Out and about, and more…

Out and about, and more…

Lyn and I finally had a chance to go downtown and have dinner at a “local” restaurant. The restaurant — Marie y su bici — was recommended by some of my students. It is a very authentic Mexican restaurant that still serves some traditional dishes (one I call a “bowl of bugs”), along with some delicious tacos and barbecued meats.

Needless, we stayed with the more common dishes. I’m not one for exotic food, especially anything with the word “insects” in the title.

My drink at Marie y su bici

I did try one of their Mezcallina drinks, which are served in a ceramic bowl. The one I had included half of an orange, half of a grapefruit, and some lemon. It was okay. Not as juicy as I had hoped.

Lyn outside Marie y su bici Querétaro
Lyn outside Marie y su bici

Overall, we liked the restaurant, especially the decor and ambiance. Service was a bit slow — we had practically finished dinner before our drinks came — but otherwise, it was a very pleasant experience. I’m sure my foodie friends Tom and Tiffany will love it! They are a lot more adventurous than I am.

More Americans in Querétaro

After dinner, we wandered down to Hank’s for a nightcap and dessert. There, I overheard some people at a nearby table speaking English. I couldn’t help myself; I just had to go over and introduce myself. Turns out it was a young couple and their parents. The couple turned out to be fellow teachers who were about to embark on another country change. This time, they were relocating to Freeport, Bahamas. The woman, Julie, had been in Queretaro for almost 10 years, and her significant other, nearly as long. The two met at work. He teaches economics and she is an English teacher. They both have been teaching at the American school here.

I don’t know if you recall, but Lyn interviewed there not too long ago for a position teaching math. Turns out, the school will have some openings (at least one in English and one in economics). Julie encouraged me to apply and to say I had spoken with her.

The other position I interviewed for is still up in the air. I had two interviews last week. If they are interested, I will need one more interview, this time, locally. Fingers crossed!

I am feeling encouraged these days that something that pays more will be available in the not-too-distant future. We have been very frugal and still struggle to live within our current earnings. I have been freelancing a bit, which will help. I just started, though, so no income yet.

Retirement

Another update:  I did finally call about my Circuit City pension. Of course, they couldn’t take the application to receive benefits over the phone and insisted they had to mail it. Well, you know, mail here takes for-EVER! So, I asked them to send it to my friend, Mary, in Boise, who has been kind enough to be my forwarding address for these past few months.

I am still in the process of updating my address with various places. It takes quite a while, first to get through, then to explain, and then actually get the job done. I’ve been worried that it would impact our credit, which has slowed the process a bit. So far, though, all is well.

I’m just hoping it doesn’t take too long to get everything processed. Once Mary receives the application, she will scan and send it to me via email, after which I have to complete it and provide a number of documents, which, of course, means snail mail. (I will probably use DHL.) Hopefully, it won’t take months to complete the process.

Once I get that pension, things will be a little better. Apparently, they have to issue me money retroactively to April 2017, so the first chunk should be decent. And, because of the exchange rate, what may seem to be a drop in the bucket (about $250), is, for us, like getting a third pay check each month. My freelance income this month will add an entire month’s pay, too. Phew.

Things are definitely looking up.

The kids say “hello!”

Poodles (and Jack) lounging around
“Hello!”

 

Almost there!

Almost there!

This has been an exciting week for us. Both Lyn and I have gotten to the final step in our immigration process. We had our fingerprints taken in preparation for receiving our FM (resident ID) cards. Once we have those, we can get license plates for our car, which will enable us to do some touring around the area. I’ve been very envious of our friends Tom and Tiffany, as they frequently go away for weekends in San Miguel de Allende, or recently, Guadalajara.

It will be really nice when our lives no longer are tied to work and home. Having the ability to travel around will make a huge difference for us! I’m not sure how much more “Grimm” I can watch!

Other news

Shhh! Don’t tell, but I’ve had a job interview for a position teaching at another school. There are so many good things about the job — higher pay, housing and food allowances, insurance and vacation benefits, etc.  The only downside is that it is also a job with a split schedule. That said, however, the benefits far outweigh the downside, so, if I make it through the process and they want to hire me, I’m going for it! The pay alone will change our lives. We might actually get ahead!

Visitors

While no one has visited us yet, I am hopeful that my niece, Isabella (aka Bells), will be coming for a visit this summer. I can’t wait to take her around and show her the Mexico that you don’t see at the beaches. Not that I don’t love the beaches! But there is more to this country than just white sand and blue water.

At the winter holidays, our dear friends, Saadia and David, want to come down. They would prefer to meet at a beach location, so we will look into that. It may be possible if I get the new job, but with our current economic position, not too likely.

I still have my timeshare, which cuts down the expenses. It is the travel that adds up. You can’t really drive to the beach from here. It is too far. So flying is the only real option. If the hotel is paid for, it makes it a little easier. We’ll see.

It would be great if they would visit us here. I am certain they would love it. Alas, no white sand and crystal blue water!

A little free time

Jack, Izzy & Sophie Querétaro
Jack, Izzy and Sophie relaxing at home

I have had a little more time to spend with the dogs recently. For a while, they were as housebound as I have been. My schedule changes, and right now, I don’t work Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the morning. And, because my classes usually start at 8:00 a.m., I am waking up earlier. That means that the puppies actually get to go for a walk and a romp at the park.

Jack in Querétaro
Jack’s new favorite place!

Every time we go, there are always other dogs. Sophie and Izzy love playing chase games with them, and it gives me an opportunity to meet people here and practice my Spanish.

Jack seems to still enjoy the adventure as well. He is always up to something! Unfortunately, there isn’t much in our “yard” to entertain him. If I ever get some extra cash, I would like to buy some plants to put outside and give him something to explore.

Beautiful weather

Last week was so hot I thought I might melt. This week, it is absolutely lovely! It gets a little warm around 3:00, but cools down quickly starting around 5:00. Lordy, how I love Mexico! Of course, we haven’t had rainy season yet.

June sunset Querétaro
My evening commute.

We have been in Mexico for almost six months now. I can’t believe how time has flown! It has taken a while to settle in, but now we are finally seeing the “light at the end of the tunnel.” We have just about everything we need for daily living, although keeping glasses in the house has been a challenge. Lyn has broken five of them so far! Oh well. I will have to buy him some plastic ones!

Nuff said! Back later.

 

 

 

 

Easter in Querétaro

Easter in Querétaro

So much to say, today, but first, I want to focus on my Sophie Poodle.

It is Easter here. Ninety-plus percent of the people in Mexico are Catholic. That makes Easter one of the biggest holidays of the year, here. In Querétaro, most businesses shut down from Thursday to Sunday. People are everywhere! Strolling down the streets, hanging out in the plazas with their families, shopping — you name it. They are out there doing it.

In addition to the locals, there are a lot of tourists from around Mexico and beyond taking in the sites. Festivities range from street fairs and church events to concerts and frequent fireworks. This is where poor Sophie’s story begins.

Fireworks

Being downtown is a blessing and a curse. It is great to be within walking distance of all the colonial buildings, plazas and historic sites, but it also means that we can hear everything. While I love the sound of the cathedral bells, the street musicians, and the crowing of the local rooster, there are some sounds that are not as pleasant.

For example, they are always working on the streets, and every night you can hear music from the plazas and various arenas around the area, sometimes well past midnight. Since Wednesday night — the start of the Easter holiday week — they have been setting off fireworks. Sometimes during the day, the construction involves destruction. It frequently sounds like things exploding or guns being fired. These noises have Sophie absolutely terrified!

For a big dog, she’s quite a baby when it comes to things she doesn’t understand. She starts shaking uncontrollably, which leads to heavy panting, followed by attempting to hide in a corner, or more likely, my lap. We have tried giving her some Xanax the the veterinarian gave us, but it doesn’t do much good. So we just try to comfort her the best we can. Poor baby!

Izzy, meanwhile, could care less. I’m hoping today will be the end of it so Sophie can relax a little before we send her off to the boarder Monday night. Yep, another big stressor. She hates riding in the car. At least she doesn’t scream like her sister. I feel sorry for these people who will  be taking care of them while we are in Texas. We will only be gone two days, but the dogs will be at the boarders for three nights, due to the timing of our flights. I’m sure they will all be fine. I just worry about them.

San Miguel de Allende

Yesterday, we took a drive in our new car to San Miguel de Allende. We’ve heard so much about it. It is only about an hour’s drive from here, although newbies that we are, we missed the turn off and had to go a little farther (duh).

First view of the cathedral
First view of the cathedral

Easter weekend was not the best time to go there. There is a really big cathedral there where thousands of people flock for the holiday. The streets are very narrow and very steep. So much so, in fact, that the police stopped letting people drive into the town. We were pretty much forced to park our car on the outskirts of the area and walk. It didn’t help that we had no idea where we were going. Like sheep, we followed the herd into town, which led us down a VERY narrow and VERY steep street. The street was so steep, that a taxi trying to drive up it became stuck.

Poor Lyn has bad knees, and the walk down was not so much fun for him. We made it, though, and found the church. Of course, it was opposite a plaza, where there were food vendors and people selling charms, rosaries and what not. I bought a couple of things — a rosary made of paper beads and some key chains to send to friends for gifts.

It turned out that Tiffany and Tom were also in San Miguel for the weekend, so we arranged to meet them for lunch. We ate at a charming cafe called Correo. Of course, it was on the street named Correo as well. A small place, it held maybe 10 tables, all apparently filled by non-natives. Lots of Americans and, I assume Canadians.

The food was traditional Mexican and delicious. We had sopas to share — soft fluffy tortillas topped with chicken, cheese and tomatoes. Delicious! The hot sauces here are quite hot. Fortunately I had a large and tasty Sangria with vodka to wash it all down! For lunch, Lyn had steak and I had albondigas (meatballs) and rice.

San Miguel de Allende market
The market

Afterward, Tom and Tiffany took us to a local market. It was huge! Inside was everything from food to home decor. Lots of traditional Mexican ceramics, pewter and tile mirrors, and, of course, embroidered clothing and purses. I passed on the purchases, although I coveted many things. Our new house is fully decorated and I can’t imagine where I might put anything new!

Moving Progress

That said, we are almost completely moved in to our new house. We brought all but one box over the other day. Having a car is great! All of it fit in our new Fit. We will still have to get our clothes and other things over there this week.

We brought the car into town yesterday. It is parked in a secure lot, which, of course, isn’t open today. So, tomorrow I will try to get some other things moved over so that when we get back from Dallas on Wednesday, we will be able to bring the dogs and cats over there and start living.

 

 

 

Blessed with Good Fortune

Blessed with Good Fortune

It always amazes me when, somehow, all of our blessings become evident all at once. This has been one of those weeks. And, as I look back at this past month, I cannot believe just how much we have achieved.

Apostille

After two weeks of waiting, and several days of panic, our marriage certificate with Apostille arrived yesterday. Don’t think I just sat around waiting! (Don’t you know me by now?) I started calling FedEx last week to see what was going on. Then, this week, one of our colleagues at Globoworld joined in the effort. He is local and has contacts in FedEx and in the Aduana (customs). He called on my behalf, as well, and I also took the extreme actions of emailing the Mexican Consulate in Dallas and reaching out to the US embassy to explain the situation and solicit help.

Whether it was the frequent calls or attempting to add some pressure from above, something shook loose, and we finally got our package yesterday. Just in the nick of time, since today started the Holy Week holidays here when most everything is closed.

Bottom line — we have all the documentation we need to get our permanent residency visas.

Car

Another delay we experienced was in the purchasing of a car. They do not let “extranjeros” just buy a car. You have to prove residency. We provided the dealership with our lease and paid by wire transfer, thinking it would help ease the beaurocratic headaches.

Yes. And No. The idea was a good one, but actually making the wire transfer was quite complicated. The problem centered around the fact that we now have local phone numbers. Wells Fargo, where we have had accounts for 16 years, will not accept foreign phone numbers. But, here, you cannot open a bank account without a local number, which is why we changed them.

In addition, the cost of a one-year prepaid plan here for both of us was less than our typical monthly rate in the US. Seemed like a no-brainer to me! And, we still have international calling and plenty of data.

We had no idea that Wells Fargo — our bank — would now become a problem. I do almost all my banking online. It is so much easier. No checks, no postage, no problem. If I need cash, I go to an ATM. Of course, here, I get charged fees every time I use the ATM. For that reason, it seemed to make sense to open a bank account here.

You see where this is going.

To make this story a bit shorter, the answer to our problems involved calling our financial adviser and having her make the transfer, which she did. You might think that would be the end of it, right? No.

We still had to wait for four days for the money to arrive in the account of the dealership. Then, after signing my life away and paying even more money (the delay in the transfer resulted in a different currency rate), to pay the account in full, get temporary plates, and a year’s worth of insurance, we were told we could pick up our car… tomorrow (Thursday).

Phew.

Interesting note — we cannot drive the car in Mexico City because the laws there are different. Go figure. Thankfully, we have no plans to go to Mexico City.

Move

If I may digress back to the beginning of this post, I want to assure you that, while the process has been a little frustrating, everything we have wanted to or needed to do, we’ve done. Blessings!

Add to that the fact that we have also been renting a house in the suburbs, and you see how lucky we really are. We have stayed in our Airbnb mostly because of the car situation and not wanting to stress the animals any more than is necessary. We’ve planned to move most of our stuff into the house this weekend, although we probably won’t actually move in until after we return from Dallas on Wednesday.

Having the car will really help with the move. We can take multiple trips to get all of our stuff there, and then take the animals over when we are ready. We have paid for our Airbnb until 4/18, so we’ve got time.

While we are away, we have arranged for the dogs to go to Pension 3 Perros. They are so nice. They even offered to pick them up here in el Centro. Because of the timing of our flights, the dogs will stay with them for three nights, even though we will only be away for one.

When we get back and pick them up, we will take them directly to the new house.

TaDa!

So, to recap:

In the space of one month we have:

  • Sold our house in the US
  • Moved to Mexico
  • Opened a bank account
  • Rented a house
  • Bought a car
  • Found jobs
  • Arranged to become residents
  • Made new friends

I would say those are some amazing blessings!

Poodles!

View along Av Universidades A view from our walk this morning. I know the dogs will like our new location, as there are a lot more green spaces there. The community even has a dog park!

Sophie chilling at homeIzzy not wanting her picture takenFYI. It is going to be hot today!

Lessons to Learn

Lessons to Learn

I’m a bit impulsive. Sometimes that is good, and sometimes not so good. In this case, I’ve been learning a few lessons about how we should have approached moving to Mexico. Before I do that, however, I want to introduce you to two new friends, Tiffany and Tom.

Lyn and I met Tiffany and Tom at a car dealership. Tiffany walked in the door wearing an AdvoCare tee shirt. I immediately shrieked with joy and ran up and introduced myself. They, too, had recently relocated from the US to Querétaro, from Orlando, FL to be exact, and were looking to buy a car. Needless to say, we exchanged information and have been texting and talking for the last several days.

On Sunday, I invited them to join us at the Tribeca Bazar, a small event where local artisans sell their goods. Our Airbnb host, Andrea, was one of the event planners and we wanted to support her. The venue was interesting. The Glotonería is someone of a food truck place that surrounds an open air bar. There is a stage area where they also have live music. There weren’t many booths, but the food and drink were plentiful, and the Beatles cover band was decent.

Tiffany and Tom met us there and we swapped stories about our mutual moves. They had done it the right way. That is, they first secured residency status and arranged to have their household materials moved through the embassy. Hmm. I had no idea such a thing was even possible!

Tom went on to detail the process for permanent residency, which is actually quite simple. You only need to prove you have had more than $116,000 in the bank (cash, investments, 401K, etc.) for the last 12 months and have the requisite application and photos. If I had only known! Seems Tom and Tiffany did a lot of research before they made the leap, while Lyn and I just jumped on a plane.

Oh well! Not that it is a big deal. Lyn and I have all of the paperwork we need and just need to get an appointment at a Mexican Consúltate in the US so we can bring it all there and get the job done. Yesterday I emailed the consultate in Dallas to make an appointment. Now we wait.

Of course, the interesting part will be what to do with the dogs while we are gone. So far we don’t have anyone we could ask to watch them. I’m trying not to get ahead of myself, but, hey, this is Donna. It’s what I do.

The Job Search Continues

Looking for a job has become my full-time gig. I have been putting out proposals through UpWork (nothing yet), and sending out resumes through LinkedIn Jobs and Indeed.com. So far, nothing.

ISQ, where I interviewed, is apparently not interested in me due to my lack of teaching experience. Their loss. I know I will be a great teacher. I’m organized, thoughtful, creative and fun. Perhaps after I get some experience they will reconsider me. In the interim, I’ve sent them Lyn’s CV as well. His credentials are a lot more impressive than mine.

Speaking of Lyn’s job prospects, we have been working on his academic CV so he can start applying to universities. We are hoping that VIA will provide some contacts for him. It isn’t as easy down here to get contact information for faculty as it is at most US colleges.

In the interim, we are trying to enjoy being unemployed. It gets a little worrisome when all you do is spend money and send out resumes. We try to take the dogs out walking when we go exploring the city. Now that we don’t have a car, though, we are a little more limited in where we can go.

Other Issues

The past few days I have had some trouble with my Achilles’ tendon. It feels better today, but yesterday when I first got up, I couldn’t walk without limping. Then, this morning, my teeth were incredibly sensitive. I’m hoping that is just because I’m clenching them in my sleep. I will work on that! Unfortunately, I am going to miss my six-month dental check up and cleaning, which is scheduled for later this month.

The Apartment Hunt

We haven’t heard back from the real estate agent about the apartment. We put a deposit down on it and sent them three months of bank statements. I need to get back in touch with them to see what is going on.

In the meantime, I saw a lovely apartment around the corner from us that is for rent. Now, if I could just figure out how to call the number listed! Jeez!

I don’t mean to be negative, but I’m feeling the stress of this move. We are very much committed to it. I’m just a little tired and a bit bored. I did locate some tennis clubs, but that will have to wait until we have some sort of income.

Speaking of which, I’m also trying to get my Circuit City pension that I received in my divorce. Hard to believe that was almost 22 years ago! Anyway, if I can get that we will at least have a little bit coming in every month instead of just going out. Two more years and I can collect my Social Security, and then we will be pretty well set.

Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it, but patience is not my strong suit.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

In my last post, I told you that we had decided the order in which we should proceed:

1. Jobs

2. Place to live

3. Car

Well, so much for planning. On Thursday afternoon, we found a gorgeous house to rent in El Refugió, a housing development off Fray Juniper Serró, a little north of downtown. It is brand new and completely furnished, and approximately equidistant from Juriquilla, where I hope to be teaching, and the downtown area. There are small shops and the all-important OXXO (convenience store) along the edge of the community, which makes it very attractive as well.

I still haven’t heard back about the job/demo class. I am hopeful, but I will start to look other places next week. We really need to get to work! I know Lyn is quite anxious. I sent his CV off to the school, too. We will wait to hear on that one. This weekend we plan to work on his academic CV so he can start looking for university positions. That, naturally, would be his preference.

The New House

One of the things we really liked about it, was that it was very tastefully decorated. Everything was brand new and well coordinated. There is a small grassy garden area, which will be perfect for the dogs.

While it isn’t “big,” it has plenty of space, two floors, and three bedrooms. It is an attached house, so we share walls on both sides. The construction here is mostly brick and stucco, so you don’t really hear anything. The walls are just too solid.

The same is true here in our Airbnb. You would never know that we are right off a main street. Although, some nights, when there are things going on, you can hear the crowds roar. The sounds come over the top of the building and drift down into our garden area, which is open to the entire house. Since we never close the windows (why would you…the weather here is gorgeous), we can hear it quite clearly.

The rent is also very reasonable — $750 US a month. Of course that doesn’t include utilities, but those here are minimal. Electric and gas, mostly. Water right now is free because the community isn’t finished. There is also a swimming pool (yes!) and green spaces for walking our babies.

Friday Night in Querétaro

The city is very different at night, especially on Friday nights. Everyone is out walking in the plazas. There are musicians and performers everywhere, and the kiosks and stores stay open late. The church steeples are all lit up, too, making for lovely photo ops around every corner.

Last night, Lyn and I took a stroll as well. On one corner was a man playing a saxophone with some prerecorded music. He was really good! We listened for a while, and I took some pics and recorded a little bit. I wanted to include it here with my post so you can enjoy it as well; however, it is taking too much time figuring out how to do it. (Tell you what: I will post it as soon as I get it sorted out.)

Since we had already eaten, we decided to look for a place to get some flan. We walked down to Restaurant 1810, where we had eaten once before, and had a little flan and listened to more music. There are two musicians that set up right outside the restaurant to play. One plays sax and violin, and the other the piano. Unfortunately, there was a concert going on right behind them. It turned out to be a student band. They were very cute!

There were also some performers going into a building along the square, perhaps to rehearse for an upcoming performance.

Today I am going to try to get to an bazar of independiente artists and others that our Airbnb host has organized. We don’t have a car right now, so we will have to Uber it. It looks to be between here and where we usually go to shop at WalMart.

Don’t judge! It has everything we need plus groceries and you can’t beat the prices. It isn’t like some WalMarts in the US. It is clean and usually quite empty of people. It is located conveniently in a shopping center with a small mall, Petco and Sam’s Club. There is also a Costco here in Querétaro, but we haven’t found it yet.

The Poodles

We’ve been trying to get the dogs out and about at least once every day. It is hard here because the sidewalks are virtually nonexistent and the streets are extremely narrow. The other day, Izzy hopped off and was nearly hit by a taxi! Lyn gets very stressed whenever we take them out. We have to meander around the block to avoid the crowds on Juarez to get to Av. Universidades. There is a decent walking path there for the girls. We just go a few blocks and turn around. They are getting used to it, but Lyn isn’t. It is easier when I go by myself.

The girls have gotten a little shaggy, so we bought a clipper. I just trimmed their faces and feet for now. They look better. I bet they really miss Andrea (Wizard of Paws). I know I do.

UGH!

UGH!

What a cluster! Never, ever, EVER trust UPS when they tell you “no problem.” Boy, did I learn that the hard way!

So, when last I wrote, we were waiting for UPS to arrive between 2 and 5 p.m. on Thursday to pick up all of our worldly possessions. I worked so hard to get everything the way they asked me to, to dot every “i” and cross every “t”, but to no avail.

When the driver and his 18-wheeler arrived at our house, he wouldn’t even come in the door. “I can’t take that,” was pretty much what he said.

“What?” (My response.)

Turns out that UPS Freight cannot pick up boxes that are not on a pallet and shrink wrapped.

They also cannot deliver to a residential address.

Oh, and you need a customs broker.

And,….

The list goes on.

Once again, I get on the phone with UPS. Once again I am transferred to at least four different people. Finally, after I break down into tears and hysterical sobbing, a woman in Florida arranges to have a regular UPS truck come and pick up the boxes.

An hour later, a very nice driver shows up at our house.

Now, this is where things get complicated. You see, it is almost 5:00 by then. The new owners of our home are sitting in their car in front of our house waiting to get in to do a walk through. The realtor has also arrived and is giving me shit about how his clients have a legal right to do their walk through and la-di-dah, blah, blah, blah.

Well, this New York girl had had it up to her eyeballs and went into battle mode with this young punk. You see, we still owned the house until 9:00 a.m. the following morning, and if he didn’t back up and straighten out, he was going to deal with the wrath of god in the form of one 5-foot 1-inch NY bitch.

Poor Lyn, my sweet little southern boy husband, just stood there muttering “she’s been drinking” (ok, a little wine with friends who came to give support), while my dear friend Mary watched with glee. She had never seen this version of me up close, and she was pleasantly surprised to see me in a rare form.

Needless to say, realtor-boy wisely backed down. Mary, the UPS man and I put all of the boxes into his truck, and Lyn and I collected the last of our things from the house so the buyers could do their thing.

They’re very nice people…

On the way out, I introduced myself to the buyers and tried to explain the chaos. They were quite understanding and kind. They, too, had recently relocated from the midwest and understood the trauma associated with moving long distance from a home they lived in for many years.

I had written them a letter and left them with good information about the house and the services they might need. Lyn and I had thoroughly cleaned the house in order to leave everything in the best condition possible. We went far beyond what other people do. I wanted to make them feel welcome and know how much we loved the house. It’s just the way I am.

Back to the UPS saga

So, once we got everything on the truck and I cried and cried and cried, we followed the truck up to a UPS store in Vista Village. The store is a franchise, so not technically UPS. The poor owner – a lovely woman named Elisabeth – was not prepared for what she received. It was like something from a bad dream — we had to explain again and again and again what was happening. Ultimately, around 7:00 p.m., we decided there wasn’t anything further we could do until the next morning, after our 9:00 a.m. closing appointment.

To be continued…