Rio Verde

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Rio Verde

Rio Verde

The weather had turned cloudy and cool with sporadic drizzle. As I sipped my coffee at the gordita stand the other day, I felt like being outside anyways. I also felt like exploring new territory.

I hung out on the corner and flagged down a collectivo. My first experience on one of these vans was interesting. As we headed towards Rio Verde, I was surprised at the people who seemed to get on and off in the middle of nowhere. Of course there are several small towns a few miles off the highway and that must have been where they were going.

Once we arrived in Rio Verde, I found a landmark so that I could find my way back to the collective for the return trip. I then ventured out on the streets in search of a bank or a church. I found both near the main plaza.

San Ciro does not have a bank. I was delighted to find the Santender with vacant ATMs that were also bilingual. This ATM didn’t print receipts, but I got both my card and my cash back so I won’t complain.

My next stop was the church. There were signs indicating that cell phones were not to be used in the sanctuary. Hmmmmm. I use my phone to take photos when I travel. A compromise was needed. I put my phone on vibrate and snapped pictures carefully so as not to disturb those who were praying.

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I then went to the plaza. Despite the overcast day with occasional rain, all the fountains were gushing water. Very different from the one fountain in San Ciro’s plaza which is dry and does not appear to have had water for quite some time.

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I enjoyed walking the streets of Rio Verde and checking out all the shops. Unfortunately the battery on my phone was almost dead and I had forgotten to bring along my power bank. But I intend to return to Rio Verde soon to take more photos.

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I found my way back to the collectivo and was soon on my way back to San Ciro.

Thanksgiving in Aquismon

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Thanksgiving in Aquismon

Thursday November 22nd. American Thanksgiving. This year I celebrated in the state of San Luis Potosi.

As I reflect on the blessings in my life, I am thankful that I met my new friend Bonnie on a travel group on Facebook. Bonnie is from Texas and she married a Mexican from Cuidad de Valles, a city close to San Ciro de Acosta. Bonnie has been here for a year and two months ago Bonnie’s mother Connie moved to San Ciro as well.

They picked me up at the hotel in the morning and we headed out on the highway. Here in Mexico there are two highways……the toll road and the free road. We used both on our journey. The toll road is quite high up in the mountains and the clouds resulted in a thick fog engulfing us. Unfortunately this obstructed the magnificent view so sadly no photos for this post.

Once we reached a lower altitude the fog dissipated although it was still cloudy. We drove on a road with some interesting stands selling tortillas, roasted chicken, menudo, raspados, beer, clothing and other miscellaneous articles.

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As we ventured further into the jungle, the vegetation changed and the roads deteriorated. We passed several men on bicycles carrying firewood. It’s a long trek down this winding road to get to the highway where the buses come, and people walk for miles.

We finally arrived at the home of the Ramirez family, friends of Bonnie’s. Their son Ivan had a birthday on the weekend. Bonnie had baked a cake and brought along a piñata. She had also prepared a cactus salad and bought three roasted chickens for the occasion.

The idea of Thanksgiving is to be thankful for what we have, and to share with others. I was totally overwhelmed by emotion as we all stood holding hands as our hostess prayed in Spanish before the meal.

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Our sumptuous feast was enhanced by the homemade tortillas prepared in the kitchen by one of the daughters. She did use a press to form them, but a fire blazed beneath the grill where they cooked.

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We sat around the table and talked for quite a while. I was delighted with how much my Spanish has improved and I was able to converse as well as listen. I also translated for Connie who speaks no Spanish at all.

Word got out that a piñata was there and other children from the area began to gather. Bonnie had bought quite a few jackets at garage sales and gave them to the children and some of the adults. They were so appreciative as the little money their families have goes towards food. Jackets to keep them warm in the winter are a luxury.

The children enjoyed batting away at the piñata and eagerly scrambled for the candies once they began falling to the ground. Their treasure clutched in bags, it was now time to enjoy the cake Bonnie had baked. It was delicious!

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Shortly after, we began our drive back to San Ciro. Once again we encountered fog. Some three hours later we arrived back home.

I think about the Ramirez family. They have so little themselves but are so giving. The family of six live in one room. They sometimes sleep outside on hammocks when it is hot. The kitchen is in a separate building. There is also an outhouse which I did not even attempt to visit. Connie wanted to buy them a fan. Instead they asked if she would buy them a blanket instead, as the nights get cold during the winter.

I am blessed. I have been given an opportunity to travel and to experience life in a way that would not have been possible had I remained in Canada. The material things I used to consider as necessities now mean nothing and have no place in the one suitcase I take on my travels. The treasure I have found here in Mexico is priceless although it cannot be measured in terms of monetary value.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I Arrived in San Ciro de Acosta

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I Arrived in San Ciro de Acosta

I arrived in San Ciro de Acosta on Tuesday morning. The skies were cloudy, the temperature cool, and I wondered why I had left sunny Sinaloa. Bonnie and her husband picked me up at the bus station in Rio Verde, and then it was a 45 minute drive to San Ciro. Considering I had been on a bus for 15 hours, I was surprised that I still had energy. It must have been that adrenaline rush as I had finally arrived at my destination. I also had no problem sleeping on the bus.

Finding somewhere to stay with both WiFi and furnished was a challenge. Bonnie had graciously offered me a space in their home, but they were already crowded and I do like my privacy. So I am now staying at the San Ciro Hotel. 1800 pesos per month includes daily maid service.

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Quite the main entrance, isn’t it? The owner of the hotel and junkyard lives on site. And you have to walk through the junkyard to get to the stairs that lead to the hotel rooms. But I have a lovely room tucked away in a corner with views of the mountains on both sides. Of course there is no WiFi in my room. Too far away from the router. So I’m sitting on a bench outside the owner’s room where the signal is poor but adequate. I must admit it’s nice to be outdoors when I write.

I’ve been out walking and the sidewalks here are perfect for that, unlike the treacherous sidewalks in Mazatlan. In the center there is a plaza complete with a fountain with no water, a playground and lots of benches and vendors. Across the street is the main cathedral.

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I have a new favorite breakfast spot. It’s a small gordita stand right outside the entrance to the hotel. A gordita filled with egg and potato and a cup of cafe olla. 16 pesos. Very friendly ladies cooking and I’ve met a few new people as well.

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Watch for my next post about Thanksgiving Day. It was an amazing experience very different from the traditional ones I’m accustomed to.

Family Time

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Family Time

After that whirlwind weekend in Mazatlan, I arrived in Culiacan Monday afternoon. I always feel like I’m coming home when I arrive at the bus station. Culiacan was my first stint at teaching in Mexico. But I left here with much more than just a year of teaching experience and assimilating into Mexican culture. I have this amazing family here who adopted me. They are the reason why I keep coming back to Culiacan. This week is all about family.

Juan and I taught together at Instituto Senda del Rio. We hit it off right away. He was anxious to improve his English and yours truly did not know a word of Spanish. We would meet in the library and he introduced me to wonderful children’s books written in Spanish such as The Wax Man and Chicken Little. 

Our friendship grew and I spent quite a bit of time with Juan, his wife Lucila and Juan Carlos, who had just turned a year old. The family has grown since then and I now have three grandsons and another one due in March.

Juan Carlos is nine now, and plays basketball at Senda. I had the opportunity to watch him play twice this week. I also helped him with his English homework last night. Jose Augustin is six now and likes to cuddle in bed with me in the morning before he leaves for school. To my delight he read me a story in English yesterday. Angel is four and a bundle of energy. He is always full of smiles and hugs for his abuelita.

Juan still teaches at Senda and all three boys go to school there. They leave the house at 6:20 am as classes begin at 7:00 am. Extra-curricular activities begin at 4:00 pm which makes it quite a long day. Then there is always homework in the evening. Sometimes I sit at the table with them and color while they do their homework.

Yesterday I met Marcela for coffee. We taught together at Senda but she no longer teaches there. We hadn’t seen each other in a couple of years and it was nice to catch up. My Spanish has come a long way so we were able to converse in both languages over cappuccinos.

The weekend is here and will be a busy one. The children have activities and I always enjoy hearing Lucila sing in church.

This will be my last post for a while. Next week the nomad is on the move again!

My Bus Ride

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My Bus Ride

I received an email this morning from a friend in Leavenworth. She wanted to know how long I was staying in Mazatlan. Well, you miss a blog post and you lose track of yours truly. Two weeks in Guadalajara, one weekend in Mazatlan, and now I’m in Culiacan. Right now the plan is to stay here for a week, and then your guess is as good as mine. After decades of routines and schedules I am completely caught up in the world of mindfulness and moving along when the time feels right. That’s why I found myself on a bus to Culiacan yesterday morning.

I mus tell you about the bus ride. ETN/Turistar is my preferred mode of travel but my route from Mazatlan to Culiacan has been discontinued. I reluctantly bought a ticket on TAP, on a first class rather than an executive class. The plan was to arrive in Culiacan around 2 pm so that Juan could pick me up after school.

It’s been years since I took one of these, and I forget how annoyingly entertaining it can be. The TV hovered inches above my head. Amazingly enough the movie was in English. No computer terminal at my seat on this bus. I put in my headphones and scrolled through the music channels. Nothing too exciting there. But the air conditioning was blasting and it was only a couple of hours. Suck it up princess.

The bus slowed down on the outskirts of the city and two vendors got on. I’d forgotten how amusing this can be. Vendors are not allowed on the ETN buses.

The first vendor to approach me was a young woman with a basket filled with wind-up toys. I smiled back and shook my head. No, gracias. But she was determined. She must have demonstrated four or five toys before she moved on to the next passenger.

Apparently the toy sales were not doing well. Moments later she was back with chocolate……melted chocolate. After all, the temperature outside was in the nineties before she boarded the bus. Once again I declined her offerings.

The second vendor was hot on her heels. This man had a cooler full of tamales. He wasn’t quite as aggressive and a shake of the head was sufficient enough to send him on his way.

She’s back! Vendor number one was now spouting me the benefits of the cream with marijuana she held in her hands. And then vendor number one was selling honey while she was still promoting her cream. I shook my head once again, reclined my seat, and closed my eyes.

Only another hour………………

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Weekend in Mazatlan

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Weekend in Mazatlan

I arrived in Mazatlan bright and early Friday morning. TAP was not only on time but actually early. I prefer ETN but this trip the timing was better on TAP.

I’m staying with my friend Koren who happens to be an amazing caterer. She kept me well fed on Friday while adjusting to yet another time change and the scorching heat here in Mazatlan. I then ventured out for a walk around the neighborhood after a short nap.

Quite a few changes. New condos, new construction, new park……but I was delighted to see old friends Lance and Daniel. We sat around for a while catching up while watching a glorious sunset.

Saturday morning before it got too hot, I went out for my five mile walk in Centro. I passed by the mercado, the cathedral, Republica and Machado. I had conversations in Spanish with various vendors as well as with others seeking shade on park benches.

Tonight I’m meeting a friend for dinner on the malecon, where we will enjoy the sunset as we dine. Delmer is another Canadian and he and I taught together a couple of years ago here in Mazatlan.

A concert is happening at the park near my house and there are rumors of fireworks tonight as well.

Tomorrow Rotary is having an event at Zaragoza Park. Hard to believe it’s been three years since Steve was manning the barbecues at this annual event. The years are just zooming by way too quickly.

Monday morning I will be on a bus on my way to Culiacan and a whirlwind weekend in Mazatlan comes to a close.

Dia De Los Muertos

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Dia De Los Muertos

I’m back in Tlaquepaque enjoying one of my favorite Mexican celebrations…..Day of the Dead. This is a time when family and friends gather together to pray for and remember family and friends who have passed away. Altars are constructed and food and photos are prominent. Personal possessions are also displayed. Faces are painted and traditional dress is also featured for both adults and children alike. Brightly colored marigolds are everywhere and the cemeteries are alive with celebrations of the spirits of the deceased.

I spent hours walking down Calle Independencia and Calle Juarez taking photos of altars. It was fascinating watching the various artists painting faces of children and adults. The costumes were outstanding and Catrinas were everywhere.

 

In the evening I checked out the amazing altar outside El Parian in the square. An added delight was the celebration inside the government building which featured altars, catrinas and mariachis. In the Jardin Hidalgo a stage had been set up and various singers and dancers performed.

The vendors were out in full force. Food ranged from tortas ahogadas to churros. Other vendors sold everything from leather goods to jewelry. Needless to say, the people watching and photo ops were plentiful. Here are a few:

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