Weekend Pleasures

Friday night, I went to La 21 for a quick dinner. I decided to try a “gringa,” which was described to me as the closest a taco can get to Gringo tastes while keeping its self-respect (LOL and you know you’re considered a local when…). I decided to try one. It was a wheat tortilla topped with cheese and then the meat I’d requested, which, of course, was al pastor, so I had pineapple as well. It was perfectly fine, but I prefer corn tortillas for the lightly grilled tortilla application. I don’t inherently have a problem with wheat tortillas, but I prefer to reserve them for other types of dishes where the tortilla is lightly fried, bathed in enchilada sauce, wrapped around Tex-Mex burrito fillings, or probably my favourite of all, slathered with peanut butter and strawberry jam. 🙂

Saturday morning started very lazily. I woke up around 6:30 and took a few minutes to catch up on the royal wedding on my iPad before going back to sleep until 9:00. I then spent an hour with Bonita catching up on emails before deciding that I really need to go “do something.” I could find nothing interesting on today (and made a note that if there are things to do, they usually occur Sunday). So I did a few chores, then dressed and hopped on the bus to pick up a few things at the Slow Food market.

I’ve been taking the bus a lot now that it is so hot out during the bulk of the day. I end up doing more with my days and get a heck of a lot more exercise than if I burn myself out literally and figuratively walking to my destinations. During the winter and evening hours, my radius is easily 5-6KM one way, but in the heat of the day, 2KM is my absolute limit. So that’s why I didn’t walk to Slow Food even though I had time. Plus, with the bus only being 0.50CAD round trip, it’s definitely not breaking the bank.

At the market, I started with some tacos for a late breakfast. I tried something new, “tinga,” which is pulled chicken in a sauce that can best be described as a smoky and spicy BBQ sauce. It was very good and since the tacos had rice and beans, two was an ample meal. I enjoyed a strawberry-watermelon agua fresca with it!

My only purchases were a loaf of apple-raisin bread I hadn’t remembered being so pricy ($120!!!), five lentil patties with a container of non-spicy pico de gallo ($50), and a package of pepper bacon ($80). I’d bought the maple bacon last time so pepper sounded like a nice change and the price was very fair for the quantity and quality.

The gal selling the bread is the gal who sold me my skirt and sandals (which I happened to be wearing) recently. It was nice to see a familiar face. She asked how I eat the bread (Plain? Jam?). She pulled a face when I said butter and I was quick to say, “European butter!” You definitely don’t want to spoil that lovely bread with what passes for butter in Mexico! She asked me what brand I buy (Lurpak), where (Superama), and how much ($50-$60 for a package, which she thought sounded quite inexpensive compared to what she would have expected). As a backup, I mentioned Lyncott, which is also the only provider of real cream here and slightly cheaper. But Lurpak is the best!

The lentil cakes seller had me try a few other things she had for sale, but I refused to sample her banana or plantain cakes. I am just not a banana or plantain person. Her lentil cakes are so good — I need to find a recipe to make something like that for myself as they are such a quick and easy lunch! The pico de gallo that came with them was new from last time and the perfect side. Pico de gallo is as rare in Yucatán as it is common in Sinaloa and a condiment I really miss. It was only later in the day, as I was spooning the rather soggy sauce onto a couple of lentil cakes, that I realised that pico de gallo does keep and that I should make myself a batch every week!

From Slow Food, I wanted to check out Pacsadeli, a luxury food and bulk restaurant supplier that is the expats’ go-to location for rarer foodstuffs. I’m on the hunt for sweet pickle relish, which has been AWOL for months, if I can trust the expat food hunt forum. Since it’s something Mexicans might put in their tuna salad, I wonder if it might be a seasonal product or tied to a holiday. I’ve struck out at all the places where I’ve seen it in the past, including where I bought my last bottle — the Oxxo a few blocks from me!

It was a quick walk to Pacsadeli and I was surprised to see where it was, on a street I walked many times when I was here scouting in 2016 and super near my old apartment (see the red X). I must have passed it dozens of times in ’16.

The store was much smaller than I expected, but held many treasures. Alas, no sweet pickle relish. Prices were much better than I would have thought and I picked up three things. One was a huge package of wide rice stick noodles — I haven’t found that size of noodle, just skinny ones, in supermarkets. Another was a large container of Lyncott whipping cream — my sources for it have been out for ages and Pacsadeli was selling the large size for barely more than the price of the small one in supermarkets. Cream lasts for ages, so I’ll be able to use it up. In fact, for dinner tonight, I just had strawberries with whipped cream. 🙂 I don’t have an electric mixer, but my hand blend has a whisk attachment that did the trick!

The last thing that caught my eye was in a locked cabinet, a bottle of balsamic vinegar. I’ve seen some in supermarkets, but always very, very expensively priced and I’ve kept putting off the purchase even if I really miss this pantry stable. This was a large bottle for less than $90. Slight hiccup: they couldn’t find the key to open the cabinet! I was going to tell them to leave it when I realised that they needed to find that key at some point so why not that point be me?! I wasn’t in a hurry so I just waited until the key turned up.

I hadn’t seen a price for my noodles and was surprised when my total bill was less $200 — the noodles were only $44. I’ll definitely be going back to Pacsadeli to get Asian items. I can find them much more closely (Soriana híper, formerly Mega Balcones, has almost everything I could want, but the prices are higher).

It was then time to go home since I had things to put in the fridge, but I decided to walk up Paseo de Montejo to grab an iced coffee at Starbucks first. There was a lot of excitement there as their fake bill detector was declaring all $100 bills fake! I knew it had to be a machine problem and didn’t stress out over it.

I was home around noon and hung out with Bonita for a few hours. As three rolled around, I decided to check the cinema schedule as I wanted to see Deadpool 2 (saw the first one here in 2016!). The next English showing was at 3:40, so I headed straight out so I’d have time to enjoy an ice cream first. My timing was perfect and I was in my comfy recliner wrapped in a throw at exactly 3:40. That cinema has spoiled me for life. 🙂

Even though the cinema is quite close to me (1.6KM) and I had two hours in AC between my walks, I was still quite cooked by the time I got in and had no desire to go out again. Bonita got her supper and then I made a very indulgent meal I’d only let myself have after a day with so much walking — pasta with bacon, cream, Parmesan, kale, and lemon!

Unfortunately, I got to bed super late, so today was rather a write-off in that it took me until about 3PM to get serious about working. I did the absolute bare minimum I needed to do to accommodate my blood test in the morning, but, hey, it got done!

I don’t know if two days off in a row is ever going to become a norm for me again, but this mini break did me a world of good. I anticipate that my next time off will be a proper mini break for my run into Cancún!

And with that, off to bed, but, first, here’s a gratuitous my dog is sooooo cute picture!

A More Stressful Morning Than Expected

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


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

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

Because I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spontaneity for Sanity

There’s a gringa on the garage sale site who lives on the beach who always has great stuff for sale. The few times I’ve posted a wanted ad and gotten a response, it was from her. Sadly, I rarely have time to drive to the beach to buy things she sells. But as I’ve made more purchases, she’s begun to trust that I will buy the item even if it’s only the next time she comes into town. Last week, I saw two things that have been on my kitchen want list for a while and she said she’d be in touch this week as she was coming to Mérida.

Monday, she messaged me to say she was “in town” for a few days. I made tentative plans to go meet her in Centro at about 7PM, but her assurance that there was no rush and that she was even willing to drop off the items made me cancel so I could work an extra couple of hours. Good thing I did because Tuesday wound up being hell and I would not have made my deadlines had I not worked the extra time on Monday.

Today, the mad rush finished around 3:00 and I was done. I’d scheduled tomorrow off so I don’t have to rush home from immigration and I decided to give myself Saturday too. I am exhausted! But I also had ants in my skirt, so I contacted the seller to see if she’d be home this evening. I was told to drop by any time.

The water guys were here early, so at 4:00PM, I realised I was freeeeeee! I dressed for town, hopped on a bus and got off at 55 and 62 to walk the block and a half to Pita for linner. It had poured as I got ready for town, during my bus ride, and it started again as I got into the restaurant. So I hoped it would ease off once I was ready to walk to my meeting!

I ordered a beer to go with my falafel sandwich (but of course) and texted the seller to let her know I was near and giving the rain time to let up a bit. She said that if it didn’t, she’d come meet me.

Even though I really was in no rush, I was having a hard time relaxing. That’s how it is when you’ve been going at it hard. As I finished my meal, the rain continued to beat down so I did something I haven’t done in so long I can’t remember the last time I did it: I ordered another beer.

By the time I’d enjoyed it, it was just shy of 6:00 and the rain had stopped! I headed off into an improbably beautiful evening with a sun shining so brightly that my sunglasses weren’t enough to spare me from the intense glare. I love tropical storms!

I vaguely remembered that if I took Calle 59, I’d pass an HSBC so I took that route rather than what Google suggests.

I wasn’t hard up for cash, but figured it’d be nice to make a withdrawal before I am for one rare time! There was indeed a HSBC, so that worked out quite nicely. 🙂

This sign I passed on the way made me laugh:

Never trust a skinny cook!!!

I made it to my destination and got the pizza stone I’ve wanted for years. Of course, now that I have one I have access to amazing restaurant pizza and little desire to make my own!

And I also got a grater for hard cheese! These are great for, well, grating Parmesan! I’ve been buying decent pre-grated Parmesan at Costco, but now I can get likely more affordable chunks and grate it myself. This style does a much better job on hard cheese than does a traditional hand shredder.

I had thought to Uber home, but the pizza stone wasn’t nearly as heavy as expected, so I schlepped all the way to Parque Santa Ana to grab a bus. Buses weren’t eager to stop tonight and I was getting rather frustrated when one finally stopped for me. It was then a quick trip north to a dog who was very happy to see me. 🙂

So tomorrow, fingerprints at last! Who knows how much longer it will take after that to get my new card, but it’ll be some more movement towards a resolution. I have so much left to deal with after this — a final trip to aduana, a trip to SAT to beg for some progress on my refund, a jaunt to Cancún to deal with my passport… But once all of this is settled, I promised to myself that starting in the fall, I’m going to start saying no to work a bit more often now that I’ll be able to afford it so that I can truly start enjoying my life here. And as a reminder, I was supposed to arrive in Mérida this fall, so I’m still way ahead of where I expected to be at this time.

I leave you with a translation of a poem by Mario Benedetti that was shared on the Mérida es cultura page this morning. You can read the original here. Translate did a decent job, but I’ve cleaned it up slightly. Some lines just do not translate well into English even though they do in French.

Do not give up, you’re still on time

to reach and start again,

accept your shadows,

bury your fears,

release the ballast,

resume the flight.

do not give up that life is that,

continue the trip,

follow your dreams,

unlock time,

run the debris,

and uncover the sky.

Do not give up, please do not give up,

although the cold burns,

Although fear bites,

Even if the sun is hiding,

and the wind is silent,

There is still fire in your soul

There is still life in your dreams.

Because life is yours and yours also desire

because you’ve wanted it and because I love you

Because there is wine and love, it is true.

Because there are not wounds that time cannot heal.

Open doors,

remove the bolts,

abandon the walls that protected you,

Live life and accept the challenge,

recover the laugh,

rehearse a song,

lower your guard and extend your hands

unfold the wings

and try again,

Celebrate life and take back the heavens.

Do not give up, please do not give up,

although the cold burns,

Although fear bites,

Even if the sun goes down and the wind is silent,

There is still fire in your soul,

There is still life in your dreams

Because every day is a new beginning,

Because this is the time and the best time.

Because you are not alone, because I love you.

“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! 🙂