Since retiring, I've been blessed with Peace Corps service in Ukraine and Macedonia, teaching English to new immigrants in Washington, DC and a recent Peace Pilgrimage to Hiroshima, Japan.
Ajijic sits on the largest fresh water lake of Mexico - Lake Chapala. The water had pollution problems in the past, but now pelicans and egrets fish the shores. People do too. Ajijic has its roots in a fishing village that's growing with expats.
They've created a "Southern Caravan" into the heart of Mexico. They come looking for ideal weather, inexpensive cost of living and a community of English speakers.
I'm looking for opportunities to meet other artists, find inspiration in the beauty of lakes mountains and towns, engaged in some community service work and build lasting friendships.
After awhile, I do find my gait. It's like getting physical therapy with each step. My counter logs 10,000 steps and on some days as much as 15,000. I've had some issues with neuropothy, but the discomfort has lessened or so it seems.
Maybe it's a placebo effect. Whatever, I'm enjoying the walks.
Do you hear the greetings? Mexicans almost always greet one another and gringos too when passing on the street.
A friendly "Hola or Buenas Tardes" brightens my spirit and reminds me that we're all part of the same human family even when from different cultures.
I'm enjoying the sights. Walk with me...
Small colorful homes line the streets. Doorways open to the sidewalks. Women sweep and scrub the space in front. Men tinker with a bicycles or motor bikes.
In the evening families bring out tables and sell street-foods. Older folks sit on stoops and watch the games of youngsters. Teens focus on smart phones, of course. Men and women talk over the day or at least that's what I think they are doing given my limited Spanish.
It's the Mexican way of life. I love it.
Other homes hide behind gates. Often they include several buildings - a main house and smaller places known as Casitas.
I'm staying in such a place - a bed room with kitchen and table for preparing simple meals.
My host and hostess stay connected to their community by welcoming neighbor kids to use their pool, giving scholarships to students and sponsoring a local football team.
They join others in the "Needle Pushers" knitting sweaters for primary school children and layettes for new-borns. I'm impressed by the ways they've become part of the Mexican community.
Notably these gringos are detached from Mexican life. I feel sorry for them. They've chosen to narrow their experience by not being more engaged in lending a helping hand. Life is more than a house no mater how beautiful.
Wow, what a stunning sight. I find a shady tree and soak in the beauty. Can you spot the Pelican?
I'm mesmerized by the color of the water. It's a delicate blue-green with golden highlights where the sun light hits the tops of ripples.
I get out the watercolors and try to bring to paper what my eyes see. Maybe a painting will emerge, but not today.
Relax and just enjoy.
Later I take to the streets again. I happen upon an art studio.
Ken Gosh, the artist stands in the doorway and welcomes me in. The space is lovely - an open courtyard of trees and hanging vines and of course, pictures on every wall.
Ken has lived in Ajijic for many years with his partner. He's an award winning water-colorist although his style is quite unique. I show him some of my work. He invites me back to meet some of his students. I'm delighted - my first Ajijic art connection.
Check out his art work here.
I tell Ken about my interest in teaching English. Immediately, he says, "You must meet Maria."
"Each year we'll have about 300 students from ages 15 to 100," she says with a smile and admits that they're still waiting for that 100 year old. She gives me a quick tour and we discuss curriculum and teaching methods.
We feel simpatico.
I share my search for housing. Maria offers help. "Come by tomorrow. I have a friend who may be renting a place." I'm very appreciative.
It's morning and I'm off to Martins. He's opened a new business. It's a a small restaurant where street-food is brought inside and around colorful tables.
I'm greeted warmly by Martin's daughter, "How are you today, Jud." I respond with, "Estoy bien." We've been helping each other with language in a series of mini-lessons. She's doing better than I am.
Martin is a warm gracious man. We have conversations about his new business. I try to give lots of support.
Coming here feels so comfortable. I hope I can find an apartment nearby so that we can build our friendship.
I'm looking forward to returning for a longer time teaching some English, doing some art and enjoying all the adventures of the Mexican culture.