Turns out there will be no need for us to invent how to finish the house and dang, that is good news.
All but Anselmo were at work. I was told that a sick child had been the reason for yesterday's abandonment of the ship. I had a list of questions about that (including why did it take two of them to take care of it?) but decided to not let the words past my lips. There is so much I don't understand about the dynamics of it all, so much I want to humble about.
I was there early to get an idea of what the day would look like and offered - in a possibly pushy way - to go get the paint needed for the steel beams so that Jorge may stay on site.
These are the beams that will hold the curved bricks for the ceiling and I am super duper looking forward to seeing how this process happens. The first time I saw a brick ceiling in Mexico, it seemed like a crazy idea to me, albeit a beautiful one. Early on I made the decision to invest a bit of extra money on this and now it is getting close to the time of watching the magic happen.
2000 bricks waiting for their turn to get to work.
Interestingly to me, we had also ordered 2000 blocks.
So yes, 2000 bricks, held in place by 16 heavy steel beams. Which need to be primed, then painted.
Off to the store I went.
There are two paint stores in the village and I am always delighted to visit them, especially the one right by my house where you get to order a plastic cup worth of paint and the thinner comes in rinsed and recycled plastic jug.
I bought the primer and the thinner and because I wanted a custom color for the paint, I headed to the other, more commercial store and had them mix a deep red hue called "Enchilada."
An hour later I was back at the site delivering the goods and letting Jorge know once more to please send me on these errands any time. Really, I think he would rather be running around doing that than working on the house but there was no way I was going to run with a crew of two for the second day in a row. Especially since they seem a bit slippery when he is not around.
The day before, as I was running this electricity question in my mind, I had seen a small car by a gas station, with a phone number and something about solar panels. I had pulled over and called them and we had arranged to meet by the highway at 2:30 so that I may take the owner of the company to the house and hear his thoughts on setting up an independent system.
As I learn more about solar power, I am realizing that there is a big difference between a situation where one is hooked to the grid and wants to use solar power - and a truly off-grid situation. At this point, I am the latter and this means that I need batteries to store the energy. It is fun to learn this cool stuff.
So, 2:30 and I am at the gas station, having purchased a liter of Coca-Cola for the guys. Ernesto is on time (oh how I love it when that happens) and off we go, me leading him through the dirt road and three dry river beds.
Once at the house, he asks me several questions, including what I intend to run on the panels, which appliances? All seems pretty low-demand to him until I mention the air conditioners. Within a second, I have doubled my need to eight panels and batteries (there is one battery per panel) - and also doubled the cost.
As I have done before, I ask myself if I really need air conditioning.
I have usually not been a fan of A/C but last summer... oh last summer. I cannot forget last summer nor let the cool winter evenings and mornings trick me into forgetting. On the other hand, I do not plan to be here much in the summer, especially this coming summer. Hmmm....
The gentleman explains things to me patiently and I take note. He says he will send me an official cost. The approximate cost is about $3,000 including installation, for the least expensive batteries. The next battery upgrade brings us closer to $5,000. The next one, the lithium batteries, I blocked the cost as soon as he said it. Apparently good batteries are important.
Lots of info and then the really important one: HE CAN SET UP IN A DAY!
That's a big deal. That's a big deal because it means that I can keep on "praying while I move my feet" about the CFE blessing us with an inclusion onto the grid in the next few weeks, or some other creative solution. And then, within a day (ok, I am going to call it a week because you know, Mexico) I can be hooked up to solar. I LOVE the option, the peace of mind, the plan B, or C.
Tomorrow I will meet with yet another solar company and learn more.
As Ernesto gets back in his truck, Catarino asks me if I am sure I need electricity. And as I have done before, I ask myself the question. Do I? Do I really? Once again I go through the options in my mind, bump against the A/C topic once more. Remind myself that I will most likely not be here in the summer, too. I know I can get a propane fridge, solar lights... charge my phone in my car, satellite internet.... I love the stretch of even considering living without electricity, And the awesome gift I just received is that I can keep on considering options because all of a sudden, there is no rush! That is a tremendous layer of peace of mind. Allowing more curiosity, playing, and learning. Both about systems and about myself.
Meanwhile, some fun stuff has been happening inside the house.
Rigo has brought his generator and his air sprayer and the big steel beams are sporting a new coat of bright orange, anti oxidant primer (I now understand why Jorge, weeks ago, had asked me if I wanted them painted bright orange), while some of them have already been painted their final Enchilada color.
I love watching Rigo spray the even coat on the metal. It is our first step into the more detailed, esthetic part of the project! While I have loved seeing the magic of the blocks being stacked into the shape of the house I drew on paper, I look forward to talking colors and tiles and stuff.
Then, for some reason, Jorge asks me if I like the color.
The color? Well, yes, I like it. I think I like it. I picked it. We have a few beams already painted with it. I have to like it. What do you mean? Do YOU like it?
He tells me he likes it and I leave it at that.
He and I get down the fun business of talking about doors and windows. The bid from the first welder came in quite a bit higher than he had hoped because the price of the metal has gone up in the last month, as Anselmo and Jorge had said it would. I am so glad we bought the steel beams early on. So we are going to see what the other bid is and then place the order right away. He was told that it will take ten days to make the 4 windows, two big bay doors and the frame for the car door. We decide that we will wait until the floor is done and the patio installed before asking the welder to put them in, to keep them nice and clean.
An hour or so later I am driving down the dusty road back to town and the darn beam color thing is ringing in my mind.
Truth is, I don't love it. This Enchilada color is close to the color of the bricks and it competes with it more than it complements. Also, because I am planning on some light walls, this ceiling color is going to matter quite a bit.
I pull over. I look at the photo.
I am going to change it.
So I call Jorge and tell him that I am on my way to pick up another brick to bring to the paint store and that I am going to buy a new color. Is that okay? Can they keep on doing the primer while I do that?
I get a yes.
I am not thrilled about paying for another batch of paint, I am not thrilled about not having gotten it right the first time, either. I have a conversation with myself about paying more attention, about not being difficult, also, And then I have a conversation about how much it matters to get the color right because colors matter a heck of a lot.
Then I wonder if maybe instead of buying a whole new batch of paint, we could doctor this one and bring it to a hue closer to what I now want. I call the guy at the paint store and he says he'll try. Bring him the can.
Back at the house, I now am not only picking up a brick but the mostly full can of paint. The guys look at me funny (or so I think - I often think they look at me funny) and hammer the top of the can securely. I am off on a mission.
At the paint store, Miguel assesses that there is now thinner in the paint can and then decides that it does not matter much. I look at the paint swatches again and decide on a rich dark brown, wood-like. I had thought about going with a dark purple, a nice complement to the rusty brick but for some reason, I am going to play it safe. "let's get us close to this color," I say, pointing to a swatch named Cognac.
Miguel goes to work on my paint, adding a few squirts to the can, including white. Why we would need white to make a color darker, I don't know. But I'm sure not going to say anything.
Squirt squirt, shake shake. Open and look. PERFECT. Rich, warm. Perfect.
I thank him a whole bunch, give him a 100 pesos propina since he does not want to charge me and I am back at the land shortly where Jorge opens the can, the other guys looking on. "Oh! color of chocolate!" they say.
Excellent day and I am grateful for the crew still being there as the sun turns to orange over the jungle.
So much to learn. Much more than how solar panels work.
I am grateful.
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