Posted by: lianadevine | 21 September 2011

48 months later…

Four years ago today we dropped our house keys in the kitchen drawer, hugged each other on the back door landing…he said “Goodbye House” and started to tear up.  She quickly responded “Hello Money”, hit the garage door opener one last time, and we ran out before it closed.  We hopped into our converted 1957 Greyhound bus-house, drove about 50 feet, then stopped and mooned for our former neighbours’ security cam.  We were on the road to Mexico…

Within the year we had found “a place to be from”, as in, “Where are you from?”  Whether we realized it or not in March of 2008, Oaxaca was in our blood.  This was confirmed in February-March 2009 when we attempted a one-way trip to Uruapan, and only made it as far as Cuernavaca.  Both these places held promise as pockets of green with a temperate climate, but it was rumoured that Michoacán was becoming more dangerous and we found “big city” culture in Cuernavaca, not the small-town, know-your-neighbours Mexico we wanted.  Besides, costs and traffic in the Big City (Oaxaca included) were a turn-off.  El Tule, only 15 km from the conveniences and culture of Oaxaca, fit the bill.

Today, we are a month into our renovation project – converting a former restaurant on a quiet cul-de-sac into our home.  The open design of the existing palapa-type structure gave us the freedom to enclose spaces with walls, or not.  And we have no problem having a 35+foot bus parked in our living room…it is and will be our bedroom.

vanity form with sink roughed in

Planning for the sink and fixtures BEFORE the cement slab is poured

We put a little adobe house just inside the front door of the “Big Top”; this will be the classroom/office, so Leanne’s English students need not traipse through the entire property to come to class.  Also in the adobe is our main bathroom, rustically decorated with talavera sink and tiles, but strategically stuccoed for practicality.  We are becoming accustomed to cement construction techniques, which result in big, blocky “Flintstone-like” cabinets.  Unlike familiar wood construction, cut-outs for sinks and fixtures have to be planned in advance and built into the form before the counter slab is poured.  Walls of the cabinets are built of block or brick, so are thicker than MDF used in Canadian homes, resulting in less usable interior space.  Cabinets are stuccoed inside to provide a paintable bug-deterring surface and the cupboard floor is another poured slab, polished smooth for easy cleaning.  Calvin plans to build wood doors on our cabinets and has been eyeing a table saw currently on sale at Sears.  We also went on an appliance-buying binge, out of necessity because the workers needed to know the dimensions of the fridge and stove to build the kitchen counters.  It’s been a manic experience to be thrilled about picking out the appliances of our dreams then choking a little as we dole out the cash upfront to pay for them.  Yikes! Fridge, stove and washer all in one week!  Cha-ching!!!

where's my ceiling?

Thick, water-saturated concrete loaded with an overabundance of heavy-duty rebar

But the classroom and bathroom are almost done, the sewer line has been installed and the kitchen is quickly taking shape.  With our construction team, the work is split up and moves along well: Leo finishes the bathroom tiling with Calvin’s help, Galdino builds the kitchen wall and Chiro supplies them both with the proper amount and kind of mortar.  Meanwhile, Don Adan has been breaking out the cement slab ceiling over the former kitchen with both the Hilti gun and a sledgehammer – really hard work in the sun, all day for a week.

It’s not all hard work though.  We broke early on September 16 to celebrate Mexico’s Independence Day with a traditional Mexican meal of pozole, a pork, corn and chile based soup, though my variation included lots of roasted vegetables.  Dessert was chocoflan and Theresa brought a gelatin heart to share.  Besides the work crew, we’d invited Theresa (she’s like part of our family here) and our next door neighbours, from whom we get our internet connection.  It was a really nice evening and we were pleased to share an important occasion with our new Mexican friends – on Alex’s insistence, everyone said a few words before the pozole was dished up.  Gee, I can hardly wait til Thanksgiving next month when we do it all again.  I’m sure we’ll still be in construction then.

Viva MexicoLeanne dishes pozole for our Mexican friends
corta corta corta

our textured bathroom floor tile was tough to cut, so Calvin took on the project

no registro

Calvin installs a cleanout en route to the septic field



  1. Hi, Calvin and Leanne.

    The reports on the renovation of your property are really interesting and exciting, and I’m amazed at everything Calvin is able to do! I’m also really curious to see how things look now, nearly six months after the post above.

    I was especially interested to read about the classroom for your students. Are you doing only private lessons now, Leanne?

    I hope to hear from you—and also to see more photos!

    All the best—


  2. Inquiring mind are wondering how are things, time for some

  3. Hi Guys,
    It’s MAy 5th and it’s SNOWING heavily here in Calgary. I have organized to have 120 volunteers meet me tomorrow to clean up the river banks then have a BBQ at the community hall. The flakes are the size of dinner plates. Something tells me we’ll have to postpone.
    If you have an updates photo album for the construction please send me the link. Looks like have nothing to do today except dream of warmer places.


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