Ask About Mexico
by Maggie Van
pair of old friends from New York dropped in to see me for a couple
of days. First thing I have to tell you is that we hadn't seen each
other in over twenty years. Second thing is that they thought my having
lived in Mexico
for four years while still maintaining a home there, was the most
interesting thing about me. And they're right.
Before we even finished lunch here in my cabin in the Las Padres National
Forest, they just had to ask the Big Question. No, it had nothing
to do with how we looked, had we changed, what had we been doing all
that time, how were our kids, or anything like that.
It was "What's it like in Mexico?"
followed by "Weren't you scared?" and "Don't they kidnap you there?"
In case anyone reading this publication is wondering the same things,
here's what I told my friends:
Mexico is indescribably
beautiful, but I'll try to describe it anyway. The flowers are more
colorful, the gardens more divine, and the weather more stable than
anyplace else except maybe heaven. Well, okay, maybe Hawaii, too.
You can't be lonely in Ajijic unless you want to be, because the Lake
Chapala Society is there to answer questions and offer help. Besides,
there's more social life in that little Village by the Lake than in
New York City, if you want it.
You don't have to speak Spanish, though it would be respectful to
Mexicans if you learned at least a little. Spanish lessons are plentiful
and made quite easy. Know how wonderful it is when foreigners come
to the U.S. and try hard to speak English? It's the same thing in
The toll roads are at least as good as the highways and freeways in
the U.S.A., and the roadside food and rest stations are clean, attractive,
and have grassy areas to walk your dog. Or your husband, if he needs
If your car breaks down, you don't have to wait longer than a couple
of hours until a Green Angel comes along. They will repair your vehicle
if at all possible, at no charge (except for parts).
Should you get a speeding ticket and a policeman offers to take care
of it for you, let him. It will save you the time of going to court
maybe that day or the next, and what do you care if he uses the money
you give to actually pay the ticket or feed his family? Either way,
you can be on your way.
You can buy anything in Ajijic you want except a few things which
you can get in Guadalajara. Lacking a car or courage to drive a rental
car to The Big City, you can get to Guadalajara by taxi. If you take
the same one I did and it's raining, watch the driver hang out the
window swiping at the windshield with a red rag because the wipers
haven't worked since 1955. This is better than TV.
Speaking of TV, you can get satellite TV (large or small dish), and
check out videos at the Lake Chapala Society Video Library. Again,
anything you have at home, you can get in Ajijic.
There are several excellent realtors to help visitors find a house
to rent until a decision is made to buy. While the realtors are looking
for a rental, you can stay at one of the many fine small hotels in
the area. My favorite has always been La Nueva Posada, owned and operated
by the Eager Family. I consider this hotel to be one of the best anywhere
in Mexico, Canada, or the U.S.A.
Mexican food in Mexico
is so much better than Mexican food in other countries that I can
only attribute it to fantastic cooking and fresh ingredients. As to
the water, buy bottled water which is available in the well-stocked
grocery stores in Ajijic and is every bit as good as you can get at
home. You can also have it delivered.
For hair and nails, there's Yoly's. She's the Chicago-trained stylist/colorist
whose talent can be compared to anyone anywhere. Hers isn't the only
beauty shop, but she's the one I go to.
Banking is made simple by Aurora Michel, of Operadora de Fondos Lloyd.
And she has the best legs in town, too, so if your husband insists
on doing the banking, better watch out.
I have never been kidnapped and I don't know of anyone personally
who has been. Danger lurks in big cities, though, and wariness should
be part of any visit to one, in any country.
In Ajijic, there are computer repair people, people to help you with
Mexican drivers' licenses, FM-3s and other paperwork, wonderful bakeries,
restaurants, even a chicken emporium.
In short, you'll want for nothing in Mexico,
nothing at all.
Except perhaps to wonder why you didn't move there before.
Copyright Maggie Van Ostrand
"A Balloon In Cactus"
July 11, 2004 Column