Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Local Funky Market!!!

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day to head over to Chelem to attend the Local Funky Market.  A brainchild of Carol Trumble and Paul Lawrence, it was held at their eatery, Tacomaya (or "Tacky" as it's known to the expat locals).
Notice the clever use of the restaurant chairs to block-off the street.  Vendors were set-up both inside the restaurant and outside on the street.  The variety of goods, mostly hand-crafted by expats and local residents was amazing.

This fellow came from Muna to sell bamboo furniture, walking sticks (I bought one) and even bamboo charcoal which he claimed was very superior to the stuff you find in stores.

Local artists were well represented operating in a variety of media.

    Note the flip-flops.  Just about says it all, attitude-wise...
The event was well attended and I think the vendors and buyers were very pleased.

Indra made the most fascinating purchases from a guy who was raising money to move to Acapulco.  He was selling his movie props from the film "Apocalypto" and they were impossible to resist.
Large and small, hand-carved drums which are now residing on the stair landing in her house.

And this great shaman's rattle featuring mule deer hooves and intricate bead work.
You just can't find treasures like this at Walmart these days.

Good job Carol and Paul and many thanks to those who took the time to bring their wares to the show,

More later,

Monday, September 13, 2010


The time had come for an expansion of the back patio and the addition of a "bodegita" (small storage room) to the house.  We have yard equipment, tools, boxes of stuff, Christmas ornaments, luggage, etc. stored in and around the house taking up valuable space.  And the larger items, such as bicycles and a car top carrier, have been stored in the original bodegita which was constructed out of heavy paper and wooden poles to house the workers who were building the house over two years ago.  It had seen better days...
So, last week our next door neighbor and trusted construction guru, Luis, arranged to have his crew come over and tackle the first order of business: the patio.  The extension of the patio would double its current size.  The usual suspects cement, blocks, sand and gravel were ordered and delivered.
The foundation for the patio had been built a couple of months ago, so that saved some time so this part of the job was competed in one day.
This is the final finishing on the cement which is given a texture to prevent slipping on it when it's wet.
It was dry and ready for use the next morning!  This will also serve as the beginning of the deck for the swimming pool we plan to have built next year....
Then it was on to the bodegita.  We had this planned for quite a while.  The extension is off our kitchen so we had to give up looking out the kitchen window into the back yard.  But the pluses outweighed the minuses.
Luis sent over a man by the name of Vicente who is handling the plumbing and electric on the project.  This will include provisions for a washing machine, an outdoor shower, and a pressurized water system.  I'll update you on those as the project moves along.

More later,

Monday, August 23, 2010

Aqua At A Discount

The water here is safe to drink.  It, like most other treated water, just doesn't taste good.  So we buy the large bottles.  Once you pay the 50 peso deposit on a 20 liter bottle, it's just a matter of exchanging for a full one at the cost of about 22 pesos, or $2.00 USD.
But there is another option we found just a few blocks from our house.
It's open 24/7 and that 22 peso, 20 liter bottle is all of a sudden just 8 pesos.  Just bring that empty bottle.
Here's how it works:
Easy peasy.  Just insert the empty, close the little door, insert coins, and out she comes!

Forget or lose the cap?  No problem as they have free replacements to match most major brands.

Just another little discovery to save some money.  Quite popular too as I had to wait for one other person to finish before I tanked-up, and there were two people behind me.  All probably wondering what the crazy Gringo was doing taking all those pictures.

More later,

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Little India In Merida

I don't get many invitations to gallery openings.  In fact none that I can remember until this past week when I got an invitation to attend the opening of Puerta al Este, which roughly translates to East Gate.
Located on Calle 60 between 45 and 47 in Merida, Puerta al Este is owned by Canadians Kerry and Lou, who relocated from Vancouver, British Columbia about three months ago to set-up shop.
(l to r: Lou, Kerry)
I was warmly greeting by their sales associate Maru, a former co-worker of mine from the travel business, and introduced to this wonderful couple.  Kerry told me that they have been in the business of importing antiques from India for about six years.  Let's have a look.

Kerry and Lou travel the northern part of India working through a network of dealers they have developed.  The dealers aquire some of their stock through salvage work.  Take a look at this magnificent door frame and door...
Other treasures...

 Located across the street from Santa Ana park, you really owe it to yourself to stop by and peruse the eclectic and fascinating item on display.  You just may fall in love with something perfect for your home or office.  At the very least you will meet a charming couple who has brought a taste of the Far East to Mexico.

Puerta al Este
Calle 60 #415A x 45 y 47 Centro
Merida, Yucatan
Telephone: 999 9-23-24-23

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

At the IMSS Progreso Clinic

This is just a brief update on our foray into the Mexican public health system.  As reported, we received our paperwork and were told to report to the IMSS clinic in our town of Progreso.
Here we checked in and presented our paperwork fully expecting to get our primary physicals and assignment to a primary physician.  It was not to be.
What we did get was our permanent medical record books.  They are color coded, the brown ones indicating that we are over 60 years old.
On the inside, they make use of another one of the extremely flattering photos they require on everything official here....
So if you're keeping track, we have now utilized 4 of pictures that came in the packet from the photographer's place.  The first page also contains, among other things, our social security number, our address, and the fact that our first visit will be at Consultorio #1.
The rest of the booklet has pages dedicated to various reasons for any visits and is a record of your health that you bring each time.  You also hang onto all other patient records including x-rays, lab results, etc. that may occur.  IMSS does not store them for you.
Here's a look at the inside..
As I looked through the booklet, I couldn't help sensing something oddly familiar about this whole thing.  And then it hit me:
It's the same system our veterinarian uses!!!
So all of us in the family now has a health booklet.  We just have to make sure we bring the correct one when we return tomorrow morning for our physicals.

More later,

Friday, January 15, 2010

IMSS - The "Public Option" in Mexico (Days 3,4,&5)

Day 3 - Back to the German Consulate (and a gamble)
Tuesday saw us returning to the German Consulate to pick up Indra's translated and certified birth certificate.  When we had visited before, Magdalena, who helped Indra, also offered to translate and certify my birth certificate as well.  Not being German, I politely declined.  Instead I contacted several of the translators from the list provided by the U.S. Consulate, and attempted a few phone calls, but no one seemed too anxious to assist me.  So Tuesday, I decided to take Magdalena up on her offer.

Of course the "gamble" was going to be submitting a birth certificate from the U.S. bearing the official seal of Germany.  It was Magdalena who suggested that as long as it had a seal and looked official, that would suffice.  She did the translation on the spot, the consul certified it, and I left with this:

Singing, Deutschland My Deutschland, we headed home, fairly confident that the next day we'd be welcomed with open arms at the IMSS office.

Day 4 -IMSS North Office and an unpleasant surprise.

On Wednesday morning we headed back to the IMSS North intake office to present our credentials.  Alejandro, whom we had met on our first trip, recognized us and told us he hoped we weren't upset with him for making us go back and get the translated birth certificates.  Of course we weren't, we assured him.  We understand the difference between rules and those who have to enforce them.
We got our number and sat down to wait:

So we waited, eyes cast up at the flat panel screens, waiting for our number to be called.  About 45 minutes later, it was.  Window #7.  We told the man at the window what we were up to and he was confused over the fact that although we share the same address, we are not married.  He was blunting attempts by us to present our hard-earned paperwork and then his eyes brightened.  At the IMSS North office, they handle only applicants who live in Merida.  Residents of other cities in the state need to go to the IMSS South intake office.  See ya, folks.
This is another example of not relying on everything you read on the web.  In this case the information was posted, very recently, by a company in Merida which charges expatriates to assist them with such things, that either IMSS North or IMSS South office would process anyone.  Before we left, we were each given a form to list our medical histories which is also required.

 A few words about T.I.M.

If you are moving to, or planning on moving to Mexico, be prepared to roll with the punches.  By example:  Last week I took a couple of our outdoor chairs to a local carpenter for some repair work.  He assured me that they would be ready the next day. The next day came, I went back, and the chairs had not been touched.  "Tomorrow at 6 p.m.", he told me.  So the next day I went back and still the chairs were not ready.  "Tomorrow for sure", he assured me.  We went back today and they were done.  Now, in the States, such customer service would be met by red-faced, screaming anger at the least by many; at the most, it would be a trip to Judge Judy for a sarcastic tongue lashing.
But here, you learn to just look at each other and say, "T.I.M".  Translation, "This Is Mexico."  Much better for the blood pressure. 

So it was at IMSS North.

DAY 5 - IMSS South and Success!!

IMSS South was a fair distance from Progreso and, according to the map, the easiest way to get there was via the Periferico, a freeway that more or less circles the city.
If you're going, take the Calle 42 exit.  IMSS South is directly across from a very large military base.  As you approach it, there is a side street on the south side and this is where we found the office.

"Sur" meaning south.
We checked in at the reception desk, told them what we were up to, and were promptly handed another one of these:

So far, so good.  We took our seats, (which are quite comfortable, by the way) and let our gaze drift to the trusty flat panel...

Please note that the notification is in English.  Believe me when I tell you, this is the only thing you will see in English here.  Or at most government offices for that matter.  Mexico's attitude is, "You live here, learn the language!"  No coddling. bilingual nonsense here.  Difficult?  You bet.  That's why Indra and I are attending Spanish classes twice a week.
The place was crowded, just like the other office, but the efficiency is remarkable and the seating was seldom half-full.

Our number was called in about 20 minutes and we were again directed to Window 7.  Fortunately last night Indra took the time to carefully arrange all of our copied documents into two folders to facilitate things with a minimum of clutter on the counter.  At the window, the woman in charge proceeded to fire off a string of questions in Spanish and began to look at our folders.  Noticing our slack-jawed looks of confusion, she called down a young man named Israel Cantos who became our angel.  He spoke pretty good English and it turned out the same confusion over our living arrangement was causing a problem here.  He explained to the woman the situation, and in a few minutes he told me that we would each need to write a letter explaining our sharing the same address without God and the Church's blessing.  Or something to that effect.  
At this point I sarcastically blurted out, "Do they have to be notarized at the Embassy?", briefly abandoning the T.I.M. credo.  Sensing our frustration, Israel said, "I'll write them for you."  Can you believe it?  He did, the woman in charge approved them, we signed them (and a lot of other papers).  And a new form was presented.  Because Indra is listed on all the utilities, and it's her house, we had to complete a form that listed me (I'm not making this ups) as Indra's "concubino".  Yes, I am Indra's concubine, or Mexico's way of saying, "Larry is Indra's bitch." Then Israel asked us to take a seat for about 20 minutes and we'd be good to go.  It was more like an hour and a half.  T.I.M.
During this break, Indra decided to use the restrooms and came back insisting I include the following report which is deference to any women who may be reading this:  At IMSS North, there were no seats on the toilets (common here), no toilet paper and no way to dry your hands after washing them.  At IMSS South, all three were available.  Much better.
So, we people watched...

Notice the man yawning.  That sums up the waiting.
Eventually, Israel called us up to sign a few more papers and presented us with our bills for our annual fee.  My German certified, U.S. birth certificate passed the test.  T.I.M.  This fee had to be paid today by closing time at 2:00 p.m.  That gave us about 2 hours to get to the bank and return.  When dealing with government agencies you soon learn that they do not handle money.  You take their bill and pay it at any bank, they give you a receipt, and that's what you present to the agency.  Cuts down on light fingers in the till, I suppose.  Also we were told to get two copies of everything we were given.
One amazing thing was, contrary to most government offices (like immigration) copies of visas, passports, etc. are always compared to the originals.  We were not asked to show originals of anything.  Strange.

Being we were in a totally unknown (to us) part of town, finding a bank was difficult but we eventually did.  Back at the IMSS office there are copy stores across the street so we beat the deadline with 45 minutes left to spare.  Israel was glad to see us and upon getting our payment receipts, we were issued these:

This is a temporary insurance card (featuring yet another flattering photo) that we will present, along with a stack of other papers, to the clinic in Progreso on February 1.  At that time we will get our physicals and be assigned a primary physician just like an HMO.  That doctor would, if needed, refer us to any specialist we might need.
This is the IMSS clinic in Progreso on Calle 27...

So there you have it.  Like most expats here, the IMSS insurance would not be used for the everyday stuff like a case of the sniffles or a case of "Hustle and Flow" one might get from eating bad tacos.  For that stuff we go to the private clinic.  But for more serious and expensive problems, we'll go to the IMSS clinic.

More later,