Thursday, July 31, 2008

There's things need a-fixin

I know! It has been four whole days! But we have been muy ocupado, which is to say, very busy.

So. There's this family, see, the Manzanos. And there's eleven children who are Manzano-born, and then five more that are Manzano-adopted, and then no one's quite sure how many more that just sort of live there with them. And there's always visitors.

Needless to say, the Manzanos have no money and their house(s, since one does not house 20+ people in a singe house even here in Mexico) are falling apart. So all this week Joel and I have been heading over there to do stuff around the house(s). Our main project has been the clotheslines because when you're housing 20+ people, there is muchas laundry and electricity here is like myrrh. So they had these three nasty clotheslines, and they were way high up (Mexican ladies are short) and had wires jutting out of them and were suspended over quite a bit of dirt and some grass.

The original plan was to tighten up and lower the ones currently in place, add two more, and put a giant sandbox below the lines so that when the clothes fell, they'd fall in sand (which can be easily brushed off) and not in dirt (which can't). So we spent a whole day flattening the area, digging out the grass, and breaking Hannah's van (sorry, Hannah). The next day, the plan changed from 'build giant sandbox' to 'plant grass,' but grass seeds don't work in Mexico unless you can babysit them, and who has time for that when you have 20+ children?

It had taken several backbreaking hours to remove all the grass, and took several more backbreaking hours to remove a bunch more grass from elsewhere in the yard and replant it where there had previously been grass. I took before-and-after pictures, but I'm not on my laptop and also the end product was le hideous. Perhaps I'll show you later.

Working at the Manzanos is awesome because there's always tons of food, and always tons of people. Awesome people. We like to throw lavish DDR parties at Gord and Carol's, because we feel like we should represent them in their absence, and yesterday the older Manzano girls not only brought snacks, but cleaned up after the snacks and left my horrid, fly-ridden kitchen cleaner than they'd found it. Also, they are good at games, and for these reason, we love them and will happily glue their front door together for them.

Today we didn't work at the Manzanos for reasons that involve LOTS OF BLOOD!! Excitement? Return tomorrow for moooooooooooore! (*spoiler* Joel and I still have all of our blood.)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More updates!


For one thing, we moved out of the palace with the wireless intarnets, and have been relegated to checking our email in a small, musty room at the missionary base. Alas.

We left the pastor's house to move into the Taylors' house, and our tour of their house was punctuated by the phrase 'That doesn't work.' 'Here's the kitchen. The oven doesn't work but the stove top does. Oh, but the kettle doesn't work. And if you're going to poop, do it in the main bathroom because the one in the bedroom can't handle it.' And yet, even though they have no carpet and the door to their bedroom doesn't shut and the 'dryer' is a clothesline in the backyard and the kitchen is full of flies, we're a million times more comfortable there. Because we can spill things, and no one minds. And there's no elaborate locking-up process (there is, in fact, no locking up process at all, since Carol couldn't find the key to the front door to leave for us), and people just come and go as they please and everyone just stops by on Friday evening to play games in the living room (which I keep referring to as 'the basement' because it's all concrete and basementy-looking).

Mostly, I'm happier here because of the books. I've been borrowing books from Gord and Carol's library since we got here, but now I LIVE IN THEIR HOUSE, so I'm really not borrowing at all. They have piles and piles of books, and not just any books, but all the books I've been wanting to read for AGES. Also, they have kittens. Remember how I hate cats, everyone at home? So much do I hate cats! Except that I don't, I love them, and I love these kittens and behold them as they embrace each other, caught in the act!

All they want is loving and petting and to drink the milk out of my cereal bowl, for which they get smacked on the nose. The other morning, I had let them out of the bathroom where they spend the night and they came into the bedroom to snuggle with us while we read and drank our coffee, and then they went off to catch some beetles, and then they snuck under the bed for a nice little pooping. And Joel and I are there, trying to figure out if we smell poop or not, because sometimes it's just the goats across the road, you know? And then, if it's poop, where is it coming from? And who should have to clean it up?

The poo-scapade was relieved nicely by a trip to the 'good' beach, by which we mean not the close beach but the one far away. Like, twenty minutes.

It has flatter beaches and smaller waves and outhouses that smell like the rending of garments and the gnashing of teeth and a sign on the way out that says 'Thank you for preferring us.' You are welcome, Flat Beach. If you weren't so far away, we'd prefer you much more often.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Fun and games!!

I remember what I was going to tell you! So the other day we were helping out the fabulous lady named Elia who teaches upwards of a hundred small children in her home so that they don't grow up to be low-life nothings (because school here is expensive, and also because their mothers work and can't look after them). H'anyvays, her son is deaf, and we were all sitting around chatting over lunch and he was telling us all about his life, only he's deaf, so it was all in sign language. None of us speak sign language, so it devolved into a fairly complicated game of charades. I mean, I can finger-spell things, but then there's the whole problem of I DON'T SPEAK SPANISH!! So if I spelled things, they'd be in English, and then he'd spell things back at me in Spanish, and then we'd both shake our heads and he'd try some more obvious signs. He's a surprisingly good communicator, and so he was able to charade things like how Joel was going to go surfing and get eaten by a shark and then I would be all alone and sad because Joel was dead (I know. Kind of all of our conversation was weird like this). It was actually super fun, except that he kept giving me his American Sign Language book and gesturing for me to flip through it. I don't know if he wanted me to learn all sign language immediately, or to just sort of browse through, or if he thought I was looking for something in particular (it wasn't arranged in alphabetical order or anything, so trying to find the sign for one particular word would have been impossible), so I mostly just flipped some pages and then changed the subject. Hilariousment and awkward.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


So, we've continued to do our exercise/contortions but we've moved them up to the unholy hour of seven in the am. So I'm leaving our endeavors this morning, and THERE ARE GOATS! BEING HERDED! THROUGH THE STREETS! Have I mentioned that there are goats? There are goats living right across from Greg and Alyson, so we would hear them bleating throughout the day, and books always talk about the gentle bleating of the goats or the lowing of the cows or all the other soothings sounds of the barnyard, but NONE OF THE SOUNDS ANIMALS MAKE ARE SOOTHING! They always sound pissed.

Also, there are dogs. Everyone in Mexico has, like, eight dogs, and they aren't as mangy as Thailand dogs because these dogs all belong to someone, but that doesn't make them any less free-range and gross. The other day Joel and I were walking to a friend's house and suddenly behind us, on stealthy feet of death, is a giant St Bernard. Like, a giant one. Dogs are everywhere.

The house we're sitting for now (the lucious one) has a short-legged, long-bodied hilarious dog whom I love, even though she refuses to eat anything but canned cat food and table scraps. This is the only house I can think of where that would fly (see: yesterday's references to four-poster bed and massage chairs). It's bizarre living here, because, even though the owners had to leave all of a sudden and their fridge is full of food, there's nothing to eat. Unless I want to stir-fry myself up some tofu and stone-milled barley. And grapefruit.

We went to the Dulceria (sweet shop) the other day, which is, like, a mighty fortress of treats, and bought ourselves a massive bag of Mexican candy (for $7). We've been mostly living off of that and trying to ignore the 100 Immunity Boosters and What Would Jesus Eat cookbooks lying hither and thither. Because I doubt that they encourage downing handfuls of MuBons, which are the poor man's Ferrero Rocher.

It is time for le church now (Thursday AND Sunday nights, with prayer on Tuesdays and Fridays), so I'll have to leave off. We've been hanging out with obscenely cute Mexican children, but I forgot my camera, so no doe-eyed faces for you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

In Kubla Khan, in Xanadu

Salaam and good morning, friends! I write to you this morning from the lap of luxury. Our pastor and his wife have had to make a sudden trip to the States because their son's citizenship has come up, so they're going to swear him in as a real 'Merican. Meanwhile, Joel and I are babysitting their rather opulant house. I'm up early, partially because we got into the habit at Greg and Alyson's, and partially because it seems like such a waste to be sleeping in this house (even if it is in a decadent four-poster bed) when I could be sitting in the massage chair or working out in the gym or swimming in the pool. Or trolling the wireless internet.

We're only here for a handful of days, but for now it's fun being Lady of the Manor (and taking care of our pastor's hilariously bi-polar dog, Banana).

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go eat some of the giant bag of exotic fruits I bought yesterday for THREE DOLLARS!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mexico = hunting things

So, this morning I went to get my water bottle so I could brush my teeth, and THERE WAS A GIANT CRICKET!!! UNDER THE BED!!! So Joel went to get the vacuum (just now I had to spellcheck because I wasn't sure on 'vacuum' but blogger is currently en espanol, so ALL of my words were spelled wrong) so we could suck it up, but it ran further under the bed, and we had to pull the whole bed apart before we could catch it and trap it. Also, we caught three spiders.

Later today, while Greg and Alyson are out and Joel is sleeping, I hear this high-pitched skee-ing coming from the yard. Also, one of the cats is REALLY INTERESTED in the woodpile. So I go outside to see if I can rescue the wee birdie I assume is trapped in there, BUT NO! It is no birdie. It is a perversely stupid squirrel, and it's stuck behind the woodpile, and it keeps skee-skee-ing and there's nowhere I can go on the property where I can't hear it, and I want it gone.

But this was before I was angry at it, and still wanted to lend it a hand. So I start Jenga-ing pieces of wood out of the pile where I think the squirrel is, and I clear a little path to him and stand back, holding the cats, so that he can leave. But he doesn't.

So I Jenga out another hole, and start poking him from that hole in the hopes he'll run out the first hole. He stumbles and scrambles and tangles himself further into the woodpile.

This goes on for a while, me making holes for him to escape, and him not escaping, and the cats hissing and trying to get at him, and me making more holes, and Babs standing around being cute but useless.

Finally, I get fed up with him not escaping, and start threading the cats into the holes so that they can bat at him or eat him or something. Anything, really, because this squirrel is too stupid to live, and also the sound he is making is shredding my pancreas. I think about pushing the entire woodpile up against the wall and crushing him, because I am that angry, but the woodpile is fifteen feet wide and I haven't got enough arms and also, there are spiders.

Finally I make a little hole wide enough for him so I can see his ratty little face and his fat, stupid body, and I round up the cats and drag them inside, and ten minutes later the skee-skee stops.

I take back every nice thing I've ever said about squirrels.

Friday, July 18, 2008

house builds

Ok, so, house-builds. The way it works is people fill out an application talking about how poor they are and how many kids they have, and then a group comes down from California (for example) and then the poorest family on the list gets a house built!

So, near as I can tell, people on house-building teams come in three types. There's the teenage girls (and me) who are cheerful and willing, but who are only really useful for swinging hammers and paint brushes. Also, we can tar roofs. Joel refers to us as 'worker bees.' Then there's the teenage boys who know a thing or two about squaring a frame and finding the on-switch on our one power tool. And then there's the middle-aged men who know what they're doing, which either makes it easier or much MUCH harder.

So this one fellow had bought a comically over-sized hat at the globos, more as a joke than anything else, and then he lent it to me to wear on the first day of the house-build. Considering the burn I got in the hour before I borrowed the hat (avec SPF 45, no less!), I'm pretty sure the hat saved my life, and also, it is awesome, so I've been wearing it ever since. Serious, it's like I'm walking around with my own personal palm tree. I have all kinds of love for this hat, and when this man and his group and his hat leave on Friday, I'll have to go and buy my own.

Joel also bought himself a hat, but last weekend instead of next weekend, because he is prescient.

Besides a deep and abiding fondness for hats, I've also learned in the past week to swing a hammer. There's two other skinny, useless girls (bless their hearts), and we're all swearing under our breath because the nails keep bending, or getting stuck in knots, or people keep trying to teach us how to hammer properly (see: middle-aged men who know what they're doing). I have a blister on my thumb and my forearm is sore, but, as Joel kindly pointed out, I have to take many more swings at a nail than most people do.

So, at the end of the first day, we pretty much just had the walls and roof bits assembled and sitting in a pile.

By the end of the second day, we'd knocked those walls together and slapped a roof on top, and also, I did some tarring, and I really just wanted to post this picture because I AM THE BRIGHTEST THING IN THE WORLD! Look at me! I look like ice cream!

We spent the third day mostly inside, putting up some center walls to make rooms (plural) and slapping together some bunk beds and a kitchen table and some shelving.

The last day we wired up the place so that it had lights, knocked out a couple of windows, and painted the thing PINK OHMYGOODNESSITISPINK! And she chose this color.

So the she for whom we were building the house (along with her many childrens) cooked lunch for us every day, and on the first day there were bologna sandwiches *dry heave*. And then on the second day there were tamales, and then on the third day there was pasole, and then on the fourth day there were floutas and also one less chicken running around the yard.

So. I am painty and sore, and have tar on my pinkitypink shorts (and also on your painting sunglasses, boo, which I borrow-stole and still have), but I can hammer mostly without hurting myself and I can cut things with a saw. Look out, world.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It SEEMS like a great idea

So, you think you want to head to the beach after a long day of building, because you've been tarring and hammering in the sun all day and you're sweaty and covered in sunscreen and sawdust, but after poking around in the house for twenty minutes and driving for five, by the time you get to the beach you aren't all mucky-sweaty and besides, it's evening. So while you think you're going to charge into the surf and shriek with delight, all you will really do is stand in the waves up to your waist and make high-pitched humming noises.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

I return!!

You see, my friendlings? This is the dilemma. When I have all kinds of internets time, I just sit here wondering whether I should blog about how I only pooped once in my first week here (but I threw up twice!!). When I'm busy doing interesting things, then I have not internets time.

Ok, firstly, I would love mucho to throw a bunch of pictures up here, but I've spent the last twenty minutes just trying to get online and get blogger up, so you'll just have to check my facebook later (if it ever loads). Many sorrows.

Now. Friends, there were dolphins. There's a beach just by here that we like to drive the truck up onto after a long day of house-building (read: today and yesterday) or on a sunny weekend (read: three days ago), and Joel and Greg boogy-board while Alyson and I sleep in the sand. So Joel and Greg are out the other day, frolicking in the waves, and all of a sudden THERE ARE DOLPHINS! There were seriously maybe fifty feet back of the boys, and they were splashing and cavorting like dolphins do. I wanted to swim out and hug one, but supposedly dophins hate that. Who knew?

Alyson's hilarious aunt and uncle were out last week, and so we joined their group on Friday night for dinner at Gaston's, a little restaurant ON THE BEACH! And there were ribs and I had ribs and the ribs, people. Ribs. Joel had something fish-like, and I had ribs. Also, Gaston's has cats in order that Gaston's will not have rats, and so we're eating and we're watching the sun set over the water and there are cats and baby kittens frolicking just outside. Smooches.

We had tacos at a little stand by the road and Joel tried covertly to get a picture of this little Mexican girl in pigtails and a purple dress. We got one, but she looks daft, so I won't post it.

Also, you know what is fun? Dance Dance Revolution. You know what is exhausting, and will also make me feel foolish? It is the eye-feet coordination that is hard. And sweaty. And hilariously exerting. And a poor post-ribs activity.

I had many stories, but they are gone. Joel and I have been building a house for the last two days, so amusing updates are on their way. But the office is shutting down, so I'm out.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Did you know that...

...cocker spaniels are prone to epilepsy? Like German Shepherds are with...that hip thing. You know what I mean.

So Greg and Alyson's aggressively friendly cocker spaniel is sitting on the back of the chair yesterday like she does, because all the cats around have her kind of thinking she's feline, and suddenly she tumbles off and is twitching on the floor. And this was, like, a good six-minute seizure, and all we could do was stroke her and gaze soulfully into her eyes and try to communicate osmotically that it was going to be ok. Because dogs don't speak English or Spanish, and they come out of seizures all confused.

Is this not bizarre? Epilepsy is a people disease, no? The things you learn.

The weather remains cloudy and Joel and I remain slightly lazy and mostly unoccupied. Joel helped put up a fence yesterday, and I made a strawberry-and-cream tart.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Of note:

The faucets don't shut off when you crank them all the way to one side or the other. You have to find somewhere happily in the middle where the water stops running. This is difficult when you have the hot and cold taps both on. You can stand there for hours fiddling with them, trying to silence the drip.

The plastic thing that attaches the chain to the flusher in the toilet broke, so now we have to lift the back lid and reach into the water (which, I know, is clean...but toilet water!!) and pull the little chain to flush.

I ate a piece of cactus fruit. There were seeds, but no spines.

A chihuahua nipped the skin at the back of my upper know the skin. Very sensitive. I guess he doesn't realize that I could toss him.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Buenos dias, kids!

Clearly, since we flew out a whole three days ago and I am only just now logging on, my intarnets here in the Mexico will be slim to nada. Blogger was talking to me in Spanish, and I tried to get on but it was all, Que? Who the hell are you? And then it logged me off for no good reason. But then it switched to English and here I am.

The weather thus far has been moderate, by which I mean cold. We're quite close to the water (the other day we drove the truck up ONTO THE BEACH and then grumbled because there were, like, ten other people on the beach...they left right away) which keeps things cool. Unfortunately, I was thinking that August + Mexico = hotness and shorts. My one zip-up's looking a little ratty.

Greg and Alyson (the couple that's letting us live in their spare room and tag along with them) have four cats and a rather earnest half-cocker-spaniel which, apart from my total loathing of cats, is kind of awesome. At any given point there's something else breathing and sleeping a foot from your face.

We've been doing a lot of sitting the past few days - we sat in the car/plane/van all day Saturday, on the beach all day Sunday, and then jaunting from errand to errand yesterday. Apparently, things will get really busy next week, but for right now we're mostly eating tacos and doing aerobics in someone's basement.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Cirque du shebang!

Well, after staying unexpectedly at our landlords' house with no changes of underwear because we can't be bothered to plan ahead, we are now staying at my parents' house with no changes of underwear and NO TOOTHBRUSHES because we hadn't thought that, since we had to be in Vancouver today anyways, it might be prudent to sleep over here after we went to CIRQUE DU SOLEIL last night!!! Squeeeeeeeee!!

Cirque was everything I wanted it to be and so much more. Women draped from chandeliers, people hanging from improbable parts of other people's bodies, people in flowing robes, people with feet like hands and fingers like biceps. My mind, people. She is blown.

Cirque is 100% worth the money, even though you may have to sell your firstborn child (or, use Joel's grad-present-money) to get in. Everything is so finely tuned and sharply honed and how do you put that much faith in someone's flexed foot? There are no nets!!!! No nets.

Speaking of no nets (in a roundabout fashion), I need to go finish packing my bags because we are flying out tomorrow! Adios, amigos. See you in Mexico...or in August.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Rent-free and loving it

Greets, ones and alls, from my in-laws' guest room. Let the living-from-suitcases commence! Except that, as we have not yet left the Lower Mainland, there is still the danger of rain and the necessity to stomp around in the attic swearing and trying to figure out where we stored our jackets.

Part of what took us so long the other day to clean our suite was the several-hour break we took to go to the zoo. For free. Where I petted a giraffe. And a donkey. And the hippo came out to play. And also the baby lemurs. And I was quite aggressively ignored by some sort of ram.

Yesterday, I fell into the no-deadline-sleep-trap. It was mid-afternoon and, for the first time in ages, I had nothing that urgently needed completing. So I napped. And then this morning, I slept until 9. Oh, my purposeless, sleep-filled life.

At least I'm not picking nits out of anyone's ass.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

total parasites

Ok, so we moved all our junk out yesterday, and MAN it took ages. You've moved, you know. Last night we slept over in our suite (on the floor with our sleeping bags, like we've been doing for days now) because it's WAY cooler than my in-laws place, where we'll be living until we fly to Mexico.

Today we scoured the suite from top to bottom, and I can't tell you the pain I'm in just typing this because my fingertips are shredded raw from all the bleach. Anyhoo, we rented a carpet cleaner that the person who rented it (Joel) and no other has to bring back to the Superstore he rented it from (in Abbotsford) and nowhere else, and with one thing and another (i.e. burgers and wine) we ended up here until after Superstore was closed. Hwoops.

Our options, then, were to drive to Chilliwack, sleep there, and drive the cleaner back in the morning OR SLEEP OVER AT OUR LANDLORDS'! So we've moved out, except that we're still here. Also, as of tonight, we sleep here rent-free. And in their guestroom instead of on our floor.

My fingers feel like bee stings.