Summer 2015: Austin to Seattle to Whidbey Island to DC to Austin to Guanajuato
Before I write the story of my life in Guanajuato, I must rewind a few months to June and begin in Austin.
I had been teaching in Austin at the International High School for the past 8 years and probably the last 5 (maybe 6!) summers were devoted to teaching summer school which means all the joy of hearing that last bell to dismiss students for summer quickly dissipates that next week when you have meetings, professional developments and prep days for the first summer session. In short, I’ve been working for years without the benefit that a student-less summer gives teachers: a well-deserved break from the emotional and physiological toll the stress of caring for and trying desperately to meet the needs of hundreds of people who are not your family but become your family over an extended period of time. Jose Vilson, a famous edu blogger, author and math teacher, wrote a fantastic piece on this titled Get Up Offa That Thing (Summer Shaming).
With my newfound summer freedom I did a bunch of Austin things I hadn’t done in ages, or ever. With the 35 trillion gallons of rain that fell in Texas in the month of May (yes, really, 35 trillion) there was plenty of water in the creeks and lakes, and so I hiked my pasty white ass down to Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls on the Barton Creek Greenbelt and relaxed and swam in the water there for the first time in my 11 years living in Austin. I partied on party barges on Lake Travis, which is at the time I type this, is only 10 feet below full. There’s a metaphor to be made between the water, renewal and my life (I am an Aquarian water baby, after all, not that I believe astrology is anything more than diversion). I spent time with my friends and because I knew I would be leaving, enjoyed and cherish that time with them immensely, and more than they know. I missed a good friend’s wedding in Cabo, and I regret it a bit, along with never getting to hook up with a few folks I would’ve liked to before I left.
In July I was fortunate enough to visit friends in Seattle who I hadn’t seen in a year and a half and attend a gorgeous and emotionally touching wedding of a dear childhood friend on Whidbey Island. From there I visited my sister, her fiance, my niece and a cousin in DC, along with a very handsome and height-advantaged man who I originally met on the other side of the continent with whom I had a fantastic time. Sprinkled across June and July I had a few reconnections and made new ones — in all of the above places. I discovered some folks just aren’t worth my effort, time and affection. There are a handful I cannot stop thinking about in one way or another, mostly one way, because I’m attracted by their qualities, personalities and the vessels in which those things are carried and believe they are worth the time to create deeper connections with, when geography and time eventually permits. I’m reading Lena Dunham’s memoir Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s Learned (I know, I know — don’t judge me, I need easy reading and it is that, at the least), and doing so kind of implores me to write all the intimate, sticky sometimes icky details of the last few months of my relationships with others, but I won’t. At least not now.
And here I am in Guanajuato.
Getting here I met a Spaniard named Jose on my flight from Monterrey to Leon, which is less than 30 minutes by car to Guanajuato. He lives in Austin, plays in a band called Oh Whitney!, teaches guitar (flamenco) and was going to San Miguel de Allende (SMA) to perform a wedding this weekend. He offered me a ride in his already hired taxi, because it’s on the way to SMA, and another lady rode with us. My friends have all warned me about stranger danger and accepting back alley burritos and drinks from strangers, but I defied their wishes and hopped into the taxi after speaking with him for over an hour and assessing the situation appropriately. He wouldn’t allow me to pay (saving me $25 USD or $400 pesos, and instead I tipped the taxi driver, who DID NOT WEAR HIS SEATBELT which was the most frightening, unnerving (enervante en español — Jose taught me as we discussed our view of our plane taking off and landing from a camera on the belly of the aircraft — from San Antone to Monterrey the angle was forward facing and from Monterrey to Leon it faced backward — AHHH!!!) part of the ride. My one way ticket on interjet from SAN (San Antone) to BJX (Leon) was $130 USD — booked on the Mexican version of the site, which saved me $60 USD. The aircraft easily had the cleanest, most brilliantly lighted interior I’ve ever seen (I fly SWA a lot — no slam to them) and once everyone had boarded and seated, it was a no nonsense let’s back away from the gate and get in line to take off. A Mexican businessman named Armando who I met on the flight from San Antone to Monterrey said it’s a great airline to fly within Mexico, and he’s only had great experiences with them and not to fly viva aerobus, another low cost Mexican airline. He recommended that I visit Sayulita, a beach town north of Puerto Vallarta, which is the second time someone has mentioned it to me, so I’m thinking I should go to there as soon as I’m ready for a weekend getaway.
So far I’ve registered for classes, attempted to pay for them (with my check card, but the lady entered the wrong security code twice now it’s locked up) and located the supermercados, which are an easy breezy walking distance until you’re carrying the chingos de bolsas (a shit ton of bags) through hordes of people, avoiding getting hit by busses or knocked off the sidewalk into them. I spent $60 USD ($1200 pesos) on toiletries (2 razors, shampoo, conditioner, body wash — oh how I wish I would have packed that crazy ass castile soap made by Dr. Bronner , because I still haven’t finished reading the bottle yet —toothpaste, deodorant, hair mousse), 2 pair of ankle socks, a coffee maker, coffee, 4 different kinds of tea, a coffeemug, thermos for water, plastic pitcher with lid, milk, 3 apples, peanut butter, honey, some instant noodles, a knife (that cut me through the bag — thanks, bagger dude!), spoon, fork and some cough drops.
The place I’m staying I found through AirBnB, and it is meat, alcohol and smoke free and has a vegetarian restaurant and massage services in the building. It’s $12–24 a night depending on which room you get, and I only booked 2 weeks so I can find a room for less. Compared to Austin rents, it’s nothing, but rooms can be found for $100 or less and I saw an ad for a furnished house for less than I’d pay a month here but without services (water, electric, gas, internet, etc) included. Here I have a room, access to multiple shared bathrooms, wifi, a refrigerator and an incredible rooftop view. Everyone is incredibly helpful, even with my limited Spanish skills — I told a guy this morning that something in my room needed cleaning with Clorox because it was growing (mold! it was mold!) and it was taken care of right away, and I now have an air freshener plugged into the wall that smells exactly like the one plugged into my classroom (or maybe my colleague Rob’s) years ago.
I’ve eaten al pastor tacos at El Trompo, a 2 minute walk from where I’m staying 3 times already, because it’s cheap and I love tacos. There’s a lady in the plaza who sells yummy baked goods for 3.5 pesos each, which is about 22 cents, and that’s been my breakfast along with some mango and orange juice I bought at the OXXO, which is the equivalent of 7–11, for $1 USD or 16 pesos. I had an enormous overstuffed falafel with tabbouleh from Habibi (which means “lovely” or “dear” in Arabic, by the by) and a mineral water for about 60 pesos. I’m going to start cooking as soon as I have a place with access to a kitchen, and my food costs will go down.
At this spot, my writing was interrupted to help translate for a guy named Naoki who just got in from Japan. I helped explain some of the details of the place we’re staying — the washing machine takes liquid, and not powder, for example — and then showed him around and pointed out a few restaurants and specifics about walking the streets of Guanajuato, specifically the fact that the when the streets get narrow, the bigger busses will spill over into the sidewalk, and so when you hear that sound, it’s better to be cautious and hug the wall or step in an open shop instead of getting plowed down and over. We came back when it started raining, as the streets are super duper mega slippery (my cousin Lisa and I figured this out the hard way on a steep rainy alley in SMA!), and I’ve inquired about massage packages (too expensive here) and asked about where to get a SIM card for my phone — not because I can’t rough it, but because I will do anything to lessen the fears of worries of my mother, whom I love dearly. Around 2pm when I got back from the supermercados, I had a frantic message from her that I hadn’t posted anything on the Facebooks or Instagrams and that she hadn’t heard from me, and I totally teared up. Okay, I cried a little. Just for a minute or so. Naoki and are I set to go to dinner tonight and see the statue of Pípila, who is a famous dude I need to learn more about before I type anything, but I think he’s a famous miner. Perhaps a union organizer of the miners. Something along those lines. Adios for now.