YL: When did you move to the Yucatan and where did you move from and why did you move?
A & J:We moved to Merida in August of 2005. We are from New York but have also lived in Philadelphia, on Great Diamond Island off the coast of Portland, Maine and in Port Orange, Florida. We wanted warm weather but didn’t feel a heart connection with Florida. And thought a complete change from what we knew would be exciting. We came to Merida not knowing Spanish and without knowing anyone.
YL: Why did you choose the city you now live in over other places in the world?
A & J: It is a city close to water and offered many opportunities both culturally and socially.
YL: What did/do you plan to do after you move(d) here?
A & J: We illustrate and write children’s books, working with publishers in New York, Chicago and California. We can continue to do our work because of fax, FedEx, phones and emails.
YL: Are you doing now what you intended to do when you moved here?
A & J: No, we’re doing more than we had planned. We have met many interesting people both expatriates and Mexicans. It is an incredibly rich experience. And we love the food and music.
YL: Did you buy a house right away or rent first? Do you think you made the right decision?
A & J:John came down here first by himself to explore and saw three houses he liked very much. On the way back to the States, he sold our house in Florida to the woman sitting next to him on the plane. We took this as a sign from the Universe and we bought the house here in Merida by seeing it on the internet. Alexandra had never been in Merida or seen the house. We both love the house and Merida and are very happy with our leap of faith.
YL: Now that you live here, how do you like it?
A & J: The city and the Yucatan continue to surprise and delight us. We find the people friendly and kind. The color of the houses, the history and the Mayan culture and arts are incredible.
YL: Would you ever return to your former location?
A & J: Never!
YL: What are the most striking differences between living here vs. living where you lived before?
A & J: The weather is very different from what we are used to. Summer is a bit of a challenge, but on the other hand, Alexandra loves to swim year round. The garden is always alive and active.
YL: What do you love about living here?
A & J: The pace of everyday living, the idea of having music in the streets and dancing even in the morning presents the idea that life is meant to be enjoyed.
YL: What do you miss from your "former life"?
A & J: Pumpkin pie filling mix, Border’s Book Store, and Crisco.
YL: If you are working or own a business, what is it like owning and running a business here or working here?
A & J: We don’ t have a business here. We work with publishers in the States.
YL: Do you have to do more than one thing to make a living?
A & J: No.
YL: Do you work as much as you used to "back home" or are your work habits different here?
A & J: We are fortunate enough to make our own hours and have always done so as free-lance artists.
YL: How is the city where you live different for residents than it is for tourists?
A & J: The residents have the opportunity to see and feel the city and its people more than the tourists that simply pass through.
YL: How is your Spanish?
A & J: Better than when we got off the plane a little over a year ago. We are taking Spanish lessons three times a week and have done so since last January. We want very much to learn Spanish, however, because we feel that we should be able to speak the language of the country where we are living and it would increase our enjoyment of the people.
YL: Is the language barrier a problem for you in your day to day life?
A & J: No. People here are very patient with the Spanish we know and we find communicating simply as people to people rather than Americans to Mexicans works well for us.
YL: What is the one most important piece of advice you would give someone planning a move to the Yucatan?
A & J: Visit first, open your heart to what is offered here and see if you connect. It’s important to accept what is here and not what you wished were here.
YL: Are you a Mexican citizen?
A & J: No.
YL: If you aren’t, do you think you will become one?
A & J: Anything is possible.
YL: How are you treated by Mexicans? Do you feel resented or welcome?
A & J: We consider politeness to be universal and find treatment by people comes from the respect and kindness you show them. We feel this is true of everyone, Mexicans, Americans, Austrians, everyone.
YL: How do you feel about the economic prospects of Mexico?
A & J: We feel confident about being here and look forward to the future.
YL: What are your plans for the future here?
A & J: To continue to investigate our art and welcome new adventures.
YL: Do you see your business growing?
A & J: It is moving along at a steady pace the way it’s always has. Ojala!
YL: Do you see yourself staying?
A & J: At this moment, absolutely. We love it here.
YL: Any last words?
A&J: We thank you for the opportunity for our opinions to be heard and compliment you and everyone connected to this service for your attention and consideration to others.
Awww… (blush!) thanks! We are thrilled that Alexandra and John Wallen have chosen Merida as their new home base. You can see the books they have illustrated on Amazon, of course. Here are a few to get you started:
A Picture Book of Benjamin Franklin (Picture Book Biography) (this is one in a series of biographies of historical figures for children… )
and much much more!