My trip to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajato, Mexico started on July 2, 2000. I left Mexico City the same day as the Presidential elections. Vincente Fox ultimately won the election to be the next president of Mexico. I arrived in Leon via Aeromexico flight #134. The Viajes San Miguel shuttle was waiting to take me to San Miguel. I arrived at the house of Senora Reyna Suarez in the San Antonio section of SMA. Since I arrived on a Sunday afternoon, I did not realize that breakfast was the only meal of day served. I was on my own for the rest of the meals. I met the other students living at the house: Bob from Colorado and Robin from Oregon. They had been there for a few days already and were helpful getting me acclimatized to the area. We walked into town to El Jardin (center of town) to meet another student, Mary, from another school. We ate dinner at Victor's Cafe just off the jardin.
The next morning, July 3rd, I ate my first breakfast at the house. The meal consisted of cereal, toast and fresh pineapple. With either milk or coffee to drink. I was kind of expecting some sort of Mexican dish, but it turns out that breakfast in Mexico is generally small. Its the lunch (comida) that is large. The rest of the breakfast for the rest of my time in SMA consisted of basically the same thing. Sra. Suarez's house was located about 20-25 minutes from the school Instituto Habla Hispana. Bob, Robin and I left the house around 8:30 a.m. for the walk along the cobblestone streets and sidewalks to the school. Dodging other pedestrians and cars along the way. At the school, I was given a quick Spanish test and then placed in the beginner class. The instructor (la maestra) of our class was Soccoro. The first day material was very easy for me. I was a little concerned that it might be too easy for the rest of the class, but it got more difficult as the time went on. The classes were broken up into three parts during the day. The first 90 minutes (9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) were the grammar lessons. Then we would all take a break and meet in the garden for tea and crackers. From 11 a.m. till 12 noon, we would do our vocabulary lessons. Then a short little break before the conversation session from 12 noon to 1 p.m. During this last hour, one of the instructors from the other class would come in to lead the session. The would rotate to a different instructor everyday. Bob, Robin and I would walk to Sra. Suarez's house for the big meal of the day -- La Comida. These meals were the best part of the day. They were always served with frijoles and tortillas. Here are some of the meals served:
* Carrot soup, pork chops, refried beans (frijoles) and fresh guacamole.
* Sopa veraduras con crema, Cactus nopales, broccoli quiche, and pinto beans.
* Sopa de veraduras, chicken, and frijoles.
* Sopa de papas, bistec con frijoles and arroz.
* Posole con pollo, tostados chips and refresco de Coke.
* Bistec con arroz y frijoles, flan de coco postre.
* Eggplant with onions, cheese and garlic. Fried zucchini and frijoles.
* Carne de Res, arroz and frijoles. Pan de platanos postre.
* Sopa de Azteca (tortilla soup) and chili rellenos. Platanos con crema postre.
* Tuna patatas with chilies, arroz with pimentos and frijoles.
* Breaded fish, arroz and frijoles.
* Mole de olla, frijoles and guacamole.
* Tipo de lasagna with avocado salad and frijoles.
* Chili seco con queso, napoles and papas.
* Tinga - pollo con papas. Arroz and frijoles.
* Quiche with carrots and frijoles.
* Canoli con pollo y con queso. Melon y crema postre.
* Mole pollo poblano con frijoles y arroz. Fried pan with syrup postre.
Some days Sra. Suarez would cook the meals and other times, her sister Martha would cook. We always thought there was always some sort of competition going on between the two to see who cook the best meal. Martha meals were always spicier though. After lunch, the smart thing to do would be to take a siesta, but I always felt there were other things to do in SMA than sleep. I usually walked back into town to mail postcards and check my email from back home. I usually stopped at the cyber cafe Internet San Miguel to check my email. They had good prices -- something like 80 centavos per minute. I would probably spend 10-20 mins per day checking my email. The afternoon session at the school was from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Monday evening session was a walking tour. On this evening, we were giving a short history of San Miguel de Allende and its importance in Mexican history. We saw lots of monuments and churches. The tour took us through the local outdoor market where we could purchase our SMA souvenirs, etc. After the walking tour, the group decided to go to the Cafe Olé Olé for some beer. I had to be back at the house by 8 p.m. for dinner (cena). It was a house rule and Sra. Suarez was very unforgiving without prior approval. The dinner meal was considered light and on this evening, we were served sandwiches (tortas) with fried eggs (juevos) and pork (puerco).
July 4th, I did not celebrate Independence Day like I normally do when I am back home. The breakfast and class was just like the previous day. Instead of going to the Tuesday evening session and reading Mexican newspapers, a bunch of classmates decided to visit the Tuesday Market, an open flea market, on the edge of town. In this picture Jody, Dave, Nahtahna, Jan, Gail, Adam, Michelle and Tom are posing before we try to figure out the local bus system to take us to the market. I was under the assumption that we would see some traditional or authentic Mexican stuff, but it was just like any old flea market you would find back home. Next door was their big mall "Gigante". There was fairly large supermarket, liquor store, record store and various other little shops. We took the bus back down into town and stopped at the restaurant Mama Mia for drinks. This restaurant turned out to be one of the "hang outs" for the gang during the month I was there. It was very popular during the evening. The restaurant was split into three sections. In the front was a bar where you could go salsa dancing. In the back was the restaurant and upstairs was another bar where most of the young people hung out. Of course, I had to be back home by 8 p.m. for dinner consisting of open faced tortas with frijoles and guacamole.
July 5th, Breakfast and class was the same as the previous day. After class, but before lunch, Robin and I walked to a local open market to see if I could find some authentic Mexican sandals. These are made out of leather with old tires for the soles. We did not have any luck. The afternoon class for was going to be a discussion of Mexican culture. On the way to the school, it started raining real hard with thunderstorms. I was about halfway to school when I had to find cover from the rain. I saw some of the other students from my class Jean and Lisa drinking espresso at the Cafe del Jardin. I joined them until the rain let up. I got to class about 30 minutes late. The conversation was already in progress, but I was able to catch up real quickly. Some of the discussions included The Day of the Dead, the food of Mexico, Machismo, politics of Mexico and history. As with the day classes, everything was told in Spanish. I think that was very useful in trying to understand the language more quickly. Once again, a bunch of my classmates wanted to go back to Cafe Olé Olé for more beer (cerveza). Some of the others want to go to the restaurant La Capilla. We discovered that on Wednesday's that have happy hour (hora feliz) with 2-for-1 drinks. I could only stay for a short time since I had to be back for the 8 p.m. dinner. We were served tacos con juevos y frijoles.
July 6th was another day that started out like the rest. Nice sunshine for most of the day. After lunch, I dropped off my laundry at Lavandería Franco. They would wash and neatly fold my clothes $3.50 and be ready the next day. The Thursday afternoon class was singing Mexican songs, so I decided to skip that lesson. Instead Jan, Jan's friend Dave, Rachel, Tom and I went on a hike to find the Mirador. We were looking for a place the overlooks the downtown of SMA for picture taking. Very similar to the postcard view of SMA at the top of this page. After walking around for an hour or so and not finding the correct route, we gave up and walked back into town and stopped at the restaurant Pueblo Viejo for some refreshing cervezas. In this picture, Tom, Rachel, Jan and Dave are relaxing around a table full of cold beer. At around 6 p.m., I left to go find some pencil lead for my mechanical pencil at a papelería. Despite being a small town, you could find just about anything in SMA. The dinner for this evening was Tortas de aguacate, queso, and chili. At 9 p.m., Lydia called me and we talked about what I have been doing here in SMA and how life was back in Seattle.
July 7th was the day we were going to find the Mirador. We took a little different route this time and had more people with us. In this picture, Jan is translating a sign in Spanish and Jean (way over on the left) is trying to find a better route up the hill. In this picture, we have made it to the top of the hill, but are having to traverse around the top of the hill to find the view. Jody, Jan and Gayle are in the picture. We finally reach the Mirador and see the spectacular view of SMA. In this picture, Logan, Jody and Gayle are heading up the cobblestone streets to the Jardin. In the background, you can see the top of The Parroquia, the pseudogothic church in the heart of SMA. We all head back to Pueblo Viejo for more cervesa. We let Sra. Suarez have the night off from making dinner, so I went out with Jean and Lisa to a place off the Jardin for roasted chicken. Afterwards, we saw Bob, Robin, and the student from the other school, Mary in the Jardin. At around 9 p.m., I went back to Pueblo Viejo for more cerveza. I am not sure if you can tell from this picture, but Dave, Jan, Jody and I all have red faces from all the sun earlier in the day.
Saturday, July 8th, I got up at the usual time for breakfast only to discover that its not served until later in the morning. Nobody bothered to tell me. Lisa and Jean moved into our house last night. At around 10 a.m., I met Jan and Dave in front of the Instituto Habla Hispana. We walked to the house of the familia de Barra Lopez. This was another house where students lived. We were invited to go to their ranch outside of SMA to go swimming in their natural spring swimming pools. Jan, Dave and I took a little hike around the surrounding area before going swimming. We ended up in the little town named Negromante -- which coincidently happens to be the same town where our maestra Socorro lives. We walked up and down the streets and then stopped at their little store for something to drink and a the local tortillaria for some fresh tortillas. It was something like 25 pesos for one kilogram of tortillas. We arrived back at the swimming pools around 1 or 2 p.m. to go swimming. The water from the swimming pools come directly from thermal wells on their property. It is not treated with chemicals or anything like that. After 2 or 3 days, they drain the pools in their corns fields down the hill from the swimming pools. Lunch was served around 3 p.m. We stayed for another couple hours drinking cerveza and talking to the other guests. We were back in SMA around 6 p.m. or so. I commented to Sr. Alejandro Barra Lopez about the plaques people have on their houses listing their name and house number. I thought it would be nice to have something like that on my house. He promised to take me to a ceramics place to have one of those made for me the following week. When I got back to the house, no one was there and not dinner was prepared. Since I did not see a note, I took a shower, changed clothes and went back into town to find my own dinner. I stopped at the Taquerilla Palermo for 4 tacos al pastor and my favorite refreshment (besides cerveza): refresco de manzana (apple soda). I met Jan and David at Pueblo Viejo for cerveza and music. I said good bye to Jan and David for they were leaving back for California the next day.
Sunday, July 9th. Breakfast was going to be our only meal at the house today. We were served a "chorizo con juevos" type quiche with frijoles and fresh salsa. Jean, Bob and I walked to the Jardin where I dropped off some film to be developed and to check my email. We were going to go to the House & Garden tour, but I decided to skip it since it cost $15. I am actually glad I did because I heard later from Bob and Jean that it was not really worth it. I spent the late morning and early afternoon walking around the local markets looking at anything that caught my eye. As I was walking past one booth, this little girl started following me for a few feet. I stopped to look at these caged birds and she just kind of stopped with me. I snapped this picture of her and the birds. Later in the afternoon, I met Bob, Jean, Lisa and Rachel at the Jardin. We went to the the restaurant "Correo" for comida. I was not particularly impressed with this restaurant. I ate the tacos de pollo and I think they were overcooked a bit. Bob, Jean, Lisa and I stopped at the Angela Peralta theater for cafe con leche espresso then walked back home. Lisa, Jean and I went back out for cerveza and stopped at the restaurant Los Magueyes. The restaurant was pretty dead and I think we were one or two groups in the place. The piano player started playing music for us and asking us if we would like to come on stage to sing. We politely declined the offer.
Today was the start of my second week of class. So far the lessons were going real good. Everyone seemed to be enthusiastic about coming to class and learning Spanish. The Monday afternoon class was a walking tour to El Charro or "agua de los perros". I know it has some sort of historical significance, but I cannot remember it at the moment. The walk was suppose to stop here and head back into town, but we somehow convinced the instructors to keep walking up the hill to the Mirador. Here I am leaning against the railing while my picture is being taken. On the way back into town, I go with Rachel back to the Barra Lopez house to see if Alejandro is willing to take me to get a ceramic plaque made for my house in Seattle. Fortunately, he was there and was able take me to a place just on the outskirts of SMA. His wife Marie accompanied us because she also wanted to run some errands. Both of them did not speak very good English, so I was doing the best I could speaking Spanish. I found that they were very patient with me when it came to trying to understand what I was trying to say. I ordered the plaque with the wording "Beinvenidos La Familia Garrett". I was to take 1 week to complete for the cost of $18. They dropped me off at home just in time for dinner of Enchiladas de frijoles, papas and carrorts.
Tuesday, July 11th, breakfast was the same as the previous weekdays. We discovered that the Cafe Del Jardin made an excellent "cafe con leche" espresso. Jean and I would stop most days on the way to class to get our coffee fix. I now had a routine where I would check my email and mail a postcard after class, but before comida. After comida, I went souvenir shopping with Lisa at the local open market to find something to bring back home. It started raining again, so we stopped at the Cafe Olé Olé to wait out the rain and to drink more cerveza (of course). We stopped at Restaurant Mama Mia's to see if any of our classmates were around. Lucky for us, about 6 of them were there drinking cervezas and margaritas. Of course, I had to have one more before I went home for dinner. Dinner tonight was open faced sandwich on toasted bread with frijoles, queso and fresh aguacate. Wednesday, July 12th, our class started getting into harder language concepts -- irregular verbs. Our Wednesday afternoon discussion session was on Mexican education and fiestas. After the class, Jean, Lisa and Stacey did more souviener shopping. We were waiting for the 7 p.m. Happy Hour at the restaurant La Capilla. In this picture, you can see that Stacey, Lisa and Jean are already feeling the effects of their margaritas. As soon as we ordered our 2 drinks each, its started pouring down rain with thunder and lightening. We all moved downstairs to a covered area. Instead of walking home, I took a taxi. Bob and Reyna were waiting for me when I got back to the house at 8 p.m. Dinner was tostadas and pan de platanos. Thursday, July 13th, we continued our studies with irregular verbs. After lunch, I took my first siesta of the trip. I was raining that afternoon and I decided I should stay indoors while the storm passed over. I did go into town later that afternoon for a cafe con leche from Cafe Del Jardin. I ate two ham, tomato and cucumber sandwiches for dinner. Lydia called me at 9 p.m. and we talked for 30 minutes. Friday, July 15th was almost like the last fews days before it except I attended the Friday afternoon cooking class instead of going home to eat. In our cooking class, we prepared (actually we watched it being prepared) "mole con pollo" from scratch. There were a minimum of 25 ingredients. One of the other students did a good job of writing down recipe and I have it somewhere, but if you want a idea what's it made of, check this link. It was served with arroz (rice) and tortillas. I walked to the post office to drop off a postcard and then to Internet San Miguel to check my email. I came home to take another siesta for about 90 minutes. At about 5:30 p.m., I went back into town to do more souvinier shopping. The 8 p.m. dinner was tostados with frijoles, queso and chilies. Jean, Lisa and I went out later to Tio Lucas restaurant and then to Mana Mia's restaurant to drink beers.
Saturday, July 15th, was a fun day. It started with breakfast at 9 a.m. Instead of our usual ceral, we were served pancakes with fruit and creme. Those of who signed up during the week for the "El Rancho" excursion were to meet at the Instituto at 11 a.m. On the way to the school, I stopped at the residence of David Dawe. David Dawe is the father of a former co-worker of mine, Mike Dawe, here at the University. Mike told me to look up his father when I was down there and to say hello. David and his wife Rita Torlen house has a huge art studio where Rita does all of her work. We made arrangements for me to call later in the next week to meet for dinner. At 11 a.m. about 15 students leave on a bus to "El Rancho". The bus ride was about 1 hour long. On the way to the ranch, we passed a bunch of school kids on their way to school. We gave them a ride on the bus since we were maybe 5 mins away from the ranch (and school). Upon disembarking from the bus, everyone was asking where is the bathroom. The owner of the house said it was on the other side of a back wall of his house. When everyone walked back there, we saw nothing but a big corn field. When we asked again, his little daughter said "aqui" (here). In other words, this ranch did not have a bathroom specifically and that you could "go" in the corn field. In this picture, you can see the little girl leading the trail of students out to find a nice bathroom space.
Rest still under construction...
* Stacey, Lisa and Jean at Restaurante La Capilla during "hora feliz".
* On the way to the El Rancho tour.
* Manette, Logan, and Stacey riding horses.
* Walking across a small dam to get to the other side.
* Jean riding a horse.
* Eating an authentic Mexican comida.
* Me on my burro.
* Im hoping my burro does not take off running.
* Lisa, Jean and Bob drinking tea on the roof of Sra. Suarez's house.
* Jody, Gayle and Dorinda practicing salsa dancing at Mama Mia's restaurante.
* Nahtanha, Gayle, Tom, Manette, Dorinda, Stacey, Jody, Patty and I at La Capilla again.
* Lynda, Patty, and Bob coming back from Queretaro.
* Jody, Logan, Patty and Gail doing more drinking at cantina El Toro.
* The school Instituto Habla Hispana.
* Having our mid morning tea during class breaks.
* La maestra Socorro giving me a big grin.
* My classmates playing a word game.
* David Dawe and I after eating breakfast at Hotel Marisol.
* The house where I stayed (second from left).
* Ashley, Jody, Nahtanha, Tom, Stacy and Penny drinking beer at the pool hall.
* The long walk towards my airplane at Leon aiport.
* A postcard of a papel that I purchased in San Miguel de Allende.
Note, I guess I probably will never finish writing the rest of my story from San Miguel de Allende...but hopefully the memories will remain, AG 3-04-2009.