Sunday, August 12, 2007

Our UU home AND a Reality Check

One of the best parts about our move down here has been the great community of like-minded people we found at the Lake Chapala Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. When we lived in Maine, we had become active members of the First Universalist church in Auburn. When we first though of moving to Mexico, we knew we'd miss the fellowship we found at our church. When we arrived in Ajijic for the first time, we discovered that a group of liberal-minded people were in the process of forming a UU fellowship at Lakeside. Obviously, we were anxious to check it out. It was not much like our old congregation: there was no minister, they met in a restaurant, and there was no music. (When we went back in January, there was a woman who played the accordion for hymns, but she moved back to the US, so that was that, as far as live music was concerned.) But, like our church in Auburn, it was the people who were the clincher. They made us feel welcome and helped us with our transition to Mexico.

Today, the formation of the fellowship is almost complete. After about a year and a half, we have voted to formally charter the congregation and twenty-nine members have signed the book. We have adopted by-laws and will be electing our first Board at the September 9 meeting. We usually get between 20 and 30 people who show up each week at this time of year, and we should get many more once the snowbirds arrive. We meet now in our more permanent location: the synagogue in an adjoining town, Riberas de Pilar. (They don't use it on Sundays, and they rent it to us for $200 pesos a week with the stipulation that we don't eat pork on the premises.)

Our Sunday services are all lay-led, obviously, and we have incorporated many of the UU traditions into our service, including hymns and readings from Singing the Living Tradition, lighting a chalice at the beginning of the service, and sharing Joys and Concerns. We have some different traditions as well. Every week we have a sermon, either an original one delivered by someone in the community or one of our members, or one found on-line and read. Immediately after the sermon, we engage in a lively discussion of the sermon, which I like. It gives us a chance to amplify and sometimes debate some of the points and implications of the sermon. After the service, we go out to a restaurant and continue our discussions, often until 2:30 or 3 in the afternoon.

This group has been a great group of people for us to connect with immediately when we moved here permanently in May. We socialize with many of them through the week and even take excursions together. Our political interests and opinions tend to be fairly consistent, so we really enjoy each others' company. We visit Lynn and Gary's restaurant in Jocotepec; we've had dinner and played dominoes at Trudy and
Lew's; we get together regularly with Steve and Susan, our oldest friends here; we joined the Great Books discussion group with Jeanne and Paul; Pixie joined the Red Hat Ladies with Kathy, Bebe and others; Kevin and Diana showed us how to buy and cook the different fish here; and Sheldon took me around Guadalajara to show me the ropes of finding my way around. We've all been passing Michael Moore's movie, Sicko, around, and none of us agree on who the Democratic candidate for president should be, but no one, as far as I know, likes any of the Republican candidates! Some of these people, like us, may be a little crazy, but they are all interesting. Ana lived in the jungle for a couple of years when she first came here; Carole came down a couple of years ago on her social security, teaches part time, and gets by just fine without a car; Vincente, an artist, came for a few months and now may stay awhile; Kathy and Bob came down just with the stuff in their car like we did; and the list goes on and on.

Now we have live music occasionally: my guitar and some talented singers. We are actually planning a music service for later this month. We are debating what our social justice projects should be. Teo (our only Mexican member) and his wife Janice designed and wove a beautiful tapestry which adorns our pulpit every week . We advertise every week in the Guadalajara Reporter, and today we had five interested people attending for the first time. One of our members is recovering from a stroke, and people are visiting her and helping her while she is housebound. We are a vibrant and increasingly cohesive group.

Well, we HAVE had a dose of reality this week. Last Sunday night, we were broken into and robbed. We live in a compound of six cottages right down near the lake. We have a gated parking area, lighted grounds, and a caretaker who lives, with his family, right by the gate. We close up and lock the doors tot he cottage every evening, but, other than that, we haven't worried too much.

I woke up early, as usual last Monday morning and noticed that our glass door to the patio was ajar. We had had a thunderstorm and some wind, so I assumed that I had not fully latched the door. Later in the morning, Pixie could not find her pocketbook. We thought maybe she had left it at church the day before or at the restaurant where we went after church. We took a ride out to the restaurant, but they had not seen it. When we pulled into the parking area, she noticed her purse was hanging on the porch of one of the front cottages. When we checked inside, we noticed her cash was missing, but (GOOD NEWS) her ATM card and other cards were still there. (BAD NEWS) Her keys, including those for the house the gate and, ugh, the car, were missing. Daniel, the caretaker, and Dora, his wife, and Pixie and I checked the grounds and found evidence that the intruder had tried to get into some other homes, but ours was the only one robbed. I remembered the door had been open. When I checked it, I noticed that it was not locked (it always had been permanently locked from the outside, as soon as it was closed). The lock mechanism had apparently opened without me realizing it, so the intruder, seeing Pixie's purse on the table, walked in the open door and grabbed the purse, not taking my guitar or our laptop. (One of the great advantages of getting rid of almost everything we own is that there is not much to lose !) He was thoughtful enough to leave the purse and its other contents, but I wish he had left the keys.

SO....we changed the locks on the doors and the gate, bought a new security club for the car, and learned a valuable lesson about security. Although the gate secures the parking lot, the back end of the compound is easily accessible from the lake. Although there is rarely any violent crime, theft is a common problem, as one might expect. Coming from Maine, we were a bit spoiled. We are going to have an anti-theft device installed on the car, which is considerably cheaper than changing the car locks, and we are little worse for the wear, but we DO have a new appreciation for our vulnerability.

One another personal note, we just learned that we will soon become grandparents! Eric and Crystal, in Indiana, are expecting a baby in March. Now we are officially old geezers! Cassie is off to Boston this week to attend the Art Institute in the fall. Cassie and Alana will be visiting us for two weeks around Christmas. Wendy and Troy will be down for a month in January-February, and plan to spend a couple of weeks with us then a couple of weeks traveling in Mexico. Eric and Crystal don't know exactly when they'll be able to come, but we expect them to visit too. Curt and Judy Webber from Auburn will be down to visit at the end of October, and the Red SOX are STILL in first place! We are truly blessed.

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