Thursday, January 3, 2008

Wilma 28

entrance to Hotel Nabalam on North Beach

After awhile, time seemed to stand still for us. There really wasn't much for us to do. Except clean the house every day several times!

The house next door to us had been bought by a fellow American and construction had started in late September. Or should I say destruction. When all was said and done, this guy built a two story rental building on the back of the lot with identical small units up and down. Then there is a small courtyard and his three story house in front. Of course, we now have totally lost our view to the north and instead of the beautiful ocean view, we get to look at walls. No matter. We knew that someday somebody would build there.

As soon as possible after Wilma, construction started up again on this monstrosity. While one crew worked on building the back building, another crew worked on tearing down the existing house in the front. And they did it all by hand, using a sledge hammer! So every day we got to listen to the pound, pound, pound of a sledge hammer against cement. Delightful. We tried to be out of the house as much as possible, but there really wasn't anywhere to go or anything much to do. Except maybe go to the beach. And it was really making a mess of our house. Cement dust coming in our open windows and covering everything with a fine, cement coating. It was awful trying to keep it off the furniture and it was a nightmare on the tile floors.

We could not use water at first so mopping was out of the question. We could only sweep until it felt like our arms were going to fall off! We ended up having to put up with this construction (what went on alone would make a ten chapter story in itself!!!) for a total of nine months. Guess it takes as long to build a house as it does to have a baby!

I did have one great adventure during this time. I was in the grocery store downtown and ran into a friend of ours, Adriana. She was also the architect for our cabana. She now is the city planner for the island. The mayor put her in charge of cleaning up downtown and using up the federal money we received for that purpose. She had organized a group of employees from her office to repaint the entire downtown area. Every building that wanted a fresh coat of paint got one for free. And she was looking for volunteers! Since I love to paint (not art stuff, but rather walls!), this was right up my alley. I immediately signed on to help and agreed to meet her and the crew the next morning.

Typically, I was at the rendezvous spot at the appointed hour of 9 am. I waited for everybody, anybody, to show up. Adriana finally got there at 9:30 and the crew came barreling up in the back of a pick up at 9:45. Introductions were made and we set to work unloading the paint and supplies from yesterday's work. Anybody who has visited here and paid any attention to most of the paint jobs knows that attention to detail is not a better point here. They just don't see the need to do careful edge work or even to follow a straight line. Just get some color on that surface! And don't worry about spills or splatters. They are a necessary part of any good paint job and are not important enough to bother cleaning up. I was to learn a lot about the rules of painting in Mexico that day!

So I was told to grab a brush out of the bucket over there, pick out a color and start painting. I chose blue and yellow since that was the color the owner of the building I was to paint wanted. I went over to the five gallon bucket to get a brush. Except I didn't see any. I was standing there, looking into a bucket full of dirty water that had evidently been used to soak brushes and rollers, when another worker came up. He reached down into the murky water, fished around and pulled out a brush! Then he reached back in and found another one and gave it to me. I was flabbergasted. None of the brushes from the day before had been cleaned. They just throw them in that bucket of water at night to soak. So I walked to the curb and started shaking my 5 inch brush, swinging it back and forth and slapping it on the curb, trying to get as much water out as possible. It was going to be a long day!

So I set to work. I grabbed my bucket of paint, got on the stepladder and dipped in my brush. Of course, as soon as I lifted it up to paint, wet, watery paint ran down my hand and arm. I was soon covered in paint but that was ok. I looked like everybody else on the team! While I was on the ladder, I looked down when somebody said "Hello, what are you doing??" to me in English. It was a woman we know who has lived on the island now for nine years. I cheerfully told her I was doing my share of community service. She wanted to know what I had done wrong, that I was sentenced to serve on the paint chain gang! I explained that I was a volunteer, just trying to help Isla look better and at the same time it was my way of saying thank you to a great community. She could not understand why I would do this. I told her that they were looking for more volunteers and, since she was an island resident, she should think about helping. She made several excuses as to why she could not help and then scurried away. No great loss.

But not only did I have a great day and a great adventure and education, I also met some very nice people. Some of whom I even still speak to! And it was just so satisfying to have the shop keepers and restaurant owners say thank you to all of us. And the downtown area looked great when the painting was all done. It really made for a lifting of spirits, just to see everything fresh, clean and bright!

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