With December came the inevitable need to move out of the Progreso apartment I had enjoyed since late October, since it had already been reserved from December 28. On the whole, I reflected that Progreso, and the Yucatán, had not been altogether kind to me: The contents of a carry-on–all electronic devices and accessories–were stolen within the first two weeks at the Air Bnb where I had stayed, making friends had proven challenging, and the lack of a car made getting around more aggravating than I’d liked. It also foiled my intention of living as I would if this were my “forever home”, since it made no sense to buy or rent a car for several months, when clearly there would be limitations associated with living without one. Progreso itself is one of a number of towns spread over a long, narrow band of land between rias (bodies of water where fresh and salt water mingle) and the Gulf, and people I got to know might live somewhere a good 30 minutes’ drive (or an hour taking two different buses) outside Progreso in either direction. In addition, all the really good shopping (including for certain groceries) is in Mérida–about a 30 minute drive or bus-ride away. Mérida is a large city of about a million and getting around it without a car would have meant getting to know its geography and bus lines and, I suspect, possibly more walking than I can handle. It is certainly charming, especially the colonial center, and I might have enjoyed getting to know it better (which I might still do sometime), athough apparently terribly hot, without benefit of ocean breezes, but I really didn’t have it in me to look for another apartment in Progreso (or Mérida, come to that). So I came to the conclusion that Progreso, and the Yucatán, were not to be my future home and decided, as my next step, to explore Mazatlán, on the Pacific coast. So I repacked my trunks and suitcases and on December 18th I and my stuff were driven to a freight company in Mérida which would ship my belongings to Mazatlán for a very reasonable fee. The next day I was driven to the airport, but on the way there got an email saying my flight had been changed. At the airport, after a long conversation with the Aeromexico agent, because the rescheduling of my first flight meant I would miss my second, I was given a voucher for a hotel in Merida (because they couldn’t find a single available room for me in Mexico City that close to Christmas), and meal vouchers and taxis to and from the airport, with a plan to fly out a day later, but in the morning, rather than on an afternoon flight. So after further delays and minor annoyances I finally arrived in Mazatlán, where I was welcomed by the host of the Inn at which I stayed for my first three days: happily only half a block from Plazuela Machado, where all the fun Christmas stuff was happening. The next day and the one after that I looked at possible apartments in the Centro area. I only saw four, altogether, over the two days. The first had “all the things” (i.e., it was clean, neat, properly equipped and furnished), and had no view of the sky at all from any window. It was down a long white hallway back off the street, past an empty ReMax office, and there was one other apartment: upstairs and across the little courtyard—really just a small open space with stairs going up to the other apartment. My overall impression was that it was blah and depressing. The second apartment I saw later with a nice realtor who had been offered the apartment by another realtor when he put out the call on my behalf, so I met with both of them. This apartment was similar to the first, in that it was fully equipped and furnished, with the addition of a washing machine and clothes line on the high-walled back patio, but it was smaller and darker. I explained what I didn’t like about it, and apologized for not being more enthusiastic at what was, again, superficially perfectly adequate. The next was a listing from a Facebook Mazatlán page: a choice of four brand-new, upstairs apartments—two prices for two slightly different sizes, but all with one large bedroom containing two queen beds. These apartments were all upstairs, which I was reluctant to consider because I’m not good at stairs, especially with a ton of groceries, but these sounded interesting,so I had to check them out. Two were really huge: one facing west and one on the southwest corner with a south-facing balcony. The other two were somewhat smaller but still pretty large. They really had “all the things”: blackout drapes, A/C, brand new appliances, including microwaves, blenders, coffee-makers, etc., and a set of dishes. But the neighborhood was a bit far from the center of things, and possibly noisy at night, and they were upstairs. I admired them, and made no immediate commitment. On Friday morning my realtor messaged me to say “I think I’ve found the perfect place for you!” I saw it later that day. He was right.
Well, not quite perfect, but pretty close, and the same realtor who had shown us the small, dark apartment had really been listening, because it was she who offered this one. It’s really a house, technically speaking, as it has a street entrance separate from the neighbors on either side and is a one-storey colonial on the edge of the historical Centro zone of Mazatlán, and about eight blocks from the malecón (boardwalk) and Pacific ocean. The realtor had persuaded the landlord to lower the rent to fit my budget, with the caveat that I pay all utilities. It’s basically two large rooms, with art-work on the walls: a kitchen/dining/living room, a large bedroom, and a teeny-tiny patio with a high wall at the back–perhaps if it hadn’t been painted pink and blue I wouldn’t have loved it–but it was, and I did.
It has wood-beamed high ceilings, a king-sized bed (for which I have no sheets of my own–I had anticipated full-size or queen beds, never a king!), and a pretty tiled bathroom with a decent-sized shower. What it doesn’t have (yet) is screens on the windows and doors, so I’m a mess of mosquito bites and about to go to bat with the landlord for the screen installer specialist I found to do the work, instead of his carpenter, who will likely install screens that leave gaps all over the place, because he’s a carpenter, not a screen installer. In these days of dengue and chikungunya, I’d rather go the extra mile to get it done right, and frankly, it’s stuffy in here without any open windows, even though the Mazatlán weather is presently cool, by my Nicaragua-acclimated body’s standards. Having seen the house on Friday, my realtor, the other realtor, and myself, met with the landlord on Saturday at noon and I was moved in by late afternoon the same day!
Since then I’ve been exploring, meeting people, mostly eating out, learning the geography of the area and the bus system, and gradually unpacking and searching for things I need for this new place. I have a six-month lease, or I wouldn’t have gotten it for the price, but that’s okay with me—it will give me time to get to know the community and the town, and decide if I love it, and if I choose to move on, it’s not a bad time of year to find another rental: probably in the Puerto Vallarta area.
Meanwhile, my luggage was delivered by the freight company on Friday to the Inn, minus one box, but after a couple of phone calls with the company, who found my box, it showed up the next day, a bit the worse for wear (I needed a more sturdy box!) but with its contents intact. When the time came to move, on Saturday afternoon, the Inn owner happened to have a guy with a truck right there, who loaded up, drove the three and a half blocks, and unloaded everything within less than a half hour for the magnificent sum of $20, and I was home. Saturday night, a week later, I cooked my first meal at home, muttering to myself things like “Darn, I didn’t buy ginger or garlic!”, “Now where did I put that spatula?” and “I know I packed the knives earlier, so they must be in this trunk.”
Through the wonders of local Facebook pages I’ve also become friends with a couple who have lived in BC, and they have introduced me to local events, restaurants, and the local buses, so I’m learning to get around increasingly easily. Coming back laden from shopping trips usually means an Uber ride or taxi, which are both reasonably affordable, while the buses are just pennies to ride. I am walking distance from a small supermarket, the Mazatlán central mercado, and the cathedral (but too far away to be disturbed by clanging bells–yaay!), and regular events, like the Saturday morning organic market in another plaza. On Sunday night we splurged on New Year’s Eve dinner and midnight champagne at a local bistro. That necessitated a scramble to find something suitable to wear–folks in Mazatlán (including expats) like to dress up and I had another of those “Honey, you’re not in Nicaragua any more!” moments, where New Year’s Eve last year was definitely a more casual, though loads of fun, affair! (Note to self: “find something sparkly to wear next year!”)