Diary of a Housesitter
There are many ways to live here in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico, as many or more choices of lifestyles as in the States or in Canada. There are gated communities where the wealthy people’s only contact with Mexicans is by way of personal servants; other ex-pats live in Spartan rooms in lively, crowded, noisy neighborhoods where most communication is in Spanish.
This is a diary of the lifestyle I have chosen. I am a house- and dog-sitter. Sometimes I live in mansions. When I am not housesitting I live in a casita, which is a small, two-room house in the yard of a larger home. Many houses here have casitas. They may have originally been built as housing for the maids. Sometimes now they are rented out to the less-than-wealthy, longer-term travelers: the snowbirds, as we are called. We fly in for the winter, mostly from the States and Canada, and go home when it warms up in our own towns.
My name is Patricia Walker. I am 64 years old. I am not much of a joiner although there are many clubs in this area. One could be busy from morning to night, going from one club, art show, performance, or meeting to another. But I rarely go to them. I prefer to take long walks through the village and watch sunsets over the lake.
If you are a snowbird or just curious about changing your life and moving to Mexico full-time, I hope my diary excerpt here will give you an inkling of what to expect.
Nov. 7, 2014
It was cool in the morning. Cool enough for me to put on a long-sleeved cotton shirt over my tank top. Later in the afternoon I had to discard the shirt as it got hot. By mid afternoon it must have been 80 degrees in the sunshine. I wore my three-quarter-length pants because I was riding my bike in the morning to the Lake Chapala Society, referred to as LCS by the locals. It is in the heart of Ajijic, close to the lake. I chose my casita because it is only a few blocks from the LCS, which is the social center for the expatriate community. I joined and now I can use their library and video library and attend their functions. The yearly fee is a little less than fifty US dollars. Not bad for all the perks it offers. They are even going to have a Thanksgiving dinner on the grounds. I am looking forward to it.
There is an outdoor coffee shop and a large, 50-year-old garden with two koi ponds and many other places to sit and relax.
There are exercise classes in the garden, yoga, dancing---always something happening. But I like to just sit by one of the koi ponds, watch the butterflies, and listen to the birds and the church bells. The church and the central plaza are only a few blocks away.
I have been in town a little over a month and I am beginning to recognize some of the faces. Many people come to the LCS every day to meet friends, take classes, get books or videos, or just check out the bulletin board. It is the social hub for the foreign community.
I brought down art supplies, thinking I would paint or draw. So far I have done neither. But I am preparing to settle in for some serious art work. I have been preparing for 15 years. One of these days I will get out those paints. For now, I just like to sit among the flowers and trees. Life is good. Lucky for me, no one is around to criticize me when I change my plans and decide to do nothing. One of the advantages of living alone.
The bike ride from my casita to LCS along the narrow cobblestone street is a bit bumpy. Those cobblestones can be hard on the body. Maybe that is why so many of the expatriates bring their cars down. I would rather not have one. I like walking and biking. It forces me to exercise. I have a lazy streak. I could just bask in the sunshine for hours like a giant sunflower. My desires are simple. I like the slow life here. But that is my choice.
I have met people who are on the go all the time. Many of the expatriates here are older than I am, which is a nice change for me. I am used to looking around a room and realizing that I am the oldest one there. I think I could be happy growing old here. I don’t consider myself old yet. Age is in the eyes of the beholder, right? This community is filled with active, vital retirees. I admire them for their courage to step out of the mold and come to Mexico. I think I can learn a lot from them. If I can bring myself to go out and become a joiner…….But this sunshine feels so good. I don’t want to leave this beautiful garden.
November 9, 2014
Sunday morning and I am sitting again at LCS. This time, I am waiting for the regular meeting of Open Circle. At 10 a.m. they have coffee, tea, small egg sandwiches and cookies. It is a chance to meet new and old friends. The meeting starts at 10:30. It is a lecture. Each week is a different speaker and subject. They are given by residents or visitors just passing through town. Before the lecture someone reads the mission statement. One line of the statement sums up the Open Circle for me….”We are dedicated to provide a safe place to heal, to grow and to realize our true essence.”
I like that statement. We have a group meditation. We sit on plastic chairs which are set up under large old trees that shade the entire area. When the meditation starts I close my eyes and breathe deeply. I feel at peace. The birds are singing loudly in the trees. I say a little prayer of thanks for my life here.
Then several people pass the hat for donations to pay for the weekly expenses.
Last week I doubt if there were 50 people at the meeting. This week the space is full. Over 100 people here. The snow birds have arrived at last…..Life will be much more interesting in town now.
One week there was a lecture called Ghost Stories by a woman who worked for the BBC for many years. She told us about a haunted mansion in England. Another week was a lecture given by a hypnotherapist. He talked about the brain and how hypnotherapy works. I remember one by a much younger man, just passing through town, on Tantric Yoga. He told the women in the group how to contract a certain part of our female anatomy in order to have better sex and be healthier. There are many lectures on the environment and healthy living. Most of the retired people here seem extremely health-conscious. The meeting today is about being healthy in times of stress.
After the meeting I am going to walk up to the plaza and have lunch in the outdoor restaurant. Sunday mornings here are like Sunday mornings in the States. The restaurants fill up with people going out to breakfast. It may take an hour to get served but that just gives me more time to watch the crowd and see if I recognize any of the new people. I was here several months ago. I went home to put my house up for sale. I am a true snow bird now and it may be a long time before I can live here all year around with the condition of the real estate market in the States. But I won’t worry about that today. This is Sunday, a day of rest. Every day for me here is a day of rest. I can’t complain about that.