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.
18 Replies to “Adios and Farewell, San Miguel de Allende!”
I am sure it’s difficult to leave such a beautiful and colorful city. I do think it’s time to think about the availability of medical care and being closer to family. I know you will continue to travel and enjoy the world. Hope to hear about your new experiences.
I have often said “I wished we lived somewhere else but….not practical for us as well as knowing there are conflicts all over. The U.S. is definitely in a terrible culture and crisis with legislators and judges losing their soul to the devil.
Thank you for your beautifully written and honest perspective. We are very excited to be exiting the US, couldn’t come at a better time and are planning a several months stay in SMA as part of our NOMAD life. Wishing you so much love and laughter as you venture on the next leg of your journey!
I was very much looking forward to meeting up with you in SMA again, this winter. 😢. However, I also look forward to following your adventures, and maybe there will be a time + place where our paths can cross again. Gracias! NancyG
What can I say? You’ll be missed but we’ll see each other in new locales…
Welcome back to the USA, and what you failed to mention is the beautiful area you having chosen for your new home. You will do just fine, and you will realize the good decision you made. You do need to see the grandkids, because they need to know who you are. Oh, our trip to Japan was one of the best we have experienced. I hope you get there. Carry on, and thanks for the enjoyable read.
Ah, ReAnn. Life is so grand. Your reminiscences about SMA bring back the poignant, bittersweet feelings I’ve had myself in leaving cities I’d grown intimate with and loved. I have a friend who now lives in Hawaii, who told me she loved Amsterdam like a life partner, like a lover. Myself, I’ve felt that way about New York and Paris- leaving with such raw sorrow that only writing about it could sooth the soul.
Happy chapters ahead, my friend. We hope to see you pop into Santa Fe frequently. We’re sorta like SMA only with English speaking nurses and Medicare hospitals😉
Happy trails, doll
This is lovely! I do hope we get to see you in Calf in the spring. I am excited for you and this new chapter.
What a great post! I’ve enjoyed following your travels with Joyce and now your move to CA. I’m a big SMA fan (as well as other parts of Mexico; I’ve been all over including Ajijic) having studied there with the Univ of New Orleans a few years ago and having visited one other time. So I can understand how hard it must be to leave. BUT your new home looks wonderful (I researched it online when Joyce told me about it, thinking she was moving there too. But turned out I had the wrong Joyce). I admire your ability to find an affordable place in such an incredible location.
Best of luck on you new adventure. I hope we get to meet someday.
You will be missed! I only knew you a short time from playing Rummikub- and I’m happy to know that your adventures will continue. I hope you enjoy your new place, being close to family, and planning new travel destinations. May peace love and joy follow you wherever you may go.
Our geography of place – a place we love and feeds our spirit – changes as we change. I have always admired you adventurous ways but I also love how well thought out you are. Thank you for all the clarity and transparency in your writing. You have captured what there is to love about San Miguel and given us a sidebar of emotions about how it feels to leave a once-loved place. You are a hellavu writer and a good friend to so many. I will see you soon. Barbara
Thank you, Barbara, for the kind words. This will be the place where we met and became friends and so glad that that friendship continues as we both find our new ‘geography of place.’
Hi ReAnn, I just read your latest post & it left me with a very sad feeling, the same one we had the last time we were in Mexico. I am a Mexican- American, I have 2 aunts & numerous cousins living in Guadalajara. My phone was stolen the last we were there 5 years ago & it completely make me fearful to return to Mexico. We have plans to return in November. But after reading your post I am curious as to what type of thefts you had in Mexico. Do you have any safety suggestions? I am going with my husband, staying in a safe neighborhood. I also wanted to let you know that I graduated from UCSB, & am looking forward to reading about your move to Isla Vista. You will love it! I enjoy reading your travel blog, stay safe! Thank you for your time, Ana Bravo
You pretty well summed it up. It’s really sad that your neighbors made your life miserable at the end. It could have been a much more pleasant ending to your years here.
How were your flights to Atlanta? Hopefully, you’re there safe and sound by now.
I had quite a journey back!
The trip to SMA yesterday was delay upon delay. We sat on the tarmac for 30 minutes before take off in Mpls waiting for a maintenance person to check out a hydraulic warning light. Then 30 min more after they arrived. Got the go-ahead and landed in Dallas to find that flight had been delayed by 45 min and there was a gate change.
I bought a couple of marinated pork tacos and a box of Altoid peppermints because, if you can believe it, my cold had turned into laryngitis and I COULD NOT SPEAK! My throat needed to be soothed constantly or the tickle there would make me cough and in these days of plague and pestilence you DO NOT WANT TO COUGH IN PUBLIC, especially not on an airplane. Jenny had given me some homeopathic lozenges that got me through to Dallas but they were gone. All I could find were Altoids.
About 15 minutes before boarding there was an announcement that the pilot had not shown up. They had called in another one but, so sorry, the flight would be delayed, again. I saw the new guy arrive about 30 minutes later and he did not look happy. None of the staff on either flight looked like they wanted to be there. Kind of grim.
I probably guzzled 50 altoids, 2 at a time, during that 2-hour flight. My throat was so raw and itchy. It was pretty awful – plus sitting in the middle seat in a plane packed to standing room only. I’m sure my seatmates thought I was a little off, the way I shoveled those mints into my mouth!
But the shuttle driver I’d booked for the 1 1/2 hour drive to SMA from the Leon airport had waited for my flight. I was so happy to see him there holding the sign with my name and 4 others on it. We waited another half hour for the others.
I finally got here a little after 7 just 30 min late for my ‘welcome back’ party on Elaine’s roof. It was lovely to see everyone but horribly frustrating not to be able to answer their questions. I have a new appreciation for the gift of speech!
I got home around 9 after the gathering, turned on the shower and there was no hot water. I went to bed with travel grunge clinging to me. I couldn’t face going up on the roof to try to light the water heater at that hour.
I felt really crappy this morning – slept til 10 – have been drinking tea and blowing green stuff out of my nose and coughing it up out of my lungs ever since. I finally got the hot water going and took a loooong wonderful shower.
I’m happy to have another 1 1/2 months here but that will be enough. It’s too brown. I don’t resonate with desert or mountains. I like rolling prairie, lots of green, and I’m willing to revisit winter to try to establish a working relationship with that vast, white season.
Keep in touch, Reann. Thanks again for my royal welcome to SMA. Best of luck in GA and I’m eager to hear about your experience as you settle into CA life.
Hi ReAnn, I’ve been reading you blog for some time, but never commented before. Your realistic accounts of places you’ve been are so very informative. Thank you! I live in ATL, so if you have questions, let me know. Will you have a car? That makes a difference in what you can see. I manage to live here and use my car very little, which is not the norm.
Hi Bruce – Thanks for the nice comments. I am looking forward to my 3-month house/pet sitting assignment in Atlanta. I’ll be Clarkston. Looking at the metro transportation maps, that seems to be just a bit off the main line but I do have access to a car – which will help. I have taken the metro from the airport to my friend in Sandy Springs and being a lover of public transport, I hope to learn my way around without using the homeower’s car too much. I’m always open for ideas and suggestions to wha to see and do and open to a meet-up for coffee or a glass of wine!
Clarkston is one of the most diverse places in Georgia. It has long been a first destination for refugee resettlement. Alas, it’s not a highly walkable area. Looking at the map, you best bet for a good supermarket is in Tucker, just a few miles north of Clarkston or in Avondale Estates, but your homeowner probably has recommendations. Clarkston is home to Refuge Coffee, an immigrant business well known in the metro area. Avondale Estates is also probably the best MARTA rail station close to you.
The big tourist sights in ATL are honestly a lot like many other places. If you’ve been to other big city zoos aquariums or sports venues, they are pretty much the same here. The Botanical garden is nice. Although a bit of an excursion from Clarkston, the Atlanta history Center is very nice. Obviously, you are very close to Stone Mountain. Email me when you’re in town!
I’ll give you a holler when I get settled. I’ve got good friends and even my brother and sister-in-law in the Atlanta area so I’ve visited over the years much of the ‘biggies’. I prefer much smaller, unusual ‘finds’ than the typical.