Thursday, April 02, 2009

freedom +1

I woke up Wednesday morning with a raging headache and no voice.

I know what you are thinking. Wrong! Not this teetotaler boy. I am merely suffering the heights of a head cold.

And I am glad this stage hit me yesterday. It would have been a bit disappointing (to me) if I had not been able to speak at my retirement party.

My first day of retirement was just like any Saturday -- except I had chores to accomplish to get ready for the move south.

First stop: my credit union. I deposited my last pay check and started making arrangements to get approval to use my ATM card in Mexico. On my last two trips, I forgot to do that. No authorization; no pesos. Several of you have suggested that I open an account at a bank with partnership relations in Mexico. I may still do that -- even though it will mean changing my automatic deposit arrangements.

Then Jiggs and I were off to the veterinarian to get his vaccinations updated. We had to time the shots between his cortisone injections -- to avoid complications. He is now sacked out on the floor. I suspect those vaccinations must put a load on is system.

On a side note: Jiggs had his first old age accident this morning. I found him looking forlorn under the dining room table. It is just one of those things that the two of us will have to live with.

And then I really took a retirement indulgence. I drove over to Costco and just wandered up and down the aisles looking at merchandise I will never buy. The indulgence is that I usually treat visits to Costco like a guerrilla incursion. I know what I want. IO grab it. I leave. (Oh. And I pay for it.) Today, I bought some groceries and medicine. That was it. But I had a good time just looking.

I do have one question, though. Do any of you use any of the food sealing systems? The humidity in Melaque causes dry goods to go stale over night. I thought sealing some goods (such as cereal) may make them last longer. But I am a bit concerned about all the extra plastic material used in sealing. Thoughts?

Then it was home for a long nap to start attacking this cold. Nyquil at night and Dayquil during the day. And, of course, chicken soup -- or, rather, chicken tortilla soup -- for that Mexican touch.


Calypso said...

Yes we use a food sealer. We found there are certain bags that work aside from the very expensive seal-a-meal bags; coffee for instance with many of the bags that Mexican coffee comes in you can seal it close to the top and cut that off and reseal it several times - the machine is worth having I think.

On the banking issue - of course there are more opinions than flies - I suggest having accounts with a minimum of two (or more) banks banks. We have Citi and Bank of America as well as Wells Fargo (and a couple of others - don't ask. You need to have at least two credit cards from different banks - especially if you travel around Mexico where it is possible to have a card put on hold (they think your card has been stolen when it moves around) and the machines occasionally mess up.

We never use a card at an ATM when the bank is closed and only use the ATM at a bank - not in grocery stores etc. If the machine eats your card you can get someone to help if the bank is open.

I know Felipe will disagree - but I wouldn't have a Mexican bank account - certainly not early on - I have heard too many stories of lost deposits with shrugged shoulders to make me comfortable with that.

It is easy to move money between banks - so I wouldn't worry about automatic deposits - just transfer out of that account.

We opened a number of bank accounts last time we were in the US. Every one of them made a mistake or two getting accounts going - it is as if they go out of their way to A: cloud the process to confuse the proletariat and B: hire the lowest rung teenager to handle your money.

Banking can be nerve racking and dicey from another country. Have contacts at each bank who know enough about your situation (living out of the country) to be of help.

Let your credit card carriers know when you are going to Mexico - they are NOT the bank - they will put a hold on your card at the slightest change in billings.

Read the Viva Veracruz Forum there are a lot of comments and advice on banking in Mexico.

Islagringo said...

I don't see any need for you to switch banks. All of our deposits go directly to our credit union and, so long as you have a valid ATM card, we have had no problems at all.

Poor PJiggs. Not only to have had an old age incident, but for you to tell the world. Oh the shame!

I will be curious what people have to say about automatic sealers. We have longed discussed getting one but haven't done it. Would be nice to have things last more than a day in this humidity and salt.

Tom and Debi said...

Regarding food storage - at least here in Merida, we all keep stuff in tight sealing jars, ziplock baggies, and even then most likely also in the fridge. ANTS ANTS ANTS!, and then here we have the heat and humidity. Very little sits out, evven our fruit and veggies are stored in the fridge.

Congratulations! Day 1, it only gets better.
Our pets all react the same way to the shots, one complete day of bedrest.

Looking forward to the tales of your trip down!

Larry in Mazatlan said...


You'll soon discover that the rest of your life is about indulging yourself and your senses. And of course Jigg's! It might take a while, but you'll reach the point where you can tell yourself "I earned this!" and truly mean it.

Only a couple of things come to mind for sealing food. We use a couple of Tupperware style containers for pasta, which works well. For salt and rice, we use glass containers. These were ones we picked up at Ikea that have a really good plastic seal around the rim. Never had a problem.

Remember, if you really mean "sealing systems," at some point you're going to be looking for hard to find replenishment materials.


1st Mate said...

Steve - If you're going to buy really big (Costco-size) containers of cereal, etc. that you hope will last you a year, you might consider some kind of sealing system, since it's tropical in Melaque. I haven't had any problem with moisture, but I live in the desert. Still, it gets very humid here. I just use big jars with good tight lids.

Felipe said...

Food sealers?! Jeez, another reason not to live in the tropics. That and nonstop sweating.

And scorpions, gnats, huge spiders, etc.

I have a friend here who came down expecting to use his credit union card. He had nothing but problems, and finally opened an account at HSBC here. You need a big-league institution.

I´ve had an account at Banamex and their LA affiliate Citibank (Banamex USA) for almost a decade. Never had one lick of problem. Quite the contrary. It´s amazingly convenient. They sure never lost a deposit.

The larger issue is that if you are intending to live in Mexico, just do so. Don´t traipse about with your Gringo car, your Gringo driver´s license, your Gringo "tourist" insurance, a Gringo bank, sure, but a Mexican bank too.

Your Gringo this and your Gringo that. Don´t embarrass yourself. That stuff´s for tourists and/or the faint of heart. If you´re gonna live here, don´t fence-straddle.

And get rid of your Gringo wife too! Well, Steve, in your case, that isn´t possible. You´re one step ahead.

Just joking, ladies. Well, maybe.

American Mommy in Mexico said...

Banking - No Mexico account - just use ATM

Sealing - We use zip lock bags and put in the fridge mostly. Ants are are a constant - they are amazing and can scoop on open items in minutes!

Cynthia Johnson and Mike Nickell said...

We also used the big jars with good tight lids solution. And the fridge. No problemas.

glorv1 said...

Oh poor Mr. Jiggs. He must be feel terrible about the incident. Poor baby. I'm worried about jiggs. I'm sure you'll do okay with containers of sorts. My best to Jiggs ::hugs:: to jiggs.

zannie said...

Hmm, I've never had any trouble using my ATM card when visiting Mexico, though I think I've always called the bank to let them know I would be traveling. However, I think last time I went my bank did charge foreign transaction fees. Not a big deal for a visit, but something to consider for a move!

Joanne said...

Our credit union NOB has been great and we have had no problems with getting money or transfering money. (So far!) We also have 2 Mexican bank accounts.

We use the plastic jars with the lids for most of our food. Once a box is opened, it goes into plastic. Sugar is in the fridge. Flour is in the freezer. And my Mom wonderfully brought us 2 boxes of Triscuit crackers, which would be stale in one day if they weren't in the freezer. We are in Progreso, just north of Merida, so it is plenty humid here. But you have to be vigilant about food storage or those tiny ants are in everything!

Constantino said...

Gee, makes me feel great that I have pasta, crackers and stuff in my pantry for years.....And no sweat unless I work too hard....once or twice a year.

Steve Cotton said...

Calypso -- I most likely will stay with the credit union -- even though I am changing my state of reidence. Felipe's advise on CitiBank will most likely bear fruit.

IslandGringo -- Jiggs gave me signed consent to tell his story as an educational tool for the public to better understand the plight of elderly dogs. He is so litigious, I would never publish without consent.

Debi -- Jiggs was up and at 'em today. I suspect the rabies shot did him in yesterday.

Larry -- The accessories issue has convinced me to avoid buying the sealing system. Not only are the bags expensive, I suspect they are impossible to buy in Mexico. The machine is the size of a printer. And I do not have any room on the trip down.

1st Mate -- Last July, I opened up a box of Special K. The next day, the remainder was stale. As in damp stale, not dry stale.

Felipe -- I intend to open a CitiBank account. And wish I had done it earlier. Tomorrow.

AMM -- I did not have any ant problems last year. But my place in La Manzanilla was plagued. Zip locks in the refrigerator seem to be a common answer.

Cynthia -- Where did you get the jars?

Gloria -- Jigss is old. He will enjoy his last few days. But I am fully aware that they are his last days. Thanks for the empathy.

Zannie -- My credit union bars all ATM transactions from Mexico -- for its own reason that baffles me. I just need to be cleared to use it.

Joanne -- Wopuld putting the crackers in the refrigerator help -- or do they dehydrate? I know that is a problem with bread.

Steve Cotton said...

Constantino -- Ah, yes. The hubris of the highlanders. And that may be a good reason for me to join you in your lofty clime.

Jonna said...

Yes, well just don't go and visit those highlanders in the winter or you will freeze your tail off. Oh, and if you don't like altitude you'll also hate it up there.

I see those sealer machines at the Costco here in Merida, they are available here but perhaps not where you are. My advice is get a big refrigerator, they are not only cold but dry and ant free. Over in Akumal I keep my vitamins in the fridge. So far, the little ants haven't found my stash here in Merida but they will. If you have really good sealing plastic containters, they will keep the humidity out and the ants out.

I've used my credit union here for 7 years with no problems and less fees than commercial banks. I also have a BoA account and can use it without fees at any Santander or Scotia bank. I would not touch a Mexican bank account EVAH! They invented overcharges and fees for sneezing. There is very little reason to ever have an account down here. SOME people are capable of living in two worlds and don't have to throw one away to enjoy the other. Pick and choose the stuff that works best from both countries.

Steve Cotton said...

Jonna -- Thanks. As always, banking is a good topic for dust-ups. Like you, I have long ago realized that I will never be Mexican culturally. Our law backgrounds add to the transitional difficulties. I am happy to bring my life with me and to live it in an environment that will always be fascinatingly strange to me.

Cynthia Johnson and Mike Nickell said...

Regarding our jars - many years ago I was a bartender (a very good one, I might add!) and I collected those large (1 gal?) cherry and olive jars. I've been schleping 6 of them around forever and I was sure glad we had them in Guaymas. You could probably buy something similar at a kitchen supply store.

Steve Cotton said...

Cynthia -- Sounds like a good idea - but not on this trip. I havbe room for the equivalent of two suit cases, and Jiggs's stuff will take up half of that.

Elke said...

Steve, the sealing system and replacement bags are available at SAMS Club in Colima. Just buy some bags and stop by and use our sealer anytime....

Steve Cotton said...

Elke -- I may stop by just to see how the thing works. If I can get one at Sam's Club, I will not need to schlep it across the border.

Theresa in Mèrida said...

Steve, there is a very simple sealing system available, I got mine at a garage sale. It is about the size of a box of plastic wrap. You can use a small straw to suck the air out manually or just squeeze it out. I didn't bring it with me.
Here is the deal, I don't buy in huge quantities anymore. Most things like crackers come in small packages with the big boxes anyway. It just isn't cost effective between the ants and moisture to buy in bulk. Cans get rusty quickly too!
I put stuff in plastic bags (often recycled produce bags) which I then put in large jars. I have large glass ones from marinated artichoke hearts (from Costco) that I buy periodically and plastics ones that I buy at the plastic store. Mexico is the land of plastic, your town will probably have at least one plastic store. Wander around it and see what is available before you go to the more expensive places like Costco and Walmart. Look around before you buy anything, oh, remember that things aren't always available, but plastic jars and containers seem to be the exception to that rule. And they are often called "tuppers" here. I have even seen them called that at the grocery store. Copyrights are not vigorously enforced here s.o.b.

Steve Cotton said...

Theresa -- As always, thanks for the tips. There are at least two plastic stores very close to the house. I will take a look.

CancunCanuck said...

Steve, we just use regular tupperware style containers and keep most things in the fridge. As Theresa said, buy in small quantities, as a single man, that's all you'll need. You'll find things go bad faster here and you'll just throw away a whole lot of stuff. As for banking, I guess I'm the wrong person to ask, I only have a Mexican bank account, nothing left up in Canada. It is a requirement when working here that you have a bank account with the same bank as your employer. I wish I had a choice of banks, but alas, that's not the way things work. If I want to be paid, I open an account here. If the company changes banks, I have to change banks, no choice!

Big hugs to Jiggs, poor guy!

Holly Campbell said...

We use the Foodsaver all the time to put up produce we grow. We buy meat in bulk at Costco, cut it up into servings for two and freeze it. We rely on it quite a bit, but the plastics issue has concerned me. I'm intrigued with the other comments about using other types of plastic bags (recycling) for the same purpose. I agree with using tightly sealed jars or containers for freshness. It really depends on what you're wanting to store & for how long. By the way, aren't you supposed to eating more fresh fruit & veggies now!?!