Back in Chapala…..Again

We’re back in Chapala once again. After returning last week from a trip to Houston, we needed to return to Houston for more medical treatment for Bonita. This time we planned on six days.

All seemed to go well and having flown to Houston from Guadalajara last Wednesday (a week ago), we headed to the airport to return on Monday morning. Alas, when we got there, one of the passports was missing. We remembered having placed it in a drawer in the hotel room and calling the hotel, discovered that, yes, it was there.

A rush Uber trip back to the hotel and back to the airport and we missed the flight. No other flights that we were willing to spring for (and very few directs) until Wednesday. So we spent two more days in Houston.

Certainly we were ready to return to Mexico.

It’s been almost a year since we made the move to Mexico. Yet the rush we felt returning here was “home at last”. Mexico just feels homey for us.

Arriving back on Wednesday afternoon at the Guadalajara airport, we were reminded once again of the friendliness and caring we so often observe among the Mexicans.

Our flight was on Volaris, which we liken to the Peoples’ Express of Mexico (for those who remember that airline from the eighties in the U.S.). Pretty bare-bones yet delightful. On almost all the Volaris flights we’ve taken into Guadalajara, the flight terminates on the tarmac rather than a jet-way. Not sure why, but they do. So you exit onto stairs and board a bus to take you back to the terminal.

There was a small army of personnel there to help with disembarkation. We were on the last bus, so we waited while those who needed wheelchairs were de-planed. Everyone was patient, simply waiting. And everyone was treated with respect and helped if they needed help. Just the way things seem to be done here in Mexico.

Once home in Chapala, we got to once again take our evening walk on the malecon by the lake and note the modest changes. The main road running along the malecon was closed down for another festival. Rides and stalls and food and music. Mexicans just love their parties. All family affairs, to be sure. And this one seemed religious in nature, as the cathedral was open and lit up with lots of people inside and out front.

The calming effect of familiar turf and the sheer beauty of the Lake and the city of Chapala felt all new again yet with the familiarity of home.

Wonderful to be back…..again.

Still, we have some more travel upcoming. This weekend to Mexico City for a concert and then a trip to Nuevo Laredo and Laredo to apply for our temporale visa and to re-register the car. We’ll keep you posted.

Back in Chapala–Whew!

We’re back in Chapala for a few days after a lengthy visit to the States for Bonita’s medical care.

It’s great to be back.

In some ways, we had a nice visit to the States. Great to have an unlimited choice of first-run movies. Excellent Chinese food. Shopping, in English! And, the familiarity of it all.

Yet, it felt wonderful to get back to Mexico. The atmosphere just instantly felt relaxed, chill, friendly. And the weather, back here in the low 70s/high 60s rather than the 90s and muggy in Texas.

So what are the differences?

The main one came on our departure going through the gauntlet of airport “security” in Houston. The line was short; the time elapsed long. Just the facts now. I emptied the entirety of my pockets–tissues, money (both paper and change), phone, everything. I took off my belt. I took off my shoes. So I’m holding up my pants and have to hold my hands over my head, like a perp in the whirl machine.

Somehow I flunked. So I was informed that I would have to be totally patted down (politely and thoroughly informed). And I was, and I do mean totally. With nothing, nothing but my pants and skivvies on me.

Nothing found, of course. But at least they foiled one old skinny man.

Then I learned that I had committed a cardinal sin: I didn’t take my laptop out of my backpack. So, everything had to be run through again.

Leaving Mexico on the trip out was a breeze. Luggage x-rayed, me checked (my ID, etc.) and through.

Seems that a major difference between Mexico and the States is that Mexico feels welcoming of travelers while the States are paranoid of everyone.

I know, I know. Bordering on political commentary here. Still, to us, it’s a huge difference.

We’re  very happy with our new home. Back in Chapala. Home.

Is Mexico Safe?

By far, this is the question we receive most frequently. From readers of this blog and from friends and family. Just how safe is Mexico to live in?

We believe this is a contextual question. Safe compared to what? Well, for many of those who ask, the question is posed in comparison to where they currently live. Do you live in the United States or Canada or Europe or Asia (or specific countries in those zones)?

You do? Okay. But do you really? Or do you really live in a fairly specific geographic location? A particular state, a particular city, or a particular town or rural area? We suspect it is the later. We know that for us it was.

For example, if you live in the U.S., when you heard about the recent shooter in Las Vegas attacking the country music festival, did you conclude that you were less safe where you live? (Unless, of course, you live in Las Vegas…..) Probably not. It happened elsewhere.

Prior to moving to Mexico, specifically Chapala, we lived in Arizona and then Wisconsin. Two pretty big states. We spent our days working and living in specific towns in those states. We shopped there; dined out there; went to the movies there; heard live entertainment there; attended social and cultural events there.

In short, we knew our way around; we understood, so to speak, the lay of the land. We knew, without even really thinking about it, where to go and when to go, and more importantly, where not to go and when not to go.

Unfortunately, in making the jump to Mexico, we had none of these markers, none of the familiarity that allowed us to be adept at avoiding areas and times that are unwise to visit.

So, what to do? Well, we educated ourselves (and we still do).

Before we arrived we were warned over and over not to drive in Mexico at night. In addition to the roads being very different from those in the States and the rules of the road quite different as well, it’s just not wise to be a gringo driving around at night.

Now that we’ve been here for almost a year, we do drive at night, but only locally and carefully. One adapts.

And we follow the local news. We have a pretty good idea now, based on conversations with other locals, where to go and where not to go. And since we operate by the dictum that discretion is the better part of valor, we generally follow the advice we hear.

You can certainly hear stories of what in the U.S. are called muggings.

In our experience, these seem to happen when people kind of lose their senses. For example we heard one woman complaining that she had been mugged right after visiting a local ATM. Oh no! Chapala is not safe??? Turns out that she went alone AND at night. Was that smart? Was that paying attention? We think not.

So is Mexico safe? It is if you make it so. Pay attention. Do your homework. Keep your nose clean. Listen and learn. Venture carefully.

Can “random” events happen? Certainly so. And we hasten to add, they can happen pretty much anywhere.

Just to put the entire question in perspective and in context, we took a look at what other parts of the world advise their citizens about traveling to the United States.

Here’s a recent article with twenty-five travel warnings about the U.S.

And here’s another.

Finally, we offer a helpful site called safearound.com. Here’s their pages about the U.S. and about Mexico. 

Yes, the U.S. ranks higher. We suggest taking a look at the listings of the safest countries. How safe would we feel about visiting some of the countries that seem pretty high up on the list? Several gave us pause. Just saying.

Having said all this, we have felt very safe here in Chapala. (Perhaps in part because there’s a police station right across the street!) Be smart and selective and knowledgeable. Just like you do in the U.S. or Canada or wherever you live.

 

 

The Malecon in Jocotepec

The area known as Lakeside comprises a series of communities that stretch across the northern side of Lake Chapala. The town of Chapala is about in the middle of the lakeshore. From Chapala going west to the “end” of the lake, you arrive at Jocotepec. To get there, you pass through Ajijic and other settlements crowded right along the lakeshore.

The mountains that separate lakeside from Guadalajara loom majestically on the north side of the lake.

Jocotepec sits at the northwestern end of the lake. It’s a bustling pueblo (town) with its own malecon, although the malecon can be a little tricky to find. The first time we drove to Jocotepec we missed it. The road along the lake curves right and there we are in the town, with all its lively street life, centro, and, of course, cathedrals.

Making a u-turn by circling a block, we finally spotted some signs for the malecon and made our way to a lovely little park nestled on the lake.

While the malecons in Chapala and Ajijic are in the heart of the commercial life of both towns, the malecon in Jocotepec is set apart from the town.

It’s a lively place to be sure, yet with a serenity all its own. There is a small mercado where one can buy street food and assorted goods, yet nowhere near as large as the mercados in either Chapala or Ajijic.

The malecon in Jocotepec is mostly a park. Well manicured, with open grassy fields, sidewalks along the lake, along with the malecon itself, and a large wooded area for picnicing. It’s festooned with art.

Families abound, as well as individuals lazing, reading, listening to music, enjoying the delightful weather year-round.

It’s hard to describe, at least for a writer of my “talent”, so I hope the pictures are indeed worth their thousand words.

The malecon in Jocotepec is a worthy day outing at lakeside. Don’t miss it when you come.