The Perfect Retirement
We ended up visiting Chapala because of the postal system. Losing our GoPro and needing more stickers to give away meant we needed an address in Mexico to have a couple of packages sent to. Unfortunately,Â despiteÂ having an advanced satellite tracking system on Jugs telling the world where we are every ten minutes, the mailman won’t accept “Canadians on Green Motorcycles, Mexico” as an acceptable postal address.
You may remember that we met our friend Ed because of the postal system too. I had to have my first helmet posted to an American address, and he has a place in Las Vegas, to which I shipped my helmet and he brought it to Calgary for me.
When we went to Mexico City with Ed in September he introduced us to his fellow directors of the Shriner’s Children’s Hospital. Graham Paull and his lovely wife Sheila among them. They very kindly invited us to come visit them in Chapala should we decide to pass by on our trip, and gave us their business cards. When we were looking for an address to give GoPro, we found Graham’s card and decided that we would definitely go visit them, and have our packages shipped there. Perfect.
Unfortunately neither of the packages we had shipped there arrived. We’ve now been told that mail in Mexico often goes astray, and takes many weeks longer than it should if it does arrive. Never mind, we’ve asked that the packages be redirected to a new address, we got to visit Graham and Sheila and the experience brought us to a fantastic place.
There are few communities where a tall 31 and a giant 29 year old are generally known as “the kids”. In Lake Chapala that is how we were referred to several times.
Perfect weather, affordable housing, cool art, a friendly, vibrant community, golf courses, softball games, charities to volunteer with and an abundance of dogs to adopt. Lake Chapala is the perfect place to retire and Phil and I did just that for a week.
Graham and Sheila had recently had a gas leak at their house, and so the gas was turned off to their casita. (A casita is a guest apartment or cottage that many people have on their properties here in Mexico.) We arrived with very little notice as is our habit, and it happened that when we called to say we had arrived, Graham was over at his friend Perry’s house. Perry and Moonyeen already were hosting a Canadian couple, Ian and Shelly from Penticton, in their casita, but luckily for us, they have two casitas in their garden. The second one was set up for us, and when we pulled in to Vista Del Lago, the Chapala Country club and gated community, we were warmly welcomed.
The very next morning Perry took us to the softball league he plays in. I sat next to the scorekeeper and took pictures, while Phil wowed the guys with his speed and agility.
Phil shared a glove with a guy on the other team, John. John and Brenda ended up becoming very good friends of ours.
Brenda is the treasurer for a local community centre charity, as well as their head cook. She took me on my first ever round of golf. I also helped her and the ladies cook the weekly meal they provide the local community then serve it the next day.
As if all this wasn’t enough, she made us some fantastic postcards when we complained that postcards are really expensive in Mexico.
The Saturday after we arrived in Chapala we hopped on the bikes and headed into the huge metropololis of Guadalajara. We had been in touch with the local Ultimate frisbee team and they had invited us to join their practice session. Despite studying the map, and Perry giving us pretty detailed instructions, we still managed to miss our turn and get a bit lost. Phil pow-wowed with another motorcyclist at a traffic light and we were soon back on track.
We arrived 45 minutes late, but luckily for us a mixture of Ultimate time and Mexico time meant that we hadn’t missed too much. The team played a very good level of Ultimate and we really enjoyed the few hours playing in the sun.
One day I was working on a blog post, so Phil decided to go out for a ride around the lake. Four hours later I got a text from him saying that he never even made it out of the community gate. He was at fellow bikers Dave and Pam’s place down the hill.
Another morning, while Phil was playing softball, Brenda and I went for a walk through the Ajijic market and local streets. It is a vibrant place, with a artistic soul.
Near the end of our stay Moonyeen took me to lunch a few times. What a fascinating woman she is. She was born in London, in Rotherhithe, the same neighbourhood as my grandparents. “Moonyeen” means “daughter dearest” in Irish. She quit school at 15, and worked at a few different jobs before becoming a fashion model at 20. She traveled extensively in the fashion industry, eventually meeting Perry in her favourite London gathering place. Perry, an architect from Texas, was filling in for his friend, helping to run the bar, and took a liking to Moonyeen. It took another 5-7 years before they started dating, but after that they married in Bangkok, lived in Indonesia, adopted two children, bought a ranch in Texas, and ended up living in a beautiful house in Chapala.
Moonyeen’s experiences in the fashion industry quickly showed her how important women’s rights were, and how unequally women were being treated. She wasn’t allowed to buy a house in England at that point, because as an unmarried woman, she might get married, get pregnant, and be unable to pay the mortgage. It was experiences such as this that developed Moonyeen into the keen women’s rights campaigner she is today. She is also the President of the Tepehua Community Centre charity that I helped at.
I really enjoyed my retirement. I look forward to my next one. Chapala was an inspiring place.
Moonyeen, Brenda and Sheila are strong women who are making a huge difference. I am thrilled to have met them and become their friend. I will strive to be more like each of them in their own ways.
Perry, Graham and John had a similar effect on us – their efforts to take local kids to play soccer, build a garden railway in memory of their friend and support the Shriner’s Hospital are alsoÂ inspirational.
The love and generosity the whole community showed us “kids” made me feel incredible.
It would have been very easy to stay a lot longer, however like Mary Poppins, the weather changed, and it was time for us to carry on…