A Quick Update

In 2010, we moved back to the small town in Colorado that I never stopped missing while we lived in Mexico. Now I sometimes miss Mexico, but I wouldn't travel as freely as we did when we were there, camping out in remote areas and so forth.

Mexico today is in a period of change, and in many ways it is more dangerous now. That said, I have plenty of American friends who still live there very happily, just taking a few more precautions than they did in the past.

Just to say!

Rosana

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March 12, 2005 — Recently we rented a little house in Bernal, Mexico.

Before we saw it, we were warned that it was “muy rustico” which you could translate as funky. At 1200 pesos a month unfurnished (currently 108 dollars a month), we weren’t expecting much, but were pleasantly surprised. Specially with Kelly’s involvement in sustainable architecture, we thought it would be fun to try living in a typical Mexican cement-block house for a while.

How long “a while” will turn out to be, we have no idea. Our tourist visas run out in May and we will be back in Colorado sometime in that month. We’ll keep renting this house, hardly much of a cash outlay, and come back as we can.

How easy is it to find rentals this cheap? I really don’t know but in this village at least, I think we were quite lucky. I also suspect that relatively few Americans would want to live in it, unless they were fixer-upper types. In Mexico, typically the tenant is responsible for the cost of repairs and fixing up, and that is basically our deal here.


Downstairs it’s got one small windowless, doorless room which would probably be a Mexican living room but we are using as a bedroom, having hung a heavy curtain over the doorway to help block noise from the street. It’s the only old part of the house and has walls about two feet thick. It seems to stay about 65 degrees, day and night.

There’s a small kitchen which is probably the house’s worst feature. No refrigerator, the gas stove is on loan from the very nice landlord who is becoming a good friend, and I hope that the smell is only from the drains, as we’ve found a plastic bottle that pretty well jams into the drain in the sort-of sink. The bathroom is okay, rough cement floors, with a toilet that leaked a little till Kelly fixed it. It came with a jar stuck in the shower drain, and that cuts the smell fine. Both of these rooms open directly into the patio described below.

Upstairs, there are two small bedrooms. You walk outside into the little walled-in yard to go up to those rooms. Each of us will have one of these for an office / solitary space. There’s also an upstairs patio, the roof over the kitchen and bathroom.

The total square footage of all these rooms is 500. Then there is another 500 square feet of an open hallway from the front door, a ground-floor patio and the upstairs one I just mentioned, and what’s called a “patio de servicio” — a room with one wall open to the back yard, containing the typical cement scrubbing sink where Mexican women wash clothes, a covered clothesline, and a gas water heater that is not automatic — you can keep the pilot light on, but have to remember to turn the knob up when you will want hot water and down when you are done. New to us but it must save some gas.

Kelly is planning to put a simple translucent corrugated roof over the ground-floor patio, for solar gain in the winter and with some way to shade it in the warmer months. Seasons are not so distinct here. This will be an experiment and a living room.

The very private yard in back, with high walls around it, is another 500 square feet. We’re watering the few plants in it but not doing anything else with it now. Wait and see if we’re here more. So all in all, it’s 1500 square feet. Definitely indoor-outdoor living. We’re in the mountains at over 6000 feet, so it cools down at night year-round. I didn’t mention heat because there isn’t any.

The kitchen and bathroom are painted, and everything else is whitewashed. It all needed a new batch of whitewash, so we got some, and followed the instructions of a very helpful young man as to how to mix it up with something called “recina” which is a latex add-on. Then we set out to do the bedroom before our second-hand bed arrived. Unfortunately, his instructions gave us such a watery mix that one day’s work made the walls look worse! Kelly dumped a whole lot more cal (whitewash) into the bucket, and that really did the job. We’ll be doing other parts of the place soon. Since we both have to wear our sunglasses during most of the day to walk from one room to another, we also got some colorant for our whitewash and will be using a lot of blue and a color they call “oxidized red” to reduce the glare.

It’s fun.

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