My Mexican mistakes

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Bougainvilleas I planted 17 years ago in error.

THERE ARE almost too many to count, my errors. And I committed most during my first two years here. I have since wised up or I’ve been corrected by hard knocks.

Where to start? How about where we constructed the Hacienda. Big mistake. It’s on the edge of what once was a separate village, one of numerous surrounding our huge lake. Being the closest to the “county seat,” we’ve been incorporated, and we’re now just another neighborhood (colonia) of our mountaintop town.

An acquaintance who works with the police once told my child bride that of all the villages surrounding the lake, ours causes the most problems.* In spite of that, we’ve never experienced a crime. I think that is due, in large part, to our being next door to the sex motel, which is open 24/7. It offers us cover, so to speak.

Getting downtown requires about a two-mile drive down a high-speed, two-lane highway with no bike lanes, no sidewalks and often no shoulder. This rules out bicycles, which we would have enjoyed. Rules out a motorbike too.

And then there’s the property, which is two adjoining lots that extend a full block from the street out front to the street out back, which is way too big.  I thought it was nifty when we bought it. I don’t think that any longer. The yard is almost constant maintenance which is why I’ve removed a number of trash-tossing plants/trees and covered part of the yard with stone and concrete, more of which I plan to do.

Let’s move on to the house itself. Again, way too large. I thought it was a great idea, but now it’s obvious that it’s not. I could never have afforded such a palatial home above the border, but it’s a housecleaning problem. We could hire a maid, but my wife opposes the idea for some reason. Perhaps she just enjoys complaining about the house size.

Looking at the plus side, you won’t suffer claustrophobia here.

And the details. My wife had the idea of “sinking” the living room a bit, so we did, but not much, just one step down. There is a step up to the dining room/kitchen and another step up to the hallway that continues to the bedroom and bath.

I have stumbled, but not fallen, on the step countless times, and that won’t get better as I age. My child bride sailed off the step a couple of years ago and broke her arm.

For such a large house, it has just one bedroom, which will be a problem if she ever wants to sell it. Don’t be your own architect. There is another huge space on the second floor, which serves as a second bedroom because there’s a closet and bathroom up there.

It’s good for guests, which we rarely have. In addition to having a queen bed, the top floor serves as a TV room, office and gym. And access to the spectacular upstairs terraza.

And there’s the railroad track behind the houses across the street. We did not notice that when we purchased the property. Trains pass in the night, and they rarely do it peacefully. The good news is that we are accustomed to it, and usually don’t wake up.

We could sell the Hacienda and move to our Downtown Casita, which is ideally located just a 10-minute walk from the main plaza. We could get bicycles. We could buy a four-wheeler. We’d have no yard to mess with. But, after 17 years in the Hacienda, I would feel cramped. There is only a one-car garage, and we want our two cars.

You never know. Maybe one day. But I’m used to living large.

* * * *

* At some point in the distant past, we were dubbed “The Village of the Damned.”

22 thoughts on “My Mexican mistakes

  1. When we were getting ready to move south we looked at large homes thinking what would we do if the kids wanted to come down. Then we came to our senses. We have a two-bed, two-bath house that fits our needs just right. A yard that is mostly patio, uncovered, and a covered deck that’s just right also.

    My wife likes having a maid and gardener, but I have been sweeping floors and doing some yard work this morning, but that’s good, keeps me on the move. We hear the odd bus or truck going by on the road down the hill, but not much noise living outside of the village, and I like that.

    I bought a house very close to the train tracks one time. Got it cheaper, and I was thinking they would stop the train in the future, and they did within a year, so I didn’t really get a chance to get used to it.


    1. Kirk: We do need a maid, and I imagine we’ll get one before much longer. As for the railroad track, you were lucky. Seventeen years now, and those trains keep on passing. It’s a major line, so that’s not going to change. Wish we had noticed it before we bought the property because we might have purchased something more sensible and closer to downtown.


  2. Your house is the perfect size for two people — and the perfect size for one person. And the lot is just the right size, too. It’s Goldilocks all the way around. You’ve done very well, so just add up all of things you’ve done right since moving to Mexico. After all, you could’ve settled down in CDMX with that pen pal that didn’t work out, you could’ve landed in a place with a beach or, god forbid, San Miguel. Your good choices vastly outnumber your mistakes.

    You like your walk around the Tzurumutaro plaza far more than you would’ve enjoyed marching around Patzcuaro’s Plaza Grande. And you do take a perverse pleasure in living in the Village of the Darned, the new black.

    Now, go forth and hire yourself a maid, and your life will be even more perfect.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ms. Shoes: You are right on some points and less so on others. The Hacienda is a good size for two people — or one, as you note — but it’s a bitch to clean, so we do need a maid. It will happen. Just when is unclear. Neither of us is keen on having people underfoot. I said at the get-go that most of my mistakes were committed in my first two years. Haven’t made any notable errors since. As for my possibly living in Mexico City with my pen pal, there was never any chance of that, which is why she ceased to be my pen pal. Well, there were other factors too. Also, there was never any chance of my living on a beach due to my horror of heat. As for San Miguel, I actually considered it for a brief moment or two before regaining consciousness.

      But I would prefer living downtown — we both would — and we both would prefer our morning walks to be around the downtown plaza instead of our neighborhood version. There is activity down there — life! — but not here. As for the Village of the Damned being the new black, it certainly could be. We merit it.


    2. You’re right, Miss Shoes. The last thing we need in San Miguel is another neurotic, whiny American. Besides Felipe would have been just one of a very few Trump supporters in town, and he would have been killed by now. You must admit, though, San Miguel has a collection of restaurants exiles in Pátzcuaro or Malaque. Can’t win them all.


        1. I think he wrote “whiny,” not white. Obviously you are called “pinche indio” whenever you venture out on the streets, so “whitey” is out of the question. Cheers! 😉


            1. Well, I was being a little tongue-in-cheek, shall we say. I rather doubt anyone takes you for a Mexican, whatever your passport may say.


  3. Small steps inside the home became a heavy stone around my neck as a result of the broken ankle I experienced in early Feb. of this year. I had surgical repair and extensive in-patient hospitalization and physical therapy. I was non-weight-bearing on my left foot which required learning new (to me) mobility methods. Don’t break your ankle is my point. After months, I am finally able to wear two shoes and walk on both feet.


    1. Carole: Glad to hear you’re back to normal. That does not sound like a good time that you had. I have never suffered a broken bone — knock on wood — and my wife had not either till she took that swan dive that was caused not by the step but by a wet floor and slick-soled shoes. Alas, she did it right next to the step which made her fall deeper than it would have been on a level surface. The bone break was hairline, but I don’t think she would have broken anything had not the step been right there.

      I do wish we had not included that step during the construction. Seemed like a nice idea at the time.


      1. Never had a broken bone before my 75th year, either. Didn’t do in the house but just outside by rolling the edge of the foot off the edge of a sidewalk. Suddenly my 4”-high steps inside became deadly in the opinion of PT-providers.


  4. If it makes you feel any better you’re the reason we didn’t plant bougainvilleas in our macetera. I realized there would be lots of dead flowers clogging the drain on the patio. So thank you. Of course, we’re stuck up here, and there is no telling what may be growing there.


    1. Bev: You almost certainly would have been okay with potted bougainvilleas because they really don’t feel right in pots. I’ve planted bougainvilleas in pots various times over the years, and they mostly just sit there all pooky-like. They want the open ground. I was surprised, however, on seeing bougainvilleas planted in pots that our City Hall deposited on some of our renovated streets and sidewalks downtown. They appear happy and robust. However, the pots are YUGE, larger than you normally see in residences. I think they believe they’re in the ground due to the pot size.


  5. We lived in apartments/condos for the first two years, before moving out to the boondocks, and during that time we learned a few tips that we applied when designing our new house.

    One was to avoid steps inside the house. San Miguel usually has tiny lots which forces people to build multi level houses that Stew calls Jungle Gyms. Up and down, down and up. A stumble here, and a stumble there.

    Also we planned small, only two bedrooms and two bathrooms which turned out to be a good idea, plus land buffers all around the property to save us from noisy Mexicans celebrating this, that or the other. With fireworks, of course.

    Third, lots of windows and light. The houses in San Miguel often have neighbors butting up against your house on three sides, which can create dark, clammy spaces, particularly during the winter.

    Occasionally, we miss the company or bitch about the hassle or driving to town for practically everything, from groceries to restaurants and a movie. But overall, we’re happy.


  6. I hear you on the yard. I have an 8,000-square-foot lot, not enormous by suburban standards, but pretty big for the city. And while I also have a lot of concrete — the garage is an outbuilding 100′ from the road, driveway, a gravel patio next to the garage — it’s still a friggin’ lot to take care of. Yes, I love the house, and the space outdoors, but I sort of resent all of the time that I have to spend weeding, pruning, clipping, mowing, raking, etc. Especially in the fall, the leaves are a big job. So the Mexico City penthouse with a few potted plants on the roof seems like the perfect solution.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where at least half the year nothing grows.


        1. Kim: Yet another case for doing what you’ve been threatening to do for over a decade: Move south. Yes, I know there are obstacles this year, but they are temporary. Down here Mexicans do not (usually) overprice their work and they certainly know what they’re doing.


          1. Indeed. I had planned to go to CDMX and get serious about buying a place, but we all know what happened. I’m hoping that maybe I can do so before year end, but we shall see.


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