Happy New Year / Feliz Ano Nuevo from La Vida With wings
We hope you enjoyed your holidays and 2019 is looking rosier than ever for you.
I missed a couple of weeks on this blog due to an extra heavy workload getting some 2019 content ready for my business.
Sergio has been making his way through the complex process of registering his car here so he can drive Uber. It is a long boring story that was complicated by a missing document he had to chase down in Mexico City, I won’t go into it, but let’s just say that changing the location of your car to another state in Mexico is nothing like doing so in the US. Baja is particularly sensitive because they are in the process of reforming a wild west car registration system (or lack thereof) that included illegal importing of cars from the US for years. You still see cars with US plates that expired years ago, although apparently not as often as used to be the case.
All of which makes me continue to have second thoughts about having a car at all in Mexico.
In our new place, there are only 3 parking spaces out front, and La Paz is known for petty theft / car break-ins. This means every night there is at least one car alarm going off. As an aside, I can’t think of a single reason to have a fancy car in Mexico. It’s like driving around with a big target on your back.
The real estate agent who represents the apartment is a beautiful young woman, one of those humans you can’t stop staring at. She has perfect cocoa colored skin, is built like Marilyn Monroe, if Marilyn had been a latina brunette who does lots of Pilates, she has beautiful clothes, and she drives a new Mercedes, one of the sporty expensive ones.
Quite frankly, I worry about her. My Mexican intel (aka Sergio, who always gets the good scoop) told me she is the girlfriend of the owner of this complex. I shouldn’t stereotype, but here I go - my guess is her boyfriend bought her the car. I would not feel safe in a car like that anywhere in Mexico. He should buy her a new Nissan Sentra instead. Baja in general has escaped the worst of the narco violence, but there is no reason to allow your ego (or your boyfriend’s) to help attract the wrong kind of attention.
Sergio talks about upgrading our stodgy little Toyota Avanza, albeit obviously not to a Mercedes sport coupe, lol. I do like the new Audis, but I don’t want a car in Mexico if we aren’t monetizing it.
Another reason you can save money in Mexico, especially if you are considering living in a populated town. Uber is cheap and public transportation is plentiful, so a car is not really necessary. Upgrading our wheels only makes sense if Uber finally takes off in Cabo San Lucas with a large need for Uber Black. Plus, we would need to move there, as we are 2 hours away right now. All of the above is unlikely in the next year at any rate.
Besides that, I really like it here in La Paz. I don’t know why, but we’ve only been in this apartment for 2 months, I traveled for about a month of that, and now that I’m back it feels like home. Does that happen to you? Do you have an impression of a space immediately, or does it take a few visits or even months?
This is a new complex with only 8 units; no pets or small children allowed. Like 99% of apartment complexes in Mexico, it has gated entry. There is no easy way to breach the perimeter so they did not put bars on the windows, which I really appreciate. We are on the second floor, with decent natural light and no neighbors above us. In La Paz, the water pressure is pretty low, so our tradeoff to not having people walking on our ceiling is that our showers are pretty wimpy.
The apt is only 500 sf - that sounds small and it is, but the way the space is laid out and finished makes such a difference.
I have been in many traditional Mexican middle class houses - in general, they are squat concrete boxes, with small windows covered with burglar bars and a heavy metal gate at the front door. Boxy concrete houses are easier to keep cool except in the hottest months when the heat finally overcomes the adobe cooling effect of the concrete walls and the house heats up like an oven during the day.
They also tend to have really bad lighting. There are practical reasons for all fo the above- construction is inexpensive, but electricity (la luz) is not.
Air conditioning is still a luxury, and when you do see it, it is usually not central. Split A/C units are very popular here. If you don’t know what that is, go ahead and google it, I had to. As a girl who grew up in Houston listening to the huge compressor fan buzzing outside my bedroom window for 10 months out of the year, when I saw the split A/C in our previous AirBnB, I didn’t see how such a little unit could cool a room with no ducts. Turns out they are a great idea for zoning A/C with no ductwork.
The kitchen is often small and, it must be said, poorly designed - more for the convenience of the builder and plumber than the cook. I really admire Mexican women who traditionally have kept big families well fed with substantial meals that emerge every few hours from such cramped spaces with tiny cooktops.
Bathrooms are also small, often oddly placed, as in one that is directly off the living room. I’m not talking around the corner or down the hall, I’m saying literally the door is beside the couch. Awkward!
For a culture that loves doodads and knick knacks, there is curious lack of storage and counter space in the bathroom and kitchen, so the small amount that does exist is usually covered with “chivas” (slang for “stuff” in Mexican spanish).
The top of the fridge often features a gravity-defying pyramid of jumbo bags of chips, bread, the ubiquitous cake, liters of soda, and anything else that is too big to fit anywhere else. Come to think of it, that is not unique to Mexico - I’ve seen lots of fridgetop piles in the US, too!
With all that as the norm for our price range if we were to rent a house, this little apartment feels like a mirage in the Baja desert. It has a simple modern layout, white smooth plaster walls and floors with nice, calm cream colored tile. The kitchen is way bigger than the ship’s galley version we had in Mexico City. The bathroom is also much bigger than you find in a traditional small Mexican house, and is located sensibly off of the bedroom, (probably because we don’t have a living room).
The unit came furnished with a few pieces of new furniture. There is a built in desk with 2 drawers. The closet is not huge, but its adequate and also built in, and between that and a small dresser we got a great deal on for $35 at the tienda segunda, we can put all our stuff away.
The ceilings are 9 feet, so the space feels bigger than it is. Tradeoff- it gets Africa hot here in the summer, there is only one split unit A/C in the bedroom, so keeping the kitchen cool will be a challenge in July, if we are still here after our lease is up.
Sergio talked with the owner and learned that he built these small apartments because the location is around the corner from a large hospital. The doctors that work at the hospital don’t necessarily live near here. Since they often work night shifts, they rent an apt and then go home on weekends or whenever they have their time off. That explains why the units are so small. It also means our neighbors are not around much, and when they are, they are usually sleeping. Both of which you almost never find in an apartment complex in Mexico. And all for under $400 a month, which is less than half of our regular rent budget.
I have been watching some videos about real estate in Mexico - If you are curious about buying real estate here, check out these 2 videos for starters:
They make my inner video producer wince, but the attorney gives some very good basic facts.
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