Monday, August 17, 2009

coasting and camping

I have started and deleted this post several times.

I started it because I wanted to record some thoughts when paradise goes a bit awry.

I have deleted it because it sounds as if I am whining about what happens when paradise goes a bit awry.

If the tone is a bit ambivalent, it is because I am, as well.

I have mentioned that living in Melaque is a bit like camping -- at least, it feels that way to those of us who have been raised in the lap of bourgeois America.

Camping experience number one today was the cooking burn. We use propane for cooking. And there is nothing wrong with propane. Its flame is every bit as good as natural gas -- my favorite cooking method.

The problem with this particular stove is that the line is so narrow, it is difficult to properly sauté. And that is what I was attempting to do on Sunday afternoon -- sauté some vegetables to accompany my scrambled eggs.

Because I could not get the pan as hot as it needed to be, the vegetables essentially ended up steaming. Because I was still flipping and stirring as if the sauté process was working, I must have left my left wrist over the pan too long. I now have a nice burn.

As I sat down to eat, I realized it had been three weeks since I last did laundry -- and I had nothing to wear to Spanish class on Monday. Literally, nothing.

Thus started camping experience number two. I divided the clothes into five separate piles and began what should have been an easy process.

I am lucky enough to have a washing machine -- something I would not necessarily have while camping. But it is not the best of machines. It is a top loader with the temperament of an eight-year old boy. And I just do not expect much from top-loading washers.

The first load caused the machine to overflow twice. I ended up having to break the load down to no more than a sheet and three towels per load.

With towels and sheets done, I went upstairs to hang the clothes to dry. And -- you guessed it. Dark clouds with thunder started rolling in. I thought I could get some things dried, but the rains started right away.

I pulled everything down. The rains stopped. I put it all back up. The rains started. Down it came again.

The house looked as if a laundry truck blew up in the living and dining rooms. Wet sheets and towels were draped over every available surface. And there are still two wet loads waiting in the laundry room. Waiting for mildew, I think.

A few things were dry. As I was folding them, I noticed that they had large blots of water here and there. The source was me. I was not just sweating; I was a river. Sweat-stained or not, the dry clothes were put away.

Just like camping.

And just like camping, the moment the rain started, the flies started doing their Fourth Plague of Egypt impression. They literally drove Jiggs and me back into the house with all of the doors closed -- because the screens do not keep them out.

All in all, Sunday's circumstances were not good. But it was not a bad day. I did read some Florence King and I had a purpose: comforting the dog that the thunder and lightning were not going to kill us.

And the rain and accompanying wind storm cleared out the humidity. For the first time in a month, Jiggs varied his walk and took us on a 2-hour jaunt through the dark streets of Villa Obregon. (At times, he seems to have the soul of a Russian novelist.) We stopped only when he tripped and reinjured his left rear leg.

I do know, though, for our next thunderstorm, we may donate the washing machine to a lightning strike.


Constantino said...

You make my life sound so boaring in comparison, not to mention you are stressing me out just reading of how complicated your life is!
I hope you know that once you make a decision to have a permanent home somewhere, you are allowed to have a washer AND dryer that runs on propane quite nicely.
I think you really need to consider another camping trip, to SMA or other campgrounds around the place! Just to experience how some other campers life in Mexico!

Brenda said...

Sounds like that washing machine might benefit from a lightning strike. Frustrating machine!
My beef with my stove is that it is always so hot, even on the lowest setting that I cannot simmer anything. Everything boils and boils hard, even on low. I have no idea how people slow simmer pots of beans for hours on these stoves. I was going to look for a difuser but of course forget everytime I am shopping.
The pipe for the gas that goes into our stove is small also.

Anonymous said...

Death, taxes and laundry...the unholy trinity we can't avoid or ignore. Excellent post, better to read about the other side of "Paradise" than not at all. It seems Murphy's Law knows no borders. Glad the Prof is doing well.

Anonymous said...

sorry to hear about your burn. i hope you had the right ointment to put on it.

i had to laugh at the mention of dividing your laundry into 5 piles. it reminded me of an episode of monk i saw on friday night. he was teaching a man from nigeria how to do laundry and he had it divided into 5 piles, the whites, darker whites, off whites, bright colors, light colors. well, i'm sure your 5 piles were a bit different. is there a laundromat in melaque? sounds like you would be better off going there if there is.

have a great week!


Nancy said...

Steve, I am shaking my head here... wondering if you are even able to see the humor in these minor misfortunes.

And I also wonder how you think you don't need a maid (your previous post) when you don't do laundry for three weeks!

Larry in Mazatlan said...

We have a similar problem with our stove. A big part of the problem is the size of the line; too small. You're also subject to the amount of gas left in the tank. As the liquid level drops the gas void expands. Since gas is compressible and liquid not you end up with lower pressure than if you had a new full tank. Our solution has been to call the gas truck more often. We have a 300 liter tank on the roof.


Theresa in Mèrida said...

During the rainy season, we hang clotheslines inside from hammock hooks and turn the fans on high to keep the air circulating. It takes longer (almost all day) to dry the clothes. Otherwise we try to hang the clothes out as early as possible, the rains are usually in the early afternoon, so that works well.
As for the sweating, it's time for a sweat band or do rag.

Ruth said...

Thanks, I needed a good laugh for Monday morning. Hope all of your laundry finally got dry.

Julian in SC said...

I'm just amazed that you had enough clothing to go three weeks before running out of fresh, clean clothes. Wow, that would make quite a few loads to wash and dry. I tend to make sure somehow that I do something to them so I can never get a second wearing successfully!
I agree with Teresa -- need to find a Laundromat with a good reading spot attached.


1st Mate said...

The frustrating and wonderful thing about camping and living in third world countries is how we all have to learn how to do things differently. It's good for our aging brains and creativity! Just to start you off, how about if you wash what you need most first, i.e. what you're wearing to Spanish class.

jennifer rose said...

Camping is a transient activity. If you’re determined to spend your time in Mexico as a perpetual tourist, renting here, renting there, and never having a place of your own that you own, you will forever be faced with a stove that doesn’t suit your needs, a kitchen that you don’t like, a top-loading, undependable washer, and locals who’ll take advantage of the new greenhorn on the block.

If you ever hope to have the security and comfort that you did back in your own home in Oregon, replete with the hot tub and dryer, you’re going to have to assume the risks of landing in one place, buying a house and setting down roots. The postman even delivers in many, many of these venues – at no charge to the recipient, except for a gift on Postman’s Day. You might even find a maid who’ll work for the going rate and who does laundry in a place like San Miguel de Allende or Patzcuaro. Both places are near stores which sell a variety of washers and dryers, stackable and combination and in designer colors, too. You’ll have free time to spend reading, exercising, learning Spanish, cooking, socializing and whatever else trips your trigger.

BTW, to simmer, simply push and turn the knob on the stove to the left after the fire’s going.

Babs said...

Send it out! I don't have a washer and dryer and send everything out. It comes back the same day, clean and folded. Inquire around.
Your maid should be doing the laundry......if you ask her she will.
Lucky you, rain! We haven't had any yet to speak of........

Billie said...

Steve, I also think that most of these "events" are one of the differences that add color to living in MX. You just have to laugh.

BTW, I haven't done it yet but some of my friends use a clay tile over a burner to reduce the heat so you can keep something warm or simmer.

If you don't think San Miguel would be your cup of tea and you want to be close to the ocean, consider Merida. I love Merida.

MD in Texas said...

Perhaps you should scout around town for a lavendaria....probably worth the small price they charge to do laundry!

Steve Cotton said...

Constantino -- When I decamp to a new site in December, I will stick around the coast to see how things improve in the winter. Then I am off to the highlands to test those waters.

Brenda -- I was talking to my Mexican neighbor today and mentioned the temperature adjustment issues we had with our stoves. She said she would ask her maid. The response from the maid was that she only used the top level for everything. She didn't need to adjust the flame. From what I had heard from the rest of you, that response did not surprise me. And it helps to explain why the stoves are as they are.

Francisco -- Glad you liked the post. Finding the levity level was tricky.

Teresa -- There is a place that does laundry a couple blocks from the house. My brother used it and had great results. I wish I had followed his lead before the machine did its damage to my clothes.

Nancy -- It appears that my post-modern parody of Erma Bombeck was not as successful as I had hoped. I thought of you when I mentioned the three weeks' worth of laundry. But that is one reason I do not need a maid; I am not particularly concerned about neatness. I know this will make your skin crawl, but I went for 16 months one time in Salem without vacuuming. It just seems ike a waste of time to me. Here -- I need to be more concerned with keeping things in order. The place is in my trust.

Larry -- And we have a double problem here. The house does not have a tank. It uses those little cylinders. Right from the start, the pressure starts decreasing.

Theresa -- I have a pile of sweat rags. Yesterday, I used up five of them in the first half hour of the day. It was simply a very humid experience.

Ruth -- I finally gave up on most of the laundry and put it away damp. Enough was enough. And I will probably get a great mildew post out of it. A double bonus experience. I am glad you enjoyed the tale. It was meant to create a smile and a laugh.

Julian -- I'm a bachelor. For years, when I would run out of underwear, I would simply go out and buy two or three more packages. And wash it all when I had the chance. I often have two loads of nothing but boxers. I have enough underwear to last me two months. What I am starting to lose are shirts. I have enough of them (or had) to last only about a month.

1st Mate -- The camping aspect is what makes this fun. When I camp, I need to be adventurous -- to find new ways to do things. And there are always great tales to tell as a result -- most of them at my expense.

Jennifer -- Settling down does resolve some issues. But, for the moment, I am happy to push the envelope. Thanks for the simmer trick. I will give it a try -- as if I needed it; my highest temperature is the equivalent of simmer on most stoves.

Babs -- As I mentioned above, my brother left his laundry at a place close to the house. I should have followed his lead months ago.

Billie -- Who knows where I will next end up? But, wherever it is, I suspect I will be laughing about more good blog (and life) material.

MD -- On the list.

Brenda said...

"BTW, to simmer, simply push and turn the knob on the stove to the left after the fire’s going."
Thanks for the tip Jennifer, I tried it and it looks like that might work. I finally might be able to simmer something.

Steve Cotton said...

Brenda -- I need to try it, as well. See how helpful we all are to one another?

Canadiangrl said...

Oh Steve......hope your burn is on its way to feeling better and Prof Jiggs too!

I with Constantino, stressed out! My goodness, you need to seek a less complicated life. Lavendaria, check!

Anonymous said...

Gosh, given what you are paying your maid, it's a scandal she hasn't done your laundry.

Good lord, man! You are in Mexico! And you're doing your own laundry?

Seriously... few Mexicans even do their own laundry.


Kim G
Boston, MA
Where we send out shirts, and are cursed with the rest. But our top-loader does just fine.

Steve Cotton said...

Canadiangirl -- I do not mind doing the laundry. It is simply not my idea of a full-day fun project. I will check on the laundry. I have been carrying my t-shirts around in the truck for over a month. I just never seem to get around to going there.

Kim -- I will never adjust well to the servant aspect of life in Mexico. There is something vaguely South Africa about it. Its variant in The States bothers me just as much. I would never hire someone to clean my house. But that is just me. And I am certainly making a hash of it here in Melaque. I really miss my front-loading washer.

Anonymous said...

16 months without vacuuming-steve, you're a man after my own heart. those poor dust bunnies deserve a chance to live ;-) o.k. so i've never gone quite that long, but i will go weeks, sometimes even over a month, or at least i used to. i've been doing a lot better since we moved into our new house.

i think i told you i walked 40 mi. last fri-sun. well, unfortunately on the first day my toes started rubbing against my shoes and i got an infection on my right, big toe/toenail. wouldn't you know, i had just told brenda i needed new shoes, even though i alternate between 3 pairs. i went to the doc last night and am now on antibiotics. after all my months of training, i can't let this hold me back. i will probably end up doing a good portion of the walk in my tevas. the 3 day is just 3 weeks and 2 days away. please say a little prayer for healing. other than that problem, the training has been going great.

have a great day!


Steve Cotton said...

Teresa -- That was one of those secrets I should probably have kept to myself. I can see prospective landlords reading it now.

And you have my prayers for the walk. Ouch!