Where to go from here

One week from today, I’ll be in the air on my way back to Cuernavaca and some semblance of routine. Note the qualifier.

A lot has gone on. As you know, we had a horrible earthquake in Mexico. Despite the epicenter only being about 120km away, and the house shaking like a good thing we were told, all is fine. The tremor lasted 40 seconds and people who were in it, like our friend who dog and house sits for us (we were in Amsterdam), tell us that it felt worse than the ’85 quake in CDMX (which did much more damage actually). The TV in the casita fell off its table and a few books fell out of the bookcase. I guess that was it. The rock that made me so crazy when they were building the pool turned out to be a blessing. Actually, we considered that when we were buying this house. Asked the architect (whom we hired as a erstwhile inspector) if the house would survive an earthquake and he said that it had, already, more than once.

The rest of the state did not fare so well. Lots of houses crumbled in the rural areas – and in parts of Cuernavaca a number of houses were damaged and aren’t safe to live in. We are helping financially where we can and trying to donate directly through kickstarter funds and the local people we know who are on the ground helping with supplies and rebuilding. There is a Galerias mall on the highway with a large department store (Liverpool) and 200 other stores and restaurants. Only Liverpool is open and it will be three months before the others are repaired. So not only will all those mom and pop store owners have a bad season (over 75% of retail sales are conducted in this 4th quarter) – but their employees won’t have jobs or salaries until then.

The government is stepping up – giving grants to rebuild houses and giving money to people to live on. Some won’t know how to access the money but there are agencies on the ground helping. I guess it will just take time and in the meantime, we can continue to try to help in a small and local way. And they were just recovering from a previous quake in Oaxaca – the state, not the city. I gather this has been devastating to tourism but tourist areas and attractions, even in the centre of the country, were not hurt. Anything built (or upgraded) to code was not hurt. In Mexico City, in 1985, over 3,000 buildings were destroyed (flattened) and 12,000 – 20,000 killed. This time, it was 30 buildings destroyed (more damaged) and approximately 350 killed (about half of which were in Mexico City). A few of those died from heart attacks.

They have improved their building codes and improved their response, clearly. The problem is corruption. Buildings fell that should not have fallen. They were built after 1985. And someone greased the palms of the building inspectors. That’s Mexico’s problem in a nutshell. Corruption. Without it, this country would be a world leader. I wonder if they will ever get a grip.

So, what’s been up? We went to Amsterdam, long-standing plans or we may not have given all the things that have gone on this season. But hey, in for a dime and all that. We stayed on a boat in the canal, right near Rembrandt Square and it was a great choice, fantastic location.

The weather kinda sucked – highs of 15 (C = 60F) were a treat and it rained all but one day so we did lots of museums. The town runs on coffee, carbs and sugar. So many lovely desserts and fried croquettes. And coffee shops. That was our rule. One museum = one coffee shop. It worked well.

About 10 days before we left, I got an email telling me that my cousins were interring Auntie Ann’s ashes in the family plot in Gananoque, Kingston (where John D. is buried) on September 15. Problem was, we were leaving for Amsterdam (out of Toronto) on the 13th so I wouldn’t be able to make it. Mary Ellen, my Florida cousin, had taken Annie’s ashes to her cottage in Michigan and would bring them up to Kingston. Damn.

Well, day of our flight, with quite a few hours to kill, we were searching for somewhere to grab a bite near the airport when Mary Ellen emailed me. She would be connecting at the Toronto airport and had two hours to kill. Shut the front door. We met at the airport and had a great visit and of course, Annie was there (in her carry on). I got to say goodbye and my last words to her were, “Save me a seat at the table”, because I’m sure she’ll have a weekly game going by the time I get there. It was incredible, one of those ‘movie moments’. A ‘movie moment’ being a moment you would NEVER put in a movie because no one would believe it. It was probably the highlight of my trip, to get to say goodbye to her in person.

We had a sunny day (one or two) and took advantage of it to take the train out of Amsterdam and visit a traditional Dutch village with windmills. It was gorgeous. I could see renting one of those cute little cottages on the canal if one had a book project. And this location was literally 18 minutes out of downtown via high speed train. The Netherlands really has its shit together. They are the number two exporter, in dollar value, of food in the world! And such a tiny country. Incredible, really. There’s a great Nat Geo story about it here.

We also took the ferry across the harbour (near the train station) to go to the IJ-Hallen flea market in Amsterdam, a monthly event billed as the largest flea market in Europe. There was a great Heineken sign. I really wanted it. But I couldn’t fathom how to get it to Mexico from AMS without paying a large shipping bill. So I have to put my thinking cap on and figure out how to get one. It looked like this (in case anyone wants to buy me a present):

And that’s about it for now. One more week and I’ll get back to Cuernavaca and start on Phase II of our renovations – not sure what’s next but the exterior needs painted and we will likely do the half bath in the social zone first. Then there are three full baths, two or three closets to renovate and we need to reconfigure the casita and add a proper kitchenette one day (one day). Phase III will have to be the roof deck, not going there for a long time. We won’t do the full baths right away – they are inoffensive and liveable. We also need solar power and plan to get on that this winter with a small unit that is scaleable. So no rest for the wicket and just as well because idle hands and all that.

I’ll leave you with an old Jimmy Buffett song. I was thinking of this song the other day and what a great lyric writer he was/is. He seems to be a little more business minded than music minded now but that’s okay. In some ways, the song brings Auntie Ann to mind – she had a fair number of tragedies in her life but they never stopped her.  And they should never stop you. Orale.




    I sure wish you wrote more often! It is always fun, insightful, entertaining. Your writing style is quite unique and me gusta! Welcome back home when you get there in a week.

  2. Betty Obee

    Enjoyed reading your post, and hearing about your adventures. Great JB song. All of my thoughts and prayers are with the beautiful heroic people of Mexico, such a special place. Hope you will be happy in Cuernavaca.