Monday, August 20, 2007

Exploring the Area

Now that we are settled into the house and our community, we have started exploring the other areas around Lake Chapala. We are interested in what other areas are like, and we are also looking for places we can take people when they come visit. If you look at the map of the Lake Chapala area, you will see that Ajijic is on the north side of the lake. Last week we decided to explore the south side. (The towns I will discuss are not pictured on the map, but are west of the town Tuxcueca.)

As we head west around Jocotepec and head for the south side of the lake, we first come to a very small pueblo, San Pedro. There is not much here; it is a typical poor Mexican town. We saw a farmer working his land with a burro, people living in very basic houses, and a small center of town with, as always, a town plaza and a church. People were friendly but seemed unsure why we had come.

The next town, San Cristobal was a bit more developed. We stopped by the square where we looked at the wares the people were selling at the local market. I bought a hammer, which was a hand wrought head fastened to an aluminum pipe as a handle for 30 pesos. We looked for a round embroidered tablecloth for 150 pesos, but they were much too big for our table.

We have friends who live in the next town, San Luis Soyatlan, which is much bigger and more sophisticated than the other towns. Unbeknownst to us, they were having a fiesta last week, so we found the town square filled with vendors and carnival rides. We explored the lovely lakeside town and stopped for lunch at a local sidewalk eatery (Chile rellenos: chilies stuffed with cheese). We had brought Maggie with us so we made many friends in each of these towns, especially children.

We had heard about a town further south, away from the lake, high up in the mountains, called Mazamitla, which sounded very interesting. It was about 7500 feet above sea level and was a popular tourist destination. Since we were part way there (it was about 40 km south of Tuxcueca) we decided to check it out. The drive up was amazing. As we drove higher in the mountains, we saw pine trees along with the ever-present cacti. The town was very nice, with lots of restaurants and tourist shops. There were many cabins to rent, as in New England, and gorgeous views of mountains and valleys. We found a great shop selling incense and Che Guevara shirts, and Maggie was even more popular.

On the way to Guadalajara is a little town down in a valley with the unpronounceable name of Ixlahuacan. We decided to explore this town on Thursday with our friends Jeanne and Paul. By this time we were discovering that most Mexican towns have a certain similarity. There are many very utilitarian stores, or tiendas, selling other necessities. there is a big plaza which hosts vendors and a big market day once a week. Ixlahuacan was no exception. It was very friendly and picturesque.

Today we decided to travel to one more town east of Chapala: Mezcala. (On the shore, near Mezcala Island on the map). We ran into an unexpected adventure. The road is spectacular through the mountains with beautiful views of the lake. When we were almost there, we ran into a problem, a mudslide had completely blocked the road. A man on a bicycle told us of an alternate way into the town following a very rough dirt road. Since we had a 4WD car, we said, "Why not?" It took us about an hour, and we had to for at least three streams, but we made it. We were hungry and found a clean looking restaurant. We asked for a menu, but it was delivered orally. After much attempt to communicate, we finally agreed to eat whatever they
decided to serve us, which was delicious goat meat and rice. There is a wonderful museum there which has artifacts from the Cortez era, but it is only open Tuesday and Sunday. Today, unfortunately, was Monday. We'll have to go back .

In other developments, we have had no more problems with theft. Our landlord brought a dog form the shelter to "guard" the property at night, but she's so friendly that she won't do much good, I suspect. Nevertheless, things are pretty quiet here, but I lock up very carefully at night.

Today, Pixie and I signed up for Spanish lessons at the Lake Chapala Society. For $40 we can each take a three month course with other expats. We are speaking more and more Spanish; I am enjoying my conversations, but I am not doing it right. The Mexicans here are very tolerant, but learning the correct verb forms, etc. will help.

I have been accepted as a teacher to teach ESL classes to Mexicans on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons starting in September. I feel like our schedule is filling up. Besides our great books series, Pixie has joined a women's spiritual group, and I will be attending a writers' group twice a month. But I never intended to "retire," only to redirect my efforts in a different way.

Pixie continues to feel better; we went dancing for the first time in years on Friday night. I feel a little surprised that I don't miss work at all. For the first time in 31 years, I am not gearing up for another semester and getting my wood in for the winter.

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