Bonjour Paris!

At last the trip to Europe & the UK was at hand. Since the Big K lived in Portland OR he flew to Atlanta the night before the adventure was to begin. I met him at check-in around noon- a very excited (at last) traveler. His first trip over the pond and first time in first/business class. Quickly checked in and on the way to the first class lounge to await boarding. Because our tickets were a specially discounted travel agent rate it was required that we were dressed in business attire- dress shirt, tie, jacket and dress pants.

The Big K really doesn’t drink much-if ever. But the excitement for all of the new travel experiences proved too much so a mid-day drink (or two) was called for. We soon boarded the plane for a short flight to the connecting flight for Paris.

Another lounge visit, a few more drinks and then it was time for the real adventure to begin. We settled into our seats- or as the Big K called them “barco-loungers”. Since the whole front cabin experience was so new to him he had to examine and test all of the buttons and functions of the seats. We were very fortunate to have a seasoned flight crew in our cabin who had a great sense of humor. They immediately “clicked” with Big K.

Shortly after take -off the cabin service began with (more) beverages. Just what Big K needed. He had already opened his tray table, reclined the seat and played with the gooseneck lamp that he was treating as a microphone for a fast food order system. “Order up” he kept squawking with the requisite “crackle” in the system. The head stewardess was dying of laughter. (Don’t encourage him!)

Prior to boarding he had purchased a few post cards and with drink in hand began to dictate what he was going to write. Since Paris was the first stop in our journey he was writing about what the French experience would be like. “fa fah fah fa” Bonjour, “fa fah fah fah”, Champagne…”fa fah fah fah” Eiffel Tower, etc. An entire card with his best impression of what French sounded like to him. Interestingly on my recent visit to Portland he came across one of the cards he had sent to his mother. It was the “fa fah fah” French card! We could hardly believe she had kept it after so many years.

Soon enough a nice multi-course dinner was served- on real china with metal silverware. (Much to his surprise.) Of course there was wine service with the meal (yea). The non-drinking Big K was feeling no pain at 34,000 feet. Postcards complete, a lovely dinner & dessert polished off, there was an after dinner beverage service. Soon our favorite flight attendant was by our seats with the drink trolley laden with after-dinner liqueurs, coffee and chocolates. (Remember we had to “dress” for the trip? This will be important in a moment). The Big K decided on Baileys- the only one of the liqueurs he had ever tried. Our flight attendant friend poured him a very generous glass. (VERY generous.) About the same time as the after dinner drink service the flight encountered some bumpy air. And the Bailey’s encountered the front of the Big K’s shirt…yikes! A perfectly pressed white dress splattered with a quite visible stain. Big K was quite upset but soon our flight attendant friend was beside us offering to clean the front of his shirt in their flight rest area. She took his shirt (thankfully he had an undershirt beneath his dress shirt) and was off for her break and laundry project. Since it was late and the Big K was feeling really relaxed we soon fell asleep until just before landing in Paris.

About an hour before landing and moderately awake, the cabin was prepared for a pre-arrival breakfast service. Our flight attendant friend came down the aisle with Big K’s shirt on a hanger- and looking as if it had been starched with industrial strength supplies. And no visible stain! That shirt was crispy! We couldn’t stop laughing.

After a quick breakfast it was announced that landing would be soon…wheels & flaps down…welcome to Paris!

 

The adventures of Big K  & the Paris story continues in the next posting….

 

Thanks for reading… until next time, feliz viaje!

 

Pepe

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The Big K

No…this is not about illegal drugs….it is the nickname of a good friend. Where in the world did this name come from? To be revealed in a future posting. For now it’s my best friend’s nickname.

When Pepe began his career in the travel/tourism industry he worked for an  international airline in groups and sales support. As such he traveled a lot both for work and leisure. Over the years I had “collected” a diverse group of friends who also worked for other airlines.

We all frequently traveled back and forth between England, the USA and South America. (Once I went to London for a birthday party- flew on Friday night, arrived London on Saturday morning, went to the party, spent the night and came home on Sunday. Just a 2 day trip!) We of course always met other airline employees and our group of “wanderers” kept growing.

On one trip to Caracas (years before the current humanitarian & political disaster existed) lounging by our favorite hotel swimming pool and enjoying the hot, tropical climate we met some folks from Portland, Oregon. When they found out that I lived in Atlanta, was an airline employee and had never visited Oregon they invited me to one of their weekend cook-outs. As it was only a 5 hr flight from ATL I said sure….let me know when the next event is scheduled. Little did I know that my first visit would turn out to be just one of many trips I would make to the Pacific Northwest.

The cookout was great. My friends that I met in Caracas had a wonderful home (he is an architect) and a great group of guests at the party. Since I was the non-Portlander of the group there were lots of questions about my work with the airline and travel in general.   Of course the typical “if you ever need a travel companion I work for myself and can travel most anytime” comments were made. And my standard response “I will keep you in mind.” (My other favorite party enquiry- “Oh you work in travel….how much is the fare to X” question always comes up too. When I was in tariffs (fares) I was always told that there are approximately 100,000 fare changes per day just in the US Domestic market. That’s what the computer reservation system was for!)

Not long after I made friends in Portland I was laid off from the airline job I so loved. But I was fortunate and found a good job at a well-known travel agency. After my run of airline layoffs an agency would probably be a better and more permanent job and offer similar travel perks. One of the best perks to be offered was a business class fare to Europe for $600 roundtrip including taxes- and with a confirmed seat. (Business class fares from ATL to Europe can range from $5000-10,000) . For the special, agent fare travel dates and inventory were limited but with some date flexibility travel was possible. In the agency there were also frequent hotel promotions & contests for deluxe hotel stays.

Working at the agency I was able to collect agent points through a big hotel group that would get me a room at a very nice hotel in Paris. Coupled with the business class flat rate fare to Europe it could be a deluxe trip at an incredible price. Not really wanting to go to Europe alone I called Portland to see if one of my new friends would be interested. I proposed a Paris-London combo as I had enough points for a 3 night stay in a very nice Paris hotel and had friends in London who had had enough space for guests for a few nights.

Surprisingly The Big K hesitated…”I have not really ever been interested in Paris but it will be nice to travel business class and get to see London” WOW- such enthusiasm!  At last he said OK and we began looking for confirmable travel dates. And soon we were off to Paris & London.

Next post- tales of the first trip.

 

Thanks for reading. Until next time, feliz viaje!

Pepe

 

 

Pepe vs IZZI– round 2

Late in September of year 1 “it happened”- my first experience with a tropical storm.The news had reported the possibility of this storm so I did have some time to prepare. Not really knowing what to expect and envisioning the worst I headed out to stock up on the basics. Just as we always shopped in the USA when snow & ice storms were predicted the “storm comfort” foods were also on the shopping list. WHAT are storm comfort foods you ask? Not that it made much sense but we usually made a roast turkey dinner (time consuming but since we would be “stuck” inside…) margaritas, onion rings with sour cream & horseradish dipping sauce, popcorn, mozzarella sticks, nachos, etc. Salty & sweet junk food plus a hearty meal or two. Barring power failure we would keep busy in the kitchen during any snow or ice “apocalypse”. And thank goodness for a gas stove!

My preparations in Playa were not that elaborate but I made sure to have bread, eggs, rice, potatoes and plenty of cat food & treats (couldn’t forget the kids!), bottled water, and fruit. Unlike snow storms I really didn’t expect to be trapped indoors for more than a day or two at worst.

The storm turned out to be a non-event. Sure, there was some very heavy rain that lasted most of the day, at times blowing sideways, but only a brief power outage. Lots of leaves and tree limbs blown around in the garden. The streets were as expected flooded- almost a foot deep.

What I didn’t expect was the “waterfall” in the kitchen. A true cascade from the wall that separated the kitchen from the master bedroom’s bath. A mess indeed. And then it happened…IZZI (the internet service) left me! I suspected it was water or wind related but not sure what the roof leak had to do with the IZZI problem.

The next day the maintenance man for the house came by to look at the roof and see why the waterfall had developed in the kitchen. Seems that whoever redid the waterproofing on the roof didn’t provide proper drainage slope nor drains in correct locations. Instead there was a mini-pool on the roof – filled with water, leaves and other debris. But wait…there’s more.

Because of the storm there were many customers with IZZI problems. When the tech arrived at my place he found that whoever had done wiring for the IZZI service had used inferior (cheap) wire and a gauge too small for proper service. And they had scrimped on length of wiring required by draping the cable diagonally across the roof- and into the soon to be filled “pool”. IZZI tech requirement is to tack the cable along the perimeter of the raised edge (a type of decorative trim that gave the roof a clean look) at a height of several centimeters above the actual roof surface to avoid possible flooding & short circuits. More wire required but less chance for rain related issues. As my best friend always says #DUH!

Then there was the issue of roof & drainage….. oh so much (NOT) fun….

Thanks for reading. Until next time, feliz viaje

Pepe

 

 

Feathered friends

The biodiversity in the Yucatan (where the state of Quintana Roo is located) is incredible. As a country Mexico has over 1040 species of birds and in just Quintana Roo & the Yucatan there are 509 species of birds.

And NO birdbaths-  at least not here in Playa! Growing up in North Carolina our family always took care of the birds. My mom had a bird feeder positioned just outside our dining room window. Year-round she fed her birds. It was so pleasant to look out and see cardinals, robins, “grackles” (aggressive black birds) and more enjoying the mix of sunflower and other seeds she left for them. The squirrels attempted to steal the food whenever they could. Of course if mom was going to feed the birds she would also take care of water for them too so she bought them a bird bath. (One of those cast cement types with a “garden nymph” in the center. Not really pretty but she loved it.) She also always made sure to keep their fountain/bird bath full.

When I arrived in Mexico I was pleased that my little house had a lovely garden with a variety of plants and flowers. I noticed lots of birds too- including parrots & a Mexican woodpecker! As it is a hot & humid climate most of the year I wanted to give the birdies a source for water and a bath.

And so the mission began. The bigger grocery/department type stores had small garden departments but a bird bath was not in the offerings. Not even the American brand stores like Walmart and Home Depot had them.

Being a cook I also wanted to grow some fresh herbs like basil, oregano and rosemary. (This did not work out so well. The heat kills most every plant except cactus & palms!) One day wandering around a really nice garden center that stocked clay & ceramic pots an idea popped into my head….#DUH! I was going to make a birth bath from flower pots!

Two pots, some epoxy glue, waterproof paint for the “bath” bowl and my feathered friends would be set.

birdbath

I was excited to put out their bath and see who would be visiting. I could see various birds sitting in the trees around the garden and perching on the wall around the house. It didn’t take long before I had visitors. Besides swooping in for a drink I saw many other birds apparently enjoying a splash about the bath enjoying the cool water. I was so happy for my feathered friends.

Who knows….for the next “flea market” I may make some more bird baths and try to sell them. “Fuentes para pajaros” by Pepe 

Thanks for reading. Until next time, feliz viaje

Pepe

 

 

H2 Oh…..

In the USA, Canada, western Europe & the UK we are accustomed to potable, running water in our homes. Of course we have running water here in Playa del Carmen but it is not the treated, chlorinated variety that most of us grew up with. We use our tap water for showers and baths, washing dishes, laundry, gardening and flushing the toilet.

For drinkable water? Make friends with the “aguadero”- the water man. There are many companies & services available. Big companies like Cristal- a Coca Cola Company, Bonafont and Peñafiel have delivery services that visit regularly and deliver the “garrafon”- a large water jug (approx 5 ¼ US gallons) that we use for cooking, making ice and drinking water. In many neighborhoods there are also local small businesses who deliver purified water in sealed, recycled garrafons. Unlike the “big guys” there are no schedules or appointments. The locals drive around the neighborhood honking their horn to let you know to grab your empties (garrafons) and meet them on the curb in front of your house. (In general there is a lot of “honking horns” in the neighborhoods. Many mobile services too- shoe repair, cakes for special occasions, fresh bread, seafood, fruit, trash bags, even handmade furniture.) Purified water from the local aguaderos is inexpensive- about 70-80 US cents per garrafon.  About ½ the cost of the bigger companies.

You might wonder how to get the water out of your garrafon. When they are full the garrafons are heavy and not so easy to pour. There are manual pumps (siphons), electric (battery) siphons (which I swear by), garrafon support stands for countertops (with a dispenser that holds the jug upside down like a mini office water cooler) and the very fancy electric office type water cooler with hot & cold dispensers. When I first moved I tried the mini-stand on the counter. Not so good- water everywhere if the jug doesn’t fit perfectly to the seal on the stand. Getting a full garrafon to the support also not so easy. My best friend had a battery-operated siphon which worked great and was easy to use. Just like carrots & celery, finding the electric siphon was rather elusive. For months I checked store after store for one. After more than 3 months of searching I finally came cross a display in Soriana, another of my favorite supermarkets. I happily grabbed two of them and headed to find the batteries. 2 “D” cells and I was set. Even a spare siphon should “disaster” befall siphon nbr 1.

I am pleased to report that siphon nbr 1 is still working just fine. Even the D cell batteries last a long time. Siphon number 2 is in the “bodega” (storage room) where it will stay until further notice. Those carrots & celery frustrations have served me well.

Until next time, feliz viaje

Pepe

 

The CFE (Electric) Bill

In May of year one here in Playa my first electric bill arrived. I had been expecting it and was semi-dreading how much it would be. My place, like most homes, are on a 2 month billing cycle. Even though we weren’t in the” really hot” season yet, friends had told me how unpredictable CFE could be. Like any utility company they use “clever” pricing to get as much money out of consumers as possible. Because of the wide variance in pleasant and unbearable seasons, the electric company varies the rate. There is a base level (low) that is for a certain amount of Kw hours, then it bumps up to a higher level and if you are a real heavy user of electricity you enter DAC- the very expensive (this is USA pricing) level. These levels vary by season- fewer base Kw in winter when no air conditioning is required and a more reasonable amount of Kw when you can “barely breathe in the morning” hot weather season.

I wasn’t too worried but I had heard some real horror stories from folks (mostly gringos) who just couldn’t live without the AC. My office space was tolerable most days with the ceiling and window fans. At night when there were no breezes I had to turn on the AC in the bedroom. I just can’t sleep when the air is hot & sticky. “(Soupy” as they say in the southern US.)

Speaking of air conditioners- the most popular type of AC is the split. These are not part of a central system like the ones in the USA. Inside the room there is a small fan unit with a drain that is connected to the condenser & compressor unit outside the house. They are designed for “zone” cooling. Rather than cool an entire house they cool just a room or two. More energy efficient and gentler on the CFE account.

In an earlier post I mentioned how bill paying was so easy here. At the handy corner OXXO you can pay the cell phone, internet, insurance, etc for a small service fee (commission). The electric bill is also payable at OXXO. I forgot to mention that more convenience is available at the supermarket. Chedraui, Aki, and Soriana accept payments at the check-out. Just one more thing to slow down the cashiers!

My local friends told me about another option- the bill pay machines at the CFE office. There are 6 ATM style machines that accept cash and debit/card payments and even a drive thru with the ATM bill pay machine! (A note- US credit/debit cards are usually rejected due to bank security). Genius. I just had to try it. Thinking a Sunday would be easy I grabbed the bill, my cash and headed to “Centro” (Central) Playa to get the full CFE bill pay experience. The electric bill itself is well designed. At the bottom of the page is a perforated coupon with a bar code. If you are paying at OXXO or the grocery store the clerk scans the code, accepts payment (cash only) and then staples the tab to their store copy. You are given a receipt that contains account info, amount paid, etc. Your payment posts to the account at midnight date of payment.

That same handy dandy bar code is what is used to pull up your account at the CFE ATM machines. The first time I needed to make a payment I didn’t realize that everyone gets their bill at the same time. And the “due date” is the same for everyone. How logical! (NOT) The lines were out of control and 4 of the 6 machines offline! Of course….

It took a while as in the long line of bill payers were several “newbies” (like myself) who had never used the machines. Most of them were gringos and were struggling to understand the instructions on the machines. (But I do speak, read and understand Spanish) Once I got to a machine it was quick and easy.

The second time I went to CFE was just after a new 500 peso note began circulating. Different color and slightly different size to the 500 peso note that had been circulated for a long time. Remember- you scan your bar code on the bill, amount due info pops up and you insert cash into the ATM like you would into a vending machine. Do you think CFE had adjusted their ATM machines for the new bills? Mmmmm…no. They stationed a CFE employee outside their office with a stack of old 500 peso notes and she exchanged them with clients holding the new notes. Such a long line that day!

I know you are curious…how much was that first mid-season (not summer hot yet) bill? About US$35 per month, so $70 total for 2 months. Not bad at all!

Thanks for reading. Until next time, feliz viaje!

Pepe

 

A Mexican copycat

Growing up in the USA, advertising and our moms have a big influence on our tastes in foods. Who doesn’t love a “Rice Krispy Treat”?

From childhood until we leave home for college our mom is usually the one who makes the day-to-day meals- especially dinner.

Our house was a little different – my dad was a professional Escoffier Chef and managed a hotel food & beverage department. He oversaw a restaurant, bar and a large convention center. Because of his work commitments we didn’t see too much of him except on weekends when he would “fire up the grill” and mess up mom’s kitchen. He ordered so much meat & poultry for the hotel’s food services that his main supplier would send very generous packages of their products to my mom several times per month. Steaks, ground beef, prime rib, ham, pork chops, hot dogs and more filled our refrigerator with what mom jokingly called her “care packages”. Joke or not there was nothing like Sunday when dad would grill up restaurant quality New York strips & ribeyes. I can honestly say that our household never went to bed hungry.

As kids we would often get to dine in his hotel restaurant. I am certain that the “restaurant menu” experience and being allowed and encouraged to try all sorts of foods that were never going to be on the “home menu” shaped my fondness for a lot of cuisines. I am pretty capable in the kitchen but will never achieve the skills level that my dad had there.

My mom was a simple cook but a great baker. She was never one to experiment with spices or flavor combinations but there was a freshly prepared meal every night.

Baking was her real kitchen strength. When she had the time, especially before starting to work outside the home, she loved to “whip up” cookies, cakes and pies. Her banana cream cake- made from scratch- was incredible. During the holidays we would all “help” her with cookies- killer chocolate chip, peanut butter kiss and sugar cookies were all favorites.

My mom was also a “modern cook”- greatly influenced by the advertising in magazines and on TV. Anything new she had to try. As such, Sloppy joes, beef stroganoff (hamburger helper style), spaghetti (sauce from a jar), and spam served with hash browns (the frozen in a bag kind) were all regulars on her menus. Little did I realize that after leaving the US where so many of these boxed & canned staples were always available would the “nostalgia cravings” start.

Just like my all-time sandwich staple faves sweet gherkins, a juicy burger with pickle relish and Jiffy mix cornbread- so many items are just not available here. Thank goodness for internet searches and the multitude of websites that offer “copycat” versions of these favorite foods. I was skeptical the first time I tried any of the recipes but craving for a nice sloppy joe and warm cornbread and homemade biscuits was too strong not to at least make an attempt.

I must admit the sloppy joe recipe is very good. I have adjusted it bit (I like a lot of garlic and a good dose of cayenne) but when nostalgia beckons I can quickly pull together a nice batch that brings back so many fond childhood memories. My homemade cornbread is pretty good as are my old-fashioned biscuits. (The buttermilk required for the biscuits is another “unicorn” here but there is a “work around”.) I can even make a great creamy Italian salad dressing that is as good as I’ve eaten in many restaurants. Sure, it’s a little more work but the satisfaction of solving the “problem” and enjoying fresh ingredients is invaluable to me.

I guess you could call my cooking style Mexican copycat.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, feliz viaje!

 

 

Pepe

Breaking Bread

Today a slight pause in the “move to Playa story”…..

As a travel consultant who has sold this destination- Cancun/Riviera Maya- for many years, I have come to really love this place. The people, the weather, the beach, food & culture……so many appealing aspects.

Travel & Tourism statistics consistently show that the region is one of the top choices for North American consumers. Great value, great weather and easy access at reasonable flight cost from so many US & Canadian cities. There are world class hotels, restaurants, shopping & nightlife in addition to incredible UNESCO World Heritage sites and natural beauty. The local tourism officials have done an incredible job in marketing to many countries. There are numerous flights from the USA, Canada, Great Britain and many European countries. More recently service from Central & South American countries has been added as well as a nonstop flight from Moscow! (14+ hrs)

So why does the news media “bash” Mexico so much? Very frustrating for me and the many agents who really love this area and promote this destination on a daily basis. Sure there are “dangerous” and scary places in this country- as there are in many places in day’s world. (Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, London, Paris, Brussels to name a few) Violent crime statistics clearly indicate that most major US cities have higher crime/danger rates than the majority of Mexico.

The latest buzz word/catch phrase in tourism is “experiential travel.” Working with a good Mexican friend I have decided to try to help dispel the myth of “danger, 3rd world” conditions in Quintana Roo – the state where Cancun/Riviera Maya is located. Our company, BREAKING BREAD, will offer visitors to the area a unique opportunity to really experience this beautiful & interesting place.

“To break bread is to affirm trust, confidence, and comfort with an individual or group of people. Breaking bread has a notation of friendliness and informality, derived from the original meaning regarding sharing the loaf.”

We firmly believe that some of the best experiences you can have when traveling is interacting with the locals and discovering new foods, customs & traditions. BREAKING BREAD provides an opportunity for hotel guests to enjoy a very personal interaction with local citizens and “break bread”- enjoy a meal or snack and drinks together.

From a carefully selected group of locals with a variety of backgrounds and families, visitors will be able to choose an English speaking host family with whom they will visit. Together they will enjoy food, drinks, music, history, culture- and much more- in a relaxed and casual atmosphere.

We are currently interviewing and selecting our local “hosts” and plan to launch Breaking Bread Experiences in Spring 2019.

Send us an email when you are going to be in the Riviera Maya. Let’s break bread together!

BreakingBreadPdC@outlook.com

We would greatly appreciate it if you could share our story and Go Fund Me info on your social media. The first 50 contributors will receive a Breaking Bread experience discount.

Go Fund Me link:  http://gf.me/u/qnkry7

Until next time, feliz viaje!

Pepe

 

 

Not so easy IZZI

The internet service I had was with a newer company called IZZI (pronounce like “easy”). When it worked it truly was easy and very good. As I soon discovered when it didn’t work it wasn’t even close to “easy”.

About a month after I had been living in the house, after the morning post-rooster alarm and early feeding of the kids, I settled into the office (actually a corner of the living room , strategically situated for a good cross-breeze by the fans) and turned on my office computer. No internet. Strange as I had just paid the bill.

The owner of the house had carefully prepared a notebook with all of the household account numbers and a copy of previous monthly bills for reference. The bill payment system is actually quite good. Because so many locals do not have bank accounts most services are paid in cash. And because nothing is easy nor convenient for the consumer most companies have limited branch offices to accept payments and handle customer service issues. Fortunately the OXXO (Mexican style 7/11 convenience store) saw this as an opportunity and set up agreements with many companies to accept payments in their stores. Many stores. The system is brilliant and quick-other than the lines that often form for bill pay and banking! (Yes- you can make a deposit into a bank account- be it for a friend, family member or your own.). Of course, there is a small service fee (called the commission- from 10-35 US cents) but the trade out for the convenience is worth it. Everything from the electric & water bills to cell phones, some mortgage & insurance companies and dear old IZZI internet can be paid at OXXO.

Having made a calendar of due-dates I had dutifully paid the monthly bill (very low cost compared to US internet) the week prior. Only a week later I was dead in the water- and of course busy with work stuff. I tried calling the IZZI customer service department but like in the USA and other parts of the world, they were very nice but still just “script readers”. Try this, try that, etc. Useless. So I looked up the one IZZI office in town and set off for a chat- receipts and my info from the house accounts book in hand.

The office was so small I would have missed it if not for the colorful IZZI logo on the window. Really small office wedged between some stores and a hotel. After carefully explaining the situation and tendering the receipts and account info to the representative she began her inspection on the account. (Thank goodness my Spanish is good ‘cause no one in that office had any English language capability. Living here I never assume that someone speaks English. Their country, their language and I am going to respect that. I love languages- challenging myself to be proficient.) The representative could not find the problem for the lack of internet, so she scheduled a technician to visit the house. Of course, I was frustrated- work was waiting- but the first available tech was not for 2 days!

Out of nowhere the “ugly gringo” appeared. “Not good enough I said. I need service today.”   I didn’t yell nor raise my voice- but still not nice of me. The rep called their central tech dept and got a supervisor to schedule a visit in the next few hours. So I raced home fully expecting that “a few hours” would turn into a marathon like it is the USA. Pleased to say that in less than two hours the technician had arrived. More good news? Within 5 minutes of arriving and doing a line test and checking the modem serial number registered to the account the “problem” was solved. Back to the IZZI office with a tech report and receipts in hand.

Lots of clicking on the keyboard, lots of examining and re-examining receipts then the “ah ha” moment occurred. I am usually very good at problem solving but this one really took me by surprise. Turns out the owner of the house I rented had two IZZI accounts- one for the house and one for their office in Playa Central. In the rush to leave Playa the owner mixed up the two IZZI account numbers and left the office account info in the household account notebook for me! I had been paying the office account and the office had not been paying theirs. If the office had kept their supposed account current, we would have never discovered the problem. Yes, there were copies of the household bills but I never looked at the account number on the receipts vs the account address info on the invoices. Never occurred to me- and no one at IZZI ever did a comparison either until the technician did a serial number comparison and the account rep in the store did her “deep dive” into the account info.

The agent kindly updated the household account info and requested funds I had been paying on the office account be transferred to the household account. By the time I got back home those lovely blue dancing lights on the modem were all lit up. Such a beautiful sight- and sense of accomplishment too.

The thought of dealing with a customer service issue- in another language- was daunting. But I did it.

Whew….IZZI was just not so easy for me that day. I am pleased to say that there were no more IZZI issues until a few months later during my first big tropical storm.

Last but not least…carrots & celery. One of my goals in moving was to eat better and lose some weight. The heat certainly helped with eating- by late afternoon it was so hot that I really didn’t have much appetite. Chips and crackers weren’t a temptation either as they are very salty. Carrots & celery plus other veggies became my snacks of choice. Funny thing about stores here…today you can find oranges and bananas for the morning smoothie and carrots and cucumbers for the snack veggies. But no celery. (apparently it is an “exotic” gringo vegetable) A few days later still oranges (though price will be different) and only the ugly, over ripe bananas. And no carrots…but “ta da” celery has appeared! Grab it!

So it goes…what is available today will most likely not be here when you return a few days later. I call this the “carrot & celery dilemma.” Here today, probably not tomorrow- but you never know. This occurs in lots of stores with lots of products- not just produce.

Life in Playa is a never ending “carrot & celery dilemma.”

Thanks for listening.

Until next time, feliz viaje!

Pepe

Party time in the “hood”

I was used to working independently so settling in to the new place and work routine was fairly easy. The hot & steamy weather hadn’t really started so it was pleasant in my office with just the ceiling fan and an oscillating fan by the window. The internet worked well and the Vonage phone was as good as any landline.

The neighborhood turned out to be quirky. I jokingly called it my little “hood”- very typical middle class and mostly nice folks. Even on some of the “sketchy looking” side streets I never felt unsafe. My neighbor across the street had chickens & a rooster. A really old rooster apparently. His early morning “cock-a-doodle-doos” sounded as if he had a very sore throat- almost hoarse. He started up around 530am every morning- wakeup signal for breakfast to the cats. Three sets of ears perked right up and were quickly followed by insistent meows for food. Yes, it was early but those cats were great company for me so I fed them and then went back to bed for a bit.

On one side of me was a Mexican style boarding house- a courtyard area with studio size units/rooms on both sides. Dining, washing & cooking, socializing (which include late night karaoke and lots of beer drinking) all took place in the communal courtyard. There was a man I called the “street mechanic” and his family who lived there. By day he was on the curb (early) in front of the house doing car repairs. He was apparently well-known as he never seemed to lack for clients. It was a bare-bones operation. With good old “make it work” attitude he used whatever he could source on the street as the support jacks to raise a car up to work on it- big rocks, cinder blocks, scraps of wood, etc. Cars & trucks were often quite precariously balanced on them.

On the other side of me was a fairly well-off family who was in the taxi business. It was a pretty big 2 story house that also had a covered outdoor courtyard space with a full kitchen and dining area. These folks loved to entertain- late night & “club” loud. On weeknights (usually Wednesday & Thursday) their get togethers started around 10p and didn’t end until around 3 or 4am. The guests must have all been very hard of hearing as the music blasted at disco levels with heavy thumping base notes. Even with my windows closed and the A/C turned on it was impossible to sleep. After a few of these parties I could identity certain guests by their drunken laughter and very loud and not-so-good attempts to sing. With as much money as they spent on food & drink they never invested in much music- same old 3 or 4 songs over and over. By far the most annoying neighbors ever.

The same annoying neighbors with their week night parties apparently had a very large family. Sunday parties with family were as bad as the weeknight adult events- just larger crowds and lots of kids and much longer parties. For several of their events they set up a “bouncy house” that was less than 2 feet from my living room/office window. They were having fun- I wasn’t. Their Sunday fun started around 3p and went on until midnight. With these larger get togethers it was so loud that I had to invent places to go and things to do to escape the din and screams of the “little darlings” and the drunk adults and karaoke- with those same 3 or 4 songs. Ay yay yay

You are probably thinking “so why didn’t you call the police. Surely there are noise ordinances.” I did enquire with my Mexican friends and owner of the house I was renting. There are noise ordinances but really applied only in the tourist zones in the central part of town. In the local neighborhoods the police are reluctant to respond and won’t do much if they do. With a noise complaint they can only request offenders to turn down music, lower noise, etc.

Because my neighbors were “Taxistas” they had connections and knew the local police. Nothing I could say or do would get the police involved. Big AY YAY YAY. Thankfully these parties occurred only once every few weeks. Whenever I saw suppliers & caterers arriving I would start my “escape plans”. There would be no peace & quiet later that day!

Internet, carrots & celery in the next chapter!

Until next time, feliz viaje.

Pepe