Thursday, February 04, 2010

Untirement ex-patting

I reckon I could get used to this "untirement" thing. Having some significant discretionary time is something I had long lost contact with.

So, yesterday was the day for celebrating "Waitangi Day" (New Zealand's national day) over in this part of the world, and the NZ ambassador hosted the annual event in Mexico City. In recent years I have been toiling in Oz at this time and have missed attending. I was determined to get there yesterday.

It was a pretty incredible time for me personally. It began when I thought "I don't know a soul here, so if I don't butt in on someone it's going to be just me and a long line of Coronas" (I'd taken the metro, so driving would not be a problem). The big question was, of course, who to butt in on.

At the precise moment a man appeared who bore a striking resemblance to my kiwi pal John Parkyn, who lives in Morelia. I always love talking with John, so took it as a sign. My victim turned out to be a most charming Belgian gent who had been in Mexico more than 50 years, since his parents migrated when he was a young child. He imports New Zealand wines. In the course of our conversation I told him I spend some time in a place near to Xalapa and have a small coffee farm there. In an instant he replied, I know a German woman and her Mexican husband who have a small finca in Coatepec. I replied that Coatepec is where we have our land. Today he was back by email, having contacted Elke and Jose, and has given me their contact details. I am going to Coatepec tomorrow for a couple of weeks to finish off as much of the current harvest as possible.

I had just finished talking to Pierre and was chatting to a young Quaker couple who were doing some volunteer work in Mexico City at a guest house that serves both tourists and refugees (from asylum seekers to homeless folk). Ben was one of only two males apart from myself at the time who wasn't wearing a tie. He was an easy victim. As I was hearing of their experiences here we were joined by a woman who asked if I had been her lecturer at Auckland University when she was studying there. It turned out that she was absolutely correct, and Jane is now married to a Mexican and working out of Cuernavaca consulting on marketing and distribution. We exchanged commitments to visit in Cuernavaca and Coatepec. I liked the fact that during the time she was in my course some of the key texts were by Ivan Illich, who lived for years in Cuernavaca.

Such things come in threes, I guess, and shortly afterwards I was introduced to another man who was not wearing a tie. He had spent several years in Nelson (my home town), studying silversmithing under the tutelage of Jens Hansen -- the same man who recreated The Ring for the Lord of the Rings film trilogy but who, tragically, died before the film was released. During my undergrad years I had sometimes earned a bit of money selling advertising for a Public Relations Office publication, and I counted on Jens to sell me some -- not that his work needed advertising. Jens' former student, Peter, now lives and works in San Miguel de Allende, in the central Mexican (highland) state of Guanajuato. I told him I have a kiwi friend in Morelia, and Peter said he travels to Michoacan regularly to visit with the coppersmiths at Santa Clara del Cobre and would love to get a chance to catch up with a New Zealander in Morelia.

All in all, it was a busy day for John Parkyn in Mexico City yesterday. And he wasn't even there!

Or on Facebook.

Interestingly, as I found in a Nelson Evening Mail story online, one of Jens Hansen's sons studied silversmithing with Peter -- something I suspect that Peter, who struck me as hopelessly modest in light of his achievements, would never have divulged.

It was a pretty expansive afternoon. And it came at the right kind of time.

Nice post, Colin. Nice to think that there is social connection in 'unretirement' - facing me too over the next few years. Unfortunately I don't have a coffee farm to tempt people to visit, but plenty of good coffee spots close by. So if you ever visit Melbourne Australia again, you know where Geri and I are.

do enjoy your different pace of life, Rob
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