Sunday, July 5, 2015

XXVI. De Establecerse En

Settling In

About a week ago, the Customs Snafu Shipping Saga ended with DHL—after initially denying— finally acquiescing to our claim for a full refund of the cost of shipping two boxes to Guadalajara and then delivering them back where they came from—in Seattle. So, except for the many hours spent carefully packing, then dunning them for delivery and then redress, we’re more or less square. Don’t have our stuff, but we’re also not out $600. That sorry adventure is behind us now.

Part of the garden at Lake Chapala Society, about a block from where we live.
LCS's mission is twofold: to provide support and resources for ex-pats in the
area, and make a positive difference in the lives of the native people here.
A few days after that good news we went to the immigration office in the nearby “county seat” of Chapala and came away with laminated, holographically enhanced Residente Temporal cards we can flash on demand to prove we’re legally here. Next step is to get our CURP—sort of like a Social Security number—so we can apply for a country-wide senior discount card (INAPAM) that is as the name suggests, with big breaks on various tickets, goods, fees, etc.

We’re beginning to look ahead to venturing into neighboring states of this incredibly diverse country. The first trip will probably be to a high altitude colonial village in Michoacan called Patzcuaro, which is on a picturesque lake surrounded by smaller villages, each with a distinctive craft. Thus, the interest in INAPAM to save us money on our bus tickets there and back. Mexico City and it’s awesome museums is also in our future, and Vera Cruz is supposed to have a Mardi Gras to rival New Orleans. 

Popular Spanish course among
I’ve settled into a volunteer gig at the nearby ex-pat society gardens, doing the pruning and thinning that I enjoy. Paying for the privilege by also turning a few cubic meters of compost. Good exercise, plus hands in the soil, and beauty. A Friday hike is on my regular schedule, as is kayaking on the lake, usually into the bird sanctuary, every other Saturday. Plus, the once-a-month Hacienda Hunt further afield.

Tomorrow we begin twice-a-week Spanish classes. The first seven weeks focus on us becoming proficient with the 6 “power verbs”—need to, want to, like to, going to, have to, and can. As we become accustomed to the demands of that course, we plan to attach ourselves to some deserving and rewarding volunteer activity. My worthy wife has a history working to feed the hungry, and, unfortunately, there are a lot of people around here who often don’t even get one square meal a day.

I’m not sure where I’ll put my energies. Until last night I thought I’d be joining my socially minded spouse. But after attending a show at the Ajijic Centro Cultural, and hearing about the work they're doing with local children in theater, I’m thinking that might be more up my alley.

Dancers from the southern State of Chiapas, enact a Mayan
myth at the Ajijic Centro Cultural
We continue to broaden and deepen our relationships with local shopkeepers. There’s the sweetest young girl at the abarrotes just down the street where we get eggs and juice. The nice lady at El Barrilito Vinos y Licores has begun to special order our favorite yogurt and have it ready todos los viernes después de las dos. My good-time wife has cracked the reserve of the deli guy who bakes our pan and slices our jamón.  And I’ve become known by the itinerant coffee vendor to the extent that he tells me when he’ll be on vacation, so I can pick up an extra kilo of finely ground oscuro in order not to run out. Even the couple selling plants on Sundays at the plaza now recognizes us as regular customers.

Perhaps the biggest news is that there's an energetic and ebullient woman named Lupita who now comes into our apartment twice a month to give it some deep cleaning. My DIY wife and I have never before even begun to contemplate having a maid; it's not something our kind actually does. In fact, frankly, it seems kind of decadent. Or, used to. No longer, though. Lupita is such a sweetheart, and so grateful for work that's easily affordable for us, and so helpful, it seems like win-win all around.

Looking toward Bar El Camaleón from our balcony during a downpour that
floods Calle Castellanos under the near streetlight.
We’ve begun renting movies, and snuggling up on the couch on stormy, rainy evenings to watch such as “The Imitation Game”, “Birdman", “500 Days of Summer”, and—currently—BBC’s recent Worricker Trilogy with the enjoyable Bill Nighy who seems to always—but never quite—have a smile about to crack his lips.

We are well into the rainy season here. The first three days of julio we got half the precipitation normally expected for the entire month. The rain is generally preceded by some spectacular displays of lightning, and rumbling, occasionally crashing, thunder. We enjoy watching this show as we have a nightcap on the balcony. And the rain falls when it should fall—at night, almost invariably—in a deluge that comes rushing straight down from the foothills on a half dozen high-curbed streets in this village, turning them into nearly impassable, if temporary, streams of water.  Enough so that you don’t want to be parked on the wrong side of Castellanos when you come stumbling out of the Bar El Camaleón, just down the street.

It's having that kind of insider knowledge lets us know we're settling in. 

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