Monday, October 9, 2017

Evolución Animal

When we first arrived in Mérida, I started following Evolución Animal on fb. They are a local no-kill animal shelter. Because of this they often have too many animals to care for and need as much support as they can get. Right now they have more than 200 dogs in their care. Their website is very informative and a few of their dogs are adopted every year to people in Canada and the US. I participated in their online auction earlier this year and purchased a lovely painting in support of this cause.

Painting of local artist Edith Eloisa


They are quite a distance from where we stay, but on Sunday I finally managed to get out there and help. It was their wash-a-dog day and it was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed.

It is the first time that I have gone to an event on my own and had to follow directions from Google Maps on my phone because the Ford GPS maps for Mexico are not up to scratch. So I was driving "blind" with just voice commands. It was not bad and since Sunday mornings are quiet on the roads, I missed only one turn. I ended up where I needed to in the end.

Evolución is located in the town of Uman just outside Mérida. I was the only English speaking person there, but everyone was friendly. I had brought rubber gloves, but felt too stupid to wear them when everyone else just wash the dogs with their bare hands. The things we get used to in Canada, eh.

There were three staff members who coordinated the event and they had their hands full but they were amazing! Right at the start there were a lot of volunteers from the local community and we all got a short lesson on what to do with the dogs. It was simple: ask for a dog to wash (you cannot just grab any dog), tie the leash to the fence so that the dog cannot move away, use the buckets with scrunchies to wash the dogs, rinse, pour the anti-tick and flea dip over the dog (not the face), then take the dog to clip their nails, then have their ears cleaned. I got most of this but had to ask about the dip, because I wasn't sure if that had to get rinsed off.

Most of these dogs have been treated badly, so some of them hid under tables and counters and sometimes catching one for a wash was a task. However, once caught they really didn't move. In most cases once you had the leash on, they would refuse to move and we all ended up carrying a lot of wet dogs to each station. That's why you wear old clothes!

Only one of the dogs I handled was a bit of a biter and his mouth was tied shut with an old shoelace until I was done. We didn't cut his nails though, because it upset him too much. There was this one beautiful dog who jumped up against me every time I walked past her...yeah, never mind, I didn't bring one home.

I cannot remember all the dogs' names, and I cannot remember how many dogs I washed, but I learned that cutting their nails is uñas cortades and asking for another dog is busco otro perro.

I was amazed at how many teens were there helping out. Some of them had T-shirts that indicated they were regular volunteers. It made me feel great to be part of this positive activity. We had some laughs when one of the young guys next to me thought he was washing a girl, only to find out it was a boy. His friends ribbed him over that for a bit.

Xena was not happy with my "other dog smells" when I got home, but soon her buddy from across the street arrived for a little playtime and she forgot all about my unfaithful ways. It was a good day for me and I felt like I am slowly starting to realize that this is my home now.

My next to-do is to find a human cause that I can get involved in closer to home.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Home Alone

For the first time I had to stay at the house alone. It was a little daunting at first, but once I drove home after taking Herman to the bus stop in Mérida and successfully avoiding a collision, I was good to go. Of course I have to start my new job as a virtual assistant in the same week as when I have to take care of the garbage, cleaning the pool, making door snakes, wall decorations and paying several bills (in person). These may sound mundane, and in Canada it would have been, but here each of these is a special event that takes meticulous planning to get the timing just right. For instance when you burn your garbage, you have to make sure that the wind is not crazy or you might set fire to everyone's properties around you, cleaning the pool too early may be a bit chilly (now that it is Autumn) and who likes being cold? Making decorations for the concrete wall that surrounds the property and feeding humming birds are essentials in trying to stay centred (with this vocab I can move to California). And then there are paying the bills...

Paying the electrical bill can only take place on Fridays after 3pm in person at the local internet café. Did I mention that you can only pay it in a period of 10 days. So that is: Only Friday’s after 3pm between the 1st and the 10th of the month. If you miss the deadline, getting your power turned back on takes several trips to the head office in Mérida. We have a new meter, which works in a card system. You have a credit card type of card that is placed on top of the meter. It "gets" your reading, turns off the power and then after you paid, you return to the meter and place the card on top of it to record the payment and reactivate your system. So while you are away paying the electricity is off. No WiFi, no fridge. In case you don't know, it’s really hot in Mexico, especially at 3 in the afternoon. Of course I can pay it at night, duh. And of course there is online payment options, but that doesn't work with the card system, or so I read. Anyway, until the house is in our name, the electricity is not, and when the house is in our name it takes about 2 months to switch the electrical to our name and has to be done by the agent. Or that's what I have been informed. This may of course all change by the time we actually do own the house...

Yes, I am still happy here and not bitter and not upset. Because being here beats going to an office any day of the week! And I have all day, well I used to have all day.

Also the internet bill has to be paid in person at the same cyber café, but not on the same day. And they open anytime between 9 and 10 in the morning, but they are open until 11pm and every day, so not too bad. Just make sure you have cash. No debit and no credit, but sometimes a personal cheque is ok...but those cost money every time you write one and who has personal cheques anymore. Guess: Us.

Door snakes...if you don’t know what it is, it is a long cylinder usually made from fabric stuffed with sand or rice. You place it at the bottom of an outside door to prevent a draft, or in this case, to prevent large hunter spiders from running into your living room at night and charging you as if you are their next lekker jerky. It works! Oh yes, no jerky here, and definitely no biltong. Herman will have to start getting creative this winter.

Door snake
Of course when I moved to Mexico one of my main goals was to make stuff, to re-use and to be creative. All those things you think you would do when you're at work and dreaming of being at home...So I made curtains for the bedroom. Then used the batik art Dominique brought from South Africa to make a no-sew curtain for the kitchen. I made a hummingbird feeder from an old Sprite bottle and a soap container I no longer need. I coloured a few rocks for my kitchen windowsill. And made the first of many future wall decorations for our huge concrete property enclosure; instead of the tin man I made a tin chica, jewellery and all.

No-sew kitchen curtain
Tin Chica

Hummingbird feeder
Bedroom curtains
Last night I took a taxi downtown to meet up with Vianney and Santiago. They had invited me to join them for ice cream. I had a nunce ice cream which is made from a local fruit. It was delicious. I also had a taste of a sugared tamarindo, another fruit that is found locally. Apparently these fruits are naturally very sour, but to me it tasted like a sugared dried apricot. Vianney's sister Andrea arrived shortly thereafter. She was teaching me slang for things in the Yucatan. Unfortunately my brain does not recall much this morning.

They also introduced me to a local photography student, whose  name now escapes me. He had two gold front teeth and when I told him that's a grill, they all laughed because I knew 50cent lyrics. The cyber café guy Jesus (pronounced Heysoos), his girlfriend Ilze and their friend Gormando (??) also joined our group. I was lucky to meet so many nice young adults. They talked about the social struggles of young Mexicans who still get married at 15 and have babies as young as 14 and learning English in their schools. Mostly it was a lot of laughing at how I pronounce words and Vianney and Santiago spent a lot of time translating. At 11:30 they helped me find one of the three wheel taxis to take me home. The driver was super chatty until he realized I was not getting much of what he was saying.

3-wheel taxi
When I arrived at home, Xena went ballistic and I had to hold her to calm her down. I think she must have thought that she had been abandoned. I was a little too wired from my excursion to sleep, so I read until I felt sleepy. Luckily the tropical depression Nate, did not swing this far inland, and the night went by without any incidents.




Sunday, October 1, 2017

Slow Newsweek

Yes, it is a slow news week, or month. The house has not yet closed. The result is that everything is on hold that even remotely entails spending money on the property. It slows things down for us.

The rainy season has come to an end and hurricane season is almost over.

I was considering working as a virtual assistant and after weeks of back and forth I should start that gig tomorrow. I am pretty excited about this.

We may do volunteer work down the road, but so far opportunities have been too far away to participate in on a regular basis.

Mantra for this week: Everything will fall into place when the time is right.

I am still working in the “Banking in Mexico” blog. That episode still continues and hopefully will reach a conclusion soon...

Wonderful news this week: Dominique and Justin got engaged. We are very happy for them and wish them years of happiness together.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Homesteading or Tiny House Living?

Living in rural Mexico

It is so different from anything we have ever done or anywhere we have ever lived. Culture shock does not begin to describe it. Overall I would say it is a good thing. Quiet, peaceful and yet busy. We do our laundry in a zinc bath and hang it out in the sun to dry. Such a simple pleasure after years of "automagically" washing and drying clothes because there was no sun. Always rushing to get the loads done in time for school and work.

Supplies

We can buy most of our food in town. Most of the construction material and tools we need are also found in our little pueblo. We usually walk to the market every second day around 10am and then buy fresh veggies. We buy meat from a meat franchise that has a branch locally. Prices are comparable or cheaper than in Mérida. In true homesteading fashion, I am making curtains for the bedroom and living with the mindset to re-use and mend before replacing.

Gardening

Herman started cleaning the garden from debris, one square metre at a time. We are re-using as much as we can and I have several projects on my to do list for outdoor decorating, alternative construction of walls and furniture and storage solutions. I have started a compost and most of our garbage can be burned on site, so we hardly have any waste.

My first attempt at a veggie garden from seed include tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and cilantro. There is really good soil here and the first zucchini plants have already come up after just one week. Hopefully the food won't get eaten by critters, but if they do, we'll fence it.

Practicing Spanish

We are spending a lot of time with Santiago and Viannay. Two young people who offered to help us practice our Spanish and getting used to the local customs. They want to practice English at the same time. From our two visits, we have experienced a definite improvement of our skills and hope to only get better each week. I am starting to think a bit in Spanish, which is a good step in the right direction. Herman and I sometimes speak to each other a bit in Spanish, but that's slow going.

Viva Mexico!

Yesterday was Mexican independence day. The school children decorate their schools but houses are not decorated. The day before Independence there are celebrations and at midnight fireworks mark the onset of "dia de la independencia". On independence day there are parades, traditional food, dancing and music. Our small town also has a bullfight scheduled for later today. Our new friends, Santiago and Viannay are bringing a traditional meal over for us later today, made by Viannay's mom.

Homesick

For the first time in my life, I am experiencing serious homesickness. I miss everything Canadian and especially miss Konstanz and Dominique. I have never ever ever felt like this, and I guess now I can empathize with others who I had thought, in the past, were just sissies. 
My parents have always moved around a lot when we were kids. When we were small and moved to Germany, the stage was set to be different. Now they have three kids in three different countries. Just imagine all the places they can visit for free.
As teens we often dreaded the long boring family Christmases. As adults in another country we (sometimes) missed those celebrations. When friends of our children's aunts,uncles, cousins and extended family members attend their milestone events, it made you pause. I think our children missed out on some traditions we gave up when we left South Africa. On the positive side, they appreciate these traditions with their current life partners' families and never have the pressure of choosing who to visit on these days. 😏 Now that we have moved away from our kids, are we taking away our chances of being part of our future grandchildren's traditions?
Then again, both Konstanz and Dominique have aspirations to travel and experience non-traditional lifestyles. Sometimes giving your kids confidence and teaching them to follow their dreams, bite you in the ass. If we live near them, it is not certain that they won't move away either.
Living outside your comfort zone becomes almost addictive, and once you reach that comfortable space, the yearning to feel the adrenaline of a new experience becomes a need that is difficult to suppress. Let's hope that we do reach a comfort zone here in rural Mexico and that for once we are content, and we don't have to feed the hunger for change again too soon.
In hindsight, I still wouldn't change my life choices.

This week's video:


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Hello Seyé

This week's update:

  • We leave Mérida and rental properties behind, finally, I hope.
  • Xena makes friends in rural Mexico.
  • Herman swims naked.

Leaving Mérida

The last week in the rental house, was a mixture of anticipation, stress, excitement, insecurity, impatience and boredom. We found out one week before moving out that the owner wanted the backyard clean of weeds, but did not make the necessary arrangements. Let's just say that we worked hard to get the place presentable and leave it at that. We could not wait to leave.

Since we packed everything in for an early start on the 1st, on our last night in Mérida, we treated ourselves to a Chinese dinner at a local restaurant. It was the first meal that I didn't prepare since May 25, so it was absolutely fantastic.

Starting in Seyé

As in Canada, Mexican home owners do not normally rent out the property to the new owners prior to the closing date. However, with the delays we are experiencing and the multiple rentals we have had to arranged during the wait (added to the seller's eagerness to get some income on his empty property) we managed to reach an agreement to rent the property until the closing date. (The closing date is still unknown, however, our rental agreement is monthly, so if it closes after a week, we still pay a month's rent.) We decided that this was acceptable, considering the alternative.

We set some personal priorities for being able to live here until we officially owned it, which included internet access, a fridge and a stove. We realized that moving in on a Friday in a small rural community in Mexico, may delay some of our expectations. But we are tranquila now, so no biggy. We can bob and weave and roll with the punches with the best of them.

On September 1st, we had to meet the owner's representative at the house at 9am, so we got up super early to get the car loaded and able to head out on time. Herman did his tetras trick again and fit everything into the trunk, only this time, Xena was on my lap and the tree was bent over to fit into the car.

We arrived at exactly 9am and the owner, his representative and a handy man were there to make sure that everything was in order at the house. After some basic instructions on the pumps and some help clearing some plants from the gate for our car to enter, we were ready to unpack and get things set up.

We unloaded the car, took a quick dip in the pool, and set off to find the internet store and buy a fridge. On an earlier visit, we found a furniture store and noticed that they actually sold the model of the fridge we were interested in. We headed down and found out they only accept cash and probably didn't deliver, so that was a bust. We decided to aim for internet connectivity and do the fridge the next day at WalMart.

We found the internet provider right away. We met a young man Santiago, at the internet café who helped translate some of the questions we had about the internet speed etc. He then also agreed to become our Spanish teacher, since he also wanted to practice his English. We paid for the installation and first month's service. No contract required and they assured us that the installation will take place on the following Tuesday. Things were looking up.

Santiago informed us that the local gas company does not supply tanks and we would have to purchase this in Mérida. After contacting our real estate agent for clarification, he said we would need to install a tank on the roof. That's a whole different ballgame, so we decided to hold off on any large installations until we have had some time to think about it, and actually own the house. We took another swim and drove to a grocery store for some barbecued chicken. Our first night in the new house came and went without incident.

Saturday morning we headed out to the WalMart in Mérida to purchase the fridge, microwave and electric frying pan, which we deemed sufficient for our food preparation needs. We were impressed with the excellent service we received at the store. With my limited Spanish I managed to organize same day delivery to my house (that doesn't event have an address yet) and at exactly 2pm the delivery van stopped outside the house.

We set out to the stores and local farmers' market to get some groceries, cleaning supplies, gardening tools and other household items we needed to get the basics sorted. We are also a little careful not to buy too much in case something happens and we find ourselves house hunting again. Even then we will still be keeping it simple with minimal furniture purchases and it will be a work in progress for the next few months. This is difficult for me, because I like to GSD. But there is always wine...

Life (so far) in rural Mexico in a nutshell

Herman found out he loves swimming naked. I just like swimming and Xena doesn't mind water. So far we are enjoying the quiet rural life. It is simple and the nights are filled with night sounds, and not city noise. It seems to be a typical small town, and we are definitely a curiosity. Our water is still delivered to our house and we take the motorcycle taxis to and from the market. Our internet installation was on time and professionally done. Most things can be found in the town, and we hope to only have to go to Mérida every three weeks or so. Xena has settled in after a couple of days of shock induced lethargy and has a playmate that jumps the fence for a quick "jol" every day.

It is all extremely exciting, scary and stressful to move to another country. Emotions are sometimes overwhelming. However, so far Herman and I enjoy the simple things that we were looking forward to for so long and we are thankful that we seem to balance each other out with alternating highs and lows.

Next time, we will share international money transfer mucking about and Mexican bank accounts.


Weather in Mexico

We've received a lot of enquiries from everyone about the hurricanes and the earthquake. Mexico is a very big country with diverse climates; from deserts to tropical rain forests. On the west it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean, on the north the Gulf of Mexico and on the east, the Caribbean Sean. The states (31 states and one DF) are vastly different in climate, population density as well as industry, poverty and safety levels.

The epicentre of the earthquake this week was in the Pacific Ocean. Closest to the states of Chiapa and Oaxaca. Our state is on the Gulf of Mexico and we only felt small tremors here. Some reports in Mérida, the closest large city to us, included that there were waves in pools and chandeliers started swinging. Herman and I slept through it, probably because we were far from the epicentre, and also because we were in our hammocks, so our "earth" didn't move. We felt one of the aftershocks here during the day yesterday; our windows rattled a bit. There are a lot of relief efforts being organized from here by the government, for the areas that was hit the worst, and there is a large expat community here that will participate.

Mexico has been hit by numerous hurricanes this season and expecting a few more before November. The area that fell victim to the earthquake two nights ago was, just today, hit by a category 1 hurricane. Mexico is in the path of hurricanes and tropical storms that roll in from the Pacific coast, the Caribbean and from the Gulf of Mexico. In the mountainous regions, mudslides, caused by a lot of rain are often deadly.

We live in a small rural town, inland, in the state of Yucatan, which is sometimes in the path of hurricanes and often tropical storms. So far we have seen a lot of rain and some high winds, but have been spared from any real threatening storms. We are also fortunate that the evacuation routes and information are pretty organized, because this is not their first rodeo either.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Flamingos and pink water

Xena makes a plan to take over the world, one iguana at a time. Denise plays a game on her iPad and Herman patiently waits while incessant videos are made of the pink flamingos and iguana fight all under the blistering mid-day sun.

Gaming

I have a confession to make: sometimes I play games on my iPad, when I am not studying, knitting, drawing, writing, cooking, gardening, target shooting or reading.

Flamingos

The Yucatan is home to the pink flamingo from March to October, when it stops here to rest and breed. The best place to view the more than 400 species of flamingos is at the UN's designated site the Celestun Bioreserve, but we just went for a drive along the coast to get a break from city life and ended up seeing these beautiful pink birds in the lagoons. All along the emerald route in the Yucatan, the road was built with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the lagoons on the other side of the road. It reminds me of the Outer Banks, where you are constantly aware that it will only take one really big wave...

The waters of the lagoons are tinted pink from plankton and shrimp, which is also what the flamingos eat.  The flamingo is lovely to see in the wild and is very graceful to watch.

Along the way back, I got some footage of the rows and rows of vacation home built by foreigners ad Mexicans alike that is always available for vacation rentals. Many of these belong to Canadian and US expats who only visit here in the Canadian winter.

Fight to the death (well nearly)

The other afternoon, Xena went out to the backyard for her usual perimeter check, when I suddenly heard the rake falling over followed by scurrying of little claws on the patio tiles. Xena had found another iguana on the ground and was dead set on killing it. I managed to close the door to the house just in time to avoid the iguana from escaping inside. I immediately set out to take some bad video of the imminent stand off from inside the safety of the living room. After several minutes of posturing, incessant barking intermittently broken by my pathetic verbiage to the dog about being careful not to get bitten, the dog was distracted by Herman and his broom and got bitten by the neck by the iguana. She then retaliated by biting the iguana at the back of the neck. Of course I did not get this on tape, because I had to go outside to help Herman save Xena's life. However, they just kind of stayed like that, holding on to each other, exhausted in the mid-day heat. Eventually the iguana played dead and Xena let go and walked away, too tired to do anything more.

To our relief, it ended after about 15 minutes. A very tired Xena had to get some ice therapy to stop hyperventilating and a seriously tired iguana slowly climbed the wall back up to her nest in the rib and block.

Looking forward

Next Friday we will move into our own home in Seyé. The closing date is still in the future, but for now, we will be renting from the owner. We are super excited and scared at the same time.