Susi’s Mexican Adventure – Day Three

June 12, 2014 at 3:53 pm Leave a comment

SMA Architecture IIIAnother eight hours of sleep splintered only by the occasional howling of the neighbors dogs. I stealthily slip into my workout clothes and get in a two-mile indoor trek using the “Just Walk DVD With Toning Band” I bought expressly for this purpose.

Steamy hot, orange-scented tea on our sunny patio before we head for Centro around 11:00, seeking out a flatter route today. By 11:30 we are wandering around the town square trying to find someplace for a quick, cheap lunch.

Centro is okay for quick, not so okay for cheap. Where is daughter-in-law Esther to steer us to one of her favorite hidden haunts? We settle on a pleasant outside table at a clean little cafe where my husband Jack can order ala carte, while I choose a platter of three small quesadillas, oozing with melted oaxaca and well-stuffed with seasoned shredded chicken breast. Add a rice-based side salad with aioli dressing, an iced agua mineral (sparkling water), and I am primed to just sit and soak up the warm midday air. But it’s getting late, and we must be off to a 12:30 meeting with the realtor to look at five homes she’s lined up for our consideration.

We arrive at the Realty San Miguel offices at five minutes past the half-hour. Late for us, but not unusual for San Miguel, where “mañana” may literally translate to “tomorrow,” but in actuality means “at some future date.” Our agent steps into the gated courtyard to greet us, six feet of slender, casually stylish, raven-haired gorgeousness that suggests she left a modeling career behind to move here from her home in Washington state a few years ago.

She has hired a driver for the afternoon. She doesn’t own a car. Like many locals and transplants, she uses the cheap cab service – $3.00 for anywhere within the city limits – or walks. And like many locals and transplants, she does that walking over these challenging surfaces in espadrilles or strappy sandals or flip flops, or even high heels. I plod along after her in my sensible black Reeboks. At least they match my slightly baggy grandma jeans – bought one size too big for comfort on the flight down.

This house hunt takes us to a not-yet remodeled office space that can be tailored to suit our needs, but encases a difficult twisting stairway to the upper level and a limited kitchen footprint; a modern new development – a southwestern-style jewel in the crown of an already renowned New York City architect that screams contemporary/adobe fusion gone amok to my conservative tastes; and a beautifully redecorated place with every desired amenity plus a tasteful blend of sleekly outfitted kitchen, comfortably-sized rooms, a rooftop terrace, and calm-inducing designer color scheme. There’s even a crying-wall fountain visible from the double-glass doors of the upstairs master bedroom. Inside, peaceful perfection.

Step out the front door. A vacated, graffiti-marred structure greets you across the street. Next door on one side, the schoolyard of very modest institution formed of grey concrete and glass block, and to the right, a property ragged from years of neglect and harsh sun exposure. The pedestrian approach here is a difficult one, also: far from Centro, along steep sidewalks and curving streets, all paved with rugged, uneven stones that challenge even my rubber-soled footing.

Two more properties – modest, accessible, but uninviting, as viewed through the weary eyes of disbelief that make me feel like Alice in Wonderland, not being able to make sense of the mixed surroundings and humble lifestyle of this new and foreign place.

I pulled a small journal off my office bookshelf to bring with me on this trip. It must have been a garage sale buy, because I discover notations in an unfamiliar hand inside the first few pages as I begin to record my own observations of this trip. The former owner here quotes Matthew, chapters five and six; Isaiah, 41; Romans, one; and Romans two, verse one: “Therefore you have no excuse, o man, whoever you are, when you judge another, for in passing judgment upon him you condemn yourself…”

Am I judging? It’s not at all that I feel “too good” for these surroundings. It is simply that being here makes me sad. Isolated and out of my element. A stranger in a strange, crumbling landscape with no lush greenery anywhere to suggest life and seasonal regeneration. And most of all, misled and confused by the internet hype I’ve read and viewed over the past twelve months. “It’s magical,” our real estate agent had said of that first glimpse of San Miguel that compelled her decision to leave family and personal history 3,000 miles behind. Am I hardened against Magical Experiences?

My husband seems to sense it, this charm that others feel lured by. I am reduced to tears trying to explain my panicked aversion and my guilt over not falling in love with the place.

By 4:00 p.m., under a bedroom ceiling fan that threatens to spin off its wobbly base, I rest, read, and recover in time for another visit to Esther’s brother’s house on the edge of town. Here, Jack and son Jason are regaled in a belated joint birthday celebration. Grilled, marinated skirt steak, fabulous homemade beans, mounds of steamed broccoli and cauliflower, more grilled scallions, heaping bowls of fresh cantaloupe, and papaya so intense with juicy tropical flavor I barely recognize the taste.

Next comes a huge birthday sheet cake, with candles, and at least a dozen eager children, belting out the Spanish version of “Happy Birthday” – a rendition with at least twelve verses that goes on and on, lifted to the rafters by joyful young voices, and led by the aging household matriarch with equal enthusiasm. The song finally completed, each young performer marches over to give the birthday boys a handshake, and sometimes a hug.

As a finale, two sweet second graders in their plaid school uniform pleated skirts and crisp white blouses, grasping hands and swaying back and forth to keep rhythm, provide an endearing encore almost as long as the main tribute. The tender look of sheer and blessed appreciation on my husband’s face is truly a memorable gift to behold.

I don’t understand this way of life, but I so appreciate these dear little ones and their gracious, hospitable parents, so willing to “make a party,” and to share all that they have. My head may be swirling with confusion, but my heart is full to the brim.

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Susi’s Mexican Adventure – Day Two Susi’s Mexican Adventure – Day Four

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