Friday, June 2, 2023

Obtaining a Visa or the Joy of Mexican Bureaucracy

Today I began one of the things which I need to accomplish during the month that I am here... obtaining my Mexican residency visa.

Alejandro and I drove from his house to the National Institute of Migration located in the swank neighborhood of Polanco.  It was at least a forty-minute drive in typical Mexico City traffic.  We figured that they would give us the information on all the forms and documents that we need to have, and that we could make an appointment at that time.  The lady at the desk gave us the information on what we need.  We need to bring our marriage certificate (which I expected).  I have to fill out an application form from their website and print it out. I also have to fill out online an FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple), what we used to call a "tourist card".  Travelers to Mexico used to get a "tourist card" to fill out on the plane as they headed down there.  Now an immigration agent at the airport simply stamps your passport.  However, that stamp in my passport does not suffice when applying for a residency visa.  I have to electronically register and fill out an FMM online and print that out.  And no, I could not make an appointment at this time.  I have to hand everything in at the "Instituto", pay around 400 U.S. dollars (credit card payments are accepted), and THEN you are given an appointment.  After the appointment it can take as little as one day or as long as a month to receive the visa.  I told the lady I return to Ohio on June 28th.  "Am I going to have enough time?!" I asked anxiously.  She said "Yes, you shoud have plenty of time".

Then we drove another 40 minutes to the Civil Registry Office where we were married to get our "Acta de Matrimonio" (Marriage Certificate).  When we were married in February, we were given a document, but the official "Acta" was not available immediately.  I knew from when we registered to get married that the office does not take cash payments.  The lady at the Civil Registry told us we had to go to a nearby stationary store / internet cafe where they would print off a form for payment.  We then had to take that to a nearby supermarket and pay the fee for the marriage certificate there.  Then we returned to the civil registry office.  We thought that we would immediately get the certificate... but NO, we have to return next Wednesday.  

I will fill out and print the necessary forms in the next few days.  Then on Wednesday hopefully we will get our "Acta" at the Civil Registry, and then head over to the Institute of Migration and get an interview date for as soon as possible.

I should have known that getting my visa would not be a simple process... this is Mexico, land of bureaucracy. 




Thursday, June 1, 2023

It's June!

This morning, when Alejandro returned from taking his sister to work, he said to me jokingly, "You didn't change the calendar."   When I am not in Mexico, I always tease him at the beginning of a month, "Did you remember to change the calendar?"  The calendar in question is one that I made for them, a calendar which this year features photos I took of works in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

This month we have a bright, sunny painting that seemed appropriate for the cheerful month of June.  Bernardo Belloto was an 18th century painter famous for his urban landscapes.  He traveled throughout Europe and did landscapes of Dresden, Vienna, Warsaw and other cities.  Here is a painting of the Plaza San Marco in his hometown of Venice.

"Popo" Settles Down

 A couple of weeks ago I was quite worried about the latest eruption of the volcano Popocatépetl which is located about 40 miles to the southeast of Mexico City.  Even though it was not an unusual occurrence, I was concerned about the people living at the volcano's base.  From a purely selfish viewpoint, I was concerned that my flight down here might be cancelled and that I would have to resume wearing a mask, not because of COVID, but because of volcanic ash in the air.

Well, as you know, I made it down here without any disruption to flights, and I have not seen any evidence of ash.  These webcam photos from yesterday show that "Popo" seems to have settled down again.

The smoke coming from the mountain is white, so it is mostly just water vapor rather than ash.

This night view shows that the crater is still a fiery cauldron, but look at the starry sky, unobscured by emissions of ash.

This morning, the volcano looked perfectly normal with just a of puff of smoke coming from its peak.

I am no vulcanologist. and neither is Alejandro, but we both thought that the latest eruption might actually be a good thing... that "Popo" is relieving pressure building up inside the mountain, and thus avoiding a major explosion.  The other day I heard a news report from the BBC on YouTube which confirmed our opinion.  So, as I joked in a post a couple weeks ago, you do not need to worry that I will be a cast member of the newest remake of "The Last Days of Pompeii"! 

Wednesday, May 31, 2023


I really should have taken a photo of yesterday afternoon's dinner at Alejandro's house, my first meal on this trip to Mexico.  It was very simple but so delicious.  Alejandro prepared chicken "tinga", which is simply a mixture of shredded chicken, onions, chipotle peppers and tomatoes.  In this case he didn't have any fresh tomatoes and he didn't want to make a trip to the market.  So, he did something a neighbor had once told him, and he added some catsup.  It gave it a slightly sweeter, different but interesting flavor.

We used the "tinga" to made "tostadas"... crisp tortillas with a topping.  We smeared "crema" (similar to sour cream) on the tortilla, spooned on some "tinga" and then some salsa.  The "tostadas" were so tasty!  I lost track of how many I had.

For dessert Sandra, Alejandro's sister, fried up some plantains (called "plátanos machos" in Mexico) and we drizzled on some more "crema" and some sweetened condensed milk.  Yummy.

I think in that one meal I gained back the few pounds that I had lost while I was back in Ohio. 

P.S.  We had leftover "tinga" for breakfast this morning.  However, this time we put the "tinga" on top of a "huarache".  A "huarache" is made from corn meal dough mixed with beans, and then flattened into an oblong shape.  " Huarache" is the Mexican word for sandal, and it gets its name from its shape, somewhat resembling a sandal.

Once again we smeared "crema: across the "huarache" and then spooned on some "tinga".  Alejandro added a slice of cheese and melted it in the microwave.  And of course, a few dollops of salsa to add a little spice.  Delicious!

Smooth Sailing

Actually, I should say "smooth flying".  Unlike my last trip to Mexico when my flights both going and returning were a bit of a nightmare, everything went smoothly with yesterday's travel.  .

As I mentioned earlier, the taxi to take me to the airport was picking me up so early in the morning, that I decided not to bother going to bed at all.  I did manage to take a nap for a couple of hours earlier that day.  I had ordered a taxi for 4 AM, but it showed up about fifteen minutes early.  When I got to the airport, I could not believe how many people there were at that hour.  Fortunately, even though I was flying economy, I have "premiere" status.  I didn't have to wait in a long line to check my luggage at the United desk.  The line waiting to pass through security was ridiculous long.  But there was a much shorter line for the "premiere" customers.  Perhaps because of the long line, TSA was not requiring anyone to take off their shoes or to take out their laptops.  That made security a bit less stressful.  

I was also surprised that most of the restaurants were open at that hour.  I had plenty of time to before my 6:40 departure, so I went to the Michael Symon (Cleveland's most famous chef) restaurant on the concourse.  I had a very good breakfast there... avocado toast... and the portion was quite large.  I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but I had two cups of much needed eye-opener.  I started reading one of my books while I nursed my coffee.

I arrived at the gate for my flight to Houston with plenty of time before they started boarding.  

Our plane had arrived the night before, so it was already at the gate waiting for us in the pre-dawn light.

It was a full flight, but I never have to worry about finding bin space for my carry-on.  Even when I am flying economy, I am in boarding group 2 because of my United credit card.  I used my frequent flyer miles to book this flight, and this time I did not bother to upgrade to first class or economy plus.  When I fly regular economy, I always choose an aisle seat.  Thus, I do not have any photos looking out the window to share with you.  In fact, most of the passengers had their shades pulled down.  I didn't see much of anything.

The flight to Houston arrived about twenty minutes early, so my three-hour layover was even longer.  I was thinking about having another breakfast (about five hours had passed since I had eaten).  I wanted to go to Ruby's Diner, a place where I have eaten several times when passing through Houston.  However, the airport is being completely renovated and I couldn't find it.  I thought perhaps it went out of business, but I later found it on the internet.  I wasn't in the right terminal, although in the past my route between gates always took me past it. 

The other sit-down restaurants in the airport are these places where you have to scan the menu onto your smart phone, order on your phone, and pay with your phone.  This dinosaur wants to have a menu in my hands instead of scrolling on the phone.  I want a waiter or waitress to take my order, and I want to be able to pay in cash if I so desire.  Sorry, but this old fart is not interested in patronizing these high-tech restaurants.

The plane I was taking to Mexico City arrived at the gate well ahead of the scheduled boarding time.

We would have arrived early on that flight also, but we had to circle a few minutes before we were cleared to land.

When I arrived at immigration, I did not have to wait in line at all.  Then I picked up my suitcase, and I was waved through customs.  I only waited a couple minutes before Alejandro showed up to drive me to the family's house.

The entire journey was hassle free.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Ready to Return


Looking down on the neighborhood that will soon be my permanent home

It's only been three weeks since I last returned from Mexico City, but tomorrow I am flying back.  Hopefully this is the last trip before I make the permanent move.  The owner of the condo that I am going to buy is currently in Mexico.  We are going to meet with a friend of his who is a realtor, lawyer and notary to make the transaction.  I will also be obtaining my Mexican residency visa.  Because I am married to a Mexican citizen, I can get it in Mexico City rather than having to go to a Mexican consulate in the United States.  I also need to get a private mail service, because the Mexican postal service is slow and untrustworthy.  I will go to an office of "Mailboxes Etc." (a company which used to exist in the U.S. but was bought out by UPS).  They will assign me a post office box in Florida which will become my new mailing address.  The mail is then shipped to Mexico, and I can pick it up at their office in the Mexico City neighborhood of Condesa.  

In addition to all of that, I will be playing tour guide for a few days.  If you have been reading this blog for a while, you might remember my former student, Meredith.  She and her husband traveled with me to Mérida, Yucatán, where I showed them the sights.  Well, in June, Meredith's sister Megan (who was also a student of mine) and her husband are coming to Mexico City for a week.  They have some friends that will be joining them halfway through their stay, so I don't want to intrude upon their plans.  However, I have told Megan that I am at their disposal if they need someone to show them around.  Alejandro and I have already told her that we would be happy to pick them up at the airport.  On their first night we are going to take them to our favorite restaurant, Angelopolitano.

So, it's going to be a very busy four weeks in Mexico City!

I have everything except my laptop packed and ready to go.  I printed off my boarding passes this morning, and a taxi has been called to take me to the airport tomorrow.  I just have to finish cleaning house today.  

I am keeping my fingers crossed that my flights will go smoothly this time without any of the hassles that I had on the last trip.  The volcano "Popo" seems to be quieting down, so with luck it will not cause any problems.  The forecasts here in Cleveland and in Houston, where I have a layover, are for good weather, so I don't foresee any problems there.

My flight leaves at 6:40 AM tomorrow morning, and the taxi is going to pick me up at 4:00 AM.  I would need to get up at 3:00 AM, so I decided that I am not going to bother going to bed tonight. 

Tomorrow at this time (knock on wood), I will be on my way!

Sunday, May 28, 2023

May Flowers

My garden may be neglected this spring, but the perennials that usually flower in May are blooming.

The lilac bush at the side of the house bloomed especially well this spring, and its heady perfume can be smelled some distance away.

The pink azalea with rosebud-like blossoms always blooms later than the other azaleas.  It is now starting to flower.

The deep purple iris in the front is always beautiful.  However, this year there are not as many blooms as usual.  The rhizomes (bulb-like roots) probably need to be separated, but that is something that I will leave for the new owners of the house... if they know anything about gardening.