I spent a lot of time browsing the Lake Chapala Society website, following links, reading ads and just nosing around in general. Frankly, it sounded too good to be true. Then in the classified section on the site I stumbled across an ad that began, "I love having guests so much that I commissioned a well known Mexican architect to build an eight bedroom casita (Little House) overlooking my lush tropical garden." At the end of the ad was an email address for contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Harold Skip Waggoner sounded like a fellow gringo to me. Perhaps he might answer a few questions?I wrote an email asking if he would mind doing just that for a potential fellow emigre. On a whim, I included my phone number as well as my email address. I hoped for a response--any response really--but I didn't count on much more than a disinterested email, if anything. What a surprise when I answered my phone the next evening to find Skip himself on the other end of the call . . . all the way from Ajijic!
When I got over my astonishment he explained that he was calling via Vonage thru his computer--so no long distance fees! After mutual introductions I peppered him with questions. How long had he lived there? (twelve years); How was the weather? (Hottest in May, coolest in December; highs in the 90's, lows in the mid-forties); Cost of living? (You could get by nicely on about $1600 as a single, a bit more for couples--maybe more depending on how fancy you wanted to be); High speed internet? (Yes.); Cable TV? (Yes) Rent? ($300 and up); Heat and light (the houses don't have furnaces or central air--not needed--a fan for the hot days and space heater for the coolest would be enough); etc.
Of course there were more things to ask, and I did. He told my I could get by with little or no Spanish because a great many of the locals, particularly in businesses, spoke some English, but that I would enjoy life more if I learned to speak at least rudimentary Spanish; that his health had improved since he had arrived; crime was low, people were pleasant, etc. I told him I planned to bring some books, clothes, computer, the dog's essentials and asked what, if anything, I would absolutely have to bring from the states if it was essential to my comfort? He said if I liked soft mattresses to bring one of those. Since I like hard mattresses there was no problem there. One other thing, he said: "Snow. We don't have any of that," and he laughed.
I spoke with him about other things, then after I had hung up I sat there amazed at how nice of him it was to call, and how patiently he had answered my questions. Ajijic certainly sounded like a great place to live and I couldn't wait to learn more.
Ajijic (Remember?, ah ha heek) is located about 30 or so miles (48 kilometers) from Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city. (You can find Guadalajara on the map in my earlier post--just look toward the SW of the country just over halfway down the map). It sits at an elevation of about one mile (same as Denver, Colorado) and along the same latitude as Hawaii and is almost due east of the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta. As of the moment Ajijic was in the hunt. Next: Other potential places.