometres away, well out of my way for Home Depot and my other stops, and it, too, was out of order. Augh! I was therefore looking at nearly $20 in ATM fees at another bank since I would have to make several withdrawals.

Next stop was Gran Plaza, a mall, because I knew there were several banks there so I could do my withdrawals. I figured I could also do a couple of errands there and then come back after Home Depot for groceries since there’s a Comercial Mexicana there, which is the name Mega goes by in this part of Mexico, apparently. But it’s definitely the same store, has the pelican logo and everything.

Getting to Gran Plaza involved a lot of driving around in circles looking for the entrance to the parking lot. I know that I’m going to learn my way around here and things will get easier, but that was surprisingly frustrating today and more energy than I’d planned to spend so early in the day!

At any rate, I finally made it to the mall and did my withdrawals at the Santander. I decided that since I was there and had all my paperwork, I would try to open an account. There was a long line for the tellers, but I saw a stand at the back with a sign saying to sign up to see an executive. I looked at the sign up sheet and the first “reason for visit” listed was to open an account, so I figured that I was doing the right thing by adding my name to the list and then taking a seat instead of standing in line.

I waited for quite a while, probably close to 30 minutes, before my name was called. The man who helped me was kind enough, but told me that Santander doesn’t open accounts for folks on a residente temporal visa status. He said that every bank is different and he suggests I check with HSBC, Banamex, and BBVA Bancomer in that order. I don’t want to go with HSBC because of the dearth of ATMs and Bancomer will never see me again after they were so hard to get my money back from, so that makes Banamex my next choice (especially since there is one in Progreso). Unfortunately, the one by Gran Plaza was closed today. So opening an account is on the list for this week.

I really wanted to go with Santander because I like how their ATMs give small bills, but temporary residents can’t be choosers, apparently. I understand that Mexican banking has tightened up their regulations because of the war on drugs, but it’s a shame for folks who are trying to get settled in this country. They’ve very likely lost my business for life. Who am I going to be loyal to, the bank that said they don’t want my business until I’m a permanent resident or the bank eager to help me settle in on this first stage of my immigration journey? At any rate, I knew the bank account thing would be work and I’m not daunted.

Next, I went to a store called Compu8 to get a cable for an external hard drive and some ink for my printer. Dang was the woman there cranky! She was one of those rare store clerks I’ve met who prefers to pretend she can’t understand me than to serve me. Thankfully, after what happened at the City Deli on Isla as well as the Velcro Incident, I know I’m not the problem and don’t let myself be intimidated. I got the cable I wanted (pricier than I would have liked, but necessary) and they also had the ink (cheaper than expected).

Then, I thought I might as well check out the food court since I was getting peckish again. Chinese sounded good and the stand that got my business was the one handing out free samples. 🙂 I couldn’t believe how generous the portion was and I actually ended up not being able to come close to finishing. But dang was it all yummy. I got chicken balls cooked in orange juice with big chunks of pineapple, chow mein, and broccoli.

Next up was Home Depot (almost right next door), where help and my plumbing vocabulary were lacking, but with some perseverance, I was able to confirm they didn’t have the right kind of tank. Thankfully, the sealant was easy to find and someone helped me with it because it came in a very heavy bucket! A cart guy at the exit asked if I needed help getting the bucket into my truck and my answer was oh… yeah. 🙂 He asked if I had a roof leak and I told him how I’m minding a house and the owners are in Canada and nobody’s ever been here during the summer and, well, I practically took a shower in my bedroom last night, the recitation of which left him in stitches. He asked me what I had to seal (glass against cement) and he said that I had the right product (Thermotec) and that it is excellent. Well, it’s what my hosts wanted, but it’s good to hear another positive review of it.

I then went back to Comercial Mexicana and managed to find parking fairly near the store. My list for there was all the imported sauces and condiments I can’t get at an average Mexican grocery store. I got most of the stuff on my list, just missing tahini, but I have another source for that that I’m holding out for. Their bakery had the black bread I loved in Maz, but not the raisin bread. I treated myself to a pair of goggles for the pool ($25, $30 off!) since I like to swim underwater and my eyes have been getting irritated. I’d been tempted to buy a pair before, but the ones I’d seen were over $100. So I knew I was getting a great deal. I didn’t buy anything I could get at an average store since the prices are so much higher. But I got sushi vinegar, sesame oil, sweet chile sauce, udon noodles, etc. The only thing I struck out on was the Earl Grey tea, but I have a few more places to look for it before I give up.

My final stop was Costco where I dropped a whopping $2,300, but it was absolutely a planned and smart shop that should save me from having to go back into Mérida for groceries for a while. It was the shop I wanted to do when I landed, but didn’t have the money for.

I’ve been looking for a drying rack for my clothes, really necessary now that the rain has started, and Contessa suggested I look at Costco. That was good advice because they had a really heavy duty stainless steel one for $550. That’s something I’m going to need in my own home when I move, so it made total sense to drop the pesos for one that pricey, never mind that I haven’t seen any drying racks at other stores!

I also stocked up on meat and a bunch of things that made sense to buy in bulk, like these bags of limes and lemons for just 4.50CAD and 6CAD respectively (WOW). I can just throw the fruit in the freezer and pull out singles as needed. Once nuked for 15-30 seconds, they’ll produce more juice than when fresh.

Philadelphia cream cheese lasts forever and I was able to get four bricks for just $90 or 6.75CAD, when one brick is normally about 4CAD in Canada. Cream cheese is a total luxury back there, but here it really is a staple (and goes so well with black bread!). I also got a giant bag (900G) of grated Parmesan for just $193 or 14.50CAD. I buy a small wedge for that price in Assiniboia

I think the only thing I felt stupid paying for was $250 for four big containers of Clorox cleaning wipes, but they really do help me stay on top of my housecleaning and were a great deal. Well, I was delighted when I checked my receipt to discover that I got a $64 discount on them, so they only cost me $186! So, really, even though I was shocked that I dropped over $2,000 in one trip, there was nothing I didn’t need that didn’t make sense to get a bulk purchase discount for.

One other thing I like about Costco is that you get a discount if you pay with cash rather than plastic. I saved $150 on top of my other discounts for using cash!

Well, that was enough money spent for one day and I was beat, so I headed straight home, really enjoying the drive now that my truck is running well again. 🙂

At home, Puppy was on his best behaviour. He let me tie him up so I could open the gate and bring the truck into the yard to unload and laid quietly until I was done unloading and unpacking. We then played for a bit before I jumped into the pool!

Well, I thought I was going to get a full day off, but I just looked over my task list for tomorrow and realised that I’ll have to get a very early start to get through it. So I’m going to try to get a start on it right now, but I firmly plan to quit before eight!

The cleaner is coming on Tuesday and I’ll try to get away again to do a fun trip to Mérida. We’ll see how well that plan works out. 😀