Trip 8 to Mérida is this weekend, and it feels different this time. We’re in deep. Bills are coming in and decisions we’ve made are now set in stone (or cinder block). We’re spending much more than we thought we would, but we still feel the house will be a good value for us, long term. From the pictures the architect’s office sends us every Friday, the rooms seem sometimes bigger, sometimes smaller that we expected. We won’t really get the scale of the house until Monday, when we take our next tour. (And even then, size can be deceiving in an unfinished, unfurnished house.) The last time we were there, in January, the foundation had just been set and the walls were only beginning to go up. It seems the whole house is now framed out, although there aren’t any stairs leading to the second floor, and the bridge across the inner courtyard is for now a stack of loose planks. A lot of progress has been made in three months. I just hope I survive the tour.
The pool will go where the septic was, so I’m hoping the return of the jackhammers doesn’t rattle the neighbors for too long a time. The walls out back have been doubled in height, so if the neighbors end up hating us, at least they won’t have to look at us. In the jungle thicket that was our backyard, we saved two trees, but cut down a giant, aging tree that left messy, star apple or caimito fruit all over. And not on our property, but our neighbors to the south.
After the last few hurricanes and tropical storms, we’ve had enough tree problems right here on our green acre in Connecticut. There’s a giant sycamore aimed right at our bathroom even as I speak. So we’re no-nonsense when it comes to trees, OK? And it’s not sacred, like the ceiba, right?
Our designer made a plea for us to keep the tree because it shaded the yard and, to her, was beautiful and noble. But we couldn’t cope with maintaining it, and insisted it go. They stalled and stalled. The workers enjoy the shade, they said. But the architect finally sent us a photo of a worker with an ax, standing mournfully over the timber. Ouch. I’m not going to feel guilty, I’m not, I’m not.
The house also has elements that we didn’t pick up in the drawings. It’s frustrating trying to keep control of this project via Skype and email from 3,286.2 miles away. Hiring a manager hasn’t been a perfect solution, either. Email to her was landing in her spam filter for weeks, and we each thought the other was ignoring our messages. She must have thought I was very rude, and I was miffed that I wasn’t getting any responses to basic questions, and then I decided to email her from my work account. That worked immediately. Now that’s resolved, and we’re on good terms again.
Little things like that can really trip you up when you’re building a house from a long distance away. And I have other travel up ahead, as well. I’m invited to speak in the Philippines in August, although I may decline — solely because of this house project. This fall, I’m traveling to Louisville, Kentucky, for a conference I’m helping to organize, and then, next year I have our next conference in Frankfurt, Germany. I’m overwhelmed, exhausted and house poor.
I have a year and-a-half to go before I celebrate my big five-oh in Casa Nana. A very eventful year and-a-half. And plenty of time for a new tree to grow.