Friday, July 13, 2007

Living Where I Live, in Chacala

I have lived in this particular Chacala rental for about 16 months (6 months, then 1 month, and currently, for 9 months. The things I love about my place here are:
- the location (less than two blocks to the beach and stores, next door to my first friends in Chacala),
-the light in my room and the cross-breeze
-the view (one of the really good ocean views in Chacala), and being on the second floor (the whole second floor). My bedroom and patio and bath take up the upstairs. So there are no side or above neighbors, and it feels pretty private.
-And I am surrounded by greenery, on the three non-ocean sides.This is a cement water tank where the new downststairs neighbors wash their clothes. Before that is was where water was stored before it was pumped up to the tinaco. Full of small dead animals and crud of various kinds. Absolutey disgusting. After three year, it was finally cleaned out last month. The day after my landlord's husband pumped the filth up into the brand clean tinaco I had just cleaned out (first time in five years) and filled with clean water.
There are two rooms downstairs, with a shared bath between. The local family that built this rental with a loan, labor, and guidance from Techos de Mexico program, lived in the downstairs rooms until this past winter. Those rooms have rough cement floors, cement bath, no tile, toilet doesn’t’ function no screens, no fans, and it’s generally dirty. One of the walls was bare brick (lots of hidey holes for insects, etc) until a couple of months ago. Then the wall was plastered with cement. No paint. Not very appealing place to live.This is the water barrel for flushing the downstairs toilet.
But more and more Mexican working people are looking for places to stay in Chacala. So places that no one would have considered living in before are now being rented. In the past the two lower rooms at this house were very rarely rented. Really only during Semana Santa and Christmas week. To large families who weren’t fussy about bathrooms, etc. But this past month both rooms have been rented, probably for the long term.It’s pretty hard to live here sometimes.

I have to remember, I am very lucky. The rent is affordable and the downstairs rooms are rented to two very nice and very hard working and clean young couples. They call their partners esposo and esposa, (husband and wife), but I suspect they are living together and not formally married. That doesn’t seem be an issue in Mexico. My impression is you are novio /novia (boyfriend/girlfriend) until you are keeping house together and sharing resources. Then you are esposo/esposa. I think some people get married once a baby is on the way. But I am not sure about that.

The couple right below me sells pineapples on the beach. They are cut and sliced like little boats, and other fruit is added. They are served on flat Styrofoam plates, which of course, end up on the beach. I picked up 27 yesterday, walking home along the beach.
This morning Sulma, the young girl, asked me if I had a piece of rope to dry her laundry on. I found a piece and we wandered around behind the house, looking for a place to make a clothesline. We finally tied it from the hammock tree to the bogeda door. I gave her some extra clothespins and hangers too.Zule is 20, and is an actress. Juan, her esposo is 26, and is a musician. He makes instruments. Maybe drums. I am not sure. They both dress is a very artistic style and look wonderful together. I think I actually have a photo of Juan from the La Penita market last winter. Playing a drum.

Zupe came up to my room to see the kittens, (now 12 days old, with eyes open). She was very interested in my work area. Especially my beads, and shells and oyster shells. And little this and that’s. She showed me the earrings of oyster shell she was wearing. A friend of hers made them.

So far, for five days, Juan and Zule have been very pleasant neighbors. They even have an old Datsun pickup, which they load with their fruit stand business supplies every morning, to take down to the beach.

The other couple, Susie and Luis, is older, but also clean and hardworking. And quiet. Of course neither couple seems to have a boom box or TV. It might be a different story if they did. Susie and Luis work endless hours at Las Brisas. I would be curious to know what they are paid. I think meals are included.

So far we are all being careful with the water. I am trying to accustom myself to showers mid-day, leaving the tinaco water for them before and after work, when the town water isn’t on. It’s only a problem if I am going to town ( and want an early morning shower), but I only do that once a week or less. I was so anxious about the water, but it seems to be working out.

My landlady and her husband were at the house at 7am. For their once a month sweeping of the front steps. I don’t think they realize that I daily sweep, fill the water containers and pick-up the trash. And provide a trash container, pay for it to be hauled away, and pick up the trash from the construction trucks (bottles and wrappers mainly) along the road in front of the house. And generally keep things going.

A few day ago a friend of mine who speaks Spanish and English went over my list of repairs for this house with my landlady. She was not interested at all in any repairs, and seemed amazed that someone might think she was responsible for them. But she did tell my friend she wished I would paint the house (and buy the paint).

She is not interested in a installing an additional or a larger tinaco, providing a trash can, fixing the downstairs toilet, fixing the water supply line to the tinaco, having the septic hibe pumped out, fixing the staircase to the upstairs (it’s breaking away from the house), fixing the leaking roof and bathroom ceilings, or installing a regular electrical connection.

Well, the upside is, the problems here probably keep the rent down for me. I have shown this place to many potential gringo renters over the past three years, and they almost always say, “I don’t think so”.

Anyway, aside from my anxiety about the water supply, so far I am enjoying my new neighbors. Time will tell I guess. And I love my view and privacy, and location. I am trying to remember that, and sometimes that's hard.
Here are photos of Gracie's kitties. Their eyes are open and they are 13 days old.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are a remarkable woman! You live in very difficult conditions and yet you try your best to see the good in it. You enjoy your neighbors and you work hard to make the world a better place to live. If only more people were like you!