A Rough Start in Chacala

We knew living in Chacala wouldn’t be all unicorns and rainbows. But we didn’t think our first days would be filled with hyenas and hurricanes either.

But before I get into that, I should probably talk a bit about why we left Sayulita and moved to Chacala in the first place.

When the time came to decide whether we’d sign the boys up for another year of school in Sayulita, we looked at our rising costs in Sayulita, looked at the exploding number of tourists around us, looked at the shrinking number of seats at coffeeshops where we often work, and of course, looked at our other options in Mexico. And when we found a good fit, we made the [fairly easy] decision to try something new.

And, here we are. Simple as that.

That’s not to say each move is a walk in the park. We’ve come to expect a certain number of hiccups, growing pains, and a learning curve in each new transition. It’s a big part of what makes this lifestyle interesting and worthwhile.

Chacala, however, has been a different kind of beast.

We rolled into Chacala a few days later than expected, thanks to Hurricane Nora.

But the craziness of the past few days seemed to fade away as we arrived at our final destination. We were happy to be greeted by sunshine and a subdued vibe compared to Sayulita.

Yep, we were feeling pretty good about our decision to move here, until we arrived at our new home.

The van taxi headed up the hill, rounded the corner and BOOM! There it was. It was impossible to miss. Lori and I both let out an audible gasp and a “What the…!”

At that moment, we knew our time in Chacala would be very different than we imagined.

When we visited Chacala in May to check out the town and visit a few potential houses, we found out about the 3-story hotel going up across the street from this house (on the left, in the photo above). Three months later and they had made noticeable progress, adding a second floor and starting on the third.

We were initially hesitant about this house because of the construction site across the street. But we also knew it was supposed to be three levels total and construction wouldn’t last forever.

Considering that there were so few other options in town (none of which were even comparable this one), we decided that the pros outweighed the cons and resolved to make the best of it.

What greeted us today, however, was beyond comprehension. Complex feelings of frustration, disappointment, and anger followed.

In the time between looking at the house and paying the deposit in late-May and today (late August), the empty lot adjacent to the house had transformed into a full-on industrial zone. We even asked the landlord back in May if there were any plans to develop the empty lots around the house, and she emphatically answered, “No.”

This being Mexico, one of two things happened along the way. She either did know about the project and lied to us in May, or she really didn’t know, but at some point realized that this was happening and didn’t care to give us a heads up.

Both of which, by the way, seem to be totally 100% socially acceptable things to do in Mexico. If you’re not familia, nobody owes you nada. No heads up, no explanation, no apology, nothing.

And the construction project next door isn’t just another house. It’s a four-story condominium that will share a wall with both our kids’ rooms.

And here’s the best part, our new house is completely missing an exterior wall towards the rear (it’s an open design). It’s got iron fence bars, but basically the workers (and future residents) will be able to reach over and touch us while we’re walking up and down our stairs (inside our home).

It’s hard to conceptualize, so we’ll do a full tour at some later date. All we know is it’s going to be interesting.

Fortunately, being the seasoned home renters we are, we were able to secure some favorable early exit terms and even managed to knock a few thousand pesos off the monthly rent, which had already been reduced significantly due to the first construction project across the street.

It feels a bit better knowing we’re getting this four-bedroom house with a pool for a steal. It’s less than a 10 minute walk to the beach and the boys are really excited about the pool, of course. But only time will tell how long we can put up with the situation (and if it’s worth our sanity).

The next morning, it was off to the boys’ first day at their new school, about a 10 minute walk. In fact, there isn’t a whole lot in this town that requires more than a 10 minute walk to get to.

Besides the beautiful beach, the school is one of the main things that sold us on Chacala.

El Jardin is a private school started by the son-in-law of a doctor who came here from Mexico City in the 1980s to help out in what was then a tiny fishing village and never left. 80% of the students are locals on scholarship, while the other 20% are out-of-towners (or foreigners, like our kids) who essentially subsidize the scholarships for what amounts to a few hundred dollars a month. The curriculum isn’t strictly Montessori or Waldorf, but pulls heavily from both.

The Mexican school system starts with 3 years of pre school (A1,A2,A3), followed by your standard primary grades. Riley will be in A1 and Noe will be in A3, meaning they’ll be in the same class room but doing different things.

We’ll see how that goes. As long as they can keep it together without getting into too much trouble together, we think the boys will really like it.

With the boys off to school, Lori and I celebrate with brunch on the beach. Air AND water temps are currently in the upper 80s. Can’t wait to go in later!

Part of the walk to and from their school.

The boys survived their first day!

Also, a part of the walk to their school that they’ll be doing each day. This is day two.

After school, it’s time to try out the pool!

This new move also means Riley has finally graduated from his toddler crib to a big boy bed. And when I say big boy bed, I mean a huge queen size bed for the little tike. He’s pretty happy about it as you can see.

Just another morning in the neighborhood. Lots of activity, lots of noise. Today they’re pouring the foundation. Only four more pours to go. The next one will be at eye level with our bedroom. That’ll be fun.

That’s a crab in our pool. The house is 200 yards uphill from the beach. Not sure what this guys doing all the way up here.

Dinner and sunset at the beach.

We started looking for a vehicle right after we arrived in Chacala. Sure, you can walk everywhere in town, but we’re fairly remote and we will need to get ourselves to Las Varas, the larger town about 20 minutes away, for things like banking, grocery shopping, etc. Plus, we want to be able to do some exploring while we’re living here as well.

In Sayulita, we had a golf cart for the nine months we lived there. It was great for getting around town, but it also meant we rarely left town. There’s so much to see around Nayarit, Puerto Vallarta and beyond.

We were referred by a friend to a mechanic out of Puerto Vallarta that helps gringos vet potential vehicles and wade through some of the process. I spent several days drawing out the max in cash to be ready when we find something worth looking at.

We finally got the call one afternoon and the mechanic lined up a car for us to go see the following morning in Tepic, a two hour drive away.

That morning, we woke up to this:

It’s hard to tell in the photos but there was a small river running through the length of our ground floor. The water was gushing out from behind the refrigerator, across the kitchen and living room, and out the front door. No bueno.

It had been raining pretty hard the past 24 hours, but we really shouldn’t have had a river running through our house. We called off the car visit to tend to the issue at hand and moved our living space upstairs where the boys had their morning breakfast.

Lori contacted the landlord and I ventured into town to try to find any place that had a squeegee to clean up the water. The whole town was a brown messy soup.

It was of course the weekend, and, of course, the only hardware store in town is closed on the weekend.

Later, Lori ventured out with the boys to see if she could do any better. She saw one laying against a wall with a bunch of brooms in a small bodega and asked the shopkeeper if she could buy it. Initially, the shopkeeper declined as it was their own personal squeegee, but Lori persisted. A short while later, Lori and the boys returned home with a squeegee, and were at least able to get the leftover pools of water out of the house when the rain stopped.

The good news is this will only happen when it rains. The bad news is, we’re in the middle of rainy season with a big storm nearly every day.

Obviously, we have a bit of a larger problem on our hands. No clue if it’s structural or what. Two weeks in and we’re not sure how we’re feeling about our Chacala move.

Fortunately, the boys seem to be taking it all in stride: the noisy construction, the driving rain, the new school, the river running through the house. In the meantime, Noe’s finished his first Lego set all by himself. It wasn’t an easy one either. Another fun fact: This was my first Lego set that I got for Christmas when I was Noe’s age nearly 37 years ago.

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