A few observations and stories today.
Here's a story about the famous Mexican corruption that our real estate agent, Oswaldo, age 28, told me. Unknown to him, his tail lights were out on his car and he was stopped and ticketed by a Federale (national cop). The Federale told Oswaldo he could either pay his 200-peso fine right then to him, or he could pay his ticket at a municipal office. Knowing that the fine would go right into the cop's pocket and not wanting to contribute to corruption, Oswaldo chose the latter. The Federale told him in that case he'd have to take his driver's license until he paid his fine, and the soonest that could be was two weeks from then. "Two weeks! What do I do for a driver's license until then?" "The ticket serves as your driver's license."
So in two weeks Oswaldo went to the municipal office to pay his fine. The place was overflowing with other people waiting in line, and he reached the head of the line hours later. But he couldn't pay his fine because his driver's license hadn't arrived yet. When? "In two weeks." Two weeks later he returned, again waited most of the day, and was able to pay his fine -- of 400 pesos -- and get back his driver's license.
So to avoid cooperating with corruption Oswaldo lost two days of work and paid double the fine. That's a high price to pay for honesty.
I wanted to tell you about the produce here: spectacularly good and by our standards, cheap. The peaches and mangos we've had have been the Platonic ideal of peaches and mangos. We soak all produce in water with a few drops of Microdyne, a disinfectant, before putting it in the refrigerator. (I am happy to tell you that the chocolate ice cream we bought is also terrific.) I took this photo of a man delivering a huge bag of limes -- 8 or 9 cents each! -- in what looks to me like a golf cart -- one sees many of them in this town, but oddly enough no SmartCars, which would be perfect for the narrow streets with too much traffic.
Limes seem to be served with everything here, and it's a taste I'm happy to acquire. In fact, the word for lime here is "limon," technically, I suppose, "limon verde" but everyone says "limon."
When we first started looking into San Miguel last fall I started pulling up real estate listings on the Web. Many of the houses looked just awful, big blank walls right on the street. No way, I said to myself, we'd ever live anyplace so ugly. Well, I didn't understand anything. You may have seen street scenes of San Miguel by now from the various links I've sent -- all the big blank walls right on the street. But walk through doors and magic happens. Through a doorway you see a three- or four-story-high courtyard with trees, plants and flowers everywhere, even fountains. Some courtyards have restaurants or hotels or shops in them, little secret places you have to stumble upon or be told about very specifically. And the big blank walls hide some amazing houses. Today I took a House and Garden tour of four houses designed by local American architects (e.g., some serious money in those houses). Here's what the view was down the stairs of one of those houses to the street and the big blank wall outside:
We saw a community play last night that Rick was more charitable about than I was. Walking home through the Jardin we saw a wedding procession at about 10 PM. First came a burro decorated with paper flowers, then a mariachi band, then the wedding couple, then their guests all dressed up (women wear black to weddings here too!) and carrying wine glasses, then two HUGE papier-mâché figures of a bride and groom, maybe 15 feet tall, then more wedding guests and finally various hangers-on. And we counted: not including the wedding mariachi band, there were five others playing at various corners of the Jardin. The cacophony was wonderful.
I'm a little bit concerned about my occasional level of poopitude here. If I don't sleep at night (too excited to sleep!) I feel like a balloon with the air let out. Today after walking a lot with the House and Garden tour in the mid-day sun I took a taxi home to rest. I am hoping that this is temporary: Rick assures me it is.
Now here's Rick ...
Sounds like here's Johmmy.
I walk. And walk. I people-meet and people-watch. I read and I write. Unlike Jo, I am sleeping well. My hematicrit is up and my blood sugar down. In short, for those of you old enough to remember, I feel
like Ronald Colman in SHANGRILA.
I am somewhat at a loss to explain the feelings of openness we are experiencing here. There seem to be no false barriers of sophistication. No concern about what the strangers you meet might want of you, or you of them. It seems totally unself-conscious, each day full of endless possibility.
I have never been one given to hysterical conversion, yet I find my objectivity, or rather skepticism, muted with each day's good feelings. I'm not selling anything other than I feel renewed in ways too many years have intervened to remember.