Monthly Archives: January 2014

Wasn’t That A Party!


Calle Zalatitlan was definitely party central last Saturday night.

The loud roar of motorcycles marked the beginning of the festivities. Here in Mexico a great celebration is held when a girl turns fifteen. It is common to see a stretch Hummer parading through the streets with a young lady’s head sticking out of the sunroof. My neighbors had something different in mind. One of the motorcycles had a sidecar as her chariot. And some thirty other motorcycles joined in the cavalcade. Some of the cyclists sported masks, so unfortunately I did not feel comfortable taking pictures. But it was definitely quite a sight!

About an hour later throngs of people filled the street throwing eggs filled with confetti. 


At the corner I noticed a woman holding a baby doll.


My fluency in Spanish isn’t the greatest, but she explained that this was a celebration of the Baby Jesus. She and her husband were the honorary godparents for a 3 year term.

Another woman held a large basket with several colorful smaller baskets, each filled with candies and peanuts. To my surprise and delight, I was given a basket!


I returned home with the lovely strains of mariachi music fading as the fiesta continued farther down the street.

The third party was a more somber event. When a person dies, a nine day mourning period follows. A large black bow is hung over the doorway. People come to pray in the afternoon and evening. The crowds who come to pay their respects to the deceased spill over into the street. The prayers are often followed by music. Out of respect I chose not to take pictures.

The fourth party on our street that night was the one held at my house. The first people arrived at around 10:30 pm and the last people left at around 6 am. Yes, in Mexico, parties start late and end late.

With the furniture pushed back against the walls in the living room, we had a great dance floor. The music was blaring and the tequila and beer were flowing. People of all ages mingled and danced together.



Two of my housemates also organized a game of beer pong.


I really enjoyed the dancing. I had my second total knee replacement last summer, and this was the first time I danced since the last surgery. And my new knees are awesome! But at 5:30 am I was ready to crash, lol.

So Zalatitan was a happening street last Saturday night. I wonder what this weekend will bring…………………….

Am I A Nomad?


For the past five years, I have lived in several different places for varying amounts of time.

When I first separated from my husband, I moved back to Winnipeg and lived in a small apartment. This was the view from my fourth floor balcony.

Balcony View

I had never lived alone before in my life and my daughter thought it would be a good idea for me to have a cat. So off we went to her friend’s farm near Manitou to select a kitten. I named her Vanessa and she was simply adorable!


She was great company. My already cramped apartment became even more crowded with all of her toys and a scratching post. As she grew, she became quite mischievous. Vanessa shredded the screens on my patio doors and bedroom windows. She ripped up the linoleum in the bathroom. And I can’t believe how high that cat could jump!


Vanessa was beautiful, but unfortunately not well suited to apartment life. I reluctantly told my daughter that Vanessa would have to go. Fortunately my daughter was living on a farm in Brunkild at the time, and was able to keep her. Vanessa was much happier running freely about the acreage. Actually, I think I would have been happier in that environment too, but I remained in the confines of my small apartment for a few more months.

Shortly after graduating from university, I found myself on a plane headed for Mexico  and my first ESL teaching job in another country. I lived in Culiacan, Sinaloa for eight months and taught secundaria at a private school. But more importantly, I found my Mexican family.


It was really difficult to leave Culiacan and return to Winnipeg. Reverse culture shock set in and the five weeks were very stressful. I have wonderful friends who took me into their hearts and homes, but it took a lot of moving around as I stayed with six different people that summer.

My next stop was Irapuato, Guanajuato. I was hired to teach primaria in a private school. I stayed only two months. There was no contract made available and no health insurance as promised. And the school added extra hours and activities. When I was offered a job in Tlaquepaque on a Saturday night, I packed hastily and was on a bus Sunday morning headed for Guadalajara.

I began teaching at a language institute where I had students of all ages. I had just settled into the house when the decision was made to move us to a house closer to the school. Time to pack my bags again!

I did stay in that house for just over six months. Until one Friday night I arrived home to find that the street was being ripped up the next day in order to replace the water pipes. Time to move again. I was waiting to have knee surgery and was in no position to navigate a torn up street. Here is what it looked like the day after I left.


With the help of my friend Alfredo, I was packed and in a taxi to Central Nueva within an hour. And then I headed to Culiacan to spend some time with my family.


Then I was off to Mazatlan for a few days of sun and sand.


A friend picked me up at the airport in Winnipeg and I stayed with her for about a week. My daughter asked me to babysit her cats while she was away and that turned into a three week stay instead of only one week.

I then rented a room in a house where I stayed for three months. It wasn’t the greatest environment for recovering from knee surgery. My walker didn’t fit through the bathroom door, the shower was in a bathtub with high sides and there were dangerous scatter rugs everywhere. There were steps at the front entrance that kept me housebound until I was able to give up the walker and graduate to a cane. The house was also in an area far away from my children and my friends. But I was very grateful to find somewhere to stay on a month to month basis for such a reasonable rent.

I then moved into a furnished apartment downtown for two months. It was nice to have everything on one level, including a washer and dryer. And it came with maid service as well.

And then I returned to Tlaquepaque. I moved into a house that I shared with four other people. 


I lived here for almost six months, before returning to Winnipeg via Culiacan and Puerto Vallarta.

In Winnipeg I was very fortunate to rent the most perfect house for recovering from a second round of knee surgery. It boasted a wheelchair ramp, a walk-in shower with a seat, a raised toilet and magnetic accordion doors. And I stayed there for the entire six months!

Mi Casa

I returned to Mexico via Denver and San Diego. My goal was to spend the winter in Rosarito in the Baja Norte.


But the housing situation left a lot to be desired. Rosarito can best be described as a “poor man’s Vallarta.”

After five days I headed for Culiacan to visit my family. My nietos had grown so much in just a few months!


And then it was time to return to Tlaquepaque. I am staying in the same house as last year, but with new housemates.

As I write this, I have been here for two months. And I am seriously contemplating moving on in the near future. There is so much of Mexico that I still want to explore.


My son remarked that I am a nomad.

Am I? 

Do You Hear What I Hear?


I am often awakened early in the morning by the sounds of roosters crowing and dogs barking. Here on Zalatitan my neighbors have roosters roaming in their yards and dogs that run freely through the streets.


I also hear the shouts of children as they hurry along on their way to school. Classes begin around 7:30 in the morning and finish early in the afternoon before the temperature soars too high.

The Zeta gas truck passes by, blasting the “Zeta Gas” jingle through loudspeakers. Overflowing with cylinders,  home delivery is the norm.

Zeta Gas

Other trucks with loudspeakers rumble through the streets, selling everything from mattresses to car parts.

Truck Selling Stuff

The loud clanging of a bell announces the approach of the garbage truck, a daily occurrence.


Another truck appears and cries of “Agua” fill the air. Water is delivered to your home at the same price as in the store.


The sun shines brightly and it is another glorious morning in Mexico. I open the shutters in the living room to allow the heat and light to permeate the room. I settle down on the sofa to check my email on my iPhone.

Occasionally I am interrupted by someone calling out to me through the open window. Would I like to buy pens with lights on them? Do I need batteries? There is no end to what people will sell here. Just this morning a man passed by with pots and pans. He wanted to trade for gold jewelry! That was a new one for me.

The tinkle of a bell announces that the ice cream man is approaching. He pushes his cart slowly down the street in the afternoon heat.


A man on a bicycle sails down the street calling out ” Hoy! Hoy!” He is selling the daily newspaper. Here he is selling a paper to one of my neighbors.


And soon another truck begins his nightly rounds. “Rico Tamales!” echoes throughout the streets through the loudspeaker.

Tamale Truck

Another constant sound in the air is music. Everything from mariachi to English rock music is heard on the streets here. And it is often quite loud!

Another common sound is car alarms. A bus that passes too closely will set these off. And the loud bang of fireworks, especially on holidays, is always followed by the noisy car alarms.

What a wonderful symphony created by all these delightful sounds!


Let Them Fly


“To our children we give two things……One is roots, the other is wings”–Anonymous

I love this quotation. The meaning is timeless. No matter the age of our children, it always applies.

I recall when my son was a baby and attempting his first steps on his own. How I yearned to reach out and catch him rather than let him fall! But he soon mastered the art of walking.


And when my daughter was young and terrified of the water, I questioned my decision to register her for swimming lessons. But here she is, only days after starting the classes.


As the years went by there were more and more wings as my children grew and declared their independence. They learned to ride bicycles, obtained drivers’ licenses and eventually moved away from home.

I now live in Mexico thousands of miles away from my children in Manitoba and Ontario. While I bask in the sunshine, they brave blizzards and -50 degree windchills. I realize that to worry about them is pointless, as I have no control over the elements.

And yet the other day I found myself writing an email to my 33 year-old son advising him to take boots and warm clothing as he was headed to Atlantic Canada on a business trip in the wake of horrendous stormy weather there.


Not too long ago, Ontario had a crazy ice storm and there were power outages everywhere. When I finally was able to contact my daughter, she informed me that they were on their way to Toronto to pick up a new fridge. Shivers rolled up and down my spine as I silently prayed that the highways would be clear.

“Wings, Karen, give them wings!” I remind myself. They are adults and can function very well on their own. But in my  eyes, my children will always be my babies forever, no matter how old they are. Perhaps someday when they have children of their own, they may better understand my feelings.

Yes, my children often accuse me of being overprotective and worrying about them too much. And although they may humor me regarding my anxieties, deep-down I think they do appreciate my concerns for their well-being. And here are some more wings for them in the hope that they continue to soar peacefully through life……….


2013 The Year That Was


I have chosen to pay tribute to the year 2013 as my first post of the new year. As I reflect on all the memorable moments, I eagerly await the many new adventures that lie ahead.

January began in Mexico City with my amiga Angie and her family. We stayed with her son Ventura and his wife Liliana, pictured below.


We visited Liliana’s family first on New Years Eve and I was totally enchanted with their “mascotas.”


Liliana and her mother, pictured below, prepared a delicious meal for us as well.


Later in the day we arrived at Angie’s parents’ home. Here they are with Angie in the photo below.


Many of the extended family members joined us to ring in the new year.



The month of January flew by. I began teaching Business English for Ingles Corporativo and I travelled to Tlajomulco and San Juan De Los Lagos with my language partner Isaias.


February became busier as I taught more hours and also took on private students. Isaias and I continued our Sunday travels and went to Lagos De Moreno, Valle De Guadalupe and San Miguel el Alto.




We continued our Sunday travels in March and went to Atotonilco, Arandas, Jamay and Ocotlan.







I also ventured out to Zapotlanejo to do some clothes shopping. This city has street upon street filled with clothing and shoe stores. And yes, that is a live model in the third picture.




I also visited Zoologica Guadalajara, one of my favorite zoos. I bravely tried out the new skyride and the view was spectacular, especially when it turned at the canyon. And of course I rode the train and went on the safari ride.




April was a delightful yet bittersweet month as it marked the end of my third year in Mexico.

Isaias and I travelled to Sam Martin De Flores, Tepatitlan and Capilla de Guadalupe.









And my last night in Tlaquepaque was a final farewell to El Lugar Secreto after I taught my last class. Barbershop Rock Band were playing as usual and the music was great.


When the bar closed, it was time to pick up my bags and head for the bus station. Next stop Culiacan to visit my family.






Next I headed for Puerto Vallarta to relax for a few days on the beach.






Snow greeted me upon my arrival back in Winnipeg on April 27th.


But it did eventually warm up and the blossoms came into view.


I enjoyed a lovely Mother’s Day brunch at Montana’s with Kyle and Krista.


My birthday was in May as well, and Kyle and a friend came over for dinner to help me celebrate. It was great to have a kitchen to myself and be able to actually cook rather than just reheat food.

June was another busy month. I continued to enjoy visiting with friends. Carolyn, Brenda and I spent many happy hours at The Forks.

Brenda and Carolyn

Donna and I visited the English Gardens and the Leo Mol Garden in Assiniboine Park.


Audrey and I often went out for dinner and went shopping together.


Glenda and I drank endless cups of coffee and tea and also went shopping.

Glenda (2)

I spent time with David in his garden, and also with Cookies and Creme.


I also had some great times with Joan, Cheyenna, Sheila, Alice, Nancy, Iris, Rita and Ethel.

Before I knew it the second round of knee surgery arrived. Then began the recovery process which included hours of physiotherapy and hours of watching movies. And I discovered Candy Crush on my iPhone!

A special acknowledgment to my son Kyle. I know how difficult it was for him to visit me in a hospital setting for many reasons. And I enjoyed our walks in the hallway in the evening.

And I am so grateful to Karen and Chad for providing me with such a great home in which to convalesce. The wheelchair ramp and walk-in shower were absolute blessings. And I really enjoyed your visits, especially when Josh came as well.

And I have the greatest friends in the world! Your hospital visits helped pass the hours. And once I was at home my friends continued to visit regularly, shop for me and even cook for me. And when I was well enough, my friends were only too eager to take me out.

And I added a new best friend……Handi-Transit. What a wonderful chauffeur you were! We went to physio, to medical appointments, to shopping malls and to visit friends.

The highlight of the month of July was giving up my walker and graduating to a cane! With my mobility improving, my spirits lifted as well.

In August Kimmy came for a short visit. I was delighted when she tackled her bins that had been in my storage unit for the past three years. Here she is with one of the treasures she discovered.


I spent a relaxing weekend with Rita at her cabin in Lester Beach in September. The weather co-operated for the most part and all the dogs definitely added to the ambiance.




October was a busy month as I finally waded through all the furniture, boxes and bins that had been in my storage unit. And I disposed of it all, mostly in the form of donations.

I also cooked my last Thanksgiving dinner in Winnipeg. Kyle complained loudly that I had prepared way too much food, but I know he enjoyed it just the same.





And then it was October 29th and I was on my way to Rosarito Beach via Denver and San Diego.

It had already snowed in Winnipeg although it hadn’t stayed on the ground. So the warmth and sunshine in Mexico were most welcome.


While Rosarito was a quaint place to visit, I decided that as much as I wanted to live near the ocean, this just wasn’t the place for me. So I headed to Tijuana, and then began a long bus trip to Culiacan.

The drive through the mountains was spectacular.

Between Tijuana and Mexicali (6)

We also passed through Mexicali, Caborca, Obregon and Los Mochis.


I arrived in Culiacan in the wake of hurricane warnings. However the sun shone brightly and it was HOT! There was no rain at all while I was there.

I had a great visit with my family. Jose Agustin had just turned one and was trying to walk.


Juan Carlos enjoyed giving his brother a ride.


The time flew by and I found myself back on a bus headed for Guadalajara. And it felt great to be back home on Zalatitan in Tlaquepaque.


My favorite tiendas, cafes and street stands were still there. It was nice to see the neighbors again. The biggest change was the repaving and widening of the sidewalks. But it was comical when I heard that several buses had to be rerouted as they no longer fit down the streets.

I began teaching part-time and Isaias and I resumed our Sunday travels. We visited Tlajomulco and Acatic.



I also went to a communion party. I have no idea which animal’s leg I ate, but it was delicious! There was a bouncer for the kids and karaoke for everyone. Music and laughter filled the party salon. And I got to hold the sweetest little baby!


December arrived and people began preparing for Christmas. December 12th was marked with music and fireworks in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Stands filled the streets displaying Christmas trees, ornaments and nativity scenes. Work began on the skating rink in Tlaquepaque and the Christmas tree was set up in the plaza.


Isaias and I travelled to San Ignacio Cerra Gordo and J0cotopec.





As Christmas drew near, more decorations began to adorn homes and businesses. Pinatas were strung across the streets.




The festive atmosphere was further enhanced by music and laughter. Posadas were held in homes and in party salons. There were loud bangs from fireworks followed by car alarms that were set off by the noise.

I spent Christmas Eve with Isais and his family. But first we posed for a picture by the tree in the plaza.


There was a flurry of activity in our house as my housemates and I prepared a Christmas lunch together. The menu included baked ham, glazed carrots, mushroom beans, mashed potatoes with gravy, chicken salad, apple enchiladas and chocolate.


In the evening I went to church, and we all enjoyed a cena together complete with traditional ponche following the service.


The rain that began on Christmas Eve continued to fall right into the New Year. At times it was quite the torrential downpour, and my plans for visiting museums were put on hold.

Despite the rain, people flocked in the streets on New Years Eve setting off fireworks. And shortly after midnight children began swinging at pinatas. The festivities continued until 3 am when the music finally ended.


Happy New Year Everyone! I hope that 2014 is a great year filled with love and laughter! May all your wishes and dreams come true!