Saturday, March 31, 2007

Power is Different in Chacala

In this case I am thinking of how charges for household use of electrical power are determined in Chacala. In Mexico, all household electrical power is supplied by the State-managed electric power (CFE) authority. Often people who visit or move here from other countries are not aware of Mexican billing practices, and the result can often be much higher power bills than expected. Whether or not you or your landlady pay the electric bills it’s worth understanding how the charges are determined.

Newcomers are often shocked that the difference between their power bill and those of their neighbors, next door. Who have fewer appliances. Like small fridges, no automatic washer and dryer, no air conditioning, and no outside security lights, and so on.Views from inside the newly remodeled older building above the muelle beach.
It's very beautiful and will soon be some kind of retail enterprise. maybe
And sometimes local people who don’t understand how they are charged end up with large bills without understanding why. A restaurant owner or householder who allows someone to run an extension cord from their house or place of business often accrue very large bills. Whatever the borrower wasn’t paying usually doesn’t cover the increase in usage and rates.

The major difference from what I was used to in the U.S., and here in Chacala, is that the more kilowatt hours (KWH) you use, the more you pay for each KWH.
I think in most parts of the U.S./Canada the opposite is true. The more power you use there, the cheaper the KWH for all the power you useAnyway, I don’t know why they have this system here in Mexico, but I like it because it encourages conservation. Sort of. Of course, that rate system is mainly for household use. I have been told large power users, like aluminum foundries, etc, have their own rates. And that some huge manufacturing complexes, often international businesses, seem to have preferential power rates as part of the package the Mexican government offers to induce large manufacturers to set up plants in Mexico. But I don't know much about that. Only what I read in the papers.Wall at the old building near the muelle
In any case. This system of billing should have some impact on your use of household electricity. Leaving lights or fans on when you are out of the house raises the rate for every KWH. It costs you, or your landlady, money.

Leaving ceiling fans on in your absence does not cool your house. Fans cool you, not the air. Leaving the fan on only cools the air when the air outside is cooler than the air inside. Usually very early in the morning. And then only if your fans are set up correctly, to move air thru the house. Overhead fans generally do not draw cool air into the house. They pass a breeze over the moisture on your skin, which is cooling.

Leaving outdoor lights on all night are probably not the most cost effective why to provide security at your home. Leaving fans and lights on when you are not using unnecessarily raises your power bill. And night lights make it harder to see the stars. Truck fixing the paved town, always torn up by speeding trucks
bringing dirt and rocks to the gated development.
And if you have a place on the sand, at the beach, and shine a high-powered light at the waves in the night, it draws to turtles to public beaches (like Chacala), where the eggs they lay will surely not survive. It fact, I have been told that it’s actually illegal in all of Mexico to shine strong lights on the beach at night. But little technicalities like local laws don’t bother some people in Chacala. .

Another consequence of the Mexican billing scheme will show up if you hook into your neighbor’s power when you are waiting for power to be installed at your new place. The meter reading will read for both you and your generous neighbor’s meter. The KWH usage will increase, and so will the rates for those hours. Sometimes doubles or tripling the rate. Depending on usage.

The CFE has a fee schedule for various levels of household electrical use. As soon as the CFE billing computers notice that the meter is showing a higher usage than is allowed for the rate you are assigned to, your rate is immediately increased. And generally it takes six months of lower usage to get your rate reduced to your original lower level again.

I don’t remember the names/numbers of the various rate schedules, but there are different schedules for different types of user. A house with six light fixtures, a fridge, and an electric water pump is probably at the second to lowest rate. A place with just a few lights and a small pump or fridge is probably paying the lowest rate per KWH. There are six levels within the lowest set of rates. And then there are higher , “gringo” rate for homes full of appliances and special lighting.

You can see that your generous friend who is sharing his power can end up with a serious financial problem. His bill will probably remain at the higher rate for six months after you get your own power. Even if you pay for the power you use, or even if you pay their whole power bill, while your need it, your friend will be paying a seriously inflated bill for another six months, even if they are back to paying for only one household. Because they will be paying a KHW two or three times higher than what they were originally paying.

And when you are renting, or staying, in someone else’s house, it’s important to remember that the extra KWH’s you will be using will probably bump up your landlady’s bills twice. Once for the extra KWHs you use, and again, because of the increased charge for those KWHs.

Awhile ago a local landlady here asked me to ask her tenant to stop leaving the fans on in rooms the tenant wasn’t using, or when gone from the house. And to turn off the lights when they weren’t being used. The person refused the landlady’s request. It wasn’t clear if this person understood the cost of the extra usage to the homeowner or not.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Shade for My Western Window

A few days ago it started getting alot hotter in the mid-afternoon here in Chacala. And I know it's going to get lot hotter as we move toward summer. The window over my bed faces west, and the sun really comes in starting about 3pm.

I asked Dona Lupe if it was okay for me to add some kind of sunshade for the window, and she okayed it. So I bought a couple of special clamps that attach to the steel techos beams.
And used them to attach a pole to the techos outside the window. There's a ledge to walk on out there. I had to borrow a ladder to attached the clamps. And install the pole.And to install the blue tarp. It matches the shade screen for the teraza, but it still looks kind of temporary. Oh well, it works.I added a cord along the bottom of the tarp so I can pull it out of the way when it's sunny. And so it doesn't block the breeze thru the windows. I can reach the cord from inside the teraza, so i don't have to clamber over the wall to tie the shade out of the way.

Marta's Garden

This morning I visited Marta at her restaurant, Mars Tres. Marta had a beautiful bouquet from her garden on one of her tables. I thought she was not happy with me a few days ago, and asked her niece about it. Apparently she told Marta, and Marta came out on the street and dragged me into the restaurant. So that was nice. We walked back to her garden, and admired the yellow rose Carolina had given her. And the red rose from Lonnie. They went back to Alabama a few weeks ago, after their semi-annual visit to Chacala. And we all miss them.

Marta had a packet of seeds for me, from the red plant. It was really breezy and the blossom wouldn't stand still for me, so it's kind of fuzzy. I know the name, but don't know how to spell it. But I think she gave me the packet of seeds because yesterday I gave her a Kalanachoe (sp?) plant I gave her yesterday.
I was at the nursery yesterday and these plants were 10 pesos (90 cents) each. I got several of them. For Dona Lupe and for Gracia.One of Dona Lupe's Aloe Vera's is blooming today. It looks so beautiful. It looks like many of the Aloes around town are blooming this week. I am trying to writie down when each plant blooms so I can keep track. Of course, alot of plants here blossom all the time.

And the papaya plant in front of the house is really growing quickly. With lots of fruit. I am hoping it keeps growing and shades my second story room. But we'll see. I never know when my landlady's husband will go nuts with the machete, "cleaning" things up. The darker blue blossoms right in front of the papaya are blossoms from a water lily plant. They are very beautiful, and look a little like irises.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Semana Santa is Coming, This Weekend

Chacala is looking a lot different this past couple of weeks. There are only two motor homes in the palm grove this morning, and both have been here for more than three months. But they are on their way out, I guess.There are fewer and fewer Non-Mexican tourists here now, but I still see plenty of pale faces around town. Or sunburned ones. Majahua very busy right now, and Mirador almost full. It looks like Mar de Jade has a group of guests. And there visitors sprinkled around town. The third Habitat for Humanity group is here for a four or five more days.
There are usually about 8 yachts, sail boats anchored off the Chacala beach. This morning I watched four pull out, heading north. I always watch for them to put up their sails as they leave, but mostly they motor away.There is a lot of remodeling and rebuilding going on along cuesto row, on the beach road. Thee are five little markets in town now: Juanita’s, Koko Bongo’s, Juan’s, Franky's and Angeles’s two tiendas, and now Jorge’s. Jorge’s used to have only a phone service and sold beer, refrescos, and snacks. But they are adding groceries now, a least for Semana Santa.The stores are all jam-packed with supplies right now. More delivieries every day. A few days ago Koko Bongos had a wall 15 foot long, built with cases of beer. They are all put away somewhere now, but it looked pretty cool.Of course, during Semana there will be many little temporary stores, opened by camping family’s, every fifty feet or so. All over the place. You never have to walk more than a few steps to buy toilet paper and water and whatever.

Last Semana Santa I was camping on the beach. It was sometimes a little overwhelming, but basically it was fun to see all the big families and little kids.I rarely heard fighting or screaming or crying children. It’s much different than camping in the U.S.. Much nicer. People seem to get along with each other better somehow.Yesterday I was walking along the beach, right about where the tide was coming in. I suddenly had a pretty severe pain on the bottom of the foot. It really hurt. I walked back to see what I had stepped on, and couldn’t find anything. My footprints were very clear, but I didn’t have a stick. And was afraid to dig with my fingers, thinking maybe somehow a sting ray was buried in the sand.It seem unlikely, because I wasn’t actually walking in the water. But right above, within inches, of where the tidal water coming up on the beach. The tide was going out, but maybe there was a sting ray buried an inch or so under the sand. I never heard of such a thing before, but how knows?

I have only seen one sting ray in Chacala, in three and a half-years (almost), and it was in the sand out where the water was about 6 feet deep. So how knows. It really hurt for about five minutes. But I started walking in the water, and that seemed to help. Within maybe 30 minutes I couldn’t even tell I had been stung with whatever it was.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Feds Clear a Palapa Hut from the Playa

A very short-lived era may have come to an end in Chacala this last week. According to neighbors, the Federal agency that manages the land between Chico’s and Om’s tree, had a well-known palapa “house” torn down a few days ago.I think most people thought of it as Buddy’s place , or XXXX’s house. I can’t remember XXX’s name. A big guy from Oregon. But actually it was just Federal land, and maybe the owner of Delphins was paying for a Federal concession there. But I don’t know the truth of that.

There are lots of different versions of who had control over that space. But the house, a palapa covered rectangle, is gone. Buddy had done a nice job of planting cacti and bougainvillea around the place, and kept the lawn mowed. But he left Chacala a year or so a go, and there’s no shade or shelter there. Semana Santa crowds will be moving in, with families camping everywhere, and temporary restaurants and a variety of stores, all along the road thru the palm grove.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Taxes in Chacala

Yesterday I was walking down the dirt road that borders Chacala beach area. I was headed down to the little computer place that’s been open on weekends most of this winter. It will be open everyday starting next Thursday. For Semana Santa. Very handy for me.

It’s in one of the little palapa shack places, called either “puestos” or “cuestos”, on the non- beach side of the road. It’s one of about 25 other similar structures. I haven’t figured out how it all works. I assume it’s government land, because of where it is, but I don’t understand who gets which spots or if they pay rent, and if they do, to whom?I think the CFE (Federal Electricity Commission) regularized all the electrical connections for the cuestos last year. Everyone seems to have a meter now. Before there were wires and extension cords running all over the place.

I think about half the cuesto spaces are in business year-around. And many of those have families living behind them. Under roofs, with toilets and electricity. Then there are the places that are only open during holidays and three day weekends. Three are places with public showers and toilets, and there are restaurants and whatever that only open for big tourist days.

I have been curious about how the whole set-up works, and yesterday I saw a piece of the process. I know the cuesto people have regular meetings, and they seem to be well attended. But I have no idea who call them, who leads them, or what they are talking about. It seems inappropriate for me to stand at the back of the meeting area and listen. But someday my curiosity might get the best of me.These guys, who are tax guys from Compostella, the municipio (county seat) were marking off the temporary cuesto places on the beach side of the beach road. There’s a barbed wire fence a long that area. It’s intended to control access to the beach camping area that Delphin’s restaurant seems to control. Where most of the motor homes park, mid-December thru early March.Lalo is one of the town’s leaders, (in the middle), was talking with the two tax guys.And another guy was using a tape measure to mark the places. I think they were tying rag markers along the fence.There was quite a crowd watching the action. And quite a bit of give and take between the local people (mainly Chacala and Las Varas people) and the officials. These two women have business in the cuesto or beach area.Lalo seemed to be acting as the advocate for the observers, but I’m not really sure what was happening. There seemed to be some upset voices, but I didn’t really understand.I do know that in the next week there will be cuesto’s built all along both sides of the road, heading out toward Las Varas. And the Semana Santa fun will have begun.

Pigs and Turkeys Around Chacala

I caught I ride home to Chacala today with a local friend, who lives in Las Varas. He seems to have lots of different business dealing going on, and one of them is raising hogs. It’s a family venture on his Dad’s place and a brother is involved too.I am starting to have the impression that many folks around this area have a family rancho in the area, and then actually live in town. “Rancho” is probably an exaggeration.Some of the places might be two hectares. It’s hard to tell.This a heavily agricultural area: fruit trees, bananas, pineapple, cattle, hogs, vegetables corn, grain, tobacco. All kinds of things.My friend asked if I wanted to check out his new pig set-up. The previous one was in an orchard area of his family’s place.Once, about a year ago, his family and I went out to drop some restaurant garbage off at the pig place. And to spray off the pigs with water. When it’s really hot I guess they have to do that every afternoon, to cool the pigs off.

Anyway, we drove out to the place, about a mile off the Las Varas-Chacala road, and stopped at the side of a field. The pigs and ducks were kind of co-existing, with a turkey, who watching over the whole group.I think there were maybe a hundred hogs of various sizes all together. Some in ugly cement roofed pens, and others in open field areas. Separated by size.

I had never seen the back-side of an almost full-sized hog before and I was kind of impressed with this guy.These little guys were about five days old.He told me that they grow wheat and corn on the place for feed for the hogs. I saw a plot that was maybe 3/4s of an acre right close to the pens. I would be curious to see how they harvest such small fields.

This turkey kind of ignored me at first.But when he realized I was taking photos he starting showing his stuff. Pretty big guy.I forgot to ask why they had a turkey there, but I suspect he is a guard turkey.A worker sleeps in a little shed on the place, as security. It probably helps to have a turkey around, as well as a couple of dogs.

Churches in San Juan de Los Lagos

I’m glad I visited San Juan de Los Lagos, north of Guadalajara, but I probably wouldn’t return there. The churches were lovely, and the people were very friendly. Except for the odd bus driver leaping from his bus to attack a horn-blower.Anyway, the churches were very nice. There were about six of them within easy walking distance, and I could see some other churches across the empty river bed. There was a pedestrian bridge (no car bridge that could see) but I didn’t feel like making the walk. There were cars across the riverbed, I just couldn’t see the access road.My latest pair of flip-flops are a little big, and I have been tripping a lot.
They weren’t very comfortable for walking around town. Anyway. These photos are of some of the churches. I only took interior shots of the Cathedral. It was very beautiful inside.I was at the Cathedral several times, during Masses, and after. And there were always a number of people in the pews. In my memory, I think most Mexican churches I have visited didn’t have many parishioners in them.Maybe it’s something to do with San Juan de Los Lagos being the site of a famous series of miracles. The main plaza is filled with vendors selling miracle-related objects. And there were maybe a hundred stores selling religious objects. Like tee-shirts with San Juan on them.I haven’t had a chance to learn about what the idea is behind building these magnificent churches. But I sure like to look at them. They make most Protestant churches look pretty pathetic.