I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and we always classified never-ending cycles as the Golden Gate Bridge syndrome – once they finished painting the bridge, it was time to start over on the other end.
That’s kind of what’s going on at Villa Samia these days. We’ve been here 15 years, and the ocean is beautiful. But it is a truly hostile environment for construction. Things rust and deteriorate faster than you might think.
For example, all of our balusters are exploding. Our contractor says that these were hand crafted (with rebar in the middle) and the salt gets inside, rusting the rebar and causing them to explode.
Lovely. So that will be a major project, since there are about 200 balusters on the property. Our engineer is getting a quote for machine crafted balusters that are supposedly out of some material that won’t allow this to happen. We’ll see.
Here is an example:
The swimming pool is another example. The last few days have been torture! We have 5 Haitans banging away taking off most of the existing paint in the pool. We just had it painted about a year ago, but we went through a period where the help was putting way too many chemicals in the pool, and it was eating the paint. Plus it caused the tiles to start coming loose on the barrier between the pool and the back reservoir (it’s an infinity pool). So the choice was repaint or find some other alternative. Again, our engineer came back with a solution he says will mean that the pool never needs to be painted again. He says this is commonly used in the U.S. but he wasn’t sure what the name of the stuff was in English. We took a leap of faith, but yikes! The noise right outside my office is awful. I am hoping they finish their pounding today.
We moved the water from the infinity pool to the guest pool (which had been empty) because you can’t really afford to throw all of that water out here. And the cistern is full from the rain we have had. The other pool has problems, too, part of why it is empty. There is a leak we can’t find, so while there is water in it, we will try to sort that out as well. And of course, the pool pump over there didn’t work. And then there were issues with the electrical. So Eduardo, our electrician is here today sorting all that out.
And the air conditioner in our bedroom died last week. It’s more than 10 years old, and again the salt air is the culprit. Even though the compressor is in as protected a location as possible, it still rusted out. And because of the way the air conditioning was originally installed, they had to pick a big hole in the wall to install the new one. Luckily, Tiko, our painter, was able to fix all of that in a day, including repainting the wall.
Then yesterday when I was out doing errands, the Jeep died. Luckily, when I called our mechanic Bernardo, he said he could be there in five minutes and he was. He thought it was the battery, but when he got it back to the shop, he discovered it was some other part. He said, since he wasn’t that busy, he would drive to Santiago to get the part (3 hours round trip minimum). He did and installed it and returned the car about 8:30 at night. I’m just getting ready to go out for weekly grocery shopping, so my fingers are crossed. The mechanic he brought along to bail me out used a new battery and two crescent wrenches to jump the battery. I didn’t know you could do that. And he didn’t glow in the dark or anything. Yikes. Their ingenuity never ceases to amaze – and scare – me.
I had one more errand to do – I needed to pay cable and internet at Delancer. I asked Bernardo if he would drop me off there on his way to Santiago and I would take a taxi back. He went one better – had one of his employees drive me there, wait, and then take me home. I don’t think most mechanics in the States or anywhere would provide that kind of service. Bernardo is a bit more expensive than others, but the level of customer service he delivers makes it worth it.
And then the next issue of the week. We have two lots down the street where we kept the horses during the day. It has a well on it, so we needed to put electricity in there to run the well when needed. We haven’t had to use the well in a long time because we have had sufficient rain, so the electric bill is about 140 pesos (about $3) a month, the base charge. I paid six months in advance. When I went back yesterday to pay another six months, they told me that some Haitian woman had come in with a copy of my bill, opened a new contract, and added our contract to hers in our name!! First of all, they are militant about asking for ID and original deeds, so I am not even sure how this happened in the first place. Secondly, what possible benefit could there be for her? I have no idea who she is. The electric company said they would sort it out and get it fixed.
Finally, the tenant that rents our office in town – he rented three units in the building, one of which is a mini-market – can’t make a go of it, so I am trying to get my keys back and get the back money he owes (2 months rent and an electric bill, which I just went ahead and paid, since we leave electricity in our name. Much less hassle long term). Heading over there today to see what we can do. He has a manager there; I guess the owner is in the States till September.
So that’s my Golden Gate Bridge story. The house has been here all or in part for 15 years, and we are starting to paint from the other direction, so to speak. We had about six months of very low expenses, but we’re making up for it now! Hope the pool rebuild works like our contractor says it will. Wish us luck!