Monday, July 18, 2011

Floods & Fire

Phew! We've just finished moving things from the temporary apartment to our new abode. It's been an adventure preparing this new place for living.

Orizaba is a wet place. We're near Pico de Orizaba, which has snow on it even now, and its runoff stokes a river that winds through town. It's the rainy season now, and there have been a lot of tropical storms fueling the clouds. The sky splits open, lightning strikes and makes the lights blink, thunder rolls through the air -- 4 or 5 seconds after the light. The delay surprises us; it seems the lightning is much nearer. Water pours from the sky as from a bucket, usually for about two hours, swelling the river and causing mudslides upstream. We see the results in the river, which looks like a it's full of melted chocolate. (If only!)

All that wet had taken a toll on the walls and plumbing of our new abode. We sanded, spackled, and painted every wall we could reach (some of the ceilings go about 30 feet -- those we half-painted). It looks great!

The plumbing is still problematic. We've replaced the faulty PVC that leads from faucets to drains in two locations, with success. A third still needs replacing, but first we have to figure out how to secure the sink to the wall. It fell off while we were painting, the plaster that had been behind it having dried and fallen away. (A re-reading of our rental contract confirmed what we already thought--that we are on the hook for all these repairs.) But ... after two floodings of the kitchen, we have the water under control (except for the upstairs bathroom. At least we have an alternate.)

Then there is the odor. I won't go into it. Suffice it to say that this must be a result of both aged plumbing and a very wet environment. But, we're getting that under control as well.

Don't let this deter you from coming! It's really quite a cozy home. It just has been an adventure getting it ready. We had two floods in the kitchen before we finally tracked down the right parts and got that system working. And the day the electrician was coming to install light fixtures, we had a flame come shooting out of the kitchen bulb! Thankfully, Angel took it in stride.

So ... no more bare bulbs (except for in the upper hall, where, again, we cannot reach), and a pretty dry interior (except for the utility area, which we'll be working on tomorrow) (oh, and that upstairs bathroom).

Good thing we're young ...

Our Neighbor, George

There is an elderly man living one door down from the temporary apartment we've had in Orizaba, though he spends much of each day outdoors, seated in a plastic chair, watching the townsfolk go by. He is a short man--maybe five-feet tall--although that may be complicated by the sway he appears to have in his right hip, so that his body is slightly S-shaped. His name is George. He is as brown as a nut, except where his eyes have begun to cloud, which makes me imagine that he is slowly setting the world to "fade." And he is as friendly as anyone I've ever known. Although he has a speech impediment--a slur, possibly the result of a stroke--his volume is good, and his greetings always hardy. Of course, combine his speech impediment with our mutual language impediments, and we barely get past, "Hi, how are you?" And "very well, thank you." But we always have a kiss on the cheek, or the hand in his case, and I receive an extra pat on the shoulder when we part. Something makes me think he is a retired priest, living just half a block from his former church, San Juan de Dios. (Come to think of it, that cathedral may have parallel marks of age.) He has been a light for me, here in Orizaba. Where so many things feel a bit strange, his vigil at the porch rail is constant, and his smile and words, warm. One day I had an "aha" moment, realizing who he reminds me of most: Yoda!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Visiting Cordoba

George and I made the bus trip to Cordoba (about 12 miles) with Nathan, the English Coordinator and my extraordinary boss. Our mission: apply for my FM-3 visa, to allow me to work in Mexico.

Cordoba is a historic town. Originally a Spanish colony, this is also where the treaty ending the Mexican War of Independence was signed. There are many monuments and references to the glorious date of May 21, 1812. The beautiful Municipal Palace has 21 arches; a visual reminder of that date's importance, and a tribute to the citizens of Cordoba who fought so hard for independence from Spain. (I'm sorry I didn't get a good photo of the Municipal Palace's facade.) The mural inside the MP is worth the trip itself!

The most powerful image in the mural is the prisoner breaking his chains. The one that intrigued me the most shows a beautiful mixed-race woman who escaped imprisonment through magic. She asked the guard for a piece of chalk and drew a magnificent sailing vessel. "What is it missing?" she asked the guard. "Nothing, it is perfect," he said. "No," she said. "It is missing someone to sail it." And she disappeared from the cell.

One of the things I find fascinating about Mexican culture is the mix of orthodoxy and magic woven into society. Many native tribes here were enslaved and horribly damaged, but their cultures also became integrated into the Spanish/Catholic culture--far moreso (in my opinion) than did native cultures in the U.S. (Admitted ignorance of many details, here. I'd love to hear from those of you with further information.)

And the most whimsical piece of the mural is this little guy:

George and I were able to spend a few hours enjoying these sites, as well as a portion of the local museum (image below), while Nathan ran himself ragged getting the documents required for my visa. In classic fashion, he had to return to Orizaba for more paperwork, and we had to then race against the clock ... finally getting approval just AFTER they closed the door for the day. Below is a link to my favorite short movie spoofing the typical process. It's not far from the mark!

Click here for YouTube video.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Life Ashore

After six months in La Paz, big changes.

I (Celeste) was volunteering with two charitable organizations--FANLAP (Fundacion Ayudar los Ninos de La Paz) and Care For Kids--but having no good fortune finding a paying teaching job. At last, I received a good offer from a school clear across the country. At first, we didn't even consider it, but then ...

Circumstances combined, and we made the decision to move ashore.

Our budget and our bodies are getting a bit weak for crossing an ocean, and that is what Nereid is built and outfitted to do. We have said goodbye to her, and left her in La Paz. She is on the hard, and listed for sale with La Paz Yachts.

La Paz is a great place to sell a boat, except in the summer. No one wants to go there in the summertime heat! We think it's likely she will sell in the fall.

Meanwhile, we managed to pack and ship ALL our belongings to the mountain town of Orizaba. Orizaba (or Oz, as I affectionately call it) is in the state of Veracruz, near its eastern border. It is very near the third highest mountain in the northern hemisphere, Pico de Orizaba. The climate is temperate. We've arrived for the start of the rainy season ... and find it both refreshing and familiar. Although it's often sunny during most of the days, when it rains, it pours, and reminds us of the Pacific Northwet.

Mimi made the trip with us. Wolfgang's health was failing, and we made the difficult decision to put her down. In hindsight, I may have held on a little long. She was a wonderful companion to me for nearly twenty years. Mimi seems to be happy as the new center of attention. She did remarkably well with the travel, which involved a flight to Mexico City, and a 4-hour bus trip. (It's only a 2-hour bus trip from the city of Veracruz, if you are planning a visit.)

We are installed in a temporary apartment, but last week we found a place to rent for the year. I have signed a contract to teach Middle School and High School English at Centro Educativo Integral de Orizaba (CEICO). The English Coordinator is wonderful, and he has already introduced me to many of the students I will have next year.

And so, we are on the threshold of a new adventure. We will maintain this blog, loosely interpreting the "voyages" so as to include our life ashore.

Buen dia, y Salud!