Alexandra and John Wallner
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... )
Aldo Applesauce and Aldo Ice Cream and other books about Aldo
City Mouse-country Mouse And Two More Mouse Tales From Aesop (An Easy-to-Read Folktale)
and much much more!
susan sussman 11 years ago
John Wallner's delightful illustrations brought my book HIPPO THUNDER to life. If you are still in touch with him, I do have a question I would like to ask him about the illustrations.
Could you please forward my email to him? Thank you in advance for your help,
Tracey Ellert 15 years ago
Inspiring interview. I'm a children's storyteller moving to the Yucatan in May for about six months and would love to connect with the Wallners. Please pass on my website and email. Thank you!
Tere Vera 16 years ago
I hope this is a reply to Alexandra & John's story and I would love to contact them! My husband and I are "playing" with the idea of moving to Merida at least 6 mos. of the year! We presently live in Cabo (for the last 18 yrs. fro San Diego) and even
though we have our two sons and 3 grandchildren living here we're (ESPECIALLY I'M) looking for a more vibrant life! My roots are from Merida since my maternal grandparents and my mom were born there plus I have LOTS of extended family living there whom we keep in close contact with! We both have dual citizenship and I'm fluent in writing/reading and speaking English. I don't know how we'd keep busy, I would like my husband to take more time off to explore the arts since he has a natural talent for this and I'm too active to just sit still!
I'd love to contact John & Alexandra!
J.Rollins 16 years ago
I am trying to reach John Wallner to offer him a book contract for his illustrations for THAT'S WHAT I THOUGHT by Alice Schertle. I have been in touch with the author. I would like to send him information about our education network. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
shadow 16 years ago
To Alex & John. I am sure you have heard this before. I have a great idea for a childrens book. This came to me while relaxing on vacation in Merida & being visited by a bee every morning at 6 am.
I have been published a couple of times but do not have your illistration expertise. Will be in Merida area from Jan 15th 2008 to
March 15th. You can contact me at email@example.com
Genny M. 16 years ago
To Alex & John, thank you for taking such talent to the children in Merida whom will benefit if their parents and/or teachers teach them the importance of reading a good book. I don't remember having that opportunity when I grew up in Merida, I am so happy to read that more and more gringos (talented) are moving to my hometown.
Genny La Peregrina
p.s. I live in California (lol)
expatapalooza » Blog Archive » That’s easy expat living! 16 years ago
[...] From an interview with Alexandra and John Wallner, expats, on Yucatan Living. If that’s all they miss, I have to say,they have it easy. I’m not sure I could narrow my list down to three grocery store items, plus, don’t they have lard there in Mexico? [...]
Art on a Sunday… Bring the Kids! 16 years ago
[...] Alexandra and John Wallner will be hosting an exhibit of their original illustrations of children’s books right here in Merida, Yucatan. These two are award-winning illustrators who have recently moved to Merida (read their interview). [...]
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