Friday, February 19, 2016

Setting Up House

 The first week we were there, it rained every day.  But never all day.  Just long enough to overwhelm the sewer system and then disappear for a lovely sunset.

Meanwhile, we set about unpacking, finding groceries and navigating our way around our neighbourhood on foot or by taxi.  Our home was simple and fairly humble by some standards, but had all the necessities.  After 3 days of cold showers and boiling water on the stove to get it hot enough to wash dishes, someone told me about the magical hot water switch in an obscure location in one of the bathrooms!  There is no luxury like a warm shower even if the tank only allows you approximately 3.5 minutes to lather up and get fresh.

The furniture is solid wood.  Not fancy, but so sturdy and solid that IKEA should be blushing.  Here was one of our first simple breakfasts, sliced 'piƱa miel' aka honey pineapple, so good and juicy that it dripped down your chin.

I hated the decorations in our rented house!  So the very first day I removed every last dusty sequinned sombrero, cast iron smiling sun gods and distorted paintings of Haitian women in Browns and beiges.  (Who decorated this place??) I tucked all the offending artwork behind the couches and proceeded to wallpaper our dining area with all the drawings and art the kids and I produced while we were there, stuck up with washi tape.  And felt very satisfied with myself.  Don't worry, I returned things to the way they were before we left!

One thing that was hard to not feel weird about, was the outside security door.  Heavy cast iron bars like a jail cell, with an outside padlock you had to reach through the bars to unlock.  You always worried a little about misplacing the padlock key, or what if there was a fire in the night... There was a solid inner door too, but we left it open all day to benefit from the sunshine and fresh air.  Besides, I liked seeing all my neighbors walk and bike by every morning to school, work, marketing, etc.

We had a little inner courtyard with no outside access consisting of a laundry sink and hose, washer, dryer, and web of clothes lines.  What a treat not to have to lug everything to a laundromat as often as I needed to do laundry!
The noise levels were really difficult for us to adapt to.  Barking dogs, roosters as early as 3 am, loud conversations just inches from your open window, the garbage truck doing its daily rounds, karaoke from 3 blocks away,  motorcycles without mufflers, firecrackers, intermittent and rusted out water pumps... And that was just the noises of the darkness!  In the daytime any of those things could be going on, but there was also the other traffic that we did get used to. 

The singsong call "Zeta, Zeta, Zeta Gas!" as the propane trucks made their slow rounds of the city.  The employee bus transporting workers to the hotel zone.  Two or three times a day you might hear a repetitive beeping of a truck horn.  Run to get your empty blue water jug, find the key and wrestle with the door padlock before they passed.  Most times I caught them, and for about the equivalent of $1.50-2.00 depending on how they sized up your savviness, they would hoist a jug off the truck (or back of a bike cart) and trade for your empty.  If I asked nicely, they would even bring it to the kitchen, cut off the seal and heave it upside down on the dispenser for me.  

Food was simple.  Fruit and/or cereal in the morning, the for lunch often we would walk the three blocks to the pollo roaster.  Marinated in lime and pineapple juices and slow roasted over a charcoal fire.  For 10 pesos (estimated $7.50 CDN?) you got a cut up whole roasted chicken, with baggies of fresh coleslaw, chicken soup, rice, tomato sauce covered spaghetti, and two kinds of chilli sauce.  Half a kilo of warm corn tortillas was 7 pesos more.  That made at least two solid family meals, but we got tired of it more often than twice a week.

And of course, our first full day there was meeting night!  So many friendly new faces to meet.  

To be continued...