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The Joy of Insistent Curiosity
Oct 9th, 2010 by Les

Gordon Gee,  Second Term President of Ohio State University, has said: “Continue to surprise those who would put you in a neat demographic.  Be insistently curious.”
 
“That I exist is a perpetual surprise to me.”  Rabindranath Tagore, Indian Poet, Playwright and Essayist.

David and I experienced several unexpected and pleasant surprises yesterday.  To be honest, much of our time in Mexico has been spent being pleasantly surprised…for the most part.  We greet each day with anticipation, curiosity and humor.  Trust me it’s the best way to start any day no matter where you are and I think it helps David when dealing with me and my slightly absurd outlook on life.

A young man by the name of Daniel Ibarracastellanos had opened a restaurant and gallery just a month ago.  Its name is San Pedro Restaurant & Gallery.  It is on the mountain side of the carretera between Ajijic and San Juan Cosala, next to Tabarka’s in west Ajijic.

David had received a message from a member of the Ajijic Arts Society that Daniel was looking for art for his gallery.  He took one of his most popular photographs, the Hotel Estancia located in Ajijic, had it framed and delivered it to San Pedro Restaurant & Gallery for hanging.  It was a poster-size photograph and it was hung just inside the restaurant proper.

We then, quite honestly, promptly forgot about it.  As we were driving to Guadalajara on Friday we happened by the restaurant and promised ourselves we would stop for dinner and check on the photograph.

It had been sold.  That was our first surprise – anticipated but always a joy when it happens.  As a matter of fact the person who purchased it had asked Daniel to try to reach David as he had wanted him to join him for dinner.  Not sure why, Daniel tried repeatedly to reach us on our Mexican phone but never got through. 

David’s photographic art is becoming pretty well known.  I mean it’s true it is taking off like a herd of turtles, but it is taking off.  Which brings me to the next surprise….in the place where David’s photograph had hung a collage artist had hung two of her works (see photograph below).  Lo-and-behold out popped our next surprise.  When you take a look at the picture let your eyes travel to the top left-hand corner of her collage and there you will find David’s business card…minus his name and number!  She had put together things that reminded her of Ajijic.  The photograph David had chosen to use on his business cards is one of the first photographs he took after we moved down here and is of an elderly Mexican lady watching a parade on her doorstep with her daughter.  They lived just across the street from us.

On to the third surprise, though the menu is not large it gives you a comfortable number of choices for an evening meal (they also serve breakfast and lunch).  David ordered Guacamole and chips and cheese Quesadillas and I had shrimp lightly sautéed in a wonderful sauce and served on a bed of rice with a small salad.  We both enjoyed the food immensely and, since business was slow, we had the opportunity to get to know Daniel as he joined us at our table.

He is a simply delightful young man full of hope and great ideas.  He had opened the FedEx store that is situated right next to his restaurant first and got that up and running.  Once that was done he opened the restaurant.  He works from early morning to late at night at his restaurant and gallery.  Life, at the moment, is trying to make the restaurant work and get the word out.  He has lived in the Lake Chapala area all of his life and loves to talk about all of the places to see and things to do in Mexico.

If you are out an about – those of you who live here – please add San Pedro Restaurant & Gallery to your list of “restaurants to visit”.  I just know you won’t be disappointed.  Below are pictures of the art that is currently hanging in Daniel’s gallery.

When we left San Pedro’s Daniel had us smiling like two billy goats in a briar patch.  And again I say Viva Mexico!

San Pedro Restaurant & Gallery, Carr. Chapala - Jocotepec 424-5, Rancho del Oro, Ajijic, Jal.

San Pedro Restaurant & Gallery, Carr. Chapala - Jocotepec 424-5, Rancho del Oro, Ajijic, Jal. The sign adds to the "charm" of the restaurant.

Daniel has he shared stories of his love of Mexico and all the wonderful places to visit throughout his country.

Daniel as he shared stories of his love of Mexico and all the wonderful places to visit throughout his country.

Another view of the restaurant.

Another view of the restaurant.

The collage mentioned in my story.  Take a look in the upper left-hand corner of the collage.  David is a part of what makes Ajijic interesting!  I'm not surprised!

The collage mentioned in my story. Take a look in the upper left-hand corner of the collage. David is a part of what makes Ajijic interesting! I'm not surprised!

A view of some of the art work gracing the walls of the restaurant.

A view of some of the art work gracing the walls of the restaurant.

Another view of the restaurant.

Another view of the restaurant.

This has nothing to do with the restaurant.  I do not write about the animals in Mexico and, in particular, Ajijic.  Perhaps some day.  For now I carry dog treats with me where ever I go and this is one of my many precious friends.  Just had to share!

This has nothing to do with the restaurant. I do not write about the animals in Mexico and, in particular, Ajijic. Perhaps some day. For now I carry dog treats with me where ever I go and this is one of my many precious friends. Just had to share!

Visit the BoomerstoMexico Photo Store at http://boomerstomexico.com/mexico-photos/ , to see more of the beauty of Ajijic Mexico in David’s photos.

Can We Talk Trash?
Oct 7th, 2010 by Les

Henny Youngman, British born comedian and violinist, once said: “I know a man who doesn’t pay to have his trash taken out.  How does he get rid of his trash?  He gift wraps it and puts it in an unlocked car.”

“My wife is always trying to get rid of me.  The other day she told me to put the garbage out.  I said to her I already did.  She told me to go and keep an eye on it.”  Rodney Dangerfield, American Comedian

Can we talk trash?  Not who did what to whom, mind you, actual trash?  For instance, we’ve all probably heard the saying a work desk is garbage can with drawers.  Well, at the very least someone one is putting the trash somewhere.  A high-five for that.

As I’ve mentioned before…just recently….Mexico is a developing country.  It is, when it comes to trash and in my opinion, where I believe the United States was in the 1950’s.  That, believe it or not, was when we started using in-car litter baskets.  However it took until the 1970’s when the anti-pollution campaign began to actually change the mentality of an entire nation.  One of my favorites was the one with Chief Iron Eyes, the “Crying Indian” in the “Keep America Beautiful” television ad.  Mexico is travelling that road right now.

David did not take pictures of the trash that litters many areas in Mexico.  Take my word for it, there is trash everywhere.  I’ve made mention of the habitual early morning sweeping and washing of the sidewalks and streets just outside the door of most homes and businesses in our small town.  It has in many ways afforded me the opportunity to meet many of my neighbors, and those who travel up and down our street each day to work, play, attend school, etc.

Ajijic has signs posted everywhere asking people to “help keep Ajijic beautiful” (ayuda a manteneer Ajijic hermosa).  Waste baskets adorn light poles, cement holders and railings in the town square.  I have seen people walk down the street and pick up tossed garbage and throw it into receptacles – Mexicans and gringos alike.

After the Palm Sunday procession, when Hidalgo street was covered with “palms” and within minutes of the processions passing our house, people followed with brooms and the streets were cleaned immediately.

Garbage is picked up six days a week in Ajijic.  I separate, as do many of my neighbors, plastic, cans and cardboard from the rest of the trash and that is picked up with the garbage.  Branches, grass cuttings, leaves, flowers and yard materials are picked up once a week.  Each morning all one has to do is carry their garbage to the curb and it is picked up.  Often, when I do this, I find wrappers from various food items, plastic and glass bottles, lots of cigarette butts and various other items strewn around out gate.

You know, I don’t mind sweeping these things up.  Why, you ask?  Because night time brings families out to sit upon their doorstep, meet and greet their neighbors share laughter, good natured kidding and catch up on daily news.  Kids play soccer or throw a football, teens listen to music and an impromptu party ensues.  In my mind, it is one of the safest areas of Mexico – the towns where people are present, seen, heard and aware of their neighbors.

While Mexico is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world it also struggles with the treatment of its many animals.  Ten percent (10%) of the world’s species live in this country.

There is, however, progress.  I see it every day when we are taking one of our many walks…school children picking up waste, finding a garbage can to discard it in and remembering to do the same when they eat lunches, travel home etc.  The ability to change things is apparent and the lively, intelligent, passionate and caring Mexican people are doing just that….one piece of trash at a time.

As for me, I end this piece with another saying my child –of-the-sixties mentality conjures up – save water, shower together!  Viva Mexico!

“Unless someone like “us” cares a whole awful lot,

Nothing is going to get better.  It’s just simply not.”

Dr. Seuss from The Lorax

The photographs below are some David took off of our mirador over the course of a few days.  Leaving his camera out to catch the stary-stary-night activity at it’s best, these photographs have not been enhanced in any way.  They simply show the beauty of a Mexican evening.

The evening sky from our mirador in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.

The rainy season is coming to an end, and the skies are clearing at night. This is the evening sky from our mirador in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico. We think the wispy clouds are being lit by the lights of Guadalajara, 30 miles to the north.

If you take a close look in the upper left-hand corner of this photograph you can see a shooting star.

If you take a close look in the upper left-hand corner of this photograph you can see a shooting star.

If you take a close look beginning in the lower left-hand corner of this photograph and going toward the upper right hand corner,  you will see what we think is a satellite.

If you take a close look beginning in the lower left-hand corner of this photograph and going toward the upper right hand corner, you will see what we think is a satellite. The stars are rotating around the North Star, low near the the horizon in our tropical location.

Isn't this spectacular?

Isn't this spectacular? The little line of lights at the bottom center are those of a small village across the lake.

David has been asked to place one of his photographs in “artistos del Lago” a calendar of local artists works. Seventy-five percent of the artists in this calendar are of Mexican heritage. David is one of three non-Mexicans to be included in this publication. He will also be showing some of his works in several up-coming art shows and other venues in the Lake Chapala area. We are excited about these opportunities.

Visit the BoomerstoMexico Photo Store at http://boomerstomexico.com/mexico-photos/ , to see more of the beauty of Ajijic Mexico in David’s photos.

Reality
Oct 2nd, 2010 by Les

“When you look at a city, it’s like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it.”  Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Architect

“With our eyes fixed on the future, but recognizing the realities of today, we will achieve our destiny to be as a shining city on a hill for all mankind to see.”  Ronald Reagan, fortieth President of the United States.

I strive to make my blog different then most of the blogs you see in regard to life in Mexico.  I do this for several reasons.  One of my reasons is pretty obvious; I have a humorous and slightly askew of center attitude toward life in general and David and my adventures in Ajijic Mexico in particular.  I love the absurdities of life – of which there are many as far as I’m concerned.  Perhaps it is my mental health background or maybe my genetic make-up, however laughter has served me well over my lifetime.  The most difficult of moments can be lightened by a gentle smile that begins in your heart and travels to your eyes.

There are times we must not shrink from the realities of life.  This is one of those times.  Mexico – its official name is United Mexican States – is no longer a third world country.  It is, by definition, a developing country.  We’ve all probably heard the richest man in the world (according to FORBES) is Carlos Slim and he is a Mexican.

If one were to believe the media, the narco wars are rampant everywhere in Mexico.  They are not.  From what I have seen and heard, while living here, these wars are 90% contained within the border cities, towns and villages with tentacles reaching out to the larger cities of Mexico City, Guadalajara and some of the obvious tourist areas.

In the time David and I have lived here we have not once felt concerned about our safety.  We have not once been accosted on the street and have not heard of a confrontational crime taking place in the Lake Chapala area.  We are ever conscious of our surroundings and safety, as we would no matter where we might go.

Crime is mobile.  Along with growth comes responsibility.  Schools must grow, services must be made available to citizens, health care needs must not only be available but affordable for everyone.  Like any developing country the government in Mexico is attempting to handle its people’s needs.  Mexico is currently viewed by the world as a regional power and has firmly established itself as an upper-middle-class country.

A short time ago on the road between Ajijic and Jocotepec two murders took place, in a region where there are many restaurants for the heavy tourist population.  Two young Mexican men were shot and killed by two other young Mexican men.  The argument seems to have started in Guadalajara and followed them to a restaurant just outside of San Juan Cosala.

The news of these shootings travelled quickly through area.  Much was posted on the Chapala chat boards.  There was understandable worry and concern.  One of our readers wrote the following after we had chatted about what had happened over the course of a couple of days.  It is so well written and succinct I asked him if he would mind if I shared it with my readers.  He was kind enough to agree.

1. As in the case of our neighborhood listserve in Oakland, most chat boards tend to focus on the negative news. So if you aren’t circumspect on how you weigh the news that you read on a chat board, you’ll get a skewed opinion about that place.

2. That said, if people hear about Lake Chapala and think it is like Disneyland, where nothing is wrong and everything is clean and wonderful, they’ll be mightily disappointed once they wander outside of Ajijic centro. Most Lakeside blogs (including yours), my own Facebook posts & photos (which I use as kind of a mini-blog), and ALL the real-estate funded websites focus on the positive stuff, and there is lots of it. in Mexico, and particularly Lake Chapala, has truly wonderful qualities in many ways. But truth be told, it’s a developing nation (and that’s WHY it’s inexpensive), there is a lower standard of living than the US and Canada, there is poverty, there is a different attitude about discarding trash, there are inconveniences, and so forth.

3. People can create their own reality, and if people are afraid to come here, perhaps they should not. (Even if their fear is totally groundless in reality.)

4. A correlative to #2 above.  Mexico is not for everyone. For example, it’s not for grandparents who are very involved in their grandkids lives in, say, Seattle or Kansas City. I’d also suggest it’s not for people who are unwilling to adapt to a different culture. There are people who want to move to Mexico because of the lower cost of living but want everything to be exactly the same as it was in Peoria/Carson City/Lubbock. That won’t happen, and they may stay in Mexico, but they’ll be grumpy.  (I know of some people– you may, too– who live here but don’t want to go to Mexican restaurants.)

5. We are the minority here, we are the outsiders. The government is not run by us, nor for us. For the most part we are a privileged minority, because even as pensioners (rentistas) we have more $$ than most Mexican citizens, but we’re still the minority, and that can be a new (and possibly uncomfortable) feeling for people.

I agree wholeheartedly with what he wrote.  I believe it is insightful and realistic.  No matter where you live, there are times when you must simply face facts.

With those facts in mind I still, and without a shadow of doubt, say viva Mexico!

Below are photographs of our Mexican neighbors.

Visit the BoomerstoMexico Photo Store at http://boomerstomexico.com/mexico-photos/ , to see more of the beauty of Ajijic Mexico in David’s photos.

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