A Happy Ending

Everybody loves a happy ending.  Here is one for you.

Recall back 7 months ago how we had a startling visit at Puerto Escondido from our friend’s son and his wife and one year old. They arrived unannounced to work with us on the beach house for a couple of months. They had taken a 17 hour bus ride from Xico to Puerto ostensibly to help work on the beach casa. We had not authorized such a trip. Because we were scheduled to leave town we had to put the little family on a bus going back home (here in Ursulo Galvan, Xico) nearly immediately.

The reporting of said mix-up (READ HERE) caused a flap with one of our next-door neighbors here in Xico. She apparently misunderstood the situation to the point of her being labeled a total wacko.  It was actually quite ugly. Even now reading through the comments from that entry – wow!

So anyway life has moved on these seven months. When we returned here about a month ago, the main characters involved in that situation resolved the mix-up (save the next-door neighbor who there is no rational talking to). The youthful worker assured us he would pay us for the costs of him and his family’s miss-adventure. We gave that no thought realizing a couple hundred dollars plus was pretty much unobtainable for him.

We had written it off as a learning experience well likened to a quip provided by one of our then commenters, ” ‘Música pagada no toca buen son’. (Music paid in advance will not sound good) — If you are going to have a wedding celebration and you hire the musicians, DO NOT pay for their service until the end of the celebration. You can pay half the price, or make and advance payment, but do not make a full payment in advance. You may regret it later.”

On a couple of occasions the worker and his family have visited us to reassure us of their commitment to reimburse us. The good news in his mind (and ours actually) was the fact that the quick return from the unauthorized excursion had enabled him to answer a call for a really good job. A job in which he would have missed the opportunity had he not returned when he did.

We were all happy to gather a positive from the ashes of the mess. Anita and I thought how terrific it was for him to find good in an otherwise not so positive situation.

Yesterday the young man came to me with the full amount of pesos owed. We were taken back not having expected to ever see those pesos again. A very pleasant surprise. Not so much about the money, but the fact that this young hombre by way of his good new job was able and willing to make all things right. Gives one hope and faith in young people. There are still some good ones out there.

Stay Tuned!

Making Radio Waves

My little corner workstation – Ursulo Galvan, Xico, Veracruz, MX this foggy Sunday morning.

We are getting better with the radios.  I am after all an electronic engineer by education (and much practical experience I might add). The radios to which I refer are ones used to relay Internet connections.  We had a dandy installation between John and Jane’s place (recall the robber’s tienda they lived in across the way a couple of kilometers).

But alas those fun loving, persevering victims, enchanting fellow seniors  and good friends have escaped the house of ladones bounty, moving to safer digs in Coatepec. So we chopped a few sections out of our very tall bamboo mast; lowering the radio to communicate within the Hood and voila we garnered a connection with ease.

Tancho who reads and writes from a mountaintop in Pátzcuaro  turned us on to the possibilities of radioing Internet long distances (in excess of 5 miles). As communication possibilities develop the radios eventually become unnecessary – but before Internet comes to your neighborhood  they are a wonderful thing.

The catch for the Calypso Couple is having to maintain “mainstream” local internet connections at locations wherein we reside for 6 months or less only.  The service providers demand contracts and ongoing connections.  If there is one operating condition in the process of multiple abodes that irritates it is having to pay for ongoing services we do not use. So listen up all you potential part time expats – some of that can be foiled.

We pay for continued water and trash service as well as electric connections in three houses (not counting our storage warehouse in Capitan, New Mexico. You can see the problem – multiple Internet connections really add up and contribute to our services frustrations – hence the radios here in Xico.  We retired their need in Puerto securing a shared connection with our next door neighbors. By the way when we are at our New Mexico casa our neighbor and friend George allows us a logon – ah George he is a terrific fellow in so many ways.

The point here is there are alternative methods to being strapped with ongoing service requirements. It just takes some Yankee ingenuity and friends.

Last night we watched our Cruz Azul soccer team play to a tie on HD television (free air no less). Being connected to the rest of the world makes living outside of the United States a more comfortable situation – rest assured.

We are settling in. Yesterday was the annual Capilla at the top of the drive celebration.  The weather did not cooperate. It was a small and mostly peaceful event (smaller and more peaceful than previous years).

It is cold and foggy this Sunday morning. I will go read my electronic copy of yesterday’s Washington Post and maybe flip through the electronic June Esquire magazine until my Guapa Señora rises. Life is Good – Stay Tuned!

Life Update

We had planned on heading to Xico, Veracruz (our other home) two Sundays past. Recalling our return to Xico last year, it was cold and rainy leaving us wishing we had stayed in Puerto longer. So we cancelled the early departure and will remain here until the 27th – two weeks longer than originally planned.  Follow the sun – the Calypso’s path.

Our Beach Across from Hotel Santa Fe in Puerto Escondido

Jane, half of our friends John and Jane who are living near Xico wrote spontaneously the other day, “Burrr! you two are lucky you did not come back yet”

Because we were nearly packed up to leave we are living a bit awkwardly, not wanting to unpack. Will try and plan this better next year.  In the meantime we are laying low as the town is FULL of tourist enjoying our fair pueblito.

Over on the other side of town Anita’s brother is packing up to head to the States for two months. Sadly he and his mate have decided to leave Puerto Escondido after living here a year and a half. Brother-in-law’s daughter is with child. Grand-parenting is calling, giving him the desire to live closer to Las Vegas and daughter. He will be missed.  We enjoyed having family across town.

We have been shopping online for guitars (yes – more than one). At 67 we have decided to revisit an old hobby with more time to devote to it – time will surely be needed. Author, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Ten thousand regardless of one’s possible inherent talent. We are shooting for something less than being a master at guitar playing.

Willie Nelson’s Classic 1969 Martin “Trigger”

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists in Berlin studied violin students. Specifically, they studied their practice habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. All of the subjects were asked this question: “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”

All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice.

The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.

Natural Talent: Not Important is claimed.  

This suits me ;-)

I called upon my calculator which revealed 10,000 hours practicing 4 hours a day is nearly 7 years’ time – ouch! Let’s just work on being able to scratch out Neil Young’s “Old Man” as a goal.

“Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
The whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
And you can tell that’s true…”

I leave you with this appropriate cartoon about Jimi Hendrix shopping for guitars (he did not have Amazon, Ebay or any other computer shopping place)

Peace – Stay Tuned!

An Artists Palette of
Colors and Textures

The Calypso Couple is about ready to start preparing to head north for the spring and summer.

Actually we have already started in that mode – gathering things up to be stored away, covered, or otherwise prepared for 6 months of abandonment.

In that light we decided to take a few photos of the many plants and flowers in our yard today – to serve as a memory when we are gone. So please indulge us in looking at a lot of photos – all taken today, all shots of our property here in Puerto Escondido.

We are more of permaculturalists than gardeners or flower lovers.

A year or so after purchasing this property we went to extensive measures to install a drip watering system. A system that would mostly tend to itself during the time we are gone. In fairness we do have a gardener that comes and checks on things 2 hours a week. He is to make sure our drip system is dripping and kind of keep the major growth down to a manageable point.

The first time we returned here after being away six plus months it was a veritable jungle. Arriving late at night we had to machete our way to the door – truly. Since we have made the arrangement with our friend and gardener Simplicito we have come back to a much nicer situation each fall.

Not only is our Blog an attempt at service to you good readers, it is a memory storehouse for us. So here’s to the memories of the past beautiful six months of beach living and an artist’s palette of color and textures:

Sneaked in a Photo of the New Screen door

Had to include a photo of our neighborhood street dog Pirata. She does actually have a home across the street but we all treat her as our own here on the block.

Thank you for allowing us to indulge in this little home photo essay.

Back on message next time, when we will start reviewing all our home improvements made at Casa El Punta Es. Stay Tuned!

Tuna Boats a Float

The Calypso Couple are well known, or so it seems,  in the community for their love of fresh tuna off the boat.

Yesterday while visiting our favorite panaderia (bakery) a small little hombre came running up to Doña Anita, breathlessly notifying her that his mom has atún (tuna). The muchacho had crossed the dirt road where his family operates a fresh fish market. I continued on for my pan dulce (sweet bread).

We ended up with 1200 grams of thin sliced tuna steaks. This is $3.47 a pound and the current market price in our area. The odd point to all this is that tuna usually appears in the markets in November through January. Never have seen it here in March.

According to the nice fish mujer (woman) the water got cooler than usual and tuna has appeared in the off shore water. We were happy for whatever caused this cooling, especially since it has been a bit unseasonably warm for the last two weeks?

A word of caution here: Tuna in Spanish is atún (AH-TUNE). Asking for tuna one might just end up with a cactus, prickly pear, or even a bowl of olives  (aceitunas).

We made it home with our tuna stash and began storing our pan dulce when we were beckoned to the gate by yet another charming mujer. This one had a broad weaved basket on her head. She came to tell us she had tuna. A common thread was sensed – the tuna are running.

She thought of us knowing our proclivity for the chicken of the sea. Even though our larder was full of tuna we bought another kilo in thanks for her thinking of us and to guarantee her return.

Mexican tuna is usually sliced thin like most of them apparently like their beef steaks. We have no problem with that – fire up the barbecue. We cook enough to have some to shred for tuna sandwiches another time or two – yum.

We have not had much fish in our diets lately what with all the news and fear mongering of radiation soaked fish arriving on North American shores from Japan and such. Anita encourages me to find a portable Geiger counter that would enable us to arrive at our own conclusion. But for now we trust the local water here at the southern tip of Mexico and just could not resist – see why below:

 

All this tuna talk makes me want to go and watch a few episodes of Wicked Tuna

Come on by for a  barbecue tuna fry – Life is Good. Stay Tuned!

Viva Puerto

A local magazine helps Puerto Escondido’s reach and image. Barbara Joan Schaffer, the editor in chief, can be seen scurrying about town collecting news as well as marketing ad space.

Latest Issue Cover

We first met Barbara a few years ago when researching buying property here. Published in 2010 Barbara had a book on local shelves titles, “Oaxaca Coast: The Lay of the Land, Real Estate Tips & Day Trips” We found the small volume very helpful steering us in the direction of a successful purchase of the Calypso’s Casa La Punta Es as well as sending us off on several surrounding area excursions that are indeed fun “day trips” and more.

She starts the Introduction of the book with this “I see you gentle reader, sitting on the terrace  of a beachside restaurant enjoying your 2 for 1 margaritas while the sun sets over Zicatela beach, and you are thinking, ‘I could live here.’ And the next thing you know you are crazy in love with buying or building a house on the Oaxaca coast. I know because I was once that person too. Truth be told, Puerto Escondido and Huatulco and everything in between are places of enchantment.

She had my full attention at “…sitting on the terrace of a beachside restaurant… while the sun sets over Zicatela beach.” Her book had an infectious, personal tone that was as much a promotional piece as it was chock full of detailed information. It truly worked on us.

Because Puerto is a small community our paths eventually crossed. We shared writer’s enthusiasms and we learned of her soon to be project “Viva Puerto” magazine. Just about at closing of our casa purchase the first issue of her magazine hit the streets. Since then we see each other regularly discussing magazine topics, and our shared love of movies; we even have contributed several photos that have been included in both the hard copies and the Internet E’zine versions of the magazine. We have talked recently about collaborating on an updated book on buying land in mysterious Mexico or is it “Mysteriously buying land in Mexico?”

In as much as many of the readers here have an interest in Puerto Escondido, be it a possible vacation destination to a full on place to live, we want to direct your attention to Viva Puerto magazine – Like her book before it Viva Puerto Escondido magazine reflects and exposes Barbara’s bubbly personality and is not to be missed online or in hard copy found all around town.

Barbara is also a regular contributor on the local Tom Zap Forum. It is there she is even feistier. But you must sign-up to read her and other’s comments – the Forum is not for the timid. It can be a rough crowd, yet also informative and definitely worth having a look if you are thinking about visiting or living here.

Stay Tuned!

Bright Lights, Big City – NOT!

Dateline Puerto Econdido: Our little beach town is getting new solar lights along the main highway (Highway 200) into and out of town. A short run that. I believe it is about 5 miles from one end to the other (east to west).

We have noted in the 7 years we have been coming here that it is dark at night (not such a bad thing).  Illuminating the main highway has to be a good thing. And the best part is how they are going about it – with solar panels and fancy high-tech looking light poles.

It has been reported that the Mexican government is establishing a National Energy Strategy with policies to be implemented over the next 15 years, to increase the Country’s electricity generation from non-fossil fuel sources by 35 per cent.

Lots of chatter on the local Forum about the new lights – ‘whose paying for all this?’ Barbara Joan Schaffer, our local editor in chief of VivaPuerto Ecscondido Magazine writes:

“Generally infrastructure improvements, like solar lighting, happen because of federal or state grants to the municipalities, not from business license fees.

I went to pay for my business [license] for San Pedro. New procedure this year. They wanted to see my SAT federal tax ID, a map showing where my business (my house) is, and my birth certificate! So I down loaded a map from Google maps, and told them no way would they get my birth certificate since I don’t have it. Past years they just wanted my name, address and money.”

Mexico’s finances are a mystery and I am pretty sure the powers that be like it that way. Another comment from a popular contributor on the local Forum, Farkem, “…don’t think those extra fees are going to be spent on public works, but rather on someone’s home improvements.”

Full public disclosure might give a clue – however judging from the effect exposure has on the general public north of the border – people could care less that their monies are being wasted and worse. Let there be light!

Time to don the barista apron and make some cappuccinos.

The Calypso Couple Coffee Workstation

Stay Tuned!

Playa Secreto – Roca Blanca

Two ladies sitting in the sun explained that their group of ten or twelve was from different parts of Canada. We asked, “How did you Canadians discover Puerto Escondido?”

“A few years ago we were on a cruise ship stop-over in Huatulco. We came back to Huatulco, eventually making our way to Puerto which we liked best.  Puerto Escondido is now our favorite vacation destination.”

A vacation spot where home’s harsh winter weather is left behind.

Today this group of Canadians are sunning in a small beach area located 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of Puerto. Puerto Escondido translates to “Hidden Port”. Roca Blanca (white rock) could be called “Playa Secreto” (Secret Beach) as it is even further hidden. Here taking the short drive, those in the know escape the hustle and bustle of Puerto’s beach community.

Hammocks and oysters, and a luxurious Pacific Ocean beach await those that venture here. Competition for clientele is fierce. Before we could park our car several hawkers nearly prostrated themselves across the hood of our Jetta.

“Aparque aquí!” Beckoning for us to park there at their drink and eateries’ edge. There were a few signs warning that parking was only for patrons. We saw a row of about five palapa covered, open-air establishments. We tried to park in an uncommitted location – a woman was at my door explaining we could park across the way and enjoy her facility. We headed to the beach to have a look-see.

The pelicans seemed to own the small island just beyond the beach – indeed they have made it a white rock edifice that breaks up the nothing but ocean view – next stop south is Antarctica. A beach where the Skipper and Gilligan might be seen hunting for civilization. One fishing boat lays high and dry tethered to restaurant’s edge.

We tracked back to the first restaurant in the row; where we saw the table of 12 Canadians, figuring this is where the patrons seem to be gathered.

“Canadian weather officials have issued a number of winter storm warnings as another unrelated system is expected to bring severe weather….”

We had been told that perhaps eating oysters out of Puerto’s bay might be dangerous to the gastrointestinal tract. But up at Roca Blanca – safe enough and scrumptious. Being a little squeamish we opted for the breaded oysters guaranteed to have been gathered right here.

The gentle flavors of fresh oysters were threatened by the green salsa that would surely make its presences known – hot lips! Here in this idyllic beach setting with a cold Corona and warm coastal waters – well it was easy to see why these traveling aficionados from the Great White North were hiding out here.

The ACTUAL Roca Blanca (White Rock)

Our host Señor José Galán greeted us taking time from his working on a long harpoon. Overhead were a series of hooks waiting for the day’s catch. He explained that he had been fishing these waters for more than 35 years and operating the restaurant for 17 of those.

Señor José Galán

Galán calls to his wife Lulu asking about a magazine article. “What was that magazine?” The New York Times Travel section just last December had a feature on Puerto that included a visit to his restaurant:

“For José Galán, a fisherman who owns the local seafood shack Restaurant Y Mariscos in Playa Roca Blanca, the area’s appeal is quite simple. Galán, who has been living shirtless under the sun for so long that his skin looks like it’s been stained a deep mahogany, can chat about anything: fishing trivia, surfing wisdom, regional politics. “I’ve been out here for 17 years, fishing and running this restaurant, and the government never did anything to help us when times were bad,” Galán says. “But Puerto Escondido always provides, and even when the season is low and the customers aren’t here, you can get by on waking up to this every morning.”

Hammocks are plentiful – no reservation required

A fifty mile round trip from our casa in Colonial Zicatela to Roca Blanca will be a regularly scheduled event for the Calypso Couple. If you make it as far as Huatulco or Puerto Escondido you will be happy to go the extra miles and visit Roca Blanca. Stay Tuned!

Energy Audit

The Calypso Couple currently consumes about 6.75 kilowatts per day at Casa La Punta Es.

Our most recent electric bill averaged about $24.00 USD a month (2-month billing – 62 days = $49. USD)

This works out to about 11.75 cents (usd) per kilowatt. So not inexpensive kilowatts and it can get much worse based on a complex usage formula that punishes high kilowatt users. They can end up paying for all kilowatts used 2.817 pesos or 22 cents (usd) per kilowatt hour. Ouch! Turn OFF that air conditioner.

We have 7 – 80 watt ceiling fans. With the fans the equivalent of one fan running 24 hours a day is our approximate usage. There is at least one laptop running 24 hours a day and a 32” monitor operating 18 hours a day. Leaving electronics on here at the beach is mostly a humidity issue.

We use only compact florescent light bulbs augmented with a few LED bulb lamps. We leave a couple of lights on all night (13 watt light bulbs)

Admitted luxuries: A commercial espresso maker used about once a week (the cord gets hot – so lots of power consumed); a small jet pump to assist the laundry process; several power cubes operating outboard hard drives run continuously.

In the cocina (kitchen) we are using an 800 watt induction single burner stovetop (that cord gets warm as well). The induction stovetop is very efficient and reduces the use of propane gas. It is cleaner and more efficient than using gas.Very handy – we have a few of them.

We have an instant-on propane gas hot water heater (only used for showers) and a propane stove-top as well as a microwave and a small toaster oven. We use rechargeable batteries and augment our yard watering with our laundry gray water. We have a half-dozen solar lights in the yard.

So how can we do better? We could manage the power cubes better. Some are left plugged in when devices are not being used. We have a central computer(s) backup and surge protector, we will assign one power strip to supply the several power cubes; then this could be turned-off at night.

We have a black garden hose in the yard that dispenses VERY hot water when in the sun, which is often here in sunny Puerto Escondido. We plan on developing a black hose solar water heater source to further reduce the resource driven instant-on water heater. Also we try and take showers during the warmer parts of the day. Gravity fed water does not produce enough pressure to drive the instant-on water heater, so we utilize a small pressurized pump (ShurFlo Model 2088-594-154).

We could use our solar oven more often.

I would give our fan usage management about an 8 out of 10 (perhaps this is a 7?). There is room for improvement.

We have a rechargeable 12 volt LED Coleman camping lamp (model 4345). This can be charged daily with a small solar panel we also have. This would avoid running one of two night lights (13 watt bulbs each).This would save 6.5 kilowatts per billing period or 104 watts a day.

Coleman 4345 LED Lantern

 

We also have about 4 large solar panels and several inverters that could be incorporated in our energy systems. That for the future.  Motivation is kilowatt costs driven.

Yesterday I implemented the Coleman lantern nightlight placing the solar panel on the water tower roof and wiring it up. So how can you tighten up your energy use belt? Next time our trip to Roca Blanca.  Stay Tuned!

Paving Paradise

“They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot.”

Catchy tune Big Yellow Taxi – a song written and originally recorded by Joni Mitchell in 1970. The band Counting Crows had a nice release of the tune as well.

Being GREEN and an Anthropocentric person almost from birth, that song always made me think that there was simply too much cement being laid upon Mother Earth. Recall we are  MAJOR FANS of Edward Abbey!

We have written about Abbey before: April 15thA Trip to ZionDrowning the Pharaoh

That disclosed, we confess we have been working with a lot of cement lately – Hmm

While ubiquitous in Mexico cement is not the greenest of materials. In fact far from it. Green people will tell you there is a lot of embodied energy in cement.

Embodied energy is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a building material, the entire life cycle of concrete has far and away the highest embodied energy.  It also has far and away the lowest value when it comes to recycling at the end of its life.

Those being facts you might imagine the conundrum of using cement for the Calypso Couple. Some types of concrete are greener than others and we opt for the greener gray cement, but still it is a stretch to consider it related to anything green.

Here in our mild Mexico climates concrete can enhance energy performance. Yes, it has great thermal mass, but no insulation value (not a tropics requirement). Concrete contains recycled materials. Like fly ash and slag from other green industries. Again a bit of a justification stretch.

Here is a promotional ad from the concrete industry (oh my!)

Sustainable – Hmm!

It is reported that concrete houses out last wood framed houses by 5 times. Taking this into account in an area where wood is a dining favorite for the plentiful area termites, we can rest a little easier using this material.  We used the pressed blocks which are less embodied energy than the fired units and so forth. But, living lightly on the land it is not.

OK all that disclosed as mentioned we have had a few cement based projects on our dance card here recently at Casa La Punta Es (Our house The Point is).

We recently moved our 1100 liter water tank from our back patio to a spot closer to the washing machine on the north side of our lot. We built a small cement pad to place two propane tanks. We added an additional  two-step stairway to descend from the deck. We constructed a cement pad under the second floor stairway and another on the north side of the casa for rinsing and cleaning out of the mud.

BEFORE: Beige Tank Relocated from our Patio Deck

Small Cement Pad for Propane Tanks. New location for Water tank (hiding behind bush).

 

Two 2-Step stairways on the back patio. This is the new one.

Storage Space Under the Stairway

250 X 80 X 6 Centimeter Cement Pad

The cement pads are 5-6 centimeters (about 2 inches) to help reduce the use of cement.

To get a bit technical: We learned a long time ago to always keep checking the work of our construction people – always carry a tape measure and be close to a couple different length levels and squares – ALWAYS.

During the construction of the additional patio two-step stairs we were caught up with the pad going under the second floor stairway, Sometime later we noticed the newly added two-step stairway’s second step was way out of square – ugh!

We let it dry for a few days. Then with a hammer drill we drilled many holes on the outer edge and ran screws partially into the holes.

Look Closely in the dark slot – see screw heads.

This is a first for us – trying to repair this by adding on to square up the stairway – hope it works! It will only bear the weight of humans – one at a time.

Ready for Cement. (Completed Stairs shown above.)

While doing all that we have been slowly stuccoing the entire upper level interior as well as much of the bare block surfaces on the outside of the house. The salt air tends to ‘eat’ way at the blocks – this effort not only looks good it adds to the preservation of our Casa’s blocks.

Newly Stucco’d Wall

They took all the trees, and put em in a tree museum
And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them
No, no, no
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone
They paved paradise, and put up a parking lot

Cement or mud and nothing in-between; we will try and keep the paving down to a minimum. And strive to Stay Green. Stay Tuned!