I’ve got the sun in the morning and the moon at night

In Annie Get Your Gun, Annie Oakley sang about all the things she did not have, but she had the sun and the moon to brighten her day and was glad of that.

Life really is not about how much money we have or the things we accumulate, it is about the intangibles like love and friendship and of course starting the day like this.

Sunrise over Taxco de Alarcon - PanoramaWant to watch this morning’s sunrise unfold? Here it is

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And what day would not be complete without the moon at night.

Moonrise over Taxco

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Calor

Studying Spanish in a hammockCalor is the Spanish word for hot when you are talking about the weather or climate.

April and May being the hottest months of the year – the sun is mighty strong at this latitude and there are few if any clouds to deflect its rays. That means that afternoons get very warm, well into the 80s.  However, houses are built to deflect the heat — it truly is 10 degrees cooler in the shade, and unlike August in Wisconsin, cool breezes come down from the mountain at night and make sleeping tolerable.

Many people here are complaining about the heat. Apparently no one remembers a year when it was so warm this early. Yet they still wear long sleeve sweaters and wrap their babies up in heavy fleece blankets with winter hats on their heads when they take them out. I don’t get it.

I could understand, light, long sleeved clothing to protect the skin from the sun’s rays, and even a light blanket swaddling a newborn, but if it is 80 degrees and you or the baby are sweating, let’s lighten up in the clothing department!

I know I am different. I come down here in the middle of winter, when it is truly FRIO (cold) for them, and I wear short or sleeveless tops, with perhaps a long sleeve shirt over my shoulders in the early morn and a sweater at night. I come from a much colder climate though and the mid-60s of December feels warm to me. Only two or three times did a cold front come through where I needed to put on socks, a fleece, or once, for the first time ever, even don a jacket to protect from the cold rain.

I go barefoot and sleep with my door open for fresh cool air. To the typical Mexican, this behavior is asking to develop a cold. They always wear shoes because the tile floors are “muy frio,” and sleep with their rooms closed up to avoid drafts.

This is just another one of those cultural differences (though it doesn’t necessarily apply everywhere —the children of the indigenous people run around barefoot most of the time even in the snow) that makes life interesting.

One culture’s customs and traditions are neither right nor wrong, they simply are what they are. To me, the differences are what makes life more enjoyable. Do you agree?

Bricks and stones…

When I first arrived in Taxco, I watched in amazement as a one story building on the street side, which revealed a three story caved-in structure on the back began to be transformed into a beautiful multi-story edifice with covered balconies and beautiful views.

Quite the transformation right?

What is even more amazing is how the work is done — by hand! There are no cranes to lift bricks to the second, third, or higher floors, they are carried there a few bricks at a time. And if you need supplies delivered to an inaccessible location. Where there is a will there is a way.

Cement is mixed by hand, put into buckets, poured into the forms (which were also created by hand), and so it goes, day by day by day, little by little, one brick at a time until eventually walls, and doors, and balconies appear where there was only air.

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It took three years, but now there are some mighty fine looking rooms (habitacions) at the Hotel de Mineral de la Taxco  ready for occupation.

Rain Dance

Sunrise, cloudless sky, Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoI have awakened every morning for the past 10 days to the glow of another perfectly cloudless day. Some would say, “How wonderful! No chance of rain to spoil your activities.” And that is true.

However, the flip side of that is that if there is no rain, the river and underground sources of water that quench the thirst of this city dry up. I have not heard the water fall but once for a very short time in the past two weeks. This means the water in the cistern is getting low and lower; not quite empty, but close.

With an extra person living in the house now, that means we use even more water. Add when a group of 7 or 8 relatives just show up for the weekend, all the extra bathing, toileting and dirty dishes that needed to be washed, well…

Last week when I was confined because of my knee, I could thankfully get water at the laundry area on my patio. I purchased a calentador (an electric heating coil) to heat water in a bucket so I did not have to carry or have carried hot water to bathe with.

Water heater

Water heater (calentador)

Shortly thereafter, though, the cistern level was too low to get any from that source. So I have been carrying (or more accurately lifting and setting two steps at a time) a bucket up one flight. Thankfully, not three.

Last night, even that appears to have come to an end. As I drew water for flushing the toilet, I was able to get only 1/2 bucket from the tap. I do hope that the strong, young teenager of the house is willing to schlep a bucket of water up to the roof each day because though I am up to the challenge of hefting it one floor, my knee, still a little weak from my fall, has all it can do to lift me up three flights of stairs without adding 25-30 pounds of water.

Maybe it is time to pray for rain or at least that the water department bless us with a little “fall.” Actually, at this point it might be best to run out completely so we can clean out the cistern and buy water to fill it up.

But you know…

Things could be worse; at least we have water in the house. Vanessa reported that the house they put her in in San Luis Potosi has none at all, except during the rainy season (which this is not). She must go to the house of a friend two blocks away (where they have plenty of water) to bathe.

Sometimes in another country life is truly an adventure.

So, when you turn on your faucet today, and clean, drinkable water comes rushing out, think of the millions in this world who do not have that luxury. And please, don’t waste even a single drop, for as a friend here said recently, “You can live without heat, or food, or electricity, you can live without a lot of things, but you cannot live without water.”

You don’t know what you are missing

It is said, “That you do not know what you have until its gone.” In other words, take nothing for granted.

I was very aware that I could not see the sunrise in Ocotito, mostly because I did not know where to go to see it. Lil’s parent’s house was on the wrong side of the hill, the house was dark until well after sunrise, and the yard was too obscured by trees to see much of anything anyway.

Even the one sunset I managed to catch was a bit mild mannered.

So imagine my joy and wonder as the sky welcomed me back to Taxco with riotous color this morning!

There was even color over the Zocolo!

Sunrise over Zocolo, Taxco de Alarcon, MexicoOh sunrise, how I have missed thee!

Makes me realize just what a wonderful vantage point I have to view this glorious show each morning.

I will never take this view for granted.

Simple Pleasures

It is a beautiful day in the neighborhood!

Sunrise, Taxco de Alarcon, Mexico

The water has been “falling” for long periods of time for three days. Every day I would turn on the bathroom faucet hoping to see water come out.

No, no, nope!

This morning I turned on the faucet and, lo and behold, water. Hooray! No more heating water in the kitchen (which adds 20-25 minutes to my morning routine), or carrying a bucket of hot water up to the fourth floor to take a bucket shower.

With an extra person in the house, who I just learned shares the water in my tank, resources are still scarce so I compromised. I got wet, turned the water off and soaped up, then turned the hot stream on again to rinse off. OK I luxuriated an extra moment under that heavenly stream of hot water (do you blame me?) but not much. I want this tank of water to last awhile.

Funny thing is, I just got my shower back here and I am going to the country for a week and it is back to a bucket shower.

Will give you a full accounting of my trip when I return.

Taking Things for Granted – Agua

I admit it, I am guilty!

After being so careful about my water usage for months, when the pump was installed to send water to the roof, I was giddy with excitement. Water, was mine, whenever I needed it!

With the prospect of water at the turn of the handle, each and every day, I got a little extravagant. Not a lot, but I treated myself to a long, hot shower or two, or three — okay, a couple of weeks worth. It just feels so good to ease into the day under a stream of hot water.

Well, I paid for my extravagance (don’t we all eventually?) because I woke up this morning to a pitiful dribble which signaled the end to my showering, at least for now.

In investigating the situation, it seems that “la bomba esta defectivo y no esta trabajador.” (The pump is defective and it’s not working.) So it is back to carrying a pot of hot water up three flights of stairs. That will teach me.

Bucket shower supplies

Showering essentials: hot water, cold water, and a calibrator….

 

Did you know that water weighs 8.34 pounds per gallon (at 62 degrees)?

Now that raises the question, does it weigh more at 200 degrees or less when it is frozen solid? After all ice floats.

Hmmmm, inquiring minds want to know.

Launderia

After nearly two months of being very careful about my water usage, washing shirts, skirts, pants, and undies, every day in the bucket of cold water that precedes the hot through the shower pipes, and airing out my sheets in the sunshine and breeze, I decided with more water at my disposal, it was time to do the laundry –  the sheets, comforter, my towel, all those big or heavy things that don’t easily fit into a bucket — although I have managed from time to time.

Laundry on the lineThough there is an automatic washer, it is not like in the States where you put in the dirty clothes, add soap, turn the machine on, and walk away, returning later to clean clothes. No, here you have to watch the machine.

First, you grab a hose and fill the tub of dirty clothes with water from the cistern, then you turn the washer on and let it wash. When you hear it start to spin the clothing, you intercept it before it starts to refill with rinse water and repeat the water from the hose procedure once more. Then you let it go through the rinse and spin cycle, and when it is all done, you hang the clothing on the roof top lines.

Even when I wash my clothes in the bucket, I have it easy, I can use the machine to spin the clothes, so I do not have to wring them by hand. It also happens that my roof top lines are attached to regular t-shaped clothes poles on the room sized balcony outside my room, so I have easy access.

At other houses, they wash and rinse the clothes by hand in a concrete “tub,” wring them out, and carry them to the roof, where they pin or string them from cords tied to the re-bar, sticking up from the floor below, and maybe the TV antenna. And, sometimes they just “hang” the clothes from whatever is handy including a railing, fence post, or even a shrub or tree.

No matter how you hang ’em, there is not much that smells sweeter than laundry dried in the sun and breeze.

Doing laundry in MexicoDo you hang your clothing outside and breathe deeply the scent of sunshine and fresh air when you bring them in?

 

 

 

Water Woes

In Mexico, you cannot just turn on the faucet and expect that water will flow out. The city sends water, on a schedule that only they know, to different neighborhoods at different times, when they feel like sending it. And sometimes, during dry spells or when workers are off during holiday periods, maybe not at all.

To make sure that they have water when they need it, everyone here has a cistern or a water tank or two or more, or both a cistern and water tank(s), so when the water “falls,” they can capture it for use later. Some in poorer, less serviced areas even fill their yards with various containers to capture rain water, lest they run out. And when the water “falls,” you capture as much as you can.

In this house, the city water fills the cistern for the rest of the house first, before it fills the tank on the roof. This is adequate most of the year, since my room is vacant, but can be a bit problematic when I am here. If the city does not send enough water to fill the cistern, the water never makes it to the water tank on the roof, and I have no water! I have to resort to carrying buckets up the spiral staircase for washing and flushing the toilet. A might inconvenient.

Ready to take a bucket shower, MexicoAs happens at least once every year, I ran out of water recently. No problem. I heated water on the stove, carried it upstairs, and took a bucket shower. Sounds a bit primitive, but actually a bucket shower is a very efficient and water saving way to bathe.  All you need is a bucket of warm water, a bowl, and your soap. You simply pour a bowlful of water over your body, soap up, and use the bowl again to rinse off.  You can even wash yesterday’s clothes or your underwear, all in a gallon or two of water. The average American runs more than that down the drain just brushing their teeth.

When I came back at noon the next day, I found the front door wide open (very unusual), pvc  pipe and tools all over the front room, and a burly plumero and several younger ones (most likely his sons) pounding, drilling, and running in and out.   Irma said something about water and Rotoplas (the water tank on my roof) but I didn’t fully understand her flurry of Spanish.

Shortly thereafter someone was pounding on my roof and I heard water running into the tank. Appears there will be more water and fewer dry spells in my future.

What is your “water sense?” Check here for 100 ways to conserve water useage.

How do your conserve water where you are?

Teloloapan

A little over an hour, and two buses, north and west of Taxco is the town of Teloloapan,  where mi amiga ,Vanessa, lived when she first came to Mexico.

We went for a special event and stayed with Pedro and Bonfilla (hope that’s spelled correctly) and their family, whom Vanessa had gotten to know in the States.

The family runs a tienda, a little neighborhood store, high on a hillside overlooking town, though not quite as high as his parents’ house which has a fabulous view of the city.

They literally live “above the store,” which is only a few steps from the open door to their living room. Rather than having to sit and “man the store”, this arrangement allows them to be doing something in the living or kitchen area and still hear and greet customers as they come in.

Tienda, Teloloapan, MexicoLike a PDQ, they sell a little of everything — things one might need immediately, avoiding a time consuming trip to the big market downtown. Children come in for candy or snacks and are often sent to get milk, cheese, or Coke  for the meal while mama is cooking.

 

 

Grinding corn into masa, Teloloapan, MexicoThe day starts early as, each morning, neighborhood women bring their corn to be ground into masa so they can make fresh tortillas for the day’s meals.

The family, their parents, and even neighbors up the street, hosted a house full of company from other towns, far and wide. Everyone congregated at their house for a simple dinner of beans and hot homemade tortillas with fresh salsa roja (red) and, of course, Coca (Cola.)   We laughed, we talked, we shared photos of family — a good time was had by all. Every bed in the house, and even makeshift pallets on the floor provided a good night’s rest.

Making breakfast the following morning proved to be a bit of a challenge as we discovered that we had run out of gas for cooking and heating water. Being Sunday and not being able to get more until Monday, cooking was done the old fashioned way — over an open fire.

Calabasa (squash), Teloloapan, MexicoAn overhang in the yard protects the cooking area from rain and the relentless sun. A big pot of corn boiled away in the corner (to be ground into masa later), water was heated for baths (aka bucket showers) in the other, and in between tortillas were made (even we gingos got in on the act) and a pan of hot coals cooked other breakfast items — huevos (eggs), frijoles (beans), salsa, and a huge pot of calabasa (squash).

Cooked slowly with piloncillo, cones of natural brown sugar, the squash  turns into a delectable, mouth watering treat, to be served, sometimes with milk, for breakfast or as a snack or desert. MMMMMMM!

After breakfast, we all piled into the car and drove to the assembly grounds, where an old quarry site was transformed for the day with the aid of a makeshift tent, made out of corn and flour sacks, which provided much needed shade from the hot sun. I loved watching the wind ripple through the floating panels to the end where, with a poof, it escaped once more to the open air. Almost as interesting as cloud watching.

I am always amazed at the resourcefulness of the people here; nothing useful ever goes to waste.