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Kevin K

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Kevin K last won the day on November 23 2018

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About Kevin K

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  1. Thank-you as always More Liana for the education. I actually did know that but lazily repeated the pre-Hispanic characterization of the food from another Lakeside author. I corrected the mistake on the blog post . I look forward to a return visit to El Zapote, though I must say El Rinconito is just as enjoyable. To have two places that good just kitty corner from one another and the plaza restaurants AND Cenaduria Elba just a stone's throw away made living in Chapala centro pretty amazing. I miss it everyday.
  2. Thumb's up to everything already recommended and a few more choices here. Mario's in San Antonio and the cenadurias in Chapala are especially good. http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.com
  3. As not just a coffee roaster but a buyer and taster who's worked at the highest levels of the specialty coffee industry for 30 years (and as author of a highly-regarded book on coffee, "Coffee Basics:) I do feel obliged to correct some of the well-intentioned misinformation here. Coffee in whole bean form stays fresh for up to 2 weeks from roast at room temperature. That freshness can be extended by packaging the coffee in special multilayer bags (foil must be among the layers) with one-way valves on them to allow CO2 to escape, drawing a full vacuum on the coffee, back-flushing the bag with nitrogen to get residual oxygen down to below 2% and heat sealing the bag. The roaster has to do ALL of the above steps to extend shelf life to up to 3 months from roast date. Starbucks and other large roasters do this, local roasters at Lake Chapala do not have anything like the capital required for the equipment and at best just heat-seal their coffee in bags with either a small pinprick hole to let the gas out or a valve. In such cases the shelf life is two weeks from roast date. It is uncommon to see a roast date on supermarket coffees at Lakeside, but the 6 to 8 weeks from roast standard is incorect and is basically just pawning off stale coffee on consumers. If you do have access to truly fresh-roasted beans (which at Lake Chapala means buying them directly from Cafe Grano Cafe or El Arbol de Café/The Coffee Tree in Chapala AND you don't go through those beans in a week then freezing them in airtight containers will extend their shelf life to a month or two. This is not just my opinion, it is scientific fact, as detailed in Michael Sivetz's "Coffee Technology" and numerous subsequent studies, including a recent one on freshness conducted by the Specialty Coffee Association. It is also not true that the general quality of Mexican coffee has improved dramatically in recent years. There are hopeful signs in a few areas, with some good innovations in Oaxaca in particular as well as the Cup of Excellence competitions coming to Mexico but overall Mexico is far behind the top Central American producers. I continue to taste the best lots from Chiapas, Veracruz and Oaxaca imported by my peers in the trade here and definitely stand by my ranking of the three growing regions (My coffee article whcih I provided the link to above is updated annually). As for caffeine content, it's a complex topic but what really matters at the consumer level is that most people (including your manyVeracruz French Roast fans) conflate strong (bitter) TASTING coffee with strong (high-caffeine) coffee and the two things are not the same. Darkly-roasted coffee is all about the burnt taste of the roast, not the coffee that's been torched. French Roasts are bitter but actually quite light-bodied and (by volume) lower in caffeine since so much soluble coffee material has literally gone up the smoke stack. And yes - French Roast is wildly popular despite professional coffee buyers and tasters hating the stuff. One of the basic tastings I do in consumer classes is to brew a bright, lightly-roasted Kenya that tastes as acidic as orange juice, a medium-roasted Sumatra that is low-acid but syrupy smooth and heavy bodied, and a French Roast that is, of course, bitter and thin. That tasting is called "the three ways coffee can taste strong" but most consumers only know about the dark roast version. Between the extremes of acidic light roasts and burnt French lies a wonderful world of balanced coffee flavor and good Mexican coffee, with its mild chocolate and nut flavor notes and excellent balance, is optimally suited for such roasts. Regardless of your preferred roast or vendor, you're very fortunate indeed to be able to drink good locally--roasted coffee at Lakeside for a fraction of the price of the same beans in the U.S., and to be able to support wonderful local businesses in the process.
  4. A good thread. One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the sharp increase in real estate and rental prices in the past ~2 years, aided and abetted of course by scads of newbie groups on Facebook, dubious Youtube videos and so on. Affordable rentals (even if one knows the ropes and has "boots on the ground") are hard to come by everywhere and buying, if you have less than 200K to spend and don't want to be out in the boonies, is also challenging. Those realities are what drove us back N.O.B. - along with the overcrowding and traffic gridlock. The established expat community is still great (newbieville can be another story) and other key expense items (grocery shopping, local food, in-country travel) are still great bargains but the days of living in popular expat havens in Mexico on a quasi-Social Security budget do seem to be over.
  5. Recommendations from an actual coffee professional, in case of interest. http://eatinglocalatlakeside.blogspot.com/2012/06/buying-brewing-good-coffee-at-lake.html
  6. The first suggestion is a good one. And hey, the way things are going maybe California will actually do what Texas merely threatens to do (with many of us so very disappointed that they don't have the courage of their convictions): secede from the union. The second....not so much, as Austin is just a tiny oasis of sanity in an ocean of redneck crazy. A happy medium for gypsyken might be New Mexico: deep blue politics, lots of places to practice his Spanish and a sweet border crossing at Santa Teresa if he can get the vehicle situation figured out.
  7. Sorry gringal if my comments came across as saying you were somehow "living the lifestyle of the rich and famous" when as you say that's far from being the case. What I meant to say - and I ought to have worded it better! - is that the kind of choice central Ajijic location you and many others posting here enjoy now comes at a seriously high price. Indeed that wasn't always the case; when I first started checking out this area in the early 2000's the lake was in bad shape and you couldn't give away properties here. Since then we've been through a big real estate boom in mid 2000's, a major bust in conjunction with the financial market crash in '08 and are now in the midst of yet another sustained boom that seems likely to go on for quite some time. Being able to access the malecon on foot and being easy walking distance from much of what one does everyday really does make for a great quality of life - and all the more so now when choosing to live even a couple of miles away from village central can mean spending much of one's time idling in traffic. Here's hoping that the local powers-that-be realize that failing to invest in basic infrastructure (from fixing roads to trash removal and - last not least - creating a viable mass transit system) undermines the quality of life the area is so rightly known for. Living life mostly on foot in the great weather here could be a viable option in most if not all of the villages here with a little effort and really ought not to be a rare privilege enjoyed only by those able to live in Chapala and Ajijic centro.
  8. So a bit of additional perspective for the few hanging on this late into what has become one of the more epic threads in forum history. Just the fact that that we're closing in on 200 posts here says a great deal about just how volatile the scene here has become, though I am certainly not drawing any conclusions. Bisbee Gal and gringal are both people I greatly admire, and as I respect and admire them both I have to point out that they have the wherewithal to live in a very small and exclusive area of central Ajijic that is indeed entirely negotiable on foot, reasonably quiet and very close to the lake. That area is the living definition of "the exception that proves the rule" when it comes to romantic notions of living at Lakeside, and it comes at a huge cost premium relative to the other 90% of the area. IF you can afford to buy or rent housing on the south side of the carretera in Ajijic from 5th de Febrero on the east to Paseo de la Pesca in La Floresta on the West and encompassing the northermost boundaries of Las Selvias and La Villita then you can indeed enjoy the "walk everywhere'" lifestyle described in these posts - provided you have the money and never need to go to Super Lake or Guadalajara. And if you have THAT kind of money, there are hundreds of places with fine climates you can live in in the U.S. that have functional infrastructure, rule of law, trash pickup, internet service faster than 5MB, clean air, hiking and biking trails and weather that while perhaps not as mild as Lakeside on a year-round basis is more comfortable overall because of the ability to slightly modify it with a thermostat - something that doesn't exist here. And bear in mind that the endlessly touted "walk everywhere" schtick here assumes you're able to negotiate cobblestones, endless dog poop, heavy traffic, gaping holes in the sidewalk, etc. into your 80's or 90's. No wonder that illegal golf carts and/or gringos driving when they ought to have had their keys taken away decades ago are such endemic parts of life here. Those who tout the “ideal” climate at Lakeside, in my experience, are usually the very ones who spend May and June visiting family N.O.B. and a month or two in the winter escaping Lakeside’s cabiñuelas at a $1200 a month rental in La Manzanilla. Add up the costs and many who live here could in fact choose to live almost anywhere if they only bothered to add up all that they spend saving money living in paradise.
  9. Not only have I heard of it, I have it and...unless you have fluent Spanish, a partner (or bilingual nurse on retainer), a strong relationship with a bilingual doctor who knows the strengths and weaknesses of both the IMS and SP hospital system and the private hospitals in Guad then all you have in enrolling in SP is a wish-and-a-prayer. I'm glad it's there but between the triage and the facilities...well, let's just remember that SP is what it is intended to be: a very thin safety net for Mexico's poorest. Equating it in some way with even the most basic U.S. coverage is foolish.
  10. There was a time - a very long 18-24 months ago - when I'd have agreed with you gringal but folks fleeing the U.S. for Lakeside for purely economic reasons are in for a rude awakening at this point. Rents in any part of Lakeside that are realistic choices for a car-free existence (say roughly Villa Nova to San Antonio and then Chapala centro) for places that a newbie expat would be looking for (i.e. not for a supply-your-own-everything-including-all-applicances) peso-priced fixer-upper in Las Redes are higher than any number of sunny, affordable retirement locales in the U.S. we have lived, including Tucson, Las Cruces, small-town Colorado and several other places. No question that food if you know how to shop the fruiterias and mercados is fresher and cheaper by far than anything in the U.S. but there are plenty of other costs that offset that savings, not the least of which is having absolutely no medical safety net (Medicare/Medicaid). How often have we seen people move down here with not just Social Security only for income but no assets, only to have something dire befall them resulting in pleas for donations? Our experience as budget retirees living on well under $2000 a month total is that there are plenty of good places in the U.S. where one can live on that amount - especially if one chooses a small-ist rental or mobile home in a place where Costco and Trader Joe's are to be found. Meanwhile I think anyone contemplating moving down here and living on Social Security alone had better have a Plan B for medical care back home or at least 100K per person in liquid assets to self-insure. There are of course plenty of places in Mexico where a frugal expat could live very well on far less than these amounts but none of them have been written up in International Living magazine or have English-language Facebook groups and rental web sites. And I should add...as a personal case-in-point...we ourselves are returning to one of those aforementioned smaller cities because we are now priced out of Lakeside and the quality of life here due to costs, congestion, pollution and traffic have seriously impacted the things we love about the area. We'll be renting a lovely 2 bedroom casita in a university town of 105,000 for $200 a month less than we are paying for an apartment in Chapala centro. Still love Lakeside but anyone contemplating moving here on a budget ought to think twice.
  11. We're in Chapala centro ourselves and I'm partially in agreement with gringal's thoughts. Double-parking everywhere and the traffic spots being full on the malecon even on weekdays is the new normal here, but the carretera traffic and overall crowdedness is nowhere near as awful as Ajijic. Here if you drive you're pretty much captive (or have to park many blocks away) only on weekends, whereas in Ajijic it's 7 days a week and woe unto you if you live west of town and need to head east at any time. Those spendy gated communities are now often 45 minutes from, say, LCS even on good days and far be it from the "I don't eat Mexican food" set that often chooses such housing to head west to Joco where birria is one of their few options with nary a Thai meal or a Panino's meatloaf special to be found. Sadly (and despite the earnest efforts of local "facilitators," LCS staff and of course every realtor in town to promote Ajijic as the epicenter of all that is noble about Lakeside) the virus has certainly spread to Chapala and all points in between. Rents here aren't a whole lot cheaper anymore, there are nearly 700 people on an utterly asinine newly-minted Facebook group called "Chapala Town" (because none of their target audience would known the meaning of "Ciudad de Chapala"?) and the city's idea of making life livable here is inviting 120,000 people for Carnival for 2+ weeks while making sure that more than half the streets in town are torn up, reeking of sewer and of course unusable for transport or parking. Ajijic may well be "Pueblo Tragico" as Mainecoons suggests, but here in Chapala we're "Pueblo de Polvo y Ruido." The south side of the lake may not be anywhere near far enough away.
  12. Great post ezpz, though I would qualify it a bit by saying that there are places where there are small but still visible expat communities where some Spanish is most definitely required but fluency isn't required. Off-hand Pátzcuaro, Oaxaca city, Guanajuato and Colima come to mind. Even my expat friends with fluent Spanish mostly have gringo friends, and that's because (a) that's where the common history and interests are; (b) their Mexican friends are very busy working long hours and attending to their many family obligations. Very few people are really in a position to "go native" 100% and the few I've met who have are married to Mexicans. In my limited experience places with really strong indigenous cultures (e.g. Oaxaca, Michoacán, Puebla, Chiapas) are not only the most culturally and culinarily rich parts of México they also mostly attract the kind of expat who chooses Mexico because they love it, not just for a lower cost of living and better climate. They tend to be into the arts and cuisine and to be pretty serious about Spanish. This book by John Scherber is really excellent (available on Kindle). It profiles expats who have chosen off-the-beaten parts of México. And as crowded and expensive as the beaten paths are getting to be it might be worth a read by any number of folks here and in San Miguel who can read the writing on the walls about the future in "known" places. http://www.sanmiguelallendebooks.com/intotheheartofmexico.html
  13. And that is very high praise indeed coming from Rony, one of the best "goodwill ambassadors" and role models for how to be an expat I have met anywhere. And I concur - one of the most outstanding posts on these forums.
  14. Lots of thoughtful posts here, from newbie MIchael's epic rant to much-valued insight from the likes of reliable stalwarts such as gringal and Mainecoons (and RV - we miss you!). We started visiting this area in 2004 and have logged a cumulative 4+ years here as full-timers since 2009 albeit with way too many moves back and forth to the U.S. We never wanted to be here year-round but pre-Obamacare were health care and insurance refugees, and being early (honestly - premature) retirees such access is still the #1 factor in us being here since we are a long way from Medicare eligibiity. We were happily ensconced in Tucson ourselves last year and enjoying spending summers in Mexico but post-election realized that writing was on the wall in the very "red" state of Arizona that our access to health insurance would likely go away. I don't want to drag this fine thread into a discussion of NOB politics but suffice it to say that I'm quite sure that a large percentage of the newbie invasion Lakeside has been experiencing over the past 18-24 months is from people fleeing the U.S. without a very clear idea of what awaits them here. They know what they are fleeing from, but aren't aware that joining a few Facebook groups, spending an hour or two perusing forums like this and maybe poking around on rental web sites and "International Living" may not be sufficient grounds to move down here lock, stock and barrel. As Mainecoons wisely points out Tapatios are far more of a factor in life here than we gringos will ever be but both groups drive up prices and increase congestion. Traffic in low season now is worse than it was during high season last year, while high season traffic is so bad that many friends who live in close-in West Ajijic commonly spend the better part of an hour getting from, say, the Waffle House to Wal Mart at off-peak weekday times. Far from thinking about investing in new buses, maybe requiring taxis to work something beyond banker's hours, etc. the local government's response to the infrastructure crisis is the Ajijic bike lane boondoggle, Chapala's "Waiting for Godot" street repair project and handing out a few more building permits for massive projects that will exponentially magnify existing problems. I know people who have lived here for 30 years who are throwing in the towel - some moving to other parts of Mexico, some headed to Spain, others moving back to the U.S. simply because the quality and pace of life they came here for is gone. In just the past year we have seen rents - and not just for gringo-owned places but also for peso-priced places in Chapala that used to be only for locals - increase by 30-40% or more, while the inventory of homes for sale under 200K has pretty much vanished. With the peso being so weak during this time frame food both at the mercados and at local (Mexican) restaurants is amazingly cheap for those lucky enough to be buying their pesos with U.S. dollars (and ditto with out-of-pocket medical and dental care) but otherwise it is very easy to live well in many desirable places in the U.S. (albeit NOT the coasts) for the same or less than things now cost here. People rightly celebrate Lake Chapala weather but northern Baja's near Ensenada is arguably as good or better while real estate and rentals are cheaper and it's a 2 hour drive on a 4 lane highway to the border. Who knows how long this will last but I mention it by way of pointing out that the relentless publicity for Lakeside and San Miguel don't mean that everyplace in Mexico is going down the tubes at the same rate as we are. If I were looking for a place in México to move to now I'd make sure to choose one with significant barriers to entry for those who just want to be down here for weather and lower costs - meaning a place where decent Spanish is required, the expat community is small and there are weather and/or cultural barriers that limit the influence expats can have. Pátzcuaro and Colima come to mind immediately but there are many others (the names of which I ain't sharing ). Rick did a good job of talking about Fort Collins but it, too, is yet another one of those places that has been endlessly touted by the likes of AARP and Kiplinger's as an ideal retirement location, driving prices through the roof. There are other places in the Soutwest (Cañon City, Colorado, Silver City or Las Cruces, New Mexico, Tucson [provided you have a summer escape plan] come to mind - where one can easily live on the same or less money than we do as budget retirees here, and while the weather year-round isn't as good there is hiking (dangerous and limited here) biking (suicidal), much cleaner air and water, infinitely superior infrastructure and actual rule of law - as well as the magical ability to deal with climate issues by flipping a little switch on the wall (which need not be a whole lot more expensive than fleeing NOB in the hot months or heading to the beach in the cold ones as many do here at Lakeside). The only problem with living in a place like that and then snowbirding or sunbirding down here is that the demand for rentals locally is such that finding a short-term place has become nearly impossible. Good friends of ours who lived here for decades but had to move back to Portland OR now winter in Thailand because it's so much cheaper than Lakeside - even with ~$1000 roundtrip airfare. My crystal ball is at least as hazy as anyone else's but my guess given what is happening in the U.S. is that the intense newbie invasion Lakeside has been experiencing the past couple of years is probably still in its early stages. Surely a significant number of those who have simply fled the U.S. without really knowing what they were fleeing to will return NOB, but I think it's likely each one who does will be replaced by two or three others, and that in any case the off-the-charts rental and real estate prices, traffic gridlock and filth will get much worse before they get better - unless of course the real estate and financial market bubbled NOB burst, which seems quite likely. We can't afford to buy anything here and are now priced out of the rental market too so we will be letting our temporal visas expire and moving back to New Mexico (where we have a 2 bedroom casita awaiting us at $200 less a month than we are paying in Chapala). We'll still be close enough to a walk-across border crossing to get our dental work done in Mexico. We will miss a great deal about Lakeside - the amazing expat community, the weather, the kind and dignified locals, great fruits and veggies and (last not least) affordable, accessible medical care, and we also know that further erosion of the health care and insurance system NOB may force us down to Mexico for good. When and If that happens we'll make sure to get permanente visas from the get-go and move to a city far off the gringo and International Living magazine radar.
  15. Seriously, instead of applying for a status that it has no legitimate chance of earning - and which has already been achieved by innumerable places with real depth of culture and ambiance - why not apply for something more unique and appropriate? "Pueblo Geriatrico" - now that's a slam dunk (though there will be protests from the jewelry-rattling set in San Miguel de Allende but we'll just give them "Pueblo Disneylandico" status as a consolation prize). As for Chapala, land of endless (and endlessly incompetent) street construction and even more endless promotion of totally out-of-scale Tapatio tourism (witness the recent two week shutdown with 120,000 drunken Tapatios for carneval - a mere 400% of the town's population), Pueblo de Polvo y Ruido has just the right ring. Let other villages have their Magico status. We have plenty of Tragico to go around.
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