Final weeks in San Miguel de Allende

The last few weeks have been a hive of activity here in SMA. Not only is it busy season at work, but we’re in the process of packing up as we prepare to return to the UK.

One of the highlights was the opportunity to hear David Ebershoff, author of ‘The Danish Girl’ speak about the process of writing his first novel and turning his words into the award winning movie. He is a delightful authentic speaker and it was such a joy to meet him.

We’ve also had the usual flurry of final dinner parties with friends and visits from friends from the UK and US.

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A day in Bernal

With our departure from Mexico fast approaching the last few weeks have been a flurry of activity. To celebrate our birthdays last month, our dear friends (practically family!) Susan and Larry took us to visit nearby Bernal. Founded in 1642, Bernal is best known

Founded in 1642, Bernal is best known by the monolith rock that dominates the skyline. At a height of over 1,000 ft, people come from all over the region to climb the rock. For some it’s a pilgrimage as there is a chapel at the top of the rock. While we didn’t have the energy to climb the rock, we did marvel at it’s magnificent presence over the town.

Instead we enjoyed a long lingering lunch, some ‘light’ shopping and a relaxed wander around town.

I am Woman

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As the events of the incoming US President’s inauguration unfolded in Washington DC yesterday, around the world millions of men, women, and children were preparing to march today. With the words of Helen Eddy’s fabulous song ‘I am Woman’ ringing in our ears we came together to roar!

Today we marched because we believe that women’s rights are human rights. We marched because we believe that we need to build bridges, not walls. We need to create a world in which ALL women are free and able to care for their families in a safe envionment. We marched in support of Reproductive Rights, LGBT Rights, Civil Rights, Worker Rights, Immigrant Rights and Environmental Justice. Progress has been made but it’s not enough and it’s under threat.

We marched because the new president of the USA doesn’t believe in any of this and has indeed belittled, put down and assaulted women. He is not transparent about his dealings and taxes and has not given the world any assurance that he knows what he’s doing. Indeed he has no integrity, no sense of fairness and few ethics. His ideas to build walls and force Muslims to register are designed to divide rather than unify.

He has openly attacked other nations in a manner that is far from diplomatic. But why should we care…we aren’t US citizens and we didn’t vote in the election. As usual US journalist Dan Rather sums up why we care and why the rest of the world are watching. Read his latest post here.

Over the last year I’ve taken time to listen to the voices of the few friends who did vote for him (which I can count on one hand) because they believe that Trump will ‘Make America Great Again.’ But at what cost? The qualities and ethics of true leadership have been ignored in favour of a narcissistic bully.

For me, my biggest issue is that it seems he doesn’t believe in democracy and wants to coerce and control. Democracy requires leadership with integrity and the ability to make informed decisions based on facts and solid manifestos…not rhetoric and fear mongering. Many of my friends and family in the USA will not stand for this and neither will those of us across the rest of the world. Each us, individually and collectively, has a responsibility to stand up to fear and loudly declare NOT IN OUR NAME! We have to fight hate with LOVE!

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I’m tired of being turned down for jobs, passed over for promotions or being paid less than my male colleagues because of my gender (although this that hasn’t happened to me in a long time). I’m tired of being portrayed as the weaker sex…we’re far from it! I’m tired of seeing women being persecuted, molested, assaulted…or worse. I’m tired of girls being told that they can’t achieve because of their gender. NO MORE.

The world is entering a new age of activism. We will rise. We will use our voices well. We will support those organisations supporting women’s rights. We will challenge our leaders more and we will not sit back and watch from the comfort of our own homes.

I am incredibly proud and grateful for my husband, Matt. He’s a secure man who supports a strong woman! Today we both marched with our friends here in San Miguel de Allende. A small but mighty group of some 1,000 people marched and it was humbling and emotional to be a part of the crowd.

Throughout the day we’ve watched the march in DC and looked at the hundreds of photos our friends around the world have posted on social media of their own acts of solidarity – all over the USA, Berlin, Auckland, Sydney, London, Paris, Mexico City, Dublin, Edinburgh and many more. At least 600 marches took place worldwide – the largest post-inauguration march in history. Friends in 42 cities worldwid took part. And all took place peacefully.

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Most of all, I marched for those super strong women who have gone before us. For my Mum, Mumsy (Matt’s Mum), Grannie-Mum, Nanna Ash, Ciaran, Ning, Bente…all women who have passed on but who each taught me important lessons in womanhood, standing up for what you believe, being in community and loving unconditionally. Today we stood on their strong shoulders.

I also marched for our Sacred France sisters and brothers who have – over the last couple of years – provided such powerful feminine energy, a sense of family and a global community. Many of our little community marched in other parts of the world and I’ve loved seeing all their photos.

And I marched to honour the rights my LGBT friends- particularly my ex-husband Joseph and his husband Eduardo who have had to sacrifice so much for the marriage that they have today. I hope that their rights are not diminished in the USA under the new administration but we just don’t know. To say that nothing is going to change is naive and irresponsible.

This morning I woke up wondering what Mum would have written on her sign today had she been marching with us….’I can’t believe we’re STILL having to fucking do this!’ But here we are.YES we will. WE RISE!

What’s next? Each of us, in our own way, must continue to challenge, to love and to grow through the next four years. For me, my job affords me the opportunity to plant seeds of democracy in workplaces and see them flourish. Now more than ever we have to continue to do this. And most of all….I’ll strive to hate less and LOVE more!

I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! 

Happy New Year!

We had a great time ringing in 2017 here in San Miguel starting with a party on our dear friends rooftop overlooking the Paroquia in the centre of town followed by a slumber party back home. Great views, great people, lots of fun. Here’s a bit of a sketchy video of the fireworks but you get the gist!

 

We became honorary Texans for the day. In the South of the USA there is a tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Years Day as a mark of prosperity. This is a tradition Joseph takes very seriously but given that he doesn’t cook…and his usual ‘go-to black eye peas chef’ was out of town (who also happens to be Scottish!) – it was down to me to cook them this year. Following Linda’s recipe, we soaked the dried peas in beer overnight. We drained these the next morning and then fried up some onions, garlic, ham hock and bacon and a few spices before adding the peas and chicken stock to the pan and cooking them for HOURS until they were deliciously soft. I also made a big vat of chilli, rice, cornbread, guac, spinach and artichoke dip, salad and brownies. Enough to feed 30 hungry mouths yesterday afternoon…and then some!

 

 

Bye bye 2016..hello 2017

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2016 has been a landmark year for us in so many ways. Dissatisfied with our lives in the UK and missing our Mexican family – Joseph and Eduardo – we took a massive leap of faith and moved to Mexico back in January.

At the time we had no idea how long we’d stay or how things would pan out for us. All we knew is that we wanted to get out of the UK for a while and most of all – have more time together.

While most the world has been seemingly in turmoil (and there have been challenges for us here), it’s been the small things that have buoyed us and made the most meaning in our lives. The opportunity to make new friends, be a part of a new community, spend time with our nearest and dearest here, laugh, cry and have lots of fun have been the most meaningful parts of our time here. I can’t believe it’s drawing to a close as we head back to the UK in March…that’s another story.

I can’t begin to thank Joseph, Eduardo, Susan, Larry and Zack the dog for being our family here. Words can’t express the depth of love we have for each one and such gratitude for how they’ve embraced us this year. We love them all dearly. Sure, we’re not your typical ‘family’ but I’ve learnt that over the years it’s those that love you unconditionally, warts and all, that make family – not blood. That’s not to say my family back in the UK don’t mean a lot to us too!

Tonight we’ll be seeing in the new year on a rooftop overlooking the cathedral – with the best view of the fireworks! Most of all we’re looking forward to precious time with our Mexican family and friends!So as we say Adios to 2016, we are looking forward to a year of LIMITLESS GROWTH in 2017….

My hope for 2017 is that the world can find a greater sense of peace, empathy and compassion. I don’t know how things are going to turn out with Brexit or Trump’s presidency. I’m done with feeling angry about the state of the world. Only more love, less hate and less judging is going to help us to find a greater sense of peace. I look forward to a day when we can ALL appreciate and embrace the rich diversity in our world.

So as we say Adios to 2016, we are looking forward to a year of LIMITLESS GROWTH in 2017….

More adventures

More friendships

More walks up that darn hill!

More fun

More travel

More LOVE

Happy New Year!

2016 in pictures Pt. II

Hold on to your seats folks – here’s the second half of 2016 in pictures.

July/August

We headed back to Europe for the Summer and over the course of six weeks we visited the UK, Switzerland, France, Andorra and Spain with our friend Susan. We saw family and friends along the way and explored new views. Fabulous fun!

We reunited with our Sacred France friends in the Languedoc for 10 days which was fantastic fun. It was special to continue to explore the unique history and energy of the region through the eyes of our dear friend Kathleen McGowan. We celebrated our 11th Wedding anniversary while exploring the deeply significant village of Minerve. Lots of sparkling, lots of laughter, lots of great times with fabulous friends – new and not so new!

Following our escapades in France and Andorra we headed to Spain to see my brother Jason, Amber and little Zeph in time for her birthday near Barcelona. While in the area we visited Girona and the incredible monastery at Monserrat.

After leaving Barcelona we drove down the coast to Valencia for a night and on to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Southern Spain to stay with our fabulous friend Terry near Lanjaron for a week. Time spent at El Rincon is always magical and it was wonderful to take a slightly slower pace for a week. We did spend a day exploring the magical Alhambra Palace and Gardens in Granada though. At the end of the week we drove north to Toledo (just south of Madrid) for a night and on to the airport the next day so Susan could fly back to Mexico. Matt and I then continued to drive north through the Pyrenees and Basque country back to the Dordogne. Incredible scenes en route!

Back home in Cladech, we also spent precious moments with my other brother Robin, Marie Helene and our nephew James and our cats Ronnie and Reggie. Cladech is home and it’s always wonderful to arrive, but so so hard to leave.

The final stop on our epic Summer was a few days back in the UK visiting family and friends. We had a big Ash family reunion and it was great to see Matt’s cousins Liz, Debbie and their family – all back in the UK together which is rare! Our dear friends Liz and Kevin were visiting from Boston and we managed to squeeze in a sublime lunch in Richmond. And of course, no visit home would be complete without time with the Guildford gang – great to see Nic, Peterkin and Bob too.

September/October

After all that travelling it was good to get home to Mexico. September is a big month in Mexico as it’s when we celebrate Independence day and since the movement began here in San Miguel the celebrations here are huge!

Joseph and Eduardo finally moved into their new home and we helped them to kit out their kitchen….and I started cooking for them…still hoping one of them might actually learn to cook before we leave the country next year!

In October I headed back to the UK for a week. Great to see friends and family again!

And we celebrated Eduardo’s birthday

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November

A big month of Day of the Dead celebrations (BIGGER than Halloween here!), dinner parties, visits from friends and Thanksgiving.

We celebrated Joseph’s big 40, a visit from Ed over Thanksgiving and our friends Amanda, Rody, Michelle and James visiting from Portland.

December

And so we made it to December. I started a month with a thrilling three day trip to Hermosillo in Northern Mexico to see some clients…who I now count as friends too! I was able to be a part of their amazing Game of Thrones themed Christmas gathering….and Mexican’s know how to work hard and party hard too! We then escaped to Puerto Vallarta for a fun weekend with Amanda, Rody and lots more friends on the beach.

We then escaped to Puerto Vallarta for a fun weekend with Amanda, Rody and lots more friends on the beach.

San Miguel looks gorgeous at this time of year with the Christmas decorations up and lots of celebrations taking place in town.

We’re getting ready to cook a big Christmas dinner for friends and our Mexican family. Wherever you are…have a peaceful joy-filled Christmas and a fabulous New Year!

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2016 in pictures, Pt. I

January

We said farewell to a wintry Blighty and arrived in San Miguel de Allende! Celebrated our birthday’s and settled into life in the high desert!

February

Our great friend and colleague Traci visited from Iowa – and escaped the winter! We had fun exploring the town, visiting with friends and watching Eduardo participate in a Storytelling Festival showcase.

 

March

Miranda made a quick trip to San Francisco and spent time with clients and friends!

Back in San Miguel is was Easter season – Semana Santa – which is taken VERY seriously in this town. Parades every day…some more reverent than others – each is colourful and unique.

April

Not too much happened this month as Miranda prepared for conference season at work! But in between all that, we enjoyed cherished moments with friends and more exploring!

 

May

Summit time meant that Miranda was in Miami for a week or so working hard and having fun!

And not long after returning to San Miguel we had four of our friends from Romania visit for 10 days. It was great to see SMA through their eyes. We also spent a wonderful weekend on a friend’s ranch and made the most of the warmer weather! Hot Springs, Mariachi bands on our roof and birthday celebrations made it a great month!

June

The beginning of rainy season here in the high desert – hot days, balmy nights and some welcome moisture.

We had a new neighbour for the month – one of Joseph’s closest friends from San Angelo – Matt. Matt is a Spanish teacher and came down to SMA for a month to hone his language skills. Both Matt’s hit it off…bit of a bromance going on…and enjoyed afternoons putting the world to rights over a few beers on our roof. They also have a shared passion for Monty Python…lets just say that there were a LOT of laughs in our house in June!

Part II coming soon! 

Beach time

This past weekend our friends Amanda and Rody invited us to join them for some beach time in Puerto Vallarta. Never one to pass up some sun, sea and sand we boarded a plane in Leon for the short flight to the coast and a welcome respite from the SMA winter. Three nights gave us enough time to recharge our batteries, get some Vitamin D and have lots of fun with a great group of folks.

Amanda and Rody have been visiting PV in the winter for years – escaping the cooler climate of Portland, Oregon. They know PV like the back of their hands and were amazing hosts – knowing exactly what was worth exploring and what wasn’t. We were perfectly happy sitting on the beach, getting to know new friends and enjoying long lingering dinners at some incredible restaurants. Puerto Vallarta really has so much to offer. It’s easy to see why so many return here year after year.

On our first night we had dinner at Hacienda San Angel – once owned by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. In fact, they owned separate haciendas that were joined by a bridge. Well known for having a fiery relationship, one of them would knock down the bridge every time they had a massive argument..and then they’d reconcile and build the bridge once again. The hacienda was so beautifully furnished and is now a superb restaurant. That night we were entertained by frankly the most sublime mariachi band we’ve heard to date…and we’ve listened to quite a few since moving to Mexico. This group was a cut above the rest! Dinner included a lot of great fish courses…something we are somewhat starved of here up in the mountains so we made the most of being on the coast. I think Red Snapper is my new favourite fish!

We also discovered a new favourite breakfast haunt….La Palapa. Situated right on the beach, we loved their eggs benedict and french toast…nearly as good as our local Lavanda here in SMA.

The following evening we visited Cafe des Artistes and enjoyed another incredible dinner under a forested canopy. Each dish was an adventure for the senses and was cooked perfectly. Afterwards we walked back down the hill and along the boardwalk to Twisted Palms for a night cap before trying to find some of our SMA friends favourite club….Dreams…need I say more?! Boys…they wouldn’t let me in!

Perhaps one of the most magical adventures of our trip was the afternoon at Ocean’s Grill – a restaurant built into the side of a cliff in a private cove. Getting to the restaurant is an adventure in itself….a local bus ride to the end of the route followed by a water taxi out to the restaurant and a somewhat precarious climb in waves from the water taxi up to the timber building. Loved every minute. Once we got up to the restaurant we were able to sit back, relax and admire the view. At times it felt like we were in a Bond movie…enjoying a unique, luxurious experience! We both ordered the fresh grilled octopus which was so tender and delicious. After an afternoon spend chatting and snoozing on a huge couch overlooking the bay, we made the return journey to PV.

The second week in December marks one of the biggest religious celebrations in the Latin American calendar – Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast Day. Thousands of people participate in nightly parades honouring the patron saint of the Americas. In PV the parades go on for hours and end at the main church in town which is dedicated to Guadalupe. The streets surrounding the church turn into a massive party with hundreds of food stalls for a 4-5 block radius offering everything from tacos to churros and everything in between. This is how to do feasting in style!

Our final evening in PV saw us heading to the heart of the feast celebrations for tacos, baked potatoes and churros – delish. Amanda and Rody have their favourite food stalls which were all fabulous…even if we were still somewhat full from our Ocean Grill exploits earlier in the day! What I loved about our meander through the streets was the opportunity to once again witness Mexican family values – such reverence for all generations coming together to remember, feast and honour! It was a great way to finish off our weekend on the coast. Given half a chance we’ll be back again soon!

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A huge thanks to Amanda, Rody, Al, Julie and Tony for showing us around PV and to Rosie, Megan and Vanessa for fun times together!

Hermosillo fun

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Take 250 people who love to self-manage themselves and what do you get? Nearsoft.

Nearsoft is a self-managed IT outsourcing organisation based in Hermosillo in North West Mexico. When we moved in Mexico earlier this year I was determined to make sure that I took the time to visit our friends at Nearsoft to see the secrets of their success with my own eyes. I’m so grateful that the People Team at Nearsoft decided that the run up to Christmas was the perfect time for me to pay them a visit!

The company has been growing rapidly over the last few years and has achieved 12x growth using the tools of Freedom at Work™ and self-management where people engage in peer-to-peer relationships, make decisions together and support each other’s individual and collective growth.

To say that I was impressed by Nearsoft is an understatement. They have created something so rare. Over the course of my few days in Hermosillo I asked so many of the team what their secret sauce is….no one could give me an answer. Freedom at Work comes relatively naturally to the team. They are all mature thinkers and understand to whom and to what they are responsible. Many teammates commented that one of the reasons they love working at Nearsoft is the ability to determine their own destiny because each person is trusted to get the job done. All said that this was in stark contrast to previous jobs in command and control style organisations.

When people arrive at Nearsoft, they may have a job description but this doesn’t mean they can’t explore other interests and activities. In exploring the WorldBlu 10 Principles of Organizational Democracy™, Nearsoft utilised the principle of Choice through project exchanges, mentoring, work sharing, and discussions, where employees get the chance to learn and decide how they want to develop their career and/or change their role. By doing all they can to ensure employees are in the right role, the company ensures that all individuals are happy, engaged, and working at their best.

It’s not unusual to find groups of Nearsoftians getting together for dinner at the weekend or going to see a movie together. This year a number of teammates are expecting babies and they recently held a giant baby shower for all the expectant mothers. In addition, they actively hire women (unusual in the IT sector) and have implemented a number of practices to make it easy to flexibly manage their work schedule around the needs of their children. The office games room turns into a play area for some of the children after school and children are included in holidays such as Halloween.

One of the things I love about Mexican culture is the great sense of family values. Family is number one here. And family come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. By the time I left Hermosillo, I realised that the secret sauce at Nearsoft is that they behave like a family who express unconditional love and Ubuntu – lifting the company higher in the process.

At a time when our sense of freedom and democracy is being challenged by certain ‘politicians’ and mass media who often negatively portray Mexicans as lazy and unworthy, Nearsoft shows the real story…the story the media choose to ignore. To anyone wondering what it really is like to work in an organisation where everyone is valued….take a look at Nearsoft. They are the real deal.

And being Mexicans – they work incredibly hard, and play hard too. We spent days collectively strategizing future needs for the organisation and their clients and by night we explored the town including some of the amazing food Hermosillo has to offer. I even attended my first baseball game in years and the icing on the cake was joining the company End of Year Party….Game of Thrones style. It was epic! I can’t remember the last time I went to a work Christmas party – being a remote team, it’s hard to get together at Christmas.

Our fabulous friends at Nearsoft took me into their hearts and made me a part of their family. I can’t thank all the Nearsoftians enough. You’re all a part of the WorldBlu family too.

 

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