My Mexican Moments: Chapter 26

D Day: Did the Water get Connected?

Not wanting to face our thousand cartons, we decide to breakfast with Alfredo and his buddies: Dr. Arturo and his mother Anna, Fernando who owns a cigar shop in the Golden Zone, and Ramon, an engineer. We all comment on the semi-naked beggar woman and how it’s a decent resolution. Dr. Arturo goes on to tell us about another beggar. She complained she was sick, she had heart problems, and needed money to see a doctor. Arturo responds, “I’m a doctor, I’ll take you to my office right now, at no charge, and decide if I can help you.” She spat at him and walked away. Of course, that’s her line; she wasn’t sick at all. Alfredo then shares a story about a woman asking for pesos, but the professor had only one peso, which he gave her. Her response was another spitting and the string of expletives, the equivalent of “to the hell with you, you cheap bastard!” Leaving me with the thought that beggars can be choosers. The Mexicans advice to us expats, which confirms what we learned two years ago, is don’t give anything. The restaurant and store owners know who to look after and who to avoid. Once I was confronted by an out-of-the-box thinking female beggar. I was sitting quietly reading Noroeste (the daily newspaper) in Dr. Levid’s breezeway, waiting for him to arrive. A well-dressed woman sat on the bench beside me and proceeded to explain, all in Spanish, that she had five sick children at home. I was listening intently, as she could have being seeing Dr. Levid, or more likely, the pediatrician opposite Dr. Levid’s office. The peso finally dropped: she was asking for money; just a more creative approach. I had to admire a poor Mexican woman locating a doctor who sees expats and starts her spiel in a medical, homey way. I decided to let Dr. Levid manage this situation; she eventually moved on to greener pastures.

I am now fuelled with coffee and Soren and I are ready to face our condo and begin the unpacking process we packed up in Toronto 15 months ago. I have our inventory list which was required for insurance at the Mexican border, but it’s still a surprise to see all our paintings after so long. We have a few breakages and our high- end Danish stereo, Bang and Olufson, is not working. Soren takes pictures to e mail to our Toronto company, AMJ Campbell. A picture is worth a thousand words and these just scream of sloppy packing. A priceless vase from Copenhagen, circa 1932, is smashed to pieces too. We set aside those items and continue to unfurl pink packing paper and walk back and forth from the spare condo to ours. It takes two complete days. The humidity broke on October 15 so we aren’t as uncomfortable; but there is still no running water or toilet. We take another two days to hang all our paintings. Including family photos, we have a total of 30 hangings. I try not to think about the 30 paintings we left behind. I want it all; I want more walls. But right now, I’d vote for a working toilet.

Between all the construction chaos, Soren actually manages to get the internet up and running. There’s a new company in town, Axtel, and they pay us a visit. We will be wireless and they complete whatever it is they do on our condo roof. G2 is also buying wireless for the condo common areas. Yes, Axtel will take VISA. No fancy machines required. The salesperson quickly takes a pencil rubbing of our embossed numbers — just like a brass rubbing. It’s ingenious in its simplicity. Except after five phone calls between Soren and Axtel we discover that Axtel only accepts Mexican VISA, not international. The chef explains how most of the owners will be Canadian or American and will only have international credit cards. Once again we experience the typical Mexican response; smiles, nodding, shuffling and the only eventual outcome — cash. The head office isn’t going to change a thing. The sales people continue to be helpful, they stop by Pepe’s Palace for the pesos and drop off a land line phone for half the price at our local Big Box store. We have phone and internet for $35 (US)a month. A huge Shaw satellite dish is hoisted on our roof; now we just need to buy a tv and find a Canadian friend with a receiver box. Oh well, we are inching forward.

It’s Friday October 22; therefore, it must be moving day. Gilberto Machado Lopez and his handsome son, Jaziel, (ah-see-el) arrive on Pedregoso and they climb up and down the fisherman’s 40 steps for one hour. Again, I’m astonished at the number of cartons and duffle bags accumulated in 15 months — where did they come from? I sit in the front with Gilberto, in his convertible car/truck (I’m not sure what type of vehicle it is) with my legs dangling through the rust holes, while Jaziel stabilizes the loose cartons in the back. We do a combo of steps and the elevator — with it all going into #704. We are completely moved in; well, all of our stuff is in the condo. Antonio and G2 promise the water and toilet will working by noon. I’m a triple type A; this is so not my style. To move without running water and a toilet, what was I thinking? We spend two hours unpacking, hanging clothes and putting dishes away on dusty shelves. Sure enough, the water begins to flow, and the toilet flushes. Relief. Jumapam has finally hooked the condo up to the sewage system. Just in time toilet. With the toilet working I open up a bottle of white wine and the unpacking continues in a happier atmosphere. The evening rolls around and it’s time for a hot shower. No hot water.

It’s the old Pyrex cup in the microwave and bird bath in the bathroom sink routine. Not what I had in mind. Saturday the electrician and plumber look at our hot water tank and decide to replace it. We need to wait four hours. I’m not sure why, as it should heat up right away — still no hot water. By then it’s Saturday afternoon and all the help has left the building until Monday. G2 offers us a key to another owner-empty condo and we traipse through the construction debris and rinse ourselves off. Is this really happening?

Monday morning dawns and Soren lays down the law. Remove the tank from the unit that is working and put it in ours. Orders are followed and after three days we finally have hot water. G2 reports that the condo took receipt of two defective hot water tanks. What are the odds of that? What are the odds of our unit getting both? Now we are just waiting for our new stackable washer/dry for our “laundry room/pantry/coffee nook/wine cellar.” There was a washer and dryer, and it was installed in a timely manner before the 600- pound polished concrete island landed. There was just one problem. The dryer was powered by gas. There’s no gas in the condo! Adios to that appliance.

We are informed that on November 4th our new washer/dryer will arrive. Excellent. We check it out — all powered by electricity. It’s 3 p.m. and we are due for an art gallery opening at 7. There are nine Mexicans in my kitchen: three doing the work and six standing around trying to solve the problem. The problem? The concrete island is now in the way of an easy installation; no one had taken that into account. I can’t stand this Mexican Moment and hide out in the bedroom receiving hourly blasts from Soren. There’s no way I’m going to make the art opening; there’s no way I’m leaving nine Mexicans to resolve this. Finally the chef takes over. Soren is creative when it comes to spatial solutions. He takes control, I don’t know how, but the machine gets crammed into the space. How will the dryer vent? There is no exit. Once again we see Mexican ingenuity at work. A hammer and chisel will do the trick; the worker bangs a hole through our concrete wall into the hall. Is that a good idea, to vent into a common area? I don’t think so, but that is the only option. But the hall is open to the outdoors. So maybe it’s okay. By now it’s 8 p.m. and I want these guys out of my small space. Finally they sweep our condo, more or less, sweep the hall, more or less, and by 9 p.m. we are eating dinner — more or less. I’m too tired to do laundry and, besides, we are not allowed to turn the washing machine on. It must be inspected by a third party to ensure our warranty. That’s fine; I’m loyal to Gilberto. I’ve trusted him with our 1,200 thread count sheets that we had shipped at great expense from Amazon. Even though we are missing one pillow case. I’m sure another customer has it, or it’s stuck in a washing machine – somehow I just feel it will miraculously appear. We’ve been living in this dusty noisy bowl for over two weeks and it has gone beyond “minor inconveniences.” It is truly a MexiCan Moment — Canadian developers working with a Mexican crew. All of the owners are disappointed that the construction is not further along. I’m not about to move out now, so G2 agrees on extra cleaning staff, the hours of “noisy” work – with 100 workers on the payroll the show must go on. We’ve hired Ligia for a second morning on Saturdays while we play tennis. It’s frustrating, but I’m not stressed. It’s annoying, but I’m not angry. Besides, I see the gym equipment has been delivered. I wonder how long that will take to assemble?

One Wednesday, after we return from coffee at La Copa, I notice Ligia has the missing pillow case. I knew Gilberto would deliver it – just as soon as he found it.

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