Monday, July 17, 2017

CULTURE SHOCK LESSONS #103: Moving to Mexico--No Toilet Paper in the Toilet?

And What Do You Mean There's No Water?

A Common Sign on the Door of Bathroom Stalls in Restaurants

Please Don't Put the Toilet Paper in the Toilet!

     When we first started traveling in Mexico years ago, we had to undergo a big adjustment to toilet paper handling. How do you break a life-long habit of using the toilet paper and automatically dropping it in the toilet? It took reading many signs in restrooms of businesses like the one above, and many times of thinking, "Oops, I dropped it again. I hope the toilet flushes okay", before we had adjusted to the Mexican way of handling toilet paper.
     After travelling throughout Mexico for years, we've become very familiar with signs in restrooms of restaurants and other places of business reminding us not to put the paper in the toilet. It is customary in most parts of Mexico to put the toilet paper in the garbage can (or bin, as some call it) next to the toilet, not in the toilet. The reason is simply that the sewer systems and plumbing in Mexico clog easily and who wants to deal with an overflowing toilet?
A Garbage Can with a Plastic Bag Liner is a MUST by Each Toilet!

     When we moved into our home in Mexico, we did what every other resident here does--put a garbage can by each toilet, lined with a plastic bag. Now for the two hardest parts of this adjustment to living in Mexico. First of all, making it a habit to put the toilet paper into the garbage can is a challenge. You would not believe how difficult that was to remember at first! Secondly, wrapping up the dirty toilet paper after... well, you know, and putting it in the garbage can, too, is just yukky at first. The easy part of this new life habit was dumping the garbage can each day to prevent odor.
     I'll never forget the first time our daughter and her family came to visit us in Mexico and on their first day there I explained the "No Toilet Paper in the Toilet" custom. The look of shock and disgust on Michelle's face was a memory I will never forget. When she said, "Even with number 2?" I tried not to laugh, but probably didn't succeed and said, "Yes, just wrap it up and put it in the garbage can. Believe me, you don't want this toilet to clog and overflow."
     Now when we travel in our motorhome, we follow the same toilet paper rule. It's amazing how much easier it is to flush the sewer system in the RV. The hard part for us after living in Mexico for two years is when we go to someone's home or to a public restroom in the United States and we are looking around for the garbage can to put our toilet paper in. It just doesn't feel right to drop it into the toilet!

What do You Mean There's No Water?

No Water at the Garden Spigot?

     Shortly after moving into our casita, I was working in the garden, Bella keeping me company, and I decided to water the plants. When I turned on the garden spigot, no water came out of the hose. I was puzzled. I had used that hose to water plants before and it had worked, so what was the problem?
     When I asked my housekeeper about this, she shrugged and said, "No agua." Apparently this was not surprising to her. We soon learned that our village, as well as others in Mexico, have an interesting way of conserving water when there is a shortage. The city water department turns the water supply off! Sometimes the water is off for days at a time. Sometimes we are on "half-days" which seems to mean that the water is off during the day and on during the night. The idea of limiting the water supply is to keep people from washing their cars, watering the plants, and wetting the street with a hose, a common practice to settle the dust in front of one's home.
     I could have watered my plants using a hose fed by our home water supply, but I didn't want to waste the water stored for household use. That water is precious during a water shortage. I solved my problem of watering the plants and conserving water by installing a drip irrigation system that originated from the spigot tied directly into the city water supply. I would turn it on late in the afternoon, though no water was flowing at that time, and leave it on all night. By morning, the garden and potted plants had been slowly watered through the drip heads. The added benefit of the drip irrigation system is that it leaves no standing water for mosquitoes to lay their eggs in.
Drip Irrigation to Each Pot and Plant Conserves Water 

     This water rationing method seems to work in our village to decrease water wasting. The residents just find ways to work with it. Thank goodness our home was built with a large underground cistern to store water and three tinacos to hold water on the roof. When the city turns on the water supply, the underground cistern fills. The tinacos have a float that measures the level of water inside and when the level drops too low it flips the switch to the pump which pumps water from the cistern to fill the three tinacos. 
Roof-top Tinaco Stores Water Pumped Up, Gravity-Fed Out

     People who live in homes without an underground cistern to store water or with only one tinaco sometimes run out of water and have to call the water truck to deliver water. The truck pumps water into their rooftop tinacos. I am told it is quite expensive to purchase water from the water trucks, especially if the home or rental property uses a large quantity of water. When building or purchasing a home in Mexico, it is wise to make sure the home has an adequate water storage and supply system.

Bucket-Flush the Toilet?

     Mexico is where I learned the technique of "bucket-flushing" the toilet. What do you do when you push down the handle on the toilet and no water flows into the toilet bowl? You look for the bucket sitting beside or floating inside a large barrel filled with water. You dip the bucket into the barrel to fill it, and then dump the bucketful of water into the toilet bowl. Wow! The toilet flushes. This is the necessary technique if you are in a restaurant or home that has insufficient water storage or the city water is turned off. In most of these cases, the water valve at the base of the toilet has been turned off to conserve water so that there will be enough water running to the sink to wash hands. 
Bucket-Flushing the Toilet Can be a Culture Shock
     Thank goodness, we have not had to resort to bucket-flushing in our casita in Sayulita because we have plenty of water storage, so far. But, I do remember while living in Ashland, Oregon, during the flood of 1997, the bucket-flush technique came in handy. We were without water and electricity for three days and had to use buckets of water from the swimming pool to flush our toilets. We were glad we had learned how to bucket-flush our toilets while traveling in Mexico.

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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mazatlan in July: We explored From Punta Cerritos to the Marina

The Hills in Cerritos were Beautiful with Blossoming Shrubs
     It was hot last week when we arrived at Punta Cerritos RV Park. We didn't have the energy to ride the bus all the way to Old Town Mazatlan to go to dinner, so we decided to try restaurants between Cerritos and the Marina, some fairly new and some have been around since before Ginger's Bilingual Horses. Here is a photo tour of our fun in Mazatlan last week.
Frigate Bird Flies by Cerritos RV Park Pool
     The Punta Cerritos RV Park's swimming pool was not only a great place to cool off, it was a perfect place to take a photo of a Frigate bird. The fisherman on the beach below and the wind currents along the cliff bring the Frigates. As we lounged by the pool atop the cliff, the Frigates were flying at eye level and very close to us.
We Always Look Forward to Dinner at FISH
     Each time we visit Mazatlan, we make a point of having dinner at FISH, Fresh International Seafood House. We enjoy their Shrimp and Chips dinner.

Our First Time to Pancho's Newest Restaurant

     This was our first time to visit Pancho's second restaurant, across from Pueblo Bonito Mazatlan Beach Resort. The food and service were excellent.
La Mona's Second Location is at the Marina

Our First Time to La Mona's at the Marina

     La Mona's Pizzeria in Old Town Mazatlan has long been a favorite of ours. Since we were staying at the Punta Cerritos RV Park, it was a much shorter bus ride to the new La Mona's at the Marina. It was high time we tried it. The pizza was just as good. It was "Heads or Tails" night, where the waiter flips and the customer calls it in hopes of getting a free drink, so it was extremely busy. We hadn't expected that at the marina location in July. Though it was a good experience, we really missed the atmosphere of the Old Town location.
Mr. Lionso's at Playa Bruja is Being Remodeled & Enlarged

Playa Bruja is Cleaner with Garbage and Recycle Cans

     We couldn't resist walking over to Bruja Beach and having dinner at Mr. Lionso's, overlooking Playa Bruja. We were surprised at how much it had changed with their new remodel and additional dining room. But the food was still priced inexpensively. The shrimp cocktail, margaritas, and service were very good. Sometimes we just have to return to our old stomping grounds. The waves were good that day and we wished we would have done some boogie boarding.
Sunset Above Punta Cerritos RV Park

     Returning to the Punta Cerritos RV Park after dinner, the sunset was always a treat, different every day. Mazatlan has always had such beautiful sunsets!
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Thursday, July 6, 2017

CULTURE SHOCK LESSONS #102: Moving to Mexico--Geckos Live in the House!

And Anoles in the Garden!

This Anole Puffs Out His Throat Pouch When He Sees Me

This is How He Looks Before He Puffed Out His Throat
     The first time I encountered a gecko in our house in Mexico, I wasn't sure who was more startled, me or the gecko. It was two years ago, the day after we closed on the purchase of our home and we were excited to begin cleaning so we could move into our Hacienda-style casita. I walked into the kitchen, my arms full off cleaning supplies and almost dropped them in surprise as I saw a six-inch long gecko scurry across the kitchen wall and scoot behind a wall-mounted Mexican clay light fixture. Then I giggled at myself. Had I actually screamed? I hoped none of the neighbors had heard me. I had been scared by a little gecko! That's when I began to learn about these little creatures and ended up loving them.

Geckos in Every Room of the House

     I knew geckos lived in the garden and on our tile patio. I later learned that anoles, a type of lizard that are similar to geckos, also live in the garden. I had seen one of these fast little critters dart across the patio and dive under an equipal Mexican chair when we first toured the house. But after moving in, I soon learned that we would be sharing the inside of our home with quite a few geckos. They each seem to have their own section of a room where they live, their own territory. Two geckos lived in the kitchen, though on separate walls. One lives in the office near the bug zapper, attracted to the glow of the UV light.
Geckos Love to Hang Out Near the Bug Zapper

     At least two geckos occupy the bathroom, I'm sure, because I see two on or near the ceiling when I go in at night. This really gave me the creeps at first. We didn't have critters living in our house in Oregon, so this was a big adjustment for me. I soon discovered that one 3-inch long gecko sleeps during the day behind my hand mirror leaned up against the tile back-splash. The first time I picked up the mirror and startled that little guy out of his slumber, I jumped and he darted behind the counter shelf. Now I know he's there and I apologize to him for disturbing him when I pick up my hand mirror. Yes, I have begun to talk to the little fellows in baby-talk. Occasionally, in the evening when we are reading in bed, we see two baby geckos, about an inch long, crawling across the bedroom ceiling. You can imagine how I baby-talk to those cute little creatures.

Nocturnal Animals, Startling at Night

     Geckos are nocturnal animals, so I really don't see them in the house very often. It was my nighttime visits to the bathroom that were unnerving at first. As I stumbled in by the light of the bug zapper, half asleep, I would be startled awake by two 4 or 5-inch long geckos skittering across the ceiling or wall to the nearest hiding place. It took me a year of living in our Mexico house before I became so comfortable with their presence that I now mutter "Hola, gecks" as I walk into the bathroom at night, my eyes barely open. And they don't even skitter away any longer. 
A Gecko as I Squint at it in the Bathroom at Night

Gecko Poop Each Morning

     So how do I know where the geckos live if I rarely see them during the day?  Because they leave gecko poop in the same areas every night. Each morning I use a damp paper towel to wipe up the little turds left in the same spots, on the top of the tile baseboards, on a section of kitchen counter beneath a light fixture, on the floor, and sometimes stuck on the wall. They poop where they live. At first, this was disgusting and gross to me. Now it's just part of living in an area of Mexico where we throw our windows and doors open each morning and enjoy living with nature.

Geckos Make Loud Noises

     Late afternoon of our first day living in our casita, we were sitting on our porch enjoying a glass of wine and watching the hummingbirds buzz around in our garden. Suddenly, we heard an animal overhead, hidden in the wooden beam and tile porch roof, making a rather loud clucking noise. We looked at each other and I said, "What was that?" We later learned that geckos make this noise, probably to establish their territory.  I've since decided it sounds like a kissing sound, and I enjoy it. Now I purse my lips and kiss back.

Geckos Eat Mosquitoes and Other Insects

     Thank goodness we have geckos in our house! They eat mosquitoes and other insects, which helps prevent the spread of Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, and the Zika virus. To read more about this, see my article FIGHTING MOSQUITOES: Preventing the Spread of Dengue Fever, Chikungunya, & Zika
     So geckos may be attracted to our Mosquito Zappers partly due to the light they give off, but also because the mosquitoes are attracted to the Zappers. That makes the area around the Mosquito Zapper a food-rich territory for the geckos. It took a while for us to adjust to the gecko poop, the loud sounds and startling movements of the geckos. Now we are thankful that the geckos live in our house and eat the mosquitoes and other insects.

Geckos and Anoles are Entertaining

    Geckos and anoles are entertaining to watch as they climb the plants in the garden and run across the patio, searching for bugs. But they seem to be social creatures. They have gotten so used to us that they come quite near when we are sitting on the porch. One even hopped up onto the chair Jon had his feet propped on, crawled up onto Jon's leg and sat there looking at us for a few minutes before he jumped across to the patio table. 
     The male anole that puffs out his throat pouch has come to visit us every day this week. I think he is flirting with me because he puffs out his throat pouch when I talk to him. He seems quite proud of his beautiful throat pouch, his means of attracting mates and laying claim to his territory. I think he is beautiful and I tell him so each time he puffs out his throat.

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