Mar 25, 2010

Its a mesa!

Another popular stop on the guided tour of our place is our dining table. When we shopped around last winter, we didn’t find anything we liked, and ended up using a plastic patio table. My intention was to build one (another “why not?” project).
One day this past summer as we wandered through a used furniture store up in Guelph, I found an old oak dining table, somewhat similar to the one we disposed of when we went home-free three years ago. I knew that they come apart for transport and convinced Susan we could do something with it. It was in rough shape, but the price was right. It also had a cheesy scroll pattern around the perimeter.

Heck, we can paint it, and the edge pattern, well, you can see that Susan had some fun with it. If you have seen some of the painted Mayan carvings, they look a bit like this pattern. Go figure.

Cabinets are in, knob-less.

To come back to the saga of our kitchen, the cabinets now have doors. After many discussions and trying several colours, we went with this glossy red. A bit bright, but if not here in Mexico, where? After many days of filling, sanding, and painting, they were ready for hinges. But not yet ready for handles or knobs. To this point we have tried out about a dozen different kinds.
Since we have gone this far, carefully being all hand-made, we think that some regular knob won’t quite do. We (Susan) will likely be creating them from Fimo resin. We’ve looked around but can’t find Fimo anywhere here. So there’s a project for the summer and the fall. Like maƱana, eh?

Mar 16, 2010

Building a library.

There is a Mayan village, Chompon, down here, that has been adopted by people in Paamul. It is about an hour down the highway, and a couple of kilometers inland in to the jungle. About 600 people live there, and it has a public school with six classrooms.
For several years, some people have been donating supplies to the school and this year, with funds raised here in Paamul, we are building a library.
It took a while to go through some official hoops, but led by Cindy, and our hardworking neighbour, Dale, plans were drawn up, a location was chosen and work has begun.
So far Dale and his volunteers have made about five trips to the village with work crews of us old gringos. First we cleared the area, then marked out the foundation, built some forms, then mixed and poured a foundation. Then the uneven terrain was filled with rocks and calica (relleno or fill) and tamped down.
Then we built more forms around the perimeter, and yesterday, we poured a concrete floor slab over the whole thing.
It sounds simple when I write it out, but here are  some of the complications we ran into.
First of all, the building supplies: cement blocks, loads of gravel, sand and calica were delivered to the east side of the school where the library was first intended to go, and had to all be carted by wheelbarrows to other west side. Good thing we had lots of men, as this is heavy work for old guy’s back and muscles.
The terrain, like all  of the Yucatan, is uneven stretches of limestone with a few inches of dirt here and there. To mark out the site, we were drilling holes and driving in pieces of re-bar. Then trying to set the forms along these lines, was a jigsaw of boards and cement blocks and rocks to precariously hold them in place long enough for the base concrete to set.
To fill the site, we carried loads of rocks, and then countless wheelbarrows of calica, which was tamped down with the motorized tamper. The Mayan way, which was used building our palapa, it to use lots of water and a manual tamper. In the interest of time, Dale rented a motorized tamper which turned out to have the personality of a bucking horse. I ran it for a while, and found it really needed a firm grip to control it. Another of our guys, Bill, was at the reins for a while when he got too near the edge and it bucked on him jumping onto his foot, then tossing him over on to the rocks. Battered and bruised, he took off his shoe where he found his big toe mashed. He was taken off to the local clinic, where they gave him some pain killers, and removed the hanging toe nail, and bandaged him up real nice. Nothing broken but big ouch!
For the big pour of the slab yesterday, Dale rented a motorized mixer, and this time we had four hired local guys to help us out. Even though the motor died half  way through, and took almost an hour to get going again, we managed to finish the pour before 4 pm, and tired and dirty but satisfied, we headed home.
Today the forms were removed and we will now hire some local tradesmen to put up the cement block walls. I understand the finishing will happen in the fall, when we all get back. One of our guys, Bill, who got his toe mashed, already had a big donation from the Ontario teachers Assn., for a god supply of library books. It will be nice to get them on to the shelves.

Mar 12, 2010

Vive Fiesta!

The Phil & Heidi Fiesta last Friday was a good example of this special winter community. To my mind Paamul is big enough and yet small enough.
Paamul is big enough to have all kinds of different activities, all kinds of subgroups. At the peak of winter, PM fills all of its 200 rv sites. There are the Paamulians of the North side of the park, and South side, the Beach fronters and the Jungle street folks. We mix it up on the beach, at the sports, walking our dogs. The restaurant is a popular meeting place, especially during the weekly or bi weekly karaoke nights. Most of the major holidays are observed with special menus and entertainment at the restaurant. There are several daily Happy Hour groups (and a weekly AA group).
I’ve previously mentioned the music and exercise groups. I hear tell about poker and other regular card games around. And yoga and bible study.
Then there are the divers. Paamul has a popular dive shop, with several dive masters and a loaded boat going out twice a day.

And PM is small enough for most of us to get together for special occasions.
The Thanksgiving potluck (US November dates) is held at our local church when it is a good time to meet our returning neighbors and friends.
The other mega-night is the Phil & Heidi Party, which recognizes their two birthdays and their wedding anniversary which all occur with a couple days in early March. P&H have been here for 12 years and have been involved in a lot of the goings on here. Heidi is a natural green thumb spreading her plants throughout the park. She also coordinates regular art shows. Phil is an unmistakable presence if not only because he is so tall, and vocal (loud) and old, but still playing horseshoes and volleyball. He is also the chief crab wrangler -- collecting and keeping the collection of hermit crabs run in the biweekly crab races.

The Phil & Heidi Party is a good time to celebrate the nearing end of the winter, maybe seeing some people for the last time.

Mar 7, 2010

The Sounds of Musica!

The hills (PM beach community) have been alive with the sounds of music.
When we first got here three years ago, I hooked up with a group of guitar players meeting once a week to share some songs and guitar licks. We were meeting for an hour or two at Kevin’s palapa. Kevin had been a working musician back in the day and had recorded and charted some tunes with a group. Kevin’s proficiency in finger picking is awesome. He tried to teach us “Travis picking” but I never cracked the code on that.
However, playing and singing with others re-ignited my strumming persona from my folk-singing youth. Back then I had been a busy fish in a small pond when it came to leading singalongs of the early 60’s traditional tunes. But I got tired of the repeats of “Tom Dooley” and gave it up.
The Paamul guitar group and the internet changed all that. I was now going to several web sites, downloading all kinds of lyrics and building a an all-new songbook.

Then last year we moved our group over to Butch’s palapa. Butch had been a working musician for most of his life, playing in various country bands throughout the bars of Southern Ontario. He favors Waylon, Willie and the boys, and it is a gas to strum in rhythm along with his country classics. This group, usually four or five - including Joe and Mike, have been meeting twice a week, playing and singing (sometimes saangin’).
Then it became time to step it up. One of our guys, Jim, is a fledgling bass guitar player. Jim and I got it into our minds to form a band (a first for both of us). We decided to work on a few songs that we could learn well enough to perform in public. The idea was to make our debut at a big annual party here in the park, Phil & Heidi’s fiesta. I also asked another neighbor, Sue-Ellen to join me for some harmonies. 
Well Friday was it. The fiesta was on and we were on the program. Our short five song set went by quite well it seemed -- no major mistakes at least, and we had fun. Susan says we did all right. So now the world looks different -- or maybe I’ve taken to wearing rose coloured glasses like Elton John.
Everywhere I turn, I am sponging up the guitar singer thing. Watching the Olympics closing ceremonies, there was good old Neil Young all alone putting out a simple, haunting “Long may you Run”. A few minutes later, I had captured the lyrics off the net. And with the Idol contestants playing with guitars, I am sitting with pen and paper at hand in case a good tune shows up. Who knows, I may soon turn the corner into the sounds of the 21st  century.

Mar 3, 2010

Deportes (Sports)

In case you were worried about us, life here is not all about working and watching TV or lying in the sun. Yesterday and today were lovely days for getting out there and working up a sweat.
This is especially meant for my blog readers from the cold north.

A typical sports menu here in Paamul:
7 a.m, horseshoes, where there are always a bunch of guys pichin’ the ‘shoes. Some day I might join in but not yet.
First thing in the morning, there are also groups doing yoga, arobics, and qi gong.

Two or three times a week, around 8:15 we go into town for tennis. There are two public sports parks “Unidad Deportiva”  in Playa with tennis courts. Usually we get on right away and play for a couple of hours until it gets too hot.

Susan is not a tennis player but joins the dozens of morning walkers, some even without dogs. She often checks out the water, to see the wave action and then returns for a snorkel trip out to the reef.

The most regular sport here in the afternoon is volleyball ,which happens every day at 3. We have two man- made courts, each with a modest coat of sand which eventually packs down until we dig it up and or add more sand. There are usually enough players to make up three, and sometimes four teams. It’s a good work-out and can be hard on my arthritic joints. With the help of a couple anti-inflamatories I try not to miss playing.
Then every other Tuesday morning, we v’ballers convoy about 15 minutes south to another beach, Xpu-Ha, where they have a nice wide beach of soft sand. We set up our portable net and ropes, and play, swim, play, eat, and play some more. Yesterday we had 8 matches, ending aroud 3 p.m. I really enjoy it, though I’m too short to spike. I can set pretty well, but am struggling with the bump. (volleyball talk).
So that leaves but a little time in the day for working, eating, reading and napping. Oh, yes and music.