Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Stress Overdrive and Meditation

It’s one about which I’m not that proud. I have always been self-propelled into the next project, forever hastening to overcome the next hurdle, looking forward to the culminating achievement, yeah, I’m definitely a Type A. All just so that I can finally R E L A X ?

In my old age, and I’m ashamed to admit that I relapse more frequently than I would like to, I try to let go of these compulsions. I realize that at worst they can lead to an early death. To a lesser extent they rob me of quietly enjoying the moment, more often than not depriving me of a tranquil mind. I admitted earlier to a certain inability to seize the day, the moment. . .

As I watch Teodoro, a quiet placid man, silently plod to pick up the next block and fit it up with sober unhurried movements, without ever being in a hurry, yet managing to achieve so much in a day, I feel embarrassed. Embarrassed to often equate agitation and hurriedness with drive. Which in turn leads to a tumultuous mind and an accelerated heartbeat; a clear loss in the end.

So, last night, body aching from running all over the place in an attempt to achieve two days’ shopping into a half one (to my excuse, I had to do my 8 errands all over town in the time that my friend Monica had very obligingly put at my disposal with her car since I don’t have one, as yet), I resolved to put back into my daily obligations the very first one of the day, MEDITATION. Wow! what an ooopsie! I just wrote down medication. I guess it’s a Freudian slip and at the end of the day, I’ll have to choose between one or the other.

This morning, I gave myself an hour after taking care of the dogs and making sure all was ok with Teodoro and Uriel and listened to Om Mani

Peme Hum (a Tibetan chant), then to the calls of the whales, and to a Sanskrit chant Om Namah Shivaya. The lingering aches with which I had awaken have now disappeared. Lines have been erased from my face. And I feel peaceful. Amazing!

For anyone who would like to listen to these tapes, here are a few links:

Om Mani Peme Hum  - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPszteX0z7k

Om Namah Shivaya - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=npXhH9E4UAg&feature=related

Music Sounds of the Forest – Images Monasterio de Piedra Watermark Enya - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dnREtYxCY-I&feature=fvw

There are many more, depending on one’s taste, spiritual inclination, and musical preference. Try humming or singing along. A make-happy practice. At least to me.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Here’s Part Three with a NB

What a thrill! The lot will finally be enclosed and the dogs will be able to run free within its confines. So, here’s Part Three in photos.



Yes, the sky is that blue 95 to 97% of the time. Can’t complain. . .

Once the blocks have been erected, the castillo at every 3 metres was boxed in and concrete was poured in.



Teodoro at work. The part enclosed by chicken wire is pompously designated as “The Garden”. I bought a load of black earth, mistaking it for the black earth with plenty of humus up north. Part clay and sand, it appears to be a dismal failure. Plus the area is too exposed to the sun. I have to water it copiously twice a day unless rainfall is expected. Next year? I don’t think so. Produce is too cheap to opt for so much work.



Nearing completion of the Eastside.

I really lucked out with Teodoro and Uriel. They are relentless, always on time, and clean up EVERYTHING before they leave. What a gift to me!


And now for the NB  I had neglected for a long time to update my profile on the blog. Now that I have my FM3 resident visa, and even got the civil registry to add me in as a resident of Santillan (Tequisquiapan), I finally did. I also added a photo of me taken for my passport when I was 23, some 48 years ago. What! Did you think I’d publish my old face when I got something better?  Just add some weight, some wrinkles, hair that was naturally blonde but that I much preferred otherwise (a propensity to go to the dark side?) and that has now reverted to its original colour to my great chagrin, and let your imagination go wild.

I ain’t the looker I used to be, PERIOD. But my brain still functions fully on all cylinders, I’m rich with a whole lifetime of experiences and ready for even more. Life is good.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Solid but Different Beginning – More Photos

I suppose that I may have gotten overly enthusiastic with taking photos in my thrill over seeing the work progressing steadily. Here are more:



Castillos for both the buttress and columns to come. This is the northwest corner of the lot. I got gravel to cover the dirt as this is the corner where I will boondock for the next year while the house is being built.





To the right: North side of the lot is where the ground was about half a metre lower at one end. The stone base was prepared with three steps to be filled with cement blocks over the buttress so as to have an even topside for the fence. Note the PVC tube sticking out of the cement cover of the septic tank. Once this side of completed, the tube will be cut shorter, an elbow and cover will be added and the lot will be made level all over. The installation will serve to dispose of ‘doggiedo’ into the septic tank. Yep, I’m trying to think of Everything!



To the left: Detail of the buttress over the stone base.

A Solid but Different Beginning – Part Two

I guess that, now that I have been waiting for weeks to post progress, I can’t wait to get to my blog. So, here goes. The construction of the stone base had to be put on hold because of a prior commitment of three weeks’ work for Teodoro. But once he was back on the job, things progressed at a steady and satisfactory pace, especially since he now had help from his nephew Uriel. Uriel might be short in stature and only 15 years old, but what a dedicated worker! His job consisted of mixing cement or concrete as the job required. He also brought cement blocks to his uncle and stones, as well. When the water tank or the drum needed to be refilled with water, he’d string together 3 hoses and got water right across the road from a neighbour’s tap. Her lot has not yet been built upon so our arrangement is that I’ll get the water bill and pay it directly to the Water Commission. The arrangements for water and electricity are worth a post in themselves; later.

As to specs, my water tank holds only 1,200 litres, or some 318 gallons. Not enough to give a steady supply of water for the cement required for the job, hence an extra drum. OK. Now here’s how the erection of my barda or fence is going. The hardest and longest part was the building of the stone base. Every 3 metres, a hole had to be left for the upcoming armed columns, called here castillos. Here’s what it looked like.

PICT0002 PICT0003

A single hole for the castillo on the left. The stone base on the west side. The red cap is over the connection from the RV to the septic tank and is reserved for dumping sewage only. The grey water I simply let drop upon a base of gravel.

Now to Part Two. Once the stone base was completed, a cadena (translation = buttress), was put in place. It consisted of Armex (don’t ask me to translate that one, I haven’t a clue other than castillo, just look at the photos, please), over which concrete would be poured into a form. Here’s what it looked like. The cadena is an armed base connecting each column, also equipped with an Armex, also destined to be made of poured concrete. Photos to come on the next post.













The upper left photo shows the west side where my neighbour has a conglomeration of “stuff” that I will be happy to no longer see behind my barda. The upper right shows the Armex and form ready for concrete to be poured in. Bottom left is a finished portion of the cadena.


Here’s Uriel at the job. PICT0007

He uses a bucket to fill up the wheelbarrow left stationary next to wherever Teodoro is working. He might look slight, but make no mistake about his strength and endurance.

Did I mention that EVERYTHING is done by hand?


Guess I’ll have to go to Part Three for the next update.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Solid but Different Beginning - Part One

When I was told by a real estate friend who happens to know about building in Mexico that I should start with building a fence, I thought huh. . . why? It made little sense to me as it would hinder the traffic of trucks delivering things. Never mind machinery! Little did I know that everything is done by HAND! After a number of weeks boondocking on my lot, I not only understand but cannot wait until the fence or barda is finished. The dogs have no clear idea of definite boundaries and announce every life form that comes from either side, be it the pastures around us, or the street in front, or the one a little ways off on the west side. While I was exposed on all sides in the desert, it resulted in a feeling of openness and freedom. We were ALL equally exposed. In a more residential environment, even with very few houses around, it fosters a sense of not belonging, vulnerability. Like living in a fish bowl.

So the decision was easy to determine; first the fence. And as the old adage goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, I opted for fencing the Mexican lot in Mexican style. A fence made of cement blocks of a height between 5 and 6 feet high. It will later be covered with flowering vines.

It began with excavating a ditch around the lot, which had been done by the previous owner of the lot, then building a stone and cement base in it to hold the heavy fence. Now the lot is unequal in level, a bit like a sheet of paper exposed to rain and drying up warped. The end at the northeast corner is quite lower than the rest of the lot. What truly amazed me was how the mason (albaňil in Spanish) figured out how to level through the whole ditch. Very ingenious and marvellous in its simplicity. No laser gizmo here!

He used a clear plastic hose about 10 feet long, filled it with water, leaving about 4 inches evenly spaced and empty at each end, adding the appropriate mark on the hose. He then lowered the hose into the ditch, thumbs against the open ends to prevent water from escaping. He had first planted a rebar into the ditch and marked where the height of the stone base should be on it at the higher end. While I held one end of the hose one the mark he proceeded to about a third of the length of the ditch. He had put a rebar at each third of the way into the ditch. He held the tube against it until the end marks on the hose indicated both ends were level; then he marked where level was on the rebar. He repeated the process for the second and third parts of the ditch and was able to determine that the fence would have to be staircased at the base so as to be even at the top. At least at the northern end.

He then nailed pieces of wood in the form of an inverted U (sorry, I can’t call them planks as they were salvaged odds and ends pieces) and planted them at regular intervals. You’ll see them in the last photo. These he used to string his marks all along the ditch.

The actual building of the base was slow, hard, painstaking work. It started at the southwest corner, and when the perimeter of the lot was done, the front was easy to make level with its beginning southwest part. He broke the stones by hand with just a hammer, fitted them as in a jigsaw puzzle, cemented them in place into a trapezoid base wider at its bottom and even in width and height at the top.

Here are some photos of the process.


Making the mark against the hose mark.








The hose lies at the bottom of the area to be levelled. Here photographed over the stone base after the fact.


Pieces of wood and strings will serve as guides throughout the building of the stone base and whole fence.


The top white string indicates the limit of the stone base in line with the limit of the lot. The blue string on the left indicates the level height against which to build, the second lower white  string indicates the upper width of the stone base. Note the hammer on the ground and the tape which he used to constantly measure his work.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Habitual Passers-By and a Damsel in Distress

There are at least 5 or 6 rancheros who take their animal charges to surrounding pastures; they pass right by my lot, which I heard was one of their pastures. Some have only cows, others only sheep, and yet others who have both. Most of them have canine helpers who look after the stragglers. Not always successfully.

Last week a sleek looking cow with horns intact showing off against her deep red colouring got left behind. Right by my RV. At first she merely kept on munching unaware that she was alone, the rest of the group equally unaware that they were missing one. Intent on her goodies, the light of day slowly gave way to darkness; it finally dawned on her that she was truly alone when her anxious moooo got no answer.

Mooing pitifully for quite a while, the poor cow looked around obviously frantic about joining the small herd. She darted about going back and forth over her habitual terrain, without any luck mooing her distress all along. We’re in the country so unless there’s a full moon, nothing will light the way around fields with many species of cacti and other prickly plants whose name I don’t care to learn about. All I know is that they’ll go right through a thick sole. Painfully. Not a good thing to face in the dark. I wrongfully assumed that she had made it home when I no longer heard her mooing.

The next day, the lady who had unintentionally (or not) left her two puppies to be adopted by yours truly came by with red cow sagely in between two others. I asked her whether Daisy had made it home the night before. Not so, she said. Her son lost her and she had to remain on her own all night. Early enough, she was found and all was well under the sun.

A couple of days later, the son had to chase Daisy around with a switch to keep her in line with the others. I guess learning comes at all stages of a cow’s life. . . or not.

Sheep, on the other hand, seem to rarely venture far away from the herd. Here are a few who traipsed right by me.

PICT0002-1 I hope to catch Daisy’s photo when next she comes around.

Return trip from the pasture

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hurrah for New Gadgets

In the wake of losing my camera cable to download my photos, I was talking about it to a friend who suggested that perhaps he’d have something that would work just as well. The gadget is called an SD Card Reader I think and works even better than a cable. You simply insert the SD card from the camera into one end of the gadget, plug the other end into a USB port, and whichever photo software is on your computer will pick up the photos without fanfare or complicated instructions. It’s a bit like a flash card but a little wider. I use Picasa, so immediately the photos were ready for me to fiddle with and post. I hope I find the SD Card Reader here in Mexico. If not, I’ll have to get it sent to me.

How in the world were we able to function without modern electronics? I recall the first time my sisters and I looked at a black and white TV set playing in a store window, without sound. We couldn’t wait until our parents were able to purchase one. As the saying goes, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”  Guess I’m all for new gadgets and using one!

So here’s a photo I took of my Big Girl Queenie with her new charges resting after a hard day’s labour--Mindy chasing Tina up the sand hill, then digging her way down in an attempt to reach China, or Tina chasing Queenie’s tail as if cornering a wild animal, or Queenie seemingly overwhelmed by two frantic puppies and growling her authoritative growl, all without much effect. . . Or the troublesome twosome using the stone base as a bridge to investigate the neighbour’s garden (yeah, the one who can’t stand dogs)? Or me trying to do damage control?

I can’t say whose labour was the hardest; I’ll leave it to you to figure it out. Not too long after I took this photo, I was also resting from a hard day’s work. As will I do next.

Good night all!

Oops… here’s the photo.

The sleep of the just

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