A Second Beginning in the Expat Haven of Ajijic, Mexico

My husband, Walter, and I recently relocated to Ajijic, Mexico, to escape Chicago winters. Ajijic, a small village along Lake Chapala, boasts a reliable, sunny climate. This, when coupled with a very affordable standard of living, has made the region a haven for expats. It’s a charming village offering art and cultural events and a warm and welcoming atmosphere between the Mexicans and expats. At any time of the day or night you can hear the clop, clop of horses traversing the cobblestone streets.

Since living here, I have found that retiring is not the end of the line, but the beginning of a new adventure.

I have become both a teacher and a student. Between taking art classes, Spanish language classes, and teaching English, I am busier now than when I was working a nine-to-five job. The difference being that I love what I am doing. Painting has become my passion along with teaching English as a second language to Mexican adults who want to advance in their chosen careers.

The Lake Chapala Society is primarily a meeting place for expats. In a very congenial and inviting atmosphere, newcomers to the area can have their questions answered with all kinds of helpful information. There is an annual registration fee of $38. For seniors over 79, the fee is discounted $30. We attend lectures, discussion groups, movies, exercise classes, and take advantage of health screening. There are also art and chess classes for children. My husband enjoys the bridge group that meets twice per week.

There are many charitable organizations that welcome volunteers. The local population is so appreciative of any help that is offered.

I look forward to the Wednesday market where I buy fruit and vegetables that have just been picked and delivered from the surrounding farms. It can’t get any fresher than that. I can’t remember ever before paying as little as 25 cents for an avocado or 50 cents for a pound of tomatoes. There is another market every Tuesday that offers a great variety of cooked food that is both healthy and delicious. Fortunately, I have a large freezer.

There are many restaurants that cater to all tastes and are inexpensive by U.S. standards. My favorites are Cocinart, La Sima del Copal and Tango. La Sima del Copal sits at the top of a mountain peak and offers the most beautiful view of the lake at sunset. Dinner for two, including a glass of wine and tip, will cost approximately $25. For those on a limited budget, there are less expensive restaurants that are also very good.

It is customary for Mexican families and expats to stroll along the malecon (boardwalk) on Sunday afternoon. This walkway along Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico, bustles with vendors, children playing, teenagers meeting friends, and families enjoying a picnic.

Naturally, our family and friends back in the States are curious about how we live. Our first group of visitors arrived last week. Since they are nature lovers, I thought it would be fun to rent horses and take a leisurely ride up into the mountains which surround the village. Prior to making arrangements, I asked the guide if it is an easy ride with wide paths, gentle slopes and gradual hills. “Si Senora,” he responded. “Very easy.”

At the appointed time, our guide and horses arrived to pick us up for our little adventure. Riding through the village on our way to the mountains was delightful. As we started up the mountain trail things took quite a turn. Narrow paths that were barely wide enough for a horse, hairpin turns and steep precipices went on as far as the eye could see. Riding through the mountains of Ajijic leads to some beautiful scenery, but is not for equestrian novices.

Our next group of visitors is due to arrive in two weeks. I think this time we will enjoy nature by sitting on our patio, cocktails in hand, and looking at the spectacular flora and fauna all around us with the majestic mountains looming safely in the background.

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