Whew. So much time has passed. I think this is the longest I have been without writing for decades.
I got to the US on July 4th, pup and cat with me. Before leaving I had taken a huge gulp of Mexico and as always, my heart squeezed when getting on the plane. I did not want to go and I sure did not want to stay long. Long enough to sell my house up there (up here) and come back.
And then, Life did its thing. Again. It surprised the heck out of me.
I landed, made my way to my house and ... fell in love.
I fell in love with my little home, with the Comfort, the Ease, the freshness of the cooler air.
Every time I turned on the hot water, I wanted to tell someone: It works!!! I couldn't take enough baths the first couple of weeks. Don't even get me started on the dishwasher.
My little cottage, the one I was here to sell, was enchanting me all over again.
And so, I let myself get enchanted by it. Lila and Tiji were too.
Day after day my kids and I loved it and got loved by it. We gathered, laughed, cooked, ate and celebrated. I barely left the house other than to take walks with my pup.
I asked for guidance as to how to part with it while still loving it and still enjoying it every minute with it. Of course, guidance showed up beautifully and thanks to the kindness of the new owners, I get to be here long enough to see the leaves change color. It's a gift.
Meanwhile, Casa Sama is humming along. I get photos, I get texts and I am mostly at peace with the progress.
BIG BIG HUGE thing happened a couple of days before I left and boy did I not see that one coming: talking with Ricardo (the electrician) I happened to mention how I had been trying so hard to get electricity to the house before resorting to the solar panels. He listened and then he casually said: "I think I can get you electricity. Give me 24 hours to confirm."
WHAT???? After all these months, after talking with so many people and making my way to the CFE multiple times, he thinks he can get me electricity??
And guess what? HE COULD . And he has. The day he sent me the video of plugging his power drill at the house, I screamed all the way down the very quiet street of this little island.
Of course, it was so easy to go down the road of "why did I meet him so late in the game?" and I right away decided to not do this to myself. Because if I do, oh boy... there are many many things I am going to wish I had done differently in the beginning. Many. But I didn't and here we are.
I am here is the US, slowly ushering a home back into a house while on the other side of the world, a house is being finished so that I may turn it into a home. It's a strange process, I feel it deeply.
I think Casa Sama is going to be super sweet and beautiful. Rigo and his team have put in a tile floor (there was no way to salvage the initial mess) in the main room and redone the patio. They fixed the shower, too. SO PRETTY.
Once they finished fixing things, they started beautifying.
Last touch will be the paint.
And oh... Casa Sama is getting a baby. Because I love when people I love come visit me, we are building a small rustic extra room in the garden. Approximately 8X10 feet, (but man it looks smaller in the photos...) it is going to be so great to have that space to lend out, I am super excited about this.
I cannot say that I am 100% trusting that I will get there and all will be well because somewhere along the way, in the last year or so, I have lost this wide open naivete. Good or bad, I don't know and it doesn't really matter. In some ways, not much would surprise me. But also, I choose to trust, even though I now know how trusting can turn out.
Because how else are we going to greet the morning, each day?
So... off we go. Lovingly emptying this home and talking with the makers of that other home.
In a few weeks I will gently close the door to one and get on the plane towards the other.
Time is moving fast and I am going to the US on Sunday.
So much has happened and I am in awe once again of the power of letting go.
My son and his love made it here a few days later.
I finally met the judge and got the banner off the house.
AND a friend mentioned a building crew a friend of ours had been working with and that he was super happy with them.
I contacted them and during our first meeting I was assured that all of this could be fixed. A team from a different state, totally different energy and they went straight to work.
We are crafting a plan in these stages:
- make sure the house is not further damaged: FIX THE ROOF immediately.
- make sure the house "works" (plumbing, electric, gas etc...)
- make sure the house is pretty (so many things to fix, I have to stay focused so I don't slide backwards)
The first week, the roof got healed and while it cost a lot of money (that I had already paid to the first crew), it is shocking to see the difference. Incredible, actually. The original roof was full of dips and valleys, and was ... get ready for this... draining in the direction opposite the gutters.
This one looks like an ice skating rink.
These discoveries have showed up over and over again and I am doing my best to not go backwards in my head, but rather to go forward. SO MANY things to fix - and they are all getting fixed, one by one.
The first day that it rained hard and the house was totally dry, I felt something re-open in me. Hope, I think.
The welder came and installed the beautiful iron doors and windows. And ... did not do a great job of installing them. I am not going to make a list of the ways that I cringed but I will say that there is some spray paint on my brand new bedroom floor. I told him we would finish without him.
Ibis, who has been making my wooden frames for my Hearts for the last year made me a rustic pine door with a beautifully rounded top.
I am paying attention to what happened, to the times when I knew something was not quite right but also something in me - a dysfunctional brand of loyalty, I think - couldn't take action. I am learning, I am hurting as I am learning.
But also, I feel darn lucky. This lesson has been expensive and hard but I think it is leaving me transformed in a way that is crucial.
My kids were kind enough to plant the garden for me and my goodness, that is so delicious. Just in time for the sky to water each and every plant for many weeks. Banana trees, passion fruit, wild ginger, gardenias, palms and more. It is beautiful.
And now, because Life likes to not always happen according to plans, I am getting ready to leave this house before I even spend one night in it. That's weird. It's weird that I won't be here to guide the passion fruit plant up on its arbor. It's weird that ... well, all of it.
But it's wonderful also.
I am leaving it in good hands and some more work will get done while I am gone. I know I will get photos, too.
And then when I return, we will put the solar panels up. And then, maybe then, Casa Sama and I will spend some quality time together.
We will have earned it.
Meanwhile, we could not build.
And somewhere now, I am losing track of the chronology of events.
The next day, I called The Tall Man and he scolded me for not waiting two days. "I'll tell you when it's ready" he said. I wasn't surprised, I had gotten the idea of his ways. The weekend was coming and I would have to wait till Monday. The rain might not wait but I would have to.
And my team was messing up left and right. It is too painful to recall how fast things went down and how I could see my house being mistreated. One day I am going to write a book about "defining moments," these instants when clarity shows up and we have to make a turn. Mine was on its way.
The brand new patio floor looked like something that had been there for years and had some semi trucks drive over it regularly. The little storage shed on the roof was crooked, everywhere I looked things were off. I felt as though I was fighting a battle at every corner and things which I had overlooked for weeks suddenly were catching up to me. I was tired. I had no more patience for the mess of the construction site, the excusing this and that which I had been doing was gone. I had no more room for the excuses that had been given me for the last weeks, either.
Then the rain came.
And my house turned into a swimming pool.
The Defining Moment.
I walked in and the walls were weeping, the floors were soaked. Little and less little pools of water coming from the ceiling.
I felt numb. I walked around in circles, trying to breathe, to find The Gift.
The Gift walked in a couple of minutes later. One of my neighbors. I think he saw the wild in my eyes, the giving up too.
He touched my arm in an uncharacteristic show of kindness (believe me this is not Pleasantville and this is a rather tough crowd) and said: "Laura, your house is almost done." Then: "Everything has a solution."
Ok, everything has a solution. My eyes on the calendar, I knew my kids were arriving the next night. That together we would find that solution. I could hang on another twenty four hours.
But I also knew that the time had come to let go of this team. Of Jorge. My house was a swimming pool and if there was a solution, it had to come from another direction. I could no longer do this.
I let him know. I hoped he would heal his shoulder while I healed my house. He thanked me. I think we both knew if was right.
I picked up a mop and started cleaning up. My girlfriend came to help me.
A bit later, as we were ready to leave, a brief text arrived and I learned that my kids would not be getting here the next night but that instead, I might have to fly to them and try to get them home. Something about a bus at the border of Guatemala, an immigration raid.
That part is their story and not mine to tell. But that day, it felt like a lot.
At the big office, I waited my turn. I had waited there before, for my residency interview, then for my residency card.
It is a comfortable office with nice bathroom and a good coffee shop downstairs. It could have been in Seattle actually and on that day, I appreciated that, I needed that.
Waiting for my turn I felt my thoughts turning the wrong direction. Would this ever end? Was I too small for this big task? Days before I had been shoveling mountains of dried waste up and down the field. My team - while lovely - seemed to be performing less and less well. Things were not up to par, in this later phase of the building. I was tired. And now I could not build. And also... it was hard to believe that I was being fined - and closed - while the sewer plant continued its illegal dumping.
I knew this way of thinking would lead me nowhere good. I knew I was past the turning point. I knew I had to stay on my chair and do the next step. Then the next one.
My turn came and I was called to the counter to explain my story. The really nice gentleman listened carefully and asked about my land title. I had not anticipated that but thankfully I had a photo of it on my phone. As well as a photo of the long contract my lawyer had drawn back in February. He looked at it a while and then looked in my eyes and told me that this contract was not sufficient for me to apply for permits in my name. That the person who sold me the land would have to apply on my behalf. That it could get complicated.
I felt my will go soft as the doors of possibility started to shrink.
"Entonces, que voy a hacer?" I asked him, so very very sincerely. "What am I going to do?"
Please guide me sir, I am about to give up. I think he heard these last words which I only said in the quiet of my mind.
He took a quiet few seconds and said: "I'll be right back."
And he was right back.
With a yellow sticky note and a phone number.
"Call this man and he will help you."
I didn't wait. From the waiting room, I texted the number. And the man on the other side texted right back. He asked how he could help me, he told me he was in a meeting but to explain my situation to him. Which I did. We texted back and forth and he suggested I go home and that we would be in touch.
Because I have been here long enough to be cautious, I searched his name online and learned that he was a very well known architect and something else... maybe lawyer? In the midst of all this swirl of complication, I had been handed a guide.
I did not feel quite so alone as I drove home.
So much to say.
So many lessons.
I feel as though the building of this house has speed-brought me to me. To the grown up me. I feel as though these last four months have peeled off old layers (some of them not quite ready to go and therefore a bit painfully) and here I am on the other side: a little raw, a little fresh, a lot altered.
The morning after the banner went up on my house and on several houses in the neighborhood, I drove an hour and a half to the municipal office, where I was to meet the judge. It was a quiet town, pleasant and still waking up as I made sure to arrive early in case there would be a wait.
A guard in front of the big wooden door. He let me in to the cool waiting room where a lady sat behind a desk. I handed her my paper and told her that I was here to see the judge. The lady judge, in fact.
I felt ready to plead my case. To explain that I had been assured several times that no permits were needed "because we did not have access to services." That I had now learned that this was not the case, that I was so very close to finishing my house, and that the rain was coming any day now and could we please please install the doors? That I was sorry, too.
And I was sorry.
I did not like having broken a law, "taken" something without the right protocol. It felt arrogant on my part.
The lady took my paper, looked at it, confirmed that I was here to see "the jueza," and to please sit down.
I really had to pee but there was no way I was risking missing my interview, or whatever this was going to be.
So I sat there, knowing it could be a long time. I would squirm for as a long as was needed.
But within minutes the door opened and a very tall man ushered me into the office where I assumed I would meet her, the special judge who would decide my fate.
Of course, that's not how it happened.
Instead, he had me sit on a chair in front of him, while he remained standing, towering over me. Asked me for the paper again.
I soon realized he was it. No lady judge, just this man who consciously or not was determined to point out how big he was - and how small I was. I could deal with that.
I took a breath and started to explain: the not knowing, the rain, the windows, the being sorry.
He never acknowledged any of it. Instead he took a photocopy of my residency card, kept the paper and said that he would talk with the judge and would let me know her decision in the next two days. That I would then have to go to another office, in another town (the town where I had received my residency card) and get all my permits in order.
I asked if I could do this today and he nodded.
I asked if he could please make me a copy of the paper. He said his copy machine only made copies of IDs. He said I could take a photo if I wanted. I wanted. Then gave me his phone number so I could check in with him.
Out the big wooden door I went, no paper, no resolution except my own resolution to do whatever I could to get this big banner off my house as soon as possible.
I got in the car and headed away from home, towards that big office where things happen - and where I remember them having decent carrot cake.
The sun was mild, the immediate muck out of the way and my bed base had arrived. It felt a little unreal to see the bed knowing what I knew. Would I want to sleep here? But I took a brush and started varnishing, one stroke at a time.
I talked with a few neighbors, continued a conversation I had started on Sunday with the Delegado and another important person whose name I had been given (pretty amazing that they had gotten back to me on a Sunday). A bit of momentum was built and there were talks of going together on Friday to meet "La Presidenta." I know better now then to believe this will happen, and I don't want to go alone, so ... we'll see,
I went home for lunch and as was making my way back, Jorge called me and said "don't come back now, the government people are here and they are asking to see permits?"
I had seen their car earlier and had noticed that they were talking to another building crew, across the way.
I decided to go and talk with them. Clandestine was not a word I had liked and I was not going to hide.
So I did.
Two people, a man and a woman. Whose job is to find the people who are building without permits and remedy that.
How they found their way to our little corner of the countryside, I may never know. Did they get tipped off by the man I talked with on FB? Or rather, were they part of this big overall crazy plan I am on? I don't know and it matters little.
What matters is that we talked a lot, the lady and I. And that as she explained (she was super nice) to me that yes, I needed permits she also went to see the water plant and said that she would write a report on that.
Then she said that I was going to have to go talk with a judge within three days, and pay a fine. BEFORE I COULD KEEP BUILDING. Yikes.
As she said that, her partner was unrolling an official banner, the same that I could see the construction neighbors down the street suddenly had on their site. CLAUSURADO, it said in big letters. CLOSED.
Pretty much exactly the banner I had been visualizing on the water treatment plant. CLOSED. But, no. there it was, on my house.
No more work till I see the judge and pay the fine.
Of course, I see the irony. Here I am being fined, a few feet from this entity who is dumping toxic waste night and day and getting away with it. I digress.
This is my path, and maybe this is what needs to happen for me to heal this. Or maybe this is all bullshit and no amount of beautiful flooring will ever make this ok.
I don't know.
I don't freaking know.
But this morning I am headed to the judge's office and see what's next.
I let that conversation live alongside me for a day.
I thought about the water situation and felt that it could only be healed through spirituality. This was too big for reason, conversation, pleading. Not here, not in this country I don't think. So, spirituality. Where to start?
I asked. I implored. And I started cleaning up.
It was cloudy out and I didn't want to let the sun's heat dance with this semi dried up mud so close to my house.
I grabbed a wheelbarrow and started shoveling the dark clay. Funny thing is, it was actually kind of pretty. Curling shapes of shiny black lifting easily from the dirt. Had I not known what it was, I could have thought I was carrying magical clay.
But I wasn't. Masked, with my sombrero and rubber boots, I must have looked crazy and I fear that maybe I was.
MUST GET STUFF AWAY FROM HOUSE.
MUST STOP THE FLOW.
The first one was exhausting but easy, the second... I am not so sure.
And because I believe in "Praying While I Move My Feet," I kept that wheelbarrow moving.
And asked to be guided.
Back home, I contacted a couple of people, asking for advice. People I knew, people I didn't know.
On FB, I read a gentleman's empassioned post about the local environment. I thought maybe he would care about that was going on. Maybe he could help.
I reached out to him. I explained.
His question came at me unexpected: "Do you have a permit to build your house?"
What?? That's not the point! I am talking about what these guys are doing! These OTHER guys! Not me!
"No, I don't" I answered. Because... I don't.
Before buying the land, back in February, I had asked the seller if I would need permits to build. He told me that I did not. Before we started building, I asked Jorge if we did. He said we didn't. Both said that because of where the land was, and because we were not getting services like electricity, water and sewage, we did not need permit. I was happy to believe them and off we went.
"You don't??" asked the gentleman-who-was-supposed-to-be-outraged-by-what-OTHER-people-were-doing?"
"I don't," I repeated. Then I explained why.
"How do you think this town can grow if there are clandestine houses being built?"
This was not going well, I did not like to think of my house - or anything I do - as clandestine.
Also, I was profoundly aware that something was happening inside of me, just as I was typing words to this man on my computer. Something big and very unpleasant.
I thanked him for having pointed me in this direction and I went for a walk.
I felt sick. I knew I had just been served something I could not ignore. I knew that the only way out of it was going to be through it.
Clandestine. That's exactly what I had been accusing the water plant of doing. Clandestine shit. Illegal stuff. And it turns out, this was exactly what I had been doing.
Not knowing, Not abusing anyone else's property. but still doing. I had helped myself to something without using the proper channels. Clandestine.
Whew. That felt pretty darn heavy and terrible.
I asked for forgiveness, I asked to be guided. and I hoped that maybe, maybe this humbleness would suffice.
The next morning brought on a bit more humility.
I woke up to the smell of rain.
I have been dreading its arrival, me who loves it so much.
I have been dreading it because the house is still missing its doors, windows and skylights.
But also, maybe mostly, because I feel that I am not ready to let in its intensity right now.
Because THERE HAS BEEN SO MUCH.
It has become painfully clear that there are some high levels of lack of competence with the work being done. It is early in the morning and I have a big day ahead (as I will talk about in a bit) and so I don't want to start it with an ugly list but let's just say that starting the Saturday before last, this reality has come to the surface and has not left.
It means many conversations, Jorge firing half the crew - even though I have a different opinion about what the root problem is - and an overall exhausting situation. His shoulder hurts, there are money gaps that need to be filled and I am learning dizzy fast the ways in which I should have done things differently.
I am lucky enough (still guided, I believe) to be able to connect with "plan Bs" left and right but man oh man, what a ride. Every day I talk with new people, learn, pivot, re-hire, advocate for myself and my house, keep going and stay at it. Through disappointments and an over abundance of over-promising and under-delivering.
And then, there was last weekend.
Last weekend was the first time in over twenty years that I wished I was married, partnered or otherwise "not going at it alone."
The thought (it was more of a feeling) washed over me as I was pushing a wheelbarrow full of dried up terrible muck across the field in mid-day sun - for the third time.
The water "treatment" plant.
It's been a bit of a nightmare. While there seemed to be some progress, along with again, promises, there are zero results. Bottom line is that black water is being dumped, untreated and by the gallon, very close to my house. I had not seen the actual hose until last week and good god, is this ever an ugly situation. BAD. Illegal. And because we are where we are, possibly impossible to tackle.
Sunday morning I came by to check on things and saw that the waters had almost reached my house. Swirling with black grossness, there it was. My house the only thing in the way of it running downhill to god knows where.
I was so upset and feeling helpless that I knew I had to take some distance. My friend and I went to the beach and the pelicans, happy children and a couple of ice creams helped.
I have been working so hard on advocating for this and that and this again INSIDE the house, and now, this ... attack. I almost wanted to run away. Give up. Forget the whole thing.
I did some writing, tried to find some grounding, reminded myself that this was just a house, an expenditure of time and money. My kids were fine, the birds were still singing.
A bit of Clarity came my way about "the next right step" and I postponed the installation of the solar panels, canceled the palaparo.
Meanwhile inside, two beautiful handmade counters were being built out of polished concrete, and the bedroom floor was drying from a magical looking treatment (which I have learned to do). I was grateful to have been able to connect with people who could do this.
But in a way, it felt a bit like madness or delusion to be doing all of this, in such a hostile environment. Lipstick on a pig came to mind so many times.
Monday morning I arrived to find most of the black waters dried up and someone mentioned something about "you thought you wanted to move to the country but it looks more like Iraq."
Minutes later, I was buying a pineapple enpenada from the man on the corner and he asked me how I was. That's when the tears inconveniently started to flow. Darn.
I needed help. This was too much. Just too freaking much. In a way it still is.
The last couple of weeks have been tough when it comes to this project and in addition to not having much time to write, I am conserving my energy, staying focused.
The cliff notes are a blend of finishing goof-ups and the water treatment plant acting up.
I am trying to tackle things as they come, stay out of emotions, and give myself some good care like early sleep and a half day off here and there.
We are at the finish line, we are. But it's no piece of cake, right now.
And then, in the big scope of things the way I hear about them in the news, none of it is really a big deal.