RECIPE FOR CHANGE:

1. Take 2 gringos aching for early retirement.

2. Add 1 google search page.

3. Look up "Haciendas For Sale.”

4. Find 1 in central Mexico.

5. Fly to said location.

6. Convince owner to carry the contract, and buy it!

Glimpses of the Mountains of Central Mexico.



Christmas, 2002

He did it. My husband, Stephen, had promised not to buy any expensive presents for Christmas, but he did it any way. I sit here, holding a brand new Macintosh Powerbook G4, glowing brushed-silver, (at least according to the picture on the box) with the wrapping paper still cradling it, and look up to see the eager , expectant faces of my two teenagers and the traitor that I married. "What do you think?”

…Inner dialogue… It’s so complicated being a woman... First of all, there’s the promises that one makes and is supposed to live up to. Secondly, there’s the honoring of one’s basic nature. I’m an artist. I seek beauty, tranquility, joy, and the deeper meaning. Thoughts churn through my brain. Where is the deeper meaning? Our kids are grown... I long to leave the gift-filled holidays behind. I try to manage a smile, but it doesn’t quite come across. They all shake their heads, knowing I’ll come around sooner or later. It’s not my fault that I’m a total idiot, they are thinking, so they can forgive me. Three hours later, with it still in its box, unopened, Stephen softens me with ”Look, I just thought it would come in handy for trying to sell our house. Just find us a place to retire, o.k.?”

January, 2003

        I sit looking out at the barren landscape, shivering, knowing how frigid that icy wind is, even though I am sheltered from it. I admit it. I have come to detest winter. My friends laugh at me. Asheville, North Carolina, is a mecca. Located in the sunny southeast, it is well known for it’s perfect climate. Protected by the Blue Ridge Mountains on one side, and the Smokies on the other, it is an Appalachian dream that boasts mild summers, and warm, mild winters. Well, relatively mild, at least compared to the Northeast. I know how hauntingly beautiful winter can be, but I long to leave it behind. I saw this happen with two generations before me, but somehow thought I would be different. Both my grandparents and my parents had arrived at similar conclusions years ago, and had become “snow birds”, leaving winter behind as they packed up possessions and headed south to Florida for the winter, only to return again in spring. Florida remains a lovely memory from my childhood, but I really have no desire to move there myself. So many people, such a delicate environment. Hot. Where then? California? Again, so many people. I go over and over the places in my mind that I have visited or lived, slowly deleting them from my imaginary list.

Where in the world would I like to live? I recall places from my past, the meadow on the cliffs of Tintagel, the foggy coast of Cornwall, and the luscious fruits I could never name when I would go to the Saturday morning farmer's market in Hawaii. One by one, the options grow shorter, as I come up with different reasons- too far away, too humid, too expensive, no English….

Pause... Why am I so eager to dismiss that? Why can’t we learn a new language? I know it’s  important  to stretch your brain, to delve into new things, so why not? Later, I run it by Stephen. He looks thoughtful, then reaches the same conclusion. Why not? Suddenly, south of the border looks really inviting. “Ooh, I want a HA-CI-EN-DA!” he shouts after me, laughing like we are sharing some big joke. The joke turns out to be on him. Running back to the brushed-silver thing that has taken over my life, I seek revenge. I google “hacienda for sale” and spend the day staring at the ad of a rambling, ancient structure located in a small village in Mexico that will eventually fill my dreams more than I ever thought was possible...

April, 2003

"What do you want to do?" I ask Stephen. He is calling from Mexico, after he has flown down to take another look at San Joaquin de las Trancas. Our first visit two months before did not make a great impression on him. One must understand that he has no imagination. He couldn't see past the dirt, the eeriness of the huge old place with no furniture, the peeling paint, lack of gardens, the silence. When he tells me later we should go back and look again, I reply that I already know how I feel. I don't need to see it again. So he flies down to meet with the owner, and soak it all in for a few days. I repeat my question. "What do you want to do?", "Slam dunk", he replies. "It's ours. We've come to an agreement."


March, 2004

           Stephen is concerned that we need to check on how things are going and give a bit of guidance to Juan, our maestro,who's helping us in the restoration process. I'm slowly working through my fear of flying... I take a deep breath, book a ticket, and fly down for a week. I know before I begin that a week isn’t enough, but circumstances dictate that it is all the time I have. During the flight I remember the last visit. We worked all day every day to try to get it into shape. Finally this time it will feel more like home.


Arriving in Leon, I smile. Another deep breath. I find a taxi that will take me to Trancas, and fight my way through a swarm of bees. I get stung, and run away. The driver has to come find me. He needs to return for gas money, then finally we’re on our way. I lean back and admire the greenery of the bajio. We arrive at Sunset and the driver helps me unload, while he gazes at the hacienda in amazement. It’s big, he says. I know.

I look across the square and see the surprise on Juan's face as he comes over. Sorry, I say, I couldn’t get through on your phone to let you know I was coming. Well, he says, it’s probably better this way. He smiles and welcomes me home.


I walk through the front doors and gasp. Everything is in disarray and covered with dust…everything. All the furniture is moved to the side. All my work before I left has disintegrated. Juan’s face is beaming. The wall is finished, see? I see. It’s beautiful.
          
I have one little weakness. I can't pass by a nursery without stopping to see what they offer. I've just returned home with yet another huge, over-flowing pick-up truck full of plants. My neighbors and workmen have ceased to be amazed. As usual, no matter what time of day or night, they all come over to help with the unloading process.

I, however, never cease to be amazed. I begin unloading with two or three people, and ten minutes later there are about 25 people of all ages engaged in the process. I guess it's just the week's entertainment to see what the señora brought home this time.

I mention to Juan that we really need more masetas, or pots. He agrees, and tells me he has found a local source, so we don't need to drive all the way to San Felipe.

Great, I say, can we go tomorrow? Por Supuesto, of course.

The next day, we arrive after having driven through a myriad of streets and barrios. I am excited to see how the pots that we buy everywhere are made. I have seen the women who paint the talavera pottery, but I have never seen a potter here. We walk down a long, dusty lane, past numerous little shacks to his house and walk back into his workshop. After my eyes become accustomed to the dim light, I see this little, ancient man huddled over a ball of clay, working diligently on it. When he is finished, he looks up, smiles, and I melt. We shake his old, gnarled, dry and dusty hands (from so many years of clay work). We watch him work for another half-hour. I always assumed that the pots were thrown on a wheel, but no. He shapes them around a mold, piecing them together. I end up buying many more than I need, and a fountain taller than he is, and know that I am a changed woman.


August, 2005


"Mom, why don't we move to Mexico for my first semester this year? I can do a cyber-program on the internet, then we can come back for second semester, in time for soccer season." I look at her, amazed. She looks back at me, eyes filled with a compassion which stretches far beyond her years. She tells me how she knows I am yearning to live in Mexico, but stay in Asheville instead, for her. She admits she misses Mexico too, and has grown to love it. She knows she'll miss her friends, but insists it's o.k... I am swallowed by the emotions of being loved and considered by this lovely creature. I rejoice and am fearful simultaneously. I always say this is what I want, but is this what I want? The last weeks are filled with the craziness of life at it's most interesting, family wedding to fly to, older dog threatening to die, uncertanties. We prepare, we pack, we move... Ahhhh.....


February, 2006

I pause and look around. There are at least nine people waiting to talk to me.

"Señora, can you please come out to the stables? We seem to have a problem with one of the horses."

"Señora, will you be going in to town today? I need a few items for the kitchen."

"Señora, would you please look at the new trees out by the pool and tell me where you would like them planted?"

"Señora, would you look at the new wall and see if it is at the correct altitude?"

"Señora, we would be honored if you would come to the fiesta for my sister's quinceanos."

"Señora Kelley, there are visitors at the front door who wish to speak to you."

"Señora, the woodworker is here it install the stable door."

"Señora, One of the guests would like to speak with you."

"Señora, the teacher at the school would like to make a presentation to you.
  The school is in need of some funding."

"Señora, I know a man who is in dire need of work.Do we have a job available for him?"

"Señora, will we be constructing individual bathrooms in the houses, or one facility for the town so that everyone has access to begin with?"

I smile, I take a deep breath, and am grateful. Thoughts of retirement have long since retired themselves. I am busier than I have ever been in my life. I feel such a part of this community, and I know that I am so blessed to be here. I am filled with energy, I smile all the time and I know that I am home. My daughter sums it up as she tells me: "Don't even THINK about going back to the states. This is my home!"

We are both peaceful, content, and joyful to be here. Stephen has eagerly handed in his notice at his hospital and will join us in April. How in the world did we find ourselves  in this faraway place? A leap of faith, and here we are...

July, 2008

When I take stock of my life, I am always amazed. Normally my contemplations end in laughter. Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined where our adventures would have taken us. I never imagined myself in the hospitality industry. I thought that I was an island, isolated and alone in my own little world. Instead, I am surrounded by an amazing community of people, vibrant and beautiful. Of course there has been the occasional bump in the road, the misunderstandings, the miscommunication. But always, I am reminded of the beautiful spirit of the Mexican people, of their determination, pride, and generosity. I am  deeply in love with them, and have such a respect for their culture.

February, 2009

What is it about this place? Every time I have ridden across the river, up to the endless plateau, there is a place where time stops, where I am certain that, in many ways, Trancas is the center of the universe. This is a place where one feels that life is, well, in a word, perfect.  Each week, I am blessed with the opportunity to welcome another group of outstanding guests to the hacienda. Just when I am convinced that I will never in my life meet such wondrous people, another group comes to show me that I should never say never. I am inspired, and at times, humbled by those who come to share the experience of the hacienda. They come and ask to spend their vacation working in the village, (this of course makes the local people cry), or grace us with the honor of celebrating their wedding with us (this of course makes me and all of our staff cry,) or just to relax, celebrate family or friendship, or drink tequila, or remember what it is about life that is so very special. They bless us with the company of their children, playing with the local children in the village, (so much laughter,) or their beautiful parents,(so much wisdom there,) or their quiet contemplation reading in a hammock, with beautiful contented smiles on their faces. They bring laughter, and friendship, and news of the outside world. They bring a lot of joy to all of us. I know that I have the best job in the whole world, and I am deeply grateful...

January, 2010

Hacienda Las Trancas goes to the Playa! I have been trying to get the staff to the beach for as long as I can remember! We finally picked up and went to Manzanillo this week.Today is Tres Reyes (Three Kings day). We had a piñata for the kids. I loved hearing their chants! Such an incredible experience to be with so many people who were seeing the ocean for the first time. When they shouted “LOOK” and pointed to the sea, I did look...at their beautiful faces...

Stephen & Kelley’s first Visit.

Our Story