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Our First Anniversary Part 1: Pleasant Surprises and The Realities

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One year ago today, we arrived, in Tequisquiapan, Queretaro, van loaded to the gills with our dogs and our “stuff”,  It had been a long, tiring 4 day trip, stopping frequently for one of the animals to go potty. The very first thing we did, once in town, was to make a quick driving tour, because we had arrived in Tequis sight unseen. Armed only with information obtained from the internet, we had made the decision to stop in Tequis first, and if we found it uninhabitable, we would continue on to a different destination. To our delight, the town looked like a picture postcard created by the tourism council.

Our first night and several weeks thereafter were spent in the care and company of the owners of Hotel Villa Campestre. We lucked out! The hotel was awesome, our dogs were welcomed and well cared for by the staff while we were gone. The owner’s turned out to be a great help to locate housing, doctors, vets, shopping choices, and help us learn the language, you name it! And they also became great friends that we still see often, along with several others who took an interest in the “loco americanos”!

One very surprising thing about living here is that the language barrier is not so much of a barrier! Many people speak some english, some extremely well. The younger folks have been learning english since first grade, and are quite proficient. For those who cannot speak any english, we use Google Translate very successfully. Most people want to learn english, and welcome any opportunity to practice it. But there is no substitute for learning to speak the local language. It only means that while we learn, we have a little help.

It took a few short weeks to find our little “casa” here in central Mexico. It took some time to get settled, and furnish our house. Things do take a little more time down here.

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Fans keep us cool on warm nights, but usually nothing is necessary to keep the house comfortable. The weather really is almost perfect as advertised! Highs range from low to high 70’s and lows from low to high 50s for most of the year. For two months in winter, small heaters are capable of warming the rooms periodically when the temperatures dip. But I have to admit, there have been more than enough nights of high heat to warrant the purchase of a swamp cooler for next year.

One increasingly obvious point about shopping in this area is that items are ordered once just before the season starts and when they are gone, there won’t be a reorder. It’s only June and there is no swamp cooler or portable air conditioner to be found locally!

The last year has flown by in retrospect. It has been a year of drastic adjustments, pleasant surprises, and facing some of the inevitable downside to any relocation. A big thanks goes to our families for helping us pay for our inevitable overages and emergencies, and to our newly made friends for all the advice and help in getting settled.

Today, it hardly seems possible that we have actually become residents of this beautiful place. Dawn comes around 7:30 and the sun peeks through the window about 8a.m. We wake up to birds chirping every morning. The coffee is brewing. The beans themselves are rich Coatepec coffee beans we purchase in bulk out of the pickup truck belonging to the coffee vendor. For those with no grinder, he has one mounted on his truck and will grind them for you.

After coffee, we take a “party shower”. Seriously, you can fit 6 people easily in our showers. But tubs are rare in Mexico. We have a great water system in Tequis. Forget the old days of having to buy bottled water. With a filter, water here is potable and the pressure is usually very good. Sometimes too good! If you want bottled water, it is extremely inexpensive. However, just outside of town in the smaller villages, water can be very polluted and tap water can be undrinkable. There are places where the smell of sewage is very strong at the waters edge.

My neighbor’s goats parked in front of the restaurant where we had dinner (click to enlarge)

We open the house to the fresh air, and you can hear our neighbor moving his goats to a different field. Their hooves clack on the cobblestones and their periodic bleating lets us know they are on the move. Though we live in the middle of the city, in a modern recently built home, it is not uncommon for our various neighbors to have

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chickens, roosters, goats, horses and of course dogs. Everyone has a dog or two. And local caballeros are often seen on the roadways with their horses. Periodically, we will turn onto our street to find that another neighbor who takes tourists horse riding has had some of his herd escape the fence, and they are standing in the road or trotting down the sidewalk, reins dragging the ground.

Tequisquiapan is a unique mix of the very old and the very new. The town has a 500 year history, and many of the areas still contain structures from its founding. But each cafe has a free wi-fi and almost every resident carries a smart phone. Many artisans create their wares as their ancestors did, using the same tools. But you will also find the latest technologies, schools and modern facilities. Its streets remain very narrow and most are paved with cobblestone or pavers, some barely allowing a single car through.

All over the city, repaving of the cobblestone streets is in progress, where the stones are removed and a layer of concrete poured before relaying the stones. This provides a more even thoroughfare which reduces the shake, rattle and roll when driving over them. Our street has not been started yet, so the noise of the traffic is more pronounced, but muffled behind the high concrete and stucco walls of our fracc, or gated community. Most houses have a private wall surrounding them or they are located in gated communities of various sizes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the distance you can hear the song of the pan flute the knife sharpener uses to announce his arrival. He will ride his bicycle inside the large wrought iron gates of the fracc, equipped with a honing wheel and a stand that elevates his back wheel as he sharpens knives, scissors, mower blades, and any other device needing a sharp edge. He is from a town about 3 hours away, and once a month he loads his bike into the cargo area of a bus, and makes the trip to our area.

Street food vendors are walking their carts to put in position on major roadways and down into the plaza in Centro. Some of the carts are elaborate with grills and umbrellas fixed to the frames, while others are the simple carts affixed to a tricycle like the ice cream vendors of the 50s.

The gas truck goes by with his multiple sirens to announce he is open for business for anyone who flags him down. We have had one follow us 6 miles to our casa after we saw him on the other side of town. Their sirens are what you would hear on police cars in the U.S. I don’t know what siren the police use. There is so little crime here that despite living in the center of town, we only see them in passing or when they are directing traffic around the street paving detours. The police are friendly, and there is no occurrence of them asking for “mordida”.

The loudest passersby are the small hired cars with speakers as large as the vehicle itself, who play political messages very loudly throughout the town. Some also play advertising for the local businesses, or announce festivals and events soon to take place. By 10 a.m. all is quiet again, until everyone returns home between 3 and 5p.m.

Today we have to pickup our laundry. For about $1 per kilo, they will wash, dry and fold the laundry so meticulously that it seldom needs pressing. There is no coin laundry, so this is the alternative unless you own a washer. Most residents do not own dryers because of the cost of power to run them. Even in the finest of homes, you will see laundry hung on a line to dry. The washer and dryer hookups are on the outside service patio. No such thing as a laundry room in most houses.

Some things are done very differently here, while others mimic processes that are the same as in the U.S. If we have bills to pay, they must be paid in person at the establishment billing you. Some have payment machines like reverse ATMs that automate the process. Others can have long lines of people waiting for their turn to pay their bill. That has taken some getting used to, as was receiving the bill by hand delivery from a representative of the company each month.

We bought dishes and cookware from this vendor. (click to enlarge)

Around 3 pm, it is time for our main meal of the day. Today we are dining at the Municipal Market restaurants in the center of town. There are stalls that sell any assortment of products. You can also buy

Cocina Economica (click to enlarge)

fresh cooked meats, grilled corn, chicharones (pork skins) and other street foods. In the center of the market are several restaurants. Our favorite is Cocina Economica, where we can have dinner for two for about $7. The woman cooking is a local who cooks from scratch.

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Across the street from the Municipal market is Miguel Hidalgo Plaza, and it is the main plaza in town. Many shops and restaurants surround the park and its gazebo. The principal church is there. Its a great place to sit on a park bench and people watch, or read a book. Because the roads are narrow and traffic in centro is always abundant, we either must park several blocks from the market or take a taxi. We don’t even attempt to drive in centro on the weekends when the tourists are in town. Most will leave by Monday noon and the rest of the week is usually quiet and not quite as busy.

Back at home, there is cable or satellite television, with many English speaking channels, high speed internet much faster than that in the U.S., video games and visits from neighbors. After the honeymoon period was over, and we had seen the towns sites, we settled into a life much like the one we left. Sitting in my living room, I could be in any city in the world. It is when we walk outside we are once again reminded of the reality we have chosen, and how well it has turned out to be for us.

The area is very quiet, except for the occasional fireworks for some festival in the area. During the festival for the neighborhood’s saint, fireworks are almost never ending, and I am thankful for concrete walls and roofs with heavy windows that can block the noise. But we are able to see most of the cities fireworks from the front yard, and have watched with our neighbors periodically. Impromptu parades and fireworks displays happen frequently.

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Tonight, we will probably get a little rain. It is the rainy season here, and the rains cool this place down dramatically. It will be a nice night sleeping with the windows open to allow the cool breeze in. The roses are blooming in a planter on the other side of the window and their scent will perfume the mountain air. This is indeed our paradise, and we have no regrets so far. The next year will allow us to really get to know the area as we will have more time and resources we can dedicate to a little travel. And of course, we will tell you about it as we go along.

Our First Anniversary Part 2:  Get Used To It!

 

 

 

 

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