Thursday, May 24, 2012

One Out of Three Ain't Bad



Six cab rides, four hospitals, two frazzled sailors and one heavenly solar energy store. That pretty much summed up yesterday. We took the high speed ferry into Cancun to get Bettie a boat importation sticker, which lasts for ten years, costs $50 and is needed to cruise the coast.

For some reason, you can't get the sticker in Isla Mujeres; it's only available at the bank in Cancun. So to Cancun we go. After walking down the dusty street from the ferry, we go into the port captain's office to ask where the bank is located, and wouldn't you know it, there the bank sits in a kiosk beside immigration. We go up and ask the nice bank employee for a boat importation sticker. She  asks us for our copies - copies of the boat documentation, of the crew list, of our passports, of some other random piece of paper that some Mexican official has stamped for us - all with the knowing look of someone who has asked for copies and received many a blank stare.

I, however, was ready. We had copies of everything. More than we needed, in fact. I thought we had beaten the system, that we had actually managed to have every single piece of paper that the Mexican government had ever even considered necessary to cruise in their waters. Then ... she asked for a copy of our tourist cards.

Those cute little tourists cards tucked away in our passports, acting all nonchalant but all the while hiding from my copying frenzy. Not the end of the world, though. We can just walk down the street to some little store that has a copy machine. That's when she tells us about the payment problem. You see, if you want to pay with a credit card, the person who owns the boat has to use his or her card. Why, I don't know, but that person happens to be me, a person who also happens to not have her card presently. (I've gotten all sorts of lazy since we started traveling and don't even carry a purse anymore and certainly not my wallet.) Still, not the end of the world. We can just pay in cash, she tells us. And, because we are thoroughly prepared for this situation, we whip out a stack of pesos to pay her with. What else would you expect to pay with in Mexico. But no, she says, it must be 50 American dollars. Well, we ask, can we get American dollars here? She says, Oh no. That can only be done in the city center.

Though we could have gotten copies and gone into the city for the cash, we decided to finally just let the Mexican system beat us. So being beaten and also in Cancun, we decided to try to find yellow fever vaccinations, a little errand that had eluded us before we left Texas (Side note: I kind of totally forgot about the whole vaccination thing until about two weeks before we left. We managed to procure one hepatitis A shot, but that was it.) Yellow fever vaccinations seemed like they had to be easier than the boat importation sticker. I mean, you go to a hospital, ask for the vaccination, get stuck with a needle and then pay for it. Pretty straight forward really.

Or perhaps not. Though we found hospitals - from the packed Hospital General to the thankfully air-conditioned Hospiten - we only found the vacuna (that's your Spanish word for the day!!) at one spot.

Aside: As a member of the uninsured in the American medical system, I've gotten used to asking how much a procedure costs and getting a confused look back as though the person I'm speaking with doesn't understand this basic concept of market capitalism. They then send me on a labyrinthine phone calling search that ends with finally reaching someone in the bowels of the hospital who I'm pretty sure just throws a dart at a number and then adds three zeros to it. I find this process somewhat vexing because not only does it take a long time but it also means that I pay ten times what an insurance company pays (I know this from my insured days) even though I'm offering to pay them actual money right here, right then for this service without any delay, paperwork, or denials.

Anyhoo, I was really looking forward to a medical system where you go in, receive a service, pay a reasonable amount for it and leave. The place with the yellow fever vaccination, unfortunately, did not fit into my lofty vision. They had the vaccine, but no one knew how much it cost. So we waited a bit, which wasn't bad, but when they finally came back with the price it was $300 for one shot. That's not in pesos! So if we both got yellow fever vaccinations and our second hepatitis shots, we would have spent more than a thousand bucks.

At that point, we decided to go eat. At Burger King. I don't care about the fact that we are in a foreign country eating at an American fast food restaurant. At that moment, it was delicious, and if one of us had had a heart attack from the fat, salt and sugar laden Whopper maybe we could have experienced a better side of the Mexican medical system. Plus, while wandering the streets looking for food, we walked down a sidewalk that was covered, literally, with iguanas. And not small ones either. These babies were substantial, and one actually fell from the trees. The biggest one we saw was three feet long, refused to move and had spikes on his tail that looked like a mace - you know, that weapon from medieval times. I thought, "Great, that's just what we need now, a lizard attack."

Need I say more?

But not all was lost! We did have one success yesterday. The charge regulator for our solar panels was having to accept just a little too much charge, causing it to blow fuses and generally have a bad time and meaning that a lot of our solar energy was getting lost. I had actually started calling it the "regul-hater," and we really needed a new one. Vlad found a random solar store on the Internet. We took a cab there, and they had exactly the right part. If you ever need something solar related in Cancun, you should look them up at Solaire.

Thus, we went home happy. And we saw shrimp boats!




9 comments:

  1. You weren't clearing in, you were adventuring. Thanks for the heads up- get vaccinations in US, bring pesos and dollars, copy everything in triplicate, eat a Whopper. All good information, thanks for sharing!

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  2. Oh, it's way more than triplicate. Bring a copier. And always enjoy a good cheeseburger! Or, in our case, a bad one.

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  3. haha..Great Adventure!! I'll remember to get the Vaccines in the US.

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    1. Yay! I'm so glad the comment problem is solved! And, yes, vaccines are best procured in the U.S., though I think we might have better luck in Panama.

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  4. Hurray! We can finally leave comments.

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  5. The iguana seems much more photo friendly than ur lil friends n Key West ;)

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    1. Only that one, dude. He just didn't care.

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  6. Wow. Paying in US Dollars? Guess that must be worth sightly more than pesos. Yes, this sounds like a real Mexican adventure, complete with seemingly illogical requests. Portable copier. check. American currency in foreign lands. Check. Any completely necessary vaccines done in the U.S. check.
    American medical system out of touch with the average American. Check.
    Thanks for the heads up! 50$ for 10 years is muy affordable still. That's good news. Plus iguanas! Excellent!

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    1. We hauled a printer with us, and I have to say it's been worth it. And the iguanas are awesome. And plentiful.

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