How Do You Do It? Part 2

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How Do You Do It? Part 2

In Part 1 I focused on my first eight years here in Mexico.

When I returned from Leavenworth last fall, I had some health issues to deal with and found myself in Guadalajara for a couple of weeks. Next I went back to Mazatlan for a weekend. I then spent a week in Culiacán with my family.

Now fully retired, there was no school or private students to tie me down. I wanted to explore areas in Mexico where I’d never been before. I wanted to live in a Mexican area far removed from all the expats and snowbirds that had been my experience in Mazatlan for three years.

Scrolling through Facebook one day, I noticed some posts in one of the groups I belong to with photos of an area in San Luis Potosí. I messaged Bonnie for more information and we chatted back and forth. Bonnie is from Texas but moved to San Ciro de Acosta when she married a Mexican a couple of years ago. Her mother was around my age and had just moved down there as well. Days later I found myself on a bus headed for San Luis Potosí.

Bonnie and her husband met me in Rio Verde and drove me to San Ciro. They then took me around the town and helped me find somewhere to live.

My plan was to stay for three weeks or so. But I wound up staying for two months. Bonnie, her mother Connie and I all became good friends. We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s together.

It was hard to leave but there were other areas in Mexico to be explored. So I once again turned to the Facebook groups to decide where to go next, making specific inquiries about Aguascalientes City.

I received a text on Messenger one day from someone asking how I liked his hometown. I didn’t recognize his name until I looked back on a two year old thread when I’d been living in Mazatlan and had been looking for an opthalmologist. I replied and told him I hadn’t realized he was from San Ciro. His response was that he was from Aguascalientes and he thought I had already arrived there. I told him I was still in San Ciro but would welcome any information he had to share about Aguascalientes, especially pertaining as to a good area to stay. He put me in touch with his nephew Fernando.

Fernando has a cousin Raul on his mother’s side of the family. Raul has hotels in Aguascalientes. I now had somewhere to stay so off I went.

I had done my research and thought that one month would be sufficient for the museums and churches I wanted to visit. Nope. It turns out three months wasn’t enough and I returned to Aguascalientes at the end of October.

Of course by now I have put down a few roots and made some friends. I also found a church close by. Aguascalientes is my home base this winter until I return to Leavenworth in April.

I hope these posts have given some insight as to how I am able to do what I do. I’d like to add that I’m a single female in my late 60s. It’s a myth that you have to be young to do what I do. I never had the opportunity to do this when I was younger, so what better time than NOW?

How Do You Do It? Part 2

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How Do You Do It? Part 2

In Part 1 I focused on my first eight years here in Mexico.

When I returned from Leavenworth last fall, I had some health issues to deal with and found myself in Guadalajara for a couple of weeks. Next I went back to Mazatlan for a weekend. I then spent a week in Culiacán with my family.

Now fully retired, there was no school or private students to tie me down. I wanted to explore areas in Mexico where I’d never been before. I wanted to live in a Mexican area far removed from all the expats and snowbirds that had been my experience in Mazatlan for three years.

Scrolling through Facebook one day, I noticed some posts in one of the groups I belong to with photos of an area in San Luis Potosí. I messaged Bonnie for more information and we chatted back and forth. Bonnie is from Texas but moved to San Ciro de Acosta when she married a Mexican a couple of years ago. Her mother was around my age and had just moved down there as well. Days later I found myself on a bus headed for San Luis Potosí.

Bonnie and her husband met me in Rio Verde and drove me to San Ciro. They then took me around the town and helped me find somewhere to live.

My plan was to stay for three weeks or so. But I wound up staying for two months. Bonnie, her mother Connie and I all became good friends. We spent Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s together.

It was hard to leave but there were other areas in Mexico to be explored. So I once again turned to the Facebook groups to decide where to go next, making specific inquiries about Aguascalientes City.

I received a text on Messenger one day from someone asking how I liked his hometown. I didn’t recognize his name until I looked back on a two year old thread when I’d been living in Mazatlan and had been looking for an opthalmologist. I replied and told him I hadn’t realized he was from San Ciro. His response was that he was from Aguascalientes and he thought I had already arrived there. I told him I was still in San Ciro but would welcome any information he had to share about Aguascalientes, especially pertaining as to a good area to stay. He put me in touch with his nephew Fernando.

Fernando has a cousin Raul on his mother’s side of the family. Raul has hotels in Aguascalientes. I now had somewhere to stay so off I went.

I had done my research and thought that one month would be sufficient for the museums and churches I wanted to visit. Nope. It turns out three months wasn’t enough and I returned to Aguascalientes at the end of October.

Of course by now I have put down a few roots and made some friends. I also found a church close by. Aguascalientes is my home base this winter until I return to Leavenworth in April.

I hope these posts have given some insight as to how I am able to do what I do. I’d like to add that I’m a single female in my late 60s. It’s a myth that you have to be young to do what I do. I never had the opportunity to do this when I was younger, so what better time than NOW?

How Do You Do It? Part 1

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How Do You Do It? Part 1

I am in my tenth year here in Mexico. No two years have beared much resemblance to each other. I’ve lived in different cities and different homes with different people. I’ve worked in different schools and taught different subjects.

My friends up north are always asking me how I do this. How do you decide where to go? How do you find somewhere to live? How do you find teaching jobs? They also ask a myriad of other questions but I’ll focus on these three in these posts.

It was a Tuesday evening when my phone rang in Winnipeg. The caller was the director of English at a private school in Mexico. He wanted to know if I was available to teach in Mexico. The start date was the following Monday.

By some miracle and with the help of good friends, my apartment was packed up and the contents moved to a storage unit. My son made the travel arrangements for me. And less than a week later I found myself in Culiacán. The school arranged my accommodation.

Dave’s ESL Cafe was a popular website at that time for teachers and employers alike. I had posted a resume there and that was how the school in Culiacán had found me.

The school year ended and I found myself back in Winnipeg. I had totally forgotten about the resume on Dave’s ESL Cafe. Until my phone rang and it was a director of English at a private school in Irapuato. I thanked him for calling and explained that teaching in Mexico had been a one year plan. He offered to pay my flight down there. I accepted.

I wasn’t impressed with Irapuato or the school. The actual job in no way resembled the job description that had been outlined in the original contract. I decided that I would tough it out until Christmas.

I was out for coffee with my supervisor on October 1st when my phone rang. The caller was not in my contacts so I disregarded it and turned the ringer off. When I got home a few hours later I saw that the same number had called me four more times. I thought that maybe someone was urgently tried to call the person who previously had my number. And I called the number back to let them know they had a wrong number.

To my surprise the voice that answered asked, “Karen, is that you?” Going through an ugly divorce at the time, I was immediately suspicious. However the caller identified himself as the owner of a school in Tlaquepaque, a suburb of Guadalajara. He had seen my resume on Dave’s ESL Cafe ( once again I had neglected to remove it) and offered me a job. It was around five in the afternoon on a Saturday. He needed me in Guadalajara Monday morning.

The next few hours were hectic as I hurriedly packed up my belongings. The following morning I was on a bus headed for Guadalajara. Once again the school arranged my accommodation.

I also found myself teaching business English that year. A friend from Norway needed a substitute while she went home for a visit. Her boss was impressed with me and offered me a job. So that winter I taught for him as well as at the other school.

Shortly before I headed back to Winnipeg for knee surgery the following spring, I was in a bar where I met a man who owned another school in Tlaquepaque. I accepted his job offer when I returned to Mexico after my surgery. He also managed properties and found me accommodation.

But I only taught there a couple of months. Parents were using his school as cheap babysitting for their kids, and it was far too frustrating trying to teach kids who hadn’t the slightest interest in learning English. But I did continue to stay in the accommodation he had offered me when I taught at his school.

Meanwhile, another friend had taught at yet another school but left to teach English on-line. The owner of the school called me with a job offer and I accepted.

I then received a call from the man whom I’d taught business English for, so once again I found myself with two jobs.

In the spring I was visiting with my family in Culiacán before going back to Winnipeg for a vacation. I got a call from the owner of a school in Mazatlan. Apparently we had a mutual friend on Facebook who told her I was an English teacher.

After my Winnipeg visit I found myself in Mazatlan where once again the school had found me accommodation. I only taught there a few months. I had met the owner of another school at Starbucks one day and had accepted his job offer. I also moved in with another friend at that time.

Unfortunately that school folded. And I decided that I was going to semi-retire and teach private students only. I also moved again and was delighted to find private students right in my condominium complex.

My last year in Mazatlan I completely retired. I moved again. Once you’re in a place long enough, you meet people and it’s quite easy to find affordable accommodation.

That’s all for this post. Stay tuned for Part 2 where I’ll talk about life in San Luis Potosí and Aguascalientes.

Anoche en Centro

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Anoche en Centro

When I left for Culiacán last weekend, they had just begun decorating for Christmas in Centro. I decided to take a walk down there last night to check it out.

This is my 10th Christmas season in Mexico. I have celebrated this holiday in Culiacán, Mazatlán, Guadalajara, Tototlán and San Ciro de Acosta. Each has a unique feel to it, including different traditions.

Here in Aguascalientes, every evening for the past month there have been prayer groups in the streets. The Virgin of Guadalupe is sacred to Catholics. There will be a parade on December 12th. The last time I experienced this was in Tlaquepaque a few years ago.

By the San Marcos Church, I stopped to admire the tree and the nativity scene.

As I approached the plaza, I was amazed at the crowds of people that filled the streets. The vendors were out in full force and the restaurants were packed.

A skating rink had been set up and was quite a popular attraction. It was obvious that most people had never been on skates before. They lined the outside of the rink and clung to the walls and each other for support.

In another area in the square there was some entertainment going on involving acrobats and music.

I ventured into the government building to admire the tree.

And I fell in love with this cute little guy.

The streets were brightly lit and the camera on my phone really didn’t do justice to their splendor.

On my way home I strolled through the San Marcos Park. I sat for a while and watched the salsa dancers. And it goes without saying that people watching in the park is fascinating.

As I continued my walk home I found other brightly lit trees.

There is definitely a festive air here in Aguascalientes.

It’s All Relative

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It’s All Relative

I’ve been back in Mexico for over a month now and I finally made it to Culiacán. This city was the first place I called “home” when I came to Mexico nine years ago.

Juan Carlos was a baby. He’s now 10 and almost as tall as I am. The family has grown and I am now abuelita to 4 boys. Jose Agustín is 7, Angel is 5 and Christien is 8 months old. I come to Culiacán regularly to spend time with my family.

Culiacán has been in the news recently when the prominent drug cartel literally took over the city for a few days. It has always been a dangerous city because of the cartel.

But danger is all relative.

Just last week a fire truck was hijacked in my hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. Yet my friends in Winnipeg are not happy that I still visit Culiacán. Back in Aguascalientes my friends there have the same concerns. And everyone in Canada and in Mexico wonder why I want to spend several months of the year in the gun-toting state of Washington.

I look at it this way. Life is short. Living in fear of what may or may not happen detracts from our enjoyment of life. In order to appreciate every single precious moment, we need to really focus on the present. For once that moment has passed, it is gone forever.

Sunday night was filled with moments. We went to mass at a church nearby. My grandsons were excited because a movie was being shown outside in the parking lot after the mass. Chairs were hastily set up. Thanks to modern technology involving a computer and a screen, we were treated to Disney’s Christmas Carol, in Spanish naturally. What a beautiful way to begin the festive Christmas season!

Last night we went to Juan’s father’s home. Candles were lit and prayers were said to begin the Advent season.

Other special moments this visit include playing Scrabble with my grandsons and watching Juan play basketball last night.

Juan Carlos read me a beautiful story he had written in English entitled “A Friend Is Better Than A Videogame.” It rivaled any 10 year old native speaker’s story.

I’m sure we will share more special moments when the boys return from school later today. Sadly I must leave for Aguascalientes tonight, but I look forward to my next visit to Culiacán.

Grey Cup Sunday

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Grey Cup Sunday

Grey Cup Sunday. If you are Canadian, then this day is a tradition. Even if your home team isn’t competing, there is always a team from the west or east that you can cheer on.

This year, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from my hometown, made it to the Grey Cup. They are actually playing right now, as I write this. But I’m not watching the game this year. I’ll check Facebook periodically as my Canadian friends are sure to be posting updates.

My mind is elsewhere today. 39 years ago today on Grey Cup Sunday, I spent the entire day in labor with my first child, my son Kyle. It seems like just yesterday and it’s incredible that the years have flown by so quickly.

The family photos are all stored at his home seeing as I’ve been traveling for the last decade. But I do have some on my Seagate.

Here is Kyle at about age 2.

Here he is almost 10 years ago at his CA grad.

Here he is when I was last in Winnipeg for Mother’s Day a few years ago.

Happy Birthday Kyle! Love you lots!

Buen Fin Y Mas

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Buen Fin Y Mas

My friends up north are always asking what a typical week down here looks like. My challenge is that there is no such thing as a typical week. The only routine things carved in stone on my calendar are teaching English two hours a week, volunteer work and going to church. No bridge games or fitness classes. No regular activities at a senior center. The pace of life is slower but somehow the time passes by quickly. I’ve been back in Aguascalientes for 4 weeks already!

Last weekend here in Mexico we experienced the equivalent of Black Friday. Buen Fin began early Friday morning and continued until midnight Monday night.

Monday was a holiday as Revolution Day is celebrated this week. So the sales continued. Even fast food places such as Burger King and Carl’s Jr featured Buen Fin specials on their menus.

My Uber passed by Walmart last Saturday. The parking lot was packed and cars were lined up on the street in the hopes of finding a parking spot later in the day.

As for me, I avoided shopping. Crowds of people have no appeal. I prefer to leisurely stroll through the shops without hoards of people surrounding me.

I walk a lot. I enjoy the nearby parks. The central historical area is 20 minutes away. Everyday I notice different things. On Wednesday I walked down to the bus station to get my ticket for Culiacán and encountered this new friend.

Last night was the first time I ever experienced a surprise birthday party in a church. It was the pastor’s birthday and he was scheduled to arrive late as someone else had volunteered to preach. As we sat through the service, a taquiza was set up right in the sanctuary. The aroma of the meat cooking filled the air. The menu was tacos al pastor and quesadillas.

After the service balloons were blown up. These were then tossed at the pastor when he arrived.

Lines formed at the taquiza. The food was delicious. We sat around eating and visiting.

The lights were dimmed, noisemakers became active, and it was time for cake. I snagged this photo of the pastor blowing out the candles.

And now it’s Friday and I wonder what this weekend has in store for me.