Gather 'Round the Hot Plate

I may have previously mentioned our house in Mexico has no heat. You might think due to our town being situated on the Tropic of Cancer that this is no big deal. You would be what I like to call wrong.

Seven years of desert dwelling in southern Arizona has made me severely cold intolerant. Anything under 70 degrees is uncomfortable. After growing up in Kansas and being assaulted by constant hurricane-force winds, prolonged exposure to anything more than a  gentle breeze makes me a little stabby. Right now, I’m dealing with both…in a house without heat.

Gas is expensive in Mexico; propane, gasoline, whatever…it’s outrageous. Electricity, however, is dirt cheap. So you would think an easy solution would be to buy a space heater and stop bellyaching. In a house with US wiring, you would be correct. Unfortunately, I live in a house with wiring so piss-poor a hair dryer precipitated a visit from an electrician. There is no way this house could support a space heater. We could turn on the stove but again, propane is outrageous.

My solution was to order an electric hot plate from Amazon Mexico. Delivery took a few weeks since DHL temporarily misplaced the box somewhere near La Paz but I guess once the workers decided it wasn’t worth stealing, it finally made its way to us. This little burner puts out some serious heat but obviously cannot be left unattended. Our morning routine is to turn on the hot plate and stand around it until the sun is positioned to warm the kitchen. The house is basically a concrete bunker so there is no warming the whole house until the weather changes.

This morning, we have virtually no water pressure from the municipal line so I’m carrying buckets of water from the kitchen (via the reserve tank) to do laundry on the porch. Between the carrying of the water and the trips up and down the stairs from the roof deck clothes lines, I’m both working out and warming up with a spectacular ocean view. Cup half full, people. CUP. HALF. FULL.

Small Fish…Even Smaller Pond

This is what was on my mind at 2:00 this morning.

I didn’t go to Journalism school. I’ve never worked in television. I did work at a newspaper once, though…in Accounting.

I’ve been helping with research and writing for a TV show concept and I’m 100% completely and hopelessly out of my depth.

Like a lot of people, I suffer from a pretty serious case of imposter syndrome. I know I’m not a complete moron but I also know that I swim in a relatively small pond. This project is out of my league in a major way and every word I write proves I don’t belong anywhere near it. I actually wonder what it takes for people to feel like they deserve their success. Surely there are people who aren’t complete narcissists who have a healthy sense of their accomplishments, right?

The concept has a shit ton of potential. I would watch it on purpose even if I didn’t know anyone involved with it. The last thing in the world I want is for the pitch to come off as an amateurish effort because one of the people drafting it is…well…a fucking amateur.

So I’m writing this in the middle of the night rather than getting the sleep I so desperately need or working on editing the show document.

So here’s the thing. I don’t know if it’s even a pitch or a treatment or birdcage liner because this isn’t my industry. I’m so old I still fight the double space at the end of each sentence. Like, I actually remember true carbon copies. It seems like an odd time to shake the Etch A Sketch but here we are. Today is another day and as soon as this is published, I’ll get back to it…whatever IT is.

Spend your Attention Currency Wisely

Despite lacking some first-world conveniences, Mexico has provided me with an absolutely priceless lack of fucks to give. I still read about as much news as I did while living in Arizona but I care so very much less. With the next election dumpster fire taking place later this year, I feel my timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

Apparently, there is another Democratic debate tonight. This is Number Seven. Is anyone still paying attention? Does anyone still care? I say this as a news and politics junkie. Party no longer matters. It’s just a different flavor of the same bullshit. Everyone is rooting for their team but both teams suck and all of the players are horrible people. It’s kind of like when the NFL welcomed Michael Vick back into the league and we just memory holed that nasty dog torture episode.

Has anyone noticed what’s going on with the global economy? How much physical gold is China really holding? Why is the US Fed considering lowering rates again when the Dow is at record highs and everything is going so well? Why is the New York Fed pumping billions upon billions of dollars into the overnight repo market? Has anyone made the connection between certain countries in the Middle East deciding they no longer want to trade oil for dollars? Seems like this could all be kind of important. Politics is just a drama-filled distraction.

My dog is having eye surgery this week for a luxated lens. We could either remove it or have a prosthetic lens implanted in the eye, which will resolve the glaucoma issue, so that’s what we’re doing. He won’t be able to see but the eye will look relatively normal and it’s less invasive than removing the eye altogether. The cost is just under US $800. Ask me again why I moved to Mexico. I really don’t know if I will ever live in the US again.

After I finish the breakfast my boyfriend is cooking for me, I’ll do a little Yoga on our porch overlooking the ocean. Then I’ll help him refine the pitch for a TV show he’s working on. Maybe I’ll go for a run if the sun ever makes an appearance. What I can say with absolute certainty is that I will not spend one minute watching that debate or following it on Twitter. I prefer to focus on what matters.

What happens when your dog gets sick in Mexico?

There have been some pleasant surprises over the past couple months in Mexico. No, the propane has not been delivered so I’m sitting in a cold house unable to warm up with a hot shower. It rained so I can’t even count on the sun to warm up a bucket of water. But…BUT…my sweet Sherman has been treated by an extraordinary veterinary specialist.

About a year ago, Sherman’s right cornea was scratched. I’m not sure how it happened but I’m blaming his psychotic sister. Both dogs are on Banfield wellness plans so Sherman had been seen by a few different vets and was prescribed a few different ointments and an oral antibiotic. The scratch healed but the redness and cloudiness in his eye failed to improve.

Once we got to Mexico, it quickly worsened. He and I both have severe allergies so I wasn’t sure if that was compounding his problem. I had to change his food since Canidae isn’t sold in Mexico and couldn’t rule out a food allergy. The change in climate was pretty significant and my eyes were certainly suffering. Maybe he was experiencing the same?

Veterinary options in our town are limited and I wasn’t sure how to even go about having him seen. Apparently, you walk in and ask. The vet took one look at Sherman’s eye and said he couldn’t help. He didn’t have the equipment needed to test his eye so he gave me the phone number of a veterinary ophthalmologist in Cabo.

I was concerned about calling this specialist with my crappy Spanish so I looked him up online and found the Facebook page for his practice. He had Messenger enabled so I sent him an appointment request copied from Google Translate and he replied within minutes. We scheduled an appointment for the same afternoon and he asked me to send him a message via WhatsApp so he could give me directions to his office. That confused me for a moment but he literally replied with coordinates because the place isn’t the easiest to find.

This guy is amazing. He tested Sherman’s eye and immediately diagnosed him with glaucoma. He explained the treatment process and warned me that it involves a lot of trial and error. He prescribed a prednisone drop for the redness and betaxolol to reduce the pressure. We were told to have Sherman rechecked after a week on the drops. He charged about US$30 for the appointment and testing. My Arizona vet charges more than that for a regular office visit. Specialists charge more than double that amount.

When we returned for the recheck, Sherman’s eye pressure had been reduced but not enough so we added travaprost to his regimen. I should add that Costco carries the prednisone but not the other two so we ordered them from a pharmacy in our town which caters to the gringo population. I am quite certain we are not getting the best price but they are reliable and I can communicate with them reasonably well. It takes three days for the orders to arrive and I can absolutely live with that.

The vet wanted to see Sherman again after we tried the new drops and I was dreading another drive to Cabo but he said he would be in our town for church the following Sunday and could see him there…at no charge. So I met this guy at the local mission and he walked up with his magic wand to test the pressure again. It still hasn’t been reduced to a normal level but he thinks it may take a little time on the new drops so we’ll see him again next week.

Americans are generally suspicious of medical professionals who practice in other countries, even though many of them were educated in the US. When I lived in Arizona, I learned all about medical tourism in Nogales and heard great things from my friends and coworkers. My Arizona vets didn’t mention glaucoma to me at all and did not test for it. They didn’t refer him to a specialist. It took coming to Mexico for my dog to receive proper treatment from an experienced professional we all like and trust. Go figure.

Design Flaws

I would rather this not be a late Festivus airing of grievances but the reality of Mexico is that there are some design flaws. It was obvious going in to this living situation that I would need to lower my expectations. Unfortunately, I’m accustomed to things working and my mother has always told people my idea of roughing it is staying at a five-year-old Holiday Inn.

If you’re sensitive about the environment, definitely do not move here. The landfill has been on fire more often than not and I don’t even want to consider what all we’ve been exposed to since October. This isn’t just some chemicals combusting either; There are unknown individuals who have been spotted setting these fires which are poisoning everyone. There’s a group of gringos trying to get recycling to become a thing. I wish them luck because the locals just dump their trash along the road. Raw sewage regularly flows in the one road that gets people in and out of town. There’s a group trying to help with that as well because it’s also flowing into a wetlands area by the beach. The washing machine is set up to drain into the yard so I think about that every time I do laundry. We can gentrify a lot of places but I’m not sure this is one of them.

We were having problems with the kitchen sink not draining at all. I’ve been very careful about what goes down the drain since we’re on septic and there’s no garbage disposal. There was no reason for a clogged drain. It turned out the brand-new plumbing to the kitchen sink was constructed in a manner which denied the existence of gravity. Yay, physics!

Thank goodness this house is concrete because the wiring is super sketchy. We had to have the bathroom light switch replaced due to reasons I do not fully understand. I assume it was also poorly designed and was overloaded plus condensation was running down the tiles into it, etc. Who knows. It made a bunch of pops, smoked a lot, and stopped working. There’s an outlet in the kitchen that puts out a burnt plastic odor when used. It barely rated a handyman shoulder shrug. We try not to use it.

Central air conditioning isn’t a thing in Baja. Some homes have mini-splits in a room or two and we’re fortunate to have one in our living room. We got here in October, though, and it hasn’t been hot enough to use it. It has been fucking cold, however. This house has no heat so I was looking at the unit to see if it has a heater. The remote control has a setting for heat so I decided to see what that was all about. I couldn’t get the fan to turn on at all on the coldest or hottest settings. It turns out the unit was installed incorrectly so the fan didn’t work. The guy told me if geckos get into the unit, they can fry the board. I asked him if there is any way to keep geckos out of things and he just shrugged his shoulders. I showed him the remote has an indicator for heat. The manual shows heat. But the unit doesn’t have heat. The guy said they just use the same remote and manual for all models. I’m not sure how one is supposed to know it doesn’t have heat. I guess that was how. If you’re wondering why we don’t just use a space heater, see the paragraph above about wiring.

Fortunately, it doesn’t rain much here. We have had a couple tropical storms and I have learned the windows are very poorly constructed. There was water streaming in around the windows and down the walls during the last rain storm to the point where I was running out of dry towels to soak it up. I threw some wet towels in the dryer but the heating element died long before our arrival and this was an exercise in futility.

I’m writing this while freezing my ass off in a cold house. Yes, we’re back to the heat issue. I could turn on the stove to heat the kitchen but we’re out of propane. Again. A 30-kilo tank apparently only lasts a month and God forbid anyone would use a large permanent tank around here. I sent the gas guy a message on WhatsApp yesterday but it was Sunday and he didn’t respond. But that doesn’t mean anything. He never responds. He just shows up randomly and honks until you open the gate. So I wait.

As I wait for the telltale honk, I will leave you with some possible tourism slogans for Baja:

Mexico: Nothing works.

Mexico: Be prepared to wait.

Mexico: Fuck you, gringos.

Who the hell am I?

I was at a dinner party the other night and because I was drinking, I can’t even remember how we got on the subject of writing. I must have mentioned writing something because the next thing I heard was, “Oh, so you’re a writer?” What? No. I mumbled something about Human Resources and waited for the subject to change.

That got me thinking about labels and presumptions. I sometimes run but I am not a runner. I have owned and ridden horses but I am not a rider. Some yoga poses help my back but I am not a yogi. I’ve been writing since elementary school but I am definitely not a writer.

As I prepared for my move to Mexico, I decided I wouldn’t even think about work until after the first of the year. However, my resume was updated within a couple days of *finally* having wifi. I couldn’t help myself. Now I’m kind of stressing about just exactly what I will do. Perhaps the most logical course of action would be to look for a remote Human Resources position or do some consulting. Accounting is always a good fallback since I’ve been doing that for decades. But really? It truly is as boring as it sounds.

I just happen to be surrounded by creative people. These are people who have identities. They have won awards. I am not one of them. I’m the person who makes sure everyone gets paid accurately and on time. I create budgets and forecasts. I’m the person who impatiently waits for the creative types to get their shit together. I am painfully aware of the difference.

Leaving the US was to some an enormous leap of faith. People think I’m batshit crazy but it still feels like the sane thing to do. Now I wonder if I have another seemingly unsafe choice to make. I’ve spent a lot of time defining who I am not. This may be my chance to finally decide who I am.

When Anxiety is Chasing You

Anxiety can be triggered by something or it can be triggered by nothing. What was fine five minutes ago is now one hundred percent not fine. I can go from zero to eleven in two seconds but getting from eleven back to zero can easily take two days…or longer.

I underestimated the amount of stress and anxiety I would feel in the process of simplifying my life but Mexico is growing on me. It seems like I solve a new mystery every week and I mostly don’t get lost when wandering around the neighborhood. I’ve developed systems for dealing with household issues and have learned how to pay Mexican utilities online. It’s been like going through childhood all over again but adulting in Mexico is possible.

It is imperative that this experience be a positive one. Dwelling on every bump in the road is simply not an option so I found myself squashing it all. Back in the box. Ignore. Deny. Pretend. That it caught up to me should be a surprise to exactly no one. I wasn’t getting enough exercise. I wasn’t writing enough. I wasn’t countering the stress. I had a couple rough nights as a result. All of the nerves in my back felt like they were on fire. Every single sound grated on every exposed nerve. I only slept for a couple hours and that certainly didn’t help my outlook.

The anxiety medication I take is old school and the dosage can be modified to counter mood fluctuations without severe side effects. After the dogs insisted upon eating breakfast this morning, I allowed myself an extra half of a pill. It made me dizzy for a while but it also stopped the buzzing. After lunch, I was able to take a stroll around the very hilly neighborhood. I’m writing this next to a pool with a beautiful view of the ocean.

If you’re daydreaming about attacking a heavy bag at the gym and you aren’t sure where the rage is coming from, say so. Stop trying to hide it. People around you can tell something is wrong and they will naturally think it’s about them. It’s okay to say you don’t know why you need to be scraped off the ceiling. Take some time to regroup. If you know what you need, tell someone. Don’t let the pressure build.

People always say we have to take care of ourselves but sometimes it’s hard to know what that even means. For me, it means not procrastinating until I find myself at eleven. Organizing your mind and emotions is just like de-cluttering your home. If you do a little work every day, it won’t seem like an overwhelming obstacle. Don’t let dirty dishes pile up in your head space.

Afraid to Ask What’s Next

Here’s a recap of my Mexico drama thus far: Weeks without wifi. Weeks without trash pickup. Locked out of the house and rescued by the internet guy who knew a guy. Days without running water. Honestly, I have to carry buckets of water from the kitchen to the washer even when the water is “on” because the pressure in the line that feeds it is virtually nonexistent. So that’s my arm workout. Anyway, most of this has taken place when the boyfriend is gone so it’s been my shit to deal with…alone in a foreign country.

Then Tropical Storm Raymond happened. Fortunately, the storm wasn’t as bad here as it was in Cabo. It rained for a few days and was pretty fucking miserable being cooped up in the house with the dogs but at least we didn’t lose power and I didn’t need to leave the house for anything. Our house is on a pretty steep hill so I didn’t have to worry about flooding. If I had needed to get to the mercado, however, I probably would have done it on foot because the road was a full-blown muddy river. I made sure my LED lantern batteries were fully charged and was happy I didn’t need them.

Yesterday morning, I was participating in an all-day online Payroll and Human Resources symposium. Gotta get those continuing education credits! Everything was going just fine until the power went off at about 10:30 am. It seemed strange for this to happen on a perfectly still and sunny day but okay.

After a couple hours, I started to worry about whether the bill had been paid because it sounded like my neighbors had power. I was told when I first moved here that the bills are left taped to the gate every two months and if they aren’t paid on time, there is no mercy. They just cut your shit right off. I have received a water bill but nothing for electricity so I contacted the landlord to make sure that wasn’t the problem. So I was running my phone battery down with *maybe* 2G cell data trying to communicate with someone who wasn’t picking up what I was throwing down. Finally, he was able to confirm it had been paid in early October so that wasn’t the problem.

We have solar chargers for electronics but they need to be in the sun for a while before they are ready to start doing their jobs. I can relate. Unfortunately, I ran out of daylight before that happened. I took a drive to charge my phone and possibly avoid a psychotic break but it was essentially a failure on both counts. I let the boyfriend (who is still traveling) know I was conserving my battery and switched to airplane mode. Between my Kindle and the LED lantern, my night was set.

Imagine how thrilled I was to wake up this morning and learn the power was still off. At that point, I began worrying about the food in the fridge and freezer even though I had been careful to only access them when absolutely necessary. We stocked up before the boyfriend left on his trip and that included duck he plans to cook for Thanksgiving. I really didn’t want to deal with replacing a bunch of spoiled food. The solar chargers went up on the roof deck right at sunrise and finally began putting in some work.

There was leftover coffee from yesterday so at least I had something stale to reheat. I was reminded how much fun it is to light a gas stove with a short match. That’s something I hadn’t done in more than 30 years. I wasn’t about to try the oven but I did grab some perishables out of the fridge to minimize the waste. Cooking really isn’t my thing but being high maintenance isn’t always an option.

A guy in an orange vest came by at about 12:30 pm and worked some magic near the electric meter. After 26 hours, I can only assume the food is fine. Every device was promptly connected to its charger. The (now) on-demand webinar has resumed. I am back to my regular level of isolation and I’m afraid to ask what’s next.

Trash in Mexico

Sometimes the smallest victories are the most fulfilling. Today, I am overjoyed with my successful navigation of the garbage collection process in my neighborhood. I don’t even know who I am right now.

I have lived on my own since I was 17 years old. When I was in college, I moved every six months and had it down to a science. What I’m saying is I know how to handle things. There’s a list of providers in every location and you just start contacting them to establish services. Easy! Everyone knows this.

Unfortunately, that is not how things work in my little slice of Baja. I asked my US-based landlord for information about obtaining services (such as trash collection) and he completely ignored my inquiry. Okay. I asked a local and was told some neighborhoods have trash collection and some don’t. I was instructed to watch my neighbors and see if they put trash out by the street. If not, there’s a weekly trash collection site about a mile away that I can use for a suggested donation of 50 pesos. That seemed simple enough.

My hearing is borderline superhuman. Two Fridays ago, I woke up at around 7 am and heard what I absolutely knew was a garbage truck somewhere in the neighborhood. Sure enough, the truck came by at precisely 7:25 (too quickly for me to carry my bags through the gate) and I found myself standing on the porch taking photos of it. I thought I needed to contact the company and set up an account. Stupid American.

I spent that morning furiously Googling all things garbage-related in the area. I learned that garbage is collected by the municipality of La Paz (sort of like a county) and is included in the property taxes so I don’t need to do anything but leave my black bags by the road for pickup each Friday morning. Perfect! I set my alarm for 7 am each Friday, thinking that would give me plenty of time to move the bags outside the gate in time for collection. The alarm is a redundancy; those goddamned roosters down the way will never let me sleep so late.

Last Friday, I was ready! The boyfriend and I started moving bags out to the road and he opened the outdoor trash can to remove the final bag.

Let me talk to you for a moment about maggots. I am not a medical examiner. I have no need to have any knowledge whatsoever of the breeding habits of flies. Mexico apparently thinks otherwise. I’m not sure what kind of flies dominate the Tropic of Cancer but these are not normal flies. There is some strain of a highly evolved, freaskishly prolific fly that can lay an infinite quantity of eggs on any surface. This is a scientific fact.

What we witnessed when he opened that lid was the stuff of horror movies. There were maggots crawling everywhere. I mean *everywhere* and what was seen can never be unseen. I am so incredibly thankful he was still there to handle that issue because we were on the way to the airport and I seriously could not deal with that on my own.

In the short time we spent grossing out over maggots and loading my Jeep, the wild pack of dogs from across the street had torn into a couple of the bags we left by the road. Are you fucking kidding me right now? I needed to get him to Cabo to catch his flight. So there was trash strewn about along the road and we had to leave. The bags went back inside the gate for me to address later. I have no idea what time the truck finally showed up but it was well after 9 am. This will be relevant in a minute.

I could have taken the trash bags to the collection point the next day but I had to stay home and wait for the internet installation. So yes, those nasty-ass trash bags sat another week right inside the gate. Honestly, my anxiety over this situation has been a little intense and I am so proud of my doggos for completely ignoring them.

I kind of want to murder the neighborhood roosters but they saved my ass this morning. They were screaming at one another and when I looked at my phone, I saw it was only 6:30 so I tried to go back to sleep. My alarm was still set for 7:00 so it would be fine. Hahahaha….no. I heard the garbage truck and bolted out of bed. Ladies: Have you ever noticed how long it takes to put on a bra when you’re in a hurry? I ran to the gate and barely got the bags to the road by the time the guys arrived to collect them…at 6:55.

While I was victorious this morning, I am extremely concerned that I need to camp outside my gate like a Black Friday shopper just to accomplish what should be a very routine task. What time will the truck arrive? I have to place the bags in the proper location while avoiding the pack of wild trash-eating dogs. Should we place bets? Should I create a flow chart? How much alcohol should I consume today? I keep seeing the dad in A Christmas Story, whose turkey was eaten by the neighbor dogs when they got into the house. This is going to be a thing, isn’t it?!?

Create a website or blog at WordPress.com

Up ↑