Do NOT Open an Account at HSBC Mexico

(Post 136 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

I have been banking with HSBC Mexico for four years now and it has been a nightmare that I’m glad to finally start to put behind me.

I’m getting entrenched here and the banking system is going more and more digital — I need a reliable electronic payment method. HSBC’s debit system goes down frequently and it is always denying my online and debit purchases, refusing automatic payments to services, cancelling bank transfers after telling me they went through (to the point that I’ve been accused of being a thief/scammer by a Marketplace seller), and even denying me cash withdrawals at ATMs. It wasn’t until very recently that I finally had the good sense to talk to Mexicans about this and see if I just have unreasonable expectations or if HSBC is a bad bank. The consensus is that HSBC is the bank you go to if no one else will have you…

The last major debit outage was my last straw. I’ve got a bit of a “HSBC is a crap bank” support system on Twitter and everyone told me to give it about a week and then move to another bank as there was going to be a flood of folks wanting out in the days after the outage. All the advice I got was to move to BBVA, Mexico’s most technologically advanced bank. As it turned out, an ATM-only location nearish me just finished a remodel and is now a small full service location that is easier access and much less intimidating than the main branch all the expats go to. Today was the day I had all my paperwork in order and was ready to go.

Today is also the day that HSBC rejected payment requests from my internet and power providers, would not allow me to transfer money from my savings account to my chequing account so I could pay my mortgage, kept timing out when I tried to pay at the dentist, and would not let me take out all the money I wanted at an ATM. Just a normal day banking with HSBC Mexico! They’re like the Hotel California, happy to take your money but not let it leave!

I did not have an appointment at BBVA, but decided to try to open an account as a walk-in. No problem, they weren’t busy, and I was promptly served. What a difference being a permanent resident makes — my being a foreigner wasn’t an issue. Quick interview (including that I have no tax obligations to Mexico) and I was offered the right product for daily needs, told to come back in a month or two once I’ve fully closed out HSBC so I can open a new investment/savings vehicle, and was advised that I should plan on coming back in six months for a credit card, something HSBC keeps offering and then denying me. The agent said that I was one of several dozen people he’s switched from HSBC in the last couple of weeks and that he cannot believe that they won’t give me the time of day considering the amount of money I put through my account every month. He was appalled that I’ve been here four years and still have no credit history. He’s hopeful that six months after I get my credit card (so a year from now), BBVA will consider refinancing the house mortgage in my name so I can take control of it. Fingers crossed!

I’ve started the labourious process of switching everything over to BBVA. I had initially thought to keep HSBC as a “backup,” but based on today, that’s a laughable thought. I’ll make sure all my preauthorized debits have transferred to the new account and that I’m able to successfully transfer money in, and then I’ll go close the HSBC account. As a backup and to help with budgeting, I’m going to use a fintech account, a digital account that you can load with small amounts for daily use. I’ve had one for ages but HSBC won’t let me make transfers to it (but of course!) so it has had limited use. I like the idea of being able to transfer a set amount per month to use with food delivery and ride share services to keep me on budget.

Other advantages of BBVA include that the app is much easier to use since it doesn’t make you jump through hoops to get a “token,” the app generates disposable debit cards for one-time purchases, you can make withdrawals without your card at ATMs (as long as you have your phone), you can create virtual partitions in your accounts (rather than have multiple accounts) for budgeting purposes, and you can “turn off” your card on your own if you notice any weird activity on your account. I also like that if you have to go in person, they have a numbering system and chairs so you don’t have to stand for hours if they are busy.

I had to take a photo for facial recognition by the app (separate from Apple’s Face ID) and it was probably the first time in my life I was happy to have my picture taken. Can you tell why?

Yep, BRACES ARE OFF!!! 🙂 Took twice as long as we’d hoped, but it was so worth it. I never thought I’d be happy to show my teeth! I get a week’s respite and then I have to start on the retainer, but at least, eating is going to get easier again!

Today was another Good Day.

Visiting Pomuch, Campeche, to Witness Hanal Pixan Rituals

(Post 135 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

Today was pretty darn special as I took my first trip since lockdown! It was to the village of Pomuch, Campeche, to view traditional Hanal Pixan (Day of the Dead) Rituals. Please note that this post does have photos of human skeletal remains and that those photos were taken with permission to share.

I’ve been on a very late schedule these past months, often not waking before 8:30, so my 5:45 wakeup call this morning was a tad brutal even though I tried to get to sleep early! I turned on every light in the house, so I didn’t even have to go wake up Bonita so we could have some time before I left — she knew what the lights meant!

We were scheduled to leave from the “Remate” at 7AM, so I called an Uber for 6:30 and it was right on time, so I was super early. We were a small group of about 14. Before I knew it, we were headed out of town, a long drive south on Calle 50. There is rarely a good way to get to the periférico (ring road), but at least there was no traffic at that hour.

I could not believe it was foggy.

We had a stop for the bathroom and coffee.

Fog!

Crossing the state line was a lot of fun. Folks were not being stopped at this one. Where I crossed from Campeche to Yucatán in 2017 was more like an international border crossing!

I haven’t seen cornfields like these since Serbia!

Note La Huachita; it will be important later.

First view of Pomuch, which is a pretty typical small town with a pretty centre around a square and more rustic outlying streets.

Our host family was up all night preparing “pibs” for themselves and us. The full name is mucbipollo or sometimes pibipollo, hence “pib.” It is a hearty stew cooked inside masa in an underground “oven,” similar to a tamal.

These are ready to go into the oven when the oven is ready. It has been raining so much in Pomuch that the ground is saturated, so there was a fear the pibs would not cook properly. So ours were taken to the La Huachita bakery to be baked in wood ovens.

We then got a lesson in how to make the pibs. The “col” (stew) was made first, boiling “recado rojo” (a mix of spices including achiote) with tomato, onion, bell peppers, garlic, chicken and pork. We then saw how the masa (corn meal and lard) is shaped, filled, and then sealed in banana leaves. Some of the group members assisted, but I felt that there were enough cooks so I just watched.

Meanwhile, they were heating the stones over wood. The wood would eventually burn through and become ash while the hot stones would fall into the hole.

The meat is not prepped before it is stewed, so it goes in with gristle, bones, and other bits you need to pick out. So, spoiler, you’re supposed to eat pib with your hands.

This is epazote, a local fragrant herb. It is usually added to beans.

Making the “lid.”

The rocks have fallen.

Hot chocolate (to be revisited!).

While the stones continued to heat, we headed to the cemetery to witness the ritual of the washing of the bones. I could write a whole book just about this ritual, which is unique to this part of Mexico. The most surprising bit of trivia is that this is not from the Mayans but rather can be traced back to… Celtic rituals. Bodies here are buried for three years, exhumed, and then the bones are visited once a year to be cleaned and to change the cloth on which they rest. This is a way to stay closed to your loved ones, and the ritual can take all day, depending on the number of generations you are caring for and how many people are involved. Today, children assisted like it was the most natural thing to do. It was lovely to see. The bones belong to the grandfather of the lady with the blue sleeves. I was surprised by how casually the bones were handled, although the skull was very carefully placed back on top with the mandible.

Ordinary paintbrushes are used to brush dust (mostly crumbling bone) and cobwebs from the bones.

I had to laugh when I saw one of the crypts had the same tile as my new bathroom!

Grandparents (elders) never die, simply make themselves invisible. They are still with you. You just have to listen to them with your heart.

We spent quite a bit of time at the cemetery. I caught a bit of discussion about how altars are made with the deceased’s favourite foods and then there is a ritual for everyone sharing in the offerings.

We then headed back to put the pibs in the oven.

First, all the whole pieces of wood are removed as they can negatively affect the taste, then the stones are evenly distributed.

Side note to say that my dream after I finish paying for my city house is to have a simple country house with a backyard like this as a weekend escape!

Once the pibs are placed on the stones, they are covered with leaves, which will impart flavour.

The leaves are covered first by a tarp and then a sheet of metal, then dirt is piled up until no smoke can be seen. Then, the pibs cook up to 2 hours.

We were getting hungry, so it was time to go to “downtown” Pomuch to visit the La Huachita traditional bakery and get the pibs meant for our lunch.

These small towns tend to have all the basic services. I saw both a Willy’s and Dunosusa, small grocery stores with the essentials.

Different state, different vocabulary. All of us fluent in Spanish had no idea what most of this meant!

I was surprised that they let us into the back to see the wood ovens. Check out the loooooong paddles!

And I thought my Kitchenaid was impressive!

Cake flour meant to make the bread of the dead (pan de muerto).

I did not leave empty-handed since we had a cooler in the van. I bought a “pinchon chico,” a giant baguette filled with ham, cheese, and jalapeños, which long-time readers will recognize as one of my favourite sandwich fillings here. I sampled it while hot, but saved it for supper and lunch tomorrow! I’d hate to see what a grande looks like! All for $80, a cheap way to feed a small family!

These are the pibs we picked up.

SURPRISE, beer materialized! A cuartito (190mL bottle) was the perfect treat to not knock me out!

Pib was exactly what I expected it to be, hearty, greasy, and a bit bland. I think the local habanero sauce would perk it up, but it’s served as-is, although a few Mexicans ate whole habaneros with it, but there were not enough to share.

I ate a full portion as I tend to eat a large meal like this once a day and one or two smaller ones, but don’t snack. I loved how tender the meat was, falling off the bone, and the top was a little thinner and a bit caramelized, my favourite part. This seems to be an inexpensive way to feed a large crowd in a special fashion.

Dessert was hot chocolate, made from scratch with cinnamon. I love Mexican hot chocolate!

It was then time to dig up the other pibs. Some guests ordered one to take home, so we had to wait for them to cool down a tad.

We ended up heading home a lot earlier than expected, which was fine with all of us as we were a tad cooked and drowsy from being so well fed! We thanked our generous hosts and piled back into the bus. I soaked in more of the greenery, realising that once I get a car (an active project) I’ll be able to get back to nature more frequently.

Some fellow adventurers were heading to Progreso, so they offered me a much appreciated lift home. As I expected, Queen B had spent the day sleeping and had to be rousted!

What a great day! I got out of town, learned more about the culture of my new home, met some lovely people, enjoyed good food, and took a proper day off, something I haven’t done in way too long. This was the first activity organized by this group and I hope to attend more!

Oh, So That’s What Life Was Like

(Post 134 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

Today was my first “normal,” by prepandemic standards, day since March of 2020! I ended up having two social events! Mondays are my best chance to get a day off, just because of the cycle of my clients’ schedules, so I worked hard all weekend to clear my desk so I could enjoy my day!

Some fellow digital nomads had organized a brunch at a newish restaurant fairly near me, Alma Lima. I’m way overdue to meet new people since most of my favourite people left during the pandemic. 🙁 I don’t know if I made any new friends today, but at least I put myself out there. This was my first time back at a proper restaurant! The food and service were great, but my favourite thing was that they have a bottomless cup of good coffee. That’s what makes me happy, not fancy coffee drinks, not tiny cups of espresso, just a bottomless mug of coffee that lasts the whole meal.

Their menu was high tech! You take a photo with your phone and that opens up a page with the menu.

They had traditional breakfasts like chilaquiles and molletes, as well as a variety of egg dishes, pastries, bagels, and more. I’d had chilaquiles and molletes this weekend, so I went with a Croque Monsieur, a ham and cheese sandwich bathed in béchamel sauce, followed up with an excellent plate of fruit with so much on it — blueberries, strawberries, apple, grapes, and, of course, tropical fruits like pineapple and papaya. The restaurant also kept giving us free things, like a watermelon/lime “shooter,” biscotti, a lime and mint slushie, and a chocolate truffle with our bills! I will definitely be back since they are walking distance from me.

One of the ladies asked me what I was going to do after. “Swim, read a few pages for work, maybe have a nap, and then go bowling,” I replied. “Sounds like a great day!” Indeed. So, this is what I’ve been working for beyond the mortgage…

I got home and jumped in the surprisingly chilly pool. What a treat after a hot walk! I then plopped myself in front of the fan upstairs, B at my feet, and read for a few hours. I really don’t consider that work-work.

My Uber showed up late to get me to bowling, but the driver knew the city and a shortcut with less traffic, so we did make it in time. Despite enjoying two Indio beers, I played one of my best games ever, 331 over three games, two of which were over 100. Muscle memory?!

I did some window shopping after, popping into Suburbia to look for dresses and Flexi for sandals, but struck out at both. I was properly hungry by this point, having had only a little bit of birthday cake at bowling as ‘lunch,’ so I did another “before” thing and popped into PF Chang‘s to order a pad Thai to go. I love how they park you at a table to wait and bring you a beverage in one of those pretty glasses.

Unlike last week, I had no trouble getting a ride home, so my food was still piping hot when I got in and after spending some time with B who needed attention after being left alone twice in one day!

Dinner was great. There are a couple of other places to get pad Thai, but this one tastes the most like what I’d expect for the dish. I have it with shrimp and tofu, no egg.

Today did me a world of good, as did how I ended it — by putting a deposit on a (day) trip next month! I’ll be going out of state, so it definitely counts as a trip!

So just like that, after 18 months of introversion and focusing on rebuilding the foundation of my life, I am reengaging with the world.

A Nothing to Report Update

(Post 133 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

If you want to skip the video, here are the highlights:

-my “new” kitchen is amazing
-my new office is amazing
-my new bathroom is amazing
-my new reading corner is amazing
-my new bedroom is amazing
-my new master closet room is amazing
-my pool is amazing
-my house overall is amazing
-I made a smart sale and investment last year and bought an amazing new iPad Air
-I work way too much but work is amazing
-Bonita is amazing
-I have, amazingly, started bowling again

Custom Headboard

(Post 132 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)