Around the Next Corner

by Judy King 11. April 2010 21:31

  One of the things I like best about Living at Lake Chapala is that I never know what I’ll see next. I always have a camera in my pocket or purse, just in case I see one of the startling Mexican Moments that always make me fall in love with this country -- all over again.

Years ago I saw an old, old man talking on a cell phone while riding a burro. Then there was the guy carrying a picture of Jesus while leading a funeral procession. He was wearing a purple T-shirt that read: “Let’s Get Naked and Party.” Do you think I had a camera?

Then I spotted a man in Chapala pedaling a bicycle up the hill by the Monte Carlo Hotel. As he passed the intersection with the street that kiddie-carends at the Chapel of the Virgin of Lourdes, he held his cap over his heart, and kept on pedaling up the hill with just one hand on the handlebar.

A 12-Year-Old  Driver

A couple years I spotted a young man driving a car. Make that a very young man driving a car. He must have been 11 or 12; driving along Zaragosa in Ajijic – his same-age buddy riding shotgun. I didn’t get the chance to see if he was sitting on a pillow so he could see over the steering wheel.

I’ve seen grownups from major US and Canadian cities grow pale at the thought of maneuvering a vehicle along the parked cars on Ajijic’s narrow, bumpy, cobblestone streets. This kid not only seemed fearless, and looked like he was having a great time, he also was doing a good job of avoiding pedestrians and other vehicles. Still….

walking-the-plank  Walking the Tightrope

I’ve always been glad I had my camera in my purse when I saw the truck in the photo at left. I barely believed my eyes – let alone having a chance of anyone else believing me.

Let me set the scene for you. The dump truck was full of sand that the workers needed to unload onto the roof of the house across the street.

Nothing is impossible in this country. They just leaned a ladder up against the house, balanced a ladder from the edge of the truck -- across the street  -- and slid it through the rungs of the upright ladder.

Then bravest of the bunch walked across the horizontal ladder Carrying  two 5-gallon buckets of sand.

More amazing still is that they waved me to continue driving up the street – and I drove under that ladder!

Unusual Sights – Right at Home

I didn’t even have to leave the house to get pictures of an unusual scene today. I was sorting a couple of the storage boxes in my garage when the fire truck pulled up – right out front and the bomberos (firemen) started pulling hoses off the truck.

I’ve only known of two or three house fires in the past 19 years in homes made of brick there’s little to burn, but still, I dashed to the door to look for smoke. It wasn’t smoke or a fire. A fireman climbed up onto the roof of the cab, signaled to the guys on the ground that he was ready, and when they’d upped the water pressure, he gave one spot on the trunk of the tree a good, long, mighty blast of water.

hose water

The explanation? It looked to me as if they were after a nest or swarm of insects. Still seems strange. When I had “killer” black bees trying to start a hive in the eaves of my house 15 or so years ago, the city sent out  crew to smoke them out and exterminate them – at 3 a.m. so they would be quiet and the streets empty.

Talking About Trees

Here’s another adventure – right in my own back yard. I invited this crew to cut my avocado crop last year. There weren’t substantial branches in the right places to support their ladder, so…they found another way to make it work. It takes faith in your coworkers to climb that ladder.

climbing ladder

The process may have been a little precarious, but the men garnered dozens and dozens of large avocados. In fact, they filled the buckets they brought along, then my two laundry baskets and came back the next day for the rest. Some they took home to eat, the rest they sold at $25 pesos per kilo.

The fruit they couldn’t reach eventually fell from the upper reaches of the tree, much to the delight of the birds that visit my garden and of my dogs who also love the buttery fruit. Bet you didn’t know that many of the more expensive brands of dog food include avocados in the ingredient listing.

We all have our memories and our stories to tell – we love telling the stories at dinners and parties when as we move around the table each scene is more surprising than the one before. Still it’ll be hard to beat that guy in the funeral procession.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Answers for your Moving Concerns

by Judy King 8. April 2010 23:17

Are these questions similar to your concerns as you think about living at Lake Chapala ?

  • What do I have to do to bring my dogs to Mexico?
  • What do I do about my mail?
  • Can I just have my car shipped down to Mexico while I fly in?
  • Is it safe to have drinks with ice?
  • Where can I buy equipal furniture?
  • What are my options for health insurance in Mexico?
  • Where can I find real Mexican food?
  • If you have to drink purified water, how do you manage to safely have a shower or wash the dishes?
  • What kinds of creepy crawlies do you have here?
  • Is it safe to shop in the weekly tianguis (outdoor market)?
  • Where should I go and what should I see while I’m in Mexico?
  • Financially does it make more sense to drive down here or buy a car here?
  • What are the options for TV; can I get the channels I want to watch?

  Each week since January 2002, we’ve fielded questions like these and a whole lot more during the Mexico Insights Newcomers Seminar sessions. The small groups of foreigners meet with us every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the restaurant of La Nueva Posada in Ajijic.

DCP_0004 We’re blowing our own horn today

The truth is that we tell it like it is in these information-packed three-hour sessions.

  • We sharing vital information folks need to make an educated decision about moving to Lakeside
  • We help folks find the information they need to get here less stressful
  • We explain enough to help lower the overwhelm levels for those who have just arrived.

Here’s an interesting fact

Occasionally Lakeside residents who’ve lived here for several years come to sit in one of our sessions to see what we’re presenting and how we’re doing. They’re often shocked to realize that we offer information and answers to questions and problems that they couldn’t address.

Each Session is Adjusted for the Participants

We fine tune each session to match the participants, allowing those at the meeting to choose from a list of potential topics so we can cut right to their most pressing concerns. ; nearly always we spend a great deal of the session talking about the most common concerns of folks thinking of living at Lake Chapala – part time or full time including:

  • DSC00208 Cost of Living
  • Cultural Differences
  • Money and Banking
  • Food and Drink
  • Immigration
  • Crossing the Border
  • Lakeside Climate
  • Moving your Stuff
  • Bringing your Animals
  • Cars, Driving and Insurance
  • Health Care and Insurance
  • Public Transportation
  • Renting Homes
  • Purchasing Property
  • Safety
  • Events, Holidays and Activities
  • Getting Acquainted
  • Pitfalls, Tips, and Problems

Yes, We Do Charge for the Seminar

There’s a minimal fee to attend this session -- $40 US for a couple, $25 US for a single – and that includes your coffee, a 40-page handout book, and our personalized service as your email mentor as you prepare for your move and get settled. We also invite participants to return as alumni to sit in on one more session – without charge.

kit-tamalekit-carne 

And here’s the Mexico Insights guarantee:

If we don’t answer at least three questions you didn’t know you should ask, we’ll refund your money! You can’t do much better than that!

Guess what? No one has asked for their money back, and many mention that  we’ve answered more than those three magic questions they didn’t know to ask – in the first 30 minutes. 

You Don’t Have to Reserve a Spot…But…

It’s fun for us to know when you are coming, so send us an email: info@mexico-insights.com and we’ll add you to  the list for that week. Then we’ll be looking forward to seeing you in the restaurant area of La Nueva Posada in Ajijic for your informational, fun seminar.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Snowbird Season Survival Tips from Kindergarten

by Judy King 31. January 2010 22:24

winter-people The foreign population at Lake Chapala grows by leaps and bounds every year at this time. February is the highest of the high winter season.

No one really knows how many foreigners live and visit Lakeside, but a good guess is that there are somewhere around 7,000-8,000 of us living here full time and another 10,000 who visit sometime during the year for varying lengths of time.

Some folks are saying that not as many snowbirds as usual have arrived for the winter, but frankly, just from looking at grocery store parking lots, cruising local streets and trying to claim a seat in church on Sunday, I can't tell much difference.

red-hats While local businesses and service providers eagerly await the return of the winter residents, the growing pains of our little Lakeside villages are apparent.

It isn't just the combination of full-time foreigners and winter folks that is causing the congestion on local streets — every weekend we see an invasion of the "Guad Squad" (Guadalajarans out for a weekend or a day at the lake).

Then there is the vast number of villagers who are now driving cars we’re at a point where we all need to remember our manners and share the space on the roads, in the stores, churches and sidewalks. After all, Ajijic is the town where one misplaced car can mean a traffic jam.

Here’s something to help us through the rest of the Winter -- it’s a list of Snowbird Season Survival tips adapted from Robert Fulgram's book Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

Learn to Share - Parking places, park benches, restaurant seats, and the attention of clerks and waiters. We all need patience to enjoy the winter season.

Play Fair - We are the visitors in Mexico and we need to adjust and learn to play the game here according to the rules and traditions that have worked well for 500 years.

This isn't back home, and it's not going to be…thank goodness.

Don't Hit People – Don't even hit the cars parked in the yellow-curbed, restricted spots on all of the village corners this time of year — even when you can't turn the corner onto your own street — even when cars block your driveway — not even you really, really want to.

Clean Up Your Own Mess – While many local residents don't speak English, they still understand most of what is said. Don't make assumptions about other people that put you into a very embarrassing situations.

Behave well – Have fun on your vacation; take your behavior cues from the year-round residents and Mexicans. Don't push to the front of lines, refuse to yield the right of way, talk louder when your English isn't understood, push others out of the way or affect an attitude of special entitlement.

Don't Take Things That Aren't Yours Not even someone's pride or peace or joy or dignity or enjoyment.

Flush –But not the paper. You may be able in some places, but when the problem is tree roots in old, small drain pipes, the smallest amount of paper could block the WC, creating an embarrassing problem for you.

Warm Cookies And Cold Milk Are Good – So are lots of delicious snacks and foods in Mexico that are unfamiliar to you — be adventurous and try the new treats -- they may become your favorites.

canadians-at-market Live A Balanced Life Enjoy this rare opportunity to live in a really culturally diversified community. Learn a little Spanish; participate in some of the local traditions and customs. There is a Mexican proverb, "Cada cabeza es un mundo." (Every head is a world). Things are different here from back home. Don't judge all you see by the comparisons in your own head or the way it is back home. Remember: It's not right, not wrong, just different.

Take A Nap Every Afternoon – Adjusting to life walking up hills at 5200 feet above sea level makes an afternoon nap a welcome break. Other altitude tips—drink more water, walk slowly, walk on the shady side of the street, take it easy with alcohol, and use sunscreen.

When You Go Out Into The World, Watch Out For Traffic –The only solution to the traffic problems very different style of our little world is stay cool-headed, patient, remember your defensive driving, and be cooperative. Take turns--let one of the cars waiting to get onto the highway in ahead of you. Remember—we don't have to punch a time clock. If it takes a few extra minutes to get to our destination, it's ok. We aren't trying to make a living to feed our families.

Hold Hands and Stick Together! – For those of us lucky enough to be living in the sunshine of glorious Lake Chapala, let's learn a lesson from our Mexican neighbors and treat everyone politely, warmly, and with courtesy. Smile at each other and have a pleasant winter.

 


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Maneuvering Mexico’s Winter Vacations

by Judy King 8. January 2010 22:13

christmas 2005 041 Next week life will return to normal here at Lake Chapala as Mexico’s three-week Christmas vacation ends and students return to their universities and schools and employees resume regular schedules in Guadalajara’s major corporations, and government offices.

The domino effect of thousands of Mexican tourists from the US and the far corners of the Republic manifests in traffic slowdowns on Lake Chapala’s highway and congestion in some restaurants and businesses.  Traffic here never compares to north of the border rush hour messes, the local highway slows to a bumper-to-bumper crawl most afternoons from mid-December to January’s second week. 

Traffic isn’t the only unusual occurrence and inconvenience encountered by Lakeside foreigners during the prolonged Christmas holiday.

Mexico Insights Tips for Surviving Holiday Vacation Culture Shock

  • Watch the Timing of your Move
    • Christmas vacation is the worst of all times to move your goods across the US/Mexico border . (Running a close second are the weeks before and after Easter.)
    • Customs offices at the border operate with reduced staff
    • Moving vans can be stalled in line at the inspection and processing points for days (or weeks)
    • Traffic and customs and immigration scrutiny at border crossings is much heavier than normal as Mexicans living in the US come home for Christmas and many Mexicans take holiday trips to the US.
  • Plan Ahead
    • Watch your application and issue dates on your FM-3 immigration papers and IMSS health insurance coverage. The rules for renewal require that paperwork be turned in 30 days in advance of the anniversary of your issue date. If your documents were issued in mid-to late January, you’ll be boxed into a Catch 22 situation—required to turn in paperwork when the offices are closed for the holidays.
    • If you are planning to return north of the border for the holidays or your family members are scheduled to have a Lakeside Christmas, plan to make plane reservations early in the fall. Planes fill quickly, especially for the prime travel dates. If you are willing to travel on the holiday, you’ll have not trouble booking flights.
  • Avoid Local Traffic
    • Smart residents avoid driving on the carretera (highway). You can drive from San Antonio Tlayacapan all the way to the western fringes of Ajijic on the Camino Real -- Lakeside’s original road. You probably know this east-west street by its modern series of names: in San Antonio it is Ramon Corona, it’s Camino Real (or more commonly “the horse street”) in La Floresta. At the edge of Ajijic it becomes Constitucion, then at Colón it changes to Ocampo.
    • Avoid driving from Ajijic to Jocotepec after 4 p.m. on weekends and holidays during this period. The lakeside restaurants at Piedra Barranada (just east of San Juan Cosalá) are packed with Guadalajara families enjoying family time – eating and drinking. The problem peaks when some of those drinking drivers get back on the road heading home to Guadalajara.
    • Make your regular Sam’s Club and Costco trips and holiday shopping early in December and avoid trips into Guadalajara from mid-December until the second week of January. Crowds in the big box stores and malls will be unbelievable and driving even more challenging than usual.
    • As you return to your home after Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve festivities, drive extra carefully. Local holiday tradition decrees that families, friends, even neighborhoods take to the streets for block party-type celebrations around bonfires. Many regularly traveled streets may be blocked for these gatherings.2002 Christmas parties decorations 021

Mexico Insights Valuable Driving Tips:

Want to learn more about driving in Mexico? These articles in archived issues section of Living at Lake Chapala are filled with dozens of invaluable pointers, tips and pitfalls.

  • March 2007 - “A New Level of Defensive Driving”
  • March 2009 - “Traveling Mexico’s Highways”
  • September 2009 - “Driving Tips” September 2009

Understanding the Differences

My favorite Mexican dicho (proverb) is “Cada cabeza es un mundo.” Indeed, as the saying goes, Every head is a world. As foreigners we encounter many situations, customs and traditions in Mexico that don’t make sense in our north of the border heads. I try to remember that one way of doing things isn’t right and the other wrong…they are just different.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

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