On top of the rock

On top of the rock
Our Cliff

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Answers to some questions

Where is Cuco?? We have not seen him or Pilar in weeks. He did stop by when my Mom was here with some tiles that he wanted us to see, just in case we were interested in buying them for our kitchen. He also needed some sandpaper for something he was working on. Other than that, nada. He has not been around

Have I been back to the dump? Yes a couple of times but I cannot drive further in than about ¼ kilometer. I do not even go in as far as we used to. My Mom and I took a load there and asked if she really wanted to go all the way in, and she said, no. I was happy about that.

Do we still go to the Sand Bar for pizza night? Yup! It seems that just about every Wednesday we are there. Now that we live in the bodega, it is only about 5 minutes up the road. Tomorrow is Wednesday. We keep track of the days of the week by pizza night.

What is happening with all our damaged and missing stuff? Everything has been photographed, itemized and given to the insurance people. The insurance company has been unbelievable. They have made this whole process bearable and very simple. After I forwarded them the ridiculous letter, I got from their Mexican representative, and asked for help, they have totally taken over. They wrote letters of intent for me to forward, created lists of our goods for me to answer, “missing” damaged” or O.K. It appears they will sue our original moving company, the Mexican moving company and even Mexican customs for our damages. They said that once we get our check from them we do not have to worry. They will take care of retrieving the funds from the responsible parties. We have not gotten a check yet but they have been more than fair in our negotiations to date. We are so relieved that when I get to Toronto I am looking up Mike Krunic, Claims, Coast Underwriters, and give him a huge hug!

How is our leaking pila? With Maurice as a husband, everything eventually gets fixed. He has repaired the pila in such a way that it got to stay in the ground and we did not have to return it for the third time to Home Depot.

How is Retro, the dog, not the machine? Either he is the smartest dog ever or Maurice and I should be dog trainers on the side. You will not believe me when I tell you we have only had him for 5 days, he has not yet been leashed, and today he stayed right with me the whole time on the beach. It was our 4th day walking there and the first day I almost had to drag him to stay with me. I’d run and get him, pick him up, carry him and set him by me. Run, pick him up, carry him and set him by me. Run really far screaming like a lunatic, pick him up, and set him by me. Today there was one incident when he smelled a dead fish and I had to ‘get in his face“, but he came. Of course he got his treat (bribe) afterwards. He is getting stronger, can walk 2 miles now, and does not stop to lie down. His backbone is getting less visible and he does not jump up when we give him food anymore…. He actually stays on all fours. He totally knows his name and comes when we whistle. He goes into his kennel on his own and he stopped jumping on the door to get inside the bodega when we are not out with him. He lies in front of the door, guarding it. He barks when a dog gets anywhere near our place and growls when he is alerted to something that he feels might be dangerous. It is crazy!! Only 5 days here! We really lucked out! He may feel the same.

How is Maurice, the husband? Amazing. He works endlessly doing everything. He hung the door on our bathroom today after constructing a frame and figuring out how to fit the whole thing into a space that was too large. He has so many things going on in one day I would loose my mind. The last 10 days water usage has increased so he pumps, orders and maintains the delivery of about 10,000 liters of water every 3 days. And by pumping, I mean running a generator and securing the piping he himself laid, pipe by pipe, that runs 95 meters (350 ft) up the cliff. They have needed so much water up on top of the cliff is it hard to keep up. He takes all the deliveries, and signs and records and tracks all the materials. He deals with our workers, all the people stopping here for work, and the people needing maintenance work done on their cars!...the pool guy, the engineer...He pays all the bills, records all the expenses...he goes non stop. I, on the other hand walk the beach, cook when I feel like it, run into town on occasion and write a blog. I take some photos and I move a wall or window around on Arriba de la Roca when the need arises. I really lucked out. I think Maurice, living in Mexico, feels the same.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Seriously funny!

So I am in the bathroom putting hair dye on my roots. When I am done I wander out into the living room and look outside. I see three boys playing with a soccer ball, and four men all around this bright blue truck. So I yell...”Hey Maurice!! Who are they??” “I don’t know”, he says, “Maybe they think this is a camp for kids.” Chuckle chuckle...then I say, “No, really, who are they?” He says maybe this is the new service station in town. Yesterday he fixed the tire on Senor Backhoe Retro’s retro, because the cement was too heavy and made it go flat. (I will not even get into the fact that one guy moved every single one of those bags by hand and his retro gets a flat taking them up the cliff!) So Maurice gets out his air compressor and fills the tire. All is good. Than a few hours later a car stops outside our place (locals passs by on their way to fish) and he has a flat. So, thinking it is ironic, Maurice pulls back out the compressor and fills his tire with air. All is good.

So I keep peaking out of the window...I mean God forbid they see me with hair dye on my head...so I peak and I can not figure out what they are doing there. My 20 minutes are up, dye job complete, and I TAKE A SHOWER!! YES WE HAVE RUNNING WATER!! It is not heated, but that is O.K....and we have to use a pliers to turn the thing off an on, but that is O.K. So, I take a shower, comb my hair etc. and I look out again. Now, Senor Backhoe Retro, who loves our dog’s name, BTW, is over there and so is Maurice. They are all chatting. Next thing, Senor gets in his retro and drives to the car and actually puts his big backhoe prongs under the guy’s bumper and lifts the car up. It appears Maurice was right. They had a flat.

Well I could not get our there quick enough, wet hair and little Retro nipping at my feet. I am laughing saying “primo mirra”. Literally this means “first look.” But I think they got it. The little boys were so cute and I surprised them with my laughing and my blonde hair, I could tell. Blonde are rare here. Giggling, wet headed blondes are rarer. Anyway, Senor Retro was also laughing; at me. It was quite I sight. These won’t do it justice, but here you go....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Things I never knew

Of course there are many things I never knew, but if you never knew them you do not even know you didn’t know them, right?

I never knew Maurice could fit inside a 2500 liter pila! He had to climb inside to drill a hole for the connector. There may be a day this week that we will actually have running water in the bodega. His climbing into the pila and drilling the hole is about step number 14 in this process. I will really like having running water as washing my hair outside from a garden hose is not the same as a warm shower. I guess standing up and sponge bathing at the kitchen sink is the not the same either.

I also never knew how much I missed arguing politics! We had dinner last night with our “new neighbors”. This couple bought the land next to ours, the land that Alex was selling the same time we bought ours. They will be on the south side of us. They are from Houston, Texas. They are probably in their late 40's and are on a 5 year plan, like we were. So in essence they are not our neighbors at all. Anyway...Texas...the home of George W…… our evening ended with a very heated discussion of Republicans vs. a Democrat. Of course I am on my own in the Democratic arena, but I still have to argue. It upsets me when Republicans say that if people WANT to work and earn money they can; People are poor because they are lazy. With these people moving to Mexico, the land of the poorest most un-laziest people I have ever seen, I am sure they will be Democrats in no time! Anyway, it was stimulating and this morning when they came by I called them Republican-Bush-lovers and we all laughed. I will really enjoy spending more time with them....I just wonder what they are saying about me in their blog! :)

I never knew one man could move 200, 50 kilo (110 pound) bags of cement all by himself without hesitation. Yesterday our delivery truck driver unloaded this load, bag by bag from his truck onto skids. We gave him juice afterwards. Aren’t we kind? I could barely stand to even watch him do it!

I never knew the beach was filled with carcasses. I walk this beach every day...well I have for a few days now, and until Retro, all I saw was beautiful sand and waves. Now, two days walking with Retro, who is really amazingly good considering he has lived in the streets all his life, all I see are dead birds, dead pelicans and long pointy fish who have not swam in the sea for a long time!. I see them as I am pulling Retro off their rotting carcasses so he doesn’t eat them. Gees, the beach is looking different these days.

I never knew people could work so fast!! Here are some pictures from today. Yesterday they laid concrete on the floor of casita number 1; All by hand, by the way. We tired with a pump but they could not get the truck up the road. So three guys are mixing cement while two guys take turns literally running it in wheel barrows to the cement layers. So today they laid the floor in casita number 2 and started the walls in the first casita. They now have stopped because we ran out of blocks, but here are the pictures from today. There are also a picture of our place from “those Republicans” land cause we walked over there with them. It kind of gives a different perspective...AND OF COURSE...no day would be complete without seeing Retro on the beach digging for sand crabs.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Dog Neutering Clinic

The reason I spent today helping at this clinic is because a couple of years ago a woman named Barbara asked me if when I moved here I would help. She is the person we bought the famous sink from in our bathroom. She is also the woman who owns our storage units. It just so happens that the client was held for three days, including today.

So this morning Maurice took me and dropped me off. He was going to get his computer fixed. It had been broken for about 3 weeks and he was going crazy without it. So he leaves me out back of Barbara’s business, actually about 20 feet from where our things are stored.

My job as it turns out is to help with the dogs when they are recovering. The do cats, too, but today was mostly all dogs. So I sit on the ground next to dog number 1. They are marked by the number “in line” so to speak and this dog was neutered first today. It also said 18 lbs by his number. So I get my instructions. Watch the breathing. When it finally swallows for the first time pull the long tube out of its throat. Clean their ears, clip their nails and comb for fleas, after the anti-flea stuff is put on their back. So I do all this. The little guy I have does not seem to want to wake up. So they tell me to stimulate him. Rub his ears, rub his feet, lift his head, etc etc. So here I sit with this 18 pound "number 1" dog for a good 45 minutes. This guy is not waking up. Finally it starts “coming to”. I am rubbing him and he starts wagging his tail.

One of the other volunteers is doing the same thing with another dog, they did about 30 today, and she asks, “Is this dog owned?” This thought never entered my mind. Another woman asks what the dog’s number is and she checks. She comes back saying the dog is owned. Than another volunteer asks the same question and she goes to check again. It appears that most of the local volunteers do this three times a year and have been doing it for years. The medical team comes from Aspen, Colorado and the set up is incredible and meticulous.

When the woman returns with the list, I say, “what about number 1?” She says no, that is a stray. Of course I ask what happens to this pup that I have been rubbing for the last hour. She says they take them back to wherever they found them and let them loose again. “A stray?? Homeless”, I ask. The answer is yes.

So now we have a dog. It was easy to convince Maurice when he came. This dog is a male puppy about 4 months old. He will be a big dog. He has just been neutered and he looks like our dog Rex used to. All the women cheered when Maurice said yes. They leant us a cage and I am looking at him sleeping right now. We even got a volunteer there to say she would watch him when we go home for Vanessa’s wedding.

So now we have to name him. I chose Santiago first cause this was the name of a dog I had years ago, for a short time...and of course it sounds Mexican. When we got back here Maurice suggested Retro! Now I love that! It has to be Retro!!! Now Maurice is vacillating so we will see.

Here he is…isn’t he cute!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


...was I guess a rather typical day for us now. We woke with the sun about 6am. We had coffee after Maurice went out and started the generator. We do have the batteries charged but the coffee pot for some reason is a big drain on them so he chose to start the-not-so-quiet generator. After our coffee and our cookies I went for a walk on the beach. It is about a 3 minute walk to the beach, around the base of the cliff and I go for about an hour. “I go for about an hour”. Kind of makes it sound like I am out there hoofing my 2 ½ miles every day!……well so far it has been twice in the week we have lived here. I will try to make it routine but life may get in the way! Tomorrow, for example I am volunteering at a dog neutering clinic (DON’T ASK!!) and I will try to walk first, but after the making of our coffee, the drinking of our coffee, the making of the bed, the sweeping of the floors, the heating of the water to wash my hair, (since I am without any friends at the Presidente) we may run out of time……

O.K. so back to our typical day. We had a meeting here at 10:30 with our engineer and our pool guy, Alejandro. We were supposed to be making some decisions which today we found to be close to impossible. Valente brought some large print outs of our house plans with some changes that he wants us to approve. First quesstion, “Is this little rectangular off the kitchen big enough for the laundry room?” Of course, pain that I am I want to know just how big that little rectangular is. Once we figure the size out we try to decide if a washer and dryer will fit in it. I mean shouldn’t that really be the architects job? Why design a laundry room if you are not sure you can fit in the washer and dryer? Yes, I guess I am a pain. So we all decide this is small, but adequate.

Next he wants to know where to put the shower nozzle in the bathroom that is in the guest room in our house. “Well“, I say, “I want it on the opposite wall of the outdoor shower so you can flow from indoor to outdoor shower“. “Oh, you really want an outdoor shower?” Yes, that is why it is on the paper you are showing us. Since apparently he thinks that I am now becoming an architect he wants to know how this whole set up should be laid out. I told him Maurice and I would figure it out and let him know on Saturday. NEXT? Valente asks, “What about the master bedroom?....Here are the plans”. To be fair I have changed these so many times even I am a little confused BUT what he is showing me is wrong. WHAT DO I WANT?! “Well, I would like someone to design what I have describing for the past 12 months!” I guess after 6 attempts I am not being very clear. Maybe it is that I-don‘t-speak-Spanish issue. “Not to worry Valente, Maurice and I will get back to you with a plan on Saturday“. We are promising Saturday since this is the day he is coming back.

Our first job is to design an indoor outdoor shower. Second job is to design our master bathroom/bedroom. Hmm..maybe our $9,000 architect was a little expensive after all.

Next Valente talks about the main entry into our house. We had decided we were going to have reverse steps with a planter on each side of these. Now the pool guy, Alejandro, says we need to have an area around the pool to “hang in” so he wants us to connect the entry to the pool, making this whole area on one level. They draw this out on a flat piece of paper and we all agree it “will do.” Alejandro then leaves, as he is coming back on Saturday, too.

Valente, Maurice and I then go up to see how our newly drawn entrance will look. First Valente goes over the changes with Don Jose, and the workers have to draw it out on the ground and figure it all out, which took about 30 minutes. When Valente shows us the finished design we are not happy. There is no natural flow and this is certainly not the vision I had. I think everyone is getting frustrated but I tried to explain this is a huge decision. When he drew it out on paper it seemed O.K. but when they put it next to the house we did not like it. Sorry!! We want tiered terraces, not a large wall around the pool area. Anyway...we will get back to him on Saturday.

Tomorrow after the dog neutering clinic I am attending architect school. Hopefully I can find an overnight course which will be completed by Saturday.

After all these big decisions we head to Todos Santos. We had laundry to do, plumbing to buy (we now have a drain in the kitchen!!!) gas to buy, drinking water to get, lunch/dinner to eat, and ice cream to buy. Four hours later we are now back at the bodega. It is 7pm, getting pretty dark now and the stars will soon be exploding in our sky.

I took lots of pictures today but it is really hard to tell what is happening. They are getting ready to lay the floors on Saturday. A large cement mixer is coming and it will have two pumps to pour the cement on the floors. This will be for the two casitas and the main room. They can not construct the master bedroom and guest room until later. Once these two rooms are completed they will block the entry for Senor Backhoe Retro to deliver materials so they will done last. Yes, Senor is still around. Pretty much daily he is here, and we still like and trust him.

So here are some pictures. Casita number one is ready to have the concert poured. The workers are now on casita number two, readying that floor as well. The plumbing in being put into the main living space, and they are also working on the entry steps and planter. They are moving so quickly we were told they will probably finish a month early! That means landscaping during the hottest months of the year here. Anyone wanna help??


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Jackie and Tara

Today our friends from Wisconsin went home. We wished them good travels as we were once again sneaking out of the Presidente. We all decided when they were here visiting us on Sunday that Maurice and I would sleep on Tom and Jackie’s couch last night, which we did. It was a great end to a wonderful week. I got to see them 4 days while they were here! Since they were staying 1 ½ hours away that made me really happy.

Today is my three month anniversary here and we have had lots of visitors in the short time I have lived here. Whenever anyone leaves us I feel so blessed by the friends and family we have. There are few I have been friends with longer than Jackie and Tara; I have known them for about 37 years! Our friendships were formed while we were in University at UW Stevens Point and we have remained together ever since. Tara and I even stood up for Jackie when she and Tom got married about 34 years ago.

For the 17 years I lived in Toronto those two came to visit me every year. That says something about our friendship! They have made such an effort to maintain our closeness over the years and I love them dearly. We three have lived a lifetime of experiences together. We have been to shows, plays, spas, concerts, cathedrals, resorts, wonderful cities, hotels, restaurants….you name it, we have done it together. Than, after numerous years we started including our husbands in our adventures and this has been such a bonus for all of us. I had always been very close to Tom. Starting about 30 years ago he and Jackie spent about 15 Christmas Eve’s with my family. When my niece Becky was little she asked for Tom endlessly. He used to take my brother hunting when he was young. He and my Mom even owned some real estate together. He is my friend. But as far as the three guys all being together, and spending time with all of us this was new. Us 6 have taken two trips to Mexico together, been to Quebec City and Montreal, and of course Toronto.

This trip was their third visit here. They are loving watching the development of our dream. Tara was a little upset when we handed her a bucket and told her to start mixing cement, but other than that they loved it here!!
We even served them drinks in our bodega!! Other than my Mom they were our first real guests!

So now we are alone again. The project is moving at warp speed! I will update you tomorrow with some photos. Today, I wanted to say good-bye to my wonderful friends and let them know they are missed.

Tomorrow, back to reality….with less than squeaky clean hair!

Sunday, March 21, 2010


My Mom is now gone. She left on Saturday after 2 weeks of wonderful and varied experiences for both of us. The most important thing is that she realized I was safe here. She had to see for herself that Maurice and I were moving forward in a positive direction and that we had made the right decision in moving here. This happened. She left knowing we would be fine. In fact she left knowing we would be more than fine. She told me we were building heaven and if she did not have any other obligations she would not leave here. Wow. That says something. Even removing our project from the equation I think she would stay. She loved the people, the weather, the desert, the cactus, the ocean, the sky, the surf, the sun, the lifestyle. She only wore ½ of what she brought here to wear. There is a kind of freedom in that.

We now live in the bodega. We moved in 4 days ago. We are living in our cute little place with no water. We have electricity, thank you very much, but we can not shower or wash. Oops, excuse me, we can wash. We have a plastic moving bin, number 251, which once held tools of some sort. We fill this partially full with water and wash ourselves. Mom had the brilliant idea of heating water in the coffee pot to mix with the cold water so at least we have tepid water to clean ourselves with. This is the only way we can heat our water since as of yet have no propane. I did go try to buy a tank, the kind like you would attach to your BBQ, but they do not sell them here. We may find one in Cabo, but for now we heat our water in the 12 cup coffee pot and wash our dishes and our bodies with this. Thank heavens we have a toilet that flushes. We bring in buckets of water to fill the tank and pull the lever when necessary. So all is prefect. We live in a world with lights, a toilet and a 12 cup coffee pot. Cool!….oh, speaking of cool, we also have a refrigerator. All these are run by our 8, 200 pound, 6 volt, batteries, charged by our generator. Who could ask for anything more?

I now wash my hair at the Presidente. This is the all inclusive in San Jose Del Cabo that Maurice and I have stayed at on occasion for the last few years. Two of those times it was with our friends from Wisconsin, Jackie and Tom and Tara and Jerry, who are now there again for a week. Last Thursday Maurice, Mom and I went for the day. (We did not bring our bubbas!!) Our day ended with showers and clean hair, compliments of the Presidente‘s out door shower. Saturday I went back, after taking my Mom to the airport, and spent the afternoon. This day ended with me washing my hair…compliments of Tom and Jackie. Tuesday we go back again….there is clean hair in my future.

We now live in a world of 10 million stars. Out here there is no light. This month the moon is not yet even ¼ full and no one has electricity. The sky is filled with millions of stars. You have never seen anything like it. You drop your head back and your mouth hangs open in ah!! It is spectacular and there are no words to describe the sky on these nights. Why didn’t I study science more! There are 1000’s of constellations and all I know is Orion the Hunter, 7 sisters and the dippers....I also know that “W” called Cassiopeia, but that is not visible right now. We have a book somewhere....and a telescope. The heavens were made to explore. This exploration is being stopped by two storage units filled to the brim with stuff. Things that include a telescope and a book on stars. One day….

Good night. I am off to brush my teeth with a cup with water and a cup to “spit” in. I forgot to tell you we have no drain pipes.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Moving forward

Today we completed the examination of our second storage unit. We are tallying up the damages and I have to say they are not as bad as we thought. Mom wrote down the numbers of the boxes and the damages as Maurice and I opened, re-sealed and reloaded the unit. Now this stuff will be locked inside for another 6 months until we get into our house on Arriba de la roca.

We also are almost ready to move into the bodega! THIS IS THE BEST NEWS!!! We are planning on Wednesday night being our first night there. The bed is made, the kitchen it set up, our drawers are filled and we are just about there. We even had the lights on today!!! We just need to get the water to us and will be ready. The pump and things should be all connected tomorrow so if we can flush we are good to go!!

It is so cute in the bodega I can hardly stand it. Today my Mom was sitting in a chair reading and it was a peaceful, lovely scene.

So we are moving forward. Tomorrow we may even get to the beach. A couple of hours in the sun would be great. Mom needs to get that tan!!
P.S. Since my family is reading this and are wanting to keep tabs on Mom's adventures we drove up into he mountains the day before yesterday. It was beautiful! She saw lots of roaming cows, pigs, goats, men on horseback, little tiny pueblitos with only a church in them. She was very happy with the trip!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Our secret fishing spot

O.K.....maybe not totally secret but certainly not for tourists! This place sits about 2 miles south of Todos Santos, of course on the Pacific. It is a cove, although the word “cove” seems like a small word to describe it. It is a place where boats of fisherman, 3-4 in a boat, leave in the morning and come back around 2:30 or 3:00 with a boat filled (hopefully) with fish. There are many cool things about this. First of all there are no tourists there. You may find a local, or two, wanting to buy fish from a boat, but this is not a place you would read about in a “Mexico for Dummies” handbook. Secondly, the drive off highway 19 is, of course on a dirt road, but it passes some old sugar refineries. Todos Santos was at its peak when they were processing and selling sugar cane. This went on for decades until the water mysteriously dried up in the 50’s. Now Todos Santos is on a resurgence, of an “artisty” kind, and the old refineries sit silent and brooding. They are brick and magnificent. Thirdly, you will find hundreds of pelicans and gulls at the cove. They swarm around like flying rats, waiting for a piece of fish that may be thrown away off a boat. They have no fear and because of this you may find one or two dead on the beach, run over by a truck, or a boat.

How could a bird be run over by a boat?? Very good question. The cove I mentioned is huge. In fact the boats seems minuscule inside the cliff on the south side. The only way for a boat to come ashore is to “ride a wave”. So what often happens is a boat could wait for a ½ hour for the right wave to ride into shore. When they find that wave they “GUN IT” as fast as they can and shoot up on shore, with the propeller spinning in protest. This is the time a pickup truck, old and rusty, will hook up a rope and pull them far enough off the shore that they can get out and harvest their catch. This whole process will cause the death of a bird or two on occasion.

This is where my Mom and I come in. Besides the fact that we waited and watched the hovering boats coming ashore, we were fascinated by the “culture”. Unfortunately, there is an unstated law there. You do not bring your camera and happily snap pictures. When you are there you have stepped into these people lives. You respect this, and them. Yes, you can photograph the birds, the boats, even some of the activities, but what I really wanted to capture was their essence. Their faces. Their clothing. Their being. This would be wrong. So instead we snapped a few random shots which I will share with you, while waiting to choose our fish.

The process of finding the right fish begins with us first choosing a boat, and hoping they have what kind of fish we are looking for. We could also ask around for a specific type of fish. I do not know the language well enough to do this part, so we picked a boat and got what we could.

We ended up with a 10 pound tuna that the guy filleted for us on the spot; throwing guts and bones to the pelicans. For three of us we have enough fish for 4 meals...cost $12. We also bought a 5 lb squid, that they reach inside and pulled the mouth out of, for $4. Fresh fish! We also did this when the Ya Ya’s were here and for $20 we got an ahi tuna and a red snapper that 8 of us ate for two days.

These Mexicans are poor. They are also NOT supposed to sell the fish like this. Whomever their catch actually goes to does not allow this. Casually, and calmly we make our deal. My Mom was beside herself. Seeing the boats roaring to shore, the huge fish and all the birds...it so totally cool.

So for the last two nights we had fresh fish caught by people who live and die by the sea.

Such is life in Mexico.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


We all live life with certain expectations. We expect the sun will rise and set daily. We expect that April will follow March. We expect that birds will sing and dogs will bark. Sometimes our expectations are unrealistic. Even though this may be the case, when are expectations are unfulfilled then we are disappointed. Sometimes even realistic expectations are not fulfilled. And, sometimes people surprise us by surpassing our expectations. Here are examples of all of the above.

Expectation number 1

When you buy a 5000 liter pila and have to return one, then the second one because they BOTH leaked, would you not realistically expect that number 3 should be fine. Maybe we are unrealistic. We think pila number three should not leak. We were wrong. Pila number three leaks. Pila number three, now back in the ground, put in place for the third time, leaks.

Expectation number 2

When you come to Mexico to visit your daughter it will be hot and sunny. I think this is a realistic expectation. My Mother thought it was a realistic expectation when she told her friends it is always 75 and sunny here. Today, wrapped in a towel because she had goose bumps, and after last night wearing three layers of shirts over her blue jeans when we went to all-you-can-eat-pizza-night at The Sand Bar, we decided maybe this expectation is unrealistic. After all, oranges froze in Florida this year.

Expectation number 3

When you come to Mexico you will go home with a tan. And yes, my Mother will go home with a tan. Even if she has to sit in the sun with a towel close by for when she gets her goose bumps.

Expectation number 4

When you build in Mexico it will be slow. Sorry, folks, not true, these guys are crazy!! I can not believe how fast they move. Here are pictures from this week. They are putting walls around casita number 1. These will be the walls around the patio. They are filling the inside of the living room-kitchen area with dirt, getting ready to pour the floors. They are still making re-bar as the place continues to grow and take shape. ABSOLUTELY SURPASSING OUR EXPECTATIONS.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Our day at the beach

Today my Mom and I were going to stay back at our apartment and go to the beach. The beach is only ½ mile from here but with the rutted, dirt road we decided Maurice should drop us off and we would walk back. He was leaving later this morning than usual. It was going to be a hot day. Heading to the beach at 10:30 seemed like a great idea.

We got ready. We put our suits on. Over our suits we put our shorts, t-shirts and jackets. Layering was a great idea since it was early in the day. It was bound to get hotter. So we are dressed. I am carrying both the sun screen and water. We have two beach chairs. To be honest I was a little concerned about getting them back home. They are rather heavy, and we have to walk up hill from the beach to get back. Anyway, I figured I would deal with it. We had to have chairs, for our day at the beach.

Maurice drops us off. We still have about 200 feet to get to the best part of the beach, which is closer to the water. I carry the two chairs, my bag with our lotion and two containers of water, and my Mom’s shoes. She brought a pair of walking shoes and socks to get back to our place. My Mom is using a cane right now. The ground is uneven and of course walking in the sand is rough. Of course she tries to help carry. Of course I say no.

We start to walk to where we can view the surf. From the minute Maurice pulls away I thought....GEES IT IS WINDY HERE!!! Than I looked at Mom...clutching her hand around her sweatshirt’s neckline. She tries to talk but the wind takes her words away... WHHHHHAAATTTTT????? IT‘S WINDY HERE!!!!!!!


What to do??? Walk back!!! COME ON!! We just got here. She decides she wants to stay in the parking area, which is really more like a “catch all”. There are three dogs, a pile of brunt our drift wood from a previous night’s fire, an empty pop bottle...well you can imagine. Since there was less wind there she thought we should sit there. “But you can’t see the ocean, “I say. “Well, I know, but it is O.K.” she sweetly says. We need to go back! BACK!!?? But we haven’t even sat down yet.

Well, back we go. We decide we could sit outside where we are staying, in the nice, protected yard, and get some sun and still see the ocean. We have a plan but first she has to put on her walking shoes. The chairs, thankfully, come off my already aching arms so she can sit. After we get her shoes on we load everything back on me. The two chairs. Two containers of water. The bag with our sun screen in it. Mom’s sandals. Off we go. Of course she tries to help. Of course I say no.

We walk a short distance before she trips on a rock. “Watch your feet”, I say. The road is rutted and not in good shape. “How far do we have to go??” she asks. “1/2 mile,” I say. She says it will certainly feel like ten!! I think, “You are not carrying two beach chairs, two containers of water, one bag with sun screen in it and YOUR sandals!!”

Anyway we must have been quite to sight because soon a Mexican guy offers us a ride. I mean, this is a first!!! We give Mexican’s rides! I have never seen them stop to pick up gringas before. Anyway, I couldn’t get the word YES out of my mouth quick enough. I learned afterwards that Mom was shocked I said yes!!! Of course I said yes, but I only did it for her...certainly not for me.

So we arrived home and had a lovely two hours in the yard, sunning ourselves. We are now watching the white caps on the ocean,(since the winds are so strong) protected by papaya trees, with a nice glow of sun on our faces.

This is the story of our day at the beach.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


She comes today. Flying in at 12:24 from Chicago. Since we are not in our bodega yet - no electricity - we will be staying here, at the apartment. One more week!!! FOR SURE!!! We rented her the bedroom above the house here. Small kitchen and a large bedroom that when she sits up in bed she will see the ocean. I think she will like that. Off to put fresh sheets on it for her.

P.S. Went to LaPaz yesterday. We finally bought a bed!! It is impossible to find a queen sized bed here...or at least both parts of it. Costco had the mattress but no box spring. Sears had non of it and tired to sell me the mattress only for a single bed. Wal-Mart (yes...we even tried there) had only matrimonial, which are double and they had singles and a few boxes for a king. We joined Sam's Club yesterday. After searching for a bed for a couple of weeks we found one there. A Seally pillow top that they are delivering tomorrow!! While in LaPaz we experienced no shakedowns AND those delicious chocolate clams...yum..will take Mom there for sure!!

Friday, March 5, 2010


Currently we have three machines at work for us. I am certain there are more, smaller machines, but here are our top three…as of me waking up this morning.

The working machine.

We now have 18 workers on site. They are still not at full capacity for the job. A couple more men will be added after the floors are laid. This working machine, as you know, normally does everything by hand. This week, though, they did rent one jack hammer. Being used with the help of a rented generator this jack hammer is breaking the rock for casita numero uno. Breaking rock for casita numero dos, are two men with pick axes. Of course there are others still cutting and tying re-bar. In fact the first re-bar that was laid around the perimeter has already been cemented in. There is a solid wall of cement covering these. Now they are working on the second level of these re-bars which will also be cemented in. Jose laughed and said the house will still be there in 1000 years. He could be right. There are also the legs of the machine. These are the workers who carry, by hand the needed materials to the top of the cliff. Yesterday they needed gravel. The gravel had already been taken up to the parking area and dumped there. Senor Backhoe Retro (machine number two) was not there -SHOCK- so wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow they pushed the gravel to the top of the cliff. This took three men. One on each handle of the wheelbarrow and a third pushing the two guys. Maurice was upset. Upset for the guys. Upset for the time being used to do this. Upset for the lack of organization that left the material in the parking lot, instead of on the cliff. Still the machine worked. Each cog in the wheel, just as important at the next. Each cog, on the uneven wheel, supporting it in its movement forward.

The retro machine.

Our Senor, who I even hate to tell you his name, but I will…..Alberto…..is such an important part of our job. He even bought a pick up of his own so he can try to help us more and not have union issues. Yesterday we lent him $2000. NOW…..Don’t get upset with us yet. We already owed him over $1000 for some work and materials he got for us and so he asked if he could get an advance. He needed to make a payment on that licensing issue. He will be back today for another 8 hours as he has to haul material and water for us. This will pay off at least half of what he would still owe us. The charge to rent a retro is $50 an hour. That $1000 gets paid back pretty quickly at those rates. BTW that is standard. That is why Maurice wanted to buy one…but they are still $20,000!! By next week we will be even again. We trust him. He does things for us without pay. He is an honest guy. This was a small risk to take, in the scheme of things, and we could help him. He is trying to start his own business, instead of using other people’s machines. His truck was the first step. Without Senor Backhoe Retro our building time would double and we would have some physically broken men; which we may have anyway.

The insurance machine.

Can I tell you I am falling in love with our insurance man??!! :) After that ridiculous e-mail I got from Senor Hernadez in Vera Cruz, I contacted the company in Canada for help. A man by the name of Mike Krunic - from Coast Underwriters - has jumped in with two feet and totally taken control of our mess. He has Debbie, in the Toronto office, helping coordinate what he needs from the four companies involved in this mess. World Class Transport, Crown Relocation, the actual shipping company, ZIM, and customs. He has me sending him documentation supporting Crown Relocation’s knowledge of Maurice’s tools etc. Thank heavens Maurice saved the e-mails. Back and forth we have sent no less than 4 e-mails with him asking numerous questions about who did what; me supplying the answers. His goal is to try and figure out who will have to reimburse them for our loss. He compiled forms for me to easily fill out. An itemized listing of what we moved, than columns indicating whether it arrived, was it damaged, was it lost. He also did letters of intent for me to e-mail to the other players. These letters let them know we are investigating their role in our move, and the damages and losses we suffered. Debbie is contacting customs and attempting to gather all the paperwork they have. Not sure if she will have any luck, but at least they are doing all this stuff for us. I would be totally lost as no one here seems to want to help us. The insurance company at least has lawyers, which they will not hesitate to use. This company is so impressive!! I am not sure what will happen with our settlement. And I am sure it will not come as easily as we are hoping. But Mike is on our side. He has filtered through the lies and the “passing of the buck” and I think he is genuinely sorry for us. On a good note, the damages are less than we expected. Yes, there is still way too much, but every time we open one of those smashed boxes we expect there to be lots more breakage than there is. In many boxes everything was wrapped so well that there is no damage at all. It appears they are even going to compensate Maurice for his things that are missing. It may only be a small percentage, but that adds up.

So between our Senor, our workers, and Mike the insurance guy, this week our life is moving forward like clockwork; in a smooth, methodical way.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Lot in Life

Have you ever wondered why you are in the position you are in life?? I do not mean why you are not the VP of a company and “Joe” is instead of you. I mean why is it that YOU are not the man in the street carving little statues out of soap just to earn money to buy food for the day.

I think about this often. Here in Mexico there are different “lots in life”. There are the poor squatters who live in cardboard shelters; or no shelters at all. They just wander the streets. Even the laborers here, which I have mentioned earlier, live in such simplicity that it is very humbling. We are setting up our bodega and I know our temporary home here is a dream castle for many. This makes me sad. I am a little embarrassed about what we have. And you know what is a real eye opener?….it’s that “everyone” here is so happy. Always smiling, always positive, even when you tell them that you have no work for them. They thank you and continue on their way.

Since we are unpacking our things for the bodega we have lots of cardboard to go to the dump. We have been to the dump numerous times. It is not a nice trip. First of all people live there. At the entrance, which does close and has proper hours, they live. It appears to be a family. A family with children and dogs. Imagine taking a piece of spare wood, a bed spring, a chunk of metal, anything that is thrown away by others, and than making a house out of it. This is what you see on the right when you cross the threshold into the dump. They have compiled years and years of scraps that fill in the area they call home. It is hard to even look at, yet alone imagine living in it.

When you drive in you always drive over aluminum cans. They place the ones they find on the “road” so when you drive in you crush them with your tires. Than they collect the smashed ones and place down fresh ones. They get money for these.

When you turn off the highway, over the threshold into the dump, and over the cans, there is a long road you drive down to get to the actual dump. The road is straight, and continues over a km until it curves to the left. All along this way there is garbage. There are tires, cans, clothing, and burnt piles of rubbish. We knew this was not really the place to dump and we usually drove down to the curve and left our stuff. In our minds we thought this would be a proper place to leave our garbage. The only garbage we have really had is construction stuff. Our food waste is placed in proper cans to be picked up weekly by the garbage truck.

So last time we went to the dump we drove down to the curve and left our things. On the way out the woman who lives there stopped us and told us that the “real” dump is around two more corners. How she even knew we did not go all the way we were not sure. We did not even know we had not gone all the way! It was impossible to see us. We thought maybe she knew by the time it took us to get “there and back”. What was weird is that she had silver teeth. It looked like she placed aluminum foil over her teeth. A lot of money was spent on those teeth. Not pretty, but silver is expensive! That was strange.

So yesterday we had a lot of cardboard to go to the dump. I was giving a ride home to Tomas, one of Maurice’s “friends” who has helped us go through Maurice’s tools the last couple of days. We were really late and since the bed of the truck was already filled I decided that after I dropped him off I would go to the dump before it closed. Remembering what that woman with the silver teeth told us, when I entered, drove over the aluminum cans, smashed 20 or 30 for them, I continued down the road. I was so tempted to pull over and pull all the cardboard off the back of the truck. I didn’t. I continued around the first curve, down the road another ¼ km and turned around another curve.

Even now writing this I find it hard to breathe and my eyes are swelling up. What I saw when I went around this corner was piles, upon, piles of garbage. The piles went on as far as I could see. At the same instant hundreds of flies flew into the truck. All at once I was covered in flies. There were hundreds of them inside the truck. But there were two things worse than this. The first thing was the smell. I seriously could not breathe. The stench was so bad that I fought off throwing up. I have never in my life smelled anything like this and I will NEVER go back there again. NEVER.

The second worse thing - and one of the worse things I have ever seen in my whole life - was that while I was spinning around, cardboard still in back, trying to escape the smell and the flies, my one arm that was not on the steering wheel swatting the air around my head and mouth, I saw people there digging through the garbage. In the middle of the flies and the stench were dirty, sad, people digging, looking for things to help them survive.

What got these poor people to their lot in life?? What in their birth right got them to this horrible destiny???

We need to thank our lucky stars, as my Aunt Delores would say, that we are blessed with what we have. Family, health, happiness and enough money that we can go to sleep every night under clean sheets, with a full stomach, and with a roof over our heads.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


...or, maybe this should be titled.. HUH!!???

Dear Mrs. Shelby R. Branzanti :

In attention to your kind e-mail of today; By this means we inform you that before the Insurance Company may settle the damages suffered on your Household Goods Shipment (Tools and Wood??), you need to fill out a Claim Form in which clearly detail the damaged and missing items with the declared value of each of them.

On the other hand, on your Policy / Certificate of Insurance you may take note of the instructions and/or the necessary steps to be follow that you must do to proceed with your claim; As well, the essential support documents needed to speed up the settlement, which we describe as follows:

1.- Photocopy of the Descriptive Inventory of your shipment.

2.- Photocopy of the Descriptive Valued Inventory of each item of your shipment.

3.- Photocopy of the Bill of Lading

4.- Photocopy of the Import Customs Clearance Document.

5.- Photocopy of the Inland Freight Bill at the Final Destination

6.- Photocopy of the Exception List at time of delivery.

7.- Formal Valorized Claim Letter to the Shipping Company and the Inland Carrier.

It is important to mention that in order to approve the arrangements of your claim a Survey Report must be issued to certify the damaged and missing items, and this documents has a cost for concept of fees and expenses same that must be covered (paid) by the consignee. The cost of this document should be reimbursed by the Insurance Company once they settle your claim.

For the before mentioned, we will appreciate very much if you please sent us as soon as possible your Claim Form duly filled and signed to know the amount of your claim.

Thank you for your kind attention,

Best Regards,

Pablo Ruiz Hernandez
Circuito Viveros Sur No. 70
U. Adolfo Lopez Mateos
Tlalnepantla, Edo. de Mexico CP 54080
MexicoTels/Fax : (5255) 5361- 2311, 5361- 6952 Extns. 113 , 114 & 115
5398- 6542 , 5397- 2970
5398- 6471 , 5362- 8716
5362- 5699 , 5362, 7863

Mobile: (5255) 5406- 2418 Nextel: 10180821

On to better things

My Mom is coming on Saturday. She has been waiting since January until we got our things and can move into the bodega. Yes, her original trip was for the second week in January when we thought we would be moved into the bodega. She will now arrive on March 6th. Maurice is busy ordering batteries for our generator so we can have some electricity. Our pump should come today for the water. Starting unpacking yesterday. It is nice to have a goal....Saturday!

Our insurance agent has been in touch with us. Not sure what all that means, but at least we are communicating. Since I posted the thread of e-mails yesterday there has been no more communication between the players in our play entitled, “It Wasn’t Me...I did nothing wrong!!!”.

The company that is going to put in our pool was on-site yesterday. They outlined the perimeter and mapped it all out. The pool contractor speaks perfect English, came highly recommended by Keith and Sharon (from our 10pm New Year’s celebration) and they are starting the pool tomorrow. The block and cement work take a long time and they want to do it while the house is being constructed; the price even fit into our budget

The Canadian dollar is on the rise!! It was over 96 cents this morning!

An almost full moon is about to set over the ocean. The sun is rising over the Sierra de la Laguna mountains.

There is no snow here!

The coffee is great this morning! Had a good nights sleep and soon we are off to unpack some more of our things. It was so cool yesterday to “uncover” some of the household items I had packed especially for the bodega. Kitchen items we will use there...a vase that will match the colors inside. Our coffee cups. It was a little like coming home.

That made everything better.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The passing of the buck

Here are a series of e-mails from this morning...with the exception of the first one we sent. Everyone who had anything to do with our move, including our insurance guy, is copied on all these.....here we go!!

Juan and Alejandro,

The three guys arrived this morning to deliver our things. Already in the first 5 items unloaded there was damage to our goods. The men here that you sent will tell you how bad it was. A tear in our couch, a rip in a sofa we just purchased. Pieces of wood gouged out of antiques. Two of my antique lamps are actually broken right off the pole they sit on. There is a large hole poked through our cooler, broken mirrors, things marked FRAGILE that are smashed down under heavy pieces of furniture.....I could go on and on. The damage here in shocking. Obviously who ever packed this truck did so with little care. I do not even know where to begin to deal with this terrible mess we waited 3 months to receive. Do you not have some responsibility to us to take care of our goods?? Also, the item listed as buggy #418, for Maurice's truck is gone. I am not sure what else is missing, since they have just finished unloading. It will take me days to go through the boxes and figure out all the things that are broken inside. I can hear the broken items rattling inside. What do we do now? Do you compensate us for all this?

The three men you sent were very good! Who was responsible for throwing all our things into the truck that brought them here??

Maurice and Shelby Branzanti

Mr. Branzanti,

Thank you very much for your email, and for the information you give us abut the arriving of your personal effects. Let me tell you your belongings arrived damaged to the custom since the beginning so the bad packing service was made since origin, they are the ones you need to speak about a compensation as there is no a insurance with Crown for this service.

I'm really sorry to hear about the damages but that's how things are and i can't do anything else to help you. If you have any question please let me know.

Lic. Alejandro Diaz
Move Manager.
Crown Worldwide S.A. de C.V. (Mexico)

Alejandro. I will let Dimitri and Hercules, who are copied on this e-mail respond to you about this whole thing being their fault. They are the company of origin. We are disappointed in Crown, and your response. We hired you to represent us, here in Mexico. You dismissing us in this manner is unacceptable.
Maurice Branzanti


Please note that the origin packing was professionally done, audited and inventoried prior to loading the container with documentation and onsite surveying by the shippers to verify. This is a defamation of character against our company and will not be tolerated do to the mishandling of the cargo at destination. In addition I want a full explanation why the cargo was not delivered in the original 40’ container, who unloaded & loaded the cargo and the dock receipts confirming piece counts. As the time line indicates this cargo was handled multiple times and it is unethical and unprofessional to make the origin freight forwarder responsible for the cargo’s condition.

I believe an apology is in hand and we should all work professionally together to resolve Mr Branzati’s issues.

Best Regards,

Dimitri Donas
World Class Transport & Logistics


Thanks for your mail, but as you know your office sent a container with a big number of tools without our approval, so please don't tell me your office made a professional service. The container wasn't delivered directly in the final destination because of the bad handling of your office sending a big number of tools as HHG's, we have to handle this service in another way, we didn't handle the cargo multiple times, they arrived to our warehouse and in the way they arrived is the way we load it to our truck to make the delivery.

And as i said, this service wasn't insured with Crown so we don't have to make any compensation to Mr. Branzanti.

Lic. Alejandro Diaz
Move Manager.
Crown Worldwide S.A. de C.V. (Mexico)


You should do your homework before responding as our records indicate your office was aware of the tools prior to the vessel sailing. Your email does not answer my questions concerning dock receipts and why you did not inform us of the condition of the cargo when received at your terminal? In addition, as I stated in my prior email the shippers were onsite when we packed, wrapped and loaded the container all in good condition.

PS. Just to clarify your email below you are stating that the loading of the tools caused the balance of the cargo to arrive in poor condition?

Best Regards,

Dimitri Donas
World Class Transport & Logistics


Dimitri is correct about your company knowing of my tools. I had several conversations with Isabel before we even loaded the container about the best way to make sure there were no problems with my tools. They were not listed under house goods, or the Maneje de casa. They were on a separate list that was sent to your company, via e-mail, before their departure from Canada. We also sent to your company, by registered mail, the original lists of both the maneje de casa and the tool lists.

We, too, are awaiting the answers to Dimitri's questions. Whoever placed our possessions inside the smaller truck that was delivered to us did so with no regard for our things. Boxes of glassware were placed beneath large pieces of furniture. Many items were thrown in the truck. There was no placement of these goods, just shoved into place. Isn't Crown a professional moving company?

We also want to know where the rest of our things are. We requested copies of the photos of the things customs took. As we said, there were three things they kept. This should be on record. We paid you an additional $3,274 for what??

Maurice Branzanti