Almost Fearless

Let’s Not Talk About the Mice

We’re moving.


The final straw came last week when Drew got up, went to the kitchen and a fat mouse rolled off the kitchen counter.

We had mice. Little tiny field mice that would sneak in under the front door and hide in the area where we kept our shoes. Apparently now they had gotten bolder. I was hearing them at night next to my bed. If we were up in the living room after 10 PM, they’d scurry around, stopping in plain view and just watch us. Over time they were getting bolder, yes, but also fatter and those tiny little – almost adorable – mice were now looking like something closer to rats.

Drew and I had been looking for a house for a while, but now we’re in the middle of the snow bird season… it’s worse than the summer tourism season because they come down from their wintery homes and snatch up all the local real estate. Regular tourists at least have the decency to stay in hotels, guesthouses, hostels… not occupying nearly every apartment and house within Centro, Reforma and infringing heavily on San Felipe. There were literally only 10 listings in the classifieds for all of Centro… at any price point, and nothing for less than $1500/mo.

This is how the conversation went:

Me: “We are moving. This week. I haven’t showered in three days. There’s still not water… and the mice…”

Drew: “Let’s not talk about the mice.”

There’s many things I will deal with, but the idea of vermin running around my home, over my counters, and through my foodstuffs while I sleep freaks me out. But unbeknownst to me, it freaks my husband out even more.

It was settled. There’s not houses in downtown? Fine, we’re moving to the suburbs. To San Felipe de Agua. Up the hill outside the city, where the houses are bigger, the private schools fancier and though I don’t know the area well, I suspect it might be a little more gentrified.

I made a map to give you an idea of the lay of the land. There’s a lot of other neighborhoods and my lines are not precise, but here you go:


The housing situation in Centro is like this:

1-2 bedrooms? Expect to pay $4,000-$10,00 pesos for a furnished place – $10,000 being at most. A lot of these are found on the street via SE RENTA signs or via the whisper network of friends, passing sweet apartments from one expat to the next. ($225-$550 USD)
3-4 bedrooms? A unicorn.
6+ bedrooms with a built-in restaurant, 5,000 sq feet of terrace? Sure, go for it: $35,000 – $60,000 pesos. You can rent a hotel. A language school. Whatever you want. There’s always something on the market, because they take forever to rent. Every realtor has at least one of these beasts in their listings. ($2,000-$3,500 USD)

Somewhere between $550 and $1000 was our sweet spot (assuming it had 3 or more bedrooms) and despite looking for a really long time, we never found a place downtown. So we’re being squeezed north to an area that wikipedia en Español calls, “San Felipe del Agua es una de las zonas más caras para vivir en Oaxaca”. One of the most expensive areas to live in Oaxaca. We’re going posh.

Screw it. The good news is that even without a car, it’s okay. There’s a direct bus to Centro for 6 pesos (33 cents) and it takes about 10 minutes. And a taxi will take you there directly for about 60 pesos ($3.35). Taxis are normally 40 pesos within Centro so it’s not that much more.

And there’s furnished houses for rent in San Felipe in the $700/mo range – still not a ton, the snow birds are here, the time of year is off, but there’s at least half a dozen for rent at any given time. Which is better than zero in Centro.

I do get that all of this is still really cheap… but price is relative. You live somewhere long enough and you adjust their price levels. In Barcelona, I thought paying 10 euros for lunch was  good deal, in Thailand, I got mad if I had to pay more than $2.50. My friend lives in California and pays $1,900/mo for his house and I was like, dude, you could literally rent a small hotel here for that much. So it’s not so much about the price, but just being tired. I want a little bit easier of a life. I want my kids to have their own bedrooms. I want a washing machine, instead of a wash basin, where we scrub everything by hand. I want to be able to have friends over for dinner. To have an oven where I can make cupcakes for the kids. A bathtub! Can you even imagine? Baths for the kids! Put them to bed in their own room. Then take my own bath, with a glass of wine. That feels so simple, such a minor luxury, but still life changing.

I feel conflicted about that. I guess it’s because I pride myself on being the kind of person who can camp for three months with two kids under 4, while biking all day, and not only not complain, but love it. Am I getting soft? Or I’m just normal? I don’t know, but the mice made the decision for us… we won’t talk about them, but that’s it, we’re moving somewhere nicer.

As a sort of hilarious side note: that fire we put out next to our house, the one that threatened to engulf the empty field next our property? I can’t decide if that drove the mice into our home or would have driven them away if we had let it progress. I’m thinking that if that field had completely burned down we wouldn’t have had a mice problem at all… instead we “saved” the neighborhood, and bought ourselves some new roommates.

Adventure awaits! Is a minivan next?

(PS: In regards to my stolen camera gear and my last post – Huzzah! I sold all but two of the spots, raising $7,200 to replace the gear… feels good to have the pressure off me and I’ve got a really diverse and interesting group to work with for the next year. Happy!)

Christine Gilbert

I’ve been dragging my husband around the world since 2008 always with the promise that, “Yes, Drew there will definitely be hammocks there.”


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