Thursday, May 28, 2015

XX. Es Que No Todos Brisas en las Palmas

It's Not All Breezes in the Palms

Bit of a breeze today, after last night's rain--the first cooling
since we've been here. The beginning of the rainy season is 
predicted by the clicking call of the "rainbirds", a form of 
cicada, that as it builds in frequency becomes a brief high-
pitched throb. They've been much quieter since the deluge.
As text and pictures have illustrated, our little town of Ajijic is a beautiful, fascinating place, but it hasn't all been cervezas, guacamole and brisas en las palmas this past semana. For one thing, for these two soggy Seattleites, the high sun and 90 degree weather definitely explain the rationale behind siesta time, or at least time to stay inside under the ceiling fan, or—if needs must—travel next to the wall in the shade, on the narrow sidewalks. May is the hottest month here, we keep telling ourselves.

For another thing, there’s the nine-day-and-counting delay in delivery of our boxes from Pay-Through-the-Nose Shipping.

This has sent me into a frenzy of activity—a whirlwind of emails and phone calls to local, national and international customer "service" reps of DHL (let them be named and cursed), and to the US consulate in Guadalajara and the Mexican consulate in Seattle. The sticking point seems to be a heretofore unknown requirement—perhaps dreamed up by Yessica, our DHL customs agent—that the boxes be returned to the US so their list of contents can be given a seal of approval by a Mexican consulate there before they can be shipped back here. WTF!

LESSON: Even though this is a work still in progress—or more accurately, stagnation—if we had it do do over again, I'd forego shipping in favor of buying more big old suitcases and schlepping them through baggage claim and customs, checking first to see what the airline limitations and excess baggage fees would be. The word is that taking your belongings through customs personally, whether driving or flying, seems to raise fewer flags than shipping.

Screen shot of the main piece in our
quest to exchange our temporary
residence visa for a card
A further bureaucratic test awaits us as we move further along the process of replacing—within 30 days of our arrival—the temporary resident visas with temporary resident cards. I began that task yesterday with a visit to the immigration office in nearby Chapala to get the list of hoops through which we need to be prepared to jump—subject, of course, to revision without notice. Cynicism aside, this first experience was reassuring—the representative was patient, spoke perfect English, and wrote down all the requirements carefully. 

Still one more thing, though: for almost as much as we recently deconstructed our life in the States, we are constructing a life here in Mexico. This means answering such simple questions as how to set up (all instructions in Spanish, of course) the answering machine, printer (another Arggh), internet connection, DVD hooked up to TV, etc. Also—where and when to take out our garbage (on the corner, in the morning—so the dogs won’t get into it overnight—any day of the week except Domingo, and forget about recycling), and how to get those big garrafones of water delivered, since we don’t quite trust the water purification system installed in our complex.
Portogarrafón with our just delivered agua.
Getting this delivery was quite a triumph,
with the bonus of our friendly delivery guy,

Like most USAmericans we're used to grocery shopping experiences that are one-stop affairs with wide aisles, bright lights, air conditioning, copious signage and vast quantities of goods. Here—not so much. There are two small, less-than-more full service grocery stores within pretty easy walking distance, so long as there are not too many bags to carry home down picturesque but not-too-well paved sidewalks interrupted by cobbled streets. Of course there’s the language challenge again, and some things, like kalamata olives and orzo, have been hard to find (OK, cultural chauvinism acknowledged). This situation has led us to the heretofore-avoided heresy of going to the local Walmart.

For my culinary spouse, in addition to the shopping gauntlet, both the high altitude and the unfamiliar food products, as well as a new—even if well-appointed—kitchen, have made food preparation a trial, and not the joy she is used to. 

We tell ourselves it’s early days yet, we’re just going through the initial, maybe even one-time processes, setting up systems, establishing routines, learning customs, etc., but we are sure looking forward to getting most of this stuff behind us so we can take some language courses, volunteer at the local food bank, go on some hikes, take in some fiestas, do a little traveling, partying, spend more time lazing in the plaza or lounging on the balcony. It will all come, verdad?

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