Todd Stong is a retired military engineer who has wintered in the Lake Chapala region of central Mexico. He may be retired but his wintering there is far from chaise chair lounging. For nearly two decades, Todd has been actively involved in the management and work to improve the availability of good drinking water for the indigenous people of the region. Todd is in his 80’s.
Read Todd’s comments as he prepares for his return to the United States from Lake Chapala during this COVID-19 pandemic crisis.
The confirmed airline reservations for a mid-day flight out on 24 Jun, ended 3 days later with boarding passes mysteriously created for a flight that would land in Juarez at about 10PM. They were instantly cancelled and it was elected to go beyond the visa cut-off date for the 1st mid-day flight which ended up being on 08 Jul. Juarez, with over a million poor, is not a tourist attraction once the sunsets. Even taxis do not come over from the US side after 5 PM.
The sunny side is that these extra 2 weeks here makes the annual crash to close up/finish up a myriad of TODOs less of a press. I am always disappointed in myself at the end of each time here in getting to projects that are on the top of other’s list, and to visit with friends that I must express appreciation.
I already had an 8” high pile of papers in my carry-on bag for actions planned for addressing at the farm in New Mexico, site of the 14-day quarantine for entry to the US. In turn, a 6” pile of actions to be faced once in PA was already in my bag to be checked. Yet, within 3 hours, this time void saw new meetings agreed to for this coming Monday and Tuesday (San Padro Itzican-bottle water and compiling a list of long-needed projects about the lake and in the villages, some of which require federal support). In truth, much of my project actions about the lake can continue rather well via daily phone and email contact. Even engineering designs can be photographed and sent in seconds by email.
Of course, the Mexican culture prefers face to face meetings on most everything. This is a world of sound and color, not print. The daily sounds of life in the village include the call of the waterman, the trash truck, the knife sharpener playing his flute, a horse trotting over the 400-year-old cobblestone streets, the man who pushes his ice cream/popsicle cart for miles each day, the lady with a wheelbarrow of baked goods and the ever-smiling Maria, age 90 something, who daily sweeps the street for half a dozen neighbor’s donations so she can at day’s end climb the street to buy her big bottle of soda.
Never before had the annual exit from Mexico been so late. It has been quite a joy for me to smell the rain and to see the mountains reborn in green. I truly would like to live here year-round. I have had more years of life here (17 winters) at lakeside than any other place in the world. Even the chickens in the yard below talk to me as I find some excitement in each morning gathering fresh grass and kitchen scraps for these 18 who eagerly await this added exotic assortment to their dry food diet.
Given the impaired state of any business in the US, I decided to not attempt to sell the most charming 1856 home in PA. In turn, I hope to be back to the lake in December.
I will drive from NM to PA via MS and FL so as to avoid airports and planes. Only the flight from Guadalajara to Juarez is a challenge. But the alternative of a crowded, virus transporting bus, to reach the border was a definite no. My calculation of the passage of the virus in Mexico is that it is now 30% along the way. We are not even near the peak (50% of the trek) that President Obrador declared for 10 May. My calculation also suggests that the current 20,000 deaths will reach 65,000-75,000 by the close of September. Lakeside counties of 50,000 population may fortunately only see up to 40 deaths each. The best point for Mexico is that the median age is 28 versus the mid-40s in the US and western Europe. Bused factory workers daily from area villages to Guadalajara and back may end in catastrophe for most of these poor who lack any medical care or services. The next most dangerous impact on the defenceless villages (24 million in Mexico) may be the myriad of cola trucks that roam everywhere in the nation. Daily they contribute to the medical problems of the people here: premature death due to obesity, high blood pressure issues and most of all diabetes for adults. They also contribute, along with arsenic laden well water, to the early death from kidney failure of children who are often fed cola (400 times more acid) instead of milk from their earliest living days because milk trucks are seldom seen in the remote areas.
A troubled land with weather that only the angels experience regularly.