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Azuledos


Mar 7, 2010, 6:21 AM

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¡Hola al foro!

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We haven't found an "Introductions" topic anywhere, so this seems to be a reasonable place to begin. Been visiting here for a few months now, and especially for some of you who post frequently, it seems like we already know you. We're still NoB, with hopes of making a move south in the next few years. With a little digging and following existing threads we've learned so much already, but there are questions we'd still like to ask. Before we jump in, it seems only fair to say something about ourselves so you'll know us a bit too.

Dan and Carmen here, currently working & residing in the Skagit Valley in Washington State, USA. Despite enjoying what we do to support ourselves here in this beautiful corner of the US, the years are catching up with us and we are considering what “retirement” might mean for us, relying solely on social security and modest savings for the years ahead of us.

Life experiences so far for Carmen are: growing up in rural Pennsylvania, training for and being a skilled hairdresser in Wisconsin, a stint making circuit boards in California, then moving to Washington State and starting/running a dairy goat farm & cheese-making business, then 15 years as a restaurant manager and another similar period as the kitchen manager & event planner for a retirement facility. She’s a life-time avid gardener, is a whiz in the kitchen, and loves her cats. Slowing down just a bit from the almost non-stoppable pace she’s applied to everything she does.

For Dan: growing up in suburban Michigan, college in New England (remembering Dr Michael Coe’s course on MesoAmerica that first interested him in the lands SoB), a few years as a travel agent & Caribbean cruise manager, several years in the Peace Corps in rural Guatemala working with a large rabbit co-op, has an MBA (HRM & Tourism), was a mail-order bookseller, built and managed our own restaurant in the North Cascades for 20 years, and now, for a similar length of time, small business consultant/tax-preparer/accountant from his home office. He’s a lifetime photographer, owner-builder/remodeler, appreciator of vernacular & alternative building techniques, planner, web & computer-tinkerer, and generalist geek. All his offspring (and theirs--he’s a grandpa to four) live in the Seattle area.

We have traveled a bit out of the country, and have each always had thoughts like “Could I move here and live happily” in some of the more agreeable areas we’ve visited over the years. But, realistically it would be nice to not stray too far from the US, to allow for occasional visits to/from family. That last sort of eliminates some spots we’ve liked in southern Europe and Mediterranean, and crossing the Pacific is just too far. South America is probably the same, although Ecuador still beckons just a little. Wherever we settle, we really want to find a spot where the snow falls only in the distance, and the garden doesn’t freeze out each winter. Not looking for the island life, so we’re probably not headed to the Caribbean, despite Dan’s past-life familiarity with that area of the world. That leaves México and Central America.

We have the most experience traveling together in México. A good number of winter vacations had us autobussing around a good bit of the country, a few times accompanied by family taking advantage of Dan’s facility with Spanish (a benefit of his stint as a PCV many decades ago in Guatemala).

We know that most North American visitors head for the beach, but salt-water & sand hold little attraction for us that doesn’t dispel in a day or two at most. Beach & resort-area life would bore us, and the Mexican coastal cities to which we’ve returned the most are Acapulco and Puerto Vallarta, probably because we can be comfortable in the old town areas. Melaque and Guayabitos/La Peñita are smaller coastal towns we’ve enjoyed.

We seem to enjoy ourselves most in the highlands, and in smaller cities and slower-paced communities where we can interact with the culture of everyday México. Cities we’ve enjoyed the most are Uruapan, Xalapa, Pátzcuaro, Dolores Hidalgo (used as a base for visiting Guanajuato & SMA), San Cristobal and Mérida. We almost bought an eight room hotel in Ixtapan de la Sal, and have managed to include this white pueblo, and the big hot springs north of town, on our many of trips. With Dan’s PCV experience to draw from, we are fairly confident about being able to adapt to a good life SoB, and to be good neighbors in any nice community.

Trying to find the “right place” means determining what characteristics a town should have for our own sense of well-being. These are on the list for us, in no way ranked in importance: A long growing season. Some topography interest & views, with mountains in the distance (maybe some snow at the top), and the salt water not too far away, would be a plus. A moderate climate, not too hot in the summer nor cold in winter. No water shortages--somewhere where rivers & streams run most of the year would be nice. Don’t mind some clouds or rain (in fact, we’d miss them if they weren’t there!). A manageable cost of living. A good internet connection. Reliable electricity. Enough home space for a large patio or small jardín for lots of flowering plants. Access to reliable, not too expensive, medical care (we’re both reasonably healthy and mobile). Close-by shops for necessities (mercado, panaderia, farmacia, ferreteria), and farther-away bigger stores for periodic stocking up. A smaller town, with access to a not too distant city (perhaps a university city) where there are urban health and some cultural resources.

We don't mind renting for a while, moving around a bit until we find the right place. But, ultimately it seems we'd want our own place, as keeping busy by growing things, building and renovating has always kept us happy and interested in life.

Seems like lots of you have found comfortable places to hang your sombreros, and we hope to have the same success.

================================
Veracruz has to be the best kept secret in Mexico.
http://etepetzin.blogspot.com -&- http://azuledos.blogspot.com



La Isla


Mar 7, 2010, 9:50 AM

Post #2 of 34 (19658 views)

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Re: [Azuledos] ¡Hola al foro!

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Love your avatar! I've got one hanging in my livingroom window, and so far it has kept most of the evil spirits away. I think you'll get more responses if your post your message on the Living, Working, Retiring Forum. It gets lots more traffic than this one.


tashby


Mar 7, 2010, 12:07 PM

Post #3 of 34 (19626 views)

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Re: [Azuledos] ¡Hola al foro!

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Welcome and good luck with your search!


Gringal

Mar 7, 2010, 12:50 PM

Post #4 of 34 (19615 views)

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Re: [La Isla] ¡Hola al foro!

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For some good information in general, check out Rolly Brook's site and the book he co-authored with Carol Schmidt and Norma Hair....on Amazon: The Best How-To book on Moving to Mexico. Or something like that.

The central highlands area has a long growing season and plenty of mild weather. Coast about 4 hours from the Lake Chapala area, on good roads. Snow at the top of our volcano, Mr. Colima.

You sound like the kind of people who could be happy in Mexico. Buen Suerte


Azuledos


Mar 7, 2010, 2:06 PM

Post #5 of 34 (19580 views)

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Re: [Gringal] ¡Hola al foro!

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I actually found Rolly's website before MexConnect, and have read it almost everything there. And, I keep going back there for re-reads. It's an awesome endeavor and a invaluable resource. Rolly's posts here (in conjunction with his site) keep it all fresh and current. Wow!

================================
Veracruz has to be the best kept secret in Mexico.
http://etepetzin.blogspot.com -&- http://azuledos.blogspot.com


jerezano

Mar 8, 2010, 7:37 AM

Post #6 of 34 (19482 views)

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Re: [Azuledos] ¡Hola al foro!

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Hello Azuledos,

Thanks for the excellent introduction. That helps a lot when you describe your desires:>>>Trying to find the “right place” means determining what characteristics a town should have for our own sense of well-being. These are on the list for us, in no way ranked in importance: A long growing season. Some topography interest & views, with mountains in the distance (maybe some snow at the top), and the salt water not too far away, would be a plus. A moderate climate, not too hot in the summer nor cold in winter. No water shortages--somewhere where rivers & streams run most of the year would be nice. Don’t mind some clouds or rain (in fact, we’d miss them if they weren’t there!). A manageable cost of living. A good internet connection. Reliable electricity. Enough home space for a large patio or small jardín for lots of flowering plants. Access to reliable, not too expensive, medical care (we’re both reasonably healthy and mobile). Close-by shops for necessities (mercado, panaderia, farmacia, ferreteria), and farther-away bigger stores for periodic stocking up. A smaller town, with access to a not too distant city (perhaps a university city) where there are urban health and some cultural resources.<<<<<<

As somebody suggested here earlier, the Lake Chapala area seems to meet the majority of your expressed desires including (not expressed) a large and active and somewhat ingrown society of English speaking people.

My own suggestion is that you investigate the Tepic, Nayarit area which is an hour from the beaches but at an altitude which gives it a climate very similar to Honolulu, Hawaii. It also has all the desires you stated except the sight of a nearby mountain with snow. For that you might investigate Colima, Colima which then meets all your desires. In the Colima area you would have to pick the altitude for the best climate you want. That can be easily arranged by just moving up the mountain side. Of course there is always the threat of an eruption from the snow capped active volcano there.

I noticed in your list of cities and areas visited you did not list Colima nor Tepic. Perhaps that is because both areas are sort of off the beaten path because of dead ending on the coast although Colima will dead end in a major ocean-going port city. Tepic in the small (not ocean going) port of San Blas. The Tepic airport has recently been designated as an International airport and with that, and the opening of the Nayarit Riviera its isolation will probably change. It is also only an hour and a half to Guadalajara by the cuota. The Barranca route which used to be the only connection was dangerous and almost impossible to drive. In neither area will you find a large population of English speaking people. You don't seem to want that either.

A lot of the inland areas will meet most of your desires except for nearby salt water. You have visited some of those. For people of means San Miguel de Allende is very popular but housing costs and cost of living have exploded because of the large population of English speaking people. For yuppies try Guanajuato or Querétaro.

Since you apparently have lots of time to investigate, then my suggestions here boil down to a recommendation that you look at Colima and Tepic which you have apparently not yet done.

Welcome to mexconnect.com and soon to México itself.

Hasta luego, jerezano


esperanza

Mar 8, 2010, 8:22 AM

Post #7 of 34 (19463 views)

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Saludos desde Morelia, Michoacán--a wonderful place to live. Full of history, culture, and beauty, it's a lovely small city.

By the way, Sr. Azuledos, can you tell us what your nom de Net means?

http://www.mexicocooks.typepad.com









sfsmurf


Mar 8, 2010, 12:27 PM

Post #8 of 34 (19415 views)

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Re: [Azuledos] ¡Hola al foro!

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I would suggest staying far away from San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala unless you want to end up in "Gringo Gulch". You have already experienced a lot of Mexico in your travels and I hope you find a truly Mexican place to settle (Tepic, Colima, Morelia, Xalapa, Queretaro, Puebla, Mexico City and so many more......the choices are endless). Best of luck.


Gringal

Mar 8, 2010, 1:47 PM

Post #9 of 34 (19397 views)

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Re: [sfsmurf] ¡Hola al foro!

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Do I hear some "reverse zenophobia" there?

Whether you are in San Miguel de Allende, the Lake Chapala area or anywhere else expats go to settle, there will most likely also be an overwhelming majority of native born Mexicans living there already. Next door, down the street, or in the next barrio. Whether or not a new expat takes the trouble to learn Spanish, become knowledgeable about the culture and be friendly with his neighbors is another matter. This can happen anywhere. Or not.


Hound Dog

Mar 8, 2010, 3:29 PM

Post #10 of 34 (19370 views)

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Well, Dan & Carmen:

You have defined your quest well so here is my suggestion and I am quite serious about this. I suggest the area along the Mexico/Guatemala border outside of the city of Tapachula, Chiapas known as the "Volcano Route" on the slopes of the Volcano Tacaná which straddles Mexico and Guatemala and, at its peak, rises to some 12,000 feet. While the large and regionally important city of Tapachula provides all the urban amenities you may desire, by moving to the medium altitude small towns on the slopes of the magnificent volcano, you can live in extraordinarily beautiful, eternally green coffee/banana growing, semi-tropical country and still be within less than an hour's drive of a sophisticated city with all that implies. You will live in a pleasant, cool climate within a short drive of a torrid but beautiful coast and you will be living in a truly Latin American cultural zone with very few foreign interlopers. I would live in this extraordinary region but already have a home in high altitude San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas which would not suit the definition of a community that would interest you since, at 7,000 feet, it may be a bit too chilly for you guys.

If, on the other, you think you might miss Lake Wobegone, by all means, move to Chapala or Nayarit where you can attend those Thursday night church suppers and imagine yourselves in Fond Du Lac.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Mar 8, 2010, 3:53 PM)


mevale

Mar 9, 2010, 8:59 AM

Post #11 of 34 (19291 views)

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Have you seen the movie "Sin Nombre" or read the book "La Travesia de Enrique"? Both are fascinating looks at Tapachula as an entry point for thousands of Central Americans trying to reach the U.S. by means of the freight trains leaving the city for points northward, and the resulting growth of the gangs that prey on them, namely, Mara Salvatrucha 13 and La Calle 18 (not to mention the corrupt police and migra).

We've traveled throughout Chiapas, but have never visited Tapachula. When you've been there, is this something that is present in the day to day life of Tapachula, or is more confined to certain barrios around the cemetary and train yards?


Zorba

Mar 9, 2010, 3:23 PM

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I am familiar with Tapachula. A lot of the problems with the migrants and the gangs have diminished since the train was washed out by Hurricane Stan. Now there is no train from Tapachula to Arriaga. So, migrants now have to walk a week or so north all the way to the first train departure point (Arriaga). Alternatively, they might now cross from Guatemala through Tabasco instead of through Chiapas.

The Tapachula area is on the border. Any border is dicey. Lots of mercancia passing through there, so plenty of corruption, deals gone bad, greed and the violence that goes a long with that. Nevertheless, if you arent involved in it or a migrant yourself, you are unlikely to be a victim. Still, possible though. So, probably not as safe an area generally speaking as some other parts of Mexico.

The problem is the border. There is a lot of press on the northern border of course, but that southern border really slips under the radar. There is some serious shit going on there. The border security is a complete joke. It is practically an open border. People walk under the bridge across the river in plain view of the authorities and nobody cares.

Hopefully it will stay that way because any clamp down like they have embarked upon in the north will escalate the violence. They probably cant afford to open another "front" so to speak. Personally, I hope they just leave it alone. Mexico would be better off with a laissez faire approach to the drug trade and let the Americans deal with their consumption problem. But Im getting off the subject here.

Tapachula is a nice lazy little city with some charm. People shouldnt worry about going there. Same precautions should be taken as anywhere else in Mexico. Go to the zocalo and hang out, up to the coffee plantations near Union Juarez and over to the wide beaches at Playa Linda.


Moisheh

Mar 9, 2010, 6:55 PM

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Re: [Zorba] ¡Hola al foro!

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Tapachula!! Surely you jest! In all of our travels in Mexico this is absolutely the armpit of Mexico. Full of criminals, scam artists and definitely not safe. No redeeming qualities. On the other hand San Cristobal is a fabulous spot!

Moisheh


Vichil

Mar 9, 2010, 7:56 PM

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Re: [Moisheh] ¡Hola al foro!

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I happen to agree with Zorba, there is some charm to Tapachula and the Union Juarez area .Tthe Vocano Tacana is spectacular. The coffee fincas are beautiful as well. The area deserve to be seen.
I happened to have gotten lost and broken down late at night near Union Juarez and the cops were helpful and gave me a ride to Tapachula. Got back to the hotel up the mountain around 2 am without having seen any migrants, Maratruchas or any other scary monsters.
Sin Nombre gives Tapachula a bad image just like Amores Perros gives a nasty and depressing view of Mexico City.

You cannot compare Tapachula to San Cristobal but both have nasty violence in their immediate surroundings. We live in a poor border State so what do you expect?

Around here(The Highlands) it is common for indigenous to kill the migrants with machetes. It barely makes the news...

This said I am going back to Tapachula next week and will go to Mexico City every oportunity I get.

Tell me Moisheh, how many criminals and scam artists have you personally encountered in Tapachula?

You came back alive so it could not have been that bad!


Zorba

Mar 9, 2010, 9:47 PM

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Re: [Vichil] ¡Hola al foro!

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Haha! He has a point to a degree. You have to spend some time there for it to grow on you for sure. Not unlike a lot of other off the beaten places. Hotter than a witches tit most of the year. I am out in the countryside, so we get a nice breeze from the ocean. I don't enjoy going into Tapachula unless I have to really.

Tapachula is not your cup of tea if you like your Mexico packaged for easy consumption. If you enjoy a bit of edgyness it's ok. The idea though is to live in the surrounding countryside which is one of the richest biospheres in the world.


sfsmurf


Mar 9, 2010, 10:54 PM

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Re: [Zorba] ¡Hola al foro!

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...." if you like your Mexico packaged for easy consumption". Zorba, that's a perfect description for San Miguel de Allende and Lake Chapala!


Hound Dog

Mar 10, 2010, 4:54 AM

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Tapachula!! Surely you jest! In all of our travels in Mexico this is absolutely the armpit of Mexico. Full of criminals, scam artists and definitely not safe. No redeeming qualities. On the other hand San Cristobal is a fabulous spot!

Moisheh

Nothing personal Moisheh but if you think San Cristobal and its environs are safer places than the southern Soconusco you are simply misinformed. One must live in Chiapas and be attentive to local news media to realize that the notion that the poor border state of Chiapas can be defined as dangerous regions interspersed with safer regions is patently foolish. Come to think of it the same can be said of much of Jalisco and for that matter, San Francisco where we lived for years and just for good measure, I´ll throw in the Kluxer cursed Alabama of my youth in the 1950s and then there is....

But, enough. The area around Tapachula is one of the most stunningly beautiful parts of Mexico and I know of few places where one can escape the oppressive heat of the tierra caliente by driving just a few kilometers outside of the metropolitan zone to the medium altitude coffee growing areas or down to breezy, wide and gorgeous beaches but don´t tell Coletos about this. They are better off freezing their tushes off in San Cristobal warmed up only by occasional ill-tempered Zapatista rallies in the historic center of town.

Oops! I forgot - I live in San Cristobal but what the hell - that´s just because I was ignorant of the Soconusco when I moved to Chiapas in 2006.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Mar 10, 2010, 4:57 AM)


Gringal

Mar 10, 2010, 9:27 AM

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Re: [sfsmurf] ¡Hola al foro!

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For sfsmurf and Zorba (and my amigo Hound Dog, too): "Easy consumption"...........as opposed to tough chewing and indigestion? Lol.

There was a writer who visited San Miguel for two days and wrote all about it. He was humor-impaired, so the result was negative. Then there was another writer who visited Ajijic for three days last year during a pouring rainy episode, dropped into the Lake Chapala Society (aka Geezer Central) and then wrote all about the entire population. Neither one of those people spent enough time or looked around enough to know what they were talking about. Didn't stop them from speaking as authorities, though.

Some folks are unduly proud of themselves for taking the uphill path with the rocks in the road. Others prefer the freeway. Nothing wrong with either way, but ....what's with the critics? Maybe humans just have to find a reason to feel "better than". What's the matter with being tolerant, rather than critical, of the differences? I'd much rather read about what's right with where you are rather than what's wrong with somewhere else.


Zorba

Mar 10, 2010, 10:21 AM

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Re: [Gringal] ¡Hola al foro!

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Hey, keep me out of it. I Personally didn't make any mention of Lake Wherever Whatever. I've never been there and have never criticized the place. I was in fact replying to a criticism of Tapachula, not criticizing. My intent was not to imply that there is something "wrong" with a more packaged experience. Absolutely nothing wrong with that in my opinion and can totally understand why some people prefer that route.

As to whether it is better to pursue a hard or easy road in Mexico is ultimately a philosophical question that can be applied to life in general and, as such, would only have us talking in circles. Personally, I like curvy, bumpy side roads. Freeways are boring.


Gringal

Mar 10, 2010, 10:27 AM

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Hound Dog

Mar 10, 2010, 11:31 AM

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Re: [Hound Dog] ¡Hola al foro!

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They are better off freezing their tushes off in San Cristobal warmed up only by occasional ill-tempered Zapatista rallies in the historic center of town.


Dawg is feeling guilty at having taken gratuitous aim at San Cristobal's climate during splendid March, perhaps,generally speaking, the finest time of year here presaging the commencement of the rainy season in the Jovel Valley in May or thereabouts. The weather around here in March is so beautiful that only a grouse would complain of those other months some of which can bring capricious weather patterns. April warms up a bit but is still quite pleasant but I must admit that the summer rainy season hereabouts usually promises heroic afternoon gully washers and coolish temperatures.

One of the great things about the Soconusco is that it is isolated and, therefore, easily misunderstood. Dawg spent a great deal of time in the early part of this new century searching many parts of Mexico for an escape from the dreaded Lion´s-Club-Thursday-Night-Church-Supper-Shmoo-Worshipping-Downtown-Peoria-RV Park with foundations that is "Lakeside" and was lucky enough to discover new and barely discovered places such as the jewel that is the Southern Soconusco and I thank God almost daily for the overpowering ignorance that has protected Southern Mexico from an invasion similar to that that has plagued the lake community.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Mar 10, 2010, 11:33 AM)


Zorba

Mar 10, 2010, 11:34 AM

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"Obviously, I did you wrong, and apologize. And somewhere between the bumpy roads and the feeways....are other routes. Some of us don't have the four wheel drive we once did."

Thanks. Well said.


(This post was edited by Zorba on Mar 10, 2010, 11:36 AM)


Gringal

Mar 10, 2010, 11:53 AM

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 "Dawg spent a great deal of time in the early part of this new century searching many parts of Mexico for an escape from the dreaded Lion´s-Club-Thursday-Night-Church-Supper-Shmoo-Worshipping-Downtown-Peoria-RV Park with foundations that is "Lakeside" and was lucky enough to discover new and barely discovered places such as the jewel that is the Southern Soconusco and I thank God almost daily for the overpowering ignorance that has protected Southern Mexico from an invasion similar to that that has plagued the lake community."

Hi there, Dawg: you put out the bait and I'm going to take it just like Charlie Brown is always letting Lucy set up that football. I should probably know better, but what the hay:

You don't appear to have had the kind of good experiences in Ajijic that happen when you have intelligent friends with interesting backgrounds. Or, you sounded off to any and all along the lines above, exhibited a "better than thou" viewpoint and bored them to death. Granted, there are some folks around here that are best ignored and it's not difficult to do so. If you hung out with the Church Supper group, you deserved what you got.

Since I appreciate irony, I sincerely hope that enough wannabee sophisticates from the Me generation are so impressed by your praises of San Cristobal and environs that they flock there like the lemmings who ruined Sausalito and San Francisco back in the day. But bless your heart anyway, as aunt Minnie Rose used to say.


Hound Dog

Mar 10, 2010, 12:28 PM

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Since I appreciate irony, I sincerely hope that enough wannabee sophisticates from the Me generation are so impressed by your praises of San Cristobal and environs that they flock there like the lemmings who ruined Sausalito and San Francisco back in the day. But bless your heart anyway, as aunt Minnie Rose used to say.

Ain´t gone happen Gringal, Darlin' and you know it. These morons could not adjust to life in Chiapas and, as much as I am fond of you, do not pretend to place the Bay Area on a scale with the Soconusco. We are not on the same planet and I say that as one whose life in the <Bay Area started in 66 and ended in 01. Rise above the crackers with whom you have ostensibly affiliated. They are unworthy of your trust.


(This post was edited by Hound Dog on Mar 10, 2010, 12:34 PM)


Gringal

Mar 10, 2010, 12:46 PM

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Trust me, Dawg......they'll come. Backpacks, SUV's, expensive hiking gear, four wheel drive baby strollers and lots of pampered pets....for precisely the reasons you mention....avoiding the types who settle in the Lakeside area. They are reading this forum even as we joust.

My reference to the Bay Area was only because you and I were there during the days before they barbarians clothed in sheepskins arrived, so we experienced the process up close. Otherwise, as you pointed out, there is no comparison.
Just for fun......remember the communes that mushroomed up in Sonoma County, people by newly-minted country folk as clueless as babes? Tee hee.

Aunt MinnieRose did bake a mean pie, though.
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