On top of the rock

On top of the rock
Our Cliff

Monday, September 27, 2010


Sundays in Mexico are pretty much like they are in the US or Canada; that is of course if you are in the Sand Bar. Helen, the owner, has three TV’s, all playing different NFL games. The regulars are there on Sundays, as well as “tourists”...groups of “20 something” guys who must notice the “NFL GAMES” sign that is out on the road. In they come looking for a burger, a beer and a little camaraderie. Normally you would not find me in the Sand Bar on a Sunday. I mean without ALL YOU CAN EAT PIZZA what is the point. I do not really need camaraderie, and Maurice and I are pretty darned happy in our world on Sunday. It is quiet, there are no workers and it is a good day for us to be together.

Today was different. I arrived at the Sand Bar just after 10:30am and stayed there until after 6. My word!! Almost 8 hours in a bar on a Sunday. A busy bar! A bar where a few orders of chicken wings, some grilled chicken breast sandwiches, and about 20 cheeseburgers where prepped, grilled, served on toasted buns with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, ketchup and mustard, all my ME! Not only was all the food cooked and served by me, so were all the drinks and beer consumed during these 8 hours.

Gabe, the normal bartender there is out of town for a week or so and I offered to help Helen since she is not a bartender. It was fun! Something different to do with our Sunday. (Maurice was not there as he stayed in the bodega getting ready to head to Canada on Wednesday. He is going there for his niece’s wedding and to visit everyone back home.) So I made drinks, washed glasses, cooked, waited tables, chatted with a bar full of NFL fans and got 320 pesos in tips! 320 pesos!! This is about $25. Funny how exciting it was to count my tips at the end of the day...Then I went to the gas station and spent most of it on gas for our generator.

Let’s see. One gas can will run the generator for about 6 hours. This will charge our batteries for two days as Maurice charges them for about 3 hours each day. So if I was really working here to survive in this world I would have to work, for tips, for 4 hours each day just so we could have electricity. Oh Oh...I have to stop writing this blog. It is 3 am and I need to unplug the computer and turn off the lights....there are no more tips in my future!!

Friday, September 24, 2010


Wednesday night...not a peep. Not a baaaahhhh, not a scream, a whine, a chirp, a cry..nothing. Totally quiet.

Where did they all go??

Back in the earth already?

This is the strangest thing....100's one night....ZERO ZIP NADA the next....



Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Georgette has passed up by. In her wake she left lots of water, tons of mud, some broken palm branches, a very rough road to drive on and frogs.

Frogs?? How can tropical storm LEAVE frogs?? That was MY question.

Monday night we heard them. The sound was such that I had no idea what I was hearing. Sometimes the noise sounded like a sheep “baaaaaaing”. Sometimes I thought it was the wind whistling through the trees. Sometimes it just sounded like a scratchy whine. I heard it throughout the night, along with the rain, but did not wake Maurice. In the morning he asked if I heard the frogs. I exclaimed, “FROGS!” How could there be frogs here. He said he did not know but last year, when he experienced tropical storms there were huge frogs leaping around. Hmmm....

Last night as soon as the dark day turned into a darker dusk they began again. This time there were 100’s of them. The noise was deafening. The sound seemed to come from everywhere. I still would not have thought of frogs, but Maurice was of course correct. They scream, they whine, the sound is a mix between high winds blowing through a pipe and sheep “baaaaaing.” They kept us awake most of the night. I kept saying to Maurice, “WHERE DO THEY COME FROM??” I mean Georgette did not “rain” them here. We live in the desert. Now the pools of water are filled with huge frogs signing to each other like they are in a crazy amount of heat!

Today we searched on line and found that yes, they are frogs. There are three, although probably many more, types of desert frogs. They vary in the manner in which they retain moisture in their bodies, but they all have one thing in common. They bury themselves in the earth and come out when it rains. If you have ever been in the desert you know the earth hardens and then cracks like concrete. Try to dig a hole in this soil and it is very difficult as the earth is too solid. How do frogs bury themselves in this stuff and then come out when it rains??!! It may rain here a couple times a year...or it may rain here once very couple of years, yet we have frogs. Loud, barking, baaaing, whining frogs.

Since we still have lots of water on the ground I am assuming tonight there will be even more of them joining in song. Thank heavens tonight is pizza night. A few margaritas and maybe I will be able to sleep for a couple of hours!

Ribit!....by the way...frogs do not really say “ribit”...at least these crazy-cement-boring-creatures don’t!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Talk about never knowing what a day will bring!!!!....

For the past 24 hours we have been experiencing different levels of Tropical Storm Georgette. This came as a surprise since we have no TV so we got no warning.

FUN!!...my first Tropical Storm!! I am guessing our house “Arriba” is not as happy as I am. We have no windows or doors there yet and the floors are 99% in…the painting is 99% complete and now the whole thing is being battered by winds and rain. Looking out across our land down here I see various sized lakes all over the place. A few months ago we had a large portion of the land in front of our bodega graded and filled with absorbent soil in preparation for storms like this. I am here to tell you clearly we did not do enough grading or bring in enough absorbent soil! Our land and the surrounding areas are swimming in water oozing with mud.

I even got to drive in a tropical storm as earlier today I had to drive to Todos Santos to cover some checks we wrote over the weekend. I needed to exchange USD for pesos. Our money flows from Canadian dollars to USD into pesos….we are often on the loosing end of the exchange rates, but that is a story for another blog. Anyway, for this reason we play the “exchange” game and try to move money when it is the most beneficial for us.

There is construction from here to Todos Santos. Todos Santos is about 20 km or 12 miles from us. They are making a 4 lane highway all the way from Todos Santos to Cabo and we sit on this path. About 80% of this road is now torn up…most of it still unpaved. The ride there, with the rains and the mess took over ½ hour. I am coming back and the rain had taken a short repreive. It is humid so I roll down both my windows. I am driving along in a line of about 10 cars. Everyone is going so slowly. The road is rutted, muddy and dangerous. All of a sudden some guy who must have been VERY important decided to pass all of us. He races be splaying mud and water the whole way. When I realize what is happening the whole side of the truck had already been totally covered in mud. The mud was thrown against the truck, through the truck and out the passenger side window. Everything in between was covered in mud. The steering wheel, the car seats, the dash board, my head, hair, face, my neck, my shirt, my purse, phone..even my bra got mud on it! It was crazy! Maurice could not quite figure out what had happened to me when I got home and climbed down out of the truck!

Now we are inside watching and listening to the storm. It comes in waves. You can hear it beating on our metal roof. There are gusts of wind we feel through the open windows as the storm moves from south to north. Our windows are on the east and west so we can have them open. We are safe in our concrete block building. Retro is on the porch in his cage, climbing deeper into the corners of his cage, but seemingly fine, or we think he would be at the door wanting to come in.

For my first tropical storm, Maurice has lived through them before when he was here alone, I have to say I am enjoying the freshness in the air, the change from hot sun and dry desert. You can almost see things starting to bloom. Tomorrow there will be buds beginning to grow on the cactus. Everything will start to come back to life...a life that only rains like this can provide. All things dormant will begin to stretch, yawn, and wake themselves up; welcoming the change. After a while the sun will start to burn them back into dormancy where they will wait...just like I will...for our next storm.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

You never really know what the day will bring...

We love Sundays and Mondays. The majority of the workers are not here. It is quiet. It is a good time for us to relax or run errands.

Sunday morning I excitedly ask Maurice what “we are doing today?” He pauses, and says...we’ll see. He says that we can never really know what the day will bring. Ya Ya..blah blah..I wanna know!

He is just hanging around so I take Retro up the beach by myself. Then I get back, shower and we are sitting listening to the remnants of a party that began last night. It started early evening...let up around 4:30 am and started again at 7:30am this morning. Music. People. Noise. More music..Folk music. Local musicians playing their hearts out. Come to find out it was the QuinceaƱera of a local girl. This is the Mexican celebration of your daughter turning 15. It is huge here...much like a Bar Mitzvah, or Bat Mitzvah would be. So we sit listening to the voices and the music that seems to be right in our living room, but in actuality is about ¼ mile away.

So here we are. We are chatting about my fairy tale story and its antagonist. I am hot from my walk with Retro and I am sitting rather unclothed in our bodega. In pulls a Jeep. This is so common, as I have said before. We have many visitors weekly, many we do not know. So this red Jeep pulls in and I say, “Maurice, who is THIS!” He peers out the door and hesitantly says, with a questions mark attached, "The Sheldon’s??!"

THE SHELDONS??!! Keith and Sharon?? Our friends who we caravanned with up to the border with a month ago? Our friends who are in Vegas until the end of October?? Our friends whose plants I am watering and we just spoke to 2 days ago?? YES!! Here they are in our driveway. They decided, spur of the moment, and some 1350 miles later, to come back!! OMG! How exciting for us! Here they are. We go have breakfast, get caught up, swim in their pool, hang around...

Maurice says, See...you never really know what the day will bring! This day brought to us our long lost friends!!

Note to self....

Week of September 19th...Highlight is not pizza night at the Sand Bar. It is the surprise arrival of our dear friends, The Sheldon’s! YEEHAA

Friday night

Back in July I had a posting called “The Milestone”. It mentioned our temporary web site and a couple of other stories. One of the things I talked about was eating goat at a man named Javelin’s house. If you look at the pictures there you will see one of a man with blue eyes. He is the only Mexican I have ever seen with blue eyes. I am sure there are more; it is just that I have not seen them.

His name is Raphael. Last Friday he and his wife, Julietta, (pronounced WHO LEE ET A) came here for a visit. They brought some friends fishing and waited at our place for them to be finished so they could take them back. They sat with us for a couple of hours. It was nice...BUT...I speak so little Spanish I missed lots. At least I was competent at being the server of the coca cola and the cerveza for Raphael and Maurice. When they left they told us they were coming back the next Friday, last night, with homemade tortillas. Of course she did not know that I had attended tortilla school and was a WHIZ at making tortillas!! We said, YES PLEASE!

Yesterday comes. I clean the bodega. Bring out the chairs. Go buy beer, as Raphael likes beer. About 3pm Efram comes. He is the son of Javelin, the man whose place we were at when we ate goat. They have a blanket factory 5 minutes north of here. Efram stops by on occasion. He is WONDERFUL! Seriously!! When Lynda and Scott were here a couple of weeks ago he sold them blankets, a purse, a tablecloth and hammock chair for next to nothing, because she was my sister. We love this guy. Yesterday he stops and visits then proceeds to go fishing. We told him Raphael and Julietta were coming later on. He was surprised!! He was anxious to come back after fishing and see them. He knows they are great people, he told us.

It is 5 o'clock. Here we all three sit. The bodega is clean. The chairs are lined up. We have cold beer. No one is coming. 5 o’clock comes and goes. 6 o’clock comes and goes. 7 o’clock comes and ALMOST goes when in they pull. The have a large, very nice white pick-up. In the back, standing straight up, is their 9 year old daughter, named Julietta, after her mother, so I call her Julietta Dos. I start pointing to my wrist and shaking my head cause they are so late. The funny thing is though, I KNEW they would come. Even after the time passed and we talked about whether they forgot or not...I just KNEW deep inside they would come.

Come to find out Raphael is SO SICK. He is on anti-biotics. He has been sick since Monday. He is coughing and wheezing and is miserable...but they came. They had to come. They told us they would bring tortillas. Not only did they bring tortillas, they brought home made cheese from a ranch where they have friends. They had to drive there to get the cheese which is why they are so late. They invited us to go there with them one day soon. So we all eat tortillas wrapped around freshly made cheese. Maurice was in heaven!! We drink coca cola (ours had rum in it) and we chat. Julietta Dos remembers meeting us at the goat eating party but she does not speak one word of English. She stares at me. (Blonde hair here is a rarity) She is ADORABLE!!! She asks to ride in our Kawasaki Mule. I take her but it is getting dark. I ask her if she wants to drive. Of course I can not say, “Do you want to drive” so we work it out in my limited Spanglish. She is calm, collected, totally fearless, but respectful of the machine. I find out it is the first time she EVER drove anything. Her parents were surprised when she drove us back in the deep dark dusk of the night. She was proud!

Just before they left it was 8:50pm and very dark. She wanted to go one more time. We invited them back next Friday to eat pasta with us and we told her she can drive again then. They asked if they can also bring their two 20-something sons...for pasta, not to drive the mule! Julietta Dos was smiling, a shy, absolute stunning smile. I will take pictures next week and post them. Come to find out her birthday is the day after mine; she will be 10 on December 6th.

Yes, in my fairy tale not all is good. We have run into a character or two that needs dealing with, and we will. But seriously, the people here are genuine. They are honest. They are happy and we have a great life living amongst them. We are totally blessed!

As a post script...every Saturday there is a guy that comes by here. He travels all around the area selling fresh fish out of the back of his pick-up truck. He has coolers filled with various types of fish and shrimp, scallops etc. Today we bought a large piece of sushi-grade ahi-tuna that I will sear tonight for dinner, along with two large fillets of red snapper that we will eat tomorrow. It cost us 100 pesos...about 8 dollars.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Once upon a time….

Once upon a time there was a very honest couple. They had a vision which many thought was rather crazy. They wanted to move to a foreign land and build their dream on the ocean. There were problems and questions and they had many barriers to cross before they could really commit.

Once of the biggest problems this honest couple had was to find a competent team of people to do the job. This, in and of itself was not such a problem as there were many who wanted the work. The problem was who could this honest couple afford? You see, as in many fairy tales they had a big dream...with a not-so-big bank account.

Then one day they found the perfect person. A seemingly kind and honest man who told them he could do the job at a price they were happy with. Since this honest couple’s dream was taking place south of the border they were dealing in pesos, not dollars. Everything was written out...Everything was good. This kind man also agreed to build them a road, which was another one of their problems; carving a road through granite and limestone. Never fear, he said, he is a very knowledgeable man and he can take care of the road for them. This honest couple surely trusted this seemingly honest man. They gave him postdated checks for the building and completion of the road. These checks were dated back in 2008.

Then a funny thing happened. All the checks got cashed, but the road was not completed!! The honest couple was upset. They trusted this once-seemingly-honest man and he took all their money. He told a fairy tale of his own saying that the man he hired to do the work stole it from him so he too, was upset, but he would finish the job.

To complicate things this man, once assumed to be honest and kind, was also going to be the general contractor on the main project. The honest couple knew they could work things out financially since they still had to pay him his agreed upon fee, called “honorario”, for doing this job. They thought if there were any problems finishing the road they could use this fee as leverage.

As in some fairy tales, not everything is as it seems. This once-seemingly-honest man was not what he appeared. When the honest couple used this leverage of withholding some of his fee so the road would be done it was not taken to very kindly by the man. He asked the honest couple, "Don't you trust me??" They had arguments and all was not “pretty”.

Finally in June of 2010 they all came to an agreement. The man came up with a written time frame to finish the road. The honest couple agreed to pay for everything needed to do this job. They agreed that after everything was completed the couple would subtract these paid monies from his “honorario”. The man wrote up a piece of paper and had the couple sign it. This paper said they agreed to pay him his remaining honorario in full, and showed the previous payments he had received. Of course these previous payments were in pesos. The paper was signed. This was one of about 50 pieces of paper supplied to the couple. He gave them receipts and paper for everything. All of the monies in every one of these receipts were in pesos...after all, in their fairytale they live south of the border.

In their fairy tale world all was O.K.

Being diligent people with a not-so-large bank account the honest couple kept track of every peso spent. Well, to be truthful, the honest male in the couple kept track of everything...he is very good at this. One day when going through payments he excitedly exclaimed to his wife that they had paid, and actually overpaid the “honorario” with all of the payments for material and labor to finish the road. The honest couple decided that even though they had overpaid that this was fine. They were happy and would certainly NOT ask the previous-seemingly-honest man for money back. They were happy as they had no more financial obligation to him!

Today the wife of the honest couple was at their friend’s house watering some plants. The husband comes there and asks her how much she thinks the original agreement with the man was for. She answers him...of course in pesos. He proceeds to tell her that NOW this man is saying the agreement was in US dollars. This means that we...oops...this honest couple would now owe him another 30%, since this is the rate of exchange. How could that be??

Come to find out, when he drew up the paper back in June, he put his honorario in USD. The ONLY piece of paper every received from him is USD. He put the money that was paid to him already in pesos, and the money still owed in USD. Since both pesos and USD are written using $ signs it was not noticed. Keep in mind that the original agreement and every single quote or bill or receipt before and since has been in pesos.

When you live south of the border there are a few issues you have to be aware of. One, is you can not tell someone you do not think they are honest. You have to play the game and use rational thinking and conversation. Secondly, everything is in a foreign language. To rationalize in your native tongue is hard enough, to do it in a foreign language is close to impossible.

Right now while this fairy tale is being excitedly typed away, the honest man is outside trying to rationalize with the once-seemingly-honest man. The woman is sitting inside since she could not be kind and rational. She hears soft voices and rational conversation. If she was out there this would not be happening.

One thing I can guarantee you is that this fairy tale story will not end well. The honest couple will end up being screwed by this once-seemingly-honest man. Why? Because he thinks he is entitled. He thinks that the honest couple has more money then he originally thought and that they have build a “better” place then he thought they were going to and he wants a piece of it. Even though he only popped in once a week to see what was happening and did no physical work at all, he feels entitled. At least this is what the honest woman thinks.

Move forward 30 minutes....

The honest man comes inside and the mean, evil, lying SOB is gone. (Oops did I say that out loud??) The honest man says that the evil one thinks that since the couple signed the USD note that is what they have to pay. When he was asked why every other dollar amount was written in pesos he BS’ed something that made no sense.

Anyway the evil one said he would make a compromise in one of two ways. Either split the 30% difference, OR even crazier is he will calculate in his mind how much he thinks the honest couple spent in construction and they will pay him 10% of that amount as his fee!

To stall the inevitable argument the truly honest man says he will go through his papers and they can talk about it more next week. They think that if ANYONE was deserving of more money it is the hard working crew that is actually building their dream!..in 100 degree heat!!..as the once-seemingly-honest man rides up the cliff in his air conditioned vehicle to visit once a week!

Lucky she stayed in the house...hopefully with the honest man dealing with the issue they can all live happily ever after.

"The events depicted in this fairy tale are fictitious. Any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


It is another night that sleep is running from me. I have been in bed for 2 hours, flipping like a minnow in this heat, so now I find myself on Maurice's computer (mine is still non-functioning) sharing my woes with you. It is hot!! Took a Tylenol PM an hour ago...so now I am yawning, but still not sleepy. Maurice happily snores away, 20 feet from me, as he is in the bedroom, and I am in our living room. If I threw a pillow it would land in the kitchen sink and if I tossed it a little further it would be swimming in the toilet. Such is our life in our little bodega.

We are getting closer, though, to "moving up". We will both really miss it down here. This is only the 7th month that we have lived here but it feels like home and we love it. We may just rent out the whole place up there and stay here and live happily ever after....I think Retro would be happy with that. He has all his favorite spots down here and we wonder what he will do "Arriba". We may just find him back on our porch, searching for his dog house.

We are looking at the week of October 11th to start our move up. We have to wait until the doors and windows are in, and we are hoping they will start to put them in that week. We need the kitchen installed too, and of course all the other services. If we can be in and settled in two weeks I will be thrilled. My sister Barbara is coming to help. Thank heavens! She is organized and thorough and disciplined. She can grab the margarita out of my hand and pull me from the pool when the boxes need unpacking! We still have lots to uncover in those boxes. How much more damage we will find I am not sure. Hopefully we got most of it already as we got our insurance check a couple of weeks ago. They were great about everything and so we ended up viewing the horrible "move" in a more positive light.

Speaking of lights, Maurice is moving around now. I think the light is bothering him so I will say good night for now.

Thanks for keeping me company...sure hope this pill kicks in! Tomorrow is pizza night and I need my beauty rest!!!

P.S. I had to get reading glasses to write this post! I know the light is dim now, but PLEASE! WHAT’S UP WITH THAT!! Reading glasses for the computer!!! Sleeping pills and reading glasses...oh oh...here comes a hot flash!! Maybe it is not really even hot here...maybe it is just me....

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Ahhh … the progress

The terracing is done. They finished it today.

Yes, some of it is way to “rosa” (pink) but everything looks so neat and tidy it is O.K. We will paint some of the facing of the steps the same “grey” that our house is being painted and it should be fine. The fire pit especially, needs grey on the front of the steps, other than that it is beautiful. The surf pounding below you, while you sit in front of the fire, will be spectacular!

We are happy with the color we ended up with for the buildingsexcept we keep changing how many walls will be accent walls. I think we will end of with very few. The windows will all be painted in this beige-y accent color and we chose a color with a little more “rosa” than we would have a couple of weeks ago, but it really blends in well in the overall look.

The fireplace in the main room is gorgeous. It is all multicolored slate, although they still need to finish the opening.The bar stone looks wonderful and they cut pieces of slate to put inside the alcove in the bar, kind of tying it all together.

The shower in “Boca” is very Moroccan looking.Maurice designed it himself and it is quite spectacular. The tile work really finishes it off. This room is done.The floors are in, the walls are painted really highlighting our brick accents...well I guess not done. We still need a sink and cabinet by the shower, closets, toilet and sink in the bathroom, doors, windows….oh well…it still looks good!

Today they measured, for the second time, all the openings for the windows. This is our biggest expense, of course other than the construction. So much of what we are doing will be glass so it is important to make sure we are happy with everything. We have had so many companies wanting this part of the job but no one can do what Maurice wants, until this company.

There is a house not far from us. We heard it sold for over 2 million dollars. It looks great! Very modern; an architectural dream. When we had a chance to get a close look at it we noticed they had the cheapest appearing windows!! We were shocked. Flimsy metal frames, they certainly did nothing to enhance the appearance of the house!!!...that was our lesson...thus, the difficult decision!

Our wooden doors and closets are being made. They will be done in about a month, as will the glass doors. Hopefully the weather will hold out. Even though we really, really need rain, it would be a shame to soak all the fresh paint, flooring etc. before we have a chance to put in the doors and windows.

They started laying the travertine floor in our main room. The pool people are here putting the “inside” finish to the pool, having completed all the “trim” last week. AND...drum roll...they are finishing our road. 18 months after it should have been finished they are working on the road! Not sure how long the process is but it looks great! SO many machines and workers around just to do the first section! Much of the rest will have to be cleared and worked on by hand.

It never ceases to amaze me. Our workers are the best! Even with half the crew left for the finishing work, and knowing that their job will end soon, they are diligent, happy and proud of everything they do. How many people do you know that can say the same thing?

If you have not seen our FB page please check us out. It is Arriba de la Roca....there is also a link on our temporary web site. www.arribadelaroca.com On our FB page I will be posting more photos...if you are interested. :)