Traveling to Mérida in the time of COVID

We made our journey to Mérida, double-masked the whole way. It was a fairly uneventful journey. Of course, Angie couldn't sleep the night before and when Angie can't sleep, neither can I. It's an unwritten rule.

The airports made me nervous in this COVID era, I hadn't been around this many people for a long time. Everyone was masked up, some were just simple bandannas, others were double-masked (like us) along with face shields and rubber gloves. We tried hard not to sit next to anyone in the terminals and washed and re-washed our hands every step of the way.

After a long day of travel and by the time we got through customs and into the taxi, we were ready for sleep.

Arriving to the rental house late in the evening the first thing you need to do is check out the house and, no matter how late, assess the pool.

I reached into the pool to check the temperature of the water and in doing so stepped right into the overflow channel and soaked my shoe. This was the sign of things to come at this house.

I set my shoe to dry by my bed and we both crashed for the rest of the night.

Waking up I found that the electricity had gone out. I checked all the breakers in the house, flipping them back and forth to be sure. It must be a regular Yucatecan blackout, I assessed. Informing the property managers they were quick to respond they would contact the electrical company to be sure they were aware.

In the meantime, I pursued my usual morning routine. I found the net to clean the pool and started scooping leaves from it until it was free of all debris. I swept the patio area in the back yard and tested the water temperature one more time. It was cold. Super cold. Like a northern lake in the spring, cold.

The first two days were fairly rainy and so there wasn't a lot else to be done outside. A few hours later Angie woke up, the power was restored and we decided to take an Uber to Costco.

Not that we really needed Costco sized items for our week there, but we had never been to the Costco in Mérida and wanted to check it out.

It's not a lot different to our Costco locally in the States other than the cenote in the parking lot and a few different items on the shelves. We bought some groceries to make lunches with and then hopped in another Uber back to the house.

I blew up our inflatable pool toy that we brought with us (a parrot we named Pedro, in honor of Pedro Pascal; an honor I'm sure he doesn't need or want) and I made my first attempt to float in the cold pool with it. Which quickly turned into me toppling over into the frigid water. Once you're in, might as well swim.

Pedro the Parrot taking a dip
Later, with Umbrella in hand, we made our way to Zinc for dinner so we could revel in our favorite dishes there. Our favorite server wasn't there anymore, but the service was still excellent and so was the food.

Every place we went in Mérida people wore masks. Walking down the street. Masks. Stores. Masks. Restaurants. Masks (until you were seated anyways.) Driving in your own car? Masks.

Temperatures were taken and hands were sanitized. People were not farting around. One day I left the house without my mask, completely forgetting about it. I made it half a block before a person with a mask gave me a strange look and I thought "Oh! Crap! Mask!" and I turned right back around.

The next few days, as the rains slowly cleared, would be challenging at the rental house.

Let me say this about the house, it has a very large, though as mentioned before very cold, pool. It's in a very nice location. The property managers were extremely pleasant and quick to respond to any needs we had.

But it's an old and narrow house. There isn't a lot of natural light getting in and you can easily feel entombed if you have to stay inside for any stretch of time. There isn't a natural living room to sit in the evening to watch TV if you want, though each bedroom does have a TV.

There is a sign making shop a few houses away that is always grinding and cutting metal throughout the day, but I expect sounds in the city and they always were done by early evening.

Our second day there, the water stopped working. Again I informed the managers and they promptly sent over a plumber to get some water flowing and he informed me that they would need to replace the pump the following day.

During this exchange I was very proud of myself for kind of understanding most of the plumber's Spanish. I mean, I understood bits and pieces as he was speaking and nodded my head and repeated the words I knew. "'Thirty?' Uh huh. 'Change it?' Uh huh..." Shortly after he left, the gears in my head had pieced it all together and I knew pretty well what he was saying. The pump was broken and needed to be changed. They would come back tomorrow afternoon and it would take about thirty minutes. It's the small wins.

Also on this second day we noticed the mosquitoes were starting to get bad in the yard and even in the house. There were a lot of larvae swimming around in the stagnant water of the overflow channel of the pool. I searched in the pool equipment shed to see if I could find any chlorine to dump in there but all I found were cans of paint. I did find the switch for the pool pump to make the fountains work as well as the switch for the light in the pool. The light was an LED light that strobed different colors like you were at a rave. It was very seizure inducing. We kept that switch in the off position the rest of our stay.

We took an Uber to Walmart because it was raining fairly heavily that second morning and I searched for chlorine there. Nothing. So I bought a large jug of bleach and we made our way back to the house and when the rain stopped I poured the whole bottle into the channel. It wasn't enough.

Some of the larvae died, but plenty of them kept on swimming right along.

The mosquitoes got worse in the house. We were applying and re-applying mosquito repellent constantly, to little effect. I hadn't been bit up this much since I went camping in the woods as a kid.

I had closed off every window and door in the house, even the doors between every room and bathroom, just trying to keep the mosquitoes out of the bedrooms. Unfortunately, the doors and windows were very old and didn't close tight or have screens on them. Every night I would walk around the bedroom for hours trying to kill mosquitoes before we went to sleep.

It gave a whole new meaning to blood, sweat and tears.

I informed the managers about the stagnant water and the larvae and they promptly sent someone over who did find chlorine in the shed and they dumped it into the channel. After they left I tried to find the chlorine just in case I needed to add more, but I couldn't find it again and wasn't watching when they put it back in the shed. It's a mystery I never solved.

The next morning the mosquitoes seemed less thick outside, but in the house they hung like a cloud. They were particularly bad in the kitchen. If you needed to make a sandwich or grab something out of the fridge, you had best be prepared to do it quickly or face their vampiric wrath.

We would leave the house and go for walks or just sit in the back yard to escape them. We pondered whether it was worth spending the extra money to rent a different place or go to a hotel.

On Thursday morning (our fourth morning if you're keeping track) I went to the bank to transfer money for the down-payment on construction. I'll have some future post on that whole episode, but I'm leaving it intentionally blank for now.

It was also Thursday when we decided we'd had enough of the mosquitoes in the house.

I had stopped at Walmart again to try to buy some other things to fight them off. I bought a tiny bug zapping light and set that up. I bought a citronella candle. Some anti-itch cream to cover the hundreds of bites each we already had, and still none of it was enough. We were hiding under our blankets at night to try to avoid their bites.The joy one gets from a nice vacation of sleeping-in was non-existent as we were barely getting any sleep with the persistent itching and buzzing.

We found another house online we liked and we started the booking process with them. We wouldn't be able to check in until Friday, so we would need to spend one more night in Casa Mosquito.

That worked out fine since we were scheduled to meet with the builders on Friday morning at Casa Mosquito to sign the contract and discuss some details.

That next morning, after having just completed another almost sleepless night, I was more than ready to be done and was up early cleaning the house. Washing dishes and generally putting everything in order for us to be able to leave.

We met with the builders and as soon as they were on their way so were we. We went to the office of the property managers for the new house, made our payment and got the info to check-in there.

Then we went back to Casa Mosquito, deflated Pedro the Parrot and packed everything up and made a final look around the place, out the door and keys in the lockbox and we walked swiftly to our new rental house.

The new house was amazing! I instantly wished we'd stayed there the entire time. Of course, it was also amazingly expensive, so it was probably best we only stayed there three nights. It was also Angie's birthday so it was a good day for an upgrade. Pedro was blown back up and floating in his new pool in no time.

This house felt like a house you could actually live in. It wasn't just a vacation rental, it was a home. Which is always a nice experience and sometimes justifies the extra cost.

And I don't want to bag on Casa Mosquito too badly, if it hadn't been for the mosquito infestation we would have been perfectly fine there. Sure, it wasn't our favorite house ever, but it was more than adequate.

I messaged the Casa Mosquito managers and told them of our situation. That it was just too much, even psychologically, to deal with the mosquitoes anymore. We had checked-out and if they needed anything else from us to let us know.

They sent an exterminator to check it out and it turned out there was an old well on the property that was hatching and sending the mosquitoes buzzing into the house. They promptly refunded our remaining nights (without me even asking) and were just the nicest group of people. I probably wouldn't choose to stay at that house again, but I wouldn't hesitate to stay at a property managed by them.

Ultimately, it worked out for the best. Right across the street from our new house was Filux Lab, an "art laboratory," which had been designed and renovated by our architects. So, as soon as they opened we popped on over to check it out.

The remaining days were somewhat uneventful and thoroughly relaxing.

Our second pool with these magnificent palms.
I had brought my gimbal and a tape measure with the intention of going to our property and making measurements and a video showing the "walk-through" of what the house might look like.

On Sunday morning, the day before we left to come back home, I loaded up my small backpack with the equipment and construction plans and trekked over there. I took a short video outside the gate from across the street and then went to unlock the gate to start plotting and videoing.

The key didn't fit. This wasn't my lock.

Huh. Had the architects changed the lock and forgot to tell me? Maybe INAH had stopped by to inspect for the permits and they had changed the locks? Or did some other random person think they owned the property and cut my lock off and replace it with their own (that would be odd)?

With my plans scuttled, I headed back to our rental house. I later emailed the architects and they had indeed changed the lock. The old one wasn't working properly. If I had gone to the property earlier in the week I might have asked sooner and gotten a key. But my procrastination bites me in the rear and it was too late now. Oh well.

I'll still try to put something together with my older footage from the last couple years. It won't be quite as fancy, but it should work.

Sunday night was our last night in Mérida and we were relaxing on the couch when we decided we should go out for one last dinner. As we got up to get ready we heard a loud *BANG* and we both knew right away there must have been an accident.

We ran upstairs and off the one bedroom is a small outside patio that faces the front and you can kind of see the street.

I didn't see anything in front of the house and so I stood on a short wall to get a better look. I still couldn't see anything, but then I saw people on the rooftop patio at Filux Lab across from us on their phones and looking up the street towards the intersection. I turned and there was the scene of a knocked over motorcycle with one man sprawled across its frame and in the middle of the intersection a woman in pink pants, wearing a motorcycle helmet, lying face down and not moving.

People in the street and on the neighboring rooftop dialed 911 and I could hear them yelling on the phone.

In the street people gathered, some were telling the people on the ground to remain calm "tranquilo! tranquilo!" while others started blocking the intersection by standing in it and redirecting traffic until the police could arrive.

I finally saw the man who was laid against the bike moving his arms which was a small relief, but the woman was still motionless.

I was horrified, she can't be dead! My heart was racing and breaking for her. A man stood near her, making sure any cars that were trying to get around the scene didn't run over her legs.

After what seemed like forever I thought I saw her mover her foot, but I wasn't sure. Daylight was fading and the streetlights were buzzing into life, giving a strange glow to the scene and making it hard to discern details. Finally, the medics in an ambulance arrived and they knelt next to her and took off her helmet.

Suddenly, she popped up onto her feet and they escorted her to sit on the sidewalk. What a relief!

The other rider on the motorcycle was not out of the woods yet. He was talking to the medics, but they brought a stretcher for him and took their time moving him into the ambulance. Hopefully it was for precaution and he will be okay.

I don't know what they hit or who hit them, but it was nice to see they had their helmets on and that they survived and also nice to see the community come together and get involved in making sure they were okay.

The trip home was quick and fairly uneventful. I'll try to have some new posts in the future about the house design and and construction specifically. But for now, I just wanted to debrief from our trip.

The week went fast and it's always hard to say goodbye, but it's always nice to know that we'll be back.