Susi’s Mexican Adventure – Day One

May 6, 2014 at 8:20 pm 2 comments

The challenging sidewalk outside our rental house.

The challenging sidewalk outside our rental house.

For over a year now, I’ve been enthusing to anyone who would stand still long enough that my husband and I were considering a move to Mexico. San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico, to be specific.

A number of factors figured into this announcement. Our daughter-in-law grew up in that area, for one. She first extolled its virtues as a retirement destination during a Christmas visit in 2011, causing a wary twinge in my gut at the initial suggestion. But then we started trolling the internet.

Over the next year we watched dozens of glowing YouTube videos – testimonials from transplanted ex-patriots; clips of Doc Severinsen and the San Miguel Five playing local clubs; an interview with singer/talk show host John Davidson about building a home in SMA; an Anglo professor reading his poetic ode to San Miguel, as the cameras capture romantic glimpses of the city’s historic cathedrals and quaint cobblestone streets; constant references to the vibrant arts and culture of the place.

Having invested decades of active participation, we are also weary of Minnesota’s climate – both political and atmospheric. The weather in San Miguel is as perfect as it gets. Lows in the 50s at night. Highs in the mid-70s to mid-80s during the day. Virtually year-round, day after day. Boring to some, as one interviewee admitted, but sounding like heaven on earth to us after yet another brutal winter, 2,000 miles north of SMA in MSP.

And my husband retired this spring, after several years of underemployment and a forced early sign-on to Social Security for me. Finances will be an issue for us. With San Miguel property taxes one-tenth of the Minnesota rate, heating and cooling expenses minimal, and the cost of fresh meat, seafood, eggs, and produce at the weekly outdoor market more than reasonable, it seemed sensible to take a serious look at the possibility of transplanting our household.

So…two weeks after my husband’s last day of work, we climb on a plane, San Miguel bound, hoping to confirm that we have discovered the retirement haven of our dreams. My journal entries and general impressions follow.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

We are up past midnight with last minute preparations, sleep restlessly, and then the alarm sounds at 4:00 a.m. for early arrival at the airport before our 7:00 a.m. departure. About two-and-a-half hours sleep, I estimate.

My “food bag” stuffed to the brim, I forage for the container of sliced bananas and strawberries to go with my complimentary hot tea. Jack’s blood sugar soars sky-high along with the plane, so he skips the morning meal, sips black coffee instead. We both gaze glassy-eyed out the plane window through much of the flawless flight to Dallas.

Transfer to a smaller plane for the last hop into Queretaro means a choppier ascent and descent, but compensation comes when boarding, deplaning, and customs take a fraction of the time as in the huge stateside airports we’ve just left.

Munching on a homemade turkey wrap and raw broccoli from my stash, I pass the two-plus hours reading “A Year in Provence,” by Peter Mayle, chuckling over his witty and affectionate observations on life in a foreign environment. Could this be a good omen for what lies in store for us?

Mini-panic as the flight attendant passes out a brochure on what one can and cannot carry into Mexico, and I learn that I will have to throw away all fresh fruit and meat items – most of what I brought along. I rush to gobble down one of the grapefruits, eye the second one, then decide against the foolishness of overeating, just to avoid throwing food into the trash bin.

A second bout of panic as we travel in a hired van from the airport to San Miguel. I had long justified the radical notion of moving south of the border by telling myself, this will be such a scenic and appealing setting that everyone will want to visit us there. Now, as I pass mile after mile of graffiti-marred, ramshackle, deserted roadside buildings and rickety wooden sheds selling everything from tires to tacos, I can only think, oh…my…gosh; I could never ask friends and loved ones to endure this depressing scene.

The automatic-weapon-yielding Federales, pulling over suspect vehicles as we travel the highway route into town, etch even more negatives into my first impression.

Praying that the scene will brighten as we coil our way through carved out mountainsides and begin our final sloped entry into Wonderland, I wait for the long-anticipated breathtaking view of the baroque colonial city itself.

From our elevated perspective I see a mass of buildings, crammed into a small area, punctuated by towering salmon-colored spires here and there. I squint to recreate the hazy scenes from the internet videos. I strain my neck to close in on the central town square and block out the surrounding third-world images. But the magical moment does not happen for me.

My husband is less dismayed, more optimistic. Passing through a framework of decaying infrastructure which others might more charitably describe as historically correct, we find our way to our rental home, unlock the security gate, and gratefully envelop ourselves in the lush greenery of the courtyard.

I am tired and hungry. A good night’s sleep might refresh my attitude. Utterly depleted, we stumble upon a little restaurant just around the corner from our lodgings, apparently carved – as so many establishments here are – into a block-long chunk of concrete and stone. Here my husband has two carne asada-style beef tacos and I tuck into a wonderful chili-soup of ground beef, “Jalisco style,” with condiments of raw chopped onion and parsley, and a small side salad of jicama and carrot sticks.

We pay our 200 pesos and step back into the seclusion of our rented digs. Such a welcoming sight, the beautiful purple-pink of blooming…bougainvillea? Jacaranda? Not sure. But as we shut the gates on the narrow, uneven sidewalks and aging house fronts along this street, the blooms do much to sweeten the bitter taste of disappointment.

We fall into bed around 8:30, are sawing logs by 9:00. Under tomorrow’s sunny skies, we will surely discover the hidden charms of this place they call The Heart of Mexico.

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Please Do Try This At Home Susi’s Mexican Adventure – Day Two

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Keith  |  May 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    I had a suspicion that something like this was underway… rascals!

  • 2. mary  |  May 6, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    …and the adventure begins! Be safe, keep an open mind and see what happens.😜


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