Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Day in the Life...

When we returned to the US for a visit this spring, several friends asked us what it was like for us living in this area of Mexico on a day to day basis. "What do you do all day?" they wanted to know. We don't spend our days eating tacos and listening to mariachi music, so what is a typical day like for retirees living in the Lake Chapala area? I was stuck for what to write about for my next blog entry, and Pixie suggested this. The truth is, our lives now are not very exotic.

Being retired has its advantages and disadvantages. Obviously, not having to worry about going to work is huge. Living here offers many opportunities for getting involved in various activities, so, you can be as busy or idle as you wish. The downside is the fact that we have to live on a limited income. We are living on a state pension, and we try to put money aside every month for our trips north, and we basically live on what's left. Generally this is not a problem. Now that we own an house and are in the process of furnishing it, it is tempting to spend more than we can afford. Mostly, though, we have no problem living on our income because of the generally low cost of living here.

So...a typical day. I am an early riser and enjoy getting up early to have a cup of tea, check my email and read the newspapers online. I always enjoyed reading the paper newspaper in Maine, but here, The Guadalajara Reporter, the English language newspaper comes out only once a week, so I read the newspapers online. I regularly check the NY Times, The Washington Post and sometimes The Boston Globe and the Lewiston, Maine, Sun-Journal. Since we now have a Mexican mailing address, I cancelled all my magazine subscriptions and now read them online. My two favorites were The Atlantic and The New Yorker. But now that I can access other magazines online as well, I often read the Nation, The National Review, and the Economist. I still miss the paper versions of periodicals, but the cost for international subscriptions is high.

Sometimes I do some writing in the mornings while it is quiet. I have written enough poetry to publish a collection. I am collaborating with an artist friend, Vicente, to do a painting for the cover, and Donna, his partner, is translating my title poem, The Sacred Lake, into Spanish. I have been working on that project in the mornings recently.

It stays dark here late because we are very far west in the central time zone, so it doesn't get light until about 7:30, so I am usually up in the dark. Pixie usually is up by about 8:30, but is not good for much conversation for another hour or so. She makes tea and turns on the news. (We have DISH network here. It thinks we're in New York, so we get local NY stations, but the usual list of cable channels.) Maggie often sleeps even longer! She does not like to get up.

Generally, I have to water the gardens every couple of days. This time of year, we often get rain at night, so it isn't as necessary. I usually do this in the morning. Our ajibe (our underground water tank) fills only through the day, so if we use a lot of water at night, we may run out till it fills the next morning. It usually takes me about half an hour or so to do the watering, but I love the tropical plants, and it's very relaxing to just walk around with the hose and generously water. We have a young man, Horacio, who comes once a week for about 2 1/2 hours to mow, trim, prune, and weed. He has been taking care of this garden for years and keeps it looking beautiful.
On a typical day, we usually have things we need to do. Today, for example, is market day. Since we generally buy our fruits and vegetables, yogurt, cereal, flowers, honey and spices at this market, it is a regular Wednesday morning chore. Pixie is doing water aerobics now, and she has this on Wednesdays, so she generally catches a ride with a friend while I go the the market alone. If she's around, she always comes with me. This usually takes a couple of hours, because we have to check over all the produce and we invariably run into friends, so we get talking. We have our regular vendors we like. We always buy our produce from Aaron and his wife, Carmen. They help us pick out the best pieces and usually throw in some cilantro and chiles for free. Several times I've inadvertently left something (produce I've bought, or another package) at Aaron's stand, and he always saves it for me for the following week. He takes good care of us, and we are loyal to him. We buy our cereal from an Indian woman. The granola is excellent. She recently broke her hip, so her husband is running the stand. We usually check to see what new movies are available from the movie guy. He knows me now, so when I walk up to the stand, he hands me a stack of the new movies he has. The movies are 35 pesos, or three for 100 pesos ($10). They are all pirated, but in English and generally good quality. We buy flowers almost every week, and fresh yogurt. The hardest part is hauling everything back to the car.

Even if it's not market day, we usually just shop for our evening meal the day we are eating it. It's easier to do this because we may have a sudden change of plans if friends invite us to join them for dinner. Also, the fish and meat is much fresher if we buy it and consume it immediately. Usually we eat fish, shrimp, chicken, or beef, either grilled or stir fried when we cook in. Pixie has lost about 17 pounds, and is keeping me eating much more healthily than when we first got here. Mexican food is delicious, but uses lots of fat (like lard!) and the tortillas are delicious but very fattening. We eat Mexican food sometimes when we go out, but, except for fresh tortillas to make quesadillas and tacos, which I love, we don't cook Mexican much at home. I recently ordered a book from Amazon The Gringos' Guide to Mexican Cooking, though and I want to try some healthier Mexican alternatives.

Also on a typical day, we may have other errands to do. We may need to pick up a prescription from a 'farmacia, ' which can take a long time. Drugs are generally available over-the-counter, but the prices can vary widely. We might find one drug at a good price at one store, but another at a different one. So comparison shopping works. We need to check our mail in Ajijic a couple of times a week. We sometimes need to pick up printer paper, fill and ink cartridge, or pick up cleaning supplies or any number of other things. These are usually sold in different stores, so shopping can take a considerable part of the day.

I will continue this post next week...

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