Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Joys and Pitfalls of Foreign Currencies

I got broke more often than not—probably as often as I got elated to have such large denominations piling up in my wallet. When I began living in Mexico, the currency rate of exchange was roughly 10% for a Mexican peso of either an American or Canadian dollar. So when I had $5,000. pesos, it meant that I had about $500. but it certainly didn’t feel that way. There were 3 zeros instead of 2; it felt like wealth and fostered a false sense of security. Funny how adding “nothing” (zeros) can reassure one about financial security. (I wonder whether there might be a metaphysical message in this…)
I have a Canadian friend here who always keeps a cool head about money. She immediately figures that she has in hand ONLY the Canadian equivalent of 10% in Mexican pesos. In a way, she does reverse conversion. And she uses that amount for the sake of comparison. But in my quest for accuracy, I carried a pocket calculator that I used to convert feet into meters and centimeters into inches. I also used it to convert from dollars to pesos and way too often got a dizzy reaction to feeling so rich. Imagine having $2,000. (dollars) instead of $200.
At times, my reaction to the price of things was one that would go from horrified to giddy surprise. A pound of butter at $54.70? But wait, things would take a turn for the better when I figured that I could buy 10 bolillos (crusty buns at 2 pesos each) for $2.00! I could always eat them unbuttered to balance things out. I’m still battling that one.
Things got a bit complicated when the rate of exchange began to fluctuate between the proverbial 10% to 11.5675% or in times of great abundance to 13.4253%. But this was the official rate, from country to country. It didn’t take into account the bank fees for converting currencies. To my mind, either the banks were unaware of the official rate of exchange or ignored it completely, and I would often feel cheated. Also, since I used ATMs that also charged a fee of about $24.30 pesos on any foreign withdrawal a couple of years ago, to the present fee of $32.40 pesos per transaction, this added to my bank fee of $5.00 dollars for each withdrawal!
So to ease things for my calculations and withdraw only the amount that my bank would allow daily, I would go to the ATM and click on the “check my balance”, which would automatically appear in pesos. Then I would guesstimate what was really available for the day by deducting about $10.00 dollars from my daily allowed amount. This would include the $12.30 pesos for the balance checking service, the $32.40 pesos for withdrawing the allowed daily amount, and the $5.00 dollars fee for delivering the cash from my bank. Why then, did it not work out that way?
As if things weren’t already somewhat complicated, every time that I would inquire about my balance (my way of getting a more accurate figure on the rate of exchange) the ATM would suddenly be unable to read my card when I tried to get my money! Or the ATM screen would show that my bank that had allowed ME to check the balance on MY account would not permit the withdrawal of MY money. So I would have to cab it from the Banamex ATM to the Bancomer one. Cashiers are not trained or allowed to withdraw from any foreign account. It leaves only the ATMs. I suppose that the bank’s program would assume that the card must have been stolen since, as the owner of the card, I SHOULD know what my balance is. And I DO! Only it’s in dollars. This got to be an expensive exercise. And it did nothing to booster my self-confidence.
So I gave up calculating. Not an easy reckoning for one who can figure out how many bricks or cement blocks are needed per square meter. Now I just withdraw what I figure is more or less the daily maximum allowed and leave it to the gods of finances to inform me of what I have left after I’ve taken out what I need for the month. It works out pretty well most of the time. But I do get broke once in a while and end up with less than $10. dollars in my pocket during the last week of the month. Why? I would sometimes forget that besides the instant fees, an additional $20. to $24. dollars would occasionally be deducted from my account towards the end of the month for a number of withdrawals in excess . . . of what exactly?
Go figure.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Learning Experiences

I have read somewhere that mental exercises are highly recommended to keep the brain in form once old age has set in. Well. . . I have certainly kept mine busy, what with settling down in a new country, learning a new language, learning about construction typical to this area, learning new mores and customs, even learning about new foodstuff, the list gets longer all the time. Even shopping becomes a new type of experience.
While there are many shops and eateries that cross over borders such as Home Depot, the ubiquitous McDonald’s, WalMart, Subway, Costco, etc. all of which are relatively close, others have a definite foreign flavour, particularly the mom and pop tienditas. I’ll bet that new synapses are now forming committees in my brain so as to figure out how to classify newcomers and put them their proper place! Short term memories are supposed to be a challenge, which I will not dispute, especially when it becomes imperative to recall street names, what Taxivan goes where, new forms of politeness, the list can be exhaustive. I have resorted to keeping written notes in small notebooks that fit nicely in my purse. I just have to remember to bring my purse…
However, I wish that my brain would have willingly adopted new interjections and exclamations. I just love them but have yet to figure out how and when to use them properly. Or else appear foolish. The ojala, caray, hijole, digame, a poco, to name a few. They sound so cool when you hear them and they do fit so nicely and naturally in the conversation, especially with the proper tone and accent. To me they are brain ticklers. More to learn…
Some expressions enchant me. Do you know that I am not retired, but jubilant? Jubilacion is the term for retirement. Don’t you just love that one? I sometimes revert to my native French and twist the word to sound Spanish. It works at times, at others definitely not. For instance bagage in French, or baggage in English, is NOT bagaje, which means beast of burden. At the pharmacy, if you mention that you are constipado, you’ll get a cold remedy instead of Exlax. And if you’re embarrassed about asking for directions after driving in vain for over an hour, DO NOT say that you’re embarazado, which is a physical impossibility for the male of the species. It means pregnant!
Until I become properly conversant with many idiomatic expressions, I must refrain from using them… or run the risk of becoming repeatedly pregnant!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

New Construction Phase

Things slowed down a bit after my last report covering the roof and boveda and related expenses. I had decided to hold back for a while to put money aside to buy a car or a van. Then the problems with getting the internet clinched the deal. I had not taken into account that the summer months in Tequis are part of the rainy season. It did indeed rain, copiously. I began living in a sea of mud. Mud everywhere. The lot, the RV, the porch of sorts, the bodega, EVERYWHERE! Only the house on construction stayed almost dry.

My spirits plummeted as the mud rose. It did not take me long to realize that while I could use a vehicle a few times a week, I had to live in a house all the time. My plan had to be switched to a more realistic one toward finishing the house ASAP. That presented a new challenge. I decided to look for a long-term commitment to building as opposed to a start-and-stop way of hiring workers on a part-time basis.

I knew that Sr. Diaz of Santillan was a well-known Maestro de Obra, or Construction Chief. I asked him for a recommendation on a responsible and honest mason. And as they say, the rest is history. I met with Don Pedro who came with a solid baggage of 40 years of experience. The man is incredible. His work week is Monday to Friday from 8 AM to 5 PM. He works without any helper. I was paying a mason $310. a day and his helper $210. That came to the $5,200. that I could afford for 2 weeks per month. I offered $340. a day to Don Pedro to work solo, which he had done for a group of airline pilots for 4 years. I can afford his pay for 3 weeks a month as it comes to $5,100. And can the man work! To my greatest amazement, his production surpasses that of the previous workers. I suppose it is that quite often while the mason was working the helper would sit idle and would not be busy until there were materials to be brought or cement to mix, etc. Plus it eliminated the chats and kibbitzing around. When Lupe, a wonderful Santillan mason who worked on my house for quite a while heard that Don Pedro would be working for me, he exclaimed that I was very lucky as I had gotten the very best! I fully concur.

Here is Don Pedro at work on the ceiling of the dining-kitchen area. His skin suffers from the constant contact with lime and cement so he has to wear gloves and long sleeves.

He poured the bedroom floor alone. At the time, I didn’t think of taking photos since I had very little hope of getting the internet any time soon. But when next he pours the floor of the dining-kitchen, I’ll publish how he does it.

In the photo below, Don Pedro poses for the camera. He stands in the future living room where we keep just enough supplies to keep him busy for a couple of weeks.

Last week I bought doors for the bedroom and the bathroom. And I found a carpenter who is also a furniture builder. I can design my own and he will make it in his shop. You’ll notice that once the doors were on, I lost no time in moving my living room things into the bedroom where they will keep much cleaner than in the bodega. Here are the photos I took. I finally have more than 5 square meters of living space.

I still need to “seal” the ceiling and walls and paint them. But right now, I’m hell bent on finishing the hard construction of the whole thing inside and out. This will undoubtedly take many more months. A great many.

I often joke that being born an Aries, not particularly known for their great patience, this incarnation is for me to learn and master that virtue that was given to me so miserly. I am now in my third (3rd) year living on my lot in my RV. Does that qualify for being a tad more virtuous? You bet your sweet petunias it does. As a learning experience, it should last me for a couple of lifetimes!

The photo below shows the bathroom door on the left and the bedroom one on the right from the dining-kitchen area. In between both doors is Don Pedro’s bike. It takes him about 40 to 45 minutes to come to Santillan from Fuentezuelas. He’s always here some 10 to 15 minutes early so as to have a little rest before starting his work. He is 60 years old.

I also had the plumber/electrician hired on an as-needed basis. I’ll cover this on a later post as I have to take more photos. I will also have a report on my expenses later.

I read some of the comments and will respond, also a tad later.

Publishing these posts was a brand new experience at the cyber cafe. Still learning....

LiveJournal Tags: Building a small house in Mexico

A Four-Legged Family

First, le me apologize for being incommunicado for months. In my post Back in the Saddle, you’ll find out why. Today, I have a bit to report about construction, starting with an absolutely wonderful mason-cum-jack of all trades new worker. He is Don Pedro, a well seasoned worker who is mature, diligent, knowledgeable, honest, and has no qualms about working solo. An extremely rare find. So I’ll be taking photos of the progress that’s been taking place at my little house and publish a later post.

As the title indicates, I have a lot more to report about the unplanned additions to my little family. It had all started with Tina, followed by Tasha. You’ll notice that thus far, all have been of the female persuasion. After my beloved Queenie passed away came Kaylee, a Tequis street dog, again female. Three seemed to be a good well-rounded number until I encountered Nicki. If you do a search of the blog, you’ll find their stories.

Just as Tasha’s rescue had been close the puppy’s last hour, so appeared to be Nicki’s. Then I learned that Nicki’s sisters had also been thrown away. I had to find them as I knew how their lives were hanging in by a short thread. I did.

I’d looked for them for close to ten day. I’d left kibble where they had been reported to be seen and kept checking. I figured that the puppies had to be about 2 months old. Eventually I found them huddled under a tire during a rain storm. Part of my attempts at rescuing both can be found in my post titled “A New Writing Plan of Mixed Concerns”. One took to staying with me, the other was way too skittish. Until a few days later another violent rain storm with thunder and lightning brought her voluntarily under my rig where I found her in the morning. The first of Nicki’s sisters I named Keiko; she reminded me of a little furry geisha. The skittish one started as Mieke, which sounded too close to my lovely neighbour’s name of Dona Mika so she got renamed Miko. The advantage here was that I figured that with names sounding more or less similar, I’d get all three’s attention if not obedience.

Dream on. . . They proved to be smart enough to clearly identify which one was called and to respond accordingly. Or not, depending on the mood.

When I’d discovered the last two of the puppies, they had kept close to a tire next leaning next to a house in bad weather. In good weather with heat, they had found another tire across the road that they used as a shady nest under a mesquite. There was an extra bonus as they fell under the protection of a large Golden Lab who curled himself around the tire and kept an eye on the pups. I’d known the lab as one of the local street dogs so I made sure to give all three some kibble and water a couple of times a day. Later, I learned of the lab’s name and rather than go all the way down the road, I’d call him and he’d come running with the last puppy (Miko) keeping up close behind.

Another electric rain storm was coming in fast when, a few days later, I noticed the Lab lying down in the field across my place. I called him but he wouldn’t respond. When I got close to him, I realized that he couldn’t rise. His hind leg was grotesquely swollen and it looked as if it might have been broken. I called the veterinarian to help come to his rescue. Just in time before the pelting rain hit, Lupe and I managed to get him into the vet’s car. I told the vet that I’d assume the costs. A day or two later, she admitted that she also had feared a fracture of his thigh. There was a large haematoma, no fracture, but considerable swelling from what appeared to be the result of a violent blow from a stone, a foot, or a large piece of wood. The poor dog hadn’t been able to get up let alone walk. He was in considerable pain.

It was inconceivable that I’d leave him in the street in his condition. Plus he needed more shots of antibiotics, to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation. While he was at the vet’s I’d made inquiries about the poor dog and discovered that he was indeed a street dog that some claimed as theirs on the basis of occasionally feeding him dried up tortillas and chicken bones whenever they’d have leftovers. They also frankly reckoned that he was a street dog.

Although a large animal, his ribs were like a washboard. His skin and gums were almost devoid of colour from anaemia. He was riddled with parasite infestations both inside and out. He had a large tumour on his back the size of half a grapefruit. It looked awful and nasty. His lip had been torn at some point and so had one of his ears. Both had remained slashed. He had only stubs--no front teeth left between his canines, which the vet attributed to gnawing on tree bark or something similar seeking a relief from hunger. His nose showed an indentation where it had been broken, probably from a sharp object as indicated by a scar. It could have been a rebar the vet remarked for such a break. He was probably around 6 to 7 years old.

He needed help and care. He needed regular feeding. He needed shelter. I adopted him. Besides, I was so grateful to him for caring for the puppies. Clearly a most noble animal that I discovered was very gentle and peaceable. He had been known as Ringo. He became Rambo. Two days ago, as a test, I called him by his old name of Ringo but got no response. Just a rigid countenance. Not even a turn of his head for a look. The moment that I said Rambo, tail wagging he came straight to me. It breaks my heart and never fails to make me tearful to see him jumping for joy and prancing at every feeding time, just as if he was still a young pup. Just as if it was so wonderful and unexpected for him to get food.

A couple of weeks after Rambo’s injury, a woman showed up at my door claiming that although he was indeed a street dog, he was HER street dog. She was accompanied by the Delegado who put a few questions to me and asked me if I had bills to prove what had happened. I had. With time, I had learned that the woman’s husband was known as a brutal and cruel man to both his animals and his now grown up sons. Most around here were sure that he had either thrown a large stone at the dog or given him a very hard kick to result in his leg injury. The vet offered her support in stating that the law was clear and that it was absolutely within the law for me to adopt him. That anyone claiming a dog as property had to ensure that the animal be reasonably sheltered, cared for, and clearly identified with a collar. Obviously the law in Mexico aims to protect animals. Just as obviously the law can seldom be applied for lack of policing.

Aware of the terrible suffering of the seven animals who now share my physical and heart space, the vet and I had many a conversation about doing something to raise awareness of the plight of puppies thrown away as so much garbage when sterilization would prevent this widespread suffering of innocent animals. I offered to write the dogs’ stories and she said that she had a contact with our local paper and would see to it that the articles be published. Thankfully, she will also review my writing in Spanish, which needs all the help that I can get.

So there you have it. It took years of trekking across the continent to rid me -of the travel and adventure bug. I guess I’ll just keep on writing to get rid of this bug, too.

You will also notice that I have left the “DONATE” button at the bottom of the screen. Any help will be received with immense gratitude. Even five or ten dollars can help give me a relief from the feeding and vet costs. All animals in my care have been rid of parasites, have been vaccinated and sterilized. They get Pedigree kibble in the morning and cooked food at night, which consists of fresh tortillas or cooked rice along with a mix of vegetables and fresh meat. They glow with health. And I mind neither the costs nor the time. But I will admit that the construction of my little house is slowed down for diverting funds towards my four-legged companions.

Now, here are my four-legged companions. I tried to isolate Tasha but could not. She is in the center, the black face in the forefront is Nicki, the blondie on the left is Kaylee.

Nicki, to my immense surprise is growing into a tall, long-legged elegant dog. There is a slight deviation of one side of her face as a result of the cervical vertebrae being pushed to one side. She appears as strong as her sisters. She is a rather reserved dog, often observing what goes on.

Below is Keiko. She has longer hair than her sisters. I imagine from being sired by a different male? She is the warmest and most forward of the three. She simply craves love.

Here is Miko. She is still very skittish. I almost lost her last month when she managed to grab a tube of ointment for mushroom and yeast infections and ate the whole thing. I took her to the vet where a drip with vitamins and an antibiotic was given her. Her eye looked terrible and for the first hour, it wasn’t certain whether she’d make it. But she did rally. Her cornea is improving daily and now it looks as if it will clear completely. Elvia, a neighbour, remarked to me one day that she thought her ugly calling her Feita, which means little ugly one. I guess that love is truly blind ‘cause I see her as a sweetie. It took her very long weeks to warm up to me. She no longer runs and hides under the RV. At times though, it saddens me that she appears to be the Omega dog, submissive to all others. With maturity things may change.

The photo below is Kaylee who is now one year old. She’s the most playful of the lot. She and Tina have invented a game of hide and seek. The new pups observed and now play the game, as well.

Tina is the oldest at the ripe old age of 3 years. Both she and Kaylee are the athletes of the bunch. I had to add three layers of blocks to the fence as she easily cleared the more than 5 foot fence.

And here’s Rambo. He is kept very busy being the token male of the group. When he returned from the vet after his surgery to remove the tumour, he dutifully visited every female’s urine spot and covered it. The break on his nose can be seen as a hollow and a slight deviation to a side. The scar where a sharp blow had landed is visible closer up in the hollow.

The two blondies are Kaylee and Rambo. Kaylee is the lightest but both have a fair share of white. Tina is the reddest of the seven, Tasha is a typical German Shepherd but on the smallish side. The three sisters are a medley of all colours where black predominates.

The black area at the bottom of the house walls is the cadena over the mamposteo, or foundation. The cadena is covered with waterproofing material. The lot will be raised later when all construction is over. The whole lot will be covered with stones or tiles of some kind or other.

There’s never a dull or lonely moment. My life is filled with the gloriously unconditional love I get from my four-legged family, a love that I return wholeheartedly.

LiveJournal Tags: The plight of dogs in Mexico

Back in the Saddle

Back in the Saddle

How I missed writing on my blog. The most damaging part in retiring my blogs was that I could no longer write on blogger simply because the internet service provided by Telcel… or the lack of it, made it impossible to even get my email! Although I was paying for broadband, the speed had been reduced to 0.51kbps peaking to 0.53kbps-at least that’s what the test online kept showing. Finally, I had to realize that nothing would improve! So this marks the end of my 17 month long saga with Telcel. I’ll sum it up.

Since March of 2011 the broadband for which I was paying was made unavailable to me because at the time I was using Skype. The same happened to my neighbours. I fought it until I decided to cancel my subscription in July of this year. Telcel would NOT accept my cancellation!!!! They offered to reduce my monthly payment by half. But since I could not even get my opening page, let alone my email and forget about the blog, I retorted that if they would send a technician to my place and the broadband would somehow be accessible again, I would accept their offer.

Well….. nobody came. Instead I got a call from their head office in Mexico City saying that to supply my little area with broadband would require the installation of an antenna. (Then how the dickens could they offer broadband for a year, then none?) They were not ready to do it yet so, in view of this, they would gladly cancel my subscription since “… they could not provide me with the service”. Honestly, I could have screamed in frustration. I had been too many times to San Juan to complain that I was not getting the service for which I was paying! So $800 pesos later, I got my contract cancelled? What’s to understand? I don’t mind saying this publicly. It was highway robbery since I had not had the service for so long and still had to dish out about $75. dollars to be a l l o w e d to cancel a service that they admittedly could not provide . . .

But I did miss writing my blog, the contact with readers, their comments. I had to find a solution. Since Telcel exercises an absolute monopoly on providing wireless internet in the area, if not in all of the republic, there is no alternative but to use a cyber café. I found out that I can copy my blog, including photos, onto a flash drive or a CD and publish it from the café as they allow it. This I will do.

Today is October 1st. I have photos to take of the house and of the four-legged that now number 7 (yep… I did write seven). I’m not sure as yet of how I will proceed. So when I go to the cyber café once a week, I may publish one or more than one post.

I’m back in the saddle… and very happy to be!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Final Update-Retiring Both Blogs-my Thanks

I have decided to retire both my blogs. The final update on my house is that the roof is on all the rooms. The boveda required four more “steps” to be over with and Luis is applying the final coat of waterproofing material. The walls inside and out have to be covered with a coat of cement, rustic finish, and will be painted later on. I’ll still have to pour the floors but that will not happen until the fall, at the very least.

My fall in the bus is having more serious consequences than previously assessed. Ribs have been not only been fractured but may be displaced as well. I have a punctured lung. I will need to go to Querétaro for more accurate tests as simple x-rays do not reveal sufficiently for a proper diagnostic. I feel like a freaky zombie with the painkillers and have a hard time thinking straight.

I’m quite busy with three active puppies and three adult ones. I’ll take care of all for as long as I can. There is Protection Civil here and they will pick up unwanted animals. Most will end up being gassed in the most awful room. I simply can’t send Keiko, Mieke, or Nicki to that fate.

Last week a neighbour of Luis dropped by to offer his services for aluminum windows and doors. We engaged in a rather interesting conversation the outcome of which is a shocking realization on my part following his divulging certain things about Mexicans. He said that he’d worked across the border and met with and worked for many Canadians and Americans. He admitted at being surprised of how being truthful was more than important for them, it was essential and expected. He added that his eyes had been “ripped open” by this finding and the ultimate realization that lying was a way of life for most Mexicans. He wondered why it was so. To his mind there was no valid reason for it! Of course, it’s only an opinion. However, his blunt admission shook me to the core.  I had dismissed comments from disgruntled expats as a bad attitude. It brought to light how I’d been getting the run-around when it came to enquiries that always appeared without substantial answers. . .

I have no way to ascertain his allegations. Rightful at times, at others no. I have found wonderful friends here but have been lied to by people of all nationalities and backgrounds. So the jury will have to deliberate much longer on this. Perhaps I’ll have to conclude that such is human nature. This makes me appreciate my animal companions all the more.

I need a rest from construction. I need deep silence and proper reflection about where I’ve been heading. Perhaps a slight diversion from all these material concerns will provide me with answers that seem quite elusive at this time. Do I have regrets from leaving the fulltime RV’ing? No way. Or moving to Mexico? Not at all. Perhaps I’m just immensely tired. I need a more Zen countenance and it also appears elusive.

I thank all my readers and assure you that your participation and comments have brought me deep satisfaction.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A New Writing Plan of Mixed Concerns


I have to begin by apologizing to readers: I did not and will not write assiduously in this blog about the humdrum of my daily life. As adventurous as building a little house in Mexico may be, it has become a very slow process on account of lack of funds. I’m aware that readers may have been bored by so few news and the slow and sporadic reporting. Sorry. I can’t make it any faster or more interesting. Plus, I doubt very much that telling about maintenance woes (the bane of my existence), my latest meal or outing would have any appeal to readers. I refuse to write about anything that I, as a reader, would find uninspired, banal, or trite. B o r i n g…

Back to the matter of construction. Luis and Jesus are here for this week and the next. As a rule I spend between $1,000. and $1,200. dollars a month on materials and manpower. I’m often with little left above very basic necessities. However, I’m determined and this little house of mine WILL become reality. The actual speed of erection and relevant posts will follow my progress or lack of it. Probably once to twice a month.That’s the best that I can do.

Besides, my life does not revolve around the exclusive concerns of material pursuits. They’re a necessity, period. At this stage in my life, it behoves me, I think, to be involved in more meaningful or inspired matters. One of these is the promise that I’d made some years ago to a Higher Power to provide assistance, even rescue, to any animal that is put on my way or ends up at my door. To my mind the onus is on us, humans, to care for all life forms that share our world. It’s a question of stewardship, not of dominion.

To quote Mahatma Gandhi, “The greatness and moral progress of a nation can be judged by the manner in which its animals are treated”. This small man in a loincloth walked his talk as a vegetarian. His stance on non-violence, despite 300 years of English domination, eventually inspired a whole nation to rid itself of that yoke without taking to arms or shedding blood. Clearly, he’s one my heroes. This brings me to the matter of my dogs, Tina, Tasha, Kaylee, and Nicki. Not only were they destined to an early death, but to intense suffering until they’d reached that final state. The plight of many animals, but mainly dogs, is abysmal here. How can I remain callously indifferent at the sight of one month old puppies—almost all female—left to their own devices in the streets, on the road, or even in the fields? How can one be blind to the sight of horribly mangled dogs killed on the roads?

To cite a few examples: a friend found a 5 to 6 months old puppy and a kitten, both still alive, in a plastic bag left to be picked up by the garbage truck. Another friend, while driving around, found a cardboard box with 7 (yep… SEVEN) puppies in a ditch next to a culvert. A Mexican friend told me about three tiny puppies with their eyes not yet fully open left on ant hill. Please take a pause and imagine this… She had to take them in. I know of two wonderful ladies from across the border who help as best they can, rescuing young animals, taking them in and feeding them, delousing and deworming them, getting them their vaccination, having them spayed or neutered and then ready for adoption. All at their own expense…

A little over a month ago, a neighbour who professes being a devoted Christian even to proselytising door to door, found three one month old puppies left in his yard. He promptly kicked them out. One of these was Nicki that I found a month later. She had been savagely bitten by a large dog and got her neck broken at the first cervical vertebrae, which fractured and ended up grotesquely twisted. With an infected open wound in her throat, fleas had a field day and kept sucking her life blood. Her two siblings had been roaming since then. No food, no water in this intense daily heat, no shelter in the often stormy nights. I found them a few days ago just as an electric storm was moving in. They were huddled under a tire set against the wall of an empty house. Morning, noon and night, I brought them kibble and water to get them used to me. Their hair is matted and full of sandburs, their bellies swollen from lack of food and parasite infestation. THEY’RE BABIES !!!!!!!!

I managed to bring one in yesterday, the other too skittish and running so fast I couldn’t catch her. As I was writing this last night, Keiko was in the bodega crying her heart out for her sibling. Earlier in the day, I’d gone to Tequis to the veterinarian pharmacy to buy Frontline for the fleas and medication to rid Keiko (and hoping to catch Bobbi) of parasites. On my way to Tequis in the “camion” as we call it—it couldn’t qualify as a bus, the driver made a sudden turn while I was standing up and I fell over the armrest of a seat bruising or perhaps even breaking a rib. (How I long for a vehicle…) I couldn’t sleep all night from the unbearable pain. It was a blessing in disguise as I kept hearing Bobbi getting ever closer to the front fence crying pitifully for her sister. Finally, at 5 o’clock this morning, she reached the gate that I had left open and that I closed once she was in. Then I went to grab her. She bit me but I kept hanging on and she eventually calmed down. I took her to Keiko and the few hours left of the night were peaceful and quiet both finding refuge and warmth in each other. I doubt that they can ever be separated.

Last week Yvonne found a 5 to 6 month old puppy—female—of course, her eyes oozing pus, ribs as a washboard, her nostrils completely blocked with caked mud. Probably attempting to get a drink from a mud puddle. And it’s the second puppy she rescued from the highway. A year ago she took in Chloe. now it’s Nikita’s turn. We all try to do what we can in that desperate situation.

We both thought of starting a non-profit organization to rescue and shelter animals, dogs mostly as they are sorely in need. But this would be a long protracted process with certain language barriers to begin with. Then how could we turn our head away from the little ones in such dire straits RIGHT NOW?

There is no animal protection service in Tequis. I guess the locals are exposed to so many animals emaciated, forlornly traipsing in search of a morsel, that they have become inured to the sight. I do love Mexico and have no regrets moving here. But the sight of these poor animals is the stuff of nightmares. I admit to quite a few of them and many tears of sadness and desperation.

If you can find it in your heart to give any kind of help, I promise that any donation will go STRICTLY toward animal welfare provided by either myself or others whose heart is broken by such suffering. And it will be reported on my blog. There’s a DONATE button at the bottom of the screen. I think that it goes through PayPal with either credit cards or bank transfer.

Now, a word of warning to those readers whose sole interest is the building of my house. I will continue to report any progress in that direction but will write extensively about the animals that need and find a shelter with people who think much the way that I do. I am asking for your indulgence as I share my thoughts and the yearnings of my heart. We can’t save them all. But it will certainly make a difference to those that we do. And I may be able to sleep better at night.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

BTW The post titles will clearly indicate construction topics for those whose main interest is finding out how we’re progressing.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Getting Electricity–a Continuing Tale of Woes


Sorry to report that the promise of getting the electrical network for our little piece of land has fizzed out. Here’s what happened…

I cannot recall exactly what date in March, somewhere around the middle of the month, we got the notice on a Friday afternoon that there would be a meeting at the Presidencia (Town Hall) on Monday at 8 a.m. to decide who would qualify for getting electricity as part of an ongoing program to provide electricity to all of Santillan. We needed to present at least 18 signatures with relevant documents by Monday morning.

Reyna, my neighbour to the north, took the initiative of finding all those who were ready to participate and collected everyone’s signature and required documentation over the weekend (an undertaking that was both demanding, time and energy consuming). The chance would pass to another group should we fail to qualify. She collected 19 names with ready documentation. We were excited and apprehensive, all at once. If our hope and prayers had been candle lights, the night should have been bright as day…

Then on April 2nd, Reyna got a visit from an electrical contractor who had come to have a look at the layout of the land; most likely mandated by the Municipality or there would have been no way that he would have known on what to base a quotation. He stated that our chances were in the order of 99.9 % that we qualified to get electricity and probably at no installation costs to us. The work would commence by the end of the following two weeks.

Three weeks later, having failed to receive any notice or to see any sign of impeding work, Reyna went to the Presidencia. She was told that the program of electrification would probably not take place before the municipal elections in July and that the costs were prohibitive for the time being. The clinching factor for holding off the works was that we were “… only 5 families” actually living in our house on the lots in our area, hardly enough to warrant the installation costs. The remaining 14 were lot owners who lived elsewhere.

So Reyna asked us to accompany her on a visit to the Presidencia to plead our case. It was to be pointed out that in our group, we were 3 senior women living alone for whom light was a matter of safety. The answer was the same. The Town engineer mentioned that a '’dressed up” cement post cost in the order of $40,000 pesos and that we needed 3 for a whopping $120,000 pesos for those alone. Based on prior quotations prepared for Yvonne’s place, a cement post costs between $3,000 and $5,000 pesos.

The whole exercise was debilitating and disheartening. We got $2,500,000 pesos worth of hot air, nothing else. Reyna was in tears and I had to restrain myself from either screaming or crying. To cut short of the repetitious exchange between our group and the representatives of the Municipality, I said that I wished to ask two questions and insisted that we deserved to get an answer to both, since the hands of the authorities were supposedly tied;

“What then do need to do to get electricity?” and

“How long would it take to get it?”

In the following 20 minutes discourse of the Delegado, we got a lot more of hot air and an annoying dismissive tone of voice claiming that we were asking too much of the Municipality since we were “only” 5 houses living in the small area. Request denied. No other answers would be forthcoming.

I suppose that the only alternative left to us, all of us quite poor I assure you, is to try to get quotations for the works and split the costs between those of us living in our house in the area. Or be ready to wait it out, regardless of when the electrification would take place.

The three of us in our senior years might be better off contemplating our demise in the dark since living with light represents such an ordeal for the Municipality. Please pardon the bitter tone of my comments…

And that’s where we stand at this point…

Friday, April 20, 2012

The New Nicki–after 10 days


The jury’s out. Nicki may not remain crippled! Actually, I can hardly believe it myself. At first sighting, I thought that she was pretty close to death. But as amazing as it seems, at least to me, it appears as if not only has she learnt to live with her displaced cervical vertebrae, the signs of it have seriously abated. You can judge by yourself by these photos side by side.

Nicki shortly after her arrival                Nicki 10 days laterNicki 001Nicki 013

Now she can move her head up; and from side to side, even if in a somewhat limited fashion, without yelping out in pain. If you’ll notice her front paws, she has begun to fill out and her woebegone expression has been erased from her little face. It’s such a pleasure to watch her chase her squeaky ball and squeeze it to her visible delight, a task that she seems to take quite seriously. Taking her in has been SO rewarding.

This next one is quite graphic. It shows how mangled her throat was. One look at the photo above on the right shows a marked improvement. Her hair has even begun to grow. She’d been so flea bitten that a couple of baths did not completely eradicate the critters. I applied Frontline and they simply disappeared overnight.

Nicki 014

I’m often asked whether I’m nuts adopting yet another dog. There’s only one answer to that question… What’s the alternative? Death is not the hardest outcome to contemplate, but the intense suffering that should lead to it. How could I live with myself if I simply let this tiny creature go her way with such injuries, her paws filled with sandburs, without any prospect of finding shelter, food, or water?

Put yourself in my place…

Latest Construction Expenses


Description Cost      
Bovedillas, viguetas, metal grid 5,105.
Cement, limestone 2,223.
Bovedero and helpers 2,500.
Hardware 150.
Cement mixer 350.
Labour incl. bonus 3,950.
Lunch for workers, a tradition 660.
Worker to water roof twice a day for 4 days 150.
Lunch for bovedero and helpers (tradition) 370.
Install hoses in roof for electrical wires 150.
Total $15,458.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Update on Puppy Nicki

The news couldn’t be more troubling. Nicki is 2 months old. Her injuries became evident once Maria the veterinarian had gently washed the gunk and dirt on her throat. Obviously, she had been bitten by a large dog. There is a hole in her throat that is still open and is infected. She also has bite marks on her front paw. She’s on antibiotics.

In addition, the other vet noticed that there was a slight protuberance on the side of her neck very close to her head. He exclaimed that she should have died when she got shaken by the big dog. The first vertebrae was pushed sideways by the violent shaking action; this usually results in instantaneous death. Her case appears to be less than 1% of such a young puppy surviving. In addition, he thought that this occurred probably a month ago; it means that this tiny puppy had to survive (how I don’t know) with terrible injuries for a number of weeks. He says that the vertebrae has now “soldered” itself in the position of the luxation.

This means that she’s now a cripple, barely able to lift or move her head to one side, and in a way, is paralyzed in a position that her head does not align with her body. I gave her a bath to help rid her of fleas and plenty o’dirt. It may take a few more to do it well because she has to be handled so very gently or will cry out in pain. There is no way that she would be considered for adoption. I guess a Higher Power put her on my way. I’ll take care of her for the duration of her life, hoping that mine is long enough.

She’s still very fragile, alarmed and frightened by anything new. I’ll postpone taking photos until she has recuperated and feels a bit more certain of her improved living conditions.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Puppy in Distress

This is going to be a short post. Last week, on three separate occasions, I’d heard a dog crying loudly as if being hurt. I tried to get a location but was unsuccessful. The cries were so pitiable that it made my blood boil with the impression that someone was hurting the small animal.

Then last night, I noticed this puppy back of my lot shuffling slowly head down and threw it a handful of kibble. The puppy noticed nothing. So I ran outside to try and locate it and shortly caught up with it. A little female with severe bite marks on her throat and her front paw. Emaciated and barely aware of her surroundings. I took her in my arms and brought her home.

I gave her some oats cooked in light milk and spaced out the feedings at regular intervals so as to avoid a hurt stomach. I prepared a “nest” with a cardboard box on its side and lined it with an old soft blanket. And there she spent the night.

At first glance, she appeared to be between 6 weeks and 2 months old. However, this morning I noticed how her eyes were lacking focus just like a younger puppy. I thought that I could attend to her caked up wounds but her pain is too great and I’m afraid of hurting her more. Last night she had a hard time swallowing and cried out often. So I’ll be taking her to the vet today at 1 PM.

I’ll keep everyone posted. I’ve already named Nicki.

A Boveda

Last week and a few days before were jam packed with work. I had spoken with Pedro, the bovedero who worked for Yvonne and had done all the dome ceilings or bovedas at her house and school. He had already given me a quote and told me what supplies were needed. Finally we had fixed a date for his coming to do the work but when I checked with him on the 28th for beginning the work on the following day, he announced that he was coming only to have a look… I had to make a quick decision.

Fortunately, a pueblo renowned for famous bovederos, El Zaus, was a few kilometers away and many bovederos had their work displayed on YouTube. This is how I contacted Juan Mejia after seeing him work on his video. He came within the hour, had a look, gave me a quote, and agreed to complete the boveda within two days. On Saturday March 31 and Sunday April 1st, he was here with his team and did a marvellous job. Since Juan has posted a video of him at work. Here it is:


Here are photos of the boveda. It was impossible for me to catch a photo of the entire ceiling. On the left is the center design. On the right is an arrow that is found at the four cardinal points.

Boveda & roof 018Boveda & roof 017

Believe me, it is a work of art. The ceiling still has to be scraped and covered with a sealant. That way, the bricks will stand out more. So will the design.



Now let me backtrack to explain how the whole installation is first erected. It is a temporary installation and once the ceiling/roof finished, the platform will be returned to its original purpose; encasing pillars or cadenas in which concrete will be poured.

Boveda & roof 002

Quite simply, this is how it starts. The bovedero moves from one corner to the other. His skill at shaping the bricks is amazing and the speed at which he “glues” them remarkable.

Boveda & roof 004-001Boveda & roof 007

This is Juan at work and below is





Boveda & roof 008On the left is a view of the work in progress. Below right shows the four corners completed at which point the work will be handled towards the center.

Boveda & roof 012

I have sharpened the photos to better show the brick design.





Later, the outside will be scraped, after which a layer of pure cement will be spread after a waterproof compound will have been applied. Or… it may be the other way around. I’ll find out.

Once the boveda was finished on Sunday April 1st, the team was brought in to erect the roof over the kitchen/dining area. It was laid out in identical fashion as the one over the bedroom.

In a later post I will be showing what costs I incurred.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Costs Past and Overdue- Queenie and Kaylee

I just realized that with all my worries, I had neglected to post some costs for the month of February. So I’ll start with those.

Costs incurred in February:

Materials or Labour Cost     
Cement and metal wire 300.
Labour 1,118.
1 truckload gravel-  
21 Re-bars-*  
5 kg wire-  
10 kg rings-*  
5 bags cement-                                       Total bill 4,153.
Labour 2,243.
Total for February $7,814.

* A note about the above expenses. I’d changed my mind about the type of roof I wanted and returned the rings and re-bars for a credit. In the end I had opted for a flat roof of bovedillas and cement for the bedroom and dining room kitchen. They have thermal qualities that ensure coolness in outside heat and warmth in outside cold. I used the credit for 20 bags of cement in March.

Costs incurred in March:

Materials or Labour Cost  
2000 cunas (small bricks for dome roof) 3,000.
Rental of cement mixer 350.
8 viguetas for bedroom ceiling 2,840.
4 viguetas for bathroom ceiling 504.
155 bovedillas 1,410.
11 m metal mesh for bedroom roof 825.
10 – 8 ft. 4 x 4 for support 550.
Cement extra - 20 bags were exchanged for returned re-bars and rings 710.
4 bags lime 156.
Spatula for mason who had forgotten his 160.
Labour plus bonus  
Demetrio 255.
Jesus 730.
Pepe 730.
Ruben 310.
Luis 1,080.
Lupe 205.
Antonio 205.
Total $14,020.

Construction will resume on April 2nd (my 73rd birthday), 3rd, and 4th with the building of the dining room/kitchen roof. It will be a flat roof identical to that of the bedroom and bathroom.

Yesterday, I had to go to the veterinarians who had come to check on Queenie when she suddenly had taken ill and seen her stomach swelling up. The vets had told me at the time that it was probably her heart. However yesterday, they said that there had been two possibilities-her heart or cancer of the liver. Learning how quickly she had passed, their diagnostic changed to a very aggressive form of cancer of the liver. Unfortunately, this made me relive her last hours and reinforced my opinion that the first 5 years of her life had been very miserable. Living as a breeding machine and not well cared for. After I’d rescued her, she had so enjoyed traveling as co-pilot and reigning supreme either in Arizona or Alberta that, despite the returning sorrow of losing her, I derived some contentment and satisfaction in knowing that she had enjoyed her life for the last 3+ years of being with me.

As to Kaylee, the site of her incision when spayed was a tad swollen and hard, which prompted my visit to the vets. Reassured that all will heal well in time, I remarked to them how surprisingly well behaved she is. She’s so calm and with such good manners that it seems almost impossible to me that she’d been a street dog for the first 6 months of her life. Maria**, the vet, replied that it was often the case with street dogs who had lived virtually by '”the skin of their teeth” that, when rescued and receiving food, water, care, and love, they became tranquil and reassured that their lives had taken a turn for the better. I hope that this will encourage people to rescue animals who have had such a hard life.

** Maria and her veterinarian husband have 5 rescued dogs and a couple of tiny kittens less than a month old.

Monday, March 12, 2012

And a Roof is On…

For a good while, there was nothing to report. Last week was quite an intensive week, starting with three men-Luis, Jesus, and Pepe-preparing the first phase of the roof construction over the bedroom. First I’ll have to show the various components and how they are assembled. For me, quite a discovery!

The viquetas arrive pre-manufactured and consist of a metal armature in a cement bar. They are stretched over the top of the walls at measured intervals to accommodate the bovedillas.

Roof over bedroom & bath 005-1






And here are the bovedillas below on the left. Note the lip on each side of the bovedilla that will rest on the vigueta. Before the bovedillas go on the viguetas, supports made of 4” x 4” are made and installed. Photo below on the right shows the supports.

Roof over bedroom & bath 004-1Roof over bedroom & bath 003-1

Then planks are fitted to form a casing all around the roof in which concrete will be poured as the final step. Both photos below show the wood form that will receive the concrete.

The next step involves the electrician who will run a hose between the future outlets, light fixtures, wall switches, and the main. These hoses will house the electrical wires that will be inserted later.

Roof over bedroom & bath 014-1The photo below left shows how a bovedilla has been removed to allow for the ceiling light box. A piece of wood is tied in to make a form in which the concrete will be poured.



Roof over bedroom & bath 010-1

We are interrupting this narrative to announce fantastic news. It’s an election year and this morning the Presidencia’s Public Works gave us a 99% probability that WE WILL GET ELECTRICAL POWER! The elections take place in July so we presume that by then we’ll be electrified! I certainly am right now!

What comes next is the laying down of heavy duty metal mesh as is shown below.

Roof over bedroom & bath 013-2

There is a gentle slope to the roof to permit evacuation of rainwater. It’s not so visible or even detectable when looking inside at what will constitute the ceiling.

Bedroom roof 008




The last phase necessitated 7 men-Antonio, Demetrio, Jesus, Luis, Lupe, Pepe, and Ruben. I had rented a cement mixer that worked on gasoline and Jesus was minding the machine, filling it with cement, sand, gravel, and water. Demetrio filled the buckets that Antonio, Lupe, and Pepe brought to Ruben. He, Ruben, stood on a scaffold and passed the bucket to Luis who spread it on the roof.

 Bedroom roof 010-1From left to right are Demetrio, Jesus’ legs, Ruben, Antonio, and Lupe.

Bedroom roof 009




Luis and Jesus on the scaffold on the photo to the right.


Bedroom roof 003

The layer of concrete goes from 12 cm at the high end to 5 cm at the low end. It is smoothed by hand with a wood ram in the form of a reversed T. And of course, handmade.

I had been told that once the highest part of the house is finished, it is the custom for the employer to offer lunch to the workers. The information however, was not completely exact. I should have prepared a good lunch for them with chicken, chicharon, guacamole, tortillas, beer and soda pop. Expecting the tradition to be respected, the poor guys had not brought anything to eat. I could sense discontent but could not attribute it to anything until my neighbour informed me that I was at fault. I felt terrible…

So on Friday, I went to Yvonne’s lot to give each a bonus with my apologies for failing to respect the tradition. I hope that I’ll be forgiven.

My house will be completely fireproof, wouldn’t you say?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy News–Progress !!!!!!

I am SO delighted to report that by mid-April, my house will have a complete roof! This week I bought 2000 cuñas (red bricks smaller than regular ones) for the dome roof over the living room; AND all the materials for the roof over the bedroom and the bathroom. I will be buying the materials for the roof over the kitchen/dining at the end of March.

For next week, Yvonne and I have worked out a schedule for 3 days of intensive work. The cost of 3 men for 2 days then 5 men for one day will be identical to having two men for one week. And the work will be much quicker and more satisfying. On Monday and Tuesday, one mason and 2 helpers will install the traverses (viguetas) and special blocks (bovedillas) over the bedroom and bathroom. On Wednesday, 1 more mason and 1 more helper will join them to pour the concrete over the bedroom roof and that of the bathroom. Benjamin, the Maestro de Obra (construction superintendent) for Yvonne, thought that 6 men should be needed. But I’ll have to be content with 5. Already, I have rented a gas powered cement mixer that will speed up the process. I will have to be ready with the camera to catch it all before it’s done.

Then on April 2nd (my birthday…) we’ll repeat the process for the roof over the kitchen/dining room. On Thursday the 12th and Friday the 13th the bovedero will erect the dome roof over the living room and the whole house will be roofed. And on Friday the 13th we’ll have a party! Whenever the highest part of the house is finally up, it is traditional to raise the Mexican flag on the highest part … then to celebrate with the whole crew. I can hardly contain my excitement over seeing in three dimensions and in metres the drawings I had made in centimetres. I’m practically jumping with joy! The house that I saw in imagination is becoming a reality.

I’m fully aware of how peculiar it may be, but I’m not the only woman with a certain quirk. Yvonne shares my peculiarity. Our favourite store is… Home Depot. If you propose that I go shopping for clothes with one or two women, I’ll probably nix it. Boring… But tell me we’re going to Home Depot or to a greenhouse, and I’ll jump right in, no questions asked. I had feared having to live in the RV next winter. Guess I won’t have to, after all.

Life is great!

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