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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This is my first note on the blog from Mexico where we now live... in Ajijic, the state of Jalisco, which is on Lake Chapala, about 40km from Guadalajara. We are at about 5,000 feet above sea level. Our town of about 10,000 people in an area called Lakeside which has about 60,000 people in an area that is about 25km along the lake... of those, 40,000 are Mexican (most full-time although there are a lot of folks from Guadalajara that come up for the weekends) and then there are 20,000 gringos that are split evenly between Canadians and Americans with a smattering of Europeans.

The three main towns making up Lakeside are on the north side of Lake Chapala and include Jocotopec which is at the western end of the lake; Ajijic which is about 12 km to the east; and then Chapala which is about 12km to the east of Ajijic. The area on Lake Chapala has a rich Mexican written history dating into the 15th Century, and the indigenous population goes much further back.

The gringo population began settling here about 40 to 50 years ago, and have build a spectacular infrastructure of homes in Ajijic mainly... this is due in no small way to the climate here which has been rated by National Geographic as the Second Best in the world for human living. The altitude keeps the weather relatively dry most of the year, although the rainy season from June to September can give one a sense of awe when the night time storms come through... mostly rain with spectacular lightening dancing off the many peaks around the lake. It rarely rains in the daytime. Our temperatures here average around 70 degrees, year around... although the average is mis-leading... it ranges, we have found, between night temperatures of 57F to daytime of around 92F at the warmest time... in August.

Lynnda and I moved here because we were enticed by John and Chris Guren to come and look around. This started way back when I was recovering from my rounds of radiation and surgeries for cancer in the mid-2000 time-frame. We finally came here in August, about when we had grown tired of Canada and the USA... and wanted to live elsewhere... the house had sold and we were "homeless". It took a couple of days to look around before the decision was clear... this is the next, and perhaps the last stop on our nomadic trail! Perhaps I should have written "is this the last stop on our nomadic trail". When we sent out this change of address, one of our friends commented that we must be in the "witness protection program", because we seem to move every three or four years... ha, ha... funny!

Other friends and acquaintances indicated that they thought we must have lost our minds... Mexico being a third world country and an extremely dangerous one at that... we were at times hurt by the comments, incredulous at other times... and certainly in denial all of the time. One must look at any part of the world in context... in this case, the context of the USA where the murder rate is around 6 per 100,000 of population  per year. Absent the issue of people wanting to make money selling drugs to Americans and guns to Mexicans, and the thousands of people murdered within the drug "business" culture... Mexico is safer than the USA! This country is the second fastest growing economy in the Western Hemisphere (to Brazil and is expected to bypass Brazil in the next ten years)... and the Stock Market in Mexico was the 2012 leader in the world for growth of equity value, second only to Germany, and far ahead of the USA and Canada. The peso has been very stable for several years (around 13 pesos to both the US and Canadian dollars).

We drove from NOTL to Ajijic with our two animals (Shamus our Golden Doodle and Benny our Abyssinian Cat over a six day trip. We stayed with Hilton Hotels all the way, driving about 600 km per day until we got to Laredo. When we passed through Nuevo Laredo in Mexico, we got onto a toll highway and drove through to Ajijic on highway that would make many of the states and provinces blush... lots of police, gas stations (< $3.00 fuel), and a team of free service vehicles (the green Team) available by cell phone 24 hours a day. We traveled at about 105 km (65 MPH) but we were at that lowered speed because we had a large Thule Pack and two road bikes on the roof rack... we didn't want to lose them. Hilton treated us very well all the way... sometimes we were in a Double Tree Hilton and others in either a full size Hilton or Hilto Suites hotel. The animals were welcome and while we did pay to stay with them, it was so comfortable, we could never doubt that it is worth it, and we will continue to use Hilton when on the road... here in Mexico, as well.

Our hotel when we got here was called Ajijic Suites. Elaine and Luis greeted us at about 1AM and made us welcome. We had a huge suite with separate bedroom, kitchen and so on, in the center of Ajijic. When we were out, they watched over the pets, and Shamus was allowed to spend all of his time off lead in the lobby... the other guests loved having him there. We slept in the first morning, took a deep breath and thought back to all those warnings about driving with pets, driving in Mexico, living in Mexico and so on...  when I said we were "at times hurt by the comments" it was more because the people making them were making two small errors... first, in 64 years Lynnda and I have made good decisions about  what we have done with our lives, and especially with each other. We consider things thoroughly, and while we are nomadic by nature, our travels have been conservative and safe. We just don't like doing the same thing over and over for all our years, and we would not do things that would endanger the other person in our team. Also, most of the people making the comments... and there were many... had only read the US press about Mexico, and if they had been here, they had been in resort towns on the coasts... most had never ventured into the interior of the country, where lies Ajijic. Most had never read about the history of Mexico, and had never visited Guadalajara or Mexico City. I on the other hand had been in both many times, and have been doing business in Mexico for around 25 years. I have had, for years, a deep appreciation for the problems of Mexico... but more for the great opportunities here.

The main problems, beyond the drug issue are based around the class stratification of the people. Like many cultures that were inundated by colonialists, the indigenous Indians were trampled or left in hovels to live on their own. Many stayed on their own, and have retained their culture and if our friends could come and visit those who do not live in the cities, they would be amazed by their culture, especially their music, art and food. Clearly there are problems where the indigenous and the mixed race who evolved from the colonialist's ruinous attitudes toward their progenies (and perhaps the Roman Catholic's attitudes) meet the remnants of the colonialists who retained their wealth, skin color, language and so on... very similar to the situation in Canada and the USA between the European settlers and the Indians... the indigenous Indians and the Metis are still being trampled on and while those that have been able to maintain their roots have the amazing food, art and music, the general condition of the majority of these people is worse or at least as bad as here in Mexico. We will work to help them, as a part of Lynnda and my life here.

Well, I am rambling on, aren't I...

Anyway, we have now survived the decision to move to Mexico... we did the sale of our home in Niagara; sold or gave away much of our furnishings, but not our art, our keep-sakes, and personal 'stuff'; re-organized our finances; dealt with our foundation's needs for this year; said our 'so longs' we will miss you's; shipped what was left and drove to Ajijic where we bought a beautiful two bedroom/den model home in a new yacht club; got our bank accounts set up; got all of our immigration papers in order so that we are permanent residents; got the car imported and the personal shipped stuff moved-in; learned about the markets, the money and so on; started Spanish classes; bought a second home (closes later this month) up in the hills where the views are 300 degrees of "spectacular" and where we will live from July onward, making our first home a rental property in the club; joined the Cruz Roja and am going on the Board of Directors as VP; I have started cycling again... have ridden over 500 miles already; attended a board meeting in Toronto; and done hundreds of things here... including staking my claim to a seat at Brendon's Sports Bar in Ajijic where we watch NFL games with dozens of other like minded guys while drinking Coors or XX or Ticante or one of hundreds of Tequila Anejo brands... makes those touchdowns mean something!

Lots more to say about Mexico... Hasta luego!



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good for the two of you! I worked with a person from Guadalajara way back in 1999 when I first went to Calgary and he told me all about Lake Chapala and area. Irene and I looked on the Internet some time ago but we never had the guts to go further. I always admired the two of you that you could move around like you have over the years. Someday we might get up the nerve to explore - it's time!

Harold & Irene

Blueknowser

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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!