Tag Archives: living in Mexico

Why I choose Mexico every single day

This life I live here in rural Mexico is not always easy.  It is not always pretty.  It is not always butterflies and rainbows.  Quite of a number of you think I’ve completely lost my mind especially when reading about the latest challenge life in Mexico has thrown my way.  That’s all right.  You are entitled to your opinion.

Perhaps what you can’t understand, or perhaps you can, is the satisfaction I get at the end of the day.  I’ve managed to handle whatever obstacle in my path and survived to tell about it.  I don’t blindly do the same routine day after day.  My mind is alert.  My soul alive.  My senses are taut with expectations.

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That doesn’t mean I don’t despair.  Sometimes I want to just give up and go…..well, where would I go?  This is my home.  I have firmly planted my feet in the soil and to uproot now would surely be the end.

So why don’t I?  Love.  I love my life in Mexico.  I love it from the moment of waking up until the moment I lay my head down at night.  I love the relentless sun and endless blue skies.  I love the flight of the hawk overhead searching for its next meal.  I love the bleakness of the dry season.  I love the awe-inspiring vista in the rainy season.  This is where I am meant to be at this moment in time.  This is who I am.

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It’s in this choosing to love my life, rather than focus on the negative aspects, that makes the difference I think.  Maybe you think that makes me naive.  Perhaps it does.  It’s not that I don’t see the dark underside.  Rather it’s that I realize that without it, there is no light.  The rainy season is followed by the dry.  Life is interspersed with death.  

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So every day, knowing full well that it might be my last, I choose Mexico again and again.  After all……

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Inspirational Women Writers in Mexico–Judy King

Part of Surviving Mexico is finding your passion. I even have a section specifically devoted to it under Resources for Creating a Life Well-Lived in Mexico.  Without that crucial component, you won’t make it.  Honest to God!  It isn’t an easy process.  It may take years.  You may end up on side roads you never thought you’d travel.  That some of those side roads are found in Mexico our featured author, Judy King, can attest to.

I was born and raised in Iowa – part of the 5th generation of two lines of ancestors: great-great-grandparents with the surnames Thomsen and Chrestensen who emigrated from Denmark in the 1840s. I moved to Ajijic (isn’t that a fun word, with all those letters to dot?) in Jalisco, about 45 minutes from Guadalajara, from southern California in October of 1990. I’m here now because this is la Tierra de mi Corazon – the land of my heart.

I came to Mexico the year my youngest of three children entered college. All three of them were in universities in Iowa and Missouri, I was in California. It didn’t seem to make much difference if I was 1800 miles West of them or 1800 miles South of them. As a fairly recent resident of that town in California, I had just a few close friends – who were preparing to move to the east coast.

My children went through a series of changes, as college students and young adults are meant to do, and came out the other end extremely independent, and well prepared to live in the world on their own. NOT having the ability to move back to live with mom really does make a difference. Plus they really enjoyed spending holidays in Jalisco.

By the way, I’m an only child. My mother died in 1972 when I was 29, my father remarried, to a much younger woman, so I didn’t have the obligation to remain in California to care for him…I really was on my own. I came alone. I was divorced, the man I’d met and become engaged to in California had died of cancer, and with the kids in college, I sure was at loose ends.

I’ve changed so much and learned so much in these 26 years that It’s hard to know where to start and how to explain. I was a “bit” of a control freak, I learned those skills along with some other frantic traits at my mother’s knee

I’ve learned to slow down, to not push and shove and force my way through things, that stuff happens on its own schedule, that MY logic is not the logic of this country, that MY country’s way of doing things is not the only way and certainly not the best way. I’ve learned to live one day at a time, a habit that drives some of my newer in Mexico friends wild. Where are we going to lunch tomorrow? I don’t know. I’m answering these questions today. When we get to tomorrow, I’ll let you know. Why would we need to know today?

I’ve learned that time can be fluid. I’ve learned that when appointments are not kept or people are late, it has NOTHING to do with me. It’s just the way it is. AND that Mexico and the US/Canada have different ways of doing things. One isn’t right and the other wrong, they are just different.

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That means I’ve given up a good deal of judgment. Yes, some folks live in houses that others might consider hovels – they are just houses – and the people who come out of those houses every morning are spic and span, combed and coiffed, looking better than I do.

How my belief system has changed is worthy of a whole book—as “the chicken man on the road” said to me once, “Que lastima (what a shame) that extranjeros (expats) shop (and judge) with their eyes and not their hearts. He was killing chickens every morning, plucking and dressing them, and he didn’t refrigerate them, knowing that most people who bought the chickens would be cooking them for comida (meals) in the afternoon. I know from time spent at Great-Aunt Lulu’s farm and at Aunt Margaret and Aunt Betty’s places that fresh chicken is safe, doesn’t grow bacteria that is harmful to us in 4 or 5 hours, UNLESS it is refrigerated, allowed to warm up and then refrigerated again.

I’ve tried to look with my heart and not just my eyes while living here. I’ve learned that money certainly is not the basis of determining the value of people, or of deciding who has knowledge to share with me, or who is “worthy” of being my friend. Certainly a welcome change from the US, and especially Southern California where the pretense of wealth/upper class/ prestige is everything.

I’m angered, I get really HOT when expats, especially those who are new start in with “WHY DON’T THEY….pave over the cobblestones, make laws so it is quiet at night….and on and on and on….” Northerners Don’t have the right to decide what Mexicans do, with their money, with their lives, with their time, with their customs. It’s ok if it is different.

During these years I also converted to Catholicism. Ajijic’s parish church has had an English Mass every Sunday for over 50 years – fairly unusual in Mexico. I was born and raised Presbyterian – totally middle of the road, religion wise. I was a bit of a rebel and was attracted to the Catholic church in my teen years, but it was easier to give up what I wanted than to go face to face with my mother. SO, I waited until I was around 60. Mostly I did it because I was invited to so many weddings and baptisms and quinces that I really wanted to be fully part of the Mass, AND I had fallen in love with the Virgin of Guadalupe and had accepted her as my mother, as the Mexicans also do. Knowing her love and help in return had helped me heal from the leftover wounds inflicted by some born-again family members, and when I was able to accept that Her son really had nothing to do with what those people were doing and saying, I was ready to come back and be in a church again.

I’ve had my share of challenges too. I met an American man here and married him here. I didn’t realize he was an alcoholic and gambler. When my money was gone, he was gone, too. On to the next woman. Then when the divorce took longer than he wanted, he took her to Texas and married her too – I thought happily about putting him in jail in both countries for bigamy, but decided to sit down and shut up and wait until the 10th anniversary when I could collect my social security from his base, rather than mine. By that time the new wife had died of hepatitis, and he was living at the beach, I was here and never saw him, so it didn’t seem to make much difference. Hanging in was worth it. Now I’m collecting widow’s benefits.

It wasn’t quite that simple emotionally, however. It took a good long time for me to heal. If it hadn’t been for Al-anon, I don’t know if I would have. That’s one of the great benefits of living here at Lake Chapala – there is such a great support system of expats, and more than 100 organizations of all kinds meeting in English.

Any challenges these days are small, and usually self-inflicted if I’m honest. I’m almost 72, I’ve been here 26 years, Growing older has meant growing calmer, softer, easier, less stressed, less affected by what is happening out there. Living alone helps too!

There is a pair of accomplishments that make me the proudest. I’m delighted to be seen with respect by many of the Mexican community leaders. I’m not talking elected community officials, but the hometown guys who know who I am and how I believe and what I know about Mexican customs and traditions. They call me la media Mexicana.

The ONLY thing on my bucket list was to write and publish a book, to hold it in my hands and see my name on the front. I used to “write books” when I was 4 and 5. When I was 6 all I wanted for Christmas was a BIG pile of paper (that I could do with what I wanted), a BIG box of crayons (in 1950 that meant the box of 48) and a lot of pencils and a pencil sharpener. I just received my 4th printing of Living at Lake Chapala, which continues to sell well on amazon.com, too.

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I hope to write another book this year – The working title is FIESTAS! Celebrations of Families, Fireworks, and Faith. In it, I’ll talk about the civic and religious holidays, the customs of celebrations, and the family events, baptisms, first communion, quinceaneras, weddings, anniversaries, deaths, funerals, etc. What I need is to put myself in the chair and stay there until I compile and edit the articles I’ve already written and rewritten over the years and collate them into book format. Thankfully we have a great German/Mexican printer in Guadalajara who will print as many as we want at very reasonable prices.

I have an immigration book ½ finished but I became so angry with the power and antics of the US government – ICE and Homeland Security that I quit about 18 months ago and put it back on the shelf. The name of that was Coming Home: Real Stories of Mexican Migrants. It was a series of interviews with local guys and women who have been to the states, some back as far as the braceros, who worked there and then returned home to live. The alternate chapters would explore issues at the center of the interview – applying for visas, detention, The wall (the original wall, not the newly planned wall) etc.

Things I miss about my life before Mexico include shopping and time with my kids, but in my head, it’s my kids when they were younger, not now when they all in their mid-to-late 40s! Two of them were here for my last birthday. One will be coming this year.

I sold real estate here at Lake Chapala for 11 years, I managed B&Bs for owners, I designed interior decorator accessories for local production to be shipped to the US, Canada, and Europe, I started, edited and maintained a subscription-based online magazine, Living at Lake Chapala for 12 years, I edited a monthly print magazine, the Lake Chapala Review for 8.5 years, and I was a columnist and reporter for the Guadalajara Reporter for 2 years before I retired January 1, 2016. (NOTE: that adds up to more than 26 years! Some of those jobs overlapped, I was multitasking frequently) Now I have social security from the US.

In my free time, I sew, quilt, play the ukulele, attend church, belong to a quilt guild, to a women’s writers group, to a book club, and sharing breakfast or lunch with groups of friends. The expats here are more prone to earlier activities – I hesitate to say we’re old, exactly, but I’m actually excited about the New Year’s Eve party I’m invited to – it is scheduled from 3 to 6 p.m. PERFECT…then I can come home and put on sweats and spend the evening with my dog – she doesn’t like fireworks. Besides English Mass is at 9 a.m. on New Year’s Day.

I learned a lot of the skills I needed for daily life growing up in the 50s in Iowa and then being an Iowa farmwife in the 60s and 70s. I was well used to phone, water, and electric outages, even running out of gas. I also read the book Don’t sweat the Small Stuff….PS It’s ALL Small Stuff.  This year I want to continue quilting. I’m making TV couch quilts for my great-grandchildren. I have 2 done, 3 to go. I’ve done quilts for my daughter and one son. Need to do one for my older son this year, too, to keep things even. (smile). Then maybe I can do one for me to use for my siestas.

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I have learned to emulate my Mexican neighbors and live in today. That’s so valuable. As soon as I start to think about the past or the future, I’m prone to worry and I’m out of today. I’m inspired by the ability of people here to just keep keeping on, no matter what. Christmas is a perfect example. I grew up with a mother, and I became a mother, who had to have every flat surface decorated, who had to bake dozens of cookies, and dozens of loaves of banana and date bread to give to folks, to decorated every gift, who fussed until every gift (and there were many, too many) was absolutely perfect, and the house was spotless and the food was fit for Julia Child and the table for Martha Stewart….and we were tired to the bone and so so crabby that no one had a good time. My Mexican friends just don’t worry about it until the last few days – and then a gift or two, sometimes with their sisters making tamales, bonfires, some strings of lights, speakers, and chairs in the street on Christmas eve, and everyone has a great time. It’s all about family and not all about appearances and pretenses. WHEW…I wish I’d known this sooner.

I’d sure like to be kinder and less judgemental more often. (Note: my flares of disgust and anger are aimed at stupid expat behavior, NOT at local customs, traditions or daily life.

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I volunteer for a local orphanage – la Villa Infantil de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe y Sr San José. This children’s home houses between 35 and 40 children. Right now there are a dozen Little ones, age 2 and under and the other 25 are from 3 through 12. Some of these beautiful children are orphans, others have been abandoned in Guadalajara, others have been taken from their families due to abuse, drug use by the adults, etc. The home is run and the children cared for by three wonderful nuns – I have no idea how they manage to maintain their sanity, and they go so much farther and are calm, measured, sweet and loving to all of the calls of “Mami, Mami, Mami” (Nuns here are called Madre – so it’s automatic that they become Mami.) We do a monthly food and cleaning materials drive, we take turns providing and serving lunch for the kids when the older ones get home from school, we provide school uniforms, backpacks, and school supplies each fall. And we just provided clothes and a toy for each child for Christmas. “My” Christmas child was a 2-year-old girl. When she and her siblings arrived at the home they were so dirty and so infested with lice that their heads had to be shaved and it took multiple baths to get them clean. They are thriving now. Another little set of 4 siblings all had cigarette burns. The baby had burns on her temples. The older brother and sister had never been to school, the nine-year-old couldn’t write his own name and was addicted to the drugs his uncle had him selling and delivering and had to be in rehab for a few days to detox. Anyone wanting to help the home and the kids could call Father Basil (our English speaking priest who dedicates a good deal of his week and energy to making sure the children and nuns have what they need to keep the home running like a clock. His US VOIP number is 408-733-6042 and his Mexican Landline is (387) 763-0928

At the beginning of 2014, Our Club Ukulele de Laguna started an academy to teach local children to play the ukulele. There are 40 youngsters enrolled in the program. The adult group furnishes instruments for the kids, pays for the professional college-trained musical teacher to instruct them, and helps with all of their performances. Already some of these kids have moved beyond uke to guitar, violin, cello, and all will have the lifelong benefit in reading and math, and an advantage in life skills from the discipline and group experience of music.

Finally, I’m teaching a series of classes about Mexico for the Lake Chapala Society, a 60+-year-old expat organization here. All of my classes look at Mexico through literature and sometimes movies and music. The first class related to the Maya, Olmec, Aztec and the Conquest. The November 2016 class explored the winter holiday customs and traditions in Mexico. In January 2017 an eight-week class is titled Surviving the Revolution. We’ll look at the family in Mexico at the turn of the century and as the fervor built toward the Revolution which began in 1910. Then we’ll read and discuss the people and their experiences in several books including Rain of Gold by Victor Villasenor, and The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea. We’ll watch the movie, “Like Water for Chocolate” based on the book by Laura Esquivel, and possibly also “The Old Gringo” based on the book by Carlos Fuentes. A shorter book, written during the Revolution and included in the class is “The Underdogs” by Dr. Mariano Azuela.  

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If I had to do it all over again, I would move to Mexico earlier. I would not waste time living the first years in big gringo houses. I love my smaller rental house in the village.  I really haven’t had a defining moment in my life here. But then I chose to come here, I choose to stay here because I love it here, because this is my home, where my heart is. I’ve lived here longer than anywhere else. I don’t experience fear. I live in faith that all will be well. I know that may sound way too simplistic, but if you haven’t tried it, don’t knock it. When tough times hit, if I went to fear that the sky would fall on my head, nothing got better. If I believed, really believed that all would be well, even if I couldn’t imagine HOW, somehow it was.

One woman’s adventure with an inclusive guide on moving to, building, renting or buying your dream house in Lake Chapala. Here you’ll find everything from the average cost of living to language and culture tips that will make your life at Lake Chapala successful.  Find Judy on Twitter and Facebook.

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Modern Day Marias–Lynne, the crafter

It’s important to remember that Maria didn’t live in the time of Walmart. Everything was hand-made by the women of her community. Was Maria particularly talented in textiles? Was she an excellent baker? Did she have other creative skills?  Why were these things never mentioned by those dratted bible writers?

Today’s Modern Day Maria, Lynne, meets the arts and crafts aspect of a virtuous woman as described in Proverbs. “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands. She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple. She makes linen garments and sells them and supplies the merchants with sashes.(Proverbs 31:13,22,24)

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My name is Lynne and originally from the Oregon and Washington areas but now live just north of Ensenada, Baja California. We are fairly new to living in Mexico as it has only been 15 months. My husband and I met in Oregon and were dating other people but became good friends then later ended up together. We have been together for almost 19 years and married for 18. What is funny is his older sister’s children and mine were friends, such a small world sometimes.

My spouse was not legal and it had gotten to the point he was like in jail in our own home, no more driver’s license, only able to do odd jobs but took care of the house and yard. We were in limbo with the attorney as it took 3 years just to get data/information on my husband and decided life is too short to wait for possibly years with no guarantees for him to be able to get his papers and who knows how much money for not having a sure thing. Played with the numbers and determined we could sell the house and basically retire or semi-retire in Mexico, this would allow my husband the freedom to do as he wants without worries of immigration so we made the decision to move. I knew the final decision came down to me to actually move here but I was ready for us to move on to another phase in our lives even though he would end up having a lifetime ban from the US.

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It has been a big change for us but not just from moving to Mexico as much as us being together all the time since I’m now retired or semi-retired (not sure which yet). Sometimes when things are not going just right, he will mention I was the one who wanted to come here but he is happy we did come. We care for each other very much but we both have our days. For my spouse, the change has given him freedom and for me, it has been a transition of working in a more stressful type environment for many years to not working. I’m looking forward to getting into my artsy/craftsy phase of life.

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As to family and friends even though we don’t physically see each other very often I feel we make the effort to connect through Messenger or Hangouts via phone and video. We have set dates and times to video with the grandchildren along with talking to the kids, relatives and friends. When we do physically see people it is more quality time. I consider our move no different than if we had moved across the country. I would say if anyone, my mother has been the most difficult over the move. She constantly was making negative comments but over time this has stopped. I think some of it has to do with her seeing us on Facebook everything is going fine. I would say the hardest thing for both of us has been the family (kids and grandkids) not being physically around us especially my husband as we had part of the grandchildren almost weekly in the US, I can go visit while he can’t. We hope to finish getting through the passport process for my husband and see about a visitor’s visa to vacation in Canada so it will be easier for our immediate family to get together.

My spouse’s family are not located near here but have always gotten along with his siblings and children in the US. I have never met his mother or siblings in Mexico. He plans to see his mother for the first time in more than 25 years and the place he was raised this coming year. I’m not comfortable going since it is Guerrero which has had a lot of issues and he hasn’t been there in so many years to understand how it may have changed.

We were fortunate to sell our house in the US and buy/build our home. We are not sure what is next, I may do some part-time consulting in the field I was in – Geographical Information Systems (GIS) or sell some of the Arts & Crafts I enjoy creating. My husband is thinking of working independently as a plumber or handyman. We may look at some other options but are not rushing into anything. Whatever we decide this will supplement what we already are receiving.

The focus for the last year has been on the house but that is finally getting to the point we can start doing other things. We are craftsy people and enjoy little projects. Would like to see Baja and mainland MX over time, maybe do some house/pet sitting. I want to become involved in our community but not sure what at this time, up till now we have just contributed to different groups. I love the idea of contributing time to a group south of here that builds small homes for very poor families up in the hills.

For us, this is our next phase in our life together….

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This is so worth it…

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Modern Day Marias–Cali, a nomad

In Bethlehem, and later in Egypt, how did Maria manage household affairs?  Did the merchants take advantage of her youth, her inexperience, her foreignness?  Did she long for family?  We know that after the threat King Herod presented ended with his death, Jose moved his family back to Nazareth, where both he and Maria were from originally.  Did Maria  “considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard”? (Proverbs 31:16)  

Today’s Modern Day Maria, Cali, is still searching out a home and community.  Unless you too have left everything behind to start out on this journey of finding home you can not understand the incredible effort such an undertaking requires.  

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In 2010, my husband was arrested for a crime he committed 8 years prior.  He went to prison for 2 years and then was deported with a ban for life in 2012.  I sold all of my possessions and left for Mexico with our 2-year-old.  We have been here 5 years this coming May.

Coming from a life of parenting alone for 2 years in the US due to my husband’s incarceration, I had already been living a life without family support and often felt alone.  Since moving to Chihuahua, Chihuahua we have experienced a ton of support and love from my husband’s family. For many of them, it was the first time meeting me. There’s not a lot of activities for kids here and the city is most definitely not the prettiest, well, not in my eyes anyway,  but I love the family unity I found.  They help give me strength to make it day by day.

Although I’m improving, I continue to struggle to speak Spanish which means I don’t socialize much. The people seem nice and often approach us to make conversation. Although I will say that when going to places to buy things, we are usually asked to pay more what they would offer the same service or product to a Mexican.

Since realizing that we will not be returning to the US, we are no longer tying ourselves down to this city but spreading our wings and adventuring to another city called Puerto Penasco. It is my dream to live near an ocean. Also, there is a large mix of Mexicans and Americans there and I look forward to socializing more with them.

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