Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Casa Sur – Phase 1

Usually when we make a post on our blog, Sara does the writing, we both decide on the pictures, and then I post it. However, I’ve talked her into letting me write this one.The reason I wanted to write it is because I wanted to say a few words about my wife.
We started the additions to the back of our house in April and it was finished in early September. That’s over 4 months through the hottest time of the year. Now…..Because of my job, I have to travel quite a lot so there were many days when I wasn’t there. Sara was there every day (except the few days that she went into hiding because of the jackhammer). At the start of the project she spoke very little to no Spanish.
She greeted the workers everyday with a buenos días, she told them hasta mañana every evening. She made sure every night that there were plastic containers filled with water and put in the freezer so they would have ice the next day. When she cooked more than we needed, the extra always went to the albañiles. She knows every one of their names, whether or not they are married, and how many kids they have. She knows what they like to do on their time off and what sports they enjoy. She has eaten with them, told them jokes, somehow gotten across her vision of how things should look, and when needed she scolded them. I’ve seen her laugh over this project and I’ve seen her cry. The one thing that remained constant (a rarity here in Mexico!) was the respect that she showed these men working on our home and their eagerness to return that respect and make her happy with their work. At the end of this post is a YouTube link for a video that Sara made about the construction, beginning to end. Sara had a cookout for the guys when the work was finished and presented each with a DVD of the video. You could see the pride in their eyes as they watched the video detailing the work that they had done, all by hand.
I could go on and on but I’ll stop here, I think you get the idea of how proud I am of her. And…..Her Spanish is coming along pretty darn good now.
So, without further adieu……..You might remember how the back of our home looked when we started the project:

And then, like Sara says, how it looks after we ‘’made it our own’’:

In typical Yucatan tradition, each albañili left his hand print
Sara with her albañiles


Sunday, October 16, 2011

We’ve Always Been Crazy

Our friends and family told us, we were crazy to move to Mexico, later we were told it was crazy to live in the house while it was under construction.  You know what, they were RIGHT!!!!!!! Waylon Jennings said it best, “I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane”.
Everyday progress continued on the building project, every day we watched as our dream began to take shape. Twenty-five feet concrete beams created the bones of the roof, below was a network of tree trunk support braces. Cement blocks filled in the gaps between the beams and cement poured on top created the roof.
 Chipped and smoothed by hand we soon had the arches we had longed for. With a hand designed and cut out metal jig, Julio artistically applied the arch moldings.
The mamposteria pool walls now smooth with concrete soon became a sparkling blue tiled swimming pool with a gurgling fountain.
 A combination of Ticul stone and white concrete created the floor around the pool and terraza. We decided we needed an outdoor cooking / grilling area because……well, you just do. And,that pool pump / filter equipment of course needed its own little house out in the yard.  
Our pool equipment / pump house
The forest of tree trunk braces came down revealing a large living area, the perfect place to dip your toes in the pool and enjoy a glass of wine. Paint, ceiling fans, chandeliers, all of the details began to come together! Soon we were roasting hot dogs for the albaniles on the grill under the French tiled roof. The day we had anxiously awaited arrived and the albaniles packed up their few tools, said Hasta Luego as they walked out the door.   

We moved around the new environment taking it all in, not believing it could actually be complete. Reflecting back on the dust, the noise, the lack of privacy, we really had lived through the process!  I relate it to having a baby; during labor, you think survival is impossible, then you smile at the little bundle placed in your arms and the pain of delivery is miraculously erased from your memory. It was worth it!
Oh, the pictures that go with this last part..........well, that's to be continued (real soon).................

Friday, October 7, 2011

Just Like Camping, Only Better

We started our life in Mérida with the few belongings we could cram into our midsize SUV. We each had a duffle bag stuffed with clothes and personal items. Ty found out after we arrived that what he thought was another medium size suitcase of clothes was actually stuffed full of knitting and needlepoint supplies, I do have my priorities! We brought Adie’s stuff; her wire crate, her portable crate, her car seat, her stroller, her life jacket, 3 bags of food (just in case we couldn’t find her brand) a case of canned mixed vegetables (Adie loves veggies on top of her dog food), her soft bed for napping and her airplane carrier filled with toys. We brought laptops, surge protectors, cameras and an iPod docking station and one set of high thread count sheets. Ty brought a suitcase filled with miscellaneous stuff, which he would then use for his trips back and forth to work.
The month we stayed at the beach was a simple time and we hardly even unpacked, same for the Casa Renta. When we bought our house, we were grateful the previous owners included some furnishings with the house.
They would be leaving the stove and refrigerator, a small simple Mexican bed, a breakfast table and chairs, a patio table with chairs, a loveseat, a chair, a rocking chair, 3 lamps, a small computer desk, one ropero (a piece of furniture made to hang clothes), 2 night tables a television and 3 bookcases.
We needed to buy dishes, pans, trashcans, towels, glasses, silverware and utensils, not to mention a coffee maker; you know the essentials of living.
We bought another ropero and ordered a king size bed which would take at least six weeks to arrive. We bought two fold up bag chairs for comfortable sitting and two Yucatecan hammocks. We could “get by” until we completed the restyling of our house, had a pool and patio built and shipped our belongings from the States.
It has been a simple existence, preparing simple meals. I am a true nester so I have tried to create a comfortable area to live in, in spite of our lack of STUFF. We gave some of the furniture we did not need to the albaniles. While Jerrie was visiting, we slept in one air-conditioned room, her on the small bed and Adie and I on a hammock, and we watched the ongoing construction from the comfort of the fold up bag chairs.
Siesta time

I grew up in an outdoor loving family, fishing and camping trips were often and fun. Ty camped with his Boy Scout Troop, in the mountains of New Mexico summer and winter. When we married, maybe because we loved it, or maybe we were too broke to do anything else our family vacations were mostly camping trips to rivers and lakes. We would go to the Texas Hill Country and lazily tube the Frio River and camp.
In the beginning, we cooked on an open fire, slept on the ground and had only a flashlight for light. As time passed our gear mimicked our life and soon we could easily fill up the back of a pickup truck and a ski boat with all the necessities for a few nights stay at the lake, we even had monogrammed drink koozies.
In retrospect, we needed more stuff to camp for a couple of nights than many of my neighbors in Mexico need to live their simple lives on a daily basis. Since I am a nester, I would bring along tablecloths, my special camping dishes (I really dislike eating on a paper plate) and the kids and I picked flowers to grace our camp table.
As our family grew, our kids married and had kids; we still camped even though money was not as much an issue, it just seemed like good family fun. Our grown children and grandkids have expressed that some of their fondest memories are from our many camping trips.

Our first nine months of living in Mexico has been………….well, it’s been like camping, only better.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

She Was Warned

One of the wonderful things about living where people vacation is….your family and friends will now vacation to your home at the best of times, and the worst of times. In spite of warnings, and I am not talking about warnings from the US government about travel to Mexico, I am referring to my warning to visitors who come in June, to a home “under construction”. My oldest sister, Jerrie wanted to visit, so she did, in spite of the mess. Ty and I knew if anyone could handle the conditions, she could. I spoke with Jerrie before she boarded her flight to Mérida and reminded her “It is hot, the house is dirty, the workers are here every day, there is construction going on and the back yard is a disaster area, oh, and did I mention it is HOT!”
The day my sister was to arrive happened to be the day the electricista decided to chip out the wall in the guest bedroom for the installation of the air conditioner. 
With her arrival just hours away, I found myself accessing the situation-standing ankle deep in debris and polvo (white powder) coating everything.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard the doorbell, it was Maria, Lupita and Alejandro; the troops had arrived to clean the house. Maria took one look at the mess and started giving orders in Spanish, Alex scrambled to the bodega for the shovel and Lupita headed for the garden hose. Yes, you heard right, Lupita brought the garden hose in the house and started washing everything down, this  obviously is one advantage of living in a stone and concrete house. Alex began scooping the debris into buckets and carting it outside. Maria made it clear I was to stay out of the way and pointed to a hammock hanging on a Ramon tree, barked an order to one of the albaniles, and in what seemed like an instant he had tidied up the area and strung out the hammock. In spite of the anxious anticipation of our arriving guest, Adie and I are lulled to sleep by the gentle sway of the hammock. When Maria and her crew leave, the house is sparkling clean. Jerrie arrived that night to see Mérida in all of her twinkling glory. She had a good laugh about my day.

We spend our days watching the ongoing construction and our nights visiting the many entertainment venues in Mérida’s Parks.
Jerrie and Sara at ''Serenata en El Parque Santa Lucia''

The entertainment at Santa Lucia park. It's been happening every Thursday for over 40 years, and it's free.

''Noche Mexicana'' at the Remate de Paseo Montejo, every Saturday night, it's free also
Noche Mexicana
About that construction thing going on back at the house........
We are constantly amazed at the albaniles efficiency using so few tools. With the foundation for the pool complete, we stand by, as the wire mesh is unrolled and secured to the walls and floor of the pool.
Forms for the steps spanning the width of the pool are filled with concrete and rock.
Marcelo, Julio and Jose secure boards on top of the columns and on top of tree trunk support braces then stack concrete blocks to create the forms for the arches; these forms will eventually be chipped away leaving behind graceful arches.
Jerrie agrees, “Mexico is an adventure and you don’t even have to leave the house”