December 22, 2017

No one likes moving. It’s expensive, time consuming and nerve wracking. I have done it too many times, including twice from ocean to ocean. But this was a whole new ballgame; we were moving to Mérida, and that meant dealing with Mexican import policies and shipping everything across the Gulf of Mexico.

Preparations began even before we closed on our house in Mexico. The closing itself was disarmingly simple, a trip to our notario's office, and a single signature from each of us! But now every detail must be considered and executed in precise order. One of us would go to Mexico to get residency, a process that can only be initiated at a Mexican consulate in the US, and must be concluded in Mexico within six months. With residency attained, subsequent visits to the consulate in Miami obtained approval of a ‘menaje de casa’, a detailed inventory of household goods. Copies of the menaje were sent to the shipping company and the customs broker in Mérida, without whose assistance nothing would arrive. It is essential that the broker be engaged before anything is shipped; his fees were actually greater than the cost of the actual shipping, but that’s Mexico! A major caveat: all electronics must be ‘used’, and have model and serial numbers included in the inventory.

We sorted through years of accumulated books, music, furniture and knick knacks, knowing that everything would spend two months in storage before shipping. Excess could mean extra cost. Furniture made from soft woods were sold or donated. They would not do well with Yucatán’s humidity and termite risks. The biggest worry was finding a reputable and affordable company to build crates for the harpsichords, rare and fragile instruments that lack the steel bracing of pianos, making them sensitive to extreme temperatures and humidity. With the move occurring in Winter, there was less likelihood of extreme heat, humidity or warpage if the container were delayed in transit. During a previous move an instrument was dropped and irreparably damaged; I wanted no recurrence of that! The crates were solid, but panic set in when one was inadvertently sent to North Carolina by mistake. Several days later it returned intact, but this reinforced how vigilant we must be each step of the way.

The day we closed the sale in Florida was frantic. Everything had to be removed from the house, and charities who were to pick up the donated furniture had crossed signals and couldn’t pick it up. Much had to be destroyed at great expense, financially and emotionally. We should have stored more, and shipped it in the container, which, it turned out, was not even full!

Marshal’s residency process in Mérida was expedited, something that is a total gamble. (A month later mine was not.) He was back in Florida within three weeks, and shortly thereafter the consulate approved our menaje de casa.

We had contacted the shipping company, Linea Peninsular, months before the move. They ship across the Gulf from Houston, Panama City or Tampa at reasonable cost for either a half or full container, but they do NOT load anything, so we needed to hire movers to get things from the house into storage, and thence onto the container. Once loaded, the container was sealed and sent to Tampa, where it was stacked on the ship for the crossing to Progresso. By the time the container arrived in Tampa, we were already on the plane to Mexico. The available insurance only covers goods if the entire shipment is lost. In truth, there has never been an incidence of total loss, so we nervously decided to forego it.

Boxes on the gallery waiting to be unpacked

Five days later the shipment arrived in Progresso, and two weeks later the customs broker, Hiram Cervera, had cleared everything through customs without extra charges. Mérida prohibits container trucks on its streets during daylight, so the delivery occurred at 1:00 a.m. The customs broker arranged for a forklift to unload the crates (at extra cost) and a crack team of movers had everything in the house in short order. The next morning the harpsichords were un-crated and we were rifling through boxes, checking them against the menaje. In the entire shipment only three glasses broke, a pretty good overall result.

Some will say it is better to sell everything possible and move to Mexico with nothing more than a few suitcases. But while Mérida is the beginning of retirement for me, I wanted to re-evaluate life’s experiences, not to dispose of them. Bringing memories of a lifetime in the form of useful objects was important to me, since I would still be performing and needed resources. We soon learned that many things we eliminated were not so easily or inexpensively replaced!

Opening the moving crates to inspect the harpsichords. March 2017

#moving #shipping #yucatan #merida #expats

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