Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Logistics of Living in Paradise

100_2255.jpg by klsterndahl
Sunset from Bigote's Bar in Melaque
The life of an expat is not for everyone. Almost daily I see someone who would really be much better off if they went back to wherever they came from. They cannot accept that things may be done differently in Mexico or wherever they may be trying to fit in. Rather than adapting, or even cherishing the unique qualities of their new home, they insist that the way it's done back in  ______________ (fill in the blank) is so much better, so everyone should change without delay. For those of us who are willing to just go with the flow of the life around us and make an effort to understand the differences, our new home becomes paradise.

Many people have asked me why I decided to retire in the Ajijic-Chapala area when I had the whole country - really, the whole world - to choose from. The answer is pretty simple.  First, I grew up in the Los Angeles area, surrounded by Mexicans (or Mexican-Americans) and their culture.  Half of the students in my first elementary school were of Mexican descent. Many of their families owned or worked in Mexican restaurants, and we loved to eat there.  Olvera Street, in downtown LA, was my favorite place to go. Second, there are many Americans and Canadians living here, so the Lake Chapala Society in Ajijic has a good library of English books.

I'm willing to give up some things and adapt to others, but I could never be happy without books.  Back in the states, I was a regular customer at my local library.  In Portland, I drove from library to library to see if I could find something interesting at one that hadn't been at the last one. I haunted the New Books shelves of all of them. So that library is what made me choose this area.  I joined the organization and used that library at least weekly.  That was before Kindle and Nook, audiobooks on my MP3 player, and internet access to a library up north.

And the internet!  How did anyone move away from home before we had the internet?  I've got access to the entire world!  Really!  I can't imagine any information that I might want but can't find on the internet.  The internet keeps me connected with my family and friends back home between trips to visit.  I can use Skype to call them all for free or almost free.  I didn't make it to my 40th high school reunion, but I still got to see all the photos and try to figure out who everyone is. And I've become reacquainted with some of them via Facebook.

I do make up to the US at least once a year, and I have an ongoing Want List for shopping when I do.  This list includes lots of little things that I either can't get down here or that cost too much with the import duties. Every time someone comes to visit us and they want to know if there is anything they can bring, I've always got my list ready. I order what I need and have it shipped to the friend's house.  I think I have about 10 different shipping addresses with Amazon.com.

I feel like I have adapted well. I learn more about the Mexican culture every day. I speak better Spanish than most of my fellow expats. Sure, there are things that I don't like about Mexico, but there are also a lot of things that I don't like about the US. I cannot even imagine living back in the states.  Mexico is my home.

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