Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Oaxaca, Mexico 3/28/2004
So, what is Oaxaca about? Well, the house is nestled in a complex which must be more than an acre in scope and is surrounded by a perimeter wall. Right now, some of the units on the property are abandoned and in
disrepair. There is a permanent resident in one of the houses by the name of Mike Fite with his family. He is not a nice guy, and to say that he is obstructing our progress would be an understatement. He controls two of the houses, and his second house is currently occupied by his daughter and her boy friend. There is one gate to enter the complex and the common parking area is paved with a rock cobble. Our house is pretty cool, it is constructed entirely out of concrete and it is amazing how effective concrete walls are as sound insulators. The shower and sink plumbing are in one of the walls next to my bed (since the bathroom is next to my bedroom) and I can’t hear the water running at all when Israel is showering. The ceilings of the house are a series of barrel vaults (think of a barrel cut in half) all running from the back of the house to the front and then cantilevering out another six feet to help shade the doors and windows from the hot afternoon sun. The vaults are constructed out of brick and I don’t have a clue how they could have possibly been built. In the master bedroom, the bathroom and the kitchen, the vaulted ceilings have been finished in plaster so that the rooms are completely white, in the rest of the house, the walls are white but the vaults are natural brick color. I would say that it is easily fourteen feet to the center of each vault from the floor so there is a feeling of expansiveness throughout the house. All of the windows and doors have metal frames painted black, the only part of the house that is of wood are the doors to the rooms and the closet areas. The house faces west into the garden and there is a brick terrace that runs the length of the west side that is around seven feet wide. From there, you go down a few steps to the upper garden level where there is an outdoor dining area enclosed by a low brick and Celosia wall. Celosias are open shapes made out of brick and assembled together to create semi open walls and exist in all sort of patterns. We are going to be building another wall at the level below the dining patio to separate our space from the neighbor.
Yesterday we demolished the kitchen and poured concrete kick spaces for the new kitchen cabinets. Everything is different down here and extremely complicated to accomplish. Perhaps one of the easiest parts has turned out to be the kitchen remodel. I purchased a new refrigerator and stove/ oven from Sears here in Oaxaca (they don’t have a warehouse here so they need to ship them down from Mexico city) and will have those delivered in a few days. Down the highway from our house we found a store that sells the most beautiful rustic furniture and kitchen cabinets all made of Pine with raw iron hardware on them. If I had my choice, I would love to do my whole house in this stuff. We purchased all of the kitchen cabinets there, but the kick spaces are sold separately because down here apparently the locals usually do the kick spaces in concrete. We followed the local custom and since my dad likes his counters high (38” high instead of the regular 36”) we adjusted the heights of the kick spaces that we built to accommodate his wishes. The cool thing about this stuff is that they come with the tile counter tops already installed on the modular units, so all we have to do is to assemble the components and the whole kitchen will be done. The hole for the kitchen sink is already cut out and I liked the display sink that they were using so I bought that from them too. The kitchen isn’t very big and we got all of the cabinets for just over $900.00 which I think is an incredible steal! Back home it would have cost the much just to do the tile counters alone.
Monte Alban was pretty amazing, to imagine that these people spent almost a thousand years excavating this mountain top and building step pyramids and temples up there is incredible. The hill has no water, so all of the water had to be carried up hill from the river that is more than two miles away. It is named Monte Alban because of a tree that grows all over the mountain that is just covered with white blooms, they aren’t in bloom yet (probably in another three weeks) so I missed out on that, but I did collect seeds so that I can try to grow them back home. While we were up there, we saw a party that was performing a wedding at the foot of one of the pyramids, imagine how memorable a setting that is for a wedding. Some of the temples are built in astrological alignment with the solstice and equinox and they still have ceremonies up there on those days. There were plaques at each building explaining the buildings’ function. The left side of the plaque was in Spanish, the right side in English. It took us a while to figure out what language the center was, apparently, it is the ancient language of this area and many locals still speak it. The view from up there was fantastic, from different vantage points you could see down to the city and the valleys beyond.
I know that the indigenous population were rather short people. You would not believe how high and how steep the steps on these pyramids are. They have to rise at least at a sixty degree angle and each step is almost two feet tall! Looking down from the top of one and watching people climbing up and down these steps, I experienced high anxiety (yes I have a healthy fear of heights). In order to go down the steps I had to just look at where I was placing my feet because when I looked down to the bottom, my legs felt weak.
Wednesday March 24
The weather here has been as close to perfect as a person could possibly ask for. The sky is almost always partially overcast (something that I find to be the case almost universally throughout the tropics) which helps to reduce the intensity of the sun. From time to time, the sun breaks out into a larger clearing between the clouds and at those times, you are aware of how intense the strength of the tropical sun actually is. My work uniform is like at home in the summer, shorts and my Expanding Horizons shirt with no sleeves like I wore when you came. From seven in the morning until past dark, this is a comfortable outfit to be in. One almost never breaks a sweat from the heat, but is never cold either. At night I sleep with the windows open, naked, sometimes covered with a sheet and sometimes not. Before morning I need to pull over a light blanket for an hour or two.
We are finally making some progress here! Yesterday we installed almost all of the new kitchen cabinets. It turned out to be more of a process than I had anticipated. The walls are concrete and we didn’t bring an hammer drill. My dad and brother both asked why I hadn’t brought one when I called yesterday. What do they think! I was restricted to two check-in bags each and was forced to bring a Jackhammer so we could do the excavation for the new septic tank. I had to choose what to bring, this isn't a job that I was able to drive my truck full of tools to. The new refrigerator, stove and washing machine arrived ahead of schedule yesterday and by the end of the day we unpacked the new refrigerator and emptied the old one. The old one was definitely ready for replacement. It has the Sears name on it, but is so old that they hadn’t introduced the Frigidaire brand name yet! Thee old stove was also an antique and it scared me to use it. The cabinets were all made of metal and the sink cabinet was so rusted out on one side that it fell apart when we removed it.
Today we finish getting the cabinets installed and then we can put in the new stove and perhaps clean up the phenomenal mess we have made out of the kitchen so that we can put it back together again and make it usable once more.
“This the true human knows:
The strings of all the ways
Make up a cable of great length
And great purpose….”
Thursday March 25
Hey, We are progressing, there are few more miserable and harder to get along with people in this world than Mike Fite, our neighbor on this property. He is the most contrary person I have come across in years. No matter what is going on here he complains about it. He complains that we showed up in the first place, that he wasn’t given adequate notice (my dad did call him just before we left to come down), that we have no respect because we make noise during the day while we work. He is fighting me about where to build the property line wall because he wants to appropriate some of our property, he is just beyond belief and I have About reached my limits with him.
Well... that is all that I wrote that rip...Bryan