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SUMMER IN SAN BLAS
By William Haydon
Was I prepared for my first summer in Mexico? As the season draws to a close, I think I can reasonably conclude that the answer to that question is probably no. I can only blame myself for this, because in retrospect I can see that the clues were all there.
From the first day that I arrived in Mexico last November every person that I have met has asked me when I would be heading back up north to the States, and time and again when I replied that I intended to stay here year-round, I received the same wide-eyed look of disbelief.
Around the end of May the exodus began. One by one my new friends vanished…to Canada, and New York, and Washington, Idaho, California…and then, in a manner I would describe as more sudden than gradual, I felt very alone. The heat cranked up and tested the capabilities of my new air conditioner, and I began to truly get a sense of what the next few months held in store for me. Some of my favorite restaurants closed up for the season, other businesses reduced their hours, and in general the entire pace of life in this already laidback town seemed to slow down even more.
I had thought that as a California native I’d be well-prepared for the summer heat. I was a bit overconfident in that assessment. In California, no matter how hot it gets in the daytime, it still cools down overnight. That doesn’t happen here in San Blas and thus the heat here is far more oppressive. San Blas in the summertime is, I concluded, hot as hell but nowhere near as well-populated.
I found peace of mind, as I so often do, by simply breathing deeply and resolving to accept these new circumstances. When I managed to do that, I found that the rewards awaiting me were greater than I could have imagined. My young friend Alex calls this town “Boring San Blas” but in my opinion only a twentysomething-year-old who has lived here over half his life could feel that way.
As for me, I am damn near spellbound by the intensity of the weather alone. Mother Nature gets right in your face here, thumping chests with you like a schoolyard bully, daring you to even try to ignore her. Flashes of lightning percolate in the night sky, and sudden black clouds can turn the brightest afternoon into sudden dusk, and the rain, in copious torrents such as I have never witnessed, falls night after night after night. It can at times seem absolutely surreal.
One of the more practical rewards of spending my summer here is that with so many of my English-speaking friends absent, my Spanish-language skills have improved markedly, out of sheer necessity, and my bond with the local community seems much more solid as a result. I have begun sampling many of the smaller, humbler restaurants off the tourist track and have been delighted to find that what they lack in décor they more than make up for in friendly service and inexpensive yet extremely delicious cuisine.
Finally, I must say at the risk of sounding a bit full of myself that living here year-round makes my whole experience in Mexico seem somehow more authentic. I can see why some ex-pats take flight from Mexico for the summer months, but as for myself, I have found immense satisfaction in doing just the opposite.