Toluca Cop CarWell, I’m back on line and with a high speed internet connection at that.  Here’s a photo of the Toluca cop car from that scary night in July – unfortunately Miguel did not get a shot of the faces of the corrupt cops that were driving it.

It’s been a fast three months since my last post.  On September 23, we packed up the moving truck and headed south.  The truck was enormous, 36 ft., 17,899 lbs., and had an over-speed buzzer that screamed like a giant bee anytime I went too fast or too slow for the gear I was in.  After an exhaust pipe disconnected itself as we were pulling into the inspection station on the California-Oregon border, we also figured out that the buzzer was activated by low compression, so we ended up stopping for the night to get it fixed.  Many thanks to a young truck driver from Southern California driving for Far West Trucking out of Sumner, Washington, in a red semi with Hot Stuff printed on the door, for selflessly lying on his back on the side of Interstate 5 to reconnect our fallen exhaust pipe.  Also many thanks to the Corning Truck and Radiator shop (I think that’s the name – they’re just off I-5, right around the corner south from PetroTruck stop) for refusing payment for tightening up the exhaust clamps the next morning. We really were blessed to meet many helpful people along the way.

We spent about 10 days in San Francisco with my sister and then drove off to Las Vegas for the NASPP conference October 10-13.  The first day out we just drove a few hours and stopped at Anderson Split Pea for soup.  We decided to stay the night at the hotel next door and spent the afternoon swimming in our cutoffs and t-shirts.  The water was heavenly and we played for hours in the fading afternoon light.  The downside was that we spent the rest of the trip looking for hotels that had swimming pools and being disappointed at every turn.  Even when we got to Las Vegas, the pool at the Summerfield Resort condos was so cold we could never get the courage up to go in.

The highlight of Vegas was the show at Wynn Las Vegas – Le Reve.  I can’t even begin to describe it except to say that I was gape-jawed with awe almost the entire time.  I’ve searched online and couldn’t find one professional theater-reporting journalist that did a decent description either.  Here’s the hotel’s website description with a couple of photos  It’s not even close, but it gives the dimensions of the pool (yes, it was staged in a million gallon pool with platforms variously ascending and descending and people falling out of the roof and giant lizards swimming around and amazing aerobatics).  It was the most spectacular performance of any type that I’ve ever seen.  I would fly to Las Vegas just to see the show again and fly out immediately thereafter – it is that much worth it.

I’ve posted our trip and our current adventures as separate pages here.  Take a look at the page tabs – Crossing the Border and November 2006.  I’ll add more pages as our life in Mexico unfolds.

Take care and keep in touch.  Missing you all lots.  Love, Achaessa


11/2006-Home in Mexico

November 19 – Sunday

It is so bizarre living here.  The house we rent has a few leaks in the roof.  The landlady claims that she had the roof fixed before we moved in but, complaining about being ripped off, said she would call someone else – “el enginero.”  This morning (Sunday morning, mind you) we walked to another neighborhood to breakfast on the best consomme I’ve ever had.  When we got back, a big voice from above and behind us said, “Buenos dias.”  I must be getting accustomed to the unexpected because I didn’t even flinch and in Seattle I would have jumped out of my skin.  Anyway, we looked up and there was this man and a teenage boy on our roof – the engineer called by the landlady, three weeks ago.  I asked how he got on the roof since the house is connected to a fence that encloses the entire grounds.  “We climbed up on the windows” – using the wrought iron bars.  And then he asked to use our ladder that he’d seen in the yard.  And a broom.  And a dust pan.  And the hose.  Oh, and… 

Well, I was pissed.  Really pissed.  But I’ve learned to temper my tongue.

“So, can I ask you a favor?” 

“Of, course.” 

“If you ever come back here, do me the favor of not climbing up on our windows.  It gives other people ideas.  If you want to be sure that we’re here when you arrive, call us first to let us know you’re coming.” 

My husband let his breath out slowly in relief.  He’s heard me rip a new one before.  I just don’t have patience for idiots.

“He doesn’t have our number

“No, but the landlady does and he has her number. They just don’t think

“I’ll give him our number before he leaves

That really has been the hardest part of being in Mexico for me.  The people who are supposed to be professional service providers just don’t Think.  The other day the electric company installers came to put in an electric meter.  When they hooked the line back up to the fuse box, they draped it across the copper water pipes.  We didn’t find out until that night when I was naked and dripping wet in the shower and tried to adjust the water temperature.  Remember Bill the Cat from Bloom County?  I’m just glad it was me instead of Miguel’s daughter – she’s never known a shower with knobs and if she’d been shocked on her first shower she may never have trusted it again.  What a loss that would be – to never trust luscious running hot water

November 20 – Monday

Yes, the Distrito Federal is vibrant – and vibrating.  Today is the anniversary of the Mexican Revolution and though all the shops are closed for the holiday, people in the outlying areas, like us, would normally go to the Zocalo downtown.  This year they are staying home and indoors.  Miguel and his brother were planning last night to go downtown, but his sisters all protested with a rarely unified voice

The rumor is that there will be protests and confrontations and likely armed forces – all touched off by the July election problems.  Miguel was explaining to me this morning that this particular Revolution was in the same vein as our Civil War, fighting for human rights against the abuses of the hacienda system (think plantation system). I said how paradoxical it is that the US doesn’t celebrate its Civil War.  His comment, “Maybe they don’t want to have another one. I think it’s time for another revolution in Mexico.”

Against the female opinion of the family, they’re going downtown anyway.  Not out of any strong desire to be politically active, mind you.  They’re both Sonideros (specialized DF-style dj’s) and the only shops that cater to their profession are just off the central plaza downtown and, because of the holiday, Miguel’s brother has a rare day off work.  Miguel’s pallative to me, “Don’t worry, we’re going on Metro.”  Like that helps.  We don’t have TV at our house, and I’m not sure if that’s good or bad when one wants to keep abreast of local unrest. I will be glad when today is finished.

November 21 – Tuesday

So much for unrest, the response of the Mexican people to their stolen election is somewhere in between the US response in 2000 and the Orange Revolution in 2004. They haven’t just given up because the corrupt media convinced them to, but they will never be triumphant either. The presence of a corrupt and/or incourageous judiciary in both the US and Mexico has been key in keeping our respective corrupt political systems humming right along. That combined with the extremely stratified economic classes will keep Mexico in political bondage. In the US we’re so rich we become lazy and take as truth whatever the media tells us because it’s more convenient than disrupting our lives with continued protest. In Mexico, the people who support Obrador (and who most need political change) are so poor that even when they continue to protest by the millions all over the country it makes no difference because the economically powerful segment of the country doesn’t care, even if the media report it truthfully (which they rarely do). At the symbolic swearing in of Lopez-Obrador yesterday, the entire central district was so full that transport came to a standstill. It took Miguel four hours to get home on Metro – usually a one hour trip

Well, today is back to normal – however you define normal these days – and I’ve got a zillion things to do. Don’t want to get out of bed, though, it’s so dang cold. It was in the low 40’s last night and in our room it was 57 degrees even though we had the electric heater on all night. Fortunately I have stacks of luscious blankets, so we don’t notice while we’re sleeping – but throwing back the covers to greet the day is definitely a challenge!

I had to go to OfficeMax today to get the upgrade software to WindowsXP Pro.  We left at 9:30am and got back to our neighborhood at 2:00pm.  Miguel and I were sitting having a bowl of soup before going back to the house (because we still don’t have a kitchen) and I found myself in a horribly cynical mood.  I plucked the whole chicken leg, with its slimy skin, out of my bowl and laid it on a tortilla; there was not one surface in the entire mercado that wasn’t chipped, broken, cracked, or covered in grimy dust webs; I considered becoming a vegetarian. I looked out the window and even from the second floor there was not one wedge of beauty in the entire vista; not one smooth surface; not one finished building; not one well-paved street; not one flat sidewalk; not one clean car; not one well-groomed person; not one unlittered patch of open ground. And on top of it all, the chicken roasting place gave us a fake $50 peso bill for change last night.  Miguel is semi-psychic where I’m concerned and asked me what was wrong.  All I could say was that it would take more than one coat of paint to make this place beautiful.

I feel sick at heart and want to cry – but I know it’s just me, really. Many of my relatives live on reservations in extreme poverty, but it is clean and the air is fresh and there is no trash on the ground or diesel grime on the walls. I spent my senior year in high school in East Oakland (California), one of the most dangerous ghettos in the Bay Area at the time and it was hell-poor, but it was clean and I could find beauty even if it meant I had to go downtown to the park. But here there is no escape from ugly, at least not using my eyes.

My husband is happy here with his daughter and I am thrilled they are together.  My mother-in-law walked 10 minutes to my house yesterday to bring me lunch while I was working all day. My neighbor is a little old herbal healer and has invited me to coffee with a promise to show me her plants. The lady that makes tacos on the corner has asked me to go up on the hill to catch grasshoppers with her (she’s already shown me how to clean and fry them). I am just so visually spoiled that learning to see with other eyes, when forced upon me like this, has become an unexpected challenge.

I am actually pretty fortunate; the little rental house Miguel found us is just a block away from a heavily-treed path that leads up into the hills and back to a dam. I can see the giant trees from my front door and window . . .

when I remember to look up 😉 

November 24 – Friday

It was a lovely sunny day and I just couldn’t stay inside and work, so we ended up getting on the bus and going for an adventure. We ate squid tostadas and fish filetes, bought an amazing carved wood horse statue from a furniture maker. Found a rural “vivero” (nursery) and bought a small lime tree and pot, plus two more big shade plants and one large house plant (all for about $60). We had a great time

November 25 – Saturday

We’re not even close to being in a small town – on the outskirts of Mexico City is like living on the outskirts of Washington DC. We’re just an extra part of the 26+/- million population of Mexico City.  Nevertheless, we can drive not very far and be in the forest and hills – kind of like Northern California.  Except that we don’t have a car, so we take the buses out to wherever they go and pretty quickly they get to a less populated, more rural area.  Like where we bought the horse and the lime tree.  It’s been so cold at night, down to freezing, that the lime tree’s leaves appear to have been a little frost burnt since we got it home, so I’m going to have to start covering it at night.  I also have three gardenia plants that are doing really well with lots of buds and two begonias, one in full flower, and one a frost burnt angel wing that I bought from a street vendor and am trying to save.  From the same vendor I also bought a small aromatic lavender plant and a small but full mint plant

Our neighborhood is actually okay.  Most of the houses are painted and not just the unfinished grey cement of the rest of the area. The streets are relatively quiet, in the morning we hear the horses going by early and in the afternoon the man who sells bags of dirt (partially decomposed leaves and pine needles) comes by with his two burros. Throughout the day trucks and carts and footborne vendors pass by announcing their wares – a boy with a handheld bell walks about two blocks in front of the garbage truck so that you have time to put the garbage out (and the dogs don’t have time to get into it); two different propane trucks from competing companies cruise by only about an hour apart, their drivers yelling “GAAAAAAAS,” but you have to look out the window to see whether their bringing the cylinders or a single big re-fueling tank; the “camote” man opens a vapor vent to a hammered together woodstove on wheels to announce his sweet potatoes with a deep pitched piercing whistle; tamales come in a pushcart with a grating amplified voice chanting “tamales – ricos y calientes” (rich and hot) and I sing back “seco, sin carne” (dry and without meat – I’ve bought from this fellow before); the ballon man walks by blowing on the endpiece of a popped globe, giving the entire neighborhood the raspberry.

Despite being in the middle of a fast and noisy city, we can walk 2 blocks and be on a dirt road that follows a river back up into the hills to a dam. Except for along the river bank, and the coffee and milk colored river, it’s a beautiful area.  Fifteen years ago our neighborhood was a completely forested valley and hills and Miguel and his friends used to go hiking back up in the shadow of the big trees out to a wide meadow where the river ran over big flat rocks and they would swim in crystal clean water.  The meadow is still there, as are the big flat rocks, and the river still rushes over them, but you can’t trust the water now even though the closer you get to the dam the clearer it gets.  There are open drain pipes all along the river from the houses that have been built up and over the hills where the forest used to be.  The bushes that remain along the river bank are draped with plastic bags, marking the high water level like streamers of small ghosts at halloween. A few of the big trees remain along the bank, but most have been cut down.  When I look up from my back yard I can see some of them towering above the roofs of the houses on the other block.

Most of the city, though, is grey cinderblock and cement buildings with re-bar sticking up from each unfinished roof. I remember asking Miguel the first time we came to Mexico why all the re-bar spikes everywhere and he said that the re-bar is so that you can add another floor to the building.  Everybody here builds their houses room by room, expanding into the new rooms as soon as they’re built and saving up to build the next room.  Everybody dreams that someday they will add another floor to the building – the lots are narrow and deep and there’s no room to grow out, only up. So, as Miguel says, the re-bar represents dreams.  Dreams of living in comfort. Dreams of earning enough money to eat AND build.

I’m surprised to report that I adopted a cat.  One boney calico cat – Sola Huesos (Lonely Bones) – we rescued her yesterday. I told Miguel yesterday morning that I wanted a cat and he said the last time he went to our empty property it was full of brand new kittens from the the neighboring house. So we went there yesterday afternoon and the house was sealed up and dark except for a wailing cat at the window trying to get out.  Below the window was a toppled crate and some rags and tiny dead kittens.  We pushed the cardboard out of the window over the door and Miguel stuck in a pushbroom and unlatched the front window.  She crawled out through the ironwork bars straight into my arms. Just a skeleton with fur. So I took her.  Miguel’s sister says the family at that house hasn’t been seen for over two weeks.  Miguel went back today and buried the kittens. 

Sola ate last night until she looked like she’d swallowed a grapefruit whole – bad things, but it was all we had at hand, milk, tuna, dry dog food. When I got her home, I went and bought dry cat food (Whiskas of all things!) until I can either transition her to raw food or find a good brand of packaged food.  Anyway, the cat food made her thirsty so she finally started drinking water – I was most worried about her kidneys.  It seems to have worked out just fine.  This morning her box was full to the brim with pee clumps and poop, none of it bad diarrhea – and she never vomited.  So I’m taking it all as a good sign.  She likes to follow me around and lay in the sun, so I moved an old towl around the yard all day to catch the sun so she wouldn’t have to lay on the sharp rocks (we just finished filling the yard with large gravel because I got tired of it turning into a mud pool every time it rained). 

She’s a very clean cat and immediately used the box, so I’m guessing she was accustomed to being cared for. She’s very well behaved and when I snap my fingers and tell her No, she stops immediately and doesn’t try again.  She slept last night in front of the electric heater – I don’t think she has any fat for insulation.  Her fur is clean and I only found one flea trying to climb into her coat while she lay just inside the door in the sun.  I squished it with my nail and looked for more, but haven’t found any – and she hasn’t been scratching, so I’m hoping she’s flea-free because I’m afraid to use any chemicals around her with her being so skinny.  She looks like she’s only about 6-8 months old, probably got pregnant during her first heat.  We’re going to take her to the vet and get her fixed once she’s got some meat on her bones.  I don’t think she could withstand the anesthesia with so little body weight right now.  At first she went around looking for her kittens and crying, but now the only time she cries is when she thinks she’s alone in the house – probably afraid of being locked in again.

November 26 – Sunday

Last night I locked myself out of the house – well, out of the house and the yard. I was hurrying through the front gate so that Sola wouldn’t follow me and I thought I’d pushed the safety up so it wouldn’t lock, but when I closed the gate behind me it latched with a hard click and I knew I was screwed. Sola started crying immediately and I felt awful. Thank god for cellphones – I called Miguel to come home quickly and then parked myself in front of the gate to wait for him.

Much to my surprise, the neighborhood dogs that know me during the day and that we pass quietly while walking in the night, did not like me standing there like an unwanted stranger. The red Retriever and the Black lab with the cropped tail stood across the street barking until I realized it was me they were barking at and I shooed them off. The dynamic changed rapidly when I sat down to comfort Sola with my hand under the gate (you can’t see through the gate because the interior side is covered with black plastic). When I couldn’t feel her, I squatted down to look under the gate and reached in to swat at her foot with my fingers. I stood up suddenly at a scratchy sound and the black Lab had snuck around a parked car to creep up behind me. Fortunately I’d come upright fast enough that it scared him off, but he’d been only about 8 feet away. So I sat down facing the street and wiggling my fingers under the gate at my back. Sola quieted down, but the two dogs kept barking and soon the entire neighborhood was barking. Every few minutes I had to stand up to shoo the dogs back to their side of the street.

So, the good news is that the neighborhood has good watch dogs.