October 31, 2008
Many of the Day of the Dead rituals surrounding All Saints Day were similarly conceived. There was nothing pagan about it. Halloween, on the other hand, is based on pagan concepts.
So when I went to get pan muerto for Eriso's family and myself, I was mildly shocked. I wish I had a camera with me.
There were squash, not pumpkin, shaped faces with mouths wide open and eye holes and mouth holes filled with pudding. Ugh. The shop owner pointed and smiled. "Halloween," she said. I smiled. I had already reconsidered going to Centro for a treck amongst the overserved.
I don't celebrate Halloween. As a rural kid, I never cared for dragging my mother door to door in the rain, but it was expected. You had to bring your candy to school and show off and share.
Honoring the dead and the survivors had nothing to do with it. Isla Mujeres and Cancun are being changed by the gringos here, with places like Walmart introducing orange plastic jack-o-lanterns for trick-or-treating which in Centro is likely to last a week, because Americans think it's cute.
Try giving those kids candy and see what happens! They get it every day. No, they'll be begging for pesos even though most get some discretionary pesos, too.
Eriso thanked me for the pan muerto to take to Debora and his three kids. They won't be trick or treating tonight, an ugly night following a gray afternoon. They'll be sipping hot chocolate or sweetened corn milk, eating their sweet breads, and recalling children who didn't make it. That is what Day of the Dead Children and Day of the Dead are supposed to be about. Not dressing up to frighten folks or to win money, but to honor the dead, those who survive and mocking "Death."
Yesterday at lunchtime, Eriso asked that I go get three more polyduct tubes for the front fence frames. Jose got the last order wrong when he went alone, so we are short.
But when I showed up at Boxito at 2:09, they were closed and not just for lunch. A sign says that through December, their new hours are 9am to 2pm. Me thinks this is a bad thing. And an update, this may have been a one day thing, because this morning, the sign said Sunday hours. But I was the only one there.
Gringos usually go with their workers in the mornings, and usually start out before 9, say 8am, when the workers also go to make their purchases for Mexican property owners. If gringos are are doing their own work, they usually go in the afternoon, buying for the next day. Boxito usually closes at 7pm. Which by my logic suggests there is less overall home improvement and construction is being done. The recession trickles over.
And the old wooden door on the bodega (shed) disintegrated over the weekend. I know that since the carpenter hasn't come by to measure for bedroom drawers that he is likely too busy finishing up his yacht jobs to be of help. And an investment into the door was planned for next month, replacing it with an aluminum one.
So, in the meantime, I will drop by a chatarrero or two, junk men, to see if there are any spare doors around that Eriso or one of his buddies could hang on the bodega frame. AND, Oh yes, I ,owe Tidyman a few more passages for the book, which I should be writing right now instead of blogging.
All that and Halloween, too. Bwahahaha! I might not be wandering Centro selling kisses, but wandering the keyboard, tapping out words. Bwah.
October 30, 2008
It is a fact that was reinforced on my road trip. Mexican men are very macho caballeros. I, who need help going down Mexican high steps (why are steps poured one foot tall or more?) am forever being offered a hand by men. What they give me is a limp wrist or forearm that I can do without, thank you. It is worse than no help at all.
Traveling with a woman, it was different. Tome mi hombro. I don't want your hombre! Pero...oh, your shoulder! And she would step down ahead of me and I would use her shoulder as a crutch or cane. Very easy on both of us and very secure for me. If I were to fall, I'd know where I was going. And she was discrete enough so no one really realized it was taking her hombre. Oh, make that hombro. I don't want her hombre!
But life amongst the rubble has entered a new phase. Aguakan has replaced the water meter in the front, elevating it about 10 inches and Eriso spent yesterday bending rebar into canes and cutting the tubes for the posts. His wife ran over to ask for money for a new hacksawblade , so you know he's been working hard.
Losses in the project: The gardenia tree - its roots had dug into Pizza Mia's foundation. And the chaya bush, which had gotten tall and unsteady.
Chaya is a wonderful thing to own. Its leaves are very green and are great in scrambled eggs or a blended drink. It is high in calcium and an enzyme to help uptake more calcium. It has a lot of phosphorus and the green with the highest amount of protein known to man.
Periodically, neighbors would drop by and ask to pick leaves. The bush was God's gift, starting from a cutting after Hurricane Wilma took the cedar and planted in it's place. Folks always offered to pay for the leaves, but I always said you can't pay for God's gifts. When the Super gets them in, the cost is 4o pesos a kilo.
Before the front phase started, I took three cuttings and placed them in water. On Tuesday, after leaves were harvested for me, Eriso and a couple neighbors, folks passed by and picked it clean as the cadaver lay on the sidewalk
Yesterday, two women came by and harvested a lot of cuttings. Chaya grows well without much soil and flourishes in the hot, wet and dry elements of the island. I suspect the cuttings will produce a lucrative bounty for Maya merchants and households throughout my nearby neighborhoods. Almost on cue, the city came by and picked up the skeletal remains.
Jose went about looking for a full time job yesterday. He learned on Saturday that Miguel cannot take him back from his furlough. And since his efforts for me slowed down considerably, and since he was becoming emotionally dependent on me, his mamita also had to kick the little duckling out of the nest. Come back when I am your supplemental income, not your sole source.
He did stop by yesterday seeking some advice. I had made meatballs and lima beans in Boston baked bean style (yes, Isla has brown sugar now!) and he, of course, loved it. And he was off to Villa Vera, in hopes of being hired. Me hopes so too.
October 28, 2008
The daily minimum wage is 23 pesos and that is what orchard workers make. They also get to eat all the fruit they want and are given space for small gardens, to raise radishes and carrots for market. They trap rabbits and roast them. But the radish and carrot patches also buy meat so they can give their families the 23 pesos a day, mostly for shoes and school for the kids. A good pair of shoes in the state of Yucatan can be purchased for 50 pesos or less.
The workers sleep in hammocks in the fruit trees, with tarps above them. Is is an easy life? No. But their wives raise turkeys to feed the kids, free range turkeys fed corn they have grown, and sell those, too. The turkeys and a couple chickens produce eggs and more chickens. These are folks that won't even realize a global recession has hit them. Sure, there will be commuting workers who might loose their city jobs. They will shuck corn to take to the tortilla mill and feed their siste's poultry' and be fed. Everyone has clothes to last a few years, it seems.
Common consumer goods are priced by the region. I forgot my 15 peso Walmart tooth brush on Isla Mujeres and picked one up for six pesos in a corner store. A Colgate Triple Action brush.
To a person, the Maya, and most Mexicans for that matter, think Americans are incredibly rich. I was open with them, saying what my Social Security is, what my pension is, and what my health insurance costs. A stagger $6,500 pesos a month...more under the new conversion rate. My bank trust costs, the cost of cleaning my apartments, a staggering wage for them at 200 pesos, the two electric bills, two cable bills, the Mexican taxes paid, the US and Ohio taxes paid, etc. They all concluded I am no better off than a simple worker on Isla. Add to that, the world financial crisis and they became concerned for me.
The visit gave me thought to better plan my "victory garden." Have seeds, will survive! And at least know that the veggies are good and fresh. Bean and rice prices are supported by the government.
It felt so bleak when I was home in Ohio this summer that I bought a Pocket Fisherman. I really did! Eriso look at it, snickered and then suggested I could join the Sunday bunch that brings buckets of fish for him to clean and fry. Well, maybe not a bucket, Eriso. But I can pass some time on a ponga and contribute to the cause. Ha!
One can fantasize survival while watching the daily news. It is comforting to know that I have a roof and resources beyond what dollars can buy. I have some Mexican friends who now understand our economy, and I theirs.
We took a LUXURY, not First Class, bus to Merida. I have never been in such a cocoon! There were three seats to a row, one plus two. You get a little bag with your amenities, ear buds and ear plugs, a soft drink and eye mask. You sit down with a blanket, a pillow and the seats are bigger than most home recliners. Five TV screens and a first class movie with the ear buds so no one talks at all. If they do, there's always the ear plugs.
Curtains are drawn in the coach and across the driver's cab. It's like being in a dark bedroom with 21 other people. Only, the AC was a lot colder than I'd ever dare use in my bedroom. LED display hovered between 21 and 24 degrees, since everyone had their own climate control overhead.
Since I barely slept the night before, I did the cocoon thing with the blanket and redundant eye mask and chose not to watch the suspense move with the ear buds. A couple Mexican businessmen cracked open the curtains do read their brief cases, but for the most part, it was as quiet as a cemetery.
The recliners were were plush upholstery down to your ankles. The restrooms, male and female, had a coffee and tea station between them.
The movie, my friend said, was Mexican suspense. When I peekd, it looked artsy to me. Wooden dolls being painted, put in a dolly mausoleum, and real cemetery scenes to follow.
Hrumph. Note my genre. Close eyes again. Arriving in Merida just ahead of a 24 hour downpour, we got into the street and my friend said if we walked a block, we could find a Yellow cab that wasn't based in the hotel zone and save a bundle of money. But first, a pit stop in the cab union station for a restroom.
Then a 10 peso cab to a square where the Maya colectivo vans, vagonetas, where we piled into one with 15 other people like sardines. For 25 pesos, we were on our way, another hour from where we were going.
Once we got there, there were tricyles built for two passengers or the one cab that could take us to Ticul, a charming little city. Or an hourly large bus to Ticul, a charming little city.
In Ticul, more tricyle cabs and a few tricycle cabs where the driver didn't peddle, but had a motorcycle pushing the seats for two. We went to Ticul for a baptism and to shop a bit. It is known for its shoes and jewelry. We got neither, but had fun!
Coming back, we took commuter bus to Ticul with workers headed for Merida, and then another bus from the charming bus station, headed for Merida. That bus wasn't filled with workers, who took a vagoneta, but with shoppers and businessmen. We got off not far from the market and took a cab into it. There I got a 25 peso hair cut, a bit short but not a bad DA, and high tailed it to the bus station after picking up some food to go. Then, on to Cancun in a First Class bus. We got a little bag with a soft drink and ear plugs, two plus two seats to a row, a view of the driver's cab and a display that showed if the men's or women's rooms were occupied.
On the three screens was "3:30 - Road to Yuma," again, not my genre, but Russell Crow looked great when I glanced at the Spanish subtitles.
We ate our volcanos, a masa, beans and pumpkin seed cake with salsa and slept without pillows, blankets or calf support in our recliners almost until Cancun, opening our curtains as we approached to take in the sights. Very industrial and commercial on the outskirts of Cancun, a less than charming big city.
October 24, 2008
So, this person, who heard the word parking got confused with estacionamento, and bam, we have a new word, the meaning of which is pretty clear, but the sight of which is amusing. Translating back into Spanish, it means no chispa! No spark. Without the "g" of course. Clear on that?
On my way back, the cabbie I had sang the ABC song for me. And he said he knows all about sparking!
The two have a special bond, with her sister placed in charge of raising the baby Marta after their mother died, until they were placed with grandparents. That didn't work out so well but it served to bond the sisters even more.
Picking up Day of the Dead goodies is a must do. For Marta, cleaning and visiting her mother's grave is also very important, as she did in 2006, pictured here.
This is also a chance for me to buy young Maya tree trunks, straight as an arrow, to use as the background for shade cloth on upper deck, aka rooftop patio. Marta's father makes the trip to Cancun twice a week carrying fruits and produce, so that is a way to get the lumber here without paying Cancun lumberyard prices. Very pricey.
I am continuing to work on passages for the "newsies before the papers died in Cleveland" book that John Tidyman is compiling. Funny, how I'm doing this approaching Day of the Dead. I'm up in the middle of the night, so day of the dead may be my reality in the morning!
For the road trip, I'm going to take a little cooler and hopefully bring back some venison to keep frozen until Christmas. I never really new how much I liked venison until I started eating it here, where it is farm raised now. Hunting Bambi is no longer permitted in Maya country because the deer is an endangered species.
How different from North of the border!
October 23, 2008
My credit card was declined and I burned cell minutes with Chase security, only to lose the line. I tried Skyping from an internet cafe, but that didn't work. And then, I Lora and I got caught in a downpour that also sidelined Eriso and Jose.
When I came back, there was nothing to do but call Credit Card Services for Friday and then make junk food! Some coleslaw, new to both men, and a bagel spread of anchovies and cream cheese. Jose had never tasted anchovies, but liked them a lot. "Good junk!" he said. I told him overserved tourists might say "good shit."
We also had 4 kinds of chips with salsa. Jose is a good boy when it comes to getting junk food fixin's in the rain
Once the rain lightened, Eriso started cutting the bougainvillea WAY back to make room for the front fence. He also cleared the assorted plants that would be in the way. Jose and I had already taken cuttings from the chaya bush, so tomorrow or later, Eriso can remove that too.
It will be quite a different look when done. The posts will be dark green and orange, setting off the cantelope and minty walls of the house.Before he came to work, Eriso had taken in the news. "Japan market took a dive, " he announced when I opened the door. Sorry to say, I already knew! We didn't know yet that efforts to bolster the peso by selling off a billion dollar from the central bank didn't pay off. Where are we headed?
Are you a Mexican? No, norteunidense. At which point, the attending physician, ordered the two younger doctors to stand at attention. She pronounced me a Mexican, with a crisp triple salute.
Cost for a peroxide cleaning and butterly dressing and antibiotic prescription to fill, $260 pesos, Sense of belonging, priceless.
October 22, 2008
The bedroom was taking on water! Soon the inside of the boarded up house had water in it too.
Since I have a prescription for Valium, to ease the cramping of my multiple sclerosis, I decided to weather the storm sedated. Every time I woke up, I took 5 mg.
The lights were cut off Thursday afternoon. Around the middle of the night, it started. By Sunday, morning it was easing. Later in the day, I took my cell phone to the roof for a look-see and to try to reach my family. I knew if I got a line out, it might be short-lived.
I looked around and called to neighbors in the street. They said they weren't going to work. The water in downtown was chest deep.
I called my brother, who kept trying to ask questions. I said, "Just listen, take notes. When I am done, if there is time, I'll answer questions." I got what I had to say out and we lost contact for days. I lost the coil in the golf cart the day before Wilma and it was down the street at a mechanic's house. He turned out to be a drunk who took money for repairs he never got to.
A merchant from Centro and his son came by, asking if I could take them in while they rebuilt their store. They had just gotten a shipment of Chiapan amber and were concerned for its security. When the lights went out on Thursday, we were automatically in a police state. In the light of day, you could see that everyone - state, federal, local, military, were indistiguishable. All dressed in black. All armed.
The same had happend in Emily and I immediately felt secure. We didn't have the looting and theft that Cancun did.
I had gone to the ATM several times as the storm approached, but the storm packed the ATMS with sand and soon the money would run out. I also had a great stockpile of food and purified water, but was short on potable water since I had a little trouble with the meter going into the storm.
By mid afternoon, there was a knock on the door. The muncipality was delivering a box of food. I said I was fine and they said the docks were out, that is was obligatory that I take it.
There was Maseca, cans of tuna, powdered milk, animal crackers, mayonnaise, several kinds of pasta, sardines, a kilo of sugar, even a little jar of Nescafe.
The next day, I found a cab in the streets and went to see downtown. It was a wreck! The sand on Medina was chest deep. The ATMs were buried.
But everyone was helping everyone. I started assembling a crew to scrape what was left off my compound. I became the first employer in the area and this work would continue into cutting down my cedar, building the fence, painting the house.
I went to the paint store yesterday to pick up paint for the new fencing. The guys reminded me that I was the first, and for a long time after, the only customer they had after Wilma. Jose is struck by the familiarity folks have with me. But I was one of only a handful of gringos on the island and we all stuck out.
I soon ran out of potable water and it seemed everytime I went to the Red Cross, they were already out. Luci and I went to the salina with buckets and scooped up water to flush the toilets with. We loaded it with bleach of course.
In time, my neighbor with the car wash was bringing me water. Oaxaco has a well.
The youths scraped and cleaned. I fixed and fed them two squares a day and sent food home to their mothers. I learned to take Maseca cornmeal and make my own tortillas.
Slowly, the military helicopters began to bring in purified water and some food. I remember at this point, a neighbor killed some chickens and I got my hands on one. I cooked it for the merchants from Centro,but they didn't show up. I decided it was time to steal my golf cart back.
But it couldn't make the two block trip home. I got some kids to push it back and invited them in to take chicken back to their families.
They came in and stood at the counter, eyes wide open. I had arranged a canlelight buffet for my expected house guests. It certainly wasn't what they were used to seeing. I made them load plates of chicken, potatoes and rice. They walked home to familes in disbelief.
It would take a long time to fix the water and sewer pipes, which were mixing in the sea. So, eventually, Corona sent water in beer cans, marked Agua Purificada. We had phone service before electricty. At night, Karina's MiniSuper would take my laptop and cell to charge with tehir generator. In exchange, I'd get some gasoline when I could.
The government decided that of the areas needing rewiring, Cozumel, Cancun and Isla Mujeres, we were "doable," so we got done first. The men came from the electric company all over the county and immediately bought souvernir cowboy hats. I was in Marlboro Country!
The ATMs seemingly took forever, but Western Union was up and running within two weeks. My brother loaned me money to keep the youths working and fed.
Each year since, I over shop for hurricane season. This year, I was exceptional! Oh well. It is all staples. And since the year after, I have owned a generator that I have never had to use. Hopefully, I never will.
October 20, 2008
And John knows how to suck up to this woman. He enclosed a photo. John and Harry, friends for a lifetime.
John is the author of two golfing books and "Cleveland Cops," an 'as told to' book which many of the guests at Zina's Guest House have had pushed on them because it's a great read with lots of little passages organized by subject and attributed to the teller. Stories cops tell to each other. Well, that's how he's doing the newspaper reporter book.
I am with my clip books, digging into the recesses of my brain for the stories behind the stories. When I took the buyout, I left the newspaper where it belongs on Superior Ave. in Downtown Cleveland.
But since I was the first buyout of about 450 and 38 more jobs being cut this week, I owe my stories. The book is almost an advance obit, biography written while the subject is still alive, to be hauled out when it's time. Well, it's still got some years and appears to be doing well on line, but its heyday is clearly over.
So, I'm up in the middle of the night, reading and thinking again, answering questions in emails as passages of an "as told to book."
John, meanwhile, is organizing the retirement party for Emil Ceilic, Cleveland's oldest cop for a decade now, who at the airport 5 years ago, said, "Buy the book!!" He, his son and brother are all in it.
Emil and I met at an accident scene that was also a shooting scene. For decades, he was in the accident investigation unit. He noticed I walked funny.
"Do you have MS? Because my daughter does." That started a longtime friendship in which I coaxed his daughter into taking the weekly injection that has kept me walking, albeit kinda funny, for nearly 20 years.
From the day I met Emil, I had no trouble at crime scenes. Cops would let me into their cars to warm up, chauffer me around during their investigations and treat me like a sister. Maybe that should go into the book!
But I decided it was about the time of year the municipality might be putting poison down again and in that case, even walking her on leash is no preventative. A muzzle keeps her from digging at stuff while on leash.
Over the weekend, we got word that the city was rounding up dogs and holding them for three days until claimed. And then, electrocuting them. Poison is probably still an option again for these people.
She is also wearing it for patio outings, because last year they even threw poisoned meat into patios. Also, she did chew up my address book and leave it to soak in the rain recently. Enough reason for the muzzle within the compound.
My brother suggested using the muzzle as a prophy-punitive device for eating the address book was cruel. He didn't realize there was more to the story, but I also guess your thinking changes when you live here, too.
Today, I will line it with more neoprene for a tighter fit. She brought back a box of creme media yesterday morning from the pizza shop next door. The muzzle is loose enough that she got it, dangling from a tooth.
She doesn't seem mind it. It's part of going out now to her and she sits still for it and doesn't want it off first thing in the door. But it is shortening her stays out in public. I think she is embarrassed to play with the street dogs now. And maybe feels defenseless.
But she is clearly an owned dog!
October 19, 2008
With Lora's supervision, Debora helped - whether Eriso needed another bucket of cement or a trowel.
Debora also cleaned up outside the posts so it would be easier to slide the tube molds off. And Eriso and I got to talking and what they heck, go for it. He'll used cement posts for the front now too, rather than wait for the wood to rot in a year. We have neighbors who have asked for it.
Lora's girlish figure after 2 weeks of high protein, high fiber food. She's almost never hungry now either. But she's still a long way away from becoming a spokesdog for healthy living. With her muzzle on, she came home after her first out of the day with a box of cream gangling from a tooth behind her muzzle.
No more free, unsupervised outs! Word on the street is that the municipality is rounding up what they consider street dogs. Oh no, callejera! So I broke out a 25 foot lead I got in the states yesterday and latched it to a thingamajig intended to lock the bicycle to, which by the way, Jose serviced yesterday. Lora will still be able to supervise at a distance.
For lunch, I made a mixed greens salad with Swiss cheese and Catalina style French dressing. Jose kicked it up a few notches for himself with red habanero salsa.
The big question of the day - Will fishermen go out this morning and report back to Eriso for fish fries, or will Eriso detail the side fence?
October 18, 2008
He has spent most of the week helping his dad Dominic clear the garden, readying for another fall and getting ready to make wine for the coming year. And at American Legion Post 375, which has a new commander, Mio has been in charge of two dinners. Yesterday's fish fry and tonight's steak fry. No rest for the weary.
In his honor, and that of Nancy, I planted some dandelion seeds in a planter. Nancy has never been able to get them to grow in Florida. As someone with some experience forcing bulbs and refrigerating seeds, my theory is that after three months in the fridge, these seeds will spout and I will have luscious bitter greens soon and will be able to make Italian wedding soup and jazz up salads. To each his own, right?
October 17, 2008
"You are the picture of gastrointestinal health," he said. "Go have a nice meal!" He said that to perform the procedure now would put me at risks that outweigh any benefits. And had I not been tardy, he would have chosen to follow me with ultrasound and lab work anyway.
I learned the news at midday, accompanied by Jose, who would have gone with me for the procedure.
We left Eriso at the house, mixing cement for the garden bed and fence.
When we left AmeriMed, Jose and I walked to Plaza las Americas, directly into Chedraui, where I found interesting salad dressings, Chinese Plum Sauce and Steak Sauce. I don't like steak sauce, but it's hard to find around here and I figure someone at Zina's Guest House will want it this high season. Or maybe one of the other gringos on the island.
Jose was glad to be at the mall afterward! We went directly to La Tumba Burro, translated as "the fallen mule" with a menu design befitting a remedial curriculum guide.
When we came home, Eriso and his wife Debora were washing the wall after he had poured the base of the garden bed. Tomorrow, he pours the posts. He cheered for me, too. Eriso had his gall bladder removed early in life and has given me "old husbands tale" advice. Don't drink potable water. The chlorine will cause stone formation. Well, true or not, it just goes to show you, bottled water is the only way to go on Isla Mujeres!
October 16, 2008
Lora's favorite tortilla vendor dropped by even though we are not in the market due to the high protein diet. Still, we smile when he calls her Stupid, instead of her Spanish alias, Estupida.
Ricardo fixed the juicer, bad switch, and the fan - frozen drive - and chatted a bit with me about working for gringos with a go-between. He got paid 3000 pesos for the last job, but the gringo paid 15,000 for the job to the masseuse, who then had change orders he expected Ricardo to complete for the same money, because he already spent his 12,000.
Adrian came to take an old laptop in to rehab and checked the PC and fixed its desk in the process. He said he'd be here "tomorrow" two weeks ago. He chuckled about that when he walked in.
After all the fun and games start this morning, I go to Dr Salas's office to pick up my ultrasound films and head to meet the gastroenterologist at Amerimed Hospital in Cancun at noon. That's the good news. The bad news is it's way too close to may favorite mall, Plaza las Americas, to not stop. I haven't been in a year!
I had "preadmission" testing in Cancun yesterday, but missed the 8am ferry. It was under Dr Salas's order for Cancun gastroenterolgist who will do the endoscopy with biopsy. Dr Salas arranged the testing for Dr Perganos.
Being late is never a problem in Mexico and Betty was ready to draw blood!
She was good! I'm a tough draw and warned her she should be a "vampirita." Betty took it from the crook of my elbow with a huge syringe that she then used to fill the vacutainers.
From there, it was on to the radiology center, where Ulysis the tech immediately said, "Did you have surgery? Because you have no gall bladder."
A four hour wait for the reading had me hopping a cab to WalMart, where I found things seldom seen here, including brown rice to replace the one with ants, and canned baby salad shrimp. Got another t-shirt in their Clearance Store and BAGELS!
Lora got antibacterial wipes for her ears! Hah!
And then a delightful cabbie took me back to the radiology center an hour early, prepared to wait a hour. Instead, he took the opportunity to get next door to pay his health insurance and the radiologist was ahead of schedule.
I also checked the prices on new juicers and called Ricardo. I think he can fix the one I have and save me $75US. While he is at it, he's fixing a small box fan brought back from the US two years ago.
And this morning, as we were coming back from being OUT, Lora and I found Jose back and ready to work. And he was along side Eriso, who was curling rebar into canes for the fence yesterday.
Just now, Adrian showed up to work on the PC and Lora, the former street walker, is in true heaven. Four men in the house and only one other bitch around!
October 13, 2008
As I studied my passport and Mexican legal papers, I smiled. My given Christian name would be okay in Mexico.
You see, I was not born Zina. I was born Zinaida. I was named directly after my mother, and she after a teacher of her mother. And that is a whole 'nother story.
Zinaida is known in Eastern Europe as a baptismal name of the Greek Orthodox Church. It is pronouned Zina-eeda. But in second grade, the school yard taunts turned into "zina eat a big one." That, and the fact the the US was not ready to have female juniors in the Social Security and other systems, had my mom leading me by the hand to the bus into Canton, where we went to the Social Security office and changed me name to Zina.
Zinaida and similar names are derived from Zeus, the Greek god of lightening. It is a very popular name in Latino cultures, especially Mexican and Puerto Rican. I got a clue from my body shop in Cleveland. "Hey Donnie, doesn't the Enterprise agent have a name real close to this?" a shout to the owner.
Zenaida was Mexican American. Yes, it is the same name, different culture, she said. I am still puzzled how a Greek baptismal name became popular in Latin America, especially in the Maya world.
I figured that Mexicans would pronounce it the Russian way, kind of rhyming with Margarita. But it is Zin-eye-duh. And it seems every Maya family on the block has a Zenaida in the house. I, a gringa, have tocayas! None of them like the name either and go by nick names like Candy, Cindi and what-not.
My neighbors know how I feel. After a few explanations, "Mi nombre es Zinaida, pero no gusta Zinaida, llama me Zina," and that is how they go on to explain it amongst themselves.
Miggie, who owns Shanghai Chinese restaurant down the street has an aunt Zenaida and he doesn't have a clue about "eat a big one" and how got to me as a child. But he wants to call me something diminutive. He fumbled around a couple years until he came up it a moniker: Zinita!
He doesn't know just how close he is to the name I hated!
And how, as Paul Harvey would say, "The rest of the story."
In January of 2002, when Catholic priests were being indicted for pedophilia in the US, my mother kept saying, "There is nothing new in this. You need to know the story of your name."
I am named after a Pania Zinaida, a Polish master handcrafter and seamstress, who taught my grandmother intricate lace tablecloth making.
Pania Zinaida had been sent to private school, something that only rarely happened anywhere in the early 19800s and only happened in families with money. But her rich father was not her biologic father.
One day while her father was working on his ranch, parceled out to him by family that owned huge tracts of land, received a visit from a local Catholic priest, accompanied by a 17-year-old girl who was pregnant.This rancher was considered quite the catch. The priest presented his mistress to the rancher.
"If you take her as your wife, my family will give you half their land and you will become the largest land holder in the region." They married and the first of their four children, and the one sired by the priest, was named Zinaida.
Someday, when you run out of things to write and want a good story line, write the story of your name, my mom said as we watched the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings with breaking news about pedophile priests. "There is nothing new in this world. It has all happened before," she said, adding. "Now you know the fantastic story of your name."
October 12, 2008
My mama raised a survivor who during the worst financial crisis since the Depression, finds herself in Mexico. Even without renters, given the cost of living here, I can still probably make it on my disability pensions and probably continue to pay a couple Mexicans a fair wage. Only two cancellations so far.
A trip to the US for a medical procedure - endoscopy with biopsy - is out of the equation. I met with Dr Salas on Saturday night for pre-procedure blood orders and a prescription for the ultrasound the gastroenterologist wants going into it. Target date for ERCP, Friday.
Cost to me: $500. About a 10th of the cost of the same in the US healthcare system, or the price of my co-pay. Nice to have a gastroenterology problem 7 miles from where the lapband was developed. The technology transfer is here, too!
Jose began is one month unpaid furlough working on his microgarden in the window box of one of my apartments. He got other planters ready for vegetables and lettuce. I made tuna noodle casserole, and then in my role as his mamita, told him about survival mode and being ready for the worst. While he enjoyed one of them, I also told him what typical American comfort foods are. The pozoles of North of the border.
He was heading out for a week at his parents pig ranch, 1000 head of hog, and I encouraged him to act interested in working for the family. He hates pigs and his younger brother has taken the role of operations manager. "You must be prepared to go back if tourism does not pick up," his mamita told him.
As Bloomberg News reported yesterday, "Since Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Sept. 25 in New York that his country could weather the global credit-market crisis, the central bank has drawn on near-record foreign reserves to prop up the peso, the benchmark stock index dropped 22 percent and the government unveiled a 65.1 billion-peso ($5 billion) stimulus plan to help tourism, energy and construction industries overcome an economic slowdown.
"People say that when the United States gets a cold, Mexico gets pneumonia,'' Calderon told a gathering of the Economic Club of New York on Sept. 25. "This is not exactly the case today.''
The nation's largest retailer, and largest purveyor of US commodities, Comercial Mexicana declared bankrupcty on Thursday. The Soriana chain was bought out by Gigante.
Felipe Calderon's plan to privatize Pemex, the government petroleum monopoly, is moving ahead, with prices scheduled to go up 2 percent a week until they reach world market prices over two years. Hard to explain how this frees up government assets to a poorly educated electorate and its press, prone to merging his name into FeCal. The headlines are not pretty.
Eriso continued to work on my garden wall and fence project and clued me into his fried fish. Instead of pulled pork on Sundays, he sells fried fish for less than half the price of fish downtown, a third of the price of pulled pork here in the neighborhood.
Lucky for Jose's family, this is a pork loving nation.
I told Miguel of my talks with Jose. "Good. But we all hope it doesn't come to that," he said. Miguel, who a decade ago coined "Two for one, almost free" at Posada del Mar, came up with a new one for new times. "Best prices in the crisis."
But there were hardly any people on the street to hear him try it out.
And I came home after a quick stop at the Super, with $25US in cleaning products, milk, bread, eggs, cheese and a head of romaine.
I'll buy Eriso's fish today instead of conchinita and thank God mom and I had gone into survival mode together during the Carter Administration and that she passed her World War II and Depression survival skills on to me.
Note to Miguel: The saying is yours! This site is copyrighted. Best prices in the crisis. Very smooth.
October 10, 2008
The rebar from the pipes has to be firmly attached to the rebar that is in the frame of the garden bed. He promises to come earlier today to get the side length out out of the way. The job supervisor showed her pleasure! Yep, it's one of her smiles.
Jose drained the pool and washed it. Gladys took up Lora's bed and Jose used water from the swimming pool to wash it with some assist from a wet vac. Mostly it's air drying since the nearby laundromats don't have a drier big enough.
Doggie Dog is taking it in stride, napping on the bare floor. She took to the low fat, hi protein dog food well. But then, the meat used was venison. La vida del perro!
October 9, 2008
Earlier, while she cowered in the bedroom, he also spent the 15 minutes going over the dog food recipe I am to cook for her energy and to drop her spare tires. Once she tires of it and starts refusing, he will give her a hunger inducing vitamin injection, painful. Keep her focused on her bowl and that diet stew. More cooking in rainy season. I love it!
But almost six years to the day since my brother warned, I might in fact myself be eating dog food in Mexico. The recipe doesn't look that bad, Stan.
To buy it ala BilJac here would be incredibly expensive, he said, she is not really that fat! But the dog food has to be so good she won't eat off the street and she can only go out with a muzzle now. No robbing the pizza shop trash. Sauteed meat, grain, carrots, cottage cheese. Maybe a little Benifiber. Geezus. It's worldwid - the use of cottage cheese and fiber in weight loss programs! Delfino, you know we have to go to Cancun for cottage cheese.
We talked a bit about economics, when I said I thought the next couple years would be hell. He said as an atheist, he didn't believe it. Well, hell on earth then.
About an hour before that, Eriso came by for 200 pesos to buy the final wiring and nails to finish the trapeze to pour and install side fence. He also sweet talked Lora out of trying to pounce on a kitten. Earlier, he sent for 20 pesos for a new hacksaw blade. He made 39 rebar canes to put in nicely cut PVC tubes and will be ready to roll in the morning.
Eriso had earlier asked that Jose go and get more bars delivered right to the sawhores in his back yard and a particular glue to coat the interior of the tubes with, a glue that in fact will make removing the tubes easier once the cement is poured. Lora Doggie Dog went with him, but was still refusing excercize.
He said he'd be here first thing in the morning for the final ready set to pour tasks. To me, it's exciting. Kind of like the set up of a fireworks show.
Jose also worked while keeping an ear on the first worldwide reaction to the finaciera crisis and learning more English. He learned about the Great Depression and terms he might here in the coming months and transplanted more plants and broke up cement planters that were crumbling.
I made Oriental chicken and mandarin salad. Although he said he wasn't hungry, had to run, he heaped up several tortillas and said, no, he wouldn't take it home for Sandi. Too good. Save it for breakfast!
He'll be here to drain the pool. Next week, I anticipate contstruction of a shade cloth gazebo canapy for it. Underneath the above ground pool it is when ready again, a 3 square meter blue nylon tarp we bought from street vendors at less half than asking price. Nice grommets.
We stepped away from the vendors, decided what we would pay and he walked out with 200 peso and I with 30, instead of the 50 we were prepared to add into the final offer. They took it.
And this footnote. Lora wet her mattress during the pedicure, despite being told now pretty her toes were in 4 languages. I think a nail quick was nicked. If it's not one thing, it's another. Siempre ago.
I was at my usual "chump change" task of earning gift cards on the internet this morning, when the downpour came around 5:45. By the time Lora was eager to see the kids off to school, the rainbow had come out. Another lovely day in paradise.
But paradise is changing. Only about a quarter of the Mexicans seem to realize it. To others, the money tree has not died. It has just shed a few leaves.
On the run to Constructarama and Boxito yesterday, I again ran in to a masseuse who makes money off gringos, managing their errands because he is almost bilingual. The gringos are paying triple or more for what it would cost had they bothered to learn the language.
He was with Ricardo, who gave me a quick roll of the eyes. This is one one of the things he was talking about. The fine art of living with being overpaid while knowing it is inflationary.
But, he reads and listens. He knows the worldwide economy is busted! Work now while there is still money in the pipeline and work hard so a masseuse will call on you again for plumbing and electricity for gringos.
Meanwhile at the house, with Eriso and Jose are working their butts off, I have a woman who wants 200 pesos and loans for as little work as possible. She listened to what I saw on the internet and what had been going on in world markets while she worked on Tuesday. Then, I had to run Lora to the vet and told her what needed to be done while I was gone. I finished at the errand and saw her on her motorcyle with her daughter, rushing somewhere, clearly clutching the 300 pesos she had gotten - including a loan of 100 she promised to work off tomorrow or Saturday, when she would come again.
The men notice. A half hour to an hour and a half work for more than their daily wage. Eriso asked me what I pay her. I hemmed and hawed. All I could say is, "Too much." I'm going to have to let her go to preserve the entegrity of the other workers.
For me, yes, it's the money. But more importantly, this is not a stupid job site. And only the stupid would mess up on a job like this. And as they say in politics, it's the economy STUPID
October 8, 2008
Frames have been built to hold the new level of the garden bed. The front of the property is getting new beds, but we are rehanging the picket fence there for another year because the wood is relatively new and in good shape.
The tubes between the golf cart and bags will be cut and filled first with bar that Eriso has bent on his sawhorse at home, to be inserted into tubes, then filled with cement. The "feet" will go into the wet cement planting bed foundation.
Jose and I also went to Boxito to get more lengths of drain tubes. Their delivery driver quit at the end of his shift yesterday, so I am waiting on Abraham, across the side street, to get home from work. He has a truck.
Then Eriso will cut those tubes to be filled in the Marma bar, and stick the feet into the wet-cement walls of the garden bed. When set, the plastic tubing is peeled back.
When we got back, Jose went to work transplanting and watering, and cleaning up. I also asked him to place two layers of newspaper over where he had weeded. In rainy season, the newspaper will stay wet and keep the light out. When the job is done, some top soil will be placed on top and the garden will be weed-free for months.
While Jose worked, I made drunken chicken from a 4 pound Bochocco chicken he picked up across the street for $6US.
He was amused because he never heard of drunken chicken. It calls for pan fried chicken, sliced onions, rosemary, potatoes, carrots, garlic and a beer or two. Our chicken got drunk on two.
When he was done in the garden, the chicken was done and he said we had enough food for five! Or more!
He took some home for him and Sandi, so they don't have to worry about what to eat tonight.
October 7, 2008
We decided that, rather than go to Cancun for poured pattern blocks.
Yesterday, his wife Debora stopped by to see how it was going. He got the fence down and the first distance of rebar in. During that time, I leaned in and gave the garden a good weeding.
I asked him to get rid of the yucca variety that had entwined with the chaya and as he was looking around for what to do with it, Debora appeared. They have a deep soil garden and she is saving that plant.
I made crock pot chicken terriyaki and gave him fresh pineapple, which was in a perfect state. Muy beuno, he said. He asked for water instead of soft drinks and I plied him with the glasses laced with a third of a squeezed lime. He was fooled and thought I had added sugar.
Muy saludable, he said. He went home for lunch, and a typical Monday lunch on the island is pork and beans. Debora made fish.
A health brigade worker came by and checked the property and structures for mosquito breeding sites. Dengue fever is a big concern and they have been on it like clockwork this year, even though we seem to have had more cases.
Lora was dying for some of my chicken terriyaki and denied even a taste. I decided she needed a consultation with Delfino for weight loss since she has started to refuse runs with Jose and me.
She is heavy and may have arthritis and even diabetes. I just don't know. She also needs a tick shot. Ticks are lighting on her again and I have picked two out of her skin.
So we have an 11am appointment with Delfino in the office. Out doggie dog, we are going out!
As I finish this up, the mosquito truck is spraying. It's bug season on Isla!
October 6, 2008
So, I watched CNN World and some DW (German TV in English) and videos on the web, and read a lot of info on hotsheet.com. I watched the VP Debate and almost lost my cookies.
Can we stop this runner up beauty queen, formerly a heartbeat away from being Miss Alaska, from being a heartbeat away from becoming Madam President?A friend at the newspaper I used to work at yesterday sent me a link to the Saturday Night Live take on the debate. It looked pretty real to me. A living joke. Good for NBC, which probably was behind removing it from YouTube before I got to it.
The Mexicans even are taking pity on us, those who follow the news. All seem to know we are in a financial crisis, with pensions built like a house of cards and war-fueled inflation biting at our heals.
It's even felt here. Costco and Walmart have to truck or airlift products here. Often products made in China, shipped and moved around the US before they get here. So Mexicans, accustomed to getting a good value are seeing skyrocketing prices from stuff US-based companies have successfully introduced to them.
No one likes where the US is headed. Not this Ohio girl. Not her Mexican friends. Oh, if I could just toss the newspaper across the room!
October 5, 2008
North of the border, it's much the same with Johns and Mikes. Just how many are there? Who cares. First names north of the border mean next to nothing. We have namesakes, as juniors, IIIs etc. But in Mexico, they mean a lot more than even in other Latino culture.
Michaels carry Archangel weight. So do Joses, Jesuses and Gabriels. They are all religious namesakes, sometimes carrying on a family tradition, sometimes branching out into new religious-based hopes. A stock clerk at Walmart a couple weeks ago, named Jesus (Hay soos) asked me how to say Jesus Christ in English. It's Jesuchristo in Spanish.
We think of namesakes as some one - a father, a grandparent, an uncle - whom you are named after. Nice to have a historic, religious, or even pop culture background.
Here, that too. Plus, the saint or historic figure. But you are also namesake to the men around you who carry your first name.
"Oh, mi tocayo," Ricardo said, when I told him whose wife was coming to give me a massage. They haven't done business together of even talked much in 25 years, but they share a bond.
On a small island, the tocayos are important. Under any duress, if you can't reach a relative, friend or lawyer, call on one of your tocayos for help.
So a Jose, who could be known as Pepe or Chepo, or even Gordo, have a reason for those nicknames. Sometimes in daily life, only the tocayo knows the real name and can be counted to help. It's not so important for women, either.
It's a sociological phenomenon throughout all of Latin America, probably more so in Mexico than elsewhere. More so in Isla Mujeres, a small place, according to tocayos here, than in other parts of Mexico
First there is the big decision of the day. Whether or not to get conchinita pibil, pulled pork Maya style. Then, whether or not to go to the beach. Rain settled that question, but today I snorkeled in the Easy Set pool, finally applying that underwater patch.
I am glad Jose my helper didn't know how to work the camera. I looked worse than a wet dog, which was on the job site as usual.
Lora and I started the day with some cold pizza from a small pizza it got last night from a newer place in La Gloria that I have been meaning to try. But was it great! 60 pesos, with pepperoni, sweet pepppers, onions and mushrooms. The menu calles for chorizo, but they gladly substituted. When in the area, look for Pochi and Noami's place. They also have enchiladas Suizas and Fettucini Alfredo.
Jose had made the pulled pork decision and gone to get 30 pesos worth along with Lora on her excercize run in and out of the golf cart. Me, I put on my bathing suit and got the snorkel ready while they were gone.
Jose transplanted a pineapple plant and its baby into a much bigger planter and drilled a couple holes in the planter he used for two tomato plants yesterday. We didn't check to see if it had a drain hole and the rains filled it to the top. So he got out the Kawasaki power drill, also knowns as a vroom vroom vroom here, and drilled several holes into the bottom of the wall.
We got the laundry down before the rain started again. After two days on the line, it was finally dry enough long enough on a windy night to do the job.
The sun is coming out just as I am about ready to take my siesta. But the shoulder does need rest. There is a ripe pineapple to cut up afterward and that will take muscle!
October 4, 2008
But just as she has learned to love the Maya plant lady and the crowd she draws to the front of the house, she has accepted Eriso - the sea urchin actually name Abilio. For three hours, he was just one of the four workers Lora and I had to supervise. The compound was a job site for 10 hours.
And then there was the issue of my shoulder. I thought I had torn the rotator cuff. Mary Ann came and gave me a massage and concluded the ligament/tendon was severely stretched. On the same side as the foot I broke jumping out of bed, probably used defensively, she said. It has indeed had more than its share of lifting and moving since then too. Even with Ricardo and Jose variously as helpers, there was a lot of repetitive movement in the shopping trips last month. And pull toys with the dog instead of golf cart runs during heavy rains.
Mary Ann fashioned a pareo sling for me and I hit the ATM at Seven -11 and headed to Miguel's for and a guac and quick one. Back home by 7:30 and in bed by 9 to get up and take Eriso to Constructarama on Isla Mujeres to order delivery of cement, gravel and blocks and some reinforcing bars for the garden wall build up.
But I had so much pain, I could not sleep and finally around 3am took a narcotic pain pill prescribed for just such emergencies by the Cleveland Clinic. And I was up at 5, making Lora chicken liver chilaquiles and checking on the financial markets and politicos. Not that it makes a difference what I do or don't know about what's going on.
Eriso and I were at the cement joint by 7:30, where we ran into the carpenter, and were ready to roll by 8:45, when we came home and found Jose ready to paint. He cleaned up after the re installation of the AC in the upstairs unit (which had been installed incorrectly, with not enough breathing space) and painted that wall. When I checked on him, the TV was on and I asked to switch to CNN, which gave us the chance for him to learned legalese and slang, as in OJ Simpson. Culpable is guilty. He wrote that down. Then I added, guilty as sin! He wrote that down too!
Despite torrential rains until 2pm, everyone worked in and outdoors.
Everyone is gone now as sunset approaches on Saturday afternoon and I just took another pain pill. Mary Ann found the position I can rest my arm without pain. On my back, arm over my head and a pillow under the shoulder.
So hey, folks, it's siesta time!
October 3, 2008
When he arrived yesterday, after also having the day off at Miguel's Moonlite, after running errands and running Lora with me, it was time to work on replacing the golf cart headlights. One of the lights cracked and it would be his first time replacing golf cart headlights.
He was under constant supervision. And when he was done, he remounted the turn signal indicator handle as well. The old ratchet ring wasn't able to hold on to it any longer. It's always something. Siempre algo.
Ricardo was sweeping up after cutting the bars off unused rebar, and wondering what to do for a mason. All the locals were tied up with the Your Casita 2008 municipal program involving more than 260 Mexican owned houses on Isla Mujeres.
But then, Ricardo learned one of our neighbors got a vacation from the project and was available.
Abelio starts this morning, bright and early, cementing the rebar columns to one level height with finished edges and working on a shade cloth roof for above the pool.
He'll also replace the side picket fence with cement lattice and build up the all the planting beds so I can grow more varieties of plants.
There will be a lot of work for Abelio, the albanil, who's nickname is the Spanish word for sea urchin, the only name Ricardo knows hims by after 29 years. He never knew it was really Abelio, he said.
It took Lora a long time to get over shouting, uhmm, barking, at him. She does that with all new Mayas she meets, since she was abused as a puppy in a Maya village in Tabasco.
After Abelio left, Ricardo finished servicing one of the rental unit's AC and I noticed a lot of water around the above ground pool. Yep, there's a seam leak. So second thing this morning, I'll put my snorkel on and take the underwater patch kit and go for a dive (three feet!).
If it's not one thing, it's another. Siempre algo.
October 2, 2008
Ricardo, aka Richard, came over and rustproofed the min split condenser, which is when I took the curtains in to wash. Jose had the day off, so Lora was my helper and got little bits of excercise on each OUT.
We went to get some fruit and visited with neighborhood dogs, then on another outing, I got a part for the golf cart. Of course, Lora goes into all the shops and the workers are amused both when she obeys and disobeys.
I came home for an update from Ricardo, who was now working on sawing metal off open rebar. Lora and I decided to take a ream of paper and colander to the Little Yellow School House and then go to La Bruja, where I had chili rellenos, one cheese, one meat for 40 pesos, and Lora had a couple tortillas.
The we headed for Garrafon de Castilla to see if Marta was getting off work. Jose was waiting for her too. I told him my invitation to "Spa Zina" went beyond the rainy Monday para siempre.
Marta had come to Lora's anniversary and we had not seen each other since her Jose and I started arguing about his headstrong work habit - his way or no way - about a year ago.
So at dusk, after a short siesta, Marta came over and we did water "Pilates." And we updated each other. Jose now owns the car he used to lease from Mario Cicero (Ciro's) but rents the license for $150 a month. He paid 50,000 pesos for the car, so there is no construction going on in Sacalum, the Maya village they are both from.
Jose invited me to go to a baptism of a niece. Marta wants to go to the one of her sister's first child two weeks earlier. We hatched a plot to take a 4 day weekend and do it without him. Bus to Merida, with toilets which Jose never though women needed on the four hour trip, and then the Maya workers commuter bus to Sacalum. I think we have a plan. Jose has to give permission, though.
He had dengue five days this summer and the guy who leases the cab from Jose for a shift has had family illnesses. But Marta has flourished at Garrafon de Castilla.
She got a tan working as a waitress, but then began to get white spots on her face A fair skinned ful blooded Maya, it was her first experience tanning.
Now, she is cooking and loves it. A very varied menu now, prices somewhat higher than downtown for tacos and beverages, but the have Jardin, a former bartender at Na Balam making great mixed drinks, Marta said.
And even in the kitchen, she is taking home more than she made at Posada del Mar with tips in housekeeping.
Long after the sun went down, we took our showers. Marta walked home, Lora did her business quickly and I went to bed. Such a normal day in paradise.
October 1, 2008
Trick candles, it turned out. And old Miguel, now 45 years old, huffed and puffed...
and he huffed and puffed some more, determined he could beat the candles...and while he worked, I worked on learning the traditional Mexican birthday song.
He even got a little break to cash someone out. But it took about 10 tries until...ta dah!
While Jose works for me, I teach him English, mostly in catch phrases he can quickly access for customers. For example, No rest for the weary" and yesterday he saw "road weary travelers" passing by, having just arrived on Isla Mujeres in the downpour. Another phrase, right up there with a day late and a dollar short.
Sorry Miguel. Happy 45th birthday. That is really not a weight on your shoulders as you described. It's a second childhood!