A Key Adventure in Mexico

Here’s a little story for you, fresh out of the wiles of daily life here in Mexico. We call it a key adventure.

Last Sunday our neighbors and ourselves took a shopping trip to Guadalajara, the capstone of which was a venture to one of the two Costcos there. Costco was rocking and rolling, just like it always seems to be when we visit. Packed to the gills. We circled the parking lot several times in search of a parking space until finally a Costco employee guided us into a space.

We thanked and tipped him and I slipped the key into my pocket.

Now, understand, when I say key I am referring to a fob that automatically opens and locks the doors with the press of a button and a button that “opens” the ignition key for insertion into the steering wheel. It’s a long slender piece of pot metal.

This fob was old, six years old to be sure. And the open/close buttons had long since worn out, so unlocking the car required that the key itself be used on the driver’s side door lock.

When we bought the car, we had an unpleasant encounter with the dealer, who only provided us with one fob and key. After some back and forth about providing us with a second set, the dealership chose to play hardball and said we’d have to pay $400 (U.S.) and wait a month or six weeks to get one from California. I called bullshit on this and invoked the name of an EVP at the dealership group’s headquarters. This brought action in our favor and the key was given to us, just as it should have been.

Back to Guad. We braved the crowds at Costco and sauntered back to the car. I pulled out the fob, only to discover that the actual key was missing. Gone. We assumed that somehow it had broken off. We searched the ground around and under the car and back toward the Costco entrance. Nothing. Finally, our neighbor suggested that maybe it had fallen in the car. Walking over the the passenger side I peered in and sure enough, the key was still in the ignition, broken off from the fob.

So, we grabbed a cab and did a round trip home and back with our other fob. Fortunately, the key extracted easily from the ignition and even though the battery had been draining while we were making the trip (3 hours total), the car started and we bought it home.

Now, what to do? Hunt down a Kia dealer here in Mexico and order a key for a U.S. plated vehicle? At what cost? $400 was the price six years ago. What is it now? And how long would it take?

Then Bonita suggested going down to the local key shop (yes, there’s a actual shop that specializes on all kinds of keys and locks) just down the street from us. She thought maybe they could attach a key handle to the existing key so it could be used, even without the fob attachment.

(The fob attachment had just disintegrated.)

So Tuesday I walked down to the shop and made the inquiry. One of the employees spoke some English so I explained the problem. He asked if I had the actual fob. Yes, I did, and went back home and got it.

He took it and said come back in an hour.

I did, and he presented me with a new fob, Kia equipment, with our key securely attached.

Cost? A whopping $40 U.S. (800 pesos).

And the added bonus is that now we can use that fob to lock and unlock the car.

Moreover, he presented me with the disassembled old fob. No funny business here. Just professional service, well and quickly done.

This is Mexico. Items get re-used here. Or repaired or fixed. It seems to be part of the entrepreneurial spirit that we encounter everywhere here. It’s a welcome relief.

Is Chapala Paradise?

Is Chapala paradise?

It depends.

But before we delve into this weighty question, I’d like to fill in a page from our prior post about Sundays on the malecon.

Meet Wilbur and Carol. These two stately caballos grace the malecon most days of the weeks. Sometimes only Wilbur is there; other times, only Carol. Sometimes both.

Wilbur and Carol are our names for the two horses, given that “Wilbur” looks a lot like the leading character from one of my childhood favorite television shows, Mr. Ed. But, of course, this cannot be Mr. Ed. Horses don’t live that long. So, they’re named (by me) for the two owners of Mr. Ed.

A handsome couple, don’t ya think???

Ah, yes, now onto the question of the day. Is Chapala paradise?

There’s been some discussion of this very question around these parts lately, with several definitive “no” answers being strongly asserted.

To our minds, it’s all a matter of perception. If we interpret the word “paradise” as perfection, such as in the Garden of Eden or Shangri-La, then the answer is clearly no. We concede.

Living in Chapala is indeed not living in perfection.

Yes, there are certainly “problems” here. And adjustments aplenty to be made from life in the U.S. or in Canada (or so our Canadian friends here tell us–we have not personal experience to rely on).

If adapting life to fit into a different culture, with “rules” of social and commercial exchange being markedly different from those of Mexico’s northern neighbors, will be a problem for anyone considering expatriation here, it WILL be a problem.

Driving is different; shopping is different; infrastructure is different; housing is different; language is different; history is different; law is different.

In short, if someone expatriates here thinking to re-create their life in the States or Canada, that someone is going to be sorely disappointed.

Yet, despite this, for us, Chapala is paradise.

Back to that matter of perspective. After careful consideration, much research, and an exploratory trip with much interaction with fellow expats already here, we chose to make the leap.

Has it been easy? No. Has it been difficult? No. Has it been different from our life in the States? Most definitely yes.

The factors that make this paradise for us are many: the climate (pretty much 60 to 80 year round); the cost of living; the culture of Mexico; the food; the sheer beauty of the terrain; the infrastructure (phone, internet);  the laid-back way of life; the friendliness of public interaction; the emphasis on people and relationships.

So yes, for us, Chapala is paradise. Is it the only one on this blue planet? Definitely not.

We suggest you find your own. Paradise is what you make it.

Here, we have Wilbur and Carol. And we’re happy. That’s quite enough.

All the best to you, Bob and Bonita

Sunday on the Chapala Malecon

No doubt about it: Sunday is the busiest day on the Chapala Malecon.

Almost every day we exit our apartment and walk a couple of blocks down to the Lake Chapala waterfront. Mondays, the malecon is relatively deserted. A few folks wonder there. Some sit and watch the lake. Lovers embrace. A handful of children play.

Then, as the week progresses, more and more activity comes too. And it all culminates on Sunday.

It’s so busy, in fact, that parking is blocked on one end of the malecon, which is normally crowded with vehicles.

Instead, vendors of various goodies proliferate. Dulces (sweets), bamboo mugs, beverages of all sorts, plasticos–toys, kites, animals and other bric-a-brac, and helados (flavored ice). Ice cream too!

With its numerous benches and grassy areas, families and friends hang out, listening to music, talking, playing.

Some fish:

Others take a cruise on the lake:

More walk out on the two large piers that extend from the malecon into the lake.

There are rides of the kiddies, that swirl and gesticulate and emit obnoxious squeals and sirens and sometimes even deafeningly loud music:

And then there’s the bands, roving groups of local musicians, who will give you a personal concert.

It’s a day to relax and enjoy, to feel the warm sun and the light breeze.

Surprisingly enough, what you won’t see are people swimming. Oh, a few here and there, most children splash around by the short. The water is certainly clean enough, yet it’s brackish near the shore and very shallow. In the photo above, for example, as far out as the barrier visible out in the lake, I’ve seen workers in the water, still visible from the waist up.

We don’t know why this is. Maybe it’s modesty. I’ve yet to see any women down by the lake wearing bikinis or even one-pieces. It’s quite rare to see any hombres (guys) wearing shorts, jeans and trousers are the order of the day. Maybe someday, someone will give me a plausible explanation.

But we don’t really need one. It’s quite enough to just enjoy the Chapala malecon and the natural beauty that surrounds us here in Chapala.







Mushroom Fest in Mexico

Last weekend our neighbors and I made the journey to Guadalajara to an event called Mushroom Fest.

Okay, as an old hippie (or more accurately hippie-wannabe), I had my fantasies. Alas, no, Carlos Castaneda wasn’t there.

Maybe my first clue should have been that the Fest was next to the U.S. Consulate.

Kidding aside, Mushroom Fest was fun. Lots of different mushrooms, of course.

We do eat a lot of mushrooms. They’re ready available here in Chapala. All year. Portabellos, criminies, oysters,  buttons. Not much else that I’ve seen. But at mushroom fest, we were treated to a symphony of varieties indigenous to Mexico.

Perhaps the most interesting finding, for us anyway, was the plethora of kits on offer for growing-your-own. A most helpful young man showed us plastic bags filled with somewhat ominous-looking detritus which you then spritz with water twice a day and voila, mushrooms will grow. Once harvested, more will grow in about another week, and so on, for a couple of months.

Any surprise that I have one in the laundry room right now? (Mushroom-growing apparently requires a somewhat moist and relatively dark environment.)

Plus, there were lots of delicious-looking foods on offer (most with mushrooms being a key ingredient) with savory aromas.

Even a food court at Mushroom Fest.

And a band.

On a visit to los banos, we discovered an intriguing sign in the hallway. So we’re headed back again in September. See you there???