It has been a long time since I updated you on what is happening in Mérida. Suffice it to say that we have been very busy and have accomplished part of the long “To Do” list.
First things first …. Jack says hello to everybody. He is adjusting well to his new home. He loves going to the pub and particularly loves when he gets lamb chop bones,
Jack at Hennessy’s Irish Pub enjoying the iced water that the staff so kindly provided
So let’s talk money! The final part of getting Maxine home to the USA was receiving the refund of the deposit we paid when we brought her into the country. Thankfully, everything was done properly at the Banjercito office in Progreso and we received the credit on our American Express card about two weeks after Maxine sailed.
Since we got to Mérida, we have been getting cash from our US bank accounts through local ATM machines. This works well in the short term but we really needed to establish a bank account here in Mexico. Getting cash out of the hole in the wall for miscellaneous purchases is fine but there is a daily withdrawal limit of 5,000 pesos. It would take us forever to withdraw enough cash to pay for a car and I am not exactly excited about walking around with a Walmart bag full of pesos!
We really did not know where to start when looking for a bank but consulted our friends here and got good advice. We finally decided to open two accounts with Intercam Banco. The first is a US dollar account and the second is a MXN peso account. To open the account, we needed our passports, our residency cards and a utility bill that proved that we lived at our address. As long as we maintain a balance of $2,000 USD, there are no bank fees. We were issued a debit card that we can also use as an ATM card. If we withdraw cash at Intercam or Scotia Bank ATMs, there are no fees. They provide a robust online service where we can check balances, pay bills, etc. I was particularly pleased with the security setup. Coming from an IT background, cyber security is a priority for me. Intercam provides two-factor authentication through an electronic fob similar to a SecurID.
We were assisted in setting up the account by a gentleman called Ruben, who is the Executive Banker at Intercam. Ruben was fantastic to work with and speaks perfect english. His contact information can been seen on his business card below. We have really enjoyed working with him. I would recommend that you contact him via email and set up an appointment. As you might guess, everybody wants to work with the REALLY good guy and, as a result, Ruben stays very busy.
Ruben’s business card
The second topic of this blog deals with something that I admit I am emotionally attached to – my cell phone! We had been using our US numbers with Verizon service since we got here. Most of the communication with our friends and family is though WhatsApp, which works well. But it was time to ditch Verizon and get Mexican cell service.
We decided to go with Telcel and visited their main office in downtown Mérida. Unfortunately, we visited on a Monday. Apparently, Mondays and Saturday are the absolute worst days to visit. We certainly can attest to that. The place was packed with people, most of whom were standing. The office provides only two benches that can seat about eight people. Everybody else has to stand. We had to stand for 2.5 hours. It was excruciating!
When we finally got to talk to somebody, things moved relatively quickly. The gentleman who helped us spoke english well. We had to provide the standard documents (passport, etc.). We bought new SIM cards for our existing phones. The plan we bought provides unlimited calling and texting in Mexico, the USA and Canada. Use in Mexico of social apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Uber, WhatsApp, SnapChat, Instagram, etc. is free. For everything else, we bought just 1.5 GB of data each. This plan cost $15 USD per month for both of us. I was so happy to call Verizon and tell them to cancel my service. We are getting better service and more functionality for $15 than we did for the $155 we paid Verizon each month.
Since we have bank accounts in the USA, we needed a USA telephone number to validate against when signing into our accounts online. We accomplished this by getting a Google Voice number. Unfortunately, we cannot forward our Google Voice number to our Mexican phone because the full functionality of GV is only available in the USA. However, we can receive text messages and that is all we need for validation purposes.
We still needed to solve the problem of calling people who live outside of Mexico, Canada and the USA and who do not have WhatsApp. We chose to use Skype, which works very well and allows us to call land lines and cell phones anywhere in the world for a small fee. This is our chosen solution for calling our family in Ireland.
Our friends, Colleen and Kent, visited from the USA for two weeks. During their stay, we went to Chem Bech Cantina. The cantina is only a few blocks from our house and is a fun place to enjoy a cold beer and meet friends. One of its unique attractions is the urinal in the men’s room. As you can see from the photograph below, the tiles are rather special. To those of you who hold Mr. Trump in high regard, I would suggest averting your eyes from this photograph.
Peeing with presidents in the men’s room at Chem Bech Cantina
On this particular day, 4 July, we had much to celebrate: it was USA Independence Day and Colleen and Kent’s 20th wedding anniversary, the World Cup was still on and still exciting even though Mexico lost to Brazil, the weather was lovely and it was Wednesday. All great reasons to celebrate! We gathered with other friends from Mexico, England, the USA and Canada and had a lovely time. Below are some photos.
Standing is Susan (California). Sitting are Colleen (South Carolina), Renee (Texas), Adam (England), Kent (South Carolina), Josue (Mérida)
Jerry (Vancouver, Canada) giving his best “Jerry’s Gang” sign!
Renee having an “OMG” moment with Susan
Getting down to the serious business of tequila shooters. (Once again, I must apologize for not knowing how to present the video so it is right-side-up. If you play it, however, it works just fine.)
Look for upcoming episodes of this blog that will tell you of our experience buying a used car. I will introduce you to a terrific man who specializes in finding you just the right car. Also, I will do a review of El Palacito Secreto, a beautiful boutique hotel that provides superior accommodations and a really great breakfast.