Freitag, 25. Juli 2008

At home in Mexico

The first priority after arriving in Mexico, was of course to spend some time with my girlfriend, Elba, who'd been waiting for me for the last eternity. As it turned out, she was just in the middle of moving into a new apartment. "New" is probably not the best word to describe it, as it was in great need of a paint job and a few other maintenance tasks. So just as I arrived, I was thrown into work, and the happy situation of being a house-husband.
There was something to do every day: painting the bathroom walls and ceiling with drywall mud, then varnishing it, installing the rods for the shower curtain, painting the walls and window frames, smoothening the doors with fine sandpaper and installing doorknobs, sanding shelf boards and building a foldable shelf unit, etc. Of course I took my time with each task, so I could clean up the place and cook a nice dinner for when she got home from work. As I eventually ran out of projects, I built a little lamp for her bed stand, and a Japanese style hand wash unit over the water-tank of the toilet.The latter contraption turned out to be more useful than pretty, and the criticism was according. Still, I could prove to myself that I could do it, and to the rest of the world that it IS possible: Washing your hands with the water that will be used for the next flush requires nothing more than an elongated tube brought up from the tank, and a type of basin of some sort with a hole in the bottom. Anyone can do it. As for how much water it saves, you can do the math!

After weeks in the city, and eventually with nothing else to do than thinking up more and more ridiculous sort of home improvement projects, I had to embark on my next wwoofing adventure, outside San Miguel de Allende. The farm itself is called Karacadir, named after the Nepalese yak-fur tent, that was the first structure on the site. Since then two yurts have sprung up, along with a few earth bag constructs. Needles to say, tents and earth bags are what define the place, and hence the couple who run it, Dorothy and Andy. Look it up at www.karacadir.com The site itself is interesting. The lack of a main building is made up for with many smaller units, such as the kitchen yurt, the outdoor shower built with bottles, the water tower with Ganesh on it, and the square shaped Karacadir. In between, there are large cactus trees, bamboo, mesquite, small olive shrubbs and other vegetation. The domestic fauna consists of two dogs, Puja and Spangle, and the donkeys Luna and Paloma. Very cute, all of them.One constant problem at the site, is the water crisis, which has been going on for the last year and a half. The well has run dry! Not a single drop left for the farm or for any of the few hundred people living in the nearby village. So the luxurious hot-tub (where the dogs like to hang out) has been converted into a reservoir for garden irrigation. The bottle shower is out of commission, and we wash ourselves with two 2l bottles of water. Amazing as it sounds, it is enough to get fresh and clean. The crisis of course has a reason: a US owned broccoli farm in the valley has drilled the well deeper, hogging all the water for their own production. Agro-industrial douche bags, as one previous wwoofer had observed. Occasionally the government sends a water-truck to fill up peoples barrels, but that occurs with an irregularity of once every 1-2 weeks. And of course there is a promise that sometime this year they will drill the local well deeper. Until then... we've gotten used to dealing with the situation.When I arrived, Andy was gone giving a workshop in earth bag building on the coast, while Dorothy was busy teaching one at home. Besides her and the two students, there was another wwoofer, and our job was to do the grunt-work: assisting the students, filling cans with sand, straightening up the place after each class, and helping out with other things, such as gardening and washing dishes. Of course it was nearly impossible to escape the information that was being taught. Though I could not attend the lectures, I think I could confidently build something out of a pile of sand and a few sacks of polypropelene.As the workshop finished, everyone but Dorothy and me left. With so much space available, I took down my tent and moved into the Karacadir. (The plastic cover is only a temporary add-on for the rainy season.) Very comfortable inside. Not as hot as one might think. The yak-fur is an excellent insulator. Especially during the cool night, it is a lot nicer than in my tropical tent. (Brrr!) Since the workshop ended, my jobs have been weeding the garden, transplanting seedlings, watering the spiral shape garden (I'm becoming an expert at these things) as well as building a greywater-pit. Especially the last project I'm kinda proud of. It is planted with calendula.Eventually Andy arrived, and I got to know my hosts as the nice and friendly couple they are. Andy is a relaxed and easy going Brit, Dorothy a California girl, and the two have decided to teach the art of building simple, cheap, comfortable, stable, versatile and awesome looking buildings. Beside that, both of them have other jobs too. Andy works with cancer patients and Dorothy is a teacher at a private school in Queretaro.

During my days off, of course I didn't miss out on exploring the beautiful town of such famous gringos as Ken Kesey, Jack Kerouac, Robert Anton Wilson, and Neil Cassidy. I even found the door of what used to be Cassidy's house. Not surprisingly, these people mean as little to the locals as any gringo beatnik would. Still, there is a great abundance of American expats everywhere. Some are visitors, while some have been living here for the last fifty years. The town itself is picturesque, just like any nice looking Mexican town, with churches, narrow streets winding up the hills, and a town square with tourists and mariachis. Oh, and of course Internet cafes and laundromats, which is my main reason for coming here: so I can post blog entries, hoping that someone might read it.

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