Friday, June 27, 2008

Getting Back to Normal...At Last!

Here's an image of one of the more eccentric gringos living in Ajijic, on his burro along the main highway. I don't know his story, but I imagine it's interesting.

On the home front here, things are getting back to normal. Pixie has been recovering nicely from her surgery and is already noticing the benefits of having had her gallbladder out. She is eating, exercising lightly, and with only minor pain. She's even been busy decorating our newly-completed renovations.

Here are some before and after photos of the renovation; as you can see it looks very different:

Here are some additional photos:

We are definitely enjoying the peace and quiet of having the privacy and quiet of not having the house full of workers. Nevertheless, we enjoyed getting to know Guillermo, Antonio, Jaime, Jesus, Girardo, and Raoul, the "maestro" who did such a beautiful job making our fireplace. They were courteous, thorough, and willing to change what they were doing to suit our tastes. They wanted us to be happy with the work, and we really are. Now, the money's gone, but our house is just what we wanted, a simple, very Mexican casa.

I'll leave you with an image taken a few days before Pixie's surgery: Our friends Don and Val invited us to eat a local restaurant celebrating its second anniversary with a Mexican buffet and a Cuban band, among others. Here is a picture of Pixie with Don, our ex-monk, monster-movie fan, writer, IBM alum whom we met at our great books discussion group.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pixie Has Surgery

Pixie had an overnight stay in a Guadalajara hospital this weekend for an operation to remove her gallbladder and fix and umbilical hernia. The surgery was done arthoscopically so she had only four small incisions. She is now home recovering and we are both relieved to have had the surgery go so well. Hopefully this will continue with the recovery.

I thought it might be interesting to share some of the experience of having to have surgery here. Pixie vetoed the idea of any photographs, but gave me permission to share some of her experience.

She had been having problems with her gallbladder since about January. Always proud of her "iron stomach," she was frustrated to have so much difficulty and discomfort after eating. So we knew that she may have to have this surgery at some point after an ultrasound revealed a problem with her gallbladder. During her routine physical last week, Dr. Leon discovered that an umbilical hernia, which she had also known about, had grown much larger and needed immediate attention. She suggested that if the hernia needed repair, it might also be a good time to remove the gallbladder. Dr. Leon agreed.

We scheduled the surgery for last Friday, requiring Pixie to reluctantly turn the Summer Solstice service at our UU fellowship over to others. She had worked hard on developing the service and hated to miss it, but she really didn't want to wait several weeks. We have our friend, Sarah, coming next Sunday for a visit, and she wanted to be better by then.

So we met Dr. Leon at his office at 5:30 AM on Friday. He drives any surgery patients, every Friday, in his car, and there was another woman who rode in with Pixie and Dr. Leon, while I followed in our car. We arrived at 6:30 and immediately checked into a very comfortable room, with a sofa, air conditioning, and cable TV. The hospital is a small one and looks more like a small hotel, with marble staircases with wrought iron railings, sky lights, plants, and quiet hallways with no nurses' stations. There is a central nurses' station on the first floor, and they always arrive quickly when you call. There was a small cafeteria downstairs, which was convenient for me.

A nurse inserted an IV and we were told that they would come get her for surgery when they were ready, but we had no idea when. Eventually, after about 6 hours, they came at 12:45 and wheeled her out to the OR. She was brought back to the room at 2:05, awake, although a bit loopy, and both Dr. Leon and the surgeon, Dr. Gustavo, came into to explain to us that the surgery had gone very well with no problems. They wanted her to spend the night just to keep an eye on her.

Nurses came in frequently to check on her and change her dressings, but it became obvious that they spoke little or no English. I was able to decipher the general conversation, although they spoke very fast and expected us to understand. Since my Spanish is a bit better, and Pixie was a bit out of it, I decided to spend the night, so I could help her get to the bathroom and translate what the nurses were saying (more or less!). She got very attentive care all night. The surgeon stopped by at 9 PM to check on her, and again at 9AM to release her. We paid the bill for hospital and medications, which came to about $850 USD, but we will have to still pay for the Doctor's fees at Dr. Leon's office.

The worst experience for Pixie was probably the ride home. She felt every bump, and, although I tried to avoid potholes and topes (speed bumps), it was, to say the least, an uncomfortable ride. But now she's home, and we're working our way through the second season of Grey's Anatomy we bought at the market last week, glad to be home with the workmen off for the weekend.

Speaking of workmen, they had hoped to be done by yesterday, but it was not to be. They have at least two more days to work, I'd say, so they'll be back Monday morning. I'll post pictures of the finished product later this week, but here's sopme ome in-process photos:

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Rain Has Arrived

Today is our 34th wedding anniversary, and the third time we've celebrated it in Mexico. Not much celebrating today as Pixie is a bit under the weather, and the house is torn apart, as you can see below. Nevertheless, a day worth noting!

The afternoons have been very hot and dry, with the temperature in the mid 90's F and the sun intense. There has been lots of dust, to the point where it seems to drift into the house and cover everything with a light film. Although the humidity has been low, the sheer intensity of the sun has made the air hot and uncomfortable late in the day. We even had a few overnights last week where it didn't cool to its normal 70 degrees, and getting to sleep was uncomfortable, even with a ceiling fan. Even our Mexican friends complain about the May heat: "Esta muchoa calor!"

Last Friday, Pixie and I were sitting in our living room watching a movie on TV, when we heard the first rumblings of thunder. "Ahh," we smiled. "Rain tonight?!" Pixie had predicted it, but I was still skeptical. "Probably just some thunder," I suggested. But I was wrong. As the wind picked up, the lightning and thunder increased, and the rain began. It rained hard for several hours, moistening the soil, eliminating the dust, and providing cooler, fresh air. As the Mexicans describe it: "fresco!"

We had been waiting for a torrential rain to test the new house and find any leaks. Everyone finds leaks during the first rain. The good news: only one small leak around a bedroom window which created a mysterious puddle on the floor. We didn't know where it was coming from; the ceiling was dry (very good news). We eventually found a leak around the bottom of the sliding window, about 5 inches off the floor. Otherwise, it looks as though we're dry. Whew.

While this is all going on, we are also finally starting the renovation projects we have been planning. We've hired Antonio, a local contractor, to redo the kitchen counter with traditional Mexican tile, including the installation of a new sink. We've also hired him to put in a fireplace in the living room. He has a crew of two young men, Girardo (the maestro) and Guillermo (the helper) working on the kitchen. Believe it or not, they are fabricating the new kitchen counters out of cement, and will cover them with tile. Pixie has been agonizing over the color choice. Color schemes in the New England style have little relevance here, where bright colors and unusual combinations are the norm. She's decided on a mustard yellow tile with brown grout, yellowish brown paint on the walls and brick red paint for the cupboards. I'll update the progress on the blog; here are some photos of the kitchen work so far:

This is the form the workers built for part of the new kitchen counter. They fabricated the rebar for strength and used pvc pipe on the edges to form the curved edge of the counter. Below are Guillermo (left) and Griardo (the "maestro") admiring the poured form for the counter. Notice the holes for the stove and sink. They did all this work on the sidewalk in front of our house.

Below is what the counters look like installed, before the tile is applied.

This morning, the tile is being applied. Here is Girardo posing with the first line of tile. We were uncertain how to arrange the tile, but we have learned to trust the Mexican workers who do this all the time. They suggested a beautiful pattern which I will be able to show in the next post.
In the meantime, Raoul (right), the fireplace maestro, and his helper, Jaime, chip away at the living room wall in preparation for the building of the fireplace. They will also install stone to the wall surrounding the fireplace. More photos of the fireplace progress in the next post.

while this has been going on, I've been having some dental work done on my sorry teeth. I am in the process of getting two crowns done at a dentist in Chapala. The dentist office is very basic: just a chair and equipment in one room, with no receptionist, no assistant, but modern equipment and a lab in Guadalajara which fabricates the porcelain crowns. The work is excellent and the cost even better: $175 per crown. White composite fillings are $35. We have a friend who makes trips here twice a year just for dental work. He's getting implants.

As I write this today, it is raining, DURING THE DAY! Very unusual, but nice and cool, so I'm not complaining. This is the fifth day in a row when we have received rain after virtually no rain since November. Soon the mountains will be green and lush!