Life as we know it

We live on the side of a mountain that is at the foot of a 1,200 meter (4,000 foot) mountain called the Cerro San Felipe. Everything in Mexico seems to be built on the side of a mountain. Even parts of the coast are at 500 meters above sea level. Every morning when I wake up I can hear the mountain call to me. “Paul,” it says. “Get up.” After I pee, I go stand on our second floor balcony and look at the mountain and see it is covered in trees and early morning sunshine, and also, sometimes, the top of it is hidden in the clouds. “Here I am,” it says. After taking a few deep breaths of cool air into my lungs while looking at the mountain, I go downstairs and I stand on our first floor balcony and the bushes and trees block my view of the mountain so I look at the river that runs next to our house instead. This place is awesome.

Coconut and J eventually make their way downstairs, sometimes with a smile and sometimes not, and I help them figure out what they want for breakfast and I make their lunch, and then R comes down, always with a smile, and we walk the mile to school. I’m not sure if we can see the mountain during our walk; surely at times we can see parts of it, but mostly we are engaged in talking and avoiding the fresh piles of dog crap, and also the dried up piles. On Tuesday mornings the garbage truck announces its presence with a distinctive horn and everyone comes out of their house or garage with their bags of trash and throws them into the back of the truck - a kind of grown-up game of playing garbage man.

On the walk back to our house, R and I will sometimes stop at the one grocery store in town and buy eggs or something boxed or a can of refried beans, and I’ll replenish my two 1.2 liter deposit bottles of beer, and on Tuesday and Friday we will walk through the market by the church and buy fresh fruits and vegetables and maybe stop and sit down and get a fresh squeezed juice and whatever the women are selling for comida - like a mushroom empanada or a chorizo burrito. We will usually spend about 200 pesos (around $12) and have just about all we can carry home in our bags and our bellies. By this time it might be 8:30 or 9 a.m. and . . . we’ve already had a great day and don’t have to get the kids until 2:30 p.m.!

O.K., so now it gets serious, right? What the hell are we going to do all day? I’ve never been one to worry about what I would do all day in retirement, and that is even less of a problem right now while all my limbs, and I mean ALL my limbs, are in first rate working order. So there’s that. And if we are feeling lazy then we can sit around and read a book. You would be surprised how much you can read in a morning with no interruptions like conference calls. Or we plan where we might go next on this journey. Or I sit and look at the mountain.

Then there’s the city. It is only a twenty minute and 7 peso bus ride away and has history museums, restaurants, markets, art stuff, and people - who are always a trip to watch even if they are just shuffling by. There are a lot of differences between Mexicans and Americans, but really there aren’t that many. People walk fast and they walk slow. They hold hands. They wear suits and dresses and they exercise. Okay, sometimes Mexicans eat corn on a stick while walking down the street and you can also easily buy chicken feet because, I guess, people like chicken feet in Mexico, but Mexicans also eat Doritos and drink milk that tastes like milk. This is not routine for us and we are all learning perspective and it is pretty damn exciting.

Last Wednesday, R and I stopped by a mechanic recommended to us by another mechanic, but he wasn’t able to do any work on Wesley until the next day. Our new friend Octavio was with us - Octavio is friends with Mark, the owner of the house we rented, and is our local contact who can get things done because Mark lives in Mexico City. Octavio came with us to the mechanic as a translator in case R couldn’t understand mechanic lingo (but, of course, she could) - so after the mechanic said to come back tomorrow, we three walked to a place to have lunch and learned about Octavio (he’s chido!) then we parted ways and R and I made our way to the cemetery, because, why not? Then we drove Wesley back home and walked to pick up the kids and stopped at the one grocery store to buy Kinder Eggs. We should own stock in that store.

When we went back to see the mechanic on Thursday, we learned that he races VW Bugs, and that there is a race coming up this month and that we can go with him, and then the juice lady came by on her bicycle with a table welded to the front of it and the table was full of juice and we all brought a juice. I am realizing this break from traveling day to day may be more for R and me than for Coconut and J. It’s fun to meet cool people like apartment managers and mechanics and make plans to do things with them.

If you have come to think of life as going to work and coming home, this is like a vacation from life.

Later on, when I was standing on our roof watching Octavio build an awning with bamboo to provide some shade up there, we looked at the light on the mountain and heard the mountain calling. “Octavio,” it said. “Paul,” it said. “Here I am.” It’s a beautiful looking thing and we made plans to climb it next Wednesday.