Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
91Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Birds of Paradise Condos
Les and I arrived to our condo, which I rented on the internet, and it seemed nice. The condo was spacious and the complex very pretty. The first day we headed out to find the town and immediately met a couple – Max and Marie…..this meeting was indicative of many more similar meetings to come. Marie too, was very new to town, she had met Max earlier in the week and within minutes we were in Max's little car headed off to the next town where the Sunday ritual of walking up and down the lakefront malecon (boardwalk) was happening. People in this town are from somewhere else and have all had the experience of being new to town.
I think this is what creates an incredible openness to meeting and including new people. Everywhere I go, everyone I meet, seem to have lots of time to ask you where you are from and share the story of how they came to be in Ajijic. Many many of the stories are the same – somehow the person or couple heard of this part of Mexico, checked it out for a week or so and many of them fell in love with it at first site and many of them bought houses within that first week or within the first few weeks of being here. I have never heard anything like that before. Generally people research, rent, try before you buy…….that is the case for many, but it is the large number that came and knew immediately they did not have to look further. Having now been here for a few weeks, I really understand this. This area is very beautiful, is very easy to get around even without a vehicle – walking, or the bus service is very user- friendly, the weather is perfect – no air conditioners or heating required because of the temperate climate and the lack of humidity allows for comfortable living. Even with all of that, it is the friendliness of both the Mexican and the expat communities that really stand out to me. I can honestly say I have not found this kind of openness and overall happiness anywhere else in the world. For those of you who have never been in Mexico other than resorts or maybe never at all, the politeness of Mexicans is famous. It is unheard of to pass someone on the street without an acknowledgement of 'good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ or ‘good evening’. Manners are everything here and I love the civility of that. Children are well behaved and although many of the Mexicans are very poor, and families still very large: there is an inherent happiness and joy in the simple things that is very reminiscent of India. I love it here and that has surprised me. Les came and went after one week – we got into Guadalajara a couple of times – once to tour around and another time to hit the massive market in Tonala – one of the world’s largest handicrafts market. Amazing ironwork, ceramics, blown glass, furniture, carvings etc start their lives in Tonala and end up in in design studios everywhere.
Within the condo complex I was fortunate enough to find: called the Birds of Paradise for the many plants of the same name that grow throughout the complex, I have met lots of really nice people. Half seem to be from Alberta and BC, the other half from Ontario, with a smattering of Americans. Most are snowbirds and a few have chosen to make this their permanent residence. Very easy living here in the "Birds". Nice too is the variety of ages. It has surprised me how many younger retirees are here. I think it is the affordability factor that allows for this.
Josie – whom I came to Mexico with the first week, returned to spend Christmas here. We had Christmas dinner here at the complex – I think there were around 40 of us for a great potluck dinner, with Santa and a gift exchange. Neither of us, or anyone else, missed the cold weather. Instead we hung out at the pool till it was time for dinner. The way all Christmases should be. I am going to write a blog explaining the nice way Christmas is celebrated here – Josie and I were lucky enough to be able to take part in some of the Mexican traditions and it was really lovely.
Here at the ‘Birds’ I was fortunate to meet a couple from Tampa Florida: Ed and Sharon, and we have spent many afternoons cruising around the countryside, exploring many of the little towns around the lake. Even in the more remote towns, even with our limited ability to converse because of our lack of Spanish, we are met with welcoming smiles and happy families. The three of us have had some really fun times and I will miss them when they head back to Florida early January. They loved it here so much that they are joining the other masses and heading home to sell their home and quit their jobs and return to Ajijic.
Sharon documented all of their spending to determine how much it costs to live here and she found it is considerably less than in Florida – I think less than half. Food is very cheap and fresh if you shop at the farmers market – no middle man. Lots of fruits and vegetables are grown within about an hour of the lake. Rents are quite low – snowbird season (Dec- March) is high, around $1000 for a nice place, after April, rents for a big house with pool and maid and gardener are in the $650 a month range. Cheap, cheap compared to Calgary anyway. Dental services draw many people here – the Dentists are cash based and the technology and service seems to be far beyond what I am used to in Calgary. I had my teeth cleaned yesterday - $12. Fillings are $30, crowns - $158, and dentures - $242. Cheap cheap and good. Lots of people just come down for the dental work and fall in love with the place and end up returning. Movies cost less than $2 in movie theatres same as at home, medical care is top notch and immediate, the sun shines every day and there are numerous ways to give back to the community. This is a very active charitable community working with many orphanages and poverty reduction strategies. I know it might sound like an advertisement, but if you are thinking of retirement and looking for a full quality of life on a very reasonable budget: there is a reason this place has the one of the highest percentage of expats in the world – it all just works.
The fear of ongoing violence from the drug wars is a hot topic of conversation. There exists real examples of that ongoing war, but even so, life goes on and that danger seems to exist within the criminal world and the police agencies. It is not unlike the instances of gang warfare in Canada or the US. Ten people were shot in Vancouver christmas week but we did not here any warnings to not visit British Columbia.
I am here for a few more days – will be leaving on January 12 and heading for Panama. I am so glad I decided to take the time and come over from the coast and see for myself what all the fuss was about here Lakeside. Now I get it and think I will be back. I have met so many great people here and although I am continuing my quest for a perfect spot to winter this place is worth a visit for all you thinking of slowing down.