Erich has always been a nomad. Born and educated in Germany, work took him to Chile, the Ivory Coast and Brazil. Eight months of backpacking in South America were followed by 15 years in South Africa. In 1985 Erich grew restless with the political situation and made his way to Australia. He considered this his home, although work took him to the Solomon Islands for three years.
In Australia, he met an American, who was on vacation. “Jeannie and I had an instant connection and kept in touch regularly after she went home. Then we began a long-distance relationship, commuting back and forth.”
In 2001, Erich packed up and moved to New York and then to Massachusetts, where he and Jeannie were married. Seven years later he convinced her to abandon New England for a warmer climate and they returned to 'the land down under'. They expected to spend the rest of their days there, but life is full of surprises.
In 2015, they attended a conference in San Francisco. “In February, Australia gets hot, and since we were traveling all this distance anyway, we decided to spend some time where its cooler and dryer. In the mid-1970’s I’d stopped overnight in Oaxaca City and always wanted to return and see it properly. This was a perfect opportunity.”
“We fell in love with Oaxaca and our hearts decided before our brains could justify this impulsive decision. The rhythm and the color appeals to our sense of aesthetics. At fifteen hundred meters, the weather is ideal - it is springtime year-round. And it’s half-way between the two places where we each have friends and family. It was the perfect compromise.”
The couple made lists, detailing the positives and negative but couldn't find much to put on the minus side. They sold most of their stuff, packed up the rest, and made Oaxaca their new home. Erich studied Spanish in high school and even after all these years, it came back once he was immersed. Their Zapotec village twenty minutes outside the city, does offer total immersion.
Their biggest surprise was how easily they fit into the day-to-day life. “Our Mexican landlords helped us tremendously. Each day they dropped us in the center of town on their way to work. They showed us where everything was and what we needed to do.”
Early on they discovered the Oaxaca Lending Library in the center of the city which is far more than just a library. “We met so many wonderful expats there and discovered a built-in foreign community through this facility.”
Erich is retired but finds lots to fill his days in Oaxaca. He volunteers as a photographer for Fundacíon EnVia, a non-profit that grants micro loans to indigenous women. His pictures document what these women accomplish with the funds they receive. The couple have also affiliated themselves with the Oaxaca Learning Center. A nonprofit which provides tutoring and others social services to help kids from poor families to complete their studies.
Erich’s advice to anyone considering moving to Oaxaca is that you need to be open and accept that things are different. Don’t make comparisons or ask why things aren’t the way you’re accustomed to. “Open your mind and open your heart.” He warns that some parts of Oaxaca City can feel rather cramped and noisy and the pollution might be a factor for some. Living outside the city could be an alternative in that respect. Having your own transportation will afford you more flexibility and make it easier to explore the surrounding villages.