Born: Colorado, US
Lives: San Telmo
Education: BA in holistic health and natural healing at Evergreen State College in Washington
Profession: Yoga teacher at Buena Onda Yoga and cook at Jueves a la mesa
Book: A book on organic gardens
Film: Blue is the Warmest Color
Gadget: My new garlic mincer
When first-grade teacher Meghan Lewis hit 30, she decided to gift herself a trip to a foreign land to learn the tango and a brand-new language. A chance meeting at a bus stop led her to setting up a yoga business and, six years on, San Telmo is definitely home for her.
Meghan says: “The first time I came to Buenos Aires was as a gift to myself for my 30th birthday and I came to dance tango and learn the language – that was in 2008. The Spanish institute I was studying at sent me to live in an apartment in Microcentro and I’m always surprised how I fell in love with the city as it was winter and I practically lived in Constitución.
“At the time, I was teaching first grade in elementary school in California, which was very tiring. I returned to the US planning to teach but within a few days I knew I wanted to come back so I returned to Buenos Aires six weeks later.”
Giving up her job
Jacking in a steady job and selling off some of her possessions for what was meant to be a year of adventure raised a few eyebrows from her family but once those 12 months were up, they soon realized Meghan’s lifestyle change would be more permanent.
She says: “I had a really good job that I sometimes miss, at least the salary! The plan was to come to Argentina for a year and that it was going to be a fun adventure. I remember the first time I went back, my brother told me that he thought I was insane and couldn’t believe I’d actually done it! And this year when I was home I heard my mother tell my aunt that she thought I really was moving here and that she felt a difference in me. I’m very grateful to them as they don’t tell me that they miss me very much. I think they also think it’s amusing because a lot of people my age have their two kids, a job and a house, so I am a bit of an oddball in that sense.
“But I find Buenos Aires very enchanting and Avenida de Mayo, for example, is my favourite street. You can see so much hope and pride in the beauty of the architecture. Big dreams. I love it. If you look above eye level you can find beauty everywhere!
“I also found people, aside from waiters, to be so welcoming. On the street, people were so friendly, it was so quirky and vibrant. I was recently in Bogotá and Medellín thinking I might want to move to Colombia and I knew after two hours that I didn’t. It’s similar to the chemistry I have with people, it’s the same with Buenos Aires – we have chemistry. We have a lot of freedom: it’s safe to walk around in the middle of the night as a woman, public transport is really good – and those are things I don’t take take for granted.”
In the early days, Meghan turned to education to earn a living. But after a chance meeting at a bus stop, she was soon able to get involved in a project she cared about. Meghan says: “I started out teaching English but I didn’t really enjoy that. But quite soon after I met Katrina – who was until very recently my business partner in Buena Onda Yoga – at a bus stop and we had a long ride back together as it turned out we were neighbours. We were experiencing a similar thing with regard to teaching English and at that time yoga wasn’t as easy to access as it is now, so I’m really grateful we met and that I started up the business with someone else.”
“I think that being foreign and living a bit outside of the culture makes everything seem a lot more possible – we make things happen as we go along. A lot of small businesses started up around the same time as we did and the lack of strict regulations plus some common sense things I grew up with as a North American were novel for the market here!
“I feel there’s way more opportunity here, though I wonder if it’s because I have foreigner’s eyes. That’s why I stayed – I can do Buena Onda Yoga and weekly dinners at Jueves a la mesa – and I don’t know how I’d be able to support myself doing the things that I really love in the US – you have to comply with more expensive bureaucracy in the US to set things up. Here you can grow things organically and they can get to a big level and I feel I can maintain a luxurious lifestyle without working as much. I say luxurious, I don’t have a car! But I have time here.”
Living in San Telmo
Meghan has made San Telmo her base, and unlike other foreigners who try out neighbourhoods for size, she’s been there for the six years. She says: “It’s such a great neighbourhood as there are tourists but it’s also barrio. I know people all over the place – it feels like a little town. As I’ve always taught yoga classes all around the city – from Cardales to Adrogué – I’ve never felt stuck in San Telmo. I don’t know why people complain about commuting because you get to see all the diversity!”
Besides teaching yoga, she’s also had the chance to set up a closed-door, vegetarian restaurant – Jueves a la mesa – that opens once a week. She says: “Obviously it’s a good niche as this place is famous for beef and there’s such a lack of spice – but I think we’re still the only closed- door vegetarian restaurant. I love having a communal table and it’s great to have 14 people a week with whom I get to share my opinion and watch them enjoy good food. I can only imagine in the US I’d have to be following commercial dishwasher rules.”
Between classes and kitchen prep, Meghan is now making her own vegetable garden. “Recently I’ve been spending time in Cardales as I’m making a garden at a friend’s house and I am enjoying being out of the city. Since I started Jueves a la mesa, one of the tag lines is about cooking with plants and looking at what the earth produces. I’ve been wanting to grow my own food and finally I have the opportunity to do it. This week I’ve been preparing the soil and turning the compost. And I’d love to bring some of the produce to Jueves a la mesa! Tomatoes, green beans, herbs…”
She’s also had the chance to travel around Argentina not just for holiday but also for work. “I’ve been to Patagonia and the south as well as the glaciers and the Lake District but the last time I went there was near El Bolsón. We’re going to do a yoga teacher training course there for two weeks in the autumn. I also go to Misiones for yoga retreats twice a year.”
After six years in Buenos Aires, Meghan has a lot of admiration for the Guía T city and transport map. “I am a huge fan of it as it’s so much more educational than a computer. I think it’s a marvel given the chaos of this city that this little book tells you how to get somewhere and how. I can’t believe how they figured how to do it but I love it! One Argentine characteristic is staying inside on rainy days and I also drink mate, as I like the ritual.”
Buenos Aires Herald, September 27, 2014
Ph: Mariano Fuchila