Friday, July 16, 2010

Five days into our adventure

Oh boy, I see already that the main challenge of this blog will be to keep the length down:  so many astonishing things are happening to us!

Two days ago we went to something called the Social and Newcomers' Club for lunch, to a Mexican hamburger restaurant ("hamburguesas," no kidding).  We met a handful of people among the 20 or 25 there, exchanged cards, invited to get together.  An hour later we ran into two people from there, Miriam and Scott, in the Jardin and spent a good long time talking.  They had come to San Miguel half a dozen times and have now decided to move here permanently from Columbia MD:  "We had a choice:  stay in Columbia and retire in 10 years, or move to San Miguel and retire now."  We will be seeing them again.

In the evening on Wednesday we went to a lecture on Marc Chagall given by Béa Aaronson, the first person we met here.  I had seen an announcement of that lecture before we left Camano Island and had it in my calendar.  She turned out to be a spectacular lecturer:  obviously a scholar as well as an artist.  Since then I've learned that like me, she did her Ph.D. dissertation on Marcel Proust!  We are eager to spend an evening with them, which we will do as soon as schedules permit.

Yesterday morning Rick went to a three-hour  writer's workshop.  He's written a part of this blog later on, and he will tell you about the thoughts it's provoked in him.  I spent the day at home dealing with technology issues and relaxing.  I've been trying to balance the excitement of the streets with the need to live a normal life, which means to me a good amount of unscheduled down time.

Today we went out this morning and within a block met Luba, a woman who had been at the Social and Newcomers' lunch, and sat on the curb and talked for 45 minutes about real estate here and much more.  At the Jardin there were a bunch of people in American-Indian feather head-dresses and elaborate costumes dancing to drums, and under an overhang the Red Cross was teaching people life-saving with mannikins on which they practiced chest compression:  "Uno, dos, tres, cuatro ..." up through 20 or 30 compressions.  

Then we stopped into a lab to get a blood test for Rick's current hematocrit level, no prescription needed, total cost 30 pesos = about $2.65.  The results were available in 4 hours and his hematocrit has come up from 31 two weeks ago to 37 now (low normal is 39 for a man), so we are very happy about that.

After a quick lunch at a café at the Jardin (where indeed we ran into two people we know) we went to the Biblioteca Publica, which was founded 40 or 50 years ago by an American woman.  Memberships are 80 pesos a YEAR, about $7.  They have a wonderful collection of books in both Spanish and English, and I was thrilled to find a large area entitled "literary fiction and nonfiction."  What's more, it's all available online, so I will be able to reserve specific books and be notified by email when they are available.  For now we have so many books with us we won't need that, but in the future we will.

At the Biblioteca we fell into conversation with a couple of men selling tickets to a community theater performance (we bought tickets for tomorrow night) and couldn't stop the conversation, so we went with them to a restaurant and had coffee while they had lunch.  We learned a lot about so much:  health care (they love the local care in terms of quality and cost), where to go for many things, renting vs. buying (renting!), where the best places to live are, the seasonal demographics of San Miguel, and so much more.  One was a retired airline pilot with money, the other was by his own admission a failed businessman with little money, and they are the best of friends.  Each man is a bachelor and lives in a small apartment, and they agreed that a single person can live here comfortably on $1,000 a month.  Another person with whom Rick had a conversation -- because he had a dog, and of course Rick is dog-starved -- cautioned that the key to living here on a budget is to limit the eating out.  Restaurant meals are relatively inexpensive but can add up alarmingly.  With all this advice, we are economically hopeful.

I am trying desperately to keep an open mind about this place:  we have only been here five days, after all.  But considering that for me the three big factors missing in my life on Camano Island -- culture, friends, and low-enough cost of living -- all seem to be met here, in spades, it's hard containing my enthusiasm.  I had known for years about San Miguel, but it wasn't until a conversation with my oldest friend, Ottie, last fall that it became a live possibility.  She raved about it, having spent a week or two here, and now I see how right she was.  Everyone with whom we've spoken talks about how easy it is to meet people here, and it's obviously true.  The fact that this is a small town where one walks everywhere, that there are two centers where people go often (the Jardin and the Biblioteca), that old-timers are so generous with information and advice for newcomers and so delighted to share how and why this place makes them so happy -- well, you can see why it's hard to resist.  We even found out today it's possible to get the Sunday New York Times here!  A great sigh of relief from me ...

I at least am beginning to entertain the possibility of living more long-term in Centro, the central area of town (where we are now), despite the noise of motors and conversations trapped and amplified in narrow streets between stucco buildings.  We've been told about fiestas with fireworks at 5 AM, but have yet to experience that.  I've been thinking about the effect of geography on relationships and behavior, and am thinking that if we had to take a bus or a taxi (only 25 pesos, about $2) into town rather than walking everywhere, that might well diminish the impromptu conversations I am loving so much.  There's a trade-off for everything, and the benefits may outweigh the disadvantages.  Well, there's plenty of time for such thinking later.

Here are a few photos for you.  This is the garrafón in our kitchen, that holds about 5 gallons of fresh water.  If you look carefully at the light fixture above it, you'll see the wrought-iron cross.

And here is one of the many paintings in the house by Sue d'Avignon, taken from below in the two-story-high sala:

This is the view from the rooftop patio of Béa Aaronson and Stephan Eaker, the artists we met on Tuesday.

Well, I think I have exhausted your patience and will end now.  Here's Rick.

Hi all,

I have been very lazy in communicating with you all, letting Jo do all the heavy lifting.  Her eye and ear misses very little, and her conversational flow of thought thought insures that her audience will not lose interest.

I wanted only to say to you all how renewed and, in fact, new I awake to each day here in San Miguel.
I have decided to write something each day, not with an eye to form or elusive recognition, but as an exercise in quieting the inner dialogue and seeing the palette before me as it is.  Easier said than done for this noisy fellow, as most of you know.

Today I was thinking of something my friend Victor Bremson said to me: "In order for us to have a successful interaction with each other and our world, we need to feel heard, seen, and loved."  I believe this is true -- but also, I think we cannot approach each interaction with what we need to receive foremost in our minds.  Better to focus on seeing, hearing, and loving, and what we receive will take care of itself.

I truly wish you were all here sharing this stunning, mind-altering adventure.

P.S. from Jo.  We just returned from an evening "in town."  The Jardin, which is about 5 blocks from our house, is electric at night, crowded with people who are filling all the many benches, walking, and standing around, to talk and laugh.  There are several mariachi bands, big ones, with 10 to 15 musicians each, playing violins, guitars, and trumpets and with a singer or two.  It gives one a jolt of happiness and energy to move among them, and sure enough we got into conversation with four previously unknown people and exchanged contact information.  Then we went down the street to a blues club we'd been told about, and had a couple of drinks and listened to the music.  Walking back through the Jardin we realized that although we enjoyed the music very much, we could have had just as much fun remaining in the Jardin for free.

This place is utterly amazing.  Good night!

No comments:

Post a Comment