As we have moved into October, the weather has abruptly changed. Gone are the rainy nights and cloudy mornings, the humid haze over the mountains, and the streets running with the water streaming down from the mountains. The air is fresh and cooler, especially first thing in the morning when Chuy and I set out to walk east along the carretera towards Chapala. I need to wear an extra shirt these mornings, and we routinely see the Mexicans riding their bikes into Ajijic to work, wearing winter jackets or hooded sweatshirts. Men sell mesquite firewood by the side of the road as we prepare to build fires to take of the chill in our drafty, concrete houses during the winter months. The surprising thing, for me, is not the fact that the rains are ending and the weather is turning cooler, but that it happened so suddenly. One day we had the humid, rainy weather, and the next day, about ten days ago, we suddenly had cloudless, blue skies.
This dry weather is allowing us to get our garden wall painted in preparation for the listing of the house this month, in time for the snowbirds who start arriving in November. And we hope some are coming with the idea of buying a beautiful home like ours! Although, realistically, we expect it may take some time to sell, for many homes are for sale these days. Americans are not buying as much because they are having so much trouble selling their homes. Canadians and Guadalajarans are being targeted by the real estate agents here; they are financially better-off than Americans, now. We'll just have to see who shows up to look.
A couple of interesting pieces in the local paper this week. The Chapala police chief has created a bit of controversy by no longer making crime reports available to the local media. He noted that crime is not a serious problem in the area, that most of the crimes involve local street disturbances and some theft and robbery. He made the point that in "Mexican culture, the less we identify problems, the more we live in peace." True, to a point, but this intentional lack of transparency is difficult for the expats here to understand.
In another article the plight of the elderly citizens in Mexico is explored. About 12% of the 10 million Mexicans over the age of 60 live in 'extreme poverty', and some 80% live in "some degree" of poverty. Unlike the US and Canada, old age pensions are relatively rare; only 13 percent qualify. Most pensions are small by US standards, averaging about 871 pesos (about 70 US dollars) a month. While many live with their children, about 30% of elderly Mexicans are left to survive on their own, without family support.
In contrast, those US expatriates who live in Mexico are still enjoying a good exchange rate of about 12.5 pesos to the dollar. It was about 10 pesos tot he dollar when we emigrated here in 2007. Since the Canadian dollar is roughly equivalent to the US dollar now, Canadians also enjoy this 25% increase in the value of their dollars.
We recently invited some friends over for dinner. Since we are trying to eat more vegetarian meals, we are trying to use up some of the meat in our freezer, so I prepared a pork tenderloin with fresh mango sauce. Carol and Ernie (left) just returned from a trip to Israel last month. They returned with stories of life in Israel these days, including the uneasy situation with the Palestinians and the influence of the Orthodox Jews. Although as many as 90% of the Jews in Israel are secular, the laws are influenced heavily by Judaism. Many buildings even have buttonless elevators so Jews don't have to break the Sabbath by pushing buttons. The elevators automatically stop at every floor. In terms of the peace talks, they both believe, as do many Israelis, that a comprehensive peace agreement cannot ever be achieved, a depressing prospect! Carol teaches English and is an active member of the Ajijic Writers' Group. Mark and Lell (right) are relative newcomers to Lake Chapala. Mark, also a member of the Writers' group, is a poet himself, and has a long-standing interest in the poetry of the Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin. I've also included a photo of Pixie and I from that evening.
My friend Kelley just introduced me to the Picasa software from Google which is a robust, easy-to-use program which enables you to manage and manipulate photos on the computer. One feature I like is that it allows you to insert captions into the photos. Below, I've included some photos taken this week of Ajijic (and one of Chuy) to which I've added captions.
We are still working on our vegetarian diet. Our friends, Donna and Vicente, have been on a vegan diet for a long time and are very helpful in telling us where to buy vegan food. There is a new organic market which is now open Tuesdays, where we can buy hummis, fresh organic produce, and tofu. Donna has given us the name of a woman in Ajijic who makes her own tofu and sells it by the kilo for 44 pesos, about $3.50 US. When we go out to dinner, like we did last night, we will eat fish, since vegetarian foods are not popular here. An Egyptian restaurant recently opened here. It is run by an Egyptian man and his Mexican wife. They serve many meatless dishes and delicious Arabic coffee. They are doing a brisk trade; we hope they can stay in business.
Today is a busy day. Pixie is taking her yoga class this morning, and this afternoon we have our Great Books discussion where we are discussing the French philosopher, Simone Weil, then after that we have dinner with our political discussion group, the Cosmo Club. Chuy will have a play date with Layla, the golden retreiver next door. Sometime soon, we need to go down to the clinic to get our flu shots, when we can find the time.