“They” Said There Were Going To Be Days Like These

Sometimes, life happens smoothly. Sometimes, life is like swimming upstream through molasses. My spring feels like the latter.

When I last left you, it was Saturday morning. To my surprise, I actually got my Saturday off! I had a super lazy day with Bonita and by dinner time-ish, I had ants in my skirt and needed a leg stretch. I decided to go check out Pho Mx, a Vietnamese restaurant with rave reviews. I Googled the location and discovered that it is literally across the street from the real estate agency I worked with to rent my house!

Google is always off on its time estimates since I’m a fast walker. I do about 1KM in 10 minutes, so it took me exactly 30 minutes to walk to the restaurant.

I set off some time just past six at the best time of day at this time of year – when it’s still very light out, but the sun is low enough to not beat down on you and there’s a cool breeze. The 3.2KM walk went very quickly.

The restaurant is located in a strip mall and is beautifully decorated. Reviews said that the pho is the star of the show (as it should be), so that’s of course what I ordered. Pho is a soup and the one I ordered had thin slices of beef and pork with veggies in an incredibly savoury broth to which I added jalapeños, hot sauce, a sweet sauce, lime, and bean sprouts. I had it with a cold ginger-lemon tea.

I could not believe how good my meal was. It had flavours I have never had in my life (a spice in the broth, plus the sweet sauce). While very filling, it was light. I cannot wait to eat there again!

I thought to Uber home, but it was still light out and it was just such a joy to be out in the cool breeze and have this part of Mérida almost to myself. It didn’t get properly dark until I was a block or two from home — I can’t believe how much longer the days have gotten!

When I got in, Bonita gave me her happy dance (if you haven’t seen it on Instagram, you’re missing out) and then she showed me there were no hard feelings for going out by having a proper cuddle. Awwww.

Despite having had a day off, Sunday was a mess since I had not slept well and I had hard files to do.

Monday, I checked tracking on some packages I’d ordered and decided to stay in as I suspected two would be incoming. One arrived super early, but the other, delivered by FedEx, was languishing at a depot. I’ve gotten a “delivery incoming!” notification as late as early evening from them, so I didn’t dare go out. Little did I know that I was about to enter FedEx hell.

You see, last week I ordered a bag of dog food for Bonita from a seller online with much better prices than the vet here. He got the bag out on Friday morning with delivery expected Monday or Tuesday. So when the bag never showed up on Monday, I figured it would be here Tuesday and, again, waited all day even though I was gasping for groceries (ie. was out of coffee).

By 7:00, I’d given up hope, but still left a note just in case, and then walked to Mega (now Soriana) to get what I needed. It was pitch dark and threatening to rain when I came out so I splurged on an Uber home (a whopping 30 pesos — not worth wrestling the truck out of the parking bay!). Still no sign of FedEx when I got home.

The next morning, I got a notification that there was a delivery exception and that there was no scheduled delivery. I called FedEx and they would not help me. So I contacted my seller and he contacted FedEx and was told that they promised to deliver by the end of the day.

By early afternoon, I had an update that my package was still at the depot with no scheduled delivery. I contacted FedEx via Twitter and they escalated my problem to the Latin America office, who thought that telling me, “We told the depot to deliver ASAP” offered any sort of resolution.

It wasn’t until 11:00 this morning, Thursday, that I finally got an “out for delivery” notification and the food finally arrived at 2PM. I only had enough left for one more meal so they cut it way too close.

Now, here’s the interesting part of the story. When I had my FedEx issue last year with an Amazon order, the Amazon clerk posited that FedEx didn’t want to chance delivering to the middle of nowhere with no confirmation that they’d be able to actually make the delivery. So normally, the driver would call to make sure the recipient is home. The Amazon clerk guessed that since I have an obviously foreign name, FedEx figured there was no point calling me as I wouldn’t be able to deal with them and it was just easier to return the package to sender.

Well, guess what FedEx flat out told my seller yesterday? Yup, that their driver couldn’t contact the recipient due to a language issue. Amazon was right!

(By the way, I’ve had another unexpected jump in my linguistic skills — FedEx Mexico’s phone tree was easy yesterday when I had to make multiple calls last year to understand all the options.)

I have no idea how FedEx remains in business. I’ve had issues with them in four countries. Needless to say, the time I’ve spent on this issue has negated any savings. 🙁

Back to work I go. I woke up yesterday morning happy that I’d somehow managed to not have any files in my queue and vaguely dreamed of taking a couple of days off, but within an hour of being up, I was booked through the weekend. Can’t complain about business being good! 🙂

Operation: Devolución

Most other Quebecers I speak to who have seen how things are done in other provinces are quick to agree with me when I complain about how overburdensome procedures are, how apathetic is the civil service, and how corrupt the provincial government is in general. When I planned to move to Mexico and people would tell me how “bad” it was here in terms procedures being burdensome and corruption being rampant, I thought that there is no way Mexico could be as bad as Quebec.

Today, I continued to be proven correct on this point.

I was really unhappy at my last visit to INM when I was told I could not get my refund for their error until I got my new card, which is not happening until the end of this month or the beginning of next month. I resolved to go back ASAP to speak to a different person. I didn’t have time until today to do that because, you know, I’ve been working double overtime to compensate for that serious crimp in my cash flow.

Yesterday was a federal holiday so I had a feeling that INM might be very busy today. I decided to arrive around 10AM to let the initial opening throng get through, figuring that things would have slowed down a tad by that point, but still be sufficiently busy to put Operation: Devolución into action.

I was only about fourth in line despite the waiting room being very full — likely folks with appointments. I got to the head of the queue in probably no more than 10 minutes.

My first step was to get through the initial checkpoint, where you say what you want to do and then are funnelled to the correct window. INM wasn’t busy last time I came and I was not able to get by this point. When INM is hopping, this woman has to process a lot of people quickly and doesn’t really want to deal with them so I thought I might be able to slip through on a busy day.

She was busy today — the Cuban in front of me had an odd scenario and her phone would not stop ringing. After asking me three times what I wanted (“To speak with the lady at window 2 about a refund,”) she finally gave me a ticket to put me in line there. Step one was a success!

The lady at window 2 was not the lady I’d spoken to on the day I’d been advised about the steps to get a refund. In fact, not a single person I recognised was working today. I was very worried because I didn’t have a single piece of paper about the refund — everything was taken from me on that second to last visit.

I took a deep breath and recapped the situation for the agent. She said that I was misinformed by the front desk person last time (when I went to get an appointment for the fingerprints) and that I should have been funnelled to her window. *sighs* But better late than never, let’s get the ball rolling. She started to put my ID number into her computer when I had a niggle. “When I was here last time, I had to handwrite a letter asking for the refund, which the lady kept.”

The agent stopped typing, went, “AH!” and jumped out of her seat, returning momentarily with a huge binder marked “Refunds – Window 2.” She went through several bundles of papers in it and could not find my application for refund. My heart was pounding by this point, but as she was putting the papers away, I saw my picture on the last page of one of the packets! I pointed that out and she gave a sigh of relief. She went through the paperwork, checked my passport, and then passed me two pieces of paper to give to SAT, Mexican CRA/IRS, to request my refund.

That was as far as she could advise me. It was now up to me to go to a SAT office to see what they wanted so I could finally get my money back. I thanked her profusely and, clutching my precious documents, I hightailed it to Starbucks for a cold coffee to enjoy while looking up locations of SAT offices in Mérida.

I was delighted to see that there was one just north of home within easy walking distance since I knew I’d likely have to make a couple of visits. So I got on a bus and rode it about 1KM past my normal stop.

There was low-key checkpoint to get into the SAT office — I just had to open my purse for the guard on duty. I then went into a building that felt incredibly chaotic. There was so much activity — hundreds if not thousands of people waiting or being served at dozens of different “modules” and desks. I took a second to orientate myself and found an information desk. The lady there told me I had to register online and to wait for help at module 1, which was a computer lab where people were registering online for tax services and completing various types of returns (from what I could gather based on conversations I was overhearing).

I waited there 10 or 15 minutes and was finally sat down at a computer with no idea what to do. After a further 10 minutes and being told twice by an attendant that he was going to help me, he finally came to check what I wanted and took off for a further 10 minutes with my documents after I told him I don’t have an RFC (Mexican tax ID number).

He finally came back to say that this office isn’t used to dealing with this scenario — foreigner without an RFC needing a refund — but the centro office is. Since my Spanish was good enough for this gentleman to deal with me, his supervisor had given him permission to call the centro office for advice rather than just telling me to go there. I remain incredibly grateful for how kind and helpful just about every Mexican official I’ve dealt with has been.

So finally, the agent had an answer for me. He said I had to come back with a letter for SAT asking for the refund, but he had a template for me that I could reproduce in Word and just fill in the missing info (THANK YOU). I also have to bring my last bank statement (so that they know where to refund the money. They don’t want 50 billion copies, but they do want me to bring all my documents in PDF form on a USB key. And because I don’t have an RFC, I can’t make an appointment to come back on another day — so I have to face the massive queue and funnelling and massive queue again — but I was given the exact phrasing to tell the info desk so that I get funnelled to the correct place next time. As it turned out, I shouldn’t have been sent to module 1 and there was nothing for me to do on the computer.

I’m going to work late tonight and will hopefully have time to go back tomorrow first thing. Who knows how long it will take to actually get the money back into my account so I definitely don’t want to leave this to next week.

It’s been a Day, but a good one. I am eventually going to open a business here and so dealing with SAT at some point was an inevitability. It’s nice to have the ice broken in a context like this.

Now, on to work. But first, maybe a nap?!

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! 🙂