Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Random Update on Life Here....

Hi, Still no internet in our house. Still fighting with the internet service who sold us a wifi device that would work in our area. It did not work. Very disappointing. Everything else is going pretty smoothly. Settling in to life in a foreign country is bound to take some time. The weather ranges from very nice in the 70's to very warm in the 90's with high humidity. We have a mini-split air-conditioning unit in our bedroom. Rob likes to sleep in a cool room then he can face the sticky hot day ahead of him. Whatever it takes to get us through the day! We now have a dining room set and two smaller tables to use as desks. The young man who made our chairs is now working on a living set for us. It will not be ready until after the 15th at the earliest. Whenever we get it into our home will be a positive change. I really miss having something to sit on other than the bed or a dining room chair. Robin and his dog have discovered that they really enjoy napping in a hammock! They try to get in some “hammock” time on the days that they can. We go out in service on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. We usually start around 9am and work until noon or 1pm. We take a lunch break that allows us time to go to the wifi coffee shop or for Rob to have “hammock” time. Both activities allow us time to cool down. We regroup for afternoon service at 3pm and then again at 6pm. Our service days end anytime from 6pm to 9:30pm. Long days. Saturday at 2:30 is our public talk and Watchtower study at the Kingdom Hall in Comalcalco which is about a 25 minute drive from Paraiso. Mondays and Tuesday mornings are our “down” days. I clean house on Monday in preparation for the English classes here that start from about 5pm and last until 8pm or so depending on how much visiting one family wants to do afterwards. I also try to do some cooking for the week. I will try to make at least two main dishes and freeze some for during the week. If I make salsa, it is made on Monday. We have a chile bush that is covered with small red chiles that are surprisingly very hot! They are hot even when they are still green...don't ask me how I know this.... Some of our citrus trees are starting to bloom. Our seasons seem to be the same as in the states.

It was hot today...about 98 and humidity. The people here say it will get warmer.... Something to look forward to...maybe. Rain is in the forecast so that will cool things down.

Our van is getting work done on the brakes tomorrow...replacing the pump or something. So we will carefully drive it to the mechanic brother and take a bus to the bus terminal downtown and run some errands and then get taxi back to our house. We will have to get a bus to pick up the car later. If it rains it will be cooler and wet and muddy....if it doesn't it will be hot and sticky.

My neighbor sister runs a chicken ranch about 3 miles from here. We buy chicken from her. It is pretty tasty. Robin and I are not sure what to do with the feet so I have been freezing them. On Monday one of the English class students said she loves them to add flavor to her soup or to cook them up for the dog's food. I gifted her with about ten frozen feet. I did take a picture of some in a frying pan but that was shock value only. Today our dainty pioneer partners smacked their lips while talking about how delicious chicken feet are...okay, another group to gift them too!!

My neighbor has been washing our clothes. She has an outdoor kitchen with dirt floor but she has a washing machine and a real stove!! Such wealth!! She prides herself in getting all the stains out of any garment. Her wash does come back clean albeit a little worn from the extreme cleaning efforts. I am not comfortable with her doing my personal items so I hand-wash some items. I have a clothes line but no clothes pins. My very smart and practical neighbor showed me that with the plastic laundry line that I have you can separate the twisted cords and put corners of your laundry through. Very clever! I have had my clothes ironed but I am so picky about this that it has only been a one time occurrence. I don't mind ironing our clothes in the early morning.

We have had some help with the gardening. The brush was sort of wild around the house and we had been thinking about cutting some of it back when the neighbor showed up with a machete and said that they would like to cut the growth back from the side of the house so that the snakes will keep away....yeah, about them snakes.... Here's the thing...when we first came in September we asked about the critters and challenges of living here aside from the obvious. Everyone said “no problem.” When someone says “no problem” it usually applies to them....”no problem” for them since all of their growth is cut back....”no problem” for them because they know what to do and so on. The “no problem” part usually does not include you...for you there could very well be a huge problem overhead....a huge spider ready to pounce you but hey, no will not hurt me!

There is also a mosquito season during the summer months. I will definitely let you know how that goes. I have changed my opinion of “Off” and “Raid.” Raid is very effective for ridding a house of bugs and the smell is really not that unpleasant. I use ecologically sound bug repellents as much as I can to the point that I am sure if I were to have a blood test today they would find citronella in my blood. I spray my shoes, Bibles and umbrella with Off. Before we leave the car to walk to an 8pm Bible study that is conducted on the porch, I spray Off on my legs and elbows. I have such a huge reaction to a mosquito bite that I really don't want to get any if I can help it. I have been so against these products for most of my life but now I see how truly helpful they are...much like the invention of light bulbs. I know some of you are saying ewwww...but doesn't problems with mosquitoes pale in comparison to the bugs and stuff in Myanmar? Have you read the 2013 Yearbook?

There are lots and lots of taco places. We have been trying them out as we go. Tacos are usually pork, beef, beef ribs, the hump on a brahma type cow, brains, intestines or tongue. We stick with pastor which is the pork cooked much the same way the Greeks cook gyro meat. I have tried the hump, called ube or something like was tasty but I probably won't eat it again because I am a food snob. Oh, sometimes they do offer the breasts from a cow....and no, I will not try these. I do order argentine chorizo tacos as well as regular beef tacos. The cows here are a Brahma mix. They are very thin. Beef is usually served as skirt steak. If you are looking for a U.S. -type steak just get that silly thought out of your mind. They are not to be found. In San Cristobal, Chiapas we did find an Argentinian restaurant that had great steaks!

It is surprising that beans and rice are not served with every meal like in the U.S. -when you order Mexican food. Tacos come with condiments...salsas, lime slices, onions, cabbage, pickled carrots and other items. It is strange to order a meal and only get meat and tortillas. Tortillas are bought each day here. Tacos are about 6-8 pesos each. Tortillas run about 7 pesos for half a kilo. Warm tortillas are still an amazing flavor for me! Good childhood memories of La Tolteca.

Vendors go through neighborhoods throughout the day selling tortillas, bottled water, fruit, chicken, ice cream, newspapers, snow cones, furniture and some buy scrap metal. Each vendor has a different song or whistle or bell. Robin and I are still not sure which is which. Robin hates the noise from these vendors so he is happy to live on a dirt road where there is only one other house. Few vendors venture down our nick of the woods, or our nick of the jungle.

Vendors can be found on the streets throughout the city. Almost anything is sold from these primitive kiosks. You can buy fruit, pottery, furniture, tacos, hats, hammocks, plants, candy, toys, cookies, empanadas, crabs, gum, and other items that I can't remember.

Small open stores line the downtown streets. Most do not have window store fronts, they just have a rolling metal garage door that is down when they are closed and up when they are open. Most store owners are friendly and helpful. Our favorite type of store is a “papeleria” which is probably spelled wrong. It can be a photo copy center or just an office supply type store with paper and pens. You never really know what you will find in each store so when we have the time we stop in and take a look.

The downtown area has the big Catholic church and a public downtown park where vendors gather to market their wares. A sister sells cut up jicama, mangos,or ciwellas. I picked a large container of jicama to munch on but she would not surrender it before she doctored it up with hot sauce and salt and lime. A brother sells popcorn there too. The park is also a good place to find foreign visitors. It is very nice to be able to just talk to someone in English who understands what you are saying. Saturday and Sunday is the when the park fills with local people out to enjoy the nice evening and treat their children to some delightful treats. We did buy some corn from a vendor. It was served in a cup. Cut corn with cream was ladled into the cup then butter, then mayonnaise then cheese, salt and pepper....did not taste as good as you might think.... They do sell corn on a stick but they butter these, mayonnaise, put some heavy cream on it and then the cherry-on-top is hot sauce....I bought one plain. The corn is not the sweet corn type. Bummer.

Empanadas are popular here. Almost anything can be made into one. In fact there are empanada restaurants where you pick what you want in your empanada. They are usually made with a corn masa for which I am very glad since I can eat these. So, I have tacos and empanadas to chose from; not bad! Marisco empanadas are popular here. You can get shrimp, crab or fish empanadas with or without cheese. Forgot to say that tacos here are usually just the meat in a corn tortilla and then you add the condiments. If you want cheese then you order it “a gringa.”

Let's talk cheese. The cheese is good. Oaxaca cheese is sort of like mozzarella or string cheese. It is great on a quesadilla since it seems to melt easily. Easy to find parmesan cheese. There are gouda cheese around and no that is not the opposite of “bada” cheese! Cheddar cheese seems not to be around. We will have to look around in the grocery stores in Villahermosa, the state capital which is about an hour's drive from here. I have heard that the Walmart there has gluten free items!! Must check that out! There is a mayan cheese that is sold by vendors and in the stores. It crumbles easily and tastes a lot like queso fresco in the States. There are some queso fresco cheeses available for a very low cost. A package is about 3.50 pesos.

I have one less morning chore to do...sadly my large mango tree is done for the season. I did enjoy the mangos. We gave lots away. We learned to make “mangoladas”....mashed mango mixed with the red pepper/limon stuff and frozen with a stick in it. You then pour “chamoy” on top of it before you eat it. It is surprisingly very good! My favorite way to use my mango crop was to make salsa with it...onions, mangos, chile, lime juice and cilantro. Yummmm!!! especially on chicken tacos!

Let's talk “gallina” is when the chicken is walking around taking in the sunshine and eating his grub. “Pollo” is what you eat! And Tabascanos love to eat pollo! Everywhere they are roasting chicken on grills---pollo asado. It is usually very tastey but can sometimes be disappointingly dry and flavorless. It is always a good value for the money. A whole chicken runs about 100 pesos but you get tortillas, hot sauce, onions, sometimes cabbage, sometimes beans, sometimes rice, and chiles. So for us it is a great value since it will feed us for more than 2 meals.

Tabasco is Mexico's chocolate maker. I have cacao trees outside my bedroom window. Tabasco is famous for its pozol. Pozol is a chocolate flavored drink made with cacao and corn meal. My neighbor makes the best. It comes in a loaf about the size of meatloaf. You break off pieces and put in the blender with water and some sugar if you want. While you are drinking it you need to swish your cup around to keep the corn meal from settling to the bottom. You will find Tabascanos doing that with any cup in their hand. I like pozol cold and with sugar. It is supposed to help you take the heat. It is sort of a meal replacement...when it is too hot to eat, you can always drink some pozol!

Umbrellas. People here love them for shade. There is a real learned skill in how to manipulate your umbrella while walking through crowded, narrow streets. I am still working on it. Today I tried just wearing my hat but it flew off. Thankfully Rob was behind me so he retrieved it for me. I may have found out why the women prefer umbrellas to hats....I also, think that vanity comes into play....hat hair and all.

I may have trouble finding shoes here...most shops carry women's shoes up to a size 9 which is a Mexican 6. I am a 10! I will keep looking.

Service is very enjoyable. We teach English to those in our car group. We have started doing an English search again. We are working all of our territory, door-to-door and asking if anyone in the home speaks English if they do then we talk to them and invite them to our English Bible meetings. We make return visits when we are too hot. Four of our regular pioneer partners, a mom and her three daughters, do not drive so we drive them to their studies and do a “search” in the area around their study's house. Good times! We just work in the Paraiso area. Since Paraiso not only includes the city but the outlaying beach areas, service can be rather scenic!

Today we rode public transportation for the first time. We got a bus from the mechanic's place into town. We walked around downtown familiarizing ourselves better with the city. We took a bus back to pick up the van. The first short bus was a better ride than the bigger bus we took back. Buses cost 7 to 8 pesos.

Water. We have water delivered to the house about twice a week. It is $14 pesos for 5 gallons. The water to the house from the pipes stops about 9am and comes back on around 7pm. We have to make sure that we have plugged the pump in to fill the water tank on the roof. Taking showers has been more enjoyable now that the weather is warmer. We do not have a water heater. If you order water at a restaurant they want to know what kind....plain, mineral, pina, coco, jamica, orange or something else. So many is like being at a “subway” for water...decisions have to be made. At home I have made pozol, pineapple water, orange water, jamica, mango water, and horchata.

On my one burner stove I have made American breakfasts...fried potatoes & eggs. I have fried chicken, made chicken mole, chicken stew, quesadillas, fajitas, and more. I have fried bananas. It works. Glad to have the microwave to help out!

All fruit and vegies have to be washed in water with microdyn. They need to stay in the water about 10 minutes. I make it a habit to wash everything before it goes into the fridge.

Since there is no hot water in my house I follow the regional building committee's procedure of giving the dishes one last rinse through bleach water.

Our Life Here Part 1

(From a couple of weeks ago...but I was not able to post...the no internet problem.)
Hi, Still no internet connection at our house! This has become the biggest hurdle to get past. We heard of a cable company in our area that offers internet too. Let's hope it is true and works! Wednesday – Friday & Sunday are our service days. They are long! :) We start at 9am and sometimes finish at 9:30pm! Our day is varied with return visits, Bible studies, and English speakers search work (where we go door-to-door asking if English speakers live here). So, it really is not too bad. I have been having to pick up mango-s each morning in our yard. Our mango tree drops the fruit throughout the day. They are small mango-s but very tasty! I love mango-s!! I think our tree will be done by the end of this week. We have another mango tree but the fruit is just starting to form; very cute! These mango-s are supposed to be large. It will take a while for the fruit to grow and then ripen. Our dogs seem to be enjoying their new yard. We still leave them in the house when we are gone.

I buy my food both from the local grocery store and from the local market. Papayas, pineapples, oranges, bananas and many other fruit are sold from the back of parked pick-ups throughout the city. My neighbor is a partner in a chicken farm so, we buy our chicken from them. I was surprised to find out that a whole chicken included the feet! They cut up chicken different here so Rob and I are always trying to guess what piece it is...we always get the legs & wings correct! There is a brother who owns a meat market here. I will go check it out and buy some beef from him. Cheeses are different here. Lots of softer types. The Oaxaca kind is sort of a string cheese in ropes that are curled round into a roll. The Oaxacan type works well for quesidillas. We were told that manchego cheese is a cheddar cheese but Robin and I think it tastes more like a Jack cheese. We buy our tortillas from the tortilla shops around town. Our bottled water gets delivered as does our propane for our stove. I do not have a washing machine or dryer so, our neighbor sister does the wash. I really want to buy my own machine so that I can do my laundry my way. I handwash my personal items because I find it strange to have someone else do this. Her husband made my dining room table as well as our other tables. We had a return visit make our 6 chairs. The wood chairs were about $5 more than buying plastic chairs. We did buy a small A/C unit for our bedroom. It works fine. We are in our bedroom right now. Rob is working on his talk for Tuesday night. He also has the special talk on April 6th in Comalcalco where the Paraiso English congregation meets. Busy times for him.

The beach is about a 10 minute drive away. This week many in Mexico have time off and much of it is spent at the beach. This is probably not the week to go to the beach.