Odds & Ends south of the border

LIFE CONSISTS of details strung together, some good, some bad.

We live next door to a hot-springs motel that was constructed over a decade ago in what was an empty lot where a lonely cow lived. The motel has not provided us with as many interesting moments as we had imagined.

The traffic there is fairly constant. It’s a nice, well-maintained place.

Recently, the owner installed an automatic gate opener in the exit lane. It makes a whirring sound every time it’s activated as satiated customers depart.

We hear the whirring in the Hacienda, and we call it the Sound of Satisfaction.

* * * *

Credit card fraud, etc.

We’ll be going downtown early this morning to the bank. If you get there at 8:30, the wait isn’t bad before you can talk with one of the officers.

We have a number of issues to resolve. My child bride’s debit card is about to expire. The electricity bill for the Hacienda was not paid automatically from our checking account last time, as it’s done for years. And I need a new credit card because we had to cancel one last week due to hefty fraudulent charges.

odds&endsI only use credit cards online, never out in the real world. How do crooks put charges on it? This is not the first time it’s happened, but this week’s bogus charges are considerably higher than ever before. Good thing I keep a sharp eye on card movements.

Due to such perils, I consider four a minimum number of cards. All of my credit cards are issued by our Mexican bank. I had American credit cards when I moved south, but they’ve fallen by the wayside.

Anyway, if you live in Mexico you should have Mexican credit cards.

If you don’t care if your name is engraved on the card, and I don’t, you can pick up another credit card immediately at the bank. Ditto for the debit cards.

Our bank is BBVA Bancomer, the best bank in Mexico.

The worst bank is HSBC.

* * * *

Sonogram of my insides

More has happened on the health front. Recently, I got a colonoscopy, which I wrote about here, Getting a hose up my butt, and then a few days later I wrote a companion piece, An inkling of death.

The gastroenterologist who put the hose up my butt, due to some blood work he found suspicious, recommended I get a sonogram of my liver. I did that yesterday, and the doctor said everything looked okay.

The doctors keep trying to kill me, but I defy them.

The sonogram, done by a doctor not a technician in a high-tech lab in the state capital, cost the peso equivalent of $27.

Beats the devil out of ObamaCare.

* * * *

Nasty little birds

New ImageI’m battling birds. Some years, but not all, I have to fight off swallows around this time who want to build their wretched mud/spit nests on the roof beams along the edge of the Hacienda’s exterior.

They stick muddy spit up there, and I scrape it off from below with a hoe. They try it again. I scrape again, and so on. This has been going on for a week. Some years they bypass us entirely. Most years, actually.

But they are stubborn this year. Some people say it’s bad luck to remove their nests, but I don’t care. They’re nasty.

* * * *

Cheese and chairs

Within two blocks of the lab in the state capital, we found a cheese shop, so we bought some superlative cheese off a huge wheel. We also found a specialty workshop that we’ll be using. It’s a guy who renovates old office chairs.

At this moment, I’m sitting in an elegant office chair that I bought about three months ago at Office Depot. It was a replacement for the previous elegant office chair I had used for many years.

Alas, the old one is in bad shape, even sporting tape on one arm.

How fortunate to have found a shop that renovates old office chairs. When we return next week to pick up the official results of my sonogram, I’ll be dropping off the old office chair. Perhaps it has many more years ahead of it, supporting my butt because I prefer the older one.

Mexicans do everything.

We’ll likely cross the street for more cheese too. It was wonderful cheese.


28 thoughts on “Odds & Ends south of the border

  1. Felipe: You’re covering a lot of ground today! Sound of Satisfaction indeed!

    I have no idea how credit card numbers get out, but it’s good that you catch the frauds. I have only ever had one erroneous charge, but it was way back in the 1980s, before there was an online. We use our credit cards for everything, to the point of sometimes having no more than a couple of dollars in cash. Therefore, we check the activity on a daily basis.

    Mexican ethics rise way above ours in repairs. They rebuild and refurbish so many things that we NOBs throw away for the sake of a few minutes effort. Most common being automobile parts such as starters, alternators, clutches. Industrious and ingenious, you Mexicans.


    1. Kris: This not the first time I’ve found bogus charges on my credit card. It’s happened two or three times before, but they were all piddling amounts. This time there were four that added up to about 17,000 pesos, which is about $850 U.S. They were all stuck on my card the same evening. Three were electricity bills and the fourth was a reservation on hotels.com. I have a sneaking suspicion that someone in the bank’s computer office does it. Got no proof, but that’s my theory.

      I virtually never use my credit cards out in the real world, just online. We Mexicans generally pay cash for everything, and I include my debit card in that.


      1. Felipe: Being a cheap Canuck, I will not pay for a bank card that allows me to debit for free ($12 per month). It costs me $0.60 to debit. On very few occasions I will use it and get cash at the same time as I pay for groceries. Living in the wilds of Canada, there is not a branch of my bank in my town. Canadian banks treat their customers like trash while making incredible profits. They close branches and cut back on customer service. While I did experience more intense frustration with Mexican banks, Canadian banks top the list of services I have to use, but despise, along with auto insurance companies.


        1. Kris: You to pay for a debit card? Never heard of that. Mine is free. They do charge for credit cards, however. Such is life. I’m paying for a service. I can live with it.

          HSBC treats customers like trash here, but Bancomer is great.


          1. Felipe: I should have explained better. The card is free, and I can use it at any branch of my bank for free. If I use it to make a purchase, it costs $0.60. If I use it at any other ATM, my bank charges me $1.50 per transaction, and the owner of the ATM usually charges$1.50, but it can be as much as $3.00. If I pay $12 per month, they waive the store fee and their portion of the other company’s fee. My credit card has no annual fee because I agreed to 28% interest rate. I pay the bill in full every month, so I don’t pay any interest.

            I told you they treat us like trash.


            1. Kris: Well, that’s better. If I use my debit card to take out cash from another bank’s ATM, the other bank usually charges 35 pesos, about $1.75 U.S. I’ve never noticed any charge when I use the debit card to purchase stuff. You can get credit cards down here with no annual fee, but it’s not so easy. That is something I miss from above the border.


  2. And now you have left me with a barrage of questions:
    1) whatever happened to that lonely cow?
    2) BBVA better than HSBC – How? I have seen this beaten to death on other blogs in MX.
    3) A sonogram — is that the best way to see your liver?
    4) Mud swallows — They will not build nests on a porch with the ceiling painted blue. (That’s not a question, but it’s important to know.)
    5) How many office chairs do you really need?

    Saludos, señor!


    1. Ricardo: I have no idea where that lonely cow ended up. I don’t even know who owned her.

      2. Since moving south, I’ve had accounts at Banamex, Santander, HSBC and Bancomer. Bancomer wins hands-down for service. For a Mexican bank, you cannot do better. HSBC is a nightmare. I had an account with them for almost four years, and among the numerous gripes, this stands out: While it’s not specific to HSBC, all Mexican banks seem to do it to varying degrees, you have to phone HQ in Mexico City to get certain things done, things that would just be taken care of in the bank branch in the U.S. You go into the bank branch here, make your request, they dial a number in Mexico City, and hand you the phone. Whenever this came up with HSBC, the people on the other end of the line invariably — no matter what the request was — tried their dead-level best to trick me to prove that I was some fraudster trying to pull a fast one. Questions, questions, questions until they finally caught me in some piddling detail, and then they wouldn’t do what I wanted done. It drove me nuts. I only kept the account, rarely using it, because they gave me free credit cards and the branch here where I live was open till 5 p.m. All the others close at 4.

      A few months back, HSBC doubled the required balance to have free credit cards, so I dumped them. Dumping them was very difficult, specifically because they did not seem to want to cancel the credit cards, an essential piece of the mix. I ended up having to write not one but two registered, snail-mail letters to the CEO in Mexico City. That finally worked. I wouldn’t wish HSBC on my worse enemy.

      3, I don’t know if a sonogram is the best way to look at a liver, but I imagine it’s a very good way, aside from cutting me open.

      4. As for swallows, I won’t be painting my veranda roof blue because it’s clay tiles. That would look goofy.

      5. I need just one office chair, but my old one was more comfy than my new one, so if I can get it back to good condition cheaply, why not?


    2. Ricardo PS: Thinking on it a while, I don’t recall ever having to phone Mexico City while sitting in a Bancomer branch. Sure did with HSBC, Banamex and Santander. Bancomer actually seems customer-oriented, a rare quality in most Mexican businesses of all types. Customers often do not come first. Usually, it’s all about “them.”


  3. Swallows eat mosquitoes and have a nice “song” so they’re not all bad, but I understand the scraping job. We have swallows that nest under the eaves of our log cabin. Robins build nests on the log ends sticking out. Bats nest in some of the cracks between the logs, and they also eat mosquitoes. Everyone’s welcome as long as they stay outside. I don’t worry about the marks they leave behind. I view it as the patina of a 40-year-old cabin. But I know it’s a different situation with the beautiful hacienda you have. Just don’t fall off a ladder in your zeal to clean their nests!


    1. Brent: Swallows have a nice song? Beauty is in the eye or ear of the beholder, it seems. As for eating mosquitoes, our bats do that, and they don’t build spit houses. I love my bats, not the freaking swallows. And I don’t need a ladder to scrape off the embryonic spit nests. I do it from the ground with a hoe. All is well.


      1. Perhaps your swallows are a different species than ours and have been affected by mariachi music.
        Occasionally a bat sneaks into our cabin where the caulking has fallen out. My wife doesn’t like that very much so I end up chasing it down with a butterfly net. They are mean little suckers when captured and then there’s that possibility of rabies, at least in our region. I’ll take swallows any day. Having a log cabin is like inviting every creature in the forest to live with you. Cheers.


      2. I’m pleased that you appreciate and love having bats visit your hacienda, Zapata. Such important pollinators as well. There is a specific organization in Mexico that is working with agave farmers to NOT cut the flowering heads of the agave off before the bloom. These blooms are crucial for the bats in terms of nectar they feed on and that they are doing the farmers an added bonus of pollinating their agaves. I too love the batties.


  4. The secret to discouraging swallows from building nests on your house is to wait until their chicks hatch and they are busy feeding flies to their young ‘uns. This is the time to knock down their nests. They will never return.

    One year I decided to let the swallows build their nests. I hosted a birthday party for a neighbor’s child. Some rambunctious children took the piñata stick and knocked down the swallow nests babies and all.


  5. I still don’t have a Mexican bank account. Have been thinking about it though along with how grateful I am not to have swallows again this year. As soon as they started their spit nests, I’d knock them down. There are plenty of places around for them to build, just not here. Haven’t had them for two years now. I get the paper building little wasps! I love their nests but not their stings.

    Most Mexicans are great at repairing and recycling “stuff.” Don’t think I’d like giving up a comfy desk chair either. Now if I can just find one. Spent a fortune on one at Costco, and it is awful. I have a bed pillow on the seat as it just won’t go high enough for me.

    Want to ask you if you get bees in your datura? I have a great swarm of them in the early morning on my Pink Angel Trumpet. First time I’ve had this many. Good sign.


    1. Oh, Peggy, no account at a Mexican bank? Tsk, tsk. Go get one. I recommend it. Go to BBVA Bancomer, nowhere else.

      I too have gone quite a few years without the swallow nuisance. Don’t know why they decided to come back now. Must be global warming.

      Yes, my datura is quite the bee magnet. Lots of them there enjoying the blooms.


  6. Amigo, it is Trumpcare now. My ACA went from $249 a month for two of us to $936 a month. Same plan. Just a brand new price this year.


    1. Señor Toth: Whatever you call it, the U.S. healthcare system is a disaster. How you people afford those premiums is beyond me. I send sympathy from south of the border where I don’t even have health insurance … or need it.


  7. Obamacare was designed to bankrupt the middle class and enrich the 1%.
    American healthcare is the most expensive in the entire world.


    1. Andrés: I don’t think Obamacare was designed to bankrupt the middle class and enrich the 1%. I do think it was poorly planned to a spectacular degree, something only the Democrat Party would dream up.

      Yep, U.S. healthcare is pricey. If they’d only do it like we do it here in Mexico.


  8. So many topics here that all I can say is “well done, sir.” Or maybe a blessing: “may the gate swing, your credit and insides stay clean, the birds take wing, your cheese taste sweet, and many years of comfort in your refurbished seat.”


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