We are having to learn new ways of doing things, which are not always that easy or simple. But that is exactly what we wanted when we moved from Oakland. Since I started traveling I have always wanted to live somewhere other than the USA and Glenn has lived in a few other countries, including Mexico and San Miguel for awhile. Both Glenn and I love exploring other cultures and different ways of living life. For us the US was getting boring and cruel, and we longed for more color, sunshine and a simpler way of life. We no longer wanted to spend hours on a freeway getting from place to place. Or eating in the same style of place all the time. Or paying so much for for everything. Or only seeing friends once in awhile since everyone was so busy. Or divisive politics making everyone so crazy. Or… you get the idea. We know San Miguel isn’t the answer for everything, but it sure feels that way for now.
Along with all the comfort we have with a beautiful house to stay in, great restaurants, stunning architecture and the color of it all with the amazing sunlight they have here, come some challenges.
We had the struggle of the trash. There is no garbage pick up in our part of Colonia San Antonio, and the private street of the Villas Del Tesoro. We were told when we first got here that we could bring it to Vicki around the corner who sits on the wall with a table of chicharron she sells. For a small tip she would handle it for us. We were a bit confused even with the landlords map, for some reason we thought she was on the opposite side of the street. We finally asked a tienda owner and he told us she was just a couple of doors up the street on Calle de Tesoro. Once we looked at Sher’s map again it all made sense. At first we were actually looking for the table outside. But if we had looked up we would have seen a sign above the door that said chicharrons. Yea!!, one thing figured out! Plus she is a really sweet lady with a big smile so we are happy to give her some money. It really helps us out. She offered to come up to the house to get the garbage bags but we said no, we can certainly do that. If we didn’t find her we would have to take the garbage by car to another street at 7:30pm to the night garbage truck.
Another thing we were having trouble with, and found out the hard way after being charged some high fees, is the use of ATM’s. It is not easy to use a credit card everywhere because either the amount is too small or they simply don’t take them. So we need to get cash out once in awhile. Glenn’s Capital One 360 was charging $5 plus 3% of the transaction! We had thought that they waived the International fees. But they don’t seem to for ATM’s, it is only on purchases. And I have Chase who are horrible too with high fees. We found out that when Glenn used his Wells Fargo Debit, to our surprise they actually refunded part of the fee and did not charge any percentage. It turns out he has the Premier Checking and didn’t know it. Another note though is that they had a really low amount that Glenn could take out a day, we just got that upped a bit, but to us it seems like the ATM’s have a limit on what you can take out of them. So if you need a lot of cash you may need to use a couple of cards to get it. And definitely check with your bank first about limits, fees and charges.
Before we left home we looked into various global insurances. They were ridiculously high and just covered major medical. We knew we were just going to pay out of pocket for doctors visits and dental procedures here since they are inexpensive. And, when traveling we will just use travel insurance to cover us. This really meant we only needed something for major medical in Mexico. Our visa facilitator Sonia told us about the public health system, Seguro Popular. We could qualify for a membership for the both of us together for 3 years for a total of 9,000 pesos including her fee. That is about $482. It is a less convenient than using private insurance but who cares about a little wait when you have all day. We still have to figure out exactly how to use it though. Luckily the clinic we were assigned is only about 5 minutes away from us by bus. By doing Seguro Popular we will be saving so much money, about $600 a month. This means we should be able to live off of our incomes and not go into our savings. We are saving that for our travels and emergencies. Glenn is still checking out something for when we go through the US since he does not have Medicare yet. We will see if we can swing the cost. Of course, we haven’t needed to use Seguro Popular yet, so once/if that happens we may need to re-adjust our thinking anyway.
The potable water was another thing we had to figure out, and we are still working on that. Our landlord, who is quite a bit older than us but who must be in great shape, would take a wheelbarrow down the street to get water from the tienda. There is no way we can do that as we are wimps and walking down the rough cobblestone street is hard enough, let alone using a full wheelbarrow. We were almost out of water and Glenn had strained his right wrist before we left home using a flexible screwdriver. We actually went to the MAC Hospital nearby for a doctor’s appointment a couple of weeks ago, and now Glenn’s wrist is bandaged to keep it immobile till our next appointment on the 8th. (The doctors appointment, with 4 people – doctor, administrator etc. in the room was $55) Anyway, there is no way he can use it. We asked Benjamin (house manager) if he could schedule Santorini (the water company) to come and trade out the empty water bottles for full ones. But because we live on a private street and have a gate, and you never know when exactly they will come, this wasn’t possible. So he was nice enough to help us out and get the water for us for a small fee. He said he had to go to several tiendas to find enough bottles as some of the tiendas were out though. He is going to try and get us 5 more new full bottles to add to the 5 we have so the water will last about a month. The bottles when you exchange them are only 35 pesos each or slightly less than $2. This is for a 40 pound bottle! It is even difficult for us to change the empty bottle for a full one inside the house. Especially with the wrist. But, we have to do it as the water out of the tap isn’t drinkable. Oh well, what is another little hiccup.
One other thing we had to take care of right away was dealing with our mail. We decided to use La Connexion, a mail service that Glenn used in 2005. There are several offices here. For $18 a month (pay in advance, $23 if you pay separately each month) we have a post box in Laredo, Texas where we have our mail sent and then every day they send a delivery van to San Miguel. It takes longer, 5-10 days to get packages and you have to pay an extra fee (quite high at 17% of value) for receiving those. We will start looking into Amazon Mexico for our needs. We are just waiting to receive the first mail to be received as it was forwarded from Glenn’s mom and our old next door neighbor. The service for us is definitely worth using as once again we are on a gated private street with no access to postal workers. Besides it makes a nice walk into town to pick it up and we get to see our artist friend Michael Tolleson Robles as his gallery is right in front. Every time we visit he has more amazing artwork on display. We have talked to him several times now and really enjoy visiting.
We use the the tiendas in our neighborhood, the Sano specialty market on the nearby main street and the Organic markets in the Guadalupe neighborhood for most of our groceries. We see to find pretty much everything we need. Then every week we have been going to the big grocery (really an everything store) La Comer about 5 minutes away by bus for bulk or harder to find items. When done we just take a $2.50 taxi home with all our stuff.
With these things pretty much settled and figured out we are otherwise just sort of breezing through our very relaxing days. What new challenge though may be around the corner?