"Staying long?", he asked.
This time I didn't have to lie because, indeed, I planned on staying until our Permanent Residency application is completed by the Mexican Consulate in Belize City. You see, in preparation for our move to Mexico, Wifey and I have been crossing the border rather regularly humping various and sundry items to set up house in Calderitas, our new home. Between us we discussed what would happen if Mexico Immigration decided we were "up to something". That day had arrived.
"Well, probably three or four months", I replied.
"I need you to go pay for your visa and come back here to recover your passport", he orders.
Well now, that was a twist. Mexico is quite liberal with their tourist visa. Come and stay up to 6 months and then pay $295 pesos (about $25US) for the visa before you leave. If you leave the country within 3 days of arrival, there's no fee. I think, looking at his computer and noticing my multiple, short, day or two visists almost every day for the last two weeks, the official decided I was abusing the system making short trips and should pay for the privilege of enjoying his country. Ah yes, "bureaucrats" are ubiquitous.
It was easy enough to argue I only had money for my bus to Calderitas and, since there's no ATM nearby, could not acquire more, he eventually allowed me through. But they have me in their sights. And that's OK, because I plan on being here for a while and that was my last trip across the border. At least for the immediate future. We're living in Mexico.
Sure, it's only a tourist visa and we're not official residents but we're as close as anyone can be. Our paperwork is being processed, the fees have been paid, and absent calamity, within six weeks we'll be card carrying Residentes Permanente (I know you can translate that!)
So here I sit on our rooftop terrazzo enjoying the breeze, sipping a fine Chilean Cabernet, the dogs at my feet, and waiting on tonight's steaks to come to room temp in preparation for grilling.
Wifey and the puppies have been here for almost three weeks on their own whilst I handled affairs in Belize. Her enthusiasm for moving (again!) even to a country with a foreign language (again!) is endearing. The dogs are learning doggie Spanish, and the neighbors are learning not to stare. We're getting to know many by name, have internet and satellite TV, a new trashcan, a refrigerator full of those many "foody" things we've been deprived of for so long, and a hefty list of things to do on the new homestead that will keep us busily entertained for quite a while.
Doing what you ask? Well, landscaping for one. Though a fine house has been built by the owners, the grounds have been neglected. Fruit trees need trimming, paths need clearing, plantings need to be done...you get the picture. Whilst crafting my sauce Bolognese today I collected the first volunteer trimmings for the new mulch pile. Seedlings are already sprouting in various containers, and new ideas are popping up with each sip of this fine Chilean wine.
We're quickly acclimating and learning which workers are reliable, easily "understanding" that "manana" doesn't necessarily mean tomorrow or, even less, tomorrow morning, and, that sometimes, to get things done, a little "greasing of the skids" (locally known as mordida) works as well as anywhere else we've ever been. But there's something, just something, about that Chilean wine and those aged steaks that make it just a bit easier to swallow.