Our house is on the other side of
that tall white one.
Within one or two blocks from our house, we have at least three little neighborhood stores that sell anything from diapers to candy to onions and tomatoes. Prices are a little higher than at the bigger stores, but in a pinch, it's handy to have somewhere to buy a liter of milk or a half a kilo of eggs when we suddenly run out. We also have a papelería two streets over...I have not visited the papelería, but they sell things like paper products, pens, pencils, wrapping paper and they also make copies. Again, probably a little more expensive than a larger store, but nice to have in the neighborhood as well. Other businesses in the neighborhood include estéticas (beauty shops), at least one lavandería (laundromat), a little gift shop and several houses on our street cook and sell tacos and other yummy Mexican antojitos (cravings, literally) most evenings.
We're getting to know a lot of the neighbors (and their children!). The neighbors that live in the tall white house next door invited us to eat at their house a few weeks ago and we enjoyed spending some time with them. They have an amazing house! One thing that was really interesting was the large round window that separates their garage area from the living room area on the ground floor...I don't think I've ever seen anything like that before and it is really cool. That top floor is a laundry room and the second floor has a really amazing play room. They showed us how they installed glass stairs and hallways on the different floors so that the light comes down from the fourth floor all the way to the kitchen on the ground floor! It is very common for people to add on to their houses since the original houses are very small. This is an example of how a small house on a small lot can be turned into a very large house with a little creativity!
We don't see these particular neighbors a whole lot, we usually just greet them as we pass in the street. Their kids are very nice, but unfortunately don't play outside with the other kids very much so our kids haven't had much opportunity to make friends with them. The other day, however, this neighbor's truck wouldn't start, so Miguel helped him find the problem. We always like to look for ways to be good neighbors by helping out whenever we can.
I think it's the tallest house in the neighborhood
and it can be seen from blocks around.
Across the street from us there is a carpenter who has made a shop in his carport. This is very common, we've seen many 'home carpenter' shops around. He used to live a few houses down, but had to store all of his tools away every night since that house didn't have a front gate/fence. Now they live in this house a few doors down with a gate, which is much more convenient for them, I'm sure. The carpenter works all hours of the day and night and we often hear him still hammering at 10 p.m. or so! Good thing he doesn't live next door to us! Miguel has helped the carpenter deliver his finished pieces several times since he doesn't have a vehicle and once lent him some money to buy some varnish so he could complete an order. One time his son had an ear ache, so we gave them some medicine for it.
Right next door to our house is a little kindergarten. Classes usually run from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There are about 20 children who attend this school and they can make a lot of racket! Most of the time, however, there is no one there and it means that we can park our van right in front of both houses at night (our van is longer than the house is wide and doesn't fit in front of our house!). We used to park the van in our garage, but it is such a tight fit that now we just leave it outside. Many people park their cars outside at night and it doesn't seem to be a problem. On weekday mornings, we try to remember to move the van before 9 a.m. so that we don't block their gate when the kids start arriving.
Down the street, there is a lady who has a soft spot for animals. She is always rescuing dogs or cats and also has a lot of parakeets. If we want to have a conversation with her, we just ask her about her animals. She also feeds the pigeons and other birds that hang around the neighborhood.
There are some neighbors that haven't been as friendly, however, such as the family that lives about five houses down from us who never, ever greet us. They also drive their van down the street a little too quickly and we worry about the kids playing in the street sometimes. There is also a lady that lives across the street who allows her rather aggressive dog to run loose sometimes. This dog, named Lucky, has bitten Jojo and a few weeks ago also bit a friend who was here visiting Micah. When Miguel and our friend's mom went to confront the lady about it, she denied everything and then began to tell us about all the bad things our kids have supposedly done to her house and car. She even threatened to take us to court, but I don't think she was serious, I think she was just defending herself and trying to deflect attention from the real issue. We have noticed that the dog hasn't been running free so much lately, so hopefully they will keep it restrained more in the future and we do hope we don't have any more problems with it!
Some other neighbors told us that this lady's older son is in jail for drugs and that her other son is a drug addict, which if true, is a very sad situation. Her son does like to have really loud parties and crank the music up sometimes. One weekend the music was on pretty much nonstop day and night. A week or so ago, we began hearing really loud music again and we thought it was coming from this house, but it turned out to be a seafood restaurant that opened up one street over. According to a Mexican friend, seafood restaurants have a fama (reputation) for playing their music really loud and this apparently attracts customers. We haven't heard the music so much this week, so maybe it was on to announce the grand opening.
Two doors down, on the other side of the kindergarten, is a family who is staying there temporarily while they wait for their house to be ready. They have a son who is about Gracia's age and our kids play with him often. Sometimes we've given him drinks or snacks and he often borrows our kids' bicycles and scooters. The other day, the dad talked with Miguel and told him how much they appreciated how kind we were to their son and that we had always treated them well. They offered to take Gracia to Irish dance classes at an Irish dance school that they and their older son own and they aren't charging us anything for the classes. So now Gracia goes to dance classes with them twice a week and is loving it!
Three doors down live our closest friends here on the block, Liberal and Gloria. We've spent quite a bit of time with them and celebrated New Year's Eve with them and their extended family.
Liberal and Gloria with a Mexican dish cooked
in a traditional clay pot.
When we travel, we leave some house keys for them so they can watch our house. Our kids often hang out at their house and they treat them like their own. Liberal and Gloria have both been an invaluable resource for us regarding Mexican culture, Mexican cooking, prices, places to go, interesting cultural events and even neighborhood issues. I often go visit Gloria and we keep an eye on the kids or enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee and talk about all kinds of things. I have really enjoyed connecting with Gloria and I hope that our friendship can continue for many years.
A few weeks ago, we started noticing a young man carrying around some American football equipment, which was interesting since American football is not very common here. It turns out that he lives at the end of the street and is the son of one of Gloria's good friends, Maribel. Miguel has struck up a friendship with this joven (young man) and we are getting him some much-needed football equipment from the U.S. since it is hard to find in this area. Maribel also has two younger boys who play with Jojo most afternoons.
Although our street is fairly quiet, there is quite a bit of movimiento (movement) every day...it begins around 6:30 a.m. with the bottled gas trucks making their rounds. Each truck has a unique alarm, song or sound to let their clients know that they are coming and it's always very loud! Throughout the day, there are other alarms or notifications of services, from the clanging bell that announces the trash to the drinking water trucks to the guy that rides by on his bicycle with a whistle (not sure exactly what he offers yet!) to the people selling tlacoyos (sort of a bean or pork rind stuffed tortilla), etc. Every night there is a man who comes by selling pastries who has a very unique (and loud) call/yell. There is also a little Volkswagon van that faithfully shows up around 10 p.m. at night with the same announcement playing on the loudspeaker every time offering healthy, home-cooked food. One night we happened to be out when it went by and we actually saw two little old ladies sitting inside cooking up the food!
Every morning when we walk the dog, we pass by this food stand located at the entrance to our neighborhood.
It is open Tuesdays through Sundays from about 7 a.m. to noonish. It is run by a neighbor lady and we've been making friends with her since we often buy her quesadillas. The corn dough is delivered fresh every morning and she has a griddle inside where she cooks the tortillas and gorditas and other items she makes to sell. Our favorite quesadilla comes with a shredded tomato/chicken sauce, boiled potatoes and string cheese. Each once costs 13 pesos, or about 90 cents. Our whole family can eat well for around 80 pesos or about 6$ USD if we don't buy drinks...delicious! Sometimes Miguel and I will sneak in a quesadilla or two in the mornings before the kids wake up...
We also like having the soccer fields so close to our house so that we can go walk the dog or throw his ball. There are two full-size soccer fields and two smaller fields in this huge empty lot. The kids like to go with us and ride their bikes or play while we exercise the dog. Many people from the neighborhood walk their dogs or exercise at the campos (the soccer fields) and we're beginning to recognize some of them. On Sundays the campos are really busy since a lot of soccer games and tournaments are played there on the weekends. If we buy quesadillas on Sundays, we like to get their early before the rush!
In the end, we decided not to take the other house, mostly because of it's location. It's all the way on the other side of the city and we prefer to stay on this side to be closer to our church and our friends.
And while I'd really love to have a bigger house, I think I'm rather relieved that for now, we'll stay in our little house here on Tochtli Street.