Sunday, September 30, 2007

Designing a Home in Chacala's Climate

These photos are just shots of doors, not related to this post
I supposed it's obvious that I am a very opinionated person on some topics about Chacala. Examples being: screaming jetskis filling the air with fumes and the water with petroleum residues. Drunk teens and adults driving motos. Children driving motos and jetskis. Draining a motor home's toilet's (black water) into a hole in the sand under a motor home on Chacala's lovely beach. Or glass bottles being left on the beach. Or dogs that that bark at strangers during the day. And dogs the require leashes because their owners haven't trained them to voice commands. And dogs who jump on children on the beach. Speeding trucks driving thru Chacala.I also have a strong opinion about building anything in Chacala without attention to climatic conditions, water drainage, and natural features in the landscape. Environmental concerns. I am ignoring, for the moment, issues like ugly buildings, and buildings built with no concern for their impact on the neighborhood. Or buildings with no space reserved for parking. Or poorly designed buildings with structural problems, that were built without the oversight of an competent, experienced architect/engineer. Or buildings that push the limits of regulations about height and access. And so on.I think in the past, when local people in Chacala first started building with concrete, bricks, and blocks, people didn't know much about cross-ventilation, natural light, and shading. My guess is that they mainly wanted watertight roofs and some security. But times have changed.

Maybe it's time to try to build structures appropriate to the environment and the climate. And with some energy efficiency. This obliviousness to climatic and other environmental issues seems to be continuing in Chacala. Right now I see places being built in Chacala with no apparent awareness of the importance of climate in designing any building. In my opinion, a home is just more comfortable and affordable to live in if it is designed with an awareness of how the sun, shade, and breezes hit the house through-out the year.

There are question to consider when designing the building. Is attention being is paid to the prevailing winds, and to where the rain come from? Are there underground springs above, on or under your lot? Where does the watershed drain in relation to your lot? What will happen to rainwater if all the vegetation is removed from the hillside?
It seems to me that a designer has to balance keeping the sun and rain out of the house, and letting the natural light and breezes in. Cross ventilation is a necessary in a town with high air temperature and humidity for half the year.

Houses need to be oriented in relation to the sun, not just the lot-line and the road. With an awareness of how and where the sun will enter the house during different seasons. And where the shade will be, and during what seasons. And where the water will flow from the roof during a heavy rain. And where the rain will be able to enter the house. Where rainwater that collects around the building will drain off to. The designer could be aware of the prevailing winds and breezes, in order to cool the house naturally and provide protection from wind-driven rainstorms.

Chacala's high humidity requires good natural ventilation. Bathrooms must have adequate natural ventilation. Not just the 8"X 8" screened hole in the upper wall. Bathrooms need natural light in addition to adequate ventilation. Nothing like going into a moldy, damp, smelly bathroom for a shower. Storage for clothing and linen also need to be well ventilated with fresh air, and light. And to have protection from rain and sunlight. Clothes hanging in closets or folded in drawers during the summer get mildewy very quickly. And folded clothes and linens make nice snug dark, dry, and warm homes for scorpions. Any place that you can't see under or around is a potential home of creepy-crawlies.

Outside covered patios are important for comfortable living in this tropical climate. Attention should be paid in order to make sure the patios are shaded year round. There are a number of new houses around Chacala with patios that can't be used because they were built without attention to sun/shade issues. Windows have been placed on east, south, and west walls with no shade from the sun. Or protection from the rain. There are homes with where windows must be closed during rainstorms. Result? No cooling breezes. And when the power goes out (regularly during rainstorms) you have no breeze, no fan, and no air. Some of the new buildings around town have exterior doors with no protection from the rain. And patios that are too small for even a little plastic chair and too hot to sit on.

Once in awhile I ask someone who is building a house (developer, builder, or owner) some questions about things like cross-ventilation in their home. And often they say gaily, "That' s no problem, this house will have air conditioning!!!!

A Baby Surfer in Chacala

It's just a perfect day in Chacala, at least so far. Sunny since dawn. Hot but not so humid . Fresh and clear and lovely.I was down on the beach about 8am and there were a few people in the water. It's a perfect temperature. Warm, but not like bathwater. Very refreshing.This little girl was very focused on the water and her little board.
I loved watching her.
I didn't actually see her floating in the surf on the board, but she was trying.
And she managed to just about everything else you can think of. Except standing on her head.
She was so focused. Checking the water, watching the waves.
Getting out of the way when the water came in too deep and too fast for her.
Very precious. What a wonderful experience for such a little child. Just her, the board, the sand, the water, the sun. And her folks watching closely from the beach, but not interfering at all. Lucky, lucky little girl.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Water on Chacala Paved Road, Update

When I am writing about the messed-up paved road in Chacala, this map shows the road I am describing. It runs from the top center of the photo, to the left, with an abrupt ninety degree angle turn before it heads toward the security gate of the development. The section I am talking about is the section of that road where it's closest to the beach.

This morning the Chacala water maintenance guy, Julio, came by. He talked for a minutes with the worker, who came back first thing this morning. He has been clearing the mud from the water ditch on the hill side of the road. Really good worker. Steady. I didn't hear the conversation, but a half hour later I noticed the worker had dug out the drainage ditch on the ocean side of the road. I don't know if the worker thought of if himself, or heard me yesterday, or listened to Julio, or maybe his boss told him to do it.

The water from that escape spot drains into a small arroyo that empties maybe a 1/2 mile square ara of runoff from the residential zone between the paved road and the dirt road. The one that goes by the school. I have tried to track where that water goes, but both Martine and Lalo, who live down there, say there's no drainage problem at their end.
I just took another Coke down to the worker, Delfino. We talked for a minute while we cleared away the little brick bridge I made. He went to the U.S. with his Mom when he was a little kid. Near L.A. Lived there eight years. Never really went to school. Loves Mexico, but wants to return to the U.S. with his wife and kids because of the opportunities. He said his boss, here in Chacala, is a good guy and pays more than bosses in Las Varas. We talked about learning to read with his little boy, a 1st grader. ( I have no idea why this is blue, it won't turn off.)

It rained most of the night. A soft rain. And it's been raining off and on all morning. I guess it will be a good test of the current road fix. Actually, I am kind of optimistic. On the other hand, it's not to my benefit for the road to be a smooth ride for speeding big trucks. I do appreciate thoughtful workmanship though, alot.
So, we'll see what happens next.This is the Mars Tres rental with three units, upstairs. It's just across the road from the sand and the beach. It's back away from the road far enough to avoid traffic and people noise. The rooms are very nice, and share a view patio with hammocks. And the restaurant is open all the time, with good, affordable food. It's my favorite restaurant in town. NEVER have been sick after eating there. Never heard of anyone being sick after eating there.Contact me at alatawah@gmail for info and reservations or call Martine and Marta directly at 011 52 327 219 4004 if you speak Spanish. it's a good spot to check out if you aren't going to make reservations. Clean, nice, two years old, great owners.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Dead of the Dead in Coming to Chacala. Not Really

Sometimes I have errands in Las Varas or Las Penita, the two towns nearest Chacala. They have banks, doctors, and plant nurseries there. A few days ago I had to get to an ATM to withdraw a reservation deposit someone had deposited in my U.S. bank account.

I left home about 8am. As I was walking down my steps to the road, the newer collectivo driver zipped by at about 70mph (thanks to the newly graded road). He didn't hear me yelling, and then it turned out he didn't even down into town to pick-up people waiting at the store. I walked on down to the store, saw the people waiting, and decided to just start walking. I walked as far as where the paved road and the beach road meet, and waited there.
The first thing I noticed was that instead of hiring men to hand machete the very tall weeds by the sides of the road out to the highway, this year someone had sprayed the weeds with some chemical. From past observation, probably someone who can't or won't read the instructions, doesn't understand mixing the powered or liquid chemicals with water, and won't wear gloves or masks. Very scary and sad.The trash was piling up again. Tourist and workers love to toss stuff out of trucks. The good children of Chacala can hardly keep up with the mess. But they try.

I have about a 8 minute capacity for waiting for a ride, and forgot to bring a book. So after 9 minutes of waiting, I took out my camera and looked for things to take photos of. A few drivers stopped who were driving back toward Chacala stopped to chat. And Guillermo and his daughter stopped for me, but they were only going as far at the town well, a few miles down the road.

I ended up waiting about 15 minutes for a ride with Frank and Frankie, who was on his way to public kindergarten in Las Varas. There may be a Kinder teacher in Chacala tomorrow. We'll see.

Frank (Francisco) dropped me off at the Crucero (cross) de Chacala, where the Chacala road meets the highway. I started waiting for the taxi to La Penita. I was heading that way, south, because I had 100 ($9US) pesos set aside for new plants. And that's where the nurseries are.

I got really bored really quickly, waiting for the taxi to come back. Actually four came by, but they were all full.So I took out my camera again. The tienda at the Crucero is being remodelled on the highway side. apparently to be a liquor store. I really like the glass block around the windows.
I started taking shots of the fruit stands across the highway.
And noticed some strange decorations. I went across the highway, and one stand was filled with Day of the Dead decorations.
Skeletons and pumpkins mainly. At first I thought "oh pumpkins, maybe I can make a pie!"
Then I realized they were plastic.Chacala doesn't seem to celerate the Dead of the Day the way some areasin Mexico do.
the Lake near Patzcuaro has a huge deal, with lots of tourists. It's a toursit destination, the celebration I mean.

But in Chacala it's mainly the day(s) for families to visit their dead. At the cemeteries. And also at the roadside memorials for people who died in accidents along the highway. People make or buy huge tissue paper flower decorations for the graves and their homes. And buy or gather lots of flowers. On the two days when Day of the Dead is celebrated, you are likely to see pickup trucks filled with family members, headed to the cemeteries. I think they have picnics, and clean the graves, but I am not sure about that. Like Memorial Day in the U.S., sort of.

I was surprised to see the decorations for sale so early, a month away. But then I thought the U.S. with Halloween and Christmas. It's just merchandising, same all over the worldI finally got a ride after about 12.5 minutes. I practiced using the close-up feature on the camera for a couple of flower blossoms by the side of the road, and almost didn't see the collectivo/taxi coming by. But he saw me, and stopped for me.I always recognize this cab because of the creative and inventive use made of inner tube material, which seems to serve as a hinge.

I got out at the nursery on the east side of the highway, made a purchase, got another taxi to La Penita and the ATM, and then another taxi to the nursery near the Pemex and then another taxi from there to the Crucero. Only waited a minute or two each time. And then two minutes at the Crucero, where I caught the collectivo heading for home. I was gone for 2 hours and 15 minutes, but only found one plant, another Rose of the Desert. It's a big one with lot's of branches for growing cuttings. It cost 20p (1.80Us). My total taxi bill was 41 pesos. Under $3US. Cheaper than having a car, and much easier for me, except when I get bored waiting. But I am keeping better at finding things to occupy me while I am waiting.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

How to Be Rude in Mexico

I just read an interesting article (
about cultural/social differences between Mexicans and gringos. I think it's worth reading. And if you really do want to be rude in Mexico, now you will know exactly how to it.

I hope I typed the link in correctly for the "click" to this link.

I guess I familiar with most of the issues the authors describe. For example, apparently doing an "okay" sign by putting your thumb and first finger in a circle means something obscene in Mexico. I can just imagine was that might me.

Anyway, it's an-easy-to-read article, and I found it to be informative.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Another Fruitless Effort to Fix Chacala's Paved Road

I have edited this post to add an event that occured after I wrote the original version.

The general opinion around Chacala these days seems to be that it's rainy, hotter, and more humid that that was the past three summers. I agree completely. This week has been very unpleasantly hot and humid. The worst I remember, by far, in my limited, four year experience with Chacala's climate.

For the third time this past six months an effort is being made to fix damage to Chacala's only paved road. The damage began with a constant flow of spring water coming down onto the road from the hillside. And then worsened by the nightly rainstorms.A few years ago, during construction of the white hotel, several large springs were opened on the hillside above the paved road.. Since then two more building projects have opened up more springs on the hillside. The water runs down the road constantly, like a small stream. And when it rains, the spring water just gushes out on the road, in torrents. And then huge trucks carrying giant earth moving machinery, and dump trucks overloaded with dirt, rocks and gravel, just tear the muddy road apart. The trucks are mostly headed into the "development", and some to another project that requires heavy equipment. Most of the pavement seems to be destroy (excellent!!!?) in the 150 foot strip in the front on this house. Smashed to smithereens, I guess.

Of course, I personally, don't have a vehicle. And I have no problem with the trucks being forced to go slow and avoid killing people. I like the destroyed roads since they seem to slow down the speeding monster trucks a bit.
People who live along this paved road mostly seem okay with the road being a mess. Because it slows down the construction trucks and worker trucks from their normal 60 and 70 MPH, at least for a few feet. There are 10 or 11 little kids living along the paved road. And they walk to school and every where else along that curved road. Lots of adults walk there too. It's pretty dangerous. Too many vehicles driving too fast.

The previous repair job, a couple months ago, was a band aid repair. They mainly succeeded in blocking the outlet where the running water could go over the side of the road into the normal drainage arroyo on the ocean side of the road. So all the water ended up trapped on the road in front of where my neighbors and I live. Made a nice little lake and deep mud holes all over.

I think the person who arranged that roadwork tried to clean up the mess because his hotel guests were complaining about have to trek thru the deep mud and water to get to the beach. And back to the hotel. It's hard to walk thru that area in the dark. I know, since I do it everyday.This time the repair job was arranged by someone else, whose trucks and equipment go up and the down the road constantly. He told me he was fixing the road because he doesn't want his family vehicles being torn up.

Again, this repair job today didn't deal with effectively draining the water off the road either. Even with my helpful suggestions about open up the drainage area on the ocean side of the road.

The amazing thing what happened after this latest grader semi-blocked the new drainage ditch along the uphill side of the road. That ditch was dug by the last guys with big machines. A couple of days later, (today, as I write this) the guy brought a worker back to clean out the run-off ditch on the uphill side of the road. It had been filled in. It looks likes he's doing a thorough job, cleaning out mud and making room for the water to flow. I am very impressed. However, so far, the water still has no where to go except to puddle up in the road. Maybe he has a plan. But meanwhile, the water continues to end up in the middle of the road. '

Right now about half the water coming down the road from the hillside springs automoatically goes to the ocean side of the road. With the drainage space opened up again, all that water could go into the arroyo and on downhill. But right now, that water comes back over to the middle of the road and and joins the water coming down the hill side of the road. And ends up in a lake in front of my neighbors .But like I said, maybe this guy has a plan.

First me, and then Julio opened up the drainage space. That's two times. and two times graders have filled it in. I don't feel like doing it again. for one thing, my landlady's husband again walked off the pick I replaced the handle on. Oh w

So, after the 150 feet of "repaired" road, the water still doesn't have any place to go. No way to drain off the road. But I think it's definitely better than it was. However, each time some works on it, the road looks nice until the next rains, and then it's another big mess.This stretch of road looks smooth right now. More or less. And, of course, this afternoon, once the truck drivers noticed the change, by the end of the day today everyone was speeding right by here again. And maybe it will rain tonight, and maybe not.

Entrepenurial Chacala

Mexico, including Chacala, seems to be a land of small-time entrepenuers. Almost everyone seems to have more than one income producing project. Antonia, for example, besides being the mother of a young boy, manages a six-unit rental, Buena Vista, and sells something. I think it's Avon. And she seems to be very busy with her customers. She's out most late afternoons, taking orders and making deliveries. Her husband has a pool cleaning business in the development.Even these young visitors have a role in Chacla, supporting local tourist businesses.
Butcho is out every day, twice a day. Collecting aluminum can, food scraps for his animals: dogs, cats, ducks, chickens, and whatever. Lalo, is in Chacala almost every evening, selling bakery goods that he and his father bake. He sells from the back of his pickup.He makes a loop thru town, just before dark,beeping his horn as he goes. People know he's coming, and come running out when he beeps. Casaer climbs on any and everything, including Lalo's truck.
Augustine has several occupations. He and his wife have two nice rentals. He works at Chico's most mornings, filleting and cleaning fish for the restaurant. And he weaves custom fishing nets the rest of the time.Juan is a painter, and also an artist. He had painted many of the houses in Chacala, and in the development. And many of the signs on buildings around town. He is a metriculous and reliable worker. Strong work ethic and great color and design sense.This young lady makes jewelry for her mothers's beach tourist shop. And is known around town as an excellent saleswoman in the shop. The shop is full all kinds of things, including some very nice Huitchol art.Javier mainly works in construction, but he has other projects too. Awhile ago he installed all the new posts than ensure thaT vehicles don't park on the pedestrain beach access walkways between the beach road and the beach. He used to collect leftover food fron local resturants for his family's hogs. I think his younger brother does that now.This guapo (handsome) gentleman is 88 or so. Aside from posing as a movie star, works at Chico's everyday, doing whatever needs to be done. Including collecting the shower/toilet admission fees. And I think he serves as a security guard at the restaurant at night.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I Think I Forgot to Post My Favorite Oaxaca Phot

This was taken in front of the Santo Domingo iglesia in Oaxaca. I like it alot.
I had a nice dinner tonight at Chico's with a very nice couple who are moving into their new home in the development. For the winter, with their young teen kids. I really liked what they had to say. About getting themselves and the kids involved in Chacala itself.I probably talked too much at dinner. I haven't spoken English since Trini helped me set up the Infinitum hookup on Friday. Not that that's a long time. Actually, I have mostly been at home for five days or so. Except for doing errands like trash pick-up, rental business errands, and groceries.

I don't usually keep track of when I speak English. In fact it would be hard to do that, since I am not very aware of whether I am speaking English or Spanish. Until I suddenly can't figure out how to say something. But I was just looking for an excuse for why I was talking so much. Mostly silly stuff.

The outside cooking grill was closed down at Chico's. It was almost dark when we got there. So I had a fillet of some kind of fish, natural (no breading) and tomatoes. Very good.

I should either socialize more or watch myself about talking too much, when I am visiting with people. I probably get carried away. Anyway, I keep meeting nice people who are buying property in there. In the gated place.The beach looked nice and clean this evening. The storm out in the Pacific must have died down.But there were still some big chunks of tree trunks and logs and large branches floating around in the water. I was afraid to go in. I guess I don't like the idea of being hit by a log in the shallow water. But this stormy stuff is probably over for the year. It's only mid-August to mid-September that I have seen big chucks of wood being thrown up on the beach by the waves. I am crossing my fingers and knocking on my head as I write this.

There was new milk in the store tonight. Sometimes we go for a couple of weeks without fresh milk. They had those cute little one cup bottles, and I bought three. I have this idea that the milk lasts longer unopened. The store was completely out of detergent tonight. Juanita said Juan, her son, probably had some at his store, the "Joker".

I have to go into Las Varas tomorrow or the next day to pick up a rental deposit for some people who are staying at Mirador for Christmas. I am thinking about looking for new bed frame for when my son comes down. I wonder if the collectivo driver will let me tie it to the roof of the collectivo? Maybe that's not such a good idea.I am wondering if local people are starting to try to save money on their electric bills. All of a sudden there seem to only be a few lights on outside at night. Which I like alot, but it's different. Electricity is a state monopoly, the C.F.E, in Mexico. There was a big rate increase about 18 months ago. Plus, in Mexico, the more juice you use, the more you pay for every kilowatt hour. People in Chacala have a lot more appliances etc that they used to. I think when I first came it was common for a family to have two light bulbs and a fridge.And maybe a CD player. Then came TV's, electrical clothes washers, more lights, outside lights etc. I guess it all adds up.I am amazed that I can walk home without a flashlight, even in the dark of the moon. I guess I have just gotten familiar with the pathways, or my senses have gotten stronger.