Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Fun In Morelia

We went to Morelia yesterday in order to take Catalina to a doctor's appointment and our guest, Rosa, of http://www.casadelarosa.info/ guesthouse back to her place, visit one of my doctors to get a prescrip filled (as our Pátzcuaro doctor was on vacation), and do some heavy grocery shopping.

As many of you know, Morelia is located in a valley or a broad plain some 1000 feet lower than Pátzcuaro. There is a distinct warming up when you drive down the slopes into Morelia. It's a welcome warmth in the wintertime, but can get uncomfortable in the spring before the rains have begun.
This part of the year, the end of the dry winter season, is characterized by dry heat, smokey haze and a lot of pollen.
Morelia is a medium sized city, and the narrow Spanish Colonial streets of the historic center were not intended for automobile traffic. Not all the city is, of course, Colonial, but it is often congested, particularly the commercial steet, Avenida Lázaro Cárdenas.

Coming in to the hospital where Catalina's doctor's office is located wasn't bad.
But when we took Rosa back to her casitas, we became ensnarled in difficult traffic, in fact, we had our main route, Avenida Madero, cut of by chanting demonstrators on the march. We were detoured by cops (the wrong way, of course) and doubled back, seeking an open route to cross Ave. Madero before the marchers intersected our path again.
After missing a likely spot due to our inattention, we found a street headed the right way, incredibly jammed with cars.
At that moment, an ambulance came up in the queue behind us, sirens wailing. Fortunately, a traffic cop at the intersection of Madero took heed, and let our line of cars across the Avenue so the the ambulance could get through.
The marchers were maybe 100 yards from us as we just barely slipped into our escape route.

While the street plan or layout of Morelia is not difficult to suss out, knowing which streets are one way or which intersections allow a left turn is not easy. But eventually we got Rosa back to her house, but not before a car equipped with a mega blockbuster boom box, pulled up behind us and gave us a free, full bass and vibe serenade of the latest Mexican rocanrol.

Then Susan and I had to navigate a new route back to the hospital where Catalina was waiting. After several tries and one inquiry, we got it right. Fortunately, my doctor's office was not far away, and there was even—get this!—parking spots close by.
I waited maybe 35 or 45 minutes, no AC, (I didn't actually have an appointment) and then I was admitted to his consultorio. we chatted a few minutes, he filled out the prescrip, and charged me nothing (You gotta love the Mexican doctors, for the most part). I made an appointment to return in June, and the receptionist started to write the appointment on the back of the prescrip!! I stopped her, as these documents are taken very seriously at some farmacias, and any alterations or annotations are a very bad idea.

I walked around the corner to fill my prescrip without delay. It was one of those nice, air conditioned Farmacia Guadalajaras where they bake off fresh cookies and pan dulces (although, in this store, the pan dulces were burnt.)
After a brief wait, I got my medicine.

After all this exertion, we needed a treat. We drove a relatively short distance to Mariscos Los Delfines, on Ave. Lázaro Cárdenas, but parked about 5 blocks away, as there was a free spot on the "right" side. We all had seafood coctails of various combinations and then some tostadas de marlín. It's a smoked marlin spread, cooked with tomato and spices. It's especially good at Los Delfines. It's just an open air stand, but one of the more enjoyable seafood spots around. The family that runs it, and the in-laws that run the adjacent parking garage, are warm, friendly people.

We then drove to our super market destination on the outskirts of the city, fortunately on the route to Pátzcuaro, where we loaded up on cheese, wine and other stuff, before heading home. There was a welcome drop in temperature as we drove less than 10 miles from Morelia. When we got home, at 4:30, to the house, it was pleasant outside on the patio, and cool indoors. We could relax in the tranquility of our temporary casa., enjoying the breeze from the freight trains hurrying by.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tricks of the Trade

Our first challenges came all at once, as our hosts were leaving for the airport. "Catalina" had called the cable TV company to come and change the cable over to her new quarters. The workman showed up, but without a ladder and seemingly untrained. When he "realized" he needed a ladder, he phoned his boss, who sent out a ladder in a taxi.

Catalina says she had to tell him how to do everything. She wasn't happy with the service. When it came time to pay, she was willing to pay $100 MXP, not the $250 demanded.
As our hosts pulled away, the boss cable guy drove in to get payment. Catalina let him know how displeased she was. The whole standoff ended with the cable boss telling her, "Keep your money! You need it more than I. I GIVE you my work!"
We had stood behind her for moral support, but there was no way I was going to get involved in that dispute.

Next, Susan went to wash up the dishes, but there was no hot water. Sometimes the pilot flame goes out. I tried to light it, but to no avail. We put a pot of water on the stove, but the burners wouldn't light. After a few moments of consternation, I realized that the gas tank must be empty!

We went outside to the gas taks area, I selected one by opening the valve and hearing a whoosh,removed the empty, and attached the new, not without some difficulty.
Back in the house, I was able to light one hot water heater pilot, but the other, for the kitchen, would not stay lit.
New lightbulb: the tank I'd chosen had been nearly empty.
Back outside to change it once again.

On Tuesday, the new gardener showed up, to tell us that he, too, was leaving for the US, but he would work on Wednesday, bringing an new new gardener, whom he would train. Of course, we'd have to pay the apprentice the same amount.

While we were contemplating this peculiar reversal, we got a call from the housekeeper, that she wasn't feeling well, and wouldn't be in the next day.
(My suspicion is that these absences and leave takings are ploys to leverage more money from us.)
When the old new gardener showed up the next day (without his apprentice, by the way), Catalina told him that we had contracted with someone else. (Not quite true at the time, but we did hire the kid brother of the old gardener. He is thought to be reliable.
Thus ended the first three days.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Tu Casa es Nuestra Casa

Six Months after arriving in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán, to begin La Vida Buena of retirement in México, we were out of space and patience for the cute, 2-bdr, 1-bath cabin we had rented. During the winter, I called it "La Hielera de Michoacán", for the uninsulated cabin walls allowed cold drafts in to make us residentes bien frías.

It was also getting tiresome to have to dodge each other when we needed to pass along the sides of the dining room table. The dust, the electrical and water cutoffs from the nearly constant development at the fraccionamiento were a drag as well.

In February, we had a stroke of luck: an old acquaintance whom we knew from back in the Arkansas Ozarks where we used to live, also has a spacious house outside of Pátzcuaro. He and his mother needed someone to house sit for at least 3 months, beginning in April.

It all came about because of a Pumpkin Pie a few months before. His grown son was having a birthday and asked me to make a pie for dessert. Pumpkin was not available at short notice, so I used camote and carrots for an effective substitute.

We began our move the last week of March, making 4 or 5 trips in our Windstar van, with the passenger seats removed, and the penultimate trip with our greatly lightened cargo trailer attached.

By Sunday, April 1st, we were in the new house.

Our hosts left on Monday, a day ahead of schedule to facilitate arriving on time at the airport. The daughter-in-law to be, "Catalina", remained behind, waiting for certain immigration issues to resolve before joing her fiance in the States.

Susan and I continued to arrange our household articles, unaware that certain challenges lay ahead.

Challenge and Response, our Mascots

Meanwhile, we reveled in the ample spaces, our bedroom here is probably larger than our living-dining room in the old cabin.
In fact, the living room is considerably larger than our old house. In fact, there is even a mini living room near the entrance hall. In most houses in which we have lived it would be most satisfactory.

The best part was having a large bathroom of our own, with tiled walls and a domed, brick ceiling. (I've always wondered what a brick schpritz house was like.) There is a seemingly unlimited and responsive supply of hot water, and I got in the habit of inundating myself with torrents of wonderfully scalding hot water.

La cocina, the kitchen is a tale in itself. I'll describe it in another installment.