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The Caretaker Gazette

Tom & Jean Sampel Buechele: Down Mexico Way!

Dates of Birth: Tom: 10/5/42, Jean: 4/25/38
Interests: Tom: Guitar, Performing Arts, Writing, Gardening, Seminar and Workshop Presentations. Jean: Art and Nature, Wellness, Writing, Reading, Swimming and Walking.
Quote: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world . . . We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us." Nelson Mandela
Jean and Tom after just arriving in Mexico!

Iowans Tom and Jean Sampel Buechele each had intense careers in the years before they met. He was a Roman Catholic Priest for twenty years and she was a jewelry designer/goldsmith and gallery owner for twenty-eight years. With their marriage came a barrage of change. Tom left an Employee Assistance Program training and counseling position and a year later Jean closed her business. Each felt energized to allow continued growth through new experiences. As one option, they placed a Situations-Wanted ad in The Caretaker Gazette with their goal: to house sit in the Southwestern U.S.A. or Mexico during Iowa's cold winter months. About a month later a fat envelope arrived full of pictures of a tropical Mexican garden and hacienda! Would they consider housesitting in Mexico for seven months?

With frequent flyer miles, excellent bus connections straight to Alamos, Sonora, Mexico from Nogales, AZ (for only $15 each), Tom and Jean arrived to visit with their generous hosts, Rick and Doris Mellen and check out the possibility of "casa"sitting. A commitment was made to return.

The house is a restored 200-year-old Spanish colonial style home in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico. Sonora is the farthest Northwestern State in Mexico. Alamos is an unusual place. It is located at the end of the great Sonoran desert and the beginning of a tropical land fall. It is a warm, sunny and dry desert in the winters, and a hot, sunny and wet tropics in the summer. An old silver mining town settled by the Spanish Conquistadors, the history is rich and much has been restored as it is a State of Sonora historical monument. It is an attractive, quiet, retirement village. Its beautifully restored Spanish colonial architecture has a Moorish influence, brought by architects from 17th-century Andalusia in southern Spain. The facades of colonial mansions line narrow cobblestoned streets, concealing courtyards lush with bougainvilleas. The moderate sized "Gringo" community (Americans and Canadians) is appreciative of the culture and have contributed greatly to the rebuilding of the ancient town. They have formed an intimate sense of community. The local people warmly embrace their guests.

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One can easily get spoiled housesitting in Mexico. Excellent domestic help, local historical sites to be visited, fiestas, music, and a deep sense of "easy does it" provide a gentle rhythm of daily life.

Mornings begin with exercise before the heat of the day. Tom plays tennis and Jean walks and does water aerobics. Then its time to visit friends, serve as an interpreter, (Tom speaks fluent Spanish), get letters ready for e-mail, supervise small repair or gardening projects around the house, shop at the market, and take a quick trip to the Postal (Post Office) to see if friends and family, who do not have e-mail, have written.

Afternoons are for staying cool and in doors. There is lots of reading and writing, and of course the famous "siesta." Jean takes Spanish lessons. Maybe a quick dip in a neighbor's pool before dinner, and later a stroll around the Plaza in front of the site of the 360-year-old Church.

There are weekend fiestas of the Gringo community, Sunday Church, or shopping at the Tianguis, the large farmer's market in the middle of town on the cottonwood arroyo.

There has been a trip up the Copper Canyon in the nearby State of Chihuahua, a visit to the old Spanish colonial town of El Fuerte, Sinoloa, a couple of trips to the beaches on the Sea of Cortez, and a trip back to the U.S.A. for a wedding on the east coast.

There are ten housesitters in Alamos this summer. "Housesitters are great people. Not just because we are house- sitters, but the sitters we have met this summer are adventurous, dedicated, service oriented folks. They believe that "su casa es mi casa" [your house is my house] and take care of it like it is," says Tom.

Because their first housesitting experience has gone so well Tom and Jean are in the process of selling their home in Iowa and planning to become professional housesitters. "It's a great service," says Jean. "We provide security, property management and guardianship of someone's home at very little expense to the home owner. And best of all we have formed wonderful new friendships and cultural understanding."


Here's a great view of Alamos, Sonora, Mexico!