This article was written by on of the many marvels who work for Focus on Mexico, Author Karen McConnaughey. You will enjoy the humor and insights of what to do in Ajijic! A Passion for Being Single? I've heard it so many times from my single friends that I have to believe it's true: it's easier to be single at Lakeside than any place any of them have ever lived before. There's just so much to do here, and it's a small enough community that no matter where you go, you're bound to run into someone you know. The thing that has amazed me again and again at Lakeside is how easy it is to get to know people here. I haven't experienced that kind of connection since high school to tell you the truth. And, I've tried to rationalize it. Is it because we've left family and friends far behind in another country, or is it just because the kind of people who decide to make a move like this are more open and friendly? I've put this question to many of my friends, and ultimately we have decided it's a little bit of both. Because quite a few of us came down here with few or no connections whatsoever, we've been forced out of our comfort zone. We're more willing to take chances. We make friends in Wal-Mart, at Super Lake, at the Little Theater, and at the numerous fund-raising events in the area. It's the easiest place in the world to talk to people and a great place to socialize. Marian Wellman is one of our expert speakers who talks about cost and Taxes. She moved to Lakeside 2-1/2 years ago from Denver, where she had her own income tax and financial planning practice since 1983. She has an MBA in finance, and certifications as an Enrolled Agent and Certified Financial Planner. Marian does U.S. income taxes here at Lakeside for ex-pats, and maintains an association in the U.S. for clients seeking independent asset management. She shared the following story with us: I really do feel this is one the best places possible to be single, because there is a very strong sense of community, of everyone watching out for each other, and acceptance in whatever activities you might want to get involved in. All of us, single and married, have a great deal in common with each other, just because we're the type who have the guts to move to a foreign country. This place has a magic about it—look at the people who come here for a week (I was one of those) and instinctively get the feeling that this is where they should be for the rest of their lives. I doubt that ever happens to someone driving through, say, Iowa. It's also about as close to a classless society as I think you could ever find. I know people who are living only on Social Security, and those with enough money that they could live anywhere they wanted to, but chose to live here. And, everyone will interact with anyone else, without any financial stigma between the 'haves' and the 'have nots.' I'd like to share the story of my birthday party. The first year I was here, having moved in March and spending the month of August back in the U.S. for a wedding, I returned here, and my birthday was coming up in September. Altogether, I hadn't been here six months, and since I was living in El Parque where there was still a lot of construction going on, I hadn't yet gotten involved in the things I do now, like music and theater, because many of them were shut down over the summer. But I thought...Since I have a danger of getting depressed about being alone on my birthday if I don't do something, I just started inviting anyone I did run into at various activities—Spanish lessons, neighbors in El Parque, volunteer stuff I was doing, Lake Chapala Society, to come to my 'Anyone and Everyone I Have Ever Met in Mexico Birthday Party.' I had 50 people there the first year! Absolutely floored me! I lived in Denver for 35 years, and probably "knew" that many people or more, certainly, but too many of them would have been too busy to come to something like that. We were 'acquaintances,' not friends and I don't think I could have gotten that many people to a party if my life depended on it. The next year, it was almost 150 people, and certainly you, Ray, Marie, etc., are all invited to the now "4th Annual Anyone and Everyone I have Ever Met in Mexico Birthday Party." A good time is had by all. I came down here totally by myself, knowing no one. I made more friends here in six months than I had in Denver living there 35 years. And it's the little things...like being sick or needing someone to take you to the airport...where you'll get plenty of help here from everyone, because it's just what we do—we're a community. So, yes, this is definitely a place I'd recommend. Of course, Marian hasn't had a lot of opportunity to sit and talk with our groups as much as before, because as she also said to me, "Sorry, I haven't had a lot of time to think about this, because the play is going now and really keeping me busy." Marian had never been in a play before coming to the Lakeside area. It really is a great place to enjoy other people, rediscover your passions or reinvent yourself! I've always felt that at Lakeside, you are only limited by your imagination and your flexibility (or lack thereof), whether you're married or single. And, I have to agree with Marian, because I had a similar situation with my birthday upon moving to the Ajijic area. First of all, before Bill and I bought our house, we had never been to Mexico. We chose to live in a Mexican community, and we didn't speak Spanish. Except for the fact we were married and knew each other and our real estate agent, we had no friends or contacts here whatsoever. We moved into our house on January 31. My birthday was on February 8, and we spent it by ourselves in the restaurant suggested by our real estate agent. If you knew me, you'd know that is so not me...my birthday is a national holiday, and all my friends and family know it! After being here a year, the next year's birthday party was a fiesta at one of the local restaurants with friends from all generations dancing to Ronnie & the Juniors, one of the best rock-and-roll bands you'll ever hear. I had as many people come to this party as I had come to the "25th anniversary of my 25th birthday" party in Kansas City, and I had lived there my entire life! Connie Kimmitt reinforces the idea that socializing is the easy part...there's so much going on, you'll have to get fussy about what to do and what not to do...it's your choice! I have been living at Lakeside for over six years and have been very content with my decision to move here permanently. Though I own and operate several small businesses, I don't find that life in general is very stressful. The slower pace and relaxed atmosphere at Lakeside is a delightful change from my previous fast-paced lifestyle. There is so much happening here year round that it is very easy to meet new friends and get together with the existing ones. My social life gets a bit overwhelming if I don't choose my commitments carefully so I find that I need to schedule some alone time too. As far as re-inventing oneself, that is very simple. When you arrive the people around you know little about you and take you on your first impression. They don't have a history in their mind about who they think you 'should' be, so you can just relax and be your true self from day one. It certainly is a refreshing way to meet new people. Oh, and by the way, on the Focus on Mexico web site, we post a community calendar so newcomers, visitors and residents alike will know what's going on in the area and when it's going on. Also, theater and musical events are comfortable to attend alone, because you'll be chatting with everyone and anyone sitting around you during intermission. There are a host of excursions and tours being offered constantly...long or short, your choice. And, if you're open and willing, you will always make at least one new friend no matter where you go. Another single lady, Hilary Stewardson, says, "I find the social life in Ajijic is very busy and there is no need to have an escort. Find out what is going on by reading the Reporter and going to LCS. Then go to these functions, smile and chat! Lot's of very interesting, fun, friendly people here." Another of our expert speakers, Barbara Rotthaler, has worked in the medical field for over 30 years in Germany and Mexico. In Germany she worked first as a registered nurse, mainly in an intensive care department, but also in a private practice with a general physician. She then became interested in Naturopathy, the practice of alternative medicine and homeopathy, and she talks to our groups about the different types of alternative medicine available in the Lake Chapala area. Barbara is also a very committed lady...she speaks German, English and Spanish! She shared the following with us: People are so much more open here and it is easy to find friends and contact other people because of more happiness and openness in general. There are so many possibilities to contact people: Groups (singing, theater, meditation, cooking class, literature, writers, women groups yoga, sport, gyms, etc., or all these wonderful restaurants or bus trips to other areas in Mexico. It is always a question of personality; some will always feel lonely. But as I say in my talks: people say that 30 years living in the States did not bring them as many friends as living here for three months has. And, please don`t forget mention the Open Circle...every Sunday at 10:30 at the Lake Chapala Society (LCS) there are interesting talks around body, mind and spirit where you can meet like-minded people. Or churches and hiking tours. Oh there is really sooooo muuuuuuch!Barbara's enthusiasm shows through, and she's right...There are a tremendous variety of clubs and organizations to belong to if that's your cup of tea. Here's a very short list just to get your thought processes started: Amigos del Lago (working to improve Lake Chapala), DAR, Canadian Club, Card & Domino Club, Bridge Society (very, very active in the Lake Chapala area), Masons, American Legion, German Club, Irish Society, Amites Francophones, Shriners, Rotarians, Quilting, Writer's Club, acting, directing or working behind the scenes at the Lakeside Theater, and volunteering at LCS. I even understand there's a local chapter of the Red Hats Society if anyone's interested. Additionally, there are health clubs that offer everything from weight lifting to tai chi to water aerobics to salsa dancing. You can also join the Hash House Harriers who walk for their health. There is practically every denomination of church available: Lutheran, Latter Day Saints, Baptist, 7th Day Adventist, Anglican, Lake Chapala Jewish Community and Assembly of God. Also, as Barbara reminded us, there's the Open Circle at the Lake Chapala Society on Sunday for more fellowship. Have a passion for doing good? There's the Niños Incapacitados, which you read about in this newsletter last month. There's Red Cross volunteering, Lakeside School for the Deaf, three different pet rescue organizations, an Equestrian Learning program working with handicapped kids... and more...I really could go on and on, but you don't want to read lists, do you? You want to know you'll feel comfortable being here on your own and not feeling as if you're a third or fifth wheel. You won't be...but as Barbara added in her comments, "First of all: Finding a man is not easy, because there are many more women than men here. So that should not be the main reason of coming down here!! " Of course, I'm sure our men readers just perked up their ears at that statement, as well they should. However, that being said, one of the things I feel certain about is, man or woman, make sure you have other interests besides marriage on your mind when you come. I've heard various statistics: one that there are two women for every man at Lakeside and one that it's about even. I've also heard there are a few ladies here who have a surplus of dates depending on whether they want to eat out, go dancing, play bridge or learn to kick box. It doesn't matter, you know...you've heard it a hundred times, but here's 101: no one else can make you happy; only you can make you happy. And if you get outside yourself, which is so very easy to do in the Ajijic area, you'll find a wealth of opportunities to have a multitude of friends...friends who will become family, of that I have no doubt. My friend, Joyce Raburn, echoed a little of that sentiment: "It is not a problem being single here as I have so many girlfriends who are also single. Most of us have become so used to not having a man around that if one came over for a visit after an hour or two we would be wondering when he might be leaving. Many of my older married friends here have become caretakers of their husbands since men tend to "give out" quicker than women and they struggle with it. We single gals have gotten used to going when we want to go and staying when we want to stay without consulting anyone. After so many years of this, I find I have become set in my ways and wouldn't ever live with a man again under any circumstances that I can think of. Boy, does this ever make me sound old!" No, Joyce, it doesn't make you sound old...it makes you sound happy with your choices and content with the many friends you've made here. Of course, Joyce may change her mind after reading what Alejandro Grattan has to say about the single life at Lakeside. Señor Gratton is the esteemed editor of the Ojo del Lago, and a published author and director. He's a very popular gentleman hereabouts and in much demand at dinner parties. When I posed this question to him (at his busiest time of the month!), he wrote back to say: "You're right, I'm up to my neck in getting the March issue together, but perhaps the following might help you: "Someone once said that you have to leave Canada or the U.S. to meet the most interesting Canadians and Americans. I agree. Moreover, though my old hometown of Hollywood has been called the "character capitol" of the world, the Lakeside area runs it a close second. There are more interesting people here, pound for pound, than almost any place I have ever seen. Also Mexico's ambience seems to foster renewed interest in gazing at the stars and singing to the moon, and though my eyes aren't what they once were and my voice is in the "never-was" category, I have engaged in more than my share of both of these nocturnal pastimes. Quite simply, Ajijic is the most romantic little Mexican fishing village that anyone will ever see. So come down, all you singles, and start singing along with us." After reading this, I felt compelled to write back: "Alex, you never cease to amaze me! If I wasn't already here, I'd fall in love with the area AND you just reading this message!!!" He's such a romantic devil! There's a great book written by a local author, Karen Blue, called Midlife Mavericks: Women Reinventing Their Lives In Mexico. The adventures this book relates is just the leading edge of a growing movement: single women moving to Mexico, overcoming their fears of the unknown and discarding old beliefs in search of new dreams. That says it all, doesn't it? And, what about crime and safety? As you read these stories, it becomes obvious that most of these women feel secure in Mexico, and in some cases, safer than the places they once called home. BJ says, "I feel safer here than I did in Dallas. The Mexicans are a gentle people. I don't hesitate to walk down to the restaurant alone or to the village plaza on a Sunday evening. In a small neighborhood like this everyone knows everything and we all look out for each other." And Connie confirms the idea about safety in our area, as well as using common sense as you would no matter where you lived: I feel very safe here as a single woman. I simply used the same approach that I did in my homeland and have not had any difficulties with safety issues so far. I found that a little caution and common sense goes a long when you first move to an unfamiliar area and into a new culture. But after I took the time to get my bearings, I felt very comfortable. The Mexican people are very tolerant and helpful as well as most foreigners who have lived here for a while. So it is easy to get the necessary information and settle in quickly. Security is also a matter of common sense and simple precautions. I think a little introspection about what makes one feel secure would be very helpful, so that when you arrive you can apply your personal needs to situations concerning housing, actvities and personal relationships. Regina Potenza, who was also profiled in Midlife Mavericks book, states: I have lived in Ajijic for 20 years. I arrived here soon after my 40th birthday. I am one of the subjects of the book Midlife Mavericks which is about women who have moved to Mexico alone. None of my experiences here have been bad ones. I feel safe walking and driving in both the village and Guadalajara. I have never been threatened or in any way felt insecure here. I attend yoga classes, play volleyball, cards, enjoy visiting with friends at happy hour and exploring new restaurants. I also travel a great deal within Mexico, Central and South America. My small digs are easy to close up while I am on a trip. In addition, I have often had the good fortune to rent out my one-bedroom house while I am away. And, last, but not least, I would be remiss if I didn't put in a plug for Focus on Mexico here...Guess what? If you come on a program, you're already going to have a host of good friends when you come here to live. I know you won't believe that until you've actually been on a program, but after our conference is over, the people in the group become like a family. And, since obviously Bill and I get to meet every single person who comes on our group, I can't wait until they all get down here. That family reunion is just going to be something! So...being single can be a blessing, as I echo Joyce...it's kind of nice not having to ask someone's "permission" or get someone's "approval" if you want to do something. It's also nice for men and women who are the caretakers in the family to have sources for fun and comfort as often as they want or need it. In fact, we're planning on starting a Singles Web Page on our Focus on Lake Chapala website soon. Besides this article, we'll hopefully give people an opportunity to connect with people of like interests and abilities. No, it's not a dating service, that's entirely up to you. But if you need a partner for contact bridge, or a house sitter who likes dogs or even the partner who has been dying to learn salsa dancing, this will be the site for you. We'll let you know when that's up and running. Come on down. You're going to have a great time! "Why not sign up right now to join us on a Focus on Mexico program and see for yourself what so many others have already discovered. Click here to check out the Focus Program page on our website. Your life will never be the same after participating on a Focus program." OK, if you have made it this far, I owe you a margarita. Will see you soon!
Viva Focus On Mexico!