17 December 2009
Just returned from the Quinta. It has been a very cold, almost totally foggy, rainy, grey period of slightly more than three weeks. There were a couple of episodes of dry and sunny, but in the main we have been watching and listening to the weather forecasts....ever concerned that the temperatures might decide to break through the critical 32 F degree threshold. During the period we picked up another four inches of rain, so things really should be ready to burst forth come Spring. In the meantime, however, I burned a lot of firewood, did a lot of minor, intensive repairs and improvements, grumbling as I went. My piano and baseball hands and fingers are not well-suited to hammering, sawing, bolting, and the like. But, several little projects were succesfully completed.
One of the biggest problems was that the TERMOGAS delivery truck never seemed to come by for his weekly visit; this as my gas supply steadily diminished from 31 pounds down to 19 pounds, which is the lowest I have ever had it. It was a matter of great reluctance to cook or use the bathroom heater, and my stinginess overrode my willingness to use a nice electric space heater Diana had bought some time back.
Speaking of Diana and TERMOGAS reminds me of a time earlier this year when we had some especially nice clients, a professional couple.....who had come down looking for an out-of-the-way refuge just to relax. On the second day, Diana invited the lady to accompany her on a walk to buy a couple of liters of milk. In this place of simplicity and old-fashioned customs, it seemed like an easy matter....fifteen or twenty minutes to the store...a few smiles and nods at the local folks...and then a return to the Quinta where Diana and Dave could continue with cooking and the clients could return to their reading and relaxing.
But.....first, Prince the dog has to come along, to guard "La Sen~ora and the Visitor" from the OTHER DOGS....I could hear their progress as they moved through the ejido based upon the barking of Prince and the OTHER DOGS as the girls made their way looking for a couple of liters of milk. The milk is usually a small and easy affair, but like Yogi always says sometimes,"The milk is easy to find, except when you need some". In the Ejido Francisco I. Madero there are numerous "convenience stores" which offer lesser to greater degrees of products and services. Some have an impromptu "service window" where a client can ask the owner for toilet paper, cigarettes, Coca Cola, or whatever and the owner will retrieve said order and proceed with the transaction. A few places actually have a door, display shelves, coolers, freezers, and a formalized order....even a cash register, perhaps. They are all friendly.....prone to draw out personal contact and conversation for ten to fifteen minutes longer than either the client or the store owner can afford. In the ejido, I would estimate that there are 14 such stores.....for a population of perhaps 500 people.....so one can imagine what the gross sales / net profit impact is.
The wonder is that the availability of product....junk food, basics supplies (flour, corn meal, bread, cereal, milk, canned goods, etc.), ice, soda pop, tobacco, and so forth....is good and the quality is good to even excellent (except for fresh vegetables). So finding some Lala milk should be no problem. Right? First store...."No hay"....second store..."No hay"....third and fourth store "No hay"...and all the while the dogs are barking, Prince is barking....and, of course, doing disgusting dog - things because, after all, these dogs haven't seen each other for over two days. Each lady at her store indicates that "Se la encuentra por alla'..." motioning on to the next store. So the girls trudge on over the gravelly, uneven streets, although the plants, flowers, and growies at each pass are interesting to even charming. Many of the homes, when studied carefully, bespeak of a functional comfortability, more substantial than first-view would suggest. At each meeting of people, civilities are exchanged and the locals would really like to find out more about the new lady.....the client of the Gringo & Diana....because the National Anthem of the Ejido Francisco I. Madero is "Gossip".
But, not only is there no "Lala" brand milk at any store (it's actually very fine quality....funny name, fine quality....like Borden's) , there is no milk under any label. "The truck is coming in an hour....we've been waiting for two days." is the refrain the girls hear at every stop. So the girls begin their return only to encounter the TERMOGAS truck coming down the street towards them. Waves and nods are exchanged and the truck passes them by. As they continue on, however, another lady is running towards them, shouting "Stop the truck, stop the truck...He's passed us by....Stop the truck!!" The catch here is that TERMOGAS is very good in terms of quality and service. The other two purveyors have....let us say...somewhat of a "reputation" for equivilating raw air and/or H2O with propane. So the folks, like your humble servant, prefer TERMOGAS.....I will use nothing but. In any regard, after about an hour or so the girls come back, along with Prince the dog, and not long after the cold delivery truck arrives at one of the nearby "convenience stores" and when all is said done all who wanted milk and propane had received their fill.
But, that was then and this is now, and no TERMOGAS truck had come down even as I left yesterday morning. Alvaro assured me, however, that he would hog-tie and brand the driver and empty the contents of his tanks into the Quinta's tank before I return.
So that you all might be able to judge and take note, I normally will buy about 17 dollars worth of propane every four weeks. This amount covers the use of one 30 gallon water heater, one small gas range, and the very occasional use of a medium-sized space heater that is essentially permanently anchored in the master bath. We are probably the largest purchasers of propane for domestic use. The electricity is much more formalized, with computerized billing, etc. We are charged around 900 to 1,000 pesos every two months for our electricity usage....which at this writing is about 55 to 70 dollars. We use a medium sized refrigerator, various lights (very judiciously), a couple of small, old-fashioned televisions, a couple of small air-conditioners very, very occasionally, and an electric pump to provide pressurized indoor plumbing to the house and a bit of irrigation for our gardens.
UPDATE: The Termogas truck arrived a day after my departure, and Alvaro purchased 400 pesos worth of gas, and scolded the driver.