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Over a pot of tea …

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There is lots to do in Mexico.  My marital sabbatical from “what’s for dinner?” has been a rejuvenating experience. Though my husband and I get along pretty well after 37 years, this time apart has freshened me up inside. I’ve spent three months answering the selfish question, “what do I want?” Here’s a sample of some of the things I’ve wanted,  and some experiences I have been enjoying in San Miguel de Allende.

I wanted to explore new interests. Here, I’m overwhelmed with all the choices. Many tourists to Mexico stay in all-inclusive resorts, where the beach, buffet and bars are the main action. This town is home to thousands of retirees or those who can work from anywhere. They come from all over the United States and Canada, especially British Columbia. We share a conviction that life is to be explored and lived to the fullest. Everything is here that you would find in a very big city: restaurants, theatres, libraries, night life, parks and so forth. Yet San Miguel de Allende has a small town feel and a very Mexican ambiance. My life here is full of like-minded friends, fellow explorers of our inner worlds, all enjoying the many things to do.

I’ve wanted to be arty. The arts are a big deal in San Miguel de Allende. Countless visual art classes and studios offer help to the seeker wanting to try out any medium … painting, ceramics, sculpture or photography, of course! A friend made me jealous when she showed off her hot wax (encaustic) masterpiece. She said producing it was more fun than she had ever had. We had discovered this particular class while participating in the monthly art walk. The whole town seems to descend on the huge ex-textile-factory turned art community. All the studios are thrown open, with snacks and sangria set out for art lovers and schmoozers alike.

I’ve wanted to sing like there’s no one listening. Here, I can do that any night of the week while nursing a Margarita or two at the local piano bar. It’s presided over by Johnny, a crooning Newfie who gets everyone bopping along to the old Sinatra hits. I’m a good listener too. I have enjoyed live music of every sort, from symphony to opera to classical guitar and whatever stage is set up for cultural events in the central plaza. This week, it is Cuban rhythms in the glow of the Gaudi inspired cathedral called the Paroquia.

I’ve wanted to become a better writer. There’s lots of help here for that. There are many formal and informal writers’ groups honing the creative edges, literary events to inspire us and book openings to prove it can be done. I loved the week long Writers Conference and Literary Festival in February. There were more than 1000 authors from all around the world. San Miguel calls itself a literary crossroads for the whole of the Americas, and I agree.

I’ve wanted to stay fit. Though I’m not sporty, and say no thanks to the tennis and golf on offer, I love to walk the miles of paths in the botanical gardens. Through canyon and desert landscapes, I can look out across the mountains of central Mexico and see just about every kind of cactus there is. More active adventurers take half day hikes into the mountains with a group of intrepid ramblers, just like those groups who explore the Island in Qualicum Beach and other towns. I also say no thanks to the yoga offerings, though every kind of practice is represented here.

I’ve wanted to dance like no one is watching. So I’ve taken up zumba to get my fitness fix. On Saturday mornings, there is always a crowd in shady Juarez Park. We all let it rip to the spicy Latin rhythms. I hang out at the back of the crowd with Raoul. He’s an elderly Mexican and my zumba mentor. Raoul assures me, as he hops and jiggles, that when he started five years ago, he could barely walk. Now he’s limber, svelte and smiling. He boogies to the beat and huffs, “just get your legs going first … forget the rest”. I do. Kick, squat, twist. “Now try your arms”, he encourages. Punch, wave, flex. Before I know it, my full body is moving. I’m no Jane Fonda. But I get energy from zumba that stays with me all week. Afterwards, I head to the organic market for tamales or mole. Everyone in town is there it seems. Just like Oceanside in the summer, the farmers market is the place to be on Saturday morning.

I’ve wanted to calm my monkey mind. So I joined a meditation group. At first I was not sure if I could sit still for an hour without feeling every stray itch, including the itch to get back onto my familiar treadmill. But with the encouragement of practiced meditators, it has become a favorite pastime. Afterwards, I love to sit on the rooftop terrace with my new dharma friends, drinking great Americano coffee and looking out over the city. It is a view through a purple haze now, as the jacarandas have come into bloom.

Soon I’ll be headed back to the Island to its own spring show. Though I love my Island home, there is one thing I want for sure. I want to come back next winter to San Miguel de Allende.


Janet Dunnett
Janet Dunnett has lived in Qualicum Beach since she retired from the Federal Government seven years ago. Now she likes to write and have tea with friends, often talking to them about how to create a better world.


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  1. Well, Marcella, it has been a time that has been beyond inspiring, but transformational. For me it is the eye opener that there is a story to be told that is Janet. Just Janet. Not… Janet and husband. Not… Janet and kids. Not…Janet and job. I’m thinking there are a lot of Island women out there who would tell their own story. Or share a glimpse of what that story might be? What do you think?

  2. Great inspiration Janet. Thank you. Check out my story which also changed and inspired me. I live in QB as well. Will look out for you… Marcella

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