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Mexico Guru

The Simple Life

I recently moved to what I have meanly been calling my 'hovel.' Although small, it's quite a nice place, actually, with a postage-stamp bathroom, a bedroom, and a kitchen/dining/living room. But the transition from the mansion I had been house-sitting was initially a shock. Just a few blocks away in the residential neighborhood of San Antonio, in San Miguel de Allende, the palace had just one bedroom, but about 3,000 square feet of fine living space of recent vintage. The entire third floor was workspace: an artist's atelier with sewing machine, art supplies, two big tables, sink, and a huge balcony overlooking the city.    Story continues below....

On the cozy first floor were the kitchen---with all the accoutrements---living room with gas fireplace, dining room, full bathroom, and service patio with washer and dryer. The cathedral ceiling reached to the second floor, with computer room and bedroom and private bath, with that nexus of high living for Mexico, a bathtub. Each floor had a TV wired for cable as well as a music system; the bottom floor had a lovely patio framed in oversized cacti and flowering succulents.

Over the first few days in my new rental, I set out to feel sorry for myself---what a comeuppance! But then I noticed the light shining through the skylights, the perfect size of the kitchen table where I spend most of my time these days, writing. My new landlord exchanged keys with me when mine proved recalcitrant; he went to Dolores Hidalgo and brought me a beautiful Talavera holder for my garrafón, or 20-liter water jug. His wife probably donated the large pot for cooking beans or soup that I requested.

My own new friends lent me a good sharp knife, cozy pajamas, and the comforter that made the Mexican bed a little more welcoming. I bought a paring knife at Mega and a cheese grater at the tiendita down the street, but I tried not to overdo the 'essentials.' What's wrong with using a well-scrubbed tuna can as a candle holder, a dish rag as a pot holder? It reminds me of my year in the Galapagos Islands, where even the toniest couple used a seashell as an ashtray, a recycled piece of cloth as a table covering. We all got along just fine then, in the less-than-modern era, and were grateful when most mornings the electricity kicked back on after the obligatory 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shutdown. Who says that your food goes bad when the electricity goes off for eight hours each day? That's just a myth of luxury, a luxury that doesn't necessarily equate to fine living.

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