We've been in San Miguel for almost two months now and I've been trying to come up with a way to describe the town and what it's like to live here as an expat. We've settled into a daily routine that is relatively unexciting - Monet goes for a morning walk (in which we hope she is not accosted by another dog), we find a coffee shop to work from, spend the day as we would in the US - answering emails and having client meetings, finish the afternoon with (ideally) some form of exercise, find a spot for dinner and some form of entertainment that may or may not include bingo and karaoke, then end up watching the Daily Show reruns in bed around 10pm.
But what about the town? What is it like to live here? Just as I was about to write a story about how I can't stop taking pictures (like this one) from every run I go on, and every rooftop terazza that we find, and then...then I looked out the window of La Mesa Grande coffee shop where I'm working for the day and saw a 70 year old white lady gunning down the street on a camo-green four wheeler wearing a colorful printed tunic and nothing else and almost colliding with an ice truck. So there you go, that's SMA.
What is it like eating in SMA? I can answer this one! We do this a lot. It is super easy to find vegetarian food in SMA. Seriously. And not just at the fancy tourist restaurants. It should be no surprise that the best food in Mexico is the Mexican food. Yes, there are some really stellar international spots (I had the best pad thai of my life the other night at the Orchid Thai restaurant), but Spencer says it all of the time and it's true - the street food here is where it's at. Gorditas, tacos, enchiladas, chile rellenos, tamales...everyone cooks with nopal (cactus), beans, rice, cheese, and other veggies. You don't even have to ask for substitutions! Eating here is delightful. We're always on the lookout for new spots to check out. There are so many different restaurants in San Miguel, we'll be lucky to hit even 1/3 of them in our time here.
So eating a lot means exercising a lot, right? Yes. Ideally. Not always. Spencer rides a bunch, he can elaborate on the trail systems in SMA at a later time. My sport of choice is running and that can be a bit tricky here. The streets are made of very crude coblestones and rocks, which means running fast is not possible. Not that I ever ran fast...but I'm about a minute slower per mile here than I was before. Running in the streets isn't pleasant - the streets are super narrow and busy with cars, plus it would be very easy to roll an ankle. But there are fantastic running trails up at the Botanical Gardens. That's about a 10 minute run (uphill) from our house and it is really beautiful.
We also constantly walk around town to explore. There are a lot of rooftop gardens and trees in this town, but you'll very rarely see grass. I think that Monet misses rolling around, but there are a lot of interesting and exciting new smells here, so she is definitely stimulated every time she goes for a walk.
See? Doesn't Monet look stimulated? Really though, as I mentioned above, walking Monet can be a little bit stressful at times. There are a lot of dogs walking around on the streets, and some of them are territorial and will let her know it. In the US, I would always assume that every single dog I saw was friendly. Here, unfortunately, I need to assume the opposite. From what I've observed, a lot of people here are not incredibly nice to their pets. It sucks. Really. I don't want to go too far into it, but dogs are not always loved here. They are oftentimes around for guard duty and not much else. Monet has made a few friends, and dodged a few close encounters with dogs from the wrong side of the tracks.
Have we met anyone or do we just hang out by ourselves telling each other how much we are loving life and debating about what Monet is thinking about exactly right this moment? Yes and yes. We've met several folks who are pretty awesome. We've found our spot with Friday night karaoke, and (ugh) Monday night bingo. I won't mention that I'm a bit concerned about how much Spencer loves bingo. I'm not going to bring up the fact that he starts talking about how we shouldn't be late and how we need to get our lucky table like four hours in advance. I've got my favorite amigo who owns the shop on our corner. Every time I pass his door he'll smile wave me in and give me a piece of homemade flan. For my birthday he made me a chocolate flan cake! Spencer and I do spend a good amount of time with one another too. And we still totally like each other! Maybe even more than before.
So what else? What is the town like and who lives here? There is art all over the place. A lot of times I pass by without noticing. Not only are there almost as many art tallers (shops) as there are restaurants, but it's displayed in almost every cafe, and on many of the streets. There is La Aurora (which I've described before) that hosts many designers studios, where you can walk in and out of show rooms and purchase artwork. People come here to make, sell, and buy art. And there is a great variety of it.
The population here is kind of mixed. There are a ton of older expats from mostly the US and Canada. We've met a lot of people who have lived here for over 20 years. We meet other people who are just passing through to check out the town and see if they want to move here. I'm not sure how people find out about this spot, but it really does have a large presence of non-native folks who have migrated here over the years. There are also a lot of second homes belonging to people from Mexico City. There's a lot of wealth in this town, and it seems to double in population on the weekends. That's why we try to plan excursions on Sundays. So the real question is - how does everyone interact with one another? Is it dangerous or violent here? Is there an obvious division in wealth or class? Maybe. I don't know. Yes and no. Think about going to Estes Park on the weekends. People who live there are both annoyed with the traffic and psyched to make a living off selling salt water taffy to tourists.
San Miguel is pretty. And it's loud. People in the square will start dancing when the mariachi band is playing. Random strangers dancing with each other. Mariachi bands line up along the square, each player chatting with the new players who arrive. Tequila burros are walking around followed by massive wedding parties in really massive dresses. There are festivals all of the time. There is music. There is action. We'll be sitting in the central square and Alex will ride by on his mountain bike. We'll meet later for a beer at a bar with swinging doors where they play Pink Floyd from the juke box. We'll talk about travel, people, what's going on in town, and how Corona is bad for you but Dos Equis is healthy. It's life. It's everywhere.