Thursday, November 29, 2012

Discontent of our Winter

This is part of the wall on which we had to fill in a large picture window, formerly a source of sunlight and wildly romantic vistas and now blocked by a new building as I'm sure I've mentioned.

We hired a contractor recommended by knowledgeable friends of friends to come in and do the job. I suppose there was no way we were going to be pleased with the results, but not being pleased is not being pleased whether you expected to be or not.

The guys took out our lovely wood-framed window, built an aluminum frame inside the opening and covered it with a sheet of waterproof wall board. Aside from a plaster ramp on the exterior window sill to deflect any drips that get between the two buildings during the rainy season, the board itself is directly exposed to the narrow space outside.

Since there was no room for access to that outside wall, our workers next applied a heavy layer of cement to the inside, laced with some kind of sealant that supposedly will keep moisture from seeping through the wall and spoiling our paint job. On top of that they put a layer of ordinary plaster and a coat of white paint. We followed that with two coats of the pale blue we wanted.

But when we stood back from the finished job, we saw to our dismay that the outline of the old window was faintly but clearly visible, mocking our grief over the loss of the view. If you stare long enough at the picture above, you might detect the lower lefthand corner of it.

When we complained, we were told there was nothing to be done. The wall board is absolutely flat, they said, whereas the rest of the wall is like all masonry surfaces in Mexico, which is to say uneven at best and crudely pocked and off-plumb at worst. No reasonable amount of human effort, they claimed, could duplicate what casual haste created with conspicuous lack of effort.

As I wrote a while back, I'm actually a fan of the overall look that mediocre workmanship and materials  produce around here. So in addition to my unhappiness over the phantom window frame, I'm also caught up in some cognitive dissonance over why it's there.

If you're thinking that I've reached a place in life where I have to reach for a pretty high shelf to locate something to be unhappy about, no need to say so.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Accion de Gracias

Fast forward. We're in Mexico, where even though it's now past Thanksgiving it's still too hot to blog. But it's been too long since I did.

Puerto Vallarta and its neighboring communities that ring the sprawling Bahia de Banderas are home to roughly 350,000 people of whom I've read that 40,000 or more are from the U.S. or Canada.

Speaking for this non-native group, our primary objective and main activity here is not being cold. Mission accomplished, but that leaves most of us with time on our hands.

One thing we're not spending much of it doing is thinking about that thing that happened with the police chief last month.

Our fellow expats have developed a fast-working formula for putting such occurrences quickly behind them. It's as easy as one, two three:

1. Bad things happen everywhere.
2. Your chances of being a crime victim are at least as great anywhere else.
3. These people won't bother you if you mind your own business and keep your nose out of theirs.

There's more than a little pixie dust in this way of looking at things, but we tried it and it worked. Look at my little friend in the photo above. What, her worry?

No, instead we all are focusing on problems we can actually solve, such as dispensing with diapers. They are now a thing of the past, and it happened almost overnight.

That cleared the way for a preschool. We wanted Elizabeth to have playmates, some early exposure to decent Spanish, not like ours, and some experience being away from home for a few hours a day. We had no idea where to look for the right one, but when we consulted some friends it turned out there were scads of them.

E now goes to La Casa Azul. No se habla ingles, except in the single English class each day for the older Mexican children. But E doesn't seem to mind. She spontaneously helped herself to a seat at a table with other kids on her first visit to check the place out, and she's gone cheerfully back each day since.

So far, we're using most of the free time this gives us attending classes to improve our own Spanish. This in turn will equip us to express in more idiomatic terms to assorted "technicos" the bad noise our washing machine is making, the apparent source of condensation from our AC units dripping on neighbors below, why we're unhappy with the plaster job on our new wall where the window overlooking the church used to be, our theory of where leaks in the ceiling during rainy season may be coming from etc.

Thus do we and our thousands of compatriots fill our days while keeping pesos circulating in the local economy, which exists to assist all of us in expanding the time and space available for gazing at the dazzling Pacific all the way out to where it meets the sky. We watch for flukes of the humpback whales, which are just now arriving.

For this life we gave thanks yesterday around a large and brilliantly decorated table with old and new friends, set alfresco on a colorful hillside terrace. Mexicans don't celebrate our holiday, of course, but they have a fine name for it nevertheless. El Dia de Accion de Gracias.