How my life is different than before

Earlier this week, I Twittered about being out of water. It wasn’t a mechanical issue; there was simply no water in the city tanks because we’re suffering from a drought. The responses astonished me, because I’ve grown used to the vagaries of living here. Things that once would’ve totally flummoxed me, I now work around (and in quite creative ways).

Living in Mexico has changed me for the better. Things are different here in so many ways that I cannot easily enumerate them all, but I am going to try because I love this country, and I want to share it with all of you. The culture of consumption is not so prominent here. There’s not such an overwhelming obsession with newest, brightest, shiniest toys. If it works, it will do. I picked that mentality up as well, I’m happy to say.

When I bought my “new” laptop two years ago, it was an old Ibook from Mercado Libre. I’m totally in love with it, and I won’t replace it even if I have to walk up four mountainous flights of stairs to have it serviced (and I did). When I bought my “new” desktop this year, I got an old Imac (and it’s the cutest thing ever.) It can’t do a lot more than word processing or surfing, but that’s all I need. I’m better now at being content.

And there’s a lot more recycling out of pure necessity. If put something out that we’ve replaced, someone will carry it away before the rubbish men come by. It’s a lot like I imagine Victorian England must’ve been, with so many layers of sale and resale until the item wound up in the rag-girl’s basket.

Nowadays, I don’t throw stuff out as quickly. I repurpose it. A 1 liter water bottle is perfect to refill or add a packet of Clight (like crystal light.) Boxes can be used for school projects. I took an old table Andres didn’t want and stashed it in my office. It’s serving as a side table / bookshelf now. When we replaced our kitchen table, I put it in the dining room. We use it to play board games and the kids do their homework there. We have some old chairs I once would’ve tossed. Now I am going to tighten the screws and see about reupholstering them. Nothing goes to waste.

I used to not think about how much water we used. It’s easy to take it for granted until you run out. Once, that would’ve upset me very much. This time, I only gave thanks that we had bottled water on hand and could make do. It’s possible to flush your toilets from a bit of water you pour in the tank from a pitcher. There are worse things than bathing in a sun-drenched garden, while standing on sun-warmed terracotta tiles against a backdrop of fuchsia bougainvilleas. Making do from pitchers and jugs wasn’t as hard as one might think.

I don’t use the dishwasher anymore. The dishes are done in my house by hand (and I just did them) in a little red tub. You’d be amazed at how little water (and soap) it takes to clean up. I don’t use the dryer unless it’s raining. (I just hung my kids’ school uniforms on the line in the back garden to dry.) I can walk almost anywhere I need to go, living here. I like that.

But the power grid can be unstable here as well. Today, the electricity went off for a good two hours for no apparent reason. Of course I lost internet. Once, that would’ve have upset me too. Today, I said, “This is a good thing. Now I can focus on my work, and I better hurry while my Ibook battery lasts.” I finished my 3K just before the power came back on (and had 2 hours of battery life left. My little Ibook can go four hours or more).

Here, my eyes have been opened to another way of life, and it’s not because it has become fashionable to be green. It’s because there are many people here, sharing the same resources, and they’ve learned to care for what they have and make the most of it. Those were lessons I needed, and I am grateful to have learned. I find myself more patient now, less easily overset by unforeseen hitches.

We’ve bought land on a mountaintop , and eventually, we’re going to build a house. That will be the first new home I’ve ever lived in. We plan to work with a green architect who specializes in rooftop gardens. I’m thinking solar panels and a cistern to catch rainwater, make use of the rainy season. In mind’s eye, I can see this place. It’s different than what I’d have chosen five years ago, but I like the way I’ve changed.

What little things are you doing to save the world?

Posted in about me, greenery

14 Responses to How my life is different than before

  1. Lori T says:

    Hi Ann~

    I loved reading this. I really do think that we live in a place where everyone just wants more, more, and more or bigger, bigger, bigger. I think that it is great that you have come to love and appreciate how things are. This is something that I need to work on because I while I do not necessarily think more and bigger…I am certainly used to the things I have and possibly do not appreciate them as much as I should.

    • Well, I think awareness is the first step. When I was in the States, it never occurred to me that everyone didn’t live exactly as I did. Recognizing difference is a good thing.

  2. Christine says:

    Hi Ann.
    My older girl scout troop is finishing up their Silver Award and has done a lot of research into “going green” in the last year. They will be running a program for younger scouts in May at which they will be educating them about using resources wisely and recycling/repurposing.

    At home, we have a compost pile, reuse or repurpose items, use CFL bulbs, compost, try to buy as much local produce as possible, and I’ve been using my own bags for groceries for at least two years now. We also did a lot of “green” improvements and upgrades to our home during our current construction like new energy efficient windows (saved some of the originals for a makeshift greenhouse in my garden), tankless hot water heater, energy star appliances, and so on. Every little bit helps the environment and our wallet!

    I wish we could afford solar panels, but the initial investment was so sadly beyond our financial ability. That has got to change for that kind of energy power to become available to the masses.

    Great post.

    • I totally agree, regarding solar panels. You’d think they would want to make such things more affordable.

      But then again, why else are we still running fossil fuels when other alternatives would be better? There’s too much money in it. I’ve heard rumors that the big car companies have bought up patents for alternatives and hid the technology. Has anyone else heard this?

  3. jennygirl says:

    I recycle, try to use reusable bags at the store, drink water from a reusable thermos, little things like that. If I could, I would seriously consider converting to solar power. It makes sense.

    In general I think Americans are too consumeristic, and quick to throw things away that could be easily recycled. Your ideas for your mountain top retreat sound lovely, perfect, and beautiful. Enjoy your weekend! :grin:

  4. This is wonderful. I’ve always been curious about your life in Mexico.

    Yeah, I hate the whole throwaway culture here in the US.

    My man and I almost always buy used stuff–when we even buy stuff. Why does anyone need new stuff all the time? We live in a place where we can walk most everywhere, and we reuse the dumbest little things. I really want to start composting, though we live in an apartment, so it’s tricky.

    • azteclady says:

      Carolyn Jean, have you checked into kitchen compost bins? I didn’t know they existed until Angela James blogged about them, and now I’m seriously considering one.

      If I can keep it out of reach of dog, cats and ferret, that is.

    • This is a great idea. What would you do with the composted soil? Do you have an area on your roof where you could grow stuff in pots? I’ve seen pictures of people who live in apartments having a tub garden on the roof.

      Az, maybe as long as it seals properly it would be ok?

  5. Now you say US culture, but not all of us live that way either. Yeah, so they might turn up their nose at my family and say it’s because we’re poor, but economizing, like you pointed out, makes me feel good about how I’m living my life.

    We do many of the same things as you do. We don’t have a dishwasher. We moved our dryer into the kitchen so that during the winter it generates more heat for the house. Once it gets Warm I’ll move it back into it’s cubby so I can section that off with old blankets and keep the house cooler.

    We’re working on replacing these old windows with energy efficient ones, and always buy energy efficient appliances when we replace them.

    Besides recycling, we use 16 and 24 oz bottles, filling them with water and keeping them in the fridge. I very rarely use paper towels or paper plates or plastic cups (the disposable kind). I’ve been collecting two liters and plan to use them and milk cartons in my garden this year as slow waterers. I use small glass bottles (like beer bottles) in my house plants (like those Aqua globes, but less pretty).

    I use shredded paper as garden mulch (and leaves and grass clippings), recycle pavers for landscaping edging, and scraps of wood for staking garden plants.

    I love thrift stores and yard sales. And on “junk day” I keep an eye out for salvageables (especially things I can use as planters or in gardening. It’s amazing how many people toss out bags of mulch!) We also use dry erase boards to keep the paper use down (of course, the paper ends up in the garden.)

    Food scraps, like chicken skin and leftover bones go to the pets. stale chips, cereal and breads go out for the birds. I’m a huge fan of hand me downs too!

    Next month I’ll be getting a water barrel from the Nature Center (not only are they awesome, they’re actually made from recycled plastic and donated to the nature center, so the “cost” goes completely toward funding the center.)

    There are so many things you can do to reuse, and places to donate things you can’t use anymore (like Freeycycle) I don’t understand why that’s not a way of life instead of this toss it when you’re bored thing.

    • That’s true, Michele.

      I was generalizing which is never a good thing to do.

      As for people saying you only make good use of what you have because you don’t have much, well, I’d say they were ignorant. I think it’s great the way you reuse things.

  6. KMont says:

    Well, I am not doing anything as beautiful-sounding as you are in this post, but I just try to be conscious of what I use and how. I reuse bags from the grocery store for all sorts of things.

    I try to teach my daughter not to waste water; the little scamp loves a bath and when she brushes her teeth she thinks it’s a hoot to pour out her up and fill it up again and again. I remind myself to turn the water off after I’ve wet the toothbrush and only turn the water back on when I’m ready for it. I’m still, after years, trying to break hubbster of the habit of leaving water on entire time he’s got the toothbrush in his mouth. I’m constantly walking through the house turning off lights that get left on – which drives me insane (at this point you can probably guess that my reminders to them about all of this begins to sound like nagging). I do use the dishwasher, but I wash a lot of stuff by hand too.

    I’ll reuse plastic food storage bags, Aluminum fold, etc. depending on what was in them and you can wash them out and reuse too, well, the bags more than the foil. I try to only do large loads of clothes, to cut back on using water there.

    I could do more though.

  7. Great post. Bathing in the garden sounds lovely. It’s nice to be thankful for what we have and appreciate the simpler things in life.

    We have a big compost heap (I insisted that my husband build it!), but use it mostly for grass clippings. I should totally throw those banana peels out there too! My bad.

    I totally agree about the consumerism. Frugal and proud! Say it loud.

  8. RaiulBaztepo says:

    Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language ;)
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

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