Category Archives: Cultural Challenges

Expat911

EXPAT 911- Emergency APP
If you read my blog at my site rather than via email updates, then I’m sure you’ve noticed that I have a sidebar full of products, services, and books that I think you might find useful. Today I’d like to talk a little about one of those featured boxes, Expat911.

Expat911 is a smartphone app that works on Android and iPhone devices. It utilizes GPS location services to allow operators to target your exact location. Your personalized profile lists your blood type, allergies and any health conditions you might have which will help medical personnel treat your medical emergency better. There is also a contact area where users can add 1 US/Canada contact and 2 Mexico contacts. Expat911 will notify these contacts after your emergency has been reported to Mexico’s 911.

To use the service, you just click one of the 3 emergency buttons on the app: Police, Ambulance or Fire. Within seconds an English speaking operator will call your phone and verify the emergency and then call Mexico’s 911 to report the emergency. If you do not pick up, then they will assume that this is a serious emergency and call Mexico’s 911 on your behalf.

This service has a cost of $ 99.00 USD per year and can be used anywhere in Mexico. With the purchase of one Expat911 plan, a second plan can be bought for spouses or family members at a 50% discount.

Currently, Expat911 serves a large number of expats in Mexico with active users in 11 states. If you are an Expat whose command of Mexican Spanish is still not up to par or you are just traveling in Mexico and aren’t fluent yet, this app would be an excellent addition to your travel or health insurance plan.

You can visit Expat911 here or email the company directly at info@expat911.mx.

So now you know that’s what that little button on the right is all about!

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Health, Small Business in Mexico

Book Review–Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison by Mary Ellen Sanger

 

blackbirds

I read Blackbirds in the Pomegranate Tree: Stories from Ixcotel State Prison by Mary Ellen Sanger last year and was profoundly moved by it. I thought I’d reread it again this year and had the same reaction. The author was able to capture Mexico as I see her, all her hardship, corruption, and exquisite beauty. I would be remiss not to share this story with you.

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Mary Ellen left behind the corporate jungle to read in the shade of the steps of a pyramid in Mexico. She began her new life in tourism but eventually found her way to a sheltered patio in Oaxaca as a caretaker to an elderly widower.

Until, one night she was bustled from her residence to the Ixcotel State Prison, one of the most overcrowded and unhygienic facilities in Oaxaca. There she was held for 33 days on fabricated charges. However, her story is just the prelude to the stories of the women she met inside.

Concha, arrested for armed robbery, who found love at last inside the stone walls. Berta, whose husband had tended sorghum interspersed with marijuana for a wealthy landowner. Susa, heroin addict earning drug money with a shoeshine service for visitors. Natalia, arrested so that the wife of her lover could take her child. Ana, human rights lawyer jailed because of her work on behalf of rural farmers. Citlali, a curandera who spoke only Chinantec and her infant daughter Xochitl. Lucia and her infant son Sebastian, whose 5-year-old daughter was in a group home allowed to visit once a month. Soraya, imprisoned for refusing the advances of the mayor. Flor, dying of a tumor from the bullet in the back of her head.

over mexico

Mary Ellen was not the same women upon her release and neither will you be after you read these haunting stories from the women at Ixcotel State Prison.

Read more about Mary Ellen Sanger here.

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Cultural Challenges

The Internet Saga Continues

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Remember how one of the ladies that makes tortillas for my sister-in-law said that Los Amoles, the community WAY up the mountain had internet service. She gave my husband the contact number one day and we called. It took two days for the salesperson to return the call, but he did and I set up an appointment for him to come out and visit us the next day at 11 am.

He arrived at 11 am which was the last time he arrived on time throughout this entire agonizingly long process. We were ready to sign up immediately. It was satellite internet, via Star Go,  not wireless internet. It was designed to be used by banks and other institutions so there was always steady internet. It used the Hughes Network System, which has been around a while.

We had to be approved of course. So we gave him a copy of our property certificado (ownership certificate) and my husband’s IFE. There was some holdup at the main office because there wasn’t a street address but we explained that the certificate does list the block, lot number, and fraccionamiento (neighborhood) so the appropriate address would be domicilio conocido fraccionamiento La Yacata. (Known address Neighborhood La Yacata). Plus the salesperson sent the GPS coordinates of the house. With that, we could proceed.

We waited another week for a copy of the contract. Every day we contacted the salesperson who called the main office where he was told the office lady was busy and hadn’t gotten around to our contract. He called us the following week to tell us we should be receiving the contract, sent via email, that afternoon. We didn’t. Three days later, he came out to the house and called the main office from here. The office lady said that my email didn’t give an address–What on earth did that mean? No email gives our address. We went back and forth with the salesperson about this. So the lady at the office asked if I had an alternate email address. I did. The contract was sent. When I checked the contract, the original email was misspelled. That was the problem.

So, I entered a virtual signature just like I do for my taxes and sent it back. Nope, not good enough. We had to go to a cyber cafe to print the 10-page contract out and sign it, scan it and send it back via email. Nope, not good enough. Each page of the contract needed to be signed. Another scan and sent. Nope. Each page has to be signed on the right side. Another printout, sign, scan and send. Nope. It must be signed in blue ink, not black.  HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! Another printout, signed with blue ink, scan and send. Finally!

The installation would be scheduled in about a week. So we waited. By this time, we’d lost any enthusiasm we had for this internet service. A week later, the installation guy came. He unloaded his equipment and started swearing. He had forgotten the antenna. He asked if we really needed it installed today. He had driven from Leon. Yes, we wanted it installed. So he made some calls. About an hour later, he tracked down an antenna here in Moroleon and went to pick it up.

Installation took about 3 hours. The installation guy said that the service would be bad for about 24-48 hours as it calibrated. Fine. He also mentioned that the internet we already had would work just fine if we had an antenna. Hmm, I’d have to look into that.

Over the next few days, we were further disappointed with the service. Even though I was very clear that I needed enough Mbps to teach online, the package only came with 3 Mbps. So we called the salesperson again and asked if we could increase the service to at least 5 Mbps. He said we would need to call the main office. So we did. My son asked about the high ping–more than 300. The service technician said that since it was a satellite service, it would always have that ping, making it usable for online gaming and Skype calls. We decided to up our service to 5 Mbps anyway.

The service technician sent me a list of requisites via email. Among them was a picture of the modem and router numbers. No problem. I even typed the numbers below the photos. The pictures were not clear enough. So we took another set and sent them. Nope, still not good enough. Ok, a third time. After those too were rejected I decided to cancel the request. We’d manage with the 3 Mbps.

And we are. The satellite internet works for everything but classes and gaming. It’s stable, reliable if a bit slow and extremely expensive! The amount of internet we use for other activities means that we don’t have enough for the full month, about 3 weeks really. Then it becomes even slower, rendering it useless for most things. 

We’ve discussed trying to get out of the 2-year contract, but for right now, we’ll let it stand. Something is better than nothing right?

 

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Economics, Teaching

Internet Saga

i-dont-always-have-a-slow-internet-connection-23899039

If you remember, after quite a quest, we managed to get internet service at our house in La Yacata. The first month, it worked like a dream. Thus, my decision to move my office from The Little House in Sunflower Valley to La Yacata.

Then came the time to pay for the second month of service. We headed to OXXO, which seems like it just might make banks obsolete, to pay the bill. And the next day, our internet service tanked. Instead of getting upload/download speeds of between 8 to 10 Mbps, they hovered at .08 or less. Nothing would load.

We thought perhaps it was a one-day deal. Maybe there were some adjustments being made to the service. Maybe a glitch in the system. After all, the month before had gone without a hitch. Only, the bad stats continued and continued and continued. I canceled a week of classes.

We called the service support line. After all sorts of “troubleshooting” that we had already done, the service representative hung up on us. So the next day, we tried again. This time the service representative admitted that since we were officially outside the coverage area, there wasn’t really much he could do to help us.

So we went to the place where we had bought our modem and requested a service technician. We were told he’d be out around 4 pm to check things out. I canceled my classes again. At about 4:30, the service technician called and said he thought the problem was that our payment hadn’t been processed. I knew that was a bunch of hoo-ha since I had received an email confirmation of the payment. He said he’d look into it and call back. He didn’t bother to come out to La Yacata.

So if the service technician wasn’t interested in coming to us, we’d take the modem to them. The next day we boxed it up and went back to the office. Their solution was to wait for the service technician to come from Morelia and have him take the modem home with him. Moroleon is officially outside the coverage area. The fact that the internet works in certain areas is apparently a fluke that this office was capitalizing on. So in theory, connecting the modem in a coverage area would “reset” the internet and allow us again to have usable service.

It took two days for our modem to take its trip to Morelia and back. The result was that yes, for a while it did what it was supposed to do. And yet, there were sporadic outages and low service periods which unfortunately often coincided with my teaching hours.

Some research on the company shows that overall the internet service only rates 3 out of 5 stars and that even though they promise nation-wide coverage, that’s not necessarily the case. There had to be something better out there.

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Filed under Cultural Challenges, Economics, Employment, Small Business in Mexico, Teaching