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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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Veering Away from Construction Woes

In my last post, I wrote that I’d post on anything other than construction. An anonymous reader commented that I wasn’t getting any breaks. But I am! To wit:--
  1. My health is very good. I can’t recall when last I had a cold, much less the flu. When I had this little crisis with LP gas, I was told at the hospital that I had high blood pressure. Only, it was their lack of belief in what I had related that made the staff argue that it was the case. It was NOT. My blood pressure is around 135/80—except when I’m dealing with unwanted stress. Then it shoots up to anything like 143/81 or even 159/82 as when I was at the hospital.
  2. At my age (73 in a month) I find that I am living quite a creative adventure. In spite of my “construction woes”, I seldom stay down. Somehow, I’m able to stretch my month’s end enough to meet my living AND construction expenses.
  3. Sometimes, I get unexpected help from an incognito angel who provides an infusion of cash when things get too tight. He must have a sixth sense because it arrives when I need it most. Thanks!
  4. After 2 years living in Mexico, I can now read books in Spanish. My vocabulary is growing in leaps and bounds. But I have to admit that I know more terms on construction than on any other topic…
  5. I have 3 wonderful dogs who (yes, they rate a who not a that) bring me joy and at times amusement with their antics. And their lessons in unconditional love when I’m grouchy or down.
  6. I have my family, and the wonderful friends who are so connected to my life that I seldom feel that we may be separated by a whole country in some cases!
  7. Last but not least, I feel a grateful connection to my readers who inform my efforts in relating my little adventures, Thank you for your interest. And there’s more but the list would be too long.
So you see, I do have lots of breaks.

From time to time, as I click on all kinds of links, I end up viewing a YouTube video about talent and get blown away. Then I go on to find out more about this (new-to-me) discovery, only to be further blown away. That’s when my gratitude for being here, doing what I’m doing, becomes a soul-filling warm feeling that seldom quits.
Here’s the link to the first one that I have viewed many times:
An incredible story of hardship and determination
The sweetest boy all mothers want to hug:-
From far away Inner Mongolia
A tiny girl from China with a gigantic talent:-
Child prodigy, no less!
Have a great day! Have a grand life! And enjoy them both!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Another Saga… Masons

Well, I didn’t get Javier and Hector. Let me recount what happened. I was expecting them around 8 AM on Monday as agreed upon on the preceding Friday after a 2 hour discussion. As we got to 8:40 with no one showing up, I decided to call Javier. It rang but there was no immediate response; about 5 minutes later, I got a text message of apology… he had to go to Tequis… but would be here on Tuesday.

Surprised and not the happiest I’d ever been, (actually, strike this one out—I was furious!) I decided to call Gabriel who’d had them the preceding week. I was then told that Javier and Hector NEVER work on Mondays. They work four and a half days from Tuesday to Saturday and get paid for 5 days, which is the reason that their rates seem so reasonable, even cheap. I am of the opinion that a half-truth is a whole lie. I felt cheated and hating being lied to, I decided to forego their “help” and advised them that they needed not bother showing up.

The next day this older mason, also by the name of Hector, showed up and offered his services. I showed him all the materials ready for the roof over the bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen-dining and explained that they would be of beams and bricks, which I had been told was the least expensive type. He nixed the idea that these types of roof were cheaper and explained why. I thought that given his experience, I’d be in luck with an expert…

I told him that I was hoping that he had a helper and he replied that his help was paid $1000 pesos per week. OK, I said, I was ready for $200 pesos a day. Perfect. Then I noticed that he no longer was listening to me but was counting on his fingers by 2’s to check that it would make $1000, counting twice, and a third time before he gave me his agreement. When we got to take the width of the bedroom—4m24, to which we added 13cm for each side wall. The total from one outside wall to the other would thus make 4m50. He just couldn’t get it; he kept adding one centimeter at a time to get to the 4m50 mark from the 4m24… I made up my mind right then and there. I would use Yvonne’s workers for whatever time she could lend them to me. It would cost me $500 pesos more per week but I’d be sure of the work.

This week was out, next week as well. Yvonne needs them. So now it looks as if Luis and Jesus will be here the week starting March 12th. I’ll admit that I’m learning patience. BIG TIME! But does it have to be by being clobbered on the head with a 2" x 4”? Every time?

The problem that has been recurrent in my Mexican experience is that whenever I ask for INFORMATION, what I get is OPINIONS. I think that I’ll change my middle initials to D- for determination and P-for patience (it’s anyone’s guess which comes first—they go hand in hand). So now I’m back to my original idea… MINE and mine only… to have the living-room roof a boveda, and the other rooms of viguetas and bovedillas. When the guys are here, I’ll take photos to explain how those will end up being done.

This weekend, I’ll be posting on anything other than construction! By then, I hope that no more smoke will be blowing out of my ears.

Hasta luego.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Weather… before it Got Better

It is the very first time that I experience such weather in Tequisquiapan. The skies remained dark, big black clouds bringing rain and worse for almost two weeks from the early days of February. We even got thunder, lightning and hail. Good grief, hail! My lot, covered as it is with tepetate, turned into ugly mud interspersed with muddy puddles. You can imagine how my RV was with 12 active paws trying to recreate the outside inside. Total resignation was the order of the day.

Now that I have a generator, I do my own laundry and let it dry on the line. In our usually sunlit temps, clothes take just short of an hour to dry. About midway in this awfully messy weather, I saw a minute glimmer of an opportunity to run a load. Using the generator and connecting to a hose that I normally use for watering plants, then cranking up the generator after having filled the washer by hand takes time. From start to finish, the first load takes at least one hour. I was watching the grey skies hoping that I would make it before the rain returned. No sooner had I hung the last pair of socks that the first drops hit… and didn’t stop until a week later!

During those last two weeks my batteries never got a full charge for the serious lack of sunshine; so using my computer was limited to less than one hour a day most days. Also, the downpour prevented me from using the generator. Fun days… Now that we have full sunshine, as usual I might add, I’ll be busy washing about 4 loads next after I’ve published this post. The fun continues.

Tomorrow, my two new workers, Javier and Hector, come for one week. They had given me three days to finish the top cadena. Sorry folks, I didn’t take a photo as it is a repetition of earlier work; quite boring I assure you. But necessary. It will be obvious why in the next phase as we begin the roof. I’m really excited about it. Although seeing the walls going up should have been equally exciting, I had a deplorable attitude of fretting about how much more was ahead of us. My greatest fear was  that something serious would require spending on the RV (it did—3 new batteries). I don’t allow myself much in the hope that it will be possible to have a house before next winter. All that I could afford in manpower was one measly week per month and at that speed, I thought that I’d have to live in the RV another two years. The reduced rates permit me to have them work two weeks a month. I’m beginning to believe that there may be an end in sight!

OK… now to the laundry.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Things Turning Around

Every day follows another, but similar they are not. I suppose it was obvious that I was in a slump. Still waiting for a decent quotation for the electricity installation, I kept money toward that end. But nothing panned out. And then life happened…

My neighbours went to the Presidencia, equivalent to Town Hall, to ask for help with that issue. They had a couple of names of electrical engineers and requested quotations, taking into account that the Presidencia would take an active part moneywise –it was hoped. What resulted from this over the past weeks was that the assumption that the installation amounting more or less to public works instead of one restricted to the actual 8 families in need of it, the quotation was for $750,000 pesos, the equivalent of a large city block public works!!!! Another engineer came up with a lower quote, but way out of proportion to what we needed.

My friend Yvonne had the name of an engineer in Querétaro and I called him today to ask him if he could come to inspect what was required. He’s coming next week. We’ll see.

Then, my problems with using the computer were linked to very much used batteries. Two days ago when I wanted to start the RV engine, that one also gave up the ghost. So my quintos went for 3 new batteries, two regular 12 V for the house, one for the RV engine. Deep cycle batteries are not available here. The electrician Diego very obligingly drove us to Tequis and did the installation. The new batteries should be good for about one year. Diego will take over the electrical and plumbing responsibilities for my casita.

When my neighbours Gabriel and Reyna came yesterday to tell me about the non-results at the Presidencia, they offered that we share their workers, one mason and his helper. Their house is almost finished but they still have to build a large fence around the lot. They want to save so as to be able to afford the electrical installation. The rates for their workers are much lower (for outstanding work, I must add) which would allow me to have them work two weeks per month. Did I jump at the chance? You bet your sweet petunias!


… or at least partially habitable.

At this point, I’ll put the electrical job on the back burner for as long as I can. It feels as if a light had suddenly appeared at the end of the proverbial tunnel. Restricting the construction to one week a month, all that I could afford, felt like a wall of lead had come between my project and its realization. It weighed hard and heavy upon my shoulders and I ended up doubting the wisdom of my past decisions. Today is so much better than the days of the past 5 to 6 weeks and my gratitude for this unexpected turn of events is immense.

We have had much rain since last weekend, moisture that the parched earth gobbled up avidly. Little shoots are valiantly raising tiny heads through the drab yellow desiccated stalks. All vegetation seems revived, as am I.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Reviewing Mexico Decisions

First, let me summarize the past two years. After going through a negative experience renting a house in Tequis, I thought of moving to Oaxaca. But a last minute invitation to Santillan by compatriots changed all that and I ended up purchasing a lot that took me a year to pay off, unaware at first that it was ejido  land, and unserviced. In case one wonders what the lot cost me, it was $60,000, pesos, or about $5,300 dollars at the exchange rate of that time.

Long story shortened, I got water but am still waiting for electricity. This is taking time… We are at present eight families in the equivalent of a small city block applying to get it. Things in Mexico get done… eventually… And going through any kind of government procedure can get very complicated, hence requiring the patience of an angel quick on wings dealing with a perennially slow-moving sloth. Meanwhile, I got a number of things going in my all-consuming construction project.

I got a cement block fence that keeps sheep, cows, and dogs out. I got a septic tank over which I built a bodega or what amounts to a shed, but made of cement blocks. I got the mamposteo built, the stone and cement base espousing the contours of the house and its various rooms built. That part was quite expensive and very time consuming. Then the walls went up and need only a couple of days to complete the top cadena. And now, I’m kinda stumped!

I’ve been hemming and hawing for the past few days if not weeks about what to pay for next. Getting electric power is priority in my mind but its realization is, at best, a complicated affair in which I have very little say. The major preoccupation is that all but my home are Mexican owned, which should help matters, but by getting involved directly as a foreigner, the perception of my being loaded with $$$ would guarantee a much higher bid for the installation of cables, a transformer, etc. etc. So I don’t show my face. And here the bottom line is that without a guarantee of electric power before next winter, I’ll probably be contemplating selling everything. Hence my being like The Hanged Man in the Tarot deck. Stuck without much room for manoeuvring.

My CO adventure a few weeks back when I desperately needed help and was without a cell phone signal for two hours convinced me that I needed a phone that was secure at all times. So I went to Telmex in San Juan, was told I needed to buy a pole, which I did, then got a regular phone installed in my RV. The pole cost me $1,500 pesos, the installation was another $505. pesos, for a total of about $175 dollars. The line is $187 pesos per month, well under $20 dollars. Telmex even has an international package that works for one area code at only $119 pesos for 50 minutes a month. The total comes to a tad under $25 dollars a month. Not too bad, after all!

We’re all waiting for a quote for the eight households, a cost that we will share in equal parts. It may be pricey so I’m hesitant to spend anything on construction right now until we get an acceptable quote for which I want to be ready. So I’m keeping my quintos as is said here. (Quintos are an old money system before the pesos.)

Plus, I’ll admit to being down in the dumps with the loss of my Queenie. She was not only a very large dog, but an equally large presence in my home and in my heart. So I’m being patient with myself. I have lost many pets during my long life but will admit that it never was easy; neither is it now. I’m all for sharing all with my readers. Frankly and honestly. However, being by nature a positive person refusing to dwell long on mishaps, obstacles, or misadventures, I refrained from posting. Readers have been quick to give me encouragement in the past and I have no doubt that the response would have been the same now. I just felt in a state of limbo, having very little to contribute for the time being.

We should get some news about the electricity saga by the end of next week. Or so I’ve been told… I’ll keep everyone informed.

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