Usually, I take a taxi home from Chamelco. After walking to town, taking a bus to Bezaleel, working, taking a bus back to town, and navigating my way through a bunch of market purchases, I just want to get home as fast as possible. But yesterday, I didn’t have too much stuff in my market bag—just some tostados, two avocados, six hairbands (bought individually, of course), and a small bunch of cilantro—and I didn’t feel like tracking down a taxi and then sitting politely in the back seat, making small talk with the driver, and then digging out the exact change, so I slung my bag over my shoulder and struck out for home.
It wasn’t until I was leaving town that I remembered I had my camera in my backpack. Which then led to this internal debate.
Me: Yay! You can take some pictures!
Self: But no one else is with me and what if someone decides to snitch my camera.
Me: It’s so gorgeous today!
Self: I’m an easy target for a hit and run robbery.
Me: You’ve gotta take pictures of the road home. This is Your Life.
Self: Eh, I don’t know…
Me: No one is around! It’s broad daylight!
Self: I really like my camera. I’d like to take it back home with me.
Me: Look. Just loop the camera around your neck and tuck it into your bag, like so. There! Isn’t that nice and discreet?
Self: Well, if you say so…
We don’t know the exact address of where we are living. What we tell taxi drivers is this: Take us to the road of Casa de San Juan (Saint John’s House). A little bit beyond that, turn right into Rancho Santa Fe (Ranch Saint Faith). (Or something like that.)
We live in a well-off part of Chamelco. You might say we live in the fancy suburbs. Casa de San Juan is a big establishment that hosts all sorts of parties and events, though I have yet to see anything be hosted there. Some dignitary lives in our general area. There’s an upscale restaurant, or there used to be—not sure which. There are houses with armed guards, though I rarely see them along the road—they slink around back behind the high hedges (I presume).
Big SUVs drive back and forth on the hand-swept paved road. Hired men clip the hedges by hand and cut the grass with machetes. (Though once, on our walk to church, we passed a man mowing a lawn with a mower. The smell of gas mingling with freshly cut grass, the putt-putt of the small motor, and the fact that it was a Sunday of all days combined to transport us back to a Sunday afternoon in the States.) Villagers, women with baskets on their heads, men bend double with homemade wooden tables that they’re hoping to sell in market, school kids, and boys on bicycles are constantly streaming by. But because it’s a wealthy area—because of the sharp separation between rich and poor—it’s an extremely safe neighborhood. Which is weird.
At our first house in Carchá, we were told we shouldn’t even open our front door because people would ogle our stuff and eventually rob us of it. But where we are now, way back in and perched on top of a hill, there are no such worries. Sure, we lock our door when we leave, but when we’re home, we leave the doors gaping open. We don’t have an armed guard on the property (that I’m aware of), but the hired men keep a sharp eye out and interrogate any strange faces that show up, and there are the three dogs that strangers are (rightfully) terrified of. Heck, the Big House is completely open to the elements via the porch and living area, and they leave all sorts of stuff like power tools (!) sitting around outside. We feel perfectly comfortable keeping our washing machine and dryer on our porch and leaving clothes drying on the line while we go to work.
When I first came here, I said that of our two situations—work and home—only one could be a challenge. At least, that was my hope. If they were both difficult situations, then I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to stick it out. In retrospect, I’ve decided that the home situation isn’t optional. It has to be safe and comfortable. I need, we need, a place to unwind, to be ourselves, to be at home. We have that, and it’s even better than I thought it could be. For this, I am supremely grateful.
But back to the walk home. Here’s the entrance to our property, Rancho Santa Fe.
I can never get over the bougainvillea. It’s lush and vibrant and makes me feel like skipping.
Except that by the time I reach the entrance, I don’t skip because I’m hot and tired and just want to get home as quickly as possible.
To the right of the entrance is a soccer field.
With its sloping sides, soccer “bowl” is a more apt name.
Up in the distance, to the left, is the gardener. This old (40s? 60s? it’s impossible to tell a person’s age here) man is a hard worker to beat all hard workers. He shows up early and works steadily all day long, machete-ing grass, transforming overgrown fields into orderly gardens, planting and hauling and raking.
There’s a creek that they’ve been walling up and shaping into a little pond of sorts, I’m not sure why. (My husband says it’s for a water source for the animals.) I think it may make a good cool-down spot, one of these hot days.
Our house is on the top of that there hill. You can see a little of the big house. Ours is off to the right and back a little ways. The driveway goes to the left, out of the picture, and then winds across, up, and around that hill.
Here I am, up past the house that’s being built. (Want to move here and be neighbors?) The side of the hill is planted in some sort of flowering bush, and then the gardener went back through and planted beans and cilantro.
A little further up the hill and here I’m looking down on the field that’s been planted with pine trees. Planting trees instead of crops is something the wealthy do—poor people have no option, and not enough land, to do anything but plant food.
See that not-so-little patch of bare earth? The gardener cleared that by hand in a day and a half an then planted beans (or corn or something). Makes my back hurt and my hands blister just thinking about it.
These Dr. Seuss trees crack me up.
Some of them have spiky straight hair.
And others have hair that gets all curly at the bottom, just like human hair. When it rains, the curls frizz up into wild kinky happiness…or maybe I’m just imagining things.
And then I finally come to the top of the hill and there is our squat little red barn of a house waiting for me.
Home again, home again, jiggity jig.