Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Blues

We decided to go out for the first time in days today. I've been sick with a bad cold and spending my days alternating between the couch and the bed. I woke up in the afternoon today after a night of uncomfortable sleep from the cold medicine I took. I tried to take the first shower in the apartment now that we finally have a gas tank for the water heater, and I got about 50 seconds of hot water. It wasn't great to start the day with a cold shower and leftover grogginess from the medicine.

The Zocalo downtown is set up with winter activities and lights at night, and Jose has been dying to visit so we finally went today. It probably wasn't a great idea for me to go, but he was starting to go crazy in the house and I thought it would be a nice experience. Apparently the Zocalo "winter wonderland" is a very popular Christmas event in the city. There are stations for kids like snowball fights, snowmobiling, snowslides, and snow man making. The main attraction is an ice skating rink. Anyone can ice skate and it is totally free, so the lines get really long. We sat and watched for awhile, but it was mostly a line of people dragging themselves along the railing. Jose had never seen an ice rink before, so it was a good experience for him. He didn't want to skate because there were so many people, but it is definitely something we will have to try in the future. We had planned to stay until it got dark and the lights on the surrounding buildings turned on, but I was worn out and we left early. It was still nice to see something that is so popular and important here during the holidays.

The biggest bummer of the day was that Jose left our camera on the bus. We bought it on our honeymoon and it was our big splurge after the wedding, so its unfortunate that we only had it for a year. Jose realized he had left it on the bus less than a minute after we got off at the metro station. We started running to try to catch up with the bus, but it had already gone out of sight. We knew where the bus would go to start the next run, so we ran over there and tried to find it. We knew that the windshield had swatstikas, and we checked each bus. I talked to a young bus driver and told him what we were doing. He took us all around the station until we actually found the bus. We looked inside, but the camera was gone from the seat. We think the driver had it, because there were only two other passengers on the bus who wouldn't have passed our seats when they left. The young driver who came with us talked to the assisant of the swatstika bus and asked him to just give us back the camera, but he claimed he didn't have it. The young driver later told us that he would have asked any other driver to give us back the camera, but the driver we had was known for not caring about other people. We tried to get it back, and it feels better to know we tried to find the camera, but it is still annoying to have lost it. At least we had it for September and October when we got all our good travel pictures and pictures of Cholula as a puppy.

While going to the Zocalo wasn't worth losing the camera or even really getting out of bed, it was nice to see the Christmas festivities. I realize that Christmas Eve is tomorrow, but it could easily be 3 months away because I have no holiday spirit. I'd usually be thrilled about tomorrow and all the cooking I'd do, but I can't even get myself to make eggnog this year. Its going to be a very different Christmas than usual, but at least I can blame it on being sick.

I hope everyone enjoys a great Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


We cooked our first dinner last night at the apartment. Our kitchen has lots of counter space, a six burner stove, and endless storage. It is easy for both of us to cook without getting in each others way. It is also really pretty.

We had chicken tacos with manchego cheese and avacado. It was fun to cook, and it was really fun to eat with just the two of us. We don't have a kitchen table yet, so we ate in the living room. We had just gotten cable a few hours earlier, so I'm guessing we would have eaten there even with a table.

I was hesitant to get the TV so early, but it was definitely a good idea. Its nice to be able to just relax at night on the couch and watch some TV. We've been having lots of quality family time in the evenings on the couch playing with Cholula and watching movies.

Living here is more comfortable and we are much happier. It is amazing to be alone and not have to worry about being around other people or being in someone else's house. I haven't fallen out of bed again, and Jose is sleeping more each night, so we are finally getting rested. I'm even starting to look forward to Christmas, which until yesterday I thought was about a month away. I'm going to make some eggnog to get into the holiday spirit.

I hope the holidays are going well for everyone, and that you are all looking forward to a great Christmas!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Moved In

Jose and I spent our first night in the apartment last night. It was stressful, and honestly probably a mistake. We spent the entire day shopping, moving our stuff, and cleaning up. We bought a TV for Jose, and we are going to split cable with Sergio and Maribel, so Jose can watch the rest of the football season. Sergio and Maribel took us on another 4 hour department store shopping excursion yesterday evening. By the time we got back from that, we were worn out and cranky, but we did have a beautiful comforter for our bed. We washed dishes, put things away, and made the bed before finally going to sleep late. We were too tired to enjoy that we were finally in the apartment, and too cranky to ignore the piles of boxes and clothes everywhere.

To further celebrate the greatness of last night, I fell out of bed in the middle of the night. I don't remember falling at all, but for the rest of the night I could barely sleep because my foot hurt so badly. I thought I had broken it, but luckily it isn't that bad. It still hurts a lot today, and wasn't the best first night experience to be had, but I'm sure it will get better soon.

Right now I am sitting on the couch in the living room with Cholula playing at my feet, making couch covers from pretty sheets, and listening to rain and Jose setting up the range in the kitchen. It is the first time in a long time that I have really felt comfortable. I think I might even feel at home.

Hopefully our second night here goes better. Today feels much better than yesterday, and I think that we are going to do well here.


Monday, December 14, 2009


Exciting news! My lovely sister Anna has decided to give up school and work to live with us for about 6 months. She is excited to live in Mexico and use her Spanish more, and we are thrilled that she will be here to keep us company.

She thinks she will be coming around January 15th. By then the apartment should be done, so she can start living in a nice place. Since our apartment is only one bedroom, she is going to rent one room in an apartment across the patio from our apartment. It will only cost her 23 dollars a month. She will have her bedroom there, and we will share our kitchen and living room. Her bedroom is in almost perfect condition now. It is painted a vivid blue that would probably only look good in Mexico, and we are going to leave that so her room can look traditional.

It will be really nice for Jose and me to have her living with us. Since Anna loves to travel, speak Spanish, and learn about new cultures, I am sure she will make us do things we wouldn't usually do. I wouldn't be surprised if she makes us look at Mexico totally differently. We are getting used to life here, but it will be helpful to have someone who is actually excited about it.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Almost Done!

The apartment is almost done, and it is already spectacular. We the floor was put in a few days ago and all the painting is done. We have bought more furniture at the tiangis and bought the refrigerator and stove. It is a totally different space than we started with and we will be very comfortable there.

We have cockroaches, but Jose sprayed tonight and hopefully they won't come back. I think they were coming out of the drain in the bathroom, and we are going to keep that covered. I didn't know what they were and didn't think they were that bad, but everyone in Jose's family freaked out when they saw them. I guess because I haven't lived with them I don't know how bad they can be.

The floor is linoleum tile that looks kind of like fake oak. It was inexpensive and covered up the dirty floor. It was installed directly over the old cement floor, and there are a few cracks in the edges because the cement was even, but they aren't noticeable. Along with the paint, to apartment looks new and clean, and that is really all I ask for.

We were going to paint the bedroom purple, but changed plans immediately when we saw the paint on the wall. Jose described it as "Barbie purple," and I can't think of a better description. If we had been decorating a girlie girl's room it would have worked, but we would have hated seeing it. Instead, we bought a creamy yellow and painted the bottom half of the wall with that and the top half with the creamy white that is in the rest of the house. The room is bright and airy now. It will be a refreshing room to end the day and wake up in.

The tiangis has continued to provide us with great furniture. Today we bought two small wooden butcher blocks to put on both sides of the stove. It was less than 30 dollars for both handmade tables. They need some sanding, but they are exactly what we were looking for. One of our most exciting buys is a stainless steel counter with a shelf at the bottom. It is at least 6 feet long and looks like it was from a restaurant. From the tiangis we have bought a kitchen hutch, counter, two butcher block tables, a coffee table, and a bedframe for 90 dollars.

We had a hard time buying the stove because my bank wouldn't approve the charges. I called three times and everyone I talked to did the same thing and said it was fixed. I am about to give up on my credit card because almost every time I make a charge, I have to call the bank to confirm. I have a travel approval on the card, but it doesn't seem to work. It slowed us down a lot, but my godfather gave us an early Christmas present at just the right time, and we got to go back to the store today and easily buy the stove with cash. I am probably more excited about the stove than anything else, because I want to spend a lot of time cooking in my new kitchen.

Our refrigerator and stove will arrive in the next few days, and we are going to move furniture in tomorrow. We are also going to buy kitchen supplies and bedding tomorrow. If everything goes well, we may have our first night in the apartment tomorrow.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Getting Busy

Working on the apartment has been really good for us. We are going to bed earlier and actually tired, getting up hours earlier, and working hard during the day. We have spent at least 6 hours painting each day. The first day was virtually a waste of time, material, and money, because the cheap white paint that we bought still hadn't covered the walls after 3 coats. We should have known that 8 dollars for 5 gallons of paint wouldn't work. This morning we bought quality paint and had all the walls completely white by the end of the day. Tomorrow we get to start painting the color and really see the apartment turn into what we are imagining. It already looks bigger and brighter and more comfortable.

I was really discouraged about decorating the apartment, because I couldn't figure out how to buy used furniture. I have loved thrift stores since I was young and spent hours searching different ones all over Sonoma County with my grandfather, but everyone I asked didn't even get the concept. We went to about 100 department stores will Maribel and Sergio, and it made me want to buy furniture less and less. Then, we walked through the flea market near our house and found a metal hutch for the kitchen for 11 dollars. The next day we found a painted black wood coffee table with flowers carved on the sides. If we are patient, we will find nice used furniture bit by bit and have a beautiful apartment. Not only do I now feel better about decorating, I am obsessed with the flea market and visit every day it is open. It is nice to have a low cost obsession that gets me out of the house and the apartment.

Our life has just been the apartment lately. It is making me feel really good, because I am doing something that is quickly showing the results of my productivity. And that productivity is going to benefit us so much in so little time that it is making everything seem more manageable. I hope it continues to get better as we get closer to having a home!


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Starting the Apartment

We got up early this morning and started working on the apartment, after what felt like weeks of waiting. It was overwhelming when we first got there, and saw the large holes at the bottom of the wall that were previously hidden by Maribel and Sergio's stuff. All I could think about for the first half hour was how much I wished my parent's were there to help us. I wanted to get right to cleaning and then painting, but I had to be patient and get the holes patched.

We went to the paint store to get the wall cement, and were told to come back in an hour. We went back an hour later, and were told to come back in half an hour. We went back in half an hour, and no surprise, were told to come back in half an hour. By this time we had gotten the walls cleaned and we had nothing else to do but patch the holes, so we walked until we found an open hardware store. We got the cement and were quickly filling holes like professionals. We're lucky to have my dad who has taught us enough about construction that we can get right o fixing up the apartment on our own.

On the way back from the hardware store, we walked through the tiangis, which is like a flea market on the main street. Finally, I found used furniture. There was a beautiful wooden shelf, but by the time I had convinced myself to get it it was gone. I did find a metal hutch for the kitchen for only 12 dollars that will look nice in the kitchen when painted. Tomorrow we are going to go back and walk the entire 1.5 mile tiangis and see what else there is.

Our only major confusion today came from the primer we bought. We were expecting white primer like we use in the United States, but what we have is kind of like a putty. It turns out it needs to be mixed with a lot of water, and then it turns into white water. We painted it on anyways, and the walls now look like they have a coat of oil on them. It is more of a sealant, but that is what we need because the walls were so dirty.

Tomorrow we just need to put "primer" on a few big patches and then we are ready to paint. We are also going to order the floor tomorrow, and hopefully it will be installed a few days after. Its all starting to come together!


Friday, December 4, 2009

We're Home!

We are kind of home. At least, we now have a home in Mexico and can say "let's go home" instead of "let's go to your aunt's house." Oh my goodness, I can't wait for it all to be put together. But I'm going to have to, because that is going to take some work.

Our apartment is next door (shares a wall, actually) to Jose's aunt's house. The building has 6 apartments, but only Sergio and Maribel and Maribel's grandmother and cousin live in two of the apartments. Maribel's grandmother owns the building. The rent is only going to be 75 U.S. dollars a month. Our apartment is off a pretty nice patio, and will be off a beautiful patio when I get to fill it with plants. The apartment has one bedroom, a living room, kitchen, and bathroom. It is spacious and has lots of potential. Now, however, it doesn't go beyond that. It hasn't been lived in for years, the floor is dirty cement, and the paint is faded and dirty. We're on it though.

Today we went out and bought the paint, and hope to start painting on Sunday. The apartment can be a little dark, so our plan is to paint one wall in each room with color and use cream on the other walls. I am thinking about using some sort of chair rail to give some variety to each room. The bedroom will have purple, because I have always wanted a purple room and this is the perfect opportunity. The living room will be royal blue, and the kitchen will be green. With fresh paint and colors I love, the apartment should look a lot better.

Next week, when we are done painting, we are going to have floor put in. It will be a cheap, fake, light-colored wood linoleum. It is only 4 dollars per square meter, and includes free installation. It is easy, cheap, and might even end up looking nice.

I am eager to see the apartment with new paint and flooring. This is really going to be our apartment because we are starting with just a basic, dirty apartment. I am sure it will look totally different and clean when we have all the ugliness covered. We will have created a space for ourselves, and I think we will finally feel like we have a home away from home.

I am very excited about this project, and will be writing about it all the time. I am looking forward to having an apartment and getting to decorate it, but I think much of the excitement comes from what this means. It means we won't just be waiting anymore. We are accepting what has been given to us, and making it work the best we can. I really need that.

Good things are going to start happening!

I want clean and green

Last night I had a small meltdown, because I realized I don't have any idea when I last saw a tree. Or a garden. I am used to Healdsburg with trees everywhere, and now I don't even know where the nearest tree would be. I have always appreciated trees more than almost anything else in nature, and it is a huge loss to not have them here.

Besides not having trees, everything in our neighborhood is gray. Houses are made from cement, and it is rarely painted in this area. There is so much dust it can actually be seen blowing down the street like mist. Then it settles and gives everything a dull grayish brown tone.

I couldn't sleep until about 3 am last night, because every time I closed my eyes I saw images of Sonoma County. Mostly I saw my family's forest ranch in Healdsburg, and the clean streets and many trees of the town. It had forgotten how beautiful and different it is from here.

I had no idea how depressing it would be to live in a cement and dust world. I honestly feel like leaving Mexico City for a few days, just to find a town with trees and nature still surviving. Mexico City has a lot to offer, but our area of Chimaluacan doesn't have much going for it besides relative safety and family.

I was sure last night that I had to leave Mexico City. I was sure I could not live here, and I needed to find a clean town with trees. While that would be amazing, I don't think it is the best option. Giving up trees and cleanliness will be better than giving up family and everything there is to do in Mexico City. The same night I decided I couldn't live here, Jose decided he is going to start school here at UNAM in September. He has finally gotten excited about something, and I'm not going to take that away for trees.

Even though it is tough to live in Mexico City, it can be good. We are going to keep working on it until it is good and we are happy. I know that can happen.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

New approach

I have been thinking about the blog lately, and I don't think I have been going at this quite right. I write posts, but I don't really include how Jose and I are doing, what we are feeling, or what we are learning from this unexpected experience. All I have included in the past is what we are doing- where we are, the plans our attorneys have, and basic facts. I think a lot more could come from this blog if I went a little deeper.

This all started when my aunt was looking at my university application last week. I had written a personal statement about my year as an AmeriCorps member and how that helped develop my passion for social welfare. She mentioned that these months I have spent in Mexico would make a really strong personal statement, and recommended that I try writing a new one with that topic. I sat down, totally ready to write the personal statement, and realized that I couldn't. I knew it would be a good statement and would make my application better. I could vaguely visualize the statement and the message that I would include. But, still, I couldn't do it. As much as I wanted to and as hard as I tried, I wasn't capable of getting myself to open up. I am just going through this, without thinking about it or really letting it soak in. I am just trying to breeze through with as little damage as possible.

Eventually I gave up, and called my aunt to admit defeat. She said she wasn't surprised that I couldn't do it and said that it was fine. I submitted my application with the original statement, and almost no mention of being in Mexico. I don't know what that means for my application to one of the most impacted majors on the campus, but it was all I was able to do.

Feeling weak and confused, I spent the next few days thinking. Is it healthy for me to not think about where I am? While it feels like the easiest solution, it seems like a risky solution. A temporary solution that will blow up at any time. I need to understand how I am feeling, where I am, and what my future looks like. Without realizing, I turned my brain off to get through this with less pain. It has kept me from crying, but it has also kept me from starting a life. I set myself up to live these three years in a coma, and reemerge when they were over.

Much of me is still closed off, but at least I realize what is happening. At least now I know what I was doing to myself, before I lost time and happiness. I don't know how long it will be before I am honest and open with myself, but it is too important to give up on.

Hopefully, my efforts will show in the blog with greater insights into our new life as it turns into something with joy.