A week ago I went to the IMSS office for a renewal application. My insurance isn’t due until November 1, but I will be out of the country at that time and I want to be sure that my healthcare is in place before I leave this weekend.
My Spanish is well beyond survival although I am by no means fluent. The only real problems I encounter regarding communication are with government agencies here. No-one speaks English in these offices and iTranslate doesn’t quite cut it.
So last week I went to the office on Ave Del Mar. When I had changed my address at the clinic assigned to me, they informed me that renewals have to be done at this office instead. So I am now familiar with both IMSS locations here in Mazatlan.
At the registration desk I explain my situation to the receptionist. And I do this in perfect Spanish thanks to my friend Etziel, a native Mexican. The receptionist hands me a paper outlining all the documents that I require. I carefully repeat to her that I am renewing and am not new to the system. I show her my booklet and my documentation proving that I am already in the system. She is firm. I require all these documents and photos as well. Completely frustrated and uttering some of my favorite choice words under my breath, although I’m sure the receptionist understood those English words, I leave the building.
Etziel and I meet at Starbucks, and he offers to come with me to IMSS to straighten this out. No way do I require all the documents listed on that paper! Although I do feel like I have an albatross hanging around my neck, I am somewhat reassured knowing that Etziel is coming with me next time.
And this morning was next time.We arrive at the IMSS office and he tells the receptionist the same thing I told her last week. Of course he isn’t a gringa and he speaks Spanish much more fluently than I can ever hope to. This time we get a number. We sit down and our number is called after about 20 minutes. We show her the change of address document I had done at the clinic and the copy of my original registration from Guadalajara last year. And the first thing she does is change my address on the computer. I’m dumbfounded! It took 2-1/2 hours to change my address at my clinic. But apparently my clinic’s computer and the business office’s computer aren’t on speaking terms. More photocopies and forms to sign and we are told to get a second number to see the cashier.
Off we go to the cashier and wait our turn. She then prints more documents that we need to present at the bank in order to pay the fees. But not just any bank! Only certain banks are authorized to receive payments. Etziel had his car and a short drive later found us at a Banamex. The first stop is at the ATM outside the bank. We then go inside the bank and take a number and wait our turn. This was actually rather pleasant as the bank was air-conditioned.
A few minutes later we’re back in the car and we find a store that does photocopies. Yes, IMSS wants photocopies of a utility bill and the proof of bank payment. Mexicans love their paperwork! I have more documents on file here in Mexico in the past five years than I had in Canada in my entire life!!!!
We arrive back at IMSS and return to the woman that had begun the process for us earlier. More documents and then an official stamp! My insurance has been renewed and I will never have to see this office again for another year. (Yes, it’s an annual renewal.) And it only took two hours! On the plus side it provides many Mexicans with employment. And, as Martha used to say, that is a good thing.
I was spoiled by all the bars on Calle Independencia within walking distance of my house back in Tlaquepaque. But the three bars I frequented in the past week are a short bus or car ride away as Mazatlan is not a large city.
Peggy introduced me to Edgar’s Bar on Saturday afternoon. Located a couple of blocks away from the mercado in Centro, it was a cozy place to hang out on a rainy afternoon. It’s also the home of the 18 peso cerveza. And in the evenings there is live karaoke. We were also the only females in the bar. Two flatscreen TVs hung on the wall. One featured bullfights and the other some type of musical variety show. The decor is quaint and relaxing. I felt transported back in time in this Mexican cantina as I sipped on cold beer and endulged in complementary botanas. Today it was some type of meat, refried beans, tortillas and spaghetti.
On Sunday ComicX at Galerias was the complete opposite. This is an American chain that has invaded Mexico and the theme is comic book heroes. Spiderman, Wonder Woman and Batman are just three of the large looming figures throughout the restaurant. The beer was twice the price of Edgar’s but it was air-conditioned, had great music and our server was most attentive. Steve, Etziel and I spent a wonderful afternoon here, practicing Spanish and English.
Tuesday afternoon the venue was in Sabalo Country at La Casa del Cameron. Renowned for its cheap beer, it was also all you can eat shrimp night for a low price. Steve and Etziel each ate four platters of shrimp, definitely guys with big appetites. I nibbled on a burger as I’m allergic to shrimp. An interesting decor and music from a birthday party made the experience most enjoyable. This is a popular hangout for expats, and a horseshoe pit is in the wings along with daily card games.
Three bars in four days. Now I’m sipping a Jaztea.
A memory showed up on my Facebook page today. Four years ago today I had just arrived in Tlaquepaque and had begun teaching at Culturlingua. One night after class I went to a bar called Otro Nivel with some other teachers. There was a fabulous Mexican band playing awesome English rock music from the 60s and the cerveza was 2 for 1. I live in Mazatlan now and that night at the bar still seems like yesterday although years have passed by.
Life is for living. There are so many adventures out there just waiting in the wings. Of course the hitch is that this involves change, and many people thrive on routine and the security that it provides. I’ve come to the conclusion that I thrive on change, not on routine. Otherwise I would never have arrived in Tlaquepaque in October of 2011.
In July of 2011 I returned to Winnipeg after teaching in Culiacan. I halfheartedly began searching for a job. But Mexico had stolen my heart, and I knew that I no longer wanted to call Winnipeg “home.” I received a job offer from a school in Irapuato and a month later I was on a plane headed for Leon.
I was excited to be back in Mexico although life in Irapuato was definitely different from life in Culiacan. A sleepy little pueblo where the highlight was the soccer stadium didn’t have much appeal. The school was a disaster as the actual job in no way, shape or form resembled the promises on the Skype interview. But my supervisor Pilar became a good friend. The last Saturday in September, Pilar and I were sipping cappuccinos at The Italian Coffee Company when my phone rang. I glanced at it briefly and Pilar asked who I knew in Mexico City, as that was the area code on the call display. I remarked that it must have been a wrong number or a telemarketer as I didn’t have that number stored in my contacts. My phone rang again a few minutes later and the same number showed up. Annoyed, I turned it off.
I returned home several hours later and turned my phone back on. That Mexico City number had called another four times! Intrigued, I decided to call that number. After all, what if it was an emergency or someone was dying and they were frantically calling my number in error? But it was no error. Instead it was a job offer.
Greg was the owner of Culturlingua in Tlaquepaque. A teacher had left unexpectedly and he was looking for another teacher. He’d seen my resume up on Dave’s ESL Cafe and had been calling me all day. I told him I needed some time to think about it. He gave me until later that evening. I hung up on him and tried calling Pilar but got voicemail.
And I pondered the situation. I was dissatisfied with my job. My housemates were less than desirable. The school had yet to provide me with promised health coverage. But the best was that they had not provided me with a contract either so there really was nothing tying me down to Irapuato. I called Greg back and accepted his offer. And I left a message for Pilar.
It was now after 8 pm and I had a lot to do. I had to pack and that was complicated by the fact that I had two heavy suitcases that I needed to somehow get down the stairs. Nate and Margie came to my rescue. They were teachers from Hawaii and were as disillusioned with the situation in Irapuato as I was. They agreed to meet me early in the morning and help me with my suitcases. I was so excited that night I could barely sleep!
Early the next morning before anyone in my house was up, Nate and Margie arrived and helped me with my suitcases. We had to walk a couple of blocks down the street until we found a taxi. I felt like I was fleeing a prison! Did I mention that the director of English at the school lived next door to me in the same house as Nate and Margie? He was pretty livid when he realized I was AWOL. But by then I was on a bus headed for Guadalajara. I should add that Nate and Margie made their own escape shortly thereafter.
I have never looked back. Moving to Tlaquepaque was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I have met some amazing people, have taught awesome students and have had incredible adventures.
My move here to Mazatlan was far less dramatic. I miss Guadalajara and the friends I have left behind. But I am drawn to the beach, to the calming azure waters and the smell of the salty sea air. And I know that more amazing people and incredible adventures await me here. Life is about living. Life is about change.