Category Archives: Uncategorized

When Are You Coming Home?

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When Are You Coming Home?

I’ve just begun to research travel health insurance in the hope that I might still get home to Leavenworth this fall. But for the time being I’m staying here in Aguascalientes, even though our state went from orange to red this past week. I don’t believe any of the statistics we are fed down here and have little faith in the ones up north. COVID-19 has invaded our world and we need to learn to live with our despicable new neighbor.

So other than the question of where to go when my FMM expires for a second time, I’ve been trying to figure out why the time is going by so quickly even though I seem to be doing so little.

I have an extremely laid back life here. My big dilemma yesterday was should I pick up chicken for dinner or try out the new Argentinian takeout place. Big decision.

The calendar on my wall seems to fill up with video calls and phone calls. I go out with friends here occasionally and I take courses and do church online.

There is no such thing as a typical day. My blog posts are up on Wednesdays and Sundays. That’s about the only routine in my life. Even my daily walks are not consistent in terms of time of day or distance.

What I really enjoy are the conversations I have with the locals when I’m out and about. Being the only gringa does have its advantages. ( Even though I’m Canadian I’m still labeled a gringa.) People are always curious as to why I’m here in Ags rather than basking on a beach in Puerto Vallarta. And when they hear I’m a retired teacher, they seem to forget the word ‘retired‘ and want to know where I teach English classes. So a five minute trip to the pharmacy for toothpaste often takes close to an hour. And my Spanish gets a workout!

I do video calls with my daughter in Kelowna. I get to watch my granddaughter Madeline do such things as eat olives and decorate cupcakes. She’s almost 2-1/2 now and no longer a baby. Vocabulary and dexterity are growing right along with her. And I hope she doesn’t think that I live in a phone!

I am now doing regular video calls with one of my grandsons in Culiacán. These calls are in English! I am really proud of the progress he’s made in learning a second language. Schools are still closed here in Mexico, so I’m delighted that I have the opportunity to help him with his English online.

Some of this month’s news from friends……..Audrey became a grandma for the first time! She has a beautiful new granddaughter. Rita’s son and family moved back to Winnipeg from Montreal. Joan is adjusting to life in a personal care home but is disappointed that she is unable to go out due to COVID-19 restrictions. Deborah in Toronto is enjoying going out cruising on a new boat her partner just bought. Becky in Indiana is starting a new job this month. David is still in Winnipeg separated from his wife in Cuba due to COVID-19. Lise has been back at the office in Winnipeg working for quite a while now. Cheryl is disappointed that cases are rising in Manitoba and is staying home mostly as she has COPD and is awaiting a transplant. Carolyn is delighted that visitors are now allowed to come to the personal care home where she lives in Winnipeg. Carole in Minneapolis is working from home and is quite concerned about the race riots that all started where she lives. And on a sad note my condolences to Rochelle in Arizona who lost her father recently.

I talk to my friends in Leavenworth regularly and hear all about life there pretty well on a daily basis. I only wish I could be there with them as they struggle with health issues and other concerns. Of course we always talk about COVID-19 and how life has changed, and the conversation often drifts to politics and the upcoming election. But the following question is a constant.

When are you coming home?

Writing An Obituary 101

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Writing An Obituary 101

On Saturdays I read the obituaries section in The Winnipeg Free Press, my hometown newspaper in Canada. I often recognize familiar names of people in my past, many of whom I’ve lost touch with over the years.

Decades ago I took a Creative Writing class in college. One of our assignments was to write our own obituary. At the time my children were young and I recall struggling with this concept.

Eight years ago I actually did write my own obituary. It was just before I had my first knee replacement. My mother had died from complications after having that surgery, and I was terrified that the same fate awaited me.

Well, I survived that first surgery and the following year I had my other knee replaced. That obituary was tossed long ago.

My children and I live thousands of miles apart in different countries. They know very little about my life, other than that I divide my time between somewhere in Mexico and Leavenworth, Washington. They have never visited me in either place and have not met many of my closest friends, nor have they seen the places where I’ve lived. I don’t think either of them can quite understand why I chose to stay in Mexico rather than return to Canada during a pandemic. And they have voiced the idea that I must have a death wish if I want to go back to Leavenworth rather than return to Canada.

Recently the topic of obituaries has arisen when I talked with friends who also live far away from their families and have similar circumstances. Perhaps a bit on the morbid side, but we wonder what our children would say about us if they had to write our obituaries today.

In all honesty, I have trouble just keeping up with holographic wills because I move around so much. Writing an obituary is the last thing on my mind right now.

Pachelbel

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Pachelbel

Pachelbel’s Canon In D is one of my favorite classics to listen to when I meditate. This afternoon I was listening to Pachelbel with ocean sounds and it got me thinking of all the different places I’ve been when I’ve meditated with this particular version of the Canon.

One of my earliest memories dates back to when my son Kyle was a baby. He would nap beside me in bed while I meditated. I never fell asleep although Pachelbel always lulled Kyle to sleep.

Kelsey was my first dog and he often cuddled in bed with me while I meditated. Of course he would frequently bring squeak toys with him and become quite annoyed when I didn’t want to play.

Koal was the last dog I had and I can still feel him snuggled up against me on the bed. This was before knee surgery and he just seemed to zero in on which knee would benefit the most from the warmth of his body.

Pachelbel has also accompanied me on my travels in Mexico for the past several years, as well as in Washington.

For those of you who are into mindfulness and meditation, I highly recommend Pachelbel. There are numerous versions available online with a variety of musical instruments and other sounds.

If you are not into meditation, I highly recommend that you try it. I find it especially helpful in coping with the stress added to our lives by the advent of COVID-19.

Challenges Of A Teacher

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Challenges Of A Teacher

I’m retired now, but I’m often asked what kinds of challenges I faced while teaching English here in Mexico. I basically divide them into two distinct areas….. actual English teaching in the classroom and the challenges associated with the difference in the culture here from up north.

In the classroom, aside from the obvious grammar and pronunciation, there were the more abstract things included in the curriculum. I always found the topic of white lies versus black lies a challenge. There was always that one student who insisted that his steady girlfriend of so many years didn’t need to know about the new woman in his life because he wasn’t sure which one he wanted to be with until he got to know the new one better. He’d tell his girlfriend he was going out for a beer with the guys instead. In his eyes this was no different than telling a friend his new shirt was amazing even though he really thought the shirt was hideous.

Classroom management was definitely an adventure. Teacher aides for students with behavioral issues such as autism simply do not exist here. At one private school where I taught I had one student who consistently tried to climb out of a second story window when he wasn’t interested in the topic we were studying at the moment. Needless to say, his behavior always disrupted the entire class.

As a teacher, students rely on you for far more than just teaching them English. They often came to me with personal problems. The culture here is different, and I was always cautious, especially when it came to teenagers. Many problems students struggle with are really quite universal, adults and children alike, no matter which country you live in.

But these challenges pale in comparison with what teachers face today in light of COVID-19. The additional responsibility for providing safety from infection to students is huge, not to mention that teachers are putting their own lives at risk the moment they step into the classroom.

There is so much controversy about whether or not schools should open again when the virus is still surging. Here in Mexico the schools will not open this month. My heart goes out to teachers everywhere else in the world where schools are reopening. I admire your dedication and I pray for your safety.

Zoning Bylaws? You’re Kidding, Right?

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Zoning Bylaws? You’re Kidding, Right?

One of the things I love about Mexico is that you never know just what you’ll find right around the corner. When I go for my daily walks I always venture down different side streets and explore new territory. One morning I headed towards Expoplaza but instead of veering off to the right towards Centro I walked in the opposite direction down Lopez Mateo. Here is a statue of a matador that caught my attention.A little further down the street I noticed some puppies for sale.Here is one of the many interesting signs I saw. The 1950 date intrigued me.Next I passed by an office furniture store.And of course mixed in with all the shops are private homes. There is always an OXXO or two as well. I also came across this shop specializing in cleaning supplies. Yes that’s a hazmat suit hanging in the doorway.Other side streets offered these colorful blooms.This is how a neighbor spent his Sunday afternoon.On another day my walk took me to Centro. Here is a landmark at Plaza Patria.As I strolled down Madero I encountered this man in front of a shoe store.I passed by this lavenderia the other day. When dryers are not available the sidewalk will suffice. Thankfully the lavenderia I frequent has both washers and dryers.There does not appear to be much in the way of zoning bylaws here. It is common to see people living above stores and offices. In some cases they live in the same building directly behind the store or office. Pet stores next door to restaurants, a stationary store next to a place that offers wheel alignments, a preschool next to a car wash……anything goes here.

All Aboard!

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All Aboard!

This spring I had planned on taking the Coastliner from LA to Seattle on my way back to Leavenworth. But that will have to wait until COVID-19 is under control in the USA.

The one and only time I was on a train in Mexico was in December of 2010. This was the most amazing train ride I’ve ever taken in my life. El Chepe in the Copper Canyon area in northern Mexico is an absolute must for every visitor to this country. I did a four day three night excursion that included a variety of activities such as visiting missions, a cable car ride, spectacular mountain views and stays in beautiful hotels along the way.

My first train trip was from Winnipeg to London, Ontario when I was eight years old. I really don’t remember much about that trip other than the card games I played with my Dad. I also can still see the porters making up the berths at night. Their starched white smocks were in striking contrast to their dark skin. Back then I’d never encountered racism and just accepted that all porters on trains were black. The innocent eyes of a child.

My Mom and I took a train to Minneapolis to go clothes shopping once. Winnipeg really wasn’t known for fashion back then. And I must admit I still prefer to shop in the USA.

Another memorable train ride was back when I was in high school. This was a long trip from Winnipeg to Halifax, Nova Scotia. I participated in a student exchange program called The Young Voyageurs that was created as an event to celebrate Canada’s Centennial. A highlight along the way was spending a day at Expo 67 in Montreal.

The Prairie Dog Central is a train that goes from Winnipeg to Gross Isle and operates during the summer. It’s also a steam engine. I recall taking my kids on it when they were young. They loved it as most of their travels usually involved busy airports and crowded flights where they weren’t able to wander around as freely.

Another regular train ride in the summer was at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg. This coal fuelled train went around the park and passed by the zoo and the cricket fields.

And then there are the trains at Bush Intercontinental and Sea-Tac, as well as Via Rail and the Go Train I’ve taken in Ontario. And the subways I’ve ridden in Toronto and Guadalajara. I can’t say any of these are my favorites but they are efficient.

Here in Mexico I’ve been on quaint miniature train rides in shopping malls and in town squares in Sinaloa, Jalisco and Guadalajara. I also went on a miniature train ride in Wenatchee.

Amtrak…..I hope to see you once it’s safer to travel again in the USA.

The Choice

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The Choice

Occasionally I read a book in English when I’m in Mexico. Today I finished The Choice by Nicholas Sparks. This isn’t the first time I’ve read it. It’s just the type of story I enjoy reading more than once.

It never ceases to amaze me just how strong the love is between Travis and Gabby. I marvel at how a man can be so dedicated and passionate. I know that was never the experience I had in my marriage, although I have found it since in subsequent relationships.

I wonder if there is a genetic link out there that makes some men more inclined to feel and express love. It can’t all be learned behavior from our upbringing.

I’ve actually had conversations on this topic with both female and male friends. I’ve observed that while females appear to be more emotionally definitive, males seem to be more on the defensive side.

Then there is the idea of love turned inward resulting in narcissism. There is a strong correlation here with environment, suggesting that this type of love is a learned behavior.

Unfortunately we don’t recognize narcissism in our partners until the relationship ends, despite the persistent attempts by therapists over the years to open our eyes to this toxicity in our lives.

I’d like to think that the love story about Travis and Gabby is not unique. But it’s hard to believe that in view of the high incidence of divorce in today’s world, or in viewing the number of couples who stay together for financial reasons and are bitterly unhappy. I think that number has overtaken the one for couples who remain together for the sake of the children, another fallacy in parenting.

It was nice to escape to the world of Travis and Gabby, even for a short time. I highly recommend this book if you haven’t yet read it. Or if you have read it, you should read it again.

Random Reflections

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Random Reflections

Canadians are calling upon Trudeau to resign. Trump somehow marches on. Fauci throws a pitch on a baseball diamond but the real pitch falls on deaf ears. Race riots and anti-mask demonstrations are becoming all too common. And here in Mexico…well, I just won’t go there. Politics are not my thing, especially when I’m a visitor in a foreign country.I started a new course online on Mindfulness offered by Price University in Houston, Texas. I used to dabble in mindfulness along with meditation. But the longer this pandemic goes on the more important these practices become. Now is the time to do things. Stop procrastinating. Be aware and be mindful of every precious moment of your life.My Facebook memories today remind me of being in Kelowna, Winnipeg, Altona, Guadalajara, Mazatlan, Leavenworth, Wenatchee and McAllen on this date. Three different countries, two different provinces in Canada, two different states in the USA and two different states in Mexico.I don’t get around much anymore. I feel like a kid again that got grounded unfairly, but this time by a pandemic and not by a parent. But at least I’m in a beautiful place.Ever since my Mexican family in Culiacán adopted me almost ten years ago, I have never gone seven months without seeing them. Until now.I enjoy my video calls with my daughter and granddaughter in Kelowna. Madeline turned two in February and I’ve only seen her twice in her lifetime. This photo was taken a year ago in July when I was in Kelowna.I learned an interesting fact about water in Aguascalientes. It’s hot and dry here so there is water rationing. The city pumps it out in the morning. If individual households run out during the day……tough luck! No more until tomorrow.Why are the beaches and malecons crowded in Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta? Are they competing with Florida to set a new record for COVID-19 cases and deaths.Here in Aguascalientes people wear masks and physical distancing is the norm. I’ve had my temperature taken more times in the last week than almost in my entire lifetime. Sanitizing mats have replaced welcome mats. Antibacterial gel is readily available everywhere when entering shops as well as restaurants.Time for my morning walk. I wonder what awaits me today.

Do You Scroll

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Do You Scroll

Facebook……what has happened to you? There was a time when I enjoyed scrolling through my news feed to catch up on my friends’ activities. I have friends all over the world. Many of these friends I met in my teaching and traveling in Mexico in the last ten years. I have friends back in my hometown in Canada and friends in Leavenworth. These are the people I primarily stay in touch with through Facebook. And a one liner at one time replaced email that I now view as snail mail.

But it’s getting more and more difficult and time consuming to find the posts that I really want to see.

Recently an American friend had posted photos of her new granddaughter in Mexico. Another American friend shared an excellent article on PTSD related to living in this COVID-19 world. A Canadian friend posted news of how the virus has affected life in my hometown. A friend from England shared some beautiful photos of the countryside.

I almost missed all of these.

Why?

There are too many people sharing posts out there without even reading what they are sharing first. Aside from all the misinformation, there is no reason to share upwards of ten posts every single day.

Political posts annoy me. They just add fuel to the fire that is already out of control. They divide a nation and promote animosity between neighbors no matter what country you live in.

Then there are the people who use Facebook as a daily diary. FYI I really don’t care what you ate for lunch or that it is naptime. Or that you just can’t find anything to watch on Netflix.

Then there are those who use Facebook as a pity party. They constantly complain of their aches and pains and of how life is so unfair.

All of the above mentioned people need to get a real life and stop living a virtual life.

In addition there are all the unwanted advertisements thanks to cookies.

I honestly don’t have the time or the patience to scroll through dozens of post to find the ones I am truly interested in. And selecting unfollow doesn’t seem to help.

I post notifications for my blog on Facebook. I check the groups I belong to. I use Messenger. I try to post meaningful items and not an abundance of them. Occasionally I post a Facebook memory. I very selectively share articles posted by friends.

But I no longer scroll regularly. Do you?

More Facebook Memories

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More Facebook Memories

The middle of the month of July usually means Vacation Bible School in Leavenworth, Washington.

Here are some pics I found in my Facebook memories this week of years gone by.

Before I discovered Leavenworth I spent a few summers in Mexico. Here are some pics I took in Parque Agua Azul in Guadalajara.

I was at Plaza Machado in Mazatlan a few years ago.

I wonder where I’ll be next July.