This is my fourth year teaching in Mexico and my third year living in Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara. When I return to Winnipeg to visit, people often ask me if I get homesick. An interesting question as it is often the topic of conversation among foreign teachers here in Mexico.
I believe that home is where your heart is. Born and raised in Winnipeg, I have also spent most of my adult life there. But I have discovered a new life here, one that I have freely chosen, and Guadalajara is where my heart lies now.
Yes, there are many things I miss about Winnipeg. But each time I return to visit, there are so many more things that I miss about Mexico.
My nickname for Mexico is “the land of manana.” I lead a far less stressful life here. I do not miss hectic time schedules carved in stone. I enjoy being able to walk to my favorite restaurants and shops. Here is one of my favorite “tiendas”.
I love strolling down the streets in Tlaquepaque and total strangers always smile and say “Buenos dias.” In Winnipeg people hurry down the streets and seldom even make eye contact.
I admit it. The transit buses in Winnipeg are superior to the dilapidated vehicles in Guadalajara. But nothing runs on timetables here. I go out on the street and wave my arm and a bus stops. There are very few designated bus stops here, unlike the computerized stops in Winnipeg.
When it comes to groceries, I actually do most of my shopping at a “tiendis” or local market, rather than at a larger chain supermarket. Here I can buy anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to tools. Not only is the produce of superior quality, but the prices are more reasonable as well. And it is just too much fun bargaining with the vendors!
My kitchen boasts a vintage gas stove with four burners, a small fridge, a microwave oven and a two slice toaster. There is no dishwasher, no Kitchen Aid, no Keurig, no kettle, no electric frying pan, no electric can opener, no toaster oven, no breadmaker. The dishes and cutlery don’t match. There are a couple of pots and a frying pan. There are also minimal cooking utensils. Cooking here is definitely a challenge, but it is amazing what you can conjure up with such limited resources.
Eating out is inexpensive. Two blocks away is Vic’s hamburger stand. Three nights a week he grills a delicious cheeseburger with ham, bacon, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, spicy pickled vegetables and a variety of sauces. It comes with a side of taco chips con queso. The price for this culinary delight is 25 pesos (at roughly 12 pesos to the dollar). He also cooks hotdogs that have all the above condiments for a mere 10 pesos.
Across the street a family cooks tacos and gorditas every morning. The cost is 5 pesos each. Every night the tamale truck circles the block with a variety of tamales that cost 4 pesos each. Four blocks away a lady rotisseries chicken. A quarter chicken with a bag of potatoes, a bag of tortillas and salsa is 25 pesos. A lady down the street makes menudo and another lady, pictured below, makes tortas ahogados.
Centro Tlaquepaque comes alive in the afternoons with a multitude of street vendors selling a variety of foods including salchichas, tortas, pizza, tamales, hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled vegetables and even cotton candy.
And of course there are a variety of coffee shops and restaurants in the neighborhood as well.
Fast food chains such as McDonalds, Subway and Burger King offer home delivery. Outback has a presence here as does Peter Piper Pizza, Starbucks and other American chains. I very seldom frequent these places as I prefer the local Mexican fare. However I was recently at an IHOP, where I met a new friend who makes balloon animals.
Guadalajara has a number of parks and green spaces. Unfortunately, many of the fountains no longer have water due to conservation and cost. But these areas are very tranquil and I often take along a book and read.
Mirador is my favorite with a breathtaking view of the canyon. The canyon is also a very popular place for hikers.
Zoologica Guadalajara is an excellent zoo. There are trains that take you to the various areas and a sky ride up above for a great aerial view. The Safari ride is a must in this zoo. An amphibious vehicle travels throughout an area where the animals roam freely. The giraffes love to stick their heads into the vehicle in anticipation of the leaves we are given to feed them.
Guadalajara is also home to numerous museums, historic government buildings and beautiful cathedrals and churches. Many of these are located in the Centro area.
Guadalajara boasts gorgeous shopping malls such as Gran Plaza, Galarias and Plaza Andares. These centres contain many high end stores such as Bershka and Hugo Boss, putting Winnipeg shopping malls to shame.
If you are interested in sports, professional soccer teams play here and bullfights are also popular.
Music abounds in this city, with everything from mariachi to live rock concerts. Pictured below is El Parian, a huge complex of restaurants in Centro Tlaquepaque that is home to some awesome mariachi every day of the week.
There are several Cinepolis locations, offering all the current movies in Spanish and English. If you prefer live theatre, a great venue is the Teatro Diana in Centro Guadalajara.