La Vida Cheapo! 11:58 a.m. 2004-03-02

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It's Teacher Work Day - which is why I am doing anything BUT! I had an appointment with my psychiatrist, and while I was there, I saw a copy of the AARP Magazine - with a tantalizing article come-on: Living In Mexico: No Money? No Problem!

Just the weekend before last, my husband and I went to a cocktail party thrown by my hairdresser, Manny. There were a lot of fascinating people there, most of them clients of Manny (who, besides being the best hair stylist in Atlanta, is also a talented graphic artist!). After loading up on dip, and roast beef and other goodies in the kitchen, I sat down at a table full of people. We had some very nice conversations.

Eventually, I got to talking to an interior designer, who was wearing a gorgeous necklace. I complemented her on it. She, in turn, admired my own necklace, made of bright blue Austrian crystal beads adorned with 5 Catholic saints medals - including the ubiquitous Virgin of Guadalupe. When I jokingly said that I was actually not Catholic, she came back with: "You know neither am I, but I must have been in a previous life."

She went on to explain that, after seeing an elaborate home altar in some decorating magazine, she aspires to erecting one in her home. Of course, its function would be decorative. But it is very interesting to me how prevalent the design forms found in Latino culture are making their way up her to Georgia. I come from Texas, and am very familiar with Mexican glassware and pottery, as well as small and medium artifacts being used to decorate homeplaces. My family has been travelling to Mexico since we were children.

But it seems that this interest in things South of the Border is growing - I certainly hope so, since a lot of my design and creative ideas are spawned from that influence!

Then, an attractive couple - he, silver-haired and looking like he stepped out of a country club, and she, chic and thin with a black bob and flashy Chinese silk pants - joined our conversation. The shared that they had just purchased a home in San Miguel de Allende - a particularly well-known ex-patriate haven of Canadians and U.S.-ians alike. (As I was constantly admonished by my Mexican friend, Pablo, Mexicans and Canadians are Americans, too.) They had purchased a $300,000 home in a gated community called Los Balcones, overlooking the town. They had previously lived in Indonesia, so they were used to the ex-pat life.

It sounded so great, and they shared their address with us and invited us to go down and visit them. I mainly talked to the two women, while my husband chatted with the husband. When we left, he said, "You know, those two will not be living anywhere near any Mexicans." I laughed, and explained that, as soon as they mentioned that they were going to San Miguel, I could have told him that!

Not that it has to be that way. The above mentioned article, entitled somewhat unflatteringly, La Vida Cheapo boasted: For 600 bucks a month, retirees in Mexico can live in a three-bedroom home, with a gardener. For a cool thousand...well, you won’t believe it! I made copies for my husband, my mother, and for my father - I sent an e-mail copy of the article to my sister. The article was quite practical - although I am not sure about their reassurances about the Mexican medical system. All I am going to say is that my well-to-do Mexican friends go to Houston for their major medical procedures, and compulsively take herbal concoctions aimed at keeping them healthy. I don't think they would be doing that if they had a lot of faith in their own doctors...

I also recently took out my copy of On Mexican Time: A New Life in San Miguel by Tony Cohan - I had highly recommended it to the above-mentioned couple. It does sound idyllic! I also just found a book called Midlife Mavericks: Women reinventing their lives in Mexico by Karen Blue. I think I will order it! Yes, I know that I am married - but who's to say we can't both go? The only wild card is the dog, and she is - truth to be told - almost 13.

My proposal would be to go and rent a place and live there for the summertime. I am a teacher, so that would be totally do-able for me! Of course, there are still so many other places I want to see, but this could be an option for retirement. Even better, I have really come to love the area around Puebla - we visited there last summer. That would certainly be a little more exotic than the "retirement belt" that stretched from San Miguel to just north of Puerto Vallarta!

Enough dreaming - I've got to get to work!

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