Tag Archives: blogging

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.

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.

6 Is Now 9 And Counting

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6 Is Now 9 And Counting

When I arrived in Mexico back in October, the plan was to return to Leavenworth in April. It’s been a very comfortable balance of relaxing in Mexico and a somewhat hectic schedule of volunteer work in Leavenworth. I also had decided to take two side trips to Canada so that I’d get to see both of my kids this year. My son is still in Winnipeg and in Kelowna I have my daughter and granddaughter.

But then COVID-19 reared its ugly head.

I am still in Mexico. It looks like I will be here until September. Should a miracle happen I would still like to go to Leavenworth. My Plan B is Canada.

Contrary to what ROCA has advised, there are no shortages of food, medication or supplies here.

I have a wardrobe of masks and physical distancing is the norm here. So are sanitizing mats, having my temperature taken before entering restaurants and larger stores, as well as an abundance of antibacterial gel everywhere.

I am well aware that these precautions are not being taken in every state in this country. But they are also not being taken everywhere up north in the USA or Canada either from what friends tell me.

Then there are the statistics. I don’t believe them. It’s impossible to get reliable numbers. There are way too many variables when it comes to testing. And are all the deaths being reported solely due to COVID-19? Or are there other factors involved?

Then there are the many conspiracy theories that many people dwell upon. Decades ago when I was in college I took a course in World History. My professor’s words have always haunted me, and even more so today. “There will be another world war in your lifetime. But it will not be fought with guns or bombs.” Interestingly enough, I also recall that this professor was Chinese.

But dwelling upon conspiracy theories and assessing blame on politicians is not helpful either. COVID-19 is here to stay and we need to learn to live with it.

Man’s inhumanity to man is what is at the core and it needs to be addressed. Selfishness is being displayed all too prominently right now. Instead consideration for the lives of others should be where the focus is placed. This virus does not discriminate between race, religion or socioeconomic background. And neither should we.

We are all in this together. And together we can get through this. Together.

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?

If You Grew Up In Winnipeg, Manitoba

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If You Grew Up In Winnipeg, Manitoba

One of the Facebook groups I belong to is called If You Grew Up In Winnipeg, Manitoba.

First some facts. Manitoba is one of the prairie provinces in Canada. Winnipeg is the capital city of Manitoba.

Winnipeg is my hometown. I was born and raised there. My children were born and raised there. My son still lives there although my daughter has long since moved away.

Back to the Facebook group. Members post photos and memories of growing up and living in this city.

Here are a few recent posts. As you will see, there is a wide range of topics and I have just selected a few.

This photo is of the maternity pavilion at the Winnipeg General Hospital from back in the 50s when I was born.

Clock radios were popular back in the 60s and I had one on my nightstand back then.

In March of 1966 we had a blizzard that crippled the city for days. People were stranded at work and this milk delivery truck got hung up in the snow.

Assiniboine Park is home to the English Gardens in the summertime. This famous statue is known as The Boy With The Boot and greets visitors at the entrance.

This is part of a map of the City of Winnipeg that features the neighborhood where I grew up, River Heights.

These cookies were a chocolate covered marshmallow with a jam filling and a cookie base. Paulin Chambers was a customer of a business I owned. When I’d drop by for a visit I always enjoyed sampling one of these fresh right off the conveyor belt.

The Paddlewheel Princess was one of the boats that had cruises on the river during the summer. Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire a few years ago.

TV tables were another item commonly found in homes back in the 60s. TVs were usually in living rooms back then, not in family rooms. We had these exact ones when I was growing up.

July 1 marks the celebration of Canada Day. When I was a kid all the neighbors would get together at the park on my street and pool their fireworks. This one was always the grand finale.

Other topics covered on this site deal with restaurants, night clubs and even dance and music schools. Someone put up a post the other day about learning to drive. Anything nostalgic goes on this site.

What I find interesting is that a lot of the reminiscing seems to be done by people who have left Winnipeg and live elsewhere now.

I don’t get back to Winnipeg often. It’s changed a lot in the last 10 years since I’ve been gone. When I do go back I see new roads and new housing subdivisions. Once familiar stores are gone and big box stores have taken their place. But what is most disturbing to me is that the crime rate has soared as the city has grown. And that makes me sad.