This morning I headed out in search of a pedicure before the conference begins. I was wearing open toed shoes and my toes look like crap. I stripped off the old polish before I left California, but now they have red ghost residue on them and look tawdry. I’m not particularly vain, but I think my feet should be more presentable.
I followed Susan’s perfect walking directions and headed off on the 20 minute walk downtown through the dappled, cobbled streets. I practiced my “Buenos dias,” to the people I passed on the street and enjoyed the freedom of movement of setting off alone.
I carried the dog-eared detailed street map I’d saved from last year’s conference in my hand and easily arrived at the salon Susan had recommended when they opened at 10 AM. But no luck–they were fully booked–reservations only.
I had some time to meander before I was meeting my friend and colleague, Hollye Dexter, at the home of her hosts, Steve and Diana. Hollye and I would be walking together to the faculty lunch. But I had an hour between now and then.
When I left Emelia and Felisa’s massage (masaje) and nail shop, I looked at my map to see what was nearby and I noticed a little marking for Juan’s Cafe just a few blocks away, and knew that was the perfect place for me to bide my time and sit for a while.
Juan’s is famous in town because he has the best bootleg DVD business in San Miguel. Everyone goes there to buy DVDS of all the latest TV shows and movies. He has everything–EVERYTHING–and each DVD costs 40 pesos, about 3 bucks. Juan’s has a thriving business–there are tons of cultured expats and locals here who crave culture in a very small town with no first-run movie theater.
I’d had it in the back of my mind to stop by sometime this week and pick up Season 8 of Dexter, something I’d have to wait many months for before it showed up on Amazon Prime back in the States.
With no trouble at all I found Juan’s Cafe:
Here’s the counter where Juan sells his wares. He wouldn’t let me take a picture of him, but his work place, yes.
Two minutes later, I had a stack of Dexter Season 8 DVDs in my hand–and I handed over 200 pesos. I asked for the series about Masters and Johnson, Masters of Sex, but Juan was out–he told me to come back tomorrow. Since I still had time to relax, I ordered a latte and sat down at this table to enjoy it:
It was a relief to drink the coffee. I don’t normally drink coffee, I’m a chai addict, but when I travel, I give up on chai and drink earl grey tea, but my attempt at making tea in the casita failed this morning. I boiled the water successfully, put the tea bag in the cup, but then I added the only white powder I saw in a bag on the counter, splurging on a teaspoon of sugar, something I normally don’t add to my morning drink. But when I went to take a sip, I realized it had not been sugar at all. I spat the salty tea out into the sink. So today, I’m also going to try to buy myself a small bottle of miel (honey). That will be another tiny adventure.
I love how when you travel in a foreign country, the simplest transactions that you never think twice about at home, the things we all take for granted, suddenly become challenges. Like buying honey. Finding a bathroom. Asking directions. Giving the cab driver directions home. Meeting up with a friend when neither of you has cell phones. That’s what makes traveling fun. It keeps me on edge in a good way. It keeps me awake.
Once I left Juan’s, I took my handy-dandy map and set off to meet Hollye at 68 Umaran. But somehow I took a wrong turn and instead of going toward the center of town, I ended up way the hell somewhere else. It was hot and I was overdressed and I was carrying a backpack (sticky—yuck!) and wish I’d remembered the Spanish for, “I’m lost and can you help me?” But I didn’t. So I retraced my steps and eventually found my way back to the center of town. When I rang Hollye’s door after 40 minutes of hot, lost walking, no one answered, so I set out in search of our meeting place near the Jardin myself.
I found it eventually, but by the time I got there I was sweaty, sticky, thirsty and tired. A quart of cold water helped, and then there was a mingling group of faculty for the conference. And it was fun to greet old friends.
But the luncheon room was not set up (typical Mexico time) and there was no food in sight, so we went across the street to sit on a shady bench in the Jardin, or town square, where I was informed that if you promenade in one direction it means you’re looking for a man, and if you promenade in the other direction, it means you’re looking for a woman. What if you’re gay, I wondered? How does that play out here in the Jardin?
In the Jardin, and later during the luncheon, there were a lot of reunions with old friends and acquaintances—this is my 4th year teaching at this conference—and there were also lots of new, friendly people to meet. We had a fantastic Mexican lunch and then I went with my co-author and buddy Ellen Bass and her friend to a nearby Starbucks (you’d never know it was Starbucks if someone hadn’t led us there) to check email and chill out.
A half hour later, I headed back to my place for a siesta. On the way I bought a Valentine’s gift for Karyn and found the honey, no problem:
Now I’m about to lay down with the alarming, gripping novel, The Dinner, which Susan told me about last night. Now, I can’t put it down. Still, I hope I drift off—I could use a rest before the conference officially opens in just a couple of hours.