Monthly Archives: November 2014

Those Labor Pains Were So Worth It!


Thirty-four years ago today I was in the early stages of labor with my first child. Although physically I was in agony, emotionally I was excited. All these months of carrying this baby in utero were about to end. I was finally going to meet this tiny creature who had caused me so much nausea and discomfort. My sleepless nights were over, or so I mistakenly thought. In actuality, they would continue for several more weeks.

My bag had been packed for weeks in anticipation of this event. Gleefully I grabbed it and headed for the car. A short fifteen minute drive later, I was at the hospital and was escorted via a wheelchair to the maternity ward. Thankfully I had already completed the pre-admission process.

Misericordia Hospital in Winnipeg was an old building with standard delivery rooms. Birthing rooms had not yet been invented, at least not in this hospital. The room I was in contained little more than a bed and some monitoring equipment. And of course there were the obligatory crucifixes adorning the wall as a group of nuns had originally founded this facility. And indeed several were still on staff the day I delivered.

I arrived at the hospital that morning, anticipating an experience similar to the one that had been described in pre-natal classes. However it soon became evident that this was not to be. Each shift of nurses assured me that I was fully dilated and that nature would take its course. The doctor advised that the next procedure was to break my waters as time had passed and this hadn’t happened. That was fine with me. I was growing impatient.

But hours later I was still having very regular and extremely painful contractions. I was nauseous and exhausted. While my husband was comfortably seated in a waiting room watching The Grey Cup (Canada’s version of The Superbowl), I was in hell. To his credit he did come in to sit with me occasionally to coach me in my breathing, but no way was he suffering like I was.

At around midnight my doctor started talking C-Section. I was not impressed. I wanted a natural childbirth as I had prepared for in the pre-natal classes. By some miracle, (possibly my baby realized my exasperation), my son turned and moments later the head crowned. My son Kyle Isaac entered the world at 12:25 am on November 24th. 


Rooming in was not an option in those days. Every few hours a nurse would bring my baby into my room for me to nurse. And those quiet times were treasures. He would look up at me with his gorgeous brown eyes that spoke volumes. “You brought me into this scary world so please take care of me.”

And I have done my best to care for him and help him grow over the years. Nursing him, hearing his first words and watching his first steps were only the beginning. He started school and then took skating, swimming and piano lessons. He joined Beavers and then Cub Scouts. And he discovered five-pin bowling which became his focus for many years. He learned to play the clarinet and then became a sensational drummer. Riding his first bike all too soon began driving his first car. After several graduations, he has settled comfortably into a career as a Chartered Accountant. And just over two years ago he had his first house built.

Kyle, I am so very proud of you and all that you have accomplished. The difficult pregnancy and painful labor were well worth it. I couldn’t ask for a better and more loving son.

We may live thousands of miles apart but when I talk to you on the phone tomorrow, the distance will vanish. I love you and I hope that all your wishes and dreams come true next year and always.

Happy Birthday!

It’s Complicated………………Part 4…………..Finally!


I arrive at IMMS Clinic 39 at 6:50 am. Hundreds of people mill about waiting for the doors to open. Nearby vendors are selling atole, pan and tamales. But that will have to wait. I am fasting for this blood test.


The doors open and I follow the crowd to the stairs. This time I don’t even attempt to check the elevator to see if it’s working. Miraculously there are only two people ahead of me at the lab. The clerk asks for my card. I tell her that I don’t have a card yet. That will come after the blood test. She shrugs her shoulders, takes my requisition and motions me over to a woman at a table with a multitude of tiny test tubes for urine samples. I’m prepared for this one. Pedro gave me the vocabulary and I purchased a “real” specimen container at the pharmacy, not like the test tube pictured below.


“What? You want me to transfer my sample to this tiny test tube and bring it back to you?” I ask incredulously. So off I go to the bathroom to perform this ridiculous task. When I return to the table, she takes the test tube from me and discards the remainder of the sample I had brought in. She then points to Puerta 2 where I need to go for the blood test. I walk into a room with about a half a dozen desks with technicians. I am taken immediately and Winnipeg technicians can learn from these Mexicans. I didn’t feel the needle go in at all, and there is not even a hint of a bruise.

Now it is time to get my card. Up the stairs I go to Ventanilla 3. What? It doesn’t open until 8 am? OK. I head downstairs to the street and get an atole and a pan. I then trudge back up the two flights of stairs. At 7:55 staff arrive and I am the first at the window. Everyone else in the waiting area flocked to Ventanillas 2 and 4.

Oh, we don’t need any photocopies. My passport, an original utility bill, my social security number and a photo will suffice. I am then given an identification paper with my photo stapled to it. I ask her if she needs to stamp the document that Oscar gave me at the other IMSS administration building. She says it isn’t necessary. Oh oh! Oscar will not be happy. He is expecting me to come back with a stamped document. And here at the clinic they tell me I don’t need to go back to see Oscar. Who to believe?????

So what do I do next? How do I find out the results of the lab work? Back I go to the director’s office. So apparently I need to go to Desk 10 which is only one more flight upstairs.  And my identification paper is now stapled into a nifty little booklet with a horrendous amount of new Spanish vocabulary for me to master. After much discussion, I am given an appointment to come in to see a doctor on December 19th.

I guess if anything is terribly wrong I will be contacted before that. After all, they have my phone number. Yikes! I better head to Oxxo to put some credits on it! And I had better find that damn Blackberry! I usually use my iPhone for What’s App or Facebook that work off of WiFi. Maybe it’s time to ditch the Blackberry and get that iPhone unlocked…………..



A ten minute walk down the street from my house is El Refugio, San Pedro’s cultural center. A variety of activities take place in this building, and the current main attraction is Guelaguetza, a fair presented by the city of Oaxaca. Work by artesans, as well as clothing and foods are prominently displayed in several rooms. I briefly sauntered through this area on my way to the main auditorium where the entertainment was to be held.

This huge room was packed with people. By some miracle I was able to find an unoccupied chair right on an aisle. In addition to the hundreds of us who were fortunate to find seats, there were hundreds more standing.


Here are two photos of incredible vocalists who performed early yesterday afternoon.



And then the dancers thrilled us with their delightful costumes and incredible moves. 



They were accompanied by a live group of talented musicians.


To the delight of the crowd, every now and then between performers, a person would appear on stage with a large basket filled with candy or fruit, and would toss them out to the audience. A vendor with a tray full of ice cream made his way up and down the aisles. The speakers blared music and the festive atmosphere was amazing.

I reluctantly left after about four hours when the battery on my phone died after taking numerous videos and photos.

I intend to return before the fair ends next weekend. There is still food to be sampled and a variety of displays to be viewed. And then perhaps a trip to Oaxaca itself in the future………….


It’s Complicated……………Part 3


Friday dawns bright and sunny and off I go to IMSS Clinic #39 at Alamo. I am prepared for this. Pedro has coached me and provided me with all the appropriate vocabulary.

I check in with the receptionist near the front door. She directs me to an elevator and tells me to go to the second floor. Surprise, surprise! The elevator does not work. So up the stairs I go to the second floor. Or what I thought was the second floor. It turns out it’s the mezzanine. So  I go up another flight of stairs. I check in with a receptionist here who points across a large room where a throng of people are lined up at several different windows.

I spot a door marked that it is for authorized personnel only and slip through unnoticed. Here I once again announce my purpose in perfectly rehearsed Spanish to a woman sitting at a desk. Skeptically she opens the envelope containing my documents.  I hold my breath as she scrutinizes them thoroughly. She points to a well-worn vinyl couch and tells me to wait.

I sit down and put on my patience hat. After about fifteen minutes I decide it’s Candy Crush time and pull out my iPhone. But lives don’t last forever, so moments later I stash my iPhone back in my purse.

The nice lady who checked my documents strikes up a conversation with me. She even offers to share her breakfast with me. And when the director of the clinic and the doctor arrive an hour later, she makes sure that I am the first one in.

The doctor is a very pregnant woman and is very pleasant. She even understands the odd English word. She examines me with a stethoscope and then asks me a myriad of questions. Thank you Pedro for assisting me with all the vocabulary!


The director then comes in and he speaks English very well. He explains that I am accepted into the program pending the results of my lab tests. Lab tests? The doctor accompanies me to the lab. Thirty minutes later I am given an appointment for the blood tests, one week later. I am also handed a small glass vessel the size of a test tube and instructed to bring in a urine sample when I come back the following week. Oh, it’s also a fasting blood test. Good thing the appointment is for 7 am. Armed with the requisition papers and the glass tube, I return to the director’s office where he confirms everything to me in English.

He also tells me to go to Window 3 where they will begin the process of providing me with a medical card. By some miracle there is no line in front of Window 3. But the smiling young lady does not speak English either. Instead she writes out a page of instructions for me.

I couldn’t believe my eyes! All that is left to do is to provide an original utility bill with my address, a copy of this bill, my passport and a copy of the front page, and one photo! These are all items I have in my overflowing file folder of documents at home. And I’m to bring these back when I return for the lab work.

So stay tuned for Part 4. It might be the last part of It’s Complicated!




I recently returned from a short but fabulous vacation to two of my favorite places in Mexico. I had submitted my final manuscript for my second book to my publisher, and it was time to breathe again.

I boarded an overnight bus to Culiacan. Buses here in Mexico are very different from those in Canada. The comfy seats recline, there is extra leg room, a computer terminal at each seat and they even give you a bag of food. I watched a movie, and then fell asleep listening to some beautiful classical music.

Early the next morning, a wave of heat and humidity hit me as I got off the bus. Of course the taxi wasn’t air-conditioned, but the driver had thankfully covered the windows with a blanket while parked at the bus station. Driving with the windows down, a hot breeze was most inviting at the time.

I arrived home after a short ride. And I use the term “home” as this really is home to me. When I taught in Culiacan, Juan and Lucila and their entire extended family literally adopted me. And I always look forward to staying with them when I come back to visit.

Juan had already left for school, and Lucila was getting the kids ready to go. Moments later, we were off to drop the two older ones at Kinder. And then Lucila and I had a delicious breakfast of burritos at a stand by the roadside. And I was delighted that Anjelito kept us company all day, although he did sleep most of the time.


The days in Culiacan flew by all too quickly. It was amazing to see how much the kids have grown in the past months. Jose Augustin was just learning how to walk when I last saw him, and now he was actively racing around everywhere we went. Juan Carlos has grown so tall and has become very talkative. And in the morning, I delighted in their hugs and greetings of “Buenos dias, Abuelita!”


We went out for raspados and went to a park late at night. Juan Carlos raced around on his tricycle and Jose Augustin had a little train. They then played a game of “Lobo” with some other children. On Sunday we went to church where Lucila sang and Juan played keyboard.


We also visited with both Lucila’s family and Juan’s family. There was a stop at the mercado and a lovely drive out to Cascades de San Antonio. And I went to Berlitz one night with Juan and watched him give an oral exam to students studying French. 

And I even squeezed in an afternoon with my friend Juan Pablo. We went out for lunch and then went to Las Riberas, a lovely park along the river. It was so peaceful and relaxing.


Culiacan will always have a special place in my heart. Were it not for the soaring temperatures and humidity I would love to move back there. While I prefer the climate in Guadalajara, the air quality is horrible with all the pollution. And while it’s exciting to live in a big city, a smaller city does have it appeal.

I left Culiacan and headed for Mazatlan. The day I arrived it was partially cloudy which was fine for a first day on the beach. And I also went for a walk to Panama, one of my favorite restaurants for lunch. But by evening the rain had started, and Hurricane Vance was fast approaching.

Tuesday the rain continued, so I ventured out to WalMart in a pulminio. I just love these open air taxis, even in the rain!

I enjoyed a lovely dinner at the hotel, with only a partial glass wall separating me from the beach. The waves ominously crashed ashore while a guitar duo provided lovely background music in the restaurant.

I awoke the next morning to clearing skies, and excitedly went for a long walk along the malecon. The blazing sun  soon appeared and it was time to hit the beach. 


It was surprisingly quiet on the beach with only a smattering of suncots in use. But the vendors were out in full force with jewelry, sunglasses, tattoos, clothing and sombreros. A few musicians strolled the beach as well. And then came the remarkable sunset.


The following morning I spent my last few hours on the beach. The waves were much calmer and the sun burst through the clouds in all its glory.

And before I knew it, the time had come to pack up and check out of the hotel. I haled a pulmonio and headed for the bus station. It was time to return to Guadalajara. My students were expecting me.

Adios Mazatlan! Hasta Luego!


Trick or Treat!


October 31st is synonymous with Halloween where I come from in Canada. In another lifetime, when I was a child, the chant was “Halloween Apples!” But it has now evolved to “Trick or Treat!” 

Halloween conjures up images of costumes, carving pumpkins and toasting the seeds, as well as parties and candy. When my children were young, we would plaster the windows of the house with spooky decorations. We would bake cookies and cupcakes. We would create a ghosts in the graveyard with chocolate mousse and tomb-shaped shortbread. Here’s a photo of them preparing a pumpkin. 


And because we lived in Winnipeg, it was often necessary to walk the streets in snow-filled tire tracks in search of candy. Costumes were often worn under heavy parkas. But masks and facepaint were plentiful.

Halloween is celebrated quite differently here in Mexico. While I have decorated the odd classroom with students, few of my students have experienced going door to door to collect treats. Instead, the bakeries and shops are filled with sugar skulls instead of candy kisses. Yes! Sugar skulls! Why? Day of the Dead is celebrated here on November 2nd.


It is also customary to build altars in honor of the deceased. These are often quite elaborate and require days of preparation. Photographs, keepsakes, candles and other decorations adorn these structures. The traditional flowers are orange marigolds.


Tlaquepaque is especially festive. Independencia is a pedestrian only street and it is amazing at this time of year.



At El Refugio a spectacular artesan fair is held in addition to the display of alters and catrinas for Day of the Dead. Here is a photo of a “live” catrina this year.



And to think that all of this is within a short 10 minute walk from my house!