Saturday, May 26, 2012

Meaningful Travel - The people!

A couple of months ago, when Laurie was here in San Miguel, she introduced me to all kinds of people, mostly English speakers.

There's Bela who owns the best B&B in town, catering to Americans, Brits, and Canadians She never seems to have an empty room, even during the rainy season.

Linda works at a bookstore. She is how I became acquainted with Laurie. She and her husband live on the same street in a lovely home they built from scratch. They gutted the existing house and put in a three story town home with a tiny garden in the back. The upper rooms have enviable views of the city and the constantly changing weather patterns.

Edith and Arnulfo
There's Arnulfo, the German that I met when I went to see a movie. He and I were the only customers so it only seemed neighborly to chat and have a meal afterwards. He introduced me to his tutor Edith and eventually I've met her children and one of her X's. We all celebrated his 70 +? birthday a week ago. When he came here, he was staying in a youth hostel. It suited him just fine, he had been a university professor all his life and hanging with young people was perfectly natural to him. But then he began to think about living here full time, and about that time, Laurie called to let me know another American friend needed a house and dog sitter. I recommended Arnulfo since I didn't need a place.

Derek was here then, so the three of us went to meet Theresa and Chucho. She accepted Arnulfo and he's been living in her house ever since. Chucho has been a great companion and a terrible liablity. He's a large and strong former street dog with a lot of emotional baggage. He is sweet and loving inside where he feels safe, and is toto-loco outside. He practically foams at the mouth with anger at other dogs, indigenous men especially, and cars. I watched him lash out at a passing taxi and get whacked in the side of the head. So far he's bitten two indigenous men, and the last time Arnulfo fell down onto his hip yanking Chucho back after he lunged out, bit a man, and tore his pants. Both times Arnulfo has paid the victims of the dog's attack. I think he finally found a muzzle for the dog. It won't stop him from trying to bite cars though.

Edith is my teacher too, and she comes over every Tuesday. We spend time going over verbs and parts of speech, ideas and phrases that make no sense to me, but when spoken get quite a reaction from others:  "Estamos hasta la madre". ("We are until the mother". Makes no sense right?) But apparently "hasta la madre" means something along the lines of God-damned fucking really pissed off.

And my friends from the previous visit, Malena and her children Yesi and Mateo are still a deepening part of my life. We go out on Sundays with her car to eat la comida in the afternoon, and to a park for Mateo to run around. Yesi is 16, so she is with us sometimes, and sometimes checked out and plugged in to her phone, a game, or her ipod. I'm used to that, I have a 21 year old son at home. Time with Malena is time for both of us to learn more language and about each other. She understands a lot of English but most of our conversations are in Spanish. She has introduced me to barbacoa, sheep cooked in a hot underground wood fired pit, green mole, and pickled nopal salad with chunks of squeeky new cheese.

Balom (Jaguar in Tsotsil) with avocados.
Laurie called one day to say her friend Margarita needed a house and pet sitter, would I be interested? At that point I had a place to live but having a much nicer place and some animal companionship sounded like a wonderful idea. Margarita's house is lovely, only a couple of blocks from where I was living, and she has a cat that reminds me of my all-time favorite animal Whisker. Uma the dog is of street dog ancestry, though Margarita got her as a pup. She has no street sense at all.

And as often happens when traveling alone, people take care of you in unseen ways. Sometimes the Universe does too. The casita where I lived is part of a three house compound. A couple moved into one of the other houses. It's only one bedroom and has no other beds, not even a couch. Since I'm over there a lot anyway, I met her and she asked about a place her daughter could stay when she comes for a visit. So I offered the bedroom and bath of my casita. I can put everything inside the living room/kitchen and lock it, since every room has its own door to the outside. We settled on a price, I moved out and the daughter moved in.

They say life isn't about what you know but who you know. It goes without saying that "who you know" probably also needs to like you. Social skills are learned the hard way, some can be taught, but all require constant practice and vigilance. The better you are at interacting with people, the more really great things happen to you. That's why I can't see just traveling, wandering from place to place, seeing this or that. Lakes, mountains, cities, museums, cathedrals, restaurants and bars....are all just physical things that anyone can go to and take a photo of. You could just sit home and peruse the internet. But people take some effort and in the long run it's the people who make all the difference in how meaningful a trip is. And people take time.

(If you are interested in house sitting as a supplement to travel, or as a lifestyle, there are several websites that specialize in matching house sitters with people who need one. Some like TrustedHouseSitters are international, others specialize in just one country like the US.)

Violeta, Edith's daughter

Geronimo, Edith's son

Coco, the renter's chocolate schnauzer

Uma and Balom. That cat puts up with such abuse!

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