From August 2, 2014 (I’m trying to finish old drafts I’d started.)
A year or so ago I felt ten or fifteen years younger. I was jogging almost every morning as the sun rose. It seems I was busy with Margarita once we saw the kids to the schoolhouse door. I had a dog to walk and chickens to raise. I played my guitar now and then. The kids and I took bicycle rides–not the 50 km ones I’ve done recently–around the neighborhood and to the park so we could play.
In January of 2013 our landlord wanted to double our rent so I taught him some English and we moved to our current house. It was larger, the roof leaked less during the rainy season, and it was closer to what little there is to have convenient in El Refugio. The family we rented from was amiable, cooperative, and was happy at the improvements we made to the property. We deducted the costs from the rent. The two men who lived in the two separate apartments on the property were no problem. They were helpful and friendly as well as we moved our chickens into unroofed “rooms” at the rear of the property.
One of the men, Don Saul, is part of the family who own the property. The water and electric bills still bear the name of his long-dead father. The other rented a smaller room for $10 a month and was rarely here. He was a night watchman at one of our schools and I imagine he could sleep on the job. By day he either found other work or he worked in the lovely garden behind our house. Unfortunately, he wasn’t paying his rent and he was asked to leave. When that happened the family raised our rent by $10 but didn’t offer us the departing gentleman’s space. This was eight months after we moved in. We ate the raise and life moved on.
We’d gotten over Don Saul’s friend’s robbing our bathroom of toilet goods and light bulbs and put a lock on the door. Then we had a music issue with him. He loves norteño music as do I. But the bass volume was extremely loud and unbearable in our house with its metal roof. The vibration amplified the bass painfully in my ears to the point where I couldn’t remain in the house. Margarita spoke to him and to the family member to whom we paid the rent. It took some convincing but they liked us as tenants and he turned it down–for a while. When he began entertaining the community again and Margarita was too shy to confront him, I went to his door where he stood smirking. I could barely hear my voice telling, not asking, him to turn the volume down. He just stood there like the senile old coot that he is. I shouted at him in both Spanish and English and he wouldn’t budge. I threatened to kick his ass but he seemed to be enjoying hassling me. Margarita tells me this was July 10th.
I haven’t spoken to the man since the robberies, but he likes to talk to Margarita in the morning when she’s washing the dishes or hanging clothes outside. He told her he wants us to move. She told me this a few weeks ago and I told her I’m not moving. I will not look for another house. I have lived in six houses in six years and I will die in this house since I will never be able to afford one of my own.
In the time that we’ve lived here, we’ve learned that like everything and everyone in this world, the house and location have their downsides too. There are few pedestrians who pass our house and that shut down Margarita’s cooking-on-the-sidewalk business. Then we learned how noisy it could be with a few local families owning large trucks that they warmed up at 4:30 a.m., the Chinese motorcycles with no mufflers that used our street to get to the main road, and the incessant horns from the bicycle bread vendors. The family across the street owns a bus whose route leads to a farm community. Seasonal workers gather in front of our house awaiting the driver and they are quite vociferous. Sleeping in is an impossibility.
The family of a couple of my ex-students with whom we are friendly own a house a block from where we used to live in Barrio Nuevo. It’s a much quieter location, still close to the school and on the microbus route. It looks nice from the outside. The owner told Margarita that there are three bedrooms. At present, Luís has a large room to himself but Adriana shares the big room with Margarita and me with a wall of furniture between. She would be able to have her own room and we would have the privacy we haven’t enjoyed in 20 months. But I’ve never been inside the house and have no idea what kind of space is available. I’ve bought a lot of large furniture for the bedroom, living room, and kitchen. I will not live in a crowded space. I don’t even know if there’s a place for our chickens.
The owner lost his wife a couple of years ago and is raising two kids younger than Adriana with the help of his mother-in-law. He drinks a lot during the day. Every six months he tells us he’s got problems with the current tenants but they never leave. I passed by last evening and they were enjoying dinner. But I remember how much damage was done moving here in Margarita’s brother’s antique pickup and the brutal handling of good stuff by our helpers. I do not want to move. Since I haven’t seen the inside of the house I don’t know if I should even think about it. But Margarita won’t let me forget.
Part of me would like to get away from this old fart who somehow seems to be in his shower adjacent to our bathroom when we get up in the morning. I’ve got a ten-year old daughter who has finally stopped playing in the yard bare-chested in her panties as she did in the privacy of our old house. I might be happier with an overall noise reduction and to live among old acquaintances and friends.
We (Margarita’s son Juan and I) recently finished rewiring the electricity from the house to the bathroom and the chicken coop so we can now use switches for light rather than plugging in an 80 meter length of rotting insulation wire segments and having to pull chains on the various light fixtures. I’m not giving that away!
That’s just the first part of the krumble and kollapse kalamity. The main concern is about me. I am aging too quickly. I’ve enjoyed a long run of good health and activity. I think that once our church school closed down my mind started shutting down as well. When the perra who destroyed the church’s CDI program for kids continued with her husband and extended family to make the church their personal fiefdom, I who came here as a missionary to serve it had no alternative but to leave. That left me with no regular activities to occupy the bulk of my days. No planning, no supervising, no teaching, no working with kids and their families, no mental challenges other than trying to understand the local brand of Spanish in my own home.
Then my wonderful legs, the legs that ran marathons, 10 k and 5 k runs regularly in the U.S. decided they’d had enough. I had lived for more than 30 years with pain in the right ankle I’d broken sliding into second base but now my left knee screamed, “No more!” It took me a while to develop a bicycling program for myself but I did it. I was able to keep my weight in check, follow my rides with stretches and upper-body exercises, and feel good about my old body. But in the last couple of months my mileage has dropped dramatically. I feel strong while I’m on the road but as soon as I get off my bike I find I can’t put weight on my bad right ankle and the left knee is sorer than normal. I walk like, well, an old man.
My hearing has not been 100% for the past 40 years since the air hose gauge at a gas station didn’t work and a bike tire exploded in my ears. I’ve had an annoying multi-tonal ringing ever since. It’s gotten to a point that if two people are talking at once I can’t distinguish or separate the voice of one from the other. Certain voice ranges are impossible to hear clearly. And the worse part is not being able to understand Margarita when she talks too fast. My tendency is to just nod my head as if I understand. I’ve agreed to things I wouldn’t have agreed to or was surprised to learn I’d assented to something I didn’t remember. That called into question my mind vs. my hearing. Either way it is frustrating.
I have eye glasses for regular wear but my current prescription hasn’t helped me to distinguish people at what used to be a normal distance. I have bifocals to carry with me to church for reading and to the store so I can read expiration dates on the milk bottles. I don’t wear the bifocals when I walk on the street or even in the house in fear of misjudging a change in ground levels and a fall. I have a third pair that I use exclusively for the computer. I also have contact lenses which I haven’t worn in years. If I try to walk with them I’ll see the world as a blur. So I have to change glasses often. From all the time I spend on the computer for lack of anything else to do, my eyes get very tired soon after supper.
I try to explain to Margarita who I am and why I get depressed. There is no one like me in her world. Salvadorans are content to sit on their asses all day and just eat and talk. That’s the main reason we’ll never see eye-to-eye about her son Juan who was content being a parasite until I finally got him out of my house. I have been active all my life. I have never been content to do nothing. I don’t believe in wasting the daylight hours relaxing, watching TV, or sitting on the park bench to fantasize about my past or chat about the hot chicks walking by. I’m a very light sleeper and she doesn’t understand that even if we had a darkened bedroom and air-conditioning, I wouldn’t be able to take an afternoon nap like she and the kids can.
I don’t like to compare any of my U.S. lifestyles with my current Salvadoran mode. There are regular things I wasn’t crazy about doing in the U.S. that I can’t do here but would love to have as options. We can’t go for a drive for lack of a vehicle and the means to obtain one. We have no real restaurants with a variety of meals to break the gustatory monotony. No adult recreation facilities for entertainment. Certainly nothing for seniors. And while Margarita has duties and responsibilities with the church, the school, helping her ailing mother at her house, in addition to her house chores, I’m only able to participate in a smidgen of her activities. When I’m motivated, I write. Sometimes I’m kvetching as in this piece other times I’m trying to educate, inform or entertain. A couple of videos I started a while back I’ve slacked off on because they involve either walking or biking with my camera. Walking hurts and I don’t want to risk having my camera stolen.
Since writing the above we’ve changed churches. The new church meets five afternoons or evening per week. I’ve been asked to play the guitar for the praise songs and Margarita is leading a cell group in a nearby neighborhood that is already growing. She’ll be doing some preaching at the church as well. There are a few members whom I have known for years but most congregants are new to me. We currently meet in a comfortable-for-30+ house while a large church is being built across the street. As excited as I get anymore, I’m excited for this new adventure.
On the way home from church a week ago, a car was approaching a group of us. I made for the side and tripped in a hole in the road and smashed my right (good) knee on the corner of the curb. I haven’t been able to ride since. I literally haven’t a leg to stand on with both knees aching. Last month I set a distance record for myself of 423 miles. I was on a pace to break 500 for March but that’s not going to happen.
We have had another incident with Don Saúl’s elderly lady visitor. When we left for church on Friday evening she was pounding on the garage door which is his point of entry to the property. We told her he had left earlier. She opted to wait for him. He must have come home while we were gone and let her in. When we got up Saturday morning Margarita saw she was missing some chili pepper and peppermints she had planted. She confronted the old man and he evaded the issue. A call to his niece wasn’t very helpful.
Margarita also told the niece about his increasingly strange and potentially dangerous behaviors regarding his lurking and voyeurism habits. He recently cut his bushes and flowering plants to a height low enough for him to be able to view our house and activities from anywhere in the yard. I found him at 4:00 a.m. lurking near our outdoor bathroom as I exited it. He was just staring at my startled countenance focused on the wraith in a nightshirt like Marley’s ghost. His other strange habit is listening for me to pass gas on our toilet and muttering some intelligible comment. Perhaps a curse. He does burn candles at night.
I have acquired an English student who will be coming to the house a couple of times a week for help. This will give my routine a little variety. I don’t know how long it will be before I will feel able to ride my cobweb covered bike. But this hiatus may turn out to be a good thing. I’ve been ignoring my guitar, my video projects, and probably a host of tasks I had intended to complete with all the free time I have.
The kountry kastle is krumbling and I can’t do anything about it. I’ll endure the pain in my aged legs as best as I can. I may even endure and outlive the old pain in the butt who lives behind us. My goal is to see my daughter grow up happy and independent. With God’s mercy and Margarita’s love I just might make it.