By JEAN BARNETT –
When our magic retirement day arrived, we returned to that lovely orchard on Lake Chapala called Roca Azul, and became “Expats in Paradise.”
While heaven may be referred to as the ultimate paradise, biblically speaking at least, it may also be likened to any condition here on earth that may be described as “a state, place or condition of perfect happiness.” This was Lake Chapala to us.
Now, unless you wish to choose the isolated life of a hermit, true happiness, to me at least, would be incomplete without friends. Here at lakeside, friendly permanent expats or transitory “snowbirds,” as our temporary visitors are called, provide that essential ingredient. Also, we have discovered many gracious friends among the Mexican community.
On one of our vacation trips prior to moving down here we lived on the south shore of Lake Chapala at picturesque Ana Capri, where we met the congenial gardener Salvador Cardenas and his delightful family. Ana Capri was a large impressive dwelling situated on a hillside just below the highway to Morelia. It had originally been intended as a tourist motel but the entrance was so difficult it never really got started. It contained three completely modern suites which had never been occupied. However, the original owner had other interests as well. Among the outbuildings at the waterfront were stables for farm animals and a wide cement platform used by the local fishermen to dry charales. A spacious porch in the main house afforded a spectacular view across the crystal lake to Chapala on the opposite shore.
Salvador was also a fisherman from the fishing village of Mismaloya, three miles distant from Ana Capri. When we lived at Ana Capri, he used to come smiling down the winding lane from the highway every morning on the dot of nine. My husband and I always had breakfast on the porch and made him welcome. We invited him to join us, a most unusual gesture for northern visitors as we learned later. This small cordiality endeared us to him and he invited us to visit his home.
We walked along the shore to his casa but the brambles along the path tore my legs so badly that by the time we reached his one-roomed adobe hut they were bleeding profusely. We were shyly welcomed by his wife who upon seeing my bleeding legs dashed back into the house and returned with a coke bottle of an herbal mixture with which she hurriedly bathed the bleeding sores. They healed magically within two days. This was my first lesson in local herbal medicine.
The first time we arrived, Salvador’s three young children ran away and hid behind a cactus. A pretty baby girl swung from a plum tree branch in her crude, wooden bassinet. Instantaneously I fell in love with the family who soon welcomed us to their home.
Before we left for Canada that year, Salvador insisted that I be baby Isobel’s godmother (madrina) on our next trip two years later. Thus began our warm relationship with the delightful Cardenas family that continues to this day. Friendships like this one, and many others, complete my concept of paradise here at Lake Chapala.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jean Barnett
Jean’s name, face and byline are well-known in the Lake Chapala area; not many expats have lived here longer. She first visited the area in 1951and later moved here permanently. Originally from Canada, Jean was once a reporter for newspapers in The Yukon and in Ontario. As a true Lake Chapala “old-timer”, Jean has many Mexico experiences to share.