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By Susan Mahalick

May 20, 2014 (Baja)--I am not retired, like so many people are down here, but I consider Baja to be my home, and have for eleven years now. I used to come down for long weekends when I lived up in San Diego, staying with a friend in Baja del Mar. I started crying going back over the border on Sunday evenings, so I decided I could fix that problem by moving here. My friend helped me a find my first tiny casita to rent in Colonia Reforma which is close to the power plant in Rosarito.

Unlike San Diego, which is so large and spread out, I found it easy to make friends down here and get involved in the art scene. Everything blossomed for me when I discovered JoAnn Jones Knox Martino Galeria y Café in Cantamar. Not only did she have a unique art gallery and gift shop in a three story home, she ran a cafe with a wine bar. I was now really home for the first time in many years. I met the most interesting and wonderful people there and JoAnn herself is someone I call bright and shiny, her personality just sparkles. I had "my chair" there now for eight of the eleven years I have resided in Baja. Unfortunately it is closed.

I used to commute over the border five days a week to and work in San Diego, but decided to move to La Mision, which is too far to commute every day. And even with the Sentri pass which is a fast way to cross the border, the border can be a real beast what with military checkpoints and road construction, traffic jams in TJ and the vagaries of the border itself. I work from home as do many of my neighbors doing work on the internet with a Vonage phone line which makes it look like I live in San Diego. I even “hide” my computer behind a proxy server so no one knows I live in Mexico. This is important for someone who works quite often as Mexico is considered to be unsafe even over the internet!

So why am I here besides the conviviality of the people? How about the clean air, the freshest of seafood, the cost of living and the proximity of everything you need from a vet to a pharmacy to name a few. Every area has a market once a week so you can purchase fresh produce that is not genetically engineered at low prices. High speed internet is available everywhere with either a phone line or a USB modem device. You can get a cell phone that is cross border or a cell phone that works only down here.

All the wonderful events, especially in the summer and at Christmastime. Art, music, theater, craft shows, charity functions to attend. Music by the likes of Miguel de Hoyos and Alex Depue, a classical guitarist and a violin player who brings his instrument to life like no one else I have ever heard. Art by people like Francisco Cabello, Humberto, Polo, Paco Valencia and David Silva. Amazing art. But then when one has inexpensive living and all this light to tap into, artists tend to abound.

The Americans also play a large role in helping out their Mexican neighbors in many ways, so one can never say there is nothing to do here. Volunteer at one of the many spay and neuter clinics for cats and dogs or give support to the horse clinic in La Misión which vaccinates one hundred horses. The Flying Samaritans is a group that once a month caters to the poorest with dental and medical care and needs translators, nurses and people to dispense medicine. You can sponsor an orphanage or assist with the food bank in La Misión which helps support about half of the local population with staples like rice and beans.

Travel anyone? Whale tours, cave paintings, and the richness of the desert and the ocean are here for you to enjoy and explore. It is all here for the enjoyment of the expats and Mexican people to enjoy. Kayak in the ocean or down one of the rivers. Hang glide from one of the bluffs or ridges adjoining the ocean. Rock climb and hike in the many hills in this desert terrain.

Want to learn how to play bridge or dance the Tango? How about yoga classes and three levels of Spanish classes? Learn how to do pottery or paint ceramics, bead work and silver jewelry making. Many people like myself have become writers as we do not have to sit on the freeways three hours a day and work too hard to make a living.

One of my favorite places to visit is the Guadalupe Wine Valley, a mere twenty five minute drive from my little place on the hill in La Misión. Great wines, food and cheeses abound in the Valley along with restaurants and the rich history of the people who cultivated the first vines, many of whom were Russian.

Medical and dental care is reasonably priced for those who do not want to go across the border. A specialist such as an opthamologist or dermatologist costs $40 for an office visit for instance. The Cruz Roja which is the Red Cross down here will charge about $5 for a visit and the services are a fraction of what they would cost in the states. People come from California to go to dentists and plastic surgeons in Tijuana. There is a special pass to get you back across the border available when you use these services called a fast pass.

Real estate even right on the beach is reasonable and affordable to many more than in Southern California. For that reason many former Californians sold up north and bought down here where the taxes are incredibly inexpensive. How about $200 for the year as an average? Compared to California real estate taxes that is quite a deal.

It is important when moving to another country to do your research and visit the area first.

So why move to Baja? Because there are so many fine reasons to do so.

Baja Movers Dennis Villa 619-350-3135 or 619-730-6860 Dennis advertises that he can move you anywhere in Mexico and can handle the Mexican custom process.

Realtors, Herb Kinsey and Jane Norton, of MLS Baja specialize in helping people transition to Baja whether they want to buy or to rent. There is a wealth of information on their website and they are reputable.

Susan A Mahalick has lived in Baja for over 11 years and written for many publications such as the Secretary of Tourism and the the Baja Times. Her second edition of My Gold Coast—Baja, A Practical Guide is out in Kindle format and will be out soon in paperback.

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