Thursday, July 20, 2017

A New Casa In 2017 - Photo Update

Not much progress from the front to see.  Lots of prep work going on in the back to get ready for the next level and materials.  Yes, it's going to be tall.  Not necessarily "big" but "tall".  Contractor bought a new electric hoist for materials and concrete.  Ceiling going on in the next couple weeks we hope.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sayulita Scenes - Murals

La Esperanza. The mural outside this restaurant is one reason I love Sayulita.  The bold, fantastic and artistic designs found outside so many businesses create a very cool atmosphere.  I cannot say that we have eaten there in this location but what Jose and Lucy have created in the pueblo has become a steady, year round eatery.

La Esperanza at night with music
In the restaurant's own words: La Esperanza is a health food cafe that creates and serves conscious and nutritious food for the health of our community. Our intention is to educate individuals about nutrition and sustainability. At La Esperanza we serve a variety of organic super foods

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Future Of Sayulita - When Will Chain Stores Become The Norm?

We visited Sayulita from Park City, Utah in 2006 and saw many comparisons between the two towns. In 2006, the shine of The 2002 Olympic Games was still fresh and the world now knew a lot more about The Greatest Snow On Earth.  In 2006 Sayulita was not necessarily off the beaten path any longer but it was still a long way from what Park City had become.

Time passes and Park City becomes "Big Time".  There is no "offseason" any longer.  Every weekend is a festival or some kind of event.  Real estate prices go up with more homes being used as vacation homes.  Nightly and monthly rental prices go up.  Locals, seasonal employees and lower wage earners have a difficult time finding housing.  Commercial space rates also see an increase.  Long time local shops hope to survive but many cannot afford the going rate for operating a business.  Who can afford it?  Bigger, more established chain stores can.  North Face, Starbucks, Patagonia, LL Bean, Lululemon etc.  When I first arrived in Park City it was full of locally owned stores and businesses and because of this it had it's own character, it's own color and charm.  This has changed over the years.  I can't say if it is good or bad but Park City is certainly a bit less unique than it once was.

I feel like we are seeing Sayulita travel the same path.

Real estate prices are rising.  Inventory is down.  Monthly rentals are very limited and rent is high.  When you can rent a 2 bedroom one bath house nightly for a minimum of about $100 USD and there are bills to pay it is hard to offer it up to local seasonal workers or a young family at $350 USD per month.  There is money to be made and landlords are getting premium rates.  Our landlord could get over $1200 USD or more for the place we rent and he has asked us to move on for just that reason.  It is impossible to afford that when you earn less than $50 per day.  Locals, seasonal employees and lower wage earners have a very difficult time finding housing.  Sound familiar?  Yes, it does.

We have already seen the arrive of two chain convenience stores.  There are lots of arguments about whether they are good or bad for town.  Prices for commercial space are high too, inventory is limited and small bodega store spaces are popping up everywhere.  I wonder when we will see the chain stores become a bigger presence in the pueblo.  I do not think it will be long.  My guess is that it will be a surfing related chain.  Slowly but surely the chain stores will happen as Sayulita continues on it's current path.  More exposure, more popularity etc.

Again, I am only a visitor and cannot say this is good or bad.  What I can say is that we have seen the progression before.  Sayulita is following the same path as Park City as well as many other cool places in the world.

This is an article from the local Park City paper that talks about the possibility of limiting chain stores in it's historic downtown district.  Might Sayulita do something like this?  Does town have that kind of vision?  I am guessing not but we will be here to see.  I hope to be proved wrong.

Click Here For Article

A New Casa In 2017 - A Quick Photo Update

An above shot of the main entry and kids rooms.  The lid will be poured in the next two weeks and then it is on to the family living level.

Friday, June 30, 2017

After 5 Years We Say "Adios" To Escuela Del Mundo

Yesterday evening was Escuela del Mundo's annual end of the year event.  The beginning of the evening featured the students who were graduating from their respective programs.  Alex and three other classmates received their certificates for completion from what is called "la Primaria" or elementary school here in Mexico.  The graduation was followed by a colorful production starring all the students and was produced by several of the staff, parents, volunteers and "talleristas" who teach special classes at the school.  The yearly event was certainly fantastic as always.  As our kids have grown older they have take on more prominent roles.  This year Alex was featured as the "Goddess of Blue" and Trace was one of the three "Gods of Green".  This year's event was particularly bitter sweet since it will be our last at Escuela del Mundo.

After 5 years we knew that this would be the last for Alex. She was graduating from the primaria program and asked if she could attend a school with more to offer. More facilities, more types of educational experiences and understandably a bigger social aspect. Trace was more of an uncertainty. At 10 years old he has spent half of his life on this campus. We figured he would finish out his primaria education here too until earlier this year. Early in the second half of the year, a conflict between the school's administration and several of the teachers became unreconcilable resulting in Trace and Alex temporarily having no teachers to lead the daily coursework. A substitute took over for a short time and then was replaced by another. Trace's excitement for school dwindled and he also asked to move on as well. From that point the kids knew their time was short and finished the year out with their second substitute teacher who was eventually joined by a beloved teacher of theirs, Barbara.

Last day of school June 2017

Alex' graduation class from "la primaria".
Attending Escuela del Mundo has been one of the most important decisions we have made since coming to Mexico and has shaped our lives here.  The school is located in the next town over from Sayulita in San Pancho.  Over the years we have had dual town citizenship in a way.  We live in one town and benefit from all things Sayulita.  We have also been part of a totally second community in San Pancho.  Alex and Trace can walk around either town and be totally comfortable and there will be kids, parents, coaches community members etc who will recognize them and know exactly who they are.  We have met so many parents, kids, teachers, volunteers etc during our time at school.  I like to say that our Mexico is so much bigger due to our decision to attend school here.  It is a Mexican school it is fully Spanish speaking.  No-dual immersion.  As a result our kids have grown up fully immersed and are now fully bilingual and speak Spanish like native Spanish speakers rather than perhaps someone who learned Spanish along the way.

Last hugs with Maestra Barbara.
This is not to say that our time there has not had it's challenges.  Being Americans in a Mexican school has not been easy and we have often felt like outsiders.  Even at a small school not everyone knows that our kids have been at EDM most of their lives and that we have always been active, contributing parents.  Culture and language has certainly been a bit of the barrier.  We have seen two major internal situations that resulted in much of the student population leaving to find other educational solutions for their kids.  These were not necessarily quality of education issues but rather staff and administration issues.  The kids have been in the middle of this twice and they have certainly been effected by it as they have seen several classmates/friends and or trusted teachers leave the school. These were also huge blows to the school budget.  How can a school expect to improve or even survive when it's tuition income takes a hit like that every couple years?

Ashley and I have both been frustrated over the years since it felt like the school did not know how to even help itself.  It serves a very local population and as kept tuition low.  The school has never had a surplus of funds or substantial community support to really lift itself to the next level.  It has always relied on parental support to take care of those things that were not covered in the budget.  5 years ago the school culture was "everybody pitches in to help when needed" and scheduled school work days were always well attended.  Absence was noticed.  Parents were expected to show up when there was work to do but that has changed over the years.  I looked around the campus during the kid's parent/teacher meeting recently and our fingerprints are on virtually everything.  We helped paint that building, we managed that playground project, we built those shelves, we bought those light fixtures and furniture for the kid's classroom, we helped mix concrete and haul materials for the second floor expansion, we helped build that fence for the garden, we built that website and paid for hosting, we hauled that gravel etc.  So much time, energy, money, sweat, dedication, love etc.  We wonder sometimes what will happen once we are gone.  I am not saying we have been the school's saviors by any means but there will have to be other newer parents who need to step up to help change the culture and help along side the other parents who have always been involved as we have.  We know the school will survive our departure and will emerge better and stronger going forward.  It has in the past and will again.

So now we take our exit and move on to new adventures as far as schooling goes.  Costa Verde is next.  We wish only the best for Escuela del Mundo going forward.  Thank you July, Vero, Angie, Juan, Barbara, Carlos, Maria, Geoffrey, Claudia, Tanya, Paulina, Karol, Diego and all the talleristas for loving our kids, embracing them each and everyday and making our lives in Mexico so much bigger and richer during the last five years.  We will miss you.

First day of school at EDM August 2012

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A New Casa In 2017 - Quick Photo Update

This photo was taken today, June 25th 2017.  It clearly shows the extra height that was added to the base of the structure that was mentioned in a previous post.  The first level, the apartment, is roughed in and the entrance level where the kid's rooms will be is in progress.  By the end of the week this level will be getting ready for a ceiling and preparations for the main living level can begin.

I hope to be meeting with our builder in the next day or so to question a few things and possibly add some windows to allow more air and light into these levels.  This most recent level has been painfully slow since each time I go by I can always see them hoisting up blocks and buckets of cement using the pulley system that they have rigged up.  You can see the yellow rope dangling from the front of the house to the right.  Once this next level is complete they will start to excavate the hillside again to allow construction of our family living level.  I just hope the rain is light for the next few weeks.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

One Of Those Moments - Trace

Trace has been susceptible to ear infections since we arrived here.  Even more so in the last two years as he has become a bigger fan of the water whether it be in the pool or ocean.  We try to keep his ears clean each time he comes out of the water.  If we get lazy or forget for a little while then he usually develops something.  We go to the local clinic and get him checked out and get the proper meds to put him back on track scolding ourselves along the way.

Last week was one of those times where we(he) paid the price for not being diligent about his ears.  He came home from school Friday not feeling so well with a fever and ear pain.  Saturday am he felt a bit better but we were off to the clinic to get him looked at.

We filled out the paperwork and went into the same examination room where we had been several times before for various family ailments including Trace's ear issues.  We knew the routine.  Our doctor this time was someone we had not seen before.  She was a young woman who was bilingual and turned to me to ask some initial questions in Spanish from behind her desk.  I was about half way through my first sentence and she turned to speak to Trace.  She must have decided that my Spanish was dismal enough that speaking to Trace was a much more productive direction to begin getting some information.

Eggs on the head after losing a wager with his Dad.
She asked him if he spoke Spanish and he said yes.  After a few basic questions for him, off they went leaving Dad in the chair just sitting there watching the exchange.  After some additional discussion she examined him and then we came back to the doctor's desk.  They proceeded to discuss things further and she began preparing prescriptions giving him directions as I looked on.

They finally got to a point where she turned to me, a bit wide eyed and said to me how impressed she was with his Spanish.  How well he could understand Spanish, articulate his answers and sounded Mexican not an American.  She admitted that when we walked in she was not expecting this.  I was impressed too.  Not necessarily surprised but impressed.  I hear him speak to his friends, teachers and coaches all the time but when he has a discussion with a medical professional whom he does not know and that person turns to me and admits how very impressed they are with our son then it hits me that this is "one of those moments".

 This is just one of those moments, small but special moments, where our decision to come to Mexico almost 6 years ago makes total sense to me all over again.  The kids really have no idea how special they have become and what skills they have developed since they arrived.  Speaking a second language is just one of those skills.  It is totally normal for them.  My concern about things that they may not have been able to do up north doesn't really matter anymore when these moments happen.  Actually I should feel like this all the time but these little events keep me reminded just how far they have come and how proud we are of them.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Feliz Cumpleaños Trace!

Our boy is now 10.  He has come a long way since we first arrived and he was only 4 years old.

Sayulita holiday parade in pre-school

At a little party at school in San Pancho

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A New Casa In 2017 - Construction Progress Week 7.

Well, we made it to week 7 a while back and already we had our first BIG issue.  FYI - This progress report is slightly dated.

 I had been watching the progress and getting pretty excited until I became very confused.  Having the floorpan in hand I asked our builder/architect for a meeting to explain.  I was confused as to why there was wall being built where the entrance to the bodega/garage was going to be.  After all, it was his idea to build this extra space to help elevate and support the structure.  A space we actually did not really want but came to understand was necessary.  We were always trying to build a smaller house but after thinking about it, we really liked the idea of being able to store our ever growing amount of crap and toys that one accumulates along the way of life.  The space would also allow for a small workspace for me and when we needed it a place to tuck the car away safely inside.  We finally absolutely loved the idea and embraced it.  Bodega, apartment and house.  Great!

Not so fast.  During this meeting our builder informed me that there had been an "error".  Not exactly something you want to hear as your new house is starting to take shape.  What was this "error" I asked.  He explained that the plan elevations were incorrect and that the goal for our living level finishing higher than the building next to us was not going to be possible.  The structure was going to be about 2.5 meters too short.  I was dumbfounded since I asked about this exact concern standing on the lot with him a couple months ago and he assured me we would get our light, airflow and view that we wanted.

So, back to my original question.  What was this wall?  Well, our builder explained that he took it upon himself to place the house on a shelf of sorts to lift the house up and result in making the house finish at the correct elevation.  In other words the house would begin 2.5 meters higher up and what I was looking at was a retaining wall and not the first level of our house.  "What"?  I asked astonished.  We contracted and signed an agreement for a particular set of plans that he drew and he changed them without so much as an email letting us know there was a "error"?  He totally changed the way the house will function and look.  Did he really changed the FINAL and agreed upon version of the plans without letting us know?  Did you really just do this?

Retaining wall for the extra height needed 
The answer was "yes".  So, the hope for a bodega was gone.  A workshop in some form was gone.  Easy in and out for bikes, boards and other items gone.  A place to store our car if needed gone.  What did we get instead?  We got a much taller house, more stairs and an entirely unnecessary above ground living level.  Do we argue that we needed the height?  No, but the plan we developed over several months should have accomplished this.  The bodega level that was once essentially hidden underground will now be the first living level and make the house an obnoxious 3 level apartment building sitting on top of a 2.5 meter platform.

What the hell were we going to do with what was the original apartment level?  We now had an extra living level that we had to come up with a solution for.  We didn't want to rent it since we really do not want people coming and going all the time.  We did not want to be a hotel.  Ashley came up with the suggestion that this level could become part of our living space.  More specifically an entry to the house and kids' rooms.  I was not so crazy about the idea since it put the kids away from our bedroom but the more I thought about the idea the more I liked it.  The idea could provide the kids with larger rooms and larger shared bathroom and we could get some storage along with it.  Another thing it would accomplish is that it would provide an opportunity for an interior staircase to use from the entry/kids room level to the main living level.  Interior stairs would allow the exterior stairs to end below the top level.  Lastly, it could provide the needed space for a dining area.  Something Ashley wanted in our original design but was eliminated when it became clear we did not have the room for it.

Garden to the right and what will be future driveway
Walls of first level going up.  This will now be the apartment level.
So what will all this look like now?  

The apartment level will stay the same.

The next level up, the kid's bedroom level, will look like this with an entry and interior staircase.  I have done some redesigning of the bathrooms since this plan but you can get the general idea.

The family level will now look like this with interior staircase in the courtyard accessing the rooftop and new dining room space.  The spiral stairs will end one level below this one.

So, that is where we are at for the moment.  Progress has continued quickly and I will have a more recent update on all things soon including maybe a few comments as to why we didn't fire our contractor immediately for changing things without discussing them with us.  Forward we go.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sayulita Scenes - Road Improvements Continue

With the main entrance to town closed for what seemed like forever, the side streets became the main corridors in and out of town. Calle Pelicanos became the main route in to our pueblo during this time. It is easily the most traveled street after Calle Revolucion for car traffic. It is also the main route for people walking in and out of town, to school etc since it is the mid point between the front and back main entrances to town, runs along the river and is in or near several neighborhoods.

Once the new front entrance to town was mostly complete attention was turned to improving this particular side road.  Like a lot of things here, many things don't happen until they happen and may not even have the input of those being effected by certain projects.  There was actually an informal survey conducted on how this road should operate but whether or not it influenced the final plan is unknown to us.  This road originally had parking for residents on both sides of the street with about 1.5 lanes down the center of the road for traffic.  Not always a convenient route when there is two-way traffic, pedestrians and local resident cars parked on both sides.  I tried to never use this road while driving unless it was early in the morning.

The solution appears to be a one-way road.  Which way it will go is yet to be declared publicly but the assumption is that it will be a one-way exit road from the town center.  It is only about 1.5 cars wide with curbing on both side so there is no room for two way traffic.  There is also no room for resident parking.  Many of the houses on this street were originally designed without cars in mind so over time they were just parked on the road in front of the houses.  This will no longer be the case it appears.  Parking will have to be off the street.  There will also be a real sidewalk for pedestrians to use.  Stamped and colored similar to all the new sidewalks in town.

We will have to see how all this works out once complete.  We wonder how the residents on the street react with no parking and when some of the final details and decisions are made public.  Did they really have any input?  It is great that the street has a safe option for walking and many encourage Sayulita to become more of a walking town.   This is certainly a positive for the project.

Why is this street's transformation of interest?  Well, the street with our new house project may be on the short list for a similar make over.  It carried a heavy load during the entrance construction and becomes almost impassable during the late summer/early fall months when the rains come due to erosion.  We "hear" it's on the list but we have been hearing that for years.  We will wait to see.

Maybe not exactly the intended plan for the street.