Sunday, 25 February 2007, San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato
Our arrival in San Miguel de Allende last Sunday afternoon went very smoothly. We followed the instructions on their web site and drove straight to the campground. As mentioned in our last entry, we were made to feel extremely welcome by the residents of the campground, as well as our hosts - the Webers.
We spent the day on Monday getting organised to start our Spanish lessons. We went to the 'Centro Mexicano de Lengua y Cultura de San Miguel' on the recommendation of Mitch, a permanent resident of the RV Park. The school is not much more than a 5 minute walk away and Señora Josefina, who runs the school, was helpful and enrolled us immediately. We had decided to go for a private tutor for two hours per day for the two of us, instead of joining a class. It turned out to be considerably cheaper because we get charged the same for the two of us, as it would be if only one of us took a tutor. Unfortunately she didn't really have the tutor available all the time and we had 2 tutors for an hour each the first two days and then one of them for the whole time Thursday and Friday - and not the one we wanted! We hope it is sorted out for the coming week and we will have the tutor of our choice for the whole week.
Learning Spanish takes up most of the day - by the time we spend 2 hours in class in the mornings and at least 2 hours in the afternoon reviewing and doing homework, there is not much left of the day to really do much else. We did manage to go shopping a couple of times, to buy food mostly. There is an enormous supermarket nearby called 'Mega' that has almost everything you can buy in an American supermarket - and lots of the things are at almost American prices [no wonder: Mega is owned by CostCo, a US company]! There are also little shops dotted about everywhere on the streets around here. We eventually found a bakery just around the corner, which has no sign and is only open for a couple of hours in the morning and again in late afternoon. If you walk by at any other time, you wouldn't even suspect that there was any sort of business behind that door!
We are having a bit of trouble adjusting our eating to what is available here. There are plenty of vegetables around, but just not a big variety - or perhaps we need to learn more about the local ones, which are unfamiliar to us, to broaden our eating possibilities. The people at the campground came to our rescue twice since we have been here, by organising a group dinner - on Monday it was Mexican food and last night it was hamburgers and salad. They are really well organised and people are lined up to bring different things, and Maria and her family are always there with really good Mexican food. And you get a real communal feeling sitting around with all your fellow campers eating and drinking. Last night's gathering was larger than on Monday because there were a group who came in on Friday and filled the campground. They are called 'Escapees' and have travelled together from the States, initially with a much larger group, which has since split up and gone in different directions. The dinner last night lasted a bit longer too because, as the week has progressed, the temperature has risen somewhat - early in the week it was too cold to stay outside much after sunset and the temperature was down to 6 or 7° centigrade overnight. The daytime temperatures would get quite warm though. Now we are having 11 or 12° overnight and the evenings are really pleasant for sitting out and chatting.
The campground is not only pleasant because of the people here, but it also has 'the best bathrooms in Mexico' as one camper was heard to say. They are tastefully done and kept immaculately clean. There is always hot water and toilet paper - it is actually quite common in Mexico to have to provide your own toilet paper, wherever you find a bathroom. So it is always a pleasant surprise to find toilet paper, soap and hand towels provided in a public toilet. Hot water is often promised in campgrounds, but not always provided in fact. And most bathrooms we had been in up to now were a little dilapidated - and that's putting it nicely... You often find the shower heads spray in all directions, except the most convenient one for showering under, and the bathroom cleaning process is what my mother would call, 'a lick and a promise'!
On Thursday I went to a cooking class which is provided for students at another language school, 'Centro Bilingüe de San Miguel'. This was also arranged by Mitch and I went with Nancy, who is from Nova Scotia in Canada. It is supposed to help students with their Spanish while learning about Mexican food. It was a lot of fun and the food was great - but I didn't understand a whole lot that the chef, Felix, was saying.
Yesterday we took an interesting day trip to a town called Pozos. Nancy's husband Terrie had been there last Sunday with another couple and wanted to return to show it to Nancy. They asked if we'd like to share the taxi and go too. In the end Walter - one of the campground owners - took us in his very comfortable Jeep. Pozos was once the most important mining centre in all of Mexico and at its peak had a population of 80,000 people. It is now almost a ghost town. There are only a couple of thousand people living in the town, but renovations have started happening to some of the buildings, so I suppose that figure will change in the near future. Outside the town in the mining areas there are a lot of crumbling structures which still give a very good idea of how things once were in this place. At one of these mining sites (Santa Brigida) an old Mexican offered to show us around. He used to work in the mine when it was still operating and knew all about the buildings and what they were used for. Walter translated and we spent an interesting time wandering around the site.
Continuation on > Page 2 > !