Almost Ready to Hand Over the Keys!

Bless you all! Time for celebration!!!

Everyone who donated should have received an invitation from me to a ceremony of appreciation and handing over of the keys to A Home for Juan Manuel next Saturday, March 13, at 11 am. If you have supported this effort and the internet intercepted your invitation, please send me a private message and I will resend it to you. We are limiting attendance due to the pandemic. Masks and social distancing are required. We will conduct tours of the small home for two people at a time, and Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo will join us. It will be a short and simple ceremony, but full of love and caring—you all have done a beautiful thing!

This past week we:

  • Built a simple back patio and installed the donated washboard and a water hookup.
  • Purchased and installed a water heater and protection with another very generous donation earmarked for this purpose.
  • Received the donation of the major part of a brand-new refrigerator, with us making up the final 1225 pesos, thanks to Mueblería Valdez and Liz Garza.
  • Our two wonderful painter volunteers, Martin and Marie-Anne Glaude, finished painting the inside of the house.

We had a hiccup today when we went out to the house, as water was coming off the roof. It seems the float in the tinaco has broken and is not registering when the tank is full. Zata fixed that once already, but we shut the water off and he will fix it again and hopefully for good tomorrow.

This week his goal is to add fill to even out the front yard a bit. It won’t be anywhere near perfect, but it’ll be better. Zata will also move the extra donated gravel to the side yard, so the yard looks cleaner and more finished. Finally and best of all, he will build a front sidewalk leading up to the house. We had hoped for a ramp, and Kay Rodgers kindly collected money for it, but what we have available isn’t quite enough. Thus, we have opted to have Zata put in a concrete walkway with extra deep steps (five in total, I believe, as it’s a steep grade up to the house). Juan Manuel should be able to use it with his crutches no problem, and it should be easy enough to add a ramp later if and when he needs to use a wheelchair. Hopefully that day won’t come!

Thank you and may good karma shower over you for a long time! The home is much better and more solid than originally planned, thanks to all of you: indoor kitchen and bath, hot water, brand-new microwave and refrigerator, bright coats of paint. I look forward to thanking you live and in person on Saturday, as do Juan Manuel, Don Rodolfo, Greg, Jorge, Yolanda and Zata.

Travel through Outer Space on a Day Trip from Mazatlán

Culiacán, in general, is not my favorite getaway from Mazatlán. I’ve gone there for concerts, art exhibits, CostCo and an occasional weekend away. I do very much enjoy a long walk along Parque Las Riberas, 12 km along the rivers, especially in the evening when the bridges are lit up (cycling, pedal boats and kayaks are also popular). I love spending time in botanic gardens, and Culiacan’s is beautiful, including plants as well as modern architecture and art: well worth a visit and perhaps a picnic on the grounds. Other people gravitate to Jardines del Humaya, the world-famous narco cemetery with its lavish mausoleums (If you want to visit, I recommend you go with a local in the morning). Thus, I’ve always felt that if I needed to go to Culiacán for some reason or another, there are things to do and see, but not much to pull me there eagerly.

That opinion changed radically earlier this week when I accompanied a couple of friends there for the day. What was it that delighted my soul? The newly refurbished Sinaloa Science Center Museum, MATERIA. I would describe it as a hybrid of a science and an art museum, one in which all the interactive exhibits work and are truly astounding! Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

The building itself is a gorgeous piece of architecture, at least on the inside, with angular shapes and the light streaming in through windows on all sides. The main attraction is Sideral, a huge meteorite that fell in a small nearby pueblo in the early 1800s. The museum has the large meteorite front and center in the main gallery. Over it is a gorgeous moveable wooden pendulum that moves several times a day (we attended at 3:30 pm) and generates a song, resonating to the magnetic frequencies of the minerals in the meteorite and of the people nearby. It is magical and completely mesmerizing! HIGHLY recommended!

In several galleries surrounding Sideral are art installations that, we were told, change every six months. I very much enjoyed what was there now, with two standing out for me: an exhibition of hanging glass called “meteor shower,” and a hammock holding five or six irregularly shaped geometric pieces; the shadows of the light on the floor were hexagons for each, thus showing us the power of perspective.

Heading upstairs was another standout exhibition called “Blossoms,” a set of white ceramic-looking kinetic sculptures designed by a Stanford mathematician. They are beautiful, mostly natural forms. When you push the button, they start spinning and the human eye tells us they move in entrancing ways.

We had only been in the museum maybe thirty minutes, and I was enthralled. The docents were all young but incredibly knowledgeable; some of the most outstanding I’ve encountered in Latin America. Kudos! One of them invited us to enter the IMAX-like theater to watch the show at 4:00 pm: Cubo Negro 8K. 8K is an immersive projection of images unlike any I’ve experienced before, the only one of its kind on our continent, I was told. Again, HIGHLY recommended. This was actually my favorite part of what I saw at the museum. We experienced going into space, via projections on the large screen and the floor. We felt that we spent some time on the Space Station, and then travelled through several nebulae. Definitely not to be missed.

There was significantly more to see at MATERIA, but we needed to leave Culiacán to make it home before it got too dark. If you go, I’d recommend you plan to also spend some time in the Botanic Garden as it’s right next door. While I did not experience the James Turrell light exhibit, “Encounter,” the only one of its kind in Latin America, I have attended two other exhibits of his and can wholeheartedly recommend them. There is one show at dawn and another at dusk, Thursdays through Sundays, and you need reservations. The show lasts one hour and costs 150 pesos.

Where to Stay
Since Encounter is at dusk or dawn, it makes sense to spend the night. Culiacán offers hotels at all price ranges. One conveniently located, very nice hotel that I can recommend is the Wyndham Executive. It is very near the MASIN: the Sinaloa Art Museum and it’s GAALS (Galería Antonio López Sáenz). The MASIN is a gorgeous early 1800s building with an arched central courtyard. Permanent galleries are downstairs and temporary ones up top. GAALS usually has a main professional art exhibit downstairs, and a series of student or young professional exhibits upstairs. I thoroughly enjoyed both. While the websites say these museums are open Tuesday-Sunday, I believe that during the pandemic they are only open Thursday through Sunday. We got in, but we had special permission and a private tour.

Around the corner from the art museums is a darling little coffee shop well worth your visit—TantoGusto. They have a diverse collection of brewing devices from around the world, are very welcoming, and serve sandwiches and pastries.

If you do spend the night, don’t miss out on a visit to Mirador La Lomita, the church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with its panoramic view of the city. Day and night the view is very good. The cathedral is also worth a visit, as is Tomateros stadium. I have never visited the MIA Museum, but it is the world’s only museum dedicated to addictions.

Where to Eat
Restaurant-wise, I enjoy Cayenna Cocina del Mundo from the Panama group, Brasa y Masa for breakfast (or any time of day), Presidio Cocina de México, and if you are a meat lover, do not miss eating at local favorite, Palomar del Rio.

Enjoy your flight through space! Please let me know how it goes! I’m curious if they rotate the movies or change them out regularly.

The Kitchen is In!

You all are absolutely the BEST! Thank you for your generosity in making it possible for us to build a Home for Juan Manuel!

In our last post to you we showed you the newly painted outside of the house with its doors and windows in place, including several videos. Today I am happy to report that we have a working kitchen installed, using donated wooden cabinet doors and a steel sink and building a base around them for kitchen storage and a counter to cook on. Woot woot! We also have water and electricity functioning in the house! Zata has built a very basic back patio using extra block and gravel, where a hose bib and donated washboard will be installed so Juan Manuel and Don Rodolfo can wash their clothes and the water will run off or soak in rather than make mud. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

A good friend of mine has offered to donate a brand new refrigerator. Fingers crossed! So, all we seem to be missing are:

  •  A small boiler for hot water—might you know someone who has one???
  • And two single beds (a trundle bed would be ideal) or at least single mattresses, as anything larger will not fit in this very small home.

Please help if you can. Ways to donate to support this project are listed at the bottom of the very first post in the series.

Once the above projects are finished, we still need to paint the interior. Some work remains on the septic tank as well.

My hope is that next time I write to you it will be to invite you to the masked and socially distanced celebration at which we hand over the keys to the home’s new owners! Bless you all!!!

A House That Looks Like a House

Following is an update on the House for Juan Manuel. To read the first article and learn more about this exciting project, click here.

As the final days of work on the house are upon us, things are moving quickly.

All of the contracted work is completed and paid for. We have also completed and paid for a few things we did not anticipate, including a very expensive connection to electrical service. But life is what it is. All that is left now are some housekeeping issues and the kitchen completion.

To give you some context, we have uploaded some videos to YouTube. Apologies that my voice is muffled due to my mask, and the video from the roof has a lot of wind noise.

The interior video gives you an idea of what a four by six meter house looks like. We are finalizing how to approach the kitchen in the most economical way possible to ensure that there is a flat surface to place a stove top, a place for a microwave, flat surface for prep work and storage for food and kitchen wares. The interior walls have been sealed and await a coat of paint next week.

The exterior video highlights a wonderful paint job by Yolanda and two volunteers, Marie-Anne and Martin Glaude. Second coat to follow next week. You can also see the area where we are going to make a crude laundry wash station from some leftover concrete blocks, leftover gravel and a donated wash basin. We are also, fingers crossed, going to get some fill dirt that will compress nicely to clean up the entrance to the home.

Here are some photos of the painting team in action:

The video from the roof puts in perspective the location of the home relation to the parts of Mazatlan most of us know well and provides an idea of the surrounding area.

In watching the videos, there are some things I would like to point out that show just how many different ways we benefited from the larger Mazatlan community. You will see:

  • A tinaco on the roof which was donated
  • All of the windows were donated (we paid for the iron bars that protect them)
  • The front door was donated and we paid to have it resized. There we also got the ceiling fan, light switches and outlets.
  • The iron door in back was donated and modified to fit.
  • The kitchen sink was donated.
  • The bathroom sink, toilet and shower head were donated

This in addition to all the pesos we received to cover construction and materials costs. We are so grateful, as are Don Rudolfo and Juan Manuel.

We are currently using all our networks to source two twin mattresses and with a miracle amount of luck, a trundle bed to allow for storage during the day. If the miracle does not occur, we will try to source two basic bed frames. We are hoping to receive a refrigerator as well. We have plumbed for hot water, but have not been able to provide a boiler. Boilers are not common as the logical location, outside, makes them prone to theft and premature aging. We considered an on-demand boiler placed inside but the pressure there is virtually non-existent. So that would mean a pump. We have one donated, but they are not allowed in these neighborhoods as that would allow one house to take all the water for the street as they are all on a shared water line. We will hold the pump for a future project. So, with funds about exhausted, and out of ideas, we opted to simply provide the plumbing and make hot water a standalone project for us or somebody else down the road.

We have been asked about a move in date, and we don’t yet know. The house truly looks like a house and we feel all of your excitement along with our own, that of our team and even of the neighbors in the invasion. We have learned a lot about building in an invasion and how teamwork and communication across cultures is the key to success.

When the kitchen is done and the painting is finalized, we will update you again. Until then, thank you, thank you, thank you for making this happen. While we are the ones on-site, it was your generosity that made this all possible. It is our hope to be able to invite you all—masked and social distanced—to the gifting of the house. More on that soon.

Home Update February 1st

Jorge, Dianne and Zata

It’s a new month! Can you believe it’s already the second one of this new year?! Where has time gone? There are so many people in town for the Serie del Caribe; please take precautions for your health and safety, as hospital occupancy and COVID infections continue on the rise.

This past week we finished up the basic structure of the Home for Juan Manuel! It looks great! The inside walls are now plastered, the cement floor is finished, and a hole for the septic tank has been dug. A woman has kindly donated a ceiling fan with a wall switch, so we will use this one for this project and keep the hotel’s ceiling fan for a future project (this one is much nicer). We are coordinating with the authorities to have electrical and water connected to the house. Click on any photo to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

This coming week Zata will seal the floor, put waterproofing on the roof and outdoor walls, finish the hot water connection and build a platform for the tinaco. If time remains, he will work on bringing electricity from the pole to the house and begin to install a drainage system in the back of the house for used water. A friend of Yolanda’s will come to build the septic tank, making it out of block in the front so it’s more accessible for the truck that will pump it out.

The biggest challenge we’ve had for several weeks has been an inability to secure the house, which stops us from finishing up anything inside. A woman has kindly and generously volunteered to install windows, but she has been out of town for a few weeks. The wooden door we got from the hotel needs to be resized, but we can’t find a carpenter to do that for us affordably. Without an ability to secure the house, we can’t install finishes such as sinks, switches and toilets, as they will get robbed. Thus, the five of us met today: Greg, Jorge, Yolanda, Zata and me, and decided to bite the bullet and buy security bars for the two missing windows and a security door for the front. Once secured, Zata should be able to quickly proceed with installing interior fixtures.

Bless you all! This is a love-filled, charitable project for a very good cause, and your generosity and cooperation are making it possible. Thank you. Should you or anyone you know care to help out, the ways to donate are:

  • Click the “Donate” link in the right-hand column on this VidaMaz.com website, and pay via PayPal.
  • Go to any OXXO and donate to BanCoppel account 4169-1603-7041-0699 (photo below) in the name of Yolanda Medina.

  • Canadians who prefer to email money can send it to Jeanette Leraand: jleraand@gmail.com
  • Contact Yolanda via WhatsApp at 669 431 4529 to arrange a time to meet and give her your donation.
  • Contact me at dianne@vidamaz.com and I’ll pick up your donation.