When you drive into Ajijic there is a sign that says “Riviera Alta.” You might think it means the OLD Riviera since aside from the dozen Mexicans that live in this town all you see here are ex-pat retirees from the US and Canada. High-water socks, bad Hawaiian shirts draping over big bellies, thick wide black old people glasses, canes, grey hair, etc. are all encountered every time we step out of the apartment. Really “Riviera Alta” means the high Riviera since the elevation here is over 5000 feet, but I chuckle every time I see that sign since “alt” in German does actually mean “old”.
Our first morning here we decided to go out to breakfast and we even found a Mexican version of Denny’s. They serve mediocre breakfasts well into the afternoon, weak coffee in thick porcelain coffee mugs and the place is packed with retirees.
Ajijic is actually a very pleasant small town. We are about 5 blocks from Lake Chapala (the largest lake in Mexico), there is a nice old church, cobblestone streets and the weather has been nice and hot. Our friends Dave and Terri found us a nice 2 bedroom apartment with a swimming pool and it has been great. They have given us tips on where the good restaurants are, a good fruit and vegetable stand, they hooked us up with a babysitter that charges $2.00/hour for both of our children and we are no longer strangers in the good gringo bars in town. The other day I was walking by one of those gringo bars and saw a big white Cadillac parked next to a horse that was tied up to the front of the bar – such an accurate juxtaposition of all things Ajijic.
During the first week in our apartment complex I noticed that we were by far the youngest in our building – by about 30 years. We watched an older woman come and go – cane, big dark glasses, oversized polo shirts, white retiree/nursing pants. My first impression honestly was “oh, just another retiree.” When we actually got to know her we found out she is really an amazing woman. She has lived in Ajijic for the last 16 years, and referred to her time here as “interim”. And when we met her she started to tell us about where she was moving to next – Cyprus. She is flying to Madrid with some family members, will book a cruise around the Mediterranean, they’ll visit some friends she has in Greece and they are eventually planning on finding a new home in Cyprus and settling down. Now get this – she’s 82 years old! When I got closer I realized her big dark glasses are a much hipper design and even had Swarovski crystals embedded around the sides. And later I watched her whip around town with her cane and was impressed with her speed and finesse. To be so fit and adventurous at 82 is truly amazing and also inspirational. What I wouldn’t give to be able to take advantage of life like that so long into my life. We said goodbye to her today and I think she is sitting in a plane right now as I write this.
Through our friends Dave and Terri we also met a man who now has two sons in college but when they were young, his wife and him took their sons and traveled around Asia for 6 months. He understands how great traveling like this can be – especially with your children when they are young. He told us how important it was to be able to spend that time with his kids when they were young. It seemed to him that just being together at that age was the right thing to do, even if all you were doing at the time was walking down the street holding hands. There aren’t too many people traveling with children like we are, and it is so neat to meet other people who have done it and reinforce the fact that we will wont regret what we are doing.
One of the things we are looking forward to here is the change from the dry season to the rainy season. Some people in this part of the world call it the change from the dusty season to the muddy season. Typically during the rainy season you get rain every day for a couple of hours, often around the same time every day. I think that change might have happened last night. About 9:30 PM the thunder and lightning storm started and it started to rain. The lake is surrounded by mountains so the thunder just rumbled and echoed for hours around us. The rains weren’t super strong, but it was a good solid rain – much more of a rain than you would usually see in Seattle. Most of the land around us has been crispy and brown since we started heading back north from Costa Rica, and doesn’t look so great. But once the rainy season really starts, everything should turn lush and green within about a week or two.
This weekend we are going on a little road-trip. Guanajuato is a small town a couple of hours from here. It is supposed to be one of the most colorful towns in all of Mexico and there is a famous mummy museum. We’ll post some pictures on the blog when we get back.
Tags: Ajijic, Guanajuato, Mexico, Mexico-Guatemala