Hello World

Hello World!  It has been a while since you last heard from me. Bringing you up to date would be  a major task – so we will not go there.

What we can do is start afresh and get back to ‘normal entries’. I would like that – and it is my Blog after all.

I just had (have) my 70th birthday (yikes!). At that age it is the month of October – birthday month.  Before now it was birthday week. Once over 70 it must be birthday month. A day is like what a week used to be and now a day is like a month past.  Is this making sense?  Time is relative.

Getting old is not for the weak (of body or spirit). We tenacious hangers on are here taking up space, breathing air and collecting on past agreements (read collecting Social Security  ’benefits’). that would rather we would die and reduce the excess population. Please do not feel like you workers are picking up the tab on me – because my deal was made with the government back in the 50′s (that is 1950′s). I have never tried to alter the terms we entered on – they have modified the agreement many times – but the bottom line is we older folks should die and reduce the overhead.

I am not trying to be difficult – but I have no intention of leaving this mortal coil any time soon. One never knows.

We have been landlocked in Puerto Escondido for the last year. Our usual process had (has been) six weeks to two months in the US, Las Vegas is our home. Then two half year segments in Oaxaca, MX and Veracruz, MX; oh and throw in as much time as possible at our house in New Mexico;. lots of choices.

This Blog was started to record our adventures in a life in Mexico. Over the years (more than 10 now) we have broaden it to a general journal – still trying to maintain the theme.

Our son Julian is here to help celebrate the 70th – Family matters and his visit is the best of all of it. STAY TUNED!

Remember a time…

Few things test a relationship more dramatically than a search for a dream home. Anita and I have been on this search for many years now (more than 30 – that is a long search).You get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when your partner rejects a home you believe suits you perfectly. If the attraction is shared, two hearts beat as one. If the attraction is not mutual, a couple can experience a range of painful emotions and conflict including the home as the “other person” in a relationship-threatening love triangle. Remodeling or building a home from scratch can be even worse.

Remodeling is the current Calypso mode. It has taken on a life of its own; not in the plan on this trip south – but now it is all-encompassing. Yesterday we completed laying tile in the second floor kitchen (there are two kitchens at La Villa Barra). Immediately there after, because the meter runs from 8:30 to 4:30 with our hired help, we had him start chipping away at the kitchen floor on the first level. Tomorrow (today) he will begin in earnest to lay tile in that cocina.

Remember a time when you bought or sold a home. What were the factors that led to your decision? How did you handle the details of your move? Was it an emotionally loaded experience as well as a real estate transaction? Have you ever owned more than one house at a time? How did you handle going from house to house? Have you ever considered or even bought a home in a different country other than your own? Follow along because these and other issues get covered (or uncovered) here. Next photos of the new kitchen tile – I promise. Stay Tuned!

As the World Turns

This is a catch-all. The kind Kim (one of my favorite readers – and I his) kids me about. Bouncing between subjects is just part of my conversational nature – one topic leads to another and so on.

We have been working daily on the new casa – many projects (read opportunities) there.

The tile was finished more or less a few days ago and we started in on tiling the kitchens (yes there are two). Because my arm is rested and the tiles are smaller (a conventional 33mm X 33mm, I took on the job myself. So it will be done slowly but the lines will be straight and tile set level. While this is going on the pantry cabinet we had made for Anita’s kitchen arrived in our courtyard where she is sanding and varnishing to our standards; obviously higher than our carpenter’s.

Anita discusses the cabinet before it arrives at our La Barra casa.

 

Looks nice in spite of a couple flaws here and there.

Upon its arrival to our home I looked at the cabinet and then the place it was headed. It looked like a tight fit. Out came the tape measure (we now do everything in metric by the way). The return wall that the stove top sits on is about 5 centimeters off plum – ouch! No way is that cabinet going in there -grrrr.

I gathered up my stoutest cold (mason’s?) chisels and went to work on a large hump of cement opposite to the out-of-plum return.

Enthralled with parota wood grain!

Seven year old cement has had plenty of drying time. Did you know cement gets harder for years after it is poured. By now this stuff is REAL hard.

Without a jackhammer and/or dynamite this protrusion is going no where.

We talked about using the cabinet somewhere else and having one made that will accommodate the error. Anita’s kitchen is much like those in the little houses designs. I think the entire area is less than 65 square feet (just for you non-metric people – 6 square meters to the rest of us). We are talking SMALL.

Anyway, the plan is to raise up the bottom to be sitting on a platform that rises above the inwardly out of plum return wall. I am sure it will work and be a darn sight easier than chipping dense rock disguised as cement.

Every property we have is two story or higher. The Rancho and the new beach casa (Villa La Barra) are three! Even though I hate heights liking being planted firmly on Madre Tierra. But, I need a ladder and a good grip on reality. So I noticed the other day our neighbor at La Barra is having his entire three story pad painted. There is a terrific sturdy looking (at least from here) extension ladder being escorted around the perimeter by some painting pros. I have to find out who the manufacturer is. This casa is For Sale by the way.

That hombre is hauling a 19 liter bucket (5 gallons) up there – yikes that is confidence or insanity – or some of both.

Meanwhile Anita was over jawing with one of our neighbors.

I noticed they had a table where each of the fellows there (three at the moment) are picking at something on the table. I had to know.

This is some kind of a fish (river not ocean I think). They purported as a delicacy of the sea (well the river). I asked several times for them to identify the fish. There are some words that keep being repeated and repeated to which I cannot understand.

Maybe someone out there knows what this is???

Next time Photo(s) of new cocina tile and some new furniture Hippie Stuff!

So Stay Tuned! AND HAPPY EASTER TO YA’LL

No Shoe Zone

We are coming off of a week or so tiling project – with more to come.

Laying down some BIG tile – my office.

In many countries like Japan, Korea and Turkey it is considered a major faux pas to walk through a house with shoes on. In some schools in Sweden, children are even required to remove their shoes.

In Japan, removing shoes has also a very practical matter. Traditionally, the floors in Japanese dwellings were covered with tatami mats which are used to sit on and to sleep on instead of chairs and beds. Wearing shoes into the house would bring the mud, dirt, dust and bacteria into the house and you would sit and sleep in all that. Even if the pavement technology has pretty much improved and hard flooring is quite common in Japanese houses nowadays, the tradition of taking off shoes remains.

Generally, we could say that from a cultural point of view, it is considered a mark of respect if guests remove their shoes while entering someone’s home.  On the other hand some are uncomfortable and others consider it rude to be asked to remove their shoes (holes in your socks amigo?).

We love how the new tile is coming out.  It is the same tile as you all helped pick out for the bedroom at the La Punta Es Casa by the way. Pictures to follow after the grout dries a bit.

The main reason for removing shoes is health

“In the 15th century one was not allowed to enter a room without taking off shoes in Holland. One can only imagine the human and animal sewage that one would walk through out in the world at that time, so removing shoes would be a precaution against illness-causing bacteria”. (Annie B. Bond)

 

Since municipal sewage systems took hold and cars and trains did supersede animal transportation, we could say that the original health reasons behind removing shoes fell away.

But new studies show that while we may no longer be tracking in as much bacteria on our shoes, we are tracking in dangerous pollutants. Therefore it may be time to return to the practices of the 15th century to protect the health of our homes. In her article about this topic, the Health Home Expert Annie B. Bond, lists up many examples that should convince people to take off their shoes at home.

Pesticides, toxic coal tar, lead etc. are tracked into homes on shoes. Taking off shoes at the door is even more important if you have carpets, which are “sink hole(s) for toxins of all kinds” that are brought into the home on shoes and boots “including pollens, lead, pesticides and more”. Furthermore, infants and young children spend most of the time on the floor (not in all cultures!) and are much closer to the floor, put toys that have been on the floor into their mouth etc. “With their growing central nervous systems and developing immune systems, toxic chemicals can be especially damaging”. The same applies to pets who are also vulnerable to exposure because commonly lying on the floor or carpet.

 

Here at the beach sandals or bare feet are the typical footwear making shoe removal a breeze.We are leaning towards mild enforcement and total compliance by us.  So what is your take on this question.

Stay Tuned!

Buying Land in La Punta or La Barra

One of the best real estate opportunities may also be a disastrous move. The gambler gets the pot but of course at a risk. Like any gamble there are odds – odds are if you play your cards right you can go away a winner.

I captured this shot of our future (now current) La Villa Barra property from the neighboring roof top – La Barra De Colotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico

The Calypso Couple now owns two such gambling properties, or should I say think they own…?

In a recent article in the local magazine here in Puerto, “Viva Puerto!” A more negative slant on this ‘opportunity’ is depicted.

The entire story from which I quote is here:

Comments within Square Brackets [ ] are mine.

All land in the Punta [and La Barra], is communal (i.e. not private) and belongs to the Bienes Comunales of Santa Maria Colotepec. This means that all land transfers (there are no “sales” per se) are registered with the Bienes Comunales which issues the acta de posesión establishing a person’s right to use and transfer a property. The acta is similar to a deed or title (escritura pública) except that the property is not registered at the federal land office…as private property would be.

Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution prohibits foreigners from owning property within 50 kms. of the coast, but foreigners may possess property in the restricted zone through a bank trust (fideicomiso), as long as it is titled property. In other words, a foreigner cannot get a fideicomiso on communal land, and an acta de posesión cannot be in a foreigner’s name.

It is also totally illegal to attempt to circumvent the constitution by buying property in the restricted zone by putting it in the name of a Mexican national [Here we differ in opinion a bit]. A prestanombre(name lender) is someone who, usually for a fee, will help a person circumvent the law…For that reason a private (not registered) escritura is also not an option since it is unenforceable. (You can’t present a contract for an illegal transaction to a judge.)

However, there is no law that says a Mexican can’t get an acta de posesión and then rent the property to a foreigner. Let’s say that you, as a foreigner, have a dear Mexican friend or relative who is willing to let you buy a property in his name. You build a house and everything is fine, until your friend unexpectedly dies and his heirs now own your house. Yes, it may happen that the widow or the children claim your property and there is nothing you can do about it. Same goes with a divorce if the couple was married under the joint property law. Conversely, there is no way for you to pass the property onto your non-Mexican heirs.

Furthermore, there was a time when unscrupulous people connected to the Bienes Comunales of Colotepec were free and easy with the issuing of actas [TRUE however no longer the case]. Record keeping was also sloppy. People now are still living with the consequences of there being two or more actas for a single property. The Agrarian court in Oaxaca is the final arbiter of these disputes.

Still, most foreigners on the Oaxaca coast, outside of Huatulco and the area of Puerto that was privatized by a presidential act in 1970 (Bacocho, Carrizalillo, the Lighthouse District, etc.), have a prestanombre.

So what are the alternatives? Legally, there is only one and that is to form a Mexican corporation [Keeping in mind you must really be renting the property to be legal]. It only takes two people to form a corporation and they can both be non-resident foreigners. A Mexican corporation has all the rights of a Mexican national. The catch is that the corporation must be lucrative[PROFITABLE would be a better word], and it must be administered by a Mexican, who is responsible for seeing that the taxes are paid. Now your house is a bed and breakfast, and you and your guests pay rent to the corporation. The yearly fees can be costly, but do you really want to build a $200,000 house on someone else’s property?

A third and increasingly popular option is to get an escritura pública issued for your property from the land registry for the district of Pochutla, then get a fideicomiso for this escritura, and finally an acta in your name and the name of the bank. Is it legal? Who knows. [I do not believe this is any better than an ACTA issued by the Colotepec Bienes Comunales]. It seems to work and is the practice in the condo communities down the Coast. Although this title is useless for purposes of establishing your ownership of the property (only the acta counts), it makes your property easier to sell or inherit (your heir is named on the fideicomiso). The downside is that the paperwork will cost you thousands of dollars, and you will have to pay property taxes to the municipio of Colotepec …. When you sell titled property you also have to pay a transfer tax plus capital gains. But remember, buying a property without getting the acta is like buying a car without getting the ownership papers.  END

Those are the very gory details from an obvious pessimist of which I am not. Digest this and next time I will explain in detail MHO (My Humble Opinion).

The ‘protections‘ provided in real estate transaction north of the Rio Bravo are steeped in law which fattens the wallet of many a lawyer, accountant, real estate broker/agent, and oh so many more with their hands in your pockets. U.S. real estate is necessarily colored throughout by forces of profiteering and does little to secure your safety in these transactions, home purchases.

Stay Tuned for the rest of the story.

Playing with a Full Deck

We needed to address the second level, beach facing, deck pretty much as soon as we had keys to the new house, La Villa Barra, project. The decking was rotted in spots and hazardous. Our favorite wood guy came out to have a look at that and some door and window issues.

Our Deck in Ad

We discussed replacing some planks. But after further inspection by pulling up a few of these planks and checking the beams we realized total replacement was really necessary. While not a large deck, this would be no small task – and working without a net.

We started the ball rolling on the replacement deck; deconstructing and salvaging some glass and parota wood and creating two sets of French doors for the first level; constructing new doors at kitchen entry on the second level and supplying a small cafe like table and chairs for the new deck. Some needed floor and encino handrail refinishing on hold.

A crew of five arrived on the scene carting a few weeks effort of gathering materials.

At issue were raising roof to take weight off one corner post – easily resolved and agreement – a bottle jack to provide alternate support. Wood type(s) to avoid short term life of pine decking in a hostile environment – the beach. There were nine beams that would be better in a sturdier wood than pine – and more costly.

As we all know remodeling is always more expensive than building new – this project was no exception.

The frustration continues with Mexican builder types starting at communication with the jefe (boss builder – maestro albañil) to poor work effort by 2 ayudantes principales talentosos, and 2 chalan minors. Five hombres of assorted construction labor flavors.

BEST ADVICE: The truth is one must be on the scene monitoring all activity. At that when it was all said and done there were several issues I did not catch until after they were gone and I had time to ponder and evaluate it all. So just saying be prepared, be there and keep your thinking cap on to stay ahead of it all.

As is often the case these days the frustrations of above suggested issues wormed its way out surfacing in my attitude when dealing with the maestro at the end. Later guilt set in that perhaps my expectations were unrealistic and the method used to express my discontent was counter-productive at the end of the day.

Diplomacy is as critical as any other issue in the building process here in Mexico – bottom line! Here I am thinking I may get that before I am finished with all this nonsense – time and my wife will tell. Stay Tuned!

 

TRANSITIONS

I had an epiphany of sorts the other night and again the following morning. The full moon was center stage at all three levels of decks in our new casa La Villa Barra. The decks serve as places between in doors and out of doors. I like those locations.

Deck outside our master bedroom – La Villa Barra

I remember the first time I got to sleep outdoors. It was with my younger sister in the backyard in our own concoction of a tent – sheets and blankets attached to broomsticks and hoe handle what have you. The sense of mystery and magic of doing normal activities in an outdoor space began right there.

Second Level Deck Being Replaced NOW – La Villa Barra

My first trip to Italy dining al fresco on the terrace of a dripping-with-charm hotel overlooking the Adriatic under an ancient vine covered pergola left me changed. It personified the elegance and sensuality of what an outdoor room should be.

Lst Level deck below – French Doors Being Made NOW

Living in the Tropics affords one the luxury of sleeping with the windows open year round. On those special nights like last when the moon is full up, we open doors and let the magic light and the smells of out of doors spill in. The sound of waves breaking on the beach intensifies.

French Door at the Carpenter’s Shop

 

On nights like these I return to that childhood experience, remembering that we are creatures that respond to nature. We are nature at our very best, and anytime and anyway we can return to it, it restores us.

3rd Level Deck – On a clear day…

Is it any wonder after all we have created, that we are heading back towards simplicity and nature, being immersed in the complexity of life these days. We are drawn, I believe, almost magnetically, perhaps cosmically to these outdoor spaces – places where we are able to embrace our essential selves.

White Rubberized Coating NEXT

Life is Good here in the tropics rubbing elbows with the Pacific. Stay Tuned!

Monkey Business

There are three excellent representative Bloggers of the Pátzcuaro area of Mexico; “On the Road to Patzcuaro,” “the unseen moon” and “My Mexican Kitchen”. If you are not reading their Blogs you are missing out.

In any case the point being they cover Patzcuaro very well and I do not portend to be able to do better. I am going to hog-in to their territory here for a few minutes.

It all started when our friends Ian and Lisa, a local couple with rare restaurant talents, were forced out of their beach-side rental home after a series of foibles that included closing their restaurant(s). We will not go into the ugly details here.

Suffice it to say there was a sell-off to reduce a large inventory of restaurant related items including appliances, tools of the trade and decorations etc. We are talking MAJOR sale(s) here. And if you have been reading along for any amount of time you know the Calypso Couple loves a sale!

With the advent of yet another home needing supply to boot – we bought like crazy: toaster oven, Presto pressure cooker, authentic Chinese gong, basket lamp shades with wiring, a marvelous copper serving tray, a propane tank and regulator, A Diane Kennedy cookbook and an elegant architectural book on “Outdoor Rooms”, and a HUGE 19 cubic feet refrigerator, glasses, more irresistible dishes, a vase, a hotel counter bell, plastic bowls and much, much more.

Lisa threw in a brand new bottle of CinZano vermouth. The elixr dates back to 1757 and the Turin herbal shop of two brothers, Giovanni Giacomo and Carlo Stefano Cinzano, who created a new “vermouth rosso” (red vermouth) using “aromatic plants from the Italian Alpsin a [still-secret] recipe combining 35 ingredients (including marjoram, thyme, and yarrow)”

But the pièce de ré·sis·tance was a sale featured life-sized Chuspata (Bullrush), wicker-like, monkey! Be still my collectors heart. This was not going to be easy to obtain what with its featured status and stern admonishment, the ad read:

“The very clever life size statue of a monkey which sat in the Tiki bar made out of reed twisted over steel armature then varnished. He is wonderfully posed sitting with his tail curved over his shoulder. Very Arch Digest decor. [price withheld to protect the guilty] not a peso less he is fabulous a stunning piece.”

This monkey (in Spanish chango) had been their “Tiki Restaurant” mascot, and a rather fine example of the work of a famous Pátzcuaro area artist Mario Lopez Torres. His is a fascinating story that can be read here in detail.

Mario Lopez Torres’ pieces are elegant and our new friendly primate is no exception.

Our new CHANGO mascot prominently sitting on our display case.

 

Our thrift store and garage sale jones usually only filled by a visit north of the Rio Bravo was greatly appeased this week. Stay Tuned!