Here's some pictures of the most recent happenings.
On August 7th it will be one year since we moved from the advertised safety of El Parque, a guarded and gated condo community, to the Fatima neighborhood of San Juan Cosala. We still love it! The size of our house and yard make the daily living easier and more fun. Having a real, Mexican neighborhood means that we have many knocks on the gate selling us everything from popsicles to cactus to turtles. If you wait, whatever you need will come to you. If not, we can find most of what we want 1/2 block down at the little store.
Here's some pictures of the most recent happenings.
On a recent Saturday, you would have found the "iron guys" here putting up the small roofs over the screened patio. This will keep the rain from coming into the patio area. You'd also see our great gardener up on the car port trimming the vines that grow really quickly and take over that area.
It's not that I am really busy, but somehow the days get filled. It's amazing to me that I haven't commented here for two months. So, let me record what's been happening.
First off, I've put a lot of effort into teaching English to six children/teenagers. I spent about 15 hours a week preparing a 2 hour lesson and a "homework" packet. This is even with the great websites that I found. Much of the time was spent finding a great piece of music for the concept; getting the words down; and then creating a movie with images to go with it. I've done quite a few of these from Halloween to Kitchen Items. I also have recorded information with pictures, so the kids can watch their vocabulary words and hear me talk about each word. For Thanksgiving, I had the great idea to have the kids cook a traditional USA meal for their parents. That week I spent about 30 hours on the feast project. Gary helped out by guiding the kids through activities and games when they weren't in the kitchen cooking.
We're now on "break" until January 12th!
We've been working in the garden doing some small and bigger projects. You'll have to check out the garden website to see what we've been up to. With all the help we have, it's been nice to work on these. Much of the time, it's an idea that the gardeners make happen.
I've started getting involved in things that I never imagined I would ... I'm learning to play mahjong ... I've become a member of the local garden club ... We're still working with our street's trash team ... and we've become friends with some of the local Mexicans. Life is still wonderful. Gary is still with me, so what else could I ask for
I learned that the Virgin of Guadalupe is a big deal in SJC. Her special day is December 12th and here people put up altars to her outside their home for the week of her day of honor. Judy King told me about a little, old lady who lives in the main part of the village. She doesn't have much money to do anything special for the Virgin, but she puts up a holy card and a few flowers in her window. Wanting to find ways to fit into this small town, I decided that I'd get a statue of the Virgin and set up an altar for her. Since I had until December, I wasn't in a rush.
As so often happens, Fate came to help me. We dropped Arce off at her house when the Children's Wall was completed. She had a lot of paint to carry home and it didn't make sense for her to try to do it on the bus. I helped carry things in and saw a ceramics area. Seems that Arce's brother is a sculptor. I asked about getting a statue made and this started the process.
Arce and her brother came to the house to measure and talk about the statue. Brother would make it; Arce would paint it. A few weeks later, we went to the house to see the partially completed statue. The finished one will be done in about two weeks. It will hang outside on the wall for our street to see. I'll set it up in December. The rest of the time, it will grace the inside back wall. We have an interesting old well that is visible from the street when the gate is open. It has an arch which will frame this statue perfectly.
We love the garden. Gary for looking at it through the windows of the house; me for wandering and marveling at all the plants and life in it. We have this large cactus that is a focal point of the side yeard. You can see it while sitting in the living room or on the patio. Yesterday I looked up and saw a lizard sunning on it. I got my camera and worked to get a picture. I discovered that there were at least three lizards wandering around on it. One was willing to be photographed; one ran each time; and one was so similar in coloring to the cactus that you couldn't see it well in the photos.
Another day, I looked up at the window behind the couch and saw a large, black thing. It looked almost like a bat from afar. Getting closer you could see that it was a huge moth resting out of the sun. It stayed there all afternoon and departed at dusk.
It's almost two months since we moved; we love it! Each day we wake up and are grateful for this lovely home and our charming, small town. We have many Mexican people who are ready to help us. Across the street lives Laura and her family. We visit the taco stand at least once a week and buy our dinner (4 tacos each, usually) for 48 pesos total. Laura got me started on picking up the trash along our street; she does it often. SJC is struggling with trash collection; the government in Joco has just changed hands. So, since the election the "old" one wasn't investing money into the trucks, gasoline, or paying the workers. The new government just started today.
We have made friends with our maid and her husband and children. I am teaching the children English on Saturdays. Marcela comes with them and is using the videos I create and save to a CD to improve her own English. Her husband is a sweetie who has been helpful in taking Gary to the car repair shop, paying our electric bill, getting us items from the local stores, and helping with cleaning the really high windows. He only has a two-day a week job, so money is an issue for this family. What little they have, they invest in the children's education. They pay to send them to a private school in Joco. The kids have to take the bus (42 pesos a day), plus Marcela rides the bus with Jackie, since she's young and doesn't go to the same school as the high school children do. That's another 12 pesos a day. So for a week's transportation to school, not the tuition, supplies, books, uniforms, etc., it costs the family 270 pesos . That's more than she makes for cleaning my house each week.
As always we're impressed with the work that the Mexicans do with the simplest tools. We watched two men climb up a ladder that was leaning on an electric pool to cut down the decoration wires on our block.
We've been busy with our new home. So busy that we haven't taken many walks around the streets near us. We tend to walk down to the plaza or along the carreterra. So, today we walked down the street and up two blocks. This side of the highway seems to have streets that don't connect or go anywhere else.
The first street we went up solved the party/fiesta question we had. Sometimes, on the weekends, we can hear party noise. Birthday party or dance party. We knew that somewhere there had to be an events type of location, but sound bounces so in Mexico that we didn't exactly know where the sounds were coming from. We found the place today. On the block to our left is a large 'eventos' type place. We met the owner. There was a party going on and children were coming and going. An ice cream cart was set up to sell ice cream to the children. Lots of adults sitting at tables. Music was very soft today. Last night, the music was loud enough for the entire town to hear. Some live ... some recorded. There is also the primary school, we think, on this block.
The second street went up quite a ways. You actually have a nice view of the lake from the top of this block. There are farms on the left of the street and a wall that is the back of the soccer field. As would always happen, someone has taken down some of the stones in the wall, so that getting into the field is possible for kids. Saves a long walk around the blocks to the correct entrance.
I got to thinking about some of the serendipitous ways that we got to this lovely house and neighborhood. One was through a few conversations with George and Roberta, who live in El Parque. Also, from reading something that George wrote when El Parque was just getting started. They both have a love for Mexico and the Mexican people that comes out when they talk about their life here. Their passion made us realize that we hadn't ever experienced a "real Mexican" neighborhood. They also were strong advocates for stopping the feeling of separation and security through walls and wire.
I have this planter right next to the entrance of our home. The plant came from clippings Roberta gave me. The plant is growing nicely and serves to remind me of the
It's hard to believe, but soon it will be our 4th week here. We moved in on August 7th and it's been great. We love the house itself. The space is really nice. Our cute, llittle El Parque home was great as a vacation place, but it would have been hard to live in full-time. We had the outside porch and mirador which helped, but the living space and kitchen were small. We didn't really seem to mind until the politics of El Parque added to the problems.
Here we have more space ... though, it's not a large house. The living room/dining room area is about twice as big and I have a nice sized kitchen that is separate. I really like the open concept with the kitchen as a part of the living area, but this is nice, too. In fact, in some ways it's better. You can't see the kitchen from the living room.
Our appliances are terrific. Love my oven. It's a GE gas range. Haven't worked with a gas range that has a gas oven, but it does just fine. The temperature is right on, so baking works. The dishwasher is silent. That's a real change. First off, it's not right in the living area; then it's one of the quiet models. We don't use it often, but when we do it doesn't interupt conversation. The washer and dryer are huge; means that we can do a week's worth of laundry in two loads. There are also outside in a bodega (storage room), so we don't have to hear them either.
We've been working with the gardeners on our outside gardens. Yes, I now have two gardeners. Guillermo is the one who has worked here for years. Nice, old guy. He loves to trim hedges, so that's his main job. One wall a week. I can't tell that he knows a lot about the actual gardening needs -- fungus, fertilizer, etc. We met Armando during the screened porch project. He is a Mexican American who came back to his home town to take care of his 96 year old grandmother. At night he is a security guard; in the daytime, he'll do whatever you need. He knows a lot about gardening. First thing he did was point out the need to treat the lime trees for a fungus. Then he showed me the spounge-iness of some grass areas. There is a need for more dirt there. He's identified plants and explained what they need, and he's great at weeding and cleaning up areas. So, he's coming on Wednesday to do the mowing, trimming, and other things. How lucky am I!
Sergio, our handy man, has continued to point out small issues and fix them. He fixed coating the porch roof with a membrane and red covering to keep the rain from seeping through the bricks. He's terrific.
Other than that, we've trying to get some friends here to see the new place. We've had John and Lynn over and our realtor, Barbara. Next comes Jim and Shelli. I have fun fixing a nice meal that includes items Gary doesn't normally eat. Plus it's great to see people's reactions to this place. It really is a little gem in the middle of a real Mexican neighborhood.
There's a lot to learn about things when you have the responsibility of all the housing systems. In the condo, the water was pumped to us. We had a filtering system that cleaned it before it came into the house. That was pretty much all we had to know. Keep the filter system working and don't waste water.
In the condo, the water bill was paid through our condo fees. There is only a meter for the entire condo, not for each house. In Mexico, usage often determines the amount that one is charged per kilogram, or cubic meter, of kilowatt. The less one uses, the less one pays. With the entire water usage being metered for the 110 homes and all the common area, El Parque paid the very most per cubric meter of water. Here, our water is metered for our use only, so the cost is much less.
That's nice, but who cleans the water storage units. We got our favorite plumber from Chapala to come all the way here. He speaks great English and isn't going to tell us the cheapest way that might be sort of OK. He will tell us the truth about what needs to be fixed. He came and told us that the tinaco and the ajibe hadn't been cleaned in a long time. He also said that the system needed a better pump and a different connection system. He didn't want us trying to climb up on the roof to make the system switch when necessary. So, the team is here today doing just that ... cleaning out the two storage systems and putting in a new pump and piping process.
Click on the picture, and it should open up so you can read the caption.
Our gardener, jardinero, is Guillermo He is Marcela's father. His favorite thing to do is trim the plants and the wall hedges. He climbs up a ladder with an electric hedge clipper and goes to town. This yard is very large and is filled with lots and lots of plants. I'll be working with him on not trimming all the plants into squares; we need to let some of them grow freely so that the flowers can bloom. He doesn't speak English and my Spanish is very limited, but we pantomime well enough. It's scary watching him climb up and hand on with one hand while swinging the cutter with the other. He's at the age where he should be in a rocking chair with his drink, but there is no social security or retirement plans for most people here in Mexico. They have to work until they can't. Aren't we lucky!
This is our 19th move. We think it might be our last before we go to a special center for care. Until then we intend to enjoy each moment!
Gary and Carol are now part of the San Juan Cosala community. On August 7th, 2012 they changed their life style quite dramatically. Rather than living in a secure, gated gringo community, they are living in the center of the upper village of San Juan Cosala. It had to be fate that put a taco stand right across the street! As the only full time expats in the neighborhood, it means learning more Spanish and enjoying a real community.