Words of wisdom

Words of wisdom

Tuesday, January 27, 2015



I just returned from 10 days in beautiful Ajijic, Mexico.  The sun was shinning, the temps were in the mid-70's and the streets were filled with Canadians and Americans enjoying the weather and getting medical and dental procedures done.

                                            Ajijic Centro

This little village, located along the shores of Lake Chapala in the state of Jalisco is where I called home from 2004-2006.  Of course it has changed in the past 9 years - the 'gringo population' has exploded - there are many more houses, stores, restaurants, traffic and even a WalMart.

If you were to Google 'the most perfect weather year-round' you would get a town in South Africa and Ajijic, MX.  At 5000 ft, surrounded by mountains and situated on the largest inland lake in Mexico, Ajijic's average temperature is 72º. The sun shines almost daily, even during the rainy season.  The houses have no furnaces, and only a few have fireplaces, as it never really gets cold enough to need heat in the evenings.  You can live in a beautiful home, eat out almost every meal, enjoy the services of a gardener and a maid and still have money left over from one average monthly Social Security check.  Full-coverage auto and medical insurance are a tiny-fraction of what we pay in the States.  Which brings me to the reason of my return visit.

Beautiful succulent wreath on a blue wall

I will preface my visit to my dentist here in Chicago by saying "I just love to chew on those little unpopped kernels of popcorn that are always at the bottom of the bowl."  Therefore I should not have been surprised when I managed to chip a crown doing just that.  My dentist here said that the crown would need to be replaced and she thought I had a least one other that also needed to be repaired. When she quoted me the price of $995 per crown, I spouted a few expletives and said I would need to think about before making an appointment.

I came home and called a couple of other dentists in the area that friends recommended and got quotes of $1200 to $1400 per crown.  That's when I decided to call my dear friends, Ernie and Rich, who still reside in Ajijic, to see if their dentist was still practicing and what she would me a quote for crowns.

 The next day I had a lovely email from Dr. Rosio saying that she would love to see me.  Her price for one crown was  $3800 Mexican Pesos - or $260 USD.  I said I would get back to her and set an appointment time as  soon as I could make my flight reservations!

I flew Volaris, the new 'base price' Mexican airline flying from the US to many Mexican destinations.  Big planes, very comfortable leather seats, much better than our 'base price Spirit Air.'   I got a round trip flight from Chicago for $350.

My friends Rich and Ernie graciously allowed me to stay in their beautiful casita for the price of one big dinner and drinks at their favorite restaurant.

Here is a photo I took overlooking their beautiful home and courtyard and the 3 of us enjoying a great seafood dinner in Chapala!      

I used Uber to O'Hare for $14.95 (They had a great promo going!)  I had Samuel, (who I learned had lived only 3 blocks of my apartment in Chicago when he was living in the States) as my taxi driver to and from the airport. ($34 each way).  For the 10 days I was there I spent $153.06 on meals (including the 'boys night out') and a couple of small gifts.   For 3 new crowns ($777.65), a cleaning ($20.45) and night guard ($122.78), delicious food and drink (and lots of good tequila!) and visiting with dear friends, I paid in total a little bit more than what one dentist in Chicago wanted for ONE CROWN!  If you've been adding, you will see that my 10 days in Mexico, including dental treatment cost me approximately $1449.02.

You are saying I paid so little because I got to stay for free. That may be true, but I can assure you that you can find lovely rooms in several charming B&B's in Ajijic and Chapala for between $30-$40 a night.  You can also stay at Casa Flores, one of the most upscale and luxurious hotels in Mexico and pay a whole heck of a lot more and easily find any accommodation in-between.

The doctors in Mexico are highly skilled and trained -  many in the US;  they speak fluent English; their office equipment and labs are to the standards, and in some cases even higher, than those you will find in the States.

What I found most appealing, besides the hundreds, and in some cases thousands of dollars you save, is the time, care and 'bedside manner' in which these doctors excel.  Dr. Rosio stated that she would not allow me to leave her chair until she was completely satisfied that everything was perfect and I was completely happy.

                       Sunrise over Lake Chapala
       Palm with hanging orchids

I will admit that things move a little slower south-of-the-border than they do here.  I met with Dr. Rosio on Saturday morning at 10 a.m.  She gave me the news that I actually needed 3 new crowns and took the first impressions.

I returned at 7:30 a.m. on Monday when she removed my old crowns and put on the temporaries.  From Tuesday through Thursday I relaxed and visited with friends and wandered around the village.  On Friday at 11:00 she replaced 2 of the crowns and then announced after trying, that she was very unhappy with the 3rd crown and planned to drive to the lab in Guadalajara herself to make sure they made another one exactly as she wanted!  I returned on Saturday at 2:30 and had the 3rd crown installed,  my teeth cleaned and my night guard fitted. I flew home on Sunday morning - back to snow and ice and 30º - yuck!

So is this something you should consider?  YES!  Especially if you live on a budget like I do and still want the best medical or dental care you can get.  While there I heard the story of the Department Chair of the University of Minnesota Hospital who had to undergo unplanned surgery in Mexico.  He had previously had a heart attack but now he needed emergency bowel surgery.  He was so impressed with the fact that the hospital in Guadalajara took him into surgery on a gurney, but when he arrived at the surgical theater, he was moved to a conveyor belt and the 'contaminated' gurney stayed outside.  His whole body was then  air-cleaned and all outside germs were removed before he placed on the surgical bed. They also had a heart surgeon on stand bye 'just-in-case.' The surgery was a success and he stated loudly, for anyone who was interested in listening, that not even in his own hospital would he have received the care, let alone have access to the the technology that was in place for a 'super clean' surgical theater.'  A pretty good recommendation, I would say.

Options - I love options.  And this is just another one I offer up for your consideration the next time you are thinking of paying all that money to your dentist! And Mexico isn't the only country offering great medical care - it's just the closest.  I can highly recommend having babies in Belgium and being treated for Dengue Fever on St. Kitts!

Until next time.....


Monday, January 5, 2015


2015 is going to be a monumental year for many of us.  For me, it means packing up or selling off everything I own, putting what I'm keeping in storage, purchasing the first flight for my RTW trip, packing my bag and stepping off into the unknown.

I was recently asked 'At your age, why can't you be like a normal person?'  I was informed that 'normal people' stay put, live in the same home year after year, have a close circle of friends, enjoy local activities, cook, clean, babysit their grandchildren, read books and grow old, happy comfortably.... and quietly.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that life.  If my husband were still alive, my life would be much more 'normal.'  But life didn't give me that option.   Because he is no longer part of my life, after 30 years of 'normal' I got to make the choice of what kind of life I wanted to live.

I made the decision to 'not be normal.'  I had been so lucky.  Between my business and my husband's work, I got to live and travel to many places around the world, which only whetted my appetite to see more, do more, and enjoy life to the fullest.

I admit  it - I get bored easily.  Maybe that's why in the past 14 years I have lived in Penland, NC, Ajijic, MX, Wilmington, NC, St. Kitts, Eastern Caribbean, a 30' Winnebago and Chicago, IL.  And I wouldn't have traded a single day (even though there were some really rough days) for the experiences I had, the people I met and the sites I've seen.

I love living in Chicago!  I love all the wonderful things living in a big city offers - from great public transportation to outstanding theater and music, to festivals and concerts, a beautiful lakefront, an overwhelming selection of wonderful restaurants, unparalleled shopping and a diversity of cultures and interesting people.  I have a great circle of friends here now.  I belong to several really wonderful organizations.  I have access to 2 major airports that can put me on the doorsteps of my children within a few hours.  So why, you ask, are you leaving?

Because there are so many places I still have to see! Places that are different and foreign and unique.  I want to learn from the people who live there, hopefully, understand a little better their way of life and share mine with them.

So things are getting really down-to-the-wire and I'm beginning to lay out my specific itinerary. Did you know that an American is only allowed to spend a total of 3 months traveling in Europe? That really is putting a damper on where and how long I had planned to stay in certain countries and making me reconsider my departure date due to a couple of 'locked-in' dates I have already set in Spain and Denmark.

And then I found the elephant refuge....but that will have to wait until my next posting.

Until then.....