GratiTuesday: Sharing the Joy

One of the many things my husband and I love about Mexico are the public celebrations. Religious celebrations, wedding celebrations, birthday celebrations, and who-the-heck-knows-why celebrations are often at least partially held where onlookers are welcome to share in the festivities.

Every weekend during our stay in San Miguel de Allende, a wedding (or three, or four) was held in the stunning Parroquia church. Once the wedding mass was over, the bridal party and guests would spill out into the courtyard and onto the street in front of the church. A fancy car or horse and carriage would often be waiting to take the newlyweds to their reception, but not before the invited guests – and anyone in the area at the time – were swept up in the joyful celebration.

The bride and groom waving goodbye before leaving for their reception.

On our way to dinner one evening, we stopped to watch an expat’s 70th birthday celebration. Along with her and her partner’s guests, lucky onlookers enjoyed the revelry, which included a mariachi band, dancing in the street, and the antics of the giant mojigangas (pronounced mo-he-gan-gas) that were decorated to look a bit like the couple.

Betty, celebrating her 70th birthday.
Dancing in the street with the giant mojigangas to the music of the mariachi band.

One event that is unique to San Miguel is Dia de Los Locos (day of the crazies), which is an annual celebration that takes place in June. Los Locos has deep religious roots but much of the festivities appear to be completely secular. Although the day begins with a mass at the San Antonio church (which was just a few blocks from our housesit), once the participants head out to the streets where the crowds are waiting, all vestiges of religion fall away.

As the flamboyant procession moves along the main avenue, onlookers are treated to wild (and often delightfully politically incorrect) costumes, loud music, dancing, and hard candy projectiles being tossed their way. Over 10,000 participants join in the parade costumed as cartoon characters, politicians, clowns (both friendly and scary), and fantasy figures, while an even larger crowd watches from the sidewalks that line the route.

Celebrations and festivals are an integral part of Mexican life. In San Miguel, barely a day goes by that does not commemorate a patron saint, a beloved chapel, or a revolutionary hero. And then, of course, are the personal celebrations like weddings, anniversaries, or birthdays. We were very grateful to not only be there when many of these celebrations occurred, but also grateful to be able to join in and share the joy.

GratiTuesday: Translation tools for lazy bones

Although my husband and I made attempts to improve our Spanish language skills on our recent trip to San Miguel de Allende, we fell pretty short of the mark. Fortunately and unfortunately, many of the Mexicans we met spoke at least some English. It was fortunate for obvious reasons, but unfortunate because, rather than practice our Spanish (and hopefully learn more), it was often easier to revert to English for expediency sake.

We came home a little disappointed in ourselves, and we wondered if our struggle to learn Spanish was worth it. First of all, we are old… and lazy… but also, with so many great translation tools available, is it really necessary? Beyond the basic words and phrases everyone should know when they visit a foreign country (please, thank you, how much is this, where is the bathroom, etc.), more complicated translations are now only as far away as your smartphone. A quick search on the googles will get you a list of the best translation apps available and Siri is always ready, willing, and able to come to the rescue in a pinch (she even has a pretty good accent).

Some things don’t require a literal translation to understand the message.
Another message that was pretty easy to translate without a tool (El Grito means “The Scream,” “The Shout,” or “The Cry”… any of which works).

Most apps support multiple languages, and many allow you to either speak the words or type the text you want to translate. Interested in having a conversation but neither party speaks the other’s language? When each person talks into the phone, their words are translated (more-or-less) perfectly. Having trouble reading a sign? Just type in the text and it will be translated at least well enough to get the general idea.

Of course, any translation tool is useless if you can’t read the words you want to translate… I got as far as “‘Life is like a cup of coffee’ It’s all in how…” I have no idea what those last two words are.

One of the easiest – and free – apps we used is Google Translate. In addition to translating multiple languages (multiple meaning over 100) by spoken word or by typing, we used our phones’ camera to “read” text. It isn’t perfect, but it helped us read menus, labels, and signs without having to type the unfamiliar words on the smartphone keypad.

Label on plate in Spanish.
Using Google Translate, my phone’s camera did a pretty good job translating the label.

I imagine that sometime in the future, we could have a chip installed in our brain which would instantly translate all the languages of the world. While that would certainly be convenient, I think much would be lost. Instead of hearing the beauty of different languages, all we would hear are the words in our own language instantly translated as the other person is speaking.

Even though I still believe it is best to at least try to speak the language of the country where you are traveling, I know that is not always possible. For those of us who struggle (and maybe are a little lazy), I am pleased that there are tools available. Although not perfect, if translation apps can help bridge the divides and help us better understand each other, I’m grateful for the assistance.

GratiTuesday: Walkable San Miguel de Allende

Tell someone that you are going to Mexico and often the first things they’ll picture are beautiful sandy beaches, warm ocean water, and sipping margaritas in a cantina. While I have nothing against any of these pursuits – and have happily done all three on past trips – that “Mexican experience” never felt very authentic to me.

Our five-week trip to the city of Oaxaca last year was the first time we visited an area of the country that wasn’t next to a large body of water… and we loved it. After that experience, we were anxious to explore other parts of Mexico’s interior, and San Miguel de Allende was high on our list of possibilities.

San Miguel de Allende is a small colonial town located in Mexico’s semi-arid central highlands. It is known for its charming atmosphere, historical architecture, vibrant culture, and artsy expatriate community. The region is also known as the cradle of the Mexican independence movement and San Miguel was the birthplace of many of its heroes, including the city’s namesake, Ignacio Allende.

According to local history, the self-taught draftsman who designed the facade based his design on a postcard depicting a French Gothic cathedral.

The most famous landmark in San Miguel is La Parroquia (which simply means parish church), a neo-gothic church whose pink sandstone facade, towering spires, and pointed arches preside over the lively town square.

One benefit of slow travel (staying in one place for an extended period) is being able to explore with a relaxed schedule. Many mornings, we just picked a direction and walked. We could hardly turn a corner without finding an interesting scene: a beautiful old church, an intriguingly narrow walkway, richly painted facades, or a street vendor selling everything from colorful trinkets and toys to straw hats and flowered hair pieces.

I bought a hat from him on the condition that I could take his picture.
Women in traditional dress sell their wares to tourists.
Templo de la Inmaculada Concepcion
A horse-drawn carriage transporting newlyweds to their reception.
Dos amigos enjoying a rest.
The Bellas Artes courtyard is the perfect spot to relax and cool off. 

It was hard not to be constantly looking around as we walked San Miguel’s streets, but it was also important to be aware of where we were stepping… the narrow sidewalks and cobblestone streets made turning an ankle or tripping a very real possibility.

It was important to watch where we were walking.

Much of what there is to do, see, eat, and experience in San Miguel can be accessed by foot. For anything outside of walking range, there are plenty of options such as the ubiquitous green taxis, Uber, and hired drivers. We enjoyed being car-free for the seven weeks we were there and, although I didn’t bring my Fitbit, I am confident that I easily met my daily goal of 10,000 steps… and then some.

We learned the importance of taking it slow and staying hydrated.
More stairs!
The evening’s golden hour paints a picture with light.
You can see the spires of the Parroquia peeking out from behind the dome.
An early morning balloon flight.
The Parroquia could be seen from all over the city.

My husband and I love to walk, and I am very grateful that we are fit enough to navigate the sometimes hilly terrain. San Miguel is a city best enjoyed by foot.

GratiTuesday: Focusing on Fun

While husband and I travel, I very seldom write posts for my blog. I’ll often jot down a few ideas for future posts, but we’ve agreed that writing full posts, uploading pictures, and dealing with the WordPress platform takes too much time away from our travel experience.

I’ve experimented with several alternatives, including re-running earlier posts, writing a few posts before I leave and scheduling them to run while I’m away, and, for short trips, just not posting at all (surprisingly, the world didn’t end).

For our recent 7-week trip to Mexico (more on that soon), I decided to try something different: inviting other bloggers to write a post each week. Although it took some planning and coordination on my part, all of the heavy lifting was done by my guest writers… and I am so grateful.

Even though they have their own blogs to manage, they each generously provided an insightful and interesting post for my GratiTuesday series. In addition, on the day their post ran, they linked from their site to mine (which brought some new followers my way), and they actively interacted with everyone who left a comment.

My deepest gratitude goes out to the following blogging friends who, through time and effort on their part, allowed me to relax and enjoy my time away:

Donna, Retirement Reflections; Pat, Retirement Transition; MartySnakes in the Grass; Christie, So What? Now What?; Liesbet, Roaming About; Laura, Crafting My Retirement; and, Lynn, An Encore Voyage.

Another, unexpected bonus to featuring guest posts, was that I have been contacted by several other bloggers asking me if they could participate. Although this guest post series is complete, I invite anyone who is interested in writing GratiTuesday guest post to please send me a note through my Contact Me link. I’d love to feature a guest post now and then and I am grateful for the interest.

GratiTuesday Guest Post: Gratitude for the Young Ones

GratiTuesday guest post by Lynn, An Encore Voyage

Recently I wrote a blog post about retiring without having had children.  It’s rather easy these days to speak disparagingly of many of today’s young people.  There are those who seem unable to string two sentences together without benefit of fishing line…

But in keeping with Janis’s GratiTuesday theme, I’d like to share with you my

Gratitude for the Young Ones

Just recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Seattle to witness the thesis defense and presentation of a doctoral degree to my dear friend’s son.  From the time he was born, I have watched this young man develop into an extraordinarily gifted shining star.  Now, he and the brilliant young minds he works with are engaged in world-altering research.  They are the ones who are curing AIDS, cancers, and illnesses which have plagued the world for our lifetimes.  Such accomplishment in one so young!

I can remember getting a bit freaked out when I first went to a doctor who was younger than I was.  How could he possibly be old enough to have completed medical school?  Then, as my doc used his iPad to flip through my medical records, and swiftly and easily breeze through the technology to show me the most recent of treatment options, I realized I really don’t want to go to a doctor who still uses a flip phone!

For the past two seasons, hubs and I have been enjoying the Broadway productions that come to our city.  We recently dined with a gifted young woman who is just beginning her career in the theatre industry.  Her passion and enthusiasm for her craft made something abundantly clear…It isn’t us crusty retirees who are bringing these beautiful productions to life.  It is daring, talented young people who are bravely and energetically sharing themselves through Broadway, Shakespeare, Contemporary Theatre, music, and dance.  I am grateful to them for creating magical opportunities for all our benefit!

So, here’s to the Millennials and Gen Z-ers who will be such a changing force in this world.  While many may poke fun at your man-buns and essential oils, I am grateful for your many contributions that will alter the landscape of this country!

And now, I’m headed off to my dentist.  He’s a brilliant Millennial – He’ll be using a laser to fix my cavities!

From Janis:

Thank you, Lynn, for sharing your GratiTuesday guest post with us! Thank you for your reminder of the positive contributions the younger generations are already making to our world.

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Lynn’s blog, please check it out. Follow her journey after she and her husband gave up their lifelong careers and reinvented their lifestyle.

I will be back with my own GratiTuesday post which I’m pretty sure will include my profound gratitude for all my guest posters.

GratiTuesday Guest Post: Grateful… for Others, and Ourselves

Guest post by Liesbet, Roaming About

Thank you, Janis, for allowing me to be a guest blogger on your inspiring site, and share my opinion about this topic. Much gratitude! 😊

I always enjoy reading Janis’s GratiTuesday posts. The day they arrive in my inbox starts with a smile and a portion of positivism. But, when she mentioned featuring guest posts about this theme, I immediately thought: “Nope, not for me.” Yet, I like Janis, I like trying new things, and I like reflection. So, I reconsidered and signed up.

I respect people who are grateful and positive. I appreciate them and even envy them. What a nice way to be, to focus on the good, in a world with so much bad. I’m not normally like that. I dwell on the necessities at hand. I focus on our health, our business, our house and pet sits, our camper, and my writing. At least, these months. I thank my parents, for putting me in this world and raising me. To be a part of this universe is where everything starts. After that, our choices and our attitudes lead the way. That’s how I ended up living a life less ordinary. Should I be grateful for that? This guest post made me think about it a bit more.

Gratitude appears to be a popular theme in my blogging circle, whose “members” are almost all retired. (I’m not.) When I read these posts, they always make sense. Yet, I don’t really incorporate being grateful into my blogs, or my life. So, does gratitude come with age? With having more time? With maturity in and with life? How about peers of my age?

I’m sure my friends are grateful for their families, maybe even for their jobs, definitely for their vacations and summer time. Photos I see on social media prove it; photos of smiles and beautiful surroundings. My life is different from the other bloggers, and my friends. But, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t show gratitude, something I’ve done only once before, in the blog post of my year 2017 in overview.

We shouldn’t let our busy lives get in the way of reflection about what we’re grateful for, even if we were part of the process. With that in mind, I’m grateful for:

  • Being born in a Western country
  • My friends, family, and partner
  • My decent health
  • Mother Earth
  • The presence of pets
  • The choices I have been given
  • The choices I have made
  • Sunny, warm weather
  • The online community I have become a part of, and the interactions blogging creates
  • My memories traveling the world
  • Being in nature, whenever I get a chance
  • Being surrounded by wildlife, whenever that happens
  • Spectacular sunsets
  • The small things in life that satisfy me and make me smile
  • Being given an opportunity to write this guest post for Janis

I chose a life of adventure, a life with no regrets. I’m grateful for that. For the life, or for my choices? Yes, we can give credit to others, but we may not forget ourselves. By being kind, respectful, and responsible, we affect our surroundings; we might get similar responses in return. Are we grateful for the behavior of others? Or does that happen thanks to ourselves?

From Janis:

Thank you, Liesbet, for sharing your GratiTuesday guest post with us! You have a lot to be grateful for – including yourself and the choices you’ve made.

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Liesbet’s blog, I encourage you to check it out. Many of us have dreamed about off-loading everything and exploring the world – Liesbet and her husband actually did it!

Please stop by next Tuesday when Laura from Crafting My Retirement shares her gratitude.

GratiTuesday Guest Post: Daily Gratitude

Guest Post by Christie, So What? Now What?

 

I’m not a morning person—or more accurately, I don’t like be jolted awake before the sun is even up. Let’s just say I can be a little cranky when the alarm goes off. It’s sad to think that I’ve been blessed with a brand new day, and I begin by grumbling about having to get started. Where’s the enthusiasm for new adventures, experiences, possibilities? Where’s the gratitude?

In an attempt to turn things around, I’ve started a new practice. Every morning when I wake—before I open my eyes even—I say to myself, “I am full of gratitude and love for another day on this earth.” Sometimes the first one doesn’t take, so I say it again. “I am full of gratitude and love for another day on this earth.” I repeat it until I mean it, and then I get out of bed.

Every day that we wake up is a good day. Every breath that we take is filled with hope for a better day. Every word that we speak is a chance to change what is bad into something good.

~Walter Mosley

Life is full of good times and bad. Some days are better than others, but every day offers up opportunities for gratitude if we are receptive to them. When all else fails, go back to the basics:

  1. I am grateful for air and lungs to breathe it with.
  2. I am grateful for the beauties of nature and eyes to see it with.
  3. I am grateful for the soothing smell of coffee and the warmth of the cup in my hands.

Your list may be different from mine, but you get the idea.

This is the gift—to have the wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.

~Abraham Maslow

Today I am also grateful to Janis for the opportunity to share my thoughts on her blog. I’d love to hear what you’re feeling grateful for right now.

From Janis:

Thank you, Christie, for sharing your GratiTuesday guest post with us! I appreciate the reminder of the importance of practicing gratitude every day… even when it’s hard (maybe especially when it’s hard).

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Christie’s blog, please check it out. She’s a self-described “goal-setting, list-making, self-improvement addict” and she writes about her journey to discover What Now?

Please stop by next Tuesday when Liesbet from Roaming About shares her thoughts on gratitude.