moving


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 https://shows.wynnlasvegas.com/Online/le_reve_detail.html.  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

                                                                                              ~~O~~

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

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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.

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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 😉 

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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

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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.

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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.

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I’ve got to be crazy – I’m leaving Seattle to move to Mexico City so my husband can be with his 10 year old daughter. Okay, so it’s just the next adventure in the series of bizarre things I’ve done in my life. This might be the craziest, though, I mean, moving to an entirely different country? Where a policeman has already robbed me ?! Sounds crazy to me…

I was telling my dentist last night (Hi, Barry) about the cop in Toluca that accosted us when we broke the PREMIER RULE about driving in Mexico (NEVER NEVER NEVER drive at night) and after thinking something like Holy Shit but saying something much more discreet, he said something like, You need to keep us posted on your adventures.

Well, it was about the thousandth time I’d heard that, so I decided to join the ranks of bloggers – because, frankly, I tell these stories to many different people, I forget who I’ve told what to, and I hate repeating myself (I may be crazy, but I am definitely not senile, so this repeating myself thing is getting old).

I’m starting with this short post and will get back to you with the full story about the robber cop and, if the film comes out good, the photo of his evil sidekick that my husband snuck out and took while I was arguing with the first cop . . . god I’m shaking just remembering again, will that ever not happen? Well, anyway, complete coverage and photos to follow . . .

                                                                               ~~O~~

July 2006 – RV to Mexico

Well, we made it to Mexico with lots of great adventures and only minor difficulties. The US part of our trip was a real preparation for Mexico. And the people we were fortunate enough to meet personally both north and south of the border were all charming and helpful.

We only had two unpleasant experiences, really. In Utah one of the workers at the oil change shop stole our iPod (fortunately the boss sent another worker on a search and he found it in the group’s clean uniform closet). Be sure, if you ever come to Mexico, to remember that the cardinal rule of “NEVER drive at night” is written in stone for a reason. The real thieves there carry pistols, nightsticks and badges – I´ll leave it at that. 

We had a great time in Idaho with Becky and John at their ranchito on the river with its own private hot springs. John took Miguel fishing and later helped him fix some perforated plumbing in the motorhome (caused by a careless carpet layer who assured us he had carpeted many an RV). Becky and I hung out reminiscing and cooking. It was a great start to the trip.

On our night drive into Utah, Miguel saw a big comet fall into the Wasatch mountains, but the trip was otherwise uneventful. We spent a wonderful day with Charlie and Cody and Liam in West Jordan. We spent the morning lazing in their sunny back yard. Then they took us hiking around a lake in the mountains just west of Salt Lake City. We ended the evening by putting on temporary dragonfly tatoos and posing for pictures (which I’ll post here as soon as I find the discs).

The biggest adventure came after a lovely late afternoon rest in Hanksville, Utah, heading into Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on Highway 96. We were on the way to Natural Bridges and the waitress assured us that it was only about 90 minutes away and, surely, there would be gas stations there. I should have recalled that earlier she’d told me that she and her husband had only lived in Hanksville just over a year. In any event, off we drove, low on gas but with enough to easily drive 90 minutes.

The canyon scenery was amazing and spellbinding, but three hours later in the pitch black of night we had to stop in the middle of nowhere because we were so low on gas I didn’t want to run out in the middle of the night with no chance for passing traffic assistance. We stopped about 10p and settled in to sleep. Shortly after we laid down, one big vehicle whooshed by and no one else passed to disturb our sleep until morning.

About 8a we started up again and within 15 minutes we were in sight of a beautifully built ranch-style motel, adobe finish on the walls, rockers on the porch beside each wooden door – with gas pumps in the parking lot!!

You can imagine the sensation in my stomach as we pulled up to find the driveway blocked by a chain and a little sign that said “Closed – No Trespassing.” But there was a door open in the middle of the building, so I got out and hollered several loud Hellowww!s, but no one answered. Thoughts of our gas needle sitting on top of the big red E pushed me to cross the chain and no sooner had I taken three steps than a woman appeared at the door carrying a wicker laundry basket.

She was reserved at first. Sorry, the hotel is closed. No, there is no gas to sell. Our pathetic questions about how far to the next gas station and muttered calculations about how many gallons we have past Empty and miles per gallon softened her up. 

“Well, there is some gas in that old rusted tank, but it’s at least three years old and will ruin your fuel pump. How little can you get by with?” We settled on seven gallons, with the promise that we would fill the tank with high octane to clean out the fuel injectors at the first gas station we came to. 

Then we started chatting. Gwen was the long-time caretaker of this impeccably kept little motel. The motel was closed because there wasn’t enough water to support it – the area had been in a drought cycle for about six years and the hotel had been closed for three. She lived there with her cats and opened the little store during the daytime for passing traffic, which was sparse. She sent us on our way with good wishes and instructions to head straight down the highway to Blanding and the closest gas station. 

On the road again, we dutifully followed instructions until we saw a sign “Blanding 25, Mexican Hat 27.” A glance at our Microsoft Streets & Trips generated map confirmed that our route was through Mexican Hat and the road to Blanding branched far to the east. It was only two miles more. We had enough gas for two extra miles.

Soon enough, we were far from the split to Blanding and on our way, secure in our planned route to Monument Valley in the Navajo Reservation. We laughed about the road sign that said “Moki Dugway.” What a funny name? Ha, ha, ha.

Then the pavement changed to gravel and I began to wonder. Then the road began to descend and I would have been worried but the gravel was well graded and the road appeared to be well maintained. Then it got narrower. And steeper. Much steeper. With switchbacks. Many of them. With the bottom in sight, my brakes were getting mushy and I could smell them, but I was so intent on the curves and not nicking the overhangs with the motorhome that I forgot to use a lower gear. When we reached the end and the road flattened out, I immediately pulled over and smoke billowed out from the front of the vehicle. Thank goodness it was just the breeze carrying the smoke from the brakes and nothing awry in the engine compartment. We spent an hour in the shade of the RV, warning several other motorhomes and motorcycles on their way up the canyon.

It turns out that Moki Dugway is a 10% grade road from the mesa top to the bottom of the canyon. Imagine us being almost out of gas, in an overloaded 24´ motorhome and go to this page to see the dirt road of Moki Dugway   http://3dparks.wr.usgs.gov/2005/naturalbridges/html/md073.htm
By comparison, Mexican roads were a breeze! 

Arizona was the worst part of the trip by far. The hours spent on blacktop were like passing through Hell´s Oven. Mexico, even on the hottest days, was never so unbearable and anger inspiring as the drive from Flagstaff to Tucson – 123 degrees in the shade! One day it was so suffocating we just stopped and went to the movies just to get out of the heat.

Fortunately, it looks like our big move will be in late September, early October. Yep, the house sold and is under contract. The closing date is July 31, so as soon as I fly in on the 26th I have to go sign all the paperwork and then arrange to get everything moved into storage!  It will be a whirlwind. We´ll wait to do the move until after I finish my contract time at Frazier on September 20. That will give Miguel enough time to find us a small house to rent in Mexico and make for a more tranquil move.