LOOKING FOR A HAPPINESS PLAN
—A Profile of Jim Cook
By Angela Cook (no relation!)
As Jim Cook talks in his unassuming way, place names, Indigenous words, Spanish words fall easily off his tongue. He brings to life the beauty of the geography and place, the incredible history, the diversity of the people, the religious, political, historical, and cultural meaning deeply imbedded in this magical place called Mexico—arts, fiestas, Revolution Day, Semana Santa, the life of Zapata and Villa—Ole’! His eyes twinkle as he speaks the tales. It has always been that way.
Jim grew up a “Navy brat” with adventurous parents. “Now 97, my mom got her first computer at age 93 so she could Skype with us!” Jim recalls stories his father told about Mexico, but he and wife Carole hadn’t considered retiring here. Still, when things began to downturn in the US economy, they looked for a place to pursue their desire to hike, explore, and to flourish. A little over five years ago, the couple retired, left the US, and came here to Ajijic to live at the foot of these ancient volcanic mountains.
Carole calls their move south “Mexico on Training Wheels”. They are pleased with their choice of Ajijic—the village, the roosters, the horses, the character, and the beauty. “We love to hike and here we meet adventurous residents from all over.” Jim has helped to develop a robust hiking community here at Lakeside.
Always fascinated by history, Jim soon began to blog about their adventures. As the two of them researched places to explore in their newly adopted country, trips near and far, short and long became a way of life for them. The blog reflects their desires to see what Mexico has to offer, and oozes their delight in what they find.
Q: Jim, you call your blog a photo journal and yet it is so much more. The history, architecture, and cultural anecdotes lend a beautiful sense of place to all that Mexico is. Tell us more.
A: Our primary drive and purpose in the beginning was to explore and discover our new country for ourselves. We have been so utterly delighted in what we have seen and experienced, the characters we have met, the history that has come to life for us, our desires now are much bigger than ourselves. We want everyone to experience and to know the Mexico that continues to reveal itself. We want others to travel and we want to show them how easily it can roll out for them too.”
Q: What might set the people of Mexico apart, Jim? How would you describe their character and their hearts?
A: We find the Mexican and the Indigenous people throughout this country to be warm and generous, forthcoming, and eager to be helpful. This same warmth and generosity seems to be at all income levels. On one of our hiking adventures in a remote area south of Lake Chapala, we came to a tiny village called Citala. The one tienda there sold cerveza, so we wandered over. We rested on the porch of the tienda and sipped our beers. There were some hombres mexicanos across the way, also enjoying their cervezas. Although our Spanish was muy basico at the time, we exchanged greetings and a conversation ensued. We told them that we were delighted with their area and would love to camp here. ‘Are there rules?’ we wondered. The response was hearty guffaws. ‘Rules? What rules? Do what you want here. You are welcome.’ So there you have it!
Q: Why Mexico for you and Carole?
A: “Carole and I have had so many amazing experiences, both ordinary and extra-ordinary. While hiking in the trackless jungle of the Yucatan, we walked into a clearing at one point, and before us was a stunning palace. Carole and I were the only people around anywhere! It was ‘knock your socks off’ awesome. All we could do for a few moments was stare and catch our breath. We really, really want others to have these experiences, and often, if they can.
Jim and Carole’s blog brings much of this to paper and the photos are great. In the blog he includes profiles, local lore, names eating and lodging places to enjoy, and includes directions for getting there. And, Jim and Carole want you to know that the real joy is in being there and in experiencing the discovery for yourself. To learn more, go to:
Jim and Carole’s Mexico Adventure http://cookjmex.blogspot.mx/