Saturday, March 27, 2010

Thoughts on Isolation

I know I've moved around a lot and lived in several places in these five decades of my existence. But all of my life I have tried to stay in contact with friends I've made.  My friends have always been important to me.  It pissed my mom off when I was little.  She'd say, "Your friends are ALWAYS more important to you than your family!"  That wasn't quite true, but I did heavily rely on peer support.

Before internet, I was a phone-aholic.  How much money did I blow blablablahing on the phone for, say, 30 years??  And how much unproductive time did I waste bitching about life instead of changing it?  I was also a letter writer.  I'd be in a far away place and write 25 page missives to friends or family.  Jim and I wrote up our adventures, photocopied them and mailed them to a hundred friends.  You meet a lot of cool people when traveling.  The world really is small and your chances of meeting people again are better than you'd think.  That always meant something to me.  I guess attempting to be a good friend and communicator gave me a feeling of connection with the universe or something.

Post internet, I kept up with emails pretty well at first.  Then I got carried away with the two years of medical report emails during Jim's deterioration and sort of lost interest in too much email ranting.  I decided to cut out so much ranting from my life; let the anger and hurt go.  As you can see by this RANT, I am still working on it!

So, as I whine about my friends not keeping in touch with me, I think about the emails I have received from them and answered with quick notes promising to catch up later, and then I don't.  I actually realize that all the sadness I feel from this I have caused myself.  Just one of those weird personality quirks I guess.

I think this is the first time I've made a move and felt so isolated from my friends (Actually Cape Verde, West Africa in 1986 was the most intense....but it was short term).  I've caught up with some folks from the past on facebook, and that's been fun.  But I've lost touch with too many of my close friends from my more recent past, and it makes me sad.  I guess that may have something to do with today.  It is Jim's birthday.  (I wrote this on March 27th, and have been mulling over whether to post it since then.)

I realize that these are difficult times for everyone financially.  Everyone is busting ass trying to stay afloat; it's no different here. One cultural difference is that it seems US Americans are always overbooked, in a big hurry, and super stressed out.  They really don't have free time.  I understand people live in a rat race and just can't keep up with everything AND everyone.  One of the reasons I moved here was to learn to slow down that pace.  I know I am too sensitive about missing contact with my friends.  Of course more of this is my fault too, since I talked everyone into getting Skype.....I removed the speakers from my computer(to use with the TV) and my headset is broken.  So now I don't have access to Skype. I am working on replacing the headset OR speakers....But I have also decided I don't care that much for talking on the phone anymore, and feel more comfortable writing my thoughts.  At least I can edit them. 

Another thought that rings in my head is my ex-neighbor telling me she doesn't write because she doesn't have interesting news.  She said her life isn't as exciting as mine.  Same shit different day.  My life is not that much different from hers on a daily basis, and I can't afford to do much exciting stuff these days either.  But I would still like to hear from her (them).  What's going on in my old neighborhood(s) with my friends still interests me.  And I enjoy the contact with friends.

I guess what I am trying to say is I understand why we lose contact with friends who have become close to us, especially when we move far away.  It's just that some days, especially those that bring back memories to begin with, like Jimmy's birthday, make me too sentimental, sometimes a little homesick for Hawaii, and just a little confused.   I isolate myself from my friends and family and then I feel bad that I miss them.  Go figure.

Friday, March 26, 2010

I Hate Winter

Siberia, Ohio, Hawaii,'s all the same to me when it comes to winter.  I know a Siberian (i.e. Ohio) winter can not be compared to winter in the tropics.  But Siberia and Ohio are prepared for freezing shitty gray weather half the year.  Houses in the tropical zones are built to stay cool in the intense heat for most of the year.  We don't have insulation, heaters, fireplaces, or wardrobes for every season.  It isn't often Old Man Winter kicks us in the ass like he did this year.  Instead of our usual 20 cold fronts per season, over 60 colder fronts passed through.  The cold kicked in during October and it's already the end of March when we are finally seeing some hot and sunny days.

I've been giving this some serious thought.  Why do I function so poorly when the temperature is cold?  What is it I hate about winter?  Here goes:

The days are way too short once we mess with the clock in October.  They get even shorter before they get longer again, five months later.  Daylight in the tropics doesn't last that long to begin with.  In the middle of summer it's dark by 7:30pm on the longest day.  When the darkness of winter nights sets in at 4:30pm - it's just not enough daylight for me.  I consider dark as time for dinner, hammock and probably TV. 

The nights are too cold.  The temperature is reported in Centigrade which makes it sound worse.  9°C sounds pretty cold, doesn't it?  It is!  It's 44°F.  Even though some days warm up to 70-80°F, by nightfall I am digging out sweats, socks and afghans.  It's hard for these old bones to handle the radical temperature changes from hot days to freezing nights. 

I must confess that I don't like to close doors or windows.  I need air, light, and I like to be able to see "outside".  I'd rather put on a 2nd sweatshirt and complain than close the doors or windows.  So I COULD really make it warmer in the house....but I would feel so closed in!

I finally found an exercise I will actually DO: swimming.  We heated the pool so we could swim all winter.  But even with the water at 80°F, I can't get into the pool when it's 50°F outside.  I spent two days in the pool last week, after only looking AT it for nearly five months, but then a couple more cold fronts came through and sent me back into my lazy funk, back to the farm, so to speak.

I generally have a 4 month panic attack from January until my birthday in April passes.  My head fills with self-doubt, occasional self-loathing, I worry I've got some illness or my teeth are going to fall out.  With the cold nights my body aches in the chill of the morning and I feel lousy.  Usually once I've survived another birthday I feel just fine.  An added plus is that the temp is usually high in Mérida by April.  That puts me in the pool where I get all sorts of things accomplished.  I like to write and read in the pool.  When I feel too warm I get wet, move around the pool a bit to loosen up, then sit in the shade on a float and work. 

I have other gripes about the winter season, but I think this has been long enough of a rant.  I am sitting outside with my miles of piles today.  It's hot and I am sweating  perspiring and planning a dip in the pool.  I keep having to move my chair to stay in the shade of the mamey tree.  The sun feels hot, and the sky is clear blue.  I think today I can finally vent my winter months' frustrations because I believe it's over.  Spring officially began five days ago during the (hopefully) last cold front of the year. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ginger and Bambu

This second piece has a story.  I first played with painting on canvas last summer. I painted that giant ginger flower.  I was practicing, because the only things I really think I can draw are flowers and bambu.  So when we framed the canvas, I used the same piece I played with last summer thinking I could just paint over it.  What I wanted to paint was bambu.  When I started the project though, it became apparent I experimented with dimension on that ginger and piled on layers of paint. What I am trying to say is that I couldn't get rid of the ginger. I had to fit it into the paiting. It's a bit odd I think, and not a coherent piece.  But give me a break, it is my second painting!

Artist: Lin Dorton
Ginger and Bambu
February, 2010
Acrylic on Canvas

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Serenity is Celestún

Since Pablo has all kinds of paints and materials sitting about, I am automatically drawn to an open craft station.  I love to color, like in coloring books, more than draw, I don't feel I am very good at depth perception and shadowing and stuff.   I took a landscape photo of Celestún that I loved and decided to try a landscape.  This is my attempt at painting a photograph I took.  To me it represents the serenity which is Celestún.  I work best with small things, so I used a 9 1/2" square canvas. 

Artist: Lin Dorton
Serenity is Celestún
February, 2010
Acrylic on Canvas
9 1/2" square

Friday, March 12, 2010


If buying a ‘fixer upper’ house in the US is a challenge, buying an old colonial in a foreign country and restoring it amid language and cultural barriers should be at the top of the five most stressful life situations list.

Naturally only adventurous souls even consider such moves, but it never ceases to amaze me how many such enterprising folks there are in the world. I consider myself adventurous, if not a little crazy, since I bought a fixer upper colonial in Mexico. I didn’t undertake a complete renovation like some foreigners I’ve met. Although I could have made more aesthetic improvements, I took a more practical route. With the help of my (honest and reputable) realtors, I hired a good contractor with reliable competent workers.. They resurfaced lots of cement, painted, retiled some areas; oh it was a disaster site for months. Plumbers and electricians worked along side them. It was nuts.  But then it was over.

I understand that many renovation or restoration projects require architects, their official designs, lots of stamps and permits, etc. I picture architects like attorneys, a necessary evil, and should I require their services, I would seek the most honest and least greedy of them. I didn’t feel the need for an architect for my project so when a potently perfumed, spiffy dressed one showed up unsolicited I was taken aback. Our one meeting didn’t really go too well.

To wit,
This sink is in my dining room.
The room is connected by arches to the tv room and the kitchen. The first words the architect spoke were, “That doesn’t look good, it has to go.” I strongly disagreed. It is the handiest, most convenient sink in the house and invites guests and/or diners to frequently wash their hands. In my opinion, that is a good idea for a dining room.
Moka likes it.

These are glass doors between the two front living rooms and the tv room.

This glass and the doors are one of the back entrances to the house.
The architect said all the glass had tobe removed to restore the colonial look of the wide cement arches. I see the arches through the glass, and I think the glass partition is another great idea…for privacy if nothing else. Those two rooms closed off with the half bath provide comfortable living quarters for our renter. When I use the rooms to write, I can close out other house noises with those doors. I like ‘em.

The back entrance has sliding glass doors and screens. Those come in very handy in the rainy season. When closed, they protect the house from the pounding sideways tropical afternoon rains and winds. Not to mention possums and other vermin seeking catfood at night. The glass is protected by a huge wall of iron work. In case of hurricane the iron would minimally deter larger flying objects, and the glass would stand a chance of helping, not hindering, as a wind break.

So that is as far as I got with the architect. I decided that my contractor and his brothers were not only more practical, but incredibly more creative. When I came up with a hair-brained idea, they had the nerve to tell me. We’d discuss it and find the best solution.

Other people buy houses needing total restoration, and often want the outcome to be upscale and trendy. I feel that people new to the area are easy prey for a fast talking realtor or a greedy architect. They arrive in a state of overwhelm, often foreign to tropical living, even foreign to foreign living. They create impractical visions of their dream houses in their heads. They turn to the architect for his or her expertise, and in turn are provided with plans specific to their original ideas. I would say they design mostly eye candy. Their designs are aimed to please and look good on paper, but don’t spoil the customer’s visions with any harsh realities. Most of these professionals are bilingual which increases the level of trust they receive from their clients. After three years here I am sorry to say that much of the work of the name-dropped designers doesn’t impress me. (I don’t like name droppers to begin with,tho.) I have also seen some fabulous architects' results, so honestly I am not trying to badmouth the profession.

I am not going to go into any specific design snafus that may have spurred this post, because this is not meant to be a personal slur against anyone in particular.  It is just an eye opener in general.  We have to be very careful and become 'Mexican street wise' to successfully achieve great results and be charged fair fees.

I am an oddball, I know. I came here to live Mexican style, rather than create a north of the border sterile trendy ambience. I had more hammock hooks cemented into the walls than the house already had. I picked out the brightest colors and  have a life size palm tree on one wall. But I came with decades of tropical living and the ability to communicate in Spanish. My project lasted about four months, and my home has been livable and comfortable ever since. I am not saying that I haven’t had any problems, or that nothing had to be redone…. but I am grateful that compared to the nightmares other folks have gone through with builders and contractors, I have been lucky and my first three years’ experience has been quite benign.

I may require the services of an architect. The person would have to offer me a balance of practicality and beauty. I would prefer an honest person who told me if my visions were faulty, who would work with me not just for me. An honest architect with realizable visions would be a valued treasure, and if I ever come across one I will be sure to spread the word.