Saturday, March 8, 2014

San Miguel de Allende

Apparently it takes the average American about 65 years to work out that he or she would be better of living in Mexico… if the number of retirees living in San Miguel de Allende are anything to go by. When we crossed the border into Mexico at Tecate, nobody spoke English anymore. Heck, even in southern California it's hard to get by without Spanish. In San Miguel de Allende half the population suddenly speaks English again… because half the population seems to be American or Canadian.

I have nothing against people willing to retire to another country, but whole colonies of foreigners settling down in one little town has its effects. San Miguel de Allende is a beautiful and very much Mexican town. Luckily we haven't seen any gringo alterations to the buildings… but on the streets it's another story. Why do women of a certain age have the desire to try to look 18 again? Why do wrinkly old gals dress like hippies? Don't they have a mirror at home? It doesn't work, no matter how extravagant and colourful you dress, you simply won't be 18 again! Just give it up… please!

I had only one thing on my shopping list today: an extension lead! A simple 10 metre long, not too heavy lead with 3 or 4 outlets. I could have gone to Mega or something, but that isn't fun and I rather spend my pesos at the local store. Well, I couldn't have wished for more local than where I went. Three old men, no English spoken at all and nothing but old cabinets crammed full of stuff of which I have no idea what it's all called in Spanish… :-) Great, getting an extension lead is going to be a cultural challenge! After a lot of sign language, which resulted in several drawers being opened and goods being presented that didn't even remotely look like what I was trying to picture, I saw a lead hanging in the back…!

10 Metre is easy to do in sign language, but 3 outlets proved another challenge. In the end they found what I wanted, blew the dust of (it had been there for a while) and started looking in an old catalogue to see what that would cost. For a mere 107 pesos I had 20 minutes of cultural exchange, a lot of flabbergasted faces from three lovely old men and an extension lead thrown in too… so much better than WalMart :-)

Walking through the streets of San Miguel de Allende is an eye opener. The town is old, seriously old, and doesn't seem to have changed much. The local garage seems to have been there forever too and more than likely works on anything from lawnmower to a bus. That his workshop is small and full of stuff he's working on doesn't matter all that much as most of the work is done outside anyway. Don't underestimate mechanics like that, they know how to repair rather than just replace parts. A little bit further on is a bazaar. Someone must have bought one of their old doors, which would have been antique where I'm from. A local carpenter was making a doorframe for it on the spot with nothing but the most basic and old hand tools.

Breakfast didn't go all that well. Mike ordered the exact thing I wanted, so I simply said 'Uno mas!' to the young girl taking my order. She thought I meant that I wanted a hot chocolate too… so that's all I got :-) Never mind, I have to loose some weight and I wasn't real hungry anyway. We walked through a maze of narrow streets, some cobblestone, some big slate stones. The houses along the streets are painted in bold and bright colours. Mexicans love colour! While making a photo of a beautifully decorated old front-door, a Mexican lady looked somewhat puzzled at me. 'Why is he taking a photo of that old door, she seemed to wonder. Well, because it's an amazing door to me :-) San Miguel de Allende has many squares. At one of the bigger ones, Plaza de Allende, we stop and sit for a while on one of the benches under the trees. Is it market day or something, or is this square lined with hundreds of stalls every day, I wonder.

Just opposite is a fruit stall where you can get all kinds of fruit cut to chunks in a plastic container. They cut it at the spot, as fresh as can be. With the sun in my eyes I ask for what I thought was pineapple… I looked somewhat surprised when she asked if I wanted chilli with it… chilli with pineapple??? I paid my 30 pesos, walked back to the bench we were sitting on and realised it wasn't pineapple but Jicama, a yellow/white beet. No wonder she asked if I wanted chilli with it… so back I go to the lady and try to explain that what I was after was Piña.

She cuts a pineapple to chunks on the spot for me and probably tells the rest of the family tonight that the dumb gringos can't even see the difference between a Jicama and a Piña…

Next on the agenda was a Mexican wedding. 'So that's why they closed the streets to the square!', I thought. Thinking there must be something huge arriving now… I was disappointed. Some semi skinhead drove the bride up in a grey SUV… how stylish! The groom was totally not interested in the whole procedure at all and even when the priest came out of the church to do a ceremony, he just stood there with his hands in his pockets… He looked like a druglord to me. A brillcreamed office drone in black.

Jeanette donated 10 pesos to an old lady sitting on the square. She thanked her a thousand times and walked to the nearest store and came out with something to eat. Money well spend! While I'm thinking about getting something for lunch myself, I look straight into the face of someone with the skin colour and eating habits of a pig… trying to eat something. A Bulldog would have been ashamed of the sights and sounds that went with it. I lost my appetite there and then! Loosing weight works well today, no brekkie and no lunch…

A few more campers have arrived at the RV park, all German. There were already quite a few Germans but now it had become an epidemic. What are they all doing here? One of them is waiting here on a new step for his motorhome as he bent the old one. Any Mexican mechanic could have fixed this, but Siegfried doesn't trust anyone but a German and thus has a new one shipped to him by DHL… good luck in getting that this month!

I looked at my photos, select the ones for the blog and edited them, while Mike edited a movie he recorded riding up here. I have soldered the free Apple cable I got from the Apple dealer in Guadalajara to the universal 12V laptop charger so that we can work with both computers at the same time, one via the power supply, the other via a power supply from a portable fridge (thanks Doug!).

As we already had dinner at the same place yesterday, La Parilla del Patron, we thought nothing much could go wrong… Arriving there we found the place closed and everyone carrying bricks, cement etc. 'I'm sorry my friend! I told you yesterday we would be open today, but we are doing a little decorating. So we are closed' Just as we were about to leave, mum and daughter came to the door and told us to come in. They wanted to cook for us especially! While the inside of the restaurant was a complete mess, with tables and chairs stacked against the wall while on the outside the builders were carrying bricks and cement, the daughter cooked a meal for us! It took a while as the kitchen wasn't open, the music was pumping at builders loudness but the food was again great.

Back at the RV park, the rest of the evening drowned in music, someone had a party somewhere and in Mexico that means music at full blast! Mexicans, you gotta love 'em!