All Things Considered

a glyph at Monte Albán

It is two weeks since I returned home from Oaxaca. It always takes me a bit of time to readjust and Monsieur has lived 10 weeks without me. Our ways of being are quite different and the return home is always a challenge for both of us.

French literature is my passion!
Both Oaxaca and Paris offer opportunities to experience the language, history and culture of another country. I have always been interested in learning about different cultures. As an undergraduate,  I was fascinated by Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Montparnasse, the Latin Quarter…. More than anything, I wanted to be a European! The West Coast of Canada was not a very cosmopolitan place at that time.

I am a Canadian with a soupçon of Québecoise blood flowing through my veins. In school, every Canadian student studies French. Lots of my contemporaries will tell you that they did not learn any French although it was compulsory for a few years. Language learning does not occur without interest and effort.  Spanish was offered in my high school when I was in Grade 10 so I was able to study a third language. I never really thought of Mexico except as a tourist destination.  Mexico is rich in history but until I studied the art of MesoAmerica at university, I really had no idea.
We really don't know much about pre-hispanic Mexico because the conquistadores tore down buildings and destroyed the records.

I love to wander the streets of a city, pausing to read historic markers. Interestingly, both Oaxaca and Paris provide information about the origin of street names on the street signs. In Oaxaca, you have to watch the pavement as well because it is very uneven. Apparently, every year there are visitors on crutches. The windows of Paris provide a never-ending display of beautiful merchandise. I can wander on Sundays and I am never tired of window displays.
Paris windows are works of art.
There are no display windows in Oaxaca. Sometimes when a door is open, I glimpsed a lovely courtyard. When I was consciously looking for a shop or service, I found the address and located the business. I don't know if it is concerns over privacy and security or the limited use of glass for fear of earthquake but there is definitely no window shopping in Oaxaca. On the other hand, there might be a simple sign indicating a free art gallery which is often in a restored colonial building.
During the time I was in Oaxaca, I volunteered about 15 hours a week. Volunteering is a great way to meet like-minded people. My cousin goes to dances wherever she travels. When I was in Paris, I studied French. In both cities, I have taken cooking classes or food tours. I have attended church services in Oaxaca and in Paris.
A Oaxaqueña cooking on a comal stove.
I was careful about my food choices in Oaxaca and I had no "tummy troubles." Ironically, Janet and I had food poisoning in Paris two years ago. 

No comparison would be complete without a considering the cost. I usually pay about 1800-2300 euros a month for a Paris rental. My rationale is that anything less than $100 a night for a major city is a bargain. I paid $800 for a month in Oaxaca and most ex-pats pay about $400. Food is very inexpensive and a whole day tour to one of the archeological sites is less than $20. As I advance in my retirement years, money becomes more of a consideration. There is no doubt that retired Americans and Canadians choose Mexico as a second home because it offers a gracious lifestyle for a limited budget. For those facing expensive medical, dental and drug costs at home, Mexico provides US-trained doctors and dentists along with greatly reduced pharmaceutical costs. Older ex-pats hire Mexicans as live-in companions. 

I will always be a francophile! It's not an affectation, it's who I have been all of my life. Paris will always be my "spiritual home." My husband claims that he doesn't like either city… Brother Beto, his Oaxacan name, he's really Bob has become a global educator since his retirement. He signs all of his correspondence: "It's all part of the adventure. Walk another path."

Oaxaca has been my "other path" this year and I know that I will go back to the Lending Library and the Learning Centre. I already miss the conversations that I had about politics, social reform and books.
I miss the grocer at the Miscellanea where I bought a single cold "cerveza" to drink on my patio. 

It will take me a while  to "settle" but this week I met with my French student, attended Bible study 
and met a friend for lunch. I am thankful for the opportunities that I have to pursue my interests in retirement.


  1. Returning home after such a long time must be a challenge. There are so many cultural and climatic differences, and the population densities are so far must be a shock to the system.
    I miss Paris and France but have decided that I will incorporate some changes to my daily routines...I learned some things about myself that I did not know until I was away from the comfort and security of my home...I'll be writing about a few of these over the next while...
    Hope that your transition from working holiday to home is going smoothly...

    1. Every time I return from Paris, I think "why not here?" Scent or fresh flowers, a small detail of daily life….I especially think about walks, parks, windows..There is so much to be appreciated without paying anything! Didn't you feel more alive in Paris? Will you continue your French classes? Madame le professeur sounded like a good local role model.

  2. I very much admire what you have done and are doing with your retirement years so far. You continue to challenge yourself and to give back to the wider community and you enjoy life while doing so. brava!

  3. I believe that, in our earliest years of retirement, we are fortunate to have the health and perhaps the resources to challenge ourselves and hopefully contribute in a positive way to others. We should not take this gift for granted. Time passes quickly and circumstances change. I'm sure that you will have lots of adventures now that you are retired. I found that spending time with my brother in Oaxaca was a great experience because I have not lived with him for more than 40 years. enjoy!

  4. What a fun post! I have friends who travel to Oaxaca frequently, but never have visited myself. You make me all the more inclined to visit. From one francophile to another ... Anna


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