Thursday, June 23, 2016

LXXIV. En la Oficina de la Dentista

At the Dentist's Office

Ever since we moved to México we have been meaning to see a dentist...I guess “meaning to see a dentist” is probably a common state in which many of us dwell.

Waiting room. The seven year-old son of the receptionist, not
My informed wife ascertained that THE dentist to see around these parts is Dr. Haro—the “h” is not pronounced—Cockney-like—so make that, ‘Aro. The man’s main office is in the nearby metropolis of Guadalajara, but he carefully vets those who work under his name, so the nearby Ajijic clinic is equally well-recommended.

After mucho procrastinación, yesterday we finally had our teeth attended to. “Attending to” mostly meant having a good cleaning, as well as a loosely phrased “check up”, with x-rays as needed—less of an issue for me, with my ugly but strong Neanderthal-gened chompers, than for my wife, who has sensitive teeth.

Dr. Bianca's domain. Many professionals in México seem to
go by their title and first name.
We were impressed by the modernity of the office suites (lots of frosted glass, white-on-white color scheme with black leather and chrome accents, minimalist fountains and abstract art), and the care and courteous professionalism of the staff. There were quite possibly all of the past several years' copies of a "luxury lifestyle" magazine, Departures, in the waiting room, but barely enough time there to find the table of contents of even one. 

All the work was done by a DDS, Dr. Bianca, whose up-to-date equipment included a clever little camera capable of taking quick and vivid close-ups of my receding gums and then having them shown back to me in all their gnarliness.

The total cost of this work was less than $50 US, for both of us together. Even compared to our "Best of Seattle" dentist we agreed this was good deal. 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

LXXIII. Chicatanas

Tasty, Crunchy Ants

These hormigas, or ants, are large--up to 2 cm long--and emerge from the
ground as the rainy season here begins to hit its stride. They come up from
the ground to stagger around, into houses, fountains and pools, creating a
mess before they die. Then they begin their afterlife as a tasty treat.
Yesterday was one of those rare days in the rainy season when the lluvia came down buckets during the DAY!—unusual because the rain almost always falls during the evening and night time hours. So, we took the only sane course, fortunately available to a retired couple, and slept in. When we awoke about 10AM and stumbled outside we noticed our patio was filled with dozens of large winged ants, lumbering sodden and zombie-like (much like us) among the puddles. Today we were enlightened by our maid: these are a type of ant that when prepared are called chicatanas—a seasonal delicacy. Now is the time to harvest them, “field dress” by removing wings, legs and antennae. The simplest way to cook them is to lightly oil and quickly fry. Supposedly a crunchy, peppery source of protein…We will report back.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

LXXII. Despues de Dos Semanas en Nuestra Nueva Casa

After Two Weeks in Our New House

Just inside the front door is our dining room with the kitchen out of picture to the left and the living room and patio beyond.
The chair to the left seemingly without part of its back post is an artifact of the panorama shot.
Two weeks ago last night we began living in our new house. It’s been a busy time unpacking every single thing we own and putting each carefully away in the exact place we have decided it belongs. In addition to all we had moved here from our apartment up the street, our shipment from Seattle arrived weeks ahead of time. And then there's been the joy of puttering—making bumpers to shield the sharp bed corners, painting the too shiny washers that help hold our wall sconces in place, pausing to consider exactly what books will go where in the bookcase and what tchotchkes should be intermingled among them.

Ahh, fruits of happy home puttering: bed bumpers installed to
prevent disastrous encounters of my bedmate with sharp and
hard edges.
In the process we’ve fallen in love with this house all over again—seeing several friends passing by on the street, I've grabbed them by the arm and hustled them inside to show off our nueva casa. But this past weekend, after days of seemingly limitless energy, I suffered a full-body hit against the wall of house-holding ambition.

We blame part of our discomfort and malaise—and we’ve both felt a letdown—to eating something not quite right at a local café on Friday, something in the frijoles, perhaps, or maybe the limes for the limonada weren’t washed well enough. Stomach distress and headaches—yeck. My wife is much better at recognizing these unpleasant feelings and adapting; I often try to just push through. Doesn’t work.

This is a new week, though, and most all of that illness has gone away. We had a rain and thunder storm again last night, and it’s cooler now with a milder sun. After a couple months of not doing it, I started back into a morning exercise regimen and—somewhere during cat/cow and downward-facing dog—began turning over in my mind the last thing we all had chatted about during Sunday’s late afternoon drinks with friends.

The proscenium frame once attached to the side of Il Teatro
Pescatore's traveling van is now in our garage in Ajijic...
soon to be resurrected?
My appreciative spouse was showing off a mask I'd made and talking up a traveling puppet theater I used to have. Our guests became enthusiastic and encouraged me to put on some shows here. I demurred—that seems like an activity best left in the past, I tried to convey. But this morning I was looking at the big old Il Teatro Pescatore proscenium frame (that I had insisted shipping here) and saw that it might easily be suspended behind the folding garage doors, facing out to the cobblestone street. 

I remembered a shadow puppet show we’d seen that had inspired thoughts of a piece my creative wife and I could put together. I thought about providing a space for others’ performances. I began thinking about how to make a work place to facilitate these possibilities, and also somewhere for morning exercise and a taller where I could sculpt some of these big, dense rocks that came with our nueva casa. All fun things to think about.

The breezeway runs east to west and gets hot during May. Next year I'll put up
a shade-giving trellis spanning the narrow side.
I feel a little guilty though, not working on the few big projects around here that still need doing: I’ve got our breezeway lined with plants and have begun—but barely started—filling in the two planting beds in our patio. My main goal here is to create shade and have a variety of healthy tropical-looking plants…but what plants would work best, I’m not at all sure. The most off-putting garden project, though, is getting rid of a small thorny tree. In addition to having spikes all over its trunk and branches, the milky sap is kind of freaky, may even be poisonous. Plus I don’t have the tools to get out the root ball. After talking with several of our friends I decided to hire a couple of guys they recommend to help me out. They’re coming in a few days for a consultation and estimate.

And then, there’s the shower. No chance I could fix this. I think we need a pump installed to increase our water pressure. Right now the water just dribbles out. Plus, you pretty much either get caliente o frio, but not a combination. This situation simply cannot stand. I just gave a call to Jimenez padre y hijo. They’ve done good work before at a reasonable price…

A final project I’ve been putting off is fixing our gas stove. We can’t get our oven burner to stay lit. I think the solution may lie in adjusting the fuel/air mixture. I found the Mexican user manual and even figured out that it’s somewhat easier to understand if you turn it upside down and over from back to front. That way you’re reading the English language version, but my understanding is still a little iffy. I haven’t given up on this project yet, but am considering giving Rubén a call; he’s the guy who not only delivers the natural gas to our rooftop tank, but also has diagnosed and fixed a gas leak at our hot water heater, charging about $2.50 for the cost of replacing a hose.

The light fixture above the stove does not work. I think the wiring is loose, just need to turn off the circuit, unwrap some electrical tape and make the connection…I think that’s something I can do…maybe try it before the stove, and hopefully ride the wave of success with the light to fixing the oven burner. [UPDATE: Actually the problem with the light was embarrassingly easy to fix. Jimenez hijo showed me that I had been trying to turn it on at the wrong switch.] 

There are a few purchases we need to make, mostly small, like light bulbs and a lamp shade. We need a wooden filing cabinet and printer stand—maybe Cristóbal can make that. He did such a good job on the kitchen cabinets. Plus a rustico counter for the Weber to go under the tile awning at the edge of the patio. Not to forget the equipale-style table and chairs for BBQ dinners, plus the Oaxacan rug. We can get them all at our tianguis—the large Wednesday street market—but that can come by and by.