We’re finishing the tail end of our extended stay in El Salvador full circle by returning to my husband’s neighborhood, right where we started, but this time living in our own house. Not the “Siamese-twinned” to my in-laws house we lived in for several months when we got here, which was too much joy for me to put into words. It feels like a whole new neighborhood to me, and my only regret is we didn’t fix up grandpa’s old house sooner! Since we moved into the house, my husband has been keeping himself entertained with an array of projects he works on nearly every day. And almost every one involves cement (pronounced as “see-ment,” southern American style, throughout the rest of this entry).
It started with the Pila (washing sink). As sweet as the albañil (mason/bricklayer) Efraim is, he couldn’t cut the mustard with the Pila. We found out mid-Pila job that he’d never even built one before. Odd, considering almost every family has one here. So my husband griped, we chuckled about it, and he fixed it himself. Neither of the two sink sides drained proper, so he added a pitch, which he calls a “desnivel” (uneven/un-level), as that didn’t make it into Efraim’s “learn how to make a Pila on-the-job” job. Then there was with the height of the Pila. My husband built the darn thing so high it was just right – for a six foot person – and since we’re both “bajitos”* (shorties), that wasn’t going to work. So he came up with a great solution to kill two birds with one sto- er, ce-ment bag, that is. Laid down a pile of cement in front of the pila after building up the ground a few inches with some dirt, so we both grew about 5 inches taller by the time the see-ment dried. Perfect!
Then there was the roof. Let’s just say my husband built it a bit, uhh – unconventional. He placed Durock on top of the very wood heavy beams he’d installed, and then taped them and put on a thin layer of cee-ment on top several months back. He admittedly forgot to seal with silicone – woops! My strong suggestions to make that cement layer thicker last year were brushed aside until rainy season this year when….oh, ya know…wet patches began appearing under the roof, on the IN-side of the house, which though my husband says were just “humedad” (humidity), my response was “Yeah, and how long before that ‘humedad’ becomes drip, drip, drip?” “I’ll FIX it he said, I’ve planned on doing that all along – no worries.”
Salvadorans have this amazing ability to NOT worry, that most Americans are either hard-wired or programmed to do. Sometimes its good. And sometimes it turns into — poor planning (or at times ‘no’ planning, and then scrambling to fix things last minute when the sky is falling). So, a few cement bags later, and the thin patches of our flat cement roof were thickened, and spaces where “charcos” or puddles, formed, were filled to avoid water sitting so long that it seeps in. My husband’s dream is to ultimately build a room on top of that “plajon” (cement sheet with rebar), and have a pretty sitting/patio area in front of it – he envisions a a palm-leaf roof over the patio area like the ones at beachside restaurants. I’ll supply the margaritas.
And lest we forget the very necessary “servicio” (outhouse). Cement got laid down for that, and a flushing toilet propped on top of a hole with a large PVC pipe connected to a mini-septic tank. It’s the fanciest outhouse in the neighborhood. I love it!
Then he got tired of us always dragging dirt onto the front patio area, so he mixed up some more cee-ment and laid down an L-shaped piece so we can walk mud-free from the front to the back of the house on one side of the “L”, and on the other side of the “L” is where I shower behind the kitchen. Before he laid down the big L, I was standing on a couple scrap pieces of Durock that I’d been using as my “floor”. It worked for awhile.
Oh, the “smooth cement finish” kitchen floor, another see-ment addition which means I can mop the kitchen floor, not just sweep it. The “Sala” which we use as our family room and sleeping room is getting “smoothed” piece by piece as of this week.
And the little walkway running from the front patio out into the yard - with a nice diamond pattern made by adding scrap terra cotta tile pieces we got from our old landlord, Don Jorge. I’ve never seen anything like this before in the tile world, but then I’m no expert. The tiles he installed in the garage in Los Planes are actually two tiles in one unit, which you snap apart, which leaves two or three ½ inch strips of extra terra cotta that gets wasted. Not sure what the point is, but there must be some smart efficiency about firing the terra cotta that way, or they wouldn’t do it, right? NOT that El Salvador and Latin America are famous for efficiency, but let’s drop them a compliment anyway.
I think Mr. Cement is proud of his recent productions, and I’m proud of him. It’s a perfect segue from his traditional job as a plasterer. But now he wants to take it it to a whole different level. The other day I said I want to buy weights to follow the Denise Austin “toner” video better. It just doesn’t feel right going through the motions with no weights. Unlike most people trying to adjust their weight, I have the “opposite” problem: age appears to evaporate me, so I’m hoping to build up and firm up. My husband says “Why don’t you just EAT MORE?” But he’s decided to help me, and ….drumroll please….Mr. Ce-ment is going to make me – WEIGHTS – out of cee-ment. Ha ha ha ha ha! I’m going to humor him, but I’ll keep Walmart as my backup plan.
* Bajitos – shorties. Which my 5 foot 7 husband disagrees with constantly. He thinks he’s ‘tall’ because he’s the tallest of the seven brothers in his family. Too funny.