Greetings from Ajijic (Ah-hee-heek), Jalisco…perched above glorious Lake Chapala, on Spaceship Earth, hurtling through the galaxy at roughly 1000 MPH!
Wow…can you feel it? Do you even think about it? We can’t feel the velocity, thanks to gravity, but mi esposo, Alex, and I perceive the rotation of the third aquatic rock from the sun, especially at dawn and dusk. We marvel at the luminous light shows and cloud formations and enjoy observing the planets on their ecliptic rotations as we ponder the earthly astrological nuances.
Here we are living at the edge of the Sierra Madres overlooking the largest lake in Mexico at the end of Calle Revolución…most streets in Mexico seem to be named after revolutions or revolutionaries. Our bright, dreamy rental home has become our hermitage, our sanctuary and Akashic observatory over the past two years. Does it ever get boring amidst such beauty? Not while the world simultaneously goes through its paroxysms of change—death and rebirth! Can you feel the energetic stirrings? There is so much downloaded information to discern and contemplate through our senses and multi devices. It’s easy to plunge into overload. Thankfully, to counter the inevitable TMI, I can plunge into the soothing waters of our small, temperate pool most afternoons for a restorative baptism.
Having a panoramic “outlook” has long been a priority for our creativity and well-being…maybe having been ancient astronauts or dungeon prisoners in a prior lifetime!? We could live here forever, as we said about our Tucson view townhome before finding ourselves here. So, we’ll see what our expiring lease and the magic cauldron of 2022 have in store. February 1st also begins the Chinese Year of the Water Tiger. Alex and I are both Metal Tigers and Scorpios, so there’s no telling what heaven and earth have in store for us.
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If you haven’t read my earlier blog essays on life in Gringolandia at www.lindajoystone.com, you may wonder what brought us here and why we stay. There are many reasons—from the exquisite year-round mild weather, exceptional beauty and art, music and theatric venues, friendliness, superb outdoor restaurants, affordability, walkability, easy access to cosmopolitan Guadalajara, a rich and eclectic community of friends, and excellent health and dental care—to the revolutionary-freedom vibe…appealing to old, idealistic hippies.
Dare I admit…I guess that I am…that we’re also here…in a country where I never dreamed I would live…because it’s not ‘there’. I know this sounds blasphemous to dis the alleged “greatest country on earth”, but I find that I am much more sympathetic to the many flaws, struggles and history of Mexico than of my birth country…especially over the past 5-10 years. Many of us ‘ex-pats’…a term I rarely use due to its white colonialist origins…have become disillusioned by the inequities, injustices, unaffordability, gun violence, divisiveness, and growing nationalistic tensions that could descend into civil war.
In essence, we’re here because we feel we can no longer be there…both politically, and especially financially, having been self-employed most of our adult lives. So, we’ve signed up for a cultural adventure that calls for patience, flexibility, immense humor in dealing with obstacles, and lowering our expectations of how we think things should be. The latter is a big one!
Mexico is the land of extremes! It’s noisy and chaotic as well as magical and mystical. The energy is alive…pulsating with music, art, color, rockets (cohetes), and frequent celebrations. Mexico has a youthful population, and the people are generally respectful, friendly, and tolerant of us sometimes awkward and very conspicuous Norteamericanos.
The Mexicanas are natural caregivers, hence this is a desirous destination for affordable home care or assisted living, should that ever be needed. We certainly couldn’t afford such assistance in the U.S. We have heard that in the Mexican culture mother and family come first, then fiestas, then work…and music is always at the heart of work and play.
In contrast to neat, orderly, and homogenized el norte, Mexico offers gritty, raw life—such as free-range dogs and their “gifts”; cows, horses or work trucks blocking the narrow pot-holed cobblestone roads; people seeking a handout, along with the frenetic and vibrant activity of the bountiful, outdoor markets. Being sensitive to environmental stimuli, I struggle with boundaries around what I can emotionally grasp and what I’m willing and able to give. One’s heart can get broken open daily from so much ‘life’!
In a country built upon revolutions, lawlessness and survival, the biggest disparities are between poverty and wealth…as well as labor and goods. Abundant, locally grown and prepared food and services are generally inexpensive. It’s the price of goods that can be costly, especially if imported. We love our stuff!
Gringos contribute considerable time, money, and energy to the lakeside villages by supporting the arts and education, donating food, and establishing animal shelters and spay/neuter clinics. Gringos contribute a lot to the overall local economy. However, the chronic systemic issues of poverty and low wages run deep.
Meanwhile, Gringolandia is teeming, not only with norteamericanos but with weekend Guadalajarans (Tapatíos). Due to questionable building restrictions, the third-world infrastructure is continually being burdened by first-world building…ever bigger and higher. The only two-lane ‘carratera’ road, which traverses the 180 miles around Lake Chapala, has become the “clot-atera.” It is stop-and-go traffic most days.
As to what I miss most about leaving the old country, besides Trader Joe’s markets, would be the fluency of my native tongue. I miss the ease of making phone calls, doing business, knowing the rules, and being able to easily converse with strangers. We will continue to study Spanish, but for many of us in this late stage of life, it may take longer than the time we have left to be able to carry on personal conversations. For now, we’ll settle for an exchange of heart and simple words…with the help of our trusty translator apps.
Establishing friendships is a saving grace for any foreigner in a foreign land. The first two questions you ask upon meeting kindred folk are “where are you from and how long have you been here…then, why are you here?” There are so many common stories and a remarkable array of multi-talented, intelligent, and interesting people who have chosen to immigrate.
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The take-aways for old gringos living in Mexico (anywhere, really):
- Be flexible and resilient.
- Remain active and keep moving.
- Establish creative outlets.
- Expect the unexpected and don’t over-react.
- Maintain a sense of humor in all cases…or crises…things will change!
- Have an emergency back-up plan…anything can happen.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Be friendly and courteous.
- Be alert and cautious.
- Watch your step and walk with intention.
- Wear sturdy, comfortable shoes.
- Look both ways several times when crossing the street or turning left in your car.
- Be helpful and generous but discerning, knowing when to say “gracias, no hoy (not today)!”
- Try to converse with everyone even though your Spanish sucks.
- Above all, cultivate community…knowing who your neighbors, friends, and allies are…we need each other!
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We are such magnificent and yet insignificant beings…stars and stardust…spinning through the vast galaxy. We are social animals and it is our nature to seek that place of Home, comfort and resonant kinship. I’m happy for those who have found their place and have no need to venture further, especially since so many are forced to flee due to poverty, war, or famine. We had the luxury of choice to leave.
Now in our 70s, priorities of health, safety and comfort will no doubt accelerate, bringing new challenges as to where will be the best place for us. Our plan is to stay in this area, continue to explore options, and be open to the cosmic and internal influences.
Meanwhile…to quote an evocative statement that has been printed on my Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture clinic brochures for over 30 years:
Don’t worry about what the world wants from you. Worry about what makes you come alive, because what the world needs is people who are alive. —Lawrence LeShan
Alex often asks people if they’ve had an NLE—Near Life Experience. So, what makes you come alive? What do you love, and how could you make the world more beautiful and hospitable?
Here’s to aliveness, beauty, and the Great Mystery (aka The Divine Crapshoot) that guide us and call us Home.
Paz y amor,
Linda Joy…LaJoy…Lindita…Stoner…another yourself…