SPA shelter – Dog walking in San Miguel

Rob-and-dog-pupsThe best place in San Miguel

Don’t bother buying any guide books for San Miguel De Allende, we have found the best thing to do here, by a million miles!

For the last 3 months we have been volunteering to walk dogs at the Sociedad Protectora de Animales (SPA), a dog and cat rescue centre in San Miguel De Allende.

It’s a charity that provides shelter for animals, which would otherwise be homeless, or put down by the Ecologia (within 5 days) if found roaming the streets.

Each time we go we get huge thanks from all the other volunteers and staff, as if we are some kind of heroes. It’s a lovely team, but to be honest I feel like we should be thanking them, it’s such a rewarding place.

A nervous wreck

All the dogs have their own tale to tell, but one experience that sticks with me is Güera (or Blondie).


Guera-dogMeet Güera!

When I first met her she was a bag of nerves. As I stepped into her cage, she was frozen to the spot unable to move, except for her entire body shaking uncontrollably. Her vulnerable brown eyes looked like they might pop out.

I tried to bribe Güera with treats. Like humans, the way to a dog’s heart seems to be through its stomach.

She wasn’t going for it though. As I slowly moved the treats to her mouth, she licked them a little and then simply let them fall to the floor. I have never seen a dog so scared that it is unable to eat.

I was smitten. I love a challenge.

Over the next few weeks I became set on winning her over, and putting her at ease.

The first walk was a nervy one, with Güera using the full length of the lead to keep her distance from me. Every time I got too near, she adopted her frozen panicked look. So we found a nice quiet spot in the field where I just sat with her, giving her time to get used to me.

There was no miracle transformation that day, but I was shocked over the next few weeks how quickly I gained her affection and trust.

The Transformation

Each day I would walk Güera, and each day I would run to Kellie happily babbling about the new thing my four-legged friend and me had achieved.

“Today she let me pat her head”

“Today she ate treats from my hand and didn’t spit them out!”

“She does a funny little dance before I come into the cage!!”

“She just snuggled into me and put her paws on my leg!!”

And on it went like this… Every single achievement to me felt like a momentous step. Now when we walk she bounds along with her tail wagging, the lead is always slack.  We find a nice shady spot under a tree where we observe the distant hills and lizards scurrying in the long grass. It’s peaceful.

Sadly Güera has been at the SPA since 2009 when she was 2 years old, they never put a healthy dog or cat to sleep. Her shyness means she gets overlooked, but I remain hopeful that someone will see through it and discover her full potential.

Guera-Rob-dogMy new best friend
Nube-dogNube is a calm softieKel-nube-dog

The animals get lots of love, affection and exercise here, which is great, but obviously the goal is adoption. The shelter runs at full capacity of around 100+ dogs and cats, and in Mexico there are always more to take on board, as well as limited funds of a charity.

Dogs-montage

Initially Kellie and me thought we’d pop down occasionally just to help out a bit and get a spot of exercise, but very quickly we became attached to the place and all the wonderful dogs that call it their (hopefully temporary) home. I try and get there 4 times a week, and really miss the place if I can’t make it.

For me it’s good to have an external focus and a purpose. Travelling can often feel like a selfish pursuit, where you constantly thinking about your next adventure. Always taking and never giving back.

I would be lying to say this is purely selfless as I look forward to every moment of it, but I’d like to think it does some good for the dogs, giving them exercise and getting them used to new people, ready for them to be adopted to a new home.

I speak to the other volunteers, many who have been there for years and come every single day. They share their stories with me and you can instantly sense the warmth they have for all the dogs. They are a huge part of their lives.

Letting go…

Harry has been volunteering for 3 years and sits on the board of directors for the shelter. The volunteers are mainly expats and the staff locals, which is great to see.

Harry told me about his experience with Molly, a large black lab.

“For ten months, Molly and I walked together. When something frightened her, I was like a rodeo performer, holding on as best I could as she bolted down a hill. Molly was agile, powerful, and intelligent. She absorbed affection and returned it in kind.”

“No one expressed interest in adopting Molly. Then one day a man named Carlos asked about medium-large dogs. I showed him five. Four were great with him, affectionate and responsive. Molly, though, did not leave my side and even growled at him. When I asked which he liked, he replied, “The black one.” He said he valued Molly’s loyalty to me. I assured him that once she knew him and his kindness, Molly would be loyal to him too.”

“I encountered Carlos’s wife twice. With a smile, she told me that she’s jealous of Molly because she thinks her husband cares more for Molly than he cares for her.”

“I didn’t lose Molly. I miss her greatly, but I am happy for her new life. I will never forget her mesmerizing eyes and her wonderful personality. We each have a piece of each other that will always exist.”

Harry-Molly-dog

The funny thing is Harry says he didn’t used to be a dog person, and initially only came to do an hour a week under slight duress from Megan, his wife who also volunteers here. These canines have a funny effect though and now he can’t keep away.

I know exactly where he is coming from. I can honestly say volunteering here has really MADE our 3 month stay in San Miguel. I shall miss it by the bucket load when we depart next week.

They are always open to new volunteers; you can donate time, money and supplies, or give a loving dog/cat a new home. You can volunteer as often or as little as you want Monday to Saturday between 11am and 2pm.  Find out more here (Plus you can see heaps more cute dog pics and videos to awwww at)

puppy-meal-time-dog

Dog walking and a cute puppy area = happy us

“Our bodies have everything they need to heal themselves”

heal-body

When I eat crap I feel like crap.

I’ve known this for years but I’ve not really done anything about it.

Until recently.

Like most people I have a few niggly health complaints, I occasionally suffer from eczema, I get the odd migraine now and again, and my PMS is OUT OF CONTROL. (Ok that last one is probably not classified as niggly)

Since being in San Miguel, Rob and I have been taking a regular yoga class. It’s our first class and I think we hit the jackpot as our teacher is great. She says a lot of sensible things, but a few weeks ago she said something and I really heard it.

“Our bodies have everything they need to heal themselves”

For years I’d seen various doctors about my list of ailments and had tried all manner of things. I’d been on Aspirin and anti nausea for my migraines and a few years ago I even tried SSRI’s (anti-depressants) for my PMS. The Aspirin helped if I took them at the right time but the SSRI’s left me emotionless, so I threw them away.

Every month Rob and I walk the on the tightrope of PMS. What will it throw at this month? Depressed crying Kel, (Rob’s preference) or angry, anxious, irrational Kel. Who knows what treat we are in for?

After contracting yet another bacterial infection in my gut recently, (my intestines are clearly too hospitable), and being left unable to eat any dairy, eggs or grains, enough was enough.

I’m going to heal myself.

healthy

 

So I went off down a little rabbit hole of food documentaries. I’ve watched ‘Food Matters’, ‘Food Inc’, ‘Hungry for Change’, ‘Fast Food Nation’ and ‘Sick Fat and Nearly Dead’.

I’ve spent hours scouring Pinterest for healthy recipes.

I’ve read food blogs, including Wellness Mama, The Rawsom Vegan Life, Healthy and Homegrown, Madeline Shaw and Live Simply.

And my inbox has a daily assault from health newsletters.

I’m taking control of my health. That control has always been in my hands but I just wanted the easy option. Take a pill and that problem will go away. Well that pill and all the other lotions and potions haven’t healed me, so I’m trying this.

First up, get my gut sorted…

80% of our immune system is there and having taken my 3rd dose of antibiotics in 7 months, I think I can safely say there is no bacteria, good or bad, living in there right now. My immune system is at an all time low.

Our house owners left us Kambucha, along with instructions on how to make it. Kambucha is sweet fermented tea, it has loads of health benefits including digestive health and boosting immunity. I’d been drinking half a cup every morning but I’ve increased this to get some good guys back in the intestines.

I’m eating natural home made yoghurt like it’s going off tomorrow. We have yoghurt maker here in our latest house sit. It’s so easy to do I don’t know why I’ve never done it before. It’s also much cheaper than buying yoghurt and I know there is no crap in it.

No dairy

 

Heal-pizza

Yoghurt is the only dairy I can tolerate at the moment. Apparently it’s something to do with the fermenting process and this helps break down the lactose.

Milk, cheese and eggs are another issue. Last week we went out for lunch. I opted for carrot and ginger soup. It was delicious and I assumed a safe option. But 20 minutes after eating I had to make a swift exit from the café as I thought the soup was going to make reappearance. It didn’t but for about an hour, it was touch a go there. It later occurred to Rob that it probably had milk or cream in it.

I could bore you with my daily diet but for me it’s more than that. I’ve changed the way I think about food. I’m really thinking about what I put it my body. Before it goes in I think about how it’s going to make me feel. I also want to know what is going into my food. Just pick anything up out of your store cupboard. Look at the ingredients. I can’t even pronounce half of them (and that’s not just because mine are all in Spanish).

If I can’t say it, do I really want it going in to my body?

I have changed what I’m eating.

Out goes:

Dairy,
Gluten,
Most processed food, including chocolate!! I make practically everything from scratch and buy gluten free products where possible.
Low quality meat (minced beef etc)
Basically all the crap.

In comes:

Fresh and healthy food by the ton! The list is too long to write.

I’m hoping that I’ll notice some differences, not only in my pesky gut, but I’m also hopeful that my migraines and PMS will be less severe too. It will be interesting too see if a healthy diet has more of a healing effect than modern medicine.

For me it isn’t about losing weight or looking nice in my bikini. I just want to feel better.

On the days I have felt ill, I’ve realised how important my health is. Without it I have nothing. So it’s time to make that a priority.

All I know is, it feels good. It feels good to be taking care of my health. It feels good to be in control of it.

“I have everything I need to heal my body”

I’ll let you know how I get on…

A Mexican Wedding – Aztec Ceremony (non-nude)

Darren-and-Claudia-Wedding

Don’t worry friends; we haven’t tied the knot in secret (huge sigh of relief from my mum and eldest sister who may never forgive me if I did such a thing)…

Last week we headed to our new found friend’s wedding, here in San Miguel De Allende.

It left us with a bit of a problem, when we scoured the web to see other rtw travellers packing lists nobody ever mentioned bringing suitable attire for a wedding.

Unusually this was more of a problem for me than Kel, whose suitcase is dominated by a large percentage of pretty summer dresses to other stuff ratio. I live in shorts (or undies) and vest tops nowadays. My only good linen trousers have a huge rip in them and grass stains on the knees.

Before you ask about the grass stains, it was nothing sordid; I just like sliding down hills on my knees more than most other 33 year olds.

Rob Hill wedding

Evidence

Anyway enough of my wardrobe problems Kel sewed the rip, and I figured that most people don’t really spend much time looking at your knees. Plus I forgot I’m a beardy traveller bloke who doesn’t really give a monkeys about such things…

Back to the point…

The wedding!

The good thing about how we travel is that we go slow, so it gives us more time not only to explore a place but also make connections with the people.  But it was still a huge surprise to be invited to Darren and Claudia’s wedding.

As you may have spotted Darren is not a local Mexican, but actually a fellow Brit who we met through our Spanish class. Claudia is from these parts, so it made for our first ever Mexican/Brit wedding.

Most weddings in Britain I find pretty formulaic. It tends to go like this: ceremony, endless wait for bride and groom to get photographed, wait for food, eat food, speeches, awkward first dance, empty dance floor, drink a bit, then drink a lot, everybody gets up and dances over enthusiastically to “Come on Eileen”, then keep dancing, night ends.

I am being a tad harsh, but I do dread them a little, though I now may never be invited to another wedding in Britain. If I did attend your wedding it definitely wasn’t like this. I loved it. Honest. Also who cares what I think, it’s your wedding day.

This time though I was eager to see the mix of Anglo/Latino traditions.

Beautiful Setting

The setting was truly idyllic at Rancho Toyan, an organic vineyard and farm owned by Claudia’s Padres, set in the peaceful countryside surrounding San Miguel. I’m never happier than when surrounded by wide-open spaces, green lush fields and mountains. Add in the fact that it was a blue-sky weather and you have pretty much the perfect day for a wedding.

Wedding-Rancho-Toyan

The Aztec (non-nude) Wedding Ceremony

A pretty Shamen lady in a crimson dress (apparently she normally does it without garments, but Darren thought this maybe one step too far for us Brits) walked around the circle of guests, scattering clouds of incense as she moved. With a huge smile she welcomed one and all. Then she asked everyone to put their right hand on their hearts and the left hand on the shoulder of the person next to us.

We closed our eyes and internally wished the happy couple positive thoughts for their future. It was an incredibly peaceful moment, where the congregation were all connected, all you could hear was the wind rustling in the trees and the sound of birds tweeting.

Then the quiet moment was interrupted as 3 ladies dressed in white began rubbing the rims of huge glass cylinders, much like an amplified version of rubbing your finger around the rim of a wine glass, except the noise produced was almost deafening and you could feel the vibrations resonating through your entire body. It was an incredible sensation, the hairs on the back of my neck all stood on end.

This was the cue for the soon to be bride and groom to enter, they walked into the circle with smiles from ear to ear, seemingly no nerves at all just pure happiness. It was infectious. Claudia looked beautiful in her traditional white dress and Darren very dapper in his crisp blue suit and pointy shoes.

We held out our arms towards them and continued the positive wishes for their future together.

Welcoming The Spirits

The Spirits and Mother Nature then needed to be welcomed as we raised our right hands to the north, east, south and west. There is big belief that we must respect The Spirits and nature in the Aztec culture, the lady in red asked them to bless the ceremony and the couples new life as one.

The ceremony proceeded, and the rhythmic sound of beating drums began, leaping from a quiet peaceful state to a more intense pace.

At one point Darren and Claudia had their arms bound together with a rope, to signify their unity. Strangely I’d never before thought where the term ‘tying the knot’ came from…

As we drew close to the end of the ceremony the drums carried on beating and the congregation were asked to dance around the beaming couple. At first there was little nervous laughter and awkwardness, but that was soon forgotten as people got into it full swing busting out their best dance moves.

The couple kissed, rice and confetti were thrown, before The Spirits and Mother Nature were thanked for their blessing and attendance and we waved goodbye to them. The ceremony had finished, smiling friends and family giggled and embraced, full of energy on a beautiful sunny day.

Admittedly I’m not spiritual, but I am a self confessed hippy at heart and the belief that you can send positive thoughts to people, whilst respecting nature and each other is something that I can connect with.

Claudia-and-Darren-Wedding The-spirits-weddingSaying goodbye and thank you to The Spirits and Mother NatureConfetti-weddingConfetti throwing time!

This is why I travel

Travelling for me is all about having new experiences, which I can’t get back home and the Aztec wedding ceremony was just that; an assault to the senses, with music, incense and dancing, but at the same time somehow peaceful and happy.

Although I’m generally harsh in my reviews of traditional weddings, I readily accept they are there for the couple to show their love to each other and for loved ones to share in their joy. I just think we British could learn a thing or two from the Aztecs, dispensing with the formality and embracing the fun of the day. Plus if we could import the guaranteed wall to wall sun shine and blue skies that would be a bonus.

The party wasn’t over, there was delicious food to be eaten, a real authentic Mariachi band to serenade us all, complete with ridiculously tight trousers, trumpets and guitars. Plus a touching best man speech, dodgy lap dancing, garters being thrown and people being chucked in the air and knocked off chairs (mainly the groom for these last two)…. All in the name of fun of course.

Darrens-feetDarren’s legs
wedding-chairs

Glasses-wedding Mariachi Groom-wedding Bride-with-nipple-out-weddingThe saucy bride flashing her right nipple Wedding drink

It was a real pleasure and honour being asked to join such a special occasion by two people who we have only known briefly, but have welcomed us warmly. A day to remember and another reason to travel the world, it tends to break down social barriers. I cannot imagine being asked to a wedding less than 2 months after meeting someone in any other circumstance…

The greatest dancers!

On a final note, I want to mention that Mexicans are first on the dance floor. In fact as soon as the music starts playing they are up and moving regardless of age, and they can actually dance, no awkward dance floor moments, just sublime salsa. Maybe it’s innate, but it’s definitely impressive!!

Dancing-shoes-weddingDancing shoes from the thoughtful couple

There’s a rat in my kitchen!!

This is a rat

We’ve all heard the brilliant UB40 song about a rat infestation in their kitchen. I would go as far as saying it’s the best song about rats ever written. But Obviously this is any chef’s nightmare!!!

Now I can 100% relate to the heart felt and devastating lyrics, after my kitchen was indeed inhabited by a big fat rat yesterday afternoon!

Watch the shocking video now and forever change this song in your mind… Warning it contains footage of a rat and a bearded man chasing said rat…

(I did all my own stunts)
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