Five years ago I came to Mexico for the first time in my life. I was on a mission trip with my church and we spent a week in an impoverished village in the San Rafael Mountains. This trip changed my life forever. And I knew in my heart that someday I wanted to return to this country.
A mere five months later I found myself on a plane bound for Culiacan. My CTesl in hand, the plan was to teach for a year and then return to Winnipeg. I taught secundaria at a private school and immersed myself in the Mexican culture. I began to learn a new language and discovered new foods. Shopping, taking buses and taxis, the process of obtaining a cellular phone, getting a prescription at a pharmacy…………. these were all strange and different. At times the challenges were overwhelming and I was often discouraged. My mantra was “You can do this Karen. It’s only for one school year.”
But something very unexpected happened. I returned to Winnipeg in the summer, but for only five weeks! I stayed with friends initially, as I had to find an apartment and a job. After only one week in Winnipeg, I knew that I wanted to return to Mexico. And when I was offered a job in Irapuato, I jumped at the opportunity.
Unfortunately the teaching position in Irapuato did not in any way resemble the job description proposed in the Skype interview. After a month with no contract in sight, I headed for Guadalajara where I had been offered a job in a language institute.
I settled into life in Tlaquepaque, a quaint Mexican town in the midst of the second largest city in Mexico. I enjoyed teaching and the months flew by. I returned to Winnipeg for six months to have knee replacement surgery. And I was more than ready to return to Mexico!
I went back to Tlaquepaque where I taught briefly at a language institute. I then moved on to teaching Business English to companies on site. Once again the months flew by all too quickly and it was time to return to Winnipeg to have a second knee replacement.
I eagerly boarded a flight to San Diego and had a car service pick me up at the airport to drive me to Rosarito in the Baja California. I wanted ocean. But I was so disappointed in Rosarito. The element of the danger of living in a border town hadn’t really crossed my mind. The town itself was depressing. I couldn’t find adequate housing. There were no buses. There were more boarded up shops than open shops. The beach area was not nice at all. The sidewalks rolled up at dusk. This poor man’s Vallarta was not for me!
After a week I headed for the bus station in Tijuana. I enjoyed a spectacular ride through the mountains and arrived in Culiacan in the wake of a hurricane warning. I spent a few days with my Mexican family and then was once again on my way back to Tlaquepaque.
This time I stayed for eighteen months. I taught at a language institute and became somewhat of a grammar guru. I obtained my residente temporal and health insurance from IMSS. I jokingly told my friends that I was becoming a Mexican. I even have long, dark hair now and am suntanned year round. But alas I will never wear those high, high heels that are so popular down here. I treasure my new knees too much.
I returned to Winnipeg via Culiacan, Mazatlan, Sayulita, Bucerias, Puerto Vallarta and Calgary. Amazingly all this was within a twelve day period! And that was when I made the final decision to accept a teaching position and move to Mazatlan. And after five hectic weeks in Winnipeg, I was more than ready to return to Mexico.
Why Mazatlan? I discovered this magical place when I lived in Culiacan and enjoyed coming here on weekends. Mazatlan itself is much smaller than Guadalajara. It’s also much cleaner and has far less pollution. But the real lure for me is the ocean. Water is so peaceful and tranquil. I discovered this years ago when I visited my parents one winter in San Diego. They lived right on Mission Bay. And I often dreamed about living near water.
I have followed this dream for forty years. But it is only recently since my divorce that I have actually been able to live my dream. I realized that it was solely up to me to make this happen. And I did. I am now in Mazatlan, close to the sea. When I seek peace and solitude, it’s mere minutes away. I love the sound of the crashing waves. I love the feel of the ocean spray on my face. The sand beneath my bare feet is a heavenly cushion. And I am home.