Tag Archives: 2021

Aguascalientes And Me

Standard
Aguascalientes And Me

In January of 2019 I was living in San Ciro de Acosta, San Luis Potosi. I knew it was time to leave and my destination was Aguascalientes. When I taught in Guadalajara a few years earlier, my students used to tell me that I absolutely had to check out Aguascalientes.

In one of my Facebook groups, I mentioned that I was on the move again and I was going to Aguascalientes. Someone messaged me that his hometown was Aguascalientes. I asked him if he had any recommendations as to where to stay. I already had a list of museums and art galleries in hand. His reply was “I have a nephew.” He put me in touch with Fernando, who replied “I have a cousin.” And that’s how I wound up living in Las Flores and have Raul as a landlord.

I soon realized that I needed more time in this beautiful city. After my six months in Leavenworth I returned to Aguascalientes (Ags, as I now fondly call it like all the other locals). Raul had my room waiting for me and it felt like I was coming home.

In March of 2020 I was just starting to think of heading back up north when Covid hit. I never did get out of Mexico until September that year. So my six months became eleven.

This is where I brag about Raul. What other landlord offers to move you in with his family if the government was to shut down the hotel due to the pandemic? Or takes you to Immigration five times to obtain an extended stay? Or drives you to the bank or Telcel or to pick up food? Or drives you to the airport at 4 am when you are finally able to get out of the country? When I’m back in the USA  I miss his daily reassurances of “Don’t Worry” or “Anything You Want, Anything You Need.”

Then my six months in Washington turned into twelve. When I was finally able to book a flight back to Mexico, I messaged Raul. He assured me my home was waiting for me. I flew into Guadalajara and took a bus to Ags. I had arranged with Raul that he would pick me up at the bus station at around eight that night. Of course I hadn’t taken into account that the police had closed off the highway for some unknown reason so it was more like eleven when we finally arrived in Ags. Nonetheless Raul picked me up and drove me home.

Ags really does feel like home. My neighborhood hadn’t changed much during Covid. My favorite restaurants were still around. The lavenderia was still there. The candy store and the bakeries and all the tiendas were open. The parks were open.  The only big casualty was the cinema that had shut down.

The big difference this year is the friendships I’ve made and the people I spend my time with. There used to be a small church right around the corner and I made a couple of close friends there. But when I came back last fall, the church had moved. And yes, it is still within walking distance. But the times conflict with the online services I do. And at this point I need the English rather than the Spanish when it comes to my spiritual life.

Friendships have always been important to me, but even more so now with the lifestyle I lead. Back in my hometown in Canada I still have a handful of close friends I keep in touch with. And in Washington I have close friends. But in Mexico, my gringa and expat friends have always been of a more transient nature.

Until this year. These friends I’ve made here are all much closer in age to me, and that is not my usual norm either except for the years I lived in Mazatlan. We’ve become close in a short period of time and I will miss them all dearly when I head up north next month.

I actually met Sharon just before Covid hit and everything shut down. She is from Portland and lives in Ags with her Mexican partner.

Joanne is from Florida and has been in Ags for about three years with her husband. Their background is missionary work.

Charlotte is from Calgary and lives with her Mexican partner in Puerto Vallarta. However they spent several months here in Ags while he was undergoing chemo treatments.

I met Carole last month. She is from Toronto and is testing the waters here in Ags. This is her first winter in Mexico.

Joanne has a car and loves to drive so we all have done a lot of exploring and we’ve seen areas in and around Ags that we otherwise would never have known even existed. And of course we all  enjoy discovering new restaurants and trying new Mexican  cuisine.

Adios mis queridas amigas. Espero que nos vemos pronto. Ya las extrano!

Not The Usual

Standard
Not The Usual

0ne of my writing friends challenged me to write a post about unusual things that have happened in my life throughout the years since I left Winnipeg. Interestingly enough, some of these do involve travel back to Winnipeg. This is a real challenge as I’m only supposed to choose one thing per year. Here goes!

2010. As if moving to Culiacan wasn’t unusual in itself, I’d have to say that the trip on El Chepe in the Copper Canyon stands out. I headed for the bus station in Culiacan and looked up at the departures on the board. A bus to Mazatlan in a half hour, a bus to Los Mochis in twenty minutes. Hmmmm. Los Mochis. Sure. Why not? When I got there I was in a taxi where by some miracle the driver spoke English. I asked him what there was to do in the area. He told me about the train. He took me to a hotel that had a travel agent. She arranged a package for me and the next morning I was on the train. And I really must add that it was on this trip that I met Angie and her family. We are still great friends and I spent this past New Years holiday with them all in Tlalnepantla, Jilotzingo and Pachuca.

2011. Definitely my escape from Irapuato to Tlaquepaque. A school had flown me down to Mexico from Canada but never lived up to their end of the bargain. I wasn’t interested in working more hours for less money. They never came through with renewing my work visa or providing a health plan. I received a phone call on a Saturday night from a school in Tlaquepaque with a job offer. I packed up my suitcase and Sunday morning I was on a bus headed for Guadalajara. I started at the new school Monday morning.

2012. Knee surgery number one. Terrified. My mother had died having knee replacement  surgery. I returned to Winnipeg and rented a room in the lower level of a duplex. Of course there were steps to get into the house which meant walker to cane and back to walker for the first little while. And my walker didn’t fit through the bathroom door. And the laundry room was in the basement. Not conducive to recovering from knee surgery. But I did it and headed back to Guadalajara in the fall.

2013. Back to Winnipeg for knee surgery number two. This time I lucked out and was able to rent a house that had been completely renovated for a handicapped individual. Wheelchair ramp at the front door, walk in shower with a bench, lots of room to maneuver a walker…. I was in heaven! And recovery time was much faster. Soon I was on my way back to Mexico.

2014. I discovered that teaching Business English was a lot more lucrative than teaching ESL. I ventured into areas of Guadalajara that were new to me as I taught on site. I taught in high security buildings for private companies and government offices, as well as in places such as Fedex.

2015. I had just moved to Mazatlan when I found myself on a plane to Toronto to meet up with a group en route to Punta Cana for my daughter’s wedding. Kimmy wanted a destination wedding and chose the Dominican. It was quite the trek for me but as all moms know, you do anything for your kids. It was a beautiful wedding and I have wonderful memories, but in all honesty I was very happy to return home to Mexico.

2016. I had a leading role in a murder mystery dinner theater and was winding down my teaching career with a handful of private students when a friend I’d met in Mazatlan invited me to come to Leavenworth, Washington for a visit. I thought it was the prison place until I realized Kansas was home to that one. So off I went for two weeks, only I wound up staying for four months. One morning I got up and there was this white stuff on the ground. I hightailed it back to Mazatlan.

2017. I had this really strong gut feeling that I wanted to be with my son on Mother’s Day. I’m glad I did. That’s the last time I was in Winnipeg and I haven’t seen Kyle since. I certainly hope Canada can get it’s act together so that I can go to Winnipeg this summer.

2018. My granddaughter  Madeline was born. On my way back to Leavenworth I flew up to Canada first to see her. My daughter now has a daughter of her own. I remember holding Madeline for the first time. Exciting and emotional. It was really hard to leave and I cried all the way from Belleville to Toronto on the train.

2019. This was the year I discovered Aguascalientes. I arrived in January after spending three months in San Ciro de Acosta. I had a list of museums and art galleries and visited them all. But there was still more to explore and I came back in October to spend the winter. Besides, Las Flores was beginning to feel like home. I am very comfortable in my room on Begonias and Raul is the most amazing landlord ever.

2020. March already? I was anxious to go to Winnipeg to see Kyle. Oh oh. Covid arrived. My six months in Aguascalientes turned into eleven when I sought asylum and was given an extra six months as I chose to stay in Mexico to ride out the pandemic. What I never told my kids was that when Covid first hit and people were panicking and packing airports and dealing with canceled flights, I’d been in bed with the flu for a few days. Who knows? It may have even been Covid. There was no testing being done back then. I finally made it to Leavenworth in September when I was able to secure health coverage that included Covid.

2021. My 180 days in the USA are almost up and the CDC issued a Level 4 Do Not Travel To Canada advisory. I retained an attorney and once again sought asylum. It was granted and I remained in Washington for twelve months instead of the usual six.

2022. It’s early yet. I’ll have to wait and see what unusual thing wins this year, not that there haven’t been a few that are definitely in the running already.

And now for the far from usual but the one thing that spans the more than decade since I left Winnipeg. That first year in Mexico when I worked at Senda, Juan and I taught together and became good friends. He wanted to improve his English and I desperately needed to learn Spanish. Juan’s wife Lucila used to pick us up from school and drive me home. At the time their son Juan Carlos was a year old. To make a long story short, they adopted me. This was huge to me. Coming to a foreign country solo, my own kids back in Canada, I now had family again. Juan and Lucila now have four sons and I am the proud abuelita of four amazing grandsons. Can’t wait to hug them all later this month when I go to Culiacan.

Voodoo Lounge And Pozole

Standard
Voodoo Lounge And Pozole

As I write this I’m eating a bowl of pozole and listening to Voodoo Lounge. They don’t go together? In my world they do. I know I’m in Mexico because it’s pozole. And I’ve been a fan of The Rolling Stones  for decades.

But as I listen to The Rolling Stones I’m magically beamed back to a hot August night in 1994 mildly buzzed as the smell of pot wafts through the stands of the old Winnipeg stadium. Down below Mick Jagger is strutting his stuff across the stage just as he did back in the 60s when I was a teenager.

Amazing how music can make you travel back in time like it was just yesterday.

So how is your 2022 going? I actually am beginning to wonder why we were all so eager to slam the door on 2021.

With the advent of Omni, I find myself no closer to going back to Canada than I did last year. I have way too many friends now struggling with family crises. I’ve had a few small blips on the radar screen myself this month.

But, ever the optimist, I’m looking forward to the future. February will be a bittersweet month as it’s countdown time until I head up north. It kind of feels like 2020 again when I didn’t know where I was going or how I was getting there.

My playlist for meditation time today will include Matt Redman and Josh Groban in addition to the usual Pachelbel. Lots to contemplate. Lots of people in my life who need prayer.

It’s all about FAITH.

Adios 2021 Bienvenido 2022

Standard

I had a fabulous New Years Eve with an amazing family in Jilotzingo. Actually it lasted the entire weekend and today we are finally arrived in Pachuca.

We left Tlalnepantla Friday morning. Traffic was heavy and once we left the highway, it was slow going as we drove through interesting small pueblos.

We arrived in Jilotzingo where we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch of chipotle pollo. We then began the project of stringing grapes on skewers. Here is a photo of Kamira doing this.

A total of 60 were made, one for each person attending the fiesta that night. 12 grapes, twelve months of the year, twelve wishes.

Here is a photo of our hostess. This dynamic lady in her 80s prepared a leg of pork, a turkey, lasagna, ponche and other dishes. Also in the photo are her daughter Liliana and son-in-law Ventura.

Here is a photo of the table. I thought of Canada and the limits of gatherings to 10 people. Happy I’m here in Mexico. Wasn’t able to capture all 60 in one photo.

Here I am in a photo with my friend Angie, her son Ventura and his wife Liliana.

Countdown to midnight followed by toasts and hugs. No idea what time we actually got to sleep, but I do remember texting friends at around 4 am while sipping cognac.

The following photo is dedicated to my friends up north who are either in awe of my nomadic lifestyle or critical of it. The tradition here in Mexico is to walk around the block after midnight carrying a suitcase. This signifies the hope for travel in the coming year. So here I am!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Standard

This year I’m writing my last post of the year from Mexico City. It’s been quite a year and I must say I’m looking forward to 2022.

Back in December of 2010 I took a train trip in the Copper Canyon and met this amazing family. Nine years ago I came to Mexico City for New Years and although we’ve kept in touch, we haven’t seen each other at all. And it’s been a fabulous reunion!

Angie and I are about the same age. When we met, we were both teaching English here in Mexico. Her son Ventura and his wife were also on that train trip, along with her daughter Kamira. Ventura spoke some English, but Liliana and Kamira spoke only Spanish. I had only been in Mexico for three months, so my Spanish was extremely very limited.

Today I can hold my own and converse fluently in Spanish with everyone. However they are all learning English now and are interested in practicing this language as well. So it’s been great talking in both languages.

I arrived in Mexico City yesterday and am staying at Ventura’s. Tomorrow we are going to Jilotzingo where we will spend New Years Eve with Liliana’s family.

On Sunday we return to Mexico City. Angie and I will then travel to Pachuca, where Angie lives now. So my first post of 2022 will be from Pachuca.

To all my readers and followers, best wishes for a Healthy and Happy New Year. May all your dreams come true in 2022.

They’re Talking To Me Again!

Standard
They’re Talking To Me Again!

Writing fiction isn’t easy. It’s a lot more fun than writing self-help books, except for when my imaginary characters stop talking to me. And that’s been going on for quite a while now.

But for some reason, over the weekend they not only began talking to me again but they also demanded my undivided attention. And I have found myself totally immersed in the life of one of my main characters. I have been eating, sleeping and breathing his life.

And it’s a complicated life. He’s struggling with overwhelming challenges and is finally beginning to overcome some of them. I find myself crying and laughing right along with him.

I recall a time when one of my housemates found me in tears and was sure someone had just died. No, I explained to him, I was just totally into my character.

But unless you’re a writer, these emotions are hard to comprehend. I also cry when I watch movies. Or I laugh aloud. At the moment my character is making me do a lot of both.

I’m seriously contemplating buying another laptop sooner than later. Writing on a tablet is becoming a little tedious now that my imaginary friends are back. But I’m glad they’re back. I’ve missed them.

La Buenanoche 2021

Standard

Here in Mexico, La Buenanoche (Christmas Eve) is the time for celebration. It is very family as well as church oriented.

This year I was truly blessed to spend the night with a Mexican family. I was invited by my friend Gloria to attend church and then have dinner with her family.

We started off at Templo de la Salud to attend La Misa (Mass). There was a beautiful choir and guitarist and the sanctuary was packed, with the overflow standing behind the pews and outside the church. I enjoyed the service and was pleased that I understood so much of the Spanish.

After the service, fireworks lit up the sky as we walked over to Gloria’s brother’s home for dinner. In addition to the traditional ponche and tamales, turkey and vegetables were also on the menu.

Gloria is one of nine siblings. All were present except for one sister in Chiapas, who delighted us all with a video call. The adorable little girl in the photo is Romena, Gloria’s daughter.

Spending time with this amazing family made La Buenanoche even more special for me.

Feliz Navidad!

A Christmas Memory

Standard
A Christmas Memory

I’ve spent Christmas with a variety of different people in numerous places in Mexico and the USA. But one of my favorite memories dates back to the 90s, when I lived in Canada and my kids were still young and living at home. And Koal was still with us too.

My friend Lesley had invited us over on Christmas Eve. When I had a thyroidectomy, my vocal folds were nicked during surgery. Lesley was my speech therapist who worked with me to get my voice back, and we became good friends as the months went by. My kids were delighted to meet other kids at this Christmas Eve gathering, and it was a most enjoyable evening.

On Christmas Day I prepared my usual bacon and eggs breakfast, and then took my coffee into the living room where we opened presents. Of course Koal got the most gifts. That dog was spoiled rotten by all of us, and was always given way too many treats, toys and t-shirts to add to his wardrobe.

A lazy afternoon included card games and siestas, although I did spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen preparing a traditional turkey dinner.

After dinner we watched Christmas Vacation and laughed ourselves silly at the antics of Chevy Chase. I also remember the first time we saw that movie. We were in Phoenix, Arizona.

The last time I had Christmas dinner with my kids was in 2009. And I often wonder if we’ll ever do it again. We live in different countries. With the world crazy with Covid, nothing is certain anymore.

Now, more than ever before, it’s important to practice mindfulness. If you are fortunate to have family and good friends, celebrate with them NOW. A year from now, we may not all be around to get together. Nothing is promised.

Merry Christmas to all my readers and followers. May you and your families enjoy great times together, in good health, over this holiday season.

Feliz Navidad!

Standard
Feliz Navidad!

A year ago I was wandering around downtown Leavenworth taking photos of the brightly colored trees. I was also wearing a ski jacket and boots. It was a pleasure to take photos of the lights in Centro Aguascalientes wearing only a light sweatshirt and tennis shoes.

On my way home I walked through the Jardin de San Marcos where a Christmas market was in full swing.

My last stop was a stroll through Expoplaza where a children’s fair was happening.

Feliz Navidad!

Proud Of Me

Standard
Proud Of Me

Yep. That’s me. And oh the changes I’ve made in my life! And how wonderful I feel about myself! And then there’s that peaceful feeling in my heart!

There was a time when I lived my life for others. I never put myself first. I was afraid of doing the wrong thing and offending someone. It was easier to do what others expected of me rather than what I would have preferred to do. And I was caught up in the world of creating a good impression.

Does this sound familiar?

One of the most difficult changes I made in my life was learning to say No! and not just when asked to do something I didn’t want to do. Closely related was venturing off in a completely different direction than the one others had advised me to take.

Conformity is no longer a word in my vocabulary. I am free to make choices and couldn’t care less about being judged or criticized by others. Bring on the adventures!

It’s not an easy path that I’ve chosen. It is filled with struggles and challenges. But it is more than overflowing with strength and growth.

Here’s the result.

And I wouldn’t trade her for anything!