I think there are two audiences for Dru Pearson’s latest book. The first is the same as the audience for her first book, Retire in Mexico, which I reviewed here in 2004. That one was aimed very definitely at those people at various stages of contemplating making the big leap and settling, either part-time or full-time, in this country.
When I look back through my files, I see that I was complimentary towards the excellent research that Ms. Pearson did. She took a look at the five most popular destinations for retirees from Canada or the U.S. – Guadalajara, Lake Chapala, San Miguel de Allende, Oaxaca and the Pacific beaches. In addition, she looked at all aspects of moving here – finding a home, buying vs renting, purchasing a house, banking, shopping, cost of living, traveling in Mexico, medical care, personal security and so on. It seemed to me to be a valuable document to have to help anyone with the adjustment. I know my wife and I could have used that kind of support when we moved here more than a decade ago. However such books didn’t exist then. Now there are several available. Google.com shows that Retire in Mexico is still available, although when I look at the traffic in the village of Ajijic in the winter season, I wonder why I seem to be encouraging people to join us here.
Anyway, Dru Pearson has done it again. She’s come up with Mexico Magic, which I think will appeal to that same audience. And I mentioned a second audience – namely, those people who have already gone through the process of moving to Mexico and are happily settled here – either as permanent residents or regular snowbirds. This volume is something of a nostalgia trip for those people. I must admit a few memories were awakened for me. Many of the steps and adjustments Ms. Pearson writes about were the same ones my wife and I experienced – and in many cases had forgotten about now that we’re well adjusted and comfortable with our life here.
She begins her account of her first four seasons in Ajijic starting in the summer of 2000 when she loaded or, rather, overloaded her VW van with as many belongings as it would hold, and she and her dog, Bailey, drove (slowly, she emphasizes) to Laredo. However, before she even reached the U.S./ Mexico border, the vehicle broke down and she found herself by the roadside in 110 degree temperatures, unloading twelve boxes of belongings, plus a TV, a computer complete with monitor and printer and other sundry items. However, a mechanic answered her call and the car was repaired and she made it across the border at Laredo, starting the 750 mile stretch to Ajijic on the shores of Lake Chapala.
At that time, she mused: “My friends in North Carolina had said no single woman should attempt to move to Mexico by herself. They thought I was crazy for leaving my family and friends and a secure teaching job to take up early retirement.” She continues: “I’d taught English for the last 26 years and I didn’t want to teach The Odyssey again: I wanted to experience an odyssey of my own.”
Her first accommodation was a B&B that accepted dogs in the village of Jocotopec, just a few miles west of Ajijic. In that week she began to adjust to nightly fireworks, church bells and barking dogs and, in the daytime, there were the narrow cobblestone streets, potholes, trucks and cows blocking the roads. All of this wasn’t too shocking because she had spent the previous two summer vacations in the area. However, this wasn’t a vacation. Rather, she was in search of accommodation. From her account, it didn’t seem to be too difficult a process. Perhaps homes were more available then than they are today or, at least, not in such demand and certainly more reasonably priced. Anyway, she rented a house four blocks from the lake in Ajijic, complete with features such as a sunlit terrace, a beautiful garden and a mirador on the roof with marvelous views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
From then on the story becomes one of adjustment to the various pros and cons of life in a new environment. She gives a good account of the things to learn in order to survive, such as shopping, coping with propane gas, finding a housekeeper and a gardener, learning the currency and so on through a hundred-and-one small adjustments. Then there were the pleasures of the place, the chief of which for Dru Pearson was the ease of meeting new people and the leisurely meals with friends in the many good restaurants. Exploring the area and visiting the beach resorts, which are really only a few hours drive away – these are also pleasures in which she indulged.
Also, of course, there are the negative items. Encounters with the police are high on that list and she describes a few of them. I guess we all have those items to report. And, oddly enough, learning Spanish seemed to be a bit of a negative for her, considering she was a language teacher. And, also, there are the things you worry about that never happen – like encounters with scorpions and worrying about security and burglars.
Not everyone is as sanguine about Mexico as she was. In her comments about the ease of getting to know people, she mentions one North Carolinian man she met who came to check the place out and saw only the squalor and poverty which, let’s face it, is in fairly plentiful supply here. He very wisely returned to North Carolina as no doubt others have done. I must say I’ve met one or two of those: people who had a negative attitude toward Mexico before they even came here and who should simply stay home.
I liked one of the comments she makes in her account. “Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but I think the major difference is that it’s impossible to be bored in Mexico. It’s full of light and music and people. The United States is dull by comparison. There’s so much going on in Ajijic, every minute of the day and night, that you know you’re alive every second. Every day is lived in the here and now. And it’s impossible to be alone there.”
I’m inclined to agree.
In my humble O: A good primer for anyone interested in moving here. A pleasant nostalgia trip for those of us who have long since made the adjustment.
By Dru Pearson
Published by Escape Artist Magazine