Today is my birthday, and I’ve reached a milestone. I’m 50. I really never imagined myself at this age. It’s sort of snuck on me. But here I am, looking forward to the next stage of life, gray hairs and all.
So how have I been? Two years ago (I gave myself some extra time), I made the resolution to be fit at fifty. I have to admit, I don’t have those Victorian babe arms just yet, but I am more toned than previously and nearly ready to move up a hand weight level. Whoop!
I also have gone nearly completely gray. It’s a bit premature, but I decided during social isolation that I would stop dyeing my hair, and that’s the unsurprising result. It does shine terribly when it reflects the light during my online classes, and it’s become wispy and unmanageable, but what are ya goin’ to do?
Although there were some setbacks in my 40s, health issues, unemployment, Covid, and my mom’s death, I managed to write and publish a whole slew of books, install electricity and internet at the house, and adopt this motley crew of animal companions (I’m not an animal hoarder–nope).
Most days are full and satisfying, allowing me to flex my creativity, and my pets make sure to let me know I’m valued (even if it’s just to open the food packets for them.)
My life here in off-grid rural Mexico is still challenging. Everything takes twice the effort with half the result. I don’t expect that to change anytime soon. I am grateful for what I have, though, and that’s enough for now.
For those of you that struggle with the language barrier, you’ll love today’s featured ex-pat. In this post, I’d like to introduce you to Judit Megal, owner of Spanish Accelerated (Use code Spanish22).
My family is Russian and I grew up with Russian as my first language and English as my second. Knowing these two languages can give you a bird’s-eye-view of how languages work and how Spanish and English are similar and different, both at the same time. My mom was an immigrant in her 40s and to her last days, spoke with a heavy accent. So I understand the struggle learn a second language, especially later in life.
In 2006 a job brought me to Mexico. I was working for Diamonds International, in Riviera Maya. Now I live in the Riviera Nayarit, another job moved me here and I loved it so much I stayed!
I’ve had so many defining moments since moving to Mexico. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in Mexico City, in heavy rain, at rush- hour, because I didn’t understand the directions given to me… I also couldn’t pronounce the words Cuauhtemoc, Tlaquepaque, and Jacarandas, which were all on my way to work. It was definitely stressful to be in Mexico City, alone, on a bus, and not understanding. It has contributed to my desire to learn, and fast.
After over a decade of living in Mexico, I’m more Mexican now than something else, the daily rhythm, the way we say things, handle problems, negotiate, etc. It made me much more Cabrona than before but also allowed me to express my more feminine, soft side. I love Mexico!
Six years ago I’ve decided to take my Spanish lessons to be a full-time job because my side hobby was so satisfying that my client exploded. I teach mainly to retirees and snowbirds because they are the biggest population here. We work online, both one-on-one and in small conversation groups and I found that combination brings the best results. Plus, you must speak the language, because only reading and writing will bring you 2/3 of the way. The understanding part, especially when people speak fast, is crucial, and can’t happen without YOU SPEAKING. ( Our private classes are off the record and designed to give you the courage to speak).
So I’ve had a rough couple of weeks, and I expect it will be a rough couple more. Things started out rosy in March, and then I had a birthday—just my 49th, not a milestone or anything, and while I’m ok with my age, it reminded me of all those who didn’t make it to 49 with me.
But I shook it off and kept moving forward in busyness–until I lost my main source of income teaching online. And I was sure something would turn up, but as the days turned to weeks, and nothing did, well, you can imagine how that weighed on me. (More about that saga in another post).
Midway through April now, and I’m dealing with swollen and painful joints keeping me housebound, just when I thought to start planting my garden. And looming ahead is May when my son turns 20 (where did the time go?), and my mom will have been gone a year.
In between, I’ve been working steadily on some plant studies. Yesterday I finished the thirtieth one, which means the first draft of a new herb book will be out soon.
Chatting with one of my besties, who is also having a rough time of it (aren’t we all?), I mentioned how much I enjoy my herb research. I admitted I even have a little herb song that plays in my head while I look up Nahuatl terms and try to decipher yet another scientific paper on plant properties.
It goes something like Rihanna’s “Work,” but instead, I sing, “Herbs, herbs, herbs, herbs. I really like them herbs, herbs, herbs, herbs…Digging in the dirt, dirt, dirt, dirt….” and so on. Anyway, it’s a happy little ditty with a lot of repetition and mumbling.
You may be wondering how I pick the next plant study when there are so many to choose from. After all, Mexico is one of the ten most biodiverse countries in the world.
Sometimes it’s random. I might see something in an article or in my Facebook feed about some plant or other, and I jump in with both feet researching. But mostly, it’s more of a personal connection that leads me down the garden path of investigation.
For example, last week, my sister-in-law was over, and I, of course, had to show her my plants. She pointed to one particular viney weedy thing with white flowers that sprung up from nowhere and said that that one was for coughs. WHAT! Now I have to look into la artemisia (the plant in question) and see what is to be seen. Very exciting!
Or take another instance. I expect this year to be rather difficult all around with rising food prices and now my unemployment. So I thought long and hard about what would be the best use of the limited growing space I had. While researching native plants, I came across huautli, outlawed by the Spanish conquerors. Now known by its European moniker, amaranto is hailed as a superfood. Well then, I could plant huautli and girasoles (also believed to be native to Mexico) along with maíz, frijoles, and calabazas. And it’s exciting!
Or maybe I’ve picked up another tea concoction for my son to try who still struggles with breathing two years after Covid, and it doesn’t work as well as the last tea. After looking at the ingredients and seeing that gordolobo (Verbascum thapsus) is in one but not in the other–and voila. Gordolobo is a plant that helps his breathing and I’m off to the indigenous herbalist in town to get some and at my computer doing some more research.
Each plant is like a little mystery waiting to be solved. I try to answer what it is, how is it best grown, how it is used (fresh or dry), and ultimately what is its value. It’s fitting as I putter in my garden, sitting, of course, to spare my knees, with my hair faded to grey and the freshness of youth gone, I wonder: Who is she? What is her value? How is she best grown? And then my little inner herb song kicks in…and it’s ok.
Discover how native Mexican plants can enrich your garden!