Tag Archives: building a house in Mexico

Starting A Whole New Chapter

20 Sep

Arriving at the doctors office, I found the place packed. Doctors in Mexico have evening and Saturday hours as a norm. My doctor’s wife is also a doctor and they have alternating schedules to share care of their young children. I think that’s pretty cool.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the crowd was due to the fact that no one goes to the doctor alone in Mexico. The office next to Dr Rosaldo is that of an OB/GYN. A young woman and her husband came out and half the room stood up. Grandparents, et. al. were there for the news, “it’s a girl”. The family also seemed to know everyone in the room. Heads nodded and congratulations were expressed. The woman sitting next to me quietly leaned over and shared that the couple had an eleven year old daughter and were hoping for a boy. I thought I detected a less than enthusiastic response.

Our daughter moved into her third trimester. She is expecting a boy. Myself I never wanted to know ahead of time. It felt like spoiling Christmas morning to me.

From a few months ago. Aren't they lovely?

From a few months ago. Aren’t they lovely?

This week we head to Merida for Lisa’s back surgery. It’s a long story going back to a military airborne accident. There’s a time when life turns into pain management and you know you’re ready for more extreme measures. Now is that time.

After my swim across the Laguna. My cheerleader.

After my swim across the Laguna. My cheerleader of twenty-one years, Lisa.

When we return to Bacalar for physical therapy and recovery, it will be to our new home. Yesterday, with the help of our project manager, David, we moved the trailer that accompanied us on our sojourn two years ago.

Anyone need to buy a trailer?

Anyone need to buy a trailer?

Within minutes our workers had offloaded our couch, artwork and many other things we hadn’t seen since Texas. ¡Qué emoción! to see the empty trailer.

Thank you David!

Thank you David!

David and I spent the afternoon unpacking. Part of Lisa’s therapy will be to organize and create order, a task she excels at and loves.

The pantry fills.

The pantry fills.

We have the promise of several weeks of meal delivery which will help immensely. I haven’t seen my “kitchen” in two years (dishes, pots and pans).

The stairway to heaven finished.

The stairway to heaven finished.

Send your prayers and good thoughts. I will do my best to post on FACEBOOK. We are starting a whole new chapter in a new home. DOS TORTAS

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Oh My God I Live With Dos Tortas

6 Sep

Olga – “Remember the time you did that juice fast and you wanted me to do it with you?? Hahaha!”
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Living with Olga has been a blessing. When we suddenly lost our previous living arrangement, she stepped in to offer us a place to stay. We didn’t know each other well, but with the connection of a mutual friend, we gave it a go.

Olga, far left at our wedding reception in Bacalar.

Olga, far left at our wedding reception in Bacalar.

Olga is an accomplished businesswoman in Bacalar. She owns a thriving laundromat along the Costera. Her campground/hostel Jardin de Venus (Venus’s Garden) is always teaming with backpackers from around the world.

Lisa is definitely the glue. She is way more fun and entertaining than I am. A huge perk for us has been speaking Spanish at home. Our speaking and ability to hear has definitely improved.

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Lisa and Olga.

Lisa – Olga’s been a great source of information and connection for us, from living in Bacalar to building our house. Small town Mexico is so much about who you know, and with knowing Olga, we’re in!

Olga – You both are very respectful of privacy and considerate of my space. We will always be friends and it’s nice to have people I trust.

Thank you Olga. We rented a room and made a friend. DOS TORTAS

The stub wall in our guest bath. We brought the glass blocks from Austin and were determined they were to go somewhere.

The stub wall in our guest bath. We brought the glass blocks from Austin and were determined they were to go somewhere.

Shelves the the bodega (pantry).

Shelves the the bodega (pantry).

Large screens finished on the porch.

Large screens finished on the porch.

The doors and windows will be installed this week. Another step closer.
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What You Really Need is a Sense of Humor

30 Aug

The heck with fearlessness! Forget optimism. Without a sense of humor you will never make it as a foreigner living in Mexico. 

With permission from my friend Carla who does Facebook stand-up.

“My bottle of over-the-counter drugs contained pills in two different colors.
*Scenario one – Darn, we’re out of transparent gel caps. I’ll just use those brown ones until the new boxes come in.
*Scenario two – Hey, this bottle is only three/quarters full. That won’t do. Let’s see, there are some extras over here. Antibiotics? Ok can’t hurt, I’ll use them.

Two months later, I think it was scenario one”

Hahaha. Seriously this could happen to you!

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As I see it, my choices are:

Leave

Live here and be miserable and complain incessantly, or

Get a sense of humor.

I choose the latter although many folks choose door number two and of course some people leave.

Laugh at death!

This week I went to retrieve the final approval to build LIsa’s mother’s house. A mistake on the part of our former builder, plus a regime change in the government agency equalled additional time and more $$$. We had received notice that the paperwork was ready so off I went to SEMARNAT, the agency that regulates waterfront construction.

Sitting behind her computer, the officer began typing. She stared at the screen intently, typed a little more and stared some more. I waited, and waited, took some deep breaths, and stayed calm. Gringos are notorious for being impatient. Finally I asked in my friendliest voice if there was a problem? She shrugged her shoulders and declared the network “slow”. It does no good to be frustrated with the lack of communication. “In a minute” could mean a half hour (if you’re lucky).

Mañana doesn’t mean tomorrow. It means just not today.

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As the move-in date comes and goes for our new home, we keep busy and know the universe has its own timeline. Our house is full of workers laying tile, painting the floor, building a stone entry, sanding concrete counters, installing appliances, lights, ceiling fans and more. Our bulldog project manager David meets tomorrow with the key players needed to get electricity installed!! The meeting took four months to arrange. Send prayers.

Tile placement for the stairway to heaven.

Tile placement for the stairway to heaven.

This is a pivotal week. The push is on to finish the interior so that we can begin moving. In the meantime, no taking ourselves too seriously. If it’s not fun, it’s not worth doing. DOS TORTAS
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Life Is Hard – It’s Harder If You’re Stupid

23 Aug

August 2013 we left Austin, Texas for retirement in Mexico. After more than a year of research and planning, visiting and asking questions, we thought we knew something of what we were getting into. Jajaja – that’s laughing in Spanish.

Two years later we are still not living in our own home. Dismantling our expectations has been a daily practice. We are however within spitting distance of completing construction, but my patience is wearing thin. Lisa on the other hand is calm, cool and collected. A real role reversal for us! She is keeping me sane, saner? sanish? Here is a house progress report.

The palm frond overhangs protect from sun and rain. They will be completed is week.

The palm frond overhangs protect from sun and rain. They will be completed this week.

Creating the mold for a poured concrete bathroom sink.

Creating a rebar mold for a poured concrete bathroom sink.

A lip creates an area for potted plants to create a

A lip creates an area for potted plants to create a “jungle” in our shower. Note the light from skylights.

Yesterday we sat in the corner of our porch enjoying the breeze. We've come so far.

Yesterday we sat in the corner of our porch enjoying the breeze. We’ve come so far.

Tile on the roof adds another layer of insulation.

Tile on the roof adds another layer of insulation from the heat.

The appliances have been purchased. The windows will be installed this week. As rooms are finished we can begin to move items from our present location. We are so close. My present anxiety is clearly stupid. There is no hurry. I am believing the lie that my happiness is dependent on where I live. I could be happy if only…. It’s a good thing I have Lisa who chooses to be happy no matter what. We make a good team.

DOS TORTAS

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The One Quality Most Needed to Live in Mexico

16 Aug

When life is so much about being safe, how do I process someone taking a risk, sticking their neck out and saving my bacon?

When we left for the good life in Mexico, everything went…paperless…bill paying, most communications, and all banking. We dotted our i’s and crossed our t’s. We even closed on the sale of our house in Austin from Mexico. It’s easy to feel confident and capable, even a little smug about our ability to live electronically in two worlds, that is until something goes wrong.

Pulling out of our drive in Austin two years ago with everything we own.

Pulling out of our drive in Austin two years ago with everything we own.

Last week I called the investment company where I have been squirreling away money for years. We had been planning to draw funds from the account for the final leg of our house construction. Apparently I had not set up banking information with them as to where to transfer money when I needed a withdrawl. Darn.

Sometimes it's like this, an angel riding shotgun with death in the backseat.

Sometimes it’s like this, an angel riding shotgun with disaster in the backseat.

I discovered that setting up the transfer would take much paperwork, a bank guarantee and a thirty day waiting period. But, but, I live in Mexico!! I’m building a house, I need the money NOW! On top of it all, the conversations were being conducted via Skype which dropped calls repeatedly requiring much redialing.

My dear wife and fellow Torta. What a ride it's been. (The god of corn with cacao pods.)

My dear wife and fellow Torta. What a ride it’s been. (The god of corn with cacao pods.)

I began with the person who answered the phone. After explaining what I wanted, was transferred to their boss, and eventually to THE boss, working my way up the chain of command trying not to sound victimy and whiney. (Not too good with that.) Each step I attempted to convince the person that apologies for putting me on hold were unnecessary. Explaining the rules were mostly unnecessary. I was looking for a loophole.

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I understand that the procedures are in place to protect ME from a slick impersonator wiping out our savings. Requiring a bank guarantee of signature is actual insurance stating that I am me and my signature is mine. To transfer money without that written guarantee meant someone sticking their neck out and probably getting fired if I were a really really good scam artist. And that someone was head boss Maurice. In my book, the man is an angel. He gave me a list of all the documents he would need to make the transfer and provide the loophole. He made no guarantees. I even threw in a few receipts he didn’t ask for just in case. I wish I could have included a dozen roses.

Orchids blooming near an ancient pyramid.

Orchids blooming near an ancient pyramid.

I travelled this week to the U.S. Consulate in Cancun to get a copy of my passport notarized and sent an envelope of documents off via Fedex. Fingers crossed and gods invoked.

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Yesterday the package arrived in New York. I won’t know for a few days if Maurice is convinced and the money is transferred. Our only option at this point is to stay calm and keep building. The one quality most needed to retire in Mexico?….fearlessness. And optimism doesn’t hurt. DOS TORTAS

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So When Will The House Be Done Already?

28 Jun

The Tortas are in Tulum visiting our Austin friends Karen and Skip. We are on a hunt for items for our house, tile and light fixtures mostly. Options have increased over the last few years in our outpost of Mexican living. We now have a Home Depot in Chetumal which is thirty-minutes away, woohoo. The style of our house is rustica or pueblo. There are rounded corners, thatched overhangs, concrete floors, stuccoed walls and niches. Mass-produced furniture, lighting and all things made in China are not what we’re looking for. The hope is that Tulum and Playa del Carmen will offer more options.

Ok, so there are some exceptions.

Ok, so there are some exceptions. About $135

We stopped by the property for a progress update on our way out of town. There were a dozen workers trying to beat the rain clouds hovering overhead. Progress over the last six weeks has been amazing.

Front entrance.

Front entrance.

The molds have been made and the concrete will be poured for the arches above the door and windows. Construction out of concrete is a whole new world for us.

Rounding corners with concrete blocks.

Rounding corners using concrete blocks. Amazing!

The workshop aka Lisa’s she-cave is waiting on a part to install the garage door. A carport will be added to provide an indoor/outdoor work space.
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The arches have been poured over the doors and windows in this section. To the right is the entrance to the main bedroom and bath. The interior window will allow an open view into the bedroom and close for privacy when desired.

All rooms open onto the porch with views of the Laguna.

All rooms open onto the porch with views of the Laguna.

The stairs leading down to the Laguna from the porch will also provide security allowing the house to remain open to the night breezes.
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The trip to Tulum and Playa del Carmen afforded the purchase of decorative tiles for a yet-to-be determined location. It also gave us ideas, like these clay sconces for the porch.

Which do you like best?

Which do you like best?

I liked these. They can also be painted.

I liked these. They can also be painted.

The roof will go on in the next week or so. After that begins the interior detail work of building counters, installing sinks, adding lighting and pouring floors. There will be many trips to Chetumal. And the projected completion date is…the end of August, four months as predicted. Forgive us David if we didn’t really believe you. House construction is the very definition of delays and unforeseen problems. Add Mexico to the mix and many projects languish. To say we are excited is an understatement. Lots of work left to do, but definitely light at the end of this two-year tunnel.

DOS TORTAS
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Permission to Build – Let the Games Begin

22 Mar

“Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.”

I guess you can tell that we re-watched the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel this week. I just love that movie. It makes me laugh. We saw it first on the big screen the summer before we pulled out of the driveway hauling our worldly possessions to retire in Mexico. Life sure has been an adventure since then, although not always the one we expected.

This week, after five months of waiting, we got the approval for our home construction project from the state of Quitana Roo. Cue music – happy dance!

David, our builder and Lisa out checking out the placement of the house.

David, our builder and Lisa out checking out the placement of the house.

We put a contract on a half acre of lake-front property when we first visited Bacalar, Quitana Roo, a half hour from the Belize-Mexico border, in December 2013. It was a bold move and we returned to Austin to sell our house, retire from our jobs, sell everything and return the following September to begin life in small-town southern Mexico. We never expected to be renting for two years before moving into our own home. We had a lot to learn about how things are done in Mexico.

Our wobbly dock will be replaced eventually. This will be the view from our porch.

Our wobbly dock will be replaced eventually. This will be the view from our porch.

We hired a biologist a year ago to submit a three-ring, three-inch environmental impact study to the state oversight agency. Building in an environmentally sensitive area required jumping through many more hoops than we were aware. We turned in the report in October 2014 and got our permission to move forward on Thursday of this week.

The view south from our rickety dock.

The view south from our rickety dock.

Our next steps will be to submit structural plans to the Municipio de Bacalar. Municipalities have oversight over all new construction. We will continue transferring funds to our Mexican bank, open an account with a local construction materials company, who will make weekly deliveries to the property, and work on the interior design. We meet next week with a woodworker to begin making the doors.

A built-in cabinet that we will have incorporated into the house design.

A built-in cabinet that we have incorporated into the house design.

I love the idea of niches and built-in cabinets. In a small house it is especially important to optimize the use of all available space. We’ve extended the size of the porch and my studio to allow room for a bed and guests.

We want a similar roof-top patio for star gazing, curling up with a book or entertaining friends.

We want a similar roof-top patio for star gazing, curling up with a book or entertaining friends.

We’re finally starting to feel excited. Today we go to the property to check out progress on the well and septic system. It’s been one big lesson on how to be happy while life unfolds in its own way.

I love this stonework that is in the home of a neighbor.

I love this stonework that is in the home of a neighbor.

This is the time we get to fulfill an unspoken dream, a beautiful home. I’ve never been one to focus on beauty. Our home has always been basic, functional and comfortable. Now is the time to create beauty, something until this time, I’d never really considered. Stay with us, this is when it gets fun. I hope.

DOS TORTA

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