Wednesday, October 26, 2011


We just got our visas renewed about two weeks ago. Overall it was about a three week process. While we are grateful that everything went smoothly and the process is over, I am not going to write in detail about it because Visa laws in Mexico have changed. The new laws are to go into effect as of January 1, 2012 from what I have been told. Because of this, much of what I might write on may not be applicable in the next 60 days or so.

I do want to point out that we did receive help from Yucatan Expatriate Services (YES). They offer a wide variety of immigration, legal and property management services for expats. Adriana and Betty are bilingual and do answer emails promptly which I appreciated. I even caught Betty about to leave for the day when we dropped in at the office. She offered to stay and help us out with an issue even though we offered to come back later. This was very curteous and helpful on her part and very much appreciated by my wife and I.

They helped me to get my required cover letters typed and filled out properly for my renewals. I had already done my forms on line which they do offer to do for you. Their visa renewal assistance fee is only $250 MXP per person if you retain them to handle all issues for you. That comes out to less than $20 per person. Good deal if you ask me.

If you need anything they are a good resource in not only my opinion but other expats as well.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weather and Seasons in Merida

Invierno (Winter). Primavera (Spring). Verano (Summer). Otono (Fall). Merida does have four annual seasons. They are just not as pronounced as the seasons in the continental United States. Texas and Oklahoma have very distinguishable seasons that last about 3 months per season so there is never any doubt as to what time of year it is.

From what I have seen over the past year, the four seasons of the year generally unfold in the Yucatan in the following order:
  • Invierno - December through February
  • Primavera - March through Mid April
  • Verano - Mid April through September (Mid July to September is rainy season)
  • Otono - October and November
It doesn't get cold here in the winter. It's basically about 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit for a high each day for about three months in Merida proper. You can subtract about 5 to 10 degrees off of all of these numbers for the beach towns north of here.

I still don't understand why Costco and Sam's sell winter clothing here but they do. And the Yucatecos buy them. And when you have a dip in temps them come out all bundled up. It's actually kind of funny to see.

Spring was the shortest month this year and lasted about 6 weeks. When I say Spring I mean that it didn't feel cold or hot in the midday. It just fell somewhere in between. It's pleasant and fresh outside.

Summers here are harder to endure and last at least 6 months a year. Combine the higher temperatures with the blanketing humidity and you will feel like heading back north every year just to remember what cold weather feels like. Summer is when you get heavy seasonal rains, specifically from July through mid September. During that time it rains almost every day for at least 10 minutes at a time, maybe twice a day, usually in the afternoons.

Fall weather started almost on a dime on October 1st. From what I remember last year it ended at or around December 1st.

I really miss winters in the U.S. I miss all of the seasons. Every season has noticeable smells in the air and sights that seem to mark them that you just don't experience here. The smell of burning firewood and chimney smoke in the winter, occasional snow in Texas, the smell of fresh honeysuckle in the springtime, fresh water lakes in the summer, the beautiful fall colors of trees as their leaves change over.....You just don't take in all of that here.

Everything here is just a little more bland. There are going to be things you are going to miss when you move here. These are some of the things my family and I miss. Sights, sounds, tastes, ......Some things back home just seem irreplaceable sometimes. Where's a Kleenex?


Monday, October 10, 2011

Speaking of Food...............

There are three restaurants that my family and I really enjoy frequenting here in the Yucatan.

First, La Tradicion.

La Tradicion is located on Calle 60 north of the Centro area. This was where I first had Panuchos and sopa de Lima, two of my favorite Yucatecan foods. When you come down you need to catch a cab here for dinner. I highly recommend it. La Comida del ayer, hoy. Yesterday's food today. It's delicious.

My second restaurant recommendation is Eladios at the beach in Progresso. 

My recommendation is to order your drinks and let them bring you endless finger foods. I took a client there with a couple of Yucatecos and we basically all filled up on every type of Yucatecan finger food imaginable (seafood, sauteed/flavored veggies, ......) and when we were done, after two rounds of drinks, paid a grand total of $20 USD for a party of four. Not Bad. And to top it of....

...You get a tremendous view of the beach right at the base of the pier plus all of the gulf breezes blowing across your face. Just sit back and enjoy.

My final recommendation is for people with kids. If you move here and start getting settled in you need someplace to go where the little ones can play and blow off steam while you sit back and talk and eat. We like Los Trompos at City Center on the northside. 

Upstairs has adult dining with a large indoor play area for the kids. Downstairs is where adult only parties sit. The food is typical Mexican food from outside the Yucatan, not Yucateco food. It is very popular however with the locals and gets quite busy at most of it's locations around the city. The food is not expensive, the restaurant is always clean and the service has always been very good, especially if you tip 15% or more.

These are just a few recommendations.  Hope this helps.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sanitation Essentials and Preventing Sickness

The following is a good way to try and keep yourself healthy when you live here. Besides exercise and generally eating well, you are going to have to take some precautionary measures to reduce the risk of you getting sick from improper HACCP in restaurants and grocery stores (See Previous Post) and from catching things caused by the poor hygiene standards of others. I find this to be especially applicable for kids that go to school and for the elderly.

I know people can and do get sick everywhere. But one thing you will find when you move here to Merida is that your immune system is not yet ready to fend off some of the challenges it is going to face in the first months of living here. Some of this will seem like common sense but you will find that the emphatic use of these things may not be common practice for you where you are coming from. Here goes:

Germans make good stuff!
Take Vitamins. Vivioptal is a brand that is affordable and seems to work quite well for our family. It is sold pretty much everywhere (Costco, Sam's, Wal Mart, .....). We buy ours at Costco.

Vitamins are cheaper and the selection is better North of the Border so I would recommend you bring your own every time you make a trip down. Always try and bring a 60 to 120 supply. If not, that's ok. You have some good selections here. This is one of them. Stores also sell good children's liquid vitamins here that don't have a bunch of sugar in it. Again, you will have some choices.

I already gave you my personal story on this HERE.  I can't emphasize to you enough how important it is to take this at least every six months or more. We keep a running supply of it in the house, both the children's liquid form and the adult tablets. You get a better deal on this stuff at Costco or Sam's. Take it as often as you see fit.

If I were to do this again, and this is not medical advice, I would take this every 30 to 60 days for the first six months.

I know this seems like a no-brainer but we wash our hands constantly. I would recommend you especially do so after handling cash money here. See my link on Vermox to understand why.

Wash Often!!!

Antibacterial Hand Gel. My family and I never really used it until we moved here. Now we buy it in 175 gallon drums at Sam's. I keep a 4 Liter bottle of it next to the kitchen sink. I also carry a small bottle of it in the glove box of my truck and whenever we pick up the kids from school I make them both take a bath in it.

For a good laugh on this, click here. Very Funny!

I wipe my kitchen counters down with these almost daily. Why? Because we have alot of large roaches in Merida. I will get to handling those in a minute. But they do spread a bacteria and you will see your fair share of them in your home, even if you spray daily for them. They crawl up out of the drains from the city sewers so you need to spray your drains as well.

Before we moved to Merida my wife and I were foster parents in Texas. We had a little girl for over a year who had a lingering bacterial infection in her blood from previously living in a home with roaches. Wipe your counters down even if you rarely see them.  And with that said......

They sell this stuff at Costco....Gun and everything. We go through a gallon every 60 days or so. Even if you don't have bugs in your yard or drains you may have a neighbor who does. That means they crawl over your neighbors wall and into your house.
My wife absolutely hates roaches. Not that I am a big fan of them but she despises them. I spray my house all the time and they just keep showing up dead around the house. There is nothing you can do about it except spray. It is hot to moderately warm year-round here. The humidity and temp just breeds them along with other things. Nothing you can do but aim and shoot...and be prepared to sweep up the collateral damage the next day.

Everyone...this is Microdyn. Microdyn....everyone. Guys, seriously, I had never heard of this stuff until we moved here. If we are going to boil and cook pasta with sink water we purify the water with this first.

If you are going to eat fruits and vegetables....soak them in this first with sink water. are eating fruits and vegetables picked by people that, when they need to go to the bathroom in a third world country, just squat and go right there in the field. And I have no idea what they are using to wipe with.

Always soak your fruits and vegetables in this stuff before consuming. They sell it in larger bottles at Sam's and Costco. Apply liberally.

I am not sure even this guy could drink the tap water in Mexico and come out alive. Yucatecos don't drink their own tap water so why would Yanks or Cads????

Guys will deliver it to your door twice a week if needed.

When we first moved here someone told me that you could brush your teeth with sink water and it not be a problem. I don't agree with that advice in your first six months here. Your immune system is not prepared for it. Later maybe but not at the start.

My youngest son was getting diarrhea from doing that so we switched to bottled water when brushing teeth.

And last but not least, before you eat, Pray over your food. Why?

"The horse is made ready for the day of battle but victory rests with the Lord." Proverbs 21:31

God Bless


HACCP. It's an acronym that stands for Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point. You can walk into any food service establishment in the U.S. and every manager in the building can probably tell you what HACCP means. HACCP is a system that is developed by restaurants to control the spread of food borne illnesses. Wikipedia defines food borne illnesses as any illness resulting from the consumption of contaminated foods, pathogenic bacteria, viruses or parasites. 

I used to be an Olive Garden manager so I am familiar with HACCP. Food Storage practices, proper cooking temperatures, proper heating and cooling of foods, sanitized cutting boards, how you work with raw meats, using tongs when cooking and serving, washing your hands .....the list goes on. All of these fit within the practice of HACCP. What does this have to do with Merida? Take a look at the following two pictures.

Bienvenidos a Wal Mart. Wal Mart knows better than this. I was also a Sam's Club manager and believe me, every bakery and meat department manager and associate in Wal Mart/Sam's Club in the continental U.S. knows HACCP. You would get fired for doing this in the states.

There were meat toppings on some of those pizzas. They are being served at room temperature for hours at a time. There are no food service tongs meaning people are grabbing food with their hands, including kids. People can cough and sneeze within 15 feet of that table and everything coming out of their mouths can land on that food. I could keep going.

In every major restaurant company and grocery chain in the U.S. you have Quality Assurance/Compliance departments that are meant to make sure that their stores exceed Health Department standards so that no one winds up on the evening news for the wrong reasons. When we lived in San Antonio, TX we would constantly see Mexican Taqueria's being covered on the news because they were being shut down for improper HAACP and rodent infestations.

I am seriously doubting that they have the same QA standards or procedures here. Many companies from north of the border only do what Mexican Law requires of them and little if anything else. You need to be aware of this and take precautionary measures for you and your family if you choose to live here. What precautionary measures? I will list them on the next post.


Meaning of the name "Merida"

I was curious as to the meaning of the name Merida. I found this today.
The city of Merida, Mexico was named after the Spanish city Merida. The original name of this town in Spain was "Emerita Augusta" and was then shortened to Merida. So, Merida is a shortened version of Emerita. This is a Latin name meaning "a woman who has achieved a place of honor." Since Merida is a derivative I would say that it would carry the same meaning in much the same way that Sally and Sadie have the same meaning as Sarah.
I found the info at this link.

Wikipedia seems to generally confirm the above info.
The name of Mérida in Spain comes from the Latin form Emerita Augusta, from Emeritus, one who has merit, in reference to Roman soldiers who were licensed from the army.
Muy Interestante. Very Interesting.   

Merida, Spain....a formerly Roman city.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hotels in Tampico and Villahermosa

Since we are on the subject of hotels, here are a couple of recommendations. If you have been reading up on driving down in our previous posts and other blogs and websites, most people agree that stopping in Tampico on your first day's driving down and Villahermosa on your second night is the best idea.

As for these two cities, I don't feel that my safety is in jeopardy in Villahermosa but Tampico is a city I don't particularly like. The last time I drove down in May, 2011 with another expat we drove up on a murder scene. Because of this I advise you to stay in reputable hotels like Holiday Inn right on the main road through the city. When we stayed there we saw Haliburton contractors in the hotel so I am assuming it has a good reputation. It has secured parking in the back and is very clean. The staff was very friendly, they have a nice pool and lounging area outside, a functioning bar. You can order pizza through the hotel desk or eat room service if you don't want to venture out and risk being pulled over by corrupt policeman looking for bribes. Breakfast is also included in the price of the room.

Here is the map and a picture of the Holiday Inn in Tampico:

The Holiday Inn I am referring to is marked with an "A" on the map. You will see it as you are entering the main part of the city. It will be on your right at the SouthWest corner of an intersection with a stop light.

Villahermosa is a little  more wide open. I have stayed at the Quality Inn twice now in that city. It sits two blocks back off of the main highway behind VIPS restaurant and the Hyatt Regency. It is very clean, well managed and has been newly renovated. The parking lot seems very secure and breakfast is included in the cost of the room which will run between $80 USD and $100 USD depending on the time of year. The first time I stayed there in May, 2010 I paid for my room with U.S. dollars. Not sure if they still take them however.

The hotel sits a few blocks back off of the main road. Because you will probably getting there around dark, just look for VIPS off the main road on the South side. Also look for the Hyatt which is a larger building. QI is right behind it off a short side street.

These are just two recommendation. Also, here is the link of the post I did on driving instructions. Email me if you have questions.