I’ve been back in Mexico for over a month now and I finally made it to Culiacán. This city was the first place I called “home” when I came to Mexico nine years ago.
Juan Carlos was a baby. He’s now 10 and almost as tall as I am. The family has grown and I am now abuelita to 4 boys. Jose Agustín is 7, Angel is 5 and Christien is 8 months old. I come to Culiacán regularly to spend time with my family.
Culiacán has been in the news recently when the prominent drug cartel literally took over the city for a few days. It has always been a dangerous city because of the cartel.
But danger is all relative.
Just last week a fire truck was hijacked in my hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. Yet my friends in Winnipeg are not happy that I still visit Culiacán. Back in Aguascalientes my friends there have the same concerns. And everyone in Canada and in Mexico wonder why I want to spend several months of the year in the gun-toting state of Washington.
I look at it this way. Life is short. Living in fear of what may or may not happen detracts from our enjoyment of life. In order to appreciate every single precious moment, we need to really focus on the present. For once that moment has passed, it is gone forever.
Sunday night was filled with moments. We went to mass at a church nearby. My grandsons were excited because a movie was being shown outside in the parking lot after the mass. Chairs were hastily set up. Thanks to modern technology involving a computer and a screen, we were treated to Disney’s Christmas Carol, in Spanish naturally. What a beautiful way to begin the festive Christmas season!
Last night we went to Juan’s father’s home. Candles were lit and prayers were said to begin the Advent season.
Other special moments this visit include playing Scrabble with my grandsons and watching Juan play basketball last night.
Juan Carlos read me a beautiful story he had written in English entitled “A Friend Is Better Than A Videogame.” It rivaled any 10 year old native speaker’s story.
I’m sure we will share more special moments when the boys return from school later today. Sadly I must leave for Aguascalientes tonight, but I look forward to my next visit to Culiacán.
Grey Cup Sunday. If you are Canadian, then this day is a tradition. Even if your home team isn’t competing, there is always a team from the west or east that you can cheer on.
This year, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from my hometown, made it to the Grey Cup. They are actually playing right now, as I write this. But I’m not watching the game this year. I’ll check Facebook periodically as my Canadian friends are sure to be posting updates.
My mind is elsewhere today. 39 years ago today on Grey Cup Sunday, I spent the entire day in labor with my first child, my son Kyle. It seems like just yesterday and it’s incredible that the years have flown by so quickly.
The family photos are all stored at his home seeing as I’ve been traveling for the last decade. But I do have some on my Seagate.
Here is Kyle at about age 2.
Here he is almost 10 years ago at his CA grad.
Here he is when I was last in Winnipeg for Mother’s Day a few years ago.
Happy Birthday Kyle! Love you lots!
My friends up north are always asking what a typical week down here looks like. My challenge is that there is no such thing as a typical week. The only routine things carved in stone on my calendar are teaching English two hours a week, volunteer work and going to church. No bridge games or fitness classes. No regular activities at a senior center. The pace of life is slower but somehow the time passes by quickly. I’ve been back in Aguascalientes for 4 weeks already!
Last weekend here in Mexico we experienced the equivalent of Black Friday. Buen Fin began early Friday morning and continued until midnight Monday night.
Monday was a holiday as Revolution Day is celebrated this week. So the sales continued. Even fast food places such as Burger King and Carl’s Jr featured Buen Fin specials on their menus.
My Uber passed by Walmart last Saturday. The parking lot was packed and cars were lined up on the street in the hopes of finding a parking spot later in the day.
As for me, I avoided shopping. Crowds of people have no appeal. I prefer to leisurely stroll through the shops without hoards of people surrounding me.
I walk a lot. I enjoy the nearby parks. The central historical area is 20 minutes away. Everyday I notice different things. On Wednesday I walked down to the bus station to get my ticket for Culiacán and encountered this new friend.
Last night was the first time I ever experienced a surprise birthday party in a church. It was the pastor’s birthday and he was scheduled to arrive late as someone else had volunteered to preach. As we sat through the service, a taquiza was set up right in the sanctuary. The aroma of the meat cooking filled the air. The menu was tacos al pastor and quesadillas.
After the service balloons were blown up. These were then tossed at the pastor when he arrived.
Lines formed at the taquiza. The food was delicious. We sat around eating and visiting.
The lights were dimmed, noisemakers became active, and it was time for cake. I snagged this photo of the pastor blowing out the candles.
And now it’s Friday and I wonder what this weekend has in store for me.
I spent 3 months in Aguascalientes last winter and never saw one raindrop. This morning I ventured out to my favorite gordita stand for breakfast and noted the gloomy skies. I made it home just before it poured.
I decided that it’s a good day for writing. But before I dive into my WIP, I thought a blog post might be in order. In Leavenworth I didn’t spend much time at home so the blog posts were few and far between. But here in Mexico I am determined to spend more time writing this winter.
These containers are found everywhere in the neighborhood. There is absolutely no excuse to litter. The trash is emptied daily.
May God forgive me for taking this photo. A funeral procession came by and I couldn’t resist at least one photo. The mariachi follow the casket. The mourners in turn follow the mariachi as they walk through the streets from the church to the cemetery.
In the area where I live, clothes dryers are rare. Many people wash their clothes by hand and hang them out to dry in the sun. They are quite creative and merely string a line across the sidewalk or put items out on a chair.
As for myself, I prefer the lavenderia. I drop my clothes off in the morning and pick them up later in the day, neatly folded in a bag. I just picked up two weeks worth of laundry and the cost was a mere 69 pesos. Well worth it.
Minutes away from where I’m staying is Expoplaza. I often walk to the park there and color.
In the evenings, especially on the weekends, the playground here is very popular. also on the weekends, bordering the park are various vendors selling everything from sunglasses to churros. There is a cinema in the expoplaza itself which I frequent. I like to watch movies in Spanish, without subtitles. I get braver as the years go by.
Tomorrow I am looking forward to the tienguis. There is also no rain in the forecast.
This winter my home base is in Las Flores, Aguascalientes. I discovered this neighborhood last winter and love its proximity to the historical center and several museums, all within walking distance.
The name of my street is Begonias. All the names of the streets are flowers. (Las Flores is Spanish for “flowers.”)
This is a photo of the hotel where I live. You won’t see a Hyatt sign here. It’s an old house that’s been renovated into a hotel. Each room has its own bathroom. Common areas include the kitchen and laundry area.
Raul is the owner and takes good care of his properties. He is currently renovating a house where I first stayed for a week when I arrived. Not only did he move me and my luggage from place to place, but also a fridge and a microwave. I guess you could say that my room has now been transformed into an executive suite. None of the other rooms here have these appliances.
The following photo is the bull ring at the end of my street. It sees a lot of action during the Feria in the spring, but otherwise sits empty.
On my morning walk I encountered this neighbor across the street from my hotel. Cute, isn’t he?
There is no shortage of tiendas (corner stores). These two are at the other end of my street.
Two blocks away is the church I attend. It occupies the main floor of an apartment building.
Today is Thursday which means the tianguis (flea market) occupies a street a block away from where I live.
There is also an abundance of food available in this area, but I will save that as well as some other places in my neighborhood for another blog post.
I am constantly being asked this question. My friends up north wonder why I spend 6 months of the year in a country ruled by a drug cartel. My friends in Mexico wonder why I spend 6 months in the gun-toting state of Washington.
I think about my hometown in Canada. Winnipeg for several years was synonymous with the highest homicide rate per capita in the nation. Just last week a three year old child was stabbed to death by his mother’s boyfriend.
So where exactly in this world is “safe?”
I long for the days when air travel was fun. Security has become an ordeal. Take off your shoes and jackets. Take out cell phones, tablets and laptops. No liquids over a miniscule amount. And I have knee replacements. Bring on the body scanners and pat-downs.
Do all these precautionary measures make me feel safe? Nope. Just makes me wonder what might come next.
Please stop asking me if I feel safe. In this crazy world we live in, no-one is safe. But what we can do is enjoy the time we have left in our lives instead of dwelling on whether or not we feel safe. After all, when you were a child, did you not just enjoy life without a thought to being safe? Maybe it’s time to start being a child again.
Halloween was always one of my favorite holidays. As a child I loved going door to door with my friends and collecting treats. Those were the days when neighbors made homemade popcorn balls and all the apples you collected were passed on to mom for baking.
Flash ahead a couple of decades to when I had kids. Safety concerns dictated that an adult accompany them and that all candy was carefully inspected by a parent before consuming.
Costumes have become more outlandish these days, focusing more on the dark side. Gone are the clowns and cowboys.
I used to love decorating the windows of the house and hanging spooky mobiles my kids had made.
Decorating cookies and making a “spooktacular” cake was also a favorite pastime.
But I am in Mexico now where the northern influence has not yet made Halloween the popular event it is in Canada or the USA. Instead Day of the Dead is the big event here.
I ate at Cafe Angel yesterday and the traditional marigolds adorned the entrance.
Katrinas were visible in some storefronts.
And I found this display in a mall near my house.
If you are celebrating, have a safe and happy Halloween.