We’re twelve days into our month in Mexico, and I thought I’d tally the best and worst of my experiences so far. (Note that I’m speaking only for myself here; Jak is working on a similar post with his own impressions.)

Best thing about living in this area:
Winner: The weather. Not a huge surprise, as that’s what draws all the gringos here in the first place. However, we’re here during what is widely considered the worst time of year – going into the last month of the dry season, when it’s hottest and dustiest. Me, I think 80F and bright sunshine every day is perfect.
Runner-up: Fresh fruit! Blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, pineapple, watermelon, mangos, cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, limes ... piles and piles of them, for pennies a pound.

Worst thing about living in this area:
Winner: The premature ululations of timing-impaired roosters. I have heard them go off at three in the morning and three in the afternoon. In the actual morning daylight, several of them will challenge each other nonstop for hours. Mercifully, our current abode is far enough away – a little gringo enclave up the hill, no chickens in residence – that the ‘coo-coo-rooooooo-coos’ don’t usually wake me, but with that kind of cacophony next door, living in the village proper might be out of the question.
Runner-up: Three days in, the leading contender was ‘mosquitoes’, as I’d already accumulated six bites. Since then, though, not a one. Maybe there was just one hungry sucker trapped in the house when we arrived.

Best thing about this particular rental house:
Winner: General location. Far enough away from the noise of the village (see above) but close enough to walk to the center of town in about ten minutes. Decent security too, with an electronic gate. Close to the Carretera (the main road), where catching a bus is easy.
Runner-up: Construction and interior decoration. This house has the open southern exposure and north-south ventilation that keeps buildings cool in summer and warm in winter. High ceilings with arched brick bovedas between beams, a beautiful brick dome in the entryway, and terra cotta tile floors. Mexican art and crafts are displayed on walls and shelves throughout, much of it quite lovely.

Worst thing about this particular rental house:
Winner: Not enough hot water. The owners have a tankless water heater, which I approve of generally for its energy efficiency, but the flow in this particular model is just too darned low for showering purposes. No one with forty inches of hair should be expected to take three-minute showers. It’s definitely the best time of year to be stuck with mostly cool water – I’ve started timing my showers for the heat of the afternoon – but I’d hate to be here in any other season.
Runner-up: Tiny kitchen. This is a great kitchen for someone who eats out most of the time (as a lot of people Lakeside do), but since I’m trying to cook most of our meals, I’m finding it severely lacking in counter space.

Most difficult adjustment:
Winner: Not flushing toilet paper. Breaking a 40-year-old habit is hard! But apparently the pipes to sewage treatment are clay, not modern PVC, and toilet paper can get hung on the joints and clog the lines. So a wastebasket it is. At least in Mexico trash pickup is daily, so nothing has to hang around for long.
Runner-up: Figuring out when places are open. Every little local shop keeps a different schedule, and often the hours are not posted anywhere. I’m sure there’s a pattern to be discerned, but so far much remains a mystery. Sometimes I walk a quarter mile or more just to find the place I need is closed and I have to turn around and try again tomorrow.

Biggest anticipated problem that hasn’t materialized:
Winner: Turistas, aka intestinal difficulties. I’ve taken a few modest precautions but also some mild risks, and so far my gut is all good. At least in this area, food and water seems to be pretty darned safe.
Runner-up: Sunburn. At first I was both diligent and extravagant in my application of sunscreen, but as the days passed and my skin remained just as pale as ever, I learned that I can go out in the morning or late afternoon without it. So far, not even the slightest hint of pink, despite being closer to the equator than I’ve ever been in my life, and a mile high besides.

Biggest gringo mistake:
Winner: Asking at the produce shop whether a particular kind of pepper was ‘caliente’. A couple of days later I had the forehead-slapping realization that I’d asked whether it was temperature-hot, not spicy-hot (picante).
Runner-up: Tipping the taxi driver from the airport. The cab fares are regulated and prepaid, and as I later found out, no one tips drivers here unless they help you in some extraordinary way. Forty pesos misspent.
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