Monday, October 20, 2014

pooling my projects

Sunday was a big day in the move project to Barra de Navidad.

When I showed the house to Michael on Saturday evening, he labeled it a "mini-convention center."  I prefer "boutique hotel."  But I immediately understood his point.

When my brother Darrel was here on one of his visits, he suggested we should buy an old Mexican hotel and use it as a family compound.  I think I did him one better.  A new Mexican hotel.

Yesterday after church, I met up with the new "staff."  Lupe will be the pool guy.  Several people I know have used his services -- and they are uniformly pleased.

Jaime has worked -- and still does -- as an electrician and handyman for my landlady.  I had a special project for him.  To install a propane tank where the cylinders once were. 

He can do it.  Today I will meet Lou at the hardware store, and buy a tank, stand, regulator, and some line.  Jaime will then set it up.

The majority of the day was spent with Dora and her sister cleaning the house.  When we started, it looked like a house that had not been occupied for a bit.  When we were done, it was, as the realtors say, turn-key ready.

Well, turn-key ready if you overlook the lack of linens.  But I will fix that with a trip to Sam's Club -- probably on Tuesday.  Monday is dedicated to the tank project, getting the electricity put in my name, and re-keying the locks (or, at least, getting that step scheduled). 

I now have a target day for moving.  Everything has to be in place by this Saturday when my brother (and perhaps a surprise cast member) shows up at the Manzanillo airport.

But, best of all, I finally did what I have been waiting to do for six years in Melaque.  I slipped into a pool of cooling water.

The pool in the courtyard is truly the womb of the house.  For about an hour, I enjoyed its embrace.

The photograph at the top of this post is a "point of view" shot.  You may soon see more variations on that theme.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

another day closer to moving

Saturday was one of those days where everything seemed to turn out better than I could have expected.  Well, up to the end of the day.

After spending almost an hour on hold on the telephone, and then 20 minutes with a Telmex technician, my modem at the rental is up and running.  That was a great way to start my day.

And, of course, because I will be vacating my home of the past five years, the internet speed now seems better than it ever was.  I hope the new tenants enjoy it.

Even though I have the modem for the new house, I have not set it up, yet.  I will do that on Sunday during The Big Cleanup after church.  By the time the sun sets, I should be ready to start moving my worldly goods to -- I have no idea what I will call the place.  The House will do for now.  I am not fond of the cutesy naming convention that has been imported south.

I had planned on driving to Manzanillo yesterday to buy sheets and the final flourishes for an early move-in.  But I can do all of that later in the week.  Instead, I stayed in town and bought a few more items for cleaning -- like a ladder.

Michael, my next door neighbor when I first moved to Villa Oregon, invited me over for the evening.  We started by chatting about politics, family, and music while watching the sun set.  I just do not watch those sunsets as often as I thought I would.

He had not yet seen my house.  And I had not yet seen it in the dark.  It is quite stunning with its accent lighting.  I think you will enjoy it, as well.  As soon as I get my camera and computer back in operation.

That may be a week later than I last thought.  I just received a notice from Amazon that my two-day shipping may take two weeks.  Apparently, my camera and computer are rare retail critters.

Michael and I ended up eating a very decent pizza at Ambar in Barra de Navidad under the efficient and effusive waiting talents of Oswald -- formerly of Rooster's. 

As good as the pizza was, my conversation with Michael was something to be cherished.  I am not certain with whom I could discuss such varying topics as jazz harmonics as they relate to commercial music, the personality quirks of a 1989 Pinchon Baron, the vagaries of developing a war policy that takes into account all of the interests in the Middle East, and why hacienda-style furniture is a non-starter in The House.

The only fly in the ointment was Amazon's announcement.  I will talk to Darrel today to see how flexible his travel plans are.  I would like to see him as soon as possible.  But I would also like to see my replacement equipment.

Here's hoping Amazon is more pessimistic than the facts on the ground will prove.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

the great modem switch

Happy Saturday, readers.

I am coming to you live from my favorite table of La Oficina -- a favorite eatery in Villa Oregon.  Well, it would be live if I didn't schedule it for publication in the morning.

As I write, it is Friday night.  I am eating lasagna.  And we are discussing the proliferation of moose and wild rabbits in Canada.  Amongst other arcana.

There is a reason I am writing from here -- and not from home.  But all things in good time.

I had two major projects in mind today.  Both of them once again in Manzanillo.  I needed to switch telephone and internet connections between my old place and the new house.  And, while I was in The Big City, I could get the goods necessary to set up house.

My landlady was in Manzanillo for another project.  I drove her over to Telmex to (1) transfer the new house's telephone service to my name, (2) transfer my telephone service to my landlady's name, and (3) switch out a friend's burnt-out modem.

I am glad we presented each as a separate transaction because the process seemed to be rather daunting for the clerks.  So daunting that the first passed us off to a second.

The only glitch was not of our making.  The previous owner of my house failed to leave behind her modem.  That meant I had to spend about $80 (US) for a new one.  The next question will be whether it works when I hook it up.

I took my current Modena from the rental with us -- just in case I needed to return it.  I didn't.  When I hooked it back up (just as it was in the morning), everything worked except for one small detail.  There was no internet connection.

And there is still none.  That is why I am flogging the good services of La Oficina.  Thanks, Juliana and Aaron.

While I was in Manzanillo, I stopped at Sam's Club, Soriana, Office Depot, and Walmart to buy some basic necessities for the house.  You know the type of stuff.  Dishes.  Towels.  Kitchen doo-dahs. 

I had spent decades gathering all of that stuff in my Salem house.  But it all went to Goodwill or to friends when I moved south.  I had forgotten just how much all of those small items cost.

Late Friday afternoon, I walked through the house with Dora, the woman who currently cleans my house.  She is looking forward to taking on the task of cleaning this one.  Of course, it will take her more hours.  And I will appreciate every minute of her time.

This day is done, and I will confess I am glad the day is done.  I have taken several major steps closer to moving in.  Dora will spend a good portion of Sunday making the place sparkle.  Probably on Monday or Tuesday, I will start setting up house.

If all goes well, my bother Darrel will show up on Saturday afternoon next week with a cornucopia of replacement goods.

And I can then start sharing some photographs of my latest venture.

Friday, October 17, 2014

late night meals

"Most friends fade
Or they don't make the grade
New ones are quickly made.
Some of them worth something, too.
But us, old friends?
What's to discuss, old friends?"

So, who says Sondheim can't be sentimental?  Or, that I can't, for that matter?

I stopped by to see my friends Lou and Wynn yesterday afternoon to catch them up on my house closing.  They were good enough to accompany me last Sunday for the pre-closing inspection of my new house.  Both of them had some very helpful ideas.

They were even more helpful yesterday.  They had read about my wandering electronic backup.  I had stopped by their house to use their computer to call my brother to arrange for an emergency muling.  As soon as he makes some arrangements, he will be down to get me back on the electronic highway.

Wynn and Lou did him one better.  Until Darrel gets my new computer to me, Wynn and Lou have graciously lent me a tablet -- and that will allow all of us to answer the question: "What's to discuss, old friends?"

Several months ago Jennifer Rose asked her readers what they eat when they return home, following a trip.  And local eateries are closed.

I am not certain I participated in the discussion.  If I remember correctly, I simply did not have an answer.  But I do now.

Because I knew when I returned on Saturday that I would be moving very soon, I did not bother to unpack my suitcases.  (That is one reason all of my goods were still in my backpack.)  And I have not bought any fresh groceries.

This last trip took me out of Mexico for almost two months.  When I left, I cleared the refrigerator.  My first meal here was at a restaurant on Saturday.  For Sunday dinner, I rummaged through my shelves and found nothing.  But, tucked in the back of the freezer, were two bags of my famous bean soup.

So, that is my answer.  I try to leave one of my specialties in the freezer compartment for these "return home late" moments.

And, just as Jennifer did, I will put the question to you.  What do you eat when you arrive home and have no option but what is on offer in your larder?

And don't just talk amongst yourselves.  Pull us all into your conversation.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

everything is new again

That drum roll you hear is the announcement we have all been waiting to hear.  Mexpatriate is opening a new corporate headquarters.  In Barra de Navidad.

My two realtors and I drove down to Manzanillo yesterday morning to complete the transfer.  Our first stop was at the bank to ensure the funds were ready for disbursement.

We then headed over to the office of the notario where he explained, in detail, his title search, how the bank trust operates, and what the tax clearance documents mean.  Then it was signature after signature.

At the end, I was a few thousand dollars poorer and a bit property richer.

Now, you are probably wondering where the photographs of this great event are.  It is a fair question.  

While we were in the bank, someone decided he needed my backpack more than I do.  He is now the owner of a computer, a camera and lenses, a Kindle, a pair of binoculars, and the portable hard drive that contains 6 years of my photographs.

But it also means I get to buy a lot of new stuff to go with my new house.

Unfortunately, it may also mean that I will be offline for a bit until I can figure out a way to share my new adventure with you.  Internet cafe computers just will not do.

I do know one thing, though.  It feels good to build up from the bottom.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

changing my galoshes

It is amazing how one small thing can taint an evening.

Take restaurants, as an example.  When I flew back to Mexico on Saturday, Lou picked me up at the Mazanillo airport.  Only a true friend would do something like that.

We started a conversation on our way to my house and decided to recess it until Wynn could join us for dinner.  Because I am about to join the Barra de Navidad set, we decided to have dinner at a restaurant there that has been a rather inconsistent food and service experience for me.

And Saturday was no exception.  The service was indifferent.  I always find that unusual in Mexico.  In Paris, I have come to expect being treated as a painful reminder to the waiter that life is simply a meaningless existential exercise.  But, in Mexico?  Where the closest translation for angst is fiesta.

The food was fine.  However, because my schnitzel was a bit dry, I requested a bit of the restaurant's celebrated goulash sauce.  That night, it was a bit greasier than usual, but, for the first time, I noted a subtle underlying flavor.  Wynn thought it was worcestershire.  I thought it was sherry.

It didn't really matter.  Whatever it was, it did not cut the sauce's oiliness.

On the way out, I saw the owner.  Merely out of curiosity, I told her I thought I tasted a hint of sherry in the sauce, and asked her if I was correct.  She looked at me as if I had asked her for her bank account numbers and her PIN.

She responded: "There is an ingredient" -- in the same tone that an indulgent mother tells an autistic child that it is time to gather up his crayons.

Of course, I had no intention of trying to duplicate her rather pedestrian sauce.  But I would have been very interested in discussing the art of cooking (or the art of managing customer expectations) with her.

I know there are some people who guard even the fact that pork is used in the goulash.  But, for a restaurant, it is self-defeating.  Unless, of course, your idea of haut cuisine runs to the secret herbs and spices found at KFC. 

I am now left with the plausible possibility that "the ingredient" is either ketchup or peanut butter, though, I know it isn't.  But she did nothing to stop such wild speculation.

Hers is the only restaurant where I have ever encountered that secretive response.  Alex in La Manzanilla loves to discuss the ingredients she uses.  A neighborhood cook in Melaque was a bit reluctant to tell me that one of the main ingredients in his Diabla sauce really is ketchup.  But he told me.  And I still eat there, and enjoy his sauce.

There are plenty of places to eat in this area that offer good food, good service, and even better conversation.  I will probably hang out in those places more often.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

slipping into the routine

We expatriates love living our fantasies.

Just read a few messages, comments, or blog posts, and you will hear all about how we are gypsies or adventurers or non-conformists.  You would think we had all attended finishing school on a pirate ship.

But it is all a lie.  Or, at least, a lot of posturing.

Certainly expatriates are a bit different than a lot of their stay-in-the-old-country neighbors.  But it is a difference of degree; not of kind.

All you need to do is read a little further in the writings of these self-proclaimed Marco Polos to discover that their new life is about as routine as if they had never left Windsor or Sioux Falls.  And I am not talking about "them."  I am talking about me.

Here I am.  Back in Melaque for two days and I have already reverted to behaviors that have been developed over the past six years.

Now, there is nothing wrong with routines, even though you hear people railing against them.  Routines are how we fool ourselves into believing that the world is an orderly place -- and our very beings are what cause the crystal spheres to sing.  It is a bit like slipping into a pair of twenty year old underwear.  They may not be very utilitarian, but they are comfortable.

My routine begins with the early morning.  Because of the night heat, I usually do not even bother with sleep attempts until about 2 AM or so.  That means that my morning ablutions are not complete until 9.

Washed and shined, I head out the door for brunch at Rooster's.  Along the way, I stop to talk with Olga, the owner-cook of La Rana (The Frog), about her family and her day.  To Lucy and her daughter Jennifer at the Red Lobster about the summer season.  To Ben and Alexa (of La Taza Negra), and their young children Ayden and Willow, who always brighten my day each time I talk with them.  To the guys at the post office about soccer and mail delivery in the rain.  To Dan of MexEco Tours about town happenings during the past six weeks.  To the new girl at the Telcel counter to introduce myself.  To the cleaning woman at the bank about her day.

All of that before I even get to brunch at Rooster's.  The cast changes on each visit.  But there are regulars.  Just like a well-produced situation comedy.  And I guess that is a better description of my life than "great adventure."  But, at least, I do not need the crutch of a laugh track.

When I was deciding where to live in Mexico, one of my prime considerations was a place where I could "live outside of a car."  Yesterday was a reminder that I need to get back on the sidewalk and leave my car keys at home. 

The heat of summer is dissipating.  There is too much joy to be celebrated with people living their daily lives.  Even if it takes on the characteristics of a dog following his routine from hydrant to hydrant.

One reason I decided to buy a house here, even though it is far from a perfect place, is the relationships I have established.  Of course, new relationships could be created wherever I decided to go.  I knew no one when I moved to Melaque, after all.  But I cherish the relationships I now have here.

I started wandering down this sentimental cul-de-sac when thinking about the new house.  When I returned home from dinner last night, my neighbors were in front of their home soaking up the last rays of the day.  They each greeted me.  I went over and greeted them by name.

That is about to come to an end.  But there will be new neighbors to meet.  And there will always be the revolving cast of Mexpatriate to keep all of us critiquing the routine that is my life.

And I am happy to share it with you all.