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the dog days of summer

It’s the lazy time of the year, here is where you will find me most of the day. I don’t leave the house much, I don’t do much and yet I’m tired and content to go to bed early. Must be the weather, I often feel like I’m one of the lizards just soaking up the sun and the warmth.

I seem to remember that when life gets busy in the winter I look longingly at these long, empty days full of books and small chores.

I have gotten a few things done. I got the exterminator over last week. That’s not simple as we have way too many animals around that have to be moved out for the day. It is a lot easier now that we have friends next door who leave us a key to their house. I hauled all the cats over and housed them in the two bathrooms with their accompanying litter boxes and food and water dishes. The dogs hang out in the back yard and I set myself up in their tv room with my laptop.

This is Omar the exterminator coming out from behind our refrigerator.

If you remember, we had all of the appliances covered to match the cabinets and there is a space almost large enough to walk in behind the refrigerator and the other appliance cabinets on this side of the kitchen. We pull out the refri so that he can get back there and treat the outlets and put bait in case any ants decide to move in.

It’s like a secret passage, I thought it was kind of cool to catch him coming out of it. You can see it better if you click the pic to make it larger. Like I said, I’m easily amused these days.

My housekeeper has left her husband, taking the kids and moving to a niece’s house. He kept the house and is not giving her any money. It’s not easy but she had a good reason to get out. The up side for me is that she is willing to work 3 days a week for me again. I was sad to lose that 3rd day last year when the husband didn’t want her working as much. It will make my life easier for her to be here more often and hopefully it will help her to have a little more money.

If you spend much time talking to women here in Merida, the topic of help is bound to come up. We all have stories and everyone seems to have a different take on solutions. Some don’t like having anyone around very often, they would prefer to do the work themselves. Others have a difficult time finding and hanging on to good help, it’s always a compromise between what you want to happen and what you can get to happen. It’s not at all easy finding someone, finding someone you can trust is even harder and finding someone who consistently wants to work is very hard.

I’m in the camp that could happily share the house with full time help. I’d be fine out in the north with a couple of live in helpers, which is how the local rich live. I am willing to let some of my expectations and privacy go in the interests of clean floors and not having to personally clean toilets and I am also willing to keep asking for the important things to be done until it starts happening. I don’t feel the need to be friends with my employees but I am concerned about them and try to help when I can. It’s a balance that some can manage and others find difficult. It can be a minefield and I’ve stepped on a couple of mines in the past, I’m not making light of the complexities.

Having your house run smoothly is important, it can make your life so much easier and more enjoyable and if it isn’t working right it can add all kinds of tension and stress. It’s probably the first place that most expats come up against the cultural differences between their lives in the US or Canada and life here in Mexico. It’s not the same as having a cleaning service come in once or twice a week and clean your house as in the north, there are different expectations, different requirements and a different relationship. It’s not better or worse, just different.

Steamy weather

It’s been hot and humid here this last week. I love the heat but even I am ready for a little break. I still lay in the sun everyday, swim in the pool and fuss with the garden but about 3pm I have to retreat to the office and turn the AC on dehumidify. That makes a world of difference, the actual thermometer temps are not so bad, mid to high 90′s F.

But oh, the humidity! That’s been very high and it gets tiring. We still aren’t sleeping with AC but the thought has occurred to me several times this week. I love the openness of our bedroom, one wall is open to a small terrace and the sky. If we move to the guest bedroom where there is an AC, it’s all closed up. By midnight it has cooled off a lot and early mornings are delightful sleeping weather. So far, the openness and the fans are more attractive than closed windows and dry air.

The lilies in my roof pond are really happy in this weather. The water temps in the pond get into the high 80′sF and they are all blooming.


it’s the little things

I am always beguiled by the unexpected in Mexico. It’s still one of the great joys of living here, the serendipity possible in any mundane task.

I had these clocks that stopped working, one from Akumal and one from the kitchen here in Merida. They weren’t expensive, pretty cheap actually, but I liked them. Things can be fixed here, it’s another of the cool things about Mexico, you don’t just throw something away when it quits.

I took them to the watch and clock repair man in Santiago. His shop is very small and so is he. He studies what you bring in very carefully, using a loupe, and he has all sorts of clever tools many of which I think he made himself.

I sometimes revert to an impatient gringa and I wanted to just drop them off and come back later. No, he first had to inspect them and decide what to do. He’s very precise which, now that I think about it, is a good trait for someone who works on tiny things that move. Anyway, he slowly took one of the clocks apart and began studying it carefully. I was restless, pacing the small area in his shop.

Suddenly rockets began to go off very close and I peeked out the door. There was a group of the faithful with satin banners on poles preceded by men setting off rockets going down the middle of the street.

I had been hearing rockets in the neighborhood for a few days, it is August and this is the month that the parishes on two sides of us, Santiago and San Sebastian, have their feast days. I believe what I was seeing was the gremio from San Sebastian taking their Virgin for a walk-about to visit the church at Santiago. I couldn’t see the Virgin from where I was but I could tell they were carrying something besides the banners.

A gremio as near as I can describe it is a group from a church that organizes the feast days and takes care of the sanctuary. Other than the fact that there are also men involved I would describe it in English as the ‘church ladies’ who put on the suppers and raise money to fix things in the church. A powerful group in any small community no matter the language or culture.

It was the lunch time rush hour and they were calmly walking down the middle of these busy streets, setting off an enormous number of very loud rockets. No one honked!!

They stopped briefly in front of the Santiago church and then proceeded back into the middle of the street and returned towards San Sebastian. It was loud and serious and solemn but also happy and fun. It reminded me where I was and I relaxed and enjoyed watching my clock being carefully repaired and cleaned.

Oh say can you see

Yesterday I had to go to the US Consulate, something I’ve managed to avoid in all the years I’ve been in and out of Mexico. I needed a document notarized for the US and they offer the service – for a fee of course. Not cheap, it was $50us for one seal and signature.

It’s not an attractive building, more like a 1950′s nuclear safe house. You can’t just drop by either, you have to have an appointment which you make on line. We showed up with our US passports, our printed copy of a confirmed appointment along with the appointment password.

There were quite a few people waiting out in front, they appeared to be trying to get a visa to visit the US. At our appointed time we were let in the first of the secured doors. Inside it was a TSA set up with xrays and walk through booths and armed guards. They gave us wooden file holders for our cell phones (not allowed), gum (where are we, Singapore?) and anything else forbidden. Mimi hadn’t planned on coming and she had her pack with all sorts of stuff in it, it took quite a while for them to go through it all. The woman behind us said that Mexican nationals were not allowed to bring anything into the building, not even keys. We felt suitably honored that they were willing to root through our junk, I guess that is one of the privileges of being a citizen.

Then you walk through another bunker like room, get your appointment letter checked again, and are allowed into the …waiting room! Yes, all that to get to a big room full of plastic chairs and numbers for who is being served like at the DMV. Then you sit and you wait. After about 15 minutes I was really ticked off that they took my nicorette gum. I started walking around and reading all the signs posted on the walls. Most of them were price lists, they charge for everything, even answering the phone, and sometimes they get 3 or 4 hundred dollars an hour for it. I think I made them nervous but I was not feeling the love.

After an hour, we spoke to the first native english speaker we’d seen and she took our credit card, and moved us to another line at the next booth. In all of our time there, the only native English speakers I saw were behind bullet proof glass. The visa interview process was quick for some, longer for others. They wanted to see everyone going on the trip, so there were whole families sitting around waiting for a young kid who looked like a mormon missionary to talk to them through bullet proof glass. Charming. The only personal touch I saw were a line of rubber ducks sitting on a desk behind the glass at the notary window. I wish I’d been waited on by that person, I tried to comment on them to the women waiting on me and she scowled and wouldn’t answer. I guess I should stop bitching about the place, I have to go back next year to renew my passport. I don’t want to be on the ‘do not fly’ list.

Rising from the flames

This is tough. I’ve been gone so long that I really don’t know how to begin again. I want to thank all of you who wrote me to see if I was all right. I’m OK now, I was processing a lot of medical stuff and trying to get a grip.

I’ve always believed that hanging around doctors is bad for your health. I went in to find out about my leg cramps. After lots of tests he basically told me that the leg cramps were unimportant, I had a lot worse going on. Oh jeez. I knew I should have just asked someone at the pharmacy what to take. So, more tests, more consults, more sleepless nights while I freaked out. Finally, it started looking better. I mean, better as in you are not going to die in the next year and probably not in the next 2 years but we don’t predict farther out than that.

Somewhere in all this, I decided I needed to change doctors. I had gone for a 2nd opinion to one that came highly recommended and that is when the news started getting less dire. Both doctors though, only spoke Spanish and I was all full of martyrdom and decided I should get an English speaking doctor so when I was on my deathbed they could talk to Mimi and my son. I also thought maybe my Spanish would disappear as I declined. Seriously folks, I was planning my funeral and trying to decide what music I wanted played. Dramatic? uh, just a little.

So, I went off to my old doctor at Star Medica and she basically told me to get a grip I wasn’t dying anytime soon. She also mentioned that I was overdoing the drama a bit. Hmph! She did agree though that I needed to make some changes in my life to keep the old body humming along for a bit longer. She also wanted to do more tests including an endoscopy. I was starting to feel better but when I came out of the endoscopy I discovered I was waiting for biopsy results, that’s not fun. The results were negative, eventually, and I had to start rejoining life.

It took a while for me to stop feeling I was a short timer but I’m back in the world now. I mean, I went and got my teeth laser cleaned! No one who thinks they are dying gets their teeth cleaned, right? Why bother? I thought it was a big step. I’m back among the living, with white teeth and all that remained was for me to write something here and start reading everyone’s blogs again. I had stopped even reading blogs, not just stopped writing in mine. I’m whittling away at the huge number on backlog and hope to be back in the present soon.

The reason I didn’t blog all this as it was happening is that I really don’t want to blog dying, or medical rottenness or anything remotely like that. Honestly, I’d lost my sense of humor about it all and I was pretty maudlin, no one wants to share that. I kept waiting to see the humor in it all but had the news been as bad as I originally thought, I don’t know if I would have gotten to a point where I could be humorous about it. I’ve read some of those end of life blogs and they are really tough to read, especially if you’ve gotten to know the blogger beforehand. I’m probably not someone who can do that. Luckily, I don’t have to make that decision yet and you don’t have to decide if you want to read it either. So, I’m back and I don’t have any great vacation pictures to show for it but I have really white teeth!

A new me

Lately, I’ve gotten just a tiny bit addicted to going to the spa. I would not have predicted this, I doubt anyone who knew me would have either. Mainly I go for the manicure, pedicure, foot massage stuff – but I did go once for a facial! It wasn’t that great, it was nice but not worth it for me. The foot massage though, and the green goo and the wrapping, I do love that.

Want to see? Click to enlarge any of the photos.

I know, pretty odd. After the leg and foot massage, she spread this green mud and then wrapped my legs in saran wrap while she did the pedicure.

I’ve been sampling different spas here in Merida, this was over in Colonia Campestre. It was a nice experience but the spa itself was not all that relaxing. The one out in the north by the old bowling alley (now casino) had the best environment. Tinkling fountains, good music, great chairs and two people working on you at once. One doing the pedicure and the other the manicure.

Theresa gave me the number of someone who comes to your house but I haven’t tried that yet. I think part of it is that I like going somewhere and having this relaxing space and not being at my house with the phone and the animals.

This is my friend Sheila at the spa in the north, see how wonderful that looks? I snuck a picture from my identical position across the room. She’ll probably kill me for putting this online.

Sheila has been my spa partner but soon she’ll be leaving and I guess I’ll have to go by myself. Before that though, we have a couple more to try. Pretty soon, I could be a ‘spa guide for Merida’ – wouldn’t that be a good job. I’m up for suggestions so if anyone had a good spa here in the city, let me know.

Other than getting my feet massaged, I’ve been scheduling my life a little better. I’m spending more time in the garden, getting in the pool every day and laying in the sun. I’ve lost that sickly pallor that I hate and I’m getting my usual tan back.

I’ve solved one of my cats vs plants problems. I had to keep aluminum foil around the base of my Adeniums (desert rose) because the cats were using them for a scratching post and killing them. Not very attractive, plants with tin foil wrapped around them. Instead, I went to one of the numerous concrete fabricators and bought some columns to put the plants on. Ah ha! The cats do not like the unsteady feel of the column, can’t reach the plant without standing up on the concrete so they are leaving them alone.

I’m also getting somewhere in eliminating the slugs. I tried drowning them in beer once before and they didn’t bite the bait. I think it was because we only had dark beer around. I’m now putting out saucers of cheap Guatemalan Gallo beer and they are drowning every night. Who knew, slugs like cheap beer. Slugs also won’t crawl across coffee grounds so I’ve surrounded my most susceptible plants with used coffee, put saucers of beer out nearby and finally, I am not looking at slime trails and missing leaves anymore.

The weather is my idea of absolutely perfect – mid 90′s in the daytime, low 70′s at night and the humidity is a low 40%. Warm enough to swim, cool enough to sleep – paradise!

Street Scenes

When you aren’t blogging, there’s nothing to do with the cool pictures you happen to take. Yea, I can keep them on my phone and make my friends look at them but they are much better on a computer screen.

I do miss blogging when I go into these dry periods. My motivation just sort of dries up, not sure how or why or I’d fix it. I’ve even stopped reading blogs, mostly because I can’t comment anymore.

Anyone else have this problem with blogs on Blogger? I do all the sign in ritual and then it just goes blank and back to the sign in screen. It’s frustrating, I haven’t found a solution for it, and so I stop reading.

I like commenting, I like the conversational quality of blogs, and I hate it when I can’t figure out why something doesn’t work. I even googled the problem but none of the responses seemed relevant. The WordPress blogs still work fine for me but… if I don’t open my blog reader I don’t see them and I haven’t gotten to the point yet of dividing all the blogs I read by program.

I’ve been busy, that’s not an excuse as I always seem to be busy, and I’ve been trying to carve out more time for the garden. If you asked me what is my favorite thing to do, I’d say pottering around in the garden. So, why is it that I have so little time to do that? Bad scheduling decisions is what I think, and I’m trying to change that. I want to keep 4 hours in the middle of the day for the garden, to lay a bit in the sun, swim, play with the critters. Success is elusive.

Instead, I spend a lot of time in traffic. The traffic is horrible right now here in the centro. They are closing streets seemingly at random, rerouting buses, removing all parking on other streets. It’s gridlock in front of my house every day at 1:30pm and traffic is heavier all day. Sitting in traffic can be entertaining, I try not to let it bug me. For instance, this chandelier delivery truck was in front of me for blocks the other day. I maneuvered to try and get a better picture and the guy in the back finally noticed me and started posing.

Maybe I’ll start posting more about plants and the garden, it’s what seems to interest me the most. If anyone can solve my commenting problem, I’d be grateful. I miss my bloggers.