To prove to you that this place is not some figment of my imagination, yesterday I went to a talk at the Biblioteca (for 60 pesos, about $5) on political economy, and it was really boring! And it's not always sunny in Paradise, either. It started raining about three hours ago and it's still raining. For those of us from Seattle, that's actually pretty nice: I like the sound and the smell of rain, and the sun here is blindingly bright. For me it requires a sunhat and sunglasses. Today I figured out a product that would make me rich: an umbrella specifically for the sun that's black on the underneath for shade and white on top to dispel heat. Oh, well, another fortune passed up ...
So, I must tell you about the dinner party last night at the home of the man I met in the Biblioteca who was not very attractive -- a man who is not in the habit of smiling, a man with hunched-over shoulders like he's constantly apologizing for himself. I don't know how old he is -- he could be in his early 70s, or more likely is in his early 60s but looks old for his age.
He lives in a small house, the usual blank wall and door, with a small first floor and a bedroom upstairs, I assume. Out the back of his house, however, was a gorgeous garden area and lawn shared by several houses in the compound. Right behind his house was a patio with a lacy tree shading it, under which he had placed several tables with chairs. Eighteen (!) people came to this party, half Mexicans and half Americans, which Rick and I both loved. A neighbor's little dog wandered freely through it all. Rick happily set about chatting in Spanish with as many Mexicans as he could reach, and by the end of the evening knew the name of every person there. The ages ranged from a man in his 80s who brought his guitar, and played and sang Mexican songs for us — very well, too. The other end was his granddaughter who looked to be about 9 or 10. In between there were all ages, both nationalities, single people and couples, and a couple of mother/daughter pairs. Many of them knew each other already, apparently from previous Thursday dinners. I dearly love the diversity of groups of people here.
Although I have to say that I have noticed very, very few black people here, and I'm sorry about that. Rick, who sees more people than I do (I can't get over that), says that no, he's seen some. But not many.
For dinner one of the guests, obviously a regular, brought a huge pot of lamb and chick peas served over rice. Someone else brought salad, and someone brought an apple pie. Others, including us, brought wine. Contrary to what our Spanish teacher had told us, people here do contribute food to dinner parties. She had warned us before we left for Mexico that it would be considered insulting, tantamount to implying that the host couldn't provide food for the guests. I asked a Mexican woman about that last night, and she said that among educated people with modern manners it's considered friendly to contribute food. She speculated that the insult might be felt by poor people, who have a lot more pride at stake when they have guests. That is good to know: I plan to contribute as many mango cobblers as the mango season will allow!
One of the guests, a woman named Jane who with her husband Ron splits her time between Houston and San Miguel, talked quietly to me about our host and confirmed my impressions. This is indeed a lonely solitary man who has lived his entire life without much in the way of social skills of his own (as opposed to those of his former wife) and who recently decided to change his life by hosting Thursday evening dinner parties. He now has dozens of friends, people who genuinely seem to care about him. It was clear that he was making a sincere effort to be a good host, and actually doing it well. Perhaps with time the new persona will attach itself more strongly to his personality and become seamless.
Tomorrow night we had planned to attend an event at a building that houses many design and art studios, Fabrica Aurora, where we haven't yet been, but Jane and Ron invited us to a dinner party at their house. Of course we will go there instead. In fact, the mango cobbler for it just came out of the oven. Many of the people at last night's party will be at tomorrow's. Today in the streets and at the Mega supermarket buying groceries (and more mangos!) we ran into half a dozen of them. Bless Rick, he knew all their names. He's a superb social asset here!
This afternoon I heard violin music coming in from the street. It was an art opening at a gallery across the street. We wandered over, had a glass of wine thrust at us, and saw some indifferent art but several people we knew from last night's party. People spilled out the door and into the street with wineglasses in their hands, talking to their friends and making new ones. Cars gently detoured around us.
And on Sunday afternoon you may recall that we have been invited by Fabiola and her large family to the house they are renting for "comida," the main meal of the day at 2 PM. In case you've forgotten, here's Fabiola
And here's her family
It makes a lot of sense to me to have the main meal early in the afternoon, but I can't figure out the logistics for it. Does one wake up, make the beds, go shopping, cook, have the comida, clean up, rest a bit, and finally go out into the world at the end of the afternoon when most of the day is over? Now, that makes no sense at all! I guess ideally the comida would be eaten in a restaurant -- let someone else shop, cook, and clean up -- but that would get pretty pricy pretty fast. This whole thing still has to be worked out. As you can see, there are a lot of people in Fabiola's family, including three teenage boys: I'll make a double-sized mango cobbler for them all.
This morning we saw an ugly house for rent: dark, poorly ventilated, cramped rooms, and overpriced. Tomorrow we're seeing another one in the same neighborhood that we hope will be better. We have a date to see one more in a week, and a new crop of ads came out in today's Atención, the weekly newspaper for expats and Mexicans about what's happpening in town. We'll contact some of the many classified house-rental ads for more houses to see. Even if we see nothing else we like, two of the houses we've seen so far are definite possibilities.
And here's some wonderful news. Our car has — so what's new? — been at the Dodge dealer's shop here in San Miguel. After more than a week, they really seem to have fixed it, finally! Now we can go as slowly as we like, or as slowly as we have to in the San Miguel traffic, and it doesn't stall. We don't plan on using it much, but it's good to have the option again.
It occurs to me that the only conceivable reason I might not want to live here is that my energy level is sometimes not up to what it was at home, where I never ran out of energy. Less often than I, Rick experiences the same thing. It could be many things that are different from Camano Island: the altitude, the sunshine, the heat, the long walks every day, the hills to climb, and the interaction among all those factors. Okay, technically it's not hot like 90s and humid hot, but 80 to 85 degrees in this sunshine sure feels hot to us, especially when we're walking uphill. And some uphill walks are really steep: the sidewalks have steps in them. So Rick says, and he's right, that on days we're feeling low-energy and pooped, we'll either take taxis or just stay home a day. There is zero question in my mind, none at all, that the quality of life here is so much better than any other place I have ever lived, ever.