A Kitchen Manana
Monday, December 09, 2019
By Walter Hodges
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Some folks have been asking about the new kitchen.
 
 
Norberto Estrada is a middle-aged and perfectly elegant Mexican gentleman. He plays guitar in some sort of a traditional Mexican band, and he loves Joe Bonamassa (I don't know enough about that part yet). He's also a building contractor from San Miguel de Allende. He's right out of the old old old school. You know what I'm talking about. He speaks spot-on English, and he knows Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends and Influence People better than you and I on our best day will ever know it. When he greets his ex-pat clients in the morning he does not say "Buenos Dias senior", which every courteous Mexican on the earth normally says. He shakes your hand, looks you straight in the eyes, smiles, and with a soft Mexican accent he says "Good morning. How are you today?" And he means it. The first day he did that to me, he could have sold me "Oceanfront property in Arizona." Hell, I wanted to marry him. When you're new to Mexico and you're feeling out of place and a little confused most of the day anyway, to hear a traditional Mexican wish you Good Morning gets and holds your undivided attention.

 

If asked when things will get done, many Mexicans often say "It will happen manana".  When most ex-pats hear that, they laugh like it hurts because they know what it means.  It means it may happen tomorrow, but there's a better than average chance it won't happen for weeks, and it may never happen, and there isn't a damn thing they can do about it.  It's one of the reasons a lot of ex-pats simply leave Mexico and go home, where they can get things done when they want them done, not simply when Mexico gets around to it.  And Mexico really doesn't care about your problems.  They belong to you.

 

Norberto and I were talking about the new kitchen he was going to build for us.  I looked at him and said "Norberto, we'll need an estimate from you. Can you tell me when we will get an estimate?"  He said "Yes, I will get you the estimate manana".  I paused and looked at my shoes.  He smiled slightly and then said "Let me tell you about manana.  In Mexico, manana doesn't really mean tomorrow.  It means Not Today."  I nodded and continued to look at my shoes.  Then he smiled again and said "Let me tell you something else.  When I say manana, it means TOMORROW."  The next morning at 7:00 AM, I had an estimate on my computer, and it was far less than I could have dreamed of in the United States for even remotely similar work.  How many people do you know who call themselves pros and who do exactly what they say they will do when they say they will, and the cost makes you smile?   How many?  His crew of craftsmen showed up on time every day.  They worked all day.  They cleaned up before they left and came back the next day on time and did everything right the first time every time.  Hell yea!

 

The following are a few of the photographs I took of the crew as they built us a new kitchen.  The images start with a couple shots of the old kitchen, then lead into the initial meetings of the construction crew and end with the last shot of me giving the stovetop a test run.  I think I'm dreaming here, but if the rest of our lives in Mexico goes as easy as this kitchen, we're gonna be "cooking with gas".  I'm just sayin.  "Cooking with gas here boss."  Damn, he's already married.

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