Tag Archives: making money in Mexico

Failing at your own business–Textbook Video Star

A few months ago I answered an ad shared in one of the expat groups I belong to on Facebook.  The textbook company was looking for someone who spoke Spanish and English fluently and was living in Mexico.  I went ahead and filled out the application.

Much to my surprise, not only did someone contact me, but I made the final cut to be one of 15 participants.  I say I made the cut, but really my son and sister-in-law made the cut. I was just the contact person. From the start, I suggested that they use my son instead of me.  He’s much better looking and speaks Spanish better than I do. Plus he’s had video experience. I suggested my sister-in-law T because she makes tortillas, an integral part of traditional Mexican cuisine. The textbook author was thrilled with my suggestions.

During the course of the next few weeks, the textbook author, film crew and I exchanged a number of emails. I had my son get a haircut and got one myself, not that I planned to be in any of the footage, but I wanted to look presentable.  Boy was that a mistake! I don’t know what the hairdresser did. I ended up with hair sticking up all over the place looking like I had escaped from an asylum. Nothing I tried made it any better. It was even too short to pull up. Then to add to my ugliness, the day before the film crew was scheduled to arrive, I conked my head on the bathroom door which left a large purple lump on my forehead.  Thank goodness I was not the star otherwise it would have been a disaster rather than just embarrassing.

Our house also needed some last minute work.  Although the upstairs was coming along nicely, we still had gaping holes where the electric sockets were supposed to go.  So that required a bag full of supplies and 2 days with the electrician, who we were able to get to come between binges, fortunately.  Every single outlet and switch was tested.  Only one wire had been damaged by wasps and needed replacing.  We are now ready for the next step–a solar electric system!

The camera guys, a father and son duo, arrived a day before we expected them.  I had a long lunch break between shifts, so we were able to sit down to huevos rancheros and have a pow-wow. Filming began at 6 am Monday morning at my sister-in-law’s tortilla shop. This meant I had to make sure my son was up and present at the tortilla shop before then.  If you’ve ever raised a teenager, you’ll understand all the drama involved in that.

The sound guy had been delayed so it was just the two camera guys.  My sister-in-law was a little cranky because she was ready to do the next step in the tortilla making but had been waiting on them but things went pretty smoothly after that. They even convinced the guy who mills the corn to let them shoot footage of that too. After making sure everyone had some freshly baked pan(bread) from the panaderia(bakery) up the street, I headed back to my house, letting them do their thing with the tortilla filming.

The camera crew, now with a coordinator, and my son arrived around 9 am for some more filming at my house.  Since the topic was “quehaceres” (chores), the camera followed my son around while he did the dishes, swept the floor, mopped the floor, made his bed, folded his clothes, put his clothes away, and straightened his room.

The backside of the filming crew. 

Around lunchtime, the sound guy finally arrived.  We headed downtown to see if they could get some shots of my son buying a gift.  Traffic was so bad that I really don’t know if they were able to get anything usable from the hot trek around el centro.  They got permission to film a short shot outside El Templo del Senor de Esquipulitas, the main church. We were able to get the present, a statue of the Virgin for my sister-in-law, at the shop next door.

Later, we all trooped down to my sister-in-law’s for some more filming.  Unfortunately, her brother B informed us that since he was going to bath and eat, there would be no filming in the house.  I suggested they film where she makes her tortillas and we went over there. However, all the neighbors were gawking and it made my sister-in-law uncomfortable, so we headed back to my house.

The afternoon was long.  There were some questions my sister-in-law answered alone and others that she and my son answered together.  Finally, everyone was dismissed for a much later start the next day.

On Tuesday, filming didn’t start until 2 pm.  That didn’t mean we were idle in the morning though.  First, we had to wait for the water truck and fill the tinacos (water storage containers) and ajibe (dry well). Much to my delight (not), my husband came home with a new rooster the day before and all morning our old rooster and the interloper had a macho crowing contest lasting for hours.  I told my husband the rooster had to go, so he took it and came back with one of the zombie babies, which would have been fine but the zombies are pack animals and just having one caused a plethora of pitiful bleating. Fortunately, she ran out of steam and settled down before the film crew arrived.

We also had to head to the market to find some more gifts and pick up some cactus for lunch.  Then, the house needed some cleaning and everyone needed baths since there was water to do so finally.  Then we had to go and pick up the cake and meat. Then I had to drop my son off for some more filming.  After that, I headed back to town for some ice, while my husband started up the flames for the cookout.

Another trip was made to town to find some decorations for the birthday party we were staging for the cameras.  We were planning on having a party anyway, since my father-in-law, my brother-in-law B, my sister-in-law T and I all had birthdays in March but since the camera crew was here, it was included in the video segment. So back to the decorations, I went to 3 different places and couldn’t find a single thing that said Feliz Cumpleaños–everything was in English!  Finally, I found something at Waldo’s and went to T’s house to pick her and the remaining food items up.

We had invited about 15 people to our pretend party, letting them know that the camera crew would be there ahead of time.  We had a grand total of 8 actually show up. That worked. Of course, we were still in mourning for Mama Sofia, and nearly everybody wore black to the “party” but what can you do?

Then my father-in-law said he didn’t want to be filmed.  The camera guy was totally shocked, but later I explained it was because he doesn’t have many teeth left and he didn’t want anyone filming him eating, which was reasonable.  He didn’t have any problem later after everyone had eaten and in fact, had a good time despite the cameras rolling.

We did the whole singing of Las Mañanitas thing, although it was probably the worst rendition in the history of the song.  Then there was the “mordida” (cake bite which often ends in a face smashed into the cake). My sister-in-law and I were passed over in favor of a smeared father-in-law.  We also each received a gift, which isn’t traditional in my husband’s family but we added it just for the staged event. I LOVED what my sister-in-law got me–three brown ornamental jars.  They are the perfect addition to our newly remodeled upstairs.

There were some more recorded question sessions for my sister-in-law, this time standing outside in the desolate landscape that is La Yacata at the moment.  And some beer for the rest of us. I accidentally tipped over my beer on the sound guy and was worried he’d be electrocuted with all the wires he had on. He just laughed at me.  Have you noticed I am a bit clumsy?

Things wrapped up around dusk and everyone packed up to go.  I had to take my sister-in-law home and cover the leftovers before dropping exhausted into bed.

So why would I consider the video filming a failure as far as businesses go?  Well, I had to take 2 days off from my regular work without pay, buy the food, party supplies, and run my sister-in-law and son around town.  While there is monetary recompense for the video rights, half will go to my sister-in-law and half to my son, leaving me poorer than I began. Oh well.  It was fun!



Filed under Employment

Failing at your own business–online surveys

online survey pic

Site after site lists online surveys as a viable way to make money online, so with things a little tight in January, I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

I signed up for a few online survey and testing sites, hoping to make a little moolah along the way. I completed the initial questionnaire and the criteria questionnaire and the availability questionnaire and waited.

I started with User Testing. I mean $10 for reviewing a website sounded good to me. Every time I received an email indicating a job (test) was available, I went to check it out. Only thing was, I never qualified for the demographics criteria, so I would fill out the questionnaire, wasting 10 minutes or so of my precious time, only to be REJECTED with no reason given. Finally, I regulated those emails to the spam folder and went in search of another site.

Then I signed up with Toluna Surveys. They offered gift cards instead of cash, but hey, I have a valuable opinion and would like to receive benefits for expressing it, so I joined their Global Community. And again, every time I received an invitation to participate in a survey, I hurried over to the site, only to be told that the survey was now closed. After a few months of this without having filled out a single survey, I sent those emails to spam as well.

I also tried Hiving and after 37 invitations to complete a survey, did not qualify for a single one.  With Hiving, each completed survey gives you points which you can redeem for cash after reaching 4,000.  Just so you know, 4,000 points is $4 usd but apparently your points NEVER expire.  I’m up to 545 points for doing things like what the company calls microtasks, although there isn’t anything micro about it.  The few I have done consist of searching and verifying information about companies via search engines or company websites and takes forever.  Then you submit what you found and somebody tells you that you’ve found the wrong information so didn’t qualify for full point value.

Not to give up so easily, I signed up for a fourth survey site. ipoll offered gift cards AND a Paypal cash out option. Sounds good to me! And the very first questionnaire said I met the criteria and I was sent along to the survey site. I completed the survey and a little cash accumulated in my fund. I also qualified for surveys in Spanish, so double the fun. I spent several months filling out a survey a week or so and slowly, slowly my funds grew. In April, I was up to $15. I needed $20 to cash out and I was so looking forward to that little bit, either in cash or gift card. Then I received an email that said that iPoll would no longer be servicing Mexico and that I had until the end of the month to cash out.

I went to the site every day to see if I could earn that last $5 but found that there was nothing available for me, every single time. And come April 30, just as I was warned, my account disappeared, without me having reached the minimum cash out amount.

Two months and 10 emails after the April 30 deadline, I finally received my cash out payment through Paypal.  My $15 usd converted to $280 pesos and I was content enough.

However, as this way of making money was so time-consuming with such low profitability, I decided to leave the online survey world and move on to online teaching.  (See Also Can you really make money with paid online surveys?)




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Failing at your own business–Tianguis Flea Market

tiangus cerano

The tianguis in Cerano.

My son has a birthday coming up and we thought to rework his room to reflect his almost-a-man age. So he and I went through his things and took out the younger stuff–like the Bob the Builder suitcase, the Spidey posters, the itty bitty reclining chair and the like, to make room for other more manly decor. But, as funds are tight, we needed to sell the rejected items to buy other items. This meant a trip to Cerano for the Sunday tianguis (flea market).

So we loaded up the truck and headed out early Sunday morning. My husband secured us a puesto (spot). It was a pretty good spot, right next to the ice cream store at the corner of the callejon (alley) that goes to the church. We were up on the bridge that crosses the arroyo (open sewer drain), so by 2 pm the smell was a bit strong, but by then we had done all the business we had hoped to and more, so we left.

The first to greet us after we had our puesto assigned was Cowboy. He hangs about the tianguis asking for handouts and helping merchants unload for a few pesos. Although I hadn’t been to Cerano in over a year, he remembered my name and rushed over to help us unload. My husband gave him 10 pesos for his efforts.

Business was slow but steady in the morning. I let my husband do all the negotiating and just kept an eye on the merchandise. It isn’t like a yard sale, where the prices are ticketed and you pay the price on the ticket. An interested person asks the cost of the item. My husband responds with a price. The potential buyer thinks it over. My husband asks what price would be acceptable. The potential buyer names a price substantially lower than the proposed price. My husband responds with a negative and then points out the special features of the object of interest. Then he names a price 10 pesos lower than the original price. The potential buyer may name another price. My husband may say ‘ni para mi ni para ti’ and offer a different price. This continues until they agree on a price or my husband says the price they want to pay is too low and the deal ends. Occasionally someone walking by will hear the price my husband names and snatch the object at that price, stealing it away from the negotiating buyer. It’s all the same to us.

carnitas de res

Carnitas de res, a speciality from Cerano.

After misa, (mass) things started to get busy. While my husband did his salesman thing, my son and I went to the carniceria (butcher shop) that sells carnitas de res (fried cow pieces). Carnitas are typically made from pig and are not on my list of favorite things to eat, but these carnitas de res make going to Cerano something to look forward to. My husband bought tortillas from the 13-year old son of his cousin who died last year from inhaling light bulb filaments (I’m still not sure I understand that) and we chowed down.

Oh, did I mention that my husband is from Cerano? Cerano is a small town about 30 minutes from Moroleón and as different as being on Venus. The population is said to be about 4,000 and most of them I swear are relatives of his. Well, look that the logistics. My mother-in-law came from a family of 9 children, children of Mama Vira and Papa Rique. Her father Papa Rique also had a lady on the side who had 9 children. My mother-in-law had 11 children, although none live in Cerano at the moment. Her sister Lucia had 9 children, all of which live in Cerano. Her daughters all have 3 children each, some of which live in Cerano. My mother-in-law’s other sister, Tía Lena, the dwarf who owns the bar, has 4 daughters who have a variety of children. Another sister, Tía Jesus (yes, Jesus) has 3 girls. Basically, a good portion of the town reflects my husband’s features, some so closely that at a distance I have mistaken identity. One day, one of his cousins was at the house of the relatives that we were visiting, but without a shirt. I went to scold my husband for taking his shirt off, when I realized, just in time that this person was quite a bit younger than my husband, and wait, wasn’t him at all.

My husband, having lived there until he was 13, can identify and tell the stories of nearly all the residents. One man came along and wanted to buy a palo (shovel) because it would be useful if he were attacked. I thought this was a bit strange until my husband explained that this man was the uncle of Cowboy. OK. All in the family right?

cerano gang

From left to right– A, Mama Vira, my mother-in-law, Tia Jesus, Papa Rique and my son in the front

Mama Vira, Papa Rique and Tia Jesus stopped at our puesto to visit with us. We shook hands all around–our customary greeting. They looked over our things. My husband gave Mama Vira $20 for tortillas and I gave Tia Jesus a flowered comforter that we had out to sell. They shook hands all around again and left, happy with the day’s acquisitions.

cerano gang 2

My husband and Mama Sofia with Tío Felipe lurking in the background

Mama Sofia, the mother of my husband’s father, also passed by. She greeted me amiably enough on her way to buy meat for lunch, but wouldn’t look our way on the way back. Seems she hasn’t forgiven my husband for nearly choking the lights out of her husband, Tio Felipe (not the father of my father-in-law Porfirio who died after being kicked by a burro some 50 years ago) after Felipe had given her a beating. Felipe has tried various times over the years to murder Mama Sofia. I think she recovers out of spite.

Well, sales went well overall. We had $600 take home after paying for the puesto, cleaning fees, ice cream, carnitas, the family handouts and gas for the truck, which is more than I earn in 2 days teaching. It doesn’t pay to go every week, but once every few months is a nice afternoon’s work. Now on to remodeling.




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