Expat Adventures Part II: So you think you can… telephone?

My very favourite student M. left me. Not because I am such a terrible teacher, or so he says (although he consistently referred to my classes as “German curse” instead of “course”), but because he moved to Germany to be with his German wife.

The poor guy really had to pay for falling in love with a German lady. Literally. First, he had to learn German in order to pass a German test for his visa. Once he had moved to Germany, he then had to attend an integration course of 645 classes!

Moving to Mexico is a lot easier. However, if there were integration classes there are a few points I think they should cover, like e.g.:

  • The various kinds of chili peppers. So your eyes won’t pop out because you thought it a good idea to take a big spoonful of salsa habanera.
  • How to bribe a policeman.
  • How to kill a scorpion.
  • Tequila tasting.
  • How to increase resistance to non-stop mariachi music for hours. Might come in handy if you decide to spend some time in the delivery room of a local hospital.
  • Differences between tacos, tortillas & friends.
  • Basic knowledge of (Mexican) Spanish. For those expats who have been living here for years and still don’t speak a single sentence are just unbearable.
  • How to make a phone call.

Say what? – Yes, how to make a phone call.

My son is a lot smarter than me in that he uses his cell phone only.

My son is a lot smarter than me in that he uses his cell phone only.

I never understand how people here do it, and whenever I bring up the subject it causes hysterical giggles from everybody. The best thing is to not use a landline phone at all, because if you do you need to use a whole lot of prefixes that are not required if you use a mobile phone. But if you are a little old fashioned and belong to a generation that’s still used to using landline phones (“Oh, I’d rather use landline, mobile is far too expensive!” Sounds familiar? Welcome to the club…), and if you have just moved to Mexico, this is for you:

Long distance call landline to landline: 01 + area code + phone number

Long distance call landline to mobile: 045 + area code + phone number

Local call landline to mobile: 044 + area code + phone number

Local call landline to landline: no prefix, no area code

Since you cannot tell from the number whether it’s a mobile or landline phone, smart people always point out which is which. But if you don’t know what number you were given, you just have to try the different prefixes. That’s no big drama, but again it shows that Mexico is not on your side if you are in a hurry.

And if you want somebody from outside Mexico to call your Mexican cell phone, make sure they dial a 01 between country code and area code. This doesn’t apply for your landline phone. See, it’s a good thing to have a landline phone, even if only for incoming calls from abroad.

On second thought, using a banana might be just as effective.






Flops, Failures, and Fumbles – Story of a Move

Just when I stopped believing it might happen, we finally got internet access at home! So slowly and step by step, we are settling in. Of course, here moving is much more of a challenge than it is in Europe or the States – at least, after what I experienced on my many, many moves.

That USED to be our bedroom after a heavy rainfall.

We were lucky to have found a really beautiful new home. However, since it is a new construction, things tend to go wrong. So before we had moved, after the first heavy rainfall, I decided to check on the house and found that the staircase leading to the rooftop was under water. Yes, we are used to leaks in the house, no big deal here. You put out a few towels – no harm done. But this was different. There actually was a little creek running down the staircase, leading to a puddle on the 2nd floor. Luckily, after a week that minor flaw got fixed, and even in the heaviest of rainstorms, it stays dry inside – which for us is a novelty here.

Then we had mosquito screens installed, and I was surprised to learn that it would only take them two days to finalize and install them. But they did, and I was very happy to be able to leave the windows open. It was only later that we found they had left a large gap between screen and window, so smart mosquitos (and spiders, and cockroaches…) could easily access from the side. Therefore, a week later, the guys were back to fix it. However, they couldn’t fix the living room windows, since the gap was too wide. I am still waiting for them to return. (I should have followed my own smart advice to always, always make a follow-up appointment straight away…)

Jan Miner

That used to be me.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And then there was this thing with the dishwasher which drove me a little bit crazy. And I am talking head banging against the walls crazy. Dishwashers are not very common here. I am not sure whether this is a Mexican thing or whether it is just this region, but people rather have maids than dishwashers. So we were very excited to find that they actually had left a space for a dishwasher in the kitchen, and we immediately went to buy one. (By the way, they also left some space for a maid’s room next to the kitchen. It is only slightly bigger than the room for the dishwasher.) Finally, no more hours to be spent washing dishes! After they had delivered this technological miracle, I had to wait for our handyman to install it. However, since this is a very unknown technology, he had to get himself acquainted with the installation of a dishwasher. Finally, after one week, he felt he was ready for the big project. And indeed, it turned out to be a huge project.

First of all, the American tubes didn’t fit on the Mexican connections, so they had to weld tubes together which they did with a simple pocket lighter. Then it was time to push the dishwasher into its space – and oops, it wasn’t wide enough! Therefore, they had to get rid of some wall tiles. Still, it didn’t fit. So why not take out the wall of the cabinet next to the dishwasher? If only it weren’t made of one metal piece… After hours of ear-piercing screeching, they had removed parts of the cabinet and were able to push the dishwasher further in. And then it got stuck again – not only that the space wasn’t wide enough, it also wasn’t deep enough. (In my opinion, those architects deserve to be squeezed into a dishwasher during hot cycle… Just sayin’…)  In the end, it took them 3 days to install the dishwasher, and now it still sticks out a little, but at least, it works…

That is, it works NOW, after we returned from our trip to Seattle. The first few times I used the dishwasher, I was thoroughly disappointed: Everything was covered in a white film, so upon emptying the machine, I had to put all the dishes and cutlery and whatnot in a little bowl with vinegar and water and then clean them by hand… Didn’t seem to serve the purpose. Smart Mr. R. found advice online: LemiShine. Let me tell you, if your water is very hard and you experience the same kinds of problems as we did, get this stuff, it really works! Since it is not available in Mexico, we had to bring back a few bottles from the States, but now, finally, we can really use our dishwasher. Hooray! (And are waiting for the next visitors from abroad to get us our fix…)

Info from the English WP http://en.wikipedia.o...

Advanced technology (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So that was the dishwasher story. But I mean, 3 days to install a dishwasher are nothing in comparison to one month to install a telephone line, right? So why did it take so long? Well, actually, it would have taken a lot longer if our friend didn’t have connections to the telephone company. Because since Playa is eagerly awaiting the opening of a new department store, all “telephone men” are currently working on the construction site, and nobody has time to look after private households. We got very lucky that they eventually did show up, but again, it was no easy job. First of all, the little cable booth was completely flooded and all cables were rotten. So they had to exchange all of those first, and then they discovered that nobody ever laid the cables inside the house. Which explains why our neighbours still have their installation outside where it tends to break down every now and then. For the gardeners haven’t adjusted the irrigation system yet, and every day they set everything under water.

Isn’t moving fun? What’s your experience with moving?

Hooray! I found an invoice!

Moving to a new country is always a challenge as you have to build up a new routine. One of the things that surprised me the most upon our arrival in Mexico, is the way you are supposed to pay your bills.

For years, we had been making payments online. Quick and efficient. Here, nothing seems quick and efficient which is a good way to train your patience muscle.

Our house didn’t have a letter box, so we went and bought one. It looks pretty, and I sometimes pat it a little so it doesn’t feel lonely, because nobody ever uses it. The bills are due to arrive around the 8th of each month. If they arrive. Then you should check various locations: the door handles on your car are the first spot to look for invoices. If you happen to be out while the postman makes his round, he will probably stick the letter to a cactus or, if he is a king-size postman, he might attach it to a tree branch. But if he is in a hurry, he will just leave the envelope somewhere on the grounds between the street and your house which is big fun on a gusty day. It adds some cheerful atmosphere to a quiet street. I will leave it to your imagination how much fun it is on a rainy day. And yes, we have those.

So as you can imagine, around the 8th of each month, you see people everywhere searching the grounds and the trees for invoices. When you find your bill, you take it to the next kiosk where you can pay the amount in cash. That’s very easy. But it only works before the 10th of each month, since after that, the kiosk won’t accept your payment anymore but you have to drive to the respective offices.

Paying your electricity bill is easy, they even have a drive-thru option. Needless to say, that those machines only take cash. So last week I went to pay our electricity bill at the drive-thru station and it got a little Mr. Beanish for when I stuck out my hand to reach for the receipt, it blew away in a flurry. However, as I was so close to the machine, I couldn’t open my door. Instead, I had to move the car which made the receipt flutter away. And there I was, crouching on the ground looking for the receipt until I found it, of course, under the car, so I had to almost lie down to reach for it, and the guys on the other side of the street apparently liked my performance as they cheered me on. Such a glamorous life.

But well, got the electricity bill paid. For paying the water bill, you have to queue up in front of the office together with many other people. That mind sound boring, but I like to watch people, and I always admire the Mexicans’ waiting skills. Unlike us, they do not show any impatience, but they simply keep standing there. The babies are all sound asleep, not a single child is whining. The adults are standing or sitting almost motionless, and some even manage to fall asleep as well. It is a beautiful picture of peacefulness, and almost (but only almost) it is a shame when it is your turn to pay and you have to tear yourself away from the tranquility.

And then there is the phone company. Like the electricity company, they also offer a drive-thru service. Unfortunately, the drive-thru is always closed, and you can only catch of glimpse of what you are missing out on through a metal fence. So instead, either you queue up inside or you pay at the machine that unfortunately is very particular when it comes to peso notes but which might give you an opportunity to bond with other people while asking them for some change.

I always love the moment when my husband gets home and asks me “So what have you been up to today?” and I can answer “I paid all our bills!” And I ask myself, what the heck was I doing with all that free time back in Seattle???