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10 things I have learned from being an ex-pat

10 things I have learned from being an ex-pat seemed like an easy topic. We’re starting our second decade of living in Merida.  I thought that this list would just write itself but it’s getting harder and harder to point out the extraordinary things to you because quite frankly, it’s all normal. 10 things that I have learned from being an ex-pat I have food issues. While I willing eat goat, sheep, tongue, liver, and in theory- grasshoppers, it bothers me that the deli-lady cuts our bacon in the wrong direction. I’m rude. Not by American standards, but by Mexican standards. I sometimes will walk around the block so I don’t have to stop and chat about the weather with our neighbor who sits in front of his doorway. I often forget to kiss and say hello to everyone in the room when I enter. Ditto for when I exit. I’m not sure what American cuisine is. Mexicans will ask ...

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Mexican Butter.

Where can I find good butter in Mexico? Mexican butter is probably one of the most discussed ex-pat topics, right behind toilet paper disposal. When the Dunosusa mini-market opened their doors down the street from our house, I asked for butter at the small deli counter. The lady offered me margarine. When I repeated that I wanted butter, she shrugged, replying,”It’s the same thing.” I didn’t argue but neither did I buy the proffered plastic placebo. Is placebo the right word? I assume that most placebos are either benign or inert. Poison sounds harsh but is more accurate. The Extra (a convenience store similar to 7/11) recently started carrying butter. However, ten years ago, nearest butter was 7 blocks away but only Lala or La Gloria brands. Mexican butter tastes odd to most North Americans, probably to Europeans too. It has a slightly plastic mouth feel. It’s okay in cooking, but I wondered about that off taste.  It worried me. ...

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Lies, insinuations, and innocence in the Yucatan

We all create our own reality. We see things through our own filters. I believe that. My Mexican experience is totally colored by my perceptions and attitude. I like to think of myself as friendly and helpful so of course I believe that most people are friendly and helpful.It doesn’t hurt that I have grey hair and look like your mother. Case in point, Sunday, BK, another girl friend, and I decided to check out the crafts fair at the Siglo 21. BK greeted me by saying,“There’s a noise under the hood because a piece of plastic has come loose and is flapping in the wind. I’ll have the mechanic check it on Monday”. In March, the Honda had been a victim of a hit and run accident while parked on an otherwise empty street. The bumper had suffered some damage along with the undercarriage. The dealership was supposed to have replaced the plastic housing, apparently they hadn’t fastened it ...

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Going native

We more or less live a middle class Mexican life. Last month when No Tech refused to accept the automatic deposit of Husband’s pension we found out just how little we can live on. I won’t bore you with our new improved credit union’s many shortcomings but suffice to say  when we inquired into the matter, their response was essentially require that we ourselves research the problem. Your Spanish phrase for the day “Me dan mal genio”. Since the demise of the Volvo, our shopping habits have changed. It’s been two years since I wrote Mi Dispensa where I told about my changing attitude towards maintaining a well stocked pantry. One of my friends is of the opinion that you either have to speak Spanish or have money to live well here. Ideally, you have both the language skills and the financial wherewithal. Luckily for us, we both speak Spanish since we are financial refugees from California. I’m happy that ...

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Looking for paws

Orderly, organized and planned, not the words often used to describe my endevours. Vowing that this project would be different, I started a Pinterest board, titled Dining Room Redo (I’m prone to obvious clever names like that, I also named my gray mare Silver and an orange tom, Rusty). My first stop was Ana White’s amazing website of free and easy building plans, I found a couple of  farmhouse style tables that I liked. Not being certain that they were easy enough, I found this blog post after several hours of wandering the net eventually. It was exactly what I wanted. First order of business was to buy four legs in the appropriate style. Table legs in Spanish are called patas, this actually doesn’t feature into my story, but I thought you might like to know that little tidbit. There is an excellent lumber yard a 100 yards from our home. There I found the perfect turned leg, the price ridiculously ...

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The Gardener

I have a guy, Don L, who shows up every fifteen days except when he shows up sooner or later. He does good work and I pay him $150 mxn, for about three or four hours labor. He trims the orange tree, buganvilias, etc, weeds in the back yard and around the front of the house. He moves stuff for me, he even laid some bricks for us once (that job paid a little more). However, he has no phone ,no way to contact him. He came to work for us through la Maestra. Knowing that I needed someone she called me when he showed up at her house (they have a similar arrangement). I talked to him and he came over the next day. He has been showing up at my door ever since. He just used to show up whenever he needed work. This year we settled on the quince dia plan because it keeps the weeds and ...

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After several days of on again and off again functionality of my HP laptop, we went up the street to the computer tech. He took it apart and found….WATER! there were little pools of water in my computer. I don’t remember spilling water on the keyboard, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.  It isn’t like I laundered it, this is a full size desk top replacement laptop, not a cell phone. I didn’t leave it out in the rain or in a pair of pants, I have been a good laptop owner, honestly! Today, I went to pick up my now functioning laptop. It had spent the weekend in pieces spread across the technician’s desk, drying out. He replaced some thermal goop (I’m sure that is the technical term),cleaned everything and updated the drivers. I paid $450 mxn and happily took my laptop home, where it refused to turn on. During the one block walk from the shop to ...

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Sometimes I miss our car

Missing car ownership is something I hardly ever do. Today, I miss it. Disbursing money to our scholarship girls is one of my duties as IWC treasurer. On paper it seems simple enough. The chairlady of the scholarship committee sends me an email detailing how much is due to each student. I deposit the amount in their bank accounts. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is a simple easy system. Unfortunately, I have been trying to do it for a week now with no success. What’s the hold up? I can’t find three or four hours in a row free to go to the bank. Two of the girls have taken advantage of Santander’s free account for students and the third has her account with HSBC. Now, I won’t go to the bank on the 1st or the 15th of the month because of quincena (paydays on the 15th day),for the same reason Fridays and Saturdays are out of the question ...

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A typical week in Merida

Being that today is Thursday, this will really be an abbreviated week, but still fairly typical for us. Normally on Mondays I go to my crafts group from 10 am to noon, the location varies as we take turns hosting. This week, I did something else, Husband and I attended a small gathering honoring one of our friends. Since it was being held downtown, we planned on walking,stopping at the pharmacy on the way. The offer of a ride changed our plans. We are nothing if not flexible. Feeling peckish after the gathering, we decided to have an early lunch. Like most expat gatherings,there were cookies and soda available but we refrained. Husband used to have a big sugar jones, but he wasn’t tempted by the homemade cookies where before he would have consumed his share happily. The German restaurant, La Bier Haus has opened a location on Calle 62 x 57 y 59, we’ve been talking about checking it ...

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We have a peso mentality

Reading a blog post from somewhere else, husband commented that fifty dollars a piece for dinner seemed an astronomical amount of money. Fifty dollars is around $650 mxn. On Easter, Husband, La Maestra, her husband and I went to the Sonora’s Meat and  between us ate a  total of a kilo of steak (250 grams each of 3 different cuts two of us had prime rib), two servings of great guacamole, chistorra, frijoles charros and drinks for less than that, not including the tip. My point being that fifty dollars per person sounds like a lot of money to us now, regardless of whether the meal is worth it or not. We’ve achieved a disconnect with NOB prices, I look at prices in the grocery store and compare them to what I’ve paid in the past or how much something costs in the mercado not to how much Safeway charges. One of my friends recently came back from a trip ...

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