San Miguel de Allende, GTO, MX, July 10, 2014 – I am a huge fan of the Outlander series of books, written by Diana Gabaldon. I devoured the initial seven books in the series late last summer (all of them are big enough and heavy enough as hardbacks to be used as paving stones, if necessary), and finished the eighth book in the series a couple of weeks ago at the beach in four days. The highly anticipated series based on the books starts in August on the STARZ network, which sadly I will not see as it is not being shown in Mexico. Netflix and I have a date when I get home.
The heroine of the book, Claire Randall, a British nurse, goes on a second honeymoon in the Scottish highlands with her husband once they are reunited at the end of World War II. While visiting an ancient stone circle she gets transported back in time to Scotland of the 1740’s, just prior to the Jacobite uprising.
Stay with me, I promise I have a point.
Claire is smart, and when she’s rescued by a band of Highlanders from a blood-thirsty redcoat, her first instinct is not to panic, but to try to Act Natural. Fit In. Nothing to See Here, Move Along. Because of course what she wants to do is scream “WTF, is this some kind of crazy way-too-realistic historical re-enactment or something??? Because all of you people smell, and I. DO. NOT. BELONG. HERE. WITH YOU.”. To make things worse, everyone speaks Gaelic. She’s called an “outlander”, which means stranger, or you-ain’t-from-around-here-are-you?.
I’ve been feeling a little like Claire since arriving here, but I’m starting to get the hang of this. I live here now, and the last couple of weeks have been devoted to making a life for my family and me. I’m not working, so while Wiley went back to work as soon as he got his computer set up, most of my energy has been devoted to getting our daily routine established. Our kitchen is very well-equipped, and there is a whole-house water filtration system, so we can use the water from the taps without worrying about getting sick. I’ve checked out all of the grocery stores and markets and have found sources for most of the foods we like to eat. We avoid wheat and most other grains, so I was resigned to the fact that we would likely do without a lot of the things we like while here. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised and even found a grocery store that sells almond flour and red curry paste a host of other items that I like to keep on hand.
Not to be outdone in the way of rigorous dietary demands, our dogs eat prescription dog food. We brought down a bag of kibble (they actually rode all the way on top of it, unbeknownst to them) but being peculiar little creatures they eat poorly when they are fed only kibble. Gizmo carries it, piece-by-piece, into an adjoining room, where he plays with it, or fondles it with his mouth, before deciding he will eat it. I have seen people get through four pounds of unshelled crawfish faster than he can eat a half cup of kibble. The dogs desire a spoonful of canned food carefully mixed in, and without this they were both clearly losing weight. Not a bad thing for Pancake, who was slightly thick around the middle, but Gizmo’s hip bones were starting to protrude.
I thought that I had communicated sufficiently with the receptionist at a vet clinic in town such that she was ordering me a case of canned food. We looked it up in the book, she told me it would be there Thursday afternoon, and to come back then. Thursday afternoon she was not there, and the guy who was there said to come back “maῆana”. Maῆana came and I was back, but she wasn’t. Somehow I managed to understand, through a combination of hand gestures and poorly understood Spanish prepositional phrases, that I was to visit the vet clinic behind the MEGA (the enormous chain supermarket on the edge of town) next to the gym, where they had the food. I jumped into a cab and told the driver to take me to the MEGA, hoping I could figure it out from there. Sure enough, behind the MEGA there was a gym, and behind the gym was a large veterinary hospital. I went in and got so far as asking for “pato y patata” and was struggling with how to let him know I wanted canned food when he said something like, “Hey, why don’t we speak English?,” with no trace of an accent. Turns out he was the veterinarian, and he was born in Boston. We had a nice chat and I’m invited back the next time his two children, who are both vets, are in town. No duck and potato distributed in Mexico by Royal Canin, but they do have Hill’s z/d, which the dogs love and are they are both cleaning their bowls right away.
If you typically work out, you need to join a gym when you move, as this puts a familiar routine back into your day. For me, it makes me feel less like an outlander. Since I’ll be walking Wiley 4 to school and back every day, it made sense to join the gym just down the block from his school. It’s a no-frills gym, with mostly dudes working out and keeping to themselves. You walk in and pay your monthly fee (about $30) in cash, and an old guy painstakingly writes your receipt. When you come in you sign the book, and it’s his job to make sure you’re paid up for the month. No waivers to sign, no tour, no Crossfit or Pilates, and no sports drinks for sale.
It became obvious after the first couple of days that without the neighborhood kids knocking on the door round the clock for him, or the neighborhood pool to go to, or any of his typical activities, Wiley 4 needed something to do other than watch YouTube videos and play Mindcraft. I signed him up for art classes, which he’s been going to every day this week. I also found an adventure camp that I can hopefully talk him into going to, or if all else fails I play the parent card and force him. We visited his school and met with the headmaster and I think we are all feeling very comfortable with what that will be like, but we’ve got five more weeks of summer to get through before school. Right now I am his best friend and playmate, and we have been exploring town together most afternoons. He has achieved Olympic-level wheedling skills for ice cream or whatever delicious-looking thing he’s currently wanting on these excursions, and I’ll admit that I’ve considered leaving him outside on the sidewalk while I go into a bar and throw back a cold one (not seriously…mostly) but it’s good time together, and he keeps me laughing with his non-stop questions and wacky ideas.
So I’m getting there. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve had a couple of break downs. I was buying some flowers in the market the other day and the girl selling them to me seemed really mean, and I’d swear she was talking bad about me in Spanish to her friend. Paranoid, much? After that I got home, which involves walking up no less than five hills (more to come on THAT subject), and my son began detailing all of the things that were wrong with the batch of granola I had just made, as if I had somehow landed on an episode of “Chopped”, and he was a high-end restaurateur. I mean, come on, I’ve been in Mexico ten days and I’m making GRAIN-FREE GRANOLA people. Give me a break already.
I didn’t burst into tears until after I had singed the hairs off my forearms by lighting the oven. It’s propane, and I guess I turned the gas on and walked away, thinking that I had turned on the oven. But of course, no, I hadn’t, because you actually have to stick your head AND an open flame INTO the oven and actually light it. So once I remembered that there was a fair bit of gas just hanging out in the oven, which I somehow did not notice despite the distinct smell of – guess what? GAS!!! – , and once I snapped the lighter on I got a giant WHOOSH of flame. Startling, made me cry, but no eyebrow or eyelash loss, thank god.