December has been a hectic month with an abundance of Christmas celebrations and posadas. I especially enjoy the festive lights and trees so I headed out to Galerias and Gran Plaza, the two major shopping malls here, to check out their decorations and displays.
On Christmas Day my friends and I enjoyed a fabulous traditional turkey dinner at Twisted Mamas, a popular restaurant in the Zona Dorada.
This week has been relatively quiet and I found time to see a movie, play cards, meet friends for coffee and even do some grocery shopping. And I have set aside time to enjoy the beach.
I love the beach. The sand is a cushion beneath my feet. I breathe in the salty air and it tantalizes my nostrils. I gaze out at the waves and a feeling of peace and tranquility washes over my body. This is why I live here now.
Mazatlan boasts several beaches. I have not been to all of them, but I do have some favorites. Although I prefer the more secluded beach areas, I do frequent those in the Zona Dorada and Olas Altas. These areas are usually filled with hawkers who sell everything from jewelry to hammocks and everything in between. But I am a people watcher, and I do enjoy observing the interchanges with tourists.
This morning I was out at Playa Brujas. It was bustling with activity as it’s holiday time. Usually it isn’t crowded and there aren’t as many hawkers are around to harass you. The waves here are a surfer’s heaven.
Another favorite beach is in Sabalo Country, where I often sit out on the rocks gazing at the sea and ponder what is happening in my life. Occasionally I sit at a table beneath an umbrella while sipping an ice cold cerveza.
As this will be my last post for 2016, I’d like to wish my readers a Happy New Year. I pray that it will be a year of happiness and good health for everyone. May all your wishes and dreams come true in 2017.
Whenever expats get together here, inevitably the conversation turns to how things are different here and some of the things we miss from back home. We all agree that we miss our children the most. Those who are fortunate enough to have parents, siblings or extended family also lament that they miss them as well, especially at holiday time.
The discussion then shifts to the more mundane things. Those of us who enjoy cooking and baking face real challenges and have had to adapt our styles to what is available here in Mexico. Personally I really miss Bulk Barn in Canada. Anything you can ever imagine for baking is available at this store, but many items are sadly lacking here in Mazatlan. I used to take for granted all the sprinkles, caramels, candies, chocolate and even the variety of flour and sugar. I baked up a storm when I was in Leavenworth last summer. But my choices here are limited. My apple crisp has evolved into apple enchiladas. Cheesecake is now of a much heavier texture. Cookies are not as colorfully decorated. But I did learn how to make a delicious chocolate flan in my most recent Mexican cooking class.
Expats tend to bring their own bedding and towels from home. The main reason is the poor quality available here. Small appliances such as breadmakers, toaster ovens, hand mixers and blenders cost a fortune down here. Only specialty stores carry Keurig and good luck finding the cups in any but the most ordinary coffee flavors. There is also an endless list of other kitchen items unavailable here ranging from SOS pads to household cleaners.
Heating pads? Electric blankets? Bring them down and use them only if you are prepared for the outrageous CFE bills here. Electricity is extremely expensive. Gas ovens and and grills are the norm here. And the low energy light bulbs are very prevalent and are definitely deficient in brightening up a room.
Bras and panties? Run, do not walk, to Victoria’s Secret before you come down here. Actually, if you want any type of quality in clothing, don’t buy it here unless you shop at Liverpool. The quality there is not always consistent either, although the high prices are.
But aside from my children and some of the more obvious items listed above, I actually find myself almost missing snow at this time of year. That first snowfall……….the delicate snowflakes are a beautiful sight. Sitting by a fireplace in the evening gazing out at that winter wonderland. The clean, crisp air as I venture outside. But wait! It’s -30 degrees Celsius with a windchill? No thanks. I think I’ll stay down here in Mexico a while longer.
Today is Friday December 16th and in just over two weeks a new year will be upon us. How can 2017 possibly be so close? We just rang in 2016 yesterday, didn’t we? It’s scary how the months just fly by all too quickly as we grow older.
Earlier this year I made my debut as an actress in a murder mystery dinner theater. I had never done any acting before in my life and this was an amazing experience. It was a short-lived career and I returned to teaching English.
My favorite student was a young woman in her forties who was a missionary here in Mexico. Originally from Monterrey, Claudia had been posted here in Mazatlan for a few months. Occasionally English speaking visitors from other countries would come to her church and she would also travel to the United States for conferences. Claudia was re-posted in July and we still keep in touch on What’s App.
I spent a lot of time by the pool with friends. I was delighted to be back in the water exercising regularly again as it really helped the bad bout of sciatica I was experiencing. When I lived in Canada water aerobics was a part of my daily routine, and I had really missed it.
I joined an organization called Neighbors Who Care (Vecinos Con Carinos) and volunteered my time at fundraising events. The Ducky Derby took place in March and attracted tables full of people who contributed generously to support schools and families in need in Teacapan, a small pueblo just outside of Mazatlan. We also sponsored a Health Fair in May that was held at The Convention Center here in Mazatlan. In July we also held a Fourth of July fundraiser that was well attended by members.
If you have ever lived in Mexico, you know that dealing with Hacienda and Immigration are tedious and time-consuming. Hacienda is the Mexican equivalent of the IRS in The United States or the CRA in Canada. Documents, documents, documents and more documents! Mexicans love their paperwork.
I also became active at The Vineyard Church (La Vina). I helped make some 300 ham and cheese sandwiches on Thursdays which were distributed to people who worked at the dump. These people spent hours scavenging through the garbage there in the hopes of finding something they could use or sell in order to support their families.
I met a very talented young lady named Sofia who offers Mexican cooking classes. I have learned a great deal about the different chilis, vegetables and fruits available here. Meats are cut differently and cooking Mexican style in no way resembles cooking Canadian style. The markets and grocery stores are filled with unfamiliar ingredients. Items we take for granted up north, such as Crisco and Cool Whip, just do not exist here. Even the flour and sugar are different.
I also continued taking courses on the internet: Evolution from American Museum of Natural History, Positive Psychology from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Psychological First Aid from Johns Hopkins, Conflict Resolution from University of California Irvine Campus, The Addicted Brain from Emory University, The Social Context of Mental Health and Illness from University of Toronto. I am currently taking a course called De-Mystifying Mindfulness from Universiteit Leiden.
Back in July I went to Leavenworth, Washington to visit a friend I had met in Mazatlan. Somehow four weeks turned into four months, and it was the threat of snow that finally propelled me back to Mexico a month ago. My previous blog posts have provided details about the time I spent there. Washington state is incredibly beautiful. While I did not care for Seattle, the Bavarian town of Leavenworth was amazing and the town of Cashmere captured my heart. Wenatchee was already beginning to feel big cityish as the malls and big box stores are found here. The breathtaking view of the mountains is spectacular, and I truly enjoyed every moment of living in a small town with a population of only 2000.
I’ve been back in Mazatlan for a month and it has been a hectic one. Most of the snowbirds are back for the winter and it’s nice to see my friends again. I shared a lovely Thanksgiving dinner with friends from Utah and Texas. The weekly card games are back on at Sue’s in Las Gavias. The Organic Market at Plaza Zaragoza and the market at La Catrina are in full swing. Mazatlan Film and Theater have started the movies and play readings. Friends of Mexico had a meeting this past week and membership drive is in full swing.
This past week has been a busy one. On Sunday I went to church and then had brunch with friends. Later on in the day I did an internet service with Church of the Rock back in Winnipeg. On Monday I had a luncheon with a group called Ladies Who Lunch In Centro. Tuesday was a Friends of Mexico breakfast meeting and then our weekly card game in the afternoon. On Wednesday our Red Hat group had a Christmas luncheon. Last night there was a Christmas party at Arco Los Charros with members of Neighbors Who Care. A Christmas Tea was held at church this morning. Tomorrow night is a Mexican posada with our cooking class. And next Monday I have another Christmas luncheon. Then there is a lull next week other than the card game.
On Christmas Eve there is a candlelight service at church and on Christmas Day a group of us are going to a buffet dinner at Twisted Mama’s, a popular restaurant in The Gold Zone. We haven’t firmed up plans for New Years yet but venues being considered include Friends and Playa Mazatlan, although I am considering the possibility of going to Culiacan instead.
Yes 2016, your days are numbered. In the blink of an eye 2017 will be upon us. I wonder what exciting adventures lie ahead.
Do you remember when you were a child? When everything seemed so simple and so routine? Our parents took all our worries away and we simply enjoyed life. Those days were so carefree and so magical. Of course we never realized it back then. After all, we were in such a hurry to grow up.
And then came those teenage years. More of a challenge but still blissful. Testing and seeing how far we could push the envelope. We now had more freedom and it many cases far too much. Eager to explore, we were often ruthless and reckless.
All too soon those years came to an end and we were full-fledged adults. We now had responsibilities along with our independence. We now were encouraged more than ever to conform to society’s norms. And when children came along we became role models and mentors.
Life does not always go as planned. We often discover that there is no happily ever after as we had once believed. Stress becomes our constant companion and not necessarily our best friend. Consequently we find ourselves struggling to meet the expectations of others and accept society’s norms, which in turn causes a myriad of problems.
We often feel that happily ever after exists only in fairy tales, until one day our eyes are opened and we are able to envision a life that is amazingly different from any type of existence we ever believed possible. Better still, it is easily within our grasp. The big question here is whether or not we take that giant leap and embrace the risk.
I did. I know that my family and many of my friends do not understand my lifestyle. They think it is a stage I am going through and that one day I will come out of it and return to their concept of reality. However, ever the non-conformist, I know that I have changed too much to ever regress back to that type of life. And their disapproval and criticism are meaningless to me, even in the face of this most recent gigantic curve ball.
Like all other curve balls thrown at me in my life, it cannot stay up in the air forever. It actually began its slow descent on a convoluted path yesterday morning. And I must be patient.
I recall that a few years ago when I got my first iPhone that I called my son with the good news. His response was some silence, a sigh and a slight groan. I could just imagine the thoughts racing through his head. First it was the VCR player, then the DVD player and now she’s got an iPhone. God help us! Another device I’ll have to contend with that my technologically challenged mother now has.
I actually was quite proud of myself. I managed to figure out quite a bit on my own. Of course I was recuperating from surgery at the time with nothing better to do. And I must admit that when I switched to an Android about three weeks ago, I still had not mastered everything on my iPhone.
So I now have this new phone and it is an Android, very different from the Apple product.
Once again I am proud of myself from all I have figured out so far, although I have a long way to go. Turning it on and off was easy. Answering the phone? Oops! Swipe it! Entering all the contacts? Don’t forget those +1 and +52 before the phone numbers. And they all had to be added individually. Email was easy to add. And it could be synced with the phone numbers. What’s App?What do you mean all my previous messages and contacts were erased? Grrrrr.
And then there are all those apps to add. And now we have a Play Store where we find them all. Camera and gallery are fun. I know how to forward them in Whats App and Email. But then we have Messenger, where my friends are forwarding Christmas greetings to pass on and I keep sending them blank pictures. Oh well, all in good time.
Those nasty notifications! Annoying sounds that are determined not to be silenced! And I need to figure out a way to tell the emails from the messages. Right now they all sound alike. And I’m receiving notifications in Spanish as well as English.
I haven’t tried setting an alarm yet. I think I’ll keep using my old iPhone as an alarm clock. But I did figure out the timer!
I could go on and on about the calendar, weather settings and more, but I think you get the gist of it. I think I’ll end this post and play with my phone instead.