A Measure of Linguistic Confidence

My time and Spain and my interactions with a Spanish teacher in England apparently helped me pass another mental barrier when it comes to my confidence level in my Spanish. I know I did very well at the border and with immigration and customs, but it wasn’t until the last couple of days that I’ve come to realise that I’ve finally settled into a wonderful place where Spanish generally isn’t scary or an effort anymore and things that were mentally taxing just a year ago aren’t anymore.

Take last night for example. I was absolutely brain dead and couldn’t bear the thought of any more mental gymnastics. I wanted to put on a movie and let myself be swept away. Well, the movie I picked, which I can’t recommend highly enough, Lion, was only available with Spanish subtitles over the Hindi and Bengal dialogue. I decided to give it a few minutes and, sure enough, the Spanish subtitles were as comfortable as French or English ones. I think I paused the movie all of four or five times to check a word or verb tense I wasn’t sure about.

Then, there was today, which was the day to finally take Moya to see a mechanic. Money is trickling in and not feeling comfortable taking her far is really beginning to cramp my style. The directions I got to a mechanic who was recommended to me by not only an expat but also a Mexican neighbour were easy to follow. No one was there, so I called out and an elderly woman came out. I asked for the mechanic, she called for him, and then she started chatting. Now, it’s harder to understand older uneducated people and kids using a lot of slang, but I still followed what she was saying. Then, the mechanic came out and I explained what was going on. Now, here’s the thing. I’d only come in with one three new words, the verb dejar that I’ve been practicing and which was useful for saying I just wanted to leave the truck for him to look at whenever he could, the verb girar (to turn), and the noun cojinetes (bearings, as in I think that’s what’s wrong). That’s all I needed.

It’s hard to describe how I felt as I went into the garage, but there just wasn’t that knot in my stomach I’d get at the start of my Mexican adventures when I’d pace back and forth outside of a business going over all the possible ways the conversations could go so I could be ready for them. I don’t do that anymore. I’m at the point where I’ve finally accepted that I’m fluent.

Do I ever fall flat on my face and have failures in communication? All the time. Are they the end of the world? No. I go back over the exchange and look up words I didn’t understand or was missing. Because I’m not needing to pick up a lot at a time, I’m not overwhelmed and often the new words stick, especially if I make an effort to use them. I was dismayed today that I almost forgot about dejar, but when I finally blurted it out, the verb was mine and officially part of my vocabulary, as is girar. I’m not sure I’ll need cojinetes often enough for it to roll off the tongue, though. 🙂

Whether I’m scanning ingredients on a can of something at the grocery store, skimming a trashy magazine at the grocery store, chasing down the guy in a truck with a loudspeaker blasting that he has watermelon, stopping a tortilla deliverer to see if he could come deliver to my house periodically (sadly, no), or taking a funny quiz on Buzzfeed, everyday Spanish has become comfortable. Now, that I’m this point, I need to stop thinking of watching Spanish movies and TV shows or reading Spanish book as “homework” and just start doing it regularly without making a fuss about it. And then, when I finally move to the city in the fall, I really need to start socialising with Mexicans. I’m already doing research on courses I could take, everything from painting to Mayan history, that could get me out of the house and meeting people beyond my immediate neighbours.

So at any rate, the mechanic said he’d look at Moya first thing tomorrow and message me what’s wrong and the cost. Hopefully, it’ll be no worse and ideally better than the brake job I had done (which was over $4,000, or about 300CAD at the time) and I’ll find myself with a trustworthy vehicle again. After I left her, I went into a shop around the corner to get a bottle of cold water for the nearly 3KM walk home, and set off. Well, just as I passed the limits of the town proper, a van screeched to a stop ahead of me. It contained three expat ladies who are basically immediate neighbours! What timing!

That worked out well because it started to storm shortly after I got in. We lost power for a bit and I discovered that the skylights in my suite leak. I spent some time on Skype with the hosts talking about that and some plumbing problems I’m having that I troubleshooted on and off well into the evening.

Somehow with all of that, I got through a mountain of work today and still managed to finish early enough to watch another movie. It’s no wonder I’m sleeping so well considering how worn out I am by bedtime! 🙂

I’m trying to take it easy this weekend and possibly go to Mérida for a day on public transportation, but that’s proving more difficult than expected. There are buses that stop very near my house, but they tend to be full and I could wait for hours to get a seat on one, with the same thing in reverse. I might make more sense to wait until I’ve got Moya running again. Thankfully, there’s enough going on here that I don’t feel too claustrophobic yet. 🙂

And with that, ¡Buenas noches, queridos lectores!

Once Upon a Time

Stories I will tell when I am an old woman rocking on my porch…

Once upon a time, I had homes with no running water in winter and that required effort to heat. It was normal for me to survive half the year as I hung on to the promise of a few months of respite from the drudgery.

Once upon a time, I had bosses who were downright abusive and made me question my self-worth even as I worked myself to the bone for them. I had jobs that required back breaking manual labour and jobs with mind numbing tedium.

Once upon a time, I believed what my society told me, that to have a “good life” I couldn’t begin to live until I was in my sixties. And that the good life came at a hefty price tag I wasn’t sure I wanted to work hard enough to pay for anyway.

Once upon a time, I finally quit the rat race to search for my own version of the good life. Followed years that had long periods of hunger and drudgery that were a small price to pay for the wonders I saw.

Once upon a time, I found myself having high tea in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I finally understood what people meant when they said they had “arrived.”

Once upon a time, I chose to live where there is a perpetual summer. I turned my back on survival and began to demand more for myself.

Once upon a time, there was a day when the housekeepers took care of the tedium of house minding while I worked hard at my own enterprise. I then had a Skype meeting with a client and cemented a new contract that would secure my immediate future. After, it was time to go for a swim, play with the dog, lie on a chaise longue with a cold beer and bask in the sun for spell, and finally I made a lovely dinner in my spotless kitchen.

Once upon a time, I realised that over the course of several years I had inched my way across a line that could never be crossed again. That I wanted comfort and beautiful things and to be able to take an evening off without feeling guilty about it. I had found the Good Life and, best of all, I could not only appreciate it, I had earned it.

A Couple of Really Full Days

I’m rather regretting not finding the energy to blog last night because my memories of yesterday are already pretty fuzzy…

I’d been working on this tedious project with seemingly no end where all the files were taking me more than twice the normal length of time for that client. I’ve been burning the midnight oil to keep on top of all my projects and getting up early to as well. I think I was running on about six hours of sleep last night when I got up to finish what I hoped would be the last of the tedious projects. I had another two projects due before bed and I had to make a run into La Ceiba, a community just north of Mérida, to pick up my new-to-me computer chair.

I finished the tedious job at last and started on the others to get a feel for how long they would take. And then I took a break to vacuum the swimming pool. Yes, that felt like a break. First time doing that and it went well. I was told I wouldn’t need to do it for a few weeks yet, but there was a lot of dust at the bottom of the pool from the wind we’ve been having. Might as well keep on top of my chores!

I was expected in La Ceiba between 3:30 and 4:00 and took off at the last minute. Driving there, I realised just how comfortable I am here already. I’ve not experienced the culture shock I did when I returned to Canada. Strange, huh? As I headed south, I decided that I might as well make a Costco run, too, since the store is just a bit further down the highway.

I thought it would be easy to get to La Ceiba because the entrance is right across from the Coliseo, but, of course, after multiple signs announcing La Ceiba, there was no sign for the exit to take that would bring me to its nearest retorno. So I caught the next one and had to double back a lot further than planned. I then had a very long wait at the gate to enter this exclusive community. Thankfully, my phone had reception, so I was able to let the seller know I was there!

I finally made it and was able to view two of items I’m planning to purchase, my dream desk and a “good enough for the price” computer chair. I’m also buying three bookcases, but, like the desk, I cannot pick them up till June 23rd. The seller made arrangements with her housekeeper for me to pick up the rest of the items on the 23rd. It was great to meet another expat who speaks fluent Spanish without being at a native level (I had more vocabulary than she did, but she had more verb tenses). So now, I have to find some strong arms and a bigger truck to help me move the desk and bookcases. It would be way too may trips in Moya. In Mazatlán, I’d book a pick-up truck taxi (auriga), but they don’t have those here. I’ve got some leads. I’ll need similar help in the fall, so I can consider this a test run.

So next stop was Costco where I dawdled even though I really needed to get home. Sometimes, you need a break… Shopping there is a new experience for me and it seems like it’s meant to be a treasure hunt. I found today in the office supply section something that wasn’t there last week, a three-pack of good scissors for just $140. I’ve been needing new scissors for a bit, so I was happy to put those in my cart. I then meandered through the food and was probably the only single person to ever go to Costco, pick up one of their giant bags of Brussels sprouts, and go, “Yup, that should do me for a bit.” 😀

I also bought a six-pack of beautiful coloured peppers, a huge block of Chihuahua cheese for only $100, another case of almond milk (toldya I’d have no trouble getting through the first one!), peanut butter, chia seeds, chicken breasts, and more. I enjoyed the samples as I went along and knew I was getting the hang of Costco when, thirsty, I went in search of, and found, someone peddling cold juice. My favourite sample were chicken and cilantro Chinese dumplings for only $120 for a huge bag, so I bought one since I have quite a bit of freezer space here. My total for my shop was $1,200, which I’d consider a success. I know I’ll be buying my meat there when I’m living in the city.

I grabbed a slice of pizza before heading home (their Hawaiian is not nearly as good as their plain cheese). The man who took my cart back to my truck for me insisted on packing my cold things into my cooler for me and made sure everything else was packed for easy transport in my bags so he got a $5 rather than $2 tip. I have to say that the cart guys at the grocery stores in Mexico make grocery shopping so much more pleasant.

I finally got home and by the time I had everything out of the truck and put away, it was almost seven. I got back to work and typed non-stop until about eleven, knowing that that would mean a much needed slow morning today. It was only then that I decided to see if the computer chair would work with the table I set up in the bedroom, which would let me spread out and set up my first proper office in eleven months. I thought the table might be too high. But NO.

So instead of winding down to go to bed, I put this together:

Aaaaaaah. The only thing I haven’t located yet is my printing calculator, which I’ll need since I still haven’t done my taxes (due June 15th). But what an improvement! I’m seriously lacking in storage, but The Desk will have tons so I’m not keen on buying too much right now.

By the time I finally got wound down enough to get some sleep, it was well past midnight and I fell asleep just past one.

And was awake at eight. *sighs* Well, a solid seven hours is better than nothing.

I had to go to immigration and, to be honest, I really didn’t feel like going out again. But needs must. I took my time with breakfast and got started on some easy jobs due this afternoon, then headed off to Progreso. I parked at Bodega Aurrerá since I needed a few things there, INM is just two or three blocks away, and the store parking lot exit is right at a retorno for Mérida.

There was no one at INM, so I was able to immediately sit down with Alejandra, the lovely clerk working the desk. She confirmed that their system is back up and running and started to put some things into the computer. She handed me the original copy of my letter confirming my residente temporal status as well as my CURP number! That’s like a Mexican Social Insurance or Social Security Number and the piece I was missing to be able to open a bank account! I really feel official now! She accepted my photos and then I had to give her my fingerprints, using real ink on paper. And that was it! She says she’ll likely have my card for me next Wednesday!

I headed back to Bodega Aurrerá where the first order of business was to find a dish drainer because I’m never going to be one of those people who dries her dishes when they’re done. I had my choice of two ugly models, stainless steel for $150 and plain white for $75… or this cute little turquoise number for $45. SOLD. 😀

I also wanted a clothes drying rack because one of the dog’s lovely hobbies is to pull clothes off the line and destroy them. He’s already eaten my favourite headscarf, so I’ve decided that even if it’ll take longer, I’m going to dry clothes indoors. 🙁 Alas, Bodega Aurrerá did not have any drying racks. I was able to get a few more things on my list including some containers to store things in the bathroom because I have zero storage there.

I also bought myself what can only be called a self-indulgent present… I’ve been wanting to get back into Legos for a very long time and decided today to see if there were any inexpensive-ish kits in the toy section. Well, folks, I bought myself a new RV! LOL

I got in and started on the first of three loads of laundry. I knew that by the time I was ready to dry anything, I’d be moving around the house for a bit doing chores and whatnot, so I’d be able to keep an eye on the dog (who is otherwise really lovely, by the way. I’m having fun with him!). I finished the pressing work I had due today and then I decided I’d earned a proper break. So off I went to build my RV!

The van looked a little ghetto at first.

But it ended up pretty cute. I love how Lego designers pay attention to small details, like doors that open…

… and license plates!

Here are the van and trailer together. So cute. I’m infinitely amused that the only thing with fine detail in the trailer is a coffeemaker!

Lego’s instructions had the man driving and the woman cooking and taking care of the dog. I rectified that.

I then spent the afternoon continuing to get sorted. I dealt with the huge mountain of laundry, was able to store away the owners’ linens and any clothes I know I won’t wear this summer, organise the wardrobe with what I will wear for sure, and brought a semblance of order to the bathroom. I still have some work to do to be truly settled, but I, of course, don’t want to buy too much until I know where I’m moving. It’ll be nice to get the bookcases next month and unpack my books, though!

Rereading this post, it doesn’t sound like I got that much done in the last couple of days, but I really did and I’m beat. I would actually be okay with not having any work this weekend so I can just sit outside for a bit and bond with my charge as well as enjoy the pool. Don’t worry, though. I’ve had plenty of pool time — it’s wonderful to jump in after coming back all hot and sweaty from town! Even if I’ve only enjoyed it 10-15 minutes a day, it’s been such a privilege to have that chance!

Now, I think I will watch a movie. So far, I only have a couple of easy jobs for tomorrow, so it should be a less manic day. I know I need to spend a few hours in the garden, so that will give me plenty of outside time to keep building up my resistance to the glorious sun out here that I feel has resurrected me. Is this truly my life, to be living so comfortably in paradise?



Mexican Spanish Peculiarities: Tomate and Jitomate

My first year in Mexico, I never questioned the difference between “tomate” and “jitomate” when it came to the red sphere of deliciousness, the tomato. Everyone knew what I meant when I said tomate and I understood jitomate if I saw it in a recipe.

Last night, my curiosity finally overtook me and I did some research. I was surprised by what I discovered.

In most of the Spanish-speaking world and about half of Mexico (northern and Baja), this is a tomate:

Well, in the other half (central and southern), that fruit above is a jitomate and this is a tomate:

Got that? In a very small part of the Spanish-speaking world, a red tomato is a jitomate and a green tomato is a tomate.

I found a map that shows which Mexican states use only tomate (they include Sinaloa) and which use tomate and jitomate (they include Yucatán). Follow that link to learn more about the difference between tomate and jitomate.

Fun fact: both tomate and jitomate come from the Nahuatl (Aztec) word xiltomatl. I am learning that just as Canadian English has incorporated Native American words, so has Mexican Spanish. I expect to start picking up Maya and Maya-infused Spanish now that I live in Yucatán!


I am so happy with my accommodation in Brighton! So I got that upgrade last night to the larger room at the back of the house with a better bed and that in combination with two glasses of wine meant that I slept eight hours straight! I was so surprised when I looked at the clock this morning. I can’t remember the last time I slept the night through.

My host makes me feel so comfortable in her home that mornings are a relaxed thing here, just as if I was on my own. I get up when I’m ready and then go to the kitchen to make coffee and breakfast. This morning, I got ambushed by the ancient, senile, and deaf cat who greeted me in the near darkness with a scream that made me jump high enough to hit the very high ceiling.

Meet Charlie. This is from four years ago, “before he was senile.”

Now, imagine being startled by that meowing, but about ten times louder. That got the adrenaline pumping this morning!

I had a stupidly full day of work to do today and hadn’t factored in the North American time change that made me lose an hour on my deadlines! What didn’t help matters is that I didn’t do the work I was supposed to do when I came in from Lewes yesterday. I’d left it since the jobs for that client are normally super easy and take an hour. What awaited me was a rare difficult file that would take almost two hours! I was just bushed, so I contacted the client and requested an extension, which was no problem. Not very professional of me, but she’s really lax and I know that weekend deadlines are pretty soft. So that meant extra work today.

My host and I had sort of thought to go to a nearby Indian restaurant for their buffet for lunch, but she wasn’t in the mood by the time lunch rolled around. England has been bad for my waistline, so I decided a buffet wasn’t a good idea, plus I didn’t have much time for lunch anyway. So I ran down to the Tesco Extra to grab a quick something for lunch and figured that since I now had curry on the brain, I could get one of their prepared meals for dinner. My host didn’t have a microwave when I arrived, but she asked me if that’s something that would be good if she has Airbnb guests and when I said yes, she ordered one. The machine was due to arrive this afternoon, so I took a chance on Tesco’s 2 for £4 curries that are meant to be nuked, figuring that, worst case, I could heat them gently on the stove.

I came out of there like a bandit since I got two of their pizza-type puff pastries for just £0.62 for my lunch, plus the two curries for £5. So that was three meals sorted for half of what I would have paid for the buffet. Getting ready meals is definitely not as cheap as cooking from scratch, but it’s a good compromise between that and eating out, especially since prepared foods in Europe tend to be fresh and made with real ingredients, just like you’d make at home. Not having a pantry full of spices and other staples, it’s also a great way to get some variety and try new things.

When I came in, I helped my host take apart the bed in the room I was in originally, which she’s been letting me use as an office since the new room doesn’t have a desk. Talk about a double upgrade! That done, I went back to work.

A couple of hours later, she came to ask if I wanted to go with her to Asda, kind of like their Walmart (even carries the George brand products), to go pick up the microwave. I must have been a dog in a previous life because all I could think was, “Ooh, I get to go on a car ride!” It wasn’t until we were in the car that I realised I’ve never ridden in a car in this country, just a bus, and let me tell you, it’s scarier close to the ground to be on the wrong side of the road! 😀 Unfortunately, I never did manage to get to drive here on this trip since all the driving schools I contacted for lessons were booked solid. 🙁

The collection process at Asda was very sophisticated. There’s a touch screen flat panel by the entrance where you can put in your order info and then someone brings it out to you on a cart. He checks your ID and you’re good to go.

I didn’t feel like having a poke around Asda since it’s so like Walmart, so I declined the chance to do that, but I did accept the invitation to pop into a Marks and Spencer a little ways away since I’d heard so much about them. They sure carry some nice things! I was tempted by the sushi, but resisted! We did both stock up on heavily discounted pastries so I have a nice pain aux raisins waiting for me tomorrow and the almond croissant will go to the airport with me on Wednesday (it’s in the freezer, so it will stay fresh).

We also popped into another Tesco Express that she said is a good source of discounted stuff at the end of the day and that I should seriously consider checking out on Tuesday to possibly get food for the plane trip. It’s nice having a local guide!

The outing was a lovely break, but I really had to get back to work when we got in and I finished with a half hour to spare before the deadline! I still had another hour to do for the client who had given me an extension on yesterday’s work, but that would be an easy file. So I took another break to have dinner, breaking in the new microwave to heat up a ridiculously good coconut chicken korma curry with rice. I am going to really miss Tesco. Hope my tikka masala tomorrow is as good!

After dinner, I finished my work and then was finally able to take a hot shower to work out the kinks and slip into my jammies before joining my host in her lounge to watch some crap telly. I made sure to confirm that she wasn’t just being polite, but she said that it’s nice to have the company, one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me. She got up at one point to grill me a small hot cross bun that she’d bought at M&S a few days ago that I simply had to try as it had caramel and chocolate and was divine. She wasn’t kidding. What a yummy treat!

With the weather being miserable today, I was very happy to stay in and make some money. The next two days are supposed to be sunny… I have quite a bit of work left ahead of being off for a while, so I think I’ll focus on that tomorrow and then go out all of Tuesday to properly explore Brighton. But I might be able to do another wander around Hove for a break tomorrow afternoon depending on how late I get started.

Now, here’s hoping I sleep well again tonight!