As I sit at my computer and contemplate what I want to say about the past 5 years of my life spent mostly in the UNESCO World Heritage city of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, I am filled with so many words and thoughts that trying to assemble them in some shape or form is hard. So apologies in advance if this post is rambling and non-cohesive in a regular sense.
Kassie’s beautiful painting above is of the Jardin, the garden in the middle of town where the ‘pink wedding cake architecture’ of the Parroquia de San Miguel Arcángel rises above a circle of ficus trees with its numerous benches where locals and visitors sit and listen to its bells toll the hours. I love that Kassie’s painting is just a bit out-of-focus, giving it a soft glow and romantic feeling which is how, years from now, I will no doubt remember my time here.
Known by those who live here, the Jardin is called Centro. It is the heart of this city that in the past 5 years has grown enormously and changed dramatically, thanks in large part to being chosen by Condé Nast magazine as ‘the best city in the entire world to visit‘ for 4 years running. Ugh!
I have always had this need to see what was around the next bend in the road and that is my main reason for moving after 5 years. And even though I abhor so many things that are taking place in the US at this time, I have found a place to return to that I can afford – which for the majority of retirees who live here on a very tight budget, is impossible. I know, as I looked for years. So why am I going back? I’ve asked myself that question over and over again?
I hate to admit it’s my age – and 76 certainly in today’s calculation of what’s old isn’t quite there yet – but after a major medical scare in March, some medical treatments needing to be scheduled asap, the rising cost of living here, plus my not and never-will- be fluency in Spanish added up to my deciding this might be the time to return.
Like so many ex-pats, I have always kept my health insurance (now Medicare) based in the US. I haven’t a single bad thing to say about any of the doctors I have seen here in the past 5 years, all of which speak fluent English, and many of whom have trained in the States. But if I were to be hospitalized here, though the cost wouldn’t come close to what is charged back in the States, the bill would need to be paid in cash and the hospital support staff of nurses and tech people do not speak English. I just refuse to be ill, need care, and not understand what is being said. And I lay this problem directly at my feet.
I did study Spanish, quite diligently, when I first moved to Ajijic many years ago. But this time around I found many more fun and interesting things to do with my time than sit in a classroom studying irregular verbs. So even though I do comprehend much of what is being said, my ability to respond in kind is almost nil.
Another reason to return is that I will be in much closer proximity to my oldest son’s family which contains 2 of my 3 adorable grandchildren. Though I will be only a few hours away, it will be interesting to see if it will change the number of days I spend with them.
I marvel at today’s modern family and the hours spent in extra-curricular activities to keep children occupied – added to all their technical gadgets. I was raised to come in from play when my mother yelled ‘suppertime’ and my boys, except for the number of sports they played, were raised the same. Go outdoors, play with your friends, and use your imaginations to take you to wonderous places.
I will only be an Amtrak ride away, so hopefully, I can catch a few more soccer, lacrosse and t-ball games, watch them perform in their school programs, and celebrate birthdays and holidays together more frequently.
So what will I miss about living in San Miguel? Let me see if I can put together a list….
First and foremost – the wonderful women friends I have made here! They are all extremely interesting, exceedingly smart, talented women who migrated here, like I did, from cities all over the US. San Miguel has always been a city known for its large population of women – whether single, divorced, widowed, or married. These wonderful, magical, amazing group of ladies call this city their home and it’s been my greatest pleasure to meet many and call a few very special ones my friends. Moving will not change or alter those friendships.
The sweetness, generosity, and kindness of the Mexican people. Without speaking their language, even with a massive ex-pat community that has changed their living conditions and pushed them financially out of their city, the majority of Mexican people I have dealt with over the past 5 years have been nothing but truly nice. There are exceptions – but that’s true with any population anywhere.
The amazing and almost always blue, blue sky!!!
The colors that fill the Mexican world and lifestyle! I Hate Drab – beige and taupe and gray – all those boring, dull, dead colors you see all over decorating websites and in catalogs as being ‘in-style’. YUCK!
From a multitude of constantly blooming flowers to outdoor art to ceremonial costumes and even their food, Mexican daily life, with its numerous fiestas and religious celebrations, is so very colorful! Life is meant to be lived in color and it is the one thing I take with me wherever I go.
And now the harder part to write – what I won’t miss about life in SMA that has contributed to my decision to depart….
- Fireworks, cherry bombs, roosters, barking dogs, and church bells at 4:00 AM!!! Though I do really like the custom that when someone passes, they set off firecrackers in the middle of the night to let God know that that person is on his or her way.
- Cobblestone streets with narrow, uneven sidewalks which are twisted ankles, broken wrists, or worse just waiting to happen.
- Being robbed – 5 times! – losing not only money and jewelry but what turned out to be a false sense of safety.
- A city expansion with no plan or thought to the future impact on the population, the city’s infrastructure, or the very soon-to-be lack of water.
- Green. I miss grass and big oak trees and a change of seasons. Though I will never complain about the year-round weather living in a high desert climate, I do miss green. Oh, and let’s add central heating and air conditioning in here, as well.
- The neighbors from hell! This past year I have had to endure a used-to-be-married-couple sharing the house above me along with their two teenage daughters and a yippy, yappy dog. The noise, arguments, yelling, music, parties, and totally uncaring and inconsiderate actions of these people have made my last year in SMA a very unpleasant one. Instead of loving my hilltop home that is filled with light and a rooftop terrace with a magnificent view, it has meant shutting all the doors and windows just so I don’t have the listen to every word that they speak – or yell – or bark and whine!
- I actually had a few more specific pet peeves that I have come to associate with life in San Miguel. I wrote each out in detail and then deleted them. I think everyone needs to make up their own minds as to what they like and don’t like about a certain location and you can only do that by spending quality time there, getting to know the people and the daily way of life.
FYI – moving does not mean I have any plans to stop traveling! There are so many places I have yet to see – starting with Japan which I am already working on for 2024. I won’t stop writing or talking about travel (I’ve recently been asked to write for a large travel website and host a Leap Chats! – be sure and check that out.)
So life goes forward. A new home base, new people to meet, new places to see! I do hope you’ll come along for the ride! Next up is a 3-month house/pet sit in Atlanta, GA! We’ll go exploring this big city together with words and lots of pictures.