The next day we were up and ready to go early in the morning. I got to perform my favorite task, put my winter coat away. It didn’t last, more on that later. But I was proud of myself at the time. Out the the main road and backtrack to the maxipista. Many travelers frown on going through the toll booths, but I don’t have too much problem paying the tolls. The free highway through Guaymas is rough and tedious. I’m not down in Mexico to struggle with traffic if I don’t have to. The toll is reasonable on the bypass, so it’s worth it to me. Not much to write about except we stopped at the Walmart in Cuidad Obregon. We picked up a few more supplies and decided to eat lunch at the McDonalds restaurant inside.
We stepped up to the counter to order a hamburger. No quarter pounder with cheese available. How about a Big Mac? “Lo siento senor, no ay Big Macs.” “(I’m sorry sir, there are no Big Macs)”. Nope, no cheeseburgers either. Finally, I drug the bad news out of the embarrassed server. The grill was out of order. Who ever heard of a McDonalds with no hamburgers? I was astounded. (Curious, I stopped by 5 weeks later on the return and the grill was still down.) It was the sorriest McDonalds restaurant I’d ever seen. We settled for chicken wraps and salad. Hear that, Mr. Croc?
We arrived at the university gate around 1:30 in the afternoon. The guard was reluctant to let us through and he had to make a call. I had trouble believing that he couldn’t tell an RV was OK to allow in, especially with two gringos aboard. His eyes kept darting around, but he finally let us in. I dropped Pat off at the girls dormitory while on my way to the job site and then chose one of the RV sites built specifically for volunteers.
I’d been on the road for over a week and I felt drained. Also, a little lost. I’d been planning, saving, purchasing, driving , breaking down, and more driving. Finally my goal. It was almost surreal. I was actually going to start on the job. In five minutes I was jacked. I rushed over and parked my little house.
As soon as I was set up, I was ready to go to work. Pat showed up a few minutes later and the boss, Sherwin, lined me out on digging grass in the center courtyard area. Terrible idea, I should have stalled a bit. The grass had huge, long, stringy roots wound around rocks, clods, anything. I quickly dubbed it “Nasty Grass”. I cheerfully dug away, but I was hoping that Sherwin would find something else for me to do. I dug until 5 and called it a day.
Somehow, a lot of houseflies got into my trailer during the day. I broke out the fly swatter and dispatched them.
Next morning, up early. BRRRRR. The coat I so proudly put away the day before had to come right back out. I climbed the stairs and took pictures of my campsite from the roof of the building.
My trailer is on the far right. Fog had set in and the weather was moist and cold.
And the building. Then back to work. Nasty Grass. Ugh. I stuck with it, though. No question of quitting or complaining. The job had to be done and I was the man that was assigned to do it. Then, a fantastic break. Sherwin came and got me. The stucco layers were going faster than the stucco wire guy and the pace needed to pick up. Yay!, I was promoted. From grass to chicken wire. Don’t laugh. It took me 1/2 day to figure it out, the air operated staple gun jammed frequently and I’d never done anything like this before. By afternoon I was moving fairly well and the stucco men started on my first room the following day.
After work, I cleaned up and went to talk to the University President’s wife, Myriam. She spoke excellent English with little accent and she answered my questions about the area and lined me up to use her clothes washer the following night. And then she invited me to a belated Thanksgiving dinner at her house that same night. I was pleased to be invited after being on the site only two nights.
After I returned, I settled down to write in my journal. Again, I had to kill flies. Persistent little buggers. They just couldn’t leave me alone, always one landing on me as the other took off. Impossible to concentrate on writing with even one lousy fly in the trailer. And, they were tough. Lightly popping them with a flyswatter, enough to kill any American fly, wouldn’t even phase them. A brief pause to get their bearings, and back into the air. They had to be splattered on the wall before they could be deemed a confirmed kill.
The next night I told Myriam I had a lot of good children’s and young adult’s coats with me and she agreed to take them off my hands. I don’t know if they were able to use them, but I didn’t care. They could sell them and spend the money on the kids for all I cared. We settled down for a tasty roast turkey dinner. Conversation followed and I learned some interesting things.
Two people were murdered next door to the university in what appeared to be some sort of reprisal for a drug deal. A few day previous to our arrival. No suspects, no witnesses, no arrests, nobody saw a thing. The police had no desire to find the gunmen and had made it an obvious point not to look for the killers. Ah, that was why the gate guard was sooooo nervous. After that initial caution, I was allowed to pass with no delay.
When the hurricane hit the old facility, the occupants had no time to gather belongings. The storm had taken an unusual turn near Cabo San Lucas, strengthened, and then sped towards the Mexican mainland. The there was a rapid storm surge and eye zeroed in and struck only a few miles away from the old site at Villa Jaurez. Everyone was quickly evacuated to an emergency shelter in Cuidad Obregon. When I say emergency, that is exactly what I meant. They literally left with the clothes on their backs and everything left behind was a total loss. When the volunteers returned to try to salvage, they soon left because of the unsanitary conditions. Then, one of them was struck with typhoid. Then, no one would return. And looters finished it off. I hadn’t fully realized the how bad the children’s plight was until I had arrived in Mexico.
Before I left Pomeroy, numerous people had shown an interest and I ended up with an email list of 17 people that wanted to follow my adventures. By this time I had sent three or four updates and suddenly I got a surprise. Some of my readers had donated money for the kids. My sister, Sandy, was depositing the money in my checking account and informed me I had $600 available.
I mentioned to Myriam that I had no idea what to buy or what sizes. No problem, there were two young ladies volunteering from Germany. When Myriam and I mentioned we needed help, they were delighted. I know of few young women that would turn down a chance at a $400 shopping spree. Myriam held $200 in reserve for school uniforms lost during the hurricane, mainly for the girls. It was set, the following Sunday we would hit a clothing store in nearby Navajoa. As it turned out, we had to wait for the following week. Her son played soccer on that Sunday and got his nose severely broken.
The next morning brought an unpleasant surprise. We were almost completely out of stucco staples. Ugh, demoted to Nasty Grass. Then, a break. The roof tar had been applied improperly and help was needed with the scraping. Oh boy, had to be better than Nasty Grass. Wrong. Worse. We scraped all morning and got almost nowhere. We got together and determined that a roofing outfit with expertise in this kind of problem was in order. Seven of us scraping had cleared maybe 10 square feet in three hours. The roof area was about 7000 square feet. Do the math. By the time we would be finished, the roof would be so old it would have to be redone. There was little to do, except (argh!) Nasty Grass. So…I volunteered to drive north until I found staples for sale.
Back in my trailer, I was annoyed to find six (by this time I was counting) flies had invaded. This was getting to be very irritating. I also broke my electric fly swatter. I spent lunch trying to find out how they were getting in. I found a gap in the screen. Ah, that should fix it.
Sherwin thought about that offer and approached me after lunch. He had about 20 stucco people that were going strong and he didn’t want to disturb the amazing progress that was being made to finish the building by May. So he took me up on the offer. He couldn’t get away from the job site, and I was the only other person there with a rig large enough to fill the shopping list. It was unlikely the staples would be found in Mexico. That sounded a lot better than Nasty Grass. Because of the long trip, Sherwin insisted that someone go along for company. Pat was appointed to ride shotgun.
The rest of the day was odd jobs, then, a problem. Rainy and windy weather was approaching and the bell tower needed to be covered to protect the raw adobe from erosion. There were also concrete forms for the pour that was coming in a week or so that needed to be covered. That put two of us, Pierre and myself, 4 stories high in a rain shower and stiff breeze tying tarp and weighing the ends down with whatever we could find. Sherwin and Shirley climbed up and down the ladder handing us anything heavy that was handy. No hand rails, of course. As darkness settled, we got it done.
I was exhausted and tried to relax for the evening. I had to kill a couple of flies before dinner, the usual. The prospect of driving the maxipista without a trailer in tow revved me up. The trip was going to be hard, fast, and rough. My 94 Dodge diesel is set up for heavy towing and it has very stiff suspension, and I figured to average at least 65 mph. I started to write in my journal…
More flies. This time three. The rain and wind had brought them in. A flyswatter chase ensued and by the time I was done my blood was boiling. Why were there so many? How were they getting in? And they were sneaky and sticky. Adept at hiding and waiting until I was concentrating on my writing. Their favorite place to land was on my bald spot, where they evidently could get a good view of my journal. I pondered what grade level their reading standard was and if the CIA had trained them at stealth and then US Customs deported them to Mexico. This was the third time the flies had made enough of an impression to be noted in my journal, so now I was going to have to pay close attention to this matter. The rain soon lulled me to sleep.
Tip: Water. Of course everyone has heard “Don’t drink the water”. Safe bottled water is available most everywhere. Be sure to buy it in a decent looking store. BUT…crafty merchants are not above finding old bottles, filling them with tap water, then restocking them with a carefully reapplied used lid. OXO stores are everywhere and a safe, quick source (inspect the cap anyway) for a wandering traveler. Price may be a little higher but, believe me, it’s worth it. While in Tapchula, Colima, I bought a canned coke that was sitting in ice. I wiped the top off and drank it down. Big mistake. The ice wasn’t purified and the melt water was still around the rim of the can. The resulting case of Montezuma‘s Revenge marred an otherwise perfect honeymoon.