Sunday, July 01, 2007

Upside, downside

For about two weeks, our house has been a construction site. Our friendly neighbors and landlords decided that the time had come to put a new roof on our rather plain house. (Yes, outside it was plain jane; inside, it's glorious; but the truth is, it's really Gloria's house. She's the daughter that lives in the Silicon Valley area in California.)
Gloria has good taste, and she wanted her house to have a traditional techo tejas, the terra cotta tile that characterizes many Mexican rooftops. The corrugated metal lamina wouldn't do.

A master albañil (bricklayer) was hired to plan and oversee the work. The workers for the most part were members of our landlord's immediate family; Mateo, Chucha's husband; Armando, their son-in-law, and Beto, their teenage son. For a couple of days there were also a couple of temporary workers, hired mostly to peel the red cedar logs that were to provide much of the support structure.

Well, this is one longish story that is going to be made short. In about two weeks of some noise and mild disruption, all of which we suffered cheerfully (the most significant being that our Internet reception was down for the last week), the work was substantially finished last Wednesday.

To show our appreciation, I'd been baking and cooking cookies and pastries for the workers and family on a fairly regular basis, but on Wednesday, we made a comida of vegetable minestrone, vegetables in a light pickle, lasagna; and for dessert, fresh pineapple accompanied by Chucha's chongos, rennet milk curds cooked in brown sugar syrup. I think that we all had a good time.

And, on Friday evening, our ISP man, Bolívar, came and worked under rough conditions to successfully restore our Internet service. Next, the outside of the house will be painted a light blue. It's like living in an almost new house. We hope to contribute to its improvement by redoing the kitchen sink, getting some repairs on the bathtub (a remarkable item in a Mexican bathroom), and starting to repaint the interior.
All in good time.

(Speaking of time, yesterday was the first year anniversary of our renting here. Today, we signed a new lease for another year. The rent stayed the same. And, to top it off, the men are painting the house a lovely sky blue.)

Sleeping In Tongues

Tonight, as we were sleeping, the cell phone rang (that semi-comprehensible, voracious money-sucking Instrument of the Devil). I sleepily answered to the voice of a woman speaking Spanish and very basic English.

After a moment I understood that the voice on the other end belonged to the wife of the private driver I'd called earlier in the day, but with no answer.
I conversed glibly and seemingly fluently with her in Spanish, as we set up an appointment for a ride to the bus station early Wednesday morning. The driver, Sr. Nacho Vega then got on the phone and confirmed the appointed time and address.

When the call was over, I marveled at my new found fluency. Maybe sudden waking from sleep was the answer to my Spanish conversational challenges? That definitely wasn't the situation back in 1992 when a friend in Chihuahua phoned our hotel room at 10:00 p.m. We had had to immediately switch to English to understand each other.

On further thought, it was a subject for which I had been preparing. Then I also recalled a few grammatical slip-ups, such as using "nos trayó" for "nos trajo" ("he brought us" ); and really, "nos llevó" ("he carried us") would have been better.

But overall, I was amazed and proud that I'd been able to wake up and communicate well enough to make the appointment. I returned to bed and slept the sleep of the smug Spanish student.