Thursday, November 22, 2007


The last few days of our visit to Mexico were spent in Guadalajara. Mexico's second largest city. We stayed at the Holiday Inn near the old town area. The hotel was nice, and more posh than we had been in Lake Chapala. After a couple of hours of watching the news on television I came to a conclusion or two. Television news is depressing, rarely is it good news, the other thing is here in the U.S. we rarely know what is going on in our neighboring countries, Canada and Mexico. We know more about some problem in Bangladesh than what is going on with the terrible flooding in southern Mexico. I don't understand it, in the U.S. we have millions of people with very close ties to both countries and yet Americans know little about what is going on in Mexico or Canada. Our ignorance is profound.

I wanted to see the murals in the public buildings of Guadalajara. I had heard of the mural painters of Mexico for decades and this was my chance to see the paintings in real life. The ones in Guadalajara painted by Orozco (sp) were in particular of interest because when they were painted there was a lot of discussion about the meaning and intent of the painter. His murals are political and contain images of the world leaders at the time and have bold graphic images and symbols of the Nazis, and war etc. I did get to see them and for their era I am sure they upset some folks. Some of the symbols I don't understand so I will have to do some research and find out what they mean.

Guadalajara is a busy, noisy, bustling city. Sometimes the crowds of people in the downtown area are a bit over whelming to this simple country woman. I am sure many Mexicans from rural areas would feel overwhelmed too. I found the stores where one's heart's desire would be filled all you need is money. The department stores rival those north of the border. I could see that a shopping trip to Guadalajara could be satisfying and if one is not careful expensive. On the other hand bargains are to be found.

The public buildings and churches are impressive as are the many plazas in the city. I have included a few photos of them. I think my next trip to Guadalajara I will make some changes and stay at a Mexican hotel and get more information as to where to dine and shop. This large city needs time to learn its finer points.

Done Did It

Well, for better or worse I have put my place up for sale. I got in touch with the real estate agent that sold me this place and figuring that he had the luck and savvy to sell me this once maybe he could sell it again.

I felt a little trepidation about signing the agreement to list the property it is making a commitment without knowing what will happen. Yes I know that is the usual thing with listing a property, but here we have plans that are complicated by my move to Mexico. So many other steps and possible complications are involved. However as usual I just go with it and figure it will all work out somehow. Wish me luck, I think I am going to need it.

The photo is the Town Hall in Jocotopec Jalisco Mexico, every town has one and it usually is located in the central part of town and close or one the town plaza.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Remember the sixties?

Just by chance one day we found a restaurant that had a sixties theme. We were having breakfast at a small restuarant known for its American style breakfasts when we started talking to a lady about finding clothing. She operates a small boutique in her and her husbands restaurant, her boutique is named Heidi's Fashions and she makes most of the clothing she sells including a very interesting tie on pants you just have to see.

Both Heidi and her husband are the nicest people very warm, friendly and open. Their restaurant is a little jewel and it serves excellent food and milk shakes that put places north of the border to shame. The music is fun and the decorations bring back lots of memories. So when visiting Ajijic Mexico stop in to their restaurant at Hidalgo 10, Ajijic, just up the street from the bank on the plaza.

Horses and other animals

I have heard form other sources about the so called abuse of animals in Mexico. I being an animal lover was a bit concerned. Not over wrought just a bit concerned. In my travels about the villages on the south side of Lake Chapala I began to notice animals of all kinds being kept as pets and lovingly taken care of by their Mexican owners.

I would often see a Mexican man and his dog walking, no leash just voice commands and obvious affection between the two. In many shops I entered there were one or more pet dogs of the shop owner lazing about looking for all the world as a spoiled and well loved pets. There are dogs kept as watch dogs on the roofs of some of the houses and businesses and that can seem to be a bit strange to a foreigners eyes. The I remembered there are a lot of junk yards and other business that employ guard dogs in the states, what is the difference? Now and then I would see a stray dog, cats are hard to tell if they are stray or not as they are more independent.

The horses I saw were well cared for and healthy looking all were of the pleasure riding variety. Seems it is not unusual for someone to have horse to ride about town on and they all seem to be well cared for and treated well.

Here in the photo above are two canine companions waiting with the horse for their owner to finish his visit and when he finished he mounted up and without a word quietly rode away with the dogs following happily behind.

Man on a horse

While visiting Mexico I was fascinated one by the appearance of a man on a horse. Even these days a man on a horse in Mexico is no big deal. Men women and children are riding horses through town everyday even a touristy place like Lake Chapala.

This particular man grabbed my imagination he was riding his horse through town and had this big hat and his boots were.... er, ahh, how should we put it painted gold. Now right there has got to be a story, here is this Hemingway looking gent riding his horse down an old cobblestone street with two compadres following him dragging some sort of paraphernalia making a racket with their white bearded, sombrero wearing leader with the golden shoes on his horse with his dog following the horse.

Oh, how I wanted to run up to him and say something like "you've got to tell me your story" or " who are you are you a character out of a novel?" Thank goodness I didn't make a fool of myself, in this case, and kept my mouth shut and my memory banks open and recording.

Ya just never know what or who your going to meet in Mexico. I bet he has one Hell of a story to tell :)

What am I looking for in Mexico?

I have asked myself that question several times. I get different answers every time I ask.

Mexico is not all beauty and marvelous sunsets and Mariachis strumming guitars. Mexico is also graffiti on walls, dog shit on sidewalks, people pushing you in line or just cutting in line. It is also poor people, living in terrible conditions without running water or sewers living hand to mouth. Even with this mental picture in my mind there is something about this country that pulls on one's imagination or (dare I say it) heart strings.

I don't know if some people are preprogrammed to feel affinity for other cultures or is it a subtle education process that begins early in life and is reinforced by successive experiences that prepare you for a time when you want to experience a place like Mexico a totally foreign place to people north of the border.

The question still remains, what am I looking for? In a way, a new life, a new home different than anything in the past. I feel I must not tarry and get on with this new life as quickly as possible there is only just so much time. I am hoping that this time, in this place, I get the life I always wanted .... what ever that is going to be. To quote a famous movie "life is like a box of chocolates ya never know what your going to get" this time it is Mexican Chocolate.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

What are the houses like?

The houses have many styles some are Mexican colonial and others Mexican Modern, others can be American ranch or European Villa. The styles are often mixed and clearly a house starts with a basic core and is added on to as needs arise and money becomes available. The use of tile knows no limits it seems. At times it appears that the only wood used is for decoration or for furniture. There is also a use of metal especially in decoration and lighting fixtures.

In rental units sometimes there is very little left by previous occupants. The owners don't usually include lighting fixtures, appliances or window coverings. In some cases even the water heater is removed. However if the price is right some things can be made available. The big exception to the norm is if the house is being rented furnished then everything down to the coffee pot is included. Sometimes a gardener is also included in the rent. Having a gardener is not considered an extravagance, not only does he take care of the garden but will other chores as needed. The pay they receive is modest about six or eight pesos an hour and having him work for a few hours a week is only about forty or fifty dollars a month to keep everything neat and clean outside in some cases his pay is included in the rent.

For inside the house one can employ a maid, sounds rather posh. However, quite a few Gringos employ them. The reasons are many, not only do they do the house cleaning, the can do the laundry and if you want the food shopping. Most only employ maids for house cleaning. From what I hear maids can be a source of information about how things are done in Mexico and help one to learn Spanish. Still seems strange to me to employ someone to clean up after me, as I feel I should do this myself, the guilt trip thing, as my mother was a maid. In Mexico being a maid for some Gringo/Gringa is not a put down it is a position to take pride in, it brings much needed income into the family. Many who say they won't employ a maid end up doing it after they have been living in Mexico for a while.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Where did we stay?

I searched the web for places to stay in Mexico specificly in Ajiijic, Chapala area. There is a trait of mine that you should know; sometimes I can be rather frugal (Cheap). So I was looking for an inexpensive place to stay. I found a B&B for a modest sum that served a full breakfast. Breakfast is one of my favorite meals of the day followed by lunch and supper :) So I booked us a room sight unseen.My best friend, Samantha, went with me and she booked the flights to and from Mexico.

We arrived at the Guadalajara airport on time and with our baggage. This being a first for us as when we traveled before our bags went off on a trip of their own, another story to tell. We exchanged some dollars for pesos and as directed took our directions to the taxi booth and purchased our ride to the town of Ajiijic and the B&B.

The taxis at the airport I found out are unionized and there is a strict order of assigning a taxi to a customer. We were directed to our taxi where the driver loaded our bags and us into his vehicle. Then with our Spanish directions in hand he headed off to our destination, I thought. We were headed out of the road from the airport when the driver turned into what looked like an abandoned fast food place. This is where he handed in our ticket we had purchased, I imagine that this is some sort of accounting control of the union or government and we sped off.

Did I say sped off? I live in a very quiet rural area and it had been a long time since I rode in a foreign taxi. Holy Smokes hang on !! We weaved in and out of traffic and charged down the highway flitting in and out of lines of traffic with other vehicles doing the same thing coming at us! I just held on to the strap and hoped for the best, I couldn't say anything; no Spanish words worth a damn would come to mind, the only English words were from a bumper sticker "Buckle UP,Shut Up, and Hold On". Within a relatively short space of time we were in a small Mexican town and pulling up to a sign proclaiming that we had indeed arrived at our B&B. I tipped the driver and we dragged our bags inside the gate of establishment where for the next ten days would be our home away from home.

To our pleasure there was a courtyard with lots of shade trees and plants and within a moment we found our room and a note welcoming us to the B&B. We went to the office and soon were talking with the staff who are also real state agents. We went back to our room did a little unpacking and decided to find a place to eat and see little of the town before dark.

To our surprise it began to lightly rain as we walked about the village. We went into a restaurant and the waiter explained that all the seating was outdoors, in the rain! We looked sorrowful about sitting in the rain and the next thing you know he and others were moving chairs and tables into a room and we were seated with a menu and a cold beer. Great service, wonderful food and the atmosphere was wonderful as we ate, we listened to rain on the roof and watched it splash on the patio and fountain outside our own little dining room.

After dinner we slowly made our way back to our room, walking in the rain passing people on the tiny sidewalks and crossing cobble stoned streets. A nice start to our exploratory trip to Mexico.

The adventure has begun.

Why Mexico?

Why Mexico?
To most of my friends and family the idea is either a wonderful idea or a misguided adventure of an old lady who should know better than to run off to some country that is full of danger and bafflement. "Don't you know that Mexico is full of.... well Mexicans and Banditos"," don't you read the the news?"

Well, yes I read the news and it seems no more scary than most places in the U.S.A. . I find the fact that the U.S. is filling its jails and prisons as fast as it can build them to be sign of our times, not a good sign either.

There are many Mexicos, there is a Mexico of legend, geography, climate, history, cinema, culture, drama, and many other classifications. My Mexico is what is in my mind and heart, an ever expanding vision as I learn of her history and culture. Will she fascinate me for ever? Let's face it when your past sixty your forever is not that long.

Maybe someday I will tire of the church bells and rockets going off at dawn, and the roosters crowing. Until then I will take it as it comes one day at a time and see where this leads me. So far the journey has been very interesting. Learning new things has almost always been a thrill for me, so Mexico is a country full of new things to learn and wonderful people to meet and stories to tell.

First I have to get there.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Lake Chapala

Lake Chapala located less than forty-five minutes from the second largest city in Mexico Guadalajara. The lake is about fifty miles from end to end and twelve miles across at the widest. This large body of water helps mediate the temperature of the local towns and villages around the lake at an altitude of about five thousand feet or so. Reportedly the area enjoys some of the finest weather in the world with only a few days a year getting into the forties and a few over eighty. Of course when I show up the weather gets into the forties and I didn't bring enough warm clothes so I had to buy a Mexican lady's poncho to stay warm. Then the next day it warms up, go figure.

There are mountains on both sides of the lake. The village I stayed at the mountain was rather close. This mountain and lake area gives some dramatic views. The vegetation can be dramatic, at various times of the year different trees are in bloom and flowers seem to bloom all year around. This is the first place I have been where the poinsettia when planted in the ground can become a beautiful tree. Avocado trees are plentiful as are orange and mango trees, fresh coconut is sold at roadside stands by machete wielding vendors, a common snack is coconut meat with chili powder, I prefer coconut milk and rum :)

The bougainvillea vines are every where and cascading over garden walls in bright colors adding to the beauty of the area. When plants bloom in this area they are very colorful and profuse in their blossoms. Geraniums are planted in the ground like perennials as well as in pots, Lantana grows like a weed, a beautiful weed and blooms the year around. So many plants grow so well that gardening must be a joy.

The end of the day, the sunset, is watched by natives as well as visitors as slowly the sun sets at the west end of the lake and the mountains turn various shades of blue and purple than shadows cover the lower parts of the mountains and the last of the sunlight shines on the water with the lights twinkling from the villages across the lake. Such a tranquil scene as the light fades and the birds fly by in large flocks heading to their nightly roost. Then it is time for the cocktail hour in preparation for the evening meal with friends, life is good at the lake.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

I have returned from Mexico

I have just gotten back from Mexico. The trip was a success, I had a wonderful time enjoyed my
stay got to explore around the Chapala, Aijic, Jocotopec side of Lake Chapala.

The good news is that Mexico is fun, nice people, good food, relaxing atmosphere, and very different than North of the Border. I got to see how the Gringos live there at the Lake and some live very well indeed. There are lots of pictures to post to show what it looks like in and around Lake Chapala and a little of Guadalajara.

It was nice to meet some of the local foreign residents living in the villages around the lake, there lots of foreigners living in the area some only seasonally and others on a more permanent basis.
Most of the residents looked happy, with a few grumps thrown in for good measure. Many locals shared information about the area willingly and their advice was very helpful.

I walked several hours a day in and around the villages trying to get to know the neighborhoods as best I could in a short time. There are areas that are more expensive and have wide streets and lovely homes, although one drawback of the style of home in Mexico are the walls that prevent casual observation of the homes. With persistence one can get an occasional glimpse of what is behind the walls and in some cases it is stunningly beautiful. The plainest of walls could conceal a beautiful home. The use of columns, arches, domes, copulas and tile was prevalent.

The use of bright colors was a welcome change from the the predictable color north of the border. After a while seeing an orange or purple house didn't raise one's eyebrow one bit, so encountering a deep red wall was not the least bit disturbing. The style of the less formal planned communities would best be described as eclectic. Businesses sharing the same block or even sharing walls were common place. This does not seem to cause much problem for either property owner and maybe having a mechanic next door is a good thing when you need your car fixed.

Speaking of cars there are plenty of cars both Mexican and foreign however there are those who live there and don't own one or don't use it much as most businesses are within walking distance and parking can be a problem in the older part of the villages.

During our visit the Mexican population was preparing for the Day of the Dead celebration. This is a time when the Mexican families remember their departed loved ones and celebrate their lives. In homes and businesses altars are erected in memory of the departed friends and relatives. The graves are tended and visited candles are lit and set around the grave, meals are shared and music is played even in the cemetery. There are special foods for the holiday, bread with skulls and candies shaped into skulls and decorated. There are decorative skeletons posed in various costumes displayed. This is not a particularly sad time as the Mexican people look upon death with a different point of view. Death to them, from what I have learned, is part of life and not to be thought of as macabre or scary. Hence seeing tiny chocolate coffins made just for the holiday seems to fit in, as does the local coffin maker on the plaza square, just stop by and get fitted for one (eh,eh your going to need it one day:).

This holiday is not a quiet holiday as is our memorial day in the north. This is a holiday that start weeks before with daily Masses at the local church preceded by lots of bell ringing and fireworks at 4 AM ! Depending on who is setting off the fireworks there could be one bang or a series of KABOOMS that set off the local car alarms that upset the local dogs who bark and howl at being blasted out of their sleep at such an early hour. The actual night of celebration there are even more fireworks set off at the local church lots of rockets and showers of sparks and color and a tremendous noise, all expected and enjoyed by the Mexicans and others.

This all fits in with the usual cacophony in the neighborhood; roosters crowing, dogs barking, music of all kinds and sounds of things being built and repaired. Mexico is not a quiet country, it is loud, boisterous, lively, joyous and did I say loud? There are moments of peace and quiet and then an avocado drops off a tree and crashes on the roof and falls to the metal table, one gets used to it and even anticipates it. Like hearing the gas delivery man going up and down the street hawking his gas with a recorded voice loudly proclaim BLAAA GAZZZZZ, BLAAAH, GAZZZZZ, eh, eh, it is all a part of the fabric of life in a Mexican town. If noise bothers you bring earplugs. I rather enjoyed all the sounds after a while.

I have pictures to post they are being edited and when the editing is completed I will add them to this post.