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  Texas : Features : Humor : Column - "A Balloon In Cactus"

Old Friends Ask About Mexico

by Maggie Van Ostrand
Maggie Van Ostrand
A 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 reverse.

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 walking.

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

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