Friday, December 30, 2011

Feliz Navidad con Familia

Christmas this year was a decidedly family affair.  Our daughters Wendy (left) and Cassie traveled to Ajijic with their partners Troy and Alana.  We had a splendid visit and a simple Christmas this year.  We went to see a traditional posada in the neighboring town of San Antonio.  On Christmas eve, we viewed the live naciementos (nativity scenes), we cooked a community vegan feast for Christmas Day, we climbed the mountain up to the small chapel, we hosted two pot-luck parties, one for our Mexican friends, Daniel and Dora, and one for our gringo friends, and we had lots of time to relax, catch up, and eat some good Mexican food.  Wendy and Troy flew back to Maine yesterday and Cassie and Alana are en-route today.  We are all a bit tired but happy with many pleasant memories of a lovely 12 days!  Here are some photos: 

Wendy and Troy with Georgina, one of the owners of our favorite vegetarian restaurant

Wendy and Pixie browsing for jewelry at the weekly Ajijic tianguis

Before the posada with our friends Mike and Christie

Mexican children reenacting the nativity at the posada

Jose (Dora's brother-in-law) Troy, Daniel, Dora, and Elias (Dora's eldest son) at our pot-luck holiday party

One of the live nativity families in the church courtyard on Christmas Eve

Cassie preparing her gluten-free Christmas cookies for our Christmas feast

A literal overview of our vegan Christmas feast.  Troy made beans and potatoes; Alana prepared a cabbage slaw; Wendy made some mango rice, Pixie made the squash-ginger soup, I made baba ghanoush, and Cassie the cookies.  

Our friends, Luis, Jean, Jeanne, and Jan admiring some of Cassie's illustrations at our pot-luck for our gringo friends. 

Our friends Ron and Paul enjoying a moment of conversation at the pot-luck

Fred and Mardele left Rudy with us while they went to Erie, PA to be with their family.  Here Rudy and Chuy enjoy a game of tug-of-war!

Pixie takes a futile swing at our adult piñata during the pot-luck

Alana, Troy, Cassie and Wendy from atop the mountain after our climb to the chapel

Yesterday, we visited our friends' Jan and Luis' new adobe studio and home under construction.  Pixie talks here with Jan on the stoop of the new house.

Last night, Alana and Cassie share a private moment before their departure from Mexico, this morning. 

So, we enjoyed a wonderful time with family and friends.  We were sad to see them leave, but we all have special memories.  

Now we are back to our normal life here as we prepare to head back to Maine at the beginning of March.  We have lots to do as we, once again, simplify our lives, shed unnecessary belongings, and prepare to start over, this time in Portland, Maine.  We know we will look forward to returning here each winter, but it will be sad when we leave.  

One update from the last post.  The week after the murder of an American citizen here in November, over 1500 people attended a meeting with government officials here to indicate their concern that something be done to prevent additional crimes in the area.  Some good discussion took place, and a smaller group worked on implementing some new efforts to provide better police presence and security. Those who attended the meeting were happy and hopeful.  The police apprehended two individuals who perpetrated the robbery which resulted in the shooting.  The man who committed the murder is apparently in custody. 

I'll end this post with a photo of one of the beautiful tropical birds, a large parrot, who lives in the animal shelter pet-food store in Riberas.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Mexico to Muncie to Mexico

We have been in Muncie, Indiana all week visiting our son, Eric, his wife, Crystal, and our grand daughter Isabelle.  Our girls are coming here for Christmas this year, so we went to celebrate an early Christmas with Eric's family.  

As usual, the center of attention, and the focus of our visit was spending time with Isabelle.  Eric took the entire week off, so we got to spend a good deal of time with him too.  But since he is a very involved Dad, we were also able to give him some time to himself.  

We went to select a Christmas tree from the Muncie Kiwanis Club and brought it home to decorate it. Isabelle, for the first time this year, was very much into decorating and anticipating Christmas. She was delightful and always energetic and enthusiastic.  In other words, she's three.  

Pixie and I took her to her favorite restaurant (McDonalds, of course) several times, to the Muncie Children's Museum, to the movies to see Puss 'n Boots, and hung out with her quite a bit at home.  The temperature was in the low 30's and wet.  We missed our sunny Mexican home.  But we had much special time with Isabelle.

We went to a local Chinese buffet with the family.  We made a couple large batches of vegan soups (vegetable and French Lentil) and had a lot of good "hang around" time together. 

We will see them again in March.  We plan to be in Muncie of March 23rd for Isabelle's 4th birthday, on our way back to Maine.   

Mostly, the photos capture the spirit of the visit: 

So, after a full week, we returned late Wednesday evening to Mexico.  We are now preparing for Cassie & Alana and Wendy & Troy to arrive starting December 18 for their Christmas visit.  We are anxiously anticipating their arrival. 

On quite a different note, there has been a disturbing series of events in the Ajijic area recently.  For some reason, there has been an uptick in crime.  Over the past several weeks there have been a number of home invasions with guns perpetrated on gringos in the area.  This culminated with the murder of an American man in central Ajijic last Tuesday, the day before we left.  There was an outpournig of concern from the expatriate community.  Over 1000 attended a problem-solving meeting with local officials to discuss how to manage the disturbing increase in crime.  Plans are ongoing to address this problems.  Most of us are taking it in stride, but all of us, I think, are being more cautious and observant.  Below is an article which appeared in the the Guadalajara Reporter about the murder:

American slain in botched Ajijic robbery

A U.S. citizen was murdered in the carport of his Ajijic home during an attempted robbery Tuesday, November 29.
Stephen Christopher Kahr, 69, died almost instantly after being shot in the chest by an unknown assailant, according to Chapala Ministerio Publico (MP) agent Fernando Gutierrez Santillan.

A police investigator answers questions from reporters outside the Ajijic home of slain American Stephen Christopher Kahr.
At press time two suspects picked up within hours after the shooting were still in police custody. Neither has been positively identified by witnesses as the culprit. Authorities were awaiting results of forensic tests to determine recent use of a firearm.
Gutierrez said that the shooting occurred as Kahr was unloading groceries from his car, parked on the street just outside his residence at Calle Donato Guerra on the corner of 16 de Septiembre. Witnesses said that a young man apparently followed him into the carport and attempted to snatch his wallet from his back pants pocket. When Kahr swirled around and began resisting the assault, the would-be robber fired his weapon straight on.
The Reporter learned that his wife Patricia and their son David were inside the home putting away the purchases when they heard a commotion outside. They heard Kahr shout out “Give it back!” and rushed out in time to see him struggle with the aggressor before plummeting to the ground mortally wounded.
The killer was described as a young, well-dressed Mexican of slender build, about 1.75 meters in height. He was distinguished by bulging eyes, a thin face and fair skin. After the shooting he made an unsuccessful attempt to escape in the Kahr’s automobile, and then ran off on foot, headed east on 16 de Septiembre.
Gutierrez said investigators found the victim’s wallet on his person, indicating that the killer left empty-handed.

Kahr's body lies in the carport of his Ajijic home.

Minutes later, an attempted car jacking was reported in the same general vicinity. The incident involved two young men, one of whom was brandishing a gun. The female driver managed to foil the vehicle by throwing on a kill switch. The assailants then dashed ran off towards the lakefront.
Gutierrez said that Chapala police officers arriving at the scene promptly spread out to comb the neighborhood, and returned to the Kahr home after rounding up various suspects, none of whom matched the physical description of the perpetrator.
Meanwhile, the Chapala Red Cross responded to an emergency call placed at around 11:15 a.m. Paramedics who attended to Kahr said they applied advanced CPR techniques, but were unable to revive him due to the gravity of his gunshot wound.
The MP agent, along with his investigators and a state police unit, inspected and guarded the crime scene until a team from the Jalisco Forensics Institute arrived to gather evidence and remove Kahr’s body. The corpse was taken for an autopsy in Ocotlan around 3 p.m.
During the ordeal, police officers allowed several friends and neighbors to go inside the house to comfort Kahr’s stunned widow and her son.
Kahr was a retired lawyer from New York who began wintering in Ajijic with his spouse about four years ago. The couple had traveled extensively in Mexico throughout their married life.
The MP official said the murder does not appear to be linked to organized crime groups involved in a growing number of shooting incidents that have plagued the north shore area since the start of the year. He speculated, however, that the fatal assault bears some similarities to a series of  late-night home invasion robberies that have been denounced by foreign residents in recent weeks.
The following day Chapala police chief corroborated the MP agent’s version of the murder, providing additional information about the two suspects. Both are Ajijic natives, labeled as close acquaintances, ages 30 and 33, with bad reputations. He said one of them has a prior criminal record, speaks English and walks with a limp.
The chief said he would take photographs of the pair, and encourages other crime victims to come to the police department to see if they recognize them. Seguridad Publica headquarters is located in Chapala at the corner of Niños Heroes and Zaragoza.
While expressing deep concern about the on-going deterioration of public security, Contreras qualified the Kahr homicide as an atypical crime for the lakeside area. Still, he said, “We will not rest until this case is solved.”