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Chapala Living Guide is based on our first hand eperience of living in Chapala, Mexico

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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 4th decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Lights, Tennis, Action!

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Volunteering our time and expertise is something that Akaisha and I have done for years since retiring in 1991. When we give to others in this manner, we feel that we are the ones who come out ahead after finishing a project. From teaching English as a second language to coaching basketball, the rewards have been great. The following is a pictorial of a project that had been lingering for a while, and where I dove head on and helped to complete. After building tennis courts numbers 5 and 6 in the year 2000, there had been talk about and the desire to place lights on them so that the Mexican players could have more time to play tennis after work. As most Gringos here are retired and play in the mornings, the better Mexican players are limited by the fact that they have jobs, and run out of daylight to play this favorite sport. This was the perfect project to show our support to these players and to the people of Chapala. 

I was notified of this project five months ago while we were still in the States, and when we arrived in Chapala three months later, it was still just talk. The agreement with the City was that we (the courts) would pay for the materials and the City would supply the labor. When asking the people who are now in charge of the courts what the hold up was, I was told it was the City, because the courts had the money. I then went to the City and asked them the same question. They of course, told me they were waiting on the tennis court management to purchase the materials! Typical bureaucratic stalemate.

I quickly got Nacho, our inside man with the City, Alex the electrical engineer, and Gustavo the head of Public Works together to make sure they were all ready to move ahead. This was a ten minute 'meeting' in a hallway. All agreed they were ready and I told them to order the materials.

The project had started!


The materials arrived the following week. To be honest, it didn't really look like much sitting in the corner of the Pro Shop. But Alex, the City electrical engineer, and I had a good rapport from the beginning, and I trusted that he knew what was needed. The rebar anchors shown here are upside down and the light poles will be bolted securely into these bases. The black cross bars that you see on the left will be on top of the light poles with two lights placed on either side.


2The lighting project is a serious one, and 270 meters of subterranean conduit will be used to protect the 220 Volt wiring.


And finally the light poles. The steel poles are 11 meters tall (about 35 feet) and took four men to unload each of them from the truck. As you can see, they came with a coat of red primer and needed to be painted green to match the theme of the courts. 


Now it was time to get to work.


The Obras Publicos, or what we would call The Public Works Department, supplied the workers to dig the holes for the anchors and wiring trenches. It was amazing to watch these skilled laborers working with only basic tools: hammer, chisel, pick and shovel. Here this man is using a metal bar with a pointed end to loosen the dirt below him.


The Boss goes into the hole to check for measurements and lets it be known that it must be deeper. You can see that the tennis players on the courts are unaffected by the work surrounding them. The games go on!


The City workers are making progress using a #10 can to scrape and scoop out the loosened dirt. These holes were about as perfectly square as you could get them and five feet deep! In the States we would have used a jack hammer to break the concrete then a post hole digger to make this deep hole. Here in Chapala, Mexico, they are masters of using simple tools effectively.


The holes and trenches are dug so it's now time to put the conduit into place on this side of the courts.


The anchors needed to be supported and reinforced with a rebar cage. It is important that these cages are both centered and level. You can notice the threads at the top of the anchor where the poles will be bolted.

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A wheelbarrow full of cement is dumped first before setting the anchor into place. The workers are discussing the electrical connection with one of the City electricians before dumping more cement.


More cement is poured - which, by the way, is all hand mixed. No machines here! Notice the "registro" or connection box with the square red top in the center of the photo. Each pole has one of these plus there are more registros anywhere there is a right angle throughout the underground wiring system.


The workers are placing the conduit connecting the registro and pole base. The wiring will be pulled through the conduit once these workers are finished with their part of the construction.


This is pretty much the final product minus some cosmetic finish work. The cement in the bases needed to cure for a number of days due to the amount of weight that will be placed upon them.

The holes are dug and the anchors are in place. Now it's time to run the conduit out to the power pole.


Because there is an access road into the park between this registro and the power pole at the top of the photo with the transformer on it, we needed to have the City's backhoe to dig out the trench.


The conduit needed to be 3 feet deep under the road so that the heavy trucks which use the road would not disturb the 220 Volt wiring. The recent rains made for a muddy day at the office. The gate where the road passes through the park is visible at the upper left of the photo.


Boys and their toys. Here I am doing my part working the backhoe showing these guys how we do things up North.

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The final conduit is being laid in place out to the main power source.

These workers' job is complete and it's time for the electricians.


Their first order of business is to raise the poles. In the States we would be using a crane or some other mechanical device to facilitate this process. Here they rely solely on manpower. Tennis players are not concerned with the goings-on at this point.


Using brute strength and leverage, these workers carefully raise this pole. And the tennis players have scattered!





This was amazing to witness and I made sure I was clear of any falling poles! Notice how they have tied ropes to the top of the pole.


The ropes had to be untied and their ladder is only so tall. Without hesitation this man went to the top, 35 feet above the concrete, with no safety harness and did his job.


With the poles in place and tightened down, these workers pulled the wiring through the conduit and made the necessary connections.


The lights and ballasts were assembled below including the 1000 Watt light bulbs. Each of these weigh over 20 Kilos, or about 45 pounds and there are two on each pole.

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Remember, the ladder wasn't tall enough to reach the top of the poles so they lashed it to the pole to extend the length. I doubt this is normal operating procedure in the US. To these guys it was just another day on the job.


This time I was happy and relieved to see the man was wearing a safety belt. Still, this is dangerous business as these lights are very heavy and awkward to work with at that height.


With the light fixture in place the electrician completes the wiring.


This time-consuming process of lashing the ladder to each pole and placing the lights upon their stands was repeated until finished. All without incident!

After checking all the electrical connections we tested the lights and they fired up properly. However we had to repeat the ladder process again at night so that the lights could be aimed for ultimate placement.

Here in the Land of Mananas things donít always go as planned. Throughout the month it took to complete this project there were many last minute decisions that I needed to make to keep it on track. I never saw any architectural plans for this work, yet I supervised the advancement of this project, making sure it moved forward. Just as in supervising the building of courts 5 and 6, I had little construction experience but lots of common sense. I have confidence in and take responsibility for my decisions. Plus this is the same lighting configuration that we use on our home courts in
the States and I was familiar with that, so I was the "expert".





As with any project where one is the leader, there are many critics who - for reasons unfathomable to me - are hoping that you will fail or who love to tell you the way it should be done after the fact. I'd love for these people to jump in and help, committing their time and energy instead of armchair directing! But it's part of the role of a leader to plow through that negativity and continue on with a beneficial task regardless. Whenever I have been in this type of role - from my working days to volunteering now in my retirement - it has always been my goal to complete large undertakings regardless of the drag of this type of disagreeable skepticism on me or the people I direct. This endeavor was yet another example.

During this four week timeframe I was able to guide the crews through the many bumps we encountered. For instance, the lighting assembly instructions were in English, not Spanish, which was no help to this crew. I was needed to translate and offer advice. Or when they wanted to chisel through and break up the courts' walkways in order to connect the wiring to the Pro Shop. I suggested an alternative route which saved them many hours of labor and kept our walkways intact. Both of these crews were professional and open to my suggestions, and for that I was thankful.

Finally finished, it's time to play tennis.


But first, here in Mexico it is customary to have an inauguration ceremony. El Presidente Gerardo of Chapala, who is the Mayor of the area, presides over the opening of the project.  We hosted a potluck with many tennis players, volleyball players and their spouses attending. El Presidente Gerardo (the man with the microphone) gave thanks to those of us who put this project together. It is with the cooperation of the Gringo community along with the support of the Mexicans that we can accomplish many things for the betterment of all.


With El Presidente watching we held an exhibition tennis match with Chapala's better players. 

And a good time was had by all.

For more information about Chapala,

take a look at our pictorial Chapala Today as well as our Chapala Travel Information Page.

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on

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