A Reader Asks


A reader of Nobody Knows the Spanish I Speak asked what I missed most about not living in the United States. My answer was easy.

Some cultures record their history by cataclysmic events: the year of the big fire or flood, the day the great earthquake or tornado struck.

My history is recorded by my stomach.

In conversations with my wife and friends, it’s not unusual for me to interject a comment along the lines of, “Oh, I remember now, that was the time we were in San Francisco and I took my first bite of monkfish in lobster sauce.”

With such habits, it should come as no surprise that what I miss most about no longer living in the USA is Dungeness crab. I currently reside in the middle of Mexico, six thousand feet up in the mountains and three thousand miles from the nearest Oregon crab pot.

These days, when December rolls around, generally considered the official start of the Dungeness crab season, I am depressed. For me, there’s nothing quite as simple or as bountiful as a meal of fresh, sweet, and meaty Oregon Dungeness crab, a loaf of sourdough French bread, and a green salad, all complemented by an inexpensive bottle of wine from Trader Joe’s. Now that is a meal.

QT_Crab1Unfortunately, for me, those days and meals are gone. I’m not complaining, mind you, just describing.

It goes without saying, of course—which is why I’m going to say it—I also miss the friends we left back in Portland, even though we find no shortage of new friends here in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, a convivial tourist town known for its fiestas.

I miss certain urban conveniences. Portland, for example, believes so thoroughly in public transportation that they let you ride for free in certain areas—or did when we lived there, not sure now.

In Powell’s City of Books, Portland has, perhaps, the best used bookstore in all of America, along with oft-frequented libraries.

I like and miss the fact that Portland is almost equidistant, slightly over an hour each way by car, from either the ocean or the mountains.

I miss the clean air that floats through the Pacific Northwest because it is, at times, so fresh it could serve as a role model for retail air fresheners.

I certainly miss the variety of lush parks full of gorgeous trees and vibrant shrubs, as well as the breathtaking sweep of the Cascades, with at least two volcanoes in easy view.

However, I do not miss the damp weather or gloomy skies or traffic or pace or the relatively high cost of living of Portland.

I’ve replaced all of those things with what I consider to be a kinder-gentler-more affordable way. My new life in old Mexico is full of dry-blue skies (mostly) and a sun at my back (during the day). I walk everywhere and everywhere I walk I see brightly-colored houses, like Mark Rothko field color paintings, that make me smile.

Oregon, it’s been said, is like Ireland: All green and no gold. But if you ask me, there’s plenty of gold in Oregon, and it’s usually panned in crabbing nets during winter.

If you moved to a foreign country, what would you miss?


  1. Good point, Ellen. I do, indeed, miss puns. Fortunately, I still get a lot of laughs whenever I try to speak Spanish… unintended laughs, I’m afraid. I’m thinking of switching to Esperanto.

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