Tuesday, February 21, 2012

My First Month of Retirement in Mexico

100_3287.JPG by klsterndahl
Ajijic street market under the blooming Jacaranda trees
For this post, I've decided to share some of my journal entry from August 12, 2004 - three weeks after I'd arrived in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico...

I spend a large part of each day up on my top floor where a lot of time is occupied with reading and studying Spanish.  The large table on my patio is a comfortable place to write, but I am often distracted by all of the activity in the neighborhood below.

From my elevated vantage point, it is obvious that, in Ajijic and most of Mexico, a rooftop is much more than a cover to keep the rain out of the house.  It is really an extension of the house.  Almost every rooftop is flat, and on each sits a black water tank that supplies water pressure via gravity, in case the electricity goes out.  Beyond that, every rooftop is different. Some have a small wall or railing and serve as patios with tables and chairs and potted plants. One nearby roof is a playground where the kids of that house can enjoy a slide, a swing set, and other toys.  A few roofs, mostly gringo houses, contain large satellite dishes, but my Mexican neighbors across the street have a dish with cables that branch out to about five different houses in the neighborhood.  The fruit and veggie vendor around the corner uses his roof to store hundreds of wooden crates.  Many roofs are strung with clotheslines; they probably dry the clothes almost as fast as a dryer would. The bright colors of bedding and tablecloths remind me of 'papeles picados', the traditional strings of colorful tissue paper with cut-out designs. It is also common to see sinks, toilets, and building supplies stored on the roof until enough money can be saved to add on another bathroom.  A local second-hand store ran out of storage space, so they built a stairway to the roof and started stacking merchandise up there.

Rarely is much of this noticed from the ground, though, because looking up as you walk is extremely hazardous; crazy sidewalks and uneven cobbled roads require strict attention to where you place your feet. For this reason, I'm usually surprised to glance up and see a roof dog silently peering down at me.

Most of the homes are built side-by-side with a common wall between, so it is often possible to travel from roof to roof and even to use that route to break into someones house. This is discouraged by 1) implanting broken glass in cement along the top edge of walls and buildings, and 2) with roof dogs.  Roof dogs don't usually live on the roof full time but have easy access via the same stairs that the people use. I don't see them much in the heat of the day, but come evening they all seem to take their places at the front edges of the roofs where they can keep a sharp eye out on the neighborhood. Usually, they are pretty quiet, but occasionally something will set them off and a chorus of barking can be heard in all directions.

To be continued tomorrow...

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