Sheesh! It's in the Stars, AGAIN!

Dec 27, 2007

Man- my horoscope has been on point lately!


You may seem busier than you actually are today as you dramatically run around from one thing to the next. Your apparent hectic pace can be a part of a strategy that tells others not to ask more from you now. Unfortunately, they might not understand and make additional demands on your time. Try the direct approach and just say you cannot take on anything else.
By Rick Levine
Thursday, December 27, 2007

Li-lo in the Hiz-ouse!

My friend Liza had her last day of work on Christmas Eve. She is now officially a stay-at-home mom to her 1.5 year old and her 12 year old. That means that she has no boss. She has no filing to get done, no calls to answer, no messages to fax, no reports to print and collate, no fed-exs to fed-ex, no conference rooms to reserve, no nothin' to do nothin' to! In other words, now she just has to make sure that her kids are clean and fed. Just wanted to say "Woo Woo" and "Big Up" and other 90's rap shout outs to my girl Li-lo as she embarks on this awesome, boss-less new life! WOOT!

Is this what I signed up for when I got married?

Dec 23, 2007

Allie: I was thinking about getting a new iPod.
Hans: Why?
Allie: Because your old one that you gave me is SO big and I'd like a smaller one.
Hans: Why don't you just take my nano.
Allie: Ummm... 'cause...
Hans: Besides, I want to get one of those new touch-screen ones and the nano doesn't have enough space for my stuff.
Allie: Yeah. Because I want one of those touch-screen ones and I took your old one last time and you got a new one and I want a new one now!
Hans: That doesn't make sense. You should just take the nano if you want one that's smaller.
Allie: I want one that's smaller AND has the touch screen. If you just need more space, why don't you take the full sized iPod I'm using and I'll get the new one.
Hans: Because I want to be able to show my pictures.
Allie: What?!? Are you dying to show people your pictures? I mean are you carrying around the digital camera so you can show people your pictures now? What makes you think you need to carry your pictures around?
Hans: This is stupid. We don't need any new iPods, we already have like 4.
Allie: Yeah, let's not get any new iPods.

Dude, Freecycle ROCKS!

We posted two desks and a dorm fridge and microwave on freecycle today. Man! Those people are nuts! Someone literally called about the fridge like 2 minutes after I posted it. As I'm writing this now people have already come a picked up the fridge and one of the desks and we're holding the other desk and the microwave for someone who's coming on Wednesday. It worked so fast that now we've listed an old TV that we've had sitting around for a while now. I thought it would be like Craigs List where you post something and like one person emails you about it, but this was crazy!

It's in the stars

Dec 21, 2007

I have my Google set up with things that I like to see every day, like my horoscope and the weather. Anyway, here's my horoscope for today. I thought it was sort of scary relevant to what we're dealing with right now:

You might have underestimated the time it would take to do what you promised today. Or you may need to spend more than you anticipated in order to get what you want. Either way, scale back gracefully before things go too far. Whatever seems like a lot now will likely get even more out of hand in the days ahead.
By Rick Levine
Friday, December 21, 2007

Welcome Home

Dec 20, 2007

We got in last night and there had been a snow storm followed by freezing rain, so the whole driveway and yard was like one solid block of ice. I had a meeting this morning so I figured I'd wait until the sun was up and then I'd dig out. Problem was that the ice was still ice in the morning and there was no digging at it- I needed an ice chipper, which I don't have.

So I dug my car out mostly and started moving it back and forth until I got it good and stuck. Then my neighbor came over and tried to help me by pushing while I drove. Then another neighbor stopped by and tried to help the same way. After about 30 minutes of that we decided that the car was just stuck and we'd have to wait till it got a little warmer later in the day to try to dig it out.

So I canceled my morning meeting and went back to work.

About 2 hours later I hear this thumping sound outside so I go out to see what it is. The guy who mows our lawn (and coincidentally also our mail man) was out there with a snow blower, a shovel and an ice chipper digging away at my car. Wow.

Then the neighbor from across the street comes out and says "Are you stuck? Let me get my tow strap and tow you out." So he comes over and tows me out. Then the mail man uses the plow on the front of his truck to plow our driveway clear.

Man. I have the best neighbors ever.

Let the insanity begin

Dec 18, 2007

So we're leaving Mexico tomorrow to be home for 11 days while we pack the rest of our crap and get everything ready so we can move. We haven't really found an apartment. We found a few, but we don't have a signed lease or an agreement and we haven't put a deposit on anything.

The owner of the apartment that was near Wal-Mart with the green pool called the guy who has been arranging for us to see the apartment (not sure what his job is or how he makes $ because now he's giving us the owner's contact info) and she wanted to know what happened and wanted us to know she was negotiable on the rent. She's apparently had good experiences with people from Jersey in the past (I know, that's a first!) so she's pretty keen on renting to us. She even wanted to know if we wanted her to get any additional furniture.

Anyway, so we called and bid $200 less than she was asking. Turns out that -SURPRISE- there's a $100/month maintenance fee. Hmmm. Whatever. So if she's into it we're going to take that apartment. We're just going to have to do the negotiation over email because right now she's in Belgium (where she lives) and she's just coming in town for the holidays while we're back in the US.

We looked at one really nice unit, but it was unfurnished and we would be the first people to live there. In the US this would be a good thing. In Mexico it means that you'll be the first to wait at least a month to get a phone. We can't afford to forward all the business calls to our cell phones and pay roaming costs for a month while we work from internet cafes here. We need something more stable. So that's where the other unit comes in.

Anyway, lots of people have said that there will be a lot more selection in January, so if we don't find anything we'll be ok for now. I think both of us wish we weren't leaving now, we're just starting to get into a rhythm with work and stuff. If we didn't HAVE to sort things out with our house and if I didn't miss my dog so much we might not be coming back.

Things I would think about if I ever did this again? You can buy a car here. I don't think I'd bother driving down if I did it again. But we've already got to get rid of my car and we had decided to drive down anyway, so that's what we're doing. I'm glad we came down and checked it out because you seriously can get just about anything you need here. By the way... they even have those Vietnamese rice paper wrappers so you can make Vietnamese Summer Rolls (a weekly staple at home). I think we're going to do just fine here...

We're Getting there...

Dec 14, 2007

Well, I went today to see an apartment that's about 10 blocks further north than where we're staying. It was pretty nice It had two bedrooms, washer and dryer and a roof top terrace with jacuzzi. It also included internet, cable and water in the rent (which was payable in pesos, so it can fluctuate in dollars). All together, not a bad place and they'll let us have a dog. I took some photos, so I'll have to run it by Hans, but it might work.

Right now it's down to the place with the green pool that is a block from Wal-Mart versus the place with the roof top terrace that's 2 1/2 blocks to the beach, but about 15 blocks from the grocery store. Vamos a ver.

The Apartment Hunt Continues

Dec 11, 2007

We saw two apartments today. One was in Playacar, which is where many, many of the Americans here live. In fact, when we got coffee at a little coffee shop last night the waiter asked us if we were going to live in Playacar when we told him we were moving here. It would probably be a great place if neither of us spoke Spanish and had no intention of learning it.

BUT- it accepts dogs. Yeah, it's a dump inside and the furniture smelled and I don't really know if we'd like living there, and I'm sure we wouldn't like the long walk to town and the way it feels so separate and not Mexican, and neither of us really wants to live on a golf course, anyway, and there are way way way too many gringos there.

BUT- it's only $1000/month, which is pretty good considering it was huge and had two bedrooms.

Then we saw one that is only a block away from the Wal-Mart (where you can get groceries) and about a 10 minute walk from the beach and a 5 minute walk from our friends where we're staying now. And it was really cool inside with nice architectural details and a loft in one of the bedrooms. And it's in our price-range.

BUT- there's no parking, the pool looked unmaintained as it was green, and we aren't sure about the pets item, the realtor is checking with the owner.

Tomorrow we're going to see an unfurnished apartment that we've already seen once (but the realtor we're seeing it with priced it at $100 less per month than the owner did when he showed it to us). Really we're just going to look at it to ask the realtor about pets. It seems like a lot of furnished places don't want you to have pets because they're worried about their furniture. The floors are all tile, so that's not a problem.

We're hoping they'll say yes about the pets, because it's $100 cheaper than the unit without parking and is basically brand new. It has a lovely, well-maintained pool and parking, but best of all, it's exactly where we'd like to be located... you can't beat that.

So, fingers crossed, y'all. Hopefully the place tomorrow will accept pets. If they don't, fingers crossed that the other place will accept pets. But worse case scenario we can live in gringolandia.

A Good Apartment Can be Hard to Find...

Dec 10, 2007

I've been calling numbers from the signs that I see hanging off the balconies that advertise "Se Renta" for the last couple days. I haven't really gotten any bites except that now we have two realtors looking for us. I have, however, gotten fairly confident about my Spanish capabilities. I've even been answering my cell phone "Bueno" since most of these calls have been conducted in Spanish.

We're supposed to meet up with an American woman (who is originally from about 3 hours from my hometown- small world) to look at a cheap apartment in Playacar. We're not too excited about Playacar as it's the gated community at the edge of town where all the Americans live because they don't want to mix with the rest of the folks here (although, it's also supposed to be the only quiet place to live in town).

At 2pm we're supposed to be meeting up with an Argentinan realtor who will be showing us an apartment two blocks from where we're staying now, which is the area we'd like to live in. It's not that we have so many friends in Playa, but the ones that we do have all live in this area and have told us that it's the place to live.

On Saturday I met up with Liz at the beach to help celebrate her friend Leta's birthday. It was cool meeting up with a fellow blogger and expat in Mexico. We had a nice time. Here's a quick photo:

Man, I feel sorta stupid

Dec 7, 2007

Learning about a new place is a slow process. It's funny, when I moved from NC to NJ I got to know how to get around Hudson county. First we lived in one spot and I learned to navigate there, then another spot and finally a third spot. In the course of the 5 or 6 years we lived there, I got pretty good at getting around.

Then we moved to western Jersey. At first I didn't know where anything was, but I'm the type who likes to drive on a road just to see where it goes. Now that we've lived out there for three years I feel like I know it pretty well.

Add to these two places Breckenridge, CO; Charlotte, NC; and Chapel Hill, NC and I start to feel pretty worldly.

I don't know Mexico.

Today we walked around looking for this rental agency that all the expats in the dive industry seem to use to find apartments. We had a general idea of where it was by the cross streets where we should be able to find it. We walked several blocks out of our way before we decided to call our friend Sofia to ask again where it was.

Enter our experience with TelCel. I understand Spanish enough to know what the operator is saying until she gets to the part where she tells you what to dial. I think the problem extends from the fact that I don't know the word for "pound." I'm assuming they'd call "star" "estrella," unless they're calling it "asterisk."*

Anyway, she said she was looking for the person and that if they couldn't connect us we should dial ... um. yeah. So we hung up. Then we tried again and hung up. Then Sofia called us and we accidently hung up on her. THEN we finally figured it out that we should maybe just wait and see if it connects. It did.

Man. Makes you feel stupid.

Anyway, we found the place. They're closed for siesta right now, we'll have to go back later today.

*Ok, I just figured it out, they're saying "Asterisco" as in asterisk... my head hurts.

Where we're staying

Dec 6, 2007

So I thought I should post some photos of where we're staying, because it's really nice.

Here's the living room:

And the kitchen:

Our bedroom (it was nicer before we slept in the bed):

The spare bedroom:

The bathroom (there are 2.5):

Our view to the west:

Our view to the east:

Coming to you Live, from Playa del Carmen

We're here! We flew down yesterday to stay for two weeks while we look for an apartment (in the middle of high season, ugh) and see how it is to work from here. So far, so good. Obviously, I have an internet connection. We brought our Lingo VOIP router down, so we have a New Jersey phone number here (the same as our regular office phone) so that's cool.

Last night we decided to walk around some so we went down to Avenida Quinta (the main touristy drag- looks a lot like a Vegas mall but with some nice restaurants). We grabbed a nice meal that wasn't too expensive and then walked around some more. Eventually we went to this little coffee shop where we've been before and drank some coffee and people watched. We even met an expat who was running a gallery. He was about my parents' age, maybe a little older and he used to run 9 galleries outside of Atlanta, GA. He and his wife have been here for 3 years.

The condo where we're staying is in a great location in terms of good places to live in Playa. We're about 6 blocks from the beach and two from the Mega, which is like Wal-Mart, but Mexican, so it doesn't feel quite as evil. It's nice and quiet back here for the most part. It's certainly quieter than our old NJ neighborhood when we lived in Union City. The condo belongs to our cave guide, Pietro. He bought it last year and he and his girlfriend have converted the roof top terrace into a studio apartment. We're staying in the regular apartment with 2 bedrooms and 2.5 baths and they're staying in the studio upstairs.

Pietro and Angela have offered to call some friends who might know something about what apartments are for rent. I'm going to email our friend Sophia who is also living here and see if we can get in touch with her and maybe hang out a couple times this trip.

Oh! And we've rented our house! The woman who is renting it wants to move in on Jan 1, so we're going to have to be outta there on New Year's Eve. She's coming in and painting one of the bedrooms while we're here. We feel like we might have asked for too little for rent, but the fact that it's already rented saves us a ton a money that we would have spent on the mortgage while we tried to rent it.

I'm seriously thinking that we're going to be able to do this!

Hi, Fned!

Dec 4, 2007

Hey, Cool, I'm Global!

Dec 3, 2007

Ok, so I admit, I'm a dork. I just installed a stat counter on this blog to see where people are coming from. Here's a map of where my readers are coming from:

There's lots of east-coasters, but I'd expect that- I have actual friends who visit the site. I know, shocking!

I have a handful from Mexico- "What up?!? Represent Yo! Mexico in the Hiz-ouse"

One from Chile- "Hi, Mamacita Chilena!"

But what I'm particularly proud of is my one German visitor, my one South African visitor, my one UK visitor, my two Aussies and that one person who is living in the ocean on the Equator off the coast of Africa!

Seriously, here's a closer look at where they're living:

Not much going on there, I'd say.

What, you might ask, is the most popular page? It's this one.

And the second most popular? Clearly you would have guessed it's this one.

I know, you're dying to know... what's the third most popular page? That would be this one.

What do these posts have in common? Well, two of them have nothing at all to do with Mexico, moving, or anything really... I mean, tattoos and a song I think is hilarious.

I have to admit, I'm a little obsessed. I was wondering if anyone was reading this blog, since only a couple of people comment, but it seems like there are a few readers. I feel so popular... *sigh*

Mexican Consulate Visit/Visa Status: DENIED!

Well, we had done a bunch of reading about what you need to take with you to the Mexican consulate nearest you to get your FM3. I have probably 6 or 7 books on the process of moving to Mexico, so we came armed with our passports, drivers licenses, 6 months worth of bank statements and a marriage license (just in case). One of the things that they tell you in all the books is that you never know what you're going to get when you go into the consulate- some are stricter than others and you HAVE to go to the one closest to you, you can't shop around.

For us, the closest one is in New York City. So we got up early this morning and headed in, thinking that it wouldn't be too crowded. As we rounded the corner of 39th street I saw the Mexican flag waving in front of this building about half way down the block. There were approximately 100 to 150 people all congregated around the gate in front of the consulate. We started to think that this might take a little more time than we had anticipated.

We had no idea what everyone was doing in front of the consulate at there didn't seem to be a line or any clear order. There was one official-looking guy who was manning the gate and letting people in or out randomly. We saw him let a bunch of people in for visas just as we approached the gate, so we figured we'd force our way up to the front and see if he would let us in, too. As we got there, he changed his strategy and started calling for only people who had appointment numbers to come forward. Hubby was right at the gate- like literally blocking the way for people to get in- and he doesn't speak enough Spanish to know what was going on. So I told him to step aside and let the people in who had the little papers with appointment numbers on them.

After about 5 or so minutes the guy looked at us and asked if we just needed visas. We said yes, and he told us to come in and gave us a number. A few minutes later he told us to go inside to the third floor.

The place was CRAZY inside! There were so many people in so many lines it reminded me of the NJ DMV a few years ago, before they fixed it. Anyway, we get upstairs and wait in a little waiting room for a couple minutes. Not too long after we sat down a woman came out and got us.

We sat across from her in her desk and she sort of gave us a blank stare... "Uh. Ok. Um. We'd like to get an FM3 visa for 1 year." Turns out that at this particular consulate you HAVE to be retired and you HAVE to have $1500 coming in from Social Security. It doesn't matter if you're a millionaire, you have to have money coming in from Social Security or you're not getting an FM3.

Alright, on to plan B. We're going to cross at the border and try to get Tourist Visas for 6 months. We'll be back in the US in a few months any way because some very close friends have a baby due in February and we'll be coming back to meet her in person, so it's not like we won't be able to extend the tourist visa by getting a new one every time we come back in.

All in all, I was pretty surprised how efficient the consulate was. I even got to flex my Spanish muscles a little since we basically did the whole transaction in Spanish after our agent was struggling to explain the situation in English.

I've read of people getting tourist visas and getting them converted to FM3s once they're in Mexico, we'll see what happens. It might not even be necessary.