On Saturday we went to the weekly Mercado Organico in Parque Juarez, a nearby and very beautiful park. (And damn, I forgot my iPhone at home so I couldn't take pictures for you.) There were many booths of gorgeous produce, including huge yellow squash blossoms. When we had dinner last week at Natalie's house, she made squash blossom soup: wonderful! There were booths selling all sorts of vegetables and fruits, baked goods, cheese, coffee, and honey and jams, as well as clothing and ceramic things. One thing that impressed me was a terracotta container -- picture a bulbous bottom maybe 6" in diameter and a tall neck. You plant it up to the neck in soil, say in a large planter, and plant your flowers or strawberries or whatever around it. Then you fill the terracotta container with water, which seeps out slowly over a few days to keep your plants moist. Is that not ingenious? And as always, happy people in a beautiful setting.
I have an update on the awful news I gave you a month or so ago from an article I read in the local paper, about the six young and uneducated women who were in prison from 19 to 25 years for abortions or in one case a miscarriage. I am happy to tell you that all six have been released. I'm sure the publicity is what did the trick. But what about all the others about whom there is no publicity?
Other good news is that on Saturday really for the first time I've been here I was able to walk smoothly and with no pain in my hips. Maybe it was all the time I was flat on my back when I was sick? I don't know what the difference was, but it felt like I was flying!
Saturday evening were invited to the house of a friend of Rick's from his writing group, a man named Louis. I mentioned him before -- he's the man who manages to live here on $595 a month, including two trips to the Boston VA hospital every year for medical services. He has a wonderful house! Four stories, including the rooftop garden that most houses here have, of small but perfect rooms. Lots of art and many beautiful things. We sat on his patio and happily talked for over four hours. I honestly don't think that we had any conversations as stimulating as this at any time in the almost five years we lived on Camano Island, and here we've had a number of them. This is a magical place.
Yesterday we saw something special in the early evening in the Jardin. A small orchestra was playing dance music in the gazebo in the middle of the Jardin, and all sorts of couples -- old and young, Mexican and expats -- were dancing to the music. There were just four couples dancing a tango, some of them quite good, too, and many more couples dancing a salsa. The area around where they were dancing was thronged with onlookers like us.
We were on our way to a restaurant that was highly recommended on the San Miguel listserv for a traditional Mexican dish we learned about at the Erev Roshashah dinner we went to last week (I think I forgot to tell you about that -- about 50 people there!) called chiles en nogado. I looked up "nogado" and couldn't find a translation -- does anyone out there know what "nogado" means? An amazing dish! Roasted sweet bell peppers stuffed with a mixture of chopped beef, nuts, fruits, and seasoning, baked, and topped with a creamed walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds. Very patriotic and often eaten on Independence Day: green chiles, white sauce, and red pomegranate seeds! So delicious! The restaurant, of course, is all decked out for the bicentennial and like many, is in the courtyard of a colonial building a couple of hundred years old.
We have learned the trick of eating out here. We split an appetizer -- imagine, last night it was cold cream of avocado soup! -- and the main course. Even with drinks and a tip the entire wonderful dinner came to $22 and it's easily possible to have dinner for less. This town must have a thousand restaurants: eating is a big-deal pastime here, and many of the restaurants are very, very good. Of course, many visitors to San Miguel have plenty of money and go from one restaurant to the next. I have rarely had to resort to tortilla food, thank goodness.
This week San Miguel is THE place to be in the entire country. The Bicentennial of independence from Spain started here in San Miguel and in a town about 15 miles away, Dolores Hidalgo, on September 15 and 16, 1810, by two men whose names, you will not be surprised to learn, were Allende and Hidalgo. I have read that Felipe Calderon, the president of Mexico, will be in Dolores to commemorate it. An American told me that our Barack Obama will also be here, but I don't know if that's true. Rick just called me to tell me that a regiment of dozens of men on horseback were parading around the Jardin in full costumed regalia to cries of "Viva Mexico!" from the crowd.
Moving here is starting to take on a new reality: I am calling movers. I have learned that unlike the US where moving costs are tightly regulated and there's basically no cost variation, there's plenty of cost variation here. So we're comparison shopping. I'll tell you more about this as I learn more. It's exciting!