Sunday, September 1, 2013

Life in Guanajuato – August, 2013

We’ve been in Guanajuato for a month and have been so busy that we haven’t been able to focus on blogging about it.  And now, because that’s the way with procrastination, we have so much to blog about it’s hard to know where to begin!  So we’re going to eat this elephant the way we’ve been told one should - a bite at a time.  In this post we’re going to talk about the adventure of day-to-day living in Guanajuato.  Our experience here is very different from life in El Norte, different still from life on Abracadabra and in some ways different from life in other towns in Mexico because of the unique hill-side topography of Guanajuato.

Our House: 
Guanajuato is built in a small crescent-shaped valley and on the surrounding hills. 

Guanajuato's Hills
Our rented home is a one-bedroom casita within the historic center of the town, snuggled into the corner of two of the tiny callejones (alleyways) that wind up one of the hills.  The house is of traditional construction – stucco over thick concrete or adobe walls.  It’s “curb appeal” is all in the color of the stucco and the ironwork in front of the few windows that face the callejones.  No landscaping is wasted on the general public. 

Bryce At Our Front Door
The house’s intimidating metal door (that locks with an even more intimidating looking padlock) opens into a lovely patio overseen by a funny little band of plaster skeleton musicians.  The patio is covered by large sheets of hard plastic that filter the sun and shelter the entry from the rain.

Our Entry Hall (Front Door To Right)
The living room, kitchen/dining room and bathroom open onto this patio.  The patio also leads to a lovely back garden. 

Kitchen - With Everything We Need 

Living Room (With Well Stocked Book Shelf!)

Back Garden
The bedroom is behind the living room, and doesn’t open onto the patio. Because the house is built on a hill, our bedroom windows are a floor above the street. 

The house has a very open indoor/outdoor feel about it, which is very peasant in the summer – even in the rain.  Because there is a lot of rain in Guanajuato during the summer we’ve learned that light rain on the plastic roof of the patio sounds really cozy and that a heavy rain on that same roof sounds like the house is inside a big drum!  As a friend once said about another noisy situation:  “That’s why God invented ear plugs.”  God's invention has also come in handy on the occasional early morning when the local student population (Guanajuato is home to a large university) has walked up the hill below our bedroom windows on their way home from the bars!

The back garden is not only ornamental – it is where the “washer and dryer” are located: two buckets and a clothes line strung up under the eaves.  Molly’s bucket-washing skills have been put to use for shirts and unders.  We march jeans, sheets, towels and socks down the hill to the lavanderia (known in San Francisco as the “fluff and fold”) and when washed, dried and paid for (about $13 USD per week) Bryce marches them back up.  Molly figures that her bucket washing and line drying efforts are enough to warrant a pass on carrying the clean clothes up the hill . . .

More About The Hill: 
Chalico 27 (our address) is about three U.S. blocks up a series of stone-paved callejones that rise at a 30-ish degree grade above the center of town.  These callejones are too narrow for any motorized transportation.  [We’ve seen the occasional gravity-fed motorcycle going down the hill, but never one with its engine running.  Apparently even motorcycle riders are able to imagine the likely results of a mishap on a stone alley lined with stucco houses.]  Everything that goes up or down the hill must be carried by person or beast, or rolled on a cart that can handle the grade and the stones.  Burros are the preferred mode of transport for construction materials, and we often hear them clip-clopping by our bedroom windows in the morning and evening.  Most everything else is carried by humans.
Up The Stairs To The Right to Tecalote

Then Up Tecalote - The Second Callejon Home
(For Chalico,Turn Right At the Orange House Across From The Blue House) 

Add to this challenge the fact that Guanajuato is located at about 7,000 feet of altitude.  Think: San Francisco + Denver.  We will confess that it took us almost two weeks to be able to walk home from town without stopping to catch our breath!  Our only defense is that as sailors – we usually live at sea level.

This walk/climb makes many daily life activities more challenging than in other towns.  See above re: laundry.  Likewise, our closest tienda de abbarotes (grocery store – called Ahorramas or “Save More”) is only about four U.S. blocks away – but the hill haul has turned us into daily rather than weekly grocery shoppers.  We challenge you to look in your trunk the next time you return from the grocery store – and think about carrying whatever is there up a 30 degree incline for three blocks. 

Our local trash/garbage tip is also down the hill – about a US block closer than the grocery store.  And no, there are no garbage trucks that come up the callejones (see above re: no motorized transport).  The saving grace about the trek to the trash/garbage tip is that trash/garbage only goes down the hill.  As it comes up, it’s called consumables.

The hill also challenges some of our service providers.  The tap water in Guanajuato is technically potable – but no one drinks it because the chemicals used in the purification process make it taste fairly nasty.  Drinking water is delivered to houses along the callejones in garafones – five gallon plastic jugs.  And those garafones arrive on the shoulders of the water seller.  We usually purchase one or two garafones at a time when we hear the early morning calls of the water salesmen (“Gahrahfoohns!  Agua cee-elll!”).  But Bryce once saw a water seller bringing up four garafones at once (4 x 5 gallons = 20 gallons - ugh).  We hope that the Mexican medical system provides physiotherapy services.

Gas is the other household consumable that is delivered manually along the callejones.  Though the government sells electricity and water, and both are piped/wired directly into each house, gas is still sold by a private enterprise.  Our oven and water heater are fueled from two four-foot high tanks of gas that arrive – yes, on a man’s back.  Early in the morning the cry rings out along the callejón:  “Gaaahhhhhs.  Gaaahhhhs.”  When we need gas, Bryce throws the bolt on the metal front door and flags down the salesman, who then brings a full tank up the hill.

We hope you have found some of our daily life adventures interesting.  Our next posting will be about our Spanish lessons and then we will report in on the cultural happenings (both high and low) in Guanajuato!      

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting break from your sailing adventures! I taught at the American School in Mexico City in 1980-81 and spent a long weekend (we got lots of long weekends) in Guanajuato. I loved it! Birthplace of Diego Rivera, and such fabulous streets. Sounds like a challenge hauling your groceries, but it looks like a lovely apartment. ¡Buen viaje!