Thursday, November 24, 2011

Saying Thanks


Although I don’t believe in having just one day on which to show our appreciation for all the gifts and blessings one enjoys in life, perhaps this day is extra-special to also reflect on what those gifts and blessings are.

As for me, I am extraordinarily grateful for my new life in a new country. Don’t think for one minute that I can’t appreciate how blessed I am with health and vitality. Those gifts that permit me at my age of 72 to start anew with creativity and hope for the future. When I thought that the rest of my life would be spent in the RV, I’m given this opportunity to design and build my own small house. I love a challenge and this one could hardly fit me any better combining as it does art, practicality, organization, and determination. What’s not to be thankful for?

I am grateful for both family and friends here and everywhere. I am grateful for the chance, even in the “boonies” to connect with the world at large with my blogs and for all those who read them. I am grateful for my three dogs who teach me what unconditional love is.

I pray that in turn, my little adventure may help others to accept that it is never too late. I wish you all a song dancing in your heart, a head thrilled with a dream, and the health and gumption to forge ahead and make that dream come true.


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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Construction News and Latest on my Dogs


First generalities. Although Demetrio and Ruben had done good work, they had become a little slack on hours—by quite a margin. So I called on Benjamin, the Maestro de Obra, (otherwise known as the Big Kahuna) for both Yvonne’s many projects and my little one. Benjamin nodded his head and decreed that the work should have advanced more rapidly. He sent me two new men, both masons, one as the mason, the other as his helper. They were Julio, Benjamin’s brother, and Juan, their nephew. The work progressed at a pace that I hadn’t witnessed before—to my great delight!

Now all the outside walls have been erected. It’s quite interesting how they proceed. First the walls go up to the half-way mark and they are promptly “secured” one to the other by armed concrete at the main junction points. Then the second phase sees the walls all the way up to about 23 cm from the desired height. Over those a cadena will finish them up with armed concrete over all the walls and partitions. This to keep a strong base for dome ceilings as they are made of bricks and they exert considerable pressure in an outward fashion. This would cause cracking and fissures in the walls.

The photo below is the partition from the dining/kitchen looking to the bathroom on the left and to the bedroom on the right.

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The castillo on the right will be filled with concrete to secure the all brick partition to be built next to the existing walls. This partition separates the dining/kitchen from the living room.





The photo below on the left is the other end of the partition to be built. Left of the photo is the metal part (assembled by hand) over which concrete will be poured. To the right is the form made to accommodate the concrete. The opening will be the entry door. The photo on the right shows the concrete base over which the brick partition will be built this coming phase.

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The photo below is the northern wall of the bedroom. I wanted only glass squares way up. The headboard of my bed will be in the middle of the wall. I wanted to offer as little opportunity as possible for the cold wind in the winter to enter.

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This is not a new one on the right except for the llamarada vine in glorious bloom. I had feared the freezing nights of last winter had killed it. I’d had to cut it back in the spring to about one foot tall. In time, the whole wall will be covered in those bright orange blossoms that attract bees and hummingbirds.

A last note. The floors will come last. Enough tepetate will be packed in to leave just enough space to pour more concrete to line up to the top of the black waterproofing at the base of the walls.

I asked Julio what the life expectancy of such a house is. His prompt reply? At least a whole lifetime!

Below are my expenses:-

Details Cost in Mx. pesos
Bucket waterproofing 373.
Cement blocks, cal (limestone) and PVC tubes 1,813.
Red bricks or walls 450.
PVC tubes for drainage of washer, more cal and cement, metal wire to assemble forms 913.
Generator, 3,000 watts a good deal at Costco 4,474.
Travel 200.
Labour – Ruben for waterproofing 250.
Labour – Julio and Juan 2,600.
More blocks! 115.

TOTAL $11,188.

Here are the latest photos of my dogs. I don’t know how Queenie manages to squeeze herself into a tight ball, but she does for her night sleep. Tina usually presses herself very close to Queenie and Tasha uses the vacant space to stretch herself. Of course there is a bit of distortion on account of the perspective.

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When I had Tasha spayed the third week of June, the veterinarian stated that she had to be AT LEAST 8 months old. I had found her on March 5th, a tiny puppy that appeared to be only 5 to 6 weeks old, with her milk teeth and puppy fuzz. A quick calculation made her to have been about 4 months old! Hard to wrap my head around this one… but I did notice how quickly she’d shed her baby teeth and her puppy fuzz. Still…

This is how she looks at one year old.

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Just for comparison’s sake, here is Tina who will be 2 years old a little before Christmas. She has to be the sweetest dog I’ve had, ever.

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Not a prize photo on the right, but one that shows the difference in size between the two. As to Queenie, she’ll remain the Queen in size and character, except that at more than 9 years old, her muzzle, chin (practically her whole face) and paws are turning white.


Finally, a dilemma that continues to disturb me as I can’t make up my mind. On the one hand, I sorely miss having wheels. On the other, on account of my limited resources, construction has to go at a snail’s pace. I’m so longing to be in a REAL house, in regular size furniture, and with a bath and shower instead of just the shower, and have more than about 50 square feet of living space. I will have been boondocking on my lot for close to 2 years now. I moved on the lot on February 23rd of last year, 2010. The first year to pay for the lot, get water connection, septic tank, and a cement fence.  Construction has been going on for 5 months and space and amenities have diminished gradually as we went on. I’m sorely tempted to halt construction for a couple months to put money aside and resume construction in February, or even March and employ workers to finish the job more quickly.

Yvonne keeps reminding me of The Secret so I try to visualize $5,000. dollars dropping from the sky any time now. Then my decision would be to finish the house and settle down, THEN get wheels.

Who says that I can’t dream?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Welcome and a Quick Update


Welcome to new Followers! I’m so gratified when my blog gets read. I do hope that some of my “discoveries” living in Mexico can help others. Do not hesitate to email me if you have any questions.

My computer came back home and, according to Tony, didn’t need any fixing. The so-called broadband is the culprit. I’m investigating other means of keeping me connected; unfortunately, not many options are available. Imagine, if you can, clicking for close to an hour just to get to the Yahoo opening page… I often give up before the hour is over, hence long delays between postings.

I will be taking photos of the walls, all but one are now up and standing! The wall between the living room and dining/kitchen will be coming up at the end of November. Then construction will have to take a few months hiatus so that I can put money aside to get WHEELS. Not only is it time-consuming to go via public transportation to shop for basic necessities, it is tiring as hell!

I’m counting on posting over the weekend when offices will be closed and fewer demands will be made on the Telcel connection. Also, I’ll have new pics of my girls. Tasha has grown like the proverbial beanstalk. She’s longer, taller, and leaner than Tina.

More coming up in a few days.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tequisquiapan–The Pros and Cons and an Admonition


Something is occurring in my little part of the world that gives me pause, and I’ll explain.

Tequisquiapan lies at over 6,000 degrees of altitude smack in the geographical center of the country, by longitude and latitude. The central part of Mexico is considered the colonial part of the country with an ideal climate. It is also very secure. That I can vouch for. Tequis, as we fondly call it, is a rather small town; the municipal district of Tequis is still under 65,000 inhabitants but not by much.

The municipio of Tequisquiapan is an extended region that comprises many colonias such as Bordo Blanco, El Tejocote, La Trinidad, Fuentezuelas, La Tortuga, Santillan and more. If I mistake the term colonia, I will stand corrected. These outlying areas are small and still totally Mexican in terms of population and character. Even downtown Tequis is still unsullied and has kept its authentic charm. I shudder thinking that it would change to accommodate those resisting to become part of it.

Permit me to introduce some quotes and demographics for other areas. San Miguel de Allende has been an expats choice for retirement since the 1930s. When I worked in the travel business some 45 to 50 years ago, it was known for the quality of its light and attracted mainly artists. It also lies in the central colonial part of the country. However, it is quickly losing the very qualities that drew literally thousands of residents from other parts of the world. Here I quote, “The recent boom drew an even larger flock of snowbirds (mostly American)…”** As you can imagine, the housing market has also seen a tremendous increase in prices, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the native population to keep up with the lifestyle of expats who come equipped with dollars and pay in pesos.  “Foreign residents number from 8,000 to 12,000 with about 7,000 of these from the U.S. alone.”** Here’s another quote, “Old timers started grousing about its Disneyfication.”** 

I went for a visit a few months back and am loathe to return. To me, downtown felt more like California than Mexico. The climate and architecture are still Mexican but you hear more English than Spanish as you walk downtown San Miguel. Prices in the shops are really really high and many of the native Mexicans you encounter on the street are selling one thing or another when not begging. What a pity…

** For more statistics and comments, do a Google search for San Miguel de Allende. I would also suggest that anyone who is contemplating retiring to Mexico first do a thorough search on the internet. Ajijic and Lake Chapala have been dotted with gated communities where the residents don’t have to learn Spanish and manage in encountering hardly any of the native population. Perhaps it would be more attractive to you? Baja California is more expensive than mainland Mexico, but also closer to what one would expect to find north of the border, in either country. I unearthed a site about Lake Chapala titled “Gringos on the Lakeshore”… that says it all. Check it out.

Here, there is a very small number of expats who will not learn Spanish and are attempting to lure compatriots so as to form an exclusive group of people to befriend and with whom to converse and mingle. The same probably happened in the places I’ve mentioned above and perhaps others, as well. I contend that anyone who moves to a new country be ready to assimilate and if not blend, at least integrate, with the native culture and population. When I visited San Miguel, one lone figure remains superimposed in my memory. One very tall woman who was walking close to the museum who had an expression so haughty, almost disdainful, that I felt myself cringe.

So here, please allow me to shout it, IF YOU COME TO MEXICO, PLEASE BE READY TO LEARN THE LANGUAGE! If being surrounded by another ethnic population is bothering you, why come? If you constantly decry what you have left behind, obviously you yearn for it; remain where you can have it! If you feel so alienated in a brand new (to you) culture, why in the world would you come to Mexico?

REFRAIN FROM COMING FOR FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS ALONE. You will end up disgruntled, constantly criticising, comparing a developing country to an industrial one. Things are NOT like they are on the other side of the border. The infrastructure is still lacking many of the developments of the richer countries up north. Shopping and entertainment replicate the culture and people of this country, hardly those of the U.S. or Canada.

Speaking strictly for myself, I find it exciting to be admitted in my new surroundings by people whose language I’m learning, and whose culture fascinates me. This unique blend of an ancient indigenous people and another old culture, that of the Spaniards, has a quality that I find enticing, almost exotic. I’m rereading “Iberia” by James Michener for the second time and this helped me tremendously to understand Mexicans. Please educate yourself about the country and its people to find out whether you can accept it wholeheartedly so as to avoid feeling compelled to import what you left behind. It would be unfair, unjust, and unthinkable for Mexico or any part of it to lose its charm and authenticity.

Yes, BE READY FOR A CULTURE SHOCK, But consider it a learning experience, not an exercise in comparison and judgment. And I promise you’ll really enjoy the country and its people.

An Impossible Week--a Recalcitrant Computer—News on Construction


The week of the Day of the Dead saw an influx of tourists from October 27th up to the middle of last week. Impossible to access the internet because of s…l…o…w……a…s….m…o…l…a…s…s…e…s connection on account of so much traffic. I would usually give up after an hour or more of trying without success. Sorry.

Then over the weekend, try as I might, I still could not have access to ANYTHING starting with my opening page at yahoo. I suppose that I had to come to the conclusion that there was something wrong with my equipment. I bought software to speed up my PC and it helped, but just a little. I have problems with the DNS and when I checked my downloads, I realized that for months now, NVidia had failed to update…

So I’m taking the contraption tomorrow to Tony in town in the hope that he can straighten up things. So I may not be able to post for a while.

The walls are up and taking photos is delayed because of what precedes. Also, I’m having difficulties in accessing both blogs and my email boxes. Never a day without some frustration… guess my task in this life is to learn patience.

I got my generator and was able to do my own laundry in my own washer for the first time in 20 months. I never imagined that doing laundry would give me so much satisfaction, almost elation! But it did. Go figure.

I’m working of a post about moving to Mexico for many good and all the bad reasons. Coming as soon as I get a more cooperative computer.

I’m posting this on both my blogs and apologize for this tardiness.

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