Friday, March 08, 2013 5:00 AM
Expat Interview - Janet Lowe
This month's Expat Interview
features Janet Lowe. Janet is an artist who moved from the United States to Playa del
Carmen in 2007. Janet and I have been involved with several of the same charitable organizations in Playa and now we are both members of the new Playa del Carmen Rotary Club Seaside Chapter
. When I saw the gorgeous painting she was donating for the KKiS auction
last month, I approached her about contributing her point of view about expat life in Playa del Carmen.
As soon as I walked into her home, I knew I was in the home of an artist. Janet's original works dot the walls throughout the house. Each a colorful vignette of her life in Playa and favorite scenes from her travels in Mexico. Her unique shell and bead mobiles turned slowly as we walked past. As luck would have it, I was able observe a private art class she was giving. Janet teaches painting and drawing to locals and visitors who would like to improve their art skills. On this day, I was intrigued to discover that she also exchanges her art classes for other services; in this case, trading art instruction for yoga practice with Arielle Thomas Newman at Yoga by the Sea. I love this idea of bartering skills and services and wish there were more people willing to do the same.
Q: Where are you originally from and where in the Riviera Maya are you living now?
A: I lived in Philadelphia, PA for 30 years. Now I live in Playa del Carmen in a rented house.
Q: How long you have you lived there and what made you chose that area?
A: I moved here in 2007, having visited many areas of Mexico.
Q: What made you chose the Riviera Maya as a place to live? Had you visited the area many times in the past? What attracted you to Mexico and this region?
A: The warm air and beautiful sea were a big influence. I like Merida but there is not Caribbean Sea. I had visited many place in Mexico and kept returning to Playa. The reasonable cost of living was decisive in choosing Mexico.
Q: What did you do for a living back home? What do you do here?
A: I was an artist in the US working with clay. When I decided to move to Mexico I gave away my equipment to young people and began painting in oils. That is what I do here, and teaching painting classes.
Q: What do you enjoy most about the Riviera Maya?
A: The native people.
Q: How's the quality of life? Is it what you expected or have you been surprised by anything?
A: I am very happy with my quality of life. I have learned to be happy with what is available here. I don't own a car and make do with a bicycle. I rent a house.
Q: What do you miss most about your home country when you are here?
A: Art galleries and museums nearby. But there are plenty in Merida so I visit there often.
Q: Which are the best places to live in this region as an expat? Any specific area you would or would NOT recommend?
A: I am very happy in Playa del Carmen but it is getting bigger and bigger. I like Puerto Morelos a lot it is still a small town.
Q: How do you rate the standard of living accommodations and services?
A: There are definite differences: occasional power loss, internet interruption, telephone reception that comes and goes, but I have settled into a lovely house in a Mexican neighborhood where I am very comfortable.
Q: What's the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: I live much cheaper here and for me the difference is not having to pay for heat. I have learned to make do with what is available here rather than paying for imported items.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? Do you socialize mainly with other expats or do you have a lot of Mexican friends?
A: It was very easy meeting people. I started with my neighbors and expanded from there. I love to cook, so I asked neighbors if I could come sit in the kitchen and watch them cook. It was also a great way to learn the Spanish language. I do occasionally go to the expatriot gathering places which helps me meet that community. There is a large group of expatriots who gather for Friday night happy hours at each others homes and I have recently joined the English speaking Rotary Club.
Q: Do you find Playa del Carmen and the Riviera Maya safe?
Q: Did you have a problem getting a work visa/permit?
A: I don't work for money in Mexico but have volunteered with several organizations. The year I arrived in Playa I got involved with the Diabetes Club at the Angel Notion Clinic. The first week I was there taking blood pressures and weights, it was explained that knowledge of healthy food was needed. I like to cook, so I began cooking lunch for the 25 people who had fasted before having blood tested and gave them each the recipe every week. After 3 years they each had quite a cookbook. That Clinic closed so I became involved with the KKIS Project (Keeping Kids in School) last year. We are a group of expats who raise money at an annual fundraiser (coming up Feb. 28) to buy backpacks, shoes and school supplies for children who are in need in order to help them stay in school. I also organize a group of volunteers who practice English with grade school children in a neighborhood school north of Playa once a week.
Q: How do you keep busy?
A: I attend yoga classes 4 or 5 mornings a week and usually meet my husband on the beach afterward for a couple hours of swimming and relaxing in the sun. I teach painting classes once a week in my own studio. I paint a lot and now have begun making mobiles of sea shells and tiny seed beads. My paintings are on display in the shop Siete Detalles, the talavera and pewter shop on First Ave and Calle 14. I am very involved with the KKIS Project: finding families that need assistance, buying school supplies, and reading with children at the Pelopidas School in the Guadalupana neighborhood of Playa. I also cook often and we entertain in our wonderful home.
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home?
A: My husband has done very well. He does water aerobics with a group of expatriots and Mexican women three times a week. That community gathers once a month for a potluck party, good fellowship and often an accordion player.
Q: Did your children settle in easily?
A: My children are grown up and on their own but they have visited often.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare by cost and quality?
A: I have been very satisfied with the health care I have needed. I use the Sanar Clinic which features both western medicine and alternative treatment. My husband spent a few days in hospital in Playa and then Cancun, finally deciding to return to the US for treatment of a previous heart condition. The doctors in Philadelphia were very pleased
with the assistance he had received in Mexico.
Q: Is there any specific advice you like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Learn Spanish and get to know the Mexican people. You can definitely get away with out that challenge, but it is well worth the trouble.
Q: Have you ever considered moving back to your home country and if so, why?
Q: What brings you the most joy and keeps you here?
A: Yoga classes every morning with the Caribbean Sea as the background, smiling children's faces when I enter their classroom, sunshine and warm water.
**If you would like to take art classes with Janet, she can be reached via email at jlowepots[at]gmail.com.
About Expat Interviews on "Life's a Beach"
Every week, I answer dozens of emails from
people interested in moving
to Playa del Carmen. While I am always happy to give my point of
view....my perspective on life here as a foreigner.....I thought it
might be fun
and informative for "Life's a Beach" readers to get to
know some more
of the folks who have made the big leap into expat life. We
began a series of interviews with local business people and
families who have moved to Playa del Carmen whose journey may be of
interest to those still in the planning stages or even those just
dreaming about it. Unlike other expat
interviews found on the web, we know all of these people personally. If
you are planning to
move to Playa del Carmen, they just may be your neighbors! We may not
necessarily see eye to eye with everyone we interview but each of these
interviews will be published unedited and in their entirety. As such, I
imagine that this particular series will be interesting to follow and
prompt quite a few comments and questions.