Jorge said that I could go shopping for tiles.
It was like the gunfire at the beginning of a race, the one I had been waiting for since the first day we drew chalk in the dirt.
Go buy tiles! In Mexico!!!
Yeah, baby. I was READY.
With the direction to a tile shop an hour away, off I went, ready to pick between boxes and boxes of hand-rolled, hand-fired and hand-painted tiles. Just the way I had dreamed of.
I drove out of the jungle road and under its still miraculously green canopy, and through the next town.
Because I had wanted to for over a year, I made a stop at a roadside store in front of which sit enormous creations made of twigs. ENORMOUS. I had wondered if they were as big as they looked, and I had wondered how much they cost. It was time to find out.
Hand-made of twigs and upon closer inspection, rebars, these chairs/beds/lamps and more were even more beautiful close-up. These beautiful, unusual objects asking for reverence, I stepped into the outdoor, tarp-covered store as into a church.
In the back, I found Reginaldo creating yet one more piece of magic. We talked for a while, he showed me a hanging bed he and his boss had been working on, said that he could create whatever I wanted.
I wanted the hanging nest and I wanted to build a second story just so that I could hang it there and fall asleep swinging from its womb while being watched over by the jungle. I wanted everyone I love to spend a night in it.
Given that the cost of the hanging bed is about 50% more than building a real bedroom, I am going to wait and ponder this for a while. Not dismissing. Pondering. Filing.
I walked out of the workshop/store filled once more with the awe I feel when in the presence of artists and artisans who excel at their craft. It always hugs a deep place inside of me.
It was time to find my tiles and the beauty within them.
I made the required U-turn (still not 100% sure how to navigate these) and parked my super dusty Mitsu in front of a not-so-quaint store. A few steps up and I was in the middle of a squeaky clean showroom full of toilets and sinks, very Home Depot like.
Three women were sitting around a desk and barely looked up when I entered. Not seeing any tiles, I asked one of them for the pisos de regadera and was reluctantly shown a wall of very uninspiring samples.
I was super bummed.
Essence mismatch!!! I wanted to scream. Who the heck is trying to take my dream away??
Instead I called Jorge and asked him where else I could go, given that these here tiles were quite feas, ugly.
Always calm, he gave me the directions to another store and once I got there I was told that this store had closed a year ago.
No way. I may have been waiting ten years for this day. Whether I was aware of it or not, I may have been waiting a decade for the invitation to go-buy-tiles-for-your-house-in-Mexico. And now, this? No way.
Time to get serious and grab a bit of independence.
Enters Señor Google.
With less than three clicks, I have the address of an "azulejos" store. A place where they would surely have the boxes and boxes of hand-rolled, hand-fired and hand painted tiles I had dreamed of. And it turns out, less than 15 minutes away.
I park in front of a store that looks just right to me. A little dusty, a big ceramic sign outside wooden doors. Closed wooden doors. The store is closed.
But there is a phone number. Hand painted beautifully on an oval ceramic tile, bordered with the classic shade of blue that often graces these tiles, there is a number. Which I call, holding very little hope that someone is going to pick up. But they do! He does. The owner of the store picks up the phone, says something about his secretary having had to leave town due to an emergency, and tells me that the will be over in 15 minutes.
YAY! Of course, I have been here long enough to be sceptical about his secretary even existing or him arriving within 15 minutes. But it is possible that he will arrive within half an hour to an hour and so I decide to wait.
Because dang... Azulejos.
Azulejos is an Arabic word and while these hand painted tiles are predominently used in Spain and Portugal, I love love love them and I am ready to share my home with a whole bunch of them.
When I see the gentleman arrive I am almost disbelieving that he going to let me in.
He is kind and helpful as he opens the door and ushers me into his sanctuary. Tiles everywhere. Exquisite tiles. The kind that make me want to touch them and smell them and take them home with me.
I tell him what I need. I tell him how many I need. I tell him the budget Jorge sent me with.
And he tells me that these tiles are going to cost about ten times my budget.
I am not surprised. Jorge knew what he was doing when he sent me to "the ugly store." Our agreement from the start was that he would build me this house for under $25,000. While we have agreed to add a few touches here and there (my goodness I am so glad I splurged for the brick ceiling and the extra 2 meters for the studio), we are both very aware of the budget. And it does not include Azulejos all over the bathroom.
It's ok. I have years of experience in doing alchemy with budgets. I am the Queen of Money Pirouettes and this would not be the first time I would create beauty out of pesos.
I will just get a few accent pieces! is my solution, as I start devouring the walls of samples, hoping to pick out a dozen of this one and a dozen of that one.
Except it does not work like this. Azulejos come in cases. Cases of tiles which are not exactly the same but definitely born from the same hands. Cases which I can't afford at this time.
But like I say... pirouettes. Where is the sweet spot between the deep pleasure of having these gems in my home and staying on budget?
That's when the gentleman shows me a little room to the side, a little room I immediately decide is a secret room. Just for me and for other Alchemists-Pirouette-Makers. There, on the floor, are several boxes of mismatched tiles. Small ones, tiny ones, oddly shaped ones. It's like the puppy shelter of Azulejos. The dejected, the not-quite-normal, the leftovers, the lost ones, the wanderers, the expats.
I immediately feel at home in the secret room and I ask the gentleman to please give me some time as I look through it all.
As he leaves, I crouch down and settle in. Solitude always helps me connect better. Funny sentence, I guess.
I spent a good long time in the secret room. I touched many tiles with my eyes, my fingers, and with my cheeks. I tried to imagine the hands that made them. Wondered where their families were. And wondered which ones would become part of mine.
After a good while, I walked into the main room holding twenty turquoise tiles, deliciously shaped. And six or seven tiny ones for the kitchen. Precious, all of them.
The gentleman smiled and nodded his approval. Then he wrapped them very carefully and taught me how to transport them. They must always stand, never sit, he said.
To make sure I didn't mess up he followed me to my car and watched me set them gently under my seat. Then he shook my hand and invited me to come back anytime.
I had spent forty dollars. And learned to add a little extra budget for tiles for the next house.
The next house? Yeah... I think this may just be the beginning of an unlikely chapter.