Living at Lake Chapala’s August Issue

by Judy King 1. August 2010 15:14

Wow, it’s the First Day of this year’s EIGHTH month! 
I can barely believe that this month marks the three-quarters mark of 2010. We are having another great year here at Living at Lake Chapala. In fact, nine members of our writing team has been out gathering information for our all new August issue. We've prepared a little bit of everything this month — take a look at this summary of our new articles.

image A Sailor Run Aground

Jim Tipton is introducing you to one of his very good friends in this month's Community Article. If you've not yet met Ken and Lise Clarke, you'll want to after you read about how this Lakeside couple met aboard ship and fell instantly head over heels in love. This is a love story with lasting power — when they reached dry land, they raised a family and then moved to Lakeside for retirement — and so Ken could write his story of the years at sea.

Mexico's Traditional Music

Mexico is a land of eternal music — it's part of the lifestyle — it's part of life. What's Mexico's most popular music? That, like most things in this land of contrasts, depends. There are those who would vote for orchestras playing classical music, or for classic rock and roll. More traditionally, you'd have a giant pile of votes for mariachi — that smooth blend of violins, guitars and trumpets. Earning just as much (or more) devotion from residents in central and northern Mexico would be the bandas — the groups of trumpets, trombones, clarinets, and percussion that play a type of music that sounds a little like a sharply uniformed military brass marching band colliding with The Six Fat Dutchmen Polka Band.

(Left:) A youthful group of musicians — a banda plays traditional music on the Ajijic plaza. (Right:) Bandas of all levels of fame and popularity perform in Lakeside's villages. This group came from a nearby town to play in an Ajijic club on July 17. The big name groups come to town for the annual fiesta and during mardi gras.

As Micki Wendt explains in this month's Out and About column, this isn't all about John Phillip Sousa, and it's not about Lawrence (a-one and a-two) Welk (but it helps if you were in your high school marching band and lived in the upper Midwest near a German or Polish population.) Banda music is a Mexican hybrid, and it's the love of the nation.

You may not think you know banda, but you've heard it — the bad, the ok, the good, and the really good. You're apt to hear it every time you pass a construction site or wait at a stop light behind a car with a throbbing stereo, or hear the marching band marching around town at 7 a.m. during fiesta. So far you've probably been more annoyed than in love, but give this article and the links to some professional videos a chance…you may be surprised!

Mexican banda members are snappy dressers. (Left:) This Chapala group was performing right outside the municipal building one evening — all in white and that shade of hot pink that here is called Rosa Mexicana. (Right:) Ajijic's Banda Incomparable was sporting new suits at last year's fiesta — their logo is embroidered on the back of the jackets.

Really Great Karma and  A Cookbook for a Cause

We're fixated this month on great food prepared by sets of Mexican sisters with great ideas and big hearts. First in the Mexican Kitchen, Harriet Hart is visiting a new restaurant on Calle Hidalgo in Ajijc which is owned and operated by Margarita and Rocio del Castillo. These vegetarian sisters recently moved from their home town — Guadalajara — and opened one of the cutest lunch spots in town — Buen Karma.

image image

Then former mental health professional Carol Bowman interviewed a trio of Guadalajara women — the Levy sisters — who have turned their skills in the kitchen into a cookbook (written in Spanish) and then turned the cookbook into a fundraising tool with proceeds going toward their pet project — a mental health center in Jalisco's capital city. You'll enjoy meeting the Levy sisters and learning about their favorite non-profit in this month's Health and Safety column.

The New Expat Radio Station for English Speakers

Then Judy is bringing you something very new — online radio for expats! Yep, Amigo Rodrigo is spinning American music on a 24-hour-a-day radio station — along with Mexican news and weather in English, Spanish vocabulary words and other specialty bits of information — and you can listen to it all on your computer. It couldn't be easier. Catch up with all of this in the Feature Article.

Back to School (Times Two) and Attending the Ballet 
What fun, we've devoted two slots this month to how foreigners at Lakeside get involved in the community, and take on some or all of the school expenses for slightly overwhelmed local families. While there are a dozen or more groups and organizations who are creating scholarships to pay the expenses so local kids can continue to attend classes — from Kinder through Grad School — our Cost of Living and Soul of Mexico columns tell how individuals are making a difference here at Lake Chapala.

First up Georgina Russell is back, this time in our Cost of Living slot explaining how she administers a fund for area kids. Who started this fund and this program? A trio of New York kids who were visiting their relatives at Lakeside! Now the US kids come back every year to see how the money they've raised in their home town and New York schools is being put to use here.

(Left:) One of the special joys of being a sponsor to a Lakeside student is being included in graduations, programs and special school events. (Right:) The ballet at Lake Chapala? You bet. And Scott Richards enjoyed it all – see his report in this month’s People, Places and Things.

Then long-time Lakeside resident, Phyllis Rauch explains how she and her late husband became involved in helping to educate the members of a family in their village of Nestipac. While Phyllis dreamed at first of "their kids" becoming doctors, lawyers and engineers, she reflects on how it's all worked out in real life and beautifully illustrates the Soul of Mexico piece with photos of her current (and we suspect her favorite) student Daniela.

Saving the Wild Orchids

Artist Janice Kimball delves into the world of Mexican wild orchids this month in our Homes and Lodging column. You'll enjoy her story of how she came to fall in love with these tender exotic beauties — years ago in the middle of an all-too-long Detroit winter. Now she's on a soapbox, helping us learn to protect the wild orchids from area mountains — and best of all she tells us where to find lovely, not-endangered, plants in local nurseries.

(Left:) These lavender beauties were once wild orchids in the Jalisco mountains above Lake Chapala. They've been blooming on a tree in Ajijic now for nearly 15 years. (Right:) Leave the wild orchids to bloom for another year in the mountains. Local nurseries have a lovely selection of hybrid orchids at very reasonable prices.

Planning for Singles

And to wrap up the issue, Judy is exploring some tips for singles living at Lakeside. It's just so important to form a support group and then finalize some of the necessary plans so that your friends will easily be able to help your children should you be recovering from illness or surgery and when you die. Look for this so very important information in the Getting Here space.

Are you a Living at Lake Chapala Subscriber?

That’s our rundown this month – and now, while you read these pieces we are already working on our Big Blowout Bicentennial Celebration for the September issue of Living at Lake Chapala. We’d love to have you become one of our family of subscribers and we’re betting you’ll love reading the very best online magazine about life in Mexico. Did we mention that subscribers have access to on-line support – we’re always here to answer your email questions! What a deal that is!

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, 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.

Not Just Another Pretty Blog

by Judy King 1. May 2010 09:04

Mexico Insights isn’t just this blog you enjoy reading every day or two. In fact, this is the little sister publications in the Mexico Insights family. Nine years before MI’s Facts, Fables, Folklore and Fiestas was revealed, Mexico Insights – Karen Blue was the other part of the “we” back then --  began publication of a monthly, full-blown online magazine, Living at Lake Chapala (

Since January 2002, we’ve released a new issue of Living at Lake Chapala on the first day of every month – each issue stuffed with full-length articles about the people, places, facts and things you need to know to visit or live at Lake Chapala. 

Here’s a preview of what’s in the new May issue:
The second best way to weather the hot afternoons of May is quiet work on the computer (the best is reading a good book in a shady hammock). There's plenty of great reading in this month's issue of Living at Lake Chapala to fill a few of those warm afternoons. Here's a preview of this month's offerings.

A Nod to Moms and their Day
Take a look at how we've honoring motherhood this month. Our Feature Article visits a large Ajijic family. You'll like meeting these folks. Mom and dad still run the small family store on Colón, meanwhile their eight siblings have achieved a great deal of education and success. We're not sure how they did it, but this is certainly an inspiring story of a determined mom and dad.

Then one of our favorite writers, Diane Goldstein shines the light on being foster parents — to puppies. Diane and her partner, Ellen, found that providing a home and bottle raising a pair of pups was more work than they imagined…2 a.m. feedings and all. You'll enjoy this story about Taking on the Bitch's Kids in our Homes and Lodging column.

(Left:) Diane and Ellen's English Sheepdog, Special Ed, has proudly proclaimed himself Puppy Daddy of Ralph and Alice, the fostered pups. (Right:) Ralph and Alice have grown into healthy and hearty playful puppies. Expected to reach about 60 pounds each, they still have some growing to do in their new forever home.

Judy is wandering around the area a bit this month, making a list of special places to go to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, the arrival of special guests and…yes Mother's Day. Look for this rundown on great food and great ambiance — and some places that have both in the Mexican Kitchen. (Well, of course, it's Mother's Day…you didn't think Judy and Lorraine would be cooking, did you?)

Peace Corps Volunteers, San Miguel and 100 Miles Around the Lake
Jim Tipton is back on the job this month…he's been out visiting Lakeside residents Judie and Bob Terry. Not only are they both returned Peace Corps Volunteers, Bob was right there at the beginning when this fine organization was in its infancy; in fact he led the first Peace Corps team. We keep telling you there are special folks here at Lakeside — and then we find more people who surprise even us. Read this story in the Community piece.

It's no surprise that Harriet Hart would head off to San Miguel Allende for the writers conference — she's been on the organizing committee for the Lakeside event every year. What did surprise even Harriet was how much she came to enjoy the keynote speaker at the event, New York Times bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver who has penned the Poisonwood Bible, Prodigal Summer, The Bean Trees, Animal Dreams, Pigs in Heaven and some eight others including her new book The Lacuna which is set in Mexico.

Two of our writers planned winter trips to San Miguel Allende. (Left:) Anita Lee recorded this picture of indigenous dancers. (Right:) This colorful street is typical of many San Miguel scenes.

Lakeside resident and writer Michael McLaughlin and his wife, Anita Lee, recently completed a grand tour of Mexico — spending about a month in several different areas. He's agreed to share his views on these areas for readers who may want to visit, or even consider spending some extended time in another part of Mexico. This month this talented pair (he writes, she shoots the great photos) have taken us to San Miguel Allende. From the famous main church, the pink stone Parroquia to their favorite taco stand, there's a lot to learn in this article.

This winter we got to know a wonderful pair of snowbirds — Carolena and José Torres. This delightful couple has been traveling in Mexico for three decades and spending time at Lakeside for more than 20 years. This winter they accomplished a long-standing goal, they traveled all the way around the lake, coming back through Mezcala. If you've been thinking about trekking around the lake, take a look at the sights that Carolena and José discovered.

Seeking Treasure, A New View of Lakeside, and Breathing Again — What a Gift
Janice Kimball is back this month with a Soul of Mexico article about seeking Mexican treasure — a Sunday expedition to find a legendary cache of golden coins hidden at the time of the Revolution. What a story this is…and what a fun read.

We welcome Scott Richards to our writers galley this month (he'll be back next month, too). Scott is new to Lake Chapala, and he's shared his first impressions of our little corner of paradise in words and his own photographs. He's made this month's Getting Here column a colorful trip around town.

We're wrapping up this issue with Phyllis Rauch's recent surgical experience. She can barely quit raving about the difference in her life and we're thrilled to have the "real" Phyllis back again after an extended time of not feeling well and barely having the energy to drag herself from point "a" to point "b". Who knew that blocked sinuses could create such problems, or that opening them up could restore normal life! We're so glad she's better and know you'll enjoy reading her piece in the Health and Safety column.

It's another great lineup of stories folks…I've enjoyed reading and preparing these articles for this month's issue. I know you're going to love them too.

By the way, it means a whole lot to our writers to get "fan mail." If you read an article you particularly enjoy, be sure to send a quick email to We'll pass it on to the writer who will be thrilled to hear from you!

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, 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.

10 Reasons to Respect Cobblestone Streets

by Judy King 5. April 2010 09:08

cows  Not everyone who lands on the shores of Lake Chapala stays on and on, living happily ever after. If there's a single personality trait that marks folks who don't adapt well to life at Lakeside, it's the latent (or overt) need to change and control.

It's an interesting phenomenon. People move here because they are enchanted with the old world charm of the area. By the time they've moved in, they are trying to implement committees, studies, groups, and programs to change almost everything—and promising that it will all be approved, inspected according to OSHA standards.

One early warning sign of discontent is a constant refrain outlining the problems of the area in sentences beginning with "Why don't they…" "Why don't they clean up the trash?" "Why don't they mow the roadsides?"

I sometimes think these folks would be thrilled if the north shore villages were torn down and rebuilt to look like those "nearly genuine, old-style" resort areas back north of the border. Using Disneyland and Dollyworld as guidelines, the Lakeside villages could become bougainvillea-draped almost-real, old mission-style towns. False fronts and adobe-like facades would hide a series of malls, senior centers, and discount chain stores.

Imagine…the villages of Lake Chapala would look like romantic old Mexico on the outside, but behind the façade would be gringolandia, bland, white, clean and uniform -- complete with garbage disposals, neat sidewalks, and trash compactors.

burros  cow

If the litany of foreigner disapproval was distilled into a list of newcomer criticisms, the number one complaint; the  most requested plan for changing Lakeside to suit visitors would certainly be: "Why don't they pave these cobblestone streets?"

Mexico Insights Cobblestone Tips:

  • Because everything is near to our homes, we drive relatively few miles each year – 4,000 to 5,000 miles – and driving on cobblestones means that we are driving slowly. We replace shocks and tires lon the same schedule as folks north of the border.
  • Wear sturdy, thick soled shoes at Lake Chapala. Tennis shoes, Crocs and hiking sandals are all perfect choices.
  • Learn the Lakeside Mantra: “Walk, Talk, Gawk…Choose One.” Read more about this important advice in our previous blog.
  • Carry a small flashlight for walking on the cobblestones and uneven sidewalks at night.

 goats burro

An Associated Press report of an Oregon Research Institute study which suggested that walking on cobblestones lowers blood pressure didn’t convince expats that cobblestones are good. 

The study, inspired by the health enjoyed by elderly Chinese who walked every day on ancient stone paths, monitored subjects (all over 60) as they walked 30 minutes a day on rounded river rocks. In just four months, they showed measurable improvements in balance and mobility, and significantly lower blood pressure.

That study was interesting, but even more fascinating was the response of the regulars on a local internet forum who thought this new-found health benefit was the only positive aspect of Lakeside's cobblestone streets.

I think there’s more, much, much more – take a look at:

Judy’s top ten reasons to have cobblestone streets:

10. There is an unending supply of cobblestones—Lake Chapala was formed by ancient volcanic action. The earth here is full of perfect cobblestones.

9. Cobblestone paving is inexpensive, no specialized equipment is required for  installation.

8. When a street needs repair, the stones are removed, stacked on the sidewalk. Then the same stones are replaced.

7. Cobblestones slow rushing water during heavy rains. Water soaks between the rocks.

6. No petroleum products are used in the process. The earth is not tainted by the disposal of dumping used asphalt.

5. Cobblestones slow traffic, reducing the number and severity of accidents.

4. Stone covered streets don't break up or develop potholes from heavy rain like asphalted streets do.

3. Cobblestones are not slick when wet.

2. Cobblestone streets keep property taxes low.

And the tie for the Number One Best Reason to keep Lakeside’s cobblestone streets:

1. They work.

1. It's not about us.

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, 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.

Don’t Drink the Water?

by Judy King 25. February 2010 19:08

Is there a traveler to Mexico who hasn't heard that warning multiple times from well meaning and concerned friends, co-workers and relatives as soon as they announce a south of the border holiday?

The warning is good – when it’s presented in the proper context. To be more correct, it would be better to warn folks by saying, “Be sure to drink pure water!”

 agua All residents and visitors of Mexico (yes, even Mexicans) always use bottled, boiled, or purified water for brushing teeth, making coffee and tea, making ice cubes and for drinking.

Here at Lake Chapala the water that comes into our homes is pumped from deep wells scattered across the area. The water pumped from those wells is pure and clean – but we assume that as the water travels through underground pipes to our homes and is stored in our home’s water storage tanks, it may become contaminated.

We choose to err on the side of safety, as do our Mexican neighbors and drink purified water.
Most of us use purified water that is delivered to our homes in five-gallon plastic jugs, similar to those you've seen back home.

When the water delivery truck passes my house every day or two, the driver cries, "AGUA." The driver carries the bottle into my house, wipes off the top of the bottle with a cloth, and puts the full garafon upside down in my ceramic dispenser. I pay him $26 pesos plus a two peso tip ($2.08 US at yesterday’s rate of 12.5 to $1 US).  That's all it takes to maintain my supply of drinking water.

If you are staying in a B&B or hotel, the management will provide you with a bottle of purified water a day. Some inns have a garafon of water in a public area so you can refill your bottle; others have installed water purification systems to provide pure water to the cold water faucet in your room. Always ask to be certain that the water in the sink is purified before you drink it or use it to brush your teeth.

Ordering Water in a Restaurant
If you order a glass of water in a Lakeside restaurant, let me assure you that you will be served purified water. The waiters won’t forget…they’ve never used water from the faucets for drinking. If you specify “bottled” or “purified” water, the cost of the bottle will usually be added to your bill (usually a bit over one dollar).

While I’m absolutely sure that a glass of water in a restaurant at Lake Chapala is safe to drink, when I'm traveling in other areas of Mexico, I am far more careful; I only drink water from sealed bottles.

Of Course You Can Have Ice in Your Drink
Far too many visitors and tourists think that they will become sick if they use ice in their soft drinks or water while they are in Mexico.

While that may once have been true, today you can safely enjoy ice cold limonada (limeade), iced tea, Coca Cola, or a mixed drink.

Mexican law governing the production of ice requires that all cylinder-shaped pieces of ice with a hole in the middle and other uniformly shaped pieces of ice must be made with purified water. The cylinders are the most commonly used ice pieces; they’re manufactured in the same plants where purified water is bottled.

Always avoid using ice that is being chipped or shaved from a large ice block. While most of those blocks are safely manufactured, it is impossible to discern the difference.

How it works: Mexican water systems We mentioned home water storage tanks in this article. Do you know the difference between a tinaco and an aljibe? Do you know why you should be sure your new Mexican house has both?

To answer these and other questions about Mexican water systems, be sure to read the Mexico Insights entry about Mexican Water Systems

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, 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.

Chose One: Walk, Talk or Gawk!

by Judy King 22. February 2010 12:47

sidewalk There's a lot to get used to when you are visiting or Living at Lake Chapala and it’s not all about drinking bottled water, speaking Spanish and learning new customs and traditions.

Soon after I arrived at Lake Chapala, a Mexican friend asked, "Why do all of you Norteamericanos walk around all the time with your head up in the sky like this?" He assumed a ramrod posture, with the head held high and looking straight ahead.

"Because our mothers told us to stand up straight and not look at our feet," I answered.

His reply was lightning fast and accurate, "But, you all fall down!"

We All Fall

We do, we all fall down. Sooner or later we forget to watch our feet and the surrounding terrain, and just like in the cartoons, "Splat, Blam, Boom!" cleaning-fish

We're stretched out on the sidewalk, the parking lot or the street, hoping that nothing but our dignity is damaged.

There are plenty of opportunities to fall here, especially when you are newly arrived from north of the border and still assume that sidewalks will be free of hazards. The truth is that there are plenty of perils everywhere.

Look at the obstacles that I avoid daily, just in my own block:

  • A tree root has raised a large chunk sidewalk
  • A man hole in the sidewalk has been partially filled with bricks, but there is no cover on it.
  • The sidewalk has been replaced by cobblestones set in cement in front of one property. Cobblestones sound charming, and look nice, and have lots of positives. BUT, it takes a while for your ankles to get strong enough to withstand the twisting and turning.
  • The sidewalk in front of the small office complex is almost two inches higher than the one next door. I broke a finger when I stubbed my toe on that little “tourist trap.”
  • The sidewalk ends in one spot and a weedy dirt path stretches out the length of the empty lot
  • There are always at least five empty 5-gallon buckets waiting to be reclaimed at the mid-block spot where the garbage is picked up six days a week.
  • The grand property on the corner put in a series of new planters. Each has a small raised decorative edge just tall enough to catch your toe.
  • There's a spot near the curb where s large dog passes each day. Obviously the dog is wandering without an owner or a plastic bag for pickup.
  • At every driveway, there are uneven places where you must step down, or up or walk on an awkward slope.
  • Down at the far corner, across from the laundry, some of the sidewalk is there, the rest has been removed, still other pieces have pushed down into the earth and roots have raised up through the soil.

You are Responsible for Your Own Actions – Even When You Fall

Newcomers assume, that if they are hurt in a fall on one of these hazards, their medical expenses and pain and suffering will be paid by the property owner's liability insurance.

That’s not the way it works. Very few homeowners or renters carry any form of property insurance coverage. Even if there is a policy in effect at the time of a fall, the injured person would probably be unable to collect.

Mexico has a wonderful concept that affects us all in many ways. Individuals are expected to be responsible for their own actions. In other words, watch where you are walking and don't stub your toe on the cobblestones, the driveways and please don't step in the hole – the buck stops with you!

If you're thinking you could just sue the homeowner, and be awarded damages in court, don't try, that’s been done and it doesn't work – not when the law expects you to be responsible for your own actions. A woman who did file that suit nearly 20 years ago stood in front of the judge and explained how her ankle had broken when she stepped in the hole. The judge's decision was instantaneous, and clear, "Why would you want to step in a hole? Case Dismissed."

It's easy to get so absorbed in exploring and seeing all the new sights that you forget to watch where you are walking. As you wander the villages, chatting with your friends, you aren't checking what's under your next footstep. When you least expect it you are temporarily airborne, and then splattered all over the sidewalk.

Make this your constant mantra while in Mexico....

Gawk, Talk, or Walk – choose just one!.

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, 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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