Tag Archives: Aguascalientes

I Will Miss You Raul

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I Will Miss You Raul

When I head up north next week, I know I am going to experience the reverse culture shock I usually do. I will miss the laid back life I have here in Aguascalientes. And one person who I will really miss is my friend Raul.

Two years ago this October I arrived in Aguascalientes from San Luis Potosí. I had researched the city and thought that two or three weeks would suffice to visit the museums, templos and pueblos mágicos close by. Instead I stayed for three months.

When I lived in Mazatlan a few years ago I was looking for an opthalmologist and asked for a recommendation on an expat Facebook group. Jose Alberto responded along with a few others. I wound up going to Guadalajara for the cataract surgery instead.

Flash ahead two years and I’m in San Luis Potosí. Again I post in Facebook groups looking for recommendations. Jose Alberto responds and tells me that Aguascalientes is his hometown. He refers me to his nephew Fernando who still lives there. Fernando refers me to his cousin Raúl who owns a hotel.

Fernando offered to pick me up at the bus station and take me to Raul’s hotel. However he had to cancel as he had come down with the flu and was running a fever.

I took a taxi to the hotel. Expecting a hotel, I was quite surprised when I was dropped off at the door of a house. Two workers repairing a drain answered the door and showed me to my room.

I was anxious to settle in and go exploring despite the light drizzle but wanted to talk to Raúl first. What if the workers had let me into the wrong room? And of course I had no keys.

A few minutes later Raúl showed up. And he spoke English!!! I felt better already. That day was also the first of many times I would hear the comforting expression “don’t worry” from Raul.

Seeing as Fernando hadn’t picked me up and taken me to the ATM as I had anticipated, I didn’t have rent money for Raul. He assured me I could pay him when I found an ATM once I settled in.

I then asked him where I could find a garrafón of drinking water as tap water is a no-no here. He asked me to wait and in five minutes was back with one and installed the pump as well.

Another comforting expression I heard for the first of many times was “anything you need, anything you want, just ask” And I admit I did take him up on his offer a couple of times.

His son had a birthday party and I was invited to the celebration. His wife and all of his family were most welcoming. Fernando had a loncheria and I would often see family members there as well.

It was time for the Ferria and I was supposed to have left by then. Raúl had already rented out my room. No problem. Raúl moved me into his home for the weekend. And he drove me to the bus station when I left for Puerto Vallarta.

I told him I wanted to come back the following winter. There was a communal kitchen at the house that I didn’t use. I asked if it was possible to have a fridge and a microwave in my room. No problem. Just a week’s notice before I return.

And return I did. At first I moved into a room on the second floor in another house. However when a main floor room became available at the house I’d stayed in last year, Raúl moved me over.

I had intended to stay for six months, but COVID-19 changed my plans. I had numerous frantic emails from the Canadian government urging me to return immediately to Canada. I couldn’t go to Leavenworth as the insurance companies refused to cover COVID-19. I decided to stay in Mexico.

My FMM expired in April. At that time Mexico was allowing tourists to obtain another FMM, for humanitarian reasons, without leaving the country. When Raúl offered to help me deal with INM, I’m not sure he realized it would mean four visits (two on one day once) and a mountain of paperwork. It was great having him as a translator. The staff at Immigration spoke really fast and the masks made it even more difficult to understand.

Then came the advisory from Mexico Hotel and Tourism that hotels would be shut down and tourists would have nowhere to stay. Raúl said that didn’t apply to him as he was registered as a long-term hospice. He also assured me that if he was shut down that he would move me in with his family.

For three months we were under lockdown. I went out for daily walks to pick up groceries only. Raúl chauffeured me to the ATM and to Telcel to renew my phone plan. He also stopped by regularly to check on me and chat.

I had begun to stockpile some extra medication in anticipation of spending six months in Leavenworth. When that ran out, I went to Farmacia Similares where I was told it was no longer available in generic form. I then went to Farmacia Guadalajara where something got lost in the translation when I was talking to the pharmacist. Raúl to the rescue and the medication magically became available.

Yesterday morning I walked down to Farmacia Guadalajara to pick up extra medication for my upcoming trip to Leavenworth next week. I bumped into Raúl at the pharmacy and jokingly suggested he stick around when I talked to the pharmacist. And it was a good thing he did!

There was none in stock and the other locations weren’t answering their phones. Raúl offered to drive me to Farmacia Ahorro and I eagerly accepted.

His translation skills were extremely helpful once again. This pharmacy had a slightly different medication that also had a diuretic included in the formula. So now only one pill a day to control my blood pressure. A separate diuretic not necessary anymore.

Then it came to paying. I had a discount card I’d gotten in Guadalajara years ago, but my card was at home and not with me. I speak a lot of Spanish but don’t really know the alphabet all that well. Raúl helped me spell my name so it could be checked on the computer. And they found it!

Thank you Raúl for being more than just a great friend, for being a part of my family. I never worry because you always say “don’t worry” and I will miss your comforting words “anything you need, anything you want, just ask”

At the moment I’m not sure just when I’ll be coming back to Aguascalientes, but I know I have more than a room here. I have a home.

Hurricane Genevieve

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Hurricane Genevieve

An active hurricane season was in the forecast for the Pacific coast of Mexico. This prediction has definitely been put to the test this season.

This past week Genevieve grew quickly to a Category 4 but thankfully remained out in the ocean and did not make landfall. Warnings were issued for high surf and dangerous waves along the coast, along with strong winds and torrential rain.

Aguascalientes is inland but nonetheless it is the rainy season. The effect of Genevieve barreling up the coast resulted in substantial rainfall here.

Torrential rain usually seems to begin at around 5 o’clock and pounds away for four or five hours, causing streets as well as some homes and other buildings to flood.

Sharon and I had just finished lunch at Osteria the other day when the rain started. We were sitting in the covered patio area but were forced to move indoors when the overhead canopies could not support the weight of the water.

Walking home was not an option so we opted for Uber. Instead of the usual two or three minute wait it was close to a half hour. Safe and dry inside the car, we were amazed by the water in the streets that had overflowed the curbs.

Note to self: The next time a hurricane charges up the coast, it is imperative to be home by 5 o’clock.

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?

Let’s Go For A Walk

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Let’s Go For A Walk

Las Flores and the surrounding neighborhoods provide for some very interesting walks. These are quite traditional Mexican barrios although I did notice this car that really stood out.On another block a children’s party was in full swing. Bouncers are extremely popular and they are set up right on the street as homes here do not have yards.This fellow was wheeling his cart near Expoplaza the other morning.Colorful murals adorn walls everywhere.And I never tire of admiring the beautiful flowers.How sad that the Jardín de San Marcos is still closed due to COVID-19.However the Templo de San Marcos Is open.I’m almost home now as I see the infamous Plaza de Torres in the distance.

Two Questions

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Two Questions

I usually travel a lot. Of course COVID-19 has temporarily grounded me here in Aguascalientes at the moment. But when I do travel to new places there are two questions that people ask me and quite honestly these questions annoy me. Why? Because the answers are complicated.

The first question is What’s your name?

I was twenty-one when I got married and that’s when I legally changed my maiden name to my married name. When the marriage ended, I had just published my first book. My publisher suggested I continue to write under my married name. And I still write under that name and I use that name on my Facebook author page.

However I decided to revert back to my maiden name when the marriage ended but thought I’d wait to legally change it until the divorce was final. By then I was living in Mexico where I had yet a different name on official documents. Here in Mexico your surname consists of father’s surname followed by mother’s maiden name.

I never did get around to legally changing my name back and the fun started when I arrived in Leavenworth four years ago. In order to volunteer in children’s ministry in the church, a criminal records check and child abuse registry check were mandatory. I can still see the puzzled looks on the two pastors’ faces when I pulled out my ID from my wallet and couldn’t find two photo IDs with the same name. Thankfully I remembered my passport that was at home in a drawer.

I prefer to just use the name Karen and totally eliminate all surnames.

The second question is Where’s home?

Actually that seems to be American Immigration’s favorite question. Once again the answer is complicated.

Undisputedly my hometown is Winnipeg. I was born there and lived there until ten years ago.

Culiacán with my Mexican family is home to me in Mexico. When I walk through the door of their home a wave of familiarity washes over me. This is definitely home to me, especially with my loving family surrounding me.

Four years ago I discovered Leavenworth, Washington and that also has become home to me. COVID-19 has screwed up my plans for my annual six month visit this year. But once things settle down I plan to return to Leavenworth. I miss my friends and I miss the volunteer work I usually do there.

But another place that has become home to me is where I stay here in Aguascalientes. I spent three months here last winter, intending to stay only three weeks initially. This winter I’m now in my ninth month and still counting thanks to COVID-19.

So……….Where’s home?

Nomad Not Now

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Nomad Not Now

I’ve been here in Aguascalientes for 8 months now, with the exception of a few days in Culiacán back in December. I haven’t stayed in one place that long in the past 10 years without traveling on holidays and weekends. The term ” nomad” when describing my lifestyle is apparently no longer appropriate at this time.

COVID-19 has quite effectively grounded me for the time being. I’ll just have to wait and see what transpires. In the meantime there is still new territory to explore right in my barrio.

Pets are different down here in Mexico. They’re not the usual dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles or fish. The other day my neighbor posed for me with his pet rooster.

I was out for a walk the other evening when the clouds began to roll in. I captured this shot of an apartment building. The church I attend occupies the main floor. No elevator and the apartments are on the second to sixth floors.

One of my neighbors sells candy, frozen chocolate bananas and chips. Here is a new colorful sign on their house.

This friendly little one sleeps on the sidewalk or in doorways in an attempt to find shade during the day. Temperatures have been hovering in the 90s for weeks now.

I always enjoy looking at the artwork on buildings around here.

The flowers are blooming everywhere.

This nomad will continue to roam only in Aguascalientes for another month.

June 17 Memories

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June 17 Memories

Aguascalientes has now changed from red to orange on the virus map. Trudeau is keeping the Canadian border closed. Leavenworth seems farther away now.

But I’d rather be where I am today than where I was seven years ago on this date.

Seven years ago today I was having surgery at Concordia Hospital in Winnipeg, my second knee replacement.

Another memory. Eight years ago today I was also in Winnipeg. It was the day before my first knee replacement.

Today I just returned from a short walk to the Cocina. My fridge is now full of fresh vegetable and fruit salads, chicken and pasta.

Today is June 17 and I am living in Aguascalientes in the midst of a pandemic, creating more memories.

Out For A Walk

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Out For A Walk

I go out for longer walks every day now. I have a variety of masks in my wardrobe and I am careful about physical distancing.

Seeing as traveling outside of the city is not a possibility, I have decided to venture down new streets to explore instead.

Vibrant colors of flowers are everywhere. This photo was taken on a nearby boulevard.

There are lots of street vendors in my neighborhood. It’s mainly juice and fruit during the daytime but this one was different and intrigued me.

Cafes and bars are open and tables are well spaced, even outdoors.

The car wash is open again and costs 30 pesos. The American dollar currently has a value of about 25 pesos.

Sculpted greenery is everywhere.

This doorway has its unique charm.

As I passed by the Fiesta Americana, there was a ceremony going on where hotel employees were being presented with hampers.

I wonder what I will find on my next walk.

Facebook Memories

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Facebook Memories

Thank you Facebook for not only reminding me of my friends’ birthdays but also of reminding me of the different places where I have lived.

Apparently four years ago today I was at The Saloon in Mazatlan with friends doing this.

Today I’m in Aguascalientes sipping coffee instead of doing Jell-O shots.

Five years ago today I was still teaching and this was my classroom at Hotel Torres in Mazatlan. Most of my students were working in housekeeping or security at the hotel.

Today I’m retired and not teaching. Now I sip my coffee rather than gulp it.

But I’m really feeling nostalgic/homesick now. I spoke to my friend Debbie earlier today. She was shopping at Walmart in Wenatchee when I called, one of my favorite places. Then I found this pic from last summer in Cashmere.

I would certainly welcome some of that Washington rain today. 90s and sunny here in Aguascalientes. It’s been quite a while since we’ve had any rain.

Thanks for the memories Facebook!

Too Soon? Not Soon Enough?

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Too Soon? Not Soon Enough?

Things are starting to reopen here in Aguascalientes. That leaves me a little confused. Cases and deaths are setting record numbers in Mexico, although I must admit I don’t have much confidence in the statistics released daily. Even the state officials can’t seem to agree if Aguascalientes City is a green area or a yellow area.

I went for my daily walks today and noticed that several shops, restaurants and doctors’ offices had reopened.

We’re all getting cabin fever from being cooped up for so long. Yet I know that I have mixed feelings about reopening.

I will continue to maintain an appropriate physical distance and will wear my masks when I venture out. And I will definitely avoid crowds.