One of the main reasons we like to stay for at least a month in all these places we visit is that it gives us enough time to accumulate experiences in the location so that we can weigh up the pros and cons, balancing the things we like with the things we don’t like. Right now we are vacillating a lot between those pros and cons. Ajijic is so Americanized–well North Americanized, since the majority of the ex-pats are Canadian–that it is still a little unsettling for us that we hear more English, see more blondes, and shop in stores that are filled with products from “home.” Every week, Ajijic has an organic farmer’s market filled with supposedly organic products. We would have seen more Mexicans by far at the farmer’s market in Pasadena than we saw here, even as vendors. Mexicans wouldn’t be so spend-thrift as to pay the prices here in any case–about double what the same products would cost in the regular Mexican markets. Just my musings about the place. Is this really Mexico?
I can certainly understand why Americans, and especially Canadians, would find Ajijic to be paradise on earth: the weather is absolutely splendid, with lush vegetation, cooling breezes from Lake Chapala, and clear skies almost every day. Because it’s at such a high altitude, it never gets humid, either. To us, Southern Californians that we are, these benefits are not so overwhelming; it just reminds us very strongly of San Diego.
Of course, there are great benefits to being in such an Americanized place: The Lake Chapala Society offers all the cultural advantages of home, with a library, cafe, lectures, bus tours, musical performances, Spanish classes and information about medical facilities and access to all kinds of information and discounts that would be hard to find on one’s own. We have become members for one month (100 pesos–$5)! Ajijic itself has only one tiny bookshop, no museums, and no cultural institutions to speak of. Tomorrow (our 43rd anniversary!) we will go to Guadalajara–35 miles away–for the first time, and may find that the city will provide a source of intellectual sustenance.
What this place has also made us realize, at least in our thoughts today: we are not ready for a retirement community! None of the Americans/Canadians here are under 50, and even 50 is quite young. I haven’t seen a single American young person or child. Without nearly perfect Spanish, we miss having a variety of ages and access to Mexican families and students. Even with the language, it is difficult to imagine how we could easily have those experiences. I’m hoping that when we visit other parts of Mexico, we might see if those kinds of interactions are possible.
Here are the very real positives for us: the costs of things! George is now writing up a detailed list of “Stuff in Ajijic”, which he will (hopefully) post as a blog soon. As some of you may remember if you have been reading our blogs all along, we have started this round of travels for two reasons: first, in the decision to rent out our house again, our immediate reason was that we felt we had to be out of the country for this odious administration’s first 100 days, in hopes that we could escape the unbearable effects of the destruction of American democracy (we can’t) and find out possible places of refuge if and when family and friends needed to flee. We will indeed write up the steps needed to come to Mexico on a long-term basis, should it come to that.
Our second reason is a more practical one: since we have both retired, we can no longer afford to live in our Californian home. We are consequently seeking out places that may be more affordable for us; I know we are not alone in this search. Since it is easy to rent out our house to Huntington scholars and others, we can cover those expenses while (hopefully) living elsewhere for less money. And for this reason, Mexico is indeed the winner so far: we can live much more cheaply here, and it’s only a three-hour flight to Denver to see our kids and other family. So today, one week into our one-month stay, we are still tossing up all these factors. Still on the agenda, after Mexico, is another visit to Europe (which, let’s be honest, is where we really want to be!), some forays into small-town California, and even Taos, New Mexico.You can see, then, that we are adrift, still wandering gypsies who would really like to be settled.
Meanwhile, the sun shines, we have a construction site next door with pounding sledge hammers, the birds on the lake and surrounds are a delight, and the ATMs sometimes work and sometimes don’t. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
Finally, for those friends who want to know where my picture of cats is: we have only seen one cat on the street, an adorable kitten who rushed right up to us in hopes of finding food. There are lots and lots of stray dogs on the streets of Ajijic, which may be why there are no cats!