This post is dedicated to my dad, who would have a stroke if his Washington neighborhood operated this way.
I love experiencing daily life in different countries. The glamorous stuff, like food and cuisine, as well as the less-glamorous stuff, like garbage and utilities.
Here’s how garbage and utilities work in our little corner of Mexico.
It’s all very loose—yet strangely efficient.
According to our gardener, Antonio, garbage is collected twice a week. (Antonio mumbles though, so we’re not sure exactly which days.)
And we’ve never actually seen a garbage truck. Or any of our neighbors taking out trash.
It’s all very mysterious.
Garbage bags suddenly appear and begin piling up in the intersection by our house. That’s how we know it’s garbage day. (Though we’ve learned not to count our chickens before they’ve hatched.)
The mountain of garbage grows throughout the day, until street dogs discover it and start tearing the bags apart. The mountain of garbage then slowly collapses, like a punctured beach ball, as a stinky mess of watermelon rinds, empty milk cartons, and rotting meat packages gradually spreads out over the street.
Mark and I bide our time. We keep our garbage bags safely inside the garage until the blue trash can from the hotel next door appears. (The boutique hotel is the only neighbor who bothers to put their garbage in a can.)
Like Paul Revere’s lantern beam from the Old North Church, the blue can is our signal to leap into action.
I take our bags and balance them on top of the can so the dogs can’t get them. Sometimes this works. Other times the whole thing gets tipped over later.
At this point it’s a waiting game.
As I mentioned, we’ve never actually seen or heard the garbage truck, but in a few hours (or days) the whole mess magically vanishes.
Usually the phantom garbage collectors do a surprisingly good job, heroically retrieving all the fruit-fly covered, liquifying loose trash. Once in a while they don’t. Maybe it depends on who’s working that day, I don’t know.
But EVENTUALLY all the trash disappears, and the cycle begins again.
We use gas for cooking. There’s a big gas tank on one of the 2nd floor balconies, and when that runs low, we keep our ears open for the gas truck.
Gas trucks circle the neighborhood all day, so when we need one, we just listen for the tinny announcements blaring from the speakers on their trucks. No calls or appointments necessary, though there are a few different companies, so if you want a particular one, then you can go ahead and call them. Simple.
Some trucks sell individual canisters while others have a big tank with a hose. We need the second kind.
We flag the guy down; he backs into our driveway and runs a hose up to the tank. When the tank is full, he hands us a printed bill, which we pay immediately in cash.
When we moved in the tank was bone dry and it cost us $1700 pesos to fill it…about $130 bucks. That’s more than we were expecting, but hopefully it will last for our entire stay here. Fingers crossed.
Every month or so someone shoves an energy bill through the garage door. We’ve only had one, for $14 pesos (about $1.10), but it’s for the month before we moved in, when the house was empty.
To pay the bill, we just drop by the local convenience store. Unless we’re a day late, which we discovered yesterday. Now we have to go pay at the office in Chapala on Monday. It’s only about 10 minutes away, but the convenience store is easier, so we’ll try to keep better track in future (though my hopes aren’t high).
The landlord pays the water bill, so we are blissfully ignorant on this one.
Setting up cable works just like it does in the U.S. and Canada.
You make an appointment, and Telecable comes to your house. In our case actually getting them here turned into a rodeo with extra clowns, because apparently our street address (given to us by the owner) is completely made up and our house is actually part of the hotel next door.
But that’s a whole other story…