Julio, We Told You the Tree had to Come DOWN!

May 27, 2011 – It has been quite the eventful day here at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta.  We have a mirador or in english a lookout tower.  We have always wondered why.  The view is spectacular but really it performs no other use and we are really not sure how they got it built anyway as it seems to break every rule the homeowner’s association has.

Mirador up at the top and the TREE!

The previous owners of the house which became Casa Madera had not kept the maintenance which has required a fair amount of work on our part but that is a story for another day.  Today we are talking about the mirador.  It was in severe need of painting probably about 4 years ago.  It was also something that Heather and I debated about for quite a while.  Do we really want to keep it?  What do we do with it.  Either way it needed paint.

How the heck are we going to do that?  At the top it is 4 stories high.  There are areas that will probably require scaffolding.  Where are we going to get that?  There are areas that are not the easiest to reach even with scaffolding.  Either way we had to do something about it.

So today I had nothing better to do that would pay me money so I decided to paint it.  It was a good idea at the time.  It was cloudy and not too hot so I set up gear and went to work.  What a pain in the butt.  The stucco covering is streaked with gaps that make it extremely difficult to fill with paint.  Oh well it is not perfect but I did the best I could with a pole that could reach 18 feet.

The problem is the sun came out so after 3 hours I had to pack it in.  I had drunk 5 16 ounce glasses of water and a liter is rehydrating liquid (not sport drinks but actual medicinal rehydrater) and was dying up there.  I was half done so I was reasonably happy with what I saw and cleaned everything up.

The rest of the day was to be spent lounging in the pool with a cold beer and a good book.  That was going to be after we went to the print shop to print off a letter for the homeowners association about things that needed to be done to the lot next door and the farm land behind us as we have some tree issues.

I got myself cleaned up and ready to go but Heather was still tweaking the letter so she was not ready.  I sat myself down at the computer to deal with my email and check twitter and Facebook.  About 4 minutes in to that I heard an odd noise.  I did not think much about it as we hear lots of odd noises throughout the day with the various work that goes on throughout the neighbourhood during the day.  I kept reviewing the days events on the computer.

It was then I heard a much louder odd noise that sounded like a crack and then the sound of crumpling metal and breaking glass.  That was enough to get me out of my seat.  I made the 3 steps to the balcony to see the pine tree that we had asked the agricultural engineer from the Homeowner’s association to remove 3 weeks ago lying overtop of our Jeep Grand Cherokee.

ouch!

We were heading to Guadalajara for 5 days to do some shopping, some sightseeing and reconnect with our friend Marco who is living there.  Well so much for that.  Glass was all over the ground, I could see the roof was caved in, we were not going anywhere.

So while Heather called the Homeowner’s association I emailed the hotel, the kennel for the cat, the friends who were taking the dog and Marco to tell them that fate is not allowing us to travel tomorrow.

Once Heather was done with the Homeowner’s association we called our insurance broker, Juan Pablo.  I explained our problem and he said I needed to call the company in my best Spanish and he would call the adjuster and let him know what was happening.

I know we never used air conditioning but it would nice to be able to close the window every once and a while!

My best Spanish is just like my best French so I deferred the call to Heather who is better at it than I am.  She did the report and we went back outside to survey the damage.

While we were on the phone the Tourist Police drove by doing their usual rounds.  They slowed a bit and had quite the look at the car but did not stop.  I found it quite funny when a second set came through about 5 minutes later and again slowed to get a good look but did not stop.  What, were they thinking it was a new accessory?

The best was when the school bus driver brought the boy from down the street home after school.  He dropped the boy off and was coming back, he slowed to an absolute crawl…and then stopped about 30 feet past the house and I am pretty sure got out his phone to take a picture.  He could have backed up we really would not have cared!

It was about 5 minutes later the workers from the Homeowners association showed up.  Looked at the tree and started cutting.  They were then faced with the task of how to get it off the car without damaging the garage door or the palapa.  That was when the insurance adjuster showed up.

The insurance adjuster showed up!  One hour after the tree had fallen the adjuster was at our house.  I was involved in insurance claims for 20 years when Heather and I started this odessy and we always strived for excellent customer service but this was something else!

He looked at the Jeep and told me what was going to happen.  Did I have the policy?  I explained it was in the car as we have been told to do.  Until they moved the tree I could not get it at it.  It was then the workers motioned us over to get the tree out of the way.

One guy on the front end loader and two Fibba (homeowner’s association) workers and the adjuster were on the tree.  They lifted it up enough for me to get into the Jeep and back it out in the street.

No, the Christmas tree should be centered on the roof!

The Fibba men started cutting the rest of the tree up while the adjuster and I looked over the mangled vehicle.  He announced it could be repaired!  Damn.  In Canada it would have been a write off for sure which would have made us both happy.

This is a problem with low labour rates ( we like them everywhere else, our problem I guess).  Oh well.  He wrote the appraisal sheet, told me where to take it.  They would order the parts and it would be repaired, I only had to pay my deductible.  5% of the value of the vehicle.

So tomorrow we will take the car to the repair shop, they can see the appraisal, order the parts and the car will be repaired.

The interesting point in the entire dissertation is that the tree fell at 3:00 pm this afternoon.  The tree was cut and in a pile by our house and the repair order was done by the adjuster by 4:30 pm.

90 minutes.  Unbelievable.  I love this country!

The Journey to Casa Madera – Ok, We’re Here, Now what do we do?

December 13, 2010 – Heather and her mother Barbara, who is visiting from Wetaskiwin, just went into town to see Berta, our seamstress who will be making some curtains for us.   After that they will be off to the printer to agree or disagree with the new business card design, hit Colchorama to buy a new mattress, and stop at the store to pick up a few necessities.

The Malecon bridge over the Rio Cuale

Everyday life here in Vallarta.  Not much different from Canada, NOW!  When I think back to that first day after we arrived and realized we had absolutely no idea what to do about anything I marvel at how far we have come in such a short time….

November 17, 2008 – First morning in our new home.  We had hit the grocery store the night before to get a few groceries so we would have the some of the important things in life like food and of course, coffee!  So we made some coffee and Heather set about trying to make breakfast.

The condo we owned was not the largest, about 450 square feet, but it was purchased with retirement vacations in mind and was mainly an investment.  When we bought it we had no idea we would be living in it full-time 2 years later.  So of the 450 square feet, about 10 of it was the kitchen.

The Kitchen

There was no stove, only a hot plate so Heather plugged it in and started trying to fry some eggs.  She put the pan on the burner and cracked the first egg.  She then felt her right hand go numb.  Figuring that she had hit it on the side of the counter she cracked another egg and then as she her hands got close to the frying pan both arms went numb.  It was then that we realized that there was something seriously wrong with this appliance so she got a plastic spatula and removed the plug from the wall.  I carried the offending item outside to the garbage.

Well ok, what do we do now?  We had brought a new hot plate with us from Canada so it was unpacked and put into use.  Well we at least tried to put it to use.  It was a three prong plug.  There were no three prong outlets in the entire condo.  They were all two.  Apparently grounding was not big in Mexico in the eighties when the condo was built so we were going to require an adapter to plug the hot plate in.  Microwaved eggs it was and they were delightful.  Well not really but hey when you are hungry you make do.

The Beach by our condo

After breakfast we thought we should head out and see our property manager who had been taking care of the condo for us.  His office was on the other side of old town.  It was a nice day, the sun was shining so we decided to walk.  We were noticing that a lot of the small family run stores that we passed were closed.  It was then we found out that it was a holiday celebrating the Mexican Revolution.  Well we were three-quarters of the way to his office so we kept going only to find it locked up tight.

Street in Old Town on the way to Ted's office

That took us 2 hours and we were soaking wet and wilted from the heat.  Just not used to it.  So down the hill from his office to a sandwich shop for something cold to drink and a snack.   We hopped on a bus from there and hit Wal-Mart to pick up some converter plugs so we could plug in the hot plate and few other things that we needed.

The next day we returned to the property managers office, however this time we went by bus, so we smelled a lot better!  Not in today.  Oh well at least we could get an appointment.

As we were standing outside of his office enjoying the view of the Bay of Banderas below us I noticed that across the street was the realty company that our favourite rental agent had gone to work for so we thought we would drop by and see if he was in.  Nope, out.  Well, 2 for 2.  Well what shall we do now?

One of the many beautiful views in the Bay

We were standing the company’s parking lot deciding that, when a car backed in and two people got out.  I recognized one, William Michael, who had shown us the condo next door to ours when he had it listed for sale.  He had been sending me email since then which always had his picture attached.  As I asked if it was him, the other man said I know that voice, that’s Kevin.  I had spoken to Robert about 5 times the last time we were in town about rentals and I was kind of surprised, I never thought of my voice as distinct.

Either way it was nice to see faces we knew and to finally make a connection with someone.  We made dinner plans for the following week and let them get back to work.  Since that time they have become some of our very dear and close friends.  And they still handle real estate and rentals for us through Vallarta Escapes.

Fishermen pulling their nets at dawn
Fishermen pulling their nets at dawn

Later that night we were sitting in our living room watching the movie SWAT on TV in spanish.   It was warm in the condo, 24 degrees, and no breeze so we were both sitting there waiting for the oscillating fan to blow our way.  Our condo had absolutely no flow through ventilation so a fan or air conditioning was in order.  We could not use the living room a/c unit as we used it on Sunday night and after 20 minutes water started pouring out of the unit.  That was a little frustrating so it was at this moment unusable and one of the items on our list of things to talk to the Property Manager about.

We had hired the Property Manager very quickly after buying the condo as we needed someone to pay the bills and look after the rentals.  We had already decided that we would relieve ourselves of him at the end of the year but there were a few things we needed done first.  The air conditioner needed repair, we needed a new toilet as the old one just was not working properly and we needed internet.

He is a nice man and was good at his job, bills were paid and things were looked after.  He was hard to get to see sometimes when we were in town but we always did get to see him.  He loved to talk and we got a lot out of those talks.  We listened and realized that it may take persistence but we could do a lot things our selves it would just take time.  We look back on those times fondly because without him we would not be where we are today.  He introduced us to Robert, the best rental agent in the bay (and the only one who could rent our condo) and Lupe, the fastest and best damn housekeeper we have ever seen.

We met with him the next day at the appointed hour, 10:00 Am for our usual 3 hour appointment.  We discussed the state of the economy, what it is doing to business in Mexico, what is happening with our condo, what needs to be repaired and what needs to be paid.

He asked if we had gone to immigration here in town to register and let them know we were here.  We had not but we said we would.   We left his office at 12:30 and headed for our favourite beach restaurant, The Lazy Lizard.

Los Muertos Beach, PV

We got there and it was closed and the space was for rent.  For rent?  Many times we had sat under their palapa’s and talked about how we would run the place as it was rarely busy which always seemed odd to us as it had the cheapest drinks on the beach, reasonable food and fun waiters.  Maybe we want to open a bar instead?  This was something that was going require some thought.  We wandered on down the beach in search of a cheap bucket of Corona to enjoy our afternoon with thoughts of bar ownership in our heads……

Maybe.......

Next up….the visit to immigration….ugh