Dec 31, 2008

New Years Express

It was as if the cavalry had arrived to save the day! Jose, Marcel and several others of David’s main crew were sent over from another site to get our palapa moving.
The rest of the walls were quickly finished, and forms had to be built for the concrete that will go around the corners and for the headers above the wall and the doors.
The next day reinforced concrete beams were placed over the bodega and bano, and special ‘hanging’ roof blocks were placed between the beams. A new set of forms were then added around the rooms and another mix of concrete was prepared.
As always, the concrete is a blend of gravel, sand, cement and water mixed up with shovels on the ground in front of the site.
At this point I need to check that all my water, electric and gas lines are in place and will extend through the roof, including several outlets for lights in the middle of the ceiling. Most of the other service lines are set to run down the perimeter blocks which make up the walls.
Steel mesh is added and then 3 inches of concrete is brought up pail by pail for the finished roof.
This all started Sunday after lunch and today, New Years Eve, the stucco coats were already going up.
Susan is wondering if these concrete block rooms will be strong enough for hurricane bunkers. Not sure how they all connect. If they ever started to crack and come down, I wouldn’t want to be under the rubble. At that point there would be nowhere else to go.
Feliz Año Nuevo.

Dec 28, 2008

Steps Ahead and Back...

Many of the workers put in some hours on the 24th and were back to work on the 26th.
Yesterday though, the 27th, seemed to be a day of setbacks and restarts. Our palapa building collective, Bob, Dale and I were feeling frustrated.

First, what do we know about palapa building? Certainly the skills these guys put to use raising the poles, and thatching the roofs, is a marvel to me.
However, when it comes to the finer details of the inner structure, chaos creeps in. We have talked to many other people in the park who have been through getting their palapa built and they all have cautionary stories. I have come to accept that there will be communication breakdowns. I even allow for a margin for error in the results. Yet there are hopes and expectations that the builders will be able to satisfy our wishes, but...
We do know what a straight line is, be it vertical or horizontal. We know what arrangement of steps make for comfortable ascension and descent. We know that doors and windows have a requirement for square corners.
So when problems arise, we have to access the circumstances and decide whether it is a valid compromise or a no-go.

Maybe it is the distractions of the Season, but their have been a bunch of problems these last few days.
At a Dale's site, one whole side of a foundation had to be removed and rebuilt. As I have some spanish language, I am brought in as translator. He was also having problems with his stairs. Because I was able to get a dandy set of stairs built with my calculations and directions, my stairs are seen as a standard.
Dot’s kitchen is coming together with a lovely tile design but the sink install cracked a few, plus they had water lines being blocked, etc.
At my place, my patience with our mason finally came to an end. Besides going very slow, our guy seems to have reached his limit of skills in getting measurements level and square. The location of the water, gas and electric lines seemed a puzzle to him.
The designs for our two rooms are not just plain rectangles, and my windows have some offset details, but it does not seem that difficult to me.
I enjoy drawing detailed floor plans and elevations too, so I have an idea what it should look like. Then for each window, I drew large bold sketches on cardboard, with each measurement in detail. I saw how much difficulty our guy was having, as I repeatedly went over the plans. As he were still floundering, I would mark the placement of the each course of blocks on the preceding layer.
In critical areas, I started measuring and cutting the blocks myself, setting them in place with numbers marked on them. For long periods, I was not willing to leave the site for more that a few minutes.
This morning, when I went to mark the height for the bodega door, I discovered that one side of the door veered wildly inside the vertical, losing 2 centimeters in just a meter. It will now need hours of noisy, dusty grinding to get it straight. Same for some edges of the windows.
You can see in the pics, I am not too happy.
When David, the contractor came round, we had a reckoning, and I am promised a new crew on Monday. Big relief, I hope.

Dec 27, 2008

A Tale of Two Turkeys

The Holidays found us feasting on turkeys. On the Eve, at out neighbors Bob & Dot where we joined some of their visiting family for a Mexican smoked turkey -- Mmmn, good. They had their stove newly hooked up, and were able to set out their table over the not-yet-tiled floor.
Then on the 25th we joined Merv & Doris with friends for another huge bird.
Somehow I managed to eat a lot but not too much, always a trick for me.
Doris had a beautiful ceramic Holiday tree with exquisite detail.
At our “house”, amidst all the shopping for our new palapa, we still put out our traditional stockings for a few fun things, candies and nuts. Pippin always gets one too, and is most curious about the possibilities within each. He scored some treats and a new favorite toy, a squeaky bunny that he wants to bring with him whenever he goes.

Dec 22, 2008

Holiday Greetings

Christmas lights bring a bit of spirit wherever we are. There are a few pretty displays here in PaaMul. Our own little offering, is a multicolored chandelier looks over our entrance. I made several attempts to get a decent hand-held time exposure, yielding this one that looks a bit like musical notes.

We had our traditional Christmas carol sing here at the church in the park. There were at least 60 people there, singing along a cappella to all the favorite seasonal songs. I found myself sitting next to Bill and before long we were the bass section, adding our harmonies to the tunes. “Not bad for a Jewish guy”, said Bill, “lots of years in choruses.” Like riding a bicycle. Choral singing was one of Susan and my favorite things for many years in Vancouver, but the serious singing season is through the fall, winter and spring, and we have been on the go for the last many winters.

A dozen of the carolers were children. Kind of fun to have a bunch of kids living in the park. There is the family from Calgary with two high school girls, and two younger boys. The oldest, Keltie plays volleyball with us old-timers, her sister Sabie did too, until she gave it up to protect her hands. Sabie plays concert harp, and goes up to live for periods in Calgary for her music studies. Sabie played beautifully at the gathering, especially while we all sampled the homemade cookies.

Dec 20, 2008

Tres Amigos

Our palapa builders collective, Bob, Dale and I, got Xmas presents from our favorite salesman, Juan Carlos, at our favorite supply store, Unicorn where we buy most of our plumbing and electrical stuff.
With our matching little tool boxes, Susan suggested a photo -- the three big guys with their little tools boxes for their little tools.
“the boys are ready”

Welcome to The View

At the end of the upwards climb is the balcony. Up there, we are about 20 feet above ground, looking down on the world.
Our balcony is at the back and looks out north-westerly over the Yucatan jungle as far as the eye can see.

As we are on the third road back from the beach, our water view is limited. Palapas on the front have lovely water views, but also have to contend with the constant salt and sand that drifts in. The middle rows of palapas have only views of other palapas and people going by.

The whole Yucatan is quite flat, and thickly covered by greenery, so I guess for the Mayans who built their monumental pyramids many years ago, it was a way of getting above it all,(and closer to the Gods)
Even at our humble abode, climbing just those few stairs to the balcony, seems to lift us from the world - especially from the on-going construction below.

The balcony was built at the beginning, with the roof, accessible only by ladder.
The loft was added a bit later, still by ladder, then the stairs, and finally the varnishing.

The last photo is of sunrise this morning at 6 am.
Welcome to our view.

We’re climbing a stairway to..

More about our beautiful stairs.
They are now all done, fully sanded, and covered with two coats of spar varnish. It has been hard to let them stand there for two days as the varnish cured.
Susan has already requested the the stairs and loft are no-shoes zones. Ayee -- my feet are pretty grubby, no better than my sandals. Will it come to special slippers -- I hope not, as we often say, it is only a grass shack!

So here is a couple of pics starting with their origins as logs, and their resting place as our stairs to the loft and the 4 steps up to the balcony.

The loft looks so huge with nothing in it yet. This will be sleeping quarters for us and/or for guests. Our neighbors, Bob & Dot, have put two single beds and a futon couch /bed up on theirs as they have their daughter, hubby and two kids sleeping up on theirs.
Several PaaMulians who have trailers, regularly sleep in their lofts. The night air cools pleasantly each night, more so than in the trailer. The trailer seems to collect the heat of the day, from our cooking, boiling water for coffee and tea, the heat from our bodies and then release it back into the air through the wee hours.
I look forward to having a bed and a hammock up in the loft for afternoon naps and pleasant airy nights.

Dec 16, 2008

What, No Socks?

I love socks. I love putting on a pair of clean cotton socks. For many years, I would usually wear at least two pair a day, starting the morning with a fresh pair, and if I have done some sweating during the day, I would put on a clean pair to play tennis in the afternoon, and of course a clean dry pair is great after tennis.
Each laundry would include a pile of my socks, and when I mated them up and carefully folded them, I would spend a moment looking at my full sock drawer. Who needs a lot of money, when you have a drawer full of socks.

Suddenly that has changed. Our last two laundry trips had just one pair of my socks.
I have gone native, wearing only my rubber sandals, just like the workers around our palapa. Somehow climbing around the rubble that is a construction site, is fine if you keep an eye on where you are stepping, and not relying on your shoes to be taking care of your feet.
Secondly, I have hardly gotten away for tennis, I’m having too much fun building our grass shack.

Dec 14, 2008

Elevations begin...

We now have Santos building the walls which go up 8 feet around the perimeter and the palapa rooms. We have already gone up 5 courses of cement blocks, and soon will be roughing in the electrical and plumbing lines.
I am now onsite almost all the time, as there are little changes and interpretations of my sketches to be made. It is also a good opportunity to use my developing Spanish language skills. I am specializing in the descriptive adjectives -- a little wider (un poco más ancho), from here to there (de aquí a allí), over and under (sobre y debajo). Mostly I try to encourage them, “Muy bueno”, “Buen trabajo”, “Me gusto mucho” (Very good, good work, I like it.)

The loft floor was quickly assembled, but then I redesigned the stairs to make best use of our space. This has proven a little complex as the builders have a improvisational style for building “escaleras” and each installation is unique to the architecture and location of the stairs. I laboured over good detailed drawings of the vertical and the horizontal views, and Daniel and Jesus “Chucho” are using it as a guide.

The top deck is pino, nice BC pine 2 x 12s running full 14 feet. (Once again I am in Imperial measurements) that will take stain and varnish very well. The local wood, sapote, is very dark, very hard, and very heavy. The 4x4’s that run under the stair treads are hand-cut (with a chain saw) are at least twice as heavy as treated 4x4s up north. The treads themselves are 9 inch logs cut in half, with a light outer ring around the dark red core, making one of the more beautiful details of the palapa design.
Everything is then bolted together with ready rod. The crew worked late on Saturday, and then returned Sunday morning, asking, “is it all right to work today?” “Si bueno” and by early afternoon the stairs were in. “Me gusto mucho” ( “I like them very much.” Which literally translates appropriately, “It pleases me very much”)
We now have an upstairs!

Dec 9, 2008

On this foundation we shall build...

This week the “plataforma” went in. What is it and what do we call it exactly? It runs the full length of the palapa on one side of the trailer and across the back, about two feet off the ground. Is it the patio, the deck, but it is still inside the palapa so what to distinguish it from the outside patio/deck? With the workers, we call it the “plataforma”
It starts with digging a trench all around the edges for a poured concrete base. Then three rows of cement block are added. This is filled with “relleño” (fill). The fill is thoroughly watered and tamped down.
At this point we mark out our sewer lines for the kitchen, bathroom and laundry, and dig those in and cover them up. We also ran two culverts across the width, to carry water, electric and gas services from one side to the other. Once again, I enjoyed the help of my neighbors Bob and Dale.
After more tamping and leveling, the wire mesh is laid, forms are added around the perimeter, and then 3 to 4 inches of concrete is poured.

At the same time, the varnish crew moved through, spraying a clear marine lacquer on the underside of the grass roof, the poles and posts. So that is why the trailer is shrouded in tarpaulins.
While the crews were spraying, and pouring concrete, we tore ourselves away for an afternoon at the beach. Ahhhh...
At this point, some of the worst of living in a construction site is over. We no longer step out onto dirt. Time now it is time to mark out the walls for the outside rooms.