Brus Westby is a contributor on our website answering members’ questions under “Hola Brus”. Now we are asking him more questions – and Jean is helping with the answers too.
Jean and and Brus were married 42 years ago this summer – congratulations! Your wedding day had a slight surprise – please tell us.
We had a legal ceremony (1972) which was officiated by the Mayor of Glen Cove, N.Y. This was attended by our immediate family: parents etc. It was very low key – we just took our lunch time off from where we working at school: the Fiedel School of Creative Arts. We went back to school and it was unusually quiet – then suddenly 600 people were in line surprising us with their greetings and a cake! We subsequently had a celebration ceremony a couple of days later when we were joined by more friends.
How did you meet?
We met at the Fiedel School one summer as high schoolers, counseling young children. Then we went to separate colleges in New York City and upstate New York.
You then went off travelling?
Yes, we went overland to India for a year and a half. We went by bus and train from London to India … We hitchhiked through Europe. We took the Orient Express to Istanbul. We went through Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan.
That was our first trip, we returned overland. It was during this trip that we became Buddhists. We had tried out a lot of other “things”. We spent three months in a Hindu yoga ashram in Pondicherry, learning different types of yoga –Hatha, Raj, Jnana, and toured Hindu temples throughout South India. Later, we did a silent Buddhist meditation retreat in the Himalayas. Buddhism did it for us and from that time on we considered ourselves Buddhists – that was 1971 before we were married.
Why did you do this extensive travelling?
We wanted to experience a world different to the world we knew: lots of young people were doing that at that time, they were all dissatisfied – there was the Vietnam war – and were looking for something better. I failed the medical with high blood pressure (for the one and only time I had this) and subsequently when they introduced the lottery system I was fortunately not called up. Ours was a “pilgrimage” in a window of time – we feel the world has changed in many ways as a result of the young people looking at life differently. I have an elder brother, a twin, and a younger sister. Jean has two sisters – but none of them felt this attraction to travel.
And then – ?
We returned to America – got married – travelled around with our cat in a van. I applied to graduate school but didn’t get in (for various reasons) – so we returned to India – only this time we flew. We thought maybe we really were supposed to go back there. We spent time in India, Nepal, Burma, Thailand, Bangladesh, Laos, Bali, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. We were in Bali for four and a half months designing and making clothes and jewellery. Then we went through Hong Kong to Japan where for 3 months Jean was a hostess in a nightclub and I was an English teacher. We also sold our Bali made items, making ends meet. Then Jean discovered she was pregnant with our son, Noah – our family joke is he was “Made in Japan” – and we flew back to America. He was born on the East Coast – and we’d had enough of being there. We wanted to find a Buddhist community, and we considered Santa Fe, Mexico, Hawaii, and – Boulder, Colorado. And that’s where went. We met and became friends with a man whose books we had read and he became our Tibetan teacher. This was very different to the Buddhism we knew and were practising – it was from Burma and parts of India. When he died his son became our teacher, and he is interested in taking it into mediation for Shambhala – this is especially good for developing confidence and compassion.
With all your extensive traveling – how did you discover Bucerias?
We had friends with children the same age as ours, (by then we also had a daughter, Kirsten), whose parents lived in Guadalajara. The parents had rented a house in Bucerias for Christmas 1982 and invited us down. We stayed upstairs at La Lomita Restaurant – and then we kept coming almost every Christmas.
What were you doing for work?
We were teachers at a Buddhist inspired pre school – Jean was the Director there for 5 years while I was teaching, and then I got my Masters in psychology. I then worked as a therapist in school in Denver for two years; then I was offered the position of Principal of a private high school in Boulder. Jean became Principal of a public elementary school, and then business manager at the same private school –so during this course of time we have been each other’s bosses! There was a lot of 24/7 in our lives.
When did you start thinking about putting down roots here?
At Christmas 2005 when we were here we saw a man in a tent with a sign selling plots of land at what is now Terralta One. He showed us the plan and we put a little red dot on it. We flew out the next day but began thinking more seriously about it: all they wanted was a US $1,000 pre construction deposit and we figured as it was only $1,000 it was worth it! So Jean flew back with Kirsten to check it out. The land at that time was actually six feet higher than it is now. There was a big arroyo and a beautiful parota tree and Jean said “right there” and truly marked that spot. Three contracts later they built the park to protect the tree – they took away private property that we had our eye on – and then they promptly cut down the tree! They said it was an accident. We came down in July to see how it was all going.
We retired in 2006 and decided we would live here during the winter – we loved the area so much and had been visiting for so long! We did not consider any other area of Mexico. It was affordable and we were able to keep our house in Boulder for the Summers.
And everything was fine when you moved in?
Well – we had no toilet seat – and no light bulbs – and no furniture! But the Mexican neighbours came along with light bulbs – and a Pepsi plastic table and four chairs. I said this is great – all we have to do is hose down the floor to keep it clean!
Splitting your year up between the two places obviously gives you family time. Would they ever consider coming down here to live?
Our daughter already has a house, also in Terralta One, and they would really like to move down here permanently. They have a daughter, Maya, she’ll be 4 in July and they love it here. Kirsten’s grown up here and has many Mexican friends here. Our son Noah and his wife are expecting a child in July – they too love it here but he is in business so …
You have a beautiful cat – is it a rescue?
This is Maggie Mae, a calico with 4 toes on each paw. She was a stray in Las Vegas and a woman adopted her and brought her here, then she returned to America just for a month so we looked after her. That was two years ago! We are looking for someone to “summer camp” her.
Your Spanish is excellent – where did you learn?
In Peru. I lived there as a kid, my father was with a mining corporation, the smelting plant town of La Oroya was at 12,200 ft – even the workers would suffer from altitude sickness and had to go down to Lima once every 6 months to recover. We were there for two years. And my younger sister was born there.
Jean: What are your hobbies or interests?
Gardening – we have a roof garden with fabulous views! And the plot next to us has become a lovely park. Mahjong. I am involved with the BBCC. And of course meditation.
Meditation of course. Painting. Golf – this is expensive, about $150 a round, so I marshall on Thursdays at the Flamingos and get a coupon which gives me a free round of golf. Theatre: I was a theatre director for 20 years and did many productions with teenagers including writing some plays – adding or deleting characters as necessary, and I’ve been involved in everything including lighting and sound. I was in a theatre troupe in Boulder called The Holy Cow !
Jean and I also attend meditation retreats where we help out in both Colorado and down here.
Anything else you’d like to share with us?
I’ve been meaning to do this – I would like to teach meditation to the locals. I see people getting stuck in an emotional backwater, harming themselves and others because they are controlled by conflicting emotions. I can do this in Spanish but I would probably need someone to help translate through any difficult questions!
Jean and Brus Westby – thank you both !