29 November 2010 | La Cruz de Huanacaxle Mexico
How do you fill your time in paradise? We are trying to figure that out. It appears that: (1) you maintain the boat, (2) shop, (3) take a nap, (4) eat, (5) swim or (6) drink. The day before yesterday we fixed the failed return spring in the forward head. We laid around the boat all day and read for several days with naps as needed. We've been eating out with friends at about every restaurant in La Cruz (and there are lots of them). So, it was time to go shopping.
To shop, first you have to take the bus. These busses run crowded; in fact there appears to be no such thing as a full bus in Mexico. There is always room for one more. On the bus there are musicians playing love songs (mostly) and hoping for tips. The busses are driven by very skilled drivers who are so skilled that they do not appear to need distance between vehicles or an alternative if they cannot change lanes due to other traffic. We've ridden them quite a bit now and have to report that they do this without mishap. Its amazing.
Also, you need to pick a place to shop. In Mexico you can choose from a host of american brand names: Walmart (two stores in PV), Costco (looks like every other Costco), Mega (looks like Fred Meyer), Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dominos Pizza, ...you get the idea. The gas stations are all Pemex so there is no price shopping for gas. We decided that we wanted to upgrade our internet access by purchasing a USB 3G cellular modem and a telephone. Cell phones are everywhere and the price plans are even more confusing in Mexico than in the US. The cell phones are in spanish of course, but somewhere deep in the settings there is a language switch since the phones are internationally constructed and marketed. Our new phone is made by Sony-Erickson. The voice mail verbal instructions are in spanish, but our greeting is in English. We got a prepaid phone so we can just "refuel" it when needed and don't have a bill to pay (or to get). We had to get a new phone because our old phones were such antiques that they did not have SIM chips. Also, they were CDMA whereas Mexico has GSM cellular service. Telecommunications in Mexico has a dominant player: Telcel. They are the only company that offers the USB modem and they only offer it at one office in downtown PV. Telcel offices are everywhere, but they only sell cell phones. Downtown means a 1.5 hour bus ride one way. So shopping for this stuff is a full day event. And so began our first lesson in shopping in Mexico.....
We planned a full day sightseeing as well as shopping, and it is a good thing we did. Because lesson number one is that shopping for anything that is significant takes several tries. At the store there were 3 long lines but no signs to see which line we needed to be in. Now I can report that one is for information (and to get a service appointment), one is for service, one is for device shopping, and one is for the bank that takes your money. We managed to get midway through the second line before we learned that we would need our passports to purchase the 3G modem. We still don't know why. So we had to go back to the boat and try another day. The second day went pretty well. And, we are delighted with our new 3G modem. It is prepaid also and the pricing is comparable or maybe even less than in the US. We are hopeful from the coverage maps that we will get good use from it. In the summer when we are in the Sea of Cortez we will be in a no coverage area for several months (to avoid hurricanes). So we will continue to use the SSB facility for our principal email path (though many times we will be able to access it through a telnet facility using our 3G modem). Because it is prepaid we can simply not pay for those months and then when we can use the service, we pre-pay again. Paying is easy just like it is for the prepaid cell phone.
Lesson number two came when we tried to purchase the cell phone. Our friends Jake and Sharon said the cruiser consensus was that the Moviestar phones (don't you just love a Mexican brand name?) offered the best international rates. The lesson learned is that the ubiquitous small offices are NOT the place the purchase what they are there to sell. Our purchase criteria was easy, we wanted the cheapest phone that we could buy (but it had to work). That was where we stumbled. It had to work. We spent most of the day trying to validate that it did work (after we purchased it) by calling another cell phone. The root problem was that the attendant didn't know how to make the phone work and explaining that to us in Spanish was double difficult. We eventually decided to move our problem to the large store downtown (another bus ride) where we got the help we needed. By the time we finished the process the sun was setting. But we were successful!
We can report that the mexican people are very kind to us everywhere we go and that the busses really do work well. And what else would a cruiser with time on his hands do?