This evening, we got our first glimpse of the furnishings in our new vacation rental. At 5:00 PM we got to move our things into the house. Shortly after that, “Rueben” arrived.
Rueben is a tall white fellow with a long pony tail. Marta told me (in rapid-fire Spanish) that he is a friend and a student. Based on what I heard her say, he came every day to the Idiomas school to learn the Spanish language. I didn’t attempt to speak English with him. And he didn’t attempt to speak English with me, though I’m fairly certain he does speak English. He looks like an English-speaker. It seemed as though he was trying to impress us with his superior Spanish-speaking skills when he arrived to put up the curtains in our upstairs bedroom. I asked him to please slow down, (mas lentemente, por favor) but he ignored me and walked away. There is an unofficial Expatriate Spanish-Speaking Contest that’s constantly going on in Spanish language schools throughout Latin America. Who can speak better, faster? I’m not sure what the big prize is for winning, but it must be pretty great because the competitors fight bitterly to be the winner.
Ninety minutes into the curtain hanging ordeal, I told Marta that we were able to build things and that we could perhaps put up the curtains ourselves, but I think she’s very particular about the process and it has to be “perfect”. We sat downstairs on our couch and new hammock downstairs waiting as the curtain-hanging drama unfolded in our bedroom above us. There was no privacy. Reuben walked past us, back and forth every ten minutes. We heard the screw driver and what sounded like a hammer. Screws fell onto the floor tinkling gently upstairs. Two hours went by. Then two and a half.
John and I were unnerved by the lack of privacy, having spent several days in a small hotel room already.
(I’m writing this the next day, but Marta and Rueben are knocking at our door right now…Looking through the barren glass at me as I try to wind down…I have to go answer it…)
…Anyway, I’m back again. We were/are unnerved by the lack of privacy. As we sat on the stark couch in the stark living room, Reuben would occasionally pass through on his way to go acquire more tools for the big project of hanging curtains. At first, we were very patient. “How long does this sort of thing take?” We whispered to each other. Then we commented on how we would be grateful for the curtains and that it was nice that they were going to so much trouble for us. As time wore on, our commentary became less balanced. “Seriously?…What are they doing up there?” Etc.
Finally, Rueben and Marta emerged from our upstairs bedrooms. They were done for the night. They’d have to return tomorrow to finish the project. We interpreted this to mean that they would be back to put up the curtain over the door in our living room which is still agape as I sit here writing this (I can look right into the midst of my neighbor’s living room with its gigantic crucifix and multi-colored Christmas lights adorning the interior walls across the street.)
After they left and we were finally alone in our much coveted vacation rental for the night, we went upstairs to see the new curtains. When we got to the bedroom we were speechless. “Where are they?” John said. We were both very confused. There were no curtains hanging. Just two little brackets where a curtain rod could go. This is what took 2 ½ hours for them to do.
So John and I found a few nails and screws sticking out of the wall and hung the curtains over the windows. It took approximately 15 seconds.
Right now, I’m listening to the neighbor’s Spanish rap music playing loudly in the street outside. It’s about 10:00 PM and I’m a little concerned about it. At least it isn’t hokey Ranchero music. It’s been going on and off for the past three hours. The fellow in charge of the loud music is sitting outside his house (with the door to his living room left wide open) staring in at us through the glass in our door. Every now and then, he stops a song in the middle and starts it over from the beginning presumably to keep everyone within listening distance from enjoying the music.
Last year, around this time an evangelist rolled through Progreso with his speakers up full blast. It would be hard to describe the noise that thundered out of this production. It was incomprehensible. I have never experienced anything so obnoxious in my entire life. For three nights in a row, from sunset to the edge of midnight, the noise was so loud we could do nothing but wait for it to end. It permeated the cement streets echoing to all corners. We yelled at the top of our lungs to the Canadian owners of Casa Sol Mar, unable to hear each other only ten feet away from each other in a cement enclosed courtyard.
But at least it’s warm here.
We have no TV. No Internet at the house, but we can walk to places where there is Internet to do our work. At home in Nebraska right now, there’s a winter storm warning. The high is 27 degrees. Walking home along the Malecon tonight, I wore shorts and a tank top and I was hot, even with the light breeze blowing in off the Gulf.
Later, I learned that Reuben is from Spain, which explained why we couldn’t understand his Spanish and why he really had a hard time understanding our broken efforts at the Mexican version of the language as well. He looks European, but can’t speak but a few words in English.