Friday, December 31, 2010


Meant to write more here the past few weeks but the role of Nurse Mommy to La Princesa has been all-consuming until the last few days. She's doing well and needing less attention. So with the cold weather (-4C) in Victoria this week, I find the time and the motivation to get back to the sultry heat of the Yucatan, in my mind at least.

What I remember from my first experience in Merida was a feeling like being inside a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. The tropical feeling, the sense of time slowing to a standstill in the heat. The horse-drawn calesas certainly added to the atmosphere. That timeless sense is harder to find now, almost 30 years since my first visit, in the city's centro, now full of persistent hawkers of tourist wares. But I found it in abundance when I stepped into the public library.

The library wasn't exactly easy to find. The signage isn't very prominent, and after it was first pointed out to me on a previous trip I couldn't seem to find it again.

To enter this library was like stepping back in time - most modern libraries don't have card catalogues anymore. The "silence" sign is a throwback to an outdated concept of libraries as well. Contrary to the stereotype, librarians don't go around shushing the patrons anymore. It was certainly quiet in the library on this evening, with a handful of students bent over their laptops at the tables.

In a small room at the back of the library I found something you probably won't find in any other library in the world. The "Seccion Yucateca" is dedicated solely to Yucatan authors and topics. Librarian Ana Cana works in the Yucatecan section and graciously allowed me to take her photo.

The section includes clipping books compiled by librarians on key Yucatan issues and events. Hurricanes, artists, any kind of local issue. These pre-internet clipping books are a labour of love. They take a lot of time to compile but for anyone researching one of these topics they replace impossibly long hours paging through fragile old newspapers or deteriorating microfilm reels. (Do they even have those? How do they hold up in the heat and humidity, I wonder?)

I am looking forward to spending hours in this place in the near future, improving my Spanish reading skills and learning more about local history and culture.

As I'm tinkering with this post for the 14th time (or so) before publishing it, I see that "el Gabo" himself, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, is coming to Merida for a couple of days, starting January 10th. I wonder whether the place also reminds him of his own novels?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

It gets worse before it gets better

 More scenes of destruction. A narrow corridor is opened up to enlarge the bathroom. A new wall will separate it from the guest bedroom in back which will get its own bathroom, though not right away.

Coming from a temperate rainforest climate, I'm a little iffy about punching holes in the roof for wiring, but I'm assured this will not leak, once patched, and the conduit for the wiring will withstand the furnace outside.

The hot water tank has a leak and needs to be replaced. So we're going to take the opportunity to switch to a solar hot water system. Now trying to assess the options and requirements (do we need a hydropneumatic pump to increase water pressure? What kind of anti-scale system will treat the hard water so sarro doesn't build up in the heater and elsewhere?) Water softening technologies seem to be a matter of great debate online - I wonder what others have found to be effective?
The wiring conduit will run along the roof  - hope this works!

The walls are for tall closets in the bedroom

Plugging the door opening in dining room
The bathroom was so hideous, this seems like an improvement

Saturday, December 4, 2010

City buses

The driver's area of one is covered in stickers in marijuana leaf shapes. Others have images and metal plaques of la Virgen de Guadelupe and other religious icons. On one night ride, the driver's girlfriend, I think, draped herself over his shoulders and presented him with a large greeting card to read as he drove. Maybe it was his birthday?
Modern highway buses in Mexico, at least the first-class ones, are clean and comfortable as any north of the border bus. The ride from Cancun has movies and they give you a (nonalcoholic) drink when you board. But the city buses in Merida are a different thing. They appear to be operated by numerous private companies, each with different colours and models of vehicle. Many of them seem to have broken axles or other worn-out parts that grind or clank horribly at sharp turns. Despite this, they roar down the roads at frightening speeds if they get a clear stretch, and sometimes seem to be gunning for the parked car up ahead, but then they swerve just in time. The printed bus schedule is indecipherable to me, so I just try to slowly figure out by trial and error which bus takes me where, and how it returns. They are cheap though - 6 pesos or about 50 cents - and plentiful and it seems they will stop almost anywhere if you flag them down. Usually.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Scenes of destruction

11/30/2010 I hadn't heard from Merida in a few days so I figured things weren't moving too fast. Not so. Victor sent an update today. Walls are coming down, walls are going up. It makes me very happy to see rubble everywhere.
bedroom + entry hall - wall = new sala

the other side of the new sala

tiles from former bedroom will be relaid
this room didn't get any natural light before

pointless extra door from garage is removed

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The view from the roof

New stationary gas tank and cracked roof.
Doug checks the "tinaco", the essential rooftop water tank
Maggie is elegant in any setting.
  Tuesday was a day of meeting tradespeople, discussing work and estimates and checking out the roof. There's nothing like a visit to the roof to give a different perspective on a place.