New pictures have been added at the end of Places We Visted as of July 7.
Christmas in Ajijic
As usual, our world has been filled with adventure and new experiences here in Mexico since we arrived on October 17, 2004.
Please take a minute and note our E-Mail addresses....for Dale....firstname.lastname@example.org....and for Karen....email@example.com. Additionally, we have "Voice-over-IP" phones working. Dale's number is (562) 602-2226 and Karen's is (562) 633-1076. These are the same numbers we had in Lakewood for the last 30 years or so. We also have a "regular" telephone (from TelMex) and the number is (376) 766-1605.
HOW WE ARRIVED IN MEXICO
For the past several years we had looked at different areas for retirement—Victoria, B.C., Whidbey Island, Port Angeles and Sequim, Washington, just to name a few. In March of 2004, Dale accompanied a friend to Lake Chapala on vacation and fell in love with the people, climate and slow pace of life. He returned home praising the Chapala area and persuaded me to return with him in May 2004. It was love at first sight, and we promptly returned to Lakewood and listed our home for sale. Our plan was to live in Mexico for 6 months before shipping our furniture and belongings here. If we found the transition too difficult, we would return to the U.S., find another place to retire and build our dream home. After only about 3 months in Mexico, we knew we had found our “retirement paradise” and bought an old hacienda house on the Westside of Ajijic Village.
We made our first trip back to the Long Beach area on March 24th and had a wonderful as well as productive time there. We had a great visit with friends, underwent our yearly physicals, made the final arrangements for shipping our furniture to Ajijic, had our taxes prepared and completed our shopping (some products are difficult/impossible to find in Mexico and electronic equipment is usually more expensive). We also picked up Karen's car for the drive back to Ajijic and the trip went relatively smooth. Border crossings are quick and easy when you have all papers (originals plus 3 copies each) in the form the Mexican Customs Agents are used to. It also helped that we both had our FM3 (a one year renewable visa with the right to keep a car in Mexico and a 6 month window to bring in domestic belongings).
Geographically, Mexico is a southern extension to the United States. Nevertheless, as we have learned (and continue to learn daily), it’s unique laws, customs and “values” make it another world from that in the U. S.
Myth’s abound! We were questioned mercilessly just prior to our move with the queries such as “What about the Bandito’s?, “Can you drink the water there?”, “Have you thought about medical care?”, and the one we have come to cherish most, “Did you know the government can take your land/home away at any time?”. Well, all were meant as a “wakeup” to make us realize we might be making a mistake, but as well meaning as they were , they were as mythological as Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny! Sure there are many areas and countless ways, that the U. S. is “ahead” of Mexico-but, hard to believe as it may be, the reverse is also true.
There are many customs, traditions, etc. that make Mexico different. My intent is to describe, as objectively as possible, some of the more obvious differences and provide as much insight as my research has allowed. Those “observations” will be chronicled here and on the following pages—hopefully you will find them interesting, informative and enlightening!
Taxes—IVA There is a national value-added sales tax called IVA of 15%. IVA is paid by everyone, residents and visitors alike. This tax applies to most items but to take out the sting, it will often be “buried” in the total cost of restaurant bills, store purchases and excursions. While this tax seems excessive by U. S. standards, our property tax for a 4 bedroom, 5 bathroom house is $118 per year.
Water—Avoid tap water. Our home has a purification and pressure system, as do most hotels and restaurant that cater to tourists. If unsure, purify the drinking water by either filtering (small hand-held water filters are sold at outdoor shops in the U. S.), boiling or treating the water chemically, with yodo (iodine) or water purification tablets or liquid bleach or carry “bottled” water.
Is Mexico Safe?—The Mexican government has a very definite attitude toward firearms—they don’t want Mexican citizens or tourists to have them. The paperwork to own a gun is awesome and the illegal possession of a firearm is like a reserved ticket for a prison cell. Statistics show that you are more likely to be the victim of violet crime while in the U. S. than in Mexico. Children play freely in public parks and walk city streets without close supervision. Forget about bandits; the greatest threat to your safety comes from slippery cobblestones, uneven sidewalks, knee-high curbs, head-knocking signs, eye-poking awnings, toe stubbing thresholds, open trenches, unexpected drop-offs and discarded construction debris.
Can a Foreigner Own Land?—Foreigners can legally buy land in any part of Mexico other than the Prohibited Zone (within 50 kilometers (1 kilometer =.62 miles) of any coast and 100 kilometers from borders). To buy land within the Prohibited Zone, you must apply for a lease—via a bank trust. The trust lasts for 30 years (automatically renewable for another 30 years) and is an agreement between the seller, the bank and the beneficiary (the buyer). The foreigner can use the land, improve it, rent it and transfer or sell the right to it. It can also be passed on in a will.
Medical Care—Mexican doctors make house calls and most have an open door policy on office visits. The average fee for consultation is a fraction of what is charged in the U. S. Hospitals are plentiful, though most of those in smaller cities are government operated and called Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social, IMSS. The medical service is good but there are no extras—don’t expect someone to plump your pillow if you subscribe to the IMSS system. For seniors the cost is approximately $250 per year.
Medication—Many medicines, such as antibiotics, are dispensed without a prescription, though a prescription may be legally required. Drug prices are government controlled and the maximum price is marked on the package. Discount drugstores charge less than the maximum price. In addition to medicines taken orally the pharmacy offers instant injections. You pay for the medicine and throwaway syringe, plus a small fee for “sticking it in.” There are also walk-in laboratories where x-rays and inexpensive analysis of blood, urine, stools and so on are done upon request