Mexican life

When the livin’ ain’t easy

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This photo is from about a decade ago, but the winter scene is the same.

WINTERTIME, that is. It’s fallen on us hard. It does the same most every year, so you’d think we’d be used to it, but it always hurts.

As we have no air-conditioning because we don’t need it, we have no adequate heating either in spite of needing it, but due to needing it only about 10 weeks a year, we don’t do anything about it. We muscle through. The other 42 weeks, everything feels just fine.

But those 10 weeks, yowser!

It came in force a couple of nights ago. It announces its arrival via the birdbath that sits on the Jesus Patio. The bath freezes over, becoming a skating rink for the perplexed birdies. It was even worse last night.

bird
Two stones float on the ice pack this morning.

Another reason we have no heating that actually does much good is that the effects of winter are felt almost entirely at night and the very early morning. When the sun’s been up a few hours, the temperature heads north. There is easily a 40-degree difference between sunrise and 2 p.m.

Here’s my dawn routine: Before going to bed each night, I drape a heavy coat over a kitchen chair alongside a scarf and my watch cap. When I shiver into the kitchen each morning, I don those duds right off.

I usually keep them on till noon.

But there’s a beauty to these bone-cracking mornings. The sky is blue. The sun is shining. The birds are singing loonily. But there’s an ugliness too. With the first freeze, the banana trees droop and turn a yucky brown. The Golden Datura does the same.

This morning, Abel the Deadpan Yardman comes, but not to mow the grass, which needs no mowing because it hasn’t rained in weeks. He comes to cut the bananas down to size. They always return the following year. Same for the Golden Datura.

There is no perfect world.

banana
Soon to be whacked down by Abel the Deadpan Yardman.

25 thoughts on “When the livin’ ain’t easy

  1. Character building this. I’ve been in homes in Mexico in winter with no heat; tile floors, and bathing was never fun.
    Happy Christmas. Holiday cheer to you and your wife.

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  2. A small wall-hung, or floor-standing, gas-fired stove for heating might change your life. It would probably have to be on full blast for a time but with a thermostat to regulate it, there would be no problems (as long as the gas line doesn’t leak).

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    1. Carole: We have two portable propane-fueled heaters on little wheels downstairs and one upstairs. At times in the evenings, or even at even rarer times in the morning after first breakfast, we fire one up. It works well if you’re pretty close to it, but our rooms are so large, it’s not an ideal solution. But they do work fairly well.

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  3. I hope you have an electric blanket or two. I can recommend electric “throw blanket.” My sister kept her condo cool, but usually was under the throw. We had an old joke, I would say “the coffee is cold.” She would reply “It’s steaming.” And I would say, “It’s so cold in here anything will steam.” Happy Holidays.

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    1. Phil: We don’t have an electric blanket, but we do have a big comforter stuffed with real goose down. It’s just about as good without having to spend the night under questionable electric currents.

      Happy holidays to you too, and a profitable New Year!

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  4. Been chilly at night at Lakeside Gringolandia too. However, no ice in sight in the birdbath. There have been times that I’ve sworn that it was colder inside the casa than out.

    Feliz Navidad. Kelly says hello.

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    1. Troy: It definitely can be colder inside the house than outside. Important to open the windows around noon to let the warmer air come inside and let the inside air escape.

      It has not frozen over there? You sure? You have a birdbath to let you know easily?

      Felíz Navidad to you two too!

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  5. I know the feeling. I hate the winters here in Mexico, even though I live where it is considered beautiful weather year around. People come to San Diego for the winters, but the houses here in Mexico, the way they build them out of that ugly gray brick, no insulation at all, cold tile floors, and I mean cold. I dread it every year when October comes around. I’m like, okay, here comes the cold. Taking a shower is like a job. It’s just miserable. Every morning, if the sun comes out, I go walking out in the sun to warm up the old bones. I tell my husband I’m getting too old for this, the bones can’t take it. This year he put down a large rug in the living room so that our feet don’t get cold when we are sitting on the couch. I have come to hate tile floors, too cold. Just looking forward to the spring and summer coming again. Praying this winter passes by fast. And you are right. The little heaters only work if you are sitting right in front of them.

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    1. M&C: I like the look of tile floors, but I’m a huge fan of rugs. We have plenty of rugs. As you note, they make a big difference. If all the houses around you there on the border are ugly gray brick, you need to move to a better neighborhood. That’s my advice. As for taking showers on cold mornings, the worst part is getting naked, but then you jump under the hot water and ahhhhh!

      Hang in there, señora.

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  6. To me there are just two seasons in the central part of Mexico, dry and rainy. The rains bring the spectacular luxuriant foliage. The storms can be exciting with their tremendous thunder and lightning. During the dry, the arid countryside might not be as beautiful but we enjoy the nearly daily deep blue skies and the absence of the high humidity. We’re usually happy to see the arrival and then the departure of both.

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    1. Gerard: I’ll see your two seasons and raise you one. There’s your dry and your rainy, but then there’s the frigid, which normally is dry. It’s a subset of dry, which has two polar opposites, so to speak. Frigid dry, which generally is January and February. March can go either way, but April and May are stuffy, depending on where you are. If you’re in our house upstairs in the evening, it’s downright unpleasantly warm.

      As you note, one is glad to see each variety leave when it leaves. We’re always glad to see the rains leave, and we’re always glad to see them return the following June because they lend relief to the stuffiness of April and May. It’s also great to see winter skedaddle.

      With rare exceptions, the best month here, weatherwise, is November. Hard to top November. I do love November.

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  7. Sr. Felipe, I know you write about many important topics, but according to the New York Times there is a tortilla crisis in Mexico.

    I’d have thought you’d be all over this.

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    1. Creigh: Well, that’s interesting. Thanks. I imagine, however, the fight to save the traditional tortilla will go about as well as the fight to save buggy whips. The only thing that would save it is government intervention, and I’m not fond of that. Things change. People change. Tastes change.

      In the meantime, I do enjoy blue-corn tortillas in these parts when I see them, which is not often.

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  8. The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.
    — Mark Twain

    The thing that puzzles me about your winter kvetching is the same thing that puzzles both you and me about Steve Cotton. Namely, why you don’t do something about it? Like you have those heaters, but then are loathe to use them. Quite mysterious.

    All that said, have you ever heard of Wim Hof? He’s a Dutchman who is famous for his ability to tolerate very cold conditions (like climbing snow-covered mountains in nothing more than shorts and boots), and extremely robust health.

    Here’s a fascinating video about him. You can easily skip the opening where the guy is talking about him. Just skip about the first minute of the video.

    So assuming you continue your (thermal) hairshirt ways, there may be a method to also supercharge your health lurking there.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Redding, CA
    Where we have the pleasure of a super well-insulated house, and a gas-fired furnace and central air-conditioner which keep the temperature constant year-round.

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    1. Kim: Interesting video. That guy’s rather odd, ¿no? I do doubt, however, he climbed Mt. Everest in his skivvies. Maybe part of the way.

      As for me, why don’t I do something about it? I do! I put on heavy clothing and, when it gets particularly unpleasant, we fire up one of the three propane heaters we have here at home. We did that this morning while sitting in the living room after breakfast. It was quite nice. I’m not loathe to use the heaters in the slightest.

      And, of course, this exists about eight weeks, sometimes a bit more, and then everything returns to perfection! There is no ever-perfect world.

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      1. I find when it gets particularly unpleasant and I’m not loathe to use the heaters in the slightest. to be incongruent, especially the “slightest” part. But whatever, right? To each his own.

        While living in CDMX I used to run my oven in the morning with the door open to take the chill out of my apartment. And I wasn’t even slightly hesitant to use it, as I ran it most mornings in February and March. Even if I put on warm clothing, I still need my fingers to be flexible to type with.

        In any case, enjoy your “winter.” By the way, you might consider draining that lovely, lovely birdbath, especially if there’s any risk of it getting colder. I’ve learned the hard way that ice and ceramics don’t mix.

        Saludos!
        KG

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        1. Kim: When the cold gets particularly unpleasant, I light up the heaters. I’m not loathe to use them in the slightest. All makes perfect sense.

          As for the birdbath, it’s been freezing over during the winter for years. No problem. If the water needs to expand, it can do so upward.

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  9. It seems weird to me to think of Mexico being cold. We were just there, and it was hot as blazes (Yucatan). I understand you don’t like the heat, but it sounds a bit rough where you are at the moment. Even on the west coast of Canada we’re not freezing yet. Oh, right. We have a thermostat. Wonderful invention. After living for 25 winters having to use wood heat, this is luxury. I’ll try to send you a little leftover heat from our apartment. It’s free! Have a very merry Christmas with your child bride and stay as warm as possible.

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    1. Brent: Many people have no idea that it can get very cold in Mexico. Of course, it depends 100 percent on what part of Mexico. The deciding factor is altitude. We sit at 7,200 feet above sea level. That trumps latitude. And for the cold, as mentioned, it lasts generally about eight-to-ten weeks a year, leaving about 42 weeks of lovely weather most of the time. After sweating my backside off for most of my life in the southeastern U.S., I’ll take my environment here every time.

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