Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Planned Pethood

Today we took our adopted labrador Missy to the vet to get her Certificado de Saludo. Planned Pethood is a popular veterenarian used by many expats here in Merida.

In order to bring a dog back into the U.S. you have to have their records up to date. This includes a rabies shot that is administered between the last 30 days and 12 months. What I am saying is that the shots need 30 days to settle into the animal's body and can not be more than 12 months since administered. Make sense? This is per U.S. Customs regulations.

A dog also has to have a Certificado de Salud (Health Certificate) that is not more than 10 days old at the time of your border crossing. That means if I get my CS/HC today, I have to cross the border by February 9th. Does that make sense?

The cost of the treatment: $450 MXP for rabis shot, $75MXP for 30mg Endogard tablet, $200MXP for a Certificate of Health. Total Cost : $725 MXP or $53 USD. Not bad at all.

Tenga Buen Dia
Jay

Last Day of School

Today was our boys last day of school at Calvary Christian Academy. The experience there has been a very good one. This was the hardest part of saying good-bye for us. My wife and I felt like we had attended a funeral of sorts. In many ways our hearts are very much with what is happening in the lives of these teachers and students at this school.

This is Joseph's 6th grade class. Their are two classes in each grade from K through 6th. Each year the school adds a grade. Each grade has two classes of 25 students each. The tuition is only $1,200 MXP per month, approximately $100 USD per month. This class is taking the Spanish block of courses in the morning and the English classes after lunch. The other 6th grade class is below. They are in the English block in the morning and the Spanish block after lunch.

This is Joseph with his two teachers, Teacher Mimi and Teacher Andreas. Andreas teaches the English block to both classes and Mimi takes the Spanish blocks. Both teachers are bilingual. Andreas lived in the U.S. for 22 years and is a dual citizen. Mimi has family in Texas.

All 50 students after a serving of chocolate cake. These kids are really really sweet.
All the ladies need a good-bye hug. Joseph was really really embarrased.


Now it's time for Joel's good-bye party to start at lunchtime. He is in first grade.

Pictured around Joel is Miss Vaness and Teacher Lily. Vanessa was Joel's "shadow". We hired her to help him with his homework and assist him into his transition in the Mexican school system. To the Right is Teacher Lily. She is a wonderful bilingual teacher. She loves Joel and visa versa.

Joel with Miss Vanessa. Saying Good-bye to her was very very hard. The good news is God promoted her to be a 5th grade teacher. "I will bless those who bless you....says the Lord." She was blessed for her faithful service to our family and to the school as a whole.

Teacher Lily.

Joel's Classmates. 5 beautiful Yucateca girls.

Good-bye Calvary Christian Academy. We will love you and always miss you. Maybe again someday if the Lord brings us back.


Saludos
Jay and family



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Multilimpia

I promised these guys a recommendation....Multilimpia Cleaning Services. Here is their website.

I used them to clean the fabric covering on my couch and the coverings on my dining room chairs before I sold them. They did a really good job. If/when you call you need to ask for Yamil. His number is 999-969-9741. His email is bayam21@gmail.com. He is bilingual and came over to my house and oversaw the work personally to make sure everything was handled properly.

They did an excellent job.

On a side note....if/when you buy furniture here I recommend you get leather or some type of material that wipes down.....unless you just have to have cloth furniture. As I mentioned in the earlier post on SMOG....their is alot of dust and soot in the air here at times. Because you open your windows alot here that poor air quality settles into fabrics really easy and well, it changes the quality of the fabric within about 18 months of purchase. FYI.

Saludos
Jay 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Your Credit Score

Unfortunately that credit score doesn't mean anything here. Someone asked me if their credit standing in the states affects their ability to rent here. Answer: No it doesn't.

Enjoy your new start. Most people that buy a home here pay cash. Those that don't have to get foreign loans and from what I might imagine, the underwriting standards are doubled up and the interest rates are higher.

In summary, your credit in the states can't be pulled from down here from what I understand. You have to understand that the Mexican system is about 20 years behind in some technological areas. This is one of them.

Saludos
Jay

Recommended Realtor and Attorney

Just a quick recommendation. I have mentioned him in previous posts but I just want to personally recommend Fransisco Guiterrez with http://www.yucatanrealestateparadise.com/.

His contact info is:
Francisco Gutierrez Cetina
Founding Partner
Attorney at Law
Certified Attorney of First American Title Insurance Company
francisco@yucatanparadise.com.mx
Cel: (999) 900-36-36
 
He helped me with my rental contract and my residency visas as well. He always did a good job for me so I would recommend him for all the services his company can provide from a real estate standpoint and from an attorney-at-law. Some of you are emailing me and asking me for a recommendation. Here is a very good one. Also, he is bilingual.
 
Saludos
Jay

Friday, January 27, 2012

Taking it Back

They say "facts tell but stories sell." So here goes:

Story #1: Back in 2010 we bought a water dispenser from Costco. It was one of those with hot and cold features for your 5 gallon jugs of drinking water. After about 8 weeks it sprang a leak inside and started gushing water. So I took it back to Costco to get a refund. I explained my situation to the guy behind the counter at the return desk.

He looked the water dispenser over, explained to me that they wouldn't take it back, got on the phone and dialed up a repair service, handed the phone to me and turned around and walked away. I stood there for oooohh....until I got tired of no one answering on the other line. I grabbed my broken water dispenser, walked to my car, called my wife, she got on the internet and looked up regional headquarters phone number....and the fight was on.

She contacted a regional English speaking person in authority with Cotco here in Mexico. She explained our situation and the lady she spoke with was very apologetic and explained that this was an ongoing problem with customer service in Costco in Mexico. She instructed my wife to call me immediately and have me go back into the store right away for a refund. By the time I got back to the service desk the appropriate managers had been contacted. I got an instore credit which was all I wanted in the first place and I went and purchased some groceries.

Now how hard was it to return the water dispenser....at Costco of all places?

Story #2: In August, 2011 I bought two of those freezable plastic ice packs with the funny blue gel inside of them at everyone's favorite store, Wal Mart. My wife wanted to use them as ice packs for her lower back. I bought one at first and it seemed to work well so I went back on another day and bought a second one. The cost for both together was about $90 MXPesos.....$7.50 USD.

After about a week the seams on the ice packs began to break apart and the frozen blue gel on the inside began to come out. Sooooo....I went with receipts in hand to get a refund on both. The lady at the return desk looked at my ice packs, looked at both of my receipts, and proceeded to tell me that because I had bought the ice packs on two seperate days that I could not get a refund at all, on either ice pack. Uuuuugh....What?

When she could see that I was not going to stop staring at her and walk away she called over her supervisor to explain the situation. Her supervisor looked at her like she was crazy and told her to give me a refund. She looked confused and perplexed as to why her original logic was being shot down by her co-worker. I stood there amazed as to why she couldn't understand what was happening.

Story #3: About 6 weeks before the past Christmas I went to Mega at Grand Plaza to buy some toys for Christmas for some of the local kids at our church. Long story short....it ended up not working out that the kids we purchased the toys for (Max Steele Action Figures) were able to receive the toys. So, after 5 weeks I went to get a refund at Mega or at least an instore credit to spend on other things before Christmas.

After having conversations with two different Mega associates and waiting at the return desk for over 30 minutes for a final decision from the Toy department manager, I was told I could not have any sort of refund. They informed me that there return policy is 15 days. Fair enough. But the return policy was not stated on my receipts nor was it stated on any signs hanging in the store that I could see. I was expected to know that on my own without any proactive effort on Mega's part.

So I finally left, feeling more concerned about their willingness to steal 30 minutes of my time on a 30 second issue more than the cost of the $20 USD in toys. We just gave them to the special ed department for our kids school instead. Not a big deal here. Just don't waste my time anymore than necessary.

Are you seeing patterns here?  Before I buy anything in Mexico I ask myself three questions:
  1. Do I really, really need this? Or does someone I am buying it for really need this?
  2. Do I know what the return policy is in this store I am shopping at and am I willing to stand up to the employees if they give me any pushback?
  3. If I can't get a refund, do I have a Plan B? Am I ok with Plan B?
As I have noted in previous posts, I used to manage for both the Olive Garden and Sam's Club. Those are two companies noted for a "no questions asked...how can I make this right" mentality. So much so that it frustrates the managers, especially at the O.G.

You will not find the same mentality here, even with the American companies. When you buy something here it's pretty much yours unless you garage sale it or are willing to go through some of what I described above. Just be aware of what to expect and make sure when you pull the trigger on a purchase you are, most of the time,  "All-in" on it.

Saludos
Jay

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Stevia

Many expats here have learned the importance of good nutrition. I always tell people, if the subject comes up, that Stevia sweetener is a better alternative than artificial sweeteners or processed sugar.

Per Wikipedia Stevia is a genus of about 240 species of herbs and shrubs in the sunflower family (Asteraceae), native to subtropical and tropical regions from western North America to South America. The species Stevia rebaudiana, commonly known as sweetleaf, sweet leaf, sugarleaf, or simply stevia, is widely grown for its sweet leaves. As a sweetener and sugar substitute, stevia's taste has a slower onset and longer duration than that of sugar, although some of its extracts may have a bitter or licorice-like aftertaste at high concentrations.
With its steviol glycoside extracts having up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar, stevia has garnered attention with the rise in demand for low-carbohydrate, low-sugar food alternatives. Because stevia has a negligible effect on blood glucose, it is attractive as a natural sweetener to people on carbohydrate-controlled diets.

As for where to get it, Costco sells it for a really good price. 300 packets for about 140 pesos ($10 USD). Health food shops sell it here as well but I think there prices are a little higher. Sam's sells a Stevia substitute, basically mixing it with artificial junk and rendering it's natural properties and benefits inefective.

FYI.

Jay

Smog

A few months ago I noticed that our floor fan had gotten very dirty so I went to take it apart and clean it. While doing so I noticed a black paste was building up on the blades. I had to use Bleach to get it to break apart and come clean. This wasn't your normal build-up of dust. This was a thick pasty black substance.

It was at that point that I realized how dirty the air can be inside the city in certain areas. We live on a street that has it's fair share of traffic, including about 75 to 100 municipal buses each day. One of the things you notice about most of these buses, along with many vehicles here, is how thick and black the exhaust is coming out of the tail pipes. Those emissions combined with the fact that there are so many unpaved roads in developing neighborhoods create some fairly dirty air here at times.

You also have people here that still burn their trash instead of paying for trash pickup. It is quite common for us to open our windows to get fresh air and smell burning trash. So you have smog, dirty roads and burning trash creating this thick soot that gets in the air and then on your window screens, in your air conditioning units, on your floor fans and unfortunately in your lungs.

The people who live at the beach don't experience as much of this but the people in Centro and other highly-trafficked areas can get barraged with poor air-quality.

Also, one more thing. Before you come down here you should have your fans in your laptops cleaned. And you also need to learn how to remove the keyboard and clean out your laptops on your own. We did have a fan in one of our laptops seize up and stop working. We thought it was broken and we couldn't find a laptop repair shop here who could get a replacement fan. I ended up taking the laptop back to the U.S. on a business trip and had a computer repair shop. The repair tech showed me that the fan was not broken but in fact clogged up with dust and other junk. 

Knowing how to do this will save you a few dollars in the future as you live and reside in Merida.

Saludos
Jay

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Four Meridas

Did you watch Sesame Street when you were a kid? Do you remember the song, "One of these is not the same."? You were supposed to find which one was not like the others. I can still sing parts of the song and I am in my 40's. Below is an example.


.


I commend you if you could endure all 1:20 of that. The point being that one is not like the other three. Well in Merida, you could demographically divide this city and state into 4 groups of people. And none of them are like the others. All four are different. Here you have:
  • Spaniards (Mexicans) - often referred to as whites by the Mayans. They could pass for whites with darker hair. They look and carry themselves like Americans until you hear them open their mouths and speak Yucatecan Spanish. They have sharp Spanish European features. They are often well educated, have children that are sometimes born with blond hair, and they rarely mix with others.
  • Mayans - They are deeply Mayan and often are Asian in appearance. I would estimate that they compose at least 70% of the population of the state at this time. They are physically short and stocky people and most of them are blue collar in their occupations. Flip flops, shorts and t-shirts can be their normal attire. Some dress very nicely as they are coming into the 21st century culture. In many of the rural areas around the state they comprise probably 99% of the population in small towns and at times do not even speak Spanish. They speak Mayan or at least Mayan at home and Spanish when expected to in public. In Merida they all speak Spanish.
  • Mexicans (from around Mexico). Even if they are rich Spanish heritage they are rarely accepted by Yucatecos (Spaniard whites or Mayans). I can not tell you the number of times I have been told over the past 2 years by Mexicans from other parts of the country that they are not accepted here by the locals. Yet their numbers are increasing dramatically and if the native Meridian population doesn't watch out they will one day be a majority of the people living in Merida. They are coming from every state in this country, escaping to Merida to flee the social instability that is growing around their nation (drug violence and corruption).
  • Expats - If you read my previous post on The Number of Expats in Merida you know there are probably only around 5,000 Canadians and Americans that live here year round. You can probably estimate that their are another 10, 15 or 20 thousand people from other Latin American countries that live here. I am guessing on that one but expats are definitely a minority in this city. The expats from Canada and the U.S. are small but somewhat well organized. Yolisto is a good place to check out in case you have not already found it.
Their are very clear cut lines between most of these groups. Mayans rarely align with Spaniards even though they are both Mexicans. Spaniards and Mayans don't accept Mexicans from other parts of the country very often even though all of them are Mexicans. All of these groups, for the most part, are not accepting of expats any more than they have to be.

I am not implying that they hate expats, though some do. They are just not going to go out of their way to connect with you. If they do it can most often mean that they are looking for something...a job, financial help, ....something. They think all Americans are rich. You can tell them you are not but they don't believe it. By their standards you are. Otherwise why would you be here. That is their logic.

I have seen exceptions to what I just said. Some of the people I care about most in this world are Yucatecos living here. My wife and I love a number of people from here. Great people. Some of them are Mexicans from Mexico city or other parts of the country. I have met some incredibly intelligent and warm people of Mayan decent. Some of the expats living here are extremely giving, sacrificial and generous. It is just that, as a general rule, their are clear cut lines among these groups. They are all not the same. All are clearly different and the majority of some of the first two groups are extremely prejudiced towards everyone not of their kind.

It is almost like a Yucateco fraternity of sorts and the people most often on the short end of that stick are the Mexicans from other parts of Mexico, the expats, or those that don't have money. You need to be aware of that when coming here.

Saludos
J.E.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Final Leg

Well, after an almost 2 year effort and journey it looks as if we are moving back to our home state of TX at the beginning of February. We started mulling over and praying about this at the beginning of October and came to the conclusion this was what we were being led to do.

We are scheduled to head out on February 3rd...My wife and the boys on an airplane and myself in the truck. With that said, I hope to have the time to write some departing posts about different areas of life here in Merida, Yucatan, Mexico.

It has been my observation that much of the feedback that comes from others comes with financial strings attached. My intention is to not be pessimistic or overly optimistic but to simply point out both the beauty and not so beautiful parts of life in this country that many of us expats have called home. Work, play, family, financial.....I will give some in's and out's of what I see as we move along here.

Please watch for more to come in the next two weeks as we finish up our journey here.


God Bless,

Jay and family