A Major Purchase & More Bureaucracy

Finally! We made a major purchase, licensed and registered it with the State of Nayarit and it WORKED almost perfectly.
You’ll remember that in late July we drove our truck and trailer back to Canada to sell. It wasn’t pretty – the accident, the near arrest, the breakdowns, the late arrival. (Maybe our Worst Trip Yet!)  It was ugly, but it was done and since then we have been keeping our eyes open for a replacement truck. A couple of weeks ago we got serious about the search. Grant has a new business idea brewing (stay posted!) and he will need a truck to make it happen. We had expected to buy a vehicle in Guadalajara, but after a LOT of online research, we decided to check what was available locally. Big club cab trucks aren’t all that common here, so it didn’t take us long to check out every used lot in the Bay and to settle on two options. A sleek, shiny black truck and an older bright red one – both Dodge, both heavy enough to haul a lot, and both roomy enough to transport a crowd of little Mexican children. Both in good shape. The red one was considerably cheaper but also considerably older. We test drove them both, had our mechanic give them the once over and chose ….. (insert drum roll) … the black one!


20181101_123714_resizedThe main hurdle to purchasing anything major here in Mexico is figuring out how to pay for it. The dealer only wanted cash – no cheques, no bank wires, no drafts, no credit cards. Just a lot of cash. We started raiding ATMs and then realized since I would be in Canada for a few days for family business, I would be able to get most of the pesos we needed from our bank there. I called ahead to order the rather larger number of pesos and when I arrived, I was thrilled to be told they had just received a shipment of mostly $1000 and $500 bills. My stack of bills would be manageable. Oh, the irony of going all the way to Canada to find pesos to purchase a truck in Mexico.

The dealer had promised to repaint the truck hood which had peeled a bit under the grueling summer sun and on Thursday we went to pick it up and get the legalities of registration taken care of. We expected the worst. When dealing with bureaucracy we always expect the worst. We’re rarely disappointed. Remember our story of buying my little VW?  (Shopping for Wheels) Or registering the trailer? (One Full Year to Get Some Plates)  It never goes smoothly, and we didn’t expect it to this time either.

First, we had to get it inspected and the serial number verified – last time that cost me a ladder! But that went smoothly, and we were only there for about 1 ½ hours waiting in line. The next stop was the registration office in the town of Mezcales. It was around noon and they are open until 2:00 so we were confident we could get this done. We knew the next day all government offices would be closed to recognize Mexico’s beloved Day of the Dead – a day to remember and celebrate those loved ones that have passed on – but we still had 2 hours and we really wanted to get those plate before the weekend. But of course, no. They were already closed. “Why are you closed today?” “Well tomorrow is a holiday, so we closed today at 11.” “But the holiday is tomorrow.” “Yes, so we are closed today.”
Well okay. I guess Monday will work. Today we headed back to the office knowing there would be a big lineup after the two-day closure. We arrived at 8:30 and at 9:00 when the doors opened, we were at the front of an already long line. We had brought multiple copies of everything – we’ve been through this drill before – but after the shuffling, stapling, reshuffling, restapling we were sent across the street for more copies. 3 copies of this, 2 copies of the rest. Fine. More copies, more waiting in line, more shuffling, more stapling, many of the copies handed back to us as unnecessary (but you just told me to get them???) and finally, we were handed our new license plates. We also realized that we were supposed to have renewed our registration on Azulita the Volkswagone every year and we hadn’t done that since 2016, so we took care of that too. Oops.

20180915_091319_resizedSo, Grant is back on the road. We are again a two-vehicle family. Well three if you count our favorite, the little blue golf cart which really has become our main mode of transportation over the rubble and through the potholes. Our lifestyle is so very different here that I know we could get by with just 1 set of wheels, but I am not quite ready to let go of my own sense of independence and identity. My freedom. I really have absolutely nowhere to go that I can’t walk to or bounce to on the golf cart, but I’ve owned a car since I was 16. My powder blue convertible is just one more of those material things that I continue to cling to as some kind of weird crutch to prove that life is normal. That I am okay when so much is uncertain. That I can go….somewhere….  I know that’s not where my comfort lies, but hey I’m just being real here!  Besides, who doesn’t want to see a couple of old people and a fluffy white poodle heading to the beach with the roof down and the music blaring. It’s all part of the dream and we’re loving living it!

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It’s Raining Coconuts

Our poor little Azulita has had a lot of issues from the potholes and speed bumps and curbs in our neighborhood – and today from the skies.

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Many stories.  Funny, irritating stories.  First the keys lost in the ocean which led to a tow truck to the dealership which led to the smashed windshield which led to many weeks of Mananas.

     A Crappy Week of Mananas

     The Car Adventure Continues….

There was the especially giant speed bump hidden in the shadows in San Vicente one night which led to the broken radiator which led to the broken air conditioner which led to many more weeks of Mananas.

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A few weeks ago there was the curb that jumped out of nowhere which broke the radiator again and the air conditioner lines again which led to the welder guy which led to the backwards welding which led back to the welder guy which eventually fixed the problem.

 

20180119_104729And then today.  We were driving home from the Immigration office celebrating the issuance of our new green residence cards.  Heading to a celebration breakfast date. On the beautiful and smooth tree lined streets of Nuevo Vallarta.  What could possibly go wrong here?  And then the sky was falling Chicken Little.  As Grant slowed for a speedbump, a coconut fell out of a tree, smashing our headlight and bouncing down the road spraying its refreshing water along the way.   Sigh.  Here we go again.  On the up side, our windshield wasn’t smashed, our convertible roof was up, Azulita’s body wasn’t dented.  Just a headlight.  And probably many weeks of Mananas!  The adventure continues.

One Full Year to Get Some Plates

(Warning – this post is pretty long!  Much like our experience….)

1  year.  1 entire year.  To get Mexican license plates on the trailer we brought down from Canada …. it took 1 full year.    I am happy to report that we now have the Nayarit plates – 2-ND-7586 – but it was a crazy ride that you won’t believe.  Unless you’ve tried it.

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At the Border

The story started after we had gone through a sketchy 2 days at the border to get the trailer and the tools it contained across the border.  That was scary enough.  I am still not entirely clear exactly what went down there but we made it here to Bucerias and were certain the worst was behind us.  As we often are, we were wrong.

The week after we arrived, we headed to the DMV office to get our plates – passport, registration, and importation papers in hand.  We weren’t foolish enough to think it would be easy – but we did think it could be done that week.  Bahahahaha.

First hurdle – apparently we didn’t own the trailer.  WHAT?  The lady who would become our ‘new best friend’ showed us the importation paper that had someone else’s name on it.  Did we have a bill of sale – a pedimento -from that company?  Ah no – because it’s our trailer.  And I’ve never heard of that company.  We called our broker guy in Tucson and I could see him hitting his own forehead over the phone – that’s the import company and I forgot to send you a bill of sale to get it back in your name.  You’ll have to come back to the border to get it.  WHAT?  We are definitely not going back to the border.  He made a few phone calls, talked to some people and a few days later, “I’ll courier it right out overnight.”

A number of days later it arrived, along with his invoice to cover the cost of the courier – even though it was his fault that we didn’t get it at the border.  Fine.  Whatever.  We headed back to the office.  We have all the correct papers.  “Okay, but these papers have to be stamped in Tepic and you have to pay the fees there.”  WHAT?  Tepic is 2 ½ hours away – through the craziest mountain road and WE JUST CAME FROM THERE with this trailer.   We do not want to go back.  There must be another way?  “Well for $1000 pesos, I can send it there for you?”    Yes please.  Of course.   And then the copying, shuffling, stacking, reshuffling, stapling, unstapling, reshuffling began.  “Wait, you have given me a copy of your telephone bill to prove your address.  I need the original.”  You’re kidding right?  It’s just a phone bill.  “No, I need the original”.  We drove home and got the original.  The addition of that 1 piece of paper meant she had to start over unstapling, reshuffling, recopying, more shuffling, more stapling.  Some more fees.  And finally the papers were on their way to Tepic.   “Come back in 2 weeks for your plates.”

Okay, that’s not so bad really.  We returned in October to get the plates and met the same lady.  She pulled our file, shuffled through the papers and then told us “No, you will have to come back in 3 months.”  WHAT?  Why 3 months?    “Blah blah blah  Spanish Spanish blah blah 3 months.”    Apparently, the government had run out of plates and there would be no new ones until January.

In February, we returned to the office.  We had given them a couple of extra weeks – surely our plates would be ready for pickup.  Nope not yet.  We waited another month.  “Yes, everything looks good, but you will need to take the trailer for inspection now”.  WHAT?  We had the trailer thoroughly inspected at the border.   Why another inspection?

There are simply no common-sense answers to that question WHY and I have no idea why I keep asking it.  We took the giant pile of stapled papers, went to the storage compound, loaded up the trailer and headed for the final (?) inspection.

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The young inspector came out. Looked at the serial number on the trailer and headed back inside to fill out more papers.  Until he didn’t.  “I’m sorry.  The serial number on these papers doesn’t match the sticker on the trailer.” WHAT?   That’s impossible.  It was checked and double checked at the border.  “Sorry they don’t match. There’s nothing I can do”.  Now since this conversation was happening in Spanish, we were not 100% sure we understood, so he told us to come back the next day when his English-speaking boss would be there.  The next day we returned, and hearing the pronouncement in English did not help at all.  The numbers don’t match – you’ll have to take the trailer back to the border.  WHAT?  There is no $#**x.@@**!!!!  way we are taking the trailer back to the border.  “Well then you’ll have to go to Tepic to talk to my boss”.  Nope.  We’re not doing that either.  Give us something else.  “Okay well my boss comes to work out of the Bucerias office sometimes.  You can meet with him there”.

Of course, first we had to figure out what had gone wrong – why didn’t everything match?   As we looked closely at the paperwork and the stickers on the trailer, we found a perfect storm of problems.  Our trailer had been manufactured in 2005 and a serial number sticker affixed.  Then it was shipped to a dealer who wanted to sell it as a 2006 so another sticker was put on top of the older one.  Apparently not all Canadian businesses are honest either.  The top sticker had faded and you could see the original sticker through – which made the numbers really tricky to read.  Bottom line was that our Border customs guy had simply written the number down wrong at the border.  A 5 that looked like an 8 was transcribed wrong.  It was obvious when you looked closely at the label on the trailer.  Surely this little mistake could not shut down this entire transaction which had already cost us many thousands of dollars. This couldn’t be the end of the road could it?  We tried calling and emailing our customs guy hoping he could get the papers reissued with the correct number.  He never did return our call.

A few days later we headed over to the office in Bucerias to meet with the boss, el jefe.   Every day for a week we went there.  “He’ll be here in an hour”.  We heard it over and over.  He was never there in an hour.   Eventually they gave us his cell phone number and we decided we needed translation help from a friend.  Francisco phoned El Jefe and finally we had an appointment – and this time Francisco came along.

El Jefe – the boss – was friendly and he listened.  He unstapled the papers, reshuffled them and restapled.  Francisco laid it on thick – my Canadian friends are good people, they work at an orphanage, they are going to build houses and employ people, they are good for our community.  There must be something you can do to help them.   Even I was impressed.  “I would like to help them but the numbers don’t match.  I don’t know what I can do.  They need to go to the border to get new papers to match the serial number on the trailer.  Or they can find a local welder who will write a letter saying he built it in Mexico and they could give it another number”.  WHAT? Then Grant spoke up.  What if we can get a new serial number plate to put on the trailer to match the papers.  Instead of changing the papers, let’s change the trailer.  Then it will match what the Mexican government has put in the system?  ‘Yes that could work.  If you get that, I’ll just sign off on it all and you can get your plates.”  Okay we had a plan.  We had no idea if it was possible, but it was a plan worth pursuing.

The next few weeks were full of telephone calls and emails to Canada to the trailer manufacturer and the dealer who had sold it to us. We pushed hard.  You guys sold us a 2005 trailer and passed it off as a 2006 by hiding the original serial number label.  We thought we were buying a 2006.  You left 2 stickers on the trailer which has caused all these problems.  You need to help us.  “Sure, we can make you a new sticker with the new number – it will only cost you $500”.    What choice did we have?   We waited a few more weeks and finally the manufacturer told us he had mailed the new sticker.  WHAT?  You just don’t mail things to Mexico – it will never get here.  We had specifically asked him to courier it.  As expected, it never did arrive in our mailbox.  A few weeks passed.  “Okay, I will courier it overnight – today.”  By which he meant 5 days from now.   Another week passed until we got the new sticker.    And then we opened it and immediately saw the new sticker said 2006.  And we needed it to say 2005 to match the Mexican paperwork.  Which we had said in our emails.  Ahhhhhh.  More phone calls, more emails, more overnight courier packages that weren’t overnight.   But eventually we got a new sticker to match the Mexican paperwork.  Surely, we were close.

By this time, we were into August.  We took the stack of papers and the new sticker and we headed to El Jefe’s office hoping to get his signature on the whole mess.  First problem – it had been so long he had forgotten our story.  Second problem – he doesn’t speak any English.  But eventually he remembered and looked it all over and nodded and eventually said, “Okay now you need to take it for an inspection.” WHAT?  I thought you were going to sign off on it?   “No …. Inspection”.  Which is how we found ourselves back at the inspection building almost a full year after we had started the process.   20170908_104622.jpgThe same inspector looked at the trailer yet again and this time he admired our ladders on top of the trailer.  “I could really use a new ladder – how much are these worth?”  We ignored the bait and we headed inside.  He looked at the new sticker, shuffled and reshuffled the papers, punched away on the computer and finally said “Sorry – this number doesn’t seem to be in the computer database.  There’s nothing I can do.  You’ll have to go back to the border”.   WHAT?   Okay I DO NOT BELIEVE THIS.  We are not taking the trailer to the border.  You can see the serial number matches the papers now.  “Well then you’ll have to see my boss in Tepic”.  We already saw your boss – in his office in Bucerias.  “That’s not my boss.  That guy has nothing to do with this.  You need to go to Tepic”.  I really wish I had taken a selfie right then – my face had to be in complete shock.  What was going on?  So I did what I should have done 11 months earlier.  I sat down in a chair in front of his desk and said, “We are not going anywhere – you have to do something.”  And then I sat there.  For 90 minutes.  A standoff of silence.   I was not leaving until the inspection forms were stamped and stapled to the other papers.  Just.  Not.  Leaving.  He phoned a few people.  Told me over and over he couldn’t do anything and I just sat there.  After about 90 minutes I said “Look, just fill out the form and give us the plates.”    And you know what he said?  He said “Okay”, and he pulled out his inspection pad and filled it out in triplicate and handed me the green copy to take back to the DMV office.  We were getting plates – and just to be sure, one small ladder stayed behind.

20170912_113614When we arrived back at the Transito office we lined up at the cashier – one last step.  But nope.  Back to our friendly lady in the office.   I am not even exaggerating.  She unstapled our stack of papers, made new copies, reshuffled, and restapled.   Then she sent us back to the cashier.  After another ½ hour or so the cashier went to talk to the woman in the office and they both came to us, “This telephone bill you gave us to prove your address – it is dated September 2016.  That’s a year old.  We can’t use it- we need a current one.”  WELL NO KIDDING IT’S A YEAR OLD – CAUSE THAT IS HOW LONG THIS THING HAS TAKEN.  ONE YEAR.  Luckily we had just paid our phone bill that morning and it was in our car and we handed it over.  Surely that is it right?  “No we are missing the original registration to prove it was registered in Canada.”  Oh my gosh – you are seriously kidding me.  How can you need more papers?  You have every paper I have ever owned.  It is all stapled in that stack with 1 million staple holes.  I don’t have anything else to give you!  And then she pulled an email out of the file folder I was carrying.  It was the email Grant had sent to the manufacturer asking for another Serial number sticker.  “Okay, this is good enough”.  WHAT?  That paper had nothing to do with the registration – in fact it was evidence we had changed the serial number on the trailer.  But it was in English and she had no idea what it said and she was happy to have one more piece of paper.  Whatever.    Back to the cashier.  We paid the fees.  And then the cashier handed us all our papers back, divided into 2 piles and told us to go back to the office and get 2 copies of this pile and 3 copies of the other one.  WHAT?  We were just in that office.  She made lots of copies.  How can you need more copies?  Back to the office.  More copies.  More fees to pay for the copies.  Back to the cashier who stamped every copy, reshuffled the piles, restapled them all.

And then they handed us the plates.   One year to get plates for a trailer that sits in a storage compound.  Thousands of dollars.  1 ladder.   I have never experienced anything like it.  I still am not really sure what happened – why numbers didn’t match and weren’t in the database and who was really the boss.  I can’t imagine where all those stacks of papers are tonight.  Have they not heard of scanners?  Of computers?  Of the paperless society?    But it is done.  2-ND-7586.   Transaction completed. It would be kind of funny if we didn’t have one more trailer to register and plate.  Stay tuned…..

 

The Road to Fun

Okay this is what I signed up for!  No we didn’t spend the day by a fancy pool in a gated community sipping pina coladas which is what I THOUGHT I was signing up for.  Today we went for a spin around the neighborhood in our finally finished ‘restored’ golf cart.  Over dirt piles, into potholes, around roosters and horses and dogs.   We picked up children along the way and stopped for a lunch in a tiny new restaurant – less than $10 for 2 giant meals including soup, drink and dessert!

 

This golf cart has been my husband’s project over the past few weeks – Grant cannot be at peace unless he is fixing something.  And this REALLY needed fixing.  It had been donated to the orphanage and the children had used it as an experiment to figure out how things work.  Wires were pulled off, tires were shredded, the oil tank was full of water and the gas tank was full of toys.  We even pulled an MP3 player out of some random crevice yesterday.  Before going to Canada we had ordered all the needed parts to get this thing back on the road – we picked up some in Montana, had more shipped from Arizona.  We drove into Vallarta to get vinyl for the seats and had a local guy sew them up.  So today we set out exploring some of the back roads between our house and the orphanage.  We waved at old grandpas wearing sombreros and sitting on broken chairs outside their homes.  We were chased halfheartedly by the neighbor dogs and laughed at by toddlers in diapers.  It was just fun and it reminded me why we are doing this – to see life through a childlike lens of joy and simplicity.  Today I felt like a kid – and it was fun!

Check out the progression….

What on earth have they done to this thing???

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We’re on the road but it looks like we’re heading to war

Some paint…. some upholstery….. a top….

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Ready to pick up some passengers and hit the road! 

A bit nervous about what his next project will be….

The Car Adventure Continues….

22 days – apparently that is what MANANA means to the Volkswagen dealership here in Puerto Vallarta!  And that was after Brandon the Key Guy’s 5 MANANAS.  27 Days to get a new key made to replace the one that is now ½ way to Hawaii.

I told you the story of losing the key and breaking into the house and finally getting the car towed to the dealership.  I thought that was the end of the story.  Just a couple more days.  But of course it was not.  Every day for the past 22 days we have called Raul or his manager Adrian to ask if our car is ready and every day there was another problem.    Another story.  Another manana.   They ordered a new part.  They took apart the dashboard to put in the new part.  Nope, didn’t work.  So they ordered all new keys.  Started over.  And finally the answer we had been waiting for.  Your car is ready.   What started as $1700 pesos and 3 hours turned into $12,000 pesos and 27 days.  Plus 3 weeks of a rental car.  But she was ready and we headed over to pick her up.

When we arrived Raul had some interesting info for us.  When we had purchased the car, (that’s another whole story – check it out here) some of the warning lights were on.  Of course, we said we would not buy it until those lights were checked and the problems repaired.  Yes Lady, Of course Lady, we’ll send it to our Electric guy and get it fixed for you.  When we returned the next day, the lights were indeed fixed – faulty sensors had been replaced they said.   Well now Raul told us that when they removed the dashboard and the instrument cluster they noticed that the warning lights had been painted over with dark nail polish.  Not repaired.  Not replaced.  Covered up.    Sigh.  Raul assured us that everything seemed to be running well and honestly, I just wanted to get out of there with my Canadian politeness intact.  They brought the car around, Grant left in the rental car and I climbed in ready to finally take Azulita home.  And then I saw it.  A large crack in the windshield.  Right in the driver’s sight line.  Not a chip.  Not a small crack.  A big, ugly, multi directional, crack.   So I called Raul over – “What is this? I am sure this wasn’t here when we brought it in”.  “Are you positive – if you’re positive I’ll take your word for it and we’ll repair it.”   Was I positive?  Grant drives most of the time and could I have I forgotten this?  We do drive on some pretty crappy roads.  He had driven away by this time so I told Raul that I would talk to Grant and call him right back.    So I met Grant at the Car Rental office and he gave me the answer before I asked the question. “What the !@#@#$!!#### is that on the windshield?”.  As promised,  I immediately called Raul – not even 15 minutes after we left the dealership – and his answer was “Well I talked to my manager and I don’t think it happened here and you really can’t prove it did so I don’t think we can really do anything”.    Aaaaargghhhhh.

Of course, the one thing Raul did not take into consideration is that I had taken photos – a lot of photos – because I have to share this crazy adventure on Facebook and on this blog – and I did indeed have proof that Azulita arrived at the dealership with NO CRACKS IN THE WINDSHIELD.   “You have pictures?  Really?  Okay, I’ll send you our email address and you can send them here”.  So we waited 2 days – you KNOW he did not send the email address.  Today we went to the dealership.  We stood outside the Service Manager’s office until he was free and we told him our story.  “I’m sure it didn’t happen here” – and then I did it.  I whipped out my phone.  I produced the BEFORE picture taken in their dealership, I zoomed in on the clean windshield.  I produced the AFTER picture.  I zoomed in on the cracked windshield.  I waited.  “Well maybe I’ll check the videos here in the shop and then we can make a deal.  We’ll have to fix it.  I guess.”  Call me manana.    And here we go again…….

BEFORE:

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No crack…..

 

AFTER:

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Yup… definite crack

 

Stay Tuned……

Watch for Traffic!

Traffic is always a bit crazy here but during Christmas month it is even crazier – tourists and shoppers are everywhere.  But ‘traffic’ does not just mean cars, trucks, motorcycles, vans, taxis, golf carts, buses.  It also means the animals who we share the roads with.   We arrived at the orphanage on Friday to take Paola shopping at Mega and this is what we saw that morning: (keep in mind – we don’t live in the country!  This was all in town on the way to Mega)

A loose donkey grazing along the road

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A traffic jam of horses and a construction lift

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Some other horses checking out what was happening in the orphanage – and eating the garbage

Some loose cows having lunch – kinda close when you’re sitting at a light in a convertible!

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Not to mention the dogs, cats, lizards, chickens and jugglers! This is definitely a very different world and we love watching for the unexpected as we go about our day.

Shopping for Wheels

Now that we are basically settled in our rental home, we have decided it is time to move to the next step of grown-up residency – owning wheels. We have been renting cars when we’re here and it’s really ridiculously expensive. We have long been discussing how to approach the car issue. As you all know – and have all mocked me for – I have driven Milly the Smart Car for many years. I loved her and felt totally safe and comfortable squeezing into tight spots and parking in crazy places. My favorite was the time I parked in the covered shopping cart spot at WalMart. It was Christmas season, which meant all the shopping carts were in the store full of toys and turkeys. Why waste a perfect Smart size parking spot? We have taken Milly to the mountains packed down with ski equipment on more than one occasion – once she sadly returned on the back of a tow truck. But mainly she has been my source of independence and a worthy companion. We had not decided if she would come with us south. German cars are not generally welcome in Mexico and I can’t imagine driving her all that way. She would probably fit in the back of the truck with our belongings but when would that happen?

A Milly Sandwich - RIP

A Milly Sandwich – RIP

 

Before we had made the decision, God/fate/Saskatchewan icy roads/traumatized friends stepped in and made the decision for us. Milly is now in Car heaven, revving her motor with the best of them.

 

 

So now what? Grant began by researching every vehicle in Mexico. Literally. I want a small car or SUV. He wants a big old truck that can haul his trailer full of tools. I want something pretty and fun. He wants something manly and hardworking. I want an automatic gas vehicle. He wants a diesel manual. We both want room to haul children and visitors. So we have made the marriage-saving decision to buy 2 vehicles. While I know we could easily make one vehicle work, I don’t want to be trapped at home when he starts building.

Apparently even the vehicles here come with their own chickens!

After perusing every online ad we could find, we decided to start by checking out all the used car lots in the area. Generally, vehicles are cheaper in Guadalajara, but I wanted to see what we could find locally. And BAM! I found exactly what I wanted – a baby-blue convertible Volkswagen beetle. After doing some price comparisons online, we decided this was a decent deal. Now we are risk-takers but we certainly weren’t going to buy a car without getting it checked over by a mechanic. How would we possibly figure out that process? I emailed our go-to buddies, Pastor Fredy and Pastor Gregory and asked if they knew of a trustworthy mechanic and of course they came through. Fredy told us that a mechanic would be at the church the next morning to look over all the church vehicles. So we went to the car lot, shoved the salesman in the tiny back seat, put down the convertible roof and cruised to the church to meet Francisco the mechanic. We received a good report and decided this was the car to replace Milly (R.I.P.).

The next tricky issue was to get the money together. There was no way to get money from our Canadian bank to the car dealership except the old-fashioned way – withdraw cash from an ATM at the Mega store. So we maxed out the daily limit on 5 credit cards two days in a row until we had the needed giant pile of cash. In 2016 there really has to be a better way! Once my purse and Grant’s pockets were bulging, we snuck around Mega store, taking sharp turns around corners to ensure no one was following us.   As if Mexican cartel banditos were hiding in the fruit department of Mega grocery store spying on old, sunburned gringos.

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The car had a couple of things that needed checking and the mechanic had suggested a tune-up, so we were told we could pick her up at 1:00 on Thursday.   Now I totally didn’t believe it would be ready at 1:00 but we went to the lot – come back at 6:00 they told us. At 6:00 we arrived with our giant and secure Ziploc bag full of cash to complete the transaction. After the ceremonial counting of the cash, we were given a receipt and all of the original titles and paperwork. We knew the car had originally come from the USA but we did not know that it had never been licensed in Mexico before. The salesman had promised he would help with the licensing process, but he definitely had not mentioned that we would have to go through the whole process of getting it licensed in a new country. I see a bureaucratic nightmare in our future.

By about 7:00 we started getting nervous. Two business type men had shown up and driven away with our cash but our car was still nowhere in sight. It was still at the mechanic’s shop – on its way any second they said. The dealership lights went out, everyone started leaving. Our salesman told us “Follow that guy in the white truck, he’ll take you to your car”. Now that didn’t sound like a good plan to me – but I really wanted to see my car since my money was long gone. We backed out of the lot, prepared to follow the random guy in the white truck….. and it was nowhere in sight. So now the money is gone with the business guys, the white truck that knows where our car is has left us behind, the salesman has gone home, and we are standing at the side of the road in the dark wondering what the heck is going on. I did have the cell phone number for Pepe, the dude who had taken my car to the mechanic’s shop and I called him with just a hint of panic. He told us he was on his way and within a couple of minutes my new car pulled up alongside us, ready for me to drive her home.

We verified that it would be okay to use the dealership permit until we got our own plates the next morning (Oh definitely!) and that their insurance would cover me in an accident on my way home (Oh no… there’s no insurance on this car. You have to get your own but the insurance office closes at 2:00). I KNOW I NEED INSURANCE BUT YOU TOLD ME TO COME AND GET THE CAR AT 6:00 AND I WOULD HAVE A TEMPORARY PERMIT AND I WOULD TAKE THE CARD HOME AND YOU WOULD HELP ME GET ALL THE PAPERWORK DONE TOMORROW!!!!!   But senora, the insurance office closed at 2:00 – you can’t get insurance now.  Yeah ….. I got that…..

So no way am I driving a new car home without insurance. It’s Mexico people – there are crazy drivers and mountainous speed bumps and a variety of loose farm animals and chickens – I am not sending another good friend to Car heaven without insurance. So we headed home with no money and no car, trusting that tomorrow would be a better day.

To be continued…..

Today was indeed a much better day. It is so true that everything looks better in the daylight and that held for us and our car-buying adventure. Now I’m not saying everything went smoothly today – we still spent 3 or 4 hours going from office to office. I’m not even saying it’s all done. We are still waiting for our final registration and plates which will take another week. But we have a temporary sticker and I am driving my own car. Is there a moral to this story? Well, life in Mexico is not easy. Bureaucracy sucks. Mexican time is unpredictable. Speaking Spanish is really important. Convertibles are fun to drive and now I can do it all year round. Insurance offices close too early. Life is the place where patience gets you through or frustration takes you out. If you love where you are and what you’re doing, it’s all worth it!

It's all worth it!

It’s all worth it!

Guess I better learn to drive here!

Guess I better learn to drive here!

 

Driving in Mexico

Today I woke up tired ….. like I ran some kind of a marathon tired.  But of course I did not run so much as a block so what did I do yesterday that wore me out?  Oh yeah – DRIVING in Mexico.  We have been spending the last few days buying plants and pots for our tiny garden spot.  Which meant driving between a Vivero (greenhouse) in La Cruz and Home Depot in Puerto Vallarta… a bunch of times.  You really have to experience driving here – my explanation won’t do it justice – but I’m going to try.  First of all, this is the busiest week of the year (darn tourists) so the roads are crazy busy.  But what’s exhausting is the way the roads are set up.  There is a main highway that leads from PV north through Bucerias and on to La Cruz, Punta de Mita and Sayulita.  The thing is that on both sides of the highway are lateral roads – we call them service roads at home.  All the businesses you want to visit – and by businesses I usually mean a bunch of stuff under a tarp on the side of the road – must be accessed from the service roads.  At home, you exit on the service road and turn right or left to find your destination.  Here, you sharply veer off the highway, sometimes dropping many feet while merging with crazy cars coming from behind.  The laterals are one way – which means you must exit before the business you want to visit. If you are on the highway and miss the correct exit (100% of the time) you must drive a few more miles to the next retorno (turn around spot) and drive back and start the whole thing over.  Now when you get to the retorno, it’s not as simple as turning left at the corner and circling back.  Again, you must veer off the highway onto the right lateral road, wait for the green arrow and turn left from the right hand lane.  And of course, not only are you watching for the buses and taxis that are edging in front of you at the light, but you are digging in your pocket for coins to give to the guy washing your windows and the juggler entertaining you.

The business we want to visit is almost positively right before the exit - missed it again.....

The business we want to visit is almost positively right before the exit – missed it again…..

In many ways it would make more sense to just drive on the lateral roads and forget the highway – but there are at least 3 reasons why that won’t work:

  1. There will invariably be a bus in front of you that stops every few feet OR
  2. The road may suddenly and without warning end in a pile of rubble and broken cement OR
  3. As happened yesterday, some guy stops in the driving lane in front of the piñata store, and with a whole line of cars behind him, goes in to choose his piñata. He eventually carries out the largest piñata I have ever seen, puts it in his car and while all of the cars behind him begin honking in protest, he goes in to pay for the piñata.  So we missed two lights for a piñata purchase.

topes

 

And it’s not just exhausting – I literally have 2 or 3 bruises on my arms and knees from hitting the dash and the door of the car while we bump over the roads and the mountainous topes (speed bumps).   I guess the real problem is that we’re cheap.  We went to every Vivero in the district because the prices were just too different.  We really needed to compare.  We bought a 12-foot palm tree for $250 pesos (about $20) but another garden quoted us $2500 pesos.  So I’m not exactly complaining – just realizing that we need to pace ourselves a bit and plan our routes each time we leave the house.  And maybe wear kneepads and elbow pads.

In many ways I know that simple things are just more difficult here in Mexico. On the other hand, this week I have also experienced many things that are much easier:

  • For $10, the garden guy offered to deliver our plants to the house, and they arrived within an hour.
  • Now that I have a garden full of plants, I no longer have a laundry room (ie clothesline) so the laundry lady around the corner dried and folded 2 weeks’ worth of laundry for $4
  • I can buy individual eggs across the street in the mini super for 10 cents each when I run out
  • After all that driving nonsense, our car was filthy. By the time we came out of Home Depot our car was sparkling clean…. We tipped the guy a couple of bucks.

So as we bring this year to an end, we are both so grateful for this adventure and for the house we are slowly turning into a home.  It is definitely not the home or the neighborhood we expected, but we are loving it and embracing it.  I can’t believe I have a spot to sit in to read and pray and meditate that is filled with beautiful tropical flowers – not a petunia or geranium in sight.  I own my own palm tree – 2 in fact.  How cool is that!  When we have everything in place, I’ll show you all the final product.IMG_20151229_124717 IMG_20151229_124828

And now I wait for New Year’s Eve festivities to begin.  Considering how many guys were selling fireworks on the road today I have a feeling it will be a long, loud and crazy night in the neighborhood.

Bring it on 2016!