The modern mountaintop

MY HOMETOWN has a new hospital, a large, snazzy spot just two blocks from the main plaza. It’s called the Bora Medical Center (yes, in English*) and Hospital.

The website, like the medical center itself, is still not completed, but both are up and running, open for some business if not all. That will come later, they say.

This is the second significant private medical facility to arrive here, the other being the far humbler but still quite good Clínica Pátzcuaro, as some call it.

When you grow old, medical facilities rise in importance.

When I moved here almost two decades ago, there were two small government hospitals and a few clinics. I would not have voluntarily spent one night in any of them.

Before moving south of the border, I frequented bookstores in Houston, sitting and thumbing through all the “Retire in Mexico” books available. Most did not even mention my current mountaintop pueblo, and those that did didn’t have much good to say about the place, mostly that it got real cold in winter, which it does.

I wish that would keep more Gringos away, but it ain’t working.

When I arrived, there was only one internet provider. Now there are various. What passes as a ring road, called the Libramiento, was a potholed four-laner. Now it’s a smooth six-laner. There were no traffic lights anywhere. Now there are quite a few, all on the Libramiento.

We did have a movie theater that was hidden on the edge of the central market downtown. It was an old, dingy place with two screens and mildewed seats. One showed X-rated movies, and the other showed mainstream fare that had debuted months earlier in the nearby state capital. That theater shuttered years ago.

A huge lot on the Libramiento is currently being leveled. Reliable scuttlebutt says a movie complex will be built and a Domino’s pizza too. Twenty years ago, there were no Gringo-style convenience stores. Now we have lots, a Mexican chain called Oxxo.

When the first Oxxo arrived, many in the Gringo community were outraged. It conflicted with the “authentic” look of the town, they whined. Mexico ignored them, and good for that. Oxxos are very convenient. You can even pay bills and send money about anywhere via an Oxxo cashier. I wish they had ATMs, however.

Two decades back, there were no chain supermarkets. Now we have two. One is the Walmart-owned Bodega Aurrerá, and the other is the Mexican chain Soriana.

I want a Costco and a full-fledged Walmart. A Best Buy too.

We had no department stores till a few years ago when the Coppel chain constructed a large, two-level store across the street from the Bodega Aurrerá.

Mexico now has its own Amazon, which debuted about five years back. It’s just as good and efficient as the branch above the Rio Bravo. It even sells Alexa.

Speaking of Gringos, when I arrived on the mountaintop, there were about 40. Now there are 10 times that number or more, and newbies arrive every year. I wish we could funnel them all to San Miguel de Allende. It’s warmer there, and they’ll be happier. You don’t even have to learn a word of Spanish in San Miguel. Everyone speaks English.

* * * *

* This is a bit disturbing. When the natives speak English to you, it usually means you’re gonna be charged more.

A better way for water

filter
The new compact system.

THE HACIENDA has come into the 21st Century, water-wise.

After 18 years of hauling heavy, five-gallon, plastic jugs here, there, everywhere, we have retired the longstanding Mexican tradition of getting purified water via the big bottles and kitchen dispensers of various sorts.

bottles
The old cumbersome system.

Instead, we have the little blue thing you see up top. It has three filters inside. If you’re interested in buying one you can go to Amazon or directly to the company itself.

Not visible in the photo is a little knob where you can easily switch from drinking water to normal water for washing dishes, etc.

We’ve installed the new filter here where we live, in the separate pastry workshop and in the Downtown Casita. The next time we head to Mexico City, we’ll take yet another to install in our condo there.

This change was inspired by my back trouble a month ago, which I detailed here. I could not lift one of the big bottles, and my problem lasted two weeks. Painful as those two weeks were, I’m almost grateful due to its bringing about this new system.

Change comes to the Hacienda slowly, but it comes.

My child bride now informs me that when she was an actual child, her family did not buy bottled water but instead had a filter attached to the kitchen sink. It took her almost 16 years of watching me haul big jugs to tell me that, and she only told me after I switched to the new system. Sometimes you gotta wonder about folks.

Even the one you’re married to.

 

Astounding advantages of solitude

AS MENTIONED in the previous post, I have been abandoned for three days.

Yesterday morning, I deposited my child bride at the bus station on the outskirts of the capital city, and off she went to Querétaro. I spent yesterday alone. Today will be spent solo, and so will most of mañana.

But this turn of lifestyle resulted unexpectedly yesterday in some exciting discoveries. Instead of driving immediately back up the mountain to mope, I detoured to Home Depot. My mission was to purchase a grab bar to install in the shower of our Mexico City condo. Mission accomplished.

Normally, when we — the two of us — visit Home Depot I walk directly to my goal, grab it, and head to the cash register. We rarely dilly-dally.

I am aware that women prefer to dilly-dally.

But yesterday I dillied and dallied. And look what I found! First, a cordless electric weedeater, Black & Decker brand. As recently as a year ago I had hunted a cordless electric weedeater to no avail. I even hunted one on the Mexican Amazon. Did you know there is also a Mexican eBay?

There it was at Home Depot for 3,000 pesos — about $157 U.S. — quite a bit more than an electric weedeater with a cord, but certainly worth the pain. I did not buy it, but it’s good to know it’s available. Perhaps another day.

Abel the Deadpan Yardman edges my yard with his own weedeater.

An even more amazing discovery was something I did not even know existed, and it’s something that can be of immense value in our Mexico City condo. It’s a bulky showerhead with an electrical cable that heats water as it sprays out. Good Lord!

Currently, we use a gas-fueled water heater.

Here’s some background: Our Mexico City condo long received its gas from a big LP tank on the roof. Then a fancy-pants firm called Gas Natural (Natural Gas in English) began expanding in Mexico. They expanded right up to our roof. We signed a contract. They installed meters on the roof.

They then billed us as if we lived there full-time instead of virtually never. Over 500 pesos per month for zero usage. We complained. They kept it up. I shut their pipe to our condo, bought an “instant” water heater and a small LP tank that holds 20 pounds of gas, which I refill not far from the condo via taxi about once every two years.

Works smooth as silk. Cheap too.

serveimageThat was five years ago, and Gas Natural is still sending bills and bitching that we’re not paying for zero gas. I ignore them.

The overwhelming part of the LP we use is to heat water for showering. But if we had an electric-powered showerhead, we’d almost never have to refill the small LP tank, which would be sweet. I read the instructions at Home Depot, and it is important that outlets are grounded. I’ll check next visit.

I haven’t purchased that showerhead. Electric wires, 110 volts, water, showerhead, shower stall, barefoot, Mexican electrician, what could go wrong?

I started my second day of solitude this morning. I wonder what exciting discoveries will be revealed to me today. I think I’ll get a shoeshine.

I’m liking this loneliness thing so far.

Getting stuff

ONE OF THE many adventures connected to living on the hardscrabble outskirts of town is getting stuff, mostly stuff in the mail.

parcelThere is no house-to-house delivery in my neighborhood. What happens is that all the mail for a certain area is dropped off at a central spot, which can be a small, corner grocery or it can be somebody’s home.

You then have to go there, the store or the home of some stranger, and ask for your mail. Of course, you have to know mail has arrived in the first place. Nobody comes and tells you. It’s a mystery-challenge.

I avoid the problem most of the time by having a post office box downtown, which is where 99 percent of my pittance of mail goes.

The quantity is small due in large part to not getting junk mail like one gets above the Rio Bravo. I wonder if that’s still a problem up there, like dinnertime phone calls. I don’t get those anymore either.

But sometimes I buy stuff from Amazon, the Gringo version. Amazon just recently opened a Mexico branch, which is great. Here’s the problem with ordering from the Gringo version, which I still do if necessary when what I want is not on the Mexican site.

You never know how it’s going to be sent. Regular mail or express mail like FedEx or DHL. Asking does no good. And the express services do not deliver to post office boxes, or so they say. Mexican magic can make it happen on occasion, but don’t hold your breath for that.

So putting the delivery address on the Amazon package is like Russian Roulette. If I put the post office box and they send it DHL, I’ve got a problem. If I put my home address and it’s sent regular mail, I’ve got another problem, though not so serious.

My main problem with the central drop-off here in the neighborhood is that I’ve never trusted it. It seemed like a black hole.

On rare occasions in the past, when I knew something had been sent to my home address, I would go to the fellow’s house where all the mail is dropped off, just over the railroad track, and ask. His wife would answer the door. Or, more commonly, no one would answer.

If the wife answered, I would ask if her husband was home. He never was. I would ask for my mail. She would know absolutely nothing of the mail.  It was her husband’s job, not hers.

Repeated visits to the home got identical results. No answer or an absolutely clueless woman. Living here can be challenging.

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered camera accessories from the Gringo Amazon. For some reason, I assumed it would be sent express mail, so I put my home address on the package. It was sent snail mail instead.

Even so, Amazon provided tracking.

This morning, I checked. It was delivered yesterday, four days before the promised delivery of Aug. 10, next Monday. Though it had been “delivered,” it was nowhere in my line of sight.

Here’s where it gets juicy. That man who gets my mail in his home, the man with the clueless wife, the man who is never at home?

That man is the man I recently hired to weedeat my lawn. This means we have a personal relationship, very important, and not just that. I pay him money. He is now quite interested in me. I have hooked him.

Living in this country is all about personal relationships, which is why Mexicans have the reputation of being so freaking friendly.

Personal relationships facilitate lives. That’s true most everywhere, but it’s more true here. It can even keep you out of jail.

* * * *

While writing the above this afternoon, the doorbell rang. It was the package delivered by my “mailman” who weedeats the yard and lives just two blocks from here with the clueless woman.

The label says it arrived by something called MRU Post. I have no idea what that is. I have never heard of snail mail offering tracking, but this arrived in the typical two-weeks time of snail mail. It appears to be a new sort of snail mail. A Google search provided no answers.

It pays to have a personal relationship with the mailman. He never used to bring stuff to my house. Now he does. We are connected.

He likes the weedeating gig. And I like getting my mail.

Relationships.