Wednesday, July 13, 2011

July 13

Today is the 8th day of work on Sleeping Beauty's castle.  Our friend, Gerardo Peralta, is the supervisor.  The way it works is that Pedro Bustamante is the "maestro" or foreman, and Pedro hires and pays his workers, perhaps 6 to 8 of them depending on the work to be done on a particular day.  I am the project manager, so this job is sort of top-heavy!

The work is progressing absolutely beautifully and even ahead of schedule.  Last week most of what was done consisted of demolition and wall-building.  It sounds odd that I am cheering demolition, but it's needed to make way for building.  For example, my kitchen is in the middle of the house between the living room and what is now a bathroom but will become a pantry.  Because of the layout, the kitchen had absolutely no light.  The wall between it and the living room was broken through, except for a column that has to stay for weight-bearing reasons.  Now the kitchen is full of light, just like the living room.  It will have even more light when the skylights are installed.

In the first picture below, I was standing in the living room looking toward the kitchen; in the second, vice-versa.  You can also see where the ugly floor tiles have been removed.

All the doorways, by the way, will become arches:  a lovely Moorish feeling.  Because Mexico was colonized by Spain and because Spain had earlier been invaded by North African Muslims ("Moors"), there is a distinct Moorish element in the architecture of colonial Spanish buildings in San Miguel.

Another nice demolition job is the wall between an unnecessary hallway and the bathroom in Rick's casita.  Now he will have a decent-sized bathroom.  He'll also have good tiles in his shower, unlike the awful ones that were there.

He also wanted much of the wall between his living room and his kitchen removed, for more light, air and openness.  Presto, it's done!  Before, there was a kitchen set up in his living room, to the left below, and that's now gone.

Near the entrance there were two HUGE concrete laundry sinks, the rub-a-dub kind.  Gone.

Now the walls.  If you've been reading this blog you know that in Mexico houses are built within tall perimeter walls.  It's a style I've come to love:  the privacy is just wonderful.  In our case, all four walls needed to be built up higher for security.  On two sides where the view would have been destroyed by building the walls all the way up, we will be having iron security fences installed.  Last week the workers finished building up two of the four walls, and this week they'll complete the third.  They have also applied stucco to the walls, and that will be painted white toward the end of the construction process.

For those of you who find construction interesting, the way brick walls are built here is to have a horizontal layer of cement with rebar, called a cadena, then about 2 meters of brick, followed by another cadena.  About every 3 meters from side to side there's a solid rectangle of cement with rebar called a castillo.  The cadenas and the castillos provide the structural strength.  A large wall, therefore, will have a few horizontal cadenas and if it's long, many castillos.  For example, I just took this picture of the house next door.

This wall looks pretty grungy, but when it's stuccoed and painted it looks pretty good.  This is the front wall in our garden.

Gerardo and I have a meeting every Friday afternoon to go over the week's progress, and talk about things that need to be done.  This week, for example, one of my jobs was to go to the electric company.  Gerardo wants to work on the street wall soon, and because electric wires are not terribly far from the wall it can be dangerous for the workers.  He asked me to go to the electric company and get them to put protective covering on the wires.  So I went, and in Spanish (!) explained what I needed. (I was extremely proud of myself.)  The man heard me out politely and then told me that this was not the correct office.  He wrote out for me (or rather he typed it, on a really old typewriter!) the name of the person I needed to see and where his office was.  Naturally, it had closed half an hour earlier.  So today Rick and I went and found that office and learned that the man's job takes him out and about all the time.  I can see him at 8:30 tomorrow morning.  Lovely.

This past week Rick's son, Jesse, and Jesse's wife Clara and kids Daniel and Isa (for Isabel) have been visiting.

Clara, being a Chicana whose first language was Spanish, chattered away in the fastest Spanish I have ever heard.  You all know my feelings about gender segregation but the kids took the pictures below, and I have to say I'm glad to have them.

One day Jesse et al. came with us for our goodbye comida (mid-day meal) with my friend and cooking teacher, Yurina Peralta (yes, Gerardo's sister), who is moving to Cuernavaca tomorrow.  Cuernavaca is about an hour south of Mexico City, so about five hours from here.  I will miss her very much, but I will never have a better reason to visit Cuernavaca!  At this meal and at dinner last night when Gerardo was here, I loved listening to Clara talking nonstop with my friends Yurina and Gerardo.  It is a joy when separate parts of my life unite.

Yesterday while Jesse was off rock-climbing with a couple of local rock-climbers, Clara and the kids and I went to el tianguis, the weekly market held on Tuesday that attracts hundreds of vendors from miles around.  After seeing stall after stall selling boring things like clothes, makeup, and kitchen supplies, the kids were thrilled to come upon a vendor selling chicks and ducklings.  But not just any old chicks, although any old chicks would have been very welcome.  Half of the chicks had been dyed brilliant colors.

We speculated on whether they had been dunked into dye or whether they had been fed some wild-looking chicken feed, and talked about whether this was cruel to the chicks or okay to do to them.  The kids were not interested in these esoteric considerations:  they were enthralled.

So from the land of the neon green and ruby red chicks, hasta luego!

1 comment:

  1. Great illustrations of your narrative (or is it vice versa?). There is a book emerging on learning to live in Mexico, along the lines of Peter Mayle, but in your unique style. Spanish technical terms for building walls? That is not tourist Spanish!