Sunday, August 22, 2010

Zombies and scorpions

Finally got to Vancouver this weekend for a long-planned lunch with Georgina. We met on the flight back to B.C. from Merida last November. I  had just put an offer on what would become our place. She's owned her home since 2006.
We've exchanged emails and photos since then but it was great to get together and compare notes and experiences, hear tips and suggestions. I learned what to do when a huge scorpion shows up in the bedroom (drench it with a spray can of "Home Defense"). Her house is beautiful and simple, with original and salvaged character details and simple features like crushed white gravel in the courtyard instead of high-maintenance grass. It's an inspiration for the way I'd love our house to look and feel.
Afterwards my bus was delayed by zombies. I didn't realize there was a zombie walk underway on Robson Street . They smeared fake blood all over the bus windows. So funny and charming. Sometimes I miss living in this city.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hablando un poco

On the bright side, I finally got the details of a long-running Spanish conversation group here in Victoria and summoned the nerve to show up. I figured I'd just drop by the cafe where it meets, buy a coffee and check it out from a distance. But I recognized the parent of one of our kids' friends in the group, and went over to chat, and it was all so friendly and interesting I ended up staying and meeting a bunch of nice people. It was great to hear Spanish spoken so far from Mexico. I yakked away but felt a bit embarrassed by my mangling of the language. I only really know verbs in the present tense and I often fumble and stumble and use the wrong words for things, like vecino (neighbor) instead of vecindad (neighborhood). But I'm keen to have a chance to practise and improve, and The Victoria Conversational Spanish Group provides some more motivation to improve. 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The money thing

You wouldn't think sending money from Canada to Mexico would be too difficult. We buy stuff online. I've got a paypal account. Almost all my bills at home are paid automatically, straight out of the bank account, so I barely even think about them.
By contrast I'm finding that transferring money to Mexico is old-fashioned, fairly expensive and a bit unpredictable.
I thought I had it figured out. After a bit of back and forth to sort out the accounts and clave numbers and swift numbers and  such,  payments were successfully sent to the people who are holding the fort for us in Merida. Then one payment seemed to get lost between the Canadian credit union and the Mexican bank branch. We're trying to trace what happened to that transfer (cost of trace: $35CDN). Fortunately the lost transfer wasn't for a lot of money, so it feels a bit like an experiment. Meanwhile I'm trying to set up a new payment to a different account through a different bank, and once again the information I have doesn't seem to match what the bank needs. An account number has 17 digits and it should have 18. It isn't clear if the address field is supposed to contain the address of the Mexican bank or the person who is the final recipient. So I must track down the info, and trek back to the bank if I can find a time when it's open and I'm not at work, and spend another half hour or so standing there, trying to sort it all out with a bank teller. I hope this gets easier because it takes a lot of time.
The bank transfers cost $15 to $30 (dollars, not pesos) depending on the bank and the amount of the transfer, which seems like a lot to send a fairly modest sum. On the other hand, the bank's labour costs for processing each of these transfers would also be pretty steep.
I wonder if anyone else has found a better way to do this? I'd be interested in hearing about it.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

On Mexican time and Victoria weather

Last evening we could see our breath at a friend's backyard barbecue. In August! It's been that kind of "summer" here in Victoria. Never really warm; generally pretty cold. The thought of having a place to escape to in Merida somehow gives me insulation against the chill. I can go there in my mind and remember the heat and I just don't feel as cold.
Meanwhile, progress towards actual physical work on the Merida house is affected by a familiar delay: paperwork. Our lawyer has not yet received the fideicomiso and catastral documents which are needed by the architect, presumably to prove ownership and apply for building permits.  It has been more than four months since the purchase of the house was completed. I was surprised when the lawyer told me this was a normal period of time. In total I've spent eight months waiting for paperwork and bureaucratic processes, since it also took about four months to get a new survey and other documents needed to complete the purchase back in March.
If this was happening in Victoria I'd be pretty frantic by now. That's because if we'd bought a "cheap" fixer-upper in Victoria it would have cost about 10x as much, and the interest costs on a mortgage would be killing us while it sat empty. For a little while I was prodding the lawyer for updates on progress every week like clockwork, but I was clearly not actually helping anything from here, 3,000 miles away, and really just being a pest to the three people actually doing the work of obtaining the papers. So now, I just wait.
I believe the heat and the slower pace of Merida life is teaching me to relax and slow down, and I'm actually enjoying letting go of my compulsive busy-ness. Our friend Morley once suggested my tombstone might read "She got a lot done." Maybe we'll get to rewrite that, in time.