Category Archives: Water issues

Showering in Rural Mexico

Today I’d like to talk about showering in Mexico because odds are you won’t get the luxury of a bath unless you are willing to sit in a horse trough in rural Mexico. 

We have a shower and we have hot water, but that hasn’t always been the case. So here are some showering things you might need to know about before stripping down.

C on the shower knob stands for caliente (hot) and F is frio (cold). And even though the hot water control should be on the left side and the cold on the right, that may not be true for the shower you are using. 

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Showers are often built with small ledges that you can trip over if you aren’t careful. This is so water doesn’t spill out onto the floor. Our shower has a sort of reverse engineering. The shower is slightly lower than the bathroom floor and the floor is angled toward the center drain. Not all showers have that sloping and sometimes you can get quite a bit of water build up around your feet.

If you run out of water during your shower, mid-shampoo, hopefully, there is a barrica (barrel) of rainwater that someone can bring you a bucketful of to rinse out those soapy locks. Running out of water happens more often than you might imagine.

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Houses have tinacos (those ugly black round storage containers on the roof) that if you are connected to the town water supply will fill when the water is on. The thing is, water may only run two or three days per week. The tinaco is supposed to store enough water to get you to the next delivery. That’s not always the case. 

If you know ahead of time that there isn’t any water for a shower, you can take a bucket bath. When the occasion calls for it, my husband has been kind enough to heat water on the stove to take the chill off my bucket bath. Most homes have at least one enormous aluminum pot that will quickly heat water for your absolutions. Some have electric water heating devices. Just make sure to unplug it before testing the water temperature with your hand.

heating up water

The typical water application device for a bucket bath is a plastic bowl that we call a scooper. It’s the same plastic container that is used for washing clothes when it’s done with a washboard setup. 

water heater

If you have enough water for showering, then you’ll need to decide if it’s worth the effort to turn on the boila (gas hot water heater) or not. I’m a little afraid of it, having had my eyebrows singed before. 

The procedure for lighting the boila is as follows:

  • Turn the red switch to Piloto (pilot).
  • Push down the red button 10 or 15 times in rapid succession.
  • Open the portal.
  • Light a match.
  • Hold down the red button.
  • Wave the match around inside near the pilot light contraption until it whooshes. 
  • Slowly release the button. 
  • If the flame begins to waver, press the red button firmly down again.
  • When the flame is steady, turn the red switch to Abierto (open)
  • Close the portal.
  • Back away quickly.

After you have successfully lit the boila, then you need to wait around for about 20 minutes until enough water is warm enough for a shower. 

Make sure to turn the boila off after your shower. The contraption is gas-powered. If it is not vented properly, the gas can kill you or at the very least cause carbon dioxide poisoning if left on for an extended period of time.

electric water heater

I’ve also had the dubious pleasure of showering under an electric shower head. Although I loved every minute of the hot water on demand, it still made me very nervous. Water and electricity aren’t exactly the best of friends. However, if it is installed correctly and in working order, then there is no risk of electrocution. 

solar heater

The newest rage in our area is the solar water heater. It mounts on the roof and connects both to the tinaco and pipes that lead into the house. Many people who have this setup say that the water comes out boiling and even the knobs are too hot to touch. Yikes! We choose not to get a solar water heater because there are occasions when we don’t have water in the tinaco. If there isn’t water to run through the solar heater at all times, it can burn up the components. 

If it seems too much effort to get hot water, take heart. If your black tinaco is on the roof, the water is a comfortable shower temperature in the early afternoon. 

Most showers are set up on a gravity system. If the tinaco isn’t far enough from the showerhead, you may not get a lot of water pressure. Rinsing long hair might be complicated with the trickle-down effect. During the rainy season, the rain may be coming down harder than the water comes out of the showerhead. Feel free to take advantage of the heavenly shower Mother Nature has provided outdoors. 

rub a dub dub

Bathing children is somewhat simpler. Babies can fit into the sink off the side of the lavadora (washboard). Small children can splash about in the laundry tub. And several children fit nicely in a horse trough, which comes in metal and plastic for your bathing pleasure. 

Now I’ve heard that there are hot water on demand setups, but I’ve never been to a house that has one. I’ve also been to a plomería that had not just bathtubs, but jacuzzis, so they do exist too. These are just things outside of my own experience in this area of Mexico. 

So there you go! Tips for showing in rural Mexico. Follow these and you’ll be squeaky clean in no time!

Tell me, how do you shower?

 

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Water Issues in Mexico

August is National Water Quality Month and World Water Week begins on August 25. 

This year, the rains have been sporadic at best. Approximately 21% of Mexico was suffering from severe drought going into the rainy season. With scant rains in some areas and torrential rains in the other, things haven’t improved. The parched earth hasn’t been able to absorb the quantity of water needed and mudslides and flooding have been the result. 

Global climate change is affecting Mexico’s delicately balanced ecosystems. In particular, the water cycle has been disrupted resulting in less water runoff. That coupled with the seal level increases on the coast from the rise in surface temperatures in Mexico and the increasing intensity levels of hurricanes, and we’ve got a full-fledged disaster in the making. 

With unreliable rainfall, crops fail. With inadequate water supplies, livestock dies. With food supplies dwindling, the people of Mexico starve. 

Then let’s talk about water quality in Mexico. Estimates are that more than 12 million people in Mexico do not have access to potable water. Inadequate environmental protection laws and corruption keep any real water clean up process from happening. 

Take for example the rural communities of Hidalgo. Sewage from Mexico City is pumped directly into their water supply. Mexico City produces 34,000 liters of sewage per second. Is it any wonder that more than a quarter of the children born in these communities have birth defects. 

Water is, therefore, a dwindling resource in Mexico. 

Water is a precious commodity to us personally here in La Yacata as well. The rainy season lasts from June until the end of September. The rest of the year, we must order a pipa (tanker truck) every few months to ensure we have enough water for our animals and such. We are careful with our water consumption and have been working towards permaculture in the back yard. I’ve broken down how we conserve water here.

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If you’d like to read more about surviving Mexico with all its natural and man-made catastrophes A to Z Reasons Why La Yacata is the Place to Be in Any Disaster: A Prepper’s Guide to Mexico is FREE for the next few days. 

a to z

 

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A room of her own–Perks

 

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It may not look like much at first…..

Despite the small size, there are definitely some perks to renting in Sunflower Valley.  While it’s really not designed for a family, I think a retired granny would be delighted here. In fact, I can see the whole neighborhood being converted into a retirement community.  Here are some of the pros and cons.

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There is unlimited water.  I can wash and wash to my heart’s content and not have to worry about getting a delivery truck to come and fill up the tinaco (water storage container) or go to the arroyo.  However, there is some issue with the tinaco.  Every week or so, there was an overflow, and it dripped into the house, which apparently has been happening for years because there are signs of roof leakage in every room.  We did get that fixed though (See Waterfall in the kitchen and Fixing the roof)  Additionally, the toilet leaked, so we had to flush with a bucket. The pipes are bad which is causing the walls in the hallway and my office to disintegrate. That we haven’t fixed yet.  Although the water heater was replaced, we don’t shower here either.  It’s just icky.  Plus there were those extra water charges the owner tried to foist on us from the last tenants.  Although that too has been taken care of.

There is unlimited electricity.  We can charge our flashlight, laptops, portable DVD players, phones and Kindles every single day! And at 50 pesos every 2 months, the price is right! However, there are only 5 working plugs in the whole house, so we have to rotate our charges.

There is unlimited internet.  Well, there better be since this was the whole reason for renting this place, to begin with.  I use the internet to teach my online classes.  My son uses the internet to play Minecraft.  My husband uses the internet to check his Facebook account.  However, it’s a bit pricey at $349 per month, and it’s not lightning fast, but it will do for now I suppose.

There is also trash pickup 6 days a week.  We don’t generate too much waste and average one trash bag per week.  The problem is getting the trash out when the truck passes ringing its bell. Typically, it goes by before 7 am, and we aren’t usually there to greet it.  So sometimes the trash bag waits a week or more before hitting the curb.  Other times we just haul it to La Yacata and burn it.

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There is an abarrotes (convenience store) right across the street.  We can get detergent, toilet paper, ham, cheese, eggs, beans, tortillas, bread, water garafones (jugs) and junk food.  Unfortunately, my son goes overboard on the junk food.  Every chance he gets, he heads over for a bag of chips and a Zumba (non-carbonated grape juice) or cookies and milk.  He has made the connection between the food he eats and his zit outbreaks, so I’m hoping he reduces his junk food intake eventually.  

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The produce truck comes every Sunday afternoon.  Since there isn’t a fruteria (produce store) close, this is a fabulous plus.  He even stops right in front of the house!  However, the guy who drives it has lots in La Yacata, so my cover is blown! It didn’t take too long for other Yacata property owners to find me in Sunflower Valley either.

The bolillo (bread) guy comes every morning around 9 am.  We aren’t often there in the mornings with our current schedule, but it’s a really nice treat when we are.  I can’t think of a downside for this.  Freshly made bollillo is yummy!

The tamale lady comes every Saturday evening.  She sells rojos, verdes y dulcles (red, green and sweet) tamales for 9 pesos each.  However, she usually knocks when I’m in class, so my son handles the transaction.  Only she doesn’t seem to understand volume, so she’s practically shouting at the front door, which disturbs me in my classes.  

The saddest ice cream truck ever also makes the rounds most evenings.  It’s a rusty red van that plays the song Memory from Cats over and over again.  Not exactly a song that brings ice cream to mind, but it’s memorable that’s for sure.

Now that the little house is nearly furnished, there are all sorts of perks inside too.  Both my son and I have a bed for napping when we have to head there right after school.  Having a kitchen lets us whip up something quick as well.  I also like to have a cup of tea during my classes.  And if my classes run long and my teenage son is famished, he can fry himself up some eggs and ham.  We have chairs to sit on and hope to get a couch to lounge on soon.  It’s quite comfortable really.

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The house backs up to a soccer field.  If I stand on a chair, I’m actually ground level to the field.  Best seats in the house.  However, there are days the games are the same time I am teaching online, so there’s a bit of background noise when the two overlap.

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Guard’s room.  There’s a ding-dong sensor when someone passes through the front gate.

There’s a security guard at the front gate who monitors everybody’s coming and going. Despite this, in recent months, there have been 4 break-ins during the day.  I suspect that the thieves live in Sunflower Valley as well, so the items have just moved from one house to another.  The targeted houses have been all 2 stories and obviously better off financially than my run-down little dump.  Plus, the store is open all day, and the shopkeeper keeps an eye on things on our street.  Furthermore, our neighbor has a friendly pitt bull that is outside during the day.  He’d give the warning should any strangers come and try to pick our lock.

Yet another perk is the proximity to La Yacata.  It really is less than 2 miles.  When my classes run late, it only takes 5 minutes to get home via the highway.  Of course, I don’t like driving the highway at night, but it’s the shortest way.  It’s also within biking distance for my son.  Nowadays he prefers heading over there Saturday afternoons rather than staying in La Yacata.

Besides the tamale lady and the occasional soccer game, the area is quiet and peaceful.  In December, we even had Las Posadas right outside our door.  We didn’t stay long, but shared some ponche (punch) and received an aguinaldo (goodie bag) for our 40 pesos contribution.

So, as you can see, there are some decided advantages to our little out in Sunflower Valley even if there aren’t any sunflowers here.  I’m not sure how long we’ll keep renting, but for now, it’s all good.

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The Bougainvillea has begun to bloom–perhaps a sign of better things to come?

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A room of her own–fixing the roof

With the rainy season fast approaching, it was imperative that the roof was fixed.  It wouldn’t do to arrive and find that the beds and computers got wet.  My husband agreed to do the work and even called the owner to name his price.  So the arrangement was instead of paying rent this month, I would buy the materials and pay my husband.

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The roof had already received a coat of impermeabilizante (waterproofing), hence the red color, but as there were holes in the cement, a layer of paint wasn’t enough to keep the water out.

First, the roof needed to be swept and the accumulated debris disposed of.  The house was not constructed very well.  The rainwater pooled at the sides and over the years corroded the roof, leaving it in its current dilapidated condition.

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This cement tinaco (water storage container) is at least 20 years old.

Next, the holes in the ceiling were filled in.

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Then the chipopote (tar) mixed with gas for easier spreading was applied to the worst spots.  It’s possible there will still be one or two minor leaks, but we won’t know until the rainy season arrives in full force.

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Finally, the ceiling received another coat of plaster.  I wasn’t so worried about the cosmetic appearance, but my husband thought it should at least look passable.

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It’s been more work than I imagined getting the place into a comfortable state for working and I’m not finished yet.  The bathroom still feels icky and even though we don’t use it for showering, it’d be nice to fix it up a bit. It certainly is better than it was! I have to keep in mind that this isn’t my house though.  It doesn’t pay for me to invest in unessential repairs.

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